Read The Awakened: Book One Online

Authors: Jason Tesar

The Awakened: Book One (32 page)

BOOK: The Awakened: Book One
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Kael wanted to explain everything to him, but how could he?  How was he supposed to tell his mentor of seven years that the methods he is teaching are wrong?  What words could he possibly use to explain what was impossible to prove; that he just knew something was missing?  “I don’t know,” he mumbled instead.  “I don’t know.”

Ukiru was obviously hoping for more of an answer and waited for Kael to elaborate.  When nothing more was said, he stood up and walked over to the window.  “You want to know what I think?  I think that you still look back to your old life and wonder what would have happened if you had never come here.”

Kael shrugged his shoulders, not really agreeing, but not necessarily disagreeing.

Ukiru continued.  “This world rejected you and you were nearly dead when I found you.  By the authority of the All Powerful and the direction of our High Priest, I saved you from that life and gave you the opportunity of another.  This life,” he motioned with his arms, “is a blessing.  It’s a chance to see what the All Powerful may accomplish through us.  But I don’t believe that you have given yourself wholly to it, or to him.”

Ukiru spoke truthfully.  Kael realized in that instant that he hadn’t.  Hadn’t fully given himself to the training.  Hadn’t given himself fully to the god that Ukiru so often spoke of.  As soon as Ukiru mentioned the All Powerful, Kael felt a twinge of uneasiness.  He had never been able to reconcile his religious instruction with the concept of a single god that he had learned from Saba all those years ago. 
Maybe my former life is really holding me back.
  “Sometimes I feel like I’m just going through the motions, like this whole place is just one big exercise.”

“Exactly,” Ukiru spoke, suddenly looking encouraged.  “Isn’t that what life is, a preparation for what is to come when we die?  But that doesn’t mean that we should walk through life as though our actions don’t matter.  They do matter a great deal.  This life is where our character is shaped and we become who we are supposed to be.  I think that you are holding back in many ways, that you are keeping a small part of yourself reserved.  You must trust that the All Powerful can do great things through you if you surrender yourself completely to him.”  Ukiru paused to look more directly at Kael.

He’s trying to make sure that I understand.

“The humorous part about all of this is that, even though you are holding yourself back, you are still the most talented of all the boys here.”

Kael wrinkled his eyebrows.  “That’s not true.”

“Why do you disagree?”

Kael looked to the window and let his mind wander through all of his years of memories at the monastery.  In every subject, whether in the classroom or the arena, Kael knew that he excelled.  He wasn’t always the best, but he was always near the top of his class.  “Soren beats me every time in war strategy.”

“Yes, but that is only one area.  In the years that I have known you, I have seen glimpses of absolute perfection in individual combat that the others cannot even touch.  Just think of what you could become if you would only trust my instruction.”

Kael looked down at the bed and fumbled with the edge of his blanket.

“Please trust me; it is the only thing holding you back.”

Ukiru stretched out his hand and waited.

Finally, Kael grasped it firmly.  “You’re right, I’m sorry.”

Ukiru smiled.  “No words, only actions.”  It was a saying that he was fond of and Kael thought that it was appropriate for the situation.  “Now, it is time for breakfast,” Ukiru said, walking to the door.

“I’ll be there as soon as I change my clothes.”

“Very well,” Ukiru said and quietly left the room.

Kael lay back on his bed and stared at the ceiling.  Ukiru was right.  He had been holding a part of himself back, following all of the rules, but never really giving himself to his studies.  Especially during meditation, when they were all supposed to focus their thoughts on the All Powerful, he always felt like it was make-believe. 
Maybe I’m the one who is fake!

He knew that there was only one more year until their pilgrimage and he decided to forget about everything that had just happened.  He knew that he had to push aside his feelings of mistrust and forget about the combat methods that he was developing on his own time.  He could see how all of these things were clouding his perception. 
One more year.  I need to see what I’m capable of.

Another knock at the door interrupted his thoughts.  “Come in.”

Soren’s faced peeked around the door.  “How are you doing?”

“Fine,” Kael replied.

“Are you coming to breakfast?”

“Yeah, as soon as I get changed.”

Soren walked into the room and smiled.  “You’re still wearing your training clothes.  You didn’t have time to change since yesterday?”

“No,” Kael replied with a laugh.  “I fell asleep as soon as I got back to my room.”

“Oh,” Soren said, searching for the right words.  “What happened yesterday?”

Kael exhaled loudly.  “I’m not sure.  I guess I just got frustrated with constantly retreating and running.  I didn’t think that running was the best way to deal with eight enemies, but I guess I was wrong, huh?”

“Yeah.  But it sure was a good show,” Soren said with a mischievous smile.  “You were amazing.  I’ve never seen someone move that fast before.  You must have defeated a dozen of them before they got you.”

“…nine actually.”

“They looked like they hit you pretty hard,” Soren stated, but it was more of a question.

Kael pulled his shirt off and showed him the bruises that were still forming on his back.

“Oh yeah,” Soren said, “those’ll be good ones in a couple of days.”

“Oh well,” Kael offered, “you always say the best lessons are the ones you learn, not the ones that you’re taught, right?”

“That’s right,” Soren replied, walking over to the door.  “I bet you’ll never forget this one.  Anyway, you’d better hurry before the food is all gone.”

“Okay, I’ll be there in a second,” Kael called to the retreating footsteps.


* * * *


The air smelled clean and fresh following the recent storms that had passed over the city, washing everything with three days of rain.  The bright sun was out now, drying the soil and a fresh humidity hung in the air.  Maeryn sat on the steps of the garden and watched Aelia play in the flowers with one of the servant girls.  Nearly seven years old now, she was looking more and more like Adair every day.  Lemus had no suspicions about the child’s origins.  Once he believed something, he never again questioned it.  His stubbornness was a large part of his detestable personality, but it had a positive side.

The sound of rushed footsteps brought her out of her thoughts as Lemus entered the garden from the courtyard on the opposite side.  He strode across the groomed soil in a hurry.  Maeryn hoped that he would ignore her and keep walking by, but to her disappointment, he stopped briefly in front of her.

“Come with me,” he commanded.

Maeryn looked to Aelia who was oblivious to anything but the clump of newly picked flowers in her dirty hand.

“She’ll be fine,” he added, hurrying up the steps and into the house.

Maeryn rose to her feet and tried to keep up with Lemus’ pace.

Lemus stopped at the nearest room and motioned for Maeryn to follow.  Once the two were inside he shut the door.  The dusty room was strewn with books and papers.  Several pieces of furniture were piled on top of each other in one corner.  Adair had used this room to store things that he didn’t want elsewhere in the house and it looked as if it had not been entered since then.

Lemus was visibly angered.  “Many years ago, you mentioned a man who trained birds to fly between cities.  Where can I find him?”

“Oh,” Maeryn said.  “That was such a long time ago.  I’m not sure if he still lives in this region.”

“Well, where did he used to live?”

Maeryn had to resist the desire to ask why he needed this information.  When he was in a mood like this, he needed to feel important.  She decided that it was best to just answer as soon as possible.  “His name was Cornelius.  He used to perform tricks with his birds in the City Square to earn money.  That was the only time I saw him.”  It was the most direct answer she could think of.

Lemus nodded his head and his anger seemed to be pacified slightly.

After a moment of silence, Maeryn thought it was safe to ask questions.  “What’s wrong?”

Lemus looked up from staring at the ground.

Maeryn thought he might be waiting for her to ask.

“I sent out the census report last night.  I used one rider as a decoy and a second rider to carry the report.  The decoy left the city at midnight and rode to a checkpoint beyond the city limits where he was to wait for the second rider.  The report left shortly after that, but the rider never made it to the checkpoint.”

“Oh my!” exclaimed Maeryn, truly surprised, but exaggerating for effect.

Lemus’ countenance changed as he enjoyed laying his burdens on Maeryn.  She had worked hard to get to this point and now that she had gained his confidence, he spoke to her about everything.  It made him feel important to impress her with the difficulty of governing the city, especially all of the problems he had to deal with on a daily basis.  “We haven’t even found his horse yet.”

“Do you think it could be the rebels?” Maeryn asked, playing ignorant.

Lemus barked out a laugh.  “Of course it’s the rebels.  Who else would have the nerve to do something like this?  I can tell you one thing though; this won’t carry on for long.  They have grown from an annoyance to a menace and I will put a stop to them.”

That’s what you have said all along.
  Since the attack on Lemus’ ships in the harbor, Maeryn had kept the rebels well informed of his plans for counterattack.  It was because of her intervention that there hadn’t been any major confrontations since that night.  “What will you do?” she asked instead.

“I will see this bird-man of yours and find out if it is possible to send my report that way.  Now that the rebels know the state of my forces, I will have some reorganizing to do.  It will take much thought and patience, but I will dedicate my time to finding every last one of these vermin and exterminating them.  They have sought to undermine the Empire and they will receive a just punishment.”  Lemus opened the door and walked confidently down the hall, not bothering to say goodbye or even to thank Maeryn for her time.

Maeryn, pleased to be rid of Lemus, walked back to the garden and resumed her position on the front steps.  Aelia was leaning over the low wall surrounding the fountain and was running her hand through the water.  The servant girl was trying to convince Aelia to come away from the fountain, but the gurgling water proved to be much more interesting than anything else at that moment.

Maeryn watched her daughter play and felt a sudden pang of guilt.  Aelia had no idea about the circumstances surrounding her birth.  As far as she knew, life was normal.  She had a father and a mother who loved each other and her life was happy.  That was how Maeryn intended to keep it.  It would do more harm than good to tell her the truth—that Lemus was not really her father.  All of the other horrible things that Lemus had done would go unmentioned as well.  But what bothered Maeryn more than anything was the knowledge that Aelia had become a tool of her deception.  If it had not been for her birth, Maeryn was sure that none of this would have worked.  She had used Lemus’ love for Aelia as a way to secure her own safety and was now using that safety as an inroad to do whatever she could to strike back at the Empire she had come to hate.  That was the bottom line and it hurt to think about.  Maeryn tried to shrug off the painful thoughts. 
It won’t do any good to think about that now.  This is your life, and you must live it.  One day, when Lemus has been brought to his lowest point, you will destroy him and then you will be free.

BOOK: The Awakened: Book One
7.51Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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