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!