Ignis Hirundus, more commonly known as the “Fire Swallower”, is a type of flower found on the island of Kebakaran. As its name suggests, this unique plant absorbs fire and lava to grow. First starting out as a large pod, it needs copious amounts of fire and lava to emerge from its shell. Once it does, it blooms into a flower with white petals that have red flame-like edgings. It is quite common for dwellers of Kebakaran to place these unique flora on the outside of their fields; protecting their crops and homes from a potential disaster. The long stigmas that stick out glow brightly in the night; giving the onlooker a sight to behold. This plant can grow as large as a house and has a unique defense mechanism. Merely touching this plant will burn the individual. Pursuing further will cause the flower to spit up fire or, in extreme cases, lava. If you see this flower out in the wild, it is best not to touch.
More commonly known as the Mind Controller mushroom, this bright blue glowing fungus grows naturally in the land of Floresta in the region known as Bosque. Creatures foolish enough to try and harm this fungus will find their minds going hazy. By approaching the mushroom with any kind of intent to harm it, the blue fungus will release a cloud of spores. When inhaled, it is able to control the minds of its victims. Usually, the attacker is ordered to march blindly in one direction until the effects wear off. On occasion, the mushroom will cause the subject to attack itself or even in extreme cases, kill itself. It is interesting to note that if given the right nutrients and environment, this unique fungus will form an attachment with another creature.
(I have decided to show more of my book to all you lovely people. With this, you will be able to see more of the world of Magitotum. ATTENTION: THIS POST REVEALS SPOILERS OF PREVIOUS POSTS. I HIGHLY SUGGEST YOU LOOK AT THE POST, SCARS AND SCALES, BEFORE READING THIS PART. THE LINK IS LOCATED HERE: https://kcjhutchins.com/2018/06/08/scars-and-scales/ )
A Trip Underground
Xerxes awoke from his slumber to find himself on a shore. “Oh, my head. What smells like wet dog?” He looked to his left and saw Wolfgang perched in his werewolf form looking at him with his big green eyes. The dragon jumped back a bit before remembering what happened. “Where did the rest of the tribe go?” The black-haired werewolf did not respond but simply glared at him. “I know being silent is your thing, but you are starting to freak me out here bud. Can you tell me what happened?”
Wolfgang powered down to his human form before speaking. “The Pass of Discidium causes those who pass through to fight with their companions. I cannot figure out for the life of me why we were not affected. I was looking at you with my wolf eyes to see if there was an aura or spell that protected you which would be like mine. But I have found nothing that we both share in that aspect.”
“The wolves all seemed to start to speak their minds about the plan. Before all of them did not say a word about the decision to take on the missions that Pelzgrauen assigned them. Maybe it was because we were being honest with each other about what our thoughts were on the voyage. Somehow we avoided the enchantment by already telling what bothered us.” Observed Xerxes.
Wolfgang nodded before looking out at the sea. A distant bright light could be seen. “You know Wolfgang you still have not answered my question. Where is the tribe?”
The wolf turned to Xerxes and answered, “They pressed on with their voyage. I guided them in the right direction between the island of Kebakaran and the region of Orario.”
“I was wondering what that light was on the water. So that is the island of fire then huh? The home of all fire breathing dragons, the Matahari. A lot brighter than I thought it would be.” Remarked Xerxes.
“What do you mean? I thought as an Omni you would have visited most if not all the regions the dragons held. Not to mention you used that form so many times thus far in our battles.” Questioned Wolfgang.
“Unfortunately, no. They kept me back specifically inside our lands for two reasons. One, they felt as if I was one of their strongest warriors thus they wanted to make sure their borders were secured.”
“Well that is one thing the Omnis had right.” Sarcastically stated Wolfgang.
The dragon thought for a moment before replying, “I do not know if I should be offended or happy about that comment. The second reason was they thought I would be, in their words, corrupted by the other species.”
“What do you mean corrupted?” Asked the werewolf.
The dragon explained, “The supposed royal king was trying to make only his will to be knowledge. We were taught that we were superior to all and that all were to bow down before us. The other dragons were mere flies to be swatted away. We knew all and therefore did not need to learn anything from the others. However, some of us disagreed.”
“Yourself included I am guessing.” Half asked Wolfgang.
“You know me too well.” Smiled Xerxes. “My brother and I both would sneak out of Omnetotus to meet with other races, to learn from them. We understood their plights, movements, thoughts, and even got to taste a lot of their wonderful food. I can still taste the grilled mango, chicken, and pineapple wrapped in banana leaves the Madeira would make for us.”
“Those are quite good.” Added Wolfgang who was remembering the taste upon his lips.
“So why did we split off from the pack and more importantly, where are we?” Asked Xerxes.
“We split off from them because, as much as I do not want to admit it, you are right. We need to be a group of different races, not just the Omni and werewolves. They will get the wrong impression that way and may think we want things back the old way. As to where we are, I am sure if you looked around you could tell.” The dragon snorted at the werewolf a puff of smoke before looking behind him.
In front of Xerxes was a large valley that ran between two mountain ranges. The valley was made of grey slated rock that cragged up and down the landscape. Even the shore they were standing was made of the same stone. On top of many of the rocks, grassy moss and trees sprang up giving the valley a splash of green. A great river flowed from a mountain at the end of the gorge to the middle of basin where a waterfall crashed into the lake below. Around it, a ring of tall pine trees lined the banks. The forest spread from there, blanketing the middle of the valley of pines, spruces, and firs. The rest of the gorge was filled with loose grey rock that a few seemed to move. The mountains surrounding the basin were of the same color with snow covering those further to the North.
Thinking back to his memory, the dragon remembered this land. “This is Petram, the land of stone. The Racconto, also known as stone dragons, live here along with the dwarves.” Mechanically stated the Omni.
“That is right except you forgot one other thing. There are more than just the dwarves and Racconto here. Stonewall and his army claim their land to be here as well. They are underlings of the witch after all.” Informed Wolfgang.
The dragon agreed, “Good point. If I remember right, the Racconto are at the mountain at the end of the gorge. We should get going before we are spotted by someone.”
Night fell over the valley as the two made their way over the loose rock. They neared the edge of the forest when Wolfgang stopped them. “You think the two rocks behind us will follow in there?” Whispered the werewolf.
“I do not know honestly. They have been following us for a while. I cannot tell if they are Racconto or one of Stonewall’s men from here. I would need a closer look, but that could risk…” Before he could finish his warning, a small rock shot past them and splintered a tree in front of them. A tall stone man stood on top of the hill behind them. He was at least seven feet high and had a chiseled figure. His face was broad and scarred with his nose sharp at the tip. He was bold as rock goes except for beads of stones that went down from his chin, which they assumed to be a beard. His left arm was robotic all the way up to his shoulder. It was made of black cast iron with red veins that glowed almost magically. In his right hand he held, a rifle that looked like it was made of combination of diamond and osmium. At the butt of the gun were two metal teeth hinges that spread out in a ravenous hunger. The figure brought the back down and the hinges clamped down onto the ground. It was chewed up by the contraption and the figure put the gun back on his shoulder. He fired at their feet which made a small crater to form and for dust to kick up into the air. The two were blinded for a moment but could hear the figure order his men, “Surround them and cut off their escape. They ain’t allowed to get away.”
Xerxes was the first to recover and see what was heading towards them. The men made of stone were thundering towards them, making the very ground shake from their steps. Their faces contained big eyes, square noses, and small mouths. Soon their run turned into rolling as they attempted to get behind the pair and cut them off from the forest. The dragon turned into his Matahari form and flew them over the golems in their way. While over the forest, a shot rang out. Xerxes had been hit at the top of his left wing. The Omni shivered at the injury as it had broken bad enough for bone to pierce through the skin. The dragon fell to the forest while carrying Wolfgang who had finally gotten his sight back in his right eye.
“I did not want to open my eyes to this.” Said the son of Moonclaw as they hit the ground. He got up right away and noticed that Xerxes was not recovering. He pushed the dragon to get up. “Come on Xerxes we need to keep moving or we will be captured.”
“I can’t move much. That shot had a bite to it and it is hard to move my shoulder without having to stop. I need it healed or I could lose my wing and a fair amount of blood to go with it.” Growled the dragon through gritted teeth. Regrettably, Wolfgang knew he was right and got to work quickly on it. Using a vial of Silbermond, he began to work on the injury. The sounds of rolling rock were approaching fast. He had to hurry or this whole quest was going to end here and now. Suddenly the ground beneath him shook and the two fell through the hole. Dazed, the werewolf looked up and was astonished to see that the hole had been filled already. Looking to his right, their stood a man. He stood at four feet tall carrying a hammer across his shoulder. The black head of it had a curved end with a sharp tip while the other was like a mallet. The figure wore boots of brown leather with armor that shined brilliant colors. It seemed to be made of red scales that covered the breast plate and the back while the shoulder blades were made of iron laced with diamonds. The gauntlets were made of chrome and showed visible circuits of different colors. Around his waist he wore a belt that had several leather packs with the buckle bore the symbol of a hammer. His pants were made of scales that were thinner and blue in color. Looking at the figure’s face, he could see that his dirty blonde hair was full of bits of rocks and dirt, his beard was short, and had eyes that were steely blue in color.
“This way now!” The figure said. Wolfgang nodded and lifted Xerxes arm around his back. With the support, the dragon walked with them following the figure. As they ran on, they could hear that the enemy was no longer near them. The stranger stopped in front of them in a cavern. As they entered, they could see it was filled with beautiful gems and crystals of ruby, sapphire, emerald, and even a few diamonds.
The stranger finally spoke again. “That was close. Welcome my friends, my name is Sindri. You are now under the land of Petram, where the dwarfs dwell. We call this under realm Skapejuvel. Who are you?”
Wolfgang was going to answer until he heard the groans coming from Xerxes. “I will tell you if you can give me a space to heal him. He is seriously injured and needs medical attention.” Sindri stooped down and grabbed the dragon’s other arm and led them down a cavern full of sparkling opal gems. The brilliant colors filled the room blinding the werewolf. He heard stones move as a passage way formed in front of them, seeming to carve itself out. They carried on as the tunnel behind them sealed itself. The werewolf was amazed when he saw that they stood in a room flooded with moonlight. All around on the cavern room floors and walls were moonstones that reflected the pale light of the moon that poured in from a hole in the ceiling.
“You need the moon light, right? This is the best place for this.” Informed Sindri. They laid the dragon on his belly as the werewolf began to work.
After several minutes of procedure, Xerxes eyes opened slowly seeing only pale light at first. “Am I dead yet?”
Wolfgang chuckled a little before saying, “No not yet. It is much too early for you to leave us.”
“Too bad, then I would not have to listen to your sarcasm anymore.” The dragon smiled as he got himself up noticing that Sindri was still there. “Sindri correct? Thank you for leading us away from that battle. If it was not for you, I might have lost my wing back there.”
“Don’t thank me yet Omni. The king will not be happy that I helped a member of your kind. Although I could sneak you out of here without them noticing you.” Sternly said the dwarf.
“Well time to see if you are a descendent of Omnes. Cause diplomacy is going to be your problem.” Joked Wolfgang.
“Thanks for the support fur ball. Alright, I request an audience with the king then. I do not want to hide or offend the great king of Skapejuvel.” Sindri was shocked by the words coming out of the dragon’s mouth. None had requested an audience with their king for years, let alone said that they did not want to offend him. Never the less, the dwarf bowed and led them down a corridor that opened into a great hall.
The huge throne room was a cavern that had pillars leading to the throne. Each pillar was made of a different gem, six in total. The gems were ruby, sapphire, emerald, topaz, amethyst, and peridot. The walls had lines of gold, diamond, and silver that ran down to the throne which was made of the blue gem of lapis lazuli with a pink Thulite gem carved out into the emblem of the dwarves, the hammer they had seen on Sindri’s belt, on the top of the great seat. There sitting on the chair was a dwarf whose grey beard trailed down and around his throne. His armor was made of simple iron and steel that seemed to be clunky in nature. He wore metal boots that clanked with every shift in his movement. On his head, he wore a crown made of black onyx intertwined with four jewels of Thulite. His face was rough, with a big nose, and his dark purple eyes looked deep in thought. The king looked up from his hands and saw the three approaching. Immediately he motioned his hands to his two guards standing next to them. They both raised their axes and stood at an attack position. Sindri took a step back in instinct before bowing down.
With one arm across his chest in a fist, Xerxes stepped forward and bowed. “Great King, my name is Xerxes, descendent of Omnes. I seek to speak with you in peace. Please if you could refrain your guards from trying to show hostility towards us.”
The king looked at him straight in the eyes before speaking slowly, “Words are what breeds conflict. The tongue is a sword that all creatures are free to use. They cut each other down leaving only destruction in their path. Especially in your path filth.” Wolfgang was growling behind the dragon and was about to speak when they heard a voice.
“My king, but isn’t it also true that words can heal and instill change? One person’s voice has the ability to influence courage in others, to rise forward, to transform that which may be wrong.” Spoke back Sindri.
“Then that change may be worse than where it began. Not all change is good, most is only an illusion to mask the old tortures we once knew.” Replied the old king.
“But not all my lord. Some change is a progressive step for a better future. Those moments given are the ones we must take the opportunity to make a better world unless we stay in a ruined past.” Argued Sindri.
The old king stroked his beard several times thinking hard on what the younger dwarf had said. With another movement of his hands, the guards lowered their weapons. Xerxes stood up and looked at the king while Wolfgang unclenched his fists. Sindri stood forward next to the dragon.
The older dwarf then spoke, “You are lucky, Omni, that you have the support of one of our kin. Speak now reptile of why you came here.”
The dragon approached the throne and spoke, “King of the dwarves, I come before you to say that I am sorry. My people did terrible acts that caused the very poison of this land. When they wanted your metals, they took them by force. Many of your people were massacred and for that I am sorry. I do not wish further death and ruin to them.”
The king looked surprised at the words coming from the dragon’s lips. He spoke, “This could not be the only reason that you have come to this land for… no you seek something, power perhaps?” Xerxes knew that the old dwarf was looking for a reason to be mad. Only the truth will smooth this over, he thought.
The reptile spoke, “We found you on pure accident when brave Sindri saved us from the army of Stonewall. Thanks to him I did not lose one of my wings along with the healing of my friend Wolfgang. At first, my intentions when coming here was to recruit both you and the Racconto to join with me against Delsey. But as I was led through these tunnels I was seeing images of dwarfs burnt alive and cave-ins that trapped others to their doom with no oxygen. The one memory that made me forget asking was walking into this throne room. I saw with my eyes the reminder of how they killed your son and wife in front of you, helpless to do anything from a rock that had trapped you under. I cannot ask of you to do anything for me when you have suffered so greatly at the devilish hands of my people. With this, I will take my leave of your kingdom and leave you to defend it. Know this though wise king, if there is anything that you need of me, only ask and I will be here to help in whatever way I can.”
With that Xerxes turned to leave the throne room when he was stopped by the king’s voice. “Stop.” The dragon looked around to see the old dwarf with a tear in his eye. He spoke again, “I have one problem that I need help with. This throne has been enchanted by Delsey herself. It has made me refined to it for the rest of my life and lengthened my beard. The only times I get to walk free is when they come to get metal or need repairs. It is blackmail to make sure we do not rise against them.” The dragon looked toward Wolfgang who came forward and inspected the throne.
“What do you feel keeps you down if you try to get up?” Questioned the werewolf.
“It feels as though gravity keeps me down on my throne like a great stone is on my shoulders.” Inspecting the throne, only a little while longer, Wolfgang sniffed and glared at every inch of it. After circling around the king enough times to make anyone dizzy, he stopped for a moment. He opened one of his pouches on his belt and pulled out a pale powder. He sprinkled it around the throne and onto the beard that surrounded the seat. With a blow, he spread the rest on the king before cutting off the old dwarf’s beard. He quickly pulled the short creature off and placed him standing on the floor.
The old king stood on his two feet once again. The dwarfs bowed down recognizing that their king had risen again. One of his guards grabbed an iron hammer that was leaning against a nearby wall. It had a spike that stuck out of the end of the handle while the back end of the head curved much like a scythe. The weapon was easily the size of the king as he picked it up with pride. A smirk appeared on his face as he spun it above his head before setting it down by the handle onto the floor and leaned on the head of the weapon.
With a deep breath in and out he said, “That was something I have wanted to do for, so long. Thank you Wolfgang, honorable son of the Moonclaw tribe.” The werewolf simply bowed slightly to acknowledge the compliment. “Now back to the Omni. You recognized several things the rest of your people did not Xerxes.” Observed the old king.
“And what would that be great dwarf king?” Questioned the dragon.
“Compassion, loyalty, and even with all the power you possess, you still need help. You showed me that comradery and humbleness are more important than personal pride or power. Because of my own blindness, I was stuck to that throne due to not asking for help outside of my own people. I only allowed myself to drown in my grief and have permitted a greater threat to afflict my kingdom. I will help you in what you seek Xerxes since you have helped me. Sindri, I would also like to congratulate you as well. You showed me that even a wise king needs to listen to others. With this, I appoint you as the next king of Skapejuvel after I am gone. When that day comes, I know that our people will see a brighter future. Now let us feast!” Laughed the king as he led them to a corridor down the right side of the throne.
As they walked into the banquet hall, Xerxes could see that hanging from the ceiling were stalactites that glowed like fire above the tables. The walls were aligned with torches that lit up the room further and showed off the dwarves’ craftsmanship of stones. Three long wood tables were in the hall with many seats on either side. Each had thrones that stood at the ends of each table. The king sat at the one in the middle that was ornamented with gold, silver, and bronze that entwined the arms to the ground. The other two remained empty, the one on the king’s left made only of pink Thulite and the one on his right was made of black onyx. He looked sadly at the two seats before the dwarfs of Skapejuvel yelled, “Hail King Alfrigg!”
The king smiled and motioned for all to sit. “May we always remember the day that the honorable Omni Xerxes, his companion of Moonclaw Wolfgang, and the wisest of us all Sindri brought us out of despair. To their health and that they may free Magitotum!”
“To freedom!” the hall rang out.
The three sat on the right in front of King Alfrigg and began to discuss Xerxes’ plan of liberation. “Smart, other than the problem of how many different creatures you have to befriend. Not to mention that most of them hate your guts and that all of Delsey’s forces are looking for you.” Remarked Sindri.
“That is almost exactly what I said.” Smugly added Wolfgang.
“Ok I got it I got it. It is a difficult road ahead, but my plan has the best shot of succeeding. If we work together we could pull this off. And wait a minute. Weren’t you the one that gave that inspiring speech to the king about how we must ‘take the next bold steps toward the future?’” The dwarf shrugged before drinking more mead from his mug.
“I guess then I should go with you. After all you are going to need all the help you can get, your words do not exactly ring out as inspirational.” Bluntly stated Sindri.
“We would be honored if you joined us. Now enough business, let’s enjoy this victory while it lasts.” Mused Xerxes while raising his mug.
“I can drink to that.” Resounded Wolfgang as he raised his glass and drank the rest of his mead. The halls filled with laughter that night as the dwarfs took new steps towards freedom.
A History Lesson
The morning came as Xerxes awoke in a corner in the banquet hall. He had a minor headache from the partying and looked around the room. Most of the dwarfs were still passed out on top of the tables or on the floor. One of the tables had been smashed into two and the king’s hammer somehow had been lodged into the ceiling. Wolfgang was in his werewolf form and laid on his side. Sindri slept with his head resting on the fur ball’s stomach. The dragon chuckled and realized he was still in his Matahari form. He looked around and could see that he may have scorched some of the walls. Further laughter came from his throat as he tried to remember the night before.
The dragon noticed that the king was not in the hall. Xerxes powered down to his human self and headed towards the throne room. The throne was still empty with the beard decaying as it leaked dull, yellow magic. He saw the king leaning against the towering emerald pillar in the throne room, looking at his reflection.
“Emerald, the stone of balance and patience. My people built this towering gem for it is also believed that it can promote peaceful dreams. Always they followed me blindly and never lost faith even when my judgement was clouded. A leader is supposed to inspire greatness in others; but in truth there are times that a leader must rely on those who follow him for strength. Never forget that Xerxes.” Wisely counseled Alfrigg as he turned to the dragon.
Xerxes bowed while responding, “I will not great king. I do have to ask, where should we precede to get to the Mount Storia, the home of the Raccontos? There seems to be only one way to get across that mountain, which would be to go through the Plains of Nocciolo. By now, the armies of Stonewall must have gotten through the forest to there and formed a perimeter around the mountain. There has to be a way around the plains.”
The king replied, “The army would not go through the forest, they will go over the mountain pass on the east side of Petram. Their bodies and weapons are to massive to fit through the gaps between trees. Thus, I advise you that in the forest, there is a cave that leads to the mountain you seek. There is a catch though. We dwarves have no idea where this entrance is. The Raccontos have kept it hidden for many generations and have not shared its location with any. You will have to find it on your own. Safe travels and may you find strength in both you and those around you.” The dragon bowed and left the hall.
Xerxes, Wolfgang, and Sindri left the kingdom of Skapejuvel from a cave that led into the forest. As they walked down the trail, Wolfgang raised a question to Sindri. “I noticed that your armor is very different from the rest of the dwarfs. Most wore a simple mix of iron and steel plate armor but yours seem to incorporate dragon scales. Why is that?”
Sindri replied. “As you know, dwarves are master craftsmen. However, when the king was deep in his grieving, most of the dwarfs dedicated their work to fixing Alfrigg, becoming masters in enchanted items such as the pillars you saw in the king’s hall. When that did not work, they began losing the love of their work. I, however, continued to make and improve my armor. I incorporated Matahari scales in the breast plate and most of my armor to increase the strength and resistance to fire. The scales of the Kikorangi, the water dragons, on the lower half of my armor are to give flexibility and better motion in case I fall in water. These gauntlets are made of a chrome like substance named Melior. It is a metal that absorbs whatever I choose to improve its strength. For example, I chose to capture electricity in my gauntlets along with some robotic tech. It gives me the option to stun opponents that get too close. It also-”
Xerxes then angerly interjected. “How did you get the dragon scales and the Melior? That metal was only developed by the Jiqeeran and the last time I checked they were far away from Petram let alone Skapejuvel.”
Sindri could see that the dragon’s pupils had turned into lines. “I was gifted the metal by the Jiqeeran for repairing a few of their dragons that had crashed here. The scales were given to me by the Matahari and Kikorangi for fixing some of their fortresses’ defenses such as ballistae and mines.” This seemed to satisfy the dragon whose eyes went back to normal.
The three made it to the lake in the middle of the forest. They searched around for both Stonewall’s men and the cave that Alfrigg spoke of. After thoroughly searching they gave up and decided to take a dip in the lake. Xerxes and Wolfgang jumped into the lake, causing poor Sindri to get soaked. He walked annoyed into the water after stripping his armor with a deep scowl. The other two laughed hard seeing that the dwarf was already soaked. The three waded in the water before speaking.
“What if we cannot find the cave? Seriously, my people have combed through this forest thousands of times and never found even a hint. What hope do we have of finding it?” Spoke a disheartened Sindri.
“Patience Sindri. Your people are strong willed and wise, but they did not have one thing.” Stated Xerxes.
“Which is?” Questioned the dwarf.
“They did not have a werewolf with them.” He patted Wolfgang on the back.
Wolfgang informed the dwarf, “I picked up a scent like Stonewall’s when we exited the cave. However, it had faint traces of sulfur that accompanied the stone smell. According to Xerxes, the Racconto can spew lava from their back stubs, so I figured that the sulfur smell must be coming from them.”
The group got out of the lake and went to dry off. Sindri finished first followed by Xerxes, but they soon were wet again when Wolfgang shook all the water off his body. He then perched on one of the boulders by the lake that was filled with moss. The other two scowled at the werewolf as they went to dry themselves off again.
Suddenly, a voice spoke loudly, “What smells like wet dog?” The rock under Wolfgang began to rumble and move. The wolf jumped off and watched as the moss slid off to reveal a Racconto. The dragon was made of gray stone that had carvings across its rocky hide. It stood with his body being a bit bulky in the gut area and its wings being small enough to cling into its body. His arms were strong looking as thick as its legs that dug into the ground. Its tail had a club at the end which looked like it could knock out any creature. Stubs protruded from its back that seemed to have set the moss on fire. The dragon looked at the group with its brown eyes carefully and noticed the Omni.
“You are supposed to be extinct. How did you survive?” Excitedly questioned the Racconto.
Xerxes looked at the other two with him and said. “It’s kind of a long story, and we are in a hurry.”
The stone dragon looked at the Omni and stated, “I guess I will not show you the secret way to the mountain then.”
The three froze as they looked at the creature. This Racconto had been listening to everything they said and now was taunting them. “Here is the deal. You tell me how you survived Delsey’s massacre, and I will guide you to Mount Storia. We have a deal, no?” The three nodded as the dragon cannonballed into the lake; getting the company wet once again. He made his way to the waterfall that crashed upon the lake below. With a stomp, a stone slab could be heard moving down. The group looked behind the waterfall to see that a tunnel had been revealed.
Xerxes slapped his hand on his face, “Seriously? The behind the waterfall trick. How did none of us think of that?”
The Racconto got out of the water and introduced himself, “My name is Fabrizio, and this is the path that you have been searching for. Please, follow me.”
As the company made their way through the tunnel, Xerxes spun his tale of how Delsey kept him as a pet, the tribe of Moonclaw rescue, and freeing of the dwarf king Alfrigg.
“I have a lot of carving to do later.” Commented Fabrizio.
“I was going to ask about that. What are those carvings for?” Asked Wolfgang.
“Each Racconto is an expert of some part of history. Whether it be about dragons or other races, we are the keepers of the past so to speak. Mine for example is about the Omnis. I thought that the tale had meet its end. Apparently, there is going to be a lot more to come.” Replied gleefully the dragon. They continued down the path until they could see light up ahead. As they passed through, they could now behold Mount Storia. The tunnel had opened to the main road of the mountain. Along the street were huge boulders that had been carved out by the Raccontos. On the insides, they could see great carvings of dragons, sea serpents, and other races as they passed each home. As they traveled further up the cobblestone road, they could see the brown brick library that stood at the top of the hill. Walls enclosed the top of the mountain and had several lookout towers that watched the plains. The library stood above all with a tower pointed above with a tin top. The tower had a spiral of brown, gray, black, and white stones that led to the uppermost part of the building. Below the tower, the main part of the library had white marble pillars that stood tall with ornamentations influences of Ionian, Corinthian, and Doric scattered every other.
The grand doors were made of Redwood as they entered the inner part of the library. In front of them, were shelves upon shelves of books that curved all along the walls of the library, making a maze of information. The ceiling had further carvings of stories of the past. At the middle of the place, was a desk that stood behind it a Racconto who had fallen asleep with a book over his face. Across his skin was the letter z carved several times upon his body. Some etchings of dragons in night caps along with what seemed like a desert were found on his stomach. Fabrizio cleared his throat and the other dragon fell to the floor making a very loud audible thump. In unison, they heard an audible “Shhhh!” from around the library.
“I think that the ‘Shh’ was louder than the thump the dragon made.” Whispered Wolfgang. Sindri nodded in agreement.
The Racconto stood up and brushed himself, responding, “What do you want Fabrizio? Can’t you see I am trying to catch some zees?”
“Never you mind Pigroc. Just let the dean know that we are coming to see him.” The other stone dragon shook his head and sent a capsule with a piece of paper inside it up a tube that shot to the upper floors. Fabrizio bowed before continuing up a flight of stairs that had white marble banisters. As soon as the group was out of view, they heard a loud thump come from the hall.
On the second floor, was an array of artifacts pulled from different parts of Magitotum history. Among them included but not limited to; a robotic arm from the Tech War, the treaty of the Conflict of Elemental and Metaphysical Forces, and a ring that Merlin wore during the Wizard’s War. In a far-off corner behind one glass container, was a small golden medallion of a cat’s face with elongated ears. Its eyes glowed green as Sindri seem to move closer and closer to the object. Fabrizio noticed this and smacked the dwarf in the back of the head.
“The Amulet of Tawala. It allows the wearer to control anyone who looks at it directly, among other abilities. We recovered it after the fall of the Pharaoh Tandaa. The mad man attempted to control all Hadithi following the Wizard’s War. He was stopped by an alliance formed between the genies, the people of the region of Uchawi, and some rogue sorcerers from Mendaxum. They decided it was best to leave the former rulers body with his people in the region of Kunyoosha, but the medallion they needed to be sent as far away as possible. They asked us to store it here and we were happy to oblige. A piece of history is always welcomed here.” Informed Fabrizio. He continued to another set of stairs. This was a large stone spiral staircase that went from the middle of the second floor among the artifacts to the upper tower. As they climbed the stairs, they looked out to see the mountains that were topped with snow.
After many steps, they finally arrived at the top floor. Inside of this tower, sat, on a seat made of blue topaz, the dean. He was an older Racconto who was made of gneiss rock and was larger than any other rock dragon they had seen so far. Its carvings filled the entirety of its body ranging from the top of his skull to its tail. Unlike the others, the stubs on its back also spread to its arms. His wings were large and had points at the end of them. The dragon held in his right hand a book which he was reading with a pair of small glasses that lay on the end of its snout. He looked over his spectacles with his brown eyes and smiled at the Omni. Putting his book down, he opened his arms to the young dragon. Xerxes gave a tough glare at the older creature, crossing his arms. The two stared at each other until they both broke out laughing. The others in the room were confused as to why the two were acting so strangely. Xerxes leapt toward the older Racconto and gave him a hug.
“It is so good to see you again Uncle Dante.” Proclaimed Xerxes. The older dragon spoke with strong voice that seemed to shake the very room.
“My little nephew. I was so worried about you. I heard what happened and thought I lost you.” The dragon gave a tighter squeeze while smiling, his clubbed tail moved up and down much like a dog, causing the room to shake.
“Excuse me for breaking up the love fest, but how are you two related?” Spoke up Wolfgang.
The Omni looked at his uncle and asked, “Shall you tell them, or shall I?”
“It is your heritage, not mine dear nephew.” Replied Dante.
Xerxes looked at the confused onlookers and explained. “An Omni chooses one mate for life. Now normally the races never mix, but on few occasions, they do and create something wonderful. Usually when dragon races mix, they create a new race like when a Matahari and Kikorangi mate and their offspring are either Matahari, Kikorangi, or Racconto. Well Omnis are different from this pattern. When the mate is chosen from any dragon race, it becomes an Omni. My mother was a Racconto that my father fell in love with when studying at this very library. It was before the “king” and “queen” made the rule of not straying from the homeland. After the stupid rule came about, Uncle Dante would sneak in to come visit me to teach me about all the other creatures in this realm. I do not know how he pulled it off since he is such a loud mouth, that and his size, but I was grateful for the teachings he gave me.” Xerxes smiled back and gave his uncle another hug.
Sindri looked at the rather large dragon and noticed that like the other dragons, he too had etchings over his body depicting different picture. However, his were carving themselves as they spoke. The dwarf asked curiously, “Dante how are your etchings carving themselves?”
The dragon smiled at the curious young dwarf. “When you are around as long as I have you pick up a few tricks. The enchantment carves the knowledge I learn as I hear it. My subject being that of the Racconto people. So understandably new carvings are being made when something note-worthy in this kingdom comes along. The return of my nephew being one of them. However, that is not the only thing.” Said Dante with a concerned look outside.
“Uncle what is…?” Xerxes looked outside as he saw the army of Stonewall approaching. Many stone warriors were marching their way with cannons rolling in. Some rode on stone horses that galloped with such force that the earth seemed to shake. The horses had a horn that sprouted forward from their heads and a smaller one that was on the crest of their noses. Their tails were long like whips with spiked rock balls at the ends. They snorted dust that covered most of the army, but one did not need to see them to hear or feel them. The tower they stood in shook with every approaching second.
“What are we waiting for? We should be charging out to meet them on the plains. That way there will only be minimal damage to the mountain and the people.” Said Wolfgang aloud.
Dante responded, “They are not close enough yet. The advantage of being heavy is that we have the momentum to roll down this mountain strong enough to level buildings and flatten tanks. At this distance we would lose that strength just before hitting them.”
“You are not looking hard enough. They have cannons and guns that can shoot from that distance. They do not need to get any closer than where they stand now. We need to attack now…” Before finishing a compressed boulder blasted through the tower, collapsing the room they stood in. Quickly Dante grabbed Sindri and Wolfgang before he curled up into a boulder as Fabrizio did the same. Xerxes quickly changed to a Racconto and followed his uncle’s lead.
Everyone inside the building had gotten out safely before the it turned to rubble. When they realized that their guests and leader were missing, they began to search through the ruins. The inhabitants of Mount Storia removed the rubble to see if they were alright. First, they found their dean and tapped on his hard skin twice. The Racconto grunted before he uncurled, revealing that Sindri and Wolfgang were fine. Fabrizio was also found unharmed from the damage caused by the golem army just outside the city. Ironically, Pigroc had slept through the whole ordeal and was unhappy being woken up from his peaceful nap. Xerxes erupted from the rubble before he was found and revealed his Racconto form. This form was made of gray granite stone while the stubs on his back were spiked and, much like his uncle, ran down the length of his arms. The end of his tail was rounded with a spear like tip that seemed to be dipped in diamonds. He looked towards the others and was relieved that they were unscathed.
“Uncle we need to fight back. Your tactics are strong but unfortunately, we do not have the opportunity to enact them. We are going to have to face them head on. Your mountain only allows one point of access to the field and the momentum you create rolling down will make it so that you will be unharmed to any incoming projectiles.” Quickly reasoned Xerxes.
Dante nodded back and rallied his men to the top of the mountain. They were ready to roll off when Sindri spoke up with an idea. “What if we could outflank them? If we could somehow force them to move closer to the mountain, Dante’s tactic would work and take out most of the army in the plains without casualties to our side.”
“We can do one better. While we distract the army, and lure them closer to Mount Storia, we could take out those cannons.” Added Wolfgang.
“Probably should take care of their catapults too.” Said Xerxes.
“What catapults?” Asked the werewolf. The Omni simply pointed to the sky to see rocks being hurled on to the mountain. The boulders flying at the mountain caused parts of the Raccontos’ homes to collapse and wreckage to layer the street. Dante looked alarmed and immediately leapt up onto one of the boulders that was lying in the side of the mountain. It sprang to life revealing one of Stonewall’s men. Dante pounced on top of the soldier and growled at the foe. The soldier attempted to punch the dragon in the face. To his surprise, the dean did not flinch from the attack, and the stone warrior’s hand crumbled to pebbles. The man was wide eyed before the reptile slammed his body into him, crushing the golem underfoot.
Dante shouted boldly to his men. “We must defend our homes great scholars. Inspect every boulder that lands on this mountain and shoot any that you can out of the sky.” A group of Raccontos lined up into ranks and shot stones from their mouths that decimated the projectiles coming towards their homes.
Xerxes turned to Sindri and asked, “What’s the plan then short stack?”
The dwarf scowled at him before answering. “Follow me.” With that, he turned his hammer around and began to dig into the ground. The dwarf seemed to have super speed as he made a tunnel that seemed to go on and on. Wolfgang and Xerxes followed him as the short man burrowed through the earth.
Suddenly their digger stopped beneath what looked like hooks. “I would guess that this is what the cannons used to stay put while firing. The enemy is right above us. Are you ready?” Without a word, the Omni broke out from the ground underneath the cannon, smashing it to bits. The stone soldiers were shocked as Xerxes in his Racconto form blasted rocks in every direction, annihilating the troops. Sindri headed towards the other cannons, crushing them with his hammer. Meanwhile, Wolfgang charged forward to the catapults. He was inches away from the first one until he was stopped by a stone shot from a familiar figure. Stonewall looked down on the werewolf who was still in his human form.
The general spoke in a mocking tone, “You are dang insulting me. I admire opponents who show me their best, not give up so easily like you done.”
“I am not giving up, you are just not worth my best.” Retorted Wolfgang. This angered the stone general who punched down onto the ground with his cast iron arm. This sent a shock wave through the ground that made it crumble and shake. Wolfgang jumped into the air onto a nearby soldier’s head. He began to jump head to head before side kicking toward the general. The older creature blocked with his iron arm, and knocked the young one away. With confidence, the boulder man charged forward with his shoulder. Wolfgang dove underneath hitting his legs, causing the old general to fall face first into the ground. Smirking, the werewolf headed back to the catapults. Reaching them, he knocked each over which caused some of the soldiers to be taken out as well. As he went for the last one, he heard a familiar sound. He quickly dodged to his right and saw as a pebble shot destroyed the last catapult.
“That takes care of that. Thanks, Stonewall, you really are one competent general.” The young werewolf said sarcastically as he ran towards Mount Storia.
Enraged the general ordered his armies to, “Pursue that mutt!” They charged across the plain inching closer to the Raccontos’ homeland. Xerxes was pleased to see this, but something seemed off. He looked towards the hole they had entered and noticed that some of the soldiers had started to jump down it.
“Good move general good move.” Thought Xerxes to himself. He dove headfirst into the hole turning into his watery Kikorangi form. Flooding the tunnel, he drove the soldiers out like a geyser through both openings. The Omni emerged from the entrance of the tunnel on Mount Storia. He looked around and saw that the Raccontos have routed the enemy to the foot of the mountain. Looking across the plains, he could also see that Sindri and Wolfgang were leading the army to the same place. The stone dragons began to gather at the top of their home, ready to roll down and flatten the army approaching.
“Nephew come join us. It will be an honor to fight beside with family once again.” Dante smiled at Xerxes. The young dragon returned the gesture and stood beside his uncle.
Stonewall could feel the ground shake below him and looked towards the mountain. Wolfgang and Sindri climbed onto two boulders at the entrance and smirked at the stone general. The old man squinted and saw to his horror rocks sliding at them at high speed. He ordered his men to shoot at the incoming enemies, but their shots bounced off the bodies of the Raccontos. They tore through ranks upon ranks of the golem army. Dante headed straight for Stonewall who dropped his gun and was ready to punch with his iron arm. The older Racconto unrolled and charged forward ready to match fist for fist. Two fists collided and surprising to both, neither seemed to be damaged from the others attack.
“Interesting ain’t it? Reckon it was lucky that I lost my arm fighting you Union dogs. That doctor is a wonder giving me this thing.” He held up the cast iron arm, astonished at the strength.
Dante questioned him, “Union? What are you talking about?”
Stonewall responded, “They said y’all would say that. I may have been unconscious for a little over one hundred years but I ain’t stupid.”
Xerxes interjected, “That is a matter of debate. You just lost about half of your army, yet you have not ordered a retreat. Sounds more like a foolish move to me.”
The general thought on this stroking his beard then responded, “You may be right. Thanks kid, I was letting my pride cloud my judgement. Troops it is time to retreat! Cavalry charge forward to cover the escape then follow!” Stonewall climbed onto a nearby horse and galloped off to the mountain range to the east.
Four stone horses, with their horns pointed forward, stampeded straight for Dante. Xerxes leapt into action in Racconto form and shot rocks from his mouth that were aimed at the feet of the incoming enemy. He managed to shoot two down, but the others were coming in fast. Spewing lava from his back, the young dragon was able to melt one of two who made it through the blasts. The last of the four however was able to pierce into Dante’s chest. In rage, the young dragon pulverized the beast. Once he was through, only the horn wedged in his uncle’s chest. The old dragon began to fall back, but was caught by his nephew. Xerxes cried out to Wolfgang who heard his pleas from across the plain. Quickly, he ran across the battlefield seeing the upsetting development. With haste, he pulled out a bottle of paste-like substance. He removed the horn slowly before filling the wound with the contents of the bottle. It glowed faintly but not enough to take full effect. Wolfgang sighed before turning into his werewolf form, then unleashed a beam of moon energy directly to the wound. Instantly, the paste became solid, Dante breathed in loudly, and smiled at Xerxes with a thumb up. The young dragon hugged his uncle before thanking Wolfgang who had powered down to his human form. They escorted the older dragon up the mountain while Stonewall watched from afar, smiling at his success.
A Moon Light Walk
The Raccontos began rebuilding after the Battle of Nocciolo. In the Pietrateca where they first met; Dante, Wolfgang and Xerxes sat down with the old dragon as he recovered in the rubbles of the once great building. The Racconto was telling them tales of the old days, including a few embarrassing stories about the Omni as a kid.
“I remember when he was just learning how to fly. He was so anxious to do so that he ignored almost everything we ever told him. At first, he could take-off quite easy but staying in the air and landing were different. There were many times when we found his head stuck in the ground with his legs flailing about.” The werewolf laughed at the story while Xerxes just glared at him. Dante began another story, “Then there was potty training- “
“Ok how about no more stories. Rather not give Wolfgang anymore ammunition for him to make fun of me later.” Interjected Xerxes. The werewolf shrugged while the older dragon chuckled. Sindri ran into the room, breathing heavily.
“What’s wrong Sindri?” Xerxes asked. The dwarf put up his pointer finger, telling them to wait a moment while catching his breath.
After breathing in and out several times, he composed himself and said, “Oh nothing, I just had to go retrieve someone that might be able to reinforce this place and help with repairs.” Before anyone could ask who, King Alfrigg strode in with his hands behind his back.
Dante smiled and spoke with glee in his voice, “My old friend so good to see you again. It has been far too long.”
Alfrigg smiled back and responded, “Yes it has my friend. I was kind of held up so to say, but now I am able to visit far more often thanks to Wolfgang.” The werewolf looked to the side with his hands in his pockets.
Dante chimed in, “This is ironic Alfrigg. The only reason I am living and breathing right now is thanks to Wolfgang’s healing as well.” They both looked at the werewolf who glanced back at them.
He responded, “It is the work of any son of the Moonclaw tribe to help those in need.”
As Dante and Alfrigg reminisced with stories to one another, Xerxes and company huddled together talking on what to do next. “We should rest and stay here for the night. The battle was intense for all of us and we need to recover to continue on our journey.” Spoke the dwarf first.
“No, we travel to Staude tonight.” Coldly replied the werewolf.
Sindri commented, “Are you nuts? We just exhausted ourselves fighting that last battle, and you want to go through the mountain ranges that Stonewall occupies?”
“Speak for yourself dwarf. I did not even break a sweat last battle, plus my power doubles at night.” Shot back Wolfgang.
Xerxes spoke up, “Wolfgang if we go over the mountains, not only do we have to climb over them; we would have to be on guard for Stonewall’s men. Right now, we do not have the capacity to take on that whole army by ourselves.”
Wolfgang shook his head and responded, “We do not have to climb over the mountains. Remember when we first landed here Xerxes?” The Omni nodded. “Well while you were unconscious I looked around and found a pass that led straight to Staude. If we use that path, we could avoid climbing through the mountain range. As for Stonewall, his army is too busy recovering from the battle to cover that route. Plus, we already proved that we are faster than his army.” Sindri and Xerxes analyzed the idea. The Omni thought to himself that it was a good plan, but what if Stonewall had a battalion there guarding it at all times. After debating back and forth with the idea in his head, the young dragon agreed. Sindri still was skeptical but agreed that the plan made sense.
Xerxes walked up to his uncle who was chatting happily with the dwarf king. Clearing his throat, the young dragon grabbed the attention of both elderly creatures.
His uncle smiled sadly and said, “Time to head off already?” The Omni nodded looking down at his feet. Dante walked up to him and put his hand upon the young dragon’s shoulder. “Do not worry my nephew, we will see each other again; I am sure of that.” Xerxes hugged the older Racconto once more then headed off with his company down Mount Storia.
Alfrigg spoke aloud to Dante, “You know that you cannot guarantee that my friend? With Stonewall irritated, he is likely to reroute his forces to more heavily attack our home now.”
“Well then my friend isn’t it good that I have you then?” Responded the Racconto. Alfrigg nodded with a smile. “Besides you met those three, I have faith that they will be able to restore all our lands to their former glory and give us the peace we all have been fighting for.” The dwarf king nodded and began to stroke his beard thinking of the task that lay ahead of them.
“You know Wolfgang when I agreed to your plan I did not realize I would be flying the both of you on my back all the way across Petram.” Growled Xerxes as they flew over the stone covered land. Sindri looked toward Wolfgang and noticed a considerable change from his previous behavior. The werewolf had his arms spread; breathing in the flowing wind with a smile spread wide across his face as the moon shined down on them. Wolfgang could feel eyes on him and looked back at the dwarf. The two locked eyes staring at each other.
Suddenly the werewolf spoke out, “What? Do I have something in my hair?” Wolfgang shook his hair around as he stared back at the short creature.
Sindri finally responded, “You seem different than how you were earlier.” The son of Moonclaw tilted his head to the side in confusion. “What I mean is that earlier you seemed agitated.” Xerxes snorted hearing the statement. “I meant MORE agitated than usual. Instead of treating us as equals, as per how you usually act; you treated us like pups while you played alpha wolf. My apologies for the analogy but it is the best way to describe your behavior.”
The werewolf sighed before answering, “Being a werewolf, there is the constant battle of allowing the beast within to roam free. The more I use the wolf form, the more aggression and sense of chaos I feel. It will boil over to when I am in my human form and cause me to lose a sense of who I am. Therefore, I only rely on it in dire circumstances.” The dwarf nodded and kept quiet as they approached the shore line.
The three looked toward the shore seeing the shining island of Kebakaran still burning bright. Wolfgang led them towards the pass he had seen in the mountains along the shore line. Nearing the place, Sindri noticed that the cliffs on the left were high and were perfect for anyone to jump them. He held onto his hammer firmly as they went through the pass. The three stayed silent as they marched through the path. Suddenly, Wolfgang stopped them in their tracks. He turned around and asked Sindri for his hammer. The dwarf shrugged and tentatively gave the wolf the weapon. In a flash, the son of Moonclaw leapt upward to the ledge and smashed what seemed to be a stone soldier.
The werewolf returned to the other two and said, “We got company.” Xerxes immediately turned into his Matahari form and burned a fire into the air. Over the cliffs came a battalion of twenty soldiers and the familiar cast iron armed general, Stonewall.
The commander laughed while saying, “Foolish varmints. I knew you would travel this way. I saw y’all go into Skapejuvel then go to Mount Storia. It seems to me that y’all are trying to form an army, probably to combat Delsey. That means you are going to need a grand armies’ worth of troops to combat her. Which you would need to go from land to land to accomplish this. You would not dare go through the mountains because I would reckon it would take time away from you, which it seems you do not have a lot of. This pass is the quickest way, and after I observed from you werewolf, you are a bit tentative to use your werewolf form huh? What’s the matter? Not able to control the beast? Reckon if I agitated you enough, you might even go off on your friends. Only the smart win wars folks. A lesson you are going to learn now.” With that statement, Stonewall’s men began firing at the three. Quickly, Xerxes changed forms to Racconto as he plunged his claw into the ground, summoning forth a wall of rock to protect them. Sindri jumped over the protection and began batting back the rock bullets toward the enemies; taking down each one by one with ease. The agitated general ready his gun and aimed it at the dwarf. He fired and landed his mark on the dwarf’s left shoulder. Sindri dropped his guard, as his left arm was broken, and shots clanged against his armor.
With a growl, Wolfgang transformed and leapt over the barrier. His fur was a blur, as he cut down soldiers left and right with incredible speed. All whom was left was the general. With his mouth drooling, Wolfgang rampaged toward the general who began to panic. Swinging his fist, he landed a punch on the savage beast. The wolf simple chuckled as he sliced the rock arm and two legs of the general off. With one bit of strength the general launched himself with his iron arm toward the cliffs frantically pulling himself away.
The werewolf was about to pounce after him until he was stopped with Xerxes voice. “Stop Wolfgang! I think some of the bullets pierced his armor. Sindri needs medical attention.”
“But I could end that know it all general right here and now.” Barked back Wolfgang.
“At the cost of a friend? Come on fur ball I know that is not what you want.” Responded Xerxes with a glare. The beast glared back in silence for what seemed like an eternity with no response.
Finally, the wolf shook his head and said, “You are right.” Powering down he continued to say, “Get him within the light of the moon. I still have some Silbermond I can use on him.” The Omni carried his friend to a stone slab that was bathed in moonlight. They removed his armor and found that he had indeed been pierced by several bullets. The son of Moonclaw poured the potion over the wounds and watched as the liquid began to glow with the pale light of the moon.
Sindri gasped and began to speak, “Remind me never to do that again.” The other two chuckled as they helped him sit up.
Wolfgang wrapped the broken arm in several large, purple, oval shaped rainforest leaves that had white veins running through them. With a grey piece of linen, he made a sling for the arm to rest on.
The werewolf diagnosed his patient, “The leaf is called Hinblatt. It helps strengthen broken bones. I give it a week of full exposure to the moon and it should be healed by then. In the mean time we must make sure that you do not get too injured again. By the way, how come your armor did not protect you from the blast?”
“The old man got a lucky shot in, a gap in one part of my armor. I have not found a suitable under shirt to provide basic protection for incoming fire like that. He somehow had found that out and made the shots.” Responded Sindri.
Xerxes spoke up, “He was analyzing us on the battlefield. The whole assault on Mount Storia was just a way for him to know how we fight and where we leave openings. He is trying to get into our heads and figure out how we think. We might have underestimated the old man. For now, we need to keep moving.” The other two agreed and treaded down the path.
Finally, out of the passage, they saw in front of them a dense forest. The trees were mixed of two different types. The first were glowing black bark Weeping Willows with purple shining leaves and vines that showered down to the ground. The others were radiant white barked ash trees whose leaves outshined their counterparts. Xerxes looked around confused at the development of the forest. He had been here before, but these trees did not coexist together before. They had always separated the forest in the middle, one being of the light trees and the other the dark. “What has changed?” He pondered in his head. As they gazed upon the forest they noticed a figure headed towards the edge of the coast cliff. They could tell that it was a female elf by the dress that outlined her figure and draped down, reflecting the pale light of the moon. Her white hair hung down to halfway down her back. Wolfgang looked closer and noticed that the cloth seemed baggier and not comfortable. The elf seemed to clutch onto her chest as she looked towards the sea and then spread her arms. Without even a thought, Wolfgang launched forward in werewolf form. The elf was going to jump and judging by the clothes she was wearing, drown. She had already begun to the jump by the time the werewolf got halfway to her. Increasing his speed, he finally caught her within inches of the water below. She seemed heavier than she looked, and he could feel why. The elf had tied iron weights to her hips to ensure she would drown. Looking at her face, he saw that her ears that pointed up were black in color as were her lips up to her nose. The rest of her face was a glowing white with her eyes having a green hint to them. He felt a twinge hit his heart, it could have been that or the fact that the elf was punching him repeatedly in the chest.
She kept screaming, “Let me die! Let me die! Let me die!” Wolfgang climbed with her in his arms up the cliff getting to the top. Sindri and Xerxes looked at the wolf shocked and were about to speak before the werewolf stopped them.
“I have to calm her down. Go on ahead and find the rulers of this land. They are going to want their princess back.” The son of Moonclaw said calmly.
“How do you know she is royalty?” Questioned Xerxes.
“Look at her necklace.” They looked and saw that a jewel glowed bright around her neck. It was a moonstone shaped as a tree; the sign of the royal family. Xerxes and Sindri set off immediately into the forest to find the family while Wolfgang stayed to talk to the elf.
In the kingdom of Berne, it came to past that the only daughter of the noble King Iomair came of age to claim her birthright. Preparations were made while the father and his daughter, who had locks of gold, met in secret to discuss the trials that lay ahead of her.
“This trial will not be easy my child.” Stated the king cautiously. “Not even I can know the details of the perils that await you. It is decided by the people who have placed their trust for you to rule as their future queen. In this way, you will have an unwavering faith from those you have sworn to protect. That does not mean that they will go easy on you. I have been told that they even enlisted the help of some of our high priests to ensure that you are thoroughly tested. Take heart my dear Goldilocks and know that I support you from afar.”
“I will my father and I will make you proud. There is nothing that will deter me from achieving that which I have trained for all my life. No more words for now, let me go forth to prove my worth to the people that will follow me.” Eagerly responded Goldilocks.
The man moved to the side as he followed his confident daughter out the door, feeling nothing but pride. They were met with cheers as the royal duo paraded down the streets to a great maze. The two looked at wonder at the greenery that stood before them. Not even the night before did this stand where it grew now. It was clear to the royalty that the people wanted to ensure their future.
As they stood flabbergasted, a priestess dressed in a white dress approached them. Upon her head she wore a ring of flowers and a golden belt carved with knots that sat around her waist. Across her skin were painted marks that faintly glowed.
She addressed them, “Hail King Iomair and his daughter Princess Goldilocks. I sincerely hope that you succeed today your highness. Allow me to explain the rules of this trial. You can bring within the maze a sword, shield, flint, hammer, wrappings, and a pot. There are three trials you must overcome before seeing the end. Only then will you be allowed to exit the maze, otherwise the vines will keep you closed in. Here are you supplies, now venture forth and may you find victory!”
Goldilocks nodded before raising her fist to her people. A cry of support came from them as they watched their princess cross the threshold and into her trial. As the priestess said, the vines closed the entrance behind her while the warrior shrugged at the mist that creeped and darkened her view. She feared not what lie ahead of her. Carefully, she followed the winding ways until coming to a clearing. To her surprise, she found stuck on top of a high tower a full size adult bear. It growled and snarled at the intruder but had no means to reach her. Vainly, it pawed at her from the edge of its platform before reeling back in fear of falling from such a height. The princess smirked at the ferocious creature before passing the tower. She only stopped when she heard a whining coming from behind her. Hopelessness was beset in the creature’s eyes as she felt a pang of pity hit her heart. Looking around, she found rubbles of wood and nails scattered about. One nail after another she constructed a great staircase to reach the beast. At first, the princess put her shield up and sword pointed at the bear. She was certain the creature would attack her at first sight, but she was soon surprised as the bruin walked gently towards her and nuzzled into her neck. Patting the great animal on the head she continued her journey, followed closely by the male bear.
Together the duo moved ever down past what seemed like miles of vine until again they came to a clearing. This time their lay in the middle of the plain a female bear. It slowly began to arise only to fall in a faint. A growl emanated from the creature but not from its mouth. The poor bear had been starved to the point of exhaustion. In her mind, the princess ridiculed the treatment her people had given the creatures as she pulled out her pot. Growing close by were stalks of wheat of which Goldilocks broke down to grains. Next, she went to a nearby pool of water and filled the pot. A mixture began to brew as she threw the grain in with the boiling water and spurtled the meal. To finish, she picked from her armor bits of sea salt that had fallen off the salted pork she had eaten earlier in the day. Once the food was ready, she placed the pot in front of the great female. With what seemed like gratitude, the bear gobbled down the meal spilling it everywhere. It was only mere moments before it got back on its feet and cuddled into the male bear. A sweet sight even for the abrasive princess. The creature duo began crying out into the open ear and then listened. Curious, Goldilocks listened too as she could hear a faint cry. It seemed the bear couple had heard it too for they barreled through the walls of the maze. Closely following behind, the warrior could hardly keep up. Finally, the two in front of her stopped and gave a sad sound. There in a bed was a cub with two of its legs broken by human hands. The parents watched over snuggled into their cub as they tried to comfort their offspring. An anger whirled inside the warrior, someone was going to pay for this when the trial had ended. Grabbing the bandages and ripping two legs from the bed, she made a support cast for the young creature. It seemed to help as it stumbled onto its feet and leaned on its parents. The warrior smiled seeing the three together as she continued onward, followed closely by her three new friends.
Only an oak tree lay in front of the groups escape toward beams of light. They made their way toward the exit before the land began to shake. The tree came to life as it swatted its limbs at the intruders. Fearing for the cub, the warrior caused her new friends to retreat behind a nearby wall of the maze. Over and over in her head she tried to think of a way to get around the creature but could not find an option. At last she cried to the gods to help her against this new foe. Her prayer was answered as a beam of light shone in front of her. The bears bowed at her coming as the goddess Artio stood before them. Quickly, the princess followed suit but was brought to her feet by the deity.
“Arise my child. You have not faltered yet in this trial; so why should you start now? I have chosen you to teach a lesson to the mortals of this realm to respect nature; something they sorely lack. This I know you can achieve for you are my daughter through the King Iomair, who kept it secret to protect you from harm and prodigious. With these, you will not only be able to communicate with these great creatures, but instantly heal any of their injuries. These are called the Wheat of Leigheas and any leftover you will be able to grow more of, but only by your own hands. Now go, claim your birthright so that you may impart my will against these mortals.”
Quickly, the warrior gave some wheat to each of the bears as each was strengthened and healed of any affliction. The adult male talked for the three as he looked toward the princess.
“My thanks from myself and my family for helping us in our time of need. Those vile humans know not of natures true intention; only how to warp it for their own plans. For now, let us focus at the task at hand. Our bite can easily break that tree to bits if we do so in the correct locations.”
Goldilocks thought for a moment before answering, “If we take out its roots it will have no life to continue upon. Follow my lead and we will attain freedom only together.”
The creatures nodded as the princess led them into the fray. Limbs and branches swatted at the group as they ducked the onslaught. One such swing almost took out the warrior if it were not for the youngest bear breaking the limb in two. Goldilocks used this to jump up from its back and strike the tree at its core. Of course, the creature seemed almost unfazed until it came toppling down from the two parents that had torn off the roots from the trunk. The battle being won, the new friends set forth towards the exit. A rain of cheers came from the crowd before it came to terrified screams. No one had expected her to return with those beasts, they wanted her to let them die.
Loudly, Goldilocks screamed, “Who is responsible for this?! Who dare disrespects these magnificent creatures?! Speak now and I may just spare you.”
No one dared to utter even a whisper. It was only broken when shocked murmurs spread once they heard bear noises erupt from their own princess. The murmurs turned to screams as thirteen men were dragged to the stage by the great bears. With a single slash of her blade, Goldilocks beheaded the disgraceful men. Then she looked toward the crowd and shouted.
“Let them be an example of what happens when one decides to disrespect nature itself. Under my rule we will attain peace with the land around us, healing it from the wounds we have inflicted upon it. For I, Goldilocks, Daughter of King Iomair and the goddess Artio, will not stand for anything less. Go now and release any wild animals you chose to tease in your homes and help saplings grow to mighty trees.”
Both scared and admired at the strength of their new queen, the villagers did as they were told. Next the warrior turned onto the priestess who stopped her with her words.
“Hold great queen. I am not your enemy in this cause, for I too serve the gods, more specifically the god Gwydion. You see, it was I that set the final obstacle, unbeknownst to the villagers that now lay dead at your feet. My lord wanted me to test you to see if you could live up to the name of your mother, the great goddess Artio. This you have succeeded and more for you could have only gotten past the mighty oak with the help of all three. I look forward to seeing how you transform this kingdom.”
With that the priestess of the trickster god vanished in a puff of mist, cackling before fading away. King Iomair was delighted at his daughter’s success and bestowed upon her his crown. The next few years were a form of transition as the human town soon grew side by side with nature. Bears were not uncommon to see walking beside the citizens and helping them with their day to day activities. All the while Goldilocks remained upon the thrown knowing that some day that her and the alliance of the bears, would be put to the test.
There once was a kingdom where not an ounce of conflict grew. No one sought ill will from one another and they prospered under the rule of King Humpty Dumpty. All was well until the jealous brother of the king placed a curse upon his sibling. Violently, his victim began to change into a great stone egg. As the monster tried to attack his brother, another spell was placed upon him. His once kind mind was erased and left hallow. The wicked brother claimed the throne while placing Humpty as the guard to the castle. Day in and out, allies tried to enter the castle, but were stopped by the former king. This monster would only allow them to enter if they could beat him in a game of riddles. If they lost, the egg would swallow them whole and gain their knowledge to fill his empty head. Soon, Humpty had an unfathomable hunger for information. Time passed on as the kingdom lost hope and was forced to live in a state of chaos. But, as fate would have it, a hero came to save them.
Aurora, accompanied by Captain Phillip and a werewolf known as Red, came abound into the royal city. They could see for miles the obstacle that awaited them while it sat upon the wall of the castle, Humpty Dumpty. Quickly, the group ducked into a local tavern to discuss their plan.
“Ah, finally I can get a drink.” Sighed Red as her hand reached for the bottle. It was soon slapped away by Captain Phillips who looked at the werewolf sternly.
“What do you think you are doing little man?” Questioned Red.
“Keeping you on task. The booze will only cloud your judgement and comprehension of the plan that Lady Aurora has developed.” Answered Phillips. A low growl came from the woman as the man put his hand on the hilt of his blade.
“Enough.” Commanded Aurora as she sat down between the two. “In fighting will never accomplish our goal.
“What is that exactly? You were not very forthcoming on the details while on the ride to here.” Asked Red.
“Our mission is to slay the great beast Humpty Dumpty and then his master. They have long held this land hostage in a state of chaos. Once they are disposed of, this kingdom can then again prosper.”
Red shook her head, “And what exactly is wrong with this land? As far as I can see, it is the same as any other pathetic village that we have passed.” As if the gods had taken the cue, swords poked the back of all three foreigners. Slowly, they turned to see the whole tavern was armed.
One of them spoke boldly, “We will be taking your valuables if you please. It should sustain our kingdom a little while longer. Maybe we can even have some fun after each of you are stripped of even the clothes on your backs.”
The man saying this had begun to touch Aurora’s chest. In turn. She grabbed one of her arrows from her quiver and dug it into his shoulder. The man screamed in pain as he began to panic, realizing that he had also lost his sight. A brawl broke out as Red smiled. With a howl, she transformed before the terrified townsfolk. In vain they tried to slash at her, not landing a single blow. Red grabbed one of the blades and broke it to pieces, to the horror of the wielder. One punch and the man was sent flying across the room. She grabbed a bottle from the floor and took a swig before smashing it at an incoming opponent. It shattered to pieces knocking the man out as she used the remains to stab another attacker. Captain Phillips had begun meticulously slashing down one foe after another with expert swordsmanship, much different than the barbaric tactics of his ally. Parry then a blow before his enemies were struck down. Aurora, on the other hand, had not moved since stabbing the man who had dared to touch her. Her arms were crossed as she watched the display of strength from her allies. Finally, some of the villagers rose up in arms against her. She looked at them with a stern look before slowly pulling forth her sword. Immediately, the battle was over as their attackers looked at the cursed blade; pale as death from the blood of Dain. They fled screaming in terror from the tavern and the inevitable death that would come from even encountering such a weapon. Pleased with herself, Aurora sheathed her blade and sat down with her comrades once again.
“By using the Amulet of Go Léir A Fheiceáil as we rode here, I noticed that there is a weakness on a corner of the castle. For three days and nights, I will distract Humpty with a game of riddles. While doing this, the two of you will hack away at this weakness with pick axes. Once the wall begins to crumble, Red will attack from the other side and push the beast forward. Only then will he fall to pieces. After that, his master should be no problem.” Finished Aurora. The three spent the rest of the night enjoying each other’s company; sharing wine and good food that was left in the tavern.
The next morning came as Aurora approached the great beast known as Humpty Dumpty. Rumbling came from the creature as it snored in its sleep. Slowly, his colossal eyes opened as they looked upon the maiden in front of him. To Aurora’s surprise, he began to chuckle a guttural laugh.
“Aurora the Warrior, the hero that saved her kingdom from the sorceress Carman and her three sons. Flying from her bow, arrows covered in the blood of Dub that blinds anything unfortunate to get struck. Her blade dipped in the blood of Dain of which a single cut will kill any living thing. Wise enough not to wear Dother’s armor of which her father was not. Once an ally of my kingdom, it was somewhat unfortunate to hear of his passing. Now upon his throne sits a goddess since his lazy daughter does not want to take her birthright and now comes to challenge me. I suspect you wish to restore this kingdom due to your father’s and I’s former friendship?” Lectured Humpty.
The warrior thought for a moment before answering. Obviously, the creature had attained much knowledge by the way he spoke; surprised that the beast had recent information that happened only a few months ago. She had to be careful about how she proceeded.
“Such a sharp mind for someone who used to be so empty headed. I am glad that you remember my father Humpty. He did speak fondly of you while he waited at my bedside.” Started Aurora.
The great beast chuckled again as he interrupted, “You misunderstand warrior. I have none of my memories, just others’ knowledge of who I was as a king. A fool I used to be, trusting others and insisting on peace. Only conquerors and deceivers get what they want in this world. Enough reminiscing, you know there is only one way to pass me. So, which battle of wits shall we partake in today?”
“A game of riddles. Back and forth we shall go, telling and answering riddles until one of us can neither solve or concoct. Over and over we will go with no breaks to ensure that only the smartest prevails.” Explained Aurora.
The egg rubbed his hands together before he said, “Good. This should provide with some much-needed stimulation for my brain. I shall begin this game of riddles. It grows more and more with every passing minute, breathing while consuming all around it. Its hunger is never satisfied while its anger grows. Dancing and leaping in destruction while it makes its way. Its roar terrifies every being that stands in its path. Only when it no longer breathes can the creature disappear. What am I?”
“A fire.” Answered Aurora. The egg nodded before the warrior gave her riddle, “It flies ever straight as it screams along, the very air fleeing from its path. From one end to another it flies, only stopped when something crosses in front of it. Its victims scream as its bite digs in deep, sometimes it poisons and others it burns. What am I?”
“An arrow. My dear if you are going to make it this easy you might as well climb into my mouth already.” Remarked the egg.
The warrior smirked as she looked up defiantly at the monster. “You are in for a surprise then Humpty.”
Back and forth the two went, each of them getting more clever and clever with their riddles. All the while Captain Phillip and Red continually pick axed the corner of the wall; cracks began to crawl through the bricks as each day ended. Three days and nights came and passed as the two riddle makers never stopped. The fourth morning came as the eyelids of the egg were heavy.
With a groggy voice he boomed, “How are you not tired by now child? Neither one of us have gotten a moments rest and yet you stand as if you have gotten several nights of sleep.”
“For twenty-one years I slept, I no longer require much to function. You will soon no longer need it.” Commented Aurora.
“What do you-“ The egg began to say before the wall started to crumble. Bewildered at the commotion he did not notice as Aurora pulled back her bow and landed an arrow in each of his eyes. Blinded, the creature panicked as he was pushed forward by Red. He took a great fall and broke into many pieces. The knights behind the walls rushed out to see what had come of their protector. In vain, they could not put the great beast back together and fled at the sight of Aurora walking towards the castle. Captain Phillip and Red soon joined her as they made their way into the inner throne room. Cowering behind the throne was the being who had caused this catastrophe. The king’s brother held his hands in front of his face as Aurora picked him up by the collar and threw him into the wall. With a steely resolve, she looked at the man, who to her surprise was blind.
The warrior smirked as she spoke, “The man in the bar. My does fate smile upon me. You scurried out of there like a coward, only able to be so daring when you can rely on others, then leaving them to die. The audacity you had at touching me with those sickened paws, let’s just say I hope the gods find you the most ill-fated end for your miserable soul.”
Not even giving the man his last words, she slit his throat with her sword. His dead body turned to ash before flying off into a swarm of flies. The three finished with their task, sat in the floor of the throne room. Each catching their breaths before laughing at the simplicity of the adventure.
The laughter soon ended as Red arose and asked, “Am I free then from my curse? Was that the mission you needed me for? If so that was incredibly easy and way too nice of the gods.”
“Unfortunately, that was what I would call a team building exercise. Before we can even hope to undertake the task that will free you, we must learn to work together as a team. Fear did strike me when you and Phillips were not getting along in the bar. It seems it was for not. I promise you that you will be free, but you must humor me so that we all survive the oncoming trials.” Admitted Aurora.
Red nodded in acknowledgement, although she was bitter at the lack of trust from her leader. The werewolf looked over to Phillips who had an apologetical look on his face and held out his hand. Tentatively, she grabbed his hand and gave it a shake, a symbol of a new kinsmanship between the two. Aurora smiled as she saw comrades that she could live and fight for.
Another night of merrymaking was in procession in a crowded tavern in a town whose name no one remembers. Laughter, story-telling, and idiotic babbling filled the air as old and new friends shared in good times. At the bar there sat a young woman covered in a red hood, never stopping her intake of alcohol. Across her skin were a number of claw marks and bites; signs of great conflict and an attitude to match. No one dared to come near her, except one foreigner. She sat next to the intimidating figure without an ounce of fear. The woman in red seemed to ignore her presence as the liquor continued to pour down her throat. Finally, the foreigner spoke,
“Seems to me that you are the only one sulking on this fine night. Come, why not smile a bit and share in the partaking of stories. Tell me your name and the most exciting of tales. The sky is alight with the stars and moon that…”
Suddenly, the girl in the hood smacked the foreigner backwards against a nearby wall. She glared menacingly at her victim with her red eyes alight before going back to her drink. Seemingly foolish, the foreigner rose up and sat next to the hostile woman. A chuckling emitted from the hood before the woman within it spoke aloud,
“Stubborn, I like that. You want to hear a tale then huh? Let me tell you one, but I guarantee you that there will be no laughter found within it. I am only known by the name of Red for my past name I do not deserve. It started upon a night like this, I was out riding upon my silver horse with my white hood when out of the shadows a werewolf pounced upon the two of us. I tried to defend us, but I was knocked back by the strength of this creature. Hours crept by as I lay in darkness, only awaken by the rays of the coming morning. When I awoke I found only bits of my beautiful horse left. My anger and sadness knew no bounds as revenge became my only thought. I marched to the temple of the goddess Epona and demanded for the high priestess, my grandmother. The attendants worked fast to retrieve her as she appeared before me in a long gown with a moonstone carved into a horse’s head. She looked at my questioningly before asking,
‘My dear granddaughter, what is the matter? Have you finally come to your senses and asked for forgiveness from the great goddess? It is only then will you find peace in your parent’s death and see the purpose that is meant for you.’
I scoffed at her before responding, ‘No, I came to make you aware of what the goddess that you revere has done to us. As you know, she took my parents away many moons ago but gifted us a silver horse. For a while, I was happy with the gift that I had been giving, but sure enough your goddess had to ruin that too. A werewolf, a creature of the moon, attacked me and killed my beloved horse. What do you have to say to your goddess now?!’
At first, she seemed unfazed by my news, making me even angrier, but then she did something I never thought I would see. She grabbed her necklace and shattered it against the ground. That is when our quest for revenge began.”
Red took a few more sips of alcohol as she paused from her story. The stranger was stunned by the words that came from the woman’s mouth. She asked,
“Revenge on a goddess? How foolish could you be? The gods and goddesses are not to be trifled with. How are you even still alive?”
“Shut up and I will tell you.” Responded the harsh woman. After finishing what seemed like her eighth glass she continued, “First, we wanted revenge against the werewolf, the goddess was afterwards. We knew that we needed at least a third to even attempt to kill the beast. So, we came to this very tavern and hired the services of mercenary who used only axes to kill his victims. The three of us then headed into the forest to hunt for the beast. It took days to even get within the right area to find its den. In that time, the three of us bonded and partook in merrymaking much like those around us tonight. But like most good things, it came to an end. We were attacked in a flash by the beast. Without a second thought, it killed my grandmother by biting down on her throat. I screamed in anger as I went after the beast with no plan. It easily pinned myself underneath it as it tore into my skin. I would have been dead if it were not for the mercenary. He threw three axes into the side of the beast, making it come towards him. I went towards my grandmother’s body and found the shards of the moon necklace she once wore. Then I heard a dying scream as the body of the mercenary lay cold and bloody upon the ground. It was just me and the horrid beast left to battle. I took up one of the axes and grounded the moonstone into the axe head. With my weapon ready, I charged forward once again to kill the wretched beast. It moved to the side, barely escaping my swing as it latched onto my arm with its teeth. My other hand was still free as I chopped again and again into the beast. It died after the first two strokes, but I did not care. Over and over again I struck it until my white hood was stained red. As I looked at what was left of the body, it began to change to a human form. Horror struck my face as I saw the dead body of my father upon the ground.”
Red had to stop for a moment, her past causing her to be visible shaken before grabbing a whole bottle of wine and guzzling it down her throat. The room had stopped their fun and were listening intently to her story. She noticed this as she gave them a murderous glare, to which they all returned to their fun. After a few deep breaths, she continued,
“As I stayed at bended knee at my loss a beam of light from the moon above came down in front of me. A being formed from the radiant glow as a goddess stood before me. She kept her hair in a pony tail and had a riding hood of silver around her shoulders. Across her shoulder, she wore a belt of moonstones that glowed within the dark night. She looked at me with a disappointing gaze while she spoke,
‘What have you done? My dear you were always so headstrong, but this is beyond that characterization. Anger blinded your judgement and reason. Your father was so close to finishing his sentence before you struck him down. Now, you have lost him forever.”
I was stunned by the figure in front of me, not because she was a goddess but because I had recognized her.
‘Mom?’ I asked questioningly.
The goddess sighed as she replied, ‘Yes, my dear daughter. You see you were only half right about when you thought the goddess took your parents. When I committed myself to your father and him to me, we were told by the other gods not to reveal my identity to anyone. For many a year we both kept silent of my true nature until one night in that dam tavern. Your father was with some of the other men in the village who began to mock me. They said horrible things such as I was a whore looking for redemption by the goddess Epona by becoming a priestess. Due to anger and alcohol, your father rose to defend my honor revealing who I was. Of course, this broke the vow we made to the gods and he was immediately struck by the moon. He transformed into a werewolf and killed all around him before running into the forest. Many moons passed, and he hid within the woods; not killing another soul until he felt the pull of the silver steed, the one I gave you. Another test by the gods to see if you were worthy of being in my presence again. This you failed miserably. Had it not seemed strange that he did not kill you at the same time? You were knocked unconscious with no way to defend yourself, easy prey to anyone. Worst of all you dragged two others to their deaths because of your anger. My dear I am sorry, but you must be punished. Henceforth from here on you will guard my temple as the beast that drove you to such foolishness.’
The moon struck me with such power it overwhelmed my mind. All I could hear was howling and feel a hunger for flesh. That night was the end of me as a human for now I am cursed to walk this earth as a werewolf until my sentence is finished. Serving as the guardian of the temple of Epona just a short distance away.”
With her tale finished, she had finally stopped drinking from the alcohol she had been given. Her eyes had softened from her tale from the fury she had started the conversation. The foreigner smiled as she talked to werewolf,
“So, you are the woman I have been searching for. I am going to need your help Red. The gods have decreed only one that has been bathed in moonlight can defeat the foe I face now.”
Red plucked an eye brow up at the foreigner, intrigued by her offer. Before agreeing to anything she asked one question,
“What’s your name?”
A small smile appeared on her mouth as the foreigner responded, “Aurora.”
How long had it been since she had seen the outside world? All she knew was the inside of her father’s castle, well at least in the last ten years. Most of that time the woman spent in the dungeons, only being let out to clean the castle that her step mother and step sisters now ruled over. The three made her life a living hell. Every day she was let out of her shackles to clean. Her cruel sisters would blast her body with spells to make her scream. Constantly, pain wracked her body only matched by the way the woman felt like dirt. She was not allowed any help through her daily cleaning routine. Although, when her sisters and mother were busy with other matters of the state, she summoned animals to help her finish her chores. This gave her time to rest and to catch up on reading. Today was not one of those days. Today they had shackled her particularly tight and had thrown the usually cinders into her eyes. They called her Cinder, not even addressing her by her real name.
Cinder was fading in and out of consciousness. Someone stood in front of her; a person she swore was glowing with light. She shook her head thinking it was only a hallucination from the lack of food.
Then the figure talked, “Ella, daughter of the king of the land of Gaul, a place bathed in sunlight and blessed with the rich soil of volcano. You have suffered greatly these past ten years. The injustice you have suffered is incalculable, but it was not without purpose. Unknown to you, you have been building up strength to take back your kingdom. Your father had a noble heart and that same heart beats in you.”
Finding her voice, the princess responded, “Who… who are you?” Her eyes could now focus on the stranger. She wore a long pink dress embroidered with flames as a red veil lay over their head. Around her neck she wore a golden necklace embedded with a Ruby in its center. The red head had a sweet smile and lovely complexion as warmth seemed to radiate from her.
“My name is Hestia, goddess of hearth, architecture, domesticity, and fire. I was a virgin for many a century until meeting your father. He was such a kind man, taking me into his home without seeking anything in return after I was injured by a chimera. He intended to my wounds and listened to the advice I gave him about his castle. I felt so warm around him. This filled my being until I decided to no longer contain it. That was how you were born. The only reason I left was due to an urgent matter on Mount Olympus. When it had passed, and I had finally returned, your father had been enchanted by your stepmother before being killed by her.”
A tear fell on the goddess’ face before she continued. “I sought advice from an oracle in the far-off region of China in the territory owned by the Shang. She revealed to me the only way to defeat the wretched woman and her enchanted daughters. She foretold to me that my daughter would avenge the death of her father once she reached the age of nineteen. Within you has the potential to blaze a fire bright enough to snuff out your oppressors.” Her mother said as a fire lit in her hand. She floated it to her daughter’s chest as it sank within it. “Trust in the fire that burns within you my daughter. Know always that I am with you.” With that, she disappeared within a burst of flames.
As her mother vanished, the princess could hear footsteps coming down the staircase. Her vile stepmother Tremaine dressed in an expensive gown made of silk and other fine linens. Jewels adorned her fingers and the crown of the former king set upon her head.
The old bat stuck her nose up to Ella as she spoke, “Ah, if it isn’t my deceased husband’s bastard child, all full of ash upon your face. The name Cinder really suits you my dear. Now, the only reason I grace you with my presence is that you left the kitchen quite a mess the last time you cleaned. You should no better to leave specks on my dishes. So…” The cruel woman pulled from her side a cat of nines whip. “You must be punished.” Strike after strike hit the princess’ stomach as the warmth her mother’s fire began to spread. The more she was hit, the more the fire burned brighter as she felt a new surge of power. Still, her cruel stepmother did not notice as she continued her attack.
The old crow’s words soon confirmed her doom. “Your mother was nothing but a common whore. No wonder she left you to rot.” That did it. The cuffs around her wrists and ankles melted away as fire erupted from her fingertips. Tremaine scurried back like a rodent at the sight of pure power standing in front of her. The locks of hair that hung from Ella’s shoulders acted as an inferno while flowing into the air. The princess’ eyes turned into a crimson red while she stared at her abuser. Pure terror was the last feeling the stepmother felt as the blaze burned her to an unrecognizable crisp.
From the charred corpse, Ella ripped the crown from her stepmother’s head and placed it upon herself. She strode up the stairs, scorching the floor with each step. As the door opened, she was met by a host of knights that had heard the former queen’s screams. They were mystified by the sight before them, but soon brushed this off as they charged forward. These mere mortals were no match while they cooked in their own armor. Through the castle she went, cleansing it from the putridness her step mother had wrought. The men that the former queen had employed were pathetic fighters and were no match for the true ruler’s fury. The real challenges soon approached her. Her two step sisters were glowing with menacing magic and screamed like hell cats. Blast after blast they met in strength, shaking the very foundation of the castle. The duo could see they were making no ground and summoned cat-like men with glowing red eyes. Valiantly, she fought against wave after wave of these creatures; her strength never failing her. Realizing that she could not keep this up forever, she summoned a wall of flames that barricaded her from the enemy.
With great haste, Ella retreated further into the castle; stumbling across a young man named Henri. Before striking him down, he bowed to her and pleaded, “Please Princess Ella! I live to serve you and your lineage. My family, the Charmers, have served yours for generations. We were your father’s oracles and kept many secrets from the vile Tremaine. When she stuck your father down, she did the same to mine. I was forced to serve as a foot servant to the trio. I endured in the hopes that one day you would finally rise to power. Your father knew this day would come and trusted my family with this container; saying only you would be able to open it.” From the sack on his back, he pulled a large metal sphere and set it at the feet of the princess. As her hands touched the strange object, it began to glow as it opened to reveal a peculiar pair of objects. It was two glass slippers with parchment stuck between them. The princess took the latter and began to read what was inscribed upon it.
“My sweet Ella. I fear that I will be long dead before you read this and that you have suffered for my weakness. Tremaine and her twisted daughters have been enchanting me. Only for brief moments I am not under their spell and in these moments, I seek to ensure your future. The people will gladly follow you once you dispense those hags. These slippers will allow you to turn your bird friends you sang to as a child into much more magnificent creatures. I love you my daughter and even in my death, I will always be with you. Love your dad, Gentille son of Doux.”
A tear fell from Ella’s eyes as it steamed on her cheek. For years she thought she had no love but was clearly wrong. She sang an ancient song as her birds flocked together before her. Slipping into the gifts her father gave her, the princess focused on the flock as fire whirled around them. They soon changed form and size as Phoenixes now perched before her. Astonished at their transformation, she patted each of them as she turned to face her enemy again. The demon cat-men filled the hall as she made their way toward them. They mewed a twisted cry as they came slashing toward her. It was then her birds erupted behind her and tossed her oppressors against one another. Beaks tore into flesh as the twisted creatures could not stand against Ella and her forces. Hearing the howls of their minions, the two witches turned the corner to see their step sister with her own followers. Blasts of magic launched from their hands as they tried to keep the Phoenixes at bay. It was no use. Ella protected them with shields of fire as they eliminated the entirety of the cat-like horde. All that was left were the two hags.
The Phoenixes took to the air alight with fire as they whirled around their enemy. A fiery tornado formed around the witches. In vain, they attempted to escape; trying spell after spell to escape. Nothing worked. Fear overtook their being before getting struck down with a fiery sword through each of their chests. Like their mother, they were burnt beyond recognition as Ella stood over them triumphant. Henri of the prophet family of Charmers proclaimed a joyous victory, spreading the word throughout the kingdom. Soon, villagers flocked to the castle, exalting their princess with praises. She was soon made Queen of Gaul and appointed Henri her high priest, reestablishing the fallen order. They dedicated the new directive to the goddess Hestia, whose ideals of a safe home and loving family were followed for many years to come. Still, the new queen would feel unrest and would partake in many adventures to come, calling herself Cinderella.