The night was dark and quiet on the mythical and magical world of Dracos. The stillness was a welcome change for the residents of the area. The trees that once hid brigands, murderers, and thieves no longer caused fear to these simple people. The One had come and made their existence safe once more. The people could go out to their neighbors’ homes after dark without fear of being harmed or robbed on their way home to their simple homes. The night was almost over as our tale begins. Most of the people were sleeping in their beds as the light of the new day was dawning. Some who worked the land were already awake and waiting for the sun to begin their day’s work, while others were just beginning to stir.
The sun fell upon the fields of battle that had raged nearly a year before and a glint was seen by the old man leaning on his staff looking over the great battlefield. “How many died out there that day’, thought the old man. Such a waste of life and time was how he saw it, but it was not his call. He had followed the man here so long ago. He remembered the night he watched the hero’s widow search that broken field like it was yesterday.
He had walked onto the field and saw her bent almost to the ground and searching for something. He did not recognize her at first. The way she walked and the poor light gave her the look of a spirit more than a human. She became recognizable as she drew the great man’s swords from his now dead hands. He knew she was speaking but could not hear the words.
He had walked to her and she had admonished him to write the story of what had happened there. Athinina had lost so much that day. The woman she trusted more than any other person in the world had attacked her husband on that field. It had turned out that Charina was truly a greater demon, Porthious, bent on taking over the world. She had nearly succeeded if it had not been for Tanis. He had been the one that had caused him to leave his precious Druidic Groves so many years before. The signs had been so strong that he would unite the world under one banner and rid it of the evil that had plagued it.
The signs were right, of course. They were rarely wrong, just misunderstood or misinterpreted. People just were not meant to know what the future held. He thought that Tanis would be his companion throughout eternity. The boy was as he was, Askanitowa. The Askanitowa were the legendary immortals of the druid lore. The stories of these great men and women were told far and wide as a means of teaching people the value of morality and kindness. They were taught as lessons in being what all people should be; kind, pious, self sacrificing to aid his fellow being. Most people did not believe that these people had ever truly existed any more. The old man and women had lived with them were long gone now. The immortals had gone into a form of hiding preferring to keep their gift hidden. They aided their fellow people from the shadows now. It was better that way. Recognition would definitely make things much more difficult for them. People just were not meant to live forever.
He looked at the monument raised to his friend and pupil and a sad smile came to his lips. Tanis would never have approved of the gaudy display. It did not even resemble him but the people swore it was him in all his glory. They had never met the man. They never truly saw what his existence was about. It always brought tears to his eyes to think of his old friend. Things could have been much different but he had made his choices as all of us have to. He did not know of his unborn children growing within his wife. He would not have taken the chances he took. He would not have done the things that had cost him his life. But then the war would still be raging and the darkness would still cover the face of Dracos. The evil that had a death grip on the world would still be there. Nothing would have changed. Men were just not supposed to know the future. The changes that come from that knowledge could be astronomical. The very seams of existence would just fall apart. ‘The Creator knows what he is doing after all,’ thought the old man as he began to morph into his true form. Artitous looked once more into the face of the monument and turned toward the castle in the distance. His new pupils waited him and it would not do to allow them to grow unguided. ‘Much harder than their father’ thought Artitous as he walked from the monument’s field. He really needed to stop coming here. It did no good for him or anyone else to dwell on the past. As he left he saw the rodent damage near the base of the statue. “Druids are neglecting their duties again, there is some dug up earth at the foot of the statue.”
Instead of walking back to the castle, Artitous turned and placed his hands on the cold stone. He just looked up into the hard face looking out into the field. Artitous once again thought of his waiting pupils. They really would look like him. Not easy to instruct, nor as likely to be as eager as their father to learn. It was going to be a challenge to teach them everything they needed, but he would do it. He had no choice, they were the future not him. Back to the shadows was where he was headed. From there he had fought his war before and it was there he would continue to shape things to come. ‘Maybe just a brief look into the future of the children might not hurt’, Thought Artitous, ‘Just a peek to see if I am on the right path.’
Again he caught himself and smiled. Children were a gift and a challenge. He would continue as always. The same as he did with their father. Turning from the statue he walked slowly from the field. None of the scars from that day remained upon this field. To look upon it now you would not believe that thousands were buried there. Buried where they had fallen because there was no other place to take the fallen. Most of the locals did not even remember that the field was also a graveyard. The druids did their work well. They would keep the farmers and squatters from taking the land as their own for their crops as long at least as the order existed. At least they knew the truth.
Slowly he moved toward the keep deep in thought. Without looking up he addressed the trees to his left, “Athinina, you may as well come out from there. I have felt you there for some time. Do not attempt to run and hide, you know it is impolite to hide and spy on your friends.”
“Still can’t hide anything from you can I?” asked the queen of Dracos.
“Gave the Hand the slip again, huh?” asked the druid. “You will cause Captain Martin such grief he may not be able to stand for a month. You truly live to torment the man, don’t you?”
“Arty, if I do not do this once in a while the men would think me soft. Besides if Martin was so good I would not be able to slip past him. There are no more threats any more. No one would harm me. I am their queen after all and all is as it should be. What reason would compel them to harm me? Besides I needed to see his face again. It has been weeks since I have been here last. I begin to forget his face. Is that wrong? I fear I forget him more every day, falling in with the stories and tales. They are more real now for me than the truth. What am I to do?” asked Athinina.
“Just remember. That is all we can do.” Whispered the druid as the gates to the keep rose in front of the couple and members of the Hand of the Pheni, Dracos’ elite fighting force, quickly closed ranks around the queen and the druid.