A/N: Originally published on January 30th, 2013 on A Purple Panda. – Alixa
THE DAGGER OF EXION
I woke up and couldn’t remember anything. Where was I? I didn’t recognize the velvet trees surrounding me, or the golden river running a few feet away. I could see silver fishes jump out of the water, glittering. I could see far north the high mountains, purple in the blue sky. It should’ve seemed eerie, the scenery, and I couldn’t say why, but it felt perfectly normal to me. The bright colors fit perfectly with this place, whatever it was.The sun was still shining triumphantly over my head. Mid-day. I had plenty of time to do what I was supposed to do. Whatever that was.
And suddenly I panicked. My heart started beating faster as I tried to remember at least my name. This wasn’t home, I could feel it, so how was I supposed to get back there if I didn’t know where it was? How far could it possibly be? And how did I get here? Why?
I was half expecting a faerie or a rabbit to appear, briefing me on the situation, but it seemed I was all alone. Breathing deeply, I recovered my calm and started making my way through the forest. Following the gold waters downstream, I was bound to find a village or someone to help me. Right?
A branch cracked behind me. I froze. The second after, a tall man jumped at me, dagger ready to cut me into pieces. I reacted mostly on instincts, but found out I wasn’t bad at combat. I fought him as best as I could without a weapon and knocked him out. Taking his dagger for myself, I made sure he wasn’t going to wake up anytime soon and wondered if I should finish him right now. My blood lust surprised me for a second, then logic kicked in. That guy was after me. It could’ve been for greed, it could’ve been for a specific reason. He could’ve wanted me dead, he could’ve wanted me alive. For what reason, I wasn’t sure, for I couldn’t remember a single thing from my past. Caution wanted me to kill him. In any case, if he had friends, they would find me.
And so, I killed. I stabbed him in the heart, giving him a quick death. I took his leather armor, he wouldn’t have any use for it anymore. I had the feeling I would run into more trouble, and my wool clothes wouldn’t protect me much. I also took his gold pouch, though it wasn’t very full. A few coins were better than none, anyways. I wondered about leaving the body there, but it seemed like the best option without tools to dig the ground.
With a calm resolution on my face, I knelled by the river to clean my new blade. It was beautifully crafted, with a perfect edge. I could see silvery blue veins in the metal and knew it wasn’t simply steel. Near the hilt were some runes I didn’t recognize, but it made the dagger that much more unique. Sliding it in its shaft I had taken from the one I thought was a bandit, I rose and kept going downstream, still hoping to find that village to rest.
I only reached it as the sun was going down. I was starving when I came in sight of lights in a large clearing around the river. I was relieved to know I would soon be around other humans, hopefully a little friendlier than the last one that crossed my path. I found the streets quiet and the people tending to their own business. The only inn was near the center of the small town. I pushed the door of The Silver Fish to enter a nearly empty room. My guess was there weren’t many visitors, but maybe it just wasn’t the time of the year. After all, the village didn’t seem poor.
My impression was confirmed a few seconds later as the innkeeper came to me. She was beautiful and younger that one would imagine an innkeeper would be. Her red hair glowed in the light of the lamps and she had a wonderful smile.
– Welcome to The Silver Fish, traveler. It’s not the fishing season yet, so you won’t be able to have a taste of our renowned dish, but you must already now that.
I had absolutely no idea of what she was talking about, but it didn’t matter. I couldn’t help myself and smiled back to her.
– How can I help you? She asked in her soothing voice.
– A room, and perhaps a meal, even if it’s not the one you’re speaking of.
She nodded and gestured me to follow her. As I did, I took a quick glance around. It was still quite a large inn for such a small village, but if what she said was true, they might have plenty of business during the fishing season. It was quiet at the moment, though, only a few year-round customers drinking some ale at the bar. The second floor, like the rest, was soberly decorated, oil lamps on the walls to light the way.
She opened a door and lit up the few lamps to allow me to see where I would stay. There wasn’t much, but it was more than enough. A bed to sleep, a table and a chair, all made of wood.
– Please make yourself comfortable. Hot water will be brought to you shortly so you can bathe. You can come downstairs to eat whenever you please. Welcome again to Beral and The Silver Fish.
I thanked her and watched her close the door behind her. Then, I fell on the bed and closed my eyes. I heard the servant bring in the hot water and leave. It took me a long time and much effort to get up and undressed. I hadn’t realized until now how exhausted I was. It felt good, though, to wash away the sweat and the dirt of the day. I also discovered I had a few days old beard when I cleaned my face and wondered if I should shave it. Not yet. Blond, even my darker tone, didn’t show much anyways.
Refreshed, I put my clothes back on as I didn’t have anything else. I left the armor upstairs, but the dagger never was to leave my belt. I went back down in the main room of the inn and ordered a beef stew and a local beer. My stomach was growling when the warm bowl was served to me. It was good, very good, and I had been so hungry. I talked a bit with the innkeeper, Meriel, and finally went back up to my room to fall asleep instantly.
The sun was coming through the window when I came back from a deep sleep. I felt rested, though I was still bothered by my amnesia. All I could remember was yesterday and I wondered if it would be the case for ever. There wasn’t much I could do about it and so I brushed these thoughts away from my mind. Instead, I headed downstairs for a quick breakfast, not knowing what the day would be made of.
While I was eating my porridge, I had the honor of Meriel’s company again. She sat down across the table and looked at me with curiosity. I knew little about her, but from last night, I did know she loved talking and socializing with her customers.
– You never told me your name, traveler.
– I don’t have any, or should I say I can’t remember?
I decided to be honest and I could see she was surprised by my words. However, she didn’t pry, which I was thankful for. I didn’t know how I could’ve explained anyway.
– How should I call you then?
I stayed silent, having no answer for her.
– How about Aevik?
I shrugged, why not? I didn’t have a name and that one was as good as any. It seemed to make her happy, though she didn’t explain why. It didn’t matter in the end, she was smiling.
– Tell me more about Beral, I asked her.
I knew nothing of the village or my surroundings. I had no idea where I came from, or if I had a family waiting for me. Who had I been before yesterday? Baby steps, though, I told myself. I would start by learning more about this place and maybe, just maybe, my memories would be triggered.
– We’ve been around for a long time. Beral lies on each side of the Golden River, as you could see. It’s the only river we can find the silver fishes, which is why we are the only place to cook them. Legends say that those who eat these fishes will get a wish granted, but it’s only a legend, trust me.
She looked sad for a moment there, but she didn’t pause. She continued, telling me about other important places I seemed to have forgotten. It is as if she knew I needed those explanations, maybe because I said I forgot my name.
– To the east, the Crimson Forest ends and the Plains start. You can find there the great city of Pellar. In these times of peace, her high walls are unused, but people travel to seek guidance of the Council of the Mages. Also, merchants made it their capital in the Crystal Kingdom, as it is close to the unique pass through the northern Indigo Mountains. The actual capital, from where the King rules, is far south, where the Plains and the Sea meet. It is called Heilam.
Heilam… it ringed a bell in my mind. I knew that place, but from where? I must’ve been there in the past. Somehow, I felt I had to go there. Maybe I would find answers to who I was if I got to the King’s crystal city.
– I need to go there, I said out loud.
She stopped and didn’t answer for a while. I couldn’t say what she was thinking, she wasn’t easy to read. After a while, she nodded and smiled.
– Of course. It’s a long journey, though. Would you mind… I have a favour to ask you, Aevik. Could you bring a letter to an old friend of mine? I can’t afford to leave Beral, but since you’re going that way…
How could I say no? I owed her at least that, she had a been a friend to me these two days.
– It would be my pleasure, Meriel.
I wanted to leave the same day, but the beautiful innkeeper advised me to stay the night and go in the morning. She suggested I went to the town market to find better boots, as I would be walking a long way, and maybe a weapon against the road bandits. I knew I couldn’t afford a horse, so it seemed a good idea. She promised food for a few days, but I’d have to find a way to feed myself for the rest of the journey. A little less than a month by foot, if everything went well.
And my adventures were truly to start. I spent my last coins on gear and a decent sword. Meriel thanked me with a kiss on the cheek as she gave me her letter and instructions to find her friend. Taking the main road out of town, I was venturing in the Crimson Forest where the trees were red and the river was golden.
To be continued.