A Wylde Tale by T. J. Schaaf and Cal Westray
Chapter 2: Whatever Happened to Yesterday?
Leader - “Wizard! Priest! We have already lost twenty of our best hunting party!”
Wizard - “I know your...”
Leader - “The other tribes are moving in quickly, soon there will be none of us left. These shadow hunters must be killed.”
Wizard - “I know sir...”
Leader - “Your magic has done nothing!”
Priest - “Precisely your greatness, his magic does nothing an...”
Leader - “Silence, priest, I don’t see you helping either. Why do the gods turn their backs on us?!”
Priest - “My leader, you shouldn’t speak of such things, for it will anger the gods.”
Leader - “You, wizard, cast your spells. And you, priest, pray to YOUR gods, for I have none anymore. And both of you help the hunting parties in any way you can. In the mean time, sacrifice another of the prisoners, perhaps the gods are not yet satisfied.”
Wizard - “Leader, another death will do nothing to help destroy the dark hunters.”
Leader - “We shall see, wizard. Now go.”
A prisoner of war is retrieved from his cage and led to a stone altar. The altar is stained from previous sacrifices. The stone is chipped where the knife has been brought down so many times. It appears their gods aren’t easy distracted. The wizard, seeing that another sacrifice does nothing but create more death, begins to cry out. He can feel the anger building inside of his very soul.
Wizard -”Leader, don’t do this!”
The priest begins to chant as the prisoner is secured to the altar. “Oh great ones, we sacrifice this man in your name!”
Wizard - “You can stop this now!”
Priest - “Oh great ones, hear our cries, for we need you!”
Wizard - “You must stop this leader!”
Leader - “It must be done if we are to be saved!”
The wizard can no longer stand it. All he has been taught is being broken here and now. He has witnessed the death of too many men. What gods that are worth worshipping would want the blood of innocents on their hands? It’s time to end this! “If you will not stop this, I will!”
With that, the leader snaps his head toward the wizard, who is now beginning to chant himself. A yellow glow emitted from his staff begins to surround the mage. His hands and eyes begin to crackle with pure energy. “You dare defy my will wizard!”
In an almost echoing voice, one that sent chills down the backs of all the heard it, the enraged mage bellows out, “Witness the power of an ancient glory, and sacrifice no more lives!!!”
A large dark cloud begins to form, lighting begins to crash, and a faint glow starts to emit from the cloud. A swirl of lights spring forth from the glow. But before the mage can complete his spell, bright flash blinds the crowd and a scream is heard.
‘Oh my god, I’m going to die’ is all I can think as the tunnel begins to open. I fall through a bright light only to find myself falling again. This time it’s fifty feet above land though. Whoops!!
As I begin to come to, all I see is a large blur. Every part of my body aches. My head feels like it’s stuck in a vice. I wonder if Wylde’s fall was as enjoyable.
“Wylde. Wylde are you there?”
Wizard - “Now why would you want a horse, you just got here. I hope you plan to stay longer than a week chosen one.”
“What? Who’s there? Where are you?”
Wizard - “Calm down, you had a nasty fall. Rest. But first drink this and heal chosen one. For you will need your strength.”
“What are you talking...”
As I attempt to finish my sentence, a bottle put to my lips. I can’t much fight it. The bottle is raised and what tastes like water is poured into my mouth. As the water begins to slide down my throat, I feel a sudden rush of energy. And then things start to go dark again.
The Leader is very upset with the mage but dares not challenge his power that has, many times over, saved his very life. “How is the chosen one?”
Wizard - “He is resting leader. What shall we do when he is healed?”
The priest enters. “We test him of course, we see just how powerful this boy is!”
Wizard - “Leader, I believe testing him so soon may hurt him.”
Leader - “Nonsense, if he is the chosen one, he shall not fall to our tests.”
Wizard - “Leader, what shall we do?”
Leader - “The priest is right. We are losing time. We must see what power he wields. But we will begin when, and only when, you feel he is healed.”
Wizard - “Thank you leader.”
Once again, I begin to come to, this time though, I don’t feel nearly as bad.
Wizard - “Ah good, you are awake. We shall start.”
“Huh? Where am I, what’s going on, who are you, where is Wylde?”
Wizard - “Calm down chosen one. All your questions shall be answered soon.”
“Chosen one? What have I been chosen for?”
Wizard - “Why, you were summoned here to save our people of course.”
Wizard - “How do you feel?”
“Fine I suppose. Why?”
Wizard - “Because I have been ordered to bring you to the tests now.”
“What?! What tests?!”
Wizard - “I am sorry.”
After little explanation, I am led to a group of people and shoved into a circle.
“Get off me! What are you doing!” I can feel my patience growing short. What is going on? “What is going on? Answer me now!”
A man dressed in almost nothing but a crest of feathers upon his head speaks down from what appears to be a throne, is the leader. “You are to fight this great warrior to prove you are the chosen one.”
Okay what is this. I feel like I have just been thrown into a movie. I look at my “opponent,” are they kidding. This guy is dancing around like a chicken on crack. He’s acting like a Van Damme movie reject. “Are you serious?”
Wizard - “Leader, perhaps he is not ready. Do not do this!”
Leader - “If he is the chosen one, this should be no challenge for him.”
“Guys, I can fight, but why should I fight...”
Wizard - “Leader, please. Give me more time to prepare him.”
“I said I can fight.”
Wizard - “Chosen one, I know your powers are great, but you are still weak, and this is one of the greatest warriors in our tribe.-
Leader - “Begin!”
Great, this is a good way to make friends, beat up some guy who’s clucking like a chicken. Whatever. Besides, I’m sure I’ll be waking up soon anyway. The “warrior” begins to scream and starts to lunge at me. Whoops, not just a lunge. He pulls out a curved knife and begins to bring it down on me. Now, after five years of martial arts off and on, I’m very confident in my ability to kick this guy’s ass. But last time I did that, I nearly killed a man. Well, it’s either he kills me, or I might kill him. Suddenly, I feel what could be described as, supercharged. With that, I decide to....
I wake up groaning, with a blinding headache and an aching body.
I slowly sit up in the grass. I massage my head and take inventory of my injuries. I feel a bump on the back of my head that is very tender. There is also some dried blood in my hair and down my face, but my head injury is no longer bleeding. There are numerous bruises on my body, but nothing seems broken. I should count my blessings.
My double vision is clearing, but I don’t think that helps. My surroundings are unrecognizable and I have no idea where I am or how I got here.
I get to my feet, unsteady at first, but the waves of nausea pass quickly. My mouth is dry and I could certainly use a drink, following a handful of pain killers.
I can’t judge the time of day in this place, but it appears to be early morning, because there is still dew on the grass. I am at the edge of the woods along side a dirt road. If someone passed by, the trees would block those on the road from seeing me.
I better get home and regroup. I freeze. Where is home? I can’t bring up any mental images of what or where home is. I don’t like the direction this is taking. Better check my wallet to get my address. I check all pockets, but there’s no wallet. Was I robbed, waylaid, and left for dead? That would explain my injuries. Whoever attacked me did a good job of it; they left me with no possessions. My clothing is even strange, nothing here is familiar to me.
At least I know who I am. I’m… I’m… Oh dear. This is rather embarrassing, but... Who am I?
Don’t panic, old boy. The first order of business should be survival, so I better look for a place of shelter and find food and drink. If I was attacked, I shouldn’t hang about and invite further attacks. If I meet anyone, I better keep my memory loss to myself. Keep alert! There is bound to be something that will help to remember who I am and what happened to me.
I need something to defend myself. I locate a nearby branch that is suitable for a walking stick and heavy enough for a staff. Satisfied with my work, I take my staff and check the trail.
Which way to take? Wheel prints and hoof prints are on the road. Horses? Most of the hoof prints are facing to the left. I should try to acquire a horse or some form of transportation, so following the tracks somehow seems be the best plan.
I walk down the well traveled dirt road at a comfortable pace, taking in the details of my surroundings. Woods on one side and crops on the other. Worst case situation, I could forage in the crops for food. Dried grains would suffice, but would not be preferable to an actual meal.
I have no idea where the nearest village or town is. I pull the hood over my head to keep my face semi-covered, in case someone recognizes me and has animosity towards me. I sincerely hope for friendly faces to recognize. I try to think of a familiar face and recall none.
I walk for nearly an hour along scenery that is very peaceful and pleasing, but I feel that I would prefer it on the back of a horse. Perfect for a brisk ride in the country. Is it a genuine memory? It seems as real as any memory I may have.
I should decide upon a cover story and a name, until I learn my real name. Try the alphabet: Andrew, Bob, Charles, David, Edward, Frank, George, Henry, Ian, John, Kenneth… Wait a minute, John sounds like a good one to use.
I walk for another mile or so. There are houses, little more than hovels, along the road. Crossroads are past the row of houses. At the crossroads are three larger buildings: a church, a general store, and an inn. There are horses hitched to posts at a few houses and horse drawn carriages in front of the general store.
There is a sign at the crossroads, “Welcome to the Village of Shady Vale — pop. 326.” The arrows above the sign point to the four compass points that match the roads. North points to Bernisdale, south points to Helmsdale, west points to the port town of Stonehaven Bay, and the east (from where I came) points to Talladale. Nothing strikes a familiar chord.
I make my way to the “Crossroads Inn”, chuckling to myself at the lack of originality, but it fits well enough. I open the door and walk in. There are a few people dining in the corner and the innkeeper is tending to some business at the front desk. Any conversation abruptly stops and I attract a few stares. I can only guess that my attire is that of a peasant, compared to that of the diners.
The innkeeper looks up with an air of disapproval. “You are a stranger to our little village, sir.”
Here goes, I hope it’s a believable story. “Quite so, my good man. My name is John and I was waylaid during my journey from Talladale to Stonehaven Bay. All my clothes and belongings were taken, not two hours walk from here. Left for dead, I was. At least they were kind enough to leave me with these rags.” I massaged my head again. “I would be eternally grateful for a cup of tea.”
He grins. “Certainly, John. My name is Amos, welcome to the Crossroads. Highwaymen, you say? Filthy luck. I would be an inhospitable host if I didn’t take care of travelers in need.” He takes me to a table by the fireplace. “I think some soup would be in order as well.”
“That’s terribly kind of you, Amos. A charming place you have. Would you happen to know if someone is hiring? I would like to repay your kindness.”
“What kind of work did you have in mind?”
“I was hoping to find work with horses or working the docks at the bay.”
“Well, I could use some help in the stables. Old Sam, at the store could use some help loading and unloading wagons. I’ll tell you what, you have an honest face. Spend a week here and help in the stables. I will find you some more presentable clothes and I will put you up in the back room. I’ll talk with Sam and see if he needs some things done, you can work out any arrangements with him.”
“That’s awfully decent of you. Thanks, Amos.”
He brings me tea, soup, cheese, and bread. “I will show you to the stables in a little while.”
I eat and drink. It tastes wonderful, I am hungrier than I thought possible. He brings more tea, which I drink greedily. I am eager to begin my labors, now that my stomach is no longer complaining.
He leads me to the stable, which definitely needs attention. I start by cleaning out the muck. Work progresses rather quickly. I clean out the stables, feed the horses, repair some broken boards, and examine the horses. The innkeeper checked on me a few times and brought me a bucket of water. He whistled to himself, shook his head, and went back to the inn as I continue my work.
It’s nearly dark and the stable is in fine shape. The horses are in good shape too. I even replaced an over-worn shoe on a workhorse and used the currycomb on the lot of them. I feel like I’ve done a full day of work, which I had.
Amos came out with a bundle. “Well, I’ll be. I never expected to see the stable in such fine shape and so quickly. Here are some work clothes and others that are more suitable for comfort. You can toss those rags into the burn barrel and clean up before coming in. I expect you are getting hungry.”
“Thanks, Amos. I will be in shortly.” He leaves. I discard the rags I was wearing and clean up. The water is cold, but feels good. The clothing is suitable and appears very durable. I bundle up the travel clothing, satisfied with the fit and I put on the work clothes. Amos and I have a similar build, so I guess that he found some of his clothes to get rid of. They are certainly better than those I burned.
I return to the inn and see that a crowd of people are drinking and dining. Amos takes me to the back room, my quarters, and has food waiting there. “Old Sam is dining, he would like to talk to you after you finish eating. There is little else for you to do in the stables for a while, you can discuss work with him for tomorrow. I don’t want to lose you completely, I’m cutting my own throat in sharing you. But Sam would do the same for me. He’s my brother, you see.” He smiles conspiratorially then leaves.
I eat slowly and enjoy the quiet.
I decide that enough time has passed and I think it’s time to talk to Old Sam. The inn is just bustling with activity. This must be the place for entertainment in Shady Vale. Amos points in the direction of Sam, who sees me and motions me to join him at his table. I smile, shake his hand, and take a seat.
“Well John, Amos tells me that you are a hard worker and he told me your unfortunate tale on the road.”
“Well, I adapt and survive.”
He laughs. “I like your attitude. Forgive the prying of an old man, but you don’t strike me as a common laborer. You carry yourself more like the noblemen who visit here occasionally.”
“Thank you, but I’m not aware of any noble blood. Not that my blessed mother cared to make me aware of.” Why does that seem to ring of the truth? My mother… a vague impression for only an instant. Beautiful, strawberry blonde hair, and sky blue eyes; dressed in green. It fades again. My father? How odd, there is no image at all.
“That doesn’t matter. Well, how about working for me when Amos isn’t breaking your back?” Sam breaks out laughing at the joke. “I will pay top wages in good silver coins, not that tin coinage that has been turning up lately. It will spend better by the bay.”
“I’m anxious to start tomorrow. The stables are in good order and only need the occasional cleaning for now. By the way, how much do horses cost in these parts? It would beat traveling by foot.”
“Well, if it’s a horse that you’ll be wanting, that can be an expensive proposition. I can’t promise anything but I’ll see what I can do, in lieu of pay — if that’s what you prefer.”
“There’s an old expression.” I just recalled, but I don’t remember where I heard it. “My kingdom for a horse.”
Old Sam laughed out loud at that. “By god, John I like you.” He slapped me on the shoulders. “Tomorrow you start and I will turn over a few stones and see if I can find a horse under one of them.”
I smiled. “Thanks.”
A moment later, three rough looking men enter the inn and all conversation stops. They are wearing long blades. One of them approaches Amos menacingly. My instincts scream trouble. “Excuse me, Sam, I should stoke the fireplace.” He nods in understanding, then scowls at the visitors. I walk to the fireplace and look for the hardware. Only one iron poker is in the rack. Pity, a pair of tongs will have to suffice. I pick up the tongs and the poker to get the feel of them in my hand.
The leader approaches Amos, threateningly, drawing steel. “OK, old man, hand over the money and no one gets hurt.” The other two move into the crowd, with steel drawn.
Amos looks nervous and reaches for the till. “Don’t hurt anyone this time, Jake.”
“You know the routine, old man.”
I move closer to the leader. One of the pair calls out. “Hey Jake! That’s that fancy dresser we found last night on the road.”
Jake turns and sees me for the first time. “Well I’ll be. I thought you were dead.”
I grinned. “The reports of my death were greatly exaggerated.” Where did I hear that before?
“Maybe we will do a better job this time.” He raises his blade toward me.
“It’s not wise to set goals well beyond your reach.” I advance and he charges for a cut to the chest. I parry with the poker in my right hand, pushing the blade across from his body. He will be forced into attempting a backhanded swing. He does so and I duck under it, and using the tongs to force the blade upwards.
His final mistake. I drive the poker up into his chest, just under the ribcage. I bury it about six inches into his chest, twist and pull it back out. He collapses, dead before he hits the ground. His partners are coming at me from both directions. I see them in my peripheral vision, they are unaware that I see them.
At the last second, I drop backwards into a tuck and roll, then rising back to my feet behind them. They turn to face me. Both are right-handed. The one on my right swings backhanded. I use the tongs, step back a half pace, and parry the blade further away from his body and towards his partner. His partner realizes his peril and sidesteps away. Off balance and startled, I repeat the poker to the chest routine. Two down and I face the third.
He looks at his partners and realizes he is vastly outmatched and I advance. He backpedals. “It would simply be wise to lay down your blade and surrender. I will spare your life.” Amos is also barring his escape with a heavy oaken staff.
He turns back to face me, then stares at the blood stained poker. He wisely drops his blade. “I surrender, don’t kill me.”
“I don’t plan to kill you. I would like a private chat instead. Your cooperation will determine your chance for survival. If you cooperate fully with me, I will bargain your protection from these gentle folk that your little band has terrorized.” I call out. “Amos! Sam! Will you join us outside for a moment? The rest of you kind folk, relax a bit. Someone cover the bodies, please.” I pick up the lightest weight blade that the trio had and drop the fireplace hardware.
“Sure, John. Where did you learn to fight like that?” Sam shakes his head.
“I don’t really know. I hope I can explain later.” Amos gathers some sheets to cover the bodies and we take our prisoner outside.
We are soon outside and alone with the prisoner. “What’s your name, lad?”
“Jimmy.” He looks around nervously.
“Well, Jimmy, where are your horses?” He looks to the side of the building where three horses are tethered. “Very good. Now, I want you to retrieve my possessions that were taken last night. Everything! If anything is missing, I will know.” I lied. “And do it slowly.”
He takes off the large saddlebags off the roan gelding and hands it to me. “Your clothes are in there and everything you were carrying. There is a cane tied to the saddle. Jake pocketed some of the silver items you had. That’s everything, I swear it.”
“Very good, Jimmy.” I will look in the saddlebag shortly, I withdraw the cane that is wrapped in cloth. An umbrella! “My friends, check the saddlebags for money. Please recover any money that was taken from previous robberies and make sure that it will be returned to the rightful owners.”
They check the saddlebags and find the stolen money. “Excellent. So far Jimmy, you are batting a thousand. Your future is looking very bright indeed. Next question, how many more are in your little highwayman band?”
“No one! Just Jake, Ace, and myself! I swear! Jake was the leader.”
“I suggest that you find another line of work. Something less hazardous.”
“I will, I will!” He is ready to bolt.
“I will make sure that no one will follow you for the night. Is that enough time to disappear and make an honest life for yourself?”
“Yes! I will go straight.”
“One more thing, if I ever learn that another is harmed by your hand, I will hunt you down and you will suffer the same fate as your friends. And I don’t give up on a chase. Ever! Clear?”
He is visibly shaking at the memories of watching the deaths of his friends. “Perfectly clear, sir.”
“Last question, Jimmy. When you waylaid me on the road, what happened?”
“You were stumbling down the road, like you were drunk or something. Jake clipped you from behind and you collapsed. We took everything of value and covered you with the robe. The robe was my idea, I thought it was cruel to leave you there naked.”
He looks at a horse.
“It looks as though fate has allowed the right one to survive. Take your horse. You will have the same odds you gave me, but without injury. The other horses are payment to me for pain and suffering.”
“Thank you, sir. You won’t be sorry for giving me a chance.”
“I’m sure I won’t, Jimmy. Take off, lad.”
He jumps on his horse and rides off. I notice that he is heading west toward the bay. I may run into him again. Who knows? It’s a small world.
I turn around and see Amos and Sam staring at me. “Well gentlemen, I owe you a story. I don’t have an ending for it yet. Amos, I would like some wine. The good stuff, if you don’t mind.” I head for the inn with my possessions. They laugh and follow me into the inn.
The people are still milling around and talking about what happened. “Excuse me, good people. Does anyone have any claims against the lad who just left?” No one speaks out. “Good. He is now riding off to make a new life for himself. I would appreciate it if no one goes riding off looking for him. At least until morning.” I smile.
I search the bodies for silver items and put them in the saddlebags. Anything else, I leave. Some of the braver citizens help carry the bodies out to the church, for a proper burial. I find a table and scatter my possessions on it to inspect them. A nicely crafted suit, a hat, an umbrella, a wallet, a passport/visa, some pens, a tube, a flask, handcuffs and keys, a lighter, a watch, a pocket watch, a knife, and a notepad.
Amos brings a bottle of wine and three glasses. Sam joins us at the table, looking over the possessions. I take a glass and sip it. “Very good, Amos. This is the best I’ve tasted in quite a while.” I sip it slowly, enjoying the flavor, and push back the memory of the last hour.
Sam whistled. “Those are finely crafted trinkets you have there, and I’ve seen my fair share of merchandise.”
“I promised you a story, my friends, and the sum of it is this. Before this morning, I have no memory. I woke up on the side of the road and found my way here. I know what these items are, but I have no memory of having them. I don’t even remember the attack by the trio. I suppose I was injured before they found me.”
Amos knitted his brows. “That explains a lot. You must be an experienced fighter, probably a knight. Most likely a nobleman.”
Sam smiled. “I thought as much.”
I return the smile. “You may be right. I am hoping that I may learn something from these items.” I pick up the wallet and slowly open it. There is an identity card with my picture on it. There are various details that match my physical description. Other cards and the passport/visa support the fact of my identity. “Jack T. Wylde”, but it doesn’t help in jogging my memory. I was close in choosing John as a working name. The card indicates that I am an agent of the Ministry of Defense. Nothing seems familiar.
Sam and Amos look over the identification papers, confused at what they see. They don’t understand the language that it’s written in, another mystery for another time. I tell them what it says and they are more confused, they say that there is no such thing as a Ministry or a place called London, England.
I withdraw the notepad and read it. “Surveillance of the Chief of Police of Foz do Iguacu”. I read it out loud, so they could follow my tale. It’s a journal of my account before I came here and my assignment to protect a boy named T.J. The last entry was that of following the Chief to a Tupi-Guarani village and stopping him before he assassinated T.J. He was under the protection of an agent named Fausto. I have no memory of it. I close my eyes. Flash! A brief image of T.J. appears but there is nothing more.
In the back of the notepad, there are two pictures. One is an older man, the notation on the back indicates that it’s the Chief of Police. The second picture is the boy, T.J. The mental flash matched the picture.
“My friends, a boy is possibly still in danger. He was under my protection before I came here. I now know my true name and the situation, but nothing else. I have to find him and return him home to safety.” I hand the picture to the brothers to examine. “This is a picture of what he looks like.” Neither have seen the boy or have seen anything like pictures before.
Amos speaks up. “Well, Jack, it’s clear that you must go. You now have horses to help with your journey. They are by law yours to claim. You have your possessions again. Take some of the money with you. It may help. But Jack, that picture of T.J. is like nothing I’ve ever seen, like magic. Are you a wizard as well?”
I shrug. “Not to my knowledge, it must be common where I am from. Is that bad?”
Sam follows. “Not at all, it’s just very rare. My brother is right. You should get some rest and start out in the morning fresh. I will gather some supplies for your journey. Don’t argue. You’ve recovered enough of our losses to pay for a wagon load of supplies. We are more grateful than you could imagine.”
“Thank you both. If I can, I will return someday to tell you the rest of the tale.”
“That sounds splendid. Now gather your things and go take care of your horses. Then get some rest.” Amos raises his glass. “Cheers and good fortune!”
“Cheers.” We finish our drinks, I place my possessions in the saddlebags, and check on the horses.
I lead the horses to the stables, feed and water them, and put them in the stalls. Then I head for the back room to sleep for the night. Fatigue catches up with me after my long day of labors and I sleep the sleep of the near dead. To sleep, perchance to dream... how lovely.