Friday, June 17, 2016

Chapter 8

           When Amara was woken up the next morning the sun wasn’t even over the horizon yet.
          “Get up,” hissed Arla’s voice.
          Amara looked at the old woman, who was standing right next to her bed, and tried blinking the sleep from her eyes. “W-What…?”
          “We’re going to meet Erkar’s friend,” she said. “I have clothes laid out for you. Hurry up.”
          “This early?” said Amara in disbelief, sitting up. “And…why do I have to go?”
          “Erkar will explain. I’ll see you downstairs, Amara.”

          When Amara got downstairs, the inn was mainly empty, but there were a few people here and there, some awake, others passed out on the tables. Amara looked to see the Silent Ones were all sitting at a table together, and she headed over and stood by them.
          “We’re all here then,” said Erkar with a nod. “I’ll explain the plan now.”
          “Before you start, why are we up this early?” asked Triesa with a scowl. “This friend of yours must be crazy.”
          “I agree with Triesa on this,” said Margo in agreement.
          “Oh, please. Most other people in Acirewiel get up this early every day,” said Arla, giving the two looks.
          “Arla’s right. And besides, this time was most convenient for him. Anyway, the plan,” Erkar said. “Triesa, Amara and I are going to meet the man. His name is Maxwell Erragus, and he’s a bounty hunter for the royal family here.”
          “Oh, that’s trustworthy,” said Triesa sarcastically.
          “You literally grew up in a Clan of assassins,” Amara heard Tallius whisper.
          “I knew Maxwell from my days in the Ethothiel Orphanage. We can trust him,” Erkar insisted. “Anyways, like I said, it’ll be Triesa, Amara and I going to see him. The rest of you need to pack and get things ready to leave, because once we have those Powered Ones we’re out of here.”
          “I don’t think we had to wake up that early for packing though,” commented Margo.
          “You never know. Trust me, over the years I’ve spent as a Silent One, I’ve learned it’s best to prepare,” said Erkar with a nod.
          “Okay, but why is the princess coming? What use could she possibly provide?” Triesa asked, and Amara glanced at the former assassin, a bit taken aback despite already knowing the assassin probably wouldn’t start easing up on the insults yet.
          “Maxwell asked for her,” Erkar explained, making Amara’s head shoot up in surprise. “He said he wanted to see a Powered One with his own eyes.”
          “You sure about this Erragus man?” Triesa said.
          “Even if he does try anything, he can’t outmatch you, Triesa. I’m confident we’ll be fine,” Erkar nodded. He then looked around at the group. “Let’s move out then.”

          The streets of Foreviel still had people on them despite the time of day. Now the sun was just skimming the horizon, a streak of bright orange that was beginning to illuminate the otherwise darkened area.
          “Where are we meeting him?” Triesa asked.
          “In an alleyway by the docks,” said Erkar.
          “So he can try to kill us,” Triesa muttered.
          “You’re being paranoid.”
          “Am I? I’ve seen a lot of meet-ups with people go wrong, Erkar. Plenty of them nearly ended in my death,” Triesa retorted.
          She’s talking about her days as an assassin, Amara realized. She kind of wanted to know the stories behind those meet-ups, but not only did Triesa not know that Margo had told Amara her backstory, she also probably wouldn’t want to talk to Amara unless she had to.
          “I assure you, Triesa, this will not end in your death,” Erkar insisted.
          They were at the docks now, and Amara could see some of the sailors out on the ships, talking back and forth while working, lights held out to help them see.
          “He should be around here,” Erkar said, glancing around the area. His eyes then landed on an alley, with a sign outside pointing down it labelled “MARKET”. A shortcut to it, Amara told herself as Erkar spoke up again. “There.”
          He walked over to it, Amara and Triesa walking behind. As they came over, Erkar let out a hiss, “Maxwell?” As there was no response, Erkar called again, a bit louder. “Maxwell?”
          “Over ‘ere, old friend!”
          The three of them turned around to see about five feet away from the alley’s entrance a man stood, his figure difficult to make out as it was hidden in the shadows. But he took a few steps forward into the light, and Amara could now see him. He was a few inches taller than Erkar, with unkempt, dark brown hair with the eye color to match. He wore black leather armor and boots, with a mace at his belt. Overall he looked pretty intimidating, and he wasn’t even that big of a man.
          Erkar nodded at him. “Hello Maxwell.”
          “Hello yourself, kid,” Maxwell replied, grabbing Erkar’s hand and shaking it. “Been so long. Can see you haven’t grown any,” he laughed.
          “You’re not exactly a giant, Maxwell,” said Erkar, taking his hand away.
          “Giants! Those are some ugly creatures,” Maxwell laughed. “Anyway, how’ve you been, man?”
          “I’d love to talk, Maxwell, but that’ll have to wait until some other time,” Erkar said calmly.
          Maxwell chuckled. “Right, right, you’re in a rush or whatever. You want the Powered Ones. But first…which lady here is that plant Powered One?” he asked, his eyes darting between Triesa and Amara with a grin on his face.
          Erkar nodded over his shoulder to Amara, and Maxwell’s eyes turned to her. “Ah!” he exclaimed. “A Powered One…right in front of me.” He walked up to her, stopping once he was within two feet of her. “How exactly do your ‘plant powers’ work?”
          Amara shifted uncomfortably, not looking the man in the eye. “I, uh…can talk to plants?” she said.
          Deep down she was hoping he’d say that was normal – proof that could finally release her of these responsibilities of being a so-called “Powered One” – but sadly, Maxwell said nothing of the sort. “Amazing. So plants speak?” he asked, raising an eyebrow.
          Amara shook her head. “Uh, I kind of—”
          “Shut your mouth, Erragus, she obviously doesn’t want the attention,” snapped Triesa, taking Amara by surprise.
          Maxwell laughed. “I like her,” he grinned, pointing a finger. “What’s her name?”
          “You don’t need to know what the hell my name is,” Triesa retorted.
          “Please, Maxwell. I just want to get what I came here for,” Erkar said.
          Maxwell shook his head. “Of course, of course. But say, I never did get the full story, how you got out of the Orpahange. Didn’t even come back for the rest of us! How’d you do it?”
          Erkar just stared Maxwell down. “Why are you stalling?”
          “I’m not stalling, kid. I’m just…genuinely interested in why you left us.”
          “It’s a long story Maxwell, one that I can’t tell right now,” Erkar retorted. “Now please, just tell us who the fire and water Powered Ones are. We need to know.”
          “Why are you in such a hurry?” Maxwell asked with a smirk.
          Erkar gave Maxwell a dark look. “You’re not going to hold up your end of the deal.”
          Maxwell shook his head. “Nope, I’m not telling you shit. Not that it matters anyway. In about…I’d say, ten minutes’ time, you’re going to be in the royals’ palace, about to die.”
          Fear and alarm shot through Amara’s body as Erkar spoke up again. “What?”
          “You really think I was going to help you?” sneered Maxwell. “After abandoning us at the Orphanage, leaving us with those wicked women? Then you have the nerve to come to me for help? Not only are you a mage, you’re a coward, and I don’t know why I ever thought you were my best friend.”
          “Maxwell, please,” Erkar insisted. “I was ten. Call off whoever you’re sending to take us. We can work this out.”
          “You ratted us out to the King and Queen?” Triesa exclaimed.
          “Sure did. Now you mages are going to get the death you deserve. And don’t think I didn’t leave out your friends,” Maxwell grinned. “They’ll die just as you will.”
          Amara looked at Erkar, and a jolt of alarm went through her as she saw that a gray color fogged over his eyes briefly, then just as quickly returned to their normal green color. Maxwell then continued. “And the King and Queen have asked for that Powered One of yours, and the others that live here,” he said, pointing at Amara, who grew wide-eyed as he continued. “Because your group of mages aren’t the only ones tracking them down.”
          “How did you know about me?” Erkar demanded.
          “You and your friends being mages? Wasn’t all that difficult. My companions and I just had to do a bit of asking around,” said Maxwell, giving another unsettling grin. “But, I’d imagine the guards will be coming soon—”
          Before he could finish his sentence, Triesa had rushed forward and had him against the wall, a dagger up to this throat as she snarled, “maybe we could just kill you.”
          Amara saw Maxwell reach for the mace on him but Triesa got to it first, ripping it from his belt and tossing it, making it skid on the street. “You’re defenseless, and as soon as those guards get here I’m slitting your throat, so I suggest you make your last breaths useful ones. First off, you’re telling us where those Powered Ones are.”
          Fear shot across Maxwell’s face. Not too long ago he had been the one making threats, but now the tables had turned – Amara watched, keeping her distance. “Why should I tell you?”
          “I’ll let you go,” scowled Triesa. “And besides, if we’re supposedly about to die, there’s no harm, now is there?”
          Maxwell hesitated, licking his lips nervously. “The water Powered One…sailor. Maddox Waterwood, works on The King’s Treasure.”
          “Now the fire one,” Triesa pressed.
          Maxwell just smiled. “Never figured that one out.”
          Triesa just stared at him, anger written across her face, before kneeing him straight in the crotch, making him grunt and collapse in pain, Amara taking a step back with a hand over her mouth in shock.
          At about that time Amara heard rapid footsteps, and knew it must’ve been the guards – Maxwell wasn’t bluffing. “Amara, Triesa and I are going to find Maddox,” said Erkar quickly. “You quickly get back to the inn. I’ve informed the others on what’s going on, you just get back there as fast as you can, explain everything further and do not get caught.”
          “What do you mean, you’ve already informed–?”
          “I’ll tell you if we get out of this. Go!”

          Amara had never ran faster in her life. She darted down the street, through the market, heading for the inn as quickly as she could. Out of the corner of her eye she could see people looking her way in confusion, but she ignored them.
          The question burning in her mind was how Erkar had contacted the others if they were back at the Black Sheep Inn, but Erkar had left that unanswered. She decided she’d ask when she’d gotten to the others.
          But suddenly Amara was stopped in her tracks as a hand gripped her arm. She let out a gasp and whipped around to see it was a guard who had grabbed her. The helmet he wore masked his appearance, and he was dressed in full armor, a sword at his belt. “Rose Templon, you are coming with me,” he ordered. My fake name to enter Foreviel, Amara recalled, “the King and Queen have demanded your prescence—”
          Before he could continue further the guard suddenly fell, as if he had been yanked back. Amara flinched in alarm, then realized roots were grabbing at his ankles. Roots?  she thought in confusion.
          She then looked down to see several flowers in the grass next to her, who all gave a nod of acknowledgement. What just…?
          She didn’t have time to ponder it. Amara just quickly said, “thank you!” and darted back off.

          She burst into the inn, which earned her more looks from strangers but she didn’t have time to think about it. Amara just rushed over to Margo and Arla, who were standing over by a table in conversation. “We got to go,” she said, out of breath with pain shooting up her ribs, “now.”
          “Erkar told us Maxwell set the guards on us,” nodded Margo. “We finally managed to get everything out to Greuder, but where are the other two Powered Ones?”
          “How did Erkar–?” Amara began, but Arla cut her off.
          “Telepathy,” she replied.
          Amara nodded, although was still slightly confused. “The other two Powered Ones…the water one is someone named Maddox Waterwood. We don’t know who the fire—”
          “Oh, I think I know who that is,” said Arla.
          Margo looked at Arla in surprise. “What? Arla, you—”
          “I wasn’t sure but I think I know now,” Arla nodded. “Margo, you hurry over to Tallius, let him know we’ll be there soon. Amara and I will take care of this.”
          Margo hesitated, but then trotted over to the door and left. Arla turned to face Amara. “We need to make this quick. Follow me.”
          “What are we doing?” Amara asked.
          “You mean who are we talking to,” Arla said back. “We’re going to have a chat with Ellius Ash-Shield.”

          Ellius was with Tygris behind the counter, the two of them in conversation. They looked up as Amara and Arla approached. “Oh,” said Ellius. “Um…good morning…ladies.”
          “Good morning to you too dear,” said Arla with a warm smile. Amara looked at the old woman; shouldn’t they be in a bit of a rush?
          “Do you two want anything to eat?” Tygris asked.
          “Alas, we are about to leave,” Arla said with a sigh, earning a surprised look from Ellius and an “aww” from Tygris.
          “Wh-What? Where to?” Ellius asked, seeming taken aback.
          “We’re not quite sure, but our business here is done with,” Arla nodded. “I was thinking though, that maybe Ellius could join us.”
          “What?” said Ellius in disbelief.
          “Sure. All young men like an adventure, don’t they?” smiled Arla. “It’d be good for the boy.”
          Ellius shook his head. “I-I don’t think I can. Tygris needs help with the inn—”
          “Oh please, I’ve run this inn all by myself for years, I’ll be fine! Go out there, slay a few dragons, marry a princess,” said Tygris with a wink.
          Amara and Arla quickly exchanged glances upon hearing the word “princess”, but Ellius kept talking. “Uh, let’s be realistic here Tygris. I doubt I’ll be slaying any dragons. Or marrying princesses for that matter.”
          “But you do like adventures, don’t you?” spoke up Amara, seeing where Arla was trying to go with this. “You said it yourself, you had wanted to see the country.”
          “Yeah but…” Ellius said hesitantly.
          “I’ll be fine, Ellius,” Tygris insisted, giving him a teasing push. “Just write me every now and then so I won’t miss you too terribly.”
          “I…can really go?” Ellius said.
          “Of course, this is good for you. Go get your things,” Tygris said with a dismissive hand wave.
          “Do make it quick though. We have places to be,” said Arla with a warm smile.
          Ellius smiled back. “Okay, I’ll be back shortly.”

          When Ellius was ready, Amara and Arla tried to go fast, but without seeming too suspicious. They headed for the gate, but no guards were in sight. “Where are they?” Amara hissed to Arla.
          But her question was answered when they got closer to the gate and saw two knocked-out guards in the corner. “Who did that?” Amara wondered. Briefly her mind fleeted to Maxwell for some reason, hoping that he’d changed his mind and wanted to help them. But she doubted that was the case.
          “Triesa. No doubt about it,” Arla replied.
          They walked through the gate; luckily Ellius was too lost in thought to notice the guards weren’t present. They continued to walk on the bridge. Amara looked into the distance, seeing sun was much higher now, although not enough to completely chase the darkness out of the sky.
          “That took you forever!” exclaimed a voice, and Amara looked to see Triesa was standing there outside the carriage, looking impatient. Her eyes then fell on Ellius. “What’s he doing here?”
          Arla looked up at Ellius, who was looking at Triesa nervously, then she turned to look at the former assassin. “He’s our other Powered One.”
          “Your other what?” said Ellius.
          “He’s what?” Triesa said at about the same time.
          “We’ll explain in the carriage. Come on,” Arla insisted.
          Ellius looked confused, but followed Arla towards the carriage anyway, Amara following. They stepped on the back balcony, and Triesa got on after them, then Greuder began to trot down the road.
          They got inside the carriage. Everything was the same – two beds, wooden walls and chests and supplies near the front of the room. What was different, though, was the fact that a man with ropes bound around his mouth and wrists was sitting on one of the beds, letting out a muffled yell of frustration.
          Amara knew that she recognized the man, and her stomach lurched in alarm. “Is that the sailor…?”
          Triesa walked over to him, slapping his shoulder. “Maddox Waterwood. Also known as the sailor who stopped that thief we were after.”
          “You kidnapped a guy?!” Ellius exclaimed. “What is—”
          “It isn’t as bad as it seems,” insisted Arla. “Although I would say kidnapping was not the best way to get this man to come with us.”
          “I agree,” muttered Amara under her breath.
          “The man was a tough match. We had to use magic to get him to cooperate,” Triesa explained.
          “Kidnapping? Magic? I…I don’t think I’m going to come with you—” Ellius began.
          “No, stay,” insisted Amara, turning so she could look him in the face. “I…I promise I’ll explain, make sense of it to you. Okay?”
          “Yes princess, please do that,” said Triesa, rolling her eyes. “We don’t need to chase anyone else down.”
          “Wh…What did she just call you?” Ellius asked, turning to Amara with wide eyes of alarm and confusion.
          Amara sighed. “I’ll explain.”
          “Go ahead and do that, Amara,” said Arla. “I’ll help Triesa deal with…him.” She nodded at Maddox, who scowled and pushed at his bindings.
          “Uh…follow me,” Amara said, walking out onto the back balcony.
          She and Ellius got out there, to see Tallius was already standing there, looking at the path behind them. They were surrounded by trees on either side of them, but Foreviel was still in view – they weren’t far away enough yet.
          “Tallius, what are you doing out here?” asked Amara.
          “Making sure we’re not followed,” Tallius replied.
          “I’m…really confused,” Ellius said.
          “Um…have a seat,” said Amara, gesturing to one of the wooden chairs on the balcony. With a frown Ellius sat down, and Amara sat in the one next to him. “Well…first of all, my full name is Amara Threston. I’m the princess of Agraud’s Kingdom.”
          “I’m sorry, you’re what?” said Ellius in disbelief.
          Amara pressed her lips together and nodded. “Yes. And I was um…taken from my Kingdom by these people, the Silent Ones. A group of mages.”
          “Mages,” echoed Ellius. He glanced at Tallius. “Is he…?”
          Tallius turned to look at him. “Uh, yeah. I…apologize, I guess?”
          Amara smiled slightly in amusement. “I was as scared as you are now when I met these people, but they’re not cruel. Nothing like the mages you may have heard of.”
          “They…kidnapped that sailor using magic,” said Ellius, glancing at the door behind them with a slightly fearful look on his face.
          “That was a one-time thing,” Tallius insisted quickly.
          “No it wasn’t,” Amara said.
          “Well, er…I used a different kind of magic for you, it was a magic item—”
          “He took you too?” Ellius exclaimed in shock.
          Amara grimaced slightly, realizing how bad this explanation was going. “Okay. Listen…the whole reason you and I are here – and Maddox, too – is because we’re Powered Ones.”
          Then the look on Ellius’s face escalated to a “I’m positive you’re insane” one. “Yeah…I’m starting to regret agreeing to this.”
          “No! Um, you’ve heard of the Powered Ones, right?” Amara said.
          “Yes, and there’s no way that I’m one. I’m nobody special, just someone who cooks at the Black Sheep Inn. Before that I was a nobody at Mercenath. How am I supposed to be a savior?”
          Amara nodded. “It may seem hard to believe…but according to Arla, you’re the fire Powered One. Maddox is the water Powered One, and I’m the one who controls plants.”
          Ellius scoffed, shaking his head and glancing away. He then looked back at Amara. “What makes you think any of it is true?”
          “I didn’t believe at first either, but uh…the evidence was growing.” She then looked at the trees that were going past. “Watch this.” Amara walked to the edge of the carriage. What do I do? she thought. She just extended her hand, holding it up, hoping a tree may respond.
          Then the tree turned slightly, and it extended one of its branches down towards her, and it touched her palm, lingering for a bit before drawing back. Amara then turned back around to look at Ellius, letting her hand fall back down at her side. “See?”
          Ellius just stared. “So you’re a mage too.”
          Amara opened her mouth to speak but Tallius gave a snort, keeping his eyes fixed on the horizon but still addressing Ellius. “No she’s not. There’s a difference, mages can’t harness elements. Powered Ones are the only ones who can.”
          Ellius frowned. “So technically…what she’s doing isn’t illegal?”
          “Kind of doubt the rest of Acirewiel would see it that way,” Tallius remarked.
          “Well how do I know if I’m a Powered One?” Ellius asked.
          Amara looked at him. “You’re a fire Powered One, so…you should have fire-related powers.”
          “Wow, really?”
          Amara was a bit taken aback by the sarcasm but kept talking. “If there has, uh, ever been a time where you’ve been drawn to fire or whatever, maybe then…”
          “Can’t think of anything out of the ordinary. I’ve tended to the fireplace a lot when I worked at the Black Sheep Inn, but nothing odd happened.”
          “So were you like, really good at stoking the fire?” Tallius asked.
          “Is that even a question? How are you supposed to know if you’re ‘good at stoking the fire’?” Ellius demanded.
          Tallius put his hands up defensively. “Gods, okay…”
          “Maybe we could find proof over time,” suggested Amara.
          “Why should I even stay with you?” Ellius asked.
          “Well, you saw what I just did. Powered Ones are real,” said Amara. And now she truly felt as though she could believe it. “And besides, we’re going around Acirewiel. It’s an adventure.”
          Ellius sighed. “Yeah, fine, I’ll stay for now, but if this gets too weird, or creepy, or any of these mages try killing me, I’m leaving.”
          “We won’t kill you,” said Tallius.
          “Yeah, you’ll be fine,” Amara agreed, feeling relieved that Ellius was staying. She didn’t want the Silent Ones to feel the need to abduct him or keep him tied up.
          Just then Arla stepped out onto the balcony. “Well, Maddox is…out. He wouldn’t cooperate, so we had to leave it to Triesa.”
          Amara could vaguely hear Ellius whisper “yep, definitely won’t be regretting my decision”. She decided to ask, “Arla, how did you know, exactly, that Ellius was the fire Powered One?”
          Arla glanced from Amara to Ellius. “When he picked up that candle and it died out instantly, I began to suspect…but then later I had seen him stoking the fire, and it seemed drawn to him. The flames moved out of the fireplace and began to make its way to him.”
          “And you’re…sure you weren’t just seeing things?” Ellius asked.
          “Do you think I am too old to see correctly?”
          “Yes, Ellius, I saw everything right. I am positive you’re our fire Powered One, and later perhaps I can help you to see your powers for yourself,” Arla suggested.
          “If you say so,” Ellius muttered.
          Triesa then came out onto the balcony as well. “Erkar and Margo are out with Greuder. And I’ve come to express my concerns about Maddox.”
          “I’m rather concerned about him too,” Amara heard Ellius say under his breath.
          “Is there a problem?” Tallius asked.
          “I’m worried that Maxwell man may have lied to us. What if Maddox isn’t the water Powered One, and the real one is still back at Foreviel?” Triesa asked.
          There was silence among the group until Tallius spoke up. “Um…I’m sure—”
          “Sure that we can trust the words of a man who tried to get us killed? Me too Tallius,” Triesa retorted.
          “Perhaps we can test it out,” Arla suggested.
          “And how should we do that?” Triesa said, crossing her arms.
          “Throw him in a river.”
          Amara found herself exchanging alarmed looks with Ellius. “She’s joking…right?” Ellius said.
          Arla shook her head. “The water Powered One can’t be killed by his own element. In fact, none of the Powered Ones can. So if he really does have those powers, he’ll live.”
          “Bu…But what if he isn’t?” Amara asked nervously.
          “We’ll take him out before he drowns. I can assure you Amara, no harm will come to him,” Arla nodded. “But we should test this out before going much further.”
          “The ocean is still nearby,” Tallius offered.
          “Wait,” Ellius began in disbelief. “You all are on board with potentially killing a man?”
          “I told Amara, Ellius, that he will be fine,” Arla said calmly. She then turned to Triesa. “Get Erkar, and let’s go."

Author's Note: I would've uploaded a lot sooner but every now and then the wifi on my laptop goes out and this usually lasts like two months at a time...I really don't know what causes it. So yeah that's why these chapters are never posted periodically; on the document I have this written, I'm actually more than halfway through the book.
And I'm finally on summer vacation! I just got out on Wednesday.