Dragon Fire: Episode Four

Aric dismounted and stood perfectly still as the cougar slowly moved towards him.
“Be calm. I can handle this,” Aric said.
“How?” the stable master asked, stiffening with fear.
“Easy.”  Taking a careful step forward, Aric held out his open hand and called,
“Tolora.”
The cougar moved in closer. When she bumped against Aric’s hand, she stopped growling. Aric rubbed her head as he reassured the stable master,
“She is all right. Just glad to see me.”
“You own a cougar?” the man asked Aric.
“Well, it is more of a friendship,” Aric explained.
Climbing into the saddle, Aric turned the reins and Colby trotted away.
As he rode across the fields away from Ethion, Aric enjoyed the wind on his face. The land that surrounded the kingdom was bare hills and open plains, which gave the city an advantage if a foreign power attacked. To the west stood the king’s castle and the cliff it overlooked. When the king decided to build his castle over the top of the central river near the cliffside, most of the city folk believed it would not hold. Yet it had stood for three generations. Looking back over the city, Aric felt proud to be one of its denizens and protectors.
To the east, mountains covered the horizon. An army would soon tire trying to march through them. With the cliff protecting the west and north walls and the mountain range to the east, the only way into the city was from the south across the open field through which Aric now rode with Tolora close at his side. Aric had raised Tolora from a cub. Her mother had been killed, leaving Tolora alone. Whenever Aric entered the city gates, Tolora bounded away, only to faithfully return when he left the city.
Being careful to keep to the path, Aric neared the tree line. Only woodsmen were brave enough to wander through the forest. As a boy, Aric had been training to venture the woods, but he had left and grown up in the city. He had ridden this path many times over the years and knew he was not far from Willowthorne, the monastery. The monks at Willowthorne called him by his adopted name Simon although just before she died, his mother had named him Aric. At least that is what Brother Egil had told him.
Brother Egil was one of the older monks at the monastery. He had raised Aric and instilled in him a sense of right and wrong. Aric trusted him more than anyone else.  He had a head full of pearl white hair and a level of patience Aric had never seen the end of.
As he rode through the gate, Aric saw that Tolora followed him closely. The monks knew about Tolora and always welcomed her. The children at the monastery would pet her, but they knew not to play with her. As Aric dismounted, he pointed toward the stables and said,
“Colby, wait for me there.”
The horse snorted and walked away.
“Come on, girl.” Aric said to Tolora.
As he walked into the courtyard, Aric spotted Brother Egil and smiled.
“Brother Egil,” he called.
“Brother Simon,” the monk answered, hugging Aric.
“I need to ask a question about Rassiun,” Aric said.
“You know I will do what I can to help,” Brother Egil said.

“He was murdered recently,” Aric explained.
The old man’s joy left as his heart filled with grief.
“That saddens me,” he said softly.
“He was in trouble. Did he say anything to you?” Aric asked.
“No. I fear Rassiun left these walls and never returned. He wandered far away from the path. Much farther than you did,” Brother Egil said.
Aric thought for a moment then asked,
“Does he still have the farm east of here?”
“Yes, of course,” Brother Egil said.
“I will be back soon,” Aric told him.
Whistling to Colby, he ran to match the horse’s speed and hopped into the saddle. Tolora kept close behind as Aric left the gates and turned east. Rassiun’s farm was not far from Willowthorne. At least he could ask Rassiun’s wife what had happened to him. When Aric broke through the trees into the small clearing that held Rassiun’s farm, he pulled hard on the reins sliding Colby to a stop.
The farm was gone, nothing more than a skeletal frame surrounded by burning embers.

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Published in: on February 2, 2010 at 4:46 am  Leave a Comment  

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