Final Fantasy: Warriors of Light (Book 1)

 

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Fantasy 01: (Warrior) Leaving Home

FANTASY 01: LEAVING HOME

<WARRIOR>

 

I grew up afraid of such storms. Ones where lightning struck and ravaged the land as if some great beast tore away at the world's flesh. A huge difference separated those in the past from the ones now. The old were the stuff of nightmares and these, the ones roaring outside my window, were happening.

Still, at seventeen years old I still feared such storms, the booming thunder, the snaking lightning, and the howling wind. This time, the wind remained silent. There hadn't been any wind in over a month; not even the slightest gust.

Laying in my bed that night, I had the sheets up to my nose; I clutched an heirloom in my hands. A dark red crystal, the warmth of which would keep me safe. At the very least it made me feel safe. That night, like every night, since the wind died, it was glowing warm, causing my palms to sweat.

The crystal had been in my possession for several years. On my birthday, Father parted with the precious gem his father gave him and gave it to me.

Outside, an explosion ripped through the sky and for a moment, in the torrential downpour, I spotted a shadow, the shadow of a foul humanoid creature with blue skin, a long clawed arm and golden horns curling out of its head. Then as lightning illuminated the night I could see there were no monsters, only my father. He wore his blue tinted armor. His long golden hair matted to his face, and in his right hand, he held his longsword, the one that usually hung above the mantle in our den. He lurched toward our home. I rushed out of bed and to the door crying out for him.

Father had left a fortnight ago, elected by the town elders to venture off towards Cornelia, the Northern Kingdom and try to discover why the elements had abandoned us.

I arrived at the old oaken door and pulled it open. Father, having no strength, crashed to the floor, his sword clattering past and his helmet rolling to hit the stone hearth of the fireplace.

I dropped to my knees and held his head in my hands. He didn't appear to have any wounds. I couldn't figure out his ailment. My father whispered these words, "My son... be the warrior you were destined to be, a crystal bearer. End the Chaos. Cornelia."

And with those final syllables, the light in his eyes faded to black and the spirit of my brave father passed from the world.

I tried to make sense of his words. He named the nearest kingdom, Cornelia. One more than 100 miles away, across the Evergreen Fields. What did he want me to do there? Before I could figure anything out, the gravity hit me; he'd died. I'd lost my only living relative, the man who raised me on his own ever since my mother passed many years ago. I dropped my head to his chest and began to sob.

 

*  *  *  *  *  *

 

Three days had passed since my father collapsed in our doorway. The village elders buried him the morning after his death. I decided to tell no one of his final words, and no one that I had planned to leave our small unnamed village.

I kneeled on the grass before his grave. After a quiet prayer, I stood, my bag packed, sitting on the lawn at my feet. My father rested six feet deep in the ground, with the grave dirt still fresh. No grass had grown yet; plant life had stopped growing altogether.

"Hey, where are you going, Mr. Warrior?" An annoyed-sounding female called out.

I slung my bag over my shoulder and turned to regard her. The girl stood several feet from me, clad in a green tunic, and headband. She had thigh-high leather boots on, riding up her long legs. Her blonde hair, as well as her bandana's tail, flows in the wind behind her. I spotted a sliver of leather under armor under the breast of her tunic. She prepared for something. No one in the town ever put on armor unless they planned to leave and brave the world outside.

"My name is--" I started, and she cut me off.

"Don't tell me. I don't care. Your father went by Warrior and now to me you are Warrior. Congratulations on gaining the title."

"Thanks," I frowned.

"I didn't mean it like that, silly." She laughed.

I looked into her alluring green eyes, which perfectly matched her outfit.

"What makes you think I'm going anywhere?" I asked.

"You're wearing a breastplate and have a sword on your hip." She pointed out.

I guess I did look like a warrior.

"So may I call you by what you look like?" I grinned.

"And that is?" She leaned forward and peered at me.

"Thief. You look like a thief. You dress like one, and you have daggers hidden beneath your tunic, and one in each boot."

She feigned a gasp, eyes widened. "You have a good eye, Warrior, my friend."

"I don't need friends," I said.

"Well, you may need companions. And my father taught me how to collect things." She circled me.

"I don't need a thief on my side. You'll only get me into trouble." I walked away.

She blocked me and pointed her finger at my chest, "Hey, I take offense to that!"

I stepped around her and continued down the narrow cliffside path.

"Wait a darn second!" She shouted, "You don't have to be so rude!"

The girl trotted alongside me.

"I have urgent business elsewhere; I don't have time to dilly-dally," I said.

I didn't feel like telling her anything about me. I didn't want to have any connections to the small town since I didn't ever plan on ever returning.

"You're going to Cornelia, right?" She flashed a pretty white smile.

Her question caught me off guard.

"How do you know that!?" I demanded.

"Only city for five hundred miles. And either way, you'd, at least, have to stop there to resupply before taking the northern bridge."

She chuckled. "Just so happens I am going there, too."

"Oh great! So, Thief, you wish to tag along?" I started to feel hope. In reality having a traveling companion wouldn't be such a bad idea. Monsters were everywhere out there in the wild.

"If you insist, Mr. Warrior." She skipped off down the hill, calling back, "I just have to get my stuff. See you at the gate!"

I watched her leave, noticing for the first time she had a rather shapely body, thin and fragile looking at the waist, but she moved smooth like liquid. Without a doubt, she underwent some training, maybe even more than my own. Having an attractive girl along would be fun, hopefully.

I walked down the slope and towards the gate, looking at things for the last time. The town well, McPatter's farm, and then the stables where a single horse stood.

I stopped as a shout came from beside the wooden barn. I spotted three figures standing outside, one being an old man with an unkempt white beard, and the others were two wore robes, one tall and thin, the other short and buxom.

The thin one, a man with blue robes and a tall pointy yellow hat, began to yell at the girl beside him. She wore pristine white robes trimmed in red, and a hood covered her head.

"The horse is mine!" He snapped, waving his hands.

"No, Black!" She argued, "I paid for it! And my endorser is the head priest at the chapel so that means I should get it!"

"How does that make any sense? My dad fought in the war many years ago! He was a mighty wizard! I need this horse!"

The wiry old man stood between the pair trying to hold them back from each other. The girl turned her head, her eyes landing in my direction.

She called out, "You there!"

I looked around hoping she saw someone else. Alas, alone I stood. With a profound sigh, I approached the scene.

"Would you tell Mr. Black Wizard here--" She started.

"Mage! I have not the training to be a Wizard yet!" He cut in.

She groaned, her blue eyes shining, "Please, you are a brave warrior, apprehend this fool! The horse is mine. Tell him!"

"I don't want to get involved," I held up my hands in defense, "But in all honesty, you both couldn't have paid for the same horse."

"I did!" They said in unison.

I looked at the old man with less pity now, realizing his

scheme.

"You're trying to swindle them both aren't you?"

He looked at them in turn, and they glared,

flames burning in their eyes. He almost exploded by their sheer willpower.

"Fine, yes I admit it," He muttered, "But they both gave such good offers."

"Well, who gets the horse?" Black Mage complained.

I walked to the horse, curious of the steed's condition and it turned out to be a thin and miserable beast. Starved, it had visible ribs against its leathery skin. Flies buzzed at its behind, and one eye had turned milky white signifying is half-blind.

"I'm no expert," I said, "But I don't believe this horse is of any use to anyone. The poor animal looks as if it has but days to live, and will certainly not be fit for labor."

"What?" The two mages cried out.

"See we fought for nothing, White." The man bowed to her.

"Well then use a dweomer of some sort and turn this horrible man into a toad," White pointed at the old man, her finger shaking with anger.

The man jumped, so scared he shoved his coin purse forward, "Take it! Just take it! You will find the price you both paid within! Just please, do not turn me into anything, especially unnatural!"

I grabbed the coin purse as he ran away to the barn and hid. I counted the Gil out, and it equaled out to 200. So I divided it up 100 a piece.

"Thanks!" White, hopping forward and squeezed me in a tight hug.

I could feel my face burning red. While not an overly attractive lass, she did have beautiful red hair and seductive looking lips.

"Yes, thank you." Black Mage said, "It would have been terrible to have been halfway to Cornelia just for the beast to keel over dead. I do not think I could make the journey like that. Too many beasties, you know."

"You're going to Cornelia too?" White asked nodding.

I slowly backed away, fearing they were both about to turn on me and invite themselves on my journey.

"Wait, Warrior man." Black stopped me, "You look as if you are geared up for traveling. Might it be possible you as well are heading to the grand kingdom of Cornelia?"

I shook my head, "I--"

"Yep, that's where we are going!" Thief's voice called out as she wrapped her arm around my neck and pulled me down to knock on my helmet that had belonged to my father.

"Oh, hello!" White said, "You can call me the White since that's what everyone calls me anyhow."

"And I, m'lady am the world famous Wizard--"

"You just said you were a mage!" White cut him off, "I call him Black Mage. And he isn't famous at all. In fact, I don't think he has ever set foot outside this village."

"Well thank you for ruining my grand introduction, whelp. Do you even know the smallest of healing spells? Perhaps a Dia spell to harm undead monstrosities?"

"No," She admitted blushing, "But do you even know how to cast a Fire spell?"

"Well, I uh, well, you see that is why I am traveling to Cornelia. For training, you know."

"Suuure." White Mage giggled, "Well then, we should all travel together!"

"Yes," Black Mage coughed, "For safety reasons. I wouldn't want either of you to get hurt."

"What are you going to do? Hit a goblin with your stick?" White burst into laughter.

"And what do you use?" He sneers.

"A hammer, see?" She shifted her robe to the side revealing her curves. I tried to keep my eyes on what she wanted to show us and not her chest. The girl had a hammer hanging on her belt that looked more like a meat tenderizer than something that would do harm to a creature in the wild.

"Yes, let's all travel together! It will be like a party!" Thief cheered, "Isn't this great?"

She turned to me and smiled.

"Yeah, sure," I muttered.

"What was that?" She asked.

"Oh, I said, yes excellent." I forced a smile.

"Well we don't have horses, so it looks like it's on foot," I told the group.

"How droll. I detest walking long distances." Black sighed.

"There are no other horses in town, so we have no choice unless you can conjure us a few?" White poked fun, "I'm merely concerned that monsters will attack."

"Well, the warrior guy here has a sword, see it's on his hip, and this girl, she seems to have a couple of daggers," White told him.

"More than a couple," I said.

"Yes, way more. I have daggers in places you wouldn't even--"

I held up my hand, keeping inappropriate thoughts away.

"Alright, well look if we don't leave now we will be leaving at nightfall, and that is not a wise decision. We have one hundred miles ahead of us." I told the motley group.

"Yes, let's go." Thief cheered.

I turned and walked, looking at the long field ahead. I knew my reason for going to Cornelia, but still didn't know, nor cared why my new companions were going there. I planned to go no further with them after arriving in the great kingdom,  but of course, I'd no idea what to expect in the city. I'd never even been there.

I put my hand in my belt pouch and squeezed the crystal within, reminding myself what kept me safe. I decided not to tell the group I had no real experience with a sword at all, and that my father had been the expert warrior.

With that, we walked down the road, side by side by side by side. Seeing the smile Thief's face and the determined look on White Mage's, I felt confident we would make it. I couldn't see Black Mage's with his collar raised, and his hat casting a dark shadow over his eyes, but he seemed ready to go. I smiled as birds flew off into the distance and the day looked beautiful. The journey had just begun.

 

 

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Fantasy 02: (Thief) To the North

FANTASY 02: To the North

<THIEF>

 

We left our small backwater village on a quest of our own--each of us had our reasons, but we did not share them truthfully. How did I know? I felt as if I were good at reading people, a part of my repertoire you might say. I had to know people inside and out; I had to read people like open books or how could I make a living? Sure, in our village I worked by getting my hands dirty fixing doo-dads and gadgets, but behind the scenes I made sure the best information I kept secret and sold for a price, but I certainly wouldn't have been considered bad, I just had to make my way in the world after Daddy left for the big city to make a mass a fortune.

Before Daddy left, he gave me a trinket, a green crystal. At first, I thought to sell it, but quickly I got scolded when I did so, and he went to great lengths to get it back. He then said the crystal to be special and told me when it glowed, it would be time. Growing up, I never knew exactly what he meant, and I still didn’t. I could only figure the glow would make it worth more gil, and it had finally started to do so.

So on the road, we went towards Cornelia, the city of wonder. And as I said, we had our reasons; I considered mine to be hawking the crystal for a million gil if I could, then find Daddy. Together we could live in peace and not have to resort to thieving ever again.

“How much farther?” White Mage complained in what I hoped to be her whiniest voice, because if not, I would wring her neck eventually.

“The journey is only as far as you imagine it to be,” Black Mage quipped.

“But my feet hurt!” she whined again, “Warrior, can you give me a foot rub?”

Warrior sighed and shook his head, “For the final time, no. I’m not anyone’s masseuse.”

“Pleeeeease!” she continued to whine.

“Please do be quiet!” Black snapped.

The two began to argue, and I took the opportunity to drown them out and talk to good ole Warrior. I wanted his story.

“Warrior-boy!” I sang. “So what you got in the bag, huh?

I prodded him with my elbow and gave my most mischievous cat eyes.

“Traveling supplies,” Warrior said, with no emotion.

“Oh, you’re no fun!” I pouted.

“Look,” he replied. “to you, this may be a fun little quest, but I have important business, and it's only my own.”

“You can tell little ole me,” I said, putting my arm through his and laying my head on his shoulder.

I wanted his story. Maybe I could steal something of his or use something against him.

“No!” he said with such venom on his tongue I immediately backed off.

So much for that. I gave a grunt of annoyance and looked back to White and Black. They were both exchanging childish insults for maybe the thirteenth time, and we had only been on the road for a few hours. Our journey would be a long one without a doubt.

We marched on through the day and into the sunset. The mages never stopped arguing, and from the look in Warrior's eyes, he neared his limit; not just mentally, he looked quite tired for someone accustomed to training rigorously with a sword.

“Why don’t we take a rest?” I announced, raising my hand into the air.

“Oh yes, please!” Black said and plopped down right where he stood.

White followed him and kicked off her small yellow boots and placed her feet in Black’s lap. He promptly grabbed her by her big toes and moved her feet away, then scooted away.

“What was that for!?” she whined, and I just shook my head.

Warrior went farther ahead but stopped walking just the same. He didn’t turn to us, but he did look to the west and east.

“Isn’t this a little in the open?” he asked.

I looked around as well. He spoke truly. We stood mostly in a flat, grassy plain. Only a single tree stood about fifty yards to the southeast of us. Cornelia still existed miles ahead, and our village had long since left eyesight.

“I suppose it is a bit open,” I admitted, “But hey look! There’s a tree over there!”

I pointed to a thick pine tree and smiled at my blue-armored companion. He hesitated then gave a slight nod and turned back to the group.

“I’m going to check out the tree over there,” Warrior said, “So everyone stay put. I’ll bring back some firewood.”

Warrior put his hand on his sword sheath and began his trek toward the tree. I looked to Black and White. Black had quit arguing and pulled out a thickly bound book and stared, focusing on the words within. White still blabbed on while staring up at the sky and pointing at clouds.

“That one looks like a dwarf!” she cried out.

“Of course, it does,” Black muttered.

After a quick glance around I put my hands on my hips, “I’m going to go help Warrior with the firewood. Chances are he doesn’t know his sheath from a branch.”

“I’ll be right here, babysitting,” Black said, quite unenthused.

“Have fun, Thief!” White smiled, then laid back on the grass with her arms behind her head.

I spun and skipped after Warrior, who for being so exhausted had made it to the tree already. When I got there, a chilly breeze began to blow. I rubbed my exposed arms trying to warm myself up.

“Didn’t I say to stay put?” Warrior asked as I walked up beside him.

“You may have,” I said. “But I didn’t listen.”

He hung his head with a sigh, “You’re just a girl! It could have been dangerous.”

I waved my hand in a wide arc, “What could have hurt me? There’s nothing for miles.”

“Still," he said, looking at me with apparent concern.

“Aw, does someone want to protect me?” I replied with a sly smile. "Because I'm just a girl?"

Warrior’s cheeks turned red, and he held up his palms before him, “N-no! I mean I do! But not because--”

I interrupted him. “Because of…?”

“Nothing!” he said and turned away.

I smiled. I'd found a crack in his armor. Warrior at the very least thought me pretty, and who could blame him? But I didn't like that road of thought. Like I said, I wanted information. I stretched my arms, and bent over, touching my toes.

“What are you doing?” he asked.

“Isn’t it obvious, Warrior-boy?” I told him, “There’s no firewood here on the ground, so I’ll have to climb this here tree and bring some down.”

“No! It’s too dangerous!” he started to say, but I already had begun my climb.

I hopped and grabbed onto the lowest branch, then kicked back and forward using my momentum to swing up on top of the branch.

“Careful!” he shouted., “You’ll hurt yourself!”

With a grin I hooked the branch under my legs and let myself fall back, swinging upside down inches from his face. He stopped complaining, and we stared into each other’s eyes. His were a deep blue, and I saw something there. Fear maybe? Being only one element to his gorgeous orbs, I still saw something deeper. I stared longer trying to figure it out, and in my stomach, I felt a twinge; something I had never felt as if my insides were tied in a knot.

Chocobo dung! In an instant, I flipped back up to the branch above.

What the heck had just happened?

But I knew even then. That boy’s eyes were, strong and deep; innocent and pure, and most of all, mesmerizing. The feeling’s in my stomach seemed like butterflies. If I didn't tread carefully, I would end up falling for the armored boy-man, and that would not be acceptable. I had a clear goal. Cornelia. Sell crystal. Find father. Live comfortably forever. There would be no room for a silly romance along the way!

I sat on the branch for a moment, catching my breath and making sure I stomped on each and every one of those butterflies.

“J-just be careful, please!” Warrior called up, interrupting my stomping.

“O-of course I will be!” I shouted back, annoyed.

I grabbed the next lowest branch and pulled myself up; I continued up a dozen more feet until I could easily reach each a handful of branches. I reached into my boot and flipped one my many daggers into my hand. The branches weren’t so thick, so I right away I went to sawing. I dropped the first branch and Warrior below cried out.

“Hey watch it!” he yelled, “That almost landed on my head!”

I smiled to myself; he could use a good conking. I cut off the next branch, and the next, until I felt satisfied, we had enough. Below I could hear Warrior snapping the longer ones, breaking them into manageable pieces. I flipped my dagger in my hand once again and slid it back into my boot.

“Okay,” I called out. “I’m coming down! Catch me!”

“W-what!?” Warrior cried.

I flipped back off of my branch and into the hair. I felt the wind go by as I went upside down, then fell back first. I spread out my arms and legs with full faith he would catch me. I fell, fell, fell and Warrior caught me out of mid-air. I smiled without looking at him as I lay in his arms, kicking my legs playfully.

“Are you crazy?” he cried out.

“Nope!” I wiggled out of his arms, landing on my feet.

“What if I hadn’t caught you in time!?” he sounded exasperated.

“Why does that matter?” I said. “You did catch me, didn’t you?”

“W-well, yes."

“Good!” I smiled and walked up to him and wrapped him in a hug.

I could feel him tremble. He seemed so nervous from my embrace that he shook. Right then, I took the opportunity to slip my hand into his pack and feel around inside. Something of importance must have been in there. I only had a few seconds, but I felt a cool smooth surface; a familiar one. I quickly but carefully withdrew my hand and pulled away, spinning around to face the fields.

Did he have a crystal, as well? I decided it to only be a coincidence.

If Warrior had a crystal and headed to Cornelia, what could it mean? Crystals were ultra rare! In all of my sixteen years, I had only seen one, and Daddy had only ever spoken of one, but if it were true, and Warrior-boy had a crystal, where had he gotten it? And why did travel to the City of Wonder?

“The plot thickens,” I whispered.

“W-what?” he asked.

I bent over and scooped up a few tiny branches then started walking back to the Mages.

“H-hey! Wait! Aren’t you going to help more?” he called to me.

“No, of course not!” I said without turning and using his words against him, “I’m just a girl!”

Warrior and I made it back to the mages, albeit he came a bit slower than myself. He carried a bundle of larger sticks. Black and White looked up at us as we arrived.

“The prophecy has been fulfilled!” Black cried, “You have returned with kindling to keep Bosoms and me over here warm tonight!”

“Bosoms!? That’s not a nice nickname!” White whined.

I dropped the sticks. “I think it fits.”

“B-but--” she started complaining.

“Do keep quiet a bit more, my dear,” Black told White. “I was enjoying the peace.”

White crossed her arms cross her chest, making her nickname even more appropriate and gave a loud ‘harumph!’. Warrior dropped the sticks with mine and plopped down onto the ground.

“Quick, brave Warrior!” Black sang, “Build a perfect stack so that I may illuminate the night! For it shall soon arrive.”

Warrior went straight away to stacking the sticks in a teepee shape.

I looked off into the distance. The sun had disappeared beyond the horizon, and the last rays of light were fleeting. I walked to the edge of our new camp and sat down facing the beautiful display of dusk. Behind me, I could hear an argument brewing between White and Black about her nickname ‘Bosoms’ so I drowned it out.

I watched the light slowly fade as I thought of Daddy. It had been a long time since I'd seen him, more than four winters. I believed he left to find us a better life, with money, a home, never having to worry about food. But when he hadn’t returned I had learned to fend for myself entirely. Why hadn’t he come back? Maybe he still tried to make things happen, but then again, maybe he had faced his end at the teeth of some great beast, or perhaps he rotted away in a jail somewhere in the city. But then my thoughts trailed back to the crystal I felt in Warrior’s bag.

Did Daddy leave to protect me? I wondered.

It could have easily been true. Maybe someone sought him, or yet this strange green crystal. Could it be coincidence that the four of us; Warrior, White, Black and myself all left Cornelia as orphans, all alone with no family spoken of. For that matter, perhaps Black and White’s secrets were also the same as my own, and I suppose Warrior’s? Did we each bear a crystal? And if so what did it mean? What did any of it mean? I watched the instant the light vanished to the west, and a blue burst of light appeared like a wondrous firework. The “Aurora Gaia” it was called, the end of the light and beginning of the night.

“So beautiful,” I whispered.

In my side pack, I could feel my crystal begin to glow warmly at my hip. The light got concealed by the thick leather container, so no one else saw, but I knew. I reached in and touched the crystal. It glowed warmer than ever before.

“What does this all mean?” I asked the now-star-filled sky.

An eerie silence hung amongst the four of us then, and I could only assume, each acknowledged the glowing of our crystals, and truly questioned what brought us to the big city?

The four of us. Four crystal bearers. I began to fantasize what would be to come. And I hoped, if any of it came true, if our future held dangers ahead of us, that it would not be my final fantasy.

 

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Fantasy 03: (White Mage) Bumps in the Night

FANTASY 03: BUMPS IN THE NIGHT

<White Mage> 

 

I sat facing the sunset, with the yellow crystal in my pouch as it always, glowing warm just like the Sun. My three friends sat around in silence watching the beauty as well.

"It's so pretty," I whispered.

I never grew tired of the icy Aurora Gaia. But when the Sun disappeared I never smiled. No, in fact, I felt scared. When the darkness came, so did the shadows, the ones that took Momma and Papa away.

It happened a few years before. I had just turned twelve, and we were celebrating. Momma played a song on her pan flute, and Papa danced around trying to get me to join in. I didn’t want to. I felt dumb, and I wanted to spend time with my friends around the village. I should have cared. I mean I would have if had I know it would be the last time I saw my parents.

Before I went to bed that night, Momma gave me my crystal. She told me I should always keep it close to my side and protect it, in turn, it would protect me as well. I scoffed at such things. I didn’t believe there to be magic in the world or that there were evil creatures lurking in the dark and monsters at your door. Someone broke in that night. I hid under my bed as dishes shattered, drawers were thrown open, and my finally my parents screamed.

I stayed hidden all night. After the intruders were gone, and my last tear had fallen, my crystal began to glow for the first time. Even though I'd lost everything I felt comfort in holding on to the heirloom. So there I stayed, under my bed, until the morning. No one ever came for me, and when I emerged, I found my home torn apart, with no sign of my parents. No one ever even tried to help me. When I went to the town elders, the council; no one. Everyone wanted to avoid me as if I were a plague. For three years only the clergy at the chapel wanted anything to do with me.

That night in the green fields, surrounded by Warrior, Thief, and even Black Mage, I didn't feel afraid. For the first night, I felt as if things would be all right. I had no reason to leave for Cornelia. I'd secretly overheard the conversation between Thief and Warrior in the village. The chance had come to escape my confines. If I went somewhere no one knew my curse; then I would be treated the same. That is unless they, the beings the shadows, found me again.

I glanced over at BM, and although I found his head tilted to the stars, I could barely make out his eyes under that huge hat of his.

“BM, why don’t you ever take off your hat?” I asked.

He tilted his head toward me and for a moment I thought I saw the glimmer of a tear on his face, but then it vanished, swallowed by his wide collar.

“For what reason should I?” he asked, “What’s underneath is irrelevant.”

I didn’t want to let it go, but Warrior spoke up then.

“The fire needs lit,” he announced. “So come on Black Mage, show us your stuff.”

BM kept his head down and mumbled something.

“What was that?” Warrior asked, “Because if it was a spell, it didn’t work.”

BM mumbled something again, this time looking off to the side away from Warrior.

“Come on, stop screwing around,” Warrior said.

“Yeah, BM!” I cried. “Show us your powerful spell slinging!”

“I said, alas the power of fire has left me for this day,” he suddenly sang. “For if you were a mage like me, you would surely have noticed that I cast it to burn away a giant beetle that crawled all over White’s back!”

My eyes shot open wide, and I screeched. I began rolling around trying to squish any more bugs that were on me. I cried and thrashed, and only Thief’s squealing laughter stopped me. I looked up, from my stomach, to find Thief doubled over, holding her stomach.

“What’s so funny?” I asked, confused.

“There was no bug!” Thief said. “Black just doesn’t know any magic.”

“Hey!” Black snapped at her, “Do not doubt the power of the grid beyond the stars!”

“Oh give it up,” Thief laughed still. “You don’t even know a simple spell! If you do, cast one.”

“I don’t want to!” He stood and walked away.

I couldn’t have been more confused. I thought BM to be a mage. But if he couldn’t even cast a bit of magic, what did that make him? However, I didn't exactly get taught any magic at the chapel. So that made two of us.

Warrior sighed and flopped onto the ground and began rubbing two sticks together in a furious motion. I looked back to BM, and he stood with his arms crossed.

“BM?” I said, “It’s okay. I’m sure there are spells in Cor—"

He raised his hand in the air.

“But—" I started again.

“Hush!” He hissed.

Warrior came to his side in a split second. Thief also stood up and joined them.

I grew scared. “What’s going on?”

Had the shadows come for me?

Thief looked over her shoulder, “Grab your hammer!”

Fear rippled through me as I scrambled to my feet. I bent over and pulled up my hammer that served as little more than a cooking utensil. My three friends still stared in silence. I pulled back the hood of my robe and listened as hard as I could.

Finally, I heard it. It came off as faint, and didn’t travel as easily since there no wind blew, but I knew it to be the howl of a beast.

“What was that?” I whispered, scooting up behind BM.

“It sounded like a foul beast!” He said. “Perhaps it was a behemoth?”

“A what?” I cried.

I had only heard stories of such huge monsters, could it be possible that they existed, and on the green plains? No, I refused to believe it. Then I heard the howl again, this time much closer than before.

“They’re coming,” Warrior said.

“Prepare yourself!” BM said as he backed past me.

“Where do you think you’re going!” I whimpered. “You need to protect me!”

“I beg to differ, madam,” he said, “It is you who should protect me.”

“What? That’s not fair!” I shouted at him.

“Wolves,” Thief said, as she reached her hands down into her boots and flipped out two daggers.

“Wolves?” I cried.

“For certain we are doomed!” BM wailed from behind me.

Warrior drew his sword, “Everyone stick close together.”

Then the furry beasts appeared from behind a thicket of tall grass to the west. The speed of their legs proved incredible, each one being nothing more than a blur of brown and gray. I nervously held my hammer before me. I couldn’t see them well in the dark of night, but it looked like at least six of them.

“Black’s right!” I whimpered. “We’re screwed!”

“Six behemoths versus one warrior, a thief, a mage, and a child. Are odds do favor us.” Black cried, in a theatric manner, he held his staff forward.

Warrior stepped before us all, wielding his sword. The alpha of the wolf pack howled, its head back in the air. Then all six of them charged.

“Oh no!” I squealed, taking a step back. “What do I do?”

“Fight back!” Thief cried, hopping forward and slashing her daggers in an X before her. The wolf attacking her jumped back, dodging her. Warrior swung his sword clumsily and nearly dropped it.

A third and fourth wolf were assaulting BM, their maws latched onto his wooden staff as he struggled to pull the weapon free.

“This is my premium walking staff!” He cried. “How dare you filthy mutts damage it!”

Another wolf locked its excited eyes right on me, and it then it came. I screeched and tried to step back, but I tripped over the firewood and fell down on my butt. The ferocious animal leaped into the air and flew at me. I brought up my hammer just in time; holding it back as it snapped its jaws. Saliva splashed on my face, warm and gross.

“Go away doggy!” I pleaded, using all my strength. But I couldn't deter the animal. Slowly the wolf pushed the hammer closer to my chest.

“White!” Warrior cried out.

“I will save her!” Black shouted.

I looked to the side and found Black Mage running over. He kicked the wolf in its underbelly, drawing out a howl of pain. The wolf whimpered and rolled away.

“Hurry and stand, for the enemy is still in great number!” Black offered his hand to me.

I grabbed it, and he pulled me up. I quickly looked around. One wolf had fallen; one by Warrior, with a deep gash in its side. It lay there helpless, and bleeding out. Thief bounced about on the balls of her feet. She hopped back as one wolf came at her, but then spun around, flipped her dagger in the air, caught it, and stabbed it down into the back of the animal’s neck. It flopped to the ground, dead, or at the very least paralyzed.

One of the mean wolves leaped and tackled Black Mage. It tore at his collar.

“Black!” I cried, and swung my hammer, conking the wolf on the head.

It stopped its attack and turned to look at me, growling.

“Bad dog!” I cried and swung my staff again. A second conk and it snarled, and started towards me, but Thief flipped around in a cartwheel and stabbed the beast in the side of its skull. It too fell, dead.

Three remained, and they all were converging upon Warrior. One on each side of him.

“Warrior!” Thief cried.

She threw one of her daggers, and it stuck deep into the flank of one rabid wolf. It howled and stumbled to the side. Warrior chopped his sword at one of the remaining two, but they both jumped back, dodging. He tried to lift up his sword, but one shoulder slammed him, sending him tumbling back.

“Damn!” Warrior spat as he regained his balance.

“Alas, Warrior can not strike the mighty behemoths!” Black cried. “For we must assist him to end his peril!”

“What do you think I’ve been doing? Thief answered.

She rolled in close and slashed out one of the remaining's throat. Black and I both started into a run and reached the injured wolf. With the dagger in its side. In unison, we began wailing on it with our weapons. Each conk caused it to whimper, and then finally its head lay still, hopefully, dead as well.

One wolf remained, and it looked at each of us, snarling. The fur on the back of its neck stood up. We each came closer, and its head snapped between us. It likely decided whom to attack. But I hoped it would just run. I didn’t enjoy killing, and I detested violence altogether.

“Shoo!” I shouted and shook my hammer. The wolf’s eyes locked on me, and it barked, foam coming from its mouth.

“The beast has been afflicted!” Black cried. “For it is cursed by the darkest of magics! We must end the poor creature’s suffering with a swift, and painless death!”

“I got it!” Warrior charged at the beast. It growled and snapped its jaws as Warrior ran in. He held his sword at his side, then jumped into the air, and swung down. The attack chopped at an angle and stuck into beast’s shoulder.

It howled in pain and latched onto Warriors boot.

“W-whoa!” Warrior cried as he flew from his feet.

He slammed into the ground, and the wolf shook its head, trying to rip into him, but thankfully his boot proved too thick. Thief rushed up, flipping in the air. She twisted, and landed on the rabid monster’s back, bringing it down. She then stabbed her knife into the base of its skull. With a whimper, it fell limp and released our friend’s ankle.

“Crap.” Warrior breathed, crawling back a few feet.

“You almost got yourself killed!” Thief jumped up and snapped.

“But—”

“Do you even know how to use a sword?” She put him on the spot.

“Thief, it’s okay,” I said. “Maybe we should just go back to resting.”

“I know the two of you can’t fight.” Thief pointed to Black Mage and me. “You aren’t supposed to; you use magic. But Warrior; you have a sword for Gaia’s sake!”

“I was never properly trained,” Warrior admitted. “I didn’t want to tell you all. I thought maybe we could just make it to Cornelia, and that would be that.”

“Dumb dumb!” Thief smacked Warrior in the back of the head. “We’re going to have to train, aren’t we?”

“What for?” Warrior grew angry. “When we reach the city, we’ll split up anyway. I’ll live in Cornelia, and never need to pick up the blade again!”

Thief’s eyes went wide, and she opened her mouth to speak but closed it again. She didn’t have a response to that, or she didn’t wish to speak one.

“I was hoping we’d all be friends, still.” I lifted my hand. “We are friends, right?”

“I’m no one’s friend!” Warrior said.

“For he speaks the words of a cruel fiend!” Black sang. “My heart is teetering on cracked and broken. Please say it isn’t so!”

When Warrior went to stand up, out of his bag fell a red object. Right away I could tell it to be a crystal, and it glowed.

“I thought so,” Thief muttered and withdrew a green crystal from her pack.

“You have one too?” I gasped, bringing out my yellow crystal.

Finally, Black Mage reached into his bag and withdrew a blue crystal. “It seems we are on more than just a quest to the city. We may have been called for something greater. Few crystals are said to exist, and we each have one. Tell me, companions, do you deem it mere coincidence?”

Warrior looked at each of our crystals as he scooped up his. With a sigh, he nodded. “Maybe we are friends. and I hate to admit it, but maybe Cornelia is where our true journey will begin.”

“Yay!” I cried, jumping up and down. “We’re friends!”

Thief nodded with a grin, and even Black Mage gave a huge bow. "I would not have chosen better companions."

“Maybe we shouldn’t rest just yet?” Thief said. “Let’s keep trekking. I want to get to Cornelia and see what we can find. Agreed?”

“Agreed!” I said.

“Agreed.” Black nodded.

Warrior shrugged. “Agreed.”

“We’re going on an adventure!” I sang.

And so we started the final half of the trip towards Cornelia, the City of Wonder.

 

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