Saturday, April 27, 2013

All in a Day's Work [PART 4]

Part 4: Mine Enemy, Now Friend


      After leaving Valtiramiir and Peder, Keighvyn and Jaron set a course for the riders. The white dragon descended lower, gliding over the tops of the great trees.  
      They have heard us and are increasing speed.
      “Very well,” said Jaron. “Let us teach them the meaning of the word.”
      With pleasure. 
      In a mighty burst of energy, Keighvyn sped ahead of the riders below. Through gaps in the canopy of branches, Jaron caught glimpses of the four, fear was evident in their pace.
      Breaking through an opening in the trees Keighvyn and rider dove, landing before the horsemen and startling their beasts. Each creature reared in fright, throwing their riders. Three of the four men fell from the saddle and scrambled to their feet, their features a mixture of anger and fear.  One man managed to stay in the saddle. 
      “Where is your master?” addressed the Elf, his voice loud and strong.  It was then they first noticed him, engrossed as they were with the sight of the dragon.
      Impertinent, the remaining rider rallied his courage and spat a remark.
      “Who wishes to know?”
      Jaron shook his head at the man's idiocy and calmly replied.
      “A Captain of the Guard.” There was an audible gasp from one of the footmen, for the reputation of Gondoa's elite fighting force was far-spread. Even the self-proclaimed leader gulped.
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      “I repeat,” demanded Jaron, raising a massive long bow, arrow notched. “Where is your master?”
      Still, the men did not respond. Two held swords, unsheathed, the others recurve bows, which were more convenient than the longbow when riding.  The mounted man carried a recurve in his left hand, a quiver of arrows on his back.  His fingers twitched.
      “Well, my friend,” said Jaron softly in Keighvyn's scaly ear. “Mayhap they need a dose of persuasion.”
      The great dragon lowered his regal head and softly growled in warning, chilling each man's blood. Still, they remained stubborn.
      What could frighten a man more so than the threat of a dragon? thought Jaron.  Keighvyn answered his thoughts.
      Perhaps to these men, death is welcome. In Jaron's mind, the dragon's voice saddened.  Their Light has been smothered.
      Elf and Dragon were quiet, staring at the men.
      "Let's finish this," muttered Jaron.  Keighvyn's foreclaw swept through the air...

* * *

      Scrambling to his feet, Peder lunged only to be blocked. He parried a thrust, spun on his heel and blocked another rush. Breathing hard, both men backed off and, once again, began circling each other warily. Though the air was cool in the clear evening of the wood, sweat drenched the two warriors. Peder was careful of where he placed his feet in the soft, mossy earth.
      Feinting a lunge, he swung his sword, connected with one of the two daggers and dropped to the ground, thrusting his left leg out in a sweeping movement, mimicking his opponent's earlier move to knock him off his feet. Again, he backed off to catch his breath as the man struggled to his feet, weapons still in hand.
      By now, both men were out of breath. Peder stood with sword aimed in the thief's direction, gasping for air. He noted with a bit of satisfaction that the other man seemed to be doing the same.
      However, taking a deep breath, the man charged. Inwardly, Peder groaned. Dodging the attack, he charged with one of his own, moving in close. Blocking a move and giving his opponent no chance to back away, he spun and swung a left fist to the man's jaw.
      The thief grunted but retaliated with the hilt of a dagger to Peder's side.
      Peder doubled over but followed through with a somersault, rolling forward and coming to his feet while avoiding the swipe of a blade. The two men stood panting, a decent distance apart.
      “You know what you're doing, I'll give you that,” Peder muttered, he didn't care if the other man heard. He glanced at their surroundings, which had grown darker with the coming dusk. With a jolt of surprise, he realized they had fought for nearly two hours! It was time to end this.
      He rushed with a roar, startling the other man and giving himself the few seconds needed to close in. Ferociously, he swung his long sword, battering the tired man's defense until both daggers lay in the soft grass of the meadow.
      Breathing hard, Peder stood in a ready stance, sword point aimed at the man's chest.
      Slowly, the thief fell to his knees, too tired to care what would happen next.
      Moments passed. Still wary, Peder stared at the man before him. At last, he dropped his sword to the trampled ground. Puzzled, the man looked up, a confounded expression on his worn features. His shock of damp, brown hair clung to his neck and face as if he had dunked his whole head in a barrel of rainwater. Peder, himself, didn't look much different. The young Guard stuck out his hand.
      “M' name's Peder, friend. Yours?”
      Reluctantly, the other man shook the offered hand and replied, rather hoarsely.
      “Slannin.”
      “Well met, Slannin,” said Peder, plopping himself down beside the bewildered man. “I've never met a more worthy opponent. You really should consider a career change, I would feel much better if you were on my side,” he added with a tired chuckle.
      Slannin stared at him in disbelief, but was far too exhausted to question anything. He moved to a sitting position and looked at Peder, who now lay stretched out in the grass.
      “My friend tells me you are a troubled man,” Peder began, clasping his hands behind his head. “I can help you, but in return I need a certain valuable something from you.”
      The man called Slannin continued to stare at Peder, who acted as if they were old friends enjoying the quiet of the woods. He surprised himself by joining his former adversary on the soft blanket of moss and meadow grass.
      “I don't have it,” he said suddenly in a low voice, knowing what reaction was to be expected after hearing such a statement.
      “Oh.”
      It took a moment for Peder's tired mind to register what Slannin had said.
      He sat up suddenly.
      “You don't have it??” he exclaimed, looking at the other man, who shook his head.
      Again, Peder lay down, resuming his previous position.
      “Oh,” he repeated, shrugging. “Well, that could be a problem.”  Peder cleared his throat.
      “So... would you mind explaining why you don't have it and where it is?”
      The man was quiet for a moment, then he sat up, leaning on his arms.
      “In the stables,” he answered, staring into the dusky sky.
      Again, Peder sat up. His mouth opened as if to speak but he closed it again.
      “In the stables,” he repeated, matter of factly. Slannin remained immobile, avoiding his eyes. Peder waited.
      “It slipped from my vest when I ran into the stablemaster. I saw it fall to the dust, and kicked it to the deeper shadow and fled. The men who hired me would use it for their means only, and part of me decided long ago I was done with that kind of work. I decided to go through with the original plans and somehow come away with the payment due to me.”
      Peder listened quietly as he spoke, intrigued by this man, whose accent was strange, neither Gondian nor Ardish. Cropped brown hair, bright green eyes, and strong hands were the first qualities Peder noticed in his observation of the warrior. The man was well-built, though not overly muscular, and stood a good inch over six feet, equal in height to Peder himself. He bore his weight easily and moved with a grace as if he were a physical part of his surroundings. The young Guard made a note to watch this man, drowning his pride enough to think he could actually learn a thing or two from him.
      “You mean to tell me the papers are still in the castle? This isn't some ruse to trick me to lay off chasing you and leave?”
      Slannin shook his head.
      For a moment, they were quiet. This time, it was Slannin who broke the silence.
      “You said you could help me. What did you mean?” Peder looked at the young man before him.
      “Valtiramiir sensed a... searching in you,” he replied, rubbing his neck. Slannin looked confused.
      “Valtiramiir? Who is that? A wizard with power of the mind?”
      “No. Just a friend, who possesses a great gift of discernment.”
      “Is he with you? Here?” Slannin's eyes flicked from the shrubbery and massive trunks of the forest floor to the limbs of the great trees. Peder chuckled.
      “No. You actually met her earlier today. I believe she has gone ahead to meet with your buddies.” The other man was silent. Peder cleared his throat. “Anyway, she believes you are a troubled man, seeking refuge and purpose. But not physical refuge. Rest for the spirit, as my father used to say.” Slannin looked away. “In a sense, we are all searching for purpose in this dark world. Some find it in wealth, others in family, and still others, maybe in labour or work they have a passion for.”
      “And you?”
      “My rest is in my God, Eliadan, the Master-Maker. He alone gives me a purpose. A hope to press on.”
The two men lay silent in the meadow, content for the time being. His heart had only just begun to calm down.
      “Peder?” said Slannin suddenly. Exhausted, the young Guard lifted an arm in acknowledgment from his position on the soft meadow ground, happy to lay there forever.
      “Do you believe a man can change?”
      This time Peder looked up, only lifting his head and neck, to look at his unlikely companion laying opposite him with arms outstretched. The words, coming from the low voice of the rugged man, sounded strange for his apparent character. Peder sat up.
      “Yes. Without a doubt.”
      Slannin raised himself to a sitting position and ran a hand through dark hair, visibly relieved.
      “Good,” he whispered.

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1 comment:

Anonymous said...

This is great, Sari!! d(^o^)b I'm lovin' reading about Peder and Jaron and Slannin. I'm so glad you're posting All in a Day's Work! Please keep it up! \(^-^)/

P.S. I can't believe it's taken me sooo long to comment. Sorry! Life is crazy right now. (`U´)

Risa