Chapter 3

"Sir! Sir! Sir, please wake up!" a voice woke Lucian up out of his dreams. He opened his amber colored eyes, blurred from sleep. He wanted to give out a groan but refrained himself when he saw that it was one of this guards from just outside of his tent.

"What is it?" he asked hoarsely, sitting up on his bed with a frown. It was the early hours of the morning and hardly anyone was up yet.

"We've received intelligence that tells us that Paras has found something on the whereabouts of Sorcerer Granius," the guard hurriedly explained to him. "He's found the man and he's deploying assassins to go and kill him. Right now."

"Do you know if we know where he is? Have our spies found out where he is at least?" Lucian asked urgently, his body flinging itself out of bed and getting dressed. "We have to try to at least get there to warn him."

"Yes," The guard answered him, helping his Lord fasten the vambraces on his arms. "He's been living in Carlon all the while. And we hear that he has a ward with him. An apprentice of some sort that he's handing his secrets down to. Paras wants the boy killed as well."

Lucian cursed. "Assemble my inner circle. We'll be going ourselves. Granius is an important man. I hope to the gods that we won't be losing him anytime soon. He's been helping our intelligence. Dammit, I won't let your assassins win Paras!"

The guard left in a hurry to obey his commands. Outside, Lucian heard the people waking up in their tents one by one. Lucian himself made his way to his black dappled horse, named Blackest Night because of his dark coat. He saddled his hoarse and slung the packs he had packed in his haste over the stallion's back. When that was done, he strode towards the Mess tent, intent on at least having some kind of breakfast and enough food to reach the sorcerer's hideout.

"Frey Lucian!" the cook exclaimed when she saw him. "You're up early! Even at this hour. What news is so urgent that I hear the place waking up before the sun even hints of morning?"

"We've found Granius," Lucian told her, taking some bread and soup from her. "And so has Paras. He's sent out his assassins for him. We have to try and make it to him before his assassins do."

"You'll be needing rations for the journey then?" she said matter-of-factly.

Lucian nodded as he chewed on some bread and meat. The cook busily went about packing food. Dried meat went into the sack. So did some cheese and loaves of bread. Food that did not spoil fast while on the journey. Soon after he came in, his men started filling the Mess tents as well. They greeted him and the cook as the went about getting their breakfast.

"We're going for Granius?" Cadmien, one of his closest friends, asked. "Who's the person who knows the location?"

"That would be me, I believe," a weary voice said, as the men in person entered the tent.

He looked travel worn, and his clothes were not in the best of conditions. But he held no injuries, which in Lucian's – and his men's – opinion, was a good thing. He wearily took a seat at the table with is own allotted bread and soup, eating them with vigor.

"What do we do if we don't get there in time," someone else asked.

"Then we give him a burial. And hope that his ward escaped where he did not," Lucian told them solemnly. "Let us hope that our luck is with us and we arrive in time to save Granius and his charge. For if not, we have lost one very invaluable comrade."

The men all nodded and went back to finishing their solemn breakfasting. When everyone was done, they all got onto their horses and turned their heads towards Carlon, riding as fast as the horses would take them.

Granius looked out the window of the house and sighed, wondering not for the last time, if giving the solution to Ales had be the right thing. The boy had changed since he had woken up from the change. Changed from the awkward, gangly boy who always bumped into things and hated the fact that he was going through that stage. He was faster now, and more graceful. Ales hardly ever bumped into anything nowadays. The boy was outgoing before he had taken that red liquid. Then, he at least went to play with the village boys. Made friends and childhood enemies. Ales had none now. The boys had long ago given up trying to make him go and play after the seventh time they had tried and been rejected quite forcefully. Granius had tried to get him to let up a bit. But to no avail.

It was as if Ales had only one directive. And that was to destroy Paras. It was all he ever did. Practice his swordsmanship, meditation exercises and work on his newfound gift of magic. Granius wished that he hadn't given it to Ales. Then he would still act, as a child should. It had been seven years since the change had gone through Ales.

He didn't think that he would even have had the seven years. Granius thought that Paras would have come for him far sooner than that. Any day now, an assassin could come for him. He was just waiting for the inevitable. The only question was when they would come.

Whistling was heard behind him and startled, Granius looked behind him towards the stove. He had forgotten that he had put a kettle on to boil for some tea. Grinning at his own jumpiness, Granius went to put out the fire with his magic. He took out two mugs and filled them with tea leaves, then he poured the hot water into them. The common room filled with the fragrant aroma of mint tea. Granius smiled. The smell of mint tea never failed to put him at ease. He loved the tea.

Taking both mugs, the sorcerer went outside where Ales was diligently working on his sword work. The teen stopped his practicing when he saw his mentor emerge from the house. He was hardly breathing heavily, even after an hour of continuous movement. It spoke to all the hours of practicing that he had been doing for the better part of seven years.

"Come, boy," Granius said, smiling gently, "drink some tea with me and rest your feet awhile."

Ales readily put his sword away, leaning it on the wall of the house and joining his guardian on the huge log of a tree that was felled three years before that. Granius handed him his tea and they both sat side by side in companionable silence for a time.

"Granius," Ales suddenly said. "I've been having a weird feeling lately."

Granius looked at him suddenly, frowning in concern. "What is it that you are feeling? A premonition."

"I think it might be," Ales said carefully. "A feeling of foreboding has passed me these past few days. I feel like we must flee for our lives. Should we?"

The old sorcerer was alarmed. They might already be too late. He got up and strode quickly back into the house. Ales, who was watching him, was instantly concerned. He instantly followed his guardian inside, snagging the sword up on his way in.

"Granius?" Ales asked, watching his guardian as he started packing clothes and foodstuff away. The clothes were Ales's. It seemed that the sorcerer was intent on packing for his ward but none for himself. "Granius, what is the meaning of this? I won't leave you alone."

The sorcerer only gave him a glance before he went back to his packing of the things he thought Ales might need.

"I have to stay here," he started explaining. "It is the way of things. If we both flee, Paras will come after us like always. He does not know who you are. I would very much like it to stay that way for now. The person he wants dead right now is me."

Here, he came to stand before his charge, looking at the young man in the eyes. The old man was perfectly serious.

"I will gladly give my life up if it means we have a chance at this endless war," he told Ales solemnly. "You are our secret weapon. And for that to succeed, Paras must never know who you are until the end."

"I don't want you to die," Ales whispered.

Granius was all that he had ever known. Granius who acted as a father and mother all at once. The only person who really knew what and who Ales was. He did not want that to go.

The sorcerer cupped both hands to Ales's face, "I know. But it must be this way. Promise me that you will see Paras dead."

"I will," Ales said with conviction, his face hardening into something resembling stone.

"Good," Granius said, removing his hands, and pulling the cloak that was lying across Ales's bed.

"Wear this," the sorcerer told him, even as he flung it about the youth himself. Granius fixed the clasp to his throat. Done, with the cloak, Granius affixed the scabbard with his sword to his waist with a belt. "Wear your boots, boy and come out when you're done."

Granius left the house, presumably to saddle a horse. Ales slowly did as he was told. Despite his promise, he was reluctant to leave the man behind. When he emerged, Granius already had the horse saddled and the packs where on the horse's back as well, along with his bow and arrows.

"You have to go now," Granius told him. "Before they come. I don't want you to see me dying."

"I would wait," Ales said quietly. "Who will bury you?"

"The fates will be kind to me," Granius told him gently. "Some one will find my body and bury me."

Ales hugged his guardian tightly, wishing to the gods that he never had to let go. Why did destiny have to be so cruel? Granius hugged his charge back, giving just as much as he was given. He too did not want his charge to go. But it was inevitable. Reluctantly, he let go.

"You have to go now," Granius told him. "One day, we will meet again, in the realm of the gods."

Ales quickly got on the horse and wheeled it towards the outskirts of the village, giving one last look at his guardian before kicking his heels and riding away from the only home he ever knew.

He never looked back again.