The Journey of Secrets Book 1 (2)

I am hard at work rewriting the first book in the series. With only two months to go till the second book makes its entrance its all hands on deck for me.

If you missed the first part of chapter one you can find it here. Another indication would be the number two in the title of this post. If you have not read (1) do not proceed.

Enjoy

JR

Continued from The Journey of Secrets Book 1 (1)

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The morning came quickly and as the sun rose once more over the peaceful Kingdom, elves watched in awe as the seven Kings and Queens of Aldour made their way inside the huge gates and into the castle’s courtyard where a giant statue of a unicorn stood majestically, rearing up with its hooves carving the air, standing as a symbol of remembrance and hope. The Elders of the Kingdom were awaiting their arrival and stood waiting on the high end of the stairs that led up to the castle. It was a strange day in the kingdom as a meeting of this magnitude rarely happened.

“I wonder what they are doing here?” a young elf asked as he took hold of one of the horses’ bridles, leading him into the stables.

“You always wonder Merk, and it has never done you any good,” Asalis said smiling, “Remember the time you decided to tag along on a quest into the desert, nearly getting yourself captured? The King was furious,” his friend reminded him. “So please don’t get any ideas.”

“That was long ago, and besides I’m sure we can have a look and listen to what is being said; elves around here make good trades for information and I could do with one of those magic kits they sell at the alchemy tent.”

“Oh, and you’re just going to walk into the castle, not knowing where they went? How are you planning on getting past the guards?” Asalis asked, frowning.

“Let’s just say I know my way around the castle; this will not be the first time I am doing this, you know. You really have to develop your sense of adventure, Asalis, otherwise, you’re going to end up a stick in the mud like old lady Grims,” Merk laughed as he closed the stable door looking at his friend.

 

Merk was nearing the age of sixteen and had gotten used to growing up with his father as his only source of guidance; his mother passed away when he was still young, leaving Merk’s father to raise him on his own. His dark hair and blue eyes were all he had inherited from his mother; his sense of adventure came from his father, a trait that he at times both regretted and sympathized with. Merk and Asalis were like two bad apples in the city, always causing trouble. Most of the time the trouble had nothing to do with Asalis, but rather an idea started and carried out by Merk, therefore, Asalis always seemed to find himself in the wrong place, at the wrong time.

Asalis was the son of Mergon, a local lumberjack who worked mostly outside the city during the day. Upon his return to the city at night he would sit and listen to Asalis go on about Merk, and what they got up to that day. He knew his son was lonely because his thirst for knowledge and study of the ancients had made him a freak to some of the children, but he was proud of his son’s studiousness. Merk accepted Asalis for who he was and that was enough for Mergon to accept him too, regardless of the tight situations the children sometimes found themselves in.

 

“Okay we can take a quick look, but if anything happens because of your reckless taste of adventure, I will never set foot outside these walls again, not to mention what Jorim would do to you!” Asalis warned.

“My dad is basically the King’s right-hand man,” bragged Merk, “so if anything, I should have every right to come and go as I please. Now come on, let’s go before we miss the whole thing,” Merk said.

Asalis struggled to keep up as he ran past the bustling market which came alive each morning with the smell of freshly baked bread, and vibrant colors from the fields where each day people would spend hours picking their produce. The stall keepers watched carefully as the children ran past the carts as they were very familiar with the two trouble makers. They had also become used to the outlandish stories of the pair’s tricks as they traveled through the city.

 

“Over there!” Merk said, pointing at a passage leading to the back of the castle. Asalis followed nervously along as a distinct smell crossed his nose.

“You’re not taking me where I think you’re taking me?” Asalis asked.

“No our date will have to wait I’m afraid,” Merk replied smiling. “But yes, if the sewage entrance is the place you’re thinking of then you’d be right.”

“Are you serious? We’re not getting into the castle by going in there, no one goes in there for a very good reason,” protested Asalis, wrinkling his nose. “It smells like shit!”

“Asalis are you coming or not? It will be perfectly alright, we not going to be swimming in it, we just going to carefully walk along the side, you’ll see.”

Asalis hesitated and looked at Merk’s eager expression, his eyes glowing with excitement as he stood there waiting for an answer.

“I will stand watch and make sure that no one follows you, but I am most certainly not going in there,” Asalis said folding his arms and standing his ground.

“Very well, your loss then,” Merk replied, disappearing into the darkness of the tunnel.

Merk made his way along the many twists and turns of the sewage canal, occasionally disturbing the small creatures that lived there. After what felt like hours he finally found the entrance to the castle, a small passage that leads to a back door, used only by the maintenance elves of the city and him off course. He would always use the same door to get into the castle, sometimes to listen in on conversations, but most of the time just to snatch something from the kitchen where all the glorious meals were prepared for the King, Queen and guests alike. Food at home never tasted as good as it did in the castle. Leaving his shoes behind, he carefully made his way into the empty kitchen, bringing only a trace of the smell that pervaded the sewer. He found it very strange that on this morning the kitchen was empty, given that all the Kings and Queens had arrived at the Kingdom.

Where on earth were all the people? More alarmingly was all the good food, and what exactly was happening here? Merk wondered.

He crept past the servant’s quarters where he could hear a woman complaining about the meeting and how they were told to remain indoors until such time that the meeting was over.

“The very fact that there is such a secretive meeting happening has already raised suspicion amongst everyone as such a meeting has never taken place before, well not in my lifetime anyway, meaning this meeting must be about something of great and dire importance.” The woman explained.

Merk softly opened a door that led him down a corridor, past the library, and several other rooms. He wandered around till he found the passage that led him to the top of the main dining hall where the meeting was taking place. He could hear voices coming from behind its closed doors and, to Merk’s amazement, no guards were posted anywhere. It looked like the entire castle had been emptied of guards and other staff for the privacy and subject of the meeting. Merk crawled towards the door and pressed his ear against it, trying to make out what was being said. He grinned as he imagined Asalis’s face when he told him about all that he missed.

*******

“This is unacceptable, Your Majesty. We cannot go through with this!” one of the Kings said, gripping his golden staff tightly. The other Kings and Queens talked amongst themselves, disagreeing with Aldour.

“Asaroth is getting closer day by day and he will stop at nothing to get his hands on the stones,” Aldour reiterated, “We must prepare ourselves for the toughest of times ahead, and if we keep the magic with us, it would mean the end of all that we have worked so hard to build.”

“But, Your Majesty, keeping the stones means we can at least protect ourselves and our Kingdoms!” a Queen spoke looking at the others for support. They nodded, looking at each other. “Without them we are nothing. Asaroth will destroy us.”

“Kings and Queens of Aldour this decision was not made lightly but it is a decision that is final and not negotiable, the stones chose you for one reason only, and that reason was to protect our people, let us not forget that. The time has come for them to choose again so in future we can all be safe once more.”

“Until that time comes how are we expected to stay safe?”

I have instructed my wife with all the details, and a map to the Forgotten Kingdom. It is there that our people will find safety during the coming months, and in the end, my friends our only goal, for now, should be their wellbeing. The Journey won’t be easy but they will look to you for the strength and the power to carry on.”

“Your Majesty as reasonable as your orders may sound I still believe this is a futile exercise. I mean when the stones make their choice how would the chosen ones even know how to use them?” snapped an angry Queen.

“Did you not learn just as they too will learn? Do you not remember? You are all forgetting a very valuable lesson, one that Asaroth never learned, and one that set him on this path, to begin with. It is not about us or what we want, it is not about the power we hold. It is about strength in humility, being selfless, that my friends is the lesson. You can’t hold on to something that was never yours, to begin with.” Aldour replied in a clear and direct tone.

“So what happens now?” a King asked.

“For now I urge all of you to return to your Kingdoms, spread the word as far as you can about the approaching danger and wait for Luna to arrive.”

“I fully support the King in his decision and in the end, this is the only way to avoid innocent blood being spilled. This choice is not an easy one, but the stones must be returned to the Founder’s caves and await the new generation, a generation that can harness all of its powers and serve the people of this Kingdom just as you have served.”

Merk listened as the conversation carried on. It was clear that emotions were running high, and that not everyone supported the Kings decision. Merk felt his heart racing underneath his shirt and he was scared, scared of what was to come. The talk of stones and magic had confused him. It was something he had never heard of before. The tales his father had told him of King Asaroth and his evil nature had given him plenty of nightmares when he was younger. The thought that the demon in his dreams was a real enemy coming to destroy his home made him wish that Asalis was with him to calm his mind with one of his oh-so-knowledgeable answers. If there was one person who could take the entire situation and turn it into a positive it would be Asalis.

“Like I mentioned earlier Luna will be guiding our people, with all of your help of course,” Aldour continued. “Together you will guide our people until such time as the owner of the diamond stone takes the throne.”

“Who will return them? Who will return the stones to the Founders caves?”

“Your Majesty I have heard terrible things about the road to the caves, many who goes that way never returns. Some say she still lives.”

“That is nonsense. Leonora was destroyed.”

Aldour watched as one of the guards approached his wife, whispering quietly into her ear.

“Your Majesty our scouts have reported that King Asaroth will reach our gates by nightfall,” Luna said interrupting the speculations coming from the other Kings and Queens. “I fear death follows at his side; three villages so far lie in ruins. His men are burning our forests, killing and slaughtering every man, woman and child they come across. I can feel the pain of the animals. We have to make haste for the Forgotten Kingdom at once.”

A loud bang echoed through the room as the great doors to the dining hall opened. Two guards carried a screaming and kicking Asalis inside.

“Let me go!” Asalis protested.

“We found the boy lurking around the palace sewer passages,” the guards said dropping the boy at the Kings feet. Asalis felt naked and exposed under the King’s glare and even though he didn’t want to tell on Merk he had the feeling it was inevitable.

“Is this true?” Aldour asked as the Kings and Queens waited for a reaction from Aldour.

“I was only exploring, nothing more Your Majesty I swear!” Asalis exclaimed keeping his head low to the ground.

“Where is Merk? We both know this is a party that not only you were invited to,” Aldour said pointing his staff at the young boy.

“I think I might be able to help Your Majesty,” offered Queen Rena with her long red hair, lifting the staff she carried.

“Rena the staff of truth is not meant to be used for our own purposes, you know that. Now tell me, boy, where is he?” the King asked, once more fixing his gaze upon Asalis.

“Okay, okay I will tell, but I swear I didn’t want to get involved in this. I warned him and I tried to stop him but he would not listen to me, please Your Majesty, you have to believe me!”

“Just tell me where he is,” Aldour said wearily.

“He is in the castle somewhere; he wanted to find out what all the fuss was about so he can spread news amongst the locals in exchange for a reward. He entered through the sewage passages, I don’t know where he went from there. I am so sorry Your Majesty,” Asalis said, wanting to cry.

“Spies among his own subjects,” muttered one of the Queens to Rena. She nodded grimly.

Luna pointed at the top doors of the dining hall. As they opened, a panic-stricken Merk fell forward onto the ground and stood up quickly not knowing where to look. He knew he had really gotten himself into trouble this time. Asalis was aware of it too and resentment was spread out all over his face. Merk had thrown them right into the fire; now they had to face the flames.

“Come here boy,” Luna said calling Merk.

“Your disobedience, Merk, has gone far enough!” Aldour exclaimed. “What am I going to do with you two now?”

“I won’t say anything—I promise!” Merk insisted as he ran down the stairs, quickly joining Asalis.

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