Dragon Fire: Episode Two

Aric stood atop one of the many walls that framed Ethion.
“Watch the market place.” That was all the guard commander had given him. “There has been a rash of thefts from small fruits to coin purses.”
Aric was not a member of the city’s official Guard. A guard had to be of royal birth, and Aric never knew his parents. But keeping the city of Ethion was beyond the small guard staff, and the Royal army had better things to do. That left work for anyone who was willing to follow orders and risk his life for a few coins.
So Aric stood upon the wall, almost majestic in stature, looking over the market place for thieves. The sun was high, and there was a light breeze blowing from the east. Aric closed his eyes for a moment, letting the breeze blow across his face. He listened intently. Aric’s quiet contemplation was interrupted by the sound of footsteps moving hastily away. Slowly opening his eyes, Aric spotted two small boys running through the streets, one just ahead of the other. Aric smiled and watched the chase, remembering the days when he used to run with his friends through the market place. Sometimes they would torment the guards and run away, hoping to be chased. But the Guard rarely left their posts.
Enjoying the scene, Aric inhaled deeply, catching the smells of fish, fruits, and gardenias that filled the air. She had worn gardenias in her hair. Aric closed his eyes again and imagined her face. Other than the city, she was the only love of his life, and he did not even know her name. Only that she was one of the ladies-in-waiting.
“Help!” a woman yelled.
Aric’s eyes shot open, locking onto a woman screaming up at him.
“Stop him!” she yelled.
Aric spotted a young man running away from her stand. Quickly scanning the crowd, Aric saw that he would never get through the crowd to catch the youth.
“Time to misbehave,” Aric said as he ran along the top of the wall, leaping across to the roof of a small structure. He pushed his legs hard. The market place and his love for her gave him the energy to leap, clearing the five-foot gap to yet another roof. The thief was not far ahead now. Aric turned left, pushing himself harder. Although the thief was slowing, Aric felt more alive as he hopped from one beam to another, staying just above the thief. He could have caught him, but this was more fun. Up ahead, Aric saw that the beams ended. He began leaping to every other beam, and when the last came upon him, he paused before jumping on the thief and forcing him to the ground. Aric rolled off the thief and pulled him up to his feet.
Turning him around, Aric was surprised to see one of his boyhood friends.
“Rassiun?” Aric said. “Why are you stealing from the market place? I thought you had a farm.”
“Let me go, Aric. You have no idea what kind of trouble I am in,.” Rassiun pleaded.
“I can help you,” Aric offered.
Before Rassiun could reply, Aric heard the snip of an arrow, and his boyhood friend went limp. Aric turned him around to see a long black arrow in his back. A small apple fell from Rassiun’s hand.
Aric sat in the Guard Command waiting to report.
Why would Rassiun risk his life for something so small as a piece of fruit? He remembered Rassiun as a chubby boy, compared to his own slim form. They both grew up in the Willowthorne Monastery, a church and boarding house for children with nowhere to go.
Aric and Rassiun were being raised to join the priesthood when they were old enough, but Aric’s heart was too wild. He wanted to see the outdoors, run through the trees and, more importantly, see the city. He had been only ten years old when he left the monastery and fled to the city of Ethion. Rassiun, never able to resist Aric’s influence, went with him.
The young boys ran through the city streets begging for food or stealing, if need be. But Aric always found a way to pay the merchant back, even if it meant a week’s free labor. Eventually, Rassiun married and settled on a farm just outside the city. Aric stayed on in Ethion. Most people had mixed emotions about Ethion, but Aric loved the city. She was his playground, and he knew every turn, every corner. The guard commands would hold some of the more difficult jobs for Aric because he was successful. Today’s events at the market place had left Aric confused and shaken. He had to understand why Rassiun would throw away everything away to steal something he could have easily grown. He decided that when the guard dismissed him, he would go to Rassiun’s farm. Something was wrong.
Aric left the guard commander’s office. He had been rewarded for his success in stopping the thief but penalized for running across the roofs of the market place. He carefully tucked the coins into his pocket and headed for the gates to the city. As Aric walked thorough the city streets to the stables, he heard people milling about, more energetic than usual. They spoke in hushed tones, and their movement told Aric that this was more than the usual gossip.
“What is the matter?” Aric asked the guard at the gate.
“I am not allowed to say,” the guard replied.
Aric shrugged and left through the gates. Turning left, he hurried to the stables. As he approached, a small man with a noticeable limp approached him.
“Help you?” the man asked.
A horse neighed and trotted over to him, bumping his nose into Aric’s chest and knocking him backwards.
“Hey buddy,” Aric said, patting the horse’s neck.
“Does this beast belong to you?” the stable master asked. “He just ignores me.”
“Do not take it personally. He only responds to the name Doyle,” Aric explained.
“Doyle?” the stable master asked confused.
When the horse turned its head toward the man, Aric smiled and climbed up into the saddle.
“Thank you,” he said.
“There seems to be some disturbance in town. Has something happened?” Aric asked.
“You have not heard?” the stable master asked. “The king’s son Alidus was kidnapped this morning by bandits.”
Aric felt crushed. The future ruler of Ethion was missing. He tried to think of places bandits might hide.
Suddenly, the men heard a growl and looked up to see a cougar approaching the stables, its ears low.

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Published in: on January 1, 2010 at 10:27 pm  Leave a Comment  

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