Lords of Freedom is an exciting new novel including adventure, realistic action, surprising insights, and a touch of romance. Enjoy a new chapter every week. Prior chapters can be found here.
Lords of Freedom—Chapter 12—First Mission Training
Xan and Solomon sat in the great room, admiring the pair of black and yellow snake skins Xan had cured and mounted on the wall. Astounding things had happened in the year since he had been in the canyon and killed the snakes.
Solomon was a fountain of knowledge and wisdom and had instructed him for more than four years. Those lessons covered many topics including wilderness survival, plants, animals, steel making, weapons and warfare, geography, geology, geometry, astronomy, language, music, leadership, and more.
Tears welled up in Xan’s eyes and he said, “Solomon, I am filled with gratitude that you are my faithful friend and greatest teacher. As you know, my mother died when I was young, and my father was murdered before my eyes when I was just sixteen. Events thereafter forced me to flee Merker, into the wilderness. Since we first met, you have been a father to me and I love you.”
Solomon responded, “I have been a teacher for many years and during that time I have found few who thirsted for knowledge in such a manner as you.” His voice broke with emotion as he continued, “You are my best student and I love you as the son I never had.”
Then he started to hum a familiar tune, and both raised their voices in an old song about the pursuit of truth. Solomon had taught Xan this song early on, in the cabin they’d shared. When they finished singing both were silent awhile, content in each other’s company.
At last, Solomon smiled and drew in a breath. “Thoth has authorized me to give you some good news. In two months, you will depart on your first Royal Guardian mission. You are called to return to Cavalon, the kingdom of your birth. There shall be four distinct phases of this mission, each to a particular city of the realm, to ultimately deliver Cavalon as a whole from oppression.”
Xan jumped up and danced around the room, shouting, “Great, great, great! Praise the Lords, praise the Lords.”
Fredrik dashed into the room, looking alarmed. “What is all the shouting about—what is happening?”
“My dear friend Fredrik, don’t be alarmed. It’s just one of my fondest dreams starting to come true.” With those words, Xan smacked a hand to his knee.
Solomon and Fredrik exchanged smiles at Xan’s enthusiasm; then Solomon stood from his chair, motioning the others to follow. He led the way out of the great room, through the kitchen, and out the back door. Sheba needed to be informed of this latest development.
Xan shouted her name, relishing the way it echoed against the sheer canyon walls. Moments after the echoes faded to silence a dark shadow appeared amidst the trees; then the great black tiger appeared, bounding from the forest to stand before them. She didn’t look alarmed though, sensing their buoyant mood; rather Sheba looked quite curious.
Looking into her amber eyes, he said, “At long last, my friend, our preparation, testing, and training will be put to good use. We will embark on our first actual mission very soon.”
We are ready to help many run free. Sheba butted her head against Xan’s thigh as she projected that thought.
Mission preparations began the next day. Xan, by that time, had mastered the use of his new staff and armor. The number of attackers he and Sheba could defeat had taken a huge jump in the last month or so, leaving both confident of victory in the coming quests.
The next two months were filled with training designed for the new mission. Solomon reviewed the geography, including the countryside, population centers, and buildings with Xan. He’d lived his entire life in the city of Merker, and of course the wilderness, so this was crucial.
Jartan analyzed and prepared Xan to deal with military strengths and weaknesses, in particular how best to use the element of surprise. They considered possible allies and enemies and prepared to wisely use various resources.
As well, they plotted out where and how to obtain additional weapons for future freedom fighters, yet to be recruited. Then there was the rather tricky task of determining who their enemies would likely be and how they would react to an offensive strike.
Exactly who they would be protecting remained a mystery, but Jartan and Solomon did their best to outline for Xan the most effective ways to recruit and inspire good leaders. Specific plans were drawn as to how best to quickly train additional defenders.
Loved ones of those who would lead the fight for freedom had to be considered also, to avoid distraction in the ranks due to harm, kidnapping, or worse, behind the lines. In war, innocents often suffered more than those fighting to protect them.
In addition to Solomon’s efforts, Jartan adapted all their battle training to specifically deal with the enemies and weapons they would be facing. Most of that training had to do with how to protect against spears, arrows, and crossbow bolts.
They planned to send Sheba behind enemy lines to eliminate as many airborne threats as possible before the battles. Jartan also instructed them in large battle military tactics, including troop deployment, and protection of flanks.
Thoth and Ma’at called a meeting the day before Xan and Sheba’s scheduled departure back to their own world…back to Cavalon. Sekhmet was present of course, seated on one side of a long table in the Hall of Truth with Jartan to her left and Solomon to her right. Xan sat opposite them with Sheba at his side.
Thoth and Ma’at stood together at the head of the table and called everyone to order, after a brief exchange of pleasantries and updates.
“Alexandros, you and Sheba will return to Cavalon through the tunnel you initially came through to get here,” Thoth began. “When you exit into the cavern where the boat is, extract as much gold as you can safely carry from a vein you will find in the white rock wall. You will use it later to help set people free and buy weapons and supplies.”
Ma’at cleared her throat. “Don’t worry about bringing any gold back here, as there is a vast supply in the underground caverns of your home, Xan.”
Xan’s eyes widened at that. When he looked at Solomon, his mentor merely nodded, quite casually, in fact. Then both turned their attention back to Thoth.
He was smiling, reaching to clasp hands with Ma’at. “After crossing the underground lake and passing through the stone door, head due east. The first leg of your mission will transpire in Thalick where the Mayor is struggling with a band of pirates. Be ready for adventure. Be ready to fight. Most of all though, be ready to feel the joy of sharing freedom.”
Ma’at then declared, “Always remember, you must not do too much for the people of Thalick or those in any other city. You will soon return to us, and they will need to be strong enough to stand on their own. That means that they will have to work and suffer—even die.
“You cannot and should not save them all. Seldom is freedom won without the shedding of blood, although we hope to minimize it in Thalick, working against the pirates through their greed.
“The people must learn and work and fight for themselves or they will soon lose their freedom once again. New defenders must stand ready to take your place when you leave, and you are to depart as soon as possible, once the people have a solid foundation to usher in a celebration of freedom.”
To wrap things up, Thoth said, “O remember, remember, all that Ma’at has spoken. Now, we have one more gift for you. Last night in a hallowed ceremony we embedded in your staff some shimmering gemstones. In some cultures, these stones are called Tiger Eyes. As you can see, they have rich layers and waves of gold and brown which appear to be animated. We use these stones to represent all-seeing, all-knowing, divine eyes. Tiger eye stones are also symbolic of power, protection, prosperity, integrity, courage, balance, and truth.
“These Tiger Eye stones have been marked and endowed to be part of the rod of power which you will wield as a scepter of truth and freedom. When you are holding this staff, the stones will feel warm when truth is expressed and cold when there is deceit. To fulfill your mission as a Royal Guardian you will need to know who you can trust, for trust is the foundation of freedom.”
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