The Secret Chronicles
Part 1: Of Legacies and War
The sun was setting and dusk had begun to settle upon the busy borderline village not far from Castle Araphen. An elderly man was making his way through the crowded marketplace in the main street of the village. Tall buildings formed the walls of many deeply shadowed passageways. The elderly man turned onto just such a narrow and barren passage; and he was being followed. He knew he was, but by whom? Also, how could he follow with out ever being seen? The man knew the city well and he had a plan. He turned into a narrow alley then quickly turned again hiding around a corner. Now the prey would become the predator, it was only a matter of time. He soon saw a small tuft of unkempt hair just start to appear around the corner. With speed and deftness that defied his age he seized the stalker’s hair with one hand and immediately twisted one of the stalker’s arms into a painful position behind his back.
“Let go of me,” The boy cried. “Lemme go.” The boy looked about fifteen years of age; his hair was a sandy-blond color and he was dirty and hungry looking. He had a small, almost-scrawny, yet unexpectedly muscular build.
“What’s your name boy,” The man asked.
"You should always speak your own name before asking another’s," bravely stated the boy.
"You shouldn't follow people like that,” bluntly replied the man. “It'll get you killed," he added sardonically. "Lucky for you I like your spunk." He released the boy but stood so that he blocked the boy's path of escape and continued, "My name's Legault, but everyone calls me 'Hurricane'. Perhaps you've heard of me?"
"No, I've never heard of you—and you shouldn’t have told me your name ‘cuz I’m not gonna tell you mine," he stated rebelliously. "Any second now my friends are gonna come and beat you up! You just got lucky by catching me off guard." The boy could now see the old man he had been following. Legault was now standing straighter and taller than he had earlier. His gray hair, that had previously been underneath a dark blue cloak, had an almost purple tint to it. Two scars ran parallel across his left eye. One reached from the middle of his forehead and cut through his pupil down to the bottom of his jaw bone. The shorter one started at the same height but went across the outside edge of his eye and only went about half the length.
"I was trying to be nice, but now you've insulted me," threatened Legault. Then, his voice rising in volume with every word, he said, "I am the current head of the Assassin’s Guild, never once defeated in single combat. I fought along side, and surpassed Jaffar, the infamous 'Angel of Death'. I've also trained some of the world's greatest thieves, spies, and double agents. You will now learn to respect your elde--"
“Stop!” boomed a deep, loud, and unnatural voice. “Drop your dagger and back away from the boy.”
“Do that and we might let you live,” agreed another voice. Legault noticed that this voice sounded very young and cracked a little when it rose in volume.
“You're not in a position to be demanding things,” Legault calmly replied as he deftly swung the boy around putting a dagger to the boy's neck.
As soon as he spoke those words a burst of dark flux suddenly appeared causing Legault to drop his dagger. He barely dodged it, pulling the boy back and tossing him onto a pile of crates. Before he could even catch his breath a bright ball of fire rushed by, barely singeing the shoulder of his cloak. He quickly dodged the next blast and drew his two, ever-sharpened, ever-ready knives. The first of the knives was short and thick with a brass crosspiece containing the name Kuroi Kiba, meaning Black Fang. It's blade was narrow at the hilt then sharply became thicker and wider up to three-quarters of it's length, concentrating its weight toward the tip, then sharply tapered in forming a razor-sharp point (it's perfect for throwing). The second was longer with a short, sturdy crosspiece made up of the characters for “hurricane". Its blade was heavy and straight, razor-sharp on one side, thick and heavy on the other (also balanced for throwing but strong enough to block a sword stroke).
Legault could now see just who the boy's attempting rescuers were. Surprised, he exclaimed, “You’re all just kids!”
The two boys looked to be about thirteen years old; the first was garbed in a dark, hooded robe that hid all but his hands and sandal-clad feet. The second boy had a mess of green hair and wore a light blue tunic with a yellow, hooded cloak; his skin was a lighter color than the older boy he attempted to rescue.
Quickly catching his cool, he half smiled and added, “I’m impressed.”
“Give us our friend back or we will be forced to kill you,” bluntly demanded the dark-robed boy with the unnatural voice.
“Hold on,” said Legault chuckling. “He was stalking me, I simply defended myself. Can we not solve this peaceably?” Then, noticing how thin the three boys were, he tried: “Perhaps over a meal?”
After considering this possible solution both noting the hunger of his twin, his friend and himself and realizing that the old man could probably kill his friend before he or his brother could stop him, the yellow cloaked boy stated, “We accept your offer for negotiations, but only if you provide for the meal.”
"In that case, follow me," said Legault.
Legault led the three boys through a secret passage way hidden in the alleys. They then arrived at an ordinary door that seemed out of place for such a hidden location. "You three wait here," said Legault as he opened the door. "Don’t try anything that’ll get you killed. I'll be right back.”
“Should we try to run away?” asked the mage boy after Legault had closed the door.
“Yeah Lugh, Legault, or whatever he called himself was obviously just afraid of us,” said the dark-robed boy, this time in a normal, younger-sounding voice. “He's probably hoping that we ditch this place. What do you think Chad? I mean, he didn't try to keep you hostage and he left us out here alone.”
“Actually,” started Chad. “I don't think he was afraid. In fact, I think if we tried to run he'd chase after and kill us.”
“What are you talking about,” exclaimed Ray. “Don't you have any faith in our skill!? If he gives chase Lugh and I can take turns attacking. Lugh will use fire and I can unleash flux, He'll have to back down and give up.”
“When he grabbed me he did it so quickly I didn't even see him; I just felt the pain of my arm being twisted behind my back. Then-- didn't you notice!-- he didn't even break a sweat while dodging your attacks and I don't think he's really as old as he looks,” stated Chad. “We thought he was a weak, defenseless old fool. Another thing, he told me that he was never once defeated in single combat and I believe him. I don't think the three of us can even slow him down.”
“Chad has a point, Ray,” said Lugh.
“Aaargh! This is driving me crazy,” exclaimed Ray. I know we can get away, but you two are too afraid. Yet I can't hardly leave you two here by your selves, 'cause then I'd have to explain to the Reverend how I left you two with an assassin!”
“Look Ray!” demanded Chad. “Either way we put ourselves in danger, but staying gives us a slightly better chance. If we stay, he might just let us go. However, if we try to run he, and maybe other assassins, would most likely have to kill us. We know too much.”
“I guess your right, admitted Ray. We'll just have to play it by ear and improvise a way to get out of this one.”
After a couple minutes of awkward silence the door opened half-way and Legault said, “Come in.” They entered and were almost surprised to find that the room looked-- well-- normal. It was a homely room with all neutral colors and only very simple adornments. A small but adequate fireplace lay unlit in the back of the room. “Please, sit down,” Legault said as he pointed to a dinner table. Around it was six oak chairs and it had four bowls of soup and a loaf of bread with a knife beside them. The three boys hesitated for a second then sat down, the twins on one side and Chad on the other. Legault took the head seat beside Ray and Chad. Legault cut a slice of the bread, dipped it in his soup, and took a bite. The boy’s looks switched from Legault, to the food, to each other and back to Legault.
“It's OK,” he said. “I didn't poison it or anything.” Then he added, "Please, you'll be insulting me if you don't eat.”
Ray then picked up his spoon and tasted the broth. The others did the same as he reached to cut off a piece of the bread. Before long they were all enjoying their meals and Legault asked, “So, why were you following me?”
“Well-- I was, um-- going to pick-pocket you," admitted Chad.
“So, you are just thieves," confirmed Legault nodding his head.
“No!” objected Chad. “I just—,” he cut his objection short after receiving a harsh look from Legault.
“Then why were you trying to pick-pocket me?” demanded Legault.
“Because we needed the money for food,” explained Chad.
“Don't your parents feed you?” inquired Legault.
“Our parents are dead,” bluntly stated Ray.
“So the orphanage refuses to take care of you?” said Legault in mock surprise.
“The money wasn't to feed us but to help feed the other orphans. The Reverend kinda thinks we're out shoe-shining,” explained Chad.
“Lying to a priest! Shame,” chastised Legault sarcastically.
“Look,” Ray challenged bluntly. “Are you going to let the three of us go or not?”
“Hmmm,” Legault closed his eyes and nodded his head as if deep in thought. “You all do know that I heard every word you spoke outside, don’t you?” asked Legault rhetorically. “If you had tried to run I would have killed you and no one would have ever found your bodies. However,” He continued before a response could be made. “Since you stayed and have cooperated so far I will allow you three to leave in peace. Unless you try to pick-pocket me again!” He cast an exaggerated look in askance toward the boys as he spoke the last part; then flashed them a playful smile and said, “Now get out of here before I find something missing!”
The three friends finally passed through the city's giant wood and iron gate to start the five mile hike back to their rural orphanage where their friends awaited them. The walk was a scenic one, and one they were accustomed to walking. The dirt road that lead out from the city travelled down hill to a wide, lush, open field that later became another hill curving around a thick but beautiful forest. their orphanage lay just beyond their line of sight, hidden behind a wall of trees. The sky above was painted with large calming cloud that were beginning to turn orange and pink with the setting sun-- this would be a perfect sunset.. It was, however, in this very sky that they discovered an unpleasant surprise. “Look! Smoke!” shouted Lugh. “Chad run and get help from the villagers,” commanded Ray taking initiative. “You go with Chad, Lugh. I'll alert the gate guards,”
“Fire!” shouted Chad as he ran back into the marketplace. “There's a fire at the orphanage! The orphanage is on fire!” The city's blacksmith quickly gathered men to help put out the fire and the stable hand let a few men borrow horses to ride ahead and help get the children out if they weren’t already. Nearly all of the soldiers were galvanized into action and charged ahead making all haste for the orphanage while the rest helped the blacksmith gain order over the ensuing chaos. The three boys then ran as fast as their legs could carry them, but while they were still about two miles away they could tell that the orphanage was doomed.
Later, after the sun had set, and scattered campfires were the only light besides the bright, three-quarter moon and distinct constellations, everyone stood or sat with sadness in their eyes trying to except the fact that the mass of dying embers and ash was once the location of a proud and noble orphanage and comforting the children whose only home no longer existed. Suddenly, a soldier was seen rounding the hill. He looked exhausted to the point of death and had a black-shafted arrow embedded in his left shoulder blade. “Ambush!” he shouted with a hoarse, raspy voice. “All dead!”
“Give him some room!” shouted the blacksmith. “Who did this?”
“Ber—It was—Bern,” the wounded soldier collapsed from his exhaustion and fainted because his pain. Their village was the only one between the Bern-Lycia Border and the fortified stronghold of Castle Araphen. Two days later Araphen was captured and fortified; by the end of a week Lycia’s capital, Ostia was captured by two of Bern's Three Dragon Lords.
“Ray,” reluctantly started Lugh as the sun could be seen rising above the horizon. They had been allowed to wander the now ravaged and torn city for the day while a messenger left for the closest orphanage-church that might open its doors to a group of destitute and indigent children. “You’re not actually leaving are you?”
“I am,” bluntly replied Ray. “Canas, the old scholar I was talking with the other day, promised to train me in the Elder Arts or, as you know it, dark magic. Becoming his apprentice is the first step to fulfilling my dream and my life's purpose: to spread the understanding and recognition of ‘dark magic’ so that people would respect it instead of fear it.
“Yeah, I know,” replied Lugh. “You’re not evil and rude, just misunderstood and shy.” Lugh quickly raised his arms to block the playful punch he knew Ray was going to throw.
“Actually,” admitted Ray with one of his rare smiles sneaking onto his face. “That’s a good description! I'm simply misunderstood.” Then he turned away looking over his shoulder as he walked toward the city gate where the clumsy-looking scholar, who's deep eyes lay hidden behind thick glasses, stood. “Good-bye, Lugh,” he said. He didn't look back as he walked toward his new life.
The dragon lords had left Castle Araphen under the command of a knight named Slater. Lord Roy, the son and heir of neighboring Pherae's leader Lord Eliwood, entered the village with a large group of soldiers. “Attention ye people of this foraged village, heed Lord Roy! Silence as he speaks!”
Roy was a tall, young, and handsome general with fine facial features and bright, intelligent, and attractive blue eyes. Although, sometimes his oft-unkempt red hair caused him to look even younger than his twenty-one years. Many of the veteran soldiers disliked following the orders of such a young and inexperienced leader. Most, however, greatly respected his ability to take control of whatever situation arose. They also recognized his ability to appease the people and inspire the troops. These qualities made him an easy man to follow.
Chad, Lugh, the other misplaced orphans and almost all of the rebuilding villagers gathered around an impassable ring of soldiers to see their country's ally speak. He stood on top of a quickly fashioned stage, cleared his throat then raised his hands saying, “We of Pharae have come, hearing of your country's devastation, to help rescue your noble ruler, and my father's friend, Lord Hector, who is supposedly being kept alive until an impossibly large ransom is paid. We will then aid in the recapture of your nation's once peaceful land now defiled by foul Bern's blood-thirsty troops. What I now ask of you is something that only your village can give me. Your village is very close to Castle Araphen so you often go and trade in the castle's marketplace. Having done such you all are, to some extent, familiar with the castle's structure and layout. My troops have set up tent on the far side of your village, opposite the castle. If any of you have detailed information of the courtyard or interior of the castle go in a half-hour's time to the war tent bearing a large flag of Pharae's royal seal. My strategist will meet with each of you there and compare your descriptions, coming to a conclusion for our course of action. Thank you for your time and your compliance. You're dismissed.”
Chad, upon hearing Lord Roy's address, knew exactly what he had to do. He just hoped they'd believe him without his confessing what he had done in the castle. He immediately departed for the army's camp. He desperately wanted to be the first to speak with Lord Roy's strategist. “Hello,” asked Chad. “Is anyone in here?” He pulled the tent's cloth 'door' open just enough to peak his head in. He quickly glanced to make sure no one was watching and stepped inside.
In the center of the tent was a simple, makeshift table consisting of a large, round yet smooth piece of wood on top of a sturdy barrel. Three stacks of crates served as the provisional chairs for the crudely fashioned yet serviceable table. An ornate coat of arms was mounted against the back wall of the tent. One of the crate stacks was positioned to be exactly parallel with the coat-of-arms. That 'chair', Chad concluded, must be the strategist’s seat.
Suddenly, a loud but dignified voice exclaimed, “What are you doing in here boy! Trying to steal something, aren't you boy! Get out of here before I call for the guards to take you away.”
“Wait,” started Chad. “I came to give you information about Castle Araphen.”
“Is that so!” said the rather “well-rounded” man sarcastically. “Next thing I know you'll be declaring your kinship to Lord Hector himself.”
“I'm not related to Lord Hector, but can give you the castle's exterior and interior layout,” replied Chad honestly.
“Ah, ahem, very well then,” started the strategist as he reached for a group of scrolls in a vase just to the right of the coat-of-arms. “Have a seat and tell me what you think you know.”
Chad then relayed his knowledge of the castle, gained from his many-- profitable-- excursions inside the castle walls, to the strategist who feverishly penned information and sketched rudimentary maps of Chad's descriptions.
“And-- I think that's about it,” finished Chad after he described the layout for the third time that day.
“This all seems very precise and accurate,” commented the man. “Yes, I'm quite confident I have finished the details for this map's schematics.” Thank you very much for your service. I have just one request for you.”
“Yeah,” replied Chad, only semi-interested in what he had to say.
“Please come with us tomorrow evening as we break camp and approach the castle,” requested the man. “We'd be honored to have you just behind our lines as our official informant.”
“Would my friend be able to come along as well?” inquired Chad.
“I don't see why not,” answered the strategist. “But only one friend and no more.”
Chad, now acting as an informant, led Roy and his men to the fortified stronghold now under Bern's control. He then told them what had recently occurred and who they were holding as prisoners. After receiving Chad's information Roy exclaimed, “So Lord Hector is still alive?!”
“Yeah, I'm positive. I saw some of Bern's soldiers take him into the castle.”
“Chad, was it? Do you know the inside of Castle Araphen well?”
“I guess....Wait, are you guys planning on trying to storm the keep and save Lord Hector? I wouldn't try that if I were you. The bulk of Bern's forces may be gone, but there are still a decent number of soldiers in that castle, you know? It would be suicide to try ‘n charge ‘em with your army.”
“Perhaps, But we can't afford to lose Lord Hector. And you did say that their main forces are gone, right? Then there is a chance that we could win.”
“I see.... Then I guess I'll go along too. I can show you around the castle.”
“What?! No, no, don't feel pressured! The battlefield is no place for a child. If you could just explain again what the interior of the castle looks like...”
“I also want revenge against Bern!” shouted Chad, his voice squeaking and his face turning red. “C'mon, let me go with you!”
Roy hesitated then resigned saying, “All right; then I'll be counting on you.”
“Of course! Leave locked chests and doors to me!”
Meanwhile, in a small nearby village on the other side of Castle Araphen, Lugh says his farewells to the Reverend and the orphans, “Thanks for taking care of the children, Reverend.”
“Of course, we of the Elimine Church will take good care of the orphans. And what will you do, Lugh?”
“I'm going to stay here. There are still some things I need to do.”
“I see... Please do not stress yourself.”
“Yes, Reverend, thank you.” Then to the orphans he says, “Make sure you listen to what the priest says, okay?”
“Aren't you coming with us, Lugh?”
“I'm going to wait for Chad, and then we'll catch up with you...”
“Yay! Chad's coming too?”
“Then I want Ray to come too!”
“Yeah... It would be great if Ray came back and we could all go together, wouldn't it?”
“Children,” announced the Reverend. “We must be off”
“See you later, Lugh.” said a young boy.
“Hurry and catch up, okay” cried a small girl.
“Sure...” Then when the children had run off, “Sorry... But I'm not going to run away anymore.”
Just a few minutes later, after Lugh had gathered his supplies, he saw his friend enter the village warning people to lock themselves in their houses until the battle was over, “Chad! You're okay!”
“Lugh!? What are you doing here?”
“We all fled to here.”
“Where’s everybody else? Are they all right”
“Yeah, the Elimine church is going to take care of them for a while.”
Then, realizing Lugh wasn't with the others, Chad asked, “What about you?”
“What?” asked Lugh, not understanding Chad’s implication.
“How come you're still here?”
Lugh paused for a moment then, decided, he firmly said, “The same reason as you.”
Chad sighed weakly then, hoping he was mistaken, exclaimed, “Lugh, you’re not thinking of--”
“I can use some magic,” Lugh interrupted. “Remember when I borrowed that Fire tome from Father’s room. I proved myself then and with that old man in the alley!”
“Lugh,” begged Chad lovingly. “Don’t force yourself. You only attacked then because you thought I was going to die; your adrenaline acted for you. I mean, you can’t actually hurt someone, can you?”
“I’m going to avenge Father, Lugh. You should stay with the others.”
“I’m not going to hide anymore!” he said while holding back tears. “Everyone, everyone just disappears when I’m not looking; Father, you, even Ray… I want to fight to protect the people that I care for. I want to protect and not just be protected!”
“Lugh--,” Chad responded with a sigh of submission. “All right then, let’s crush Bern as soon as possible and then rejoin everyone else!” He then flashed Lugh one of his widest grins in anticipation of what was to come.
Lugh, upon realizing Chad hadn't denied him, immediately joined Chad's grin, shook his head and said, “Yeah!”
In the meantime, Legault arranged an emergency meeting with Astore, a high ranking member of the Guild’s espionage division, and a few others whom he trusted greatly. They were in a secret room hidden behind the fireplace in the house in which he had shared a meal with the boys. This room didn't look much different than the other except for the fact that it was a little smaller and had very different furnishings. Many maps and charts lined the walls of this torch and candlelit room. There were no windows in this particular room. A barrel of scrolls lay in a corner beside a skinny rectangular table. In the center of the room was a large round table with scattered scrolls and pieces of parchment. The men sat in oak chairs similar to those in the other room. “I have no doubt about it,’ Legault started. “These are the twin children of Nino and Jaffar.”
“How can you be sure?” one asked.
“And what of the third boy?” questioned another. “He seems to have Jaffar’s skills. He could be an heir to the ‘Angel of Death’, could he not?”
“I knew Jaffar better than anyone else,” Legault responded. “Ray, the shaman, has Jaffar’s personality, even if he’s more outspoken than Jaffar. Also, Lugh looks just like Nino and seems to have her heart and compassion for others. I truly believe that the twins are who we’ve been looking for.”
“What should we do about the other boy, what’s his name—Chad, that’s it. He has shown much potential. Perhaps we should accept all three boys into the Guild.” Astore suggested.
“I have considered that,” Legault stated. “I think for now we should continue to observe them. Astore, I am assigning you to that task. Determine if they are worthy to be admitted into the Guild, and when you feel they are ready for the next step, intervene and start training them. When this situation with Bern is settled we will make our final decision.” Then after a brief pause Legault announced, “This meeting is officially adjourned!”
After the others left, Astore addressed his superior, “Legault,” Legault turned and implied for him to continue. “Do you think these kids can survive on their own for long? I mean, do you think they'll actually stay with that old priest and be safe?”
A sly grin came across Legault's face as he said, “Actually, I'm counting on them to leave the priest and fight for themselves. That's the only way we can truly evaluate them.”
“What do you mean?” asked Astore.
“If they stay under the priest's protection too long they may grow soft and won't truly learn to fend for themselves. However, if they leave and fight, then they'll receive a chance to experience the first of the Assassin's Guild's trials: The Trial of Survival.
Click Here for Part 2!