The Exodus Sagas: Book I - Of Spiders And Falcons (2 page)

BOOK: The Exodus Sagas: Book I - Of Spiders And Falcons
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Looking down, my slate blue eyes meeting the gaze of my sons’ bright blues, I entertain the thought that my infant son might know. “Perhaps you know all about me then, do you not, my son?” I said in playful tones meant for children. My baby smiled and gurgled some inaccurate words hoping for more conversation from his father. And I gifted him with such for many hours of many days, every morning. One thing that I am good at, and brings me the most trouble, is talking. My words had saved me and damned me over and over, from high priests of forgotten Gods, to kings, and mighty archmages, I seem to have a gift. Unfortunately, it was just an untamed and misused one back then.

My boy, Alessandeir, yawned, my embrace and warmth had made him too comfortable yet again. I, from ages past, sat down, overlooking the hills and low mountains to the north of my lands once more. Son in arms, I try and think of my home, this new family, try to count my blessings in peace and serenity. It is difficult to forget the past, even sitting on a lush, warm country manor outside the city of Gillian in early summer. It is warm and clear in southern Shanador this time of year, and little stirs here so far from any major city or war. Safety and solitude, all my needs met, and yet I can not feel whole from it, not at all.

The breeze caught my mind wandering to darker times, and I can sense my wife awakening, can hear her move even one hundred feet away. Strange that she inspires uneasy tension in my mind when she is not near. Answers, I need answers to what is truly happening around me, or perhaps what will happen. Some pray, as my wife does, for guidance upon awakening. I will not. Who would listen? Megos, Saint Tarumin, Annar, Seirena, Siril, Alden, or a host of other powers that had seen my name as a foul curse on the lips of children? That was a bit extreme I thought, even for my own self-pity. Yet it is true. There is little left in this world for an old cursed wizard, except for what I had now just recently begun. Hopes to protect it, in hiding, and have something to fight for, dwell still in my chest. There is little peace to be known for men such as me, and I know no one like myself to share this loneliness with. Most like me, find their peace under the earth.

I smile at the thought of death, and of how many times I cheated it and defied it. Visions of devil women, warrior demon lords flogging me, and snarling dragons of hell march through my memory with fire and pain for a few moments, yet I do not fear them anymore. I am free. Now, time is catching up, and I feel much undone and less time to do it in. I do not know how to enjoy life, but have to try. My hopes lie with the little one in my arms, in redemption. I will not let my son make the same mistakes I made as a young man. My guilt subsided, and I choke the depression back with another smile. Even with the smile, I watch my back and peer around to see if anyone, or anything, is watching me. I feel it, what it may be I have no idea, but it cannot be good.

“Time to see your mother my son, perhaps we will all take a nap together, and after that I will tell you more of my stories.” I whispered. Some stories, and my new family, that is all I have left in this world. I only wish my stories were a bit more cheerful. I cannot share much of mine own for fear of frightening them, but I have others I have seen and watched for centuries, perhaps those instead would befit my sons’ ears.

Alessandeir whined out a small cry, hungry most likely. “Ahh, you
are
awake now, are you? You missed the sunrise again, but we have sunset as well, do not worry.” The baby smiled, enjoying my words, wanting more, though he had no idea what I meant, nor would recall the conversation later.

“Sodom? Sodom Azarris, my love, bring our son back in here please. It is still too cold this early.”

Her voice from afar warmed my chest, soft and caring, even in the early morning after sleep. I turned to step toward the doors, and Alessandeir began to cry again. Not for lack of care for his mother, but for the attention and words I gave him in the morning. “Very well, I see you are stubborn like me. Would you care to hear another story? Short one though, I do not wish to upset your mother. Although mild disobedience is to be expected.”

The child smiled, relishing all the words and facial expressions of his father. Those moments, like this one, are what keep me alive and wanting to carry on. I always tell true stories I know of to my son, for it is easier than creating one. “Yes my love, just a little longer, our son wishes to hear another story.”

I, a once mighty mage of old, sit in the grass overlooking the dawn from my spot on the hilltop, third time up and down so far this morning. “Let us see here, little one…” I rocked my son back and forth, keeping my hair away from tugging fingers as best I could. “Almost thirty years ago, while I was in….
elsewhere
let us say, there was a great push for reclamation in a cold kingdom to the south of us. Many men urged their great king to war, and there was an order of brave knights who fought against the ogre tribes that dwelt there.” Unblinking, the child stared at me, hearing the words flow from my lips and chest like it was yesterday’s tale.

“This kingdom, Chazzrynn, had already lost two princes out of three in wars previous, so the king was hesitant to send his own best soldiers or himself with but a young heir remaining. To help the brave knights of Southwind Keep, the elite cavalry of the western borders, the king only sent his reserve army knowing victory was certain in any regard. The men who staggered onto the field of battle were weary from the long journey and armed with second-rate weapons. Of their number in Southwind there was one knight that I should tell you about my boy, for his story is much like my own. The orphan James Andellis was not the bravest, boldest, nor the most skilled knight with a blade. But one with a gift and a certain disregard for death...and the people he would meet seemed to have that same disregard. There are so many my son, but we will start with James. He would meet a God, a minotaur, and an elven…”

“Ddda da deh du?” Alessandeir wished to speak like me, had been practicing dada for some time now.

“Yes of course I am your dada, very good son, very good. Shall I continue?”

I looked into my boys’ eyes, followed his lips into a curling smile of anticipation, and waited until his voyage into words was content for now.

“Where was I? Yes, James Andellis and the battle of Arouland, you are correct. A young rider for Southwind Keep, and the right hand of Lord Arlinne T’Vellon…”

 

Introduction

James I:I

Arouland Ruins, 331 AD

“Should you see a lone wolf beside your enemy, know that your enemy lives without fear that day.”
-Old Tehthese proverb from the teachings of spiritual warfare, Northern Altestan, 2150 BC

 

He watched the rising sun from the hilltop, his breath casting a foggy cloud over the landscape. James felt the slow chill in the early spring morning, yet his anticipation could hardly be contained and the minutes seemed like hours. He had polished his blade, checked the grip of his round steel shield, and polished his breastplate and helmet to a silver shine. He even cared for the black falcon emblem, full of rough scars on his shield, the falcon of Chazzrynn. Orange beams cast into the fog that wrapped around the ruins for as far as he could see to the west. The young man, barely twenty-three seasons, felt fear mixed with his eagerness, hearing the rest stir behind him. A thousand men here, assembled to regain control of the Western Waste which was formerly the district of Teirinshire and the city of Arouland belonging to the kingdom of Chazzrynn over four hundred years prior. It was lost they say, in a great war with the Northern kingdom of Altestan. Then there came the great deluge from Saint Tarumin, and then the ogre.

The ogre came by the hundreds from the untraveled Misathi Mountains to the far north, tribes and legions of them. In those times there was only a weakened and divided kingdom incapable of keeping them out of the ruined west. James thought of the ogre he had seen in his training, nearly ten feet tall, thin, muscled, glaring dark eyes, and dark yellow, blotted skin. Vicious creatures they had been, though he had only seen them in numbers of up to four, usually scavenging for livestock or terrorizing small villages. They reeked of uncleanliness from the rancid pelts they wore to their braided, dirty black hair. The ogre possessed mouthfuls of yellow and brown teeth and the strength of two men for sure. The young knight had battled a few, and recalled the brutal combat with a seriousness that pulled his head out of the clouds and fog for a moment. The visions in his mind filled with glory and battle and leading men of his own one day against the ogre hordes that polluted the kingdom he served. His dreams had all led to this day, the reclamation of half of the kingdom with his hundreds of brothers of Southwind and a thousand of Chazzrynn infantry from the capital in Loucas. It had taken years of strategizing, petitioning, organizing, and scouting that claimed the life of many a brave soul from the Keep in Southwind. His home, the mighty western border watchers, the elite trained of the kingdom were all orphans. A family of those left on doorsteps and foyers in the south, that is the way it is in troubled times and has been for centuries. The families of Southwind Keep were all given away at some point in their lineage, stayed together, trained together, and none knew neither heritage nor birth name but were raised as knights or soldiers to protect their kingdom. All orphans were bestowed with a surname of one of the seven families in a ceremony that occurred at the age of fifteen. Service and more service that is all they knew, James Andellis and his siblings.

The Lord of the keep, a tall, dark bearded man of great renown in all of Chazzrynn, Arlinne T’Vellon stood next to James, also admiring the sunrise. His family, the T’Vellons of Southwind Keep, were held in great regard and admired by all for their leadership and devotion to king and country. James’ family of Andellis was likewise devoted to God Alden and the church.

James felt safe next to such a man at that moment, and all his fears cast away. “Good morn my Lord Arlinne.”, the young knight gave a slight bow and then straightened up a bit. “Sleep well?”

“James of Andellis, I slept like a baby with dreams of victory and an enemy fleeing us before my very eyes. Twill be a good day for the kingdom. Get your horse young man, the regular army stirs and needs our constant pressure to get moving and keep up with Southwind Keep.” At that Lord Arlinne turned with a solid pat on James’ shoulder guard and began raising the men from their tents.

James had been on several excursions with Arlinne T’Vellon and had fought alongside him against the ogre outside of the trade city of Hurne. His confidence was no façade, and the young knight saw his blade run through two of the four ogre that day, while it took five knights to take the other two. James looked at his crisp, long, white tabard with the red feathered cross of Alden on the chest. The youth said a silent prayer to the God of forgiveness and mercy and asked for blessings for all the men to fight well. He quickly hid his right hand under his tunic as it glowed a faint blue when he prayed. That secret few knew, as he had not studied old rites or hymns, or prayers at the temple; and his gift, little as it was, would draw suspicions from other families and perhaps the church. James had healed many a bad scratch with his touch, but nothing serious like the Aldane priests could do with prayer and effort. The fledgling warrior often wondered if it came from his mother or his father, neither of which he would ever know. He was one of the orphans, not born of the orphans of the keep, no, he was left on the road they told him, half mile from the gate, yet an infant. The Andellis family had room, and he was taken in by Sir Baril Andellis, trained for many years, and here today with the other six families of the keep preparing for a day centuries in the making, and centuries overdue.

The men of Chazzrynn lined up, Knights of Southwind on horse in the front line, regular infantry sent by King Mikhail in the rear. His brothers of Andellis, T’Vellon, Alvander, Dunmoor, Mederris, Sancadiun, and Pellanan were all poised and focused on Lord Arlinne, and none made noise or even breathed it seemed. The pride swelled in James’ throat like something was stuck, immovable, and tears formed in his blue eyes. He made no motion to clear them, knowing full well no one was paying him mind. Arlinne spoke, “My sons and brothers, kinsman and countrymen, this morning, in Alden’s name, we will reclaim what was once ours!” pointing his drawn blade of gold and steel etched with falcon designs and a griffon crosspiece directly at the view of Arouland two miles ahead. Cheers went up, the noise felt like lightning and drums though there were none, James’ helmet drowned out anything but the sounds of determined yells and glorious howls of southern men. James drew his blade, the first of the line, and raised it high, shouting till the veins felt they would burst from his neck, and pointed it as well toward the capital of old Teirinshire. His gesture was followed by two hundred more on their steeds, whinnying of horses, and then shouts from the infantry behind.
If the almighty Alden was watching and listening, surely his angels would feel envy for the cacophony roaring now
, James thought as he turned his eyes upward. “Give no ogre quarter or mercy. They are beasts that have squatted and looted for far too long, and today we will ride them to the north or bury them in the west. Today we take back our lands from the wretched for king and Chazzrynn!” More cheering and yowls, clamoring of shields to all new deafening heights, and following the lords lead, they rode west down the hills toward victory.

LCMVXIILCMVXIILCMVXIILCMVX

Another rider went down to his left side, screeching pain of the steed and a muffled and watery growl from the knight as a spear as long as the horse itself penetrated the man’s chest. The ripping of muscle and ribcage could be heard for an instant and seen protruding red from his brother’s back a blink later as he dragged his mount tumbling to the earth. More spears, barbed and accurate, whistled through the crisp morning air and took down dozens of knights well before the outer walls of Arouland. James saw more than the hundred or so ogre he expected, there were twice that in view already. Many had armor pieced together, some wore shields, and they seemed a bit too organized for what he had been told. Still charging ahead, as the wind seemed to drive the animals without effort, he thought to slow and regroup. There was no trimming the charge; noises of trampling, yells, screams, and ogre tongued curses drowned any possible relay of conversation at this speed. The youth raised his shield arm higher, just in time for a spear hurled at his left side, the tip screeching past with a spark. Then another missed his horse by inches, and the shrill scream of pain echoed in his helm from whoever was behind him. James Andellis kept the charge, noticing a wolf emerge from the ruins, alone, and then followed by another score of ogre. The animal scampered off to the west, staying clear of the deafening noises of charging cavalry. The young man felt fear, real fear, yet kept the advance of the front line.

BOOK: The Exodus Sagas: Book I - Of Spiders And Falcons
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