Richard had been rather hesitant to leave Grace by herself in the mountain when Ryan had informed him she wouldn’t be going to the village with them. Of course, he didn’t expect her to come along, what with King Damien after her, and he was sure he had a large bounty on his head now that he figuring out the power of the Gem he had just stolen from the King.
Richard watched Ryan ride his stallion in silence, sometimes he wondered what the man thought about, did he ever think about the rebellion that happened fourteen years ago, and regret the part he played in it? He knew he thought about it all the time, even though he could hardly remember anything, he sometimes wished he knew more, but never asked.
As the two drew closer to the village Richard’s thoughts began to wander back to the Gem he had left behind, now that he knew about its power, should he use it? If he does, would he be as bad as King Damien, using the power of the Gem for his own needs? Though he would be doing it to save the Kingdom and the others out there from Damien’s strong hunger for power.
Now he knew how to activate it he wouldn’t be the only one able to use it, if he told others about it, people he could trust, another rebellion could be possible, more would be more inclined to join. Richard could only imagine what the battle would look like, fire breathing warriors storming through the palace eager to take back the Kingdom.
“Huh?” removed from his wild thoughts Richard looked up only to find Ryan wasn’t there anymore, but now riding beside him, a questioning look now covering his features. “I’m sorry, what did you say?” Richard asked a guilty smile spreading across his face.
Sighing, Ryan shook his head. “Don’t worry about Grace, I had a small talk with her, and she understands she must remain in the mountain.”
‘Oh if only.’ Richard thought shaking his head. After what happened yesterday Richard could tell Grace was just as stubborn as he was at her age, so he could only imagine the trouble she could be getting up to now that she was alone and free to do whatever she wanted.
Coming out of his thoughts Richard’s clear blue gave shifted over to Ryan who rode quietly next to him as if he was thinking about something himself. “So what did you want to talk to me about?”
“Hmm? Oh yes, remember to keep low in the village, I hear King Damien has quiet the temper at the moment, and I can only imagine why.” Ryan sent Richard a skeptical look as if trying to get his point across.
Richard could only nod his head in fear of what would happen if he said the wrong thing, it was clear Ryan hadn’t gotten over the stunt he pulled when saving Grace, though he could never blame him, it was risky and he knew that when he saved her.
Curious Richard pulled Thunder’s reins bringing the horse to a slower trot next to Ryan, “I was just wondering, why do we need to go to the village, we have enough food to last us another week?”
“Richard we can’t come and go as we please, King Damien is a very observant man and would notes if we just show up once every few weeks, besides after what you pulled we wouldn’t want him starting to become suspicious.” Ryan paused to look in Richard’s direction, “His also choosing another to join his army today, and the entire village has to be there, it’s not like we have a choice in the matter as it is.”
Getting his drift Richard looked away, he had forgotten about that. It was horrible how King Damien demanded more join his army every year, sometimes more than once. He was only grateful he was lucky enough to not get chosen, he and Ryan normally stuck to the outskirts so as not to draw too much attention to themselves. He could only wonder whom King Damien would pick this year.
“I have a feeling the choosing might be a little different this time,” Ryan’s expression remained emotionless as he spoke. “He's going to be aiming for the young men, after what’s happened lately with you killing one of his men and now Grace, I can only assume he's going to be choosing those who are more agile and young.” Letting loose a low sigh Ryan continued, “Over the past few days I’ve been hearing rumors about someone stealing an item of some sort from the King, looks like you aren’t the only one looking for trouble, King Damien might be getting a little suspicious.” Ryan sent Richard a sideways glance before continuing. “Although, being there are two of you with a death wish it just means it will be harder for Damien to track you down...so I guess that's a good thing.”
As Ryan continued to ramble more about what he had heard, Richard couldn’t help but drift into his own thoughts of worry. ‘He is right though, if there were more it would be a lot harder for Damien to find us, although I have been very careful about keeping my identity hidden.’ Richard paused his train of thought when his actions the night he saved Grace came into his head, he could have been a lot more careful about how he did it, it could have given Damien a lead if the guards saw who he was, but the mask he wore was on hiding most of his facial features. He was just glad he hadn’t slipped up, it was a very poorly put together plan that could have ended in disaster.
“Maybe if there are others, there could be a chance to take back the kingdom,” Ryan said rubbing his chin as he thought, his green gaze fixed on the trees above, the leafless branches giving no protection from the sun’s heat.
‘If only.’ Richard thought, wishing there were more rebelling against the King, but it only being him and Vanessa and maybe one or two others, it wasn’t enough. If they wanted this to work they would have to join up with other kingdoms, though the chances of them agreeing was as slim as the river that ran through the kingdom drying out. Although if he reviled the Gem and its power to the other rulers there was a chance they would change their mind, but there was also a large chance they would try to get hold of its power for themselves, maybe he should ask Vanessa and Mikel about it later, see what they think he should do.
The rest of the ride to the Kingdom was spent in silence between the two men, their brown cloaks fluttering behind them in the chilly north wind. The sun had now reached it peek its hot rays beating down on the kingdom below, signaling the time of choosing was near.
Remaining on their horses Richard and Ryan slowed them down to a slow walk so they could weave between the crowds, heading towards the court in the upper-class once they entered the village through a dark alleyway so they wouldn’t be noticed.
As the two made their way up to the gathering place through the packed streets, they could feel the tension in the air as they all knew someone would be chosen to become a solder to the King. It used to be an honor to join the King's defense, but that was when King Author still ruled, after his death Damien took control with an iron fist.
Keeping his head low under the hood of his cloak Richard looked around him, as young men as himself walked with gloomy expressions adorning their faces, their families next to them, a look of sorrow in their eyes.
Parting from the thick throngs of people Richard moved towards a tall brick house that was along the border of the empty marketplace the crowds were now gathering into, the shadow it cast providing a dark cover. Ryan rode up next to Richard his expression holding small hints of worry as he and Richard settled behind the people in the large gathering area.
Richard only had to look at Ryan to know what he was thinking, he too knew for the past few years he had been lucky enough to not be chosen, and the chances of him being ignored now were very slim, they could only hope remaining in the shadows and on the border would keep them out of view.
His worry then went to Grace, how would he look after her if he had to work for the King? Would Ryan be able to keep her out of trouble? What if their hideout was discovered? Would their plans to take back the Kingdom continue, or would they have to accept this is the way it was going to be?
Richard had to vigorously shake his head to banish the horrible thoughts that clouded his mind like a poisonous fog. If he did end up working for the King he would be one step closer to understanding his plan, and it would be easier to see how much he knew about the Gems he was now after, it would also give them a good estimate on how much time they had before he moved onto the next kingdom. It wouldn’t be a bad position to be in, but he would have to be very careful, especially now he's the holder of one of the Gems.
The sound of hooves hitting the gravel ground up ahead removed Richard from his heavy thinking as his navy gaze moved towards the path leading up through a small portion of the village towards the palace in the distance, waves of soft clouds framing the buildings structure a sight sure to be held if not for the unfortunate circumstances.
The tension and fear was thick in the air as everyone's eyes were glued to the direction of the noise, the air grew quiet as everyone waited in silent fear for what was going to happen.
As King Damien and his men rode into the clearing their horses heaving trotting kicking up plumes of gravel and dust, Richard’s eyes landed on the black flags joined to long black polls the King's men were holding in their iron grasp, the Kings marking now blades of lighting instead of the soft swirls of wind. After King Author’s defeat, Damien had refused to keep the seals the same, he even changed the color of the flags.
Everyone held their breath as the four guards surrounding King Damien parted from him direction their horses towards the platform towards the front of the crowd. Their silver armor gleaming in the sunlight and red cloaks fluttering behind them, with stone faces they remained on their horses and looked on, their eyes free of any emotion as King Damien scanned his black eyes over the crowd before moving towards his guards, positioning himself between them, two on each side.
Richard scanned the older man's face, his lips were tilted up in a forced smile as he was about to address the crowd, though the warm smile he had on his face did nothing to calm the crowds as his eyes remained stone cold, a soul-destroying gaze swept over the crowd before he began to speak.
“Good afternoon subjects!” He spread his arms wide as Richard saw his eyes look between the people before him. “Today brings great joy! As you all know some of you will be joining my army and will train under my watchful eye.” Rubbing his hands together he once again fixed his gaze on a few people in the front before moving towards the back, like the predator picking out its next kill.
Richard could have sworn he felt cold daggers on him for a second before Damien’s gaze moved on to the next poor soul. Richard could tell Damien was taking his time with his choosing, for this time it wasn’t going to be a simple guarding job, he had more in store because of the outcomes the past week had brought, or maybe it was something else, with King Damien you never knew.
“Now, for those of you, today will be the start of something exciting.” Damien sneered, his twisted smile only intensified as his black stare targeted the person he wanted.