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EmeraldSky
March 30th, 2008, 05:00 PM
(Rated E10+ for fantasy violence)


Final Fantasy: Tales of the Crystals



Book 1: Darkness Crystal Before Dawn


Prologue

Long ago, when the high angel Ladora created the world, she created with it the four Crystals of earth, fire, wind, and water. These four Crystals were called the Guardian Crystals; for they were to watch over and protect the world. Next, she created a second set of Crystals for the remaining elementals in the world: ice, lightning, darkness and light. The second set she named the Mystic Crystals; since they oversaw the mystical elements of the world. Her labors completed, Ladora was proud of the beautiful world she had made, and sought to guide the world's beings from the heavens. Deep down, she was very acutely aware of the possibility of evil trying to claim the Crystals. If that were to come to pass, she would command four young warriors to defend the Guardian Crystals--for without the forces of earth, fire, wind and water; her world would cease to exist. If the Mystical Crystals were lost or broken, the Guardian Crystals would at least absorb their energies and prevent her worldthread from weakening. In fact, the energies of the Mystic Crystals would make the Guardian Crystals stronger and better able to resist an attack.

A time of evil did come when the evil Chaos rose from the underworld. Jealous of his rival Ladora's world, he flew across it, wreaking much grief and despair. He even created monsters to terrorize the beings of the world. Finally, in a show of defiance to Ladora's pleas to stop his malice, Chaos scattered the four Mystical Crystals across the world. To his surprise, the Mystical Crystals lent their energies to the Guardian Crystals, making them stronger against his assault. In his rage, Chaos tried to drain the Guardian Crystal's energies in hopes they would shatter, but only weakened them considerably. The people cried to the heavens, desprate to have Chaos defeated.

Ladora heard her people's cries, and sent four young warriors to drive back Chaos' forces and restore the Guardian Crystals' light. The four warriors succeeded on their quest, defeating Chaos, and earning them the name of the Light Warriors. The four Guardian Crystals, now shining twice as bright with the added energies of the Mystic Crystals, were restored.

Time passed, and the Light Warriors faded into legend. The four Mystic Crystals came to be called the Lost Crystals. It was said that if Chaos rose again, a new generation of Light Warriors would have to travel across the land, find all eight crystals, including the Lost Crystals, and unite their powers to create the ultimate blade: the Rainbow Blade. Only the Light Warrior Ladora chose could wield it, the minstrels said, and it would contain enough power to banish Chaos for a long time, if not for eternity.

Before long, the time foretold in many legends came to pass--Chaos returned from the underworld, and is once again wreaking havoc and despair.

Our story focuses on a young red mage and her friends as they seek to forge the Rainbow Blade with the power of the eight Crystals--can they defeat Chaos and become the Light Warriors for a new generation?

Episode 1: The Legend of the Lost Crystals

She'd heard the story plenty of times.

Whether it was her own mother telling it to her as the two of them sat by the fire, or a traveling minstrel telling it to the crowds of people during the Crystal Fair in the summertime; the tale was the same. In her eighteen years of hearing it told or telling it to the younger apprentices, she never got tired of telling it. Why she enjoyed the tale, she didn't know, but the familiar words of "Long ago, the world had not four crystals..." made her emerald eyes light up with anticipation and excitement. Her slender yet muscular body would tense up, as if she were one of the Light Warriors of old preparing to fight the evil Chaos. She would also close her eyes and imagine herself before the Crystals; watching their holy light play over her auburn hair.

Depending on the teller, what kinds of adventurers the Light Warriors were would change. Some said they were all physical fighters, others all mages, and still others had their own theories as to what classes they were. It was not like anyone knew exactly, as any written accounts of the quest were either lost or had yet to be found. Only Her Grace knew for sure.

Deep down, she cherished the first time she heard the tale of the Lost Crystals and the Rainbow Blade. It was a snowy winter night, and her father was out in the woods nearby the town of Pravoka gathering wood for the fire. When the weather was warm he would be sailing around the world, trading his furs, wood, and glasswares. He would sometimes get a glass ornament in return, such as the suncatcher that hung by the window. Her mother was slicing some carrots in the kitchen in preparation for cooking when the wood arrived. She would help the best way she knew how, but to a then-five year old girl, there wasn't much that she could do to help.

She would try to make the most of the wait by watching the swirling snow outside and studying the suncatcher. The design piqued her--eight Crystals surrounding a beautiful sword shining with rainbow light. What did it mean, if anything? Her parents would most likely know; and would be quite happy to tell her what it meant.

"Mama?" she had asked, getting the attention of the black haired woman that was now tending to some onions.

"What is it, Mallory?" the woman asked as she finished slicing an onion and reached for another.

"Our suncatcher...does the design mean something?"

The woman smiled--her little girl was most likely old enough to hear the story behind the suncatcher, she thought. "It tells a story of the Crystals--the mystical gems that form our world." she began as she set the onion aside and joined the black haired girl by the window. "Long ago, the world had not four Crystals, but eight--one for each element in the world. Her Grace, the high angel Ladora created them and used their power to create the world. While the four essential forces of earth, fire, wind, and water formed the worldthread, the other four Crystals--ice, lightning, darkness and light--helped to strengthen the worldthread."

At this point in the story, she remembered asking "Mama, if everyone says darkness is bad, then why did Ladora make a Crystal of Darkness?"

"Not all darkness is bad, Mallory." her mother would say, usually ruffling the deep brown hair of the girl before her playfully. "The Crystal of Darkness Ladora created held the good powers of darkness--the kind that night was born from and keeps our food cool."

"Oh, okay..." she would reply to show she understood.

"Ladora knew that the incarnation of the bad side of darkness, Chaos, would likely enter the world and try to shatter the Crystals. If the Crystals were broken, the worldthread would be in danger."

"Why?"

"Without a worldthread, our world would cease to exist." her mother would reply before continuing. "To prevent the worldthread from being damaged, Ladora commanded that the Mystic Crystals strengthen the Guardian Crystals with their power if they were ever attacked. Some time after this, Chaos did rise up from his dwelling from the underworld and attempted to shatter any of the Crystals he could find, creating the first monsters. The Mystic Crystals were not shattered, but instead scattered to places throughout the world..."

"Where exactly are they now?" she had asked.

"No one is sure where the four Mystic Crystals are, hon." her mother would reply. "That's why they're called the Lost Crystals now." She would pause to make herself comfortable in a chair before going on. "Before they fled Chaos, the Mystic Crystals lent their energies to the Guardian Crystals of earth, fire, wind, and water. This increased their strength to a level so strong, they would hold up to any of Chaos' dark magic. Yet Chaos was not easily deterred--he tried for days on end to shatter the Guardian Crystals, with no luck. His frustration was felt throught the world as monsters became plentiful and began to terrorize the people in the world.

The people cried to Her Grace for help to defeat Chaos. Ladora heard her people's pleas and sent four Warriors of Light; who proceeded to restore what light Chaos had taken from the Crystals and banished him back to the underworld. As the years went by, their names were forgotten, and the Mystic Crystals came to be called the Lost Crystals."

"But what does that have to do with the suncatcher's design?" By now, she remembered getting impatient and wishing her mother would just answer her question.

"Patience, Mallory; I'm getting to that." her mother assured her before continuing "The people were afraid that Chaos would return and try again to shatter the Crystals. Lukahn, the same sage that foretold the Light Warrior's coming, also prophesied that should Chaos return, he would be stronger than before. But, he would be driven back a second time by four new Light Warriors. One of them would wield a Rainbow Blade containing the power of all eight Crystals....and that is what the design of the suncatcher portrays."

"But how would the Blade be made, Mama?" she had asked.

Her mother got up from the chair and strolled back to the waiting onions on the counter. "The new Warriors would travel across the land and gather the power of all the Crystals..."

The power of all the Crystals... She reflected on this as she looked out the window of her room onto the hill overlooking the town of Pravoka. In the thirteen years that had passed between that time, she had become a red mage apprentice and began training in both the ways of the blade and of magic. When she had turned thirteen, she became what the red mages called a Rising Mage--a red mage no longer an apprentice, but had yet to go on the quest to prove herself a full red mage.

Hearing the Legend of the Rainbow Blade for the first time seemed like a distant memory now, but a lot had happened in thirteen years. Monsters had been multiplying again, and adventurers of all kinds had attempted the journey to Ladora's Shrine to the west. None that she knew of had returned alive. Furthermore, she had turned eighteen several days before, meaning that she had to leave the lodge of the Order of Red Mages and prove herself as a red mage sooner or later.

She was about to reflect on her impending quest when she heard a voice call "Lady Mallory Foxheart?"

"Yes?" She sat up on her bed to see the familiar red swirled cloak of a messenger billowing into the room.

"The High Mage wishes to see you--about your Red Journey."

"Tell him I will be there as soon as I pack my things." Mallory replied. The messenger nodded to accept her reply, and disappeared down the hall. Mallory, meanwhile, began making preparations for her likely long journey. She started by slipping a shirt of bronze chain inbetween the white undershirt and her red tunic, followed by changing into a pair of black leggings from the white ones she had been wearing earlier. After depositing those leggings into the laundry pile lying in a corner by the entryway, she pulled on her favorite pair of boots and slipped some red gauntlets over her hands.

She darted over to the vanity by her bed and tied some of her auburn hair into two braids, then tied the braids in such a way that they appeared to circle around her head, allowing the rest of the auburn tresses to hang down. The younger apprentices often called her "Queen Foxy" because of the braid's resemblance to a crown. She would then gently remind the apprentices that the fabric used in the traditional red mage's hat made her skin itch; and the style was the solution she had devised to prevent this in battle. Despite her slight allergy to its materials, she was proud of the wide brimmed red hat with the yellow feather in the brim, and putting it on made her feel brave and strong. The feather inside would always alert passersby that she was a Rising Mage on her journey, and the feather would turn white when she completed whatever the High Mage had called her to do.

Now that she was completely dressed, she set the shoes she had been wearing earlier by the foot of the bed, then slipped a silver butterfly pendant around her neck. There...all ready. After admiring herself in the mirror for a moment, she retrieved a large leather bag sitting by the closet and began packing items she would need on her journey. Potions and ethers went in one pocket, recovery items went in another, and offensive items went in a third. The biggest pocket was reserved for larger items, so she stashed her gold bag inside, making some gold coins spill out. After placing the stray coins back in the smaller bag, she set a flute case on top of it before closing the pack up and slinging it onto her back. She wasn't sure why she had packed the flute to begin with, but it would make for a little entertainment at night.
After looking over her room one last time, she set her sword by her left leg and trotted down the hall towards the High Mage's chamber.

---------

"Master Jamui?" Mallory called into the large chamber near the foyer. "You wished to see me?"

The High Mage, a quiet yet dutiful man in his early thirties, looked up from the book had been reading and smiled. "Yes, Lady Foxheart, please come in." Mallory tensely stepped inside the room that served as the High Mage's quarters and study--when he wasn't speaking to new apprentices or meeting with dignataries, he was reading something. Part of her wanted to know what lay within the millions of books that lined the shelves, but she also knew that Jamui was very protective of his books, including the one he was now putting back on the shelf. She sat up a little as he began. "For several nights, Her Grace has come to me in a dream, asking me to send 'the one with the cunning and loyal heart of the fox' to her shrine in the west. I have spoken with our White, Black, and Blue comrades, and they have confirmed my suspicions that you might be the one she wishes to see."

"But Master...why would Her Grace, an angel...call me, a mere mortal?" Mallory stammered. Her mind was racing--if Her Grace Ladora was indeed calling her, her quest would carry even more weight than it did for a typical mage. Questions began swirling in her mind: "Why me? What if she wants me to save the world alone? What does she really want me to do?

"Ladora calls people just like us to accomplish Her will." the High Mage assured Mallory, but this did nothing to calm the nervous shaking that rippled through her body. "Perhaps if you pray at the temple before setting out...She will answer your questions and give you strength for your journey. For now, your Red Journey is to travel to the town of Jodra to the west and visit Ladora's Shrine."

Mallory shakily stood up. "I'll go, with my blade in my hand and the magic in my heart." This was what every Rising Mage responded with when they left on their journey, but it now had a different air for Mallory--this journey could mean that the fate of everyone that she loved, from her family to the apprentices that called her "Queen Foxy", was in her hands.

She departed the chamber, rounded the corner to the lodge's entrance, and stepped out into the warm spring sunshine. After looking back at the lodge she had called home for so long one last time, she started down the hill towards the town of Pravoka, unaware that she was setting out on a far longer--and far graver--quest than anyone realized...

To Be Continued...

Unlimited NiGHTS
March 31st, 2008, 01:01 AM
Oh, well done! Well done, EmeraldSky! Very few Final Fantasy fanfics are this good.

EmeraldSky
March 31st, 2008, 04:59 AM
Thanks!

I wanted it to be based on the world of the original Final Fantasy. However, there will be new classes, summons, references to other games (FF and others), and towns from the other games.

There are 8 books in all, one for each Crystal.

I'm going to try to have episodes out every day or every other day.

As for the next episode, we'll gain our first party member, a new class.

EmeraldSky
March 31st, 2008, 03:10 PM
Last time, on our previous tale...

"But Master...why would Her Grace, an angel...call me, a mere mortal?" Mallory stammered. Her mind was racing--if Her Grace Ladora was indeed calling her, her quest would carry even more weight than it did for a typical mage. Questions began swirling in her mind: "Why me? What if she wants me to save the world alone? What does she really want me to do?

"Ladora calls people just like us to accomplish Her will." the High Mage assured Mallory, but this did nothing to calm the nervous shaking that rippled through her body. "Perhaps if you pray at the temple before setting out...She will answer your questions and give you strength for your journey. For now, your Red Journey is to travel to the town of Jodra to the west and visit Ladora's Shrine."

Mallory shakily stood up. "I'll go, with my blade in my hand and the magic in my heart." This was what every Rising Mage responded with when they left on their journey, but it now had a different air for Mallory--this journey could mean that the fate of everyone that she loved, from her family to the apprentices that called her "Queen Foxy", was in her hands.

She departed the chamber, rounded the corner to the lodge's entrance, and stepped out into the warm spring sunshine. After looking back at the lodge she had called home for so long one last time, she started down the hill towards the town of Pravoka, unaware that she was setting out on a far longer--and far graver--quest than anyone realized...

Episode 2: Aid From the Heavens

The road to Pravoka was not very long, but with each step Mallory took, it felt like it would take a day's walk, or even more. The fact that she had been called by Ladora herself didn't make the trip any easier. Why did She call me, of all people? she wondered. She thought back to what the High Mage had said--"Ladora calls people just like us to carry out Her will." Then again, I'm pretty sure the Light Warriors of old had questions too... She paused to straighten out her sword for a moment before it could slip from her side and fall into the grass. Having to get the scabbard cleaned was not something she would need to do before her journey.

Maybe if I just put my trust in Ladora, She will answer my questions. she thought with a smile. Then an idea hit her: Why not pray to Her Grace right here?

She slung her pack off her back, where it landed on the ground with a soft thump. Next, she unzipped a side pocket and reached for a small rug decorated with a red and blue pattern with a pair of gold angel wings in the middle. It wasn't the same as kneeling before an altar rail, but the praying rug would have to do until she arrived at a temple.
After speading the rug on the grass, she knelt upon it, making sure to take off her hat and that her knee touched the wings in the center. "Holy Princess, I come before you with many questions...I have heard your call, but I still don't understand it all. I ask you to grant me some direction for my journey--anything that will guide me in that which you have called me to do."

Her prayer complete, she lifted her head--everything still looked normal. The birds were singing their usual songs, the sun was still shining--nothing dramatic had occured at first glance. Mallory started to get up from the pose of prayer when she heard a female voice in the distance. "Mallory Foxheart..."

Startled, she fumbled for her blade and drew it. "Who's there?"

As if in response to her question, a tiny sparkle of yellow light appeared to fly before her. Be still, my child. It is I, Ladora.

"Your Grace..." Mallory obediently sheathed her weapon and returned to the prayer pose before the tiny spark. "I thank you for answering my prayer..."

...and I come to you now in this small form so you will not fear. Ladora explained. I have called you for a very important quest--uniting the Lost Crystals and Guardian Crystals to forge the Rainbow Blade.

Mallory was dumbfounded--the High Mage had been right in saying she was chosen all along! She wanted to ask Ladora the many questions that were swirling inside her, but all she was able to muster was a low groan.

I understand your fear and anxiety, Mallory. Ladora assured her. Let them not overpower the courage and love that you have.

Finally, Mallory worked up enough courage to ask "Do you command that I travel alone?"

Ladora softly laughed, a calm laugh that made the sun brighten for a moment. Of course not--I have called three others to help you accomplish this deed. Mallory sighed with relief--her biggest question had been answered, at least. You will know them when they haste to your aid in times of need.

"But where do I go from here?" Mallory tensely asked. Pravoka was off in the distance, so were any clues, items, or allies there?

One of your allies is there. Ladora assured Mallory. May the Crystals light your way... With that, the small yellow spark disappeared as mysteriously as it had appeared. Mallory eased herself to her feet confidently and began rolling up the praying rug. If she spent all her time asking questions about Ladora's call, she wouldn't get anything done. Besides, the best way to get my questions answered is to just go! She slung her pack on her back again and continued down the hill to Pravoka.

---------

The sun was high overhead when Mallory set foot on the cobblestone streets of Pravoka. Judging from the crowds rushing to and from the various stone and brick red roofed buildings, today was market day. That meant there would be merchants from all around the world selling everything from ordinary tools and food to exotic jewelry, weapons, and instruments. Her father might even be present in the bustle.

Occasionally there would be other visitors present in town. Usually, the entertainers were minstrels, jesters, or acrobats; but every so often a summoner would come. They were easily recognizeable in their colorful robes and the many rings on their fingers. The High Mage had told her many times that every ring a summoner owned was how many creatures he had encountered. Red Mages could summon as well, if they could find rings. Unlike summoners, calling a summon would take more strength than a typical spell, leaving her weakened for a short time should she try it.

As she rounded a corner into the marketplace bordering the town square and the wharf, she tuned out the calls of the merchants and the story of a nearby minstrel and thought about summoned creatures. Even their names evoked a sense of awe--Shiva, the ice queen; Ifrit, the master of flame; Bahamut the Dragon King--the list went on and on. She thought particularly about Bahamut--if you passed his Citadel of Trials, he would grant you power great enough to change your form. A mage would become a wizard, a warrior would be a knight, and rangers would become hunters; to name a few classes.

Her thoughts were interrupted by a crash from the wharf, getting the crowd's attention as well--some crates had tumbled to the ground, and now the sailors present at the docks were chasing a band of pirates. These pirates didn't look too much different from how she imagined pirates to look--all wore striped shirts and ragged blue trousers. Some of them bore eyepatches and peg legs. Despite their ragged appearance, they were quite swift; and doing a very good job of outrunning the sailors chasing them.

After watching the chase unfold for a while, she felt compelled to help the sailors. She gently pushed her way through the crowd until she could see an intact stack of crates not far from the crates the pirates had knocked over. A few tense minutes went by before the telltale thuds of boots approached her position. She looked and saw one of the pirates, this one carrying a large gold bag. His fellows also carried goldbags, most likely the booty they had pilfered from the ship that had arrived minutes before the chase began.

She focused some power into her hands, making them glow red. "Out of the ground, raze all greenery with flame! Fire!" The pirate in front gasped as the fireball went flying at him. The crowd heard his scream of pain as the flames started to consume him. The other pirates screeched to a halt and began grabbing whatever items they could to extinguish their burning comrade before the fire began to burn his skin.

The crowd murmured for a moment, fearful of what the pirates would do to the young red mage that had burned one of their brethren.

Finally, one pirate saw Mallory, stepped away from covering his burned shipmate and began approaching her hiding place. "Ye better explain yeself for burnin' our shipmate, lass..." he growled. Mallory tensely stepped out from behind the crates, allowing her assailant to at least see who had cast the spell. This seemed to satisfy the pirate, as two more pirates joined him, their blades drawn. Mallory tried backing away, but yet another stack of crates blocked her exit. She swallowed hard--what was she to do when she was clearly outnumbered three to one?

Suddenly, an arrow zipped through the air, impaling one pirate on the spot. The remaining pirates whirled around to see a brown haired young man clad in a hunter green tunic standing atop an empty barrel. He clutched an oaken bow in one hand, silently daring the pirates to attempt an attack on him or the frightened red mage.

"She used some hocus pocus to burn one of me shipmates, and she's gonna pay!" the lead pirate snarled at the boy, gesturing to Mallory to prove his point. She tensely draw her own weapon in preparation for a battle. Now that one pirate had fallen and she had some help from the man--a ranger--the odds were a little more even. For the moment, all she could do was wait and see what the ranger would do.

"You're not doing anything, you sea dog!" the ranger replied as he leapt off the barrel and landed before Mallory, his dull silver cape billowing behind him as he flew through the air. "Lay a hand on her and you too will fall to the arrows of Darien Sterling." He gestured to the body of the pirate he had already slain to illustrate his point. The pirates, realizing that the ranger's threat was serious, abandoned their loot and fled into the crowd.

Mallory sheathed her blade and knelt before the ranger. "Thank you so much for saving my life, um..."

"Darien." the ranger replied as he shook her hand. "Darien Sterling, of the Pravoka Rangers."

"I am Mallory Foxheart the Red, a Rising Mage." Mellory replied. "I was exploring town when I saw those pirates running about the wharf; and I felt compelled to teach them a lesson."

"You were very brave to do what you did, Mallory..." Darien explained as the two of them returned to the market square, where the crowd had returned. "Most pirates are all bark and no bite, but there are some that will strike back if provoked." He paused to sling his bow on his back, then asked "Are you here alone?"

"Yes..." Mallory replied. She wanted to tell Darien about her vision of Ladora, but decided against it. "I was on my way to Jodra, to the west...

"That's where the shrine of Her Grace Ladora lies..." Darien mused. "One of my former comrades is buried there, and I wish to see his grave.

"You're coming with me?" Mallory was curious--maybe Darien was one of the three Ladora had said she had called.

"Yes...the way to Jodra is long and perilous--maybe I can guide you through the caves and forests on the way." Darien explained. "Before that, though, we must gather supplies and pray for Her blessings." Mallory nodded and followed Darien into the crowd....

To Be Continued...

EmeraldSky
April 1st, 2008, 12:53 PM
Last time, on our previous tale...

"You're not doing anything, you sea dog!" the ranger replied as he leapt off the barrel and landed before Mallory, his dull silver cape billowing behind him as he flew through the air. "Lay a hand on her and you too will fall to the arrows of Darien Sterling." He gestured to the body of the pirate he had already slain to illustrate his point. The pirates, realizing that the ranger's threat was serious, abandoned their loot and fled into the crowd.

Mallory sheathed her blade and knelt before the ranger. "Thank you so much for saving my life, um..."

"Darien." the ranger replied as he shook her hand. "Darien Sterling, of the Pravoka Rangers."

"I am Mallory Foxheart the Red, a Rising Mage." Mellory replied. "I was exploring town when I saw those pirates running about the wharf; and I felt compelled to teach them a lesson."

"You were very brave to do what you did, Mallory..." Darien explained as the two of them returned to the market square, where the crowd had returned. "Most pirates are all bark and no bite, but there are some that will strike back if provoked." He paused to sling his bow on his back, then asked "Are you here alone?"

"Yes..." Mallory replied. She wanted to tell Darien about her vision of Ladora, but decided against it. "I was on my way to Jodra, to the west...

"That's where the shrine of Her Grace Ladora lies..." Darien mused. "One of my former comrades is buried there, and I wish to see his grave."

"You're coming with me?" Mallory was curious--maybe Darien was one of the three Ladora had said she had called.

"Yes...the way to Jodra is long and perilous--maybe I can guide you through the caves and forests on the way." Darien explained. "Before that, though, we must gather supplies and pray for Her blessings." Mallory nodded and followed Darien into the crowd....

Episode 3: The Ranger's Tale

Mallory was careful to keep sight of Darien as he led her through the crowd. He walked swiftly, in a manner that made others think he was running or in a hurry. She figured that when you had to scout out forests, caves, and fortresses, you would walk fast.

The two of them came first to the item shop nearby the fountain on the square. It was not as crowded as the nearby armory or smithy at this time of day, but there were still customers inside, admiring the various bottles and items for sale. A few were haggling over what they had bought at the counter.

"Now..." Mallory glanced up as Darien spoke. "How fares your sundry supply?"

Mallory unzipped her pack and showed Darien the items in the pockets. "Just potions, remedies, and a few magical stones." She fished out a white stone, an Antarctic Wind, to prove her point.

Darien nodded with approval over the pale red bottles in one pocket, the yellow bottles in another, and the various items in the third. He could see that his new companion had gone to great pains to be sure that there was a cure for every ailment. Despite this, he ruffled through the various glowing stones, gold needles, purple bottles containing an antidote, and Echo Herbs. Something was missing in the array of cures, but he wasn't sure what. "Do you have ethers?"

Mallory froze--in her excitement to see what the High Mage had asked of her, she knew she had forgotten something! "No." she stammered.

"Or Phoenix Downs?" Darien continued.

"I know the spell Raise..."

"Raise and Life are all well and good; but what if you're the one that needs to be revived?" Darien asked, a little concerned. Mallory swallowed hard--she couldn't use Raise if she were the dead one. Darien just ignored Mallory's ashamed grimace, strolled over to a shelf lined with red feathers, and picked a few of them. "Take these--it never hurts to have Phoenix Downs." Mallory carefully took the bundle of red feathers from Darien's palm and stuck them in between the bag filled with pale blue bottles she was already carrying as the two of them approached the counter at the front.

The shopkeeper smiled as the ranger approached. "Darien Sterling! I never dreamed that you would find yourself a lady! Most rangers I talk to are too busy for a relationship...."

Darien sheepishly grinned at the slender man with graying hair. "Oh, Cadanu; this young mage is not a girlfriend, but my companion. I rescued her from becoming pirate bait back at the docks."

"Tussling with pirates, were you?" Cadanu replied as he accepted the purchase from Mallory. "And just what did you do to receive their wrath, miss?" he asked as he began calulating her payment.

"All I did was cast Fire to have them drop the loot they had stolen." Mallory explained with a giggle, embarrassed that she had been called Darien's girlfriend. Me, in love? I only met him an hour ago!

"Seeing as she was outnumbered three to one, I felt called to help." Darien concluded as he deposited some of his coins on the counter. "It is the ranger's duty." Mallory also took this opportunity to contribute some of her gold for the bag of ethers.

Cadanu gathered the coins and deposited them in the payment box. "At any rate, Master Sterling, you two have a safe pilgrimage...and give High Ranger Aravan my regards."

"Will do, sir." With that, Darien and Mallory exited the store and entered the warm afternoon sun. Mallory just smiled as she jogged behind her companion. He is such a gentleman--that is all the confirmation I need from Her Grace that he is one of my companions!

Before long, the two of them found themselves in the main part of town, where the theaters, arenas, inns, and taverns were located. A temple was also present, its royal blue roof and silver spires clearly standing out against the rest of the town. Mallory wanted to go inside the temple and pray again for guidance, but instead she found herself being led towards the Starlit Night, an inn not far from the temple.

No sooner had the door opened did they see a young black haired man before them. "Come inside, travelers...make yourselves at home." Mallory opened her mouth to point out to Darien that the temple was a short walk west from this location, but looked again at the sky, which was beginning to turn pink and orange with the setting sun. If they set out from Pravoka now, Ladora only knew what sorts of creatures would come out.

They settled down at a table in the dining area, him seated across from her. At least we won't have to put up with drunken singing and fights here. Mallory smiled as two serving maids set glasses of mint tea before them. After the run in with the pirates, she was thirsty.

Darien chuckled as Mallory drank down her tea. "You looked like you really enjoyed that!"

"I love mint tea...my mother always makes it when Snownight comes, and again on the Day of Joy." Mallory explained. She paused to reflect on memories of past Days of Joy--the hymns as the priest led the candlelight procession to the temple, reading the Tale of Light that told how Ladora once came to the world in human form long ago, setting the stage for the Day of Light in the spring. But the best parts in her mind were the gifts that were given and the priests' prayers for joy in the new year.

"I remember having snowball fights with my brothers on Snownight." Darien smiled. "I come from a pretty large family, so there wasn't too much money to go around for gifts on the Day of Joy--deciding on gifts for five children isn't easy or cheap, even now."

"I understand." Mallory replied as she accepted another glass of tea and a meal from the serving maid. She savored the aroma of the lightly grilled chicken and vegetables before her. Holy Princess, bless this food to nourish my body, and my companion to nourish my soul. she prayed silently before biting into a carrot.

"So what is your family like?" Darien asked as he salted his meat. As long as he was traveling with her, he may as well get to know the red mage he had rescued, he figured.

"Well..." Mallory paused to swallow a bite of food, then continued. "My father is a merchant...he sails for most of the year, so I don't see him except for a brief time in the summer, and in the winter when the seas are too dangerous. It was during one of these summers he took me to Cornelia to see the Knights parade on the King's Day of Life..."

"They're beautiful to see, both in battle and on parade." Darien commented. "In fact, the comrade I wish to pay honor to--he was once a Knight of Cornelia before he renounced his royal ties and became a ranger."

"Why did he give up the life of a knight?" Mallory was curious. Just seeing the knights and their beautiful crystal armor had made her want to first pick up a sword. In fact, her father had told her that His Highness even let able bodied women serve--the only requirement was proving your body and mettle to the King. So why did Darien's old friend leave a life of luxury and prestige?

"My friend--his name was Yavi--he didn't like how the Knights treated the common people." Darien explained before pausing to drink a little tea. "He would often see them kick and rough up the poorest of Cornelia; essentially rubbing the fact that they were poor into their faces."

"That isn't very nice!" Mallory was appalled at this.

"The even sadder part is, at the time, the king was a hot-headed, egotistic braggart that only cared about himself and the higher classes, so even the middle class people were mistreated." Darien continued. "Many had their houses, possessions and families taken from them for no reason at all."

"How awful!" Mallory was even angrier now, and at the same time thankful she had not been living in Cornelia at that time. Although she had not been physically in Cornelia at that time, rumors of raids and senseless killings inevitably spread to Pravoka and other towns and villages. She even remembered asking her father one night, "Daddy, why does Ladora allow people like the King to rule?"

"Yavi heard the rumors of the raids and the killings, and decided he wanted no part of being in a group of murderers." Darien continued. "So, he discarded his armor, his blade, and his signet; disguised himself as a common man, and fled to the ranger's outpost in the eastern woods; which serves as our base.
At that time, leaving the order of Knights was considered a death sentence, as the King believed once you were a Knight, he could control your life. Those that spoke out against the raids and killings were either killed themselves or had their loved ones killed." Tears were now welling up in Mallory's eyes--surely the people of Cornelia could have done something to rebel against such a cruel ruler!, she thought.

"Fortunately, that King was deposed by his own Knights not long after Yavi fled." Darien began to smile now, as if relieved that he had come to a happier part of his story. "But Yavi did not wish to go back--the damage had been done, and he feared the new ruler would be more of the same."

"What about those that lost someone to the killings?" Mallory asked, nervously reaching for her pack. "What did the new King do for them?"

"Well..." Darien thought for a moment before deciding to continue with the digression in his tale. "He purged the palace of all that had taken part in the raids and killings, and relieved any high ranking officials that had even done so much as authorized them of their duties. "This brought a sense of closure to the people, as they didn't want any more blood shed over their loved ones. Even to this day, if you ask a Cornelian about Rinlon the Black, they will tell you of the loved one they lost. As for how Yavi died--he perished trying to rescue a lady from a pirate raid some years ago." Darien concluded, brushing away a tear as he reflected on Yavi's sacrifice. "I knew he was going to die judging from the deep gashes he received, but his last request was getting the woman he had been helping back to her family. I complied with this, knowing he would've wanted me to do it even if he survived. Since he was originaly from Jodra, he was buried by Ladora's Shrine, where heroes, great rangers, and others that die in service to Ladora are entombed." His story completed, he laid his head in his hands and started sobbing quietly.

Mallory got up and laid a hand on Darien's shoulder. "You must have loved Yavi very much."

Darien wiped away a few tears. "Oh, how I did--he was almost like one of my brothers. He taught me everything a ranger must know, from basic healing skills to finding your way in a cave."

"Don't worry--we'll find a way to avenge Yavi together...I promise." Mallory replied as she returned to her bag, unzipped the main compartment, and retrieved the flute case from it. Now that their meal together had ended, perhaps some entertainment would cheer up her grieving companion. "Perhaps you'd like some music?"

Darien's eyes lit up upon seeing the tiny silver flute his new friend was polishing. "I didn't know you played the flute!" At this, he set his bow aside and opened his own pack, from which he took out a beautiful fiddle decorated with inlay work of leaves. "May I have the honor of playing with you?" he asked as he tuned up. "You wouldn't believe how much comfort this fiddle brought me after Yavi's passing."

"It is said that a song is the language of the heart." Mallory replied. She waited for Darien to finish tuning, then said. "I'll let you start with the first tune, and I'll join in if I know it."

"All right, we will begin with 'The Rambling Eagle'" With that, Darien started a spritely jig, leading some of the other inn patrons to race to the floor and dance. Before long, a sailor had joined the song with his concertina and a black mage the next table over reached for a lute and joined in as well. Suddenly, Mallory recognized the melody all three instruments were playing--she knew the tune, but under the name "The Winding Road to Pravoka" After the makeshift ensemble had finished one rendition of the melody, she lent her flute to the steadily growing tune--the first of many tunes that would ultimately keep the inn's patrons dancing late into the night...

To Be Continued...

EmeraldSky
April 2nd, 2008, 03:53 PM
Last time, on our previous tale...

Mallory got up and laid a hand on Darien's shoulder. "You must have loved Yavi very much."

Darien wiped away a few tears. "Oh, how I did--he was almost like one of my brothers. He taught me everything a ranger must know, from basic healing skills to finding your way in a cave."

"Don't worry--we'll find a way to avenge Yavi together...I promise." Mallory replied as she returned to her bag, unzipped the main compartment, and retrieved the flute case from it. Now that their meal together had ended, perhaps some entertainment would cheer up her grieving companion. "Perhaps you'd like some music?"

Darien's eyes lit up upon seeing the tiny silver flute his new friend was polishing. "I didn't know you played the flute!" At this, he set his bow aside and opened his own pack, from which he took out a beautiful fiddle decorated with inlay work of leaves. "May I have the honor of playing with you?" he asked as he tuned up. "You wouldn't believe how much comfort this fiddle brought me after Yavi's passing."

"It is said that a song is the language of the heart." Mallory replied. She waited for Darien to finish tuning, then said. "I'll let you start with the first tune, and I'll join in if I know it."

"All right, we will begin with 'The Rambling Eagle'" With that, Darien started a spritely jig, leading some of the other inn patrons to race to the floor and dance. Before long, a sailor had joined the song with his concertina and a black mage the next table over reached for a lute and joined in as well. Suddenly, Mallory recognized the melody all three instruments were playing--she knew the tune, but under the name "The Winding Road to Pravoka" After the makeshift ensemble had finished one rendition of the melody, she lent her flute to the steadily growing tune--the first of many tunes that would ultimately keep the inn's patrons dancing late into the night...

Episode 4: The Song of the Crystals

After a long night of playing tunes, Mallory and Darien trooped upstairs to their room for the night. Mallory was especially relieved to be lying down, as the combined stress running from the pirates, walking around town, as well as standing by the table playing tunes were making her feet throb. Darien was also relieved to be lying down--he hadn't counted on their session lasting as long as it did. But he was also glad that it had been so long--playing his fiddle always made him feel better when he was feeling sad.

As he pulled the covers over his head, he glanced over at Mallory's side of the room, where she too was preparing for bed. So young, and so much love inside her! he thought. Just like a female version of Yavi... He pondered this as he drifted to sleep.

The night passed without incident for the most part, and the morning came with warm rays of sunshine. Mallory was still sleeping at this time, but the sunshine gently coaxed her from her bed. As she sat up, she noticed that the bed where Darien had been sleeping was empty. She decided not to worry about it at first--maybe he's gone to get breakfast she thought as she put on her tunic, making sure to put on the shirt of bronze chain before slipping on the tunic. Yet when she finished getting dressed, Darien still had not returned. Part of her wanted to panic--what if he had been abducted by pirates, or worse, monsters? She trembled at the thought of Darien being the main course for wolves, wild mares, or even goblins.

Suddenly, the notes of a fiddle in the distance caught her attention. The strangly calm tune appeared to be coming from the square--but why would Darien be playing on the square this early in the morning? She gathered her things, trekked downstairs and paid for the room, and started off to the square. Sure enough, Darien waited by the fountain, serenading the pigeons. His bow glided over the strings, creating a soaring tune even the pigeons appeared to enjoy. It reminded her of a hymn to Ladora she had once sang on a Snownight long ago. The strange thing was, she couldn't remember the words, but the tune sounded vaguely familiar. Where had she heard it before?

"Interesting song..." she commented, jolting Darien from his performance. At the same time, the pigeons that had been listening fluttered away into the pale blue sunrise.

Darien was surprised by Mallory's sudden appearance. "Why...thanks." he smiled as he cleared out some coins from the case and set the fiddle inside. "Yavi taught it to me when I first learned to play--he said that the Crystals, when there were eight of them, sang this tune. But with half of the tune missing now, no one knows how the tune actually goes--or if the Crystals sing it any more. He managed to piece together half the tune based on the inscriptions found of the Guardian Crystals' altars, and filled in his guess on the other part based on Cid's research into the Lost Crystals and the Crystal Song."

"I'm sure it must have sounded beautiful with all eight Crystals singing." Mallory commented as the two friends departed the square with their items. The streets were already beginning to crowd with people, and judging from Darien's swift jog, he did not want to get lost in a crowd. Mallory followed close behind, until they had departed the streets of Pravoka and onto the rolling plains.

---------

"Okay..." Darien began has he reached for a map of the world and studied it for a moment as the two of them tromped through the tall grass. He wiped some sweat from his brow before continuing. "The quickest way to get to Jodra is to pass westward through Cornelia. While we're there, we may as well stop to see the sage Matoya."

"I've heard of her..." Mallory interjected, fanning her face with her hat to cool it from the noonday sun. "Supposedly, Ladora granted her the gift of immortality in return for bringing her the locations of where the former Mystic Crystals were scattered."

"You have heard true." Darien replied. "She appears old, but she still has as much energy as a child. That, and her eye of crystal can see the future."

"Really?" Mallory was impressed. This would make Matoya the only one that knew anything about the Lost Crystals. Perhaps she knew how the full Crystal Song went, and could most likely teach Darien the correct tune if his tune turned out to be wrong.

"However, we have a long way to go--and that way is filled with monsters." Darien cautioned. "So stay alert."

No sooner had Mallory given an understanding nod, did she hear a high, keening scream that echoed across the plains. "What was that?" she tensely stammered, her quivering hand reaching for her sword.

Darien was about to answer when a large horse-like creature galloped into view. The creature's fur was a sickening yellow, complementing its sickly looking mane and flaming red eyes. He knew this creature just from its eyes and scream alone: a wild mare. He fumbled for his bow and readied an arrow at the screeching equine, who looked more than eager for a challenge.

"Hi-yah!" Mallory lept into the air and slashed at the mare's left flank, dousing the nearby grass red with blood. The wild mare, despite being wounded and bleeding heavily, screeched again and began charging at Mallory! Her first thought was to run away, but she remembered her father's warning about wild mares: even when wounded, they would not give up a chase. To this wild mare, Mallory was a very pleasing target.

Darien noticed the charging mare and fired a shot into its legs, making it stumble forward, paralyzed. "I have him, now's your chance to weaken it even more!"

"What do you want me to do?" Mallory asked, every so often casting a wary glance at the wild mare. What Darien was going to do was the more urgent question burning in her mind. Was he actually going to try taming this monster? Rangers had a knack for taming wild animals, and accounts of rangers taming monsters were not unheard of. Even so, trying to climb on the back of a wild mare was a grave risk, a risk made even more dangerous when the wild mare was angered.

"Cast a spell that will keep the mare from moving--I'll handle the rest!" Darien called as he darted to his bag and retrieved some rope. The wild mare was trying to charge and gore Mallory, but the paralysis from his shot and the blood loss from its earlier wound only made it able to run in erratic circles. This meant he could only attempt to safely tame it when the wild mare was not moving.

Mallory, meanwhile, began focusing power in her hands, forming a blue ball of ice energy. "Drifting breeze, come down with fury! Blizzard!" The wild mare screamed even more as it tried to run away from the snow and ice that were surrounding it, but only ended up flailing about in the cold. Before long, it collapsed to the ground, seemingly exhausted.

It took the presence of a human on its back to give the wild mare enough courage for one last desprate attempt to kill the two humans trying to subdue it. With a deafening screech, it reared up, leaving Darien struggling to hang on for his life as the wild mare careened through the snow.

I hope Darien knows what he's doing... Mallory thought as she watched the wild mare buck twist, and whirl about, desprately trying to throw Darien off his back and into the snow her Blizzard spell had made. Suddenly, she had an idea: What if I played Darien's version of the Crystal Song on my flute? It sounded crazy, but if it meant saving her friend's life, it was worth a shot. After all, he had saved her the day before...now it was time for her to return the favor.

She unzipped her bag and dug out her flute, watching all the while as Darien attempted to rope the incensed wild mare. Once blowing a few notes to check and see if it was in tune, she started the same calm melody she had heard Darien playing that morning. Amazingly, the soothing tune made the wild mare slow down, allowing Darien a chance to rope it. The firey eyes of anger it had displayed minutes earlier turned a tranquil blue, and its wounds completely healed. By the time Mallory had finished the song, it was no longer the monster it once was--something about it had changed. Maybe it had seen that these humans were friendly. Whatever the reason, it was tamed, and would not be harming them any more.

----------

"That was a very clever idea for taming the mare." Darien began as he pitched his tent later that night. After the battle with the wild mare, they had made very good progress, and were now camped just outside Cornelia Forest. After Cornelia, Jodra was not far away.

"Well, I remembered the Crystal Song you played this morning and decided to play it myself." Mallory explained as she hugged the now tamed mare. "I think monsters fear the Crystal Song, and any monster that hears it, submits to Ladora and is tamed."

"Cid wanted to investigate that further last year, but had to abandon that research because of a run in with a Tonberry that refused to submit to the Song." Darien explained. "That, and he had figured out possible lyrics to what the Guardian Crystals sing..."

"But, no one has heard the Crystals sing, have they?" Mallory was piqued by this--if the Song had lyrics, what were they? She had learned from an early age that the Crystals sang, but no one knew if the Song had lyrics. "What did he discover?"

"The Earth Crystal sings 'Simple as can be', and the Fire Crystal, 'Sweet harmony'," Darien replied as he relaxed before the campfire. "However, only the Water and Wind Crystal's songs made any form of a coherent sentence. The Water Crystal sings 'All day long now, love grows strong now', and the Wind Crystal follows with 'Sing a melody of...'"

"Of what?"

"Cid concluded that the Lost Crystal of Light held the last part of that sentence, and appealed to people all over for suggestions of what the Lost Crystals could've sang. His only rule was it had to make sense." Darien concluded. He was piqued by the same question himself.

"I remember that!" Mallory cried, nearly startling the mare into kicking what was left of the food into the fire. "My father submitted such a guess, and Cid liked it so much, he invited him to share it with all of the townsfolk."

"Did he tell you what it was?" At this, Darien reached for his instrument case and began tuning up.

"Yes...he even made a complete tune!" Mallory added. "If you'll accompany me, I'll sing it for you."

"All right..." With that, Darien lifted his instrument to his chin and began a brief introduction. After playing his melody through once, Mallory's voice, a clear and strong mezzo-soprano, joined in with his fiddle:

Take a melody,
Simple as can be,
Give it some words and
Sweet harmony,
Raise your voices!
All day long now, love grows strong now,
Sing a melody of
Love, oh love...

The mare whinnied with approval when the song concluded. "Thank you." Mallory smiled.

"You know, that song makes perfect sense..." Darien mused. "But, no one knows if that's the real song--except maybe Her Grace."

"Maybe we can find out when we get to Jodra." Mallory assured Darien as she crawled into her tent. Darien just shrugged, lifted his instrument to his chin again, and began playing the tune again. He swore he could hear Mallory singing along inside her tent: Take a melody, simple as can be....

To Be Continued...

Unlimited NiGHTS
April 2nd, 2008, 09:34 PM
I'm liking this story even more now. ^^;

Just a suggestion, but you could name one of the new Warriors of Light Vincent. He wouldn't have to be a gunner (Vincent Valentine reference), I just like the name. I should, too; it's mine.

EmeraldSky
April 3rd, 2008, 05:22 AM
I'm batting around names for the warrior (which we'll meet today), and Vince is one suggestion (as is Leo) I'm batting around.

Besides, a gunner wouldn't make sense in this version of the original Final Fantasy (but Cid and his airship will make an appearance)

EmeraldSky
April 3rd, 2008, 04:41 PM
Last time, on our previous tale...

"The Earth Crystal sings 'Simple as can be', and the Fire Crystal, 'Sweet harmony'," Darien replied as he relaxed before the campfire. "However, only the Water and Wind Crystal's songs made any form of a coherent sentence. The Water Crystal sings 'All day long now, love grows strong now', and the Wind Crystal follows with 'Sing a melody of...'"

"Of what?"

"Cid concluded that the Lost Crystal of Light held the last part of that sentence, and appealed to people all over for suggestions of what the Lost Crystals could've sang. His only rule was it had to make sense." Darien concluded. He was piqued by the same question himself.

"I remember that!" Mallory cried, nearly startling the mare into kicking what was left of the food into the fire. "My father submitted such a guess, and Cid liked it so much, he invited him to share it with all of the townsfolk."

"Did he tell you what it was?" At this, Darien reached for his instrument case and began tuning up.

"Yes...he even made a complete tune!" Mallory added. "If you'll accompany me, I'll sing it for you."

"All right..." With that, Darien lifted his instrument to his chin and began a brief introduction. After playing his melody through once, Mallory's voice, a clear and strong mezzo-soprano, joined in with his fiddle:

Take a melody,
Simple as can be,
Give it some words and
Sweet harmony,
Raise your voices!
All day long now, love grows strong now,
Sing a melody of
Love, oh love...

The mare whinnied with approval when the song concluded. "Thank you." Mallory smiled.

"You know, that song makes perfect sense..." Darien mused. "But, no one knows if that's the real song--except maybe Her Grace."

"Maybe we can find out when we get to Jodra." Mallory assured Darien as she crawled into her tent. Darien just shrugged, lifted his instrument to his chin again, and began playing the tune again. He swore he could hear Mallory singing along inside her tent: Take a melody, simple as can be....

Episode 5: Rescue in the Forest

After breaking camp the next morning, Darien and Mallory continued their trek into Cornelia Forest. At first, the soft earth beneath her feet felt soothing to Mallory--if they got lost, her footprints would give them a way back to where they had started. Darien, meanwhile, paused every so often to break a twig and mold it into a simple trail marker. Mallory had protested at first, but he gently assured her that they would remain visible even through sleet, rain and snow. Footprints, on the other hand, would wash away with the precipitation.

Hours wore on, and by the time the sun reached its peak, Mallory rubbed her sore feet in pain. She sat down on a stump and examined the raised red bump developing on her left heel. If she walked any further, the sore would probably grow bigger or even fester into an infection. She had to save her strength for any creatures that could be in the forest. It would be horrible if a wolf pack ambushed them when she was weakened from using too much magic power at one time.

Darien arrived with the mare a few moments later. "Is everything okay?"

"My feet were hurting, and when I took off my boot, I noticed a sore on my left heel." Mallory explained.

"Here..." and Darien focused some power in his hands, making a white ball of energy appear. "Life's refreshing breeze, heal from the sky! Cure!" The white energy surrounded the sore, making it shrink and disappear. By the time it faded, her foot was completely normal.

"Thanks!" Mallory smiled as she stood up and brushed some leaves from her tunic.

"Would you like to ride the mare for a while?" Darien offered, easing a saddle he had retrieved from his bag onto the mare's back. "That way, your sore won't return worse than before." Mallory nodded and climbed aboard. At least riding wouldn't entangle her in roots or get her boots any dirtier. Once sure Mallory was safely in the saddle, Darien lead the mare deeper into the woods.

Just then, the mare suddenly halted at the sound of a faint male scream, startling Mallory. "What's the matter?" The mare tensely backed away towards a rock for a moment, and would've bolted had Darien not reined her in.

Darien listened again for the scream, only this time it was punctuated by a low growl. "Someone's in trouble!" he called. He led the mare through some underbrush and into a clearing; where Mallory could make out the form of a human. She knew immediately from what he wore he was a warrior. His silver plate armor glittered in the sun, temporarily blinding his opponent: a giant red dragon. It roared and blew an orb of hot lava at the warrior, but he rolled out of the way, saving his midnight black hair and flowing blue cape from being singed. Mallory recognized the emblem on the warrior's cape--the falcon of the Knights of Cornelia. However, the last time she had seen the capes of the Knights, they were red. Maybe the colors of their cloaks change with the new ruler...

"What is it?" Darien asked, noting Mallory's fascination of the cloak the warrior wore. He was more interested in how well the warrior was doing in fending off the giant reptilian. The fight was like art to him, but it also brought back memories of Yavi--every lunge, parry, and swipe brought tears to his eyes. Yavi...I will train like this warrior does... he thought.

Just then, Mallory noticed the dragon about to swipe the warrior with its claws! "Look out!" She winced as the warrior was sent flying into a bush, his face decorated with two bleeding claw marks.

"We have to help!" Darien tied the mare to a nearby tree and darted over to the nearby bush, shielding his ears from the dragon's triumphant roar as it lumbered away into the woods. It seemed contented by its supposed victory over the warrior than the notions that two other humans that were seemingly about to join the fight. Mallory climbed off the mare's back and followed along behind Darien. She found him examining and dressing the warrior's wounds. He moaned every so often as Darien gently bandaged the two claw marks, but besides them, he was all right.

"Are you okay?" Mallory asked as Darien continued cleaning the wound.

"Yes..." the warrior weakly replied. "I thank you and your friends for rescuing me." He lifted his head as if listening for the dragon again, then laid it back down on the make**** pillow of leaves, relieved the dragon had not returned to kill him. "I had orders to slay that dragon--it has been terrorizing the village of Tarai for a month now..."

"Can we help, Master..." Mallory started.

"Corrigan...Vince Corrigan." the warrior replied as he eased himself to his feet. "Again, I thank you both for saving my neck. May I inquire of your names?"

"I am Mallory Foxheart the Red, a Rising Mage." Mallory replied. "The High Red Mage has instructed me to travel to Jodra for my mage's journey."

"And I am Darien Sterling, of the Rangers of Pravoka." Darien replied. "I am guiding Mallory on her journey."

"A pleasure to meet you both, Master Sterling and Lady Foxheart." Vince replied before retrieving his sword from the grass. "My brigade is assigned to protect the surrounding villages near Cornelia."

"So not all the Knights guard Cornelia proper?" Mallory was interested as she ran to retrieve the mare. This was new to her, as she had always heard that the Knights protected the city, but not that they guarded other locations.

"No...we help the militias of the village and resolve disputes when the village council is divided." Vince explained. "For the last month, that dragon has been eating the villager's livestock, and they have begged me to find it and slay it, as the village militia is afraid to fight it."

"That's understandable..." Darien explained as he helped Mallory aboard the mare again.

"As I traveled to where the dragon had last been sighted, Her Grace Ladora appeared to me as a falcon." Vince continued. "She explained to me that she had called me to explore the world with three companions to reunite the Crystals, and two such companions would save me in my darkest hour...could you be the ones?"

"I've had a vision myself--she says I'm the one to wield the Rainbow Blade..." Mallory started.

"Really?" Vince was impressed. "You look like you've trained well in the ways of the blade, but I find it hard to believe that Her Grace would call someone so young..."

"She works in mysterous ways..." Darien noted as the newly formed trio disappeared into the forest towards the dragon's lair...

To Be Continued...

Unlimited NiGHTS
April 3rd, 2008, 04:47 PM
Whoo, a dragon! Best idea yet! And you gave the warrior my name, too. I feel like I'm in the story. ^^;

EmeraldSky
April 3rd, 2008, 06:15 PM
Actually, Vince is a variation of Vincent...it was either that or Leo.

Unlimited NiGHTS
April 3rd, 2008, 07:28 PM
Actually, Vince is a variation of Vincent...it was either that or Leo.

I go by either, so... ^^;

EmeraldSky
April 4th, 2008, 05:01 AM
As for what's coming up next, we'll meet the white mage when we get to Cornelia.

EmeraldSky
April 4th, 2008, 02:58 PM
Last time, on our previous tale...

"So not all the Knights guard Cornelia proper?" Mallory was interested as she ran to retrieve the mare. This was new to her, as she had always heard that the Knights protected the city, but not that they guarded other locations.

"No...we help the militias of the village and resolve disputes when the village council is divided." Vince explained. "For the last month, that dragon has been eating the villager's livestock, and they have begged me to find it and slay it, as the village militia is afraid to fight it."

"That's understandable..." Darien explained as he helped Mallory aboard the mare again.

"As I traveled to where the dragon had last been sighted, Her Grace Ladora appeared to me as a falcon." Vince continued. "She explained to me that she had called me to explore the world with three companions to reunite the Crystals, and two such companions would save me in my darkest hour...could you be the ones?"

"I've had a vision myself--she says I'm the one to wield the Rainbow Blade..." Mallory started.

"Really?" Vince was impressed. "You look like you've trained well in the ways of the blade, but I find it hard to believe that Her Grace would call someone so young..."

"She works in mysterous ways..." Darien noted as the newly formed trio disappeared into the forest towards the dragon's lair...

Episode 6: Song of the Dragon

Mallory led her two combrades through the thick underbrush, ever mindful of what could be lurking in the trees that grew around her. She felt an odd feeling in her stomach, as if the trees' spindly finger-like branches could reach out and grab her at any moment. What if the trees she was seeing were really monsters, like in the stories minstrels told? No...must remain strong--fear is Chaos' favorite means of subduing Ladora's children. she thought to herself as she uneasily listened to the crunch of leaves and twigs beneath her feet.

Vince motioned for the mare to stop, handed the reins to Darien, and approached Mallory. "Is something the matter, Lady Foxheart?"

Mallory was dumbfounded at how polite the warrior was. "Just Mallory, please..." she stammered, her eyes nervously darting around as if searching for something--anything that was following them.

"You look like a rabbit on the run from wolves!" Darien was concerned by Mallory's skittishness. "You sure there isn't anything wrong?"

"Well..." Mallory swallowed hard. "My father always told me tales of monsters that mimiced common everyday objects--and I'm afraid mimics could be among the trees."

"If we found a mimic, I would be able to tell." Darien assured Mallory. "That's one of the things an apprentice ranger learns." Mallory sighed with a little relief--having a ranger with her had its advantages. She could see a small grotto in the distance, veiled by some vines. Some wisps of smoke from the entrance, and low growls from within alerted all three of them that it was the dragon's lair.

"One rumor I have heard of late concerning the Crystals..." Vince began as he drew his blade and sliced through the vines, creating a way inside the cave. "is that they sing to those that find them. However, none of His Majesty's wise men or even Cid of Poft could figure out what the tune is..."

"Darien and I talked of that the other night..." Mallory explained as she tied the mare to a tree with a stray vine and followed Vince inside the cave.

"And what did you two conclude?" Vince asked as he carefully stepped over a small stalagmite jutting through the floor.

"Cid did make some progress in figuring out the tune, but the Lost Crystals hold part of it." Darien started. "So the Rainbow Blade prophecy must be fulfilled if we are to know the Crystal Song in its entirety." Vince nodded to show he understood.

"The only one that would know the true song is Her Grace." Vince agreed, ducking under a stalagtite and leading his new comrades around a corner in the path.

"Not even Matoya knows it?" Mallory was shocked that even an immortal like Matoya wouldn't know the Crystal Song.

"Not even she, unfortunately." Vince sighed. "Unless you two fancy wagering a guess on how it goes. It would make a fine distraction for me to carry out my orders." He gestured to a room a little farther ahead, where the hulking figure of the dragon lay sleeping. Darien, meanwhile, was awed by how the crimson scales shimmered in what little sunlight came through a crack in the ceiling. His thoughts began turning to what it would be like to tame a dragon. Imagine how famous I would become...Master Aravan would make me a hunter for sure...

Mallory waved a hand in his face. "Earth to Darien..."

"Hmm?" Darien snapped from his daydream and retrieved his bow from his back. He readied an arrow as Vince crept up to the dragon's body...

Suddenly, both Mallory and Darien heard a howl of pain as the dragon jolted awake. A rapidly forming pool of blood dried nearby where the mighty reptilian had been lying. Now it was trying yet again trying to scratch Vince, only now it was aiming for a more lethal location--his chest.

Mallory focused some power into her own blade and fired a red beam of light into the dragon's stomach, buying Vince time to slash into its back. He almost severed a wing, but instead picked up a scale that had fallen from its back.

"That was neat!" Darien commented as he fired a shot into the dragon's legs. "How did you--" He paused to duck and avoid the dragon's claws as he readied another shot. "--do that?"

"While I was training in the lodge, the blademaster taught me how to focus magic into my blade and cast a spell that way." Mallory explained as she slashed again at the dragon's stomach, but barely nicked the reptilian's chest seconds befor it tried to scratch her! She ducked and rolled out of the way before diving behind a rock.

"Could you possibly cast a spell from there?" Vince called over the dragon's angry snarls.

"I can try, but no guarantees on its accuracy." Mallory called back before focusing some power in her hands, making a blue ball of energy appear in her hands. "Drifting breeze, come down with fury! Blizzard!" At this, Vince rolled out of the way of the onslaught of ice and snow. The dragon, meanwhile, screeched in pain as it succumbed to the cold. It collapsed into the snow, heavily weakened.

Vince was amazed! "So it was a fire dragon all along...if only I had found a mage to help me sooner..."

"It's weakened by the snow because of how you wore it down earlier." Mallory explained. "Now, carry out your orders and deliver the final blow!" Vince nodded and drew his blade across the dragon's chest, defeating it. Once sure that it was slain, Vince pocketed the scale he had found earlier and motioned for his comrades to follow him out of the cave.

---------

"There it is..." Vince smiled, pointing out a cluster of houses nearby the forest. At first, the village of Tarai didn't look very alive--the only light came from the moonlight shining off of the simple thatched roofs. As the party continued down the path; lights began appearing in the houses. Excited chatter came from the villagers as their guardian came into view.

"Welcome back, Vince!" a woman smiled as the warrior passed by her front stoop. Her two children stood nearby, showering the three heroes with flower petals.

"We were afraid you were dragon food when you didn't return for a week!" a man agreed.

"I would have been, had I not had help from these two." Vince explained, gesturing to Mallory and Darien; who both waved hello. "Gather the village council--I wish to recount my feat for them as proof the dragon is slain."

"Yes, Master!" With that, the man hurried away, eager to hear his guardian's story.

---------

The whole village turned out that night to hear Vince's tale of slaying the dragon. Mallory, however, couldn't help smiling at how the children reached to touch her cloak. It's almost like me reaching to touch the cloaks of the Knights when I was their age... she thought as she was lead to her place overlooking the council hall. This is about as big as the gathering hall at the lodge--a large open room, with a table for the mage's council to sit...

Just then, the crowd hushed as the six members of the village council entered, led by the village elder. Once the council had settled in their seats around the table facing the party, the elder spoke. "Welcome home, Master Vince...we are eager to hear how you slew the red dragon."

"Well...I traveled for many days and nights searching for the beast." Vince began. "Just as I was about to give up and return, it ambushed me in Cornelia Forest. I fought as bravely as I could, but it scratched me with its great claws." The villagers gasped at the bandages covering Vince's right cheek, which had miraculously not come off during the battle that afternoon. Curious murmurs drifted through the crowd as the dressings were gently removed, revealing the two brown scratches. "As I lay helplessly in the underbrush, the dragon took me as defeated, gave a few roars of victory, and left me for dead."

"And then? And then?" some children begged.

"About this time, my comrades arrived..." Vince continued. "Lady Mallory Foxheart, a Rising red mage..." Mallory gave a nod to acknowledge the crowd. "and Master Darien Sterling, a ranger of Pravoka." The crowd roared again as Darien gave a gentle wave. "Darien cleaned my wounds, and we set out to the dragon's lair together. Along the way, we talked of many things, including the vision of the Crystals I had..."

"You figured out the vision of the falcon and the singing Crystals?" the elder asked.

"I thought no one knew what the Crystals sang!" a council member agreed. "Except Her Grace!"

"Mallory and Darien have each studied Cid's work on the Crystal Song, but that is another tale for another time." Vince explained. "Anyway, after walking for most of the afternoon, we found the dragon sleeping in its lair. While it had recovered some strength from our earlier battle, her power and his bow combined with my blade to slay the beast!" The crowd applauded as Vince rose from his chair. "As proof of the deed..." he began as he apprached the elder's seat. "I give you a scale from the dragon's skin." With that, he pressed the red scale into the elder's hand.

"Well done..." the elder smiled.

"Vince the Valiant saves the day!" a man called from the crowd. Cheers erupted in agreement.

Mallory nudged Darien. "Should we share our theory of the Crystal Song?"

"If you wish." Darien whispered back, pulling his bag close to him as he shifted in his chair.

The councilman that had spoken earlier faced Mallory and Darien. "I am interested in your work in the Song of the Crystal, and would very much like to hear your theory of how the tune might go." The other councilmen agreed.

"All right..." Mallory eased herself to her feet and waited as Darien retrieved his fiddle from his bag. She waited as he tuned up and began the soaring melody again. After playing tune through once, Mallory began to sing...

Take a melody...
Simple as can be...
Give it some words and
Sweet harmony...
Raise your voices! At this point, excited whispers wafted through the crowd.
All day long now, love grows strong now,
Sing a melody of
Love, oh love...

Vince listened to the unfolding performance with amazement--for some reason, this melody sounded like the one in his dream. But he still had his doubts--he wanted to hear the eight Crystals sing for himself to see if that was indeed the tune. Yet he couldn't help joining the crowd as they too sang Take a melody, simple as can be...

To Be Continued...

EmeraldSky
April 6th, 2008, 12:40 PM
Last time, on our previous tale...

Mallory nudged Darien. "Should we share our theory of the Crystal Song?"

"If you wish." Darien whispered back, pulling his bag close to him as he shifted in his chair.

The councilman that had spoken earlier faced Mallory and Darien. "I am interested in your work in the Song of the Crystal, and would very much like to hear your theory of how the tune might go." The other councilmen agreed.

"All right..." Mallory eased herself to her feet and waited as Darien retrieved his fiddle from his bag. She waited as he tuned up and began the soaring melody again. After playing tune through once, Mallory began to sing...

Take a melody...
Simple as can be...
Give it some words and
Sweet harmony...
Raise your voices! At this point, excited whispers wafted through the crowd.
All day long now, love grows strong now,
Sing a melody of
Love, oh love...

Vince listened to the unfolding performance with amazement--for some reason, this melody sounded like the one in his dream. But he still had his doubts--he wanted to hear the eight Crystals sing for himself to see if that was indeed the tune. Yet he couldn't help joining the crowd as they too sang Take a melody, simple as can be...

Episode 7: The Four Heroes Appear

Mallory rose early the next morning, being careful not to wake her two companions. She could see the city of Cornelia in the distance, and wished to see the rising sun reflecting off of the castle's majestic red spires. After tiptoing down the stairs and out the door of the council house, she hiked down the dirt path until she came to a hill not far from the village green. The sky was still dark, but ever so slowly starting to lighten and fill with pinks and oranges.

Just as Mallory sat down in the grass to admire the sunrise, she swore she heard a fiddle playing a slow, quiet, lullaby in the council house. Darien's practicing, I bet. she smiled as she watched the sun peek over the hill.

Her solitude and the song were interrupted by an exasperated voice--Vince's--asking "Do we have to practice at this early hour, you spoony bard?"

"Who are YOU calling a spoony bard?" Darien's voice shot back. "I only play to keep my skill sharp and the memory of my fallen comrade alive!" By now, Mallory was afraid--if Vince was as hot-headed as she feared he was; was he angry enough to kill Darien right there? A sick feeling filled her stomach at the thought of losing Darien. Without him, who would guide her through the many forests and caves that were sure to come on her journey?

Thankfully, Vince's demeanor turned a little more apologetic. "My deepest apologies, Master Sterling--may your fallen fellow ranger rest in Ladora's eternal love." Mallory sighed with relief--at least Vince wasn't a warhorse that only lived to fight. Judging from the previous night, he seemed to care about the villagers very much--something all the warriors she'd heard in stories never--or very rarely did.

"Lady Red Mage, what brings you to the hill?" asked a quiet, but inquisitive voice. Mallory whirled around to notice a black haired girl climbing up the hill. The ponytail she had tied it into with a sky blue ribbon bounced along with her shaky but sure walk.

"I wanted to watch the sun rise before my friends and I depart for Cornelia." Mallory explained, moving over to make room for her visitor. "We're going there to ask His Majesty for passage to Jodra."

"Isn't that where Ladora's big temple is?" the girl asked, nervously admiring the ladybug crawling over her blue workdress.

Mallory nodded. "The high red mage asked me to travel there so that I can prove myself as a red mage." She paused to remove her hat and show the girl the yellow feather inside. "If Ladora finds me pure, courageous, and strong when I get to Jodra, she will bless this feather and turn it white. True red mages have white feathers in their hats."

"Why do you wear your hair that way?" A boy was now climbing up the hill to join Mallory and the girl.

"Well...the material the traditional red mage's hat is made from makes my skin itch." Mallory explained. "So I wear my hair like this so that it will not touch my skin." She set her hat back on her head as she watched more children come climbing up the hill, eager to talk to her.

"What's the difference between a red mage and the other mages?" another girl asked. This set off a barrage of questions from the group of children:

"How old do you have to be to become a mage?"

"Do you have to have magic inside you to be a mage?"

"Can you summon those legendary creatures like Bahamut and Shiva?"

"Patience, please!" Mallory assured the crowd, momentarily silencing the questions. "Now...there are many kinds of magic in the world, and each kind of mage has their own specialty. Black mages call upon the elements--fire, ice, and lightning to name a few--to damage their foes. White mages focus on healing and defense. Red mages like me are more like warriors--not only can we wield both black and white magic, and summoning; to a degree--we also train ourselves to focus our magic through a weapon or musical instrument. While black, white, and blue mages wield staves, rods, or even knives--a red mage trains hard enough to wield a sword." The children nodded. "It is a lot of work, and takes a very long time to do it well. Most mages begin training at age six or seven--sometimes earlier if they have magic within them passed down from a family member."

"Show us a spell!" a boy begged.

"Okay..." Mallory thought for a moment, then focused some power in her hands; forming a crackling yellow ball of electricity."Swirling bolts, gather and strike with power! Thunder!" The children watched, amazed, as the thunderbolts streaked into the sky with earth shattering rumbles. The noise was enough to send Darien, Vince, and the other villagers to the hill to watch the awe-inspiring spectacle.

When the last bolt fizzled out, Darien lead the appluase. "That was superb!"

"An excellent display!" Vince agreed. Mallory weakly smiled for the crowd and took a bow before easing herself to her feet--she hadn't counted on having to use this much power this early in the day, so it was only natural she feel tired. As she carefully worked her way through the crowd to rejoin Darien, Vince spoke to the crowd. "I must depart again--this time to Cornelia to tell His Majesty all I have done for this month. I may be away for a long time, but I trust you all to fare well while I am gone. You are a strong people, and I love you all." With that, the three friends started down the path out of town, the people waving goodbye to them all the while.

---------

The walk to Cornelia was relatively uneventful. Mallory was savoring memories of talking with the children, while the boys had more or less forgiven each other for their argument. Still, there was a kind of tenseness in the air, as if fighting could erupt again at any moment.

Finally, Vince pointed out a cluster of red roofed houses surrounded by a dull gray wall, with the beautiful castle overlooking it all. "There it is...Cornelia."

"It's beautiful!" Darien was awed at the town's size--Pravoka could easily fit inside, and still have room left over! Vince just smiled and led the way inside. As they walked through the crowds of townspeople, Mallory noticed the familiar white robe of a white mage off in the distance. The white mage appeared to be examining the flowers that ringed the statue of a falcon in flight in the middle of the square, ever aware of the bustle around her.

"Lady Starwill!" Vince called to the white mage. "I'm back!"

The white mage looked up from her flowers to notice the warrior approaching, removed her hood as a sign of respect, and bowed low. "Welcome back, Master Corrigan...did you handle the dragon situation in your village?" She stopped herself when she saw Mallory and Darien join Vince by a planter she had been tending. "Oh! I forgot to properly introduce myself to your guests!" she giggled as she brushed some strainds of her sunny blonde hair from her face. "I'm Lina Starwill the White, of the Shining Order of White Mages...in the town of Gaia."

"A pleasure to meet you, fellow mage." Mallory replied as the two mages linked fingers--a special greeting from one mage to another. "I am Mallory Foxheart the Red, of the Fireglow Order of Red Mages, of Pravoka." She motioned to Darien to come closer. "This is Darien Sterling, a ranger of Pravoka." she explained, gesturing to Darien as she introduced him.

"Pleased to meet you, Lina." Darien smiled, gently shaking Lina's hand.

"It's good you have returned, Vince...His Majesty wishes to see you." Lina explained as she took her basket of flowers in one hand and a maple staff topped with a star with an emerald in the center. With that, she quietly motioned for the party to follow her to the castle gates that loomed down a maze of streets. Mallory's mind was racing--what would a king want out of her, a red mage from the east country?

To Be Continued....

EmeraldSky
April 8th, 2008, 12:48 PM
Last time, on our previous tale...

"It's beautiful!" Darien was awed at the town's size--Pravoka could easily fit inside, and still have room left over! Vince just smiled and led the way inside. As they walked through the crowds of townspeople, Mallory noticed the familiar white robe of a white mage off in the distance. The white mage appeared to be examining the flowers that ringed the statue of a falcon in flight in the middle of the square, ever aware of the bustle around her.

"Lady Starwill!" Vince called to the white mage. "I'm back!"

The white mage looked up from her flowers to notice the warrior approaching, removed her hood as a sign of respect, and bowed low. "Welcome back, Master Corrigan...did you handle the dragon situation in your village?" She stopped herself when she saw Mallory and Darien join Vince by a planter she had been tending. "Oh! I forgot to properly introduce myself to your guests!" she giggled as she brushed some strands of her sunny blonde hair from her face. "I'm Lina Starwill the White, of the Shining Order of White Mages...in the town of Gaia."

"A pleasure to meet you, fellow mage." Mallory replied as the two mages linked fingers--a special greeting from one mage to another. "I am Mallory Foxheart the Red, of the Fireglow Order of Red Mages, of Pravoka." She motioned to Darien to come closer. "This is Darien Sterling, a ranger of Pravoka." she explained, gesturing to Darien as she introduced him.

"Pleased to meet you, Lina." Darien smiled, gently shaking Lina's hand.

"It's good you have returned, Vince...His Majesty wishes to see you." Lina explained as she took her basket of flowers in one hand and a maple staff topped with a star with an emerald in the center in the other. With that, she quietly motioned for the party to follow her to the castle gates that loomed down a maze of streets. Mallory's mind was racing--what would a king want out of her, a red mage from the east country?

Episode 8: A Problem of Royal Porportions!

Mallory's thoughts raced as she ran to keep up with Lina. What would His Majesty want from me? she wondered. As far as she knew, she had no royal connections--she had lived, worked, and trained in Pravoka all her life. Maybe I'm some long lost princess? Nah...that only happens in stories. Granted; those pretty gowns, servants at your beck and call, and making world-impacting decisions sounds fun...

"You okay, Mallory?" Darien asked, piqued by Mallory's thoughtful look.

"I was just thinking about what it would be like if I were a royal or aristocrat." Mallory replied. "Yet, I'm very well aware the odds of my discovering royal connections to my family are next to nothing, bar Her Grace intervening to make it happen." Besides, aren't all those tales of ordinary people that find they're actually princes or princesses just stories?"

"You have heard true." Vince replied. "While I, also a royal, enjoy hearing those tales; I am also very aware that the odds of them actually happening are almost nothing." He let that hang as the three of them caught up to Lina at the gates. Once everyone was present, Lina led them down the lushly carpeted hallway, past the library where the royal mages were poring over books, and around a corner past the conservatory. Mallory could hear pieces of tunes she knew over the cacophony of squeaks and groans the various instruments made as the royal children tried to play them. But stopping to listen and help would most likely make Lina impatient, so she continued down the hall with her comrades.

Before long, the party found themselves looking down a staircase leading down into the throne room. She could see the various ladies and lords that attended the king and the queen bustling about, their gowns and suits blurring together in one large rainbow stream before Mallory's eyes. So many colors and gems--she was amazed at the amount of detail on every costume.

Just then, a page noticed Vince on the stairs. "Oh! I didn't expect to see you there, Master Corrigan." he started as he met the party at the top of the stairs. "And you might you be, Lady Red Mage?" he asked, his question punctuated by an interested smile.

"I am Mallory Foxheart the Red, of Pravoka." Mallory politely replied before offering her hand to the page as a gesture of respect. With that, she was carefully led down the stairwell until she was looking into the throne room. As she waited for her friends to rejoin her at the bottom, she strained to get a glimpse of either the king or the queen in the crowd. I guess it was a good thing I offered to be led down--I'm so nervous! she thought. It would not look good for me to go crashing down those beautiful stairs because of my nervousness. She swallowed hard and glanced down at her trembling legs for a moment. Holy Princess, please give me the courage to speak confidently before Their Majesties! she desprately prayed.

"Calm yourself, Mallory..." Lina assured her. Mallory tensely nodded. I'm trying, but when you've never been before royalty before, you can't help but be excited. she thought. A tinge of jealousy rippled through her as she watched the boys confidently approaching. What I would give for that kind of style and poise...

A sudden blast of trumpets caught her offguard, nearly sending her tumbling into Vince's arms. The warrior sympathetically smiled and helped Mallory regain some semblance of footing on her wobbly legs. Can the heralds at least give me some warning before they do that again? she silently grumbled as she tensely took Darien's hand in preparation for another escort.

"While the two of us and Lina have to kneel in a minute, Vince and His Majesty will touch blades before Vince kneels." Darien explained. "I've read that that is a sign of devotion between the Knights and the King."

"Interesting..." Mallory replied back as she carefully stepped down the crimson carpet, making sure to match the rhythm in her friend's steps as the anthem of Cornelia filled the air. As she removed her hat and bent down one one knee before the two magnificent thrones, Mallory couldn't resist looking into the royal eyes of the monarchs before her. The King's eyes had a kind of sparkle within the otherwise silver color, as if assuring her that she was welcomed in this sacred place. The Queen seemed to convey that same message. Welcome, little one, to our beautiful kingdom they seemed to say; their deep blue almost matching one of the many sapphires on her gown and on the accessories in her midnight black hair.

Finally, the anthem concluded, and Mallory heard a light tink as two blades touched, followed by the quiet thud of Vince getting on one knee.

"Welcome back, Sir Corrigan." the King began. "I trust that the village you serve has been well?"

"They were once terrorized by a fire dragon for the better part of this month--but I managed to slay it with some help from my comrades." Vince explained. "I present to you Mallory Foxheart the Red, a Rising Red Mage of Pravoka..." The crowd cheered a little, prompting Mallory to shyly smile at the various lords and ladies around her. "and her guide, Darien Sterling of the Pravoka Rangers." Darien acknowledged the cheers with a nod before refocusing his attention on the two monarchs.

"We welcome you to our realm, both of you." the Queen replied. Her soft, quiet voice reminded Mallory of her mother singing her a lullaby when she was a baby.

"I have called you back to handle a far graver situation in the north..." the King explained to Vince. "Two weeks ago, our daughter, Elia, was captured by thieves in the night. We searched all over the land for her, until some hunters told us they had heard a girl's voice crying within the Chaos Shrine to the north."

"Unfortunately, an odd force has caused the northern bridge to break, denying passage to Matoya's Cave." the Queen continued. "Some of the royal rangers say that it is due to one of the creatures inside the Shrine."

"Do the royal rangers know the creature that caused the breakage?" Vince asked, concerned.

"No, not one." the King sighed. "Many adventurers go inside to explore the Shrine, but very few come out. Rather than slowly wiping out the ranger corps by sending them into the Shrine, I ordered them to research what the creature is based on what few accounts of survivors there are in the royal library. Most of them have come to the conclusion that it was the ghost of Garland, a knight that absorbed much power from the Underworld; enough to become Chaos incarnate--until the old Light Warriors defeated him."

"Hm..." Vince was interested.

"In addition, I have some of the royal wizards keeping an eye on a cave not far from the Shrine." the Queen interjected. "They tell me that they hear singing inside when all is quiet, but the concentration of monsters makes it too dangerous for them to explore."

Mallory snapped to attention when she heard the Queen's aside--could it be that one of the Lost Crystals had been found? She decided to keep quiet until given permission to speak, despite the eagerness of wanting to share what she had found with Their Majesties.

"For now, my quest for you and your comrades is this: Travel to the Chaos Shrine and save our daughter." the King concluded. "I will send word to get the bridge repaired so you may travel to see Matoya upon your return."

"Understood, Your Highness." Vince replied.

"I have instructed the guards in charge of the royal armory to provide you with supplies for your quest." the Queen added. Mallory's heart was racing now--this was her first real quest!

To Be Continued...

EmeraldSky
April 12th, 2008, 08:39 AM
Last time, on our previous tale...


"In addition, I have some of the royal wizards keeping an eye on a cave not far from the Shrine." the Queen interjected. "They tell me that they hear singing inside when all is quiet, but the concentration of monsters makes it too dangerous for them to explore."

Mallory snapped to attention when she heard the Queen's aside--could it be that one of the Lost Crystals had been found? She decided to keep quiet until given permission to speak, despite the eagerness of wanting to share what she had found with Their Majesties.

"For now, my quest for you and your comrades is this: Travel to the Chaos Shrine and save our daughter." the King concluded. "I will send word to get the bridge repaired so you may travel to see Matoya upon your return."

"Understood, Your Highness." Vince replied.

"I have instructed the guards in charge of the royal armory to provide you with supplies for your quest." the Queen added. Mallory's heart was racing now--this was her first real quest!

Episode 9: Eye of the Wolf

After bidding the King and the Queen goodbye, Vince mtioned for everyone to follow him out of the throne room and back up the stairs. Once back in the large open hallway, the group continued passt the stairwell they had just ascended and passed the kitchen, where Mallory caught a glimpse of the royal cook in the process of boiling some carrots. Some other cooks mingled around cutting boards or the stove, waiting for their particular meat or vegetable to cook. All the different smells began to meld together--if only she were of the royal line and be able to taste it!

Darien noticed Mallory's mouth water. "That looks so good..."

"I know..." Mallory giggled as she sheepishly wiped some drool from her face. "Pity only royals get to eat it."

"Lady Starwill and I get to eat with Their Majesties on occassion..." Vince interjected as he gently nudged Mallory down the hall before the food could tempt her further. "Every royal meal is an event rivaled only by meals shared in legend..."

"It looked like the royal cook staff were making the Queen's favorite--roasted mutton and vegetables." Lina added. "Based on what I've tasted of the royal foodstuffs, that is Her Majesty's comfort food; so Princess Elia's abduction is really troubling her." She let that hang as Vince carefully unbarred a door on the right side of the hallway.

Mallory was awed by the sheer array of weapons and armor inside the room. Swords, armor, cloaks, bows, knives--almost every weapon imaginable was inside! She looked at her own blade and the silver inlaywork within it. If she had to leave behind the blade she had received upon becoming a Rising Mage, was that worth a new weapon? The sword was tensely sheathed as she glanced around the room towards the left, where the armor was piled up.

Vince, meanwhile, was trading his usual blue cloak for a deep purple one with the crest of the royal family on it. A guard offered a sword to Vince, but he politely waved it away, as if to tell the guard he was content with the blade he had.

She gently waved to get a guard's attention. "Excuse me...is it okay if non-royals can take anything?"

"If you have permission from Their Majesties, you may take as much as you need." the guard calmly replied as he kept a wary eye on the stockpile of weapons. He looked over the two scrolls Mallory and Darien presented to him detailing the Queen's orders. "Very well...if she has ordered you to find the princess, you'd best be armed accordingly."

"Thank you, sir." Mallory replied, then began digging through the pile of chain shirts lying by a window. After unearthing an iron chain shirt in the mess, she ducked behind a changing screen to try out the new armor. Despite being a little large, the new armor still fit comfortably over her lithe yet strong frame.

After redressing herself, she approached Darien with her old chain shirt. "Would you like to try on my old armor?"

Darien looked up from testing the draw of the different bows to see the bronze chain Mallory was offering him. "It looks a bit small, but I might be able to wear it." He abandoned the maple bow he had been examining to step behind the changing screen.

Mallory jumped out of the way as a chain shirt made of tin went clattering to the floor. She knew that tin was weaker than bronze, but if her old armor didn't fit, there were plenty of other bronze chain shirts to try on. "How does it feel?" she asked Darien.

"Well, look at that...I've lost enough weight from training to fit inside it!" Darien smiled as he emerged from behind the screen. "My old tin one was pretty large, since I was still training when I first got it."

"Aren't you going to take anything, Lina?" Mallory asked as she watched the white mage dig through a pile of staves, rods, and knives by the door. Of the four of them, she had yet to take something.

"I know I had that knife here someplace..." Lina muttered as she set aside her staff. After some more digging, she emerged from the clutter holding a knife with a silver hilt shaped like two falcon wings. "Here it is! The knife I received from the King when I came into his service."

"I'll take this bow..." Darien agreed as he replaced his old bow with an elm bow with inlay work reminiscent of a river.

Now only Mallory was left to choose a weapon--so many blades to choose from, but at her current power level, they would most likely be too heavy for her to wield. Either that, or she wouldn't be able to focus power through them. I'll hang on to my old blade for now--I have too many memories attached to this one! she thought as she watched Lina step out from behind the changing screen with a different robe on. It was still white like all white mage's robes, but it also had a pink triangle pattern on the sleeves and at the bottom. Once Lina had changed, Vince let the party from the castle, through town, and back out onto the plains again.

Several hours later...

"Goodness, I don't remember the Chaos Shrine being this far!" Lina wheezed as the party stumbled through the tall grass of the northern plains. They had been walking for several hours now, and the burning sun was high overhead; making even sitting still hard to do.

"Patience, Lina..." Darien assured her. "It is a long walk."

"If you're tired, Lady Starwill, we can rest by the river by the bridge." Vince suggested. He pointed out a large stone bridge in the distance, where a tiny stream trickled by. While the bridge looked passable from far off, a closer look revealed that the other half of the span was missing. He watched as the girls both ran towards the river, eager to wash their reddened faces and cool off.
Darien joined Vince by a tree a moment later. "We need to be on our guard here--the wolf packs here are always on the move, even during the heat of the day."

"But how will you alert us if they come?" Vince asked, tensely feeling around Darien's pack in hopes something resembling a horn or other loud instrument was inside.

"With this." Darien smiled, showing Vince a small tin figure of a bird with the tail sharpened into a mouthpiece. "Every ranger keeps something to signal with on their person at all times. Horns were too heavy for me, so I made myself a whistle."

Vince scoffed at the tiny whistle's size. "That little thing couldn't possibly be loud enough for all of us to hear it!"

Darien was about to answer Vince's remark when he heard a mournful howl in the distance. Wolves. As he tensely reached for his bow, he saw three gray wolves plodding up the hill, en route to the stream. Every few steps, one would stop and howl; and the other two would howl back in reply. The eerie call and response echoed across the plains, eventually getting the girls' attention.

Lina whirled around to see the wolves and almost shrieked in fear, but Mallory gently clamped a hand over her mouth. "No...we don't want them to attack us." She waited for a moment as Lina calmed down, then allowed her to speak again. "Wolves won't attack unless provoked, and a loud noise like a shriek would do that."

"Really?" Lina was impressed. "I've always been afraid of a wolf's howl--reminds me of a fiend from the underworld!" Her whole body trembled in Mallory's arms as even more wolves began appearing, all howling back in reply to the alpha male's call.

Even Vince was agitated. "Don't just stand there, Master Sterling, alert the girls! I hope that whistle's loud enough for them to hear..."

"With pleasure." With that, Darien lifted the small whistle to his lips and blew a high piercing note, one that sent most of the wolf pack fleeing and made Vince cover his ears in shock from the sudden blast. The girls, seeing the original trio of wolves bounding in their direction, readied their weapons to fight.

"Swirling bolts, gather and strike with power!" Thunder!" Mallory called as she sent some electricity flying at a wolf that was trying to bite her. Despite her assailant being heavily wounded, it slashed at her, leaving a large claw mark in her unprotected arm. She clutched the wounded place in pain, but all the more relieved that her sword arm had not been the one wounded.

"Life's refreshing breeze, heal from the sky! Cure!" Lina commanded, sending a soothing blue light to heal Mallory's wound. Once sure. the scratch mark had healed, she delivered a fatal swipe to the third wolf. The second wolf, although weakened from the Thunder spell, tried again to get at Mallory's arm, but was unexpectedly impaled by an arrow.

"Thanks, Darien!" Mallory called as she led Lina up the hill in hopes she could help Vince fend off the alpha male. By the time the party was reunited, however, Vince had delivered the fatal blow, and was now inspecting the corpse for any spoils.

"I sorely underestimated your whistle, Master Sterling..." Vince sighed, weary from the battle. "It was enough to drive most of the wolf pack away!"

"It's too hot to continue, so we should best find a place to rest away from their territory." Darien suggested. Mallory nodded in agreement, but part of her was afraid: If they were indeed going to travel through the night, who knew what would ambush them then?

To Be Continued....

EmeraldSky
April 18th, 2008, 02:08 PM
Last time, on our previous tale...

"Really?" Lina was impressed. "I've always been afraid of a wolf's howl--reminds me of a fiend from the underworld!" Her whole body trembled in Mallory's arms as even more wolves began appearing, all howling back in reply to the alpha male's call.

Even Vince was agitated. "Don't just stand there, Master Sterling, alert the girls! I hope that whistle's loud enough for them to hear..."

"With pleasure." With that, Darien lifted the small whistle to his lips and blew a high piercing note, one that sent most of the wolf pack fleeing and made Vince cover his ears in shock from the sudden blast. The girls, seeing the original trio of wolves bounding in their direction, readied their weapons to fight.

"Swirling bolts, gather and strike with power!" Thunder!" Mallory called as she sent some electricity flying at a wolf that was trying to bite her. Despite her assailant being heavily wounded, it slashed at her, leaving a large claw mark in her unprotected arm. She clutched the wounded place in pain, but all the more relieved that her sword arm had not been the one wounded.

"Life's refreshing breeze, heal from the sky! Cure!" Lina commanded, sending a soothing blue light to heal Mallory's wound. Once sure. the scratch mark had healed, she delivered a fatal swipe to the third wolf. The second wolf, although weakened from the Thunder spell, tried again to get at Mallory's arm, but was unexpectedly impaled by an arrow.

"Thanks, Darien!" Mallory called as she led Lina up the hill in hopes she could help Vince fend off the alpha male. By the time the party was reunited, however, Vince had delivered the fatal blow, and was now inspecting the corpse for any spoils.

"I sorely underestimated your whistle, Master Sterling..." Vince sighed, weary from the battle. "It was enough to drive most of the wolf pack away!"

"It's too hot to continue, so we should best find a place to rest away from their territory." Darien suggested. Mallory nodded in agreement, but part of her was afraid: If they were indeed going to travel through the night, who knew what would ambush them then?

Episode 10: Tales of an Ambush

It was a good hour before the party found any sort of rest from the sun. Even the mare shared Lina's delight in splashing the cold water on her face as she watched the boys enter the small clearing. Tall trees loomed off to the west, and beyond that, some dull white spires. That must be the Chaos Shrine... Mallory thought as she watched Darien start a roaring fire. Once Lina had returned from the pool after tying the mare to a tree, Vince retrived some meat from his bag and inserted a prong through it.

"I'll go get some wild berries to compliment the meat." Darien volunteered. "Maybe some honey, too." With that, he disappeared into the woods.

"Is everything all right, Lady Foxheart?" Vince was concerned about the glum look on Mallory's face. "You seem troubled."

"I am." Mallory replied. "The attack by the wolf pack earlier, and our location by the woods...I'm afraid we'll be ambushed by goblins, or something worse." She recalled tales her mother told her about goblins, bats, and other creatures of the night attacking a party when they were unaware. No..those are stories...you've been told what to do in case of an ambush. she told herself as she laid her blade by a rock.

She would've fallen asleep by the fire had footsteps not jolted her awake. "Who's there?" she called into the twilight, uneasily fumbling for her sword.

"It's just me, Mallory." Darien replied as he deposited some berries by a log. "Why are you so on edge?"

"She fears an ambush." Vince explained. "And considering our location, we could well be targets for many unsightly creatures." Mallory shuddered at this. What if there were eyes in the forest, hundreds of them, all watching the party's every move? No doubt, some of them would most likely be friendly, but there would also be not-so-friendly denizens in the forest too.

Lina just smiled. "Why don't we tell stories to pass the time while we eat?" With that, she accepted a piece of the meat from Vince and bit into it.
"So...what kinds of stories to royal minstrels tell?" Mallory asked Vince, a curious twinkle in her eye. Since the warrior was a royal, she was wanting to know what it was like to live within a castle.

"Well..." Vince thought for a moment--he hadn't counted on being put on the spot. "They're not very much different than what common minstrels tell--but mostly they tell of heroes of the past." He bit into his share of the meat, then continued. "Likewise, I am curious as to what stories are popular around Pravoka."

"Well, the Legend of the Lost Crystals is one." Mallory replied. "I've told that one many times."

"My favorite is the tale of Firion, from the west country." Darien replied.

"The one about the hero that defeats an emperor, and then has to brave the underworld?" Lina was excited. Darien nodded. "I've never heard that tale."

"All right, I'll try my best to tell it, but I'm no minstrel." Darien cleared his throat and began. "Many years ago, an empire rose up in the west country, in the region of Palmecia. Many towns fell to the empire, including the fair city of Fynn. The royal family fled to the town of Altair when the empire invaded, and from there, began a resistance movement..."

Suddenly, a high pitched moan was heard in the distance, startling Darien from his story, he reached for his bow and watched as a wolf pup came darting from the woods. The mare whinnied in fear as the tiny canine raced around the oasis, leaving Darien to chase after it.

"Try and corner it, Master Sterling!" Vince called over the noise, reaching for his sword. "Once you have it, let me have the honor of slaying it!" He ran over to the pool, just as Darien threw some cloth over the pup, disorienting it. Just before he could draw his sword and deliver a fatal blow to the pup's chest, Lina gripped his hand. At first, he tried to resist the white mage's surprisingly hard grip, but he finally worked up the courage to ask "Why must you let this beast live, Lady Starwill?"

"It's only a baby, and it probably hasn't learned to view humans as prey yet." Lina explained.

"It may be a pup, but its parents have to be somewhere nearby." Vince cautioned. He cast a wary glimpse into the darkened trees, as if waiting for more wolves to arrive from the indigo tinged trees.

Mallory tiptoed towards the enterance into the forest, hoping that she could at least see what the pup had been running from, or if its parents were close by. She didn't hear any howls nearby, save for the pup's panicked cries as Darien tried to calm it. Just as she was about to give up, the form of a wolf lying in the grass by some vines caught her attention.

She took care not to make any noise, in case the wolf would spot her and attack. But when she was close enough to see the moonlit body, she winced at the dull red, nearly brown streaks that cut deeply into the silvery fur. A second wolf lay nearby, lifeless, yet also bearing similar wounds. Her heart raced--what kind of monsters could've been strong enough to take down two wolves, fully grown?

A low cackle caught her attention, as the short greenskined form of a goblin came into view, apparently pleased by the beasts it had slain. She wanted to scream, but what if more goblins were nearby? She had to do what she could to not alert it to her presence. Not run, scream, or even draw her weapon--just remain still.

Just then, more similar cackles filled the air as more goblins entered the clearing, each of them wanting to get a glimpse of the dead wolves. One goblin chattered to another in a language Mallory did not understand, but judging from how the second goblin responded with a thoughtful look, she presumed the garbled phrase to be a question.

Suddenly, a goblin clad in a more ornate tunic than the others turned to see the girl observing their hunt, and barked what amounted to an attack order. As the goblins surrounded her, Mallory couldn't help but wonder: Where are my friends when I need them?

To Be Continued...

EmeraldSky
April 25th, 2008, 02:37 PM
Last time, on our previous tale...

Mallory tiptoed towards the enterance into the forest, hoping that she could at least see what the pup had been running from, or if its parents were close by. She didn't hear any howls nearby, save for the pup's panicked cries as Darien tried to calm it. Just as she was about to give up, the form of a wolf lying in the grass by some vines caught her attention.

She took care not to make any noise, in case the wolf would spot her and attack. But when she was close enough to see the moonlit body, she winced at the dull red, nearly brown streaks that cut deeply into the silvery fur. A second wolf lay nearby, lifeless, yet also bearing similar wounds. Her heart raced--what kind of monsters could've been strong enough to take down two wolves, fully grown?

A low cackle caught her attention, as the short greenskined form of a goblin came into view, apparently pleased by the beasts it had slain. She wanted to scream, but what if more goblins were nearby? She had to do what she could to not alert it to her presence. Not run, scream, or even draw her weapon--just remain still.

Just then, more similar cackles filled the air as more goblins entered the clearing, each of them wanting to get a glimpse of the dead wolves. One goblin chattered to another in a language Mallory did not understand, but judging from how the second goblin responded with a thoughtful look, she presumed the garbled phrase to be a question.

Suddenly, a goblin clad in a more ornate tunic than the others turned to see the girl observing their hunt, and barked what amounted to an attack order. As the goblins surrounded her, Mallory couldn't help but wonder: Where are my friends when I need them?

Episode 11: Moonlit Rescue!

Mallory's hands shook as the goblins continued to surround her. If she didn't do anything now, the goblins would just as easily kill her too. If they could take down two adult wolves as easily as they had, a human was probably just as easy to take down.

She reached for her blade and drew it, getting the lead goblin's attention. But before he could give the word to attack, an arrow zipped through the cool night air, felling the goblin closest to her. The goblins abandoned their attack on Mallory and frantically looked around, eager to attack whoever had killed their comrade.

A familiar silver cloak in the moonlight caught her eye. Darien! she smiled as her friends appeared just over the hill leading down into the woods. They came to help!

"Lady Foxheart, cast a spell to distract them! That should allow us to get close to help you!" Vince's voice echoed into the night. She couldn't make out her friends very well in the inky blackness, but she could at least follow their voices. Knowing that, she focused some power into her blade until it glowed red. "Out of the ground, raze all greenery with flame! Fire!"

The resulting beam caught the goblins by surprise. Some scrambled for cover as the beam ricocheted off the tree trunks, leaving a burning dent in every trunk it hit. Five goblins were not so lucky to escape the spell, on top of two more Lina had stunned. With the bulk of the goblins either dead or panicked, she took the opportunity to flee back to Darien's side. Just as she arrived at the top of the hill, she heaved her blade into a goblin's chest. With another casualty gone, she could return the favor by focusing on the leader, who miraculously had escaped her spell.

"Nice shot!" she wheezed as she took a postion overlooking the forest. More goblins were arriving now, and the swarm showed no signs of slowing down.

"My pleasure, but we need to take out the leader." Darien cautioned as he fired another shot at a goblin. "If the leader dies, chances are the rest of them will retreat too." He was about to eleborate on this when a goblin surprised him, leaving a small dagger wound in his arm.

"Life's refreshing breeze, blow in energy!" Cure!" Lina paused from fending off goblins to heal Darien's wound. "I think that's the last of them from my position..." she noted. Most of the goblins were now focused on trying to attack the three remaining humans on the hill instead of the white mage hiding in the brush.

"Then how do you propose we attack the leader, Lady Starwill?" Vince asked as threw off an enraged goblin from his arm, sending it barreling into three more coming up the hill.

Lina was about to answer when she heard the clattering of bones in the distance--some skeletons were now coming to join the fight! "Hang on, I'm going to try defeating the skeletons and stunning the leader, like what Mallory did with her blade earlier." she explained to Vince. With that, she focused some power into the emerald topping her staff until it was glowing white, much like the moon overhead. "Holy light, cleave through the darkness! Dia!"

Mallory watched, amazed, as a burst of holy energy flew from Lina's staff into the skeletons, then ricocheted off a tree into the lead goblin's stomach. "I didn't know white mages could focus magic through their weapons too!"

"It is doable, but takes more strength than it would for you." Vince explained, gesturing to Lina weakly climbing up the hill to rejoin the party. He watched to see what the lead goblin would do now that it was wounded. No more skeletons seemed to be coming, for any undead like them feared the light of a white mage.

Darien strained his eyes into the blackness. Most of what they had slain dotted the ground, and the leader looked clearly in pain from how he clutched his sides. He shouted what seemed like profanity in the goblin tongue at the party, then limped away into the night.

"I ask the Holy Princess that that's the last of them." Vince sighed, sheathing his blade. "Come...let us return to camp."

---------

Mallory smiled as the wolf pup romped around her feet, eager to catch a share of the meat she was eating. "I think he likes me!" The pup yipped in agreement as Mallory gently stroked the fur behind his ears.

"I'll have you all know that if that pup makes any trouble, I will personally slay it." Vince growled. He was not amused that a dangerous beast like a wolf was among them.

"You won't have to...I will train it as to what is acceptable and what isn't." Darien assured the warrior from his post on the knoll overlooking the camp. He whistled for the pup, who came bounding back to him.

Lina was unnerved. "I am concerned more goblins--or skeletons--may come while we sleep."

"I'm sure Darien will alert us if he sees any." Mallory assured Lina as she relaxed by the fire. Lina just smiled and bagan tidying up the camp from dinner.

"Lady Starwill has a legitimate concern...we are close to the Chaos Shrine, where even more undead await." Vince cautioned. "So we must be on our guard." Mallory swallowed hard--was the encounter with the skeletons a taste of what was to come?

To Be Continued....

EmeraldSky
May 4th, 2008, 07:19 AM
Last time, on our previous tale...

Lina was unnerved. "I am concerned more goblins--or skeletons--may come while we sleep."

"I'm sure Darien will alert us if he sees any." Mallory assured Lina as she relaxed by the fire. Lina just smiled and bagan tidying up the camp from dinner.

"Lady Starwill has a legitimate concern...we are close to the Chaos Shrine, where even more undead await." Vince cautioned. "So we must be on our guard." Mallory swallowed hard--was the encounter with the skeletons a taste of what was to come?
Episode 12: Falling Into Chaos

"There it is..." Darien began, pointing out a majestic white building as the party emerged from the forest the next morning. Mallory's feet ached from the long walk the night before, and was clearly not looking foward to walking even more inside an old shrine. On the other hand, there was also the possibility of treasure--if she found a better blade inside the Chaos Shrine, she could warp her current blade to her house in Pravoka. This way, she wouldn't have to deal with having to part with a blade she loved.

Vince noticed Mallory's thoughtful look. "You seem troubled. Is everything well?"

"Yes..." Mallory replied as she stretched her legs. "While I am looking foward to exploring the Shrine, I don't want to give my current blade away..."

"Why not?" Now Darien was interested in the conversation--he remembered seeing Mallory languishing over whether or not to take a weapon back at the armory. What was so special about that sword? he wondered.

"When an apprentice red mage begins to Rise--that is, becomes a Rising Mage, they receive a sword of their own to commemorate the occasion." Mallory explained. "Many grow to cherish these blades because of that." Vince nodded to show he understood.

I see--something like the Ranger's Charm that all the apprentices get when they complete training! Darien thought, every once in a while pausing to glance at a small pewter figure of a deer that dangled from his left pocket. I keep mine handy for protection... After pocketing the small figure and its chain, he joined his three party members at the entrance.

Lina, meanwhile, lifted her head skyward and spread her arms wide. "Holy Princess, grant us your protection as we enter into a place of darkness." she called to the clouds that gently floated above her. Her blessing complete, she motioned for everyone to follow her into the blackness.

---------

"Wow..." Mallory gasped as she looked around the shrine's entryway. Marble columns were everywhere in the old shrine--besides the two that the party stood by, there were two more by the entrance. Even more columns branched out to the north, as if pointing Mallory in the direction of the center. The corridors off to the left and right had no columns, but the stone walls lining them had the reds and browns of mold caked on them, as well as a few stray sprouts of plants in the cracks. The green shoots were what spooked Mallory the most as she followed her friends down the left path. Who was she to guess that some kind of mimic had not made its home in the cracked stones, and was now waiting to grab her?

An eerie howl broke the silence, prompting Mallory to draw her blade in fear. After Darien silently assured her there was nothing in the corridor to attack, she sheathed her weapon and tensely jogged along behind him. She would warily glance back behind her every so often as the party wound around the perimeter a small room at the end of the hall, just to make sure nothing was following them.

"All is well, my lady." Vince calmly assured her as he approached the door leading into the small room.

"I know...I'm just afraid we'll be ambushed again." Mallory stammered as Darien carefully opened the door. Aside from a small chest on the floor, there wasn't too much to see in the room.

"I'll warn you if I think we're about to be ambushed." Darien assured Mallory as he inspected the chest for any traps. Once satisfied that he didn't see any triggers, he carefully opened the chest and lifted out a red hat that looked almost like Mallory's. Instead of the traditional materials, this red mage's hat was made of leather. "Do you want this?" he asked Mallory.

"I'll take it." Mallory replied as she removed her old hat. Red Mage's hat, fly for home and wait for my return. she siliently commanded, making her old hat disappear. Leather was not a material she was allergic to, so she took down her crown of braids and set the leather hat upon her head. The yellow feather signifying she was a Rising Mage automatically took its place in the brim

Lina was piqued by Mallory's spell. "How did you make your old hat disappear like that?"

"It didn't disappear...I teleported it to my house." Mallory explained. "Teleportation isn't that hard for me, so I don't tire when I use it." With that, she motioned for everyone to follow her back out to the hallway--and shrieked when she came face-to-face with a ghoul!

"Mallory!" Lina grabbed her staff and watched as the ghoul groped to find a suitable place to grab Mallory from with its pallid green hands. "Holy light, cleave through the darkness! Dia!" The ghoul shrieked as the light consumed it, freeing Mallory from its grip.

"You okay?" Darien asked as he helped Mallory to her feet.

"Yes..." Mallory weakly replied as she regained her footing. "Good thing Lina cast that ghoul away!"

"Ghouls and others of their ilk can drain their target's life force once they have a solid grip on them." Vince cautioned. "It seems like it managed to drain a little from you..."

"She doesn't look too weakened--Lina got it before it could start draining her." Darien explained. "That, and Mallory would look pale if she was drained."

"Can we move on before another ghoul decides to drain me?" Mallory asked. Everyone laughed as they started back down the hall and took the right hallway.

To Be Continued....

EmeraldSky
May 14th, 2008, 08:22 AM
Last time, on our previous tale...

"You okay?" Darien asked as he helped Mallory to her feet.

"Yes..." Mallory weakly replied as she regained her footing. "Good thing Lina cast that ghoul away!"

"Ghouls and others of their ilk can drain their target's life force once they have a solid grip on them." Vince cautioned. "It seems like it managed to drain a little from you..."

"She doesn't look too weakened--Lina got it before it could start draining her." Darien explained. "That, and Mallory would look pale if she was drained."

"Can we move on before another ghoul decides to drain me?" Mallory asked. Everyone laughed as they started back down the hall and took the right hallway.

Episode 13: A Clash in Chaos

As the party rounded the corner down the right hallway, Mallory couldn't help but shudder at the sheer number of skeletons that littered the stone floor. While they were not undead like the ones in the forest, she still felt a twinge of dread. Was the ghost of Garland going to be tougher then the might of all four of them? Was he as strong as the King had said he was? The thought of her quest suddenly ending haunted her.

Suddenly, a thought hit her: Did they remember to pick up everything on the left route? For all she knew, there could be a secret lying on the other route that held a clue as to how to defeat Garland's ghost.

She gave Vince's cape a light tug. "Vince?"

"What is it, my lady?" Judging from Mallory's trambling hands, Vince knew something was wrong.

"Can we turn back and see if we left anything behind on the left route?" Mallory asked. "I sense that there's something else there..."

"I'm sure that we gathered all the treasure there..." Vince assured her. "There is nothing more in that direction."

"Please?" Mallory begged.

"Just to humor Mallory?" Lina joined in. Vince reluctantly sighed and led the party back down the left hallway. As they passed by the entrance, Mallory jumped back at the sight of a cobweb blocking the way down the left path. Furthermore, a hulking black widow guarded the web; its spindly legs each the size of a quill pen. It seemed engrossed in devouring a goblin, unaware of the four adventurers eying its web.

Suddenly, the zip of an arrow startled Mallory. It also got the black widow's attention, and abandoned its meal in order to find the one that had damaged its web. As soon as it found Darien's arrow embedded in a dangling piece of web, it snapped the arrow in half with a leg.

"Now what are we going to do?" Vince yelped. "You shouldn't have angered that spider!" He drew his blade as the black widow approached.

"Out of the ground, raze all greenery with flame! Fire!" Mallory commanded. The black widow was unprepared for the fireball streaking at it, which also burned away the rest of the web, clearing the pathway.

"Thanks, Mallory." Darien sighed with relief--usually giant spiders fell easily to an arrow. This one seemed different--it had attacked as soon at it had seen the arrow damage its web. Maybe the rumors of monsters becoming more agressive he had been hearing were true after all, he thought as he followed Mallory down the left hall and into another small room. This one had two chests this time, rather then one.

After checking for traps, Mallory opened the chests and retrieved a tent and a potion from them. After stashing the potion in her bag and giving the tent to Darien, the group started back towards the right path, only to discover that a force field prevented their passage.

Lina examined the faint blue shield blocking the path. "Apparantly we cannot pass untill a certain creature is vanquished."

"Then let us check the center route." Vince suggested. "I have a feeling the princess is there." He gestured to a large room in the distance, framed by columns. He motioned for everyone to follow him down the column lined path. Once everyone was present, he carefully opened the door, allowing the party just enough room to see inside without the occupants noticing.

Mallory was completely unprepared for what she saw inside. A thin outline of what looked like a man clad in the purple and red robes of an ancient dynasty stared down a small girl, who cowered in a corner. She could see that the girl wore a familiar sea green gown--this was surely Princess Elia. The girl's normally braided brown hair stuck out in a mess of ten different directions, and a jewel studded tiara sat askew on her head.

"That's the princess!" Darien gasped.

"What I want to know is what Garland's spirit wishes to do with the Princess..." Vince grumbled. He remembered tales of the old Light Warriors defeating Garland many years ago--with him being undead now, did he have powers normally seen in the underworld?

"Let's listen..." Lina hissed. She watched as Elia tried to crawl away from the ghostly knight, but soon found herself against the walls of the room.

"Let me go, you meanie!" Elia cried desperately. She heaved a rock at the ghostly form approaching her, but it went straight through the thick steel helmet that obscured her captor's face.

Garland just laughed. "Your father will have no choice but to exchange the kingdom for your life, my sweetheart." With that, he draw a giant claymore and raised it above Elia's head...

Just then, Vince charged into the room, his blade drawn. "Leave the princess alone, or submit to my blade!" Mallory, Darien, and Lina followed, their weapons drawn as well.

Garland just turned to face his opponent, as if debating which of all the locations on Vince's body for a lethal blow would make for the most painful death. "You dare challenge the great Garland? You've just sealed your fate! Cornelia will be mine, and you know it!"

"No it won't, Metalhead!" Elia shot back from the corner. "Sir Corrigan and his friends are going to beat YOU!"

"Quiet!" Garland demanded as he approached the party. "You're just the King's lapdogs...that have no clue of the great power Chaos has given me!"

"Come a little closer and say that!" Mallory retorted.

"Mallory..." Darien cautioned. "We shouldn't get him any more madder--then we'll all be dead!"

Garland just laughed as he drew his blade again. "So you're still bent on challenging me, are you? I, Garland will knock you all down!" With that, he charged at Vince, only to be knocked back by an arrow from Darien.

"Out of the ground, raze all greenery with flame! Fire!" Mallory's spell landed in Garland's path, setting his feet and leggings ablaze. Vince took advantage of the distractions to knock away Garland's claymore, sending it clattering to the ground. Garland tried to retrieve his weapon, but an arrow stunned his sword arm. Mallory just whispered the magic words a second time to create another fireball, then hurled it at the huge blade, blocking it from Garland's reach with a ring of flames.

"Holy light, cleave through the darkness! Dia!" Garland howled in pain as the light engulfed him. Enraged, he leapt at Vince in attempt to claw at him, leaving a few dents that looked like claws in Vince's armor. Vince just held his wounded arm close as he slashed at Garland again--again thankful it was not his sword arm that was wounded.

"Mallory, try casting a spell on my arrows--maybe that should penetrate his armor." Darien suggested. With that, he fired a shot at Garland. Mallory again whispered the incantation into her hands, creating another fireball. After seeing if it was a suitable size, she hurled it at the arrow, setting it ablaze.

Vince heard Garland's cry of pain as the enchanted arrow landed in his back, melting away his armor and exposing his skin. A second Dia blast from Lina aggravated the hole further. He took that opportunity to plunge his weapon into the exposed skin, making the ghost fall to the ground and disappear.

Lina hurried over to Elia's side. "Are you okay, Your Highness?"

Elia weakly stood up and brushed off her gown. "I think so...thank you so much for saving me!"

"Our pleasure." Vince smiled as he examined his wound--he'd have to get his armor repaired if he was to travel farther, unless Lina could do something about it.

"Life's refreshing breeze, blow in energy! Cure!" Lina commanded, sending a blue aura to Vince's wound. Once it had faded, his armor was completely new, with no evidence of the battle left behind.

Vince just smiled. "Thank you, Lady Starwill...as for you, Your Highness, it is time for you to return to the castle." He took Elia by the hand and lead the way out of the Shrine. Once everyone was back outside, he let Elia climb aboard the mare before setting out back to Cornelia...

To Be Continued...

EmeraldSky
May 23rd, 2008, 09:26 AM
Last time, on our previous tale...

Lina hurried over to Elia's side. "Are you okay, Your Highness?"

Elia weakly stood up and brushed off her gown. "I think so...thank you so much for saving me!"

"Our pleasure." Vince smiled as he examined his wound--he'd have to get his armor repaired if he was to travel farther, unless Lina could do something about it.

"Life's refreshing breeze, blow in energy! Cure!" Lina commanded, sending a blue aura to Vince's wound. Once it had faded, his armor was completely new, with no evidence of the battle left behind.

Vince just smiled. "Thank you, Lady Starwill...as for you, Your Highness, it is time for you to return to the castle." He took Elia by the hand and lead the way out of the Shrine. Once everyone was back outside, he let Elia climb aboard the mare before setting out back to Cornelia...

Episode 14: The Crystal's Clue

Vince smailed as he lead the mare down a dirt pathway that went around the forest. This was a faster route to Cornelia than having to brave the woods a second time. Subjecting Elia to an ambush was the last thing he wanted to do, never mind he had others to help him. If she fell in battle to goblins or skeletons...he shuddered to think of what would happen if he had to break the saddening news to the King and the Queen.

"Master Corrigan? What's the matter?" Elia's soft voice snapped him from his mental nightmare. He glanced up at the young princess and nervously smiled to let her know he was all right.

"You seemed troubled when we passed around the edge of the woods." Darien noted. "You sure all is well?" The wolf pup whined in agreement from farther ahead as Darien shepherded it back to him by giving a leather strip that he had fashioned into a leash a quick tug

Vince swallowed hard. "I...I was afraid of passing through the woods for fear that we get caught in an ambush. If Elia falls to a pack of monsters..." He let that hang as the party approached Cornelia's gates.

Elia just giggled. "Don't worry, Master...we're nowhere near the woods now--besides, I have you and your friends to protect me in case some monsters find us!"

"See, Vince? The princess trusts you to protect her." Mallory began. "All you need to do is affirm her trust, not worry yourself to death over her." Vince started to protest, but Mallory cut him off. "I know she is important to you, but worrying about her all the time isn't going to come off as very guardian-like in her eyes."

"You're right...maybe I am worrying too much." Vince replied as he led the mare into the city towards the castle gates. I know my duty is to protect the royal family and the people I serve--and it is only natural that I worry about them a little... he thought as he helped Elia off the mare and led her inside the castle. But worrying about Elia as I have--could Lady Foxheart be right that I worry too much?

In the throne room...

"Your Majesties...I bring you the princess, safe and sound." Vince announced as he led Elia down the carpet towards the two thrones. Some of the lords and ladies in attendance cheered at the sight of the smiling princess. Once Vince and the others had gotten down on one knee, Elia calmly walked over to her own small throne by her mother's.

"Words cannot describe the happiness and gratitude I have for your finding her alive, Sir Corrigan." the King smiled. "Name what you wish, and it will be granted; each of you.

"I desire no reward other than seeing Princess Elia safe." Vince replied. "That is far better than any amount of riches or wealth."

"What of your comrades? They deserve to be thanked as much as you do." the Queen began.

Mallory took that opportunity to speak. "If it pleases Your Majesties, my only request is to learn more of the mysterious song the wizards have heard...I feel it might be one of the Lost Crystals singing out to its brethren."

The King thought on this for a moment, then replied. "Very well, Lady Foxheart. I will tell you all that the royal wizards know about the cave by Jodra they have studied, the New Moon Grotto. For a long time, it was filled with gems and other high valued crystals--Matoya was said to have found her crystal eye there many years ago."

"The singing began only several weeks ago, coinciding with a large number of monsters appearing inside." the Queen continued. "The royal wizards share your same theory, Lady Foxheart, but they are fearful of the creatures inside; so they hesitate to explore it."

"What about Matoya?" Darien interjected. "Would she be able to help us at all?"

"Yes...she knows much about the world, so she may be able to give you wisdom about the grotto, if you feel called to explore it." the King replied. "I will send word to the bridge gatekeepers to allow you passage to her abode."

"Thank you, Your Majesties." Lina replied.

"Before you go, I have something for you too..." Elia got up from her throne for a moment and disappeared from the room for a moment. She returned a few moments later carrying a small lute in her arms. "This is Daddy's old lute that he let me have--I want you to have it as thanks for saving me." she smiled as Lina took the instrument in her arms. "I hope it helps you on your journey."

"Thank you, Elia--I'm sure Vince would be glad to learn to play it." Lina replied. Some light laughter filled the air as Vince blushed a little. Mallory, meanwhile, was thinking about what to ask Matoya about the grotto--was it possible that one of the Lost Crystals really was there?

To Be Continued...

Unlimited NiGHTS
May 23rd, 2008, 11:37 AM
Even more very well done! This just keeps getting better and better! ^_^

You misspelled "smiled" near the beginning of this one, though.

EmeraldSky
May 23rd, 2008, 01:08 PM
::fixes it::

I didn't see the error However, I'm trying to maintain a balance between too much talking and a monster parade overall.

Coming up:

Matoya's Cave
The arrival in Jodra

EmeraldSky
June 3rd, 2008, 01:23 PM
Last time, on our previous tale...


"What about Matoya?" Darien interjected. "Would she be able to help us at all?"

"Yes...she knows much about the world, so she may be able to give you wisdom about the grotto, if you feel called to explore it." the King replied. "I will send word to the bridge gatekeepers to allow you passage to her abode."

"Thank you, Your Majesties." Lina replied.

"Before you go, I have something for you too..." Elia got up from her throne for a moment and disappeared from the room for a moment. She returned a few moments later carrying a small lute in her arms. "This is Daddy's old lute that he let me have--I want you to have it as thanks for saving me." she smiled as Lina took the instrument in her arms. "I hope it helps you on your journey."

"Thank you, Elia--I'm sure Vince would be glad to learn to play it." Lina replied. Some light laughter filled the air as Vince blushed a little. Mallory, meanwhile, was thinking about what to ask Matoya about the grotto--was it possible that one of the Lost Crystals really was there?

Episode 15: The Cryptic Fortune

"That was nice of Elia to give you that old lute." Lina smiled as the party trudged through the plains outside of Cornelia. "She's always been a sweetheart..."

Vince just sweatdropped. "I appriciate the thought, but music is not my strong point." Lina giggled a little bit--she had had the honor--or possibly dishonor--of hearing Vince sing one night during a banquet at the castle. Not only did his voice struggle to hit the high notes of "The Wandering Fairy", he didn't even know how the tune went! She remembered the various lords' polite smiles as Vince stumbled his way through his horribly flat rendition, her having to prompt him when he forgot the third verse, and what few clean notes there were.

"We'll hang onto it for now." Mallory assured Vince. "It might come in handy later."

"That's true..." Vince felt a little better about the small lute case bouncing around inside his pack--if HE wasn't going to play it, no doubt one of his comrades would. He shook off the bad memories of his only performance as the party approached the bridge.

The lookout noticed the party approaching and saluted as Vince led the way across. Mallory just smiled back at the lookout as the wolf pup romped alongside her, only to have Darien call him back with a whistle. It seemed that Vince was starting to warm up to the small canine's presence after all, judging from the halfhearted smile he gave the pup as it sniffed his boots.

After everyone had made it across, Darien pointed out a small grotto in the distance. "There it is--Matoya's Cave." Mallory was a little relieved that there was nothing but plains between her and the cave. At the same time, there was also the possibility of more wolves ambushing them, so either way, she was on high alert.

Darien led the way inside the cave a short while later. At first, there was nothing much to see in the dark twisting passageways, not even the skittering of a rat. But as the party rounded a bend leading into a large open room, Mallory was blinded by the sudden appearance of light. She rubbed her eyes a little to adjust to the warm glow the two torches at the top of the entrance cast into the room. A woman in an elaborate red and yellow robe sat by a stone fireplace, reading a book as four brooms hovered about, sweeping up any debris on the floor. The woman piqued Mallory a little--her hair was grayed by age, but her skin and possibly her face were still youthful looking. There she is--Matoya herself! Mallory thought. She was a little nervous at meeting the great sage for the first time, but after whispering a quick prayer, she followed her party members inside.

"Matoya?" Lina began.

The woman looked up from her book, confirming the still youthful face Mallory pictured her having, never mind the eerie looking green jewel that served as her right eye. "Come inside, travelers. I've been expecting your arrival." At this, the table the party was seated it received a tablecloth and some candles.

"I thank you for the offer of a meal." Vince smiled--he hadn't eaten since the morning.

"Please, eat as much or as little as you desire." Matoya replied, conjuring plates of food before everyone. When one course finished, the empty plate would fly to the washbasin and wash itself. The next course would follow until the person had told the broom by the table that they'd had enough. Mallory was amazed at just how quickly the food appeared--and that Matoya knew exactly what food she wanted.

Once everyone had eaten, Matoya faced the group. "Now, what is it you wanted to see me about?"

"His Majesty the King of Cornelia has asked me to ask of your wisdom concerning the New Moon Grotto by Jodra." Mallory explained. "The royal wizards have heard singing from inside when all is quiet, but they are unsure as to what--or who--could be singing."

Matoya returned to her chair by the fire and closed her one natural eye. The green crystal "eye" glowed very briefly, then faded out. "Again my eye of crystal sees true...and I see you and your friends having a great role in the answer, Mallory Foxheart."

"What did you see?" Mallory was both excited and afraid to know what Matoya had seen.

"I see you and your friends braving the grotto's monsters--you will free the Anima of the Crystal of Darkness from a creature of the night; beginning a long and perilous journey." Matoya replied.

"Anima?" Darien was interested. "What--or who--is Anima?"

"Animas are the magical beings that give objects like the Crystals their power." Matoya answered. "They are the ones that cause the Crystals to sing, but they won't sing to just anyone. The royal wizards of Cornelia have heard them because they are trained to listen for Anima. You can hear them too, Mallory, with the right tools."

"How can I hear Animas?" Mallory asked.

Matoya reached for a pendant shaped like an eight pointed star that lay on a dresser. "This mystical pendant is named the Anima Pendant. Not only will it make your powers stronger and make summoning a little easier for you, it will safely store the melodies of the Animas until the time comes to unite the Crystals. When all eight animas sing, only then will the Rainbow Blade be formed."

Vince studied the pendant quizzically. "I don't understand where the Animas would go."

"Look closer." Matoya urged. Vince looked again at the pendant and noticed that each of the star's points were hollow. He tried to touch one of them, but no sound was heard.

"I see...when an Anima is freed, it resides in one of those hollow places until needed." Lina noted.

"You speak true, Lady Starwill." Matoya smiled before addressing Mallory again. "Take good care of that Anima Pendant--that will be the key to fulfilling the Rainbow Blade prophecy."

"Thank you--I'll do as you request." Mallory replied as she turned to leave.

"Good luck on your journey, and may the Crystals light your way." came Matoya's reply.

To Be Continued...

EmeraldSky
June 16th, 2008, 07:58 AM
Last time, on our previous tale...

"I see you and your friends braving the grotto's monsters--you will free the Anima of the Crystal of Darkness from a creature of the night; beginning a long and perilous journey." Matoya replied.

"Anima?" Darien was interested. "What--or who--is Anima?"

"Animas are the magical beings that give objects like the Crystals their power." Matoya answered. "They are the ones that cause the Crystals to sing, but they won't sing to just anyone. The royal wizards of Cornelia have heard them because they are trained to listen for Anima. You can hear them too, Mallory, with the right tools."

"How can I hear Animas?" Mallory asked.

Matoya reached for a pendant shaped like an eight pointed star that lay on a dresser. "This mystical pendant is named the Anima Pendant. Not only will it make your powers stronger and make summoning a little easier for you, it will safely store the melodies of the Animas until the time comes to unite the Crystals. When all eight animas sing, only then will the Rainbow Blade be formed."

Vince studied the pendant quizzically. "I don't understand where the Animas would go."

"Look closer." Matoya urged. Vince looked again at the pendant and noticed that each of the star's points were hollow. He tried to touch one of them, but no sound was heard.

"I see...when an Anima is freed, it resides in one of those hollow places until needed." Lina noted.

"You speak true, Lady Starwill." Matoya smiled before addressing Mallory again. "Take good care of that Anima Pendant--that will be the key to fulfilling the Rainbow Blade prophecy."

"Thank you--I'll do as you request." Mallory replied as she turned to leave.

"Good luck on your journey, and may the Crystals light your way." came Matoya's reply.

Episode 16: Jodra at Last

Mallory's thoughts raced as she and her friends trudged through the grass, passing Cornelia on the way. If the singing the wizards of Cornelia had heard was indeed the Anima of the Lost Crystal of Darkness, did that mean the Animas of the other three Lost Crystals were out there, singing? It was a perplexing question, and one she wished to ask Her Grace when she arrived in Jodra. Fortunately, the way to Jodra was not that far west. Darien had suggested keeping to the western road to avoid any more battles, but Vince protested out of concern for thieves or the rare possibility of an ambush. After she had unsuccessfully tried to assure the jittery warrior that she would drive any thieves away, she had gotten herself involved in a three way shouting match.

She shuddered at the memory of Darien sternly, but gently assuring Vince no bandits were about, then Vince interjecting with the rare odds a monster would ambush them. She would try to calm his nerves, but even that didn't work. It finally took Lina stepping in to finally calm Vince down. I respect Vince for his fighting skill and knowledge of royal lore, but he needs to lighten up a little!

Darien noticed Mallory's thoughtful smile. "Thinking about Vince?"

"Yeah..." Mallory decided to lead Darien behind a bush so Vince would not hear them talking behind his back. Once sure that neither Vince nor Lina was in earshot, Mallory continued. "While both of us know that he is a great asset to our party, he tends to worry a lot--perhaps a little too much."

"I noticed that too." Darien agreed. "Take that argument we had just a while ago--every time either of us assured him there was nothing on the road, he would bring up another possibility of something going wrong that wasn't very likely to happen considering our situation."

"Furthermore, he doesn't really address us by our first names..." Mallory added. "It's always 'Master' or 'Lady'."

"That's the Knight protocol--don't use first names except around other Knights or people you know well." Darien explained. "Yavi told me that once." He took a moment to pick a few wildflowers growing at the base of the tree--if he was going to visit Yavi's grave, he figured he needed some flowers to offer the spirits of light as a sign of respect.

"I figured by now, he would know the two of us on a first name basis." Mallory began, pausing to welcome the wolf pup into her arms for a moment.

"Are you two done discussing?" Lina's voice snapped Darien back to reality before he could reply. Mallory glanced back at the road, where she could see Lina and Vince looking down on them. She reluctantly stood up and rejoined Vince and Lina on the road. Darien followed, clutching his small bouquet in his arms and urging the pup to stay close to him.

Once the party was reunited, Mallory whispered "Not a word of our talk to Vince, okay?". Thankfully, Vince didn't hear her, as he was more focused on the blue rooftops and the crystal spires of the temple that loomed in the distance.

"You have the ranger's honor." Darien whispered back. Mallory gave an acknowledging smile, then turned her attention to the streets of Jodra. While not too much different than Pravoka, it was still rather large--understandable considering the thousands of pilgrims that came here every year. She was especially thankful that it was not a festival day--then the streets would be flooded in pilgrims, making it nearly impossible to walk. It was also early in the morning, so the streets were somewhat empty, bar a housewife traveling to the marketplace or the occasional group of pilgrims.

After rounding a corner past some houses and the marketplace, Mallory found herself gawking at the temple. The sun glittered off of the clear statues of Ladora that flanked the stairway leading inside the beautiful white limestone building, making tiny flashes of silver dance across her boots. She felt like standing before the temple and reveling in its beauty forever, but the nagging feeling in her chest about her duty to the High Mage prompted her to lead her friends up the stairway inside.

Inside, the temple was not too much different from other temples she had visited--pews lined the plush blue carpet walkway that lead to the altar. For the most part, the only other occupants were some praying parishioners that were scattered throught the room, and the priest, who was busy blessing a couple's child. She also noticed some stray flower petals scattered on the carpet--evidence a wedding had recently taken place.

She decided to sit down in one of the pews and wait her turn to approach the giant statue of Ladora that overlooked the large room-it was there that she would ask for Her Grace's blessing to become a fully fledged red mage. Darien noticed a room leading into a hall of rememberance, and decided to see if Yavi's tomb was inside. Vince just calmly reached for one of the books of holy writings that lay in the pew's book rack and began reading it. Lina was making her way forward to the left altar, most likely to pray for guidance and safety on their long quest. The priest, an older man with graying black hair, gave Lina a welcoming nod as she knelt before the altar, then resumed his blessing ceremony as if nothing was going on.

A few tense minutes passed before the couple departed with their son. Darien had also returned, both comforted and relaxed that he had paid his respects to his fallen friend. Mallory took that opportunity to make her way forward to the statue of Ladora, so that she too would complete the duty she had come for, becoming a full red mage.

"Welcome, Rising Mage." the priest smiled as Mallory approached. "May Ladora find your words and deeds pleasing, and turn your yellow feather of promise into the white of purity." With that, Mallory obediently knelt before the statue and removed her hat. The priest knelt down and laid a hand on her as he began the Ceremony of Fledging. His words sounded foreign to Mallory, but she remained quiet and still. She then remembered the strange language as the tongue of the spirits, who interceded for the young mages when they fledged.

She felt warm for a few seconds, but she resisted the urge to figure out what it was. Moving during the prayer would disrupt the ceremony, so she remained as still as possible, ever aware of the warmth surrounding her that grew warmer and warmer with each passing moment. Oddly enough, the warmth did not cause any pain, but enough discomfort that made Mallory want to flinch. At the same time, she could feel some kind of power flowing into her--spells that she both had never seen before and felt like she had known all along.

Finally, the priest finished his prayer, the warmth faded, and Mallory opened her eyes. Her weary look turned to joy when she noticed her hat's feather--it was now glowing a beautiful white. She eased herself to her feet, set her hat back on her head, glanced out at the scatterings of people looking at her. Cheers began to fill the air as Mallory returned to her waiting party--a new Red Mage had been born!

Mallory accepted her friends' joyful hugs one by one before quickly praying. Thank you, Holy Princess...I will uphold Your will and my lodge's honor with all my ability.

"Before you depart, young mage...the Holy Princess has something to tell you." the priest interjected, gesturing to the statue of Ladora. Mallory was interested--what could this holy message possibly be?

To Be Continued....

EmeraldSky
July 3rd, 2008, 11:23 AM
Finally, the priest finished his prayer, the warmth faded, and Mallory opened her eyes. Her weary look turned to joy when she noticed her hat's feather--it was now glowing a beautiful white. She eased herself to her feet, set her hat back on her head, glanced out at the scatterings of people looking at her. Cheers began to fill the air as Mallory returned to her waiting party--a new Red Mage had been born!

Mallory accepted her friends' joyful hugs one by one before quickly praying. Thank you, Holy Princess...I will uphold Your will and my lodge's honor with all my ability.

"Before you depart, young mage...the Holy Princess has something to tell you." the priest interjected, gesturing to the statue of Ladora. Mallory was interested--what could this holy message possibly be?

Episode 17: Ladora's Calling

Mallory returned to the altar rail and knelt before the Ladora statue. "Holy Princess, I await your message with an open heart."

The statue glowed for a moment, then Ladora's calm and assuring voice filled the air. "You have done well in proving yourself as a red mage, Mallory. While you have spent a long time honing your skills, never forget that you have many more opportunities to learn both new skills and other ways of using what you have already learned."

"What kind of skills?" Mallory was piqued.

"On your quest, you will find summoner's rings. Seven of these pertain to the Rainbow Blade prophecy." Ladora explained. "When Chaos rose up from the underworld three years ago, he imprisoned my top envoy and the guardian of the Rainbow Blade.

"Who is your envoy? What's her name?" Darien asked.

"Furthermore, how will I know which ring is the right one?" Mallory added.

"Patience, young mage and young ranger...you will know in due time." Ladora assured Mallory and Darien.

"Holy Princess, what roles will we play in all of this?" Lina asked. Vince nodded in agreement.

"Master Corrigan...I have seen your inner suffering and know how much you grieve for your family, killed by the dark hand of Rinlon the Black." Ladora began. "Yet I also see how your worries are bringing you, your comrades, and your party down. Use this quest as an opportunity to learn to trust Me."

"Understood, Holy Queen." Vince replied. It wasn't going to be easy, but if learning to let his worries go would make him a better person, he would do it. I became a warrior to win back Cornelia's trust after Rinlon was deposed, but my fears remain--what if those I love now are just as quickly taken from me like my family was? Lina put an assuring hand on Vince's shoulder, snapping him from his worries. Her Grace is right...I need to learn not to worry so much... he thought.

"And you, Lina...this quest will more than satisfy your desire to see the world." came Ladora's last reply before the statue's light faded away. Lina just smiled and led the party outside. Thank you, Your Grace.

The walk through town was silent for a moment before Vince interjected. "Let us go someplace quiet so we may plan our expedition to the New Moon Grotto." He was about to say more when some Chocobo cries and screams of "No, stop it!" filled the air. Mallory whirled around to see Lina shooing an inquisitive Chicobo from her braids and stiffled a giggle. That Chicobo...he reminds me of a Chocobo in a story I once heard...

After a few minutes of grappling with the Chicobo, Lina ran to follow the others down the path through the market to the inn. Just when she felt like she had lost the Chicobo, a familiar "Kweh?" got her attention. She whirled around and gasped when she saw the Chicobo behind her, hungrily eyeing the two braids that peeked from her hood.

"I'll handle this..." Darien unzipped his bag and reached for a few sprigs of a leafy plant, which the Chicobo happilly accepted. "It's a good idea to keep Gyshal Greens on hand just in case you find any Chocobos--or their babies, Chicobos."

"You think it would keep this one from eating my hair?" Lina sighed as the Chicobo trotted behind her. The wolf pup sniffed the small yellow bird, but yelped and darted back to Darien's side when the Chicobo nipped him on a paw. The resulting yelp startled the mare, but Mallory quickly reined the mare in before it could charge through the marketplace. Darien gave a relieved sigh as he followed Vince inside the inn. Mallory left the mare in charge of the stable boys before she too went inside.

The inn was not too much different from any other inn, but this one, the Angel's Dream, had a larger dining room and common area than most inns. A few pilgrims were present in the common room, telling stories. A pair of sailors ate at a nearby table, but beyond that, the inn was quiet. Mallory took the opportunity to stretch her legs--all the walking and kneeling made her legs throb. She was also pondering the messages Vince and Lina had received back at the temple. Did Vince have a tale to tell like Darien's? What did Ladora mean when she had told Lina their current quest would lead her to see the world?

She decided to start with Lina's story first. "Lina?"

"What is it?" Lina replied as some servants brought them some tea.

"What did Ladora mean when she told you our adventure would allow you to see the world?"

"Well...ever since I came to the white lodge at Gaia, I have always yearned to see new places." Lina explained. "You could say that the tales minstrels tell inspire me to try and see the places they speak of, like the magical town of Mysidia or the Library of the Ancients."

"You realize that some of those places may or may not be real..." Darien cautioned.

"I acknowledge that some places are indeed fiction, but that fiction had to be inspired by something, didn't it?" Lina assured Darien. Darien nodded as he pondered Lina's question--he hadn't seen the settings of stories like that before.

"I'm also curious as to how you came to be a royal white mage and met Vince..." Mallory continued.

"Not long after I received my full powers from the Great Fairy of Gaia, the High White Mage sent me to the town of Altair to serve in King Gordon's court." Lina explained. "That was where I received my love for the tale of Firion."

"You never finished that tale..." Vince interjected.

"I may feel like continuing it when we finish our discussion." Darien assured Vince. Vince just nodded and began drawing out a rough sketch of the grotto on a napkin, all the while listening to the girls chat.

"...I served there for two years, until rumors of Rinlon the Black's reign of terror started to swirl in the west country. His Majesty was appalled by what he heard, and released me from my service, saying I would do better to ease the suffering of the Cornelians." Lina continued. "It was a very risky move, as Rinlon had essentially banned mages from entering, particularly white mages. As a result, many people were dying needlessly that would've lived if they had gotten help."

"So how did you get in?" Mallory was curious.

"That was when I met Vince--at that time, he was young warrior in training that, along with some others, were planning to overthrow His Blackness. I listened as he explained that Rinlon had taken his parents from him at a young age, and they were presumed dead. He had vowed to avenge them, so he offered to let me inside the country and lend my powers to those that needed it." Lina continued. "I disguised myself as a minstrel and asked to be let in on the ruse it was the prince's--our current King's--Day of Life."

"With Lina distracting the guards, those doing the actual deposing moved in. With Rinlon deposed, I now had to get Prince Mirhan out of hiding and revealed to the Cornelian people as the true King." Vince added. "Needless to say, if it were not for Lina's help, our current King--Mirhan the Blue--would most likely still be hiding."

"You were very brave, both of you." Darien commented.

"As thanks for restoring him to the throne, Mirhan invited me into his service, and made Vince a full warrior...not long after, he married the love of his life--our current Queen, Nabile." Lina concluded. "He also gave me that falcon knife you saw at the armory as a sign of my bravery."

"Kweh!" the Chicobo commented.

"Oh no, you don't!" Lina snapped as she pulled up her hood. Darien just grabbed a handful of Gyshal Greens and offered one to the Chicobo, who happily snapped it up. Mallory just took the other sprig and made a space between it and her fingers. Then, she blew into the small hole, making an unsteady buzzing note pierce the air.

"Not bad for your first try at a grass whistle." Darien smiled as he fished out a third Gyshal Green sprig. "Here's how I do it." With that, he began playing a strangely pleasent melody. Mallory thought she heard a hawk cry outside over the odd tune, but ruled it out as her imagination.

Lina's eyes lit up. "If any of you have any skill in song, I wouldn't mind having a little session. With that, she unzipped her bag, taking a small harp from it. Vince just sighed as Mallory and Darien got their instruments and tuned up--he wasn't going to be able to think over the noise of a flute, a fiddle and a harp, but if it made Lina happy, he would grin and bear it. The Chicobo just flttered its wings and skipped about the floor, prompting some patrons to rush in from the common room and dance...

To Be Continued...

EmeraldSky
July 7th, 2008, 06:23 PM
Last time, on our previous tale...


"As thanks for restoring him to the throne, Mirhan invited me into his service, and made Vince a full warrior...not long after, he married the love of his life--our current Queen, Nabile." Lina concluded. "He also gave me that falcon knife you saw at the armory as a sign of my bravery."

"Kweh!" the Chicobo commented.

"Oh no, you don't!" Lina snapped as she pulled up her hood. Darien just grabbed a handful of Gyshal Greens and offered one to the Chicobo, who happily snapped it up. Mallory just took the other sprig and made a space between it and her fingers. Then, she blew into the small hole, making an unsteady buzzing note pierce the air.

"Not bad for your first try at a grass whistle." Darien smiled as he fished out a third Gyshal Green sprig. "Here's how I do it." With that, he began playing a strangely pleasent melody. Mallory thought she heard a hawk cry outside over the odd tune, but ruled it out as her imagination.

Lina's eyes lit up. "If any of you have any skill in song, I wouldn't mind having a little session. With that, she unzipped her bag, taking a small harp from it. Vince just sighed as Mallory and Darien got their instruments and tuned up--he wasn't going to be able to think over the noise of a flute, a fiddle and a harp, but if it made Lina happy, he would grin and bear it. The Chicobo just flttered its wings and skipped about the floor, prompting some patrons to rush in from the common room and dance...

Episode 18: Into the Darkness

After a festive night in Jodra, the mood turned somber as the party left for the New Moon Grotto. Questions were still racing in Mallory's mind--was a Lost Crystal really inside? What kinds of wonders and monsters would await her? She shuddered at the thought of more undead--being surprised by a ghoul in the Chaos Shine was still a fresh memory.

"You seem troubled, my lady." Vince's voice startled her for a moment, but she calmed down when she realized it was just one of her comrades.

"I am...I fear what lies inside the grotto." Mallory explained as she noted a small cave looming in the distance. "I once heard a story about a demon that lived on an island not far from it, and how he created nightmares."

Vince sighed as he glanced at the cave enterance, as well as a small island in he center of a nearby lake. "Let me assure you that the story is just that: a story." He reached for a torch and some flint as Darien rounded up their growing menagerie of creatures. The Chicobo and the wolf pup had been chasing each other the whole walk, making it hard for the mare to trot. Once sure all three animals were tied down, he began rubbing the flint, creating a spark large enough to ignite the gooey fuel on the torch.

"Holy Princess, grant us Your protection as we enter this place of darkness." Lina prayed, her face lifted skyward and her hands held high.

Mallory heaved a huge sigh and followed Vince inside the cave. This is it...I can't turn back now...

Inside the cave...

Vince shielded his eyes for a moment as he led his comrades down a stairwell. Aside from their footsteps and the crackle of the torch, all was quiet. "We must not let our guard down, despite the tranquil appearance of this cave."

"Hey, what's this?" Darien sprinted over to a clear crystaline orb standing in the center of the room and examined it. Although it appeared clear, there was a dim purple light glowing in the center.

"That would be a Glowing Switch." Lina explained. "It is usually controlled by similar switches scattered throughout wherever it's placed. When one such switch is active, the light inside grows brighter. Once the light inside the main switch is shining brightly, will the main switch activate and allow us a way down."

"Although I must beg the question, where would the switches connected to the one Master Sterling found be located?" Vince asked as the party continued down a hallway on the left into a large room lined with bones and some large hulking boxes.

Mallory strained to make out the boxes in the torchlight and gasped as soon as she realized what they really were: coffins. She drew her blade as the lid on one coffin creaked open, revealing a skeleton inside. But before she could engage the undead warrior that clinked in her direction, an arrow zipped for another coffin, felling the zombie that had been preparing to corner Darien over in the east corner. Vince was in the process of fending off two more skeletons and juggle his torch at the same time.

Just then, Mallory noticed a pedestal with a clear crystal not unlike the one Darien had found in the main hall. After wresting away a bat that had been attempting to bite her, she smacked the crystal with the flat of her blade, making the clear crystal turn purple. At the same time, she also found the main hall had gained a slightly brighter purple tinge.

"Holy light, cleave through the darkness! Dia!" Lina commanded, filling the room with a blinding light. When it had faded, no undead remained. But something caught Lina's interest as Vince led the party out to the hall, a dulled blade lying by an empty coffin.

Lady White Mage... a still male voice that sounded somewhat like a hiss called to Lina. She whirled around, but saw nothing but the coffins, bones and the blade. Her first thought was to brush it off as her imagination, but nearly tripped when she heard the voice again. Lady White Mage...

Figuring the voice was coming from the room they just left, Lina charged back inside, her bewildered comrades close behind. "Who are you? Show yourself to me! "

Come closer... the voice beckoned, making the sword on the floor glow purple for a moment. Lina obeyed and bent down to examine the blade. Before she could pick it up, the voice spoke again: You have come to prove your strength in battle...I can give you more power than you can ever imagine...

"Power?" Lina stammered before composing herself. "I come not for physical strength or glory..."

Then maybe you come for the many mystical items in this place? the voice asked. If you were to sell even one, just think of the wealth you would have!

"I also do not come for wealth or treasure...there are far better treasures in this world than material things!" Lina snapped back at the blade.

Really? The blade was intrigued. If you indeed do not come out of your own flawed desires, then why are you here? What are these treasures that are better than wealth or fame?

"I come for two reasons--one to see this beautiful world, and secondly to support my friends." Lina explained. "The world is in grave danger, and we are trying to help it."

Why should I care about the world? It's filled with pain and suffering anyway! the blade retorted.

"No, it isn't all pain and suffering." Lina explained. "There are many good things in the world too!"

Such as?

"Well..." Lina began. "There's love, friendship, kindness..."

"Courage..." Vince suggested, still bewildered as to why his companion was talking to a sword.

"Justice..." Darien added.

"Laughter, happiness, peace..." Mallory contributed.

"Hope, joy...I could go on for a long time!" Lina concluded.

Hmm...I've never known such things to exist before, Lady White Mage...perhaps you could cleanse me from my evil ways and teach me about all you and your companions have told me about... the blade mused. Will you do it?

"Don't, Lady Starwill! It could be a trap!" Vince cautioned.

"No, I think this...sword...is sincere in its request." Lina replied before charging some white energy. "Bright light, shine down on bloody impurity! Holy!" At this, the sword was enveloped in a bright light, turning its blade a dull silver and its hilt to white.

"I can't believe it..." Darien gasped. "It's the dark blade that is also of the light...and the one that Yavi said distinguished itself by yearning for justice rather than power--the legendary Ragnarok!"

Thank you, Lady White Mage... Ragnarok began. As thanks for your wise counsel and kind heart showing me the light, I want to repay you in some way. Name what you wish me to do, and I will do it.

"Well..." Lina thought for a moment, then replied. "Since I cannot wield you, and neither can my fellow red mage, would you share with me what you know about monsters?"

Consider it done, in exchange for more of your counsel. Ragnarok replied as it materialized in a sheath inside Lina's bag. With that, Lina lead the way back down the hall....

To Be Continued...

EmeraldSky
July 19th, 2008, 04:49 PM
Last time, on our previous tale...

"Hope, joy...I could go on for a long time!" Lina concluded.

Hmm...I've never known such things to exist before, Lady White Mage...perhaps you could cleanse me from my evil ways and teach me about all you and your companions have told me about... the blade mused. Will you do it?

"Don't, Lady Starwill! It could be a trap!" Vince cautioned.

"No, I think this...sword...is sincere in its request." Lina replied before charging some white energy. "Bright light, shine down on bloody impurity! Holy!" At this, the sword was enveloped in a bright light, turning its blade a dull silver and its hilt to white.

"I can't believe it..." Darien gasped. "It's the dark blade that is also of the light...and the one that Yavi said distinguished itself by yearning for justice rather than power--the legendary Ragnarok!"

Thank you, Lady White Mage... Ragnarok began. As thanks for your wise counsel and kind heart showing me the light, I want to repay you in some way. Name what you wish me to do, and I will do it.

"Well..." Lina thought for a moment, then replied. "Since I cannot wield you, and neither can my fellow red mage, would you share with me what you know about monsters?"

Consider it done, in exchange for more of your counsel. Ragnarok replied as it materialized in a sheath inside Lina's bag. With that, Lina lead the way back down the hall....

Episode 19: A Puzzling Thought

Once back out in the main hall, Vince lead the way down a northwest hallway. While it was still mostly quiet inside the cave, Mallory couldn't quite shake off the fact that bats were hanging over her head. For all she knew, any one of those bats could be vampires, considering the number of undead they had encountered before.

The pasageway opened up into a room with a floor covered in odd squares of many colors. Despite the low amount of light inside, Mallory could make out the outline of another Glowing Switch. The square she was standing on glowed yellow beneath her feet, with a blue one off to the left, a green one ahead of her, and a red one on the right. her first thought was to walk straight across, but upon stepping to the green square, did a flock of bats come swarming into the room.

Her panicked screams were enough to call her friends to battle! Darien shot one circling around her head, Lina knocked a second one to the ground, and Vince slashed a third's wing. Relieved that her friends had taken care of the ones immediately attacking her, she thought of a strong spell that would knock out all the bats. She remembered her awakening ceremony--could have have possibly learned a spell strong enough to hit every enemy?

She formed a massive ball of electricity in her hands, one larger than needed to cast Thunder. "Heavenly bolts, bring holy justice! Thundara!" The remaining bats scrambled to get away from the thunderbolts that streaked in all directions, but by the time the spell faded, no bats remained.

Darien was shocked. "Impressive!" he stammered. "I didn't know that you'd learned the second level of spells..."

"Remember her awakening ceremony?" Vince interjected. "It's possible that one of her new powers was the ability to cast stronger spells like Thundara and its sister spells."

You speak true, warrior. Ragnarok replied. As for this room, I think I know the way to the switch...

"How?" Mallory was curious.

The floor of this room is a large puzzle, specifically a pathfinding game. Ragnarok explained. As long as you do not step on the wrong squares, you'll be safe from battle.

"But how do I know which way's the right path?" Mallory protested.

Let me come out and show you the way. With that, Ragnarok rose from the sheath in Lina's bag and hovered before Mallory. Now, just follow my path. Mallory nodded and tensely stepped on the red square. Ragnarok then highlighted the blue square ahead of her, followed by the yellow square on the left. Mallory was careful to keep up with Ragnarok as he levitated ahead of her to show her the next step.

"I shudder at how much more we could've faced had we just stuck with trial and error." Lina shivered as she watched Ragnarok lead Mallory across the floor. The battle with the bats had surprised her, so she was in no mood to face a similar bout.

"That's true, but be thankful you purified Ragnarok to get his...her...its help." Vince sighed. He waited as Mallory stepped off the last square and struck the switch with her blade, lighting up the entire floor.

Come, it's safe to cross. Ragnarok assured Lina and the others. Once the entire party had crossed the floor, Ragnarok settled back inside Lina's bag.

"How did you come out when I didn't pick you up to take you out?" Lina asked as she followed her friends down a corridor into another large room, where she could see the third Glowing Switch behind thick steel bars. A number of switches also dotted the room's floor, but there were no pots to be found.

I can sense when you need my help. Ragnarok replied. Now...despite this room's complex appearance, you can hit the switch without lifting the bars surrounding it.

"Really?" Vince was impressed. "I was going to suggest we each stand on the switches...

But one of you needs to hit the switch, and there's nothing in here to hold the switches down. Ragnarok cautioned.

"Furthermore, if one of us stepped off the switch, the bars would come back down." Darien agreed. "Which would leave no possible way to hit the Glowing Switch since we're all standing on the switches on the floor."

My point exactly, Master Ranger. Ragnarok replied. Therefore, I'm assuming that the smaller switches are designed to fool travelers into thinking it is a switch puzzle, when in actually, you just need to hit the Glowing Switch.

"Then...may I try and see if I can hit the switch with a spell?" Mallory asked.

Go ahead. Ragnarok replied.

Mallory focused some power into her hands and aimed at the switch. "Freezing wind, speak of forgotten truths! Blizzara!" The large icicles easily penetrated the steel bars and made the third switch glow, causing a low rumble to be heard in the distance, in the direction of the main room.

"And there is our way down." Vince smiled. He motioned for the others to follow him back to the main hall, where they saw that a statue had moved out of the way, revealing a stairway down.

After emerging on the second floor basement, Mallory gasped at what was before her: a vast lava pit with a lone Glowing Switch in the center of the huge room. A network of wooden bridges hung over the lava, fueling Mallory's worst fears: What if one of those bridges snapped, and we're sent to a flaming demise?

To Be Continued...

EmeraldSky
July 30th, 2008, 10:43 AM
Last time, on our previous tale...

Mallory focused some power into her hands and aimed at the switch. "Freezing wind, speak of forgotten truths! Blizzara!" The large icicles easily penetrated the steel bars and made the third switch glow, causing a low rumble to be heard in the distance, in the direction of the main room.

"And there is our way down." Vince smiled. He motioned for the others to follow him back to the main hall, where they saw that a statue had moved out of the way, revealing a stairway down.

After emerging on the second floor basement, Mallory gasped at what was before her: a vast lava pit with a lone Glowing Switch in the center of the huge room. A network of wooden bridges hung over the lava, fueling Mallory's worst fears: What if one of those bridges snapped, and we're sent to a flaming demise?

Episode 20: Crossing Into the Heart

"Oh my..." Lina gasped when she saw the giant lava pit and the maze of rickety bridges. "I'm not sure we could safely cross..."

"But our only way to the fiend's sanctum--that is, if a fiend does reside here--is to get across this lava." Vince began. "Therefore, we should debate options for safely crossing."

Just then, Mallory noticed a switch nearby her right foot. Piqued, she gently stepped down on it, making the bridge in front of her turn from a rickety wooden bridge to a strong stone bridge. Removing her foot made the bridge return to its rickety state. She repeated the transformation several times, pondering if the other bridges on their route had them too.

"Mallory?" Darien's voice snapped her from her thoughtful trance. "What's the matter?"

"It's possible Lady Foxheart has found a clue to our crossing safely." Vince replied.

You speak true, Master Warrior. Ragnarok rose from its sheath and pointed out the switch. This entire area is one giant switch puzzle...your challenge is to find a way to hold down each switch on the route.

"I can start with this..." Mallory unzipped her bag and set a clay pot on the switch by her, turning it to stone again.

It is a start, yes, but do you have more? Ragnarok asked.

Mallory searched her bag again and found an identical clay pot. "This is my last one."

"Hm...couldn't you conjure some duplicates?" Darien interjected.

"There's an idea!" Lina agreed. "Or at least conjure enough duplicates so we have enough to get across."

"Let me--whoa!--get this one--yipe!--over to this second switch first." Mallory called back as she tiptoed across the bridge before her. Once on the rock leading to a bridge leading left, she set the pot on the switch, turning their next bridge to stone.

Now, see if you can conjure a pot exactly like that one. Ragnarok began as he led the others across to join her on the rock.

"I'll try, but my conjuring skills still need work." Mallory assured Ragnarok. With that, she focused on a mental image of a the pot before them, but then a second thought began nagging at her: It's so hot in here..I wish it would rain...

A rumble of thunder snapped her back to attention. She whirled around and sheepishly giggled at what she had done: each of her party members, bar Ragnarok, were now getting doused by rain clouds. To make matters worse, the steam from the rain was clouding the pathway, obscuring the switches' locations.

"Can you kindly explain why I'm getting soaked?" Vince asked, exasperated.

Wasn't what I had in mind, but we probably all needed to cool off anyway. Ragnarok agreed. Try again, and concentrate this time.

Mallory waved away the rain clouds and focused again on creating a clay pot. When she opened her eyes a few moments later, several clay pots identical to the one on the switch stood before her. All right! she thought as she grabbed one. and started across to the next switch.

"We'll each take one, and meet you back at the other side." Darien called as he took one pot and started across a bridge in the other direction. Vince followed close behind. Ragnarok returned to its sheath as Lina strolled across to a bridge ahead of Mallory; turning it to stone. The boys did the same with their pots, making a clear path to the Glowing Switch from the steam.

"Next time, can you not create rain?" Vince asked as he drew his blade and struck the switch, making the door open into a stairway.

"I'm sorry..." Mallory protested as she led the way down the stairs into the darkness. "It was just so hot in there, it was hard for me to concentrate."

If you want to get better at conjuring, you should block distractions from your mind and focus. Ragnarok reminded her.

"I will, Ragnarok." Mallory replied. Deep down, she longed for the day she could pass Bahamut's trial and become a Red Wizard, so she could wield Ragnarok.

Now...we should focus on the fiend that lies at the bottom of the stairs... Ragnarok began. I sense the massive amount of dark energy characteristic of a lich nearby...

"A lich?" Lina was interested.

"So we do have a fiend on our hands..." Vince mused as he arrived at the bottom of the stairwell, where a door covered in elaborate gold and purple designs stood before them...

To Be Continued...

EmeraldSky
August 4th, 2008, 11:55 AM
Last time, on our previous tale...


Now...we should focus on the fiend that lies at the bottom of the stairs... Ragnarok began. I sense the massive amount of dark energy characteristic of a lich nearby...

"A lich?" Lina was interested.

"So we do have a fiend on our hands..." Vince mused as he arrived at the bottom of the stairwell, where a door covered in elaborate gold and purple designs stood before them...

Episode 21: An Anima Finally Sings

Mallory looked up at the ornately decorated door in awe. Could this really be the entrance to a lich's lair? A twinge of dread started to surface inside her--if she and her friends fell to this monster, their quest would be over before it begun. She promised herself. I will defeat you, lich--and claim the Crystal you hold.

Now, Lady White Mage... Ragnarok began. If you would ask for the holy one's blessing before the battle, please...

"All right..." Lina steped onto a circle-like design before the door and lifted her hands high. "Holy Princess, grant us your protection as we battle against the darkness." With that, Darien opened the beautiful door, allowing the party a glimpse inside. At first, it didn't look too much different from a room in an inn, but the cobwebs and dust on the otherwise exquisite furniture signaled that this was not a welcoming bedroom. Furthermore, bats hung over the coffin that served as the fiend's bed, their wings almost seeming to glow against the dim candlelight that iluminated the room.

Mallory was about to turn to leave when some evil laughter reverbrated in the room. She draw her blade, in preparation to face her undead opponent. "Who are you?"

"Show yourself!" Vince agreed, drawing his own blade out of fear.

Who speaks to me? a deep spooky voice boomed. Mallory turned to answer the voice, but was suddenly blinded by a flash of purple light, revealing a large skeleton-like monster clad in the same colors as the door to its lair, complete with a small helmet and a tattered cape. Just seeing the monstrosity was enough to make her want to scream, but she stood her ground as Darien and Lina also readied their weapons.

"I am Mallory Foxheart the Red." Mallory replied to the lich's question, all the while trying to hide the fear in her voice. "I seek to challenge you for the treasure you possess."

"You realize who you challenge, mortal?" the lich retorted. "I am the one who feeds on the power of darkness...the Fiend of Darkness!" Some of the bats fluttered close to their master as the lich continued. "I will not be disturbed by mortal men, but since you asked so nicely, I will be more than glad to send you and your companions to the darkness of the underworld." With that, he lunged at Mallory, but was knocked back by an arrow from Darien.

"Rising sun, shine down on those you favor! Diara!" Lina commanded. The lich howled in pain as the light surrounded it, but Mallory had an idea: what if she could boost Lina's speed so she could cast the Dia line and heal more quickly?

She focused some blue light in her hands and focused on Lina: "Layer upon layer make your mark now...Haste!" She watched as the light surrounded Lina, making her move faster inside a clock design. When the light had faded, she now was about as swift as the mare, if not faster. The boys each fended off the bats, but the lich in turn batted them away like flies. Lina would heal them, then they would go onto another charge, only to be swatted away again.

"Freezing wind, speak of forgotten truths! Blizzara!" the lich called, snickering as the four humans dashed to avoid the icicles that stabbed at them like swords.

"It's turning your magic against us!" Darien wheezed as he tended to a puncture wound on his arm. Lina was already healing herself of the cold ambush, before doing the same to Vince.

"I guess I'll have to fight back with the magic ice fears--fire." Mallory replied as Lina healed the icy gash on her sword arm.

Whatever you choose to do, be cautious--it could turn the fire against you.]/i] Ragnarok cautioned.

"Mallory, try casting Haste on Vince and I!" Darien suggested. "Maybe then we could do more damage to the lich!"

"Okay..." Mallory tensely formed the blue light of Haste in her hands, aiming it at the boys, who were charging at the lich. "Layer upon layer make your mark now...Haste!"

Lina watched in awe as arrow and blade raced into the lich's bony body, then zipped away before it could counter. "You should try that on yourself..." she noted before flinging another Diara to help Vince out.

She heard a scream in one corner of the room, just in time to hear a sickening thud. Upon arrival behind a column, she could faintly see Vince struggling to get up. "Are you okay?"

"Can't move--ow..." Vince groaned. "Paralyzed..."

Mallory gritted her teeth as she ran towards the lich. [i]This one's for Vince... she thought as she slashed at her opponent, tearing yet another hole in the ragged cloak.

"Thanks, Mallory!" Darien called as he sent another arrow flying.

"Bringer of dreams, take my foes to the night...Sleepra!" the lich commanded. Mallory winced as a cloud of blueish green gas left her friend asleep in a helpless position. She saw the bright flash of Diaga hitting again, but she had to help Vince. He had worried about her over this first part of their journey, and now here she was, worried about him.

Darien fired another arrow, prompting Mallory to jump and slash at the lich's face. But a familiar blue light startled her and her remaining companions as the lich commanded "Layer upon layer make your mark now...Haste!"

"Now what do we do?" Lina gasped. She hadn't counted on this.

Keep doing what you've been doing! Ragnarok suggested. Maybe that should break the curse on Vince!

"You're right!" Lina agreed. With that, she infused Mallory's blade with a Diara, making the room fill with a yellow light as the blade impaced bone. An arrow flew through the light, also blessing it with holy power.

As soon as Darien's shot landed on its mark, the lich began to scream as the light engulfed it and the bats, leaving only the party alone in the dusty room.

"We did it!" Lina cried as Vince ran to hug her, now freed from his curse.

"I thank you for covering for me, Lady Foxheart." Vince replied. "You're continuing to improve each day...and maybe one day; you will meet the Dragon King Bahamut to grow even stronger."

Mallory was about to return Vince's compliment when she saw a door form on the right wall. "I appriciate the thought, but let's go see what's behind that door!" After being healed by Lina, she lead the way to the door, which opened into a large open room similar to a shrine, but the only thing present in the room was a white altar, where a large purple crystal sat.

"I can't believe it...the Lost Crystal of Darkness!" Darien gasped in awe.

"I never dreamed I would see one of the Lost Crystals..." Vince agreed.

"It is only one of four, and essential to our quest." Lina reminded them. She beckoned Mallory to approach, eager to hear the Anima.

Mallory approached the Crystal and opened one of the star pendant's points. "Crystal of Darkness, lend me your light." At this, a small ball of light flew from the Crystal and settled inside the opened point with a giggle.

"Was that an Anima?" Darien was confused.

It was, Master Ranger Ragnarok replied. You shall hear a piece of the Crystal Song shortly as it takes you outside.

Mallory turned back to look at the Crystal. She had come all this way, yet her journey was just beginning. As she joined her friends and felt the warm glow of the Crystal's light transporting them to the world outside, she swore she could hear a still quiet voice singing Take a melody...

To Be Continued...

BOOK 1 ENDS HERE

All characters, names, and other indicia are trademarks of their rightful owners

UraharaSteph
July 20th, 2009, 12:21 AM
<3 I am completely in love with this story ^.^. I've never been a fan of fanfiction that have been based on games, but this is really something else and splendid! I look forward to reading book 2 when I have more free time.
Of course, there will always be room for improvement, and I guess at times this dragged, but I still enjoyed it and have no real complaints against it. ^^

EmeraldSky
July 24th, 2009, 04:22 PM
Thank you!

This was built as a re-imagining of the original Final Fantasy