Radiant Heroes – Episode 2: Beyond Horizons Chapter 1

The first chapter to the second installment of the upcoming epic fantasy novel: Radiant Heroes: Beyond Horizons. Enjoy!

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This is past due and I know this! I do not have a current release date from the publisher but it is looking like the end of September 2018. Either way I am very excited and looking forward to continuing the Radiant Heroes legend with you =)

As promised, I wanted to deliver chapter 1 of the episode 2 installment as soon as I could. Though it is still open for my own small changes, this is what you could expect to see when the book is in print. Thank you for your love and support – happy reading!

I would love your comments after reading =) please please

 

 

{Radiant Heroes – Episode 2: Beyond Horizons by M.C. Grimm

Chapter 1: Life Lessons

“Never underestimate one who can find victory in defeat; that is the making of a true master.”
The Wayward Warrior – A Tribute to Solihart

 

The winter frost covered the windows, obscuring the view of carriages and people walking past the clinic. The room had a dry heat that carried a scent of burning logs from the wood stove. Lee was on his knees, digging into the cushion of the chair and staring at the figures blurring past. He lifted his finger and traced a small circle into the frost; leering a squinted eye to view the world.

“Pay attention, boy.” Lavi scolded as he swatted at Lee’s head. “I am trying to teach you something, Maker knows you won’t learn it on your own.”

Lee fixed his thin black hair and stood up from the chair, “I’m sorry father.” He began following Lavi into the treatment center as his robes flailed behind him.

“Best not to let it happen again.” Lavi commanded. “I am going to teach you something rather different today and I need you to take note of everything I do because I will only do it once. After I do it, you will have to show me what you’ve learned. Do you understand?”

“I understand and I’m ready to learn.” Lee said excitedly.

“Wipe the smile off your face, boy. I’m here to teach you, not amuse you; take this seriously.”

“Okay.” said Lee.

“Good. Now, do you remember the Dinsley family from up near the Northern Villas on Emerald Avenue? The reptilians?” Lavi asked.

Lee shook his head.

“Recently their daughter was kidnapped and held for ransom. Apparently some delinquent, a half-breed, came to the Dinsley Clinic and feigned an injury. While Mulag was readying a gurney, the man grabbed young Drakas and ran out.”

Lee became rigid, “Just like that?”

Lavi knelt down and peered into his eyes. He spoke very deliberately, “Just – like – that.” He snapped his fingers and Lee jumped in place. “That is what inspired this particular lesson I have for you today.”

“Didn’t Mr. Dinsley – ” Lee started.

“Master Mulag Dinsley.” Lavi corrected.

“Didn’t Master Dinsley go after her?”

“He did, but the half-breed was much quicker than he was. The next day he discovered a letter, stuck into the door of his own clinic with a dagger. The delinquent demanded five thousand gold pieces to have get her back.”

Lee was anxious, “He paid it, right? Was she okay?”

“Yes, yes,” Lavi waved his hand in disinterest, “he paid it and Drakas was fine. She was never hurt and was always fed – it was the best of a bad situation. Mulag didn’t -.”

Lee interrupted him with a snicker, “Master Mulag.”

Lavi did not find Lee amusing and his face flushed with red. He quickly began reaching into drawers of his procedural cart as if searching for something. “Let me tell you something boy; a Master may call another Master by their first name. You are certainly no Master, you are a foolish eight year old boy.” He scolded. “I would be relieved if someone stole you away, but your mother – she insisted I talk to you.”

Lee hung his head.

At this time, Lavi was knotting some short ropes atop the gurney. “She told her father that the half-breed would go out for hours at a time, but would tie her up so she couldn’t escape.” He began wrapping the ropes around his wrists and put them out before Lee. “Pull that one there – no, the other one – yes.” He pulled at his wrists to show the binding was tight.

“What are you doing?” Lee asked.

Lavi sighed, “What I am trying to tell you is that being a cleric is a rewarding profession, but it does have its risks. We earn good coin and because of that, we have something worth stealing. We are worth robbing, boy. Now, there are many ways you can do this, but pay attention because I am only going to show you this once.”

Lee nodded.

Lavi twisted his wrists within the rope, showing that his hands were completely restrained. He first attempted to slip out of the knot, but the bulge of his thumb was too large. Then, he attempted to pull his arms outward and let out a strained groan. He released, took a breath, and then followed up with a second failed attempt. He was slightly out of breath as he spoke, “A good knot can’t be slipped. A quality rope won’t snap easily.”

Lee was now sitting on top of the gurney, looking on in fascination. “Then, what do you do?”

“We are clerics, boy, so we will play to our strengths.” Lavi replied.

Lee looked at him, intrigued and asked with a giggle in his voice, “how can healing get you out of rope?”

In that instant, Lavi slammed his bound hands against the underside of the gurney with all his might. The bed was lifted from the floor and crashed backed down on its legs with a wobble. Lee was tossed forward in shock, but was able to catch himself from falling by grabbing onto a medical cart.

He turned back and his eyes widened in horror – both of Lavi’s hands were covered in blood and they were contorted. A thin white shard of bone was piercing out from the base of his thumb with  a strand of torn skin loosely hanging from the tip.

“Father!” Lee shouted, taking a quick step towards him.

“Stop,” he commanded, “just watch.” Lavi twisted his wrists together. The knuckle beneath his thumb was clearly shattered from the force of hitting the gurney. To Lee’s surprise, this allowed his hands to squeeze further under the rope. While that only made a slight difference, the blood from his wound seemed to lubricate his skin and  help him slip the rest of the knot.

Lavi looked to Lee with a grin. He held his mangled hands before him as blood began to shine in a pool at his feet. A familiar green glow began to pulse from his wrists, wrapping and enfolding around his palm and fingers. The bones made an audible snap as they shifted back into place. The fresh blood that had yet to drip, chased its run back under his skin until at last, the flesh itself seared back together – completely, and perfectly mended.

Lee stared at his hands, partially in shock of what his father just did. He was also in awe – as he often found himself while watching Lavi’s masterful healing magic.

“Do you see now how I was able to heal out of rope?” Lavi questioned.

“Yes.” Lee nodded excitedly. “That was incredible! Did it hurt?”

“What a stupid question to ask,” he snapped. “Do you think it hurts to shatter both of your hands?” At this time Lavi had shifted back to the gurney and began tying knots in the shorter, lengths of rope.

“I would think it does?” Lee mumbled. “But you didn’t even scream – you didn’t cry at all.”

“I have been around blood and broken bones my entire life and trained myself to be strong with the skills that I have. Pain is nothing new to me and if you wish to become a master cleric someday, you will have to accept pain as a part of life.” Lavi stepped towards him. “Put out your hands.”

“What?” Lee blurted out.

“Give me your hands, boy.” Lavi scolded.

Lee came to the realization of what Lavi wanted and shivered, “I don’t want to do that. I don’t want to break my hands.”

“I told you that you would have to repeat this lesson before we even began.” Lavi’s eyes glared at him. “It only hurts for a moment.”

“I can’t heal as well as you,” Lee explained as he stepped back. “And I don’t want to hurt myself.”

“When the time comes you won’t have a choice. This is going to make you a better cleric and a stronger man someday. This might be the difference between life and death!” Lavi shouted and followed towards him. “I promise you that if you were taken like Drakas I would not be paying any half-breed. You have to take care of yourself and this is how you learn.”

Lavi had taken two quick steps and was looming over Lee. He knelt down and held his small hands together, binding them tightly at the wrist. After the knot was tied, he gave, as Lee felt it, a crushing twist to be sure no slack was left in the rope.

Lee squirmed, “It’s so tight, I can’t even feel them.”

“That’s good,” Lavi replied, “then it won’t hurt as much.”

Lee wiggled in place and writhed his body in a jerking motion. He began spinning his hands around one another and biting at the rope. He lifted his head to spit small fibers from his tongue.

“I can’t get out,” he muttered.

“That’s a good knot tied in quality rope. Do as I had done; you won’t figure out a better way.” Lavi instructed.

Lee approached the gurney and looked over to his father, his eyes searching for concern and hoping for a change of heart. What he found was a cold stare, glaring back at him impatiently.

“On with it then.” Lavi boasted.

Lee lowered his wrists, shut his eyes, turned his head away, and thrust his hands quickly upwards. They met the rail with a heavy smack and the bed shifted slightly. He felt a throbbing in his thumbs, but it may have just been  from the loss of circulation. There was a split down his nail bed, but his thumbs were neither broken nor bleeding.

“Again.” Lavi barked, leaning closer.

Lee looked down, focused on his father’s example and repeated; this time with a more powerful thrust upwards. The gurney raised up an inch and met the floor with a bang. He could see his left thumb was clearly dislocated while the right was just beginning to swell. He threw his hands upward again and again and let out a soft sob in protest.

“How many times do you want to have to do this?” Lavi questioned. “Do it as hard as you can.”

“I’m trying.” Lee felt tears streaming down his face.

Lavi was unmoved by Lee’s pain, “If you were really trying; you would be free by now.”

A silence fell over the room as Lee was wiping the tears from his face. His eyes fixed on the gurney and he let out a child’s version of a barbaric yell as he wound up and hurtled his hand onto its underside. The bed toppled over as Lee was thrown off balance and onto the floor. His right thumb was now broken and his left; dislocated.

As satisfied as he felt to do as his father instructed, Lee was in the worst pain he had ever felt. He was focused on understanding what his father was trying to teach him, but couldn’t help but ask himself why he had just broken his own thumb.

“Now, slip out.” Lavi muttered.

Lee twisted his wrists again. The blood was pulsing out of his nail bed and he could feel the braid of the rope sliding with ease. He pulled one hand forward while shfting the other back. The nub of each broken thumb slipped beneath the knot. The rope fell to the floor with a singular wet flop. He had escaped his binding and stood, for a moment, triumphant.

Lavi looked on, unimpressed, “You’re almost done.”

His broken thumb was throbbing and blood was still streaming down his nail bed to leave small drips on the floor. Lee was feeling dizzy, but held his hands out before him and focused. He could feel the warmth of his energy building in his chest, and pushed it out through his arms. He waited for the green aura to radiate into his hands and mend them, but it stopped at his wrists. He recomposed himself, standing firm in the center of the room. Again, he couldn’t focus his energy into his hands.

“Focus, boy.” Lavi ordered. “You have to mend your bend out from your core; first your wrists, then your hands.”

Lee was beginning to panic, the throbbing was becoming unbearable and he felt exhausted. “I can’t!” He cried.

Lavi stood in front of him, “Try again.”

Lee closed his eye, centered on the warmth in his chest and rushed it through his shoulders and down his arms. He was focused on the pain in his thumb and his essence was choking at his wrists, pushing, but not healing. “I just can’t, it hurts too much.”

Lavi scoffed, “You have every advantage. You have received better instruction than Drakas, you have more maneuverability in the room than she had, and yet; your small child mind stops you. Perhaps necessity will teach you how to focus since I cannot.” He stomped towards him in anger and grabbed Lee back the back of his collar.

Lee was dragged backwards, his hands held up delicately as he struggled to get his feet beneath him, “What are you doing, where are we going?”

Lavi flung the closet door open and threw some garments out into the room. Lee began to crawl away on his forearms, but not before Lavi had again grabbed the back of his neck and tossed him onto the dusty closet floor. There was a shriek of pain as Lee instinctively broke his fall, landing on his dislocated thumb. The light retreated beyond the door as it slammed behind him. He could hear a chair quickly dragged across the floor and wedged outside. The darkness left no wonder to the warm run down his forearm and the throbbing in his hands.

“You won’t be coming out until you have mended your hands.” Lavi state calmly. “Take all the time you need, boy.”

Lee rolled onto his back and sobbed quietly. Between bouts of crying, he would attempt to channel his energy beyond his wrists, but was unsuccessful. The pain was somehow softer now and his nail stopped bleeding. Hours had passed between tears, attempts and failures, and Lee was beginning to fall asleep.

Footsteps approached the door and his father’s voice echoed within, “Have you fixed your hands?” His voice lacked concern.

As if no longer tired, Lee opened his eyes and fixed them on the shadows beneath the door. He remained silent.

“I asked you a question. Have you fixed your hands?” Lavi repeated.

As if no longer hurt, Lee rolled onto his knees, clenching his broken hands into contorted fists. He remained silent.

“If you don’t answer, I will make you regret it.” Lavi said with authority. “Don’t make me ask again.”

As if no longer afraid, Lee mumbled, “I hate you.”

“What did you say, boy?”

He heard a quick movement as the chair scraped the floor and smashed into the wall across the room. Pieces bounced and rolled with heavy wooden thuds; accompanied only by the rapid stomps moving closer.

“I hate you!” He shouted.

The knob twisted and the door was throw open with a crash. The light in the room was blinding to his darkness-attuned eyes and the blurred silhouette reached down for him maliciously. Fear and anger overcame him and then – darkness.

 

A blurry silhouette.

Throbbing pain.

Darkness.

 

Lee’s eyes began to focus as if waking from a dream. Everything before him was still blurry. The last thing he remembered was being at a festival with Marlow.

His senses began to awaken and the smell of fire and a salty mist was carried in the breeze. He was perched upright on his knees with his hands in front of him. Was he tied up? How did he get tied up? Oswald, the magic show; it all came rushing back to him; as detailed as a novel. He turned his head and could see a large bonfire with dozens of figures standing around it. Without having noticed, a figure walked inches past from behind him and approached the fire. It leaned to speak with one of the other blurred figures and then; they both started towards him. Lee twisted weakly, still in a daze, but only managed to topple himself over.

One of the figures knelt down in front of him patiently while the other came around him from behind and pushed him back onto his knees.

The figure in front of him spoke with a gentle, deep voice, “I’m sorry they had to rough you up like this, but I heard you gave my guys a bit of trouble back there, kid.”

Lee blinked quickly and the man came into view. He was tall a tall human in brown leather armor that accented his chiseled features. Down each of his legs were several small hatchets and on his back protruded two long handles to more elaborate axes. His skin was pale and he had numerous scars that were clearly from battle. Long gray hair peeked from under his hat and a matching goatee moved as he spoke.

He reached for his canteen and held it out to Lee, “Water?”

Lee slowly grasped the canteen and removed the cork. He took a small sniff and then, realizing there wasn’t any venom or poisons, downed the entirety of the canteen. He chugged it too quickly and let out a cough. “Thanks.”

The man took the canteen back, tipped it over to show not a single drop was left, and with a glance at Lee he scoffed. He threw it to one of the other men, “Refill that.”

The soldier ran off at once as ordered.

The man stood and took a few steps towards the bonfire. He was centered with his feet shoulder width apart and his arms crossed.

Lee took these few minutes to study the man as he was looking away. He took note of his excessive weaponry; 14 hatchets, 2 axes, and a small hand crossbow. Along his belt, Lee could identify three potion vials; 2 healing potions and 1 minor antidote. Luckily his skills in alchemy could tell the difference between the crimson of a healing potion versus the maroon of a flame nest. The pale green of a minor antidote is recognizable even by beginner alchemists.

The man was facing away the entire time, but his boisterous voice was carried on the breeze, “Didn’t your parents ever teach you; it’s not polite to stare?”

Lee was startled, “I… how did you know I was looking at you?”

“I don’t need my eyes to see.” He turned on his heel and came to crouch again in front of him. “You’re names Lee, isn’t it?”

“Yes.” Lee nodded. “Who are you?”

“I’ve gone by many names over the years, but nowadays I’m called; The Axeman.” He replied.

Lee looked at him confused. “The Axeman? That’s why you carry all the axes?”

He shrugged, “I think it was because I carried all the axes that I was called The Axeman, but who can tell with titles anyway?” His laugh carried over the ridge.

Lee was feeling calm, but wasn’t sure why. It was like he was having a casual conversation over lunch. Then, he looked down at his bindings, “Why am I here?”

His laugh was cut short and his smile quickly wiped away, “I needed you to help me get Stein here.”

“What do you want with Stein?” Lee asked.

“I think I’ll save us a lot of questions if I help you understand something broader; what do you do for fun, Lee?” asked The Axeman.

“I eat, go to the park, I draw with my mom’s pastels. There’s a lot that I do. What does any of that have to do with anything?” Lee said.

“How does it make you feel when you draw with your moms pastels?” He asked.

“I feel like I’m with her again and like she never left. It makes me happy. Some of the pastels still have the indent from where she would hold them in her fingers, I try not to use those.” Lee hung his head.

He grinned, “I know how you feel, Lee. I can relate to holding on to a feeling, wanting to relive it over and over and never let it go. You have a few things that you do for fun, a few things that make you feel alive – that’s how they make you feel, right?”

“I guess so.”

“For me there is only one thing that makes me feel that way; one thing that makes me feel alive. It’s the rush of a challenge, that feeling when you push yourself to the limit and feel your body almost break. I feel most alive when I am fighting for my life, one wrong move away from death.” The Axeman explained. “I only seem to get that through dueling someone whose as tough as me. That’s why I need Stein.”

Lee smiled, “You took me so that you could fight Stein?”

“Yes.” He said shortly.

“That was pretty dumb, he’s going to be angry.” Lee said. “He’s going to kill you.”

“That’s the point.”

“No,” Lee explained, “he’s not going to come and just duel you. He’s going to come and really kill you – a lot.”

“I’m looking forward to it already.” The Axeman grinned with satisfaction. “The reason I needed to tell you this was simple: there are rules to dueling that I need your friends to follow. If they don’t follow them,” he stared intently at Lee, “I will have to kill you. If you try to escape, I will kill you. If everything else goes well, you’ll get to walk out of here or even join my crew if you want.”

Lee laughed, “No thank you, I’ll be leaving with my friends.”

“You seem confident – you are really building up Stein for me. I hope he doesn’t disappoint.” He began walking back towards the bonfire.

“They won’t be afraid of you and your little hatchets!” Lee yelled.

In a flash, The Axeman turned to face a line of trees and was standing with an arm outstretched. Lee looked over and saw a hatchet buried deep in the trunk of a tree. He had moved so quickly that Lee didn’t see him turn, draw a weapon, aim, or throw it: but there it was, centered and devastating to the shaft of the tree. There was a soft creaking sound that seemed to build up and finally come to a violent crack as the trunk was split in half; falling into two separate pieces with the hatchet resting on the ground between them.

The Axeman continued his stride and laughed, “That’s the point.”}

Thank you for checking in, please leave some comments down below.

 

 

With love,

M.C.Grimm

http://www.mcgrimm.blog

4 comments on “Radiant Heroes – Episode 2: Beyond Horizons Chapter 1”

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