Blackbough part 1
Two men were sparring in the middle of a field as the day dragged on.
“Faster Eranor, you think that they’ll take you in because you asked them nicely? Come now, I demand more,” shouted Yonamir as he hammered down with his axe.
“Keep quiet, you’re losing concentration old man,” retorted Eranor. He could not believe the day had finally come. He would leave his small town for the first time in his life. He would go to the city of Belhaven and enlist to join an order. He did not care one bit which order it was, only that they take him in.
“Enough, I believe you’re ready Eranor,” panted Yonamir. He was a man on the cusp of being middle-aged. His thinning brown hair dripped with sweat from the sparing.
“Come on master. Don’t tell me you can’t keep up anymore,” Eranor said with a massive smile.
“Yes, yes, you have become quite the fighter. Who would have thought that I, the great Yonamir would be surpassed by a kid? Shameful, that’s what it is,” he said and shook his head.
“I couldn’t have gotten this far without your teachings master. I am profoundly grateful,” he said and bowed. Yonamir’s eyes softened. A small smile crept upon him as he saw his proud student before him.
“Well, if anyone was going to overtake me from this little town, then I’m glad it was you Eranor. Now come, the ceremony will be ready any moment now. Go wash your face at least. Otherwise, you’ll stink up the place,” he said. Eranor came upright with his smile still on his face. His brown eyes filled with joy.
“Oh, master. Before I forget. Would you mind shaving my head?” he asked.
“What? Why?” he asked shocked.
“I don’t know when I’ll get another chance to cut my hair and I don’t want to look like a wild man when we arrive,” he answered and pulled a lock of his black hair down over his eyes.
“I won’t have a student of mine walking around with his head shaven. Leave that to those mystics in the eastern empire. But I see your point,” he said and began stroking his goatee.
“So, will you do it?” he asked eagerly.
“No, I’m going to cut all your hair off around your head. Those locks on top are going to stay. I’ll give you a piece of lint so you can tie it into a ponytail,” he said nodding.
“That’s not what I wanted, master. I want my head shaven; besides won’t I look silly with a ponytail?” he rebuked.
“Yes, you’re right. You would look silly. Let me think,” he said and squinted his eyes as he looked at Eranor, “I’ve got it. Stick with the shave around the head but I’ll cut on top as well. Short at the back and bring it longer at the front, yes. That’s your style my boy. That’s the style of my school,” he said approvingly of his own idea.
“Is it to make up for your thinning hair master?” he jibed.
“Listen here you little brat, I’m your master and even though I didn’t call for being treated formally, I do demand respect,” he scolded.
“Apologies master,” he retracted his statement quickly.
“Forgiven. Now, what do you say? Time to trim that mop on your head?” he said and smiled from ear to ear.
A few moments later and the sun was beginning to set. The entire town’s main street was packed with people. The crowd gathered around the stage built in the town square. Four large braziers burnt brightly. In the centre was eight people. Two rows of three in the middle while two stood at one side. The major and his assistant were the two who stood one side. He stepped forward and the people began to cheer.
“Thank you, everyone! Thank you one and all for being here. We are all gathered here today for a special occasion. Many of you stood here when our first youngling took on the journey of becoming a hero. Master Yonamir was our first and only attempt. He was the first in the long two hundred years this town has been here. Those of us counted ourselves lucky to have been able to see someone attempt the monumental task. Now, only a mere twenty years later, we have three brave younglings. The beautiful and powerful Raione,” he announced. A massive cheer erupted from the crowd. Eranor looked to his right and could not help but smile when he saw her. He was shocked to see that she had done her dark oak coloured hair up nice. She, however, had her black and red robes on. He never understood why she cherished them so much. Though even he had to admit, tonight she wore them well. The cheers finally died down so that the mayor could continue with his speech. “Then we have the focused and fearsome Kaltmund,” he cried, and the crowd cheered again. Unlike Raione who soaked in the cheers, Kaltmund kept his head bowed. His thick white-blonde hair glowed because of the fire. He was still in his priest uniform. Eranor would never have thought that Kaltmund would have possessed a talent for one of the core skills. He spent most of his time studying and praying in the chapel. In fact, he could not believe that they would allow one of the most talented priests to leave. Kaltmund may only have recently become a full-fledged priest like his father but he was already an integral part. “And last but not least we have fiery and dedicated Eranor,” he shouted.
The crowd went berserk yet again. Eranor savoured the cheers but he could not help but peer through the crowd in search of his family. When he finally caught them, he saw his little brother on the shoulders of his father. His mother by his side and they seemed overcome with joy. Eranor winked at them to show he saw them. This brought a smile to his little brother’s face. “Thank you, ladies and gentlemen. Now before the festivities can begin, we have arranged a special gift for our young heroes to be. We bestow upon them a blessed necklace. A spell has been placed on it that it will stop one fatal blow from being struck,” he said, and the people celebrated. The mayor then walked to Raione with his assistant at his side. The assistant had a box with him. The mayor took a necklace from it and he whispered something to Raione before he placed the necklace over her head. He then came to Eranor in the middle. He leaned in and said, “These necklaces were made long ago for this occasion. Wear them with pride.” When the necklace rested on his chest, he could feel the magical power pulse through it. The warm sensation slowly disappeared, and it felt like a normal necklace again. When Kaltmund received his necklace, the mayor turned to face the crowd. “Now we have asked each of their teachers to present a final item to them each. To show that they have graduated,” he said and began applauding. The crowd quickly joined and hollered further. Kaltmund’s father was the first to step forward. He presented him with a staff. Next was Gelebor the huntsman. He handed Raione a bow and quiver filled with arrows. Then finally Yonamir stood before Eranor. He presented him with a leather cuirass and two leather vambraces.
“Thought the only place where you lacked something was the fact that you fought in a lousy shirt. Now at least you don’t need to worry about the stray blade or arrow,” Yonamir said as he was fastening the chest piece.
“Thank you, master, I will cherish this armour,” he said as he looked at how attentively his master worked.
“You don’t have to call me master anymore, you are after all the first graduate of the school of the Crescent-moon,” he said with a smile and tapped on the symbol on the cuirass. Eranor studied the symbol as he failed to realize it earlier. The symbol was a wolf howling as it is encircled by a crescent moon.
“Are you going to train more young-lings, master?” he asked.
“Perhaps, but mostly I’m to retrain the night watchmen. You see, the mayor has rewarded me with my own little training area. Hopefully, one day when you’re a big shot hero, you’ll see this symbol again and remember your old master,” he said and tightened the vambraces.
“I will never forget you, master Yonamir. This dream of mine is coming true thanks to you, no one else,” he said and placed his hand on his shoulder. Yonamir had faint tears forming in his eyes when he finished the left vambrace.
“There we go, all armoured up. Now go one, the other two are waiting for you to address the crowd,” he said and nodded over his shoulder. Kaltmund and Raione seemed to be discussing something with great passion. As Eranor stepped forward to join the other two, Yonamir chipped in one last time, “Oh and remember the mind is much more versatile than the body or soul.”
Eranor gave him a smirk and nodded before walking on. When he came close to the other two Raione shot her gaze towards him.
“That armour suits you. Now listen carefully to me. Kaltmund and I have just come up with the perfect way to start the festivities. So, since you don’t fit anywhere into this mastermind plan; you need to address the people,” she said.
“What? You know I don’t like public speaking,” he protested.
“Neither of us do but come now. Own up and take this opportunity by the horns. Don’t want to seem scared before leaving little old Blackbough,” said Kaltmund as he turned towards the crowd. He bowed and presented Eranor to the crowd. The cheers immediately started. Eranor froze as he watched Raione do the same thing. The entire village’s eyes were on him. His heart began to beat in his throat. His breath was short, and he was as stiff as a statue.
“Kaltmund, Raione, I’m going to kill you after this,” he sighed to himself as he tried to relax. The cheering stopped as all awaited his first words. His mind went blank. He felt the pressure building as he scrambled to think of something to say. His eyes darted between all the faces in the crowd. Then he decided even if what he said was not perfect, it would be better than saying nothing. He bit down hard on his teeth and took a deep breath.
“Thank you for everything. We will not fail you. We will return as heroes and tell the tales of our adventures,” he spat out and saw everyone still staring at him. His mind began searching for what to say next. That is when it donned to him what to do next, he could say the one sentence that would end this misery. “Let the festivities commence,” he cried. Suddenly Raione pulled back an arrow and shot it high into the sky. All the heads of the crowd followed the arrow into the black sky. Eranor sighed of relief. Then Kaltmund unleashed a powerful scream and with his staff unleashed a bright light. The light shot and fizzled up into the air. Then high above everyone the arrow and light collided. A tremendous boom sounded, and thousands of insect-sized lights shot outward from the explosion. The crowd exploded into good spirits. Carts rolled into the square, packed with drink and food. This would be the party of the decade.