This is my first chapter of my book unfinished.
NOTE: When transferring it over, the name "Nathanël" became, in several spots, "Nathan_l". Please pardon this error.
A Chance Encounter
The young man sat atop his mount and looked down the road that separated him from the castle. He looked upon the road as it dipped, swelled, bounded over countless bridges and sidled the mighty Lunai River while winding through a continuously thickening forest. Even from his vantage point, the sun disappeared behind the wall of trees, leaving naught but an unworldly golden glow that barely succeeded to seep into solitary shafts of light that punctured the thick canopy of the Illusion Forest like daggers into mystical black fabric. Within the deepening gloom, silver leaves of Herald Trees fluttered through the darkness, showering the pathways with a sterling radiance as the milky rays of Ilthica hit them. Elthar, the smallest sister moon of the twins, began its wearied decent with the magnificent glory of the sun, relinquishing its throne to the grand Ilthica with its pure silvern beams.
Nathanel Armand, confidant and friend of King Ryon III of Cria, Master Mage-Knight of the Queen’s Shadows, groaned in dismay. His goal-the Lunai Castle-stood atop the lofty knoll, mocking him. He’d spent the entire fortnight seeking the rendevous point that he now gazed upon and was, now that he finally admitted it, unavoidably lost. From any point in the valley below, he could see the towering keep, but he could not ever seem to get any closer to it.
I was almost nightfall and he wasn’t any closer than he had been that morning!
He surely had been riding too long for he swore that several times throughout the day his eyes had inadvertently focused on a passing tree and, within a moment, it appeared mere inches from its original position! To add to his growing frustration and ill mood, he was growing tired of Lardel and his men’s tales and idle chatter of the local legends-the Amazons. Cursing silently, Nathan tapped Bran, his black stallion, into motion and it once again began meandering down the ill-trodden path through the Illusion Forest. Nathan urged up his gait, but only enough to remain out of earshot of the witless banter.
“Relax, my boy.” A deep, comforting voice commanded softly as a horseman settled next to him.
Nathan looked up in amber eyes, the eyes of his teacher, his greatest mentor and closest friend. Numier Calcard Hawking was middle aged man, but no where near losing his strength and spirit. You didn’t even have to look into his vibrant dancing eyes to see the obvious evidence. His thick, firm face was olive toned with creases of laughter and wisdom adorning his almond shaped eyes. His slim mouth curled up into a consoling smile, contrasting obviously with the thick dark scar on his left cheek. His broad shoulders and matching form was clothed in a baggy white tunic and dark leather pants embellished with a sapphire cloak bearing the symbol of the white swan-the crest of the Crian royal family.
“I am relaxed, Master.” Nathan replied with his most sincere expression.
“You’re a poor liar, Master Nathanël.” Numier replied with a grin. “You never were a good one.” He grabbed the base of Nathanël’s neck and pulled him close and stared at him as if he had found a great secret within the confines of his student’s eyes. “Your eyes tell too much. Your face is a book in which even unlearned people can read your mind’s thoughts and desires. You may say you are at ease until you are blue in the face but you advertise your inner anxiety unconsciously, but openly.”
Nathanël growled softly into the golden resin eyes. He knew his teacher was right, though he had improved the many years that he had lived with the older mage. He could recall the many times that he had joined his mentor in games of gambling with other occupants of the Sagelar Manor and, no matter how hard he had tried, he had lost his earnings rather quickly to his clever instructor. Though the money always ended up back in his cloak pocket by the end of the night, though against his will. A wickedly happy smile spread across his face slowly at the joyful memories.
“I too see things in your eyes, Master.” Nathanël responded quietly, pulling his master closer as if to search his eyes.
“What is that, my lad?” Numier inquired, eyes shining.
“The rumblings of an old mage who still thinks too much.”
Light exploded in his eyes and deep, hearty laughter erupted from hidden cavern in his chest. The symbols of joy alone brought a bright smile to his face. A thunderous clasp on his shoulder almost brought Nathanël to gasping in spite of himself. “My boy, you are still as outspoken as ever!” Numier punched Nathanël’s shoulder firmly, nearly toppling his pupil from his charger. Nathanël smiled and jabbed the mage back with a happy chuckle. “What am I ever going to do with you, boy?”
“Be ever grateful for my presence?”
“Sell you to the gypsies more likely!” Numier announced pointedly, smiling all the brighter.
Nathanël shook his head and rolled his eyes playfully. “ We have been over this, Master. I seriously doubt you will get as good a price from them as you wish.”
“No doubt.” Numier answered cheerfully. “I more than likely would have to pay them to accept you!”
“No doubt, Master.” Nathanël responded with a clever glint in his eye. “So the endeavor would be not at all productive for you.”Numier shook his head in surrender and ruffled Nathanël_l’s ebony locks playfully.
“What would I ever do without you, my boy?” The elder mage conceded sincerely.
Nathanël shrugged and looked ahead. The silvery leaves fluttered to the ground and quilted the ground with their metallic radiance. The unnatural feeling of his current surroundings were unraveling him and seemed shrouded with some sort of awesome magical enigma. His gaze seemed to never penetrate the nearest layer of trees, as if nothing existed beyond the first visible barrier.
Then there was the silence.
It had been since they entered. Not even their horses hoof beats seemed to make a sound against the trail. No birds chirped and no leaves crunched beneath them. It was as if no breeze or creature disturbed the woods, as if nothing truly lived besides them. This grove had a certain.....newness. As if nothing had ever breached its borders before now.
“Give this forest no thought, Nathanël.” Numier commanded firmly and Nathanël turned to him.
“Why would I, Master?” He asked softly, trying to hide his thoughts. “It like any other.”
“Then why does the leaves never fall here, or the snow.” Numier pointed out, looking around them. “Why is it always spring here?” Nathanël followed his gaze about the trees.
“This forest....these trees......contain some strange enchantment.” Nathanël whispered, watching a tree’s branches raise ever so slightly. “I know every living thing has a bit of its own magic, but this forest is overflowing. It’s nigh overwhelming!”
“This woodland is not only brimming with magic,” Numier stated, “it houses magical creatures and beings in abundance.” Nathanël turned to his master with wide eyes. “Unicorns preserve and protect this wood from time and age. Nymphs guard and enchant the waters to nourish and strengthen its and the forests inhabitants.”
“Surely you jest......”
Numier shook his head. “I not only felt it, but I’ve seen it as well.” He announced serenely. “Not only in this journey, but others I have traversed in this realm, I have seen creatures believed to be pushed from the mainland many eons ago by our forefathers walking freely amidst these trees.”
Nathanël bowed his head. “I have felt them as well, but thought it was only my fatigue clouding my mind.”
“This woodland, my boy, contains a magic that we humans will never be able to comprehend.” He uttered, staring into the trees as if he could see something amazing and glorious that Nathan_l could not within the dark grove. Numier, seemingly coming to his senses once again, started and looked over into Nathan’s confused stare. Smiling gently, the mage dismissed his rambling and ruffled his students hair once again. “Worry not your pretty head, my lad. It is best if such magical secrets continue on being a mystery to mortal men.”
“Yes, Master.” Nathanël yielded. Numier smirked compassionately and turned once again to the road.
Nathanël looked foreword as well, storing the information his teacher had just told away for further contemplation. Many things that Numier had said over the years made no sense to him, even after years of study and training with the elder mage, but it never stopped Nathan_l’s attempt of claiming at least some of his mentor’s wisdom and intelligence. There were millions of young men who had desired themselves to near death trying to reach the strength that would help them become the pupil of Master Numier Calcard Hawking, the greatest mage in all of En_ra.
Even after Numier had rescued him from Caesura when he was but a child and brought him to the prosperous mainland, he had dismissed the rumors and praises, for surely the greatest mage of all time would act more maturely than the blubbering fool that sometimes graced his presence. As time passed, Nathan_l began to see the hidden power and fire within the man to which he owed his life and also began to seek the acceptance and grace of his new home in Cria, but, more importantly, he craved Numier’s love.
Most days he still awoke, not believing that Numier had truly asked him to be his private student that day on the shore of the Emuziline Sea after his encounter with Banquo. Many other master mages of the realm had shunned his idea of accepting an outsider into the berth of a worthy trainee. But, no matter their persistence or slander, Numier had accepted him as not only a pupil but as a man and taught him with a diligence that Nathan_l could not explain. Now he was known as one of the most powerful mages in all of En_ra, second only to his master, and the heir to all of Numier’s holdings and fortune. Surely some unknown deity had blessed him with such fortune that he could not fathom.
A flock of birds shot up out of the brush, startling him from his memories and sending Bran into a squealing, plunging frenzy. Teeth barred and ears flat, the stallion reared back, shrieking like some sort of possessed ghost. Before Nathan_l could grasp the reins again, he felt himself soaring through the air and hit the ground sharply on the back. Groaning and rubbing his head that now throbbed fiercely, he leapt to his feet, reaching for the slippery leather reins that now flapped in the air like flags as Bran flailed and reared in horror. Nathan_l had never seen his well-trained charger react so furiously to so little provocation!
One of his hands happened to almost grip the reins, but another bird swooped close overhead. Bran jerked back hard, sending Nathan_l once again flying through the air impacting a nearby oak tree sharply and falling to its base. Pain coursed through his torso when he slowly pushed himself up. As he stood shakily, he witnessed Lardel and his men dismount rapidly, some unsheathing their swords while others tried to retrieve the terrified beast. Numier, from his steed’s back, wrestled for the reins as the whipped about, pulling down hard and commanding Bran to cease. The frightened warhorse, eyes rolling wildly, ripped away from his master, span and stormed off in full gallop into the forest.
The uneven clatter of hoofbeats echoed away and the sounds of snapping branches halted. Cursing softly, Nathan_l rammed his slightly unsheathed sword back into his scabbard, pulling brush and twigs from his hair as he limped towards the others. By the spirits, he could only be glad he was wearing his chain mail and steel breastplate, for other than a few scratches and bruised ribs, he’d emerged unscathed.
“Are you alright, Nathan_l?” Numier inquired hastily as he approached.
“Yes, Master. I’m fine.”
A rustle of sound made him pause. Leaves fell down from the branches above and Nathan_l looked up in time to see two figures begin their decent on them from overhead. Grabbing his master’s arm, Nathan_l tugged harshly, dismounting the man within seconds of a sword crossing over the saddle where his teacher had been seconds before. The older man’s weight crashed over his sore ribs, nigh almost killing him in agony. Numier jumped up as several other figures fell from the trees, landing on the surrounding soldiers. Whispering untold words, Numier cast two of the attackers back with a weak magical blast.
Nathan_l drew his broadsword as he stood, blasting two more masked figures with a flame ball. Shifting between magical blasts and skilled swordplay, Nathan_l parried blows an thrust at some of the villians with ample success, though not sustaining abundant injuries of his own.
Warm blood trickled down his brow and arm as he began to flag. They were coming from bloody everywhere! With Numier at his back, he could tell his older companion was lagging too. There were ten villains with five dead at their feet. He couldn’t tell about the soldiers. In his distraction, a blade slid over the mail covering his shoulder and slipped down his throat. The sharp pain, and that of a blade’s blow to side, spurred him to encrust his sword with power and slice wildly and with a vengeance. A swift, hard blow to the head sent Nathan_l reeling, and they were upon him like lions on a kill, pummeling him and cutting. A stream of blood gushed from his forehead and into his eyes, blinding him but still he wrestled and struggled.
A hard pounding and the accompanying hoofbeats sounded in the distance, drowning out his heavy heartbeat. He couldn’t care about its cause when he could let alone hold himself upright. He gripped his sword as his leg crumbled beneath him. With one eye, he watched his attackers look about them and speak in a tongue he could not understand as he leaned on his sword. Somewhere within the battle, several of he bandit shad been unmasked to reveal women of varying types and shapes. A masked one before him looked behind him searchingly. War cries erupted behind him and from the creatures before him. The masked assailant, the one who fought better than he could have ever imagined, glared at him with steely green eyes then turned, shrieking out orders as her team fled.
Grumbling, Nathan_l tried to stand, but his legs rebelled and fell flat on his face, clinging to the sword. Horses went rampaging passed him as some skidded to a halt at his feet. He pushed himself up to his knees and looked at the blurred and shifting scene before him, but he could make no sense of it. Horses shuffled their feet nearby, appearing, to his disheveled gaze, to have too many feet and heads; moonlight shimmered eerily on the armed and mail-clad riders, lending them an otherworldly appearance. His strength gave way and he found himself face-to-face with the ground once again.
Nathan_l watched as one of the idle riders slipped from his mount and remove his helmet. The bleary figure dropped to his knees at Nathan_l’s side and, after turning him over, leaned down to touch his face. Whisperings in very feminine voices erupted behind the figure at his side as the personage reached down beside him and, against his will, removed his sword from his hand. Nathan_l’s confusion mounted as his vision began to fade. He squinted up at his captor but his features blured in the uneven light. The face neared and he could scarcely make out the mask covering the face.
The person whispered to him in an unknown tongue, different from his assailants. He couldn’t understand the words, but the face’s dark eyes made him wonder. Weakly his hand rose up and tugged the mask aside. A beautifully slender, but foggy, face was revealed. Plump lips and fair skin made him wonder if she was not an angel come to take him to heaven. The ebon eyes widened as his hand cupped the female’s cheek. His strength failed him and he knew nothing but darkness.[size=18]