ForumsArt, Music, and WritingDEMON MANSION (Paragon Chapter V, Page 4)

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Freakenstein
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Yes, I'm finally working on it. Yes, I'm going to continue it. And yes, the previous thread is scrap.
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~-*Chapter I: Children of the Future*-~

A cool spring breeze flourished over Fort Argon and the surrounding lands it oversaw, smelling of faint cocoa. The small, rocky fort was situated on a mountainside, thus the rear was facing meteres upon meters of solid rock and minerals. A few small bunkers dotted the tops from which Fort Argon ended, usually enclosing archers and corner guards to keep watch. The only bare section was ultimately the front, where, if there was ever to be a battle taking place, the main resistance would settle in unison. Meeting the front of Fort Argon would be vast amounts of fields, small outcroppings with streams leading to the forests to the east. AZ single road trailed from the fort's entrance to the horizon, pointing to the distant town of Whisperwind. The calm, quiet atmosphere suggested safety, as little commotion stirred within or around these walls. This would be the perfect place for children to explore and play.

The Fort's gate unlocked and slowly lowered with grinding resistance, welcoming the new light to travel inside. Emerging from the gate was a rather short, but stocky soldier, whose head turned in the direction of an elevated path that, at the end, came upon a magnificent waterfall which roared with the sound of heavy beats of water to collect in the stream. The soldier's, rigid, steel pauldrons were set upon his muscular stature, with soft-leather cloth hoisted over his shoulders, exposing his chest and abdominals. A white fur pelt was wrapped in wide string around his waist, making it a belt of sorts. Various teeth and tusks were tied on either side, revealing the amount of trolls he has defeated in combat, with an entire troll skull latched on the center. Iron chains were gagged onto the teeth inside the mouth and were used to hold up his loincloth. This was made from a tanned and browned pelt to mostly cover the backside and not so much the front. This tassel came downwards like a V, the point at the bottom reaching the calves and the base covering anything higher than the thighs. The boots were quite complex; steel and iron were used to make the soles, giving it the hard crunch whenever he stepped. The iron and steel material then came up in columns in stripes, reaching the knees, with a flexible, steel cap to cover the patellas (aka kneecaps). The junction of the ankle and phalanges had a small trollbone skull fixed in the center. What wasn't covered by iron and steel was stuffed with warm furs of varying animals, usually troll hair as it was more durable and insulated than the rest. Poofs of fur emerged out of the boots. The helmet was made of pure steel, shaped like a bowl and covering the mandible and nose. The part in the back was shaped more like a shovel, while there were three two-inch spikes that were on the three sides of the soldier's head--temporal, parietal, then temporal. The eyes were big and brown, with a wide smile that was both firm and sincere.

The soldier, known as Kael'Thas, turned his head again, thistime towards Fort Argon. Amidst the chirping of birds and the rustling of trees and grass from the occasional blowing of the wind was the near distant sound of children's playful laughter.

"Safe as usual", declared Kael'Thas with a smirk. "Time t' pay th' old man a visit." With a clank of his plated leg joints, he heaved up the beaten pathway. Although most of the path was cleared and smoothed out (for the old man's sake), some large stones as big as feet jutted out, encouraging any and all foolish enough to trip over their dominance. The short stature deemed it necessary for Kael'Thas to heave his stocky legs over the stones, nearly climbing at the top where the path was coming to an end. The rushing of water was now close.

He was now at the end of the path where dirt conceded and the way across the waterfall was provided by smooth, flat stones--muddy brown and not akin to the rough, sharp characteristics to which the 'feet' of the mountain pass matched. A small pool of shiny, crystal-clear water collected around the short stone path before falling quite a ways down to greet the stream. Kael'Thas knew exactly where his target lie; above the waterfall, about the height of a normal human being, 'sat' a wizened man surrounded by the cascading waters. His solid brown, wool robe covered the entirety of his stature, slightly taller than Kael'Thas, but with less girth. His wrinkled, gaunt face was deep in concentration. The remains of his hair were bound in a short knot that rested partly over the back of his skull, while his thin, wispy beard was uncontained, soaked and collected from the waterfall. The cascading water flowed downwards to meet the robed old man, but at the very point of embracing him, the path the water took just seemed to skip him; the water would avoid the area occupied by the old man then converge when out of his presence.

Kael'Thas called amongst the roar of the waterfall. "Hey! Master Tristan!" He retracted his arms to wait for an answer. The old man's expression remained unchanged. He put his hands in front of his mouth again. "Th' children wanna hear sommore o' yer stories!" A short time passed before he called again, a tad louder. "Master Tristaaaain!" Still no response; Kael'Thas became flustered. "Meybe I'll just leave yeh in th' cold this time!" With a turn of his heel, Kael'Thas started for Fort Argon in return. A couple steps to his destination, he stopped to ponder. "Hmm, meybe he's dead?"

There was a disturbance in the waterfall; the area around the occupied space began pulsating, expelling drops of water everywhere. Kael'Thas motioned back to his original spot with a light jog. There he saw Master Tristan fully aware, his pale, green eyes fixing to him in an expression of disgust. "Well that was a tad rude, don't you think?" cackled the light, raspy voice of the old man. "Am I dead...pfft, that's just rockspittle, I'm fit as a flutter!"

Kael'Thas crossed his arms in rebuttal. "Hah, no thanks to yer ears that's fer sure!" Master Tristan's right eyebrow twitched at the mention of his hearing. It was perfectly find and he wouldn't stand for it. The tension around the waterfall grew. That didn't stop Kael'Thas from the attack. "If I dint know any better, I'd say yer as deaf as--" The flinging of water droplets grew, but unfortunately, it didn't didn't work in the old man's favor. Getting even more annoyed caused Mater Tristan's hold over the waterfall to weaken from lack of concentration. A rebellious water drop pivoted into his territory and, despite all odds, landed smack into his left iris, causing him to wince and wipe his eye in haste. This negated the concentration entirely; Master Tristan's body was instantly drenched and his body plopped into the shallow pool of water below.

Despite the water's little control, Master Tristan flailed about in anger and frustration. "Now look what you made me do! Things were just peachy before you come back, now I'm soaked! Don't just look at me in mockery, you hateful bugbear, help me up!" Kael'Thas, after witnessing the spectacle that was Master Tristan's downfall, fell down on his knees in pink-faced laughter.

He was going to respect his elder's wishes and pull him out, that is until he heard the sound of a clustered trotting from below. Just after the realization, four children, two boys and two girls, clambered up the rough path in collective giggling. At once, they found the dwarf in a haunched position reaching for Master Tristan's hand. They all shouted in unison. "FRANK!" Kael'Thas' eyes widened as the force came ever closer. Master Tristan saw what was about to happen and splashed away from the crowd as fast as his brittle body could take him. The two girls leapt atop Kael'Thas' shoulders while the boys charged forward to push the mass of bodies forward. The collective force was more than enough for the dwarf's stature, complete with his muffled cries of protest, ad soon enough, he and the children joined Master Tristan in the pool of water with a splash.

. . .

*Freakenstein takes a breather*

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Freakenstein
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~-*Chapter II: The Story Finally Told*-~

âOuch! Take it easy on me, thaâ hurts!â

âYouâll only get in more pain if you keep fussing, now hold still!â

âAargh, feels like a hunderd mini critters chewinâ on my neck.â

Thatâs because there are.â


Master Tristain was nursing KaelâThasâs neck wound inside the bowels of Fort Argon, while the children were busy taking a bath to prepare for their parentsâ visit. The two were inside the main centre, which was a high, exposed room with several openings leading to other areas of the fort. A gargantuan wooden table, complete with simple chairs and a clothed throne to head them all, occupied the middle, taking up a large amount of space. The walls radiated in a mixture of pulsing sepia from the array of charred torches lining up the corners, creating a rather comforting ambience throughout the fort. An impressive glass chandelier hung unused on the ceiling, glimmering from the torchlight. A roughly-hewn stone staircase covered by a garnished red carpet scaled up the wall and branched off in a T shape that then led to the rooms on the second floor. A collection of steam peeked out two of these rooms in which the children occupied. Above the pathway were glorious paintings of what looked to be important figures; one of a silver-haired bard in blue-steel armor and holding a priceless wooden instrument; the middle painting portrayed a graying man in burdening heavy armor, either painted or plated in gold, wearing a modest smile and bearing an important artifact: a celebratory shield bearing four symbols on each quadrant; the third member on the right was of a plump king bestowed with a jeweled silver circlet, a diamond breastplate, and a violet mantle. On either side, a deep crimson-and-silver flag to which Fort Argon pledges allegiance was draped over the wall. The flagâs emblem of a sword piercing the clouds shown out amongst the pulsing glow of the nearby torches.

KaelâThas was lying on the table, stomach-side down and facing away from Master Tristain and displaying some discomfort with grunts and squirming. He was generously applying an odd-textured, grainy-red liquid that, when viewed very closely, revealed hundreds of tailed, legless creatures fixated on the wound which were nearly undetectable by an eye alone. Master Tristain put a rubber cork inside his vial in which KaelâThas promptly sat up and rubbed his neck. The deep, toothy gas that was once there was now replaced with reddening that could easily be mistaken for a rash.

âGood thing thaâs over,â KaelâThas declared, relieved. âNever liked those things, feelinâ yer neck beinâ nibbled on by a bunch oâ critters.â

âJust be glad your gash is healed,â assured Master Tristain. âBandages would have been a much slower alternative.â He turned his head to the rooms where the children were still inside, then back to his patient. âBy the way,â he wondered. âYou rushed up to ask me something, then the children followed you and we had that little accident. What did you come to me for again?â

âOh, righâ,â KaelâThas remembered, scratching his beard, âthâ little ones wanned ya tâ tell em another story.â

âReally? We had a small adventure just for this? And I already gave them one before I left.â

âThey thought thâ firsâ one was too short, theyâre pretty stingy lads.â

âWell, alright. Might as well spend the time waiting for them to get cleaned thinking of a better story for them.â the old man began pacing across the large gathering table while KaelâThas groped his rashy wound, grimacing. The steam outlining the two adjacent rooms stopped collecting, meaning the children were finished with their bath. He began pacing faster.

âMmm, what about the one where I tell them how the undead came to be?â He turned to face the irritated dwarf, who was reaching for his left side be recoiled at the last second.

âOh, err I think yeh already told emâ thaâ bâfore yeh left.â

âOh, right, right...do you think they will enjoy The Keeper of Above?â

âToo complicated, donât think theyâll understannit.â

âWhen the world Was One?â

âHisâry lessons are boring.â

âThe Convergent Arachnid?â

âWoah, too gory.â

The storyteller was finally stumped. âOh dear, could I have run out of legends and lore to tell the young ones? They are capable of being patient, but there is no telling when their parents are going to arrive.â

KaelâThas, who was still rummaging around for something, opened up buttoned pockets attached to his tasset. âWhy donât yeh make summin up fer âem?â

He responded by turning aghast. âI canât just make up a story on the spot like that! And besides, Iâd rather get them engrossed in the fascinating sides of reality so they will learn to appreciate it later. This may be the first time Iâd have to create one, however. What should I create?â

âOh, I dunno, do summin like uh--oh, here it is, finally I can get a drink. Commere, yeh beauty.â The dwarf ended his search; he pulled his hand out and revealed a sparkling, diamond-studded flask with the indents of a group of armored dwarves in a struggle all holding the cork. He opened his mouth wide after removing the cork, but before a single brass-colored drop hit his tongue, the flask vanished from his grasp. He issued a âwhaâ the...â before focusing on Master Tristain, who was grasping the flaskâs leather strap with a resentful glare.

âDrinking when you are supposed to be on duty watching the children? You can be detained for that! And what will the children say when their main hero is punished for disorderly conduct?â he twirled the leather strap before tossing the flask back to its owner, who bent his head in gloom. âYou can drink later when we are traveling back to Whisperwind, but right now, you need to focus. Remember, we are still in a war; anything and everything can happen in infinitesimal moments.â

âThaâs right!â KaelâThas realized. âWeâve been in our own little spot fer so long thaâ I fergot weâre in the lasâ moments.â

âI wouldnât go that far,â Master Tristain retorted, âWe still have a lot of work to do. But yes, you are correct, we just have to push a little more and we can all worry about something other than our families.â He had a reserved expression on his face and obtained a chair. âTo think I was a young man when the war was still in progression. Nearly all the masterminds have passed on and we are still fighting out of spite and bias.â

âYeh mustâve a lotta memâries from thaâ, doncheh?â KaelâThas added in reminiscence. I wouldnât know meself since I jusâ started a couple years ago, buâ it feels like thâ war has been my life. I was born innit.â

âFourty-nine long, torn years,â Master Tristain breathed. âMaybe I will live to see its end.â

The dreadful melancholy was drowned out by spirit and anxiety. The two bathroom doors burst open, revealing the five children who were under the protection of the sage and dwarf. Steam poured out the crevices while collective breathing echoed throughout the hall. First arriving were Daniel and Danielle, who entered from the left and right rooms. His hair was now in a raised-front style while his sister lost her pigtails and instead brushed her hair to a length that covered her neck. Instead of taking the time to walk down the staircase, the twins climbed down the balcony, which made KaelâThas and Master Tristain alert.

âHey!â Shouted KaelâThas, âYeh canât just jump offa there, yeh might hurt yerself!â

âAww, relax Frank, weâre fine!â assured Daniel with a wide grin. âSee? Look! No bruises!â

âYeah, weâre not hurt!â accompanied Danielle, despite nearly stumbling over trying to mimic her brother.


Kashan, Elane, and Kahna were last to leave their rooms. His hair was unkempt and collected in a frizz, but did not seem to worry about his appearance. Elane made sure to keep her hair shiny; she ran down the staircase with her hair flowing around her body. Kahna wobbled to the edge of the balcony, looking down to see if her brother was already in the party, but turned around to face him when his hand touched her shoulder. âThanks for taking care of Kahna for me, Elane and Danielle!â Called Kashan, who was answered back with waves from the two. They then walked together to meet with the group downstairs.

âAlright gramps, spill it!â declared Daniel.

âS-Spill what?â He asked bewildered.

âWe know youâve been cooking up a nice story for us, so here we are waiting!â

âBut if youâre tired or donât have a story ready, thatâs okay, we can wait until later,â Kashan added politely.

Master Tristain peered at Kashan in resentment of his use of the word âtiredâ, but collected his senses and addressed the group. âNo, no, thatâs alright children.â He reassured them, looking down at his feet. âI think I came up with a pretty good one...â He took a glance around the array of torches before continuing âLet us have a seat!â

Master Tristain motioned for the head chair in the table--the clothed throne--while the chidlren clambered to the nearest seat. Kashan and Kahna took the left sideâs two tables, while Daniel and Danielle took the right. Elane sat between Kahna and KaelâThas, who was forced to crouch down on his knees from his size.

âBefore telling a story,â the old storyteller began, âI find it best to create the right atmosphere.â He threw his arms high and began to close his eyes and breathe. The inhabitants felt the air thicken and tingle with energy as the arms slowly creeped lower. When this happened, the light pulsating from the torches dimmed. The arms moved ever lower as the main room of Fort Argon slipped into darkness. The children became ecstatic from the tension and suspense, barely able to contain their excitement. This was especially true for Kahna, who began to fuss over the wonders of Master Tristain, which behooved Kashan to tell his little sister to stop making noise. KaelâThas scoffed in the back of the audience, muttering âPfft, thaâs not so special...â

The torches were all extinguished, projecting not so much as a puff of smoke. Master Tristain resumed his normal position, looking around his audience. âNow for some light of my ownâ. He barely finished speaking before emitting an echoing clap from his hands, flinching the children and causing KaelâThas to make a sudden âyip!â from surprise. Master Tristainâs body flickered for but an instant, while his arms produced sparks. Out from within his hands expelled a glowing, gold orb of light, sparkling with whizzing thin streams of particles encircling the sphere. The children all gasped and yelled âWoah!â in amazement at the sight of producing light from onesself, but KaelâThas remained transfixed. He didnât utter a single word, but his shocked expression removed all means of talking. âB-but mine took twenny seconds tâ make summin so crude, âthe jealous dwarf thought, âbut he did it like it was nuthinâ! Anâ it looks so much nicer too...â
Master Tristain set his ball of light next to him to allow it to illuminate the table while the rest of Fort Argon remained pitch black. He then addressed his audience with his face partially lit âHow about this time I spin a tale about Blademistress Rhia?â The childrenâs breathing was now steady and ready to take in imagination.

âBlademistress Rhia, eh?â KaelâThas continued to think, âI see what yer tryinâ tâ do, Master Tristain.â

The storyteller began. âHer tale starts a little over a hundred years ago. Rhia started off just as hopeful, inexperienced, arrogant, and spirited as the rest of any young one in what is now PÃ¥relos Academy. If you young fellows still wish it, you could enter there too. She was trained in classes, she completed her apprenticeship, and she finally graduated and ready to be placed among other graduates. This would be the story for any average student, but Rhia was different. She was placed two years ahead of her peers and graduated at the top of her class. She had a certain flair for her skills. While she trained alongside her classmates, she excelled over all others, defeating them with little effort at all. This undoubtedly brought the attention of the instructors and commanders of PÃ¥relos Academy. They reviewed her specializations and concluded she was exceptionally gifted. There was nothing wrong with her, she wasnât being controlled by a formidable enemy, she didnât have any neural mutation that heightened her senses; she was just...exceptional. Rhia was thus taken into the care of the most elite of soldiers handpicked by the ImpÃ¥nväkt to further enhance her training. After extensive sparring and months upon months of growing, Rhia finally bested her masters and was then offered a place by their side as equals.â

âWow, she must have been amazing!â exclaimed Elane. âWhat was she?â

âShe signed up as the most basic classes of swordswomen,â replied Master Tristain, âbut progressed quickly into the elite classes, which is why they call her Blademistress Rhia.â

âI definitely want to be like her when I get there!â Elane wished.

âHaving a dream is good, but you donât want to progress so hastily like her. Youâll need all the time experience you can get.â

But then his face turned to disappointment. âHowever, there came a time when Blademistress Rhia grew even more arrogant. Her constant growth of ability made her fearless and was irrational when it came to danger. It was all too predictable, then, when a particular assignment came for her, she abandoned her team to claim the rewards for herself instead of having her team to support her.â

âWhaat!?â Exclaimed Daniel, âwhat a jekr! I wouldnât just take the reward for myself, how can she think like this?â

âThat was only her mindset,â answered Master Tristain. âShe was so confident in her abilities that she believed she could handle it on her own. Perhaps she only wanted to spare her team injury and death.â Seeing Elane nod in understanding, he continued, his voice with a hint of dread, âBut she should have brought more than her team that night. The assignment they took was the execution of a fearsome...thing...whose real name holds little value today.â

âY-you donât know what the monster is?â asked Kashan, spooked from the lack of detail about the âfearsome thingâ.

âThatâs the problem isnât it?â Master Tristain surmised. âItâs been so long that no one knows. Of course this means each story confers a different image of this âmonsterâ.â

âSo if we donât know what it looks like,â KaelâThas questioned, âthen what do yeh know âbout thâ monster?â He was answered almost immediately. âThis monster is both a magician and a master of psychology; it feeds upon the fears and misconceptions of those who face it and creates illusions to further mask its identity.â

âDisconte...mistondep...â

âWhere you think something about a person or thing but itâs not really true, Daniel. Anyway, it would have served Blademistress Rhia well if she knew what she was up against. Maybe then she would have allowed her team to be with her.â

âWhat happened to her?â Elane asked reluctantly.

âIn the end, she did face the monster, but she never returned. Not a trace of her appeared after the encounter, nor was she heard from again.â

âBut thatâs crazy!â Daniel blurted, âno one else saw her, not even once?â

âSuch is the power of this terrible beast,â Master Tristain said in conclusion, âIts power so immense, it wipes all intruders clean. Itâs why little to no one else dares to confront it; it would be like asking for your life to be over. Most believe this monster is a devious witch who transformed Blademistress Rhia into a shade of herself, in order to force her to overcome her arrogance. It explains why the only times the monster attacks are when trespassers invade its territory.â

Master Tristain threw his hands together into a great clap, relighting the torches and thrusting Kashan and the others from their dream-like state of imagination. Smirking, he concluded âBut then again, itâs only a story, and a good one at that!â

The children groaned in disappointment. âAww come on Master Tristain,â whined Kashan, âisnât there more to it than that?â

âYeah, and there wasnât much to the storytelling part either!â added Daniel.

âNot much storytelling!?â shouted Master Tristain in shock, âthat was the best improvised story Iâve ever made!â

âWhat about the part where she actually fights the monster?â inquires Elane.

âI canât believe her own friends wouldnât help her in her time of need!â frowned Danielle.

âI found thaâ thâ endinâ wunt much of...an endinâ!â chimed in KaelâThas.

âMore story!â squealed Kahna.

âYou younginâs are all critics!â huffed the old man in disgust, folding his arms and sulking.

The heated commotion and upheaval was interrupted by a gradual clip-clopping of hooves and raised chattering. Outside the fort, something heavy grinding the earth came to a halt while the cries of mighty hooved animals, hästar, squeezed through the closed gate. A ruckus outside prompted a âeasy, easy! Control the wagon!â request from rough, tired-sounding man. Sounds of footsteps inched closer.

âI bet I already know who it is, buâ lemme check jusâ in case,â spoke KaelâThas. He rose from his seat and left the hall, grinding an iron crank in the atrium to release the gate. The children looked at each other in curiosity, then to Master Tristain who had a blank expression on his face.

âIs that my daddy?â Asked Kashan, leaving his chair.

âWeâll let Frank go and see, letâs stay put for a bitâ, forbade Master Tristain.

âItâs awright guys, thâ wagon is here!â called KaelâThas, motioning from within a bare crevice of the gate.

âWagon?â Kashan asked again.

âYes, the wagon,â answered the sage. âLooks like your daddy is here, and on time it seems!â

âAlright!â he rushed down the hall, calling for his missed father.

âDaddy!â Yelled Kahna in excitement. She tried to run after her brother, but was picked up by Master Tristain. âItâll be faster if I carry you, letâs go!â

The land around Fort Argon reached a honey, golden tint as the sun was beginning to set over the horizon; rescuing Elane and being immersed in a story took time away from the group as hours passed by. Outside were two wagons manned by several mighty-looking hästar, furry, hooved quadrupedals with large snouts and magnificent manes trailing down the head to the spine. Their large, beady eyes focused on the small strangers, but did not wish to attempt to come closer and rather welcomed the short break from traveling. The bowl-shaped roofs of cloth that covered the wagons were disturbed when several armored men clambered out the openings, ready to make the groupâs acquaintance.

Freakenstein
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Uhm...Hello there.

So uhh...three things that happened this year.

1. Fall Semester
2. Spring Semester
3. A terrible case of dental bad luck that resulted in weeks of being served pureé and Orajel.

But I'm bouncing back! So hold unto your butts and sit there until I fire another one up shortly.

Freakenstein
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Freakenstein
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Due to immediate protest, I'm shortening the chapters I produce into parts, then releasing them in regular intervals XD

~-*Chapter III: Trouble on the Highway*-~

Part 1/3

The doors of Fort Argon bust open as the group, led by an ecstatic Kashan rushed to greet their guests. Sure enough--to Master Tristan's prediction--several carriages pulled by Paddlefeet awaited them dwon the patchy road. Paddlefeet were stocky, scampering creatures with tough scale hides and droopy noses to sniff out scents. Their names come from their four legs which sport wide feet and long, gnarled claws. Their side tusks are fastened to the axle shafts which pull the carriages. Leather rope guides the Paddlefeet by the carriage master. The party seemed to be under guard; every carriage was manned by at least two soldiers clad in bulky, iron armor. One particular man was what made Kashan rush towards the group.

He was quite aged, but still kept his full head of hair, which was unkempt and complimented with a pointed goatee. Compared to the soldiers, his armor looked to even overburden a large monster! The shoulderblades reached his head, and a long, flowing mantle covered his back, patterned in red and white. The golden shine on his armor reflected the glowing rays of the sun.

"Daddy!" Kashan called gleefully. Kahna appeared shortly after and mimicked her brother. The father, who wore a somber face as he was talking to a guard, quickly returned a hearty laugh as he met his two children.

"Kashan m'boy!" he greeted in a heavy voice. "And my precious Kahna! Hope I didn't leave you two for too long!" He picked up Kahna with one arm and ruffled Kashan's hair with the other. "You'll have to tell me everything you've been up to while we're riding back." he added.

"Yeah, yeah, we're coming, gimme a sec." Master Tristain, who seemed to be out of breath, was being carried by Kael'Thas, much to his disdain. The two twins were next to arrive. Daniel's longing face turned baleful once he realized not a trace of his parents was part of the boarding party. Danielle grew upset.

"Yer parents are waitin' fer us in th' twon down th' road," said Kael'Thas, sensing their distress. "Don' worry, we'll be seein' 'em soon."

"Okay!" said the twins in unison.

"An' as fer you", he added, "Yer another special case in itself." He motioned towards a nearby bush, in which a head belonging to Elane was poking out--she wasn't very used to a large group of people at once and was especially shy. Kael'Thas took her by the hand as she muttered an "O-okay."

"Well hello there Miss Elane!" called Kashan's father as he took a bow. "My apologies; you'll have to stay with us a little while longer before coming back home--it's from your father's wishes--hope you understand..." Elane seemed reluctant to cope.

"What's going on here, Balnades?" inquired Master Tristain as he jumped off Kael'Thas's shoulders. "We weren't meant to expect you for another week." He glanced every which way, spotting the group of soldiers and the Paddlefeet standing at attention. "I'll tell you," began Balnades, "but not right now." The young ones were still clinging to him. "I'd rather talk as men, if you wouldn't mind."

"You brought Paddlefeet with you, why not horses?"

"Like I said, Master Tristain, away from the children please. We don't have a lot of time on our hands, and I'd rather we get moving as soon as possible." the old man's eyes glared. Something was up and he didn't like it.

The boarding party loaded their belongings on the rear two carriages, making sure to return the children's goods from the fort as well. Master Tristain, Kael'Thas, and Balnades tried to maintain light conversation while the children poked and prodded their rides. " Glad to see everything went alright, Master Tristain," Kashan's father spoke up, "Err, everything was alright, right?"

"Course it was!" Master Tristain responded, loading a crate unto the back. "Well, there was that brief time where we were soiling our drawers when poor Elane fell off the waterfall..." he was cut off short by an exaggerated gasp as if someone accidentally breathed in water. "F-fell?" the commander exclaimed. "Miss Elane's safety is most of the reason why we're even swapping locations! I-I mean, if something were to happen--"

"Think of it as extra training for this oaf," he motioned to Kael'Thas, who blushed, "and an extra reason to keep us all on our toes." Elane herself spoke up when she placed her knapsack on top of the crates. "Um, I'm okay, I promise!" Balnades checked the carriages and made sure everything was loaded up. "Well, if you guys are sure, we better get underway. He motioned to the soldiers, who suddenly became alive and prepared the Paddlefeet for departure. He stepped beside the two caretakers and spoke quietly.

"I'll tell you as we're moving. This way, the carriages will be too noisy for the young ones to hear."

"Why th' extra security?" asked the dwarf.

"I'll explain as we ride. I will be riding up in front, but my carriage will take the twins. Kael'Thas will take the side and bring Kashan. I'll have his older brother Allos ride with him. The third will be the middle carriage. You don't mind watching over Elane and Kahna, do you Master Tristain?"

"Not at all, Balnades, he responded, "But if there's a reason for these precautions, I don't think an old man alone would do much."

"I'll have my eldest Gustav watch from outside, then. Daniel and Danielle, you two come with me, okay?" The twins clamored into his carriage, bringing their knapsacks with them. They poured their things onto the floor and began to play with their toys immediately, as to them, this was just another trip.

"Son, you're going with your brother over there," he pointed to him. "Allos is here?" he said surprised. "Yes I am!" called a familiar voice. Kashan rushed over immediately. His eyes were met by a slender teenager of 15 who sported a shaggy mess of brown hair. He was one of the few among the greeting party who wasn't armed in rigid armor, though it looked he like he could do with some protection. He yawned as he greeted Kashan, as if he slept on the way.

"It's good to see you again, brother!" Kashan welcomed. "I have to tell you what happened today!" Allos shooed him inside. "That's fine with me, but let's talk inside, okay?" However, another larger arm pulled him away. "Not without letting me talk to him a bit, right?" said a deeper voice. Kashan looked over to see Gustav, his eldest brother, and gave another shout. He jumped over and hugged his brother, a young, 24-year-old adult, who had the most uncanny resemblance to his father, sporting the same unkempt haircut and facial hair, except in a youthful chestnut color, the same as Kashan's hair color. He face was meatier, though, and didn't have as much bulk to his figure. His armor was in a shiny silver, while his expression was much more serious to his comparison.

"Whatcha been doing, Gustav?" Kashan asked. "I can't tell you what I've been doing." he said bluntly. "But maybe after this trip, I can tell you something. Time is wasting here, we have to go."

Gustav whistled, which signaled the carriages to move immediately. The day was now dimming to a sunset, and the wind picked up from the East to help the carriages on their journey. Once the leading wagon set off, so did the other four followed. The paddlefeet did not make the trip inside easy, as the carriages rattled and rumbled with each unsettling terrain the creatures had to cross. Inside the left side carriage, Kashan and Allos was looking at a couple toys, a map, and a felt-covered book, the latter two which meant little to the younger boy, but Allos was struggling to keep an interest in.

"Aww, don't worry about Gustav," reassured the older brother, " he just has a stick up his rear trying to organize the whole group with Dad."

"I guess", Kashan muttered. "But I don't care about that right now." Allos looked up from his map reading, which had red tracings around several landmarks. Kashan rolled over to the side trying to get situated with the. "I wanna know what daddy and Master Tristain wanted to talk about." "It's probably serious grownup stuff you wouldn't be interested in," he dismissed. "I'm glad the carriage is making a lot of noise; I get enough of that talk as it is, what with joining the Academy and all. Tactics this, War History that. I don't even plan on being a tactician, but I suppose Dad wants me to learn it all the same."

Kashan's short attention span proved Allos right, as he crawled to the side of the carriage and struggled to turn his ear to the outside, trying to listen amongst the turbulence. It came barely fruitful, as he could only hear a few words made out.

Outside, Master Tristain jumped from the top of his carriage to Balnades's area. He sat down beside him and he spoke immediately. "I told you about how Gustav, the king, and I ventured to Fort Karban to meet the rest of the world's leaders in order to discuss a conclusive treatise, right?"

"And how did that go?" Master Tristain inquired.

"It went off without a hitch. It took an hour of finalizing the finer details of territory distribution and disarmament, but almost all of us agreed to calling off our troops."

"Almost...all of us?"

"That's the problem we have. One nation never made it. Lytal, Rangleic,
Volkyyg, Suus, and Milan."

Master Tristain raised his eyebrows, stunned. "But that only leaves--"

"Kaivim." Balnades muttered in a dark tone.

"Well that's just great. More like 'was too proud to come'. That psychotic, harrying, mouth-breathing tro-"

"Master Tristain, please!"

"Oh! Right, sorry about that. I realize this is more difficult for you than it is for the rest of us here."

"There might instead be a problem with his party."

"Nevertheless?"

"Nevertheless. We guard our precious future and bring them to a safer area where we can figure out what's going on."

"It's good that there is a light at the end of this dark tunnel, though."

Balnades let out a brief laugh to remove his troubled look. "Ha! Yeah, we do have that to look forward to, at least. I'm actually surprised that the meeting went so perfectly. It just goes to show you that the rest of them are tired of this nonsense too."

Back inside the side carriage, Kashan hopped from the indented walls and back unto the floor. "Just as I thought, more grownup talk", bragged Allos. "I was hoping for something cool or interesting, but I guess it's just meetings and talking with other old men," pouted Kashan.
A loud, rippling noise caused by the Paddlefeet forced the soldiers to stop the party abruptly. "****!" swore Kael'thas from the side. "What could it be tha's got th' fellas spooked?" The carriages came to an underpass that followed a curve hugging two sides of cliffs that opened upward into the mountainside. Balnades stood up and peered over. He could make out small blotches of darkened wood and stone that resembled the town they were attempting to cross into. The Paddlefeet, however, were sniffing upwards towards the cliff. The creatures' suspicions were correct, as the ground above them was being stamped on by multiple sets of feet. It was then that several bodies were leaned over to spot what they caught sight of. They were armed, gruff men who sneered and smirked at the party below. It was clear that what they found had a lot of value to them. A bearded man clad in furs with a large battleaxe in hand stepped forward to survey their prey. Balnades, in turn, looked upward to connect each others' eyes. As time passed, more and more of these warriors appeared to hungrily watch. There must have been four squads worth of men whole at the top.

StormWalker
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Why thank you Frank, I'm sure pang will appreciate it. In time.
And see, now you have backup against writer's block. IN CASE IT TAKES YOU ABOUT A YEAR TO PRODUCE THE NEXT SEGMENT

Salvidian
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I was on the edge of my seat until I realized there wasn't another line.

Freakenstein
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Let's see what happens if I release part 2 on the weekend.

~Part II~

The assumed leader licked his chops and began to speak in a huffed tone, "Now what's a shiny-looking group like yerselves been comin here and struttin our territory aroun', eh?" Sweat began to drop around Balnades' forehead as he began to realize just how many men were looking down upon him. There couldn't have been more than 40 feet between the two cliffs enveloping the underpass. This would be a tight battle (if it came to it) and the carriages protecting the children would be in great danger. He put his hands upward in a passive gesture "We're just armed travelers looking to make our way into that town over there. That's all we mean to do. We won't encroach further and we'll look for another way afterwards. Just let us pass this one time." The bearded man huffed in laughter, which caused his army to laugh in turn. The laughter enveloped around the group, causing tension amongst the soldiers and making them stir. They clutched their weapons preparing for something to happen.

"What's going on, Brother?" asked Kashan. Allos replied, "I don't know, but I bet it isn't good. The paddlefeet don't like what they found either."

"Are we here already, Daniel?" asked Danielle as she piqued her curiosity by looking out the hole in the back of their carriage. "I wouldn't do that, Sis," warned Daniel. He grabbed her arm before she tried climbing out. "But what if we really are at home? I wanna see Mom and Dad!"

"Danielle, get back inside please," hissed Balnades. She took the hint and quickly stuck her head back in the carriage.

Kahna couldn't take anymore of the fearful laughter and began to cry. "No, please don't cry Kahna, everything will be all right!" cooed Elane, holding her close. Even so, she herself was beginning to sob.

"We need to do something!" cried a soldier in the back. KaelâThas remained steadfast. âWeâre stayinâ put âtil our commander tells us to jump in!â Be that as it may, his knuckles were white grasping his polished battleaxe. No one else was more itching for a fight than he.

"Be that a wee babe you got there?" sneered the leader of the raid party. "She no like none of this does she?" he began speaking in a mocking tone before laughing again.

"That is my daughter," spoke Balnades. "We're just passing through. Let us pass through to this town."

"Passing through my ***!" Balnades was startled by the sudden raising of his voice. "What travelers...pass through with army dogs?"
"We are armed travelers, I told you--"

"Not done I am! Travelers? Armed? Yes...All of yous are! Let me ask you something: What travelers wear the symbol of Lytal!?" The raiders booed and roared, clashing their weapons and shields together. It was clear that they were ready for a fight. They did not take kindly to patchy lies. "I wasn't done either," muttered Balnades. The raid leader turned his head in confusion. "What did you say?" he warned, voice heavy.

"I said, let us pass through to this town, and we will leave your men unharmed."

The raid leader seemed to be hoarse from laughter. " YOU? KILL US!? Your men look like they're barely off their bottle! Do you even know who I am? I'm Gerik the Lunatic, Class III Fighter, and your men will be as limbs if I get to them!" The soldiers surrounding the carriages weren't eager to take on such an unkempt, savage people, much less fight them on uneven ground. But Master Tristain wasn't impressed. He raised a finger and lightly put "If." Balnades was aghast at another person trying to speak down a raiding party. He muttered, "Master Tristain, please let me speak from this point forward! I'm trying to keep our children from as much harm as possible!"

"You gonna let an old fart speak now, whelp? This be rich." The raiding party harassed them even further, some outliers gesturing unkindly.
"Listen Balnades," Master Tristain assured by clapping his hand on his shoulder, "I don't think these people are in the mood for just letting us go. We better end it quickly before they get the jump on us first."
"But what can the group as a whole do? It will take a while for them to even climb up ready to fight them!"

"That's where I come in. You talk them down some more, and I will sit down and prepare something." Master Tristain's eyes were flashing a golden hue.
"O-okay. I hope what you're doing is going to help out." Balnades managed to leave a grin on his face.

Tensions were higher still inside the carriages and that only made the children even more curious. "I hope nothing bad's gonna happen, Allos," worried Kashan. "Hey, don't worry little brother," assured Allos. "If anybody nasty barges through here, they will have to get past me!" He flashed his patchwork shortsword, something that appeared obviously handed down from his older brother when he was his age. He looked confident, but slumped over when Kashan mentioned "but you don't have any armor on; youâll get hurt out there."

Balnades turned his head towards the raid leader Gerik while Master Tristain sat down and focused his hands into something. "Are you people working for anybody?" he asked. "We work for many people" he snickered. "Many people want our work, because we work very. Very. Well." The two soldiers in front of the party swallowed in fear.

"So maybe you're working for, say, the nation Kaivim's king Servos?"
"Maybe we are, maybe we aren't! I don't think it matters for you to know, does it?"

"It sure does. Because we are going to be the ones left alive in this fight." Balnades smirked.

"Bah!" The raid leader waved him off. "You make big talk, but your fight will be boring."

A hooded figure moved towards Gerik and whispered to him. "Warlord Gerik, there's a disturbance in wind down there. Someone must be concentrating power in one of the carriages." After the message was over, his eyebrows were raised high. "WHAT? SOMEONE'S USING MAGIC DOWN THERE?â The raiding party mashed their faces in vehemence, breathing angrily. âCome on Gerik,â said a female raider, âLetâs shut this manâs trap and get on with it!â He flashed his teeth and nodded. âTrying to trap us, eh? That tears it, you're all dead meat! Destroy those carriages, wizard!"
"My pleasure." The same hooded figure conjured a spinning octogram with runes that trickled down shining, crimson particles that collected in the middle. The mass increased in size, until the octogram spun so fast, the lettering was blurred and the borders shined white. Suddenly, the octogram imploded to nothing and the force propelled the burning mass down into the carriages.

Balnades saw the fireball coming, but he could not prepare in time to react and instead panicked. "No! NO!" He began reeling for the front of the cart, but then Master Tristain shouted "Now!" He released his hands and the golden energy that gathered around him shot towards every soldier he wished and enveloped them in light. When his hands both shot pivoted up the cliff, every soldier blanketed in the light, including Balnades, Gustav, and himself, rocketed above the cliff with the sound of cannon fire. They were spooked beyond belief, but now they were falling towards the raiding party, and now they were ready to fight.

This, however, did not stop the fireball; moments after the group teleported to the battleground, the fireball met its target: the rear carriage. The resounding explosion swallowed the carriage in flames while the rest of the wagons were rocked in pure force, sending them crashing to the sides of the cliff. The paddlefeet could not bear to stand, sending trumpeting cries of pain. Balnades looked on in horror. "Dammit!" He shouted. "Don't worry Balnades," soothed Master Tristain, "that was the cargo wagon. Your plan worked just fine. The rest of the carriages aren't hurt too badly."

"Good. Th' kids're all mostly unharmed. With tha' out o' th' way," interrupted Kael'Thas, "This means we can fight with doubt in mind!" Balnades did not care about this detail and his face was red in anger. He shouted down at his enemies, "How dare you people attack a carriage with children on board! You won't walk away from this, I swear it! Even if I have to end you myself!"

The soldiers touched down and began to fight immediately. Swords, spears, axes, and shields clashed with metal as battle cries and bellowing echoed throughout the land. Bodies were wrestled to the ground and both Lytalian soldiers and raiders were struggling to keep up. The raid leader opened his mouth surprised. It looks like his assumptions were wrong. He heaved up his battleaxe but Balnades fell in front of him. He stood up shouting "You may have more men, but our men are far stronger and more disciplined than yours!" The raid leader's brow quivered in distress. "Well then raise your sword behind you if think that's all true!" Balnades simply sprinted towards him. "I won't need a weapon to destroy you! I'm not impressed!"

He raised an armored fist and slammed into the mercenary's chest, propelling him through the air and into a small tree, splitting it in several pieces. Gerik struggled to brace himself up, coughing and wheezing. He raised his battleaxe after situating himself and charged at Balnades to swing with all his might. The sharpened blade swiped down like a guillotine, but the battleaxe rebounded after attempting to slice through his massive armor. The blade of the battleaxe crackled and pieces were chipped off. "W-what kind of man are you to be wearing this monstrosity!? This is ridiculous! How am I hurt so badly?" Balnades swiftly grabbed the battleaxe out of the raider's hand and threw it to the ground. "I am Balnades Skryom! And you have harassed the wrong father!" Simply by hearing the name, the raider scampered backward, throwing dirt unto his legs, trying to crawl away from him. He threw his waving arms in front of him, heaving "Wait a minute! No one told me I would have to f-fight you! This was a set up! I-I-I-I thought that I would be raiding some common people! Not someone as f-f-famous as you! P-please! Just l-let me go! I won't bother you or anyone else, I s-swear it!"

"WHO ARE YOU WORKING FOR?" Balnades bellowed, sending pockets of air to ripple the raider's face. Gerik whimpered, tears and mucus coming out of his eyes and nose. "I-i'll tell you! B-but you have to promise to leave me b-be!" He grunted, sounding impatient.

"H-his name is S-Se--" the raid leader couldn't finish before being impaled by an ethereal spear. Gerik gasped one final "GYAOOHH" before falling to the ground motionless. The spear was pulled from his body, and the hooded mage was the culprit.

MoonFairy
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IN CASE IT TAKES YOU ABOUT A YEAR TO PRODUCE THE NEXT SEGMENT

^
Freakenstein
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^


If I get enough brandy, I can explain! Maybe.
MoonFairy
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If I get enough brandy, I can explain! Maybe.

There ain't enough brandy in the world, babe. Sorry. No excuses.

But keep up the good work
Freakenstein
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Chapter III, part 3/3:

His reddish-yellow robes still swaying in the wind meant he appeared at Gerik's feet just moments ago. "Nobody declares the master's name and expects to walk away." Balnades was stricken with a sudden fear in his stomach. (When did he get here?) he thought. (I better attack him right now while he's still speaking....)

Balnades rushed to the hooded mage and swung with his armored fist. The blow connected and the air around him spun, disturbing the grass and the damaged tree. The mage bent over, but his body began to blur, then simply disappeared, but not before the face stretched to create a smirk. "A shade." he muttered.

Balnades turned to the back, where the fight was still ongoing. Bodies of the Lytalian guard were dotting the battleground, but many more were from the raiding party. He scoped the battle, trying to find a trace of the mysterious wizard he failed to hit and for any soldier needing assistance. After moments of searching, he finally found his target: the mage was squatting amidst the top of a tree, occasionally firing fireballs and relocating himself when anyone attempted to throw javelins at him. He ran towards the next tree that became his hiding spot, but he needn't get involved--"Kael'Thas was hot on his trail. Axe raised high, he flew himself at the mage. The enemy merely scoffed at this hasty attempt and waved this hand. A gust of wind kicked up and pushed Kael'Thas with a force strong enough to stop him in midair, then slamming him on hard earth. The dwarf coughed up spittle and gasped "Blast it! I can' hit em while he's still watchin' me! The mysterious wizard returned to firing more spells at unwary Lytalian soldiers.

A sudden rustling of the branches surrounding the wizard unnerved him--Master Tristain appeared behind the hooded mage and tapped on his back. "Why don't you fight another magic user like me?" Before the wizard turned his head to make a move, the hand touching his back began to sparkle with fluid energies that vibrated with rising, intense noise. The energy grew in immense size with increasing frequency of noise. "I would watch your head if I were you", he warned. The enemy's eyes grew in size.
SHOOM. The energy collapsed, slingshotting the mage into the sky with a blaze of various lights and popping explosions. The magic was too powerful for the wizard to counterattack; he fell to the ground with a crunch, his back singed with burns.

Reeling back in pain, he muttered, "D***. I thought I could get away from being targeted. He didn't tell me there would be another mage in the group..." the mage struggled to clap his hands together. His body and the ground below him vibrated. A pale blue light surrounded him and engulfed his body. When the light dimmed, he was nowhere to be found.

Almost all the battle has been won by the Lytalian guard. The soldiers were celebrating their victory, while the remaining raiders were scattered without a leader. "Yes! We won! Get out of here you smelly bandit!" A soldier carrying a sword and shield bashed a bandit to the side of the cliff and kicked him off, sending him tumbling down. "That will show you! VICTORY TO LYTAL!"

"You overzealous idiot, look where you kicked him!" Shouted another soldier. "He's landing next to the carriages!"

"What did you say!?"

Kael'Thas heard that, crawling to the onlookers. "Th' children!"
"After him!" commanded Balnades. He threw himself over the cliff and dived.

The bandit rolled over the cliff and slid to the ground, where the carriages awaited him. "No...I won't be beaten like the rest." He breathed in heavily. "If I die here, at least I will see what it is they're guarding in here..." He motioned to one of the fallen wagons and moved inside. There, a hunched-over Kashan and a frightened Allos were crouched, trembling. "What..." the bandit spoke, puzzled. "Children? They're guarding children? Wait a minute!" His eyes darted around their bodies, gleaming at the clothing they wore. "You must be the noble brats! You're coming with me! Someone in my group is gonna be rich, so it mights as well be me getting some clink!"

"No!" screamed Allos. "You're n-not touching me or my brother!"

"Shut up! Stop being a bunch of spoiled punks a--" The bandit stepped too far inside and hadn't noticed that Allos had also moved forward. The rogue suddenly became rigid. He looked downward and noticed the short sword that Allos was clinging for protection had gone too far and pierced the bandit's chest plate.

"Y-you...just--" The bandit hunched forward and slumped, to Allos's horror. His eyes grew wider as the color faded from his skin.

"I..I, no... I-I didn't..."

"Is everything okay down there!?" Shouted a voice from above. It was Gustav, sliding down the cliff, while the rest of the party joined his initiative. He pushed the raider's body out of the way and found Allos stiff as a board. His trembling hands dropped his sword as it fell to the carriage floor with a dull *clunk*.

"I...brother. I-I just...?" Gustav peered towards the body, then back to his little brother. "Well would you look at that!? You just made your first kill! That's my little brother! Well done!"

"My boys--my little girl--where's my little girl?" Balnades checked through each of the carts to pull out the twins Daniel and Danielle, then finally, in the back of the broken cart to the right, was Elane clutching the frightened Kahna in her arms, both of them sobbing. "Oh thank the Lords and Ladies. Come on--let's pull you both out." Elane hopped out of the cart, but couldn't walk--her right ankle was twisted. Kahna made it out with only a scratch on her left cheek, but made it a point to notify everyone that she got a scratch anyway. "shhh shhh it's okay sweetie--"everything's fine, everything's okay, I gotcha."

The five children walked to the center to check out everyone's health. "Are you okay Elane?" Asked Kashan. "Y-yeah, it's just a twisted foot."

"We made it out okay," said Danielle, "but why were we attacked?" "I wish I knew the same thing", spoke Balnades, "I couldn't get the answer out of their leader". He stood puzzled, staring at his eldest son, who nodded.

"Maybe we should worry about one thing at a time," suggested Master Tristain, who floated down to the party. "Let's fix these carriages and get going before everyone is worried sick." Balnades looked to the injured paddlefeet. "I wonder if they are even able to carry us to the town in this state." It was then decided that the group spent the remainder of the afternoon patching up the paddlefeet and repairing the four carriages that were broken in the attack. The movement strategy had to be tweaked, due to five soldier casualties and one completely destroyed carriage filled with supplies. Balnades led the front, Gustav and Master Tristain watched from the sides, and Kael'Thas took to the rear. Once everything was finalized, the children climbed back into their carriages and waited until the gleaming lights of their destination grew bigger.

Freakenstein
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Time to get back in gear! New chapter right now!

~*Chapter IV: Magic-"City Hylatt*~ (Part 1)

Even half an hour after the ordeal when things settled down was Allos still inconsolable; he squatted in a corner of the carriage silent, just staring at his shaking hands. Kashan had to find a way to lift his spirits.

"Come on, Allos," he started, "If it wasn't for you, both of us would be goners! He was a bad guy and needed to be taken out!"

But that only fanned the flames for his older brother. "This isn't a game, Kashan!" he yelled, making his little brother slide in his seat. "I killed a man, his life is over, and it's all because of me!"

"But you saved both of us." Kashan countered. "And that means something to me at least."

Gustav beside this carriage heard the commotion and moved to the front of it. "What matters is that he is dead and you both are not. He was nothing but a bandit and you put a stop to that. You saved your brother's life. Are you really going to turn down your first rescuee?"

"You are used to killing, so it doesn't affect you anymore", retorted Allos.

He changed the tone of his voice. "Depends on who you kill, really: bandits and would-be-thieves, not so much. But others..."

The various murmuring of soldiers and the snorting of paddlefeet could only mean that the journey was over. "Magic-City Hylatt", confirmed Gustav. "This is where you and your friends are staying, Kashan: in a thick crowd, lots to do, and plenty of security to watch over it."

"Why do you guys have to go again?" whined Kashan. "We were just together and now you're going away just like that."

"Yes we are", he stated simply."We're still not done with our business. But when we are, I promise we'll have plenty of time to catch up."

"That's what you said last time."

"Look", he paused, "being a soldier is very busy work and we have a lot on our plate right now. Isn't this what you dreamed of being when you're grown up?"

"Yeah, I guess"

"At least you'll still be with your friends, right?" he assured.

The carriages came to a halt behind a wooden gate supported by tall beams and lanky-looking footmen overlooking it. The party would have to be given the OK before entering. One of them with a patchy beard piped up.

"This is Hylatt, who are you soldiers and what are you doing bringing yourselves in here?"

"You know who I am and what we're doing here, now move it!" shouted Balnades in a surprising change in mood. The corrected guard got the message."C-Commander Balnades! Very sorry to keep you like this! I couldn't see that far away, you see."

He began cranking away at the gears, allowing the gate to slowly reveal the city of Hylatt to the party, glowing in the sunset. Kashan clambered to the front of the carriage to watch as dozens of people commuted to and fro from each brick-filled house, villa, shop, smithy, barracks, arena, and farmhouse enclosed in the iron-infused stone walls of the city. The smooth roads separated to allow patches of grass and trees to grow with flocks of birds to inhabit them, making the environment a stunning sight! Loose paper flew as one citizen rushed to the alleyways late for work. Another was examining wares in an open-forum apothecary, muttering "You'll sell interdimensionary sickle scrolls for 88 gemelds but make us pay out the rear for thunderballs? Ridiculous!" Kashan's carriage made a left across the sputtering water fountain before watching how the transaction went.

"We'll be keeping you here," pointed Gustav as the group passed through another large intersection amongst other travelers before stopping at a rather large inn with colorful windows that reflected the sun's rays in a spectrum and several crescent moons with faces on the walls to advertise their rooms.

Kashan--and Allos, dreadfully--stepped out of their carriage as the twins, her sister, and Elane also left and joined at the front door."I think you'll be rather excited about this place, little brother." Gustav spoiled.

There were some hurried voices coming from within that grew louder as the door opened. A middle-aged woman with her hair in a bun pushed the door wide as her tied apron fluttered. She looked to Balnades, then to Daniel and Danielle and made a gasping noise. "Danielle! Danielle! My darlings, it's so good to see you!" She grabbed both of their sides in an impressive embrace.

"Mom--ouch, that hurts!" Daniel complained. "hehe, we missed you too, mom." Giggled Danielle.

"How was the trip here?" their mother asked, and they talked over all that happened in exchange for being allowed to breathe. Their father soon stepped outside as well, and couldn't quite do the same feat as his wife, as he was quite shorter in comparison. His pale face and reddened nose suggested he was coming down with something. He let out a loud sneeze as he attempted to also hug his children. "Hi dad!" Danielle called. "No--wait, please don't hug us, your whiskers hurt." Too late--he was already smothering the two in his pronounced, tangled beard.

Balnades gave a hearty laugh and greeted, "Baldwin! That cold of yours isn't killing you I hope?"

"Can't complain, sir!" He replied, "with all you have to deal with, a cold is practice!"

"You don't have to call me 'sir' do you? We're old friends aren't we?"

"True, but I think your soldiers are a little jealous of said friendship!" they chuckled as they were welcomed inside (the paddlefeet were to be rested in the attached stables nearby).

"Spirits! But hold the Downers!" roared Baldwin's pun as the group filed around the stained tables and sat down over a popping fire in the hearth. Kael'Thas felt right at home: he and Master Tristain plopped down on a table in the corner of the inn whilst accepting a large mug.

"Unbelievable", Master Tristain scowled, "drinking on the job of protecting these children. They look up to you, you know!"

"Ahh shaddup, whaddaya know", dismissed Kael'Thas after taking a large gulp,"Wha's wrong wit' a little after-battle celebration, eh?"

"You're not going to rise up in the ranks with that attitude..."

"I'm tired here! I took a nasty plunge from tha' uppity mage and now me back hurts like hell. Lemme alone this one time, okay? 'sides, yeh could do wit' a bit o' cheerin' up yerself--yer more stiff than all th' bricks in this inn!" he chuckled and downed his mug.

The darkened, warm atmosphere was making Kashan a little sleepy. The kids squatted by their parents (Elane followed the Skryims) and received milk and fruit juice by the kind barman.

"I need to know, Balnades," muttered Baldwin. "How much longer? Have the kings made a consensus?"

"Yes, please tell us," the wife followed suit, "I don't want the war to last long enough for my babies to sign up in this awful combat."

"Sorry Deidre," apologized Balnades, "There is a small hiccup--that really means a big problem." He told them about the one nation's king who didn't attend the conference.

"I can't believe that King Melrom didn't go!" Baldwin spoke after listening. "He's either lazy or scheming, and it wouldn't be the first that he's done the latter!"

"You gotta put pressure on him, Balnades," suggested Baldwin as Deidre poured more alcohol for the two. Balnades pushed Kashan's hand away for trying to grab a sip.

"I just can't," he finalized. "Kaivim is a large nation, and Melrom is a powerful ruler--very diverse spellcaster--he and I were rivals back when we were first-classes. Maybe it's because he's so powerful that he's been resistant for so long."

"Don't say that," Baldwin interrupted."The other nations signed the armistice not because they were weak and you struck fear into their hearts--it's because they too are sick of this long war."

"That's enough, you two," warned Deidre."I'll have none of this war talk while there are children present!" They peered around the room to see that all the kids were fixed intently on the subject. "Can't we all just talk real gossip and be merry?"

"Yeah, this grown-up talk is boring," Daniel whispered in Kashan's ear after he climbed out of his chair. "Let's get out of here and have some fun."

"Where are we going, Dan?" Kashan asked as his arm was suddenly being pulled by Danielle.

"Where else, dummy?" Danielle chastised. "Your cousin is staying here too, right? How could you forget that? We're going to see him!"

"Yeah, we aren't really a group until we have that uppity bookworm tagging along, are we?" her brother added.

"Well, then, let's go!" resolved Kashan. "I think I still know the way."

The three children slipped away from their parents and sneaked through the door while they were chatting about their old days. Elane got the message and went after them. Little Kahna tried to follow suit, but was picked up by her dad. "Where are you going, little one? Mommy will be down to feed you soon. Where is Lucy by the way?"

The two exchanged hesitant looks. After receiving another look of Balnades's own, Baldwin finally stated "Lucy went back to Lytal."

He looked as if he was about to blow a gasket. "SHE WHAT!?" he bellowed while pounding a fist on the table, crippling the table legs, and giving the other inn patrons worried faces. "S-She insisted, old friend! She felt she needed to protect the capital while you were away, and it's not like I could have done anything to stop her--she is quite strong after all--and I agree, she could right well protect it well and good---

"Our capital isn't as safe as she thinks it is!" he explained.

"So she IS doing a service by going there to protect it!" Baldwin reasoned jokingly. His friend glared at him severely, which he responded by sneezing.

"With what transpired just then, somehow, I don't think Lytal is as sturdy as we all think..."

Riptizoid101
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tl;dr

10/10 ign

"It's a thrilling story about Lassie and his dog, which teaches the important lessons of love, longing, and redemption."
~ New York Times Best Seller

Freakenstein
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(Part 2/2)

The small yet quick adventurers slipped around corners and trotted through alleyways of Hylatt, with Kashan and Daniel leading the pack. They made for the south-east quadrant, dodging over waste containers and closed-off fencing. Danielle suddenly spoke up. "Hey Kashan, is it okay for us to be running free without an adult watching us?" While keeping a brisk pace, he looked back and responded, "Yeah! I mean, Dad always said that Hylatt was the safest place in the whole world, next to home. That, and, if he really wanted to, my dad could stop all of us at the same time." Daniel scoffed. "All four of us? I don't think so! He can't move so quickly with that heavy armor on. Now MY dad on the other hand." "Our dad is blubbery and has a cold, what are you saying?" His sister blurted out, giggling. This sorely defeated Daniel's argument, but at least it made the group laugh together.

There was one more alleyway to push through and they would be near their destination. "Would Inti be home right now?" asked Kashan. "Nah, that nerd is killing his eyes in the library" jabbed Daniel. "I bet you my pocket money he's there even though it's still bright outside."

The group was about to pass through went Elane, who has been silent and behind her friends the whole time, stopped when she noticed something. "Wait a minute, guys" she spoke, peering over a random trash can. There was a hooded figure with its back to the same trash can, immobile, and complete in tattered, stained rags. "What are you doing?" Daniel asked Elane. "Why did you stop?" She bent over the man, who had his eternal gaze across the alleyway. He seemed to not notice the children, or did not seem to care. "A homeless man?" Inquired Kashan. "Whatever!" piped up Daniel. "Meet us at the library when you're done." The siblings then sped off south.

"He looks like he has nothing to his name." said Elane. "We have to..." she then reached into her waist and pulled out a series of gold coins. Counting them in her hand, she then placed them in the homeless man's own hands. This triggered a rather startling event in which his eyes darted to his newly-acquired money and gasped airily. This made Elane recoil, to which Kashan instinctively pushed himself in-between the two. "C-C-COINS! I can buy m-many things with this amount, I can finally live aga..." he turned his head to his donator and eyed all about her. "These clothes, you're...No...I can't take this money." He drooped his head back to where it was before when Elane spoke up assertively. "No, it's okay! I insist! I have plenty more for myself, but you're in more dire need of it than I do." The homeless man then jumped from his squatting position and thanked her genuinely. "Thank you so much, Miss, I will never forget how you saved me from nothingness." He shook Elane's hand vigorously, who maintained a happy yet awkward expression, then sped off towards the opposite direction of Daniel and Danielle's trail. He turned the corner and was never seen again.

"Hey, you did something nice!" Praised Kashan. "But we can't let Daniel and Danielle waiting. Who knows what they will do to Inti if we let them bother him."

"Yes, lets, but...why didn't you go with them? I could have met up with you guys afterwards, you didn't have to watch me." He scratched his head before saying "Well...my dad always told me 'no matter where we all end up, never leave Elane by herself.'"

"But why would he say something like that to you?"

He took a moment to think, and then he concluded "Well...It's because you're the princess!" Grinning, he added "and princesses need bodyguards, right? I think that's why Dad wanted me to do it, because I'm a Skryim."

"Oh...right."

The two realized they had somewhere to be and followed the twins to the library, where Inti, Kashan's cousin, was thought to be. They did not seem to be that far behind (or maybe Daniel and Danielle slowed their pace for them), because they spotted them after a short moment of running.

The outside of the library was nothing special, but inside was something special. Columns upon columns of many books were lined up in rows higher than small houses, some taken out and placed by librarians, others sorted out by themselves. There were books that you had to ask someone else what it reads, books that created text of what you were thinking (you had to pay for it immediately after it happens, as Daniel was unfortunate enough to experience), heavy books that hold your weapons for you, books that came with its own cipher, and books that could change your appearance (for the worse). Daniel cried out in tears for a nearby librarian to fix his dire mistake, which was opening a book that changed his sex. The head librarian forbade him from touching any other books after that matter, but also told Kashan and Danielle to refrain from laughing so hard. One such category of books, spell books, was sure to be where Inti was hiding.

"I hear his voice!" spoke Danielle in a hushed matter. "Let's go see what he's up to." They sneaked into a large room where piles of books, homely and gilded alike, were stacked on top of a desk where a singular boy with medium-length, straight black hair was hunched over peering into a spell book over candlelight which seemed to change its font and text in a swirling motion. He muttered some words in a misty sort of voice, words which did not make much sense to the group, but likely did not care in Daniel's mind as he slowly crept toward Inti's left ear.

"LOOK WHO IT IS, IT'S MY GOOD FRIEND INTI!" Blared Daniel as he surely made Kashan's cousin jump two feet in the air, causing his book to fly in the air and start spitting out foul globs of gunk on the walls. "Troglodyte!" flared Inti, who was flipping through a spotless, shiny book to figure out how to clean up such an awful mess "shambles to me for wishing to abide alone, to acquire vast knowledge! When approaching the incunabula of greatness, I'm cursed to be in the presence of you!"

The string of words flying off Inti's tongue utterly baffled the children, and rightly so, when they looked at each other with their mouths agape trying to understand what's going on.

When locating the correct spell text, Inti casually spoke an incantation which caused a strange-smelling liquid to spew from his fingertips and into the grime, which dissolved and left no residue to be seen. "Fantastic!" He threw his arms in the air sarcastically, "how may I continue to be the butt of the Phaneron's practical jokes?" His curiously-hued eyes glared in Daniel's direction.

Danielle was the first to speak, though she had to shake her head as if to throw away all the confusion. "Look, you need to slow down, my paper-loving, big-word-tossing friend." She took each word slowly. "We.came.to.get.you."

Inti reached an epiphany. "Hold. You're here."

"Yes we are; good for you!" teased Daniel.

"Ergo, Kashan's father is present."

"That's right..." Kashan nodded, not sure where his cousin is going with this.

His eyes expanded. "Why is he here!? Is he not aware of the danger our home Lytal is encased--second of which, Cousin, your mother..." He paced to and fro from where they stood.

"Wait, Momma is in danger?" Asked Kashan in fright.

"No idea", admitted Inti, "but it's a glaring possibility. Your mother is surely there, making certain nothing comes of ill to the capital."

"I don't know if that's true, but I did hear Mr. Skryim shouting after we left to pick you up", Elane pondered.

"Princess Elane!" Inti shuddered. "Kismet that you're here, though! This presents one fair advantage on our side of the table, if you will." Elane became heated after hearing the word 'princess'. "Inti, please call me Elane. Not Princess Elane, just Elane."

"But that's improper!"

"We are friends! Friends don't have to call each other by title." She was practically grabbing Inti around the collar to enforce him.

"R-right, fair enough."

Daniel was wheeling himself around in Inti's chair. "You can tell Kashan's dad all that, but you're still here to have fun with us."

"Pardon?"

"You heard me! You act like an adult, but you're still eight just like us. That means you come and have fun with us."

"I see no gains in make-believe you--"

"It's four against one Inti!" interrupted Danielle, with a wide smile.

"V-very well, but after I speak to Commander Balnades."

After that was settled, Inti grabbed a particularly-large, but light spell book and paid the head librarian several silver coins to keep. He bade the group of children goodbye (after quickly surveying Daniel's person), and the party made for the Inn where they could find plenty of things to keep them occupied.

However, they did not make it that far before stopping. It was getting tougher to see as the sun was setting, but while they decided to walk along the main road, they came across a large crowd of people of various backgrounds in an uproar. Amongst the messages they protested, the ones the children could make out were "We should have destroyed it a long time ago!", "What are we going to do?" and "Please do something, Commander Balnades!"

"Hey, my dad is over there!" shouted Kashan gleefully, but Inti pulled him back. "Hold a moment, Cousin. Let's study the situation, shall we?"

Balnades, Gustav, and Allos were lined up facing a boisterous, middle-aged man with a unique sort of beard and robed clothing. His posture and raised head made him seem in charge of the citizens here. He looked amongst the restless crowd for someone, but instead cleared his throat to speak.

"I must tell you what has happened, Commander Balnades, and I hope for your cooperation in this matter: Another child has been missing and the crowd will not stand for it!"

"Another child you say?" Inquired Balnades.

"Right, and our culprit has been the same--the mansion behind us all: Kolting Manor! A rather impressive one if I do say so myself. But to the point, several children have been seen opening the gate to this mansion and never returning since. This child has been the most recent and fortune to us for having you enter this city just after it happened. Maybe now we have a chance to succeed!"

"Well, we are staying for a couple days here, but I can help you with this matter personally, and at once."

"No, you can't go in!"

"But you just asked me t--"

"Let me explain. You can't go in, your fine son Gustav can't go in, I can't go in, most of this freaking city can't go in! They'd be assailed mercilessly by the demon spirits that lurk within that mansion and we'd be squat to keep ourselves from dieing in it. We've sent fully-grown, fully-trained soldiers in that mansion and they didn't return either!"

"So what do you want us to?" the commander asked.

"Why did you emphasize 'fully-grown'?" Asked Gustav.

The flustered mayor of Hylatt jumped in place to keep himself sane. "The thing is, well, it's hard to explain...has your second son over there, uhm, finished his adolescence?"

Allos was taken aback, but Balnades spoke for him. "He's only fifteen, but why does this matter?"

The mayor fiddled with his beard before answering "This may seem over your head--this is a magic-city, of course--so we have plenty of scholars on hand... We came to the conclusion that these spirits do not make themselves known to adults, nor can the adults actually fight back if they are threatened with their life. There is a range of reaching adulthood, obviously, and so since our soldiers are too old to attack the spirits, and children are too young to even hold a weapon, it stand to reason that your younger son there is at the perfect sweet spot to save our children!"

Balnades pondered, but stated "Maybe so, however, he's the only teenager I have. Sending him alone can do little, if not nothing of progress. If he had others with him, though..."

"See, that's why I was looking around, but Hylatt is a city of scholars and traders, both of which are too old to assist. We're..done for aren't we?"

The crowd boomed even louder, prompting Allos to speak up. "Father, let me at least try!"

"I forbid it!" restricted Balnades as he shook his head. "Going in there alone is a suicide mission, it seems. I'll call for cadets from Lytal and Bremingen to solve this issue later, but your life shouldn't be wasted--"

"I thought I was a soldier!" Exclaimed Allos, clapping his hands on his father's shoulders. "I'm a Skryim, aren't I? I am your son! That means I can accomplish anything that's in front of me. I can do this, I just need to try."

"That is final!" shouted his father. "My word is safer for you. We're going back to the Inn."

Despite the growing angst of the crowd, the mayor insisted for a while that Balnades would bring reinforcements to the rescue--that this idea would bring the best rate of success. Inti gestured toward Kashan and the gang, and they snuck around the father and two brothers in order to refrain from being spotted. Once out of sight, they bolted for the Inn so that, when the three arrived, they would be beaten and made to believe that they were here the whole time and not eavesdropping on the conversation.

Balnades, Gustav, and Allos entered through the front door of the inn while the children remained around the back door casually.

"I'm going to take a paddlefoot and make for Bremingen to bring cadets with me to solve this issue," the commander stated to Baldwin after explaining the issue. "Surely you're not going to stay the night first, Balnades?"

"I can't stay here, Deidre," apologized Balnades, "I must leave immediately. Kashan, Kahna, your children, and Elane are in danger of entering the mansion as well, it will take far too long to organize everything to leave the city as it is, and it's already getting dark."

Balnades paused a moment before breathing in and letting out a heavy "ACHOO!" Snot dripped down his nose and he realized his cheeks reddened.

"That settles it!" commanded Deidre. "You've caught Baldwin's cold, so you must stay as long as you need to get rid of it.

"I don't care, I have to--"

"I can go fetch some boys, Father," insisted Gustav. "Okay, that makes me feel better. You go in my place. The dean knows who you are, but make it quick: I don't know how the mansion works, but no children just walk up to the gate of that place and suddenly disappear."

Freakenstein
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Fun fact: if I typed all of this for NaNoWriMo, I would be 2/5 done!

Freakenstein
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~*Chapter V: Demon Mansion*~ (part 1)

Twilight had officially fallen on the city of Hylatt: the cobblestone streets twinkled with the shine of the streetlamps overhead as the last few customers and busyfolk scuffled towards their homes. The merchants cleaned their stores and shuttered their windows to signal closing time, much to the dismay of a few latecomers, who wished to purchase sextants which illuminated the path they most wanted to follow. The alleyways were fluttering with giggles and hushed whispers as the Nightsprites danced in the air and played without a care in the world. These glowing, teeny fairies pulsated in many colors of purple, blue, and green, often causing the light sleepers of Hylatt to become irritated. "TURN THOSE LIGHTS OFF, I'M TRYNA SLEEP!" bellowed one upset villager, who opened his windows to find a group of fourteen Nightsprites whizzing around like hummingbirds trying to catch another who stole their favorite berry, snickering.

Inside Baldwin's inn, Kashan and the gang crept into the main dining hall, pretending they never left late afternoon, and were treated to several of the only appetizers left for dinner: blocks of mealy cheese that smelled if you got too close, bits of ripe fungi that pricked your tongue if you weren't careful, a variety of picked wild berries, a few of these tiny, squirming amphibians that were meant to be chased with alcohol, thus weren't very pleasant tasting by itself, and a glass of boiled river water. The children were fed, but not quite to the liking they were used to back home. "Sorry for not fixing up something special kiddos", apologized Baldwin as he washed more mugs and carafes, "If I knew old Balnades was coming, I'd've made something more special. But this is an Inn of course, not a fancy restaurant."

"Oh it's okay Mr. Baldwin, this is good food!" Elane spoke up. Baldwin smiled, though he didn't take that as an honest comment when Kashan avoided the mushrooms and noticed that Danielle tried many times to fork some more cheese out of Daniel's plate while he wasn't looking. "You could have maybe hunted some game and fed us some good meat, Dad", he protested.

Being cooped up in the inn since the arrival allowed Frank to gulp down quite a few mugs. It took all the effort he could muster to continue sitting in his chair. Master Tristain was in a perky mood and red-faced, but never near the degree his compatriot was in. "Alright, you had enough, it's time to come upstairs to bed." Frank was not aware that he was speaking. "So I tell th' smelly steakhead who was still holdin' unna my food 'you take a bite out o' tha' fågelkött an' I'll rip yer liver out an' feed it t'--what in blazes are ya doin' t' me!?" Master Tristain curled his hands together in a sphere and Frank was engulfed in a large bubble which suspended his movement. He walked forward and up the stairs to the bedrooms and the Frank-containing bubble followed his commands. The dwarf continued to spin around, slowly. "This feels weird, man, stop it." he pleaded. "Absolutely, I'll tell the bubble to plop you right on a bed."

"That's a good idea kids, let's hop off to bed right now," commanded Kashan's father. Daniel started whining while Kahna, who was curled on Balnades's lap, squirmed in protest. "I mean it: you can have all the fun you want tomorrow when we all can see you outside."

Allos was being quiet since coming back from the mansion's gates. He was the first to head upstairs, not muttering a 'good night' to the folks. Not being able to help Hylatt out in its plight must have upset him. Kashan was next, and Elane followed suit. "Fiiine, I'll go to bed," muttered the defeated Daniel. His sister snagged one more block of cheese before climbing to her bedroom. "Boys and girls in separate bedrooms!" Yelled Deidre from underneath the barrels of alcohol. "Oh please, dear, they're only eight.", laughed Baldwin. "Well, it's never too early to get that into their heads."

"Alright father," Gustav spoke as he made his way outside. "I'll leave at once for competent cadets who can help us with our little problem."

"Come back safely and swiftly, in that order" requested Balnades. He turned in his seat and faced the young mage standing before him. "Hello Inti! Why are you still with us?"

"In actuality, I originally planned to arrive here privately, but Kashan and his boisterous friends annoyed me beforehand."

"Oh? Well, that is like them, the energetic kids that they are!" he chuckled. "So, what did you want to talk to me about?"

"It was thirty-one-and-a-half minutes before Kashan located my study when someone interesting appeared adjacent to said room..."

Kashan, Daniel, Allos, and Inti had their room together, while Danielle, Elane, and Kahna were sleeping a room across. This rather cramped room was dusty and had uninteresting paintings in an attempt to add atmosphere. The only interest was of the faint, far lights of nearby Nightsprites dancing along the rooftops of the building next door. Despite his grumbling, Allos was sound asleep the moment he laid his head to rest. Inti was reading a book in the dark by enchanting his eyes to flash light onto its pages. Kashan peered to his right from underneath the covers to Allos, who was shifting uneasily in his bed, not being able to sleep easily. He could not tell if Allos's eyes were open or closed. Kashan slept on his back, staring at the ceiling. It did not take long for him to close his heavy eyelids and drift off to slumber.

He was standing in his well-decorated room, in the highest column of Castle Lytal, watching his mother from his window. She was pacing the courtyard outside the barracks, seemingly instructing soldiers on proper fencing technique, but the soldiers seemed to look more like training dummies. What was she doing talking to herself like that? He crept closer to the window for a better look.

As soon as he pushed his face to the window, however, much of the skies around the barracks darkened and festered with brewing stormclouds, which swirled downwards in a funnel. Lucy was quite flustered when she braced herself for the oncoming torrent, stepping backwards several times. The dark funnel cloud unfolded itself and dissipated, revealing to Lucy...It was the evil mage Kashan saw back on the highway to Hylatt! Lucy shouted at the mage, but he could not tell what she was saying. The wizard extended his arm at his mother, and she....she seemed to jump backwards, but she fell to the ground and twisted her ankle. Kashan had to save her mother from the evil mage! "Momma, no! Get up! Run away from him!" he slammed his fist hard into the window. The cloaked mage began conjuring a spell from his still-extended arm, which swirled in heavy energies. Lucy could do nothing but look on in horror. Kashan must save his mother from dieing. He continued to bang on his window while his heart was racing. The thought of him losing his mother terrified him and sent his blood boiling. The last fist suddenly broke through, and he could not keep himself from tipping over--Kashan fell from his room to his certain death, three whole stories from the highest column to the ground. His eyes were fixed to his mother taking a direct blast of black fire as the last few inches of ground met his soul, and...

"Kashan! psst! Wake up!"

His head darted forward, bashing Danielle's nose and sending her toppling backwards and onto the floor. He groped his head in pain without noticing that he was sweating buckets. "OWWUH! Wuts the big idea?" She had both hands holding her face knowing a nose bleed was about to happen. "What's with all the noise?" grumbled Daniel, slowly rising from his bed.

Danielle and Elane had entered the boy's room wearing their nightgowns. Elane helped Danielle to her feet and regain composure while saying "Kashan, something terrible has happened!"

"Tell me about it", Kashan replied, gasping for air. "I just had the scariest...hey, where is Allos?" That was when Inti turned his head and glared. "Allos is..." He too shot forward. "Blast my nativity! He must have snuck out our chambers after I laid my book down."

"That's what I was about to tell you guys before Kashan cleaned my clock!" Danielle yelled. "I was heading downstairs to go pee, but then I saw Allos exit the inn!"

"He must have gone alone to save the child", concluded Elane. "You heard your dad, Kashan, he can't do it by himself."

"We do have to help." Kashan agreed. "But what can we do? We're just kids; we can't fight..."

"We're still going, you fairy." criticized Daniel. "With the five of us together, there's nothing we can't do!"

"You're right," Kashan said as he was persuaded. "We'll leave right now and save my brother and the kid!"

"Hark!" demanded Inti. "You seriously haven't forgotten what I can do, have you? You're staring at someone who outclasses graduates in raw magical prowess. We're rescuing Allos unharmed, you mark my words."

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