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Chapter Fourteen: Burying a Friend

Posted on August 17, 2014 at 1:05 AM

Dawn came early and Fanchon was still tired. He felt numb as they ate breakfast and packed up camp. They traveled quickly along the road as even the cattle seemed to understand the need to distance themselves from Burton. The next day they crossed a stream and by nightfall they reached the edge of the forest and entered a large field of flowers.

“It’s beautiful,” Aloysia said. “Let’s bury him here among the flowers.”

Fanchon nodded. His sleep was disturbed by the memory of Jerron’s death and visions of the strange bird shadow he had seen in his dreams at the mountain temple. At dawn he went over to a tree and put his hands around a dead branch. He willed the wood into the shape of a shovel and found a place near camp to begin to dig the grave. He dug until he was exhausted. After resting against his shovel for a few minutes he looked up to find a hand extended.

“Come eat and rest,” Tor said as he helped Fanchon climb out of the grave. “We all miss him.”

“His father and mother trusted me to keep him safe,” Fanchon said.

“And you did everything anyone could have done short of tying him to a tree,” Tor said. “I heard you talking to him that night before supper. It was his choice to leave camp. I know that whatever happened you did what you could to make it right. That’s all I need to know.”

“He trusted me with his life and I failed him,” Fanchon said.

“He failed himself by not listening to you,” Tor said. “Don’t torture yourself over it. We need you.”

‘It’s not your fault,’ came softly to his mind along with a feeling of peace that soothed his grief.

Fanchon sat down near the fire and Aloysia handed him a plate of food. She sat silently beside him as they ate, but leaned against him and he found comfort in her touch. After he ate he found Gareth was in the grave digging it deeper. Fanchon found more dead branches and began shaping them into a casket for Jerron. When he finished Aloysia knelt next to him and held him in her arms for a while. He felt a hand on his shoulder.

“It’s time to bury him,” Tor’s voice said.

As they placed Jerron’s blanket wrapped body in the casket Fanchon could smell the body had begun to rot. He used more wood to create a lid that sealed the casket closed. The other men helped Fanchon carry the casket over to the grave and ropes were used to lower it to the bottom. Aloysia handed him a bunch of flowers bound together by a strip of cloth before kissing him softly.

“Goodbye Jerron,” Fanchon whispered.

He felt Aloysia’s hand in his as the men began to push the dirt back into the grave.

“Do you want to remain here tonight or continue?” Aloysia asked softly as the last of the dirt was mounded up on the grave.

“Let’s remain and leave in the morning,” Fanchon said as he placed the flowers on the mound of dirt. “I don’t think I could travel very far today.”

For a while they sat silently around the fire before Raynor asked, “Do you remember the time Jerron got caught trying to watch some girls as they bathed in the hot springs near the east end of Glynis?”

“They pelted him with mud,” Leora said and began to giggle.

“They caught him in the same hot springs two weeks later and stole his clothes,” Marcus said and began to laugh.

“He waited until dark to try to sneak home, but by then everyone knew and was waiting for him,” Fallon finished.

“He wouldn’t come out of his house for a week,” Fanchon said as he couldn’t stop the smile that the memory created.

“But he was a good friend when you needed one,” Tor said. “When I was too sick to get out of bed for a week he did all of my chores.”

“He always knew how to cheer me up,” Fanchon said. “I know how alone he felt not being married. He just wasn’t ready to settle down to one woman.”

“I don’t think he would ever be ready,” Aloysia said.

“I found out that the day I went with him to have lunch, he had supper with another woman the same night,” Sarma said.

“He was always in that sort of trouble,” Fanchon said. “He’d talk for hours about different girls if I let him. Sometimes I’d hide in a tree so I didn’t have to listen to it. But now I wish.”

“It’s in the past,” Tor said. “He used to drive me crazy talking about girls too.”

The rest of the men nodded.

“All his talk was what got me interested in Sarma,” Fallon admitted. “He mentioned her liking certain things that I liked too.”

“So that’s how you knew I liked to shoot a bow,” Sarma said. “I always wondered why you gave me a quiver of arrows when other men brought me flowers or fabric.”

“After he pointed you out to me I saw how beautiful you are. I knew I had to make a good first impression. I practiced hard for a month before I gave the arrows to you,” Fallon said then kissed her.

“So was it listening to Jerron that got you interested in me?” Aloysia asked.

“No. I think I liked you from the first time I saw you. When he would talk about you I’d get jealous. I didn’t want him to get too close to you because I wanted you for myself, but I was terrified your father wouldn’t approve.”

“So what made you ask him for my hand in marriage?” Aloysia asked. “Did you decide to do it the day before leaving in case he said no?”

“My mother told me to go see him before we left,” Fanchon replied in confusion. “He told me he had been expecting me and that he was giving me something very dear to both our hearts then handed me the package with my wedding clothes in it.”

“You acted like you knew.”

“What I knew when I saw your face was that all of my prayers were answered.”

 

Chapter Thirteen: A Deadly Choice

Posted on August 16, 2014 at 12:05 AM

Fanchon followed Tor and Jerron to where Aloysia was waiting in a shop with Gareth’s wife Thia.

“There you are,” she said. “I was thinking we should get some seed for crops, but if we’re going much further it will be too late in the season to plant.”

“I think we’ll find what we are looking for very soon,” he said. “We’ll definitely want to get the seed.”

They bought the seed and finished loading the wagon before heading towards camp. Fanchon noticed Jerron seemed unusually distracted while supper was being prepared.

Fanchon touched his arm and said, “What’s going on with you?”

“Nothing,” Jerron replied quickly.

“I know you well enough to know something is on your mind,” Fanchon said.

“If you must know I met someone just this afternoon,” Jerron said. “She was so beautiful.”

“We’re leaving in the morning. There’s no sense in trying to see her again.”

“Everyone else has someone except me. It’s just not fair.”

“You’ve matured a lot since we left Glynis, but I don’t think you’re quite ready to have a wife. This is the third woman you’ve talked about since we arrived in Burton,” Fanchon said. “I know it’s hard. You’re my best friend and I want to see you happy, but you can’t even remember to take care of your horse all of the time. If you couldn’t understand her she would be wearing her saddle and bridle all night long.”

“I guess you’re right,” Jerron said with a sigh.

“It’s ready,” Aloysia announced.

They ate supper and talked about which direction they would be going next. Raynor was on first watch. It was only a few hours after dark when Fanchon was awakened by quiet noises and a horse leaving the camp. He looked around and noticed Jerron was missing. Raynor was at the opposite end of the camp. Fanchon buckled on his sword and put a bridle on his horse.

“I’m going after Jerron,” Fanchon told Raynor as he came over.

He urged Midnight forward.

“Follow them,” he whispered to Midnight. “Quietly.”

The horse obeyed following Jerron straight to the castle garden. When he arrived he saw a man with a sword running towards someone on the ground. As the moon came from behind a cloud the scene it revealed made Fanchon’s heart sink. Jerron and a woman were naked and entwined on the ground. Fanchon recognized the crown prince as he raised his sword.

“That’s my wife!” the crown prince roared, sending the pair scrambling apart.

Fanchon dismounted quickly and drew his sword just as the prince plunged his into Jerron’s heart. Fanchon ran to put himself between the prince and his wife just as the man turned to kill her.

“Stop!” Fanchon said. “I would have killed him myself for such a misdeed. It is his doing, not hers.”

“He certainly didn’t force her out of my bed at sword point! Now I must raise my son on my own and try to explain what happened to my wife,” the prince countered as his wife cried.

“For any other man the matter would be quickly forgotten, but for your wife to suddenly vanish would have everyone talking for years,” Fanchon said and the prince lowered his sword. “Slow down and think about this.”

“I’m sorry,” the woman sobbed. “It was stupid of me, but you’ve been so busy you’ve hardly spoken to me in months let alone.”

She stopped mid sentence as the prince’s sword rose again.

“You will never ever be unfaithful again,” Fanchon said as he stepped aside and faced her. “Look at me!”

“Being the leader of a kingdom is hard work! Maybe you should be more involved in that work rather than sitting in the garden doing needlework all day while someone else tends your baby. I’ve seen you from the stables out here every day,” Fanchon said sternly as the woman met his eyes. “If you are to be his queen then you should be learning how to be a queen and not a seamstress. You should make an effort to be with your husband while he is learning to be king.”

He glanced at the prince who was staring at him with his mouth open and his sword point on the ground.

“I’ll take the body of my best friend and bury it. My group is leaving Burton at dawn so no one will be saying anything to anyone in Burton. As far as either of you are concerned none of this ever happened,” Fanchon said as he picked up Jerron’s shirt and handed it to the prince. “Clean your sword.”

The prince nodded and began wiping the blood from his sword. The princess began to get dressed while Fanchon began to dress Jerron’s body. The prince began to help him.

“You certainly don’t act like a stable hand anymore,” the prince said quietly. “You act like my father.”

“That’s why the rest of my group appointed me their leader,” Fanchon said. “Take your wife back to bed. Tomorrow start fresh and begin to teach her to be a leader. My wife is my partner, my equal. Make your wife yours.”

“I will,” the prince said. “Thank you.”

Jerron’s horse pulled free from the bush she was tied to and came over to nudge his face.

“I know Storm Cloud,” Fanchon said as he rubbed her neck. “Lay down so we can lay him across your back.”

The horse laid down and the prince helped Fanchon drape Jerron across the saddle. Soon Fanchon had mounted Midnight and began leading Storm Cloud back to camp. He couldn’t stop the tears that flowed down his face as Jerron’s death finally began to sink in. When he arrived everyone was awake and looking for them.

“What happened to Jerron?” Thia asked.

“There’s blood on his shirt,” her husband Gareth said.

“It was his own choice that led to his death,” Fanchon said grimly as the others gathered around. “I didn’t kill him, but I would have for what he did. The husband of the woman killed him.”

They all began asking questions at once.

“I’ll say no more about it,” Fanchon said. “He was my best friend and my responsibility but in the end he was free to make his own choices. Let’s try to get some sleep. We must leave at dawn.”

 

Chapter Twelve: Proving His Worthiness

Posted on August 14, 2014 at 1:05 AM

It had been several days since they had left Okiah and Uncle Sethan hadn’t run out of questions about what had happened in Glynis since he had left. Fanchon was kind of sad to know that he’d never see his mother and father again, but happy that Uncle Sethan would be able to tell them he was alright. Jerron was restless and seemed moody. Fanchon was worried about him.

“What’s the matter?”

Uncle Sethan’s question brought Fanchon’s attention back to the present.

“Just worried about Jerron and thinking about the home I’ll never see again,” Fanchon replied.

“I’m sorry to keep pestering you with questions. I just hope I can remember the language,” Uncle Sethan said as he ran his hand through his hair. “It’s strange to feel the breeze in my hair again. I’m still getting used to wearing pants instead of that robe as well.”

Fanchon laughed. They travelled slower with the cattle. He was both looking forward to and dreading arriving at Burton.

“Lady Aloysia is a beautiful woman. She looks a lot like her mother. She mentioned how happy she was to be bearing your first child,” Uncle Sethan said. “You’re a lucky man.”

“Yes I am, but you had three wives.”

“I still miss them although it was a bit strange. It took them a long time for them to treat me as a husband instead of the Great Wizard Priest. I fathered twenty three children and I lost count of my grandchildren years ago. One of my great granddaughters is now queen. I heard that three of my grandsons built a boat and sailed west, but never returned. Ki-Mal said they were not dead, but continuing my work among another people.”

“Perhaps you’ll find another wife when you reach Glynis,” Fanchon said. “I think it’s time to find a place to camp for the night.”

They soon found a canyon that ended in sheer cliff face. It allowed them to keep the cattle together yet let them graze along with the horses. After several more days traveling through the mountains they entered another forest.

By the time they could see Burton their supplies were running low again. Fanchon awoke at dawn to see Uncle Sethan going through his saddle bags.

“Do you have everything you need?” Fanchon asked quietly.

“It looks like it. Now that I have the bow I can hunt for food. I’ll travel light and fast. I’m looking forward to seeing Glynis again. For so many years I thought I could never return home after how I acted,” Uncle Sethan said. “You’ve given me hope that I can be forgiven.”

“You were forgiven long ago,” Fanchon said as he put his hand on Uncle Sethan’s shoulder. “Stay for breakfast.”

“I’m not really good at saying goodbye,” Uncle Sethan said as Aloysia sat up.

“You are staying for breakfast and that’s final,” she said.

“Yes, Lady Aloysia,” Uncle Sethan said.

After breakfast they loaded up as Uncle Sethan headed north for Glynis. They reached Burton around noon and found a secure place for a camp outside the city. People were friendly and soon most of them found work so they could earn money to buy supplies. Jerron and Fanchon found work in the royal stables.

The captain of the guards seemed to like Fanchon and began teaching him to use a sword. He seemed pleased that Fanchon was catching on quickly and after a month presented him with a sword and sheath. Some of the guards seemed irritated that the captain seemed to favor Fanchon and one afternoon one of them challenged Fanchon to a duel. Fanchon knew he could not loose. He concentrated on his opponent’s blade and ignored the shouts of ridicule by the other guards. As Fanchon was beginning to tire he saw his opening and disarmed his opponent. The man stopped suddenly as Fanchon raised his sword point to the man’s throat. He could see the other men had drawn their swords.

“Enough!” roared the captain of the guard as he ran up. “What is going on?”

“He challenged me to a duel,” Fanchon said as he sheathed his sword.

“He doesn’t belong to the guard,” the man growled. “He’s just a stable boy.”

“He’s as worthy to be a guard as any other man here,” the captain said.

“I am honored by your confidence in me, Sir, but he is right; I don’t belong,” Fanchon said. “I am not a stable boy either. Burton is just a temporary stop in my journey. Now my group has earned enough money to purchase supplies we will continue our journey.”

“Your group?” the guard asked in a mocking tone as Jerron and Tor approached.

“Lady Aloysia is looking for you Fanchon,” Tor said.

“Lady?” the captain asked.

“My wife,” Fanchon said. “Including Tor and Jerron there are thirteen of us in all.”

“Fanchon and Lady Aloysia are our leaders,” Jerron said.

The guard began to laugh until the captain gave him a stern glance. The captain looked at Tor with one eyebrow raised.

“The decision for Fanchon to be our leader was unanimous,” Tor answered the unspoken question. “I trust him with my life.”

“I do too,” Jerron said.

“We decided to find a place to establish a new village,” Fanchon said. “Now that we have enough money we were going to leave Burton in the morning.”

“I’ll miss you,” the captain said. “It does make sense that you are a leader. I think that’s part of what I like about you. I’ve noticed that the stable boys are taking better care of the horses since you arrived. The stables are cleaner as well.”

“Fanchon doesn’t put up with anyone being lazy,” Jerron said. “It’s irritating sometimes, but he’s always right.”

 

Chapter Eleven: A Parting Gift

Posted on August 12, 2014 at 12:10 AM

“Wake up, Fanchon.”

Fanchon opened his eyes to find himself lying on his back with Uncle Sethan standing over him.

“I’m all packed and ready to leave. I need to ask you to lead your horse with me riding it.”

“It would seem odd for you to be walking at your age,” Fanchon said with a grin as he sat up.

“I know it will seem a bit odd to you, but I found these people respond well to rituals. They at first thought me to be a wizard, but then tried to make me their god. I’m certain that we’ll leave in a funeral procession even though I am very much alive. I had been thinking it was time for me to move on, but didn’t know how I’d be able to do it.”

“We could travel together to Burton. We might have to get you a horse,” Fanchon said as he stood and stretched.

Ki-Mal brought in breakfast for them. They ate after a prayer then Uncle Sethan put on his cloak. Ki-Mal handed Uncle Sethan a staff that was beautifully carved.

“A parting gift,” Ki-Mal said. “A symbol of your wisdom. I also brought you this.”

He held out a bowstring.

“I tempered the bow that I repaired against breakage,” Fanchon said as he touched and tempered the staff. “It will serve you well as will this.”

Uncle Sethan nodded and hugged Ki-Mal before pulling up his hood.

When they reached the courtyard there were many men assembled. Midnight had flowers braided into his mane and tail along with a garland of herbs and vines around his neck.

“Can you please lie down so he can mount?” Fanchon asked the horse quietly.

Midnight laid down. Ki-Mal and Fanchon made a show of helping Uncle Sethan mount and steadying him as Midnight stood up. All of the men bowed with their hands together and thumbs on their foreheads as Fanchon led the horse past them to the open gates. It took some time for them to get out of sight of the temple and back to where the path turned into a road.

“There’s a farm nearby that we might be able to get a horse from,” Uncle Sethan said. “One of my granddaughters lives there.”

Soon they turned off the main road down a cart path. They were greeted by a man who bowed with his thumbs to his forehead.

“Come rest Grandfather,” the man said. “Kiarra should have the midday meal ready soon.”

“Thank you Quinnan,” Uncle Sethan said. “We must reach the city by nightfall.”

“I have a horse you may keep,” Quinnan said before leading them to the home.

“Grandfather!” a woman exclaimed as they entered the home.

She ran over and hugged Uncle Sethan along with three children.

“It is time to make my final journey Kiarra,” Uncle Sethan said as he sat down. “Ki-Mal will continue my work as great wizard priest.”

“I would have prepared the proper feast if I had known,” Kiarra said.

“As with any parting from this world my journey started quite unexpectedly when Fanchon arrived. He is descended from my twin sister.”

“Welcome Fanchon,” Quinnan said. “We are honored by your presence.”

“You will care well for Grandfather in his final journey home,” Kiarra commanded.

“I will,” Fanchon acknowledged. “His return home will be a safe one and his arrival greeted with open arms and tears of joy.”

“Will you lead us in prayer Grandfather?” Kiarra asked.

Soon they had recited the prayer that was becoming familiar to Fanchon. The food was delicious, but Fanchon was eager to be reunited with Aloysia. After the meal a brown horse was brought for Fanchon to ride. There were hugs and tears before they were allowed to leave. It was nightfall when they entered the city. Fanchon led the way to Aricor’s home and found Aloysia at the gate.

“Aricor is dying,” she said as Fanchon hugged her. “He wants to talk to you the moment you arrive.”

“Death waits for no man,” Uncle Sethan said. “Introductions can wait.”

Aloysia led them to a bedroom where Aricor lay in bed.

“There you are,” Aricor said.

“I brought with me the Great Wizard Priest himself,” Fanchon said. “He is preparing to make his final journey home.”

“I am truly a blessed man,” Aricor said as they knelt at the bedside. “I have spoken to my children and grandchildren about this and they agree. I know that you have yet to find a home. I give to you two wagons complete with cattle to pull them loaded with anything you need. I also send the finest bull that can be found along with five cows. You will need them when you find your home.”

“I don’t understand,” Fanchon said, stunned by the gift. “Why?”

“You were willing to help a stranger in need without question or hesitation,” Aricor said. “Your wife and companions have been very kind and even helped my staff and neighbors while you have been gone. Although you are not Okiahan you live by the same principles taught to us by Se-Than.”

“Principles taught to me by my own mother and father,” Uncle Sethan said. “I am grateful to see they have saved the people of Okiah and made them the great nation they are today.”

“You once saved my life as a young boy, Se-Than. I thank our Honored Ancestors every day for that. I leave this world a happy man that you have again seen fit to honor me with your presence. I don’t know how you still live, but I’m grateful you do.”

“I come from a very long lived people,” Uncle Sethan said as he lowered his hood. “I’ve hidden my face for years.”

“You look nearly the same as the day I first saw you,” Aricor whispered.

“I know. My work here is done and it is time for me to return home,” Uncle Sethan said with a smile. “There I will be among my family and greeted with open arms as will you as you ascend to join your honored ancestors.”

 

Chapter Ten: Visions and Guidance

Posted on August 7, 2014 at 12:10 AM

Fanchon sat down to the table with Uncle Sethan and his son, Ki-Mal as he wondered what Ki-Mal had seen in his visions.

“I have this map that we have been using during our travels,” Fanchon said as he laid it open on the table. “I wasn’t able to get much information south of Nak am Mer to the east.”

“South east of here is the kingdom of Mannton,” Uncle Sethan said as he indicated on the map. “I went there once, but was very saddened by what I found. While the people of Okiah were savage, they were equal. In Mannton there was a sickness that killed many of their women. The men captured Okiahan women and some were brought by ship. The women were treated as unintelligent animals; bought, sold and enslaved.”

“They still are according to what I’ve heard,” Ki-Mal said as he nodded. “There is nothing you can do besides find your new home. One of your descendants will help the only person who can open the eyes of Mannton’s men and make women equal in that kingdom.”

Fanchon nodded, stunned by what he was hearing

“Directly east of Okiah is Brinley,” Uncle Sethan said as he pointed. “They are generally a good people, but their royal house is corrupt and violent.”

“In time that will change,” Ki-Mal said. “A new bloodline must take control before mingling with the bloodline of their ancient kings. Only then will love and compassion be paired with wisdom to rule Brinley.”

“North of Brinley is the hilltop kingdom of Burton,” Uncle Sethan said. “They are a good people with a strong but wise royal house.”

“You must pass through Burton before you can find your true home,” Ki-Mal said. “A friend will be lost, but the choice is his to make.”

Fanchon nodded numbly.

“What I see is that your true home is guarded by fierce defenders who can fly. They are waiting for you,” Ki-Mal said.

“That doesn’t sound good,” Uncle Sethan said with a frown as Fanchon remembered Rollan’s words.

“That agrees with what the seer told me before I left,” Fanchon said. “He said that I would find a friend like no other.”

“Once that bond is made there is no further danger for Fanchon and his companions. The only danger is from within, but that single incident will both wound and strengthen his descendant. It will prepare him for the journey that lies before him,” Ki-Mal said. “Fanchon, you are a true leader. Where you lead others will follow. Remember that you must not let the conflicts of others become your own. Keep your rule within your own borders.”

“My rule?” Fanchon asked.

“There is only a single culture where the ruling power is passed from mother to daughter, the one you left and I must return to,” Uncle Sethan said.

“It is when that culture arrives within your borders that the truth of the past will be revealed,” Ki-Mal said. “You will not live to see that day, but your descendant will as he bears a sword forged by your hands. It will not be remembered, but it will be your wife that gives the blade the qualities that set it apart from all other blades forged in the known kingdoms before or after. Her talent is an ancient one that hasn’t been needed for many generations. It binds a weapon to a single warrior. All not worthy to claim it will suffer the consequences. She will only need to use her talent this one time.”

Fanchon stared at Ki-Mail as his message seared into his mind.

“Are you alright? You went pale,” Uncle Sethan said as he put his hand on Fanchon’s shoulder.

“I tried many different jobs, but was told the same thing over and over again. All of the people I worked for said I expected to be in charge, not follow. When I decided to leave six of my friends along with their wives said they would follow me. The only member of our group younger than me isn’t married, but it was me they would follow,” Fanchon said. “I never thought I would be important to anyone outside of my family.”

“This fate is both chosen for you and shaped by your own hands,” Ki-Mal said. “You are free to refuse it, but know that you are important to many people.”

“Prepare some bitter tea,” Uncle Sethan said. “We should meditate and pray tonight.”

Ki-Mal nodded and left.

“I know how you must feel. Kind of like I felt when I realized the responsibility I had taken on when I saved these people from destroying themselves.”

Fanchon turned and met Uncle Sethan’s eyes.

“You and I share a bloodline,” he said. “And you descend from royal blood. This is what you were born to do. I’ve done what I was meant to do here. Now it is your turn to shape this land. I just hope Mother and Dedre can forgive me for leaving.”

“They are waiting with open arms for your return,” Fanchon said. “Mother was bearing a child when I left. I’ll never see the brother or sister that she gave birth to already, but I know you’ll be there for them.”

Ki-Mal entered with a tray. He set the tray on the table before pouring a yellow liquid into the three small cups.

“It is very bitter, but it enhances the senses. We use that to pray and meditate so we might keep the darkness of evil from our souls so we can be beacons of goodness for others to follow,” Ki-Mal said before drinking from one of the cups.

Uncle Sethan drank from a cup as well, so Fanchon picked up the remaining cup. The tea was very bitter, so he finished it quickly trying to ignore the bitter flavor. Uncle Sethan and Ki-Mal sat on cushions in the middle of the floor and began murmuring softly. Fanchon joined them and listened to the prayer that was almost a chant. He thought about the journey ahead of him, but kept seeing a volcano and a large shadow that was almost shaped like a bird, but the neck was longer, the tail thinner and the wings were strangely different.

 

Chapter Nine: The Great Wizard Priest

Posted on August 3, 2014 at 1:05 AM

Fanchon heard footsteps upstairs as though someone was pacing. That worried him a bit but all he could do is wait. He looked around the room again to see if he could figure out more about this mysterious person. Obviously Uncle Sethan had been here at one time since the symbol from the bracelet was to be found on the furniture, the shelves and even on the doors. Obviously he had thought about his twin sister that he had left behind as frequently as she thought about him.

At last the cloaked figure came down the stairs holding something wrapped in cloth. The person set it on the table in front of Fanchon and pushed it toward him. The person’s silence puzzled him as he began to unwrap the long slender item. In the center of the fabric he found a bow that was broken in two places. Fanchon looked up and tried to see the face hidden in the shadows of the hooded cloak. The figure gestured to the broken bow.

“You expect me to repair the bow?” Fanchon asked and the figure nodded.

Fanchon picked up two of the pieces and fit them together, healing the wood. He picked up the final piece and fit it into place willing the wood to both heal and form a permanent bond which tempered the wood against future breakage.

When he looked up the man pulled back his hood revealing a youthful face that looked both like Mother’s and his own.

“Uncle Sethan?” Fanchon asked and the man nodded. “Mother sent this with me to convince you to come home. She and Grandmother frequently talk about you and cry.”

He removed the bracelet and held it out.

“I’ve shed my share of tears over leaving,” Uncle Sethan said softly as he gently took the bracelet from Fanchon. “When I left the seer stopped me and said that I must return when three pieces are reunited. He said I had important work to be done before I could return.”

“From what I have been told you saved these people and shaped their civilization,” Fanchon said.

“I thought I would be finding a new home for our own people,” he replied as he finished tying on the bracelet.

“No, that is my duty. It will be many years before our people are ready to leave Glynis,” Fanchon said.

“My work here is done then,” he said as he stood up. “My wives are dead, but my sons and grandsons will continue my work. They know the day will come when I must leave. I have hidden my face for many years since I do not age as quickly as they do. You were just a boy when I left but now you are a grown man.”

“With a wife of my own,” Fanchon said as he stood. “Lady Aloysia, daughter of the seer.”

“Lady?” Uncle Sethan asked with a raised eyebrow.

“Titled by Regina Lurinna herself after she married us,” he replied.

“Come eat supper with us. We can talk later,” Uncle Sethan said as he raised his hood.

When they entered the dining room all of the men were standing behind their seats. They all bowed with their hands together thumbs to their foreheads. Uncle Sethan led him to the other end of the room.

“My dear children,” Uncle Sethan began. “I have long known this day would come. My time is coming to an end. It is time for me to appoint a new Great Wizard Priest. You are all well prepared to continue the work I started. I appoint Ki-Mal as my successor. I will leave at dawn with Fanchon who has come to lead me back to my honored ancestors. Ki-Mal will now lead us in prayer.”

The prayer was simple and heartfelt. The meal was eaten in silence but Fanchon noticed most of the men wiping tears as they ate. After they finished the meal the men came up one by one and hugged Uncle Sethan before turning to him. Each asked him to care for their Great Wizard Priest during his journey from this world to the next. Ki-Mal was the last one remaining when the rest had left the dining hall. Uncle Sethan lowered his hood.

“Aricor, cousin of the king, has sent this prayer,” Fanchon said and held out the scroll. “My wife and our companions are waiting for me at his home.”

“I’ll take care of it,” Ki-Mal said as he took the scroll.

“Fanchon is my nephew, Ki-Mal” Uncle Sethan said. “His mother is my twin.”

“I shall miss you Father,” Ki-Mal said. “I know it is time for you to return home. I will make certain your legacy continues here in Okiah.”

“I know you will,” Uncle Sethan said as he hugged him.

“I’ve had dreams for almost a year now about this day coming. I am surprised how much your face resembles the one from my dream,” Ki-Mal said as he turned to Fanchon. “You are not returning home with Father.”

“No,” Fanchon acknowledged.

“Your fate lies to the east,” Ki-Mal said.

“Come we will talk in my chambers,” Uncle Sethan said as he raised the hood on his cloak.

Fanchon and Ki-Mal followed Uncle Sethan back to the tower room. Fanchon wondered what he could learn from Ki-Mal about where they should travel next.

 

Chapter Eight: The Mountain Temple

Posted on July 30, 2014 at 1:10 AM

“We were beginning to wonder what happened to you,” Jerron said as Fanchon arrived at camp.

“You had me so worried,” Aloysia said as she came over.

“What is all this?” Marcus asked as he and his wife Leora looked at the cart.

“I helped a man whose uncle had died leaving him a jewelry business. This is what he paid me for my help,” Fanchon said. “All I wanted was this for you.”

He held out the beautiful ring to Aloysia.

“It’s far too fancy,” she said. “This is something a regina would wear.”

“Regina Lurinna herself titled you Lady Aloysia and appointed us to lead the group,” Fanchon said as he slipped it onto her finger.

“It’s a bit loose,” she said.

Raynor’s wife Malika touched it and it adjusted to a perfect fit.

“Keep it,” Ferron said. “Fanchon is right. You are Lady Aloysia.”

The next morning they continued their journey south. The road turned east before they came to a city. The residents told them the kingdom was called Okiah. Fanchon noticed that many of the people looked him over very closely and some even bowed slightly. One old man stopped them in the middle of the street.

“Can you take my prayer to the mountain temple?” the man asked as he held up a scroll of paper to Fanchon. “I am too feeble to take it there myself. I can offer your companions a place to stay until you return.”

“The mountain temple?” Fanchon asked as the man put the scroll in his hand.

“I know you must be going there for that symbol is carved on the gate of the temple,” the man said pointing to the bracelet Fanchon wore.

Fanchon glanced at Aloysia who nodded.

“I’ll take it for you,” Fanchon said. “My wife and companions will stay with you.”

“Come stay the night before beginning your journey,” the man said. “My name is Aricor.”

Fanchon dismounted and walked beside the man. They went down a side street and soon arrived at a large gate. Two men bowed with their hands palm together and thumbs on their foreheads before opening the gate. Aricor led them into a courtyard and clapped his hands. Soon their horses were cared for and they were sitting at a large table eating with Aricor and his family. They learned a lot about Okiah from the man who was the cousin of the king. Not long ago they had been a savage people. There was much sickness in the kingdom. At a time when all thought they would not survive the Great Wizard Priest had come to teach them how to be a civilized people. He taught them how to cleanse themselves from the sickness. When they tried to pray to him, he told them to pray to the ancestors that had created them. He taught them prayers of gratitude and prayers of calming. The Great Wizard Priest had taught them to respect the dead by burning them in a funeral ceremony instead of leaving their bodies to be devoured by animals.

“The symbol you wear is the symbol of the Great Wizard Priest himself,” Aricor said.

“How long ago did this Great Wizard Priest appear?” Fanchon asked.

“Almost eighty years ago,” Aricor replied. “I was a young boy at the time. I was near death when he came and healed me with herbs. Rumors say he might still live. Our king gave him his three daughters as his wives and all Wizard Priests descend from him or the royal family.”

“Do you know his name?” Fanchon pressed.

“It is too holy to speak aloud without cause but every morning I thank the ancestors for Se-Than coming to us,” he said softly. “I don’t remember much except his eyes. You have the same eyes.”

“I am certain it is no accident that we met Aricor. If he is who I think he is I descend from his sister. I am charged with uncovering his fate that hearts and old wounds might be healed.”

Aricor placed his hands together thumbs to his forehead and bowed his head to Fanchon. After the meal was completed they were given rooms to stay in. Aricor showed Fanchon a room with a map of Okiah painted on the wall. Fanchon noticed the road to the mountain temple and added it to his own map. Early the next morning Fanchon kissed Aloysia goodbye and started his journey to the mountain temple. Aricor had packed some food for him in a bag. He followed the road which dwindled to a narrow cart path eventually leading up into the mountains until he was faced by a tall wall and a gate flanked by two men in matching robes sitting cross-legged on stone slabs. On the gate was carved the symbol from the bracelet. Fanchon dismounted and put his hands together bowing with his thumbs to his forehead. The men replied in kind before standing.

“What is your purpose here today?” one of them asked.

“I bring a prayer from the cousin of the king,” he replied. “I also come seeking knowledge.”

He pushed back his sleeve to fully reveal the bracelet he wore. The two men looked from it to him and each other before quickly opening the gate. One of the men ran across a courtyard to enter a building. He soon returned with a cloaked figure. Fanchon pressed his hands together and bowed again before revealing the bracelet. He was signaled forward by the cloaked figure. He was led into the building and up some stairs to a circular room lined with shelves. The figure motioned to a low table and a cushion. Fanchon sat down. The person turned and went up some stairs out of sight.

Fanchon looked around wondering who this mysterious person was and if he knew where Uncle Sethan was. He sat looking around the room and noticed the same symbol repeated in the decoration. It was the symbol from the bracelet.

 

Chapter Seven: Working for supplies

Posted on July 27, 2014 at 12:10 AM

Fanchon was awakened by something soft nudging his cheek. He opened his eyes to find the black stallion standing over him.

“Jerron, wake up,” Fanchon said without moving. “Lie still Aloysia.”

The horse lifted his head and made some noises.

“He’s made his decision,” Jerron said as Fanchon carefully sat up.

The horse backed up allowing Fanchon to stand. There were almost twenty horses in a group behind the stallion. Some were very young.

“These horses are to come with us. Not all of them are old enough to be ridden or pull a cart,” Jerron said.

“We are grateful,” Fanchon said and bowed to the stallion who nodded before turning and galloping off toward where the rest of the herd remained.

He approached the group of remaining horses slowly and heard Aloysia follow him. He reached out to a young black stallion who sniffed at his hand before moving forward to sniff his face and make soft noises.

“He will be your horse,” Jerron said. “He says he is called the blackness before the sun rises.”

“That’s a little long,” Fanchon said. “Would he be alright with me calling him Midnight?”

The horse nodded. He heard a giggle and turned to find Aloysia stroking the neck of a white mare.

“She is called the white bones of the fallen,” Jerron said.

“Such a sad name for such a beautiful creature,” Aloysia said. “What if I call her Snowy?”

The horse nodded and nuzzled her cheek. Soon all the horses were named and matched pairs were chosen to pull the carts. It took some time for them to get the harnesses on the horses and adjusted. At last they were ready to travel. At the end of the day Fanchon was sore from riding. They had no saddles, but had rigged a harness of sorts to give loops for stirrups. They still got odd looks from passing travelers.

It was nearly ten days over grassy plains, through forests and mountains before they arrived in a large city. The residents called it Ikthalmai. They did some work for different shopkeepers in exchange for saddles, bridles and additional supplies. The people seemed a bit wary of them at first, but the blacksmith was happy for the help when he realized Fanchon knew what he was doing. They stayed two months before leaving.

The winter snows made the journey slow and sleeping in tents cold. They passed through a few villages over the next several months. In each place they helped the villagers in exchange for things they needed to continue their journey. Speaking the language was getting easier. They found a city called Sirl am Mond. The people there were friendly once they offered to work for supplies. One day Fanchon found a man standing with his hand on the door latch of a shop and his head on the door.

“Is something the matter?” he asked the man as he climbed down from the cart seat.

“This was my uncle’s shop,” the man said. “He had no children and none of the family wants anything to do with his things.”

“He died recently?” Fanchon asked and the man looked up at him.

“A month ago,” the man said. “Since I’m the eldest of the family I need to clean out his shop and dispose of his things. He valued his business over friends and family. He made jewelry and many enemies among his competitors. I’ve tried getting someone to buy the business, but none want anything to do with it.”

“Is there anything I can help you with?” Fanchon asked. “I don’t have money to buy a business, but I could help you clean out the shop so you can see if there is something of value you could sell.”

The man stared at him.

“What would you want in return then?” the man asked at last.

Fanchon shrugged his shoulders and said, “My friends and I are travelling and they all have work they are doing in exchange for food and other supplies. Perhaps there is something among his things that could prove useful when we find a place to build our home.”

“My own wife refused to help me clean out this place,” the man said as he opened the door. “I am glad to let you help me.”

They entered the small dusty shop. There was a solid counter that cut the room in half. They were forced to climb over it to get to the back of the shop. Everything was locked up tight.

“He lived upstairs,” the man said. “Perhaps the key is up there somewhere.”

He opened a door and found a hall. There was a door at one end and stairs at the other. Fanchon followed him up the stairs. There was a single room that had a bed in one corner and a kitchen in the opposite corner. There was a table with a single chair. As Fanchon put his hand on top of the post at the end of the stairs he felt that the wood was hollow.

“There’s really not much here,” the man muttered as he opened a drawer in a night stand. “The key to the door was on his body when he was killed, but nothing else.”

Fanchon knocked the post top with his elbow as he began to cross to the kitchen and the decorative top popped off onto the floor. The man spun around and looked as Fanchon picked up the top.

“I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to break,” Fanchon began.

“Wait. What’s that?” the man said as he pointed to the post.

The man crossed the room and Fanchon joined him. There was a box that had been hidden under the top piece. Inside was a small ring of keys.

“He never trusted anyone,” the man commented as he lifted out the keys. “It would have been impossible to find these.”

The keys indeed fit the locks on the cabinets behind the counter in the shop. They also found a door in the floor beneath the stairs that was opened by one of the keys. In the cellar they found the jewelry making tools and more than enough gold and gemstones to make the man very rich.

“Half of this should be yours,” the man said as Fanchon looked at a beautiful ring that was lying next to the tools on the table.

“That’s way too much,” Fanchon protested. “Maybe just this ring for my wife.”

“You can have the entire table along with anything on or in it,” the man said. “I don’t think anyone else would touch it, but the rest I can definitely sell.”

“I’m just happy to help,” Fanchon said.

“I’ll help you load it into your cart.”

 

Chapter Six: Are You a Wizard?

Posted on July 24, 2014 at 9:05 PM

It was near noon the following day when Fallon said, “Is this the last dowel?”

He hit it one last time to set it level with the beam while Fanchon looked over the completed bridge.

“I believe so,” Fanchon said and the oldest man nodded.

“Thank you for your help,” the man said. “We would have been working for another four days without your help.”

“And none of us cook nearly as well as your wife does,” another man commented as Aloysia approached.

“Lunch is ready,” Aloysia said. “Is it finished?”

“You can be the first to cross it,” the oldest man said with a smile.

As the rest of the men started towards the camp the oldest man put his hand on Fanchon’s arm.

“I had a question for you,” the man said quietly and Fanchon nodded. “When my father was a young boy he met a man named Sethan. Father said that Sethan glowed orange when he slept and told father that he came from a valley of wizards. When you were sleeping last night I noticed a faint orange glow around you just like he had when he slept. Are you a wizard?”

“Yes, I am related to Sethan through his sister,” Fanchon said.

“My parents told me anyone able to do magic was very dangerous,” the man said.

“Our magic is a tool, not a weapon. Each can do a very specific thing with their magic. We are no more dangerous than you are,” Fanchon replied. “How long ago did you last see Sethan?”

“About seventy five years ago,” the man said. “He’s probably dead by now.”

“Still I would like to know what happened to him.”

“Show me what magic you can do and I will tell you where he said he was going,” the man replied.

Fanchon motioned him over to a nearby tree. Fanchon stood so that he was hidden from the camp by the tree and grasped a dead limb that was only as long as his forearm. The limb separated from the tree and the man gasped. Fanchon pulled the ends and soon had it lengthened into a bow.

“For you,” Fanchon said. “I can work wood with my bare hands, but like the rest of my group I know that people fear what they don’t understand so we must hide our abilities.”

“My bow broke the day before you arrived,” the man said with a smile. “Sethan said he was heading south and west.”

“Thank you. Let’s go eat.”

The men thanked them before they crossed the bridge to continue south. The smooth road was easier to pull the carts over. After passing through a tiny village they travelled another day and a half before the forest thinned and was replaced by grasslands with short bushes. It was another day before they found a group of horses. They followed the horses off the road before camping for the night. A large black horse paced between them and the rest of the herd. The horse whinnied and snorted, pawing at the ground with his hoof.

“The lead horse is very wary of us,” Jerron commented softly as he and Fanchon stood watching the horses in the fading light. “He has warned me not to approach the herd.”

“Then it is him you must talk to,” Fanchon replied.

“Come and talk. We promise no harm will come to you. You can see the others are lying down to sleep. This is our leader,” Jerron said and motioned to Fanchon.

The horse reared up on its hind legs and pawed at the air.

“He will strike us if we move,” Jerron said.

“Understood,” Fanchon said as he nodded.

The stallion finally moved closer until it was an arm’s reach away from them.

“We seek any of your kind that would be willing to pull our carts or carry one of us,” Jerron said. “We promise they will be well cared for and treated kindly.”

The horse snorted and made some soft noises.

“No, we will not be returning to this place. We hope to find a home which they will share. We will find a place of grass with water available,” Jerron said and the horse responded again. “No, we don’t expect all females, but if you could spare one or two then a new herd could be formed in the new home.”

The horse whinnied and snorted again before looking directly at Fanchon and sniffing at him. Fanchon held perfectly still.

“He is good, kind and wise. He will make certain they are well cared for,” Jerron said and Fanchon nodded. “My own father entrusted me to him.”

The horse made some noises before turning and leaving.

“He will decide by morning about the females, but he has some young males that he has been driving away for the last couple of years. They’ve been more persistent than others in the past. He wants rid of them and will convince them to come with us.”

“Good. Let’s get some sleep. We’ll have work to do in the morning to ready the harnesses and carts.”

Fanchon settled into the bedroll next to Aloysia. Now that she was a titled noble woman she deserved a home worthy of her title. He thought about building her such a castle as he fell asleep.

 

 

Chapter Five: Building a Bridge

Posted on July 21, 2014 at 1:00 AM

Fanchon slowly woke from having the most wonderful dream about being married to Aloysia and making her his wife. Something soft moved against him and he was suddenly wide awake. He looked around the unfamiliar room as he realized he was not alone in the bed.

“Fanchon?” Aloysia’s voice asked. “What’s the matter?”

He looked at her as she sat up. The memories came flooding back filling him with joy.

“Nothing,” he replied as he sat up. “Everything is perfectly right.”

“Yes it is,” she replied before kissing him passionately. “We had best be getting ready to leave.”

They bathed before getting dressed. Aloysia was braiding her hair and Fanchon was putting the wedding clothes into the bag as there was a knock on the outer door. Fanchon hurried to open the door.

“Follow me, please,” the woman at the door said.

She led them to a small dining room where the regis and regina waited. It was strange to eat breakfast with them before they rode in a carriage to Rollan’s house. Even though it was very early it seemed that most of the city was there. Teary goodbyes were exchanged before Fanchon and Aloysia led the group to the cave to collect the two wagons. It was hard work to pull the wagons up the road leading out of the valley.

“I’ll be glad to find some horses to pull these wagons,” Jerron muttered between gritted teeth.

Several others agreed. It took them five long days to reach the end of the snows and another three to find a road. Fanchon consulted the rough map he had complied from those who had returned from outside of Glynis.

“East or west?” asked Tor, the oldest of the group.

His wife Mari looked exhausted.

“There’s Fleeshna to the east and Thalfor to the west, but really we need to head south to find the grasslands where the horses roam wild,” Fanchon replied using the language of the outside world. “There should be a fork in the road west of here if this map is accurate. We’ll travel west to the fork and south from there. Why don’t we rest and eat before continuing? It should be easier going on the road.”

That seemed to cheer everyone up. Soon they were eating and talking among themselves. Fanchon realized that although they must conceal their language and abilities, there would be times when there was no other option. He knew that catching a wild horse would be impossible let alone four or more, but since Jerron could speak to animals he would be able to convince some horses to pull the wagons or be ridden. Most of the members of the group could shape metal and stone, but that was a very common talent. He had no idea what talent Aloysia had.

“What are you thinking?” she asked softly as he felt her hand on his knee.

“I can shape wood with a touch of my hand, but I just realized I don’t know what your talent is,” he replied as he met her eyes.

“I never found my talent,” she answered as she looked away. “I guess it doesn’t matter anymore. I suppose that my cooking is the only talent that I have that matters.”

“This is delicious,” Fanchon said and she looked up again. “We might have to sleep on the ground, but we’ll be well fed.”

They continued their journey and found the fork in the road just before noon the following day. They had gotten strange looks from travelers who passed them. Some had cattle pulling their wagons instead of horses. Fanchon paid close attention to how the animals were connected to the wagons and carts. They came across a river and found some men building a bridge. Fanchon gathered the group together.

“I’d much rather pull wagons across a bridge,” he said and saw everyone nod in agreement. “While the women cook a meal, let’s help get that bridge finished.”

“I brought my bow,” Sarma said. “I’ll see if I can kill a deer. I’ll need help carrying it.”

Fanchon nodded and signaled his friends to follow him to the riverside.

“Would you like some help?” Fanchon asked the men who stopped when they approached. “Our wives are going to prepare a meal while we work.”

The men stared at him and then looked at Tor.

“Fanchon is our leader,” Tor said.

“He’s much younger than you,” one of the men said.

“Age doesn’t insure wisdom or ability to lead,” Fallon said. “Besides we’d much rather use a bridge than pull the wagons through the river.”

“Why not have horses or cattle pull the wagons?” another man asked.

“We felt the food and supplies would be far more valuable for now,” Fanchon replied. “In time we will have horses and cattle. I see you are nearly ready to put wood beams across to the other side. We could start cutting trees to make the beams.”

“That would be a big help,” the oldest man said.

Soon they had found some tall straight trees to make the beams from. It was tempting to use his talent, but Fanchon used an axe instead. By the time they had enough wood to finish the bridge, the food smelled delicious.

Aloysia came over and said, “Take a break and come eat. Sarma killed a deer so there’s enough for everyone.”

The members of his group started over to the fire, but the other men were still working.

“Come eat,” Fanchon said.

“You’re helping us build the bridge and feeding us?” the oldest man asked. “What do you want in return?”

“Just to cross the bridge when it’s done,” Fanchon said. “To you it might seem a small price, but to us it is far better than risking our lives and belongings trying to cross the river.”

The man signaled to the others and they followed Fanchon over to the fire. The men were obviously hungry and grateful for the meal. They asked Fanchon questions about where they were going and why, but Fanchon just said they had been asked to start a village further south. He found out more about some of the lands to the south. One of the men had travelled through much of the west and was able to confirm where the map was accurate and fill in some of the blank areas. After the meal they got back to work on the bridge.