Ancestor - Chapter 15: Search
DescriptionChapter 15 of Ancestor
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Xaine stood watching the crowds of people mill through the busy streets. He was both interested and immensely bored. His mind kept wandering over the past few days of travel. They traveled for only about 2 days with Xaine"s training party when the two groups parted ways. Xaine had, however, gotten his confidence back with his friends. He was no longer behind and may have even been ahead of his fellow trainees. Over the time they had traveled, Xaine had begun to really use his power more reflexively than consciously. His instinct has been proving to be more adept than his conscious thought. Xaine reflected back on how his father had told him they would test his range, and that they did. One of the days after the two parties split, Barrek had asked Ailee to help with their training. Xaine wasn"t exactly sure why and hoped that it would be more productive than their time in town together. Xaine was surprised of course when his task for the day was to protect his father from Ailee"s projectiles. As much as Xaine protested his father had won and the training commenced. Ailee started off using only nonlethal gusts of air that essentially had the same effect as Xaine"s shockwaves. Barrek was knocked off his feet time and again until Xaine finally timed his counter attacks just right. By the time they were done Barrek was covered in dust and his clothes were smeared with grass stains. With how tired his father was, Xaine was hopeful that after the day was through he wouldn"t try to practice that again. The next day, however, they worked on lethal attacks from Ailee. Xaine thought his father was extremely lucky that he had managed to block every one of her attacks that day. Since then Barrek had continually challenged Xaine with something new that he didn"t think he could handle until he fought on par with what his father wanted. Their most recent training sessions consisted of teamed battles between Barrek Xaine and the rest of the company. This gave them experience working with each other abilities and helping everyone meld together as one unit. Xaine had also been tasked to fight two veterans and sometimes Ailee all at once. Xaine was pleasantly surprised during these matches to survive quite a long time and even win on some occasions when Ailee was not included. He felt as is his training had come so far in just a short time. And it was for those very reasons that Xaine was so bored. They had followed the trail of the darkgons through Clearig to the city they now resided in. During their time there they were asked for temporary help with guarding the town and that"s what Xaine was doing now. The town was worried about increased criminal activity and they thought it would be useful to be familiarized with the town and maybe pick up on any new information. He stood watch near his father looking for pickpockets and other types of crime that could be easily prevented, not utilizing and honing his new found skills. Even if crime were to happen, which most of the time it didn"t, Xaine would hardly do more than just summon his blade and demand the culprit to stop and possibly arrest them. Xaine stood trying to focus on the task at hand. It didn"t help that he was stationed near the local baker. The smells of bread and various types of cakes mocked his stomach and the vigilance required of him. I can"t wait to just get a good meal, he thought to himself. Xaine shifted his stance again to allow blood flow and keep him from passing out on duty. As he did so he saw something. It was quick but Xaine was sure he had seen one too many hands in the rear pouch of a citizen. Xaine put his hand out to summon his blade and Barrek put out his arm to block his way. "Just wait a moment," he told Xaine quietly. "But;" Xaine began to protest but his father put his finger up to his lips to signify silence. "Watch," Barrek said. The man who had just lost his belongings to sticky fingers checked his pouch once again. Finding it missing he stopped and rummaged through carefully bringing the pack to the front and looking frantically. The woman he was with stopped and turned. "You couldn"t have lost it!" She said. "It was here just a moment ago I must have checked a hundred times," his eyebrows came together in concern. "It has to be here!" The woman who was fighting back tears could fight no more. She began to sob openly. "That"s all we had left, what are we supposed to do now?!" "We"ll find it dear! We must! We"ll retrace our steps it can"t be far, I just felt it in my pack a moment ago." The man replaced the pouch behind him and the two started to look at the ground and walk back the way they had come. It was at this point that Xaine noticed a man had stopped seemingly listening in to the conversation between the two. He was of average height, dark hair and blue eyes. He was altogether not a very big man but carried himself confidently. The man stood for a moment longer and when the two had turned back the other way Xaine could see him roll his eyes and sigh. He waited for the two to pass him and Xaine barely saw again his hand slip into the man"s pouch as he passed. It was so quick he second guessed that he had even seen it until the man checked his pack again and found whatever it was. The two were overjoyed that it was returned to them and chalked it up to looking poorly before. The two laughed about it and mentioned that they had better get to the buyer soon before they scare themselves senseless. "You see Xaine, all is well," Barrek said. "But he"s a thief, he"s just going to go steal something else." "That"s not necessarily true. See Xaine, there are those who steal out of greed and those who steal out of necessity. I"m not condoning thievery, " Barrek added seeing the look on Xaine"s face. "But he did return what he took." "That doesn"t make him a good man," Xaine replied. "It doesn"t make him a bad man either. We witnessed possibly the only mistake that that man made and, as soon as he heard that couple needed whatever it was he took, he returned it. So how do we know he"s not a good man and he"s just desperate." "Dad he did that so quickly I barely saw it. I don"t think this is his first or last time." Xaine argued. "But Xaine, what we witness was a crime that righted on its own. He may well go steal something else but we did not witness that. We cannot arrest him for something we assume he will do. If we were to do that he would be tried and most likely returned to the street in at most a couple days. With no proof, there"s nothing we can do." "I still don"t like it," Xaine said frustrated. "That"s because you are a good person, Xaine, and you stand up for what"s right. But the lesson you should learn here is not to pass judgment like good or bad on someone you don"t know." Xaine felt he had a little more evidence that the man was no good as they had just witnessed a crime. Still, he took his father"s words to heart and argued no more. Xaine watched the man until he was out of sight. He did nothing more worthy of arrest and Xaine second guessed himself. The second half of Xaine"s day was just as boring as the first. They had spent the whole day until sundown standing guard at various places. They weren"t even really paid. They had agreed to trade their services for the day for a room and food. Xaine and their small group of men met up after their duties were performed and talked about their day. Most of them seemed just as mundane as Xaine"s with the few exceptions where something somewhat exciting happened. Ailee, for instance, had the chance to arrest a drunk that was bothering shop owners and turning away business. "The man really had no sense. I mean getting drunk in the middle of the day then refusing to obey proper authorities." She was telling him. "At least you actually got to do something, I just stood around all day. I guess I did almost intervene, but dad stopped me and the guy returned what he took. I wonder if they really need this many people watching all the time. Seems like a waste to me," he replied. "I agree, they should be out looking for darkgons like we should be." "That"s not exactly what I meant, but I suppose you"re right." Ailee didn"t respond and just continued to eat her meal. Xaine thought she was beginning to catch on that if she showed too much disdain for the darkgons, Xaine would ask again why she hated them so much. She always answered it the same way, stating how destructive and vile they are and how all they can do is kill. Xaine always felt this was an indirect answer and that there was something else she wouldn"t tell him about it. Xaine never pushed too hard, her business was her business and he didn"t want to impose himself on something personal. Not wanting to make the situation more uncomfortable Xaine left it alone and continued the conversation. "Well, these people suffered from the darkgons attack just like Clearig so they need a little extra help I guess. At least, we have a few men out there looking for information on where they went." "I should have been with them," Ailee said fiercely. "I know more about those creatures than any of your townsmen." Xaine took no offense to her words. Xaine knew she was just very opinionated and really meant nothing against Kreila or their people. "You may know more about the darkgons, but you have about the same experience as me being a warrior. The men that are out looking are much more experienced at gathering information." "What"s to really get about it? You ask questions and listen to answers. It can"t be that hard." Xaine thought there was probably more to it than that. For instance, asking the right people- it would do no good to just ask everyone in sight. It could take hours to find someone who was there or knew anything. Xaine decided not to press the issue, however. Above a lot of Ailee"s traits Xaine had come to know she was very stubborn so he just shrugged and dropped the topic. The rest of the night went by without event and Xaine soon found himself preparing for bed in his room for the night. Xaine was not alone, however, he was sharing his room with another warrior as some of them did not get a free place to stay since they were gathering information. Xaine was happy to find out with a knock at the door that the warrior he was sharing with was Torin. Having given Xaine his trial and frequently participating in his training, Torin had become somewhat of a friend. "So did you find anything out?" Xaine inquired. "Yes actually, we have a good direction to go on that"s why I got here so late. I had to inform the others that aren"t sharing." Torin began to remove his bedroll from his pack. "No don"t worry about that. You"re the veteran you get the bed." Seeing that he was about to protest Xaine continued. "Besides look I"ve already laid out my bedroll. Just enjoy the bed while you can." Torin acquiesced and took the bed, but still seemed to feel a little bad about it. Xaine could see the look on his face and tried to further alleviate his guilt. "How about if we have to share a room again in the future I"ll get the bed next time?" Torin nodded and smiled. Xaine could see the slight signs of relief on Torin"s face and felt content. He really liked Torin, he was a good friend and an overall good person. Xaine speculated that this might have been because Torin was aged between Xaine and his father. This made him not feel too young to be around Barrek but not too old to be around Xaine. "Oh by the way," Torin said. "We are leaving town tomorrow morning. So expect to get up early. I spent the rest of my night telling everyone else that and almost forgot to tell you, ha." He chuckled. "I"m sure you would have woken me up anyway. Or at least, tripped over me when you woke up." They both laughed. The rest of the night was mostly quiet with only a few questions here and there about where they were headed and if they thought they had finally caught up to the darkgons yet. Torin was the first to drift off to sleep as was normal for Xaine. He didn"t often feel comfortable sleeping in the company of nonfamily and usually, could not sleep until they did. It also took Xaine some time to convince himself that the loud rattling snores coming from Torin were nothing but a light breeze and was finally able to drift off. Xaine woke early to the sounds of buckles being unfastened and leather and cloth sliding against one another. He opened his eyes to see Torin packing his things back in his bag and tightening the straps. "Sorry if I woke you," Torin said without even turning to look. "I usually get up a little earlier to have some time before I go on duty." "No problem," Xaine croaked in his tired state. "I probably should be getting up anyway." Xaine sat up straighter and blinked for a moment to get his eyes to focus. He was still very tired and slept only very lightly. This was probably the only reason he able to keep so polite after being woken up. He knew it wasn"t really Torin"s fault he really did not make much noise at all. The problem was that Xaine slept so lightly around other people that it didn"t take much to wake him. After several moments of sitting in the same spot and staring at his blanketed feet, Xaine realized how weird he must look. He turned his head to find Torin sitting on his bed cross-legged and smiling, amused. "Still pretty tired?" He said jokingly. Xaine forced a smile and shrugged trying not be, or seem, annoyed. Torin then pulled out what looked like a record book from a side pouch of his bag and began to read. Xaine continued getting himself ready for the day ahead. He packed his things, wrote in his own record, and pulled out his grandfather"s to read. The act always made him think of some future date when someone would be doing the same with his own record. Some grandchild or great grandchild who Xaine had found worthy of his help would have to get to know him. But what was there to know? Xaine wondered if his book would be interesting at all. He gave himself points for the story of the phoenix nearly killing him and the weird things the elder had told him. But other than that he was a normal teenage boy who had taken possibly longer than most to realize his powers. Xaine sat reading his grandfather"s record and came across an interesting entry. Drail had written that he asked the father of one of his female friends for his daughter's hand. This wouldn"t have been odd at all had anything lead up to it. He was perplexed and went back a few pages and even through big chunks of the book and found nothing. As far as Xaine knew she was only a friend. There were no feelings expressed, no special moments written about, nothing even leading up to asking. Xaine chuckled, he wasn"t sure if he would have written those details himself, but as most of Drail"s record was very detailed he thought he might add at least some information about who he was interested in, but there was nothing. Shortly after Xaine closed the book and continued on preparing for the day. Xaine and Torin left their room to meet with the rest of the small company and Xaine wondered just how much earlier he had woken. The sky was still dark but he could tell that it was slightly bluer than black and soon the stars would be winking out of sight as the sun rose. They arrived at the meeting place on the northwest edge of town. Xaine thought they had arrived first until he saw Barrek dismounted and scratching Geranium. "Morning Barrek, you"re here bright and early," Said Torin. "Early anyway," replied Barrek. "Morning to you too." Barrek nodded to Xaine with what seemed like a smirk on his face. Xaine had the feeling he had bunked with Torin before as well. Xaine smile and asked, "when do we leave?" "As soon as the other men get here and we brief them." "Where"s Ailee? Thought she would be here already." Barrek nodded his head toward the other side of Geranium and Xaine looked around. Ailee had taken a brush out and was grooming her saddled horse. She must have been up at least as early as Torin as she didn"t look tired at all and her hair was done up in the typical intricate braids she liked to wear. "I shouldn"t have questioned myself," Xaine muttered quietly. It wasn"t long before the rest of the party made it and they were able to go over what was learned in the town the previous day. Barrek explained to them all that they would be heading to a forest most of a day's journey to the northwest where they believe the darkgons had gone. Once they were closer it would be the tracker"s job to find the darkgons so they could observe. Ailee, as usual, protested that they needed to take further action against and was upset that even after they had ravaged at least 3 towns already they still wanted to observe. Xaine actually thought she made a fairly good point but he was too inexperienced to know if that was just because of his personal dislike for them or that they were actually too dangerous. After Barrek reiterated his rebuttal with astounding patience the company left. It was indeed hours before they were even able to verify their heading. They had reached the top of a large grass-covered hill. Over the top, they could see the ground sloped down into a large grassy valley. It formed what looked like an enormous green bowl with a large forest covering most of the bottom. Once they had started down the slope it still took a few hours before they reached the forest's edge. They had already decided that as they would reach the forest with still some daylight they would try to find signs of the darkgons to confirm their direction. Xaine was near the front of the company with Ailee trying to make it through the thick brush. Several of the warriors had summoned their blades to cut various vines and growth blocking their progress. It was hard work and many had dismounted to lead their horses through the thick brush, but being in the shade of the trees had somewhat revitalized the group. Xaine wasn"t sure if that was because they were out of the sun or because they knew they would soon be done with their search. Nevertheless, some of the warriors began talking to one another about various topics and some were telling jokes back and forth trying to get the biggest laugh. "No, that"s fine, don"t worry about all the noise you"re making," an unfamiliar voice said behind Xaine. "Who tries to stay quiet while searching the forest for vicious man-eating beasts?" Xaine, Ailee, and the two men next to them whirled around to see who had spoken. The other men behind Xaine had all summoned their weapons. The man"s voice wasn"t familiar, but his face was. For a moment, Xaine had trouble recalling how he knew the man and nearly summoned his weapon as well until; "It"s the thief! What are you doing out here?" Xaine asked incredulously. "And how did he beat us here?" Said Ailee. "I would probably guess I left before you did," he said sarcastically. "And I have a name you know." "Stand down," Barrek called to his men. "But watch your belongings," Xaine added. "Not now, Xaine," Barrek said sternly. "Who are you and what do you mean by man-eating beasts?" "The name"s Nab, and I overheard-" "Not much different from thief if you ask me," Xaine said not very quietly cutting Nab off. "Xaine, I said not now. I don"t want to hear any more of this." Barrek said calmly to Xaine. Xaine knew better than to interrupt again. "You overheard what?" "I overheard you talking about the darkgons. You were getting close but they weren"t fans of the noise and went deeper into the forest now." Barrek looked to one of the other men, the tracker. He had his hand on his hilt looking farther into the forest. "He"s right there are a lot of large creature"s moving farther in that direction." "How many?" "It"s hard to count they are all grouped close together and they are moving quickly. Twelve or so?" "How did this happen? Of all the men in this company who should have spotted them first?" "Understood, captain. It won"t happen again." "See that it doesn"t, we"ve dealt with these things before the next slip up could cost someone their lives." The man looked visibly disappointed but did not lower his gaze. He kept watching in the direction he had indicated. Barrek turned back to Nab. "Given the interruption, I gather you are tracking them as well?" "Yes I have been for some time now," Nab responded. Barrek waited a moment to speak again hoping he would elaborate. Nab did not. "I wonder if we may be able to help each other out. I don"t know what sort of power you may have but we do have a tracker and there is a safety in numbers," said Barrek. Xaine was about to protest when Ailee elbowed him in the ribs aggressively. Xaine looked at her confused and she nodded to his father. This made Xaine even more annoyed as she was almost always the first to argue and speak her mind if she didn"t like was going on. And how here she was trying to keep Xaine from doing the same thing. Unfortunately, her well-aimed jab distracted him long enough to miss his chance. "Numbers have little to do with safety if we can"t see the creatures sneaking up on us," Nab replied. "My men will not make the same mistake again. We also have with us a young warrior from the isles. She"s been tracking the creatures for longer than we have and may be able to share what she"s learned." Nab stood for a moment, apparently considering the proposition. He tilted his head from side to side and his eyes wandered as if he were having a conversation and stating various points but he did not speak. Apparently finished with his odd charade, he focused back on Barrek. "It just so happens that I am running somewhat short on supplies. I could use a good meal and refill of my water." Xaine scoffed, but at his father"s look, said nothing. Barrek nodded and walked forward to shake the man"s hand. "It"s a deal then."