Chapter 3— Exiled of Arndain.
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6 days later
The dawn of the first day of the new month in the wood bordering Wynpen could not have been any clearer. The sky was a fresh blue, and thin clouds were stretched along the sky. The wish of the naked trees had still not been answered, however they were not blessed with leaves but a small coating of the first snow on their bare branches. The ground was frozen over in a layer of frost, and squirrels had a hard time digging up the holes in the ground where they had stored their own supply for the winter. They chattered away, scraping in vain at the solid earth. Crows from above, cawed and squawked noisily in the air at each other, fighting for what food they could find.
They gathered in bunches on the trees, shaking snow to the ground, and whatever scraps of food had fallen as well, then the flocks of crows gathered in heaps there before long. One particular mob of crows, an especially vicious mob at that, appeared to be very potent as they battled one another. Pecking at each other, and displaying themselves as highly overrated, they somehow all had a fear for loud noises however.
And this certain noise qualified to scare any mob of crows.
A loud snap of a twig underfoot cracked loudly, and sent off the pack of crows fleeing, leaving a trail of black feathers behind. Following them, a boy of clumsy agility sprung out after them, diving and landing roughly on the icy earth—a bird trapping bag in his hands.
The boy’s intentions were in hopes of capturing one of these crows, but had presently failed due to his careless sneaking and not watching as to where he was stepping. He rose from the ground, wiping the dirt from his now filthy face, and frowned down at his barren sack. His father would kill him for coming home empty handed again. Glumly, he turned around and began his walk back. He needed to catch something—his family was going hungry, and the rations were strictly limited now.
The boy went by the name of Jehn, a nineteen year old lad, with curly, sandy-brown hair falling messily to his cheeks. His clothes were not much more than those of peasants, and he resembled one even further as his face was rather grubby. This did not suit the boy well at all, for he was most definitely not of any similarity to a simple plebian in a small village. No, this boy was the descendent of the lord Ilgorn of all Arndain. In fact, the lord Ilgorn was no other than his own grandfather, whom Jehn had seen only once when he was not much more than five.
It all occurred when Jehn was eighteen, only a year ago. Him, his family, and the family of one of Jehn’s friends were relegated from Arndain. Actually, if they had to be frank with anyone—they were exiled. No one in Arndain knew the reason for this, for Jehn and his family were rather well-known in those parts. And it had all happened so suddenly.
Jehn thought of these events as he trudged back to where his family had camped in the woods.
* * *
It was just like any other bright summer day in Arndain. Jehn was out early as usual, walking across the green field of dew that spread out from his home. Jehn loved the land of Arndain more than anything. He loved waking to the sunlight pouring through his window, and the crisp air that chilled his lungs when he took walks outside.
Jehn spent countless days in the evenings sitting at his favorite spot on the top of a hill that overlooked the town his town in Arndain. And when he looked further he saw the great castle-like fortress of Luindon where his grandfather, Ilgorn, dwelled. It bordered the western shores, some of the most beautiful among the four seacoasts of the world. At every hour then, Jehn heard faintly the boisterous sound of the harbor bell tolling out to the orange sky; pink undersides of wispy clouds set a magnificent background for the seagulls that cried out.
It would never appear to the simple minded person who only looked at appearances, that such a desire as the lord, Ilgorn, had conceived could come from a place like this. But no matter—it had. And it was to be accomplished within the fifth day of the month.
It was very soon, at least it felt to Jehn…having to leave his home he loved so much. The news of this had slapped him hard, and he reeled in confusion when he had first heard it. His father, Sir Solomon, was summoned to the throne of his father, Ilgorn, he rarely ever saw. Having a father as the ruler of all Arndain, had its benefits, as Sir Solomon was appointed as general of the Arndain army, barracks commander, and siege designer all at once when he was merely twenty-seven. This, Solomon took great pride in, telling tales to his Jehn about wars he fought in and showing scars from wounds he obtained in them.
But now it was lost. Ilgorn had unleashed his plan to hold himself ruler forever till his day of death. It was the one thing he feared the most—to give up his place as king of Arndain. And he knew very well just who the rights would be passed on to. His son would be king in no more than two years had Ilgorn not devised this plan to get rid of Solomon.
So in summoning his son to his throne to finally present the design he held for months to get rid of him brought great pleasure to Ilgorn, as his wrinkled face twisted to a wry smile when Solomon entered his throne room.
“My father—or rather, your Majesty—what is the purpose you have called me for. Just explain to me what part of this world you wish exterminated and it will be done with your army at my command….” Solomon looked kindly into his father’s eyes up until he noticed the gleam of evil victory in the king’s eyes.
“Solomon!” Ilgorn suddenly shouted from where he sat. “I have who and what I need to be exterminated in plan already—you, my boy!” He stood from his throne, white robe falling at his feet. “Yes, you heard me clearly, Solomon….I am denouncing you!” He pointed an accusing finger at his bewildered son kneeling at his feet. “Denouncing you from your position as general of my army. Denouncing you as barracks commander and siege designer—Solomon, I denounce you now as my son!” Ilgorn’s eyes burned with hatred as he shouted, shaking slightly.
“Solomon, I command you now, gather your family and take leave of my domain! I declare you exiled of Arndain from here forth….” He smiled wickedly feeling no remorse whatsoever to the anguished man below. “And with those things to say, you may leave my presence now, and I hope never to see you again—or it will not be a happy welcoming at all.”
All Solomon could do was just stare at his father gazing with repulsion at him. He had lost everything he owned within a matter of minutes. He was frozen to the spot wishing he would wake somehow from this nightmare.
“Leave Solomon!!” Ilgorn exploded and raised his arm. “Leave….” The lord Ilgorn turned and solemnly walked back up the small steps to his dais. Solomon slowly rose to his feet, his face still that of stupefaction at what had just taken place. He swallowed hard and nodded once. He turned his own opposite way, and dragged his suddenly weary feet to the large wooden double doors at the entrance.
“And Solomon,” Ilgorn suddenly spoke. “I am not making a joke of this. Here,” he threw a parchment sealed with his signet ring. “Those are the documents vouching your denunciation. You may go now….” He still smiled hatefully at his son who had stopped, taken a glance at the sealed parchment by his feet, and (never even touching them) left the king’s court.
And so it was, then, that Solomon and his family were all exiled from Arndain, and left to journey out in the world in search of a new home. Jehn was among the most disappointed of them all. I say ‘disappointed’ as an underrated statement for Jehn was actually furious at this behest and cried all night, the very night he had to pack up his things.
Of course, Jehn had to say goodbye to all of his friends—actually it was just his one friend. Bree, the only friend Jehn really had, had been his friend since the age of six. They were each other’s best friend, who had always been there for the other person, and I think they had only argued once in their life about some stupid petty thing which ended up in them laughing realizing their foolishness.
Now, neither of the two laughed at the situation at hand, and Bree stared at the ground in confusion, eyebrows furrowed. “But why would the king do that to your family? Of all people—I mean, you are related, you know.” Bree tried to reason out why Ilgorn had brought this fate on his own family, and kicked her foot into the earth in frustration.
“I—I don’t know….” Jehn shook his head in deep thought. “It’s not usual for someone like Ilgorn to suddenly banish us—especially after all he had done for my father before.”
“Well whatever it is, I’m going to tell my family about this. In fact, I am going to make my family hate the king! And furthermore—I’m coming with you and your family if you all leave…when you all leave….”
And so it was. Jehn knew not to argue with someone like Bree when it came to matters this serious, and in the end she and her family, too, ended up coming along after what we can consider “exiling themselves”.
They had already been traveling, now, for days after heeding the guidance of Jehn’s father to take the paths of the Galaemus roads, knowing that each one led somewhere—they chose the one that led to the Lum wood. “O, Solomon I thought you knew where we were going!” Bree’s father grumbled. The troop had camped goodness-knows-where in the forest, and they now all sat in one large circle trying best to keep warm against the pitiful glowing embers working their way into a small fire.
He swore again. “And we all took the road that had the sign saying it led north to Dunfalar! And all here can testify to it that we never even traveled due north, always veering off this way and that!”
“I-I know, and I’m sorry—all of you. Wood goblins...they come out every time of year and change everything, the signs being one of them. A-and I haven’t been traveling in a while so I wasn’t sure which one was correct….” Everyone around sighed heavily and pretended to look around as if they didn’t care.
“O, come on now, let’s not be too heavy hearted—we’ve got my son to fetch us something to eat haven’t we? I’ll bet he comes back and…”
“O Jehn, you’re back! I’m so glad! Did you get anything?” Bree suddenly raised her head and called out, seeing Jehn come trudging towards them. Everyone else followed, raising their heads with hopeful eyes. Jehn’s face was sullen as he flung the sack before them. It alighted softly on the ground, showing there was nothing inside. Everyone was deathly silent for a long time as they stared at the sack lying in the dirt.
“Wonderful….” Bree’s father threw up his arms and retreated to his family’s tent. Jehn flinched, and glanced at his father. His stare into the straining fire was grave…one that was not set on the matter at the present, but the consequences in the days to follow. “Well, there’s no reason for us to stay out here in the cold. Best we get to sleep for tomorrow when we walk—for a long time. Good for you to come back when you had to, Jehn—any later and we’d have to have gone searching for you in the dark.”
Solomon nodded once or twice and everyone headed for their tents. Jehn never felt more of a worthless person, knowing because of him everyone would go starving tonight. He wondered why his own father and Bree’s too couldn’t have come along to help him maybe. It was something Solomon had told him…something about being able to trust Jehn to do it on his own. He was grateful for that, but even could have been more grateful for a warm meal.
As the tent flaps closed, and the light of the candles were diminished, Jehn began to panic in the dark, as he stood there alone. How long would he and everyone else survive? Would they ever find food at all? He hugged himself and sat down next the singed wood concealing the glowing orange beneath them. Jehn reached into his worn tunic and brought forth a wooden amulet, strung on a leather cord that he wore with him wherever he went. Gazing fondly at its strange engravings he whispered a few barely audible words that were immediately taken by the night air.
Without delay, the oak amulet burst forth with flames all around it. It warmed Jehn’s face with a wave of comforting heat. The markings on the amulet burned bright with an orange light that seemed to come from somewhere inside. Jehn gazed into the flames letting the events of the day play in his mind like a confusing nightmare. But despite what those were he was calm. He knew that the flames of a fire could make the most frantic person alive settle down quite a bit.
“What’s that you have there, Jehn?” A whisper came from over by the tents. Jehn involuntarily grabbed his amulet, wrapping his hand around it tight. He looked up to see Bree sticking her head out of her tent. “W-what did you want?” Jehn stuttered looking nervously at her. No one had ever seen the amulet he wore around his neck, and he knew that she had just now seen the flames coming from it.
“Just wanted to know what you’ve got there in your hand,” she nodded to his clenched fist, coming out of the tent. Bree walked over the cold earth and sat down beside him.
“I-it’s really nothing—nothing at all.” Jehn squeezed the wood even tighter. Bree lowered her head at looked at him kindly. “So you’re clenching your fist tight with a leather cord coming from it, you’re stuttering, and you are barely breathing—it’s nothing, is it?”
Jehn smiled out of the side of his mouth. There was nothing he could keep from Bree after knowing her for so long. And anyway…what was there to hide about the amulet anyways? Jehn guessed that for this long he had never shown anyone; and since it was magic that gave it all the more reason for it to be hidden. But Bree was his best and only friend he had so he opened his clenched hand allowing color to return to his whitened knuckles.
“O, Jehn that’s beautiful—what is it?” Bree leaned over and marveled fondly at the round piece of oak that lay in his hand and ran her finger gingerly along the patters and queer writing it held. “…and where did you ever get it?”
Jehn smiled caringly himself at his own possession, and shrugged lightly. “It was just something one of the elders of the cathedral in Arndain had given me when I was only—let’s see—o, it was so long ago I don’t really remember….He just told me it was something that was magic. I always loved magic when I was smaller and for me back then it was more than wonderful to own something that actually contained magic in it.” Jehn smiled reminiscing of the days he spoke of.
“And it is magic, isn’t it?” Bree got more exited every moment. “I saw the flames it made…all you did was put your hand around it and they went out. How does it work, Jehn? Tell me, please! How does wood burn and burn like that without ever—well—burning?” Bree suddenly gasped with joy. “It’s a spell—am I right? You must have to say something to get it to produce fire, don’t you?”
“You’re asking an awful lot of questions, Bree,”
“O, stop it!” She silently laughed and punched him lightly the arm. “I want to know, that’s all….”
“Well then yes—that is actually how you do it…hey, don’t worry—I’m not trying to hide anything from you….” Bree still looked at him flatly and he knew instantly what she was saying in her mind. “Huh, and you want to know what those words are, don’t you? Alright, alright just hold on,” Jehn took a deep breath and looked into his wooden amulet again. “Armen rehir nardomluin….” Jehn whispered faintly, and the amulet once again ruptured into reassuring flames that licked at the cold night.
Neither of the two said anything for the longest time, and only stared wondrously into the orange blaze that hypnotized them; it left both of them oblivious to their surroundings, only the amulet was what they focused on now. Finally Bree found her voice again and spoke.
“T-that’s amazing—it really is magic….”
“Yeah, it is…it really is. It’s the only thing I have that brings back memories to me of Arndain. My true home….” Jehn’s face sunk now, and he gazed wretchedly to the glowing symbols of his talisman.
“Why, Bree...Why did it have to happen to us? I’m probably never going to see my home again. That home I loved and cherished just to marvel at.”
Bree looked sadly at him. “O, Jehn I miss it too. I miss it more than anything. Trust me, I know what it’s like to lose something you love. When my grandfather died in the battle of the Scarlet River, I cried myself to sleep for a whole month, I did. But look here—at least you don’t know what its like to be left alone. I mean cast aside from everyone—not being wanted. And neither do I, but I’m more than certain it’s horrid! Jehn, do you remember when we were in school at Arndain? Remember that one boy Gamamliel? He was cast aside…I’m sure you noticed it too. He was never included in anything the others did, never loved….” Bree looked down at the ground with a faraway look.
They were both recalling yet more times they had when they were not yet exiled. “I felt bad for him, Jehn. And I still haven’t forgiven myself for not doing anything about it….O, Jehn it was so cruel! They pretended they were acting themselves, but at the same time doing whatever they could to turn away from him. They never paid attention to him; he had to repeat something over four or five times until they would answer him. Until that day came and he stopped talking to anyone at school at all—that’s when it was too late….I mean, they even,”
“Yes, Bree, I know—I know.” Jehn bit his lip and tried direly to soak up all the warmth and comfort he could get from the amulet. “I felt bad for Gamaliel too. Not as bad as I did for myself though—I should have done something as well. I remember Gamaliel had a light when he first came to school. A light that shone in his eyes saying he was ready to make friends there. He found none, and—and—his light went out then.”
Jehn closed a hand around the amulet, killing the flames once again, and throwing the two into the deathly night that choked with solitude. “Bree, the light is going out for many of us already,” Jehn closed his eyes as he rose from the ground, knowing that in this dark Bree wouldn’t notice the tear that ran down his face.
Nathan D. Gage