Konami owns Suikoden and its characters, Straya owns Ardeth and Jael,
MercWanderer owns Rachel, and the rest belong to me.
After the hunters left, Father came down to make us breakfast. He sent me and Jael out to the chicken coop to get eggs. I dont think Jael had ever been in a chicken coop. He sneezed a lot and didnt want to grab any eggs. Some of the hens are nasty but I was going to let him get eggs from the nicer ones. But he still didnt want to do it.
As we walked back to the house he said, Ryan, I cant believe we overslept. Well have to leave after breakfast now.
I nodded as I finished counting the eggs in the basket. I hoped ten would be enough. Well just tell them were going to the Festival.
When we got back to the house Charlotte and Jeanette were helping put the plates out and Father and Lord Salome were in the kitchen. Lord Salome was standing over the fireplace stove looking rather happy. I didnt know what he was happy about, and I wasnt going to ask. I put the egg basket down and he picked one out of it, and then cracked it into the pan. Father was working on the counter making biscuit batter. He took an egg, too.
As the girls finished putting the plates out, I leaned over to Jael and asked, I didnt know your father could cook. If I were Captain of the Knights, Id have people to cook for me. It doesnt seem like much fun.
My friend smiled. Hes pretty good at it.
I thought youd have servants and stuff for that.
We do, but when he comes home, he always makes dinner for Mother and I.
Oh, I said. My father cooks because my mother is terrible at it. But Im not allowed to tell her that.
Jael laughed. Then his mother came down the stairs. She walks very slow. I dont know why, but I think it has something to do with that metal piece on her leg. I didnt want to ask anyone because Mother always said that prying into others business is rude.
Once the food was cooked we all sat down and started to eat. The eggs were really good, but they were different. Lord Salome made them soft, and then put them on top of a piece of ham and Fathers biscuits. Then he put some yellow sauce on them. It was really good, but I dont know what its called.
The girls really liked the eggs and the yellow sauce. Charlotte said shed never had fancy food before. Father laughed, and Lord Salome just smiled. Then he made her an extra one of the egg and biscuit things.
After breakfast we cleaned up. Jael needed to get his pack from his parents room, but they were in there and the door was closed. He told me he never interrupts them when they close the door. I dont do that to my parents, either.
So we had to wait. The girls picked up the fort and the keeping room. Whenever Charlotte stays over, she cleans up a lot. She told me once that she does that so Father will invite her back. Jael and I waited at the top of the stairs for one of his parents to come out of my room. As we sat there, we could hear them talking though the door.
Im so glad we came, that was his mother. This village is so peaceful, and Jael has made a friend.
More than one, if you count the girls.
She giggled. He definitely has your good looks and charm. There was a pause. Given any more thought to what we discussed last night?
As I said, you know certainly I wouldnt mind trying. He sounded like he was grinning when he said that. Then his voice got serious. It might be good for Jael, too.
Then it got really quiet.
Jael looked embarrassed. He grabbed my hand and dragged me down the stairs. When I asked why he was upset he said hed tell me when I was older. I glared at him. Hes not that much older than me. How dare he keep secrets!
But all my arguing with him did no good. A few minutes later his parents came back downstairs. He ran up there, grabbed his pack and we told them we were going back to the Festival.
So then we started out into the woods. I walked in the front, then Geoff, then the girls and Jael brought up the rear. He carried his pack with him. He said he had some food just in case the girls got hungry. I bet he was worried that hed get hungry, though.
I followed the trail that Father and I always take. He told me once that it goes all the way to Budehuc Castle. Weve never ridden that far, though. The horse droppings from the day before gave me a good idea that I was going in the right direction. Charlotte screamed when she stepped in one. I laughed at her and she stuck her tongue out at me.
After an hour or so, Geoff started to whine that his feet hurt. So I put him on my back. We got to the clearing where Jael and I switched horses, and he looked around for the medallion. I put my brother down because I needed a break. While we were resting, a man walked into the clearing.
He was very pale and his eyes were dark and blank like a chickens eyes. He seemed to be looking behind us rather than at us. In his hand was a black book. He held that book like Geoff holds his blanket. Like he couldnt let go of it. We stared at him for a minute and he just stared back. Then he said, in a really, creepy voice, Children should not be in these woods alone. Each of his words was dragged out like he was choking on them or something. You could get killed
Jeanette screamed, and Charlotte said, He must be a zombie! Hes going to kill us!
They ran off and Jael, Geoff and I had no choice but to follow them. I looked back and saw the zombie-man behind us. Faster! I screamed.
Geoff tripped. Before he could start to cry, I pulled him onto my back and tried to run with him. It didnt work very well, so we lagged behind. When we finally caught up with the group, I knew we were hopelessly lost. Nothing looked familiar. The trees were different, and there wasnt any manure to follow.
I didnt want to tell everyone I was lost, so I suggested we rest. The girls looked tired, and Geoffrey was breathing hard. I really hoped he wouldnt have one of those funny attacks he gets. I didnt have his medicine.
We waited awhile, and everyone seemed all right. Jael gave the girls and Geoff the apples that were in his pack. He and I didnt eat. We didnt need to. Then we decided to move on. Jael offered to carry Geoffrey if I would carry his pack. I did, and we decided to trade off every so often. My brother was sort of heavy, but the pack wasnt much lighter. After strapping on the pack, I said to everyone, Come on. Lets keep going. I really didnt know where we were going, but it made more sense than just sitting there.
We walked for a long time. When we stopped for the tenth time (because the girls needed yet another break) Jael whispered to me. Are you sure you know where we are?
I put Geoff down and looked around. Still nothing looked familiar. I shook my head at him. The girls looked worried.
Then lets stop here, he said as he took his pack off.
But if we keep going
Well get more lost. At least if we stay in one place theyll find us.
Its nightfall. Surely our parents have realized were not at the Festival.
Yeah. I guess. I really felt bad about getting us lost, but if that stupid man hadnt scared us we wouldnt have run away.
The girls came over to us. Charlotte glared at me. You got us lost!
Shut up! I snapped at her. You didnt do any better!
Brat! She pushed past Jael to scream in my face.
She smacked me in the face after I said that. So I grabbed her around the waist and wrestled her to the ground. Shes pretty strong, so she put up a good fight. We tumbled around for a minute or two until Jael grabbed me by my shirt collar. Its a good thing he did. I didnt want to lose another fight to Charlotteespecially in front of him and Geoffrey.
Get up, you two, Jael said. It was quiet, but he looked pretty cross. If he grows up to look more like his father, I bet hell be really scary.
Charlotte and I got to our feet. She stuck her tongue out at me. You got mud on my dress!
No, you did! If you didnt slap me
Enough! Jael said as he stepped between us. We cant fight now. We have to stay here so we might as well get along.
Charlotte didnt say anything to him. She just brushed off her dress. I saw Jeanette shiver. It was getting cold and I needed to get away from Charlotte for a few minutes. She was really making me mad. I said, Geoff and Ill get some sticks. Maybe we can make a fire.
With what? Charlotte asked, but she wasnt mean about it. We dont have any matches.
I have something, Jael said. He opened his pack and pulled out a scroll with a red mark on it. Not the kind that people write important things on, but the special kind you can make magic with. Im not allowed to play with them.
Jeanettes eyes got wide. Howd you get that?
We stopped at Brass Castle on the way here. I bought it.
Your parents let you have scrolls? I asked.
I grinned at my friend. It was good to see that he had a trouble-making streak, just like me. All right. Then Ill get some sticks.
I walked around our spot and picked up some sticks and leaves while Charlotte and Jeanette looked at the scroll. I wanted to look at it too, but I really didnt want Geoff to get cold and cry.
I stacked up the sticks in a neat pile and then Jael let me look at the scroll. It was pretty, even for just a scroll. I gave it back to him and he told us all to stand back.
We got back a few feet, and Geoffrey grabbed my hand. Normally I wouldnt let him do that, but it was pretty scary out in the middle of woods and I didnt know if Jael had any idea how to work the scroll. I guess he did because a second later he threw it at the pile of sticks. A burst of fire came from nowhere! It made a loud popping sound and then the sticks started to glow. It had worked! They caught on fire. I was impressed.
We all sat down around the fire and waited. Jeanette shivered again and I gave her my jacket. Father told me that knights always take care of women first. She smiled at me so I sat next to her. Not a minute later and Geoffrey started to cry. He was tired or hungry or something. Its hard to tell because he always cries. I tried to quiet him but he wouldnt stop. So I took him away from the rest of them and told him that he had to be a big boy because he would scare the girls. He stopped and I wiped his face. I gave him a pat on the head like Father does to me. Then we started back.
When we were walking back to the group, he said he had to pee. Im really glad he doesnt wear diapers anymore. He used to smell so bad in them. So, I brought him to a tree and told him to pee. He shook his head and wouldnt untie his pants. I guess he was nervous being in the woods and all. So I told him Id pee first, to show him that it was fine and nothing bad would happen. I did, and then he finally peed after a few minutes. I was glad that was over because it was really weird showing him how to pee on a tree. I guess thats how Father felt when he showed me.
After that, Geoff and I went back to the spot where Jael and the girls were. The fire smelled good, and helped me keep track of where we were. But when we got there, we were in for a big surprise. A funny looking man was hanging from a tree. He was upside down and he had wings, so maybe he wasnt a man. He also had only one eye. The other was covered with a piece of cloth. He was very scary. Geoff screamed, and I saw that the girls were holding each other. Jael didnt look too scared, though. I dragged Geoff behind me and moved us closer to our group. I wasnt going to let this thing hurt my friends.
The creature swung down from the tree. He landed on his feet and spread his wings out. He had ugly feet. Like birds feet. He smelled the top of Jaels head and smirked. His voice was really rough. You kids gave the whole town a good scare! A scare good enough for the reaper!
Are you going to kill us? Charlotte asked. She sounded like she had been crying.
The thing cackled. No. No. Not today at least.
Can you show us the way back to the village? Jael asked.
Can but wont, the thing replied as it sat down next to him.
Why not? Jael asked as he tried to back away from the creature.
Youll be found soon. Ill stay in case something attacks. Lots of hungry creatures now that its Harvest.
Please take us home, Mr. Jeanette begged.
Landis, he said. No Mister.
Please, Landis. That was Charlotte.
Nope nope nope! he said as he shook his head. Youll be found faster if we stay here. He looked at me and then Jael. People are on their way.
I brought Geoff over to the fire and we sat down. The girls relaxed a little bit, but I could tell that they were still scared. I was. I looked over at Landis. He seemed to be really interested in Jael. Every few minutes hed sniff him. Finally my friend said, What are you doing?
Landis laughed and then said, I knew it! Little Haystack!
Jael moved away from him and came to sit near me. My friend didnt seem scared, but rather annoyed. I would be annoyed too if someone kept sniffing my head.
Landis slapped his hands together. Ill tell you kids a story! Youll feel better after a story!
None of us said anything. We all just sorta looked into the fire.
Lets see what kind of story to tell? Scary? Not so scary?
Jael looked at Geoffrey who was still clutching my hand so hard that it was turning white. Not so scary would be best, I think.
Hehhehhehhh. All right. Not so scary it is. Landis said as he lay down on his stomach and looked right into the fire. He spread his wings up behind him, and they made very creepy shadows. I bet he would have made a great dragon the other night when Jael and I got in trouble.
Thank you, Charlotte said in a tiny voice. It would have been fun to see her scared except I was scared myself.
Well, this is the story of Fenrir. He was a big wolf. He was so big that his jaws went from the earth to the sky.
No wolf is that big, Jael said.
Fenrir was. He was a different kind of wolf. Be quiet now, Little Haystack.
Why do you keep calling me that?
Landis just laughed with a really crazy laugh and then continued his wolf story. The people who lived on the earth were afraid of him. They wondered if he would eat the sky. So, they decided to tie him up and muzzle him. The people knew they couldnt do this alone, so they called on the gods to help.
The gods told the people to lure Fenrir to the ocean. So the people did that. They offered horses, cows, sheep, and other animals that Fenrir liked to eat. The wolf made his way following the peoples food. When he got to the ocean, Rivkan, the sea god, caught him in a net.
Fenrir struggled against the net. He pulled and pulled and he and Rivkan fought under the oceans for seven nights. The waves were so strong that they flooded much of the world. Many people died. But when the fight was over, neither had won.
So Rivkan, who was one of the most powerful gods, made a bargain with Fenrir. He told Fenrir he could live underwater with him as long as he didnt bother the people any more. Fenrir agreed on one condition. He said he wanted to be able to go up at night and look at the stars. Rivkan agreed. And so, every night you see Fenrirs jaws when he blocks out part of the moon as he gazes at the stars. Sometimes he doesnt open his mouth and other times he grins too much at the beautiful sky, so the moon is full or gone. But he has learned that people count on him to set their calendars by, so hes much more careful now.
That was a nice story, Landis, I said. Where did you hear it?
Around. I go different places a lot. But theres more to the story, too.
Oh? Jael asked. He sounded really interested.
Yup, yup. Fenrir and Rivkan dont get along very well, so at least twice a day they wrestle. The oceans swell and then when they stop fighting, they draw back. Its a constant battle under there. I wouldnt want to fall into the sea!
Jael started to ask a question, but then I heard shouts of my name. It was Uncle Borus! I called back, Over here!
He kept calling for me and Jael, so we kept shouting back at him. I guess my friend forgot what he was going to ask Landis. Eventually, my uncle came upon us. By the time he rode into our camp, Landis was gone. I didnt even see him leave.
My uncle yelled out into the woods, Ive found them! He shouted it again. He was really loud. Then he dismounted and walked over to us. Stratus just stood there. He was a good horse even if hes mean when hes being fed.
You kids all right? he asked.
Yeah, I said. Were fine.
I looked at Jael, and I think he was pondering the same thing I wasshould we tell him about Landis or will he think were crazy?
Then I heard more horses approach. First came Mother and Father and Nash. My parents both jumped off their horses and ran over to Geoff and me. I was sure I was going to get fussed at, but I didnt. They gave us lots of hugs and kisses, and Nash made a really shrill whistle into the dark. Mother checked on the girls. They said they were fine. She gave them a hug, too.
Then Jaels parents arrived with Lord Roland. I didnt know his mother could ride, but I guess so. She was on one of those stupid carriage horses. She climbed down off that big horse and he ran towards her. Lord Salome dismounted and gave him a hug, too. He didnt get fussed at either.
After all the hugs and kisses and other sissy things, Father said, What possessed you to travel into the woods alone, son?
I knew it. I knew I would get it, but I didnt want to tattle on Jael losing that medal hes so proud of. So I lied. Well, I wanted to show Jael the woods and
No, my friend said behind me. He looked at his parents and then at mine. It was my fault, Percival. Im sorry.
I hope you have an explanation for your actions, Lord Salome said to him. I guess I wasnt the only one who was going to get fussed at.
Jael looked at everyone and said quietly, I lost the medallion you gave me, Father. I think it broke when I fell off the horse yesterday. So I asked Ryan and Charlotte to take me into the woods to find it. I didnt mean to cause anyone any harm. Im sorry that I lost it. And Im sorry that I caused everyone such problems.
I was impressed with how my friend could talk to people like that. Id probably have stumbled over all my words with all those people watching.
My mother gave me a dirty look. I knew she was mad that I lied, probably more mad than she was that we took off into the woods. Then Lord Salome put a hand on Jaels shoulder. Im proud of you for telling me the truth, but you will still be punished for putting your mother, Lady Chris, myself and everyone else through all this trouble to find you. He paused and then gave everyone a little smile. But you didnt lose the medallion.
My friend looked at his father. Yes I did. Its gone.
It fell off when you did, but I just put it in my pocket. He pulled it out and gave it back to Jael.
Jael stared at the thing and then put it back on. I really felt stupid now. We went on an adventure and did nothing but get lost. I knew I would get in trouble, too. I figured it would be corn again.
Then Catman Nash clapped his hands and turned his horse around. His voice still bothered me. Lets hurry up and get these kids back. Id hate to miss any more of the party weve been preparing for all day!
Back at my house there was a ton of people. A skinny man who was pretty young seemed to be in charge of the people there. He had boring brown hair and looked very normal. A blonde woman with long hair hung onto his arm. She laughed a lot and she was pretty. They were keeping everyone entertained, I guess.
The creepy man who scared us in the woods was there, and so was Landis. They stood near the fireplace for most of the night. Jael and I made sure to avoid both of them, mostly because my friend didnt want to get sniffed again and the Zombie man still looked scary. But Lady Ardeth spent a good amount of time talking to both of them and kept trying to bring us over there.
The strange people had moved all the furniture around and brought in lots of extra chairs and benches. There were so many people I clung to my uncles leg. He told me not to be afraid that these were all of our allies. I only recognized Holiness. He sat at the table and looked bored, so my uncle went and talked to him. The two of them started to play with money and dice. It was really fun to watch, and they let Jael and I roll for them a few times until Lord Salome came over and took us away. He gave Uncle Borus a really mean look, but didnt say anything.
Then the food came out. There was so much food and so many people, elves, dog-men and even two lizards. I wasnt sure of them at first, but they seemed very nice, and their voices were really raspy. Father seemed especially happy to see them. He walked over to them and introduced me.
Chief Dupa, Warrior Shiba, this is my son, Ryan.
The two lizards nodded to me. I just smiled at them.
Father said in a really formal voice, Im honored that you are here. I realize our races may not always see eye to eye, but I thank you for making the long journey to my home.
The pleasure was ours, the lizard with a crown of purple feathers said. Any chance to meet a fellow warrior off the battlefield is a moment to be cherished.
They talked a few more minutes, but I walked away. Father made sure they were comfortable the entire night, though. He even brought a bench without a back on it from the yard. I guess the backs are hard to use when you have a tail.
Jael walked up next to me. He had his medallion back on, and he said, Isnt this amazing?
All of these people helped our parents in the war.
I know that. I really didnt, but he didnt have to know that.
Its amazing the variety of people there are.
Yes, a voice from behind us said. It is.
I turned around and saw a boy with skin like Jaels. He had blond hair with black tips and he was dressed in a simple traveling outfit. He smiled at us.
Who are you?
The boy said, No one important.
Jael asked, Are you a Karayan?
He thought for a moment. Not tonight. Tonight Im just Hugo.
Huh? I asked.
Someday, youll understand, he said as he walked over to my mother. He gave her a hug and they talked for awhile.
The whole night was like that. People just coming into the house and talking and eating, but most of them ignored me. My parents looked very happy, even as it got to be late. When everyone finally left, Jael and I went to bed. I didnt have to make such a big fort because the girls werent there, but I did my best to make a great fort because Jael would be leaving in the morning. I didnt want my friend to go, but I knew he had to. We were so exhausted we just fell asleep, even though I wanted to talk to him. I wanted to make a pact. But that would have to wait until morning.