OK. I promised. Thank you for being the 21st, Star-Dreamer! Here’s part of the first chapter. I failed at the prologue. 😛
Maran Mehgirsh D’dao glanced up at his daughter. “Mariena, you should be sleeping.” Mariena scowled, crossing her arms.
“Would you have me not try to help you? Father, it’s been sixteen years since Richard died.”
Maran clenched a fist. “You and your mother both know I vowed to destroy King Owarne for what he did,” Maran’s eyes flashed angrily. “And I mean to do it.”
King Owarne D’Markange tossed the scrolls aside, glaring at Jandrock D’Mefordae. “I don’t care how many men that outlaw has killed, D’Mefordae! Go, comb the countryside. Bring me every male over thirteen.”
“You wish is my command, O King.”
Velaine Sashira D’Blire brushed her short blond hair out of her eyes, careful to avoid the burns on the side of her face. Her short hair, always an aggravation to her, had been cut after catching on fire a fortnight ago. She vividly remembered the day. Her mother, Lorinel, screaming, her father, Kevric, yelling. She had huddled beside her mother, afraid to watch her childhood cottage burn. Along with the house, her newborn brother, Samson, had perished. Velaine shuddered, the grief to fresh to relive the horrible memories. “Velaine, dear,” she heard her mother call from the house. Sighing, Velaine jumped out of the kaforo tree, her traditional knee-length Kamari* dress fanning out over her bright red leggings. She broke into a run toward the small wooden shack her father had built to live in after the fire.
“Yes, Mother?” Velaine asked, combing her fingers through her hair, leaves falling to the freshly swept floor.
“Velaine!” Lorinel scolded, glaring at the leaves.
“I forgive you, Velaine.”
“You called me, Mother?”
“Ah, yes. I need you to start mending the shirts I asked you to mend two hours ago.”
“Sorry,” Velaine ducked her head.
“Forgiven. Now, get.” Velaine strode into the sleeping room and picked up the shirts. She took a needle and thread out of the sewing box beside them and settled on her pallet to mend the shirts.
An hour later, Lorinel brought Velaine a cup of sweet kaforo juice. “Mmmm, thanks, Mother.”
Lorinel smiled and wiped her hands on her dirty apron. “You are welcome, Velaine.” Lorinel left velaine to finish mending the shirts. About five minutes later hoofbeats sounded outside the cottage. What in Lisserai? Velaine thought, jumping up. There had to be one hundred horse or more to make that much racket. She stood and dashed outside the shack. Her guess had been right. A hundred tired-looking men sat on horseback talking to her father. As she came out, Kevric turned. “Ah, yes, my lords, this is my-“
The lead man cut him off. “What is your name, boy?”
“Please, my lord, she is our-” Lorinel tried to speak, only to be backhanded by the leader.
“Go pack a pack, boy. You’re going to Coroe with us.”
“Go pack a pack!” The leader thundered, delivering a swift slap to her cheek. Velaine sucked in a sharp breath as the hand impacted the shriveled flesh of her burn.
Velaine stumbled inside the shack, threw her clothes, bible, drawing pencils, and a notepad into a pack. She stood and lifted it onto her back. Tears stung the backs of her eyes. What would her parents do without her. They had already lost Samson. She tugged on a pair of boots and walked back out of the shack. Her mother hugged her tightly and kissed her cheek. Her father strode over. “Velaine Sashira D’Blire, I bless you in the name of God, our creator. Go with him and trust in him always.” Velaine nodded, fighting the tears she tried to hold back.
“Farewell, Father, Mother.”
As Kevric hugged her, his breath tickled her ear. “I love you, Velly-girl.”
Tears tried to break through at the nickname he had called her as long as she could remember. “I love you too, Father.”
“Come back to us, Velaine,” her mother said, lifting aa tear-streaked face.
“Boy!” The leader said sharply, extending the reins of her horse. Without a glance back at her parents, Velaine mounted the horse. And they rode away.
After an exausting(?) day of riding, the leader, whose name Velaine had learned was Captain Jandrock D’Mefordae, ordered they stop for the night. Velaine lay down on the soft grass, exausted. Captain D’Mefordae came over and kicked her in the side. “Ow! What was that for?” Velaine glared.
“Velai D’Blire, you should full well know it is time for training.”
Velai? Oh, yeah, that’s how far she had gotten to say her name. “Training?” Velaine groaned.
“Aye! Get up, lazybones.”
Grumbling under her breath, Velaine stood and followed Captain D’Mefordae over to a circle of young men, thirteen and up. “Now, young Lisseraians, we will go around the circle, you must list your name, weapon, and where you live. Then will the training begin. Velai, you begin.”
Velaine’s eyes widened momentarily. “I, uh, am Velai D’Blire of Moissacre Forest. I know how to use a dagger.”
The boy beside her, a mere lad of fourteen, spoke next. “I am Beriznite D’Jacos of Liorean. I know how to use a sword.”
And so on, they all introduced themselves. After they finished, Captain D’Mefordae passed out weapons. Velaine reached for a dagger, but her eyes snagged on the dark polished wood of a bow. She carressed the bow and lifted it. Captain D’Mefordae passed her a quiver full of arrows. “A fine choice, Velai.”
Velaine frowned. Once I learn to use it. Captain D’Mefordae finished handing out the weapons. “Get up, all of you, on your feet!” The teenagers all stood. Velaine waited tensely to see what would happen next. Captain D’Mefordae drew his sword. “As first part of training, I want you all to go together and figure out how to attack me. Whoever can win a battle with me gets this,” he held up a gold trinket, “object.” Object, however, seemed far to little a description. The trinket was an armband of gold, with dragons, mysterious runes, and designs carved ornately along it’s sides.
Velaine blinked and shook her head, as if trying to break a trance the trinket had inflicted upon her. “Now, all of you, go, you have one hour and then you must try to attack me. Stay as one group, or split up, whatever you wish.” Velaine followed the other recruits over to a fanning kaforo tree. It reminded Velaine deeply of the one at home she always climbed, bringing on twangs of grief and longing. She settled down on the soft grass, trying to push down an urge to climb the tree. Around her, the other recruits sat cross-legged.
“So,” Velaine said awkwardly, “what is the plan?”
One of the boys, Sonder, laughed. “Plan? Velai D’Blire of Moissacre Forest, have you not ever heard of Jandrock D’Mefordae?”
“Why, Captain D’Mefordae is one of the best swordsmen in Lisserai!”
“What has that got to do with it?”
Sonder rolled his eyes. “Attacking him could get us killed, duh!”
Velaine tried not to show her aggravation. “Uh, yeah,” she brushed strands of chin-length hair out of her eyes. “He wouldn’t kill us, right?”
Sonder tried to look uninterested. “I’ve heard of it happening.”
Velaine’s stomach knotted. “I see. What is the punishment for disobeying?”
Sonder glanced around. “Ten or twenty lashes.”
Sonder rolled his eyes.
“So what will it be? Lashes or possible death?”
“We’ll choose the lashes. You can die if you want.”
After a few awkward moments, Velaine decided to choose the “possible death” choice. What could go wrong? Velaine sighed. A lot of things.
Velaine crouched behind the tree, nocking an arrow to the bow string with trembling fingers. She let an arrow fly at Captain D’Mefordae, quickly drawing her sword afterwards. It struck the captain in his swordhand. He yelped, blood spilling across his hand in red rivulets. He drew his sword. Wait, he was left-handed and right-handed? Velaine watched him creep towards the tree, her heart beat racing. She jumped up and met his blade, steel clashing against steel. He looked surprised, but then his brow quickly furrowed and he looked confused.
How was she fighting so good? She had seen Father sparr with his friends, but never payed attention. She flicked his sword away and kicked his leg. He fell to the ground and she held her sword-point to his throat. “Surrender,” she croaked out one word. He held up his hands in the Lisserai sign of surrender. She removed her blade from his throat, and stabbed it into the tough turf. Behind her, Sonder and the other boys emerged from the trees. They patted her on the back, congratulating her and asking questions she had no idea what the answer was. Finally, Captain D’Mefordae recovered from his shocked stupor.
“How did you do it, young Velai?” He asked, still wearing a slightly dumbfounded look.
Velaine shrugged. “I don’t know… I just, felt, uh, guided.”
Captain D’Mefordae’s brow furrowed. “Guided?”
“I see. Come to my tent later, Velai, and we will talk of this guidance.”
Velaine nodded and turned to the cheering crowd of teenage boys, worry digging a pit inside her.
After catching up on her solace by reading a few chapters in her bible, Velaine headed to Captain D’Mefordae’s tent. She ducked her head in. “Sir?”
“Come in, young Velai.”
Velaine entered the tent. “You asked for me, Captain?”
“Yes. I have composed a letter to give to King Owarne D’Markange on the subject of you. Yes, you are young, yes, granted, you are new, but I have asked him if I may promote you to Lieutienant.”
Velaine’s eyes widened and she gasped. “Lieutienant? But, sir, I am young, inexperianced.”
“Velai D’Blire, your show today of defeating me shows how mature and ready you are for a promotion.”
“I was recruited just today, sir. How could you trust me?”
Captain D’Mefordae smiled. “I can’t, but that is the way the The Elite.”
“Thank you, sir! May I go now?”
Captain D’Mefordae nodded.
Food was served in a small tent. The newbies dug in furiously, Velaine included. Sonder just sat beside her and watched her. Velained kept telling him to go away and get some food, but he watched her as if in a daze. After they all ate, Captain D’Mefordae gathered them together for a meeting.
“I may be hardened by many battles, young ones, but in my heart I still have respect for God. So should you all, despite what we go through, despite our uncleanliness in His sight, He loves us eternally. We had done nothing to earn that love, but yet He still loves us. He is the ultimate example and He has never done anything wrong. Forever, be steadfast in your faith and strive to be like Him. He is the Lord our God, and His mercy and love never fails. No matter how bad it gets, you can always relie on Him. Lads, go for your bibles.”
Velaine went and got her bible, then settled down on the ground before him.
“Open to Psalms 91.”
There was a rustling of pages and then the captain spoke again. “Velai, please read the Psalm for me.”
Velaine tried to hide her suprise. Clearing her throat, she spoke. “‘He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.” Surely He will save from the fowler’s snare and the deadly pestilence. He will cover you with his feathers, and under his wings you will find refuge. His faithfulness shall be your shield and rampart. You will not fear the terror of the night, nor the arrow that flies by day, nor the pestilence that stalks in the darkness, nor the plague that destroys at midday. A thousand may fall at your side, ten thousand at your right hand, but it will not come near you. You will only observe with your eyes and see the punishment of the wicked.
“‘If you make the Most High your dwelling, even the Lord, who is my refuge, then no harm will befall you, no disaster will come near your tent. For He will command his angels concerning you, to guard you in all your ways. They will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone. You will tread upon the lion and cobra; you will trample the great lion and serpent. “Because he loves Me,” says the Lord, “I will rescue him; I will protect him because he acknowledges My name. He will call upon Me and I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble, I will deliver him and honor him. With long life I shall satisfy him, and show him my salvation.”‘” Velaine ended and closed her bible.
Captain D’Mefordae smiled kindly at her and closed his own bible. “Never forget what the Lord our God says. You may all go now. Rest. In the morning, we again set out for Coroe.”
Velaine was awoken roughly. “Just a few minutes longer….” Velaine mumbled, falling back asleep. She received a kick in the ribs.
“Get up, lazy! It’s time to travel.” Velaine shot up and rubbed sleep from her eyes. She had a crazy dream where–She glanced around and moaned. It hadn’t been a dream.