A Hero’s Journey – Chapter One
A Day To Remember
It was a cold spring morning on the small island of Merderva. Mist clung eerily to the cold grass-covered hillside. A pack of wolves howled in the Witches forest of Doul. An owl flew back to her nest inside a barn, a barn that belonged to a young orphan boy named Kindret.
The rustling the owl made woke Kindret. As he rose from his bed, which was little more than a bale of hay, he looked around the barn. It was a small room with only two windows, one pane of glass was broken, another was hanging loosely from its hinges. The walls were grey and slightly damp. The room seemed to close in on anyone who entered, but lately, Kindret had had no visitors other than the owl.
Kindret walked over to the owl’s nest. He stroked the bird, she had become tame to him. “Thanks for waking me up,” he said, stroking her one last time.
The sun had risen quickly over Merderva and by mid-morning the mist began to recede, revealing the beauty of the island.
Kindret strolled outside his barn and looked around. A cool breeze washed over his body, refreshing him for the day. He stepped out of the doorway, still in his undergarments, and went into the field where his sheep were grazing. He called them over and they came running. It was feeding time. As he lay the food down in the troth, one of the herd barged into him sending him cartwheeling through the air and landing in the dirt. He stood up covered in mud, wiping the dirt from his face with his hand then wiping his hand on his undergarments. “It’s okay,” he chuckled. “I have to get changed anyway.”
As he walked to the barn, he noticed a fleet of small ships on the horizon. Fishermen I bet, he thought. He stepped into the barn, closed the door, and began to get ready. Kindret picked up his clothes and put them on. His clothes were a dirt-stained colour with holes in the knees and arms.
Kindret, ready to make the journey into town, picked up his black wooden staff, a staff that had been given to him by his betrothed as a present. It had vines encircling the topmost part. Though it was black in colour, it seemed to shine brightly whenever he touched it. He made his way into town.
As he left, he noticed that the ships were getting closer to the island, but they were still not close enough to be identified.
The walk was long. He trudged his way along the narrow, windy mountain path until he came to a fork in the road. He saw a weathered sign that pointed in the direction he was going. But something else caught his eye, something magical, an orb of pure white light. It moved around making a swishing noise and it visibly pulsated. The orb moved closer and closer to Kindret and he stood as still as a rock. The orb got closer and closer, then suddenly a rustling noise in the bushes behind them seem to scare the orb away. What was it? Where did it go?
He walked the twisted pathway into town. The town was small and well used, the cobbled pathways had been worn down over the years. In the center of the town was a circular building owned by the Chieftain, the building was rather small to be housing somebody so important, but the town itself only had a small population and most of them were farmers.
Kindret noticed somebody waving to him from under the oldest and biggest tree in town, the tree rustled in the wind and leaves fell to the ground below. He walked over to the person waving. It was his friend, Nilos, an Orc servant of the Chieftain. Nilos was a big Orc, even for him. He lacked brains, but he made up for it with his loyalty and fearlessness. He stood seven feet from the ground, his hair was as black as Kindret’s staff, his teeth were big and they protruded out from his bottom lip. He wore ragged pants but he refused to be seen wearing a shirt of any kind. Around his wrists he wore bracelets, he called them Solus and Ingrid. “Have something for you I have,” Nilos smiled. “I got the bracelet you asked for. It wasn’t easy to mould, but I did it”
“Oh, thank you,” he said, looking around to see if anyone was watching before he took it. “Thank you, my friend.”
As he took the bracelet and placed it in his pocket he heard his name being called from the Chieftains hut. It was the Chieftains daughter and his betrothed, Nadia. He turned to look at her, she stood in the doorway, her blonde hair cascaded down her curvaceous body, her green eyes shimmered in the light, and in a brief moment Kindret’s heart stopped. After pulling himself together he began to walk towards her, he couldn’t help but feel weak at the knees and dry at the mouth. “Say something then won’t you, my dear,” Nadia said.
“Oh, he’s gone all mushy at the sight of you, madam.” chuckled Nilos.
“Yes, well he had better snap out of it,” she replied. “my father wants him to run a few errands today.”
“Errands you say, my love?” Kindret said slowly.
The door behind Nadia swung wide open effortlessly. With a bang and a thud, the Chieftain stepped through the doorway and into the daylight, his armor glistening like it had just been polished. The insignia adorned on it was that of the early Valusian tribes, two dragons and three snakes which signified the new kingdoms. The Chieftain had earned the armor when he fought beside the king of the northern kingdom. “Kindret, boy,” the Chieftain growled. “I have a few jobs for you.”
“Anything, sir,” Kindret said eagerly with a smile on his face. “I am always happy to help.”
“Good to know, boy,” the Chieftain coughed. He scratched his bald head and pointed to a field. “There, sloth-rats, get rid of them.”
Kindret kissed Nadia on the cheek and ran off towards the field the Chieftain had pointed to. When he got to the field he was greeted by an angry farmer. “You ‘ere to sort those bloody sloth-rats out,” he cowled. “Bloody pests have ate half me crop.”
Kindret nodded and went to work. The sloth-rats were slow, but they were vicious. They were as big as common felines, but smarter. Traps couldn’t catch them and if, on occasion, they somehow managed to catch one, their teeth would simply destroy the cages. The only option – the only safe option – was to kill them. Kindret got to work right away, he used his staff to bludgeon the sloth-rats, it was tiresome work, if the sloth-rats saw someone they would run down holes and come up elsewhere in the field. Kindret saw what they were doing and decided to smoke their entire underground lair out. He left the field and went to the farmers barn, he picked up some oil and hay and went back to the field to put his plan in motion. As he walked back to the field he could see the sloth-rats looking at the dead ones he had already got. When they saw Kindret jumping the fence they hissed and scurried into their network of tunnels. That’s not going to help you now, Kindret thought.
Kindret strolled up to the biggest hole and crouched beside it. He heard a rustling noise and a few squeaks. He placed the hay in the hole and poured the oil onto it, he stood up and lit an old scroll with the lamplight he had borrowed from the old farmer, who was still watching him from afar. Kindret tossed the old scroll into the hole and smoke began to flow. At first it was a small amount of smoke, but after a few moments it began to flood the area. He heard the sloth-rats coughing and within seconds, thirty or more of them popped their heads up. Kindret ran around bludgeoning the nasty little sloth-rats until there were none left. The field had been turned into a smoke filled graveyard, but that wasn’t his problem. “Your crops are safe now, farmer.” he said cheerily, jumping the fence.
“Whoa, you’re not going to clean this mess up first?” the farmer asked in surprise.
Kindret shrugged and walked away. He was in a rush to see what the Chieftain wanted him to do next. He was eager and full of energy, he wanted to prove that he could look after Nadia no matter the circumstances.
It was getting late, the sun had risen as far in the azure sky as it would for the day, but there was still work to be done. As he walked up the steps to the hut, he could hear people talking inside. “He needs to go to the south fields first,” someone inside said. “I want a deer as dowry…”
The conversation stopped. Kindret knocked on the mammoth sized door knocker, it was as heavy as new born baby, it was as bright as the moon at mid-month. He paused, waiting intently by the door for an answer. The door opened slightly, he saw an eye peer at him through the narrow opening. “One moment,” it said.
Kindret stepped out onto the deck and perched himself on the railing that surrounded the decked area. The door in front of him opened, this time it opened fully, and out stepped the Chieftain. “I have two more tasks for you,” he said, itching his throat like he had been bitten by a drake-fly, a nasty little fly common to the island of Merderva. “I want you to hunt a deer first.” and he handed him a bow and several arrows.
“You said two tasks?”
“Er, hmm, yes,” he groaned, still itching his throat. “I need ointment, I was bitten by a rather horrid drake-fly. Go to the Witches forest and ask Laycrecha if she has any.”
“I will have it done before sunset,”
“Make sure you do, boy.”
“I will, sir.”
Kindret made his way towards the hunting grounds by the edge of the Witches Forest where deers and other foragers liked to congregate. Kindret would have to be careful, not all animals were peaceful grazers.
As Kindret approached the hunting ground he noticed a dark figure heading his way. Was it friend or foe? The dark figure got closer, it stepped out of the dark and was revealed to be his old friend. “Joselin, my friend,” Kindret trembled with a slight nervousness in his voice. “You had me worried for a moment then.”
“Oh, my friend,” Joselin held out a hand for Kindret to shake. “If you’d let me train you, you’d have no fears.”
“That’s probably true, dear friend,” he grabbed Joselin’s hand and shook it. “I’ll talk to you later. I’m going hunting.”
Joselin’s face grew dark and serious. “Be careful out there,” they let go of each others hand. “I noticed a trail of Goblin tracks. There must be a nestle of them somewhere in the hunting field.”
Kindret heeded Joselin’s warning and departed with caution. The day was getting late, the sky had turned from azure to crimson, the sun would set soon. The air grew cooler and the birds sung their last song before flying back to their nests. Kindret made his way tentatively over the hill and into the hunting area. Within a moment he heard something, a slight rustling in the undergrowth. Could he have found a deer so quickly?
He crept forwards, keeping low, his heart began to thud in his chest, his hands began to sweat, he pulled out his bow and loaded it with an arrow. Opening the long yellow grass in front of him, he poked his head out and was shocked to see a green face staring back at him. The face screamed a blood chilling cry and ran towards him. Goblins! A group of them. They were no more than three feet tall, green skinned with piercing yellow eyes, they wore very few clothes, but the clothes they wore were blood covered. Goblins were, by nature, a vicious race. Few people ever escaped their sharp grasp.
The Goblin who had screamed began to run at Kindret. It alerted the others and they picked up their weapons to follow the charge. Kindret, having already loaded the bow in anticipation of felling a deer, released the arrow into the Goblins grotesque face. The Goblin fell in agony, clutching its face. Screaming in pain, it tried to pull the arrow out, but every time it came close to pulling it out, the Goblins blood would pour out like water from a fountain.
There were still three Goblins charging towards Kindret. He crawled backwards to avoid their initial attacks, but he couldn’t avoid their blows forever. He needed to load another arrow. He rolled to the side, narrowly avoiding the axe a Goblin had brought down on him. The axe struck the soft ground opening up an underground chamber. Kindret loaded his arrow whilst the Goblins were looking down into the chamber. As tough as Goblins were, their attention was easily swayed. Kindret got to his feet, pulled back the line and released an arrow into the chest of one Goblin. The Goblin died instantly, falling through the gaping hole into a pool of water below.
The Goblins looked at each other and then back at their fallen friend. They turned to face Kindret, with hatred in their eyes, and ran at him with their weapons raised above their heads. Kindret put his bow away and grabbed his staff. He deflected their blows and hit them hard. They snarled at him, showing their sharp yellow teeth, and went in for another attack. Kindret pulled back slightly to avoid their blows, he rolled to the side and swung his staff at the nearest Goblin. He hit it on the side of its head and it fell unconscious to cold damp ground.
One Goblin was left. Kindret moved towards it, but it kept moving away, its courage had fell with the last Goblin. The Goblin dropped its weapons, screeched like a banshee, turned and ran. Now where’s that deer? Kindret thought.
The sun had almost set over Merderva, the hunting hour was almost over and Kindret was no closer to finding a deer. He crouched down as low as he could and scurried around the hunting field as quiet as a mouse. He heard every noise, like a bat hunting blind, he moved from position to position, hoping and praying he found something before the blackness of night came.
Kindret came to a big rocky area, he sat down for a moments rest, when suddenly, he heard a noise come from a berry bush twenty feet away from him. Could it be a deer? He hoped it was, he prayed it was, and when it reared its head, Kindret breathed a sigh of relief. He slowly reached around to pick up his bow. Making very little noise, he loaded it with an arrow and slowly pulled at the bow. He aimed and loosed the arrow at the deer. It fell to the ground and Kindret raced towards it, his heart still thumping in his chest, he approached cautiously until he was satisfied that it had been killed because it could still injure, or kill, if it wasn’t.
Kindret jabbed the creature with his staff, the deer remained lifeless. “Sorry, old girl,” he said to the deer as he picked her up. “We all have to eat. Unfortunate, but true.”
He hefted the deer carcass back to the Chieftains hut where he ran into Joselin. Joselin looked like he was preparing to leave the island, he had a few bags stuffed with his belongings and he was wearing his signature leather armour, it had markings carved into the leather, they were etchings from the ancient past of the world of Valusia. He displayed them with a sense of pride. “Going somewhere, Joselin? he looked around, inspecting the bags laid out around his friend. “I hope you weren’t going to go before you said goodbye to me, old friend?”
“Old friend?” he chuckled. “I’m not that old you cheeky scamp. I set sail tomorrow, you’re more than welcome to join me.”
“No, I have things to do here,” he shrugged the shoulder the deer was on. “I’m getting married soon.”
“Ah well,” Joselin grabbed his bags with ease, the muscles in his arms bulging at the extra weight. “If you have a change of heart, my ship is in the east harbor.”
Kindret stood still as Joselin walked east. “Have a safe journey,” he shouted to Joselin as he vanished into the darkness of night.
The hour was late, later than he had hoped, but he still had one other thing to do. He walked over to the hut, and he put the deer on the porch. He grabbed a lamp and began the journey into the Witches forest. He walked through fields lit only by the dim light of his lamp. As he trudged and waded through marsh and bog he came to a cave. The cave was large and sometimes it had animal inside it. Kindret walked through the threshold, a smell wafted up his nostrils, the smell of death and decay. He covered his nose but the smell was so strong that he could taste it in his open mouth. “Yuk, what died in here?” he said to himself.
He walked further and further into the cave, he could hear creatures scuttling around his feet, the dim light of his lamp bouncing of their exoskeletons. The smell of decay got stronger as he made his way into the very narrow tunnel, he moved slowly, weaving through narrow gaps and tiny holes, then he emerged in a huge cave. The cave was like a temple, it had candles and books and paintings, but they were all covered with dust and cobwebs. Kindret looked around, he noticed the smell had got stronger, he looked by the altar table which was full of old Valusian writings, and he saw a dead body of a man in sorcerers clothes. The body was decaying, but it looked like it had lay there for many years. The Sorcerer must have used magic on himself, he thought.
He moved cautiously around the cave looking for the exit. Then, like a light switching on in the brain, he remembered a trick. He blew his lamp out. Within a moment his eyes began to see green light emanating from the cave above. The light was created by millions of tiny worms all entwined in a ritualistic mating dance.
A breeze flushed through the cave, and Kindret walked through the small gap. As he squeezed through he felt the night air wash over him. He stood up and dusted himself down. The Witches forest of Doul was in sight. Its trees stood tall, waving gently in the wind. He heard wolves howling and owls hooting. He lit his lamp and began to walk.
As he entered the forest he felt a chill run down his spine. He could feel eyes looking at him, shadows began to dance and the leaves rustled. He walked faster, then he began to run. He could see the Witch’s cottage in front of him, he was almost there. He stopped suddenly. He lifted the lamp above his head. The shadows moved. In the blackness of a bush he saw two red eyes staring at him. It was a wolf. It crept out of the bush, its eyes were set on Kindret. It growled, showing its long, sharp, white teeth. It ran towards Kindret and jumped, he raised his staff in defence and the wolf bit it. Its slaver dripped from its half open mouth onto Kindret’s clothes. The wolf bit at the air ferociously trying to get him. He turned the staff and put the wolf on its back, then he moved the staff onto its throat, the wolf, struggling to catch its breath, cried out in pain before Kindret snapped its neck.
The howl of the wolf attracted the attention of the pack. He could hear them howling and it was getting closer. Kindret turned and ran to the cottage. He banged at the door. “Let me in,” he shouted. “Wolves are attacking! Wolves are attacking!”
The door swung open and a weathered old hand reached out and grabbed him by the collar, pulling him inside. The room was warm, heated by a fire in the middle of the rear wall. The little old lady sat down in her rocking chair. “You’re very lucky,” she croaked, coughing into her wrinkled old hand. “those wolves would have torn you to pieces. Though I don’t see why, not much meat on you.”
The old lady waved her hand to a seat next to the fire. “Have a seat, boy,” she said.
“I’m here for some. . .” he began, but he was interrupted mid sentence.
“I know why you’re here,” she laughed. “but I bet you don’t know why?”
“I’m here for some ointment,”
“Are you now?” she whispered. “You are here because magic has brought you to my doorstep. You won’t remember, but I was the one who found you lying on the beach fourteen years ago. You don’t remember your parents because they never existed, the sea gave birth to you. Magic flows through your veins. You’re a Mage.”
“What?” he blurted out in surprise. “That’s a wild little tale.”
“It is truth,” she assured him. “I’ll show you.”
The old Witch got out of her rocking chair. She appeared to glide across the room, stopping at a chest on the ground. She reached down and lifted the lid. The chest appeared to glow as she opened it. Kindret peered at the chest, he felt connected to whatever was in it. The old Witch lifted something out, she held it for a moment, gently rubbing it, and then she gave it to him. It was a silver neckless with an amulet shaped like a star and inside the star was a three legged symbol. It lit up and shone brightly in his eyes. He felt strange, like his insides had been turned to jelly.
The light faded back into the amulet and Kindret collapsed into the chair. The Witch rushed over to him holding him steady. She chanted a spell to wake him up. He rose from the chair wide eyed and more alert than ever before. It was as if he could sense the energy of everything around him.
“See, I told you,” Laycrecha cheered, taking his hand and holding it against her leathery old face. “you are a Mage. and a damn good one too I’d imagine. When you’ve had practice.”
“Thank you, Laycrecha,” he pulled his hand away from her face, wiping it on his clothes. “I still need. . .”
“Yes, yes I know.” she put her hand in her coat and pulled out an elixir. “That will fix most ailments. Two drops should work a treat.”
Kindret paced over to the door putting the neckless around his neck. As he opened it the rusty bolts creaked and cracked. Light flooded into the dark smokey room. Could it really be dawn already?
He stepped out into the forest. Birds sang happily above his head. The forest had the unmistakeable odor of sulphur and smoke, however, nothing around the forest was burning, not that Kindret could see. He walked past the dead wolf and out of the forest. He was thankful that his exit was rather less eventful than his arrival.
The walk home was rather more peaceful than the walk to the cottage. He strolled down the beach and up through the hills. As he got closer to home the smell got stronger and he could see smoke rising above the town. He ran towards the town, jumping fences and dykes and bushes, as he got into town it suddenly became obvious to him what had happened. There were dead bodies lying everywhere, some were covered in arrows, others had lacerations indicating that swords were used. Who could have done this terrible deed? Why attack a peaceful town?
Kindret thought of Nadia. Where was she? Was she among the dead? He rushed to the center of the smoke filled town jumping obstacles as he went. He saw a white dress flutter in the wind, his heart thumped in his chest, his eyes began to fill with tears and he fell to his knees. It was Nadia, lying lifeless on the dirt with one arrow through the chest. Kindret picked himself up and walked over to her. He wept by her side for a while. The air was thick with smoke. Kindret heard footsteps behind him. It was Joselin. “Kindret are you alright?” he asked. “They attacked two hours ago. They’ve gone now, set sail to the mainland.”
“Who are they?” he snarled, tears running down his face. “They killed everyone!”
“They look like swords for hire,” he pointed to the ships leaving the island. “I think someone hired them to do this, though for what reason I cannot say.”
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