The following day, Alex arose at four in order to wash up and get ready for what would be the first of many days of travelling. Heading down the steps to the ground floor and entering the kitchen, he cut a few slices from yesterday’s loaf of bread. He covered it with some G’mork butter and poured himself a mug of cold Mirya. Moving over to the small table, he sat down to eat while waiting for the White Falcon transport that would take him to the capital. A few minutes later, his parents came into the kitchen and, grabbing some breakfast, joined Alex at the kitchen table. Hearing his father clear his throat, Alex looked up from his breakfast, knowing what was coming, “So son, are you ready to set out?” Smiling briefly at that question, Alex took a large bite of his bread in order to give himself time to think.
Finishing his mouthful, he looked back at his parents and responded, “I think I am as ready as I will ever be.” That response caused both his parents to smile. His mother then reached into a small bag by her side and pulled out an item that was wrapped in blue paper. Handing it to Alex, she said, “Here, we got this for you in preparation for this day.” Although he smiled upon receipt of this gift, inwardly he grimaced, knowing what it was. He didn’t really want it, but took it to make his parents happy.
As he expected, it was a copy of the holy book of the True Path. Known simply as The Book, it was a collection of writings from the founding fathers of the Path said to have come directly from the Overlord himself. As he put the book carefully into his satchel he found he could honestly thank his parents for the gift; although he didn’t believe a word of what was written, it would be very useful in his training. Besides, if he didn’t have a copy he would stick out like a sore thumb, and might even be expelled from the Order. Well aware that his parents were ready and willing to continue the conversation, he was very grateful to hear the sound of a vehicle pulling up outside the house.
At the sound of the knock at the door, Alex leapt to his feet, saying to his parents, “That will probably be my ride, I should get it.” With that he got up and began heading towards the front door. Crossing the main room and stopping at the front door, Alex opened it to reveal the man who would be his escort to the capital. Alex was five feet ten inches, so, while not overly tall, he was not exactly a short individual. However, he still had to look up in order to see the face of the man who stood in front of him. He was easily six and a half feet tall with jet black hair that he wore in a very close cropped style very similar to that worn by members of the Dieron Militia. His shoulders were so broad that Alex wondered how he could possibly fit into the roller which was parked outside. He wore the traditional black garb of the White Falcons. But unlike other members of the Order Alex had seen, he had a giant white falcon emblazoned across his whole chest instead of a small falcon on the upper left corner of his shirt. On the sleeves, just above the elbow, he had three thin gold stripes interspaced with two thin silver stripes; Alex assumed these were marks of rank. He also wore a cloak that was clasped with a bronze broach at his left shoulder and hung down to his lower thigh. With the way it was positioned, it managed to completely conceal his entire left side. As Alex invited him in, he informed Alex that his name was Sevas and that he was the deputy father of the White Falcons on Calos II.
Moving over to the stairs and grabbing his satchel, Alex thought that the voice matched the man in every way. It was a deep and commanding, one that a person would be inclined to obey without question. Noticing that Alex had picked up his satchel, Sevas looked at him and said, “Say goodbye to your family and follow me.” Nodding his head, Alex turned and said farewell to his brother, just now coming down the stairs. Then, after hugging his parents one last time, he looked over at Sevas and indicated he was ready to follow. Walking out the front door after his guide, he crossed the porch and climbed into the passenger section of the roller while the deputy father climbed into the seat of the driver’s compartment.
Taking his seat in the back row Alex looked around at the other three passengers. The first passenger looked to be about twenty-five; and, was very clearly a novice within the Order; his unmarked black tunic made that clear. Alex would have loved to know why he was in the roller; but, he was asleep so there would be no chance to find out.
The second passenger was awake, but far less interesting. He looked to be around eighteen or nineteen years old, and was very clearly on his way to begin training. To Alex’s mind he looked exactly like the sort of man who would join the Order out of religious devotion. He had brownish hair that appeared to be in a constant tangled mess. He had thick horn rimmed glasses, that looked like they came from the late 1900’s or early 2000’s.Finally he was wearing a red-and-blue flannel shirt with grey trousers that looked like they came from the local second hand store. Yep, Alex thought that this guy definitely belonged in a library or monastery.
The third passenger was far more interesting on many different levels. First of all, the passenger was a female. Although the Order did accept female candidates, it was not a common occurrence. This was especially true when she appeared to come from a noble family on the border of Dark Space. She looked to be about the same age as Alex and was maybe a few inches shorter. She had shoulder length blond hair and a very pale complexion that was typical among people this close to Dark Space. Her clothes were also of a finer quality than any he had seen before. Although his family was from the upper middle class, it was very evident that her clothes were of a style and quality that would probably never be found outside of the nobility.
After taking a few minutes to observe his fellow passengers, Alex decided to introduce himself. “Hey, I’m Alex. You guys heading to training as well?”
The horn-rimmed guy up front responded first. “My name is Jonathon Litesein. Yea, I want to be a scribe.”
Alex looked somewhat confused at that statement, “Like someone who writes letters and stuff?” That question made Jonathon laugh, “Well yes, that is one duty of a scribe. However, it is much more than that; they are also the keepers of history and literature. They keep all the old records , and they pass it on to the next generation.”
Alex smiled inwardly, keeping useless information and writing letters seemed like a perfect fit for Mr. Litesein. However, all he said was, “Sounds fun.” To which comment Jonathon simply smiled.
The female passenger then stated that her name was Sierra Zierck and that yes, she was going to train with the Order as well. Upon hearing her name, the two young men just stared at her in open-mouthed shock. This was the eldest daughter of the Earl of the Skynar province, of which Calos II was the capital. Jonathan then asked her what she was doing joining the Order. Just as she was about to reply, the roller hit a series of bumps and potholes that went on for at least half a mile. Between the bumps and jolts, Alex managed to inform them that this was a stretch of road on the western side of Heersch just before the main road to the capital. It had been torn up eight months ago by a Dark Storm. Since the village council didn’t have the rudi to repair it, they were forced to leave it in this condition until the planetary government chose to do something about it. After about five minutes, the roller came to a sudden stop, and the connecting window between the front compartment and the passenger compartment slid open. Sevas looked back, telling them to stay inside the roller and stay quiet, and then promptly shut the window before any of them could ask any questions.
Through the front view screen, they watched as Sevas and the driver stepped forward to confront three men. These men were dressed in robes very similar to the robes of the White Falcons except they were blood red. One of them carried what appeared to be a double-bladed energy staff and the other two carried energy swords. As the two White Falcon monks moved towards them, they moved away from their quads and towards the two monks. Alex decided he wanted to get a better picture of what was happening and moved over to the side door to get out. Jonathon spoke up suddenly, saying, “What are you doing? Sevas told us to stay inside.”
At that Alex looked back at him with something approaching both humor and disgust. Sneering, Alex asked, “Do you always do what you’re told? Besides, I just want to get a look. What’s the worst that could happen?”
As he opened the door to get out, Sierra suddenly got up and following Alex, said, “I wanna see too.” The novice who they thought was sleeping yelled at them to get back inside the roller. Unfortunately the warning came too late, as two creatures that Alex had never seen before suddenly leapt out of the ground ten yards away and began moving towards them. Both creatures walked on their hind legs and were probably five feet tall, very muscular, and covered from head to toe in black, matted fur. Their lower arms were covered in spikes, and their hands ended in razor-sharp claws that looked sharp enough to tear through trodamite battle armor. Their mouths had two, six-inch, razor-sharp fangs protruding from the top that gave them the appearance of grinning like maniacs. That, coupled with the slitted red eyes gave Alex the impression that he was facing evil and psychotic clowns. As the two creatures closed the distance between them, the novice who had been sleeping suddenly leapt in front of both Alex and Sierra. As he took up his position, a Malkite sword flashed into his hands seemingly from nowhere. Moving to the left, he swung his sword in a downward strike, attempting to sever the creature’s head from its neck. The creature raised its arm to block the blow, and the sword crashed down on his arm with enough force to cut clean through a human’s arm.
This creature, however, was far stronger than any human and, in spite of the power behind the blow; it merely bounced off its arm. At the same time, the creature swung its right arm with such force that, if it had managed to connect, it would probably have destroyed the novice’s entire torso. Fortunately, he saw it coming and leapt back to the left, avoiding both the swinging arm and the other creature that had been moving up behind him. Ducking low he raced forward at the creature on the right, swinging his weapon at the creature’s legs. It moved to knock the blow aside. However, the young man swung his sword up at the last minute, managing to slam it tip first right into the chest of the creature, piercing its heart and killing it. Even in its death throes, this creature proved it was still a force to be reckoned with, managing to throw the novice several feet through the air and breaking his weapon about five inches from the hilt. Slamming into the side of the roller, he fell to his knees and just sat there for a few seconds, shaking his head, trying to clear it. Grabbing what was left of his blade, he motioned angrily for Alex and Sierra to get back inside the roller as he moved to engage the other creature. At that they both scrambled back inside the vehicle, slamming the door shut. Safely inside, they watched what happened through the door window. Their rescuer, who was obviously hurting and unsteady, advanced on the other monster. He attempted to slash at the creature’s head with his now broken sword, only to have it knocked aside. As the monster blocked the blow, it picked up the novice by the throat, crushing it easily in its powerful grip. Tossing aside the now-dead novice, it then advanced on the vehicle.
While all of that was going on, Jonathon watched through the front window as Sevas and the driver fought and killed all three of the human assailants. As soon as those two creatures had sprung out of the ground, momentarily distracting the two monks, the three red-garbed warriors had struck at the two monks. The one on the far left had attacked the driver who, from hidden folds in his robe, had produced two, short vibroswords which he wielded with deadly skill. Raising his left arm to meet the downward strike of his enemy, their weapons met in a clash of sparks. At the same time, he stepped forward and, thrusting with his right arm, very neatly stabbed his other blade in the man’s throat. Stepping to the side, he pulled out his sword, causing blood to spurt from the attacker’s throat. He was dead before his body hit the ground.
Meanwhile the other two attackers moved in on Sevas who pulled out a sword with a curved blade and a sabre pistol. Shooting the man with the double-bladed staff twice in the chest, he moved to engage the other attacker. Sidestepping a blow that could have severed his right arm, Sevas swung his sword up, catching his opponent right at the waist which cut him wide open. Then, turning sideways, he smashed his hilt into the man’s face, breaking his nose and throwing him backwards onto the ground. Leaving him there to die, Sevas turned around and shot the creature six times as it tried to wrench open the door of the roller, killing it. Sevas and the driver both scrambled back into the forward section of the vehicle and roared off towards the main road. As Alex looked through the rear window, he saw five more quads and two jeeps along with three more of those creatures cresting the hill and moving towards the site of the battle. At that point Alex’s view was cut off as the roller reached the main road and sped onto it.
Once they could be sure that their unknown assailants were not pursuing them, the vehicle slowed back down to a normal speed. Turning around Sevas opened the connecting window and looked back at his three charges with such fury in his face that Alex was fairly certain even those creatures would have run away rather than face this man. Speaking with barely-contained fury, he said, in a voice that could cut through hardened triduiam, “I told you to stay in the roller! What the blazes were you doing outside of it?” Although frightened by the force of Sevas’s anger, Alex began to speak up. He was cut off by an angry gesture from Sevas as he continued to talk. “Your idiocy has cost a good man his life today! There was no reason he had to die and, had you obeyed orders, he would still be alive! You had better learn to obey orders and fast; otherwise your stay in the Order will be very short! And very unpleasant!” With that, he slammed the window shut without giving them a chance to say anything more. Alex, Sierra, and Jonathon all looked at each other in shock. The White Falcons were known for being a peaceful Order full of scribes and healers. Yet here three of their members had not only been equipped with very high-quality weaponry, but had also displayed an incredible amount of skill in their use. The three of them sat there saying nothing, each wrapped in their own thoughts as the roller drove on toward the capital and the next stage in their journey.
The time piece on the dashboard read twenty-one hundred hours as the roller moved off the road and into the main courtyard of the White Falcon priory located on the outskirts of the capital city. Opening the passenger connection, Sevas told them that they would be staying here for the night, and that they were to grab their packs and follow him. Once all three of them were out of the vehicle, Sevas began striding towards the guest quarters without looking to see if they were following. After a few seconds, the three of them ran after him, they managed to catch up just as he reached the main doors. Following him up to the second floor, they were shown a small living space consisting of a living area, four bedrooms, and two bathrooms. Looking directly at Alex, he told them in a voice that brooked no argument, “Stay here for the night; do not leave for any reason! Think you can handle that?” Sierra immediately turned her head away with a look of shame on her face. Alex, however, looked at him defiantly for a few minutes before looking away, muttering his assent. After telling them to be downstairs at 0800 tomorrow morning, Sevas slammed the door shut and strode off. Jonathon and Alex took the two rooms on the left while Sierra took one of the rooms on the right. After the three of them had put their bags into their respective quarters, they all moved into the central living area to eat some of the food that had been provided for them.
While the three soon-to-be-trainees ate dinner and discussed the day’s events amongst themselves, Sevas went to his superior to inform him of what happened. He walked into the office of Father Superior Micholson, head of the Order for all of Calos II. Standing before the desk, he stated rather bluntly, “Jonas is dead. He was killed by a kirat.”
At that Father Micholson looked up from his paperwork and, putting down his pen, asked in a voice that sounded like sand being scraped across old parchment, “Are you quite certain?”
Looking somewhat dumbfounded, Sevas responded, “Yes, I am quite certain. They are rather hard to mistake!” Raising his hands in a placating gesture and smiling, the Father Superior responded, “I know, I know, but no one has seen a kirat in over three million years, and we have only ever seen them in books before. So you know I have to ask.”
Smiling weakly Sevas nodded his head and said, “Yes, sir, but I am one hundred percent confident it was!”
“Very well, then,” responded Micholson, “However, I would ask that you keep this information quiet for now. No need to panic people, is there?” With a flick of his hand, he dismissed Sevas and went back to his writing. Stiffening momentarily, Sevas inclined his head in acknowledgement. Turning around, he walked out of the office and down the hall to his quarters to eat his own dinner.