Nicolas sat down and took it all in. The field within the valley was covered in grass that went as far out as Nicolas could see. In the grass were swarms of wild flowers of various colors and kinds.
“Where does this valley end?” Nicolas pondered.
Suddenly, a swarm of flying creatures approached Nicolas. Eight of these creatures surrounded him. They were green and repulsive; all scaly and slimy. Venom dripped from their fangs and the creatures sharply hissed. Their wings rapidly vibrated, all of them prepared to strike. They looked like fierce lizards with the wings of insects, and were slightly taller than Nicolas.
“Flizards!” Nicolas shouted. “It’s time for me to practice!”
Nicolas tumbled backward and reached for his sword. He hoisted it from his scabbard with both hands and began his assault on the flizards. He brandished his sword and lunged at the beasts. He sliced one in half and beheaded another.
Six flizards remained. All of them in sync, they surrounded Nicolas and dove at him. They bared their fangs and hissed loudly.
“I’ve had enough of this!” Nicolas shouted.
Nicolas flailed backward and grasped his sword with both hands. He raised his sword and spun, swinging the sword in a circle.
Around and around. Another flizard was minced in half. Around and around. Two more flizard heads hit the ground.
Three flizards were left. These ones were defeated quickly. The first one was beheaded. The second was pieced in the heart. The last one was crushed into the ground.
Nicolas pushed the impaled flizard off his sword. He sat down to catch his breath. When he recovered, he stood up.
“That’s enough training for today,” Nicolas yawned.
As he began to leave Tulin Valley, a pack of tiny dog-like creatures ran toward Nicolas. They each had three menacing heads and glowing eyes. Their bodies were black and lined with scales. All the heads growled and barked ferociously.
“I guess I spoke too soon….” Nicolas sighed. “Die, cerberans!”
The pack of cerberans charged at him, and sprinted toward his face. He swiftly swung his sword, knocking them all back. Two of them were tossed to the ground, while the rest got to their feet. The two that remained on the ground howled as they bled on the ground. Because cerberans have such tough scales, they are harder to mince or decapitate. Instead of breaking, their scales just crack.
The four remaining cerberans circled around Nicolas. After they circled him a few times, they surrounded him and attacked.
Nicolas swung his sword hard. The blow knocked three of the cerberans to the ground, cracking their scales. He spun around and thrust his sword downward into the cerberan’s back with all his might. The last one fell to the ground with a howl.
Nicolas gasped for air, and sat down. After catching his breath, he lifted his sword and fumbled it back into its scabbard.
“Time to head back,” Nicolas decided.
Nicolas stood up and wearily began walking back. He briefly stopped and looked up at the sky. The sun was now beginning to set over the valley. What he saw was an orange sky, with a few small traces of clouds.
“That was some good training,” Nicolas told himself. “I can’t wait to tell my mother about this.”
Nicolas already knew what he wanted to tell her. He slaughtered a swarm of flizards and put a pack of cerberans to rest. His mother always loved to hear these kinds of stories.
His mother also loved seeing him come back from a good day of training. She loved everything about it. She loved the smile on his face, the blood on the sword, and the beads of sweat dripping off his face. She loved hearing about his achievements, his struggles, his wounds, and his training goals. She liked seeing his smile because she says it really adds to the story and his bloody sword completes it.
“My mother told me that I will eventually be able to join Diamondheart someday at the rate that I am going,” Nicolas thought.
Nicolas kept walking, watching the sun set to the west.
Suddenly, Nicolas heard some footsteps, and some voices. There were an arranged group of silhouettes further north down the valley. He stared carefully at the silhouettes and he made out the shape of wings. A whinny echoed in the distance. He then heard what sounded like a series of wings beating the wind. “Pegasuses,” he whispered. “And a whole battalion….”
Each winged pegasus had a soldier riding it. They all traveled single file, with their hands held firmly on the reins. Who were these riders and what are they doing here in Tulin? Nicolas figured that it was either a scouting team or a battalion of Tulin’s elite mercenaries. Maybe they have come to bring news of a new discovery. Or maybe they are going to warn the town of another war with Saris. Whatever it was, it had to be something important.
But there was something weird about this battalion. They don’t usually travel at night. If any group would travel at all at this hour, it would be a lot smaller and they wouldn’t use as many pegasuses. Nicolas shook his head and had a sinking feeling. Something just didn’t feel right.
Nicolas squinted at the silhouettes and hoped for them to change direction. These might be new soldiers in training, and they are learning the lay of the land. But at night? The mounted soldiers, still single file, moved north, towards Tulin, which lay at the end of the valley.
Nicolas inched forward, feeling the sudden chill of the cool air. He needed a closer look. With a group of soldiers that large, it can’t be a scouting team. He crept up closer, trying to make as little sound as possible.
Closer and closer still, Nicolas crept until he was a short distance away from them. The grass was deep here, so he ducked down, out of their sight. The sound of flapping wings could be heard in the distance. Nicolas stared up from the grass and saw sheaths, each with a sword, on the belt of every soldier that flew by. The armor was arranged in a pattern that was totally unlike Tulin. He then saw the coat of arms. This did not look like Tulin at all.
Nicolas shook his head. Saris…This can’t be happening! Not now. Why now? He looked at whole battalion and began to count it. There were at least thirty soldiers with one general leading them. With this many soldiers, Nicolas figured, they were planning a raid.
All of the pegasuses touched down and galloped into Tulin. Nicolas followed close by, past the south gate. A series of screams were heard in the distance. The Tulinites that saw the invading soldiers ran out of their houses with their children.
The grass became the stone road again as Nicolas entered the town. He kept moving forward until he was stopped by a loud shout. It sounded like someone in pain, crying for help. “Help me!” the voice cried.
Nicolas turned to see a Tulin soldier lying on the ground in a puddle of blood. He moved his body in a labored motion, trying to stand up.
“Help me….” he choked.
Nicolas sighed as began to lose it. Tears began to drip from his eyes. “I’m sorry. I can’t help you.”
“Then tell them….” The soldier choked. “Tell them that….that Saris is invading….Tell them for me….please….”
“I will. I’ll do what I can.”
With that, the soldier then coughed up blood and died.
Nicolas wiped the tears off his eyes and looked back at the soldier. “I’ll tell them!” he sniffed.
Nicolas then ran north, to Tulin Square. On his way to the square, he heard screaming, crying, and people crying for help. Numerous citizens ran in panic, warning everyone in Tulin that Saris was invading, and to get out as quickly as possible. He couldn’t bear to see the sight. He saw the bloody corpses of numerous Tulinites, and a few being tortured by Saris soldiers. The rest of them escaped the square as fast as they could.
Nicolas gasped in horror as he saw one of the Tulinites being tortured. It was a young man, who looked a little older than him.
The Saris Soldier held a sword near his face. “Where is the Seed Relic?!”
“Seed Relic?” he cried. “I already told you! I’ve never heard of such a thing! Just leave me alone!”
The Saris Soldier lowered his sword and struck the young man in the chest. He then held the sword near the young man’s throat. “Okay. I’ll ask again. WHERE IS the Seed Relic?!!”
“I’m telling you! I don’t know!”
“Not going to talk? Die then!”
The Saris Soldier slit the young man’s throat, and he fell to the ground.
Nicolas shook his head. What was this Seed Relic they were looking for? What were they going to do if they found it? Nicolas never heard of the Seed Relic before. Whatever it was, it must be important.
He turned to the center of Tulin Square to see the statue of King Tulin VIII. The base was a pile of rubble and the body was cracked. The head lied just to the left of the rubble. Tulin’s famous landmark is now gone.
Nicolas headed eastward and heard more crying and screaming. More people crying for help. More warnings and people running in panic.
Nicolas then saw a terrible sight that made him cry again. A Saris Soldier was torturing a little girl in the distance. Tears filled his eyes. “Poor girl,” he quietly wept.
The Saris Soldier loomed over the child, pointing a sword at her. The girl, now crying, sat down and quivered in fear. “Where is the Seed Relic?”
The girl shook, and began to wet herself. “I don’t…know, big…scary…man…” she wailed.
The Saris Soldier held the sword up to her face. “I’ll ask again, you little brat! Where is THE SEED RELIC?!!!”
The girl’s eyes filled with tears. “I want my mommy!!!”
A sudden rush of anger filled Nicolas. He almost shouted “Leave her alone!” but remained quiet instead. He sat down and closed his eyes. He didn’t want to see this. Not a poor innocent child…
The Saris Soldier stabbed his sword through her little chest. The girl screamed, and then fell over on the cold, bloody ground.
Nicolas waited for the Saris Soldier to leave before he made his move. When he left, he continued eastward, toward his house. More weeping. More screaming. Just two more blocks…
Nicolas finally reached his house. From the inside, he heard an ear-piercing scream.
Nicolas barged though the door and entered the house. Nicolas’s mother was not there. He heard another scream, which sounded like it came from his mother’s room. He ran in the closet and hid.
“So, you’re telling me that you don’t know where the Seed Relic is!?” The Saris soldier shouted.
“unnhnn….” Nicolas’s mother shuddered.
“What was that?!”
“Yes!” Nicolas’s mother gasped.
“Then you can die!”
Nicolas heard the sound coming from the Saris soldier’s sword. It sounded like he was stabbing her in the heart.
“Ahhnnnnnnnnnn….” Nicolas’s mother groaned.
Nicolas heard the sound of grunting from the Saris soldier. He then heard the cling of a sword. Next, a plop on the ground.
“There.” The soldier said. “Didn’t know anything.”
Nicolas heard the soldier’s footsteps, the flinging open of a door, and the whinny of a pegasus. When he was sure that the soldier was gone, he ran out of the closet and into his mother’s bedroom.
His mother lied there motionless in a puddle of blood. He undid his shoulder belt and set the sword on the floor.
Nicolas lost it. “MOTHER!!!” he sobbed. “Why did they have to do this to you?!!
Nicolas glanced at the table in her room and noticed the Copian scriptures lying there. This was the very book she wanted him to read. Nicolas felt stupid now, and regret began to flood him. Why didn’t I just do what I was told?
“Mother….” he wept. “I’m….I’m sorry for my behavior towards you.”
Nicolas then looked at his mother again. Why did she have to go? He sat there, bawling and covered his face with his hands. Streams of tears ran down his face.
A light suddenly appeared in the room and shined on Nicolas. The light was mysterious, and was brighter than any light Nicolas has ever seen.
“Why are you crying?” A voice boomed from the light. “Your mother is not dead.”
“She most certainly is!” Nicolas sniffed. “She is lying there motionless, without life.”
“That is true, but she isn’t truly dead.” The voice told him. “She is in a much better place now. She is up here, with me.”
Nicolas shuddered. The light, as bright as it was, did not blind him. A gale filled the room as the voice boomed from the light. Could it be? “Are you….the Master?” he shivered.
“Yes I am.” The Master affirmed. “I have some very important work for you to do for me.”
“Work?” Nicolas gasped. “What can I do? I don’t really know the Copian scriptures very well.”
“I absolutely know that you don’t know the Copian scriptures very well.” The Master replied. “If you read those annals of Copian history and studied well, you would know more about me and you would have also known that your mother is here with me. You will be of great use to me.”
“Me, useful?” Nicolas pondered. “I’m not that good of a soldier yet….”
“Who is responsible for your creation?” The Master boomed. “I have chosen you for my plan and that choice has been made before you were even born!
“Since you are a chosen one, you will have no need to worry about your skills and abilities as a soldier. I have endowed you and all the others that I have chosen with my spirit. With me in you, you have been given some unique gifts. These gifts come in many forms and I have given different ones to the different people that I have chosen.
“Now, I want you to take the Copian scriptures with you and leave the town.”
“You want me to leave?” Nicolas gasped. “Where will I go from here?”
“You will find the other ones that I have chosen.” The Master ordered. “Now leave.”
The light from the sky disappeared and the gale was gone.
Nicolas picked up his shoulder belt and put it back on, sword in tow. He ran in his room and grabbed a satchel. He hung the satchel over his shoulders and placed the Copian scriptures in it.
Before Nicolas left the house, he saw another battalion of soldiers running into the town from the window. These soldiers filled the streets, each one carrying a torch.
A mounted Saris soldier leaped off his pegasus and ran up to a soldier that was yielding a torch.
“Burn it!” The soldier told him. “If the king won’t tell where the relic is, we’ll burn down his town!”
Nicolas ran out the house and started to head west. Before he could go any further, a hand firmly gripped his arm, and began squeezing it. “Where do you think you’re going?”
Nicolas jerked and wiggled, kicking at the soldier’s chain mail. With his other hand, he whipped out his sword and stabbed the soldier in the arm.
The soldier flinched in pain, and let go of Nicolas. Nicolas then ran away as fast as he could.
“Yeow!” The soldier cried. “Come back here, you stupid kid!”
The town started to blaze up in flames. Nicolas ran west, to Tulin Square, and then south. He stayed southward, heading toward the outside of the town. He saw Tulin Valley in the distance, but he couldn’t get that far in time. As he jogged, the smoke got heavier.
Nicolas started to gasp for air. He coughed and got down on his knees.
With all his might, Nicolas stood up and tried running out of the town, but the only thing he could do was walk.
His walking changed to crawling. His crawling changed to twitching. Finally, Nicolas gave his last breath, and passed out on the ground.
©2011 K. L. Walker
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