Date: June 10, 155 R.E.
Place: Water Plains, Rogard
Ever since he was born, Edgar Winefellow lived with his grandparents Richard and Dian Winefellow. They tended to a small vegetable garden in the Village of Life. He had been told that his mother died in childbirth and that no one knew who was his father. All his life he accepted that and didn’t want to know anymore—until now.
At the ripe age of fifteen, Edgar began asking questions about his mother. The answers were always positive and Edgar did not trust them. What were her negative points? Whenever he asked his grandparents that, they changed the subject quickly.
One evening, before the sun went down, he asked why nobody knew his father’s identity. Was his mother a prostitute? His grandmother’s lips quivered. His grandfather took a tree branch to Edgar’s backside. That was the first and last time he asked that question.
The mid-afternoon sun scorched the Water Plains with its rays. Edgar had finished all of his house chores and was now walking to Swan Pond with his best friend, Pryant Stronghold.
Stronghold was the perfect surname for Pryant. He was a big, tall, muscular boy with a physical appearance that beguiled his age. He was one year older than Edgar, but looked as if he was in his twenties. In the field, he could lift as many sacks of grain as the adult men.
In contrast, Edgar was short and scrawny; he looked, but didn’t act, his age. His skin was golden-brown and his jet-black hair shone in the sunlight. Edgar was a simple boy who wore simple clothes: a white tunic and green work pants.
Pryant had a bald head, skin darkened from work in the fields, and was a physical juggernaut who hardly ever wore a shirt. He felt proud of his impressive physique and felt he had to show it to the world. He wore blue shorts that displayed his massive calf muscles. Both teenagers wore black hiking boots with brass trims.
Pryant didn’t like to walk and talk, and Edgar didn’t enjoy talking to a wall, so he thought about the previous night. As he laid half asleep half awake in his bed, he overheard a heated conversation between his grandparents . . .
“We must tell him.” His grandmother’s shrill voice whined.
“No, we mustn’t.” His grandfather’s deep, strong voice set the law.
“He has to know. We might not always be here to tell him.” His grandmother spoke through tears.
“Fine.” His grandfather always gave in when she cried. “We’ll tell him tomorrow at dinner.”
What did they have to tell me that was so important? What secrets are they finally willing to share with me? As those thoughts floated in Edgar’s head, he felt sorrowful and halted his advance.
“Hey, Ed,” said Pryant as he stopped and turned towards his friend. “Are you okay?”
Edgar nodded. “Yeah, I’m okay.”
Pryant looked puzzled. “You don’t look okay. Is something troubling you?”
Edgar resumed his walk. “I don’t know, but it feels like I’m missing some important part of me. A very important part.”
“Like knowing your parents?”
“Yes, something like that.”
Pryant had nothing to say. He studied his friend and wondered if he could do anything about his discomfort. He gave up the attempt and kept his silence.
With that said, the two boys walked in muteness the rest to the way to the northwest edge of Swan Pond. They strolled up to the bank of the Pond and sat cross-legged. They began talking about how busy today was: Pryant about how many large bags of grain he lifted, and Edgar about his visit to his neighbor Kali’s house to read the ancient texts that were in his care. As they were losing themselves in their conversation, they failed to see a large beast stalking them in the setting evening sun.
Distracted for a moment by the sound of paws, Pryant turned and saw a creature ready to pounce on the two boys. He quickly stood up, ready to engage in battle.
“Get down, Edgar!” Pryant pushed Edgar into the water, almost drowning the smaller boy.
The beast knocked Pryant off his heels, sending him flying back a few feet. Pryant returned to his feet and moved into his battle position. Sweat dripped from his bronze body.
Edgar floated in the water. He stared at the beast. He recognized it. It had the head of an eagle, the body of a lion, the tail of a snake, and the wings of a hawk. It was called a griffin. Edgar had seen an illustration of one in the index of animals at Kali’s house earlier that day. They were known for being vicious fighters that battle to the death.
Edgar called to his friend as he floated. “Pryant! Fall back! It’s a griffin! It’ll kill you!”
Pryant turned to face Edgar and gave him a cocky wink. He again stared at the griffin. “That was nothing, you big ugly monster. Come on beastie, fight me!”
The griffin charged at Pryant with full speed. Pryant met its charge and gave it a left hook. Pryant swiftly wrapped his arm around the monster’s head, putting the griffin in a headlock, where he began pounding its head.
Edgar watched, his eyes wide, at how fearless his best friend was when the odds were against him. He was too stunned, not to mention fearful, to get out the water and assist him. It wouldn’t have mattered anyway; Pryant handled the battle by himself and did not need any help from Edgar.
“Get in,” said a stern voice from behind Winefellow.
Edgar turned around to see an old man with a thick, gray mustache and an equally thick gray beard on a boat with an extended hand. His sea green eyes were cold. “Get in,” the stranger repeated.
The man wore an over-sized brown robe. The robe’s hood only permitted you to identify his eye color, mustache, beard, and wrinkles. Edgar was horrified and tried to swim away, but found that his legs would not obey him.
Edgar could only find one excuse to deny the man’s request. “But my friend.”
“A king does not say ‘but.’ He needs not make excuses.”
“But I’m not a king.”
The man said nothing. He pointed to the sky with a wrinkled finger. Edgar looked up and saw hundreds of griffins flying in the brilliant sky in the direction of his home. Edgar was fearful for the safety his family and friends that dwell at the Village of Life. He spoke a silent prayer for the protection of his loved ones.
“I will not tell you again.” The man’s voice was agitated. “Get in, now!”
Edgar took the man’s hand and was pulled onto the boat. His garments were soaking wet, which made him feel uncomfortable. He sat on the boat shivering from being in the cold water so long. He looked at Pryant still fighting the griffin, and then he looked at the man.
“Just who are you?”
“Not now.” The man remained calm even in such a hectic environment. He was stoic in demeanor.
The stranger rolled up his sleeves to expose thin, skeletal arms. He extended a finger into the evening sky and aimed it at a flying griffin.
A ball of burning green flame exploded from his outstretched finger. It hit the target griffin in mid-flight, sending it tumbling down into the water, wailing in terror. The stranger repeated this action until he wavered on his feet. He plopped down on the boat. In the water surrounding them were the bodies of fifteen dead griffins. Edgar thought he heard him mumble, “This is futile.”
“Row, Edgar,” said the old stranger. His chest heaved in his robes.
“How do you know my name? What other magic can you do? You’re not a Wizard, are you?” Edgar’s words leapt from his tongue.
“Just row! No more questions. Just row.”
Winefellow’s shoulders drooped as grabbed hold of the oars. “Where are we going?”
“To Swan Town.”
Edgar began rowing, away from Pryant, away from his burning home. As he rowed he felt that he was not in control of his own body, as if some force expelled from the frail, old man propelled him to do the stranger’s will.
Copyright© A. Jarrell Hayes. All rights reserved.