The warm sun was just over the mountains as it slowly sank. There was a chill in the air as the breeze flowed through the falling auburn colored leaves as it tumbled onto the ground. A single castle stood near the cliff overlooking the Iserhiss River. It was the Kingdom of Iserhaus as it was aptly named. It wasn’t a large fortress, but it was heavily fortified and stood stoically defying the ages. The sun continued shining across the medium sized castle hitting one of the stained glass windows. The colors danced as the light created the image over the dueling room wall.
Within the dueling room, two beings stood. One was a young boy and the other was a pig-like being known as a Took. However, this pig-like Took had tusks and a small dark mane. They were both of same size and stature but one of them were of more muscular in feature. Compared to the naturally strong statured pig-like Took, the human male of seventeen years was smaller but agile. He held the heavy, long sword forward as his eyes scowled at his dueling partner with fierce determination. The strong tusked Took stared back calmly waiting for his next move.
Twisting the sword around on his wrist, the boy swung the sword low as he charged forward. His feet made some muffled sounds as it shuffled across the hard stone floor. The Took was prepared as he deftly blocked the sword with his own heavy sword. The metal vibrated as it sounded while he ducked the boy’s counter punch overhead and thrust forward with his shoulder blade catching the boy on the chest. As the boy stumbled, the Took quickly flashed his steel onto the boy’s own sword with a resounding clang.
The metal vibrated as it shook the boy’s nerves on his hand sending him pain. He yelped in pain as he dropped his sword as well as falling onto his butt. His expression turned from fierceness to shock and surprise. Rubbing his wrist, he muttered, “Whoa.”
The Took let out belly laughter as it shook the room. He responded heartily lowering the sword to his side as the point touched the floor, “Me thinks’ you need more practice! Tis a heavy sword. You need more of upper hand strength, Sire Drew.”
The strong, stout pig-like being flexed his arm showing his thick muscled bicep. Drew scowled at him and responded as he stood quickly. Cracking his knuckles, he stretched out his arm muscles. He wasn’t nearly as strong as his friend, but still he boasted as he picked up the sword again responding, “Tringo, my friend, do not underestimate me. I still have the advantage.”
Tringo spat back with a gleam in his eyes, “And pray tell, my sire, what have I missed?”
Drew pounded his armor on the chest and responded in a boastful tone, “I am no commoner! All will fall to their knees before me because I am mighty and powerful. And you, my dear old friend, will get on your knees and kiss my feet!”
The old Took’s voice reverberated among the dueling room as he shouted with one word above all others, “HAH!”
A loud voice came from the doorway at the end of the dueling room as the messenger came stumbling.
Drew let go with an angry growl as he drew his sword and pointed inches away from the man’s head as he fell to his knees and quivered, “Forgive me!”
The seventeen year old scowled at the messenger and responded harshly, “What is the meaning of this interruption? You know full well not to interrupt me in the middle of sparring!”
The man averted his eyes and spoke in a quivering voice, “My Sire, Lord James has a message!”
Drew continued to scowl at the messenger not happy with the interruption. However, Tringo saw that the man was in need of a drink and grabbed a container filled with water that was hanging off a training post. Taking the sword, he pushed Drew’s sword out of the way responding, “Sire, do not forget the words of your father. The needs of others are more important than yourself. Be selfless, not selfish.”
Drew growled a bit still angry but he backed up letting his old friend tend to the needs of this servant. Tringo knelt before the man and lifted his chin as he offered him a drink. The messenger drank it gladly as the Took spoke, “You must be parched friend. A container goes a long way in satisfying you from a long journey. Say what you will in front of your lord’s son. What’s the lord’s message?”
The messenger thanked the Took and looked up to the lord’s son. He then averted his eyes to escape his scowl as he responded, “Your father wants you in his chambers in fifteen minutes time before dinner.”
Drew let out a snarl as he responded harshly waving his sword, “Begone, messenger. Leave my sight!”
“Sire!” The messenger shouted out as he bowed once before scampering out. Tringo let out a sigh holding out his container and was about to respond when a sword point went through the loop of his container.
Drew had lifted the container out of the old man’s hand and took another drink out of it. Tringo shook his head as he stood and faced him speaking, “Your father wants you to mind your words. He…”
Drew took another gulp of his water and turned around spitting the drink with vengeance as he threw the container clear across the room. He yelled, “Mind your words, Took! His words mean nothing to me. He does not control my destiny. Only I do and I will do whatever the hell I want. Now pick your sword, old man! I got fifteen minutes and I want to vent!”
The boy picked his sword and started twirling it around him. The heavy long sword swished around cutting through the air as it made a whooshing noise. He was angrier than usual. Tringo let out a grunt and snorted as he picked his up yelling as he pointed the sword, “On guard!”
He charged in as he flashed his sword harshly putting Drew on his guard. He seemed stronger as he could hold back the sheer strength of his old friend. They continued fighting around the room with Drew using his vengeance as his strength against the strong but stout Took that would never back down.
In the upper floor somewhere near the throne room was the kitchens. It looked like it was overrun by pigs because the Tooks were in charge of dinner lead by a smaller, roundish of a Took known as Trudge. He was named after his favorite chocolate. Trudge, a mixture of Truffles and Fudge. He was different than the rest of his race as he followed the line of a cook. They needed no muscle strength. However, they still carried around 60 pounds of crates, but no more than that and because of their short stature, they relied more on their human counterparts to do all the heavy lifting for them. The kitchens were designed to be run by both human and Took.
For tonight though, was a special night for Trudge as he bustled about yelling out orders to his kitchen staff. He tasted from a large pan filled with hot steamy soup with a wooden ladle and shouted, “More dash of nutmeg. Take the turkey out of the oven. It’s ready for braising. And Letty! Get off your fat lazy bum! The glaze is ready! Take it out of the cooler!”
The lazy Took, Letty, yelled out, “Yah Chief!”
Trudge liked being called chief. Among his clan, it was the title of a leader. Trudge was a leader among his kitchen staff and with pride he showed it. Stumbling around in his stubby legs, the fat Took rushed the orders making sure they were ready and washed a few dishes. A human opened the door and called out, “Trudge!”
“Yah?” Trudge yelled out focusing his energetic energy toward the young human, “What is it now?”
He responded pointing to his wrist, “Time?”
Trudge bellowed with all his might as she shouted across the kitchen, “An hour, now git out of there and tell Lord Shiren to be patient!”
There was a deadened silence in the kitchen as all activities ceased. All eyes were upon their chief and Trudge’s fear returned as he gulped stuttered a bit, “Um, uhh I mean, ask the Lord Shieren if he, erm, wants snacks to be served? First I mean!”
The human nodded as he responded, “Right…”
He left as the chatter continued with the kitchen staff back to their duties. Trudge stood there fearfully as he gulped a lump in his throat. He let out a sigh and a slight whimper sweating a little. His counterpart joined his side as he tapped his shoulder getting his attention, “Trudge me mate don’t worry yer head.”
Trudge looked at him and gulped as he wringed his hands a bit responding, “Worry? Moi? Pfft, what are you talking about? It’s my first time taking the lead in the kitchens. Why should I worry?”
His friend pointed his finger toward him and smiled as he gave him a hearty clap on his back responding cheerfully, “Exactly mate! You have nutting to worry about. Keep up tha good work!”
Trudge gave him a weak smile and sighed still worried. Then he shook his head and shouted again as his brave, stout heart returned him to the state he needed to be, “Well then, get tha snacks ready! What are yore waiting for? Tha bell? Go on. Shoo!”
He motioned with his hand toward the three kitchen staff pushing a tray of snacks out of the kitchen and ran them out of the kitchen. Taking a cloth, he dabbed a sweat off his brow as he continued around the kitchens monitoring the food to make they were ready for supper.
Meanwhile, across the land from the castle and the keeps of Iserhaus, several towns were set around the land. Some were near the marshes, some were next to the Isenhiss River that led toward the Strait of Freyr, and some were near the forests surrounding the Kingdom of Iserhaus. It was sunset as the sun was dipping toward the mountains.
In one of the villages lived a Drehul named Tis’La God’ert. He was six feet five inches tall and a very strong farmer. He was well built. Like his family, the Drehuls were the tall and strong race of people who only cared for their fields and provided food for their human counterparts and their friends. However, not only were they farmers but they were also fighters, warriors who tended to their crops and defended their family with fierceness. They were loyal to their lords who provided shelter for them.
Tis’La pulled with his strong, muscled back pulling at the hoe he held in his hand tiling the crops. They have no need for horse drawn tillers because they could pull their own weight. It was their way of getting stronger and more endurance in a way to keep them alive against whatever comes their way. Tis’La looked up with grunt as he heard the light, swift tapping of a Jumbilaya messenger. The talons dug into the ground as it gave him a swift run across the path toward the farmer’s house.
Putting the hoe on his side, Tis’La waved at the messenger as he came to a complete stop before the gate. He shouted out recognizing him, “Dro’dge! What brings you here, my friend?”
The strong legged Hypsilophodon like Jumbilaya responded never faltering from breath, “A message from the lord.”
Dro’dge looked at him with his beady eyes, tilting his head sideways and lapped its tongue out. His claws rested on the wood post barring the gate. Tis’La approached him and offered him a flask, “Water?” The creature waved his claw turning down the water. The Drehul shrugged and took a gulp from his flask before continuing, “What’s the news, my friend?”
The Jumbilaya messenger responded moving closer to his face, “My lord requests your presence at dinner tonight. He has a special invitation for you to join him.”
Placing his flask down, Tis’La asked, “What for? This invitation doesn’t come nearly often, but of course I am honored to attend.”
The expressionless Dro’dge responded flashing his serrated teeth, “I don’t know. You will see once you come. It’s not for another hour or so.”
Tis’la let out a sigh and responded nodding, “Thank you friend. Please tell our lord that I will be along shortly. Fair winds and steady speed Dro’dge.”
Dro’dge nodded responding, “Thank you, Tis’La. And tell your family hello from me.”
He nodded watching his friend speed away back toward the castle. Opening the gate, he proceeded to put away his farm equipment and headed toward his house. It was going to be a long day at least for him.
Drew approached the doorway into the throne room. Standing before the seventeen year old boy stood two guards side by side. They were dressed in heavy armor and helmeted. One of them stood at his path. He was taller than Drew and stronger with heavy armor. Drawing his sword halfway, the guard spoke in a gruff voice, “Who seeks the audience of Lord James Shiren?”
Drew scowled at the man and spat in a retort, “You know who you speak to. It is I!”
The guard stood his ground as he spoke back with his hand still on the handle of his weapon, “I do not know I! Begone, knave and don’t come round here again!”
The impatient young knave to be let out a snarl as he pounded his feet, “Get off it, Justin and come at me! I have no time for this! I just finished my training ages ago!”
The guard changed his tone as he slid his sword back down and bowed offering his hand, “Drew Shiren! It is you! I thought you were someone else!”
Drew growled as he retorted, “There is no one else but me! Now move aside at once!”
Justin nodded as he removed his helmet, tucked it under his arm and stepped aside to open the door for him, “Sire, come then with me. Your father summoned us both. It is an honor.”
Drew rolled his eyes and responded as he shrugged past him, “Indeed, Justin. What are you waiting for then?”
Justin grinned at the other guard and nodded. Quickly he changed his expression into seriousness as he closed the door and hurried along across the threshold of the lord’s throne room. He walked alongside Drew as he strided forward tall and proud with his hand resting on the handle of his sword. Before the two males was a single middle aged human sitting on his throne.
Both males were brothers for life and rivals till the end. They were good friends. As they gave each other a brief knowing look, they stared back at the older male and knelt before him. Justin kept his helmet tucked under his arm and bowed his head slightly before his lord. Drew scowled at his father and asked gathering attention from the lord of Iserhaus, “What is it, father? Why have I been summoned?”
Lord James stared at his son coolly. He was dressed in a robe and uniform tunic. His hands and arms were resting on the armrest of his throne chair. Raising his hand, he arched forward and responded directly to the boy, “Drew, I have summoned you for an urgent manner. I believe it to be time for you to leave the castle.”
Drew gasped as his expression changed into excitement as he responded curiously, “Really father? I get to leave beyond the lands of the kingdom? Am I to finally able to prove myself?”
James gave him a long stare as he spoke shaking his head, “Do not be hasty, my son. You must listen and respect others as they would do to you. You are ready to beyond the lands, but you will not go alone.”
“Uh-aah,” Drew made a slight noise as he scowled at his father again. Standing up, he responded, “I don’t need servants. I can go it alone. Just tell me. Others will only slow me down!”
James responded again in a commanding tone as he stared angrily at his son while pointing his finger, “Do not be so quick to dismiss help. You still have much to learn. Justin Tieron.”
Hearing his name being spoken, the guard looked up and waited on his words as he stared coolly. James gripped the armrests with his hand and stood as his robe flowed freely touching the ground barely. He commanded with one word, “Rise.”
Obediently, Justin rose to his feet and touched his chest as he bowed his head forward, “My lord?”
Drew watched his father ascend the throne toward Justin. James placed his arms around his back and inquired his guard, “Justin, do you remember when you were only ten? There was a Hulks raid not far from the Freeway near the Dark forest. You lost your family and you were wandering alone.”
Justin nodded reminiscing the moments when he was only a small boy then. James continued as he kept his arms behind his back, “I passed by with a batch of guards to investigate. You were the only survivor. Seeing you there, I saw something in you. This feeling that I had about you that I couldn’t just ignore. So, I took you in and cared for you. Raised you to guard and care for my son who was only two years then. Do you remember?”
Justin nodded as he mused on the past. It was filled with memorable events of both brothers who became fast friends and rivals as they continued sparring and training to become knights while their Took servant, Tringo, watched after them. He responded, “Yes I do my lord.”
Satisfied, James nodded responding, “I thrust you to care for my son as both of you make the journey. He is ready and I trust no one else but you and my servant Tringo. However, I need Tringo with me so you will do this.”
Justin spoke tapping his chest again in respect, “Of course my lord. Drew will be safe with me.”
Drew stared at both of them and let out a slight scoff as he rolled his eyes, “Fine, he can come then. What will be our mission, father? What would you have me do?”
Lord James turned to his son and spoke as he walked toward him, “There is a town called Raskes near the Crimson Range. The Drehuls occupying this town is being under attacked by an unknown and unseen force. They are holding well, but just barely. A messenger just came from them asking for our help and we must offer assistance. You will also discover this unknown threat and reveal it because it does not have a name yet. Discover it for me, but you will not be alone.”
Drew spoke up again, “Yes father, Justin and I will do this together.”
James shook his head responding, “Not on your own. You need friends. There are people who can help. Tis’La, Trudge, Dro’dge and Janick will aid you. You are going to a Drehul village and you need a way through the dark forest. Tis’la can help you with this. Trudge knows what’s out there and what’s good to eat. He will provide you provisions during your journey. And you never leave home without speedy Jumbilayas. Who knows, you might need a messenger.”
Drew spat back as he replied, “But they would slow us down. We need to find this threat and resolve this soon. We don’t need-”
James looked back at him with a sad face as he responded tiredly, “Son, listen to me. Not everything is about you. This is your chance to lead and to explore what’s out there. You must lead your friends to safety. They will rely on you for leadership. Offer it to them. Make sure they are safe and make sure you get to the village quickly.”
Drew let out a sigh giving in as he responded, “Yes father.”
James responded, “Good. Now come to the dining table. Dinner is almost served and you will meet your companions there who will go with you on this trip.”
Meanwhile far away from the castle and near the region of the Dark forests, there was a caravan trudging along the path. They were headed toward the castle. The caravan was filled with Trodon like Troods. Two were pulling a carriage filled with foodstuffs and other supplies. They were guarded by three more Troods. They were bigger, stronger and medium armored to the teeth literally as their teeth were sharper. They were the carnivorous of the Hypsilophodon relatives of the Jumbilayas. They were two different clans. Not enemies, but just a general dislike of each other. The Troods weren’t the messengers, but they were warriors. Better fighters than Jumbilayas were as well as a bit stronger in muscles.
In the center of the large wagon were two small Troods of three years. They were young but strong and kept close to their family. They were called Thodore and Jess, twin children and innocent. They continued playing as the Troods caravan continued along the road. It was getting darker becoming dusk as the lamps were lit to show their way.
From within the darkness laid evil. Something was moving along the bushes hiding as they did best. They were waiting, biding their time to strike. They continued to watch the unwary caravan with an evil glint on their dark eyes. Then all of a sudden the leader rose his hand and roar out a war cry. It startled the Trood caravan as they took positions to guard their wagon. The kids on the wagon stuffed themselves into a small compartment in the wagon to hide from the monsters of the night.
The nighttime monsters were unseen and the Troods never saw them coming as they roar with pain when they struck in the dark. One of the lamps fell loose from a notched arrow and onto the wagon as it set them ablaze. The little Troods were safe inside their compartments as the wagon came away with flame eating away the wood. The dark warriors fought fiercely against the Troods. Swords clashed against steel and armor. However as the Troods fought bravely but in the end they were too much as they were cut down and slaughtered by the night assassins.
The war band, the corpse makers, continued with their warcry rushing down the path as the sun set behind the mountains plunging the land into darkness. They left behind destruction as the flames continued to burn away the wood. One of the Troods moved. He inched his way painfully toward the secret compartment where his children were located. Grunting with pain as he was slowly dying from a festering wound left behind the corpse makers, he opened the compartment and let them out.
They were crying in fear and terror. The dying elder spoke calming them a bit, “Thodore, Jess. I’m sorry. You will have to survive on your own. You can take care of yourselves. Find the nearest camp and they will care for you. You must go.”
Jess continued to cry as Thodore responded chitterling, “No, don’t leave us, father. Don’t die. Please! Don’t go!”
Their father responded as he was on his last dying gasp, “Take care of your sister. Take care of yourselves. Don’t forget your training.”The last guard of the caravan let out a final dying gasp and went limp. Jess continued to cry as Thodore hugged his sister close in the darkness. Watching the flames die down to its final gasp before leaving behind the burnt wood. The full moon was out and from a distance Thodore heard a loud crack in the air followed by an explosion. The war band had reached their first town. He squeezed his twin sister tight keeping her safe.