The Unprotected

Chapter 18

When the boys had eaten, drank and packed up camp, they were on their way once again.

“Do you want to travel with us for a while?” Joban asked Lansa once he had mounted Teell.

‘No, I will make the horses nervous. Maybe I will see you later in Eldfort. I go there every once in a while. Have a safe trip and don’t get lost again because I won’t be there to save you.’ A tinkle of laughter echoed throughout the boys’ minds as she dashed off through the foliage.

“Thank you for everything, Lansa.” Shouted Rion.

Lansa turned one last time and watched them depart, flicking her tail. And when Joban looked back, Lansa was gone as if she had vanished with the soft blowing wind.

After much riding, through thick and thin clumps of trees and shrubs, the boys and the horses finally came to a small village that was very well concealed.

“Well here we are, this is Eldfort!” Brendor announced proudly.

The first few houses were camouflaged with the close growing trees, and had small fields of crops. When they got further in to Eldfort, people started to emerge from small wooden and stone buildings, shops and houses. The dirt road became flatter and more noticeable, and the sunlight filtered through the thinned out trees, making the surrounding forest seem like a dark forbidding place to be in. As they passed more and more buildings, people, elves, dwarves and other creatures began to open doors and approach the boys. This went on until Brendor turned in to a street with a very large building at the end of it. To the left of the stone building there was a large area that had been cleared from trees. There were several people and creatures using magic and weapons on the field, which interested Rion and Joban very much. To the right of the building there was a smaller stone building where some other inhabitants were sitting and laughing, as well as others entering and exiting it.

“Rion, Joban, this is Silverkeep. You will be visiting there tomorrow, but for now you are staying at Tirdor’s house which is quite large. The building on the right is the dormitories; where you will be staying as students, the biggest building is the school building where the class rooms, dining rooms etc. are, and the field on the left is where you practice your magic, weaponry skills and general fighting and war exercises.” Brendor turned down another picturesque street which had a few small houses and a few huge houses.

“Which house are we staying at tonight?” Inquired Rion, staring in awe at the beautiful, old houses that had obviously been standing for over 100 years.

“That one.” Brendor pointed to a grand brown, cream and black coloured house that had everything that a person would need.

They trotted through the gates and were met by a small beady eyed man that was at least 50 years old. Immediately, the twins, and even Brendor didn’t like him. His hair was long and was a silvery-white colour. His short beard was trimmed neatly and he wore a black flax jacket with black slacks and shoes which shone as if they were just new.

“I am Ulnath, Tirdor’s butler. He is waiting for you in the downstairs living room, please leave your horses here and the stable boy, Dwayne will collect them and take them to the stables to be fed and watered. Before your horses are led away to the stables, a maid will come and collect your saddlebags.” He started off toward the house but paused and turned around, “Well, are you coming?” He snapped.

“Of course.” Brendor said bitterly.

The boys dismounted and followed Ulnath to the huge house.

Rion whispered to Brendor while they walked slowly towards the front door, but Joban loitered a moment, drinking in his surroundings. The gate and the fence were black with various plants running along next to it. The front yard was spacious and had some seating facilities along with a place where an open fire usually was. He could smell pine from the forest and delicious aromas that were coming from inside the large house. He turned to look at the house they were to stay in tonight. It looked like a painted picture with the setting sun in the background, the rolling washed-out clouds dotting the sky evenly. The manor cast a shadow over the grounds, making Joban feel tiny and vulnerable, like a small child lost in a marketplace. The many windows looked like masses of dull, eerie eyes staring out, unblinking.

Teell whinnied, snapping Joban out of his trance. Joban shook his head, then glanced over at the stables and saw a boy coming towards him. He then turned his attention to the front entrance of the house and saw that Ulnath, Brendor and Rion had gone inside already.

When the boy reached the horses, he began to unfasten the saddlebags.

“Excuse me,” Joban began, turning towards the boy, “But Ulnath, the butler seems to have left me behind, can you please show me where the ‘downstairs living room’ is?”

“Eh?” The boy stopped what he was doing and straightened up to study Joban. He stared at Joban with scrutinizing brown eyes and scrunched up his lightly freckled nose. He had dark brown hair that curled slightly at the nape of his neck and a fringe that was pushed to the left side of his face. The boy wore tattered working clothes with his sleeves pushed up to the elbows. On his right arm he had a noticeable scrape where he had obviously bled from. His grey trousers had holes in the knees and around the ankles.

“Nah, I’m only the stable boy. Sorry.” Flicking his hair out of his eyes, he went back to the saddlebags.

“Oh, you must be Dwayne… I’m Joban, do you need any help?”

Dwayne glared at Joban in annoyance, “No, I am doing my job, I don’t need any help.”

“If you don’t mind me asking, Dwayne, but how old are you?”

“Fourteen.” Dwayne replied, his voice tightening.

“Do you attend school? Silverkeep perhaps?”

“No, I don’t go to school.” He continued to work while he conversed with Joban almost unenthusiastically, “I was adopted by Tirdor and his wife, Celeste when I was four and I had a tutor for about 2 years. I didn’t like them much though and refused to listen to my teacher, so they got rid of her. They forgot about me, almost erased me from their lives. There was a maid, Clara who took care of me; she acted like a real mother. I was thinking of running away when I was twelve, but decided to work here instead. I taught myself how to read and write; with the little knowledge I had from the tutor.”

“Don’t you ever get bored?” Asked Joban, taking the saddlebags from Dwayne and placing them on the ground.

“Oh no, I have the library which I am permitted to use, horses and my bow and arrows.”

“Are you any good with your bow?” Joban looked at Dwayne with a new interest.

“Well, I’ve never really been hunting if that’s what you’re asking, but I have some targets I practice on. I can show you if you want later. Do you have a bow?”

“Oh yeah, it’s back at my house outside of the forest. I’ve even been hunting, but I no longer enjoy putting defenceless animals to death.”

Dwayne dragged his foot in the dust and sighed, “I would like to go to Silverkeep though; I want to learn how to use my bow properly, and maybe even magic, but…” There was an awkward stillness.

“So, where do you eat your meals?” Joban enquired, breaking the silence.

“I eat in the servants quarters, sorry. But I will be at the stables until late; you could maybe come there after you have eaten.” He looked up at Joban and grasped the horses’ reins, “I don’t know why, but I trust you and don’t feel uncomfortable around you, consider yourself special.”

Joban grinned, “We are all special, Dwayne, especially me, my brother and you. I would like you to meet my brother, Rion. I think you’ll like him.”

Suddenly, Brendor burst out of the front door, closely followed by a maid who picked up the boys’ saddlebags and went back inside, leaving Brendor standing there by himself.

“Joban!” Brendor exclaimed in a worried tone, “Hurry along inside, Tirdor’s waiting! You should’ve seen Ulnath’s face when Rion realised you weren’t there…”

Dwayne bowed his head, “Dwayne, this is Brendor, he helped my brother and I get here.” Joban walked over and stood next to Dwayne.

Brendor flicked his head around, his blonde hair catching the last of the suns’ rays and looked Dwayne up and down quickly, “Oh, hello. Pleased to meet you, but Joban and I have to get inside. See you later, maybe.” Brendor ushered Joban toward the front door, “Oh, and you’d better do something about that arm.” He added, flicking his gaze to Dwayne’s arm.

Joban waved to Dwayne as he began to lead Tiya, Teell and Donath to the stables. Brendor quickly stepped through the grand front door, pulling Joban by the wrist through with him.