Faris Indra Baswara/180410135001
The bird sings amid the mild summer breeze. Trees stood firmly while its leafs dance left and right following the strong wave of wind as it covers the grass beneath them from the midday sun. Few curious eyes of wild beasts observe two figures that stood on a clearing not far from a village. Standing on a field in the middle of the forest were brothers. They are practicing their sword play. One of them thrusts or swung the sword on his hand while the other gracefully dodge or parry the incoming assault, they did that alternately and continuously.
The two has been exchanging steel since the sun began to rise. The grass below them had bowed down as a result of the ordeal. Their sweat drenches their tunic and their bruised palm struggle to hold the blunt sword they wield. They hold their movement and put some distance between them to stare at each other for a while. “Had enough?” said one of them with heaved breath. The other answered with a quick step forward. He advanced with his sword pointed toward his foe. But his attack was evaded almost without effort and he trip and fall forward.
The one who falls stayed supine on the warm grass, trying as hard as he could to breathe. “Footwork, Athion.” said the man who stood beside him with a heavy breath.
“I am tired, Anifics. Don’t you as well?”
Anifics inhaled a lot of air to cool down his body. “I am.” He then offered his hand to help Athion to get up. “But your enemy won’t wait for you to get up to kill you.”
Athion took the offer and grab it with his battered right hand. He pats his tunic to relieve it of dirt and dust. “I don’t know if I can even imagine myself surpassing your skill.”
Anifics smirked. “You could always be a scholar like Alodyne.”
“Don’t you compare me with that twat!” Athion crossed his arm together and look away to further show his disapproval.
“Don’t be like that, he is your brother.”
“Well, I wish he wasn’t!”
Anifics sighed. He knew that his little brothers couldn’t get along with each other, but he never know why. “Don’t let mother catch you said that.” Anifics sat down on the grass and stabbed his steel sword into the soil in front of him. “What is it with you two anyway? You’ve been like this since father is gone.”
“Father fought for us, for Kirian. I always wanted to be like him,” said Athion. He turns his body to face Anifics. “Yet what did Alodyne do? He holds book instead of sword! Doesn’t he want to avenge him?”
Anifics stared at him, unsure what to say. “We all wanted revenge believe me, but you know Alodyne are not gifted in the way of sword. He couldn’t even swing one properly. Maybe he already found another way, through books.”
“Or maybe he is just a coward.”
Anifics stood up and picked up his sword. “Have you tried asking him?”
“No way in this world!”
Anifics stood still to observe his brother as if he tried to read his mind. “Let’s just go home.”
They traverse the forest like it was their home. They have been using the field as a training ground for more than six seasons, and they keep it secret from anyone else so they could train in peace. Silences engulf their journey home. They are too wary to open their mouth.
After nearly an hour walk, they got themselves before the wooden gate of Redwood Village. Surrounded by the evergreen with no road connected to it, Redwood Village stood alone in this middle of nowhere.
“Anifics! Athion! Where’ve you lot been? Go on inside, your brother is making a scene again!” yelled someone.
“Ugh, what did he do this time?” Anifics made a scornful looks as he quicken his pace, leaving Anifics behind.
Anifics turns to the guard to ask him a question. “How bad is it?” The guard slowly shook his head. “The elders are not happy. Hurry along then, lest they made a rash decision.”
Anifics hurried inside the village. There, he found a crowd that gathered on the plaza. He pushed anyone aside as he walks toward the middle of the crowd. Anifics heard some resentful shout as he appear on the centre of the crowd. He saw the three elders surrounding Alodyne while the crowd encircle them. Athion was there watching them with his hands crossed. As Anifics steps in to meet the elders, they recognise him and beckon him with a hand gesture.
“All of his family members are present.” One of the elders spoke from beyond their long gray beard. “From countless reports against your brother and for a direct offense to the elders, I’m afraid we could not tolerate his behaviour any longer.” The elder point his hand toward Alodyne. “This man has finally crosses our limit.” A cheer of approval and mockery erupts from the crowd. Anifics looked around him anxiously, he haven’t got the slightest idea of what sort of thing that he do that made the elders this furious. His sight meet with Alodyne’s for a few second before Alodyne looked somewhere else, either with shame or guilt. “As today, we found him trespassing our house and took something that is not belongs to him.”
“Alodyne, we could overlook your action if you are worthy. But since you refuse to be useful, we will refuse to consider you as one of us.” The crowd becomes even more vibrant as the elder said that. Anifics sighed and shook his head. “Today we have decided to give you a fitting punishment, and that punishment is exile.” The elder then moved to his original position.
The third elder moves forward to speak. “State your defence or your denial now as you will not get another chance.” Anifics looked away. “Alodyne, you are hereby—“
“I vouch for him.” Anifics looked down and closed his eyes. The crowd’s cheer weakened, they tried to find the source of the voice. “I, Anifics of Redwood, son of Taeldor, vouched for him!” he said with menacing eyes, he walks around to make sure everyone heard him.
The crowd are silenced, some of them shook his head and some leave the scene. Athion prod his brother on the shoulder. “Are you mad?” Anifics noticed the worrying look on Athion’s face. “Don’t do this! You know he is beyond our help!”
The first elder nods then stepped forward. “By your past deed, and with the honour your father bestowed upon your family, we shall accept your vouch. But know that if he continues down of his current path, we will have no choice but to punish you both.”
Athion shook his head in disbelieve. “I’m going home.”
Most of the villagers were already dispersed, leaving the elders, Anifics, and Alodyne exposed on the village centre. Anifics looked at Alodyne in the eyes, trying his best to hold his mixed emotion in his mind so it will not explode in one single moment. He decided it is best to hold it for now. The people who were once part of the crowd looked at him as he walks home but none of them said anything.
Anifics stared at the door of his house. He needs but a moment to collect himself. He grabbed the rope that tied to a hole on the door and he pulled it to open the wooden door. The door swung with a loud creak. Age has taken its tool to everything inside the house, with an exception of a gilded sword left by his father hung above the fireplace.
Athion stirred a cauldron held by two wooden stands to keep it above the fireplace. With a ladle on his right hand, he lifts it to pour the stew into a bowl on his left hand. Without saying a word, he then sits on one of the stool.
Anifics closed the door behind him. He grabbed a clean bowl placed in a cupboard left of the fireplace then filled it with warm stew and put the bowl on the table. Instead of sitting on the chair, he grabbed another bowl and filled it with stew and placed the bowl beside Athion. Athion harrumph as he knows who that meal is for. The door opened once again. Alodyne disrobed his stained brown cloak and holds it by the left hand as he walked in.
“Alodyne, come join us.” Anifics beckons him with a wave of hand. As soon as Alodyne pulled the chair beside Athion, Athion stood up eager to leave. But before he could fully stand, he was stopped by a loud pounding sound comes from the table. Anifics hit it with his hand. “Finish your meal.” Athion looked at him in the eye. After a short pause, he sat down again in submission.
“Did any of you know what father had said to me before he gone?” He pierced his eyes to his brothers, to see if his word means something to them. “He said, Anifics, if somehow I can’t return before winter, I’ll need you to take care of your brothers. I already taught you everything I know. Keep them safe, and share with them what I gave you.” He took a short pause and look at his brothers. “Do you know why I am still here?” he said it with a lower tone. “Because I made a promise to father that I won’t leave this village until each of you could stand on your own.” He slammed the table with both of his hands. “And I intend to keep it!”
The sudden change of his tone froze Alodyne and Athion on their movement. Anifics casually finish his meal. “See, that’s what family do, share their thoughts and feelings. Anyone else wants to share? Alodyne, you haven’t told us anything since you came back from Pretoria two weeks ago. Did you learn something new?”
“I’m sorry” Alodyne wipes his mouth with his left hand. “It is quite rash of me to bother the elders. But I reckon they keep something that is important to me as secret.”
“Tell us.” Anifics replied.
“After a few months that I’ve spent learning in Pretoria, I learned that there is another way beside the way of the sword. Which is the way of magic, or dark arts as the elders says.”
“So, why did you come home then? It didn’t work for you either?” Athion tried to mock him.
“They said only Rovirian could wield magic, they believed that us Kirian were born warrior, they don’t teach fish to tread the land. But I’ve read few literatures of the past that stated Kirian also uses magic in the old war, though different. This is the reason I came home. I asked the elders of this matter, but they refused.”
“So why did you took the sacred book?” Anifics asked him
“The book holds the location of five Kirian temples. I suspect that I could get the answers I need from the temple guardians, but the elders won’t sent me away before I prove myself worthy, so they say.”
Athion get up and took his bowl with him. “I’m done.” He put the bowl and the spoon near the fireplace and enters the bedroom to get some rest.
“Listen, Alodyne, the rules are there for a reason and the elders are not the one who made it, they were simply upheld it. Why is it so hard for you to follow it?” Anifics gets no reply. He sighed. “We will continue this conversation later. I need to rest for now.” Anifics proceed to go to the bedroom. “Please stay out from trouble till then.” He closed the bedroom door.
Anifics woke up when it is already dark. His entire body feels sore after the intense training with Athion. He looked around to check on Athion, but he only sees the haystack that Athion used as bed. He got out from the bedroom. There is nobody there. He noticed that the gilded sword that was hung above the fireplace is missing. Something is wrong. He put on his travelling cloak and head outside. He looked round to find tracks and any clue to Athion or Alodyne whereabouts. He went to the gate and asked the guards if they see anyone that get out to the wild, they know naught, so he went back to his house to think of where they could possibly gone to. Suddenly he remembered a cave under the waterfall not far from here that they would visit when they were little.
Alodyne stood on a rock inside the cave. Illuminated by moonlight, he holds the sacred book on his hand and read it carefully.
“I knew it!” Athion comes from the entrance. “The only one you ever care about is yourself! I was right about you all along!”
Alodyne harrumph in response. “This is a perfect plan. They won’t expect me to steal it as soon as I am caught.”
“You piece of filth! What about Anifics? He’ll be exiled because of you!” Athion tremble in fury.
“I’m confident he will survive, and I don’t have to stay here any longer now that I got what I need. Maybe you are the one who care about yourself. You don’t know what you’ll do without Anifics, do you?”
“Shut up!” Athion pulled the gilded sword that he brought from the house. He scoffed. “I won’t let you take Anifics away from me, you think mother would be proud to you? What would she feels if she found out that her favourite son turned out to be a failure?”
“I’ll hear no more word from you.” Alodyne closed the book and put it next to him. He stood up and get closer to Athion.
“I’m glad she died before she sees you like this!”
Alodyne looked Athion in the eye. His eyes were blank as it was hollow.
A thunderous sound shocked Anifics while he travels toward the cave through the wood. He will know if rain is coming, somehow the air is different when this thunder comes. One part of him knows that the sound is a bad omen. But another part wants to believe that his senses are dulled because of fatigue. He trod faster with assurance on every step.
Anifics arrived at the waterfall. He catches his breath and immediately searched for the entrance. He found the crevice and pushed himself on. Then he found Athion sleeping on the ground. He approaches him. His brother looked pale. His feet become limp in every step he took. Until finally it all become clear. Athion is gone. Anifics fell on his knees. Kneeling next to the lifeless body of Athion, he savours every moment that he could spend with him one last time.
Word count: 2491