The Seeker passed from the shallow misty lake and entered the forest thick with pines. As hard as it was for her to pick her way through the low-hanging branches and undergrowth, she could always see the ground ahead for the beautiful full moon fell between the tall trees weaving a path of lacy light before her. She had expected to feel lonely, and maybe even a little afraid traveling in the dark. But she didn’t. She felt watched over, as if the Creator was all around her.
When dawn approached she stopped to break her fast and rest for awhile before moving on. She slept far longer than she intended. When she woke the sun had traveled high in the sky. Clouds were wending into the valley casting their shade over the sun’s face. It was cool. A good time to carry on. She hitched up her pack and with her staff began picking her way through the underbrush again. She could feel the forest descending and finally left it behind in a grassy valley.
The Seeker walked for what seemed a long time when she noticed something shining on the ground ahead of her. As she drew closer she saw it was a man dressed in black carrying a bundle of wands on his back. He was crouched in the dirt and gravel by a little mound apparently looking for something. He appeared hot and burden by the weight of the wands. His face was red with the exertion, but she could tell at once he was determined to find what he sought.
“Hail, friend,” she called out.
The man rose with caution, his stance ready for action. She wondered if he had been expecting someone else. But seeing her, his body relaxed and he smiled shyly.
“Good day, Seeker. What brings you to these parts of the Greater World?”
The Seeker thought for a moment. She wanted to say she was searching for the Creator, but something inside her now felt there was more to her journey than she had first believed..
“I’m seeking answers from the Creator,” she said. “I’ve been traveling for nearly a fortnight.”
“It’s pleased I am to meet you, Seeker,” the man replied with a reverence she was not used to. “I am Camus. Wand bearer for the Knight of this kingdom.”
The Seeker thought she heard the muttering of a child, but dismissed it as her imagination. She could see where the man had been digging a large hole in the ground. “What are you searching for? Perhaps I can help?”
Camus looked somewhat reluctant to continue his quest with her watching. But she was a Seeker, after all. “I’m looking for a chest. A chest of coin to be taken to the King.” He gestured over his shoulder at a large castle that sat atop a high bluff.
“May I?” she asked, pointing to the hole. Camus nodded, and dropping her pack on the ground she began digging with the end of her staff as Camus once again squatted above the hole. The Seeker could tell he was laboring with much difficulty under the weight of the wands. “Might I relieve you of some of your burden, Camus? You look much weary.” Camus smiled but declined. They were his responsibility and the Knight would not be pleased to find them in the care of another, he explained.
As they worked together there appeared the square edge of some kind of metal box. Camus pulled it from the earth and began brushing away the small rocks and dirt that covered it. The Seeker could tell the box had been there for a long while. “Who does it belong to?” she asked. “Is it yours?” But before he could answer she heard a shout. Not the murmuring she had heard before, but the shout of a man and the clang of a sword being pulled from its scabbard.
Camus dropped the box and rose to his feet. Sloughing off his bundle of wands onto the ground at the Seeker’s feet, he pulled from among them a staff with a red flag attached. He held it up and planted it firmly in the ground. The Seeker realized it was a sigil likely identifying the King to whom this domain belonged.
Another shout and the Seeker turned to see a warrior with long hair the color of moon mist dressed in green and gold and carrying five swords upon his shoulder. His arrogant smirk and threatening stance angered her.
“Well, well! What have we here?” he snarled. “This must be my lucky day. A chest of treasure AND a bundle of wands. Yet where is your Knight, you lowly commoner?”
Camus placed himself between the Seeker and the chest while the green warrior stuck three of his swords into the ground. Then with one in each hand he advanced on the wand bearer. The Seeker took her staff and held it at the ready as she moved up beside Camus, her anger filling her being. While Camus struggled to avoid the swords, the Seeker began striking him about the legs. For what seemed like forever they battled to relieve the warrior of one of the weapons when suddenly the Seeker stepped into the hole they’d been digging and fell to the ground. The misty haired swordsman turned as if to run her through, but as Camus moved to knock the sword from his hand, the warrior quickly turned instead and pierced the unsuspecting Camus in his side, his deceit obvious.
Camus fell catching the pole of the flag as he crumpled in the dirt. Instead of turning back to the Seeker who was now on her feet with her staff in her hands once more, the swordsman let out a curdling cry.
“Everyone is against me. They cannot see my merits as a defender of the realm! But I will show them. I am Theodor the Great!” And once more he stepped toward the Seeker.
“Halt, you thieving blackguard!”
The Seeker looked up to see a young Page dressed in chain mail and carrying a sword that seemed much too large for him take a defensive stance behind the warrior who turned to face his new opponent. She reached down to grab the box before it could be trampled only to realize it was gone. Lying by the flag pole Camus moaned from his wound. The Seeker fetched her pack and went to his aid wondering who these men were and where the box had gone…
© Cheryl D. Carter
Picture Credit — personal (see also www.aeclectic.net)