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Westward

Of Hearts and Fire

By Tomos JacksonPublished 2 years ago Updated 2 years ago 21 min read
2
Road to the Vallis Draconis

The culmination of Naythan's painful nightmares and fitful sleepless night was the loud banging of a pair of pans outside his tent and Galdorin's deep voice hollering at the entrance.

Galdorin

"Get up human, or you'll miss breakfast! The dryad's already up, while your still in your bedroll!"

Naythan groaned at the pounding noise ringing through his head, "God almighty what time is it?"

"It's just about coming up to dawn, we want to be getting out of here in the next half hour or so to get a good start, so get up, wash, change, eat and pack up so we can leave."

"All that in thirty minutes!" Naythan cried

"Aye. plenty of time. thought I'd give the two of you an easy start as your new to life on the road, but I'm not going to keep it up for long." With that Galdorin pulled the flap back down and sauntered off.

"An easy start!" Naythan cried after him, "I'm the one who suppresses magic not the one who casts it!" He called after the Nanir, but Galdorin had moved on, either not hearing him, or not caring. Likely the latter given the previous night's altercation. Naythan shuddered at the thought. Then with a deep, tired sigh, he threw the cloak he'd been using as a blanket off of himself. Thankfully the previous nights drama had meant that he had fallen asleep with his clothes on and his white and blue shirt and trousers still looked in decent condition. So he decided to forgo the wash and head straight for breakfast.

Naythan

Pulling his boots on, the blue and gold colour tarnished and dirty from the previous day’s travel and throwing his mail shirt over his head, the two items he'd been able to pull off before collapsing into that restless sleep, he stumbled out of his tent. Once out he stretched and contorted his body, yawning as he tried to get the kinks and aches out of his body after the previous night. The brisk morning air was refreshing if still a little chilly. The sun was still rising faintly behind them, although Naythan could only tell because the sky was lighter above. The mountains all around the valley kept them very much in the shade, not to mention the trees that surrounded the clearing they were in. All in all, it wasn't very much lighter than the evening they had set up camp the previous day.

Off to the side, the trio's horses were munching on food bags that Galdorin had clearly laid out for them. It occurred to Naythan, that it was good fortune, and perhaps Galdorin's own experience, that had kept the horses from running after the previous night's ruckus.

In front of him, sat at the fire pit, which was still smoking but no longer lit, was Fyra, eating out of a wooden bowl with a wooden spoon, her white and red sorceresses robes still largely clean with only the bottom around the hem of the robes showing signs of wear and tear. A faint hint of disgust curling her lip mixed with a grim determination to finish the food in front of her. Galdorin was putting away the cooking implements that he'd used to prepare their meal, clearly having already finished his own a while ago.

Fyra

The dryad sorceress who'd assaulted him the previous night, and the Nanir who'd threatened to lead his people on an assault of Naythan's home city if they failed to retrieve the "Heart of the World" for the Naniren.

And the three of them were going to slay a dragon and rob his lair. Wonderful.

Trying not to think too far into either the potential future, nor the immediate past, Naythan strode over to where a bowl lay, filled with a stew on an empty patch of grass beside Fyra. As he sat down Fyra gave him a wary look. He just nodded and muttered "Good morning." before hunkering down to eat.

Fyra could play the victim for all he cared. True, he had attacked her first, sword in hand, but it had been in a fit of rage and fear at the revelation that they were not only changing from simply robbing the dragon to slaying it, but also that it was against the orders of the College and his own clerical order. Besides, her power far outstripped his ability to subdue it so she'd not been in any real danger. Contrarywise he could still feel his back creaking in pain from the hard landing after she had blasted him away from her.

Don't think about it. Just stay in the here and now. The stew wasn't too bad. Perhaps Fyra didn't like it, she was used to finer dining both at the College of Sorcerers and at her own family home in the city, but Naythan's order was a little more strict and so he able to appreciate that this food was at least salty and hot. Even if there was a little too much gristle and fat compared to the rather tough and stringy bits of meat.

The sorceress and the cleric ate in silence, neither looking at the other instead choosing to focus on the landscape, the food, or Galdorin as he bustled about preparing to leave. Finally he was standing over Naythan and Fyra as they hurried to finish their food. "Come on, come on, finish up. I need to clean these and get them stowed away. And you too need to get your things packed up and ready to leave. We won't be ready until the sun is above us at this rate.

Naythan gulped down the last of his stew and handed the bowl over the Galdorin, swiftly followed by Fyra doing the same. Naythan grunted his thanks and stood up to leave quickly to put his things away.

"Cleric wait."

He stopped, surprised, and looked at Fyra.

"What?"

She looked a little uncomfortable, still standing tall, proud, and haughty as ever, but fidgeting with her hands on her red and white robes and her eyes seemed to look everywhere but him as she stood there looking for the words.

"I... apologize." she finally said. The words taking Naythan aback. In all the time he'd known her, which admittedly had only been a matter of weeks, she'd never acknowledged being wrong about anything.

"It was... thoughtless of me... to force this mission on you. I acted on my instinct to do what I thought was right, but I didn't consult you about it. And although we have clearly established that you were placed as my cleric because you could not get in my way... Nonetheless it was unworthy of my house and honour to exclude and dismiss you as I did."

She stood there, looking a combination of uneasy and irritated, possibly at feeling the unease. It was strange to see her like this. He was used to seeing contempt, anger, determination, or a combination of the three.

Finally, Naythan answered "That is perhaps," he said slowly, "the most insulting apology I've ever received." He lifted a finger as she began to retort, "However, I'll take what I can get. Apology accepted."

Fyra closed her mouth, before managing a "Thank you." and hurrying off to put her own things away ready for the journey's beginning

Naythan turned back to his tent and began stuffing things into his bag again. That was the nicest Fyra had ever been to him. Perhaps he would live long enough to be killed by the dragon after all?

By the time Naythan had finished packing his things away, Fyra and Galdorin were already standing impatiently by the horses. As Naythan threw his pack over the back of his own horse, Galdorin looked pointedly up at the sky, where the light was noticeably brighter than it had been earlier, as he mounted up onto his horse, that at once seemed too high and too slender to hold the Nanir. Fyra said nothing and simply alighted up her own saddle as if she weighed nothing.

Naythan muttered some choice curses under his breath about the two as he scrambled up the back of his own mount, making sure that his sword was within easy reach. It hadn't been much use against Fyra, but Naythan was a decent swordsman, though substandard compared to most in his order, he felt confident he could stand his own against whatever brigands and ne'er-do-wells they might come across.

Finally ready, the trio set off down into the valley and back onto the road that led from the Eastern capital of Civallis, to the Western half of Campestria, now known to Naythan as, the Vallis Draconis.

As they travelled further West through Campestria the valleys grew narrower, the mountains closed in on either side, the lands were more sparsely populated and the terrain grew wilder as the nurturing hands of humanity were less keenly felt. The trees were denser and the underbrush thicker, and the mountains loomed overhead like giant structures.

Naythan thought that they looked like towers, with the forests acting as buildings and the ever narrowing path ahead of them was a winding street. It took on the appearance of some foreign or alien city, empty and forsaken. The surroundings seemed to Naythan, darker, and more threatening without the touch of any recognizable civilization. However, he also had to admit that it carried a wild beauty with it, and the impression on his mind that accompanied the change from civilization to wilderness gradually made him feel more like man with a purpose. This was not some errand of the order, not some chore he'd been assigned to, this was an adventure of his own, with very real and frightening consequences.

As the feeling of security faded he recognized the feeling of uncertainty and doubt that assailed him when he was faced with daunting tasks. Now, however, with no other choice but to follow Fyra into the danger she had dragged them both into, he began to experience the thrill that such undertakings brought with them. The thrill that he was doing something of his own, without the permission of another, or an observer to catch him if he failed. It was at once frightening and exhilarating!

He felt his confidence lift a little, and embracing the adventurous spirit while he could, he urged his mount forward to ride past Fyra, who gave him a glance before returning her attention to the road, and alongside Galdorin who rode in front.

The Nanir looked at him. "Anything I can do for you cleric?"

"I was just thinking," Naythan began, "seeing as we may be travelling for a while, I would like to learn what I could of your people. It's very rare that we on the surface get to interact with your kind so closely."

Galdorin looked at him curiously, "Why would you be interested in a people not your own? What purpose does it serve?"

Naythan was taken aback by this response. "Uh... well, I guess I'm just curious." Was all he could think to say.

"The way you surface dwellers get distracted by frivolities, its a wonder that you ever achieve your purpose."

"Our purpose?" Naythan asked, confused.

"Aye your purpose." Galdorin saw Naythan was serious. "Your joking right? You don't know your own people's purpose?"

"Why should we have a specific purpose?" Naythan asked, beginning to get annoyed at the Nanir's tone. "You're going to have to explain a little bit more, I don't think I understand what you mean exactly."

"I'm not sure I can break down something so basic for you.” The Nanir considered for a moment, before a flash of inspiration crossed his face. “I tell you what." Reaching behind him Galdorin drew out his short sword, a broad, thick blade that would be useless in human hands, but not so much for a Nanir's strength.

Holding it out before him to show Naythan, "See this blade."

Naythan nodded.

"The purpose of this blade is to kill. That is what it is made for. If it doesn't fulfil that purpose then its cast away." Galdorin put the sword back in a sheath behind his saddle.

"Everything has a purpose. The trees are shelter to the birds, the birds are to sing and give a voice to the wilderness and the bugs and things of the earth provide them food."

Naythan nodded slowly, "I suppose I could understand seeing it that way."

"What other way is there to see it?" Galdorin queried. "Nothing in this world is without purpose, so why should Nanir, Dryads, Humans and even the filthy Orochai and Godrin be any different? We are its the most complicated and intelligent species.” He threw a look Naythan’s way before adding, “ Although that is something of a stretch to be said of most species.” Naythan let the jibe pass so as not to interrupt Galdorin, “Why should we of all things be devoid of purpose? All things that exist exist for a reason, even if at times it seems that existence is the ONLY reason."

"So what is the purpose of the Nanir then?" Naythan asked.

"To safeguard this world and guard its hearts. To this goal my people have devoted themselves fully."

"Have you any idea of what the purpose of humanity might be?"

Galdorin shook his head, "I neither know nor care. The fate of your people is your own concern. The very fact you ask me these questions tells me that your people are dangerously lost."

"Perhaps," Naythan replied, "but for as long as there are those who study among my kind, there is hope that we will find it."

"This is true." Galdorin said nodding.

“Study of humanity, whether that be in its past history, or it’s current behaviour have always been fascinating to me, among many others. Perhaps there will come a time when we discover our purpose?”

“Perhaps.” Was all the Nanir said in reply.

Naythan realized that the conversation was already over for Galdorin and so he slipped into silence once again. It was fine. With all he'd learned in just a few days with Galdorin, he probably had a stronger grasp on the Naniren than most scholars would learn in their whole lifetime.

Such information would be of no interest to his own order of course, they couldn't care less about the customs of so secluded a race. It was the main point of contention between Naythan and his superiors. He enjoyed and valued learning, whereas they saw that it was a distraction from his duties as a cleric, mastering his negation magic and sword work was his calling as proven by his very ability to do these things in their eyes.

Naythan shook the thoughts off. It would not improve his mood to dwell on these things. Perhaps if this mission was successful, he could return with the information he had gathered and see if there were any interested in recording his discoveries.

Or…

Excited at his idea Naythan reached behind him for the leather journal of Gratianus Kylos and flipped to an unused page and began scribbling, "Continuation of the works of Gratianus Kylos by Clericus Naythan Yorval."

Galdorin looked over at him, "What are you doing with that journal?"

"I thought I might write of our travels." Naythan replied without stopping, "With what you have told me of your people and our quest to steal from a dragon, I thought it could make a compelling read for many back home."

"A Chronicle of our adventure eh? Ha!" Galdorin said delightedly, "Very good young cleric. I would very much like to review it from time to time. I would not have you make mistaken claims of my people or our exploits."

"If you would I would be most grateful." Naythan responded with a grin. He'd rarely had his work praised and so to receive some from the Nanir was boost to his resolve.

Naythan continued to make write what had transpired on his journey so far as they rode further down the road. He fell to the back of their small convoy and Fyra overtook him, speaking a little with Galdorin, though Naythan could not make out what was being said. Probably discussing the upcoming journey and what they could expect along the way.

Naythan probably should have been listening if that was the case, but he was too engrossed in his new work. He might actually get to see some results from the work he was passionate about, rather than simply the work his talents directed him towards. The bumpy ride made it difficult to write, and his writing was not up to its usual standard as a result, either in quality or in speed. A number of times he was forced to scribble out an illegible word here and there, slowing his progress considerably, but the activity kept him occupied until the sun began to set behind them.

Just as it was becoming too dark to see what he was writing Naythan put the journal aside and turned his attention back to the road. It took a moment for his focus to realign, so long had he been staring at the pages close in front of him that looking ahead made his head spin a little. The valley they rode through was veiled in shadow and it was difficult to make anything out but silhouettes through the trees on either side of them. The mountains to either side still dominated the landscape directing the road on its winding path through the valleys that made up the Western half of Campestria. Up ahead, in the increasingly dim light, Naythan could make out what appeared to be a small inn. The sign leading up to it read simply, "The Traveler".

Not the most imaginative name Naythan had seen for an inn, but it didn't matter, as long as they had good food and a warm bed for the night Naythan would be happy. A single day of camping had ended any possible desire in him to do so again.

"The Traveler"

Ahead of him, much further ahead than he'd thought, Fyra and Galdorin were riding up to the inn. Naythan spurred his mount to catch up to them.

He caught up just as they approached the door and the three of them dismounted.

“I’ll go see if there’s someone to help with the horses.” Galdorin said, and strolled on into the inn.

Naythan and Fyra waited outside for him I silence for a moment before Fyra broke it.

“Galdorin told me that you have decided to chronicle our journey.”

“Yes.” Naythan said, surprised that she seemed to be taking and interest in what he was doing. “I’ve always enjoyed reading such things and so I thought that I would try my hand at it too. Besides if I learn of anything of interest perhaps it could be useful in the long term as well.”

“I will need to have a look at it before you publish it. Presuming that you do so.”

The casual way she had just tried to insert herself as an authority into his work sent a flash of irritation through Naythan. “I don’t need you permission.” Naythan replied curtly.

“That’s not what I meant.” Fyra cut back icily, “Your knowledge of magic is tainted by your order’s perspective. I only wish to ensure that this chronicle, that is relevant to the both of us, will reflect me, my family, and my own College with the light of truth.”

“With the light of… Are you suggesting I would lie!?” Naythan asked growing angry. He couldn’t think what he’d done to deserve such an accusation.

“Lie? No. But your beliefs are wrong and I don’t want such errors to colour our history together in the eyes of posterity. I’d rather nothing were written at all of our adventures than have them written in a misleading fashion.”

The words stung more than Naythan expected or liked. The idea that she would sooner be forgotten than trust him to write their story cut as deeply as Galdorin approval had warmed him. “Well it is not your decision to make this time princess,” he bit back, “I will write the truth as I know it.”

“Then it will not be true.”

Naythan was about to respond when a coughing sound interrupted then. He looked to see Galdorin at the door of the inn with a man Naythan presumed was a groom for the horses.

Waiting to ensure he had there attention, Galdorin spoke “I’ve secured us a few rooms for the night, separate ones at that so we may survive the night.” He gave them both a reproachful look as he said this Naythan felt a twinge of shame at his childish behaviour. He was no longer in the order as a novice and so he should stop acting like one. Perhaps, he thought, he wouldn’t be in the order at all when he returned, if indeed he did return.

Galdorin continued. “Meanwhile this young lad will take care of the horses. Take off what you need and bring it inside and I’ll take you to your rooms.”

Naythan and Fyra did as he said in silence, and followed him into the inn.

It was a warm place, a roaring fire in the Center of the room saw to that, several greasy looking tables and chairs were scattered around the room, with the only defined path being towards the bar that rested at the back of the room and the stairs that were on the right hand corner of the room, presumably leading up to the rooms. Along the edges of the room, more booth-like areas lined the perimeter. These were largely occupied, either the more communal area being more sparsely populated. The atmosphere was fairly quiet and a low murder of conversation set a more reserved tone than the taverns Naythan had occasionally visited in the city of Civallis. Walking up to the bar Galdorin gestured to a young man who was carrying trays back and forth from the tables to a back room. “Grab the boy and he will lead you to your rooms.”

“What about you?” Naythan asked.

Galdorin didn’t answer instead just heading straight for the bar behind which a large bearded man was polishing tankards and eyeing them as they entered. Fyra rolled her eyes and moved ahead of Naythan to intercept the boy Galdorin had pointed at, stepping in front of him so quietly that he almost crashed into her.

“Oh excuse me.” The boy said startled. His yes widened when he saw a dark skinned, red eyed dryad in sorceress robes, followed by a young man in white, blue and gold shirt and trousers, a mail shirt over his body and a sword at his hip. Only an idiot wouldn’t realize what he was looking at. “Oh excuse me my lady,” he nodded towards Naythan, “my lord. How can I help you?”

Naythan raised his eyebrows at being called “Lord”, not a title he was used to as a novice in the order. But the poor boy didn’t need to know that, so he stood up straighter.

Fyra’s took it in her stride. Not only an excellent student at the Sorcerer’s College but born in an aristocratic home and family she took it all in stride. “I believe you have rooms for us?” She said nodding her head towards Galdorin who was busy emptying tankards of ale down his throat even as they spoke.

“Oh yes, yes of course.” The boy answered enthusiastically, “I’m sorry I didn’t realize that you were Socii when your friend made the request.” Hurriedly putting the tray he had been carrying down on the nearest empty table he waved them to follow, “I’ll take you right there now.”

As the boy led them to the stairs leading up to the rooms, Naythan glanced around at the other patrons and saw that they too seemed to have come to the same conclusion as the boy had. Naythan hoped this was a good thing. The notoriety of the Socii did open many doors, but they were also feared and misunderstood, something largely compounded by Church teaching that sorceress used magic by the power of demons. Perhaps next time they should employ a more subtle dress code. Naythan looked at Fyra as she walked ahead of him tall and proud as always, head straight and dignified. They might have difficulty disguising Fyra, there were not many dryads in the less civilized parts of the world and persuading her to remove her sorceress robes might be even harder.

Well, for now it seemed to be serving a good purpose and Naythan followed Fyra and the boy up to his room, where he threw he is belongings by his bed and collapsed onto it. It was pretty comfortable, perhaps on par with the orders chambers, though less clean for sure. A smile crept along Naythan's face as he pictured Fyra’s scowl at such lodgings.

Hopefully she wouldn't threaten the poor boy for better accommodations. With that final thought, Naythan closed his eyes and drifted into a deep and welcome slumber.

Fantasy
2

About the Creator

Tomos Jackson

I love how inspiring stories and character can be. I try and replicate that in my own writing to not only give inspiration, but also to encourage the reader to consider important matters through a more enjoyable and digestible fantasy lens.

Reader insights

Outstanding

Excellent work. Looking forward to reading more!

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Comments (2)

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  • Sara Jane Triglia about a year ago

    This was interesting. I like your dialogue and character development.

  • Miles Pen2 years ago

    This was so awesome! Great story and world building! And Naythan believable. (would love for you give me feedback on my story if you get a chance).

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