Ihloden returned from the public bath to find his family packing away the clothes and transforming the caravan into sleep quarters. “Is it late already?” he asked looking at the sky. Shila tossed a bundle at him.
“How kind off you to leave us to fix up alone,” she said sarcastically, “you know how quick Overed nights come, so make yourself useful and help us get this caravan up.”
“You sure are cranky,” said Ihloden frowning, “Nobody liked your dresses today, I presume.” He quietly slipped the feather into the bundle.
“They liked them just fine,” said Shila with a toss of her head.
“Children!” said their mother exasperated, “Enough! Can’t you two stop arguing long enough to get the caravan up?” Ihloden looked at Shila ashamed. She had a shamed look on her face too.
“Okay,” she said, “Just long enough to get it up.”
Ihloden took the first watch. Overed was a nice enough place at daytime but at night, it was practically overrun with thieves. Ihloden sat on the high front seat of the caravan and stared off into the darkness. Some of the stalls had also been changed to sleep quarters. Other richer merchants were in inns, with servants protecting their stalls. Ihloden leaned back on the hard wood and let his eyes search out the constellations in the stars. His eyes had picked out the Dog, the Serpent, the Fishes and he was just forming the constellation of the two Men, when a hand touched his shoulder. “Cripes!” he yelled and sat up straight. Shila laughed softly.
“Easy brother,” she said, “My turn now. Anything I need to know?”
“Nope,” said Ihloden slipping around her and settling into the caravan, “tonight’s unfortunately boring.” Shila smiled.
“Get some sleep,” she said kindly.
Ihloden looked at her in mock surprise, “That’s what I was planning to do! How did you know?” Shila grinned, shook her head, sighed and pulled the caravan cloth over his head. Ihloden grinned and closed his eyes.
Ihloden woke to the sun shining directly in his face. “Arggh,” he shouted shutting his eyes and getting up. Shila was already dressed and modeling clothes for passers-by. People were crowded around her and Ihloden grinned as she twirled and moved gracefully showing off the dresses to their maximum. His mother looked up and saw him, “Go bathe and come back,” she said.
“Yes mother,” he said and took off. When he got back his mother already had a suit laid out for him to model. Ihloden slipped into the clothes and joined Shila. Most of the day was spent modeling. Ihloden hated doing it. It was like a livestock sale. But the money was welcome to them and the look of pride on his mother’s face as he paraded in the attire and the smiles when they were sold were enough to make him swallow his pride. It was long past noon when his mother decided to close up shop so she and Shila could go shopping.
“Go and see if the horses are okay, will you Ihloden?” she asked.
Ihloden nodded, “Sure.”
“And you can go and get anything you want also,” she said pressing some gold coins into his hand, “You earned it today,” she said.
Ihloden looked at the coins and grinned, “Thanks mother,” he said and hugged her. His mother and Shila went off. He looked around and slipped the Griffin feather out from the hidden place in the bundle and up his sleeve and then he turned to go check out the horses.
The stable part of the City was the same, if a little worst than when he first came. He tried not to breathe too deeply. The stench was enough to make anyone retch. He found the stables that he put the horses and asked to stable boy if he could go inside. The stable boy a, little mouse of a lad, nodded and let him inside. Inside was a lot better than outside. It was dark and lamps shone with a soft light, but most of all it was clean. Ihloden found their horses. “How are you boys handling it all?” he asked, rubbing their noses. The horses looked him straight in the eye and he got a distinct feeling that they were just waiting to get out of Overed. “What’s wrong boys?” he asked. They didn’t move but stared right at him. He began to feel uncomfortable. He shook his head in an effort to chase the feeling away. It didn’t go. “Just keep yourselves together till it’s time to go home, okay?” he said to the horses. They both snorted and nodded. Ihloden gave them both a last pat, nodded to the stable boy as he passed by and plunged out of the area as fast as he could.
As soon as he reached the vending areas, a loud fanfare pierced the air. He spun around to face the Northern Gates. “Who’s coming?” he asked.
“No one,” said a vendor as his elbow, “Just Overed soldiers.” Ihloden frowned at the man’s blatant disrespectful statement.
“You might want to have a bit of patriotism,” Ihloden said coldly. The man looked up surprised.
“Patriotism?” he said, “Ha! I would have patriotism if our soldiers would have some too.”
Ihloden snorted in disgust and moved away. Anger seethed in his heart. He hated cowardice and hypocrisy. Just because someone does not have the strength to believe in something, doesn’t mean that you must give up too. But in the back of his mind the man’s word’s bothered him; he had to see what the man meant. He made his way toward the procession of soldiers that was streaming though the gate. People were also heading in the same direction and Ihloden found that he could not get through the mass of bodies. He was jostled and squashed against the wall of Overed’s Main Spire. He moved along the wall, till he was in line with a stone stall. With a bit of swinging and leverage he clambered up to the roof of the stall and stood. He saw a long line of sliver helmets with long, black, pennant tied, lances. On the pennant was the symbol of Lyficen; the serpent star above the Fortress symbol of Overed.
Suddenly it stuck him what the man had said. Overed had even forfeited it symbol for Lyficen. He felt sick. Then he realized that he did feel sick. A nasty wave of nausea was creeping up on him. He clamped his teeth shut and held him stomach, and looked around for a place to vomit. Then the figure caught his eye. He was astride a magnificent black stallion, and black leather armor covered the broad chest. For a moment Ihloden forgot about his nausea. The man sat comfortably in the saddle. Long white hair lay like a sheet behind him and covered the right side of his face. Ihloden looked on with awe. Then the man turned and looked straight at him. The wave of nausea hit him hard and he stumbled to his knees. It kept getting worst as the man gazed at him. Ihloden swore that he saw a reddish glow from the behind the hair over the man’s face. Then the man turned and the sick feeling lessened. The truth didn’t make Ihloden feel any better; the man was the one that made him feel sick. He stayed there till the procession passed out of view. Only then did his stomach feel any better. Ihloden climbed down from the stall and began to move toward the caravan. His body felt tired all over but his mind was tense. All he wanted to do was to get to the caravan and make sure Shila and his mother was safe.
The night passed fitfully for Ihloden. His dreams were plagued by the man he saw in the parade. Shila and his mother had seen the parade and the strange man, but they did not experience anything out of the ordinary. Ihloden wondered if this was due to his special abilities. Maybe the land did not like this man, but why? He woke up on a bad mood. He grumbled through the morning, thorough the modeling and through the packing up. This was their last day in Overed and his mother had decided to close up early and let them have a half day of freedom. Ihloden didn’t want a half day of freedom. He wanted to head home as soon as possible, away from the city, away from the sadness, and away from scary men. But he set out to see Overed for the last time anyway. As he walked along the stone paths, his mood began to improve. Many people only stayed three days in Overed also and they had set out the wares in all their glory. There were gold and precious gems, brightly dyed cloth, silk, and even weaponry. Ihloden was just passing by a stall of jewelry and had stopped to buy something for Shila and his mother, when a deep voice called out, “Hey there boy!” He turned and saw the strange man leaning against the outer wall of the city. He looked around hoping that the man was calling someone else, but his luck was out.
“Yes you, Come here.” the man said with a laugh. Ihloden sighed and went over to the man.
“Yes sir?” he asked. The man looked hard at him with his one eye then smiled a little.
“What is your name?” he asked.
“Ihloden,” said Ihloden.
“Ihloden,” the man said, “The people here call me Nargon, but my master calls me Sertesdroy. Do you know what that means?” Ihloden shook his head; the wave of nausea was back.
Nargon leaned close to him, “It means Destroyer. Do you know why?”
Ihloden shook his head again. The nausea was getting worst. He looked up at the man frantically, and his heart went to his mouth. Behind the white hair, there was a red glow. Fear began to grip him; what did this man want? “It means Destroyer because my kind destroys, not only land but the minds of men.”
Ihloden couldn’t concentrate on what the man was saying. His head was throbbing now, his stomach felt terrible but his eyes would not move from the man’s face. “You can see it, can’t you,” Nargon hissed, “the glow of my eye. Only those who have had contact with Griffins can see it you know.” Nargon grabbed Ihloden‘s arm, the one that had the griffin feather up the sleeve. Ihloden cried out. A searing hot pain ripped into his flesh. Nargon looked triumphant. “Griffin,” he growled, and tore the sleeve. Ihloden watched in horror as the large feather fluttered to the ground. The Sertesdroy looked the feather then turned slowly to look at him. “My boy,” Nargon said, “You just wrote your death sentence.”