The Flute of the Dogarion
THE FLUTE OF THE DOGARION
AN EXCERPT FROM A YOUNG ADULT FANTASY NOVEL
In the backyard of the Academy sat a small obstacle course. A wooden wall stood in a patch of mud; generations of Rangers had cursed that wall as they tried to pull themselves over the top. In a wide, shallow pool with dirty water floated four logs. Students ran across the logs, attempting to keep from falling into the water. Long balance beams hung above the ground, high enough that falls brought bruises.
After the balance beams, there was a patch of unoccupied field that gave way to the woods. At the edge of the clearing, with the entire obstacle course before her, Clara Kendal had a good amount of distance between her and the Academy. She discovered the spot a half a year into her schooling, and started to sneak back there to train by herself. The sun recently sank, so the trees, grass and obstacles were tinted blue.
That evening, Clara was doing push-ups. Her lean, muscled arms flexed as she brought her body to the grass, and they relaxed as she rose. Blonde hair hung down from her head, gingerly touching the ground when she lowered herself. Clara Kendal possessed a beautiful smile; the problem was no one ever saw it.
Lately, with what had happened, Clara found herself wanting to get away more and more. All she hoped for was some peace before dinner and its accompanying misery.
Clara Kendal was born in Goeth-Sind, many years after the Sind’s Castle Paldo was razed. She heard tales of the once mighty Sind, of the most noble and powerful family in the history of Tan Xun, but she certainly had never seen any evidence. All she saw was poverty and bitterness.
Like so many others, her family farmed and almost made enough to keep from starving to death. Long ago, Kendal was a powerful name in the Sind. Clara’s mei and dei talked about the flowers her family used to grow. Each week, a wagon full of exquisite blossoms would be taken to Paldo, and the throne room would look and smell as lovely as a spring field.
Now they could not even feed themselves.
Clara stood up from the field, her arms aching. She tried to remember how many push-ups she had done, but she realized she lost count awhile back. Her ears heard movement behind her, and she spun around.
Standing there were four Goeth teenagers, each wearing red rags over their faces. Though they attempted to conceal their identities, Clara suspected she knew who they were. Each held a small knife.
“We cannot kill you, murderer,” announced the one Clara believed was Kent. “We are not animals, like you, and we honor the wishes of our Sensei. But we can make it so that every time you look in the mirror, you remember tonight.”
“I didn’t kill Philip,” said Clara. “How many times do you need to hear it?”
“One million? Two million?” asked Kent’s round companion, most likely Johan. “I do not think it would make a difference.”
The four knew they had limited time, so they attacked at once, relying more on the advantage of their knives and number than their Ranger training. Clara was on the ground in an instant, and the small blades stabbed air. She rolled away, and as she did she gave a tremendous kick to the bottom of the short one’s leg. It snapped, and he went down screaming.
Clara was then behind the remaining three enemies. Before they could turn, she grabbed her third attacker by his hair and pulled the back of his head down against her knee. His knife dropped from his hand as he went unconscious. Clara picked it up and found herself between the remaining two attackers, one tall and calm, the other fat and jumpy.
Seeing it wasn’t going to be easy, Kent and Johan slowed down. They circled Clara, keeping one of them on both sides of her at all times. Slowly, they moved in. Clara slashed out with the knife, but undeterred they crept closer. Kent was near enough to cut her, and she felt his blade slice lightly into her shoulder. She spun and swung back, but he retreated to just out of Clara’s range. Johan was also too far from Clara’s knife.
“Just give up and take it, Sind,” leered Kent. “You need to pay for what you did to Phillip. We will get you, it is inevitable. You are slow, and weak, and stupid…”
It was then that Hashu, Matthew, Portho and the Rangers arrived, dashing under the balance beams.
Matthew walked up just in time to see a beautiful Sind girl throw her knife at the foot of one of the attackers. She had all the characteristics that made the Sind so attractive, the tan skin, the blonde hair, the strong features and bone structure.
Johan didn’t even realize that Clara threw the knife, but then he felt it in his foot. He looked down to see the small blade entirely in his boot, all the way down to the hilt, and when he looked up he saw that Clara was leaping at him. From her jump, she kicked him square in the face, and he fell to the ground in a heap.
Kent saw his final chance, and he lunged at Clara’s back with the blade. She sidestepped as he did, and she caught arm, pinning the upper part of his limb in her armpit. His forearm was gripped in her left hand, and she started to twist. Agony ripped through Kent, and he dropped the blade immediately. Still, Clara twisted.
“Please…” he whimpered. He could feel the tendons straining, ready to snap.
“Clara!” shouted Hashu. Kent felt the pressure leave his arm, and he dropped to the ground, nursing his shoulder with tears streaming down over his mask.
The Sind girl turned and faced Hashu, and Matthew saw cold steel on her face. Her eyes were like winter lakes, clear and blue. Nowhere did Matthew see any fear, regret or mercy.