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The Raven and the Paladin: Book I - LOST

By Kenn Phillips All Rights Reserved ©

Thriller / Fantasy

Blurb

Journal Entry #181, October 30, 2008 History books can only hold so many heroes, but time is filled with legends that are no longer taught—warriors left to die on the battlefields of forgotten yesterdays. The years pass and tales of new heroes come to light to take the place of those we then forget. I suppose, to whoever happens upon this journal, my words would seem profound, but I find them to be nothing more than the desperate thoughts of a very desperate man, clinging to the hope that his brother is still alive somewhere, waiting to be found. He may not even know he is lost. It's been almost six months since I saw a man I thought was my brother and have not yet been able to find him again. I'm beginning to think Brandr and Tófa were right. Maybe Xamn is gone forever. Maybe I'm just a silly old man on a fool's quest and those visions were just brought on by an empty stomach. Then again, perhaps I'm just having one of those days. I used to love mornings like these. The sun shining alone in a bright, blue sky, no clouds to get in the way of it warming my face—cool from a slight breeze. Now, it could be thirty degrees, a dark-grey sky looming overhead, threatening to rain sleet

Chapter 1 - Illuminations I

“You can conjure yourself a milkbone if you want to, Goose, but I’m not settling for anything less than three pieces of bread, dipped in egg and fried on a greasy stove. Pulling that out of thin air just never works. We’re not going to die of hunger.” Wiz and his canine companion stood at the intersection of Innes and Main Streets in Salisbury, North Carolina on a cool Saturday morning. Their stomachs growled, though out of habit, in united protest for making them wait so long for breakfast.

Goose had whined as they walked past half a dozen chain restaurants and fast food places between the motel and downtown. Wiz didn’t mind the big restaurants but preferred the cozier atmosphere of a Mom n’ Pop greasy spoon.

“I’m sorry, Goose. I thought for sure we’d find one by now. Hey,” he said, pointing his head toward a shop with a steaming coffee cup on the window, “there’s a coffee shop. Will a muffin suffice until we can get some real breakfast?” Goose breathed an acquiescent sigh, waited for the crosswalk sign to turn, and then, began to walk across the street. “I’ll take that as a ‘yes’.”

As they approached the café, Wiz looked at the easel sign on the sidewalk in front of it. “’Spill the Beans – Salisbury’s place for a warm cup, a friendly chat, and a comfortable place to sit.’ Doesn’t sound half bad. Wait here while I make sure it’s okay to bring you in.”

Goose sat patiently beside the sign as Wiz went inside. After a few seconds, Wiz came back to the door and held it open for Goose. Behind him were a young man and two people who looked to be his parents. They smiled at Wiz as he held the door for them as well. The young man’s arm brushed up against Wiz’s as he walked by. He was instantly bombarded with a vision—fire, burning flesh, dozens of ravens. The flood of images was interrupted when Goose started barking and carrying on at the feet of the young man.

“I think I’ve made a new friend,” the young man said.

“I think you have,” Wiz said, his eyes wide with astonishment.

“A mocha, right?” the man’s father asked him.

“Yeah. That’s fine, Dad.” His father took his mother’s hand and they went to the counter to order their drinks. “What’s his name?” the young man asked Wiz.

“Goose,” Wiz said, his eyes studying the man with disbelief. Could it be?

“Goose, huh? Strange name for a dog, don’t you think?”

“Yeah, well… he had a run-in with a grumpy Canadian when he was a puppy. He bit off a little more than he could chew and then the goose bit him on the butt.”

“It makes sense now.” The young man chuckled as he crouched and began to scratch behind Goose’s ears. Goose seemed to be in Heaven. “My name’s Stew,” he said, standing and offering his hand. “Stew Kasey.”

Wiz took his hand, but not before taking control of the visions he knew were to come. He had to force himself to file away any new images to go back to later when he wasn’t in the presence of the subject. “Nice to meet you. I’m Wiz.”

“Cool. Nice to meet you, too. So,” Stew continued, “I’m not entirely sure why I’m being so chatty with a complete stranger because that’s just not me, but… it just seems… I don’t know…”

“Like we should know each other?” Wiz offered.

“Yeah, like we should know each other. Exactly.”

“Perhaps we met in a past life.”

“Ha! Maybe you’re right,” Stew replied, though not as though he meant it. He was brought up in a Christian household and just didn’t know much of anything else other than what he saw in the movies and he didn’t give any weight to that. “Do you live in Salisbury?”

“No. Just… passing through. You?” Wiz returned quickly, not giving Stew the chance to ask where he was from.

“My parents live here. I grew up here, but now I live in Charlotte. I’m just here for the weekend.”

“Here you go, Stew,” Stew’s dad said, handing him his drink. His mom shuffled past her husband and son to get to the couch, keeping a careful eye on the dog and as much room as she could get between her and Goose.

“Thanks, Dad,” Stew said. “Wiz, this is my dad, James.”

“It’s nice to meet you, sir.”

“Same here,” James replied. “That’s quite a nickname… Wiz.”

“Yeah, well… that’s what friends are for, I suppose.”

Stew gave Goose one last pat on the head and stood up. “Well, it was nice talking to you, Wiz. It’s my birthday today and I don’t get to see my parents as often as I used to, so…”

Wiz nodded in understanding but silently wished he could have more time, even knowing he would not be able to talk to Stew so soon about their past together. He showed not an ounce of recognition and personal questions would only make Stew think he was a loon or a stalker. “Happy birthday, then. Perhaps we’ll run into each other again sometime.”

“You never know. Bye, Goose.”

“Take care, Wiz,” James said as he sat down next to Mrs. Kasey on the couch.

Goose whined as Stew turned toward his parents and sat down in the chair next to them. “Come on, Goose. Let’s go.” Wiz led him out the door without even getting coffee or muffins. Goose let out a mournful whimper—not so much for leaving without food as for leaving without Stew.

As they walked down the street, Wiz felt tears run down his cheeks, overwhelmed with immense joy at finally finding his brother. At the same time, he also felt the cold, bitter tears of sadness mix with the rest, filling him with a pulsating desperation. He had never felt so helpless, but he had also never felt so alive, because he had one thing he didn’t have before—hope. He was right after all. His brother was not gone.
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