Chapter 10: Disscussions and Telling Off's
"They're in the clearing right in front of us," Trotes told him, "If you can keep some of them alive, we can get information from them, who they work for and little important stuff like that."
Salte nodded and rode quietly back to the main group. Shortly, Simon, Claude, and Price dismounted and walked up to Trotes.
"Alive?" Price wispered. Trotes nodded. They immediately scampered into the woods, and Trotes simply waited and listened, and it wasn't long before he heard the cries of bewilderment that he knew would momentarily resound in the night. Trotes smiled to himself and rode up to where a trail led into the woods. Salte and the rest followed him to the clearing that Trotes had mentioned, and there Simon, Price and Claude had taken three of the five men and the other two had run away leaving their companions to their fate. Trotes rode into he camp site rather triumphantly smiling at the thieves.
"Nice to have friends you can count on," he said to the theives, who were astonished at the strength of their three captors. Trotes looked at Simon. "Bring that one here," Trotes said to him. Simon brought the man over to Trotes, who jumped off of his horse and squinted some because he jarred his arm a little.
"Who are you?" Trotes asked him plainly.
The man did not answer. Trotes looked into the bandit's eyes intently.
"I chose you because I thought you might be smarter than the others," he said to him, "If you want to live another day, tell us what we want to know."
One of the others being held spoke up, "We are just a small group trying to make a living." Trotes scoffed.
"I thought as much," Trotes replied, "But there are so many ways to make a living. Why would you resort to theivery, espcially when the only travelers alowed on this road for now is for the army."
"We didn't know," he said.
"So what did you do for the past four weeks," Trotes asked. The men remained silent. "You're up to something," Trotes continued, "You're up to something that could affect us and So tell me what it is. There's no reason for you to be keeping an eye on the road right now because no one is traveling on it. And you do know because Surel closed it down until word comes back from me or someone else. It's posted all over the place and it's been carried by many messengers. And you've surely seen or heard of the two or three hundred men that have passed by and asked what was the matter." The men looked fearfully at Trotes. "You tried to divert us when we passed through the town," Trotes continued, "Why would a thief be diverting travelers to make a living? Unless someone was paying them to do it." The men could not conceal their guilt with their faces. "Who?" Trotes asked, "Elestor?"
The man who had spoke before shook his head slightly. "Elestor's dead," he said, "The second in command paid us to do it. He said he wanted you dead or out of the way, divert you so he can hurry up."
"To where?" Trotes asked. The man gulped.
"To meet up with that Alastor, guy," the man said.
"Where?" Trotes asked.
"In Clasea," he replied. Trotes turned his head away.
"Why are they meeting there?" Trotes asked.
"How would I know that?" the man said, "We're just quick help. We'd never join them. All I know now I heard in passing." Trotes eyed the man carefully weighing weather he should just go ahead and kill him or trust him and let him go. All three thieves watched in fear.
Just then Simon turned around to catch the other two thieves trying to sneak behind them.
"And what are you doing?" Simon asked them.
Trotes unsheathed his sword and Salte walked over to them.
"Stay where you are if you want to live," Trotes told them. The Trotes turned to the other three bandits. "Well, they came back after all," he said. Then he walked up to the one that spoke and put his sword to the man's neck. "Are you telling me the truth?" he said to him.
"Yes, sir," the man said.
"Then leave here," Trotes told him, "don't get yourself killed tonight." The three Outcastes let the men go and all five ran into the woods. Trotes turned and walked to his horse without saying a word.
Simon and Price walked over to the girls, while Claude, Salte and Samantha walked over to Trotes.
Samantha spoke first, "So it is Alastor." Trotes did not answer, he simply unsaddled his horse as best he could with one arm. Samantha walked over and helped him. Trotes let her help as he put it on the ground. Then he led his horse to a tree to tie it up.
"What's goin going on?" Claude asked Samantha.
Samantha answered, "The number of gangs has increased over the past six years. Trotes and my father gathered information on their movements and locations, all of which looked organized, so they figured the increase was because of a network infrastructure being built up in our own country." Trotes walked back up.
"It would be easy to do," Trotes said, "Not difficult to do in this country."
Samantha nodded. "My father is councerned about an inssurgency."
Salte looked at Trotes. "What's your concern?"
"Alastor," he replied, "When I looked at what was going on and the dissappearance of Alastor, I figured he must be up to something. He's a mercenary, Hardly law abiding citzens, and they have the ability to do this kind of organization."
Samantha added, "He's the only one with that kind of charisma."
Trotes walked away. "Surel is making a mistake," he said walking to his horse.
"We'll beat Surel to Calton Capital," Samantha said, "Maybe we can warn him."
"Let's get a fire started," Salte said. The men and Samantha gathered some wood and built a fire in the middle of the clearing. They sat for a while letting the quite thoughtfullness of the night seep into their minds. The night was slightly chilly, the first chilly night for a while. Hope and Charity soon fell asleep and the others waited in silence for someone to speak. The fire flickered when wind from the cool mountaintops rushed over it. Every once in a while one of them would get up to get more wood.
Finally, Samantha spoke. "So," she said to Claude and the rest, "You are all from the South."
They looked at each other then at her.
"Yes," Salte said.
"What did you have to do with the Great Light?" she asked.
Salte chuckled slightly.
"Complex question," he said, "But right now the answer you seek is nothing."
"What do you mean complex question?" she asked.
"It's a long story," Simon replied.
"Surel's little expedition is responsible for that," Price added. Samantha looked into the fire.
"What was it?" she asked. The Outcastes looked at each other. Trotes listened intently.
"Long story," Claude said repeating their desire not to talk about it.
"We've got time," Trotes replied. Salte sighed and stirred the fire for a moment.
"Our history is buried and hidden from yours," Salte told them, "before the North even thought to record history, we had made more than our fair share of it. That light, ironically, is a part of our past."
"Do tell," Trotes insisted.
"I just thought you were banished from our lands for some evil," Samantha.
"That's what most people believe," Trotes added, "I must admit I'm curious myself. You actually come from the South?"
"Yes," Salte replied, "But we haven't lived in the actual Southlands for some time." Then Salte gave them a brief overhaul of the story of Hirst and the wars in the South. Samantha, Trotes, Fareh and the girls, who had been talking to Seliah up to that point, now listened attentively to what Salte told them. He did not narrat in the normal way of the Southlander culture. The story was simply told to them. When he came to the part of Mica, Titus and Silas, Trotes became especially intersted. Salte told how they let them go even though they knew it could be disastrous, and how the great light came shortly after. He took the story all the way up until they met with the three hundred men.
When Salte finished the story, silence ensued. And then Salte spoke again. "And that's the main portion of it. This whole land is in danger," Salte said.
Simon spoke, "But Hirst said he wasn't going to do anything now."
"Nothing drastic," Salte replied, "But I'm sure he'll have his hand in as many things as he can to get things in order for himself."
"So even though you know he's strong," Trotes replied, "You're still going to try to do something." Salte nodded his head. "Not a good situation," Trotes said, "Mighty noble of you though. You're going to help the people who denied you."
"So you believe us?" Price said to Trotes.
"Why not?" Trotes replied, "I've seen you, and you don't seem like the kind to make things up. And everyone saw the light, even if it wasn't as visible as what you saw. I have no reason to doubt you."
"So that's your past," Fareh commented, "How sad. Some many people think you committed some crime against us."
"No," Salte replied, "Not directly anyway. We don't hold the discrimination against anyone. We came out partially to see if we could do anything. We have decided to spend our last years looking for Hirst. We decided that its better to die than to stand by let our atrocities turn the world into chaos."
"What can you do?" Trotes asked. Salte chuckled.
"Not sure," Salte said, "but I'd rather do something. Who knows."
"Hmph," Trotes said lying down, "You can always tell everyone to be nice." Everyone was silent again until Simon got up slowly and looked around at the woods around him. His eyes were black as they could possibly be.
"What is it?" Price asked. Trotes lifted himself up.
"Something's in the woods," Simon replied.
"What?" Salte asked. Price and Claude looked around while Fareh huddled the girls close to her.
"You come too," Fareh said to Seliah. Seliah moved over and got in with the girls.
"Simon?" Price asked said.
"I . . . don't know," Simon replied looking around, "It's been coming in and out for some time actually. But I never said anything because I didn't know." Salte grabbed his spear. Price and Claude got up with their pairs of daggar and looked around. Trotes was still seated, but waited for anything to happen. "It's not anything I've ever known," Simon.
"Could it be Hirst?" Price asked.
Trotes muttured under his breath, "Interesting." Simon had unsheathed his sword by now, but he then lowered it.
"It's gone," Simon said.
"You've known about it," Price said.
"I'm sorry," Simon replied, "I've never been outside of our valley. I though maybe it was just something in this land that I've never known. It wasn't until tonight . . . that I noticed malice in it."
Price looked at Salte. "You think he's keeping an eye on us?" he asked Salte. Salte shook his head. And looked at Trotes.
"Who do people think is responsible for the great light?" Salte asked.
"Right now? You." Trotes replied, "Things settled down when our star gazers offered explinations, but Surel had already sent the investigation anyway."
"Will Surel listen to us when we get into the Capital?" Salte asked.
Trotes chuckled looking at the fire. "Surel listens to no one except the people who agree with him," Trotes replied, "Except General Syrathis. Surel listens to him because he must."
Salte looked at Trotes for a moment. "You two are friends," he said to him. Trotes lifted just his eyes to look a Salte and then turned in his spot to lie back down. Trotes squirmed a little to get comfortable and then relaxed.
"Don't wake me if something happens," Trotes said. Samantha shook her head and then laid down herself.
"I'll stay up," Simon told Salte.
"You sure," Salte replied. Simon nodded his head. Salte then lied down and settled in his place. And everyone followed in suite, except Seliah, who waited for when she thought everyone else was asleep. She knew the sound well. She could hear the breathing of each person. Each breathing pattern became rythmic and more relaxed. She listened closer as each became softer and easier. She listened with her eyes facing upward, as the easiness of sleep slowly covered the party like a blanket under the moon, which was just above them. Seliah wondered what the sky looked like. She tried to imagine what it was to see and wondered what it ment to distinguish between a rock and a tree without having to feel or listen, to know without having to come into contact with something. She wondered what it was like to enjoy something from afar. Silence was unknown to her. Her hearing was so keen that even the smallest breath or change in the air pushed and pricked her ears allowing her to moniter her environment, an in that way, she knew more than people who see.
Eventually, she heard everything in its complete sleepy calm and then softly arose. Simon looked over to her. She simply sat facing toward the fire waiting for Simon to see her.
"Can't sleep?" Simon asked.
"Can you teach me to see?" she asked.
Simon did not know how to answer at first. But he decided to be honest.
"No," he said to her. Seliah bowed her head. She did not know what else to say that was all she wanted to know. "I can teach you other things though," Simon told her, "maybe."
"Like what?" Seliah asked.
"I can teach you . . .," Simon hesitated to find the right word. After some thought he completed the thought, " . . . to believe."
"But not to see," Seliah replied. Simon's heart sunk.
"I'm sorry," Simon replied.
"It's okay," Seliah said with tears now sparkling in the moonlight. When she felt the tears on her eyes she cried all the more, but she tried to hold it in. Simon did not know what else to do at this moment, so he let her alone and continued to be attentive for the rest of the night thinking about how he could help Seliah and how it is that he knew what was when he could neither see nor hear.
He got up and walked over to Seliah, who heard every footstep. He reached down and picked her up and brought her to his spot and set her on his knees.
"The first step is knowing your doubt," he said to her, "Do you doubt?"
She nodded her head.
"We all do," Simon replied, "What you have to do is learn to controll them. There are times to doubt and times not to. And you must learn the difference." Seliah nodded. "I can't teach you to see physically," Simon told her, "But I can teach you to know. And that's a different kind of sight, a spiritual sight. A better sight."
"Teach me to know?" Seliah said.
"Yes," Simon replied, "And it starts with belief."
"Belief," Seliah repeated.
"It's a secret that all people know," Simon continued, "But only a Soul Knight has mastered."
"Know?" Seliah asked.
Simon picked her up and set her back in her place.
"Go to sleep now," he told her, "We've got a long day."
Simon kissed her on the head.
"Don't leave," Seliah said to him. Simon waited for a moment.
"Alright," Simon replied, "I'll sit right here."
Seliah smiled and then curled up to go to sleep.
Trotes was awake staring at the moon as it moved across the sky. He had heard the conversation in bits and pieces, but he was deep in his own thought and his own plans. The night passed swiftly for those who were asleep, and the days for them to travel were many. But on the front, the situation for Calton had grown critical very quickly, and the great General Syrathis was about to meet the new uncanny General of Coastshire in a vital battle.