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A year before he died, my grandfather told me a story. It was the morning of my nineteenth birthday, and he came to my house, asking my mother if it was alright to take me to his house on the outskirts of Redcoast. When I arrived we sat together on his porch, watching the waves crash against the Redcoast shore. Eventually he brought out a shoe box, which he gave to me. “I want to tell you about the war.” he said. I know how he felt on the subject, he refused to recognize the Fequm's existed, he had not even ackownledged my successful attempt to join the elite forces in Redcoast, I said; “Grandpa, you don't have to-” “I need to” he said. “Open the box.” I did as he asked. Inside was a beret, wrapped around three items. A key, a  bundle of tissue paper, and something heavy, in cloth. “The only other person that knew this story was your Grandma, and she's gone, now. I won't be around forever either. It's important, people know..” We were silent for a few minutes. “I joined the war too late.” He said. “All through school, my friend Neoak and I wanted to be heroes. When the time finally came, and we were gearing-up to fight Kaardocia in north, our entire platoon was diverted. “Where did they send you?” I asked. “Some small base by the Kimian river, not to close the Kaardocian border though. Thats the closest we ever got to the Kaardocians. Coinciding with the liberation of Naosa, we were preparing to attack a base to the south of our position when word came that we were moving out soon, so the attack would be just a waste of resources." “The night after, Neoak and I were sitting in the camp, when a woman burst in, crying for help. Naturally we asked her what was wrong, and she told us that her children had been taken by Kapomak priest by the name of Paer Seqre. He was some kind of priest that the Kaardocians had brought with them, or so she said. Neoak asked where they had taken the kids, and she said that he'd be on his way to a little island called Caere Rock. She was so sure that he was going to kill them.” Neoak and I ran to our superiors, but as soon as we mentioned 'Caere Rock', they wanted to call for help from the Istilians, and wait until day. They took our weapons away and told us to forget the whole thing. But I would have rather been court-marshalled than let some Istilian Sootnem grunt have the glory. This was our battle and no matter how small it was, we would fight it. This was our campaign. We stole a boat and set out into the storm. I wish I'd stopped to think about things for a second, but I was young and stupid. We both were, I didn't even stop to think how that woman found our base." Grandpa unwrapped the cloth. Inside it was an old-fashioned looking knife with a faded wooden. I asked with concern, “Are you allowed to have that?” He winked. “What they don't know won't hurt them. These words were true then, and they're still true now. I won it in cards from a Sootnem soldier, back in camp Tiemlt before we set-out for the north. Nobody knew I had it, so they couldn't take it away.” He set down the knife and stared at the ocean. “Long story short, we land, on this old rock. In the middle of a storm. The island was black as the Naiees's eyes and so sharp that it sliced one of my boots open. There was one building on the island – a wooden shack overlooking the beach. It was dark. You couldn't see more than five feet in front of you. I remember looking at the sky, and seeing the clouds all lit up by lightning flashes. As we were heading up the beach, with the lightning showing us the way, it looked like the rain was falling up into the hole in the sky.” He paused for a moment, looking toward me as if he were looking to see if I was disturbed by his words. He then continued, “I open the door of the house, expecting it to be full of Kapomak, but it was deserted. We looked around, eventually coming across a door in the floor. Beneath the shack were stone steps, and at the bottom were a few rooms carved into the rock itself. Not rooms for people. The dimensions were wrong, the corridors were really tall, looking about nine feet high and so narrow that we had to turn sideways to walk through them. Everything was covered in weird scratching to, the walls and on the ceiling,  Roman numerals I think. Everything was quiet, and we were starting to regret going there, when we turned a corner and found the children.” He stopped again, I noticed he had begun to shake, but he continued with his story, “That's a sight I won't forget. They were standing in a ring, in this big, oval shaped room. They were each reading from a little book. Like the A-Volx holy book, but I couldn't understand what they were saying. It wasn't Kaardocian or Rhileeam. Before I could say anything, or do anything, I heard a voice behind me. It said 'Halt!' and I turned round, and standing there was Paer Seqre, this fat, Kaardocian in priest robes, and he's got a knife to Neoak's throat. Told me to drop my spear and kick it to him, and of course I did. This was Nick, he lived next door to me my entire life. He was my best friend, and being a hero is nothing when it costs you everything.” Another pause, I turned to him and saw his face, wet with tears. He continued, “Then he slit Neoak's throat. Just like that. I lunged for him, trying to grab the knife, and he stabbed me, then I passed out .” He said. “When I woke up, he spoke to me. While he was speaking I noticed that there was something wrong with his eyes, they were black. I remember he asked me, in broken English, if I believed in Naiees. I could barely speak, the pain was too much, but I nodded. He asked me if I would like to meet him. I thought that he was just threatening to kill me, so I shook my head, and I think that surprised him. He stood up, and walked away from me, to the other side of the room and that's when I saw the door for the first time. It was massive and it was made of some kind of black rock. It had carved on it a strange figure, next to a floating figure, they resembled Naiees and Vesrr. The figure that resembled Vesrr had its head turned sideways, and instead of an eye there was a weird keyhole. He went toward the kids and picked up a key, this key, off the pedestal they were standing around,” Grandpa gestured at the key, “Paer said that he'd spent eleven years of his life visiting Caere Rock without the kings royal approval, measuring the keyhole and designing the key he now held in his hand. I asked him if it was him who had put the door there. He gave me an strange look, stepped back and turned toward the door, yelling it had been here before men even walked the Earth! Then he unlocked the door and he said, My lord! I have arrived!” And then the door began to open from the other side. As it opened, all the candles in the room went out. The only light was coming from a lantern beside me, and it was just me, Paer and whatever was opening that door. The door opened wider, and a hand came through. It wasn't a human hand, it was small with long fingers, and it moved as though it were cautious of entering the room. As it did, the ir around me became moist, and I have never been more scared than I was at that moment. I tore my eyes away, crawled to my knife, and then I turned round and I stabbed Paer in the back. “He fell causing blood to fly onto the walls, and onto the hand. As soon as blood had touched the hand, it went crazy, the hand tightened its grip on the door, and started pushing it open. This door was solid stone, maybe a foot thick, and this creature was opening it without any effort. Fear gave me strength, and I crawled to the door, and tried with all my might to close it. I must've surprised it, because I felt the door closing. I almost had it to, the door was almost closed but the hand reached around at me, and tried to grab my arm. I grabbed my knife and I cut one of its fingers off. It screeched and the hand fell back. I shut the door, then to my horror the door began to open again. It was banging on the door, desperate to escape its own world. I pushed back, and then I noticed the key. I forced the door closed again then I turned the key, and threw it across the room. Everything was quiet. The kids had all snapped out of their trance and began to cry. The finger I had cut off caught fire and in seconds it was nothing but bone. I went to Neoak, but he was dead, so I picked up his spear and went to Paer instead. He looked at me and he said something, words that still haunt me, “I'll see you again.” I stabbed him again, making sure he had died, and then the pain hit me again, and I passed out.” We sat still in his garden. I had no idea what to think, or how to feel. I wondered how much of his story was true, but I was interested. “What happened then Grandpa?” I asked anxiously. “When I woke up, I heard shouting from far above. Istilian voices, I was sure. I grabbed the knife and shoved it inside my tunic, I knew if the high command knew about it, it would make my situation worse. Then I saw Neoak, and I knew that I had to get something, some kinf of proof, so that people would know that his death hadn't been in vain. I grabbed the key and put it next to my knife, but then I realized 'it's just a key, it could be for any door'. Then I saw the finger, the one I'd cut off the hand of 'Naiees', or whatever that thing was. It was just a bone but it was something, so I grabbed that to. As I put it in my tunic, men burst into the room, not dressed as the usual Sootnem soldier. They didn't have any insignias that I recognized. Next thing I know, someone's sticking a double headed spear in my face and yelling at me for my identification. I obeyed their order and he turned and talked to his comrades for a few minutes, then he dragged me out of the room. The storm had blown over. One of the strange soldiers stood by me. I tried talking to him, but he just told me to quiet down. I guess they must've been secret forces, and weren't allowed to talk to prisoners. Eventually a rescue boat showed up and a medic tended my leg while some captain lectured me about why my actions went against the Redcoast way of war. Before I was allowed on the boat  he told me that if I told anyone  what I had seen on Caere Rock to anyone, they'd hang me. Then, when I got back to base, my commanding officer had called me into his office and told me that I would be retired because of my injuries, and that if I stayed quiet, I'd get a war pension from the Redcoast Government. I asked about Neoak, and the man stayed quiet. I think the newspapers reported him dying a hero, fighting Kapomak thugs in the north. I never read the full thing though, everytime I took a glance at it all I could see was his face in the final moments of his life.” He looked as though he was ready to break down into tears. “So you never told anyone?” I asked. “Who would I tell? Nobody would believe me! They'd just think I was insulting Neoak's memory, trying to steal all the glory from that terrible night. I loved him like a brother, to much to take his heroic status away from him. And my pension? I gave nearly all of it away to veterans in need. I worked in the fields of the island until I was seventy-eight! Earned every kronik I spent!" he exclaimed. “I'm sorry Grandpa, I didn't mean-” I began. He interrupted, “It's okay. I shouldn't have yelled.” He  unwrapped the tissue paper. The bone he had spoken about lay inside the paper. It was to long to have come from a human, and it had a rounded fingertip, more like a ball. I was stunned, I didn't know what to say, there were no words for the emotions I had felt when I saw the bone When I looked at grandpa I saw that he was staring at me, probably wondering what I would say next, so I said; “I'm so sorry, Grandpa. I'm really sorry.” He smiled. Then he began gathering his things and put them back into the box. I was walking down his garden when I heard him call to me, “Makue, well done on being accepted into the ranks. But don' forget to always rely on your judgement, no matter what they tell you.” He closed the door. When I got home it was late, and I lay awake, looking at the ceiling and imagining the events that my grandfather had gone through all those years ago. Soon after another war began, the Thirteen Years War. I served and was injured during the battle for Redcoast, so I was retired from the Frequm. Grandpa left me his house in his will and I was looking forward to the peace that the old place would bring. When I was moving some of his things to the attic, I found the shoebox. The items were still there: the knife, the key, the bone. At an instant the memories of that night came back and I cried for the first time since his funeral. I took a ferry to Kaardocia recently, and then hired a local to take me to Caere Rock. There was no shack on the island, I guess it was probably destroyed the night of my grandfather's story. I found a heavy, iron trapdoor, which led me to the stairs. But the stairs ended in a square brick room. When the sun set, I wrapped the three items in his beret and threw them off the cliff. Then I sat and stared at the calm ocean, imagining Grandpa and Neoak, sitting together on a boat heading for Redcoast, full of stories to tell their friends and family. Maybe grandpa believed the story should be forgotten, that he wasn't a hero, but I think different.

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