Saturday, May 28, 2011

Untold Deeds

Before he was known as the Conqueror of Bastillo, the Miracle Maker, the Fire of Dumas; before he was recorded in the Deeds of Heroes, the Folklore of Baan; before all this, there was an untold tale of Kar. The legendary hero, known throughout the continent, the subject of song and poetry, had another adventure, one that he kept in his memories throughout his life. Remembered only by a few, the tale was forgotten, only rediscovered here in the Untold Deeds.

Kar grew up the son of a blacksmith. With many older siblings, Kar received little attention. In the village of Torque, on the island of Gastro, there were many little children Kar's age. Kar like to sneak away from his tasks, preferring to run among the children of the village. With his nimble limbs he trampled upon the earth. With his crafty mind, he awed the children of the village and led them through trouble and fun. Kar was favored among the young and despised by the older children.

During his 14th year, the lords of Gastro brought attention to the emerging warlords of the north. From the land of North (the people of Gastro had no name for the land), raiders had already struck three towns and were heading for Torque. The 130 inhabitants, undecided about their course of action, had a meeting between the people of power.

The strongest warrior of Torque, bigger than everyone else except for the father of Kar's friend spoke. "There is only one path for us. We are people of Torque. In the days long ago, our fathers fought against the beasts of the island to create this village for us. Will we throw this all away? No, we have the pride of our fathers in us, we have the strength of them in us."

Kar's father, experienced in the handling of metals, reluctantly replied, " We people of Torque have pride in ourselfves. How can we not? But we have not fought anyone for decades. We have only 26 able men among us here. The rest are children and women. They have 100 experienced men. What can we do here? I am not a coward, but I am putting the lives of everyone first."

"Don't forget about Gale's wife! She can wield that pitchfork better than these sons of mine!"

Laughter spread throughout the house, for everyone knew the temper and strength of Wyn. Among the men of the village, only six could beat her in strength. Wyn, present in the meeting, chuckled in recognition of her ability. Gradually, the seriousness returned.

"We would be betraying the land of our fathers if we left. Our houses, the domain of our dominance, our land, the life that we've toiled for, will we leave that all for these savages? No! If we are truly the people of Torque, we will defend it. Carol, you've made weapons before in the past for the men in Promutin. You can make them again. We will defend Torque today!"

The arguing went on for only a short while, for it was the elder Brom who spoke. Brom was the only one among those in the meeting who had actually been in combat. In his youth, he journeyed to other islands and worked as a mercenary, eventually earning the name Flash of Rondall. After coming back to small Torque, Brom was revered as a hero, and his words were regarded higher than anyone elses.

Kar, the nimble trickster, had been silently listening to the discussion all day. While the other children played, oblivious to the danger, Kar had snuck into the room and hid among the other rooms of the house, moving whenever someone came close to finding him. And now, with the fun finally gone, Kar rose up, excited at the prospect of recognition.

"Elder Brom is wrong,"

Silence drifted into the room. Who would dare to question Elder Brom?

"Boy, you are Kar, son of Carol? I would have never noticed except that my grandson came home the other day all bloodied by you. What did you say just then? Carol, haven't you taught the boy manners yet? No discipline at all in this one. His brothers were better behaved," Brom drummed.

"Elder Brom, you are wrong," Kar interrupted before his father could respond. "You elders like to tell tales of heroes and battles. But right now, you ignore them as if they were irrelevant. They were true, weren't they? If so, then we should not fight directly with them, and we should not run away amd desert this place either. The Hero Ronan could not defeat the Monster of the Evil Den and asked for help. Why don't we do the same? I'm not talking about from the other towns. They won't come to our aid. I'm talking about Sarrow, the old man living in that cottage. He's good with magic, you know?"

Kar had discovered the cottage by accident one summer. Trying to find new hiding places, he stumbled upon the cottage and knocked. Inside was an old man, living alone and without luxury. After the first encounter, Kar came back a second time, for the old man had a certain charm about him. On the fourth occasion, Kar saw the old man mending the door without tools. It was magic, and the old man did it on purpose, perhaps nostialgic about past glory. Kar asked the old man to teach magic. Seeing in Kar the ambition and curiosity of an untamed beast, the old man declined. Furious, Kar left, promising never to return again. But every once in a while, Kar snuck near the cottage and listened to the old man mumble those magic words.

"Never speak of that man." Brom was not loud, but his tone produced an oppressive ring that could overpower any scream. "He is an outcast, a plague on everything we live by. I would rather die than come to him for aid."

The voting was done. The village would stand and fight. Kar, angry at the embarrassment he suffered, made his way to the cottage. He knocked. The old man opened.

"Little Kar, I know what you have come here for. They won't accept my help. Not now, not even when they are dead,"

"You're wrong." Kar felt more confident as he continued to look at the power in Sarrow. "I'm not asking you to help them. I'm asking you to help me get rid of those raiders. You may be old, but there are always those stories of old wise men whose magic grows stronger as they age. They can't all be fake. You have the power and the strategy to beat them."

Sarrow did not reply but continued looking at Kar. Taking a gamble, Kar said, "I know that you want to. You don't want to live in this old house forever. You still crave adventure and glory. Well, this is your chance. Let's go. Show yourself that you still have power enough to do great things. I've heard you mumbling those spells, and you always sigh at the small magic that you do. The Hero Ronan came back from old age and fought the war for the king, didn't he? So can you."

Sarrow went into the house. Kar waited and waited. Sarrow did not return. But Kar was patient; he knew that he broke through Sarrow's stubborness. He was young and healthy, capable of waiting forever. Finally, Sarrow emerged from the house with his staff of power.

"Little Kar, let's go then. This time there will be no one to stop my magic. You were right; I don't want to go out as an old hermit. I want to go out in a bang, with the people singing praises about me. Only this time, there is no one to sing praises. No one will want to see me."

"You don't need them. You have me! I know how to write, you know. And whatever I see, I will write down. You will be remembered by me. And I will spread your tale to the lords of Gastro, so don't worry about going out with a bang. You'll receive more praises than Aldin did when he single-handedly robbed those rich lords in Ardin!"

With laughter they left the cottage. Instead of going towards the village, Sarrow lead Kar towards a different path. Kar did not question the old man. This was the adventure of a lifetime to him. He was finally going to see great magic. All his life he heard tales of the great magic of men. Today, he was going to see it in action. Finally, they reached a tall peak in the land. Straight ahead was the great ocean and the five ships waiting to head inland.

"Kar, in my house, there is a letter by my bed. Take it and the bag on top of it. It's not much, but I want you to have it. Inside, you will have enough to go to Honbrosia and take a ship there to Kaja. Bring the letter to the red house, and you will learn the magic you want."

Silence became the distance between them. "Sarrow," Kar finally said. "Why? What if I don't want to go?"

"I see in you, Little Kar, the curiosity that I once had. I see greatness in you, and I'm damn sure that you want more in your life than to live with those old fools. Leave them, they will still be here if you decide to return. But the knowledge of magic, that comes only to those who are talented. You hang onto those stories of yours like they were the most important thing in your life. Well, why don't you live as a hero and have stories written about you? Doesn't that sound better?"

Smiling, Kar nodded. The chance of a lifetime, it was here in Torque all along. Kar waited for Sarrow to act, and Sarrow did not disappoint. No longer did he mumble and whisper. This time, he yelled his mighty words into the wind. His eyes drew the path for the magic, and his hands weaved the creation of power. In all of this, Sarrow finally said, "Look to the sea!"

Eyes glued onto Sarrow, Kar responed to Sarrow's command and looked. The mighty frames of those ships fell apart. The men were stranded in the middle of the ocean, trying to move towards land. Suddenly, the water rose from the ocean and swallowed the men, drowning them in the depths of the ocean. Then the ocean became quiet. Nothing remained, not even the remains of the ships, for Sarrow had placed a spell to make them heavy.

Elated beyond anything he had ever felt, Kar turned to Sarrow, ready to yell out in victory. But the old man was as still as a stone. He was leaning on the staff, and not even the wind could make him stir. Kar touched the old man and felt only the coldness of an empty body. The old man was gone. All of his power had been used up to save Torque. Promising to record the last glory of Sarrow, Kar headed off to the cottage.

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