Jar of Vedara, Part 4

Fiction By Jackie West // 8/12/2011

Jace tucked the bottle of special formula pack into the pack hanging around his waist and wiped the blood off his sword with a handful of grass before sheathing it again.

He shook his head as he took one last glance at the slain demons lying scattered around him. “What is Virrid up to?” he muttered to himself. “So willing to sacrifice his soldiers to try and defeat me when only my Master knows when that will happen, if it does.”

Sighing, Jace turned and headed off.

The path was clearly outlined with the footprints of Alex’s and Kiral’s frantic escape.

But they suddenly stopped after he had walked steadily for about ten minutes.

Jace glanced from one side to the other, from left to right.

On a tree on the right side, he saw a carving. He stepped quickly across and just one glance proved his darkest fears were true.

“Tavaris has them.”

 

After several minutes of pushing their way through a tangle of bushes and vines, Tavaris, Kiral, and Alex emerged into a clearing in the center of which stood a small, neat cottage.

“Welcome to my humble abode,” he said. “Come inside. I will give you some refreshment and then you can be on your way.”

Tavaris turned and after he did, Alex gestured to Kiral that they shouldn’t eat or drink anything since they didn’t know too much about him.

As their host led them inside and seated them at a small table, Alex asked, “So, how did you meet Jace?”

“We were in the army together not too long ago,” Tavaris replied as he bent over another table at the other end of the cottage preparing a snack. “He was a doctor as well as a soldier, and when I was wounded in the War of the Plains, he tended me. We became fast friends, and still keep in touch with each other.”

Alex nodded as he turned this information over in his head.

Kiral spoke up next. “What battle were you wounded in?”

Tavaris pointed to a sketch hanging on the wall near the table. “The Battle of Sketara. One of my other friends drew that before its beauty was ruined by the war.”

Kiral looked over the sketch. She observed that it was well-done and very accurate, for she had seen other pictures drawn by artists long ago of the Sketara Plain.

Tavaris placed three simple clay cups and two dishes on a wooden tray and went over to the table. As he set it down, he smiled and said, “After the War of the Plains, I was honorably discharged from the army. I came to live here and I help anyone who wanders the path. It’s a good life.” He gestured to the tray. “Please, take a drink and have some food. I will go out to the garden for a few moments to pick some spices for my evening meal.”

And with that, he went out the door.

Leaving the food and drink untouched, Alex looked at Kiral. “I don’t know what to make of him. His information sounds genuine, but…”

Kiral started to get up. “We should leave now, then-“

Alex pushed her back down. “I didn’t come because I trusted him. I came so that maybe we could find some useful information to give Jace.”

“That’s if we get back,” Kiral muttered.

Alex pointed to his waist pack. “I’ve been able to defend myself from enemies since I was a young boy. You, however-“

Kiral folded her arms and glared at him. “I may have been protected from most violence and lived in a village for most of my life, but that doesn’t make me defenseless,” she ground out between clenched teeth. “I still had work to accomplish and things to do. And, I’ve seen things that you probably never have.”

“Like what?” Alex shot back.

“My mother is the best midwife in the village, and my father does carpentry and doctoring,” Kiral answered. “I’ve been present at many surgeries and helped with many medical procedures, from tending scrapes and cuts to setting broken bones, helping in childbirth and taking care of potentially fatal gashes and gores.”

Alex was quick to reply, “I broke both of my legs when I was ten. I set them and cared for them by myself.”

“Now you’re just telling tall tales,” Kiral returned.

Alex was ready to spout out a protest when the door opened and Tavaris came back in.

“Is the food and drink to your liking?” he inquired.

“We-we were busy talking and didn’t touch the food,” Kiral said. “I’m sorry. We didn’t mean to be rude.”

“That’s alright. Take your time.” Tavaris went to the fireplace and began adding some fragrant herbs to the small pot that was hanging over the flames. “It’s nice to occasionally have guests.”

Kiral’s mind played back to something Tavaris had previously said. I came to live here and I help anyone who wanders the path, he had said.

If he likes helping people, she thought, then why does he call himself a hermit? Why does he like having guests if he’s a hermit?

Alex picked up a cup and motioned for Kiral to do the same. They lifted the vessels to their lips and pretended to take small, testing sips.

Kiral put the cup back down. “What is in this drink?”

“Talam juice and dried and ground root of the glorin plant. Do you like it?” Tavaris inquired.

Alex nodded. “I do. It’s very sweet. Isn’t it an energizing drink of some kind? I know that talam juice is supposed to help your body produce more adrenalin, but I don’t know what glorin root does.”

Tavaris seated himself on the fireplace hearth. “It is an energizing drink. Dried and ground glorin washes away any feeling of weariness and helps you to travel farther than you would without taking any.”

“Yes, and just the right amount can kill a person.”

Kiral and Alex jumped and turned to face the door, where they saw Jace, leaning on the wooden doorframe in a casual manner, with his hardened eyes turned toward Tavaris, who was quick to leap up and grab a cudgel by the fireplace.

“What do you want?” he hissed.

“The game’s up, Virrid,” Jace said. “You can’t fool me for long, and you know that.” Still looking at the revealed hermit, he beckoned to Kiral and Alex and said. “Come, we’re leaving now.”

“No one said so!” Virrid roared.

Kiral screamed as he transformed from the body of a hermit to the body of-something else.

Alex grabbed her and dashed toward Jace just as Virrid threw the cudgel at them.

Jace’s sword was suddenly in his hand as he ran to defend them. “Go outside!” he called. “I will meet you there. But whatever you do, do not leave the clearing!”

Alex and Kiral rushed out the door and ducked into the garden outside the cottage. They winced at every clash and clang.

In just a few minutes, however, Jace appeared, in the act of sheathing his sword at his side once more.

“Who was he? Is he dead? Are you okay?” Those questions and more spouted forth from the pair as he came over to them.

“Unfortunately,” Jace said, holding up his hands to silence them, “he is not dead, and he will not die until my Master wills it. He managed to escape out a secret door at the back of the cottage. I am fine; just a few scrapes and bruises. As to who he is-I’ll tell you later. For now, though, we just need to get out of here. Stay right behind me until we get to the path.”

Kiral had more questions, but she and Alex managed to hold their tongues until they were back on the path and traveling swiftly in the direction of the other side of the forest.

“Has he always been around to do that to people?” Alex asked.

“No. He came for the sole purpose of ridding the world of you two,” Jace said briefly. “And I hope you won’t be fooled by him ever again. You nearly lost your lives back there.”

“But how will we be able to know it’s him if he can shape-shift to trick people?” Kiral asked.

“Look carefully at the right side of his neck. Most of the time, after he shape-shifts, there will be a brand there. You will know it when you see it,” Jace replied. “Now hurry! Our time is almost gone.”

They sped on.

 

 

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