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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!
So, I told you about Pacia last time, right? It has been so long I do not remember. Okay, then, well, we had been in Pacia a few hours. I am not sure how long it really was because I was drinking, but Bren insisted it had only been a few hours when Belore showed up. I mention him, didn’t I?
Maybe I did not mention that Belore was a foot taller and twice as round as any of us. When he was around, you knew it, and you’d end up with a crick in your neck trying to talk to him because you had to look practically straight up at the sky. Now that I think about it, the sun was right overhead at the time, so maybe it had only been an hour or two, but I can get a lot of drinking done in that time!
Anyway, Belore walks up to us, and I see the server from before is pointing at me, but before Belore can say anything, Captain calls out to him, “Hey, over here, big guy!” That got his attention! “I hear you run this place.”
Belore got right up to Captain, standing so close that you couldn’t fit a blade between them. “What is this I hear of an outsider taking advantage of this fine establishment?” he said. I sort of hit the floor. He spoke fancy like the royalty did. Turns out, he was a royal. His father was the king of Pacia: King Zaran. I wonder if Captain knew that because he pulls his official jacket out of his bag and flashes it at Belore.
“You stole that?” Belore asked him. I could tell from the look on his face that he was trying to decide if Captain was saying he was from Pent or offed a guy from there.
“We should talk,” is all Captain replied. He patted the table, and Belore shrugged. When he sat down he made the chairs look like they were for children.
“Buy me a drink,” Belore ordered, and Captain did just that, dropping a fair amount of coins on the table to show he was serious.
The two start to chat, and Captain explains that Ramoth sent him to straighten the place out. I am thinking to myself, “Is he crazy?” Like, what is he thinking? Does he expect Belore to do anything other than flatten us? But here is the catch, Captain mentions that if they do what Ramoth wants, the whole town will go under. Nobody would benefit from that. Captain explained that Ramoth is thinking he can send some men over and take over the business of the middlemen for himself. You know, they get quite the cut of what comes off the ships, but really anyone with the forces to do it could, well, do it if they are willing to step on the toes of King Zaran.
I can see Belore is thinking about it. He asks Captain if he can talk to his father about this, but Captain doesn’t like that idea. “No,” he told him firmly. “I’ve got to get back and do not have the time to hang around waiting.” I knew that was an outright lie, but Belore bought it.
“Okay,” he said. “We do not want a conflict more than we already have.” Remember that Pacia was at war with Mesu at the time. If we attacked, they would have a hard time splitting their forces. They could, but Belore didn’t know that Captain was fibbing. Belore offered to pay Captain off if he’d go back to Arden and tell Ramoth to forget about Myridian.
I should have trusted Captain was up to something right then because Captain then asked Belore something odd. He said to him, “Wouldn’t you want to never have to worry about Arden again?” I shouldn’t have been listening in, but I was. I almost spit out my drink!
“Of course!” Belore admitted. I should mention the two were really drunk by now. At least they were acting like they were. I’d seen both of them finish off a whole pitcher and be fine, but I wasn’t even sure at that point how much I had drunk!
Belore’s wife was lovely, by the way. A real gem. What? Yes, it is crucial! I mean, if I looked at her wrong, she’d probably take my heart out of my chest, but other than that: absolutely beautiful.
Anyway, where was I? Oh yes, “We can help one another!” Captain goes on. “If we join forces against Dione, I can guarantee Arden will become your ally.”
Now you know, and I know that Dione is mostly mountains: The Venom mountains. If I draw a picture, it will be clearer. Here:
You can see the problem. Dione was considered anything in the mountains, but there wasn’t anything clearly defining where Mesu ended, and Pacia began. There was the same problem with Arden. The Rykuo Forest made it hard to tell where one country ended, and the next began. You recall the Rykuo Forest, right? Remember that one time? Ah, I see you do! I’ll never mention that again.
Okay, getting back to it; if Arden and Pacia could work together to take over Dione, then Pacia would have two less borders to worry about. There was only one problem with that; Dione was not that inhabited. It was mostly nomadic traders who traveled between Mesu, Pacia, Arden, and Paultry. How do you start a war with people like that, and what would Ramoth think when he found out what Captain was up to? Did he already know?
For Part 5 Click Here!
Sorry for the lack of updates! I have been working hard on completing the sequel to The Myth of Arden. That book, The Myth of Arden: Isle of the Empress, is entering its final editing phase! I hope to have it ready for publication soon.
So for this week, I am taking a bit of a writing break to get other projects in order; But once all the socks are sorted again, I’ll hopefully have time to get The Completely True Tales of Jax back on track. I’m very excited about that series!
So stay tuned! Thank you for your support so far!
This was one of my favorite things that my father would make. He usually did not work off a recipe, but luckily, my little sister wrote it down. The chicken cooks in a marsala gravy, so it goes great with a big pile of mashed potatoes! Obligatory “Enjoy”!
You will need:
- 2-3 Chicken Breast
- 1 Egg
- 1 Medium Onion (chopped)
- 1/2 cup Heavy Cream
- 1/2 cup Marsala Cooking Wine
- 1 cup chicken broth
- 1/2 tsp Thyme
- Olive Oil
- 1-2 cups Flour
- 6 Tbs Butter
- Frying pan
- Medium baking dish
Step 1: Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Trim chicken breast. Butterfly into two pieces or cut into strips if the pieces are large.
Step 2: Coat chicken in a 50:50 mix of egg and water. Dredge in flour. Using olive oil, brown both sides under medium/low heat. Set cooked chicken aside in baking dish.
Step 3: To prepare the gravy, melt 6 Tbs butter in pan used to cook the chicken. Add onion and cook until soft, about 5 minutes. Add left over flour from step 2 (about ½ cup). Add 1 cup chicken broth, ½ tsp Thyme, and ½ cup Marsala cooking wine. [Alternate recipe: Substitute marsala wine with white wine and 3 Tbs lemon juice to make Dad’s Lemon Chicken].
Step 4: Bring gravy to a simmer to cook off the wine, stirring occasionally to incorporate the flour. Once simmering, turn heat down to low and allow sauce to simmer until thickened, about 5-15 minutes. Continue to stir occasionally to prevent burning.
Step 5: Once sauce is thickened, remove from heat, and add ½ cup heavy cream. Pour sauce over chicken in baking dish. Cover with foil and bake at 325 for 1 hour.
Have you ever been to Pacia? It is the opposite direction of Crewda, to Arden’s west. At that time the Rokuo Forest divided the two kingdoms without a clear distinction of who owned what, but for certain, the Candecent River was well within Arden’s borders. Once you crossed over that you had better be on your toes!
The people of Pacia made the Crewdans seem tame. It wasn’t that they were savages- far from it! They shared a border to the North with Mesu after all, and you might have heard there were constant battles there. The Pacians took what they could plunder from Mesu and turned nearly everything fully thing into a weapon. And while for the most part they formed war parties and attacked head-on; they were also known to send scouts ahead of them wherever they went. Those scouts were the finest in all of the land. There was no way to detect them until one of your friends hit the ground. They’d pick off the best fighters before the battle even began.
Now I only heard all of this while Bren and the rest of us were heading that way. To try to cross through the Rykuo was suicide, but the ship routes were relatively safe. We boarded a ship and set sail along the coast. The tides there were always against us, and so it took a lot longer than I expected. After hearing what was ahead, I was just as happy to keep to the ship. On the last leg of our journey, Captain orders us all out of our uniforms and into regular type clothing. That was the first time I wondered if I should have asked before then what we were doing in Pacia!
The first port we hit in Pacia is called Myrdina. It was the only safe port to stop at in Pacia as it was close to Arden’s border and it was the largest port in the kingdom. A lot of business was the secondhand merchants who would be the go-betweens for the ships and distributors as most ship captains were afraid to step foot off their boats. One could get in, drop off their goods to these middlemen, and get out before attracting too much attention. I got the feeling right away that Captain liked the attention though. He marched through that place like no one could touch him. I had never seen him brandish a sword before, so I couldn’t say yet if the bravado was warranted, but I had seen him talk himself out of that situation in Crewda.
Captain took a look around the place and it was pretty busy! There were shops and restaurants as you would expect, and chaotic foot traffic. He asks a few of the shopkeepers and they direct him to the largest purveyors of spirits that he can find and then tells the lot of us to get settled in, order a drink, and just try to blend in. I liked the sound of that!
So, Bren and I settle in. We order a drink. We wait. We order another. We are trying to take our time, but we keep getting bored. I order just one last drink. I mean, it isn’t even noon yet so I should take it easy, right? That’s when I notice that the lady serving our drinks is getting awfully touchy. I mean, not that I mind a little bit, but she wasn’t really my type. I mean, what if that girl back in Crewda found out?
Bren and I are laughing it off when the same lady comes back and she’s mad! Like madder than Captain was when we dropped his favorite… well never mind about that. It wasn’t me!
She goes, “You two are trying to swindle me! You’ve been drinking all morning and you haven’t got any money!” Then to prove it she shows us our empty wallets! Can you believe it? She pinched our purses and then claimed we were thieves!
Captain is laughing his head off at it all. The other guys are hooting at us too. Then he says, Captain that is, he says, “Perhaps we could ask Belore to settle the dispute?” The lady was mouthing off to us, telling us to be quiet, but then she was the one to go silent.
“What do you, a foreigner, know of Belore?” Though she was trying to be obstinate, you could tell she was scared. Her voice cracked a bit and her shoulders slumped.
“What is there to know?” Captain said like it meant nothing to him, and he sat back down and ordered another round of drinks. The lady sulked off to get them. I was looking forward to my next drink, but before it arrived we were interrupted…
For Part 5 click here!
At this point, nobody seemed to remember that I was not a part of the original group of men that had been assigned to Captain. He didn’t seem to notice either. I wasn’t old enough to officially be part of the king’s guard, but I was big for my age, so nobody questioned it. Bren certainly wasn’t going to say anything. We’d become good friends at that point. I just sort of tagged along as the guys headed back to Pent.
I had not been to the city in some time, but it was just as I remembered it: smelly and crowded, and all noisy all the time. I guess it was no different then than it is now! The castle was pretty much the same too, though I’ve been there ever since, so how would I notice the little changes?
Ramoth was pleased with the news that we had settled things in Gesh and invited us all to a feast that night. I was thrilled. Bren gave me some of his extra clothes. They were a bit snug, but it was close enough. Captain warned us all to keep our mouth shut in front of Ramoth. We were to say “yes” and “thank you”, but that was it! That was fine with me!
So, we get to the dining hall in Pent, and it is huge! I had never seen such a place. You could have fit my whole house in there. At the head of the table is Ramoth. Next to him is this guy who is laughing and telling stories about some pretty influential people. At least I gathered they were by the looks of horror on some of the guest’s faces at the mention of their names.
It turns out that it was Cailar. He was a bit plumper back then and had color in his cheeks from smiling so much! Did you ever see him smile? Well, never mind. Back then, he smiled plenty.
On Ramoth’s other side was a woman so lovely, I am not sure how to describe her. Imagine the most beautiful woman you have ever met. Think of her soft hair, the curve of her bottom lip, the way she ignores you; Take all of that and then take one big step back from that- that is how magnificent Princess Kayla was. She was definitely in the top ten of women I had seen up to that point. Maybe just the top twenty, let’s say, but no less than that!
I think my jaw hit the table, and I notice that she is looking right at me! I am way too young for her, but maybe she doesn’t know that. I ran my fingers through my hair… What? Well, of course, I had hair back then! It was thick as mud and the same color too. It might be because I seldom washed it.
Anyway, I run my fingers through my hair and give her the best ‘Jax smile’ I can. She doesn’t even flinch! It was like she was looking right through me with those eyes of hers. I turn to Captain, who is sitting right beside me to see if he is seeing what I am seeing, but to my amazement, he is looking at her too… giving the best “Jax smile” he can! Hey, buddy, that is my schtick!
Now I am starting to understand why Ramoth sent Captain off on this certain death mission. The princess is giving him a look… you know the one, but she is engaged to Cailar. Not that she wasn’t giving Cailar and just about everyone else in the room the same look from time to time, but you could tell she was intrigued by Captain. And why wouldn’t she be? He was a fine specimen of a man! I could see that after a while, Captain began to ignore her, and this drove her crazy. She walked by a few times trying to get his attention, but it was no use. Cailar did not even seem to notice. He and Ramoth were pretty close, and the more they drank, the happier the two of them seemed.
The next morning, I woke up with such a headache! Bren was jostling me, telling me to get packed up. We were all headed to Pacia immediately. So much for the cushy life!
For Part 4 click here!
Okay, so where were we? Oh, fully! My drink! Shoot. No, it’s fine. I got it. Okay…so, Bren and I head out to the camp where the men are. I said that bit already, didn’t I?
Yeah, so Bren starts to tell me about how they are on this super-secret mission to Crewda. The people of Crewda are mostly shepherds. They have all kinds of livestock, and they are nomadic. Well, as you know here in Arden, there are primarily farmers like my dear father. Every fall when the harvest would come in, the Crewdians would move their flocks along the river. They’d just be there all day staring at us. Then at night, they’d drive the herds across to plunder our fields!
Okay, well, not “my” fields, but our neighbors who were closer to the river. So Ramoth had sent out these men to go over there and make a few casual threats to the Crewdians. Nothing terrible, just keep to yourselves or there won’t be any more of you.
Still, you could imagine my surprise to see men in royal guard uniforms. They usually didn’t leave the castle, but there they were, and they stuck out like a sore thumb. The guy Ramoth’d put in charge had never been a captain of any kind before. From what I could gather, he had upset Ramoth, and so Ramoth told him that if he could settle this conflict, he would forget the matter and make him a royal captain, permanently. His armor was mismatched and did not fit him at all. I guess I can’t say much, seeing as I only had my father’s ax. Meanwhile, the Crewdians were rugged people living in tents and fighting off wolves. So, I took one look at him and thought, “We are all going to die!”.
So, with no hope in me, I took Bren up on his offer to sample some of the local libations he had procured. We drank all night! It was amazing! The whole troupe joined us, and so I got to know them all a bit better, though again, I figured they were all good as dead, so remembering their names didn’t seem that important.
Back then, Captain was the serious type: you know like that guy who is quiet and always seems to be planning ten steps ahead. Almost like he was playing Tikii all day, every day. Captain had a drink, and it didn’t phase him. We kept handing them off to him, and he just kept taking them. Soon we were all drunk, but Captain remained as sober as ever. Maybe we would make it through this, after all!
I finally got the nerve to ask him what he had done to cheese off Ramoth. Do you know what he said? He said, “I dared to touch the hem of her skirt.” What did that mean? At the time, I didn’t get any further because Captain refused to say anymore. Cool as could be he got up and went to bed: told the lot of us that we ought to do the same.
It wasn’t that I shouldn’t have obeyed; it was just that Bren and I started to get in our minds that we should go down to the river to give those Crewdians a firm warning that we would not put up with their shenanigans. At the time, we felt like we could do anything! So we headed off to the river, but when we got there, no one was around. So, we went for a swim instead.
At least I think that is what happened. In the morning, when we woke up, there was this ruckus. The others had caught up to us and were laughing hysterically! There we were, the two of us passed out on the shore, soaking wet without any memory of how it’d happened. They were teasing us something awful because of our dire estate. That was when I noticed one of them had my ax and another my shoes. It wasn’t that we were naked! We weren’t! We both had a good inch of mud covering us!
Captain was so… mad. I was going to say “mad”! See? I am getting better. Before we could join the others, we had to get washed up. The water was fully freezing, and the whole time the guys are razzing us, but I kept my cool. You know me. It didn’t bother me at all! I certainly didn’t yell anything back to them. That is not me at all. Once we were presentable, we crossed the river and headed into Crewda. We were looking for one of the campsites the Crewdians used.
It did not take us long. We just followed a small herd of sheep, and there they were. They greet one another in a strange way. You put out your hand, and you take their hand and say, “Minas Suto!” which means, “Here I am” or “Here is me.” Captain goes up to their leader and takes his hand like he has been doing it his whole life! The rest of us stayed back a bit, just pumping out our chests. Wait, pumping? Pushing? Whatever.
In any case, their leader is impressed! The two of them sit down and start to chat. They bring us scruffy guys some food too, so we sat down and after a while, we start joking and just having a good time.
It turns out these guys are okay, and their women… well, they were the perfect combination of strong and beautiful! One kept looking at me, Ayika was her name, and I just smiled back. She’d put her hand on my knee and smile her big, warm smile! Never you mind, though! No one is going to tie this man down! I still think about her sometimes. Her eyes flashed like onyx, but she was probably too old for me anyway! We start to chat as best we can and I see there is a lot of opportunity for trade between us if we can get this dispute settled. I mean, we both have something the other wants, right? I mean livestock and produce, Anny! Get your mind out of the gutter!
So, we get done, and Captain tells me it is time to go. It was a sad goodbye! On the way back, I asked him what the deal was, and he says that he told them they had to stay on their side of the river. They insisted they could not stop the flocks from crossing over. So, they had agreed that the herds could cross over, but only once every ten days. Apparently, the sheep found this acceptable. Sheep can be very accommodating. Have you ever seen a baby sheep? Well, yes, then you get it. So cute!
The guys and I are wondering, though, if Ramoth will accept this bargain. Do you know what Captain said to me? He said that it would not matter. He would tell Ramoth that they had agreed to keep out, and by the time ten days had gone by, he would already be officially a Captain anyway. Now that is a clever trick. After that, whenever the report came that the Crewdians had crossed the river, Captain would just tell Ramoth that he would “take care of it” when really he didn’t have to do anything because they wouldn’t be back for another ten or so days.
And that is exactly what happened when we got back to Pent, but you will have to refill my drink if you want to hear more about that!
Click here for Part 3
Keep in mind this is all true- every bit of it. Anny? Did you write that down? You don’t have to look at me like that! I just wanted to make sure you weren’t going to miss anything, okay? Alright, just keep writing whatever I say. This is going to be neat.
Now, where should I begin? Well, how about I just start at the very beginning! I grew up outside of Pent, about half a day’s journey along the eastern coast. There is a small port there called… my name? Oh, my name is Jax! But back then, people called me ‘Jack’. That’s what my mom called me anyway. She was a beautiful woman. She took care of me and the others. There were eight of us all together. There might have been more after I left. I’d guess I have at least five more siblings out there I don’t even know about.
My dad was a farmer. I didn’t see much of him. He’d be gone before the sun went up and return around dinner time. He had this one chair that was his favorite, and he’d eat his dinner and then fall asleep right there. That’s about all I can remember of him!
We kids were expected to help out, of course, but I was always messing around. It was easy to get away with since there were so many of us. This one time… well, maybe I’ll save that one for later.
Anyway, I was a bit obsessed with fire. I mean, who isn’t? It is so fully awesome. What do you mean I can’t use that word? Which word? No, write it just as I told you! But that isn’t what I said! Okay, I guess “fully” works, but… whatever. Where was I?
So my mom tells me I have to bring some stuff to Jahna. He sold our extra supplies for my dad out of Gesh. I mentioned Gesh already, right? There were ships there that would travel along the coast. Well, you know that, right? Like the Berkiss and the like taking supplies around.
Okay, so she gives me this big bundle, and I head out, but before I go, I grabbed my father’s ax. I wanted to gather firewood on the way home. I figured my dad would never miss it. Fully, he’d probably miss it before he noticed I was gone! He was a fully full fuller like that!
By the time I get to Gesh, I am exhausted, and Jahna is nowhere around. I didn’t want to wait around for him, but if I left without being paid for the stuff, I knew I’d be in trouble. That’s when this guy comes up to me in a full guard uniform! He was all like, “Is that the supplies for the men? Jahna was supposed to deliver them, but he never showed up!”
I found out later that the reason Jahna never showed was because he had taken the money and then run off with one of the ship captain’s wives. The best place to hide in that situation is the mountains. Captains are always a little uneasy on dry land, so it’s best to get as far away from water as you can get.
Wait, where was I? I’ll tell you when I have had enough to drink! No, don’t write that down! Fully. Fine, so I say to this guy, “Fully, yeah, I have your stuff!” He’s super excited and tells me he’ll throw in a bit extra if I carry the stuff back to the camp for him. Fully, yes!
By the time we get there, it is getting late, and the guy offers me a place for the night with the guys. I was excited. His name was Bren. We all got so drunk that night. Hmm? Nah, I was plenty old enough! Okay, well, not everyone was raised like you, so just relax.
Bren goes on to tell me that they are on an important mission, but they are a bit shorthanded. Well, I’ve got my dad’s ax and plenty of time on my hands. I told him I’d be happy to help out. You see, further east of Gesh is the Welter River. It runs between Arden and Crewda. You know, I should draw you a map. No, I will tell you the rest after I draw the map and maybe finish my drink!
Click here for Part 2