• “In the days to come… A child will be born… A child with the mark of the lion on his back. After the days that the child is born, those in his village will suffer. Suffer greatly from plague. Famine will bestow upon their crops. Chaos will derive among the people. Their sins will become numbered. Because of this child… The village will be punished for sins… For seventeen years.”

    It all began the night when the child was born. When that boy was born, the village knew that the thought-to-be-false prophecy was real and would take place within seventeen years. The child’s parents were devastated to leave him alone in the woods by himself. He hadn’t even been weaned when he was driven out of the village. Not even a week old when the elders banned him from the town, proclaiming that he were to never go there again. But all was hopeless. For the moment they banished him, that was when it began. Plague. Famine. Chaos. The town’s prosperity was reduced to nothing a few short months after they had banished the child. The child who would grow into the young man who would save them. Though the villagers all knew the prophecy, one important part, the most important part of the prophecy, was always absent to the people.

    “Because of their sins… The village purged into a world of darkness. For seventeen years. Their only light shines through the child with the mark of the lion. The child that would be the world’s greatest knight.”

    --Chapter One--

    “Luther! I’ve told you thousands of times never to go into the mill without wearing your hat!” The old farmer loomed over a young man, sitting on the floor, rubbing his head.

    At seventeen years old, Luther Harlett was a farmer-in-training to Gregory Thornton. The old farmer had no sons of his own, and had been training the teen to take over his farm. Instead, Luther favored stories of knights slaying dragons. Gregory frowned on the idea of Luther leaving the farm to become a knight, as he had known about the prophecy. The old man watched as the young man pulled his long, dark blond hair back into a ponytail. He narrowed his eyes at Luther.

    “I don’t understand why you don’t cut that hair. That dang hair just gets in the way. And, it bothers me.”

    Luther shakes his head and stands, brushing straw from his trousers. “I’ll never cut my hair.” He looked down at the elder man and grinned. “It makes me look heroic! Like the knights in the tales you used to tell me.”

    “Sometimes, I wish I hadn’t have read those dumb tales to you,” Gregory said, with a shake of his head. “Now you’re full of nothing but air-headed thoughts.”

    The teen looked at Gregory and smiled. “But you always gave me encouragement with those stories, Mr. Thornton. Because you told me them, I was able to grow up and train myself to protect the farm.”

    Gregory hated to admit it, but the boy was right. Ever since he had told Luther those stories, the young man had begun to pick up the roe and practice swinging it around like a sword. He had gotten good at it, too. But the old man was too stubborn to admit it, for he feared that the boy would leave him. Luther was all that the man had left. His wife, Harriett, had died two years ago from an illness and both of his daughters, Meghan and Gabriella, were gone and married to good merchants. The farm and the boy. That was all he had left.

    “I know I gave you that encouragement, but I didn’t expect you to take it in your hands to get yourself mixed up with doing dangerous stunts in the barn.”

    Luther groaned a little. The old man bothered him when he scolded him. Of course he did dangerous things. He was seventeen! Boys his age typically did dangerous things. It was normal for him to want to do things like dashing into a fire to save the animals. But, any farmer would risk his life for his property. That was how things were, and the young man knew that. In fact, he’d risk his very life to save the old farmer. The man and his wife had taken care of him since he was a babe. However, Luther wasn’t interested in becoming a farmer. No, he wanted to travel to Aggott Town and procure in becoming a knight. He remembered once when Gregory took him to Aggott Town. The people seemed to glare at him, and were quite unfriendly with the farmer. But the boy was four at the time and couldn’t remember much of what had happened. All he could remember was that the farmer had told him to stay with the wagon outside the village gates. When the farmer came back, he didn’t say a word to him, but took him home silently instead. Luther never questioned about that day, but he always wanted to, deep down. Gregory finally woke him from his daydreaming thoughts.

    “You listen here, boy.” He shook his forefinger at him. “I don’t want you wandering over Aggott Town to be a knight, you hear? The last thing I want to hear is Sir Luther.”

    As a response, the young man planted his fists firmly on his hips and frowned at the man. “Mr. Thornton, have more faith in me. I won’t go to Aggott Town. Not without your permission first, at least.”

    This time, a fist knocked into his head gently and the old man scowled. “No. They won’t allow you in the village, even if you had my permission to go there.” He retracted his fist. “So you just have to stay put.”

    “What do you mean by that,” Luther asked. “They won’t allow me in? What did I do? I’ve never set foot in that village. How can they not allow a person who hasn’t done any wrong to the village inside?”

    The farmer remained silent for a while, before he passed a hand over his eyes and sighed heavily. “Come with me, boy. The mill isn’t the place to tell these things.” He replied, walking over to the mill door without glancing back to see if Luther were following.

    Gregory Thornton, for the first time in the seventeen years, was troubled. Luther followed him, half curious as to what it was that was bothering the old man, half worried as well. The house wasn’t large, but it wasn’t small. It was just right for five people. Now, it’s become too big for two men. The outside wasn’t very attractive, for the house was just made of plain wood, with a stone chimney. Straw and wood was what made up the roof. Very few windows were on the house, exactly three, in fact. Glass was hard to come by anywhere near Aggott Town. Especially since the barn was about a week’s trip from the town. The farmer was lucky enough to get the windows he has. Gregory opened the wooden door and walked in, and was greeted by his shepherd dog, Reginald. The grey and white-furred dog barked a few times before falling silent, seeing that his master was troubled. Luther closed the door behind him and followed Gregory to the sitting room. He remembered when Mrs. Thornton would sit in her rocking chair, knitting a sweater for one of the men when winter would come. Meghan and Gabriella would sit by the fireplace and talk about men they had seen a week ago at Aggott Town. Luther was always jealous of the girls since they were allowed to go to the town, and he wasn’t. This time, it was just Gregory and the boy in the sitting room. No women. Just men. The old man sat in the rocking chair where his wife would usually sit while the young man sat at his feet.

    “Luther, you know Harriett and I found you outside that town, right?”

    “Yes,” He responded, wondering why he asked that question.

    “Well, “The farmer started. “We asked why such a small babe was abandoned outside the village gates and where your parents were. The villagers all glared at me and told me you were a cursed baby that was going to plague their village.” He paused to shake his head. “It’s sad, really. The way they treated you in the village.”

    Luther stared at his guardian, speechless, and confused. “Why am I cursed?” He asked. Gregory knew he was going to ask that question and was prepared to answer.

    “We asked the same thing. And we were dumbfounded by what they told us.” He stopped talking for a moment. In the moment he stopped talking, Luther though he would have to ask what the villagers had told him and Harriett, but then Gregory spoke up again. “They told us the prophecy. It’s ridiculous they kick out a poor, helpless babe because of a stupid prophecy. And it didn’t really matter. That place is sorely being plagued. Famine. Chaos. Confusion. It’s all happening even though you aren’t there.”

    Prophecy?, Luther thought to himself. “What exactly does the prophecy say?” He asked.

    The old man leaned back in the rocking chair and stroked the stubble of a beard he had on his chin. “In the days to come… A child will be born… A child with the mark of the lion on his back. After the days that the child is born, those in his village will suffer. Suffer greatly from plague. Famine will bestow upon their crops. Chaos will derive among the people. Their sins will become numbered. Because of this child… The village will be punished for sins… For seventeen years.” He paused, then looked Luther in the eyes, seeing the confusion from the young man. “I’ve raised you since you were a baby, and not a terrible thing has happened on this farm. In fact, our livestock has since doubled.” He leans forward in the chair and rests a small, wrinkled, yet strong hand on the boy’s head. “You’re not a bad child.”

    Dazed, the boy stood on wobbly legs. He slowly made his way to a ladder, a six-stepped, wooden ladder that led to his “room.” He sat on his bed, which was made mostly of straw and hay, with a wool cover Harriett had knitted for him. Covering his face with a hand, he reflected on what the old man had told him. Didn’t I have parents?, he thought. Why didn’t they stop the villagers from banishing him? Why didn’t they leave the village as well to raise him? The questions buzzed in his head, busy like a bee. He lifted the hand from his face and looked at a small table beside his bed. His favorite books that told tales of knights rescuing maidens from dragons. He picked one up, a book made of soft leather, with a picture of a knight holding a sword in the air in a familiar heroic pose. Often, Luther would make such a pose with a farming tool, making Gregory scold him for not doing his work. A slain dragon lay at the feet of the knight, and a beautiful girl was placed on the left of the man, smiling at her rescuer. How he had always wished to be a knight. He traced over the illustration with a finger, feeling a longing to leave the farm to become a knight, yet he knew that the old man wouldn’t let him leave. But now, Luther wanted to leave to seek answers. He wanted to find his parents, or someone who would know them. After tracing the entire picture, Luther set the book down and leaned back against a wood beam. A sigh escaped from his throat as he stared at the ceiling with dark, brown eyes. Finally, what seemed like hours for the boy, Gregory called up to him from below.

    “Luther. Come down and eat something. You’re not going to sit in bed all day and feel sorry for yourself. We still have some things to do.”

    Typical. The old man was trying to cheer him up. Whenever Luther was down, Gregory would always cheer him up with insults, oddly enough. A smile crept its way over Luther’s lips, and he looked over the ladder at his guardian. “I’m coming, “ was all he said before he disappeared again in the rafts. A moment passed before his legs swung over the ladder, and he climbed down. This time, he wore a simple hat on his head, made of soft material.

    “What, you think you’re going into the mill again? Don’t be a dunce.” Gregory was throwing insults at him again, but Luther didn’t mind.

    “I can help in the mill. I’m wearing my hat, see?” He replied, pointing to his hat, as if the old man couldn’t already see it.

    Gregory smiled and raised an eyebrow at the lad. “Don’t matter if you’re wearing a hat or not. You’re not going in the mill again until you cut your hair. Your hair’s too long now.”

    Luther groaned and sat at the table. “But Mr. Thornton. If I cut my hair, I won’t look heroic and I’ll never get married.”

    The farmer laughed a hearty laugh. “Marriage? Girls aren’t going to marry a guy with long hair like yours.” He smiled at the boy. “Besides, you’re still seventeen. You’ve got another year to go until you can marry someone. Now eat.”

    Lunch was Luther’s favorite time of day. He looked at the day’s lunch, which consisted of cooked fish (Gregory enjoyed fishing as well), mashed potatoes, and salad. The teen shook his head, smiling. Dinner for lunch again. But, he liked sitting at lunch and talking with his guardian. Lunch was his favorite time of day, for he loved the old man as a son would a father. He loved to help out in the barn, but he still aspired to leave and become a knight. Of course, he wouldn’t do that until the old man leaves or gives him permission to become a knight.

    Before either of the men could take a bite of their lunch, a crackling sound, like fire, reached their ears. Gregory dropped his fork and ran to the door, swinging it open. Despite his old age, the man was still in good shape. He turned to Luther, alarm mixed with sternness on his face. “Luther. Quickly get water from the well. The barn’s on fire.”

    “Yes, sir.” He got up from his seat and ran out back behind the house. A small, stone well was planted beside a stack of firewood. Swiftly, Luther tied the rope on the handle of the bucket and sent it down the well. He felt the bucket getting heavier as it filled with water and he pulled it up carefully, so as not to spill the water. After the bucket was in his hands again, he ran back to the barn, but couldn’t find Gregory. The barn doors were open, and the barn animals were running away from the burning barn. Fear tugged at the young man’s heart, and he ran into the barn. “Mr. Thornton!” He called the old man’s name dozens of times, but there was no response. He finally heard a grunt from behind one of the cattle’s stalls. He followed the sound of the grunt and found Gregory, who had gotten hit in the head while one of the animals was desperately trying to escape. The man was still conscious, but he didn’t move.

    “Luther, the fire started at the back. Go put it out, “ the man instructed.

    “Mr. Thornton, we need to get you out of here now.” Luther placed the bucket down to help the old man get up.

    “Luther! Put out the fire and gather the animals,” he ordered sternly. “I’ll make it out. Just put out the source of the fire and gather the animals behind the house.”

    Though Luther didn’t want to, the old man gave him orders and he had to abide by the order. He picked the bucket up, and headed towards the back of the barn. He didn’t have to look long before he saw the source of the fire. It was already a hot, dry day, and the window was wide open, letting a blazingly hot wind catch the straw on fire. Luther quickly poured the water on the large fire. Though it didn’t extinguish completely, the fire did die enough for Luther to stomp it out. But because the rest of the barn was on fire, it would collapse at any moment, so he had to get out of there as soon as he could.

    Outside, the barn animals were scattered, some even running away towards the forest behind the house. Luther, with the help of Reginald, rounded up what animals remained, and kept them together behind the house. Not too long after the animals calmed down, the barn collapsed, the crash startling the animals. The young man, once again, calmed the animals down, then began looking around, hoping to see Gregory emerge. But he didn’t.

    “Mr. Thornton!” Again, he called the old man’s name with no response. His heart seemed to skip several beats as fear crept its way back in. Luther raced around to the front of the house, his blood pumping to his head too quickly. Tears began to stream down his cheeks as he stared at the collapsed barn. It was no longer on fire, for the fire was put out when the wood collapsed on top of each other. Here and there were small flames still, but they soon died out. The young man stared at the ruined barn, then walked to it, pulling off pieces of wood in a desperate attempt to find his guardian. Gregory was already old in age, but Luther didn’t want the old man to leave him. To Luther, Mr. Thornton was more like a best friend. Someone he could turn to when something happened. Like the time when he accidentally poked one of the cows with a hoe. He was supposed to milk the cow, but after he poked it, she wouldn’t give him milk. Gregory somehow managed to calm the cow down when the boy told him what happened, and they were able to get milk from her. Or when the horse kicked his leg when he was seven. Gregory bandaged it, then put him back to work. Strange. Most people would frown on what the farmer did, but Luther was glad that he had put him back to work. His guardian had become his best friend because he was tough on him. Now, Luther was going to lose the most important person to him.

    Digging through the burnt wood, Luther finally got to a body buried under the rubble. He pushed the remains of the barn off the partially-burned body of Mr. Thornton. He grabbed a hold of the old man and carried him away from the barn, walking into the house. The young man set the farmer on a bed that was in the sitting room. The bed was always for Gregory, when he was finished with the day’s work. Luther pulled up a chair beside the bed and watched him, fear still clinging to his heart in an iron grip. Gently, he reached over and clasped the man’s hand, as if clinging to his hand would make him stay longer.

    “Mr. Thornton. Please wake up,” the teen whispered. Though his voice was plenty deep, the tone of his voice sounded more like a frightened young boy.

    The old farmer was scarcely breathing. With each breath the man took, Luther feared that it would be his last. But, finally, Gregory Thornton opened his eyes and looked at him. “Luther,” he said quietly. So quietly that the boy had to lean forward to hear.

    “Mr. Thornton, I will go find a doctor.” Tears welled in his eyes. “I’ll find a doctor and bring him here. You’ll be okay.”

    For a while, the old man said nothing. But then, he looked at Luther with dull, grey eyes. “Luther, I’m not gonna make it.”

    He shook his head quickly. “No, you have to.” By now, Luther was crying freely. “You have to make it.”

    “Luther, I’m not gonna make it. You know I’m not. The weight of all the wood, and the fire together,” he paused. “It’s too much for this old farmer.”

    The young man looked at his guardian. “Mr. Thornton, please.”

    “Luther, there’s something I want you to do.”

    Luther looked at him, wiping tears away with his free hand. “Yes, Mr. Thornton?”

    “Go out. Go become a knight. Fulfill your dream. Do that, and I will be proud of you. I’ve always thought of you as a son. For seventeen years, I’ve watched you. I know you want to be a knight. You’re destined to be a knight.” He smiled weakly. “Luther, I’m proud of you. You refused to leave the barn, despite the fact you wanted to go out. For that, I’m proud.” He stopped as he began to cough, though it sounded more like a hacking attempt to breathe, which made the young man’s heart clench. “I’ve lived my life to its extent. I can die a happy man. The barn prospered with your help. Now, it’s time for Gregory Thornton to depart.” He looked up at the ceiling and closed his eyes. “Luther, as my last wish, go out and be a knight. Go fulfill your own dream, now that I’m leaving. I want you to give me your solemn word.”

    He wiped the tears from his eyes that came and nodded. “Yes, Mr. Thornton. I’ll go out and fulfill my dream.” He choked a little as he spoke.

    The old man smiles. “Good.”

    Slowly, his grip on the boy’s hand faded and his wrinkled hand slipped from his grasp and fell beside him. Luther looked at him, then ducked his head as he began to cry out loudly. He had lost him. His best friend. His guardian. The man that meant most to him. He had left the young man, with only one wish. For Luther Harlett to become the knight he was destined to become.