Beast Blades, Chapter 6: Exploring the Karndale Valley

beast blades

Apollos reached out and knocked on the door of a handmade wooden cabin. Tara looked around nervously. “Are you sure he’s still even alive? If he’s one of your old friends he could have died by now.”

Apollos turned and glared at Tara, opening his mouth to berate her, but was interrupted by the cabin door swinging open. An old bald man, wearing a brown robe that ended only three inches from the floor, stuck his head out the door and grunted. “Apollos, I didn’t think I’d see you again. And I see you have brought some very rude guests with you. Who are they, your grandchildren?”

Apollos smiled and shook his head. “Jerome, it is good to see you again my friend! These are not my grandchildren, but rather fellow travelers. This is Lucas, and this is Tara.”

Jerome grunted again. “Come inside and you can tell me what you want. No one comes to visit me unless they want something from me.”

Jerome stepped back from the door and the three stepped inside. Lucas stared in amazement at the walls of Jerome’s home. At least fifty beast blades reflected the light of the fireplace. “Wow, that’s a lot of beast blades, did you buy them all?”

Jerome smiled. “No, I captured each and every single one of these myself and there is a story behind each of them.” He pointed at a beast blade that hung over his fireplace. “That one is a fire dragon, and it didn’t want to go down. Apollos and I  came at the thing in the middle of the night, but Apollos ended up knocking over some stones and letting the thing know we were there, and boy was it upset!”

Apollos smiled. Maybe time has softened his heart once more. It is good to see him smile again. “I believe you were the one that knocked over the stones, Jerome, and right after I warned you not to trip over them!”

Jerome chuckled, “You may be right, but I was the one that charged the beast and plunged my blade into its chest.” Jerome’s smile turned into a frown. “Why are you so interested in my beast blades, boy? Thinking to make a name for yourself by stealing them?”

Lucas’ face turned to panic. “What? No! Why would I want to steal your beast blades?”

Apollos sighed and ran to Lucas’ defense. Perhaps it was too much to hope that he was beginning to heal. “That’s right, Jerome! I would never bring anyone here that wanted to steal from you! You’re my friend!”

Jerome turned and frowned at Apollos. “Why did you bring them here, Apollos? Why did you come here now after all these years?”

“I’m sorry that it has been so long since my last visit, but I was respecting your wishes and trying not to bother you. But I would be lying if I told you that seeing you again was my only motivation for my visit.”

“Whatever it is, Apollos, you won’t get it from me. You know I keep myself out of the affairs of others now.”

“Relax my friend, I come here seeking only advice. Have you heard any news about Geraldo’s ascent into power?”

Jerome grunted. “A few months ago there were some fools pounding on my door demanding that I submit myself and my beast blades to Geraldo. The river has long washed their bodies away.” Jerome’s eyes narrowed. “Don’t tell me he sent you to try and win me over now.”

Apollos shook his head. “Quite the opposite, I am trying to dethrone Geraldo, but I need some help.”

Jerome laughed. “I have a hard time believing that. I seem to remember that you could take care of yourself in a fight.”

Apollos sighed. “He is wielding the shadow blade.”

Jerome’s eyes opened wide. “If he’s wielding the shadow blade what makes you think that I can do anything? I own many powerful beast blades, but none of them are legendary beast blades, and those are the only ones that have any hope of defeating the shadow blade.”

Lucas stepped forward. “We have one of the legendary beast blades already.” Lucas pulled his sword from the sheath belted at his side. “This is Pyrequine, and we’re looking for the others.”

Jerome reached out hesitantly to touch Pyrequine. “A legendary beast blade, in my home. This is very impressive, but I’ve already told you that I don’t have any legendary beast blades here, so I’m afraid that your journey was a waste of time, Apollos.”

“We just came from Sharen City, and Malcolm said that we could find a legendary beast blade in the valley here. I was hoping that perhaps you had seen it.”

Jerome shook his head. “If I’d come across any beast blade in my valley I would have added it to my collection. No, I certainly haven’t come across anything like that. There are many places that could hide such a thing here, though. You have my permission to search my valley if you wish.”

Apollos bowed his head. “Thank you, my friend. If you wished to join us in our search, you are most certainly welcome to.”

Jerome grunted. “I don’t leave my home for any reason or anyone, and you know that, Apollos. You should go.”

Tara frowned. “The entire country is being taken over, and all you want to do is sit in your cabin and sulk? According to Apollos, you were once the most feared man in this country! You need to do something to help take Geraldo down! Travel with us, or go to Falance! You could make all the difference to the rebellion there!”

Apollos’ face turned red with anger and he bellowed, “Tara! What did I tell you about bringing that up? You are traveling with us now, so forget about the rebellion.”

Tara glared back at Apollos. “Forgive me if I’m not ready to trust Lucas with the fate of this country!”

Jerome’s face turned dark. “I should have known that you just wanted to get me involved in your problems. I want you to get out of my home, you and those children, Apollos. Now. And don’t return. If you do, the river will wash your remains away as well, old friend or not.”

Apollos turned to Jerome. “Forgive me, my friend; don’t take anything she says too seriously! All she talks about is the rebellion!”

“I don’t care, Apollos. Now you can either let yourself out, or I can toss you into the river now.”

Apollos looked sadly at Jerome. “All right, we will leave, my friend. Take care of yourself, and I hope that you reconsider and I get to see you once more.” Apollos turned and ushered Lucas and Tara out the door.

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Apollos sat next to Tara on the wagon, glowering at her. “You just couldn’t keep your mouth shut, could you? One way or another, you always bring your rebellion up! If your rebellion is so important, why don’t you go back to it?”

Tara frowned back at Apollos. “Malcolm said I needed to be here with you, and you know it! This country’s fate hangs in the balance, otherwise I would be there with them right now!”

Apollos sighed. “You have to make up your mind, girl! Either be a part of our team and focus on helping us to search for the beast blades, or leave us! You have cost me one of my oldest friends.”

Tara frowned. “I’m truly sorry, Apollos. It’s just that I’ve been fighting for what I believe in, fighting against Geraldo for as long as I can remember. When I see people who could make a difference – who could help us turn the tide of this war – doing nothing, it just gets me worked up.”

Apollos reached over and grabbed Tara’s hand. “I know that your life has been difficult, that the rebellion and Geraldo stole your childhood from you, but you have to know when to speak up for your cause, and when it is best to remain silent.”

Tara sat in silence, looking at the steep walls of the valley that stretched as far as they could see, and sighed. “The beast blade could be hiding anywhere in all of this! How are we supposed to find it here?”

Apollos slowed the horses to a stop. “We’ll find it by searching every inch of this valley. It will go faster if we split up. You take the left side and Lucas take the right side. I’ll move the wagon a little further down the valley and start searching further along. We’ll meet up at the wagon again for supper. The sooner we find the blade, the better. The Acerbi that found us in the city won’t be too far behind us. Them and whoever Geraldo sent with them this time”

Lucas climbed down from the wagon seat and looked up at Apollos. “What do we do if the Acerbi show up?”

Apollos looked down at Lucas. “Fight as best you can until I can get to you.” Apollos smiled reassuringly at Lucas.” You have some powerful beast blades with you, Lucas. Use them well, and you shouldn’t encounter any trouble you can’t handle.” Apollos flicked the reins and the horses started into motion pulling the wagon deeper into the valley.

Tara watched Apollos ride deeper into the valley. She turned to Lucas and smiled. “I guess we should start searching. See you at the wagon.” Tara turned and walked over to the wall of the valley and started searching for caves and crevices. Lucas turned and started searching his part of the valley. He searched the walls for caves, or cracks that something could be hidden in.

Two hours later Lucas was searching the bank of the river for an underwater cave that the sword might have been hidden in. Someone standing behind Lucas cleared his throat, and Lucas tried to turn and pull a sword out, but ended up losing his balance and falling into the river. He stood back up sputtering, finally managed to draw his sword, and held it in front of him.

A man stood on the river bank laughing. “Forgive me for startling you, young man, but it looked like you have lost something. Perhaps I can help you to find it?” He held his hand out to help Lucas out of the water.

Lucas looked at the man’s hand suspiciously for a few seconds, laughed and finally reached out and accepted it. “I got so wrapped up in my search I didn’t hear you coming up behind me. My name’s Lucas, what’s yours?”

The man smiled. “You can call me Al. What are you doing here all alone here in the Karndale valley?”

Lucas smiled back at the man. “I’m not alone, my friends Tara and Apollos are searching other parts of the valley.”

Al breathed in sharply. “This Apollos, is he an old man with a long grey beard?”

Lucas nodded. “Yes, he is. Do you know him?”

Al shook his head. “I do not know him, but I know of him. I’ve heard that it’s because of him that Lord Geraldo is now in power.”

Lucas’ eyes opened up wide. “What?! I don’t believe you, Apollos is doing everything he can to stop Geraldo! He would never do anything to help him.”

Al looked around furtively. “He may be fighting against him now, but the way I heard it, Geraldo and Apollos were once very close. I think that Apollos meant to rule alongside Geraldo, and Geraldo betrayed him. Makes sense that Apollos would want to get his revenge against him. You can’t stay with him, you have to come away with me!”

Al reached out to take Lucas’ arm, but Lucas pulled it away. “No, I don’t believe it. Apollos is my friend!”

Al shook his head. “I wonder if Apollos will feel the same way when he decides to betray you.”

Conflict filled Lucas’ face. “After everything that Apollos has done for me, I can’t just leave without hearing his side of it first.”

Al sighed. “Fine, if you refuse to see reason then go ahead and throw your life away.” Al started to walk away, but turned and gave Lucas another look. “If you change your mind, if you discover that I was right, then come to the edge of the valley. I’ll be camping there for tonight and moving on in the morning.” Al started walking back toward the edge of the valley, and Lucas anxiously watched him go.

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Tara was slowly making her way up to a ledge halfway up the wall of the valley, when she heard a man clear his throat. Startled, Tara lost her grip on the wall, slid down and landed on her bottom. Growling and muttering to herself she stood up, dusted off her bottom, and turned to face the man. “What are you doing, sneaking up behind me like that, Lucas?” Her eyes opened wide when she saw it wasn’t Lucas, but Al. “Who are you?”

The man smiled. “My name is Al. What may I have the pleasure of addressing you as, miss?”

Tara narrowed her eyes and stared at him suspiciously. “What brings you to the valley, Al?”

Al chuckled. “You seem suspicious. That’s good. It’s difficult to find people that you can trust these days. I often come to the valley to think and meditate, it really is quite a beautiful place. What are you doing here all by yourself?”

Tara started to ease the sword strapped across her back out of its sheath. I”m not alone, my friends Lucas and Apollos are just a short distance away, and they would be here quickly if I called out to them.”

Al’s eyes opened up wide. “Apollos? Is he an elderly man skilled with the sword?”

Tara nodded her head. “Yes, do you know him?”

Al shook his head. “No, but I’ve heard of him. I’ve heard that he is a very skilled warrior, and he was the one that trained Geraldo’s legendary tactician, Aldrick.”

“What? Apollos trained General Alrdick? I don’t believe you; I’ve traveled with Apollos, and while he may be a grumpy old fool, he’s a good man.”

Al chuckled. “Believe what you want miss, I’m only telling you what I heard. You have to admit though, Aldrick and Apollos are both sword masters from what I hear, and that is a rare skill these days.”

Tara frowned. “Where did you hear these rumors?”

Al smiled. “From Sharen City, I just passed through the city and the whole place is abuzz about how Apollos just passed through, and Aldrick was right behind him, hoping to catch up with his old mentor. If I was you, miss, I’d leave those other two behind and get away while I could. Perhaps you would like to travel with me?”

Tara shook her head. “All you are giving me is rumors, and I’ve seen Apollos fight against Geraldo’s generals. Besides, I couldn’t leave Lucas behind in any case.”

Al sighed and started walking away. He stopped and turned back to look at Tara. “I’ll be staying the night at the edge of the valley. If you change your mind, you can come find me there, you and your friend Lucas.”

Tara watched Al walk away further down the valley. “What secrets are you hiding, Apollos?”

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Al, also known as General Aldrick, walked up to his two captains who were sitting in front of a campfire. When they saw him approaching, the jumped up and stood at attention. Captain Hugh saluted. “Did they believe you, sir?”

Aldrick shook his head. “Not completely, but enough to plant seeds of doubt. They won’t trust him anymore, and that will give us an advantage over them.”

Captain Charles chuckled. “Excellent, sir. This is why they call you the tactician of the south. How long before we attack?”

Aldrick smiled and pulled a leg off of a chicken roasting over the fire. “Patience, my friends. First we let them find the beast blade for us, and then we’ll kill them and take the blade back to Geraldo.” He took a bite out of the chicken leg and juice dribbled down over his chin. He turned to where a group of Acerbi were waiting. “Go and watch the three of them and report back when they find the sword. Then we’ll bring our full fury down against them.” Twenty shadows darted across the valley to spy on Apollos, Lucas, and Tara. “I’m coming to end it soon, Apollos.”

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The sun was going down when Lucas made to the wagon, and found Tara already waiting. She was looking further down the valley to where Apollos would still be searching. “Did you find anything, Tara?”

Tara jumped up and fell off of the seat of the wagon onto the bed of the wagon. She rubbed her bottom and glared at Lucas. “Why do people keep doing that to me today? I didn’t find the beast blade, but I did meet someone today. How much do you trust Apollos, Lucas?”

Lucas hesitated. “I trust him completely, and why shouldn’t I? He saved when we first met, and he’s been fighting to keep me safe since them. Why do you ask?”

Tara looked over her shoulder again to see if Apollos was getting close, and she whispered to Lucas, “I met someone today while searching the valley. He told me that Apollos was the one that trained General Aldric. If that’s true, can we really trust him?”

Lucas started. “That’s strange, I met someone in the valley today, named Al, that told me that it’s because of Apollos that Geraldo was able to take over the country, but it just can’t be true! I can’t believe that someone like Apollos would have anything to do with Geraldo.”

Tara nodded. “I have a hard time believing it too, but how much do we know about Apollos’ past? I don’t think I’ve heard him say much beyond I know this old friend or that old friend.”

Lucas bit his lip. “Apollos has taken care of both of us ever since he’s met us. I don’t think it’s right to condemn him on the words of a stranger.”

“So we’ll ask him about it when he gets back to the wagon, but if he does work for Geraldo, do you think we’ll be able to get away from him?”

“We have enough beast blades between us to be able to stop him from catching us, but it won’t come to that. I’m going to get a fire started , why don’t you get some food ready for supper?”

Lucas pulled some wood off of the back of the wagon, and Tara started going through the sacks of supplies. She smiled, checked on how much progress Lucas was making with the fire, and checked further down the valley to see if Apollos was drawing near, and saw that he was approaching, but was still distant. She opened up Apollos’ traveling bag and started to rummage through it. She found several changes of clothes, a sharpening stone for his swords, and she found a folded piece of paper. She unfolded it and saw that it was a drawing of Apollos with a woman and a young man, his family she supposed.

Apollos looked as old in the drawing as he did now, the only real difference was that Apollos looked happy. Tara studied the faces of the woman and young man, and her breath caught in her throat, and she dropped the picture. The young man in the photo looked just like Geraldo. Tara quickly picked the picture back up, folded it, and stuffed it back into Apollos’ bag. Tara jumped off of the wagon and walked over to sit by the tiny fire that Lucas was tending.

Lucas looked up at Tara confused. “I thought you were getting supper ready?”

Tara looked at Lucas, and then quickly looked to see how far away Apollos was. She bit her lip and shook her head. “I found something, but I’ll tell you about it later, but I don’t think we can trust Apollos anymore.”

Lucas looked at Tara with concern. “What did you find?”

“I don’t want Apollos to know about what I found, so I’ll tell you about it when we split up to search tomorrow, and after that, we need to get away.”

Lucas gave Tara a determined look. “I want to hear Apollos’ side of it before we do anything.”

Tara’s face scrunched up in frustration. “Fine. We can talk to Apollos before we do anything, but I think we’re just putting ourselves in danger.”

Lucas smiled at Tara. “You are a part of the rebellion in Falance, I thought that putting yourself in danger was an everyday affair for you.”

Tara opened up her mouth to berate Lucas, but Apollos stepped into the light cast by the fire. Tara stopped what she was going to say and instead said, “Did you find anything in your search, Apollos?”

Apollos shook his head. “Other than some beautiful rock formations, no. I’m guessing since neither of you called out for me that today was an uneventful day for you as well?”

Sweat started to form on Tara’s brow and she gave a nervous laugh. “Other than sliding down the walls of the valley a few times, there was nothing to report for me.”

Lucas nodded his head. “I fell in the river, but I didn’t find anything today.”

Apollos sighed. “Well, if we’re going to find it we’ll find it tomorrow. There isn’t a lot of the valley left to explore. All that searching made me hungry today, I’m kind of surprised that the two of you don’t have something prepared for supper already.”

Tara laughed nervously and jumped up to her feet. “Sorry, I was going to get supper ready, but I started talking with Lucas about today. I’ll go and get something ready now.”

Apollos chuckled and waved her down. “That’s quite alright, Tara. Go ahead and sit down and I’ll take care of it.”

Apollos walked over to the wagon and Tara whispered to Lucas, “What are we going to do?”

Lucas whispered back. “Let’s just ask him about his past, and we can make our decisions based off of how he responds.”

Tara sighed. “You’re going to get both of us killed, Lucas.”

Lucas smiled at Tara. “Have a little faith, Tara. I believe that Lucas is a good person.”

Apollos walked back into the firelight with a supply sack tucked under his arms. “What are you two whispering about?”

Tara’s eyes opened wide in shock and she started stuttering, “Um, we were, uh, we were talking about…”

Lucas laughed. “Tara, you don’t have to be so nervous about asking. We were hoping that you would tell us more about your past. Maybe about what you were doing before Geraldo came to power?”

Apollos shook his head. “A man’s past is his own affair, and I would appreciate it if you didn’t pry into it.”

Tara narrowed her eyes. “Why, what are you trying to hide?”

Apollos sighed. “It’s not so much what I’m trying to hide, as it is trying to not bring up painful memories. I lost my son and a dear friend when Geraldo came into power.”

Concern filled Lucas’ face. “I’m sorry, Apollos. If you don’t want to talk about it I understand.”

Apollos managed a weak smile. “I appreciate it, Lucas. We should get some food in our bellies and then get some sleep, I want to start early tomorrow.” Apollos passed out bread, dried meat and chunks of cheese, which the three ate in silence.

Apollos slept lightly with one eye open, and Lucas slept fitfully, and his dreams were filled with Apollos turning on him and Tara. Tara couldn’t fall asleep, but instead watched Apollos throughout the night convinced that Apollos was going to attack them in their sleep.

In the morning they split up to search the rest of the valley, with Apollos searching one side and Lucas searching the other. Tara was to search the banks of the river and bring the wagon with her. They searched the valley carefully, but as the sun climbed higher overhead, their search was fruitless. The end of the valley was a tall cliff with a cascading waterfall that formed the river that flowed through the valley.

The three came together once more, and Lucas punched the wall of the valley in frustration. “Why didn’t we find it? Malcolm said we’d find it here, so where is it?”

Apollos sighed. “I don’t know. I can’t think of any place that it could be hiding.”

Tara laughed. “You are one to talk about hiding things.”

Apollos gave Tara a confused look. “What are you talking about?”

Tara pointed at Apollos. “I found a picture hiding in your things last night of you with Geraldo! I think that’s the real reason you don’t want to talk about your past!”

Apollos’ face turned dark. “You decided to look through my things without my permission? You destroy my relationships with my friends, you invade my privacy, and you constantly try to deter me from my quest. Give me one good reason to allow you to continue to travel with us.”

Tara growled, “You don’t have to worry about me traveling with you anymore, because Lucas and I are leaving!”

Lucas pushed Tara back. “I said that I wasn’t going to do that until I heard Apollos side of the story. Stop trying to make my decisions for me!”

Tara looked at Lucas in surprise, but her face quickly turned back to anger. “I’m just trying to look out for you!” Tara shoved Lucas back. Lucas took a step back and tripped over a rock. His arms windmilled as he tried to regain his balance, but he fell back through the waterfall. He landed roughly on his back and grunted.

Apollos burst through the waterfall after Lucas. “Lucas, are you all…” Apollos’ eyes opened wide when he saw Lucas. He started laughing. “We’ve done it! Look, Lucas, it’s the legendary beast blade of water!” Apollos pointed at a sword driven into the stone floor of the cave right next to Lucas’ neck. The sword had a blue gem set into the hilt, and the crossguard was decorated with golden scales.

Lucas stood up and started laughing along with Apollos. He reached down and pulled the sword out of the ground. The two of them walked back through the waterfall to where Tara was waiting. Lucas held the sword up. “Look, Tara, we found it!”

Tara looked at the beast blade with wonder in her eyes. “It’s so beautiful! Which beast blade is that?”

Aldricks voice called out from a ledge above the waterfall. “That is the legendary beast blade, Ryupoto, the water dragon. Hello, Apollos, it is good to see you again. I’ve been putting the skills you taught me to good use for your son. Now, tell the boy to hand the beast blades over.”

Apollos growled. “Aldrick, I’ve been hoping to run into you! How dare you use my teachings to bring suffering to people! Tara, Lucas, prepare for a fight!”

Aldrick pulled his head back and laughed. “Oh, that would be unwise, you see, I’ve gone ahead and passed your teachings onto two pupils of my own.” Captain Hugh and Captain Charles stepped out with grins on their face.

Tara pointed up at Aldrick. “You were the one that told me those things about Apollos! I can’t believe I trusted you!”

Aldrick smiled. “Why shouldn’t you trust me? Everything I told you was the truth.”

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. Don’t forget to come back on Monday when I will post part of one the next chapter of Ahir, Guardian of Malor.  Also, if you enjoy reading my stories, and you enjoy drawing, I’m looking for pictures of my characters. If you want to send me your fan art, I promise to include it with some of my posts! I look forward to seeing that art!

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