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O where was it? There! Jaden tip-toed over to his father’s bow lying next to him; as he reached for it, he looked down at his parents sleeping faces. He smiled sadly, becoming more determined to find food for his family—and Bree’s if possible.
Jaden picked up the bow and slung it across his shoulder. He also grasped a quiver full of arrows along and tossed it on his back. The sun had not yet come up, only the faded line of pink singed the horizon. No one was awake and they were all sleeping still in their tents. Jaden didn’t know how many more days the two families could go on in hunger. Feeling worse than ever the night before, he was set to prove himself—he would find provisions for his family whether it lasted them for very long or not.
Jaden packed along a knife and his own sword. He brought along a leather water bladder which was empty at the moment. He hoped to find a stream somewhere later. Jaden stepped out into the chilly morning air and stretched his back, squinting at the tips of the bare trees above. He took a deep breath and walked a couple of yards. Stopping, he turned his head to glance at the tents which held the people he loved so much out of the corner of his eye. And with that, he trotted on, deeper and deeper within the forest to ascertain the rest that he was capable of doing what needed getting done.
* * *
As the sun continued its journey upwards, Jaden below was moving a rather decent pace of a slow jog, dodging branches as he searched for a river to find water for himself. After nearly an hour of trekking, Jaden spotted the slick white of a frozen river to his left just up ahead. He paused, grinned, and walked now over to the ice-covered river. He found a rock and upon reaching the brook, began slamming the large stone into the ice.
It finally gave way, producing a large crack in the ice with a sickening splitting noise. The ice broke open and Jaden moved the pieces and chunks of it aside. Dipping his water bladder into the river, freezing water rushed in. Jaden stood up looking satisfied with himself. He tipped the bladder to his lips and let the cool water rush down his throat. The burning of the icy water startled him at first but he eventually gave a smile, and feeling refreshed, continued on.
Jaden was wise enough to travel alongside the river, knowing if anything happened it would be easier to re-trace his steps by following it back downstream. He left obvious markings on the trees as he pushed on to use this as another way to find his path back.
As it neared midday, Jaden overheard the cooing of pigeons somewhere among the trees. He froze in his tracks, silently drawing an arrow. Choosing his footing carefully, he stepped over towards the noise. Jaden kneeled down and peer deeper in the wood to see a whole flock of pigeons cooing loudly and pecking endlessly at something on the ground.
Knocking the arrow to the bowstring, Jaden lifted the bow and aimed for one of the pigeons who was moving the least. He drew the string back to his cheek, where he closed an eye and aimed carefully. Upon drawing back the string, he elbow bumped into a branch stretching out and the finer twigs were immediately snapped from the branch.
In the stillness, it made a rather loud noise, and all the pigeons pecking instantly ceased. Some began to flutter away, and soon the rest were following along. Jaden swore and shut his eyes, letting the arrow fly. Of course he hit nothing, and the arrow drove itself into a tree somewhere beyond.
Jaden stood up from his spot, and twisted his face in misery. He reluctantly slung the bow back on his shoulder and stepped clumsily out to where the pigeons formerly were. Gray feathers were scattered hither from the flocks’ hasty departure. Jaden, you know you’ve got to keep going on…
The trees became less dense now as Jaden ended his time of plowing through the thick brambles. His ragged clothes were torn, and he had already acquired a decent scratch to his face. Now wondering if he should return to his family empty handed or not, Jaden abruptly stumbled over a fallen branch and found himself in a clearing. In fact he soon realized that he had reached the edge of the wood.
None of this really caught any of Jaden’s attention for what lay ahead was all he could possibly think of now. He stood rigid for some minutes before he slowly gave a grin that spread into the widest smile ever.
* * *
Jaden came crashing through the foliage of the Lum wood as if a forest troll were on his tail. But nothing now could make Jaden’s smile leave him, for what he had found in the clearing brought a new hope to his heart, and was sure it could to the same for his party.
He ran swiftly through the trees, glancing this way and that for the markings he had left to remind him of where he had gone. It took him a mere fifteen minutes to return to where his family’s tent was being packed away by his father. As he came to a halt, leaning over and inhaling deeply, his mother ran over to him and kneeled down next to him.
“Jaden, where were you? You frightened us all—especially Bree. We were all worried about you! What in heavens name were you doing?” She looked him over with concerned eyes, and seeing he was alright, put an arm around him and squeezed. “Don’t do that again—please.”
Jaden stood up straight and looked everyone in the eyes with pride, especially his father. “Everyone,” he announced with satisfaction, “I have found the precise place we may get food—and even a place to stay.” He grinned widely. Everyone around gasped with delight, other than Jaden’s father. He only smiled at him and nodded with approval.
“Well now, Jaden, where might we find this—this—place?” Bree’s father leaned towards him and inquired with anxiety. “Well, come on, speak up boy! You aren’t the only hungry one around here!”
“W-well you will all have to follow me. It’s amazing!” Jaden slowly recovered his breath. He helped his family to finish packing the tent and gathering everything together. He returned the bow and arrows back to his father, and strapped his sword to his back. Boys in Arndain were given swords at the young age of only thirteen when they were considered old enough to defend their homeland.
When everything was finished being bundled up (which went extremely fast), all stood looking to Jaden for guidance. “Right then, let’s go!” Jaden nodded and smiled. He turned and began walking the path he had just done earlier.
As they all marched on through the forest, Jaden was bursting with pride inside of himself for being capable of providing for his family when they were in need. Also he was awfully delighted to think that he would be eating a meal soon. He tried to conceal his joy, but it was so very hard when he was this happy. Bree seemed to notice it and walked up alongside him.
“So, Jaden,” she looked respectfully at him. “I guess you have proven yourself, haven’t you? Shown us all that you are competent of supplying us. Thank you….”
“Of course. I-it really was something that had to do with last night when I hadn’t come back with anything for us to eat. I could just sense the disappointment and worry in my father’s face I guess. That was what really drove me on this morning to find food.” Jaden shrugged.
“Well you did good, whatever it may be!” Bree leaned over to pick up a stick for walking with. Jaden searched for the trees where he had left markings, and before long the troop was trekking in different directions. Soon they had reached the spot where Jaden had attempted to hunt the pigeons. They all had a good laugh picking up the pigeon feathers from the ground as Jaden retold his story.
“Son, I’m proud of you for trying,” Jaden’s father announced as he plucked the arrow Jaden had shot from a tree some ways ahead. Jaden only laughed some more. From then on, all hearts were enlightened by the simple mirth they had—the first in a long time. This seemed to cause the hike to appear shorter and less burdensome, not that it was, knowing there was food ahead.
Before long, Jaden beamed with delight as he recognized his surroundings, knowing that just beyond the next trees food awaited them. He broke into a dash, and everyone else looked up from the ground in alarm. “Jaden, where are you going!?”
“It’s here! It’s right here!” Jaden called back excitedly to them. He kept running, until he broke free into the clearing; everyone else followed jogging up behind him. When they, too, had reached Jaden, they stood still in their tracks. Not moving, no one dared to even breathe as if it would all dissipate if they made a noise too loud. For what was before them could hardly have not been a dream:
Just ten yards or so away in the clearing stood a long table holding all the kinds of food you could ask for. Nobody was seated in the many chairs around, so it appeared to be set just for them. And just behind this a town stood, silent like the air. The town of Wynpen.
Bree’s father began to approach the table in a cautious manner to get a closer look at all the vittles set out. “It—It’s real!” He gasped. “Real food!” He chortled with delight and seated himself at the closest chair he could find, and helped himself to a roll on a platter nearest to him. He sighed contentedly and bit in. He chewed for a moment with his eyes closed and then, swallowing, beamed.
“Bit cold, but it beats not havin’ food at all!” He laughed and began piling a plate full of everything he could possibly reach for. At the mere sight of it, everyone around burst out in glee, and raced to the table to find their own seats and eat for the first time in a couple days.
It was the best food they had ever tasted, as each person ate as fast and furious as they possibly could. Each plate was piled high with breads, cheeses, and different vegetable pastries—cold but tasty nevertheless. Bree seated next to Jaden, smiled kindly at him through a mouthful of some sort of bird. Jaden never felt so good in his life to be seated with his best friend and their families enjoying a meal like this.
Jaden’s father swallowed and looked around. “I wonder what town this is…it’s awfully small. Well whatever it is, we were lucky to find—er—I mean my son was lucky enough to.” He chuckled and helped himself to more.
“I say!” Bree suddenly piped up. “When we’re finished here, we ought to go and search this place out. It looks rather deserted and all, but who knows what we could find!” She turned her gaze over to the cottages littering the area. Of course she was not the only one to have this in mind at all.
“Well I was just intending to do that myself,” Jaden said. “We really should go from home to home and see if anyone’s around…we could do with some help like that.” Everyone murmured agreements, and, of course, began to eat some more. They spent nearly another hour eating constantly, but no matter how ever much they consumed the table held so much there was plenty to spare. At the end of their meal, everyone sat back in their seats and sighed with contentment. “So what do you say to a bit of exploring now?” Jaden looked over at his father.
“I’d say that sounds like quite the sensible thing to do. You were going to come, Gregory,” He turned his head to Bree’s father and remarked in more of a questionable form.
“Why, of course I’m goin’ t’ come! Can’t let you boys be a-searchin’ out there by yourselves. Just think of what might happen to ye!” He laughed heartily. Bree’s father was, in fact, a very chubby man with not much for a neck, and large belly—he couldn’t actually do much at all. But Jaden and his father played his game and laughed rising from the table.
“O thank the stars for this table o’ food!” They strapped their swords back onto their backs and surveyed the town. Bree and the other two women stayed behind and talked merrily.
As Jaden, Solomon, and Bree’s father walked usually silently throughout the town, they remarked in hushed voices at what they saw. Some of the signs from shops creaked lazily in the winter breeze, giving the impression that the place hadn’t been inhabited in some while. “It can’t be too long since this place was occupied,” Solomon whispered. “Look at the town market. Products still look rather fresh, I’d say.”
“Why, you’re right, Solomon—let’s see how far this village stretches for.” Bree’s father now led the way, eyes rapidly keeping watch on all that surrounded them. They walked on uneventfully, for quite some time slowly giving the ghost town less of thought. It was dull, and when they reached the end of the houses, all three furrowed their eyebrows as if they had expected to find something.
“You think maybe we should go knocking on a few doors and see if anyone’s here?” Jaden asked.
“That actually is a very good idea. Come on,” Solomon headed for the nearest cottage, going for the door. He knocked, and waited for a long time. There was no answer, so he tried again. Still now answer. “Doesn’t seem to appear like anyone’s around. Perhaps this place was only deserted a little while ago…”
Abruptly they heard a groaning coming from what seemed like all around. The three looked around in alarm trying to decipher where the noise was coming from. It was like the wind was carrying it to them from all directions. Jaden began to slowly step in the direction of another cottage. His feet were silent that they might drown out the sound of the moaning. When he was soon sure where it was coming from, Jaden stepped more lively now until he reached the door of one of the cottages. He tried pushing it open but it was no doubt locked. He tried jerking it to get it open.
By now, his father and Bree’s had caught up with him, hearing themselves the groaning from inside the home. They helped to try and free the door but it wasn’t any use. “Right then, stand back, I’m going to try and knock it down,” Solomon motioned for his son to step aside.
“Hey, over here! Over here, I found a…”
Solomon threw a kick at the door, breaking it from the bar that was locking it in place, and it snapped with a loud crack and the wood door swung open.
“…A window.” Bree’s father said flatly seeing as how they had gone to break the door open. He walked around the cottage till he reached them, and peered in the doorway. Jaden and his father were both looking inside as well, for what could have made the sound.
They found it, almost more than instantly, seeing the seventeen-year-old boy lying on the floor. “O lord,” Solomon whispered. He stepped inside carefully and kneeled next to the boy. He groaned some more. “Jaden, get back to your mother and fetch this lad something to drink.” He instructed him. “He’s really pale…”
“Yeah, I can see that,” Jaden said and turned around dashing back to where the table was. Solomon tried to bring the boy to full consciousness, shaking him lightly and asking if he was alright. It took some time, but eventually he brought the boy to words.
“Y-yes I think I’m ok…but all those people out there…” The boy rolled his eyes to the open door. “Y-you’ve got to help them. They may be much worse off than I am. Please help them—help my mother out there…” He pleaded weakly.
“But now, son,” Bree’s father spoke up. “Listen here; there isn’t a soul out there. Nobody—save you, of course.”
The boy’s eyes suddenly flew open. “Nobody? H-how can that be? But the shadow! It—it—must have…no it couldn’t have….” His face broke into dismay.
“Couldn’t have what?” Solomon helped the boy to sit up against a bedside. He had quite a few questions bursting in his head for this lad. He asked him what his name was, and what on earth he was speaking of.
Matthias, as he came to find his name, began to weep silently. “It took them away…it took everyone…my mother…away.” He looked blankly aside and allowed himself to cry without thinking to stop. And he did so for quite some time until Jaden had brought him back a cup of water.
“Thank you,” Matthias whispered as he brought the cup to his lips. There was a moment’s silence while he drank and gradually he brought the cup down and looked the three men in the eyes with sorrow. “I-I have one question, though,” Matthias stuttered. “How long have I actually been out of it? Or I mean, how long have I—well—you know what I mean…”
“Yes,” Solomon chuckled. “I know. But the only problem is that I really don’t know. We’ve only discovered this place not but a couple hours back. You see, my family and another have been—um—lost of late, and we hadn’t any food for a few days straight.”
“Right and we found an enormous table of delicious foods we took justice to a while ago!” Bree’s father beamed. But for him to grin at that, Matthias’s face turned to fear once again. He sat up a little straighter, took another sip of water, and set it on the bedside table. He looked to all three of the men kneeling next to him desperately.
“Would you mind to take me to where this table was you all had acquired your food? I’m glad for you and your families that you found a place at last, but I must go and see what is left of the area….” Matthias himself began an attempt to stand. Solomon agreed, of course, and helped the boy to his feet. Matthias inquired if they had come across anyone else in the town yet, and on hearing the dreaded answer, he became more eager to see the feasting table.
Jaden had immediately become fond of the feeble boy his father was aiding. He looked at Matthias with a smile in his eyes, and stepped out of the cottage. “I say, I’ll go back to mother and tell the three of them to prepare something to eat for Matthias when you’ve reached them!” Matthias smiled at himself for his consideration and jogged light-footed back to the table.
All the while Solomon and Gregory helped Matthias back to the table, Matthias became more and more able to walk by himself. He removed his arm that was laden on one of Solomon’s shoulders, and looked this way and that with disbelief at the sight of his town. Everything was silent, so unlike the Wynpen he used to know when the streets were busied with the townsfolk going about their day’s business, and the market sellers shouting out what they had for sale that day.
When Matthias had reached the table that Jaden, Bree, and their mothers sat at talking excitedly about him, no doubt, they raised their head and smiled kindly upon seeing him walk slowly towards them.
“Come on now, dear, we’ve got something here for you to eat…golly you look famished!” Jaden’s mother beckoned Matthias over, and handed him a plate of food. Matthias received it gratefully and sat down across from Jaden and Bree, staring at the food. It only brought heartrending memories on the day of the shadow. He quickly wiped away a tear that tried to escape, knowing that if his mother, Gwendolyn, was anywhere at all it would have been here at the table.
But eventually Matthias began to eat lightly, realizing his hunger after having been unconscious for that period of—how long?
Solomon sat down next to the boy, and watched him eat with curiosity, chin resting on his hand. He assumed Matthias may seem slightly awkward eating by himself in a quiet like this, so he tried to bring up a conversation of any sort.
“Matthias,” Solomon sat back in his chair. Matthias quickly stopped eating and only gazed down morosely at his plate. “O, no, son, you go on and keep eating,” Solomon motioned for him to continue. “I only had a few more questions. Matthias nodded picking up his silverware again and eating less hastily now.
“One,” Solomon began, “do you know the name of this town?” He furrowed his eyebrows. Matthias nodded. “This is—or shall I say was—the town of Wynpen.” He took a deep breath. Jaden’s mother smiled upon hearing the boy’s voice.
Solomon looked at the table in thought, stroking his beard. “Wynpen,” he whispered in reflection. “The name does ring a bell, like something I had heard mentioned long ago when I was still a general of Arndain’s army.
Matthias peered at him mysteriously—Solomon was from Arndain.
“O yes, now I think I can recall it. It was something one of the commanders had talked of saying it needn’t be involved in the war we were facing at the time. So this is Wynpen,” He smirked with satisfaction. He chortled lightly. “Now I understand what Han was trying to get through to me! Truly there was no necessary actions to get a town like this involved in the war….”
Matthias suddenly hardened himself to the people around him. He didn’t like Ardain, let alone the people from the realm of it. Solomon began to form another question in his mind once again. “Matthias, why are you the only one here in this town of Wynpen? It looks to have been the habitat of a very peaceful community. Now it seems no more than a ghost town abandoned for some unknown reason. But of course we know that possibly isn’t—well—possible….”
Matthias finally felt comfortable, being able to tell other people, whether they be of Arndain or not, of the troubles he was facing. Matthias swallowed the last of his food, and looked everyone around him in the eyes. “Right then,” nodded. “I think you had better listen to this. I need to know what it was and who had caused it. If you are a general of Arndain that you say you are, I believe you may be able to tell me of this,”
“Well then, begin.” Bree’s father leaned on the table ready to hear what Matthias had to say. He began by telling of the reason this table of food was here, and then had to retrace even further to explain his discovery as an infant on the river Fenrien. From there he told of the shadow that had come to pass over Wynpen. Solomon’s face grew grave the more he told. Matthias became choked when he spoke of poor Greta who had warned him, suddenly coming to the realization that if it wasn’t for her he would have probably been dead now. He ended abruptly, not being able to speak any further as he spoke of how he tried to save his mother before falling unconscious in the cottage.
“How come, if true that the shadow had killed all in Wynpen, are their bodies not laying lifeless here in this very spot?” Matthias wondered. “Surely, someone’s body cannot decay over such a short time after death!”
“It is the way of the shadow,” Solomon answered. “It kills in the way that anyone who dies from it lies dead with a body that will dissipate within a matter two days….” He spoke darkly.
“Do you know anything of this shadow?” Matthias questioned Solomon further, desperately needing to know what it was. Solomon nodded but wouldn’t answer fully, and sighed putting a hand over his face. “I-I never thought it could actually be,” he whispered, “Never thought that it would actually come…not so soon leastwise.” He breathed hard with astonishment.
“What are you talking about?” Jaden became worried himself seeing the distress in his father’s face. “What do you know of the shadow?” He shook his head slightly confused.
“Haven’t you ever heard?” Solomon suddenly looked up at his son. “But of course not. Something like this was most likely never mentioned at your schools in Arndain.” He smiled weakly and shook his head. “But at lads your age, you all should know…this shadow is the breath of the Dark Apparition.” He said this mostly to Matthias, Bree, and his son.
Everyone’s eyes grew wider at the mention of the name. It was something of a known that they had heard here and there, but had never seen it at work. The Dark Apparition dwelled underground in the land of Lameharrow, this was all Jaden knew, and that the only way someone could enter into his domain was through the underwell into the abyss. Jaden wet his lips and asked. “How come the Dark One is attacking so abruptly? And why, of all places, did he choose to scourge this town? I may be wrong, but I don’t see anything here that could be of want. Why hadn’t he struck down upon somewhere larger, like Ereth Londale, or our own Ardain?”
“N-no, no, son,” Solomon waved his son’s idea away. “Arndain and Ereth Londale had been blessed by the priests long ago with spells that the breath of the Dark Apparition could not touch. But what does trouble me is the reason for his sudden attack. The Dark Spirit has not made a move so bold as this for the past nine hundred years or near to it, a mere myth now. I don’t know why he would do so at this time,”
“Then, father, what were you fighting the whole time of your term as general?” Jaden questioned suddenly, wondering what Solomon’s leading troops had been against all the while.
“We were holding the barbarians of Edelon at bay for seven years. I don’t think they knew of this place, for there would not have been a sensible reason for them to attempt attacks on Arndain any further.”
“Well obviously He is trying to seek and destroy what He possibly can.” Jaden’s mother spoke up suddenly, preferring not to speak the name of the Dark One. Everyone around nodded in consideration at this assumption. But Solomon nodded more gravely than all, for he was a man who had the experience of thinking ahead of his enemies plans. “And you all know what that mean, of course,” he looked into everyone’s eyes, and upon receiving the shaking of heads, Solomon sighed.
“I do sort of have an idea of what He might be up to,” Gregory tapped his chubby chin with a finger, “And I don’t like what I’m thinkin’….” He shook his head.
Solomon had to control his patience and realize that he alone among this innocent group was the only one who led and army, seen battles before his eyes, and watch both victories and defeat come to pass. “It appears more than obvious to me that the Dark Apparitions means to spread and overrun all He can.” Barely audible gasps came forth from nearly everyone.
They talked for a good while more of the situation at hand, before Jaden suggested some action be taken now. “Was there somewhere your mother, Gwendolyn, had stayed, Matthias? Perhaps a castle of any sort? O-or did she dwell in one of these cottages like everyone else?”
“O no, she lived in a humble bastion, no doubt, as did I along with her. Come, I will take you all there. Perhaps there is more to that stronghold than I know of.” Matthias smiled and shook his head sadly. “My mother often kept me away from things for reasons unknown to me. Rooms I was never allowed to enter, chests I weren’t permitted to open. Come on now,” He rose from his spot at the table and motioned for everyone to follow.
Matthias led the two families, following behind him, through the town of Wynpen once more, pointing out certain places and things they saw, and explaining what they were. Turning sharply west, he directed them toward the castle.
The stronghold came forth to view before long, and Jaden smiled, remembering the last time he had actually seen a castle. Matthias escorted them to the main gate, and told them all to wait. He had to climb the east gutter that led him past a window, in order for him to get inside and open the gate. He did so, and before long and low creaking was heard, and the gate lowered.
Matthias was seen behind the gate and he motioned for everyone to come along as he walked on through a long stone hallway. The hallway was entirely formed of a gray stone, and diminished torches clung to the walls on the left side, giving light to the many tapestries on the other. They all looked very similar, as everyone noticed when they walked silently through the halls, marveling at their surroundings.
The hallway led them to a divide of arched doorways with patters on the edge; three ways, the middle leading to the great hall, and the other two on the side containing stairs that led to higher levels. Matthias took the right doorway, and everyone climbed the flight of winding steps. This opened up into another stone hallway, much smaller and wooden doors leading to rooms on each side. At the end of the hallway the prize head of a deer hung on a wooden plaque in a proud display.
“My own room,” Matthias spoke, “lies here.” He swerved to the left and drew a key from his pocket. Fixing it to the golden lock, he turned the key and entered. Everyone followed behind, and immediately gazed around at everything there was to see. In this case—there was hardly anything at all. For all Matthias owned and needed, as he later mentioned, was all that lied in his room.
The few belongings he possessed were a shelf he crammed with books, and a small table that contained letters he had gotten from the many people he loved. Jaden noticed that Matthias refrained from looking at these too much. Matthias sat on his small bed, and glanced around fondly at the few things he had. This was all he needed. “You are all free to walk around the castle wherever you please,” Matthias shrugged. “I have no reason for you all to follow me if you don’t wish to….” He sighed usually heavy, and he looked at a flock of geese passing by out of his window. Solomon sensed a need in him to be alone and he nodded considerately.
“Come on, Jaden, let’s go downstairs!” Bree grabbed Jaden’s arm and hauled him out the door—she seemed rather interested at the sight of the great hall, and was excited at her new freedom to explore. Really she had never been in a castle before, for she was never allowed within the walls of Luindon back when she dwelled in Arndain. Jaden had once or twice, being of the same lineage of Ilgorn, the king, and had only memories of enjoying it very much.
Solomon and the rest, other than Matthias, left to have themselves a look around. Down below, Bree and Jaden had already reached he bottom of the staircase, being swift and eager, and this time Bree turned to the middle archway and walked slowly now as they entered the great hall.
In here—there was much to see.
The floor was a beautifully waxed wood that glinted at the slightest shaft of light. And indeed there were beautiful rays of afternoon sunlight shining through the slim yet many windows on the wall. Specks of dust look rather beautiful as they passed by these rays of sunlight that shone on them making them appear like floating fireflies.
A few tables of the same colored wood were laid out along the floor. Long, massive tables, they were, and clean as could be. Bree walked alongside one of the tables, running a finger along the slick wood in fascination. Jaden chuckled silently at how easily his friend could marvel at something. If only she had gotten a mere glimpse of the internal atmosphere of Luindon.
Towards the end of the great hall, a smaller table stood, laid horizontally in the opposite direction as the others. This table held a few rolled parchments of sorts, a quill, and bottle of ink. Behind the table, a large fireplace rested, ashes and burnt logs still in the grating. A large grandfather clock hung above fireplace, its ticking hypnotizing.
Now this was something, Jaden was somewhat attracted to, and he strode over to it. Looking up into the glass, and watching in interest at the hands. They were no doubt made of pure mangathen, the golden mineral dwarves mined mostly in search of. It was a hard substance, not easily broken, much harder than iron, containing a magnificent glowing gold in its color. The face of the clock itself was a creamy white, obviously ivory, and the twelve hours of the day were engraved in this and filled yet again with more mangathen. Jaden stuck his hands in his pockets and smiled. The numbers were engraved in the dwarven ruins for their numbers.
Spending another five minutes or so, gazing at the many sights of the great hall, Bree became restless once again and wandered off once more to venture through the castle further. Jaden, however, had to disagree this time, noticing the shafts of sunlight fading rapidly. “It’ll be night soon,” he stated. “And I would like to have us all in a group, especially you and I, when we make arrangements for tonight.”
Bree reluctantly agreed, and after giving the great hall one last affectionate glance, she left, acting as if they would never go back. Once again, the two trekked the flight of stairs to Matthias’s room, found him there lying on his bed looking with an anguished face at a letter he had received from his mother. A pile of them lay by his side, and he had read each of them at least twice through now.
Matthias immediately folded up the letter, upon seeing Bree and Jaden in the doorway, blinked hard a couple times and rose, setting the pile of letters back on the table. He cleared his throat and smiled at them both. “Well now, how was your time exploring the sights of the castle? Good! Well—uh—I believe the others are not yet back from their own exploration, but don’t worry! It shouldn’t be too hard to find them….” Matthias walked past them, out of his room (closing and locking the door as he went) and nodded for Jaden and Bree to follow.
Bree was delighted as she came to realize that Matthias was taking them back to the great hall. They entered into the large room once again, and Bree acted all over as if she had never seen it before. Matthias bid them to take a seat at one of the tables, and continued over to a silver bell hanging on a peg towards the end of the room, they had not noticed before.
This, Matthias retrieved and strode back over to them. “I daresay, this might just be the thing to find the rest of our party,” he smiled mischievously and raised the bell in the air. Shaking it violently, Matthias produced a clear ringing that echoed throughout the great hall, and traveled farther still throughout the rest of the castle.
“Ah, ye hear that?” Bree’s father, Gregory, suddenly perked up, standing upright from his former position of looking at some glass dishes. Him and the rest of the others had still been exploring the castle, not paying any attention whatsoever to the waning of the day
“Yes, I do….” Solomon replied suddenly became alert. “What is it?” He looked out one of the windows to see if there was anyone below.
“No, no, Solomon,” Gregory chuckled. “That be the sweet sound of a dinner bell—I could tell from a mile away! And anyway, I should say it was about time for another meal!” He laughed heartily and left the room, making his way for the great hall, where he knew food awaited. Solomon chuckled after him and escorted the other two ladies out of the room they were in.
It took Bree’s father a very little amount of time to reach the great hall, despite his oversized stomach and ungraceful trot. But he still managed to get down in the great hall soon, only to be met with bare tables. His face fell to that of dismay. “W-wha?” He stammered, stopping in his tracks. “I could have sworn I heard a dinner bell ringing clear as daylight!” He grumbled.
“That you did,” Matthias laughed showing him the bell he had just rung. “But this was merely to gather us all together. Don’t be disheartened, we will have another meal yet!” Matthias laughed more still, and set the bell next to Jaden on the table. “Why don’t you have a seat, Mr.—uh…” It suddenly occurred to Matthias he didn’t know the name of this gourmand.
“—Basil. And I must say, we had better yet!” Gregory grew a tinge of cherry in his chubby face, taking a seat next to his daughter, Bree. She smiled embarrassingly at her father and elbowed him in the arm. It was not much longer that Jaden’s own parents and Bree’s mother along with them appeared in the doorway. He smiled and beckoned them over. Before anyone knew it, they were all seated together just like before along one of the tables in the great hall.
The rays of light from the windows had gone altogether, and only the orange in the horizon could be seen. Matthias was now warming up to these two families, may they be of Arndain or not. He slowly began to reconsider what the people of Arndain really were like…but he still envied them a little no matter.
Even so, Matthias had plans forming in his wonderful mind, and he discussed these with everyone else. “—so then, I was thinking rather that you will all be staying here. Of course that assumption was based upon what I had heard earlier of your travels. O no, I don’t mind at all; and really there is no one else here in Wynpen…a-alive to disagree….”
“Now you are sure? Good. We are more than happy to remain here! We have no where else to go…and we are against venturing to Ereth Londale. We fear if word gets to them about our being exiled from Arndain for the purposes we were, it may cause animosity between the two cities. And we do not want that to happen ever, for they have been on good terms with each other ever since their creation.”
“Yes, I am more than happy t’ stay right here! ‘Specially if I can get meals like this every day!” Gregory blurted rubbing his large belly. A few chuckles rent the air. These discussions went on further for maybe another half an hour or so before it had come to an end, and everyone around the wooden table agreed it may be wise to prepare for the night. Jaden and Bree agreed most readily, anxious to have a good night’s sleep—the best he probably would have in a long time.
Nathan D. Gage