Part 8

36 2 1
                                                  

Cricket pointed the man out to Torshak. The wolf sniffed at the body. “He’s not dead, just passed out.

He’s still breathing,” he reported.

Cricket looked around. “He should have some water,” she said. “Is there a stream close by?”

“Yes. Grab that glass and follow me.”

They returned soon after. Cricket rushed over to the man, not noticing the step stool in front of her.

She fell, showering the man with the contents of the glass.

“Wh—what?” The man spat. “Are you trying to drown me?”

Torshak tried to quiet a growled laugh at the man. His beard was completely soaked through.

“I’m sorry,” Cricket whispered.

“And you very well should be! Imagine, coming into a person’s private dwelling and trying to kill them in their own house!”

“It was only a glass of water!”

“It could have been a flesh decay potion.”

“Flesh decay potion?”

The man sighed and shook his head. “Novices. Look at me again and ask me if I’m all right.”

“Are you all right?”

“Yes, thank you. And you?”

“Fine, I—” She looked him over thoroughly. He was completely dry. “How—?”

“Magic, you fool! Tsk, novices.”

She smiled at the older man. Beneath his aged features there was an odd elegance. His longish hair and thin beard matched the color of his grey eyes. He wore long dusty robes, the robes of a magic user. 

He took a moment to look Cricket over. “Come here, child.” She stepped closer and came face to face with the man. “Green eyes…” he whispered softly. “By the eight moons. Have I been drained for that long?”

Torshak stepped forward. “Forgive me, elder, there are nine moons.”

The man turned pale. “Reglis has split. We are still doomed. Yet, you are the Chosen One—there is hope. We must hurry. Quickly—let’s go.”

“Wait.” Cricket stopped him. “Drained? From what? What do you mean by eight moons? And how are we doomed? Where are we going?” She paused. “Who are you?”

“I am Golyn, I was doing magic that was a little difficult, and I meant exactly what I said about Reglis. It’s split, and if we don’t hurry, then we will be next. Now we have to go back to Golendria. Okay?”

Cricket was still confused, but she accepted what he said.

“The candle,” he said as he grabbed the thick candle, “the book, the pouch, the wolf. Oh dear, we need the wolf. Where has he gotten to?”

Torshak was still outside sniffing the musty cave air. “We are not alone,” he said, motioning to a corridor. “There is a…a man.”

“That’s convenient,” said Golyn, “considering we’re leaving now. I’ve got to finish something. You find him and bring him here and we’ll go. Bye.”

Cricket walked a moment until she heard a noise. She turned and looked back at Golyn’s cave. It was gone. “How in the world…?” She made a mental note to ask him later—if she ever saw him again.

After Cricket turned a corner, she began to doubt herself. What if it was a robber, or a madman?Torshak growled. Slowly but cautiously they turned into the corridor. She gasped when she recognized the figure crouched on the floor, his head in his hands.

“Airik?”

Violet eyes looked up at her. A smile crossed his face. “Hello.” He tried to walk to her, but a gruff growl stopped him dead in his tracks.

“Do not come near her or I will be forced to strike, evil one.”

“What?” Cricket asked.

“This man has hunted myself and my pack many times. I would not trust him, and I won’t let him harm you.”

Cricket looked sharply at Airik. I don’t trust him.”

He was hurt. “Cricket, be sensible. Wolves are dangerous. Come here before he hurts you.”

“Torshak would never hurt me,” she said coldly. “Unlike you.”

“That was an accident! I didn’t mean to harm you. I’ve come all this way through these horrible caves, and I find you calling a mangy beast by name. You should know,” he said, getting angrier, “that I do not make a habit of rescuing ignorant girls from staying in dangerous places where they shouldn’t be. I’ve come to save you, and I don’t even get a ‘Thank you’?”

“You have saved me from nothing. And how dare you watch me! You were watching me all this time! I’d like you to know that I can take care of myself. Come on, Torshak.”

“You are not going off with that beast,” he shouted, grabbing her wrist.

Cricket let out a furious cry of pain. “Let—me—go!” she said through her teeth. She tried to get out of his tight grip, but he was too strong.

“I should let you go on with this creature,” he said, “and be killed. But unlike your rude self, I have some sense of honor!”

“No!” she screamed, pulling from his grasp. “Go away!”

“Don’t make me use force,” he said. She started to turn away. “You asked for it.” He grabbed the hilt of his dagger and lunged at Torshak.

“NO!” Cricket threw her arms around the beast and forced him to stop. She held Torshak by his neck and buried her face in his soft fur.

Airik fumed.

“What is going on here” Golyn rapped Airik with his staff. “Put that dagger down, son, you’re liable to hurt somebody.”

“Shut up, old man!” The girl betrayed him, and now this geezer was telling him what to do!

“Golyn’s the name, my good boy. Did no one ever tell you to respect your elders?” Golyn stared at the scene curiously. Cricket’s eyes were locked with Airik’s in a tight glare, and the wolf’s teeth were bared. He thought it better not to ask what was going on. “Who are you, son?”

Airik looked at the magic user. “I am Airik, High Lord of the Ledians, Chief Protector of Golendria, the south side of the Band—”

“Ravage hunter and slayer of wolves,” Cricket finished.

“What a range of talents, young man! But there’s no time now for unfinished business. Tide’s coming.Lead the way please, wolf.”

During the argument, no one had noticed the fine film of water now covering the floor of the cave. The wolf made his way out of the corridor with Cricket at his side. Golyn followed beside Airik, who was both humiliated and disappointed. No one spoke until they had safely reached the mouth of the cave.

“Ah, the suns, one-two-three. I haven’t seen you in a while, my friends, but I’m back. How’ve you been?” Golyn squinted his eyes under the rays of the three tiny stars.

Airik looked puzzledly at the man, shrugged, and kept walking.

The Golden Band (High School Edition)Where stories live. Discover now