Chapter Three: Burning Homestead
"Is that smoke?" Tado asked as he pointed to the tree line way off in the distance.
"Yes." Conall replied. "Hopefully we won't run into goblins, that smoke is coming from the north, which is the direction we're headed."
"Do you still want to stop in your village, Tado?" Midnight asked.
"We'll have to go straight through that smoke to get to your village." Conall said.
So they kept walking, and Conall led them through the safe paths around quicksand pits, and the deepest waterholes. And they finally reached the trees on the far side of the swamplands, where they camped for the night.
Midnight unrolled sleeping mats, and found ways to use blankets instead of the mats, while Conall went into the woods to look for fruit, since they couldn't use fire, or the goblins would find them.
"Where do you think the smoke is coming from?" Tado asked.
"I do not know, Tado, but we will see." Midnight replied.
The next morning, they traveled into the center of the wood, only to find the scorched remains of Tado's village.
Tado rushed through the scorched gravel streets to where his house used to be. All that was left of his cabin were piles of ashes, and a few blackened crumbling walls.
Clouds had gathered in the sky above, and a trickle of rain began to fall, and put out the tiny flicker of flame still burning on the floor of the cabin.
Tado fell to his knees in front of what used to be the doorway, with tears streaming down his face.
Wind swept across through the incinerated village, blowing the ashes into the air, and dropping them, giving the appearance that snow was falling on the ruins of Tado's village.
Tado's cloak turned a deep depressing blue, revealing his sadness, despite his attempts to hold back his tears.
"What did they do to the villagers?" Tado asked.
"They probably took them to the dungeons, they make their prisoners make food and weapons for the goblin armies." Conall replied.
Thunder rumbled in the distance.
"I'll get them back." Tado whispered to himself. "I have to get them back."
Midnight put his hand on Tado's shoulder as he looked around at the burnt ruins of Tado's village.
"I'm sorry, Tado. This is my fault, the goblins could not harm the village while you were in it." Midnight said.
"Every war has sacrifices." Tenndahl said. "And you are the only person who can stop Saldumaur."
"But what if you're wrong?" Tado shouted. "What if there's someone else? What if I could have stayed in my village?"
Anger and pain flashed in Tado's eyes.
"We need to keep moving," Conall said. "The goblins will be on our trail soon."
Tado spotted a flash of white and yellow near the edge of the woods.
He stood up and stepped over crumbling fragments of scorched wood.
Tado picked up an ash covered painting that he assumed had somehow been thrown out of the cabin before it was burned.
The painting was a starry night, with a boy in the center. The boy seemed to be emitting a strange glow.
"What is this?" Tado asked.
Is this a sign? Am I really the only person who can defeat Saldumaur? Tado thought.
Midnight carefully stepped over sharp fragments of wood to look at the painting.
"Let me see the painting, Tado." Tenndahl said.
Tado handed the painting to Tenndahl.
Midnight and Tenndahl glanced at each other.
"What is it?" Tado asked again.
"This...symbol, has taken many forms, and shown itself in many places." Midnight said.
"I don't understand." Tado said.
"We need to get moving, Saldumaur may have anticipated your escape." Conall said.
"Well said, Conall. Let us go." Tenndahl said.
Suddenly, a flash like white fire erupted in the distance.
"What was that?" Tado asked.
"The White Phoenix." Midnight said.
"What's that?" Tado asked.
"The White Phoenix is one of the greatest knights this world has ever known." Midnight said. "We don't know which side he is on in this war, I suggest you be careful about him."
"Gryphonn is a noble warrior, he would never lower himself to such a level to fight alongside goblins!" Conall said in a slightly offended tone. Rangers had always thought highly of The White Phoenix, as he was the Royal Ranger of the Eastern Kingdom's son.
"Who's Gryphonn?" Tado asked.
"The White Phoenix is just Gryphonn's title." Tenndahl said as he handed the painting back to Tado.
"Why is he called the White Phoenix?" Tado asked.
"Partially because he can summon a Gryphon, one of the Mythical Beasts who protect our world." Conall said. "But also because the goblins think his armor looks like white fire. But," he continued. "We should get moving, goblins may not be very smart, but they know how to follow tracks."
"I agree." Midnight said. "Leave the painting here, Tado, it may attract unwanted attention."
Tado set the painting down where he found it, and followed Conall into the woods on the far side of the burnt village.
On the other side of the woods, they stepped out to find large army camp, bustling with archers, spear men, Knights, swordsmen, and even a few of the highest ranked Rangers. And in the center of all the activity a knight in gleaming white armor sat on a snowy white mustang, shouting orders to the soldiers.
"The White Phoenix." Conall said. "And not a single goblin in sight."
"Well, there's proof that you were right." Tenndahl sighed. "Again."
"Tenndahl and Conall have known eachother for a very long time," Midnight said to Tado. "Conall always seems to know the right answer to questions like this. He says it's a Ranger instinct, but I've found him keener and more knowledgable than most everyone I know."
"Oh." Tado said, feeling rather clumsy for not noticing the way Conall seemed to see everything. "Could I be a Ranger?"
"I'm afraid that's not the way it works, Tado." Midnight said.
This took really long to finish. Hope you've enjoyed my books so far! If you were wondering why nothing was explained to you in the first chapter, it's supposed to be that way, you're experiencing the events of the story the way Tado did.
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