Valcarion: Sacrifices is an enthralling adventure from the start as readers are cast into the expansive fantasy world of Frais. A tale of great battles, loyalty, and sacrifice is told through the eyes of Valcarion Theoron, an orphan from the age of three, who is well acquainted with the deep-cutting consequences of the war that has been ravaging his world. Until the age of sixteen, however, Valcarion was seen by the world around him as unimportant; just another body on a quickly changing planet. As the story unfolds, Valcarion’s past troubles and worries are swiftly forgotten when he finds a mysterious sword: one of the legendary Blades of Seraphic.  From the moment Valcarion touches the decorated hilt, he is forever changed.  In a world full of lore and mystery, Valcarion will need something more than luck to rise to the challenges he faces as a young wielder.  Unknown to Valcarion, the only other dangerously powerful blade is held by none other than the malevolent king, Grostine, who leads a battle hardened army in a campaign of darkness.  

 

As war begins to affect Valcarion on an increasingly personal level by claiming his remaining family and threatening his freedom, the young hero has his dedication and strength of character tested at every turn. Though loyal friends join his cause along the way, in the end it is Valcarion who has to decide just how much he is truly willing to sacrifice.

 

Character Guide 

 

Valcarion Theoron – Valcarion is a fun loving teenage orphan with wavy brown hair and dark brown eyes. A mighty warrior in the making, Valcarion is loyal, perceptive, and daring; sometimes to a fault. Though Valcarion’s adaptability allows him to observe and understand versatile environments in which he finds himself, he does have his shortcomings. Valcarion’s headstrong approach and his quick wit are limited by his dislike for tedious details and his tendency to focus only on the big picture. Though he would often deny it, Valcarion has a very tender side that is still struggling past the memories of an orphan boy. Valcarion’s independent and logical attitude is not quick to submit to authority, though once he gains respect for an individual, his trust for that person soon follows. Valcarion is an unusually skilled fighter both physically and mentally, though he often fails to recognize his full potential. The only family he has left is Renther, his older brother and best friend. 

 

Renther Theoron – Valcarion’s nineteen-year-old brother, Renther, is his only remaining tie to the Theoron family. Renther’s strong character and his dedication to honor and duty make him a guiding force in Valcarion’s life. Though he is naturally lighthearted and personable, Renther exhibits an unwavering personality and feels he has to protect Valcarion, even if it means temporary sacrifice in order to make a better future. Renther has blond hair and bright blue eyes. Unlike Valcarion, he has a clear memory of his father and mother and strives to find out exactly what happened to them on the day that his family was ruthlessly torn apart.

 

Rezrior – There is much more to this old man than a passing glance would reveal. Rezrior has no known family and a history that is a mystery to all. His white hair and beard give him the appearance of a man in his eighties though he is much more spry and agile than most middle-aged men. Rezrior mentors several people, including Gonzalis and Valcarion, and shares vital information with the enemies of Vilantese. Rezrior possesses a strange, deep knowledge of the Blades of Seraphic.

 

Gonzalis – Gonzalis is the masculine soldier every man hopes to be. As the dutiful, devoted, warm, and charismatic leader of The Mide, Gonzalis has strong military skills and an even stronger will. Gonzalis has dark skin and a strong accent, as is common in Rantorians. An ex-prisoner of the Vilantian Army, Gonzalis gives his maximum effort each day in an attempt to make certain that no human ever has to endure what he endured. Gonzalis' first loyalty is to his soldiers, who follow their leader due to his strong conviction and his impetuous style of leadership. Gonzalis is always ready for a fight and sometimes goes looking for one, and though he has the wellbeing of his followers in mind, his passionate emotions and hot head tend to land him in unstable situations. This works both for and against Gonzalis, though when put to the test, he has every soldier’s trust and unending loyalty.

 

Bria Antion – Bria is the daughter of the king of Arvis, whether she likes it or not. Though winsome and cheerful at first glance, she has a great deal of internalized frustration and insecurity.  After a experiencing a restrictive life as the only daughter to the king of Arvis, Bria longs to meet new people and see new places. Bria’s fiery and stubborn personality is well balanced when coupled with her kind and generous heart; all traits which make her specifically attractive to Valcarion. When she meets Valcarion, Bria knows she’s met a life long friend. Her witty and challenging personality are readily accepted by Valcarion. A brunette with bright hazel eyes, she is easily the prettiest friend Valcarion has ever had.  

   

Captain Tiften Sligh – As the Captain of an elite Arvanian Dragon Platoon, Tiften Sligh is a logical, responsible, and dependable friend and leader.  A good friend to Renther Theoron, Tiften Sligh makes up for his quiet and introspective tendencies by being a loyal and supportive companion. As a military leader, Tiften is an authoritative figure who thrives on the respect he has earned through his by-the-book approach. Tiften thrives on details and prefers to have a strategy in place for every fight in which he participates. He makes plans and calculates consequences before attacking - no exceptions. Because of Tiften’s often internalized thoughts and perfectionism, he and Gonzalis are as alike as North and South, yet they bring balance to one another and make a formidable team. Tiften has a brother, a wife, and three children and prefers to keep his family as far away from his work as possible.




 

CHAPTER 1

LIFE CHANGES

 

Location: Bendrick, Arvis

 

VALCARION TIGHTENED the already tight grip he had on the hilt of the sword strapped to his back.  His hands were sweating and his heart was pounding.  His stomach felt as though it had been filled with sand, and yet he felt ready for what he knew was coming. The soldiers behind him were waiting for him to make a move.  The enemy boats were getting closer to the land beneath Valcarion’s position.  It was time.  Valcarion was about to say the words that would start a new war.  Several months ago he was just an orphan boy living in Bendrick.  Now he was challenging the world’s finest army.  The night that changed his life had been a cold one.  Valcarion remembered it well.

 

      “Goodbye, Renther! I'll be back in the morning with a better catch than you've ever gotten!” Valcarion yelled behind him as he strode down a well-known dirt road leading to the forest from the Bendrick Orphanage.

      “Alright, little brother, just leave something for the rest of us to hunt!”  Valcarion heard his brother call from the doorway of the old building.  Valcarion shook his head in response as he pushed a low-hanging branch away and entered thick woods.  The long limbs of trees blocked out much of the evening sun and caused it to feel almost as if night had come over the forest.

     “Well, let’s take a vote on which weapon each of us gets,” a familiar voice asserted. 

Grett, who was well-known as Valcarion’s rival, had been one of the six chosen for the nightly hunting trip.

      “This could be a long night,” Valcarion thought to himself as he gave Grett a sideways glance.  Thirteen years ago, when Valcarion and his brother had been taken in by the orphanage, the headmaster seemed like an old man to the young brothers.  Now age had truly caught up with the kindly leader in the dead of winter.  In an attempt to provide much needed food, six boys were sent hunting each night.  Valcarion enjoyed hunting, especially when his rotation happened to place him and his brother in the same group.  This night, however, Renther was to stay at the orphanage while Valcarion went hunting with a group that was far from his favorite.

      “Or...first to the weapons’ shed gets first pick!”  As Grett said this, he pushed Valcarion and two others aside and sprinted ahead.  Valcarion, being the farthest back, tripped over the edge of the wooden bridge they had been crossing.  Valcarion fell through the thin layer of ice that lay over the creek and felt a chilling sensation rush through his entire body.  He could see the other boys running towards the weapons’ shed as he slowly rose to his feet.  As Valcarion shook himself off, he felt a sharp pang in his left ankle. He frowned and cautiously walked out of the creek to the shed.

      “Looks like all the bows and swords are taken; just a dagger’s left,” Grett said smugly as he held out an old, rusty dagger toValcarion.

      “Idiot,” Valcarion muttered as he smacked the dagger out of Grett’s hand.

      “You sprained my ankle and got me all wet.  I'm going to be freezing once the sun goes down!” Valcarion said as he lifted the dagger from the ground and looked into the sky.  The sun had already begun to set.  Valcarion thought of turning back and leaving the hunting to the others, but quickly decided against it.  Grett would like that too much.  This was one of the instances in which Valcarion had to remind himself; he wasn’t a quitter.

      “Maybe it's best if we split up, three and three,” said Ref, who was generally quiet and shy.  He was one of the only people Valcarion could call a friend at the orphanage.  Other than his brother, Valcarion had never become very close with anyone else, even though several girls had boldly given him more attention than the average boy received.

      “Sounds like a good idea,” Valcarion said.

      “We might all be dead by morning if we stick with Grett. Ref and Snoggle can come with me.”

      “Fine, we'll see you women later,” Grett said over his shoulder as he and his two friends walked deeper into the forest.

      “Here,” Ref said as he held out his bow to Valcarion.

      “You're a better shot than me anyway,”

      “Thanks Ref, but you can hold onto it.  Let’s get going; we can't let Grett outdo us,” Valcarion joked.  He had been hunting for several years and was almost as capable of killing with a dagger as with a bow.  He wanted to get moving to dry off and assess how badly injured his ankle really was.

      By two o'clock in the morning Valcarion was regretting every step forward.  His ankle had become considerably worse, and the group had only one rabbit to show for their efforts.

      “I think I'll head back.  You can go on; I'm just slowing you down,” Valcarion said as he paused to rest on a tree.

      “You sure?” asked Snoggle as he walked back to where Valcarion rested.  Snoggle, as he was called, was the sort of boy that was not quite anyone’s friend, but neither was anyone’s enemy. He was easy to get along with and seemed to agree with everyone.

      “Yeah, I'll see if I can get anything on the way back,” Valcarion stated as he walked in the direction they had come from.  He could hear the distant roar of the ocean, which told him that he was about a mile from the orphanage.

      As Valcarion walked stiffly back, his attention was attracted to a scampering noise ahead of him.  He paused, narrowing his eyes and gazing forward, and saw a squirrel on the trunk of a large tree.  Valcarion thought it was strange that a squirrel would be out at night, but decided to take advantage of the situation and not return empty-handed.  With the shortage of food, there wasn’t a child at the orphanage who would pass up a plate of squirrel meat.  It was actually quite palatable compared to some of the things Valcarion had eaten when times were particularly bad.  He moved slowly and silently, approaching the unsuspecting squirrel with his dagger at ready position.  Ordinarily, Valcarion would have taken a chance at throwing the dagger since his skills were well developed, but this blade wasn't very balanced, so he chose another method.  The moon shone brightly through the trees and made it quite easy for Valcarion to see his target.  Valcarion struck the squirrel swiftly with one hard lunge.  To his surprise, the dagger went through not only the squirrel, but also the tree that held the now lifeless prey.  Valcarion left the motionless squirrel pinned to the wood and stepped back for another look.  The tree was healthy and not rotted at all.

      “How did my dagger go through it so easily?” Valcarion muttered to himself.

      He took the dead squirrel and the dagger off the tree and put them into his old, brown satchel.  He then stepped back several feet and kicked the tree with all his might.  Putting all of his weight on his left ankle was painful, but what he found was completely worth the discomfort.

      Valcarion pulled his foot out of the tree and gazed into the hole it had made.  Inside was a sort of air bubble.  In the center was what looked like a faintly glowing blue rod.  Valcarion broke off a branch and tried to pry the rod out of the gaping hole.  The branch broke almost instantly upon touching the mysterious item.

      Valcarion unbuckled a small pocket on his satchel and took out a candle and flint.  He lit the wick, casting long shadows along the ground, and held the candle up to the tree.

      For a short moment, Valcarion couldn't tell what it was.  When his eyes had adjusted to the light, he could see that it was not a glowing rod, but a beautiful blue sword with wood grown partly around the hilt.  Its sheath was wedged next to it.  Valcarion reached in and with a few hard yanks brought out the sheath.  It was a fairly lightweight material, but it felt as strong as metal.  It had complex decorations on it like he had never seen before.  The base material was made of bright silver, which shone brilliantly in the mixture of blue moonlight and yellow flickering candlelight.  Valcarion could see his own brown eyes looking back at him from the reflection created upon the shiny metal.  His brown hair was speckled with snow.  The decorations, which resembled icicles, were composed of a dark blue metal.

     Valcarion put the sheath on the ground next to him and reached in for the sword, which he grabbed by its hilt.  He had to give the sword several pulls before dislodging it from the wood which had encased it.  As Valcarion drew the sword out of the tree, his numb fingers lost their grip, and the weapon fell to the ground.  When he brought the candle closer to the ground to see where it had fallen, Valcarion noticed that the sword had landed on a rock.  The rock, which was near the size of a man’s head, had been cut in half like a piece of bread.  Valcarion could now see that the handle of the sword was made of the same materials and colors as the sheath.  The blade was double-sided and slightly curved.

      Slowly lifting the sword by the hilt, Valcarion wondered what sort of weapon lay in his freezing hands.  He decided not to try touching the blade before he had tested it on something else.

      “Let’s see...” Valcarion muttered as he gently swung the blade at a small tree several feet away.  The tree fell down without hesitation; it had been cut clean through.

      “This has to be kept safe,” Valcarion thought to himself as he sheathed the sword.  He had almost expected the sheath to be cut in half, but it held tight.  Ideas began to flood into Valcarion’s head.  The possible uses of a weapon such as this were fantastic and endless.

      Valcarion slipped the sword through the straps of his satchel and headed off.  As he walked on, Valcarion came to the creek which he had been pushed into.  The section he was facing was considerably wider than where he had crossed earlier.  He suddenly noticed a dry feeling in his throat, the sort that is felt only when it has been cold and one hasn't had any liquid for some time.  After trying to break through the ice with his dagger, Valcarion decided to try the sword, which he had been reluctant to use at the thought of damaging it or losing it in the water.

      “It cut through that like butter,” Valcarion said to himself after slicing a small, clean-cut hole through the four-inch thick ice.  The sword he held was unlike anything he had ever witnessed.  After getting his drink, Valcarion proceeded forward on the ice.

      Half way across the frozen creek, Valcarion lost his balance as his sprained foot slipped on the ice.  He closed his eyes and braced himself for a hard landing, but it never came.  Instead, Valcarion heard a cracking noise similar to the one that is heard when an ice cube is dropped into a cup of hot water.  Valcarion felt a strange, cold feeling under both of his arms.  As he slowly opened his eyes, he saw that two pillars of ice had risen out of the river and were acting as supports for his body by bracing themselves under each of his arms.

      “Wha...what was that?  I've got to get back.  Renther will know what to do,”Valcarion thought to himself as he quickened his pace.  He looked over his shoulder to see the two pillars melt back into water and splash down over the ice.  As Valcarion walked through the old, rusty gates of Bendrick Orphanage, the feeble old night watchman yelled down to him from his small tower.

      “Back so soon, Master Valcarion?” Valcarion looked up.

      “I sprained my ankle pretty badly...but I brought this,” Valcarion said as he reached into his backpack and pulled out the stiff, half-frozen squirrel.  The watchman laughed.

      “Well, you go get some rest, and don't tell anyone what type of meat it is in the soup tomorrow,” the watchman joked as Valcarion walked on towards the main entrance of the old stone building.

      Climbing the steps to his room, Valcarion was surprised to see that the light in his room was still lit.  He creaked open his door to see his brother stuffing a bag with clothing and a few other supplies.

      “What are you doing, Renther? Why the bag?” Renther gave a small jump as he heard his brother’s voice.

      “Back so soon?” Renther asked, somewhat uneasily.

      “I think I sprained my ankle.  Why are you packing?” Valcarion asked nervously.  Renther sighed.

      “I'm leaving, Valcarion.  I'm nineteen now.  That's old enough to leave this place and old enough to join the army.  They're recruiting soldiers for one of the dragon platoons at Syra.  I’m sure you’ve heard of the recent call to arms…Arvis is mounting an offensive on the Vilantian coast within several months.”

      “The army?!  What are you talking about?” Valcarion exclaimed as he walked closer and shut the door behind him.

      “Valcarion, you can't expect me to live here forever.  The army pays well and once I get enough money I'll come back for you and-”

      “Once you get enough money?  You know why the army pays well?  Because of the short life expectancy of our troops against the Vilantians.  It's suicide!”  There was a short yet uneasy pause before Renther spoke.

      “You're right, Valc.  I'd be lying if I told you that there was no possibility of dying.  But if men don't fight and die for this country, there won't be anything for the ones who survive to come back to.  Everyone has known that we can’t avoid war with Vilantese forever.  If you ask me, we’ve already waited too long.  It’s been twenty- three years since Grostine started all of this.  That king virtually controls the entire world, all the trade routes, most of the countries.  Dad was willing to fight and die to try and stop it; I can’t do any less.”  Time seemed to stand still for Valcarion.  He couldn't think straight, but he knew that there was no arguing with Renther’s explanation.

     Valcarion only vaguely remembered his parents.  His father seemed to always be wearing polished charcoal and silver-colored Arvanian armor, and his mother had spent every night singing the two young brothers to sleep.  Those memories had abruptly ended when Valcarion was three years old.  Renther, who had been seven at the time, told Valcarion of how his father had gone to fight and never returned.

      “So...you weren't going to say goodbye?”  Valcarion asked as he felt his eyes moisten.

      “I was; I just thought it would be best to avoid this by packing while you were gone and then leaving in the morning,” Renther said as he put the last of his belongings into his bag.

      “Then...then I'll come with you!  If action needs to be taken then let me contribute also,” Valcarion exclaimed.  The thought excited him.  He could go with his brother; it would be a great adventure.  Valcarion worried about his brother going to war alone, but his own personal safety wasn’t an issue.

      “I can fight!  You've seen how good I am with a bow!  We can lie about my age.”

      “Valc, the army needs men - you know, boys over nineteen?  It wouldn’t end well.  You're still a boy to them.  Your time will come, Valcarion...sooner than you might think.  You'll have to keep those bow skills sharp by hunting.  Your job is as important as mine.  If all the fifteen year-olds-”

      “Six-teen,” Valcarion corrected.  Renther smiled.

      “...six-teen year-olds died of starvation or went to war now, who would reinforce us and end this war?”

      Renther always knew how to put a smile on Valcarion's face.  But Valcarion didn't want to talk about his brother leaving anymore.  Renther had been the one who raised Valcarion.  He had looked out for him and always had his younger brother’s best interest in mind.  Ever since their parents on the small island of Diften had sent their children to the mainland as a final act of protection, Renther had been the one Valcarion turned to for help.  Valcarion never regretted having his brother to answer to, but still wondered what had become of his mother.  Unlike his father, his mother’s body was never recovered from Diften.

      “You're right, as always...” Valcarion admitted.  There was a short moment of silence before Valcarion broke it.

      “Oh, look!  This is somewhat odd, but here… consider this a gift for your battles; I think it'll help,” Valcarion said as he took the sword off of his back and unsheathed it.  Renther’s blue eyes widened as he ran a hand through his short blond hair.

      “That's quite a sword!”  Renther marveled. “Where'd you get it?”

      “Well,” Valcarion started, “On the way to the weapons’ shed, Grett pushed me off the bridge over Bendrick Creek, and I fell in and sprained my ankle.  I decided to head back early because it was starting to swell.  On my way, I saw a squirrel and decided I should bring back something, so I pinned it to the tree.  My dagger went through the squirrel and deep into the tree,” Renther was listening intently.

      “Go on.”

      “So I kicked the tree, and it gave way, like a rotted tree would, but it wasn't rotten.  Inside of it, in a sort of air bubble, was this...” Valcarion said as he held up the sword.

      “I think it's a special sword - really special.  You're going to think I'm crazy, but...it, it can cut through...anything.”  Valcarion paused, wondering if he should go on.  Renther’s eyes showed no signs of doubt.

      “I think it gives you...powers,” Valcarion said awkwardly.

      “So you mean it's really...sharp?” Renther questioned.

      “Sharp enough to cut through a rock,” Valcarion said as he raised his eyebrows and looked at Renther.

      “And after I found it, I was walking across the ice when my sprained foot slipped - but I didn't fall.  The ice, it caught me.  Two pillars came up and supported me under both my arms, so I couldn't fall.”  As Valcarion said this he held out the sword to his brother.

      “Here, you try it.  It will make me feel better to know that you have something like this with you.  Maybe you can learn more about it from someone you meet in the military.  It’s just… unreal.”

 Renther closed his hand around the hilt and a split second later threw the sword to the ground.

      “Ah! What's that thing have on it?!”  Both brothers looked down to see inch long spikes sinking back into thin slits on the handle.

      “Look!”  Valcarion said excitedly.

      “See how the floor's all cut up?  It barely touched the floor!  I've never seen it do that spike thing though.  Here,” Valcarion said as he brought a wet cloth from a basin next to his bed.

      “You should wash that cut off.”

      “Thanks,” Renther said as he grimaced and wiped his hand.

      “So that sword, it let you hold it?”

      “It did, though I don't know if it will now,” Valcarion said while he slowly bent down and closed his hand around the handle of the sword.  He looked up at Renther and smiled after several seconds of holding the smooth hilt tightly.

      “Watch this,” Valcarion lifted the sword and gently sliced through the iron basin as if it were a ripe fruit.

      “There's still water in that, dimwit!”  Renther exclaimed as water came pouring out of the basin.

      “Ah!” Valcarion exclaimed, as the water crept across the floor towards him.  As soon as Valcarion cried out, the water that had been pouring out suddenly turned to a slab of ice.

      “See that?! See that?!” Valcarion questioned as he pointed at the basin with his sword.

      “Yes, I see it!  I'm not blind!  Shush, everyone’s asleep!”

      “I told you; it’s as if I can control the water.  I wanted it to stop, and just as the thought entered my mind, it did!  And earlier, I didn't want to fall; I wanted to catch myself, and I did - I mean, the water did.”  Renther rose from the chair he had been sitting in.

      “Wait a second,” Renther said while wringing out the cloth he had been holding and wrapping it around his hand.  “I think I've heard of something like this before.  It was a long time ago…Let's go check out the library in town.  I'll leave a note for the headmaster.  Bring the sword.”

      As they walked through the kitchen towards the back door, Valcarion took the squirrel out of his bag and tossed it onto the counter.

      While walking through the quiet town under the rising sun, Valcarion couldn't help thinking of how this peaceful place could soon be just another country under the rule of Grostine.  Vilantese hadn’t attacked Arvis since Valcarion was a boy, but all-out war was coming.  And what could he do about it?  Even with these new developments in his life, Valcarion didn't know how to use these 'powers' and as for the sword, it seemed no one else could use it.  His brother was right- he was just a boy to the army; they wouldn't accept him.  And on top of that, his brother was leaving.

      By the time Valcarion finished these thoughts, the pair had reached the old brick library.

      “Good thing it's always left opened,” Renther said, “I guess they figured out that no one would really wants to steal a bunch of books.”

      “Oh...yeah,” Valcarion said as he snapped out of his thoughts.

      “So what are we looking for?”

      “Well, start by getting all the history and weaponry books you can find.  Then we'll look through them together for something called 'Blades of Seraphic'.”  The two brothers went through the library, gathering book after book and throwing them into an ever-growing pile.  After what seemed like hours of leafing through pages, Renther found what he was looking for.

      “Here it is! I’ve got it!”  Valcarion put down his book and walked to Renther’s side.

      “What does it say?” Valcarion asked almost solemnly.

      “Well...” Renther started, “It says here that these two swords used to be passed down from generation to generation.  I remember hearing this from two old men back on Diften.  Many fights and even wars have been waged over these blades, though other reasons were given to cover up the true reason for the wars – like a conspiracy.  The reason being that they have strange abilities.  Legend has it that these swords were left behind by two 'heaven dwellers' who were sent here at the beginning of time to guard a place where no man is ever to go.  The place was destroyed some years later, and these swords were left behind, eventually being named the 'Blades of Seraphic.’  They have the ability to cut through any earthly object besides their sheaths and the other blade.  Each sword gives its wielder a specific ability.  The owner of the red sword gains control over fire, the owner of the blue sword controls water.  Now here's the crucial part: only once the previous owner has 'left this earth' can someone else use the weapon and thus inherit the abilities.  The first person to touch it after the last owner is gone is the next wielder.  You said it had an air bubble around it?  Well, if it could cut through anything, then that would explain it.  Any time the tree grew around the sword, the wood would be destroyed, making an air bubble,” Renther finished with a long breath.

      “Valc,” Renther said as he turned the book towards his brother, revealing an aged picture that depicted what was undoubtedly the sword Valcarion had found.

      “I don't know how you got into this one, but you are a wielder of a sword many people would kill to have and that hasn't been seen for almost three hundred years.  And that begs the question, where's the other one?”  Renther stroked his chin as he thought. There was a long pause before Valcarion spoke.

      “I don't know, but if the previous owner is dead, how can I learn to use this?” Valcarion asked as he drew the sword off of his back. “I wish you could have found it; think of all you could do with it.  It could be the turning point of the war.”

      “Valc, it's yours for a reason.  If Grett hadn't sprained your ankle, you wouldn't have left the hunting party; if you hadn't left the hunting party, you wouldn't have seen the squirrel; and if you hadn't decided to kill the squirrel, you wouldn't have found the sword.  That's just too much for me to call 'luck.’  This is big - really big.  But something’s telling me you still need to lay low, be patient.  Now let's head back to the orphanage and put it somewhere safe.”

      “You're right; thanks.”

      Renther shut the book he had been holding, and the brothers began walking back through the town, which had begun to come alive.  Shopkeepers were opening their doors and setting out merchandise.  Men and women were setting up stands and unloading wagons of food.  Valcarion’s eyes met a stack of papers being sold that read, “Arvis stands alone in ninth century of Frais.”  The muscles in Valcarion’s body tensed for several moments.  Although his country was large and powerful, it stood alone in the war.  Arvis standing alone meant that Arvanian soldiers stood alone – and that Renther stood alone.

      “I'll meet you back at the orphanage in a few minutes.  I have to take care of something,” Renther said.

      “Alright, see you later,” Valcarion answered as the two parted ways.  Renther returned half an hour later and shoved something into his closet before Valcarion could get a glimpse of the object.  He shot his brother a questioning smile.

      “You'll find out soon enough,” Renther assured him.

      Valcarion helped Renther finish packing and tried desperately to mentally prepare to send him off.  A few minutes later the pair walked into the street together.

      “I guess this is goodbye,” Valcarion said as he looked stiffly at his brother, who was wearing his cleanest dirty clothes.  The early morning sun’s rays felt warm against his cheeks after the cold night before, but his body was still tense.

      “Here's some money for your trip.  You take care of yourself,” Valcarion said, his throat becoming unbearably tighter with every word.

      “I'll try,” Renther said with a strained laugh.  A foggy appearance had come over his usually bright eyes.

      “You keep that money; you'll need it when you come join me.  This is only goodbye for now, I promise.  The moment I have the money I'll send for you.  You sit tight here and take good care of yourself and of that sword.  I'll be on the watch for anyone who might know more about it. Valc,” he paused, “there’s something else.  In the old times, enemies would kill a young wielder as soon as possible.  I don’t understand it, but somehow that’s when they're most vulnerable.  You'll only grow stronger every day that you have that sword.  I don't think anyone will know that you have it, but keep it to yourself for now.  You know I would stay and protect you if I could, but the military doesn’t wait.  They have specific schedules that need to be followed and - ”

      “I know, and I will,” Valcarion said, gripping his brother tight in a hug.

      “I had better be going so I don't miss the carriage.  Goodbye, Valcarion.  We’ll see each other again soon.”

      Saying goodbye seemed as hard for Valcarion as watching his father’s body being pulled from the water had been, or hoping for days and weeks that his mother would show up around the next corner.  All the emotions that he always kept so deep were creeping back quickly.  Too quickly.

      And so, Valcarion the boy was alone as he watched his best friend walk off into the morning haze.

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