Atlantis Chronicles

The Thirteenth Sign
a novel by: D.C. Akers

CHAPTER 1 CLEARING THE WAY

Gathering speed, moving faster through the dark cover of the forest the mysterious figure slips between trees and over rocks, running faster and faster as if someone was chasing him. The pounding of his footsteps are drowned out by the violent winds that are gusting through the tall fifty foot trees. Ahead is a small clearing that is starting to emerge as he draws closer. The bright moonlight can be seen reflecting off the small stream that runs across the clearing, time is of the essence! The predator is too close and it must be stopped before all is lost! Reaching the edge of the clearing he stops to scan the area and takes cover next to a large Cypress tree. His heavy breathing can be seen like smoke in the bitter nighttime air. The trees are swaying and the fallen leaves are whipping through the air around him. The dark figure turns looking over both shoulders and around the tree to see which direction the danger is coming from, the forest is too dark and dense to see anything clearly. The tree limbs move franticly back and forth exposing him briefly in the moonlight; he is a large man wearing a long black cloak with a hood that hides his face. The howling of the wind is becoming stronger as the storm approaches making it more difficult to hear the imminent danger. The man knows that he will have to hear his enemy in order to survive. Carefully he moves to the right of tree next to a large boulder that has apparently come from the mountains above. The man kneels down on one knee and he raises his hand to feel the wind moving around his fingers and palm. He feels connected to his surroundings now, then speaks softly. “NAVA-SHINTO!” Suddenly the wind stops, there is no sound to be heard other that his own heart beating from within. The leaves that were once gliding on the air are now floating in slow motion around the man as if time had been slowed down to a terrifying crawl.

He sits there silent, not moving, his heart racing waiting for a sound to alert him to the evil that hunts him. Then suddenly he hears it, a faint hiss in the distance coming from across the clearing. There it was,there was the predator that stalks him, her red glowing eyes glaring into the clearing looking for her prey. It was what he had feared all along, it was a Viper. Created by Hades himself to rid the world of mortals, they are dreadfully powerful creatures that feed on the souls of the living. Their colorless faces, red glowing eyes and long flowing black hair were daunting. They possess the ability to fly and were masters of black magic. They are ruthless and immoral with their prey and cunning as they are evil. There are few who have survived an encounter with a Viper and lived to tell about it. Through the trees the Viper looks carefully as she moves slowly around the edge of the clearing, first to the right then back to the left never going more than half way on each side. Because of the time shift she knows her prey is close. Looking carefully she moves back to the center knowing now that her victim must be across from her. She stops and pulls her hand from her long flowing cloak; she then stretches out her long decrepit pale finger as if point to the other side. A small flicker of white light emerges from her finger tip in the shape of a small round sphere, it moves slowly across the clearing towards his location. As the sphere travels through the air it becomes larger and brighter casting more light as its searches for its target. He knows he cannot hide any longer, it is only a matter of seconds before the sphere reaches him, he must act now. “SHINTO!” the man says as he leaps from behind the rock. The harsh blast of cold wind penetrates his body once again as time restores itself. The white light now stopping in mid air bursts into an array of bright blue flames due to the change in climate.

The Viper now seeing her prey raises her right hand thrusting it forward to release a short blast of red lightening. The crimson colored flash travels across the clearing exploding the nearby trees into a thousand charred pieces. The man dives onto the ground then rolling back to his feet running trying desperately not to be struck. The Viper turning to follow screaming like a creature of the wild, fires another blast of lightening. This time the longer burst ignites a path of fire and destruction behind the man as he runs deeper into the forest. The Viper lets out another ear piercing scream in frustration flying several feet into the air to pursue her prey. The man is running as fast as he can, flashes of red from the lightening soaring past him shattering trees all around. The Vipers rage has over taken her and she is now driven by pure hatred of the mortal that tries to elude her. She has lost sight of her only objective… to find and kill the boy! Dodging between the trees with quick turns and rapid speed the distance between them was starting to grow. The mortal man knew he was leading the Viper away from her true prey and that was his goal. Ahead was the large fogbank that he had been looking for, it would provide the necessary cover to execute his plan. It was a plan that needed to work for his sake; as well as the boys. The fog bank was thick and only the tall Taureen trees stood above the deep haze. The man had stopped running now, but was still trying to catch his breath. Slowly he moved forward walking down into the white abyss. The man could feel the wet humidity on his face. His body was now colder than ever before but at least the wind had died down for now. The man walked slowly entering the fog with his hands in front of him as if he were blind trying to feel his way through the mist and trees. There was no visibility, just a sea of white and the sound of his own footsteps as they scuffled across the ground trying to find their way. He had hoped he was far enough ahead of her to get to the other side of the bank where his plan could be carried out.

The fog was so thick he could no longer see his own hands. He was moving slowly feeling on and around the trees that stood in front of him. Then all at once he heard it, the hissing sound… she was here. But where was she? He could not see anything, but he knew he must continue to walk forward. He must reach the other side if he wanted to survive. Then the sound of her voice, cutting through the fog like a knife. “I can smell you mortal.” His body froze and the hair on his skin stood up. He could not tell what direction the voice was coming from; all he could see was the white fog. “I am going to bleed you”, she whispered. This time it sounded like it was coming from his right side, as if she was whispering in his ear. “Mortal… are you ready to die?” the voice said again. This time it was behind him, or was it, he was not sure. His hands were out in from of him slowly waving side to side, but he could not see, this was not the plan he thought to himself. Becoming frantic, he was turning to the left and back to the right, he had lost his sense of direction. Where was she? His mind was racing, and then suddenly he felt something in front of him! He searched the object hoping it was a tree, but it was not…it was a cloak! Terror erupted throughout his body… it was her! Suddenly her red glowing eyes appeared in front him; she quickly raised her hands to attack. The fog dissipated in front of him due to her quick movement. She screams showing her snake like tongue and large fangs. She immediately clutched his throat with one hand lifting him out of the fog; his feet were no longer on the ground. He she was tighter down at quickly grabs her hands trying to pull himselffree, but too strong. He could feel her powerful hands squeezing around his neck, his legs flailing in the air. He looks her menacing face; the demonic eyes were looking back at

him. With her poisonous saliva dripping from her fangs and her black hair blowing around her face as she screams. “You are mine!” Out of nowherethe sound of a sword being unsheathed rings out into the night. The startled Viper turns to her right, but it’s too late. The reflection of the moonlight flashes on the Taureen’slong sword as it cuts through the nighttime air severing the arm of the Viper. The once captured man falls to the ground with her arm still clutched to his throat. The Viper screams in pain and soars upward into the open sky. She quickly looks back down and with her left hand fires back with a barrage of lightening towards her attacker. Quickly the Taureen swordsman lifts his left arm as the lightening impacts his shield disbursing fragments of energy in all directions. The man on the ground finally removes the arm from his neck and looks up gasping to see a Taureen Marauder standing above him. The large man dressed in metallic green armor, grasping a long silver sword in one hand and a gold shield in the other. “Treece, are you ok?” asked the Taureen commander. Treece trying to get to his feet “I’m fine Domic, but I think she’ll be back!” “I think you’re right, we need to leave! Let’s make our way out of the fog, up this way”. Domic said as he guided Treece up the embankment and out of the dense mist. Treece reached the top of the embankment, once there he bent over to catch his breath and looked up at Domic “That was close, what took you so long anyway?” he asked “Sorry old friend, but you said the North side of the fog bank.” “What… yes well she was a little faster than I thought so I didn’t quite make it, but lucky for me you did.” Treece putting one hand on Domic’s shoulder helping himself up “Please tell me you did not come alone!” he said while still trying to catch his breath. Domic looked at Treece and then

glanced above his eyes widen in shock as he yelled “We are not alone!” Swooping in from behind Treece like a Dragon to its prey, the Viper crashes into him knocking him back down the embankment. At the same time she grabs Domic by the breast plate of his armor hoisting him into the air with her. “Domic!” Treece cries out as he rolls back down into the fog. “Domic!”

CHAPTER 2 STRANGERS AND SCONES

The storm was moving closer and rain was starting to fall. It rained often in England so those who lived here were use to it. But that was not the case for Titus Earthanial Dalcomeor Ted as his friends called him. He didn’t like the rain and for Ted it meant the end of something beautiful. He liked the moments just before the rain, when the clouds would gather together as if by some magical power. He felt a connection with the storms, a connection that was calming, like an old friend coming to visit.

Ted was a tall boy and at the age of thirteen he was quite smart not to mention well rounded considering his past. Ted was thin with black hair and sea blue eyes with a small beauty mark on the right corner of his mouth. His mother called it a gift from the GOD’s, but Ted knew better. His mother would always say things like that to make him feel special, she was good like that. Ted was an orphan and missed his mother and father dearly; it had been two years since he seen them last. It was reported that they had died in a strange accident while traveling on holiday to America. Ted had been sick that year and was unable to go; some say that he was very lucky to have not been on that plane. Since that time he has been living at the Machberry Farms, in the small town of Avonwick, South Hams just a half mile outside of South Brent. The powers that be thought it would be best for him to live here since he was now considered an orphan. Machberry Farms was really a large Cottage House; there are ten children, three cooks and Mr. Grifton the owner thatlive here. They say it’s over one hundred years old, they being most of the kids that live here. It’s quiet for the most part, but there are all kinds of things to explore on the grounds. There are lots of trees, a barn, pond and even underground tunnels left over from the mining days. The main house was made of large gray stone, with a light blue roof and a cobble stone path that led in and around the house. The house was always shaded by the large Oak trees that grew nearby. There were dark green ivies growing upward on the walls as if they were trying to reach the sky, the hedges of azalea were a vivid red with a dash of lavender that ran along all four sides of the house. In front was a small black lamp post that never seemed to work, with a small wooden sign trimmed in blue that really dangled more than it did hang. The sign said GH for Grifton House.

The house was beautiful and Ted was thankful to be there, considering the many other places he could have ended up. His favorite place was the large loft atop of the old red barn behind the main house. He spent most of his time there with his close friend Ava and a very old horse named Libby. The barn was a place where he could go to be alone with his thoughts. It had a large window to the world or at least that is what Ted liked to call it. He liked to watch the storms roll in from there while gazing up at the sky. Most of the time it’s just a place for Ted and Ava to go, hang out and just be kids while Libby stands guard. It continued to rain as Ted looked out the large window to the world. The once bitter smells of the grounds below were now filled with the sweet aroma of Mrs. Glender’sApple Scones. The scones are his favorite and she always makes a few extra for him that she hides from the rest of the children. Mrs. Glender is extremely fond of Ted and often tells the other ladies that work at MachberryFarms that Ted is a very special boy. Ted stares up at the stormy sky and in the background he can hear sounds of soft footsteps followed by small squeaks as someone is making their way up the stairs. Ted knew that it had to be Ava since there was no squealing coming from Libby. For some reason Libby only liked the two of them, she would nip, squeal and sometimes even bite the other kids if they tried to enter the barn. Ava seemed to think it’s because she could understand what the other kids were saying about her. They liked to make fun of her because she is a little over weight and then throwing rocks at her I’m sure didn’t help matters. Ted and Ava had always been kind to Libby and usually brought her food they had snuck out after dinner. It was probably their fault she was overweight to begin with. The two of them could never seem to remember whose turn it was to feed Libby, so she would always end up getting twice as much food then she was suppose too; which never seemed to bother Libby.

The soft steps and squeaking had stopped; someone had reached the top of the stairs. Ted looked over his shoulder to see Ava standing there dripping wet and her hair flat against her head. “It’s time to eat”, she said as she tried to wring her hair out. Ava was a pretty girl with long blond hair and a smile that kind of curled up at the corners of her mouth. Her eyes were light green and when she looked at you it felt like she was looking straight into your soul. Ava was the first friend Ted made at MachberryFarms and she has become one of the best friends he has ever had. “I’m not hungry”, Ted said “Not hungry? Titus Dalcome, since when have you not been hungry? You know Mrs. Glender made Apple Scones and you know she makes them just for you!” she said with a sarcastic tone in her voice as she walked closer to Ted. Ted was sitting on his knees looking up at Ava and then turned back to look out the window again. With his body slightly bent and his chin now resting on his folded arms that where hanging halfway out of the window ledge. “I know”, he replied Ava could tell that there was something wrong and that Ted was not being himself. Ted lifted his head only to turn it sideways and laid it back down looking up at Ava. “When it rains, I miss them more” he said with a soft voice. Ava knew exactly who he was talking about; his parents. Although it was hard sometimes for Ava to understand because she had been abandon by her parents at a young age and was never really that close to them. But she understood enough to know that it would hurt to love someone that much and then have to let them go. She had hoped in her heart that she would never have to go through that kind of personal pain herself. Ava looked down at Ted and placed her right hand gently on his shoulder.

“I know Ted and I’m sure they miss you too.” The rain had stopped now leaving only a cool breeze and a clear nighttime sky. The back porch light on the main house came on down below and the rickety door swung open, suddenly a raspy voice from within yelled out. “Ted, Ava it’s time to come in!” There was no doubt in either one’s mind whose voice that was, it belonged to Mrs. Glender. Ava still looking down at Ted said “We had better go.” Ted knew she was right, she was always right and she knew it. You see Ava was very intelligent and she didn’t mind sharing that with you. Although, in general she didn’t like to socialize much, she was a little shy and to top things off she was a perfectionist which got very annoying sometimes. Even with all that she was Ted’s best friend, she had been there for him when he needed a friend the most. That was something he would never forget. Ted and Ava both headed down the stairs and as they pasted Libby they ran their hands over the top her mane. Libby made a low muffled sound as she slowly chewed the hay that Ted had brought for her earlier that day. The backdoor of the main house swung open again, Ted and Ava could only see the silhouette of the large women standing between them and the food they smelled inside. With a thick English accent she said “Well there you two are!” Both children smiled as they squeezed past the large woman and into the house. The sweet smells of the Apple Scones were stronger than ever now and Ted could feel his stomach starting to grumble. Mrs. Glender shut the door and turned around to see both Ted and Ava standing dead in their tracks, staring at large empty dinner table that had been completely cleared off and set for morning breakfast.

Grabbing their composure they both turned to each other in disbelief and then with the saddest look on their faces they turned to look up at Mrs. Glender. Mrs. Glender was a very big woman; she had hair white as snow that was always tucked under a red scarf. She wore a tan apron that said “DON’T MESS WITH THE COOK” that seemed to barley tie in the back and black shoes with stockings up to her knees. She wasn’t a pretty lady, but by all means she could cook! “Don’t look at me like that, you know better than to be late for dinner!” she said. Ted thought to himself, could it be, could she really not have saved them any food. Ava thinking quick said in a matter of fact way, “You see Mrs. Glender it was raining and as I am sure you know that there is a forty three percent chance for someone at our age and approximant body weight, not to mention our immature and under developed immune system that running through the rain on a cold night such as tonight is the perfect way to catch a terrible chill. Which we all know what that can lead to… need I say more. So you see Mrs. Glender it was important for us to wait until the rain had stopped, it was really the only responsible thing we could do.” Ted stood there flabbergasted looking at Ava with the most amazed look on his face thinking to himself, “She is brilliant, totally brilliant! Where does she come up with this stuff?” Mrs. Glender looked down at the two children with a small smirk on her face. “Ava Alessandria Ashmorewhere in the world do you come up with these Whale Tales”, she said in her raspy voice. Ava began to reply but was stopped short with Mrs. Glender’sfinger on her lips. “Enough”, Mrs. Glender said “That is quite enough; you two get washed up, there are plates for you in the kitchen!” The two children looked at each other with large grins on their faces. Both children ran past the large dining

room into the kitchen, Mrs. Glender’s voice could be heard in the background “There is a big plate of Apple Scones too and don’t forget to wash your hands children!” she said with a small grin on her face. Ted rounded the corner into the large green and white kitchen with Ava close behind. The kitchen was paved with a tan stone floor with large green cabinets and white counter tops. It had four wood burning stoves, three huge cupboards and a small dinner table in the very back called the Cooks Nook where all the cooks gathered to eat their meals. On the nook lying in front of them was a meal fit for a king. The table was filled with fresh Cod; green stalked beans, Bendalebread, fresh Earl Gray Tea and a large plate of Apple Scones. Both Ted and Ava stopped and looked in amazement, their mouths started to water as the aroma surrounded them. “She said wash your hands!” Ava yelled. They both ran to the largest of the three sinks they had nicknamed the Gobbler because of the horrible sound it made when the disposal was turned on. “Grab the soap!” Ted said as he reached for the large faucet handle. “I am so hungry!” Ava said as she squeezed the soap onto both of their hands. “Me too!”Ted replied. They didn’t even dry their hands as they pushed away from the wash area and ran to the small table. Ted and Ava both went for the Apple Scones first; the taste of the warm sweet treats was so good they just seemed to melt in your mouth. The two children ate for about an hour straight when finally Mrs. Glender came in and said” Ok you two, time for bed, its late.”

Ted and Ava were so full it was all they could do to roll out of their chairs and put their feet on the floor. Ted looked up at Mrs. Glender and grabbed her apron and gave it a tug. “Mrs. Glender that was so good, thank you!” Ted said “I second the motion!” Ava added. and said “good, now off you go.” Mrs. Glender smiled

The two children walked out of the kitchen and through the dark hallway to begin the journey up the long winding stair case. The big hallway had a cold draft that seemed to be worse at night and tonight it was particularly cold. The stairs case was dark red and made of cherry wood with shabby red carpet that ran down the center of the stairs. The entire stair case was dimly lit and so steep that you could never run up the stairs if you had too. Both Ted and Ava walked side by side, each holding onto their side of stair rail. The stair case creaked loudly but only on every other step which was odd, but the house was old. Once they reached the top Ted stopped, leaned on the banister and said to Ava “I think I ate little too much.” Ava with the same nauseated look on her face said “I feel like a fat toad!” Just then a soft knock could be heard down stairs on the large front door, the children looked at each other wondering who it could be at this time of night. They listen carefully to see if they could hear Mrs. Glender open the door, but they heard nothing. For a few moments there was no sound at all, the house was silent. Then much softer. he heard the someone were another knock on the door, but this time it was Ted turned to look back down the stairs when turning of the old brass door knob as if trying to open up the front door.

Ted looked back at Ava; her face was white as ghost and eyes as big as marbles. Ted turned to move down the steps when they heard the front door start to open. The

high pitched squeal of the rusty door hinges moved slowly as it opened. Ted started to walk back down the stairs to get a better look when Ava grabbed him by his arm, his foot stopping in mid air just before he placed it on the first step. “What are you doing?” she whispered. Ted looked back startled, “Let’s see who it is, comeon.” “Ted...No!” She replied. Ted moved his weight forward placing is foot on the first step; suddenly the creaking sound from the step rang out as if a siren had gone off! Ted stopped in his tracks, Ava grabbed on tighter to Ted’s arm “Ted please” she whispered. The door opened fully and a tall shadow stretched across the polished wooden floor onto the first step of the stairs. Ted could feel his heart pounding in his chest and his hands began to sweat as he gripped the stair rail tighter. Ava stood there petrified holding onto Ted as if she had turned to stone. The shadowy figure moved forward and then stopped as footsteps could be heard from the kitchen as they came closer to the front door, it was Mrs. Glender. “I am sorry I did not hear you.” she whispered. In a deep voice the shadowy figure spoke. come to check on the boy.” “I have

Mrs. Glender sounding frightened replied, “He is good, he doesn’t suspect a thing.” “Good, there is no need to make him aware of the plans at this time. We are almost ready to make our journey,” he said. “What would you have me do?” she asked frantically. The large figure turned from the door way and said “I will join you both in two days.”

With fear in her voice Mrs. Glender replied “Yes, we will be ready.” Ted and Ava stood there silently not making a sound until they could hear that Mrs. Glender had shut the door and walked back to the kitchen. Ava still holding on tight to Teds arm whispered “What was that about?” “I don’t know” Ted said quietly. scared!” “I’m scared” replied Ava. “I know you are Ava, It’ll be ok I won’t let anything happen to you.” Ava gave a half grin and tried to look relieved. “Ava” Ted said “What?” Ava replied “I can’t feel my arm!” Ava looked down at Ted’s arm. She was still holding onto him tightly, so tightly in fact his fingers were starting to turn blue. Looking startled and a little embarrassed she quickly let go. “Oh, sorry I… uh didn’t want you to fall.” Ted knowing that was not the reason, but that she was truly frightened replied “Right… thanks”. Ava looked down at the ground and gently pulled her hair behind her ears and with a loss for words replied “Sure… um anytime.” Both children feeling a little uncomfortable turned slowly and headed down the hallway towards Ava’s room. The hallway was drafty and dark with faded burgundy wallpaper and brass candle sconces lining the walls. “Will you be ok?” Ted asked Ava. “I think so; I just wish I knew what that was all about. Who was that man and what boy are they talking about. You don’t think they meant you, do you Ted?” “But she was scared, very

Ted thought for a second about what she had just said and again his hands started to sweat. “Surely it’s not me Ava” he said trying to be reassuring. “Now we had better get to our rooms before Mrs. Glender catches us.” “Ok,” Ava replied as she grasped the cold brass door knob and opened the large heavy door. She slowly walked into her room, stopped and turned back to Ted. Ted realizing she was still scared said “It will be ok... I promise.” Ava moved behind the door and closed it slowly with her eyes staring into Ted’s. The door shut and Ted turned to walk to the other end of the dark hallway to boy’s side of the house. Each step he took made a small squeak, which made it impossible for anyone to be quiet. As he walked past the staircase again he looked down into the dark below. He could still smell the aroma of the Apple Scones from the bottom floor. Ted was scared, had Mrs. Glender and the stranger been talking about him and what would happen in two days?

CHAPTER 3 THANK YOU

Screaming into the night and holding onto her prey with one arm the Viper continued to fly higher into the tree line above. She moved Domic towards her mouth trying to bite him around the face and neck. Domic no longer having his long sword or shield struggled to fight off the predator the best he could. His left forearm braced underneath her neck trying to control her downward attacks and the other hand trying to reach for the dagger strapped to the side of his boot. The sound of teeth snapping and scratching his helmet could be heard as she continued to attack. Then finally he had reached it, the dagger. Quickly he unsheathed the small weapon and as fast as he could and stabbed the Viper in her neck. The Viper screamed out in pain releasing her grip on Domic. She flew hysterically higher into the night sky. Domic now falling, the branches started to move past him as he fell through the trees. Frantically he tries to reach out to slow his decent but the tree limbs were breaking as fast as he could grasp them. Suddenly without warning, a hard thud rings out echoing throughout the dark forest as Domic’s body impacts the ground. The Terecksnesting in the trees above scream out and fly off into the night briefly blocking out the moonlight.

The now fragile body is laying there lifeless. Domic cannot breath; the impact had knocked out the air in his lungs. He lays there still, no sound except the loud ringing in his ears. He could feel the wind on his face and the blood that slowly trickles from the corner of his mouth and down to his neck. He could not move, his body will not respond. Very slowly the air began to seep back into his lungs, the faint smell of the trees and fallen leaves were all around. His vision was blurred at first but now he could make out the growing shadow approaching him. He knew in the pit of his stomach that it was her, he knew she had come back to claim his soul. The shadow moved closer and his body continued to lay still. His eyes looking upward into the trees as he waited, slowly inching into his line of sight he could see her black hair hanging past her pale face. Her red eyes fixated on her prey, the dagger still lodged in her neck and green blood dripping from her half severed arm. She walked closer until she was standing over Domic’s frail body. Looking down at him she reached for the dagger in her neck and slowly removed it without flinching. The green blood began to flow freely from the wound. The Viper stood there staring at Domic; she was now in full control of her prey. She slowly knelt down over Domic’s wounded body and leaned her body forward, placing the dagger on the ground next to his left ear. Her face is now directly over Domic’s. Her hair could be felt on his face, the foul stench of rotten flesh on her breath. She leans in closer to whisper into Domic’s right ear, her voice is soft. “Such a fragile creature you are!” Domic can’t say or do anything; his body still broken. He closes his eyes to try to find the inner peace. The Viper leans back and lifts the Dagger high into the air and screams “die mortal!”

She is seconds away of having her victory and killing this mortal man. Her arm and neck still bleeding from his attack, she is ready to take her revenge! Unexpectedly the loud snapping of branches and tearing of roots fill the night! The ground starts to tremble around the Viper and Domic. She stops, still holding the dagger in midair looking around her as the earth shook. Domic still laying there, his eyes closed tight in some kind of trance. Quickly the large vines that were lying on the ground around them leap into the air! The Viper lowers the dagger quickly; her body flinches and crouches ready to attack. Still bent over Domic she scans the area curiously looking at the strange vines that surround her. She looks up to the sky as a last resort but the tree line is too thick and has blocked her only escape. The vines continue to move slowly, yet gracefully around their victim. The wind is moving freely around them as the leaves rustle by on the cold damp ground. Then abruptly the thick vines lash out like snakes striking their prey! Attaching themselves to the Viper’s wrist they violently pull her into the air only to smash her body back into the ground. More vines slither along the ground moving towards her quickly wrapping themselves around her waist and feet. The Viper lying on her back is trapped, pinned to the ground. She screams out into the night, her body twisting sadistically as she tries to free herself from her captures. Her hand starts to glow red as small strands of electricity flicker around her fingertips and palm. Then without warning a large uncontrolled burst of lightening discharges striking the tree behind Domic’s head! The tree shakes and lets out a loud roar! Unknowingly, the Viper has attacked one of the most deadly trees in the Taureen Forest, the ForgonianFire Tree. The massive tree shakes forward then back again, the leaves begin to

glow a bright orange. Suddenly the leaves burst into flames engulfing the top of the tree. The Viper stops frozen by the ominous sight. The tree with all its might swings one of its lower branches forward disbursing a large ball of fire. The great blaze travels quickly from above impacting its target; the Viper’s body is now covered in flames as she screams in pain! Her burning body twists and pulls at the vines that hold her captive. With a fierce vengeance the mighty tree strikes again delivering a more powerful blow. Only a single streak of flames can be seen before the demon explodes into a thousand pieces of red ash. The Forgonian Tree shrieks in victory, it sways back and forth for several minutes looking for other attackers. Finding no one, it slowly stops moving and regains its tree like composure. Slowly the fire dims and the large Forgonian Tree extinguishes its flames. Scuffling through the trees to the small opening, Treece makes his way to Domic. He stops, looking at the red ash that is slowly floating in the air and the large burnt cinders that lay close by. He could see Domic laying there broken and battered; he ran to his side as fast as he could. “Domic, what has she done?” Domic opened his eyes slowly, but he was vaguely conscious. Treece lifted his head slowly and removed his helmet, taking special care not to cause further injury. Domic’s long black hair fell from the helmet. It was also covered in blood. “I’ve been better my friend” Domic replied as he coughed up a small amount of blood. “Don’t speak, save your strength. Here, I have some water. You’ll need to drink slowly!” Treece was holding Domic’s head in one hand and clumsily trying to open the small cantina in the other. “You will need more than water, if you want to save him.” A voice said from the shadows as it moved closer into the moonlight.

It was a man of average size wearing a gold helmet that concealed his face. His body covered in light armor that was gold and red with the insignia of a huge crab claw on his shield. “Lay his head down carefully and back away so I can help him”, the stranger said Treece slowly lowered Domic’s head to the ground. Then as fast has he could reached for the dagger that was still on the ground next to Domic’s body. “Stand back or… or I will kill you where you stand!” Treece yelled back at the stranger. He was scared and was unsure of what he was doing. He was not much of a soldier and he was sure that he was making that quite obvious! “Easy friend, I don’t want to hurt you. I am here to help you”, the stranger said as he lowered his shield and placed it on the ground. “I am here to help, please let me, before it’s too late.” Treece was scared and unsure. He knew Domic did not have much time and this was probably the only real chance he might have to live. The man came closer to Domic. Treece backed away to give the man more room, but held the dagger pointed at him should he do anything suspicious. The man’s hands started to shine a bright gold as he placed them on Domic’s body. Domic’s body arched up to meet them. The man’s head lashed back. Gradually Domic’s deep wounds start to disappear; his hands and legs slowly start to move again. A smile of joy crept into the corners of Treece mouth. Domic was going to make it, he was going to live! The man continued his magic, but as Treece looked down at him, he could see the same injuries Domic once had start to appear on the man’s body. Blood started to drip from his helmet as he fell back onto the ground. What happened? What did this man do to himself? Treece thought to himself looking on as the man laid there broken just as Domic had looked only minutes ago.

“Are you ok?” Domic said quietly as he looked up at Treece. “Am I ok, are you ok?” Treece replied in shock. “Dom this guy just saved your life, but I think he’s dying now!” What… what should we do?” Domic sat up slowly; Treece helped him to his feet. “He will be ok, but we need to stay with him until he can heal himself.” Treece remained quite as he stood there staring at the man that just moments ago he had threaten to kill. Suddenly as if from nowhere, the rest of the Taureen Marauders emerged. One by one they crept from shadows and behind trees. Treece was looking all around and behind himself. They came from every location. There were eight in all including Domic. “Sir, are you ok?” one of the soldiers said “I am fine, thanks to Treece, and the Healer. We could use some water over here.” Domic pointed to the healer lying on the ground that was starting to move again. Three of the soldiers moved to attend to the Healer. Domic made his way back to the FargonianFire Tree. He slowly placed his hand on the smooth bark, then leaned closer and whispered. “Thank you.” Domic turned around in time to greet one of his soldiers. “Sir we waited for you on the north side, but when you didn’t return I felt it was best to come looking” “Yes, it seems we had a change of plans,” Domic said as he walked over at Treece with a devilish grin. Treece still in shock at what had just taken place replied, “I got lost and she was much faster than I thought, ok!”

Domic smiling, with one had on his ribs he placed the other on Treece’s shoulder, “She was indeed, but we beat her none the less!” “With a little luck!” a voice shouted from behind. They all turned to look. It was the healer, walking towards them dusting off his helmet. “Treece, this is Ashen. He is a healer from Cancer that has traveled with us for some time now. As you can tell he is a good man to have around!” “It’s an honor,” Ashen said as he held out his hand. “The honor is all mine!” Treece replied shaking his hand. “I have heard of Cancer Healers, but I have never met one before. It was amazing what you did back there and I’m sorry about the whole knife thing. I didn’t mean anything by that, you know?” “No harm done, I am glad I could help,” Ashen replied humbly. One of the soldiers brought Domic his sword and shield. Domic griped them both firmly and turned to the rest of the men. “We need to keep moving; we still have a day and a half journey ahead of us. With the Viper gone we should be able to make up some time. But she won’t be the only one to try to stop us. Treece, it’s up to you to get us there unseen.” Treece understood his job, he was a Taureen Tracker and no one knew the forest of Taurus better than him. “We need to double back and move south. There are small groups of Kronepatrols, so stay close. As you know Krone’s hate the water, so we will follow the streams to the shores of Knoss. There, our boats should be waiting for us, any questions?” Treece said as he looked into the eyes of the soldiers that were staring back at him. For a brief moment there was silence, and then Domic spoke. “We have no questions, we know what we are here to do, right?” “Right!” the men replied.

“Then let’s go get our King!”

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