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SamuraiChameleon
04-18-2011, 05:07 AM
The current title of the story this thread is mostly dedicated is Residual Effects, and it's open for change. You don't have to read any of the background stuff to understand the story, but it will help. Every now and then I may post other unrelated things.

Background:
After a certain incident, the kingdom of Agaron declared war on the neighboring kingdom of Arabi to the south. As the long and bloody war came to a close, the final battle took place at Squall Valley, a region roughly in-between the two kingdoms. In the end Arabi emerged victorious. The victory was short-lived though. It came at a high cost and the spoils of war were not enough to satisfy most. Facing probable threats of uprisings and revolutions, General Ruaidhri formed an organization under orders from King Alistair Arabi. The goal of the organization was as follows: Dispatch groups to discretely prevent any and all threats before things have a chance to get out of hand. These groups consist of highly trained individuals. When one squad goes missing and Ryxor's squad is assigned to find out what happened, he knows that trouble in on the horizon.

World Info:
Guns exist, but the technology is limited to bolt-action rifles, shotguns, and semi-automatic pistols. They're are also some-what of a rarity and hard to come by. As a result, most people uses swords and other weapons.

People are also capable of performing energy abilities. They can harness their own life force and manipulate it to accomplish a number of things ranging from healing, creating barriers, and setting things on fire (it's basically magic). Some are more adept at using energy than others, and most people have a natural affinity to a certain use since birth. While it's possible to learn how to use it in other ways, it's definitely easier for people stick with their natural abilities. And of course, using too much at once can result in death.

Although the story kind of has a medieval setting, it does have technologies more advanced than that time period such as electricity and telephones.

Animals and the like are realistic. There aren't any dragons and unicorns running around.

The Main Characters so far:

Ryxor Borx
Age - 24
Fighting Style - He wields a sword in combat as well as fire energy that he often combines with his sword attacks.

Drex Kozen
Age - 19
Fighting Style - A user of barrier energy, he also wields a weapon he calls Sword Breaker. In the hands of a professional, it's capable of smash through both weapons and light armor.

Hughes Banes
Age - 22
Fighting Style - Though competent in hand-to-hand combat, his forte is guns. He has both a revolver and a rifle.

Auras Thompson
Age - 36
Fighting Style - He prefers going in without weapons. Instead, he wears gauntlets that amplify the power of his attacks.

Vanen Travis
Age - 25
Fighting Style - His weapons of choice are two katanas.

Eric Banes
Age - 28
Fighting Style - Like his brother, he uses guns with his preferred weapons being sawed-off shotguns.

Den Keghart
Age - 22
Fighting Style - Den uses a short sword combine with electrical energy.

Arax Zabelle
Age - 20
Fighting Style - She wields a multitude of daggers that she can throw with great accuracy.

Luther Arendale
Age - 49
Fighting Style - Using almost no conventional weapons, he's capable of wielding energy to levels few can match.

General Ruaidhri
Age - 45
Fighting Style - Rather than specializing in just one, he knows how to use several kind of weapons and fighting styles. He's also known for his strategies.

Andy Gaines
Age - 40
Fighting Style - He uses a special staff not only to enhance his natural talents with energy, but also as a blunt weapon.

Ratana Cytinin
Age - 19
Fighting Style - She wields a staff and can user energy to manipulate the wind. She's also a competent healer.

Oren
Age - 43
Fighting Style - He's well versed with all kinds of firearms.

Alice Redding
Age - 18
Fighting Style - She's considered by some to be a prodigy when it comes to energy attacks albeit she often has trouble controlling it. When all else fails, she falls back to her more conventional sword.

Lynn Garrison
Age - 18
Fighting Style - She often takes on a supportive role in combat with her weapon of choice being a sword concealed in a walking stick.

Keith Grayson
Age - 18
Fighting Style - His usual weapon is a battle axe, but he also uses other kinds of weapons from time to time.

Brink Lowe
Age - 27
Fighting Style - Though capable of defending himself should the need arise, he prefers to run from battles. He claims to be a natural with any kind of weapon.

Now that that's out of the way, here's the story.

Chapter 1: "The beginning of something special, something life-threatening"
Four armed men walked down the dirt road as the sun approached the highest point in the sky. Coming all the way from the capital, they were now nearing their destination, the town of Rizuke. Their job description sounded simple: Stop any possible rebellions before they happen. However, things were never easy. Especially on this particular assignment. Another squad, a better and stronger one, had already been sent out to this town. They were told to report in a few days ago and yet, they haven’t been heard from since leaving the capital. It’d be a safe bet that the perpetrators behind this incident were formidable opponents, and it didn’t take a genius to figure out it wouldn’t end well. What no one would be able to guess was that this event would help further a plan that had already been set in motion before the war even began.

---

“Did you know his father is Van Travis, the famous general who vanished during the war?”It was Drex Kozen who asked the question. It had been asked to no one in particular, but it was Ryxor Borx, the squad leader who answered.

“You mean Vanen? Yeah, I know. Why does it matter?”

“Just curious. Hey, Hughes. What about your brother Eric?” By some stroke of fate, Hughes’ brother was a member of Vanen’s squad.

“What about him?” Hughes asked back.

“Aren’t you worried about him?”

“Not one bit. He can take care of himself.”

“But they haven’t been heard from in several days. What if something serious has happened? Doesn’t that make you concerned?”

“Nope. Not sure how I’d react if we found them all dead. I’d probably stand over his corpse and say good riddance.”

“Man, you’re that cold told your own – “ Auras Thompson, the fourth member of the squad put a hand on Drex’s shoulder. Drex was about to ask what he wanted, but the look in his eyes said it all. Shut the hell up. He wasn’t sure if Auras was concerned for Hughes or was just annoyed himself, but he took the hint and quieted down. The guy doesn’t know when to keep quiet, Ryxor thought to himself. He’s been like that as long as I’ve known him.

By now they could see Rizuke on the horizon and what they saw wasn’t pretty. Smoke could be seen rising up into the sky. By the time they reached the edge of town, the smell of smoke mixed with the smell of burning flesh. They searched the buildings that still stood for survivors, but none were found. The entire town had been decimated and burned down to the ground.

“This whole thing stinks,” said Ryxor.

“Really, you think?” said Drex.

“I’m not talking about this, smart ass.” He gestured to what remained of Rizuke. “Where the hell is Vanen’s squad?”

“For now, we can only assume that whoever did this has also taken them out,” said Auras.

“But who did this? Vanen was no pushover, and we’ve yet to see a body that could have belonged to him or anyone in his squad.”

“Maybe they got burnt to crisp like almost everything else?” It was Hughes who made the suggestion.

“Maybe. But that brings up another problem. All of this smoke, and the guys over at Stronghold didn’t notice a single thing? I find that hard to swallow.” Stronghold was a nearby military fort. “Our next move should be the fort.”

“But what if that place got destroyed as well?” asked Drex. It was definitely possible and it would certainly explain why they hadn’t made a move yet.

“We’ll figure it out when we get there. Let’s move out. There’s nothing we can do there, and the more time we waste, the farther away those responsible get away.”

---

The march toward Stronghold had been a short one. The smoke from the smoldering town of Rizuke could still be seen behind them when the fortress came into sight. Hughes looked back at the town and then turned to face the fortress. It stood still in perfectly good condition.

“And sign number two that something is off,” he said. The guard raised his weapon as they approached the gate.

“Identify yourselves,” he ordered.

“At ease soldier. We’re here on General Ruaidhri’s orders.” Ryxor held out a paper signed by the general confirming what he just said. The guard lowered his weapon.

“I see. Go on ahead.” Ryxor thought he’d take a moment to study the orders. Instead he gave them the ok without evening giving it a second glance. The squad looked around after stepping in beyond the gates. . All of them except Drex had passed by the fort at least once in the past, but it was the first time any of them had been inside. Ryxor motioned for a nearby soldier to come over.

“I need to talk with the commanding officer here. Where can I find him?”

“His office is set up in that building over there.” He pointed behind them.

“Thank you. We’ll be on our way now.” As they walked over to the officer’s office, Drex leaned closer to Ryxor and started talking in a hushed voice.

“This whole place seems off. They’re out and about like nothing’s wrong when a whole town not even a mile away is up in smoke.”

“You don’t think I didn’t notice that?”

“If you’re one step ahead of the rest of us, then what’s your plan?”

“I go ask the guy in charge some questions while you guys stay quiet and don’t do anything that would attract attention.”

“That’s it?”

“Did you see that guard’s reaction when I showed him our orders?”

“What reaction?”

“Exactly. He didn’t even bother to look at them. Don’t you find that strange? If four armed men not even dressed in uniforms approached your fort, wouldn’t you want to see some proper identification first?”

“You think these men are responsible for Rizuke?” Drex asked.

“I’m saying they are responsible.”

“You think they also took out Vanen’s squad?”

“Possibly. We can’t tell for sure yet.”

“If they actually killed them, then they gotta be stronger than your average guy,” said Hughes “I can’t imagine Eric going down without a good fight even if he was ambushed.”

“Is it really a good idea to get separated if these guys are so strong?” Drex asked.

“I’m willing to bet they won’t try anything until we are separated. Besides, we still don’t know for sure that these guys did kill them. We only know that they’re involved.” By now they had reached the door to the office. The guard outside watched them talking, but couldn’t make out what they were saying over the other noises going around the fort.

“Hold it right there,” the guard said. Only one person is allowed in at a time. The rest of you have to wait outside.”

“Very well,” Ryxor said. He motioned for the others to do as they were asked while he stepped through the door. The commanding officer stood behind behind his desk staring at him. Ryxor offered him his hand. “Ryxor Borx. I’m here on orders from General Ruaidhri.”

“Nash Morrow,” the officer said, ignoring Ryxor’s hand gesture. “How can I be of help?”

“I’m looking for Vanen Travis. He was supposed to check in at this fort a few days ago, but the people at the capital haven’t heard a word. What do you know about this matter?”

“No one bearing that name has showed up here in a month, let alone a few a days ago. If he’s gone missing, I don’t know anything about it.”

“Are you sure you haven’t heard of anything at all?”

“I’d tell you if I had. Is that all you wanted to ask?”

“There is one more thing I’d like to ask you. It’s about the town that used to exist west of here.” He saw Nash put his hand on the handle of his sword. Ryxor got ready to grab his own weapon.

Outside, Auras stood over at a corner of the fort examining the ground. Hughes had asked to see the dungeons beneath the fort and Drex was off somewhere else. Why was this spot dug up recently? Auras thought he knew the answer to that question when there was a loud crashing noise inside the officer’s building. He turned just in time to see a man fly through the window. At that moment, everyone dropped what they were doing. Two guys nearest him had their weapons drawn and pointing at him while the rest were focused on the building. The door was kicked down from the inside and Ryxor walked through the open doorway. Flames began to dance around on the blade of his drawn sword.

“Auras! Take care of the rest of these buffoons while I beat some answers out of our new friend Mr. Morrow.” Following his cue, Auras sprung into action. He punched the guard in front him in the face so hard he heard his nose break. The other guard charged at Auras, but he grabbed the one that was down and spun around just in time for him to get stabbed by his own friend. He disarmed the guard still standing before taking him out, and then tossed the sword into another running up to help out. He gave Ryxor a thumbs up as the remaining guards approached much more cautiously.

Hughes was down in the dungeon when the fighting broke out up top. One guard was leading the way with two more brining up the rear and Hughes in the middle. Geez, I thought I was a visitor here, and yet they’re acting like they escorting a prisoner. When the sound of fighting reached down there the guards drew their weapons. Only one of them has a gun. The man with the gun fired away at Hughes, but the bullets never made contact. Instead, it appeared as though they hit an invisible barrier in front of him.

“What the hell?” One of the guards said. They heard a rush of foot steps behind them and turned around to meet their attacker face to face, but were too late. Drex was upon them and smashed through both of them in one strike. Hughes whistled as they fell to the ground. The remaining guard took several steps back, but it did no good. Hughes pulled out his revolver and pistol whipped him across the face causing him to drop his weapon. Hughes put the barrel to his head and pulled the trigger. It was all over in a matter of seconds.

“I doubt these weaklings killed Vanen. They aren’t even prepared to deal with energy users,” said Drex. He looked over at the one Hughes killed. “Well, I wouldn’t have pegged you as the cold-blooded type.”

“C’mon. Let’s go help out the other two.” Hughes ran past him, revolver still drawn.

“Fine then, ignore me.”

---

Up on the rampart, Nash jumped at Ryxor but he blocked the attack. As their swords made contact, Nash’s began to melt. He jumped back and tossed it aside, and pulled out his pistol.

“How the hell is your sword still fine!?” Nash shouted.

“Unlike yours, mine is made out of a special metal that can take temperatures far beyond that of steel.”

“Can you spill the beans already, man?” The voice came from behind Nash. Drex was sitting on a crate. He shifted his attention from Ryxor and pointed his gun at him. “Careful where you put that thing. Someone might get hurt.”

“How did you get up here and where the hell are the rest of my men!?”

“Dead or dying.” A gunshot went off in the background. Hughes reloaded his revolver as he and Auras made their way over.

“Damn it! This isn’t happening!” He shouted frantically, pointing his gun at Drex and then back at Ryxor.

“Drop it,” Ryxor said. “You can tell us what we want to know now or we can have a little chat after we break both your arms.”

“Shit.” Nash tossed his gun to the ground.

“All right then,” said Drex. He hopped off the crate carrying some rope. He brought it over to Nash and tied his hands behind his back. “Shall we talk things over in your office? “

---

Drex sat behind the desk while Auras and Hughes looked through everything. Auras turned to Drex who looked like he was enjoying himself.

“Well? Are you gonna help us or just sit there?”

“Oh, right.”

“Now, tell us what you know about Vanen and Rizuke,” said Ryxor. Nash was up against a corner of the room.

“The people that hired me have him and his squad captive.”

“Where?”

“Odikai. A town northeast of here. It’s less than a day’s journey from here on foot.”

“And?”

“And what?”

“If that’s all you’ve got then you’re of no use to us.” Hughes pulled out his revolver and pulled back the hammer.

“Wait! There’s more. The people that hired me are from Kazere. They’re a band of mercenaries led by a man named Oren.” Kazere was a town in the mountains to the west on Arabi’s border.

“What else?”

“They’re the ones that destroyed Rizuke. They’re also responsible for clearing out the soldiers at this fort. My men and I weren’t hired until after that. After making us bury the bodies, they told us to pose as the soldiers and deal with anyone who came snooping around.” Ryxor motioned for the others to follow him outside.

“Don’t think you’re off the hook yet. We will kill you if you try anything,” Ryxor told Nash before leaving.

“What’s the plan Ryxor? If that scum is telling the truth, Kazere and Odikai are in two completely different directions,” said Hughes.

“Yeah, I know. You and Auras stay here and watch over our friend. Contact Ruaidhri and give him an update. Drex and I will head out to Odikai and see what we can find out there. If he’s telling the truth, then we need to get to Vanen’s squad before it’s too late.”

“All right then, let’s get this show on the road,” said Drex.

“Wait,” Auras said. “Do you really think splitting up is a good idea? “

“No, I don’t. But we need to make a move and I’m not about to leave a prisoner by himself.” There was a moment of silence before anyone spoke again.

“Be careful. I can’t put my finger on it, but there’s still something that’s got me worried,” said Auras.

“Yeah, the feeling’s mutual.”

SamuraiChameleon
04-23-2011, 03:25 AM
Okay, here's chapter 2.

Chapter 2: "Lives of students ordinary and non-ordinary"
Earlier on the same day that Ryxor’s squad made it to Rizuke, Alice Redding and Keith Grayson stood in the middle of the arena face to face.

“I won’t go easy on you just cause’ you’re a girl,” Keith said.

“I won’t go easy on you just cause’ you’re an idiot,” Alice said. Professor Luther Arendale stood on the sidelines. His left arm hung limply at his side wrapped in bandages. The story behind it was a closely guarded secret.

“I said greet you’re opponents, not harass them. Remember, this is a training match only. You stop before executing a potentially fatal move, not after. No energy attacks either. That means you Alice. Get ready.” Luther paused for a moment. Both Keith and Alice glared at each other while waiting for the word. “Begin!”

And with that, they were off at each other’s throats. Alice did a vertical attack with her sword, but Keith dodged to the side followed by a counter attack. Alice brought her sword up and blocked it. Then she gained the upper hand and forced him back. She came forward with another attack, this one barely missing Keith’s stomach. Alice continued her push forward with Keith still on the defensive. They locked swords again and fought to gain control. At that moment, the handle of her sword began to freeze over in ice.

“Crap!” She broke contact with Keith and jumped back.

“What’s the matter? Is this too much for you?” Keith taunted her. She quickly glanced at her handle. The ice was no longer there. He didn’t notice it. He would have called the match he noticed.

“You think you’re in a position to taunt me? Bring it!” She acted pissed off, but in truth she was more worried than angry. It had nothing to do with Keith though. The only emotion he evoked from her was the anger. What had her worried was the ice. Before she realized it, Keith was upon her. She put her mind back to the battle and parried his attack. She thrust her sword and stopped just centimeters away from Keith’s throat. He stared at the point of the sword and could feel its lust for blood. Or was that her lust for his blood? He had a feeling it might be the second one. “You’re dead,” she said with a satisfied smile. Luther began clapping at the conclusion of the battle.

“Well done. Both of you deserve it, and you can put you weapons away now.”

“Yeah Alice, you can put your sword away now. You know, the one that’s still in my face,” said Keith in an annoyed tone. Alice relished the thought of going through with stabbing him before lowering it. Luther walked over to both of them.

“That’s enough for now. You’re both dismissed.”

“Yes sir,” they both said simultaneously. Keith walked away, but Alice remained standing near Luther.

“Is there something you wanted to ask me?” Was there something? Alice thought about it, but couldn’t decide.

“No. I’ll be on my way now.”

“By the way, you’re getting better at controlling your energy. You only lost control of it once this time and you were much faster at regaining control.” So he did notice after all.

“Thank you sir.” She walked out of the arena, her mind still on what Luther told her. She was foolish for thinking that he of all people wouldn’t notice. His mastery over energy was unrivaled. It was no wonder why the army sought him out. In the end though, his arm kept him from seeing active duty, not that it mattered to him. Alice could tell that he was troubled by his own personal problems a great deal more than the problems of the kingdom. The reason why he stayed at the academy as a professor was unknown to her.

“Did you get chewed out by the professor?” Alice was pulled out form her thoughts. Keith was leaning up against the wall with his hands in his pockets.

“What are you talking about, loser?”

“I think you know.” Rather than fill in the blank, Alice just stared at the smug look on his face. She couldn’t see what herself looked like, but she knew her face didn’t appear pleasant either. When it was apparent she wasn’t going to answer, Keith continued. “The energy you used during the match. If I managed to detect it, I’m sure he did.”

“Even you noticed it?”

“Don’t act surprised. I don’t have the kind of ranks you get, but I’m not some third-rate student either.” In truth, she was moderately surprised. Then again, maybe she was just being conceded. Assuming the conversation had ended, Alice continued on her way. “Hey wait, where are you going?” Keith started walking after her.

“My room. What else do you want?” He wasn’t exactly sure. He was just in the mood to talk.

“Hear any news about your friends yet?” He had to be talking about Drex and Ryxor.

“Nope.” That simple answer didn’t satisfy him.

“Want to go out later?” As much as she tried to hide it, the question made her blush a bit.

“What the hell!? Why are you asking these weird questions all of the sudden? Are you trying to ask me out or something like that?”

“What? Hell no. Why would I or anyone else for that matter want to be your boyfriend?”

“Fine, I guess so.”

“I’ll stop by your room later then.”

“Yeah.” And with that, they went their separate ways. In truth, it really did mean a lot to her that he kept quiet about what happened (even though Luther found out anyway). There were things like this that she liked about him, and yet there were plenty of other things about him that pissed her off. She didn’t dare say any of this to Keith, of course.

---

Lynn Garrison stood at the balcony of her dorm room at the military academy. From there, she had one of the best views of the capital Velvidyne. There were only a few other places that rivaled it, and it lost out to the palace of course. She was still enjoying the view when Alice walked in. She turned to greet her.

“How’d it go?” Lynn asked. She thought she already knew the answer, but had asked anyway. No, she knew for sure what the answer was.

“I won of course,” Alice replied in confirmation. “Hey Lynn, do you have any plans for later”

“No. What’s up?”

“I’m going out later. You should come to.”

“I guess so.”

From the moment the met during the ceremony when they first joined the academy, Lynn and Alice had become best friends. However if some random person looked at their relationship, chances are they would liken it to a boss and a loyal follower. It’s not that any of them had intended to turn it into something like that. It was just the way their personalities were.

---

The sun had already reached its highest point in the sky. By now, it was setting back down and the shadows were creeping out. Not that it mattered in this particular part of town. Here, the buildings were so large and close together the sun never quite reached the ground. A young man strolled down one of the narrow alley ways and entered one of the many taverns around the area. At this time of day, it was nearly empty. The lunch crowd had already left, but the dinner crowd had yet to arrive. They were bound to start trickling in soon though. For now, there were less than a handful of customers. The man walked up to the one with the bandages covering his left arm.

“Brink Lowe.”

“Why, fancy meeting you here Professor.” He was obviously exaggerating.

“Skip the pleasantries and sit down. Let’s get this over with.”

“Why be in such a hurry? I took the time to come out to this lovely part of town. Let’s have a round of drinks first.”

“Shut up and tell me what you found.” Luther was usually the cool, calm, and calculating type. It was likely a combination of Brink and the matter of their meeting that that caused his anger to rise.

“Geez, people like you are so boring and so easy to read. I don’t even have to use tricks with you.” For starters, there was that. Brink had a rare ability even among energy users. He could read other’s minds. There were limits though such as having to make physical contact.

“I didn’t come here to get my palm read.”

“Oh, but of course not. You came here for the information. Not the guy who mixes business with pleasure, are you?”

“Stop fooling around. Where is he?”

“Sorry to disappoint you, but I don’t have anything on his location.”

“Then why the hell are you wasting my time?”Luther wanted to reach out and strangle him.

“I was able to track him down to a little island in Osizar, but it was empty by the time I got there. He did leave this note though.” Brink pulled out a piece of folded paper and passed it to Luther.

“Where exactly did you find this?”

“It’s one the paper. Wouldn’t want to spoil it for you, now would I?” Luther held the paper in his hand. He wanted to read it, but decided he should wait and put it in his pocket. “However, if you man stays as crafty as he has been up to this point, he’s no longer anywhere near that island.

“How much do I owe you?” At that moment, the door to the tavern opened. Luther could see three familiar students out of the corner of his eye.

“This one’s on the house. Truth be told, this guy’s really something. Not only did he know where to leave the note, he knew who would discover it. In other words, he knows you’re paying me to find him. Just make sure you tell me how this all ends and all the exciting parts in between.” Brink stood up and put his hand on Luther’s shoulder.

“Well, I guess this concludes our business for now. By the way, the bond between teacher and student is a strong one, isn’t it?”

“What did you say?”

“I wonder if those precious students of yours know the truth.” Luther stared at Brink. The smile he wore was sickening. “See you around Professor.” And with that, Brink left the tavern. Luther didn’t need any kind of mind reading powers to know that Alice and the others were staring him. They had definitely heard the last part of that conversation, and he was sure their curiosity had been piqued.

---

“What!?” General Ruaidhri sat in the communications room with the receiver of the telephone up to his ear. Auras was on the other side of the line and he had just broke the recent turn of events to Ruaidhri. “And those two just went off on their own like that?”

“Yes sir.”

“You should have waited for backup or at least called here first. We might have already lost one whole squad to god knows whoever these people are.”

“My apologies sir. The lines at the fort were damaged and had to be repaired first. Should we pursue them?”

“No. What’s done is done. Besides, we can’t leave that prisoner unattended.”

“Any orders?”

“No, just stay put for now. You go after Ryxor and Drex after the backup arrives. After you’ve regrouped, report back here to the capital at once. This is far bigger than we initially thought.”

“Yes sir.” Auras hung up. Ruaidhri however wasn’t quite done. He had at least one more call to make.

“Operator, patch me through to Frozen Shield.” It was another military fort. This one was near the vicinity of Kazere to be exact. “Hello? This is General Ruaidhri. I need to talk to Colonel Gaines. Is he available?”

“What is it Ruaidhri?” Despite the difference in rank, there was no “sir” added on. These two men had a long history together the likes of which had roots stretching back to the war when none of them bore the ranks they had now.

SamuraiChameleon
04-25-2011, 02:34 AM
Chapter 3: "The sun sets on act 1 and the lives of the puppets"
The sky dropped down behind the distant horizon to the west and with it, the sky changed from a blazing red to a deep blue. Ryxor and Drex followed the path to Odikai with only the moon and the stars to light the way. From the time they left the fort until now, there had been no sign of trouble. The odds of things staying like that were very low though. Neither of them had spoken in quite some time, but Drex finally broke the silence.

“Are we there yet?” Ryxor just stared at him. “Are we almost there yet?”

“Stop acting like a kid.”

“What?”

“You know damn well we won’t get there until tomorrow.” Ryxor was rather annoyed at that moment.

“Geez, I was just trying to lighten the mood. What happened to you?”

“What are you talking about now?”

“You used to be so easy going before we joined the academy. Now you always act like you got a stick up your ass or something.”

“I grew up. When are you going to?”

Drex was going to add more to the conversation, but then they both froze.

“Something’s not right.”

“Yeah, I know.”

At that moment, a bolt of lightning struck with no warning. During the split second it hit, Drex managed to create a barrier around both of them. However, the bolt was far stronger than he had anticipated and both of them were sent flying. As a result, Drex was forced into a tree. He fell to the ground where he made no movement, let alone an attempt to get up. Ryxor was much luckier and landed in a patch of grass. Unlike Drex, he was on his feet in no time.

“Drex!” he shouted. He wanted to run over and check on his condition, but something told him not to. Whoever did that was still nearby. Two shadows emerged from the nearby trees. One of them belonged to a man, and the other was a woman. The man spoke.

“Ryxor Borx. We knew someone would be sent after us, but we weren’t expecting you.” He sounded rather content with himself. Wait a minute, I know that voice.

“Shit. What’s up Den? And Arax. We’ve been looking for you guys.”

“Look no more. We’re right here and ready to kick your ass.”

“You seem to be forgetting something. Where the hell are Vanen and Eric at?”

“Afraid I can’t say. Maybe I’ll tell you just before we finish you off.”

“You know, I wanted to believe that you were all actually being held captive somewhere. I wanted to believe that you were still on our side, even you Den. Even though you guys going rogue was the only thing that seemed to fit, I just couldn’t believe it until now.”

“How touching.”

“Now what the hell is Vanen planning?”

“I’m afraid I can’t say.”

“I guess it’s come to this then.” Ryxor drew his sword and covered it with his fire. It cast a bright glow around him.

“You think you can take us both on? What a laugh!”

“I think I stand a good chance if I take one of you out pretty fast.” Easier said than done. As confidently as he had said it, Ryxor had no idea how was going to take on both of them. Maybe one, but two was overkill. “Sorry Arax, but you’re weaker.”

Before she could say something in response, Ryxor charged strait toward her. She managed to dodge it and threw a handful of daggers at him. However, he dodged and blocked them all.

“Attacking a lady first? You have no manners at all.” It was Den. He shot another lightning bolt at Ryxor. This time, he was more prepared. After dodging it, he continued his assault on Arax. She tossed dagger after dagger at Ryxor as he advanced, but to no effect. She brought another dagger up to block the incoming attack, but it did no good. He easily broke through her defense and kicked her square in the chest. The kick sent her sprawling to the ground. She wasn’t quite finished yet though. She recovered from the fall and was on her feet again with more daggers at hand.

“Bastard,” she said under her breath.

“Oh, so I finally got you to talk. How many of those daggers do you have?”

“Hey, didn’t I tell that isn’t polite?”



Den came at Ryxor from behind. He forgot about Arax and shifted his attention to him. He dodged the initial attack and countered with his own, but missed. Every time Den attacked with his short sword, Ryxor chose to dodge it rather than block.

“What’s the matter? Don’t be shy.”

“You think I’m that stupid? Our swords are made of metal and both of them are good conductors of electricity.”

“I see your brain managed to grow since last time,” Den taunted.

“Shut up and die.”

“Now, just how do you plan on getting to me if you can’t make contact?”

“Like this!”

Ryxor struck his sword into the ground. From it burst a stream of fire that headed straight for Den. Part of his clothing got burnt, but Den dodged most of it. He ran toward Ryxor determined not to let him get another attack like that off.

“Damn it!” Ryxor shouted

When he tried to pull his sword out of the ground, he couldn’t do it.

“I’ll take back what I said about your brain.”

“Crap, crap, crap. Come on!”

He could feel the sword getting looser. Den was almost on top of him. And then, he managed to get it out, but one second too late. He didn’t have enough time to dodge the oncoming attack. Instead, he brought his sword up to block it. At that instant, electricity shot through his body and he was unable to move. It was only after Den backed off that he realized there was dagger protruding from his side. He fell to the ground in pain, trying to pull it out.

“And that’s that,” Den said with a satisfied smile. Ryxor reached for his sword but Den kicked it away. “I don’t think so.” He turned to Arax. “Good work.”

“Shut up,” Arax said coldly.

“Even your own subordinate doesn’t like you,” Ryxor said through clenched teeth.

“You still seem to be so lively. I guess we’ll have to fix that before we take care of Drex.”

“Like hell I’m gonna let myself die by your hands!”

From the moment he had fallen, Ryxor began charging up his energy. Now, he was ready to release it in one big blast. It was until he was ready to unleash it did Den or Arax realize what he was up to.

“Son of a… get back!” Den shouted.

At that moment, the area around Ryxor was engulfed in flames. He kept it away from where Drex had gone down. Other than that though, everything else was fried to a crisp. Still conscious, he looked around but caught no sight of Den or Arax. He didn’t know what happened to them and he didn’t care. Before moving, he gripped the dagger that was still inside him. He readied himself for what was to come, but still yelled out in pain as he removed it.

He got to his feet and went over to where Drex was. He lay there unconscious from hitting the tree. There was a chance Den and Arax were still nearby. If they came back, they were both dead. They couldn’t stay put. Ryxor grabbed Drex and began carrying him away from the area. His side throbbed with pain with every step. The more he moved, the more he felt like he was going to pass out. I used too much energy in that last attack. Damn it all!

Despite all that had just happened, there was still some luck on their side. Not too far away lay an inn. They had been heading there to spend the night before Den and Arax attacked. He hoped he could still make it there. He focused on putting one foot in front of the other. Still, he could barely manage to do just that.

Somehow, he made it. On the verge of collapsing, he held out just long enough to get through the door to the inn and collapse on the floor to the surprise and shock of the owners. They dropped what they were doing and rushed over immediately.

“My god! What happened?” one of them said.

“Don’t worry! We’ll get you some help!” the other said.

After knowing that they were finally safe, Ryxor let himself slip out of consciousness. It’s not like he had much control though. He would have done the same even if he had stumbled upon a den of cutthroat thieves.

---

Back at Stronghold, a line of cans were placed on a crate. Bang! There was a metallic sound as a bullet hit one of them and sent if flying off the crate. On the other side of the courtyard, Hughes had his rifle drawn. He took aim and shot another can off. Auras walked up as he shot off yet another one with perfect aim.

“What are you doing?” he asked.

“Target practice. You want to join in?”

“No! Stop messing around.” Hughes shot another can off the crate.

“What’s the problem? We’ve got nothing else to do except watch Nash and he isn’t exactly going anywhere.”

“I don’t care. This isn’t the time to play games.”

“Unlike you, I don’t have the patience of a statue. Sitting around waiting for a day get’s way too boring.”

Meanwhile, Nash sat in the corner of the office building. Smoke began to rise up in the air as the ropes keeping him bound began to burn. Did they really think I’d go down that easy? I bet they never thought I’d hold back in the previous fight and let myself get captured. Man are those bastards in for a surprise! After he got his hands free, he rubbed away the soreness and got to work on his legs.

When he stepped outside, Auras and Hughes were still arguing. Their backs were turned away from the building and from Nash as he crept closer to them. In his hand, he clutched a dagger. It’ll have to do, he thought. I’ll just grab the big guy and-. Auras grabbed his wrist and twisted it around until there was a sickening snap and Nash dropped the dagger.

“Ahhhhhhh!!!” Nash screamed in pain.

Hand wrapped around his neck, Auras pressed him up against the nearby wall.

“How did you-,” Nash was cut off before he could finish.

“Did you really think we were that stupid?” Auras answered his unfinished question. “What else do you know?”

“I already told you everything I know.”

“Wrong answer. Hughes, give me your gun.” Hughes did as he was told

“What do you need it for?” Hughes asked.

“A little target practice.” He pointed the revolver at one of Nash’s feet and fired. He let out another scream as he handed the gun back to Hughes.

“Tell us before we have to move on to some more interesting body parts.”

“Bastard,” he said in a harsh voice.

“Was that a ‘Shoot me again?’” Auras jokingly suggested.

“No! I’ll tell you!”He stopped to catch his breath. He found that being shot in the foot wasn’t the most pleasant experience. Neither was having your wrist broken. “I lied about Odikai. The only thing your friends will find there is a trap.”

“What kind of trap?”

“We have an ambush set up near Etaked Inn. I’m sure by now though they already ran into it. You’re too late to do anything.” He let out a low laugh.

“What else have you lied about?”

“The men that hired me really did come from Kazere, I swear.”

“Is there anything else that might have slipped your mind?”

“No. That’s I all know. I swear.” Despite his claim, Auras didn’t ease up his grip. “Well, are you just gonna stand here or are you gonna check up on your friends?”

“Gun.” Auras held his hand out to Hughes who once again did as he was asked.

“Wait! I told you everything I know!”

“And you’re sure about that? You’re not leaving anything out this time?”

“No!” he shouted.

Auras stared into his face. He could see the fear over the fact that he might die reflecting off of his eyes. He felt bad about torturing him and even worse about what he was going to do.

“Sorry, but as you suggested we can’t just stand by and do nothing. We’re also not willing to risk leaving you here by yourself.” Auras pulled the trigger, ending Nash’s life. He let go, letting the body fall to the ground. He looked over at Hughes and tossed his gun back.

“Let’s move out.”

“Right. Just so we’re clear, I don’t like following your orders.”

“Yeah, well I’m second in command. Deal with it.”

“I know. I was just saying though.”

---

The following day at the inn, Ryxor lay around in a bed. The inn keepers had been nice enough to let him and Drex stay free of charge. His wound had only been patched up, but it wouldn’t fully heal for quite a while.

On the other hand, Drex was doing much better. He had regained consciousness and was completely fine aside from some cuts and bruises. Currently, he was walking around the inn somewhere.

It was a bright and sunny day outside. A small breeze rustled the tree branches and the grass. Other than that, it was completely quiet. Drex stood just outside the inn looking at nothing in particular. He wasn’t exactly standing around enjoying the pleasant breeze though. He was standing watch in case Den or Arax or anyone else tried something.

Ryxor was still lying in bed when the attack happened. Nothing seemed out of place until he heard the gunshot go off outside. He wanted nothing more than to stay in the bed, but he forced himself to get up. He could still feel the pain in his side where the dagger had been. If he wasn’t careful the wound was liable to reopen. He stepped outside the room and found himself in a hallway.

The first time he entered the inn, he collapsed shortly after and was carried to the room he just left. As a result, he didn’t know which way led where. He made up his mind and chose a direction at random when he heard another gunshot. It suddenly occurred to him that he didn’t have a weapon on him. Where his sword was he didn’t know. It definitely wasn’t back in the room.

When he rounded the corner at the end of the hall, he was struck by a fist. The assailant held him up into the air with one arm and tossed him back down the hall.

“I guess that fight last night did a real number on you. This will be a cinch,” the man said with a smile on his face. Ryxor looked up at his attacker. Who he was he had no idea. The assailant pulled a gun out and pointed it at Ryxor. He felt his heart jump up into his throat when he heard the loud bang from the gunshot.

The man dropped his gun and blood began to seep through his shirt. He stumbled forward. Someone pressed a gun up to the back of his head and fired again. Ryxor looked up to see Hughes walking over to him. He gave Ryxor a hand and lifted him back up to his feet.

“You look like shit,” Hughes casually said. He took off his rifle and handed it to him.

“Sorry, but you’re in no condition to fight.”

“Really.”

“Find yourself a vantage point and cover us.”

“Where’s Auras?”

“Outside helping Drex out. Come on, let’s go.”

---

Outside, Drex and Auras were fighting off the assault of mercenaries. Thus far, they had managed to hold out. While struggling with one of them, another approached Drex until a bullet caught him in the face taking him down.

Hughes walked out of the building, revolver drawn. Where Ryxor, was he didn’t know. Hughes had suggested a second story window that overlooked the front of the inn where the fighting was taking place. Due to his lack of knowledge of the layout of the building, he was having difficulty finding it.

Shortly after joining in on the fight, Drex, Auras, and Hughes had taken out almost all of the mercenaries. Seeing the lack of success his men were having, their boss stepped in. He was an extremely well built man wielding a giant flail.

“Do I have to take care of this myself!?” he shouted to no one in particular.

“Whoa, this guy looks tough,” Drex declared. “Why’d he have to wait till now to come out?”

“Yeah that’s right. All three of you stay grouped together right there.” The leader ran up to them and swung his flail at them with surprising speed. They were even faster though and all three of managed to dodge it.

Hughes unloaded on him until he ran of bullets in the chamber of his revolver. However, he positioned his flail in front and blocked all of the shots. After that, the leader came after Drex who was closest. The two of them collided with colossal force. With the help of his barrier energy, Drex managed to repel the attack.

Auras moved in to help out, dodging another attack from the mercenary leader’s flail. He landed a kick on him, but it wasn’t very effective. Facing the threat of another attack from the flail, Auras was forced to step back.

At that moment, it appeared as though they had him surrounded. However, he was still full ofvigor even after swinging around his huge weapon. He was certainly a big a step above his grunts. At this rate, the fight could have dragged on.

With all of his focus on the others, Ryxor had a clear shot. He had finally found his way to that window. He took aim and fired. The bullet hit the leader square in the chest, causing him to drop his flail. It made a huge a thud as it hit the ground. However, the leader still stood his ground even after taking a bullet.

“Now’s your chance! Take him out!” Ryxor shouted from the window.

Auras ran up and attacked his legs followed by Drex who hit him at full force with the Sword Breaker putting him down for the count. Ryxor left his spot and ran down to get closer. Hughes still had his revolver trained on him while Drex and Auras backed off.

The large man didn’t move a muscle. They would have thought he was dead if he hadn’t started coughing up blood.

“Who the hell is this guy?” Drex asked. The man answered back.

“My name is Vincent Cytinin.” Talking caused him to cough up more blood, but he went on. “I run the mercenary group.”

“You mean the one we just destroyed?” Drex asked, joking.

“There are more. You didn’t kill all of them.” It looked like he had died after saying, but then he added, “Not here. They’re somewhere else.”

“What are you talking about?” asked Auras.

“They’re at Kazere.”

“Kazere? Do you know a man named Oren?” It was Ryxor who asked. Hughes looked over to see him standing next to him. He handed back his rifle.

“Yes. I know that son of a bitch. Please believe me. I-,” he coughed up more blood. “I didn’t want do this.”

“What are you talking about?”

“That man has my daughter. At first I refused his offer, but then he forced me into it using her.”

“What man?”

“Please. You have to help her.” He started coughing even more.

“Hey! What man? Was it Vanen?”

Vincent finally gave in to his wounds. Ryxor picked up his lifeless body by the collar of his shirt.

“Answer me damn it! Don’t die on me before you get to the important part!” He felt someone put their hand on his shoulder and looked up to see Drex.

“Forget it. You can’t beat information out of dead man.”

Ryxor realized he probably looked rather ridiculous right then. He let go of Vincent and let his head fall back to the ground.

So far, I've been working at a fairly fast past I think. However, I have school starting tomorrow and that's probably about to slow down.

Matt
04-26-2011, 07:20 PM
“Unlike yours, mine is made out of a special metal that can take temperatures far beyond that of steel.”
Kay, I know I did this exact same thing in one of my stories, but people don't say stuff like that. [/hypocrite] "Wouldn't you like to know?" followed by one of the four examining the sword afterward would be a bit better. And now for another hypocritical critique: speedy introduction. You know who your characters are, what they do, what they think, etc., but readers don't. You do a good job of letting their personalities come through in context and dialogue, but they're introduced all at the same time; four fantasy names, plus towns and generals and such, can get pretty bogged down.

Somehow, this story feels familiar. If I could write adult characters without getting bored, I'd probably write stuff like this. The way you write just kinda clicks with me. It's not a "DUDEYOU'RETHEBESTWRITEREVER" click, but I at least know I can keep reading. Kay, now onto chapter 2. . . .

EDIT: Chapter 2 finished!


From the moment the met during the ceremony when they first joined the academy, Lynn and Alice had become best friends. However if some random person looked at their relationship, chances are they would liken it to a boss and a loyal follower. It’s not that any of them had intended to turn it into something like that. It was just the way their personalities were.
Let this be known more slowly. Lynn follows Alice, never the other way around. Lynn agrees to everything Alice says. Lynn does unnecessary, but kind things for Alice.

And:


“I won’t go easy on you just cause’ you’re a girl,” Keith said.

“I won’t go easy on you just cause’ you’re an idiot,” Alice said.
I know this exchange is used a lot in fiction, but I still like it.

Chapter 3 time. . . .

SamuraiChameleon
04-28-2011, 05:18 AM
Glad to know you like it, and thanks for the advice. Anyways, here's chapter 4.

Chapter 4: "The eye of the storm: the worst has yet to come"
Following the battle at Etaked Inn, Ryxor and his squad returned to Velvidyne on Ruaidhri’s orders. It wasn’t like they had much of a choice though. With the only other option being to march to Kazere in search of Vanen’s squad while their leader was injured and there were all inadequately prepared, returning was the clear cut winner. Upon making it back, the first item on the list was a debriefing of their mission. They weren’t too long into this “debriefing” though before it became clear that they were just getting chewed out by Ruaidhri.

“You all know Vanen could hand your ass to you, right?”

“Yes sir.” Ryxor answered for his squad, but they were all present.

“And you suspected that someone beat the shit out of this guy that could hand your ass to you?”

“Yes sir.”

“And rather than wait for backup, you decided to split up, decreasing your chance for victory, and go after this guy who was probably way more than any of you could handle.” It was more of a statement of what happened rather than a question. His other questions were too.

Ryxor let out a sigh before answering. “Yes sir.”

“What the hell were you thinking!?” Ruaidhri practically exploded. He sounded like he wanted to kill them all. Unfortunately for him, that wasn’t an option.

“Well, we-,” Ryxor started, but was quickly cut off.

“Wanted to play hero and rescue Vanen? Or maybe you just wanted to one-up him this time so you could rub it in his face.” He was obviously being sarcastic, but there was a history behind them that made the suggestion sound faintly plausible. “I don’t want hear it.”

“But sir, think of what we found out!” Drex said.

“Did you discover what Vanen’s plans are?”

“No, but-,”

“Did you learn anything other than that he has allies at Kazere, which you already learned at the fort?”

“No but,-“

“Can it! I don’t even want to hear it!” Drex shrank in his seat. He had never seen the general so angry before. Ruaidhri looked like he was about to yell at them again. Instead, he somehow managed to cool himself down.

“It was a mistake sending you guys out on this assignment. You have too much of a history together. I have no idea what I was thinking,” he said in a calmer tone.

“Sir,” Ryxor said.

“What is it?”

“Are you taking us off this assignment?” He felt like the answer would be an obvious one, but couldn’t help but ask anyway.

“For now, there is no assignment. The only lead we have is Kazere and as you well know, we have soldiers stationed nearby. Colonel Gaines will contact us if he or his men notice anything.”

“The colonel?”

“Yes he’s the officer in charge up there. Got transferred after the war around the same time I got promoted to general. He definitely wasn’t too happy about that decision.” The general smiled as he reflected on what appeared to be a fond memory. Then he continued on. “As of now, you’re on leave. Take the time to rest and heal up. Spend time with family or whatever the hell you got to do. I’ll contact you when we hear anything form Gaines. Dismissed.”

All four of them stood up and saluted Ruaidhri.

“Yes sir!” they all shouted in unison.

---

Ryxor laid down in a room at the infirmary as a doctor tended to the wounds he had received. The doctor immediately got to work on the knife wound. Ryxor meant no disrespect to the inn owners, but they had no idea what they were doing when it came to the field of medicine. He was thankful he was back at the capital in a real medical facility with a real doctor who knew how to use healing energy.

“You should consider yourself lucky. I’m amazed no major organs were hit. This wouldn’t have been so simple if any were.”

Ryxor, whose mind was elsewhere, was brought back to the infirmary room.

“What did you say?”

“I said it’s amazing none of your major organs were hit. I don’t know the full report, but I doubt you would have made it back here to receive proper treatment, especially if the liver had taken damage.”

Now isn’t that odd.

“Yeah. I guess I lucked out there.”

“All right, that’s all taken care of,” the doctor said after he finished attending to the wound. “It’s more or less good as new, but don’t overdo yourself. Take it easy for a while.”

“Got it.” Ryxor sat up and put his shirt back on.

“Hey, doc.”

“What is it?”

“Do you happen to know where Luther is?”

“The professor? He’s not here right now.”

“Oh, thanks anyway.”

“Damn it, where could he have gone?” Ryxor asked himself as he left the infirmary.

It wasn’t until they were half-way back to Velvidyne that Ryxor finally remembered where his sword was. As luck would have it, he had left it after the battle with Den and Arax. By then, it was obviously too late to turn back and search some random field for it. Luther was the man he wanted to see about the matter, but it seemed that his horrible luck persisted.

Speaking of luck, there was the matter of his knife wound. Arax was a professional. There was almost no way she could have missed her mark, especially when it was in the process of being electrocuted. In the end, Ryxor guessed that he had used up all of his luck at that moment. Thus, the predicament with his sword was to compensate for keeping his life. Yeah right. As if I believe in luck anyway.

---

Drex and Auras walked side by side as they entered the academy. The two had headed out there almost immediately after the debriefing. However, they only acted as if they just noticed that the other was right next to them.

“Do you also have business here?” Auras asked.

“I’m going to see a friend. How about you?”

“My son is a student here.”

“Like father like son, eh?”

“I don’t think he actually wants to do this sort of thing. I insisted he do whatever he wanted to, but it would seem he did indeed choose to become a soldier because of me.”

“What about your own father? What kind of job did he have?”

“He was a poor drunk who forced me to join because he wanted to leech off the benefits I would receive. Of course, most of those benefits ceased to exist during the height of the war.”

“Oh, I had no idea. That’s… uh, that’s unfortunate to hear.” At the moment, Drex actually felt kind of sorry for Auras. He wanted to say something more, but couldn’t find the words. Then they came to a fork in the hall.

“Well, I’m heading this way.” Drex indicated the path leading straight ahead, having decided to put the conversation behind them.

“Goodbye.”

“Yeah, see you around.”

Auras was leaning up against the wall to the side of the classroom door when it swung open. Students began flooding out from inside. When the specific student he was waiting for came through the doorway, he put his hand on his shoulder. Matthew Thompson spun around to see his father standing there.

“Oh, hey dad. I didn’t know you were back already.” Perhaps due to fear of embarrassing himself in front of the many other students still around, Matthew spoke in a calm tone that belied the happiness he felt for seeing his father again.

---

Drex knocked on the door to the dorm room three times and waited. He soon decided forgo patients and knocked again shortly after.

“All right, I’m coming!” He heard a familiar voice call out from behind the door. A moment later, he was face to face with Alice.

“Yo.”

“Drex! When did you get back?”

“This morning. You have time for a walk or something?”

“Of course I do.” Alice looked back inside the room to Lynn who was sitting on her bed. “Want to come with us?”

“But what about our next class? It starts in a few minutes?”

“Oh right, I forgot about that. Just make up and excuse for me.” The response came to her as quickly as if someone had just said hi to her and she was saying hi back.

“But are you sure it’s such a good idea for you to skip class again?” Lynn asked, concerned.

“No worries! I have the utmost confidence in your ability to make up excuses,” she said as she left with Drex in tow. Lynn stared at the open doorway, which was now empty.

“So where’s Ryxor at?”

“The infirmary.”

“All right then. That’s our first stop of the day. Oh wait, why’s he in the infirmary?”

“Being treated for a stab wound. You know, the usual stuff that happens when he gets cocky and over does it.”

---

Ryxor knocked on the door to Luther’s office at the academy, but there was no response. I guess he really isn’t here. Whatever he was up to must have been important. Ryxor knew from experience and bad memories that he wasn’t the kind of person to screw around.

After trying to get in contact with Luther, his next stop was someone who he strongly disliked.

---

“Like teacher like student, eh Ryxor?” Brink asked from a bench at the park. Ryxor was sitting on the bench leaned up against the back of Brink’s.

“I’m not quite sure I know what you mean by that, Brink.”

“Both you and your former teacher claim to dislike me and yet you both always seem to end up turning to me for information.”

“Just what exactly did Luther ask of you recently?” Ryxor ignored his comment.

“Sorry, but I don’t share information on my other clients. It’s bad for business.”

“Moving on. What do you know about Vanen?”

“Ah, yes. He seems to be quite popular at the moment.” Ryxor was about to ask who else was interested in him, but stopped himself. “As you already know, he’s been very bad lately. Going by just the rumors, he went rogue and destroyed a whole town. But I’m sure you already know that much.”

Damn, he’s good. How has he already about that? It was then that he realized where Brink’s hand was positioned. He sat forward, breaking contact with it.

“Now can you tell me something that isn’t from my head?” Ryxor wasn’t even looking at him, but he knew that he was smiling.

“He must have something big in store. My sources say he’s been shopping around for troops.”

“We already know that.”

“Ah, but Oren’s mercenaries aren’t the only people he’s looking in to.”

“Does he have other allies already?”

“Unfortunately, I couldn’t find that out. This was the best information I could put together under such short notice.”

“What about Oren? What do you know about him?”

“Let’s just say Vanen will be using his services at a rather generous discount. It would seem the two have some kind of history.”

“Don’t know. You didn’t ask for information on him. Let’s consider that extra tidbit as a bonus for a returning customer.”

“Whatever, freak. Is that all you have?”

“I do have one other thing to add. That Vanen sure is an interesting fella. They say he has a powers stronger than mine, and yet he chooses never to use it. It makes you wonder what he’s trying to hide.” Brink stood up. “Well, goodbye for now. It was great to see you again.”

Ryxor turned around to shake his hand. Go jump into the deepest hole you can find and die, he thought as their hands touched.

Ryxor was about to get up and leave as well, but decided to stick around after Brink left. Now he could finally enjoy the scenery of the park. As much as he tried to take in the sights around him though, his mind kept wondering back to what he had just learned.

Vanen was looking for troops. He apparently knew Oren who led the mercenaries in Kazere, and it was likely they were already on Vanen’s side. What the hell are you planning? He was lost deep in thought when someone called out to him.

“Ryxor! Over here!” He looked up to see Alice followed by Drex.

“Hey, it’s been a while.” It was more of an automatic response. His mind was still thinking about Vanen.

“We’ve been looking all over for you.” Ryxor just sat there, his attention focused elsewhere until Alice stomped on his foot, bringing him back to the park.

“What the hell was that for!?” he yelled in pain.

“You were ignoring us!”

---

Hughes stood outside his parents’ house thinking of how to break the news.

“Hey Mom! Hey Dad! Eric turned traitor and sent some guys to try and kill me.” Several people passing by turned to stare at him as he tried to rehearse what he was going to say. “No, that won’t work at all. Not one bit.” He continued standing there. “Screw this.” And with that, he knocked on the door. He could here footsteps grow louder and louder and then the door opened.

“Oh Hughes! You’re back!” His mother reached out and gave him a big hug. “Well, come inside.” His mother shut the door behind him.

“Where’s Dad at?”

“He’s in the other room.” His mother was leading the way when Hughes stopped her.

“Listen, there’s something I have to tell you guys.”

“What is it?” His father had apparently heard everything and had put down whatever he was doing. He now stood in the doorway of the other room.

“It’s about Eric.”

“Did something happen?” his mother asked. They didn’t even know about the “disappearance” of Vanen’s squad, which he was a part of. He as well as others out on the special assignments was restricted from sharing information with anyone, family members included.

Yeah, you could say something happen, Hughes thought to himself. I have to tell them. There’s no way I can hide it. But how do I say it?

“Eric’s… well, something happened and… it’s hard to explain, but…” He kept pausing trying to find the right words. He seriously doubted even the most cunning orator could find an easy way to break the news he had to give them.

“I think this time he’s gotten himself into something serious.” Hughes paused for a moment. “He might even need my help on this one. I’m not sure how or when, but I promise I’ll make sure he comes back home.” There was a long and awkward pause. Ah, what the hell am I saying? We’re not even on good terms. He would never accept my help and they know that.

“I guess you can’t speak of the nature of what trouble he’s in,” his father said.

Hughes forced out a small laugh. “Yeah, know how it works. Sorry about that.”

---

The air smelled salty and the sound of seagulls squawking could be heard. Ryxor, Drex, and Alice stood by the railing overlooking the harbor. On the walk over, Ryxor and Drex filled her in on the recent turn of events. Ruaidhri wouldn’t have approved, but then he didn’t need to know about it.

“Damn it! If only I were a year or two older, then I could probably go with you guys,” Alice admonished.

“Yeah, or you could have just replaced Ryxor or Auras,” Drex added.

“Hey! And what do you have against Auras?”

“Nothing in particular. Me and that guy just don’t click. They said they base the squads after who they think would work best together based on our time at the academy, and then they go ahead and place him on our team.

“He seems to get along fine with Hughes and me. Have you ever stopped to consider that maybe you’re one who needs to be replaced?”

“Of course! I stopped considering it though because it didn’t make any sense.”

“Don’t be such a smart ass.”

Alice started cracking up. She held her hand over her mouth and tried to stop herself, but found it impossible.

“What’s so funny?” Drex asked.

“You guys never change. You still get into arguments all of the time just like back at the boarding house.”

“Now that brings back memories,” said Drex with a warm smile on his face.

“It brings back bad memories,” Ryxor said.

“What’s the matter? You don’t miss the place?”

“Did you forget how we all ended up there?”

“And once again, you killed the mood.” For a moment, they all fell silent.

“There’s no way I’ll forget,” Alice said in a somber tone. “There’s no way I could possibly forget the war or how it got my parents killed.” Ryxor and Drex chose to remain silent, but they knew what she went through.

All three of them lost their family members in battles during the war. Now, each of them considered the other two the only family they had. They all met at the boarding house and felt drawn together due to their similar stories.

“That bastard’s going down,” Ryxor said.

“And back to your primary obsession,” said Drex

“He always thought so high of himself, like he was better than us and nothing we did would bridge the gap.”

Vanen was also a resident of that same boarding house, only he was there under different conditions. At the time, he was too young to join the army. His mother died some time ago, and his father was always out on duty because of the war. He had no other relatives to look after him, and so his father placed him under the care of the boarding house. Obviously, he left and joined the academy as soon as he was old enough.

When Vanen first started living at the boarding house, Ryxor had tried to make friends with him. He soon found that the task was an impossible one, and that Vanen was anything but the kind of person he wanted to get to know. During the years they lived together, they held a bitter rivalry toward each other.

“You can’t pretend you don’t hold any animosity toward him.”

“Alright, I’ll admit it. The guy was a complete ass. However, I’m not the one that picked him out as a rival, and I’m not the one who’s obsessed with beating him.”

“This isn’t an obsession.”

“Then what would you call it?”

Ryxor thought it out long and hard. In the end he had to admit that he couldn’t think of any other way to word it.

“Fine. Let’s say I’m obsessed. Why does it even matter? What he did is unforgivable.”

SamuraiChameleon
05-11-2011, 03:24 AM
It's been awhile, but here's chapter 5. I can't make any promises, but I'll try to get the next one done as soon as I can.

Chapter 5: "Like teacher like student, rivalries run deep"
Alistair Arabi was in the middle of the meeting with his generals. There were three of them in total, but only two were present. Those two were Ruaidhri and Kyle Sykes. While Sykes had been a general for quite some time even before the war broke out, Ruaidhri had only been promoted after Van Travis went MIA during the war. His disappearance was something still widely debated.

The remaining general, Gat Rivers, was currently conducting negotiations at Agaron, the neighboring kingdom they fought during the war. Rather than let the war drag on in their homeland, Agaron had surrendered at the conclusion of the decisive battle at Squally Valley on the border of two kingdoms. Gat was now in the process of milking the rival kingdom for the hard earned spoils of war while simultaneous trying to build up relations to prevent future wars. An unenviable task.

Aside from the generals, Curtis Rocer was also present. He was the king’s personal aid. While arguably an important man whom the king would occasionally turn to for advice, he was currently involved with grunt work and menial tasks such as bringing in drinks.

Alistair listened as Ruaidhri delivered his report on Vanen. He had already read it in advance, but was having Ruaidhri read it again. It’s not that he needed to be reminded about it. It was mostly for Sykes who had yet to hear anything about what was going on.

Quite frankly, the whole situation had him worried. A squad of elite soldiers running around destroying entire towns wasn’t the best remedy for a kingdom that had just been through a war. It was only a matter of time before word got out about what really happened at Rizuke. Thank god Vanen was thorough when he wiped out towns, he thought with a sense of dark humor. There should be almost no witnesses.

There was only so much more people could take before they gave up on the current ruler. Every day now, Alistair saw and heard reminders that he might not remain king for much longer. For the time being though, it appeared that his own generals had not yet given up hope. Aside from rebellion or a staged coup, the generals had the power to exile the king. The process would require all three of them though, and while he wasn’t too sure about Gat after assigning him the role of negotiator, he knew Kyle and Ruaidhri were still with him.

“And that concludes my report,” Ruaidhri finished.

Alistair looked over at Sykes. “General Sykes?”

“I agree with Ruaidhri,” said Sykes. “We know for sure that he needs troops for something, which is why he’s in Kazere. The local mercenaries there haven’t been any trouble so far, but they do have a record of not supporting us. The big question is what his plans are. If he does indeed plan on launching a revolution, he’ll need more than one band of mercenaries. We can’t rule out the possibilities that he’s also looking elsewhere for troops, or already has other troops hidden somewhere.”

“Curtis.”

“Yes sir?” He looked up with excitement in his eyes over the prospect of finally getting a say on the matter.

“Another glass of water, please,” Alistair said. Any trace of excitement left in Curtis died after the king held up an empty glass.

“Yes sir,” he said in a sad tone.

Alistair continued on the matter at hand as Curtis left the room. “We can’t take any chances here. We have to assume that Vanen is planning to attack. For now, we can’t have the army make move. If Vanen gets wind of it, he may back out and wait, and we can’t allow that to happen. We need to rely on covert operations and small groups for the time being.” Alistair paused to let what he just said sink in. “Any questions or objections?”

Ruaidhri spoke up. “I’m worried about sending Ryxor’s squad in again. I think they should be replaced with another squad.”

“We can’t do that. I’m well aware of what happened in the past, but we have to place our faith in them for now. They’re the best people we have available at the moment and they’re already familiar with the situation.

Curtis came back in with the glass refilled and set it on the table to next to Alistair. “There you go, sir,” he said. He picked up the glass of water and lifted it up to his lips to take a sip.

“Is they anything else?” he asked.

“No sir.”

---

The continent on which Arabi lay was divided into five regions. There were the three kingdoms. There was Arabi, Agaron which lay to the north of Arabi, and Osizar, a kingdom made up almost entirely out of islands that were to the east of Arabi and Agaron.

Off to the west, there once lay another kingdom. What was once that kingdom was now nothing but frozen wastes dotted by small settlements. This kingdom is known as the Frozen Kingdom. What it was once called and the story of its demise have been long forgotten.

Even further west was another group of islands known as the Free Islands, named for their lack of a ruling power. The islands lay too far out of the way for any of the kingdoms to attempt to annex them. Instead, a number of criminal organizations competed for control over them.

The Frozen Kingdom or the Free Islands. For Luther Arendale, it was clear as day that Jon Durmont had been hiding out in one or the other. He had spent years searching those two regions for any sign of him and had found none. There was a time when had given up hope of having his revenge.

Then he joined Arabi’s army, and through the contacts he made in the army, he came across a certain information broker who went by the name of Brink Lowe. Luther soon developed a deep hatred for that man, but he supposed he had to thank him. If not for Brink, he probably never would have learned that he had been searching the wrong places. As it turned out, the person he sought after for so long was on an island in Osizar.

“The man you hired did well to track me here to Cardinal Island, but I’m afraid I can’t reveal my exact location, at least not to someone I don’t even know. But of course if you came yourself, that would be an entirely different story.” That was the contents of the note Jon had left for Brink to find. Luther read it once more as he left the boat docked at the port town on Cardinal Island.

Durmont was clearly toying with him. If he had wanted to reveal his location to Luther, why had he waited until now? It was clear that something was amiss, that there was a reason that he decided to come out of hiding, but Luther couldn’t put his finger on it. For the time being, he had no choice to but to come out to the island. Fake or not, it was his only clue.

Luther had never been to the island before, but he had heard people talk about it. The island, which was located in the middle of the Osizar Kingdom, was also the biggest and most populated island. It even topped the capital island. Shortly after setting foot on the island, he already felt overwhelmed. The port town itself was nearly as big Velvidyne, not to mention that there were several smaller settlements further inland.

His first stop was one of those inland towns. According to Brink, he had found the note in a place called Crane Town. Judging by the map he had bought, he could reach it before nightfall if he hurried.

The trip over was uneventful. Every now and then, he ran into fellow travelers, some of which were kind of enough to offer their greetings to him as they passed each other by. By the time he reached his destination, the setting sun gave off a brilliant orange glow.

After arriving in town, Luther stopped by the local inn and paid for a room. He had the feeling that if there was something to be found, he could look for it tomorrow. It wouldn’t disappear overnight. He went up to his room, exhausted from the trip there.

---

The following day, Luther set out to continue his search. From asking around town, he learned of the exact building that the note came from. No one gave any valuable answers when he asked about strangers in town, but it would seem that a house was recently abandoned by its owner. According to people who lived nearby, the owner fit Jon’s description.

At first glance, the house appeared to be completely ordinary. Luther must have searched the whole place several times before coming to the conclusion that it was just that. An ordinary home with nothing hidden.

The rest of the morning went in a similar fashion. He combed the town with a fine tooth comb and found nothing. By noon, Luther gave up the search and returned to his room at the inn. Upon opening the door though, the man he was looking for was sitting on his bed.

“Long time no see Luther!” Jon shouted happily.

Without hesitation, Luther sent a ball of hot flames flying at Jon who jumped out the window behind the bed, which was now up in flames. Luther followed suit and jumped through the flames with arms over his face to protect his face. He landed in an alleyway behind the inn and gave chase.

“Durmont!” he shouted in anger. At the moment, he didn’t have the slightest idea what he was up to and he didn’t care. The man he had searched for was finally in grasp and he wasn’t about to let him get away.

Jon grabbed a container of water lying in the alley and sent a burst of energy into it causing it to reach boiling point and tossed it Luther. Without slowing his pace, Luther froze the water before it could reach him. The ice fell the ground and shattered as he ran passed it.

Eventually, the alleyway lead to a dead end, but Jon skillfully hopped over the wall blocking his path. Not bothering with any fancy tricks, Luther blew the wall up and ran through the newly created opening. Jon turned around to see Luther grab the collar of jacket. He managed to slip out of it though and used his energy to bring forth a powerful gust of wind that caught the jacket Luther was still holding, sending him off balance. He recovered quickly and continued his pursuit as Jon led him down one of the main roads.

Jon weaved his way around the many people passing by as he tried to lose Luther in the crowd. To impatient to deal with so many people, Luther brought up a gun and fired it into the sky causing most of them to scatter.

“Oh my! When did you start carrying something like that!?” Jon shouted back at Luther.

Luther aimed his gun at Jon’s back and fired away only to have the bullets burst into flames before they reached their mark. Trying a different tactic, Luther loaded the next bullet with energy and fired at the building ahead of Jon. A deadly blast of fire erupted from the spot where the bullet hit, threatening to incinerate anything in its way.

Jon stopped just in time however and avoided the fire. The path in front of him had been cut off though. He turned into the building followed closely by Luther. He ran out the back door, but Luther fired another energy-loaded bullet that hit door, sending it flying off its hinges and strait at Jon. The door collided with him and he was sent sprawling to the ground. Luther emerged from the empty doorway and pointed his gun at Jon who was just standing up

“Move and I will kill you!” Luther shouted. Jon let himself fall up against the wall of a building in sitting position.

“Oh really? Man, you’re getting out of shape. If you were still the old you, I’d be dead already.” Jon talked in calm tone despite his position.

“Don’t kid yourself. I wouldn’t have held back if there weren’t so many people around.”

“Right.”

“Before I kill you, tell me what you were planning.” Jon could almost sense an aura of anger emitting from Luther.

“Come on, you know I’m not the type of guy to spill the beans, especially considering who I’m working for now.”

“What do you mean?”

“Let’s just say my new employer is a very powerful person. However, I’m not quite sure where his head is at sometimes. You see, he’s had his eye on you for quite some time. In fact, I’m embarrassed to admit it, but he was quite disappointed when he only got me and not you.”

“What the hell are you talking about?”

“He sent me to try and recruit you, hence why I left such an obvious trail here for you. It’s times like these when I can’t understand his line of thinking. He thought it’d be best to have me do it and yet here we are.”

“You can tell your employer I rejected his offer when you see him in hell.”

“Well, this went well. Sorry, but I have no intention of letting you kill me. Oh, and do consider my offer.”

Jon sent a burst of energy into the wall he was sitting against, causing it to blast open, sending dust and debris into the alley. Luther shielded his face from the blast, but it was too late to do anything by the time he recovered.

“Damn it!” He ran into the cloud of dust after him but it was too late. The man he had been hunting for years had gotten away.

---

Several days later, Luther returned to Velvidyne. Naturally, he had continued to search Crane Town for Jon before leaving. He didn’t see hide or hair of him though after the confrontation. He had vanished as mysteriously as he had appeared. Shortly after his return, Luther found Ryxor knocking on the door of his office at the academy.

“What the hell is it?” Luther asked impatiently as he opened the door. Ryxor stood there staring at him. He could tell right away that something unpleasant had occurred during his trip. “Oh, it’s you. Come on in.”

The door was closed behind him as Ryxor stepped inside. “I don’t know where you’ve been the past few days, but it looks like you weren’t away on vacation.”

“No, I wasn’t.”

“Was it about that ‘old friend’ of yours?”

“That’s none of your concern. Besides, you didn’t come here to talk about where I’ve been, did you?”

“Nope.”

“That’s right. You came here because you need me to do a favor.”

“Yeah… How should I put this?” Ryxor couldn’t decide if he should just come out and say it.

“Well, what is it?”

“I lost the sword you gave me. Do you have anymore?” He braced himself for what might happen next.

“Yes, I do,” Luther said in a calm tone.

A look of surprise slipped onto Ryxor’s face. “Oh really, that’s great! Can I-“

“No.”

“But, why not?”

“Do I look like I own an armory? You’re a soldier now. I’m sure the army will be happy to lend you a new weapon.”

“But they don’t have anything that can withstand my own attacks. Even if they did, that kind of high-grade equipment wouldn’t be available to someone like me.”

“Obviously. You don’t think I know that?”

“Then why won’t you lend me one of yours?”

“I already did. Go find it,” Luther said while smiling.

“This isn’t a laughing matter. I don’t know if you’ve heard yet, but my current mission I’m on is extremely dangerous. I need to be at my best.”

“Your best? If you need to rely on some sword just to be at your best, then why are you even on this dangerous mission?”

Ryxor had nothing to say back. He just stood there staring at his former teacher. He was about to turn around and leave when Luther got up from his desk. He walked over to chest while grumbling about random things and opened it up. After digging around, he fished out a case and bought it back to his desk where he set it down in front of Ryxor. Ryxor eyed it over like a curious child.

“Well, open it.”

He did as he was told. The latch on the case creaked open. Inside rested a beautifully crafted sword. Ryxor lifted it up into the air and watched it shine in the dim light of the room.

“Are you okay giving something like this away?”

“Of course not, but you won’t leave me alone if I don’t.”

“I can get by with the army’s standard gear if it’s really too much for you to part with.”

“I don’t care. I don’t even remember the last time I used that thing.” Ryxor didn’t know the story behind the sword, but it genuinely soundly like Luther could care less about it.

“What does this switch do?” Ryxor asked indicating a button in the handle of the sword.

“Press it.”

As he did so, there was a metallic clank that came from the sword. Part of the blade along with half of the handle came undone. What used to be one sword were now a long sword and a short sword.

“Don’t you want to test it out now?” Without warning, Luther leapt over his desk and came at Ryxor.

“Hey!” Ryxor brought up both swords to block the oncoming attack. To his surprise, Luther wasn’t attacking him with another sword or even a dagger. Ryxor’s blade crossed with Luther’s bare hand which was covered in fire.

“Never let your guard down.” Luther sent him flying backward through the door and out into the hall with a kick.

“Oww…”

“Take the case to. I have no need to hold on to it.”

The sound of footsteps echoed down the hall. Ryxor turned to see Hughes walking toward him.

“There you are. We have new orders to leave for Kazere at once.”

“Vanen?”

“Possibly. My brother’s been spotted.”

Luther stepped outside holding the sword’s case. “Here,” he said handing it to Ryxor. “Oh, and by the way. I’m not one to talk, but don’t let things like revenge or a rivalry cloud your judgment.”

SamuraiChameleon
05-22-2011, 03:34 AM
Chapter 6: "The mountains offer more than one way to trap you in permanent sleep"

The season hadn’t changed to winter yet, but it made no difference. In the mountain town Kazere, it snowed all year long. Ryxor Borx walked along one of the snow covered roads, breathing in the icy mountain air. He had just parted with the rest of the squad whom he had stay back in their room at the local inn. Now, Ryxor was making his way to a bar to meet with one of Colonel Gaines’ men.

Ryxor took in the sights of the town as he walked by them. Although the majority of its residents appeared to be mercenaries, it was quite the normal, peaceful town. He noticed several children playing together. Too bad all of this is going to change soon, he thought. It was almost certain that Vanen was somewhere around and hell was likely close behind him. Ryxor saw firsthand what happened to Rizuke.

He shook the memory of smoldering buildings and burnt corpses as he came to a stop in front the bar. Once inside, he found that it wasn’t much warmer. The building provided little relief from the freezing weather outside. Ryxor looked around and spotted the man he was looking for and took the seat next to him. He waited for the man to say something, but nothing happened.

“I’m here about that assignment,” Ryxor said after deciding to break the silence.

The man looked up at him like he hadn’t noticed him until then. “Excuse me? What the hell are you talking about?”

Ryxor took a long pause before speaking again. “I’m the chicken from the moon. I seem to have lost my eggs. Can you help me find them?”

A smile came across the man’s face as he struggled to keep himself from laughing. “Ryxor Borx?”

“Can we get on with this already? I said that idiotic passphrase.” Ryxor was clearly was not as amused as his informant was.

“Yeah, yeah. You know, you really need to lighten up.” He stopped to take a sip from his beer.

“You need to take your work more seriously. You shouldn’t be drinking on the job.”

“Come on, I’m a professional here. I wouldn’t do anything dangerous.” Ryxor simply stared at him. He wouldn’t take what he said with a block of salt, let alone a grain. “Anyway, those mercenaries are definitely up to something. They’ve been meeting up much more frequently than usual. However, there wasn’t anything too out of the ordinary until his right-hand man showed up.”

“You mean Banes?”

“Yep. He was spotted going into their last meeting.”

“And where are these meetings taking place?”

“In their headquarters. It’s right smack dab in the town square. The word going around the mercenary group is that there’s going to be another meeting tonight, and your squad is going to be there.”

“I doubt they’ll let anyone go to these meetings. I assume you have an answer to that little snag.”

“No worries there. We already prepared some disguises. They should be in a trunk under a bed at your room in the inn.”

“What do you mean by disguises? These guys don’t exactly where uniforms.”

“And yet it’s so easy to spot someone who doesn’t belong such as yourself. Anyone from around here can tell that you’re not.”

Ryxor looked down at his clothes and then at the man he was talking to. While both were designed to keep someone warm, they were made in very different styles. “Point taken. Is there anything else we should know?”

“It’s likely those meetings aren’t open to low ranking grunts. That’s as far as those disguises will get you by the way. After you get into their headquarters, it’s up to you find a way to infiltrate the actual meeting.”

“Got it.” Ryxor was about to get up and leave when his contact started talking again.

“One more thing. If you get caught once you’re in there… well, It’d probably be similar to playing roulette with a fully loaded revolver. In other words, your chances of surviving aren’t very high.” He seemed to be in a good mood despite the fact that he was talking about the possibility of them dying.

“Right. Thanks for the tip.”

“Don’t mention it.” There was something strange about this man. Ryxor was sure he had never seen him before. And yet, he seemed vaguely familiar.

---

Ryxor sat on his bed at the inn as he went over the details of what he had just learned from the man at the bar. While Auras and Hughes listened intently, Drex, who was busy looking over his mercenary clothes, gave the impression that everything he heard went in one ear out the other.

“Are you paying attention?” Ryxor stopped to ask Drex several times. While Drex responded with a quick “yeah” or “yes”, he never looked up. After Ryxor finished, he asked if anyone had anything to add.

“What about that guy’s daughter?” Drex asked, finally setting down his change of clothes.

“Hmm?”

“You already forgot? That guy that attacked us back at that inn said something about his daughter being kidnapped.”

He had in fact forgotten about it. His had plenty of things to worry about without a damsel in distress further complicating matters. After they had gotten back to Velvidyne, he didn’t even report it to Ruaidhri. He thought he knew what the general would have said about it if had mentioned it.

“That’s not important. Our target is Vanen.”

“But we can’t just ignore her!” Drex sounded genuinely upset. He had tossed aside the clothing that had held his interest through the actual briefing.

“We don’t even know if there was ever any kidnapping,” Ryxor defended his position. “Everything that guy told us could have been a lie. Furthermore, Gaines’ men have seen or heard nothing that indicates they have any hostages at all.” Despite what he said, there was a part of him that asked, “What if he was telling the truth?” Ryxor could understand why Drex was getting upset, but they simply could not fail.

“Is there anything else?” Ryxor asked. Drex stared at him with a look that said “what the hell is wrong with you.” Although Auras stayed quiet, it was clear that he was uneasy about the order to ignore any possible hostage as well. Hughes however gave the impression that he just didn’t give a damn.

---

That night, Ryxor’s squad left the inn and made their way to the mercenary group’s headquarters.

“Oh I can’t wait to meet the guy who decided to have this thing at night. It’s damn cold at here!” Hughes was rather uncomfortable with the weather. He didn’t like it during the day and he sure as hell wasn’t enjoying it at night when the temperature dropped even further.

“Stop whining. Mercenaries don’t whine, especially about the cold,” Drex said.

“Will you two shut it?” Ryxor snapped at them. Auras continued on silently ignoring the others’ bickering. Oddly enough, he wasn’t all that embarrassed to walk around with them.

The trip over was uneventful. No one looked twice at them and they passed by without any incidents. After arriving at the door, they were stopped by the doorman. Though hesitant, he still let them through. The doorman didn’t recognize any of them obviously, but he quickly dismissed his suspicions on them being new members. He was either an amateur at his job or he wasn’t being paid enough to care. It made things easier either way.

“Doesn’t anyone think that four new members who appear out of nowhere and show up for that meeting seem strange?” Hughes asked.

“It would seem that this hall is always open to members. It’d be impossible for anyone to discern the real reason we’re here,” Auras said.

“Now, how do we find out where the meeting is taking place?” Hughes asked.

Drex was already ahead of him. He walked up to the nearest mercenary and simply asked him. “Hey buddy, where’s the meeting taking place?”

The mercenary looked him over before responding. “It’s past the double doors at the end of the hall,” he pointed out.

“Thanks.”

“Ah, but if you’re asking questions like that, chances are you’re new. There’s no way they’d let you in on the meeting.”

“Thanks the tip. See you around.”

“Don’t mention it.” The mercenary walked away. Before Drex could move, the rest of squad was behind him. Ryxor smacked him over the head.

“What the hell was that for?!” he angrily shouted at Ryxor.

“Don’t try anything like that without warning us. What if he caught on?”

“Would you relax? He didn’t catch on and now we know where the meeting is. Besides, how were we going to find it without asking around? Were you planning on checking every corner of this place yourself?”

Ryxor supposed he had point. It could have taken quite a bit of time to search such a large place. “Whatever. No more stunts like that though.”

Without further delay, they proceeded to the supposed location of the meeting. All the noise and clatter of people talking slowly faded as they walked further away from the main hall. When they first arrived outside the double doors, it didn’t appear as if anything was going on. The room beyond the doors sounded dead silent.

“Auras pick the locks,” Ryxor ordered.

“Wait a minute. I thought you said not to try any stunts like this?” Drex asked as Auras got to work.

“This is different. We don’t have a choice now.” That was Ryxor’s rationale, but Drex wasn’t following it. There had to be something else they could do. What if the meeting was taking place right behind those doors when they barged in? He thought about bringing this up, but decided against it. He didn’t feel like arguing right now.

The doors unlocked with a click. Slowly and cautiously, Auras opened the door. Just as they suspected, the room was completely devoid of life. There wasn’t anyone holding a meeting of any kind in there.

“This room has ‘trap’ written all over it,” said Hughes.

“It’s possible we were simply given the wrong directions, but I agree. We should keep our guard up,” Auras said.

“If we’ve walked into a trap, then it’s already too late. We need to keep moving. Search this place for clues,” Ryxor said.

The room appeared to be someone’s office. In front of the back wall was a desk. A bunch of papers were strewn across the top, but none of them had anything interesting written on them. Against one of the walls was a bookshelf. Like the desk, its contents appeared to be quite ordinary. It had many books that one would expect to find in the office of a mercenary group.

“It doesn’t look like there’s anything here,” Drex said as he finished examining the desk. “What the hell are we looking for anyway?”

“Something fishy, obviously,” Hughes offered.

“There’s nothing ‘fishy’ about this room. It’s just a normal office. It doesn’t even look fit enough to be the stage for a trap!”

Ryxor stood there listening to the complaints of his men. It certainly did appear that the office was a dead end. He wasn’t ready to throw in the towel just yet though.

“We need to keep searching. Sweep the room again for anything at all that looks out of place.”

“Screw that. It’s obvious there’s nothing here. We’re just wasting…” Drex didn’t get a chance to finish. The bookcase fell forward with a crash revealing a hidden room. A young woman wielding a lance jumped out from inside and immediately attacked.

She went for Hughes who happened to be the closest, but he jumped backward, dodging the attack. All four of them drew their weapons and pointed them at the girl who stared back with eyes glowing with hatred.

“You bastards! You’ll pay for what you did!” she shouted.

She attacked Drex and their weapons clashed. “What the hell did we do?” Drex asked while locked in combat.

“You know damn well what you did!” she snapped back. Ryxor stepped in to backup Drex. She retreated to dodge his oncoming attacked, but returned it with her own. Ryxor set his sword ablaze in preparation for the assault. However, the flames blew away in a gust of wind. With the absence of the flames, their weapons made a loud clang as they made contact before breaking away again.

“An energy user?” Ryxor asked. He repelled the attack and brought series of swift stabs and slashes all of which she blocked or dodged. Auras caught her off guard while see was busy dealing with Ryxor and sent her sprawling backwards against the wall opposite the hidden room. All four them had their weapons trained on her.

“Drop it,” Hughes said with his revolver pointed at her head. Begrudgingly, she did as she was told and let her lance fall to the ground.

“Who are you?” Ryxor asked.

“Ratana Cytinin,” she said bitterly.

“Well, she doesn’t look much like a hostage,” Hughes said sarcastically.

“Something seems off,” Drex said. “If they were working with Oren the whole time, why would her old man bother making up a bogus story about…”

“Don’t you dare talk about my father!” she shouted. “I’ll make you pay for killing him!”

“Wait a minute, how does she even know he’s dead?” Auras asked.

“I didn’t captors shared that kind of stuff with their hostages,” Hughes said.

“They told me all about what happened!”

“Who are they?” Ryxor asked calmly.

“That’d be me and my friends.” The familiar voice came from a man who was standing in front of the double doors. Ryxor’s squad turned to see Eric Banes standing there.

Damn it. How did he slip inside without being noticed? “You finally showed yourself. Where’s your boss at?” Ryxor asked. His personality changes to that of someone you didn’t want to screw around with, which what it always did when the subject of Vanen was brought up by him or anyone else.

“I’m afraid I can’t say.” He turned to face Hughes who had moved his gun from Ratana to his brother. “So it’s come to this. How long’s it been since we last saw each other, brother?”

“Eric.” That was all Hughes could say. He couldn’t think of anything else.

“What happened in here anyway? The daughter of the revered Vincent Cytinin couldn’t manage to kill four measly rats?” Just like that, he went back to the situation at hand.

“What are you…?” Ratana stared at Eric questioningly.

“Sorry, but we no longer have a need for you.” Eric pulled at a sawed-off shotgun, and pointed it at Ratana and squeezed the trigger. Acting on his instincts, Auras jumped in the way, intended to use himself as a body shield. The sound of the shotgun going off echoed through the room as the shots made contact with Auras and sent him flying off his feet.

Ratana’s eyes widened as she stared at Eric and then at one of the men of was responsible for her father’s death, and for saving her life. Hughes lost it and started firing at Berix who skillfully dodged all six shots.

“Come on; don’t make me kill my own brother!” Eric shouted in a sadistic tone.

At a loss for words, Ryxor charged in at Eric as well. Drex ran over to Ratana and grabbed her hand. The resistance she put up was non-existent. He made a gesture to the stack of papers scattered on the desk.

“Use your power!” he shouted at her. After her mind manages to process what was going on, she brought forth her energy and created a gust of wind that picked up the papers and sent them flying at Eric who was in the midst of fighting Hughes and Ryxor. “Grab Auras and let’s get the hell out of here!” Drex shouted.

The light bulb in Ryxor’s head went off and a smile crossed his face. “Nice move,” he said under his breath as he picked up Auras. “Come one Hughes! We’re have to fall back for now!”

Usually a more laid back person, the fire in his eyes had been ignited by the appearance of his brother. He wanted to stay behind and beat the shit out of him. However, he did as we was ordered and backed off.

Ratana grabbed her lance as Drex pulled her up off the ground. Ryxor grabbed Auras’ unconscious body and carried him on his back. Hughes kicked the double doors down as the papers encircling Eric began to fall away.

The five of them burst out of the room with Hughes leading the way, followed by Drex who was dragging Ratana along by her hand, and Ryxor who was carrying Auras. Halfway down the hall, Ratana’s senses must have fully returned as she broke away from Drex’s grip.

As they emerged into the main hall, they came face to face with a crowd of mercenaries. Drex imagined that they were probably pretty damn confused as they saw the five of them run out, but that wasn’t the case. In fact, it was far from it. They had been alerted to their presence, probably by Eric, and they were all eagerly ready to attack.

Drex and Hughes immediately set out to carve a path through all of them. Ratana joined in as well, not that she had much of choice. It was barely a few minutes ago when she thought she had everything figured out, but then everything was turned upside down. She didn’t have a good grasp on what was happening, but she intended to beat it out of Ryxor and the other after they got out alive.

The group managed to hold off their attackers, but they could feel fatigue setting in. For every mercenary they cut down, it seemed that there were at least two more to take their place.

After reaching the exit, they found that it wasn’t much better outside. The town was controlled by the mercenaries for the most part, after all. It seemed as if there was no end to them. After fighting one particular group of mercenaries, they slipped inside an alleyway and dropped to the ground exhausted and out of breath. Ryxor carefully laid Auras down before sitting down himself.

Ratana looked over at the entrance of the alley as another group of mercenaries ran by. “What the hell just happened?” she asked.

“Now is not the time,” Ryxor said in a hushed voice.

She glanced over at Auras who lay unconscious. She could see a dark red spot on his torso where he had been shot. “Is he…”

Ryxor cut her off. “He’ll be fine.”

“But he was shot at nearly point blank with a shotgun!”

“Quiet,” Ryxor said.

“Luckily, I know a few tricks,” Drex said.

“Are you talking about energy?”

“Bingo. In the split second he was shot, I was able to create a barrier that partially blocked the bullets. As you saw, he still took a hit though. The bullets broke through the barrier, but it slowed them down quite a bit. I can’t say for sure, but I’d say they didn’t go in very deep.” The noise of another mercenary patrol passing by could be heard outside. They all stopped talking until the patrol faded away. “Won’t be able to say for sure though until we get him some medical attention, which of course we can’t do until things have quieted down.”

Ratana moved closer to Auras and put her hands on the wound.

“What are you doing?” Ryxor asked.

A soft light came from Auras’ gunshot wound. “I’m healing him,” she said.

“Well, there’s more to you than meets the eye. Most people who know how to use energy only bother to learn one specific application. I wouldn’t expect someone like you to know how to use it for both healing and fighting.”

“What the hell is that supposed to mean?” She asked angrily.

“Calm down. It was just a joke.”

"My father was the one who made me learn how to heal.” She finished up healing Auras. “I don’t get. You guys seem like nice people. Did you really kill my father?”

“We were manipulated into attacking each other by Vanen,” Ryxor said. “The fact remains though. We did indeed kill him and nothing we say or do can change that. If you decide to declare us as your enemies, we can’t help that, but prepared. We won’t just sit by and let you kill us.”

Ratana stared down at Auras’ chest as it moved up down, slowly with each breath. There was nothing but silence and the sound of men scattering about in the cold. Out of nowhere, her fist flew hard into the side of Ryxor’s face. Hughes aimed his revolver at Ratana’s head and pulled the hammer back. The punch had broken the freezing night’s silence, but Ryxor wasn’t the least bit surprised. On the contrary, it would have been surprising if Ratana hadn’t hit him.

“I’m fine,” he said as he motioned for Hughes to lower his gun. Hughes was about to comply when the sound of footsteps began to echo down from the other end of the alley. Ryxor and Drex got up, ready to fight them off with Hughes when one of the backdoors of the buildings swung open. They turned their attention to the open doorway.

A familiar face stood just inside. “Well, what are you waiting for? Get in here.” Hughes and Drex dropped their guard when they saw that Ryxor did. Once they were all safely inside, they waited for the footsteps to pass.

“You seem to have a great deal of luck on your side, Borx,” the man said. “It’s a good thing I happened to be passing by.” Ryxor didn’t buy that for second.

“And who is this?” Hughes asked. It was the soldier Ryxor had met at the bar for the information.

“This is…”

“Colonel Gaines. Pleased to make your acquaintance,” he said, cutting off Ryxor. The colonel held out a hand in greeting, but everyone just stared at him. “What? Do I got something between my teeth?”

SamuraiChameleon
07-02-2011, 06:07 PM
For those who may care, I am still working on this albeit at a really slow pace. I thought I'd have more time to work on it during the summer, but a lot stuff came up including but not limited to a visit from one of my best friends who moved to North Carolina (I live all the way on the west coast). I hope to get another chapter up some, but in the mean time I thought I'd share this idea I came up with while listening to Stairway to Heaven by Led Zeppelin. It's quite off topic and has nothing to do with this story at all, but I didn't feel like making another topic.

After an accident he can’t remember, the main character is sent to another dimension where judgment is passed down on lost souls before they are sent to either heaven or hell. The story is about his attempts to escape back to the real world, his encounter with others who haven’t come to terms with their deaths (and one in particular who plays a central role), and ultimately his acceptance that he may really go on to the afterlife, that is if he can come to terms with the regrets of his life that continually haunt him throughout his time in limbo. In the end, his harrowing decisions will be the final factors of whether or not he makes a return to world of the living, climbs the stairway to heaven, or rides the highway to hell.

Matt
07-03-2011, 12:26 AM
Maybe you should listen to Stairway to Heaven and Highway to Hell on a repeat playlist while you write. This idea sounds familiar (and no, not in the "I'd write it" sort of way again). I'm tempted to say Dante's Inferno or something like that, but my memory just isn't working right at the moment. I'm getting books confused with games, and now I've got song titles involved.

Also, with this type of "three choices" story, too many authors screw it up and pretty much reveal which of the three the character will choose, just based on a) their writing style, b)the tone of the story, and c) the writer's ideals.

Point B is a good place to confuse readers, but don't go into it heavy-handed. Changing tones is effective in a story where the character has to make a huge choice in the end.

As for that final choice itself, you'll have to establish that all of them are equally challenging to choose from. Just presenting heaven, earth, and hell is gonna have a fairly obvious solution if you leave the three as they're commonly depicted.

SamuraiChameleon
07-03-2011, 03:06 AM
I left out what this idea is intended for, and thus it can be misleading, and I apologize for that. This is actually an idea for a video game where the player is left to make the decisions that ultimately determine their fate. I agree with you though. If I decide to turn this idea into just a story, it wouldn't be too hard for readers to predict what the ending will be based on the things you mentioned. I will take care and keep your suggestions in mind.

SamuraiChameleon
07-06-2011, 12:53 AM
It's been a long time, but here's chapter 7. There are some parts in this one I don't like, but at this point I don't feel like sitting around trying to think of ways to change it.

Chapter 7: "Yesterday's friends are today's enemies and vice-a-verse"
Colonel Gaines lowered his hand having given up on the handshake. Ryxor finally understood why he seemed so familiar. While he had only met the guy in person for the first time earlier that day, Ruaidhri talked about him on several occasions. In the short time he had talked to him in the bar, Ryxor realized he was exactly as Ruaidhri had described him: annoying and arrogant. According to the general, he had plenty of reason to be arrogant too. Ruaidhri once lamented that Gaines was better than him at actual combat. Gaines moved to the front door and kicked it open.

“Where the hell are you going? I doubt it’s safe to be running around outside right now.”

“There should be a ‘sir’ at the end of that.”

Ryxor waited for him to continue. It took him a few moments to realize that Gaines was actually waiting for him to add that sir. “Where the hell are you going sir?” he asked in a sarcastically cheerful tone.

“Back to the fort of course.”

“But what about the mercenaries? Sir.” He paused before adding the sir like a last minute addition that he would definitely like to do without.

“Relax. They won’t attack a man in uniform, not yet anyways.”

“What about us? Auras is injured. Do you expect us to remain tight and wait for you to return?”

“That’d be nice too, but you’re coming with me.” Ryxor gave him a doubtful look. “Stick close to me and you’ll be fine. Nothing strange about a soldier apprehending the criminals who broke into that mercenary headquarter.”

“If going out in our regular soldier garb is such a safe bet, then why didn’t you tell me that back at the bar instead of sending us out in these worthless disguises?” Ryxor sounded genuinely pissed. Then again, it’s not as though he wasn’t earlier.

“These mercenaries won’t attack soldiers, but you can bet they won’t hesitate to cover their tracks if one comes snooping around. Use your brain. Do I look like the kind of guy who would put his men in danger for his own personal amusement?”

---

Aura awoke in a bed to surroundings he was unfamiliar with. He felt strangely renewed for someone who had just been shot. Upon checking the area where he had been hit, he found nothing but scars. Whoever had healed him was a damn good professional.

“You have to Ratana to thank for that.” Auras turned to see Drex sitting on another bed in the room. He was back to his regular clothes.

“I have you to thank as well. All the healing power in the world couldn’t revive a dead man.”

“Just looking out for a fellow squad mate.”

“Where are we?”

“Frozen Shield. We were brought here by Colonel Gaines. You were unconscious at the time.” A question seemed to form on his lips, but he paused for a moment, unsure if he should ask. “Hey, Auras.”

“What is it?”

“Why did you jump in the way? I could have put a barrier around her just the same as I did for you.”

“My body acted on its own. I guess that’s what comes with being a parent. Vincent Cytinin asked us to protect her. From one father to another, I couldn’t let him down. No parent can bear to see their child get hurt.” No real parent, at least.

“Is that why you punched her moments earlier?”

“Call it tough love. As a father, you need to know when it’s acceptable to cross the line and slap your child.”

“Sure you do. By the way, you can stop giving me all of this advice. I don’t plan on becoming a father, now or ever.”

“I suppose not. You don’t seem like the type to settle down.”

“Glad we understand each other. See you down stairs after you change your clothes,” Drex said as he walked to door. “Ryxor and Hughes already brought Ratana up to speed on the current situation. Now it’s her turn do some talking.”

Auras saw his clothes hanging on the wall. Someone must have brought them over from the inn. While he was changing into them, he realized that he was rather hungry. Near death experiences seemed to have that kind of effect. Food could wait a little while longer though. After he was finished, he found his way to the mess hall where the rest of his squad was sitting at a table with Ratana.

“Thank you for what you did,” she said to Auras as he sat down at the table, a little reluctantly. It wasn’t hard to figure out that she wasn’t used to thanking people.

“Can we get on with it now?” Hughes said rather irritably.

“What’s with him?” Auras asked.

“We were waiting for you,” Ryxor said.

“For a long time,” Hughes added. While the interior of Frozen Shield was noticeably warmer than outside, it did little to improve the mood of someone like Hughes who was highly intolerant of the cold.

Ryxor shot him an ugly look and turned to Auras. “You need to hear what she has to say as well.”

“I’m sorry to have kept you all waiting,” Auras said.

Without any further prompting, she began. “Believe it or not, the mercenary group my father ran is actually deeply connected with Oren’s mercenaries. A long time ago, they used to be the same group, but when the leader passed away, his two sons, my father and his brother couldn’t agree on the kind of jobs they should take on so they split.”

“Hold on a minute,” Ryxor interrupted. “So you’re saying that Oren is your uncle?”

“Yes. Even though they decided to go their own ways, they still remained in contact. I’ve been up here on several occasions. A few weeks ago, I came here just to visit with Oren. Everything seemed normal. Before I could leave though, Oren told me that he was to keep me here. According to him, someone he knew from the army told him that the king had decided that we mercenaries were a danger to the kingdom and that we were to be killed off. As you might have guessed, this soldier he knew was Vanen Travis.

“I of course wanted to leave immediately and get back to my father. However, they wouldn’t let me and I eventually gave up when Oren told me that Vanen would get my father to safety. Unfortunately, he said that by the time his men had found him, it was too late. A squad dispatched by the king had already killed him. I think you guys can figure out the rest.”

“Maybe I missed this part, but it doesn’t sound like you have any proof,” Ryxor said.

“I don’t,” she admitted.

“So then we’re just supposed to believe you? How do we know we haven’t been tricked? What if you try something when our backs are turned?”

“Ryxor…” Drex felt that he need to say something, but he couldn’t figure out what. It was more than obvious to him that Ratana was telling the truth and yet, Ryxor wasn’t being completely ridiculous in suggesting that she might betray them. As he pointed out, she had nothing to back up her claims.

Ratana sat there shocked. It almost looked as though she was about to cry when a spark ignited in her eyes and she did quite the opposite. “How about the fact that I helped out your friend? He would have died if I didn’t help him. Or what about the part where Eric tried to kill me? Why would he do that if I was on his side?” She angrily shouted it all out at once. There wasn’t a single trace of sadness or remorse in her voice. Just pure anger that said, “Don’t screw with me.”

“You’ll have to excuse our fearless leader here. He can be pretty thick-headed and a downright jackass sometimes, but he means well,” said Hughes. No one seemed to take notice of it though. Ratana and Ryxor locked eyes as if they were in the midst of an intense staring contest.

“For all we know, it could all be an attempt to deceive us. You might just be waiting for the perfect chance to strike.”

“I’m telling you I’m not with the assholes that killed my father!” By now, they had attracted several onlookers from nearby tables. For all she knew, Ryxor was the one trying to trick her. They had yet to provide one shred of proof that Vanen was really the mastermind behind everything. What if the king really was planning to kill off the mercenaries and they were just going to use her to get to what remained of her group? She thought about laying that on the table, but it would get her nowhere. It was bad enough that they distrusted her, but a mutual distrust would be a big step backward. “Vanen’s the one who can prove everything. Let me come with you and help you catch him,” she said trying to calm herself down. The soldiers quickly lost interest and went back to eating and conversing with their friends.

“We’re not taking you anywhere with us,” Ryxor said. “Go to the capital and seek out Luther Arendale. He’s a professor at the military academy. Ask him to take you to see a man named Brink Lowe.” The name seemed to come out of nowhere and surprised Drex. It was the first time he had mentioned the information broker in front of the rest of the squad let alone someone they had just met the night before.

“And what does all of this accomplish?”

“Explain the situation to him. He’s specialty is information. He can find the proof you need.” Both Hughes and Auras looked over at Ryxor with confusion. He could tell they wanted to know who this Brink Lowe was, but that would have to wait until later.

“What do I do after that?”

“The choice is yours. You can try and find us, but I doubt that you will. We’re not even sure where to go next. You should probably regroup with the rest of your mercenaries. If you can, persuade them to help out. Vanen’s gathering troops as you already know, and the only logical reason is an attack on Velvidyne and the king. When that happens, we’ll need all of the help we can get. They wouldn’t want me to tell you this, but our forces actually took quite a beating. There was a time when Agaron came quite close to winning the war.”

Ratana became confused by that last part. If he didn’t trust her then why was he giving her sensitive information? “Fine, but don’t come crying to me when one of you ends up shot again,” she said at last.

Hughes looked over at Auras who looked like he was getting ready to pass out. “You okay?” He asked more out of curiosity than concern. He knew Auras and he knew he was a tough guy. Between Drex’s barrier and Ratana’s healing, he probably felt like he had never gotten shot.

“So hungry,” he managed to say. “Doing this in the mess hall was a bad idea. Can we eat now?”

“I’m pretty hungry myself,” Drex said. The smell of food wafted by them and throughout the whole building.

“Wait,” Ryxor said. “There’s one more thing we need to ask. Do you know anything at all about Vanen’s whereabouts?”

“Sorry, I don’t. I’m sure Oren knows something though.”

Ryxor looked as if he was deep in thought. “I need to go talk to the colonel. Enjoy your lunch guys.” They all watched as he got up from the table and left.

“Speaking of the colonel,” Drex said, “does anyone else find that guy strange?” Auras didn’t seem to be bothered by it all. Ignoring the question, he left the table to go grab some food.

“No, he’s not strange at all. There’s nothing strange about pretending to be a random soldier and running around doing grunt work when you’re a colonel,” Hughes said sarcastically.

“What’s so odd about that?” Ratana asked. She seemed to genuinely not understand.

“He’s a colonel. You know, a very high ranking guy in the military. Not quite a general, but still pretty damn high up the food chain.”

“So? My father was the leader of our mercenary group and he always worked alongside everyone.”

“The military operates differently from a band of mercenaries,” Drex said. “In the military, officers sit back and send soldiers out to die while they watch from a view.”

“God, that sounds so awful.”

This was the chick who was trying to kill us last night? You gotta be kidding me! Drex could tell by the look on Hughes’ face that he was thinking the same thing. “For someone caught knee-deep in a conspiracy to take over the kingdom, you sound so naïve,” Drex muttered.

“What was that?” she asked, raising her voice in a threatening way.

“Nothing. You know what? You remind me of someone I know back at the military academy.”

At that time, Auras came back with a tray loaded with food and dropped it on the table. “Did I miss anything?” he asked as he sat down.

The room was filled with the ambient noise of people talking about random subjects. The voices seemingly blended into an undecipherable wave. However, Hughes found that if you focused hard enough on a single conversation, you could pick up bits here and there. He was doing just that as the explosions went off and shook the building to its foundation.

---

When the explosions hit, Ryxor was walking down the halls of the fort following the directions given by random soldiers as he sought out Colonel Gaines. Before he knew it, he found himself with his sword drawn and his feet running in the direction of the blasts. Upon making his way outside, he found himself in a warzone. Without giving it a second thought, he ran head on into the fray.

Back in the cafeteria, the rest of Ryxor’s squad along with the other soldiers stationed at the fort who were enjoying their lunch sprung into action. Everyone dropped what they were doing and ran to their assigned posts.

Hughes and Drex got up from the table they were sitting at. “Come on, we need to find Ryxor,” Hughes said.

“How do we do that?” Drex asked.

“Just follow the explosions.” He turned to Auras who was still sitting down and staring at the food on his plate that he had yet to eat. “What are you doing Mr. Second-In-Command? We have a job to do.”

Don’t think about it. Do not think about it. I was only shot last night. I can go a little longer without some measly food. “Right,” Auras said at last. He stood up. “Let’s go.” The three of them ran out of the mess hall with Auras leading the way.

They didn’t get very fall when they realized that Ratana was following them. “I’m coming with you,” she said.

“Stay put. We can handle this,” Auras said without stopping. Ratana continued to follow them though.

“I shouldn’t have to tell you that you could use my help,” she said back to Auras. “Besides, this has to be connected to Vanen. You can’t just expect me to stand by after what he did.”

“We don’t expect you to just stand around and do nothing,” Drex cut in. “We expect you to go Velvidyne and see the good professor. You’re not needed here.”

“Fine then. If you want to be like that, then I’m not going to follow you guys. However, I can’t just sit by and let the place that took me in get attacked. I just happen to be walking down the same hall as you as I go to defend it on my own.”

“I don’t think she’s-,“ Before Hughes could finish, an explosion hit the hall they were in. Drex, Auras, and Hughes were thrown forward by the force of the blast. Ratana however was flung backwards. She got back on her feet and looked at the impassable debris in between her and them.

“Talk about convenient,” Drex said as he continued on with the others. “I thought she’d never leave.”

“Hey! Get your asses back here and help me clear this!” she shouted angrily at their backs. To her dismay, they completed ignored her and continued on. Left with no other options, Ratana turned around and set off to find another way around.

---

From the moment he laid eyes on the attackers, Ryxor knew they were Oren’s mercenaries. They didn’t have big signs or anything like that attached them, but it was beyond obvious given the situation.

Upon meeting one of the mercenaries in battle, it was clear that he was on a different level than the lackeys hanging out at their headquarters last night. Ryxor found he put up a better fight, but he still cut him down with relative ease.

Ryxor turned to meet another attacker and brought his sword up to block the blow. Before the mercenary could strike again, he detached the short blade and dealt a blow to his torso. The assailant backed off surprised and covered the wound with one of his hands. Ryxor finished him off as he backed away.

Another mercenary charged at Ryxor from behind. Before he could reach striking distance, a bullet caught him in the head and sent him flying lifelessly to the ground. “I see the party got started without us,” Hughes said. He ran up to Ryxor followed by Drex and Auras.

“Where’s Ratana?” Ryxor asked.

“Not here,” Drex said. “You worried about her?”

“Not really, it just seemed like she’d have followed you guys out here.”

“She tried to,” Auras said. “Unfortunately, the hallway collapsed and she was separated from us.”

“Well, I guess it was either ditch her now or ditch her later,” Ryxor said. Hughes heard someone running up behind him. He turned just in time to see mercenary charging at him and blur out of the corner of his eye that turned out to be Auras kicking the mercenary in the head.

“Luther isn’t going to help her is he?” Auras asked.

“I doubt it. I just needed to come up with something to get her out of our hair.” Ryxor heard someone strike a barrier erected by Drex behind him. He turned around and dealt the finishing blow. “I figured she would try to come with us. Granted she would be extremely useful, we can get Vanen and that rat Oren without her. It’s the least we could do to repay her after what we did.” They all knew he was talking about Ratana’s father.

“So did believe her story,” Drex said. Another group of mercenaries approached them. “Who are these guys anyway?”

“Oren’s men.”

“He keeps this up and he won’t have men left to aid Vanen.”

“Speaking of that guy, where the hell is he? All he’s done so far is hide while others do his bidding,” Hughes said.

“No idea. But I think we might be able to beat it out of these guys!” And with that, Ryxor charged in and attacked the nearest mercenary. The rest of his squad followed his example.

Hughes fired his rifle at two oncoming mercenaries, taking one of them out. The other managed to doge his shots and rushed him with his sword. Hughes brought up his rifle and blocked the attack. He countered by hitting him in the head with the butt of his rifle, knocking him backwards and then he finished him off with another shot.

Drex came at his opponent and as their weapons clashed, the mercenary looked in shock as his began to crack and fall apart from the force of the attack. He stared dumbfounded at what remained of his sword as Drex dealt the finishing blow.

As Drex finished off his opponent, Auras punched another mercenary coming at him. He went down for the count. “Get down!” Ryxor shouted at them. He sent an arc of flames off his sword flying at several more mercenaries. The fire just missed the heads of Drex of and Auras and connected with its targets. They fell to the ground screaming as the fire ate away at them. Back at what used to be the gate to the fortress, another line of mercenaries poured in. “These guys don’t know when to give up.”

“Charge!” It was Colonel Gaines who had finally gotten his men into order. Following the orders of their commander, the soldiers charged head on at the mercenaries. Ignoring the battle going on around him, he casually walked up to Ryxor’s squad. “We’ll take it over from here,” he said. “Take break and sit back and watch. You guys earned it.”

The battle wore on for what seemed like hours. In reality, it may have been only just a few minutes. The mercenary forces began to dwindle, and it was becoming clearer and clearer that they had made a mistake. The initial attack had caught them all off guard but the soldiers had suffered minimal casualties.

The battle seemed to be just about over when another man stepped in. It took only moment to tell that he was the leader of the mercenaries. “Oren,” Ryxor said. The flames on his sword danced with new life. Before he could make a move, a battle staff was thrust in front of him, blocking his path.

“This one’s mine,” Gaines said.

“You think you can take me on by yourself?” Oren asked.

“With all due respect Colonel, you shouldn’t take this man lightly. Let us assist you in this fight,” Ryxor said. He wasn’t just being cautious. He wanted to beat up Oren as much as Gaines appeared to. However, he wasn’t about to defy an order from someone who outranked him. Not yet anyway.

“Sit back and watch. Youngsters like you could learn a thing or two.”

“Yeah, sit back and watch how those who go up against me get slaughtered,” Oren sneered.

Ryxor let the flames on his sword die. “Fine. Give this guy hell for us.” Ryxor turned to face his squad. “Do as the colonel asks and stay out of this,” he said.

From the many guns he had equipped, Oren drew out two semi-automatic pistols and started unloading on Gaines. For a moment, it appeared as though he was just going to stand there and take the wall of bullets flying towards him, but he brought up a barrier not unlike Drex’s that deflected them. Barrier still up, Gaines sprinted at Oren whilst all of his bullets were deflected. Before he could try anything else, Gaines was in his face and hit him hard with his staff.

Oren stumbled back from the blow. “You bastard,” Oren said as he coughed up blood from the blow. Perhaps out of desperation, he tossed one of his handguns at Gaines who blocked it with his staff. He dealt another blow on Oren, this time across his face. This one caused him to drop his other gun and fall to the ground. Gaines stabbed his staff into the ground and brought out his own pistol. He kicked Oren’s out of reach and pointed his gun at him. Ryxor, Drex, Auras, and Hughes stared in disbelief. Gaines had defeated Oren in a matter of seconds.

“Now, tell me something to keep me from putting a bullet in your head.”

“Go to hell jackass.” Gaines kicked him in the gut. He let out a grunt of pain and moved his hands to cover the spot where he had been hit.

“Not what I was looking for. Nice try though.”

“I hate people like you with your smart ass comments.”

Gaines pulled back the hammer on his pistol. “I’m not going to ask again. Tell me what you know.”

“First thing you need to know is you’re all screwed.”

“How so? We’ve got a pretty good handle on the situation if I do say so myself.” Gaines motioned to soldiers finishing off remaining mercenaries in the background. “Vanen’s going to have to do a lot better than ally himself with vermin like you.”

“Funny you should mention that. He’s probably in Agaron as we speak.”

“Agaron? Are those bastards trying to start something again?” Gaines motioned for Ryxor’s squad to come closer. “Did you guys hear that?”

“Yeah, we heard alright. This is starting to get interesting,” Hughes said.

“It got interesting back at Etaked Inn,” Drex aIS.

“Where in Agaron is he?” Ryxor asked.

“I’m not giving up anything else to you,” Oren said.

“I don’t think you fully grasp the situation you’re in,” Gaines said. “You’re surrounded, not to mention the loaded gun pointed at your head, and your forces are entirely wiped out now.”

“I wouldn’t be so certain about that. I’ve just been buying time.”

“For what?” At that moment, a cannon ball hit the ground close by, knocking them all off their feet. Seizing the moment, Oren grabbed his gun and ran away, firing back at them as he did.

“Shit!”

“Forget about that worthless rat. Vanen’s your goal and you know where he is now. Get your ass to Agaron now.”

“Yes sir.”

As they started to leave, Ratana entered the courtyard. “Hey! Get back here!”

Gaines gave them a look that said get going. He walked over and stopped her form chasing after them. “Now, now, Miss Cytinin. I understand you’ve been through a traumatic experience yesterday. A beautiful young lady like you needs to calm down and take it easy for a while.”

She brought up her leg and kneed Colonel Gaines below the belt. “Out of my way!” She ran past him as he fell to his knees in pain, but it was too late. Ryxor’s squad was already through the smoking gate, nowhere to be seen.

SamuraiChameleon
07-17-2011, 05:24 AM
I am proud to present to you chapter 8. By far the longest chapter yet and my favorite chapter so far, I hope you guys enjoy it as mush as I did writing it. While I've got the majority of the story planned out, I made up this entire chapter on the fly with no planning for it ahead of time.

Chapter 8: "Happenings under the night sky, past and present"
Lynn Garrison stood enjoying the view from her dorm room’s balcony like she did on many occasions. Her roommate and best friend Alice Redding still lay asleep in the early morning hours. She pondered their relationship. For the most part, she followed her around everywhere she went like the way sheep follow the herder.

Truth be told, Lynn actually found her to be quite annoying when they first met during the opening ceremony. She came off as bossy (which she still found to be true) and she often seemed to ignore what others cared or thought. Her opinion of her quickly changed however. She soon realized that she was a very capable person fueled by a sad and deep conviction that stemmed from the death of her family during the war. It also became apparent that she did listen to others and was capable of caring for others than herself, especially when it came to Ryxor Borx and Drex Kozen. Despite what she said or did during their departure on missions, it was obvious that she was concerned for their safety.

Nothing disturbed the cool morning air. Outside, the trees remained still as concrete. Suddenly, the wind began to pick up and a particularly strong gust headed straight for the balcony Lynn stood at. It rustled the curtains and flew past her inside as if it had a mind of its own and knocked a picture off Alice’s nightstand.

Lynn turned to see Alice stirring in her sleep. Sweat dripped down her troubled face. She appeared to be having a nightmare. Shortly, she began to relax and the tension left her face. Coincidentally, the gust of wind ebbed away with the nightmare. Of course, it was no coincidence, Lynn thought.

Everyone has energy flowing through them, some more than others. The amount of energy that flowed through Alice however was immensely higher than that of the average person. She had so much that it was more than she could control. Sometimes, it came in outbursts like the one Lynn had just witnessed. She noted however that in the time she had known her, she was getting better at controlling at. This was due in no small part to Professor Arendale who took it upon himself to give her special lessons in controlling it.

Her thoughts shifted to the professor and of a day Alice did not remember. It happened years ago. Ryxor and Drex were there too. As it turned out, that day during the opening ceremony wasn’t the first time Alice and Lynn had met.

---

Ten years ago, the war was long past its turning point and it was clear that Arabi was going to be the winner. However, Agaron remained stubborn and had yet to give up. War orphans like 14 year old Ryxor Borx and eight year old Alice Redding were a common sight.

Ryxor sat on the bed in his room at the orphanage when Drex entered. Somewhere above the clouds that covered the sky, the sun was setting. “Hey, what’s up?” Ryxor said to Drex.

Drex said nothing at first. He stared at Ryxor. “Are you really going through with this?” he asked.

Ryxor got off the bed. “Of course I am!” He sounded excited. He bent over and reached under his bed. In his hands he held something covered in a sheet. “Check this out.”

Drex grabbed it from Ryxor’s hands. He didn’t need to remove the sheet to know what it was. He could feel the cold metal of the sword he held through the sheet. As if to confirm his suspicions, he uncovered the sword and held it up to the light pouring in through the window. It’s the real thing, alright. “Who did you steal this from?” he asked Ryxor. There was no question of if was his or not. For one, orphans couldn’t afford anything nice whether it was clothes, food, or weapons. Then there was the simple fact that no one would sell weapons to a kid anyway.

“Just borrowing it from the old man,” he said taking it back from Drex. The old man had to be the owner of the orphanage “Don’t sweat over it man.” After covering it back up in the sheet, he placed it under his bed again where it would lie until he needed it later that night.

“You shouldn’t do it.” His voice sounded dry and devoid of emotion, but Ryxor knew him well enough to know that that meant he was worried. Normally, he was rather cheerful, more than you’d think appropriate for someone who lost their entire family.

“Why not? Today’s the day I’ll finally kick his ass.”

“He goes to the academy now. If you’d just forget about, you’d probably never see him again.”

“Exactly. We can’t just let him go thinking he’s the best. If I know Vanen, he’s probably trying to push some poor students around just like he did to us.”

“Then why can’t you just let them deal with it? It’s not our problem anymore.” Ryxor seemed to ignore him. Drex didn’t want to give up just yet, however. “What if someone gets hurt? You guys are going to be fighting with real weapons. This isn’t just a game anymore.”

“Come on Drex, have a little more faith in me. Vanen’s the only one who’s gonna get hurt.”

Drex had one more stop to pull. “This is illegal, you know. No one cares about a few war orphans, but Vanen’s a student at the academy, not to mention who is father is.”

“Look, you’re not the one doing it. No one would ever think you’re involved in any way.”

“It’s not me I’m worried about.”

---

Earlier that day, the clouds that blocked the setting sun had only begun to form. Today’s gonna suck, Alice thought. She was one of those people whose mood seemed to match the weather. When it was bright and sunny, so was she. On rainy days though, she didn’t feel so hot. She and Drex stood outside the boarding house watching the sun disappear. That wasn’t why they were out there of course. They were waiting for Ryxor to return.

He had gone to Velvidyne Military Academy, but it wasn’t because he was a student their or because he was interested in becoming one. As a matter of fact, he was still too young to join. The minimum age was 15, one year too old for Ryxor. The real reason he had gone was to pay a visit to Vanen Travis who was a student there. And the purpose of this visit was to challenge him to some kind of game, as usual.

Ever since Vanen came to stay at the boarding house, he and Ryxor were always after each other’s throats. It was not some harmless friendly rivalry, that’s for damn sure. There were plenty of times when one played dirty and times when one of them got hurt. Most competitions ended with Vanen victorious. Ryxor got his fare share of wins in too though.

Whenever Ryxor won, he made sure to rub it in Vanen’s face. Vanen however never reacted much to his insults and when he won, he acted just the same. When Vanen won, he wouldn’t say or do much at all. Whatever he did do somehow always managed to make Ryxor furious.

Despite Ryxor’s hatred for him and Vanen’s belief that he was above Ryxor in every way, the two were actually surprisingly similar. The only real differences between the two were how they expressed their feelings, and their notions of what family is.

While Ryxor came to accept Drex and Alice as a brother and sister, Vanen could never do the same. Perhaps it was because he had yet to experience the pain of losing someone. Maybe there was another underlying cause that he could never share with someone like Ryxor.

“He’s never going to stop, is he Drex?”

“Hmm?” Drex was spaced out when Alice asked the question. “You mean Ryxor?”

“Yeah.”

“Honestly, he’s the oldest out of the three of us and yet he’s the most immature.”

“Who are you talking about?” They both looked up to see Ryxor walking over. He had finally returned. Drex looked him over. Something interesting had definitely happened. There was no trace of cuts, bruises, or anything of the sort. He may have simply backed out, but Drex knew better. Ryxor wasn’t the type to do that.

“You. Dumbass.”

“Come on, don’t use language like that. What if the old man hears you?” Alice hopped onto his back and attempted to tackle Ryxor to the ground. “Hey! Get off.”

“So are you gonna tell us what happened or not?” Alice asked, anxious to find out.

After struggling with his attacker for a moment, he succeeded in knocking her off. “Alright, take it easy.” Alice got up and brushed the dirt of her clothes. “Tonight I’m going back to the academy for a duel.” He sounded excited, but Drex didn’t. Alice looked mildly supportive however.

“You mean where you stand back-to-back, walk 10 paces, and then turn around and shoot?” Alice asked curiously.

“Well, neither of us can get guns, so no. But we’ll use swords!”

“You mean actual swords? Cool!”

“Shut up, don’t support him. There’s no way they’d use real swords. It’d be way too-,”

“Of course we’re using actual sworrds,” Ryxor said, answering Alice’s question.

It took a while for what he just said to sink into Drex. “Wait, are you serious?”

“Of course!”

---

Alice sat upright in her bed, sweat dripping down her face. At first, all she could hear was her own heavy breathing. Then she noticed the wind blowing past the curtains of the open window and rustling through Lynn’s hair who was standing in front of it. As the wind made contact with her face, it felt chillingly cool, and yet it calmed her down. The gust of wind calmed down and then died altogether, not instantly but fast enough. Suddenly, she felt overcome by feelings of sadness and melancholy.

“I see you’re up again,” she said to Lynn.

She turned around to face Alice and smiled. “You know me. I’m more of a night person. There’s always been something about the stars and the moon that fascinates me.”

“No. That’s not it.”

“What are you talking about?”

“I had a nightmare. You were there, but you were different. You were younger. Professor Arendale was there too and so were Ryxor and Drex.” Lynn remained silent. “What happened back then? I don’t remember and they don’t want to talk about it.” Lynn walked over and sat on her own bed. Still, she said nothing. “I know something happened. After that, I… I could do things I couldn’t do before. Things with energy that just came naturally to me, and yet I could never have hoped to do them before that.”

Lynn thought back to what Luther told her on that day. “She’s not to know what happened,” he said. “There will come a time when she’ll learn of the origin of her powers, but we’ll leave her be for now.”

“I’m not sure I’m the best person to tell you,” she said at last.

“I don’t care. The fact that you can even tell me is good enough. Just do your best please.”

---

Alice and Lynn weren’t the only ones up that late at the academy, or in the city for that matter. As a matter of fact some parts of the city were quite lively, almost as much as they were during daytime. Whether you chose to live a night life in during such a troubling time didn’t matter at all though. Either way you’d be in danger. Whether or not you chose to hang out in an over-crowded bar or in a deserted back alley covered by midnight’s shadows, you weren’t safe. He too was a night person, and during the night, anyone was his prey.

Matthew Thompson lay awake in his bed at the military academy. He stared up at the ceiling of the room in deep thought.

“Hey, Matt, you still awake?” his roommate asked. He knew that he was, but asked anyway.

“Yeah.” He thought for a moment if he should confide in his roommate. “I’m not sure if joining the academy was the best thing to do,” he said at last. His roommate was the first person he told it too. He hadn’t even mentioned it to his own father, though he suspected he knew his true feelings.

There had been multiple times when Auras asked his son if he was sure it was what he wanted to do. Matthew would always answer with a stern “Yes.” While not entirely the truth it wasn’t exactly a lie either. He did admire his father and the things he did. He wanted to be just like him when he was little, but now he wasn’t so sure.

“I’m not gonna bother to ask you why, but hey. At least for now you’re in one of the safest places you could possibly be. I hear living outside in the city is pretty dangerous now.”

“Why? Did something happen,” he asked intrigued by what his roommate said.

“You mean you haven’t heard? There’s a serial killer on the loose.”

Suddenly, Matthew wasn’t so intrigued anymore. Things like that scared him, but he couldn’t stop himself now. “A killer?”

“Yeah, I’m surprised you haven’t heard about it yet. You want me to tell you about the victims?”

No. “Uh, sure.”

“Extremely bloody. Extremely grizzly. The victims, that is. They say all of the bodies were brutalized beyond recognition. You want to know the worst part?” His roommate could tell that he had him now.

“The w-worst part?”

“According to the guys that examined the bodies, they must have really suffered. Tortured probably.” Matthew felt a chill go down his spine. He knew he’d never be able to sleep again until the perpetrator was caught. “And guess who he likes to go after.”

“N-n-not s-students I hope.”

“Hmm, maybe.”

“What do you mean maybe? I thought you said we were safe here!” He realized how loud he was getting and made a notable attempt to calm himself down.

“The killer doesn’t have any preferences.” Matthew’s roommate was clearly enjoying himself now. “It looks like he just goes after whoever he feels like. Maybe they all looked at him in a funny was at some point. Who knows? What you can bet on though as that once he targets you, you’re a goner.” He heard what was almost an audible whimper from Matthew. Whether or not he wanted to drop out of the academy was the least of worries now.

“T-they’re gonna catch this guy right?”

“Well, you’d think, but so far they don’t have anything on him. Hell, the killer could even be a she instead of a he. That’d definitely be interesting, don’t you think Matthew?”

He didn’t care. He didn’t want to think about it at all. He just wanted to go to sleep.

---

The thick clouds from earlier stayed around for nighttime, albeit you could no longer see them. Ryxor made his way to the academy, borrowed sword in hand. An underage boy like him could have gotten in a lot of trouble running around at night with a weapon, but it was a risk he was willing to take.

The spot where Vanen and Ryxor agreed to have their duel was actually just outside the walls of the academy. Despite Ryxor’s numerous complaints, Vanen insisted that it’d be impossible for him to sneak into the academy at night. Eventually, he gave in and agreed to meet him in the back alley he now waited in.

He expected Vanen to be either really late or not show up at all. To his surprise, he actually came not long after he had gotten there. When Ryxor heard the footsteps echoing down the alleyway, his first instinct was to hide. The closer the person got though, he realized it was Vanen rather than someone out for a stroll at night.

“I didn’t think you’d show,” Ryxor said, coming out of his hiding spot.

Vanen looked unimpressed. There wasn’t a single trace of emotion on his face. In his hand he carried a katana style sword still in its sheath. “I don’t want to waste any more time with your stupid comments. Let’s get this over with.”

“Yeah, yeah, sure.” He reached back into his hiding place and grabbed the sword and removed the cloth that covered it. “Let’s do this!”

Shout a little louder so everyone knows what we’re up to, Vanen thought. Despite Ryxor’s declaration, Vanen remained unmoved. He had yet to unsheathe his own weapon. “Ready when you are.”

“What? Is that sword just for show? You think you can take me on with you bare hands, you’re narcissistic bastard?”

“At least I still have a father, unlike you.”

“Oh that does it. Don’t say I didn’t warn you!”

And with that, Ryxor was off at Vanen’s throat. Before he realized it, his sword was locked with Vanen’s. Surprise registered on his face. Vanen looked him dead in the eye, still emotionless. What the hell? When did he draw it out?

Vanen broke through and kicked Ryxor causing him to stagger backwards. He followed up with an attack with his sword, but Ryxor managed to doge it by jumping backwards. Ryxor went to attack, but before he could do so, Vanen did a horizontal slice that left a fine cut across his chest.

“Amateur. You left yourself wide open.” Ryxor gritted his teeth in anger. Before he could retaliate, Vanen used a maneuver that sent Ryxor’s sword flying away from him. Vanen brought up his knee and hit him in the chest hard enough to cause him to double over in pain. While Ryxor was still gasping for breath, Vanen struck him over the back of his head. Ryxor fell to the ground defeated.

Not wanting to accept it, he tried to get up but found he didn’t have the strength. “Don’t try to get up,” Vanen told him. “You took quite the blow there to your head.” Vanen grabbed his sheath and put his katana away and began to leave.

“Get back here!” Ryxor yelled, still struggling to get up. “I’m not done yet!” Vanen froze in his place. For a moment, Ryxor thought that he had listened to him. Then he realized why he had stopped. Just at the exit of the alley, you could hear someone holding walking over with some kind of weapon.

Before he knew what had happened, Vanen was on the move again with his sword out. He attacked whoever it was that was there, but what happened next seemed strange. Vanen took several steps back staring at the would-be assailant and then he turned around and ran past Ryxor. He tried to stop him, but Vanen just ignored him. Ryxor barely caught a glance of his sword which had blood on it.

Ryxor wasn’t sure what had happened, but he was suddenly worried. Finally finding the strength to get up, he made his way to the person lying on the ground. The closer he got, the more he realized that they were lying in a growing pool of blood. Crap, Vanen freaking killed him. However, he soon realized that he was a she. He then saw that they were younger that he initially thought. Crap, what the hell am I gonna do? I have to do something don’t I? He turned the body over to get a look at the face. Alice’s blank eyes stared back at him.

His eyes widened with shock. He had the urge to scream, but he attempted to hold it in. Oh my god! What the hell is this? What the… “What the hell is going on!!!?” He urgently put his hand on her neck and felt for a pulse. He found one but it was very feint. “Alice! Can you hear me?” There was no response. He was vaguely aware of rain drops hitting his head. “Alice? Please, do something if you can hear me!” She made no movement.

“Damn it! What the hell do I do? There’s so much blood!” After trying to cover the large wound across her chest in vain, he picked her up and started running. He wasn’t sure where he was going, but he needed to find help. Damn it all! This is all my fault. She probably followed me here, and then Vanen… Suddenly, he felt the anger returning to him in full force. If she dies he’s a dead man!

“What happened?” It was Drex waiting just outside the alley. Ryxor stopped at the sound of his voice. When Drex walked over, he realized immediately what he was holding. “Ryxor…” He was at loss for words.

“It was Vanen. He attacked her.” Drex didn’t know what to say. “Come on! We have to find help.” He started running again with Drex in tow. It began raining harder. Water splashed up from the ground with each step they took.

“Where are we going?”

“I don’t know. The boarding house is too far away.”

“I saw a light on in a house just down the street.”

“All right. We’ll go there!”

Luther Arendale was sitting at the table in his study reading a book when he heard someone pounding on the door of his house urgently. Who the hell could that be at this hour? He almost decided to ignore whoever it was. However, he gave in when they wouldn’t stop. He wasn’t prepared at all for what was about to happen.

“What the hell do you-,” he began as he opened the door. He stopped when he saw the teenage boy holding a young girl who appeared to be dead.

“Please, you have to help us! She can’t die! There’s gotta be something you can do.” Luther didn’t really have choice. He wasn’t about to turn down someone dying and tell them to try the next house. He motioned for them to come in and slammed the door behind him. “Follow me up stairs now!” They did as they were told and were led to a bedroom. He instructed Ryxor to set her down on the bed and leave while he got to work, but both he and Drex were reluctant to do so. “There’s nothing you can do now!” he shouted at them at last. “The last thing I need are some little brats getting in my way. Now wait outside.” Luther slammed the door behind them no softer than he did with the front door.

What followed were some of the longest hours in either Ryxor or Drex’s life. By now they were both pretty tired, but they refused to go to sleep. Neither of them was until they had word that Alice would be okay.

Sometime later, a door down the hall opened up. A small girl around the same age as Alice poked her head around the corner. By then, Ryxor who was almost asleep looked up to see what the noise was. He almost mistook her to be Alice at first but quickly realized it was not. Whoever it was noticed the blood covering his clothes.

She crept out of the room and walked over to them like a cat. “What’s going on?” she asked them curiously. She seemed to disregard their appearances entirely. Neither of them gave a response. “My name’s Lynn, what’s yours?”

“Ryxor,” he said.

“Mine’s is Drex.”

At that moment, the door opened up and Luther stepped outside. He closed it gently behind him.

“Is she alright?”

“Is she gonna be okay?” Both Ryxor and Drex jumped up instantly. All traces of sleep and drowsiness were gone.

“Follow me down stairs,” he said. “Go back to bed Lynn.” Ryxor couldn’t help but notice that he sounded noticeably weaker and looked paler than before. After they were seated at a table in the kitchen, Luther made them some hot coffee. “That’s all I have unless you want water.” Neither of them so much as took a sip from their cups. It wasn’t that they didn’t like coffee. They just weren’t thirsty. All they cared for at the moment was Alice’s condition.

“Is she gonna be fine now?” Ryxor asked.

Luther took a long breath before beginning. “You boys know what energy is, right?”

“Yeah, it’s our life force. People can use it do things.”

“Well that’s partially correct, but do any of you know how our bodies produce energy?” They both shook their heads. “It’s a complicated process, but basically in each of us resides an entity. Let’s just call it your soul. The soul radiates energy. In other words, the soul is you source of life. Should the soul perish, you’re a goner. Using too much energy at once also damages the soul, permanently. One can also damage the souls of others by using their own energy. In addition to her severe wounds, this is what happened to your friend.

“Her soul was almost damaged beyond repair. Were she in the care of lesser hands she very well may have died.” Ryxor and Drex’s face lit up almost immediately. She was still alive. “There’s more. Her soul was so badly damaged that traditional methods alone were not enough.” He paused for moment. “In this case I was forced to use a considerably dangerous method. I ripped out part of my own soul and transfused it with hers.” He stopped to let what he said sink in. When they didn’t say anything, he began again.

“You.” He pointed at Ryxor. “You were the one that carried her hear, yes?”

“Yes.”

“I need to talk to you in private.”

“What about me?” Drex asked.

“Leave.”

“No way! I’m not going until Alice is better.”

“Leave this room,” he said irritably. “There’s a couch in the study and a blanket. You can sleep there.” Reluctantly, Drex did as he was told and left for the study.

“What do you want with me?” Ryxor asked.

“The stunt I pulled shortened my life span considerably.” Ryxor thought he knew where Luther was going.

“I don’t have any money. I’m just an orphan. All three of us are.”

“While that does come as a surprise to me, money is not what I’m interested in. What I want is for you to become my apprentice.”

“What?” He was at a loss for words.

“I know, you’re not the choice I wanted to go with either, but as is you’ll have to do.”

“Apprentice? What are you talking about?”

“I have at my disposal knowledge that I’m not willing to take with me to the grave, most of which was taught to me by a great man no longer with us.”

“But why me?”

“You didn’t notice? By the time I got to her, her physical wounds were already almost completely healed.”

“How?” Again, he was at a loss for words.

“It was you.”

“But I didn’t do anything.”

“In your time of need, your energy subconsciously poured out of your soul and healed her wounds. As I said before, they were only mostly healed. Not quite the level of genius I was hoping for in an apprentice.”

“You’re wrong! I didn’t do a damn thing. It’s my fault Alice ended up like this in the first place.”

“Inside you is raw untapped potential. Powers like the one you used tonight are rarely accomplished by untrained professionals. For a kid like you to accomplish it, you would need something truly traumatic to push you. In this case, it was the near-death of someone very dear to you.”

Ryxor was silent for a long time. Luther stared at him waiting for a reply. At long last he got it. “If I become your apprentice, can I protect the people I care about it?”

“Most definitely.”

During the following days, Ryxor and Drex remained at Luther’s house. During that time, Alice began to wake up and come back to her senses. Her memory of what happened however was almost gone. Almost immediately, Luther began training Ryxor. Sometimes, Drex would watch and other times, he would hang out with Lynn. It wasn’t until the manager of the orphanage started looking for the three of them that they returned. Before they left though, Luther made Ryxor swear that he would join the military academy when he was old enough.

On the day they left, Luther sat down at the kitchen table with Lynn. “She’s not to know what happened. There will come a time when she’ll learn of the origin of her powers, but we’ll leave her be for now. It’s best to let her live her childhood as normally as possible. However, I’m certain she will eventually enroll in the academy as well. When that time comes, you need to enroll too and keep an eye on her as best you can.”

“Yes sir.”

“How many times have I told you to stop calling me sir?” He seemed rather annoyed by it. They both went silent for a while. Luther could tell she was worried. “Don’t worry. I maybe weaker now, but I’m not gonna let the bastard who killed your parents get away. We’ll find him some day.”

---

Alice could hardly believe what she was hearing. How could I block something like that from my memory? Now, she remembered it clear as day. She remembered getting Drex to go with her and follow Ryxor. She remembered a sword landing in front of her and picking up. She remembered the look on Vanen’s face when… Hold on. What she a remembered was an entirely different Vanen. One whose eyes were filled with shock, fear, and remorse over what he just did.

“Then the reason you’re always up at night is because of me?” she asked.

“Yes. I need to make sure nothing happens.”

Alice felt horrible. She wanted to apologize, but she didn’t exactly know what to apologize before. “Lynn.”

“What is it?”

“Go to sleep. I don’t care how much harder I have to try. I’ll get strong enough so you no longer need to waste your time watching over me.” Alice lay back in her bed and fell fast asleep. Lynn stayed up a little while longer. A smile came across her face. She certainly did care for those around her whether or not she always showed it. Lynn did as Alice recommended and fell asleep.

---

Elsewhere, the night wasn’t nearly as peaceful. There was a scream perhaps, but no one seemed to notice it or care. Out of the shadows, a dark figure walked out leaving a trail of bloody footsteps. They grasped a bloody dagger in one of their hands. Staring up at Velvidyne Military Academy, a thick smile formed on his face.

SamuraiChameleon
07-19-2011, 10:20 PM
I haven't check yet, but this is quite possibly the fastest I've written a chapter so far. Hope that doesn't mean the quality dropped or something like that. Also, I added some more people to the list of characters in the first post.

Chapter 9: "Hanging precariously from the wall, the loaded gun has its safety off"
General Rivers rode in the horse drawn carriage in the seat opposite Captain Cyrus Irvine. For now, talks with Agaron had been completed and they were heading back to the military base established by Arabi. It was a peaceful and sunny day. The only noise Cyrus could hear was the continual rattling of the carriage as it followed the dirt road.

Until then, they had only received minimal news about Vanen’s betrayal. Arabi’s network of telephone lines only went as far as Mishar. From there, any news had to be delivered the old fashioned way by horseback.

What Rivers had heard disturbed him though. He only met the man himself a few times near the end of the war. From what he remembered, he wasn’t very sociable but he wasn’t the kind of person who would turn on his own people, not by a long shot.

They were almost to the border when the convoy they were riding in was struck. Further down the road, the leaders of the convoy erupted into an explosion of cannon fire. “What the hell was that?” Rivers asked. He looked outside the carriage window in the direction of the explosion. Drilled for situations like this, the driver swerved off the road.

Cyrus turned around and poked his head through the curtain separating the inside of the cart from the driver. He opened his mouth to say something when a bullet caught the driver in the head and knocked him off the carriage. “Oh, shit.”

Cyrus scrambled through the window and attempted to regain control of the horses. At that moment, the only thing on his mind was the safety of the general. It didn’t bother him that he could end up like the poor driver. Just when it seemed like he had finally gotten control of the carriage again, they were struck with a cannon. The explosion blew off one of the front wheels and caused the carriage to turn over on its side. At the same time, Cyrus was thrown from it.

Shaking off the effects of the explosion, he saw the horses that had gotten loose and watched them run away. “General!” He rushed back to the overturned carriage, but before he could open the door to check on the general, someone struck him over the back of his head. The last thing Cyrus remembered seeing was the smiling face of Eric Banes staring down at him.

---

Ryxor sat in a chair at the local bar in Mishar, a town that bordered Squall Valley. Being so close to the only easy path between to the two kingdoms, the town had taken heavy damage during the war. Today, it was still in the process of being rebuilt. The bar where Ryxor was at was one of the only fully built buildings in the town so far.

Squall Valley. I didn’t think I’d have to come back here so soon. Graduating from the academy just before the war ended, Ryxor saw little action but one battle he did fight in happened to be the most important one in the war. It was the one that caused Agaron to surrender.

“Yo.” Ryxor turned to see the rest of the squad walk in with Drex in the lead.

“What did you find?” Ryxor asked him.

“It looks like Oren is telling the truth. Several people saw soldiers pass into the valley. One was confirmed to be Vanen.”

“And another fits the description of my brother,” Hughes added.

“Good work. Any idea where exactly in Agaron they were headed?” Ryxor asked.

“Nothing,” said Auras. “Their presence was barely known here at all. The few people that did talk to them claim that they were tight lipped about their duties.”

“All right. We head out now.”

“But shouldn’t we wait until it gets dark? There’ll be higher chance of spotting us if we move during the day.”

“We don’t have the time anymore. Besides, they already know we’re coming. We lost the element of surprise a long time ago.”

Drex looked as if he just got an idea. “Damn, we must have just missed him when we were in Kazere.”

“How do you figure?” Hughes asked.

“Eric’s with them. Don’t tell me you forgot about our run-in with him.”

“Of course I haven’t.” Hughes sounded rather annoyed by Drex’s remark.

If that’s true… If only we’d chased after Eric. No. Can’t forget about Auras. None of us would have been willing to leave him behind. “That’s enough,” Ryxor said. “We need to get going.”

---

Luther Arendale was in a foul mood. His search for Jon Durmont had turned up almost nothing new since the encounter on Cardinal Island. Since then, the information broker Brink Lowe had only turned up what Luther considered a grave insult: another note left behind by Jon.

“My offer still stands. Please don’t let the teachings of our old master go to waste.” Not quite sure why, he read it over again. Every time he read it, it seemed to piss him off more and more. He crumpled up the paper the note was written on and tossed it on the ground. Smoke began to rise from the ball of paper before it burst into flames. Still not satisfied, he stomped on the ashes.

Aside from Durmont, a few other individuals crossed his thoughts as well. He didn’t hold grudges against them like Jon, but he did have reasons for being angry with them. There was Ryxor Borx, his so called apprentice, whom he hadn’t really taught anything in nearly a month. There was Alice Redding who still required special lessons on taming the powers that she received along with a chunk of his soul. Now there was a serial killer on the loose and he was expected to waste time by taking part in the investigation. He stomped on the ashes and smashed them further into the floor each time a new name crossed his mind.

He didn’t stop until someone knocked on his office door. “What the hell do you want?”

“Sorry to interrupt you sir, but you have a guest.”

“Tell them I’m not here.” Luther heard them talking to another person, but he couldn’t make out the words. What started out as a normal conversation soon erupted into an argument.

“Don’t give me that crap!” he heard a female voice shout. He searched his memories to try to find a matching face with no luck. “I just heard him,” she said. It sounded as if the other voice was trying to calm her down. “I’m going in now.” She paused for a moment, possibly to let the academy staff member try to come up with another excuse. “I don’t give damn!” Suddenly, the door was kicked open and a young woman walked in.

“I’m very sorry about this sir. I tried to stop her.” The other man walked in timidly behind her.

“Good job.” He gave him a thumbs up. “And you wonder why you get shit for pay,” he mumbled.

“What was the sir?”

“Nothing, just leave.”

“Yes sir.” With that, he closed the door leaving Luther alone with his guest.

“Luther Arendale,” he said offering his hand. She ignored it and sat down at his desk.

“I already know who you are you old fart.”

Oh that does it. I don’t care about some crappy desk, but I’m not about to let you waltz in like you own the place and dish out insults! “Watch your manners lady.”

“Watch yours you shitty old geezer! I’m probably not even old enough to be your granddaughter. Besides, you’re the one pretending to be not here when you clearly are.” Luther wasn’t exactly a stickler about his age, but he wasn’t even 50 yet.

“I assume you’ve come because you need my help on some matter. Is this how you ask for help where you come from? Berate someone with unfitting insults?”

“Don’t care. He said you’d help me.”

“Who are we talking about now?”

“Ryxor Borx.” At that moment, Luther felt a sudden surge of anger.

“Do I look like his goddamn secretary? If anything, it’s the other way around. He should be out running errands for me.”

“I wonder if everyone gets senile in their old age.”

“What was that?”

“I think you heard me just fine. Oh wait, I’m sorry. I forgot the elderly are hard at hearing too.”

“I’m not that old you adolescent bitch!” They stared each other with angry eyes. Neither of them seemed to move a muscle. Seemingly out of nowhere there was a look of surprise on her face. “Look, I don’t know who the hell you are or how you know Ryxor, but this is going nowhere.” Luther sat down in the chair in front of his desk usually reserved for guests. “I’m ready for a peaceful conversion if you are.” He extended his hand again. “Professor Luther Arendale, head of Velvidyne Military Academy.”

This time, she grasped his hand and shook it firmly. “Ratana Cytinin, leader of the Kazeri mercenaries.”

Cytinin. Luther had heard that name somewhere. The ones who attacked Ryxor a few weeks ago?

“What did you do just now?” she asked interrupting his train of thought.

“Hmm? I countered your energy and balanced out the disruption you attempted to create in the natural flow of the room’s air current.”

“…” She didn’t have the slightest idea about what he just said. When she saw that he was about to say something again, she put out a hand to stop him. “Never mind. We don’t like each other so let’s just get down to business.”

“Hold on there, not so fast. First things first, you’re going to explain how you came to be here, and how you got on Ryxor’s good side after your men attacked him.”

She gave a long drawn-out sigh. It was definitely a long story, once she didn’t feel like recounting again. She had taken up Ryxor on his advice and returned to Kazeri where sure enough, everyone was worried sick about her. After paying her respects to her late father who had already been buried, she brought them up to speed and then told them her plans.

After once again telling about how she was tricked by Oren who forced her father to do his bidding and her encounter with Ryxor’s squad, she finally got to the task at hand. “So, this is what brings me here. As Ryxor pointed out, I don’t have a shred of evidence that proves my father is innocent. According to him, you know someone who can find the proof I need.”

Luther considered what she was asking. Maybe not carefully, but he did consider it. He almost wanted to bring up why she was so intent on proving her father’s innocent when she herself was mostly in the clear already. However, he thought he knew the answer to that. “As sad as your story is, I don’t know why he told you that. I can’t help you.”

“So the name Brink Lowe doesn’t ring any bells for you? I thought you said you were gonna cut the crap already.”

It was Luther’s turn to sigh. That careless little shit… “Fine, I’ll make an arrangement for you to meet him. Come back later and I’ll give you the time and location.”

“That’s more like it.”

---

Nearly a day’s march later, Ryxor’s squad found themselves nearing Agaron’s border. Since the conclusion of the decisive battle, Squall Valley was now officially considered neutral territory. That didn’t stop Arabi from installing a number of checkpoints, which Agaron was in no position to argue against though. Before the war, the valley belonged almost entirely to Agaron. Arabi owned only the other end near Mishar.

“What’s the plan now? We still have no idea where to begin our search,” Drex said.

“We can check in with Arabi’s forward operating base. It’s not too far north of here,” Ryxor said. “I know someone stationed there who might be able to help us out.”

“Who might that be?”

“Could you possibly be referring to Cyrus?” Auras asked.

“Yep,” said Ryxor, confirming his guess.

“Who the hell is Cyrus?” asked Hughes.

“Just an old war buddy.” As it turned out, Ryxor, Auras, and Cyrus fought together during the final battle. When Ryxor was singled out by General Ruaidhri to lead a squad after the war ended, he had filled out requests for both Auras and Cyrus. While Auras accepted, Cyrus had already been reassigned. Drex and Hughes who had recently graduated from the academy were then tagged on to complete the squad line up.

“Hey Ryxor, not too far north right?” Drex asked

“You mean the base? Maybe an hour’s worth of walking.”

Drex sighed. “Man, I can’t wait till we get there. I feel sore all over.”

“Really? I feel fine,” Hughes said.

“You’re not human. You’re tired too, right Ryxor?”

“Nope. Maybe you’re just out of shape.”

“Yeah, screw you too pal. I know you’re with me at least, Auras.”

“Sorry. I actually feel rather restless at the moment.”

“What the hell? You’re like twice our age.” Unsatisfied with his utter defeat, Drex continued to talk. “I hate all this traveling, especially when you gotta go out here. Nature got shit for toilet paper.”

“You could always use your thumb,” Hughes suggested casually. Ryxor looked at Auras and exchanged troubled looks with him before shaking his head.

“Ok, shutting up now.”

“What? Did I say something wrong?” No one bothered replying. Hughes seemed to genuinely not understand what the problem was.

---

Luther Arendale walked up and down the rows of first year underclassmen at the academy. Every now and then he’d stop to examine an intimidated student and possibly ask them a question or two about the basics they should have had down already. Matthew Thompson’s eyes followed the professor intently as he stood at attention with his arms placed at his sides. He felt his heart skip a beat when Professor Arendale walked past him, but began to feel at ease afterward. Finally, the professor got down to the task at hand.

“Tonight, you’ll all be getting your first taste of real experience. You’ll be assigned into groups. Under the supervision of an upperclassman, you will patrol the city until dawn.”

Suddenly, Matthew’s anxiety was back in full force. A part of him was excited about it. However, the majority of his thoughts were on the tale of the serial killer his roommate told him about. He looked from the professor to the row of third year students who had volunteered for the task. He didn’t recognize anyone.

Among the volunteers were Keith Grayson, Alice Redding, and quite naturally, Lynn Garrison. When Luther was focused on the first years, Alice peered down the row of fellow third years and briefly me the eyes of Keith. She turned back to Lynn who gave her a somewhat nervous smile.

Two years ago when Alice and Lynn performed the activity together in the same group, things didn’t go so well. In short, Alice almost killed an innocent bystander with an energy attack aimed to break up a fight between two drunks. She hoped things would go a lot better this year as a supervisor. Those hopes would probably be ignored.

“Any questions?” Luther asked. He waited a moment in the dead silence of the arena before moving on. “We shall now assign your groups.”

After the long process was over, the arena began to fill with the indecipherable chatter of several hundred students.

“Attention!” Luther shouted at the top of his lungs. Just like that, the voices died. In one thunderous clap, everyone placed their arms at their sides and snapped their feet together. “You are to report back here at twenty hundred hours. Dismissed!” With that, Luther left the arena and the chatter returned as everyone got to know each other. There were sighs of relief as friends got to stay together and sighs of unhappiness as other bid their friends farewell.

Keith looked over his assigned group. “My name’s Keith Grayson and I’m going to be your supervisor tonight.” He held out his hand. The first year closest to him reached out and took it. Keith gave him a firm handshake.

“Matthew Thompson,” he said. Matthew felt as though his hand had just been grabbed by concrete statue.

---

There was no black smoke over the horizon as Ryxor and his squad reached the forward operating base in Agaron. As they quickly discovered, it was not due to lack of trouble. They reached for their weapons.

“Be on your guard,” Ryxor said.

Any smoke along with possible fires had already come and gone. The base was in ruins. Signs of a recent battle plagued the area. Marks left by explosions dotted the ground, which was also stained with blood. Debris from the base’s structures was strewn about all over the place. Despite the massive evidence before them, there were no bodies.

“Well, I’d say this is a great start to our search for Vanen in Agaron,” Drex said.

“Hey, at least we know we’re on the right track,” Hughes said.

“Shut the hell up and finish sweeping the area for survivors,” Ryxor ordered.

“What survivors? Don’t you remember? This is Rizuke all over again, man.” Ryxor knew Hughes was right, but he didn’t want to give up, not that easily. Auras extended a hand to Hughes. It was then that he remembered why Ryxor didn’t want to give up. His old war buddy was supposed to be stationed there.

Something came loose in a building that was falling apart. All of them turned their attention and their weapons in the direction of the sound. Before any of them could react, troops clad in Agaron’s uniform jumped out from what seemed every possible hole. They were completely surrounded.

---

Ratana made her way to the same pub that Luther had met Brink at some several weeks ago. On the way there, she admonished herself for not coming out to the capital city before. The place was a far cry from the small forest town of Kazeri. She found the academy and the palace particularly impressive, but everything about Velvidyne grabbed her attention. It was the night life that was foremost in her thoughts at the moment. By night, Kazeri seemed almost dead, but not the capital. It seemed just as lively as it did during the day.

She was still in awe when she walked through the door of the bar. Luther had at least given her a description of Brink before sending her off to the meeting, but the place was extremely crowded. She wondered if she would even be able to locate him when she heard someone call her name from behind.

“You must be Miss Cytinin. You have so many of the features your late father had, especially those eyes.”

“How do you know about my father? I think I’d have heard of you if you were an acquaintance of his.” She looked more angry than flattered.

“Come on, don’t make that face. What kind of dealer would I be if I couldn’t recognize my own clients?” She supposed he had a point. In truth, the memories Brink had of her father were taken from Ryxor.”Come now, let’s make ourselves comfortable. The night is young and I don’t care to stand around for the rest of it.”

---

Keith’s squad got to work on the night long patrol. It wasn’t very long until Keith noticed that one of his charges, Matthew Thompson, was rather shaky.

“Something wrong? You look like you’re gonna pass out,” he said to Matthew.

He looked at the others in his group whom he had already lost points with. “Sir, is the story about the serial killer true?”

“My name’s Keith you know. And what’s this about a serial killer now?” He seemed unfamiliar with the subject. “Oh, you probably mean that crazy son-of-a-bitch. No, it’s all true. I even heard a rumor that they were thinking about skipping over this patrol because of him.”

Deepest fear confirmed, Matthew’s condition only got worse.

“Relax. We’ll do fine. One, a group of students isn’t his thing. Two, you got me to rely on if he does show up,” Keith said, gripping his battle axe confidently.

Neither of those points made Matthew feel better. Every person he asked about the killer after hearing the story from his roommate always said that nobody was safe. He targeted anyone. And one person couldn’t have possibly made him feel better at that point unless it were someone like Professor Arendale or the king himself.

Currently, they were walking down one of the lesser traveled roads. However, there were still plenty of people about. This helped put Matthew at ease at least a little bit. The others in the group seemed to have their minds on matters other than the serial killer on the loose. Two of them seemed to know each other and were engaged in a conversation over a girl they both liked. The other appeared to be mildly bored with the patrol work they had been tasked with.

“Thief! Thief!” someone yelled. Keith’s group turned in the direction of the noise when someone person ran past them and into an alleyway. “That guy has my wallet. Don’t just stand there, stop him!”

“You heard the man,” Keith said. “We’ve got a job to do.”

The group gave chase with Keith in the lead. They turned into the alley and followed it through to another street. Upon reaching the end, they looked to their left and right before noticing that someone was ahead of them running through the alley across the street. The perpetrator turned a corner and vanished out of sight.

“That way,” someone in the group pointed. They entered the alley, but before they could reach the corner that the thief had turned, they heard an ear-splitting scream that froze them in their tracks.

“What the hell… Keep moving! Someone could be in danger!” Keith shouted.

Up ahead, the thief slumped against a wall holding a hand of his wound. “Please, don’t hurt me!” he yelled frantically. “What the hell did I do to you?” His assailant stood in front him. She licked the thief’s blood off the knife.

“How much money was in that wallet you stole?” she asked.

“What the hell? Are you some kind of twisted vigilante or something? All I did was take someone’s wallet! That’s not deserving of death.”

His attacker grinned at him. “Hmm, now that you mention it, it might be fun to play one every now and then. Do you happen to know what the penalty for thievery used to be?”

The thief knew exactly what it was. He shook his head back and forth. “No! Y-you can’t do that to me.” The assailant grabbed one of the thief’s arms. He tried to shake her off, but that only caused her to tighten her grip until it almost felt like his wrist was being crushed.

“You’re a pretty smart man mister.” She put her knife up to the thief’s elbow.

“That’s as far as you go.” It was Keith. He had his battle axe drawn and his group behind him. A thin, dangerous smile appeared on the assailant’s face. In one swift motion, the thief’s arm was gone. He let out a deafening scream and curled up into a ball on the ground as he tried in vain to deal with the pain.

“Oopsy,” she said, playfully waving the dismembered arm around in a childish manner. “You startled me there and my knife slipped.”

Keith felt the first years behind them cringe and reel away at the sight of it. Keith himself wasn’t feeling too well. “You’re a woman? How can you do something like this!?”

“Me? I’m just enjoying myself on a night out on the town.” They gave another chilling smile and tossed the arm away. She started taking a few steps toward them.

“Stay back…”

“What’s wrong? You don’t want to play?”

“I said stay back!” Keith charged forward at the serial killer, but missed. She skillfully dodged his attack and jumped clear over his head, landing behind him.

“Oh now, look at that. I’m between you and them.”

“Leave them alone. I’m your opponent.” Keith charged at her again, this time making contact with her blade. Despite the fact he was wielding and axe and she was using a small dagger, she seemed to have no problem matching his strength and even forcing him back.

“It’s simply no fun for everyone else though. Besides, you might just last a little longer if you guys take turns.”

---

Meanwhile, Alice Redding was with her own group. Suddenly, they heard a loud crash nearby. They looked at the direction of the noise.

“We should probably check this out,” she said.

---

“Ahhhhhhhhhh!!” Keith reeled back in pain and grabbed the left side of his face where the killer had delivered a vertical slash. “Crap. This isn’t…” He stopped to catch his breath.

“Wow, I’m impressed. Most people aren’t in any condition to fight after losing an eye.”

Wielding it in one hand, he pointed his axe at the killer. “Don’t get so cocky yet, bitch! I’m not done yet. Bring it on!”

He dodged an oncoming attack and threw the axe at her only to have it miss and get embedded in the wall behind her.

“You really are determined to get yourself killed now rather than later,” she said.

“What are you talking about?”

“Oops, I didn’t mean to say that. You know what they say! Ignore the ranting of a crazy person.”

---

Alice turned the corner in the alleyway, but there was nothing there. A cat jumped down from an open window above them. She stared down at the cat and looked over at the smashed flower pot that was surely knocked down by the cat.

“False alarm. It’s just a cat,” she said to her group. While the others began to turn and leave, Alice remained and took another look around. One of the group members came back.

“Is something wrong?” they asked.

“I don’t know. I have the strangest feeling that something’s wrong, but I can’t quite put my finger on it. Oh well, I guess it’s nothing. Let’s just carry on.”

---

Hughes stood face to face with his brother. “Sorry about this little brother,” Eric began, “but I can’t let things like family get in the way here.”

“Stop this Eric. I don’t know what the hell’s going through you mind right now, but this is madness. Look how many people you’ve killed! Do you even-,”

Eric erupted with laughter. “Since when do you even care about me? Hey, are you even my real brother? The Hughes I know absolutely hates my ass!”

“That’s not true.” Eric stopped laughing. “It doesn’t matter how much we fight and argue. You’re still my brother and I can’t just sit by and watch you betray your own people.” Eric drew one of his shotguns and pointed it at Hughes.

“You never were good at making jokes, bro.” Eric hit him over the head with the shotgun. “See ya at Verlassen.” Hughes fell to the ground unconscious and landed next to the rest of his squad who had already been knocked out.

“Are you really okay doing this to your own brother?” Vanen stood behind Eric.

“Relax, I said I’d help you out by any means.” Eric put away his gun. “So how are things going on back at Velvidyne?”

“Just great. They don’t even suspect that there’s a spy amongst them.”

“What about Nasera? It doesn’t feel right to just let her run around without a tight leash on.”

“I share your concern, but it’s out of our hands. I’ve been informed that she won’t be of any trouble yet and that’s the best we can hope for. We’ve spent enough time here. We need to meet with General Griffin.”
---

General Ruaidhri entered his personal quarters and locked the door tightly behind him. “Shall we get down to business?”

“Whatever old man,” said Den Keghart. He was seated in a chair. Arax Zabelle stood around looking at the room.

SamuraiChameleon
07-28-2011, 03:12 AM
You all know you're free to comment and critique this crap right? Even a simple "I like it," or "You suck," would be much appreciated although I think the later might be against the rules of the site. Anyway, chapter 10!

Chapter 10: "Keep your friends close before it's too late"
Keith Grayson sat in his bed at the academy’s infirmary. He looked down at the eye patch in his good hand. He slowly removed his broken right arm from the sling that hung from his neck. He placed the patch over what used to be his left eye and tried to tie the ends of the strings together. However, his attempts only amounted to a painful struggle. The doctor on duty poked his head around the sheet that separated his bed from the one next to him.

“Keep that arm of yours in the sling!”

“Sorry. Uh, yes sir.” Keith did as he was instructed and stopped fiddling around with the eye patch.

“By the way, you have a visitor.”

Keith tried to mentally guess who it was before they showed themselves.

“How’re you doing?” It was Alice. Not the first person he thought would visit him. Somehow, he wasn’t all that surprised though.

“Oh, it’s you. Hey.” Alice was noticeably annoyed at his dismissive greeting.

“Well, if I knew you’d be this happy to see me, I wouldn’t have bothered to come at all.”

Speaking of which, you came here pretty damn fast, Keith thought.

“And here I thought I was doing you a favor.”

How the hell is that a favor?

“Look. Sorry if I’m not in the best of moods right now, but I just lost an eye and even with accelerated healing, my face looks like shit. I used to look so good too. I don’t know how I’m gonna be able to pick up chicks now,” he said sullenly.

Alice already knew the attack had greatly damaged his pride and jokes aside, it showed. She really did want to make him feel better, but wasn’t sure how.

“Some girls find scars sexy,” she said, muttering the first thing that popped into her head.

“What did you say?”

“I said you’re absolutely pathetic! You almost died and all you can think about is girls.”

“Huh, yeah. I guess I am.” Alice noticed him staring down at the eye patch in his hand.

“Have you tried it on yet?” she asked.

“You mean this?” He held it up to let her get a better look. “I tried, but it’s kind of difficult for someone with a broken arm.”

“Do you want me to put it on for you?”

“Sure, why not.”

Alice took the eye patch from Keith. She brushed some hair that was in the way and got to work.

“Geez, you need a haircut.”

“What about you? Your hair’s insanely long.”

“It is not! Besides, I’m a girl so it’s alright to have long hair.”

“Even when you’re going to be in the army? Give me a break. Don’t come crying to me when you get your hair caught on barbed- hey! Don’t make it so tight.”

Alice loosened it up a bit as requested.

“Done.” She stepped away to see what he looked like.

“So how do I look?”

“I guess you look alright.”

“That’s it? Just alright? It doesn’t make me look awesome or anything?”

“Not particularly, no.”

“Excuse me, but you have another visitor.” It was the doctor peeking around the corner again. This time it was Matthew Thompson.

“How you doing there?” Keith asked as he walked over.

“Was I interrupting anything? I could come back another time if you wanted.”

“No, not at all.” Matthew stared at Keith and Alice with sweat running down his face. He looked extremely nervous and almost afraid. “Something wrong?”

“No, it’s just…” Suddenly, he bowed over. “I’m so sorry! It’s all my fault you’re like this. If only I tried to help you sooner. If only I wasn’t so afraid! I’m so, so sorry. I’d understand if you couldn’t forgive me.”

Keith wasn’t sure what to think of his apology.

“Cool it man. If anything, I should be thanking you. If you hadn’t jumped in when you did, I’d probably be a dead man.”

---

Hands bursting with energy, Keith charged yet again at his dangerous opponent. There was something different about him.

An understatement if there ever was one.

To the first years who huddled against the wall, he was an entirely different person. His carefree nature had entirely dissolved. This Keith was dead serious. He was an adrenaline fueled man somehow pushing himself to fight on equal terms with the person who had effortlessly cut out one of his eyes moments before.

Matthew watched the two adversaries go back and forth at each other.

What do I do!?

He wanted desperately more than anything to help. His body remained frozen no matter how hard he tried to make it move. The gun he held rattled with the shaking of his hands.

Keith struck another blow only to be forced back with a counter attack. He staggered backward covered in sweat and blood, not all of it entirely his.

“This has certainly become interesting,” the killer said. “Unfortunately, I don’t see how you plan on staying conscious much longer with the way you’re wasting all that energy. Pretty soon you’ll end up like that poor guy.” She pointed at the dead thief who had perished due to blood loss.

Damn it, I know that! I can already feel it begin to waver. This is real bad. She should be on the ground herself by now, but it’s as if I haven’t done jack to her. I’m finished if I don’t come up with something.

She covered the distance between Keith and herself in the blink of an eye and kneed him the chest. He fell to the ground with a thud.

“What happened to that speed of yours? All tired out now?” she taunted him.

Damn. Is this really the end for me?

She began stomping on his exposed right arm over and over again. Each time she extracted a painful grunt from Keith. She didn’t let up even after he felt the bones snap. Suddenly, there was an eruption of gunfire. All of the bullets missed, but they managed to grab her attention. At least momentarily, she turned her attention away from Keith and to the wielder of the gun.

“Those were only warning shots!” Of course, Matthew was only bluffing. “If you don’t leave quietly, I’ll… I’ll blow your head off right here!” She let her dagger drop and embed itself in the ground next to Keith’s head.

“Well well, look who finally decided to play.” A wicked smile crossed her face. “You have a notorious criminal cornered at gunpoint and you’re given them the chance to get away?” She began slowly taking steps closer and closer towards Matthew and the other members of the group.

“Say back! I’m warning you.”

“What’s wrong? I’ve been defeated.” She came ever so closer. Matthew squeezed the trigger and another bullet whizzed by her head.

“Th-that was another warning shot! Don’t come any closer!”

“So why don’t you claim your prize now like a brave hunter is supposed to.” She took another step forward.

“Please…” Matthew was on the verge of tears when the wind began to pick up.

The serial killer jumped back and a blast of razor sharp wind flew by where she was standing only moments before. It hit a brick wall, shredding it up. Ratana Cytinin stepped out of the shadows of the alleyway.

“They just keep coming like lambs to slaughter,” the killer said mostly to herself.

“W-who are you?” Matthew asked.

“I came when I heard the shots. Incidentally, I happened to be in a nearby bar.”

“Do you have a name or are you just the friendly enigmatic protector of the weak?” The killer asked her.

“My name is Ratana Cytinin and I’m the leader of the famous Cytinin Mercenaries from Kazeri!”

“Never heard of you.”

“Why, you!”

“Actually, I haven’t heard of you either,” said Matthew.

“Whose side are you on?” She waved her lance at him in a threatening manner.

“How does not knowing who you are make me an enemy?” Matthew asked frantically.

Now that I think about it… “I’m letting you off the hook this time and this time only,” the killer said. She walked back over to Keith and grabbed her dagger. Without saying another word, she skillfully leapt over one of the surrounding walls and out of sight.

“I must say. That was anticlimactic.” Ratana turned to see Brink walking toward them.

“Now you show up! You useless sack of crap.”

“What can I say? Fighting’s not really my thing. Besides, if you had all died, there would have been some juicy new information to get my hands on.” You could practically see steam venting out of Ratana’s head. Despite the terrifying scene, Brink managed to hold his composure. “Use your head. With some academy students dead, someone would really want some answers and the king would be a top candidate. Being the lone survivor to witness it with his own two eyes, I could have asked for top dollar.” He gave a deceitful grin. “But that’s all water under the bridge now. See you in a week Miss Cytinin.”

---

“You have got to be the world’s shittiest leader! We’ve been ambushed nearly five times and now we’re gonna rot in some shit hole cell! Oh, and don’t even get me started on the other missions like that time in Lieuken with that crazy s o b with the scythe or that time in Aloquon when you made us charge at the guy with the Gatling gun!”

Hmmm…

“Insubordination will get you nowhere.”

Where am I?

“Screw you. I’m gonna kick your ass! Hey! Don’t swing away from me!”

Hughes opened his eyes to quite the spectacle.

“Where the hell are we,” Hughes groaned.

“Verlassen Death Camp.” The voice came from the opposite cell. “I’m Irvine. Cyrus Irvine.”

“Oh, you’re Ryxor’s friend. Why are you guys hanging from the ceiling anyway?” he asked to Ryxor and Drex.

“That’s what I’d like to know!” Drex cried out. “Why couldn’t they just chain us to wall like you or better yet. Give me my own cell away from this guy!” He made another attempt to swing at Ryxor, but missed.

Hughes took a look around. He was in one cell with Ryxor and Drex. Cyrus and Auras were in another one. All of the other cells were empty.

“Where’s everyone else at? There weren’t any bodies back at the base.”

“It would seem that they’re all dead.”

“Why were you kept alive?”

“I wasn’t at the base when it was attacked. I was coming back from the capital when my carriage came under fire. I believe the only reason I’ve been spared was because I was with the general. They seem to think I’m someone important.”

“General?”

“General Gat Rivers,” said Auras.

“I take it this guy does something really important?”

“You don’t know who General Rivers is?” Ryxor asked.

“I can’t be bothered to memorize everyone’s name.”

“There are a grand total of three generals, genius.”

“And where is this General Rivers at?” Hughes ignored Ryxor’s comment.

“That’s the problem. I don’t know,” said Cyrus.

“You mean beside the fact that we’re chained up in jail cells, right?” Drex asked.

‘Well, naturally.”

“You said this place is a death camp? I thought Arabi forced Agaron to close all of them down,” said Auras.

“It was. Verlassen was in the process of being transformed into a prison for regular criminals, but the project was abandoned.”

“By who?”

“Alexander Griffin. That is no doubt a name you all recognize.”

“…” This name was also unfamiliar to Hughes.

“He’s the Agaron general largely responsible for starting the war,” said Ryxor.

“And he’s still in power?”

“Somehow, yes.”

“This has been interesting and all, but I think it’s time we leave. Ryxor, stop playing around and bust out of those chains.”

“I can’t.”

“What do you mean you can’t?”

“I can’t use my energy. It doesn’t work for some reason.”

“Did you use up too much or something?” Hughes already knew that wasn’t the case, but he asked anyway. They had been surrounded and put down before any of them had a chance to fight back.

“We think there’s something about this prison that prevents us from using any energy,” Auras offered.

“How is that even possible?”

“That’s a good question. I don’t think we’re gonna find the answer anytime soon though.”

“Is there a backup plan?”

“No,” Ryxor said. “The only thing we can do now is sit tight and wait.”

---

Vanen sat in what used to be the desk in the warden’s office. Eric stood against one of the walls and General Griffin sat in a chair on the other side of the desk. The office along with the rest of the prison looked like it had seen better days. However, Vanen’s use of the place was probably no better than back then.

“You’re sure they don’t know what’s coming?” Griffin asked. “I don’t want to lead my men into a pointless slaughter.”

But you’d lead them to slaughter if it’d benefit you, Vanen thought. “Rest assured. Our spy informs me that they are utterly unprepared for an attack of this scale.” The general still did not looked pleased.

“Right, the spy. How do we know we can trust him?” The general sounded skeptical.

“I trust him with my life. The question is whether or not you trust us.” Griffin tried to read Vanen’s thoughts, but his face betrayed no information. He had remained stiff and emotionless throughout the conversation.

“Fine, I’ll take your word on it,” he said, still not impressed. Vanen must have picked up on it.

“As it is, the city’s attention is currently focused on a deranged serial killer who conveniently appeared recently.”

“Right, conveniently. What about Rivers? That man is dangerous. Why have you kept him alive?”

“Insurance. In the rare event that our forces are crushed, a hostage of significant importance will come in handy.”

“What about those other guys you’ve captured? Those flunkies are of no importance to anyone, least of all us. When are you going to put them down?”

“In due time.”

“Due time? You know, I had my men gather a report on you ahead of time and I know you have a past with one of them. I swear if you try anything at-.” General Griffin stopped mid sentence. For the first time since he had met Vanen, he could see a trace of emotion visible on his face: anger.

“This meeting is over.” Vanen stood up and slammed his hands on the desk. His tone remained as flat as ever though. “I believe you know the way out of what used to be your prison.”

“Damn it Vanen, I don’t want to take the fall because you’re too busy playing games with old friends!”

“Next we meet will be in Velvidyne, Griffin.”

“That’s General to you, you ungrateful bastard! None of this would be possible without my help. None!” He stomped his foot on the ground as if to reinforce his point.

“We know. The question is does daddy know? I wonder if he’d cut you off if he found out.”

General Griffin had had enough. He wanted nothing more than to wrap his hands around Vanen’s neck and squeeze until his eyes popped out of his head. As much as he hated to admit it though, the planned attack on Velvidyne wouldn’t be possible without Vanen either. He made a silent vow to deal with it later. In the mean time, he swallowed his anger along with a bit of pride and stormed out of the office.

“How’d it go, sir?” one of his men waiting outside asked.

“Can it! We’re leaving.”

“Uh, yes sir!”

Eric watched them leave through a window in the office. He had said nothing during the meeting. As a matter of fact, he did absolutely nothing at all.

“Is it really okay to ally ourselves with that sorry excuse for a general?” Eric asked.

“Sometimes one must take help wherever they can get it.”

“I suppose so.” Eric looked outside the window again. General Griffin was nowhere to be seen. “Who knew King Griffin’s son was so pathetic. Say, would you really put your life in his hands?”

“Griffin?”

“No, I mean the spy.”

“Not a chance in hell.” Naturally, he wouldn’t stake his life on Griffin either.

---

“Ruaidhri! Is what this report says true?”

General Sykes barged into Ruaidhri’s office waving a folder in one of his hands. The report in question was about the progress Ryxor had made so far. It began with the incident of Vanen’s disappearance and ended with Ryxor’s intentions to go to Agaron. The detail that concerned Sykes the most was the possibilities of Agaron’s involvement.

“Yes. Everything summarized in that report is one hundred percent true, at least according to Ryxor and his men.”

“Then we need to prepare for war now!”

“Don’t rush into this like a fool, sir. We have but one man of questionable character and background to back our claims. This same man is currently on the run and has yet to be apprehended.”

“Then why didn’t you make them go after Oren instead letting them run off to Agaron?”

“Vanen’s the one we want, not some mercenary. We get Vanen, we stop the whole plan dead in its tracks. Fear not though, I’m not completely neglecting the matter of Oren. I’ve instructed Colonel Gaines to search for him.”

“The colonel? If I recall correctly, the report also mentions that it was his fault he got away in the first place.”

Ruaidhri held his hand. At first, Sykes wasn’t sure what he wanted. He soon realized he was asking for the report and handed it to him. Ruaidhri placed the folder on his desk, opened it up, and flipped through until he found the page he was looking for. He began to read aloud from the report.

“Colonel Gaines engaged Oren in combat and promptly defeated him. After briefly interrogating him on the spot, nearby cannon fire gave Oren a chance to escape.” He closed the report. “How would you block a cannon ball, sir?” Sykes said nothing. “I have the utmost respect for Colonel Gaines and I firmly believe that he will get the job done.”

“Is this respect born from his accomplishments or your relationship with the colonel?”

“I assure you I would never and have never put anything, not even the safety of my own family whom I wasn’t there to protect in their time need, over the safety of the kingdom and the king.” Ruaidhri’s voice was as hard and firm as solid rock.

Sykes was at a loss words. Everyone who joined the army made sacrifices, but he had never known the extent of the one Ruaidhri had made. The words he just heard replayed in his head. He lost his family while away on duty.

“Understood, sir. I’ll hold off any action for now.”

He saluted Ruaidhri who saluted Sykes in return. When he opened the door to leave, he found Luther posed to knock on it. He stopped when he saw who he was facing and saluted.

“Good evening sir.”

“Evening Professor.”

Luther stepped aside and let Sykes walk past him. He closed the door behind him after stepping inside.

“You wanted to speak to me sir?” Sykes heard Luther ask through the door. For a moment he thought of eavesdropping on the conversation. He immediately decided against it and left.

“I understand a group of students was attacked by the serial killer tonight.”

“Yes sir. Only the senior student guiding the group was injured. I’ve yet to question him about it, but it would seem he protected the others from the killer.” Talking to Ruaidhri always troubled Luther in some way. Ruaidhri had supreme command over him, and yet he was younger by several years.

“I see. In that case, he’s a brave man deserving of an award. How was he?”

“He seemed to be doing fine. He was asleep when I arrived. He received a broken arm and he lost his left eye among numerous cuts and bruises.”

“An eye you say?” Ruaidhri appeared to be troubled over the fact. “It pains me to see a young man like that not even in his twenties already carrying scars for the rest of his life.”

“Yes sir. I think I fully understand what it’s like.” Ruaidhri looked over Luther’s permanently injured arm covered in bandages.

“Are you ever going to tell me the story behind it?” Ruaidhri asked.

“Sorry sir. Not today.”

---

King Alistair Arabi heard loud urgent knocking on the door to his chambers in the palace as he tried to drift asleep. Already a difficult task, it was impossible to do so under the noise of whoever was at the door. He wanted to pretend he was already asleep, but he knew could not ignore it. He climbed out of his warm bed and made his way to door. He opened it to find his personal aid Curtis Rocer.

“What the devil is it? It’s late Curtis.”

“I’m sorry sir. There’s been another attack by the serial killer. This time it was a student.”

All that noise just for this? I damn near thought you came here to tell me we were under attack by invading forces. That’s what the king wanted to say at first. It may not have been a daring attack, but the news was troubling all the same.

“That no good psychopath is becoming more and more of a problem. Have we been able to determine anything at all about this guy yet?”

“Actually, he’s a she, sir. The killer’s a woman.”

“A woman?” The king was taken aback by this piece of information. The war, this mess with Travis’ kid, this female killer… Curtis could tell King Arabi was deep in thought.

“This whole generation is cursed,” he said at last. “And it’s the previous one’s fault. Our generation, Curtis. Put every guard on alert. Put out a curfew and recall all students still wondering about.”

“Already done sir.”

“Great work. Keep me up to date on any progress made.”

“Yes sir. Thank you, sir.”

“And Curtis, get some sleep. How you can still run around at this late hour with such energy is beyond me.”

“Yes sir.”

“And stop calling me sir. I think we’ve known each other long enough that you can at least use my name in private.”

“Yes Alistair.”

---

Not even an hour earlier, Luther stood in the infirmary. The lights were out and four of the beds were occupied. Aside from the Keith, the only real patient, Alice, Lynn and Matthew also occupied a bed. He heard quite footsteps coming from behind and turned to see the doctor.

“Why are they here? None of them were injured were they?” Luther asked quietly.

“Not one scratch. They simply refused to leave.” The doctor replied in a hushed tone. Luther was reminded of the day Ryxor Borx showed up on his door step with a half-dead girl in his arms. They reminded him of Ryxor and Drex on that day ten years ago, refusing to leave their friend’s side.

“I see. It’s alright for now. Leave them be.”

“Sir!” A man in uniform ran in. It was the same person who had brought Ratana to his office.

“Keep it down.” He saw the students sleeping.

“Yes sir,” he said much quieter. “General Ruaidhri wishes to speak to you, sir.”

“Alright. I’ll be there shortly.”

The messenger left having done his job. Luther went to do the same, but he stopped to take one last look. He realized that they also reminded him of his self years ago when he refused to leave his dying master’s side.

He suddenly remembered that day so many years ago. The day he was betrayed. The day his arm got messed up. The day he lost someone dear to him. The day he was asked to take care of that person’s daughter. It was the day his happiness ended and the day his struggle began.

---

Brink Lowe walked down one of the many back alleyways in Velvidyne whistling a cheerful tune. News of the attack had already reached the king. According to an associate of his, the guards were going berserk and forcing everyone to remain indoors. It seemed a curfew had been put in place. Brink had already seen the effects first hand. He had just been to one of the now almost empty main streets.

“You know, there’s saying all the smart people know that goes something like this,” he said aloud to no one. “Nothing goes on in this city without Brink Lowe knowing about it. Hell nothing goes on in Arabi without Brink Lowe knowing about it. But-,” he stopped.

A shadow darted out of the darkness bearing a dagger and headed straight for Brink. The dagger appeared to go into Brink, but he jumped back brandishing his own dagger.

“Why the long face?” Brink asked.

The shadow looked confused. They did not notice Brink make any move to pull out a weapon. It was as if the dagger had appeared out of nowhere. Furthermore, it was made out of ice.

“People like you and me are living in such exciting times. For instance, I’m the man who knows everything, and yet…” A mischievous smile appeared on his face. . “I don’t know why you’ve come to this city, Nasera Xaz, but I intend to find out. I get the feeling you’re here for more than killing, if you catch my drift.”

SamuraiChameleon
08-21-2011, 12:48 AM
All right, I've the next chapter done for a while now, but I can't post it for some reason. After messing around on the site, I think the problem is that the post is too long, which doesn't make sense since I had no problem with any of my other posts. I'll keep trying to get it to work, but for now I don't know what I'm gonna do.

Rio
08-21-2011, 06:45 PM
Testing...

[UPDATE]
It works for me. There is a limit to how much you can post. It's not set by this site itself but by the guys who run the servers where this site is hosted. Try posting what you have in smaller batches. Maybe that will allow you post your work.

SamuraiChameleon
08-21-2011, 08:51 PM
Thanks. I was actually thinking of trying that, but it sounded like a pain in the ass, but it looks like I might have to.

All right.

It's been a while, but I have a new chapter done. I'd like to say that the next one will be up soon, but I just can't make that kind of claim with school starting up. However, I promise I won't let this die. I know there probably aren't that many of you that follow this, but there's just no way all 290 views came from 290 different people. For those that care, do me a favor and keep checking back every now and then. Also, on another note, this chapter brings the story to over 100 pages!

Chapter 11: “Prison rumble: The Banes brothers fight like the siblings they are” Part 1
Dawn crept over the land and poked its head through the barred windows of Verlassen’s cells. Cyrus Irvine felt its warm glow fall on him. He could feel the contrast between it and the cold hard bricks of the floor he lay on. It had almost been a week since he had been captured and thrown in that cell along with Ryxor Borx, Drex Kozen, Hughes Banes, and Auras Thompson who joined him not long after.

The treatment they received from Vanen’s men was barbaric in every sense of the word. In their time at Verlassen so far, they had been given minimal food and water. They were beaten often and kicked around at every opportunity.

And yet, somehow Cyrus kept his strength for the day that it would be needed. He knew that day would come sooner or later. He wasn’t the only one. Ryxor and the rest managed to do the same. They all knew there would soon come a time when they would no longer have to face brutal treatment at the hands of the enemy. There were all hardened men who weren’t going to give up.

Like a genie granting their wish, that time had come. Cyrus woke up lying on the floor in the early morning hours. He knew immediately that something had happened. His captors had kept him chained to the wall. As his eyes opened completely and all traces of sleep dispersed from his vision, his attention focused on the cell door that stood open.

He looked over his fellow prisoners who were still asleep. They too were unchained and lying on the floor. He reached for Auras, the person closest to him, and shook him awake. His eyes opened and he was about to say something when Cyrus motioned for him to stay quiet.

The two of them crept out of their cell and ignored the others. They moved quietly through the surrounding area with Cyrus in the lead. Everywhere they checked, Vanen’s men were dead. Someone had been busy last night. By the time they returned to their cells, Ryxor, Drex, and Hughes had already woken up.

“How the hell did you do this, Cyrus?” Ryxor asked upon seeing them come back.

“I didn’t do anything,” he said.

“Someone must have freed us when we were sleeping last night,” said Auras. “Whoever it was dealt with the guards too.”

“Someone? Who? Anyone capable of doing this doesn’t even know where here,” Drex said.

“Not to mention they just left us here,” Hughes said. “Don’t you think they’d have taken us with them if they were on our side?”

“And that begs the question how the hell they friggin’ did it without waking us.”

“Why they left us here is of no concern to us at the moment. We can’t say for sure they’re our friend, but they’re definitely Vanen’s enemy. There’s no way they would have freed us if they weren’t. What matters most right now is that we’re free. Cyrus, you seem to know the layout of this place.”

Cyrus shook his head in agreement. “Affirmative.”

“We need to get our hands on some weapons. I’m guessing this place has an armory. After that, we look for General Rivers and bug out. I think we’ve seen enough to confirm that Agaron is backing Vanen. We need to get this information to General Ruaidhri as soon as possible.”

The group of five made their way through the prison camp with Cyrus leading the way. He opened a door into a desolate courtyard area. Their lengthy morning shadows stretched out to dirt, blood, and bodies. None of them were strangers to corpses having each made some themselves, but the gruesome sight still made their stomachs churn. There was even one body that had been impaled on a dead tree. Some people got used to sights like the one before them, but it almost never got easier.

After crossing the courtyard and going through another door, they found themselves blocked by a locked door. Unfortunately, the room that lay beyond was the armory and the weapons they sought.

“Hey Ryxor, why don’t you see if you can use your energy again,” Drex suggested after they gave the room a thorough search for anything useful.

“I don’t think that’s going to work,” Auras said. “If the cells we were in were somehow energy proofed, then this room probably is too along with the rest of the prison.”

“It’s worth a shot,” Ryxor said. There was a trace of weariness in his voice. He too had his doubts, but that weariness was coming from another source. He placed his hand in front of the lock and focused his energy to that point. The lock began to glow red hot. Flames popped up as it turned to molten liquid and slipped away from its spot on the door and fell to the ground. The door was now unlocked albeit burnt and smoldering where the padlock used to be. The feat was no cause for celebration however. The others could see that his face was strained. His breathing had also quickened.

“What’s wrong?” Cyrus asked.

“I feel like I just ran a mile,” he said.

“Could this be an effect of the prison?” Auras asked.

“Let’s not forget we’ve been nearly deprived of food, water, and everything else for the past week,” Drex said.

“He’s got a point. That kind of stuff tends to drain away someone’s strength,” Hughes added.

“Yeah, you guys are probably right,” Ryxor said. “I just hope we don’t run into anymore locks. I don’t think I have that much energy left to spare.” There was something else bothering him. As Cyrus opened the door to the armory, he pondered why he could use his energy now and not when he was in his cell. It was another mystery he’d have to shelf for now just like the identity of the person or group behind their escape. He just hoped he’d be able to dust them off sooner rather than later.

There was another door on the other side of the room. To their dismay, the armory initially appeared empty except for a handful of rusted swords and bows. It wasn’t after they opened a moldy old chest tucked away in a corner of the room and found all of their gear that their hope was restored.

“How old is this place anyway? Who the hell uses a bow and arrows anymore now that we have guns?” Drex asked why examining his weapon. Surprisingly, it was still in good condition.

“I’m not sure,” Cyrus said. “I imagine General Griffin would know or perhaps his father.”

“Who is his father?” Hughes asked while checking out his guns. To his dismay, there was no ammo to be found.

“Magnus Griffin.”

“And who is that?” Even without the question, the puzzled look he wore gave away his lack of knowledge.

“King Magnus Griffin of Agaron.” Ryxor said it in a way that suggested it was name he should have known, and it really was.

“You really…” Auras trailed off. His attention was focused elsewhere. The others noticed it as well. Before anyone had time to speculate on what Hughes had done during his history lessons at the academy, Drex brought up a barrier that blocked an oncoming shotgun blast from the open door way they came from.

Outside in the courtyard, Eric Banes held one of his double-barrel shotguns out and fired another shot. By now it was too late and his targets had cleared the doorway. Drex could still feel the strain of using his energy when he pressed himself up against the wall.

“It’s no fun when you hide!” They heard Eric shout from outside. He cracked open his shotgun and put in two more shells.

Hughes rummaged through his clothing and pulled out four revolver bullets he had managed to hide on him the whole time.

“I’ll deal with this,” he said. “You guys go on ahead through the other door and find Rivers. I’ll meet up with you when I’m finished here.”

“Are you sure?” Ryxor asked.

“He’s only one person. Have a little faith in me.”

Ryxor didn’t want to leave him behind alone and probably shouldn’t have, but he knew who was out there. Hughes wasn’t going to back down from this battle and he wanted to do it alone. He sensed that much in the tone of his voice. The thing that persuaded Ryxor to make the call wasn’t what was spoken though. He knew he would never be able to look the man in the eye again if he kept him from doing this.

“Just don’t get yourself killed,” he said at last. “Everyone else, move out. Cyrus, take point again.”

“Yes sir.” Cyrus had only known Hughes for a short time and he didn’t know what was going on, but he could sense that the person out there was someone important in his life. He reached for the other door, which to his surprise wasn’t locked. They left Hughes alone in the armory to fight his brother.

He set his empty rifle aside. It was down to his revolver, which wasn’t even fully loaded. Slowly and cautiously, he poked his head around the corner to catch a glimpse of Eric. He reared his head back inside as a shotgun blast flew by where it was a second earlier, but he had seen enough. Eric appeared to have only one double-barrel on him and furthermore he was injured. Hughes wasn’t the only one at a disadvantage.

“Come on brother, I know it’s just you in there now. Come out and play like old times. I’m in a really bad mood and I think you might be able to help out.”

---

The previous night at Verlassen, Eric Banes was in the warden’s office when the chaos started. Vanen had already left for Velvidyne along with most of the men they had gathered. Only a handful remained behind with Eric. Something was wrong, something was off. He could sense it. The tension was almost palpable.

“What the hell are you doing? Get back to work,” one guard called out to another. The other stood facing the tree in the courtyard with his fly down.

“Shut up will ya? Can’t a guy take a piss in peace around here?”

“You should have done this when you were off duty. This is just being careless.”

“Whoa, listen to you. I don’t recall you ever getting a promotion Mr. High-and-Mighty. Last I checked you had no authority over me.” The guard finished up with his business and turned to face his friend only to find that he was alone.

“Hey, where’d you go?” There was no answer. The guard’s first response was to draw his sword, but he stopped with his hand on the sheath. He let down his guard, a mistake that cost him his life. Then again, it may have simply caused him to die faster.

“Ha. Trying to tell me how to do my job when you’re the one playing games with me.”

At that moment, a shadowy figure appeared at his side. It reached for the hand on the sword and twisted it around, breaking his wrist. The guard, unaware of what had happened yet, yelled out in pain. Then the figure drew the sword and stabbed it through him and into the tree. It slipped away as silently as it had came as the guard made his last breath.

The shadow made its way through Verlassen’s corridors slaughtering anyone who came across its path. It stopped in front of what it was looking for: the prison cells containing Ryxor Borx and the others. It noticed that there was one more person there than was expected in the other cell. It reached for the lock to the cell and opened it almost effortlessly even without a key, and walked over to Cyrus who was beginning to stir awake. He looked at the unknown figure before him through drowsy eyes.

“Who are you?” he asked in a whisper. “Did King Arabi send you to rescue us?”

The figure placed a hand on Cyrus’ head.

“Go back to sleep,” the shadow muttered. Before Cyrus knew what hit him, he began to feel overwhelmed with the sense to fall asleep. He did just that before long. After making sure he was truly asleep, the figure undid the chains that bound him to the wall. He then proceeded to do the same for the others, and then left the way he came. There was one more matter he had to settle before leaving the prison: Eric Banes.

The shadow was backtracking through the courtyard when his target stepped out from behind the tree.

“You know, I thought something stunk tonight,” Eric said.

“Eric Banes. My master has ordered that I take your life as well as the life of Vanen Travis. You are no longer acting in his interest. Furthermore, he suspects that you have not been doing so for some time now.”

“Yeah, yeah, I don’t give a damn what your master thinks.”

“Is there anything you have to say for you actions?” he asked, ignoring Eric.

“You just can’t take a hint can ya? Man, if Den were here, he’d have fried your ass already. At least I was generous enough to give you time to say your last words!”

Eric drew his weapon of choice, a sawn-off shotgun, took aim, and fired, shattering the silence of the night that had been on the verge of disappearing for some time now. His opponent dodged the blast with lightning speed. Before Eric knew what had happened, he had his sword drawn and was moving into to attack. He fired his second shot, which he also dodged with little to no effort.

“Did that really just happen?” Eric questioned in disbelief. “Tell me that didn’t just happen! You did not just dodge both shots!”

Eric managed to dodge the elusive figure’s first attack by a hair’s width, and brought up his empty shotgun to block the next. The sword connected with his gun. At first it appeared that he was successful in blocking the attack, but then the sword cut through the gun and into his shoulder. Eric jumped back and put his hand over his injured shoulder. Raw anger mixed with the pain on his face.

“Perhaps now you see how foolish you were to ever think of challenging us,” the man said.

“You think you can win that easily!?” Eric gritted his teeth and stood up. “I’m not some chump you can spit on and then walk away from.” He formed his empty hand into a fist and squeezed until the knuckle turned white. “Bring the pain jackass!” Let’s see if you can dodge this.

His opponent charged him, but rather than ready himself to defend against an attack, he stood there letting himself remain open. He sensed that something was off, but perhaps he didn’t care. Perhaps he thought that he was superior to this man in every way and completely disregarded any possible threat from him.

He thrust his sword through Eric’s chest. Blood spilled out of his smiling mouth and by then it was too late for his assailant to do anything. Eric brought his second shotgun up to his chest and squeezed the trigger. The full force of the point-blank shot ripped through his torso and sent blood and guts flying out the other side. He flew back several feet from Eric and landed in a heap on the ground.

Eric fell where he stood, his condition better off by not very much. He dropped his remaining shotgun and gripped the sword in his chest with both hands and braced himself for what was to come. He pulled it out in one try and coughed up more blood in the process. He quickly placed his hand over the hole in his chest and sealed it closed

I’m no good at this crap, but I at least know enough to keep me from bleeding out. He knew he needed proper medical attention. Unfortunately, he also knew there was none to be found. What was left of the joke of an infirmary the prison had would not nearly be enough.

“What are you doing? Why don’t you finish me?” His assailant stirred, somehow still alive. Eric turned his attention in the direction of his voice. He made a notable effort to stop himself from grabbing his discarded shotgun and wasting that second shot on a man he knew was already dying.

“I’m not the merciful type, especially when it comes to assholes like you. Humor me and die slowly and painfully, would ya?”

Eric forced himself up and walked slowly and carefully away from the dying man to scrounge up whatever medical supplies he could. They had brought a medic with them to Verlassen, but Eric wagered the person whose guts he just blew out had already killed them.

---

During the time it took Eric to reload his shotgun, Hughes moved out of the armory and into the room he was previously in. Eric fired another shot as he dived for cover next to the door. Unlike Eric who seemed to be pulling ammo out of his ass, Hughes had a very limited supply. He had to be selective with his shots and accuracy was of the utmost importance.

“Is this the best you can do? This cat and mouse crap pisses me off!” Eric yelled, his attention seemingly focused on the open doorway.

Hughes looked to his right and up to the window on the wall just above his head. He needed a way to flank him, and he knew it was probably his only way. He crawled over, trying to keep his head down. He got up when he reached it only to find a loaded gun trained on his head. He ducked down as another shot destroyed the window and barely missed him. Hughes had had enough close calls. Lucky for him, Eric had just fired his second shot.

He dived through the window prepared to fire, but there was no one there. His eyes moved back and forth as he quickly scanned the courtyard. The only place Eric could have ran off to was behind the dead tree. It certainly had a wide enough birth to hide a person.

SamuraiChameleon
08-21-2011, 09:20 PM
Chapter 11: "Prison rumble: The Banes brothers fight like the siblings they are" Part 2
Hughes approached with caution, but then Eric wheeled around from the other side, shotgun reloaded, confirming his theory. Hughes was the first to fire missing Eric, but he ended up hitting the shotgun causing him to drop hit. Hughes fired another shot in quick succession. Eric took cover behind the tree again and the bullet bit into its wood.

Forsaking caution, Hughes broke into a sprint and converged on the tree. He realized the mistake of doing that too late though as Eric grabbed the revolver and punched Hughes in the face with his good arm. He fell back, relinquishing his grip on the gun.

Hughes struck his hand through the earth and tossed a handful of dirt into Eric’s face. He fired off a shot in desperation, missing wildly. As he brushed the dirt out of his face, Hughes lunged for the shotgun and whirled around to face his brother. The next shot rang throughout the courtyard and seemed to go on forever.

---

Cyrus, Ryxor, Drex, and Auras burst into the empty warden’s office ready for a fight, but they were only greeted with dead silence.

“Damn it all!” Ryxor yelled. “He’s not here either.” The “he” he was referring to was General Rivers. They needed to get back to Arabi as soon as possible, but they couldn’t leave without him. So far, their urgent search had proved fruitless.

“Calm down,” Auras said. “We need to think. Where haven’t we checked yet?” They all turned to Cyrus who knew the most about the prison. He was their only chance of finding the general, but every place he remembered and suggested turned out to be wrong. So far they had checked every cell block, the maximum security area, and now the warden’s office as well as every other random hole they found in-between. They were starting to get desperate.

“There’s no where we haven’t checked,” Cyrus said. He felt bad for letting everyone down and it showed on him. “We’ve checked everywhere the general could be. At least, we’ve checked all the logical places.”

“Well then maybe we’re gonna have to go through the illogical ones now,” Drex said.

Ryxor looked as if the imaginary light bulb in his head just went on. “Hold it. Do we even know he’s still here? We got left behind, but we shouldn’t just assume that Rivers did to. We still don’t know who freed us or their motive for doing it.”

The others looked disappointed. Not because of the situation there were in, but because of themselves. None of them had questioned it yet. It was indeed a very good possibility that General Rivers was no longer at Verlassen.

“We have no way of knowing, do we?” Auras asked, the first to respond. “He could still be locked away somewhere here or he could have been moved days ago.”

“So, what’s the next move, sir?” Drex added the “sir” on sarcastically. “We can’t turn this whole place upside down.”

“I’m certain now,” Ryxor said. “There’s no way Vanen would let us run around like this searching for him. Vanen probably bugged out of here before the attack and he has Rivers with him.”

“You really got a complex for that guy, you know? For all we know, he’s dead too. His men sure as hell got screwed in the ass.”

“Use your head for once. How many bodies have we seen so far? Do you really think that was all Vanen had going for him? None of them were wearing the Agaron uniform either. It’s likely Vanen already moved out and took Rivers along with most of his men.”

Drex had to admit. He had a good a point. “Fine then. I’m not the one taking the blame though if we come back and find his skeleton tied up in some random place we didn’t check.” For all his complaining, Drex was actually relieved that he wouldn’t have to run around continuing the search.

Cyrus still didn’t look totally convinced. “I hope your right. We can’t afford to lose him.”

“Alright that leaves one more question,” Ryxor said. “Where the hell has he ran off to?” Suddenly, it donned on him like a ton of bricks. Judging by the expression on the other’s faces, they had reached the same conclusion.

“Are you thinking what I’m thinking?” Auras asked.

“That Vanen’s finally making his move and plans to assault Velvidyne? Yeah that’s exactly what I’m thinking.”

---

A young Eric Banes waited in the underbrush of a forest, rifle in hand. He was absolute still and made not even the slightest noise. Finally, he sighted his pray. A deer came walking by. He made sure his rifle was loaded and ready for the fiftieth time and took aim at the deer slow and decisively.

A shot was fired and the deer dropped dead. However, no smoke came out of the barrel of his rifle. He had not felt the kick from the recoil. The shot had not been his. Hughes walked out of his own hiding spot to collect his prize. He was soon joined by their father who was ecstatic over his son’s accomplishment.

Eric stayed where he was and watched the scene unfold in disappointment and silent anger. He changed targets and aimed at his brother.

You did it again. I don’t even exist in their eyes. It’s always about you. You damn well deserve this.

He felt the tension build up as he steadied himself for the shot. His finger lay on the trigger and all he had to do was squeeze. But, he took his finger off and lowered the gun. He couldn’t bring himself to go through with it. At last, he stood up and walked over to the deer.

“Ah, there you are Eric,” his dad said. “Look.” He gestured to the dead deer. “Hughes did it again.” He saw the sullen look on his son’s face. “Don’t worry about it. You’ll get one next time,” he said trying to bring up his spirits. Eric feigned a fake smile that paled in comparison to Hughes’.

Hunting wasn’t the only thing his brother surpassed him in. Generally, he bet him in anything involving guns and marksmanship. As much as he hated to admit it, Hughes was real prodigy when it came to that stuff.

Eric challenged Hughes to competitions in very much the same way Ryxor did with Vanen. Sure he won some of them, but Hughes dominated for the most part. He took every chance he could get to try and upstage the star of their family. When the time came, he signed up for the military academy without hesitation.

---

Eric felt his grip loosen up and fade with the rest of his strength. He dropped the revolver and fell to the ground. It took a few moments before what had happened hit Hughes.

“Eric!” He tossed the shotgun aside and ran over to his brother.

I didn’t want this. Sure we didn’t get along, but god knows I didn’t want this!

He held up Eric’s head in his arms. He coughed up blood as he tried to say something.

“Don’t speak. Don’t do anything, just save you strength.” His life flashed before his eyes even though he wasn’t the one dying. He found his moments with Eric seemed to jump out the most. His searched his scattered mind for an answer. Something. Anything at all that could save his brother.

“Ryxor! Drex! Where the hell are you? You guys know energy. Do something, please!” He set Eric’s head down as gently as he could, afraid that it would crack if he was too rough with it. He turned to go find them. It was the only thing he could think of. When he got up to leave however, Eric reached out and grabbed his arm.

“Don’t.” It took a considerable amount of his remaining strength to speak even that one word. Hughes froze. He wanted to get help, but something stopped him from moving. He kneeled back down by his brother’s side.

“Damn it. Why? Why goddamn it!? What was it all for? What the hell were you thinking!?”

Eric thought about what he would say. He thought long and hard. He wanted to tell Hughes it was his fault everything turned out this way, but he couldn’t. He knew deep down that it was his fault. In the beginning it was stupid notions of jealousy. They eventually gave way to hate as they festered in his mind.

He coughed up more blood. “Sorry,” he managed to say. Even know, he felt pathetic saying it. He knew it had to be done though. He had to make peace with his brother before it was too late.

He felt something wet hit his face and then another. He realized that they were tears. He wondered why he wasn’t crying as well. He couldn’t feel one single tear build up in his eyes. The thought unsettled him more than he cared to admit.

Hughes felt the grip give way and then drop altogether. At the same time, Eric’s ragged breathing stopped. He put his hand over Eric’s eyes and closed them. It wasn’t just because it was the proper thing to do. He didn’t think he could look into them one second longer.