The trail was like any other I had been on, that isn’t to say it was uninteresting, but if I could have gone back in time and looked at others I would say that they were similar. The path was a typical one you could find in many places around the world but for some reason I found myself on this on this one, on this day. Today wasn't any more special than any other either, since I often found myself in a similar state. But I can see you are already confused a bit. Maybe I will start at the beginning since that is always a good idea when telling a tale.
I woke up in the morning same as I often did, early. The birds were only stirring in their nests and thinking about starting their morning songs. My morning meal was already being warmed over the small fire set beside my small bed of branches and my light travel pack. This was how I preferred my life. My schooling was over and working in small odd jobs since then was never what seemed right to me. Spending all the money I had earned I purchased a ticked to the first place I had pointed to when I spun my globe back in my old room. Australia, knowing that there were a lot of places here that no one had been to or explored this fit me just fine. I was elated to be on my way as soon as time permitted.
But once again, I’m fading from the tale. There is so much to say that sometimes the order tends to get confusing even though I’m the one that lived it.
I arrived in Sidney since that was where most of my friends said I should start. Soon though I learned it wasn’t much different from other places that I had been. I took in the sites and did most things that a typical tourist would do. Watched a play, spent a few nights (and days) in the bars, partied and tried my hand at surfing but soon it all seemed the same so I took the word of a complete stranger I met in one of the bars and headed into the bush lands. “You should go to the bush lands. I think that’s where you’ll find what you’re looking for.” I didn’t even know what I was looking for? But whatever it was, the stranger said it was there. So what have I got to lose?
I hadn’t seen anyone in a few days, but that wasn’t really a problem for me, I was in love with the solitude, the open spaces and the freedom. I was however running a little low on supplies. I had been told of a small village only another half day down this trail so I figured that it would be a good time to head for it. The path wound down an old trail into a valley that seemed out of place in the drier air of the outback but I wasn’t really noticing it enjoying the fresh air and the new sites all around me. Traveling farther down the path I started to pick up on some stranger things. The ground itself slowly became more fertile, the plant life more green and I could have sworn I saw a bear. ‘A bear here, in Australia?’ I thought. No it must have been the sun and a shadow, or maybe I was hungrier than I thought since there are no bears here. A little farther down the trail after convincing me there was no way a bear could have been here, I rounded a sharp corner and tripped over something lying across my path. I picked myself up and started to brush down my clothes. I didn’t have a lot after all and what I had I wanted to keep it as long as I could. I did have money, just not a lot, and with no means to get more soon. I turned to see what I’d tripped over and found a fellow lying on the ground. I approached the poor fellow with the intent to attack him, verbally, for laying that way on a blind corner for no reason. However, as soon as I rounded on him I saw that he was in no shape for my verbal lashing. His clothes were so torn as to be almost nothing more than rags, and blood lay pooled around him. He was breathing in short and ragged bursts and I didn’t need a doctor to tell that he wasn’t in good shape and wouldn’t be here much longer in this world. What could I do? It must still be more than a few hours to town and this poor fellow had only minutes left! I rushed back to him to see if there was anything I could do, at least try to comfort him as well as I could do in our combined state! I slowly rolled him over and he moaned in obvious deep pain. I looked in his eyes and they were glazing over, his breathing was coming in ever-shorter breaths. I tried to see where the worst of the bleeding was coming from. As I searched he reached up and grabbed my shirt. In a sudden moment of clarity he looked me in the eyes and uttered one single word. Krindalor, as he lay back he grasped my hand with his. Then his eyes rolled into the back of his head and his breathing stopped. Stunned, I pulled away. There was nothing I could do it was too late. I looked around once more but there was no one else around. The birds still sang their song unabated and the noises of the forest still sounded in my ears. What had just happened? Where was his attacker? I had more questions than answers, and then I noticed that there was something in my hand. He must have put it there when he grabbed it. Slowly opening my fingers I saw a bright light flash from within my hand and I threw my arm up to shield my eyes. A warm sensation filled my hand flowing up my arm as if coursing through my blood. Slowly lowering my arm and opening my eyes for fear of the light I carefully looked to my hand.
It was still lightly glowing and I could sense the warmth still coming from it. It was a ring, not just any ring; it was in the shape of a sword. Intricate in itself bent around to touch the tip to the hilt. To work such detail into such a small thing must have taken a master craftsman that could not have come from the bush. And then I noticed something even more strangely. The blood was gone. There was none on my hand. There wasn’t any blood anywhere. With a sudden surge of energy I flung myself away from the spot, more like a backwards jump and landed a good 10 feet away. How can this be? Who was that man? What is happening to me? Running back to him I came to the corner where he lay and found there was no sign of him. The pools of blood were gone. There were no scraps of cloth and no sign of a body at all. It was as if he had never even been there, all that was left was the ring resting in my hand and the name Krindalor ringing in my mind.
This is where my story starts, my name then was Dustin, but that, like so many other things, change.
Dustin looked around himself wondering how he had gotten himself into this state. He had gone from a simple hike into the outback to standing on a trail with a mysterious sword shaped ring in his hands. He knew something different had happened but couldn’t place exactly what, where was that body? He could feel the anxiety building inside him and with it the heat from the ring slowly started to build again, what is this ring he thought? The minor distraction of the ring allowed him to focus his thoughts a little. Looking around he knew that he would find no answers where he was right now so he needed to get moving and look for some help.
He headed back to the trail and started to walk the same way he was headed before this strange experience. Everything was quiet; an eerie silence had fallen around the woods in drastic contrast to his walk before. The forest had a sullen feel almost as if the sun were behind dark clouds even thought the sky was still blue and the sun very visible. If Dustin didn’t know better he would have guessed that the woods were in mourning, the animals were silent, the trees, even the sun looked like they were taking a moment of silence. Continuing down the trail it slowly continued to slope ever farther as if walking into an immensely large valley. As the time passed, he started to wonder if it had all been a delusion or a waking dream. If it wasn’t for the ring pressing inside his pocket he might have believed it was a dream, but inside the back of his head he knew that somehow he had gotten into something more than that. After some time had passed and still not coming into any certain signs of impending habitat Dustin knew he would have to prepare for a night in the woods. This wasn’t a problem since he had been camping many times since he was a little boy. Often spending days in the woods with only the barest of essentials, but for some reason he knew that this wasn’t a night that he should be looking forward too.
Not more than thirty minutes later down the trail he came across a good spot to camp, there were some shaded trees of a variety that he couldn’t recognize and a nice flat area sheltered on one side by a large flat rock. A perfect spot on the outside edge for a small fire and not a five minute walk back there was a fast flowing creek for some fresh water. Well at least something was going right Dustin thought, with a little more lucky maybe tomorrow will be better. Dustin collected some small deadwood and branches, and some leaves refilled his water bottles and started to prepare for the night. There were plenty of rocks to build a small fire break and with the natural stone as his back he wouldn’t have to worry about too much wind or cold. He knew from long ago that it would be best to lay a small layer of greenery down as a mattress to help keep him warm so he prepared a layer from some of the surrounding trees. Standing back to appreciate his work a little in the fading light he found himself lucky to have noticed this area and thought that it was a good ending to a weird day. Dustin made himself a dinner of the last of his dried fruits and an energy bar. He slowly sipped some water to wash it down with, and lit a small fire, mostly for the light since the night hadn’t turn cold. This too was something that he hadn’t expected. Many times he had been told in the desert of the outback that nights could get cold fast, but once again this area seemed to be working against the norm. The trees weren’t right, that bear he had seen, a creek! Wait there had been a creek, in the desert areas. Dustin knew that should not have been right yet here was drinking the water from it. Well it was getting dark and he knew that soon it would be only him and the night so it would be something to ponder while on the trail in the morning.
As Dustin lay down to sleep with the stars as company he noticed that the night had cooled a little but was still not as cold as he had expected , it was beginning to look like his preparations might have not been needed. Ahh thought Dustin, better safe than sorry. While waiting for sleep to come and reviewing his oddly interesting day, the fire slowly died down and Dustin stared up at the stars. Slowly his eyes started to close as the day came to an end, his last thoughts of the night were how sharp the sky looked tonight, almost as if it were a totally different sky then the one he had grown up under.
Dustin woke with a start. The skies were still dark and the fire only embers beside him, he must not have slept for more than a few hours at most. Listening carefully and not daring to move he tried to sense what it was that had awoken him. The forest was still unnaturally silent. If he closed his eyes it felt almost like he was in a total void. His heart started to pound in his chest, this was not right. There isn’t a forest in the world that can be this quiet all the time thought Dustin. Slowly he turned and looked around, wary of this graveyard silence. Then without warning of any kind the ring in his pocket started to burn, a heat that seemed so intense it felt as though a fire were forming from its tiny circle. He drove his hand in and pulled it out to examine it. The heat from it was so lasting it was a memory still against his leg even after he removed it yet he knew that he wasn’t burned , and even with the ring in hand he felt the heat radiating yet it was normal to the touch. ‘What is this ring?’ Thought Dustin. A strange compulsion over took him and he knew that he had to put it on, there was no why, there was no what if, he just needed to wear it now. Dustin slid the ring over his second finger on his right hand and it fit as though it was custom made for him by the best jewellers in the world. Instantly the fires went out. Then there was nothing, the fires were out the compulsions gone, just the silence and the stars. Dustin stood in the dark knowing nothing of what had just happened. Then the ring started to get cold, as much as it had radiated the heat, now it was as though it was drawing the very heat from the world and turning it to cold. Deeper and deeper into itself the ring drew the very molecules of heat from around him into itself until the embers of the fire next to him even seemed to dim and flicker as if dying.
Dustin looked down at his hand wondering what was happening to the ring on his finger or even happening to him, for surely this was not a natural thing. Just when the feeling of cold could get no worse there was a flash of light. It was blinding in brightness as though standing inside the sun. Dustin stood there as though trapped in the light. And then there was nothing, as though he himself were inside a void, a white room with white light, he could see, but there was nothing to see. And a voice broke his silence. Who are you? Dustin wasn’t sure how to answer this, since he hadn’t spent time talking to nothing in a long time. WHO ARE YOU? The voice rang again even louder inside his head. Dustin tried to talk but no air left his lungs; he couldn’t speak in whatever place this was. Use your mind and answer my question, WHO ARE YOU! The voice spoke again, Dustin could tell there was obvious impatience in the voice and a hint of something else, and if he didn’t know better he would have said it was fear. Dustin decided to go along for now and thought to the unknown voice, my name is Dustin and who are you? You do not need to know my name yet, it will be known to you soon enough, how did you come to posses my ring? Again the impatience was unmistakable, and the hint of fear had turned even stronger. Dustin didn’t like how he was feeling like he was losing control over something, he had no idea where, or what, was happening to him and this voice only seemed to want answers and not offer any of its own. Now it should be known, as a general rule in his life, Dustin always tried to go with the flow. He rarely pushed people around and almost never picked fights but when he was forced to do something that he didn’t want to he always stood up and said no, and this seemed like it was going to be one of those times.
'I won’t be answering any of your questions unless you are willing to answer some of mine' thought Dustin. There was an eerie silence that built up around him, the voice, the presence seemed to be weighing time the sense of fear building higher and with a flash as bright as before the white room was gone. But in the instance before it did Dustin saw a figure in the back of his mind, it was one he had seen before but only at a glance, however this time it was clearer. It was as if it were a bear, a Grizzly but larger than normal standing a full fifteen feet tall and broad in the shoulders three times that of a normal man, and standing on its hind feet like a man. The bear wore skins that were like an armor of a kind Dustin hadn’t seen and they were marked with runes that glowed dimly. He and Dustin knew that this wasn’t just any animal, it was something more, much more. And it had a look in his eyes that showed a power unlike anything Dustin had seen before. Those eyes they almost glowed with the power that was locked away behind them. The intelligence there was unmistakable and unforgettable. Whatever was happening to him Dustin knew that this wasn’t an ordinary trip in some backwoods anymore. And as soon as the image was seen, it was gone, a memory fixed in his mind forever.
He stood alone again next to his dying fire. The air once again had a mild coolness to it and the stars shone around the sky as if the last moments had been nothing but a dream. Dustin looked down to his hand and watched the small cold glow from the ring fade away till it too was only a ring.
Dustin’s sleep that night was full of dreams however none of them like the first waking dream he had had. There were only fragments of pictures and things he couldn’t understand. And shortly after waking they faded from his grasp as dreams often do. Dustin woke feeling tired, his night had been totally uneventful after the dream but the memory of that figure, or bear, or man. Whatever it was had stuck in his head and the sense of power it held and the sense of hidden fear. What could something like that be afraid of, and how and why was it interested in me? Thought Dustin. But he knew that the answers weren’t going to be found where he was now so Dustin picked up his few meagre supplies he had left made sure that the fire that had burned out over the night was completely out and tried to remove all permanent traces of his camp for the night as best he could.
Continuing down the trail the same way as the night before he soon started to see signs of a more human nature , the trail was ever slowly getting wider as though there was more traffic on it and once in a while he thought he saw tracks from what looked like a horse or a larger beast of some kind , he was knowledgeable of many kinds of animals and had learned much about wildlife in his travels but while what he saw sometimes looked like a horse print there was something off about it , it was a little larger than most he had seen and the shape didn’t seem quite right. However after his waking dream last night he wasn’t overly surprised with this, it was starting to seem like everything in this area wasn’t exactly like he had thought it was going to be like. No more than two or three hours later Dustin had been daydreaming while walking and often wasn’t sure of how much time passed he came to a small fork in what now was definitely to be called a road. And on that corner there was a small pole with a poorly crafted wooden arrow pointing one of the directions and scratched into it was one word "Anthos". Now before coming here Dustin had often gone over maps of the area's he had wanted to explore and towns in the area but no-where in any that he could recall was one named Anthos, but the people in the last town had told him that there was something he should see, and this seemed like the only town he was going to find so it was starting to look like his decisions were being made for him. Not to mention that it must be around noon and his few travel rations were all but gone and no amount of water , even as fresh and good as the kind he got last night from the stream was going to keep him full for long. Dustin could only hope that it wasn’t much farther or he might have to try his hand at a bark and grass stew, and since Dustin knew it wasn’t edible, he wasn’t looking forward to that at all.
Not more than forty-five minutes down the road he came around a corner and started to hear sounds of a civilization muted in the distance. ‘At last’ thought Dustin maybe I can get some food, and maybe even a few answers to some questions that had started popping into his mind while he had the time to walk and think. Getting closer to the sounds he started to pick up more of what was going on. There was a dull sound in the background that was like a large group of people talking. He could hear a river or large creek flowing nearby and it was getting stronger as he got closer to where he thought the town must be. ‘This must be some of that water that I drank last night too’ wondered Dustin. While in the background there was a sharp sound, metallic, a constant steady pounding. No, it was more of a striking sound a hammer hitting metal. As Dustin walked over a small crest, there it was a hamlet for it couldn’t be called much else. There were about nine or ten buildings in a rough form of a circle , none of them overly large holding maybe three or four rooms each with the exception of one, that had the sound of a smithy’s with the constant ringing of metal to metal beating a steady pulse into the air. In the middle of the town there were about thirty or forty people all standing around talking and waving their arms around , some of them looked even like they were in a more heated conversations while others were grouped up and almost looked hushed and seemed to talk in whispers to each other. Whatever was going on in this place it was looking like something big had happened and once again Dustin was going to be walking into a mess that he had no control over. Slowing his pace, after all whatever was going on here he didn’t want to just barge into the middle of it he started to walk closer to the middle of town, after all there didn’t seem like there was any where else to go here it being so small. He would have to try and find what he needed here one way or the other. Dustin started to look more closely at the people in the distance, and as he walked closer he noticed something more than a little odd , thinking that there would be aboriginals or at least people with darker tanned skins he saw that for the general part these people were all fair in color , more like a European skin color , and as he got within range of their conversations and things were starting to come clearer to his ears unlike the drone of voices from far there was one more distinct difference Dustin hadn’t expected, everyone, had pointed ears! Sloped back at the top they rose about 2 inches taller than most and came to a rounded point. Glancing around the crowd Dustin noticed that there wasn’t a single person shorter than him. On an average everyone there was a head taller if not even more. Not a second after seeing this and the look of shock still on his face the whole group of people standing in front of him all came to an instant stop in their conversations as his foot broke a dry twig on the ground with a load snap. All the heads spun at once toward him and the sudden silence was a shock to the area, the only sounds were the sharp ringing of the hammer in the background, constant and steady.
It felt like hours, with what must have been the whole town stood staring at him although Dustin was sure it was only a moment or two. A man pulled away from the crowd, he looked to be in his mid to late fifty’s and walked up to Dustin, ‘Who be ye ?’ asked the older gentleman. ‘My name is Dustin’ he replied, the man stood there a minute as though in contemplation, as though looking for his next words carefully. ‘My name is Zanthin’ he said, ’I’ve never heard the name Dustin before, where are you from?’ he asked next. Dustin paused to think, it was obvious something was a little different here but it appeared that he wasn’t going to have much choice. One way or another Dustin was going to have to get some help from here or it was going to be a long hard trip back the way he had come. Dustin decided that he would be honest for now and be as respectful as he could be. 'I’m from Canada' he said,' British Columbia'. Again he paused; the look on Zanthin's face was one of confusion, so Dustin offered a little more. 'You know, North America, he said, it’s a little far from here of course but imp sure that you have seen someone from there or heard of it before.' Zanthin's eyes took on a look of confusion, almost as though the more Dustin spoke the more confused Zanthin got. Zanthin took a deep breath and said , 'I don’t know any of those places you have spoke of but I will admit that my travels have not been many , I’ve heard of places over the seas but have not gone there myself. So what is your business here and with us' Zanthin asked? Dustin paused for something had changed; he had expected a bit more then what he was seeing here. Some shops, maybe a small tourist outlet, cars. But as far as her could see there wasn’t even any of these things , even looking around he saw no power poles , no paved roads, the houses were of the most basic , rough cut wood with clay roofs. It was a town that held no technology, at least none that he could see from where he stood. ‘Well’ Dustin said ’I’m really just passing thought I guess, I was hoping to see some of your sights and to pick up some more food for my travels.’ Zanthin stood there in contemplation again weighting his thoughts, ‘We don’t have much here to offer he said, as you can see we are a small town, and there isn’t a lot here for travelers.’ As I’m sure you noticed there is unrest here and strangers are not exactly welcome right now. I think you might want to just turn around and head back. Now Dustin knew that in his current state he wouldn’t last more than a couple days without some food so he was going to at least solve that before he decided to head anywhere. His stomach was rumpling fairly loud even as he stood in front of Zanthin and was a little surprised it wasn’t being heard by everyone behind him. 'Now wait a minute' said Dustin,' I am going to need to buy at least some food to travel on , if you can’t offer me any here is there another town close by where I might be able to purchase some? I do have some money.' Zanthin's eyes lit up a little at the mention of money and he took a small step forward. 'Well' he said 'if you have money then maybe we can work something out, but I will need to see it of course. Dustin knew that he shouldn’t go around flashing wads of cash to people so he decided that it would be in his best interests to show a small token amount before he let the whole town know that he had more than a few dollars in his pocket so he took out a twenty that he had set aside in one of his outside pockets and handed it to Zanthin. The look of bewilderment on Zanthin's eyes was one you rarely see in the world as he raised the paper up to take a closer look at it. Zanthin asked, 'what is this? You said you had money, yet you hand me this paper?' Now it was Dustin's turn to be confused, in his travels he had sometimes had trouble changing his Canadian to other bills but at least everywhere he went people knew what it was at least. The other town folk had started to talk again to themselves in whispers and often snuck glances my way. Zanthin looked at Dustin waiting for a response to a question that he had no idea how to answer. Dustin stammered, ‘Well its money, I know it’s a little different from most but I can assure you its real.’ Zanthin reached into his pocket and the ringing of coins could be heard from inside, he pulled out some change and showed it to Dustin. ‘This’ he said ’is money’ and in his hand where piles of coppers , silver and one or two gold coins all cut in different sizes according to their worth. Dustin reached out to take one of the coins and as his hand got close Zanthin leapt away from him tossing the coins in the air. ‘Where did you get that ring he exclaimed?’ And stood away from Dustin in a guarded position, one would almost describe it as a cat ready to strike out. The stranger, the body, the dreams, these people and their slightly different ways, their ears, it all rushed back to Dustin at once and he suddenly remembered that something was going on here that wasn’t of the norm. A sudden sense of fear started to creep up his spine and he knew his next words would have to be chosen with great care. The town’s people moved closer and all of them seemed to move with the same catlike grace Dustin had seen in Zanthin. Slowly they all circled around Dustin and glanced from his face to his hand in an attempt to get a better look at the ring. Now while Dustin was no slacker when it came to fighting, he had taken wrestling courses in college and done some fencing and a little kickboxing, even he knew that against forty others he stood no chance at all in breaking free should things take a turn for the worse. Zanthin asked again, but this time there was a darker note in his voice, ‘Where did YOU get that ring. Dustin stood his ground and knew that without knowing more his best plan would be to stick with the truth, but he would try to gloss over it as much as he could, he didn’t need murder charges in a town like this! I got it off a stranger back down the path about two days back Dustin said. Zanthin slowly shook his head , no , he said , that is not the truth , I will ask you one more time , and punctuating every word with a gliding step closer he asked , 'WHERE DID YOU GET THAT RING!' Dustin and Zanthin were no more than two or three steps apart now and Zanthin was still in a slightly hunched position, poised to spring if the need be. There was no way to handle this thought Dustin I will have to take yet another chance. 'What I said is true' said Dustin 'but there is more, I was walking down the trail and there was a broken and bleeding body on the trail. I checked him and found him to be dying from his wounds and as he said one last word to me he thrust this ring into my hand.' Zanthin eyed Dustin suspiciously and opened his mouth to speak, 'what is the word he said to you, and speak it true or it may be the last thing you say.' As he said this a curved dagger appeared in his hand in a flash and he held it before him poised to strike , Dustin paused only a moment and said in a steady voice ,' Krindalor' , and steadied himself to be ready to fight for his life. Zanthin stood still and there was a sudden intake of breath from all around him as the whole of the villages gasped in shock. Only Zanthin seemed unphased by this as he slowly put his dagger back. Zanthin stood straight again and slowly stepped up to Dustin, putting his hand on his shoulder he looked down at him and said ‘I know you tell the truth for there is no-way a stranger could know that name and hold the ring. In the speech of the ancient ones it means Guardian, and with that ring, that is what you have become”.
At that same moment the ringing from the smithy came to an abrupt stop and from out the wide double doors a man came slowly walking out , he turned towards the crowd in the center of town with a look of almost disgust on his face, and again slowly walking toward the group. Dustin wasn’t a small man easily hitting the six foot mark himself but this giant of a smith towered a foot over him with ease , his chest was bare and he wore a pair or leather pants that did little to hide his monstrous legs. His arms were easily twice the size of Dustin’s if not even three times the size and in his muscular hands he held not one but two smithy hammers that must have been at least fifteen pounds each. As he walked over to where Dustin and Zanthin stood the rest of the villagers slowly parted for him. The crowd moved back as soundlessly and with an ease that made it very clear that this smithy was someone not to be trifled with. His pace showing a grace that was very unusual for someone as large as himself he walked right up to the two men and stood silent a moment studying Dustin carefully. The whole town waited for him to speak even Zanthin stood a step away, not in fear but more in a respect and stood silent watching both men carefully. Then with a voice deep as the caverns of the earth the smithy spoke, ' He will stay with me' And slowly turned to walk back to his shop, Dustin stood confused, 'that’s it?' he thought. Only a few paces away the smithy slowed again and looked over the crowd and said in that same deep voice ' You all have better and more important things to do then stand around gossiping like old women. You have the answer you were looking for now go and tend to your own.' And then he turned his head back to Dustin and said 'Follow' and continued back to the smithy.
Dustin stood in confusion, things were happening around him and he wasn’t the least bit aware of what. He knew that this exchange between himself and Zanthin was important in some way but nothing was being changed he was being dragged along in a current that he had no idea where it was taking him. Answers were what was needed and it seemed his best chance right now was going to be in following the smithy so with a shrug of his shoulders to resettle his pack he stepped forward and followed him inside.
Once inside and Dustin’s eyes had adjusted to the light he watched as the smithy lovingly placed his hammers back on the wall. Looking around he saw tools of all shapes and sizes, files, hammers, and anvil that must have taken four men to lift. Armor of all shapes and sizes were racked along the walls and there were weapons as well. Swords, pole arms daggers and maces were hanging from racks on racks. Back home Dustin had never seen anything like this, he had seen a few items here and there , mostly in novelty shops and the like but an armoury this large in a place like this was unusual again. Dustin must have been staring a while since the smithy was standing and looking at him with an amused expression on his face almost one of mirth. Then he openly smiled at Dustin and said ' my name is Jeric Bearnard but just call me Jeric, I’m sure that by now you have some questions but I’m going to ask you to wait. If I were to try to explain all I know right now we would never be able to sit and eat, and I have a few questions for you as well.’ Dustin felt the rumbling in his stomach and knew that it was loud enough for Jeric to hear as well and agreed that this might be a very good idea and followed Jeric through a side door he hadn’t noticed into what must be the living area of his house. Jeric ducked thought the door frame that was a little lower than his head into a cozy dining area and started to rummage through the counters pulling breads and cheeses from hidden areas and placed them onto the small table in the centre of the room. Jeric slowly sat at the table with a low groan and waved Dustin over to sit as well.
'Where to start' said Jeric , ' You are a Guardian now it would seem , and I’m betting that you don’t know what that is or what it really means so I will do my best to explain it. At least so you can start to have some answers’ Dustin sat down and broke off a small bit of cheese , more intent on the story then on his faded hunger. ' The guardians have been around longer than anyone can remember , storeys of them have been passed down and written in tales for longer than most can remember , however lately they are being hunted down' Jeric moved himself around in his chair , obviously uncomfortable with something. Jeric raised his hands to forestall any questions as Dustin moved closer. 'What I can tell you are only of the basics but perhaps my daughter can tell you more when she returns. She had some business and had to travel for a few weeks but she is expected back in a few days. The guardians were formed to help keep rule over our land. No-one has ever kept a good track how many there were but up until lately there were always around ten known to be traveling the lands. Lately that has been changing as they have been hunted down and murdered, the gathering you witnessed when you entered into our town was because of one of these murders. Zanthin is our town Druid and he felt the passing near by a few days ago. ' WAIT ', Dustin proclaimed ’ did you just say Druid?’ there are no druids in the world , I have read about them in old Europe around the fifteen hundred's but there hasn’t been a druid around for real in longer than anyone can remember , even people aren't sure what Stonehenge is about , they thought it was druids but who knows anymore.' Jeric looked at Dustin and said ' I don’t know these names you speak but yes I said Druids , I myself hold a small part of the magic's used and often employ it in when I am working in my smithy but Zanthin knows more then I and the Guardians it is said hold ten times that of even Him.' 'MAGIC? ' said Dustin , that’s unheard of , no , I can’t believe it , we have people that claim to do magic but it’s always a trick or some science feat. Jeric looked at Dustin and said 'let me show you, maybe it will help you to believe' He walked over to a cupboard and pulled out a candle and handed it back to Dustin. 'Look at this and tell me if it appears to be something other than a candle.' Dustin held it up and examined it carefully it was a soft wax that looked like it would burn faster than most but and appeared to be handmade and it was only a candle. Dustin started to hand the candle back to Jeric but he raised his hands in the air and said ' Put the candle down on the table standing it upright and watch it carefully.' Dustin did as he was instructed and lowered his hands down to his sides, leaning back a little in his chair he put all his concentration into the candle and watched it carefully. Jeric stood away from the table and also stared at the candle. His eyes took on an internal fire as his glare fixed on the top of the candle and his fingers began a dance in the air. His lips parted and in a silent tongue heard to know one but himself. He spoke in a language unheard of for thousands of years. As Dustin watched the candle with intent he felt the ring once again go cool on his hand not as cold as the time before but a slight chill, only a touch of ice. And in one second the candle was still and lifeless and the next it flared into life and sent a flickering light around the room that had gone dark with the arrival of night. 'That could be any parlour trick ' said Dustin, 'you will have to show me something else for me to believe this.' Jaric nodded as if he had expected a response like this. 'Clear your head of all thought please and look only at the candle and I will attempt to show you another skill, although it is a harder one for me to do.' Dustin did as he was instructed and again looked to the candle. Jaric sat down across from him and again stared into the candle. Slowly and in that deep voice of his he started to whisper again in the unknown language and his fingers danced a dance to quick to watch. Dustin's ring started to grow cold again like before and with a flash the room was gone and Dustin stood staring at a vision of Jaric although he seemed more blurred around the edges. Then with an equally bright flash it was gone and they were both back at the table staring at the candle. Jaric let out a deep breath and said ' this one is harder for me to do and I can only hold it for a while, but sometimes we use that spell to communicate with each other.’ Dustin didn't know what to say, somehow he knew that he had just seen magic and this act that was so simple for Jeric had put even more questions into his mind then it had answered. Jeric sat with the candle still burning between them and the fires in his eyes slowly faded out as he looked on at Dustin and waited a minute before speaking again. "These are small things that I do, I have a few other skills but in all they are minor in the arts of magic. The first one skill helps me with the work I do in the forge, you saw the weapons and armor there. This skill known as inner fire helps me heat the metal hotter than other smiths and with my own tempering skills I can create steel that is harder than most others. However you might have noticed that I must use all three parts of the druidic magic, I must concentrate, speak the words and use my hands to cast the spells. That is why I am considered the lowest end of druids, the Elementalists, we are the most common of them all and only able to do the most rudimentary spells. Zanthin is a Vocalist, he has learned to do magic without the gestures and can use his mind and voice. The last are the Druidic Mage and there are very few of them, their mind alone is all they need to focus their magic.’ Dustin sat back again in his chair, thinking this was all too unbelievable. Not moments ago he had been safe in his beliefs of a world without magic where science ruled and now in this small village his beliefs were all thrown asunder and here a smithy he had just met performed magic that no-one back home could do if there life was dependant on it. Dustin looked from the candle to Jeric and back again, unsure where to start. 'Where do I fit into this?' Dustin asked. Jeric looked deep into his eyes and said ' That is dependent on you , only time will tell how your place here will be, I can help you get started but the answers that I don’t have, you will have to find somewhere else. However if you aren’t too tired from your journey I would like to ask you a small thing myself?' 'Of course' replied Dustin. 'Allow me to bring another candle and then I would like to ask you to try what I have just done.’ Knowing that he had never knowingly cast a spell himself Dustin thought this to be more than a little foolish but he nodded his head in agreement anyway. Jaric stood and collected a second candle and placed it in the middle of the table, moving the lit one off to one side. 'Now I will not tell you what to do but simply try to make the fire appear on the candle.' Jaric said. Dustin thought this increasingly foolish but considered anything worth a shot even once so he stared hard at the wick and tried to imagine a fire building up inside it. Unbeknownst to him Jaric watch his eyes with great intent and slowly saw the fires building inside them. Dustin continued to stare at the flames and once again felt the ever so slight chill build into his ring, at the exact same time and without warning the candle faired to light and consumed itself in a small burst of fire. Jaric leapt from the table and grabbed a bucket of water. Throwing it onto the table to douse the flames he stepped back and said ’ I am sorry that was foolish of me , however I had to know , you are a Druid , I had thought as much, you will make an excellent guardian , Caedmon choose well in passing his ring to you.’
Dustin stared at Jaric 'Who is Caedmon he asked?' A shadow of confusion passed over his face for a moment before responding. 'Caedmon, he left here a few days ago. He was the former owner of your ring, he told us he was looking for his successor. He stated that he knew his time was close and the ring would be passed on very soon. He was a lot like you I believe, strong in the druidic powers. Or as strong as I have a feeling you will become, he mumbled.' Dustin didn’t know what to say, 'I think I know now who you are talking about, I didn’t have a change to get his name, he was already dying when I found him on the trail. His last act was to pass me the ring, speak the one work, and then he died. ‘I’m sorry.’ Jaric lowered his head and was quiet for a while. Dustin sat unsure what to say and just as he was about to speak Jaric raised his head again in his low rumbling tone he slowly began to sing in a voice deep and mourning. As his song continued Dustin heard other voices joining in outside. Slowly he stood and walked back to the door and opened it up. Beyond the door, standing around outside their homes the whole village had raised its voice in song. Jaric's low voice was drowning amidst an ocean of voices all carrying the same tune. Dustin noticed like before as he had been walking before he came to this village that everything else had gone quiet, even the stars above had dimmed there light as if in mourning. Dustin listened for a short while then slowly walked back into Jaric's house and stood behind the table watching Jaric. Slowly Jaric lowed his head again as his part in the song came to an end and one by one Dustin could hear the songs outside wink out as voice after voice ended there part of the whole. As the last voice ended the song the lights slowly came back up and the stars took on their normal shine although it seemed as though they were slightly dimmer. Jaric walked over to his cupboards and grabbed a large bottle, carrying it to the table he lowered two glasses handing one to Dustin. Pouring out the deep red liquid he filled both glasses and pushed one over to Dustin. 'Drink' Said Jaric, 'we will no longer mourn Caedmon but do our best to remember him for what he has done for us. Dustin nodded since he didn’t know what to say having not known Caedmon but raised the glass to his lips and drank deep. As the liquid slid down his throat Jaric started to tell Dustin his memories of Caedmon but Dustin couldn’t seem to be able to keep his head up and slowly with a dull thud it hit the table.