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So, after a good night’s sleep at Belore’s palace, we headed north towards the border of Dione. There was a spot where people from Pacia and Dione could trade, but it would take a few days to get there, and we would have to pass through the west side of the Rykuo forest. In the meantime, the guys were giving me a hard time.
“Go fetch us some wood!” they would tease. I teased them right back, telling them what they could do with their request. Eventually, one of them, Petten, challenged me, and I fully learned a lot from him. For one thing, do not bring a wood cutting ax to a real battle! We dug through the woods and found a big stick. I started swinging that thing around, and we pared back and forth to pass the time.
Remember I told you the food in Pacia is quite spicy? Well, halfway through the day, it started to catch up to me, if you know what I mean. My arms were burning from swinging that stupid stick around, sweat is pouring down my forehead, and I was feeling a bit bloated. I know that in the next several minutes, I am either going to earn my rank among these fine men, or I am going to embarrass the fully out of myself!
I’m ready to let it go when Captain put up his hand, and the entire party stops walking and goes quiet. We are all looking around, trying to figure out what the problem is when we see it: ahead of us on the trail is a bear! This was not an ordinary bear. It was the largest bear any of us had ever seen! It was like seven feet tall and was foaming at the mouth. Its paws were as big as a plate, and it looked hungry. Mind you, I am trying to keep myself quiet, but my stomach starts making these terrible sounds. Everyone looks at me with a horrified look, like I was about to get us all killed.
The bear is looking right at me too. I can see Captain put his hand on his weapon. I had only seen him fight hand to hand. Imagine him with a weapon! I was worried for the bear! But then it happened. I could hold back no more and, to put it delicately, let lose the vileness within me. It was horrendous and loud. The bear heard it or smelled it and took off running in the other direction! He took like three big steps, then fell dead right there! We were saved!
From that day on, I gained my first nickname: Jack the Vile. It sounds impressive, right? They would poke fun at me, saying no one was as vile as me, given my size. One guy, Kent, insisted he went blind for an hour, but I swear it was less than a minute! Petten carved the beast up for us, and we ate bear meat for well over a week!
Litna…that was her name; Belore’s wife. She was as tall as she was pretty with arms like tree trunks. When she met me, the first thing she did was laugh and slap me across the back. She left a handprint where she struck that was there for a week! Her laugh was startling, like the sound a cow might make if you tickled it.
She welcomed us into her home and offered us all something to drink while we waited for dinner. I did not want to be rude, but I had not eaten all day, so I just sat there nursing two or three cups before the food came. Have you eaten in Pacia before? The food is spicy! Really spicy, like their…never mind. I said, never mind!
Captain and Belore were real chummy at this point, joking and comparing who’s men were stronger. We got into a competition. Belore suggested that Captain leave one of his men in Myridian as security. That way, if he or any of his men did not return, there would be some sort of payback. I took one look at Litna and tried to volunteer, but Belore suggested a wrestling match. Whoever won would stay behind.
Now mind you, I was like ten pounds soaking wet back then. Bren went first and got walloped. I went like third or fourth, and it was the same. Finally, this guy named Hindell comes out victorious. I think he might have been cheating, but it did not matter because then Captain challenged him! Captain whooped him good, fully tackling him to the ground and flipping him over his shoulder. I stood there with my mouth open like a fool.
Belore shook his head, questioning if Captain really trusted his men without him. Wouldn’t it make more sense if he went along instead? So, Captain challenges Belore! No weapons, just hand to hand combat, winner gets to lead the group into Dione.
I guess I do not have to tell you what happened next. For all of his height, Belore was slow on his feet, and Captain ran circles around him. Captain beat him like he were me at the time. All the men cheered, and Captain suggested that Belore use his time in Myridian getting stronger before the group returned.
True to his word, Belore stayed behind. Captain now had a group of like twenty men. Nah, let me count… like fifty! We waited for morning, then headed north.
For part seven click here!