Kale followed the cloaked man through the darkness. The wind twirled around his face and the mists above sparkled ominously with red. The man glided across the ground toward the sheer shelves of black rock that clawed through the oppressive mists like black talons. He gripped Kale’s arm with a great force. Where is he taking me? Kale said to himself. Who is he? “Quickly.” The cloaked man said as he weaved through the darkness. “There will be more. We cannot stay out in the open.”
Kale obeyed, not daring to anger the man. He sped up quicker, almost at a full sprint. As he ran he snuck a quick glace back at Vaelon, the lights, the towers. He had awoken to those lights every morning of his life. There was a sense of loss and mourning that snuck into his eyes. They watered slightly, glistening like diamonds in the darkness, though he brushed them away quickly. He could not show weakness before this man, whoever he was.
They passed into the shadows beneath the mountain, where darkness ruled the ground. Kale could not see anything; he was blind, masked. The man though seemed to see through the thick black wall, for he led Kale through the pitch-black and onwards until Kale felt himself walk up stairs. They were small and irregular, perhaps carved into the mountainside. They wound up the serpentine stairs, until the man halted at a flat platform. Kale discerned a faint crack and he heard the groaning of wood. “Inside.” Ushered the cloaked man, pushing Kale.
Inside, it was black as pitch. How can you live in this? Said Kale. He was wronged as the man tapped on a wall with a stick seven times in a queer order. Instantly, the room exploded with light, oil lanterns flaring their hearts and torches shivering in the brisk room. In the dim ruddy light, Kale could see walls of stone and a low ceiling. There was a low and small bed laden with ravaged sheets. At the other end of the room there was a table near a crackling hearth and a counter top of stone.
The man slipped past Kale and unsheathed his black obsidian daggers, laying them on the stone table with a clink and clatter, a slight scrape screaming off the stone. He sat down, looking at Kale. Kale simply stared back. He could not show weakness. “Sit down.” Said the man, motioning toward a seat. Kale nodded and walked toward the table where he lowered himself into a seat. The stone was hard and biter under his body. Kale wondered how this man could sit on such uncomfortable seats. The man placed a lantern between them, Kale could feel the fluttering heat licking off his face.
The man lowered his hood, his face lit dimly by the flame. He had a haggard face, smeared with ash and soot. His deep brown hair was frayed and wild, cut choppily. His eyes however gleamed like a pearl, white and blue. He stared at Kale, never blinking.
“What are you boy?” He asked in a gruff and deep tone, clever and cunning. “A rebel?”
“No.” Said Kale.
“Then why were those Snatchers after you?”
Kale did not answer. He couldn’t trust this man.
The man leaned forward, raising his eyebrow, “Quiet. I see.”
“Who are you?” Asked Kale rigidly.
“Blunt too.” The man chuckled. He looked into Kale’s eyes, his face, studying him. “You’re not a rebel indeed. You’re an Arkentite.”
Kale’s eyes bulged. How did he know? How did he know what such things were? He himself did not know such term. Kale remained quite, not daring to talk.
“Shocked?” Said the man. “I could tell from your face. Your rocky expression. The lines behind that black hair of yours running through your scalp. There is no easier way to identify an Arkentite. But I must ask, why were you out of the city?”
Kale said nothing.
“Are you afraid?” Asked the man. “You shouldn’t be. I am no harm to you.”
Kale glanced at the daggers. The man swept them from the table. “They’re gone. You have nothing to fear.”
Still nothing. The man slumped down. “Tricky you are.” He said. “Has anyone ever told you that before?” They had, but Kale didn’t say it. He could not trust this man. He wanted to leave.
“Well, you should really thank me.” Said the man. “Without me you would have been dead, mist.” Kale considered, but said nothing. “I could just send you out into the Dark again, have those Snatchers catch you instead.”
“No.” Said Kale sternly. He could not be captured.
“Ah.” Said the man. “A response. Just tell me boy. Why did you run?”
“Job went wrong.” Said Kale, muttering.
“Assassin.” Whispered the man. “Should have known.”
“I was seen by a Watcher.”
The man glanced down at Kale’s leather belt. “An Arkentite without any stones. That is rare, very rare. Something did indeed go wrong. What happened?”
“I jumped out of one of the towers.” Said Kale, speaking truthfully.
“Long ways to fall.” Stated the man, nodding. “Must have fallen out in the descent. Such a shame.”
“Why did you save me?” Kale asked stiffly.
“Blunt again.” He joked. “I heard shouting. I heard you running. It is very lonely up here in the mountains. I am often very bored. I need a little spark once and a while. You follow?”
Kale said nothing. The man then leaned behind him and placed a stone on the stone table. It glinted in the ruddy torchlight. “Show me.” Said the man. “Use the stone.”
Kale looked at the stone then back up at the man. He urged him on, nudging it in front of him. Hesitant, Kale took the stone and closed his hand around it; he had never used this stone before. He began to Crush it, its power slowly flowing into his body. He could see the energy he had consumed, the feeling odd. He took it, the substance entering into his body.
He could feel the surge, then like a deep breathe of fresh air, he released the magic. The lights then dimmed, flickered and blew out and all was dark and cold. The energy drained and the magic was terminated. “Perfect.” Said the man. “A true Arkentite.”
Kale looked into the darkness. “I’ve never used that stone before. What was it?”
“Granite.” Said the man. “One of the Three Advanced Stones of Arkency.” He tapped against the stone walls again, the light flickering back to life.
Kale remembered Caza telling him about granite before. Though he had never given it to him. He wondered why he hadn’t.
“You said I was an Arkentite.” Kale said, perplexed. “What is that?”
“You’re an Arkentite and you have never been told you powers.” Said the man, astonished. “Well, boy, an Arkentite is a term used for someone who delves in the magic of Arkency, the magic of stones.”
“Are you an Arkentite?” Asked Kale.
“No.” Answered the man plainly.
“Then what are you?” Asked Kale, puzzled at how he knew so much about this.”
“A man who lives in the mountains.”
“Men who live in mountains can’t fight like you did against those Snatchers.”
The man’s face darkened. He did not reply. The roles had reversed. Kale was now on the offensive.
“You know what I am.” Said Kale.
“That is different.” Said the man deeply. “You cannot know who or what I am. I swore an Oath.”
“An oath of what.” Asked Kale, narrowing his eyes.
“I cannot speak of it.” Said the man, leaving the table. He walked jerkily to the back of the room where there was a chest, laden with scrolls and parchment. “I swore an Oath.” He whispered to himself. He fumbled through the scrolls, the parchment tumbling carelessly to the rock floor.
“What are you?” Said Kale, raising his voice. “I might be able to help you.” He didn’t know what he was saying. He just wanted to know what and who this man was.
The man sniggered, “You…help…me…”
Kale nodded, then belatedly realized what he was surrounded with. Stone! There was a small stone of slate in the corner, shinning darkly in the torchlight. He drew upon the stone, letting its power flow into his. Pulsating with the surges of the magic, he directed the force to the man, hunched over the chest. The man’s thoughts flooded into his own, reading his mind.
Kale hurried through all his frivolous thoughts, until… “You can’t.” He breathed, astounded. “They vanished a thousand years ago. You’re supposed to be dead. You are supposed to be lost.”
The man turned, his face in shadow. Kale continued, “You’re a Knight of Abelon, one of the sacred Order that disbanded.”
The man unfastened the locks on the chest with a clink and clatter, the steel singing. He slowly hefted the heavy wood ajar, the banded wood moaning deeply. From the shadows of the chest, the man lugged heavy cloths of velvet and leather and laid them along the floor. At last, he slowly brought out his great blade, sheathed in its magnificent blue scabbard. Soon after, he heaved out his sterling silver plate armor, glistening like a star.
He unsheathed the sword, sliding the beaming silver blade out from the steel sheath with a piercing scream of steel scratching against steel. The blade glowed blindingly in the man’s grasp, the sword intricately forged with magic and skill, ancient text lacing down the flat. The battered leather hilt was long and thin, tipped with a sapphire pommel that glowed from its heart. The man caressed the silky blade, his eyes closed.
“Indeed.” He said softly, remembering. “I am Ekin, Knight of the Lost Order of Abelon.”
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