Welcome to our story! This is a collaboration between me and @Derunih. We hope you enjoy!
As I slowly open my eyes, I realize how much my back aches. I moan, and see the sun peaking over the horizon. I feel a stable platform below me, and I see trees pass by. I try to stand up, but can’t seem to get my legs under me. I see two dead bodies beside me, and I try to scream, but I realize my mouth is gagged. No, that’s not it. No voice was coming out. I could barely open it. I try to stretch out my arms, but as I lift them up, I fall over, and I fall asleep again....
As I wake up, once again, I’m in a small dark room. I can’t move around, and I can’t see anything. Outside I hear the words “For he was a brave barbarian, and he wi-” just as I knock on the inside of the box. The man comes to an abrupt stop, and opened the box. “H-he’s alive! It’s a ghost!” I see a young, handsome boy that appeals to me yelling at me. His robes are midnight black, and he has blond hair. He yells something unintelligible. and someone comes back with a sword, and attempts to kill me. I roll to the side, and instantly the world around me is going super slow. As I feel the rush of adrenaline, I hop up, grab the sword, and barrel roll beneath his feet. As I grab the sword, the rush of my head slows down, and I stand guard.
I attempt to speak with my raspy voice and start on “Why would you do that? I just woke up and you try to kill me?!”
The man in the robes starts clapping, and exclaims “It really is you, Alex the Dragon Slayer!” I am confused, is that my name?
“I guess so.” I say to the man, and realize a shield is on my back. I pull it off, feeling like it is a natural movement, and put it in front of me. “And who might you be?”
“Well, fine sir, I am Thomas, the Healer. May I ask, why are you so slender?”
“Ummm… I don’t know. I probably just haven’t eaten lately.” I say nervously. Thomas understands, and brings me some food, and I wonder what we’ll do next. I realize I don’t remember what my life was like, and all I remember is some firey bird beast blasting some ray at me before this. “How does everyone here know me?”
“Well, considering you’ve slain more dragons than anyone else, I’d assume that’s the reason. You must’ve been overpowered by a dragon of some sort. We found this sword on your lap surrounded by scorch marks.” Thomas says, giving me a blackened blade, with glistening crystals underneath. It’s almost to heavy for me, but it sort of balances out the shield, unlike the other sword I stole. It is gleaming, and it makes me feel powerful, as if some sort of ancient power is within it.
“Well, would you like to be my assistant? If I died from a dragon, I could use a healer” I say, hoping I can trust this ‘Thomas.’
“Oh boy, would I?!” He titters, rather juvenile, but then he corrects himself and says “Um, yes I would, if that would be okay with you…”
I’ve honestly kind of happy he agreed. I tell him to come with me, and we’re off…
I follow Alex as they set off down the road, slightly glad to have something to do other than arrange funerals. They tend to get awfully boring, after all. Glancing around as we walk, a small question begins to form, between the cooling excitement of the fight just now, and the growing excitement of setting out on a new adventure.
Thinking back at what had just happened, Alex still seemed a little groggy from whatever had knocked them out in the first place. This only made me admire Alex more, seeing as they managed to fend off my attack, even in that state. Humming quietly to myself, I feel that I have lucked out with my choice of travelling companion.
Turning to Alex, he seems confident, yet a little… Vague. Perhaps he had not fully woken up yet, even after talking a bit, and the walk so far. And so the question bugs me even more, making me just come out and ask, “So, uh, Alex… Where are we headed?”
He slows down, and reaches up to scratch behind his neck, “Truthfully… I don’t know. I don’t exactly recognise this place, I did get wheeled off in a cart after all. What is up ahead?” He waves in the general direction of the road, not much visible except trees bristling on either side.
I chuckle at that, and point up ahead, “Nothing up there but that big ol’ mountain. Oh, and whatever happens to live on it. You know, bandits, maybe a dragon, a few packs of wolves. No match for you, I’m sure.”
Turning back to walking down the road, the uneasiness begins to fade away. So that is all it was. Short of a mountain falling down on top of our heads, I felt confident that alex could handle it, even as disoriented as they were.
“Oh really?” I say, anxiously. I twist my sword around, and it gleams in the sunlight. It must’ve been early morning when we left, for we have been travelling for about an hour along a road, with nothing interesting happening, when it was twisted off. We started talking when a hill came into view, but the priest revealed that it was a mountain. I feel as if he got anxious with me, not knowing where we were going. He told me nothing important was up ahead, but the dragons sound bad.
“Yeah, it isn’t the best place to go up, if you aren’t prepared.” He says, casually. He must feel safe, protected by me, but in all honesty, I feel safe with his healing power.
“I guess I’m okay” I say. All of a sudden, I hear a growl behind me. A small dog that was only about 4 inches long has his teeth bared, and I laugh. A cute little puppy, that’s all, I was about to say, but another wolf mauls Thomas before I get a chance to react. My sword nearly levitates itself out of it’s sheath, but keeps in my hand. It slices off the wolf’s head faster than it can blink. I feel something bump my side, and look behind me to see my once silver shield have the gleaming black color to it, and a wolf trying to bite into the shield to get at my thigh. My sword quickly attacks the smaller wolf, and it falls over in a lifeless ball. I am amazed at my weapon powers, and I turn over to tend to Thomas, just to find he is sitting up, holding his arms up, and a yellow energy is coming out of his hands to a big gaping cut in his arm, that is sealing up seamlessly.
We walk up a cleared-out area that has a big patch with a castle at the end of it. I see many people fighting a beast. At least 70 men are performing magic, slicing at it with a sword, or shooting arrows at it. It is a spectacular sight, as the dragon breathes out a huge breath of magma, destroying anything unfortunate enough to get in it’s path. My shield adjusts itself to be in the path of the dragon, and I run up to it as close as I can. It spots me, and it’s eyes narrow, and it shoots a blast of magma at me. My shield covers me, and hot substance does nothing to me. The dragon tries to slide to a stop, after it sees it’s ineffective attack, but it’s mass must’ve been to much. I slice at it’s head as it goes past me, and a deep cut in it’s throat. It starts spilling out a shiny yellow substance, and Thomas goes “Ichor…” It comes at me once again, enraged this time, and I simply slice through it’s head, and it falls over, limp.
The crowd of people, now down to about 30, starts slapping and chanting “The Wyvern is dead! We are free!” I thought it was a dragon, but whatever.
Later, after the crowd settles down, I ask Thomas what I wyvern is. “Wyverns are related to dragons, but have shorter legs and are much less powerful. I was amazed even one of those was there.”
Alex cleans of his sword, and smiles as they walk forward to join the cheering crowd. Pushing the suspicion to the side, I go and join him, a few light hearted questions coming to mind, “Glad we could help you guys! You said you are free. Was this Wyvern keeping you trapped somehow?”
The survivors quiet down, and glance at each other, “Well, yeah. We live up here in the mountains, in a cave up ahead. Rather nice, we had a little village of huts set up inside it. Then that Wyvern came along, and took it over. We need the stuff that was left in there, so we couldn’t exactly just relocate.”
Smiles fade all around, mine included, “Ouch. I hope you are able to rebuild, with the Wyvern dead. The Ichor from it’s body should help with any finances you need, it should sell pretty well.” Glancing back at the corpse, I turn back, thinking of asking if I can take a bottle or two… And the question dies in my throat as I see the way one of them grins at me and Alex, replacing the question with another, “You… You said you live up in these mountains. I thought only bandits lived up here?”
The grinning one stepped forward, seemingly their leader. The others kept a firm hold on their weapons, and started eying off Alex’s sword… Or more specifically, the crystals embedded in it, “Aw, don’t go throwing around such unsavoury terms like that. You might hurt our feelings! And you wouldn’t want that, wouldn’t they lads?”
A haughty cheer made me take a step back, and Alex lifted their sword back up. Sigh… I knew we were missing something.
I had so many questions, but instead I simply push down my shield, as it started coming back up to block another arrow, and swung my sword, chopping off their heads, one by one. A couple of them fight back, but I simply block their arrows with my sword, until 10 are left. About 6 raise swords, and start slashing at me, and I simply cut through them all, blades and all. 3 others raise their hands and a gust of wind, a torrent of water, and a blaze of fire come at me. My shield slides across the ground, apparently realizing I was in real danger now, comes up to block them all. They dissipate in the presence of my shield in their path, and I pick up a bow, and shoot one down. The other two were within sword range, so I simply cut off their heads. There's one person left, and he raises his hands. Instinctively, I raise my shield, but I see something black come through it. This looks like Thomas’ healing power, but black. Silky smooth, with a liquid sensation.
And I’m in a dark room. I see Thomas stand before me. He’s out of his black robes, and in white ones. “Come here” he whispers, and I come to him. He tells me he loves me, and I back away. Then I see him in red robes, in a different room. No, this isn’t a room, because it has sunshine. The dead bodies of the bandits are scattered around us, and he has a severed foot in his hand. “Want some?” he says, laughing menacingly, before he bites off a toe, blood splattering everywhere.
I see him in white robes again, and he tells me he loves me more, and starts begging for me to kiss him. I am tempted to, and come to him, until I realize I am a man, and this was embarrassing. I look around, and see a boy of about 14 years old watching us, and taking notes. I then am in the real world, and I am lying on the ground, with Thomas and the boy fighting. The man- The black, silky line. He used torturous magic, making me more embarrassed than ever, and then showed me the only person I knew in this new life eating the toes of people we- no, I, killed. I never felt more horrible, and see Thomas’ healing magic going against the boy’s black magic, and it seems that Thomas’ is more powerful, but only slightly. It is pushing back on the black magic, and eventually it dissipated completely, and the healing magic touched the boy. Instantly, the young boy turns into an adult woman, and she’s crying.
“Nobody ever loved me! Why did they trap me in this form! Why! He’ll never understand, and he’ll kill me!” She yells, before realizing what she said. “Oh my, it’s been years. I am dearly sorry about trying to torture you, for I am just a young woman an evil magician trapped into a 10-year-old’s body, and it was male. Oh, the horrors! I am the Life Magician, Acuna. If I could, can I come with you?”
Thomas mutters “Acuna, acuna, I’ve hear that name before.” He seems to frustrate himself until he brightens up with surprise. “My my, Acuna, the first Priest of Healing! My kind seems to believe you were dead!” At this comment, I’m surprised, as I thought Thomas was a human.
Acuna seems to notice my surprise, and cuts in, with “Yes, the first priestess of Nai-Eel, which this village once was. I’m sad to see it destroyed, but it must come. And boy, we are humans bestowed the gift of the good dragon, Nageel. Opposer of the great overlord, the master of curses, Yamoon. Now I ask again, may I join you, travellers?”
I answer her, and say “Only till we get to the next village, then we shall part, and you will probably be accepted into society.
I glance at Alex now and then, noticing that he seemed… Uneasy around me now. This niggled at me, as I tried to figure out why. Was he concerned I would use black magic, as Acuna had in her cursed form? No, surely that could not be it. He did not seem to object to the healing I gave him after the fight, but he did look away weirdly...
Maybe it was because of what Acuna said about us being blessed by Nageel. He did hunt dragons for a living after all. But, aside from the lingering suspicion toward her, Alex seemed fine with Acuna. So, it can’t be to do with the fact I am a priest, or my powers.
Wait… That spell that I fought off. It was illusionary magic, made to bring out hidden thoughts from the target’s subconscious, in order to torture them. Did they see… Me in the vision? That would definitely explain the way they refuse to look at me. Wanting to get this out of the way soon, in case it becomes a problem in battle, I turn to him as we walk, and ask, “I have a question for you, Alex… What did you see when that spell hit you? You have been acting odd ever since.”
he stumbled a little, and turned to face me, yet somehow still trying not to look directly at me, “Oh… That? I don’t really want to talk about it…” He seemed to churn through the question in his head, before continuing suddenly, “But, I guess it is rather silly to be hung up on it. I saw you in red robes, eating the bandit’s corpses. It was… Disturbing.”
Acuna glanced back, a little smile on her face, “Sorry about that. I had no control of my actions, and the spell works on it’s own for the most part. I saw what you went through, and I hope you can put that behind you.” I nod, beginning to understand now. I suppose if I saw Alex eating someone, I would begin to act oddly about him too.
Alex stumbled a little as he heard her response, growing a little pale as they reply, “Y-yeah. After all, it was just a vision. No big deal.” He began to walk a bit quicker then, eyes glued to the road ahead. I chuckle at the sight, earning a glare from Alex. Good, he seems to be feeling better.
Acuna walks on calmly, her smile growing wider, “Yes… Just a vision, nothing more.”
After coming across a Wood Elf, yelling for us to run, we cautiously neared the peak. I stepped on a rock, careful not to make noise, and I am caught up in a net, and a blue and white bird comes out. It was a very large bird, and it looked kind of like the wyvern, but smaller, and with feathers and more legs. It lands on the opposite side of the net as Thomas and Acuna, and bares its teeth. I fall through the net, just as it nips at where my head just was, and realized my sword was slicing through the ropes, slowly. My shield raises up just as I hit the ground, right as frigid air hits it, causing it to freeze. I run to it, and slice, zigzag. It’s head comes off, and it falls to the ground.
As we all walk off, we hear a roar, and look back, to see the dragon’s head to have mended to it’s body, and a head made out ice is coming out of the side. “Hydra!” Thomas and Acuna yell, simultaneously, and I realize what it is. I run up to it, and attempt to stab it in it’s heart, but ice simply grows over it and blocks it. I try ramming it, and the ice frozen on my shield shatters that ice, splintering the skin. The dragon falls over, and I realize it stabbed it in the heart. Some strong ice, that was!
“Medlock, I knew I recognized that name. The Hydra of Ice, Traps, and Hidden Lairs.” Acuna says, shocked, just as a frozen cove appears in front of us, with frozen merfolk stuck under it.
After dealing with the Hydra, I turned to Alex, stretching out my back, “Ahggg, they were heavy. Thanks for the help. I’ll go and help try to thaw the remaining Merfolk. Could you find the others, and tell them that Medlock is dead?”
Alex dusted off their hands, rubbing them slightly to warm them up, “Sure. I’ll ask if they have any buckets, to bring warm water up.” Turning, they head back down the mountain, treading carefully in case there were any more hidden traps.
I wave as he walks down, “Thanks, that would be great!” I stretch a bit more, and then walk over to stand next to Acuna. I begin to help her thaw the ice, not a word passing between us for a while.
A few moments later, she giggles. I turn to face her, hands still working on thawing the massive amount of ice, “Hmm? What is so funny?”
She blinks, and looks at the ice, “Oh, nothing. Just thinking on how odd you two are. Admittedly, this is coming from someone who got cursed for several years, but I still find it amusing.”
I shrug, and try to focus on my spell, “I wouldn’t think of myself as odd. And Alex… Well, they are a hero capable of slaying dragons. Quirks of the trade I suppose, and I know he means well.”
She giggled again, and looked like she was about to say something. We hear a clatter, and Alex’s voice faintly, “They are just up here!”
Acuna turns back to the ice, smiling, “Nevermind. I am sure you will figure it out one day. My intuition tells me that you will find this adventure… Interesting.”
Raising an eyebrow, I don’t get a chance to ask how. The merfolk crowd around us, and help pour warm water over the ice, working until the remaining Merfolk are thawed out.
“I am the most intelligent bird. Be careful near me though, I am made of fire. The mere presence of me could give you a heat stroke. I try to be a peaceful bird, but I can tell you one thing. I will kill you if you get to the peak of the mountain. I am here to dissuade you, because not all of my kind are as forgiving as I am. Now leave.”
With that, we ignore his warnings, and head up the mountain, when we hear a bombardment of squacks, and many, many phoenixes descend on us. I look up, and the air is on fire. Around us, the grassland is shriveling. We’re in big trouble, now.
I look around for some snow, as we are pretty high up on the mountain. I see a tiny patch, already melting away due to the blazing onslaught. That won’t be enough. Out of the corner of my eye, I see Alex hiding behind a boulder, looking for an opportunity to fight back, and Acuna be his side looking around similarly to how I am.
I get an idea, and try to cool some of the melting ice back down, using a variation on the spell used to heat up Y’aashang. Cooling things down isn't needed often, so I hadn't learnt a specific spell for it. The improvised spell seems to slow down the melting, at least, so I wave to Acuna. She sees what I am doing, and begins using the same spell, making adjustments of her own to better keep the ice cold.
I growl, as the Phoenixes start clawing at Alex, and he beats them off. This is going nowhere. We need more ice, or better, something colder. Like an ice dra-
Medlock. The corpse was still freezing, even after Alex slayed it.
I turn to Alex and Acuna, and yell, “I have an idea! I don’t know if it will work, but can you guys buy me some time?”
Alex nods, and Acuna shows a glimpse of curiosity, quickly drowned out by her concentration on keeping the Phoenixes at bay. And so, I run back down the mountain, stumbling as I slip on some loose stones. Please, PLEASE still be there.
After slaying a few, since they are useless against Acuna’s healing magic, and more swarmed me. All of a sudden, I feel something hard and hold hit my hip, and the barrage of fireballs stop, and dozens upon dozens of small frozen red balls that are icey hot clank against the ground, and even more frozen fiery birds are in various formations. I look behind me, and see Thomas dragging a large blue bone against the ground.
“Well, well. That worked better than expected” Thomas mutters, hands purple, freezing.
“What’s that?!” Acuna yells, startled.
“Well, this is the bone of Medlock, the Ice Dragon. There was an unwary scientist looking at it, and it turns out that if a mother and son of powerful magicians are near it together, it will become a powerful weapon. We need to find someone who can use it.” Thomas tells him, as the bone slowly rises out of his hands, as we all stare. Some ice shavings come off, and a blade comes in. A fine leather is crafted out of bushes nearby. On it, is engraved “Theodore.”
Acuna starts crying. “Thomas, you’re my son. Theodore. They told me you died.” When Thomas realizes what she just said, he tears up to…
The results aren’t quite what I expected. An almost invisible ripple surges out across the mountainside, and strikes a few of the Phoenixes, some in the chest, others only hitting the wings. And wherever the ripple hit, shards of ice grew, and everything underneath shriveled and grew colder.
I stared at the blade for a moment, glad that I had thought of this plan, and not expecting it to go so well. Shaking my head, I turn to Alex, and shout, “While they are pinned like this! Go and stab them through the heart, quickly!”
Blinking, Alex nods, and charges forward. With every swing, a Phoenix goes down, and a sudden burst of flame consumes each in a mini inferno, leaving only ash. Some of the Phoenixes in the back were beginning to thaw though, and quite a few did not get hit by the first swing.
So, I swing again. Making sure not to hit Alex, I would swing every time I saw a Phoenix finish thawing, or fly up from over the ridge. Alex would bring them down, and another burst of flame would accompany them. And Acuna stayed behind us, healing our injuries whenever a Phoenix got through the temporary formation.
And after a few dozen Phoenixes had fallen, a mighty growl rippled across the mountainside, with a resounding boom, “ENOUGH.” And from the mountains peak came the Phoenix Queen, fury in her eyes, “What has brought you here? Speak, so I may send you on your way sooner.”
“Well, look at what you did! Now I have to reincarnate all of these Phoenix’s, and it’s such a windy day, it blew have the ashes away! Now my warriors will be without muscle!”
Thomas says, panting and sweating rapidly, unusually, is sagging with his new sword. “We’ll be on our way”
We all start running, but Thomas can barely move, so we have to pick him up and carry him, and we stumble upon a small gray stone that has unintelligible language on it, and a small ball of fire hits the ground in front of us, leaving behind a message.
“My prophecy states that two of you shall survive before you finish your quest, and one of you shall perish. I will let you go, but be warned of the obstacles ahead.”
After Acuna reads it aloud, it disappears, and we all are overly cautious about it, as we move forward. We soon see a sea of the small gray stones, with different symbols on them.
“It seems that I can read this one…” Acuna states, looking at one. I don’t seem to see anything different about it, she seems to be persistent with it. “Ad-faun-reen-ray” She says, and we hear a conch horn. A small, green figure is in the distance, rapidly approaching.
When the green figure gets here, panting, we see he is a short little fellow. “Welcome, masters. The lord of the goblins has summoned me. I am Yadeen, the messenger of the goblins, to let you know we will come to kidnap the goblin lord any instant, please don’t fight back, and let us take her in peace.” Right as a million little green specks, on horses, camels, flying swords, and anything else you can imagine, are coming in, and fast.
Glancing at Alex, they still seem to be ready for battle… But against an entire RACE? Maybe, if the Frozen Blade wasn't tiring me out like it was, it could help tip things in our favour. In my current state, I would be lucky to prolong the battle more than a few minutes.
I sigh, and walk forward, “Well, do you know why the Goblins need the ‘Goblin Lord’ for?” I glance at Acuna, who has also realised the situation we are in, and she walks forward as well. Alex is still on guard, but is still following along, seeing no other option.
The Goblin pants as they still try to catch their breath, “No… You will have to ask our current leader, for that. I'm just meant to bring the Goblin Lord with me.”
I groan, and follow the messenger, “I guess we have no choice. Lead the way, then.” I turn to the others, and whisper, “Our best bet is to take down this leader of theirs… No way we are winning against them normally.”
As Alex nods solemnly, and Acuna nods idly while glancing around at the Goblin horde. And we walk forward, not knowing just what was in store for us.
Around us, forms a giant ice dome. we hear clings, and screams. We can’t see what is happening, but the ice seems to be marble hard. The pitchforks clang against them, but the fire melts it.
We see groups with the signs 3 and 4 in front of us, as flaming arrows and throwing knives are being hurtled at us. I raise my sword defensively, and it glows. Time seems to slow down, and the world gets darker, with my sword being the only beam of light. The world suddenly brightens, and suddenly 3 dark beams shoot out of my sword, and realize that my sword shot that out. Instantly, half the army falls down.
A giant white flag goes up, and a giant goblin walks out. “Sign my scar and the lord will be safe with you.” she says as she flexes, and a deep black scar is formed on her bicep. We sign it, and the goblins disappear.
“Well, that was weird.” Thomas says, now fully replenished.
As I pick my way along the rugged rock face, Acuna thinks out loud about what had just happened, “We will come to kidnap the goblin lord any instant... Let us take her in peace… I have no memory of ever being a goblin lord, even in my cursed form.” She glances at Alex, who is oblivious to the mutterings due to climbing over a particularly steep rise, “Well, we got out fine, which is all that matters…”
I wander along, and pull out the Frozen Blade to take a look at it. A surprisingly useful weapon, and a powerful one as well. Perhaps I should practice with it, so it drains me less… And then I glance at the inscription, “Theodore.”
Turning to Acuna, I sling the Blade across my back again, not wanting to drop it, “So… Acuna. We couldn't really talk about it earlier, but I don’t ever remember being called Theodore.”
She glances up from her musings, and blinks as she replies, “The fault there lies with me, I'm afraid. As you may now, the First Priest of Healing is a title normally bestowed with much more… Selective criteria. The only reason I got the position at all was because of a battle that had been fought, lessening the number of priests suitable for it.”
I nodded, knowing full well how narrow minded a lot of the villages could be. It was an unfortunate truth, in these parts. I listened, as she continued, “Well, due to the rather unfavourable opinions on whether I was suited for the task, and how I even got it in the first place, I grew fearful. I sent you away, to be cared for by those I trusted. And not even a year later, I was cursed by that evil magician, proving my fears to be true. I will tell you more of the tale later… Right now, this climb is taking the breath out of me...”
I nod, breathing hard myself. Crossing mountains was never easy work, unfortunately. And so, I pondered Acuna's tale, curious as to the rest… But mostly panting. Stupid mountains.
“We could dig under it” Acuna says, and we agree, so we start digging with our hands, but it was slow and tedious.
I feel a small but powerful change nearby. Both me and Thomas’ swords turned to shovels, so we pick them up. Thomas’ freezes the ground and shatters it, and mine digs out the dirt as fast as I can move my hand. We soon make it to the other side, and our tunnel is flooded, We swim out, but the ice sword is making the ice jarringly cold. When we surface, we all gasp, and we hear clapping.
“Welcome to Fam-Ran-Fee, the village of quests. You got past the first quest, of getting in. Now you need to fit into our society before you leave…”
"The town of Quests? I am sorry, we are already on our own quest, to find the only Dragon to have bested mighty Alex the Dragon Slayer. We just wanted to pass through." I glance at Alex, hoping they play along. He looks surprised, but seems to like the idea...
The spokesperson for the town ignores us completely, and waves to the awaiting crowd, “These townsfolk you see here will gladly help you in your next quest, to best find a role for each of you. Can’t have you wandering around aimlessly, after all!”
I reconsider my options. Pulling out the Frozen blade is now seeming more and more appealing. “And, pray tell, what reason do you have for us to do side quest, rather than simply digging a hole under the wall on the other side of town? We are in a hurry…”
The spokesperson hesitates, ever-present smile growing strained, “Well, in a town such as this, you would find an abundance of ways to make yourself renown. This town does hold the legendary Mountain-Hewer, after all!”
Both Acuna and I perk up at the mention of that, “The Mountain-Hewer? Legendary sword capable of manipulating earth on such a large scale, that entire continents have changed form due to it?”
The spokesperson nods enthusiastically, “That’s the one! And for proof, simply look behind you. That wall was made by the Mountain-Hewer by the founder of Fam-Ran-Fee.”
We nod to each other. “Perhaps we can stay… For a short while.”
Wait, how did I realize all of this? I know statistics, and weird heat numbers, and have a greater overall awareness. It all started when I passed the border of the glass. “Excuse me, leaders of Fam-Ran-Fee, when I passed the border, I got a whole lot smarter. Any excuses for that?”
“Well, we gave anyone of you that did not have the capacity of brain to join us in our search for knowledge.”
So they called me stupid. That sucks. “Give us the mountain sword, and we’ll be on our way.”
Several guards draw their swords. “I’m afraid we can’t let you do it.”
I swing my sword, and so does Thomas, and we both use our special powers. We use it twice more, and we’re both exhausted already, but everybody is gone. Dead, or just gone. Acuna walks over, and picks it up. Instantly, the dead bodies gain life, and about 20 bodies appear.
“Congratulations, you’ve passed another test. Discovering your intelligence and fighting your way past our defenses of the sword. You’ve earned it, and may go on. On one condition. The girl stays with us. We need a potent healer.”
“I’ll go” Acuna speaks up. She puts the sword on the ground, and a golem forms and picks it up. “Goodbye, Theodore. Alex, I will remember you forever.” and we all say our goodbyes. We walk out, and hear several clashes, and a scream.
We run back in, and about 60 goblin males surround a hideous female, and I instantly know what happened.
“Acuna, what did they do to you?”
“Go away you wretched hag, they showed me my true form…” And we run away…
I collapse against the wall of our impromptu tunnel, shaking, “What? Just… What? Her true form? Just how many ‘true’ forms does she have? Or are none of them real?”
Alex stands guard, glancing back at me silently, not knowing what to say. Looking at the Frozen Blade in my hand, he smiles a little, “Think of this… You still have that sword, and it still works. That part can’t have been a lie then, can it?”
I look up at Alex, and laugh unexpectedly. I run my thumb over the engraving… Theodore. “You have a point. Sigh… The question is, do we go back and find out exactly what happened, or do we leave?”
Alex sets his shield down, stretching as best he can in the cramped tunnel, “I say we leave. We should get more help, before trying to deal with those goblins. And if there is any of Acuna left there, she will be able to work something out, being the first priest and all.”
I nod, picking up my sword… Shovel-thing. Grinning, I nudge Alex in the side, “I guess that town really did make you smarter. Best plan I have heard out of you yet.”
Alex blushes, scowls, and goes to reply, but closes their mouth mid way instead. They settle for grumbling as they dig, then cheers up after a moment, “Let’s just hope that spell continues past the wall. Because if it does, they will regret giving us such a fine parting gift.”
I wake up, and feel the same as when I woke up on the cart, which seems like eternities ago. I open my cracked eyes, and hear a muttering voice in the background.
“Yes sir. She is in our custody. We will release her soon enough.”
She? That can’t be right. I sit up, and the army of dragons is staring at me, and an enormous dragon that is purple with gold encrusting at its ridges silenced himself, and stares at me.
“Alex, you have come far without your memories. Our agreement will come to a close soon. Your friend will be dispatched”
A smaller dragon whispers into the big one’s ear. “Aren’t we just going to torture him to see if he gives us the info?”
“Yes, but we won’t tell him that.”
I break free of the chains I must’ve been to, and the dragons stare. “GET HIM!” The king yells, and dozens of projectiles soar towards me. Time seems to slow down, and I run through them, with ease. I head past the king, as he jumps for me, and see Thomas chained up. My sword comes rushing to me, and I catch it. I slice the bars.
“C’mere buddy. We’ll kill these selfish dragons” Thomas takes out his ice blade, and we walk back out. My adrenaline slows down, and everything comes back up to speed again. I shoot 8 bolts of darkness, and 8 dragons go down. Our golem catches up and smashes dragons down with his earth blade. I forgot about him! Thomas makes ice spears kill Dragons. I point my sword towards his throat, and he snaps his claws. I blank out, and wake up laid up against a wooden pole, and I feel Thomas’ hand. Our swords are next to us, and we both seem to have just woken up. I stand up, still wobbly, and I see 6 signs.
Northeast - Fam-Ran-Fee
North - Dragon Lair
South - Lake Underwood
Southeast - Batam Village
Southwest - Southern Centaur Village
Northwest - Northern Centaur Village
“Thomas, let’s go to the southern centaur village, I feel compelled to go there…”
I groan, and look at Alex, “I can see why I found you lying in a crater. Those dragons weren't easy to deal with.”
Alex glances up at me, eyes focused on their feet most of the way, “... Yeah. I can’t really remember what they looked like though… Everything is fuzzy again.”
I hesitate. Again? Looking back at how we met, he did seem… Confused. About a lot of things. They seemed fine afterwards, so maybe they just got hit harder, being a renown Dragon Slayer after all. Might look into an extra healing spell later though…
Not much else is said between us, the Golem remaining completely silent. I find myself questioning it’s motive, hoping it doesn't just up and run away. I push that worry to the side though, as the sun is setting, and we are exhausted from the constant surprises.
We soon see a village up ahead. We begin to walk faster, eager to reach a safe haven. As we get close, we see the buildings are larger than usual, and a centaur or two passes between the buildings. Southern Centaur Village lives up to it’s name, I suppose.
As we pass by the outer buildings, a centaur clad in armour glances at us… And ignores us completely, letting us pass on by. A surprisingly large wave of relief surges through me, and I can see the reason: The last village we saw was chaos from start to end, and the one before that was full of people that wanted to murder us. Here, we might be able to stay for more than an hour or two.
I take the lead, eyes scanning for an inn. A few blocks down, I notice a building with a second floor, and said addition looked shorter than expected for a centaur dwelling. In fact, it was human-sized. I point the way, and we sidle on in, the Golem entering last.
The entryway was dimly lit, and was slightly hazy. In the common room off to the side, a centaur looked up from the fireplace, before returning to their book. We ring a bell, to await the attention of the inn keeper.
A centaur comes out, clad in an apron. We haggle a bit, and we manage to land ourselves a single room with 2 beds at a reasonable price. And so we clamber on upstairs, Golem included, and head inside.
The room was musty, and the sheets smelled. I did not care. The last thing I remember is collapsing on the bed, hearing a thump from the other mattress, and the sound of the Golem closing the door, sitting down in front of it.
Oh mattresses, how I missed thee.
“Well, they’re up! We were worried! Anyways, let’s get you fed up!” A huge brown stallion with a muscular human upper body tells us.
The other few centaurs in the room, not worrying about clothes, much like the first, are slightly smaller than the first, but just as magnificent. There was a female that was a white mare that had a beautiful body. There was also a colt that looked young, but still taller than me. He was a black stallion, like the older horse.
They lead us into a giant bakery, crowded with more equines, and we look around. It’s huge!
“Well, travelers. I must admit, I had doubts about you, but I will be happy to accompany you on your quest to slay the dragon.” The female says. I noticed how muscular she was before, but I never quite realized how tall she was. She was a good three feet towering over my head.
“Helping us with our quest? We don’t need help.” Thomas says, waking me up to reality
“Hang on, let’s let her come. We could use someone like her.” I say, smiling.
A baker holds out a small piece of bread to me. “Try it” She says, happy. I bite into it, and it is delicious. It is like the best thing I ever tasted, but everywhere. I felt instantly better, not even realizing I was sore and cramp until after I was healed up. I was more aware of my surroundings, and I had insights that I wouldn’t have had before. I felt myself growing, but don’t think of it as anything.
“What did you DO?” Thomas yells at the baker.
“Well, you can have some as well, boy. It helps with the clarity of mind, as well as the soul. Nothing feels better than being a centaur.”
Huh? What was she talking about. I feel a cold breeze across my chest, but my legs are warm. They… Feel different, as well. I look down, and see my chest is bare. I am much more muscular than I was before, and I have four legs. They are furry, and I realize I’m a Centaur! Woah! “Excuse me, what happened?” I say, politely, surprising myself.
“We gave you our transformation bread. It only works on those willing, and your friend here” She gestures to Thomas, “Is unwilling. You can take it as much as you like, and it wears off in about 2 hours. You have better insights, and will think like a centaur. This means you are polite, and smarter than you would be. We also have a more potent variety of bread, which turns you into one permanently, but you shouldn’t take that until you grow used to the Centaur anatomy.”
Wow. That’s a lot to take in. Already, though, am I getting used to being shirtless. It feels good. I never felt this good when I was a man, and it is amazing. I feel revitalizing, and I realize I never even knew my age! That really is insightful! Now that I think about it, I looked and felt about fifty. I look down, and see that I am turning younger. I feel about twenty, and look twenty now. With my new knowledge, I just seem to know that is because Centaurs age a lot slower, but the bread won’t let me get to young. These centaurs have worked out everything!
“I… Really like this. Say I do become a permanent Centaur, what happens?” I ask the Baker.
“Well, you for one would need to buy a home, which your friend can stay in as well, and you couldn’t go out anymore, unless the council calls on you for a quest, in which you would have to go out on whatever quest the council needs done, and usually with a female; we find that the two genders work better together than apart. You would then have to settle down into our society, which is very complex. Soon after, you would want to get a mate, since Centaurs age 8 times slower than humans, and we mate for life. You are expected to have kids in this society. Take your time, but don’t wait too long. It is important, here.”
Huh. I thought it would be simpler, but I guess that would be okay.
Suddenly, the female gallops up to me. “Time to go, sir. That bread rejuvenates your stomach to, so since you and your friend had some, we can go.”
Thomas hops onto my equine back, and we gallop. I never even realized she left, and she looks much more beautiful now that I am a Centaur as well. About an hour later, we stop at a huge tree.
“Heddo” I hear a deep voice
“Heddo? What kind of word is that?” I say, out loud.
“Heddo. I am a tree. I am tree of dife.”
That makes sense. The tree was the tree of life! Ancient trees that speak to mortals, because they get bored sitting around for all eternity. This tree was big, but Trees of Life are absolutely huge, and this was a little smaller than it should be. Maybe it was a baby? It seems to have trouble pronouncing words, as well.
“Well, Life Tree, mind if we use you as camp? You could wake us up if danger comes, and have to be silent until danger or we tell you to. Like a game!”
“Dokay! Tree of Dife dikes games!” The tree of life says excitedly
“Okay, we’ll sleep, and you play with us!”
Suddenly, I feel something strange happening. I fall forwards, and get cramps in my ankles and feet, and my back is sore. I feel 50 again. I get down, and see the bread wore off.
As I’m about to eat another piece of it, the lady centaur says “No, don’t eat it. It’s hard to sleep as a Centaur. You much rather sleep as a human.”
Oh. That would have been uncomfortable. I’m glad she pointed that out! I realize I’m still laying down, and I can hardly get up. The ground seems to spin, and I am wobbly. I miss the stabilization of having four legs, and the balance on the ground is terrible. This stinks. The centaur is probably right, though.
“Oh, and my name is Chei. Let’s get some sleep.”
We all go to sleep, and I have good dreams about me and Chei…
One person that did notice however, was Chei our new centaur companion. At the sound of my yelp, she had been startled awake, from what looked like a slightly uncomfortable sleeping position. Alex snored deeply, dead to the world after having tried out a different way of getting around.
Chei blushed, and lowered herself back to the ground, “Bad dream?”
I chuckled quietly, “No, I just prefer a mattress to the hard ground. And in my tossing, I accidentally managed to headbutt our protector here.”
She giggled quietly, and glanced up at the stars in thought. I glance at her, before lying back down, slightly further away from the root, “Say, Chei… Any particular reason you came with us?”
She smiled, eyes still closed as she murmured, “Just wanting to get out, and see more of the world. Isn't that why you two are together?
I smile, already feeling myself drift back to sleep, “Tr- True enough… Sorry for… *Yawn* waking you…”
I don’t know if she replied to that last bit, as I was asleep the moment the sentence was done. My dream had Acuna in it, from before… That town. It was a peaceful dream, one I wished had lasted longer.
I wake up to a loud thumping and look around. It’s dawn, and I see a pack of big, ugly men. Their stench was overwhelming, and I could feel my life slipping away just near it. No, I can’t die. I take a bite of bread, and the process seems to take less time, this time around. I can smell the odor more clearly now, but it is, instead of something that is a weapon, it is now a tool of navigation. I can see 8 different paths, and know that they are ogres.
“Bump you, me kill you!” the female attempts to say, as she rips a tree out of the ground. She seems to be more aggressive than the males, as they just stand there. Suddenly, the tree comes flying in our direction, but before I can react, a sword comes through the air, and slices the trunk in two.
“Before you become a Centaur, get better reactions.” Chei tells me,
Phew. that could have been close. What a relief! I run up to the ogres and kick them with my hind legs, knocking them down, until only the female is left. Chei is fighting her, and she appears to be winning, until the ogre provides a stunning smash, knocking her to the ground. I punch the female ogre, in a desperate attempt to avenge Chei, and my renewed strength grants me what I need. The ogre takes a devastating blow to the head, and I try to turn around and kick her with my hind legs, I succeed, but she grabs a leg in the process. I whip around, dragging her around, until she’s limp on the ground.
“Ogres are deadly” Thomas says, frightened
I wince as I see the damage, one of her lungs was completely crushed. I work the healing energies through her, reforming everything into proper shape, and stitching together broken tissue. Then, I go a bit further, spending more energy to cause some of the dead tissues to regenerate, replacing any that was too damaged from the blow. Normally skin can just be left to do that on it’s own, but not something as serious as this.
Falling back to sit on the grass, I pant from the effort. Chei stirs, and groans as she sits up, gingerly feeling at her side. Her eyes widen as she sees the Ogres, and she bows to me, “You never said you were a priest. I thought you were a mage of some form, but I never thought to be travelling with one so skilled.”
I smile at that, as Alex comes galloping up in his centaur glory, “Well, it isn’t easy to be granted this magic. Harder still to use it skilfully. The lower acolytes can manages cuts and bruises at best.”
Alex holds a hand down to Chei, which she gracefully takes and stands up. Alex nodded at me, thankful for my help. As I ease myself up, Chei went back to the Tree of Life at and rested a hand on it’s trunk, “Thank you for waking us. Could you do me a favour, and send a message to the Village, telling them that the Ogres have ventured all the way here?”
The tree rustles, and a giggle can be heard, “Oday! Anything for da centaurs!” The tree rustles even more, almost as if straining. As I sit down on one of it’s massive roots, the tree stops, done with sending the message somehow.
Chei crosses her arms, thinking, “Hmm… Hopefully, no more come down. It is rare to see them around here. Anyway, Alex, your reactions really are a bit slow. we need to have you adjust to your new body, before we leave. We don’t want to tax Thomas to much now, do we?”
I chuckle, “No complaints from me. Training would be good though, I can get some practice in with this Frozen Blade. Perhaps another thing for you to try, as we stay here a bit.”
Alex nods, and picks up his trusty sword. After a moment, they put it back, and pick up a large fallen branch, stripping the leaves from it, “Centaur training first, before the bread wears off. I don’t think it would be a good idea to use a proper sword for that.”
And so, for the next hour or so, Chie led alex through some exercises, to help familiarise himself with four legs. Galloping, weaving through obstacles, and sparring whilst moving. As they sped back and forth across the grassy plain, I swung my blade in the opposite direction, trying to perform various tricks on a boulder in the distance. Freezing it, slicing it clean in half with the chill wave, forming an ice wall between me and it. The first was easy. The second nigh impossible so far, but I did manage to chip it a little. And the wall shattered far too easily, which I found disconcerting. I need to look into improving that.
By the end of the hour, I was exhausted, and Alex had just as much trouble readjusting to human legs as they did last time. We rested in the shade of the tree of life, as some centaurs of the village galloped up, some pulling carts. Looks like they were planning on taking the ogre bodies away.
I stood, and waved as the Centaurs came closer.
“Hello, travellers. My name is Xen, wielder of the scissors.” The mysterious character says, swinging her scissors.
Scissor blades, hmm… That seems familiar. I dismiss the notion, and the Tree of Life speaks up. “Xen! My old dwend!”
“Ahh, Yamen, my old friend. I assume these guests are harmless?”
“Darmledd, indeed.” The tree of life says.
Suddenly, we hear a pounding against the ground. Xen gets armed, and a herd of bison stampede us. I see a blur of red, and the dual-cows fall over. Xen sits down on the tree.
“You were saying? Those double-cows interrupted me. Anyways, I am the girl of might. Ah, Alex, I knew I recognized your face. Anyways, I would like to accompany you on your quest. By the way, if you deny, your throat will be slit.”
Xen crosses her arms, and sits on a tree root, “Darn straight. Now, where are you lot even headed? Or are you telling me you plan on getting cosy under ol’ Yamen here?”
We glance at each other, not having really planned that far yet. Chei speaks up, “I don’t really mind where, as long as it isn’t to the North.”
I look at Alex, who’s face practically lit up. I think for a moment, and sigh, “I’m guessing it will be dangerous there?”
“Very. It is basically the worst place we could go right now.”
I look at Alex, and we nod, “Danger seems to find us anyway Chei, so it is a bit pointless now. You seem to know what awaits us up there, so it is the better option. No offense.”
I can practically see the colour drain from her face, as she mumbles, “Great… Now we will have to deal with them…” She takes a deep breath, and walks to where we were practicing before, “Fine. On the condition we leave tomorrow morning, and get a bit more training in today. We don’t want to delay too long, but you guys could really use it…”
Alex looks a bit annoyed at that, but I wholeheartedly agree. And so, the two of them gallop of once Alex has some more bread, and I begin practicing with the Frozen Blade. Xen smirks at me for a moment, then turns to chat with the Tree of Life, catching up on things. I am too distracted to eavesdrop, but they seem close.
Night falls, we turn in for the night, and rest is had. And so, at the crack of dawn, we get up and head on North.
“Welcome Strangers.” A beautiful black stallion centaur snuck up behind us. “I am a C. Centaur. Follow me to our village. There we will give you food and drink.”
We follow the stallion, and come across a small village. “Why don’t you humans go get berries. We make fantastic wine out of them. They are on the tanglebushes.”
Huh, Tanglebushes. make good berries. Small world. Inside the village, we see more centaurs, all with black fur. We find a dining hall. As we sit down, in stools modified for centaurs, similar to the ones in the first centaur village. They serve us a purple wine, and purple meat. We dine, and we get sleepy. Not super sleepy, but we seem to want some rest. We go to bed, and we wake up the next morning.
Thomas and Xen aren’t back yet. Strange. I feel a malicious feeling, and as we walk outside, I seem refreshed. Everything is darker, though.
“Welcome, newbloods.” An older centaur walks up to us. “Newer Corrupted Centaurs are always a treat for us, teaching them how to be properly evil. Now, this might seem like a surprise to you, but all of us here are rather bornbloods, newbloods, or oldbloods. What this means is that we were one of the oldest seven corrupteds, newer than that, or already born here. We killed your friends, and they will be taken care of properly. Later. By you.” Strangely, I feel satisfaction on them being dead. This feels good.
Having come to the obvious conclusion that whoever was swearing merely woke up without something important, or worse, with something they did not expect. Grinning a little at the thought, I roll over, trying to sleep off the increasingly harsh pounding in my head.
… Pounding. Not just in my head, but also in my ears. I strain, and listen to the string of cursing, trying to figure out just what on earth they were doing. “... You bette… out or I will STICK MY SWORD SO FAR THROUGH YOU, THE WITNESSES WILL FLEE NONSTOP FOR DAYS TO AVOID MY WRATH! AND DON’T GET ME STARTED ON-”
Huh. That doesn’t sound like post-party confusion. Sounds more like Xen going on a murderous rampage, on those centaurs we found… And I can’t remember how I fell asleep. Groaning, I roll back over, grumbling. Now I kinda want to swear, too.
I sit up, and look around. the only light is from the other side of the door, seeping through the cracks. I am unarmed, and so is Xen, who has yet to notice me, nor has she stopped her tirade. Chei and Alex aren’t here, but I suppose we were captured by centaurs. I just hope they are okay. I seem to be forgetting someone...
I wonder if the other two were disarmed as well, and where our swords are kept. I miss my Frozen Blade, and I am pretty sure from Xen’s vehementness that she wants her Scissor blade as well. Alex is unlikely to part from his, and I don’t know if Chei was attached to her sword. Maybe we could convince her to use Mountain Hewer.
And just as I realize who I was forgetting, from outside I hear a thud, a high-pitched scream, and something crashes against the door. Suspecting what comes next, I grab Xen by the arm, and yank her away shouting, “Get down!”
The door goes flying across our cell, and in the hallway I can see a few armed centaur guards on the floor. And standing in front of them, was the Golem, holding our swords out for us, hilt first.
Never will I question it’s loyalty again.
“You will be the field masters, and your little friends will be your servants. They will do you every whim.”
I hear a yelling, and xen comes running out, with blood on her. I get in stance, but she just takes down larry, and gets on my back. I can’t control myself, and she takes me to the dungeons. I hear Chei running after me. Damn mortals.
I breath deep, hoping my guess is wrong. It felt like we were down there for half a day, which should have been long enough for the bread to wear off… And Alex is still a centaur, still corrupted. That makes things harder.
I leap atop Chei’s back as the two speed past, the Golem throwing the sword up at me as I right myself. The construct crumbled to the ground, a slight shimmer running up the blade. Handy trick, that. Will make getting around much easier, but it doesn’t seem to like having it’s spirit held in the sword too long.
Xen spares a glare for me, between all the ones she is shooting off at passing centaurs, “So, next part of your ‘Master plan’! Get out, find a safe spot, clear their heads?”
I nod, resulting in a curse. Well, we can’t just beat them back to their senses. I got my hands on some of the wine we tasted earlier, and it is more potent than that. Swinging Mountain Hewer in a broad arc, the power of the blade smashed down the entire front wall, and knocks the breath out of me. Yep, sticking to my Frozen Blade after this.
Out the front we go, and bolting across the hills. I close my eyes, and focus on Mountain Hewer again. A thrust of the mighty blade, and a cave explodes out of the dirt, with us tumbling in shortly after. I reseal the entrance, except for a small crack for air and light.
As the Golem reforms himself, I pant as sweat drenches my body. Just… Just one more. With a swing of my Frozen Blade, the two centaurs get trapped in giant hunks of ice, pinned to the wall just as they finished getting up.
The Golem catches me, and I lay there in a daze as Xen takes over as planned, “Uugh, you could have given my the dirt-sword, ya pansy… Anyway, you, Chei. The one who ain’t going to be transforming back any time soon. How long were we gone?”
She spits at us, rather unladylike. I giggle a little, still dizzy. A slap from Xen, a scowl in return. A few more slaps, another giggle from me, and Chei bursts out, “If you puny mortals must know, it was 4 hours. Not that it matters, we shall break free soon enough, and you will pay fo-!” A punch to the jaw this time. Ouch.
I feel a bit clearer now, and groan as I sit up, “Not too harsh, Xen… We will probably need them on the way out of this impromptu hiding place.”
“Impy what now? And fine, you princess. You take back over.” She begins to clean her blade off, muttering.
I turn to Alex, and free his bag from the ice. Rummaging around, I see that he has still been eating the centaur bread. I look up, and ask him, “Did you turn back at all? Or did you eat before the change back?”
He scowled, and tried to headbutt me. I was at a safe distance though, so he settled for glaring for now, “I did for a moment, and it felt disgusting, being forced back into that puny form. I also felt grossly tired and weak just before I took a bite, uugh.”
Oh thank Nageel. Alex should be easy enough, at least for now. The drug only knocks out humans, not corrupts them, so Alex just needs to wait. Whether he is permanently corrupted as a centaur is an issue though… And so is Chei. I reach into her with my magic, and try to free her from the effects.
Inside her, I find barely any trace. Not in the stomach, not in the heart… Not in the core either, that invisible centre of magic. Odd, that is where most hypnosis takes hold. The rest go for the head… I poke around as gently as I can, not wanting to have the effects backlash. That could go… Unpleasantly. I find what I am looking for, a slight malaise hiding within her eyes and brain.
Darn. It is woven in deep, and shows no sign of letting go. A harsh approach will take her sanity with it… I work slowly, oddly calmed by the curses spat at me by Chei in the background, and Xen’s returning threats. One hook pried free, and another… Unwinding a dark thread here, and an evil whisperer there. I hate hypnotic magic, it is a pain to remove…
After nearly an hour, the effects are gone from Chei’s mind, and a very groggy Alex is unconscious, back to human form. I make another check that only the eyes remain, and Chei smiles at me, “Saved yet again, I see. Sorry for the trouble.”
I smile shakily, worn by the day’s events. I would reply, but I am too darn tired… I lightly pry away some of the magic from her eyes, and she suddenly screams. I let go, and he goes limp, panting. Backlash! “Chei, talk to me. What happened?”
“It… it burned. And my vision went darker than it already is. The corruption made everything look… Darker.”
I hesitate, afraid of my options. Blind her forever, or leave her eyes be, and hope the effects don’t spread once more? I glance at Alex, and sigh… “Can… Can you still fight with your eyes darkened?” She nods, and I go to Alex next, prying free the remaining effect on him. Thankfully, turning human forced the spell out of his eyes, but I remove it all just in case.
And so a very, very tired priest Thaws their ice, and trembles as I climb onto Chei’s back. “Let’s leave this place…”
“Hold it right there, prisoners.” A centaur walks up to us, and puts us in magic metal rings, that don’t let our hands separate. They call them handcuffs.
They push us behind bars, in the ground. The centaurs sneer at us, and throw food. “You can’t beat us! We’ll corrupt you all and kill you if we have to! The mortals, first!”
A hushed whisper comes over us. “We can escape if we work together. Perhaps we can threaten to kill Chei, and make the golem protect us.”
Chei answers “No, that would never work. For our next meal, let’s ask for bloodied cows. we smear the blood over one of us at night, and hide the meat. The others could cry for help, and they would have to clean it up, or it would stink the place up.”
We agree with Chei, and start the plan.
I sat staring at my frozen blade. With our hands bound like this, it would be awkward to fight, even once we bust out. The Golem can slip it’s cuffs off by reforming in a different spot, but I told it not to, to avoid suspicion. Best save that for when the guards come.
They are certainly taking a while to find a cow… They probably intend to kill most of us, rather than go through the effort of converting us into centaurs, then to corrupt us. Less time to work in for me… I hold my sword tightly, and focus, imagining a small icey core with Medlock’s energy in it. Surely some part of her remained, after having the bone converted. And an Ice Golem on our side would be fantastic.
A full hour of silence. No cow, no Ice Golem. Just a small puddle of water under a ball of ice. I hesitate, and try to imagine a baby hydra instead, crafted of pure ice. I feel a resonance with the sword, which gets my hopes up!... And then it fades. Maybe it was lack of sleep, and being on edge from waiting.
Sighing, I turn to Chei, “How are your eyes?”
“Still darkened. I have gotten used to it, but it is unnerving. I’ll try to let you know if it gets worse, or if I feel myself slipping…”
I nod, and sigh as I turn back to the bars. Are all the guards busy elsewhere? Just as I contemplate an early breakout, I hear the clopping of hooves. It’s about time.
We all get ready, hoping the guard came with a cow, and not a headman’s axe.
“Thanks, bastards.” I hear Xen’s voice. I hear a few more screams, and a whisper. “The coast is clear.”
We all get up, only to see a small man, scrawny, but handsome. “I’m the scarecrow. I can mimic other’s voices and appearances, as long as I touch them. Come with me.”
As untrusting as I am, we didn’t have a choice but to go with him.
Suddenly, the small man turns into a feminine centaur. “Let me seduce you, and we could come to a deal, and we will betray my people.” I feel compelled to do so, but know I can’t. It feels wrong, and I know he tricked me.
“Sorry, but no.” I say, calmly.
“Then we’ll kidnap your friends, put them in the dungeon, and lock you up until you give us information.”
The assailant ducks under the chilling wave of air, glancing at the deep gashes it leaves in the pillars, “As you wish. The friends die instead, and we take him alone.” Suddenly, Scarecrow charges forward, and tackles Alex to the ground.
A small cloud of dust rises up as they impact the ground, and when it clears, I am faced with Alex, and… Alex. I curse, “He can take the appearance of those he touches… Us included.” I stand back with the other hopelessly as the two Alexes fight, each scowling as blades meet shields. It seems this Scarecrow isn't that bad a fighter either.
A few more blows, and Chei speaks up, “Aaarg, isn't there anything we can do to help? I don’t want to attack the wrong one by accident, but still…”
Mid swing, one of the Alexes calls out, “I'm the real one! Attack the imposter!”
Ducking under the blow, the other tries to ram using their shield, “Yeah, like my friends will fall for that!”
I hesitate, as both the second Alex to speak up and Chei have a good point: Which one is the liar, and which the real Alex? I think for a moment, trying to find some way to separate the two… A secret, or a weakness of some form… And then I grin, whispering to the others, “I’ll distract the real Alex. As he stumbles, attack the other one.”
The others hesitate, except for the Golem which silently nods. They agree, and I turn back, grin still spread across my face, “So, I have a question: Did I look pretty in that illusion dream you had?” I was of course thinking of the one where I was a cannibal. That should unsettle him.
One of the Alexes practically light up the room with an intense blush, not the reaction I was expecting. As they get sent flying back with a blow from the imposter, we charge forward, yelling, “Get him!”
“Woah! Woah! Stand down, guys! I can prove that I am the real Alex, just watch” I yell, but they don’t listen. Welp, I didn’t want to do this, but I guess I have to. I swing my blade at them. Three beams of darkness come out, sending the golem up in shadows.
“Stand down, guys.” I hear Thomas say. Well thank goodness for that, at least he realizes that. Great.
I swing at Scarecrow, now my ability up, but my swordsman skills are kicking in, and he ducks, and takes out a sword that is almost invisible. It has wind flying through it. I stare, stunned. He gets a blow in, and the wind gets knocked out of me. The sword of wind! He has it! I counter his attack with my blade of darkness, but he must be a skilled swordsman as well. Suddenly, I feel something in my pocket. I duck under my assailant’s blade, and see some Centaur Bread. I eat it, and transform nearly instantaneously, knocking Scarecrow off guard, and I stab him in his back, and he falls over, dead. He changes form to the scrawny old man he really is.
The sword of air lies on the ground. I pick it up, and suddenly, a small fire spirit from Xen’s blade, a baby ice hydra from the Ice Blade, a Ghost from the sword of air, and the golem gets sucked into the swirls of creatures, Xen stunned by the fire spirit, just stared.
Eventually, they formed into a lovely young lady. “Hello, I am Astrild, Norse Goddess of Love. You have summoned me by obtaining the four elemental sword, but I am afraid that I, the spirit of the sword, can only hold the power of it. You will keep your swords, but with their abilities taken away. I hope you enjoy my presence.”