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Chapter 3

Chapter 3

A Chapter by Johnzo
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Trede and Traz travel through the forest as we gain a glimpse at Trede's darkest thoughts. Cassidy continues through Smisom looking for Trede. And a mysterious figure arrives at the edge of town...

"

Trede and Traz continued traveling through the wood of the thick forest.  They had been at it for what seemed to Trede a full day already, but looking at the sun Trede could see that it was only mid-afternoon.  It had been a fairly slow and arduous going through the thick undergrowth for Trede, but Traz’s step had not yet lost its speed.  In part because he had to stop every few hundred feet or so and wait for Trede to catch up.  Traz was perched on a branch at one such waiting point as he stopped to look around.  “This must really be our lucky day,” he said. 

Trede could not disagree more as he struggled to get a vine untangled from around his leg, but played along to try to be polite.  “What makes you say that?”

“I haven’t seen a single monster today!  On a walk this long through the forest, I usually always come across one or two.  Yep, a lucky day indeed.”

“Monsters?  You mean there are other things that live out here?“

“Quite so!  I myself have seen a number of different species in the deep wood.  Some are fairly tame, but others… are more serious.  The giant leaf-viper for one, it has a knack for jumping up unseen out of the ground to attack its food.”

Trede was just about caught up to Traz at that moment and replied, “You mean attack its prey?”

Prey implies that it goes hunting.  I’ve only ever seen the giant leaf-viper go eating.”     

Trede half expected Traz to be joking, but his face was quite serious.  “I guess that’s why I’ve always been told to stay out of the forest,” said Trede as he looked around the forest floor with a newfound respect and a bit of nervousness.  “All the more reason to keep moving I suppose.” 

Traz turned and peered through the trees.  “Ah!  I can see a road beyond the edge of the wood up ahead, this must be the way to your Smisom.”

“That must be the road between town and the trading outpost to the south.”  Trede was fairly surprised; he didn’t expect to be so close so soon.  It appeared having his forest guide lead the way paid off sooner than he expected.  “If we’re this close to the road, that means we’re only a few miles from Smisom.  With any luck I can still make that delivery on time and Marshal Langhorne won’t throw me in jail.”

Traz looked curiously at Trede then turned and bounded on ahead towards the end of the forest.  He called back, “Marshal Langhorne you say?” 

“Yeah, why do you know him?” 

“No.  Well not really.  Word of the Marshal’s exploits reaches my ears from time to time.   Why would he through you in jail?  Are you a villain?” 

“What?  No, no… Langhorne’s just always on my case, asking questions, checking up on me…  He’s always suspicious I’m smuggling illegal items underneath the nose of the Merkant guild.  I think he’s just paranoid.  I’ve never done anything wrong, but he never lets up.”

“Sounds like a fair misunderstanding.  Perhaps I’ll put in a word for you and tell him to lighten up.”  Traz leapt up onto another branch to peer around.  Trede wondered if he was looking out for leaf-vipers. 

“Hah, I doubt it’d do it any good.  It’s not just me, he’s always checking in on the other couriers, and even some of the carrier captains too.  Besides you said you didn’t even know him?”

“Not yet anyway!”  Traz jumped off the branch into an impressive spiral landing on his hind feet on the ground.

Trede thought that Traz was just showing off at that point, but he ignored it.  As he continued to dredge forward, he asked “Say Traz, are you sure you’re alright going into town with me?   I don’t think anyone there has even seen a selahn, some people don’t even think you exist so…” 

“So what?  We selahns travel where we wish.  And I wish to travel to where exciting things are happening.  And I have a feeling exciting things tend to follow you along.”  Trede could make out a smile as Traz looked back from up ahead.  

“Well if you’re sure… “  Trede did not think of his day to day life as very exciting, but he was content to have a companion to travel with for now.  Since he traveled so much, he didn’t have any close friends.  And the friends he did have he did not see very often.  This was not always because he was traveling, but Trede preferred to be alone much of the time. 

They continued traveling to the end of the forest in silence.  As Trede looked across the forest up to the clearing and road beyond, his mind wandered back to his most recent nightmare.   This one had been so real he really expected to wake up and find a stain of blood on his shirt, but was only slightly relieved it was just another nightmare.   Even the word nightmare, he thought, barely contained the meaning for what he experienced on so many nights. He wondered what being had cursed him to bear such an evil or what he had done to deserve such a fate.  They happened so often and were so deep, dark and terrifying that overtime they began to affect his waking thoughts as well.  Not just the lingering images in his mind, but there was also a physical occurrence that followed his nightmares.  On numerous occasions Trede would find the next morning that something tragic had befell a person nearby.  Sometimes in the same town or traveling on the same carrier, but the result was always the same.  The person was injured or had a severe accident in the night and they were found unconscious, dead asleep and unable to be roused by any sound, smell or other method.  It most cases Trede did not stick around long enough to find out what had happened to the person, but he had heard that they would eventually wake with no memory of what had happened and would act strangely for days.  They would even start having nightmares of their own and sometimes they would have forgotten even what happened for several days leading up to their mysterious slumber.  It was obvious in Trede’s mind that his nightmares and these people’s afflictions were related, but he did not know how.  Nor did he want to know. Whatever darkness and malevolence that waited inside him was too terrifying to think about.  Any time he pondered the connection, he was overcome by such cold feelings of self-loathing, panic and fear so he blocked it from his mind.  Still every night he would reluctantly fall to sleep, wondering if this time someone he knew, someone he cared about would be hurt when he awoke.  Or if this time, maybe the person just wouldn’t wake up again.  He thought too of the man with green eyes.  Perhaps that man knew of the horror he had put people through.  He wondered if that was why the man had come to kill him.  Who’s to say he wasn’t in the right for trying?” Trede thought.  Before his mind wandered too far into his own thoughts and fears, Trede stopped himself.  He put it out of his mind and tried to forget.  He just needed to strive on for another day before another night of worry would come. 

Looking up from the tangle of brush at his feet he saw Traz had arrived at the edge of forest.   The strange little creature was sitting in the grass where the line of trees ended.  He took out some food Trede did not recognize and unwrapped it from a handkerchief and began eating.  Trede caught up and sat down as well.  He began taking his boots off to stretch his ankles and remove all the various leaf bits and other forest debris that he had picked up long the way.

“You hungry?”  Traz held up a bit of what looked like a kind of cheese with odd reddish rings and spots in it. 

“No… thanks.  I’ll wait until were in town to eat.”  Trede could not imagine what kind dark forest creature’s milk had produced that cheese and he did not want find out.  He looked out at the dirt road leading up over the hill to Smisom.  When he had left home a couple weeks ago, this was not how expected the trip to end.  After the long travel, an attempt on his life and his meeting up with a Selahn in an unexplored forest, this little piece of home looked more inviting than ever.  Trede put his boots back on and laced them tightly.  “It’s time Smisom met its first selahn.”  He stood and began walking.  Traz quickly finished his bite of cheese and wrapped up the rest, tucking inside his cloak. 

They reached the crest of the hill overlooking the town.  It was late afternoon, but the streets were still fairly full.  The Merkant shops were all still bustling, and there was a carrier being lowered from the landing tower.  There were several oxen and a group of men managing the ropes that lead up to a series of pulleys near the top of the tower.  On the far end of town Trede could see his own house.  Sometimes that’s all he thought of it, just a house but not a home.  But after such a long trip ending in such an unusual day, it really did feel like home.  It’s good to be back,” thought Trede. 

“So this is a Smisom, eh?” asked Traz inquisitively. 

“This is it,” replied Trede. 

“Well, where do you want to go first?”  Traz’s eyes brightened at all possibilities of exploring a brand new place. 

Trede suddenly remembered something that snapped him out of his warm nostalgic feelings of home.  “Awh Crimus!  It’s only a couple hours until sundown, I’ve got to get that crate to the Marshal’s office!”  He took off down the hill, heading straight for the landing tower.” 

“Exciting things happening already!”  Traz announced with glee, and went running after him.  

 

 

Cassidy’s search for Trede had not been going to so well.  After a brief rest at the inn she set out into the town.  She asked around some of the shops but no one seemed to know where he was, or in most cases even who he was.  I thought you small-town types all kept tabs on each other,” Cassidy thought to herself, annoyed at lack of assistance she had received.  Eventually she came to one of the larger more official-looking Merkant shops.  She went inside and found a secretary working away with stacks and stacks of paper work.  The shop itself had large shelves lining the walls, and several large supply stands at different points in the middle of the room.  There was another person who appeared to be working there, but he appeared busy talking to a customer who seemed interested in a new fire-stove.  Cassidy approached the secretary. 

“Yes, do you have a trade or shipment to check in?”  The secretary quickly asked.  Her tone was more formal than Cassidy expected, though it matched her dress and appearance.  The woman was wearing a white tightly buttoned blouse; her dark brown hair was cut short without a single strand out of place.  Her general demeanor seemed about as interesting as the stacks of papers on her desk. 

“Hi, no.  I’m actually wondering if you could help me.  I’m looking for someone named Trede, he’s a courier from around here.  I thought he might have done business with you before.”

“Well if he’s a courier, he’s definitely dealt with us in the Merkant guild.  Unless he’s one of those loathsome freetraders.”

“I…” Cassidy was taken aback from the secretary’s direct and forceful approach to conversation. 

“He’s not one of those despicable freetraders is he? 

What is her problem?  Sheesh!”  She thought.  “No,” replied Cassidy, offering her best fake smile in attempt to cover over her regret for even asking in the first place.  “No, I’m sure he’s a registered courier.  Would you happen to know where he is?” 

“Trede you say… hmm.  The unusual name sounds familiar.”  She riffled through one of the larger stacks of paper and pulled out one from the middle.  Ah yes, he’s delivering a crate to the Marshal’s office coming from the northline carrier.”

“Great!  When does it arrive?”

“Let’s see.  According to the schedule and if they are on time, which they rarely are, about 45 minutes ago.” 

Ok, maybe she’s not so bad,” Cassidy, corrected her previous thought.  “Thank you, you’ve been a big help.”  Cassidy excused herself from the shop and went straight to the airwhale-landing tower to wait.  I might get out of here on time after all,” she thought. 

Cassidy headed straight for the landing tower keeping her eyes peeled for someone fitting Trede’s description.  When she arrived she saw a young man that looked about Trede’s age and build according to the Cytech file she had, so she approached him.  “Excuse me, I’m looking for a courier named Trede, you wouldn’t happen to be him?“

“Sorry lady, no luck here.” 

I guess that would be too easy,” she thought.  “Do you if he’s around here?  A secretary at one of the Merkant shops told me he was traveling on this carrier.”

“Trede?  Naw, can’t say as I know him.  I’m just passing through, I’m a carrier deck hand.” 

Another man overheard them talking and came over.  From the badge on his jacket, Cassidy could tell he was a carrier captain.  “Hey are you with Trede?”  Said the captain. 

“Well, not yet anyway, I’m still looking for him,” said Cassidy with a bit of sarcasm. 

“Good!  I have a crate of his.  He was on the carrier when we shipped out, but after we landed he’s been a no-show.  Must’ve taken off again.  Hey Jaco, bring over crate 42, we got a substitute for pickup!”   

“No wait, that’s not what I meant, I can’t-” Cassidy stammered.

“I’m sure you’ll find’em eventually, give this to’em when you see’em,” said the Captain sternly.  Apparently he wasn’t going to take no for an answer.  “Right over here Jaco!” 

The carrier crewman wheeled over a large wooden crate about 4 Feet Square and dropped it right in front of Cassidy.  “There ya go,” he said in a low gruff voice. 

“Just wait a second!”  Cassidy did not care much for being taken advantage of, her blood began to boil.  “I’m not with Trede, I don’t even know him.  I’m just looking for him!  I’m NOT taking this!”

All the crew ignored her and began walking away back to their other duties, loading and unloading all the cargo from the northline carrier.  The captain called back “When you give him that crate you can ask why he skipped out without taking care of his own business.” 

“But-“ Cassidy couldn’t get word out. 

“It’s your problem now lady,” said the captain preemptively.

Cassidy stood there in shock, mouth agape.  As her mind prepared a thousand violent curses and verbal lashings to dispense on these lowly workmen she was again cutoff before she could speak.

“Ok boys let’s load ‘er up!  This airwhale is moving on in 5 and we can’t miss it.  Hey Jaco get the ropes ready, we’re ready to hoist up the car’ry!”  (Car’ry was what most shipping crews referred to the carriers.) 

Cassidy shook her head in disbelief.  She tried to call out and get their attention, but she was so aghast she could barely manage to stammer out a few angry insults and incomplete thoughts.  After a minute with no success she realized she had lost.    Cassidy loathed losing, it may even have been the thing she hated the most.  Now she was stuck with a large crate with no means to carry it and was alone in the middle of a town she was beginning to hold in severe disgust.  As she watched the carrier get slowly raised up the landing tower with tightly clenched fists and burning eyes, she took a quick step and turned her back on a hopeless situation.  She looked down at the crate.  What the hell am I going to do with this thing,” she thought.  She stood there a moment thinking over her options.  She kicked the dirt a few times.  If only those carrier scabs were still here, I’d give them a piece of my mind,” she thought.  At that moment, she noticed the address that the crate was supposed to be delivered to:

            Marshal’s Office

17 Issux Rd.

            Smisom (N.E.)

That must be the marshal’s office I saw from the hill at the edge of town.  I didn’t even think the roads around here had names.”  Cassidy pondered, “I could take the crate to the marshal office.  Trede might go there once he realizes he missed his pickup from the cargo crew, but what if he really did skip out?  I’d be waiting there for no reason.  Wait a sec, I can’t even move this thing it ways a ton!”  Cassidy paused and knocked her knuckles over the printed address on top of the crate as she thought.  Ugh, this town is not that big; it shouldn’t be that hard to find one guy.  There’s a chance he was just held up… maybe all that Merkant paper work kept him from getting back to carrier in time.  Maybe he’s on his way here now.  Like Master Gragus says ‘Hope for the best, plan for the worst.’  I guess I better get comfortable.”  Cassidy sat herself down on the crate and decided to wait.  Ok Trede, I’m waiting for you for at least a little while.  After that I’ll just have to figure something else out.  I always do…

 

 

Not long after Trede and his selahn friend descended the hill down into Smisom, a lone figure stood on the very same hill overlooking the town.  He was cloaked in the darkest blacks with streaks of red.  His clothes were tinged with dirt at the edges, but made of very fine cloth.  The man who appeared in his late thirties wore boots that were tightly strapped with well-worn soles as if he had been traveling a great distance on foot.  He was of taller stature, and had a firm medium build that could be seen even under his black and red cloak, which was waiving in the gentle breeze.  His blue eyes shone above the edge of a red scarf that obscured most of his face.  He pulled the scarf down from over his mouth revealing his sharp features and spoke.  “It is just as I thought then, that glow is unmistakable.  Yet he seems completely unaware.  He doesn’t have any thought about what is going to happen to him.  Neither does the town for that matter.  They will probably all be killed if they do not start paying attention.”  The man paused and raised his open hand toward the sun for a moment, perhaps to discern the time of day.  “They should know danger is at every turn even if you do not see it.  But those who see it first tend to live longer.  I’ll be watching you Trede,” the man paused as his eyes changed color from a subtle blue to a blood red, “don’t disappoint me.”





© 2010 Johnzo


Author's Note

Johnzo
Another 3000+ words for this one. Any comments on pacing thus far in the book? Also, I'm very excited to introduce the character in the last paragraph. But I'm wondering, about foreshadowing- does it work? Too confusing? Too obvious?

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Added on October 21, 2009
Last Updated on February 23, 2010


Author

Johnzo
Johnzo

Bridgton, ME



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For more info on my little world, visit: www.echowake.com -Latest post: 2nd Draft Preview My favorite stories are usually ones that have a bigger world behind them, a story behind the story that.. more..

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A Chapter by Johnzo