An Arduous Quest – Chapter Two


The Nightmare

It was midnight. The shadows were everywhere. Everyone was in bed, asleep. Except for Sina, silently grieving outside. She heard a noise and stopped crying, the tears still trickling down her face.
“Who’s there?” silence.
“Is that you, Arden?” No reply. Sina stood up and looked around. Nothing. She sat back down again. Then it attacked. Leaping from the grass and shadows that hid it, the beast bounded up, silenced Sina and dragged its prey into the night.

Arden woke up with sweat on his brow. He had a terrible nightmare, although he couldn’t remember what it was about. Other than someone was trying to scream, but there was no sound coming out of their mouth. Slowly he got out of bed, dressed and went downstairs.
“Mum?” called Arden, but with no answer. There was an eerie silence in the house.
“She’s probably out in the fields.” he muttered to himself. Since his father’s death, Sina had been going to the fields to work as without the money coming from Crenilious’ job, they were quite poor. As well as that Sina often wanted time alone to herself. After Arden had finished his simple breakfast of bread and cheese, he went out to help his mum in whatever task she was doing. First he went to the chicken pen, only to find them dead and their hut destroyed, torn and shredded. That’s when Arden knew something was wrong. Next he trudged carefully over to the cow shed, but the door was on the roof, and there stood an empty doorway in front of him. Preparing himself, he swiftly jumped in, but only to the metallic smell of the blood of dead animals. Their wounds were large, gashes in the shape of a claw, Arden did not know of anything, or anybody that could have possibly done this. Finally he walked to the garden that once grew blood-red tomatoes and luscious green courgettes. Crops ripped from the ground, torn-up cabbages and dead plants everywhere was all Arden saw.

Using all the power in him, he sped round to Isabella’s house and hastily banged on her door.
“Yes? Arden! How are you?” whistled Isabella as the door creaked open.
“Hi, have you seen my mum?” answered Arden anxiously.
“No, why?” she asked curiously.
“I can’t find her! I’ve looked everywhere!” he replied, frustrated. So Arden and Isabella sprinted back round to Arden’s home. As they raced over the hill they saw Martland, once again, standing by the door looking as grave as ever. As they slowed to meet him, he whispered,
“I’m so sorry Arden, so sorry.” Arden stared at him. Nobody knew what to say, so nobody said anything.

For the next week Arden walked round in a daze. It was decided that he was to move into Isabella’s house. Caroline (Isabella’s mum) tried her very best to make him feel at home. She cared for him as if he was her own child. Isabella became his sister and best friend, all in one. He was grateful for all these things, but nothing could bring back his parents. Every night he would wake up screaming, and Caroline and Isabella would always be there. But again, nothing could bring back his parents. Nothing . . .

Still traumatised and in shock, Arden dragged himself out of bed, got dressed and went downstairs for breakfast. He ate his bread slowly, as if in a daydream. Just as he finished, someone started knocking on the door. Caroline swiftly opened it, revealing Martland.
“I’m taking you to be a Ranger.” His voice was cold, and firm. This was not a question or a statement, it was a command. All his life Arden had wanted to join the elite group. Their skill with a bow was unnatural, and their ability to handle any situation was beyond the ordinary. All of a sudden, Arden didn’t want to go. He wanted to be normal, stay with his friends, and most of all, he wanted his parents to come back. Now, none of those things were possible. So Arden cried. For the first time in almost a year, he let it all out. And, with pools of tears appearing by his feet, Martland mounted both him and Arden onto his grey, shaggy horse. Before anyone could argue, they galloped away into the distance, silver drops of rain falling behind them.

Martland’s decision was not made recklessly; instead it was made at Castle Solas, two days earlier. . .

Many people were at the council, there were knights, lords, noblemen and a few of the highest ranking magicians and advisers in the land. You could see that something was serious when you saw 30 of the 100 rangers uniforms blending into the crowd, all hiding an array of deadly weapons under their dull, green-brown cloaks. There was even the dwarf kings’ son, Seleth Ethnar! Suddenly the great, oak-wood doors flung open as Ellryos Farseer marched into the room. Ellryos was a good and wise king, but lacked experience. While he had ruled so far over Raudanas, nothing majorly overwhelming had happened. His mother gave birth to him a year after his father (Altho Farseer) defeated the twisted sorcerer Mirtiser Xaoc (literally meaning death and chaos) at the battle of forever moon pass. He now lives up north, in a land of snow and darkness, plotting away how to seize the throne. As Ellryos sat down, all eyes were on him.
“We all know why we are here?” he asked. Nobody answered.
“We are here because one of the most skilled knights in the kingdom has been murdered, and almost certainly his wife a few months after!” he exclaimed.
“All of us have examined the bodies,” he continued,” and I think we can agree neither of these deaths were by natural cause or by the hands of men,  nor dwarf or mage!” There was a cry of agreement.
“So the question is, what did this, how and why?” he said, aggravating the crowd. As the noise died down, one magician stood up and replied:
“I think I speak for all of us when I say this, but it is probable that. . .” he paused for affect,” Mirtiser Xaoc has disturbed an ancient beast and that it now seeks food..” there was a gasp.
“Surely you do not think that it is possible?” the king questioned, aghast.
“There are many strange creatures not yet discovered in the mountains of Imvula Naktj.” he answered calmly.
“Well, that aside. There is one more question, what do we do with the boy? He is probably the next target.” As Ellryos spoke; people started muttering to each other. Then a nobleman spoke up:
“Why Protect him?”
“Because, for some unknown reason, our greatest enemy has decided to attack a single bloodline. Therefore we must stop him in any way we can!” answered Ellryos.
“Well then, perhaps he should go to a battleschool.” Suggested the nobleman.
“The beast has already shown he can kill one of our most skilled knights, do you not agree he was worth hundreds of even some of our finest warriors?” replied another.
“Maybe he would be better protected with us.” supposed a mage.
“You should know how risky that could be, there are millions of death-traps hidden in your schools even for a fully-grown wizard!” screeched an adviser. Then Martland started speaking:
“The boy has always wanted to join the Rangers CORPs and I think he has what it takes. The main point is, however, he would be in the safest place possible.” Then saleerian veloces ( the Rangers CORPs commander) materialised out of the crowd and said,
“We do not usually start their training at twelve years old,” he paused.” Although I guess I could allow one exception, as we were planning to take him in at the normal age: fifteen.” There were nods of agreement throughout the room.
“It is settled then. The boy shall go to train under the protection of the rangers Corps.” Ellryos finished.

Meanwhile, in the mountains of Imvula Naktj, Mirtiser Xaoc amused himself with his new, curious prisoner.

Arden woke to find himself in a comfortable, yet unfamiliar bed. Looking around at the small oak wood room, he saw a polished desk to the left of him and a small window on the right. If he had studied the desk more closely, he could have seen the beautiful craftsmanship of several hidden compartments. Arden, however, was too upset to be bothered about any of this. Eventually, he pulled himself lazily out of bed and got changed. There was a knock at the door,
“Yes, come in.” said Arden sluggishly. Martland walked in and said,
“There’s someone who wants to meet you . . .” a small, green-cloaked man stood in the narrow doorway.
“Hi, I’m Voeren Nieuw and you are my new apprentice.”
“OK.” Arden replied. This is what he had wanted to happen his whole life! Yet not anymore. The two men strode out and shut the door.
“Well, he sure wants to be here.” Voeren said sarcastically.
“His mum and dad are both dead. Be gentle with him.” Martland replied. He then got on his shaggy grey horse and sped into the distance to begin a new mission .







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