I look out at the void of night and wonder how it came to be that this void could rule my life. I would always been told that the fate of one was tied into the stars, stars whose lights were locked into the void that was night. Your fate was your destiny and from what I have been told, you cannot change your destiny. So why then did I feel like this poor life was not meant to be my destiny? I was not going to follow the path of my mother and as a healer’s daughter, become a healer myself. Sure I learned the trade and could do it well but that could be said about a lot of other trades as well. This life will not be my destiny. I choose to make a new path and learn what I can along the way. First though I needed to get away from this village and all the different beliefs. Someday perhaps with time…….
“Araia” my mother’s voice pulled me from my thoughts.” Are you even listening to me?”
“Yes I am listening” my senses returning back to me
“ok then what herb is poison’ she questioned” kinsfoot or winbane?”
“For this task it would be winbane because of its reaction with the ground myr solution.”
“Good you were listening” she went back to her teaching.
Hours passed before I was finally allowed to leave and find my friends. I only wished shed lay off the teachings for a little while. She always acted like I had not learned anything when I knew almost as much as she did when it came to herbs, spices, plants, and healing. I just did not have the same stamina. Plus at this point I would rather train with Rowrick and his father. Rowrick was one of my close friends. He was my age with long black hair and green eyes. He stood at 7cins over 5 decks (5ft 7 in), an inch shorter than me. He was adopted by a wizard named Saggretta, who could not have children of his own. He was a nice and pleasant wizard who loved to teach his craft to any who were willing to learn. This meant all of Rows friends because we all trained together.
My other friends were born into more warrior like trades. Elgan was the son of a well-known Barbarian family and Sedrick was the son of a military commander. They were the same height as Row. Elgan had long braided brown hair and brown eyes. Sedrick had short black hair and brown eyes. We all had been born on the same day so we were all close friends. Because we were so close we all trained together and thankfully our parents did not mind teaching their trades. I loved the fighters training and had become pretty skilled with swords, daggers, and bows. I was good aim with most throwing weapons. I preferred to avoid the axes, spears, staves, and javelins, as well as most blunt weapons. I could use them but they just did not feel right.
We would also occasional watch the local rogue families teach their children. We could only watch the others because the other families shunned us and would not allow us to befriend the other children. It was Row and my fault. We were un-natural birth as they called us. With Row being an orphan originally and me not having a father, well not knowing him anyways, had made us undesirable to the village people. Our parents were well respected members of the community but we were shunned. It angered me how the town could be so cruel with their damn superstitions.
Our village or town was known as Colcresh. It was a small village with only about 200 hundred settlers in all and at least fifty of those were soldiers and their family. The main part of the village was encircled by the Cabari forest and had small trails branching off to some outer farms, the military barracks and homes, and other distant villages. Most of the homes in the main village were made of wood. A few of the founding tribe’s families still lived in the traditional thatch homes of their ancestors. The military barracks and homes where wood and stone to separate them from normal homes. Colcresh was one of six villages or towns on the island of Arnock and of the six it was the smallest. Arnock was one of 7 large islands off of the coast of Haxfor on the Reanseal continent. The islands were in a somewhat curved line eighty to four hundred miles from the coast. Arnock was closest followed by Vanc, Hapshek, Hadren, Trenthor, Jusk, and Frolds which was the biggest.
Colcresh was separated into four areas. The homes of most trades were in the south west area, the military or guards and their families to the North West, the small market area to the north east and the farms and training grounds to the south east. In the center was the area for town meetings and celebrations. It had a large wooden stage and when used would be surrounded by small tables and decorations depending on occasion. The market was where the main road connected the village to the rest of the island. There was a stable, a smith, and a few stalls for various foods and crafted items. It was easy to get around the village when you actually wanted to go someplace.
The northwest or Barracks as it was sometimes called, was the only walled area in the village. Surrounding the military homes and training yard was a large stone wall with only one opening which was the big Iron Gate. It was usually guarded all the time by two men. The guard duty was a part of a set rotation so that each man would serve at the post. Only those who had been given permission from Maverick, or those that lived there could come and go as they pleased. Those with permission were usually given a mark, or a thin piece of wood branded with the commanders insignia, to use to gain entry. Eventually though like in our case, the guards knew us by name so we no longer had to bring the mark with us to gain entry.
The only person outside of the layout was Sagretta. He built his home, which was a three story tower like structure, a little ways into the forest west of the village. He was near the bend of the river where it came closest to the village. He placed himself so far out so that he could practice his trade in peace. It was a beautiful home surrounded by flowers and some smaller fruit trees. He kept a garden in the back of his home with a lot of hard to find ingredients for various healing salves, poisons, and elixirs. My mother would barter for some from time to time when her stock ran dry. It always smelled nice there as well, the smell both enticing and enchanting.
I soon found myself no longer looking for my friends. I had instead chosen to sit on a fence and watch a rogue family as they trained their son in the field. It looked as though they were trying to train him to find and disarm traps. He was doing horribly and every time he messed up I could not help but laugh. I was so focused on and amused by him that I did not notice the stranger walk up to the fence. I did not even notice that he leaned onto the fence right next to where I sat. Then he laughed lightly as the boy failed and I was immediately off the fence and facing him.
“oops” he began a smirk on his face” I did not mean to startle you”
“Who are you?” I asked ‘ I have never seen you around here before, and you’re actually stopping and speaking to me”
“I am Mercoe, Rogue and hopefully friend” he began” And why would not I speak to you. Especially when you seem intently interested in my trade.”
He extended his hand in a friendly gesture and cautiously I took it. He was defiantly not from around here. He did not seem to know about whom I was or the stigma over my head. Perhaps I could make a new friend and maybe teacher.
“You are defiantly not from around here’ I began” either that or the town’s people have not told you about me yet. That is why I was surprised by you actually speaking to me.”
“Oh all of that rubbish’ he smiled” I have heard a lot of things and quite frankly just do not care. So why are you out here all by yourself?”
“Oh well,” I began” I was just watching their training. My friends and I like to learn whatever we can. Anything outside of our family’s trades though is off limits to us. The other families shun us and will not allow us to befriend their children. So we watch when we can.’
“What are all of your trades?” He asked
Well Rowrick was adopted by a wizard”. I began “Elgan's parents are barbarians, and Sedrick's fathers a military commander. My mom is a healer so that is what she is passing on to me.”
“Interesting, he began “so you have a fairly broad knowledge in a few different trades. Not bad. Well if you and your friends would like I could teach you what it means to be a rogue, and even introduce you to a druid friend of mine. I am actually here in town looking for people who are willing to learn and put in the work as students, Pupils. What do you say and before you ask I am not charging for the instruction, just wanting to teach.” ‘
“That would be awesome” I happily responded.” Do not take this the wrong way but you are a little strange compared to all the other villagers. It is ok though, because the difference makes you nicer. I have to tell my friends. Where will you hold the training?”
“I own the old barn in the northern border lands.” He smiled again. “ I will be there when you all are ready to begin.’
“Sounds like a plan’ I climbed back over the fence, “Thank you for the opportunity and it was nice to meet you. I need to go find my friends and let them know. Perhaps we will be out there tomorrow.”
With that I rose up my hand to say goodbye, and ran off to find my friends. I had to let them know the good news. I was excited. Finally someone was willing to teach us a new trade and treat us like we were normal. He was not shunning us like the rest of the town but embracing our differences. This was going to be an awesome experience.
“ Hey Elgan , Sedrick, are you guys coming?” Row called out
“I would love to but I can’t.” Elgan began “I have to go with my parents back to our tribal home and be brought into the fold during our harvest celebration. I would love to learn how to be a rogue but it will have to wait until we get back.”
“My father is sailing out to Grathor and wants me to accompany him.” Sedrick replied “ He wants me to get some sailing training in but said I could join you when we return.’
“we are going to miss you guys” I hugged my friends” safe travels and safer return. We will see you when you get back.”
Row and I carried on to the north trail out of town. The old barn was on the border of the village lands and everyone was forbidden from venturing out to it. It was said that the wildones would take you if you ventured to far down the forest trail. Guess we would see if that was true. I was glad to have Row with me. One friend was better than going alone especially on this hike. The forest started ten yards from the village edge and the barn and farm house was mile hike in. After the mile hike you had to take another smaller path to the left for a quarter mile until you reached the small half acre clearing. The barn and farm house sat in the middle.
We jogged to the turn off point and started to walk down the path. A little ways in and I began to feel a little un-easy. Something just did not seem right. Then there was a clicking noise and Row and I hit the ground as a small log trap flew over us. That is when I noticed we were surrounded by traps.
“I think he is already testing us” I quietly whispered to Row. “We are surrounded. Watch your footing. Let’s take it nice and slow. “
Row nodded as we slowly got back to our feet and carefully continued on. We had to dodge a couple more times along the way but that was to be expected. It was not like we knew what all to look for or anything like that. This was a fun new experience for us and though it was tough, we were enjoying ourselves.
We finally made it to the clearing. There was some knee high grass and bushes between us and the wooden fence that surrounded the barn and house. Mercoe sat perched on the fence staring out at us a mischievous looking smile on his face. He pulled up a bow and let an arrow fly in our direction hitting and triggering another trap. Again Row and I were on the ground dodging the trap as Mercoe vanished from the fence.
“Row let’s split.” I spoke quickly. “Take an angle then b-line for the barn. I am going to do the same towards the house. Watch the sky and ground.”
With a final nod we split and quickly made for our positions. Now we not only dodged any hidden ground traps but also the random volley of arrows that were sent out at us, and each arrow was close to hitting their mark. I was having a blast. I had not worked this hard in training in a long time and the change was refreshing. I soon made it to the house and glanced around trying to find Mercoe. An arrow flew from the barn sending Row to the ground as he dogged. I circled around the house and sprinted to the other wall of the barn, entering after another arrow flew his way. I quickly made my way up into the loft, trying to sneak up on our new teacher. Once up the stairs I saw him at the end and carefully made my way toward him but missed the waiting trap. I rolled right barely staying in the loft as the floor gave way beneath me. I was quickly back to my feet and greeted with a dagger resting gently on my neck.
“Very good ’ the voice familiar” you both did very well to make it to me considering you do not really know what you are up against. Both of you seemed skilled enough to start training at a fairly high level. He removed the blade licking the slight bit of blood on it from the small cut on my neck. Now,” he began as Row joined us “You wish to train in the path of the rogue. This is not an easy path to take, nor an easy road to walk. You have just tasted a small sample of what you will be training to face. I will teach you to make, arm, disarm, and spot traps, poisons, agility, stealth, and other tricks of the trade. You will learn the paths from a simple rogue, to mercenary, dungeon delver, to assassin. Are you ready to learn?”
We shook our heads and took a seat as the training began. We took in everything he showed us eagerly wanting to practice and learn more. The trap basics were fun. Learning the mechanics in the various types of traps that one could make, learning how to spot them, and how to be unconventional when making them on the fly. Everything was so new, so exciting, and we were soaking in all the knowledge our new teacher was giving us. Row and I got the one on one treatment for the next two weeks. It was nice but we could not wait for our friends to join us.
“Elgan you guys are finally back” Row and I greeted our friend “we are glad to see you man. Now you and Sedrick can both finally join us. He got back Yesterday morning and we were headed to get him. Oh and how was your trip?”
“Long but worth-while” Elgan took our hands in greeting, ‘ hang on a sec.”
He quickly ran back into his home to get his dagger, then re-joined us as we went across the town to Sedrick’s home. We ran up to the door and eagerly knocked. It was hard to wait patiently since we were excited for our friends to join us in the days training. Soon his father answered.
“Ah the studious pupils.” Maverick spoke” Here for Sedrick I presume”
“Yes sir” we respond in unison.
“And what are we learning today” he asked after he called for his son.
“We met a rouge that is been teaching us his trade out at the old Barn” I spoke “He has been really nice and best of all doesn’t care what the towns people think about us.”
“Really’ a slight inquisitive look came over his face. “And what might this rogues name be?”
‘He said his name was Mercoe” I answered seeing a slight look of concern on Mavericks face. “He has been really nice, but is a harsh teacher.”
“Has he done anything un-natural or weird around you?” Maverick asked
“No, why?” Row and I looked at each other
“No reason” he responded as Sedrick joined us “you guys be careful and have fun.’
“That was weird” Row spoke to me as we headed down the trail ” I wonder if they know each other?”
“Seemed like Maverick knew him did not it.’ I asked as we stopped at the path to the barn. “Elgan you and Sedrick have to start here for your first test. Good luck guys. See you at the barn.”
We separated from our friends taking the hidden safe path that changed locations every week. We heard our friends freak at the first trap and we laughed to ourselves as we remembered our first day. We quickly made it to the clearing and joined Mercoe in the barn. Our friends made it about twenty minutes later and we watched them dodge the volley of arrows and make their way to the barn to join us.
“Well” Mercoe began as Elgan and Sedrick took their seats “This will me a review day for you and Row so go practice on building and dis-arming the traps by the fire.”
We nodded and headed down the stairs as Mercoe began his intro speech. We soon exited the barn ad cut off toward the bon fire pit to our right. A group of five men approached from the opposite side of the clearing, but we were preoccupied with what we were about to do and had not noticed them.
“Well, Well, Well, What do we have here boys?” the leader of the group spoke up causing us to turn around. ‘Seems like we got some trespassers, what would two kids be doing out here, all alone, in a forbidden place like this?”
“Forbidden” I questioned “this place is not forbidden and we are not alone”
I received a smack across the face as he back handed me. “Do not want a story kid and care not for lies. This is contested ground.”
I looked at Row noticing he had started an incantation of some kind. I followed his lead trying to focus on an air blast. I looked at the men who all seemed ready to attack at their leader’s word.
“not sure what you mean” I spoke to their leader” but we are not alone we are training with the owner of the land you are trespassing on.”
“That so’ he smirked and pulled his dagger ‘well then you can call out to them in pain you arrogant little shit.”
A layer of fog enveloped us as Row finished his incantation. A second later a ball of air hit the leader as I finished mine. I called out to Mercoe and the others as Row and I pulled our daggers and started to defend ourselves. It was not long before the others joined us in the fight. The fog was slowly clearing away. I rolled away dodging an attack only to be knocked down by the leader of the group. He swung his dagger angrily trying to land a devastating blow. I dogged the wide swings easily but was sent back down with a surprise kick. I blocked his blade as I got to my feet but was hit by the hidden one in his other hand.
I gasped as pain shot through my gut. It was as though the area was on fire. He pulled out the blade and went for another blow but I reacted faster, slicing his throat open. A look of shock came over his face as he dropped his blade and fell to his knees trying to stop the blood form flowing. I watched him struggling as I placed a hand over my own wound. Thing was I knew he was going to die but for some reason I did not care. He soon fell over gasping as I staggered to the porch of the house. My strength soon gave out and I too fell to the ground, and everything faded around me as I fell.
Next thing I knew, I was gasping in pain and slowly opening my eyes. Everything was blurry at first but cleared after I blinked a couple times. There was candle light to either side of me and Mercoe sat to my right tending to my bandages.
“You should be resting” he spoke as he glanced up “Do not worry you are a quick healer and will be ok. So sleep.”
I closed my eyes and after a minuet everything faded away again. I returned back to the black dreamless space where I was before. I was not sure how long I had been out but when I woke I found myself surrounded by my friends and sunlight streaming through the window. I slowly sat up hearing the argument downstairs.
“You are ok” Row jumped up and was immediately by my side.
“Of course” I smirk as the others join him “how long have I been out and what is going on downstairs?”
“It has been about two days since the attack” Sedrick spoke” We tried to find your mother but she is at the council meeting in Drathor. Father is down there arguing with Mercoe not sure what about. He told us to come up here with you.’
I slowly got to my feet my friends offering to help brace me. Then we each slowly made our way down the stairs. I wanted to know what was going on and was not really in the mood for the arguing. My head began to hurt but I ignored it and kept on. They had stepped outside and were over by the gate by the time we made it to the porch. We stood there silently until they noticed us.
“Araia” they spoke in unison and quickly made their way to the porch.
“You should be resting” Maverick put his hands on my shoulders “come on back inside.”
“I am fine’ I respond” what is going on?’
“Nothing” Mercoe spoke up “everything is fine”
“Everything is not fine” Maverick spoke irritation in his voice. ‘She is recovering from a wound that was inflicted by men, who were probably after you. Nothing is fine.”
‘I do not really care why they were here” I spoke my agitation showing in my voice “whether they were here for him or just here to start a fight doesn’t matter. They attack Row and I and I would probably be dead now if it was not for him. I mean no disrespect but this is just another lesson learned. So can we stop the arguing and be civil.”
I was not the type to speak out I anger at my teachers and caught them both by surprise. We all stood in an awkward silence for a few minutes as everything soaked in and was digested.
“If my mother is at the council meeting she will not be back for at least a week or longer.” I broke the silence my voice calmer now. ‘ I would like to stay here until she returns if that is ok.”
Maverick looked like he was about to object but then turned to Mercoe who spoke “that would be ok with me, but if you are staying you need to go lay back down.’
I nod and slowly returned back to my room. My friends followed closely behind me making sure I did not fall on the way back up the stairs. Then we sat in silence for about five minutes until maverick called for them. They each gave me a hug as they left. Soon Mercoe joined me and handed me a glass of water.
“Are you sure you wish to stay here?’ He asked “There could be another attack.”
“I am not worried” my voice betrayed my thoughts.
“Ok then what is wrong?” he sat next to me.
“I….” I pause” I killed him. The leader of the group and yet I do not feel bad about it. I cannot really describe how I felt and it confuses me.”
He smirked “Do not let it bother you. You are still a good person and are no different now than you were that day. These thoughts come to those who have never taken a life. It is ok and natural. Do not think on it too much and rest. You should be well enough to start training again tomorrow.”
I nod my head and lay back down. After covering me with the blanket he retook his seat next to the bed and I let myself again drift off to sleep. It was a more peaceful sleep this time as I let go of my thoughts and worries. All was going to be ok. Nothing was wrong.
I popped up grabbing my dagger as I stood. I glanced out the window trying to figure out what was going on but all I saw was the lit bonfire. Then the creaking of the floorboards came to my ears. Someone was coming up the stairs. Who could it be? Was it Mercoe or whoever caused the loud noises that woke me up. Was I going to be force to defend myself again….to kill again so soon…could I…would I be able to? All thoughts ceased as the door opened and I swung catching myself just in time.
“Mercoe” I spoke in relief and shock as he staggered into my arms.
I helped him over to the bed before shutting and securing the door. He was nursing a stab wound to his stomach and a gash on his right shoulder. His eyes were closed as he was trying to concentrate or block out the pain.
“What is going on out there?” I went back over to the door and set up a trap before returning to his side “what happened?”
“I am ok I just need a minute” he replied as he winced. ‘Make sure the door is barricaded they may come up here.”
“It is” I replied as I handed him a rag noticing a second stab wound further up on his chest. ”You are not ok”
I pulled out the bandages and went to help him but he stopped me. “I will be fine. The poison on their blades make my wounds heal slower than normal. The bandages are not needed.”
That is when the realization hit me. I knew now why Maverick was asking all those questions. I knew now what he was. He saw the expression on my face and a sudden pressure went through my mind as if he were searching through my thoughts. He was exactly what I thought he was.
“I know now why you did not care what the towns people said about us. “ my voice slightly louder now “ you are a wildone…a vampire are not you…one of the ones that the village both fears and protects.”
He met my gaze and sighed “If I said yes that I was what would you do? You are a very smart person and very perceptive for your age. I am sure you know a great deal more than they told you. So what will you do now?’
“I help” I said as he looked back down at his wounds. “You are in this trouble because you did not want us to find out. You are weaker because you have not left here for over a month.” I slowly made a small cut on my neck as I spoke ignoring the sting. “So I know exactly what to do and I am not afraid to…’
He raised a hand to my lips “Do not.” he spoke knowing exactly what I was going to say.
He looked up and noticed the cut and reached out his hand to try to heal it. I stopped him as I looked down at the ground not meeting his gaze.
“Please” I began’ I know you do not want to hurt me but it is ok. You need to heal quickly because at my level I am pretty sure I would be no match for whoever hurt you. Let me help you so that when they come you can take care of them. I am not afraid. I can handle a little pain.” I met his gaze as I released his hand.
He stared back into my eyes with a look of both compassion and sorrow. He truly did not want to hurt me. Behind the look though I could see him resisting the hunger that I knew he felt. Resisting though my blood called out to him.
“Really” I spoke again “It is ok. I know you do not want to hurt me but do not hold back on my account. I trust you fully and I can handle a little pain.”
He nodded finally giving in and after staring a moment longer he drew closer. His left hand behind my head gently holding me as his breath sent chills down my spine. He licked the still bleeding sending more chills as he searched my thoughts one last time.
“Are you sure’ his voice a whisper but it seemed like a loud echo in my mind.
“Yes’ I replied after a moment and closed my eyes trying my best to relax.
He bit down blocking as much pain from my mind as he could but there was still enough to make me gasp slightly and hold my breath. Then the grip on my head strengthened as the urge took him and he bit down deeper. I groaned but did not resist even as another barrage of pain hit with the next surge of his hunger. I kept my eyes closed trying to focus on something else then I saw him standing before me.
“Watch,’ I heard his voice in my mind. ’Learn as you dream and your mind fades from the pain.’
Soon images began to flash all around me. I learned the history of the beast which was what kind of vampire he was. He was a descendant of the ancient line, the one that did not evolve and could actually shapeshift like in the legends. I saw his full transformation, learned all of their rules, codes, traditions and of their honor. Then as quickly as it started it faded and he released me. I slowly opened my eyes as he laid my head onto the ground and healed the bite. His focus was on the door and the men outside of it.
I tried to sit up but he stopped me ‘sshhh…lay still. If you try to move before your body is ready you will pass out and will not be able to do anything until you come too. They are outside the door.’
Mercoe began to shift as the door began to slowly open. The trap was sprung and an arrow hit the first guy. The others decided on force after that and kicked in the door. They were not expecting to come face to face with the beast on the other side. Mercoe made light work of them then headed down stairs to deal with the others. There was a strange metallic smell in the air. I looked over to the door and saw the bodies and the pool of blood. Why was I smelling the blood so clearly now. Was I linked to Mercoe in some way now. I cleared my mind and did my best to block out the smell as I slowly got to my feet. The room spun for a second but I was able to refocus and head towards the stairs. That is when I heard Mercoe saying something about they are not part of this.
“On the contrary’ an unknown voice came to my ears ‘We know who this boy’s real father is, as well as the girl’s up stairs. They are as much a part of this as you and I.”
I glanced around the corner. Mercoe stood on the bottom step. Three men in cloaks stood in front of him, swords drawn, and behind them….my heart dropped. Row was barely standing, being held up by a fourth man, a dagger blade to his throat. He was heavily injured, looking as though he had been tortured. I started an element incantation choosing wind again. I molded it up into a ball and waited for a chance to free him.
“They do not know and will not know’ Mercoe spoke
‘Really’ the other commented removing the blade from Rows neck just enough….
“Row down” I called as I sent the blast down hitting the man holding him up.
I threw my dagger hitting the man in the chest as Mercoe began to fight the other three in front of him. I hurried down the stairs making it to Row’s side as Mercoe took out the last of the other three men. The fourth man had staggered out the door as I reached him. Row was crying uncontrollably.