The Once and Future Kane

Wales was a very constant place, and the citizens that lived there liked it that way.  The skies were always gray, the fields were green year-round, and the livestock were ever grazing in the farmers’ endless fields.  The shops lining the streets, with the old men playing checkers in front, maintained a healthy balance of business and tranquility.   Every city and small village was all but identical, which made Wales a very popular destination for merchants and the priesthood.  If one product or sermon had been enjoyed in one town, it would undoubtedly be popular in the next.  It was also an excellent place to raise a family, as the constancy of the region allowed for comfortable living and working for new citizens.

Along the Eastern Border of Wales was the little town of Bishop’s Castle, and it was no exception to its surroundings.  Every day like clockwork, the farmers would get up early to tend to their cows and sheep, waving at any towns person who crossed their path.  The cobbler could be seen through his shop window, shining shoes for the day’s customers, and hastily repairing the ones he had forgotten about the day before.  Just as the sun came up, the local carters would stumble drunkenly out of pubs just as the baker could be heard yelling at his assistant to “get his lazy hide out of bed!”  Indeed, a clock is the best comparison to Bishop’s Castle, for a clock it was.  A clock that had rusted long ago, growing moss over it’s outside, and ticked on through the power of the world’s eighth wonder of the world: Welsh stubbornness.

There were, of course, a few exciting things that happened here.  An occasional famine every few decades, unexpected livestock deaths, and once, a visit from the King.  The old men sitting outside the local pub remembered all these things, for of course all old men do, and they never hesitated to regale passing youths with the epic tales they had been a part of long ago.

Only once in a blue moon did something exciting happen in Bishop’s Castle, and it had been a number of them since the last potato famine or livestock disease.  Something big was about to happen.

On the outskirts of town was a manor house belonging to a wealthy merchant and his family.  This merchant received fascinating and strange goods from exotic lands like Italy, France, and China, and sold them from his grand shop in the center of town.  While he was in town, he would mind the store and sell to the local nobility, charming them with mysterious baubles and his infamous silver tongue.  Often however, he would leave with a caravan of other merchants, and journey to the other nations of Europe to conduct business.  In his absence, he left the fate of his shop in the hands of his sixteen-year-old son.  The young lad had been trained as a merchant since he had learned to speak, and he knew well enough what to do.  For instance, he knew to treat Lord MacDougal with the utmost respect; he nodded and smiled when Old Fergus spun his tales of countless wars he had fought in, and he never sold to the short, smelly Breckon, the eternally drunken carter.

This son of a wealthy merchant had no name to speak of.  Naturally, he had been given one at birth, but it was used so little, it had long since faded from the boy’s memory, and from the townspeople’s as well.  He answered to the calls of “Boy”, or “You”, that he received from his father or customers, and that suited him all right.  He knew how to be a shopkeeper, or rather, a “Middle Man”, as he liked to think of his father.

This boy didn’t seem like much in the eyes of his peers.  He was shy, quiet, and had little interaction with other boys.  He didn’t wrestle with the other young men, he didn’t play the occasional game of checkers with his elders, and he didn’t even talk to the pretty young girls that moved in flocks through the streets.  Whenever he had free time, he would wander off into the nearby woods and wouldn’t be seen again for hours.  Nobody ever questioned what the boy did or where he went.  Someone might make a passing comment to whoever was nearby, but in the end, the boy’s business was his own, and that was the end of it.

Now, this boy was shy on the outside, but in his heart burned a secret flame. This boy had a great desire to see the world, to experience the magical far-off lands that his father spoke of.  He wished to walk the streets of Rome, to marvel at the majesty of palaces in the East, and to find adventure and danger in Spain and Germany.  In his mind’s eye, he pictured himself a great traveler, journeying from city to city, gaining the respect of kings, discovering treasures and hidden wonders as he crossed nations.

In the woods outside Bishop’s Castle, this adventurer emerged.  Great oak trees became towers, boulders shaped themselves into cathedrals, and the ferns and bushes were cities of cheering crowds, welcoming this wanderer into their midst.  The adventuring spirit burned bright within this nameless merchant’s son, and it could not be quenched by anything other than adventure itself.

It was on the boy’s seventeenth birthday that he expressed his wish to journey beyond Bishop’s Castle, and beyond Wales altogether.  He was not hard put to convince his father that this was a good idea.  The shrewd merchant supported the idea wholeheartedly, believing his son to be following in his own footsteps.  Being more of a businessman than a father, he could not understand the desire in his son’s heart.  The boy knew this, and agreed with his father, stating that he was leaving home in order to study the merchant’s trade.

So, the young man left home with his father’s blessing.  Few goodbyes were said, as there were not many who knew the traveler-to-be.  He set out with an abundance of supplies and marketable goods (compliments of his father), and the journey began.

For two weeks, the boy traveled on foot through woodland paths, over hills, and across rivers, seeking adventure in whatever form it could be found.  He traveled undaunted by rain or darkness to a place he knew not where.  Three times, he met a fellow traveler.  One was a young man like himself, seeking his fortune.  That young man was motivated by money however, rather than adventure, and the merchant’s son quickly moved on.  The second was a hunter who was very familiar with the surrounding area, and was kind enough to pass on some of his knowledge to the boy.  He taught him which plants in the area were good to eat, or were medicinal.  He also pointed the boy to the nearest town, and went on his way.  The third was a Tinker with his cart of odds and ends.

The old tinker saw something in the young man before him, a kind of nobility that can’t be determined by royal blood or wealth.  It was the kind of nobility that made truly great men.  They traded some polite conversation, followed by more material goods.  In return for a lovely, green silk tapestry, and a gold ring, the tinker gave the boy a sturdy traveling cloak, and a sword of fine steel.  The blade was unimpressive in appearance, dull gray in color with no ornate patterns or decoration.  It was however, very sharp, and quite strong.  The boy thanked the tinker for his generosity in giving such a valuable tool, but was visibly dismayed at the lack of beauty in the sword.

Observing his disappointment, the old tinker looked the young man in the eyes and said, “You can tell a man just like you can a sword, you know.  Some are bathed in jewels and gold, but have never seen hardship or toil.  They easily break when put under pressure.  A strong one does not need glamour or intricacies; they let their strength and deeds speak for themselves.”

Grateful for the advice, though not completely understanding it, the boy thanked the tinker, and went on his way.  As a passing word, the tinker mentioned that there was a band of troubadours in the next town over, and they were guaranteeing quite a show.

The young traveler hurried on to the next town, eager to experience the festivities.  As he reached the city limits, he was met with the laughter and cheering of the townspeople, as well as a symphony of bangs and whirring.  An alien kind of music reached his ears; a beautiful, strange music that wove itself into the hearts of those hearing it.  Upon asking a nearby minstrel what was going on, the boy learned that the performing troupe was called the Orchidee Noire, or, the Black Orchid.  This band of musicians, acrobats, and sorcerers took this name to provide a sense of mystery and wonder, for of course; there is no such thing as a black orchid.

The name fit the troupe remarkably well, for each performance and concert was quite strange, but left a feeling of wonder and peace in the heart.  It was, as one of the sorcerers had said, performances meant to open the mind, reaching out to impossibilities and imaginings beyond what man usually sees.  Take a black orchid for example: clearly impossible, but coming to the mind nonetheless, therefore making it quite real.

Over the next few days, music was played and enjoyed, magic amazed, and acrobats performed feats of skill that left crowds in awe for hours afterward.  The merchant’s son learned many things during those days.  He did not understand what he saw, for everything about the troubadours was foreign to him.  He did not know what to make of his experience, but he learned from it nevertheless.  It was his lack of real, physical knowledge that allowed him to reach out, to believe in things that were not directly before him.  He began to intuitively understand the world that other men don’t even know to look for.

On the fifth day, the festival ended, and the Orchidee Noire began to move on.  As a final show, a lion tamer performed in the town square.  The boy watched in terror as a completely unarmed man faced a massive, snarling lion.  The tamer didn’t yell, blow a whistle, or wave anything at the beast.  In fact, he did almost nothing at all.  Man and lion circled each other for several moments, as the crowd watched in a tense silence.  All eyes were on the pair standing before them.

That is to say, all eyes but those of a young man in the front row.  The boy looked into the lion tamer’s eyes.  There was something more startling in the tamer’s face than any of the magic or music he had been a witness to over the past few days.  There was pure power in the man’s gaze.  There was no aggression, no hostility, and no weakness; just complete focus.

To the crowd’s astonishment, the great lion, the King of the African jungle, bowed to the tamer, its mane brushing the street.  It walked back to it’s cage, a marveling crowd standing silent as the tamer locked the cage behind his opponent.  The crowd dissipated, murmuring amongst themselves, wondering what manner of witchcraft they had witnessed.

Later that day, as the sun began to sink into the horizon, the still awestruck boy wandered through, hoping to find an inn.  As he passed through an alleyway, he stopped suddenly at the sound of voices around the corner.  He listened intently at the edge of the alley to a group of men standing nearby.  Each was brandishing a sword or torch, listening to a man in a black robe standing in front of a chapel.  The man was yelling at the townspeople, accusing the troubadours of conjuring dark magic.  As he went on, he warned the people that it was only a matter of time before they became enslaved by the demons that the performers were summoning, and that the only thing they could do, was kill every member of the troupe.  The villagers were clearly frightened, and as so often happens to frightened people, they turned their thoughts to anger and violence.  The men with the swords and torches rushed off to prepare themselves for the attack, which they would start after they had the cover of darkness.

The boy was left stricken with fear and uncertainty, crouched behind some boxes in the alley.  He looked up at the sky, and saw there was about an hour and a half until the sun disappeared completely.  The sun would go down, and the troubadours would die.  He thought for a moment, wondering if the man in the robe was right.  He came to his decision in moments; there was no way that the troupe was evil, and he could not let them be killed.

He ran as hard as he could, through the city streets, out the gates, and down the road.  He ran for a full two hours, never stopping to catch his breath, or give his aching legs a rest.  The sun sank completely beyond the horizon, and a new moon hung in the sky, providing little light.  At last, the boy saw the lights of the troubadours’ caravan, about a mile further on the road.  He stopped only for a moment to look behind him, and saw faintly flickering torches off in the distance.  The townspeople must have started late, but they were catching up quickly.

Putting every last ounce of strength into his legs, the boy made a final dash for the caravan.  His lungs screaming in protest, his legs full of lead, he did not slow his pace.  The Orchidee Noire had no weapons, and the villagers had plenty.  It would be a massacre of dozens of innocent people if he failed.  Finally, he came to the caravan, the wagons circled around a dying fire.  A large man stood and turned toward the boy as he came, gasping, to a halt.

Unable to breathe, he just managed to say, “Men…from town…coming…to kill you…run…” He collapsed into the man’s arms, and knew no more.

He awoke a day later in a wagon, unable to move his aching, stiff body.  A group of brightly dressed minstrels, were circling him, tending to him as he lay there.  The large man who had caught him entered the wagon, and introduced himself as Liam, leader of the Orchidee Noire.  He explained that thanks to the boy’s message, they had been able to pack up, and get off the road, taking shelter in the nearby woods, avoiding the danger that surely would have taken their lives.  He also said that the boy was being considered as a hero among the troupe.

Liam said that on behalf of the whole troupe, he was willing to offer the boy anything he wanted, anything that the troupe could provide, was his.  The young man lay on the floor of the wagon, overwhelmed by the offer, and embarrassed by the attention he was being given.  No one had given him the slightest regard in Bishop’s Castle, and yet here was this band of renowned performers, people with incredible talent and knowledge, calling him a hero, and offering him anything he wanted.

He was not greedy, nor ambitious, and he could not bring himself to ask for anything to be given to him.  He did not want riches or fame, he just wanted to see the world, and become someone he could be proud of.  He looked Liam in the eyes and told him that all he could ask from the troupe, was to travel with them.  He would cook and clean and look after the horses; he would do anything the troupe asked him to do so that he could earn his place among them.

The men bowed their heads, humbled by the young man’s request.  Liam asked the boy’s name, to which he responded that he had none.  The minstrels stared in amazement, unsure of what they should do.

Liam thought for a moment, then spoke, “You brought us warning of danger at great pains to yourself, and you have saved dozens of lives.  To us, you will be known as Driscol, or, The Messenger as it means in my home of Ireland.  Young Driscol, welcome to the Orchidee Noire.”

That night, before the entire camp, Driscol was officially recognized as a member of the troupe.  “The Messenger” was given a hero’s welcome by the troubadors, and was welcomed as a member of their family.  In the following months, many came to see Driscol as a close friend, liking his humble, friendly personality.

Though unskilled as a performer, Driscol dutifully accomplished his work, caring for the horses that pulled the wagons, and helped cook for the troupe.  Though the work was hard, Driscol was happy.  He had a new family; people that cared about him and treated him as an equal.  Every day, the young man was able to enjoy the music the minstrels practiced, and watched the merriment the troubadours made amongst themselves.

Driscol was able to see the world as he wished, traveling through many cities and past new countrysides as the troupe toured Southern Brittania.  He also discovered new things about himself.  For instance, he was surprisingly good with people, charming them, and making them more agreeable.  He also had a calming effect on animals, making even a wild horse docile within moments.  He became far more daring than he had been, taking risks and going on small adventures with troupe members.  He studied with different members of the caravans, becoming quite learned in the ways of other nations and peoples.  With the help of a Spanish acrobat named Stefan, he began to learn the basics of fencing, finally using the sword the old tinker had given him.

Wherever the troupe stopped to perform, Driscol wandered among the townspeople, enjoying the festivities as if he had never seen them before.  He studiously watched the Lion Tamer’s every performance, analyzing the power in his stare.  He practiced it whenever he could, glaring at his reflection in a bowl of water as if to make it bow like the lion.

For two years, Driscol traveled with the troubadours, from Great Britain, all the way to the troupe’s native France.  He had grown much during those years, becoming strong from hard work with the horses, and educated from the books and teachings of members of the caravan.  As Driscol grew in stature, he grew in confidence, and developed a peculiar charisma, drawing complete strangers to him, as well as his peers.

The Orchidee Noire was exceedingly popular in Paris, with nearly the entire population of the city coming to see the troupe’s performance.  Driscol had never seen so many people in one place.  There were sheer battalions of people, throwing flowers and pieces of money, scrambling over each other to glimpse the troubadours.

Driscol explored Paris as much as he could in the following week, finding cathedrals and large cobblestone streets as far as the eye could see.  Music emanated from endless streets and shops, every café, every person he met, and he loved every moment of it.  Old men playing checkers, just like back home, would tip their berets as he passed, young girls in vibrant, laced dresses would curtsey and giggle as he walked by.  When he met these people, he would smile and bow politely before continuing on his exploration of this marvelous city.

On one of these expeditions, Driscol found himself atop a large bridge overlooking the Seine.  In the sunset, he looked out over the river, admiring the pinkish-golden glow the sun cast over Paris.  He drank in the evening air, closing his eyes as he captured the moment in his memory.  As he stood, Driscol found himself looking back at his journey, considering the growth he had undergone since he left Bishop’s Castle.  He felt confident, peaceful, and much stronger than he had tending his father’s shop.  A small twinge of guilt nagged at him when he thought of his father.  He had left home with a lie as an excuse.  He had left with good intentions, but he didn’t like the idea of his father at home, waiting for a son that would never come home.  He promised himself in that moment that one day, he would return home and tell his father what he was doing with his life.

On the seventh night of the troupe’s stay in Paris, many of the minstrels were called to perform at the home of Duke Francois De la Terre.  Driscol was asked to come with them to secure the horses, after which he was welcome to join in the party.  He did so gladly, excited to have the chance to meet royals from all over Europe.

That night in the home of Duke Francois, Driscol met all kinds of fascinating people.  He met Barons from Germany, Lords from Spain, and the Duke and Duchess from England’s royal family.  The aristocrats quickly accepted Driscol, for he spoke well, and held himself in a respectable manner; and so they guessed he must be the son of some wealthy Baron or landowner.  He even found a familiar face in the form of Lord MacDougal from back home.  They traded a few tales of what had transpired since Driscol had left Bishop’s Castle.  When MacDougal asked how his training as a merchant was going, Driscol vaguely responded that it was going well, and that he was getting a lot better at conducting business.

It was with no small amount of relief that Driscol bade farewell to MacDougal, who had been called away by a severe looking German Duchess.  Lost in thought, Driscol walked headlong into a large man wearing a black cloak.  He stepped back, apologizing profusely to the stranger, and looked up at him.  The man smiled, dismissing the accident, and clapped Driscol on the shoulder.  The touch sent shivers down his spine.  He didn’t know why, as the man was acting perfectly friendly, but there was something unsettling about him.  His smile was kind enough, but his eyes…  His eyes had no light in them, no spark whatsoever.  This man’s eyes were cold, calculating, and dark.

Driscol bowed, and backed away hurriedly.  He asked a nearby Baron whom it was that he had just bumped in to.  They looked over at the man, who was now deep in conversation with the French ambassador.  The Baron said that the large man was Lord Merek Blackkoven, a well-known, respected member of society in London.  He was known to be providing support for France’s colonization effort in the Americas, such as giving transport and recruiting workers to build and protect colonization settlements.

Driscol thanked the Baron, and walked away, eyeing Blackkoven carefully.  He couldn’t shake the feeling that the man he had just met would play a major role in his life; and not for the better.

It was clear that the favorite conversation topic that night was the French colonization.  Apparently, the land was crawling with savages that attacked settlements for no reason, and wild beasts twice the size of horses.  They were obviously tall tales and superstitions, invented by the ignorant and the bored, but they had an element of fear and excitement to them.  The French ambassador talked about a colony of Irish settlers that were working in North America right now under French supervision, and that there was a boat of volunteers headed for the colony that very night.

Driscol tired of the royal company quickly, which was something he never thought he would be.  He felt a strong sense of disillusionment that he couldn’t shake off.  He had enjoyed the party of course, but he felt that there wasn’t much difference between the aristocrats, and ordinary people.  If anything, they had seemed less interesting than commoners.  They talked about large matters, but it didn’t seem like any of them really knew much about what was going on, or how those great things came to be.

Aristocrats had been built up to be great people, almost heroic, but in reality they were just people.  It wasn’t the wealthy and powerful that commanded armies, built colonies, or helped their citizens.  Driscol realized, it was the common man that really did all those things, and in his mind, that made commoners the truly great people.  The person that did their duty faithfully is the person worthy of praise, not the one that tells them to do it.

He left the party and took a walk, hoping to unclog his ears that were filled with meaningless chatter and gossip.  The night air was cool and pleasant, and the moon shone bright and full in the sky.  It was a lovely evening, but Driscol found no peace in it.  The music that he had heard earlier was gone, and his wonder at the city turned to anxiety.  After a few minutes, he walked back to the caravan, looking back over his shoulder, searching for anything out of the ordinary.  There was no reason to be nervous, as the night was perfectly still, but dread still settled in Driscol’s heart.

As he was walking past an old café, a man in a black tabard stopped him.  He wore a large hat with a red feather sticking out of it, and an unpleasant smile to match it.  He turned toward Driscol, showing the image of a lion embroidered in gold on his chest.  He asked Driscol who he was, as he hadn’t seen him before.  Driscol replied that he was part of the caravan passing through Paris.  The man smiled widely, and whistled.  Men in cloaks materialized from the darkness, and leapt on Driscol, restraining him and covering his mouth.  The man spoke to him mockingly, pacing back and forth in front of him.  He applauded Driscol on how brave he was for volunteering for the colonization effort, and how he brought honor and respect to his family.  Looking coldly at Driscol, he held a dagger to his throat and asked if there was anything he would like to say.

Driscol was terrified, standing completely still while the man spoke to him.  Surely, there was no way they could get away with this?  He cursed himself for being so foolish as to leave his sword with the caravan, and for revealing he was an outsider.  There was nothing he could do, and he knew it.  He would have to do as these men wanted.  Resignedly, he said that he was glad for the opportunity to serve.  Smiling ever more coldly, the man nodded, and brought the pommel of his dagger down on Driscol’s head.

He woke to the sounds of waves and creaks beneath him.  The ground was swaying, but he wasn’t sure if that was because it was actually moving, or if that was due to the pain and ringing in his skull.  He stood uneasily, taking in his surroundings, and his stomach dropped.  He was aboard a cargo ship, and it was leaving Paris far in the distance as he stood.  Fellow “volunteers” were sprawled all over the deck, all in varying states of waking.

They were aboard the Savage’s Gold, a French colony ship carrying workers for a settlement in North America.  The crew was controlled mainly by the Quartermaster, a cruel, violent man who used his whip as often as he did profanity (that is to say, quite often).

Driscol was lost in the ways of maintaining a ship, and so was singled out by the Quartermaster.  Many a time did the whip fall on his back, until Driscol became completely dulled to the sting.  He fell into despair, and retreated into himself.  He had been torn from his home, his family, his very future, all in one night.  He was being forced into service in a land of savages where winters could supposedly freeze a man’s nose off, and farming was nearly impossible due to the extreme climate.  He wasn’t even called by his name, not even by the crew.  No one was even considered a person.  The crew was cattle, property of the French government, and property was never given a name.  Once again, Driscol was only known as “Boy” or “You”.

But not all was yet lost.  Hope came in the form of the Left Tenant, who took pity on Driscol when he saw the vicious treatment he received from the Quartermaster.  He took Driscol under his wing, telling the officers that he simply needed an assistant.  He taught Driscol the ways of the ship, and the ways it was serviced.  By night he trained Driscol to climb among the ropes and sails until it seemed he had done it all his life.  He also fashioned simple swords from leftover rope and wood, and he trained Driscol in swordplay.  He was an excellent teacher, and Driscol became quite skilled under his tutelage.

Life seeped back into the hopeless Driscol.  He felt stronger when he wielded a blade, more alive as the makeshift sword flowed with his arm.  His senses reawakened, his mind sharpened, and he grew back into what he had been.  Driscol took the fate of the crew into his own hands, and so he inspired them.  He recounted tales of heroes and great deeds done in the name of justice.  Gradually, the crew awakened as Driscol had done, and they looked to him for leadership.  Driscol and the Left Tenant (Daniel was his name) secretly trained the crew to fence.  They became a close group, almost a brotherhood.  They helped each other in their duties aboard the ship, they protected their fellow shipmate from the Quartermaster, and they trained as if their lives depended on it.

After months at sea, the Savage’s Gold docked in the New World.  The crew disembarked, and was led to a newborn settlement of Irish farmers.  Crops were only just being sown, small cottages barely built, and absolutely protection-less.   Daniel spoke to the French Baron that looked after the settlement, and arranged for the crew to be made the official militia of the colony.

Driscol and his company protected the settlement well.  Thrice did the nearby Iroquois tribe attack, and thrice were they repelled.  When a bear or other wild beast wandered into the settlement’s border, it was quickly driven out.  Driscol led the band of swordfighters to victory.  He was well known among the colonists for being fearsome in battle.  Rumor quickly spread that this leader of the militia had “a lion’s stare” that struck terror into the hearts of his foes.  He simply had to look into the eyes of his opponent, and they would back away from him.

The fighters gained great respect from the colony, renowned for being an honorable group.  They never killed if they could help it, they never took advantage of another’s weakness, and they never abused their power.

For two years, the crew defended the settlement bravely, gaining the respect of not only the colonists, but the Native Americans as well.  The company became known as “The Kane”, which in the Irish tongue of the settlers, meant “Fighter”.

A mutual respect between The Kane and the Iroquois grew, and from it came a kind of truce.  The reason the tribe had attacked was because the settlement lay next to an important place of worship, and they meant to defend it.  The two sides came to an agreement, which was that if the settlers kept to themselves, and did not hinder the worship of the Iroquois in their special place, the colony would be left alone.

With relative peace achieved, Driscol’s thoughts drifted back to Europe, and to what he had left behind.  He had unfinished business to attend to across the sea.  He had a family that he had left with a lie, and that must surely think he was dead.  Also, there was a troupe of performers that must believe he had abandoned them.  This sense of duty bound his heart, pulling him back to Europe.  He knew what he must do.  He now saw beyond his boyhood dreams of fame and adventure.  He wanted to do as he did in America.  He wanted to be a man of honor, protecting the innocent, and becoming a figure of bravery.

Driscol arranged transport back to England with the French Baron.  In gratitude for his service, the baron granted him a ship bound for Wales.  Driscol bade his company a fond farewell, and made Daniel captain of the company.

And so he sailed off to his homeland, pained by what he left behind in Quebec, but hopeful for what was ahead.  He landed on the Welsh coast about a month later, and journeyed East to Bishop’s Castle.  In each town he passed, he kept his eyes and ears open for anything that might lead to a place he could call home.

As he neared Bishop’s Castle, he heard rumor of a band of fighters in distant woods that protected the innocent and rose up against tyranny.  Driscol greatly desired to find this band, and sought more information about them.  He found tales and rumors of sightings of them, but nothing specific.  Despite the frustrating lack of information, Driscol hopefully and enthusiastically sought the band, as he came ever nearer to the home of his youth.

He found his old home on the outskirts of the city; in the exact same condition he had left it.  Driscol sent one of the servants in the house to fetch his father.  He stood outside the gates, not quite knowing what to expect.  His mother and father came rushing out to meet him, embracing him tightly, and weeping into his shoulder.   They brought him inside and told him that they thought he had died, and they never had the chance to say how much they loved him.

Driscol told his parents all that he had done in the four years of his absence, and they listened in awe of all he’d done.   His father brushed aside Driscol’s lie about becoming a merchant, saying it was his own fault trying to force his son into a profession he did not love.

Driscol welcomed him back with open arms, and the whole town celebrated his return.  The celebration lasted three whole days, and in that time the bond between Driscol and his parents tripled in strength, and they knew their son as Driscol, for such was the name he had made for himself.  During the festivities on the last day, Driscol’s father drew him aside, and took him up to the mansion’s attic.  He told him that about a year before, a man had come to the house saying that he was from a band of French troubadours that had known Driscol.  He said that Driscol had vanished one night, and that he had left his sword behind with a very worried troupe.  He asked that if Driscol ever returned home, that he might receive that sword; at which point, he gave Driscol’s father a sword.  The troubadour had departed after that, and had vanished.

The old merchant pulled a sword from a trunk, and gave it to Driscol.  It was the same blade that the old tinker had given him years ago.  The metal seemed to glow gold in Driscol’s hand, and he smiled at the familiar blade he had once looked upon with disdain.

His father put his hand on Driscol’s shoulder, and said that he was proud of his son.  He could do anything he wanted in life, and he would have a supportive father the whole way.  At last, the burden of guilt that Driscol had been carrying lifted from his shoulders.

He asked his father if he had heard of the mysterious band of swordfighters he had been seeking.  He learned that these people he was chasing had been in Bishop’s Castle a few months before when a group of bandits had been harassing the town. They had called themselves the Order of the Rose.  Driscol’s heart leapt at the news, and he inquired where the Order had gone.  His father showed him a map of Britain, and pointed out a forest on it, saying that the Order pointed it out, saying they could be sought in the woods of Terra Sylvae if they were needed.

With real support, and a real reason for departure, Driscol packed his gear, buckled his sword to his hip, and set out for Terra Sylvae.  For weeks, he journeyed, seeking this elusive Order of the Rose.  It was not easy, but at last he found the forest that had been named Terra Sylvae.  He entered the woods, unsure what to expect, or even what to look for.  After a few hours of walking, he heard the sounds of shouting and clanging of steel.

Driscol walked toward the noise until he came to a large clearing.  It was full of people dressed in clothing from all over Europe, dueling back and forth. They were laughing and shouting to one another, furiously moving back and forth as they fought.  They all slowly came to a stop as they noticed him, and gathered in front of Driscol, who stood nervously.  One man stepped forward and greeted him, introducing himself as Damian Azure.  He asked Driscol who he was, and inquired as to why he had sought them out.

Driscol considered a moment, looking around at the ruins that sat in the clearing, and at the men and women surrounding him.  Standing in this cool forest air, Driscol thought about how he should answer this man, Damian Azure.  He was Driscol, the Messenger, the man who brought hope and warning to those who needed it, and terror to those that would seek to cause harm.  He was also a Kane, a Fighter.  He was a protector of the innocent, a man of honor.

He felt energy seeping from the trees, the rocks, and the ruins in the clearing.  An ancient power flowed into him; a power older than any of the men and women in this clearing knew, and the newcomer breathed it in.  He looked Damian in the eyes and said, “My name is Kane Driscol, and I seek to join the Order of the Rose.”