As the night aged, the animals called it a night. The birds returned to their trees of nesting, and the drunks began their nightly rituals of passing out in their own vomits, or perhaps that of their colleagues. The priest rose, and they left.
Vollo climbed up the tavern stairs with the woman his little brother had been so buried in and the tavern girl he had saved from watching two men fight over her attached to both arms upon their departure. It left Sethlzaar confused.
Rive stepped as the line dictated, waiting at the city gate, forcing Sethlzaar to the torment of the heat of the sun.Sethlzaar couldn't help but feel that somehow he'd relegated the strain of walking for the crime of the heat. It was preposterous, considering he'd have suffered the heat regardless.Or was it?The priest, in his hooded cassock taken from within one of the sacks dangling from Rive's saddle, made walking look too easy. Then again, his hood did protect him from the sun.Sethlzaar caught himself in a pout, and frowned. Not only was the priest oblivious to his problems, but now he was beginning to act like a child. It wasn't the priest's fault he had no hooded clothes.The priest paid no entrance fee when he approached the guards at the gate. After a brief search, they were within the city walls.The guards had only stopped him for the briefest mo
The hours seemed to drag on forever as they rode on. Soon the mist grew, engulfing the dirt completely, then Rives legs, from hooves to thigh, caressing even their own with an existence so lacking of sensation Sethlzaar's mind conjured up a sensation for it, perhaps to keep the fear of the unknown at bay.The horse slowed. It gave Sethlzaar a moment to tremble in the glory of what laid before them. The path was closed off to them. Where one should have been was naught but a body of mist standing as far as his eyes could see. The peerless source from which all the forest's mist seeped out.Rive let out a low snort, one of those it gave before doing something it was not comfortable with. Then it plunged into the fog.Sethlzaar's eyes snapped shut. They took solace in the touch of rushing wind as the horse soared in its tracks only for it to be visibly tainted with fear when the animal slowed to a canter and, finally, came
Valerik's request did nothing to quell the urge to escape.Sethlzaar stood a while. In time his feet shuffled along the ground, picking up dirt and staining an already dirty footwear he could only assume was unpleasing to the eyes. He never prided himself in his patience, but the strength that came with silence had always borne patience behind it. In the mist, however, that patience proved to elude him.He stood for what seemed hours. Eventually, his legs shook from fatigue. Valerik had asked him not to leave where he stood, but the man never demanded he remain standing. So, shuffling his feet and clearing the floor beneath him, he sat on the dirt.The mist continued its swirl around him. He soon began finding a companionship with it. It cascaded over him, leaving no sign of its existence on his skin. But he felt it like a motherly touch even if it was one he conjured up for the sake of his sanity, that he may not lose i
Antuas led Sethlzaar into an entrance beneath the keep. They walked an arched hallway, each arch in a way marking a distance travelled with wooden torches rested against the walls. They cast a golden light to expel the darkness. This left Sethlzaar marveled at how ancient the place seemed.The hallways were fashioned from stones so old he could smell it. On different parts of its walls cracks crawled like failed spider webs. They passed hallways leading to unknown parts shrouded in darkness. Each one claimed a part of his childish curiosity. The darkness of those unlit beckoned to him and he stared with a wanderlust.His mind demanded he explore it. He reached out his hand, curiosity outweighing caution and..."Vi Sorlan."He turned.Antuas stood ahead of him with a gaze strong enough to dissuade him of his compulsion.When had he stopped walking? he wondered
Minutes felt like hours and, as it stretched into hours, it seemed to go on forever. They labored under the bright sun in their repetitive strikes under Ordan's command.Ordan had them line up after an unending length of time spent on arm jarring strikes and Sethlzaar studied his wooden sword as they waited for their next command.He knew very little about swords, and he knew even less about the various designs. The only weapons to ever appeal to him lived in his memory of his journey and the scabbard of the darkness. He had snuck into Groc's study at one point in time and had seen the different swords hung on the wall, most of them had been longer than he had been tall.They'd all presented themselves in various sizes, sharpened on both sides. It gave them a double-edged ferocity. But what had caught Sethlzaar's eye was neither them nor the elegantly curved swords with the inscription sword of Tarr crossed over each oth
Sethlzaar and his peers learned of the existence of tests from the older boys as the days stretched into months, and finally into a year. They were trained in techniques required in fights."We teach yer not for the defense of a man, but the defense of a realm," Ordan told them one morning before training began. "We do not teach yer how to defend yerselves. No. We teach yer how to kill a man."Arrsahel was the day of the sword, first of the week. They woke before the break of dawn and took to the courtyard where they trained.Father Ordan remained brutal with the sword, giving Sethlzaar reason to believe he indulged them more for the opportunity of brutality than teaching them how to kill a man.Narvi proved adept with the sword, parrying strikes from the priest and occasionally finishing a spar with only so much as aching hands. It always left Ordan's mood fouler than usual. The children dreaded going after him, as
Sethlzaar made to rejoin what was left of the group, but his pride served to keep him in place where he fell to his knees.He rose to his feet. They trembled in fear. Cautiously, he waded through the mist, finding only more of it with each step. As he wandered, he considered the possibility of Narvi and Cenam being the last a conscious choice of the priests. He decided that if he was to place a wager on who would be the last out of the group it would be on Cenam.The sound of a twig snapping pushed panic into his mind. It sent him on a panicked sprint through the mist. Slowly, the mist thinned into nothingness.He sidestepped a tree as his vision cleared, narrowly avoiding it. A stray branch hit him in the face immediately after. He crashed to the ground, like a discarded log.Sprawled on the floor, he opened his eyes. The sun was at its peak. The direction with which the light bore through the shades of the trees w
Sethlzaar let himself into a free fall. He dropped through the remaining distance and hit the ground harder than he planned but did not let it hinder him. He rolled away from the voice on impact and came to his feet immediately, leveled into one of the few variations of the knife stance Yggdra had taught them.He reached for his knife, and his hand met nothing.Where is it? he panicked. The bear. The realization clawed at him.Panic grew to terror. Truth damn it all.He was left with only a few choices. Not finding himself with the strength to run, nor the mood for it, he turned to the source of the voice.An old man sat in the dirt. His back rested against a tree as he seemed to mull over his own question. "Of course not," he concluded. "You don't look the kind. Well, that way," he pointed to his right, "will find you in a cloud of fog, annoying thing