AOH – Chapter 15

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CHAPTER 15: TUNNELS KILLING

1007 AF SEEDMONTH DAY 13
Arial horse galloped strongly its speed like the raging winds leaving his friend behinds in dust.
Fast and fast he moved
I could feel the spring breeze waving through me. Arial white hair waved in the wind. His blue eyes open widely scanning the environment
He holds the leather reins tightly.
That is my horse, Arial muttered proudly
When Kyle and Lisa seem to near, I picked up the reins and once again I leave them to eat the dust.
Arial is satisfied with his horse.
Its mane bounced with each of its stride.
I ride him with perfect rhythm, tucking my head dodging tree branches and going straight ahead.
We already have passed Dagur Hill. Now we are heading towards the many villages maybe before night we can make a campfire in the forest.
We are close to Danoba now, but night has come.
I was in front so I already began collecting wood.
The others came a little later.
“Help me find firewood!” I yelled. They quickly dismount and set aside the supplies near a clear area.
Then we spend the time searching for woods and by night came we are ready.
We were in front of the fire, and the fire is small.
“Huuhh, it’s cold tonight” Lisa said shivering
“Yeah” Helia nodded
“It’s not even winter” Kyle said he began cover himself with the blanket.
Their hands are cold.
The heat from the campfire seemed to be sucked into the frigid air before ever reaching their cold hands.
“Add more wood” I said
Lisa quickly added more wood and poked it with long sticks rearranging the wood to make the fire burn hotter.
Slowly, the heat warmed them, the flames turns bigger and Kyle store back the blanket.
“Cook something” Lisa said. Then she added
“I nominate Arial” she said smiling
“Me too” Kyle said grinning
“He make a mean pumpkin soup”
“You said my pumpkin soup make you got a stomachache” I said trying to weasel my way out of cooking duty
“I was jesting” he laughed
“How about you Helia?”
When in trouble give it to someone else
“I don’t know how to cook” she said
We gasped. Then I remembered. She is a lady of noble birth. Surely, her meals are prepared for her.
The siblings look at me expectantly with their sad puppy eyes.
“It’s decided then” they both decided grinning to each other
When they bicker they are their own worst enemies, but when they cooperate I’m the one that always becomes the victim.
“I’ll help you, Arial” Helia offered. She began rising up from her seat.
She must felt bad for me.
“Alright you can do the cutting” I said taking out the knives and giving it to her.
“I’ll nurse the fire” Lisa said
“I’ll patrol the surroundings” Kyle said once again exchanging glances with his sister.
A glance that seems to be saying “Yeah, we dodged any real work”
First I brought out the eggs and I handed the potatoes to Helia to peel and clean.
I brought out 6 eggs. Surely this is enough.
Helia tries to peel it unsuccessfully I might add. It beginning to become frustrating to just watch
So I came behind her and teach her and guided her hand on how to peel the potatoes.
“It..It’s fine. I can do it now” she said her voice trembled a little.
“Alright.Do it like I taught you” she nodded.
In a few minutes she was done.
“Now what do I do?” She asked.
“Just cut the potatoes to fine pieces. Can you do that?”
She nodded again. Then like I instruct she fried the potatoes. Thankfully we brought oil.Kyle came back from his patrol.
“Oooo, what are you cooking?” he asked curious and began inching closer to the food.
“Go patrolling, Kyle. We’re still cooking” he sighed disappointedly then he resumes his patrol.
I was batting the eggs. After Helia has done frying I mix the potatoes with the egg batter.
“For cooking the first time you’re not that bad” I complimented.
She smiles “I guess”
Then I put a little salt and then I cook it.I called it Egg Potatoes.I was about to call the siblings but they can already smell it.
“Dinner?” Lisa and Kyle said in unison.
“Dinner” we said smiling, sweat on our brows.
They munched on the dish.
“Didn’t I say, he can cook great food” Kyle said complimenting.
Helia and Lisa nodded.
Then we began lying under the stars.
Tonight the sky is clear.
The wind is refreshing, the bright stars shine our tents making the forest shine with it brilliant lights.
We lay our blanket down the ground and look above.
“It’s like the stars are winking at me” Helia said laying in my right side.
Kyle nodded.
“In the Old Days, in the times of the First Generation, it was said that the stars have their own stories” I said
“Stories of what?” Lisa asked her tone curious.
I then answer her question, looking at the twinkling stars above.
“Tales of great heroes that fight dragons and demons, stories of evil monster and cruel men and cunning woman, of great heroes fighting great wars, the stories of their noble life and tragic death stretched across the stars, a thousand, and a thousand more, and a thousand more, glimmers of their battles, of hope and love and their struggles.”
They lie in silence and again watch the stars, and trying to see a glimpse of that story.
“Huh, I didn’t know that” Kyle asked.
Arial continued.
“How much stories, how many battles were fought, won or lost there in the sky above?”
Helia reply
“A thousand and a thousand more and a thousand more” we looked at each other and smiles a wistful smile.
With the spring breeze and the beautiful stars shining above lay my head while Kyle is patrolling.
A beautiful night.
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1007 AF SEEDMONTH DAY 17
We continued our journey and finally we have reached Bleeding Rock.
“Finally a city” Helia sigh a relief.
“Me and Kyle will stock up the supplies. You girls can buy anything you deemed important for the quest. Meet back here in 4 hours.”
They nodded. We went  to the market.
Crowds were everywhere.
Everywhere they can hear people shouting for their wares. Some sells accessories. Some sell supplies and food.
We went to buy for supplies. Vegetables, meat, and eggs. Eggs and lots of it. Then we heard singing from the center of the market.
A minstrel can be seen singing happy songs while the people dance and being jubilant. The atmosphere was one of elations.
Then Arial spotted the banner. It was of a man holding up an orb of light. And Arial knows what day is it.
Festival of Levitia Homecoming.
No wonder, I muttered.
This is the day that in history known as Levitia Homecoming after he return back here the place where his village once stood.
“A festival” Kyle exclaimed.
“We’re already behind on schedule” I reminded.
“One more day couldn’t hurt” he said.
“Then we’ll discuss it with the girls”
We then returned to the meeting place.
Helia and Lisa came with their hair looks goods and even their smells smell like a refreshing fragrance.
“Where did you go?” I asked
“A ba-“
“A secret” Lisa quickly cut Helia words.
Then we told them about the festivals. They were happy and pestering me to go. Finally I relent.
We stay in an Inn using 10 coppers for every room. One room has 2 beds so we only use 20 coppers for our accommodation.
Then after changing our clothes we went together.
Lisa and Helia wear a dress and Kyle is having the time of his life teasing her sister.
“Another reason why we should go to the festival” Kyle said giggling all the way to the center of the city.
Lamps and lantern shone shining the light.
The dark lane was illuminated with the flickering candles of variety of colour adding the jubilant feeling of the festivals.
Everywhere they go, they are people dancing, and music and harmonious melody being played by the minstrels, song of Levitia were sung by the Bards while the jugglers juggle.
The commonfolk dress in their best garments, thin woolen jackets with decoration in their heads
The children are running around carrying their own lamp, with wooden dull swords, swinging around and shouting
Levitia is returning, Levitia is returning, the demons flee and the Emperor bowed” laughing and giggling along the streets.
The stall were opened selling sweets and variety of snacks, the peddlers peddle their wares, while Lisa and Kyle began wandering around together searching “ the world greatest sweets” he yelled with Lisa behind him chasing him.
I was walking with Helia marveling the festivals.
“It’s festive, isn’t it” she said more like a statement than a question.
“Hmm” I reply and we walked again in silence while the song and music plays in the background.
“Why you never asked me why I want to become a Knight?” she said suddenly
I contemplated for a while then I said.
“Maybe, I was waiting for you tell the story yourselves”
“Is that so?”
“Maybe” I said. Then we walked again.
“My father wanted me to marry to West” she said suddenly
“West Palais?” I said shocked
No wonder she looked so uncomfortable in that table. West was there that night. But Arial also remembered that West look intently at his table that night.
But for some reason he didn’t think West was looking at Helia. It was just Arial gut feeling. Maybe he was mistaken.
“So, I said to him that I want to break the betrothal to him. He is arrogant and so full of himself”
“That’s the same thing, Helia” Though Arial has also had an opportunity to be acquainted with West and he was not like that, at least not by his estimation.
“Still”
We walked again. Once in a while Arial spotted that Helia is looking around her, especially at kids and her expression would be unreadable, like she was thinking about something.
I spotted a bench. I sit on the bench while gesturing her to sit too. The wind blows again.
“Then?” I ask, urging her to continue her story. She sits down beside Arial.
“My father insist. So I said to my lord father, I would join the order of Knights rather than marrying the Palais son. He said to me; go if I want to be disinherited. In my anger I stomped my feet, take my brother swords, took my father horse and rode off to the Academy.”
The she looked at the festival again. Suddenly, tears streamed down her eyes. She is lonely. Finally Arial understand what she is looking all the while they were walking.
She is looking at the children with their parents. That must remind her of her father, Arial mused.
This is a family matter. Both are stubborn but both have rights. I don’t know what to say or what to do in this kind of situations.
I just lay her head on my shoulder and stroke her hair.
“It’s fine. Everything will be alright” I said countless of time until she can calm herself down.
Finally I learned why she wanted to become a Knight. Was it an act of defiance? Maybe that is it.
Arial recognize then that this girl in front of him has a strong will to achieve her point. She abandoned the comfort of her home, just to make a point.
In a way, Helia could be impulsive. Arial recognizes that at that moment. Arial also recognize the fact, that Helia is lonely.
After she have finished letting out her feelings we return to the inn. She went to her bed and I return to my room to found Kyle is snoring with his mouth full of candy.
Prank from her sister probably.
I cleaned his mouth and then lay my heads. Today, I learned a new side of Helia. Sleep come easily this time, dreaming of lights and songs and stories.
***********************************
1007 AF SEEDMONTH DAY 23
Finally we have reached Rodes. The journey has been long and arduous. First we greet the city guard and then we went to the city council.
Of course, the city guard at first doubt our identities.
After we introduce ourselves again and provide them with the proper documentation and said that we are sent by the Order of Alan finally they tell us of the bandits.
Fortunately, they are still in the mines.
No one in the village dares to go the mines even when many of their young children man and girl were abducted.
The parents is crying and wailing outside the city council demanding justice.
We were about to go to the mine when one of them asked
“You’re sure you can do this?”
Actually most of them voice their concern fearing for our safety.
I cut thousand like them.
“It’s alright. We’re the Order Knights”
Then we set out for the mines.
**************************************************************
We entered the mines after preparing ourselves. The walls are covered in moss and ivy crawling all around.
The old brick is damp. Nobody would want to go here. Unless to hide, Arial smirked to himself.
Their footsteps echo in the darkness. The feeling of the soil pressing you can be felt. The torch that I held sometime flickered.
It was cold here then outside, damper than outside, darker than the outside. A world of tunnels and echoing footsteps.
Then they walked again in silence.
Then Arial stepped on something. The ground was muddy but not the usual muddy nor the usual wetness.
At first Arial didn’t notice it. But then he began feeling something is wrong.
He lowered his head in suspicion, his torch lighting up the ground, and he staggered back. The others behind him stopped.
“Wait” I whispered in the stillness of darkness in the mines.
Blood.
A blood trail. I followed the line of blood. Then we came across something that looks like a chamber.
Helia and Lisa averted their eyes while Kyle is puking on the ground. The scenery shocked us.
A woman in her mid-20 probably has no skin on her corpse. Her skin is beside her corpse.
Another one probably a teen has a large hole in her stomach her eyes is wide showing how much she must have suffered before she died
I came closer to the body and I could saw the strangulation mark on her neck and the smell are revolting.
Then I looked at another body.
Another woman probably in her mid-30s. She has a gaping incision in her abdomen.
It was cut carefully and cleanly, perhaps with a small knife, running from the pubis to the chest and curving neatly around the bellybutton.
Who have such skill to perform this kind of incision? And who would be insane enough? The smell waved over me.
I close my nose. Then I looked at the walls of the chamber. I can see some herbs hanging. Some I recognize. Some I do not
There is Conium flower and it leaves. 8 leaves of the plant is fatal- – death comes in the form of paralysis, your mind is wide awake, but your body doesn’t respond and eventually the respiratory system shuts down.
Then I saw the wolfsbane hanging just beside Conium.
It’s leaves only one post-mortem sign, that of asphyxia, as it causes arrhythmic heart function which leads to suffocation.
Poisoning can occur even after touching the leaves of the plant without wearing gloves as it is very rapidly and easily absorbed.
All these poisons and for what purpose? I thought they were bandits but looking at the incision mark this is a work of a skilled surgeon.
I then came to Kyle and give him some water to drink while patting his back.
“I want to cancel this quest” Kyle said his voice stuttered
Helia is nodding. Then Lisa said
“I want to catch this bastard” she said while looking at the victims.
I nodded and said” Me too. They have terrorized far enough innocents. We move forward”
Helia and Kyle moved reluctantly
Luckily or unluckily the blood trail does not end there. We know if we follow this blood trail we will found the bandits lair.
But we kept moving following the droplets of crimson.  After about one hour of walking finally we heard some noise.
We all hid ourselves on the corner of the tunnels so we will not be spotted.
“Where’s Engel?” I heard the bandit is asking a man with a large build and have a nose ring and scars all over his face. He wears no clothes and in his chest is a tattoo of a skull.
“In his chambers, experimenting” the sound of screaming can be heard
“Why you take him as our companion I never know”
“He is crazy like we are, no, he’s crazy than we all. We at least skin the people after they die, he skinned them when they are still alive”
I balled my fist. Lisa eyes are fierce.
We backed up and began thinking what to do and how to dispatch the bandits.
“We ambush them” I said
“When?”
“When they are sleeping” I said to Lisa.
“ But surely they would realize?” Kyle said
“Yes, so we better kill as much as we can before the other realize.”
Helia and Lisa nodded.
“Alright, fine” Kyle said.
So we wait in the darkness, our torch extinguished.
We can do this I mused.
I have trained them and from their martial art technique they are already more powerful than the rest of the other Knights recruit in the academy.
Anyway I need to be aware and protect them if thing go bad.We waited and waited until finally we heard snoring.
We wait another 10 minutes then we began emerging from the shadows.The screaming has already stops.
Then we began our slaughter. Lisa rammed her sword to a man gut killing him instantly.
Helia kill a man in his bed with her small knife.
I on the other hand quickly run around the chamber and quickly sever their heads from their neck with Slicing Water technique giving them not a chance to scream.
Kyle hacks and slash the bandits.
The noise finally caught up to the far end corner of the chamber and one of the bandits were awakened.
He looks dazed and when he realize what we’re doing he yell “ Intruders! Intruders!”.
Our eyes met.
I cut off his head and his head rolled to the side. But the damage has been done. Another chamber on the left side and right side open.
From there pour 20 bandits from each side.
“Said they are only 40 of them” Kyle complained.We just killed about 20 bandits before we are spotted.
“Must have added some new blood to their ranks” Helia said panting.
Lisa is livid, her face pale.
The only one who seems not to be shaken is me and Kyle.
I never thought he would be so calm Arial mused
“What do we do now?’ Kyle asked.
“We charge” I said.
I exchange a smile with Kyle before we attack the bandits.

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