Chapter Preview

Life Is Unexpected


               This feels too good to be true! I never thought he would return but here he is. I feel like we could almost pick things up right where we left off all those years ago. Amekia thought to herself with a mixture of happiness and anger while she ran through a field of daisies. A smile crept across her lips as she ran pushing the anger aside, back down into its deep well. The sun casted a radiant and defiant golden glow from its peak in the late afternoon sky. However black clouds fought with tooth and nail, without pause, for dominion of the sky. Off to the east, a colossal shadow advanced across the meadow as the black clouds waged their war against the sunlight. A gentle breeze, like the calm before a storm drifted as a silent observer carrying ill omens across the field. The hectically placed rows of daisies shivered from the eerie breeze; as if their afraid of the war. Occasional droplets of rain fall from the sky, like tears for the fallen, carried by the silent breeze from the battle far above.

The sky warned of heavy rain and fierce wind but Amekia and Jorden ignored the impending storm. Instead they ran spreading happiness and excitement through the field while they scooped up daisies and laughed with delight. We can’t stay much longer but I’m not ready to leave yet Amekia realized with a mental sigh. The smile slipped off her face as the anger crept back up from its well. The clouds had her on edge but it was too early in the year for a spring squall, so she dismissed the feeling once more and continued to run; there was still time to be happy before the storm. It’s those precious minutes that matter most. Not where he has been all these years or why he suddenly came back. All that matters is that he did come back. She tried to reassure herself but it felt hollow.

Amekia was just shy of her nineteenth birthright. She had long brown hair with the slightest of curls that framed her soft complexion and caressed her faint jaw line. Her passionate eyes were bright blue like looking at the sky through a crystal. She had lips that were made for smiling and laughing but it was a rare occasion to be happy of late. She stood just over a head shorter than Jorden, but she was considered to be of average height for her age. She was skinny, but fit and athletic, from the daily exercise involved with hiking through the woods. A pink ribbon tied just above her left ear fluttered chaotically as she continued to run. Her stout brown boots came up to just under her knee. Her pale blue trousers were tucked into the top along with a wickedly carved knife that she always carried with her into the woods. She wasn’t an expert when it came to the woods but, she spent so much time around them, it always felt like home.

Her father had given her the knife many years ago for protection and since then it went everywhere with her safely tucked into her boot. The knife had been in the family for longer than she could remember but, it was still as sharp as the day it was made. The handle was plain, made of wood, and carved to resemble a serpent’s tail. The blade looked like frosted steel and was crafted in the shape of a serpent’s body and head. There were old runes carved on the blade just below the hilt. A single sapphire sat near the end of the blade to resemble the serpent’s eyes. She wondered where such an expensive knife had come from, but, no one in her family seemed to remember. They shrugged off all her questions about the knife or its history which led her to believe they were lying.

Just off to her side Amekia spots a patch of yellow daisies growing from the remains of an old tree stump. She changed course and scooped up a bright yellow flower as she continued running through the field. She liked the flower because it matched the light yellow shirt she chose to wear today. Before the wind created by running had a chance to damage the pretty little flower she slipped it into the front pocket of her shirt for safe keeping.

Her brother Jorden ran beside her for the first time in years. He kept up to her with ease, not even breaking a sweat. His twenty-third birthright had come and gone a few months past. Semi-long blond hair blew in the wind as he ran and his brown eyes sparkled with delight. He had a close cut beard that framed his face which was carved with hard lines like a gemstone. Handsome and rugged described Jorden from his brown cloth shirt down to his stout leather boots.

Jorden’s short sword swayed in a natural motion with his movement. The sword was the only outward indication of his militia training besides his eyes, which never seemed to rest in one place from more than a few seconds. They came to a stop at the crest of a small hill and stood in an awkward silence while they caught their breath and watched the approaching storm.

“This weather makes it hard to believe that the spring equinox isn’t until next month.” Amekia said to break the awkward silence. He’s been gone for so long…what do I say? There’s not enough time for all the questions I have. Is he still the same Jorden that left so long ago? She wondered. She decided to lie down in a patch of soft green grass that gave her a wonderful view of the mountains in the distance.

She watched Jordan as he continued to look at the black clouds; there was an eerie silence, like just before a mighty storm. There were no sounds of nature today, except for the slight gust of distant winds. It gave her a nervous feeling the way he frowned at the clouds. Did he even hear me? Amekia wondered with a touch of anger. She rolled her eyes and was just about to open her mouth when Jorden met her gaze.

“Yes it does” he replied. His voice sounded distant as if he was lost in thought.

Not much of an answer Amekia thought but kept it to herself. Her brother’s mood was still darker than the clouds which covered more of the sky then when they had entered the field. She decided that she was going to try to find out why.

“You’ve looked troubled all day Jorden. What’s wrong? Why did you come back?” asked Amekia. She had a thousand more questions but bit her tongue to hold back the stream.

She watched Jorden sigh as he looked toward the ground with a slight pause, like he was thinking. “You mean besides what happened at the house today?”

The anger in his voice cut through her like a sharp blade. Amekia flinched at the sound of it and she saw his cheeks go red with embarrassment.

“There’s a lot you don’t know yet Amekia. It’s a dangerous secret to hold once you know. It’s just not a good time to discuss this.” He said in a softer tone.

Amekia’s mind tried to work out what she was just told. What is he talking about? What secret does he mean?

“What better time than now Jorden? Your home now, it has been years since I heard anything from you.” said Amekia.

“No!” Jorden said quickly while throwing his arms up in the air with exasperation. “Amekia, there’s no worse time then now! There are people who wish to hurt me; they follow me wherever I go. I caught one of them once; he told me he was paid in gold! Just to follow me and report where I go.” Jorden opened his coin pouch, dumped a pile of coins into his hand, they were all gold.

Amekia gasped at the amount of coins in Jorden’s hand. I’ve never seen that much money before! Where did he get that? Could he really be telling the truth? Amekia felt a cold chill run through her that caused her to shiver.

“He couldn’t give me a good description other than it was a man in a red robe, but I believed him because these coins were tied to his belt” Jorden said as he put the coins back into his pouch.

Amekia’s mouth still hung open at the amount of gold she had seen. The thought of her brother in trouble horrified her. What she had just heard was so unexpected her mind just didn’t want to grasp it all. “That’s awful Jorden! Who would want to hurt you? What’s going on?” asked Amekia with concern.

“I can’t tell you Amekia. Not yet anyways because I still need more proof. I have a damn good hunch on who it is though.” replied Jorden angrily.

“Can’t you report it to someone? The town guards? Or even the Rose Guard?” asked Amekia.

Instead of answering her, she watched him shift his gaze back to the clouds and close his eyes for a moment.

With a sigh he answered “I can’t go to anyone Amekia because, if my hunch is right, then he owns the guards, even the Rose Guard.” Jorden paused for a minute before he spoke again. When he did it was in a soft voice almost a whisper. “The man who I think is doing this is Michael, ruler of the Rose Crown.”

Amekia’s mouth dropped wide open with shock. It was like she had been punched in the stomach. She just couldn’t make sense of what he was telling her. What does the King want with Jorden? This makes no sense…what hasn’t he told me?

“What does our King want with you, Jorden? What did you do?” She scolded.

It was Jorden who looked shocked this time. He turned around to stare at her. “It was nothing I did!” He replied angrily. “I don’t know why he’s after me but, I did nothing wrong Amekia” Jorden pleaded. “These men follow me wherever I go. I can’t go back to Ernsted, they will be there taking rooms at the inn by now.” Amekia was still so confused. It’s all so hard to believe. Why are strangers hunting my brother? Will they hurt anyone?

“What about mom and dad? Won’t they hurt them to find you?” Amekia asked with worry.

“No, I didn’t go straight to the house. I left through the west road and looped around through the woods” said Jorden.

If there really were strangers after Jorden then they will have an easy time finding out where we live thought Amekia. The town was only a few hours walk from the house, the locals were always happy to help anyone, including strangers. No secrets were kept in such a small town. Amekia hated her town for that reason. She had met Jorden on her trip to town that morning, but she was still afraid that the strangers might hurt her parents. Jorden finally sat down on the hill flattening out some of the taller grass as he begins to sift through his pack. After a quick search through his pack Jorden pulled out some dried meat and fresh bread. “Here I brought some food with me and it seems like as good a time as any to stop and eat.” As if to answer for her, Amekia’s stomach grumbles and causes her to laugh despite the dark mood that had settled over her.

A short fit of chuckling broke out over her noisy stomachs choice of timing but Amekia’s chuckling died off as she reached for the plate of food. She didn’t feel hungry but her stomach thought differently. “Thanks” Amekia said as she started into the meal. It was silent as they ate, neither one of them felt like talking. Amekia was still in shock from everything she had just been told. Her brother had only been back a day and already her world was being turned upside down. They sat and watched the coming storm instead of talking. It didn’t seem to have moved any closer since they had entered the meadow but, it was definitely closer. Amekia took a mental note of the storm. It’s always better to be careful; if not then you will be caught blind. She had learned that lesson many times and greatly believed in that bit of her dad’s advice.

They washed their meal down with water and put away the plates. They stayed sitting and resting for a little while longer. “I think that storm is moving faster than it looks.” Amekia said finally breaking the silence. Her home was well over two hours away through woods she knew pretty well. Much of the walk would be through thick forest and, it would be dusk before they were half way home. Looks like we’re getting wet thought Amekia. Being in the storm didn’t bother her but at night didn’t seem like fun. This was not the day to be in the woods she realized.

“I guess we can’t sit here all day then. The sooner we leave the less of that storm we have to walk in.” replied Jorden. He grabbed his pack and stood up while Amekia gathered her thoughts. She stood up and slung her pack over her shoulders then remembered… My flower! I hope its ok? Amekia took a second to check on her flower. It was still safe in her shirt pocket. At least there’s one bright thing about today she thought to herself. They began their walk home on an easterly course. Above them, the storm waits patiently for its prey, to step into the trap it laid.