Chapter One

The dawn air had finally awaken the sleeping village of Khattara. Davis and Dawn were grumbling in the kitchen trying to whisper, but the disappointment in their voices was very apparent. “You have got to be kidding me, what is wrong with him? Why isn’t he a full-blooded barbarian! I am so disappointed in this turnout, I don’t want him here!” Davis said angrily.

“How can you say that! He is still our son!” Dawn cried, tears flowing from her face.

“He is not of my broad! He is not a barbarian, he cannot follow the same path as us. He is so frail and small and useless in our battalion for the Kesh army!” Davis screamed as he bolted out the door in an angry rage.

Dawn sat at the stone kitchen table crying quietly. Devon sat in his room with his head low as he wondered, why didn’t his dad want him anymore? He quickly laid back down as his mom came to check on him. Pretending to sleep he sat in awe of the breaking of his heart.

The evening had arrived quicker than expected as Devon laid in bed all day. Suddenly the doors blasted open and before them was Davis followed by Daragon and three guards.

“Good evening Dawn of Stronghold, I have some unfortunate news for you,” Daragon said, motioning them to sit down.

“Why are guards with you, you are more than adapt to handle yourself!” Dawn said with a grimace on her face.

“I contacted him this evening and let him know about our situation, and we have made alternate arrangements for the boy,” Davis said.

“What?” Dawn said in disgust.

“As a proud barbarian species we have a dedication for the preservation of our nature. We are strong brute warriors that are assigned for the Kesh army as the kings Brute Battalion, therefore we have a very rigorous training regimen and guidelines that must be followed,” Daragon said.

“The training that would be required of Devon would not be suitable for him,” Davis said as he looked away from his mate.

“So we have decided to send him to Jonril to receive their specialized training for people of his stature, he would not last in our training regimen I am afraid,” Daragon said rather disappointed.

“You want to send our son away! You disgusting weak man!” Dawn cried in pure fury.

Davis turned red with rage and raised his arm and slapped her with the backside of his hand until she crumpled to the ground. Drips of blood slipped from a scratch on her face. His disgruntled face mangled with frustration.

“In the presence of our grand general you will direct me with the proper respect and authority. This was not an easy decision to make, I promise,” Davis apologized.

“Dawn of Stronghold please keep you head, it is not in our interests to cause you emotional pain. We just feel this is a better solution to the situation at hand. He will be shipped out in the morning, he will pack his things tonight. The Jonril, School of Masonry will treat him well, I assure you of that,” Daragon said with a smile.

“On another note, Daragon of Turmeric, please inform her of the other situation at hand and why the guards are here this evening,” Davis said, suddenly a flash of pain, worry, and maybe even sadness broke the mans stone face.

“The Stronghold name has been in process of perfection for many years now, and we have believed to master the evolution of the Stronghold strengths and abilities. Therefore we have suspicions,” Daragon said, pained with betrayal.

“What are you on about,” Dawn said angrily as she held a cloth to her bleeding face.

“We have reason to doubt your responsibility to the Stronghold name, you allegiance, and to Davis of Stronghold. You are herby charged with adultery, arrest her!” Daragon said as he hung his head low.

“What!” She cried as the guards apprehended her.

“I don’t know why you would do this to me Dawn, but I won’t tolerate it. The boy will be set out tomorrow morning,” Davis said with his head hung low.
Devon woke up from the ringing in his head. He must have dozed off. He looked around the room to see nothing. At the foot of his cot was a bag. He stood up and walked to the kitchen. No one was here? Where was his mom? He stumbled out to grab some bread and brew some tea. Sitting at the table he looked over at a note written to him.

Dear Devon,

When you are young, you are expected to be enlisted in the Kesh army, you have reached that age now son and we have made arrangements for you. In a short while the Jonril guards will be here to escort you to Jonril’s Masonry School of Battle. They will be escorted by an educator there Your mother and I decided that would be best for you, as your bloodline is not of the Barbarians. They will teach you how to battle with your stature. We wish you luck in your future endeavors.
Dawn and Davis of Stronghold
Devon looked up, tears begging to ooze out of his eye sockets as he threw the ceramic cup against the wall in frustration. The knocking on the door suddenly echoed as he knew they were here. Not much time to get away now.

Devon walked up to the door and quickly threw it open. Before him was two guards in full armor and a large burly man that must have been dwarven. His hair was braided as was his beard, to his knees they tossed in the morning air. His eyes were brown and stern and his smile was obviously forced.

“Good morning Devon of Stronghold, my name is Herego, I am the assistant to the educator Haragog, how are you this morning?” The larger man said with a cheap smile.

“Well you know, parents desert you, send you off to some school halfway across the Kesh empire, and to top it all off my tea has gone cold,” Devon said with a frown looking at the shattered ceramic on the ground.

“Good! Excellent! Come boy, we have a long trek to manage!” Herego said as he motioned the guards to collect my things.

I was rushed outside by the large dwarf and the guards appeared behind me with my bag. A barbarian guard approached us with a package in his hands.

“Good morning Devon of Stronghold, I have a gift for you from the Khattara village!” He smiled as he handed Devon a package wrapped in brown paper.

Devon opened it reluctantly to discover a pair of gloves, he looked them over and pondered their purpose. Slipping them on he felt power coursing through his body.

“Those are Barbarian Gauntlets, they are bestowed with a rune etched of strength we feel it will give you a hand in achieving your goals,” the Barbarian Guard smiled as he quickly got away.

“We have something for you as well boy!” Herego laughed as he furnished a blue coat.

Handing it over Devon slipped it on. It was light and comfortable. Luxury blue silk and the Masonry logo in gold laced thread on it’s chest. Devon ran his hands up and down and felt the craftsmanship required for a piece like this.

“That is the Masonry: School of Battle coat and arms, it is woven from fine silks and even been underlaced with spider silk from the great Margi Spider that inhabit the Green Reaches of Kesh. We feel it might be beneficial as it provides quite a bit of protection for light combat. Which reminds me!” Herego laughed again.

He was enjoying this far too much for Devon’s liking. The guards furnished a wooden crate from their wagon, opening it up they motioned Devon over to them. Inside were three swords.

“Gladius, the simple child of the short word and longsword. Shortsword, the standard issue for much of the Kesh military. Falchion, child of the machete and sword,” one of the guards spoke in monotone.

“As a new coming student of Masonry we outfit you with the everyday gear and a sword. You will be expected to treat this sword as your extension. Live and breath by its guidance. I am not sure what your fighting style will surface as but each has advantages and disadvantages. Choose wisely and we will alter your education to that field of battle unless we decide another form of style would be more suitable to you,” Herego said was a loud laugh.

Devon could care less what sword he was given so simply reached for the first one. Gladius. The guards rushed him and quickly outfit him with a scabbard and slipped the blade inside. It was heavy, more so than Devon expected. He grabbed it’s hilt with purpose as he felt it sway on his hip. All our lives we are taught that we are to become the military we are to warship our kings with complete and utter devotion. So Devon expected this would be his outcome someday, just didn’t know it was so soon.

Finally he felt the “festivities” of this event were over as the guards ushered him onto a horse. Devon got on reluctantly as they were soon galloping off to the village of Jonril. There was murmuring between Herego and the two guards but Devon was mostly left out of the loop. He began to dwell in his thoughts of what was to come, all these strangers, a supposed barbarian at the school, what an outcast he will be.

“Wait a minute, do you have housing or where will I be staying?” Devon asked with curiosity.

“My apologies Devon, there are no dwellings offered by the school. You will be living with your grandfather Epson. He and your father made agreements via mail that you will be homed there,” Herego smiled.

“I’ve never met my grandfather, why isn’t he in Khattara?” Devon asked mystified.

“Perhaps that would be a good icebreaker!” Herego chimed.

Devon struggled with this turn of events. The evening was approaching them and the four of them began to slow down and head into a small clump of trees, a miniature forest of sorts. We stopped at a large oak tree as the guards began to unpack their wagon.

“We will camp here for the evening, guards would you like to set up camp and began making our dinner. I am going to take Devon out back for a quick-starter in combat!” Herego said as he grabbed the large sword hanging from his waist.

He motioned for Devon to follow him as they found a small clearing and he pulled out his massive blade. It was short, but wide. His little dwarven legs would only allow so much. Devon fumbled for his blade as he raised it, trying to bear its weight in his hands when suddenly his gloves began to glow a faint light and it felt lighter.

“What do you know of combat boy?” Herego said as he began to rock his body back and forth.

“Absolutely nothing, I thought dwarves had battle axes or something?” Devon said in confusion.

“Ah, a common stereotype. There are many of us that prefer the axe, that is true, but this here is an extra wide Falchion. They are fantastic for bludgeoning enemies, blocking heavy strikes, and dealing quite a bit of damage. Some of us dwarves like the simplicity and one handedness that is provided by the use of a blade. I happen to be one of them, I also serve as the schools guard and I need quick access to a weapon for anyone that might want to harm us! Now enough of that, I am going to show you the basics of combat!” Herego laughed as he rushed Devon.

Holding up his sword Devon quickly blocked the dwarves’ attack and felt his sword crumble under its force clanking it to the ground before him.

“Ah, yes, the Falchion is a heavy and hard to block weapon. That is where we will begin. You must understand the weapons used against you and mange them appropriately. You will learn this in school I promise. To pull off a successful block you need to stand strong, legs spread and elbows high. Then you will push into the attacker with your strength to compensate for their quick strikes. Try it now!”

Herego lifted his blade and quickly slammed it down at Devon. He put one foot in front of the other and quickly held true, pushing himself into the attacker. A large clank disrupted the quiet forest.

“Excellent job! Now we will work on those more soon, I need to teach you the three basic sword techniques. The jab, where you jab the edge of the sword into you enemies, the slice, where you swipe your sword towards you enemy, and the strike where you bring your sword down upon your enemy. If we are lucky we can teach you the fourth technique, which is the circular strike, twisting your body around to defend against an ambush. Try the jab, I assure you this armor is strong and will not be penetrated easily. For sake of training, try not to put your whole strength into it. Haha!”

Devon smiled to himself at a little itching of a dark thought, I could slice him right here and get out of all this madness. But he ignored that thought and jabbed Herego straight into the chest. The armor accepted the blade with hesitation as it punctured it slightly. Underneath was a coil of metal that held the blade from entering his chest.

“Very good, will need to get that fixed later but excellent work!”

Devon knew what was next and immediately swiped his blade through the air at him for the slicing technique. It bounced off the armor harmlessly but scratches appeared where it had hit. Devon leapt back and pulled the sword above his head and brought it down on the dwarf. He blocked it with his blade with ease but smiled the entire time.

As to show off and the pleasure he had of being able to strike something down he attempted the circle strike. Twisting the blade around him like a rope he spun effortlessly defending ever side of him. The dwarf laughed the entire time and looked at the approaching guard.

“Dinner is ready sir!” He spoke.

“Good good! We will do more later, soon, I am so excited to have you join us this evening Devon! I assure you when Haragog is done with you, you will be a weirder of the sword in no time!” Herego chuckled hitting Devon on his shoulder as he strode towards the smoke of the campfire.

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