"Neverdie" (Chapter 2), an original fantasy story by Jon Wood
Editor's Introduction: Every Sunday, we're publishing "Neverdie", a serialized fantasy novel. This is an original work of fantasy fiction and is not set in an MMORPG world. Today, we bring you chapter two. Be sure to go back and catch up with the prologue and chapter one.
“You need to relax and drink your tea”, Rahal Diamondblayde said, absently running a hand through what he used to pride himself on being a full, auburn beard. In recent years though, the beard has somehow picked up flecks of grey.. “She promised to return, and she will.”
“I suppose you’re right.” Szark replied, settling in a chair opposite his friend. It had only been a week since his student’s departure, and already he couldn’t help but feel concerned for the girl. Over the time that she had spent with him, he had come to like her a great deal and the thought of never seeing her again bothered him more than he would have liked to admit. Fiddling absently with his tea cup, the Green Mage took a moment to take in his surroundings. He and his friend sat comfortably in one of Mylund castle’s many well-furnished parlors. When the pair had taken rulership of the small kingdom, it was decided that Rahal would govern. The warrior had always been a commanding figure, standing nearly a foot taller than most men and with the wide shoulders and broad, full chest of a man who had made his way through life with his hands. His appearance and easy-going nature had quickly won him the respect and admiration of many of Mylund’s people, while they met the thin, wiry wizard with suspicion. Even today, nearly 10 years later, the townsfolk remained cool toward the Green Mage. Although he assumed that this had more to do with his profession than with his person, he couldn’t help but feel some degree of jealousy.
Still, at the time, Szark hadn’t had the ambition that it would have taken to rebuild the lands and win the respect of the people. He had been more than content to make his residence in a nearby tower, locked away with his studies and his magic. Now, as time wore on, he found himself questioning that decision.
“You’ve lost yourself in thought,” Rahal observed, abruptly ending his friend’s self-discourse. “Where were you this time? Going over some ancient document or some other mystical nonsese, I suppose.”
“No, not this time,” he replied, smiling. “Thinking of old times.” Szark’s gaze moved over to the mantle where the warrior-king’s beloved sword hung ceremoniously on the wall. In all of the years that he had seen his friend wield the weapon, Szark had been unable to decipher the enchantment that had been put upon the blade. Now, in its honored position, it appeared no differently than any other sword, but in the hands of the mighty warrior-king, the blade would inexplicably burst into flame. “Wondering where the time has gone, is all.”
“You’re getting old,” Rahal chided, laughing. “Time has been more than kind to both of us. Living in the past only breeds regret.” He spoke the words with a laugh, but deep down, a piece of King Rahal Diamondblayde longed for the open road and the daily tests of strength and cunning that could either save your life, or end it. Like his friend, he had new challenges to explore. Running a kingdom, and more importantly, a family, he had a wife and daughter to consider, not to mention the wants and needs of the people who counted on his leadership. Sometime he wondered which was worse, a horde of goblin-kin, looking to hang his head as a trophy, or the challenges of raising a teenage daughter. Most days, given the choice, he’d choose the goblins. Hands down.
“Yes, well,” Szark snapped, setting his teacup aside. “You called me here because you wanted to talk to me about something, spit it out.”
“Right. Yes.” Rahal replied, caught off-guard by his friend’s abrupt change in conversation. “It’s nothing terribly urgent, just a new retinue of guards from the church. If you have somewhere else that you need to be…”
“No,” Szark answered with a sigh, “go ahead. What’s this about new guards?” Although Szark carried no official title or power in the kingdom, he had always considered himself to be at the very least, a defender of the small kingdom, and his friend had always kept him alerted to what little military activity there might be. Mylund was small. More of a small town then the grandiose title of Kingdom might imply. As such, the need for guards had always been a secondary concern.
“The Church of Rah has sent a delegation of knights to ‘help in the defense of our great kingdom’”, Rahal said simply. Most people who knew the jovial and charismatic king would have simply let the comment pass as a sincere statement of the facts. Szark, on the other hand, knew the man too well and detected a hint of sarcasm in his tone.
“You think that it might be a gesture of something other than good faith?” He asked, genuinely concerned. His friend was not prone to distrust or paranoia.
“Maybe,” Rahal replied after only a moment’s hesitation. “But I think it far more likely that this is the church’s way of keeping their eyes on Mylund. I don’t think their clerics have ever forgiven me for turning down their offer of a church-run state. They just don’t trust me.”
“Ye’ll have to do more than that if ye’re going to keep this dingy, drab, poor excuse for a kingdom, safe from attack, or worse… yerselves.” While neither man immediately saw the speaker, both recognized the voice instantly. It was a voice that they had heard countless times before, a voice that had guided them through their youthful adventures and probably saved their lives more times than either one of them would like to admit. Crodin. It was no surprise when their mysterious companion stepped into the room, seemingly out of nowhere. Their companion was short by human standards, standing on the shy side of 4 feet tall and was dressed, as always, in dark robes with a deep hood that prevented casual onlookers from seeing his face. In fact, not even his two friends had ever seen him without the all-concealing hood pulled carefully over his head. At first, this secrecy had bothered the companions, especially the knowledge-thirsty Szark Greengem. Still, in time, both men had come to accept their friend’s strange ways. Judging by his accent and the fact that he still seemed agile despite his rather large mid-section, the two had assumed that their friend was dwarven. Crodin had, of course, never confirmed or denied the fact.
“Why…”, Rahal managed to ask, being the first to speak. It had been many years since their friend had paid a visit, and the warrior-king had simply assumed the worst.