It had been seven days since I left the good city of Belgera I noticed as I looked at my journal. Just seven days? I wondered if that was wrong. It had seemed like an eternity since I had received my orders from Mayor Elair. I was called to the Town Hall one day, so I guess my suspicion started there.
As I walked to the Town Hall, the cheerful villagers greeted me, that seemed a bit strange to me. Although I had lived there all my life, in the past years I had gone in to secrecy to learn the ways of the Ranger. Their mysterious ways had intrigued me ever since I was young. So on the eve of my sixteenth birthday, my friend Kapo surprised me by arriving at my door when I was asleep, he told me he would take me as his apprentice. Instantly I said yes, but then I remembered my brother.
When I was eight my mother died after having my brother Ken. Her death grieved my father greatly, and he never fully recovered. When Ken turned five my father decided, that both him and I were capable of taking care of ourselves. I didn't quite understand at first, but the night that he called me into his room, and told me that he was leaving, I was shocked. He needed to find some answers, but warned me, that if he didn't return, he probably wouldn't. I tried to talk him out of it, but he refused. He told me that he had been planning this since our mother died. Before he left late that night he asked me to tell Ken only what he needed to know. In the morning when Ken asked me if he was coming back, I told him, "I don't know."
The night Kapo came I asked him what was to become of my brother. He had given it some thought, but thought Ken would be fine by himself. Kapo had known about my father, and had probably been in on his plotting. So I guess he expected that since I handled my mothers death when I was eight, Ken would be able to handle living on his own when he was eight. I didn't think so. When I told Ken that I would be leaving for a while, he grabbed me and told me I couldn't leave too. He begged me to let him come with me after I told him it was my dream. I asked Kapo, But he shook his head sadly, informing me he could only have one apprentice.
I looked all week long for someone to take Ken in, but no one suited him. In the end I made a decision for him. Our neighbors were good friends so I asked them to watch over Ken. As we saddled our horses, Ken came out one more time to beg. "I will be back," I informed him, " I promise. I don't know when, but I will return."
We rode out in silence in the dark of night, leaving only Ken and his gleaming eyes behind. I looked back in pity for him, but as my horse Sasha continued to ride, he faded away.
"Don't worry about him," Kapo assured me," he'll be fine. Besides, you'll be back, you said you would. I'm beginning to wonder if you have what it takes to be a Ranger." I set my head forward, and didn't look back. After riding for a few hours Kapo pulled his reigns.
"We'll rest here," he explained, "I'll take the first shift, you get some rest." I was so tired; I didn't have the will to wonder. After what felt like five minutes, he shook me. "Your turn," he whispered. I was very confused. As I sat up, I was about to ask him for what, but he was already fast asleep. Everything seemed in order, so I just went back to sleep, or tried to. The night dragged on, and falling asleep again didn't come easy. I couldn't tell if I was nervous, or if I was actually hearing things. Since I had never been this far from the city, I thought that quite possibly I was plain scared. At one point I could've sworn I heard voices off in the distance, so I got up to look around. I didn't find anyone, or anything, or even any trace of someone or something that had been there recently. I went back to lie on my pad that I had packed.
I looked up from my journal at the sky. It was getting late, plus my butt was hurting after sitting on this stump for so long, reading my journal entries. I knew I had better make camp, and go hunting, or I wouldn't have any dinner. I started to stand up, and then I noticed my legs were stiff. I shook them a few times to wake them up. The sun was setting, so I grabbed my ax, and bow, along with my long sword. Walking across the cobbled road into the grass, a rabbit scampered across my path. 'Someone's not coming home for dinner' I grinned at the rabbit. He felt my presence, and scurried down into his burrow. There are ways to take care of his kind, but first I need a fire. In the forest I found a good-sized tree, not too big, not too small, it was perfect for firewood, since I didn't find an already felled tree. I pulled the ax back ready to swing, when I noticed some thing stir in my camp. My ax fell to the ground, and I pulled my long sword from its' sheath, while slowly creeping back to camp. As I drew nearer, the shape became clearer, it was small, and had a bush tail. It was that confounded rabbit! He was searching through my gear. I ran out of the forest yelling a chant in Yirnish, (the Rangers language) wielding my sword. The rabbit either understood Yirnish, or knew what that long shiny thing could do to him. He scooted along off into a hole somewhere. When I reached my camp, I stopped chasing the rabbit; I wasn't going to catch him that way. Everything seemed to be in its' place, but my journal lay on the ground. I knew I might as well make an entry on the previous events. In it I wrote, 'Seventh Day: Made good distance on foot, and found a decent spot for camp, but rabbit giving me problems.'
My journal was torn, and tattered, I noticed as I fingered the pages. It was almost out of pages; I would have to buy one in the next city, if I ever made it there. I couldn't put it down though, so I opened it back up to where I had left off.
Morning finally arrived after a dreary night. Before I opened my eyes I could smell the aroma of cooking eggs. Presently I did not know Kapo could cook, but in the next year I would learn a lot about Kapo that I didn't know. I opened my eyes, and sat up on my pad relieved.
"We're lucky, you know," he said once he noticed I was up.
"Lucky? About what?" I was confused.
"Don't act stupid," he was loosing his control; I had never seen Kapo get mad. See I'm already learning things, and I haven't been awake five minutes. "We're lucky we didn't get robbed, or worse yet, killed. You fell asleep on your shift, and you know it."
"I didn't know what you meant by 'turn'. I've never spent the night outside the city, much less in the wild." Kapo simply looked at me; at the time I didn't know what it meant, but later he explained that it meant, 'you've got a lot to learn.' I stood up and went over to get some breakfast, but he was already packing up his gear. I stared at him blankly with my mouth hanging open.
"You sleep too long, we leave now, or we sleep in wild again." I didn't want to be robbed, so I just went hungry. Both of our horses looked refreshed, and ready for the days' journey, but I certainly wasn't. Kapo took one look at me, and knew that if I didn't eat something, that it would hinder us too much. He helped me up to my saddle, and we were off. I had hoped we would only go at a slow trot, but immediately he raced off at a speed that was anything but slow. I didn't even try to keep up with him; I was too hungry. Soon he came back with a vine of wild grapes he had found; I didn't even try to protest, or ask if he'd wash them. Instantly I popped them in my mouth as fast as I could. The grapes didn't do much for my appetite, but I was grateful for what I had. We rode on for some time, until the sun was above us. "Here we rest," Kapo announced, "and you'll learn how to hunt." We jumped off our horses, and they ran off to a nearby prairie to feast on the grass.
Kapo pulled his ax out of his pack to, what I presumed, get firewood. He had already picked out an extremely small tree before I arrived in the forest. If I knew one thing about nature, it was fires. That tree wouldn't make anything more than kindling, if even that. Kapo took one swing, and the tree fell to the ground. He must have messed up some calculation along the way; I had to be right. Kapo picked up the tree by himself, and came walking my direction. He saw the expression on my face, "this isn't for firewood," he explained. Of course, what do I know? The tree was long and skinny, but I couldn't imagine what he would use it for. I followed him back to our campsite, with some suspicion. Kapo found a good- sized rock, and sat down, pulling out his pocketknife from inside his cloak.
I had never really looked at Kapo very well, except for his forbidding forest green cloak. He hardly wore the hood, except for special cases like when we were riding last night. I measured up to his height and strength equally, but nothing else. I never knew how old he was, but by just getting to know him, it was obvious he drew his roots a lot farther back than I. He was a master of all things, and was always there when you needed him, and sometimes when you least expected him. He could teach you anything, and often times he did. 'I have much to learn from him,' I noted in my journal that day.
With skill, Kapo quickly stripped the tree of its' branches. I stood there with an eye cocked at him; he noticed it immediately, and thrust his right hand out, which concealed the knife. I was catching on to this eye and hand language of Kapo's. This was obviously a challenge of my ability; others had done the same in Belgera. Often times in the city I accepted, but today I would just get a lecture, and I would most definitely loose. I stepped back cowardly, and my stomach began to rumble. Kapo shook his head satisfied, and went back to fixing the tree for whatever we were going to use it for. The simple shake of his head meant something more to me, it was a triumph; I had made good judgment for the first time.
What we were going to have wasn't obvious yet, but my instincts told me we would need a fire, so I went back to the forest to find some kindling. From my count of all the stumps, I could guess this was a good spot for camping. There was a ton of brush and short stubby sticks in the remote area, but nothing larger. I gathered up all I could, and slowly trudged back to camp. Kapo had finished shaping the sticks, and was now fastening what looked like an arrowhead on to one of them. All these things could be found in the wild? I doubted it, or at least not that shape. As I walked up, Kapo spoke. "Good," he said upon seeing the wood, "put it right there," he pointed his finger at the center of the camp. I dropped the sticks as he ordered. "I shaped these in my shop at home," Kapo answered my suspicions about the 'heads, "fishing sticks, points are sharp. Now you learn how to fish."
Kapo spoke our language in what seemed to me an improper way. A direct contrast to what my schoolteacher taught me all those years ago. I tried to scratch it out of my memory; I think he would call it poor grammar. My school was a wise man who taught me many things. Before he replaced our other wretched teacher, I hated all subjects except for reading. Adventure books were my sort. I always dreamed of going on long adventures, much like the one I was embarked on now. When Adam (my teacher) came he made learning fun. He'd ask me questions like, "how will you know how much your horse costs if you don't know how to count? They'll surely cheat you out of your money." With that inspiration I always had a willing desire to learn. He also told us that there are people out there that develop their own language to suit themselves. I guessed Kapo was one of those people. He put it plain and simple, not wasting time on useless words.
Kapo threw me a stick, and I handled it amazed at his craftsmanship. It was no perfect, but it was much better than what I could've turned out in the allotted time frame. He motioned with his finger, and I followed him to the nearby stream. It took me a while to learn, but once I did, it was easy to nab a fish. After we were good and full, we rode on to his cave, where I would begin my life and train to be a Ranger. Dusk had fallen once we reached the cave, so we went to sleep without the presence of thieves. When I woke up, Kapo stood over me, as if I had slept through the entire day. We climbed down the side of the cave, and ate breakfast. Then we trained.
My next many entries were mostly stuff Kapo told me to remember, so I wrote it down. It included the Yirnish alphabet, ingredients for certain foods, how to make camp, and how to shoot a bow and arrow. The one-day I distinctly remember is the day I began learning magic, but that would have to wait. I closed my journal, and went back to the forest, and chopped down the tree. Soon I had a flaming fire with rabbit roasting on a spigot. He put up a pretty good chase, and I have a few bruises to show it, but in the end I got him. I settled down for the night, and pulled out my journal after nestling in to my sleeping bag. Once I opened my journal, that day came back in a vivid memory.
Kapo aroused me at an earlier time than the previous day. I was getting used to it, because we had so much to do, and so little time in the day. I sat up instantly after he gave me the nudge. "What's cooking?" I asked assuming he made breakfast. I took a whiff of the air, but my now keen nose couldn't pick up any scent. I already knew the answer, "nothing."
"Today, we train first," Kapo explained, "makes better work ethic, and bigger appetite." My stomach growled in disagreement. Each session had a different area located remotely around the cave, such as my Yirnish lessons were at a stone table, so I could write. This one was different, I could sense it wasn't within walking distance. First we saddled our horses, and gathered our gear. Then he gave me a little to eat because, he explained, "this is impossible to do on a completely empty stomach." Our horses carried us for about ten minutes. We rode through a small forest that we often hunted in. We came to a huge stone with inscriptions on it, that as Kapo translated, "do not enter, or you will suffer the wrath of the Ranger."
We had been here many times, mostly when we were chasing our prey through the forest. The first time, I had asked what the inscriptions said, and he translated because I knew very little Yirnish at the time. At the time I had feeling he was making it up, because while he was translating it, he never once looked at the boulder. Still yet, he told me to take heed the warning and stay away from this place. I obeyed, as to not defy Kapo; nevertheless I didn't once believe it.
"We're here," Kapo announced. I gazed around at the clearing around us in awe; there wasn't anything special about it. Kapo shook his head, laughing, "not here," he explained, then pointed his finger ghostly, shaking and quivering, at the stone.
"But what about the..." I panicked, not knowing what to say. Kapo broke out in an uproaring fit of laughter.
"I am the wrath; I just didn't want you going in there." I hung my head dismally, and compressed in to a pile of worthlessness. "Stop feeling sorry for yourself. You're making me sound convincing about all the 'Wrath' bull," he shook his fingers, mocking me. He rolled the stone away, which revealed a dark passage.
"Are we... uh going down there?" Stupid me, of course we were going down there. I was asking stupid questions, and I could tell it was irritating Kapo.
"Only stupid people ask stupid questions," he remarked. We crouched inside into the foreboding darkness. The ceiling was very low, so we had to crawl down the stairs.
"We, (referring to the Rangers) built this cave so that no one can sneak in on us," Kapo explained, "we have spies everywhere."
"Will I meet them?" I asked.
"No. They aren't humans, and don't speak your language. Not even the other Rangers can talk to them; the spies are secretive and have a mind of their own. I'm the only one they speak with." The stairs were hard on my elbows and knees, and I skinned them all badly.
"Stand up," Kapo commanded suddenly. I stood up slowly, feeling for the ceiling, but my hands only grasped air. "There's plenty space here," Kapo informed me. I couldn't see him in the pitch dark, but my eyes were adjusting to the blackness that surrounded me. "There are many tunnels up ahead; all but one of them lead to a dead end. Hold this and you won't get lost," he said tossing me a rope. It was knotted and worn out, but would serve as a useful life support. I grasped the radii old thing with dear life, for fear of being left behind. We trudged along for some time, while Kapo explained why such secrecy was necessary. If anyone ever found this place, any normal human, they would expose the deep and hidden secrets of the Ranger. Only the Rangers had access to the holy sanctum, and those who lead anyone here are hunted down, and banished. I asked, "from what?" but Kapo did not answer, as if it troubled him. Suddenly Kapo commanded, "stop! Stay here until I say come."
Although I couldn't see him clearly in the dark, my other senses had strengthened, such as my hearing. What normally seemed like a soft tiptoe, was now a stampede of horses. I could hear Kapo walk around the corner, and I distinctly hear the shifting of a wall. Kapo then beckoned for me to come. As I turned the corner a blinding light struck my eyes. I covered my eyes with my hands because the strange light was so bright. I closed my eyes, but my eyelids appeared to be transparent. I turned around hoping to scatter the light off of my back. It turned dark again, but I could hear the glimmer of the light, yet there was no reflection.
"It is the light of Truth," Kapo informed me, walking from the light like a mighty and powerful god. "It sees through your lies, and protects the sanctum from trespassers. You can fun from it, and it will only become brighter, or you can face it, and confess your lies. Then it will let you pass beyond it." I knew I only had one choice; I had to face it, but I did not know what it knew about me. I turned around to challenge the light, and gain access into the sanctum. My brain surged as I glared at the light. I tried to think of when I had lied, something was a roadblock in my memory. Little things came first, such as school, and with my friends. The light slowly grew dimmer, but only did many confessions make even the slightest difference. I thought hard to find what was holding me out; it seemed like the light wouldn't ever let me in. Then something clicked inside my head. Before, there had been red tape all around, but now it poured out of me.
I realized the light not only meant lies to other people, but also lies to yourself. I wished everyday that my dad would come back, but it was just a lie to cover up for my longing to see him once again. Once the light was only sufficient for a light source, I ventured into the cavern. It was a breathtaking sight. The majesty of the cavern was beyond words of explanation. I stood agape for a few moments in awe until Kapo rattled me to continue.
"Pretty amazing, aye?" he asked.
"It's beyond that," I started, "I can't explain it. I could find all the synonyms of amazing, and they still wouldn't comprehend to this. It's..."
"You've said enough," he cut me off. "Come, you have much to learn now that you can concentrate." Beyond its' majesty, the room sparkled like gold, and was fit for a King. There were many dazzling rooms full of more riches and treasures that we quickly passed up. If this was not even worth looking at for Kapo, I wondered what was? He led me up a long flight of twisting stairs. The view from the top of the stairs was even greater. I gazed around examining every corner of the room, determined to memorize its' every crack, corner, and mouse hole.
Kapo stood beside me gazing along with me. He began to speak, but then thought better of it; silence definitely was golden. It seemed too soon to leave, but I realized this wasn't what Kapo brought me for. I followed him down a dark and dank smelling corridor. This had to be the biggest cave in all of history with all its' tunnels, and rooms, and puzzles. He picked an unlighted torch off the wall and with a simple flick of his finger, ignited it. He handed the torch to me, and repeated the process of his own.
"Simple magic," he explained, "soon you will learn it." We continued on into the dark passage. Many times he flung open doors, and led me deeper into the cave. At one point he spoke a password under his breath, to open a door. The door slowly opened on its' creaky hinges, revealing the room to me. In the middle of the room the lay a stone table, but there was nothing else. Why we had come this far for a stone table, I did not know.
"Shamisun!" Kapo shouted, and a flame lit all around us; lighting up the room, almost the blinding light had. The room was much larger that what it had appeared to be at first. "She is here," Kapo announced suddenly, "she feels your presence. We have come at a ripe time." Confusion spread across my face like acne. Kapo composed himself before speaking, "the one I speak of, Sarenigh, is the goddess of magic. She aids in the training of newly acquired apprentices: when she feels like it. If your presence is not made known to her, she will not help. Apparently yours has."
"So I'm important then?"
"To a certain extent, yes, but don't push it. Get settled in, I am needed elsewhere for a few minutes. When I get back we will begin training." He opened a stone door in the wall in to what appeared to be his office, and ducked inside. I dropped my strenuous pack on to the table in the center of the room, relieved of the great stress on my back. As I straightened my neck, my eyes focused on the wall. Behind the flames, there was a hodgepodge of paintings, and portraits. They seemed to form a mural of a story about a great war between deadly enemies. The pictures were strange, almost alien-like; I didn't recognize any of it. Perhaps they told the history and heritage of the Ranger. Maybe I would get a history lesson along with magic.
Kapo's voice broke off my train of thought. My keen sense of hearing could faintly hear his voice behind the door. I sneaked over to the noise to eavesdrop on Kapo's counsel. I didn't see the point in eavesdropping, since I wouldn't understand it, but I felt compelled to listen. I put my ear to the door, expecting some foreign language from another planet, but to my surprise, my brain translated the words to me even though I had never heard them. Kapo's spy spoke first.
"This crisis is in much more depth than you ever imagined, or could ever know." Crisis? What were they talking about?
"I know, you already told me. First I need to teach this boy, then I'll help you with your problem."
"No! It's worse now; Daren's part of this scheme." Now they were talking about me. How was I in a crisis I hadn't even known about was beyond me. This conversation was getting weirder by the second.
"How is that possible?" Kapo asked, "he's just a normal kid."
"Looks can be deceiving Kapo. You knew his father, right?" Kapo nodded. "His father's not what you would call average either. All I've got to say is that you have 'till the end of December to finish his training, then he's mine," the spy said.
"You work in mysterious ways Zrakler, but I'll respect your wishes. Now if you'll excuse me, I have some business to attend to." My feet stumbled backwards, hearing the warning, which caused me to fall on my back with a thud. Kapo opened the door, and looked at me sprawled on the floor. "A lot of good that did you; eavesdropping on us. Or were you learning a foreign language?" I smiled, showing my teeth. He gave me an eerie look, but helped me to my feet. All day I pondered on what I had overheard, but I didn't dare ask Kapo, yet. I figured that in time I would learn.
For the duration of the time in the cave Kapo taught me how to maintain the right mindset for casting spells. I had to block out any distractions, and focus on the energy waves. I worked on centering my energy for a while until we braked. We hadn't eaten breakfast, so we had what he called Brunch. I asked him what they had discussed, but he changed the topic, and clearly didn't want to talk about it. He let me have the rest of the day off, claiming that learning magic really wipes you out. I didn't feel tired, but I knew we both needed to do some really hard thinking.