The Completely True Tales of Jax: Part 11

After the whole dagger incident, I just could not get those things out of my mind and was daydreaming about fighting with them as we started walking again. You know the exhilaration! I am carrying a stick and swinging it around like I just killed a whole army with those sharp, little things!

Naturally, Baruk was mad at me. He had been sort of keeping up the rear of the group, but now he kept up with Baruka and me. At one point, they get pretty far ahead because I could just not keep up. The air was getting so thin, and I needed to slow down. How much more up-hill could we go? When I finally caught up enough to see them, I noticed that there is a fork in the road, and the two of them are arguing in front of it. Baruka is pointing one way, and Baruk the other.

When I got close enough to make out what they were saying, they looked at me and then fully stopped talking altogether. Baruk just storms off to the left, but Baruka hesitated to go with him. I asked her, “What’s the matter?” but she was watching Baruk and did not answer. Instead, she took my hand and started walking very slowly. Very, very fully slowly! Slow enough that the others caught up to us and eventually passed us. Now we were at the end of the line.

I was trying to get her to talk, but Baruka just answered everything with a nervous laugh. Now I was starting to get nervous too! Soon, I could see we were basically alone. The path curved up ahead, and I could no longer see any of the other men. At that moment, Baruka grabbed my arm and stopped me.

“What is going on?” I asked her, but she was crying! Have you ever seen a grown woman cry? Oh, it is the worst thing in the world. I thought my stomach was going to explode, and I might have reflexively let off a little gas because of it. I begged her to stop.

Finally, she did. She wiped the tears from her eyes, and as I’m asking her to tell me what is going on, she loosens her robe again and pulls out this dagger. This one I am holding right here. It is lovely, isn’t it? Look at that engraving! It is a thing of pure craftsmanship. I always keep it right there in my boot, and I can’t use it without thinking about her.

She handed it to me, then holding her robe open, she placed my two fingers on her chest- to this spot on the left. That is right above the heart. Here, I will show you on your chest. Right there. Can you feel your heart beating? I could feel her heart was pounding hard- harder than yours is now. “There,” she said. “I want you to stab me right there.”

I sputtered and took a step back. “What is wrong with you? Are you crazy? What in the world would I do that for?” I asked her.

“Because of what I am about to do,” Baruka insisted. “I am about to betray my brother. I cannot live with myself!”

“Then don’t!” I spit out, trying to hand the dagger back.

“No, I must. Baruk plans to kill you all! We are no longer headed to Mesu. At the end of this trail is one of our villages. He will signal the men there to attack as we approach. Now you understand; our love can never be! Jax, do what you must. I cannot live without you!”

Then she fully kissed me right on the lips! She grabbed my face, tilted my head straight up, and plants one right on me! I was confused, standing there with this dagger in one hand and unsure what to do with the other hand. It was not what I expected my first kiss to be like, but it was lovely! I mean, it tickled a little because of… well, never mind. It was nice!

Baruka suddenly lets me go and is now holding her robe back with her chest puffed out and her eyes closed, waiting for me to finish her off. I just started laughing my head off. She was not amused. “What is wrong with you? Are you crazy?” she yelled at me. “What in the world would you do that for?”

“No, no!” I explained. “This is perfect! Captain wanted to speak to your leaders. Will they be there?”

“Some of them,” she admitted, “but what good will that do you if you are dead?”

“We won’t be, of course!” I assured her, but we had to hurry. We had to warn Captain!

For Part 12 Click Here!

The Completely True Tales of Jax: Part 10

Where is all the food? You promised me a bigger spread than last time! What? Water? What am I supposed to do with hot water? Tea?! Are you out of your mind? I do not sip tea, so just put that away right now! That was one time. I was being polite. No, you can have it. Here, take it.

Okay, let’s make this quick because I haven’t had my lunch yet. Had we met up with Baruk yet? No? Okay, well, in the morning, we packed up our things nice and early and headed over to meet up with Baruk. My stomach started giving me trouble along the way. No, it wasn’t the “water” I’d drunk; it was Baruk! I kept seeing his face whenever I closed my eyes.

Baruk was a big guy with a round face. He had this little mustache- you know the kind. It needed to be a bit longer or gone altogether. I wanted to get a knife and shave it off! He wore robes with a sash that when you made him mad, the sash made this noise like it was being ripped. That was how strong he was- just flexing his muscles might rip his clothes off! He smelled a little funny too. I thought it was dill. I wasn’t sure.

So, when we get to his tent, we are a little surprised that it is still there and not all packed up or something. Captain was all huffing and puffing when Baruk comes out, but he is not alone. It turns out he has a sister- Baruka! They were twins, right down to the tiny mustache! I took one look at her, and my stomach twisted all the way around. I think she took it the wrong way. She smiled at me, sort of giving me that look- you know the one- before informing us that she was going along too! She grabbed my arm and just started walking me towards the road into Dione.

I balked, reminding her that someone needed to stay at the shop, but Baruka whispers to me in her gentle, husky voice that they had several cousins ready to step in. As she did so, I was then certain- it was dill; definitely dill.

As you know, Dione is covered in trees and mountainous. I began to feel the strain in the back of my legs right away, but Baruka would not slow down. She glided along the path like she were floating, humming the entire time. Whenever we would come to a junction, she’d inspect the trees, and then we’d continue on. See, they made notches in the trees- tiny marks to indicate which way to go, and we were supposedly headed to Ghanrey, the capital of Mesu. I asked her how long it would take, and she said it depended on the weather but as much as a whole week. She was pleased about that! I looked up, and it was a bit overcast. No way, clouds! You keep whatever is in you right up there!

Finally, she stopped, and at this point, I realize we are far ahead of the others. She points down a little path and begins dragging me along it. Suddenly, the trees parted, and there is a spectacular view of the plain between Mesu and Pacia. I had never seen anything like it- better than the view we have over here at Faverly. For a moment, I forgot how tired I was and was acutely aware of just how small and insignificant I am. It did not last long, though. Baruka grabbed my arm and pulled me down to sit on a rock next to her.

“Isn’t it lovely?” she asked, but she was staring at me.

“The view? Yeah,” I sputtered.

I pointed flutily at the valley. I was about to grab Baruka’s stubbly chin to point her at it when she holds my hands and says, “Oh, you! Do not let my brother catch you saying such things to me!” Believe me! I did not want that! I went to get up, but she held onto my arms and yanked me back down. “You want to know a secret?”

I did not.

“Here, look at these!” and I kid you not, she grabbed her robe and ripped it open! I just sat there with my mouth hanging open. I had never seen anything like them- so beautiful! So perfectly shaped! So… pointy! I had to hold them. I reached out, but just as I did, I heard Baruk call out, “You leave my sister’s daggers alone!”

“No, I want him to see them!” Baruka insisted as she pulled one out of her holster. “He could use a good dagger, and I would give him a fair price! A fair price for a fair man!”

“Put those away!” Baruk balked at us, and so she did, and the two of us sat there like scolded children.

“Maybe later, when we are alone,” I whispered to her. “We could work out a deal.” Baruka winked back at me. I was beginning to like her.

For Part 11 Click here!

The Completely True Tales of Jax: Part 9

What is up with all this food? Hey, part 10, you say? That is pretty amazing! Think anyone will actually read all this when we are done? Yeah, me neither. Wait, count again. Haha! Well, I expect a spread twice this size the next time then!

Where did I leave off? Okay, let me finish what is in my mouth, and I won’t eat more until we are done. Right, we were in Pacia, still on our way to Dione. Have you ever been to Dione? I don’t mean here. Yes, fine, we are in Dione right now. I mean the other side of Dione, the western part where all of the trade routes are. No, the major trade routes, not the tiny one that goes to Paultry!

Well, the major one that runs from Mesu to Pacia ends on the border of Dione right where we arrived. The forest gave way, and there was a huge market right in this flat clearing that went all the way to the disputed area between the two countries. Believe me; you wanted to stay away from there! Far away! South of the market, there was a space where people camped. There was a small river. We are standing there trying to figure out if it is a legitimate river or just a collection of all of the disgusting… okay, nevermind. Would you pass me that piece of cheese?

What? Right, the market! A lot of stuff could be found in this market. I mean, almost anything- tea, fruit, cheese, those little tassel things you see on hats sometimes… anything! So, you get the idea of where we are at; the road through the woods ended at this open market. To the north was the other route that led into Dione, but the people of Dione were pretty wary of letting anyone use it. You had to hire an official escort and pay them handsomely if you wanted to travel that way.

We had some stuff we had looted from those bandits, so Captain sent us in pairs into the market to see if we could barter for supplies. Kent and I were supposed to look for food, but we ended up finding a place that had wine! Captain had the foresight to keep the goods with him, so all we could do was nose about to see if they would be willing to trade. They weren’t, but apparently, there was a guy who would buy the stuff outright. His name was Baruk, and his booth was right near the road to Dione, so we headed that way.

The guy looked fully shifty! He was sitting at the opening of his tent, but the goods were kept inside, out of sight. I had a bad feeling about all of this. Baruk seemed very interested in what we had to offer, so we got Captain.

Now Captain was an exceptionally good judge of character. I mean, just take, for example, how much he liked me! So, when he gave us the nod, I thought, “Maybe I am being paranoid!” The three of us piled into the tent, and Baruk offered us tea in these tiny gold cups. I drank it to be polite, but it tasted like mud. Come to think of it, maybe it was! Baruk and Captain started to haggle, and I sort of lost interest. I was peeking outside the small opening in the tent. There were a lot of people milling about out there, and after spending that time in the woods, I was a bit wary in such a small place.

Finally, the two men shake hands, and Captain hands over the goods for some amount of money. The man waves us good-bye, but as we are leaving, he mentions that he is, in fact, one of those men who could escort us thought Dione if we wished. Captain indicated that he was indeed interested in passage to Mesu. This was news to me, but I totally kept my composure! Mesu? What in the Arden did he want with Mesu? This was getting crazy!

Anyway, we left and set up camp for the night. I was glad to get out of there! We were just getting settled when Captain came up to Kent and me and gave us some money to buy the group wine. Apparently, he was really happy with us for finding Baruk. I knew I liked that guy! Trusted him right away!

We bought as much as we could afford and got drunk off of wine and stuffed ourselves with the last of the bear meat. I slept well that night for a little while, but because of all the food and wine, I woke up thinking about that creepy guy in the tent. I went out to the river to get a drink, and I can assure you it was not water. Whatever I put in my mouth, it was not water! My hand is three different shades of brown, and at that point, the bear meat and wine made a second appearance. Believe me; it was a more pleasant taste than whatever that sludge was that I tasted. Slept good after that, but I would have to see Baruk again in the morning. That was when Captain told us all to pack up; We were headed for Mesu!

Anyway, that is enough for now. You okay? Looking a little green, Anny. I am just wondering if you are going to finish that cheese or if I can have it? Thanks!

For Part 10 click here!

The Completely True Tales of Jax: Part 8

No, I have not been avoiding you! What? You’re crazy. I just wanted to make sure you have enough kindling before I head back to Paultry, but have you seen the weather? I might wait a bit longer. Okay, relax! I’ll be ready in a minute, just let me finish this drink. I know, I already had too much. How much tea have you had today? It is the same thing! Besides, I am going to need it if you want me to go on. I don’t usually talk about what happened next to anyone, but if I don’t, you won’t know what happened to Bren. Even saying his name…

You ever wonder what it would be like to take someone’s life? Okay, I know you haven’t, but think about it. What if you had no choice? What if it was a matter of you or them? Would you be able to do it? What would it feel like? How would you feel after?

I was thinking about all that as we were walking along the trail towards Dione. Why wouldn’t I be? Here I had gotten myself mixed in with this bunch of very nice mercenaries, and at first, I was excited to be going off on an adventure, but seeing how well armed they were and how unarmed I was got me to thinking that maybe I just didn’t belong. I didn’t belong on the farm back home either, and there was no way I could go back now, but did I belong here?

Anyway, so, I told you about how Kent was teaching me how to use a sword? Petten? Okay, Petten. Fine. Yes, he was still doing that- showing me how to defend myself mostly. I had taken that fully stick we found, and as we moved along the trail, I used the edge of my father’s ax to clean it up a bit so that it more closely resembled a wooden practice sword. Petten made fun of it, calling it a fully disgrace, so I started calling it “The Disgracer.” Cleaver, right? Ha! Well, you know me!

So, Bren and I are chatting as we go, and suddenly there is this terrible pain in the back of my leg. I turn around, and there is Petten laughing his fully off at me. “You got to watch you back!” he’s bellowing at me. Then the rest of the day, he kept doing it until I decided it was only safe if I had one eye on him and one on the trail. That is a good way to get a headache! Petten caught on that I was watching him. After I had managed to block him several times, he moved on ahead of us.

I was glad he was finally bored. Bren and I go on talking about our lives back home. Maybe that is why death was on my mind… Anyway, it turns out he had a pretty similar background to me. He had also been raised outside of Pent but his family delt directly with the traders in the city, not Gesh like my family did. We’re talking about trade routes when it happens again! WHACK! Only this time, Petten got my other leg!

Now I am wobbling and cursing at this fully of a guy and Bren and Petten are laughing at me. How did he get behind us? Turns out he went ahead of us, hid behind a tree, then snuck up on us. Clearly, my training for the day was not over. Petten makes a big show of walking ahead of us, but now I know he is going to be back. And he was! Like ten more times, that fully guy came leaping out of the woods at me, but eventually, I caught on and learned to guard my back. It was none too soon either because I thought my knee was going to just pop out of its socket or something; it was throbbing so bad.

Because I couldn’t walk well, Bren and I fell to the back of the pack. We kept talking and joking when I see Petten coming at us again out of the corner of my eye. I nonchalantly go to block him again when I come to the realization that this time it is not Petten. This dude has a real sword, and he wasn’t swinging for my knee but for my head! Somehow, I blocked him with “The Disgracer,” but he did not let up. He wasn’t alone, either. Twenty… no, a hundred men came rushing out of the woods! We were each outnumbered ten to fully one!

Bren screamed, bravely notifying the rest of the group that there was some trouble at the rear. The others came rushing to us, but Captain was stuck behind all of the men since he had been at the front, and, mind you, we were all fighting at the rear.

My whole mind went completely blank. Everything moved in slow motion as I tried to fight three guys off at once. Bren and I stood shoulder to shoulder and just kept trying to slow them down until the others could get to us. To his credit, Petten was one of the first to reach us. He ran one guy straight through! I had never seen anything like it! What just poured out of his…, oh, never mind the details!

The one who was trying to take me out, he had this huge sword. Before I know it, “The Disgracer” was just a tiny splinter. I threw into the woods, then pulled out my father’s ax.  I didn’t even hesitate. I chucked it right at his face. I don’t think that guy thought I had it in me. I didn’t think I did either. He’d sort of looked to the side for just s second to see where “The Disgracer” had gone, and as he turned back, my father’s ax landed square in his forehead. I’d only ever thrown the ax at a tree, but the same rules applied.

He dropped to the ground; Just dropped. I stood over him, looked down, you know, facing my fear as it were. I felt nothing. That was it- just nothing at all. My next thought was to keep going, so I grabbed his weapon and my father’s ax.

I do not recall clearly what happened just after that. Somehow Captain got to us, and together we slaughtered them all. The two of us together were amazing. With my new weapon, no one wanted to come near me, so I let Captain take the brunt of it! Not one was allowed to escape. But then it happened. I saw Bren was in trouble. There was only one of the bandits left, and he had Bren separated from us. I grabbed my father’s ax and, without thinking, I chucked it right at the guy who was attacking him like he were nothing but a scrawny maple!

Only I missed. I… I hit Bren instead in the shoulder. He doubled over, and when he did, I ran in. I was just swinging without thinking. The guy knew what he was doing and began beat me down. I could barely keep up. I am thinking Bren, and I are both dead, and maybe that would be better than living with what I had done. I could hear the others shouting, telling the man to run while he had the chance. He was too scared to run. He just kept swinging at me.

But he didn’t give up on us either. Captain, that is, used the guy’s focus on me to rush behind him and run him through. I was relieved, but Bren was badly hurt. I was sobbing and cursing myself when Captain, relaxed as can be, says to me, “True strength is demonstrated in control. Control your weapon. Control your movements. Control your thoughts. Control your emotions, or others will control you.” Then Captain just walked away.

Bren tried to convince me he was okay, but he was having a hard time standing. Petten and I bandaged him up while Captain and the others piled all of the bodies between two large trees. Then they made a sign and hung it on one of the trunks. It said, “Beware Arden” in three different languages, not that I could read any of them yet. We looted what we could. I got some armor, and obviously, I kept the sword. We started walking again, but it was clear Bren was not going to be able to keep up. When we encountered a caravan going the other way, Captain paid them to bring Bren back to Myridian.

The thing is, none of us ever saw him again. None of us! When I hear of someone named Bren, I check it out. I keep hoping, but it is a pretty common name. So I still have no idea if he made it home, but I would like to think that he did. That’s the thing, I pretty much know what happened to the others, but not Bren. So in a way, it is like he lives on forever.

For Part 9 Click Here!