Jonathan’s Dream (An Adventure Novel)
(Copyright 1984, Mark D. Jones, All Rights Reserved)
Chapter Four, Part Five
Sammy seemed to understand Dijia’s request and immediately set out to show the boys where he had found the arrow of Nierron. Jonathan and Dijia gathered up their bags of provisions and set out to follow Sammy as he led them deeper into the woods. They didn’t have far to travel to find out. Just over a small knoll in the forest, was a valley with a creek that flowed in the same southeasterly direction as the creek where they had almost perished over the waterfall. As they descended into the valley, they passed through a lush forest with many varieties of trees, ferns and open meadows filled with wildflowers. The contrasting beauty of the woodlands and wildflowers versus the ugliness of the black and red arrow he held in his hand didn’t escape Jonathan’s notice.
Dijia grabbed Jonathan’s arm and stopped them both from going any farther, and made a quiet bird whistle to catch Sammy’s attention to pause as well. Pointing through the woods to a clearing about a hundred yards in front of them, Dijia whispered, “See the small stone hut in the glade, Jonathan? It’s a hunting outpost of Nierron. The riders must use it as a shelter here in this corner of the kingdom. We must be very cautious and make sure there are no riders anywhere in the area before approaching.”
They paused in the same spot for about five minutes while looking for any movement or activity around the hut, and once they were sure it was empty, they crept towards it slowly and cautiously. The hut was crudely constructed of stone walls with a thatched roof of branches and reeds, and seemed to be vacant, as there was no noticeable sign that it had been recently used. A small stack of firewood was piled up against the outside wall near a simple door made of planks that was left ajar. A fire circle made of large river rocks was dug into the dirt a short distance from the front door, and some slender sticks that had been used as spits for cooking meat over the fire were resting beside it. The last fire in the fire circle had burned completely down to ashes which were cold to the touch, indicating that the hut hadn’t been used recently – but the weather hadn’t yet disturbed the ashes – so there was no way to tell how recently the fire had been made.
Jonathan crept over to the hut and looked into the single window set into the stone wall. It was little more than a small opening between stones, with a board that leaned up against the exterior wall to close it up when needed. The was no sound or movement inside, so Jonathan motioned for Dijia to peer into the door. Dijia saw that no one was inside, so after a cautious look back over their shoulders into the woods surrounding the glade, both boys entered the hut. A quiver of eight black and red arrows matching the one Jonathan carried in his hand had spilled onto the earthen floor – no doubt where Sammy had found the arrow he was holding. There were two sleeping areas of pine needles, moss and grasses arranged on the floor and a bow leaning up in the corner. “Break all the arrows in half, Jonathan, so these can’t be used against anyone in the future” said Dijia, who then took out his knife and cut the bowstring to render to bow useless, while Jonathan broke the arrows over his knee. A small sword and a knife lay on the floor beside the bow and Dijia picked up the sword for himself and handed the knife to Jonathan. “Let’s leave here quickly, Jonathan – these weapons mean the riders are still in the area. We can’t afford to be here when they return.”
Dijia strapped on the sword’s leather sheath and Jonathan tucked the knife into his belt underneath his cloak, and then they left through the door and hurried the short distance across the glade towards the woods where they had approached from. Sammy was nowhere to be seen as they hurried across the glade to the protection of the forest’s shadows. Just as they reached the edge of the forest, two riders rode into the glade from another direction and called out, “Halt, in the name of Nierron!” and began charging towards them on horseback!
“Run, Jonathan!” cried Dijia, as they did their best to run deeper into the forest, but the two horsemen were on them in a moment! Turning to defend themselves, Dijia pulled out his sword and Jonathan fumbled to find his knife as the two riders stopped before them on horseback. They wore hooded garments made of a course, green fabric with leather ponchos draped over them that were tied at the side, and matching tall leather boots. Both riders had bows drawn with black and red arrows pointing at them in their hands and swords on their sides. Abruptly, one of the riders relaxed his bow and let out an evil laugh that filled Jonathan and Dijia with dread and fear. “It was two boys after all, just as I thought Stenkov – this is a prize indeed for taking to King Tucar! We’ll be rewarded handsomely for our efforts! They are more valuable to us alive than dead, so lower your bow and we’ll dismount and tie them up!”
As the riders began dismounting, Sammy charged the two horses from behind, barking and snarling under their hind legs, causing them both to rear in fright from this unseen threat to their flanks! As the horses reared and kicked – whinnying madly and attempting to whirl around to face this threat – Sammy kept at it underneath them, barking and snarling as if he were ten times his size! The two riders were caught completely off balance and unawares as they attempted to dismount, and the rider who gave the directions caught his boot in the stirrup and fell to the ground, breaking his neck in the fall. The second rider fell clear of his horse to the ground and at once Dijia pierced him through the neck with his sword. The horses bolted back into the glade, dislodging the one horseman’s boot from the stirrup when the saddle slipped under the horse’s belly.
“You saved the day, Sammy!” whispered Jonathan in Sammy’s ear as he hugged his dog for all he was worth and Dijia kissed Sammy on the forehead. Jonathan then went to calm down the horses, while Dijia searched the riders for anything they could use – recovering two swords, three knives, a leather fire-making pouch containing a flint and soft tinder, and another small leather bag containing some food provisions to take with them. He then broke all the arrows and cut the bowstrings as they had done earlier in the hut. Dijia set aside one of the swords for Jonathan and placed the remaining sword, three knives and the small leather pouches into their original bag of provisions. Meanwhile, Jonathan calmed the horses down on the other side of the glade and adjusted their saddles, before leading them back to where Dijia was waiting. One of the horses was a beautiful dark brown in color with a white blaze on her forehead and four distinctive white socks. The other horse was jet black with a single white star on his forehead.
“You can ride the black horse, Dijia, while I’ll ride Blaze, here. We should make better time on horseback than on foot!”
“Yes, we will – I’ll call my horse Nactar, which means Night in our tongue – for he is black like the night!”
Dijia and Jonathan then tied their bags behind the horse’s saddles and began riding east across the valley to higher ground, following a seldom used path that led higher into the mountains ahead of them. Jonathan could see the silhouette of high mountains covered with glaciers in the distance and remembered what Gramps had said about tunnels under the snow. He also remembered Gramps telling him to keep his heart pure, in order to ensure his passage back to Ohio. Jonathan tried to reconcile his words after having just watched two men die. He realized that he and Dijia were left with no option, for the riders would have taken them as captives to King Tucar to face an even worse fate, no doubt. Jonathan also knew that he was duty-bound as a Knight of Pengarth to protect Dijia with his life. Regardless, Jonathan could only ponder these questions of life and death, good verses evil, fortune and fate, duty and honor, light and darkness – as they quietly rode single-file through the most beautiful woodlands he had ever seen before…
(End of Chapter Four)