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Ancestor Chapter 12: Ailee

Chapter 12 of Ancestor.

It has been almost a full day since we left. We left as soon as it was settled again and we didn’t think the darkgons would return. Father says once we get back home they might send some people back out to help them all get back on their feet a little. We are taking it a bit slower on the way back, none of us really slept well last night and dad said we need to get the message back, but we also need to get back in one piece. I feel like I’m the only one talking around here, though. Ailee has been almost silent since we left. Oh right, I almost forgot, that girl that helped me back in the town came with us. Her name is Ailee, I’m still not entirely sure why she came with us, but father says she will be a help in reporting. Well, I guess that’s it now…

Xaine closed his record and returned it to his pack. Xaine looked around to see what the others were up to. Barrek was finishing up his meal, and Ailee was tending to her horse. Her horse was almost all white except for patches of black that covered its ears, one eye, and other small areas. It was white maned, but had a black tail, and the hooves were covered in shaggy hair. It wasn’t a horse Xaine was used to seeing. And for the second time, Xaine wondered where this girl was from. The first time was not long after the excitement had died down in the town. Xaine had noticed the strange way she formed her words.

During all the commotion, Xaine seemed to have missed the accent. Though given her fair skin and her red hair, he thought that maybe she was from the Isles. He was still unsure, however, if it would be rude to ask. His eyes wandered to the other horses nearby. Saber was now learning to stay stationed where the reigns were dropped but still needed the example of Geranium and thus was by her.

Xaine let out a sigh of sadness as his eyes fell upon the fourth horse traveling with them. It was still tied to Geranium as it had been during their earlier travels as this horse no longer had a rider. Its name was Cinamon, and it was the captain's horse. It was the custom to bring the horse of a fallen warrior back to his family. Xaine couldn’t get the image from his mind of how the captain had died. He knew he would have to deal with things like this, but it never seemed so real. A person he had trained with and known even if only for a few weeks, is gone.

His mood change seemed not to go unnoticed, as his father, Barrek, then spoke up.

“How’s that cut coming along? Think you might be able to train soon?”

Xaine looked down at his side where he had been cut by one of the darkgons claws at some point during the attack. Luckily the cut wasn’t deep enough to be really dangerous, but it reopened if he pushed himself too much. Xaine lifted his shirt to inspect it. The wound had begun to scab over, and Xaine wondered if it would scar. Then wondered if he would mind the scar or not.

“I’m not sure, maybe. We can try it out at the next stop if you want. But do you think now is the time for training?”

“Until we know exactly what your powers are and how to use them, it will always be the time for training. And in situations like these. When we’ve experienced loss, it’s sometimes good to get back to work. It’s good for the mind.”

“Well, ok then, I guess. I wish I were at least a little closer to finding out my power, though. I feel like I’m not even close,” Xaine replied.

“I wouldn’t be too sure about that actually,” Barrek said with a smile on his face. “I think you’re a lot closer than you think.”

“What do you mean? I haven’t done anything, have I?”

“Xaine do you remember when I was pinned down by that Darkgon in the forest? When you went on the offensive and hit the one near you. You knocked it back several feet into the one on me. And I think it was that force that allowed the captain’s blade to pierce its skin. Those creatures are powerful Xaine, what you did is no easy task.”

“It was probably just the excitement of the moment. Many people are able to do things they shouldn’t be able to in situations like that,” Xaine replied.

“No, this is not something a normal person can do with just a sword,” Ailee spoke up. “If what he says is right and you actually did this, it takes an incredible amount of force. Imagine swinging yer blade at an armored horse. You aren’t going to move it in the slightest.”

Xaine thought for a moment about how she had knocked back the darkgon that had tackled him. “Just how powerful is that bow of yours?” He said half surprised.

Understanding what Xaine meant, she replied. “That shot I made would have done a lot more damage to a smaller creature. Without armor, it could probably cleave a man in two. But that’s how much force I have to put into it to move a darkgon like I did.”

“Xaine, I want you to think on those feelings you had when you struck that time. I want you to try and focus on it, and when you think you are ready to spar a little, we can try it out,” Barrek spoke again.

Xaine nodded, and the three of them began to pack up the few things they used for their stop. It was about midday, and though the trip had only taken them about a day and a half the first time, they still had quite the distance to go. This time, they were heading all the way back to Kreila instead of heading back to the training camp. And they were taking the trip slower than before.

Over the next few hours, Xaine tried to follow his father's advice and think on what exactly he felt when he attacked that darkgon a few nights ago. He was, however, having trouble focusing on exactly the right moment. He kept dwelling on what happened moments later when he saw someone he knew die. Each time he came to this point in his memory he would shake the whole idea off and break from the exercise.

Xaine was once again having trouble focusing on the right memory when his father spoke up, and Xaine welcomed the distraction.

“So Ailee, I’ve been wondering, did you come all the way out here from the Isles?”

Xaine looked up, the exercise he was working on completely out of his head as his curiosity was about to be satiated.

“Yes,” Ailee answered with only the one word.

Xaine thought now would be as good a time as any since questions were already asked. “What brings you all the way out here?” Xaine asked, seeing his father was not going to continue.

“I’ve been hunting those creatures. It’s taken me some time to find them again. Those filthy beasts don’t like to stay in one spot for too long.”

“Not to be rude or anything, but why are you hunting them? I would probably be fine never seeing them again.” Xaine said.

“Well let’s just say Clearig isn’t the first town they’ve attacked. I don’t even know if mine was the first. But it was certainly the first I ever heard of em.”

“They attacked your hometown? That’s terrible.”

“Yes it is,” she replied somewhat sadly.

Barrek cleared his throat and looked pointedly at his son, communicating that the subject should be over.

“I’m sorry to hear that,” Xaine replied to Ailee and dropped the conversation. The welcomed distraction had turned to another source of guilt. And Xaine for the first time realized that what he was feeling partially was guilt. He felt somehow, at least partly, responsible for the captain's death. Had he not been there the two of them wouldn’t have had anyone to protect but themselves.

“Well Xaine, I think now is as good a time as any. We should stop and see if we can figure anything out with your powers. Are you up to it?”

“Uh, yes I suppose so.”

“Alright let’s stop here for the day. We can get a little training in before we are out of light. We will continue tomorrow.”

The three of them reined in their horses and began to take down equipment for camp. Xaine looked around seeing nothing but the same scenery they had for the last day. Flat, treeless plains in all directions. Without his father, he might have thought himself lost on this trip or simply going in circles. But he trusted his father’s judgment and sense of direction.

As they were finishing up the tents, Xaine noticed Ailee eying something in the distance behind him. Fearing the worst, he quickly turned around to look. He saw a small four legged shape walking through the field toward them. His initial fear gone, as whatever it was seemed too small to be a darkgon. He then heard a piercing whistle from Ailee’s direction.

The little shape lifted its head, looking in the direction of the sound. It seemed to open its mouth then a second later Xaine heard the noise it made. He had never heard something like it before. It was a mix between a roar and bark. The creature then broke out into a run towards them.

“Is that… Yours?” Xaine asked Ailee.

“You could say that,” she replied. “Likes to run off on her own all the time, though.”

Xaine watched the animal approach. Getting bigger as it closed the distance between them. Xaine was caught confused again. At first the creature looked like some sort of dog, and as it got closer, he could see the creature's very long legs. His second thought from the size of it was that maybe it was some sort of wolf. None of this cleared up when it got close enough to make out the details.

The creature looked to be a giant fox. It had the red and black fur and even the narrow face and oversized ears of a fox, but it was the size of a wolf. Xaine had never really seen anything like it, he watched it with wonder as it trotted right up to Ailee. So confused at its appearance, Xaine failed to notice the rabbit it was carrying in its mouth until it was in the camp.

“Oh, decided to come back now have ya, Nyla?” Ailee said accusingly. “Run off like a little coward to save yer own skin again?” The creature lowered its head, cowering a little. It then dropped the rabbit near Ailee. “Is that supposed to make up for abandoning me?” She then bent over and ruffled the creature's fur. “Coward,” she muttered again under her breath.

“Anyway this is Nyla, she smells a bit, but she can be good company when she wants to.”

Xaine vaguely noticed the smell before but now that she mentioned it, it was more apparent. It smelled similar to a skunk but not quite as strong. Xaine opened his mouth to ask what the thing was but decided on a simple greeting.

“Alright Xaine, let’s get to it before it’s too dark,” Barrek said looking to Xaine.

Xaine looked up, so focussed on Nyla, he had forgotten they were supposed to train. He moved over to where his father was waiting. Barrek summoned his weapon and waited for Xaine to do the same. Xaine summoned his blade feeling the familiar itch that was much less intense now than it had been.

It seemed strange to summon his sword now. He hadn’t done it since he used it to fight for his and his father’s lives. The action seemed so much more serious than it had been before. It was always so exciting before, some of that excitement lingered, but it was as if he really knew now what it meant. This sword was for him to use and his ancestors would help him. But the sword wasn’t meant for him. It was meant for others. It was a symbol and, the very tool, used for their protection.

“Now Xaine, I want you to focus on what you felt that time. These things usually have to do with feelings and intentions. Think about what you did and why you did it. If those things correlate with your grandfather and his personality it helps more.”

The two began to circle each other, and Xaine tried to focus his mind on the feelings he needed. He remembered at first he was afraid for himself. Then he knew that he had to act to protect his father. He focussed and then attacked. His sword swing was stopped by his father’s defense. The blade glanced off his and away from his father’s body.

“Not quite there yet. You need to do better than that Xaine.”

Xaine struck again but still didn’t feel anything different. He didn’t have the power he had that night. He tried again and nothing. He swung another time and still nothing. Xaine attacked several more times trying different angles and methods but still achieved nothing more. Finally, Barrek spoke again.

“Xaine what’s wrong? I know you should be able to get this. What do you think is holding you back?”

“I’m not sure, it just doesn’t feel the same as it did then. Maybe it was just a fluke.”

“No, it wasn’t a fluke. There’s something holding you back. What do you think it is? Why is this not the same to you?”

Xaine sighed, “I don’t know. I’m trying, but it’s just not the same now. Before I was acting to protect you and I’m not doing that now. Now I’m attacking you.”

“That’s the problem,” Barrek broke in. “Xaine, this exercise isn’t about you attacking me to train. It’s about training you to hone your abilities to the best they can be. Without this training, you won’t be able to protect much, including me. Where do you think you would have been without the training you’ve already had? In fact, where do you think I would have been? You saved me because of your past training. And with this you can protect me and the others around you that much better. Now, let's try this again and think about why we are doing this.”

Xaine stood for a moment trying to take it in. He was right, just like how he felt about summoning his sword again Xaine was doing this to protect others. If he doesn’t figure this out how is he supposed to watch over his loved ones. He knew he would have more encounters where someone needed his help. And he needed to be ready to help.

Xaine gripped the hilt tighter and thought not of himself or his training but of why he was doing it. He thought of his best friend and his father. He thought of those he had already lost. And then he felt it. He felt his sword in a new way. It wasn’t just the physical form he felt a presence from it. Let’s go, he thought.

Xaine swung, and his father moved his blade to block it. The swords clashed but this time Barrek’s sword did not stay steady. It looked as if Barrek could barely keep hold of it and stumbled back several paces.

“Wow! That’s a lot of power. I think it’s probably not as much as was put into that darkgon, but that was powerful nonetheless. Now we have something to work with.”

“So what does this mean my power is? I can hit things really hard?”

Barrek laughed, “not necessarily. This is only the beginning we’ve only just scratched the surface. I have an idea of what it could be, but I don’t want to influence the way you try to use it until we really know. Now, let’s do this again!”

Xaine and his father sparred until the light of day was gone and still a little after by firelight. Barrek began using his power while they did so. Pulling Xaine off balance and pulling his attacks farther than he intended. Through this, they discovered that Xaine’s power was not linked to strength. There was some sort of force that Xaine was using aside from that added from his arm.

After the training was finished, Xaine checked his wound that had managed to stay closed, and they enjoyed a meal. Xaine was excited to have finally gotten closer to knowing what his power is. He knew how to use it for the most part now. There were a few instances during the training where Xaine wasn’t in the right frame of mind to get it to work.

After their meal Xaine, Ailee, and Barrek bid each other good night. Which meant Xaine and Barrek said goodnight and Ailee nodded her agreement. He was somewhat reminded of Kara the way that Ailee stayed quiet most of the time. But he felt it was more due to her not being entirely comfortable with them yet and less out of just being quiet. The times where they spoke directly to her she seemed to voice her opinion and speak more freely.

Xaine lay down that night, exhausted from the training and travel. And for the first time, since he had witnessed the captain's death, got a restful sleep.

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