The Myth of Arden Chapter 1: Part 1

Those fools and wretched sons of Arden! Their passions are too great, and for them they fall like the grain at harvest. Can they not see the wages of their destiny; the dangers in the paths they choose? Soon their lives I’ll lay in shatter. Arden’s brothers for Faverly’s sisters.

Chapter One: The Myth

      The king lay sprawled out on the couch of his private chamber, which was adjacent to the throne room. His left hand rested over his eyes while his right laid by his side playing with the fringe of the blanket underneath him. He simply lay there, quietly pondering the events of that morning. His advisor, a great and noble idiot, had finally come to his senses and obeyed his king: the boy would die, and that pitiful man could not prevent it.

      He let out a gentle groan as he rubbed his face, now trying to awaken himself. With a swift motion he swung his legs over the edge of the couch, and for a second, he leaned over with his elbows on his knees, his head spinning, before sitting straight up. The footsteps he heard that had riled him from his rest now paused outside his door. 

      “Come in you fool!” the king cried out. 

      The door pressed open, and a young man peeked inside. He was a new servant, fearful to enter the king’s presence as most newcomers to the castle were. Hesitantly, he brought his fruit laden tray to the king. Arden was a rather warm and humid place. The fruit was available year-round, and though some might have thought it a treat, the king grumbled loudly at the sight of it; It had become mundane to him.

      The server, however, was unaware of the King’s displeasure. His whole body seemed bowed over slightly, carrying his offering ahead at arm’s length. He placed the dish on the bench next to the king and, without lifting his head or turning around, floated to the door, closing it behind him. The king had to wait but a second till the door opened again, this time without the pageantry as before. Tall and mighty, the king’s advisor entered.

      “My king, I see the day finds you well,” his advisor began.

      “Why yes, my dear friend, it does. You have carried out your orders, and with such care! Tell me, how did you manage to conceal yourself?” the king asked.

      “My lord, I fear I was not as successful as you had wished,” the advisor warned. “I have just returned from the market. Already there are great murmurings among your subjects. They suspect foul play.”

      “Let them do as they please. What can even the greatest of my people do but speculate?” the king said plainly.

      His advisor continued, “The consensus among those I spoke with is that the child died from the fall, or perhaps suffocated when the blankets fell on top of him. A few argue that the babe may have just died, as many infants do, and the nurse watching him was so afraid that she knocked the cradle over to make it look like an accident.” The man paused for a moment before he admitted, “Still there are those that suspect it was murder.”

      “My good man, I fail to see the proof of murder!” the king blurted out, suddenly sitting up.

      “Details of this morning, or rumors if you prefer, have spread quickly,” the advisor explained. “They say that after the child was removed from the room, the weight of the cradle was so great that three maids together had to lift it back to its place, leaving all of the maids individually blameless of the accident. It is also rumored that the cradle was in no way damaged and that there was, therefore, no reason for it to fall unless a man pushed it. I feel it would be wise to destroy that cradle immediately.”

      The king thought for just a moment before he said, “I see. I shall have it hacked to pieces so that no man may see the truth behind it. As for the other details, they can be easily explained.”

      The advisor nodded before continuing, “Then the matter is settled, but another issue presents itself. What of the Sisters? I understand you wanting a son’s death, but what threat could those girls present? They are just children.”

      “I have been thinking upon that myself,” the king said as he laid back. It would seem that we ought to limit the stain of infant blood on our hands, yet the Sisters present a degree of danger if they are to produce the next heir to my kingdom.”

      “My lord, think on this with care,” his advisor pled. “The people are torn. They had much hope in your son to unite them. Should they discover the Sisters to be deceased as well, it may cause an uprising. They shall suspect foul play. The countries that sent the girls will be most displeased if they are returned lifeless. For now, none would believe you capable of murdering your son, but if they die too who knows what they will be compelled to believe? It is better to let them live. Tell the people now that you will have another son. Restore their belief in you and keep them dumb at least until the prophecy is a myth and nothing more.”

      The king paused for a moment, trying to take in all he had heard. He stared down at the floor for a moment before his eyes returned to his advisor. The fool had done him one service in eliminating his heir. Now perhaps he could humor him and keep the girls for a little while.

      He straightened up, and in an authoritative voice, he resumed. “Ever since this prophecy was uttered, my men have retained control of that cursed fortress in preparation of this time. I want you to send the girls there. Take them to Faverly as we were told to do. Take the map from my journey and return there. Take with you whatever you think the fortress will need along with ten servants to care for the girls and protect them. Only be careful whom you choose to take. I would not want any more unexpected heirs. In time, in a place so far away, they will be forgotten. Then we will decide.”

      And so, it was done. The girls were sent away while the king used the anger and confusion caused by his son’s death to rally his people behind him. In time, a year or two at most, the memory of the Sisters would fade, and then he could dispatch them. They were just seven little babes: all girls, all born on the same day as the king’s son, but each born in a different country. It was foretold that they would be the ancestors together of a single male who would unite the world in peace.

      Years of darkness and famine followed that day, yet the king in his high walls was unaffected. Sixteen years passed to be exact before the Myth of Arden once again returned.

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      The king entered his bedroom many years later filled with a fantastic sense of warning. He shrugged his shoulders as if to shake off his feelings as he turned towards his bed and raised his right hand slowly. His fingertips caught the smooth softness of a cord that hung from the ceiling. Gently he pulled it till several young servants entered the room. They occupied themselves with every detail of the king’s busy nightly ritual before exiting, closing the door stoutly behind them. The king now lay in his bed, staring into the darkness. 

      His mind wandered as he thought of the blind man who would entertain him with stories in the evenings and wondered what he must see: blackness, whiteness, red like the look of the sun through closed eyes? His stories were always so vivid as if the man could look into another world. The king had been told again and again by the eternally patient blind man that he saw nothing at all. However, the king had never seen what nothing was, so the form of it was foreign to him. Therefore, if the man had never seen anything how would he know what nothing looked like? He resolved only to inquire again of the man the next evening, for his eyes were growing heavy.

      He closed them, but it was so dark that the room remained unchanged. For a minute he fancied that his eyes were still open, but after blinking several times, he became quite sure that his eyes were indeed closed. 

      He shifted his weight back and forth restlessly, trying to establish a comfortable position before he was able to take in a deep breath and set in. A moment elapsed. The room was completely silent. Again, he shifted between the covers. Yet as he did so he became aware of a noise. The silence was again broken.

      “Who was that?” he pondered. A guard, or his wife perhaps? He sat straight up in his bed, his ears straining to listen. Again, there seemed to be no sound. Again, the silence beckoned. His drowsiness overwhelmed his fear. He motioned to lie back down when he thought he heard it again. His heart quickened. His breath grew shallow. It all seemed to be connected; connected to his premonition…

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      “What premonition?” interjected Marcus. His female passenger glared back at him, arms folded, a pursed frown on her lips. She strained to hold this pose as the carriage they were riding in swayed suddenly, forcing her to reach out and catch herself. Marcus tried to hold back a laugh. As he did, she noted the faint wrinkles beginning to form in the corners of his deep brown eyes. He was a handsome man with defined features and dark, tan skin. His hair was black and somewhat long.

      “If you are going to keep interrupting me I’ll never get through this story,” she warned. 

      “What premonition? I do not remember hearing about one,” Marcus insisted. Seeing her glare sharpen, he raised his hands in defeat before motioning her to go on.

      Marcus’s escorts had explained earlier to his befuddled passenger that under any other circumstances Marcus would not have been so cross. However, he had been traveling almost nonstop for the last four days to arrive at the capital city of Arden, which at that time was called Pent. The reason behind the urgent trip was unknown to all but Marcus, yet his royal position delegated him the luxury of such an expensive excursion unquestioned.

      His young, female passenger had been spotted very early that morning as the caravan made way through a small town. Marcus immediately liked her. She had smooth pale skin and long, straight, dark hair. Her eyes were large and a brilliant shade of blue. In exchange for entertainment, Marcus had agreed to let her come along.

      As it turned out, Marcus’s escorts were being somewhat deceptive about the prince’s temperament. In truth, Marcus was always known to be cross.

      “As I said before, he had a premonition right before going to bed,” the young girl annoyedly insisted.

      “Of what, exactly?” Marcus shot back sourly.

      “Of sugar, and rainbows! What do you think it was of? You should just know premonitions are always bad,” she snapped back. 

      Marcus paused for a second, seemingly insulted before he gave out a hearty laugh. He hadn’t been spoken to like this in some time. He found it almost endearing. This girl was either brave beyond measure or incredibly naive.

      “Yes, I guess that is a silly question, please go on,” he said with a charming smile.

      His passenger smiled back and continued…

Chapter 1: Part 2

The Completely True Tales of Jax: Part 13

I took my time walking back to the campsite. When the men saw me, there was a cheer. Baruka was just pale as a ghost. Kent was not sleeping anymore! He was sitting there next to Baruka on the ground with his dagger pointed at her. It was then that I remembered that Baruka still had one of her daggers in those sheathes she kept under her robe. I really messed up! Kent could have been hurt, but he wasn’t. Baruka must have had had no intention of using them, or she would have escaped too.

I went straight to Captain, who you can imagine was furious with me. He had some choice words, including that I was a fully, fully full who fully’s with ugly fulls. He wasn’t wrong! I handed him Baruk’s sword, and I told him what Baruk said. “Fine,” Captain goes. “I guess now we will have to do it your way.” He said it like he was mad, but there was this hint of jubilee in his voice. He told me to get lost, so I cleaned up my ax quickly, and then I hesitantly returned to Kent and Baruka.

I thought Baruka was going to scream at me, but she just looked at me without saying anything. She looked completely shocked. Then her gaze fell to the campfire. “What happened?” Kent asked. I looked at him with daggers of my own! What are you asking me that for in front of the lady?

“He got away,” I fibbed. Kent rolled his eyes. He was about to call me out, but I looked from him to Baruka and repeated, “He got away, okay?”

“Fine, you fully fool!” he snapped back. “Can’t even keep watch!”

“Captain already chewed me out,” I pointed out. “I don’t need that from you too!”

“Could have gotten me killed!” Kent mumbled, but he finally put his dagger away and laid back down. I thought I heard snoring, but I am also pretty sure he still had one eye open.

I looked at Baruka’s face, lit by the campfire. I just stared at it while the others began to settle back down. It got so quiet you could hear every wind that blew through the trees. Finally, I got up and sat next to her. I thought she’d push me away. “Sorry,” I muttered, barely above a whisper.

“He woke up that man when he got up,” Baruka began to explain, indicating with a nod that Kent was the man she was referring to. She still wouldn’t look at me, but she said, “He bumped into the man, and I thought he was going to tell me to run, but then he knocked me over so he could get away. Why did he do that?”

“He just wasn’t thinking!” I insisted, “I am sure he was sorry. I mean, if he were here, he would be saying, ‘I am so sorry! I just wasn’t thinking!’”

Baruka did not seem impressed, and I wasn’t sure what else to say. Then, purely by coincidence, I remembered she still had that dagger. I reached out gently and pulled her robe open. She looked at me now, her eyes sparkling in the firelight. I reached under her robe and grabbed the handle, gently pulling it out, so I did not cut her. “Oh!” she exclaimed. “I’d forgotten about that.”

I held it up under the light of the stars, then I took her chin, and I pointed her face towards me. I pulled her face closer to mine. Closer, closer, gently urging her to come forward. My eyes were fixed on her lips. Then I lifted her dagger. It flashed against the light of the fire. I put it right up against her face, and I shaved that fully mustache of hers right off! It was like a complete transformation! Have you ever kissed someone without a mustache? You really ought to try it sometime! Not that I got a chance that night. No, not that night because Kent started fussing and just ruined everything.

For Part 14: Click Here!

The Completely True Tales of Jax: Part 12

Now mind you, I was tired. We had been walking uphill for the entire day, and now I was fully running, trying to catch up to the guys. I had to- I had to warn them before they were all killed! I began questioning everything I had ever done to that point. Should I have stayed on the farm? Was this really what being an adventure was all about? Fully!

So, I finally catch a glimpse of them, and I see that they have all stopped. At first, I was relieved. Then I realize that the men are all gathered in a circle of sorts, and who do you think is in the middle of it? Yeah, Baruk and Captain are going at it. Baruk had pulled out his sword, which looked just like one we had sold to him. Can you believe the irony in that? I mean, being killed by your own sword?

Well, Captain was not having any of that, and he has out his weapon as well. I could tell he was messing with Baruk, trying to give him the idea that he had a fully chance to beat him when really Baruk was outclassed. Baruka saw what was happening and screamed, but that was a mistake! Baruk looked to see if she was okay, and Captain clobbered him over the head! Baruk just crimpled to the floor, and now Baruka was screaming while I tried to hold her back. Captain looked from Baruk to us, and I could see that he was not pleased with me. Like, fully!

What? What is the matter, Anny? Why can’t I say, “fully?” Well, what have you been doing that for! You mean to tell me that you’re still writing “fully” for when I say fully?? But I want to say, “fully” this time. See how confusing that is? Okay, so then write something else. Write “entirely” when I mean “fully” and “fully”… you know what, just write it as I say it. No, it isn’t that hard!

Can I get back to it then? Okay, write it properly. Fully! Let me see what you wrote. What does that say? “Fully?” Perfect. Just keep writing what I say…

Anyway! Where was I? Oh, yeah! Baruka is screaming, and I am holding her back, but it was not easy since she was a good foot taller than me. The other guys are laughing so hard at me that they are falling over. Captain calls out to us, “Restrain her, you fool!” So, the guys do just that, coming over and grabbing her and tying her hands behind her back. I notice they are doing the same to Baruk, so he must not be dead like I thought at first.

“Where have you been”? Captain starts just entirely laying in on me. Then he made some speculations on where Baruka and I had been, which included some rather tawdry things! I was blushing at the suggestion, but since the men were finally looking at me like a hero, I just went along with it. The Captain finished by informing me that I ought to think with my head. You know how that goes!

So, I said, I looked right at him in the eyes, man-to-man, and I said, “Captain, you do not understand! We are walking into a trap! Baruka…”

“Of course, we are!” Captain snaps at me. Then, pointing towards Baruk, he adds, “Isn’t that obvious? You about to tell me the sky is blue too?”

I was flabbergasted and flummoxed! I mean fully shocked. How did he know? What was it that had tipped him off? Something must have happened while I was gone. It was getting late at that point, so Captain ordered us to settle down for the night. We went to a rocky clearing a ways off the trail. Kent and I were told to keep an eye on Baruk and Baruka. Like a true friend, Kent fell asleep right away, leaving me the first watch. Baruk was still lying there with blood running down his forehead. I wasn’t sure if he was unconscious or faking it. Baruka finally calmed down, but she looked pretty upset.

“I won’t let them hurt you,” I assured her, whispering so that Kent wouldn’t wake up and the others wouldn’t hear. Then I started to make a campfire.

“You should have killed me when I asked!” Baruka hissed at me. I mean, fully hissed! Here I had tried to help her, but now she is mad at me! What else could I have done? Wouldn’t Captain have just offed them both if it wasn’t for me?

I tried reasoning with her, but Baruka was staring at her brother. So, I went over and gave him a shove, and he just sort of groaned a little. See? He was fine! She should be thanking me! I had no doubt that if I had not intervened, Baruk would be Ba-dead! Baruka did not see it that way and started arguing with me. I don’t even remember what we said; it was so stupid.

Finally, I just got up and walked back to the edge of the woods. See, the clearing was too rocky- I had to go back a ways to grab some of the dry underbrush. I was still keeping an eye on them, but suddenly I notice that Baruk is standing up! Baruka was standing up! Kent jumped up, but Baruk knocked Baruka into him and ran the other way. The only thing was, the other way was right at me! Kent is screaming for me to grab him like he really needed to do that!

I don’t think Baruk even saw me. I crouched down like this, like a frog ready to pounce! As soon as he was close, I leaped at him. He dodged me! Ha! Spry little thing, wasn’t he? Then, he took off into the woods. It was for the best, though. I followed him and had an advantage because his arms were still tied behind his back. He started yelling, like help might be nearby. He was screaming, “It’s me! It’s me! Baruk! Help!”

So, I stopped, grabbed my ax, and just listened to the sound of his voice. It was like that was all I needed to see him. I raised my arms over my head and just let it go. BAM! Baruk gave out a shriek and fell to the ground. By the time I caught up to him, I could see the wound was bad. It was really, really bad. Fatal even.

I rolled him onto his side, and his eyes were all glassed over. “Tell Baruka I am sorry,” he sputtered.

I wasn’t sure what to say, so I was like, “Hey, you’re going to be fine! Come on!” But Baruk knew. He knew, but he seemed at peace with it.

Then he whispered, “Bring my sword to the village up the road. It belonged to my nephew. Do not let Baruka see. My nephew… they will listen to you but only if you bring the sword…”

For Part 13 Click Here!