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Miguela woke before the suns rose and stretched, preparing for today’s activities. Miguela wanted to be ready before her guard arrived, so she changed from her sleepwear into a yellow and purple riding dress that had a split almost to her inseam with brown trousers hidden underneath. The dress provided her with enough mobility if things went awry while Miguela was in the hamlet. Miguela rummaged through her things until she finally found the dagger her father gave her before he shipped her off to the orators. It appeared to be well-crafted and was red steel. Miguela figured that if she had to use the blade, she was probably as good as dead, but its weight in her waistline gave her some illogical reassurance.

 

Miguela had just finished lacing up her boots when there was a heavy knock on her door. She grabbed her cloak and opened the door to see one of the largest men she had ever seen in her life. She was sure that he was a Ramon because of his olive-colored skin and legionnaire leather. However, he was as large as most Grang. The man carried the soft belly of his people, but the circumference of his arms was bigger than Miguela’s thighs. He held his leather legionnaire helmet in the crook of his arm, showing his wheat-colored hair cut in the short style of the Ramon legionnaires. The box haircut, combined with his square jaw and almost nonexistent neck, made his head look like a box.

 

“Scryer Miguela,” the huge Ramon started, “I am Donito if it pleases you. Archmage Belvi made it clear that I was to protect you at costs, so I am at your full disposal.”

 

Miguela felt ashamed for gawking at the mountain of a man, leaving him to stand in front of her room, hat in his hand. She wondered what kind of machismo threats Archmage Belvi used on the poor guard. Whatever the Archmage said had the man afraid to fail. Miguela thought the sentiment was sweet, but she could not condone putting a young through mental anguish for no good reason.

 

“Be at ease, Dontino. You are my escort, not my errand boy. I am sure things will be fine,” she said, giving him her best smile. The guard straightened up slightly with her words.

 

“Thank you, Scryer Miguela. Shall we go?”

 

Miguela nodded, and Dontino led them to the stables. The stable hands jumped into action as soon as they saw them approaching. Miguela kept glancing at the Ramon, wondering how she could have missed a man of his size around the compound.

 

The stable hands produced two steeds. One was a beautiful black horse. Miguela did not have a good eye for horseflesh, but she knew that the horse was a Ramon breed. The second horse was a beast of a chestnut-colored horse that was almost twice as large as the black one. Miguela assumed that the monster of a steed belonged to Dontino.

 

They mounted their steeds and started the short trip into the hamlet. Miguela was still unsure why they needed horses. Arizi was only about a twenty-minute walk from the compound but did not complain because she did enjoy riding.

 

“How long have you been at the compound, Dontino?” Miguela asked, breaking the silence between them.

 

“I have been in the employ of Archmage Belvi since he started the Scrying Project, Scryer Miguela. My main duty is to protect the caravans, so I am hardly there,” Dontino replied, answering her unasked question of why she had never seen him before.

 

As they entered the hamlet, Miguela was surprised at its many businesses. In Xandra, hamlets were so tiny that families often shared homes and one or two buildings acted as their commerce centers. Arizi was different. It had rows of buildings, each with a sign designating its trade. She noticed clusters of homes off in the distance and citizens going about their daily lives. They found a hitching post, dismounted their steeds, and hitched their horses.

 

“Where to, Scryer Miguela?” Dontino asked after she straightened her riding dress.

 

“Avio was a baker’s apprentice, so let’s check with the bakery,” Miguela answered. The large man nodded with a grunt in response. They walked until they found the bakery and entered, causing the bell attached to the door to ring. A man Miguela instantly recognized from Avio’s memories greeted them inside.

 

It was Hubul, the owner of the bakery and Avio’s master.

 

“Hubul,” Miguela said before she could stop herself.

 

“Yes? Do I know you? I would never forget a pretty face like yours,” Hubul said with a halfhearted chuckle.

 

“No, Master Hubul, you do not know me. I am from the compound, and I am Scryer Miguela. I just wanted to ask you a few questions about Avio if I could,” Miguela said. It was the first time she met someone from her scrying. She would have to be careful with her words and not allow the feelings she inherited from Avio’s memories to affect her.

 

Hubul’s face showed sadness as she mentioned Avio.

 

“He was a great kid and did not deserve what happened to him,” Hubul started, anger flashing across his features.

 

“This is not the first time this has happened recently. The constable says there is nothing to be done, but I would be damned to the Seven Hells if I stood by and allowed our youth to get murdered without doing something.”

 

“Master Hubul, I am here to help,” Miguela said, trying to process what the baker was telling her.

 

Hubul looked at her and smiled.

 

“You are a sweetheart. I understand the Academy and its compound has their hands restrained by bureaucratic shackles. I have lived in Arizi long enough to know that,”

 

“I will do what I can, Master Hubul. That is a promise. Please tell me about your situation,” Miguela said.

 

“We have lost four young men, including Avio, in the last six months. Two of the young men’s bodies were never recovered, and the constable declared that they must have run away to the big city in search of fame and or adventure. One lad was found hanging from a tree, and the constable ruled it a suicide. But after Avio, I became convinced that something was out there killing us,” Hubul explained.

 

“Why would somebody want to do that?” Miguela asked.

 

“I don’t know. But together with members of the hamlet, we hired an adventurer to look into it for us. He will find out what happened, and justice can finally happen for our lost youths,” Hubul answered.

 

“An adventurer?” the deep voice of Dontino asked from behind Miguela.

 

“Yes. His name is Koal, and he has quite a reputation. You can find him at the inn,” Hubul replied.

 

“What happened to the families of the other young men?” Miguela asked.

 

“All but one were transplants from other areas, coming here to learn a trade or work. The one who was born here was found hanging from a tree. His mother, the poor woman, was a widow and fell into a fit of depression, finding solace in the bottle. She eventually took her life by hanging herself from the same tree her son was found,” Hubul explained.

 

Miguela spoke with the baker some more but did not learn anything that she did not know already. She said her farewells, and they made their way outside.

 

“Where to next?” Dontino asked.

 

“To the inn. We should look into this adventurer,” Miguela said, and Dontino nodded, agreeing with the logic.

 

They found the inn with ease because it was the largest building in the hamlet. They walked inside the common room to find it was large enough to host the entire hamlet and compound. There were long tables with benches. Miguela could easily imagine the rowdy nights this place saw when the compound was a satellite school for the Academy. There was a bar counter and large, unlit hearth further inside. The innkeeper wiped the bar, and a rugged-looking Arzan sat at the bar, eating a bowl of soup. Miguela made eye contact with Dontino, who nodded in return, and they made their way over to the Arzan eating soup.

 

“Koal?” Miguela asked.

 

The Arzan looked up from his soup. He was well into his middle years and had the signature light-blue skin of his people. He wore a patch of his left eye and had three deep scars that raked outwards from his eyebrow to his cheek.

 

“Who is asking?”

 

“I am Scryer Miguela from the compound, and I would like to ask you a few questions about your current commission,” Miguela replied. Koal snorted at the introduction before slurping loudly from his spoon. He eyed Dontino up and down.

 

“He is a big one, isn’t he?” Koal asked rhetorically before continuing, “so, what can I do you for?”

 

“I spoke with Master Hubul not too long ago, and he said he hired you to find out what happened to his apprentice. The compound is also interested in his apprentice’s death and the other young men who have disappeared, and I thought perhaps we could help each other,” Miguela explained.

 

“No, you don’t know anything. Now, piss off,” Koal said, shaking his head before turning back to his soup. Dontino took a step forward, but Miguela held her hand up as a signal to stop, and thankfully he did.

 

“Respectfully,” Koal added, looking over his shoulder with a chuckle.

 

Miguela turned on her heel, making her way towards the door as Dontino followed closely behind her. Suddenly they were approached by a barmaid. She was an Arzan coming into her middle years and was dark-blue in hue with light-blue hair. The Arzan barmaid was tall, plump, and busty. She reminded Miguela of an odd mix of Caecilia and Henna.

 

“I heard you were looking into the missing men,” she said.

 

“That’s right, I am. Do you know anything, Miss?” Miguela asked, prompting her for her name.

 

“Please call me, Mandy. Unfortunately, I don’t have anything useful to tell. I just wanted to thank you for looking into this,” Mandy said.

 

“Thank me? Why?”

 

“One of the lads was sweet on me. His name was Filar. It was flattering and even tempting, but I have rose bushes older than he was. Regardless, he kept trying. He gave me gifts of all sorts. I wish I could thank him one last time,” Mandy explained. Suddenly, Miguela thought of something.

 

“Did you say gifts? Do you have any nearby?” Miguela asked excitedly.

 

“I do,” Mandy answered, her voice carrying the sound of confusion in it.

 

“Can you show me?” Miguela asked, and the barmaid nodded.

 

“I have this bracelet. Filar made it for me,” Mandy said, showing Miguela the bracelet on her wrist.

 

“Let me borrow it. I promise you will get back in one piece and give you closure,” Miguela said. The woman reluctantly agreed after Miguela promised her she could tell her if the young man was alive or dead with the bracelet.

 

She thanked the woman and left the inn, making her way to the horses.

 

“Do you think the bracelet was important enough to him?” Dontino asked, surprising Miguela with his understanding of how scrying works.

 

“We find out what body parts were doing the thinking soon enough,” Miguela quipped, mounting her steed, and with that comment, the mountain of a man laughed for the entire ride back to the compound.

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A note from CKJ5

If you like what you are reading, you can find more epic adventures in the Five Kingdoms universe on Amazon:

Book 1: Scourge of the Five Kingdoms

link: https://www.royalroad.com/amazon/B09VK3JZ8V

Book 2: Dogma of the Five Kingdoms

link: https://www.royalroad.com/amazon/B09VKC3TRR


About the author

CKJ5

  • Tokyo, Japan

Bio: Charles K. Jordan was born and raised in the Pacific Northwest. He attended university in his home state, as well, where he studied Information Technology. After graduating, he decided to move abroad to experience more than what he had seen in the United States. He found his way to Japan in 2003, and since then, he has called Japan home.

Charles K. Jordan was always drawn to fantasy, sci-fi, and adventure. When he was a young child, the first novel he read was Bunnicula: A Rabbit-Tale of Mystery by Deborah and James Howe, and from that point, he was hooked. Since then, he has found inspiration and heroes from various writers in all forms of media. Some of his heroes include Robert Jordan, J.K. Rowling, George R.R. Martin, Quentin Tarantino, Terence Winter, Garth Ennis, and Glen Cook, just to name a few. Ever since that fateful day that led him to pick up Bunnicula, he knew his calling in life would be to create and hopefully contribute to someone’s growth and dreams.

Charles K. Jordan vowed to himself that no matter what happened in his life. He would never stop dreaming, writing, and creating.

The Five Kingdoms of Cordizal series available on Amazon:

Book 1: Scourge of the Five Kingdoms

https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B09VK3JZ8V

Book 2: Dogma of the Five Kingdoms

https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B09VKC3TRR

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