Chapter One~Delivery, and Scrutiny

"Daniel! Hurry up, Tren's not far away now!"
"Coming Hannah!" Daniel Ree grinned as he rode his horse up beside Hannah Kain, his adopted sister, or something close to adopted anyway. Hannah sighed, and shook her head. Hannah acted put out, but her eyes had a laughing look to them. Daniel looked from Hannah to Samuel Hai, he looked back at him with a smiled as well. Samuel wasn't as amused as happy to finally be almost to Tren.
"Why did we bring you anyway Daniel?" Samuel asked.
"Because I would have pined away to nothing if you left me all alone in our mournfully boring school." Daniel tried to look grief stricken, but failed. "Besides, I think if my history master had to teach me one more lesson he might have strangled me." Hannah laughed, and tugged on Daniel's brown shoulder length braid as she spurred her horse into a quick trot. Daniel, his red-brown eyes lit up with mirth, followed her. Daniel watched the distant city grow larger, and began wondering how they would find who they were looking for. Oh right, Daniel remembered, we're meeting them at the 'Flying Sparrow'. 'Them' was a person who had requested an ancient scroll from their school. Samuel had been the first person to volunteer, and Hannah had consented soon after that, knowing full well Samuel would need someone to look after him. Daniel had been very quick in asking the head master of their school if he could come, though Samuel had said he was too young; Daniel had been allowed to come with them. Daniel thought fifteen was not too young, after all Samuel and Hannah weren't quite two years older then him.
Daniel looked at Samuel as he rode, and noted he looked excited, and expectant. Samuel wore a sturdy tunic of dark blue, a light set of chain mail under his tunic, his well-worn sturdy boots, brown leggings, and some arm guards. At his side hung a sword that was longer then a short sword, but not as long as a long sword, and Daniel knew Samuel had a dagger hidden on his hip, and in his right boot. He was well muscled, and tanned from all his sword practice which he usually did outside. Samuel's eyes were a dark brown Hannah had called 'chocolate brown', and his hair was black and trimmed short, if not messily.
Daniel's gaze wandered to Hannah, and a she looked a bit more apprehensive then Samuel. Hannah was always worrying a bit, but Daniel always tried to make her forget to worry-though his attempts usually caused her more worry then it stopped-. Hannah was dressed and a purple tunic that was longer in skirt then Samuel's, but just as sturdy. She had a long dagger, and a smaller dagger at each hip, and several pouches full of healing herbs for medicinal uses. Her skin was pale in comparison to Samuel's, but she had a myriad of freckles across her nose, and arms. Hannah's eyes were violet, and her hair was chestnut. She wasn't wearing any armor save her arm guards, because she wasn't a fighter like Samuel was.
Daniel looked back to Tren impatiently, and his horse began to prance as she picked up on his eagerness. "Can't we go any faster?" Daniel asked, trying not to sound as impatient as he really was.
Samuel cast Daniel as sly grin, and looked over at Hannah. "I suppose we could, but I fear we might leave the fair lady we're traveling with in the dust."
"You! I can ride just as well as either of you. Better in Daniel's case." Hannah said indignantly.
Samuel raised an eyebrow at her, and broke out in a smile. "Can you then?" Samuel looked over at Daniel. "Slow up before you reach the gate, or if you see any other people." Samuel didn't wait for a reply from Daniel, but spurred his horse into a fast canter. Hannah smiled, and followed Samuel's horse. Daniel laughed, and spurred his own his into a slow gallop. Daniel's horse passed Hannah's, and was quickly gaining on Samuel's. Daniel leaned forward, and watched the road carefully for holes, or other riders. Daniel was the first to ride up to the gate, with horse heaving, and himself out of breath. He walked his horse around in slow circles until Samuel, and Hannah rode up. Samuel was smiling, and Hannah was shaking her finger at him. Daniel grinned, and bit back a laugh as Hannah tried to smack Samuel on the arm.
The gate guard watched them walk through the open gate as if this was nothing new, but that had been one of the calmer entries to Tren he had seen so far. Daniel was amazed at the sheer size of Tren. He had only visited one city so far that he could remember, and it had been relatively small. The streets were not over crowded, but they were more crowded then the other city's. After a while they dismounted, and lead the horses. Both Samuel and Hannah had already been to Tren, and they knew the way to the Flying Sparrow. Daniel almost ran over several people because he was looking at the colorful shops. Hannah was sure to get onto him about that, but Daniel didn't really care at the moment. He noticed the strange looks some people were giving them, and wondered why they were doing such. It might have been the school emblem on their weapons, a white bow crossed over a red sword on grey, or they fact that Daniel looked like a child wandering about with two fighters. No one ever guessed the short teenager was fifteen. Several times he had been mistaken for some one much younger, twelve or ten, and some of the less observant people guessed him to be seven. Daniel just smiled at the people, and they usually said something to their company that sounded like 'simple in the head' and walked off.
Daniel nearly knocked his horses head on the Flying Sparrow's sign, and stopped a moment to look at the thick, discolored windows. Hannah called for him to hurry, and Daniel trotted to catch up. Samuel handed his horse's reins to Hannah, and spoke to her for a little before heading inside the inn.
"Where's he going?" Daniel asked.
"He's going to pay for our room." Hannah explained. "And be more careful when your walking down the street. People here can get violent when you run over them."
"Our Masters get violent when you run them over." Daniel remarked cheerfully. "'Specially the History Master." Hannah sighed. Samuel came out a few minutes later, and looked a bit miffed.
"Have trouble?" Hannah asked him.
Samuel cast her a despairing look, and lead the way to the stable. "Next time you get to go in and haggle for a room." Samuel told Hannah.
"Why me?"
"You could probably just bat your eyelashes at him and get a room much easier then I could." Samuel pushed the door to the stable open, and went in before Hannah could object. It smelled very strongly of horses, but Daniel had learned at a young age to like that smell. A tall, thin man came out of a door after a while, and a thin smile broke out on his face. "Just three horses?" He asked.
"Three." Samuel confirmed. "We'll untack them if you'll just show us where to put them."
"This way." The man motioned for them to follow him. "You won't need to untack them, that's other people's job." The man gave them an almost good natured smile, and took the horses from them.
"Thank you." Hannah smiled, and took their packs from the saddles. Daniel watched Hannah and Samuel begin to leave, but decided he wanted to make sure the horses were properly settled in before leaving.
"Daniel, our room is back in the inn, which is in this direction." Samuel grabbed Daniel gently by the back of his tunic.
"I know that. I want to go make sure the horses are settled in." Daniel stood precariously on one foot, with the other paused in mid-air.
"Let him go Samuel." Hannah said. "You can go Daniel, but be back in the Flying Sparrow before dark. Even a short walk at night in Tren isn't wise."
"Yes mam." Daniel answered out of habit. Hannah sighed, and Samuel snickered.
"Our room is the one called 'Owl'." Samuel called over his shoulder. Daniel scuttled off, and soon found the horses in stalls, and untacked. The man who had led them off was returning for the last saddle, and smothered a chuckle. Daniel watched him go, and looked over the horses. They were all placidly chewing on hay, and only flicked an ear at Daniel. Daniel watched his own horse munch on hay, and slipped inside her stall. She was actually Daniel's horse, and had been the only other thing to survive the strange accident that had destroyed the farm Daniel used to live on. It had been a clear day, but after the sunset there had been a horrible storm. He wasn't quite sure if it had just been only a storm, he remembered people strange people talking, and had gotten a strangely uniform pattern of 'x's on his left hand. Daniel ran his hand down the mare's black coat, and cocked his head to the side while he thought.
Daniel extracted himself from his train of thought as soon as he remembered Hannah had wanted him back in the Inn before nightfall. He trotted out of the stall, and made sure he locked the latch. Instead of going the way he had come in Daniel decided to go around the other way. Variety was a good thing after all. The stable was almost full, and most of the horses poked their noses out. Daniel paused to pat a few, but had to jump away from the ones who tried to bite him. Daniel jumped when a horse snaked it's head out to bite him, and it's teeth clicked inches away from his arm. Daniel started to move away, and he found his braid was stuck on something. He twisted his head around, and found himself looking at the face of a horse.
"Let go." Daniel tugged on his braid, but the horse jerked his head back painfully. Daniel sighed, and stood tilted his head at a funny angle so he could see the horse. "Will you just let go, I don't have any food for you." The horse dropped his braid, and shoved him hard towards the stall across the aisle with his nose. Daniel gave a startled yelp, fell down in his attempt to stop, and get away from the irritable horse across the aisle. Daniel's legs slammed into the stall door, and he found himself staring up at the horse who had tried to bite him. Daniel legs were vertical on the stall door, and his feet were close enough for the horse to bite. Daniel blinked, and tried to regain normal vision. His head was smarting, and he wasn't quite ready to move. There was a loud 'clunk' from inside the horse stall, and Daniel decided it was time to get away from the horses stall before it decided his feet looked handy for a nibble. As soon as Daniel started to roll off the door it opened, and sent him rolling with much more force then he needed to get off the door.
"Oh! Sorry! I-um, sorry!" Someone stuttered. Daniel sat still for a moment figuring out how to get up, and realized he was staring at his elbow. He caught sight of two feet hesitantly coming towards him, and a boy crouched down into his line of vision. Boy being guessed, the child was thin, and it was hard for Daniel to tell from the strange angle he was looking from.
"Are you okay?' The boy asked, looking at Daniel's arm questioningly. Daniel wondered himself how it had gotten there, but right now he was figuring out where his other appendages were.
"I'm fine." Daniel assured the boy. "Just stand back a few steps, please." The boy nodded, and did as he was told. Daniel swung forward, and hopped to his feet. His shoulder was smarting, but other then that, and his head was still pounding, but he was alright. He looked at the boy who had knocked him over, and assured himself it was a boy. Though he was an inch or more shorter then Daniel, and seemed smaller because he was wearing a tunic that was too large for him.
"I'm sorry, I didn't know you were..." The boy looked down at his feet, and nibbled on his lip. Daniel blinked, and noted the boy had red hair, and a bold white scar on his left cheek. The boy's eyes were also strange, they were a dark green that Daniel had never seen, and they seemed a bit larger then they should have been.
"It's okay, I'm fine, really." Daniel repeated himself, and smiled cheerily. The boy nodded, but he still seemed unconvinced, or just on edge. The horse that had tried to bite him had his nose propped on the boy's shoulder, and was looking at Daniel. Daniel stayed to the other side of the aisle, but as before the other horse grabbed him by his braid. Daniel jerked to a stop, and sighed.
"Thunder, let go." The boy scolded the horse that had grabbed Daniel, and did something that made the horse let go. "Sorry, he's a bit playful, though he's never done that to anyone he doesn't know." The boy had a hand on the horse's nose, and was watching the horse across the aisle carefully. "You can walk by his stall, he won't bite you now."
Daniel cautiously skirted the horses stall, but the horses didn't even try to bite him. "Mm, what made the difference?" He asked.
"Ai, I had fallen asleep in his stall, and he's a bit protective." The boy explained, letting the horse's nose loose he had been holding, and patting the other. "Next time you come through you might want to go the other way. Sometimes Thunder will try to take your arm off for fun." The boy indicated the horse that had grabbed Daniel's braid. The large bay stallion snorted, and shook his head.
"Thanks for the warning, I'll remember." Daniel assured the boy. The boy nodded, and looked Daniel over quickly from head to foot. Daniel wondered what the boy was thinking; he knew he looked a strange sight carrying a short sword with his school's emblem on it around.
"You from The Academy of Swords and Magic aren't you?" The boy asked. Daniel wondered how he knew the emblem was for. The boy looked like a slave, or a servant.
"Yeah, I am." Daniel said, and watched the expression on the boy's face carefully. He seemed relieved, and a bit excited.
"You're not, by any chance, supposed to be delivering an old prophecy, are you?" The boy asked. Daniel finally noticed the boy hadn't been making eye contact with him before, but was know looking him in the eye.
"Yeah, we are." Daniel answered hesitantly, though he was more curious then cautious.
"Then I guess this saves us the trouble of looking for you." The boy looked away from Daniel, and seemed to be staring vaguely at something over Daniel's shoulder.
"You're, looking for us?" Daniel cocked his head to the side. "Wh-Oh! You're with the person were supposed to be delivering the scroll to, aren't you?"
The boy nodded, and smiled slightly. "Yep, my friend was wondering how we'd find you, but it seems like that's not a problem any more."
"Great, you can come get it, and we won't have to worry about it either." Daniel was grinning again, but he was a bit disappointed that they would be leaving Tren so soon. He had hoped they could at least stay for a few days, and look around the city. The boy nodded, and Daniel lead off back to the Inn. The sun was beginning to set, and a stiff wind was blowing. Daniel looked up at the sky, and saw large black clouds drifting in.
"It'll rain tonight." Daniel observed idly. The boy paused, and looked at the sky as well. When Daniel walked into the common room of the inn he wrinkled his nose at the strong smells of alcohol, and pipe smoke. The boy didn't seem fazed by it, and paused to look at Daniel. Daniel glanced around, and wondered how he was going to find the 'owl' room. The boy suddenly moved off. Daniel was about to say something when the boy stopped in front of a tall man. With suppressed excitement the boy seemed to be explaining something, and the man nodded, a smile breaking out on his face, and stood up. As the man got closer Daniel realized her had to be close to six feet, if not over. For once more in his life, Daniel felt dwarfed, but not disheartened.
"Fine evening, isn't it?" The man had an accent that Daniel couldn't place.
"Mhm." Daniel looked up at the man, and noted he was not just tall, but was well muscled. He had the thin, hard the look of someone who has traveled a lot, and had no home to stay at, or preferred no to stay at home. His hair was a hazel, and fell just past his ears. His eyes were kindly, if not haunting with a hard look that suggested his past was not a very happy one. His hand was hovering near his sword, but almost as if it were an unconscious motion. He was dressed in a black tunic, and legging's, worn gauntlets, a leather vest, and worn leather boots that looked like they had once been very nice.
"Micah says your one of the students from the Academy of Swords and Magic that has the prophecy I asked for." The man was still smiling a little. The boy glanced up from whatever he had been looking at one the floor at the mention of his name, but looked back down after that. Daniel committed the name and face to memory. You never knew when you might need to remember someone's face, or name.
"Yep, I am." Daniel nodded vigorously. "I'm Daniel."
"I'm Garret, and this is Micah." The man pointed to the boy, who again looked up at his name. "and it's nice to meet you Daniel."
"Nice to meet you as well." Daniel returned the pleasantry. "Mm, do you know which way the 'owl' room is?" Daniel asked scanning the room for a glimpse of Hannah or Samuel. " I've never been here before so I have no clue where it is."
"Of course, it's this way." Garret started off, and Daniel followed. The common room was full of interesting people, and not all of them were human. Two elves were sitting in one corner. A handful of gnomes were crowded over one table, and one waved his arms around till he knocked over his tankard of ale. There were also half-elves scattered about, and a few people who might have been one-fourth elf were there as well. Trying carefully to not step on any one, follow Garret, and look around at the same time Daniel didn't notice where they were going. When the reached the long row of closed doors Daniel saw Samuel leaning against on of the doors. His head was bowed, and his arms crossed. When they stopped in front of the door Samuel's wrist flicked, and he looked up. For a moment he seemed confused, but when he saw Daniel he sighed.
"Did you get lost?" Samuel asked in a dreary tone.
"Nope." Daniel answered in a equally dreary tone, but he ruined it with a smile. "Why are you leaning against the door?"
"You lovely sibling said that if all I was going to do was tease her then I could go out of the room. Since I couldn't think of anything else to do besides tease her then I left." Samuel explained. The door latched clicked, and Hannah yanked open the door. Samuel only took a step back, and seemed unfazed. "So Daniel, who are you friends?"
"That's Garret, and he's Micah. They're the people who asked for the scroll." Daniel explained.
"You never cease to amaze me." Samuel shook his head. "Thank you very much for helping our directionally challenge friend here, I hope he wasn't a bother."
"How do you know that they helped me find the room?" Daniel asked.
"I didn't tell you where it was." Samuel grinned impishly. Hannah whacked him in the back of the head with the heel of her hand.
"You idiot." Hannah glared at Samuel, but smiled at Garret, and Micah. "Sorry, will you come in while we get the scroll for you? We're also supposed to get you to sign something." Hannah stood aside to let them in, and pulled Samuel out of the way with her. Garret nodded, and walked in, but Micah hesitated.
"Don't worry, Samuel doesn't bite, he just barks." Daniel whispered. Micah smiled slightly, and cast Daniel a shy look before going in. The room was very plain, just a table, four chairs, a wash stand with a basin on it, and four beds. Hannah had already grabbed the scroll of the table, and was poking through her bag for a quill, and parchment.
"Here you go." Hannah handed Garret the scroll, and placed the parchment down on the table. "We'll need your name for reference purposes." Hannah explained. Garret nodded, and wrote his name rather quickly on the parchment. Daniel expected the writing to be haphazard, but it was better then some of the Masters' writing back at their school.
"I thank you for bringing me this." Garret said before leaving. Micah glanced back one more time, and seemed to be thinking hard about saying something before following Garret out of the room. After the door was shut Samuel flopped down on his bed, and looked at Hannah.
"So, what did you think about them?" Samuel asked, his voice not light as it had been, but serious. Daniel glanced from Hannah to Samuel in confusion. He had a feelign he had missed something important.
"They seemed well enough, but," Hannah picked up the parchment Garret had written his name on, and frowned. "I think he might have made up a last name, and possible a first as well. 'Garret Horsefeather' is a name I've never heard before in my life, and I think Master Lisong will agree."
"What harm could it be to give an old prophecy to him?" Daniel asked, now extremely confused.
"Weren't you listening when Master Liong talked to us before we left the Academy?" Samuel asked in a irritated vioce.
"The thing is Daniel, that the prophecy we gave him is really old, it comes from back when magic was still an allowed practice, and Master Lisong thinks it might actually be true." Hannah explained. "If it is true then we don't want it falling into the wrong hands."
"What was it about?"
"Like all prophecies it said something about stopping the ending, of course." Samuel ignored the sigh from Hannah. "I didn't think much of it, but Master Lisong was worried, so we agreed to see what kind of people we were giving the prophecy to."
"You were around them longer, what did you think about them Daniel?" Hannah asked.
"The boy seemed nice enough, but there was something strange about the man. I don't now what, but there just was." Daniel stared absently at the ceiling while he tried to think about the two people who had just left. "The man seemed in a big hurry to leave though, didn't he?"
"He certainly did, and the boy didn't look very well cared for to me." Samuel commented.
"If they've been traveling around fro a while there's no reason for that boy to look skinny. It's hard to keep a growing boy well fleshed when your traveling. Even though we haven't been traveling for over three months Daniel's lost some weight." Hannah pointed out, sitting in one of the chairs. "I didn't like the way he didn't meet anyone's eye."
"He met my eye in the stable." Daniel told Hannah. "Though he didn't seem to like attention drawn to himself if you ask me. Do you think he was a servant?"
"Maybe." Hannah sounded skeptical about the idea.
"There was something else wrong with him." Samuel said. "He looked familiar, I just can't remember where I've seen some one who looks like him."
Hannah nodded. "He's got eyes like John."
"John Lindree?" Samuel stood up. "He did, but... That's it, he looked almost like Matthew."
"Matthew?" Daniel sat down in the chair across from Hannah's and cocked his head to the side. "You mean the boy who disappeared?"
"Exactly."Samuel sat down at the table as well." I don't think the boy is him, but I just thought he looked like Matthew."
"Great, don't tell John, Matthew was his brother after all." Hannah grinned. "Speaking of John has your sister heard from him lately, and have they set a date?"
"Date? For what, their wedding?" Samuel shook his head. "No, John's been off doing something up North, and they're waiting until sometime next year." Daniel stood up from the chair he was in, and sat down on his bed. The sun had just set, but he was tired. Hannah and Samuel were beginning to talk about more mundane things, and Daniel was starting to lose interest. With a yawn Daniel slipped down onto the bed, staring up at the ceiling trying to stay awake

A/N: I hope I haven't bored anyone to death yet, I promise to put some action in the next chapter. Please Review!