Hero’s Journey Chapter 4 – Secrets
Late Afternoon, Corday the 9th of Tanot, 674 AG (After Godswar)
The Toshiko Farm on the outskirts of Benbridge
Her travelling robes splattered with mud from the walk through the village, Imperial Legate Yrsa Baugsdottir held a cloth to her nose and mouth as she surveyed the carnage. Next to her, Strike Captain Soti Serksson appraised his companion. With her braided blond hair, flawless fair skin and deep blue eyes, she appeared to be in her mid to late twenties. However, Soti mused, her status as a mage could put her real age anywhere between 20 and 120. Some said that the High Archon himself was over 200 years old. “What in the name of the gods happened here captain?” Yrsa asked Soti, breaking the hushed silence in the field.
“I was hoping you would tell me,” Soti responded sighing in exasperation, “that is after all why I summoned a diviner.”
“Oh, yes, sorry.” Yrsa blushed as she stammered her reply. “Forgive me; this is my first time on the battlefield.” Soti grunted as Yrsa got to work marking the divination circle on the ground near the dismembered bodies of the Eldalan soldiers. Bloody mages, he though to himself, ready to make all the decisions but lacking the stomach to see the effects for themselves.
One of the soldiers in the farmyard down the dirt track called out to Soti. “Captain Serksson, we’ve found something you should see.” Leaving Yrsa under the watchful eye of two of his subordinates, Soti began to jog back down the track towards the farmyard. Two soldiers were busy digging up a shallow grave that had been located next to an apple tree in the centre of the yard. The soldier that had called out to him was standing in front of the farmhouse and was part of a group that had been ordered to search the house. Four soldiers sent to get rid of the inhabitants of this farm had turned up dead, three of them torn limb from limb. This was a great cause of concern since little resistance from this village had been expected. Next to him, sitting on a small wooden bench and drinking from a waterskin, was a man dressed in the clothes of an Eldalan Ranger. Soti saw that the soldier was holding something five feet long and wrapped in cloth.
“What’ve you found soldier.” Barked Soti as he approached the young soldier who was barely out of his teens.
“It’s just like what Master Asbosson said,” the soldier began, “looks like just two people lived here. A farmer and his son. Didn’t find anything out of the ordinary until we checked the loft then we found this.” The soldier removed the cloth wrappings to reveal a gleaming sword and he handed it to his captain. Soti held the sword and began to examine it closely. Its silver blade had an iridescent finish with a faint yellow sheen wherever the blade caught the sunlight. The blade itself seemed to have whorl-like markings ingrained into the metal. Unusually, the sword did not have a hilt guard where the blade joined the hilt. Instead, it had a large circular inset made of something that looked like red obsidian only it seemed much tougher. Etched in yellow into the inset was the crest of the Kingdom of Arcadia. When Soti saw the inset his eyes widened in a mixture of awe and respect.
Speaking in a hushed voice, he turned to the soldier. “This sword, the blade is made of Sun Steel. A metal forged from a type of iron ore found only in the Desert of Geb and this inset is made from Blood Stone. Incredibly rare, it’s said to be made from the crystallised blood of the last dragon to fly above the forests of Northern Arcadia who died over a century ago.”
“So, it’s worth a lot then?” The soldier asked ignorantly prompting a laugh from Master Ranger Lars Asbosson who got up and joined Soti and the soldier.
“Is it worth a lot? This sword is crafted by master artisans,” explained Lars, “by special request of the King of Arcadia himself. It is only given to those people who have served with distinction with the Royal Guards. It’s a crime for anyone other than them or their descendants to possess such a sword.” The three men looked at the sword, a newfound respect on their faces.
“What’s it doing here then?” The young soldier asked to no one in particular.
“That’s a very good question,” Said Soti, “Lars; your orders were to investigate anything unusual in the target area prior to the attack. I think you will agree that this definitely qualifies as unusual.”
Lars passed the waterskin to Soti as he pulled out a small notebook from an inside pocket. “Let’s see,” he began as he flipped through the pages before finding the right one, “the Toshiko farm. According to my information an old farmer named Ren and his teenage son were the only inhabitants.” Lars pointed over to the apple tree. “I’d venture that the initials T and R on that tree are a makeshift grave marker for the father.”
Soti took a swig from the waterskin, quenching his dry throat before responding. “Anything odd about either of them?”
“No, not really,” Lars replied after thinking about it for a few seconds.
“That wasn’t exactly a resounding no.”
“Well, the kid and the father weren’t related by blood. According to the village gossip, the old man adopted him about 15 years ago as an infant. I saw the kid once walking through the village. He didn’t look like a local either with that green hair of his.
“Green?” Soti asked with a raised eyebrow. Lars’s response was pre-empted by a cough from behind them. The three men had failed to notice her as she approached and quietly eavesdropped on their conversation. Soti was about to ask her how long she had been standing there when Yrsa spoke first.
“Strike Captain Serksson, Master Ranger Asbosson,” she began accompanied by a respectful slight bow, “I have completed my divinations and am ready to make my report.”
“Well?” Soti asked impatiently.
“Oh, well, it appears your men arrived at the farmhouse as planned. They found one person, a late middle-aged man, in the kitchen. They searched the house for any other occupants and finding none took him outside and despatched him. At this point a boy, probably no more than 14 or 15 ran down from the tree line waving a sword about. I get the impression that the man might have been his father. His anger might have given him courage but it sadly did not impart any skill with a blade and he was outmatched and quickly over powered. Unfortunately for your men before they would deal a killing blow, a mounted huntsman arrived shooting the squad leader in the neck with his bow before …” at this point Yrsa went pale and her handkerchief again went to her mouth as she seemed to experience the divination a second time “… setting his hunting hounds on your men, tearing them apart. Afterwards they buried the body of the farmer and escaped on horseback heading north together.” Yrsa pointed in the direction in which the unsaddled horses had charged off in her vision, conveniently leaving a set of tracks to follow.
“Is that all?” asked Soti to which Yrsa simply nodded. “Very well then, thank you for your assistance, the soldier here will escort you back to the village to see that you get to the portal safely.”
“Pleasure to be of service Captain Serksson, your quarry should only be a half-days ride away at most. Good luck.” And with that, the young soldier saluted and followed Yrsa back towards the village. After she had entered the trees and was out of sight and earshot, Lars motioned to Soti to follow him and the two men walked far enough away from the farmyard to ensure that they were not overheard but their men.
“She’s lying.” Lars stated without ceremony.
“I’m not a Ranger like you Lars, but even I can tell that there were no animal tracks around the bodies.” Soti agreed. “She’s too smart to get it wrong so the question is why did she lie?”
“I don’t know, but I do know that those horse tracks she told us to follow were made by riderless horses. I did find two sets of fresh footprints heading away from the farm to the east. I suggest that we send the bulk of the men to follow the phantom horse tracks while you, me and three of your best men follow the real tracks to the east.”
Soti thought about the plan before responding. “Sounds good, meet back here in one hour. I’m beginning to suspect that there is more to this Toshiko kid than Yrsa was letting on.”
Yrsa knocked smartly on the door to the chambers belonging to the head of her order, The Circle of Tarun Kar, and waited until permission was given to enter. The chamber was silent save for the crackling fire in the fireplace and the scratching of quill on parchment. The master, a middle-aged 6-foot tall man with blond hair and blue eyes, the archetypal Eldalan, sat behind the desk in his voluminous studying a series of ledgers. The man was Baug Jokulsson and he was Yrsa’s father.
“I swear Yrsa, how is that the most secret society in all of the Empire produces more paperwork than the entire Imperial Bureaucracy?” He asked no one in particular as he sighed and pushed his chair back from the desk. Baug walked around the desk and stood in front of Yrsa. She looked up into her father’s face and smiled.
“It’s good to see you too father,” she said as father and daughter embraced warmly, “although I’d take an Arcadian spring over one of ours any day. It’s freezing in here.” Her father laughed and waved a hand towards the crackling fire in the hearth. As his fingers traced a series of motions in the air, the flames erupted upwards, roaring with a heat that filled the room.
“Sorry, sometimes it’s easy to forget how cold it can get without these damnable robes of office,” he apologised, “speaking of Arcadia, how was your mission?”
Yrsa walked over to the desk and picked up a juicy looking apple from a bowl. Biting into it, she savoured every crunch as she spoke. “It is just as we thought; the presence we detected in Benbridge was that of the titan spawn. It seems the reason why we were unable to determine its exact identity and location was that it is an immature specimen barely aware of its true potential.”
Baug opened a locked desk drawer and withdrew a scroll case. Within which was a detailed map of Arcadia will all its towns, villages and border settlements marked on it. A small number of these, less than half a dozen, had been highlighted. One of these highlighted locations was Benbridge and that village was the only highlighted location that hadn’t been recently crossed out. “Considering you are referring to it in the present tense, I can assume that it is still alive then.” Yrsa nodded her confirmation. “Good, if we’re lucky we might be able to find it before it gets itself killed.”
“There’s more, it seems that the immature spawn was under the care of a former member of Arcadia’s Royal Guards and is now under the protection of another of their number.” Yrsa commented as she finished her apple.
Baug’s head snapped up, mild surprise evident in his eyes. “Are you sure? The Arcadians had a kill on sight policy towards titan spawn last time I checked.”
“Although I’m not sure if the spawn is aware of his true nature yet, I got the distinct impression that both the guardian that was killed by the troops and the protector that left with the spawn both were aware.”
As Yrsa described the full flow of events that she had seen in her vision, Baug sat down at the desk absorbing all she said. “Interesting, an immature spawn completely unaware of his nature and raised as a normal human. Very interesting indeed. If his sire truly is Hrinruuk, as his mark suggests, then we may have finally found the key that we have been searching for. To think, the culmination of centuries of planning depends on a mere child. It is imperative that we locate him before the Emperor’s Finest catch him.” He got up and walked over to the fire where Yrsa joined him as he looked into the flames. “Does this Serksson suspect anything?”
“No father,” she replied, “I spun him some line about hunting dogs and sent them north instead of east. It’ll take that man weeks to figure out he’s going in the wrong direction.”
Baug looked at his daughter reproachfully as he summoned a servant from the corridor outside, “Yrsa dear, I’ve told you before about assuming stupidity amongst those not gifted with magic.” In response, Yrsa merely rolled her eyes.
The servant entered unobtrusively as she was trained to do, moving with agility and purpose despite the sightless white orbs where her eyes should be. She knelt in one knee, awaiting a command from her master.
“Assemble the Talon’s,” Baug instructed the servant without acknowledging her presence, “it seems they have a hunt on their hands.”
After the servant had left the room, Yrsa turned to her father. “Father, given what our soldiers have done to his home, the spawn’s cooperation will be hard to secure and it is unlikely it will come quietly.”
“We do not need his consent, just his blood.”
Posted on Friday, June 27, 2008, in Hero's Journey and tagged adventure, child, dace, demon, epic, fantasy, genocide, hero, heroic, kiba, kid, quest, spawn, titan, titanspawn, toshiko, young. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.