Hi, all. It’s been over a month since my last post (a fact for which I am extremely sorry), so I figured I might as well give you something fun to read. Someone once was asked if they wrote short stories. They replied, “Well, long short stories.” That’s what I feel like sometimes. I started a project, thinking it’ll be maybe 10-15 pages, max? This story ended up being 28. It’s gone through the first rough draft – I like the plot, characters, etc. – there’s just some tweaking that needs to happen. This first bit is probably the most refined (thank you, Abe), and as I get to the rest of it, I’ll post that, too.
As the cart wheeled closer, the seven brigands ducked lower behind the thick wall of thorns. Their leader, a muscular, clean-shaven man, grinned slightly. A little closer, and the prize would be his for the taking. The two oxen pulling strained against the load, trying to keep it from pushing them down the mountain path.
There where two knights, one riding a bay, the other riding a pure white horse. The one on the bay said something to the other, who nodded. Lifting the visor, he revealed his face. “Daws,” the leader of the brigands growled softly to the others.
The knight, Daws Calloway, lifted a silver whistle to his lips, and several sharp blasts later, a score of bowmen, dressed in drab brown suits to blend in with the terrain, marched out the nearby treeline. The leader of the brigands smiled, knowing that Daws had just revealed his hand. The element of surprise had been lost.
“Ye called?” one said, Daws pulling his visor down and reigning in his horse.
“Aye, I did. Set fire to those bushes there. They’re the best place for robbers to hide.” Daws watched impassively as the archers slowly found their fire arrows, dipping them into the lantern on the back of the cart. As they flared up, they let fly, one after another. In the summer heat, the bushes had no defense. They ignited almost instantly, spreading until the it looked like it would soon be a forest fire.
Inside the thicket, the brigands pulled away. The fire was scorching their skin, sweat pouring out. “Get out!” their leader cried, shoving them towards the only exit. As they ran, he lay down once more, concealing himself behind the flames, watching the archers quickly fire after his men. Three of them were hit almost instantly, their bodies falling limp on the mountain path, while the rest stumbled down the mountain. The archers gave chase, as the men were already out of reach of their short, lightweight bows. The knight on the bay tried to follow, but Daws called to him, riding to where his companion sat.The two knights watched the chase, not moving. Knowing that it would be his only chance, the man leaped through the flames, his coat catching on fire as he did so. He shed it, running to the cart in three swift strides. There it lay, buried underneath several hundred pounds of gold coins. As his fingers closed around the iron object, the knight on the bay spotted him. His sword was out in an instant, and he was spurring the horse towards the brigand just as fast.
As the bright sword flashed downwards, the brigand dropped, rolling under the cart. He rolled the complete width, getting to his feet as the knight tried to circle around. Daws was chasing him as well, but the brigand was running, far faster than any normal human could.
“It’s Bartik!” Daws yelled, spurring his horse forward. “This is my fight.”
Bartik turned, pausing long enough to see Daws’ twisted face. “Have a nice chase,” he said, then stepped through the veil and onto the Path.
“We need your help, Kint. I’m cashing in my favor.” Daws sounded desperate. Pretty soon, the ex-con knew, he would break.
“First off, Daws,” Kint said, leaning forward and steepling his long, thin fingers, “You said I would owe you something. I never had anything to do with it. Plus, here in Crindallia, I’m as free as I can be. Back there, I have hundreds of creditors waiting to kill me.”
“I could bring you back. You could be found past the border, drunk senseless.” A weak threat, Kint knew.
“And I would explain to the authorities that I don’t have a border pass, so how could I have gotten across?”
“Kint. I’m not asking. I’m ordering you to help. Otherwise, I’ll just kill you. You know too much already.” The knight had begun pacing, hands shaking in fury.
The black-haired thief considered this for a while. “The only reason you say that is because we’re alike. If you weren’t like me, you would never threaten an innocent man.”
“We’re nothing alike. I’m a knight, sworn to uphold the laws and orders decreed by the king. You’re trash from the streets.”
Kint’s tone became soft, but still dangerous. “I was going to be a knight. I was taught by Jusha Vebolin. And you know what happened to him? He was killed by your precious little king. The king turned on him just like that. Bam, another knight dead. What was I to do except try to fight against him? He killed my master. The least I could do was destroy his kingdom.”
“And now I serve my king honestly? How is that like you?”
“You didn’t start out as a knight. You were trained by the man who I sought out. Grank. Remember him? You were taught the same things as me, but became a knight. We are just alike.”
“Admit it!” Kint said, flipping the table he sat at, the food and drink spilling over the floor. He stood, kicking his chair to the ground and stepping over the wooden furniture. “You’ve done things just like me, but they were in the name of the kingdom. I saw you in Hollis, burning homes, killing innocent citizens. And then you have the gall to come in here and tell me that I’m different than you? You’re exactly the same as me!”
The knight merely stood there, silent and unable to give an answer to a statement he knew was true. But then he whispered something, causing Kint to pause.
“What was that?” he demanded. “What did you just say?”
Daws repeated himself, this time louder. “Bartik.”
This time, it was Kint who remained silent. Daws nodded, smiling. Kint had just lost the upper hand.
Argent spun over, dropping towards the ground like a stone. Below him, Buck and Hokar fought, the former encased in stone, the latter empowered with super strength. The fourth competitor, Magel, sped around them, trailing a long rope. Argent slowed to a stop, waiting for something to happen. Magel, his rope finally tightening around the two boys, jumped back as it unwound, cracking because of the speed the two ensnared boys had pulled back.
From his seat in the sky, Argent watched, laughing slightly. His trainer, Yellick, spoke into his mind, telling him to get a move on. “Yes, sir,” Argent said, pulling out his blowgun. He put a dart in, firing at the speeding Magel. It took several tries to finally get a range, but when he did, the speeder dropped almost instantly.
“That was a bit easy,” he muttered, his wings stopping waving, letting him drop towards the two boys still fighting. Buck, a tall thin boy, was an easy target, and Argent took him out first. Hokar, with his stone encased skin was nearly impenetrable. However, his elbows and knees had to be free, otherwise, he wouldn’t have full range of motion.
Argent flew low, hovering over the ground, and tried to hit the kneecap, but rock formed there just before the dart hit. He winged backwards, trying to stay out of reach of Hokar’s lashing arms. He flew farther back, loading another dart into his blowgun. As he inhaled, Hokar made a dive, grabbing Argent’s leg and smashing him into the ground. The rock-laced boy jumped up, grabbing the leg again and throwing Argent away.
“Enough!” Yellick roared. “You don’t need to kill him, Hokar. Merely knock him out.”
“No hard feelings, Argent?” Hokar asked, the stone melting off of him and sinking into the ground. He walked over, helping the other boy to his feet.
“Not at all. I would have done the same thing in your shoes.” Argent looked over to Yellick. “Do you have the antidote? If you don’t, they’re going to be asleep a long time.”
Yellick nodded, pulling a small canister from his pocket. He uncorked it, and waved it under the two unconcious boys’ noses. In a matter of seconds, the two boys were standing, and talking with Hokar and Argent.
“I would have gotten you, if bird-boy hadn’t hit me with that lucky shot,” Buck said, grabbing Argent and rubbing his head fondly.
“Sure you would have,” Hokar said, grinning back. Their friendly teasing continued for several more seconds, until a mind-blast from Yellick stopped them.
“Sir?” Argent asked, stopping what he was about to say, an insult about the rocks in Hokar’s brain.
“Daws Calloway is here to see you,” Yellick informed them, his soft voice echoing in their minds. “It’s time.”
“You mean,” Hokar said, his grin growing, “We’re heading out? We’ve trained long enough?”
“I mean you better get to the Council before I do,” Yellick said, already half-way to the meeting house.
“That’s it, I’m outta here,” Magel said, sprinting off. Argent flexed his wings, then soared into the sky. Below him, the final two began to run, Buck’s legs sending shivers through the earth.
Magel, of course, was the first to arrive, appearing in the center of the meeting hall without warning. The Council, although used to his sudden appearance, still flinched. Soon, the others filed in, Argent folding his wings behind his back. Yellick brought up the rear, his scruffy face in a slight smile. “I didn’t expect them to actually beat me,” he said to the Council, bowing. The other Council members nodded in return as he took his place among them.
The room, about thirty feet in diameter, was a perfect circle, with the fifteen membered Council sitting on one side and the trainees on the other. In the middle was Daws Calloway, the Rogue Knight, as he was known to many of Marik’s lower class.
“Greetings, Daws Calloway. We hope you bring good news?” asked Slybor, one of the senior members of the Council. His gift was, like Buck, enhanced strength, but his wisdom matched, and perhaps was even superior to, the gift.
“Members of the council, I bring you fearsome news,” Daws said, bowing slightly. The Council of Marik was the strongest team of Empowered to walked the kingdoms. They answered only to King Bray Huston himself, and often would take matters into their own hands. “Just a few days ago, on the other side of the country, the first part of the Visti was stolen.”
When the Council erupted into gasps of shock and horror, the trainees looked at each other, puzzled. Yellick noticed their confusion, providing relief into their minds. “The Visti is an object that was made by seven people, one for each power. Supposedly, it gives power to the wielder that is beyond belief. Each piece is coveted by the seven Orders. One being stolen is almost impossible to conceive. Fortunately for us, you need all the pieces for it to work.”
Daws continued. “I need a team to get it back. I would ask the Council of Marik itself, but I understand that the problems of the country are far to urgent, especially when all other six items of the Visti are safe, and the Corthack, those evil Empowered, have come knocking on our gates again. However, the danger is real. With the first, it will not be long until the entire Visti is uncovered.”
“Yellick,” Drodar, Chief Council member said, motioning with his hand. “Rise.” When the trainer had done so, Drondar began his interrogation. “Do you believe the members of your team to be suited for this mission?”
“I do, Chief,” Yellick replied, showing his yellowing teeth. His voice spoke in the trainee’s minds. “And you better not let me down, you hear?”
“Are they up to fighting against a villain like Bartik?” Drondar, a telepathic like Yellick, had already gleaned all information on the heist and shared it among the Council.
“Sir, I could think of no people better suited. Aside from the Council, of course.”
“Our services are required elsewhere, as you know, Yellick,” Drondar said.
Slybor spoke up now. “Let the trainees come forth. Announce yourself, with your full name.”
The troupe filed out, Argent sizing Daws up. The knight cut an imposing figure, but he still thought there was something missing. He passed it off, however, when the group began to introduce themselves.
“Buck Traithin,” the stronghand said, looking up at the Council, then turning and bowing to Daws. “A stronghand.”
“Argent, sir. No other name given. Not Empowered, just a Winged by birth.”
“Magel Havern. A fleetfoot.”
“Hokar Bin’soth. A rockbody.”
Daws Calloway nodded to each in turn, then lifted a whistle. As he began to blow, the secondary entrance, opposite the one the trainees had entered, opened, and a man walked in. He had short black hair that stuck up everywhere, and dark eyes. His fingers, long and thin, waved through the air, and the whistle stopped blowing.
“Kint Barken. I’m what I like to call a free-hand mover.”
“Telekinetic,” Daws said, giving Kint a look. “He’ll be helping us on this job.”
“I could probably do it without the brats, but they’ll make good shields anyway,” Kint said, drawling out the words.
Daws continued giving Kint the look, but the thief was already looking the members of his team up and down. “Right, Wingy, Rocky, Quicky and Strongy.” He turned away, shaking his head. “I don’t know if we can do it with them, Daws. I don’t think they know how to fight.”
“The real question,” Buck said, “Is whether or not you can fight, traitor.” The strongarm was suddenly pushed against the ground. Argent took to the air, but found himself trapped by a telekinetic barrier.
Magel became a blur, spinning around Kint and slamming repeated blows against his body. Hokar walked forward, his arm encasing in rock, slamming it forward. Kint went down, an ugly gash spreading blood across his forehead. “Stop it!” Yellick cried to them all, and they dropped their powers. As the teacher descended from the Council, his eyes flashed angrily. “You fools! Acting like that, I halfway believe you aren’t fit for trying to catch Bartik.”
“He attacked Buck,” Hokar said, but the words fell on empty ears.
“There’s no reason you can give for nearly killing a man, rockbody!” Yellick roared. “Your powers are dangerous. Get it together!”
Argent and Buck looked at each other. Both would have done the same to the thief in an instant, but they weren’t about to admit it. Yellick turned away, shaking his head. “Perhaps,” he said, looking at the man on the ground, “You’ll learn not to insult my team.”