BARD

Part Twenty-one                                                           August 8, 2016

 

Bran knew Jordan was a good swimmer, but he watched anyway.  As he waited he heard footsteps behind him.  He turned around to see Peter standing behind him.  His comrade smiled wanly before sitting down on the sand beside him.

“He’s decided tonight?” Peter asked in disbelief.

“I guess it’s the best chance he has, the Master gave him permission.”

Peter’s jaw dropped.  “The Master?”  Bran nodded and they both broke out laughing.

Peter chose a pebble and tossed it into the water.  “Do you think he’ll be all night?”

Bran shrugged.  “Tell me about the east,” he said.

Peter’s blue eyes dulled.  “It’s very different from here.  I grew up on a large estate.  My father was not nobility but a rich merchant.  He sold war-horses to the King’s and Dukes.

“So many nobility you would think they would fight all the time,” Bran said.

Peter sighed. “Sometimes, but rarely.  All the Kings and Dukes are related.”

Bran leaned on one elbow, intrigued by the conversation, “How?” he asked.

“The Kings and Dukes are all sons of the Emperor.”

“Well that would explain why there are so few battles, there must be very few nobility,” Bran said thoughtfully.

“Not quite,” Peter replied sadly.  “The Emperor is over two thousands years old.”

Bran gulped and asked, “How?”

“From what I’ve been told, and it may just be lore, the Emperor marries outside of his own lineage.  He always has sons with blond hair or red hair.  Those born with red hair become kings, those with blond hair dukes, I don’t know why.  His sons can only have girls.  The girls are married to the Emperor’s sons, or to the nobility lineage that existed before the Emperor became ruler.”

“Why can’t the Emperor have girls, and why can’t the sons have boys?”

Peter’s face contorted.  “I don’t know.  The Emperor never marries his own granddaughters; he always marries outside of his family.”

“Strange,” Bran said.  “The Emperor controls the entire east than?”

Peter shook his head.  “No.  There are the Orcs, the Giants, and many varieties of them, Goblins, and so on.  Elves rule most of the northern region and Dwarfs a small area along the Tshai Mountain Range.”

“When you say Giants you mean like Ballard?” Bran asked.

“Ballard is semi-giant Bran; most of the true giants are a great deal taller.”

Bran looked at Peter questionably.  His friend’s blue eyes were dark with a matter-of-fact stare. “I guess there is nothing here for the Emperor to want.  He seems to have everything already.”

Peter stared deeply into his eyes.  “Are you sure?  You don’t know of the guardian of the west than?”

“No,” Bran replied.

“The Emperor would have conquered the west long ago, if it were not for the Sphinx.”

“Who?” Bran asked.  He felt a sickening in his stomach.  All these unknown creatures made his once safe world seem open and fragile.

“I don’t know his true name.”

“Enough,” Bran said with disgust.  Images of the blueish-grey creatures zoomed into his thoughts making him shiver.   “I believe you Peter but I’m into farmland and blacksmithing…”  He froze.  “I have to go to the shack,” he said hurriedly.  “Can you stay?”  He stood up and brushed the sand from his pants.

“Maybe you don’t need to go tonight,” Peter suggested.

“I’ll check.”  Bran took off towards Ballard’s guardhouse.

He ran past the giant’s guardhouse and onto the bobbing log path.  His arms spread for balance as he continued to run but his left foot hit a stump in one of the logs and he faltered.  For a moment he swayed, his body bending forward and backwards.  He couldn’t get his footing.  “Don’t…,” he began to say to himself as he fell backwards into the marsh water.

For a moment he found himself fully submerged.  He knew better than to struggle.  The water on top was clear, but below him was mud and it would drag him under if he panicked.  He straightened his arms out to the sides until they were perpendicular to his body.  As he hoped the movement propelled him towards the log.  He kicked one foot over the log but he couldn’t lock his leg.  Still under water he was getting desperate for air.  This time he panicked, his foot hit the log but slid back into the water.  He tried to push himself through the water but he couldn’t get the necessary force.  Desperately he rolled onto his belly.  He tried to dog paddle without using his feet.  For a short distance he managed to swim with his head above the water, but the sediment clung to his clothing.  He began to sink!  With his last gasp of air he screamed, “Help!”

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