The Legend of David of Wolf

By: Dean Tersigni

A Story from "Legendworld"

© Copyright 2001-2004, Dean Tersigni. All rights reserved.


Chapter 1

His first memory was how much he wanted to become a knight. The knights, he thought, were true men. They were what he hoped and dreamed to one day become. David was his name, David Durand. He was rather scrawny for a fifteen year-old boy, and a foot shorter than his friends. His brown hair was always wild and in need of cutting, and his face was usually covered with dirt and mud. His knees were often scraped, and his bare feet were always callused.

A knight was what he wanted to be, but a dreamer is what he was. With just a glance into his wild brown eyes any man could tell you. They seemed to flicker with wanderlust. Adventure ran through his blood as a stream courses its way through a valley.

His father was a wanderer, a dreamer as well. David never really knew his father. It seemed the wandering in his father's blood was stronger then the love for his own son, and one-day he left, never to be seen again. David's mother rarely spoke about his father, but when she did, she would only say that he was a caring man, just not very responsible. Every boy who loses his father at a young age knows what David knew. Someone else must be your father. In David's case, he had many fathers, for every knight he saw he viewed as his father. They were giants to him. Strong as a full grown ox, and just as big, with their polished full plate armor and their broad swords taller than he was. They rode well-trained war-horses of the best pedigree, and some even had their own castles. A knight was what many boys wanted to become, but David knew he wanted it more than anyone else did.

David was far from a knight though. The typical knight stood about six feet tall weighing close to two hundred pounds. David was just barely over five feet, topping out at one hundred and ten. It would not have been so bad a few years ago, but David had just turned fifteen and he was nearing the end of his growth. Still though, he was smaller than even his younger friends. He had been raised working on his mother's farm and tending their small complement of animals, so he was by no means weak, but he was still always the runt. David was full of energy though, and as curious as a boy comes. Never doing his chores on time, he was always being caught in places he wasn't supposed to be. Many times, he wouldn't come back home until the sun had been down for hours. David loved nature and running through the woods, but he loved the Knighthood more.

'Knights' was the name of the game, and David was good at it. Wooden swordplay and fighting off the make-believed night dragons was how he spent much of his free time. When he played Knights, he truely saw himself as a knight. Not a pretend knight, but a real Knight. David could never sit still and he was always doing something. He sneaked out of his house on more than one occasion, and he was not afraid of anything. Well, nothing that a normal boy is afraid of. Most boys his age fear night dragons or raids from the weasel-like fretmus, but David's only fear was rejection. David sought the acceptance of the Knighthood so much that he had no idea what he would do if they wouldn't accept him. They had to accept him he thought, because he was perfect for the Knighthood. Perhaps a little small, but he was very courageous, and he always did the right thing, just like a knight was supposed to do. He had honor even at such a young age, and he knew how to fight too. He always got into some scrapes because of his size, but he never backed down, even against the largest of bullies.

Chapter 2

So, there he was at the age of fifteen, walking two-hundred miles to the Knight's recruiting center. He had chose to attempt to join the Order of the Lion, even though he preferred the Order of the Bear's fighting style more. However, he knew that because of his small size, he would have a better chance of getting into the Order of the Lion. You had to be a very large man to make it into the Order of the Bear. At this point it didn't matter to him really which Order he got into, just that he got into one. He was so happy that he was finally going to do what he had always dreamed of doing.

The sun was peeking out just over the horizon, and he squinted his eyes as he walked towards it. He had left earlier that morning, before the sun was even up. It was slowly getting warmer, but the new autumn winds kept a chill in the air. He thought back on that morning when he left. His mother was so proud of him. Going off to become a knight was showing that he was giving up his childlike ways, and becoming a man. Not everyone could become a knight however; in fact, most people are not even close to knight material. Yet his mother knew her son could do it. She had given him the typical kisses, and hugs, and wished him luck. David loved his mother very much and he wanted to make her happy, but he was becoming a knight for all his fathers who were knights. He sought their respect more than anyone else.

It took him several days of walking, but late one afternoon he finally saw the outskirts of the city of Fire Lake where he would live during his training for his squireship. He was amazed at the size of the place; it was nothing like his home village. Everywhere he looked were people, moving here and there, all doing something. Eventually, after several wrong turns, he found his way to the recruiting center. He looked up at it in awe. It was one of the largest buildings in the city. It had two enormous marble columns supporting its triangular roof. It was a wonder to look at, and he just stood there staring for a solid minute.

He eventually came to his bearings, slung his pack over his shoulder, and walked in. It was magnificent, just like he had imagined. The ceiling was very high, and there were large banners of the Knighthood on every wall. David looked through a large archway leading outside into a courtyard where he saw many people practicing combat techniques. He even saw a fully armored Knight of the Lion with the Lion Paw mark burned into his cheek. He was so stunned he didn't hear the recruiter calling to him. The last shout caught his attention and he hurried over to the man behind the counter.

"Are you a scribe?" the large man asked.
"No sir, I'm hear to be a Knight," David exclaimed, a big grin on his face.
The recruiter raised a heavy eyebrow and quickly looked him up and down, "Order of the Lion I assume?"
"That's right," David beamed.
"Right, well not everyone who tries will become a knight you know," the recruiter spoke as if David had already failed.
"I know sir, but I'm sure I'll make it."
David was very confidant even the recruiter noticed it, but he still didn't expect him to make it.
"Name?" The recruiter demanded, as if this boy was wasting his time.
"David Durand."
"Home town?"

For a good twenty minutes David was answering questions, and signing forms. He was so anxious to start his first lesson that he began to annoy some of the recruiters there. Regardless, he eventually found himself out in the courtyard surrounded many other boys around his age. He stood in the middle of the group, and he turned and eyed each of them carefully. They were all bigger than he was. All of them. He wasn't too discouraged by this though, he could whip plenty of boys that were bigger than him. He knew that it wasn't how big you were, it was how good you could fight. He just hoped the recruiters knew that.

All the boys there were growing restless, but they all grew quiet when the Knight walked in. He was a Knight of the Lion; it was obvious from his polished armor, his clean-shaven face, and the mark of the Lion Paw burned on his cheek.

"Attention!" The Knight boomed.
Some of the boys didn't know what to do, but David learned all this years ago. He quickly stood up straight, looked directly forward, and put his hands down to his sides. From the corner of his eye, he saw that there were a few boys looking around wondering what was going on. The boy next to him, much taller than David, but just as scrawny, was one of them.
"Like me," David whispered, "Stand straight, eyes forward, arms down." David spoke in the same militant way the Knight who told him six years ago did.
After the majority of the boys were at attention the Knight continued, "My name is Gregor. I am your trainer, your teacher, and your god! There are over sixty boys here. Only the bravest, strongest, and smartest of you will become squires. Look around because the faces you see are now your competition. You will be trained with many different weapons, you will be trained on how to work as a team, and if you do well, you can stay. If you do poorly, you will go home a go back to being a peasant. Are there any questions?"
Everyone stood silently. Gregor looked at each one. His face showed that he was not a man to trifle with.
"Good. Now most of you traveled a long way to get here, so find your way to the mess hall and get some supper. Then go to the barracks and sleep well, because you will be in a whole lot of pain tomorrow."

Chapter 3

The meal wasn't his mother's cooking, but David was famished, and he ate every gravy covered chunk of it. After supper, he went to the barracks, which was just a plain long room full of bunk beds. It was then that the bragging began. The loud mouths and the tough guys were showing off their muscles by picking fights with the smaller kids. David, knowing he would be one of their targets, tried to make himself disappear by lying quietly in bed. One boy named Serack, the loudest of them all, shoved him out of his bunk.

"Hey shorty, what are you doing here?" Serack taunted, "You look like a sissy magi's apprentice."
Serack was obviously a pretty-boy. Sure the girls found him dashing, but he wasn't very intelligent. David was used to the name-calling and didn't quite care, he picked up his blanket and sat back down in his bunk.
Serack didn't want anyone to think he wasn't tough, so he pushed David down again, but this time he gave him a good slap in the face.
David took the hit, but this time he wasn't about to let it continue. He knew this type of bully; they are nothing but talk. He knew that one well placed punch and he would be left alone for the rest of his training. He pretended as if the slap hurt him bad, although it wasn't much different than his mother's.
"Awww, did I hurt the poor apprentice?" Serack mocked in a pouting voice.
David made a quick grin, and threw his fist into Serack's stomach. The hit was very hard, and David knew Serack wasn't ready for it. Serack gasped for air but didn't fall. Instead, to David's dismay, he straightened out amazingly fast.
"What was that apprentice?" Serack growled. The taunting voice was now very mad. Serack, with the strength of a war-horse, took a full swinged punch at David catching him in the jaw. There was no pretending to be hurt this time, as David hit the floor with a thud. The blow blurred his vision, and the pain shot through his face. Serack wasn't yet satisfied as he gave David a good kick in the stomach, causing him to fall on his back.

David just lied there, his breathing heavy, gasping from the kick. He had never felt pain like this before. At least Serack was pleased with his bullying and left him alone for the rest of the night. After awhile David picked himself up and fell into the hard mattress. How he managed to fall asleep in that rough scratchy bed, he didn't know, but eventually he did.

It wasn't even light out when Gregor shouted the wake up call. David could still feel the pain in his stomach and jaw, and he knew the bruise must be visible. Gregor told them not to bother dressing, as they were all going to bathe and get their uniforms. They marched wearing only their undergarments to the large Fire Lake.

The reason the lake was called Fire Lake, David learned, was that it was created out of the eruption of a volcano. Unfortunately, it was not called Fire Lake because of the temperature of the water. The morning was rather brisk, and with it being autumn, the water was frigid. Through the shivering and the goose bumps, all the boys cleaned themselves and were presented with a recruitís uniform. Light brown in color, long sleeved shirt, and slacks. It wasn't very comfortable as it was made of a rough material, and David had trouble with his as even the smallest size was too big. Gregor wasn't to distraught by it saying only, "You'll grow into it."

With their new uniforms on, they walked back to the Recruiter's Hall. There they did their morning exercises, and Gregor read aloud from the Order of the Lion's Handbook. It contained information on what it meant to be a Knight of the Lion. David had already read it and he was familiar with every page in the book. From what true honor was, to what official documents were needed to declare war, he had it practically memorized.

Gregor was in his late thirties, and he had become great at his job. Aside from teaching combat techniques, he also was in charge of weeding out the weaknesses of the recruits and pointing out their faults so that they may fix them before they were kicked out because of them.

"You!" Gregor said, pointing a forceful finger to his first victim. The boy was obviously startled and he trembled a little under the forceful gaze of Gregor, "Why do you want to become a knight?"
"So I can slay dragons," the boy said ambitiously. David shook his head before the boy even finished.
"Wrong!" Gregor shouted. He then pointed to Serack, "You!"
"So women will throw themselves at me," Many of the boys laughed and Serack had a big grin on his face. When they saw the look Gregor gave to Serack, they immediately stopped.
"One more stupid remark like that, and you'll be walking home boy!" Gregor shouted. Serack did not test the threat.
"Pick me," David thought to himself, "I know the answer to this."
As if Gregor had read his mind, or just because David looked like someone who wouldn't know, Gregor pointed directly at David and said, "You!"
David stood up and proudly recited a portion of the Handbook that he had memorized years ago, "Sir, the purpose of a knight is to help those who cannot help themselves, to punish those who do wrong, and to be smart enough to judge correctly. I want to become a knight for that reason."
For a moment there was silence. Then Gregor asked, "What is your name boy?"
"David Durand, sir."
"Very well stated David."
David smiled and sat down.
"Did you boys hear that? That is what it means to be a knight! Not adventure, and certainly not women!" Gregor exclaimed, staring at Serack.
David glanced over at Serack. He was glaring back at David and his lips were silently cursing him.
"Terrific," David thought.

The day went on for what seemed like an eternity, push-ups, sit-ups, sword drills, combat tactics, it seemed it would never end. Gregor's words of yesterday held true, everyone was in pain. Even Serack, who David found out was the son of a local Knight, walked with a limp by the end of the day. His prestigious father must have taught him how to fight, because he was very good at it, but Serack defiantly did not possess the honor of a knight, just a bully.

That night in the barracks it was quieter than yesterday. Everyone was too tired and hurt from the long day to show off. Even David slept fairly well, although his bed was wet with urine, probably from Serack.

Time went on for many days; each day was like the last. Rigorous training, ten-mile hikes through the brush and hills, and constant exercises. Yet no matter how difficult the task, David always tried harder than everyone else did. Even in exercises that were based solely on strength, which he was bad at, he still tried, even though he knew he would lose. The exercises for becoming a squire were extremely difficult. They ranged from endurance, running, and swimming to wrestling and sword play. David was usually good at these, but when it came to the exercises where the boys had to work as a team, he had problems. David had always been a loner, and trying to work with several people that hated him, made things very difficult. To make matters worse, Serack seemed to always be on his team, but never bothered to help him. In one training session both were met in the end with complete humiliation.

The exercise was fairly simple, it was meant to teach trust, and group combat. Ten boys stood in a line shoulder-to-shoulder. They were all tied together at the leg, in David's case, his leg was tied to Serack's, giving him a very bad feeling about the exercise. Each boy was given a training sword, and all they had to do was run to the other side of the field, still tied together. To make matters a little more complicated, they would have to fend off ten other boys who were not tied together in order to make it to their goal. Gergor told them that they must protect their comrad's backs in order to survive. He told them that if one man died, they would all suffer, just like in war. Gregor sounded the start of the exercise by bellowing gruffly into the air. All the boys made a similar cry as they charged, all tied together, towards the unhindered defenders. They made it only a few feet before Serack purposely tripped David, causing him to fall face first into the ground. Serack hadn't really thought through the full effect of his actions. If he had, he would have realized what Gregor said was true, and the rope caused Serack to fall right back on David. Then in a rather humorous motion for anyone watching, each boy fell down much like a dog who runs to the end of his leash.

Gregor was furious. His shouts were loud, and angry, and he proceeded to reprimand the group as a whole instead of each individual. "The team is only as strong as the weakest member!" Gregor said. This wasn't the first time the recruits had heard this, but Serack of course, blamed David regardless.

Every night about three or four boys would be called into Gregor's quarters for an unknown conversation. When they came out they would pack up their things and walk out of the barracks without saying a word. The number of boys died down, until only about twenty remained. How, he didn't know, but David was still there.

It had been two weeks since he first came to the Recruiter's Hall; he hated almost every day of it. Always being picked on because of his size, getting bruises from Serack, and even more from the training. However, it was that morning when Gregor walked into the barracks, shouted his normal wake up call, and proceeded to tack a list of names onto the wall, that David's pain would finally stop.

"If your name is on this list," Gregor's commanding voice spoke up, "Then you are selected to join the Order of the Lion's Knighthood training as a squire. If your name is not on this list, then you need to go home." Gregor then left the barracks without saying another word.

David was terrified. What if his name wasn't on it? What would he do? His name had to be on it, it just had to. He sat in his bed as several boys ran up to the list to find their names. Some shouted, "YES!" Others only hung their heads and started packing. David watched as Serack walked up to the list confidently and smiled. He looked back towards David and gave him an unsettling grin.

David thought to himself, "If only I had that confidence."

One by one the boys approached the list, but David just stared at it. It was too far for him to read the names, but there were several scribbled down it. He was so deathly afraid to get close enough to read it. He tried to stand, but his legs didn't respond. Again he sat still. Finally, when everyone else had finished looking, David slowly walked up to the list. He held his eyes shut and then, very slowly, he opened them starting with the top of the list. He began scanning down until... There was his name, David Durand. He blinked his eyes and looked again, hoping he had read it right. It was his name. He just stared at it, running his eyes over the curves and lines of each letter. He wanted to shout, but his lips seemed glued shut. Finally, he was able to choke out some sound.

"I made it," his voice cracked. Then again only slightly louder, "I made it."

He jumped in the air, and laughed aloud. His joy just beamed out of him, and he ran outside and threw himself to his knees and shouted into the air, "I MADE IT!"

Chapter 4

It was a full week's march to the Order of the Lion's headquarters in the city of Tarrin. Before they left, David sent a letter to his mother through a courier. In the letter, he wrote that he had become a squire, and that he was going to live in Tarrin for the next couple of years. He knew his mother would be very proud of him.

That day Gregor led the fifteen new squires on a long march to Tarrin. It was a fairly simple march, as the roads were well patrolled by Knights. David met many Knights of both the Order of the Bear and the Order of the Lion on the course of the march. One of the Knights of the Bear was very talkative, and it seemed a small band of fretmus had been spotted by him a few days earlier, and he was tracking them.

On the fourth night of the march, while the new squires slept, something rather eventful happened. During the night David was awoken by screams, and loud shouts. He looked around the camp site, and through the light of the smoldering campfire, he saw several small shapes running about the site. He grabbed his knife from his pack and leaped to his feet. They were fretmus alright, the thieving vermin.

Fretmus stand only about three to four feet tall and are known to rob travelers in the night. They are for the most part cowards, but they have been known to organize groups where they can be quite deadly to the unprepared traveler.

David looked around, many of his fellow recruits were now awake, but still rather confused about what to do. The fretmus were running in all directions and most of them had stolen equipment from the recruits. From the flickering fire light, David saw the knight from the day before, standing tall on his war-horse he swung his sword cutting several of fretmus down. The battle cries were getting louder now, and Gregor was making use of his broadsword on a fretmus' shoulder. Through the shadows David saw a recruit running into the forest being chased by two fretmus. Each was armed with a crude, but still very lethal weapon. David chased after, hoping to save his fellow recruit. Several branches scraped his arms, face, and legs as he leaped into the pitch black woods. His feet were used to going barefoot, but still were getting cut from the fallen evergreen branches and rocks. Ahead of him he saw the dark shadows two fretmus standing above his fallen comrade. They were jumping up and down with glee.

Silently, but quite deadly, David shoved his knife into the back of one of the fretmus' neck, his club fell to the ground. He then grabbed the arm of the other, and using a technique taught to him by Gregor, disarmed the fretmus. When the rusty blade hit the ground, the fretmus was already safely hidden in the forest.

"Quick little buggers," David murmured. He then ran over to the fallen recruit.

Even though it was quite dark, the waxing moon gave enough light for David to recognize the other boy. It was Serack. He lay there quite still, unconscious, but still alive. David looked him over, blood was dripping from his head into the leaves of the forest floor. It looked like he had been bashed pretty hard. His leg carried a deep slit in it as well. David tapped his face and tried to rouse him. Serack gave only a low grunt, yet didn't move.

"Great, now I get to carry to sorry butt back to camp."

David took Serack's arm, and heaved the limp body over his shoulder.

"You've been eating too many rocks," David grunted as he strained to drag the body. The way back to camp was rather tiresome.

The next morning David slept late. The camp was still in an uproar about the attack, and they weren't going to do much traveling until they took an inventory on what had been stolen. The Knight who began the assault in the night was still there, he was waiting for reinforcements from his brothers, so to hunt the remaining fretmus down. When David did awake, it was from Gregor himself.

"Hey David," Gregor lightly kicked him in the side.
David gave a startled jump, and quickly armed himself with his knife.
"Good reflexes boy, but you can put it away for now."
David put the knife back in its sheath, feeling a little embarrassed at almost cutting his superior.
"Serack wants to talk to you."
"He's alive?"
"Yeah, he's too stubborn to die."

David smiled, and got up. He found his way over to Serack's bed and saw him there bandaged up quite nicely. Serack looked up at him.
"Gregor tells me I have you to thank for my life."
"Oh, well it was nothing really."
"Yeah well, don't expect me to be your slave or anything, just cuz you saved me."
"Wouldn't dream of it."
"Good," Serack was about to say something that was obviously hard for him to do, "I just want to say..." Serack looked away and then back to David. "Thanks."
"Right," David grinned.
The two boys nodded to each other, and nothing more. David understood. That's just how Serack was.

Chapter 5

When they finally reached Tarrin, David was again in awe. The city was massive, and there were thousands of people all around him. The group made their way through the peasantís area into the heart of the city. The granite walls that surrounded it were at least twenty feet high and the area they guarded was larger than his entire hometown.

The troop walked up to one of the larger buildings. Two marble lions, ten feet tall, were on either side of the entrance. On the way in David saw a man that looked almost like a cat. He stood almost seven feet tall, and was covered in striped fur, David stopped marching and just gawked. The catman noticed his stares and bared his teeth as he passed by. David's fascination turned to fear. He was then pushed from behind by another squire to keep moving. As he continued walking up the steps to the door, he kept turning his head to look back at the cat beast. He had heard people speak of the catman race before, but it wasn't until now that he had actually seen one.

"If I ever have to fight one, they would destroy me," David shuddered.

They made their way inside the building and towards the back into a room. There, Gregor introduced a new Knight as the squire's leader. David looked at him and felt fear run through his blood. It was a catman.

The catman's name was Kalbin and he was a very intimidating man. His teeth were razor sharp, and his tan and black spotted fur made him even more dangerous looking. It was he who was going to teach David how to be a Knight.

David's fear for catmen was by no means unwarranted. The race of catmen were among the most ferocious and deadly in the art of combat then any other non-magical being. David watched in training exercises as a bare-handed catman would constantly defeat sword wielding squires. It was the way of catmen not to use weapons very often. Their hands were more like paws, and they didn't have very useful fingers. They did however, have two inch razor sharp claws which they wielded batter than many of a human's weapons.

It wasn't long though, when David stopped being afraid of catmen, and started respecting them. Although he found their fighting style was different and much more fierce than others, they were mortals just like he. It was when he saw one have his leg broken and his bone pierce through his fur, that he knew they weren't that scary after all.

Winter was well under way and the training of outdoors was now all done inside. The classroom teachings were much longer now and it seemed being a knight in the Order of the Lion included massive studying. David was never one for book learning, and he certainly didn't like sitting in a classroom for ten hours a day. When the squires were let out of the classroom at the end of the day, most went to the barracks where it was warm. David, however, would run outside into the snow and enjoy the last few minutes of daylight before having to report back to the barracks for the night. He hated it. He needed more freedom. He had to get outside and enjoy the wilderness, whether it was freezing or not, he loved the outdoors. This excessive studying was testing his discipline as a squire.

In the classrooms, David learned about large-scale assaults, and huge wars. David never really liked the killing side of battle. Even, when he killed the fretmus several weeks ago he felt remorse. He knew that if you wanted to live then you sometimes had to kill, but death on the levels that his teachers were talking about was practically evil. "Righteous Warfare" they called it. Massive assaults against the corrupted arcaniens, or radical human cults. Perhaps it was from his small town upbringing or maybe it was just his kind nature, but David didn't feel right when he learned about what he would have to endure.

"You will see thousands die in a day," Kalbin growled to the class, "your friends may die, your family may die, and you may die, but your honor will live on forever."

David was beginning to see that his honor was quite different from the Order of the Lion's honor.

That night, David lied awake in the barracks while all the other squires slept. He thought about the Knighthood, he thought about what it means to be a knight, and what it used to mean to him. David made a decision that night. He knew it in his heart, he knew that he could not remain a squire, at least not for the Order of the Lion. The next morning David woke up and spoke with Kalbin.

Intimidating would be an understatement. Kalbin was a very big man, a giant compared to David, and now David had to tell Kalbin that he did not want to be a knight like him. Kalbin was quite upset with the quitter's attitude he thought David possessed, but David told Kalbin he was going to try to be a squire for the Order of the Bear. Now normally, this would have infuriated a Knight from the Order of the Lion. You do not tell a Knight that you would rather be in another Order. Knights take too much pride in their Order to be told the other Order is better. As luck would have it though, Kalbin was originally a knight in the Order of the Bear. He had migrated into the Order of the Lion, when Paralon the Swift saved the Order of the Bear some decades ago. So, Kalbin helped David with his paper work and wished him luck. He didn't want to tell him that there was absolutely no way in the Underworld that David would make it into the Order of the Bear, but then David would soon find that out.

Chapter 6

"Too small," were the only words David got. The knight was a very large man like all Knights of the Bear, and he had the scar of the bear nose burned into his face like the others as well.
"That's it?" David asked, "Too small?"
"You're too small kid," the burly Knight said again. He obviously didn't like having to repeat himself.
"Don't you even want to see my skills?" David practically demanded.
"Look boy, your skills of farming and milking goats won't help you here, now beat it."
"I became a squire for the Order of the Lion!" David said raising his voice, "I know how to fight, and I know how to win. I'm smart and skilled, so at least give me a chance!"
"You want a chance!" the Knight snorted getting rather annoyed, "Lift that rock over there and I'll let you try out for squire."
David looked at the rock, and his heart sank. The "rock" went up to his waist, and was solid granite. Boulder was a much better term. He doubted even Gregor could lift it.

"Just remember," David spoke to the Knight with distain, "Even though your test is impossible, I still tried!" He positioned his feet, bent his knees, and got a firm grip. His muscles strained and he grunted as he put all his might into picking up the boulder. It didn't even move. Not an inch.

Chapter 7

David didn't have any money, and it was too cold to try and travel home this time of year, but he wasn't about to give up yet.

Thanks to the size of the city, there was a Council of the Magi branch in Tarrin. The building, probably looked magnificent in the days before the Magi became corrupt with excessive power. Then, through self defense, the Knighthoods fought back and killed many Magi. It was known as The First and Second Humblings. Now the building was only a little more than ruins. David knew this wouldn't be very easy, but still, he walked up to the tall double doors, and knocked.

An attractive woman in her thirties wearing a long hooded blue robe opened the door and asked, "May I help you?" Her voice was surprisingly soothing.
"My name is David, I would like to become an apprentice," David spoke without very much enthusiasm.
"Oh really, well then please come on in," the woman swung open the tall door so David could enter. She walked over to a desk with many unidentifiable objects on it, and sat down behind it. David noticed that she moved very gracefully. She looked back at him and eyed him to sit down. Rather embarrased, David sat in the comfortable ebony chair on the opposite side. He scanned the entry room top to bottom. It was a large room with a high domed ceiling that was painted in a most beautiful way. The depiction was that of a blazing red-haired woman with red eyes. She was draped in a long flowing white gown. From her fingers light sprung forth.
"It is a painting of the angel Nicerion," the woman said stareing at him with suspicion. "So, why do you want to become an apprentice David?" she asked.
David wasn't fully listening, he was busy trying to figure out what the strange smell was in the air.
The woman noticed his sniffing, and said, "It's volcanic ash, now as I said before, why do you want to be an apprentice?"
"Well, my first love was the Knighthood," David admitted, "But after I joined, I found out it really wasn't what I wanted. I've always been curious about magic and I would really like to be able to cast spells, so I thought I'd become an apprentice."
"There is much more to being an apprentice than casting spells," the woman said sternly, "Like being a knight, it takes a certain discipline and desire to become an apprentice. However, unlike knights, we are not violent and blood thirsty."
David expected a little bit of hatred from the magi concerning knights, so he wasn't too put off by her statement. "I understand. I'll put forth as much effort as I did for the Knighthood."
The woman pulled back her hood letting her long brown hair fall to the sides of her face. David noticed that her ears were pointed.
"A fay," he thought. He hadn't seen one in years.
"I'll tell you what I'm going to do. I'm going to give you a couple tests okay?"
"What kind of tests?" David wondered aloud.
"Tests that will measure your intelligence and your magical potential."

For well over an hour David participated in many tests of different natures. From the simple written tests of basic knowledge, to the more complicated tests composed of channeling mana from reagents and harnessing aether. Although David's schooling was more about farming than it was grammar he was still a very smart boy and did very well on the standard tests. It was the mana tests that he did poorly on. He knew very little about mana. He had heard talk of powerful magi using mana and aether to summon up strange forces and he had even seen a sorcerer at his hometown once, but he had never cast a spell before.

"Well David you seem to have the capacity to learn the ways of the magi," the woman finally said, "So I guess you will be able to start your apprenticeship."
"Thank you so much!" David said with a relieved smile.
"My name is Bella Greenheart, and seeing how I am in need of an apprentice now anyway, I will be your teacher."
"Great!" David said enthusiastically. He didn't mind having such a pretty woman for a teacher. "I'll do my best to make you proud of me."
"I'm sure you will," Bella smiled.
She walked towards the back of the room and motioned for David to follow. She opened a door and began walking down a long hallway in which a different painting hung every five feet. David noticed they were all portraits.
"You guys must really like art," David said trying to make small talk.
"Yes, the artists' guild in the city used to be commissioned by the Council to paint the portraits of sorcerers when they graduated to magi rank. We don't have the funds anymore for such luxuries. You having been a squire should know that very well," Bella's voice took a sharp turn from soothing to irritated at the end of her statement.
"Um, yes. I've been told of what happened," David said meekly.
"With the way those knights go on about the Council, you would think we were the angel of pain, Tendral herself," Bella went on infuriating herself, "Not all of the magi are bad people you know."
David saw that she was growing angry. Fain don't normally get angry unless it's something very upsetting to them. "I know, I was told that the Council was formed for the good of the people, by, uh..."
"Kendra Greenheart," Bella said, finishing David's sentence.
"That's right, Kendra... Hey, your last name is Greenheart too."
"Correct you are, David," Bella gave a slightly noticeable smile, "She is my mother."
"Isn't she one of the elder-magi?"
"Yes, well anyway, here is your room," David noticed how she quickly changed of subject. "Get yourself situated, and I'll be back in a moment."

David thanked Bella as she quickly made her way down the hall. Perhaps she didn't like talking about her mother.

The room was very plain. A small bed, at least small for most people. For David it was just the right size. A dresser, a desk, and chair were the only occupants of the room. He dropped his pack on the foot of the bed. "Very inviting," David said sarcastically. There were no windows, only a small oil painting of a night sky. David took his few clothes from his pack and put them into the dresser. He then looked in the desk and found several sheets of blank paper, an ink well, and a quill. David sat down on the bed and noticed it was rather lumpy. He wondered what he was doing here, and how long he was going to stay.

After a few minutes, there was a knock on the door. David quickly opened it, and saw Bella standing there.
"Are you ready to start some work?"
"Oh yes, sure thing."

Bella started walking down a large hallway, David followed close behind. At the end of the hall, Bella opened another door into a large room with many shelves and cupboards. Each one carried thick tomes, or jars with indescribable contents. There was also a heavy scent of, something, in the air. David was not sure what it was, only that it had a thick musky smell to it. In the far corner, a large bat-like creature squatted on a perch. Its whole body was black as pitch, yet its eyes were bright pink in hue. David eyed the creature cautiously.

Bella looked at David, and saw his uncertainty. She assured him, "Oh don't worry about him. He is my familiar."
"Your what? You mean like a pet?" David asked, unsure if he heard Bella correctly.
"No, he is not a pet. Pets are stupid creatures that sit around all day and eat your food. A familiar is sort of like your friend. We speak with each other, not through words, but through an understanding that we have. We have spent so much time together, we just know each other."
"I'm not sure if I understand?" David said quizzical.
"Don't worry," Bella chuckled, "You will soon enough. Well let's get started."
"What are we going to do?"
"First, we're going to give you your first taste of magic," Bella said with an eyebrow raised.
"Okaaay," David said uncertainly.

She walked over to a shelf and pulled down an unlabeled glass jar. Inside was what looked like a root of some sort. It was short and brown and it branched off in four sprigs.
"This is mandrake root. It is a reagent, kind of like an ingredient to a spell. It naturally contains mana. And since you're a human you don't have any mana in your body, you need to take its mana in order to cast spells." She handed David the root, which he noticed was curiously shaped like a man. "Alright, can you feel the energy in it?"
David felt the root. It was fairly smooth, and cool to the touch. It felt like any other kind of root to him. So, he had to answer with a "No."
"That's okay," Bella said looking him in the eyes, "I'm going to teach you." She stepped close beside him and put her hand on the mandrake root as well, David felt her warm soft skin brush his hand. "Mandrake root is one of the most potent of the thousands of reagents. Most reagents have a particular type of mana in them. Ginseng has healing mana, where as White Moss has illumination mana. Mandrake is just mana. With mandrake you could cast every spell there is."
"Then why are their so many other reagents?"
"Because mandrake is hard to come by. It only grows in certain places during certain times of the year. It's a very special plant."
David looked at the root again; it still looked like just a plain root.
"This might help, close your eyes."
David gave an uncertain grin, but closed his eyes none-the-less.
"Now concentrate on the root, feel its energy."

David began to think about the root, he felt it in his hand. It was there plain as day, he knew it was there. He could feel its cool fibers, but he could not feel anything special about it.

Bella knew what was wrong and she said, "Do not feel the energy with your hand, for it is not your hand that can cast spells. You must feel it with your mind, with your soul. The mana is there, feel with your soul."
Her words were soothing, and David tried again. This time he stopped concentrating so hard, and let his mind wander into the reagent. With his eyes, he saw the root, brown and cool. His soul however saw a beautiful concentration of energy, bursting and flowing in a circle all inside it.
"Yes," Bella said softly, "You're beginning to see."
David felt it again now; the cool root was growing warmer. The root was still cool and brown, but to his soul, it was hot and fiery. Then, slowly, the energy began to move from the root into his soul. He could see its bright burning light move up his arm into his body. He felt overwhelmed. The energy was so intense. A burning sensation ran through his blood, his hand must be on fire, and his mind raced at an extreme speed. He couldn't breathe, he tried, but his lungs didn't work. "Let go!" he thought, "Let go before you die!"

With a huge gasp, he quickly opened his eyes and saw Bella smiling back at him. He didn't want to look at his hand, for it must be horribly burnt now, but he did anyway. Nothing. Not a burn, nor a scar, not even a mark. Also, there was no longer a root.
"What? Where?" was all he managed to get out.
"Congratulations," Bella's voice chimed, "You've just felt the power of mana."
"It felt like I was going to die!"
"That is because you don't know how to release the mana."
"Release the mana..."
"Yes, when a magi casts a spell they release the mana in the form of magic. You had no way to release the mana so you lost control of it. But don't worry, I'll teach you how."
"The root though, where did it go?"
"It's gone."
"Gone?" David wondered. He asked again, "But, where did it go?"
"It turned back into aether. It will come back in another way though. Once aether materializes again that is." Bella could see that David was too confused to continue any more of this type of conversation, so she ended it. "Well it's time to do your daily chores." She started walking and he followed. She had him clean and wash several dishes and rooms, and by the time he was done, it was already dark out.
"I'll see you tomorrow," Bella said to him, leaving his small room, "We'll do more magic come the dawn."

David closed his door, and lied down on his bed. What an amazing day it had been. He still felt the after effects from the exercise with the Mandrake. It was buzzing in the back of his head like the sound of a bumble-bee in the summer. He was fascinated by this new world he was stepping into. Surely this was where he belonged.

David awoke the next morning feeling fairly refreshed for how hard it was to sleep in the poorly made bed. He got up, and got ready for a new day. The day would end up being quite long, as the first six hours of it included cleaning and tedious manual labor. After lunch, he and Bella began more of his magic training. She made him read the same three pages of a book over and over again, until he had it totally memorized. She made him do breathing and concentrating exercises for another hour. She said it was to help his manaless body escape the damages that mana can cause when not used properly. Finally, after four more hours of boredom, he was ready to try the spell. It was suppose to create a small spark and puff of smoke. Very simple for a magi to do, and Bella showed him how she was able to cast it. The spark was a bright flash, and the smoke was a brilliant shade of purple. It formed shapes as it dissipated into the air. She, being a fay, did not need a reagent to perform this feat, her body was naturally part of aether, but David, being only human would require one. It was a piece of white ash, that carried with it a bad odor.

It was a long and tedious night until he finally did actually get the smoke to appear. It wasn't purple like Bella's, it was just plain white. There was hardly any smoke either, just a tiny puff. Still, none the less, creating smoke out of thin air, using the mana from a reagent was something that wasn't all that simple for the untrained. David was quite proud of himself, and Bella was pleased with his learning. So the teaching continued.

Chapter 8

It was late winter, and the snow was getting thinner. David wasn't as much the outcast here, because physical appearance meant little to the magi. Still, being such a quiet boy, he remained rather solitary. David had become a rather amazing apprentice, learning at a faster pace than even those apprentices who were smarter than he. It was his unending desire that allowed him to succeed where the others would only give up.

By now he was casting quite a few different spells, some of even rather difficult degree. Bella was proud of his ability to learn and saw his joyful smiles when he completed a daunting task, yet deep down she knew he was unhappy. She could feel the loneliness of his heart when he looked out a window into the vast forest at the edge of the city. She knew he longed to leave the confines of the Council and to wander out in the woods. He was like the fain in that way. It is a fact in Legendworld that fain cannot be caged for too long or they will die from lack of contact with nature, she could see that same trait within David. She wanted to tell him to go and leave, but each time she saw him, he was so determined to make her happy. He told her he would put fourth the effort, and like any knight he was true to his word. All winter long she held in her feelings about him. She had grown rather attached to her young apprentice, so part of wanting him to stay was for her. She told herself, on one unusually warm morning, that it was David's life and she had no right to take control of it. So later that day after lunch she took him to her office and spoke with him.

"David," she began, "There comes a time in a young man's life when he must..." She choked on her words. Although she had practiced this conversation many times, she now found it difficult to say. "That is, a person must seek their destiny."
"Bella, I..." David tried to speak, but was interrupted by Bella.
"I know that the angels have something special planned for your life." David smiled at this comment. "However, I don't think you are supposed to become a magi."
David looked hurt, "But I'm doing good, I'm studying new spells all the time..."
"Yes you are David. You are gifted with the ability to learn new things, which is why you cannot stay here. We are stunting your growth, we're holding you back."
"But I'm learning new things here," David protested.
"Not the right things David," Bella hung her head. She knew this wouldn't be easy. "David, look out the window," David was about to speak again, but Bella hushed him, "Go on, look out there. Now tell me what you see."
"I see the forest."
"Exactly. You looked right past the market, past the city, past the houses at the edge, and all the way to the forest."
"What do you mean?"
"I mean that you are not supposed to live walled up in a city. You know it, you can feel it in your heart. You are supposed to be out there, with the plants and animals, running wild."
David heard these words and he knew they were true, but he still didn't want to leave. This was where he lived, even if his home was somewhere else.
"David, you have the heart of a fay. You respect the forests, the lakes, and the animals, as much as you respect other people. You don't belong here." Although David didn't know it, coming from a fay, this was a massive compliment.
"I respect them even more, actually," David said, now starting to fully understand.
"Exactly."
"So I have to leave now?" David asked with the look of a saddened child.
"Not right now," Bella said, giving a feint smile. "But soon."

Spring had just begun when David started out. Saying good-bye was harder than both David and Bella thought it would be. David never respected another person as much as Bella. She taught him many things, including a new way to view life. He sent a letter to his mother all the way back in his hometown. He would be far into the woods by the time she would get it. David knew it was for the best, and he knew his mother would understand. So off he went, into the forest, into his destiny. This is how it must be.

Chapter 9

Letting go of the Knighthood, and The Council of the Magi was very difficult for David. Six days had passed since he left the Council to be in the forest. It was then when he realized how much he had missed the forest. Almost a full year away from the woods had opened his eyes to just how much he belonged here. This was his true home; not the Council of the Magi, not the barracks of the Knighthood, not even his hometown house, none of those were his true home. This was home, this is where he belonged.

So there he was, walking aimlessly in the woods, searching for his destiny. He thought, while he was here he might as well collect some plants and funguses that he could use for reagents if he needed to cast a spell or two. He was pulling some red berries off a fire bush when he heard a soft whimpering noise. It came from behind the bush, and he couldn't see what it was. The whimper sounded like a hurt dog, so he walked around to get a better view. Cautiously, he peeked around the bush and saw a small wolf pup. Seeing a human near by, the pup tried to bark a little, only to give a sharp yelp. The pup was mostly gray with a spot of black around his left eye. He looked terrified, instead of hostile. Then David saw why, and his heart dropped. There was a steel trap clamped onto the poor pup's leg.

"That is not the way to hunt," David thought to himself, "Whoever laid this trap should be ashamed of themselves."
He picked up a nice sized fallen branch, and walked over to the wolf pup.
"I'm not going to hurt you," David whispered to the pup, "Just let me remove the trap, okay?"
The pup snapped at the stick and yelped again, its instinct winning over its logic.
"I know," David said soothingly, "It's my kind that did this to you, but just let me help you."

The pup wouldn't trust this man any more than the person who placed this trap, so David had to try things from a different approach. He took off his tunic, and placed it over the pup's head. The pup shook a bit, but the tunic was too big for him to back out of. David then took the stick and opened the trap, while still keeping a good grip on the pup. The pup feeling that his leg was out, struggled to get free, but David held him fast. He took the wounded paw of the animal into his hand. It was bleeding still as the cut from the trap had hit bone. He took out sprig of ginseng from his pack and placed it on the wound. The wolf pup still shook and David held him tight. Concentrating on the ginseng he took the mana from the root, and channeled it through his body and into the wolf pupís paw. The healing was almost instantaneous. Although there was a nasty scar, and missing fur, the wound was now closed. David took his tunic off the pup's head and watched it as it darted off into the underbrush.

David took the trap and placed it on a rock. He found another rock and proceeded to bend and mangle the steel trap so that it could never be used again.

"That takes care of that," David said, rather proud of himself. He then continued his journey through the forest.

David was not aware of it, but the whole time saved the wolf, and destroyed the trap, he had been watched. It was not a human that watched him, nor a fay; in fact, it wasn't a mortal at all. The eyes of an angel saw the good deed of the mortal. Daine, The Keeper of the Beasts, saw what David had done, and she was pleased. She knew this particular mortal quite well. She kept a watchful eye on him when he was a child, and saw how he bonded with her children. She was saddened when he left to become a knight, but greatly pleased since he returned to the forest once more. His true home. Daine decided it was now time for this mortal to know his destiny to its full amount.

That night while he slept in a large tree, David had strange dream. This dream was so intense and so vivid, he thought, it must have been a vision. There he was in his dream, walking through the forest much like the previous day. As he walked, he came across a clearing. He stood near the center of the clearing and watched in horror as a huge brown grizzly bear, and a large wild lion both began to surround him. They closed in on him and he could not do anything. He was paralyzed with fear, and he could feel the heat from the animals' breath. He then saw a beautiful woman walk into the clearing. She was very tall and she wore the skin of a leopard. Behind her following closely was an entire pack of wolves. She motioned for the wolves to go near David. They surrounded him, but did not attack him. Instead they protected him from the bear and the lion. The woman smiled and faded away into the forest. So then the bear, the lion, and the wolves all stood in the clearing together. It was at this point that David awoke to the sound of a wolf's howl off in the distance. He had beads of sweat on his forehead, and he looked around in the night. He felt very uneasy, but in the tree he was safe.

At dawn, David awoke. It was a morning like every other morning he had in this forest, but little did he know the day was going to be completely different.

He had traveled a couple of miles in the course of the morning, and still had no real idea where he was going. He didn't care though, this entire place was his home, and he loved being in the woods.

Sometime around noon, David noticed something odd about the forest. He stopped for a moment and looked around. Something was wrong. He gazed back and forth again and saw nothing out of the ordinary, but still, something was indeed wrong. He thought for a moment, and it hit him. The birds, they're all gone. He had heard the songs of birds everyday through these woods, and he enjoyed their company, but now all was silent. Nothing. Like a deep black crypt, nothing stirred. Even the leaves on the trees were silent. A cold chill swept down his spine. He felt that something evil was going to happen. He started walking again, but more cautiously now. After only two steps he spotted a clearing in the woods, it looked very familiar, but he knew he had never been in this part of the forest before. He walked up to it, gave it another look, and froze. It was like in his dream, the clearing was small, not more then one hundred feet in a circle, but it was the exact same as his dream, in every minor detail. Although he was terrified, his body needed to move towards the center of it. He didn't want to move, but it was as if his mind made his legs move. The walk was stiff, as each step he tried to fight, but he continued moving towards it none-the-less. When he made it to the center, he stopped. There he stood, looking around the clearing. Except for some tall grass, and a few wild flowers it was totally empty.

Then on the edge of the clearing he saw movement in the trees. At first it was only one shape moving around, then it was two, then five. He couldn't make out what they were, but there were several creatures moving around the edge of the clearing. Then he saw what it was. His heart skipped a beat, and he stood in shock. It was a massive timber wolf. Six feet long, and probably two hundred pounds, it growled as it approached, bearing his grizzly teeth. David looked and saw other wolves encircling him as well. Smaller, but just as deadly, as the one in front of him. He counted seven in all, each one with its own unique fur markings, each one bearing its teeth. David felt different; he wasn't scared for some reason. He knew these wolves would not harm him unless he forced them to.

David looked into the eyes of the largest one, who must be the alpha wolf. Stripes of gray in his fur came down from his ears to the peak of his hollow eyes. The eyes were deep and black, like the deepest recesses of the night. The wolf stopped growling and just stood there looking directly back at him. David could feel something from the leader, the wolf didn't snap at him or growl, it seemed David could actually feel the wolf's intentions. He felt the leadership of the wolf; he felt the pride of his position, and the love for his pack. David's feelings werenít hidden to the wolf. The wolf knew why David was here, and he knew that David, was not afraid. The wolf also knew that David regarded him as kin, not just another animal.

"We are the same, you and I," David said to the wolf, "We are brothers."

The wolf gave David another look and then started to leave back into the forest. All the other wolves followed, in the respectful pecking order that they had developed through the course of their lives; from alpha to omega. David watched as they left, confused about what to do. At the edge of the forest, the alpha wolf looked back at him. The look was almost a question, as if to ask, "Are you coming?"

David followed them, and soon they were traveling through the woods together.

It was a sight that was very strange indeed. A pack of wolves, followed shortly after by a scrawny fifteen-year-old boy. David traveled with them, but never actually spoke with the wolves. Although he would occasionally speak out loud, it was his feelings and emotions that the wolves understood, and theirs that he understood. David began to understand them very well, so he wasn't really upset when he was bitten by one of them. David had over stepped his boundaries; he knew that. The pack travels in a certain order; David being the last to join was also the lowest in the order, the omega wolf. The striped face leader and his mate were the alpha wolves. David once began walking in front of one of the lower wolves, and the wolf bit his leg, and forced him back. This humbled David, because he knew he had challenged the wolf's position, and he was not yet ready to challenge a wolf. David was now beginning to understand what Bella said when she told him about her familiar. These wolves were not just animals, or pets. They were his family now, his brothers and sisters. It was something that an ignorant man would not realilize. Wolves are very social animals. They help each other, they raise thier young together, they hunt for the pack, not for themselves individualy. They were a group, a team, a family. It was more of a familiy then most humans ever have. And now, David was part of their family; the family he belonged to.

Chapter 10

He did live with them. For a long time they were his family. Spring turned to summer, and summer into autumn, until he was sixteen years old. He had learned so many things. He now communicated with the wolves very easily. He hunted in the pack the same way they did. He fought them over food, and ate raw meat. He had become skilled at living in the forest, and he was very good at being a wolf. There were now wolves that followed him in the pack. He had learned to fight with an extreme amount of ferocity. David no longer wanted to be a human. He abandoned his birthright name of Durand, and from now on would be called David of Wolf. He was going back to his instincts. He was becoming an animal... almost.

Winter was coming. Snow had fallen one morning, and David realized that he was not equipped to handle winter the way the wolves do. His body did not have the thick covering of fur to keep him warm, and although his hunting skills were good, his sense of smell was still that of a human. If he were to live, he would have to create a dwelling of his own. The wolves would continue their hunting throughout the winter, but he could not go with them. He must stay in a den that he still needed to make.

The good-bye was very simple. Through his feelings, and emotions he told the wolves that he had to stay. They understood, and continued without him. That was it. David felt sad; again, he had to leave a home to go to another one. One wolf was trailing behind, and felt David's sorrow, and looked at him wondering why he was sad.

David answered, speaking out loud for the first time in months, "You wouldn't understand."

The wolf noticed that he spoke out loud, but didn't understand the words. He understood the feeling though. The wolf gave him a look, David was surprised at it, then the wolf turned and left. The look, it was almost as if the wolf wanted to say, "I understand more than you think."

David watched the wolves until they were out of sight. He wanted to run after them, he wanted to say he had changed his mind, but he knew he couldn't. The wolf understood better than he did. You can't change it, you must stay, so why be upset about it? Yet still, David was upset.

The place he has chosen for his den was well thought out. He was close to a stream, and in a nicely wooded area. Hunting wouldn't be too hard, because the area was well populated with animals.

Building a home was more difficult than he had thought. He had no axe to chop trees, no hammer or nails, and no saw. He relied on fallen trees, and smaller branches taken from trees, to build his den. At least he was good at hunting, and food was still easily found at this point in the year. He did eventually get a fairly sturdy home set up before the heavy snows came, and he had collected enough food for the winter. Even after the snows began to come down hard, David still hunted. Although game was scarce, he could get a meal or two on occasion. His den, which was partly underground, was getting stronger, and stronger each time he found a flaw, he increased its strength twice as much as when he first built it.

The winter wasn't too rough, and David made it through with enough food to last him even into spring. David's skills were increasing as well. He was becoming better at hunting, walking stealthily, and tracking. He was also very inventive, creating devices to help him, and using magic where he needed it.

Spring passed on to summer, and one day while he was out hunting he came across a pack of wolves hunting as well. He looked and saw the alpha wolf with gray stripes on his head from the ears to the eyes. It was a bittersweet reunion. The pack remembered him, but they knew he was no longer one of them. David knew this as well, but was glad to see his old family once again. David realized he could still read their emotions, and knew their feelings. He sensed that they were also happy to see him, but both the wolves and David knew, life had to go on. So the wolves went their way and David went his way. One wolf, a younger one, stayed behind. David looked at him in wonder. He didn't remember this wolf, and he was sure he would remember the fur on him. He had gray fur, but a black circle around one eye. He thought back, none of the wolves in his pack had fur like this, but then he saw the wolf's front paw and remembered. The fur was still missing from where the steel trap had hit.

"You're all grown up now aren't you?" The wolf wasn't fully grown, but he was still quite big.
The wolf just sort of tilted his head with a confused look. David just smiled.

It seemed where ever David went, the wolf wasn't too far behind. The two hunted together, lived together, and ate together. The wolf wasn't David's pet, it was his friend, his companion. David talked more now, even if it was to the wolf, but the wolf understood. Not the words that he spoke, but why he spoke. He was a human, and that is what humans do. They were different even if they were so much the same. The wolf didn't like being called wolf though, and David understood why. David had a name, and because of that, he must think he was better than the wolf. But David did not feel that way, so it was nessessary to name his brother. He dicided on to name the wolf Solvang, which is the word that fain call the human's steel trap.

Now David and Solvang lived in that deep forest for a long time. Two more winters passed until it was again spring, and David was now eighteen years old. Had he been living back in the city, he should have started a family by now, but his family included only one member, Solvang. David didn't mind this, and found his rather simple life very invigorating. David would never want to change it, nor would Solvang, who was more like a brother to him, than any human had ever been. David had grown a little more as well, and his old frail frame had blossomed into a much more muscled body. David was still much smaller than the typical Knight of the Bear, but his small size was now very deceiving.

Yes, David saw no need for change, and had no real desire for change either. That is until a very eventful day late in the spring.

Chapter 11

David was hunting for food with Solvang, when he heard the distant thunder of hooves treading the ground at a very fast pace. With the agility of a rabbit, David darted through the familiar woods towards the sound. He wondered why a horse was this far out in the woods, and why it was traveling so fast. He could see the movement through the trees and a person riding a horse, but he could not see much else. Solvang running quickly past David approached the horse from behind, and sensed the emotions of the rider. Then, running back to David, he shared his knowledge.

Fear. Extreme fear. Fear of death and the unknown. The rider was terrified at something. Solvang growled an alert. He could hear something else. David listened; he heard more hooves in the distance, many more. They were coming from the same place the first rider came from. Without straining a muscle, David quickly climbed a tree, and looked down at the figures. There were several men riding horses following the same path as the original rider. They looked like a band of thieves or brigands. They wore dirty ragged clothes, and each carried a deadly weapon of some sort, which they waved menacingly. They shouted to each other, but their cries were muffled by the thunderous sound of the horses. It was plain to see though; they were going to kill the first rider.

David and Solvang quickly pursued the bandits, and even though they were on horses, David and Solvang still gained on them. Through the trees and brush, David heard the hooves stop and the shouting begin. He kept his distance, but got close enough to see. There was the first rider, fallen to the ground, his horse some yards away. The bandits were encircling him, some on horseback others on foot. One approached the fallen rider, and the rider screamed. David was stunned; the voice was very high pitched, almost as if it were... female. The bandit laughed and toyed with the rider, getting close, and then backing off, as she struck out at them. There was no way for her to win, but she wouldn't give up. David and Solvang sensed the evil desires of these bandits, and decided that they must do something about it.

The bandits were still toying with their prey, when a loud growl was heard. They stopped taunting the poor woman and looked towards a very menacing, very large wolf. Solvang, even though he was not human, knew what was happening, and was not about to let it occur. Each bandit drew his weapon, and got ready for a fight.

"Get ready boys," said the leader to his men. Hearing several loud thuds behind him, the leader turned his head. Four of his men were on the forest floor, each had his share of assorted painful injuries. Three other bandits thoughtlessly charged the savage looking young man. David's moves were swift and true. A broken nose, a bruised spine, the crack of a collarbone, cries of pain. That is what the leader saw. It was as if his men had never even touched the other man.

Aside from the leader there was one other man still standing. Obviously more intelligent than the others, he had watched the boy fight, and decided close range combat was out of the question. While David had been crippling the others, he had pulled a crossbow from its holster on his back and aimed it towards David. David having sensed this had his spell already prepared. He looked back at the man, the crossbow aimed and ready to shoot. The man pulled the trigger, but instead of the bolt speeding toward its target, it erupted into flames. A ball of intense fire exploded in the man's face, and he ran into the woods, his hair ablaze. The leader saw only one man left standing, and that man was David of Wolf. David turned his attention towards the leader, and gave him a grizzly look that made the leader's hair stand on end. The leader was an ugly man, unshaven and dirty, he held a short sword and it shook in his trembling hand.

"I don't think I like you here," David said to the man, in a mocking voice, "And Solvang doesn't like you either." David faced in the direction of the large timber wolf.

The leader just stood there, mouth gaping.

David made a short jump at the man and he took off running through the woods on foot. Solvang chased close behind making sure he was going to run for a long time.

David grinned. It was quite a pleasurable experience to him, helping someone in need. It made him think of the Knighthood, only briefly though, as he walked up to the fallen woman.
"Are you alright?"
The rider wore a hooded cloak, and David couldn't see her face. She must have been of noble blood because the cloak she wore was of a very high quality. The rider didn't answer, instead she just backed away from David a few feet.
"My name is David," He began, "It's alright now, I won't hurt you."
The rider didn't move, and David could still feel her fear.
David heard some movement behind him, and quickly turned around. The few remaining bandits quickly ran, some only crawled. Regardless, they were through fighting for today.
"They won't come back anymore," David attempted to reassure the woman. He took a step closer to her and asked, "What's your name?"
There was a pause, as the rider tried to speak. Eventually she was able to say, "Mara..."
"Mara," David repeated, "Thatís a pretty name. Where are you from, Mara?"
She was still silent, so David crouched down to her level. "Are you out here all by yourself?"
"Yes," the woman said, choking on the word. With that, she started to cry.
David put an arm around her, "Shh, it's okay," He said trying to comfort her. He could sense fear from her, but it was no longer a fear of death, just of the unknown.
Slowly she stopped crying and took a deep breath. "Thank you," she finally said, composing herself.
"No need to thank me," David said humbly, "I was just doing what was right."

David could feel that the woman was pulling herself back together, and becoming more comfortable around him. Her small delicate hands reached for the cloak and pulled it back off her head. She was looking down and all David could see were the brown curls in her hair. Then she looked up at him.

Since he was born, and for the rest of his life, David never saw anything that could compare to the beauty he saw in this girl's face. His breathing stopped, and his heart raced. Her hair was perfect, curled and clean, smelling of raspberries. Her skin was white like milk, and her lips were full and pink. He stared into her brown eyes and found himself lost in a tangle of emotions that he had never felt before. Love. Love from just a glimpse of her face, Love. She looked to be around fifteen years old, and her cheeks were slightly red from crying. David couldn't move, he was frozen straight to the bone, he didn't know what to do.

"Are you okay?" Mara eventually asked.
"What," David said coming back to reality, "Oh uh, yes..." Her voice, he thought, so soft and perfect.
"I don't know how to repay you for saving me."
"Please, I don't require anything, but why are you out this deep in the forest all by yourself?"
"I don't think I want to answer that yet," Mara looked away.
"Fair enough."

David tried to read her emotions the way he would an animal, but found that he could get hardly anything from her. The fear was slowly going away, but there was nothing else. So he had to try the formal way of actually talking. "Can you tell me why those men were after you?"
"I was riding through a forest path when they surrounded me and demanded my money, I shouted 'no' and rode off into the forest hoping to lose them."
"Well your horse is over there," David pointed towards a large growth of trees.
"Where?" Mara said looking, but seeing only trees.
"He is behind the trees, can't you see..." David trailed off. Mara was a human city dweller, so she would not have the keen eyesight that David had developed. "I saw him run behind those trees."

Mara stood up and walked towards the trees. David watched her as she walked. Actually, floated would be a better term for it, her moves were graceful and effortless, even on the rugged forest ground. She saw her white horse, and reached into one of the saddlebags. She pulled out a small pouch, and gave it to David.

"Here," She offering David the pouch, "It's not much, but it's the least I can do for you."
"I really don't need anything," David said trying to refuse the gift.
Mara wouldn't allow it, and forced his hand to accept it. David was quite surprised at the strength of her delicate arms. He opened the pouch to find it full of small gemstones. He looked at Mara, smiled, and closed the bag.
"It's not that I don't appreciate your gift, Mara, but I have no use for jewels here," and he returned the pouch.
"Here? You live here?"
"Well not right here, my den is about a mile from here," David pointed to the east.
"You live out here in the woods all alone?" Mara said in disbelief.
"Well not alone, my brother lives with me."
"Your brother?"
"Here he comes now," David said, pointing to the large gray timber wolf.
Mara screamed in panic, and ran to David clinging to his arm. This embrace sent chills down David's spine.
"Keep it away!" Mara shouted.
"He's not an it," corrected David, "His name is Solvang, and he is my brother."
Mara's grip lessened, but she still kept very near to David. "Is he tame?"
"Not exactly," David smiled, "We just have an understanding. Don't worry though, he won't hurt you unless you make him."
Mara didn't seem to comforted by David's statement, but she was able to surrender her grip from his arm.
David looked at Solvang and smiled. He could feel the pride pouring out from the wolf. The most fearful creature of the forest!

David again tried to read Mara's soul, but still he read nothing, he was determined to figure out why she was actually here though. "You know," David said skeptically, "Your horse is purebred, your cloak is lined with silk, and carry around bags of gems with you. I'm beginning to think you're not an ordinary peasant."
"Well I guess you found me out. Very well, if you must know, my name is Mara Bendar."
David just stood there, expecting her to say more.
"Mara Bendar," She repeated, emphasizing the last name.
"Okay," David said smiling.
"My father is Darius Bendar." She looked at David expecting him to know who she was speaking about, "Darius Bendar, the King of Western Region."
"Oh, wow. That makes you..."
"A Princess," Mara interrupted.
"I'm sorry, I don't quite know the protocol of being in the presence of a princess. Should I bow or something?"
"Please don't," Mara said looking disgusted, "That's why I left in the first place."
"You left?"
"Yes." Mara looked uneasy, but decided to tell David the truth, "I'll try and explain. I was born a Princess. Everywhere I went people bowed to me, and gave me gifts, and presents, but nobody actually talked to me. My only friends were the birds that would land on my windowsill. My father, King Darius Bendar, he treats me like such a child. Ever since my mother died, he has been totally controlling my life. I became so tired of my life as a 'Princess' that I ran away. It seems no matter where I go I canít fit in. Do you have any idea what that's like?"
David smiled. "Why do you think I live out here?"
"Well," Mara said as she mounted her horse.
David saw she was getting ready to leave and had to say something. "Wait!"
"What is it?" Mara asked.

David didn't want this beautiful girl to leave. He wanted her to stay with him forever, but he had to let her know, without sounding completely weird.
"Uh, well..." He stammered, "It isn't, uh, safe,"
"Well I can't stay here. Those men could be back any minute."
"Come back to my den with me."
"What?" Mara said in a sort of teasing disbelief. A smile pursing her pink lips.
"I mean, uh," David said stuttering.
"I know what you mean," Mara giggled, "Lead the way, my handsome Knight."
"I almost was a Knight," David smiled, and he told her about it on the way to his den.

By the time they reached David's Den the sun was nearing the horizon. David showed Mara around his small corner of the forest, the place where he called home. It wasn't very impressive, and to a princess it would be even less, but David was proud of it regardless.

David and Mara found that they had an awful lot in common, considerably strange for a peasant and a princess. By the time they realized how long they had been talking, the sun was well hidden behind the forest trees. David being a well-mannered young man, allowed Mara to sleep in his bed of furs, and waited outside keeping watch for the bandits.

Morning came rather abruptly, as David's sleep wasn't very long. He was relieved from his watch by Solvang halfway through the night, so he was able to get some sleep. Mara wasn't in too much of a hurry to leave, and David made her a breakfast of rabbit meat, wild carrots, and fresh honey. Mara was used to expensive delicacies, but found this meal to be rather exotic, even for a princess. They talked to each other all morning.

Around noon, Mara was getting ready to leave, and it was obvious that David did not want her to go.
"So where will you go now?" David asked her.
"I'm not really sure. Where is the nearest city?"
"I think there is a town far east, but that's a five day ride at best," David told her, trying to make it sound like a more difficult trip than it actually was.
"East huh?" Mara looked in the direction, but didn't seem to eager to go. There was a quiet pause for a moment.
"Why don't you go home?" David asked. He didn't want her to leave him, but she wasn't destined to live in the woods.
"No, that's the last place I'll go. I don't belong there," Mara stated, shaking her head.
"Mara," David started, "I haven't seen my mother in three years. She doesn't know if I'm alive, and she hasn't a clue as to where I am. I know for a fact that she misses me, but I've stayed out here anyway, because this is where I belong. From what Iíve heard you say, I know that the place you belong is back at your home. I know your father must be extremely worried about you."
"My father," Mara smiled, "I'll bet he sent out his entire troop of castle guards to find me." She gazed up into the sky, thinking of her father.
"You can't run from your problems, if you don't like being treated so much like a princess, tell your father."
"He wouldn't listen to me, I'm just a princess."
"You will continue to be treated like a princess, until you start acting like a woman."
"But..." Mara had obviously run out of reasons to stay away. She thought for awhile looked to the east, and then to the west. Finally, she said, "I'll tell you what. I'll return home, but only if you come with me." Her lips were flexed into a smile.
"I can't stay with you," David's face held a solemn expression, "This is my home."
"You don't have to stay, just lead me back to the city of Hiddon, and protect me from the bandits."
David beamed with a proud smile, and said, "Alright, my lady."
"Lead the way, my handsome Knight," Mara said with a grin.

The two began the walk to Hiddon, which is about a ten-day journey from where they were. Solvang was seen around, every so often, running through the trees along side the two. David walked on foot, talking to Mara who rode her pale white horse. They spoke to one another, and flirted with each other as they went. The days passed, and David and Mara became very close to each other. David gazed at Mara one night as she slept. The dying firelight flickered, casting shadows onto her face. She was beautiful, truly magnificent. He loved the brown curls in her hair, her pouting pink lips, and the curvatures of her face. David thought she was the most beautiful lady in the world. Truth be told, Mara was pretty, but not too much more than average. In David's mind however, there would never be a woman that could even come close to her beauty. David held her in such high regard that it was obviously noticeable. "The angels defiantly gifted her," David thought. She was perfect.

Chapter 12

When David saw the first building still five miles from the city of Hiddon, his heart sank. Their journey was almost over, and he would have to leave. He would have to make that ten-day hike back alone, without the company of Mara.

"All good things must come to an end," he thought, but he didn't want them to. He wanted Mara to run back to the forest with him, he wanted her to say she would always be there with him, but most of all, he just wanted to be near her.
"That wasn't going to happen," David thought to himself, "That couldn't happen." He would have really liked to be able to read her emotions as well as he could Solvang's, but she seemed to keep them hidden away from him.
Solvang trotted along behind the two and David turned to speak to his old friend.
"I'm going away now, but I'll be back here later today."
Solvang looked at him head tilted, ears up. Solvang was an animal it was true, but he knew the needs of his companion. Solvang's reply was as wise as ever, "Take some time and be with your kind."
"Does he really understand you?" Mara asked.
"Better than I understand myself," David smiled, and waved to Solvang as he walked back into the woods fading from sight.

The journey through the city was a little awkward for David. Hiddon was a rather rich city, and David wasn't exactly dressed in the manner that many of the villagers were. Several looks were given, but then when they noticed that he was holding the hand of the Princess Mara Bendar, they backed off. David also noticed that he could read the souls and emotions of these people. He had thought because he couldn't read Mara, that it wasn't possible to read humans, but now he knew it was. There was just something about her, something blocking his way of reading into her soul.

They approached the castle, and the guard immediately ran out to the princess.
"Unhand her you swine!" The guard shouted to David.
"Stand down," Mara said sternly, "He's with me."
The guard lowered his weapon, but kept his eyes fixed on David.
"My lady, I meant no harm. You must see your father, he has great sorrow from your disappearance."
Mara walked into the castle, towards the throne room. The guards were all staring making sure this strange man, would not harm her.

She opened the door to the throne room and there was her father, King Darius Bendar, perched on his throne lecturing several guards. He turned his head and there he saw his daughter, holding the hand of some odd looking stranger. His voice trailed off as he stared at her with a look in his eyes Mara had never seen before. She expected a terrible reprimand or some sort of punishment for her running away. Instead, in a very unroyal manor, the King leaped from his throne, and ran to her giving her a great big bear hug and sobbed on her shoulder.

"I thought I'd lost you girl," He cried, squeezing her so tightly.
"Daddy, you're hurting me," Mara said, trying to loosen her fathers grip.
"Oh my sweet Mara, my precious Mara." The King's tender side he displayed was instantly hidden as he cast his gaze onto David.
"Is this the man that took you away?" Daruis' voice took a sharp turn.
"No daddy, this is..." Mara tried to speak, only to be cut off by Darius.
"Tell me the truth baby, what did this scoundrel do to you?"
"Daddy!" Mara shouted, "He didn't do anyth..." Again she was interrupted by her father.
"Guards! Seize this man!"
The guards encircled David, each one pointing their halberd towards him.

David wasn't about to rot in a dungeon, so he grabbed the tip of one of the halberd's and pulled it towards him. The guard was caught off balance and David pushed him into several other guards. David took a punch to the side, from a fallen guard, but was unphased. He leapt over a table and kicked a guard in the head, causing him to topple over on the guard behind him. Mara was yelling for the fighting to stop, but her cries were drowned out by the commotion of the fray. David was obviously too skilled a fighter for these guards, and amazingly their numbers began to decrease as they fell unconscious to the stone floor. When only four other guard's remained, Mara's yelling was finally heard.

"STOP FIGHTING!" She screamed. David looked over at her, as did the guards.
"Father! You will listen to me!"
"Don't take that tone with..." Darius started, but now it was Mara's turn to interrupt.
"No Father! I am your daughter. I'm not an ignorant child anymore!" Her voice was angry and loud, "This man, David of Wolf, saved my life from a group of bandits after I ran away from this place."
A shocked look appeared on the king's face. He had never imagined that his only daugher would ever run away. "You ran away? But why?"
"Because of you Father! You've always treated me like a baby! Well I'm not anymore! I may still be young, but I'm a person too! I ran away because of you!"
"Mara," Darius said, trying to comfort his daughter, "Honey, I love you, you know that."
"Yes father, I know you love me, but I need to live my own life, and you need to start listening to me! If it wasn't for David, I wouldn't have come back! So as his reward you want him arrested?"
Daruis looked at David. Blood was dripping from his left eyebrow, "You convinced her to come back?"
David just nodded. Daruis looked at him, and turned back to his daughter, "I'm sorry."
"What about David," she demanded.
Darius turned towards David and sighed. "I'm sorry to you as well."

David, along with several of the guards, was taken to the royal healers to be stitched up, and bandaged. Mara was taken to her quarters to be bathed and cleaned. A dinner feast was held that night because of Mara's return, and King Darius gave a toast to the bravery and great fighting skill of David. During the meal, Mara retold the tale of David's heroism as he bravely fought off the bandits with his wolf friend Solvang. David blushed each time Mara went into detail about how strong and agile David was when he fended off the bandits. She also told about his magical skill, and how intelligent he was. She even spoke about his original plans to become a knight. Darius made a crack at the Order of the Lion when he heard about David, but David told Daruis that his original goal was to become a Knight of the Bear. Darius grinned. He was, for a long time, a Knight in the Order of the Bear. He was a great warrior, and many knew his name. When his father the King of the Western Realms died, Darius had to be true to his promise and rule in his father's place. Daruis longed to return to the Knighthood, but now he was too old. Dinner went along great, and Darius was beginning to take a liking to David, but he wouldn't let it show.

The next morning David made it clear that he was going to leave that day. So later on Darius summoned him to the throne room. Darius sat there, and in a smaller throne next to him, sat Mara. It was difficult for David to take his eyes off her. She was dressed in a beautiful long flowing white gown. Darius started to talk and David's attention was redirected to him.

"Mister David of Wolf," Darius began, "You have saved the life of my daughter, and for that I am eternally in your debt. Because you have not asked for a reward of any kind I have taken it upon myself to prepare one for you." Darius snapped his fingers and one of his guards came fourth holding a golden plate with many different kinds of jewels and gemstones on it. A Kingís ransom, or a Princessís as the case was. "My daughterís life is priceless, and this gift should keep you happy for the rest of your life. It's all for you, David."

David looked at it, and seemed displeased. "I admire your gifts, your majesty, but I have no use for these things. I saved your daughter not for reward, but because it was the right thing to do. I know you are a man of honor, and it would be rude of me not to accept your gifts. So if I may, in exchange, take several things from your store house instead?"
Darius looked at David curiously. Almost any man would gladly accept the treasures placed before David, yet David only wanted simple supplies. Darius had been thinking about this since Mara told him that David was going to leave soon. He sat there hand on his jaw and thought until finally, "David of Wolf," Darius began, "You are a skilled fighter, and a man of valor. As it seems your skill is far too great for my guards to match, I would be both pleased and honored if you would stay for awhile and train my guards in your personal technique."

Now David wasn't too thrilled about staying around teaching the guards how to better inflict pain against other people, but it was Mara who ended up convincing him.
"I would like to be trained as well father."
"I won't hear of it!" Darius said, assuming the discussion was over.
"Father," she said, giving him a daughter's look that no father can resist, "I could have been killed in the woods by bandits and it was all because I couldn't defend myself. Would you rather I be killed next time?"
"Well no, of course not," Darius said, feeling guilty, "It's just that... fighting is for men."
"Father!" Mara was outraged, "I want to learn how to fight." She could tell her father was beginning to crack, so she drove home the killing blow. She made her eyes begin to water ever so slightly, and gave a terrible pouting look. "Please," she begged.
"Oh alright, but you must be extra careful."
"Oh thank you father!" Mara said with a great big smile, and she wrapped her arms around Darius and gave him a great big hug. She looked back at David giving him the same look she gave her father. "You will stay won't you David?"
David couldn't resist her charm any more than her father. So he stayed.

Chapter 13

As the training progressed, David found that teaching his techniques was much harder than he thought. His style of combat wasn't based around strength, nor was it based on tactics. His fighting was more spiritual; he took the characteristics of animals, and used them to fight with. From a bear he took the abilty to grapple and wrestle, from a wolf he took organized attacks, from a hawk he used total surprise. David saw his own soul, and harnessed his own aether for strength. He had done it for so long it came natural to him. Eventually, he decided that if his students were to learn, they would have to live in the woods for awhile. They didn't go too deep, and only a few could go at a time, because the castle needed its protection, but they did learn better because of it. David soon realized that he liked teaching. It was very enjoyable showing others what it meant to be one with your own soul, and with the creatures of the forest.

Mara and David's relationship grew. One day while they were walking back to the castle after the training session had ended, Mara seemed uneasy as she walked next to David.
"David," She began, "You have been teaching us how we can communicate with the animals. You say that you can feel their souls, and that you know their emotions."
"Yes."
"Can you do that with humans too?"
"Yes, I can."
"Oh..." Mara shivered with discomfort, and her skin went pale.
David noticed how much this had upset her. So he decided to tell her, "The funny thing is, that even though I can read people's souls, there is one person I can't understand."
"Who," Mara said still trembling.
"You."
"Me?"
"Yes, I have tried, but it's as though you've blocked me out. I just can't even get any idea of what you feel."
"Really?"
David looked at her, and noticed how she seemed to feel more comfortable, but then she grew uneasy again.
"David," she said, her voice cracking. She smiled, looking somewhat embarrassed.
"Yes?" He asked, smiling.
There was a brief pause.
"I love you."

David stopped dead in his tracks, his face was ghost white, and heart stopped beating.

Mara blushed deep red, she felt so embarrassed. "Why is he just standing there?" She thought. "David..." She said, almost at the point of tears, "Please say something."
"Mara," he was able to choke out, "I love you. From the moment I saw you, I've loved you."
"Really?" Mara said, now sounding very relieved, "You love me?"
"So very much. You're the only reason I've stayed this long. I never would have stayed if it wasn't for you."
"Oh David, you make me feel so wonderful!"

The rest of the walk home was a truly memorable one. David and Mara walked hand in hand, and for the next week, they couldn't be caught apart. David was turning the guards into very powerful men, able to search the innermost portions of their soul and harnessing their own aether. Darius was watching demonstrations of their skill. They were breaking logs with their bare hands, lifting rocks that weighed as much as several men, and jumping and running farther than it seemed humanly possible. Being a former knight, Darius had seen many displays of great strength, but even he was impressed by how good they were. In fact, Darius was so pleased with the skill of his new guards that he declared a games. The games were to pit the strength of the Order of the Bear, and the tactics of the Order of the Lion, against the intelligence of this new group of fighters. David was put under quite a bit of pressure to keep training at a faster pace now. Everything was still going pretty good. It wasn't until Mara said the word 'marriage' that there was turmoil.

"Why not David?" Mara was very upset with such a blatant refusal.
"Mara my love, you know as well as I do that it couldn't possibly work out. I love you so much, but I could never live in a city. I have to be free, I have to follow my destiny." David said, trying to make a logical retort.
"And who is to say that your destiny doesn't involve me? Do you think that the love we have is typical? That I can just forget about it when you leave."
"I don't expect you to forget me, and I'll never forget you, but I can't stay here forever. I wasn't even supposed to stay for more than a day!"
"David! You can't run from this too!"

There was silence as David glared at Mara. Mara saw in him a fury that was almost animalistic. David took a deep breath and began talking. Mara could feel him straining not to yell. "Is that what you think I did? You think I ran away?"
Mara tried to speak, but David was too angry to hear anything, and he continued, "I tried harder to get into the Lion then anyone there, I tried, but wasn't even allowed to get into the Bear, and I tried very hard to be a Magi, and then after all this, I try to live alone in the woods, away from people like you, who couldn't possibly understand someone like me! I've never once ran away from my home, I ran to it!"

Mara was hurt by his speech. She and David, two lovers of the highest degree, separated by simple location. It was too much for Mara, and she ran from the castle room in tears.

David stood there alone; he had just hurt Mara, not physically, but emotionally. "What have I done..." He said with a whisper. He was sorry about what he said, but he knew he couldn't stay. He didn't belong in a city. He belonged in his home.

"Mara?" Darius called to his daughter. He had heard her crying from outside her quarters.
"Yes Daddy?" Mara wiped her tears on her nightgown and quickly tried to compose herself.
"What's wrong baby?"
Mara sat up on her bed, "Oh nothing Daddy, I'm okay."
"Oh no you're not baby, I've been your father for fifteen years, and I know when something's wrong, so go ahead and tell me."
Mara wasn't sure how her father would react, but she wanted to tell someone. "I was talking with David, about..."
"Go on Mara,"
"About marriage." Mara looked at her father looking for any signs of disapproval.
He just smiled, "And?"
"Well, he said he couldn't marry me, because he could never live in the city."
Darius let out a long sigh, "Mara, he has his own path in life, and so do you. Now they've crossed each other at this point, but in order for those paths to stay together, their directions need to be changed. Neither of you can live the same way, you both have to make some compromises if you want it to work. Now David is a smart boy, and a good provider. You both love each other very much. You remind me of your mother and myself. But, if he can't make some changes to be with you, then he doesn't deserve you. If you really want it to work, you will need to make some changes too though."

Mara smiled. As always, her father was there to comfort her when she was down. She decided that she would compromise with David, and live with him in the forest.

Just then, David walked into Mara's room.

Darius looked over at him and gave him the look of a protective father. "I guess I'll leave you two alone," Darius said, and gave a smile to Mara as he left.

When the King was gone, David ran to Mara's side.
They both spoke at once, but David insisted that he go first. "I'm sorry my love, I will give it up, I'll come here to the city to be with you, I'll do anything, please..."
"David... David... David," Mara kept trying to say. Finally David stopped and Mara spoke, "My love, you don't have to give up your life, I will go to the forest and live with you."
"We can work this out," David said a tear welling up in his eye. Mara watched as it slowly trickled down his cheek. That was the first time Mara had ever seen him cry, and it was for her. She embraced him, and squeezed him tightly.

Both were willing to give up their lives for each other, so both decided that they would exchange time, of where they would live. The journey wasn't too far, only about 10 days, so they could make it every season. The one important thing was that their love would always keep them together.

Chapter 14

It was the day of the games, and David was very nervous. He knew he had trained his men very well and he knew they could win at least one of the games, but he wasn't too sure. The royal guards were good, but they still couldn't use their soul to its full advantages. David knew there was much more potential they hadnít yet discovered. Because David was the teacher, he was not allowed to enter the games, but Mara, after over an hour of convincing her father, was going to participate.

David paced up and down one of the castle halls. Each step he took echoed down the chamber walls. The Order of the Lion, and the Order of the Bear. They were up against the two most powerful fighting forces in history. He wiped his palms on his shirt. He was too nervous to think clearly, but still he stepped out into the main courtyard where the games were going to take place. It was crowded with people from all around. Conversations mixed with conversations and everything was a blur. Vendors and tourists littered the whole area. The only empty spot was the middle of the courtyard where the games were to be held. He saw some very big men in full armor. They were obviously Knights of the Bear. He hadn't seen one in years, and forgotten just how intimidating they were.

David also saw something that made him very happy. His mother was there in the crowds. Word of the games had traveled all the way back to David's home town. He spoke with her for awhile, and told her how much he loved her. She was very understanding, as she knew long ago that he would never be caged in a city. She was very grateful to know he was still alive, and she proved it by embarrassing him in front of many guards with hugs and kisses. The love of a mother, would always prevail over the manly look of her son. Many of the people in the crowd cheered as he walked away beet red.

The Royal guards were feeling rather nervous which was to be expected. So David wasn't at all disappointed with the results of the first couple games. The first game of wrestling was taken by The Order of the Bear, the second was a joust won by The Order of the Lion. The third game was a tournament style one-on-one anything goes combat. There were three people from each group, each person would fight each other, and team with the highest winnings would take the victory. When it was almost over, there was just Mara, and a knight from the Order of the Bear to decide the tie. The Knight towered over Mara. He was two feet taller and probably three times her weight. He gave a low laugh and said a rather insulting comment about hurting women. This typical insult didn't effect Mara in the slightest. She just let the Knight think himself to his own defeat.

When the battle started Mara quickly gave the Knight a shot to the knee. The Knight laughed like it didn't hurt, but his limp proved otherwise. Mara darted from one side of the Knight to the other, ducking away from his attacks, and counter-attacking at key areas, causing extreme pain to the Knight. It was obvious who was winning, but the battle was far from over. The Knight began to get very mad at being beaten by a girl, and decided it would be best to put an end to this battle. He got a full swing in, knocking Mara to the ground. Her head rang a bit, and she saw a few stars, but she was defiantly not about to be defeated. She got up, and attacked again. This time using much more debilitating attacks. Neck shots, and kidney shots. The Knight soon fell, face first to the ground. Mara had won. Cheers sounded all around the city. One of their own was victorious.

The other soldiers grew greatly in morale from watching the Princess defeat a Knight who was supposed to be better then anyone else. They began to overcome their fears, and began to win. They won so greatly, in fact, that by the time the games were over, the other two Knighthoods lost every remaining game.

The defeat was embarrassing to many of the Knights, as not only had they been physically hurt, but also their pride was in much more pain. Some stormed off the playing fields, others shouted and yelled, some even picked fights with the guards. It was plain for everyone to see however, David's style and techniques were amazing.

Chapter 15

Near the end of the day, when all the games had wound down, King Darius summoned David. David walked into the Kings conference room, and saw three men sitting at the large stone table. King Darius Bendar sat in the middle. To the left of Darius was a very large, and incredibly well built ogre, and to the Kingís right sat a tall well poised catman with all black fur.

"Come in David," the King motioned, "Please sit down."
David sat down on the opposite side of the table, facing the three men. Who looked vaguely familiar.
"Let me introduce Turk Broadshoulder, and Paralon the Swift."
David had heard these names before, and he now recognized them. Quickly he stood up and gave them the Knight's salute. David was in awe, and it was obvious from his voice when he said, "It is a great honor to meet you two men!"

These two men, were the founders of their Knighthoods. Both men were legends even in their own time.
"Yes," Darius said, "Both Head Knights are interested in you."
"I've heard you tried to become a Knight of the Lion," Paralon spoke up. His voice was grizzled and feline.
"Yes, I was a squire, but I didn't like all the studying," David said truthfully.
"I know what you mean boy!" Turk's thick Ograrian accent came through, "Never much cared for it myself. With the Order of the Bear, you won't have to worry about that."
"Well I'm sure you could skip the standard training," Paralon said, not wanting to lose face, "After all you seem to know a great deal about fighting."
The two Knights continued to argue over which Order he would be happier in, until David finally interrupted. "I'm afraid I won't be joining either of your Knighthoods," David said, "You see, although I greatly respect them both, I wouldn't really be happy in either of them."
"Didn't I tell you men," Darius said, speaking to both Knights, "I said he wouldn't be interested. That's why you should go along with my idea."

David didn't realize how truly impressed the two Head Knight's were. Many of the Knights that participated were the best fighters in their Knighthood, and yet they still lost.
The two Knights agreed with each other, but David didn't know what they were talking about.
"What is your idea your majesty?" David asked.
"We want to create a new Knighthood, and we want it to be led by you."
The words took awhile to sink in, but David finally spoke saying, what he feels, is the stupidest thing he ever said, "Wha... Knigh... Ord... Me?"
The three men chuckled a bit, but confirmed his question. Yes, there was to be a new Knighthood. Led by the man of the woods, the man who always wanted to belong to a Knighthood. He could now be the leader of one.
David tried to protest that he wasn't fit to be a leader, but Paralon wasn't going to allow it.
"David, I was a Knight of the Bear when my Order needed me very badly. I used my outside skills to benefit the Order, and protected it from those damned bureaucrats. Turk here told me to leave and start my own Order, so I did. Now the Order of the Lion is even larger than the Order of the Bear."
"You're numbers may be larger," Turk interrupted, with a grin on his face, "But your Knights are still smaller!"
"Anyway," Paralon continued, "I had little leadership skills, but I learned awfully quick how to be a leader, and you will too."
"You see boy," Turk began to speak in his normally loud voice, "The reason the Lions did so good, is because they have skills that the Bear didn't have. Now mind you these skills are less important, but they're different none-the-less. You also have different skills. We've spoken to the guards you have trained. They are very good men. They are just and righteous. We want to keep your style around because it obviously has some benefits. We also want to make sure you'll be on our side, the fight for justice and truth. It is for that reason that you need to form your own Order."

It was truly an enticing proposition, but David needed to be sure about something first before he agreed.

David knocked on the heavy oaken door.
"Come on in," he heard from the other side, the voice as beautiful as he remembered.
He opened the door and stepped inside. There was Mara, lovely as ever. She wore a rather exciting silk gown, which was just the slightest bit see-through.
"So, how did I do today honey?" Mara asked grinning.
"You were the best."
"So what are you doing here?"
"I have to ask you something."
"What about?"
"It's a decision I have to make, but because you are to be my wife, and you are my one true love, I want your opinion."
Mara smiled. "His soon to be wife, and his one true love," She repeated the words in her head.
"You're father, that is, King Darius, Turk Broadshoulder, and Paralon the Swift. Did you know they are the Head Knights?" David's words started to stop making sense, as he was extremely nervous.
"Just tell me." Mara was getting nervous herself not knowing what all this was about.

David paused for a moment to gather his thoughts and then spoke, "Your father and the Head Knights want to form a new Order of Knights." David looked into Mara's eyes and continued, "And they want me to be the leader."
He didn't know what she was going to say, or if she was going to be very angry. It must have been about a half of a second, but to David it was a year of agony. Regardless he was surprised by the outcome.
"Oh honey that's terrific!" Mara said wrapping her thin yet strong arms around his neck. She gave him a cheerful kiss, and said, "Iím so proud of you!"
David didn't know what to say, but finally he asked, "So you're okay with it?"
"Okay with it? I'm thrilled!"
"Well I'm not sure if I should do it," David said honestly.
"Why not? It's what you've always dreamed of! Not only will you be a knight, but you will also be able to teach others what it truly means to be one with yourself, and with nature."
"Yes, but it will take so much time out of my life, I won't be able to spend as much of it with you."
"My dear, not only am I madly in love with you, but I'm also the best at your techniques other than you. I will become a Knight under your leadership."
"But women aren't allowed to become Knights."
Mara looked outraged, so David quickly said, "Not by my will, if it were up to me women would be able to become Knights. It's just that in the Order of the Lion and the Order of the Bear, they put most of their training on how strong you are, and well... Men are usually stronger than women."
"David dear, I know that, it's obvious that men are usually stronger, it's because they don't use their brains so they need to offset it somehow. Your style is different though. The way you live, fight, and think is not biased by crude physical skills. It's all in the mind with you."
"So how do I convince the Knights to let women join?"
"David, you'll be the Head Knight. You won't have to convince anyone!"

David started thinking. He thought about how badly he had always wanted to become a Knight. He thought about how much he liked teaching, and all the other people out there that must be like him. Those people have no place to fit in. He would do it for them. Mara, oh precious Mara, she too did not fit in, but with his Knighthood she would. He would do it for her as well. Solvang, how he missed that mangy wolf. With Knights to help protect nature and animals, the forests would be much safer. He would do it for Solvang. For all the Knights he looked up to as a father he would do it for them, but most importantly of all: For himself. For what he wanted to be, for what he loved, for who he was, and for his destiny. He would do it for himself.

"Alright, I'll do it," David finally said. His words were solid and true, and Mara knew he meant what he said.
"The Angels have blessed me so much that I would be loved by a man such as you." Mara gave her love a great kiss.

Although he didn't like being proud, David had to be proud of himself that day. For it was he the scrawny boy who was told he could never do anything right, who would now lead his own Knighthood.

Chapter 16

The Order of the Wolf was the name of his Knighthood. It was different from the other two, in the fact that not only did it allow women to join, which caused quite a stir in the other two Knighthoods, but it also allowed magic. The magic was small, and thus the Magi need not control it, but they would always keep a watchful eye on the Order of the Wolf, just to make sure that they don't overstep their boundaries with spell casting. The Order of the Wolf was also different in the fact that physical strength is one of the less important aspects of their skills. David also selected the mark at which the knights in the Order of the Wolf would be known by. Three lines that resembled wolf claw marks were to be branded into every member's cheek. In time, the Order of the Wolf became a very important Knighthood to the history of The World.

The three Head Knights walked up to each other in the main square of the city. Each one put his right arm onto the left shoulder of the man next to him. A large crowd was gathered for the ceremony.
"From this day forward," Turk said, using his very projecting voice, "All Knights will be brothers in arms, brothers in battle, and brothers always. We are, The Brotherhood."
Everyone began to cheer and shout, for they knew that they would now be that much safer from the plagues of Adreial, and the pain of Tendral.

David and Mara were wed soon after. The wedding was huge because Mara was a Princess, but the couple knew very few of the people who actually came. After the reception they quickly left for the forest. As they were setting out, Mara casting her memory back spoke to David, "Lead on, my handsome Knight."

David looked at her, thought for a moment, then remembered. He smiled and said, "I love you now, and I will love you always." and kissed her on the forehead.

They left that night into the woods, to be one with not just the animals and the trees, but now they were one with each other as well. Their souls were joined and they would never be separated. When they reached the point where David had made his home, David began to cry. Not from sorrow, not from grief, but from love.

David looked at his wife Mara, who still looked just as beautiful, even with the scarred flesh on her face. The mark of a Knight, the mark of the wolf paw.

He had his wife, he had his home, and he finally spoke saying, "Everything that is important is here with me now." For there, sitting near his old den was his friend, his companion, his brother. There was Solvang. The black fur around his eye that David loved so much was still there. "Hello my old friend," David said to him. Solvang being true to his instincts just left to go hunt. However, if you were to ask David, even to this day, he swears he saw Solvang give the faintest smile as he walked away.


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