Beasts of the Four Kingdoms: Bravery
NOT LIKE BECK, NOT LIKE BECK. Cad rushed forward, then stopped and saw a fork in the pass. One to the right, with the sounds of the rest of the woodsmen and left where the sounds of Pika were being loudly heard.
And where’s Iris? Cad wondered. He looked at the right and then left and then ran into the left passage, leading him to a cavern. The ground became slant and turned into a slope. The ground was surprisingly wet and Cad’s boots slid on the stony ground.
When he reached the end of the cavern, there in front was a newborn phoenix, still burning furiously with flames as two people hugged the wall behind them, their eyes full of cold fear.
Iris! Pika! Cad could feel his arms begin to shake as he reached for the arrow. Wait, remember, this is your last arrow. Cad decided, Don’t waist it. Thinking quickly, he tore a piece of fabric from his pack and wrapped it around his arrow. Using the phoenix’s fiery feather tail as a torch, Cad waved arrowhead over, alighting the arrow.
“Aye, beast!” Cad cried. The phoenix turned, its yellow eyes narrowed as it saw the mere mortal against its awesome power. “Open wide!” Just as the phoenix opened its beak to spit out fire, Cad launched the arrow, embedding it in the phoenix’s eye. The bird screeched, scraping at the eye and rolling around like it had gone mad. Its fire dissolved like snow, leaving a large dead bird. Iris and Pika stared, their eyes not full of fear, but of disbelief. Then, Pika turned to his sister in awe and announced:
“He saved us, Iris, Cadmar saved us!” Pika jumped up and down, his sandy hair bouncing. He raced past the fearless warrior, a full face of glee.. Cad breathed out a sigh of relief. He looked up and saw Iris moving forward. He couldn’t tell if that red on her face was from the heat or a blush.
“Great bloodsongs, I never thought I’d be apologizing for two days straight,” she said, rubbing her arm. She breathed out. “I’m sorry, again. You saved our lives. I’m eternally grateful, and even though I can deal with some things… I’ll call if I need you.”
“It wasn’t much, really,” Cad answered, feeling as if all of this was strange. “Why were you two back here?”
Iris rolled her eyes. “Another one of my rushes of anxiety and having to protect Pika. Instead of following Stilicho, we went this way, probably condemning us to our deaths.” She said. “I’m guessing I also wanted someone to rescue us.”
“I bet you got an answer,” Cad chuckled. They both laughed a bit, and then they heard footsteps. It was
Pika, leading Alaric by the handle, telling him all of Cad’s bravery and quick thinking.
“You should have seen him, Uncle Al,” Pika kept saying. “He said ‘Fear me, o foul beast! Open up wide and smile!’ and then shot the arrow into its mouth!”
“Really?” Alaric asked. He watched Iris, and instead of scolding her as before, grasped her by her arms, looked deeply in her eyes and let silent tears slip down his face. Then he held her close to him and rocked her back and forth, mumbling over and over something about his sweet, dear flower. When he finally let her go, Cad was sure that Iris had been crying herself. She swallowed hesitantly, and then blurted, “I’m sorry Uncle, I’m so, so sorry! I thought I was better at keeping Pika safe.”
“Iris, Iris,” Alaric spoke, weeping in her auburn hair. He gasped and then said, “I know you will never disobey the Baron after a direct order after this. But I must say that you are not allowed to step foot out of camp without someone’s permission. Is that understood?”
Iris silently nodded her head, looking like a young toddler who had just been thrashed. “Now, go see your
brother,” Alaric said. Iris obeyed, leaving only Alaric and Cad in the cavern. “Cad, I can only say thank very much for saving them both. I’m deeply grateful.”
“It was the right thing to do,” Cad answered, not trying to take glory but still owning up what happened.
“Well, this right thing requires a reward!” Alaric exclaimed. “I think I’ll make you the official huntsman for our Brigade; how does that sound?”
Cad felt as if his heart would explode. It seemed as if all his wishes had come true. First he had finally met his nation, then he was chosen as a bowman, and finally he would be able to hunt on his own. It felt as if the Almighty had been listening. For it, Cad knew exactly what to do. “It sounds perfect,” Cad said, grinning.
During a rest stop by a creek, Cad went hunting in a nearby moor. While he was a hunting, he spotted a snow coated hare, hiding behind some long tall grass. Its amber eyes watched him and burst from the scene. Cad skillfully fired an arrow, missing it at first and tracked it back to its burrow. Lighting a fire with flint stones, Cad smoked the creature out of its home. The snow hare darted out of the burrow, letting Cad have a perfect shot at it. The hare was dead in seconds, leaving Cad with a fine piece of meat and a beautiful fur also.
But instead, Cad took it to a lonely tree in the meadow and buried the carcass at its large roots. The pelt was then hung on the branch of the tree, a sign that the flesh was returned to the earth and the perfect pelt was left as a symbol of sacrificing one’s most prized possession for something else.
“I, Cadmar of Nora, do sacrifice this hare to the Almighty,” Cad prayed. “This hare served its purposed as a symbol of connection and friendship between mortals and the Almighty. I have left its pelt, the chief reason for its death, hanging here on this tree as a symbol of giving up my most to the Almighty. I now, thank You for answering my requests and keeping your promises. I end this prayer as Cadmar of Nora.”
Later, when Cad returned to camp, the twins were sitting together near the fire, sharpening each other’s hammers. Cad, realizing he didn’t have any more arrows after the hunt, broke several willow branches and sat down to join them.
Honorius was the first to notice him and nudged his brother beside him. “So, this is the new hero, isn’t he?” He said smirking. “I don’t mean to be blunt but someone wouldn’t be a hero—or here atoll—if it weren’t for two strong, young, handsome men in this party.”
Cad smiled. “Yes, I’m sorry I didn’t say it before. Thank you both for saving me from the kohorras.” Then he eyed the large hammers in their hands. “You know, those hammers are actually very helpful weapons of war.”
“Of course they are!” Darius shouted. “These here, are Elebar hammers, crafted by the dwarves and men of Gladius. These were given to us by the princesses of Hansgard after defeating the menacing giant, Raheem. Hansgardian princesses who are indeed the most beautiful—”
“Anyway, the point is, these are the best hammers in all the four kingdoms,” Honorius said. “Each of us woodsmen choose one weapon to our liking. Bear, over there uses a battle ax, we are hammer strikers. Prudentius, ah, he mostly does with the sword. Same with Julius, but Alaric, he’s a master with his
“It’s rumored out of the finest oak of Kornelia.”
“What about Iris and Pika?” Cad asked.
Darius laughed. “Them two? Pah! They just sit around while the girl sorts through her herb treatments and Pika just climbs trees and hunts gliding chipmunks with his sling and stones. I doubt the girl’s ever lifted a stone.”
Cad glanced and saw Iris crawl into her tent, looking around as if seeing if anyone was watching. But who?
After supper that night—of roasted cottontail, strawberries and lentil soup—Cad listened as the men talked of past adventures. Stories of Prudentius, fighting against dragons and foul beasts many years before, of Alaric saving the lives of several maidens, and tales of Bear fighting against a real masked bear and—of course—many, many, many stories of the chronicles of Darius and Honorius of Alea. Cad wondered where Iris was, who was usually listening by the fire, her eyes never leaving the speaker’s face, watching his every move, reading his lips as if to memorize every word. Her auburn hair would light afire, a dazzling red, almost like a flame from a pahara.
When the storytelling was over the men went off to bed, Cad looked for a mossy rock to lay his head when he noticed Iris leading Pika over to the cooking quarters. Not wanting the poor girl to get in trouble, Cad got up and silently followed them. The siblings traveled through the trees, glancing back once or twice to hear if anyone was coming. Each time, Cad would fall to the ground, or hide behind a tree or field his face with ferns.
Finally, when they both reached a willow tree that bent on some uneven earth, Iris sat Pika down on a large stone while she stood. Cad hid behind the large roots of a holly tree. For the first time, he realized Pika was carrying a small candle.
“Where is, where is it?” Pika asked, his voice in a hushed but excited tone.
“One moment,” said Iris, pulling several papers out of her satchel. Flattening them against her leg, she held the candle and began to read from them.
“‘My dear Iris and Pika: I’m writing to you on a war ship in the sea of Elan. We have fought mighty battles and are vanquishing the sea dragons from entering the mainland. But being a Warrior for the Almighty has its cost. Some of us have perished in an unexpected battle or two. Even through this, we know that the Almighty will carry us through. Signed, your father, Raylon of Gladius.’”
Pika was silent and then breathed, “Wow.” Although Iris looked discouraged and even a little scared. She bit her bottom lip, her eyebrows were arched and she kept mumbling to herself several phrases. Why? Cad wondered. Isn’t this the girl who just escaped the fiery death of a kohorra? And he ran the last bit of the letter in his head: Some of us have perished in an unexpected battle or two…
She must be frightened. She must be thinking that any day now, there’ll be a letter saying her father’s dead. Then she’d had to take care of Pika, being his only relation left. Cad felt sympathy, even if he didn’t know what having a sibling would be like, he did know sympathy.
Leaving the two of them alone to ponder on their father’s letter, Cad hurried back to camp, returned undetected and slipped near the bulky Bear to sleep.