The Confessions of Kellionor Galabrion
by, 03-14-2010 at 03:27 PM (1031 Views)
There were many turning points in my life, most of them terribly tragic. But do not offer me your pity, sympathy, or any sort of sentimentalities. The Racewar was long and hard on nearly everyone and my own story cannot be worse than any other. The important thing every person must realize is that from the depths of despair and loss one must hold on to the idea of hope. Usually the lowest, bleakest moments in ones life also contain opportunities for redemption from that foul and dark pit. What separates the survivors from the victims is the recognition of those opportunities and the will to seize them. Of course luck, fate, or divine intervention have their roles to play.
-From the Confessions of Kellionor Galabrion
Gaelyn Galabrion lay in the small tent he erected next to a tree, not too far from the wagon. The wind was rising and he could tell that there was a fierce storm approaching. Because of this he had his wife and child sleep in the wagon while he kept what watch he could outside. The small tent was well camouflaged by natural growth on both sides, as well as by brush he had placed on top and in front. He had made an effort to hide the wagon, though there was little that could be done. After dinner he had re-packed the wagon and had kept his two-horse team bridled and harnessed to it.
There was little he could observe in the darkness this far off the road anyway. The dense foliage and black clouds made seeing much further than a few feet nearly impossible. And he dared not start a fire. So he listened to the wind and the slow patter of rain as it began.
Gaelyn was an experienced fighter and had served many years in the army before striking out on his own to adventure across the land. He held his greatsword across his lap in its sheath and prayed that he had secured his horses tightly enough. He knew that thunder and lightning could spook his horses so badly that they could break loose and he might have to chase them and the wagon down. Securing the horses in such a way that they could be away quickly was a rare thing for him to do since it was not very good for the horses, but he somehow felt the need this evening.
There was a bad, uneasy feeling down deep in his gut as he listened to the rain. He could not be sure, but he felt as if they had been followed since midmorning. He had backtracked twice to see if there were tracks or sign of someone or thing following. He was no ranger, and his minimal tracking skills were not up to the task. But as he sat in the small tent, he derided himself for not pushing on, into the night.
Now, however, he felt a chill that had nothing to do with the downpour that was fully underway. Perhaps he heard something move in the darkness, perhaps he smelled something that was not right. For whatever reason, he felt suddenly compelled by the urgency of fear to leave the small shelter. Ten feet in front of him were three enemies he had seen before. He knew what they were since he had killed many of them in the past. They had not seen him yet as they crept up to the rear of the wagon. He was downwind of the enemy and so the little noise he made was covered by the wind and rain.
He approached quietly, but made sure he reached them before they reached the rear flap of the wagon. Without a word he began to hack at them. The first one fell quickly with a single blow. The deep gash in its back forestalled any cries of agony or anguish as it collapsed to the muddy ground. The other two quickly turned and came upon him faster than he would have thought.
Gaelyn parried the weapon of the one on the left then cleaved through the shield of the one on the right, severing the arm. It’s howl of pain was snuffed out before it began as Gaelyn’s second strike cut deeply into its skull. Using his boot he tried to push off the dead Creature from his sword. As he did this Gaelyn moved to his right, trying to keep the dead creature between himself and the remaining enemy. The Creature jumped upwards, taking advantage of the pinned sword and hacked down at Gaelyn’s exposed head. He dodged to the right and twisted his blade free, swinging it upwards into the chest of the remaining foe. It too fell to the ground, bloody and lifeless.
Gaelyn did not hesitate. He reached into the wagon and grabbed the leg of his wife and shook it. A moment later her head came out of the back.
“Quickly! Quietly! We must go. Get up front, I will free the tethers.” Again, he did not hesitate but quickly moved towards the horses and the stakes he had placed into the ground. Mollindra Galabrion took only the briefest of moments as she surveyed the dead creatures on the ground. Without a word, she hurriedly climbed out of the back and moved to the front of the wagon. She was climbing up and saw something in the distance down the road. Torches. Lots of torches. Whatever the enemy was, it was coming quick and riding some sort of steeds.
Mollindra grabbed the reins as she pulled a small covering off of weapons that were attached to the back of the seat and began to move the horses. She was afraid, terrified. The wagon had already begun to move when she become aware that Gaelyn had not taken a seat beside her. The horses were nervous and skittish, but they responded easily enough despite that they were moving off into near total darkness.
The wagon had been in a slight opening at the side of the very narrow road, and as it moved, Gaelyn jogged beside it tying to grab a rail by the front bench seat while still holding onto his large weapon. He pulled himself up just as the wagon turned onto the road. As he settled into the seat beside Mollindra, he put his sword inside another scabbard. The previous one had been discarded somehow along the way. This one was positioned directly behind the driver’s seat and was nestled among the other weapons. He withdrew a short bow and strung it as quickly as he could before uncapping the quiver.
He looked to both sides of the wagon as it regained the more stable road. There was very little room to allow the wagon passage. This was the primary reason why he had avoided traveling at night. It would be difficult to avoid having a corner or wheel strike a tree or root. Damage to the wagon he could ill afford. But those concerns were not important at the moment. He looked behind them and saw numerous figures riding quickly up to the wagon. The only advantage the narrow road offered was that their approaching enemies would not be able to come along side them. However, Gaelyn estimated that there was no way they were going to out-run them, not pulling a wagon. He cursed himself for not having Mollindra grab Kelly and bring him up front with her. They could at least flee with the two horses.
A bright flash of lightning and a deafening clap of thunder filled his senses. Gaelyn was looking left and to the rear when the lightning struck. He was not blinded by the flash, though he suspected Molly was by the intake of her breath and the stream of curses that followed. The horses jumped, jerking the wagon, though they continued under her direction. In the brief moment of the lightning flash, Gaelyn saw what they were up against. The road behind was filled with the riders, at least thirty of them, some of whom carried burning brands. He looked at his wife momentarily as he realized what he must do. But first, before he jumped, he began firing his bow at the riders. The jolting of the wagon along the road did little to improve his situation as he carefully took aim at the closest of the enemy.
Though he was skilled in the use of the bow, it was not his favored weapon. Gaelyn had dedicated much of his life to the perfection of the art of killing. However, most of that involved the use of his great sword. Nevertheless, his skill was proving effective as again and again his arrows struck true. But the enemy was not satisfied to simply ride along as targets. They began to use their own bows to good effect. Several of them went by his head and most of them stuck in the wagon.
The strike of thunder rolled across the earth awakening Kelly from his deep sleep. The deep vibration could still be felt in his bones as he wiped his eyes and sat up. The heavy sound of rain could be heard against the stitched leather top of the wagon, and the chill in the air made Kelly want to crawl deeper into his blankets. But the jostling of the wagon had started again and Kelly knew that they were moving for some reason, though they had stopped to camp for the night. He could not be certain why, but there was a sense of danger in the air, a sense of urgency. For a lingering moment he remembered bits of his father’s story by the campfire, and how his mother admonished him for the bloody, violent tale.
Kelly reached out to where his mother had curled up beside him in the wagon and found that she had left while he was sleeping. He could barely see anything, it was so dark. That was when he heard the arrow impact the back of the wagon. It pierced the cloth-covered rear and embedded in the wooden crate behind his head. The crate carried hard, dried bread that his father referred to only as “Not that shit again!” But then he heard his father’s voice coming from the front of the wagon.
A horrible thought occurred to Gaelyn as he ducked down and pulled away a strip of leather that covered a slit in the wagon behind the seat. Though he could not see inside the wagon at this angle, he hoped his voice would carry inside.
“Kelly! Keep down! Lay as low as you can and take cover!”
Gaelyn was not sure his son had heard him and he was not able to do much about his situation in any event. But as he again looked over the wagon, he saw that the enemy had closed to within only a few feet of the rear of the wagon. It was then that he decided to make his move. He kissed his wife on the cheek. “I love you! Don’t stop, whatever you do. After I start climbing to the back cut this wagon open,” he said, slapping the thick, oiled cloth covering the wagon. “and get Kelly the hell out of here.” He pulled his great sword from its sheath and again stood up.
This time he climbed up on top of the wagon, keeping low, and made his way to the rear. More arrows came past him and he felt the wagon shudder. He spared a look over his right shoulder as he moved along the top of the wagon. It was then he saw the arrow sticking out of the rear of his wife’s head. Her body then slumped to the left and fell off. The road was so narrow that the body immediately bounced off the trunk of a tree and was forced against the side of the wagon. He could feel the wagon rise as her body quickly fell under the left rear wheel. He rose then, planting his right foot on the last spar of the frame, yelled in fury, and launched himself upon the lead rider.
He impacted with the body of the rider but he had led with his sword. The blade cleaved deep into the shoulder of his enemy and sank nearly into its chest. As the body fell to the side he cursed himself for his clumsiness. Refusing to let go of his weapon he fell with the body to the ground. He hit hard and the weapon was almost twisted out of his hands as he separated, rolled in the mud, and came to his feet. The fall from the charging giant wolf would certainly have been the downfall of lesser men
Behind him now, the wagon tipped to the right and was pulled a bit further by the team before it went completely on its side. The wagon continued to roll and it hit several trees to the side of the road, bounced back and forth as it started to come apart before coming to rest upside down. It was far away and barely visible through the darkness and rain. The team of horses must have also fallen. Over everything else he thought could hear them baying and whinnying in pain and fear.
But all of this he took in with a mere glance and his ears. He focused on his enemies. If his son survived that crash then he too would need to live. His sword took out a foreleg of a wolf as it went by. He saw the tip of a spear come at him and dodged to the side while he slapped the weapon down and into the ground with the flat of his greatsword. The creature was catapulted into the air.
Other riders slowed down, moved to the sides of the road and began to dismount while the two rear-most continued to charge forward at him with long spears of their own.
When I woke up after the crash my world immediately centered around pain in both of my legs, and it was hard to take a breath. My head was bleeding and everything hurt. But the pain and shock gave way quickly to fear when I remembered we were being attacked. Everything was upside down and confused and I was being smothiered in blankets, crates and barrels. The length of one of the broken spars pinned my legs between something heavy in the wagon, perhaps the wagon itself, or crates. I could move some, and moved the blankets out of my face. But now I could looked out of the open back of the wagon.
Through the near total darkness there was light in the distance from the torches held aloft by our enemies. The torches, somehow burning brightly in the rain, created a circle of light were I could see some of what was happening. The tears, blood, pain and rain caused everything about that night to become a blur and my imagination may have played a crucial part in piecing together the action I was only partially witnessing. Because of this I will try not to relate here what I do not distinctly remember happening, though the years between that incident and today may have cemented what my imagination created in such as way as to make it indistinguishable from true memory.
In truth I could not see a lot of the action since the back of the wagon was so low to the ground and my body was situated, from what I recall, at about the middle. Mostly, I saw legs and feet, though I picked out only my father’s at that distance as he fought and moved about in the torchlight. But over the sound of the tortured horses I could hear my father yelling in anger, sometimes in pain. I remember crying and flailing about to get out from under the wagon. When I shifted a flat crate I remember the added pressure and pain that made me stop those efforts so that I only focused on what I could see and hear: My father fighting for not only his own life but for those of my own and my mother, though I did not realize at the time she was already dead.
I could neither see nor hear my mother at the time, and thinking back on the incident I do not remember thinking about her then, not during the battle or all through the night afterwards. Only when I saw her body later did I feel the pain of her loss. But I do remember watching our enemies fall to the ground, dead or dying from my father’s sword. I remember clinging to a greater measure of hope as each one fell before him. I remember the hatred and anger I felt for them, a certain twisted pleasure as the battle raged closer to the wagon and I could see the bodies more clearly in their throws of death. But it is entirely remarkable that I cannot remember what our enemy looked like, not their race or gender. They wore light armor and were heavy of build, but that is about all I can recall besides their low, guttural shouts or screams in the night. They rode mounts that appeared to have an aspect of a wolf or giant dog.
The fighting seemed to go on for a long time, and as the battle came closer to the wagon I remember imagining my father laying waste to them, hundreds of them falling and dying around him as the battle progressed. I reenacted the battle in my mind time and time again over the years, supplying moves my father may have made as I developed my own weapon skills.
Despite the fog of terror that must have gripped me that terrible night, there was one moment of true clarity that stuck with me all my life. It was the end of the battle. My father was laying on his side only a few feet from the rear of the overturned wagon. His face was turned up towards me in the dim light, but it lit up with the illumination of an approaching torch. His grey eyes seemed to glint from something else, perhaps some inner source of light. I distinctly remember the expression of pain and sorrow on my fathers face as his life left him, as he inched his way closer to me along the ground with broken arrows embedded in his chest and side. The words “I’m sorry, so terribly sorry. I love you so much! Be brave!” Were his last words. I saw several more arrows enter his back, then the eyes were lifeless, his body still.
I remember other feet coming closer then, though booted feet are all I can recall through my veil of tears. Booted feet and a gloved hand reached down and picked up my father’s weapon. There was some yell of triumph, though it was hard to make out through the pounding of my heart and the narrowing of my focus on the face of my now dead father.
I cannot say how long it was I stayed awake after the battle. I did not remember falling asleep, only the long sobs of grief and sorrow that choked me for what seemed like hours as I watched my dead father as a captive audience, a prisoner trapped beneath the wagon. Whoever they were, they did not stick around and search the wagon and I still do not know why they attacked us. But I know that at some point I did fall asleep and woke up well after the storm had passed and the sun was above the horizon. I heard the sound of horse hooves on the earth, and feared that my father’s murderers were still around, or had returned.
I do not remember the language of our attackers. And as I said their voices were deep and guttural. The voices I heard then were human and their steeds were obviously horses. I called out then, and heard someone come closer. The voice that greeted me was calm and confident. His face came into view as he stooped down behind the wagon. The sun was shining down in the gap between the trees, caused by the road and seemed to highlight the man’s head with a golden glow. The man had to get down onto his belly to get to me and reached in, taking my own hand in a firm and steady grip. “We will get you out, son.” He said. “Hang in there.” But as I gripped his hand I saw a true illumination and felt something stir deep within me.
The man was wearing chainmail and a heavy brown leather cloak. On the outside of his chainmail he displayed a religious symbol of Verengaard. It was a round yellow disk that looked like the sun itself. The disk had fallen forward and was touching the earth as reached in for me. It was now glowing brightly, almost blinding in its intensity. He took notice of it and glanced down. I could not see his expression, but as he let go of my hand to pick his symbol off of the ground the light abruptly winked out. I do remember hearing his shocked intake of breath and his amazed eyes as he suddenly looked at me once more. It was not fear in his eyes, more like a sense of wonder or awe. I was very young at the time but I remember that look. Then he reached out to take my hand only to have his symbol shine once again.
But it was that stirring within me that I remember most of that meeting. Like a warm glow of comfort, my fear started to ebb away, my inner pain started to recede. That comforting balm suddenly vanished when he let go and I longed to regain that grip on his hand. When he touched my hand again the feeling returned in full measure.
His expression changed to something that I cannot describe but have seen often since. I found out soon after that the man was a cleric of some power. He muttered the words “Verengaard, you have found another!” and then began giving orders to the others to get me out of there, all the while never releasing my hand. But laying on the ground he rolled to the side so his other hand could tuck the symbol beneath the front of his armor and out of plain sight.
It was only a few moments longer before several others lifted the wagon and he pulled me free. All in all, I was not badly injured. Surprisingly, there were no broken bones. But I was silent, emptied of tears and emotion. The cleric’s hand in my own seemed to keep me sane, with a feeling of safety and security.
I tried to move closer to my father, whose body was still laying face down several feet away. I remember someone grabbed me and pulled me away from the cleric. That feeling of safety suddenly vanished, but for some reason I did not seek his hand again, not right away. This other man tried to get me to climb onto one of the horses. But when I frantically resisted his efforts the cleric bade that he release me. I remember pulling away and running to my father’s body. There were several arrows sticking out of his back and broken shafts embedded into his chest. I gripped one of the arrows sticking out of the center of his back and tried to work it free. But the shaft broke.
Standing, I walked over to the wagon and retrieved an undamaged one, carrying both to the horse I was to mount. I cannot truly say why I recovered them, or why they were so important to me at the time. Only later would I affix some meaning to the act.
I always felt that I should have remembered at least one of the men that rescued me that morning, other than the cleric of Verengaard. I can only say that my attention was fixed on the arrows I gripped on that journey. I know I replayed what I knew of the battle again and again in my mind, my father’s last words, the look on his face, his dying breath. You can imagine the trauma these sorts of incidents can have on the young.
As we left the wagon, and its now dead team, I remember seeing my mother’s body laying to the side of the road. Her body was crushed, a broken arrow was embedded in the rear of her skull. I remember feeling as if my own heart were crushed. But as we passed her body I looked hard at the arrow. It was broken in half, folded over onto itself, but the fletching was visible. I compared them as well as the shaft with what I gripped in my hand and knew they were the same. The shafts were both black with small silver-colored stripes, and the fletching consisted of yellow and black feathers with an assortment of odd colored dots. I would later learn that they came from a bird to the east, a bird most commonly found in the elfin lands. I still carry those bits of my past with me today.
Nowhere on the field of my father’s last battle was there a body of the fallen enemy. There was plenty of blood. More blood than the rain could wash away. I thought later that I might have looked for some sort of tracks. But the mind of an eight year old does not exactly think in those terms under the conditions I was in at the time.
I do not remember much of that journey, other than it was long and hard riding behind one man in armor or another. We must have stopped to rest and camp several times.
When we were camped the cleric, I discovered his name was Jordin Heggle, would talk to me and try to get me to tell him what happened. I cannot say why I could not talk about it at first, but while I was silent, he talked about Verengaard and the teachings of his prophets. He told me tales of the Knights of the Verengaard, filling my head with stories of heroism and honor. Sometime before we reached Banamyr I had told him everything, probably crying or sobbing like the child I was. Still, when he would touch me his holy symbol would glow and something inside of me made a strong connection with something and I felt as if I were glowing on the inside as well. And when I asked him about it, he told me that it was for the High Priest at the Temple of the Sun to sort out. But he said that in time I will learn to feel that connection without his aid.
I often imagined that were it not for the demise of my parents I would follow in the footsteps of my father who had spent many years in the military. Then, when the time felt right, I would break away, retire, muster out, and find my own way in the world. But such a fate was denied me.
When we reached Banamyr Father Heggle first took me to an inn. There he cleaned me up, got me some good clothes, and better food. And although I had slept a good deal on the journey, I remember the comfort of my first real mattress at that Inn. I do believe that was the first mattress I ever slept upon. My stay there was very short. I think it was the third day in Banamyr when he took me to the Temple of the Sun.
I had never seen a place like it before. And whether my parents visited such a center of worship in my short eight years of life I do not recall. And there was a point as I walked along that the feeling I had while touching father Heggle’s hand abruptly arose within me unbidden and without his aid, but much stronger. I stopped then and gazed up at the temple. The symbol of Verengaard above the central tower seemed to shine on me alone. The tears I shed then were more cathartic than I can describe, and it seemed as if the inner turmoil, the pain and grief began to lift and dissipate though it would take a few more years to complete.
Jordin Heggle stepped up to me and pulled out his holy symbol before gripping my shoulder. His symbol failed to glow this time. I barely made out his words, they were spoken so softly, but I do remember them. He said “Our journey together is nearly over, young man.” And then he directed me up the short steps. I have been told that when I stepped upon the consecrated grounds of the temple the symbol in the tower began to glow. I do not remember it that way. It just seemed as if the sun’s rays glinted brightly off of the giant bronze disk and reflected into my eyes, almost blinding me. That could also explain the tears. I was also told that there were others on the steps of the temple when I arrived and that they saw a shimmer of light surround my body. Again this can be easily explained by the reflection of the sun, but I ascribe such tales as nonsense, like the makings of growing rumors that change over time with the telling of them. And I was told that the great symbol of Verengaard stopped glowing as soon as I stepped within the church proper. As I said, that it glowed at all is doubtful in my mind, though I will never doubt the power of Verengaard himself.
Upon entering the atrium I saw a shallow pool of water to one side. The pool also gave off a slight radiance, an inner glow that seemed to come from the inside of the bowl. “Yes, that is holy water. And when inside the temple and inside the bowl it always looks like that.” The cleric said to me. He stepped over to the water and dipped two fingers inside, saying some sort of prayer as he did so. He then traced a circle on his own forehead with his wet finger as he completed his short prayer.
But then the high priest stepped into the atrium. He took one look at me and seemed to recognize me, though I had never seen him before. There was a rushing noise in my ears then. I do not remember when it started, but I think that is when I first noticed it. This was later explained to me as the Whispers. This ever present holy sound could only be understood during times of prayer and deep reflection when Verengaard or lesser powers at his direction speak to the faithful. It would be several years before I could truly listen with an open heart and mind to what Verengaard had to say. But I was young when he called me to service and I had not yet learned enough of the religion to make sense of anything.
The years that followed were the best of my life up to that point. My mother had taught me the basics of how to read and write, but the priests at the Temple of the Sun taught me so much more. And it was several years later during my time with the Knights that I was told that my training would set me apart from both the priesthood and the Knights of the Temple themselves. I was training to be a Warrior of the Light, ever striving to become a Champion of the Sun. Like some few clerics of the religion of Verengaard, I was to be set free upon the completion of my training to make my own way in the world and to allow my destiny to be directed by the hand of Verengaard himself.
However, I always keep with me the arrows that I recovered after the death of my parents. As time went by I found one among the Knights of the Temple that spoke the language of the elves and managed to find a tutor there. My main purpose was to learn about them, the elves that I supposed must have been my parent’s murderers. I wanted very much to learn about their culture, their history. But the more I leaned, the more I realized that the elves could not have been the ones responsible, though they were the most likely suspects at the time.
In the late hours of the night I would lay awake and pull out those bits of wood, feather, and steel. I would examine the keen edge of the expertly crafted head. I would lose myself in the leafy pattern etched into the metal, and the amazing skill or craft that placed the black enamel over the entire shaft. With no knowledge of the bowyer’s craft, I would imagine the long-lived elves taking weeks or months to craft a single arrow.
Eventually my time among the clerics and knights was over, as was the Racewar that I had imagined to have claimed my parent’s lives. And as I make my way throughout the world I will forever seek out my parent’s murderers. As an instrument of justice, honor, truth, and light I realize that if and when that personal quest comes to an end I will have a choice to make. For my training and experience has shed light on a simple but important truth: there is neither justice nor honor in vengeance.