Glass no Kamen: The Legend of Shadow Chapter 2

Kindred Spirits

By Nihon Soba

     There comes a time in one’s life when they meet a kindred spirit. This person and the other may not be exactly equal... in fact, they might in some aspects not be the same at all! However, there is always a strong bond between them, a bond of trust and understanding. They sympathize with each other, and usually end up being friends for life. Nothing in the world can break that bond.

     More strong is this bond if both of the people are outcasts, despised by others and loved by few, if any. They can end up relying on each other for comfort and for support, a sort of symbiotic relationship that can, sadly, be the cause of their downfall if they cannot learn to find peace within both of themselves. Even more traumatizing is if one of the friends happens to meet a tragic end, by betrayal or otherwise. It is said that the friend left behind will never be the same, will never feel the way they did again...

     A group of children were in a group in the grassy, tree-filled park of Doma’s town. Back in the days before the War, the war that split Doma in two, the war that laid waste to the lovely town and left Doma’s castle the only area of its glorious past remaining from the once great kingdom... Doma was a mighty and benevolent kingdom, one of a castle surrounded by a great walled city, a constitutional monarchy ruled by a council, and not a king. Doma’s city stretched out like a large wheel, protected by the walls and by the elite guards that protected the city from invasion. In the center, the heart of the city, was the castle in all of its glory. Surrounding the castle was a large park, filled with lush grass and cherry blossom trees that bloomed only once a year, the beautiful pink blossoms filling the air around the castle, giving a sense of peace and tranquillity. Sakura, they were called in the lands to the east. Yes, Doma was one of the centers of civilization and benevolence in the days gone by, before the dark ages... before the War... and before the Empire...

     But I speak of ages long since gone. We cannot bring back the past, we can only learn from it and hope not to repeat the previous mistakes. Where was I? Ah yes, the children...

     “Hey, Clyde!” yelled one of the kids. “Coming your way...!” there was a loud thump of a leather ball being kicked, and the ball sailed through the air. Its destination was a tall, gangly youth for his age, one who stood out in the group of children. The boy, though scrawny and long-fingered, was suprisingly agile and strong. Eight years of age, he seemed more like ten. Thus, he was teased about his size and frame; friendly teasings, they seemed, but he knew better.

     Clyde Delano, though agile, was not agile enough to dodge the incoming ball. He only realized that it was coming for him when it was too late. The leather ball smacked him in the shoulder, causing him to lose his balance and fall to the ground. There were several good-natured laughs, particularly from the person who hit him with the ball. Clyde got up and dusted himself off, grinning boorishly for the benefit of the audience.

     “Sorry about that,” the kid who kicked the ball apologized, chuckling. “Couldn’t be helped!”

     Clyde said nothing, only smirked. He did not talk much. Besides being tall and gangly, his skin was a tanner, bronzed color than most of the other fair-skinned girls and boys. His cheekbones were prominent, as if he was malnourished, and he had delicate, feminine features. His eyes were almond shaped, reminiscent of the people that lived in the East (or so he’d been told), and were a deep brown color. His hair was jet black, and combed back from his head, with a stubborn strand or two falling before his face.

     Clyde was shy, talking little to most people, indicating most of his words with gestures. When he spoke, it was a soft, whispering voice that disturbed even himself. Often the other had asked him why he looked different. The truth was, he did not know. He had asked his mother why, but she would always avert her gaze and change the subject. Thus, he preferred not to answer any of the kids’ probing questions.

     SMACK! The ball sailed by and hit a tree next to Clyde, shaking cherry blossoms and bark on the ground, jolting him back to reality. He gave a look of annoyance in the general direction of the person who kicked it, the same person who had hit him in the shoulder with it. The other boy simply shrugged his shoulders and feigned ignorance. Clyde said nothing, getting up to walk around elsewhere. The other children huddled in a circle, discussing the events, unheard to Clyde.

     “Did ya see that? If only you aimed for his head!”

     “Yeah! What an imbecile! He’s too stupid to figure it out.”

     “Who cares? Ignorance is bliss, so they say, and as long as he doesn’t know, we can keep it up!”

     Clyde did not hear the children’s’ biting remarks, but one other person did. He stood by a cherry tree, looking in the general direction of the kids, curling his lip in a sneer. Why does he bother to be around them? the man thought. Can’t he understand what they are insinuating?

     Marcello Vinci Garamonde folded his arms, his brows a dark line of anger. He was not wearing his armor today, as it was his break from the duties of knighthood. He wore a simple outfit that was “not becoming” of his status, but he did not care what other people thought. The long, curved blade of his family’s making (from the far East) hung by his hip in a scabbard, enough to distinguish his status without the armor.

     Tristan was preoccupied at the moment with guard duty, and he had asked his friend Marcello to look after Clyde. His friend agreed, feeling obliged as Tristan did to look after young Clyde. The boy had been begotten by violence, and it was up to Marcello and Tristan to make sure that Clyde’s life did not become one of violence. Right now, the boy was walking out of the park, hands in his pockets, his brow furrowed in thought. Marcello took the opportunity to speak to the boy, walking from his resting place under the cherry tree.

     “Clyde! How hath it fare for you this day?” he said, clapping the child on the back when he came near enough. Clyde looked up at him, and gave a smirk.

     “Fine.” came the soft, grating voice.

     Simple, short. Clyde seemed only to speak in ways described by those two words.

     “Er, shall we be off?” came Marcello’s confused voice. Clyde simply nodded wordlessly, trailing behind the big man as they walked away from the park. The boy was silent and secluded, and it seemed that the only reason that he had been around the other children was because he had to (which was the truth, as Marcello would find out; indeed, it was Lord Mendoza, the boy’s unwilling grandfather, who sent him to the park everyday).

     “My boy--”

     “I am not your boy.” said Clyde with a deadly calm. Marcello swallowed the rest of his words, to the effect that he nearly choked on them. Coughing, he patted the boy on the shoulder.

     “I am sorry, young one.” said Marcello after he was able to regain his composure. “I... you remind me of my baby brother. His name is Cyan. Hast thou met him yet?”

     Clyde shook his head.

     The knight sighed. “Well, I suppose that we’d better get you back home. Thy mother shall surely be waiting for you.” he walked briskly, making sure Clyde was with him, away from the park.

     “I’m sorry, Uncle Marcy.” Clyde said, using the nickname for his big brother’s friend. “I just don’t feel good today.”

     Is there any time when you do feel good, thought Marcello. When you aren’t so downcast, when you aren’t thinking so much? When you will find a person who will accept you for who you are...?

     “’Tis not a problem,” said the knight with a somewhat cheerful voice. “I shall escort you home now to thy mother.”

     At the mention of his mother, Clyde’s usually somber expression lifted, revealing the child within. His mood brightened, and he was able to carry out a relatively normal conversation with Uncle “Marcy” about certain topics.

     “Yes lad, I believe that soon you will receive training in the use of weaponry.” Marcello answered the boy’s previous question. “But you must be patient. Thy time shall soon come. Shall you learn the Art of the Sword?”

     Clyde’s nose wrinkled. “I don’t like swords,” he said. “Just the regular ones. I still like the way yours is shaped.” he added hastily, but with meaning. “I think the shape of it makes it more efficient.”

     “Do you, lad? I am glad for that.”

     Clyde continued on, at peace with himself and willing to share his feelings. “I like it a lot, but I think I’d like it even more if it were shorter. Yes, I know that a sword is supposed to have a long blade, but I’d feel more comfortable if I could have something that I could... conceal, I guess. Something that I could use in self-defense, to be hidden from my enemies.”

     Marcello raised am eyebrow. “Like a dagger?”

     The boy smiled, a rare thing for him. “Yes, something like that.”

     Marcello, to himself, shook his head. Daggers were, as the boy had said, used for self-defense, and also as a last resort. But they were frowned upon as a weapon of choice. They had a bad reputation as the weapon of choice for thieves and footpads. Like Clyde said, they could be hidden, but the knights of Doma viewed this as cowardly. The boy didn’t seem to mind or care about the weapon’s reputation, however.

     “Must be inherited from his mother,” Marcello said softly under his breath. Leyla had been known to prefer the dagger or dirk as well.

     “What did you say?”

     Marcello’s face flushed. He had forgotten the boy’s exceptional hearing abilities.

     “Er, I said.. Ah! Here is thy mother!” the knight managed to squeeze in, seeing Leyla Teresa Delano at the front of family estate, waiting for her son.

     “Mom!” Clyde shouted, and ran toward the only parent that he knew, that he loved. Leyla apparently saw or heard him coming, for she ran to him as well, with a slight limp in her leg, a limp she would not answer to how she had acquired, to her son.

     “Mother...” Clyde said, in his mother’s embrace. Leyla had to kneel down to hug her son, but it was clear that he was almost her size, and soon he would be the one bending down to embrace her. Leyla, a young mother for her age (she was eighteen years old when she gave birth), smoothed her sons hair and said his name as well.

     “Where have you been, child?” she asked kindly.

     Clyde smiled. “Oh, I was at the park again, but Uncle Marcy bailed me out.” he motioned a few meters away toward Marcello Garamonde, who waved and smiled and recieved both in return from Leyla.

     “The other children, did they... talk about you, again?” Leyla said this with some reluctance, her beautiful face serious.

     Clyde Delano shrugged, dismissed all the previous insults with the shrug. “Oh, of course they did. But they’re ignorant. I do not care what they think.”

     Leyla smiled, held her son close, happy that he was able to handle what she thought he would not be able to. But despite this, she could still tell that her son was sad. Why? Clyde said--and Leyla knew that he was telling the truth--that the other children did not bother him. Yet something was gnawing at him... and at her. She should be glad that her son can handle himself, but she grew worried over what looked like arrogance beginning to mask him...

     “My lady, I shall be off to fetch thy brother. I believe that he is finished with his duty and would be pleased to see Clyde, as well as you. Fare thee well!” Marcello, not wanting to be any more of an interruption in mother and son’s affections, bowed low and turned around, walking away in the direction of the Knight’s Barracks.

     Clyde chuckled. “Isn’t Marcy so old fashioned?”

     His mother nodded, but she was secretly glad that she had two people to depend on raising her son rightly.

     “Big brother’s coming soon, son.” Leyla said, kissing the boy’s forehead. “Why don’t you go inside and wash up?”

     “’Kay” came the reply, and the boy ran inside of the house to wash his face, grimy as was most all children’s’ faces. Finding a communal water bucket in a waiting room for guests, Clyde doused his face and hands with the cold water, wiping himself with a towel than hung nearby as well. Dried and refreshed, he was going to run back to see his older brother when he stopped dead in his tracks.

     Lord Mendoza Delano was standing in the entrance to the waiting room.

     “Child! Back so early from your play at the park, I suppose?” said Clyde’s surrogate grandfather in a soft voice. The boy could not help but to detect a note of dread in that voice, however. Mendoza Delano walked with a cane, due to an accident from his drinking days, which had come to an abrupt--if not pleasant--end after Leyla’s son was a year or two old. Since then, he had to walk with a cane. He would not admit this even to himself, but Mendoza knew that it was Leyla that had caused his accident. He was administering a beating to his son, Tristan, even though the man was a foot taller than his father. Leyla had heard the drunken ramblings quite well while she was nursing her son:

     “Father, stop! I have done nothing! What’s done is done, and Leyla is back to good health. I look over her and young Clyde all the time now--”

     A smack of a hand upon flesh. Tristan shut himself up, a purple welt upon his face, his jaw set, not daring to attack his father.

     “I’ll bet you do, you ninny,” came the liquor-muddled voice of Mendoza. “You are a disgrace.” his voice raised a notch. “Goddamned pup. I’ll make you take your medicine. Every last drop. Now, by the gods!”

     The sound of a baby crying. Mendoza’s ears pricked, his squinting eyes narrowed. His platinum hair, once finely kept, was now a mess, as was the lord himself.

     “That boy,” Mendoza said softly. “that boy is even more of a disgrace than you. A bastard child with no honor, bestowed wrongly upon my daughter because of the whims of some brigand scum! I shall put an end to that, then I will come back to you, Tristan...” with his hunched gait, Tristan’s father hobbled to the room where Leyla was. Luckily, Leyla’s twin brother had, after hearing his father’s shocking remark, rushed after him. But it seemed that he didn’t need to help his twin sister, after all.

     “Leyla! What the devil are you doing? This is for your own good! Stop--” the man was interrupted, and there was a thunking sound, followed by a cry of pain. When Tristan arrived, he saw Mendoza on the floor, clutching his leg, a gash on his forehead. Leyla stood protectively in front of the baby’s cot, an iron poker from the fireplace in her hands. Tristan, for the first time in his life, ignored his cursing father and rushed to his sister.

     “Leyla! Oh gods,” he nearly wept. “I’m so sorry... I should have been there...”

     Tristan’s twin sister hugged him, her tears flowing down her lovely face into his black hair, dyed black, involuntarily hiding an aspect of the twins’ similarity.

     “No, it is all right, brother,” said Leyla, still with her arms around Tristan, one hand still fiercely clutching the poker. “I was able to defend myself. It is not your fault.” she released herself from the embrace, stared down at the blubbering person who was her father on the floor with a gaze of such malevolence and hatred that Tristan, who thought that he knew almost everything about his twin, stopped to consider that he didn’t know even half of what tempest raged within Leyla.

     “That was inexcusable,” Tristan found himself saying. “I understand it now, sister. He nearly killed young Clyde there.” he looked at the child with a sympathetic gaze, the baby staring back at him with wide-eyed wonder, not knowing the dreadful event that just took place. “I will not let my father ever overstep his boundaries again.”

     Leyla was silent for a moment, then tears of joy, not sadness, wet her eyes once again.

     “Tristan, thank you!” she said in a soft voice. “You finally did it, finally broke free from.. from him.” she did not bother to even give the man who was her father the slightest respect with his name. Tristan smiled, though it seemed that he had just passed through a terrifying ordeal in which he emerged triumphant, but battle-scarred.

     “Urgh,” came Mendoza’s somewhat sobered voice. “Leyla, you hurt me...”

     She didn’t even spare her father a look. “Good. You deserved it.”

     Mendoza shook his head. “No, Leyla my dear, you were just not well at the moment. I forgive you. But my son,” he said with a deadly edge to his voice, looking at Tristan. “my prodigal, ungrateful bastard son, I will make him take his medicine. Boy has to obey his father, has to have respect. Bastard whelp. Not now, but soon, oh so soon, he said, and in his thoughts, he added “you and that illegitimate grandson of mine...” with a grunt, Mendoza got up and limped back to his quarters.

     That had been seven years ago, when Clyde was but a babe. Since then, Mendoza had stopped his ramblings. He stopped the drinking, too, but whether that boded good or ill was yet to be seen. Because of the accident, he had to walk with a cane. Leyla always made sure she, her brother, and her son were always out of the way of the cane’s reach. However, Mendoza had not said anything of the incident. It was as if it never happened. He greeted both his son and daughter with smiles, which caused Leyla to wonder if she had been a little too harsh with him. He cleaned himself and retained his reputable air. Mendoza, to those around him, had changed.

     Except to Clyde.

     “Back early?” said Mendoza, looking at young Clyde with interest. “Ah well. One must come home sooner or later, I suppose.” said the boy’s surrogate grandfather. “Be off, grandson. Your older brother approaches.” with a tap of his cane, Mendoza left as mysteriously as he had just appeared there.

     Clyde was perplexed. His grandpa acted nice to him all the time, but he could feel... something within the man, something that any astute observer would notice. The cold expressions, the unwarm smiles, the subliminal messages pouring out with every word.

     Shaking his head full of thoughts, Clyde dispelled them and rushed out to meet his big brother.

* * * * *

     Doma, thought an old fashioned city, was active and alive at night. Shops were opened until the late hours, and even past then there were taverns open, and past then the inns were always open, and even past those there were the brothels and gambling houses. Even places like Doma contained the reek of corruption in them, if only in a small area. Nowhere escapes it.

     Clyde walked along, generally in good spirits but at the moment brooding over something. Tristan, who was accompanying his little brother, was confused over this. It seemed that no one, not even Leyla, fully understood the troubled boy.

     Catching Tristan’s worried glance, Clyde dispelled the thoughts to another region of his mind and gave his big brother a smile. Tristan, his anxiety curbed, decided to spark up some conversation.

     “Is there anywhere I can take you, Clyde?”

     The raven-haired boy paused in thought, but not the thought that Tristan was thinking of. Clyde’s almond shaped eyes darted from left to right. Though it pained him to think so, he was looking for a place to--kindly--dump his brother off. Clyde wanted to look at a certain smithy’s shop, one that specialized in daggers and shorter weapons.

     “Certainly, brother. Ah, look!” he cried, pointing. “There’s a restaurant. Could you reserve a table for us, big brother?” he asked meekly. Tristan nodded good naturedly, said that he would. He told Clyde, in a solemn voice, to stay put and wait for him. Clyde naturally obliged, and watched as his brother, dressed casually with his sword at his hip, walk across the cobblestone road and into a restaurant that was so conveniently placed there.

     The boy, not without a pang of regret, walked briskly away from the spot where he was supposed to wait for his brother, walking down the lively streets of Doma.

     Doma’s streets ran in between the bustling shops that lined the sidewalks. Knights off duty could be seen, at ease but still solemn as ever, the only marker of their status being the swords at their hips or on their backs, as well as a family crest on their tunic. Families. Yes, that was another important part of the Doma of old, before it was split in two. The terrible days... family houses formed two separate groups, not obeying any authority, not even the council. It was their feud, brought on by a seemingly insignificant argument, that sparked the War. The War that killed off most of Doma’s population, the first time ever in the city’s history that they used modern weaponry. But that is not to come until much, much later. Now, let us take a look back at the boy who was once named Clyde Delano...

     The shops soon gave way to taverns, which gave away to low quality taverns, giving away to areas of less modesty. Down the “food chain” of Doman society. Clyde passed areas where drunks spent their days away, places where people gambled away their money and their lives (Clyde still could not understand the concept of gambling), and places where beautiful (and ugly), barely-clothed women regarded the child with bemused looks (none the most bemused as Clyde, who couldn’t figure out for the life of him why these women stood outside in the cold wearing next to nothing).

     The shop shouldn’t be much farther, thought Clyde. He knew, from discreet inquiries with weapon merchants, that a store known as The Dirk (Oh, how original, the boy thought) was located in this area. The Dirk was the only store in Doma that specialized solely in shorter weapons. Daggers and such did not have a well reputation in Doma, seen as the brand of choice for thieves and other scum. Clyde, though, had no such limitations and openly expressed his like for shorter weapons. Why have a longer ranged sword, he thought, when you can simply throw a knife, and use a shorter, more sturdier weapon than a flimsy sword to engage the enemy at close range? Poor Marcello Garamonde had nearly choked at the comment, and gave young Clyde a long, boring speech about honor and something that amounted to “not stabbing your enemies in the back.”

     “But I never said anything of the sort,” Clyde would say, clearly amused at Marcello’s reaction. “I simply see the logic in the use of a dagger.”

     “As a last resort, yes,” said Marcello solemnly, “But not as thy weapon. It simply... it isn’t... well, empowering enough. It is like saluting thine enemy, who is armed with a great battle-axe, with a meat cleaver. It just doesn’t work!”

     Clyde smiled inwardly to himself as he had openly then. Marcello, with his ancient, anachronistic ways, was a means of amusement to the troubled boy. He thought of this as he came upon his destination, The Dirk, wedged between a tavern and some other building that Clyde did not care to find out the identity of. The Dirk was still open, of course, and light from candles as well as from the light reflecting off of the metal weapons of the store’s namesake shone out into the street, inviting.

     A silver bell by the door jingled merrily as Clyde pushed open the double doors of the store and made his way inside. The Dirk was not a sinister-looking store like most people thought of it as. In fact, it looked about as sinister as the local swordsmith’s, when Clyde thought about it. The floor was hard packed dirt, presumably because the store was not a major franchise and could not afford tiled floors. Candles and oil lamps hung on the walls or on display cases to light up the area at night. The display cases themselves were, strangely enough due to the reputation of the store, impressive, wrought of wood with steel frames, with finely-blown glass panels placed in to allow a good view of the merchandise without having anyone reach out and grab it. Along the back wall as well there were impressive pieces of handiwork that hung on wooden pegs driven into the wall, which was made of hardened clay. All in all, a well-to-do, not very strange store.

     Clyde had all of this go through his mind in less than a second, and decided to take a look around until he heard a booming voice and came across the strangest part of the entire store: the store owner himself.

     “Well, decided to jander in here, didn’t we lad? What be a young laddie like you doing here at this time of night?”

     The store owner was a short man, about Clyde’s height, but with girth to make up for the loss of height. Clyde had heard about the man from the people he asked about the shop, that he was a short man. Various other bits of information had been thrown in as well; he was a man who could hold his liquor well, he was an outsider not from Doma, and probably the most strangest, that the man was not a man, but a dwarf (or a descendant of the dwarves). Rumor had it that whenever that aspect of his life was brought up, the shopkeeper shrugged it off immediately, and pretended not to hear the people when they pressed him for information about that. Indeed, the man looked very much like a dwarf from children’s and bard tales of old. Short, rotund but strong, even with the long beard. But (presumably) that was all that they were, simply children’s and bard tales.

     The shopkeeper not being like anyone he had seen before, Clyde was momentarily speechless. It was not until the man asked the question again that Clyde came to his senses.

     “I said what be a lad like you doing here at a time like this?”

     The boy spoke in a voice that, he hoped, was not one of a sniveling child. “I had come to take a look at your wares, sir. I have heard from various sources that you craft fine short weapons, and I am interested in purchasing one.”

     The shopkeeper laughed heartily. “Well, your sources are correct, lad. I make the finest daggers you can come across from here to Jidoor.” he said in a deep, thickly accented voice that Clyde could not recognize. “But you look like a well-to-do young boy. What would a person like you be doing here, and at this time of night?”

     Clyde kept his jaw firm, kept himself from lashing out with a rude remark. “That is none of your business, sir.”

     The shopkeeper leaned himself over the display cases as well as he could. “Listen, laddie. Though you don’t have to tell me the rest, I like to know who I conduct business with.”

     “And I like to know who is conducting business with me, as well.” came the reply.

     The dwarf-like man (or man-like dwarf) grunted, in approval or disapproval, then shrugged his shoulders.

     “Very well. My name is Denkhrzahn, but you may call me Denkh, if you wish. Easier to remember, for most people. What is your name, lad?”

     The boy leaned against a display case that was conveniently his height. “My name is Clyde.”

     “Aye, but I’ll need a family name to go along with it.”

     Biting his lip, after a moment of inner struggle Clyde managed to spit out his family surname.

     Denkhrzahn raised a thick eyebrow. “Ah, Delano? Heard of your family, of course. Especially about the poor lass who bore a child.” he said, wiping away a tear that seemed to spontaneously roll down his face. “But, thank Woden, she’s all right now.”

     Touched by the dwarf’s kindness, Clyde seemed more open. “I am the son of Leyla, whom you speak of.” The man/dwarf seemed not too suprised by that.

     “Aye, lad? I’m not suprised! Young Leyla used to frequent this place more than often, and she was damn good with a dagger.” he said, nodding to himself with a solemn face. “Ah well. ‘talent be inherited’, as my people used to say.” (That remark causing Clyde to think twice about dwarves being bard tales).

     Clyde was very suprised by that. “You knew my mother?”

     “Aye, lad. A noble woman with a courageous heart. And I don’t mean noble in the sense of the uppity bastards that refer to themselves by that term. Yes, she was good person. I’m sorry to hear what happened to her.”

     Denhkrzahn’s comment, though not intended as mean, caused Clyde to flush in embarrassment. He had heard what had happened to his mother, and though he was not too clear on what it meant, he knew that it somehow had something to do with him. Denkhrzahn, seeing the boy’s reaction and knowing well that Clyde was the result in what happened to Leyla, offered an apology.

     “I’m sorry, laddie. Didn’t mean to tread upon such ground. Take a look around, see what you like.”

     Which was exactly what Clyde decided to do, except at regular intervals he could sense the shopkeeper’s eyes upon him whenever the man thought he wasn’t looking. Not being able to concentrate, Clyde finally looked up in exasperation, about to say something, when he noticed something as interesting as the dwarf/man himself. Denkhrzahn had his arms folded across his massive chest, but that did not hide that strange symbol upon the leather apron that he wore. Nor did it conceal at all the same symbol tattooed with vivid clarity upon his arm. The symbol was the image of a spear, a magnificent work of weaponry crafted entirely of shining metal, surrounded by a red circle. So strange and captivating was the symbol that Clyde could not help but to inquire about it.

     “Oh, this?” replied Denkhrzahn, spreading his arms wide to reveal the symbol upon his apron. “Ah. Listen well, lad, and you will learn something. This symbol is of the ancient faith me and my kin follow. It is of our god, Woden.”

     Clyde was immediately interested. “Woden? I haven’t ever heard of him, but I believe you had mentioned his name earlier.”

     “Aye, lad. Woden, or Odin as he is known to your people,” the reference to ‘your people’ making Clyde seriously consider the possibility of Denkhrzahn actually being a dwarf. “is our god, the god who created us specifically, who guides us from beyond and has been known to take avatar form as one of us. Even though he has not been frequently seen since the War of the Magi, we still believe in him.”

     Clyde was as attentive as an apprentice learning the tricks of the trade from his master. “Odin? Yes, I believe that I had heard of him.” he had, in fact, heard of Odin, often referred to as a god, but also by another term, one that Clyde could not remember... something that sound like ‘Jester’. Whatever the word was, he could not find meaning for it. At the moment, Clyde wished that he had payed more attention to his lessons given to him by his older brother. He had, however, heard of the War of the Magi. The war that took place millennia ago, and had set mankind back a thousand years in development. A time when magic and technology were rampant, had fused together to form an ultimate power. Now, it seemed that neither were rampant anymore, especially magic. That was itself a legend now, more unbelievable than the tales of sentient machines and incredible war technology there was back then. That aspect of history fascinated young Clyde, who constantly pressed his older brother to tell him more tales of that age, which Tristan, who was not an expert in the subject, simply could not. He had heard that this Odin and many others of stranger names and forms involved in the War of the Magi, but that was all that he knew on the subject.

     “Yes, lad,” came Denkhrzahn’s booming voice. “but Odin is his impure name. Woden is the way you are supposed to pronounce it. Woden, the Great One, wielder of Gungnir.”

     “Gungnir?” came the confused response.

     Denkhrzahn nodded. “Yes, Gungnir! The mighty spear that Woden carried, the one he crafted with his bare hands. Shaft and blades of solid mithril, must’ve weighed a ton. But great Woden carried it as if it were but a twig of those cherry trees you see in the park. A truly magnificent weapon,” the dwarf/man sighed, “It could cut through anything. When thrown, it never, and I mean never, missed its mark. Gungnir...” Denkhrzahn said dreamily, staring into nothing. He was awakened by Clyde clearing his throat.

     “I assume that this ‘Gungnir’ is the spear in the symbol you wear?”

     Denkhrzahn snorted, flustered. “Of course, lad! Anyone with the brains of an imp could figure that out!” he thumped upon the symbol on his chest with pride. “I could tell you the entire tale of Woden, how he came across Gungnir, of his eight-legged horse, Slepnir, of the two crows that are his faithful servants...” taking a look at a water-clock on the wall, the shopkeeper nodded to himself. “But I won’t bother taking up your time. It’s getting late, laddie. I suppose you’d better make up your mind about finding a knife.”

     Clyde, who had been extremely interested in the story of Woden, was disappointed to hear the man end it. He supposed that he better find a dirk or dagger, anyway. But Clyde need not have looked very much. On the back wall, hanging on a wooden peg, was a long, ornamented dagger, one of the most beautiful pieces of work Clyde had ever seen. It was larger and longer than most of its kind by at least a few inches, the blade curved in a sensuous way, resembling a fang or a claw. Embroidered on the maroon leather than covered the hilt was a dragon, breathtaking in all its splendor, even if it was just an image. The blade of the dagger held the same image, as well. The fingerguard resembled more of a claw than did the blade, and was just as sharp on the side opposite of the finger. Clyde could not help but to stare at it, wide-eyed in wonder, like a child. A chuckle from the shopkeeper brought his face back to the mask that he kept it in before.

     “I see you’ve been admiring my handiwork, lad.” said Denkhrzahn. “Yes, that is a beautiful blade, one I made especially by myself, with no help from others. At least no help in the crafting of it. For what you see is a blade of wyrm origin, that I have dubbed Dragon Fang. The reason? Lad, this blade is forged of no earthly metal, but of the actual fang of a metallic dragon.”

     Clyde was awed beyond imagining. “A real dragon fang?”

     “Yes! See how the metal has a strange bluish tint to it? This is common to mithril, of course, but mithril is more of a grayish-blue, while this is a bluish-white. It is what we mortals call Dragonsilver, a very, very rare element. A metal not of the earth, but of the most magnificent beings to ever inhabit this world, dragons.” he sighed, wiping away another spontaneous tear. Clyde simply listened, entranced.

     “Dragonsilver is so rare because it is a product of the dragon’s body itself. In a whole, adult dragon about seventy feet long and almost as large as Doma castle, you could only harness about little more than a pound of Dragonsilver. Now, if one happens to find a metallic dragon, whose numbers are almost as few as the amount of the precious material within the dragons, one could find an abundance of Dragonsilver. Luckily, great Woden and the other gods decided to make little of Dragonsilver and even less of the metallic dragons, in order to keep us from wiping ourselves our with greed and indestructible weapons. Still, we are able to create some things of the wondrous metal.”

     The boy had listened to every single word that Denkhrzahn had said, and they would remain in his memory forever.

     “I would give anything,” Clyde said. “almost anything for that wondrous weapon!”

     The dwarf/man nodded, smiling sadly. “Yes, I know. I almost gave my life crafting the weapon. Dragonsilver causes an immense longing for it in the hearts of mortals. Luckily, I have managed to gain an immunity to it after being around it for so many years. But I will not sell the Dragon Fang to anyone. It is meant to be given, not sold, for not price in the world could be put upon the metal that this dagger is forged of. I will give it to the person who is worthy of it, and who can master the weapon, and not let the weapon master themselves.” looking at the dagger, Denkhrzahn gave a tight lipped grin. “I await that day when the person worthy of Dragon Fang will claim it.”

     “Oh...” Clyde seemed to jolt back to reality from his visions of himself wielding Dragon Fang. “Perhaps it is better that way.”

     “Yes, laddie, it is.” the shopkeeper said. “But you’d better get going now. Streets aren’t safe for a young man to be roaming.” Clyde thanked whoever was out there for not letting him tell his true age to the shopkeeper, who would probably have a fit if he knew.

     “Would you like me to escort you to your house, lad?”

     Clyde thought of himself marching home in the company of the dwarf-like man (vise versa), and though he admired the shopkeeper, he would not let himself be walked home like a child.

     “No thank you, sir, I am able walk home myself.”

     The dwarf-like man chuckled, but with a concerned face. “Very well, son of Leyla. Go to your home where you will be safe. May Woden guide and protect you.” with a second thought, he added, “And you don’t need to call me ‘sir’. Call me Denkhrzahn, or Denkh if it is easier.”

     Clyde politely bowed to the man. “I will call you Denkhrzahn, your full name.”

     The dwarf bowed his head in respect. “Thank you, Clyde Delano. Now go, for it is very late.”

     The boy was making his way out of the shop when a nagging question, one that had been nagging him since he met the shopkeeper, made itself remembered.

     “Um, Denkhrzahn?” came the boy’s voice. “A-are you what the people call a dwarf?”

     There was a suprised, almost afraid look to the shopkeeper’s face, but it was replaced with a look of mirth.

     “Lad, people have asked me the same question, and I have given the same answer: What do you think?”

     Without an answer, Clyde made his way quickly out of The Dirk and back into the dark streets of Doma. From then on, Clyde knew this: he would not refer to Denkhrzahn as dwarf/man, or dwarf-like man, or even as a man. It would always be dwarf. And with that, Clyde walked down the streets to get to his house, where he would probably be scolded by Tristan for leaving his big brother alone, or worried over by Leyla, who loved her only son dearly. But it mattered him not.

     Unknown to the boy, the figures of two other people that were probably older children noted his departure from The Dirk, and silently followed him in the shadows.

* * * * *

     It was, as the dwarf had said, very late. When Clyde had gone out with his older brother, it was around mid evening. Now it was more close to midnight. The streets were lighted, but mostly empty, the people of Doma having gone to their beds or to take watch over the gates or the castle. Once or twice a lone guard would come up to ask why the devil a young boy was out at this time at night. Clyde would simply reply that he had just run an errand for House Delano, whom he was a member of, and was just returning now. The guards recognized the boy, and let him off, though not without asking if he would like them to accompany him, which Clyde refused. His pride was too strong for that.

     However, now Clyde began to have second thoughts about having an escort. The streets were silent and dark, and once or twice Clyde thought that he saw several shadows within the darkness following him, watching him, but he dismissed those as panicky thoughts. Still, the boy quickened his pace and kept making nervous glances behind him. So fast was he walking that he did not notice the person walking across the road until he had run into the figure, causing them both to fall to the ground.

     “Watch where you’re going,” said Clyde in his harsh, soft voice, not in the mood for politeness, especially at a time like this.

     The figure was of a male, an inch or so shorter than Clyde, wearing a grubby cloak and clothes that had seen better days. He lifted his head up, and Clyde could see the boy’s face. Remarkably, it was one almost like his own. Lighter skin, but with almond-shaped eyes as well that were green. Clyde could only make out those two features, which caused him to stare.

     “I might tell you the same thing,” said the person, in a strong voice, who was obviously a beggar from his looks. “And stop staring at me. It’s impolite.”

     Clyde was confused and angry. “Impolite? Why you...” something made him swallow the incoming remark he was about to say. Sighing, he said, “oh well, I have to get going anyway.” but as he was about to leave, the grubby boy’s hand grasped Clyde’s arm.

     “Spare a coin or two for the poor?” said the beggar, with a hint of sarcasm in his tone.

     Clyde had brought along some money that he had been given, money he had intended to use to by a fine dagger at the shop. But the sight of the Dragon Fang had filled him with such desire for the weapon that he did not buy anything at all. Feeling sudden sympathy for this poor person, Clyde dug out three silver coins from his pouch, which he dropped in the beggar’s open hands.

     “Thankee, friend. I am in your debt. Go now, and godspeed.” the beggar clutched the coins as if they were solid gold, and hobbled down the street.

     The moon had reached its zenith in the night sky, indicating that it was midnight. Clyde was now beginning to think that he shouldn’t have stopped by the dwarf’s shop and spent all the time there. But he had learned so much from that small experience that he told himself that it was worth walking home in the dead of night. Brushing aside a stubborn strand of black hair, Clyde started walking back to his home.

     He did not hear the two figures creeping upon him until it was too late.

     He felt a foot kick him in the back. Pain followed when Clyde hit the ground, and when another booted foot kicked him solidly in the stomach. He coughed and spat, frantically trying to turn around to get a glimpse of his attackers. Two boys, one elder and one younger, dressed in clothing that showed their high status, were standing over him.

     “Ah, so you’re Clyde,” said the elder, a short-haired boy. “I’ve hard much of ye from my little friend, here.” he pointed to the younger boy, who Clyde recognized as the boy who had hit him with a leather ball at the park earlier in the day.

     “Yeah, that’s him!” cried the younger one. “He tried to hurt me!”

     Hurt him? It was the other way around, Clyde thought, but telling them that would do now good. They would believe whatever they wanted to believe.

     “I did nothing of the sort,” hissed Clyde in his menacing tone. “You are obviously mistaken. Leave me in peace.”

     The elder boy laughed, an annoying sound. “Leave you in peace? Sure, I’ll do that after I get you back for trying to hurt my little friend, here!” with that, he grabbed Clyde by the collar of his shirt and cuffed him solidly across the face. Clyde tasted blood, felt his jaw throb in pain. He felt hatred, a great hatred, the first time in his life. He wanted to reach for the boy’s neck and tear his throat out and watch him die slowly. He wanted to crack the younger boy’s neck and watch his head dangle lifelessly on his shoulders, his sightless eyes staring in horror that would never end.

     Appalled by such thoughts, but secretly reveling in them as well, Clyde looked up at the older boy in anger and spat bloody phlegm in his face.

     The elder kid grimaced, wiping his face with the sleeve of his shirt. “Okay, you little shit, if that’s the way you want it, I’ll make sure you get what you want!” another punch to Clyde’s jaw. A kick to the chest, followed by a solid punch to the gut, caused Clyde to fall to the ground, coughing, whimpering against his will in pain.

     The elder boy laughed again, standing over Clyde’s form. He raised up his foot to stomp on the boy’s head...

     ...and a whistle of steel slicing through air soon became steel slicing through flesh. The elder boy looked, shocked, at the deep gash on his unprotected arm. Blood trickled out slowly, falling onto the street below. Another whistle of steel, and the next instant, a slender throwing knife was sticking out of the elder boy’s boot.

     Finally, the older boy cried out in pain, collapsing next to Clyde, blubbering as if he were a child himself. The younger boy who had tormented Clyde earlier looked at his older friend in horror, and ran down the street, crying, back to his own house probably.

     Looking in the direction where the knives were thrown, Clyde, in his blurred vision of pain, could make out a grubby, cloaked figure, the same one whom he had run into earlier. The beggar walked up to the blubbering older boy, and swiftly pulled the knife out of his boot, causing the tormentor to whimper in pain. He reached out with a dirty arm and picked up the young man, pushing him when he stood up.

     “Get out.”

     The older boy, in fear, ran down the street in the general direction that his little friend went, snuffling as he ran along. The beggar then knelt down to Clyde, lifted up his delicate chin with a strong hand.

     “Kid, kid, can you hear me?”

     Clyde nodded groggily, coughing and spitting out a loose tooth. He managed to squeeze out a few words of gratitude, which the beggar took with a quiet laugh.

     “No need to thank me. I told you I was in your debt, right? Plus I hate to see the weak impose themselves upon the weaker.” said the beggar, his face grim. The hood to his dirty cloak fell down, and Clyde could see a tangle of dirty blond hair fall across the beggar’s face, which he brushed away. The beggar looked about Clyde’s age, but had a more... mature look to his face, as if he had seen things that he was not supposed to have seen.

     “I thank you all the same,” Clyde spoke softly, sitting himself up. He looked again at the beggar strangely. “You called me kid. You aren’t much more than a kid yourself, I wager.”

     The beggar snorted. “Actually, I am ten years old. You look my age, but I can tell you are a little younger. How old are you?’

     Clyde gritted his teeth in anger, but remembered that this was the person who had saved him. “I am eight years of age, sir.”

     The beggar laughed out loud. “Eight? Damn, son, you look more like eleven!” seeing Clyde’s angry expression, the beggar calmed down, still chuckling softly. “I’m sorry, you just look a little older than you are. But that’s no problem. What the real problem is,” he said. “is that you can’t defend yourself. I mean, shit, look what that guy did to you! And he wasn’t much taller than you, either! Tell you what. I’m going to take you to your house. Free of charge.” he added with a smile. “Can’t have you roaming these streets at night. By the way, what’s your name?”

     “Clyde.” said the boy, not willing to impart his surname. “Share and share alike, our names. What is yours?”

     The beggar grinned from ear to ear. “You can call me Baram.”

     Clyde grunted, lifting himself up. “Very well. I accept your offer. I will let you accompany me home.”

     “Sure, kid.” said Baram, chuckling to himself. “You’re not a bastard like the rest o’ them, that much I can tell. How about I teach you to fight, to keep yourself from getting jumped again?”

     The idea was tempting to Clyde, even though he felt like a weakling from that comment.

     “I am in debt to you. Yes, I would like you to teach me to fight so that there may come a day that I can defend you instead.” he said, giving a half smile. “Thank you, Baram.”

     Baram clapped Clyde on the back, laughed, nodded his head. “Anytime, Clyde! Anytime! You’ll have to meet me around here tomorrow, but now I can give you the basics. You see, when one of those blokes comes running to you...”

     The two walked down the silent streets, looking our for each other. In that moment, a kinship was born. It would flower in the later days of Clyde’s life, when things got rough, and the two would become inseparable. Now, they were content to walk with each other in the night, fast friends.

     And so, the kindred spirits meet. Their lives will not be treating them well later on, but their friendship will pierce through that darkness, and keep them going in the roughest of times. When Clyde’s mother is gone, with her twin brother, and Marcello cannot help young Clyde, Baram would always be there for him, offering advice and comfort. The bond will never break. But should one of the two die under tragic circumstances, then the future of the other becomes bleak and filled with anger and hate, or even worse, emotionlessness... like an automaton. A pair of killing hands is all that he will be then...


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