Road to Justice is my first ever publication in a magazine. You can find the short story on Arena Fantasy Magazine website by clicking on this picture. Obviously, this was part of a competion, but as the magazine is in it’s staring phase there wasn’t a high number of entires. I managed to be the only one sending my story.
While exploring an abandoned rubbish dump location off the coast, a young boy discovers an ancient sword.
This story is a different viewpoint on the rag to riches trope, with a touch of Arthurian legend. A very well written story and you end up feeling for the character. This story could easily be part one of a full-blown fantasy novel. Keep an eye on Victoria Liiv definitely one to watch for the future.
This is a little something I wrote for a NYC Midnigt flash fiction challenge, round 2. There was a 1000 word limit and I had to use given prompts: A gost story, paint store, high heels. I hope you’ll enjoy it.
All Rights Reserved
Sir Hugh Charles Clifford’s Badge of Honour
Burn it, bury it, leave it in the past or sell it! Isobel Clifford would do anything to get rid of the last family heirloom and get on with her life.
Isobel Clifford clacked into the ‘Spray & Display’ paint shop on her Gucci high heels, carrying a Prada handbag and wearing a red Valentino minidress. Among other things, the shop had services for metal polishing, paint restoration and cleaning up trinkets and jewelry, their website announced.
Isobel didn’t need a paint job, her Lamborghini always looked new. She’d come there for a family heirloom from the 1880’s that belonged to her great, great,… great grandfather, Sir Hugh Charles Clifford.
She should have gotten the courier to handle this, but surely, she could do a simple drop off. Besides, she couldn’t trust an errand-boy with something as valuable as her great, great,… great grandfather’s badge of honour, something only very few were ever granted – or so Isobel liked to believe.
Sir Hugh Clifford had been a British colonial administrator, a high position, no doubt about it. Their family prestige still revolved around his accomplishments. Now that Nana had passed away, Isobel was ready to rid herself of the Knight Grand Cross Order her predecessor had been ordained with. Sell it, make some money and never hear the name Hugh Clifford again. Growing up in that household had been a total nightmare.
“You’ll never live up to the Clifford name if you slump in your chair like a commoner.”
“Mind your words, young lady, a Clifford doesn’t speak like that!”
“Cliffords always eat their vegetables!”
The door to the shop closed with an unexpected boom, startling her. Taking in the interior of the storefront, she stepped closer to a checkout counter. High-end items were locked up in glass vitrines while motor parts scattered about the shelves in an open exhibition. Distasteful mismatched collection, if you’d ask Isobel, but nobody was there to inquire for her opinion; the counter was unmanned.
Isobel lifted her chin up higher, gritted her teeth and studied the display for several minutes before impatience won over curiosity. She strolled over to the empty counter, deciding to ring a bell nestled between a bowl of mints and a pencil holder. The shrill ding echoed in the deserted shop.
Yes, Miss Clifford had entered S&D’s almost at closing time, but that wasn’t an excuse to ignore a paying client. She tapped her high-heeled foot on the tiled floor. Her eyes roamed over the displays once more before stopping on a door marked ‘Employees only’. She traversed her way over to it and knocked twice before pushing it open. A wide concrete floor and bare walled workshop gawked back at her from the doorway, a grave contrast to the cluttered storefront.
“Hello!” she called out, her voice echoing in the scarcely filled workshop. Several doors lined the left wall while two garage doors at the back made it easy for cars to drive in and get their plating recoloured.
A loud clanging sound originated from somewhere deeper inside. Isobel took a step into the workshop to get a better look. A nudge from behind pushed her all the way to the room, the door banging shut of its own accord behind her.
She jumped, let out a startled yelp and turned to look at the now closed entryway.
“Hello?” she called again, her voice shaking slightly.
Nobody answered and the door didn’t budge when she attempted to reopen it. The metallic clunking rose in volume and brought goosebumps across Isobel’s skin. She took a deep breath hoping to calm her rising anxiety.
“Stop making things up, young lady! Cliffords don’t indulge in conjectures.”
There were no such things as ghosts, Nana made sure Isobel understood that much, but as the room grew freezing cold and her breath came out in a misty cloud, she thought her childhood fantasies were more than mere imagination.
“A Clifford is brave and strong,” she muttered under her breath. Her voice caught as an apparition emerged in the middle of the workshop: a bald man in a white military dress suit. Even though he wasn’t smiling, laugh lines surrounded his frowning mouth. Two wizened eyes studied Isobel as her mouth formed words that didn’t escape her lips.
Around his neck, that man wore an exact replica of the Knight’s Order she had hidden in her handbag. He himself was an exact replica of the painting hanging in the great hall of Nottingham Palace. She knew, she’d stared at it in fury every time she’d choked down her vegetables.
“I’m going crazy,” she whispered. “This can’t be Hugh Clifford’s ghost.”
She pinched herself, but the apparition didn’t vanish.
“Why sell my badge?” the man, the ghost,… Hugh Clifford asked calmly, his voice holding a rough edge.
“I-I… ugh… Why should I keep it?”
“Few things really matter in life: faith, health and family, always staying kind and gracious and never giving up,” Hugh explained. “This badge signifies chivalry, pure heartedness, honour and justice. It’s more than a piece of metal on a silk lint. It’s the essence of being a true Clifford, honest and selfless.”
Despite still being slightly afraid, Isobel snorted “Are Cliffords selfless?”
Hugh studied her and the way she held herself up regally. “We used to belong to the Order of Chivalry.”
Hugh Clifford was nothing she’d expected him to be like. She stared at him in astonishment as he stepped closer, took the badge from around his neck and placed it around hers. It rested on her chest.
“Isobel Rachel Clifford, I ordain you to the—”
He was cut off by the clerk shuffling out from the bathroom across the workshop. The man stopped, still pulling up his zipper. “Can I help you?”
Isobel looked back to where the ghost had been, but the space was now empty. The badge weighed heavy around her neck and Hugh’s words replayed in her head. His badge stood for a better way to live, for chivalry. It was hers now.
“No, thanks. I’m good,” she said. When she tried the door back to the store, it opened without a problem.
Hey adventurers, readers, travellers through written world. Here’s something I wrote in 2015. I went through it only editing out any major screaming tense and grammar mistakes, but I wouldn’t be surprised if you still manage to find some. I found it very interesting to see how much I’ve grown as a writer over the years and I’m hoping you’ll enjoy the story even though it is not totally polished.
This is when I was playing Lineage 2 in a clan called Mongolhorde. They were like a family to me and I kind of ended it on a bad note. Reading it brought back a lot of memories and also what-the-fuck moments where I thought, seriously girl, you did just write that? Just like that? So bluntly?
Even though the characters are based on real players of the game everything relayed in the story is a work of fiction.
Trigger warning: There are mentions of sexual abuse.
All rights reserved.
1. The clan house
I stood in front of the building. Filled with excitement and dread. This was it. This was the place where the clan lived. What if they didn’t like me, doesn’t accept me? What if they saw me as a weak link? ‘Stop that, Victoriel, you are going to be just fine!’ I encouragd myself. ‘Like you have always been. Go on and knock.’
I took a slow step towards the door, but did not knock. I just stared at the worn handle, that’d seen all of those people already and felt their touch as they entered their home. I stared at the patterns on the door, and the craving above it, that said I’m in the right place. If only I would knock. I thought about turning back, just because was too scared to make the first step, going back and wondering the world alone, like I’m used to. The way of life that was already familiar to me. That I did not like that much, but was my comfort zone.
‘Stop being such a little girl!’ I told myself. ‘You are a warrior!’
I was not a warrior, though. I was not a wizard, I was not a knight. I wasn’t anything, really. Not a healer and not much of a fighter, either, even though I’ve been trained in both. And that was what scared me the most.
I tried to calm my melancholy thoughts, they’ve never been of use to me, and they definitely didn’t help me now. I raised my hand to knock instead, but the door already opened, and I just looked like an idiot standing there with my hand raised and a face that was probably somewhere in between of surprised and terrified.
“Oh!” said the other girl, because it was in fact a girl standing there.
I tried to compose a coherent sentence to explain about my being there. But all that came out was air. Even the monsters didn’t scare me that much, I knew what to do with them. I’d been trained. But another girl? I had not been taught how to act around another girl.
“Phelia!” she called inside and I froze even more if it is possible. I felt the great urge to storm to my horse standing five meters away nibbling grass and just take off. But I was unable to move, so I stared at the smiling girl, who was speaking, but I had not heard a sound.
“Hi,” I squeezed out from my uncooperative mouth. The girl stopped talking in midsentence and just said “Oh” again. It did not make me feel any better.
Few seconds later another girl appeared at the door. If I’d paid attention at least a little, I’d made the connection and known she was called Phelia, but my mind was attacked by thousands of bugs.
‘Relax!’ I commanded myself. ‘Relax, you stupid elf!’ I took a long breath and let it out slowly, realizing I had been holding my breath before.
“You must be the new guy!” Phelia said. “Oh, sorry girl! I didn’t know you were a girl. If I had known…” I told myself to pay attention too committedly so I forgot to pay attention. “… Tigger said you were coming. We didn’t know when exactly, we started waiting about a week ago, me and Akarina, right when we heard the news…”
This girl talked a lot, I realized. My own mouth seemed to be full of mud, so the only thing that came out was another “Hi” and the first girl, who I now should’ve been able to call Akarina, started giggling.
“Girls, girls, don’t be rude now. Aren’t you going to invite her in?” Came a masculine voice from inside. “And Akarina, weren’t you going somewhere?” I think it was the leader of the clan.
The girl called Akarina was looking between me and Phelia and did not want to leave at all, it seemed, while Phelia opened the door wider, tried to take me from my shoulder and lead me inside. “Come, come, we have prepared a room for you, Bloody is cooking dinner, everybody should be back soon,…”
I swallowed, “What about my horse?” I got out.
Phelia looked behind me, where indeed stood a horse, calmly eating grass, as if nothing of interest was happening. I wished I could be as calm as the horse. “Fofo will take care of it,” Phelia assured, and continued her attempt to get me inside the house. She succeeded. The other girl did not follow us, just looked longingly for a second and then went to do whatever it was she was supposed to do.
The inside of the house was cozy and I started to relax a little. The delicious food aromas were coming from the open kitchen. In the living area, there were two guys wrestling with each other, while one was critiquing their moves. Fourth walked to us, introduced himself as Fofo and said he’ll take care of my horse, before he left the way I just had walked in.
“Okay, that’s enough for today, boys,” said the guy who was not participating in the fight and the others stopped immediately only now recognizing my presence and hurriedly, comically started to smooth their clothes and hair. I would have laughed, if I wasn’t so nervous.
“I am Tigger and you must be Victoriel,” said the one who had the authority over everyone else. The boss, the leader. It showed in the way he was holding himself up with confidence I had never felt in my life. “You are very welcome here.”
The other guys had stopped adjusting their clothes, but were not standing in one place. Indeed, one of them might’ve been wondering which leg was holding him up better, because he was trying them both out, stomping from one foot to the other. The second one seemed to be figuring out what his hands are able to do, because he was moving them around like a moron. At least I was not the only weird one in this place.
“Are you not going to introduce yourselves?” asked Tigger from the two champions.
“Erwanis,” said the one who couldn’t stand still.
“Delpher,” said the other one.
Good heavens, were they expecting me to remember all that?
After a while I found myself sitting at a dinner table. With so many people and so much food. Akarina had come back from her errand and Fofo had taken my horse to the stalls. And Erwanis and Delpher had made fools out of themselves. And Phelia had talked so much, and I have no clue what exactly. And the food was delicious, mood joyful… and there was someone stumbling in from the door covered in blood.
2. – 6. parts are missing and I couldn’t find them. I believe it was mostly getting to know the clan members and now you’ll get an information overload trying to remember all the names. Good luck!
The one that stumbled in covered in blood was Reaper, that much I remember. I think Erwanis healed him and Victoriel wondered over his skillset.
To name a few of the characters:
Victoriel – Main character
Tigger – The clan leader, A fighter (Tyrr Titan )
Phelia – Ertheia, a magic user
Akarina – A summoner
Reaper – the hottie, fighter
Erwanis – the healer
Fofo – archer (I believe)
Kepalx – A Magician (Feoh)
Delpher – Fighter
I jump up from where I’m almost dosing, acting so suddenly that I cut my arm with the knife Reaper is still holding in his hands even though the sticks he made and we grilled the meat on are already somewhere in the dancing flames. This is how close he was sitting to me. My swords are 10 meters away with my horse so I run that way. Reaper, who probably remembers he was supposed to keep an eye on me, stops looking at my blood on his blade and runs after me. I get to my trustworthy companion, who is on the edge like me, waiting for my command to escape. I can not give that. I take my blades, look around at the chaos that is our camp and feel more scared than ever before. Or maybe it is the lack of another energy colliding with mine, to keep me relaxed. Erwanis couldn’t possibly concentrate on only me in a moment like this. Truth be told I’m surprised he had stayed with me that long. I had gotten so used to this warm comfort that I forgot it came from him. I stand staring at people taking up arms, throwing dirt on bonfires, waking up those who sleep like babies and no loud sounds could rise, shaking the group who so happily had drank liquor to be brave and who now stumble around being absolutely worthless in the fight. They sure would be the first ones to get eaten when the dragon comes out of hiding. Reaper has caught up with me. “Come, we need to move!” But as I take a step back to others I feel a powerful force pulling me instead of my own two legs. I land right next to Tigger, Reaper right after me colliding into me and making me stumble and then we collide with our leader. He helps me upright again. “Stay close!” he orders me with a calm but firm voice, saying that if I run off again there will be consequences. I do not intend to run off, I feel a lot braver holding my weapons. Reflex was taking over. “Just stay close,” he whispers and I only hear it because I’m standing so close to him. I don’t think he intended for me to hear it the second time. Always when I’m fighting I say a series of spells to protect me, so as the frightening sounds and steps like an earthquake came nearer and nearer I started chanting my mantra of strength. One of my earliest teachers told me that this is the only way for me to survive any kind of attack, as I am not a very strong fighter. When I was whispering my spells I felt it was different this time somehow. “Oh, goddess above Who gives me the strength Protect with your love Give life of long length”
And so on and so on and so on.
“Oh goddess of power I don’t want to cower Help me be brave For lives you can save.”
I don’t think I was saying my spells only for myself this time. I felt my energy like work like my healing spells and roam around my clanmates, filling them with the same kind of magic I always put on myself before battle. “What are you doing?” Reaper aske looking at me weirdly and trying to push away my spell in fear of it being some kind of trap. Tigger was staring at me with his calculating tiger eyes. “Let her do it.” Reaper did not stop squirming though, so Tigger took roughly hold of his hands and stared straight in his eyes. “She is making us stronger. LET HER DO IT.” Gathering confidence from that my whisper started to rise to not so whispery anymore.
“Give me your shield My weapons you wield My strength will be yours If your power falls.”
I feel sparks flying from my fingertips falling on Reaper, Tigger, Phelia, Akarina, Gambri, Mosam, Womble, Fofo, Delpher and Kepalx and myself.
“Oh goddes of power In this very hour My prayers you hear I hope you’ll be near.”
Just as I finish my song for protection the creature named Antharas storms out of the cave. It is huge. Altogether his one leg could smash our whole clan. The creature lets out something between a scream and a roar and tries to catch the girl who was admiring our meal in between his teeth. She gets out of the way just in time and sends a blast of magic down it’s throat instead.
“This is not a suitable time to dance is it?” mutters Delpher. I’ve got to agree with him that it indeed is not. One group of people decides to run towards the dragon with a war cry, half of them hitting it with magic and arrows from afar distracting the creature so others could get near enough to strike. “Victoriel, Erwanis stay away from the dragon, everyone else let’s show the thing what MongolHorde is made of!” said Tigger and joined the horde of warriors running towards the monster instead of away from it.
I felt like I was supposed to do more than just search for their energies among the mass of crazy people hitting the damned creature to make sure they’d not gotten hurt. But Tigger said to stay back. So I stay back and try to keep them safe. Still the feeling keeps on nagging at me to attack the devil. The dragon swipes it’s tail and one ertheia and two elves go flying. Somebody screams, and then stops as Antharas steps on them. I see Tigger dodging the tail, when the dragon suddenly turns around to try his teeth on one soldier dressed in black. Then he runs under the dragon’s legs, throws something at its belly that sticks to it with a rope-like ending, but the beast starts running towards one of the archers just when he starts climbing up. I think it would’ve been better for him if the rope had slipped from his hands but he decided to hold on to it instead, so he ended up tangling there in a really not good for him way. “You get to have all the fun!” shouted Fofo loud enough to be heard over all of the battle noise, to what I felt a lot of irrational vibes from a group of dwarves fighting for their lives trying to get out of the way as the dragon ran towards a poor guy who didn’t have enough smarts to run away. Delpher was running after the beast – to save the boss I guessed. Phelia and Akarina were hitting it as best as they could. Reaper was getting himself up off the ground, I don’t know how he got there, but I felt Erwanis working his magic around him. I did not see Gambri and Mosam among the faces of strangers. I did not see Kepalx. And I did not see Womble. I should do something. I should do something. I should really do something. So I started running towards the monster’s target. “Victoriel noo!” someone shouts, but I do not know who and I do not stop. The archer realizes his mistake of staying put a few moments before the creature swallows it whole. I stop right there with clear terror, but the feeling that I should attack will not go away so I start running again, only stopping when I’m close enough to touch it’s scales. Tigger continues his climbing up the monster’s side, Reaper runs to my side, cursing me to hell and back, Delpher tries to repeat Tigger’s little trick but is not as successful in it, dozens of others keep on hitting the thing with the same lack of success from afar and from up close. I raise my swords, gather up the little fight magic I have and strike too. Antharas roars and starts to shake itself and throw it´s tail around more angrily than before. It does no good to Tigger who has reached the beast´s back and desperately tries to hold on to it. I do not stop hitting. I feel how the beast´s energy is slowly fading, but its skin starts heating up dangerously fast. Tigger up there must feel the same thing because he decides to push his sword down right where he got to and doesn’t climb all the way to the creatures throat. Antharas whines in pain. Tigger jumps off the creature landing perfectly on his feet and screams for all of us to run. I am concentrating on moving my hands in a perfect dance and I do not want to stop hitting even as I feel the heat levels rise extremely fast. It is going to breathe fire! I feel strong hands around me, trying to get me away from danger.
“Victoriel, Run!” Reaper screams into my ears and drags me behind him. And I run, holding onto him for strength and comfort and hoping he knows where he is running to.
We stop running in a shady place, me and Reaper and no one else. I have no idea where everyone else was. I do not feel them anywhere close. I am still breathing heavily. Reaper is in a lot better shape, but I am on edge, I have no idea what is going to happen or even what really happened. Reaper didn’t let go of my hand while running, to make sure I was really following him, I guess. He leans on the rough stone wall that we are surrounded by from everywhere.
I stare at him as he runs his hand through his hair. He really looks good and I should not think that in a situation like this… or ever.
“What now?” I ask quietly. He looks at me. His hands are now on his sides forming fists. His expression is not even close to what I’ve started to associate with him. He looks sad and pained.
“Are you alright?” he asks instead of answering.
I look myself over quickly, making sure that I tell the truth before I answer. “Still have all my bits and pieces together, it seems.”
I seem to amuse him with this a little, but the start of a smile falls flat when he remembers why he asked.
“Tigger said that we were waiting for two more clans before we start attacking. They were supposed to arrive in the morning,” Reaper fills me in.
I look at the sky that is still pitch black.
“This won’t help us much does it?”
As if by my summon we hear a scream from the direction we had come from. And as by reflex my legs start going that way, but Reaper pulls me back into hiding… he is holding me back by my waist, so my back is against his chest and I can imagine the heat of his body against mine… just imagine, because through my heavy armor I barely feel a thing. As it should be.
“You really don’t care for your life, do you?” he asks and his breath brushes my ears in a breeze.
“Usually?” I whisper, because that is all the sound that comes out of me. And I wonder what the hell I said anyway.
“Should be more careful.”
“Will you start trying as soon as I let go of you or do you need me to hold on a little longer.” Truth be told, it sounded like he did not want to let me go. It sounded like he was teasing me. I felt heat rising to my cheeks if not everywhere else.
“I can start right away, yes,” I say and he slowly lets go of me and steps away and I do not run off.
We both stand against the stone cave for a couple of minutes when I ask again. “What now?”
“Do you have a map?” He asks, avoiding my question once more. I probably do, but all my things are with my horse.
“If I can call on my horse I could find a map, yes,” I say.
“Call on your horse then.”
I do not ask what he needs the map for. I just do what he says. I have messed up enough already. I reach out to Chamelion, calling it to me and getting a relieved feeling back from him. I feel the horse getting closer to me, carefully as not to evoke the attention of the monster.
As we are waiting on my horse I feel the spells I cast fade and then disappear. Reaper sits quietly across from me, but he must feel the power fade too and he looks up at me.
“What was it that you put on us?” he is interested.
“Umm.. Just something one of my mentors taught me to survive the attacks of monsters a lot stronger than me.
“It did not feel like just something.”
“It is like a bow and arrows is to Fofo,” I try to explain. “It’s like healing is for Erwanis. Like your ax,” I point at the thing lying on his knees, “wielding is to you. It’s just what I do.”
“Something happened when you started hitting Antharas,” Reaper questions me.
“I.. uh…felt like I should.”
His gaze is gentle and his lips want to curl up in a smile, but I see him holding it back. “Didn’t say you shouldn’t have, just said that something happened when you did.”
“Yeah… It did.”
“Before the dragon did not seem to get any damage at all and then you came and it went berserk…” he says more to himself than me. “…as if it started feeling our hits just then.”
I do not know what to say to that. And thankfully I didn’t have to, for Chamelion puts its head into our hiding place. I stand up and go to pat him. “Good boy, Cham.” I run my hand down it’s neck and to my surprise it comes back wet, with blood. There are claw marks on his back, too. “Good boy, Cham,” I say again and reach into myself for the healing.
Reaper stands up too, following my actions. Finally, when I am certain my horse is going to be alright, he asks for the map I had. I search the side pockets of my saddle and sure enough find the map of the Kingdoms I use for navigation.
“Good.” Reaper takes the map from me and spreads it out, searching for Dragon Valley. When he finds it he asks: “Have you ever done a tracking spell?”
She is sleeping so peacefully as if the night she had screamed in her sleep never happened. Like the past, that every member of this clan had demons in, didn’t affect her at all. What had the world come to when every soul was so hurt and broken? Tigger was watching Victoriel sleep. She was the only one who dared to close her eyes out of them all. Like a child trusting to be kept safe. Tigger hoped never to break such a pure trust. Trust fades easy, but it is so, so hard to obtain it. It is a miracle that a girl who clearly has seen a lot of hurt has taken the courage to trust again. Tigger looks out of the cave at the sky. It is getting lighter out there. Our battle is not over. ‘You need the girl fighting’ he thinks. Such a rare thing it is to see someone with her abilities after such a long time. Tigger wondered where a young dark elf girl could have obtained such a knowledge, it had taken ages for one of his acquaintances to master the simplest of the spells.
It is too quiet outside, it makes Tigger’s fingers itching for his sword. Quiet is never a good sign with a monster of this magnitude close by. Tigger looks out of their hiding place once more. It is getting ever lighter.
Erwanis is sitting between Delpher and Victoriel. Delpher looks a lot better than when they stumbled into their little hiding place. He looked sick and there was blood all over his armor that clearly belonged to him. Delph might’ve said that he was alright and that Victoriel already healed him up, but Tigger still made Erwanis check up on him. He heard them talking later. “..it was a spell she used. It turned us invisible but made me sick in the stomach,” Delpher had said. “Spells can have that kind of effect, especially the ones that alter your presence,” Erwanis answered. Tigger had heard of the spell that hides you from your enemies. His acquaintance who had tried to learn it did not succeed in mastering it. The girl was good. She was special and Tigger was glad he had gotten the letter from his old friend about her. He still carried it in his pocket.
Dear old friend, (it said) A lot has happened since we last spoke. (3 years to be exact.) I’m writing in regards to a young girl…
He doesn’t say how he met her or why he wants to help her, just asks if Tigger has a place in his clan he could give her. All in all the letter was quite short. In the end there were the initials: C. Eyon C. M. He always ignored his first and last name and asked to be called just Eyon. Tigger couldn’t not take the girl in, so he sent the invitation to her. It had been hard to find her.
Tigger looks outside again, getting restless with the wait. The sun is peeking out from a faraway mountain, it is already quite light outside. As if by command, Victoriel opens her eyes.
Erwanis smiles at her. “Slept well?” “I really needed that, thank you,” she answers. Of course it was Erwanis to help her sleep so well. The guy was a healer probably only because of his compassion for others. There was nothing else holding him back from being a great warrior, but the fact that he couldn’t watch people get hurt. And when you are fighting side by side with someone you can not focus on both killing the enemies and healing the allies. Or it would be really difficult.
“Look, the sleeping princess is awake,” Fofo jokes, “Reaper didn’t have to kiss her at all.” “Why me?” Reaper protests. “You ran off with her to who knows where,” said Fofo. “He was keeping me alive,” Victoriel mumbles. “I had orders to play the guardian angel,” Reaper says with a grin. “I think I suit into the roll, don’t you?” Fofo looks him up and down. “If you were a kamael, I might consider that thought, but naah, you don’t look like an angel.” “Fofo is half blind you see,” says Phelia, “looking at a face like Reapers you might start believing in paradise.” “That’s what Elise said in the hot spring, but it was probably something other than a face she was referring to,” Reaper comments.
“Elise said that Fofo is blind?” Akarina wonders, “Fofo, what did you do to that poor girl to give such an opinion to her.” Fofo just shrugs while Reaper is trying to explain that this was not what he meant. This is what Tigger loved about his clan. The way they joked around to make each other feel better before the upcoming battle. “Reaper was trying to say that he laid with a girl named Elise in a hot spring,” Delpher adds.
“Such an important information for all of us to hear,” Womble says. “Of Course it is! Now we know that Reaper is not a virgin and not a proper sacrifice to the loot Gods!” declared Phelia. “Oh my,” Kepalx sighs, “not that again.” “What about you, Kepalx, have you laid with a girl in a hot spring?” Phelia questions. Akarina laughs. “Doesn’t have to be a hot spring precisely.” Kepalx ignores the question, instead taking out his weapon to admire it. Then the girls turn their attention to Victoriel. “That’s enough,” Tigger says, thinking: ‘No need to scare the girl away’. To his surprise, Victoriel answered: “I am not a proper sacrifice to the loot gods.” A lot of the guys look to her in surprise as well. “Oooh, tell me about it!” Phelia gets overexcited. “Nothing to tell,” is Victoriel´s quiet response. “Just that some guys are fucked up in the head and can not contain their dicks, especially when locked up in government quarantined training for 8 years of your life.”
They all look at her in shock. Tigger feels like it is time to take the attention to the upcoming battle. “Alright. Akarina, why don’t you summon Tentaclia and Tentaclio. Phelia, Womble, Gambri, Kepalx, Mosam and Reaper, you come with me to the front lines. Do not get stomped on by the big motherfucker!”
Delpher is trying to protest against being left behind, when Tigger’s gaze falls on him considering his options. “You look well enough,” he said finally, “but I don’t want you to try any stunts, you hear me.” Then Tigger looks at Victoriel. “You will stay close to me at all times. I run closer to the dragon, you shall run closer to the dragon. I run away, you do the same.” “Got it,” she says.
“Fofo, you have enough arrows?” “Yes, boss.” “Good.” “Erwanis, you stay back. You can stay close to Fofo.”
They were all ready when the reinforcements arrived and the battle could start for real.
The monster is surrounded. There are blasts and arrows flying at it from every direction. There are swords and sparks colliding with it from every direction. Antharas doesn’t know what to show more attention to, so it tries to run around, stomp on those little bugs and even smaller sticks that they are hitting it with. It screams towards its mother, who does not answer its prayers. It struggles against the ropes they throw over it and hold it in one spot with. It struggles still, when men are climbing on it, towards its vulnerable spot on its neck. And it screams for the last time, when those sticks pierce the soft scales like the beast was made of butter and someone meant to make bread.
The great dragon loses its strength and falls, its legs not holding it up anymore. As I have to stay close to Tigger I ended up as one being even crazier than the ones who tried to hit the beast from the ground. Delpher, Reaper, Womble, Tigger and Phelia and some guys from another clan were on top of the falling dragon as well and trying to keep their balance. It is a long fall down from here. With a great wave the beasts belly touches the ground, the dust around it flies up in a circle. The collision with the earth makes us bounce off from the surface of its rough skin and then free fall back on top of it. Delpher manages to hold on to a sword stuck inside Antharas flesh and is cuddling Phelia close to him, so she doesn’t fall off the beast. Tigger draws a dagger and presses it to the dead monster’s skin to stop his slide towards the ground. Womble, just like Reaper, might as well be in an amusement park, because they slide down the dragon’s back and disappear from view. A kamael is flapping his lone wing in order to slow down his fall, but ends up crashing with the ground just as hard. One orc and two elves end up hanging from the tipped scale edges running from Antharas head down to the tip of its tail.
And me? I had to stay close to the boss, but end up just as badly as all the others who were unfortunate enough to not find any place to hold on to and fell all the way down. I scream as my hands get scratched and bloody as I slide across the back of the beast. And then, a sudden pain all over my body overtakes my whole existence after I finally land. And then, there is nothing at all.
Erwanis runs towards the dead creature. He is tired as hell, feels empty from all the healing he has done, but knows his job is not over yet. Reaper, next to the monster, is slowly trying to stand up, but failing. One of his legs is twisted badly. Womble, lying a bit farther, has a pool of blood forming around him, his hand comping around his stomach. But the scariest might’ve been the new girl, because she wasn’t moving at all.
Erwanis falls on his knees next to her, searching her energy and finding a faint glow of it, feeling all the bones she has broken and looking for any piece of energy he has left to get the worst healed, but comes up empty. He has nothing. Desperately, he searches for Womble’s life source and finds it hurt, but not fading. He searches for Reaper’s life source and knows the guy would be alright, but wouldn’t walk anytime soon if Erwanis doesn’t get his strength back. “Please don´t die,” he whispers to the girl, who is lying there unconscious in front of him. All around there are bodies of strangers that would never move again, all dead. There is a girl, who wanted to taste dragon meat, also to have one tooth to hang on an amulet she was wearing and was full of all kinds of monster pieces – dead. There is a dark elf man, who had sung stories about giants – dead. There is a human boy, too young to die, but he is dead.
You get the picture?
There is a dwarf, still holding unto his weapon, but he is dead. There is a wynn soldier lying in the blood of his pets and he is dead. Erwanis is searching. There is a woman, old enough to be his mother and she is as dead as his mother is.
There is Akarina, stumbling in between all of those dead bodies and she is alive. There is Fofo, gathering Phelia from the side of Antharas and putting her down softly, both of them alive and well. There is also Tigger and Delpher getting off of the wildest ride of their life – alive. There is Kepalx and Gambri, looking like they got hit by a hurricane, but they ae alive. There is Mosam, looking like nothing can take that old fish down, because he is alive.
“No magic?” Tigger asks.
“No… no magic,” says Erwanis.
There are the other survivors searching through the bodies, separating the certainly dead ones from, soon to be dead ones, if no one helps them. And there is so much more going around the dead gigantic piece of meat. Dwarves dry to pull teeth out of its mouth. Someone skinning off scales for a souvenir. But the MongolHorde didn’t care about what is going on around them. They gather up their three wounded, Reaper, who is protesting, that he could ride a horse with his broken leg perfectly fine, Womble, who mumbles about a beautiful woman and how he wants to touch her heart and Victoriel, who didn’t make a sound, when they put her on stretcher made of wood and cloth.
“It will be alright,” Tigger says and they leave everyone else to deal with the corpses and start their road back home.
12. Past: Shilen’s war
Dear reader, you might have a lot of questions at this point. Who is Eyon? Victoriel´s mentor, right? How does Tigger know him? The pits and pieces from Victoriel´s past, where do they fit into? What happened to her? Why was she alone for two whole years? Who exactly are the others: Phelia, Akarina, Kepalx, Delpher, Erwanis, Fofo, Tigger, Womble, Gambri and Mosam? What are they fighting for?
If you are asking questions, good for you. You just might get some answers. I would really like to tell you all about Eyon, but as with stories, one must start from the beginning and Eyon was not there at the beginning of Victoriel’s life. She grew up in Schuttgart. Or did she?
“Mom, what is it?” Vist asked while doing what he was told and pressing more clothes in a backpack. I watched my big brother stuff his bag, and then mine. Mom gathered up supplies, and dad prepared the horses. I simply stood there in the middle of our home, looking at how my mom panicked, and my brother not knowing what was going on, and I was too young to understand that things were not good.
“We are going to visit your grandparents,” mom said to Vist, stopping what she was doing for a moment to brush her hand through his hair and kiss him on the forehead. Then she came and hugged me tight. “You remember granny and grandpa, don’t you?”
“Granny Mantis makes the best apple pies in the kingdoms!” I declared happily and jumped up and down.
“And grandfather Trekkie makes incredible wooden crafts. He promised to teach me next time we visit,” said Vist, with a smile. Then he looked at me: “I could make you toys to play with.”
Mom went around the small house looking for the last things to take with, when dad stormed in with more urgency than the situation required.
“We need to go now! Just leave everything else.” He took me into his arms to carry me to the horses. I played with his long hair all the way. Vist came with both of our bags behind him and made funny faces to me that made me laugh. Mom followed last, looking left and right, making sure we had everything we needed for the trip to Hunters Village.
I sat on the carriage next to Vist and dad was helping mom carry the last things from the house when two soldiers came running towards us. Father looked more worried than I have ever seen him. But then again, I was with Vist the night we got lost outside of the city walls and my big brother keeps me safe. And when Vist was cutting wood for the fireplace and the axe’s blade fell out of its socket landing on my big brother’s leg, dad had been worried, too, but not that worried, because he called on mom, who fixed him up like nothing ever happened. I don’t know how she did it. Everytime we have been hurt or gotten sick, mom does something and it just goes away. I’ve seen sparks fly out of dad’s walking stick, too, once when we were attacked by bears, but this is completely different than what mom can do.
The soldiers looked frightening up close, they were ready to draw their weapons for some reason. I took hold of my brother’s hand when dad stepped between the carriage and the strangers.
“We don’t want any trouble.” He was holding his walking stick like it could fly out sparks again any minute now.
“The kids need to come with us,” said one of the bad men.
“I do not agree with that,” answered dad.
The soldier took out a scroll and started reading it. “By the order of the town’s counselor the Chief Commander of the town’s guard has to gather up all the children older than 8 for the recruitment training to Elmore’s army. The war against Shilen’s followers is only starting and things are getting worse before they shall get better. We need more fighters, so we need to teach them young and fast.”
“Not my children!” my dad said and he sounded terrifying.
“Your children are older than 8 years, aren’t they? The girl is 9 and the boy 15, so they have to be a part of the recruitment training,” said the soldier.
“I do not agree with that,” said dad and his staff started to glow from the tip. Vist was holding me close, shielding me from what was about to happen.
“We don’t want any more trouble, just give the kids and we leave.”
“Don’t want any trouble, is it?” Dad’s walking stick threw out glowing balls towards the two men, but they jumped out of the way and one sent two horrible looking creatures at dad. One hit him in the stomach. Dad avoided the other one’s attack, but the first one got hold of his hand and the staff fell to the ground. Vist dragged me out of the carriage, trying to make me run towards the city gate, but we did not get far. Mom cried, dad laid on the ground held by the creatures, and one of the soldiers took me by my hand and dragged me away from the sight, never to see my parents again.
Victoriel was coming out of the deep sleep, hearing voices around me. None of them sounded like mom or dad or Vist. But then again, she did not remember their voices.She barely remembered their faces.
Then again, the voices were not strange to me.
“Erwanis, do you think she will wake up anytime soon? It has been a week already,” Phelia asked.
She had come to see Victoriel every day since they got back to the clan house, bringing a cup of fresh water from the well with her. And when she left, taking the old one away. Reaper was running around on the leg he had broken, like nothing had ever happened to it. Womble started moving around, not having any aches about three days ago. Only Victoriel hadn’t woken up yet.
Erwanis visited the girl the most, obviously, because he was a healer and she was unwell, but also because he was afraid she would have bad dreams again and felt like he needed to protect her the best he could.
“I think we need to give her as long as it takes,” Erwanis said to Phelia. “I don’t know what she’s been through, but it has just as much to do with her not waking up as her injuries.”
“But you healed her, right?” said Phelia.
“I can only heal the physical wounds,” Erwanis said, “everything else she has to get through herself.” Even when he said it he was thinking, ‘but I help her as much as I can anyway’.
“She said something about government training, before the fight with Antharas. Do you think she went through the same thing Vist did?” Phelia wondered.
“He is on a mission in Blazing Swamps, but when he gets back we can ask him about it.” It wasn’t often they were sent on a longer mission alone, but Vist could take care of himself and they all knew it.
“Do you know when he will get back?” Phelia was interested. But Erwanis did not know.
Most of what I heard was just mumbling. Not much made sense and everything else was hazy. My mouth felt as dry as sand and I tried to open it to ask for water, but what came out was a croaky sound. I tried to open my eyes but they were sealed shut.
“Victoriel?” Phelia was up on her feet promptly. “Do you want anything, water?”
I tried to nod my head as my voice was untrustworthy and soon enough felt a hand behind my head and the glass touch my lips. The relief was immediat when the water flowed down my throat into my empty stomach that was about to turn into a ravenous monster screaming for food. But as soon as my head touched the pillow I fell asleep again.
Next time I woke up alone. The small window across the room showed it was dark outside, so everyone must’ve been sleeping. The blanket over me felt heavy. There was a cup of water on the bedside table and I tried to sit up to get it. I succeeded with surprising ease.
After I had emptied the water cup I decided to see if I could succeed in a walk to the kitchen with the same ease.
To my surprise nothing hurt but my empty stomach.
I got to the kitchen. I found meat from the pantry and bread at the tabletop. Satisfied with my findings I sat down to eat my meal.
While I was eating my bread I heard steps coming down the hall towards the dining area. I was not the only one awake at this hour. Womble walked into the room and stopped dead at the sight of me sitting at the table.
“Oh hey,” he said after a pause and I smiled.
“Can’t sleep?” I asked.
“The dragon keeps on tearing me to pieces,” he agreed.
“You should ask Erwanis, he might be able to help with that.”
He poured himself a glass of water and sat across from me. We both stayed quiet for a long time before he asked: “How are you?”
“I’m feeling alright.” And I did. Nothing hurts. I did not have my regular nightmares… I had something else. “I dreamed of my parents,” I whispered.
He looked up from his glass but didn’t say anything waiting for me to continue in my own time.
“I miss them,” is all I said.
“What happened to them?”
“Honestly, I don’t know. I was nine when I was recruited for training in Schuttgart wonderful kids to warriors program.”
“You were in the Fight Against Shilen movement?” Womble asked in surprise.
“More like the Kid Enslavement Program, but call it how you like, I was there, yes.”
Womble stayed quiet again. “Was it that bad?” he asked after a long while.
“For some, it might’ve not been. For me, it was a nightmare.”
14. Past: The Camp
We were sitting in a covered carriage with a couple of other kids. Vist took me onto his lap and was holding me close.
“I won’t let them hurt you,” my 15-year-old brother told me. I wanted to believe that he could protect me when dad couldn’t. I was not that naive, but I took the little comfort that I could from that and the knowledge that I wasn’t completely alone.
I don’t know how long we were riding, but at one point the carriage stopped and one warrior walked behind it to address us.
“Everyone younger than 12 will come off here.” Some kids stumbled off from the death wagon, but I couldn’t, Vist’s hands were a barrier around me.
“All of you!” said the soldier impatiently. I looked at Vist. He let go of me reluctantly, and started moving off the carriage as well. I bit my lip, thinking of the best way of action. Not that a 9 year old comes up with anything good in that situation.
When we were both off the carriage, Vist positioned himself between me and the guard. “Where she goes, I go,” he said with confidence.
The guard-warrior-man laughed. “Believe me kid, you will have a chance to show how tough you are but this is not it. Now get back on the wagon and shut up.”
But Vist wasn’t moving and it made me even more scared than staying here without him.
“I said get the fuck back on that wagon!”
Everybody was staring. There were two more guards coming our way.
“Is everything alright?” One asked.
“I’m not leaving my sister!” Vist let him know.
“She will be alright with us,” the new guard said.
“I will not leave my sister!” Vist did not give in to the point where the first guard-warrior-man hit him in the stomach and he tumbled over from the blow.
“Vist, please go back into the carriage, before it gets worse,” I say quietly, when he stood up straight again, waiting for another hit. My big brother turned to me, hugged me tightly, whispering “I will find you,” before he made himself climb back onto the carriage.
And that was the last time I saw him.
“Everybody wake up!” came a command. I was sleeping in a room with 7 more girls around my age, we were all on the floor with nothing softer than the wood to sleep on. I had taken my bag to use as a pillow, but my neck was still stiff from the unnatural sleeping position. I had learned my lesson already in the first couple of days to follow the commands, because the consequences were not something I would have liked to deal with. The guard-warrior-man, whose name I learned was not guard-warrior-man, but Mushashi de la Resco, had stayed in our camp, but then again, the other one, who seemed a lot nicer and had a really long name I took as my responsibility to learn – Carlos Eyon Cortez de la Mancha – had stayed as well. So, looking at it, things could be either really really bad or I could actually survive this camp.
“Three minutes to get ready and line up!”
It had been like this ever since we arrived. I woke up to their screaming, did all the exercises: ran around, hit the dummies, then they gave you a bite to eat and made you run around again until it was time to sleep. Most of the time I didn’t even have time to breathe in, not even talking about making friends. At the end of every day de la Resco chose out his favorite kids, who he thought had done the exercises the best and they could get more food for dinner. In the third week you could notice the same faces sitting around the chosen table.
“Today,” sargent Naesme announced, “we will do something different.” And to that the staff, not unlike the one my dad had, started to shoot blasts out of it. “Everyone of you has power inside you, and we are going to find out what it is.”
It had been a year since I got here and I did not feel any more powerful than the day my father and brother had gotten beaten up by soldiers. And as I found out, I was not powerful at all. I saw a kid learn how to summon two monsters out of his body. I saw another one shoot out blasts like Naesme had. One boy took a sword and cut through a tree with it like it was sand. A girl ran and then jumped so high and far like she could fly. And I was unable to do any of it. That was the day when de la Resco started to hate me even more.
15. Breaking the Ice
I had fallen asleep at the kitchen table and woke up to Phelia making breakfast.
“Look who’s up,” she said with a bright smile. “For a second I thought we had lost you to the dragon.”
I smiled too, “can’t take me out that easily. I’m like a plague that keeps on coming.”
Phelia laughed. “That’s the spirit. Go girl!”
I helped her to prepare for the meal.
After we had all eaten, laughed, and laughed some more, Tigger wanted attention.
“As we had no chance to do it right when she arrived, we can do it now. You all remember your Breaking-The-Ice trip?
“Oh yeah,” Reaper said with a grin. And everyone else was nodding.
“Usually, it is the first thing we do together with our new members, to get to know each other more. Strengths, weaknesses – so we would know where to help out and where to give them free reign,” explained Tigger.
“This is going to be so much fun,” Akarina said and Phelia clapped her hands in excitement.
No one told me where we were going or what I would need to take with me. I guess that was part of the test. Not that I had much to take with me anyway. Everything I had I could fit into one bag I could carry on my back. I liked to carry my two swords on their holsters on my back as well when I was hiking. They might call it a Breaking-the-Ice trip, but I doubt we were going anywhere near Ice Merchant’s cabin.
We were walking east. No horses, or wolves or foxes or anything else, just walking. It was a nice green area with a couple of trees here and there. And it was quiet other than their steps and sounds of conversations.
“Where do you think we are going this time?” asked Kepalx and Womble raised his shoulders in the sign of not knowing.
“Only Tigger knows what we are going to do this time.”
“I bet it is going to be interesting,” Kepalx said.
“How was it for you?” I asked them, because I felt like I needed to know something. Otherwise, the growing uneasiness of not knowing was going to eat at me.
“They made me swim upstream in an ice cold river,” said Delpher, before Kepalx could answer. “After we had run a marathon. Most likely going to run a lot this time, too, because we left the horses behind.”
“For me it was a lot of fighting in Spicula,” said Kepalx, “but they said it was not the plan, that the attack was unexpected, but worked well enough. We learned teamwork through the situation. “They never said what the real plan was, though.”
“Okay, people, enough talking, let’s pace it up,” came Tigger’s voice and he started running. Running, I could do. I had done enough of it at the Kid Enslavement Program. Not so much with Eyon, and not much alone if it didn’t include running away from creatures wanting to eat me, but I had done my fair share of running.
We ran along the road in Dion Hills, going from jogging to a flat out run. My swords clung together at my back. Kelpax and Delpher were running by my side, Phelia next to Tigger in front of us. Akarina, Reaper, Womble, Mosam and Fofo somewhere behind. I concentrated on my breathing and leg movement and hoped that my previous running experience was enough to keep up with them. I felt like if I tire before any of them I’d fail the test. I knew Reaper could run fast and far from the Slay The Great Dragon Antharas expedition, so I expected all of them to be in great shape. We reached a place where the road split to two. There was a sign post saying that if we turn left we will reach the Fortress of Resistance. And we turned left.
Tigger stopped running near a guarded catacombs. I was feeling breathless, when I asked, “What is this place?”
“Why don’t you find out?” Tigger proposed. I looked at him. He was serious. Everyone else stood back, studying my actions.
I walked to one of the guards. He was tense. He had his sword out, ready to attack when someone dangerous showed up.
“Hello,” I said.
“No one may enter!” the Guard said.
“I was just wondering what this place is?”
“Lilith and Anakim woke in the Dark Omen Catacombs and the Disciples Necropolis. We’ve strengthened our security in case the same thing happens here.”
“You’re afraid someone will wake up in these catacombs?” I ask.
“It is dangerous here,” is all the guard said. “Go back to town!”
I tried to question another guard, but he was just as scarce with the information, so I went back to the others.
“They are guarding a grave,” I told Tigger.
He nodded. “Why?”
“Someone called Lilith and Anakim had woken up in their graves somewhere else. I think they are here to make sure something similar won’t happen here.”
“How had they woken up from their graves, Victoriel?” Tigger asked.
What is this question? Should I be able to answer? Are they expecting me to go and ask that from the guards? Is that supposed to be a logical answer?
“Umm.. I say. I have heard there are people who use dark magic, dead magic,” I say slowly, “a necromancy?”
“You think someone used necromancy on them?” Tigger asked.
“I think that’s possible,” I said.
“You said dark magic,” Phelia said, “do you think necromancy is bad?”
“Look at me,” I say. “I’m a dark elf. Do you think that makes me bad?”
Womble whistled for that in appreciation.
“It matters how you use the skill,” wass all I had to say.
And they seem to approve of my point, because Tigger starts moving on.
16. It’s going good so far
We hadn’t walked more than 300 meters when a red devilish creature with two flapping wings and five smaller white replicas of him stepped on the road.
“Flame Lord Shadar,” said Mosam.
“We are not here to fight you,” said Tigger to the creature, but the devil did not step away.
“We cant fight him,” whispered Delpher. “He has the power to stun us all, we can’t win.”
Another monster walked our way. This one looked like a leopard, but it was walking on his two back legs and was armored, holding up a sword.
Oh yeah, I was having fun on this trip. Soo much fun running straight at us.
“Who dares to pass through my lands,” roars Shadar demon, looking at us, but not seeing the leopard lurking behind him.
“They are not together, are they?” I wondered quietly.
Delpher shook his head. “They shouldn’t. They are both rather territorial, I’ve heard.”
“Many walks to pass through,” I said out loud, and the whole clan looked at me in surprise. “But one, walks for a fight.”
“Who dares to challenge me!”
Everyone around me is quiet, waiting for my response. “The one who walks on paws and has no boots to cover his legs,” I said.
Delpher next to me seemed to understand where I’m aiming, because he whispered, “Good one.”
“None of you have bare feet!” roared the devil in confusion.
“The one you seek ain’t among us.”
Shadar was getting angry. I wondered if it was time to point out the leopard lurking behind him.
“The one you seek and is behind you.”
At that the Flame Lord turned around, roared loudly when he saw Nurka´s messenger and ran at the leopard, going for a strike. We ran the other way, Tigger leading us out of the Partisan’s Hideaway into the Fortress of Resistance. He did not stop at the set up camps in the area, instead he headed for the hills.
“I think it’s going perfectly well,” commented Delpher when we stopped running at the start of the first mountain. My pulse thumped in my chest and I rested my hands on my knees to catch my breath.
“Anyone up for a quick climb?” Tigger asked with a grin. “We need to get to the other side before nightfall,” he looked at the sky, “and the day is not young.”
We started climbing. Tigger had ropes to secure us, so the climb was not as dangerous as it might sound, but it did not make it easier, especially after all that running. I knew that I was going to hurt all over the next day.
The sun was going into hiding already when we reached the top of the mountain. The view from there was magnificent. The enormous lake below took up most of it in the light of the setting sun.
“That is beautiful,” Akarina sighed and Phelia and I joined in for appreciation. I didn’t miss the admiring looks on Delpher and Reaper.
Tigger looked down. “This was slower than I thought it would be. Starting the way down we would get there by early morning. We shall camp here.”
Erwanis sat down right where he stood and looked like he wouldn’t get up until morning. I felt pretty beat down, too, so I sat down next to him. Kepalx and Womble went looking for firewood, while Tigger took our meal out of his bag.
“That has gone pretty well so far,” said Fofo.
Akarina laughed. “I remember when you were the newby. You were trying so hard not to mess anything up, so you ended up messing everything up.”
“I wish I could’ve seen that,” said Erwanis. “My integration was kind of surprise free.”
“That might’ve been the only time everything went smoothly,” said Tigger. “Nothing ever goes smoothly in MongolHorde.”
“And that makes it even more interesting,” said Phelia.
“Victoriel, how do you know Eyon?” asked Tigger after the meal.
“You knew Eyon?” I asked in surprise.
“What do you mean by ‘knew’?”
“You don’t know?” I looked at him. His face had transformed into an impenetrable mask. “He died about two years ago. It was a plague that took many. My healing wasn’t enough to save him. Apparently, it does not work against natural illnesses.”
“Two years ago?” was Tigger surprised. “I received his letter six months ago.” Tigger was looking into the fire. “How did you know him,” he asks again.
“He was my mentor,” I say. “He taught me everything I know.”
“Eyon taught you the strengthening spells? And healing?”
“Yes, he did. And the devil’s movement, and how to summon my horse to me.”
“He was able to do these things?” Tigger questioned.
“He never used any of them, he was a born fighter, not like me. He just explained the point in them, I had to figure them out myself”
“Who is Eyon?” asked Delpher.
“He was a trainer at the Fight against Shilen movement,” I say at the same time Tigger says: “A good friend of mine.”
They were alone by the lake. The girl and Reaper. She was soo beautiful.. among other things.. like being sooo naked. She had just walked out of the water to grab a towel to dry herself off. Reaper felt himself step closer to her and then closer still. He wanted to grab that towel and take it away from her. He wanted to slide his hands down her body. He felt the need to touch these curves. He wanted to feel the softness of that skin. He wanted.. He wanted her. And he wanted her now. As he was walking closer to the girl, he unfastened his breastplate and it fell to the ground. The girl looked up with a surprise and blushed, trying to make the towel longer. “Don´t be scared,” Reaper said and was mentally hitting his head against the wall for it. The blood rushing through his veins was making him say stupid things. Making him do stupid things. He shouldn’t be here, while she was bathing. He shouldn’t have sneaked up on her like that. He should leave. But his feet carried him to her and he stopped only when he was standing right in front of her. Victoriel misstepped, while trying to put some room between them and almost fell, if Reaper hadn’t caught her and pressed her now naked body against his bare chest. The towel had fallen off.”I´ve got you,” Reaper breathed out. Her pulse was rapid and her breathing fast and her breasts against him felt so good and his hands around her felt the velvety skin of her back and wanted to go wandering. “You are so beautiful,” Reaper had to say out loud. She was looking at him now and Reaper wanted to kiss her and nothing was stopping him so he slid one hand up her body into her hair and pulled her closer. Their lips touched softly, and then more urgently, needily. She was leading him as much as he was leading her. Her hands were wandering around his muscled back just as much as his were getting to know her curves. “I want you,” he whispered in between kisses. “Oh god, I want you.” And her hands moved to his pants, pushing them down and freeing his throbbing manhood.He pushed her against a tree, pressing himself against her, now free to feel her skin on all of him and not just his chest. And it was a glorious feeling. And she was touching him and he was moving his hand down her body in between her tighs. And she let him, a soft moan escaping her lips and encouraging him on. He pushed her down to on the grass, covering her up, moving with her, in her, feeling the softness of her against his hardness, hearing her moans get louder as he went deeper and faster. “Reaper!”He was touching her, kissing her, feeling her.”Reaper, do I need to kiss you awake?” One more kiss, one more push into her. Somebody pushed and pulled him instead, shaking him awake, with clear awareness of what he had just dreamed of. He had a hard-on he could do nothing about, luckily his armor hid it well enough. “I prefer to be kissed by one of the girls, but thanks for offering, Fofo,” Reaper said and looked for Victoriel. She was packing her blanket into a backpack, her ponytail jumping up and down as she finished and straightened up. “I wasn’t offering,” Fofo said, but Reaper wasn’t listening.
We started our way down the mountain when everything was packed and ready. Tigger set the ropes tightly in place, so our way down would be as secure as possible. My hands and legs felt like jellies so the extra precautions were welcome. The descent was difficult for me. I had no experience in climbing mountains. Everything hurt already from the day before.
“How did you sleep,” Reaper asked me before we started moving again.
“Not overly good,” I said. “I was afraid I’ll turn and fall off into the deep abyss. How did you sleep?” I asked in return.
He grinned at that. “I slept surprisingly well.” But he did not elaborate on that, just smiled.
“Good dreams are hard to come by,” I said.
“I’ve been lucky to not have problems with nightmares yet,” Reaper said, now serious again.
I laughed though. “I guess my life is been total disaster then.”
He looked at me, as if trying to see through my facade into the debt of my soul.
“I bet you would have liked it, if she had been the one to wake you up,” Fofo teased Reaper.
“You were the one who wanted to kiss me awake,” Reaper laughed.
I looked at them strangely as they were having this brotherly moment, making fun of each other.
“But you prefer to be kissed by girls, and honestly me too, so I was just saying..”
“I’m not into kissing anyone,” I said, even though a part of me wished to hear the end of the sentence to find out what Fofo had really been saying. I just needed to say that I did not want anyone in the kissing range, that was too close. I knew it had been a long time ago, the incident with Kinki – that had been the last drop to my already so full cup, that if Eyon hadn’t taken me away from there I would have broken.
The guys looked at me like there was Pelline standing behind me and I hadn’t noticed yet.
“In the near future anyway,” I tried.
We started descending this monstrosity of the mountain soon after. I felt the dread of falling again, and my already unsure legs slipped at times to make it even worse. I encouraged myself that the rope will keep me safe, but the infectious feel of something bad happening is not leaving.
I felt my rope tearing and my stomach got a hollow feeling. I tried to get ahold of the damn rock under my feet with my hands, but there was nowhere to hold on to. The rope was slowly unveiling somewhere up there, and there was more than a mile of falling down if it finally broke. I stopped climbing. Just stopped moving all together, so I wouldn’t make the tearing process faster. Trying to calm my breathing I call to Delpher, who is closest to me.
“Hey, I think there might be something wrong with my rope!”
Delpher looked up at the way we came from and his face changed from exhausted to horrified. “Do not move! I’m coming.” He started climbing towards me. Phelia a bit more down from us stopped to see what we were doing. Reaper even more lower shouts something out that sounds like “what the fuck!” I am scared to look up and see what Delpher had seen. While Delph is climbing towards me I felt the rope give in and break and I screamed as I fell into the depths like I was afraid of.
Someone screamed: “Nooo… !”, someone let out a frightened yelp, and someone was falling with me. What the fuck was Reaper doing letting go of his rope and free diving towards the rocks below? And then he caught me, leaving one hand around my waist and taking hold of the rope fastened around him with the other to stop our fall abruptly.
He whispered to my hair: “I’ve got you.”
We are hanging like this for a second before he finds a place for his legs to support him. He does something with the rope holding us, so it would be supporting me too if he lets go of me.
I was sobbing, fear still overtaking my entire body.
I nodded my head, afraid to trust my voice. And he did not let go. He looked up and I felt him chuckling against me. Wait, he was so close to me, holding me up with his strong hands, holding me to his muscular chest that I felt every slight movement he made through the soft fabric between us. My pulse, that had slowed down a bit from the fall, quickened up again and I almost missed him saying: “Seems like we took a shortcut.”
I looked up, too, and saw everyone else high above us.
“Are you up for a little more exercise, or should we stay hanging here for a bit?” Reaper asked.
“I could try,” I whispered.
“This time trying is not good enough.”
18. is missing, but they most likely made another camp once they all got down the cliff safe and sound. Delpher and Fofo left to hunt for food when Tigger got a notification of a fortress under MongolHorde protection being under attack.
19. The Battle
After I repeated the words written on the scroll, that otherwise were just a scribble to me, I felt myself moving through the air a bit different than my own spell of getting to the closest city or the dimension keepers spells. When I opened my eyes (I always close them while teleporting, because the movement otherwise makes me feel sick) I was standing in the middle of a battle, and I fastly started murmuring my protective spells, hoping everyone else got here too and would get strength from the blessings.
After I was done with the spells I grabbed my swords and joined Kepalx and Womble in their fight against three Orcs, using the two spells Eyon had managed to teach me in the fighting skill department.
“You better think twice, when you mess with us,” I said, when my swords clung with a two meter high man’s enormous axe-like weapon. My truly bad habit of talking with the enemies coming back to me. Kepalx gave me a weird look at that, but couldn’t comment for one of the orcs decided to hit him with his elbow, smacking him in the face so he threw out blood and barely got his weapon raised for a more lethal hit. Womble, who was also an orc, had no trouble evading their hits and soon one of the enemies was lying at our feet bleeding out from where used to be his head. Kepalx killed the second one with a strike straight through his chest, just when two dwarves were coming our way to get part of the action.
I felt Erwanis’s energy moving around the battlefield, ready to heal. I saw Tigger taking out enemies from left and right. I saw Reaper holding his own against two dark elves, one hitting him with magic, the other distracting him with his blades. Mosam was blasting hits from his staff. Akarina moved her hips in the same tempo as her Tentacle creatures, taking down the enemies healer and one of the warriors. I saw Gambri being sliced to pieces and hit the ground dead and unrevivable.
Delpher was lying in the deep grass with a dagger in his mouth, waiting for the deer to get closer. They had made the deal that if he kills the pray Fofo would carry it back to the camp. Of course, if Fofo had done the killing, the deer would already be by the fire with an arrow through its head. But where’s the fun in that? So they were silently stalking the oblivious animal, who was eating grass and slowly moving towards their hiding place.
Twenty minutes later, he sprang up and rushed to the deer who unknowingly had wandered only two feet from them. Delpher took the dagger from his mouth ready to slice, when the deer’s survival instinct kicked in and it started running. Instead of trying to slice the animal, Delpher grabbed it around the neck and hauled himself on it, like it was a horse, losing his dagger into the grass in the process and having nothing else sharp enough to cut through the flesh.
Fofo stood up where they had hidden and laughed so hard he had tears in his eyes. It was quite clear who was carrying the prey back to the camp
20. Battle scars
When Delpher and Fofo got back to the camp only Phelia was sitting by the lake. She jumped up at the sight of them (and the deer, of course). Delpher dropped the damned thing right where he stood.
“What is it?” He asked, because Fofo was quiet.
“The fort was attacked, they had to go protect it. It was like two hours ago. Where were you?”
Fofo and Delpher shared a glance that said more than words could.
“Tigger left us scrolls, too, but I’m guessing they don’t need our help anymore,” she looked at Delpher, “and you look like you just ran a marathon.”
“I can fight!” Delpher protested and Fofo snickered.
“The way you fought the deer?”
“How was I supposed to know she was the mother of two and the moose would be out for revenge?” he said, like he had said it a million times already. And he probably had. Fofo would’ve made sure of that.
“If we are not going to the fort, where are we going?” asked Fofo.
Phelia looked at the map she had been studying while she had waited for the men. She had seen one of the green dots disappear from it. She made sure it hadn’t teleported anywhere. It was gone. But the other dots were in Dion, moving towards clan hall.
Delpher felt like saying that he can fight again.
“To clan hall,” Phelia answered.
I sat on the floor in the hall of the house, Reaper changing the bandage for the cut in my stomach. I could’ve healed it, if I wasn’t so out of energy. Erwanis could’ve healed it, if he hadn’t passed out from all the healing he had done. So Reaper’s careful hands were as good as it got. Thinking about it, Reaper’s careful hands on my skin wasn’t that bad of an outlook. Oh shoot, go away, bad thought. Still, I couldn’t help the sparks going through me every time his hands brushed the skin on my belly. Otherwise it hurt really bad, the cut.
“It should be okay now,” Reaper said, still kneeling in front of me, still holding his hands on my skin, his forestry eyes looking up at me with something I couldn’t decipher.
“Thanx,” I whispered, my heartbeat sped up and my stomach felt intruded by running elephants.
One of his hands was slowly, gently, carefully moving up and I caught my breath. He brushed some of my hair that had come loose from my ponytail out of my face. My heart was dancing in the tempo of tango and I thought it’s going to explode.
Something in my head was screaming at me to stop this madness, that something was the part that remembered too well what happened with Kinky. The part that wished I had been stronger and sliced his throat when I had the chance instead of running away like a scared little girl I was.
Reaper was saying something but my thoughts overpowered all else and my breathing became frantic.
Kinky wass holding me down. He was so much stronger than me and he was laughing.
“You are a pretty little thing, aren’t you?” he said, his disgusting hands roaming around my body and I felt like I was going to puke.
“If you scream, it will be worse,” Kinky let me know, but I already know screaming will not help me here. My only friend was a 60 year old martial arts teacher.
“Don’t touch me,” I said in my memory to Kinky, but it came out loud, because Reaper threw his hands back. He had been asking if I was alright, trying to get me to look at him and calm down.
I felt tears gather and fall down my cheeks.
Reaper was apologizing and l don’t know what for. He looked like he wanted to wipe my tears away, but was uncertain how I would react to it.
I hid my face with my hands, taking slow breaths. “I’m okay, I’m okay, I’m okay.”
I wiped my tears and looked at Reaper who seemed worried and nothing at all about him reminded me of Kinky.
“The past…” I tried to explain. “I was.. there was…” I couldn’t find the words.
Reaper stood up from where he was kneeling. “It’s alright.” He started walking towards the kitchen and I mentally kicked myself. “Are you coming?” He stopped and looked back. “Let’s see what Akarina made for dinner.”
21. is missing 🙁 But I’m quessing Vist came back from his mission and brother and sister are united again!
22. Reaper’s thoughts
Delpher saw how Reaper’s face falls and his hands form fists when Vist drew Victoriel in for a hug and she carefully hugged him back.
Delpher had barely heard what they said to each other, so Reaper who was even farther from them hadn’t heard anything.
Vist was whispering: “I’m sorry, i’m sorry, i’m sorry,” over and over again and Reaper who had decided he wanted to know what the hell was going on had moved closer to them, face full of determination.
“I promised,” Vist says and Reaper stops, “I promised I’d come for you.”
Victoriel was crying. “It would’ve been a suicide,” she whispered.
Everyone stopped what they were doing and just stared at the two, not daring to interrupt the moment.
“I should’ve come find you after they said it’s over.”
“I wasn’t there anymore,” she mumbled to his shoulder and Vist stepped a little back and softly put one hand under her chin to raise her head and look into her face. He wiped at her tears.
Delpher saw Reaper walk out of the room and decided to follow him, before the other guy did anything stupid. Delpher and Phelia had discussed Reaper’s recent behavior, or rather, she had enlightened him with her womanly knowledge. Delpher himself hadn’t noticed anything.
Reaper stood on the porch, running his hands through his hair, all his muscles tense.
“You okay, bro?” Delpher asked and Reaper’s hands fell to his side as if the gravity had suddenly gotten a lot stronger.
“Yeah,” Reaper said, but Delpher did not buy it.
“Man, what is it?”
Reaper looked into the distance and then sat down onto the porch. Delpher lowered himself next to him.
“I can’t control it,” Reaper confessed and Delpher waited for an explanation. “She haunts me. And at times I just want to brush her hair away from her face, or … she is so delicate and I don’t want to.. and then Vist comes…” Reaper lowered his head to his hands and just sat there.
“I can’t get her out of my head,” he said after a long pause, “and it is driving me mad.”
“Maybe you don’t need to get her out of your head,” Delpher, the trusted counselor, said.
Reaper looked up at him and laughed. “You are joking, right?”
“I am not an expert or anything,” Delpher said, “but sometimes talking helps. The way I see it, you have been avoiding her more than is necessary.”
“Oh trust me, it is necessary.”
Delpher searched his friends face and found desperation in it. “All I’m saying is talk to her. I don’t know, ask about her life or some shit. Conversations open doors. You’d hear that she lost her brother in the Fight Against Shilen movement they did in Schuttgart. And knowing that Vist was also a part of that movement. Have you ever heard him talk about those times?” It was a rhetorical question, because Delpher was on the roll and did not let Reaper answer, “you’d know that entering the movement he was separated from his family, that he tried to protect his little sister, but they took her somewhere else. You might even know all the shit that Vist went through in the camp and putting two and two together you can only imagine what she must’ve been through and that what we saw in there was a family reunion.”
Reaper watches him speechless. “Sometimes, I wonder where the hell you know all this from.”
“Conversations, Reaper, can open doors.”
The next morning Tigger had an announcement to make at the breakfast table.
“There have been stories about a gathering movement. Dark forces uniting again. After four years of lower activity in that field, the magicians in Ivory Tower have detected a sudden raise in the energy of darkness in the atmosphere. We need more information.” Tigger looked at all of us. “Vist, I know you just got back, but you might know more about what happened 4 years ago than we do. Reaper, you better stop slacking, it makes you fat, you are going.”
Reaper was about to say he was NOT getting fat, when Tigger said “Victoriel,” and Reaper caught his breath instead, “enough of training, I believe you are sick of it.” Then Tigger looked around the table, where there was Mosam, Akarina, Womble, Erwanis, Delpher and Phelia still waiting. At last he said “Phelia, you go with them. I am sending you to the Monastery of Silence to gather information. Everyone else will go to the Ivory Tower to talk with the mages. You will go today.”
23. It’s paid now
Before this part I wanted to add a warning of sexual violation even though it is slight. You can skip it to the ****
Tigger stood in his office, his hands on the table beside the map laid on it, watching the green dots get further from the clan house. Every time he sent them out he felt the dread of losing them, losing her. But he couldn’t keep her in the box, she was tough and he knew it. And she was with Vist and Reaper, two great fighters, and Victoriel seemed quite capable. Nothing to worry about. They were just going to search the library. The four dots representing Phelia, Reaper, Victoriel and Vist met up with a lone green dot in Dion. And Tigger breathed out slowly. Either Kepalx or Fofo had returned. Why weren’t they together? Who was it? Tigger saw the five of them near the gatekeeper and all of them disappeared from the grounds of Dion only to reappear in Rune.
Tigger slowly lowered himself into his chair and picked up his journal and pen, started writing:
The dark energy is rising, or so they say. It is either bullshit or a real thing. In any case, a new war seems to be on the way. They would not lie for nothing and if it is true things are certainly getting messy. Need to research.
Victoriel, Reaper, Phelia and Vist – Monastery of Silence, met with either Fofo or Kepalx on the way.
Akarina, Womble, Mosam, Erwanis and Delpher – Ivory Tower.
The head of Dion is ready to discuss our new arrangement in clan house payment. He promised to stop by in a few days. If we can’t pay we are going to be thrown out.
At this, Tigger opened one of the shelves he always locked and took out a box. Among other things, like golden coins, there was a drawing of Phelia sitting on the sofa and smiling brightly. Tigger took it out and just looked at it, imagining him holding her through the night, shielding her from all that was about to come, loving her… oh goosh, loving her. The thought brought a warm sensation and he felt himself getting hard. Tigger sighed, put the drawing down and leaned down into the comfortable chair, pictures he couldn’t stop dancing behind his eyelids. His hand was moving towards his attention needing part, when he heard the door open. He snapped out of his daydream to look into the eyes of the head of Dion.
“Falith,” Tigger said.
“Tigger,” the other man said in acknowledgement.
The head of Dion was clothed in fine silk and embellished in golden chains.
“I let myself in,” he said.
“I can see that.” Tigger arranged his position on the chair to look more authoritative.
“I like what you have done with the place,” Falith started with the small talk, staring intently in Tiggers blue eyes, not even looking around the room. Tigger closed his journal, the drawing of Phelia getting hidden in between the pages.
“I believe you came to talk about money.”
Falith laughed. “Of course, the payment. But who said anything about the money?” Falith stepped closer to where Tigger was sitting.
“How much do you want to keep the property?” Falith asked. “What does this place mean to you?” He stepped even closer, past the table.
Tigger stood up slowly, his body frigid, ready for a fight. “How much?” He asked roughly.
Falith smiled. “Oh loosen up Tigger, it’s no fun like this.” He let his eyes wander all over his body, stopping at his still lingering hard-on and his smile turned into a wide grin. “Well, well, I can help you with that.” He moved his hand towards Tigger’s abdomen.
With one hard movement Tigger pushed the head of Dion away.
“Uh, so feisty, I like that.”
“I WILL NOT tolerate it!” Tigger said with authority. But Falith did not care what Tigger would or would not tolerate, for he was used to getting what he wanted and he was going to get it now as well, even if he had to use force or spells to get it. This is why Tigger found himself overpowered, by the smaller guy, up on the table, with the head of Dion on top of him, violating his body and unable to do shit about it.
“The payment is paid.”
We were on our way to the Monastery of Silence. Vist was telling us about his version of Camp Die All. And how it ended.
“We were on the field. They called us Troop Red,” Vist said.
“You mean the Suicide Troop,” I said.
Vist looked at me thoughtfully, then continued. “Troops Green and Yellow were situated in opposite sides of the suspected area. All of us had to wait for a clear command to attack. They said it was where Shilen’s followers were detected. We saw the Troop Yellow run out of their hiding place into the cave and sounds of fighting coming from there. After a while everything quieted down. Then we saw the Troop Green do the same.”
“They were all killed?” Phelia asked.
“After that I felt the pull to go run towards the cave myself and some in our troop couldn’t resist it and ran towards it. That is when there was an explosion and after the smoke cleared the entrance to the cave was blocked by big rocks. The pull was gone.”
“So you were in the Survival By Being The Last One Manipulated Troop,” I said. And all of them looked at me weird.
“Commander Reifner found us there and said we had won. But what did we win, no one ever told us. After that they gave us a chance to join the Schuttgard honor guard. A lot of them did, but I took my chance to leave the movement.”
At Dion we met with Kepalx, who said that Fofo took off to visit his family, or most likely to get laid in a random bar.
“What about you, Kepalx, you didn’t want to get laid in a random bar,” Phelia got interested.
“No, not really,” Kepalx replied.
“Don’t tell me you are a virgin,” Phelia was intently staring at the younger man, who refused to comment on that. “I didn’t think any of our guys were virgin. That is truly interesting.”
“That’s a bit out of topic,” I tried, but once you get Phelia on the roll, there is no stopping her.
“Reaper, when was the first time you had sex?”
Reaper looked at Phelia, was about to reply with some witty retort, when he caught me looking and closed his mouth instead.
“That is a bit out of topic,” Reaper said.
The gatekeeper teleported us to Rune and with that the topic ended.
24. is missing and I have no memory of what happened there.
25. The Monastery of Silence
“It’s getting late, we are closing the library for the day in 10 minutes,” one munk came to tell us. I looked at him, thinking he can’t be seriously throwing us out, but he was dead serious.
“I’ve heard you have rooms to sleep in…” Phelia started.
“THOSE ROOMS ARE FOR THE BLESSED ONES ONLY!”
“Was worth a try,” she whispered as we were walking out.
Kepalx looked left and right as if afraid anyone would see him. I had seen him hiding one of the scrolled paintings of Shilen inside his bag. I wondered what for, but I had not stopped him.
Later, we sat by the fire, eating a rabbit that Reaper had caught for dinner. For five of us it wasn’t enough, but I was not going to ask for more and let the men get the bigger share. I was used to living with less.
“On a brighter topic, Victoriel, what would your ideal man be like?” Phelia asked out of the blue and I choked on the water I was drinking.
“What?” I got out.
She laughed. “You know the characteristics, the looks. You must’ve fantasized about something.”
Must’ve I? Had I?
“Ummm,” without realizing I looked at Reaper, who was a very good looking guy, and before I cowered out I said it. “Reaper looks handsome.”
Phelia had a victorious smile on her lips, Reaper looked at me with disbelief shining in his eyes, Vist seemed to want to hit his head against the wall and Kepalx took it as the fact it really was.
“But you all know that, for sure” I tried to soften their reactions, which didn’t help in the slightest.
“Reaper looks good,” Phelia agreed with a grin and the guy talked about rolled his eyes as if saying ‘was there even a doubt in that’. “Okay so what about characteristics?”
“You seem really interested in that, why?” I wonder.
“We have guys in clan,” Phelia laughed, “just figuring out if any of them would have a shot at conquering your heart.”
“No, not really, not ever” I replied fast, too fast perhaps. Or was it what I said that made them all stare at me.
“They’re not that bad,” Phelia defended the clan.
“That is not what I meant,” I say quietly. “Just that my heart is not conquerable.”
“There must be someone who is able to -“
“Phelia, stop harassing her.” It was Reaper who came to my rescue.
“- change your mind.”
I was drawing at the ground with my finger, not looking at them.
“What about you?” I heard Kepalx ask and I peeked at Phelia to gauge her reaction. “Is there anyone in the clan that could conquer your heart?”
“Like anyone would try,” Phelia said with a little bit of bitterness soaking through.
“You are showing your thorns every time they do,” Kepalx commented. Phelia looked at him as if he had no idea what he was talking about. I honestly did truly have no idea what he was talking about. Reaper looked absolutely clueless, too. And Vist seemed amused as if he might’ve seen Phelia showing thorns but his reaction didn’t really tell if that assumption was correct or did he just like seeing Phelia struggling to understand. I didn’t know my brother at all, I realized.
“Don’t look at me like that, Phelia, it’s not like you don’t know who I’m talking about,” Kepalx said.
“I’m totally lost,” Reaper confessed.
“Yeah,” I agreed and he smiles at me.
“We can be lost together then.”
“Who are you talking about?” Vist asked.
“Fofo, of course,” Kepalx sighed and Phelia looked shocked.
“What?” She asked.
“I thought you were talking about someone else,” Vist said with a smile.
“Fofo and I are friends,” Phelia declared.
“Who did you think I was talking about?” Kepalx asked, but Vist refused to answer.
I thought I did know, then, remembering the way Tigger had looked at Phelia when I asked about his fears. And now, to think about Fofo it was not surprising, although friendship is a bit different than being in love… as if I’d know, all I’ve had is a mentor.
“Alright, we should all get some rest. Tomorrow we’ll go back to the library. We need a fresh head,” Vist said when the fire got low and Reaper added more wood in it. Kepalx took out his blanket like a good little kid, Phelia sighed and looked for hers.
I was still sitting by the fire, when Reaper brought me my blanket.
“Here,” he said. “You should get some sleep too.”
I looked up at him. “Thanks,” I said as I took the blanket from him, but I didn’t feel like sleeping.
Conversations open doors, conversations open doors, conversations open doors, Reaper was thinking, when everyone was already sleeping, but Victoriel still sat by the fire. He got up from where he was laying and went to sit down next to her.
“Hey,” he said.
“Can’t sleep either?” She asked him.
And he lied, “no, I can’t” the truth would be, he would fall asleep as soon as he closed his eyes, but he wanted to be sure she was alright before he did.
“Phelia didn’t mean to hurt your feelings,” Reaper tried.
“She didn’t,” Victoriel said quietly, to what he didn’t know what else to say so he waited for her to explain. Finally she did. “At the training camp there weren’t many girls my age. We were grouped by ages, which is why I couldn’t stay with Vist. You understand that when you are kept basically in containment with more than 30 teenage boys…”
Oh God, Reaper thought. “Was it… did they…?” he had no idea how to finish that question.
Victoriel looked away from the fire and into his eyes, she did not have to say a thing. He wanted to draw her close and just hug her, but that might not be a good idea. So he just sat there next to her, thinking that conversation might not open doors, but they opened eyes for sure.
“You should know that our clan is not like that,” Reaper said. He wanted to say that he was not like that, but did not.
“Yeah, I know,” she replied.
They sat there quietly for a while, then Reaper couldn’t handle it anymore and basically begged: “Tell me there was something good in that movement.”
She looked at him in surprise, like why would he care. And he was thinking the same thing. Why did he care? But he did.
“Eyon just about sums it up.”
“Yes. When he took me away from the camp it was a lot better. I don’t know what he told Mushashi, so he’d let us go, but no one ever came after us.”
“Tigger said Eyon was his friend.” Reaper wondered how they were connected. “What was he like?”
“Like a grandfather I never had,” Victoriel said with fondness. “He was warm and welcoming, but strict when it came to his lessons. He taught me never to give up and give in. That in every situation there is not only one but hundreds of solutions if you look hard enough to find them. He is the only reason I am still alive.”
Reaper was fascinated about the way she talked about Eyon. She had known love, he realized and was relieved.
“Tigger reminds me a little of him,” she said with a shy smile. And Reaper tried to connect her description to Tigger but couldn’t.
They talked a bit more, before Reaper said they should get some rest before the morning arrived.
26. Emotions run wild
It got cold in the middle of the night when the fire burned out. I drew my blanket closer, but it didn’t help much. I rolled over, hit something warm, curled up next to it and slept until morning.
I woke up to a loud argument, that was getting into a straight out fight.
“When I say don’t touch her, it means DO NOT TOUCH HER!” Vist said.
“It’s not like that is your decision to make,” Reaper said and stepped away from Vist’s swipe with his staff.
Vist seemed to be angry and not listening to reason, hitting with skill rather than words and Reaper dived for his axe.
“You’ve been beating yourself up because you couldn’t protect her,” Reaper got out, their weapons clashing together, “but she is capable of protecting herself now.”
That wasn’t the correct thing to say. Because Vist felt like it went right to his heart, it was his responsibility to protect her, he had failed, he was not going to fail again. No matter what, she was under his protection and not Reaper, not anyone was going to get close enough to hurt her. And he needed to let them know that, so he fired a blast at Reaper and Victoriel screamed as Reaper was too slow to jump away and the blast came too fast for him to reflect. Reaper went flying and crashed with the ground.
I ran to Reaper, screaming at Vist to stop being stupid. Reaper was trying to sit up from where he had fallen to, but ended up coughing blood. I drew my energy around him, being angry at them both for being such kids, and ended up freezing him into a stone instead.
Vist looked shocked for what he had done and was doing something with the energy around us. I turned to him in frustration and hit him with my fists.
“Fuck you!” I screamed, “this is your fault!” and with this I changed him into a toad and that did not help with my frustration turned into anger and that damn irritating feeling inside my stomach that made me feel like destroying anything in my way. Why did they have to be like this and fight with each other? What had they fought about anyway? ‘get it together!’ I told myself and went to Reaper again, who had unfrozen while I was busy blasting my useless skills around. I tried to calm down to connect to my healing energy and not do anything else stupid. Phelia got closer and stood next to me, saying I could do it and that everything is okay.
Finally succeeding to push my energy into Reaper’s broken bones, I stood up without looking back at him and walked past Vist, who had turned back to his beautiful self. Without looking at him either and started rolling up my blanket.
I was trying hard not to hear Vist apologizing to Reaper and Reaper acting like it was nothing. I got my blanket packed and walked to my horse to put it in a saddle bag. Chamelion was nipping at grass being nonchalant to what was going on around him. I pet his neck and it calmed me down enough to be able to breathe without fire burning inside my guts.
I heard Vist approaching. For a moment he just stood right next to me, saying nothing.
“What?” I asked, perhaps a bit too harshly.
“I don’t want to see you get hurt,” he said slowly and I looked at him.
“You think you can predict it and keep it from happening?”
“Reaper is not the guy for you,” Vist said and I felt like laughing.
“I have no idea what you are talking about,” I said.
Vist drew a breath and ran his hand through his hair. “I woke up to see you in his arms.”
And I looked at him for a long time. I remembered rolling over to something warm. It must’ve been Reaper. It was not his fault, though. It was mine. And I must’ve left a really wrong impression. Truly wrong impression. Now that I knew what that was all about I took it as my mission to avoid Reaper the rest of this expedition. Decided and done.
We were back in the library the next hour.
27. new friends
Delpher woke up to Mosam warming up their breakfast. “Morning,” he muttered. Akarina was mumbling in her sleep. Something like: “No Tentaclio, we don’t rush them, we sneak up on them.” Delphy had dreamed of a beautiful girl instead. It had felt so real. “What do we do now,” he asked Mosam, who had taken it his responsibility to not let the young ones get lazy and sleep too long. Womble groaned when he was woken up. Erwanis woke up quite easily, but Aka was still mumbling to her pet: “the other side, the other side”. “Akarina, darling, wake up,” Mosam was gently nudging her and Delpher laughed out loud. “You think you could wake her up like that?” Mosam stared at Delpher in a way that said, come and try to question my methods. “Akarina, honey, I made food.” And the girl was awake as if kissed by the most handsome prince in the Elmoreden. Mosam smiled to himself and looked to Delpher in ‘see? I got this’ way. “Is there coffee?” Akarina asked. “Trust me, if there was coffee the smell had woken you up eons ago,” Womble said. “There is always coffee in the clan house,” Akarina said. “You can survive without that vile drink, darling,” Mosam assured, and sipped his drink that was not coffee and was not vile.
When they had eaten, they backed their things and started hiking towards the village. Erwanis had written a message to Tigger last night, but they hadn’t gotten a reply yet. So they moved towards the closest village to ask around. They hadn’t travelled long, when they heard fighting and shouting.
“Harle, heal him!” One girl told the other, while trying to keep his focus on the Golem. “I’m trying!” the girl shouted back. Erwanis ran towards the fallen tank, while Delpher stormed the Crazy Mechanic Golem, seeing the blasts from Mosam’s staff before crashing into the damn thing. One orc was frustratedly hitting the animated thing with no results. Another guy was giving his best in destroying the thing. Akarina summoned out her Tentaclio and Tentaclia and sent them towards the golem as well. Together they managed to break it to pieces. Erwanis, and the girl called Harle managed to heal the fallen comrade back to health. Erwanis usually managed to find small old things to heal while he was at it, Delpher once found one of his 4 year old scars gone.
“Thank you,” one of the girls said to us. “Darling, it is what we do,” Mosam said. But Delpher was barely listening because now that he was not trying to destroy the enemy he recognized the girl from his dream. Some introduction was in order so Delpher said his name out loud and made Akarina look at him funny. “That’s my name,” he said. “Womble, Mosam, Erwanis and Akarina.” He pointed at each of them while telling their names and then waiting for a reply. “Slides,” the orc said, taking up their spokesperson role. “That is Harlequim,” he pointed at the Kamael girl who had worked on the healing. “Panisgas,” said the human, who had needed the healing, not letting the orc to introduce him. “Drielle,” said the girl from the dream, unsummoning her pets. And Delpher said it to himself three times like a mantra. “Passage,” said the last person with them. He was standing a bit away from the others as if he did not actually belong to the group. “What are you doing around here?” Mosam asked grandfatherly, trying to guide the sheep back home kind of way. “We are headed to the tower of course,” said the orc before anyone else could explain. Mosam took a more defensive position. “What about the tower?” “There were blasts of energy waves two days ago. We thought to check it out,” Drielle spoke up, “but on the way we were attacked by.. this thing,” she made a face at the pieces lying around all over the forest floor. “Crazy Mechanic Golem,” Delpher said. “What?” Drielle questioned. “A Golem. The most advanced design of them all. It animated and ran amok because the artisan accidentally installed a defective component,” Delpher recited as if reading from a dictionary.
28.-29. maybe a numeration mistake. Maybe something is missing? hmm..
30. A fire
Phelia was in her own thoughts. Mostly trying to conjure memories with Fofo to see how true it could be that he had feelings for her. She couldn’t see it. They were sitting in the library again. Then suddenly Victoriel got kind of excited.
“It can’t be,” she said. “It can’t be..”
“What?” Reaper asked.
Phelia saw her turning her head to look towards Reaper but stopping mid-movement, and turned to Kepalx instead. Reaper’s face fell.
“It is all connected, isn’t it?”
“What’s connected?” Reaper asked, as if trying to get Victoriel’s attention. But she wasn’t looking at him.
“Antharas, the catacombs, the attack on fort and Shilen. It is all connected.”
Kepalx looked up at her. “How is the Fort connected to it?”
“I don’t know it yet, but wouldn’t it make sense?”
“Not entirely no,” Reaper said and Victoriel finally looked at him. He stared back with an expression that said ‘prove it’ or ‘stare at me, please’ even though these two expressions shouldn’t look the same on anyone’s wace.
“Interesting that you don’t question me connecting Antharas with the dark energy rising,” Victoriel said instead. Not letting him reply she goes on, “well of course, Antharas is a dragon, born from Shilen, right? Doesn’t surprise you at all that the dragon would wake up before its mother comes to destroy the whole earth, right? The fortress, though. Who would attack it? Why would anyone attack it? For power? For protection? Who would want it? Many, you’d say, but right now it could as well be Shilens followers. I mean isn’t this what Tigger made me do when we walked past the catacombs? To make connections.”
Vist was looking at his sister proudly. “What does it tell you then?”
“They have nowhere to be so they want a fortress? Or they want a fortress to express their power?” Phelia thought out.
“They might try again.” Victoriel said.
Reaper looked at a book he had in front of him. “How were dragons born out of her?” He asked the most peculiar question. And Phelia saw Kepalx really starting to ponder about it.
“Does it matter?” Phelia asked. “I don’t think it matters.”
At that moment they all hear an explosion in a distant part of the library. Reaper jumped out of his chair, already holding his axe. Vist stood up more slowly. Kepalx summoned his Reanimated Man. Phelia took her fist weapons. Victoriel just looked left and right. There was a bright light moving closer from one of the bookcase corridors, getting bigger and bigger. The room was getting filled with smoke.
“Fire!” Phelia screamed out and started running the other direction. “Run!” She shouted after the others. Kepalx followed her with no doubt, but Phelia didn’t see Victoriel being dragged by both of the other guys, wailing about all of the books that will get burned.
The fire was spreading. Reaper was dragging the reluctant girl to the direction Phelia disappeared to, begging her with his eyes to move. Whispering to himself “please, please, please.” The flames were licking the bookcase two rows left from. Reaper grabbed the girl by the waist, surprising her enough to stop resisting. He threw her over his shoulder and started running, hearing Vist footsteps behind him.
Wolf was sitting under a tree, carefully holding the egg in her hands. Longwei was scouting for food. The egg was not for eating. So small, she wondered, and yet so different. Its shell was harder than birds, which was lucky. Otherwise it might’ve broken during the stealing. Wolf slowly made circles on it with her fingers, imagining it would start to hatch. The egg was warm to the touch. At times she felt it vibrating or pulsating. What was about this egg that Anakim would offer billions for it?
When Longwei got back, she put the egg into her bag, now carefully wrapped in cloth. Longwei seemed disappointed, but he hid it with a smile.
“Here, I found some apples,” he said and Wolf looked at him like he had just said he brought her a rat to eat. Men, they can’t get anything done, can they? Which is why women were better, stronger, smarter and lived longer.
She took the apple given to her and stared at it as if it was poisoned, before biting into it. It was sour and she made a face.
“Hey, you never told me why they called you Wolf,” Longwei said and the girl thought, not again and rolled her eyes.
“It’s because I love to rip things in pieces and eat the raw meat of my enemies,” she said, throwing the apple into the nearby bush, standing up and putting the bag over her shoulder. She started walking to the general direction of a village and Longwei had no other choice but to follow her.
31. Missing. I think it was something about Longwai and Wolf, but honestly, I have no idea.
32. Followers of Shilen
Reaper put me down outside of the building that was collapsing in on itself and took long breaths to calm his drumming heart. I stared at the rubbles, the ruins, the pile that was left of the library, holding a book that I had managed to grab from one of the shelves close to my heart. So many books, so many stories, so much knowledge – gone like it never existed. I looked at the book in my hand and almost laughed out loud at the title. “Searching For True Love”. Out of all of what was inside that library: history, mystical creature species, plants specifications… that is what I managed to save? That and the scroll of Shilen that Kepalx stole last night. Kind of ridiculous. Still, I put the book into my bag, if not for reading then for remembrance.
“They were here,” Phelia said. “They can’t be far, let’s move.” And she began running in a random direction that might or might not lead to where the enemy had gone. Like a bloodhound she tracked the untrackable and surprisingly as we I started seeing a group of people walking away from the scene. Phelia fastened her pace and I started mumbling the protection spells, because it was clear that this was going to end in a fight.
“Hey you morons!” Phelia shouted out, “leaving so soon?”
One by one the people stopped, and turned around. One of them drew a sword, another two daggers, there was an archer and a mage. I stopped, breathless from the run and finished with my protection spell, buffs of sparks flying over all of us.
The mage laughed. “These tricks are good for Halloween party, but here they won’t help you in a real fight.”
It angered me to no end and against my better judgement I rushed towards him, before Vist or anyone else, khhh khhh Reaper, could stop me. I saw an arrow take flight as I collided with the man hitting his staff with my two swords and just before when he finished a spell I froze him into a rock, Kepalx’s blasts towards him, hitting an un-penetrable surface. I move my focus on the guy with daggers that Phelia fought with. Reaper tried to distract the archer, avoiding his arrows, while moving closer to him and Vist blasted the man with a sword to the other realm. Or… no, he was getting up again, even as one half of his face was burned away, the other half of it smirked back at us. He took his sword from the ground and pushed dirt from his armor while the mage I froze crushed through the spell and Kepalx into blast against blast fight with him, giving the Reanimated Man – seriously, more like moving skeleton – a job to protect his life with its own – as if it really has any life in him. Either way, it worked better than one would think, and Kepalx’s companion looked (to me at least) more natural than the burned faced swordsman now fighting with Reaper, as Vist decided to try his luck on the archer instead.
The Dagger gave us a hell of a fight, and even battling me and Phelia at the same time got a pretty good slice at me. I healed before the blood started flowing and focused some of my energy towards Kepalx when I said the spell and felt his relief before he got hit by another blast from the enemy.
I looked to the enemy mage, lets name him ‘Enage’, and saw a hole going through his stomach as he conjured yet another spell to hit Kepalx and I rushed him instead of trying to get through the Daggers defences. My attack came as a surprise to Enage and his spell went flying towards a tree that took sparks and lit up like a candle. The archer, Encher, drew away from the heat of it, getting out another arrow to aim at Vist. It gave me an idea and I started pushing Enage toward his own made ´small´ ever growing campfire. Kepalx caught on to what I attempted to do and focused on leading Enage towards the fire, too. When inched ever closer while Enage kept on blasting at Kepalx and me – can’t say I had easy time avoiding getting hit as I was a lot closer to him than Kepalx, but I always swirled towards the fire, getting him to step closer to it.
It got hot by the fire. I felt the flames as if I was the one burning instead of the forest. I was sweating in my armor, but I got closer to the fire, as I was leading Enage closer to it. Just as I was about to push Enage to the fire he hit me with a spell that threw me meters away and I landed feeling like I had been stomped by a herd of buffalos. I tried to concentrate on the healing magic, but I felt I was out of the essence of it. Sitting up was more difficult than one could think, but as I got up I saw Enage burning in the flames and Kepalx taking over Enchers duty as Vist was running towards me mumbling something under his breath and I felt him heal me.
I saw in my peripheral vision Reaper leading the Burn Face towards the fire as we had done with Enage. Phelia had cut off one of the Daggers hands and he was bleeding out but not stopping. As Reaper was nearing the fire he landed a lucky hit that went right through Burn Faces head and all of him dropped to the ground to never move again. Kepalx got encouraged by it and as Reaper was running towards the archer I joined Phelia again and tried to hit the Daggers head off. But then both Encher and Dagger went slack as if the power holding them up simply left.
The dark magic swirled around the group that defeated Shilens followers, getting out of the weak vessels. So weak were they, without it’s power they wouldve fallen like flies even before the Ertheia could have shouted ´Hey´. But this group? This group was strong, full of purpose and life and they had been victorious. The dark magic drew together and slowly swept into the ertheia standing over the fallen warrior, cutting its head off, as if the thing would walk again and then throwing the pieces into the fire. So clever they were. So smart. The ashes won’t walk, will they?
34. The power of love
We reached Rune, next stop Dion and then clan house. Vist thought it was a good idea to tell Tigger about our findings and what had happened. Sending a letter like this would not be safe. So easy for it to get into wrong hands. I personally thought it was a good idea, Reaper agreed too, but Phelia had been twitching since the Shilen soldiers and was mumbling about going North, past Schuttgart. I felt reluctance even hearing the name Schuttgart and Vist crumpled his face at the sound of it.
At the gatekeeper Vist asked to be taken to Dion.
“Have a nice day!” Ilyana said after opening the portal for us and we went through.
“We need to go to Schuttgart,” Phelia didn’t stop with it.
“We talk to Tigger first and see if he agrees with it,” Vist said annoyed by Phelia’s childishness. Something malicious crossed her face for a brief second, but it disappeared so fast I might’ve imagined it.
Tigger was at the door when we arrived, looking grim. He let his eyes travel over all of us, stopping at Phelia and his face transformed from relief to worried to dark fury. I glanced at Phelia, who couldn’t stop tapping at her armor with her fingers, one of her legs dug a hole into the dirt in front of the doorway.
“What happened?” Tigger said in a calm authoritative voice that made the hair at the back of my neck rise up.
“The monastery burned down,” Reaper said.
“More like exploded,” I added.
I felt Phelia next to me shaking with laughter. She stopped as soon as Tigger fixed his eyes on her again.
“Continue!” He ordered not looking away from the girl.
“It was obvious the explosion wasn’t an accident,” Reaper said, “and we went after the arsonists. They kept on fighting us even after they should’ve been long dead.”
“Is that all?” Tigger asked, still staring at the ertheia. I must say I had no idea what was up with that. Tigger held his hands in fists, his whole body was rigid. It wasn’t Im-glad-you’re-all-okay kind of stance. It looked more like a predator ready to attack, more like what-the-hell-did-you-do kind of face. More like for-the-love-of-God’s-this-is-not-really-happening kind of face. More like please-please-please-this-is-not-what-I-think-it-is kind of face. And I studied Phelia as she tried to hide behind Kepalx with no luck.
Phelia didn’t understand why Tigger was staring at her like she was the enemy, other than the fact that she felt sick in her stomach and in some part of her consciousness she knew that Shilen’s troops were hiding in Schuttgart territory and she felt the need to go there now. This instant. All her body was vibrating with the need to go. She tried to calm her racing heart. Tigger’s gaze on her made her want to run away and hide, so she stepped behind Kepalx. An action that brought out the young man’s reaction – he suddenly summoned out his Reanimated Man, looking surprised at that himself.
Phelia took a step back, putting her hands up in defence.
“What is going on?” Vist asked looking from Tigger to Phelia to Kepalx.
“I’m not sure,” Tigger said, stepping closer to Phelia as she took a step away from him. “Phelia, look at me, darling,” Tigger begged, but she was staring at the ground.
“To Schuttgart,” she whispered, “I need to go to Schuttgart.”
“Why?” Tigger asked, taking a step closer to her and she was too busy admiring the ground to step back when he gently put his hands on her shoulders. She started to shake.
“What is this?” Reaper asked, but noone answered.
“Look at me,” Tigger said again, more commanding.
Tigger put one of his hands under her chin and raised it upward. The touch made her shake even more.
“I will not!” Phelia said, her eyes closed now.
Tigger mock sighed then drew her closer and pressed his lips against hers.
Phelia startled so much she looked at the clan leader with big wide open eyes.
“Now you look at me?” he asked. “Go out of her, demon.”
And Phelia started to shake with laughter instead of fear.
“Go out of her!” Tigger said again.
How did he know? How did he know It was in her? It wasn’t a demon as he said about it. And the reference made It laugh, even if It was scared as hell. The others hadn’t noticed the dark magic inside of the ertheia. How did that man know? It didn’t want to leave this body. This body was strong, this body would serve It well. Shilen would be proud of this body. But the man ordering him out of it had power in his voice that shook Its binds.
“I don’t want to go,” It begged, it was pathetic. It realized that as soon as the words came out of the ertheia. This body was not made for begging. This body was made for fighting, for ruling beside the rightful queen of the lands.
“Phelia,” the man said gently, and the body the dark magic occupied stirred a little, “please hear me, because I’m only going to say this once.”
The Dark Magic felt the girl fighting It.
“Phelia, I love you.”
And that was the most fearful magic of all. That was why the Dark Magic had been scared of him the second he laid his eyes on the girl. The power of love.
It was ripped free from the girl and swirled around the group that could be so much more, that could be the force Shilen needed, if only they didn’t have love.
35. Get the egg
The first door opened to the snoring huuuge orc he had avoided talking with. Luckily, as the guy was making loud voices of his own, Delpher freaking out and shutting the door with a bang after him wasn’t that horrible. He took slow calming breaths to restrain his racing heart. One down, 25 to go, he whispered to himself and he stepped to another door and started working on it. When he heard the click of it unlocking he stopped breathing. Slowly he pushed the door open. It creaked and it stopped his blood, his lungs were screaming for air now, but he was afraid his intake would give him away. Delpher peeked into the room, it was dusty as if it hadn’t been used in a while and he breathed in with relief. two done, 24 to go. He closed that door and slowly dragged himself to the next door. His hands were shaking as he worked on its lock. `Tigger is gonna have to repay for this emotional damage´ he thought as he pushed the third door open and found it empty as well. three done, 23 to go.
Delpher let his hand go through his hair in frustration as he walked to the next door to pick on it’s lock. There were sounds coming from that room that made it pretty clear this room was occupied and he was glad to pass the door, murmuring under his breath that 4 was done. Behind the fifth door he started with the lock picking again. He had no idea what he’d do if he stumbled into the right room. He was sure the egg wasn’t just lying in front of the doorway, saying take me now and run. If Wolf was sleeping in the room and he had to search for the egg. The girl was sure to wake up at his steps or breathing or he’d stumble on something that would fall down with a horrible crash.
Five done, 21 to go.
Or he would not find the egg at all and would need to leave the lodging without it.
Six done, 20 to go.
He’d probably open the door to find the ertheia awake guarding the door, ready to attack. Seven done, 19 to go.
Delpher kept on telling himself the next door wouldn’t explode into his face, that it was either empty or the occupant was sleeping soundly. But as he opened the eigth door it did explode as a panther jumped off the bed, roared and rushed at him, crashing the door the investigator-thief-of-the-mongol-horde-clan had fastly closed before the beast reached him. He had to push on the door as the animal behind it scratched at it and whined.
“Berthillo!” it’s owner called out to it sleepily, but the panther did not stop. Delpher was trying to unpick the lock, hoping the noise wouldn’t wake up the others. He got the door back locked just as the room occupant tried it’s handle and he stepped back in fear and away from the door. Another one opened at the noise and Delpher tried to look like he had been doing nothing suspicious at all. In fact, as Wolf stepped out from the room across from the panther owner’s, Delpher pretended to yawn and muttered: “What is going on?” mentally kicking himself for sounding so unconvincing.
Wolf looked at Delpher with sleepy eyes and then at the door that opened revealing an angry panther and its owner.
“What is going on?” Delpher asked again as the animal growled at him. “People are trying to sleep.”
“I’m sorry the older woman said. “Berthillo is usually quite quiet. Something must’ve triggered him.”
Wolf looked annoyed as the panther growled again. “This is the main reason why I don’t like pets,” she murmured.
Delpher looked at her curiously. “Is there anything you do like?”
Wolf laughed, “surely, there should be some,” she said as the woman dragged her panther back into the room and closed the door.
Wolf turned to go back to her room too and Delpher knew he had to do something. And he knew that seduction was not the answer. She might find some things she liked, but she had made it clear that men weren’t among that list. “You are leaving in the morning, right?” he asked and Wolf stopped.
“Yes,” she said, “we will teleport to Schuttgart, why?”
“I just had great time last night talking with you and Longwei, figured we could get a drink before you go.” Delpher felt like hitting his head against the wall. He didn’t like to drink and especially in the morning. The beer in that inn had tasted like piss last night and he didn’t know how anyone would enjoy drinking it.
“Alright,” she said. And he thought if it could really be that easy.
After Wolf had gone back to her room, Delpher did the same. Now he knew in which room she was in, but breaking in there wouldn’t work. He sat on his bed, making shapes out of the sheets, while thinking. How would he get the egg? How would anyone get the egg?
Oh, Victoriel would probably get the egg just fine, he thought, she’d just turn invisible and go get it. What a convenient skill to have right now.
In the morning Delpher sat at the bar, Akarina, who looked like a buffalo herd had ran over her sat next to him, sipping something the innkeeper said would take the headache away. Erwanis would have worked better than the drink, most likely, but the healer was still sleeping. Delpher had woken Akarina, who was not very happy about it, but was willing to help. His plan was that he did not really have a decent plan. He had belladonna drops in his pocket that he hoped he didn’t have to use. He should’ve woken up Erwanis, too.
Longwei came from the accommodating area, waved at Delpher and walked cheerfully towards them. “Hey man!” he called out. Getting to them, he sat next to him.
“Slept well?” Delpher asked.
“Naah, there was this crazy animal making a lot of noise in the room next to me.” Then Longwei looked to Akarina, “and who is this beauty?”
“Akarina,” Delpher said, as she was just taking a sip from her strange smelling drink. “We are travelling together.”
Akarina made a face at the taste that Longwei did not miss. “Whatcha drinking?” he asked, nodding at the cup she was holding.
“Some health potion that tastes like rotten eggs,” Akarina answered.
Longwei laughs. “She’d get along with Wolf really well.”
Delpher had hoped that too. They had to get along just as long as it took to get the egg. And there she came, bag over her shoulder looking ready to port to Schuttgart right away.
“Wolf, here you are,” Longwei called out to the ertheia, ordering a drink for her from the innkeeper.
“We should start going,” the girl said, not coming closer and that was Akarinas que to play.
She stood up, took the drink Longwei had ordered and walked towards Wolf. “So serious, I haven’t even gotten to talk with you,” she said, handing the drink to her. “Delph says you are traders. Do you think you’d be able to get a jewel for me? I’ve been looking for one for ages, but I’ve never found anything as good as the one enchanted with a bottle of soul. Do you think you could get me one?”
Delpher stared at Akarina. She was guiding Wolf to the table and sat down next to her.
“Such a thing will not be cheap,” Wolf said. “What would you need such a jewel for?”
“Times are changing,” Akarina said.
“Aren’t they always?” Wolf muttered, devouring the drink she was holding.
Akarina managed to get Wolf talking about her childhood in Faeron village, after the second drink. After the third one, she had succeeded in getting close enough to touch her bag. After the fifth drink, the ertheia was so drunk, she did not notice the other girl reaching into her bag and taking the carefully wrapped egg from it. After the sixth drink Akarina and Delpher excused themselves from the company, wished them good travelling and disappeared into the accommodating area, victorious in their quest.
36. Clan meeting
We were all in the clan house. The other group had arrived recently – and not alone, but with five strangers. Tigger was not happy about it, but he had other things in mind, so he let them be. An orc sat across from me and was staring at me like a hungry predator. I felt Reaper’s explosive energy reacting to the orcs’ attention. He was sitting next to me and he moved closer, until our legs touched and it made me catch my breath. Akarina was excitedly chatting with Phelia. The two girls I didn’t know sat quietly beside the orc and the other strangers. Delpher was with the boss in his office. When they joined us, Tigger’s mood was a bit more cheerful than before, it felt as if the already so full living room got cramped. Delpher squeezed to sit down next to me, giving me a bright smile, and making me practically sit on Reapers lap.
“Don’t worry about Slides,” Delpher whispered, “he looks scarier than he really is.”
“Womble looks like a kitten next to him,” I whispered back and he laughed out loud at the comparison, catching the attention of the room.
“I’ll protect you,” Delpher said with amusement.
“Believe me, if it came to a fight,” Reaper – who had apparently overheard our conversation – said, “the orc would most likely win against you.”
Delpher laughed again, knowing it was probably true.
Tigger started talking about the plans in a very boss-like manner.
Delpher next to me whispered: “Show off. Needs to let them know who has the authority here.”
That made me chuckle and get a very Eyon-like glance my way from the leader, saying contain-your-excitement-grasshopper-this-is-not-the-time-for-it.
“How did your mission go?” I asked Delpher quietly, when Tigger was reading over clan rules to the newcomers.
“Tower was empty, so we didn’t get any information from the mages, but we did not return empty handed. How about yours?” He whispered back.
I felt Reaper glancing my way and then his fingers on my leg, just a little bit up from the knee. My stomach exploded with swirling energy when I answered: “the monastery burnt down, got into fight with Shilen warriors, Phelia had some spirit in her before Tigger ordered it out, but otherwise was quite resourceful.”
Delpher turned his head to look at me. “Are you serious?”
“Yeah,” I sighed.
Reaper’s thumb made circles on my leg and I bit my lip. Slides, the orc had turned to listen to Tigger.
“You will have time to chat,” Reaper whispered to me, his breath tickling the skin around my ear. “Right now you should listen.”
Did he think I could listen with his fingers drawing shapes on my leg. Why were his fingers drawing shapes on my leg? Like sitting right next to me wasn’t enough. In fact, my whole side was pressed next to him, as Delpher was nudging me towards the other man with his bulky shoulder.
“It seems the enemy loves to be around Schuttgard,” Tigger said. “All evidence is showing that Shilen or her followers are in that territory. Our next most logical action is to go find them.”
“Do you think the most logical action is also the most reasonable one?” Vist asked. I’m sure he felt the same kind of reluctance to go to Schuttgart that I did.
Tigger turned his attention toward Vist who sat next to Kepalx and Womble. “I have not finished, Vist, so shut up!”
“Our goal should be finding out how many troops they have and where, then we can make an attack plan.”
Vist wasn’t happy to hear that, he looked like he wanted to say something and had hard time shutting himself up like he was ordered to.
Reaper stopped drawing shapes on me, but his hand still warmed up my leg. Slides didn’t stare at me anymore, but had taken Phelia as his new study object.
“My proposal is,” Tigger said, “to make a volunteer team to go to Schuttgart territory to investigate. The only one I’d need to accept with this is Victoriel, as she has Devil’s Movement and would be necessary for the team’s safety.”
Of course it was me that had to go to Schuttgart. It just had to be me. Schuttgart, here I come, ready or not. Schuttgart, the land of childhood memories. Schuttgart – where you can feel at home, hurray.
Everyone stared at me. Reaper’s hand squeezed my leg instead of simply resting on it, I don’t think he realised it. Vist’s eyes were ablaze with fire. And he exploded it out. “You can’t make her do it! You know what she went through in there!”
“I said, shut up, Vist!” Tigger said with his calm authoritative manner, “it’s not your decision to make.”
Vist had his hands in fists, his muscles showing through his shirt, that’s how tense he was. I felt as if everyone was looking at me. They probably were.
“I’ll protect you,” Delpher whispered to me again, this time dead serious.
“Okay,” I breathed out, “to Shuttgart then.”
Tigger nodded and Vist looked at me as if I was insane.
“Vic, you can’t be serious!”
“I am serious, Vist. This is serious. If I won’t go, who will? Who are you to tell me what I should or should not do?”
And after that all hell broke loose. The usually so loving and cheerful company started to debate and argue as to what they should actually do and if sending us to Shilen’s dominion was a brilliant idea. Only the new five sat quietly watching the discussion happen. A Kamael girl whispered something to another girl and they shared a look
I wanted to point out the spirit that had possessed Phelia. I mean, that could’ve happened to any of us, that might still happen to any of us, right?
Of course I was scared. I was terrified to be sent out like this. But I never felt that needed either. The whole time I was in training I thought I could never be of use like the guy who cut down a tree with just three hits, or the girl who accidentally blasted a hole through one of the dorm buildings (she was punished later for her carelessness, but the skill was cherished afterwards when she got it under control). Eyon said, everyone cannot be alike, we all have our strong and weak sides. And the things you might see as your weakness, might become a strength in other situations. You might look at someone and see strength while the person themselves only saw weakness, too. Eyon had seen strength in me, Tigger did too. It was time for me to start seeing that as well.
“Silence, all of you!” Tigger shouted out and it pierced through me like an arrow. Reaper, who had tried to explain statistically how this operation would be either successful or not, depending on different factors, quieted down. Vist at the same time had made his opinion clear as day was ordered to shut down again. Kepalx had tried to say something during the open-mouth time, but mostly just listened. Erwanis had tried to calm people down and make them take turns while speaking, without any result. Now everyone waited quietly for Tigger’s instructions.
“Who is willing to go with her?”
Delpher said without a pause: “I go.”
Vist sighed, threw his hands up in the air in frustration and let them fall through his hair. “I’m going with my sister, of course, I’m going with her.”
“Me too,” Reaper said, his fingers starting the circling exercises on my leg once more and I thought if I should tell him to stop. My stomach made weird flips at his movement that I kind of liked and kind of didn’t.
“My sword is at your service, my lady,” Slides said, standing up and kneeling before me.
Delpher beside me turned to look at the girls still sitting on their places and they slowly nodded to each other, agreeing to join.
I’m counting to myself, Vist – the feoh with somewhat of a healing skills, Delpher – great fighter, Reaper – even greater fighter, the orc – most likely a great fighter, the kamael girl and the other girl, whose postures did not tell a thing about how great fighters or not great fighters they were. Seven of us together. More would be too much, if we wanted to stay under the enemies radar and that is exactly what Tigger said, announcing the volunteering into let’s-get-killed party closed.
“You will leave in the morning,” Tigger said, and it made me look outside to see the sun setting. That was going to be fun.
Tigger was so relieved that Phelia did not volunteer to go to Schuttgart. Not that he thought it would be overly dangerous expedition, because it most likely wasn’t. Tigger just didn’t want to let her go out of his sight just yet. Knowing she was safe gave him peace.
After the meeting was called finished, Tigger went to his office and took out the egg Delpher had delivered him, feeling it pulsing in his hands.
What have we got here, he wondered. He searched out the scrolls from the mage of Ivory Tower, scrolls sent in secret trust. Scrolls sent by one of Tigger’s childhood friends. The one he was looking for had sketches on it. Sketches of the same egg. Half of the language was in an unknown language, and the other half was talking about the end days of Kingdoms and power and the egg seemed to be the key to something. Key to what? Who could he turn to to get this text translated? He sighed, put his papers back into the drawer of his table and took the egg with him to his bedroom. It was giving out small energy waves when Tigger set it on his bed to go get cleaned with the warmed up water in a pucket next to the window.
“What is it, little guy,” he asked the egg that was still pulsing and giving out energy waves when he got back to the bed now decently clean. Of course the egg couldn’t answer. Carefully he set it under his bed, before he fell asleep.
I woke up to Delpher gently shaking me.
“Victoriel, time to rise up and shine,” he said when I opened my eyes.
“Ughh,” I groaned and tried to hide under my pillow, but he took that away from me.
“You better wake up, before Reaper or Vist come and drag you out of bed. Your brother is not in the best mood.”
“I can imagine,” I whispered as I sat up in bed, letting the warm covers fall of, revealing overly large shirt that I sleep in.
Delpher raised an eyebrow at that.
“That belonged to Eyron,” I said and he just nodded.
“Monard cooked breakfast,” Delpher said standing up from my bedside. “I’ll let you get ready and meet you in the kitchen.” He smiled at me and went to the door. “By the way,” he said looking back just before opening the door, “did you notice the new armor and blades in the closet? Tigger bought these for you.” And then he was on the other side of the door, walking away from my room.
I stood up and went to my closet. In it there lay a beautiful armor and two shadow swords. I took a breath in wonder. How could Tigger… why would he.. this is so much.. so much like Eyorn.
I fell to my knees, tears in my eyes that I had held back for so long. My cheeks got wet as I was shaking on the floor with the loss I had carried in me.
I was still crying when I heard a soft knock on my door, the klick of it opening and the klick of it closing.
“Are you okay?”
It was Reaper. Of course, it was Reaper. He had to be the one present in all my breakdowns. Slowly my anguish turned into shame of letting my weakness come out and play again. And that turned to anger. Get yourself together, elf! Get yourself together.
I felt Reaper kneeling down next to me and running his hands through my hair, whispering things, like he did back at the Canyon-Of-Sacrifice, and all my emotions fell away into peace.
“Are you okay?” Reaper asked again quietly. “If you don’t want to go, say it. We will think something else out. I can tell it to Tigger myself, you wouldn’t have to do anything.”
Of course, he’d think that. Of course, it would look like that. “It’s not that,” I whispered as I dried my tears. How do I tell him that I’m crying because of that armor? How do I tell him that Eyorn was the only one who ever had bought me anything at all? How do I tell him that this gift is so much.. so so so much bigger than just new things. This gesture. How do I say that? “It’s not that,” I said again and looked at him. His expression was full of concern. His beautiful features making that demonstration of emotion even more stricking. And for a second, I just stared at him, paralyzed by the way his eyes poured out to me.
“It was just a memory of Eyorn,” I said. “They sometimes come at me unexpectedly.”
Reaper waited quietly to see if I’d say anything else and to my own surprise, I did. “First time I got anything new – anything that hadn’t been used by hundreds of other children before me – was when Eyorn took me away from the Camp of Destruction. It was a wooden horse he had crafted himself. He said it is time I learned how to summon my own horse. That wooden replica of a horse was to help me focus on the task.”
“You must have loved him dearly,” Reaper said, looking at the floor.
“I was a lost child in a place full of persecution. Eyon was my refuge. He was the only one who cared.”
“You have us now,” Reaper said, his eyes are full of fire, “I know it cannot truly replace what you lost, but we will be there for you. We will protect you and help you any way we can.”
I smile at him. “Thank you.”
The armor is staring back at me from my closet. “I should get ready, everybody is waiting, aren’t they?”
“Last I checked Delpher was stuffing himself with chicken, Vist was walking circles around the dining table, making Tigger’s panther anxiously flopping with its tail. Slides was checking out Akarina’s butt. Drielle and Harle were gossiping to Phelia about something too girly to even try to listen in. They can wait, if you need to take a second.”
“Thank you,” I said again, getting an overwhelming feeling of gratefulness.
“I’ll let you get ready,” he said standing up and reaching out his hand to pull me to my feet. His hand felt soft in mine against all the odds. I expected it to be roughened by the ax he fights with. He holds my hand a second too long after getting me up. “Do I tell Phelia to come help you, or will you be alright?”
My first reaction is to say that I’ll be fine, but after a pause I say that he can send Phelia. It’d be good to spend that little time with her before we leave for our however long journey.
I laid the pieces of the armor out on the bed before Phelia arrived.
“Hey,” I said.
She smiled at me. “I can’t believe I’m not able to come with you. I went to Tigger afterwards, told him that I want to go too, but he said there are enough people already. He even sounded irritated.”
“He must have a lot of things he is dealing with,” I said and looked at how Phelias puzzling face turned into excitement as she took in my new armor.
“You got a new armor?! It is beautiful. I bet you look great in it, why haven’t you already put it on?”
I had to smile at her easy compliments. “I have only ever had one armor. It had become a habit to wear it. This one is different, though. All those straps and fastenings. It needs some getting used to.”
Phelia was shining. “Oh it is not so difficult at all, let me show you!”
She started taking the breastplates and shoulder badges and placing them on me, all the while talking.
“Reaper seems really into you,” she suddenly said and I blushed. “I couldn’t help but notice him looking at you when we were at the monastery. And the fight with Vist – did you really sleep in his arms like Vist said? You would be so adorable together. And the way he came to the kitchen, after talking to you, it looked as if he had enchanted his weapon to +8. What did you tell him?”
I’m blinking. Is this the part where I can start answering the questions? Or were they all rhetorical? Phelia is quiet now, waiting for my response.
“I don’t think I said anything that big. I might have told him about a memory.”
“Now I get it,” Phelia said cheerfully, jumping up and down.
“Well, I don’t,” I said, putting the gauntlets on.
“Don’t give me that face!” I have no idea what face she was talking about. “Reaper is a nice guy, he will take care of you, love you, cherish you. I don’t see why you ignore him.”
“I don’t ignore him,” I said, taking up one of the swords and examining it, trying out its weight.
“Yes you do!”
“Like you ignore Tigger?”
I laughed at the face she made. “He won’t let you come with us, because he doesn’t want you anywhere near Shilen and the spirits. Didn’t you see the way he looked at you when we arrived and he realized something was wrong. It was as if he would kill Antharas all over again and alone if he had to.”
“He did not!” Phelia denied it.
“He kissed you!”
And at that Phelia turned beet red. “It was.. it..”
“Noup. He is definitely into you.”
“How did this get to me? We were talking about you and Reaper.”
I laughed again. “See, you do ignore it.”
I placed my swords on the holsters at my back feeling ready to fight.
“About you and Reaper,” Phelia started again, “you do like him, right?”
“At times he makes my stomach full of butterflies, other times I am afraid as hell.”
“Afraid of what?” Phelia looked stricken.
“Of.. of men? I don’t know, Phelia. I’m just afraid and I can’t help it.”
At the other side of the door Delpher and Reaper stood quietly, their ears pressed against the wood, trying to hear what the girls were talking. Quietly, until Tigger interrupted their activity, and Delpher, totally accidentally fell against the doorknob and then into the room through the opening door.
“Um, hi?” said Reaper, who stands awkwardly next to Tigger behind the now open door.
Delpher got himself up to see both of the girls blushing. Victoriel looked great in her new armor and just a glance to Reaper showed that he noticed it, too. It made Delpher grin. Those two would be amazing together. And then he wondered why arranging this pairing was so much easier than talking with Drielle. Well, not why it was easier.. of course it was easier. He just noticed the fact of it being easier.
“We were just.. um.. coming to see.. you know.. if you are ready,” Reaper got out. “There’s still some food left too-”
“Reaper made sure of that there would be,” Delpher got in, before Reaper continued.
“- you should eat before we go.”
Tigger looked from Delpher to Reaper on the verge of bursting out in laughter. He kept himself together though saying: “And you really should start going soon.”
At that Victoriel took a backpack from the bed and walked past all of them, smiling shyly at Reaper when he had to step back to let her through. “I do need some breakfast,” she said, and off she went.
Reaper was glowing.
“If you tell me what you heard I won’t let them know you were spying on them,” Tigger said and the men shared a look before nodding to the boss.
“It was the usual girlish chitchat,” Delpher said.
“They did mention you a couple of times… regarding a kiss. What happened?” Delpher asked.
“Oh, that was when we got back,” Reaper said and Tigger smiled wolfishly.
“Best way to get rid of evil spirits is to show them a little love.”
“And then they talked about Reaper,” Delpher continued. And it was Reaper’s turn to grin like an idiot. What a weird punch of folk.
40. The new girls
Shuttgart was even darker than I remembered. I kept looking at Vist, wanting to know, but afraid to ask if he remembered where we’d lived. I certainly did not. Because in my memory, everything was greener and bluer and more colorful in every other way. I couldn’t remember living in this gray mass. Rock upon rock, and only rock.
Vist looked grim, his hands roughly around his staff, as if someone would come and attack us right here on the streets of Schuttgart. Mr. Slides with walking besides didn’t look scary as hell, noup not at all. It would have come as a huge surprise for me if anyone had the guts to turn against us.
Even Delpher looked bad ass, when he didn’t stand too close to the orc. Us, girls though were something else. Harlequim looked rather cute with her flopping wing as she walked next to Drielle and chatted away about a cottage outside the Schuttgart walls.
THE COTTAGE OUTSIDE SHUTTGART WALLS 15 years ago
Drielle was playing with the dolls dad had made her on the kitchen floor, where mom was cooking dinner. She didn’t want to play anywhere else, even as the living room was empty and way more spacious. There, in the kitchen, was warm by the fire and together with mom. Mom did keep on saying she was on the way, when she went to get carrots from the pantry and had to step over her. And also when she returned with the vegetables, Drielle was still sitting at the same place, combing the hair made out of horsetail of the wooden doll. Mom said she could’ve knitted her a soft bear or made her a rabbit out of cloth, but Drielle loved her doll. Every girl had soft animal toys. Fathers only made wooden things for the boys. But her father had made her something! And nothing else was as special as this.
And there he came, the door opened, bringing with it a cold winter breeze and her father. He was holding something in his hands, and that something was crying loudly as Drielle’s dad was trying to shush it. Mom turned from her cooking to see what dad had brought home this time.
“Getha,” she breathed when she saw the child in her husband’s hands.
“She was left at the caves, Danelle,” Getha said, gently placing the child on a living room couch so he could take off his snowy boots and wolf fur coat.
“It’s a hard time for the kamaels,” Getha explained, as if Danielle didn’t know. As if it wasn’t a hard time for everyone else, too. But then again, everyone else wasn’t made to be living killing machines…. yet. Not just yet.
“What makes you think we could keep a kamael child,” Danelle sighed, looking at the kid that was trying to get out of the bundle of blankets around her and flopping around with them, majorly puzzled. Her lone wing was moving in the same rhythm as her hands.
Drielle had gotten up from the kitchen floor. She had taken her doll and moved to see what her parents were talking about. She had gotten only a few steps into the living room, though, when she stopped, staring at the creature on their couch now successfully free of the blankets, her eyes wider than Drielle’s with surprise and curiosity.
“It’s just for a couple of days,” Getha told his wife, as Drielle was taking stalking steps towards the funny kid in their living room. “I will ask around, certainly someone must’ve seen something.”
Danelle sighed again, looking at her husband with affection. Drielle, though, was now pretty close to the other kid, carefully touching the wing on her back and getting hit by it instead as it opened suddenly by reflex. Drielle stepped back and stared instead. “This is my home,” she said with her eyes. The other girl sat quite still now on the couch staring right back, her hands around herself in a protective manner. They had the staring contest until Getha noticed and told Drielle to be nice and introduce herself to the new kid as she was staying for awhile.
Danelle went back to the kitchen to finish dinner. She heard her daugher carefully saying “I am Drielle, and you are?”
The winged girl studied the other one, before saying “Harlequim.”
THE COTTAGE OUTSIDE SHUTTGART WALLS 12 years ago
Drielle and Harle were playing outside when an armored man walked to the house asking for Getha.
“Dad is inside,” Drielle said and the guy walked right in without knocking.
When he disappeared inside, Drielle and Harlequim left their toys on the grass and sneaked to the living room window.
“We need an army,” the man was saying, “it is getting worse. The kamaels cannot fight it alone. A lot of them are fighting against us.”
Drielle and Harle shared a look with each other.
“The council has made the decision, and you need to carry it out”
“To go take children from their parents for army training?” Getha was saying.
“Either that or your own girls will be taken as well,” the soldier said and dad had a sour look on his face. Drielle felt this was something they shouldn’t be listening in on, but they couldn’t really stop. Dad wouldn’t give them away, would he?
Getha looked at the strange man with fury that he even dared to threaten him. Didn’t he know his reputation? Didn’t he know his pets were thirsty for blood and sometimes it was hard to hold them back. If he even looked at the girls in a way Getha didn’t like he’d not go back alive. But if the whole council knew he was raising up a kamael… if the council only knew…
“I will do it,” Getha said.
“Good,” the soldier replied with a grin, “you will come today to the counselor to get the badge.”
THE COTTAGE OUTSIDE SHUTTGART WALLS 9 years ago
Drielle summoned her pets again while Harle was sitting on a tree branch, watching her. Drielle tried to make one of the pets attack a mark the girls had set up, but the creature was circling her instead, wanting to play.
“Please listen to me and attack the wooden mark,” Drielle begged but the creature did not listen, but raised it’s hands to touch her hair. Harle was giggling. Drielle didn’t know what was so funny. Every time dad came home, he was exhausted and in a bad mood. At dinner table he was talking about how the kids of the army were treated. After an hour though, he would smile at them and hug them and they would sit by the fire together listening to him reading from a storybook.
Still, Drielle had taken it as her mission to teach herself and her pets, that had first showed up a year ago, what it was like to be in an army. Harle didn’t like to fight, though. So most of the time when Drielle struggled to get her creature to follow commands she was either playing by herself or watching her sister. Most of the time it was just as amusing as that particular time. But after awhile, to both of their surprise, Drielle’s pets started to take interest in the target practice. One time one of them hit a glass bottle set as a target and it exploded into pieces that fell across the yard and pierced both Harle and Drielle. That was when Harle discovered her gift of healing. The glass pieces could be found days after that in the grass and the girls decided not to walk bare footed there.
This is how the girls grew up, and what they remembered when walking through the city.
This is a little something I wrote for a NYC Midnight flash fiction challenge. There was a 1000 word limit, but I took the liberty to extend it. This is not the same version of the story I submitted to the competion.
All rights are reserved.
Chuck Tucker investigations
The Club Shooting
The beat was sick and the crowd wild. I might’ve had one too many shots, but it didn’t matter when the stunning blonde ran her hands down my chest. We were crammed up against the bar with a bunch of other partygoers, most of them pissed off drunk or on their way to it. I’d ordered her a cocktail, but she was already slurring her words before I squeezed in next to her. A couple of compliments and suggestive comments later and she was leaning into me. Not my usual type, but she was hot as fuck and I didnt bother to care about the rest when she bit down on my earlobe.
I pulled her closer to me, letting her know exactly what I thought of her sneaky tongue and soft lips sucking on my neck. Her breasts pressed up against my chest were probably fake, but that ass I was gripping was perfectly firm, perfection.
It was my day off, nothing to stop me from having some much needed release. The local club, Wicked Angels, was as good a place as any to find what I needed and the woman writhing against me was ready to give it.
There were too many people around. Drunk or not, this wasn’t the place to continue our introductions. She seemed to be on the same page, because as her hands roamed around my chest, her lips uttered exactly what I was thinking.
“Let’s get outta here.”
I had just taken her up on her offer when the first shot was fired. Right in the middle of the raving dance party. Right in the middle of my fucking night out. Right as I was about to get out and get laid. It blasted off into the beat of music almost perfectly. To untrained ears it came and went, unnoticed. I almost thought I’d imagined it and was about to blame it on my nerves. Only the scream of a terrified, practically naked brunette got me to look twice at the scene unfolding in one of the most secure clubs in LA.
The crowd parted to a white gangster-brat waving a gun around like it was a toy; the brunette wailed as a young man at her feet bleed out from a fatal chest wound. A heroic young man attempted to wrestle the weapon away from the lunatic, but that only caused it to rapidly fire six more rounds into the crowd. He ended up with a bullet in his leg for the effort.
The blonde who had promised me a good time stood in shock, still pressed up against me, as several more people dropped on the dancefloor with various injuries. Some dove to the floor seeking cover.
Seven rounds had been fired now. If the magazine had been fully loaded he’d have ten, maybe eleven bullets left. I was pretty certain he was gripping a 9mm Glock, but it was hard to tell in the dimness of the club. It had sure as hell sounded like one and at this point I trusted my ears more than my eyes. The flashing LED lights roaming through the room didn’t help my vision one bit.
Reluctantly, I released my hold on the blonde. Ashley? Aileen? No freaking clue.
I managed to make only three steps toward the idiot disturbing my weekend when the gun, definitely a Glock, pointed right at me.
“Now, why don’t we just chill for a minute, hmm?” I suggested. I had my hands up to make him believe I was no threat. My own gun was across the street in my car. Clubs like Wicked Angels had a strict no gun policy that I respected the hell out of. Only now, staring down the barrel of one that somehow managed to pass through the inspection, made me crave for my S&W.
A group of security tried to clear a path through the chaos, but they wouldn’t be fast enough.
“Stay the fuck back.” The kid’s hands shook. Two wild eyes stared back at me. He was scared shitless, but that didn’t stop him from waving the weapon around.
The man who’d been shot first drew his last breath and the brunette kneeling next to him let out a horrible cry, but as long as the gun was pointed at me the rest of them would be alright.
“What’s the plan here?” Even though I would’ve very much liked to be locked up in a hotel room with the woman I’d left by the bar, I was unable to ignore the thrill of adrenaline rushing through my veins. I’d dealt with many of his type on the line of duty. It could get all kinds of bad real quick. “Shoot a dude, cause a scene and get out? How’s that getting out part coming along?”
“Stay the fuck back!” The kid shouted again.
I had taken two more steps forward, hoping he didn’t notice. God, he was what? Barely twenty one? If even that. No, he must have been younger. He wore a ballcap backwards, loose jeans ripped at the knees and a T-shirt. Heavy chain hung around his neck completing the look. No visible tattoos. No scars. He was also lacking the street hardened ‘I’ve seen some shit’ stare in his eyes. He was too young and terrified to fit the recent gang activities picking up around the neighbourhood. Could’ve been a new recruit?
The recent rise in crime was concerning on its own, but having a shooting in the middle of a crowded nightclub was a new low. The Black Raven’s were either incredibly stupid or getting way too bold with their attacks. Unless this prick was here all on his own. A possibility, however slim. His shaking hands and trembling upper lip led me to believe he was not accustomed to violence. His eyes flicked to the dead man on the floor before turning back at me. The pure terror in his expression once the realization hit – he’d killed a man – showed it must’ve been his first. What the fuck was he doing here?
“Why don’t you give me the gun and I’ll walk you out. Save you from the trouble of finding the way yourself, hmm?”
The security had reached the scene and tried to clear the crowd. The movement of people scurrying away caught the kid’s eye and he turned in a sudden, unexpected motion. That’s when he saw the security team of six. The fucker emptied his magazine into one of the onlookers. His finger must’ve twitched on the trigger in surprise. I couldn’t fathom it being deliberate after staring into his fear stricken eyes, but as I counted ten shots banging out while rushing the rest of the way toward the bastard, now exposing his back to me, it was obvious I’d read him wrong. Ten whizzing bullets crushed through an unlucky redhead standing next to one of the security guards before I reached the little shit, ripped the weapon away and gave him a blow to the face just for the sake of it.
I only had a slight glance at the gun before I tucked it in my waistband. The slide hadn’t locked back. His magazine had been fully loaded. Not letting the son-of-a-bitch recover from my hit, I secured him in an arms lock, pushing his arm up behind his back harder than was necessary.
Allowing myself only one regretful look back at the blonde, I walked the boy out like I said I would. The woman hadn’t moved from where I’d left her. She was visibly shaken. As one of the less drunk visitors put a hand around her, I knew she’d find her comfort elsewhere tonight. I focused my attention to getting the fuck out.
Two of the security followed us out of the still blaringly loud main club as the rest of them dealt with the bloody aftermath. They should have cut the music as soon as the shit hit the van, but whoever was behind the controls must have been as shocked as everyone else.
The entrance was quieter, but not free of chaos. Besides the wide-eyed girl by the coat racks, thirty something people pushed at the counter, refusing to leave without their belongings, but eager to get out nonetheless. A wasted young man was climbing over the barrier to get to his coat faster and the poor girl dealing out jackets for a restless couple was unable to stop the punk.
I had my own hands full, but would have expected the two security guards to try and calm the crowd. They didn’t even look at the people. Instead of dealing with their duties they spent their time stopping me from marching the kid – now a murderer of at least two – out of the front doors and into the station.
“Sir. We’ll take it from here. The police are on their way.” The guy reached out for the kid.
Even though I’d left my gun in the car, I hadn’t bothered to lose the badge, so I fished it out of my pocket to flash it at the guards. “They’re already here. Chuck Tucker, LAPD.”
The two men shared a look. One of them gritted his teeth. “Follow us, Mr. Tucker.”
“I’d rather not.”
The chattier one let out a short chuckle. “I’m afraid we can’t let you leave with the criminal.”
I raised an eyebrow at them. I could’ve done whatever the fuck I wanted with the criminal, walking out being one of the easiest things. Still, I decided to play along. “Lead the way.”
The criminal in question had relaxed in my hold the moment the two guards stopped me. If that didn’t raise any alarm bells then the second guard fidgeting with his belt and looking at anything else but me most certainly did. The guards were in on the crime. That would explain how the kid smuggled the gun inside the club. The ‘why’ I’d find out shortly.
They took me through an unmarked door to an empty hallway. I couldn’t help but notice a camera at the corner as it moved to capture our passage, being fitted with motion detectors. The whole club would be full of cameras. To think that the Black Ravens – they had to be part of the gang – would believe they’d get away with such a public display of violence. The nerds behind their computers back in the station would find the identities of the rogue security guards and the kid within a few clicks when they get their hands on the tape.
“In here.” One of the men pointed to a sterile holding room, pulled the kid from my arms and pushed me through, instead.
I had expected something of the sort and pulled the kid’s gun out in less than a second. The last – eighteenth – bullet in the chamber pierced through his chest faster than he could’ve said ‘shit’. Dropping the now useless weapon, I charged at the other man, smashing his head against the wall behind him. He lost consciousness after the fourth blow. The kid was even easier to subdue.
This sure as hell wasn’t how I’d intended to spend my evening, but there I was in a secluded hallway with one security bleeding out, the other lying next to him on the floor and the kid – hands tied behind him with a belt I’d pulled out of the unconscious guard’s pants – rambling about whole bunch of bullshit.
Personally, I didn’t give two fucks about the guard that I’d shot, but it wouldn’t look too good on me if I did nothing about his wound now that I’d subdued the threat. Half-heartedly, I pulled off his jacket, revealing a tattoo of a raven skeleton on his arm. Fucking knew it! I wrapped the cloth tightly around the wound expecting it would slow down the bleeding enough until the ambulance arrived. The bullet had missed all the important stuff. The fucker would survive.
“What was the plan, hmm?” I ask.
He didn’t answer. No surprise there. He was starting to look pale and his eyes were rolling back. I wouldn’t get any answers out of this one, so I turned the question towards the still rambling kid. He had crouched into a fetal position, his whole body shook. Not once did he stop his rambling.
I pulled out my phone and dialled Tylor.
He picked up on the third ring. I could hear the sirens blaring in the background through the connection. He’s on his way. “Chuck, whatever it is, I don’t have time for it. I’ll call you back after I’ve dealt with this club shooting that got called in a few minutes ago.”
“Don’t hang up, Ty.” Fuck.
I called him again.
“For fuck’s sake, Chuck-”
I didn’t let him finish and hang up on me again. “If you get to Wicked Angels, come through the unmarked door next to the garderobe. I’ve got the shooter and two gang members tied up. Bring Liz, too if she’s with you. One of them’s bleeding all over the floor.”
“Jesus, Chuck, weren’t you supposed to have a day off?”
“Didn’t pan out that way.”
The ambulance got there before Tylor and Elizabeth did and took one of the perps away. I told them to care for the victims first, even if this idiot would die without immediate medical assistance. The woman wheeling him away gave me a disapproving stare, before she disappeared down the corridor. A couple of minutes later Tylor strolled in. Elizabeth was right behind him, but I didn’t need her anymore as the nurse had already taken care of the injured guard.
“Took you a while.” I pushed off the wall I’d been leaning against. The kid had stopped muttering nonsense and the guard I’d knocked out had come around when the nurse looked over his companion. She’d wanted to wheel him away too, but other than a mild concussion this bastard would be alright. He didn’t need to take any more time away from the real patients.
“Since when do you tie up nightclub security guards?” Tylor asked, taking one look at the fella sitting in his mate’s blood.
“This one is Black Raven. So was the other one.” I said.
“You shot the one that was just wheeled away?” Elizabeth asked. What was it with women and disapproval today. I really should have walked off with the blonde when I had the chance and left this whole mess for someone else to clean up.
I took her in. Her black hair was just long enough to tuck it out of her face and behind her ears. Those warm brown eyes that found compassion even for the people who didn’t deserve it stared at me with a sharp glare she only reserved for me. I’d never seen her wear much makeup, didn’t think her fair features needed to be covered up with the stuff. She was fucking sexy, even with the uniform smoothing out her curves. The first time I’d seen her without the blues I’d made a fool out of myself. After that I vowed not to check out the ladies in our department, no matter how hot they were. Besides, who needed a complication like that?
“As I said. A Raven. Want to bet those two imposing as guards let the kid here walk in with a gun in the first place.” I waved my hand towards the boy.
“The kid…?” Her voice trailed off as her eyes took in the gangster-brat hugging his legs close to him. “Chuck, you don’t mean-”
“That’s our shooter. Walked him out myself and would have brought him in, too, had the other two not stopped me.”
“Let’s get them to the station,” Tylor muttered, “and Chuck, I need you to tell me exactly what happened.”
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