This story is untitled for now, but when I do invent a decent name I will start posting under it...
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The first snow had fallen and the forest floor of Lum was covered in a thin layer of white. Branches of pine trees were laced in frost, and icy pinecones were dropped deftly to the earth. Everything in the forest was silent and naught could be heard for even the scramble of squirrels in the trees and the flapping of the crow’s wing was drowned in the heavy atmosphere.
There was only one sound, soft, that seem to come from afar. A cart, the snow crunching under its wheels, and the calm plod of horse’s hoofs pierced the winter air. Upon this cart, rode an old man; his shoulders were slouched, and his back was slightly bent. His eyes were hidden behind the brim of a tall pointed hat, and much else that could be seen was mingled with a great white beard that flowed down his chest like a frozen waterfall.
He bumped around freely in the cart, giving the impression that he was asleep, though he kept a wary eye more than often on the road ahead. A sudden beating of wings and the cry of a bird came from above, causing the traveler to look upwards.
He raised a quick arm, and on it landed a beautiful raven. It was ink black, its beady eyes swiftly moving as it cocked its head from side to side. The man watched the raven intently on his arm, he too moving his head to the side as if in search of something the raven had to say.
“What have you found, Krill?” The old man whispered to the bird softly. The bird ruffled its large feathers, cocking its head once or twice more, peering deeply back at its owner. A silence hung between them for a moment before the traveler nodded and released the raven from his arm. It flew off in the direction from where it first came out of sight.
The cart rolled on, this time at a quicker pace. It was not long before the traveler came to the entrance to a small cave. Its mouth was draped in snow, icicles hanging from the arch; however the old man was peering at what was inside.
The cave went near twelve yards, and a small fire was flickering at the end. And sitting close by was a boy, on his knees, staring back. The traveler sat still for a while saying nothing, and the boy did likewise, a trace of fear in his eyes.
“Hello there,” the old man called out. It was an old and weathered voice, as anyone could tell; one that had seen and experienced much over many ages and held endless tales to speak of. “Are you alone?” He asked, dismounting from his cart.
The boy did not reply however one would have obviously noted the boy was alone.
As the man came down, his flowing cloak falling to his feet, the boy fidgeted uneasily as he approached. “My name is Gilroc. But now—who are you?”
The boy looked to the ground and muttered something inaudible.
Gilroc smiled warmly. He was no more than a few yards away from the boy where he stopped. Sighing deeply, he looked around the dank cave, then back at the boy.
“Well now…I’ve been traveling for some time and I’ve become rather weary. You don’t mind if I stay here for a while and recover my strength do you?” The boy shook his head and said nothing.
“Right then,” Gilroc said, taking a seat. “That fire could use some more wood, and if you’ve got anything to eat, I’m rather starved.” He said abruptly. The boy looked at him.
“No, sir,” the young boy finally spoke, meek and frightened. “I’m too cold to get more wood at the time, and I haven’t eaten in two days…”
“Is that so?” Gilroc exclaimed. “Well, you do look something like it. I suppose I’ll have to get some of my own then.” He rose and started for his cart, seeing the boy look hopefully after him. Gilroc threw aside the cover in the back of his cart and brought forth three hefty logs. Bringing them back, he adjusted them so that before long a grand fire was crackling heartily. He made another trip to his cart, this time bringing back two bread loaves with butter, cheese, a flask of cider, and several bright apples.
He set them down, casually avoiding the boy’s famished gaze.
“Supper for two,” Gilroc stated impishly, serving the boy a little of everything. He tore into the food, filling his mouth as fast as it would allow him. Erasmus smiled, he himself taking a leisurely amount of time to slice his cheese on his bread, and carve chunks of the apples.
They ate in silence for some time before Gilroc broke into conversation.
“Now then, if you’ll forgive me,” he began. “I did not quite catch your name…”
“Jaden.” The boy replied. He seemed a great deal friendlier now and much color had returned to his face. “Thank you for the meal.” He said quietly.
“You’re more than welcome,” Gilroc said warmly, “but might I ask—what are you doing here? Surely you were not having a simple overnight stay in the woods; no, not in those rags and with no food, you were definitely not!”
The boy looked to the floor nervously. “It’s rather a long story.” He said.
“Ah…well as I see it, you have nowhere to go and I won’t be on my way any time soon—why don’t you tell me all about it?” Gilroc suggested pleasantly. Jaden began, recalling his life. He was a slave boy to a merchant in Dunfalar; one that obsessed in his trade near the docks on the lower western shores. However Jaden usually stayed behind and kept the home while he was away, tending to his gardens, keeping both the house and the land in an orderly condition, and many other jobs. For as long as Jaden could remember, he had been a slave to the merchant. He was never shown much love or mercy during these times, and eventually he could take it no longer.
“So you ran away,” Gilroc finished the rest of Jaden’s story, pondering on all he had just said. Jaden nodded. “And where now do you plan on going?” Gilroc questioned him further. “I assume someone of your age would have a better idea of where he was off to—how old are you anyway?”
“Fourteen, sir,” Jaden replied. “I’m afraid I’m not quite sure where to go. I’ve never been taught the places of the world. And besides, I was merely trying to run as far as I could so my master would not find me again.” He said worriedly.
Gilroc thought to himself for sometime before presenting his conclusion, one that he had been planning on all along. “Well then, Jaden, former slave to the merchant of the north, I can see only one way of you getting out of this dreadful cave to begin with,” he began to pack what was left of the food and stood.
“You shall come along with me.”
Jaden’s face brightened at the idea and he too rose, standing at attention like a soldier. Gilroc chuckled. “You seem to agree. Well as long as you’re under my care, Jaden, there will be a great deal more companionship between the two of us…I’m not a blundering merchant, you know.”