A Hard Days Work
Deep in the Asaru Province, in the small village of Sorn, a young boy slept silently. His dreams innocent and his breaths, even. Yet something stirred behind his closed eyelids. Something that needed to be released, a hunger that needed satisfying, but nothing occurred.
The sun had not even fully risen above the dark fhera treetops before
he was awoken by the loud fragile voices of the village children singing out his name.
He rubbed the sleep out of his eyes and sat on the edge of his bed. Grabbing a white tunic from beside his bed, he stood up and walked to the window, peering out down below.
Four children with bright smiling faces peered back up at him and continued to call his name. “Jorin!!” one of them cried.
“Get up!” called another. "It's time to start the day!"
He smiled, waved and walked slowly to the small basin beside his closet to wash his face. He climbed down the small ladder that led down to the first floor of his house, and walked towards the door. Grabbing his boots as he did so.
Opening the door to reveal a soft ray of sunlight to fall at his feet, the young boy sat on the small step and proceeded to tie his boots on before the four children consumed him.
“’Morning, Jorin!” the littlest of them said, as she sat down beside him.
“Good morning, Keira,” replied Jorin. “What have you all got planned for today?”
“No school, no work!” they all cried happily.
Jorin smiled, “I wish it was that easy for me,” he said. He stood up and walked over to his horse, Ora. She neighed softly as she stood to her feet and Jorin ran his hand softly along her nose. He grabbed a handful of hay from the ground and let her eat it graciously from his palm.
“Can I pat her?” asked Gern: the little boy looking at Ora with the utmost awe.
Jorin nodded and Gern ran his hand along her side. Ora moved slightly and Gern snatched his hand back, looking back up at Jorin who laughed.
“It means she likes it,” Jorin assured him.
“Oh,” said the little boy, his cheeks turning a slight shade of pink.
Jorin grabbed the saddle that hung over the fence and lifted it up and over onto Ora’s back. After tying the cinch strap around the girth of the horse, he placed his left foot in the stirrup and swung his right leg over so he could sit comfortably.
“Bye, Jorin!” they all said to him and he softly kicked Ora in the side and trotted off down the small slope that led down to the main road that entered Sorn.
He passed villagers on his way to the smith and said his greetings to each of them. Hiros ploughed in the small fields that sat just beside his house; Brenda was walking in between her storehouse to the main building of her bakery and Des the tanner was washing a fresh piece of deerskin.
“I should have your new quiver by the end of the day!” he called out to Jorin as he passed. Jorin supplied his thanks and moved on. He rode up the large hill that held the Blacksmith building and approached the place with a sense of pride.
He was only sixteen years of age and yet he had established a wonderful life for himself.
His parents he hardly knew – much to the fact that he had never met his parents. They died when he was still young, that was what he was told anyway.
Jorin did not know the full story, and Dravin, the head Blacksmith was wary to tell him all the details for some reason. Perhaps he thought that Jorin would not be able to handle it. But no, Jorin thought as he continued to ride up to the front yard. If Dravin thought he could not handle the truth of his parent’s death, then he would not have let him move out and build a house of his own.
He leapt off of Ora and walked towards the door. He did not worry about tying her up; she was well trained and would not stray far from him at any time.
Jorin opened the door and went inside. The heat engulfed him at once but he did not bother with it. He was used to the heat.
“Jorin!” said a deep, heavy voice. He looked around and seen Dravin come walking out of the furnace room. Dravin was a heavyset man, with dark skin and a balding head; he looked as if he was a force to be reckoned with. But Jorin knew better than that. Of course Dravin looked like he could crack open even the strongest of heads; he was – at heart – a gentle giant. He would not even think of being in a fight unless there was a very good reason for it. “We have a very busy day ahead of us,” continued Dravin. “A new order of bolts just came through for Hiros, also a new pickaxe. Des wants a new hatchet and Fiera wants a sword, for only the Gods know why.”
Jorin thought of the young self-proclaimed warrior-ess. How her stature grew almost as quick as her ego. He should not judge though; she had also taught Jorin himself some techniques with the blade: Ones that Dravin thought to be too violent and too complex to teach to children. Fiera’s father and Dravin had both been trained as warriors to fight off some of the local beasts that sometimes fought their way past the village’s protector: the Spirit of Water. These were dangerous creatures, some who could even poison you with a touch if you did not wear the right protective gear.
But even Fiera, who talked too big for her own good in Jorin’s opinion, could not be able to face the might of the local beasts.
Jorin followed Dravin into the furnace room and took to hold of a large steel ended hammer. He removed a long piece of Iron from the forge and took to working on the bolts for Hiros. After hours of backbreaking work, Dravin called to Jorin to come out the front of the building to have a break.
Jorin walked out and noticed a large jug of water, two cups and a tray of sliced and buttered bread.
“A gift from Brenda,” said Darvin, indicating to the bread. Jorin tore a chunk of bread from a slice with his teeth and sat down on the front steps next to Dravin.
“You are thinking about it are you not?” asked Dravin.
Jorin looked up at him but did not need to question as to what he meant. Of course he was thinking about it, he had been thinking about it for the past month. But what if he was to leave Sorn, in search for bigger and better things? He had been in Sorn all of his life, and a good one it had been so far, but he also wanted to see more of Erildia. See its rolling plains and great cities, and maybe even Erildia Castle – if he could manage to get there of course.
“I knew there would come a time when you would leave,” continued Dravin. “There is always a time when that happens. It is your decision Jorin, do not let anyone else but yourself make it. Just remember this: The world is not what it used to be. There are dangers out there that neither you or I could even start to comprehend, but let that not dampen your will. If you mean to go, if you want to go: then go. But you will always have a place here in Sorn. I just hope you remember that.”
Jorin looked up at the ageing man and smiled. “I know,” he said. “And thankyou, Dravin. For everything, I mean. You gave me a home when no one else would and treated me like your own son. I thankyou for that.”
Dravin laughed and punched Jorin in the shoulder. “No need to thank me boy! You would have survived pretty well on your own anyway I would think!”
Smiling, but also rubbing his shoulder from the sudden surprise of getting punched, Jorin stood up and walked over to Ora. He did want to go, but he did not know how or when he would be able to.
For one there was Fiera. What would she think? Even though knowing she would never admit it, Jorin new that there was some amount of attraction between the two. He laughed to himself at just how arrogant her pride had made her.
He placed a hand on her muzzle and said in her ear, “What shall it be old friend? Do you want to leave this place and search out there for a bigger and better future?”
She neighed softly and flicked her tail. Jorin smiled and patted her along her side.
It was only then that he heard the sounding of the Alarm Bell down in the center-square of the village.
“Something is gong on,” said Dravin walking up to him. “You go, I have too much to attend to here,”
Jorin nodded and lifted himself up onto Ora’s saddle. He tapped her in the side and she galloped down the hill and into the village so Jorin could see what the commotion was all about.
Jorin and Ora approached a group of people who were gathered in the center-square with apprehension.
What had happened?
He hopped down off of Ora and told her to stay there and wait while he went and saw what was going on. He could not see what the locals were gathering around so he pushed his way up to the front.
A man lay on a stretch of wood and cloth in the center of the group. He was clad in black armour with the crest of the Erildian Army printed on his chest plate.
Jorin knelt down and placed a hand on the man’s shoulder. The man opened his eyes and looked at Jorin with first a fearful gaze, but as the man slowly realized what Jorin was, he slowly closed his eyes and relaxed. “Please help,” he coughed.
It was only then that Jorin could see a large gash under the man’s shoulder plate. Blood dripped slowly from his armour and onto the ground.
“Get some water and fresh sironea herbs!” called Jorin to the group. “This man needs medical attention. Go fetch Cara!” Cara was the only Healer within a hundred leagues of Sorn and the surrounding provinces. “What happened?” asked Jorin to the soldier.
The man opened his eyes once more and looked at Jorin. “I am not entirely sure,” he said. “All I know was that I was riding through the forest and something jumped out at me and caught me by surprise; that’s all I can remember.”
“It looks like you were jumped by a Lichen Demon. It takes form as a harmless plant until it prey comes close enough for it too attack, then it strikes,” said Jorin.
“Where am I?” asked the Soldier.
“You are in the village of Sorn,” replied Jorin. “In the Asaru Province,”
The soldier’s eyes widened and he grabbed Jorin by the scruff of the neck, pulling him in towards his face. A group of people jumped forwards and pulled Jorin back away from the soldiers grasp, but just as he neared close enough, Jorin could hear the soldier say the distinct words: “I need to find it!”
Before Jorin could question the soldier any further however, he was promptly pushed aside by Cara, who leant in and placed a smooth hand on the soldier’s forehead. “He has a fever,” she said. “I can cure the poison that flows through his veins from that horrible Demon, but it is going to be a long day, and most likely night for this poor man.”
“You will be able to save him though?” asked Jorin.
Cara snapped her head around and stared Jorin in the eye. “Of course I will be able to save him, you silly boy!” Jorin flinched as he fell backwards from Cara’s glare. He had forgotten just how serious Cara was when it came to her Healing. “I would not be a Healer if I could not, would I?” She turned back to the soldier and started to busy herself with her mortar and pastel. Crushing the dried herbs in the warm water. A soft aroma filled the air and Jorin could feel a sense of calmness flow through him.
He shook his head and stood up, however. “Let me know when he wakes will you?” he asked. “I need to talk to him,”
“Fine,” snapped Cara. “What
you would want to interrogate him for I will never know, but fine!”
Jorin shook his head once more and turned to walk back to Ora as he heard Cara ordered someone to take off the soldier’s armour so she could apply the paste from the herbs and water. He did not want to argue with Cara, not at the moment. He had more important things to do.
“I’m not entirely sure of the exact details,” said Jorin as he finished explaining what had happened in the center-square to Dravin. “But I intend to find out.”
“Do not get on Cara’s bad side,” warned Dravin. “We both know what her temper is like,”
Jorin nodded. “I thought it was just me she was always annoyed at,”
Dravin smiled. “No, it is pretty much everybody,” he laughed and clapped a hand onto Jorin’s back. “Come,” he said. “We still have a lot of work to do before the day is out.”
* * *
When the sun was setting and the last rays were falling behind the cloud of the fhera trees, Dravin finally gave the order to cease work for the day.
Thankful, Jorin retrieved his tunic and went out the front of the Blacksmiths and sat back down on the front step. It was going to be a chilly night as a faint mist had already started to form up on top of the large hills that surrounded Sorn.
Dravin came out and took his usual seat next to Jorin.
“Great work today,” he said. “If you do not want too, you do not have to come in tomorrow. There is only the blade of Fiera’s sword to be finished and that will be it for the day and I can do that myself.”
Jorin nodded and thanked Dravin.
“What do you have planned for dinner?” asked Dravin.
“I was thinking of going hunting,” said Jorin. “I have not done that in a while and it helps me clear my thoughts,”
Dravin nodded. “A fine idea,” he said. “I plan to head over to Brenda’s. Apparently she has cooked up a storm and it needs to be eaten.”
Jorin chuckled to himself. There was more to this story than what Dravin was telling, but he did not question him further. He stood and bid his farewell to Dravin and walked over to where Ora was standing. She pawed the ground as he approached and looked to the sky.
Confused, Jorin slowly walked up to her and placed his hand on her forelock. “What is it, girl?” he asked.
She gazed at him with one bright brown eye, and then took to looking up at the sky again. That is when he heard it.
A long piercing cry flew across the setting sky, followed by the great rush of wind pushed by a set of strong wings. Jorin gasped as he saw a large flying demon swoop over his head and down the hill towards the village. With all sense leaving his mind, he leapt on top of Ora and took off down the hill following the beast.
It reached the village before him and when Jorin arrived, people were running everywhere screaming. Looking around he saw Fiera sitting by herself by the large central fountain that stood in the very middle of the Square.
He dismounted from Ora and ran over to her. As he reached her, he noticed she was crying.
“Fiera, what has happened?” he asked. He heard a fierce cry and looked back up to the sky to see that the demon was flying away, but not empty handed. He did not need to hear what Fiera said next to know what had happened.
“It has taken Gern,” she said, “that fowl beast has taken my little brother!”
Jorin looked in the direction in which the demon was flying and decided what needed to be done. “Do not worry, Fiera,” he said. “I will get him back. I promise!”
Jorin turned and ran up to Ora and jumped up onto her saddle and as if already knowing his intentions, she took off at a fast gallop down the main path that led out of the village and to his house. As they reached the front door, Jorin ran into his home and took the bow and worn quiver that held his arrows off the table, slung the quiver around his shoulder so it was sitting tightly against his back and ran outside.
He led Ora down a path that followed the river into the deep reached of the Asaru forest. Ora galloped as fast as her four legs could manage and Jorin held his bow in his right hand while he held the reign in the other. Deeper and deeper he went into the forest. Following the cries of the Demon he followed.
He had never ventured this deep before and before he knew it he was launched through a thick wall of foliage and into a large clear field. He could see the Demon circling above and he quickly notched an arrow to the string of his bow. Noticing Gern down on the ground, cowering in his small hands, Jorin let loose an arrow that flew up towards the Demon and struck it in the thick side of its underbelly. It cried out in anguish and turned to see what the sudden pain had come from.
Jorin noticed the great bird, dragon, whatever it was, notice him, so he reined Ora to the left as a great orb of fire head straight for the spot where Jorin and Ora had been. He notched another arrow and brought Ora back around, he rode until he was completely under the great beast and shot the arrow into its belly once again. Another cry of rage and another explosion of fire followed Jorin around the field. For a few minutes, all Jorin could do was evade the continuous incoming attacks from the Demon Dragon. He was not built for this type of thing: he was not a hero, or warrior - just a simple blacksmith!
But Gern needed him right now. He could still see the poor little boy crying on the ground. Jorin intentionally kept leading the Dragon away from Gern so he had time to run, but the child was too scared to even move.
“Keep moving, Ora,” he said to his horse’s ear. “Just a little bit longer.”
Suddenly, Jorin felt an almighty lurch and was lunged from Ora’s saddle. Landing on the ground and coughing from losing the wind from his lungs, Jorin looked around and saw with dread, his horse fall to the ground. There was a long thin gash running along her side. There was a great cry of victory above from the Dragon and Jorin stood back up as quickly as he could. His quiver was destroyed; arrows littered the ground around him and his bow was a close twenty meters from him.
He picked three of the arrows that were still intact and looked to where the Dragon was, to Ora, and to where his bow lay. Clenching a fist, holding the arrows as tight as he could without snapping them, he ran the fastest he had ever needed to in his life towards his bow.
The Dragon, realizing what he was doing, swooped down and flew towards him with its claws outstretched. Jorin lunged toward his bow and notched all three arrows to the string and pulled back hard.
There was a quick loud stretching sound as the string struggled against Jorin’s grip, and then Jorin released the three arrows towards the incoming Dragon at point blank range. For a split second, Jorin thought it saw a tiny flicker of blue light on the tips of the arrows, but just as quick as it came, it vanished. The steel arrowheads lodged themselves deep into the wide throat of the Dragon and large droplets of blood fell to the ground, splashing Jorin and making him cringe in disgust. Generating one last ear-splitting screech, the Dragon fell to the ground, flicking dust up into the air as it rolled and turned and slid to Jorin’s feet. There it stayed and moved no more.
Breathing heavily, Jorin looked around to see where Gern was. He was already running towards Ora. Jorin followed suite and pushing down the pounding thoughts that crept into his head, he ran to his horse.
She was alive and breathing well, and Jorin thanked the Gods as he softly placed a hand on her muzzle.
The gash was not as bad as what he first thought it out to be, but it still needed to be healed fast.
“We need to get her to Cara,” said Jorin. “Gern, are you alright?”
The little boy looked at Jorin as if he just noticed he was there and nodded, with a large smile spreading across his face. “Thank you, Jorin!” he said, swinging his arms around Jorin’s shoulders. Jorin smiled but could not do any more than that. He was too worried for Ora.
“Come,” he said as Gern let go of him. “Ora,” said Jorin softly. “I need to get you back to Sorn. Are you able to walk, old friend?”
She looked at him with one of her bright brown eyes again and Jorin saw his own reflection amongst the determination and strength of her eyes: tall, skinny and scared. In an almost scoffing gesture, she lifted her head up first, and then proceeded to lift the rest of her body up off the ground.
She neighed softly, but stood straight up and down with pride.
“That’s it, girl,” said Jorin, smiling. “Let’s go.”
As they walked, Jorin could not help but think about what had just happened. Everything seemed to go so quickly and it felt like something much more than him was fighting that Dragon. ‘Must be luck’
thought Jorin as he softly ran his hand over Ora.
Now that everything had calmed down and there was nor more worry, Jorin realized that it only took him a short amount of time to get to where the field was, and now that Gern was safe, it was taking them a lot longer than what Jorin had originally thought it would to get back to Sorn. As they reached halfway, a group of villages from Sorn came running up to them in the darkness with bright torches; some of them even holding pitchforks and hatchets.
“Jorin! Gern!” they cried as the group reached him, Ora and Gern.
“We are alright,” assured Jorin. “But I need to get Ora back to Sorn to see Cara. She is injured.”
Dravin walked up to him and placed a hand on Ora’s forelock. “She is an old horse, but still an honourable and strong steed,” he nodded. “Let’s get her back,”
“Out of my way!” came a shrill voice. “Move! I want to see my brother!”
Jorin smiled as he saw Fiera push her way through the group of villagers and in front of himself. She took a step back as she stared at Jorin. But her eyes softened when she saw Gern run up to her. Returning his hug, Fiera looked back at Jorin with a small smile of gratitude. Jorin returned the small smile, but before he could say anything to break the silence -
“Where is the Dragon?” asked one of the villagers.
Jorin pointed back the way he and Gern had come. “If you walk back that way for about half a league you will come to a large clearing. There you will see the Dragon.”
“You mean to tell us you killed it?” asked Des the tanner.
Jorin nodded. “It is dead.” He did not go into details as he continued to walk back to his village. He would no doubt be questioned later on, but he wanted to make sure Ora was well before that happened.
It was deep into the night by the time they reached Sorn. The moon was showing her face proudly and casting rays of light down to the ground before them.
Dravin walked with Jorin and Ora to Cara’s house. He knocked on the door and after a few seconds that passed in silence, Cara opened the door and looked between the two, then to Ora. She pushed past them both and went straight to the horse.
“I have told you this time and time again Jorin, but you do not listen!” she said furiously. “You push this horse way to much! She is not as young as what she used to be,”
“I am sorry,” replied Jorin. “But I needed to make sure I did not lose sight of the Dragon. You know do you not? The one that kidnapped Gern?”
Her expression softened, but said. “Yes, your deed was all well and good and by the looks of it you succeeded and that is all the more good, but the fact still stands that your horse is injured and you are not. Now move so I can heal her!”
They moved out of her way, as Car led Ora around to the back of her house.
“She might be a chore,” said Dravin, “but she is one of the best healers I have ever seen.”
“That is only because you have not seen any other Healers,” replied Jorin, smiling.
“That too,” said Dravin.
At that moment, Cara poked her head back around the corner and said, “by the way, that soldier in there,” pointing inside the house, “wants to speak with you Jorin. Do not ask me why!” she added, as Jorin was about to question her.