Ten days have passed since Troyle made his decisions. They were packing up and getting ready to leave with the latest trade caravan that pulled into the village the previous morning.
Four days earlier, Troyle had left his job of guarding the outskirts and resigned from his post amicably with those he worked with. Those who got to know him knew he was a good fighter even with a bad shoulder and saw his leave as something of a loss.
Those in the village had a different mindset. They passed off his leaving as an act of rebellion against the village, and hated him even more for it. When the news that Troyle and his family were going to leave the village came around, everyone was ecstatic to finally be rid of them.
It did not matter much to Troyle, and even less to Adalina. The village had treated her unjustly and she would not miss it. Luckily for them, only days later did a caravan show up.
The caravan had traveled from Heveston, a large city four mountains to the west of Hilthu.
After finding out that the caravan was heading north towards Ferrent the capital of Darsus, Troyle negotiate with the caravan master and was able to get a moderately appropriate pay of 14 erns a day with food and board in a supply wagon for his family with a bonus upon completion. The job contract would begin after leaving the current village of Hilthu and end upon reaching Ferrent. Normally a caravan guard would get paid 50 erns for a hard day’s work since it entailed: fighting and risking their lives, loading and unloading wagons, hunting, scouting, and various other minor tasks involved. To get 14 erns a day while having a weak shoulder and bringing along his wife and kids, was quite the bargain in reality. Luckily for him, being a former mercenary and knowing how to use a sword really helped with the negotiations.
After making sure that everything required had been packed into the wagon they were to travel in, Troyle took one last look at the house they had been living in for the past two years. Happiness and sadness mixed with an extensive amount of doubt swirled around the place, almost as if telling him to reach out and grab onto it and take it with him. The house had made him the happiest man alive, and inversely turned him into the worst. After staring at it, Troyle decided they were better off away from it.
As the caravan master shouted at the top of his lungs from the front, the wagons started rolling.
In what appeared to be a stronghold on the side of a mountain.
In a well-lit room, two men were looking through documents.
“Karei, what happened to the Ytel job?” An aged gentlemen asked his assistant while brooding over a stack of paper on his desk.
“We got words from Jerik a fortnight ago that the job was successful. They lost 3 people, 11 were wounded, and 7 others were poisoned. He said that the poison was non-lethal, and that they should be back within 25-30 days once the injured are strong enough to travel.” The assistant Karei replied promptly and precisely.
“3 huh? I knew I should have gone…wait a minute. A FORTNIGHT!? How come I was not notified of this?” The aged man shot a powerful inquiring gaze at his assistant.
“Because you were still mending from your last escapade, and stress and surprise were not in the doctor’s prescribed treatment. He specifically said to have you get plenty of rest, and have you move around as little as possible.” The assistant answered nonchalantly, even adding in irritation to his own voice while eyeing the papers in front of him. There was silence. Moments passed and as if waiting on cue, the assistant slowly lifted his eyes from the paper and looked toward his boss. Spying a glint of realization upon the older man’s face, the side of his mouth tipped upward into a villainous grin.
“YOU BASTARD!! THIS WHOLE TIME!!!” A roar erupted.
“Captain, that’ll only open up your stitches.” The villain replied while trying to suppress his laughter.
“You, conniving knave! This whole time! I’ve been looking through these boring old records because you said it was of the utmost importance that we sorted them. That you needed my recount of each, but it was just to keep me here in this hole!” The man angrily jested.
“Now captain, you are going to burst a blood vessel like that. I know how much you love Margil’s ‘healing’ potions, would you like to start bleeding again so I can get another flask for you?” Karei grinned, having emphasized the word healing.
“Uh. N… no thanks………its fine….”
“Well then, shall we finish sorting these?” Karei replied with a satisfied smile on his face
After an hour of reading and looking through records pertaining to previous completed jobs, there was a knock on the door.
“Is Captain Zikale in there?!” A yell from the other side.
Anything to get away from the boring task at hand, Zikale got up to answer the door himself, but his assistant was already at the door.
“What is it?” The captain asked after Karei returned carrying something in his hand.
“A letter for you sir, from Troyle.”
A name he had not heard for the past two years. Troyle was a loyal and distinguished mercenary under his direct command. The boy had shown great promise as a mercenary, and Zikale had tried grooming him into a commander. An unfortunate event occurred while on a job, and Troyle had decided to leave the mercenary life.
“It has already been two years. I wonder if he is better now and would like to come back.” Zikale pondered aloud while taking the letter from Karei.
On the red scroll, a dab of sealing wax was holding it together. An X was etched across the wax. At a glance, it was just a normal cross. Yet upon closer inspection, one leg of the X was significantly longer than the other three and going to the edge of the wax. It was the symbol of the Droxxon Mercenaries, and only those from his own crew knew about the subtle nuance to that mark.
19 days have passed ever since they joined up with the caravan.
The group had stopped at two small villages to rest and peddle their wares and restock on necessary supplies.
When not in the hospitality of a village, they had camped along the side of the road or campsites that have been created precisely for travelers.
They were set upon by bandits one night which the caravan fought off. It had cost them a pack mule and a wagon pulling mare. Four guards were slightly injured, but luckily Troyle was not one of them.
Another evening, the caravan had ran into a pack of hungry kluse wolves while on the road, and had to fight for their lives and those of the animals brought along. It took them until nightfall before the last of the kluse wolf were either dead or had ran away. Luckily for them, the kluse wolves were not big like other members of their family. In fact, each were only about the size of a small dog, so most of them were easily taken out. The real problem with the creatures were that there were too many of them. That night, the caravan had spent most of the night gathering whatever they could from the wolves before setting up camp.
Other than those, the trip had consisted of scavenging nearby areas for anything useful to use as ingredients or as tools. The caravan had hired capable trackers and scouts, and always had them move ahead periodically to find game or places to camp for the night while avoiding any would be threats.
Most of Troyle’s jobs were either helping to unload the wagons or making supports from logs to help lift the wagons while others replaced broken axles or wheels. Most of his time was spent driving the wagon and riding with Adalina and Kaidus.
‘He has not spoken a single word since the caravan arrived in Hilthu. I wonder if he is trying to act his age.’ Troyle pondered.
The surprise that his son was born with mana and talking already was still fresh in his mind. From the look of it, that disbelief was not going anywhere. He shuddered at the idea that his son was talking and has understanding and comprehension. Sure, there were words the child did not know, but that was because he has never heard them. Once explained to him, the child was able to absorb the information and weave it out as if he had been making conversations with such subjects for years.
As if the jig was up, the child had started talking after the revelation. Although still his quiet self for most of the time, Kaidus would sometimes ask for seconds when eating, or thank Adalina when she feeds him or does something for him. He still asks what the name of certain things are, but in contrast to quietly pointing them out like before, the boy was now voicing his questions. The only thing that didn’t change much, was that the questions and words were always in the privacy of their own home, away from the prying eyes and ears of the villagers.
Not sure what to make of this, Troyle decided to count it as a blessing, since the other options were much too horrific.
Riding in the wagon, Kaidus slept cradled in his mother’s arm.
Though asleep in appearance, his mind was deep in thoughts.
‘How many years have I been away exactly? For the world to have changed so much, that people with mana is so rare? The language itself is not any of the main languages from what I can see. That story about the demon king was definitely my crusade. Even the order from the church was to counter my revival as if they expected it. If I am not mistaken, I have been reborn 27 times this time… exactly how much time passed between each rebirth? Exactly what year is it? Why was this rebirth different from the rest? What is the point of my rebirth and retaining my memories?’
Unable to find any answer for these questions, Kaidus briefly thought about what had unfolded over the last few weeks.
He had tried so hard to be impassive toward Adalina ever since he could remember. He knew that he was an abnormal child. To have retained memories of his past life.
-Blood everywhere, the body of a women sprawled out on the floor, her husband next to her with a knife in his chest and a slash across his neck. A young child crying and begging. Pain, horrible pain. People crying and pleading for someone to save them. A hand stained with a dark liquid slowly devouring the person. A darkness that no light could penetrate. –
He had tried so hard to keep the thoughts of seeing Adalina as a mother locked away in the deepest part of his being. His impassiveness was to lessen her affection so if she ever felt he was a burden, she can easily cast him aside.
Yet, the love she showed him, her effort, and her perseverance over every obstacle in her path, her sorrows, her liveliness, the anguish that she kept to herself. As he witness each and every emotion that she displayed, yet still retained her love for him, he had unwittingly began to let slip his facade little by little, and had eventually asked her a question. Ever since then, there was no going back to being the silent mute he was. They both knew he could talk, he had blurted about having mana, thinking it was a normal thing like in his previous life, only to find out that it was nonexistent amongst the common populace now. Not wanting to raise suspicion and reveal his true identity, he had quickly played the role of a child, and managed to mollify the situation he had gotten himself into to some extent.
‘I have to be more careful. I can see the fear in Troyle’s eyes when he looks at me sometimes.’
Suddenly his eyes jerked open. Looking up, he saw Adalina’s face, her mouth quietly humming a song that she’s been humming for as long as he can remember. The song always seemed to calm him. As if entranced, he silently listened to the song, not worrying about what had shattered his concentration for it was inevitable.
A little later, a horn could be heard off in the distance. From the sound of it, a raid of sort, a signal for battle. As quickly as the horn died off, Troyle opened the flap of the wagon and told Adalina to take him and hide somewhere safe. Troyle then grabbed his sword, a dagger, and a strap with some throwing knives before promptly leaving.
They had been attacked before, but from the look on Troyle’s face, this time was greatly different.
His face was frozen like the mask he used to wear, just before going into a large scale battle.
Surrounded by forests on both sides of the road, Adalina had no idea where safe was. Instead of running into the woods possibly filled with beasts that could kill her and her child, better yet unknown plants that may poison her on contact and leave her paralyzed for days, she decided it was safer to stay in the wagon.
She quickly shoved aside a couple of smaller boxes and crates to get access to a larger chest. She pulled out most of the contents of the chest to make enough room for her and Kaidus and quickly stepped inside, then closed it.
The sound of battle could be heard from outside. Horses thundering around, dogs barking, people screaming and yelling from every direction. A horn was blown twice, thrice, and then it stopped. More screaming could be heard, and then screams from nearby wagons. Voices she had never heard before were shouting orders, and eventually she could feel her own wagon rattle. She felt someone get on the wagon. She bowed her head down in reflex to pray to her ancestors for protection, but she spied a tiny face looking up at her.
‘Now is not the time to be praying! I have to protect Kaidus!’ her fear stripped away, she resolved herself. Feeling around inside the chest, she felt something solid and pulled on it. It was one of Troyle’s belts. Holding the belt in one hand and the other wrapped around Kaidus, she waited.
There was a shuffling noise as if whoever came on board was moving things around in the wagon. Then suddenly the chest opened and a thin, dirty, unshaven man looked at her while grinning jovially.
“What do we have here? A stowa-” *WHACK*
Before he had finished his sentence, she had smacked the side of his head with the belt, causing the man to stutter a couple steps back.
“YOU DAM WHORE!” The grin was gone. The man’s face was red with anger. Taking steps forward, the man reached down and grabbed onto Adalina’s hair, pulling on it to force her up. A sinister grin immediately materialized on his face when he saw that she was clutching a babe in her left arm. “I see, you really were a whore.” The man stated, grinning.
Adalina tried again to hit the man’s head once again, but this time, he caught the belt with his left hand. Letting go of her hair, he slapped her across the face and jerked the belt out of her hand.
Stunned and in pain, all she could do was curl in the chest while trying to protect Kaidus in her clutches.
The man began beating on her and attempted to pry her hands apart. Seeing that she was putting up a fight, he called out to someone else. A moment later, another man came into the wagon to help him. Eventually they forced her arms open, and the first man picked up Kaidus. Grinning, the man took Kaidus out of the wagon.
Adalina cried and begged, but she was unable to escape from the second man’s powerful grips. Despair and fear erupted inside her, and her begging became incessant wails, powerless to do anything but watch as her child was taken away.
Suddenly, a blinding light flashed from the outside. The grip on her loosened. She jerked the hand away and quickly scurried out the wagon while winking to try and recover her vision.
After finally regaining her sight, she was accosted by a scene of bright crimson.
Blood was splattered everywhere. Looking around, she saw members of the caravan tied up and on the ground. Some of them were horrified. Others were still trying to regain their vision.
Her eyes darted around until she spotted what she was looking for.
In the midst of a giant bloom of blood, Kaidus laid unconscious. The man who took him was nowhere to be seen.