Sword of Kings: Forged Out of Necessity
by Bill W
Copyright © 2014 by billwstories
Copyright © 2014 by billwstories
A Destiny Revealed
The wizened wizard traveled at a steady pace as he journeyed through the Woods of Wildoness. Although the mission he was on was urgent, it was not so pressing that he couldn't afford a few moments to enjoy the serenity and brilliance the forest offered the weary traveler. Each time he entered the faerie kingdom of the elves, he experienced a sense of tranquility that he was unable to duplicate while visiting any other region within Tarolia.
Beraut often found himself wandering through these woods, but the reasons for his visit would vary. On some occasions, the purpose of his journey would be to seek relaxation or to afford him an opportunity to unwind after an exhaustive undertaking. At other times, like now, it was on an urgent errand of business that required the attention of Dylan, King of the Elves. This particular rendezvous, however, was more important than any Beraut had previously held at the elfin court. It concerned not only Dylan, but also one of the king's unwitting subjects.
As Beraut neared his destination, the elfin capital of Aurelia, he scanned the surrounding landscape, in an effort to absorb all of the loveliness the enchanted forest had to offer. At the same time, he also kept a watchful eye out for any signs of danger and looked for anything that might alert him to a significant change concerning the matter at hand. The wizard constantly worried the situation might suddenly worsen and those aligned with him and the rest of Tarolia would be caught unprepared. Since that would be truly devastating, he vowed to be vigilant and never allow it to happen.
Diligently and methodically, his eyes searched the surrounding area, until he caught a glimpse of movement about fifty meters off to his left. Cautiously, the aged wizard crept forward so he could inspect the source of this disturbance. In the back of his mind he knew the odds were strongly skewed in favor of an insignificant find, such as a wild animal foraging through the underbrush for food, but he still needed to confirm this fact. There was always the less likely prospect he might ferret out an enemy warrior or spy instead.
As the wizard moved closer to the spot where he had discerned the hint of activity, he drew up abruptly. Cautiously, he peered through the undergrowth and tangle of overhanging tree limbs. That's when he spied three teenage boys frolicking merrily about. Somewhat relieved by this discovery, Beraut remained quietly in the shadows and spent a few moments observing the trio, as they continued their youthful games.
It didn't take long before the wizard became aware that there was something strikingly different, almost special, about the youth who stood a full head taller than the other two. He had a lean, muscular body, with a full head of raven-colored hair and skin that had been bronzed by the sun. This was a very peculiar and unusual sight among the fair haired, light skinned elves that called this woodland their home. Now, Beraut almost seemed mesmerized by the three youths, who were completely unaware this uninvited spectator was silently skulking in the shadows.
As Beraut continued observing their youthful shenanigans, he began to realize he was developing a fondness and admiration for the dark haired youth. In the very short time he had been watching the trio, the wizard had become utterly absorbed by the extraordinary personality of this delightful young man. He also began to understand the deep respect the two sandy haired youths willingly gave their friend. It was apparent this unique young man was the beloved, unspoken leader of the group.
For many more minutes, the threesome continued their activities and enjoyed playing such youthful games as 'Throw Down the Gauntlet' and 'King of the Forest.' When they finally stopped to rest from this exhausting physical exercise, one of the eagle-eyed elfin youths discovered Beraut peering at them from afar. Shocked and troubled by this unwanted intrusion, he summoned his friends' attention and pointed toward the elderly man. Their concern was immediately heightened, because they knew that in recent times the elf king rarely welcomed or permitted outsiders to enter the faerie kingdom.
"Who are you and why are you here?" questioned the leader of the group. "What brings you into the homeland of the elves?"
The boys seemed unafraid to approach the elderly gentleman and question his intent. In fact, the youngsters felt that if the situation warranted it, they could either overpower or easily outrace him to Aurelia.
"I seek counsel with Dylan, your king," came the reply, "on a matter of grave importance and urgency."
"If the matter be as grave and urgent as you suggest," the dark-haired boy responded, "then why are you dallying here in the forest? Why are you not flying as fast as your feeble old legs will carry you until you reach the capital?"
Beraut grinned at the insightfulness displayed by the taller youth, but hesitated briefly before framing his reply.
"That, my dear Kieren, you will learn in due time. However, it was fortuitous that I stumbled upon you and your friends. I must go now to meet with your king, but I would appreciate your company along the way."
Kieren was taken aback by the use of his name and turned toward his companions for their input. When he did this, he discovered they were openly gawking at him and weren't prepared to offer counsel. Unfazed, Kieren searched their faces, hoping he could read their reactions and it would give him the reassurance he was seeking. Instead, he was met with dazed and confused looks that indicated they were completely awestruck by what had just transpired. Having concluded his friends weren't going to be any help, Kieren turned back to the elderly gentleman. Summoning all the bravado he could muster, he peered into the wizard's ancient, steely eyes and spoke.
"If you are headed to speak with our king, then we shall come with you. I wish to make certain you are not trying to deceive us."
Beraut nodded his consent and then wheeled about, as he began making his way back to the road that led to the capital city. The youths followed after him, but were forced to race down the path to catch up with the briskly moving stranger. Fortunately, they didn't have very far to go before reaching their destination.
No matter how long one lived in the woods or how often you visited this wondrous place, the first glimpse of Aurelia would still take your breath away. It was a truly magnificent sight to behold. As the harried travelers passed through the threshold of the metropolis, they were once again able to view the mighty oaks that held the elfin structures in their boughs.
Stretching out in the tree limbs high above them stood the stronghold of King Dylan and all of the other edifices necessary for such an important city. When the four travelers reached the tree that contained the royal enclave, they gazed up at the marvelous structure for a few moments, before climbing the stairs that led to the main entrance. This regal complex was definitely something only the elves were capable of producing and completely encircled the shaft of the largest tree. In the adjoining branches were scattered other public structures, as well as the numerous dwellings of those living within the elfin capital. These domiciles were arranged in descending order of importance from the royal apartments, so the further out you went, the lower the status of the occupant.
An infrequent visitor to the elfin kingdom might have expected Aurelia to have its own dove colored moon, to account for the eerie silvery light that danced off the structures of the faerie folk. This unusual glow gave the city its awesome, overpowering effect of splendor and surrealism. Truly this was one of the matchless wonders of Tarolia and a vision beyond compare. It was truly breathtaking to behold.
Having been a guest of the elfin king in the past, Beraut headed directly for the royal quarters. The guards on duty recognized the wizard at once, saluted and gave him immediate entry to the king's chambers. Taken aback, Kieren wondered who this stranger was. Why wasn't he challenged before gaining admittance to the royal household. The teen was also curious as to why he and his friends, mere children to the elders, were allowed to pass through just as easily to enter this highly sensitive and restricted area. As a resident of the faerie kingdom, the young man had heard that even the king's officials had to be announced before they were allowed to see him.
'What,' Kieren wondered, 'makes this person so special?'
The door to the royal sitting room swung silently inward as the wizard, followed by his three youthful companions, entered to meet with the king. Dylan and his queen had been carrying on a private dialogue when their guests arrived. Upon seeing them enter, the elf king leapt up to greet his old colleague in an embrace of warm affection.
"I began to wonder if you would ever arrive, you old conjuror," he began. "We expected you a fortnight ago. What delayed you?" The wizard smiled and bowed.
"I beg your pardon, Your Highness, but there were many preparations I had to deal with before I could make my way here. I had to coordinate multiple errands that needed to be run, as well as arrange numerous appointments with other ranking officials. I also had to send a vast assortment of messages to our allies, before I was able to travel to this fair and wonderful realm of yours. Besides, it appears as though our antagonist has been delaying his movements, rather than accelerating them. This unexpected boon afforded me the opportunity to go about my business and plan more cautiously than it first appeared."
"I see you've also found time to locate the lad, Kieren, as well," the king announced with slight amusement in his voice.
The king's use of Kieren's name startled the boys even more, since they never expected King Dylan to take notice of them. Even if he did, they felt he wouldn't know who any of them were, other than obviously residents of his kingdom, but they never expected him to refer to any of them by name.
"Nay, my good lord," Beraut responded. "It was merely by chance that I found him and his companions entertaining themselves as I traveled hither, but he insisted they accompany me here. I assume they wanted to make sure I had been truthful in telling them my intentions for being in your realm."
King Dylan immediately saw the humor in the wizard 's comment and smiled slyly, as he looked at his three subjects. Kieren, who had been intently observing the stranger as he spoke with the elfin king and queen, failed to catch the sarcasm in the wizard's comment. He was too busy studying the supernatural conundrum before him and trying to learn more about what made this person so special.
The teen had been busy studying the stranger's features. He admired the beauty of his flowing white hair and beard and thought they contrasted magnificently with his deeply tanned and withered hide. He also observed Beraut's eyes were set like deep, gray pools beneath his wrinkled brow and his noble nose rose like a monument from the center of his face. The agile old man was aged, yet seemed ageless. He seemed ready for senility, yet omniscient. He appeared cold and unyielding, but was actually gentle and compassionate. Kieren was not sure he understood or liked this enigma of a man, yet he still felt drawn to him.
As all of these conflicting images flashed through his mind, Kieren recognized something else had changed. Although he was unable to pinpoint what it was, he could sense some minor detail connected to the wizard's appearance was different now. Kieren struggled to discern what miniscule change had occurred since they first met in the woods, but he was unable to figure out what it was. Intuitively, he reflected over their initial meeting in the forest and then pursued his thoughts forward in time. The lad had not yet decided what had changed, when his mind was suddenly snapped back to the present, as he realized someone was calling his name.
"Kieren? Kieren? Are you all right, my boy?" King Dylan wondered, looking concerned. "Is anything wrong?"
The king had been trying to get the teenager's attention for quite some time and was beginning to worry about him.
"Oh, I'm sorry, Your Majesty," came the boy's sheepish reply. "It's just that I was thinking about something else. Please, forgive me."
"That's perfectly all right, my son," King Dylan responded, soothingly, "but what was it that so engrossed your thoughts?"
The young man looked slightly embarrassed by this sudden attention, but knew he must answer the king's question.
"I was just thinking about this stranger here," he began. "There's something, but I don't know what, it's just that there's something different about him now. I mean, um, I think he looks different than when we, uh, first met, and that was just a short time ago. It's well, a…"
The young man had begun to stammer, before lapsing into another lengthy silence. After working through this unplanned and uneasy pause, he eventually spoke again.
"I've got it! At least I think I do, but I don't understand how it could be possible," Kieren stated, as he looked at Beraut briefly, before he continued. "When we first met in Wildoness, I could have sworn he was wearing a dark green traveling robe, one that made his snowy white hair and beard seem even whiter. But now he is dressed in a beige robe, which lessens the contrast and makes him appear paler and bleached out. I don't see how this could possibly be though, because we have never been parted, nor has he had a chance to change his garments?"
"Splendid, my dear boy," Beraut interjected, as he smiled broadly at the young man. "Absolutely splendid. How wonderfully perceptive of you to notice such a minute detail."
At this point, Beraut glanced over at the other two youths, which instantly made them feel very uncomfortable.
"I'm certain neither of your mates were able to recognize that same detail," Beraut commented, more about them than to them.
Reacting to his remark, both Garreth and Romaric's faces reddened slightly and they shook their heads, indicating they indeed had not detected this small detail. Beraut, however, paid the two elves little heed and focused on Kieren instead. Gracefully, the wizard strode over to where Kieren stood and placed his arm around the lad's shoulder, before he spoke again.
"Let me explain the change to you, my attentive friend," the wizard began. "You see, my robe is woven from a very special thread. It takes a great deal of time and much magic to create such a garment. For this reason, there are not many like it in existence. The material is absorbent in nature, which means it takes its color from the objects around it.
"In the forest, under the deep, rich green canopy of leaves," he continued, "the robe absorbed the dark emerald hue that you first noticed. Now, in this magnificent oaken room, complete with oaken furniture, it draws its color from the paler shades of the wood. However, if I were to pull my hood up over my head and draw my hands into the sleeves, the fabric will reflect the background and I'll blend in with the surroundings, something like the chameleon lizard in the Woods of Wildoness."
With this final pronouncement, Beraut did exactly as he had just described and appeared to vanish from sight. The astonished onlookers released a collective gasp as this unbelievable feat was accomplished. Kieren, however, was staring intently to see if he could detect any signs as to where the wizard might be. He even tried to discern any movement, but the effect didn't last long enough for him to be successful. Almost as quickly as the wizard had vanished, Beraut reappeared again, right in front of Kieren, which nearly scared him out of his wits.
"That was wonderful," squealed Garreth, showing he was as excited as a young child at winter solstice. "Have you other tricks to show us?"
"All in good time, my young chap, and you shall see much, much more. For now, though, we must get on with more pressing issues." Turning toward Dylan and Arielle, the wizard addressed them next. "Your Majesties, if I may have your permission to begin the enlightening process."
King Dylan nodded slightly, before he spoke. "For the great wizard Beraut, sole survivor on our behalf of the Great Council of Wizards, no permission is necessary. However, if my consent is what you desire, then you most certainly have it. Continue as you wish concerning this matter."
Beraut bowed gracefully toward the royal couple and then turned his attention back to Kieren.
"I believe it would be best if your friends were to leave now," he explained, as he eyed Garreth and Romaric. "What we have to discuss is very private and the information needs to be guarded very closely."
Kieren thought about this for a moment before he responded. "If it concerns me, then in a way it also concerns them too. We have no secrets from each other and do everything together."
"Kieren," King Dylan interrupted, "I think Beraut is correct. I suggest your friends should return to their homes now."
"Please, Your Majesty," Kieren pleaded. "I want them to stay with me. I trust them as much as I trust you and promise they won't disclose what is said here, any more than I will. Can't they please stay?"
The look on Kieren's face and the expressiveness in his eyes told everyone this was very important to him. Garreth and Romaric, on the other hand, looked totally baffled by what was going on. They were unsure if they should turn and leave or remain where they were. Intrigued by what was being said, their interest in the matter kept them frozen in place.
"Only Beraut is able to authorize your request," King Dylan informed him.
This bewildered Kieren even more. Why would this stranger have more say in the matter than their king? All eyes now focused on the wizard, as he scanned the trio. They waited patiently until he finally spoke.
"If you have that much faith in your companions, then I see no harm in their staying. They must, however, promise under pain of death that they will not divulge what they learn here and must agree not to interrupt the proceedings."
The wizard's steely eyes quickly focused upon the two young elves, almost as if he were trying to read their thoughts, as he awaited their reply. However, they did not immediately respond. After a moment, Garreth and Romaric finally realized everyone was waiting for their answer and hurriedly agreed to remain in the background. They also promised never to repeat a single word of whatever might be said.
"In that case," the wizard stated, "please sit down and make yourselves comfortable, while I fill you in about many facts you may not know. Even though you are probably unaware of this, there is an evil that pervades this land and a sorcerer who has perverted his position in an attempt to gain wealth and power. It is for this reason I sought out your king, but you are affected by this as well."
Kieren did not immediately understand how he could possibly be involved and began to open his mouth to question the wizard. Beraut, however, noticed his reaction and stopped him before he could speak.
"Just listen and I will explain," the wizard told him, in a very soothing tone. "I realize you most likely know very little, if anything at all, about this evil sorcerer and there is a good reason for it. He has bided his time since he first became a threat and has patiently waited for an opportunity to make his move. He did this because he was afraid of a prognostication made long ago by a seer who stated the following prophecy to him. 'An heir of Ethelbert shall destroy you. He will bring a power against you that will overcome all of the magic you possess.' Upon hearing this prophecy, the sorcerer felt he had to seek out and destroy all of the heirs first, before he dared to make his move.
"The sorcerer understood he would most likely live long enough to eliminate this threat completely," the wizard continued, "and still have enough time left to gain control of the kingdom. For that reason, he has chosen to take a rather cautious approach to fulfill his dream of ruling Tarolia. As the years have passed, he has opted personally to remain inactive, while sending out his henchmen out to do the dirty work. Since he has been lying low during this period, the tales of his exploits have faded from memory and are now too often considered to be nothing more than mere myth.
"Against my advice," the wizard went on, "it was decided that rather than alarm and scare the children of Tarolia into a state of frenzy, stories about this sorcerer were deliberately omitted from the history lessons. No information concerning his role in the Council of Wizards, his deceitful and dastardly rise to power or his desire to take over the kingdom would be mentioned."
At this point, Beraut paused and studied the boys' faces, to be certain they were paying attention. He wanted to determine if they understood the information he was sharing with them or whether everything was drifting harmlessly over their heads. In particular, he needed to see if Kieren had comprehended every detail he'd imparted. Once he was satisfied the teens were listening attentively and contemplating what he had to say, he resumed.
"The reasons for this were because it had long been hoped that Madumda..."
"Wait! I've heard that name before," Kieren interrupted, without even realizing he was doing so. It was just that he was unable to contain himself. "But I always assumed he was just a made up character that was used only in stories. Isn't he? You know, like the stories about the Serpent Colossus. That's right, isn't it?"
After saying this, Kieren looked at the wizard and awaited his agreement on this point.
"Kieren, sometimes the tales we tell our children do have some basis in reality and most of the stories about Madumda are true," Beraut explained. "Even though some individuals have chosen to exaggerate various facts or have embellished the tales of what happened long ago, it does not mean Madumda is the figment of someone's overactive imagination. I most adamantly assure you that he is a very real threat."
"But what I've heard about him happened so long ago that he can't possibly still be alive or a threat any longer," Kieren reasoned. "Can he?"
As he said this, everyone in the room realized Kieren was being sincere in his struggle to deal with the information currently being presented.
"I believe I understand your confusion and will try to clarify this for you," the wizard explained, in an attempt to reassure the boy. "Just as certain races, such as the elves and the dwarfs, have life spans much longer than most humans, wizards also have a similar advantage. The magical powers we possess not only allow us to perform certain feats that others can't, but it also extends our life span as well. The more magic one possesses, the longer his life expectancy. That is why those with magical ability outlive most other mortals."
"But if that is true," Kieren continued, "then why has Madumda waited so long before trying to take over Tarolia?" Kieren pressed. "I know from my history lessons that the last king lived well over one hundred years ago, so why would he wait so many years before making his move?"
"It was because he feared the seer's prophecy that I mentioned earlier," Beraut answered simply, but he was immediately able to tell that even more questions were forming in Kieren's mind.
"You mean what you said about an heir of Ethelbert killing him?" the youth asked, as he started to piece the puzzle together.
"Yes, that is precisely what put fear into Madumda's cold heart, possibly for the first time in his life," the wizard agreed. "There is an interesting tale behind how this came about, so I will share it with you now. Shortly after Madumda made his initial move to gain power, during the reign of King Ethelbert, an obscure local seer predicted his demise. This immediately angered the Dark Lord, but it also deeply troubled him. Hoping that killing the messenger would solve his problem, Madumda ordered the seer put to death for making such a brazen claim. After he had the man eliminated, Madumda then set out to make certain the seer's prediction would never come to fruition."
When the wizard paused to take a breath, the impatient lad thought he had finished his story and quickly asked his next question.
"But what did he do?" Kieren wondered.
"I was just about to tell you that," Beraut announced, with a fatherly stare.
Hearing this and noting Beraut's reaction, Kieren realized his breach of etiquette and reddened slightly. He didn't allow his mistake to bother him for very long, however, because he was just too anxious to find out more.
"As I mentioned earlier, the reason Madumda has bided his time for so long," the wizard added, "was due to the fact that the prophecy had forever linked the Royal Bloodline of the mighty King Ethelbert to it. In an extremely cautious move, Madumda has spent the intervening years seeking out and destroying anyone even remotely tied to Ethelbert's family tree. Using his magical ability, he has continually scanned the countryside to locate the heirs. Once he knew who they were and where they lived, he then sent out one of his henchmen to dispose of them. A few months ago, he slew what he believed to be Ethelbert's final heir and that's when he began his push to gain power."
Kieren stared at the wizard for a moment, as he analyzed every morsel of information he had just been given.
"I still don't see how I am involved in this," he finally stated, and his obvious bewilderment was plainly etched upon his face. "Nor do I understand what role you think I must play?"
"Be patient, my impetuous friend, and you will eventually have the answers to your queries," the wizard replied, but then he took a few seconds to reorder his thoughts before he continued. "However, this will not happen until after you join King Dylan and me, along with a small escort, as we journey to Leander, the capital of the Tarolia. A council will be held there concerning the situation with Madumda, but it will also be when you will learn more about your role in this matter."
As Kieren sat absorbing this information, Garreth and Romaric, who had been sitting quietly and patiently throughout the entire proceeding, began whispering amongst themselves. After many seconds of this private communication, Romaric suddenly rose and began to speak.
"Master Beraut, I know we promised not to interrupt this proceeding, but I feel I must speak now," he stated, quite boldly. "If Kieren is to go with you, then Garreth and I wish to go with him, as his companions and protectors. The three of us are very close, as close as brothers, and we do not wish for him to have to do this alone. Would you please allow us to accompany him?"
"Your friends are very loyal, Kieren," the wizard began.
Beraut then eyed the elves suspiciously, as he considered their proposal. Even though he was impressed by the sincerity of their demand, he knew they had no idea about the nature of the dangerous mission they were volunteering for. Therefore, he took a moment to balance these two extreme positions first. He carefully weighed their feelings of comradeship against their limited knowledge about the situation, as he considered what to do. Finally, he decided to pursue this idea further.
"Although I believe your friends are a bit rash and maybe even a little foolhardy, I can also see they mean what they say. What do you think about their request, Kieren?" Beraut wondered.
Garreth and Romaric were both slightly embarrassed and red-faced after hearing the wizard's comments, so they avoided his gaze. Undeterred, Beraut continued to stare at them. Ignoring his intense scrutiny, they turned their attention to Kieren and anxiously awaited his answer.
"I would not desire to go against your wishes," Kieren hesitantly replied, "but I would sorely miss their company and friendship if they were not with me. If they are truly willing to join us and it meets with your approval, then I would prefer they come with us."
Beraut paused for a moment to consider his response, but it didn't take long for him to make up his mind about what he was going to say.
"So be it," he answered, with considerable gusto. "It shall be as you wish."
Beraut felt that by allowing Kieren's two friends to join them, it might placate the young man and make his upcoming task more palatable. The wizard then carefully studied the two young elves and gauged their reaction to his announcement, before he continued.
"As for you, Garreth and Romaric, you may live to regret your fealty to your compatriot."
This comment unnerved both teens, but they didn't have time to consider it further, since they wished to hear what else the wizard was saying.
"We must now make some preparations, because we will need to depart at first light." Beraut now turned away from the boys and faced the elfin king, before he continued. "If that is acceptable to Your Majesty, of course."
King Dylan smiled and then spoke in a very soft voice.
"My gear has been packed for more than a week, my good friend, and I am anxious for this journey to begin.
"You, Kieren," the king continued as he turned toward the youths, "will be allowed to go home first, so you may bid your parents farewell. You must pack whatever things you wish to bring with you on this venture, but I shall warn you to be very selective about what you choose. Your food and garments for this trip will be provided for you, so you need not pack any of those items. This will be a long journey and you will have to carry all of your gear over many difficult paths, so bring only what is absolutely necessary. The weight of each additional item will increase proportionately with each passing step, so I advise you again to choose only those items you believe to be absolutely essential for travel.
"As for you, Garreth and Romaric, you shall also be sent home, accompanied by one of my couriers," King Dylan continued. "He will inform your parents of the importance of this mission and assist you in any way possible. You must also say goodbye to your families and pack your belongings for this trip, but remember the admonition I gave to Kieren regarding what you choose to bring with you. Hurry on your way, but after you have done this, you will return hither to rest for the night. This is to ensure you get a good night's sleep in preparation for this journey and it will also allow us to get an early start."
As King Dylan finished his remarks, he directed one of his servants to run to the stables and have transportation prepared for the boys. Once the servant was on his way, the king ordered another member of his court to guide the three youngsters to the location where they would meet the carriage. Then, this person was to accompany them to their homes.
It took a few minutes to calm the boys down enough to get their attention again and let them know what they were to do next. When they were finally ready, King Dylan sent them on their way. As they exited the room, the teens were talking excitedly about everything that had just transpired, while nervously awaiting what was yet to come.