That day started off pretty much as most of the others had over the past month. Beautiful skies, puffy white clouds, nice weather, and a distant, but refreshing smell of the ocean wafting in from the west. Duskin was scooping up some type of delicious smelling omelet with herbs, bacon, and perfectly caramelized sausages onto a few plates & re-pouring more of that what-should-be-famous frothy brew into their two cups. However; there was another amazing smell coming from some sort of cobbled together makeshift oven off to Duskin’s right in the background. Jhost was flabbergasted at how industrious this Dwarf (?) really was. The thought of… did this guy ever sleep, crossed his mind for about the hundredth time. Jhost felt compelled to ask… “What in Hope is that incredible smell?”
Duskin, through that snow-white beard of his, cracked the biggest grin; and his brows quite lifted off his eyes when he said. “That! My boy Jhost, is me trying to honor the time-honored baking tradition of attempting Bob’s Infamous Chocolate Chip Cookies! The first batch is nearly done! We’re a going to eat us there some of those cookies in preparation for our deaths! Or….Better yet… victory!”
Jhost shook his head, not really knowing how to absorb everything he was taking in; and glanced up into the early morning sky. Those little beautiful, and faintly pastel colored moons that seemed to hover in the sky above, appeared to be moving towards some sort of a formation, or alignment. Duskin glanced over at Jhost, and up then back up into the sky as well and said: “Ah! Yes, those beauties will be all be lined up in three days hence.It’s a good sign! They do that about once a month I reckon. I’m also thinking it may make sense to postpone trying to attack our Drake today. Come, let’s enjoy these cookies while they’re piping hot”. With that, Duskin scooped up a warm cookie with a flat spatula and plopped it into a thick wheat colored napkin that he passed over to Jhost.
The first bite into that warm, scrumptious, oozing dark chocolate morsel was beyond compare. Damn this Dwarf can bake also?! Thought Jhost. Duskin seemed to have no end to his talents. Whatever he set his mind to he seemed to excel at. His gaze wandered back up to the skies, the moons, and the silvery tinged halo that was constantly in sight, and seemed to envelope and protect the planet of Hope.
Duskin stood, and walked a little distance away motioning Jhost over. Jhost got up, and walked over to where Duskin was perched near some waxy peach colored flower laden bushes that he pulled aside slowly to give Jhost a better view beyond in the direction he was gazing. In the distance, was a shoreline, and what appeared to be some burned out buildings that must have previously been some sort of port-city nestled in the cradle and shadow of the near purple tinged mountains that loomed above and behind. The only thing that remained now was what appeared to be the burnt-out shattered skeleton of frames that once belonged to multi-level homes, and some sort of fortress that appeared to have been largely ripped apart and gutted. In the port, the water was not blue, but a milky gray, and hundreds of rotting burnt out twigs seemingly poked out of the water in the bay. It was an ugly and haunting sight to behold. However; that was only the beginning. The real disturbing scene was that there was some sort of black misty fog that seemed to permeate the air in a ring that seemingly walled off further progress into or out of the husk of that doomed port city.
Duskin spoke: “That my boy is the remains of the port city Le’Lond”. The black mist you see there is poisonous and encompasses the entire Duchy! It will likely kill you if you breathe it. Le’Lond there, or what’s left of it, is one of only three entrances in or out of the Duchy which is on the other side of those majestic mountains.” “We will not be trying to get in that way” “Instead, we’ll be using what is known as the South bridge passage which is only a few hours walk to the east of us.”
“Did this Drake you call, Curse destroy that city?” Asked Jhost with his gaze locked on the city below in the distance.
“Yes, and then some Jhost. It’s hard to see from here, but you see those black twig looking things poking up out the water in the bay?”
“I do” said Jhost.
“Well, those are the masts of the fleet that attempted to evacuate the Duchy in the middle of the night hoping to escape detection from Curse.” “Somehow, Curse either knew, or had a hunch that the Duchy was being evacuated. Even in spite of being distracted. He dropped his attack on the North side of the Duchy that night. Flew to this location as quickly as he could, and essentially burned every ship, man, woman, child, and innocent creature that was on-board as they were just beginning to disembark the bay and set sail.” Duskin’s voice fell lower. “There were no survivors.”
“That’s beyond awful!” Exclaimed Jhost.
“It got a lot worse!”
“How is that even possible?”
Duskin slowly walked back over to the fire. Looked up and said. “Look Jhost, you don’t have to do this if you really don’t want to. You know,that right?”
“Duskin, I’ve come this far. I have no idea who I am, where I came from. You seem to believe I’m sort of ‘Prophecy-come-to-life.” … “I’m honestly not sure what to do with myself, what my purpose is. However; what I do feel in my achy bones, is that I feel like I can make some sort of a difference. Like, I’m supposed to be here, doing this. I’m not sure how, or why, but I’d like to at least give this a try. I mean.. .what do I have to lose? Maybe it’s best that I don’t know who I am, where I come from and so forth.”
“Boy! That’s awesome!” exclaimed Duskin as he slapped his mail hand on top of his armored black mailed thigh. “Ok then, let’s start your training!” “I have a few things to pull outta this here pack o mine that really ought to help give you and I more of a snowballs chance in Hell at licking this Drake and kicking his ass back to Hell!”
Duskin walked over to his bulging backpack and began wrenching out all sorts of metal objects, weapons, pieces of armor and so forth that landed on the lawn in front of them. After a few minutes of this, Jhost realized that there was no way all of those objects could possibly fit in that pack. As if realizing that Jhost was noticing this, Duskin looked up and simply said: “Yes, this is a very special, magic pack!” “I’m a guessing you’ve never seen one o these before!” “However; they’re quite rare, and, as you’ve noticed,quite handy! I can store a warehouse in there if I have to!” “Went to a lot of pains getting this here pack let me tell you!” “Ok… I’m nearly done!” “Hereeeeeit is!!!!” Duskin seemed excitable. The final thing he extracted from that bag after having his arm dangling around inside of it, head up in the air, as if he was feeling around in the dark was nearly making Jhost anxious in anticipation.Out came a very majestic looking large hand and a half sword. It was a work of art, and, oddly enough it glowed as if there were an invisible spotlight constantly focused on it. The blade wasn’t overly ornate, tastefully decorated as it were. There were a few modest and unidentifiable runes on the blade near the hilt, and, that was about it. The hilt itself was decorated in a tightly wound light blue metal thread that didn’t seem of this world. Last but not least there was a beautiful loop guard to protect the hands made of twisted steel that would wrap around the hand somewhat like metal branches.
“This, my boy, is too large for me to wield properly. It is my gift to you, if it’ll have you.”
“What is it?” said Jhost, who couldn’t pry his eyes away from it.
“This?,,,,,,well… this is Glimmer!”
“Glimmer of Hope?” Mused Jhost out loud.
“Boy, that’s just a bad play on words… bad.”
Jhost chuckled out loud a bit. “Ok ok… I’ll stop. May I hold it?”
“Sure! That’s what we’ve come here for!”
Jhost carefully accepted the blade from Duskin’s hands.There was a sort of awe and aura about the ritual of it being passed into Jhost’s hands that he didn’t quite fully understand, but felt instinctive reverence in the act. When Jhost gripped the blade, not only did he feel an immense sense of power surge through his body from the blade, but an energy sort of surged from his body back into the blade as well. It felt … well… right.
Duskin let out a grunt and spoke. “It is good. It has been done.”
Jhost exhaled and said: “Duskin…… hmm…. This feels strange.I don’t quite feel worthy; and I’m not sure why?”
Duskin responded: “It’s ok Jhost, and quite normal. That’s a sword even Angels would adore. It sounds odd to say it, but tis true. Glimmer there is a very rare sword indeed.Treat it well…and it will more than serve you well!”
Jhost did some trial swings with the sword; overall, he felt pretty novice at it. He felt as if he likely hadn’t played around with pretend swords since perhaps the age of twelve. He couldn’t remember the last time he’d ever swung anything this big, or dangerous looking around if ever. However; it did feel natural to him at some deep inner level. He wasn’t sure why.
Duskin stepped aside and peered closely at Jhost while his gauntlet-ed hands toyed with his long white beard and said “Jhost – please be careful with this sword. I know it may go without saying, but this is a very VERY sharp sword indeed.”
Jhost paused a moment and looked at the edges. They certainly looked sharp to him.
Duskin said: “If the rumors are true, there is nothing that this sword cannot cut through, nothing it cannot pierce. As a matter of fact,I’m dying to see it action!” As he let out a little guffaw.
Jhost looked up – “What do you mean?” “Have you not tried out this sword yourself?”
“Me!? Oh no! That would not do! You see… the sword attunes itself to its user.” “Honestly, while I likely could have tried it out, I honestly wouldn’t be able to do it any justice.” Slightly changing the subject,Duskin said “There, you see that fallen pine tree over yonder?”
“Yeah” When Jhost looked over he noticed a rather large tree laying on its side that was perhaps three feet or so in diameter.
“Well…. Go see if you can cut the thing!”
Jhost casually walked over, and in his mind, given the girth of the tree figured it’d likely take about a hundred swings or more to chop the thing in two. So, not quite knowing what to expect took a massive over the head swing down towards the tree as if he were swinging an axe.
Duskin, not quite expecting Jhost to take such a massive swing actually threw out his hand to try stopping Jhost from doing so, but it was too late.
Jhost’s swing not only neatly sliced through the tree effortlessly, but due to the force of the swing even continued to slice through the dirt and rock below. Jhost nearly fell forwards from the motion.
Duskin’s eyes were as wide and bright as the moons circling overhead.
Jhost gasped and shot Duskin a grimace saying “Duskin!That’s almost mean! That literally just scared the shit out of me! That sword would slice my arm or leg off without the slightest effort.. what the hell!? How can anything in the world be that sharp!?!”
Duskin was nearly speechless, and that’s saying something, especially for this dwarf. He let out another one of those super long whistles.“Pheeewwwwwwwwwwww…….”
“Jhost my boy, the rumors about Glimmer seem to be true.”“Go see if you can cut through that boulder over there!” Pointing to a table sized piece of granite in the distance. “Except, this time, know that you’ll be able to slice it.”
To say that Jhost was beyond incredulous this time would bean understatement. A tree is one thing, but an actual boulder? He fully expected the rock to give more resistance, and either outright destroy, or at the least dull the beautifully finely-honed edge. However; he did as he was instructed, and tromped up to the salt and peppered colored mass. This time, while he swung at the rock, he did so a bit more gingerly, and with far less force.The blade neatly passed through, but at least this time there was slightly more resistance, as if he’d swung the blade through water. The boulder fell neatly into two nearly symmetrical pieces. Where the blade had passed through the rock, it appeared as if had been professionally polished.
Jhost looked down at the blade and thought to himself. Ok…now this is pretty sweet!
Duskin was beside himself. “My boy, I believe you might have a chance after all in killing this Drake!” “Now, now….now… I just need to cobble together some type of armor that will work for you!”
Jhost shook his head, the past month or so just felt so out-of-this-world he just didn’t really know how to make heads or tails of it.All of it made absolutely no sense, but, somehow in his mind, or deep down in his soul he knew he was where he needed to be. He looked over at Duskin who seemed to very preoccupied and rummaging around in that crazy pack of his again,and said “Duskin, I’m going to go explore around a little bit, and get a better hang of this sword and what it can do if that’s ok?”
Without looking up Duskin said “Yes… that’s fine, just don’t wander off too far, and whatever you do… don’t get too close to that burned out city, or that black mist ye hear!?”
Jhost “Sounds good… I’ll be back before dinner!” Smiling and shaking his head…he set off.
As the sun wandered across the sky overhead, Jhost soaked up where he was amongst his surroundings. The last thing he needed was to get lost,but being alone also afforded him some time to gather his thoughts and reflect.He assessed his situation, and came to the conclusion, as well as felt that this…. Duskin, was likely his only friend in this world called Hope. He wished he he’d had more recollection of his past, but was also reconciled with the fact that he may never fully get his previous memories back. Either way, what he did know, is that even he did have his former faculties he felt he’d most likely be signing up for the same crazy mission he was on now. He kept within about a mile of where he and Duskin were encamped. As the day waned, he got to know the surrounding area. It was a beautiful setting. Aside from the burned-out port city in the background head mired the very pretty, almost purple-ish looking mountains in the distance that seemed to protect the secreted lands contained within. The peaks climbed into the sky out of sight, and for the most part seemed to almost create their own clouds that seemingly clung to the steepled ridges for protection. Jhost continued to ponder his situation. He’d learned a ton about where he was, and, because he wanted to make his new-found friend Duskin happy for likely being the person who saved his life, he felt obligated in helping Duskin in this crazy endeavor in trying to kill this vile Drake. Hell, he might even get a date with the supposed beauty that was part of the bargain. This latter thought amused him.He sort of laughed out loud, and thought in his mind, yeah right, what a load of bullshit that likely is.
The day ticked by. Jhost continued to explore the nearby environs, the distant and comforting sound of the ocean waves crashing ashore in the distance. He continued to test Glimmer, and what it could do. Jhost felled many dead trees and boulders throughout the day; but, after a while he tired of the exercise. He had the gnawing feeling that this Drake, whatever it was would prove to be a far more daunting adversary than the poor inanimate rocks and trees he’d been slicing and dicing up throughout the day. He decided it was time to head back to camp.
As he made his way back to camp, he’d heard a bird chirp in the distance for the first time. For some reason it made him happy. It took Jhost perhaps an hour or so to arrive back at their cozy camp. Not as easy as he’d thought it’d be at first, however, there was the unmistakable smell of something fantastic being cooked up yet again.Was there no end to this Dwarfs culinary skills? As he came into view, Duskin had erected nothing less than a makeshift table from the boulders and tree he’d been slicing at earlier in the day. Several cast iron skillets and pots were cooking near a pretty large fire that looked like it’d been burning for at least a few hours.
Duskin looked up. “There you are! Finally! I’ve been itching to see if some of this here armor will fit ye ok!”
Jhost carefully laid Glimmer horizontally, and reverently on the smooth table that he’d accidentally helped make, and walked towards Duskin who was beckoning him over.
Duskin was grunting in various stages of approval, and disapproval, while muttering under his breath. “…hmph… well.. I’ll be damned,no…ok….sure…this might work. No… that’s too small… dang! Hmm… ok… yes.. this will work!”
Duskin at various times would hold some metal armor bit up against some part of Jhost’s body, and then immediately go back to “Hmm…Hmmm….ok… this is good. Now this.. no.. dang IT! Ok…let’s try this… “ This went on for nearly an hour. Duskin went to and fro, visiting his pack periodically,would throw and cast some pieces of metal to the side, while taking others…over to a very hot looking part of the fire and throw some of the metal bits into it; sometimes quietly beating on some of the pieces of metal that were positively glowing orange & giving off their own light. By this time Jhost’s mouth was positively watering from the smells emanating from the cooler part of the fire that looked to be occupied yet again with more pots and pans cooking only Ona knows what. However; Jhost had to remain patient as Duskin labored on for the better part of another hour.
Abruptly – and without warning Duskin said: “This will have to do. Come here boy.” Within a few minutes Duskin had the bits of metal he’d been working on completely covering Jhost’s body. Some of these pieces of metal were still pretty warm as to nearly be burning Jhost, but he wanted this show over with. Straps were tugged, metal bits were put into place, and at the very end, a metal helm of some sort was neatly placed over Jhost’s head. He knew he was wearing some sort of armor suit; but the whole experience felt a little bit alien to him.
Duskin said, “How does it feel?” “Move around a bit for me ok?”.
Jhost did as he was told. The metal suit seemed very piecemeal, if not thrown together, yet for all that, fit quite well. As he glanced over his arms, down his torso, and legs, he decided the best way to describe what he was wearing looked nothing less than like some sort of a patchwork quilt suit of armor. As he glanced over at Duskin, who was smiling, Jhost felt a bit awkward. Not wanting to appear ungracious.
“Well? What do ye think!?” Duskin piped up.
“Think? Well Duskin, I know you went through a lot of trouble, but is this really going to work? I mean… is this what’s going to protect me from this… this… Drake?”
Duskin caught the tone in Jhost’s voice and said “My boy…I sure hope it will” “However; let’s get one thing straight. It’s not the armor that protects you.”
Jhost shot Duskin a questioning look and responded with. “Ok….then pray tell what is protecting me?”
Duskin simply said “Ona”
Jhost nodded once and said “Ona” as if he’d uttered the word for the first time.
“Yes…Ona my boy. That… and believe it or not. You.”
Duskin continued “It’s not the armor….it’s not the sword. It’s your faith in Ona that will carry you through this.”
Jhost was silent. Not sure what to think in this moment. Ona? He thought to himself. Ona – the God he felt he knew nothing about. Or, if he once did, then he’d need some serious refreshers. At least Duskin felt convinced, and that was something. He peered up at the sky that was turning towards night, with a few stars beginning to peek out.
“Time to eat!” Duskin said heartily.
That evening Jhost felt as if he’d never had a better meal.Some sort of braised pot roast, with potatoes, leeks, carrots, and herbs in a gravy broth. Incredible side dishes of hard aged cheese, honeycomb, bread, and salted butter to dab into and soak up the sauces. Desert also consisted of some re-purposed Bob’s cookies that had been reheated, but this time complimented with a scoop of Goats milk ice cream that was unlike anything Jhost had ever tasted.Conversation was light, Jhost was tired, he tiredly pulled off his armor, and quickly nodded off after the meal. He’d had a long day, lots to absorb and reflect on.
The next morning…… Jhost awoke to the sounds of that bird chirping again. ‘Tweet… tweet. Tweet tweet.’ He got up to relieve himself. Ashe walked over the copse of trees nearby to take care of business… he felt oddly… good. Perhaps more alive, and alert than he’d ever felt in his life. As Jhost came back to camp, he didn’t quite realize that this was perhaps the first time he’d been up before Duskin, who at that moment was quietly snoring.Almost as if Duskin had somehow known he was being watched, he suddenly bolted upright out of the bedding he was in and in less than a second had a stout black blade at Jhost’s throat that he’d never seen before.
“What in the world were ye sneaking up on me like that for!!!?”“I almost killed ye!!!” “By all that’s holy!” “Phewwwww………!” Duskin whistled.
Jhost, visibly shaken, didn’t know quite what to say. He’d never startled Duskin before, and certainly didn’t mean to scare the shit out of him like that while he was peacefully slumbering.
Duskin gave Jhost a strange look. “Boy… I ain’t never been snuck up on like that before….how did ye do it?”
“Honestly Duskin, I didn’t mean to, I was trying to be polite, and be nice and quiet when I got up to relieve myself so I wouldn’t wake you. When I came back… I just… somehow startled you I guess. I was just going to climb back into bed without disturbing you, and catch a bit more sleep ya know?”
Duskin looked incredulously at Jhost “Well…. I’m going to catch a few more hours of shut eye.” “Do ye know how to cook a proper breakfast?”
Jhost said “I think I can…well…. Manage, I guess.”
Duskin said “Great!” He quickly yanked out several items from that super handy backpack of his and handed them over to Jhost. “I’ll see you in a few hours!” Duskin was asleep in less than a minute. Jhost assessed the eggs, the bread, and a few other items & decided on cooking up something that we would call (French Toast), with some thick sliced uncured bacon. Jhost went to work.
In about an hour, Duskin awoke to an unexpected breakfast.Turns out, Jhost had a hidden and unknown talent for cooking!
“Jhost … you been holding out on me! All this time you a been makin me cooking every meal?!” “well well well… not anymore!”
Jhost was a bit surprised with himself as they dove into their early morning breakfast. As he was eating, he couldn’t shake the feeling that everything just seemed more distinct, and he couldn’t quite put his finger on why. He felt as if he didn’t know better that everything seemed more crystal clear to the eye, and colors seemed more rich and vivid! He’d never felt more alive or more vigorous in his life; whatever that looked like before Duskin found him, and with the shortcomings of his recollection. Jhost glanced at Duskin and said “I feel a bit odd today, … but… in a good way I guess.”
Duskin looked askance at him – “You’re not getting sick on me are ye?”
Jhost – “No! No.. not at all.” “More like the reverse of being sick. Honestly; I’ve never felt better…but I’d like to … I don’t know… go for a run, chop a forest down, or punch a cliff! Sorry Duskin… I just feel like I have all this energy that I don’t know what to do with! It feels great!” said Jhost with a mild smirk.
Duskin said: “Ok ok..that’s fine..but let’s not forget why we’re here – ok?”
Jhost responded with: “I hear you loud and clear Duskin. I haven’t forgotten. But you know….I feel like I could, I guess…. Conquer the world or something.” At that he slapped his hand on the ground in order to emphasize his point, but when he did that an odd thing happened.
The ground reverberated slightly.
Duskin’s eyes got wide…. And then wider still. “Jhost!” ….“what did you just do!?”
“I’m not sure… I was just excited and decided to slap the ground … and it felt like it responded or something.”
“Oh… my dear dear boy. Take careful heed of this… be careful. You seem to be … I don’t know… almost… different today then over the past month. Something doesn’t feel or seem like it was…I guess…like it used to be with you. I don’t have the words to describe it.” Duskin came over… and started looking very closely at Jhost…. Almost as if he was sniffing around and looking for something he couldn’t’ find.
“Take Glimmer and go hit another rock for me – would ye?”“Very carefully this time though ok?”
“… umm… ok.“
Jhost walked over to a nearby boulder, and from what he’d learned yesterday – he needed to be cautious, and not over swing with the sword-that-could-most-likely-cut-through-anything. Jhost gave a casual flick at the boulder & it was neatly cloven into two halves.
Jhost was nothing short of shocked at this. This seemed even more effortless than before. He looked excitedly over at Duskin and said… I’m going to go for my run! Jhost knew before he even lifted his left leg that things were different. For the first time ever in his life, or whatever his life had been before, that he was now more in control of himself than he’d ever been. His right leg pumped after the first, and before he knew it…without even trying he’d sprung more than roughly twenty feet. While this felt somewhat odd and different, it also felt like his body was doing what it always naturally should have been able to do. Jhost felt ALIVE!
For the next few hours Jhost was testing the limits of what he could do. He leapt over streams. He bounded from tree to tree. He jumped off small cliff like structures near the shore, tucked rolled & came up on his feet as if he’d always known his body could do this. He balanced himself on the top of a flower – not quite understanding how he could defy gravity like that;but it was if he knew that he could position his weight just so.. that the flower would bear his weight. For the first time in having consciousness in this world of Hope and building his memories all over again from scratch, he was beginning to have hope he’d be able to remember more about his past. He had the impression that he’d be able to become what he was meant to be, he was determined to put the pieces of his former life back together, to remember where he’d come from, who he was, and nothing would get in his way of doing so.While Jhost was having these self-reflections; he was also having some fun learning about his physical limitations with the sword called Glimmer. The sword, although an inanimate object, almost seemed to augment and assist Jhost in either slicing, or piercing what Jhost put his mind to. He realized that he could not only cut through anything he’d wanted to, but, he could do so with incredible precision. Before he came back to camp, he decided to make Duskin a little gift. He carved a small skillet out of some nearby granite that passed reasonably well for something that could be cooked in. With that task accomplished, he came back to camp proudly with the new cookware in hand.
Duskin was touched. “Boy…this is… well… it’s great!” “You did this with Glimmer there?”
Jhost looked over – “Why… yes! Yes I did!” I thought you might be able to use a new baking and cooking dish.” “Not sure if stoneware will do the trick..but I figured it might.”
“Jhost.. I will cherish this forever.” “You have no idea.”“It’s almost a fair trade for Glimmer there.” He said smiling with that big beard and mustache of his pulled wide with a grin.
Duskin paused and said: “Here, Glimmer there needs a proper sheath.” As he handed over a worn and modest looking wrap with thin leather straps that Jhost easily slipped the sword into. The sword, now in its scabbard almost seemed to give out a pleased hum.
Jhost looked at Duskin and immediately broke into an animated recount of the day and concluded with – “Duskin, what’s happening tome? Who am I?” “What …am I?”
Duskin looked over sadly and said “My boy, I wish I knew so I could help you more.” “I don’t fully understand why you’re gaining all this power though so suddenly.” “It’s definitely fortuitous” “But…. I have to say…in all my years I’ve never seen, or even heard of something like this.” “You seem to be as strong as a small Giant! Have the vigor of a Troll! The sprightliness of the extinct Faire! And….well… you get the point!” “However;the thing that scares me is … you seem to also be.. well.. don’t take this the wrong way; but in Hope, you also seem to be as green as a newborn child!” “That can be a scary combination indeed!” “My only theory, and it’s as good as I got right now, is that while ye smell like the extinct Faire, and ye barely look like one, is that ye must be the offspring of a Faire and a Human parent.”“Perhaps some sort of Dragon Knight… or something!” “Ona only knows the rest.”
Dinner that night was a bit more subdued. The pending anticipation of possibly confronting the Drake Curse tomorrow left the air between them, and the unspoken anxiety that was building up, at levels Jhost doubts he’d ever felt before in his life. Jhost nodded off to visions of halo dust, pastel moons, and the occasional shooting star before his eyelids pulled the blankets of sleep over the foreboding of what lay in store the next day.
*** Day 3 ***
Jhost awoke again before Duskin. He peered over and wondered at this dwarf who appeared to be lost in the land of dreams. Many thoughts crossed his mind and as far as he knew, this might likely be the only friend he had on Hope. Would he ever regain his former memory? What if he didn’t? What if he did..but didn’t like what he found out about himself? He paused and tried not to get depressed about his situation. In short, he felt extremely lonely in the present moment. He pulled his legs up, and in turn pulled the dark thick deep red woolly blankets up around himself. He felt more comforted this way. His gaze turned yet again skyward. The horizon was slowly coming to life as the sun slowly began to rise. The small moons, beautiful as ever were also lit by the rising sun; but, appeared as if they were about to start getting out the unusual alignment, they were currently in.
Jhost, out of courtesy decided to be a little more intentional about being nosier this morning in an effort to not startle the sleeping mini-giant that was his friend. He left the comfort and warmth of his bedding and blankets, coughed a bit, and spoke out-loud saying he was going to the nearby stream to freshen up. Duskin just sort of turned over onto his side,waved his big arms in acknowledgment letting Jhost know he heard him. This morning, as in the past few, Jhost felt incredibly alive. Strong. Vigorous.Healthy. Dare he believe…perhaps even a bit invulnerable? Be that as it may,when he took care his morning business, right afterwards he decided he’d jump into the crystal-clear waters that obviously sourced from the purple mountains in the distance. The waters, while cool, were not overly cold, and seemed to be unaffected by the black fog that surrounded the environs of the Duchy they would be traveling to in the next few hours. Jhost’s mind was clear. He figured if he was going to die today, then he might as well do so with a very clean body. He peered down at his naked self. While he never felt he was in awesome shape, he had the sense that he at least must have done the bare minimum to maintain his physique. Over the past few days though, he visibly noticed that he’d lost some weight and was definitely more toned. His man-hood, whatever you choose to call it, was definitely respectable, perhaps even more accentuated than he remembered over the past month. None of this made any sense though. How on planet Hope could his body be slightly transforming? Was he infected with something? Would this feeling great be temporary? Again, he knew he had to shove these thoughts aside and focus at the business at hand. As he toweled off and headed back to camp, he had the nagging feeling that he needed to confront this nemesis Curse, today, and soon before he lost his nerve.
A grin grew on Jhost’s face as he neared camp. Ah… the early smells of breakfast! This dwarf really should open a restaurant or something! Jhost rounded the corner, and Duskin greeted him waving a spatula in the air.
“Good morning boy!” “How are ye feeling this bright morning?!”
Jhost…. “I feel great! Slept well.. and you?”
“I haven’t slept that great in years Jhost! Quite odd that…quite odd indeed!” As both of Duskin’s bushy white eyebrows seemed to nearly levitate off his forehead.
Jhost glanced over, his makeshift armor pieces laid out, and…seemingly polished!?
Breakfast seemed to go quicker than normal; and perhaps that was a good thing. Jhost helped clean up which seemed to help his nerves a bit.As he peered around for something else to do and came up empty, he looked over at Duskin and said. “Let’s do this.” “Before I start having worse second thoughts.”
Duskin motioned him over to where the pieces of his newly polished kit was beginning to catch the early rays of the morning sun. Jhost stood motionless as the Dwarf quickly set about the task of fitting Jhost's armor on his body. Leather straps were pulled, and then tucked away, a plain peaked buckler was strapped to Jhost’s left arm; he looked over at it a bit unconvincingly.
Duskin looked up at Jhost and said “well my boy, I know she’s essentially buckler sized for you, but for most Dwarfs …. “
Jhost was a bit aghast at his oversight, and promptly apologized. “Duskin! I’m sorry…. I wasn’t thinking.”
“Tis ok my boy” “taller folk often forget that our stature is a bit … shall I say diminished when standing side by side. But mind you!We’re no less fearsome!” Duskin slapped his grizzled hand across Jhost’s armored back – which felt as if he’d been hit by a war-hammer. Good thing he was wearing this armor he thought to himself.Otherwise that friendly slap on the back might have hurt.
Duskin placed Glimmer off to the side, and offered up another sword, and conjured a third sword up for himself from that wondrous pack of his.
“Boy… let’s see what ye got!”
Jhost grinned and said “Duskin! Without Glimmer I’m sure you’ll be kicking my ass!”
The two started at each other. Slowly at first.
For the first hour Duskin merely toyed with Jhost, and he knew it. Jhost started mimicking Duskin’s battle stances, the way he flicked his sword and often turned sideways in order to give his opponent less of a target to thrust and slash at.
The second hour, and after a quick break, Duskin started schooling Jhost as they sparred, offering many tips, and tricks, that Jhost never could have conceived of.
The morning slipped by as the morning shadows receded amongst the trees and pink flowered shrubs.
Duskin stopped and said. “That’s all there is for it” “Just remember to keep that …. Well Buckler as-you-call-it, between you and that confounded Drake if it looks like he’s going to breathe on you.”
Jhost nodded. “Sounds like a plan”
Lunch was skipped. Jhost’s nerves didn’t leave him with an appetite, and he felt as if he’d perform better anyway without a belly full of food. He pondered the craziness of what he was getting himself into. Which for all he knew might have been nothing more than some sort of a tall tale woven into scaring everyone away from this “Lost Duchy”.
Duskin and Jhost broke camp quickly, and set off towards the Southern Bridge entrance to the Duchy that Duskin had mentioned earlier. In a few short hours, they would reach their destination. The stone laid road they traveled on seemed to still be in relatively good shape in spite of not being well traveled for so long. They both passed weather beaten wooden, and even stone engraved signs that warned travelers to stay away, danger, deadly air ahead, and so forth that was translated by Duskin as they passed by.
And then, there it was before them.
The Southern Bridge entrance to the realm of the so called“Lost Duchy” was unmistakably a bridge. It was a highly arched bridge constructed of massive white stonework wide enough to permit two wagons side by side to travel to and fro in each direction, and was about two hundred yards across. It was built to span an incredibly deep formation of cliffs that were several hundred-feet deep that joined a shadow covered river that meandered below. The river flowed in the direction of the bay that provided water access to the doomed city of Le’Lond.
Jhost looked across the bridge, and then at Duskin.
Duskin exchanged the practice blade he’d given over to Jhost earlier for the blade Glimmer.
“Shouldn’t I be on some sort of a mount? For some reason I thought a proper knight should always be on a proper mount?” Said Jhost out loud..
Duskin sort of rolled his eyes, and guffawed at that comment by saying “Boy… it’s likely a good thing you’re not on a mount, very few mounts indeed would be able to survive what you’re about to confront.” “Knight indeed!”“Most Knights wouldn’t know a hole in the ground from their arse!” “Let alone know how to ride a mount against a Drake such as this!”
Jhost just sort of stood there, shook his head, and said –“Ok… ok… I hear you. I’m gonna do this, or die tryin!” “I seem to have pretty much nothing to lose!” “And..besides… I’m starting to get hungry!” “How am I going to find this Drake anyway?” “Do I just walk in and announce myself?”
“No boy….. you won’t be finding the Drake, the Drake will be finding you!!!” he said grimly.
Jhost shook his head again from side to side. And rolled his eyes. “Well Duskin, that’s not overly comforting. Sounds like I’m going to die a pretty quick death then.”
“No..no ye won’t!” “Give that Drake Hell! Give em a taste of that there sword Glimmer!”
Jhost extended his mailed hand – they firmly clasped and shook. “Thanks for being my friend Duskin. I mean that.” “I still feel quite lost…. And maybe by some miracle this fight might help jostle my addled memory.”Jhost said with a semi nervous cocked grin.
Duskin kneeled on one leg, faced north, put his right hand to the middle of his temple and said. “Ona, please guide your humble servants,our hearts, our minds, and our bodies on this day.” He got up… and said “This is as far as I can go for now Jhost.” “My prayers be with ye!”
Jhost looked over the bridge parapet the swirling waters below, and noticed that black mist. Nothing more needed to be said. He nodded at once at Duskin who was behind him now, and began walking across that bridge– it was nearly high noon.
First (Web) Edition
Jhost(tm) Series, and The world called Hope is Copyright © 2018 and TM 2018 by Matt Ployhar. All content posted to page copyright©2017-present, and intellectual property of Thoughtops.com/Matt Ployhar. All Rights Reserved. No use or reproduction of characters or artwork permitted.This story & book or any portion thereof may not be reproduced or used in any manner whatsoever without the express written permission of the publisher except for the use of brief quotations in a book review. Do not use, edit,re-upload, or redistribute any content in any way. Visitors may view content belonging to the author and nothing more. Any use in any way is strictly forbidden. All of these works are not public domain, never have been, and never will be. Do not use, re-upload, edit, etc. any text, image, or character. Artwork of Jhost uploaded to artist's portfolios share these rights and reservations.Any similarity between persons alive or dead is purely coincidental.
Online published in the United States of America
First Printing, 2018 to present.
Jhost™ is a primary character from my original fantasy fiction novel. Jhost is navigating his way in a world called Hope - he does not recollect. The story of Jhost has been around since 2003 and is only now being unveiled beginning in the summer of 2017 to present in episodic chapter releases.