Thursday, October 27, 2011

Story of the Day - Shattered Remnants (chp 1 scene 2)

The chirping of crickets and locust accompanied Dea and Zacairus as they walked the trail back to their camp.  A warm breeze stirred the full trees and added to the summer song around them.  The two friends walked quietly, welcoming the calm night.

Dea kept up with Zacairus' longer strides.  She smiled at the thought of how he used to slow with a sigh when she would fall behind.  Her small frame and lacking in height made her the minority.  In her time with the Fortis, she learned to keep up with her much taller comrades.

As they neared the encampment, the sound of a passing messenger rushed toward them.  They stepped aside to make way for the horse and rider.  The messenger never slowed.  The rhythm of his mount's hooves and clinking hardware of his tack sang in unison as he sped by.  His blue uniform matched their own.

"I will bet the first round with Cathal that is another notice to piece together a village," Zacairus said.

Dea smiled.  He was reading her mind.  "Would you rather work your parents' field or patch a villager's roof?"

"I will patch roofs all day long if it meant never setting foot in a field again."

She chuckled with him.  Zacairus came from a political family.  His father was Tabor, an Official of the Northern Districts.  Even though the man was wholly dedicated to his office, he also owned and managed one of the District's largest farms.  His wheat was of the best in all of Baldorah.

The trail forked as it came to the encampment.  They remained on the central path that would lead them to the heart of their station.  A round at the mess hall would conclude their night.

As they neared the Captain's tent, the front panel was swept aside as Alton showed a guest out.  "I will let you know if I learn anything more of it in the morning."

Dea slowed her pace when she saw Zeke, her mentor, step out with Alton.  The two could pass as brothers.  Both had equally mature yet powerful builds and dark brown hair.  Only Alton kept his trimmed short while Zeke's was longer and curly.

"Thank you," Zeke said with a nod.  "I will not keep you.  I know you are busy."

Alton bid him a farewell.  Dea and Zacairus stood in attention as their Captain looked to them.  "At ease," he said before turning back to Zeke.

"Stay safe," Zeke said.

"Stay safe," Alton answered.

The Captain returned to his tent when Zeke went to greet Dea.  Her mentor's familiar smile lit up his already bright eyes.  As an accomplished Healer, he was marked by his power.  The unmistakeable gleam added to his brilliant green eyes.

"Good evening, Dea," he said.  The long riding coat over his tan tunic and trousers told her he just arrived from Alistad, the capitol of Baldorah.  "You have simplified my task greatly by finding me.  When I did not find you in your quarters, I should have known you would be out with Zacairus."  He gave an acknowledging nod to the young Validius beside her.

Zacairus returned the gesture.  "Good evening, sir."

"I trust you two have finished training for the evening."

"Yes, sir," they answered simultaneously.

"Good," he said.  "Dea, I need to have a word with you."

"Yes, sir."

Zacairus gave a shrug when she looked to him.  "I will let you make it up to me tomorrow evening," he said with a smirk.

"You are too kind," she answered with a sarcastic glare.  He gave her a playful pat on the back and turned away.  "Until next time," she called after him.

"Until next time."  He bowed his head to Zeke, "Stay safe, sir."

"Stay safe, Zacairus."

Zeke offered his arm to Dea.  She took it and let him lead her in the direction of her tent.  She had not seen him for several days.  His unannounced visit either meant he brought news from home or Alton informed him of her latest misconduct.

"Good news from home?" Dea asked in an innocent tone.

Her mentor chuckled.  "News," he said.  "Your mother sends a letter, but that is all.  I am afraid my visit was cut short before I could speak with your father."

"Oh."

"Do you have news for me?" Zeke posed.

"No, sir," she answered.  "Nothing new to report."

"We will discuss that later.  First, I need to make certain you are ready for your next assignment."

She looked to him.  "Assignment?"  Her surprise bled into her voice.

"Is that not what you have been waiting for?"

"Yes, sir," Dea answered.  "I was not expecting it.  I assumed…"  She caught herself before she finished her thought.

Zeke was not one to let thoughts go unfinished.  "You assumed what?"

She took her time to find the right words.  She believed the company was overlooked because of her presence.  Her father would do all he could to keep her within reach.  The thought was one she voiced once before.  It earned her a lecture from her mentor.  She hoped to avoid a repeat of the lesson.

"I know there have been changes in the way the Fortis is responding to Darien's threats.  Our company seems to have served as reserves as of late, and I assumed that was to be our purpose for the remainder of the season."

"Did you?" he said with a knowing smile.  "Then you will not be disappointed.  You will remain as such."

Dea kept her relief to herself.  The assignment was not what she dreaded.  Zeke's continued cheer made up for the letdown of knowing her company would remain idle.

"I am not at liberty to tell you where your company will be going.  Captain Alton will inform you and the others in the morning.  I suggest you take your rest tonight so you will be ready for what you might face."

"But I will not need to rest for another three nights," Dea said.  Part of training with the Fortis meant adapting to their sleep cycle.  One could operate day and night for upwards of four or five days before needing rest.  It would take two full days and nights to recharge for another cycle, but it was worth it.  Baldorians were known for their stamina.

"Take your rest while you can," Zeke said.  "It might be awhile before you get another chance."

She studied him.  Judging by what he was telling her, the company was not going on their usual assignment.  If they would not be granted rest for an extended period of time, they would either be traveling a great distance or heading to the front lines.

"I will not be able to travel with you," Zeke went on.  "But I have persuaded Alton to allow you to carry a Star Tear with you.  You will have to keep it to yourself.  They are not readily permitted without the presence of a Healer, but he is willing to consent to this one as long as no one else knows of it."

Star Tears were a concoction made by the Healers to hurry the healing process.  "We are going to battle, are we not?"

"Dea," he paused and turned to her.  He suddenly appeared tired.  Something was bothering him.  "You wanted to be a part of this.  Your father agreed to allow it as long as you were safe.  You know that is why I am here.  But as a Healer, I cannot go where you will be traveling tomorrow."

She knew the point he was making.  Healers were hunted by Darien's forces.  Because they were the reason Baldorians were able to stand against the colossal army, their limited numbers could not be risked.

Dea was not yet marked by her power, but she was also a Healer.  Her Source was still unstable since she did not practice her powers enough to control them.  Most Healers are marked by her age.  It was only a matter of time before the gleam would appear in her eyes and she would be banned from the Fortis.

"I understand," she answered.  "I will be careful."

"This could be dangerous."

"Is Father asking me to return to Alistad?"

Zeke gave a sympathetic frown.  "He is always asking you to return.  He is not yet demanding it.  He knows this is what you want.  He will respect that to a point.  Dea, if you are captured…"

"I understand, Zeke," she broke in quietly.  "I know."

It seemed her secrets would always haunt her.  The two titles she carried would likely mean her death if she were to be discovered by the enemy.  If she were found out as a Healer, they would take her prisoner as they did with Healers in the past.  The following torture would not end until she either used her power to aide Darien or died resisting him.

If her lineage became known, Darien himself would cut out her heart.  As the only daughter of King Aien and Queen Belwyn, she was the future of Baldorah.  Few knew of her true identity.  It was for her own safety.  She was to remain veiled until the time came for her to rule the land, as was her mother before her.  Such was the way of Baldorah.

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