Aaron spotted two horses tied near the big oak tree in front of his house. The horses were big and strong, which was not very common in the village. These horses were pure bred, one was darker brown and the other was lighter in color. Both were equally beautiful.
“Whose horses are these?” he asked a worker who was working nearby.
“Some visitors from a faraway land have come to visit Mr. Santas.”
’Visitors?’ Aaron thought. ’Uncle never got visitors from outside the village. Maybe they have news of Flynn’ He entered the house with great expectations.
The hall was darker than usual, all the curtains were drawn. The fireplace was lit in the day time. Aaron’s eyes adjusted to the darkness as he closed the door behind him and walked inside.
Sentas, Brandon and two strangers were sitting by the fire place. Sentas was speaking in a very low voice and the others were listening. Brandon sat on the arm chair, pretending to listen.
One of the two strangers turned his head towards Aaron as he approached and everyone stopped speaking. In the dark, Aaron saw two men sitting next to uncle. One man was huge; he was twice the size of any man and had a huge battle axe in his right hand. Aaron had never seen a Giant before. The Giant had bushy black beard and hair tied at the back. He looked like some kind of a warrior. The other stranger had his hood pulled up till his forehead and his face was barely visible.
“He is here!” Uncle said to the hooded stranger he was speaking to. The man stood up and pulled his hood back.
“Hello!” His voice was deep “We have been looking for you.” He said.
Aaron stepped forward to greet the strangers even though he was not sure who they were and what they were doing there.
“Can you please give us a private moment?” the man asked Sentas.
“Oh! Sure!, Aaron why don’t you show them to your room?” Sentas said, pointing upstairs.
Aaron escorted the strangers to his room wondering why they were there. The strangers did not speak till they reached the room.
“Draw up the curtains. We do not wish to be seen here” the Giant spoke for the first time. His voice was hoarse.
Aaron drew the curtains and closed the door, but he could still see the strangers clearly. The man had a short beard, a mustache and black hair. He was wearing a short cloak. Under that, he wore many layers of clothing and a jacket made of leather. He had many belts on his waist and thighs. Aaron caught a glimpse of a sword. He was tall but nothing compared to the Giant. The Giant on the other hand was much taller and bigger. He had a big round face and had made braids of his extremely curly hair and tied some of them to the back of his head. He hit his head accidently when he entered Aaron’s room earlier.
The men made themselves comfortable in Aaron’s room. The Giant sat on the side table and the man stood next to the window with folded arms.
“Sit down!” the man commanded which got Aaron irritated.
“I am ok right here” he tried to imitate the same authority.
The man looked at Aaron for a moment and then looked back outside the window.
“Do you know why we are here?” He asked.
“Not really, I am hoping that you brought some news about my friend”
The strangers looked at each other in confusion.
“No, we didn’t bring any news about anybody. We came to speak to you.” The man said.
Aaron was confused now. What would two armed men want to talk to him about?
“What do you want to speak to me about?” Aaron asked.
“Aaron, I am Dan Belcross and this is my friend Ony Thorman, we have come here for you.”
“For me?! What do you mean?”
“We mean that you are coming with us” said Ony standing up.
Dan signaled him to stop and continued “The time has come Aaron, you have to come with us.”
“Come with you?! Why? Who are you?” Aaron was confused.
Dan was stern “Aaron, We know about the attack on the village, we better go before they attack you!”
Aaron was startled, he was not expecting the strangers to know about the attack and be concerned about it. “You know nothing!” Aaron murmured under his breath.
Dan heard him. “What did you say?”
“They attacked me, they wanted to kill me” Aaron said in a low voice.
There was a silence in the room. The two men stood there staring at each other like they were not expecting to hear this.
“The wolves attacked you? When?” asked Dan.
“Yesterday, at the marketplace. My friend was with me too.”
“How did you get out alive?” Dan looked extremely tensed.
“I used my sword and had to kill one of the wolves” he said hesitatingly looking at his sword kept on the table.
“Hmm, a natural. No wonder!” said Ony with a grin.
“What do you mean by that?” Aaron asked surprised.
“This meant they found you before we did” Dan said after brooding for some time. “But, How?”
“I don’t know, but the lady at the book store mentioned something about searchers” Aaron said.
“Searchers?” Dan’s eyes widened now. “But searchers can find you only if you come across magic”
“I think I did in a way, that lady was selling books on magic”
Dan was furious “If she knows about searchers, she was a witch then”
“A witch?” Aaron had only heard of witches in stories, he could not believe his own ears.
“If the searchers know that you are here, you are not safe even for a moment. We have to leave this place as soon as we can” Dan said.
“Leave? What do you mean? Where to? I am not going anywhere. I think you should go now” Aaron got annoyed. “I don’t even know who you are. I am not leaving my home because you come here and tell me stories about witches and magic”
“Stories?! You think we are making up stories?” Ony was filled with anger. He pulled out his axe from his belt.
“Stop it Ony. Let me speak to him” said Dan. Ony sat down back on the table still holding his axe in his left hand and stared at Aaron as Dan spoke.
“Aaron, I know that you don’t know much about your parents”
“Parents?” Aaron’s eyes widened “You know about my parents?”
“Yes, we were friends, very good friends. Now listen to me carefully Aaron. It is very important. Your life is in danger here. The Evil Force knows that you are here now. It will repeatedly attempt to kill you no matter what. There could be more attacks on your village. They will not stop until your entire village is destroyed. Is that what you want?”
Aaron knew how much damage had been done to his village. He didn’t want to put anybody in danger because of him anymore.
“But why do they want to kill me? I am a ‘nobody’. Just a simple boy in the farm minding my own business”
“You are not a ‘nobody’ Aaron” Dan said raising his hand.
“You are the first born of the very respected defenders” Dan gave a gentle pat on Aaron’s shoulder.
“Defenders? My parents were Defenders? Defenders of what?” Aaron asked in one breath.
“I know you want to know much more about them. But we are running short of time. We did come here to tell you about your parents but we had no idea that the situation was so bad here. We have to leave now. There will be plenty of time later to tell you everything”
“But why do I have to come with you? Are you going to take me to a safe place” Aaron asked.
“He doesn’t even know” Ony stumped his feet and shifted his axe.
“What don’t I know?” Aaron became impatient.
“Aaron” Dan walked away from him and stood in the corner. “You are to join us. When the first born of Defenders reach the age of sixteen, they join the rest of us. Your turn has come, you have to take up your responsibility. This is your destiny”
‘Destiny!!’ The words of Mathew ringed in Aaron’s ears as he remembered them.
He never thought that this is how he would find out about his destiny. He thought his destiny is to take care of his uncle’s properties. That would have been much better, he thought. He didn’t even know what these men were talking about.
“What if I don’t want to go?” Aaron asked dejected.
“Then, you will be putting your family and your village in danger” Said Dan.
“Where will we go?” Aaron asked finally.
“To Arktor, but before that, we will make another stop” said Dan.
Aaron didn’t ask anything more. He couldn’t think clearly. Flynn was missing because of him. He was aware of the danger that lurked in the village. He knew he had to go. He didn’t want the innocent villagers to suffer because of him.
A part of him wanted to go and see the world outside but he didn’t know that this is how he would be leaving.
“What about Brandon? Can he come with us?” Aaron asked Dan.
“No, until the first born is alive, the other siblings do not join the council” Dan said calmly.
“But what if they harm uncle or Brandon while I am gone?”
“The wolves are after you and not anybody else” said Dan.
Aaron thought for a moment and asked “What should I do now?”
“Pack whatever you need for the journey. Take enough warm clothes and a blanket. The journey is going to be long and hard” said Dan.
Aaron had stayed in the village all his life. He had never gone out of Brinsar, neither did he have any experience of packing for a long journey. Now that he was getting pulled out of his comfortable house, he didn’t know where to begin.
Reluctantly, he got up and pulled out a big cloth sack from under his bed. He dusted it and started to look around for things he wanted to take with him.
Dan was on a continuous watch at the window. He made a small opening through the curtains and looked outside. Ony was watching Aaron’s every movement, it made Aaron uncomfortable.
“Why don’t you take a few more shirts? After all, we are going on such a fun trip” Ony taunted Aaron as he was trying to shove a large number of shirts into his bag.
Aaron flared his nostrils and stopped packing more shirts.
“What about this jacket? Oh, there is a good pair of socks there” Ony kept bothering Aaron as he tried to pack the rest of the stuff.
“I think it will be better if you wait outside till I am done packing” Aaron finally said annoyed.
“Hmm, my tummy is grumbling. I need some food inside it, is there anything to eat?” Ony asked looking around the room.
“There is plenty. Just go to the kitchen downstairs!” Aaron was more than happy to get rid of him. Dan and Ony went downstairs and finally Aaron had some time to think for himself.
He was not ready to leave but he had to. He thought ’It is all part of my destiny. As Mathew said, if I don’t take this chance, I will regret it all my life’
He put a few books along with the book Mathew gave him inside his bag. He had a great loss as his best friend was gone now. Aaron wished that the village and his family would be safer after he left.
He packed everything he thought he needed for the journey, including his leather pouch to carry water.
He was happy that he would know more about his parents now. He would be a part of something big. But he didn’t know what his future would be, anymore.
He could finally go on those adventures he always dreamt about, like the stories he read. But if he hadn’t seen with his own eyes what he was up against, he would have been much happier. Now he knew that real life was not like in the story books.
He soon joined the rest of the party for dinner. He enjoyed the big meal of pork chops and chicken stew with bread and red wine. For desert, everyone got freshly baked cheery pies. Sentas spoke to the guests merrily and asked them about their quests. Brandon listened with great interest and had his dinner quietly without making any fuss. Even Mrs. Renn was lost in their stories.
Aaron was happy to know that at least he was going to be with experienced fighters. He knew that the wolves cannot harm him with these two men by his side. He wished to learn from them their skills of fighting.
After the meal, Brandon was asked to go to his room and the rest of them shifted to the hall.
Dan sat next to uncle Sentas. “We will be leaving tonight with the boy” Dan said in a serious tone.
Sentas was puzzled. He said “What?! What do you mean leaving with the boy?”
“The boy is to come with us” Ony repeated.
Sentas grew furious. His expressions changed rapidly.
“Aaron is not going anywhere with you.” he said.
“I thought you knew” Aaron said looking at uncle.
“No! I welcomed these men into my house because they said that they were friends of your father. They wanted to talk to you. I thought you could learn something about your parents. But now, I do not want them here anymore.” Uncle Santas said without hesitation. “You should go now!”
Ony was flaring his nostrils and Dan was thinking about how to convince Sentas. Aaron came closer to uncle and sat him down. “Uncle, I have to go with them“
Sentas was confused. “But why Aaron? Why do you have to go?”
“Uncle, the wolves attacked the village because of me” Aaron said.
“What?! That’s nonsense! Who told you that? It’s not true” Sentas said.
“It is true.” Said Dan.
Uncle looked up at Dan and before he could say anything, Dan said again “Mr. Sentas, Aaron’s parents were members of a secret council. And so are we. Our job is to fight the Evil that the world has forgotten. Aaron is destined to follow in his parent’s path” He paused for a moment and then continued “I thought you were informed about this by one of our council members already.”
Uncle looked at Aaron and Aaron remembered the conversation he had with uncle last night. There was a fear in uncles’ eyes that he was going to lose Aaron.
“No, I don’t know anything. This is ridiculous!” Sentas got back on his feet and tried to protest, but Aaron caught his arms.
“Uncle, I am going with them, I have to! You knew I had to go one day”
Sentas fell silent.
“Uncle, they are looking for me. If I stay here, they will come again. I do not what to risk you and Brandon for this”
Uncle suddenly hugged Aaron tight and said nothing. Tears rolled down his eyes, he was not ready to part with Aaron.
“Can’t you stay for just a few more days?” He then turned towards Dan and Ony “Please Let me have a few days with him.”
“No, we can’t wait. The beasts are out there looking for Aaron. They can attack anytime again.” said Ony.
Uncle finally gave in. “Alright then let me know if you need anything for the journey.” Uncle sighed and walked away with his head hanging down. Aaron didn’t see him for the rest of the evening.
“We should rest now. We will leave at the break of dawn” said Dan. “It’s going to be a hard journey ahead”
All three of them entered Aaron’s room. Dan made a bed for himself on the floor and Ony slept on Aaron’s bed leaving a very little space for Aaron to sleep. Ony soon started to snore loudly. Aaron couldn’t sleep for a long time, it kept him wide awake.
This was the last time that he would be in his room. He didn’t know if he would ever come back to Brinsar, the village where he had sweet memories of all his life was slipping away from him. He will never see his family and especially his little brother. His heart ached. He wanted to go and talk to Brandon, hug him for the last time but he held his urge to do so. It would be too hard for both of them. Hoping that he is doing the best for everybody, he finally closed his eyes. His full stomach helped him sleep nicely.
“Wake up!” a heavy hand fell on Aaron’s shoulder. Aaron woke up startled.
As he looked with blurry eyes Ony covered his mouth and signed him to remain calm. The room was dark. A little light come from the outside through the window. He saw a shadowy figure standing near the window. It was Dan, he had a sword in one hand and a knife in the other.
‘What’s Dan doing there?’ Aaron wondered.
With a quick movement, Dan threw the knife out of the window. Aaron heard a shriek and a thud. Dan ran outside flinging the door open. Aaron again heard another shriek louder than before.
Aaron ran to the window to see what was going on, but he couldn’t see anything.
“What is happening?” He asked Ony.
Dan came back to the room with loud steps. He was panting and his sword was drenched with something black, it dripped and made a little puddle on the floor.
“Time to go!” Dan said looking at Aaron.
Without saying a word Aaron picked up his bag and joined Ony. He knew that he did not have much time before another attack happens. They hurried downstairs. The incident had woken everybody up. Uncle was standing downstairs in his night clothes and trying to make sense of what had just happened. Brandon was there looking at everybody with his sleepy eyes.
All three of them came down and rushed towards the door. Brandon saw Aaron all packed and leaving and started panicking. Sentas tried to hold Brandon close but he managed to get out of his grip. Brandon grabbed on to Aaron before he could get out of the door.
“Where are you going?!” He asked with watery eyes.
Aaron was not sure what to say to his little brother. He knelt in front of Brandon and held his face in his hands.
“I am going on a big adventure with these men, Brandon” He said trying to sound happy.
Brandon seemed to smile at the mention of adventure.
“You have to take care of uncle and this house now!” Aaron added.
Brandon nodded and hugged Aaron. Uncle carried him away and asked Mrs.Renn to put him back to bed.
He then came back to the hall and asked Aaron to write letters to him.
“There is no time, we have to leave now.” Ony said.
Aaron tore his eyes away from his uncle and hastily walked outside into the darkness. If he had to leave now, he wanted to get over with it. Get as far away as he could from there.
It was very dark outside. The icy cold wind hit Aaron’s face. He was not used to being outside at this hour. Everything was silent. Everyone was sleeping in their cozy homes.
The horses were standing near the big oak tree. One of uncle’s men was tending to them. The two horses were the same Aaron saw in the morning and the third one also looked very similar. He came closer to take a better look at the horse. It was the best horse Uncle Sentas had, it was also the best horse in the whole village. Uncle had bought it for himself from the city. Aaron always had his eyes on this horse and had always wanted it for himself. But today, getting it this way did not make him very happy.
Aaron loaded his bag onto the saddle and quickly pulled up his cloak. He had his sword dangling at his belt. He waited for the two men to join him. The men were assuring his uncle of something. He didn’t want to look back.
Both Dan and Ony came to their horses. Before Aaron could get on his horse, the men were riding already. Aaron mounted his horse and followed them. He looked at his house for the last time. Uncle Sentas and Mrs.Renn stood near the door waving goodbye. He pulled the rein hard and went behind the others.
Before passing the boundaries of the house he saw a giant Weather Wolf fallen dead near the bushes.
Did you enjoy my story? Please let me know what you think by leaving a review! Thanks, Ritu GhoshWrite a Review