Presently, the traveler crested one of the wave-like hills that made up the plain. Below his fiery, red mane, which swirled like a proud banner in the wind, his green eyes scanned the horizon in search of the village he sought, but the sight that greeted him wasn’t the tranquil one he remembered.
The village lay in ruin.
Black clouds of smoke hovered over the many huts that blazed and others that’d already been reduced to ash. Scattered amidst these were the dead, who littered the ground in various poses. Crouched over some of the prostrate forms were their loved ones, but many of the fallen went un-mourned since none of their closest relatives had lived to shed a tear.
With rage fueling his legs, the traveler raced for the village. Reaching the town wall, he found the main gate reduced to splinters, and as he charged through the opening, he drew his broadsword from its scabbard on the chance that some of the raiders still lingered within the village. But a closer sweep of the scene revealed none of those who had dealt the carnage.
The layout of the village remained fresh in the traveler’s mind, so he sifted through the dead and those who grieved them in search of the hut that belonged to his friends. He soon came to the spot he was looking for, but glowing embers were all that remained of the home.
In a panic, the traveler threw back his head and yelled, “Talia, Darius!”
When no response came, he ran to another part of the village and tried again.
“Darius, Talia!” He did this over and over.
Then, finally, he heard, “Kaxzorus! Is that you?” The voice wept uncontrollably. “Oh, praise the gods!”
Kaxzorus sought out the speaker, and he found Talia huddled over Darius, her husband, who was also alive, but wounded.
Kaxzorus hurried over to the couple. Then, telling Talia to step aside, he knelt down to examine Darius’ injuries.
“It’s his shoulder,” Talia said, raising her voice to be heard over the roar of the flames and the weeping of the other villagers. “He was stabbed when they came and took Sana from us.”
Kaxzorus looked up at Talia. “Who’s Sana?”
Talia broke out in fresh tears. “She’s our daughter, born five winters ago.”
The news that Kaxzorus’ friends had been blessed with a daughter since his last visit was coupled with another revelation: the Armesskvalann hadn’t seen a single child amongst the villagers, dead or alive.
“Was the village raided by slavers?” asked Kaxzorus.
Talia was too tear-stricken to answer, but Darius said, “It was Thursa-Thune.”
Kaxzorus glanced down at the injured man. “Thursa-Thune?”
“A sorcerer who dwells in the Spearhead Mountains,” explained Darius. “He sent his men to destroy our village and steal our children! Now they are being taken to his fortress to be subjected to his vile spells!”
“Then I must go,” said Kaxzorus. “If I hurry, I might be able to catch them.”
“What happens if you do?” asked Talia. “You can’t stop them all by yourself!”
With a sweep of his arm, Kaxzorus gestured to the many dead strewn about the ground. “Do you see any other able bodied men around here?”
“Kaxzorus is right,” said Darius. “He’s the only chance Sana and the other children have.” He nodded at the Armesskvalann. “There should be a horse roaming around this village somewhere. Find one and go!”
Along the walls of Thursa-Thune’s laboratory, which was located in a great stone chamber within the heart of the Spearhead Mountains, were shelves that held numerous beakers and test tubes, containing an array of bright colored potions that bubbled and emitted clouds of swirling smoke. The light from these, as well as from the candelabrum burning in each corner of the room, reflected off the shiny surface of the object that took up most of the space in the chamber’s center. It was a cylindrical enclosure that stretched all the way to the ceiling. To the touch, it felt like fine crystal, yet it was as invulnerable as iron. In truth, it could only be brought down by the magic of he who constructed it.
Through one of his various thaumaturgies, Thursa-Thune had built this cage to contain a monster he’d conjured from the Night of Ages. Now, as the nefarious wizard stood before it, the great beast, who was old long before the world in which it found itself had even formed, slammed its bulk against the confines of its ensorcelled prison, in hopes to break free and kill the man that dared summon it from beyond the cosmos.
Thursa-Thune’s laughter echoed throughout the chamber. “Your effort is wasted, Old One. Only my magic can release you.”
“Foolish, mage!” crowed the Old One, while continuing to hammer its amorphous mass against its cell. “Do you really believe your spell can hold me forever? Soon I will find its weakness, and when I break free, I’ll suck the flesh from your bones!”
Grinning, Thursa-Thune reached into his robe and withdrew an object, holding it out for his prisoner to see.
Witnessing the ancient dagger, the Old One ceased its attempts to escape and drew away from the glass, recoiling in terror.
“That’s right!” Thursa-Thune gloated. “Back when your kind ruled our world, this was the very knife that killed your brethren and sent the rest of you fleeing back to the abyss from which you dawned! Now I have it, so you will do my bidding or die!”
Instantly, the Old One’s air of superiority was gone. “What is it you want from me, mage?”
“Knowledge,” answered Thursa-Thune. “What else?” And the sorcerer walked over to a bookcase and pulled from it a large tome, whose pages were edged with gold. Then, returning to his prisoner, he queried, “Do you recognize this book?”
“Aye. It belonged to the same man who yielded the knife you hold, a sorcerer from the eastern lands of Pang.”
“That’s correct,” confirmed Thursa-Thune. “The book originally belonged to your race, did it not?”
“Aye. The easterner I mentioned was at first a devoted follower of our kind, so we taught him how to read the book. But after we unveiled the book’s secrets, he betrayed us and used the knowledge we gave him to create the dagger in your grasp. With that weapon, he killed legions of my race before finally stealing the book and banishing us from this plane.”
“Well, Old One, I also wish to learn how to read the book. That’s why I’ve summoned you here.”
“Why I’d be a fool to teach you! The moment you’re fully able to use the book, you’ll destroy me!”
“I have the power to destroy you right now should you refuse,” Thursa-Thune reminded the fiend, raising the dagger again.
“First you’ll have to take down this cage,” retorted the Old One, “and when you do, I’ll slay you before you can strike me!”
Again, Thursa-Thune chuckled. “I have no intention of fighting you, Old One. Either you’ll teach me to read the book, or you’ll waste away in there. But”–and the sorcerer raised a finger here as if to strengthen his next point – “if you do what say, I’ll reward you.”
“That depends. If you show me everything in the book, I’ll send you back from where you came.”
“Or so you claim,” said the Old One.
“I’ll keep my word. And for every chapter of the book we go through, I’ll offer you a sacrifice.”
“Do you take me for a fool, mage?” the Old One sounded more skeptical of this promise than the first.
“Oh, I’m lying am I? Then why did I send my cohorts to raid the nearest village and return with their children?”
The Old One was stunned by this revelation. It’d been thousands of years since it feasted on the succulent flesh of a youth, a time too long. But in another age, it could remember devouring them in a ritual of sacrifice on a daily basis.
“You miss it?” Thursa-Thune pressed. “Don’t you?”
At first the Old One didn’t answer, for it was lost in the memories of consuming the sons and daughters of man, but finally the creature caved. “Very well. We have a deal, mage. I’ll teach you how to read the book.”
“Good. Let us begin now, then!”
The villages’ raiders left behind a significant trail, one that proved too time-consuming to cover up due to the many footprints created by their captives. Kaxzorus followed the marked path, spurring his newly acquired horse to its top speed. It was his hope to catch the kidnappers before they reached the Spearhead Mountains, thinking Thursa-Thune’s men would be slowed by their prisoners, allowing the Armesskvalann to pick up ground at a rapid pace. But by the time Kaxzorus reached the Spearheads, he still had yet to spot those who he pursued.
Still following the trail, Kaxzorus later found himself riding along a narrow rock ledge. The ledge’s left hand side was marked by a stone wall whose face rose into a towering cliff, while its right hand side gave way to a thousand foot drop. Edging close to the rock wall, Kaxzorus and his horse slowly traversed the precarious path. They were nearing its end when the Armesskvalann sensed an ambush as his ears picked up the faint sound of a sandal scraping against stone.
With a jerk of the reins, Kaxzorus halted his horse and looked up. It was then he discovered there was another ledge twenty feet above the one he currently rode on. Though he could see nothing from his vantage point, Kaxzorus knew someone was up there. Whoever was hiding on the ledge had heard the Armesskvalann approaching, and while scurrying to get out of sight, this man’s sandal had kicked up a pebble, betraying his whereabouts.
“Show yourself, coward!” called out Kaxzorus. “Do you intend to hurl rocks down at me?”
“Kaxzorus?” answered a voice. “Is that you?”
Before the Armesskvalann could respond, a familiar face withdrew from hiding and peered down from the higher ledge. Its wearer was a slender man of medium height with brown skin and dark eyes. A red turban, set with an ostrich plume, adorned his head, and a thick robe of golden silk protected him from the chill mountain air.
“Omar! What in Oredwin’s name are you doing up in these mountains? The last I heard of you was that you were still swindling ivory dealers back in Mirijhaad.”
“They grew wise to me,” answered the thief. “Had I not left I wouldn’t even have my hands to pick pocket with anymore!”
“Do they still hunt you this far west of the Talon Mountains?”
“Nay. But you know the life of a thief, Kaxzorus. Trouble will find you anywhere you go. And just as it found me in Mirijhaad, so did it find me in Ithkern, and later Valenduar.”
Kaxzorus laughed. “Fortunate you didn’t ambush me, Omar, or you would’ve found trouble in these mountains, as well.”
Omar chuckled, too. “Yes, perhaps since you didn’t split my head, my luck is looking up, after all.”
“Perhaps. But if you don’t answer some questions I have, I may still cleave your skull yet.”
“I’m listening, Kaxzorus.”
“Good. I’ve been following a trail. I’m sure you can even see it from where you stand. But did you happen to see the men who made it?”
“Aye. The trail was made by men of Thursa-Thune, and their prisoners, who were children.”
“What kind of men are these?” asked Kaxzorus.
“Many of them are big and brawny like you. The rest are more my size. But they all share one thing in common: they’re outlaws who swear allegiance to Thursa-Thune, whose sole presence in these mountains deters those that would see these criminals hanged from coming to seek justice.”
“Don’t tell me that is why you hide here, Omar. You may be a thief, but I know you have more honor than to be involved with someone who kidnaps children.”
“Nay. I’m no friend of Thune’s. Had it been in my power to help those children, I would have. But I’m no fighting man. I’m just a thief.”
“Then why not let me do the fighting, Omar?”
“What are you proposing?”
“Help me steal those children out of Thursa-Thune’s fortress.”
“And get myself killed?”
Kaxzorus shrugged. “By ourselves the task is impossible, but together we have a chance. Surely you haven’t spent all your time in these mountains hiding on that ledge and ambushing travelers. That sort of thing would bore a thief of your quality very quickly. No, you’d need to do something more dangerous than that. Why I bet you’ve already been inside Thursa-Thune’s stronghold and mapped it out.”
Omar grinned. “You know me too well, Kaxzorus.”
“So I take it you have been inside Thursa-Thune’s fortress?”
The thief nodded. “And I was lucky to get out of there alive.”
“Lead me there, Omar.”
“Kaxzorus, what inspires this death wish with you have?”
“I’m friends with the parents of one of the children,” replied the Armesskvalann. “I gave them my word that I would bring their daughter back, or at least avenge the girl if the worst has already happened. Help me keep my word, Omar.”
Omar sighed. “Very well, Kaxzorus. I will lead you there. I guess today’s as good a day to die as any.”
“Nonsense!” Kaxzorus roared with a wolfish grin. “It’s Thursa-Thune who’ll die this day, not us! Now hurry down here, Omar, and lead the way!”
“Through there,” said Omar, pointing to the mouth of a cave which rested at the top of the hill they currently climbed.
Tethering his horse to a nearby bush, Kaxzorus followed the thief through the dark opening. Inside, the cave appeared to consist of only one small chamber, but after circling the cavern and testing the walls at several different spots, Omar’s knuckles rapped against a section of rock that sounded hollow. With a single push, the thief opened the hidden door, and he and Kaxzorus entered Thursa-Thune’s fortress.
Closing the door at their backs, Kaxzorus drew his broadsword and quickly scoped out their surroundings. They stood in the middle of long corridor that was brightly lit by torches blazing in brackets along the walls. To the left, the corridor seemed to stretch for several spans, while close to their right it ended in a stairwell that descended into gloom.
“Those stairs lead down to the dungeons,” Omar whispered.
Offering no response, Kaxzorus darted towards the stairwell, his footfalls making no more noise than would a feather as it hit the ground. Omar was close at the warrior’s heels, moving just as stealthily.
“Shouldn’t we form some sort of plan?” said the thief.
“Aye,” answered Kaxzorus, bounding down the winding stairwell two steps at a time. “After we slay the guards, take the children out through the entrance you just showed me and lead them back to their village. Then I’ll go deal with Thursa-Thune.”
“That’s suicide, Kaxzorus!”
Even while moving, the Armesskvalann fixed the thief with a menacing glare that would squash any further attempts at debate.
“Aye,” Omar relented. “I’ll lead the children out just as you say.”
The stairwell seemed to descend into eternity; Kaxzorus and Omar were finally nearing its end when they heard footsteps quickly approaching them from behind. Instantly, Kaxzorus halted and drew his back against the stairwell wall at a point just around the bend of one its snaking curves. Omar followed his followed example, and they waited for the opportune time to pounce on their pursuit.
Soon they heard voices.
“How many brats are we supposed to grab?” asked one speaker.
“Three,” answered another with a laugh. “Thune’s gonna feed em to his new pet.”
The first speaker grunted in disgust. “You mean that pool of slime he’s been talking to?”
“You’ve seen it?” queried the second speaker.
“Aye,” replied the first speaker. “Though I wish I hadn’t. The thing’s an abomination.”
Again, the second speaker laughed. “Well, as long as we stay on Thune’s good side it won’t eat any of us, I’m sure.”
It was at this point that the two speakers came twisting around the bend, and Kaxzorus leapt into their path.
“Eat steel, dog!” growled the Armesskvalann, and he buried his blade into the stomach of the second speaker, silencing the man’s laughter forever.
Shocked by Kaxzorus’ abrupt appearance, the first speaker still had the wherewithal to draw his steel and strike at the red haired warrior. But quick as light, Kaxzorus ripped his blade free from the second speaker’s vitals and hacked through the wrist of the other man’s sword hand. Before the first speaker could even comprehend his blood jetting injury, Kaxzorus struck again, this time opening a red welling trench along the maimed man’s throat.
As his second victim fell dead, Kaxzorus whirled around after hearing shouts of response to the short lived battle coming from the dungeon below. Undaunted, the Armesskvalann raced down the stairs to meet those calls. He reached the bottom of the stairwell just as the dungeon’s door burst open, spilling forth another round of guards.
These men proved to be little trouble for Kaxzorus. Dodging thrusts and ducking slashes, the Armesskvalann avoided their best sword strokes with the agile grace of a panther. Simultaneously, his sword remained in constant motion, lashing out in a raging storm of steel that slew anything unfortunate enough to get in its path.
Leaving another batch of corpses in his wake, Kaxzorus made his way into the dungeon, which consisted of two rows of cells with a long walkway running between them. Upon entering, Kaxzorus spotted one remaining guard. Unlike the others, this man didn’t rush forward to fight the Armesskvalann, but instead turned and ran for a bell that hung from dungeon’s far wall. Realizing the bell would bring reinforcements, Kaxzorus chased after him, though it was likely too late to stop the man.
But before the guard could reach the bell, an arm poked through the bars of one of the cells and grasped his ankle, sending him sprawling to the ground; the guard never reached his feet again, for Kaxzorus ended the man’s life then with a sword thrust to the back.
Wasting no time, Kaxzorus searched the dead man for keys.
“I’ve got them over here,” said Omar.
Kaxzorus turned to see the thief working a ring of keys free from the belt of one of the guards lying dead in the dungeon’s doorway. While Omar was busy with this task, the Armesskvalann looked to the cell from which the helping hand had come.
Kaxzorus pointed his bloody sword at the latest slain guard. “Who tripped him?”
Out of the dozens of small faces that stared back at him in terror, one finally stepped forward. It belonged to a young girl of maybe five winters. She had long golden hair and dark brown eyes, traits Kaxzorus recognized instantly.
He smiled at the girl. “Fear not, Sana. I’m here to rescue you and your friends.”
Kaxzorus and Omar led the children out of the dungeon, but just as they reached the secret door, half a dozen of Thursa-Thune’s guards came marching from the corridor’s far end, having been sent when the sorcerer complained about the amount of time it was taking for the requested sacrifices to be brought to his laboratory. Now, witnessing their master’s prisoners escaping, they rushed forward to deal with the children’s rescuers.
“Get them out of here, Omar!” shouted Kaxzorus. “I shall deal with this!”
Howling a blood curdling war cry, the Armesskvalann charged at the approaching guards. The first foe attempted a cut that would’ve decapitated a slower man, but Kaxzorus crouched under the whirling sword and thrust his blade through the man’s heart. Then, with a kick to the dead man’s stomach, Kaxzorus wrenched his weapon free and sent the corpse crashing into his comrades, spilling them to the floor. Kaxzorus slew two of the five remaining guards before they could regain their feet, and while the other three managed to stand again, the Armesskvalann’s blade sent them back to the ground in a matter of seconds, this time for good.
With a lapse in battle, Kaxzorus looked over his shoulder to check the progress Omar was making. By then the thief had nearly all the children out of Thursa-Thune’s fortress. Even as the Armesskvalann watched, the last of the brood were filing through the hidden door.
Believing that Omar had a handle on his end of things, Kaxzorus glanced back in the direction the last batch of guards had come running from. It just so happened as he did, that another wave of Thursa-Thune’s men came marching forth.
Were he a lesser man, Kaxzorus might have lamented the fact that the battle still wasn’t won, but he didn’t view warfare and fighting, as most civilized men did, as an unfortunate circumstance of life. In Kaxzorus’ mind, not to mention the mindset of everyone who hailed from Armesskvalann, the opposite was true. Fighting wasn’t simply part of life; it was the center of everyone’s existence, for who could hope to live at all if they were unwilling to fight for the things it took to survive?
It was thoughts like these that brought on a primordial change in Kaxzorus, and when this change overcame him, he could feel the undying spirits of his warrior ancestors imbue his body and stoke the fires of his already boiling bloodlust until he looked at the world through a red mist that clouded all reason and left him unable to do anything but slay and kill whatever got in his way.
As they advanced, the guards witnessed this change; they likened it to a man devolving into a beast right before their eyes. Even the bravest of them found reason to pause and wonder if, even as group, they were any match against this savage of a bygone era, and this moment of indecisiveness would cost them their lives.
Roaring like some pre-historic beast, Kaxzorus pounced on the guards. Casting all tactics to the wind, he relied on only his unruly ferocity to best the men who outnumbered him by nearly half a score. Under the wrath of the Armesskvalann’s sword the guards fell like ripe wheat fields below the reaper’s scythe, and when more reinforcements arrived, Kaxzorus hurdled the dead and engaged the next in line to die with the mad glee of a berserker.
Lost in this mindless, murderous frenzy, the Armesskvalann had no way of knowing how long the slaughter went on, but suddenly the red mist cleared and he found himself standing in Thursa-Thune’s laboratory.
It was witnessing the horrible monstrosity that lurked in the room’s center that abruptly sobered him of the blood drunken spell.
To Kaxzorus, the Old One looked like a gargantuan oil slick, but a pool of slime, as he’d heard it described earlier, was just as good of a description, perhaps even better when considering the sickly green color the putrid thing had to it. Simply sitting still, the gelatinous mass seemed to pulse and writhe like some alien heart, and bubbles could be seen rising from the depths of its translucent core before popping at the surface of its membrane-like skin. Most disturbing, the Old One seemed to radiate an evil that predated the stars.
Despite his repulsion to the fiend, Kaxzorus was transfixed by it; it was only when he heard the mocking laughter of Thursa-Thune that he found himself able to look away.
“I think you’ll find this room’s occupants a little more than your sword can handle,” said the sorcerer as he emerged from a pool of shadows.
Seeing Thursa-Thune for the first time, Kaxzorus was shocked by the sight of the sorcerer. Clad in a simple black robe, the mage was a short, decrepit man with a noticeable hunch in his back and a face that was furrowed with lines of age. Could such a man inspire such terror in people that only outlaws dared to wander into the Spearheads Mountains?
Thursa-Thune seemed to study the Armesskvalann, whose blood soaked skin was now almost as red as his mane, with similar interest.
“Who sent you?” queried the wizard. “Are you from the village I had raided?”
“Nay,” replied Kaxzorus. “But my friends live there. I came here to liberate their daughter and the other children. And now that they are free, I intend to take your head and parade it through Oremednia, so everyone can see that you’re a weak, old cur who bleeds just like the rest of us.”
Thursa-Thune emitted another chuckle. “I invite you to try.”
Kaxzorus needn’t hear anymore; he thrust out his sword and leapt at the wizard. But Thursa-Thune was ready. The sorcerer held out an open hand and a ball of green fire burst forth from his palm. Were it not for his catlike reflexes, Kaxzorus would’ve been scorched by the unearthly flame, but at the last second he deflected the magical blast with his blade, sending the fireball crashing into a shelf of beakers and test tubes that shattered with an explosion of smoke.
“You’ll pay for that!” cried Thursa-Thune, sending another sphere of green fire Kaxzorus’ way.
As he hit the ground, the Kaxzorus managed to roll out of the way of the ensorcelled missile. Then, reaching his feet again, the Armesskvalann deflected another round with his sword, destroying a second shelf of beakers.
Further enraged by the destruction of more of his potions, Thursa-Thune began casting his rounds at a rapid pace, but so amazing was Kaxzorus’ agility that the mighty warrior continued to evade and parry the flame blasts.
The twos’ standoff soon had them circling the chamber: the sorcerer hurling his fiery arrows, and the Armesskvalann dodging the shots by the slimmest of margins.
But the flames had to consume something, and as Thursa-Thune continued to cast his missiles with reckless abandon, small blazes began to spread about the room. Yet still the sorcerer remained totally confident that the situation could be rectified; he need only destroy the meddling Armesskvalann, then he knew several dozen spells that would put out the fires.
“You’ve proved yourself a worthy opponent, warrior!” thundered the wizard. “But the bout is over now. My next bolt shall deliver you to hell!”
The next fireball came faster than any of the others, but Kaxzorus was just able to get his sword up in time and deflect the projectile off his blade’s cross hilt. The move would save his body from being charred to cinders, but his sword hand received burns that blistered and would later develop into scars he wore the rest of his life.
However, the ball of flame would prove far more consequential to Thursa-Thune, for as it ricocheted off Kaxzorus’ sword it ended up crashing into the enclosure that held the Old One. And thus the prison that was created by the sorcerer’s magic, was in turn destroyed by that same magic.
Released from its crumbling cell, the Old One emitted a cold, cruel laugh that echoed like an ominous bell. Then the amorphous mass came rolling toward the sorcerer in a tsunami-like wave of death.
Screaming, Thursa-Thune wheeled away from his impending doom and started for the table on which rested the dagger that might save his life, but he would never reach the weapon. Almost like a sponge, the Old One caught up to the wizard and absorbed him into its body, and then the creature did as it had promised: it consumed the writhing, squealing sorcerer.
Foul smelling clouds of steam rose from the Old One as the jellylike substance it consisted of seemed to act as a corrosive acid that melted every layer of tissue from Thursa-Thune’s body. In seconds, a skeleton was all that remained of the mage.
The sight of this left Kaxzorus in a horrified state, but it was this fear that made him bound for the dagger Thursa-Thune previously sought. No doubt the sorcerer had intended to wield it against the Old One, which must mean the weapon was ensorcelled in a way that it might slay the supernatural creature, unlike Kaxzorus’ own sword.
Realizing Kaxzorus’ plan, the Old One belched out Thursa-Thune’s skeleton and drifted after the warrior, howling like an angry wind. But fast as the fiend was, the Armesskvalann was faster. And reaching the table, Kaxzorus swept up the dagger and, turning just in time, thrust the blade of curious design into the Old One right as it pounced for him.
What happened next was quite unsavory: the blob burst like a pustule and coated Kaxzorus, not to mention the entire chamber, with a thick green, brown fluid, the remnants of its deteriorating matter.
In the wake of battle, Kaxzorus feared the stuff might eat his flesh as it had Thursa-Thune’s, but it became quickly apparent that in death the Old One’s body had lost its caustic properties. So with no more concern, the Armesskvalann left Thursa-Thune’s laboratory, and later the entire fortress, to be consumed in flames.
Under the swift hoofs of his horse again, the red haired liberator soon caught up with Omar and the village children.
The villagers held a great celebration in honor of Kaxzorus and Omar for returning all the children safely. The extravaganza went on for days, and though there was still much sorrow felt for the men and women who lost their lives, the village could look to the future with bright optimism, for Thursa-Thune was dead and their beloved sons and daughters were back home. True, some of the young ones had become orphans due to the tragedy, but these were quickly accepted into loving homes, and now the villagers could return to a life of peace.
Kaxzorus stayed and aided in the villages’ restoration, surpassing the work of ten men on a daily basis. Finally the time came for him to continue on to Armesskvalann, where his kin still awaited him. For his heroic efforts, the warrior was given the fleetest horse from the villages’ stables, upon which he presently sat as he said his goodbyes.
Darius, with one arm draped lovingly around Talia and the other around Sana, smiled at the Armesskvalann. “Won’t you stay, Kaxzorus? Surely if Omar found a widow that would have him, you should have no trouble.”
Kaxzorus chuckled. “Nay, I’m not ready to settle down yet, nor may I ever be. But should the day come, perhaps I shall return here and take a wife.” He grinned. “Just don’t hold your breath.”
Darius found himself laughing, too. “Farewell, Kaxzorus. Always know that you’re an honorary citizen in this village, and you can be assured that here your wine cup will never go empty.”
“In that case, I promise to visit more often,” said Kaxzorus, and with a departing wave, he spurred his mount north to Armesskvalann.
©Kyle Bakke 2012
Kyle Bakke is an aspiring writer who lives in Buffalo Minnesota.