The Completely True Tales of Jax: Part 21

“Make way for the Elders!” the caravan shouted as we approached La Keytan. The procession was led by a man in a long, orange robe who danced ahead of us, smacking a tambourine. He would shout, and the caravan would respond in kind.

“Make way!”

“Make way!!”

“The Elders have arrived!”

“The Elders have arrived!!”

“Clear the way!”

“Clear the way!!”

The gates to the town opened, and the villagers came streaming out to greet us. They lined the way and cheered as we passed, then joined along with us as we danced into town. We carried on like that until we reached the very center of the village, and that was where Captain and Baruka met up with us. When I saw Baruka, she looked absolutely lovely. She was wearing this colorful robe that cinched right under her curvy arms. Baruka was taller than Captain, you know. I only noticed when I saw them standing next to each other like they were. They were side by side, but I don’t think they could have appeared further apart. They both looked like they could use a good night’s sleep and a shave! What? Well, I didn’t notice her face first!

Getting back to it, “Might I present, his highness, the Chief Elder of Dione, Albert of La Moss!” the leader of the processional called out, but instead of repeating what he said, this time the caravan gave out a loud cheer. So did everyone else in town. It was pretty exciting. Albert sat on a rickshaw with his royal robe and his head bowed down. You could only really see those bushy eyebrows sticking out from under his head covering.

Eventually, the crowd settled down, and all eyes were on Captain. “Greetings from Arden!” he loudly pronounced. Albert stretched out his arm, and Captain took the Elder’s hand and kissed the back of it while he bowed in reverence. Albert sort of bowed too, since that was the custom, but then he grabbed onto Captain to help himself up. It’s hard to stand in those robes! He almost fell over!

“The Elder wishes to meet with you alone, Ramoth of Pent,” the leader instructed. Baruka bowed to both men, then motioned for Albert to follow Captain into her home. She went to follow them in, but the leader guy stopped her. “He wishes to speak in private, my lady.” He insisted.

Once inside, Albert took the seat at the head of the table. Baruka’s home was a lot like Loina’s. There was a table in the middle and places along the walls to rest. So, naturally, Albert took the seat right at the head of the table- that would be the one facing the doorway. You know the tables are round. It’s to symbolize community or something like that. Well, anyway, where was I?

Oh, yeah! Albert sits down, and Captain offers a drink. Then he takes his own seat. He was about to sit opposite Albert, but the man patted the tabletop and beckoned his host so that Captain would sit closer.

They sat in silence for a bit, Albert still hunched over with his head down. Captain waited a bit, but as was his way, he soon decided to take command of the situation, saying, “I appreciate you coming to see me on such short notice.”

Albert nodded appreciatively.

“Baruka and I, as you can see, make a handsome couple, but that is not the only reason to approve such a merger. Arden and Dione have always been close allies.”

Again, Albert nodded.

“But there is a matter that is pressing, and I take you solely into my confidence in telling you this.”

Albert: Nodding, yes, yes!

“I have personally received reports that Mesu plans to attack Dione. As you know, they have not been able to make much headway in their tiffs with Pacia. It is only a matter of time before they invade your lands to gain a strategic advantage against their enemy. Arden cannot allow such an overreach, and if you would join with us, we could guarantee your security in exchange for your allowing our armies passage through your lands to Mesu. We can further guarantee no harm would come to your people. By attacking first, we could keep the front lines in Mesu, where they would take most of the damage to their land and people.

“This is a very generous and likely limited offer. The rulers of Pacia have agreed to align themselves with us in this conflict. If you should choose to side with Mesu or even to remain neutral as you have in the past, then I can say you would mark yourselves an enemy of both Arden and Pacia.”

“So, that is your plan!” I gushed as I stood up from the table. You should have seen the look on Captain’s face!

“You’re not Albert! You meddling, fully swine!” Captain exclaimed, jumping up from the table and drawing his sword. “Just when I thought I’d gotten rid of you, you return like a stinking fish!”

“So, what? You’re not Ramoth either, so there! Put that sword away, and let me explain!” I said, trying to act cool, but I swear that under that robe my undergarments suddenly felt a little moist. It was a good thing that robe was very absorbent! “Albert passed away last night. We had a lovely ceremony for him this morning. It was just, I mean, the care these people have for one another would melt your heart.”

“Get on with it!” Captain demanded.

“Sorry, anyway, the Dionians are really set on making this deal with you.”

“Are those pieces of carpet glued to your eyebrows?”

“No, they’re from a robe. We used tree sap to keep them in place.”

“Clever”

“So, anyway, they don’t want any trouble from Arden or Pacia. So, just go along with it! I’m going to walk out of here; you’re going to announce a treaty has been reached, and we can finally get back home.”

“That’s it? That’s your plan?” Captain sputtered, but then as he lowered his sword, he admitted, “It’s not bad. Oh, fully! Now I suppose I’ll never get rid of you. Fine. We should draw up a document that looks official and seal it so no one can notice how poorly written it is.”

So, that is what we did. Captain and I, okay, well, mostly Captain, wrote up a peace treaty, and then we both signed it: I as the representative of Dione and him for Arden. Then we sealed it shut with an “official” seal.

I grabbed my disguise and as I was putting it on, it occurred to me that I’d never see Baruka again. This pit formed in my stomach, but I had to ignore it. She’d be Captain’s now, but he planned on leaving her right there to “look after things.” That’s when it occurred to me that, as Albert, I could let him out of the deal. I could make it so that the treaty wasn’t based on a marriage but something else.

We left Baruka’s home, and everyone was still waiting there for us. Captain raised his arms high, showing off our treaty. There were lots of cheers, and I could see Baruka looked relieved but nervous. One of the lesser Elders guided her over to us and was about to put her hand into Captain’s when I spoke up.

“That will not be necessary,” I grumbled, trying to sound old. “The treaty is based on Ramoth here marrying my great-great-great-great-granddaughter Cornelia.”

Baruka gasped, looking at me with daggers. That was when I remembered she was likely armed, so I picked my head up for just a moment and winked at her. I could tell she recognized me because she looked dumbfounded for a moment, but the pain in her face vanished. Then she turned to Captain and slapped him right across the face. The engagement was officially over then! Before she stormed off, she glanced at me with those big eyes of hers, and she winked back with a timid smile. Oh, I will never forget her. As she walked away, I could tell she was happy. I’d like to think she always remained just as lovely as she was that day.

Well, naturally, Ramoth and Albert had to leave for La Moss right away! The caravan made a complete about-face, and we ran out of there like pigs headed to the sty! Once a safe distance, we handed the agreement over to the other Elders, who were most grateful that Ramoth would go along with the farce for the sake of peace between our lands.

Then we went our separate ways, the Elders and us, I mean. Captain treated me differently after that. He began to treat me like a friend, not that I didn’t get many more knocks to the face! No, that is just what good friends do! It was a relief because it was a long way back to Pacia.

Part 22 Coming soon!

The Completely True Tales of Jax: Part 20

Albert and I walked along for a while, chatting like that, but it was getting late. We might have been able to make it if we trudged a few hours in the dark, but it was safer to just set up camp for the night. I sat outside Albert’s tent and pulled out my ax. I really appreciated having it back. I grabbed a few fallen branches and began peeling back layers of them for kindling. Albert watched, noting my fine skill as I set the pile of shavings on fire.

“Is it not good when something misplaced is returned to where it belongs?” he joked as he handed me some bread. “Not that change is not necessary every once in a while, but the security of the normal, of everything in the right place, that is when the heart hums a calming tune.”

“Yeah, I am glad to have it back,” I said. I grabbed a stick, and I was poking the growing flames. “I was beginning to feel just like this ax here- lost, abandoned, just all out of sorts. I mean, it is ridiculous! Why should I give that woman even a half a thought? We barely know each other, and, like you said, she is a complete troublemaker! First, running off with me, then running off with him- what kind of a life could someone like that give you?

“Meanwhile, I can’t even stand the sight of my own friends, if you could call them that. You know, I doubt they even noticed that I am gone. Could you believe that? Those self-centered fools! They’re probably sitting in Loina’s house right now, listening to those little flute things and eating my half of the dinner! ‘Give me that extra bit! This is great that that guy is gone! What was his name?’

“Not that I am not grateful for the bit you gave me. I mean, I didn’t pack nearly enough food or water. I didn’t remember the trip up the mountain being so long. I was sort of distracted by Baruka, I guess, and wondering where we were going. I never dreamed I would be involved in such crazy things at my age. No, I think another year, and I would have had my mother trying to marry me off. Lovely woman, she is, but she would be like, ‘Jack, you need to get yourself a wife and move on! Go on now!’ Maybe it’s good I don’t go back. She’d have some choice words for me if I weren’t dead and just run off like I did.

“I have to live my own life, though, right? I have to be free! No one to tie me down! Is that selfish of me? Does that make me a totally self-absorbed, fully full? Albert? Albert? Are you even listening?”

Albert was hunched over with his eyes closed. He’d fallen asleep! I was so annoyed I gave him a good punch in the arm, and he fell right over without making a sound. My jaw hit my chest, you know. I jumped up, afraid I’d hurt him, but he wasn’t hurt, he was dead! I started shaking him, and the others that were around came over to check on him. Sure enough, he was gone, just passed away while I was trying to talk to him. I tell you, that’s too good a listener! Too good, fully!

The men start freaking out. That is when I realized Albert wasn’t just any Elder. He was the Eldest Elder! What are we going to do? Albert was supposed to okay the marriage between Baruka and Ramoth. No Albert, no marriage, no deal. This was turning into an international incident!

But then I had an idea. His robe… those bushy eyebrows…

For Part 21 click here!

The Completely True Tales of Jax: Part 1

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!

A very expensive and accurate recreation of the map of the boarder between Arden and Crewda

Click here for Part 2