To The Caino Desert

“So, you're a fugitive then?” King Munito asked. He had invited Rhazin to talk in his tent earlier. It was extremely simple, with the only thing considered expensive was the chest containing the kings armor and sword. Rhazin had seen the blade and armor briefly, but he recognived Antiumite armor anyday. For some reason, it had no weight in it's pure form. Owners of the substance had to tie it down or onto something. Another oddity was its durability. A blade made from it would never dull. Armor made from it would never dent. The only thing that damaged Antiumite was extreme heat. Though, one would have to apply a lot of heat over a long time.

“Yes, High- er... Munito,” Rhazin said, sipping the tea he had been given. This man had turned out to be an oddity. He forced the truth out of Rhazin with his own mystics, only to swear himself to secrecy. It was like he had a need to know everything about everyone. Rhazin had ended up telling the HighKing everything.

“Well, don't worry about Jeroha. He's one tough man,” the HighKing said, sipping on his own tea.

“You know my master..?” Rhazin asked, then felt stupid for saying so. Everyone knew that the HighKing and FirstBorn were the one's who fought alongside Jeroha toward the beginnig of the Great War.

“Yes, though not as well as people think,” the HighKing replied. For some reason he seemed down. The night had come and gone, leaving Rhazin and the HighKing, along with the other men, asleep arounf the campfire. The women had put Valeria to bed in one of their tents and covered up the men. At the moment, those women and Valeria slept. They had taken up watch while the others slept so it was only natural. As for Valeria, she had ate over half the stew and passed out. Poor girl.

“I met him frequently on the battle field, only to respect him more and more,” the HighKing continued, “I also began to sense a darkness in him. Yet, along with the darkness I felt, was a great goodness. It was if they fought each other constantly. In every man there is a darkness, but never have I seen a struggle such as that.” Rhazin went cold. He was describing a Void users inner conflict perfectly. “In you it is similar, though your light far out shines your dark.”

Rhazin was stunned. How could this man sense the Darkness? Rhazin knew his own like the back of his hand and he had seen it growing, though never was he able to see his light. Rhazin's master said only he could sense his own Darkness and eventually his Light. What kind of man could sense another's Darkness and Light, though?

“Tha- Thanks!” Rhazin said as cheerfully as he could. It was worse than taboo to reveal the Darkness in every Void user. Doing so would only get most of the Void users killed out of fear.

“You're hiding something, aren't you?” the HighKing asked, his curiosity blooming once more. Rhazin couldn't tell the man that though. HighKing or not, it was not something he would surrender.

“I would rather not say.”

“Ok, I have a deal then,” the HighKing said, smiling like he had been the night before, “If I beat you in the Great Race, you have to tell me!”

“Wha...What!?” Rhazin exclaimed. The HIGHKING was competing in the Great Race? Potentially the deadliest trial in all of Mounseik? “You can't be se... serious, HighKing?”

“What, a King can't race?”

“It's not that, it's just that... the danger...”

“Hahaha, I am stronger than you think,” the HighKing said, laughing loudly, “Plus I've won several times in the past.” He had what!?

“Um.... well... Don't you have obligations as king?” Rhazin did not want to face this man in the race. It would be nearly impossible to win. Not to mention, if he attacked the HighKing then he would be seen as a public enemy to not only Faerein, but Murdos as well. Also, how would Murdos herself react?

“Eh, Murdos takes care of all that.”

“But...” Rhazin stopped talking, as he had just noticed an oportunity. “HighKing...” the HighKing looked at him sternly. “I mean, Munito.”

“That's better, friend.”

“What is the race like?” Rhazin asked. The more he knew about the Race, the more he could prepare. It was already looking dim, since all he had heard about the event was that most contestants either give up or die.

“Well, it's actually a partner race,” the HighKing said, “and don't ask to be my partner. I've already got Darana.” He laughed at that. The woman had looked dangerous, but could she really be such an asset that the HighKing would use her? And since when was the Great Race a partner event?

“I thought it was to test a man's endurance and strength, not a team's?” Rhazin asked. Was this the same Great Race?

“Yes, though many kings had an issue with that, so my wife decided to make this years Race a two person event. And both winners get the prize.” The HighKing picked up his knife and his needle. He had been sewing – Sewing, of all things! - for the last hour. Rhazin knew the man was odd, but he would have never thought the HighKing sewed. The dress he was sewing from his cape was coming out nicely, though. Valeria would love it.

“How long does it take, though?” Rhazin asked, curious to find out as much as he could.

“Well,” the HighKing said, cutting a string, “I shouldn't be saying anything, but I guess one could finish it in two or three months.” Rhazin's heart sank. His master might not last that long.

“Can you tell me anything else?” Rhazin asked.

“I'm afraid not,” the HighKing said, laughing, “Well, not without Edenia getting mad.”

“Edenia?”

“Murdos' first name, though if you want to live, never call her that,” he replied. Holding up the dress, the HighKing assessed his creation. It was a beautiful red dress with small frills and a high collar. On the collar was the same seal as the one the HighKing's guard had. Why had he added that?

“Just by looking, I'm guessing you wondering why I would put my sigil on the girl's dress?” Rhazin nodded, to which the HighKing nodded back. “No one will try to harm you with this. The clothes I gave you have the sigil as well.”

“Thank you, Hi- um.. Munito.” Rhazin said. He still didn't like calling the man Munito. It seemed disrespectful.

“Ok, then. We are headed the same way, would you like to travel with us?” the HighKing asked while standing. He stretched and headed for the tent flap. Just before heading outside, he looked to Rhazin. “I'll let you think on it.”

After the HighKing left, Rhazin slouched and cradled his head in his hands. Either this day was the luckiest or the worst of his life. He had gotten a free pass to Murdos city, met the HighKing Munito, ate and drank some of the finest food in Mounseik, and had had someone to vent to. It had been even better the night before. Between the wine and the HighKing's stories, he had forgotten about his plight. It was probably the best night Rhazin had had since him and Monstroth had went hunting all those years ago.

Shaking his head, Rhazin cursed himself. This man had probably just read his mind and used his naivety to make him feel safe so the HighKing could learn about his competition. It made sense. No one would question or decline a request from the HighKing. The smartest thing would be to kill the HighKing and his guard. But how might one go about killing-

Rhazin cut himself with the HighKings dagger, making a deep wound in his forearm. The Darkness fell back and Rhazin once again controlled his own thoughts. Luckily, the Darkness hadn't had time to invade fully and act on those thoughts.

Rhazin grabbed a piece of torn cloth and wrapped his arm up. Luckily it was red, so he wouldn't have to explain the wound, if he was lucky. He stood up and walked to the tent flap, guzzling down the last of his tea. It really was a good tea. He would miss drinking it.

“Valeria!” he called once he was out of the tent. She stood a little ways off, strutting around in her dress. Just with one look, Rhazin could tell she missed wearing one.

“Yes?” Valeria said, looking toward Rhazin. The HighKing and his guards were discussing something a ways off. Rhazin tried not to watch them. Instead, he walked over to Valeria.

“We are going to head out soon, ok?” Rhazin said softly, trying not to show any of the pain he felt.

“But I though we were gonna be walking with Darana and the others?” The poor girl looked like she had just been told she couldn't have a toy.

“No, we are going by ourselves,” Rhazin said, ignoring Valeria's persuasive stare. Scarred Father, those eyes made Rhazin almost bend and accept the HighKing's offer. “But! We will see them again, I promise.”

She seemed satisfied and ran over to the HighKing's group, who had now dispersed to break down tent apparently. Valeria talked with the two women, whom Rhazin still had trouble putting names to. He knew one to be Darana, but the other he had forgotten.

“Rhazin!” the HighKing called as he walked toward Rhazin, “Did I offend you somehow?”

Rhazin felt horrid. He didn't know how to explain without revealing his Darkness. “Well... you see, I just think that I shouldn't take advantage of you, HighKin- er, I mean Munito.”

The HighKing laughed vigorously before replying. “Well, you aren't taking advantage of me, but I won't force you. Just know that you are welcome to find me anytime and join up. Though, in the Race I won't be as kind.” He winked at the last bit. Rhazin's Darkness creeped up at that. He suppressed it, realizing even more how important it was that he separate from the HighKing.

“Well, I thank you for everything, Munito.”

“Your welcome, friend!” the HighKing said before slapping Rhazin on the back. Being a small man, Rhazin stumbled forward a little bit.

Rhazin bid farewell to the rest of the men and women before heading off with Valeria. They would probably beat the HighKing to the city, though Rhazin just wanted distance between himself and the HighKing. He couldn't let the Darkness do something bad again. It had almost taken over back there. If it had taken over....

Rhazin shrugged the thought off and took Valeria's hand after resisting her attempts. He might as well try and enjoy the rest of his trip.

-

Several days later, Rhazin and Valeria came to the edge of a desert. They had been warned the day before in small town, so Rhazin had stocked up on water and other supplies. After they passed the desert, from what he knew, it was a straight shot to Murdos city.

Though, Rhazin had started to worry for Valeria. What would he do with her? He couldn't have her follow him in the Race, she would be killed for sure, and he couldn't just leave her in some random place. That would be putting her in possible danger.

Rhazin sighed and looked at the girl, who held a small stuffed rabbit. Rhazin had gotten it the day after they left the HighKing's camp. He figured she needed to have something to play with, or else she would just get bored and complain. Rhazin knew she was goodmannered, but all kids he had seen, no matter how well-disciplined, would complain of boredom after a while. Who could blame them anyway? When Rhazin was in prison, he had almost screamed due to having nothing to do. It was maddening.

“Hey, Rhazin!” Valeria said excitedly, “I just thought of a name for him!” She held up her stuffed rabbit, prompting Rhazin to look toward her.

“Oh, and what name have you given it?” Rhazin asked, trying to be as interested as Monstroth pretended to be around kids.

“Drakmor!”

Rhazin laughed. It meant Bringer of Hope in the Prophet's tongue. She must have heard it from one of the female guards. “It has a nice ring, Val.” She smiled and squeezed Drakmor tightly. It was good to see her so energetic. She would need that energy once they really entered the Caino Desert.

The End

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