Chapter 23: A tale from long ago

Chapter 23: A tale from long ago

A Chapter by Gosia

 

            The bright light of stars was reflecting in crystal clear waters of An Eachain, called by humans Eral River. The moons were barely visible as it was one night after the new moon. Aedain’s gaze lingered for a while on a red star which was making its way across the night sky, before he focused the the dancing flames of the campfire.

His thoughts occupied by what the woman betrayed him earlier. She claimed that the Dragonslayer’s spear was hidden in Dulgard.

Dulgard.

Once it was a mighty humans’ stronghold, which was an outpost for battling with the Laismarans. It stood tall, the slim towers were watching over the valleys. However, like its builders, it turned into a ruin quickly, now becoming a stack of stones. It was highly possible for the spear guardians to hide it there. Once it was a heavily guarded, impenetrable place. It never had been breached " a perfect place to store the greatest treasure of the humankind.

Aedain watched the flames dancing, the sparks flying high to the sky. He furrowed his brows, his fingers tracing the surface of the decorative sheaths of the twin blades " Sholais and Dorreach, the family heirloom, reforged countless times. They were fine blades, saw many battles, slain countless foes, but witnessed the greatest defeats as well. Aedain’s honorable ancestor Kaegan wielded them during the memorable battle at An Thalain; his grandfather fought many battles with humans, but never winning the decisive one. Aedain’s father never pointed the tip of the blade at a human " and that was what lost him. All those who were before him failed.

That was the reason Aedain was carrying them with himself " because those swords constantly reminded him of the defeat. They were silent testimony of weakness which Aedain intended to turn into his strength.

“Mhm…” The demon shifted his gaze from the fire to the source of the sound.

“No…” the little boy moaned, thrashing in his sleep.

He began sweating, the blonde locks glued to his wet cheeks. The eyeballs were moving rapidly under the lids as Eren was experiencing some terrifying dream. He clutched the fabric of the black cloak desperately, like a drowning people try to grab anything to save their lives. Then he gasped, sitting upright. He had the eyes wide-opened and was drawing a series of shallow panicked breaths. His heart was beating fast, as though it wanted to escape the ribcage.

Aedain watched the boy with a certain dose of interest. As he was always the one who took the first shift guarding the camp, he knew the sleeping habits of all his companions. Baltar was snoring loudly and the human woman was always sleeping well; she would not wake up even if an entire army marched into the camp.

However, it was different with the child who was the Guardian of the Key. The boy suffered from nightmares. During the first days of the journey the episodes were occurring every night, but they became less and less frequent; Aedain suspected that the woman’s presence must have had a soothing effect on the troubled boy.

Eren whimpered, covering his face with his little hands. The child muffled the panting, trying to contain the panic attack.

“You do need to be afraid of what appears in your dreams,” Aedain spoke suddenly, causing Eren to gasp and pull the covers made of the cloak up.

He stayed still for a longer while, cautiously eying the golden-eyed demon. When he saw, that Aedain wasn’t going to move and wasn’t threatening to harm him, he relaxed a little.

“They are scary and did terrible things to my family,” the boy said quietly, unsure whether replying Aedain was a good idea. “How could I not be afraid of them?”

“No matter how they are, I am far worse. If they want to get you, first they will have to get past me,” the demon retorted, confidence resounding in his voice.

Eren blinked. And then he smiled at Aedain, showing his appreciation for dispersing the fears of the night. The child dived back under covers, trying to fall asleep anew.

After minutes of shifting and rolling from side to side, he sat back up and looked around. Everyone was asleep apart from Aedain, who was observing the flames of the campfire.

“I can’t sleep,” Eren complained, feeling bold for speaking to the fearsome demon so casually.

Aedain lifted his eyes from the campfire.

“Then do not,” he said and returned to staring in the flames.

Eren bit his lower lip, considering something. After a short debate with himself, he gathered the cloak, he used to cover himself with, and marched towards Aedain. He sat next to the demon and wrapped himself in the warm fabric. The black-haired man was ignoring him for quite a while, enduring the persistent staring of the pair of honey-colored eyes. However, even Aedain gave in to Eren eventually.

“What do you want?” he snapped rudely, the tone of his voice dry and hostile.

Eren didn’t seem to be discouraged, as he stuck out his  feet from under the cloak and brought them closer to the fire.

“When I can’t fell asleep, May always tells me a story,” he said and looked at Aedain expectantly. The demon ignored him, but he took his silence rather for encouragement. “Do you know any stories?”

Aedain turned his head towards the little boy, who nestled himself by his side and made foolish requests. He glared at him; the innocent eyes stared back at him with some fear, but also hope. Even in a demonic heart there could be an ounce of pity for the boy. How despaired must she be to turn to Aedain, seeking comfort?

“I know many,” Aedain answered.

Eren’s eyes brightened.

“Really?” he seemed to be excited. “I like the stories with dragons the best!”

“Dragons?” Aedain repeated.

The little boy nodded.

“Yes, the ones, where brave people slay evil dragons,” he added.

Aedain’s gaze turned to glare.

“And I know only the ones where brave dragons slay evil humans.” He retorted, shattering Eren’s hopes for hearing a story about a dragon tonight.

The child stared at him with his eyes wide-opened, a hint of disappointment in them. Aedain looked back into the flames.

“I will tell you a tale of a kind king. Decades ago a king lived in a castle among the mountaintops. He was revered by his allies and feared by the enemies, for the king was the greatest warrior of his times. No one could best him in fight, no one could match his strength, his skill was the best in the whole Kal Laismarr. Despite all his power, the king had a gentle heart; he defended the weak, he never let the wicked sow the seed of injustice. He forged a truce between his people and the humans inhabiting the northern regions of Kal Laismarr, stopping the bloodshed between the two races. One day, he received a message, saying that one of his former allies, a man called Zhawn, rebelled against the king and began slaughtering innocent villagers, not sparing even children. Those people didn’t belong to his race, but he defended everyone, who was in a need of aid.”

Aedain paused. Eren trembled with excitement, listening to the tale. The demon glanced at him and continued.

“The king gathered his army, took his little son with him and said farewell to the queen, leaving to battle with Zhawn’s forces. The enemy was numerous, as many opposed to the king’s ways. However, the kinsmen of the attacked villagers offered to help and he accepted, glad to have gathered both races under one banner. The memorable battle began, the two armies clashed while the king battled Zhawn on a secluded mountaintop with his son as a witness of his fight. The duel was fierce, it lasted from the sunset till the sky began graying on the east. When wounded Zhawn lowered his guard for a split second, the king’s righteous rage hit him, burning his body till the blackened flesh began falling from the bone and Zhawn writhed in agony. Upon this moment, when the defeated enemy was on his knees, on the brink of death, the king said to him…” Aedain stopped speaking.

He lifted his gaze towards the stars, sadness creeping onto his usually stoic face.

“He said:  No one can escape the fate.”

Eren sighed.

“The king returned home to his queen and lived happily ever after, didn’t he?” he made sure.

Aedain smiled bitterly.

“When the dawn came and the first rays of rising sun something happened, something that the king did not take into account " once he returned to his victorious army, consisting of the joined forces of two kin, to celebrate the victory… He was stabbed in his back. Then another blows followed; the ones who murdered the king were not the followers of wicked Zhawn, but the people he thought to be friends, the very same ones, whose lives he saved many times. He was kind to them and yet they repaid him with betrayal. That is how the tale of the kind king ends.”

Eren hid his bare feet back under the covers, looking gloomy.

“It’s a sad story,” he said, laying down and curling into a ball. “I think, that I prefer May’s stories.”

For a while both of them were sitting in silence, when Eren decided to share his doubts with Aedain.

“You said that only the king, king’s son and bad Zhawn were on that mountain, when the king killed Zhawn,” he said slowly, as though he was solving a puzzle. He looked at Aedain with suspicion. “So how do you know, what exactly the king told Zhawn before he died?”

Aedain smiled bitterly.

“I witnessed it with my own eyes. I was there, when my father delivered a fatal blow to Zhawn. I was there when the humans stabbed him in his back.”

“You’re the king’s son,” Eren stated, surprised.

Aedain watched as the child slowly drifted off into the land of slumber.

“I know you were awake all the time, woman,” he said, his eyes never leaving the dancing flames.

 

 



© 2013 Gosia


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Okay, this one was really well done. I almost wish you put it in earlier, so after a couple of chapters of hating Aedain, you could have some mixed feelings about him.

I liked using the boys nightmares as a device to launch into the backstory, very clever. Plus it's really entertaining to have a scene between the scared little boy and the intimidating dragon where the dragon needs to learn to not be intimidating... it's kinda like "how is he gonna handle this?"

I especially love the "people slaying evil dragons" exchange. Throughout the whole book, I love what you've done with the whole dragon concept here, mixing it with colonization and indigenous peoples, but also exploring ideology and the process of demonization.

"You do need to be afraid of what appears in your dreams" I think you meant to say "don't"

Posted 10 Years Ago


Gosia

10 Years Ago

Do you think this part should be somewhere earlier in the story?
JR Darewood

10 Years Ago

yes, I think that would be a good idea.
Gosia

10 Years Ago

Hm... I'll definitely consider it. Thanks for advice.

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Added on October 1, 2013
Last Updated on October 1, 2013


Author

Gosia
Gosia

Poland



About
Hello, my name is unpronounceable for most of humankind, but fortunately it can be shortened to Gosia. I’m an university student in my twenties, about to face the real life very soon. I’ve.. more..

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