THE BURNING CANDLE
The village of the dog tribe bowed in revered silence in the presence of the king’s entourage. Olleton the Wise strolled among them acknowledging their homage with a curt nod, flanked on either side by two of his Blue River Guardsmen.
The chief of the tribe stepped forth and bowed again.
“I am, Thorrin, leader of the Dog clan, my king.”
Olleton waved the man to his feet with a faint grin.
“Good day to you, Thorrin. I come seeking a friend of mine of about sixty years with great strength. Do you know of whom I speak?”
“He is in that house by the potter’s shop but he is resting, recovering.”
“Recovering from what?” asked the king.
“He was pulling the plough as he always does in the field then collapsed. The physician has seen him yesterday and believes it to be his heart.”
“I will see him,” stated the king and trudged past him to the home mentioned.
Olleton knocked on the door and waited before knocking again.
The door swung open to an annoyed middle aged woman. Her expression promptly changed to one of bewilderment at the sight of the king.
“My king,” she said with bowed head.
“I would like to see your husband, good woman.”
“I am sorry, my king but he is unwell.”
“Let them come, Serema,” croaked a tired voice.
She stepped aside revealing a mighty framed man lying on a bed in the corner of the room. Olleton looked on the ashen grey visage forlornly. Sweat rolled from his face into his shoulder long white locks. His mail hauberk, helm and double edged axe were draped on a stand beside his bed.
All at once a smile appeared on his face and the fevered man sat up.
“Olleton, I thought I had recognized your voice, how do you fare?”
“Better than you it would seem, my friend.”
“And what occasions the visit, not that you are unwelcome?”
“Only to see you,” Olleton replied averting his eyes to the floor.
“No there is another reason.”
“Do you know that we are at war with the Vindavians?”
“Aye, most of our young men have already been taken,” said the older man.
“They have pushed their way into the capital. The southern king has a bodyguard as tall as a man and a half and in his arrogance the king of the south men has given us a chance at a contest of champions. He boasts loudly that no Nusallean could ever best him. I told him that I knew of one so, I have come but I see you are in ill health.”
With a wave of his calloused hand, the older man wiped the sweat from his brow and looked toward his mail and axe.
“No! You remember what the physician said, you are not to exert yourself!” shrieked Serema.
Her husband drew the woman close and kissed her forehead tenderly.
“There is nowhere I would sooner spend my final days with, but what am I to do?” he said softly. “If I do not despatch this oaf then all of Nusalle will either be slaughtered or enslaved. I may or may not recover so I must leave now.” He said releasing her and putting on his hauberk.
“I may have a year at best.” he added. “Perhaps longer if I take my rest, but put yourself in my place Serema; would it be right to live out my days here in safety while our nation is threatened? … slowly withering away over the years?”
Putting his helmet on last he took up his axe and looked on his wife, staring back at him through tear streaked eyes.
“Do not ask me to go with you.” She said looking away. “I could not bear to see you cut down.”
“I know,” he said sombrely, stepping outside with his king.
“Oddly enough, if you win people will chant your name but not know who you are,” Commented the king.
“Aye,” guffawed the older man. “…the Forgotten One.”
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