Sneak Peek of The Sambac Crystal and The Stolen Kingdom

Enjoy this sneak peek of the prologue and chapter one of The Sambac Crystal and the Stolen Kingdom.  Book 1 of the Crystals of The Enchantment Tree series.

This is from my very “rough,” rough draft.  It hasn’t been polished and edited yet, so please bear with me.  When you read the published copy, you will notice many changes from what you see here.

 

Prologue

 

Lord’s & Lady’s Chamber, Castle Mount Vallin.  Kingdom of Calevallin

It was futile.  Try as he might, the King was powerless.  He couldn’t even lift a finger, let alone rise up from his bed.  All that he accomplished was draining the remainder of his energy as he spent countless moments tryng to will his muscles to work.

“Jaike…  I implore you…  This has gone on long enough.  Whatever point you have, it’s been long made,” King John whispered.

“I assure you, Your Majesty, that my point…  As you call it…  Has only just begun,” Jaike said.

“GUARDS!” King John mustered.  It stung him deeply that he could only raise his voices to above a faint whisper.  What has he done to me…  Curse this monster… King John thought to himself.  He felt a tear roll down his cheek.  After all, it was him that accepted Jaike into the Royal Council.

“They won’t come.  Most are on high alert, focused on the Bower.  It seems that our precious Queen Arelli is slightly indisposed at the moment.  The one thing I can’t control…  The baby will make its entrance tonight,” Jaike said.

King John Dalisay felt a wave of anger and despair course through his body.  He strained with all his might.  Jaike’s smile disappeared when he saw the king’s pinky twitch.

“You’re quite the strong one, Your Majesty!  I’ll barely have any power left for the Queen, let alone for our new Prince or Princess,” Jaike said.

The internal struggle drained from the King and he felt his eyelids droop.  They felt as heavy as stones.

“Please…  Don’t hurt them…  I’ll do whatever you want…” King John whispered.

Jaike stood up from the chair he sat in next to the King’s bed.  He looked down on the feeble form.  A man with immense strength and power…  Nothing more than a harmless babe, Jaike thought.

“Yes, Your Majesty, you shall.  I thought that if I could control your body, your mind would fall in line.  I see that won’t be the case.  Sleep, my Grace.  Don’t fret, your responsibilities are over.  From here on out, everything will be nothing but a sweet, sweet dream,” Jaike said.

Before he walked away, Jaike watched the King stare at the Sambac Crystal hanging from the chain around his neck.  The Crystal that gave him the power to enchant the King’s body and mind.  He usually wore the large crystal under his robes, but had it out for this momentous occasion.  He wanted the King to see it, and took pleasure in the agony of the King’s realization.  The realization that things were about to change, forever.

Satisfied that the King was soundly asleep, Jaike turned and made his way to the door.  He opened it and saw the young guard standing there.  The man nodded at him.  Jaike stared at him for a moment.  This man was his personal appointment to the Royal Guard.  His proverbial, man on the inside.  The Captain of the Guard disproved of the appointment, but like with most things, Jaike got his way.  It mattered not, for the Captain was an old man in his twilight years.  There were dozens of guards to take his place, if need be.

“Ralin Daga…  Tonight, is your night.  Do well, and this will be the start of a great career for you,” Jaike said.

Ralin’s lips contorted into a wicked grin.

“Yes, My Lord.  I’m ready to serve,” Ralin said.

Jaike nodded and walked down the hall towards the Bower.  He didn’t have to look to know that Ralin followed a few steps behind him.  The Great Hall of Castle Mount Vallin was massive.  The Castle itself was larger than most of the other Castles of the surrounding Kingdoms.  He sighed as he gazed upon the walls covered with mundane portraits of past rulers and stale tapestries.

That was the probem, wasn’t it?  This whole Kingdom has grown tiresome in this farce they call peace.  The Kingdom is no more than a weak shadow of its former self…  Jaike thought.  No longer.  Calevallin will return to its former glory.  The surrounding kingdoms will tremble at the mere whisper of Calevallin, Jaike thought to himself as he approached the two guards posted at the Bower door.

The two guards reluctantly stepped aside to let Jaike pass.  He didn’t bother to acknowledge them.  Once through the door, he took in the sight.

Queen Arelli Dalisay was sweating and panting.  The Royal Doctor, Keven, sat at the edge of the bed.  A handmaiden and two other guards stood off to the side.  The Guards faced outwards towards the door, while the handmaiden looked upon the Queen with a bucket of water and a towel in her hands.

“The head’s crowning, Your Grace.  Just one more push…” Keven said, not knowing Jaike had entered the room.

Queen Arelli screamed and pushed as hard as she could.  Jaike took no pleasure in the noise.  This was business he would have avoided in the past, but tonight was special.  It was the night Calevallin would get a new ruler.  Just not the one the people thought they’d get, Jaike thought as he smiled.

The Queen screamed again and pushed once more.  Jaike watched as Keven pulled the baby the rest of the way out.  Interesting…  A girl, Jaike thought.

The doctor held the baby up and gave it a good smack on its bottom.  The baby cried and the handmaiden set the bucket down to receive the newborn.  She started clearing the baby’s nose and mouth, and then sat the baby down on the Queen’s chest.  Keven cut the cord and started to tend to the Queen.

“Thank you Estel,” Queen Arelli said.

“She’s beautiful, Your Majesty…  She has your eyes.  Gold, like the hills of Rahoviad,” Estel said.

Queen Arelli’s smiled disappeared when she looked up and saw Jaike standing there.

“Why are you here Jaike?  Where’s the King?” Queen Arelli asked in her weakened state.

Keven noticed for the first time that Jaike was there.  He paused his mending and looked over his shoulder.

“You shouldn’t be in here Jaike.  This is no place for a man like you.  Life has happened here.  Fetch the King,” Keven said.

Jaike smiled.  He was going to enjoy this.

“The King shan’t be disturbed.  Not tonight.  Are you finished Keven?” Jaike asked.

Keven wiped his hands with water from the bucket and dried them on the towel as he stood.

“Quite,” Keven said.

“Jaike…  You must go,” Queen Arelli said.  Jaike detected slight panic in her voice.

A clash of steel erupted from outside of the door.  The two guards looked at each other and then at Jaike.  Then the sound of steel piercing metal and gurgling entered the room.

“Well…  Go.  See what that is,” Jaike said.

The two guards pulled their swords from their sheaths and walked past Jaike to open the door.  As they got to it, the door flew open.  Jaike plunged his knife into the unprotected side of closest guard with his back to him, who happened to be the junior most guard.  The other guard, the senior one, was taken by surprise when Ralin dashed through the door with his sword.  Ralin ran the senior guard through the stomach with his sword as Jaike turned to face the Queen.

Keven lunged at Jaike with one of his instruments and Jaike easily parried.  He pushed Keven towards Ralin and Ralin plunged his sword into the doctor’s chest.  Ralin pushed the doctor off his sword as junior guard rose to his feet.  The wounded guard parried Ralin’s sword thrust while holding his sword with his weak hand.  He stepped back and brought his sword up in a defensive stance.  Jaike went to stab the junior guard again, but the senior guard on the ground reached up and grabbed Jaike’s ankle.  Jaike stumbled, and the senior guard rose to his knee.

Ralin swung his sword down at the rising senior guard, but the senior guard easily deflected it with his blade.  The senior guard didn’t turn his head as he screamed at the junior guard standing behind him.

“Protect the Queen and the baby!” the senior guard yelled.

The junior guard paused momentarily, but then hurried to the Queen’s side.  To Jaike’s dismay, the grievously wounded senior guard was a superior swordsman.  Not only was he fighting Ralin back towards the door in a frenzy of swings, he was fending off Jaike’s knife thrusts with his gauntlet covered hand.

As this was happening, Queen Arelli wrapped the baby in a white cloth with gold stars and gold moons stitched on it.  Satisfied that the baby was snug, she handed her daughter to the handmaiden she barely knew.

“Fly.  Fly thee quick!  Bring my baby to safety!” Queen Arelli pleaded.

The handmaiden took the newborn and turned to the wounded junior guardsmen.

“Wait, what are your names?” Queen Arelli asked.

“Estel, Your Majesty…” Estel said.

“Granth, Your Majesty,” Granth said.

“Alessandra.  The baby’s name is Alessandra.  Now go, bring her to safety. Then, and only then, come back for the King and I,” Queen Arelli said.

“Yes, Your Highness,” Granth said.

Granth looked at the fight and wanted to join, but then shuddered with fear.  A monster pushed Ralin out of the way and swung a fearsome wooden club at the wounded senior guardsman.  He swore this monster was a Human like rat, something he could never have fathomed.  This Human like Rat stood a foot taller than most men, and was heavily muscled.  Other than a modified helm and chest plate, he wore no other armor.  Worst yet, the creature was getting the best of his companion.  He’d finish the senior guard in the next few seconds.

“Let’s go.  There’s a hidden passage in the wardrobe,” Estel said.

Estel ran off with the baby and Granth followed.  They got to the wardrobe and Estel pulled down on an unlit torch with all her might.  A portion of the wall that only one person could barely fit through opened up, and Granth squeezed in after Estel.  Estel pulled another lever in a wider hallway, and the passage closed.

“It’s pitch black, I can’t see,” Granth said.

Estel reached in the dark and grabbed his arm.  She spoke as they made their way through the dark.

“I know the path.  Ten paces, then a hall to the right.  Five paces and then there’s a stairway.  At the bottom of the stairs, we come out into a side room by the Dais,” Estel said.

They took the stairs as quickly as they could, and Granth took over giving directions.

“Good.  Then it’s out the Great Hall, but who to trust…  We can’t trust the Gate House… Who knows who else Jaike has in his employment…  We’ll make our way through the bailey and into the kitchen.  There’s a tunnel there that leads to the Keep and out past the inner curtain wall.  The tunnel comes up in the outer curtain wall, right by the postern…  We exit through the postern, then over the moat…  And then…,” Granth said as they left the Great Hall.

Granth paused before they dashed across the bailey and into the kitchen.  At this time of night, the place was thankfully empty.  He led Estel to the tunnel he and other fellow guardsmen knew about in case of attack, and grabbed a lit torch.  The tunnels would be empty, so he didn’t bother to dampen the light.

“Then on to Rahoviad…  The Queen’s from there.  Her people will take the baby in,” Estel said.

Granth felt the blood seeping through his fingers.  He looked at Estel as they hurried along.

“I might not make that journey…  Not with this wound.  I don’t think you could either…  Jaike is likely to send people out.  The road to Rahoviad will be searched…  No…  We’ll hide in plain sight.  I’m from a town across the River Swan.  Alessandra shouldn’t leave the kingdom either, she’s the heir and Princess…” Granth said.

They scampered up the tunnel in the outer curtain wall of the castle and Granth saw the postern gate.  The postern was a small entrance only one person could go through at a time.  It was the castle’s back door, so to speak, and Granth knew his way around the castle.

“Which town?” Estel asked.

“Arbor,” Granth said.

Granth paused at the postern.  There’d be no hiding their escape…  The heavy gate that secured the exit had a massive lock on it.  He would have to break his way through, and Jaike would know where to start the search from.  He felt despair course through his body as he looked at the lock.  There’d be no breaking that lock, not with a sword…

A noise to his side made his blood turn cold.  “And what are we doing?” a voice in the dark asked.

Slowly, Granth turned towards the voice, and pulled Estel and the baby behind him.  He raised his sword and got into a fighting stance.

“Granth?  Why aren’t you at your post?  Is that a handmaiden?  Are you mad?” the guard asked.

Sweating profusely, Granth didn’t know what to do.  He recognized the voice, but didn’t know if he could trust it.  It was Jamie Maharlika.  A young guard but one who had been friendly in the past.  One who also went about his duties with a smile and did all that he was told with no complaint.

“Do you recall the oath?” Granth asked.

Jamie stepped into the torch light, and frowned when he saw Granth stemming a bleeding wound with his hand.

“Yes, of course.  For the Kingdom, my swordFor the Crown, my life,” Jamie said.

“Are you true to it?  Answer me now!  If not, then no more games…  I’ll fight where I stand…” Granth said.

Jamie took his sword out and dropped it to the ground.  He took a step towards Granth and stopped.

“The King?  Is he okay?” Jamie asked.

Granth let out a breath, glad that Jamie wasn’t a traitor.

“I don’t know.  There’s treachery afoot.  Jozef, Emilyo, and Harell are dead.  Struck down by Jaike Dahas, Ralin Daga, and some kind of Rat creature that walked like a man.  Jaike stabbed me, and the Queen ordered me to take this handmaiden, and the newborn Princess to safety…  I don’t know who else Jaike has under his sway.  I don’t know if the King and Queen even live…” Granth said.

He saw the color drain from Jamie’s face.  Jamie reached down and fumbled for the key ring.  He stepped to the lock, and unlocked it.

“Go then.  Bring her to safety.  May the God’s watch over you.  I’ll rally the guard…  We’ll storm the Great Hall if we have too,” Jamie said.

With the postern gate opened, Estel went to step out.

“Can I see her?” Jamie asked.

Estel nodded and showed him the newborn girl that she cradled in her arm.  He was surprised that the baby was awake but silent.  “Her name’s Alessandra,” she told him.

“Praise the Gods…  Even in this torchlight I can tell…  Alessandra has her mother’s eyes!  As gold as the hills of Rahoviad!” Jamie said.  Estel smiled sadly and walked through the postern.  Jamie turned towards Granth who had his hand extended.  Jamie took it into his, and they shook.

“Be careful…  You may step into a trap.  Go about it lightly.  Jaike…  He…  He was wearing a white crystal.  As white as freshly fallen snow…” Granth said.

Jamie nodded and Granth walked through the gate.  Jamie secured the lock, and picked up his sword.  Granth didn’t have to name it, Jamie knew what Crystal he meant.  It was the one every mother in Calevallin warned their children about.  The Sambac Crystal…  Was Jaike the man with the Crystal?

Outside the castle wall, Granth and Estel paused at the moat.  Granth clumsily tried to undo the straps of his armor, so Estel helped him unfasten what he couldn’t.  A minute later, they were both ready.

“I’ll have to toss the armor in the moat.  I’ll throw my sword to the other side.  Then we’ll swim it, and then make our way through Ever Loyal City and the Ever Woods to the River Swan.  From there, over the river and through Swan Forest to Arbor…” Granth said.

A tear rolled down Estel’s cheek, and Granth put his hand on her shoulder.

“I don’t know if I can make it Granth…  This is perilous,” Estel said.

Granth hugged her with one arm as he held his wound with his other hand.

“You must.  For Alessandra’s sake…  For the King and Queen’s sake.  We live.  She lives.  The Kingdom lives, understand?  Now, in we go,” Granth said.  He dropped into the moat and Estel followed right after.

Meanwhile; back in the Lord’s and Lady’s Chamber, Jaike stood with Ralin and the rat creature.  He glanced over at the sleeping King and Queen and gathered his thoughts as he tucked the crystal back into his robes.

“Hatred Maliki, it’s time for you to depart.  Make your way back to Mischief and await my word,” Jaike said.

“Yes, My Lord,” Hatred said.

The creature stalked off into the shadows and disappeared.  Jaike turned to Ralin.

“Bring Frank and Olge.  Dispose of the bodies.  Have a new handmaiden brought up and what’s that young doctor’s name?” Jaike asked.

“Tom Lumakad, My Lord,” Ralin said.

“Yes, that one.  He’s now the Royal Doctor.  Have him tend to the Queen,” Jaike said.

The guard turned, but then paused.  He looked back at Jaike.  “And the fugitives, My Lord?” Ralin asked.

“Julo and his men are running around these infernal halls as we speak.  They’ll quietly search the Keep and the Castle Walls.  The guard was wounded, so they won’t get far.  Maybe they’ll get lost and die in one of those dark passageways, or perish in the forest.  Of course, Julo and his men will search the roads later, but it matters not if they escape,” Jaike said.

“How can that be, My Lord?” Ralin asked.

Jaike sighed.  He didn’t like to be questioned, but Ralin would have to be aware of a few things, if he was going to be his right-hand man.

“We have the King and Queen.  My Crystal controls them both.  They slumber and when they wake, they’re minds are clouded.  I have complete control over them, and in essence, the Kingdom.  The King and Queen will deny the Princess lived past child birth.  The Kingdom will obey and in time, forget.

If that guard isn’t found, and lives?  He and that handmaiden won’t speak out.  If they did, who will listen?  It’ll lead us straight to them.  So, they are now ghosts.  Not worthy of my time or further thought.  Even if they disappear to another kingdom and start anew, it’ll be to our favor.  They’ll live out their lives as non-entities in relation to Calevallin,” Jaike said.

Ralin grinned his evil grin, and walked towards the door.

“How delightful, My Lord!” Ralin said.

In the hall, Ralin turned towards the stairs.  At the bottom of the stairs, he motioned for Frank and Olge to join him.  Before he spoke to them, Jamie walked through the Great Hall’s main doors.

“How fair’s it, Jamie?” Ralin asked, with his hand on the hilt of his sword.

Jamie looked at Ralin and the others, and then stepped towards them.

“It fair’s well.  I’m here to make my rounds.  Ensuring that guardsmen are…  Well…   Guarding,” Jamie said.

This caused the three guards to chuckle.  Ralin motioned for everyone to follow him.  Jamie followed them up the stairs and down the hallway towards the Lord’s and Lady’s Chamber.  At the chamber, Jaike stepped out into the hallway.  Jamie looked into the chamber, and saw King John sitting up in his bed, with a frown on his face.  The King was staring off into the distance, and sat as still as a log.

“You three, assume your posts.  You, Guardsman…  There’s torch light on top of the outer gatehouse.  At this time of night, I think you’re more needed there than here,” Jaike said loud enough for the King to hear.

Jamie looked at Jaike and then at the King.  He stared for a few seconds and watched as the King raised his hand and waved Jamie off.  “Off with you,” the King mumbled.

Jamie looked at Jaike for a second and then smiled.

“Seems you’re right, My Lord.  Fair well tonight,” Jamie said as he turned off.

His smile disappeared from his face as soon as he was out of sight.  He thought about the king.  He was there but not there at the same time.  Though he didn’t face me directly, it was like looking at a blind man, Jamie thought.  And the way he spoke…  He didn’t know what else to do.  The King and Queen looked fine, but that look…

I’ll just have to go about my duties for now, but don’t forget.  Don’t ever forget.  One day, Jaike and Ralin will answer for their crimes, Jamie thought.  A crime he didn’t witness, but had no doubt existed.

 

 

Chapter 1

 

Town of Arbor

A wooden double headed axe slashed down through the air.  Drey knew this attack very well.  Sully, her brother, often started off their practice sessions with it.  She parried left and the axe missed her by mere inches.  As she moved, she jabbed her wooden tipped spear at Sully’s chest.  It caught him dead in his chest, but he batted it away.

“Not fair, little brother.  That strike was true.  If it was Light Feather, your heart would have ceased to beat,” Drey said.

She barely had time to move as Sully swung his practice axe at her neck.  Drey had to leap backwards to avoid a shattering blow.

“Forgot what father said, did you sis?  Life’s not fair.  You need to be tough.  Especially if you continue to use that silly little spear of yours,” Sully said as he circled his way to where Drey stood.  She lifted her spear up and circled against him, ready to strike.

“Father also said that in open combat, a good spear can unhorse the most skilled Knight,” Drey said.  She lunged at her brother and stabbed her spear at his head.  He ducked and deflected the spear with his axe.  He spun and swung his axe in a high arc through the air, seemingly trying to split Drey in half from head to toe.  Drey parried to the right and swung her spear at his feet.  Sully jumped over it and took a step back.

“You’ll need to do better than that, sis.  In a true battle, you’d be vanquished by now.  It’s a lonely world, more so when you face an armored Knight on the open field,” Sully said.

Drey rushed Sully and he ducked under her spear thrust.  He raised his battle axe to deflect the spear upwards, and Drey dropped to a knee.  She started to rise and brought the hilt of the spear up in a sweeping motion.  The spear caught the bottom of his chin and Sully fell backwards onto the ground.  He laid there for a moment kicking his feet and clutching his jaw.  Then he sat up as she stood there pointing her spear at him.

“Yield or perish,” Drey said.

Sully rose to his feet and rubbed blood from his chin.  He sat on a tree stump and spit at the ground to his side.

“My sweet sister…  You aren’t made for this cruel world.  You don’t give the option…  He lives or he dies, you decide.  And you decide quickly.  Father says that if you give them a moment or two to answer, that little bit of time could be the difference between his life blood soaking the ground or yours,” Sully said.

With a sigh, Drey walked over to him and grabbed his face.  She looked at his chin, and then let it go.  “The cut is small.  It’ll give you a more dignified look.  And yes, lil brother, I remember.  The world is cruel and unjust.  So, don’t fight fair.  I know all of Father’s sayings.  Combat isn’t like in the fairy tales.  Kill or maim them quick, then move on to the next.  You don’t want to see your insides on your outside.  On and on and on.  I get it.  You know, you lecture a lot for a boy twice struck down,” Drey said.

At that, Sully grinned as widely as he could.  He rose and picked up his axe.  “I’ve reached my sixteenth harvest.  Two less than you.  I’m a boy no more, old woman,” Sully said.

This brought a smile to Drey’s face.  Then the smile faded.  Instead of carrying out the sparring session, she walked over to a tree stump and took a seat.

“I was in town yesterday and heard more disturbing news about the vanishings.  A family’s gone missing this time.  Have you heard about it?  It was a family living in the forest near The Elms Village.  Their cottage was burnt to the ground, but there were no bones to be found…  They say that people have been vanishing all over the Kingdom, but never whole families…” Drey said.

Sully took a seat on a stump and his brow wrinkled.

“Yes, I’ve heard as much.  Mother says that people have been vanishing since the King and Queen turned cold.  Father says it’s been getting worse lately…  The Kingdom isn’t well.  Or, the family could have just left.  People are leaving all the time.  There’s adventure in the surrounding Kingdoms.  Even in the lands beyond,” Sully said.

A faint smell caught Drey’s attention.  She leaned towards where she thought the smell came from, and closed her eyes.  She took a good sniff.

“Wait…  I smell something…  It’s smoke!” Drey said as she leapt up with her practice spear and ran off into the woods.  Sully followed closely behind with his wooden axe.

The clearing they practiced in was a few hundred yards from their cottage and modest farm plot.  Their small plot of land was big enough to provide sustenance after giving the King’s Cut to the Town Elders for collection.  They were also skilled enough farmers to be able to squeeze a little more from the land to be sold or traded at the market to earn a very modest living on the side

Their father picked the training spot because it was far enough away from the cottage that if anyone visited from Town, they wouldn’t stumble upon them fighting.  Farmers teaching their children how to become skilled combatants was highly unusual, and could bring uncomfortable questions.  Questions you didn’t want to answer when it was that dastardly Royal advisor Jaike, asking them.  The children should be learning how to start their own farm, or in Drey’s case, to run a household.  Her father and mother had different plans for them though, and never let them in on their coveted secret.  The time will come, they always said, but the time never seemed to arrive.

Drey was filled with dread as she ran.  Why do we live so far away from the town!  We’re practically alone in these woods! Drey thought.  The thought of vanishing families consumed her mind as she ran.  She didn’t slow as they exited the woods near their cottage.  Her fear was justified.  The cottage was burning.

“The field!” Drey yelled as she ran towards the cottage.  Sully ran towards the field as Drey swung the door open.  Smoke filtered out around her and she covered her mouth.  The roof was on fire, but it seemed like the interior wasn’t fully ablaze yet.  She took a deep breath and then rushed in.

In moments, she had run through each room.  She was thankful that each room was empty, but she was still filled with dread.  Where are they?! She thought.  As she was about to exit the cottage, she paused near the fireplace.  She pushed a gray stone as hard as she could, and a log shifted in the wall.  She pulled the log to the side, and a hidden panel slightly opened.  She grabbed the panel and swung it all the way open.  In it stood her spear and her brother’s axe.  In a blink of an eye, she grabbed them as well as the cloth purse with gold star and gold moon designs containing the family’s savings before running outside.

With the cottage now fully engulfed in flames, Drey ran to the field where her brother sat in the soil.  Her heart pounded with fear.  She slowed and stalked towards him, not wanting to acknowledge the hard truth.

“Sully!  Sully get up!  Mother and father aren’t in there…  We have to go find them…  Sulayman! I said get up!  We must seek them out!” Drey said as she slowly approached.  She felt a lump in her throat as she heard him crying.

“Mother…  It’s mother…  She’s been struck down.  She’s no longer with us…” Sully sobbed as he cradled his mother in his lap.

Tears streamed from her eyes as she brought her hand up to her mouth.  She stifled a scream and turned around.  Without thinking about it, she dropped Sully’s axe next to him and walked deeper into the plowed field in search of their father.

Minutes later, Drey returned and took a knee next to Sully.  “He’s joined mother with the Gods…  He didn’t allow whoever did this to take them like the other vanished ones.  I found the remains of his hoe and scythe…  There’s several blood trails leading away from his body…” Drey said.

“Can we track them?” Sully asked.

Drey shook her head.  “I’m sorry brother.  The trails disappear.  There’s no tracks either.  It doesn’t make sense.  No man can fully cover a track,” Drey said.

Sully sighed and wiped the tears from his cheeks.  “What do we do, Drey?” Sully asked.

“Our cottage is no more.  Our home is no more.  Our life is no more…  We build a funerary pyre next to our cottage.  Then we find who did this,” Drey said.

The gravity of the situation hit her like a falling tree as she walked to the pile of firewood near their cottage.  She couldn’t believe that they were doing this.  In a second, their life was in ruins.

After an hour or so, the funerary pyre was built and their parent’s ashes were joining the soil so they could be with the Gods.

“Now what…” Sully asked as they watched the flames die down.

His voice was meek.  All bravado he had earlier was now gone.  In this moment, Sully seemed much younger than his sixteen harvests…  He was her baby brother again.

“I’d like to leave you out of this little brother.  We may be venturing to certain death…  I won’t deny you the honor of avenging our parents though.  Do you willingly make this journey?” Drey asked.

She was taken aback by how fast her brother’s face changed.  The babe was no more.  His look was pure fire and anger.  In front of her stood a man.

“I do.  I make this journey willingly.  I have nowhere else to go and no future ahead of me…  I have nothing but my battle axe, Oath and Honor,” Sully said as he hefted the double headed battle axe to his shoulder.

“Don’t forget about me and Light Feather,” Drey said as she dug the hilt of her spear into the soil.

“Never, big sis.  We stand together.  Whoever is responsible for this will pay.  There’s a debt of blood owed, and we will collect,” Sully said.  Drey nodded and put her arm around his shoulder.

“Come brother.  It’ll be dark soon and we have a long road to travel.  I have the coins, so we’ll head down Arbor Road to The Wooden Fork.  They’ll have fresh beds.  From there, we’ll seek our parent’s killers in the morning.  These vanishings have been happening for a long time now.  Someone must know something,” Drey said.

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