It took me quite a while to get done with this installment, (probably not too smart on my part). But here is the final Untold Story of Xiden. Of course I couldn’t lose a character like this, so his story will continue in The Stones of Caron. When that gets released is anyone’s guess, but right now you’ll have to console yourselves with an appetizer from my collection.
Recap: Xiden fled from his country to escape imprisonment by his own king, Dellborad. His best friend, a soldier by the name of Siward helped him to escape and they were promptly recaptured and set to pulling oars for Dellborad’s navy. Xiden escapes, leaving Siward in the clutches of the navy and seeks to defect to Rema’s old enemy, Arvad.
Soaking wet and half naked, Xiden climbed out of the water. The bank was covered in thick grass and impeded him; the struggle felt like more than his already tired arms were willing to endure. However, he finally conquered both river and treacherous bank, and wasted no time setting out overland. His bare feet soon ached from the lumpy ground gouging at them, but fortunately there were few rocks.
Dragon Port, Arvad’s gold embossed jewel on the coastline chain, was the closest settlement. It had been destroyed over thirty years ago by a dragon, giving life to its poor name. Tales of such a mighty beast were rampant after its death at the hand of a few young Arvadians, who personified the dogged determination and fierce loyalty of their people. Xiden urgently hoped this loyalty would not get him shot by the first Arvadian he saw. True, blonde Remans were rare, but one could hardly take him for a native with his pale skin and the direction from which he was coming.
Strong as he was, Xiden was not accustomed to running so long and fast and soon grew tired. Keeping to the low areas and carefully navigating the way, he walked and jogged late into the night before laying down in the tall grass to sleep. He was awakened by his own shivers when morning neared. With barely three hours of sleep under his belt, he set off again eastward using the stars as a guide and the darkness as a cloak. He began to veer south as he got deeper into Arvadian territory and he wished just as strongly he would run into a patrol as he wished he would not. He chewed on grass as he ran to relieve his hunger and give him some strength. He was uncannily happy for his situation. He was too glad to have his feet back on the ground to be sad; besides, it was a beautiful day and the seagulls provided company.
Well into his second day of walking, Xiden espied soldiers on horseback coming from the north. There were about six of them, obviously on patrol. They galloped their majestic horses across the rolling hills the with leisure and grace unique to their race. Xiden had heard of the exceptional horsemanship of the Arvadians, but he never believed it until he saw the war horses the soldiers rode; the men looked extraordinarily plain next to the fine, glossy creatures and their equally fine tack.
Mustering all the strength in his vocal cords, Xiden shouted at them until they heard him and raced for the hill on which he stood. Had he been wearing more than crude trousers, they would have drawn their swords on him without hesitation, but they merely observed as he spoke to them in a thick Reman accent, which certainly surprised them, though they proved to be well bred and did not show it.
“I escaped from a Reman ship on the river. I wish to speak to your king.”
The leader of the six soldiers was taken aback by the accent and started fingering the sword strapped to his saddle. “Why do you wish to be brought before our king so?”
“Because I have a mission and it requires his help to complete,” Xiden replied simply.
“Or perhaps you wish to assassinate him,” stated one of the other soldiers. Xiden was surprised a subordinate of the officer had spoken. In Rema, such behavior was strictly out of conduct.
“You may test my loyalty any way you wish,” Xiden pleaded. “I have been foolish in the past months, attempting to physically strike my own king. I have tried to flee his justice with the aid of my friend, a soldier of the palace guard. I have been pulling oars for two months, trying to get away so I could aid in ending his reign. He has destroyed my country and enslaved his own people, members of his very court. I suspect even my father is pulling weeds or rowing a ship somewhere. Tell that to your king and then ask why I seek his assistance.”
The venom aroused in the young man surprised the soldiers and one rode forward to take him up on the back of the horse. Xiden mounted awkwardly, and gripped with his knees so hard the majestic steed flinched forward at a pace which made Xiden feel justified in clinging to the rider’s saddle.
Ebwin had been a rural village until the king of Arvad decided to move there. It then became almost exclusively inhabited by those responsible for his care and that of his family. The main residence of the royal family had once been restricted to fortresses in the Mischief Mountains of northern Arvad. Those impressive Citadels were used now only for fortifications against Niren. With the reserves of food and weapons located there, Arvadians could stave off a hearty siege for months.
One had to wonder why the king of Arvad would choose a lowly village and farmer’s town over that of the exhaustive luxury in the Mischief Citadels. The answer was in the life of Arvad’s king. Born in Ebwin, Quen remembered days spent riding on the free grasses of the plains. Happenstance had brought his parents hence, before he was born and Quen’s life had begun in the humble home of a farmer. His father and older brother’s deaths had passed the crown to the last child of Ezra, King of Arvad.
Quen was a curious sight, considering he was of royal blood. He did his best to defeat a regal image in spite of the attentions paid him by his wife, daughter and manservant. He would often ignore the restrictions of court life and go off riding on his own without a guard. To the guards he was an endless, burdensome responsibility, to the people, he was a personal friend and a respected man.
Two weeks after his escape, Xiden appeared before this peculiar king clothed in the coarse uniform allotted to soldiers. He was ceremoniously bound and stood between two guards, each a full head taller than he.
King Quen stared at Xiden with scrutinizing eyes. He could hardly believe this blonde youth was Reman. He had known some Arvadians and Remans had intermarried over the years, but a blond Reman was almost as rare as an elf that didn’t mark six feet in height. Quen waited a long time before he spoke, inwardly admiring the patience the youth portrayed. Xiden’s blue eyes didn’t waver as he looked into those of the king. The king knew how to manipulate men and he understood the minds of the soldiers who served under him.
Quen knew Xiden as a passionate young fellow, whose loyalty couldn’t be bought with reason or gold, and was an unlikely candidate to appear before his court. But now, standing before him, was someone ready to betray his liege lord and forfeit his life in the process, provided it cost Dellborad his life, his crown or both. Quen pondered what could cause a man to turn against his own king so, and knew he must choose his words carefully. Whatever the reason for Xiden’s betrayal, he would not harm Rema in his actions, only Dellborad, and only if he were certain it would have no repercussions on Remans.
As a few minutes passed, Quen weighed his words with the precision which had won him a rouge army’s loyalty. He spoke with the same skill he thought with, and kept his voice somewhere between sarcasm and sincerity. “So, you’ve come to declare yourself a political enemy? But not against me, no, no,” he drawled. “You’ve come to divulge secrets to me about Dellborad.”
“Fie him! I care naught for him now, or ever before. He is worse than a traitor, he is a tyrant.” Xiden let his passion show plainly. “I have come to betray him. I shan’t waste worry on my own life; my blood is already penalized.”
“How can I trust you, Reman?” Quen reclined in a relaxed manner, hoping to work Xiden into a sweat.
“Just hear me out, and if after my words have been computed, you still don’t trust me, then kill me. However, if I am to be trusted, then help me. This is all I ask.”
“Then tell me, young man, what is it you wish of me?”
“I wish to free my people from their slavery. It is an abomination to humanity to be subject to men as their absolute masters, no longer free to eat and sleep as they will. If you don’t believe me, take a moment to wonder what happened to your people when Dellborad claimed the prairie west of the Sable River. Your people were fools when you did not determine a definite boundary between you and Rema, for now you have lost more than ever. Your people were not all killed, they were brought into captivity along with those of Dellborad’s own people and, yes, even his own house. These are not bondservants as is tradition in Rema, but true slaves who have no say in any matter; they are treated like dogs in their own land. I also know a few things about the elfin enemy, Niren. I know Dellborad is treating with him and it won’t be long before the two nations form as one and cut you off from your allies.”
Quen, in all of his wisdom, was utterly surprised. These words from this impudent youth were the words of a spy. He was not unduly cautious of the young man. If Dellborad intended to provoke Quen into a war, tales of woe and sorrow would no doubt be used as provocation.
Quen sat alone in his throne room; he had ordered the guards and servants out, to give himself room to think. Xiden would be held in the prison under maximum security until Quen had determined his fate.
Xiden was reckless, that much was true. He was young for a spy, but perhaps he had been reared as one. He had the build of an oarsman, though he was small. He never once incited hatred against his own nation, simply the man who controlled it. Yes, Xiden was worth considering. But he could also be a clever assassin. Would he have allowed himself to get caught if he wanted to get close to Quen or a member of the court? Quen thought not. A true assassin would have spoken as a pure Arvadian and no one would have been any the wiser.
Quen had been much like Xiden in his youth and he saw things no one else might have suspected of the boy. Xiden never once told his own story. Not a word was breathed of an impoverished mother and enslaved father. No sisters were living in forced servitude in the house of a cruel baron, no brothers were bending their backs in the heat of the day at another man’s plow. These were things Quen would have expected to hear of a spy.
Late the same night, Quen was restless, which of course made his guards equally nervous. His midnight excursions were something of speculation among the Arvadians, but to Quen’s guards, they were an unfortunate reality. No rest for the weary, no sleep for the good soldier when the king took to pacing the halls. Not even Quen’s wife could console him.
When the moon was at the peak of its travel, he swept out of the palace with an entourage of soldiers with him. He traversed the empty streets of Ebwin until he reached the prison, where he made the tired guards wait outside.
Quen brushed by the prison guard without a word. Standing at the head of the row of cells, the king roared his stentorian voice. “Xiden, son of Rema, will you serve me?”
The eight other inmates of the small jail rolled over in their beds and covered their heads, hoping the bandy wouldn’t take long. But Xiden had not slept and walked to the front of his cell with eagerness, thrusting a hand through in a slight wave. “I shall, King of Arvad.”
“How can you serve me?”
Xiden answered without hesitation. “I will help protect you, your heir and your people. I will defeat Niren single handedly if I may also take Dellborad with me.”
“You are a sharp witted fellow,” said the king as he walked up to the cell bars. He stared the youth in the eyes until any other man would have quailed, but Xiden looked firmly back in readiness. “I would ask you to serve me as a strategist, foiling Dellborad where you can and telling us what you know of him to help him to his doom. Help me keep my land and rescue my people from slavery in Rema.”
“For these things I shall help you. No country will be safe from me if you give me the word. I can spy, chart, and weaken wherever you wish.”
“You promise much, Reman. But if you can accomplish half, you will certainly earn your bread.” Quen held up his index finger to Xiden’s nose. “If you make one misstep, if you attack any member of my court or cripple this country in any way, you will return to this cell until your long life rots away and you die an old man.”