Apollos, Tara, and Lucas made their way through the crowded market place filled with cries of goods offered by the various merchants. Apollos stopped in front of a market stall and exchanged two silver coins for three loaves of a flat crusty looking bread. Tara examined hooded cloaks from a different vendor, and Lucas made his way over to a building where the sounds of a hammer banging on metal sounded out. He looked in at a large, well muscled man covered in sweat. The man swung a large hammer down onto a glowing piece of metal resting on an anvil, sparks flying out every time the hammer crashed down.
Lucas stood and watched the blacksmith work, and after a short time Apollos joined him. “Lucas, what are you doing?”
Lucas looked up at Apollos. “Since I have Ferrumlupus now, I thought it would make sense to have some pieces of metal with me that I could use to summon him. I could think of no place better to get cheap pieces of scrap metal to use.”
Apollos smiled at Lucas. “Good thinking, but you had better leave this to me. I have a little more experience with bartering than you do.” Apollos winked at Lucas before approaching the blacksmith. “Excuse me, sir, but I was hoping that you would have a moment for me to discuss a proposition with you.”
The blacksmith never looked up from the piece of metal he was working on. “I have enough orders to keep me busy for months. I’m afraid I have no time to take on any others.”
Apollos frowned. “You misunderstand, friend. I am here to relieve you of your unwanted scrap metal.” Apollos pointed at a bin with twisted and bent pieces of metal. “I would be happy to take some of that off of your hands, say five pieces of scrap iron for two silver coins.”
The blacksmith thrust the bar of metal he had been pounding on back into his forge, and held up two fingers. “Two gold pieces.”
Apollos sputtered angrily. “Two gold pieces? For metal you have tossed aside? It is unheard of, sir.”
The blacksmith grabbed a different piece of metal resting in the forge with his tongs. “You must not know much about blacksmithing. I can melt those scraps down and make them into something new, so they still have value to me. I’ll sell you the scrap metal, but at the value that they have.”
“I’ll pay you a gold piece, but no more.”
The blacksmith set his hammer aside and crossed his arms. “Two gold coins, or you can get out of my shop now before I call for the city guard and report your more than suspicious activity.”
Apollos grumbled under his breath, reached into his purse and pulled out two gold coins. Lucas heard him say something about this was why he avoided civilization as much as he could. He handed the gold coins over to the blacksmith. The blacksmith nodded in appreciation. “Thank you for your patronage, but I must return to my work. Please take your scrap metal and leave.” He picked up his hammer and went back to work on the piece of metal resting on his anvil.
Apollos turned and began walking out of the blacksmith’s shop. He stopped at the door. “Pick up your metal and let’s go, Lucas.”
Lucas hurried over to the scrap bin and picked out five pieces of iron. “Wait, Apollos, don’t you have a sack I could put these in or something?” Lucas struggled under his awkward load.
Apollos grunted. “After what that cost me, you can buy your own sack to haul them in. Now, let’s head back to the inn. I want to get some sleep before we head out in the morning.”
Lucas juggled his burden as he chased after Apollos, and before too long Tara appeared at Lucas’ side carrying a full supply sack. She looked disappointedly at Lucas. “I was hoping that you would still have your arms empty and be able to carry my supplies for me. What are you doing with all of that metal anyway?”
Lucas opened his mouth to respond, and ran into Apollos’ back. Lucas fell to the ground and looked up at Apollos. “What’s going on, Apollos? Why did you stop like that?”
Apollos frowned at two shadows retreating into the crowd. “Acerbi were watching us. Two of them. Now that I noticed them they’re going to report what they’ve seen and heard to their master. We need to get out of this city, tonight.” Apollos started to hurry forward again, but stopped after a few steps. “Oh, no. Malcolm!” Apollos turned to regard Tara and Lucas. “You two, get back to the inn as fast as you can! Gather up our things and get out of the city as soon as possible! Go out the east gate and wait for me where the eastern road forks.”
Tara looked confusedly at Apollos. “Wait for you? Where are you going?”
“I have to warn Malcolm of what has happened. I fear he is no longer safe in this city, depending on how long those Acerbi were following us.” Apollos took off running into the crowd, and Lucas watched after him.
Tara pulled Lucas up to his feet. “Come on, Lucas!” Tara started running in the opposite direction of what Apollos had gone. Lucas took one look after Apollos before turning and running after Tara.
They ran all the way back to the inn, jostling people in the crowd as they went, curses pursuing them. Derek gave them a big smile once they reached the inn, and his smile quickly turned to shock when Tara ordered their wagon and horses prepared.
Derek wiped his hands on his apron and looked at Tara with concern. “You wish to leave? At this time of day? But it is almost nightfall! Surely whatever business you must take care of can wait until after one nights sleep? Please reconsider, mistress, and I’ll have one of the girls draw you up a bath.
Tara fixed Derek with a scowl. “Our business cannot wait, nor can we afford any delay in arguing with you. Now, please have your stable boys prepare our wagon and we will be on our way.”
Derek shook his head. “As you wish, mistress. I certainly wish you safe travels.” He turned and disappeared into the kitchen, and Lucas and Tara hurried up the stairs to their rooms.
Apollos took swords from their resting places on the wall and laid them onto a blanket. Once he had all of the swords off of the wall he rolled the blanket up and tied it so that none of the swords would fall out, and then placed the bundle into a wooden cart. Apollos turned and looked at Malcolm, who was doing the same with the swords hung along another wall. “Can’t you pack any faster? I thought black market merchants like you had to be able to run at a moment’s notice!”
“Anywhere but here I would be ready to leave in seconds, but I always felt safe here, until you brought Geraldo’s attention down onto me that is. I always figured I could abandon my stock if I had to and just go and replenish it elsewhere again, but I can no longer bear the thought of Geraldo using my beast blades to conquer our people.”
“I’m afraid that you won’t be able to risk selling in Sharen City until Geraldo has been overthrown, my friend, but at least you will escape this city with your life.”
Malcolm shook his head. “This is a much bigger blow to the rebellion than it is to me. I am losing a place to do business, they will be losing a place of safety, and we are giving Geraldo a way to trap the members who come here looking for me. What you have done is completely given this city over to Geraldo.”
Apollos sighed. “You always did know how to rub it in, Malcolm. Now can you pack any faster? I wish to get out of this city before the trap is slammed shut on me.”
Malcolm placed a bundle into the cart. “I cannot pack any faster, I am done packing!” Malcolm drew a sword from a sheath resting at this side. He touched the point to the ground, “Awaken, Petrequine!” The earth under the sword point mounded up and formed into a horse. Malcolm hooked Petrequine up to the cart.
Apollos shook his head. “I never thought I’d see the day when beast blades were used in such a mundane way.”
Malcolm laughed. “Did you want to pull the cart? I believe I exposed my lack of muscle earlier. If it was me instead of the horse, we might not make it out of here this week!”
“Let’s just get out of here. When Geraldo’s forces get here I want them to find nothing but our dust.” Apollos walked out of the chamber, and Malcom and Petrequine followed him out.
“Shouldn’t we warn the other merchants, Apollos? It’s not fair for us to escape and leave them to suffer our consequences.”
Apollos turned and regarded Malcolm. “Since when have you become so noble? In the past you would have said to just leave them, that it would be less competition for you.”
Malcolm sighed. “Once I thought that way, before Geraldo took power. I wouldn’t abandon anyone to the fate that he would have planned for them.”
“Not to worry, Malcolm. I shouted a warning to each of them on my way here. If they chose to heed it or not, that decision is on them.” Apollos held up his hand, and Malcolm slowed. “Find me a blade, Malcolm.”
Malcolm started to untie one of the cloth wrapped bundles. “I thought you had no use for any other beast blades.”
“I don’t, but I didn’t bring any of mine with me, and I believe that I just saw that shadow move.”
Malcolm quickly pulled a blade out of its sheath and handed it to Apollos. Apollos accepted it and started walking down the tunnel again. “Let’s keep moving. You are sure that this tunnel surfaces outside of the city?”
Malcolm warily watched the shadows. “Yes, I’ve been using it for years. How else do you think I get my cart in and out of the catacombs? I certainly can’t fit the cart through opening in the church!”
Apollos darted forward and swung his sword at a shadow, and a black smokey substance began to billow up into the air. “They’re here! Get your cart moving!” Black shapes rose up all around him.
Malcolm stared at Apollos. “I’m not leaving you here!”
Apollos swung his sword through the neck of one of the rising shadows, and quickly spun to parry an attack coming from an Acerbi behind him. “Fine, but at least summon some beast blades to help me! And give me another sword to fight with!”
Malcolm started pulling beast blades out and examining their hilt. “Here’s a water deer, I doubt we’ll get an opportunity to summon that down here.” He tossed a blade to Apollos. Apollos grabbed the blade and used it to block another attack. Malcolm pulled out another blade and looked at its hilt. “Not enough room for this one.” He tossed the blade aside and picked up another. “This one should be a help right now!”
Lucas paced back and forth in front of the wagon, which was parked at the fork in the eastern road. Tara lounged on the seat. “Lucas, you need to calm down! You worrying about Apollos isn’t going to help him get here any sooner.”
“I should have gone with him. Maybe I could have been of some help. He must have run into some trouble, otherwise he’d be here by now!”
Tara sat up and looked at Lucas. “You were unarmed, what could you have possibly done to help? You’re no fighter, all you would have done is given Apollos one more person to look after.”
“She’s right, Lucas, and heaven knows I had enough people to look after in those catacombs.” Lucas and Tara’s head turned to see Apollos emerge from a grove of trees next to the northern path.
Lucas ran up to Apollos. “Apollos! You made it out alright!”
Apollos smiled. “I did, and Malcolm too. I’m glad to see the two of you made it out of the city without any problems.”
Lucas frowned. “Where is Malcolm?”
“Once we got out of the catacombs he went his separate way. I believe he was planning on heading back west, to Falance. Something about trying to sell his goods to some rebels there.”
Tara smiled. “So the rebellion is going to get some aid as well. Maybe it will be enough to make a difference in their fight.”
“Perhaps it will. Come on, Lucas. Let’s be on our way. I want to be as far from this city as possible when darkness falls.” Apollos moved to climb up onto the wagon, and Lucas frowned at a sword hanging at Apollos’ side.
Lucas climbed up onto the wagon and sat down next to Tara. “Apollos, where did you get that sword?”
Apollos looked down at the blade hanging at his side. “This? This was a gift from Malcolm for saving his life from the Acerbi pursuing us through the tunnels. This is Terrambarrus, a ground elephant. Malcolm said that if there had been more room in the catacombs he would have summoned this one out, and shown the Acerbi a thing or two. I’m sure we’ll get an opportunity to see if he was exaggerating.” Apollos flicked the reins and the horses started moving down the southern fork of the eastern road.
Lucas sat back and began to relax against the back of the seat of the wagon, but Tara prodded him in the ribs. “You should get the beast blades out Lucas. Now that we’re out of the city I’d rather not be caught unarmed in an ambush.”
Lucas rubbed his ribs and frowned at Tara. “Why don’t you get them out then? You are just as capable of doing it as I am.”
Tara giggled. “Because you’re the youngest, of course! Besides, I didn’t think you’d want anyone handling Pyrequine other than you, it being a legendary beast blade an all.”
Lucas sighed and climbed into the back of the cart and unwrapped several cloth bundles containing their swords. He grabbed the blades and awkwardly climbed back over the seat. He started sorting the the beast blades and handing them to their owner. Once he had his swords buckled in place, he was left staring at his new power blade resting in his hands.
Tara took it from him and clipped it to the part of his sword belt that went over his chest. “Sorry, you looked like you weren’t sure what to do with that and this is where Grandpa always kept his power blades.”
Lucas smiled at Tara. “Thanks, Tara.” Lucas turned his attention to Apollos.”So we’re heading to the Karndale Valley now?”
Apollos looked up at the descending sun and sighed. “Yes, we are heading toward the the Karndale Valley, but we have a stop to make before we go into there. A friend of mine lives near the entrance to the valley, and I’m hoping he might have some information that would be useful in our search. Unfortunately, we’re not going to be able to make it much further tonight. At least it doesn’t look like its going to rain tonight.”
Tara looked at Apollos. “The last friend of yours we went to see got run out of the city in fear of Geraldo’s troops catching him. Aren’t you worried you’ll do the same to your other friend as well?”
Apollos chuckled. “No, there isn’t much of a chance of that. If Geraldo’s forces come looking to make trouble with Jerome, they’ll find more than they can handle.”
Lucas gave Apollos an intrigued look. “What do you mean by that, Apollos?”
“I mean it doesn’t matter what forces Geraldo brings against Jerome. He was a powerful hunter in his day, and he has assembled some of the most powerful beast blades I’ve ever seen.”
Tara’s eyes lit up. “If he’s as powerful as you say, he’s exactly what the rebellion needs!”
Apollos snorted. “You won’t have much luck recruiting him to your cause. He doesn’t get himself involved in the troubles of others. Not since his wife died I doubt he would give me the time of day anymore if I hadn’t gone on so many of his hunts with him. No, I very much doubt he would take kindly to you if you even bring the rebellion up.”
Lucas fiddled with the hilt of his power blade. “What happened to his wife?”
Apollos replied solemnly, “She died from a terrible illness.”
Tara scrunched up her nose. “It’s terrible that his wife died, but that’s no reason to shut the rest of the world out.”
Apollos sighed. “You don’t understand, Jerome didn’t grow so callused and angry just because his wife died, he did it because someone he had helped before could have saved her, but chose not to. You see, Jerome was a kind hearted and jolly man, and he made a point to help anyone he found in need on his travels, no matter the peril it put him in. One day, a local noble’s son went missing. Jerome was among those who agreed to go out searching for the boy, and he found him surrounded by wolves. Jerome fought his way through the pack, and was able to save the boy, but not before the boy was sorely injured. Jerome took the boy back to his father’s mansion, and Jerome was amazed when the boy’s father took a beast blade off of the wall that was able to heal the boys injuries. The noble thanked Jerome and vowed that he would always be in Jeromes debt for saving his son.
“Jerome went on many more adventures after that, and on one of them, in a distant land, he caught the attention of a beautiful maiden, said to have been the most beautiful in all the land, and he won her heart. The two of them came and built a house together in the Karndale Valley, and together they were very happy. But it seems that happiness has a way of attracting tragedy, for his wife, Maria, grew very ill. Jerome tried every remedy he could think of, brought in every doctor that he could find, and when I heard the news Maradyth and I came out to aid in any way that we could, but nothing helped.
“Jerome remembered the nobleman whose son he had saved, and the mystical beast blade that had healed his son’s wounds. Jerome set out for the nobleman’s mansion at once and pleaded with the man to allow him to borrow the beast blade to save Maria’s life. The nobleman refused to let the beast blade off of his property, but if Jerome returned with his wife, he would use the beast blade to heal his wife. Jerome hurried back to his home to get his wife.”
Lucas excitedly asked, “Was the beast blade able to save Maria’s life?”
Apollos shook his head and continued sadly, “No, it wasn’t. It never got a chance to try. Maria died on the way to the noble’s property. Jerome fell into a grief driven rage that someone who he had helped refused to help him in turn, and he lost his wife as a result of it. Jerome returned to the nobleman’s estate, and tore his mansion down to the ground around him, slayed the nobleman, and took his treasured beast blade. He returned to home in the Karndale Valley, but he was a different man, untrusting and angry. I still stop in to see him once in a while, but he barely tolerates my company anymore.”
Tara wiped a tear from her eye, and Lucas sniffled. Tara shot Apollos a suspicious look. “Wait, if Jerome really attacked one of the nobility, the kingdom would have captured him and killed him.”
“And they did try. Have you ever heard of the ten day war?”
Tara nodded her head. “Yes, it was one of the bloodiest battles we’ve ever had with our neighbors, the Taliarins. They invaded our country in force, but after ten bloody days of nonstop combat, we were able to drive them back and secure our border.”
Apollos shook his head. “That’s the story they tell to cover up the fact that one man was able to withstand a full out assault by the royal army. After that they decided to leave Jerome alone.”
Lucas’ eyes opened up wide. “Wow, he did that all by himself?”
Tara shook her head. “I don’t believe it. I bet Apollos is making it all up.”
Apollos chuckled, “I’ll let you be the judge of that once you meet him, Tara.”
A guard locked a pair of shackles around the wrists of a pastor. The pastor protested, “I swear I didn’t know that the rebellion was using the catacombs! They’re sacred to us, we’d never allow them to be used for anything but the resting place of past believers!”
Aldrick shook his head. “You’ll have to forgive me, Father, but I find it hard to believe that the rebellion could sneak in and out of your church without you figuring out that something was going on.”
“You have to believe me! I am innocent!”
“I’m afraid at this point what I believe isn’t as important as what Lord Geraldo believes. You are a man of faith, Father, so I’d suggest that you start praying.” Aldrick turned to one of the guards. “Put him with the others. I want them out of the city and on their way to Lord Geraldo for judgement in the morning.”
The soldier saluted. “Yes, sir!” He turned to the group of clergymen in chains. “All right you lot, you get to spend the night in the prison, so start moving!”
The clergymen started to shuffle out of the church, soldiers armed with spears walking on either side of them and the one that had barked the orders walking behind them. Aldrick turned to a group of soldiers still standing in the church. “I want guards positioned inside the catacombs at all times from now on. We’ll capture any other merchants or members of the rebellion that want sneak into this city. I’ll leave the scheduling and positioning to you, Captain.”
The soldier saluted, “Yes sir, General Aldrick, sir!” The Captain turned to his soldiers. “Drake, get that trap door opened, and the rest of you get down inside of there! We’ll do some extensive scouting on the tunnels and find the best places to wait for rebels.” The soldiers disappeared one at a time down into the catacombs.
Aldrick finally turned and looked at the group of Acerbi standing behind him. “I thought I had given you specific orders to only observe Apollos and the children.”
An Acerbus responded in a dead voice, “If we had attacked sooner we could have all three of them. It was humiliating watching them move about freely in this city, especially when they were traveling about unarmed. I only regret not following my instincts! We could have ended all of this instead of chasing after them once more!”
Aldrick shook his head. “You Acerbi never did seem to understand the finer points of tactics. I had you follow and watch them, and as a result we have discovered the location of the next legendary beast blade and shut down an underground black market the rebellion was operating right under our noses. If you had managed to not reveal yourselves we could have captured all the merchants as well. But you made sure to give them ample time to escape.”
The Acerbus pointed an accusing finger at Aldrick. “If you had moved faster to aid us in the tunnels we could have captured Apollos at least! Instead all of my brethren were slaughtered by that butcher!”
Aldrick shoved the Acerbus’ finger aside. “Let’s get one thing straight here, Acerbus. Geraldo put me in charge, you take orders from me. I didn’t back you up in the caves because I wanted Apollos to escape. Geraldo wants those legendary beast blades. With those in his possession, no one would be able to challenge him ever again, and his victory would be assured.”
“If we kill the boy Lord Geraldo’s victory is assured! He needs no other beast blade than the one that controls us.”
“If you kill the boy the legendary beast blades will just chose another to take up his place. Leave the strategy to me, you had better just obey me. Now, prepare yourselves, we’re leaving the city once I find something to eat.” Aldrick turned and regarded the two men standing behind him wearing red capes. “Captain’s Hugh and Charles, make preparations to follow after Apollos and the boy. We begin our pursuit once I have found something to eat.”
Captain Hugh saluted. “Are we to set up a little surprise for your old teacher, sir?”
Aldrick smiled. “Yes, Captain, I believe that Apollos will be quite surprised.”
Thank you for checking out my story, if you liked this and want to see more stories like it, check out the other stories I’m working on writing, here: Tales of the Imagination, check out my facebook page for updates on the stories here: Facebook, and follow me on Twitter here: @EJBorchardt. Please like, comment, and tell your friends if you like what you’ve read.