Journey of the Warrior Ch. 02byRoadbug©
The First Adventure
This story is a work of fiction. All resemblance to people or places is purely coincidence.
Thanks to DesertPirate for his assistance.
Once all were present, I asked if any had a problem with going on a scouting mission by foot for their lord.
The Master of the Kennel said, "Aye. I can't walk well anymore. I injured my knee last fall and the healers say that they can't help me anymore than they already have. I have one who can go with you, with Lord Artemus's permission."
Artemus asked, "Who would that be?"
"My lord, I have one in the kennel that though trained has no one who is willing to work with him. Some he don't like, some think him too small. Others say he just don't look right. Mostly though, he just ignores them. He isn't a bad one, but he needs one who understands him. I think Lord Hawk would be that one. At least he likes him."
"Who are you speaking of?" I asked. I didn't know any of the kennel workers, and only a few from the stables.
"I have a dog that needs a master," said the Master of the Kennel. "He's the type that chooses his own, and I think he chose you. Every time you go by the kennels, he calls for you. I've been watching, and he never did that before. If you wish, and Lord Artemus gives leave I'll have him for your venture."
I thought about it for awhile. If the dog was well trained and could remain silent on this mission he'd be a benefit to us. A good dog could save lives as both a guard and a tracker. I'm good, but a dog with a good nose could track the wind as it went through the trees.
I looked at Artemus and said, "My Lord, if this dog is well trained and is as the Master of the Kennel says, I'd like to take him. A good dog can be very useful in this both as camp watch and as tracker."
Lord Artemus considered this for a few minutes, then he said, "Very well. See if you want him. If he you wish him then he is your's. Take him as a gift if you wish."
I thanked him and asked the Master of the Kennel to take me to the dog while the others discussed what equipment and supplies they should take.
"I am Alerand," said the Master of the Kennel. "Be free with my name."
I thanked him for the honor, surprised again by an elf giving me his name.
When we reached the kennel, he took me to the back where only a few dog runs were. There was one dog and he was whining as we approached. As soon as I got to the gate to his run he started jumping up like he wanted to climb over the gate.
Watching him for a moment, I decided to test him. I opened the gate and he came out immediately and walked up to me.
I told him to sit, and he did. I walked about 10 feet away from him and turned back. He was still sitting and watching me. I pointed to the ground at my feet and snapped my fingers which caused him to jump up and run to me, sitting where I was pointing.
I motioned downward and he immediately dropped to the ground and with his head on his front paws.
I looked at Alerand and asked, "Is he a sight hound or a sent hound?"
Alerand said, "He does both although better at sent. He's also very alert to sound."
"If I tell him to be quiet, will he remain silent?" I asked.
"Yes, My Lord," he responded.
I said, My name is Hawk, not lord. You are sworn to Artemus, not to me."
"He as named you Brother, My Lord," he said. "That makes you a lord of this small Barony."
"I said, "I prefer my name. Use it please as I am uncomfortable with being referred to as lord. I don't need the title. Like I was told that you were when you were younger, I am a tracker and hunter."
"Very well, Hawk," he said. "But only in private. I will use the courtesy as required in any company."
"I can live with that if I must," I said.
"I like this dog," I continued. "What name have you given him?"
"He doesn't have one yet," said Alerand. "He is your's to name."
I looked at the dog and thought hard. He was about 75 pounds or so of solid muscle and bone. He looked intelligent and alert also. I decided and said, "Well, I think maybe you should be Simon. How bout it?
He jumped up as I spoke and started wagging his tail and started nudging my hand. I laughed and scratched him behind the ears and said, "Very well. Simon it is."
To Alerand I said, "I'll take him with me. I think he'll be a good asset to this mission."
Alerand smiled at me and said, "I had about given up with him. He wouldn't take to any one who came down here until you started wondering around. I was worried about him as he is one of my favorites here. Take him and be kind to him as he has a good heart."
I nodded and took him back with me to Artemus's study. He followed behind me all the way without trying to wander off or play as we went.
When I got to the study, the guards again saluted me then one opened the door. I went in and walked over to Artemus's desk and sat down in my seat. Simon followed behind me and sat next to my chair.
I said, "I think we have a new member for this mission. I'd still like one more who is good in the woods though."
I heard female a voice say, "I am, My Lord Hawk."
I didn't recognize the voice so I looked around the room to see who had spoken. I saw a youngish elf maiden who looked about the age of Mellany or Eldranna, possibly a bit less. I didn't recognize her but apparently Artemus did as he said, "No you will not. "I'll not risk the only child of my brother."
"You have no choice, Uncle. It is my decision to make. I am not bound to you since now I am of age."
I shook my head and said to Artemus, "I want no part of an argument between you and another of your family. I may be adopted by you and you may call me brother, but some things are your business alone."
Artemus actually laughed at that and said, "Hawk, you are a wise man. I've been arguing with this young one for ten years. Before that it was my brother she fought with. I think when she was born she was arguing with her mother and thats why she went back to her fathers house."
The young elf turned first red and then white. If looks could kill, I think both Artemus and I would have burst into flames and burnt to a cinder instantly.
Artemus met her glare with a smile and said, "I know you are of age now and I apologize for the comment about your mother, but I really don't wish you to endanger yourself in this."
"Uncle," she said, "the choice is mine. I am not sworn to your service and I have the right to choose. I wish to accompany the one who stole away my cousins and holds their hearts. I would know if he is worthy of that."
Artemus now looked angry and said, "I will not have you insult the one who saved us. The Lady set the price and my daughters accepted it. He had no say and indeed argued with her face to face in front of me and Deliand. If you can't except my word, ask our cousin."
The girl looked shocked at this and asked me, "Did you really argue with the Lady about the geas?"
I said, "Yes. I don't hold with any kind of slavery and to me that's what this geas as you call it is. They may have accepted it, but they had all choices for the future taken from them. I told her that regardless of circumstances, I will not accept that in the future."
Her face again went white and she asked Artemus, "This is true? He really said that to the Lady?"
"Yes, lass, he did," Answered Artemus. "He finally accepted only because it was my daughters' choice. They freely took upon themselves this geas. I had no choice as it was their right, just as I have no choice now. You may accompany Hawk in this if he allows."
The girl said, "I never heard that. I only heard that the goddess placed a geas upon my cousins as the price for his healing." Coming over to where I was seated, she bowed her head and said, "I most humbly apologize for my hastily spoken words. Please forgive me and allow me the chance to redeem myself."
I looked at Artemus and said, "I don't know how to respond. Please believe that I intend no insult to you or your kin, Lord." He nodded and I said to the girl, "No apology is required. You were concerned for your kin and I find no fault in that."
The girl straightened and faced me. She said, "My lord, I pledge my life and my blade to you. I will ride with you as do my cousins. A man who will argue with a god in defense of two I love dearly is worthy of this."
She drew her sword and knelt again bowing her head and offering me the hilt of her sword.
I looked at Artemus and said, "I don't even know how to answer her."
Artemus said, "There are only two answers. Accept her blade and return it to her taking her into your service as companion, or refuse. She has pledged her life to you so if you refuse she will take her own life and if you accept, she will serve you as do my daughters. The choice is yours."
In shock, I stood up. "I will not do this again," I said. I am not of your people and your customs are not mine. I will not do this again."
I took off the sword I had been given and put it on the desk and removed the ring I wore. I had been told that Artemus had given me the ring at the pass and named me his champion. I placed it next to the sword and said, "I cannot accept any more. I will deal with the bandits as I promised, but I go alone."
With these words, I strode to the door. I didn't look back as I opened it and left the room behind. Going to my room, I packed only those things I had brought with me in the first place, leaving everything that I had been given since I'd woken up after the battle that I still only had flashes of memory of.
Picking up my pack, I left the room and headed to the stable. When I got there I asked one of the grooms to saddle my mare. When he brought her out I mounted and rode out of the castle gate sadly thinking that I would never see it or my friends again. I had no intention of returning.
That day I rode toward the Dragon ridge area where the bandits had been reported. I covered about 10 miles before dark at which time I made camp for the night.
I must have been tired, for when I awoke with the dawn I found I had company. A wet nose was in my ear and when I opened my eyes I got a glimpse of Simon before he jumped on my chest and started licking my face.
I pushed him off me and stood up. Around my bed were three others apparently sleeping. Pulling off their blankets, I found them to me Mellany, Eldranna and their cousin. All three of them sat up when I jerked off their blankets and looked at me waiting for me to speak.
I sat down and said, "I didn't ask you to come. I have no intention of returning to your lands ever again. You are free to go your own way as you choose but I ride alone."
Mellany said, "Our place is with you regardless of where you go or what you choose to do. It is our duty and our destiny. My sister and I made that decision when you were dying of your wound gained in saving our home and our kin. We ride with you no matter what."
I said, "I didn't ask for that and I didn't accept it. I told your goddess that I would allow this only because you choose it. Yesterday your cousin made the same vow to me and I was told that she would kill herself if I refused. In both cases, free choice was taken from me. I can either choose to take you into danger or watch you die."
"I refuse to do either," I continued. "I have a choice in this too and by your own goddess I will not accept either her laws or yours in this. If she demands a life, then she can have mine as forfeit. I will not see you dead as the price for my own life nor will I take you from your home or family. Leave now and forget me as I will not return this way."
Eldranna said, "It is by my free will that I chose the path I now take. I will go where you go even if I must follow you from afar. I will not return." The other two nodded in agreement.
I knelt before them and said, "The oaths you three swore were until your deaths or mine. Very well. I picked up my dagger from where I had slept and said, "I will not see you die and if the only way I can stop it is to die myself then let it be now by my own hand. I will not live with this."
Drawing the dagger from the sheath, I started meditating. I meant what I had said to the three of them. I would die by my own hand before I would continue this charade. My life was not worth the price they were paying and I couldn't live with their sacrifices. Death was no stranger and now I would embrace his cold hand.
While I was meditating I felt a hand placed upon my shoulder. I hadn't heard the girls move and it felt like the person was standing behind me.
I looked up over my shoulder and for the second time I saw the strange woman with the green glow.
She smiled at me and said, "I understand your anger, Hawk. I even agree to some extent but I beg you to look upon the three who have sworn their lives to you and think on this. Think also of the other two who made similar oaths, one to me and the other to his god. They didn't do it as a way to pay a debt. They did it out of love for you."
"You gave the first two no choice. You demanded two lives for mine as payment for a service freely given. I knew the risk at the battle. I accepted it. I did this in payment for the life they gave me after saving me from injury and illness."
"Look upon them and tell me that they are here against their will and I will free them from their oaths," said the Lady.
"I don't care about that," I said. "I don't need followers or companions as you call them. I only seek a way back home."
"Look upon them," She repeated. This time her voice held a command that I couldn't refuse.
I looked upon the three Elven maidens. All of them were crying. As I looked at them, the girl who's name I didn't know said, "I choose to be here. We all did. Uncle said that if we let loosed this hound he would follow you and we could find you easily with his guidance. We are here by our own choice. Please, My Lord, do not kill yourself."
Mellany said, "My love, I swore my life to you. Not just to save it but because I love you and want to be with you always. Do not take that from me, I beg you."
Eldranna said, "I do not want to live without you. If you die this day then so do I."
"Do not do this to me," I begged. "I don't want this price for my life. I could not bare t see you harmed or dead. Please stay with Artemus. I search for a way home and my path is dangerous."
"My name is Shardinelle, said the unnamed girl. I go where you go willingly. Not for a debt or a price. I chose this freely. If you choose the land of the dead then I will follow you there."
The Lady asked, "You see? I didn't force this upon them, they choose this willingly and want this. I did nothing against their will."
I said, "Then remove this compulsion you placed upon the daughters of Artemus. I will not abide that nor will I allow the death of Shardinelle for not accepting her service. I refuse to live by laws that require her to die because I don't want her service."
"It isn't by law that she would die," said the Lady. "She would die because of heart break. One who makes such an oath does so out of love, not duty or law. To refuse that love means that it isn't worth having and she would die of it."
"I don't understand," I said. "I have seen people who died of hear break or loneliness but not of having an oath of service refused."
"They are elves," She said. "They are made different in both body and soul than humans. They live longer than the other mortal races of this world, but they pay a price. This is part of that price and it wasn't the gods that placed the burden upon them. They did it to themselves thousands of years ago before they came to this world."
"They don't remember it themselves," She continued, "but the choices their ancestors made is still there. If you refuse them they will die because of that and not by my own actions. If you take your life, they will still die. This is how they are and not an action by my hand. I released the sisters from the geas when last we spoke."
I dropped my dagger and said, "I wish you three hadn't done this. I want whats best for you all."
Remembering my pouch and the stone in it, I took it out of my belt purse and opened it. Turning it up side down, I dumped the second stone into my hand. I gave it to Eldranna and said, "I gave the mate to this to your sister. This one is for you. I found them in the mountains and had always intended them as gifts for the two of you."
She took the stone and looked at it. Gasping, she said, "A dragons eye."
Shardinelle looked at her hand and she gasped too.
The Lady said, "Truly great gift. I see you feel about them the same as they do you."
I turned back to her and said, 'That is why I don't want them riding with me. I love them both as the daughters I never had and I wish them happier lives than what I can give them. I seek my way home and I'm almost always traveling even in the worst weather. I don't wish my hard life upon these three beautiful young girls."
"Do you know their actual ages?" asked the Lady.
"No," I replied. "I have no idea. I don't even know how long those of their race live."
"The youngest is thirty of your years and is considered middle aged by human standards in this land. The oldest is only a few years younger than you."
I was shocked. None of them looked over twenty.
"An elf can live for several hundred years," said the Lady. "They can even live as long as a thousand or a bit more."
"I looked at her and said, "And you gave me the life span of the elves."
"Yes," she said. "It was that or have them watch you die of old age in twenty to thirty years at most. I didn't think either of them would survive that so I extended yours to give them their natural life span."
I shook my head and said, "I am trapped no matter which way I go. If I die then they do because of something their ancestors did. If I leave them at home then they die from the same cause. If I allow them to go with me they may very well die a very nasty death."
I looked at the goddess and continued, "What have I done to be curse this way? I love the two too much to see them die and I would not wish it upon the third either."
"That choice was theirs to make, so I can only say that you must live with it," said the Lady. "I know the burden you carry and cannot help you with it except to say that I will help if I can."
With those final words, she slowly disappeared as she had before.
I was beginning to hate that. Her appearing and disappearing like that was getting unnerving. I shook my head and looked at the three women. They were getting to be a real pain.
"As I understood, if I refuse to allow you to come with me, you will die," I said. "If I die, you die. I apparently have no choice in this matter."
Shardinelle drew her sword and offered it to me again and said, "I offer you my sword. I go where you go no matter the danger."
I looked at the sword for a moment then took it from her. Holding it up to the light, I saw that it was very finely crafted. It had a narrow point and both edges were sharp making it useful as both a cutting and thrusting weapon. The balance was very good also, with a counterbalancing weight on the pommel. A very good weapon indeed.
I looked at Shardinelle and said, "Very well. I have the choice of possibly leading you to your death or being the cause of it. I cannot refuse. Since I know not your ways, I'll just accept." I handed her back the sword.
She had a smile that would out shine the sun as she showed while she sheathed the blade.
The other two nodded and said, "Welcome, sister."
"Sister?" I exclaimed. I thought you were cousins."
"We are," said Eldranna. "But as your companions, we are sisters. It is our way."
"Well, since you are here then you can share," I said. "I hope you brought sufficient supplies for your selves. I have little and we won't have time to hunt."