• Chapter 1
    The Call of Duty

    “Seiya! Wake up!” a child’s voice shouted.

    Seiya let out a groan, rolling over in bed and pulling the blankets up so that the only thing visible of him was his messy brown hair. Morning already? It seemed like just a few moments ago that he’d gotten in bed. Regardless of what time it was now, he was still half-asleep and unwilling to force himself up and about.

    The rapid padding of little feet grew louder before the door to his small room burst open. “Seiya! Come on, you’re gonna be left behind if you sleep in all day!”

    “It hasn’t been all day yet.” Seiya replied groggily. He didn’t have to see his little brother, Duncan, to know that the small boy was rolling his eyes. He could hear him let out an exasperated sigh and that alone clued him in.

    “Wake! UP!” the boy shouted again, this time jumping onto the bed himself.

    Seiya felt the blankets move away from his face and inwardly groaned. He opened a deep blue eye only to find his entire line of vision filled with Duncan’s face. A bit startled, he blinked a few times. Since when had the boy gotten so close? It seemed that Duncan was determined to get him out of bed, and if that were the case, then there would be no possible way he could get back to sleep. He needed to get up anyway.

    “All right . . . All right, I’m awake.” Seiya murmured, sitting up in bed and stretching finally.

    The sun had barely gotten over the horizon, but his days always began early. Most times even earlier than this. It was just that today he felt more drained than others.

    “How’re you ever gonna be a good soldier if you’re so hard to wake up? The Valcor could have attacked us all and you’d still be sleeping!” Duncan exclaimed, crossing his arms and giving his older brother a disappointed look.

    Seiya laughed at him a bit. “You know that’s not true.”

    He threw the covers off, swinging his legs over the edge of the bed and sitting there to give himself a moment to wake up more. He’d been so anxious of the day the night before that he’d barely gotten any sleep. He hated that this happened every time he had to leave home. It always made the first day away so tiring.

    “Well,” he began, getting up and grabbing his shirt from where it hung on the headboard of his bed. “Looks like it’s time I got ready to slay a few more of those monsters huh?”

    He pulled the shirt over his head, causing his already messy hair to become even more so. He’d definitely have to fix that. He didn’t think that the pants that he wore for sleep would be suitable to show up at the palace in either.

    Duncan smiled wide at him. “You’re gonna keep those things away from here, just like Father did.”

    Seiya ruffled the boy’s hair, “Yeah, but hopefully they’ll be gone by the time you join the army.”

    For your sake. He thought to himself.

    “Now, go ahead and help Mother out. You know she could use all the help she can get. You’re the man of the house while I’m gone.”

    “Okay . . . You better say ‘goodbye’ before you leave.”

    “You know I always do.”

    With that, the young boy flashed one last smile before leaving as quickly as he’d come. It seemed like silence was once again possible in Seiya’s small bedroom in the residence wing of his family’s inn. Now just to get out the door. When he had to go on a call of duty like this, that seemed to be the hardest part.

    Moments later, the stairs creaked under his weight as he made his way down them. He was now fully dressed, his sword strapped to his side, his hair neater and put back in his usual tight braid, and a pack thrown over his shoulder. The inn was unusually quiet this morning. His expression turned to a worried one. Most times the inn bustled with activity. Even if they didn’t have much in the way of travelers staying in their rooms, people came to their dining area for breakfast in the morning. Usually his mother and sisters could be heard, hastily readying things in the kitchen while he did his fair share of the chores, but it was depressingly silent.

    He peeked his head around the kitchen doorway before hesitantly entering. His mother stood at the stove, her back to him as she prepared what smelled to be eggs. She had her hair in a loose pony tail, pulled back out of her face and far away from the flames that licked at the bottom of the pan as if they wanted the food all to themselves. Even as she worked, the worried expression was obvious. The worry from the few times he’d left to fight had already etched lines in her forehead and put small touches of gray in her black hair. It was times like these that she seemed older than her thirty seven years.

    “Um . . . Mother?” Seiya said quietly after a moment.

    She stayed silent for a short while; long enough for him to think that maybe she hadn’t heard him. Either that or she was ignoring him, a thought that stung a bit. His eyebrows furrowed and his gaze traveled to the ground . . . She was always like this when he had to leave.

    “So, you’re leaving again are you?” she prompted finally, not even looking to him as she spoke.

    This was always the hardest part of leaving. Seiya was hesitant to say anything, but forced himself to anyway. “I . . . Well, I came to say goodbye. . . ”

    Another long pause.

    His mother took the pan off the small fire, putting the food on a plate and returning the pan to sit. She finally looked at him, hurt showing in her eyes when she did. “Don’t say goodbye.” she said quietly. “That sounds too permanent.”

    Seiya couldn’t help but look upset. Upset that his mother was so sad. “All right then. . . . I’ll see you and everyone when I get back.” he offered, trying to give her a reassuring smile, but failing miserably.

    “You look so much like your father, you know that? A spitting image. You act so much like him too.”

    “Yeah, I know. . . You’ve said it before.” he replied, frowning and giving his mother a concerned look.

    “Well it’s true. You have so much in common with him, I’m always worried that you’ll end up the same way.”

    “Don’t worry. I’m going to come back like every other time I‘ve been out there. Maybe when I do this time the war’ll be over.”

    Even though he had tried his best to sound confident, his mother still seemed upset. In times like these, nothing cheered her up. “I’ll be back, I promise.” he stated, his last attempt to make his mother feel more at ease. He offered her a comforting embrace, one that his mother accepted and returned.

    “You’d better keep good on that promise, Seiya.” his mother replied as they pulled away.

    “I will.”

    He watched her turn back to work. They went through the same thing every time he left. He knew that she wouldn’t come out to send him off with his siblings. She never watched him go. Partially, the fact hurt him, but another part of him understood her reasoning.

    He was quiet about exiting, slipping out the kitchen door only to be greeted on the other side by his siblings, all three sisters and the little brother that had woken him up earlier. They ranged in age from five to sixteen. Despite the age difference, it was obvious that they were all related. Aside from one of the middle sisters, Midori, they all shared the same odd dark blue eye color. They were rather well known around town for it.

    He exchanged hugs and goodbyes with each of them, taking hugs from the two youngest at the same time. They were a close knit bunch, brought even closer by their father’s death. Seiya always found it so hard to leave them.

    “We’ll make sure mother stays all right while you’re gone.” the eldest of his sisters, Faye, said. “Things’ll be just the same when you get back.”

    Seiya thanked her, unable to resist another round of hugs before finally heading out. He had to hurry now, the sun climbed higher in the sky and he had to make it to the palace before noon, when the princess and her escort were set to leave.

    “Seiya, wait!” A voice shouted from behind him before he even had time to get too far down the path to the main road.

    He paused, looking back in confusion. He hadn’t forgotten anything had he? It certainly seemed that way as Faye ran to catch up with him, her long hair flowing out behind her.

    “What is it?” he questioned once she came to a stop next to him.

    Faye held a necklace out to him, “Here.“ she said, dropping it in his hand when he reached for it.

    Now more confused than ever, he stared at it. This he recognized as a necklace that his mother always wore; one that she treasured. It lay in his hand, the simple stone pendant with the black cord of leather it hung on coiled around it. His father had given this to his mother before he had left for the last time. The pendant was a polished stone, engraved with ancient symbols for courage and strength though Seiya couldn’t remember which had what meaning.

    “Mother wants you to have it.”

    Seiya looked to his sister in a bit of shock. “Are you sure?”

    “She said you’d say that, and she said yes, she’s positive she wants you to have it.”

    Seiya looked back toward the inn, wishing that he could see his mother and let her know how much this meant to him. As usual, there was no sign of her. He sighed before slipping the necklace over his head. “Thanks . . . Tell her I said that. . . Tell her that nothing will keep me from getting back here to everyone. She doesn’t need to worry.”

    “I’ll do that. And Seiya, we all worry. If we didn’t worry then it would mean that we didn’t care.” Faye said, a smile on her face. “I look forward to hearing all about the adventure and I know Duncan does too so be careful and come back in one piece.” she added. She earned a small smile back from her brother before they both said final goodbyes and parted ways. Faye ambled back toward the inn while Seiya hurried toward his duty as a soldier.