Unending Trails

Glowing Embers

My eyes slowly open as I come to my senses and feel the hard wooden boards beneath my back. It had almost been night time, with the left side of the sky being dimly lit. I had noticed that the cart had stopped, and heard a faint sound of a fire crackling. I sat up, but almost instantly a headache had formed from sleeping on the cart in presumably an uncomfortable position.

‘Fuck, my head…’

I placed my hand on the back of my head and glanced over to a bright fire set not far from the cart, with Alton sat near it —his back being against the treeline. The cart seemed as though it had been pulled from the path —and upon looking around, the two horses tied with a lead around a nearby tree.

I slowly pull myself up to stand, stretched my arms and legs and dropped myself off of the cart and onto the ground —prompting the pain in my head to throb and jolt at me for doing so.

It had felt refreshing to once again feel the solid earth beneath my feet, with the lush grass and patches of dirt. I once again place my hand on the same spot on my head, as if it could relieve any pain from it.


Sleeping in that thing was a serious mistake, never do that again.

‘Hmm. I can try...but looking around, I think we still have a ways to go —which means more cart riding.’

As I made steps towards the fire, I felt the same subtle breeze —only this time it was colder without the sunlight, and the sound of the trees rustling had been louder and closer. I had noticed that Alton had been looking down into his notebook, to which he had occasionally brought out to jot down notes.

Wonder what sorts of mysteries are in there…

Whatever is in there, only he knows. Does that bother you?

‘Hmm, not really. Though if given the opportunity, I wouldn't complain to take a look at it.’

I got closer to the small fire, with the crackling of the wood being more audible. Fire had always interested me as a child; it was a marvelous tool at our disposal, always a symbol of many things. Even from the embers in Eli and Mary’s kitchen, I could never stop myself from standing in awe.

As Alton had begun scribbling down into the pages of the journal, he seemed to have taken notice to my approach —but didn't look up.

“Mornin’,” he said, breaking the silence of the night as he still scribbled into the journal.

I had chosen a spot near him next to the fire and sighed as I bent my legs to sit.

“Ugh, how much time has passed?” I asked, sounding like an annoying child.

Alton lifted his head from the pages and stared at the darkening night sky, “Well… it's dusk as of now. Depending on how long we rest, we should make it at around noon —most likely after though.”

I had felt defeated at the sound of even more time in the cart.


You kidding me? We might as well just of stayed.

Calm yourself, all that we need is patience. It’s just the headache that’s talking.

I chuffed and put my hands on my face.

“So… seeing as we have time to spare,” Alton said as he closed his notebook and set it beside him, shifting his position to take up all of the room on the sheet he was sitting on, “...tell me about yourself.” He lifted his head towards me and pointed to a rolled up sheet similar to his sitting next to the pile of sacks, “Oh yea, there’s a sheet over there if you want it.”

I was already seated and didn’t care to get up and walk to get it.

“It’s fine, I’m not too bothered by it —thank you though,” I responded as I sat slumped over with my legs extended towards the fire.

“Well… nothing too grand. I grew up in a small family; life was pretty comfortable… though I was a pretty shy kid growing up. Didn’t go anywhere without one of my parents,” I said pausing to look up at the night sky as it gleamed with a seemingly infinite amount of stars.

“Hmm, I don’t mean to offend you in any way, but I’m guessing they passed in the destruction?” Alton asked in a curious tone.

“That they did. Before I even realized it... they were gone,” I responded defeatedly.

“Well, my condolences. May the gods watch over them.”

A short pause had stopped the conversation, leaving only the fire and the calls of crickets from afar, though it was shortlived when Alton had rearranged himself again to place his arms behind his head.

“Tell me, Liam, if you don’t mind… what was it like? Being in the chaos? I’m curious to know…” he stopped as if he had more to say, but stayed silent and waited for a response.

“Hmm… it was all too sudden. I was asleep and I awoke to the fire burning our house down…” I paused, trying to remember exactly what had happened —but the truth was, I couldn’t. It seemed too surreal for it to have happened. “The next thing I know, I was out yelling at the top of my lungs searching for my mother and father.”

I looked down at the small fire once again and listened for the wood crackling, watching the tiny embers fly up above the flames in sync with the tallest flames.

“But nothing…” I said softly. “All I could hear was the fire burning…”

I smirked at the thought of it, “Now that I think back, I was almost taken by the fire as well. The living room caved in —almost right on top of me, all the while the doorways were blocked. I’m lucky to have made it this far.”

Another quiet pause had passed, as I looked back up to the night sky.

“Anybody else in the house at the time?” Alton had asked.

“Just me and my parents.”

“And what of any siblings?”

“Just one. Brother named Tristan, but he wasn't in the fire.”

“Interesting... and where is he?”

“Hmm… I wish I knew. When I was a little boy —as far back as I can remember, he went abroad to join a guild. My parents said he would become a fine soldier, but we’ve never heard of him since. As for the guild, I don’t remember the name of it, and the letters we kept from it are all but ash now. I’d reckon he’s in his prime, maybe a little older.”

“A truly an unfortunate case…” he said in a grim tone.

"Well," I said as I paused, "I'm glad that he wasn't there at the time. Otherwise, I would probably be the only one truly alive."

I let out a breath and a smile, “But ever since, I’ve been with the militia. Never knew it any other way.” I paused at the thought of making the mood dark and looked over to Alton who was still staring up at the stars. Maybe he’d have a more uplifting background.

“What about you?” I said. “Surely if you travel the provinces, they're bound to be tales to tell.”

Alton smiled, “You bet there are. There are too many stories to tell; this land is truly something else. Nothin’ much about me though; I grew up in an average family… if you could really call it that though. I was the only child, and so I grew up secluded. My parents wanted the best for me, to which they sent me abroad to an academy in the eastern provinces. From there, I grew up constantly curious for knowledge, anything that I could get my hands on,” he paused which prompted me to turn my head.

A smile had grown across his face.

“I read all sorts of books in many libraries, all over the many creatures and plants across the land. Out of all of them though, I was fascinated with the big ones… the smart ones. Naturally, I just took to discovering for myself,” he chuckled and continued on, “perhaps I’ll even get to writing my own books that will be archived for teaching.”

“Huh. I’ll be sure to check out the libraries more often then,” I responded, adding onto his humor.

The hearty thoughts had abruptly stopped, as I had remembered his offer to me —and what he had told me when we had met.

“Speaking of which, what studies would you possibly get from me? I’m not exactly smart in those kinds of areas myself, ‘cept maybe some novice fighting. I don’t see what I could really offer…” I stopped, as I turned my eyes down from the sky towards the side of his face.

Alton had lifted his arms from behind his head and sat up to rearrange his body; he turned his torso to face the fire, with his head propped up on his left arm and looked at me.

“Say… what would you do if a peasant —or any other was being beaten by a nobleman? Ruthlessly I mean. A clear indication that one side was helpless...”

I studied his face as the fire had allowed me to see it fully, and thought of a suitable answer to my taste.


What kind of question is that? I know you wouldn’t just ignore it-

No. It isn’t our business. I’d say to keep walking…

“Well, I’d say to keep walking —unless it’s needless. I’d want the same done for myself...”

His eyes looked towards my eyes briefly, only for them to move to the glow of the fire. I studied his face and noticed a smirk on one side.

“Then what about if a beast —maybe a giant— rampaged through a poor village? Would you do anything?”


Humph, good luck with that. There ain’t no way in killing it.

“Well, as much as I would like to help, I wouldn’t make a difference.”

“Then what if you had the power to make a difference?”

“Then absolutely. That’d be pretty cool… I’d think at least,” I responded as I studied his face and saw that his smirk became a full smile.

“Huh. That’s good to hear,” he said in a soft voice and paused a while before continuing on. “Are you one to keep secrets?”

I looked back down to the fire and could tell that it was growing smaller as time past on, “I’d like to think so. In reality, I don’t know anyone other than the folks back at town, so I wouldn't know who to tell a secret to —even if I wanted too.”

“Well then… have you ever heard of the Anarch’s Curse?”


‘The Anarch’s Curse?’

Sounds like something out of a legend.

A slow bellow erupted; almost a clear and defined low growl.

Already… and to think…

Confused, I looked over to Alton’s bright face, “Nope.”

A long pause had ceased the conversation —with me staring at Alton, hoping he would fill me in on the question.

“Well… do you have any knowledge of the Anarch, or perhaps integration?”

“Do what now?” I asked as I was confused and hopeless of my absence of knowledge.

“Oh-ho-ho,” Alton looked up, astonished. I had felt even more stupid the more questions he started to ask.


Is it something I’m supposed to know?

“Say, Liam —when you were a child, did your parents ever read you stories of people becoming monsters? Magically turning into beasts of all kinds of nature and the sort?”

I paused to think back into my childhood, of the short blissful time I had as I laid with my mother who was reading me stories.


Ooooh, what was that one called with the guy and the griffin?

‘Aah, that one was my favorite. Damn, I don’t remember though...’

Praemus… the first to stand…

There it is! The First Hero, or something like that…

I was pleased in remembering the story I so loved as a child. It had given me great comfort at least…

“Uh-huh. Those were always the most interesting,” I said looking up at the stars.

“Indeed they are. Did you know then that such a thing is real?”

I paused a moment —my eyebrows furrowing to a brief sign of confusion. They had lifted as I turned my eyes back to Alton, who was staring at the fire —while my face of confusion turned into a relaxed stature with an added smile.

“I wouldn’t be surprised. I’ve heard what people can do with magic and the like.”

A chuckle erupted from Alton, “Yes indeed. ‘Tis a wonderful thing,” he paused briefly before continuing on, “...but, know that turning into a beast is real. There are many forms of transformations —one of which is called integration.”

He sat up and looked around, briefly at the cart, then to the two horses. His movements put fear into me, as the topic still resided in my head with thoughts of werewolves or bears, or whatever else I thought harmed humans.


Don’t tell me he’s one himself…

I watched his movements carefully and waited for him to look back at me. Truth be told, I was glad to see that he lied back down —getting into a relaxed position.

“Liam?” Alton asked as he stared back up to the sky.

“Huh?”

“Let’s make a promise…” he said without moving a muscle, “promise me that if you had the power, you’d only use it for good?”

I pondered his statement carefully, imagining myself to be a king that was a tyrant —or a werewolf that ate villagers. I became aware of myself and the grim thoughts, and instead thought to be a king everyone could love —or instead to be a werewolf that protected the village, hugging the folk that thanked me. A smirk of hope grew on my face as it had lightened the mood.

“Yeah... “ I said softly, “I promise.”

I stared at the fire which was barely alive —leaving only the charred remains of the wood glowing from the leftover heat, and proceeded to lay upon the soft grass and gritty dirt —waiting for a response.

“Good…” he responded. “We’ll talk more in the morning...” Alton said as an audible yawn came out of him.


Huh… if you had the power. You’re not in the position to make that now. Whatever happens in the future, be sure to keep it in mind.

‘Yea-yea…’

Some conversation though, huh?

About that… I’m beginning to think that this guy is one of those that believe in the legends and myths. He could probably be a loon who lost his sanity while out and about in his adventures for all we know…

‘Shut it, will you?’

I smirked at the absurd possibilities and situations I had thought of while thinking back on my childhood. Every time I had tried to run my memories in order, there was always something there —like a wall preventing me from remembering what actually happened.

‘Say, what was the last that you remembered happening in the fire?’

I paused to think as I was leading myself to the same trail I had thought over many times.

I’d say the house caving in. I couldn’t really see… anything else-

‘No-no, after that. How was it that we had survived?’

Well someone had to have heard us…

No. That’s impossible. I know you remember at least the feeling. There was no way in hell any of the doors opened —no matter how hard we pushed.

I grimaced as yet again, my mind became too jumbled to even think, and my thoughts were lost as they had disappeared from my reach.

‘There’s something that happened that we don’t know about —or at least don’t remember.’

And just like that, I was defeated again. I gave up trying to piece together the events and instead took notice of the slow changing sky. I lifted my arm and sprawled my left hand in front of me towards the sky, taking note of the dirt and scratches on it.

‘There’s something I’m missing… I just can’t put my finger on it...’

It was then that I had heard a deep grunt, and felt a presence lay to rest. A grunt that had given off the impression that it was amused —or perhaps it was disappointed. I lay my hand back beside me, feeling the rugged terrain I was laying on.

You get defeated too easily —and yet you’re set about going to adventure. You will have a long ways to go in the future…

My eyes slowly came to a close as the cool breeze, restless crickets, and the now quieter rustling tree line was all that I noticed.

‘Hm. A long way indeed…’