Chapter 9: Rising Force
The cave lies on the edge of the sanctuary. Twin statues of Fauns clutching intersecting spears stand on either side. Leading from the cave to the heart of the village is a cobblestone path.
The village is larger than she imagined. She had pictured a tiny, overcrowded settlement filled with crumbling houses and weary rebels. Ta’floon is none of that. The hidden town is lively and large and filled with colorful vegetation and animals. Scattered throughout the land are quaint, wooden homes and stores with thatched roofs. Cobblestone roads connect the town. Passing through part of the village and vanishing into the woods surrounding the village is a gentle stream. In the center of the village is a stone fountain.
Her village in Fulor pales in comparison.
A pang strikes Amsyn’s heart. By now Helio will be in Quvania, the place he loathes with mercenary who hates him. She could have already killed him. Terdar could have harmed him or his parents could have refused him. Tears weld up in the Elf’s eyes. She wishes she could contact him, if only to be reassured that he is safe. She promised she wouldn’t though. For their plan to work she must not have any contact with her bond brother.
Avdon seems nice, but Amsyn doesn’t want to imagine what he would do if he learned her true reason for joining him. Even if their goals align she doubts the Faun would be open to working with the Prince of Quvania.
“Aka,” she addresses the Thunderbird woman. “Make sure the injured at tended to and the others eat and rest. She nods and orders the group of rebels to follow her.
Sinnion coils his body around Amsyn’s neck, his head vanishing into her mass of orange curls.
“You will have to tell me how you acquired a Wyvern one day, but for now, shall I show you around?” Avdon offers his hand. She returns his smile and sets her wooden hand in his.
“What is this place? How does it exist?” Avdon lips curve further upwards.
“It’s an ancient Faun territory. The only entrance lies in the Temple of the Fallen Ones. Ta’floon itself is protected by powerful magic. It exists in the Cri Wilds while at the same time it doesn’t.” He explains, leading her down the path.
“And all the Children of Tevata live here?”
“With the exception of our spies. They live and work here. Not all our members are warriors. Some, like you, are healers, others are simple farmers, seamstresses, blacksmiths, and scholars. We are our own little kingdom.” Amsyn smiles at his last sentence. The idea of different creatures living together in harmony is reminisced of Fulor.
Two kids rush past Amsyn knocking her into Avdon. He places his hands on her waist to steady her. “Hey! Watch it!” He calls after them. They shout apologies over their shoulders. Avdon chuckles.
Amsyn regains her footing; her cheeks as red as a sunset and her flesh hand trembling slightly. Sinnion growls at Avdon. He removes his hands. Amsyn thinks she sees a faint blush through the ink on his cheeks.
“Sorry about them.” Amsyn shakes her head.
“It’s fine. I wasn’t paying attention either.”
Avdon takes ahold of her elbow and pulls her into the opposite direction. Creatures bow or salute Avdon as he passes by. He acknowledges each of them with a wave, smile, or nod. Amsyn marvels at his kindness. This is not what she was taught about Fauns.
Avdon leads her to a long, narrow hall not far from the stream’s bridge. “What is this place?” She asks.
“Our training and meeting hall.” He replies.
Avdon holds open the heavy door for Amsyn. The hall is divided by an arched doorway. In front of them is a lengthy table with close to two dozen chairs around it. At the head of the table is Avdon’s chair. Behind it on the wall are numerous maps. There are five large maps, one of each of the continents; Glitai, Krefut, Bibrax, Arora, and Lupheron. There are several smaller, marked maps of various kingdoms and a large map of Quvania.
Without realizing it, Amsyn approaches the wall. She runs her flesh hand over the course paper. Avdon places a hand on her shoulder, mindful of the Wyvern.
“What are all these?” She inquires.
“Locations. They’re places we’ve been, ones we’re monitoring, and places we have yet to go.” She nods. “Come.” He beckons with a jerk of his head.
Amsyn follows Avdon through the rounded archway into the other half of the hall. Mounted on the walls are racks of weapons: swords, axes, sabers, daggers, spears, bows, etc. Scattered across the open floor are dummies and targets.
“Tomorrow, I’ll begin training you.” Avdon tells her.
“What?” Amsyn shrieks, wide-eyed.
Sinnion stirs in her hair. He peers out of her orange locks. Amsyn strokes his head, mumbling reassurances. Sinnion frees himself from her neck and hovers at her side glaring at the Faun.
“I’m going to train you.” Avdon repeats. She furiously shakes her head; her orange curls flying in all directions.
“I don’t fight. I’m a healer. That’s why I’m a healer.” She argues. To her surprise, a smile illuminates his face.
He sets a hand on each shoulder, ignoring Sinnion’s growling. “I have more respect for that than you know. You are one of the best healers I’ve ever met. You think in the battlefield. I want to take you with us, but you must be able to defend yourself. There may not always be someone there to protect you.” He explains.
Tears sting at her eyes. That is what Helio said to her when he tried to teach her to fight a couple years ago. She misses him. She was never able to quite master melee combat, but Helio did manage to teach her archery.
She inhales. “Okay. Train me.” She concedes. He smiles.
Sinnion, satisfied with the conversation, lower himself onto Amsyn’s shoulder. He nuzzles her neck affectionately. She giggles and pulls away.
“All the houses are full at the moment, but there’s a spare room in my home you are welcome to stay in.” He says. Amsyn’s face flushes. She lowers her head allowing her hair to hide her embarrassment. Though she doesn’t see it, Avdon smirks; his sapphire eyes sparkling with mischief.
Avdon takes her by the hand-her flesh one-and leads her out of the hall. He takes her to a manor set on a hill at the edge of Ta’floon and like the rest of the village it is simple and quaint. It is a two story building with square windows, a front porch, and flowers surrounding the front. The manor itself sits on a green hill littered with colorful trees and wildflowers.
“This is your home?” He nods.
“It’s my house, yes. It used to belong to the tribe’s chief.” Amsyn doesn’t want to know what happened to the chief or the tribe.
“It’s beautiful.” She compliments.
They walk up the stone pathway to the manor’s door. Avdon twists the carved handle and pushes in the door. An animal skin rug mutes their footsteps as they enter. Scattered around the foyer is three portraits, all of Fauns. On the right wall hangs a spear with a string of feathers and beads tied around the head of the shaft.
“My bedroom is on the second floor if you need anything.” He points to the staircase. He walks around her and down the left hallway. “And this will be your room.” He stops in front of the second door.
Hanging on the door is a woven circle with feathers and beads dangling from it.
“Thank you for everything.”
“No need to thank me.”
Avdon reaches up and tucks a wild curl behind her ear. Sinnion aroused from his dormancy growls at the Faun. Avdon chuckles and the little Wyvern flashes his sharp teeth. “He’s quite the protective little beast.”
Amsyn strokes Sinnion’s head. He purrs under her gentle touch. He casts a final glare at Avdon before lying down.
“Sleep well Amsyn.”
“You too Avdon.” He smiles and leaves.
“You didn’t have to be so mean.” Amsyn scolds Sinnion. He playfully nips at her finger. She rolls her eyes.
She goes inside her temporary room. The bed pressed up against the right wall is not set in the center, but rather closer to the wall of windows. It is covered in a colorful, handwoven quilt and an animal skin rug lies on the floor. Only feet from the door is a simple desk with a matching chair. Hanging on the wall above it is an intricately carved bow with a string of feathers and beads dangling from it. Her own pales in comparison. Along the left wall is a plain wardrobe with a matching screen beside it. The windows along the back wall provide an unobstructed view of the breathtaking woods that encase Ta’floon.
Sinnion leaps off her shoulder and flies to the window. The beating of his wings fill the room. “What do you think, my friend?” She asks Sinnion. He swoops down onto the bed and curls up on one of the two pillows. He lets out a soft purr. “I take it you approve then.” She laughs.