by Old Bike
A boy's introduction to an ancient enemy and a hidden gift.
Eon blinked his eyes open as his father dropped a square piece of cold metal in his hand.
“Eon, you were supposed to keep your eyes closed.”
“Da? What kind of surprise is this?”
“My father got this from his father. He got it from your great, great grand papa.”
“From the time of the war with devils?”
Eon flipped the brushed copper square over in his palm again. An unfamiliar face with a crown on what he took for the front and an impressive stone wall on the back. The Troll Wall from childhood fables his father Enoch told him.
He looked closely at the medallion and felt nearly invisible bumps and holes in no discernible pattern. These weren't imperfections but they didn't seem to belong with the coarsely engraved images on either side of the piece.
In the waning light Eon brought the medallion to the kitchen table. He set the medallion down next the candle in the center of the table to view the image of the Troll Wall. A new image began to float over the piece in the bright candle light. It was a glistening cloud the size of a fist. Within it a detailed image of a vast hall was displayed.
“Da! Do you see it? You never said the image would come alive like that.”
Enoch squinted at the copper piece on the table but saw nothing new. His voice took an edge of concern. “I see the Troll Wall son. What do you see?”
Eon peered closely and noted the walls of the room itself were covered in images as well. He let his he eyes refocus and saw the room had no entry point or exit other than a round opening in the ceiling. He then focused on the images embossed in the glowing walls. Somehow he was able to pick out the tiniest details. Swords, helmets and crowns came into focus.
“Da, its a room with only a window in the ceiling. No doors.”
“There are images carved in the walls?”
“Yes. But you said you couldn't see this.”
Enoch closed his eyes. “You see the faces of men, the faces of kings?”
“Yes da. But I don't even know how I'm able to make out figures let alone crowns.”
Eyes closed tightly, a tear rolled down Enoch's face. “Only those with the ember of Dark Sight can see that chamber my son.”
“What does that mean? Dark Sight?”
“It means war is coming. It means you have been chosen.”
Eon was exploring the images in detail as he felt his father's hands on this shoulders.
“Don't turn away Eon. The stories I told you long ago are true. Though I dared not believe them. If your inheritance has come due you will now have a choice put before you.”
Enoch spoke to himself now eyes closed trying to remember the old fables. “Papa... help me remember the test. Help me remember... the choice. Eon, measure the choice well. There is no second chance, there will be no mercy or favor given before the two you must face.”
“Da you're scaring me.”
“I wish now I had more time to teach the stories again. Study the chamber and be wise. Try to remember all I've taught you son.”
Eon watched as two large figures appeared in the center of the once empty chamber. If the images on the walls were life size this real figure was at least a head taller than himself. The other was massive. Its helmeted head was more than double the height of the first figure.
Then he was gone. Enoch stumbled forward gasping air where his son had been. He noticed the medallion was still on the table. He ran his hand through his thinning hair roughly.
“The medallion? Eon, were you to take the medallion or not? Papa didn't tell me! Papa didn't tell me if you needed the talisman for the choice!”
Eon blinked and rubbed his eyes which seemed to be burning. An unfamiliar cold floor was beneath his feet. Compared to the earthen floor he was used to the smooth granite was ice to his bare feet. He couldn't believe his eyes as he faced one of the walls that appeared in the medallion. He focused on the form carved in its center. The chiseled features of the man wearing a crown were familiar somehow.
A voice from behind him answered the unspoken question. “The king of Yarrow Dale... two centuries ago.”
A startled Eon turned around. Two beings faced him. A man was dressed in black leather. Next to him was a giant in battle armor standing five meters high. “The two figures from the medallion.”
A deep voice echoed through the giant's helmet. “A scout's talisman can aid his vision. I am known as Turk, penan.”
Now the other spoke in a pleasant tone. “Scout you have finally come. I'm called Pairdes honored one.”
“You both call me scout. Why?”
Pairdes continued to speak while moving his hand in grand gestures. “Scout is your gift and your service to my lord child. You've only to swear fealty to whom I serve and we can be gone from this place. I will teach you the ways of your gift young one.”
Eon raise an eyebrow in question. “Fealty to what lord?”
The giant spoke again. “The penan is too wise to be fooled with your dark magic demon. His gift is already at work. He will see the truth of you soon enough.”
Pairdes glanced up with a sneer on his face. “Brute serving a dead cause, what do you know? He is ready to agree.”
Eon retorted. “I've agreed to nothing. Either of you.”
The giant now spoke. “Eon, I'am Turk emissary of the queen. She strives to uphold all that is right in this realm.”
Pairdes growled. “Child. Do not your legends speak of his kind? The giants which are enemy of all men, trolls.”
Eon stepped back in fear now focusing on the giant.
The giant stepped forward and put his hands to the sides of his helmet. The bronze head piece came off revealing a pleasant smile and blue eyes. “Penan it is true am a troll but we are not the enemy of men. Those that call the Dark Lord master are enemies of man.”
“The troll beast lies.” Pairdes came a step closer to Eon. “My lord is enemy only of the unworthy. Your gift makes you welcome in his ranks.”
“If I refuse?”
“All who refuse my master pay a price. And what of the troll's price child? In my master's service you will have a position of authority. As a troll puppet you'll be shunned by all men.”
Eon turned and glanced up at the giant's blue eyes with the unspoken question.
Turk bent low and knelled to face Eon closer to eye level. “Those that know only fear and doubt will also fear and doubt what you become penan.”
Eon wasn't sure why he seemed to trust Turk. Perhaps something in his eyes reminded him of Enoch. “What is penan and why would anyone fear me Turk?”
Turk smiled. “Penan is what we call all men. It means little ones of this realm. Yet with the gift of sight, escape is only a thought away. The thought must be unwavering. It must be steady. ”
“The image in your mind must be as solid as stone penan.”
It seemed to Eon that Turk's message was more than a platitude. It was instruction on how to escape. “Escape with only a thought...”
Eon felt the cold steel of a blade. Pairdes was behind him and a powerful arm was around his chest. It held him in place while his other pressed a short sword against his throat.
“Scout you have a choice before you. Voice your allegiance to the Dark Lord. You have only this moment left to you.” Pairdes drew his arm even tighter around the boys chest for effect.
Eon noted a line of scars cut along the arm. Each was precisely arranged and of uniform shape. These were not battle scars.
“They are marks of honor.” He nodded his head toward Turk. “Most are for the lives of his kind taken in battle.”
Eon sensed Pairdes' smile spread across his face. “But five marks are for scouts like yourself.”
With a calm voice Eon spoke. He felt as if he was giving his own epitaph but it didn't matter. “Evil and justice bring with them their own rewards. This truth I have accepted from my father.”
He searched the eyes of the blue eyed giant and remembered... escape. He closed his eyes and saw Enoch's face. He smelled black tea brewing. His father always seemed to have a pot on the stove. He smiled then felt the blade cutting through his neck.
“Life ends for you scout.” Pairdes' blade began its stroke through Eon's neck... then the boy was gone leaving him grasping air in rage.
Turk laid his hand on the hilt of his sword as Pairdes ran his fingers through the blood on his blade. Defiantly he turned and held the blood soaked sword up over his head to Turk.
The sword was shattered as the troll blade arced through the air. Pairdes' body was clove neatly in half before the two meter broadsword sparked against the stone floor.
Eon looked up to see his father's distraught face. He felt his own throat. It was wet with the blood pulsing through his fingers. “The cut is deep da.”
Enoch removed his tunic and pressed it against the wound. He had seen wounds before but none this deep. Nothing he could do would staunch the flow of blood in time to save his son's life. A tear streamed down his cheek yet he still had one hope.
He held Eon's face in his hands as the boy weakened. “Son, if an emissary can still be found in the chamber he can help. He is the only thing between you and veil of life now.” Enoch placed the medallion on Eon's chest and brought the boys fingers to the copper surface. Enoch watched as his son vanished.
Eon was looking up into huge blue eyes. Turk was surprised to see him.
“Penan!” Turk moved the blood soaked tunic to view the wound. He closed his eyes and looked to the sky light as if trying to summon wisdom.
“Eon, you are breaking through the veil to the Maker of things even now. I do not know if the strength of Dark Sight can save you penan. But there is no return from its path. It will change you in ways I can't fully explain now and you would not understand.”
“No deception or enchantment will ever sway you. The gift manifest in you now has proven this. Your gift is an ember now. The touch of Dark Sight will magnify your perception of truth and other abilities a hundred fold. But men will shun your appearance if you accept this penan. I can't promise you fellowship with others of your kind. Only a life of service and honor.”
Eon understood most of what Turk was trying to say. It didn't sound like the life he had imagined. His dreams of marriage, of having a son of his own would remain just that, dreams. He was never a jester to towns folk but neither was an outsider. Although he didn't know how his change would cause men to fear him he would now be set apart from his own. He remembered something his father taught him many times. That his actions would define him good or bad as an adult. His mind was becoming clouded but he needed clarity if his life was to be changed forever by this choice.
“The purpose, the gift of Dark Sight. Is it righteous and just Turk? I will help my people with this gift?”
Turk placed his left palm over Eon's entire chest and his right hand over his own heart. “On my life penan.”
“Then I am ready.” Eon passed out as Turk picked up his limp form and disappeared.
Turk entered the hall of healing and quickly found his friend Arilong tending to a patient. The court healer gently pressed up on Eon' forehead with one finger to open his eyes. “Turk, this is not the usual way of things for a scout. You administered the touch while he was unconscious?”
“Yes, yes. He accepted the price of his journey Arilong.” Turk paused. “I have watched this one for a time friend. He has the heart of first order.”
Arilong placed his index finger on the boys chest and closed his eyes in concentration. “Turk, this one's strength in the sight is growing. Yet his body so weak it is passing from this realm. I've no doubt his gift of sight is strong. But there is nothing to be done my friend.”
“I've seen his bravery but few times. He spurned the Dark Lord with a blade to his throat. My heart tells me this one may link trolls and man like no other.”
Arilong had seen many die of injury and battle and was not easily moved. He had never known Turk to be so swayed by emotion. But he obviously saw something special in the boy.
Arilong twisted his head as if remembering something. “...link trolls and man. Indeed.” He turned to Turk with some urgency. “Leave me to attend him... now.” Arilong turned away and moved to a table lined with steel instruments and glass bottles with various colored potions.
Turk saw something in Arilong's eye... hope. “I live him in your hands healer.” He carefully closed the doors to the healing room as he left.
Arilong talked to his unconscious patient in an amused tone. “Perhaps your gift lets you hear me scout. Perhaps not. You've been touched with Dark Sight. As such your eyes have become.... “Arilong searched for the appropriate word. “Your eyes are black as night. This will keep many of your kind from you.”
Arilong brought a small bladed instrument to this forearm. The cut was barely noticeable on the trolls arm yet it quickly soaked a white cloth he put over the wound. He turned to Eon again and continued in a more serious tone. “As a healer I tell you now that this treatment is forbidden. By mingling the blood of troll and man your walk in this realm will change. Man has gifts. Trolls have gifts. I know not what this mingling will make of you. I am only hopeful it may impart the strength to save you.”
Arilong placed the blood soaked cloth over the open wound on Eon's neck. “Rest now scout. If there is any truth in the legends you will live.”
Orderlies moved the boy to another room and informed Turk that the night would see Eon live or die.
Eon awoke with a burning sensation on his neck. His fingers searched his throat and found only a rough line of skin. Surely this wasn't the mortal wound he had remembered. Or had he imagined everything. Pairdes, Turk the blade cutting his throat? His eyes moved to the side of his bed. The figure sleeping in a chair towered three meters above him.
“I guess I wasn't dreaming.”
Turk shook the sleep from his eyes and stood up. The blue eyed giant was smiling ear to ear.
“Turk you were able to save me.”
“I had a hand in it and my friend the healer Arilong as well. Indeed I think him more so.”
“What of Pairdes? I only remember seeing you when I returned to the chamber.”
“I'm unsure. My blade made short work of whatever called itself Pairdes. But he is powerful. Death has been a trick of his before.”
“My thanks for saving me from him.” He rubbed the line on his neck. “I know my father Enoch thought my wound was fatal.”
“It was penan.”
“Then the gift you spoke of. It saved me?”
“Dark Sight extended your live to be sure. Yet the healer is...”
Arilong interrupted as he walked in. “The healer is perturbed that his charge is being kept from rest by a talking oaf.”
Turk lifted his eyebrow as he grasp Arilong's forearm in greeting. “You never cease to amaze me with your healing ways.”
“Ah but you are the healer this time.” Arilong carefully handed Eon a mirror held between his index finger and thumb.
Turk's eyes bulged. He had not prepared Eon in advance for what he would see.
Arilong saw the expression and quickly turned back to Eon. “Perhaps now isn't the time to...” He didn't finish as the scout was already gazing at his own reflection.
Eon held the mirror and at first it seemed that his eyes were gone. No, he reasoned. I can see so they must still be there. He brought the smudged glass closer and saw a glint of light reflect against his eye. “This is Dark Sight then. Somehow I knew my eyes had turned black as obsidian.”
Turk was the first to speak. “This visage will likely drive you away from men.”
Arilong added. “More to the point, men will at best give you a wide berth. At worst they will see you as a demon and try to kill you. But not all men are so ignorant. You will know respect and friendship here in the capitol and the surrounding villages.”
Eon seemed nonplussed and casually remarked. “You know what I see?”
Arilong queried. “What?”
“I see the healer has massive thumbs. I pray I am not crushed by one some day.” Eon flipped the mirror around so it faced the two trolls. A single smudged finger print covered the entire face of the mirror.
The three looked at each other for a moment before Turk burst out laughing.
* * *
Arilong strode into the healing rooms for his morning rounds and stopped by Eon's bed first. “Still asleep I see penan.”
Eon hadn't been asleep and opened his eyes easily. “The voice is keeping me up Arilong. Is that normal for those with my gift?”
Arilong thoughtfully stroked his chin. “The sight doesn't keep one awake hearing things. It allows you to literally see truth or journey where needed. What is keeping you up?”
“I hear the same voice every night. Its a woman pleading, crying in fact for help from someone. She said she's had enough grief and wrath.”
“And what else.”
“I answer the voice... in the dream. I simply call her dear lady and I tell her I will help over and over again. 'I will help you dear lady.' I say. Finally the crying stops.”
“The voice doesn't answer you back?”
“No, but it repeats the next night... three nights so far.”
Arilong hid any concern on his face with an amused smirk. “Well Eon, I'd say your dreamer self wants to get out of here.”
“I can leave?”
“Now, now penan don't get too excited. That's not what I said. However, I'll have the orderly take you for a walk through the grounds. That will be more exercise than walking the length of this room a few times as you've been doing.”
“That will be excellent thank you.”
“Now that you've had time to think on the choice. Any remorse on accepting the touch of sight in the manner you did?”
“I know I've much to learn from Turk about the craft. And no I've no regrets healer.” Eon jerked his head toward one of the female orderlies heading their way with a package of some kind.
Arilong feigned shock and smiled. “So your dark eyes have some attraction yet to the discerning.”
The orderly smiled at Eon before looking up at Arilong. She handed him an envelope the size of a chair seat. “Healer, a message from court.”
Arilong raised an eyebrow as he opened the envelope and read the paper inside. “It seems your walk through the grounds will have to wait penan. You have an audience with the queen.”
“Now. I'm dressed in... kind of a sheet!”
Arilong smiled at the orderly. “Oh I think Drew here will help you with that.”
She walked to the closet while Arilong smartly whipped the blanket off Eon's bed. Drew held out a shirt and leather britches in one hand and under garments in the other.
Eon locked eyes with Drew for a moment as he turned red. She made a show of tightly closing her eyes while trying not to laugh. He noticed her nose wrinkled in a particularly cute way as she squeezed her eyes shut. Eon quickly took the under garments and fairly shoved them on before taking the shirt and britches.
“Penan I hear the carriage coming up the path. Come... come. Mustn't keep a queen waiting its bad form. And I recall that she had someone executed for dawdling a few years ago.
Eon eyes grew wide until Arilong reassured him. “Oh that was years ago. Fear not penan. Drew, have you the rest of his clothes?”
Drew handed Eon a stack of outer clothing made of royal blue material and a pair of black leather boots.
Arilong pulled along his charge to the waiting carriage. Eon was dressed with the exception of this boots by the time they were at the entrance to the throne room. He was about to sit down on the floor in an attempt to put on the unfamiliar foot wear.
Arilong was alarmed as he looked down at Eon hold his stockings in front of him with a puzzled look. “Put them on first then the boots penan. Quickly...”
The attendants began pushing the seven meter high doors open. Arilong stepped in front of Eon and motioned for him to stand up and follow.
Eon had only one stocking pulled up. He quickly put the other stocking and boots behind his back and followed the healer into the throne room.
They passed several attendants knelling and a few nobles dressed in blue and purple. All had their heads bowed in the direction of the throne. Eon was trying to figure out how he could hop and put on the boots while still moving to avoid embarrassment. About that time he ran into Arilong who had stopped and was himself knelling.
Eon knelt behind the healer thinking himself invisible behind the troll. He busied himself with putting on his other stocking and both boots before he heard a strangely familiar voice.
“Healer where is your penan scout?”
Arilong whispered behind his back at Eon. “Present yourself as I instructed you in the carriage then stand before the queen penan.”
In a painic Eon tried to remember the blur of the carriage ride. Then he remembered the words and said them to himself before stepping out from behind Arilong and knelling.
“Your Majesty I am Eon of Yarrow Dale.”
“Arise healer and scout.”
Eon stood up and took full stock of the queen. Even seated he could tell that she was as tall as Turk and Arilong. The tiny lines of her face hinted that she was mature. But there was no hint of gray hair. The strong cheek lines and smallish nose were attractive. But her turquoise eyes were utterly captivating. Or so Eon thought.
The smallest curve of a smile presented itself. “So you find my eyes interesting penan?”
Eon knelled again and began stuttering an apology. “I meant no disrespect by staring. Dear lady. Queen. Your majesty.”
Still knelling with head lowered he noticed Arilong pivot as if leaving. Then retake his stand next to him. However, he heard the noise of other trolls and men alike hurriedly leaving the throne room.
Sweat broke out on his brow. Apparently Arilong wasn't jesting about executions for offending the queen. He closed his eyes and wondered what form of death awaited him.
To his surprise he heard a lighthearted snort from the queen's direction. “You will not be executed penan. You must not think us so harsh regardless of what Arilong said in jest.”
Eon looked up at Arilong who appeared to be examining the ceiling to avoid eye contact with him or the queen.
“Eon of Yarrow Dale your ember of sight has been put to flame with the touch Dark Sight. Now you must confirm your position as Scout.”
“Your majesty how is that done?”
“A royal gift I possess will let you see the time of your passing. You may see the measure of your life. Knowing this you then choose the life before you as Scout or to pass through the veil of life now.”
“Stay and die?”
“It will be your choice depending on what you find. More than a few have done this never to return to there service. This is the way of the Passing Right. If you return to us and accept your position you will live on in the strength that you have seen at your end.”
Arilong added. “Some return and have found themselves unworthy to serve. Some return and are without hope of living. These are brought to an honorable passing through the Fire of Truth.”
“I've already accepted your gift. Can I not simple be trained now to use it in your service?”
The queen was calm but firm. “Penan this is the way of things. Those gifted as you are must go through the Passing Right or the Fire of Truth.”
Eon took a view moments to adjust to the reality. He would see himself die and return to serve as a scout. He could see himself die and perhaps choose pass to the Maker of things now. Or he could be ceremonially burned. He turned and faced the queen who was bending down extending her right index finger toward Eon's head.
“I am ready your maj...” Eon blinked and found himself in a strange bed. He noticed no less than three lamps keeping the room covered in flickering light. There were tapestries hung on the walls and the hearth directly across from the bed had a blazing fire. He felt strangely weak and cold. The heat from the fire was welcome.
A elderly woman appeared in front of him. “Eon did you have another dream?”
“A dream? Perhaps. Who are you?”
The woman teased him. “Well I'm your loving wife and you are playing the court jester again Sir Eon.”
He saw the twinkle of love in her eyes and smile. Something was familiar about the wrinkling of her nose as she smiled. Yet her eyes were wet with an unspoken grief. He wanted to comfort her with a touch. But his arms and hands were impossibly weak. Another face came into view, a middle aged man.
“Your awake again. I'm here too da.”
“Da? I don't...”
The woman brought Eon's hand to her mouth and kissed it gently. He felt the kiss on his hand and her grip on his arm. Yet he didn't recognize his own limbs which seemed impossibly scarred, old and wrinkled.
“This is Ethan, your son my love.”
He felt the man grip his other hand with some pressure. “We're here for you da. We shan't leave you.”
“So this is the Passing Right. My death bed shown to me by the queen.” He felt suddenly very tired but also at peace.
“My wife, Ethan my son I can feel myself slipping away. I could wish for no more as I journey to the Maker of all things.”
“It's ok da. It's time for you to go on one last adventure. Just close your eyes and rest.”
Eon knew this wasn't his end yet he felt himself slip away in peace... and then he was gasping for air with his face on the smooth stone floor of the throne room.
Arilong held his hand to the ground to help him to his feet. Eon could feel the smile in the trolls voice without looking up. “Penan you have returned.”
The queen's voice was calm but held anticipation as well. “The measure of your life Eon? What did you see?”
Eon looked up with tears running down his face. “Wondrous queen. I would say my life had been… will be... filled to overflowing.”
Now the queen's voice took on an unexpected tinge of despair. “Penan the service of Scout and perhaps more is not for the faint of heart. What you saw in the Passing Right could change with events as they unfold. Do you accept this challenge? Will you help us in the coming conflict?”
He'd heard this tone of despair before, in his dreams. Eon fixed his gaze on the turquoise eyes. “Yes I accept the challenge. I will help you dear lady.”