A Truth Revealed
« Chapter 1 »
“Toby, if you do not sit still how can I clean the cut above your eye,” Charity scolded as her seven-year-old adopted brother smacked her hand away.
Running around the kitchen table, he chided, “I don’t want you to it hurts.”
Chasing him, Charity grabbed his shirt, demanding, “Toby, just tell me who did this to you and I will make sure it does not happen again?”
“No, you’ll only make things worse.”
“Can’t we forget about it?”
“No, I won’t have someone hurting you. Now I’m serious, who did this to you?”
Conceding as Charity cornered him near the sink, Toby confessed, “Two boys from Ta Ku Nan.”
“But you haven’t been to Ta Ku Nan?”
“I was out playing on the main road with Billy when they hit me.”
“Did they hurt Billy?”
“No, he got scared and ran away.”
Charity scowled. “Did he now?” Some friend he turned out to be.
“Have you seen them before?”
“They wore some kind of uniform, black trousers with a red tunic and a cape with a golden snake on one side.”
Charity nodded for she recognised the uniform as one worn by young boys at an academy in Ta Ku Nan. It was a school for the spoilt rich kids of merchants and dignitaries.
“So that’s how you got the cut above your eye. They wear gold rings with their academy’s emblem on it.”
“So why did they hit you?”
“One of them almost ran Billy over with his horse. I told him to watch where he was going. That’s when he jumped out of his saddle, hit me then called me names.”
“What kind of names?”
“They said that my real father killed my mother and that your mother was nothing more than a whore.”
Charity’s eyes flared; well she wasn’t expecting that kind of name calling. “What!”
“See, I knew you’d get angry if I told you,” Toby pouted.
“I’m not angry with you Toby. It’s just that I hate to see bullying of any kind. There’s nothing for it, you shall have to learn to fight,” Charity insisted.
“But I don’t want to fight, I’m only seven.”
“Trust me, seven is a good age to learn, besides, you’ll enjoy it, I promise,” Charity said with a fake smile. She wasn’t in the mood to smile; she was in the mood to throttle the rich louts for hurting her adopted brother.
Toby sighed. “But Cugar and Valcat told me I cannot join the Calliston army until I’m sixteen.”
“Yes, but what do those lackwits know,” Charity said with a dismissive wave of her hand.
Well they weren’t exactly her favourite warriors. They always seemed hell bent on stopping her from completing any quest that Valour, her guardian dragon set her. They were pains in the proverbial rears, or rather hers if they caught her wielding a sword when they’d already warned her not to wear one.
“But nothing, we’ll speak to father about it later. For now however I want you to describe the boys, age, height, any distinguishing marks, the lot.”
Toby did his best to remember and Charity logged it all to memory.
When Charity’s father, Beaumont Tyr Elise, came back from an appointment in Ta Ku Nan, she told him what had happened. Beaumont did not think teaching Toby to fight was the answer but Charity had been so insistent he gave in.
Toby was Charity’s younger cousin. He was an only child to her father’s brother. Her uncle and aunt had mixed with a bunch of unsavoury characters in the gambling world. Her father had warned them to disassociate from these people but they had ignored his advice. It had cost them their lives, and so Toby was an orphan. Taking pity on him, Charity’s father had adopted Toby and now treated him like the son he never had.
Charity was much older than Toby, she was twenty-four and was protective of her gentle adopted brother. He had a caring nature and a ready smile, so anyone who would hurt him became her enemy. Charity had only just begun a new chapter in her life as the guardian to a blue dragon called Valour. Her mother, who had since died, was the dragon’s guardian before her, although few had known this, including Charity. It was only when destiny brought her into contact with her dragon she found out the truth. So when her mother died of a sudden illness, the mantle and guardianship passed down to her.
Valour lived in a cave buried deep under the Blackstone Temple high on a cliff near the Village of Galleria. It was from this temple that Charity trained to be a warrior for only a warrior could be guardian to her dragon.
The relationship Charity had with Valour was one of student and teacher although Valour wondered if Charity didn’t think herself in charge. Still, he had ways of bringing her back down to earth with a bump, literally. He did this by assigning her a Fight Master who was an ex-Calliston Warrior. His name was Aspen, and he allowed Charity no leeway in her training.
Beaumont cautioned Charity not to go into Ta Ku Nan to find Toby’s bullies for their parents wielded more power than she did. Well, since when did a small disadvantage like that ever stop Charity Tyr Elise from searching out justice? Never.
Beaumont knew that his warning would go unheeded, it always did. He tried to control Charity’s rash temper, but she was much like her mother. Ever ready to defend the less fortunate of her kingdom. He figured it was hereditary, in the blood. He’d tried curtailing her rash nature, he’d argued, scolded, grounded, but nothing ever stopped Charity from a quest. And her quest right now was to find the boy who had hit her little brother.
Beaumont could only hope that whatever she was planning, it didn’t attract the attentions of any Calliston Warriors, because in the past she’d even annoy them to the point of being arrested. She had a knack for rubbing people up the wrong way. That, he mused, she inherited from her mother.
Riding into Ta Ku Nan, Charity tried to avoid bumping into her aunt Edith. She had a somewhat overbearing nature, which was why Charity’s father lived in Galleria and not Ta Ku Nan. He loved his sister; he couldn’t live anywhere near her. She had a habit of telling him what to do all the time, even though she was a few years younger than he was.
The Viper Academy was next door to the fort that housed Calliston Warriors. Still, this would not stop her from paying Toby’s attackers an impromptu visit. The young students at the academy ranged from ten to eighteen. The boys she was interested in interrogating were around ten.
Leaving her horse at the local livery stables, Charity dropped out of her saddle, paid the stable hand and sauntered outside. Rather wisely, Charity had worn a hooded cloak to shield her from the rain but it also hid her features. A must if one planned on breaking into a school, dish out her own brand of justice and escape with no one ever knowing she was there. Least that was the plan.
Thanks to the bad weather people were rushing into shops, doorways or hurrying back home. Perfect, she mused as she strolled past the gates of the fort she had once had the misfortune to be incarcerated in, but that was another story and one she chose not to dwell on right now.
“Evening,” a guard at the gates shouted with a smile.
Nodding, Charity raised her hand in reply.
The guards nudged each other with a wink and a smile as they watched her walk away. Charity rolled her eyes and smiled.
The Viper Academy was next door to the fort, only a large stone wall separated the properties. But before she reached its fancy wrought-iron gates, a young Calliston hurrying back to the fort in the rain, bumped into her.
Cursing, Charity snapped, “Watch where you are going.”
“Charity?” The Calliston quizzed.
Charity cursed when she realised it was Tristan, a young Calliston she knew. Continuing, she pretended not to hear him.
Grabbing her arm, Tristan spun her around, saying, “Charity, it’s me, Tristan.”
There was no getting out of it she would have to speak to him. In the name of all the kingdoms, was she cursed?
“Oh, sorry Tristan I didn’t realise it was you.”
“You’re always in a rush, you should slow down.”
“I was trying to avoid the rain.”
“Fat chance of that, it’s getting worse,” Tristan said as he glanced into the rain-filled sky.
“Well it’s nice seeing you but I have to dash,” Charity said as she tried to walk around him.
Halting her again, Tristan asked, “Is your father still here? I saw him earlier this morning.”
Would the blithering idiot never stop asking her questions? “No, it was only a quick visit, he’s gone home.”
“I don’t blame him what with the weather and all.”
“Yes, exactly, anyway, give my regards to Jesslyn and her sister Lana.”
“I will, oh, you might like to know that Cugar is in town,” Tristan said as he walked away.
Charity froze on the spot. No, it wasn’t possible. The lackwit could not be in Ta Ku Nan every time she visited. The fates, she decided, were unkind when she saw Cugar riding toward her. Cursing her misfortune, she hurried across the street. Peering from behind a stone pillar, she saw Cugar halt beside Tristan. Tristan pointed in her direction, which then drew Cugar’s attention.
“May the fleas of a thousand warthogs infest your trousers Tristan,” Charity cursed as a clap of thunder rang above her.
When Cugar turned his horse to face her, Charity ducked out of sight. Gazing into an ever-darkening sky, she swore. If Cugar found her hanging around the academy, he would want to know what she was up to. She had to disappear, and fast.
Waiting for an opportunity, Charity ran across the road to hide down a side street. From her position, she watched as Cugar rode into view. Glancing around, he scanned the area but when he couldn’t find her, he spun around and headed back to the fort.
Holding her palms together, Charity said a silent prayer of thanks to whoever had saved her.
When the coast was clear, she scurried across the road and slipped through the gates to enter the grounds of the academy. With everyone inside, Charity set about peering through windows. She was looking for one boy in particular. Toby had said that he had flame red hair, well, he shouldn’t be too hard to track down, and she was right.
Through the next window, Charity saw a boy fitting the description that Toby had given her. He was heading up a flight of stairs.
The boy halted when someone called out his name. “Yes,” he asked with an air of arrogance. When the smaller boy did not reply quickly enough, he barked, “I’m busy you little weasel, what do you want?”
“I’ve told Brent to meet you in your room as you ordered.”
“Good, now get out of my sight before I teach you a lesson you won’t forget.”
So, the little bullies name was Percival, well Percival was about to learn that there was always someone bigger than you. To the side of the building was a flight of stone steps. Handy, she mused.
Reaching the upper level, Charity crept toward a door. Turning the handle she found it locked. Glancing left then right she crouched down and used a small pick she carried with her. When it clicked in the lock, she pushed the door open. The door led into a corridor and to another flight of stairs leading up to the top floor of the academy.
When Charity heard voices, she stepped outside and closed the door. Hiding, she watched Percival saunter past. Checking to see if anyone else was around, she slipped inside then closed the door.
Sneaking up the stairs, Charity stalked the boy to his room. Once he entered, she glanced around the landing. At the far end was another door, using it, Charity found that it led up and onto the main rooftop. Returning to the landing, she smiled.
Creeping up on Percival’s door, Charity twisted the handle and peered inside. The boy was standing in front of another young student whom she assumed was Brent. Brent looked terrified as Percival threatened him with a cane of some sort.
“You will give me a copy of the governor’s exam sheet or you will pay the price for it.”
“But I’ll be thrown out of the academy,” Brent pleaded.
Striking the boy across the arm with the stick, Percival ordered, “Give them to me, now!”
Wincing in pain, Brent handed Percival the sheets. He’d obviously planned to cheat in an exam. So the boy was a bully and a cheat.
Percival then beat the boy, this time just for the fun of it. Grabbing him by the scruff of the neck, he then pushed him toward the door.
Charity turned and scurried out of sight as Percival all but threw the poor boy down the stairs. With a proud smirk, he returned to his room.
Shaking her head, Charity raised the hood on her cloak and stalked back to the boy’s room. Percival’s father must be wealthy for the boy had a large room all to himself. Too bad his father never spent it on teaching the boy some manners.
Entering the room, Charity attracted his attention by slamming his door shut.
“Hello Percival,” Charity greeted.
“Who the hell are you? Get out,” the little pompous weasel ordered.
“What do you have there?”
“Nothing,” Percival said as he hid the papers behind his back. “Now get out before I call someone!”
“I doubt anyone will hear you all the way up here. Now let’s talk shall we?”
When Percival tried to escape, Charity grabbed the back of his tunic. Spinning him around, she warned, “Oh no you don’t.”
“Get off me you witch!”
“Right!” Charity snapped and finding something to secure him with she gagged him. “Let’s see how you like it when someone bullies you for a change shall we?”
Taking the exam sheets, a quill, pot of ink and a curtain tieback, Charity slung Percival over her shoulder. He was on the plump side and heavier than she expected but she carried him up to the rooftop. The rain was still slating down, but the thunder was receding, still, he didn’t know that.
At the front of the building was a flagpole being the schools emblem, a golden snake. When thunder rumbled in the distance, Percival squealed like a stuck pig. It was a pitiful sight.
“Is our little bully afraid of a storm?” Charity teased.
The black clouds were now heading away from Ta Ku Nan and the danger of lightning strikes had passed, but Percival didn’t know that. Nodding, he still feared that the lightning would strike him dead.
Pushing him toward the flagpole, Charity replied, “Tough.”
Once Charity had him tied to the pole, she took the quill and ink and smiled. Dipping the pen into the ink pot, Charity wrote the word, I’m a cheating bully, across his forehead. Percival mumbled under his gag but Charity didn’t care, she could still see the look of horror on her father’s face when he found Toby cut and bleeding from his encounter with Percival.
Next Charity stuffed the stolen exam sheets into his tunic and ruffling up his mop of wet unruly curls, she warned, “Bully anyone else Percival and I will come back to haunt you for I am the ghost of retribution.”
Believing that Charity was in fact a ghost, Percival squealed in terror.
Charity laughed as she headed back downstairs. It was a tad overkill she mused, but she doubted he would pick on anyone for quite some time. Reaching the second floor, she slipped outside and down the steps. The rain lessened as the storm moved over the next hill. The skies would soon brighten, in which case she needed to get out of town before anyone found the boy on the rooftop. Glancing up as she ran toward the gates, Charity couldn’t help but smile at the thought of someone finding Percival with the stolen exam sheets.
When Charity reached the gates, she saw a passer-by pointing up at the academy roof. He was talking to the guards on gate duty at the fort. If she ran past them now they’d assume that she had had something to do with it and give chase.
When the guards stepped into the street to get a better view, Charity cursed. Doubling back into the academy grounds, she looked for another exit. There wasn’t one, except for a rather high perimeter wall. There was nothing for it, she would have to climb it. Finding a tree close by, she climbed.
Charity was only half way up the tree when someone shouted, “You there, stop!”
Glancing down she spied two older men running toward her.
When someone spotted Percival on the roof, Charity knew it was time to escape. Even more so when she saw Cugar running down the side of the building. With a new surge of energy, Charity scrambled up the tree and without gauging the distance, she jumped onto the wall, but in her haste to escape, she over balanced and slipped. Luckily she grabbed the top of the wall and hauling herself back up, she ran along the perimeter wall to the back of the building. Dropping into the street below, she ran back to the livery stables.
Pushing past the stable hand, she swung up into her saddle, threw him a coin and sped out of there as if the devil himself was after her. To her mind he was, his name was Cugar.
By the time Cugar tracked Charity to the stables she had left. Halting the stable hand, he asked, “Did a young girl just leave here?”
“Don’t know sir.”
“Then describe her?”
“And that’s it. She wore a blue hooded cloak so I couldn’t see what she looked like.”
She fit the description he’d just seen, it was the girl Tristan had spoken to earlier, Charity!
After untying Percival from the flagpole, Cugar went back to interrogate him. He stuttered only that the ghost of retribution had threatened to come back for him.
Pointing to the boy’s forehead, Cugar asked, “Did the ghost write that?”
The boy’s eyes gazed up as rain streaked ink either side of his nose.
The boy didn’t know what it said so Cugar enlightened him. “It says, I’m a cheating bully. Now why would someone write that on your forehead?”
The boy burst into tears as Cugar handed him over to his teachers, who in turn wanted to know why he had the governor’s exam results tucked inside his tunic.
Cugar couldn’t even fathom why Charity, if in fact it was Charity, would do this to a complete stranger let alone a ten year old boy, but he vowed to find out and soon.
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