Jard lied on the hard ground, unable to sleep after the night’s turbulent events. The stars performed above, filling the sky with wonderful beauty. The stars, one of the few attractions of the vast desert, brought peace to Jard. Beauty was something he appreciated and understood better then before. It was what the city was missing: the glimmer of imagination and the spark of inspiration. But Jard knew there was more to beauty then flowers or the shape of a woman’s face. There was a beauty that lay in the hearts of those who were ruled by love and compassion. For those who denied the wishes of their greedy flesh and embraced the potency of love and fellowship.
There was a weight that the beautiful stars could not suppress, though, and it wore on Jard. It was the lion of killing and violence that he wrestled with. The heavy burden of murder tormented Jard ever sense he killed the soldiers. He had been thinking about his conversation with James. It had not been difficult, in the rush of adrenaline and desire to save a life, to destroy the two guards, but the more Jard thought about his deed, the more it horrified him.
"They probably had a home and children to go to." Jard thought as he couldn't help a tear from rolling down his face. In many ways, Jard wished it didn't have to be who he was. He hated every aspect of killing.
"It’s not really their fault; they were simply doing what they were told. It’s their authorities fault. It’s that blasted Kings fault!" Jard desperately wished he could somehow show King Horatio the pain that so many of the people needlessly endured. But nothing could make the King care, he was the pon of ignorance and stupidity. Too blind to see his people as anything more then mere toys that give him money. Jard was forced to muscle away his anger to keep from shouting out into the still night air. "Could it be any worse?" thought Jard. "Yes, it could be far worse. It can always be worse." He assured himself; besides, killing the soldiers had been a necessary evil, an action spurred as much by compassion and mercy, as it was by anger and hate. He wanted to sleep, but was still too rattled to do so much as close his eyes. Indeed, lying on his hard bed seemed only to energize Jard more, so he decided to walk around the campsite.
Jard went to his horse, grabbed a flask of water, and began drinking the cool liquid. The water felt good on his dry lips and cooled his throat as he slowly swallowed it. He then tore off a chunk of bread from a loaf that he had baked before he left the city. The soft bread accompanied the water well and helped to calm his emotions. He quietly walked around the campsite for a few minutes before he retired to a large rock positioned near the horses. Sitting on the rock, Jard stared into the vast darkness in front of him.
He was mostly done with his bread when a small animal caught his eye. It moved towards Jard, and stopped a few paces in front of him. Jard didn't know what to make of it, in some ways it seemed to resemble a cat, but other characteristics seemed to indicate a rabbit. It was about a foot and a half tall and nearly two feet long. Whatever it was, Jard certainly had never, in all his years, seen anything like it. The creature’s still gaze was fixed on Jard as if he was an alien from the sky. Its dark blue eyes were exceedingly beautiful and Jard found it difficult not to stare back. For a few moments, the two starred at each other, each seemingly amazed at the other. Then, the creature scurried away as if Jard was some evil charging monster. In less then a moment, the animal was out of sight and Jard sat alone once again on the cool rock.
"Can't sleep either?" said James as he walked towards Jard and sat beside him.
"No, I'm affrayed not." Jard paused for moment, "Have you ever seen a creature that’s about foot and a half tall, maybe two feet long, something like a cat and a rabbit mixed together, with beautiful blue eyes?"
"Uhh, I guess not, why?" James said, completely confused.
"Just before you came over here, I saw a creature like none I've ever seen before walk up to me and stare at me for a few moments and then quickly dash off. It was very strange."
"Thats all it did, stare at you then run away?"
"Indeed, but its gaze was possibly the most intriguing that I've ever seen. He starred at me almost like he recognized or new me. But its eyes, they were beautiful!" exclaimed Jard. James didn't really know what to say about the mater, so he remained silent. A long pause ushered between the two new friends as they stared into the distance. Silence filled the air, only broken by unsteady snores and occasional sleep-talking from Peter.
"Gghhoosh, shhhut up, stupid crickets, gghhooshhh, gghhooshhh, wowzers man, gghhooshhh, Its...kind got a little...gghhooshh, Oh, I don't know." Muttered Peter, still asleep. Jard and James laughed at Peters meaningless words.
"James." Said Jard, cutting through the silence. "What...What happened to your father?" James sighed and looked down at the mention of his father.
"Oh, I didn't mean to...I thought...I, I'm sorry.
"No, its fine." James sat still and motionlessly stared at the shrubbery bellow the rock as he told the tale of his father. "They knocked on the door. My mother opened it to find two soldiers. They asked where father was and said they needed to speak him. My mother, knowing better then to question the army, obeyed. When my father reached the door, one of the soldiers opened a scroll that said my father had committed the crime of protesting and he would be punished by death; signed by the King without a word, the soldiers hauled my father off. We haven't seen him sense. I assume he is dead now."
"Your father was a protester?" questioned Jard.
"No, I don't think so. As fare as I know, he never spoke a word against the King, although he would have liked to."
"What was his trade?"
"He was blacksmith at the Kings court. Many people said he had the best blacksmith in the city. He built the knife that saved your life. He gave me that knife only a few hours before he was taken away. He said the blade was very special. On the blade is an engraving of a cock’s feather, which he said was a very honorable symbol. He said the symbol was for those who stand for what is right and take action to accomplish it."
Jard thought about James and couldn't help but pity the terribly unfortunate life he was given. He wanted somehow to encourage James and shed light on the dark conversation, but there just wasn't anything light about it. To break the silence Jard said, "It sounds like your father was an honorable man.”
"Oh, he was the world to me. He taught me everything I know. He showed me how to properly string a bow and the best wood to use. He taught me all sorts of different knots; slip knots, reef knots, half hitch knots, and overhand knots. He was always loving and loyal to mother and helped around the house whenever he had time. When they took him away, the last thing he told me was.." James bit his lip. "Take care of mother, don't let her loose hope. Keep holding on. I failed! Its all my fault! I am ruined!" cried James, suddenly loosing control of his emotions.
"No, it was not your fault."
"Yes it was! Its all my fault!" shouted James as wept bitterly. He jumped off the rock and fled to his bed. Burying his head in his small pillow, James cried for long time. Jard soon went back to bed as well and slept fitfully through what was left of the eventful night.