Chapter 3

Chapter 2
November 16, 2018
Where Can You Find Morning Diamond?
November 16, 2018
Chapter 3
Clad looked at the two red headed boys carving wooden swords outside Marcel’s hut.  Large for their age, they were fast becoming strong warriors.  They could fight at fifteen summers better than some of his seasoned men.  They also showed wisdom beyond their years.  Clad loved them and as he watched them carve toy swords for the young boys in the village pride shone in his eyes.
When it became apparent Arianna could not conceive the couple contented themselves with knowing these boys would be their only children.  He devoted his life to parenting and raising them as his own.  His delight in having the boys as sons left no regret for not having other children.  Then, seven months ago, Arianna announced she was pregnant.
Her pregnancy came as an unexpected, yet welcome surprise.  Even the boys were ecstatic for a new baby brother.  Another scream echoed in his ear.  He watched the twins tense then attempt to carry on with their project.
Arianna’s pregnancy had been rough.  Early on she was forced to take to her bed or risk losing the child.  Now, as she lay screaming with the midwives, he knew one would surely be lost, and if something didn’t happen soon they both could be.  Secretly he prayed it was not his wife who returned to the Goddess.  Sorchanna would care for their babe in the heavens, but he could not live without his wife.
Another shout vibrated through the air, one of a different sort.  Clad jerked into motion and ran across the village, his boys at his heels.  When he reached the edge of the village he looked out across the valley.  His heart sank.  An army!  Leishmann’s army.   Anger and fear filled him as his worse fear rode into the small meadow and paused to wait for him to present himself for battle.  Clad’s head hung knowing that the refuge he had built was now knocking at deaths door.
After Clad had found the twins, they had traveled further into the woodlands.  They soon learned Leishmann had won his victory over the land and returned to his castle to begin his reign of Danyon.  They had lived in relative peace after the raids ended, but for years Clad had traveled and preached rebellion.  When enough people were committed to the cause he searched for a place to wait until the right moment to rise against Leishmann.  Apparently the man would not allow them the time to win back their freedom.
“Leishmann is coming,” he yelled the warning, “Prepare yourselves.  Women and children get to the cave.  Men be ready, we ride to fight.”  He turned to make certain his orders were obeyed.  After a moment of frozen shock the village exploded into a chaotic activity.  Men rushed for their weapons and the women and children scrambled to gather whatever meager belongings they could carry.
A short distance away, hidden in the safety of the forest was a large network of caverns.  Clad stumbled on them accidentally when hunting several years back.  He felt overjoyed when he learned they were large enough to hide his people within their walls.  With the discovery he finally felt he could settle his people close by.  Finding the caves ended the long years of homelessness and provided constant comfort to his fearful people.
He and his warriors spent months mapping out the numerous tunnels and preparing them as a sanctuary for his people in anticipation of this day.  They would find safety in its depths.
Stores of water and food lay hidden deep in the caverns and would ensure survival for several months.  Any who dared follow his people into the dark channels would easily become lost in the confusing shafts or caught in the numerous traps his soldiers had built.
He watched the women and children rushing into the forests and knew they would be okay.  His men, he feared as he turned his attention to them, would not fare so well.  They rushed in preparation, but their fate lay in Sorchanna’s hands.  The outcome of the battle was up to her.  He heard Arianna’s scream over the commotion.
Clad ran to the small hut and paused.  He had been instructed by the birthing wives not to enter, but he needed to see Arianna.  Deciding, he threw back the flap.
Clad walked into a gruesome sight.  Blood soaked the furs beneath Arianna.  One look at his beloved wife and he knew she could not be moved.  “Arianna!” he whispered her name in a desperate plea.  He could not leave her this way.
“Clad, you must go,” Marcel stated from behind him, standing between his two adopted sons.  “I’ll watch over them and the boys will stay to help me see your wife and babe to safety.” She promised while squeezing both boys hands to ward off the argument that they should join the fight.  “Hold Leishman back for as long as you can!”  For the first time Clad had to choose between his wife and his duty.  He knew what he must do, but his body became paralyzed with grief for he knew he would never see his wife again.
“Clad, I love you.  You must GO!  Everything will be alright here.  It‘s almost time, I can feel it.  Go protect our family,” Arianna attempted, weakly, to convince him.  She looked into his eyes.  Strength and bravery shone in hers, although her body told a story of fatigue and weakness.  Clad bent to kiss her pale cheek and drew back in surprise.
He had expected her skin to be warm and soft as it had always been; instead it was cool and clammy.  Her skin felt less like the living and more like a corpse. Clad regarded her, wondering how she had survived the labor thus far.  “I love you!”  Tears welled in her eyes as the words passed her lips.  It was less a declaration of her feelings and more a tender farewell.  Clad dropped to her side and cupping her head in his hands, he too said a tortured goodbye.
He kissed his wife tenderly on each temple before bringing his lips to hers; he lingered for a moment reveling in her taste before lifting his head to study her beautiful face one last time.  He committed every detail to his memory.
With the pain of a shattered heart he got to his feet holding Arianna’s hand, not quite ready to let her go.  “I love you!” He whispered, bending, he brushed his lips over her cold knuckles.  She gave his hand a weakened squeeze before pulling hers free.  He took a deep breath and turned away from her, hardening his mind and heart for the battle to come.
Clad stepped from the hut and stood before his boys.  He straightened his shoulders and attempted to look brave for them.  “Remember what I taught you.  Watch after your brother when he arrives.”  The boys copied Clad’s stance and looked courageously into their father’s eyes, their own watering.  “Remember how special you are.”  Identical heads nodded.  “You’ll grow to be great warriors someday.  When you are older find the white haired child, protect him and help him save our world.  That is your mission and thus the reason you cannot join me today.”  He hugged them both then turned to lead his warriors to their fates.  As he left, Arianna called for Marcel.
“You once told me I would never die if I wore this.”  She lifted the wooden pendant from her chest.  Marcel nodded.  Arianna removed the necklace.  There was pleading in her eyes as she handed the older woman the pendant.  Silently, she begged for understanding.  “He’s going to die.”  Unshed tears blurred her vision.  Marcel knew Arianna spoke of Clad.  “Save my baby and let me go,” She begged, gesturing to the necklace.  Nodding, Marcel turned to the other women.
“I need a few minutes.”  She stood.  Tears filled her eyes from the weight of Arianna’s last request. “Do as she bids,” she instructed the midwives breathlessly as she ducked through the door flap.
“Cut him out!”  Marcel heard Arianna command.
Marcel grabbed each boy’s hand as she exited and pulled them with her to her own home not far from the midwives shack.
Once inside she worked fast, gathering the items she needed to cast her spell.  She hurriedly packed several bags of supplies and placed one sack across each boy’s shoulder.  Then-using an ancient stone- spoke a protection spell before turning her attention to one last bag.  In it she placed the book of spells and prophecies, two small bags of carefully scavenged gold and a smaller bag of precious stones.
She looked around the large room, assuring herself she had everything she needed.  She sighed.  Everything was ready.  She handed the bag to one of the boys and led them back into the morning air.***
Clad and his men charged Leishmann’s army.  They barely registered the magnitude of Leishmann’s forces, and raced forward despite the opposing numbers- and in spite of their fear.  Each man carried with him images of their lost loved ones and the anger for the lost futures Leishmann would steal from them.  The deafening clank of metal rebounded off the cliffs as one army met the other.
Clad fought with a conviction fed by the love for his family and people.  Ignoring the agonized screams of the men he cut down, he advanced into the mass of fighting warriors and carved his way towards Leishmann.  Around him, Clad’s warriors fought just as valiantly, attacking with a strength driven by years of demanding training and a vengeance born from witnessing pain and devastation.  Many of Leishmann’s men fell.
Clad sliced his sword through the air catching an opponent in the middle.  The man bent across the blade, and it stuck.  Using his foot, Clad slid the lifeless body from the bloody edge.  He watched with disgust as life drained from the man before him.  He felt no pride, only numbness as the man’s gurgling lungs grew silent.  He looked away, searching for his next target.
A few yards away Leishmann sank his sword deep in a man’s chest with a sickeningly hollow thud!  Turning away from the slumping body, Leishmann faced Clad.  For a short moment they sized each other up.  They charged.
Clad swung hard, but Leishmann defended the blow.  With the clinking sound of their swords colliding Clad felt adrenaline flow through his blood, giving him a strength and speed that surprised him, but Leishmann was just as strong and fast.  After all, one cannot easily defeat such evil.
They met each other with savage concentration.  Sweat glistened, muscles screamed with exertion, but neither could gain an upper hand.  Clad brushed his sword across Lieshmann’s jaw, the steel kissing his cheek.  Leishmann countered, but Clad shielded the blow.  He watched with satisfaction as blood trickled down Leishmann’s chin.  Anger grew and with well-trained movements, Leishmann’s sword swished across the air, missing Clad’s throat by mere inches.  Clad gained ground by rushing Leishmann just as the sword cleared.  Leishmann pushed back, but his defense was weakened by Clad’s swift attack.
Leishmann looked up in surprise as blood oozed from his side.  He stumbled backwards. Clad saw his opportunity and rushed forward, raising his sword.  He saw his victory reflected in Leishmann’s startled eyes.  Clad felt joy course through his veins as he rushed to issue the final blow.  A whistle buzzed through the air.
Clad stopped, his sword arm dropping just as it had begun to rise.  Shock coursed through him and pain spread.  He looked down.  Thin wood, with colorful feathers buried itself deep within his chest.  Leishmann laughed and attempted to stand.  His balance faltered and he was forced to use his sword as a cane to balance himself.  Clad watched- breathing heavily- while Leishmann rose and took slow, deliberate steps toward him.
Clad struggled to lift his sword to defend himself, but his strength failed him.  Leishmann lifted his own blade and knocked Clad’s from his hands.  The two stared at each other, both attempting to catch their breath.  Leishmann placed the tip of his steal to the ground and leaned on the hilt for support.
Clad watched the movement with suspicion.  “I have never met a worthy adversary.  Not even in you,” Leishmann spat.  “Are you going to leave that?”  Leishmann’s eyes focused on Clads chest.  Clad moved slowly wrapping his hands around the arrow protruding from his chest.  One quick jerk forced his body forward.  Clad coughed and sputtered, but the arrow didn’t budge.
“Brave,” Leishmann smiled, his face alight with pleasure.  “It is your love for your clan that almost made you a match for me, but a commendable opponent you are not.  Your love for a traitorous people will send you to Purgatory!”  Leishman’s countenance changed.  With clarity Clad could see the darkness in the other man’s soul as his face shifted into an emotionless smirk.  Leishmann stepped closer and leaned in.
“I have perfected the art of killing.”  Clad coughed, blood seeping from his mouth as Leishman’s words registered.  “Did you know you can slice a man’s heart in two in such a way that he will live long enough to feel the blood drain from his body?”  He whispered as though telling a great secret. “The pain is so intense he will beg for death to welcome him, but it will be short coming.”   Leishmann lifted his blade straight in the air and smirked at Clad’s fearful eyes.
Clad watched in horror as the blade sank into the vulnerable hollow of his shoulder, just missing his throat.  Pain radiated through his body and stole his breath.  He sank to the ground, gravity sliding him free of Leishmann’s blade.  Laughing evilly the victor walked away, leaving Clad to choke on his blood and pray for Melek’s welcoming embrace.
***
A final scream vibrated over the village followed by an eerie stillness.  A babe was born and a woman lost.  The infant made no sound as the midwife pulled her from the mother’s womb.  Within seconds of the birth, Marcel rushed into the hut to take the baby from the younger woman and placed the large necklace around the newborn’s neck.  She then wrapped the babe in a clean cloth.  Nodding at the midwives Marcel took one last look at Arianna’s lifeless face then darted from hut and into the forest, the two boys followed with blinding tears in their eyes.  They did not have time to grieve the loss of their beloved mother or wonder at their father’s fate.  They had to escape into the forest before Leishmann could find them.
After several days of hard travel through the thick and unforgiving forest Marcel was worn and the children exhausted, but they had reached their destination.  In the darkened wood was a small opening of a cave.  She had studied the book of prophecies and learned there were several caves that held doors to other worlds.  There was one hidden within each region of Danyon and with careful study she had been able to map every gateway.
The cave she and the children now stood before was referred to as the Gate of Tyrell and as she led them into the darkness she felt the power of the cave radiate through her soul and caressing her senses.  The power seemed to affect the babe in a way that surprised Marcel and the two brothers.
The small child looked bright eyed around the cave and shared a smile and a small laugh as though the magic in the cave pulsed through her small veins.  Never had Marcel seen an infant of only a few days look so alert.  It was as though the cave and the baby were tied together and the magic that dwelled within the cave also lived within the babe.  Marcel gently touched the infant’s cheek and the infant refocused on the old witch.  Marcel’s eyes sparkled as she recognized the truth in the depth of the child’s irises.
“She’s the one,” she told the twins as she placed the smiling infant in one of the brothers arm’s and worked on readying a broth to feed her.  The brothers watched in awe as the newborn’s eyes sparkled with merriment and a contented sigh escaped her lips.
Later, when they all had rested and the baby slept on a small blanket Marcel took out several herbs and roots and set a task for each boy to begin crushing or stirring them into carefully planned potions.  When their mixtures were complete Marcel gathered them around her and slowly mixed them together.
“My children,” She began. “Return here before the babe’s eighteenth birthday.”  She rubbed a small dot of floral smelling oil onto each of the small heads.  “Protect her.  Train her.”  The boys nodded.   She picked up the babe and handed her to the closest brother.  He looked down at the infant in his arms then met Marcel’s eyes.
“You have our word that nothing will harm her!”  Marcel accepted the boys promise and fingered Arianna’s necklace that hung from the sleeping infant’s neck.
Marcel smiled.  “She must always wear this necklace!  Never take it off her as her life will only be spared if it remains around her neck.”  She indicated the pendant.  Both twins nodded their understanding.  She gently touched each of their cheeks then smiled when both boys touched the juice on their forehead and brought their finger to their nose to smell it.  Both cringed at the girly aroma.
“Sorchanna be with you and go with love.”  Marcel rose to her feet, but motioned for the boys to remain seated.  She stepped away from them and lifted her arms in the air; closing her eyes concentration.  Moments later her eyes flew open and in a voice unfamiliar to the boys stated, “Clevantos lotas aracto incan racipio elando.”  She reached for one of the boys’ hands and with quick movements she drew a dagger and sliced a thin line across his palm.  Several drops of blood to fell onto the cave floor as her words echoed off the walls.  Her mind cleared and she watched the two red haired youths and small infant- with hints of snow white hair- disappear into a swirling cloud of green mist.  “Good luck, my sweets.  I will find you when the time is right,” She whispered and wiped the tears from her eyes.

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