Chapter Seven: A Stranger in the Dark

Jonrah was oblivious to his son's questions; still mesmorised by the symbols hidden in the trees, Jonrah tried to produce an explanation for the East's planned attack, but he found none.

Slowly, he brought himself to returning home with his son, who he only remembered when he looked around and saw him lying by a tree talking to himself about demons and how he would one day be a hero.

However, even as he took his son's hand, his mind was flooded by thoughts of attacks by foreign lands, devastating battles in which the king was slain and the kingdom burnt to the ground.

These dark thoughts continued until the pair had made it home, where Jodar proceeded to play with his rock as if nothing had happened.

Karlin had returned home, but was not downstairs, and so Jonrah sat silently, thinking deeply about the situation he found himself in and staring at his son and his toy, but letting his eyes glaze over to make him blind to all he saw.

Jonrah was the only person who knew the truth, and if he didn't try again to warn somebody, everybody would perish, and they'd have him to blame.

Reaching for a jacket, he found himself on his feet, eager to try once more and alert the authorities.

Before he knew what was happening, he had automatically headed out the door and into the centre of the city, where his seemingly seperate legs carried him not to the barracks of the Guard, but to the home of his friend.

Not Orlan this time, for he had been enough help already.

Instead, Jonrah found himself knocking on the door of Lorda, a member of the Guard, and his most trusted and dearest friend.

Although only twenty-seven years of age, he was an experienced fighter, and he had learned from the best. The best being Jonrah himself.

Although only nine years between them, Lorda had begun training at age nineteen, and had been trained by Jonrah the very year that he himself quit the Guard. Although he seldom believed that he wanted to be a part of the violence, he knew it was necessary for him to mentor new warriors every so often. Lorda had been his most successful student, and they had developed a fierce bond.

Lorda only took the night shift for the Guard, and due to his need for beauty sleep, he slept through most of his duty, preventing himself from becoming a nocturnal animal.

Without a word from either of them, Lorda opened the door, let Jonrah in and they both sat down next to a table holding cheese and crackers, which Jonrah - having missed both breakfast and now lunch - ravenously helped himself to.

After a short but in no way awkward silence, Lorda spoke.

'I was wondering when you'd come to visit.'

With a mounthful, Jonrah could barely be understood. He quickly swallowed, almost choking, and then answered.

'What do you mean?'

'I mean that Faldu told me all about your warning to the Guard. He kept stressing how insane it was.' At this point, Lorda intimidated Faldu's gruff voice. 'The East haven't attacked us in over one hundred years! Why would they start now?!' He smiled slightly, then returned to his own, smoother and softer voice, brushing a strand of silver hair from his face and rubbing his somewhat stubbled chin. 'He's right, you know. The East haven't attacked in more than a hundred years. But who's to say that they won't ever try?'

Feeling Lorda's faith in him rising, Jonrah fished the pieces of leather that he had found out of his pocket.

'Are these the markings?' Lorda asked as Jonrah placed them on the table. 'The lettering is definitely that of the East, but the symbol itself... I cannot be sure.'

'Orlan claimed that it was simply the Eastern Emblem.'

'Orlan is insane,' Lorda argued. 'He knows his stuff, but everybody can be wrong sometimes. I'm afraid I must disagree with him.'

'Well, what do you think it is?' Jonrah's hope was relighted, as now he hoped that the East were not marking them out for battle, and this was just a tragic misunderstanding. Some kid making a joke that had got the symbol wrong by mistake. Something ridiculous like that. They'd give him a hiding when they found him, but that would be the end of it.

Lorda had not answered his question, and instead took a piece of parchment from the table and a quill, and penned out the symbol in front of him, but with one additional line which joined the top left corner to the bottom left corner. As he saw it, Jonrah's memory clicked.

'That is the Eastern Emblem!' he declared excitedly. His joke theorem was becoming reality.

'It is. So what is the meaning of this symbol?' Lorda indicated the original leather, and Jonrah surrendered his joke theory.

Lorda seemed doubtful. 'It could be, but who would make such a twisted joke in this-'

He stopped talking abruptly, his gaze caught on something just beyond Jonrah.

Silence filled the room, and Jonrah dared not to look around, for fear of what he may see. Eventually, Lorda spoke.

'Don't act too quickly, but in the window behind you, there is a man.'

They both sat silently once more.

Jonrah was suddenly very afraid of this mystery man, but nevertheless, spun his head round to try to spot the stranger in the darkness outside.

As his head turned around, the man darted from the window, so that all Jonrah saw was a flailing black hood that followed the man's head.

Getting to his feet quickly, as did Lorda, they both ran to the door and flung it open, in the hope of spotting the spy running into the distance.

However, he was nowhere to be seen.

'What did he look like?' Jonrah asked.

'He was wearing a hood, probably a robe too. Black, and his face was hard to see, except for his mouth. Thin lips, bare.'

'Did you recognise him?' Jonrah queried.


The End

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