Read an Excerpt
Voyage to the Edge
The occasional cool mist of the sea quietly reminds me of the unyielding truth of my journey. I am too far from battle to feel the rush within my muscles and yet too close to sleep.
The ship I am on is a grand ship and is only one of many. The night breeze chills my moist face as I gaze across the rhythmic mass and see the outline of hundreds of other gallant ships. Gallant ships carrying gallant knights. As I lean upon the mast, the creak of the timber and the melodic swish of each wave breaking against the bow tug upon my memories.
I am Cedric…Cedric of Chessington. You and I are alike in that we are on a journey. I am not referring to my trek upon this ship, although it is the final leg of my journey. No, my journey began a long time ago, when I was just a boy.
At ten years old, my heart was full of dreams and adventure. An old man by the name of Leinad enticed my appetite for adventure with his stories. His impact on my life was powerful, though I did not realize it at the time. I believed him as a boy, humored him as a young man, and honor him now, for the stories he told of his life were true. They were of a truth that lost its believability as I grew into the reality of life and dared not believe. And yet, here I am on an adventure every bit as unbelievable as Leinad’s.
As I close my eyes, the moist air reminds me of the damp smell of spring nearly twenty-five years ago. There was a small stream east of Chessington that meandered south until it emptied into the vast sea. I loved to play upon its banks with my friend William. Our swords of willow clicked in the morning sunlight as we rescued the fair lady from the clutches of the Dark Knight.
William had been warned by his parents to stay away from the “crazy old man” who lived in a hut near the river, but I could not. He was odd for sure, but he was not dangerous at all. His tales of valor drew me to him. He was a mentor and a friend, and the memory of his voice has been a companion to me often, especially now that I know how his life fits so perfectly into the King’s plan for the kingdom. He had the voice of a seasoned knight…
“Sit down, lad, and share a slice of apple,” Leinad said as my mouth became wet in anticipation of the tart fruit. His worn hands worked the knife firmly and delicately to produce eight perfect slices.
“Sir Leinad, please tell me again about the mighty sword,” I pleaded as he slid a cracked wooden bowl across the table with the green apple slices. I thanked him and took a small nibble of my first slice to allow my mouth a chance to recover from the blast of sweetness that flooded my tongue and cheeks.
His silver hair seemed to betray the heart of a mighty warrior within. Though he was old, his shoulders were broad and his arms were strong. The firewood he chopped was an easy challenge for him, and the blade of the ax landed on its target every time. His gentle brown eyes were framed by tan wrinkles that ran toward his temples. They were eyes that I could gaze into and not turn away from. At times during his orations they became a living canvas that revealed love, pain, courage, and fear. The years of age only slightly masked what I knew was once a very handsome young man.
“Ah, Cedric, my dear boy,” he said and lowered himself into an adjacent chair on my right. It faced him toward a window that looked south to the sea, which was just beyond one’s vision. “That is a story worth its telling.”
A veteran hand landed on my shoulder, and his smile accompanied a wink. “It was a new beginning for the people, the dawn of a new kingdom…”
Leinad’s story is one of knights, swords, treachery, and love. There is no story like it, and though it is my beginning, it is his story–a story that must not be forgotten.
The razor-sharp tip of the sword screamed deathly close to Leinad’s chest as he quickly recovered from a foolish overextended thrust aimed for his opponent’s torso.
I’ll never underestimate his speed again, thought Leinad as he carefully took up his position, once again facing the older man. A quick exchange of cuts and parries ensued with no clear advantage. The older man advanced an attack with seasoned experience, carefully but aggressively. Leinad countered each attack with precision and confidence as he gave slightly, waiting for the expended energy to take its toll on the muscled frame of the older man. At sixteen years old, Leinad was just a boy to some, but his daily training by his mentor had developed strength and discipline in him before his time.
There it was–the first hesitation in his opponent’s volley of cuts was a clear indication to Leinad that his attack was ending. He had studied his opponent carefully and knew that if he was to be victorious, he had to capitalize on such a moment as this. As he deflected the last cut to his left, Leinad quickly rotated his body one full circle, which doubled the force of his blade as it raced toward the older man’s stomach. He risked the momentary unprotected exposure of his back based on the fatigue he sensed in his opponent. If he miscalculated, he would die. If he was successful, he would be the victor.
As he neared completion of the circling maneuver, Leinad turned his head to locate the target for his following sword to strike, sure that it was impossible for the older man to retreat quickly enough to avoid his deadly blow. He was suddenly gripped with fear. His sword was screaming toward nothing but air; his opponent was gone.
The older man had dropped to one knee and raised his sword for protection as he saw the deadly arc of Leinad’s sword coming toward him. Leinad knew in an instant that he had miscalculated once again.
“Observation and experience build prediction, for if you study the past, you will know the future.” Leinad recalled this lesson from his mentor, and now he was about to die as a consequence of forgetting it.
The speed of the sword was too great for him to change its direction, and yet once the sword passed over the head of his adversary, he would never be able to recover in time to stop the fatal thrust from his opponent that would surely follow. As the sword approached the vacant target just above the head of the master swordsman, Leinad pulled and jumped with all his might, using the momentum of the sword to catapult him, as though he were mounting a horse, over the top of the older man.
The last-chance maneuver sent Leinad tumbling on the ground behind the older man, but he was able to regain his footing before his opponent could turn and attack again.
The two swordsmen faced each other once again with sweat-soaked tunics and brows that could no longer hold the salty fluid that fell from their foreheads. The lush green meadow that hosted this fight seemed to wait patiently for its interrupted peace to return. The fight had lasted much longer than either of them had experienced before, and there was still no sign of a champion.
Leinad looked into the eyes of the older man–eyes that revealed experience, wisdom, and patience. He sensed a mutual respect for each other’s skill as a swordsman and for each other’s character as a man.
“That was a bit daring, son!” Leinad’s father said as he yielded his sword to his scabbard.
Leinad smiled and knew that his father had just rebuked him for his carelessness.
“I’m sorry, Father. I will be more careful in the future,” Leinad said as he too found a home for his sword in his own scabbard.
Leinad had been trained by his father every day for the past four years in the art of the sword. Peyton was a master swordsman, and Leinad saw his father’s commitment to pass this mastery on to him through these lessons. Leinad also learned from his father that sword training alone was more devastating than helpful to a young man were it not tempered with discipline, honor, integrity, loyalty, and honesty–the very qualities his father demonstrated each day. Today Leinad revealed his proficiency, and he knew he was fast becoming a master swordsman like his father.
Leinad was of average height but still growing. With dark hair that curled when wet, he bore a strong resemblance to his father, which even included the slight dimple in his chin. His smile was slightly higher on the left and accentuated the handsome features of a maturing young man. He felt himself growing stronger each day, but he knew his boyish look was still quite evident. Leinad was glad that his voice no longer cracked when he talked. He found it difficult to say the right things to folks other than his father, and attempting conversation with a voice that cracked didn’t help matters. Leinad’s eyes were different than Peyton’s though, for the deep, sharp eyes of his father gave way to the compassionate eyes of his mother.
Leinad remembered his mother, although the image of her delicate face had become faint with the passing years. This upset Leinad, and he clung to the memory of her love for him all the more. Dinan had died when Leinad was eight. Even then Leinad could sense a deep ache in her heart that never seemed to leave her. The winter she fell sick and died was too grievous a time for Leinad to talk about. He assumed that was true for his father as well since he talked only of the pleasant times they once had as a family.
Although it was not complete, his father’s gentle love was enough to carry Leinad into nanhood without his mother. His father fulfilled both roles as well as any man could. Leinad knew this and responded with respect and loyalty.
As they walked toward a favorite sprawling oak tree for a time of recovery, Peyton placed his arm around Leinad’s shoulder.
“Excellent lesson today, son. After our rest, how about we clean up and make a trip to town for some supplies?”
Leinad looked up slightly to meet his father’s eyes, for he was nearly equal in height, and smiled. Any time there was a break in the routine labor of the farm, Leinad enjoyed it. At first that was why he loved the lessons in sword fighting. But later he came to love the training because he had reached a point where he knew he was quite competent with the sword. Although he knew he was far from his father’s level of mastery, Leinad loved the fact that he was a challenge to him. For a long time he ignored the question that never left his mind: What does sword fighting have to do with farming?
The young lad loved to be in the presence of his father. There he felt secure. Not that Leinad ever felt threatened, for all he had ever known since he could remember was a peaceful life in the land. Unlike many youths of sixteen, Leinad never saw his father as an overbearing fool. He could see the depth of wisdom that resided in his father, and he never questioned the truth and sincerity of his love for him.
Peyton was a tall man with a well-seasoned muscular frame. His dark hair was accompanied by wisps of gray near his temples, and his eyes were deep and sharp but not harsh. His hands were large and leathery from long hours of working the land. Early on Leinad knew that his father’s hands were fashioned for a different purpose–they had not always been the hands of a farmer. It was in the last four years that this was made obvious to him since his father had begun teaching Leinad skills quite different from those required to grow food from the land.
After each had taken long drinks from their water flasks, they dug into a knapsack and enjoyed the sweet taste of fresh fruit. Now that peace had returned to the meadow, so had the songs of the birds.
Leinad and his father lived in the Plains of Kerr, which was along the western shore of the kingdom. The Great Sea bordered the kingdom on the west and down to the south as well. Most of the inhabitants of the Plains of Kerr were farmers. The town of Mankin served as a central community for the people as well as a place of trade for travelers from other regions of the kingdom.
Leinad’s farm was a half-day’s walk north of Mankin, and the Great Sea was just as far to the west. It was lush, beautiful country. The farm rested on the northern edge of the Plains of Kerr. Rugged wilderness and forested country filled with wildlife was north of the farm, which afforded Leinad and his father many days of excellent hunting. Just to the east of the farm was the gentle meadow in which their lessons of the sword usually took place. It was in this meadow that they now were enjoying a moment of rest.
“Your sword skills have greatly improved, Leinad,” Peyton said. “Do not become impatient with the fight. Impatience breeds recklessness, and recklessness will end in defeat against a skilled opponent. It is the patient perfecting of the fundamentals that wins battles. That is why I have worked with you to improve your strength and focus your mind, but you must decide that you will discipline yourself to use them.”
“I understand,” Leinad said. “Father, may I ask you a question?”
“What does sword fighting have to do with farming?”
Peyton finished a draw on his flask and wiped his mouth with the back of his hand. “No matter what a man’s occupation, he must be ready to fight for the King. One never knows if he will be called upon to serve the King in battle.”
Peyton paused and looked at Leinad. “But honestly, son, for you it will mean much, much more.” He did not wait for the next inevitable question. “Come. Let’s clean up and get to town so we can return home before dark.”
From the Trade Paperback edition.