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A New Companion. During the night I couldn’t stop thinking about Nethin ’s death. It had been cruel and harsh. He never deserved to die. But he had given his life to save mine, and I was going to make sure his death was not in vain. I was going to make it sure.   

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During the night I couldn’t stop thinking about Nethin’s death. It had been cruel and harsh. He never deserved to die. But he had given his life to save mine, and I was going to make sure his death was not in vain. I was going to make it sure.   

I heard marching feet in front of me. I snapped awake. Directly in front of me there was a line of boys walking, directed by bigger and sturdier men. The boys seemed sad and gloomy, judging by their slumped shoulders and bowed heads. Recruits, I thought. These were unlucky boys forced into the Army. I noticed behind the recruits stood a few professional soldiers, clad in blue uniforms and armed with short rifles. They began to walk down the road, towards me. I stayed as still and silent as a rock, praying upon the darkness to conceal me from their eyes.

To my misfortune, the sky grew brighter. The

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The squad passed slowly by. I peeked out from behind the tree. As I turned, I accidentally snapped a small branched. I held my breath, hoping upon all luck in the Earth that the soldiers had not heard.

“Recruit! What in the name of heaven are you doing taking a nap on the side of a road?” The Officer barked.

They had seen me. I felt dismayed. I breathed in and said, “Nothing. Everything’s fine. I just

fell. Carry on. I’ll catch back up, uh, soon.” I shakily replied. I slowly reached for my backpack, which had fallen off.

"No games here boy. Just get up and you won't pay too severely," the Officer was

content on waiting.

Without thinking I grabbed my backpack

and dashed into a backyard.

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I continued sprinting through the yard. I couldn't see anything in the dark, and I tripped over something that felt like a root. I fell and somersaulted down a slope. I crashed into a bush of thorns. My right arm caught a branch, and I felt pain throughout my forearm. Something like water ran all over my arm.

I heard running feet above me. They were going to catch me if I couldn't escape, and if they caught me, they'd find it! If they found the Crown, who knows what then. Nethin had said that in the wrong hands the Crown was a threat to all life on Earth. I shuddered. But I was stuck. The thorns held me like a fly in a web.

A head appeared in front of me. It was the Officer "God kid! Do y'know what's good for you!" He snickered. 'You're goin' to the Ash Pit."

I shuddered. The Ash Pit. People were sent there when they disobeyed the law. They were whipped and tortured in front of the public. I

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do not know exactly what happens, but the Ash Pit is known to everybody from the Wall, the Grey Lands and the Coast.

As I looked with horror into his eyes he reached for me. Just as he laid his fingers on my shoulder, a bird from a tree above dropped a splat of dung onto his shoulder. He cursed and stepped backwards, right into a bristle of thorns. He wiggled to get loose in a panic (which was pretty funny, a 'tough' officer thrashing about in panic because of a small little thorn bush). He got out, but his left sleeve on his jacket was scratched and shredded. He walked away from me, back to his squad.

"You boy," he said in grumpy tone. "Yes, you. You're goin' to get the slacker down there and bring him back. If you succeed, I'll send in a good word to the Captain of your ability."

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A head appeared above the small hill. The figure was tall, and appeared scared. He approached me, and almost sat right down beside me. As the sun cleared over the wall of dust, the land was filled with a dim light. Now I could see his face.

"Smitty!" I exclaimed. "It's been so long, and I just-" He clamped his hand over my mouth.

        "Shhh! Don't rouse attention! But Edro, it's you..." Smitty didn't finish his sentence.

        Tears came rolling over my cheeks in joy. Smittywas an old friend. The last time I had seen him was probably seven years ago, just when they were starting the Military Command Ruling system.

"Let's get you out of here," Smitty said, with a bright smile. It was too short a celebration for something so magical.

"You can't take me to your Officer! I'll explain later, but I must escape." I whispered.   

 "Whoa! Don't jump to conclusions! Who said I was going to bring you to him? I've been trying to run off ever since they took me away, maybe three days

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ago. This is the perfect opportunity!" He seemed excited.

       "So, we're going to escape? You'd risk your life to rescue me from here?" I asked.

       "Not just you. Me as well." With one last tug at the thorn bush he pulled me up. We each turned towards the squad. "So long! We're leaving!" Smitty yelled right at them. The Officer looked confused. I was amazed at Smitty's sudden bravery.

       We turned and dashed through the waist-high grass. I heard the bang! of rifles being fired behind us, and a bullet hit the tree right beside Smitty, and one landed right in front of my foot. The Officer shouted at us and cursed us, calling us traitors to our country. So what. We ran on. For stens we ran and ran, not stopping. After endless distances we both fell to the ground laughing. There were fields of tall grass dotted with small trees around us, and a river was to the East. I also noticed my arm was smeared with blood. I'd get it fixed later.

       I had dodged another peril, likely to lead to

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a new one, and with a new companion.

       "So, where are we going exactly?" Smitty asked.

       "East. We must reach the High Gate." I answered.

      "The High Gate! I wouldn't have thought anybody would be wandering in that direction!" Smitty exclaimed.

      "And where else would I be going?" I joked. "We might as well be on our way, for we have a long ways to travel yet! I'm glad you're with me, Smits. I'm glad you're with me."

      "I shan't be leaving you, Edro. One things for certain: In seven years, you have hardly changed.' He said.

      "Oh, I haven't?" I said laughing. "It will be an interesting journey, no doubt."

       So we went off East, never to return to our homeland for many a year, if we ever would. I was confident enough, and Smitty likely the same. A lucky chance, and off we were to the Wild Lands, filled with danger, and uncertainty.

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Nethin

Edro's father, Fedro, had had some adventures of his own. He never told Edro his detailed accounts. He seemed afraid to tell him. He did leave Edro a letter in the Dwarfwoods to the north, though. It is uncertain whether Edro will find the letter or not. Anyways, when Fedro had been 'skipping around', as his neighbours called it, on his adventure he met Nethin. Fedro had gone into Nethin's debt, and Nethin into his. Thus they became long friends, always helping. After Fedro had settled down in Russhill Brown, he married and had a baby. He named the baby Edro. His wife died from a house fire while she was helping at a soup kitchen in Town. When Edro was three years of age, a cloaked horseman rode to his door. Fedro would not let him inside the house, though the horseman pressed with questions. Luckily, Fedro had a hunch his secret had been found, for a friend was not the only thing Fedro had picked up. The Crown was stuffed in a chest underneath blankets inside his storage room. At the same time Nethin was wondering down the road to Fedro's farm. A dove landed on his shoulder and told him that Fedro was in trouble. Hurrying down the road he saw Fedro confronting a horseman. The horseman drew his blade and attacked. Fedro stabbed the horseman with his knife. Nethin ran and leapt up on the horse behind the attacker. Quickly he drew his longsword and sliced the man through the stomach. He dropped lifeless to the ground. In loss of its master the horse whinnied and galloped away. But Nethin had been too late. Fedro lay there, his neck in a puddle of red and his shirt shredded. As Fedro, Bearer of the Crown, passed, Nethin swore an oath he would protect Edro.

Thirteen years later, when Edro and Nethin were great friends, the Black Count raided Russhill Brown. They burned the nearby farmhouses. They took all the food, murdering the citizens. Edro was packed up, with the Crown, ready to flee. His objective was to make it to Dwarfwood. However Nethin would not go with him. He knew the Black Count were too many and would soon catch Edro. Instead, he bought Edro time. One man charged into a midst of a hundred murderers. He sliced through many, but many more filled there places. In the end Nethin was slain, with nearly a hundred dead enemies lying around him. He had fulfilled his oath.

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Army

The Army of Tichen is a small but tough army. Normally, Army would be spelt with a lower-cased ‘a’. However, this culture named certain proud things with a capital letter.

Tichen is allied with Ruferdan against the Orcs, Wisps, Slitherslimes and sometimes the Black Count in wars. The Dwarfs in the north past the Wooden Wall have remained neutral for nearly one-thousand years. As the war in the south becomes more threatening, the Army brought in conscription.

The Army also controls the northern parts of Tichen, naming it Military Rule. Many people don’t like this. A Command General controls a sector (i.e. Russhill Brown), an Office Lieutenant controls a town, and Command Sergeants will inspect and act like police. All occupations dealing with law and politics is a military job.

With harsh rules and punishments, these soldiers are still fighting for the safety of Tîchen.

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Officer

“Move it, boys!” I shout. “No time to rest!”

My recruits get up, with a lot of stumbling, and move into marching order. The sun is not yet up, and it is very dark out this night.

What happens if we get ambushed? That was an annoying thought that demanded an answer inside my head. But what if we did? There were rumours bouncing off walls of the enemy sneaking inside our lines and preparing a surprise attack. A slaughter more likely.

To interrupt my thoughts I heard a branch snap. I held my breath. Turning around, I saw a recruit had sat down on the side of the road. “Recruit! What in the name of heaven are you doing taking a nap on the side of a road?” I yelled. “You almost gave me a heart attack” I said this quietly, because I didn’t actually want anyone to hear.

The boy hesitated. “Nothing. Everything’s fine. I just fell. Carry on. I’ll catch back up, uh, soon.” He shakily said.

"No games here boy. Just get up and you won't pay too severely.” I was going to get angry if he kept sitting like that, delaying the rest of us. Then all of a sudden the stupid kid grabbed his pack and ran off behind a house! Uhhhggf! So infuriating.

Without caring if the enemy heard us and would kill us in our sleep, I dashed after him. He crashed through a thorn bush and got caught. Struggling, he was stuck as a fly. I stood in front of him.

I said "God kid! Do y'know what's good for you! 'You're goin' to the Ash Pit.“ Just as I was reaching for him a bird from above pooped on my shoulder. Not realizing it was bird poop, thinking it was something deadly, I jumped back right into a stalk of thorns. “Holy mothers of- Ahhh- Holy critterbugs!” I stumbled out with my brand new jacket sleeve torn to pieces.

I walked up to one of my recruits. "You boy,"

“Me, sir?” The recruit quietly asked.

"Yes, you. You're goin' to get the slacker down there and bring him back. If you succeed, I'll send in a good word to the Captain of your ability."

“Oh, I don’t know sir-I can’t do nothing-”

I cut him off. “Do it” is all I said. He hurried behind the house.

He took awhile, and I though I heard words. I looked over at the Corporal. He raised his eyebrows as if to say “Should we go check that out?” I shook my head. Just then two heads appeared.

"So long! We're leaving!“ the recruit shouted. They ran off away from us.

“Recruit! What is the meaning of this? Curse you! Curse you! You are both traitors to your country!” I shouted at them. They kept on running. “Fire at them!”

My four trained soldiers fired at the escapees and missed. “We can’t have any more slackers or escapees! Do you understand?” I demanded from my recruits.

They nodded and muttered “Yes sir.”

“If we cannot fight this war our country will be destroyed and all that you hold dear will be gone! Do you understand why you must fight? We are fighting for our brothers, our sisters, our mothers and our fathers. In time all traitors will be persecuted! Do you understand?” I ended my mini speech.

‘Yes sir” The recruits seemed more confident, and stood a little taller. It always felt good to give an inspirational mini-speech.

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Ash Pit

It gets its name from the amount of ash smoldering in the air near the site. The Ash Pit is a punishment post built and ran by the Governing Commander.

Located directly before Town Hall, criminals are whipped and tortured there for all the public to see. After brutally beaten, they are minimally bandaged and then sent to labour in the Old Mines, north of the Town in the Ragged Hills. Very few come back, and many say the others die from harsh treatment.

Lengths of time spent in the mines differs on severity of crime. The worst crimes are promoting enemy forces, or trying to violate the army in any way (burning a building, attacking a soldier, defying Military Rule). The punishment for these is working until you die in the mines. Everyone fears and hates the Ash Pit, and most have had or know someone who has family members sent there.

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Bird’s View

Humph. More noisy big creatures banging around in my yard. You know, the ones with four legs and all? Those ones. They’re the worst. They don’t care where they go, and Jumper says they puff huge columns of throat-clogging smoke a little ways off.

One of the smaller ones went crashing into Foxy’s bush. It roared and just got himself in an even worse position. Stupid creatures with four legs.

Following it, another one came. This one was bigger. The big one started making more noises. Yikes. He seemed angry. This was going to be a long night.

“Yeeeeeeep!” Foxy’s quiet, barely noticeable shriek came from his burrow underneath the thorns. But the big creatures couldn’t hear. In Foxy’s defense I dropped a ball of dung on the bigger four-legged creature. Right on his shoulder. It roared and crashed back into more thorns, just like the smaller one had done. These creatures were really stupid.

I fell asleep pretty quickly after that. As far as I can remember, the two creatures ran off past my tree. Wait, no. It was a different one that ran with the smaller one. Also, was there a sharp sound like a tree falling down? I dunno. Something like that. Doesn’t matter anyway. Ooh! I see a worm.

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Smitty

It sucks, you know, having a simple life barely living off of the cabbage and carrots your family garden can produce. You live poor, but all is good. And then Bam!,some soldier takes you away and you can’t do anything about it. Has to be the most unfortunate possible outcome there was for me.

Those soldiers, they don’t treat you like family. They talk about the war like it is proud to be going into a battle. In my opinion, it’s more crazy. If you want to run in front of a bullet or arrow, and then fight sword-to-sword against a super mad enemy who constantly snarls at you, then fine. But not me.

Suddenly things took a foggy turn. Some recruit is slacking off on the road, and I’m sent to go check it out. And what do you know! It’s Edro! Haven’t seen him in what, seven years? A miracle. So I thought it was a perfect chance to ditch these crazy soldiers and wide-eyed recruits who still seemed confused with all this. Nearly got hit by a bullet, but hey, it worked out in the end.

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Sten

A sten is a measure of distance, most commonly used in the region of Northern Tichen. The southerners don’t primarily use it. It is equivalent to 2.3km, or 0.5 leagues. The word originated around the year 1400 R.R. (Riseth Reckoning. Riseth is all the land along the coast inhabited by man, gump [a creature not introduced in this story], or dwarf.), when Tichen was under heavy ruling changes, some cultures were lost, and many new terms and traditions were created. Thus created the ‘sten’, and it is presently used today.

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The High Gate

The High Gate is the only passage from Tichen to the outer lands, whereas the Dwarfwoods is located. It is a heavy wooden door with heavy metal hinges and nails. The gate is built in the Wooden Wall, a large wall protecting Riseth from invaders. It is heavily guarded, and is frequently attacked by bandits. It is hundreds of stens westward from Edro’s farm. If this gate were to be captured, the north would quickly fall to the fast-spreading of the Foul Shadow (another factor not mentioned nor important in this story).

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The Wild Lands

The Wild Lands are all the lands where there is no human habitation within the area. Many beasts of all shapes and sizes roam there, and the Black Count is also scattered throughout the Wild Lands. Most folk consider this place dangerous and anyone who ventures there is insane; so Why not take the road? In this case Edro and Smitty can’t, because the road is heavily watched by both sides. Therefore, the Wild Lands are their only chance of succeeding.