First two chapters in a fantasy novel. Warrior monks are given a task from their Seer.
|Note: 7/18/14 This is a rather old piece now. I just have not had time to get back around to it. It has been edited some since the original posting. Thank you. :)
As the winds ran their course from the mountains in the East that have no real name, they pass over the Salt Lake, taking in the scent of the sea that was so far off. On the edges of that lake, Apalon Monastery had felt the burden of those winds when the Guardians first walked in human form, and it still had claim to its home on the edge of the water.
It was the sound of my door scraping against the uneven cobblestone flooring behind me that made me turn around.
The assistant to the Seer stood in the doorway blocking my view back down the hallway. He has a massive man, with a snow white beard that fell to the middle of his chest. Scars split his face into several different pieces, and I could only assume the rest of his body looked just as abused. His long sword was in a scabbard, hanging from his belt. Everyone knew that he had been injured years ago during a cleansing in the woods above Iron Oak, but despite his injuries that were still obvious after all these years he still walked with a swagger that normally belonged only to an Elite. “Pricion, the Seer requests your presence in the cloister,” the man said, stepping aside and pointing down the way with a finger that no longer stood straight out. “Do not take long. You know the Seer does not like to wait on you, Neophyte.”
I nodded in reply, and that was sufficient enough for him to leave. As I monk I had always been told to respect those that are placed above you in the monastery, but Balfor constantly reminded all neophytes of our low rank. He made it very hard to not lash out sometimes.
Marking my place in the leather bound manuscript that took up nearly half of my ink stained desk, I closed the book and picked up my dirt stained cloak, draping it around my shoulders. Walking down the hallway toward the cloister I peered in neighboring rooms that harbored other neophytes. Mempo looked up as I passed by, but turned his attention back to his own readings a moment later. Reading. That is all we were ever assigned to do in Apalon. It had been weeks since we had done any training. It had been weeks since even the Proselytes had done any training. I will be a Warrior one day, and more, should the guardians allow me to.
Footsteps gained ground on me from behind, slapping against the stone flooring. I quickly knew who it would probably be. There was a reason I made sure to never look in Foss’ room while passing by, and all the other monks had adopted this same sort of strategy.
“Pricion, slow down a bit will you?” a voice asked from behind; the voice of Foss. “Are you in a hurry somewhere? I saw Balfor pass my door a moment ago.”
Without slowing my pace I turned to look at the man. “You should have been reading, shouldn’t you?” I asked. “Or were you day dreaming again?” The man began to blush slightly at the reprimand. “Sorry, it’s just that… well… you know how things have been lately. Slow.” Foss grumbled in return without dropping back.
Turning into the main library, monks of various ranks sat around the large stone hearth built into the far wall. Most appeared to be reading different books on various subjects; one being: “A History of Jena” that I had read a finished a few days ago. Jena should have been the place I was sent when first joining the monastery if I had had any option in the matter. While I am stuck here in the middle of nowhere, monks in Jena get the thrill of living outside of a real city, dealing with real city problems. This is how it was every day as of late in Apalon. You either read in your room, or you read in the library, or the garden, or where ever else you could open a book. If you were lucky you could grab a book or manuscript on combat techniques before someone else grabbed it. Two monks sat at a low table near the opposite door, stooped over playing a game of Stones, it was unclear who was winning as I passed by.
As we exited the library I saw the Seer up ahead, sitting down on one of the many white stone benches that encircled the main garden. Balfor stood behind him with his hand resting on his scabbard, waiting on his call. All neophytes, including myself, thought the Seer pretended a little too hard to play the part of an old man. Underneath his constant attire of drab gray robes, any trained eye could see there was a body of lean muscle, forged through many hours of training, and combat.
Foss shouted as we came within greeting distance of the Seer. The sharp clang of steel against steel rang out through the garden and echoed through the cloister. I could not help but falter a step as I tried my best to watch some of the Warriors spar. Swords whistled as they cut through the air in between combatants. The key was to keep an eye on the tip of the blade in order to block successfully. If a combatant failed, a neophyte would be called to clean the ground.
Balfor let out a laugh that sent him doubling over. “Are you scared of a little combat?” he asked in between breaths. “How do you expect to kill anything if you are frightened by that?”
Foss barred his teeth at the man. “And how do you expect to-“
The Seer was on his feet in an instant, faster than I would have expected. “You will hold your tongue, Neophyte Foss!” The Seer was quick to anger when it came to dealing with us, and anger shown in his eyes now at what Foss was about to say. “You are not to speak to Warrior Balfor in such a manner, and you are well aware of your place by now. Or do you need to be reminded?”
Foss bowed to the Seer and then to Balfor. “I am sorry Seer, and you are correct, I am aware of my place.”
The Seer nodded in return. Balfor still wore a scowl across his face as if deciding whether to press the issue further. “Pricion,” the Seer said, turning to me, “as of late you have shown remarkable diligence in following orders handed down to you. You have also shown great determination in your studies.” He turned and was given a rolled up parchment from Balfor. The wax seal on the parchment had been broken.“Because of that, I have an assignment for you that I want you to carry out.”
“I have received word from Hellrift that they have a prisoner that they need to rid themselves of. It will be your task to travel there, take custody of the accused, and bring her back here to Apalon. As of now, we have not been made aware of what charges the accused faces, only that they are of the most severe.” He held the parchment out in front of me.
“The accused is female?” I asked, taking the letter and unrolling it. Quickly scanning over the document only revealed what the Seer had already said. The Sheriff of Hellrift’s seal had been stamped with red wax into the bottom of the letter. Prisoner transport and trial was a duty that monasteries performed on an irregular basis when a smaller village or outpost had a case they felt could not be handled there on site.
Balfor once again decided to join in, even if unwelcomed. “Not afraid of a little girl are you, Pricion?” he asked, as he turned around and spit outside of the cloister. I stared as spittle dripped down from his mouth and into his beard. “Think you can take charge of a girl if she decides to act foolish?” He held my stare clearly annoyed at my actions, his frequent scowl now edging its way into the corners of his mouth.
The Seer broke our stalemate. Every one of us in training at Apalon could see plainly enough that the Seer merely tolerated the arrogant Warrior. Whether it was because of his past accomplishments and tales of glory or because of his ability to follow orders, none of us were sure. “The accused is indeed female. I trust you can handle that.” He turned to check his place, and resumed his place upon the bench once more. “Have your bags packed, and I will arrange for your horse to be ready in the morning at sunrise. You have much to gain from this, Pricion, should you perform well. Now, off you go.”
What had he meant by that? Could I finally be receiving my long awaited promotion? Should the Guardians smile upon me in such a manner? I pray this is the case. Bowing, I said, “Thank you, Seer. The Guardians shall hear of your kindness in choosing me for such an assignment. I shall not fail.” Turning my back on the three men, I looked out into the garden. The foliage here in the monastery flourished more than any outside the walls. Each and every monastery was this way. The recorded histories proclaimed that should the grass remain dead after the winter snow had melted, and the flowers fail to bloom in the spring, that that monastery was no longer in the favor of the Guardians. Such a fate will never fall upon Apalon as long as it is my home.
I heard the Seer speak again from behind me. “And Foss, you are to accompany Pricion with this task.”
Why Foss? What could I accomplish with him that I could not accomplish on my own? The man was unbearable. If we were attacked by brigands on the way to Hellrift, Foss could talk them to death while I made a safe getaway. That is where his usefulness would end.
A hand fell upon my shoulder as I entered the library once again. Turning, I saw that it was Foss. “You probably heard that I am to come with you,” he said with a meek smile.
It would not have made a difference whether I had heard the Seer’s command or not, but I wish I indeed had not heard the order. “I did,” I said, “and did the Seer say anything else that might have slipped passed me?”
“As a matter of fact, he did. Mempo is to be the third person in our group. Why do you think he is sending three of us to handle a single girl? Maybe she is a fighter, and a skilled one at that.” A smile split his mouth in two.
The man had brought up a good point. A single monk, even a Neophyte, was capable of transporting the majority of people who lived in this part of the world. Not many could put up a fight against us. “You have a good point, Foss.” I said, slapping him on the shoulder. “If that is the case, we might have something to do along the way.”
The leather purse that had journeyed with me to the monastery lay limp on my bed. Many of the items that would be coming along were scattered through the room. On the desk was the small tinderbox, and in a cabinet built above the desk was a pair of fishing hooks and some line. Stuffing these items into the purse, I glanced over at my desk again to see a small figurine. The figure was of a man that had been given to me long ago by a friend, before I had come to Apalon. Setting it back on the desk, I tied the purse closed and placed it on the floor near my door.
Someone was headed down the hallway towards my room. I had slept in the end of the dormitories for years now and the sound of footsteps carried easily over the stones that made up the floor throughout Apalon, and held its roof in place. Three sharp blows sounded against the door.
“Come in,” I said, turning to look at the door. It was Mempo. Dark brown hair, almost black, fell down onto his shoulders and continued down into the small of his back. His pale skin stood out even more than it would have had the hair not been so dark.
“Pricion,” he said, nodding, “I suppose you have learned of out assignment along with our baggage?”
Laughing, I said, “Do you mean our prisoner, or Foss?” Mempo was no different in his attitude towards Foss and it did not take long for a grin to appear.
“Both!” he said, walking over and taking a seat on a stool that had a corner to its self. I watched the other man as he sat with his head down, staring at the ground.
“What are you thinking about?” I asked.
His head came up, but now he averted attention to my window, staring at the lake that offered no real view. “Don’t you find it strange at all?” he said a moment later. “Why would several of us, three of us, be sent to take charge of a single prisoner, a female at that?”
It was a good point, and something that I had been thinking of myself. There was a good chance that the Seer did in fact know more about the situation then he was giving up, but such an accusation cannot be made. However, all the past prisoner transports I had seen came with very detailed reports on what the accused had been charged with. Why was this any different? Maybe there was more to this prisoner, this girl, then what we were being told. If she should try anything while in my custody, she will be cleansed by my hands. Walking up behind Mempo to try and see what he might be looking at, I said, “Are you worried about it?”
Rubbing his face with a gloved hand, he said, “There’s just something about it I do not like. We should be careful is all.” He rose to his feet and headed towards my door. “Oh, and Pricion,” he said, turning to look at me, “you have been chosen for contest in an hour.” He walked through the doorway and started down the hall.
“Against who?” I shouted.
The sound of him opening the door to his own room reached my ears. “Me,” I heard him say.