A Once Distant Memory Chapter 3
By Shaun Curran
We left at noon. The sun beat down and it was slow going. The gates out of Zeal had obviously not seen use for a while; they were rusty. The secondary gates were always used, since they weren't so hard to open. But they were damn near all the way to the other side of the kingdom!
Zeal floats magestically above the clouds, suspended by magic. I know that some day there will be a great war that sends it crashing down. When does not matter.
At noon we stopped for a breather. I was very tired, but Magus being Magus could probably have walked another seventy miles without stopping.
"Janus," Schala said, bringing my thoughts of having roasted Dalton to a halt," can you cast spells without the pendant?"
"Schala, you know better than that! Of course I can't!" Schala blushed and was silent. I had snapped at her. I felt guilty and alone. I apologized to Schala. It was soon after that when she began to cry.
"Schala, I didn't mean to snap at you," I said, softly, holding her. Her face was buried in her hands.
"I... I know, Janus. I know its not you who I'm crying about. I loved Kamus deeply."
"Kamus used you," I said, gently. Then Schala snapped at me.
"I know that, Janus! Every night I dreamed of him marrying me, and now he's gone in the wink of an eye! Janus, how do you think I'm supposed to feel?" I stood there, my mouth wide open. I did know Schala loved him, but I had no idea that deeply.
"Schala, I'm sorry. I... I don't know!" I sat down. "I could never love anyone. I doubt I ever can. I was told not to trust anyone because of the pain they could potentially cause me."
"Janus, you are right. Look at what happened to me." I rubbed her back gently.
"There, there: he really manipulated you. Please, Schala! Nothing hurts in the world more than seeing you crying." Schala hugged me without warning. Soon I felt her wet tears through my tunic.
"Janus. promise me something: whenever you don't trust someone I would like to love, please tell me!" I gripped her tightly and stared into her eyes.
Magus stood up.
"I know how hard this is for you, Schala; however we have to continue on." Magus frowned deeply. "We have to get that pendant back. Janus: can the pendant be of any use to him?"
"If he can figure out what it is, yes. He has to know what it is: he wouldn't have taken it if he didn't." Magus nodded as Schala dried her eyes with her sleeve.
"I'm ready to go," she said softly. I turned to Magus.
"Magus, you're going to have to carry her-"
"No!" Schala shouted in anger," I'm alright! Do not pamper me!" And with that, she began to walk on.
"Women," muttered Magus, loud enough for me to hear, but not for Schala," can't understand them."
"Women in general I don't want to understand," I replied," but Schala I do want to understand." Magus looked at me.
"As do I." We walked on.
Mirana stared at us in the face as we approached. I scanned the large village (town?) with deep amazement and wonder. It had been a while since I had come here; my father had been one of the first people from Zeal to travel through Mirana. I carefully searched for a river. Rivers are essential to every major town or city; without them, towns would not exist.
Zeal is another matter: it was built upon generation after generation of ancestorial families who chose to stay, gradually learning magic upon their way. Once Zeal had enough magicians and such who were aprentices, it isolated itself in the clouds to avoid being near the pesky 'humans' as we called them, since humans cannot, and do not, learn magic.
Nothing against humans: I, myself am of human descent, although my bloodline has been soiled with generation after generation of my kind mating with humans. Some would call us humans, but that we are not. Jarlins, we're called. As Jarlins, we're respected. As Jarlins, we're feared. And as Jarlins we live.
I had met humans before on several encounters: Kamus was human, I knew that, and I know for a fact that my father had several friends in Mirana. I did not mingle with many anyway; I didn't know the proper eqquite for a prince.
"Get out of my way, you measly little brat!" someone shouted as I bent down to tie my shoe. I looked up to see a particularly obese character, about six feet high. In the blink of an eye, he was there, and then he wasn't. I blinked. Magus had decked him.
The obese man got back up onto his feet, and rather than trying to grab Magus, he tried to grab me. I rushed in-between two buildings and turned around.
"Nya! Can't get me!" I shouted. The obese man stood there in the light.
"Get out here! Don't make me come in there and get you!" I couldn't help but laugh.
"Like to see you try!" The obese man was suddenly struck by a blow to his back. Magus had hit him, not with his fists, but with one of those cursed brass knuckles. He went down. Magus beckoned for me to come. I hopped over the obese man and we all tore down the street as fast as we could.
"Who was that?" I asked, finally.
"Damn. That was Hauser. A pedophile of sorts." I sighed. Young boys do go through a lot!
It must have been about an hour later when we walked into a bar. Magus wanted a drink, hell, I wanted anything that would wet my tounge. Schala was exhausted from looking in all sorts of places for a sword of some sort that would fit her thin size. She's not that strong, and half of the swords she picked up were for women three times her strength. The bar was nearly empty, with the exception of the bartender, and a young man at the bar. I stood next to him and watched in amazement and amusement as he took in drink after drink after drink. Boy, could he pack away!
"Say there," Magus asked," where do you put that stuff?" It was a friendly question, he hoped to get some conversation going. With a complete stranger, I don't know why, but we earned one of the most valuble allies on our side. But he didn't get my respect by turning around to me and vomiting all over my tunic. I fell, covered with slop. The young man collapsed to his knees and began to weep.
"They've taken her," he began to cry. Magus helped the man into a chair while I changed my tunic, throwing the old one into the fireplace.
"Who's taken who?"
"Dalton. He's taken Bunni."
"Dalton? How do you know him?"
"A while back, I shoed his horse. His horseshoes weren't good for heavy duty, though, and it threw the shoes. Now he's mad at me, and wants my job, my house, everything. So he goes and touches my soft spot. Bunni..." He trailed off. Magus looked at me as I began to clean myself up a little more.
"Janus, we've got to help him."
"He puked all over me! Disgusting! Don't you have any manners..er... what is your name?"
"Shikeo! Were you brought up in a barn or something?"
"Everyone was around here." Then it hit me. He's human! He wouldn't be like me!
"I'm sorry," I replied. Shikeo nodded and resumed weeping gently.
"Shikeo," said Magus," we will help you get Bunni back."
"We will?" I asked. Magus shot me a dirty look. "I.. I mean, we will!" Curse you Magus! You get me into these messes every time!
"Where does Dalton live?" I asked. Shikeo didn't hear me. His sword was clenched in his hand, and he looked like some kind of strong man with his tattered shirt. I thought we'd make a much better impression by looking decent, but then it occoured to me that this might be all he had.
Dalton's house, er, castle, was on the outskirts of Mirana. Why I didn't notice it before was beyond my comprehension. It seemed to be made of solid stone, and had a small moat running around it. A few crocodiles smiled at me, and I knew we'd have to settle for a safer alternative.
We decided to climb the wall. My backpack nearly fell twice, and I gulped at the warm welcome the crocs would give us if we happened to slip.
Magus grabbed my rope and hoisted me up, finally, and then Schala. Shikeo was the first one up; it must have been gut determination that brought him up to the top so quickly.
"This way." We followed Shikeo, without making a sound, down the spiral staircase that led to the ground floor.
"Where is everyone?" I asked, quietly. Shikeo turned and whacked my leg with the blunt edge of his sword and told me to be quiet. Moron.
It was evident after a few minutes of useless searching that the castle was indeed empty.
"The dungeon," Shikeo said. "She's there." Shikeo raced down the stairs to the dungeon.
"Bunni!" he called.
"Sh....Shikeo," a faint and failing voice called. Shikeo wasted no time racing over to the cell Bunni's voice was coming from and throwing the door open wide. I raced in and stared in horror. Even I am not this cruel.
Bunni had been in a white gown of sorts, but now it was soaked in blood. Shikeo rested her on his lap. Blood was still pouring from the sword wound in her belly. I knew, Shikeo knew, Schala knew, Magus knew, and even Bunni herself knew she was dying.
"Shikeo," Bunni said, her voice even more faint. "I... I love you. I always have. And I always will." Shikeo and Bunni's lips touched, and they entered a deep, passionate kiss. When Shikeo withdrew, Bunni's spirit had departed. Shikeo closed his girlfriend's eyes with his hand and stroked her cheek. Tears streamed down his own cheeks and then he let out a scream that pieced the deepest pits of my soul.
"WHY!" And as if to answer, my gaze shifted to the wall. Dalton's handwriting, with Bunni's blood. It had dried, but the message was still visible: "I WARNED YOU!"
We gave her a good, respectable burial that I think even my father would have been jealous. I grew more and more hateful of Dalton. How could he drag an innocent woman into the midst of all of someone else's troubles, and kill her?
"Shikeo," I said," normally I do not like newcomers when I am on a journey. However, this time I must change my mind. We, too, are on our way to destroy Dalton and his cruel ways. Will you help us?" Shikeo let his tears fall to the ground that had gathered around his chin before answering.
"I will help you."
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