Authors: Andrew Wood
The Elementalist : Next of Kin.
Book Three : The Kothian Chronicles
Copyright© Andrew G. Wood
All Rights Reserved.
Other titles :
The Chronicles of Elemental Magic
Book One: Rise of the Darekians
Book Two: Holding the Line
Book Three: Prince of Magic
The New Chronicles of Elemental Magic
Book One: A New Threat
Book Two: The Zulani Empire
The Sulbria Chronicles
Return of the Phoenix
The Kothian Chronicles
Book One : The Elementalist
Book Two : The Elementalist : Battle of the Mind
Maxim and his new friend Connor had spent the night huddled up in a barn to give both them, and their horse, shelter against the cold night temperatures. They had already devoured half of the food stolen by the youngster, but neither had any concern of going hungry again anytime soon. With his body recovering from his days of captivity, Maxim was beginning to feel much stronger, not just in his physical well-being but also magically.
He now had powers he had never had access to before, and although nobody had taught him how to utilise them, he felt confident enough to do so should the need arise. Unbeknown to him previously, was the wealth of information in his mind, until now left untouched. It would appear although his skill set was primarily elemental, like most magicians, he also had access to a number of other abilities.
It was Connor who thought it best for them to leave the relative comfort of the barn, although Maxim agreed, knowing the longer they went unseen the more likely their escape would be a successful one. Maxim saddled the horse, under the tuition of the youngster, before brushing himself down to remove the bits of straw stuck to his clothing. Connor peered outside to check the coast was clear, before waving his hand to Maxim to indicate it was. Once outside, they both climbed up, and with Maxim in the saddle and the smaller Connor sat just in front of him, they slowly trotted down the farm lane, heading back to the main track.
If truth were told, neither of them actually knew which direction they needed to travel, but Maxim worked on the theory, that the further they rode from Waltham the better. Keeping his hood up to cover his hair, Maxim hoped to blend in amongst the local populace. If he could move without causing the need for people to remember him, he hoped to slip by unnoticed.
As they rode, Connor told him the story of his short life, which sounded every bit as miserable as Maxim's had been, before being found by Danton. The boy's father had dumped him on the orphanage doorstep as a babe, apparently no longer wanting or bothering to take care of him, and after spending a few years there, Connor had left finding work at a stable. After an incident involving some stolen money, he was forced to leave that particular employment, and ended up at the inn where Maxim had found him.
Maxim listened carefully to the story of his friend's young life, and felt deeply saddened by it. "Did you steal the money?" Maxim asked him.
The youngster turned his head to look up with a grin, "I only took what I was owed...plus a little interest," he added with a cheeky smile. Maxim could not help but chuckle. "I only take what I need to survive," the youngster added further, hoping his new friend did not think badly of him.
Maxim of course did not think Connor was a bad person, he himself knew just how difficult life could be to those cast aside by society. "What about you Sir," the youngster asked him.
"Firstly you do not need to keep calling me Sir. My name is Maxim...or Max will do fine," he replied with another smile, still keeping his eyes on the track on which they rode. "My story is similar to yours really. Grew up at an orphanage, kicked out of there, lived on the streets...until I was found by friends," he added thinking fondly of them.
He went through images in his mind of those who had shown him kindness and become close to him in Pitford, explaining each to Connor as he went. He told him that his friend Mikel had a dire wolf, something that Connor thought was amazing. He went through Danton, Melia, Ramon and even Darion, before leaving the young man closest to him until last. He spoke of Zack, the young royal who had become an instant friend to him, and despite their social differences had never treated him anything but an equal.
"Zack sounds like a really good person...Is he really related to the king?" Connor asked.
Maxim nodded with a smile, "Yes...The king is his uncle...I think you'll like Zack as well, when you meet him."
"Do you think they will be my friends too?" he asked, shuffling around to look Maxim directly in the eyes.
"I am sure they would be honoured to be your friend as well...Although I'm not sure about Darion...he can get a bit grumpy at times...well most of the time really," he added thinking fondly of the old man who had taken him under his wing.
They had ridden for less than an hour when they noticed the track they were travelling led directly to another town. At first, Maxim was unsure whether to go around or ride through, and after discussing it with his new friend, he decided on the latter. Connor had told him, it would be a good chance for them to acquire a little more food for their journey, something that Maxim wanted to insure they did not go short of. His appetite since his escape had been little short of ravenous, and although he knew he could not eat all their food in one go, he was quite certain he could if he tried.
The town they entered was not a particularly large one, and had no wall or gates around it. Fortunately, this meant there were no guards to contend with, and as a result, they were able to ride unhindered down the main street. The first thing that struck Maxim was the number of poor, ragged looking beggars sat looking forlornly at him as he passed by them. Naturally, he could relate to the conditions these people lived in, and although he wished he could help them, he knew he had neither the means nor knowhow to do so. He knew that if it were not for his magical abilities, he would likely, still be as destitute and miserable as he had once been. He was beginning to wonder just how cruel life was to some people, why was it that a small number seemed to have so much, when so many had little or nothing at all?
His moment of deep contemplation was suddenly brought to halt, as Connor decided to wriggle out from between his arms and slip down to the ground. "I'll get us a few supplies from here Sir," He said pointing to one of the building they were approaching. Maxim pulled out of his day dreamy state frame of mind, and nodded, "Oh make sure you pay...you have enough coin?"
Connor grinned, "Not really, but I'll make do."
"Just don't go stealing anything, we don't want to draw unwanted attention to ourselves," he added getting the feeling that's exactly what Connor was going to do.
As Connor darted off, seemingly in a hurry, as he ran across the street and through the door of the store, Maxim decided to remain atop the horse and wait. It was then he saw a large man start ringing a bell, and shouting. Knowing it was the town crier he edged his horse just a little nearer, to try to hear what he was saying. He was not the only one, and within a few moments, there was a small crowd gathering.
Once the man was satisfied his audience was large enough, he stopped ringing the bell, and unrolled a parchment of paper. Maxim almost fell off his horse when he heard the words booming out, "His gracious Royal Highness King Gorius has decreed that any man who brings him the head of the escaped prisoner shall be rewarded beyond imagination."
Maxim slowly and very discreetly turned the horse around, as the man continued bellowing out Maxim's description. This was certainly going to make the trip back very difficult indeed; the last thing he needed was for random members of the public taking pot shots at him, hoping to bag themselves a prize.
As he waited a little impatiently for Connor to appear from the shop, Maxim had become aware of two men watching him from a side alley. He was beginning to think his young friend had gotten himself into trouble, judging by the length of time he was taking, as he pulled his hood back just a little, so he could keep a better watch on the two men staring at him. Maxim was sure they were up to no good, and edged his horse just a little further away from them. He felt a wave of relief as Connor finally made an appearance from the store, with a large bundle under his arm.
One of the men ran out of the alley straight for Connor, and Maxim realised it was not him they had been waiting for, but his young friend to exit the store. A man, probably in his twenties, barged Connor over and snatched the bundle he had been carrying, as Maxim nudged his horse forward. Without thinking of the consequences, he kicked his heels and started to give chase, just as the second man emerged and grabbed his cloak and pulled hard. Maxim felt himself falling backwards and the reigns slipping through his hands as he tried in vain to hang on, but felt another tug on his cloak and eventually slipped from the saddle, landing with a thump on the cold ground. He looked up to see the man staring at him, as if he was suddenly unsure what to do, and Maxim realised his hood had fallen back revealing his reddish ginger hair. "It's you," the man smirked drawing a dagger from his belt, "Larry!" he shouted to his colleague holding Connor's bundle of supplies under his arm, "I think we just hit the jackpot."
The two men stood a few yards away from Maxim, as he struggled back to his feet. It was clear neither man could understand why such a puny looking youth could be worth so much. Maxim grimaced as he felt a sharp pain in his lower back, before staring at the men before him. "You should not have done that," he said gritting his teeth, "Why can't you people just leave me alone?" he said feeling his anger growing.
Connor came running up to him, and Maxim glanced down, "Are you alright?" he asked his friend. Connor nodded, but stayed close to Maxim, clearly shaken by the ordeal. "Go get the horse Connor," Maxim asked whilst keeping an eye on the two men. The youngster did not argue and scampered back up the street to fetch it, thankful it had stopped just a few yards away after Maxim had been pulled from it. Connor gathered the reins and quickly turned to see the two men circling around Maxim. A few other onlookers were now taking an interest, some of whom he noticed drawing weapons, and he thought they needed to escape, and quickly.
Connor pulled on the reins, and quickly headed back to where Maxim was still stood with the two men. "I think we need to go...," the youngster shouted, but Maxim was pre-occupied. "I suggest you put the bundle down and go back down that alleyway," Maxim snarled. One of the men gave a mocking laugh, which was just enough to tip Maxim over the edge, as he felt the power surging through his body ready to be released.
Having had enough, Maxim flicked his hand out, and the man holding the dagger was picked up and sent somersaulting backwards, coming to a halt as he slammed into the wall of a nearby building. The man's colleague suddenly felt far less confident, and decided to do the sensible thing. After placing the bundle slowly down to the ground, he took two steps back before turning round and running off.
Maxim dusted his hands together, before pulling his hood back up over his head. He noticed a few others stood further back, trying to look inconspicuous as they were clearly having second thoughts about approaching him any further. He took the reins off Connor, before the youngster picked up the bundle of supplies he had acquired from the shop. Maxim climbed back atop the horse, before reaching down to give his young acquaintance a hand up, all the time keeping a watchful on those around him.
Maxim nudged the horse forward, urging the creature on as it trotted slowly down the main street. It was clear one or two others were considering making a move, but it was also clear they were thinking better of it. The young red headed man may have looked easy prey, but he had just shown them all he was anything but. The man who had made the ill-fated attack on Maxim lay in a twisted heap, in a pool of blood that slowly spread out across the ground. He had hit the wall with such force many of his bones had smashed and punctured through his skin, killing him almost instantly.
As they reached the far end of the small town, Maxim still had his senses on full readiness. He realised, just as he had whilst lying on his captor's bed, that he was able to tell where people were, without actually seeing them with his eyes. Thankfully most seemed to have seen sense and let him leave without further hassle, although he was also certain at least three were following him.
Leaving the town behind, they joined the main track heading what they assumed to be south-west, which he thought was the general direction they needed to travel. Maxim knew the Great Lake and River running off it, acted as the natural border between Kothia and Bosaria; if he could get that far, he was sure he could manage it back to Pitford. "So much for staying out of trouble Sir," Connor finally said breaking the silence, but still keeping a watchful eye behind them. Maxim shrugged, "Well, we did try," he replied.