Jonathan’s Dream (An Adventure Novel) – Chapter Nine, Part Ten

Jonathan’s Dream (An Adventure Novel)

(Copyright 1984, Mark D. Jones, All Rights Reserved)

Chapter Nine, Part Ten

~~~~~~~~~~

The shadowy figures in the distance appeared to be coming towards them along the Enlightened Way, so there was nothing for the company to do but wait as they approached.  The fact that the figures were following the same path indicated a knowledge of where they were and what they were doing – possibly the Myull making their appearance known for the first time to the group.

It was soon clear that five figures were approaching them from the shadows, and the company was prepared for the worst, not knowing what to expect here in The King’s Preserve.  “Whatever happens, do not draw your swords,” cautioned Dijia, knowing the unease everyone was feeling.  “We must remain non-confrontational here in the Wood, as any act of aggression will only be used against us.  All we can do is see what these strangers want with us…”

They watched as the five strangers slowly advanced, walking single-file along the trail, and it wasn’t long before they began to see who it was approaching them.  The first two appeared to be tall and thin, with a beauty that seemed almost transparent as if they were stepping out of a dream.  Their appearance was fair, and as natural as the Wood they traveled through, yet dressed in simple garments not seen in other realms – like some sort of magical, woodland fairies out of a storybook.

The first of the two woodland people appeared to be female, as she was shorter and of slight build.  The second was taller yet still thin with a more masculine build, but they both radiated a sparkling, vibrant beauty that seemed to be beyond human form – as if images of light – not of flesh and bones.  Jonathan had never set eyes on such beauty before, and even Sammy sensed something was happening that caused him to be tentative and subdued while being held in Jonathan’s arms.

The third figure was clearly that of a woman, dressed in a type of leather armor similar to what Siyall was wearing, while the fourth was clearly some type of military knight or officer, dressed in a manner for combat, yet carrying a regal status.  The fifth figure appeared to be an older man, dressed in robes with a hood covering his bearded face.  There appeared in all of their mannerisms no threat or ill will, so the company relaxed as the strangers came onto them, knowing the reason for their visit would soon be revealed to everyone.

Dijia, Siyth and Siyall remained on the path, spread slightly left to right across it, while Jonathan holding Sammy, and Rulyan stepped to the sides of the Enlightened Way to catch a better glimpse of those approaching through the Wood.  At about ten paces away the figures stopped, spreading out slightly left to right in order to address the company as the lead, female woodland person said, “My name is Miylla, I am of the Myull, of Myullar Wood.”  Motioning to her counterpart standing beside her she introduced him saying, “This is Sylth Llaylaan of Sylthar Wood, who like me, is of an enchanted nature derived from the essence of where we live.  Do not touch us, as we are not as you are.”

Miylla continued saying, “This is Juyall, of the Island of Ayall, a Light Bearer as four of you are.”  Stepping out from behind Juyall, the one dressed as a knight and the old man in the robe and hood came clearly into view.

“Captain Pallamar!” shouted Dijia with a burst that he was unable to contain, while at the same time Jonathan cried out, “Gramps!” – as Sammy leapt from Jonathan’s arms to run to his dear, old friend!

(End of Chapter Nine)

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Jonathan’s Dream (An Adventure Novel) – Chapter Nine, Part Nine

Jonathan’s Dream (An Adventure Novel)

(Copyright 1984, Mark D. Jones, All Rights Reserved)

Chapter Nine, Part Nine

~~~~~~~~~~

There were only a few hours left before dawn, and the group did their best to get some sleep there on the Enlightened Way prior to getting started the next day.  The forest’s canopy was very dense, and it was some time after daybreak before the first individual rays of light were able to penetrate through the trees, to provide a little daylight within the Wood.

While the remaining hours of the night proved uneventful as they slept there in the grass, Jonathan recalled being awake for a period of time and feeling like shadows were swirling around them.  He kept one eye barely open during that time, and it was as if a mist was flowing around and through their camp, yet he couldn’t define his impressions and finally went to sleep.

As they were preparing to get underway the next morning Jonathan asked, “Did anyone sense or see anything last night while we were sleeping?  It seemed like a mist or shadows were moving among us while we slept, but I can’t really describe it.”

Siyth replied, “I felt a chill in the air and in my dreams I saw faces among us, Jonathan.  That’s all I know…”

Dijia remarked, “This entire Wood is filled with the spirits of the Myull, Jonathan and Siyth.  That’s why we can’t touch anything unnecessarily, as our eyes don’t see things as they are, only as they appear to be.  These spirits were here with us last night – and even as we speak – yet, we can only try to perceive their presence.  They will determine the time and place to appear to us, if and when they choose to do so.”

“How are we to stay on the path, Dijia?” asked Siyall, not seeing anything herself that indicated where they had come from the night before, or where they should be going to next.  “I don’t see the Enlightened Way, and if I was standing here all alone I’d be totally lost…”

“It isn’t as hard as it appears, Siyall, for we must think as the Myull expect us to,” continued Dijia.  “They expect us to follow the trail, and they don’t want us wandering away from it, so they have provided us with clues for finding our way.  If we were here in The King’s Preserve without permission, we wouldn’t last ten minutes without being hopelessly lost, and at the mercy of Myullar Wood’s spirits.”

Pointing into the Wood beside them Dijia said, “Look, the Myull have given us a boundary fence along the Enlightened Way.  If you look carefully, you’ll see a fine border of cobwebs sprinkled with dew drops left and right of the trail.  There are also colorful butterflies flying the length of the path for us to observe.  The trail was created with a series of trees planted side-by-side acting like gates every so often, and as we follow between them it gives us an indication that we are following the right course.”

Continuing on Dijia said, “You will also see a sprinkling or dusting of something like starlight on the ground and in the grass along the Enlightened Way, which disappears behind us as we walk along the path.  My father and Arrydor investigated all these clues and documented them in books contained within Castle Penmaryll’s library.  However, they are written in an ancient script unreadable today by anyone not well versed in the languages of the First Age.”

As Dijia pointed out the various clues to the company, they all investigated and examined the indicators described to them, amazed at being immersed within such a magical woodland.  Once they all understood what they needed to be looking for, the group set out with Dijia leading the way, followed by Siyth, Siyall, Jonathan and Sammy, with Rulyan as always maintaining the rear guard.

After about an hour of traveling along the Enlightened Way, taking in the beauty and wonders of this magical realm, it was Siyth who grabbed Dijia’s right shoulder from behind saying quietly, “Stop, Dijia.  I see shadows in the distance, like figures ahead – who or what might they be?”

They all tried to get a good look at the shadowy images in the distance, yet the lighting within the Wood didn’t allow any distinction from any other shadows surrounding them.  “I don’t know, Siyth,” replied Dijia.  “Perhaps this is the time for me to ask permission for you to be here within the Wood as my guests – this is uncharted territory for me, and I don’t know what to expect…”

Jonathan’s Dream (An Adventure Novel) – Chapter Nine, Part Eight

Jonathan’s Dream (An Adventure Novel)

(Copyright 1984, Mark D. Jones, All Rights Reserved)

Chapter Nine, Part Eight

~~~~~~~~~~

The company gathered there on the trail where a bit of grass allowed them to sit in a circle, as Dijia began explaining their present situation to them.  He asked Siyall to place the Talspar stone in the middle of the circle beside Sammy, who decided to take the opportunity to curl up and go to sleep.  While everyone was tired, they were more interested in finding out about this journey they were on than in sleeping – curious about what the morning would bring.

Dijia began by saying, “Here on the Enlightened Way in The King’s Preserve, we can talk openly about what awaits us.  The Wood around us is alive in more ways than one, and I hesitated to explain the details of where we were going while outside the security of these trees.  This Wood is pure and undisturbed from the most ancient times, and shares original status in Myllanthar with its cousin, Sylthar Wood.”

“There’s a reclusive people called the Myull, as old as the Sylth living here in this Wood, with the same mystical properties of changing appearances, shapes, and forms at will – even disappearing totally from view.  The Myull are distant relations of the Sylth, and derive their name from the ancient word Myullar, meaning to change shape or form.  This Wood is properly named, Myullar Wood, yet known in these days only as The King’s Preserve.  Anything that you see with your eyes in this Wood, may actually be something completely else, which is why we only speak of these things within the security of these trees.”

The group sat spellbound while learning about their new surroundings as Dijia explained, “No one may pass through Myullar Wood unless they have been granted permission to travel along the Enlightened Way, which was a concession the Myull made to the ancient people who constructed the Duylaan Circle.  Those people died out generations ago, yet the Myull have remained true to their word ever since.  The site for Castle Penmaryll was chosen specifically because three sides are protected by The King’s Preserve, where no attack could be mounted from.”

“The builders of the castle didn’t know the history of this Wood,” continued Dijia. “It was my father’s studying of ancient texts that revealed the origins of the Myull, Myullar Wood, and The Enlightened Way.  Arrydor brought other insights to this understanding as well, which he shared with my father and Captain Pallamar. Between the three of them it was understood how to traverse this Wood safely, while respecting the Myull and their traditions.  It was also discovered that the Enlightened Way passed near the southeast tower of Castle Penmaryll, which is how we will gain entrance into it.”

Dijia had everyone’s attention as he provided further details saying, “After consulting directly with the Myull – Arrydor, my father and Captain Pallamar had a secret tunnel constructed from underneath the southeast tower of the castle that runs for some distance underground.  It connects to a cave on the bank of the River Myuthall, not far from the Enlightened Way within the security of the Wood.  He was granted use of the tunnel and cave, along with direct access to the Enlightened Way in times of need.  It’s the only secret avenue of entrance and escape into Castle Penmaryll – and only Captain Pallamar, Arrydor and now this company know of it.”

“In the morning, we’ll travel to the cave while respecting everything within the Wood and the Myull people, ensuring we uphold the agreement they made with my father,” said Dijia.  “I have traveled along this way many times before, and I may need to explain to the Myull at some point why I’ve extended this invitation to you as well, for the Myull aren’t familiar with you.  Stay calm and remain non-threatening if anything happens while we are within this Wood, and I will try to ensure our safe passage.”

The group looked anxiously into the shadows of the Wood surrounding them, uneasy with the knowledge that their passage and safety along the Enlightened Way was uncertain at this point.  It was Siyall who asked, “Could you not ask the Myull to assist us in defeating those who assassinated your father, Dijia?  They would be a powerful force to reckon with, knowing these raiders and marauders have no respect for those who hold true claim to the lands and environment within the Kingdom of Pengarth.”

Dijia pondered the question carefully, knowing that the Myull are a timeless people not concerned with the peoples outside Myullar Wood. However, the threat to their pristine environment by Nierron’s riders and Vyanthal’s mercenaries from the Kingdom of Talgar might be justification enough to gain their support.  “I will hold a council with the Myull and explain these things to them, and see if they will come to our aid – and to the aid of all free peoples in Myllanthar, Siyall,” replied Dijia thoughtfully.

Finally Rulyan asked, “How is it that the tunnel connects to the southeast tower, and what awaits us at the entry point, Dijia?”

“The tunnel is gated at the cave alongside the River Myuthall, and runs underground to beneath the foundations of the tower.  The foundation of the southeast tower is dug five stories below ground, and the lowest level of each tower in the castle serves as a holding room for peat which is burned in fireplaces during winter.  No one thinks to guard such areas within the castle.  The tunnel comes up through the foundation of the southeast tower through a trap door built into the oak sub-floor, as the king’s private quarters fill this tower and adjoining areas of the castle as well.”

“I have no remaining family, as my mother died shortly after giving birth to me, and I have no siblings – so the king’s private quarters are now empty, save the king’s staff.  There’s no reason this area would remain guarded, and I believe the marauders would rather be watching the western facade and gates of the castle instead.  My aim is to secretly gain entrance to the king’s private quarters and enlist the assistance of the king’s loyal staff.  Once we are established in the tower, we’ll be able to assess the weaknesses of those who have seized it, and thus determine a way to cast them out…”

Jonathan’s Dream (An Adventure Novel) – Chapter Nine, Part Seven

Jonathan’s Dream (An Adventure Novel)

(Copyright 1984, Mark D. Jones, All Rights Reserved)

Chapter Nine, Part Seven

~~~~~~~~~~

The company readied themselves and set off to make their way to the other side of the Duylaan Circle to look for the entrance to the Enlightened Way.  It was difficult for Dijia to see the clues he was looking for in the dim light of the sickle moon, as he was looking for something very specific.  The clearing they were in resembled a meadow that stopped abruptly at the edge of the Wood, where the ancient trees stood like undisturbed sentinels from ages past.

The trees were some of the largest hardwoods Jonathan had ever seen – oaks, maples, ashes, hickories, and elms – all mixed in at the leading edge of the forest. The trees had massive trunks, and as he looked deeper into the shadows of the Wood, he saw an array of tree roots and contorted branches that spoke of ancient old growth origins.  The King’s Preserve looked to have stood undisturbed through the ages, thought Jonathan, probably from the very beginning of Myllanthar’s First Age.

Dijia was searching for something on the ground, looking down through the tall grass and crosschecking his reference back to the Duylaan Circle, looking at a number of angles for clues.  Of course it was difficult in the dim moonlight, but he didn’t want to risk using a Talspar stone and calling attention to their activities with its light.  After a time Dijia raised his hand and motioned for the others to come and join him, all the while looking down into the tall grass.

“I’ve found it,” Dijia whispered to the group once they’d all gathered around him. “The northeast entrance into the Duylaan Circle behind me, aligns with this circular stone in the grass marked with a symbol used by the ancients when the circle was first built.  If you follow the line into the forest it points between two massive oaks standing side-by-side marking the entrance to the Enlightened Way.”

Dijia continued, “This pathway was in use by the ancients long before there was a Kingdom of Pengarth or Castle Penmaryll.  In those days it was a trail leading to the eastern point where the Tregarrons met the Sea of Tollvar.  Ever since then it has been abandoned, forgotten and lost in time – except for the fact that my father discovered it while reading historic texts from the era that are preserved and kept in Castle Penmaryll’s library of reference materials from the earliest days.  Arrydor used to visit my father to study these ancient documents that my father had carefully preserved, and between Arrydor and my father there was a great bond of friendship, extending to Captain Pallamar as well.”

Jonathan excitedly whispered, “Do you mean that Gramps often visited the castle, Dijia?”

“Yes, Jonathan.  I’ve known Gramps since the day I was born.  He’s always been part of our family, and a most trusted adviser to my father when he was king.  As you recall, he was the one that helped me escape from Nierron’s riders after my father’s assassination, and the one that brought us together as well.”

“I do hope I’ll get the chance to see Gramps again, Dijia, I miss him so…”

Siyall refocused the discussion quietly by saying, “I don’t see a path where you’ve indicated a path should be, Dijia, how are we to follow it?”

“Stay close behind me, everyone, and make sure you don’t get separated from the group.  I will explain the Enlightened Way to you as we get deeper into the Wood so you can read it as well.  Walk quietly without disturbing any of the plants or trees, and do not leave the path for any reason, or we will never find you again.  I will go slowly, so you will be able to easily follow me,” replied Dijia as he made his way deliberately, yet cautiously, into the Wood.

Dijia was followed by Siyall, Siyth, Jonathan with Sammy on a tight leash again, while Rulyan maintained the rear guard as usual.  The Wood was as dense as any tropical jungle that Jonathan had seen pictures of before, looking like something out of a prehistoric age – yet not tropical, but a diverse old growth hardwood forest.  Not two minutes into the Wood it was pitch dark, without even a hint of dim moonlight filtering through the dense canopy of twisted and gnarled branches overhead.

It was early autumn, yet the trees hadn’t lost many leaves at this point, but a few were felt underfoot as they journeyed on.  Dijia had Siyall take out her Talspar stone as soon as they had penetrated the forest far enough to conceal the bluish light from anyone outside the forest.  After walking silently for about thirty minutes, Dijia stopped and said to the group, “We’ll rest here for the remainder of the night until dawn, and begin again tomorrow.  In the meantime, we’ll camp here on the trail and I will explain all you need to know about this Wood within the security of the trees…”

Jonathan’s Dream (An Adventure Novel) – Chapter Nine, Part Six

Jonathan’s Dream (An Adventure Novel)

(Copyright 1984, Mark D. Jones, All Rights Reserved)

Chapter Nine, Part Six

~~~~~~~~~~

“Please explain, Dijia, we need to know what you’ve discovered,” whispered Siyall in reply to Dijia’s hushed tone.  “Sit down beside us and tell us where we are, and how we’re to enter Castle Penmaryll.”

“Well,” began Dijia in his quietest voice as he gathered the company close around him in a tight circle, “It isn’t safe to discuss these details openly, so I’ll whisper them to you.  My father, King Tyijar, used to take me to this ancient fortress called the Duylaan Circle.  He used it as a lesson to teach me about building fortifications, because all the characteristics of the lost arts are clearly evident here for those who choose to learn from the past.  He wanted me to know everything I could, for the day when I would become king.”

“So where is this Circle located relative to the castle, Dijia?” asked Rulyan in a hushed and subdued tone.  “Where is it that we are to go next, and how do we find our way in the dark?”

“The Duylaan Circle is a good distance around, as it used to house an entire city within its massive earthen and stone fortifications.  The forest we recently traveled through surrounds the entire area these days, with this fortress in the middle of a great clearing.  On the northeast side of the clearing there is a hidden path going into the forest, which is what we are to follow.”

Siyall quietly asked, “Where does the path take us, Dijia, and what is its relationship to the castle?”

“It’s a lost path, forgotten in these days, winding its way through an ancient forest. The path’s now overgrown, yet still passable for those who know about it.  My father had it maintained just enough to make it passable by his trusted Captain of the Guard, Pallamar – but so as to not be visible to others.  The path is called the Enlightened Way, as it is the secret escape route from the castle in times of siege and turmoil.”

“My father often used this way to leave the castle with me, so as not to be seen or discovered.  He would take me to places like this fortress as a way of teaching me all he knew, and to walk among his people, for he was much beloved.  Only Captain Pallamar knew when we left the castle, and he always tracked us from a distance so as to be near if his services were needed, but they never were.  My father was the wisest and most capable king to have ever served the people of Pengarth, and his people loved him dearly…”

“So what to you suggest we do next, My Lord?” whispered Siyth.  “How do we precede from here?”

“I suggest we locate the path and travel a distance into the forgotten Wood to camp until morning.  This Wood is called The King’s Preserve, as it belongs to Castle Penmaryll.  No one travels into it for that reason, and the local people call it the Enchanted Wood, for it is said to put all those who enter it to sleep so they will never find their way out again.  Those few who have entered this forest have been lost forever, for there are no landmarks within it and no paths other than the Enlightened Way – which no one else would recognize as a path at all.  So you can understand why it is a forgotten place in these days.”

“How long do we travel along the Enlightened Way, and how are we to enter the castle, Dijia?” asked Jonathan anxiously in the quietest of tones, as he had never seen a real castle before.

“That I won’t say until we’re deep into The King’s Preserve, Jonathan,” replied Dijia in a very muted voice, “for this secret is not to be discovered by anyone outside our group…”

Jonathan’s Dream (An Adventure Novel) – Chapter Nine, Part Five

Jonathan’s Dream (An Adventure Novel)

(Copyright 1984, Mark D. Jones, All Rights Reserved)

Chapter Nine, Part Five

~~~~~~~~~~

The journey down the River Pengarth was as uneventful as hoped for, and now as the sickle moon rose high into the night sky, Laythur steered the barge alongside the northern shore, being careful not to ground it in shallow water.  There were no lights from any houses or villages in the area, and after measuring the depth of the water so as to be as close as he dared approach the shore, Laythur gave the signal to Rulyan that this was now the time.

One by one they dropped over the side of the barge and into the water, first Rulyan, then Siyall, followed by Dijia, Jonathan and Sammy, and lastly by Siyth – who gave a final embrace of thanks to Laythur for all he had done for the company before going into the water himself.  The water was chest deep to the men, so they assisted Dijia, Jonathan and Sammy in finding their footing among the rocks in shallower water.  Soon they were all ashore, and counted heads and provision bags to ensure everyone and everything was together.

Once they were ready, the group headed due north based on the position of the moon, along with Siyall’s Sylthal stone with its soft green glow on its northern edge indicating the direction of magnetic north.  They didn’t know where they were at the time, only that Laythur had estimated that they were approaching the Sea of Tollvar prior to the sun setting that day.  He based his determination on changes he noticed in the river and along its shoreline, and it was the best estimate of their position they had.  All they could do now was travel north, and hope to come across a landmark that Dijia could identify to gauge their exact location from.

At one point they carefully crossed over a cart path without being noticed in the darkness, making the decision to avoid all established paths and roads in order to avoid any possibility of accidental detection.  It was slow going across dark fields, streams, and through patches of forest in the dim light of the sickle moon, yet they were determined to hold fast to their northerly heading.  In a clearing surrounded by forest they came across a massive circular wall, which appeared to be an ancient fortification of some kind now broken down and long abandoned, where they decided to pause and rest for a few minutes.

Dijia kept looking around in the moonlight at the crumbling walls and large cut blocks of rock that appeared to have been toppled over by angry giants at one point in distant history.  Eventually he found a path up through the overturned walls of the fortress – suddenly realizing what he was looking at – it was the Duylaan Circle! Dijia had often visited this place with his father who used it as a teaching point in discussing the art of building fortifications with his son.  It was one of Dijia’s many lessons his father, the king, had insisted upon, so that one day Dijia would be well versed in all the knowledge he would need to be king himself.

The knowledge of knowing exactly where they were overjoyed Dijia, and he quickly made his way back down through the broken stone blocks that once formed the great circular wall of this historic fortress. Once he found his way back to the group, Dijia very quietly explained to the group, “I know exactly where we are – and how to get into Castle Penmaryll!”

Jonathan’s Dream (An Adventure Novel) – Chapter Nine, Part Four

Jonathan’s Dream (An Adventure Novel)

(Copyright 1984, Mark D. Jones, All Rights Reserved)

Chapter Nine, Part Four

~~~~~~~~~~

Siyth kept watch all night from under cover of the tarp, as the mule team made steady progress pulling the barge down the canal.  At one point in the night, Laythur was questioned at a checkpoint set up by outlaws, talking his way through the confrontation by pointing out that the local inns had need of these provisions he was transporting – and if his questioners had any sense of awareness, they’d allow his farm goods to pass through so they could enjoy their next meal.

The real trouble began once the barge reached the end of the canal at daybreak.  The barge was halted at a heavily manned checkpoint for the inspection of documents and cargo, before being allowed to enter the Inland Sea of Pengarth, where Laythur planned to stow the mules on board for the trip down the River Pengarth to the City of Penmarth.  The inquisition required him to explain why he was taking his goods downstream, as he had previously always unloaded them at the docks at the end of the canal.

During the heated questioning, Siyth roused the others from their slumber under cover, very quietly preparing them to be ready to fight if necessary.  It was Laythur who once again saved the day, explaining that he was told at the last checkpoint that Nierron’s riders directed him to take his goods downstream, as the men guarding the castle needed supplies.  He said he was told to proceed with all due haste – pointing out that, “It wasn’t a good idea to do anything counter to King Tucar’s orders now, was it…”

Even the hint that these guards might be interfering with King Tucar’s orders was enough to allow the barge to continue to the end of the canal, where the team of six mules was taken onboard for the trip down the River Pengarth.  It didn’t take them long to get into the flow of the current and make their way into the River Pengarth, and as far as they knew, there were no checkpoints set up along the river to hinder their progress downstream – but no one really knew – as none of them had ever floated the river before.

The mood was more relaxed onboard the barge as the day progressed, and once the evening arrived, the tarp was pulled back allowing the company to experience a leisurely voyage down the river.  They’d already put their troubles in the dark caverns under the Tregarrons out of their minds, and began preparing a plan for how to travel the relatively short distance from the river to Penmarth.   If the roads leading into Penmarth were as heavily guarded as they suspected, based on what they’d encountered along the canal, how could they possibly enter Castle Penmaryll undetected?

After discussing various plans and options for once they arrived downstream, it was decided the barge would make it’s way to the northern shore of the river in the middle of night, prior to reaching the mouth at the Sea of Tollvar.  There the company would exit the barge under cover of darkness, and prepare for the final leg of their journey.  The City of Penmarth lies north of the mouth of the River Pengarth, at the eastern end of the Tregarrons on the Sea of Tollvar, requiring the group to travel the remaining distance overland to reach Castle Penmaryll.  This would allow Laythur to sell his goods to the merchants at the mouth of the river at no risk to himself, and then prepare his mule team for the arduous trip pulling the barge back upstream.

The question remaining of course, was how the company would successfully travel overland to Castle Penmaryll, without having to fight their way through both Nierron’s riders and mercenaries from the northern Kingdom of Talgar – who no doubt would be guarding all roads and cart paths in the area.  At the moment, this was a question to which none of them had an answer to, and only time would tell if they’d be able to find one…

Jonathan’s Dream (An Adventure Novel) – Chapter Nine, Part Three

Jonathan’s Dream (An Adventure Novel)

(Copyright 1984, Mark D. Jones, All Rights Reserved)

Chapter Nine, Part Three

~~~~~~~~~~

The company remained low and out of sight until nightfall, knowing that the circling raven had moved off in the distance and hadn’t returned.  It turned out to be very slow going as they hiked down out of the rough terrain in the dark, but Siyall used her Talspar stone in such a way as to light only the ground at her feet without allowing its light to give their position away.  They made steady progress though, and after a few hours the general landscape began to level out and they happened across a trail to follow.

Shortly before dawn, Siyth quietly halted the group, and silently pointed out the light from a homestead not far off ahead of them.  They quietly discussed it, and decided they would carefully approach the property and seek the assistance they needed from the owner.  As they approached the farm, they noticed a narrow canal that ran through the property, and a low, covered barge docked near the house and barn.

An older man was busying himself with bags of grain and produce in the courtyard beside the barn, using a mule to drag the goods on a flat sledge over to the side of the canal beside the barge.  No one else appeared to be around, as the sun hadn’t even begun to crest the horizon.  They couldn’t know what type of reception they’d receive, but decided to take the chance, as it was their only option at this point with the first light of dawn not far off.

It was Siyall, as the leader of the group, that directly approached the man, while the rest of the group spread out and took up their supporting positions – Siyth to the left, Rulyan to the right, with Jonathan and Dijia cautiously behind them with Sammy.  Wearing their leather armor with swords drawn in hand, they all looked quite imposing thought Jonathan, as he watched the encounter begin.  Yet this was no time to let their guards down, and everyone knew it.

The man busied himself with his goods, preparing them for loading onto the barge, not seeing the company approaching behind him.  When he did finally turn around, he almost died of shock pleading, “Please, no!  Don’t hurt me or harm my wife, as I’m a simple farmer and have done you no wrong…”

It was Siyall that put him to ease saying, “We have no intention of harming you, Sir, only to ask for assistance that we will gladly pay you for.  We’re in need of supplies, as we’re undertaking a journey, and require your help.”

“You don’t look like the riders who terrorize this land, My Lady, nor do you speak like they do.  Where are you from, and what do you want from me?”

“We’re from across the Tregarrons, and oppose those who oppress you.  We are seeking our way to Penmarth.  We need robes to cover our armor, food for the journey and assistance in our travels – perhaps an ass and a cart to carry our gear under the cover of straw.  This is what we seek from you, and for which we will gladly reward you, but quietly, as no one is to know we’ve been here.”

“Whatever you say, My Lady – my name is Laythur.  Let me take you up to the house where my wife, Pyllur, will take care of your needs…”

They followed him to the house, where they all entered except for Rulyan who stood guard at the door, scanning the surroundings as the sun broke the horizon.  After a hesitant round of introductions to his wife, Laythur said, “My wife can make you the robes, for she has bulk material and the skill to take your measurements and make your garments.  For this you will have to spend the day here, for she needs time.  In the meantime, I have much work to load the barge and prepare my team of mules to pull the barge to the Inland Sea of Pengarth tonight in order to arrive by morning.”

The arrangements were agreed to, and Rulyan and Siyth took turns watching the area as the man loaded his barge, while Pyllur measured and sewed them hooded robes of suitable design and practicality for their needs.  On one of his many return trips to the house, Laythur said, “If you choose, I can conceal you within the dry goods of the barge, and bring you to the Inland Sea.  From there you need only travel the River Pengarth to the City of Penmarth.  Instead of unloading my goods at the Inland Sea, I can travel onward to Penmarth if you like and deliver them there, providing you cover the entire way.”

“Why do you risk yourself this way, Laythur? You must know the possible consequences of helping us, if you’re caught by the marauders,” stated Siyall.  “What gain do you seek from helping us?”

“The riders stole everything from my wife and I, and took our children captive.  If in helping you, I’m able to fight back against the riders through you, then I will risk everything to do it,” said Laythur.

It was Dijia that spoke up as he was being measured by Pyllur saying, “We will never forget this kindness, Laythur, for you have given us your loyalty – and loyalty is always rewarded.  It may take time, but you will see that we will honor our duty to you for giving us your assistance.”

Laythur looked at Dijia, while intently studying the boy’s face and manner of speech. “You speak with authority for such a young lad, but there’s something in your tone which tells me you know of what you speak, young man.  I look forward to the day when this land is free once more…”

By the end of the day, Rulyan paid Laythur richly with gold for his assistance as the group had been clothed in new robes worn over their armor, given a supply of food, and hidden under cover within the dry goods stowed on board the barge.  A team of six mules began the slow work of pulling the barge along the canal through the night to the Inland Sea of Pengarth.  One of the company remained watchful at all times, listening and looking out through a small opening in the canvas tarp covering the goods stowed on board, while the others took the opportunity to catch up on their rest.

The challenge ahead was to pass through the Inland Sea unobserved, while unhitching and taking the mules aboard the barge for the return journey.  If they could make it safely into the River Pengarth for the trip down the river to the City of Penmarth and Castle Penmaryll, there was hope yet that Dijia would soon be crowned king…

Jonathan’s Dream (An Adventure Novel) – Chapter Nine, Part Two

Jonathan’s Dream (An Adventure Novel)

(Copyright 1984, Mark D. Jones, All Rights Reserved)

Chapter Nine, Part Two

~~~~~~~~~~

The next morning brought overcast skies and rain, as the group traveled down from the foothills of the Tregarrons, making their way through rugged terrain.  It was an isolated and remote area, far removed from any farms or villages, without roads or paths to follow as they climbed down steep mountain slopes to the valley below.

The company assumed a protective stance, wearing their full leather armor and openly carrying their swords, not knowing what awaited them in the lowlands beyond the foothills.  Siyth and Siyall took the lead, with Dijia and Jonathan close behind.  Sammy was off his leash at this point, and Rulyan followed everyone while keeping the rear guard.  There was little food remaining, and their priority was to secure food, robes and a wagon of some sort to mask their intentions, giving them the opportunity to disguise the quest they were undertaking.

As it was, the entire group stood out as a threat and curiosity to anyone who would see them.  They needed to avoid drawing attention to themselves at all cost.  If the roads and territory were guarded by riders from Nierron or mercenaries from the Kingdom of Talgar, they would be spotted in an instant as the ones being searched for.  Everyone recalled being spied on by the raven with listening ears, flying off with news of their travels through the Tregarrons, and its message would have been spread wide and far by now.

The company couldn’t afford to fight their way to Castle Penmaryll, for there were too few of them to counter the infiltration of foreign fighters throughout Pengarth. There was bound to be fighting once they arrived at the castle regardless, and they needed to conserve their strength and bolster their odds for when they needed it most – ensuring Dijia’s crowning as the rightful heir to the throne of the Kingdom of Pengarth.

As they made their way down through the steep, pathless terrain, Jonathan conversed with Dijia saying, “This is turning out to be quite an adventure, Dijia.  I’ve read stories of great adventurers who traveled the globe, and it seems to me that this adventure of ours is as big an adventure as has ever been taken.  Little did Sammy and I realize what would happen the morning we first set out in search of adventure from Hampton, Ohio – only to find ourselves in Myllanthar…”

“This is much more than an adventure, Jonathan,” replied Dijia while walking side by side where the terrain allowed it.  “You’re taking part in history, the history of a people, and their struggle for life in a world that is oppressive and very much against them.  We’re all pawns on the great stage of life.  The Kingdom of Pengarth is one country, and this is just one day in a year, and one year in an age of many ages.  Yes, this is an adventure, Jonathan, but all life is an adventure.  What we do here today and over time, affects everything in some way through the ages.”

“My father used to sit me down and tell me about life, and its greater meaning and purpose to us and to everyone around us.  He said that as the appointed ones, it is our duty to rule and lead the country, making decisions so that those who are living in the villages and throughout the countryside are able to lead good, productive lives. He said we have the responsibility to make the lives of our countrymen as comfortable as possible.  That is why our family was placed in a position to rule the country, and why I must return to fulfill my duties and responsibility as king.  It is my destiny, and you are part of it too, for without your assistance I would never have been able to return to Castle Penmaryll on my own.”

“Well, Dijia, I’d say if Sammy and I had to find ourselves in the middle of a great adventure, then this is the best adventure we could ever be part of!”

Dijia smiled at Jonathan’s Midwestern charm, and pondered how different his philosophy of life and living was from his own.  It was so light and unassuming, just being glad to be part of this entire adventure called life – and in that, Dijia was envious…

It was Rulyan that called out to the others just then, “Take cover and hide!  Look ahead in the distance before us, a black bird circling the sky!  It’s clear he hasn’t discovered us yet, or he would be circling above us…”

The group took cover, hidden behind a series of boulders and within bushes that gave them cover from the probing eyes in the sky ahead of them.  They all knew it was only a matter of time before they were discovered, as the ever present eyes of the enemy were constantly searching for this child who would be king.  Everything counted on protecting Dijia, yet three kingdoms were doing everything in their power to capture and prevent him from ever assuming his role and destiny.

It was decided that they could no longer travel openly in daylight, and must remain hidden in place until nightfall when they could cautiously resume their quest under the cloak of darkness…

Jonathan’s Dream (An Adventure Novel) – Chapter Nine, Part One – The Kingdom of Pengarth

Jonathan’s Dream (An Adventure Novel)

(Copyright 1984, Mark D. Jones, All Rights Reserved)

Chapter Nine, Part One – The Kingdom of Pengarth

~~~~~~~~~~

“We are always searching for answers, without first defining the questions.  Spend more time on the later, and your adventures will not be quite so difficult or dangerous.” – Mark D. Jones

~~~~~~~~~~

The sun shone brighter, the air smelled fresher, and the views from the eastern slopes of the Tregarron Mountains over the idyllic countryside of the Kingdom of Pengarth were simply too lovely for words.  The sensation of freedom after having been lost underground in dark caverns for days was almost too much to bear, as the emotion of the moment was overwhelming.  Yet, there was no time to simply relax in the ambiance of the moment, as they needed to sort out a plan for the way ahead.

The underground river they had floated was nowhere to be seen, leading credence to the idea that it fed the Inland Sea of Pengarth from underground.  Had they not gotten beached in the shallow waters of the shoreline, it remains conjecture whether they would have ever made it out of the caverns.  Regardless, they had survived, and although they remained soaked and chilled to the bone, the sun was making short work of restoring their energy and providing them warmth.

It was Siyall who broke the silence saying, “Beyond all odds we survived the journey under the Tregarrons, but we are far from finished – for beyond us lies the Kingdom of Pengarth that we must now cross.  Let us first rest on this ridge for a time, and refresh our spirits with food and drink, and make a plan for the way ahead.”

The company gathered along an outcropping of rocks to dry out their waterlogged gear in the sunshine, and refresh themselves with sustenance while discussing the journey remaining before them.  The City of Penmarth and Castle Penmaryll lay on the far eastern shore of the Kingdom of Pengarth.  It was Jonathan who innocently asked, “Remember how the rider from Nierron who ambushed us, said he was the last line of defense to keep us from entering the Tregarrons, Dijia?  If he was correct, is it now safe to travel openly through your country?  How had you imagined we’d travel across your kingdom?”

Dijia was sitting up against a large boulder, thawing out from the bone chilling waters of the river and having a bite to eat and drink.  He looked out over the countryside of his kingdom from this idyllic vantage point, and for a moment was totally at peace with the world.  Bringing himself back to reality, he turned to answer Jonathan and share with the group, “I really hadn’t thought through the plan to this point, Jonathan.  No where is safe to travel openly in these days, for prying eyes and ears are everywhere.  The way I had imagined it would happen, was that we would slip unnoticed into the kingdom and then just blend in with everyone, and assume the role of peasants traveling to Penmarth.”

“In Pengarth the people are poor, Jonathan, mostly simple farmers traveling on foot along dirt paths and roads, oftentimes using donkeys and wagons to transport their goods.  I imagined our story was that we were from the other side of the Tregarrons, on our way to visit my grandparents in Penmarth, after my parents died from an illness.  You were to be another orphan traveling to live with my grandparents as well, whose parents were killed by bandits in a robbery.  No one is to know that I am the returning King of Pengarth, until I declare it myself in Castle Penmaryll and claim my throne…”

Jonathan thought about his own family back in Hampton, and hoped they were alright, and that he’d get a chance to see them again someday.  Turning to Dijia he said, “If you’re able to travel through your own country without people knowing you are king, then you should be able to see their problems firsthand, and correct them once you sit on the throne.  We will not reveal to anyone you’re their king, and do all we can to ensure your safe arrival in Penmarth.”

Ruylan spoke next saying, “There are too many of us now for the original plan to be believable.  I think Siyth and Siyall should act as Jonathan’s parents, as the look is believable.  I shall take the role of Dijia’s father, for our characteristics are similar. We must find an ass and cart to stow our gear under a bed of straw, and obtain simple robes to cover our clothing.  My advice is to procure them from the first farm or peasants we encounter along the way, for I have gold enough to pay them highly for parting with what we’ll need.”

Siyth and Siyall agreed, as did Jonathan and Dijia, while Sammy was simply enjoying the fresh scents of autumn, away from the stagnant and putrid smells underground.  The sun set early behind them over the Tregarrons, and they decided to camp overnight in the open where they were, and pursue their plan in the morning.  It was still undecided whether they would travel the dirt paths clear across the kingdom, or also attempt to travel by boat down the River Pengarth directly to Castle Penmaryll.