A Dragon Born

The First Of 'A Dragon's Legacy' Trilogy
by: Logan Elson
December 1st 2010

Prologue: The Creation of Irequoci
In the beginning there was an empty blackness, a void, infinite yet finite. From this void came the first being, known only as The Creator. In time The Creator became aware of its own lonely existence, and began to create three people in the image that it most desired to be, bipedal, two appendages, one on either side of the body, that had the ability to move freely, and with attachments that could close and open. They had a face, with a pair of spheres to see, two holes below them to smell and one final hole to taste and ingest. A head was formed, with strands of thin material to be called hair, and another set of crevasses for hearing, called ears. Two different ‘models’ were made; one was thicker and heavier, strong. The other was sleek and elegant, with larger curves and a pair of semi-spheres placed on either side of the breast, to the left and right of the sternum. These beings were later called, Ancients. They became known by their names, Gaia, Oceanus and Uranus. These creations of thought had become entities of power, each creating an element they would preside over. Gaia took control of the element, Earth, creating the land that makes Irequoci. Oceanus made water, a powerful, yet peaceful element. Uranus took the heavens, fabricating bright lights, stars, they were called. But eventually they became discontent with themselves; they were the only beings, except for The Creator, who was void of a physical form. They decided, mutually, to create creatures that would cohabit the land of Irequoci. Uranus was the first to make his race, bringing down from the heavens, eight stars, forming them into scaly creatures, winged and mighty, the first dragons. One male and one female of; blue, green, gold and red, each maintaining abilities unique to each other. Blue was an attractive type, their own aura drew others close. Green was a mystical creature, it had the power of altering and creating, known as magic. Gold was the bearer of all knowledge, they were wise above all others. Red was a massive beast, stronger than the crashing waves on the western shore. It was of these creatures The Creator took form, though black. Gaia being of the earth, created a race that was akin to herself and her male counterparts. Born of grass she made humans, a neutral race, wise and strong in their own right. Her people were cultivators, drawing what they needed from the soil and plants what they needed. Oceanus took, from the ocean bed, seaweed, and fabricated a being with the same body structure as the humans, but small cosmetic details, the hair and eyes, had a wider spectrum of hues. They had tapered ears and the ability to use magic the moment they were born. These were the Mystics. In time Gaia became disappointed with her children of thought, and knew they would decrease in power and splendour. She then took clay from the earth and fashioned three masks, which she held to the stars and absorbed the heavenly energy. These creations were delivered to the humans one by one. Uranous watched this from a distance. Fearing her beings would soon overpower his own he consulted his brother, Oceanus on what they should do about the betrayal by their sister. Oceanus consoled in Uranous his desire to remove the humans from Irequoci, as they were pathetic creatures without morals or ethics, ignorant and arrogant. War had ensued because of this atrocious disagreement, a war in which the dragons fought alongside the Mystics against the humans. It was a long and bloody war, the earth was painted brown with dry blood from the three sentient people. Fissures had appeared as well as sharp, massive hills. Valleys and mountains they were called. When many years had passed, and the war had taken its toll, killing millions of men, Mystics and dragons alike, Gaia came unto her brothers, and explained her reason for the masks, and a truce was made. The races selected regions across Irequoci to inhabit. The dragons took the great mountain range in the centre of the mainland and hollowed it through and through, spending thousands of years doing so. The

Mystics took the far northern regions for their home, constructing one large city that would house the entire Mystic population, this they called Verequine. The humans took the southern lands, creating numerous small villages and expanding their dominance throughout. The Ancients themselves began to expand, having children of their own; Cronus, Helios, Eos, Selene, Hyperion, Atlas, Prometheus and Coeus. Each of their children took an element to themselves and the world came to exist as it does now.

An Expected Departure
The Crystal Mountain that resides between many forests stood proud and tall, letting a shadow befall the collection of creepers as the sun rose and set. From atop this great mountain, many sights await those that climb to its summit, where at this present moment two young, green-haired Mystics talked and said their good-byes. The younger of the Mystics, a boy of the name Redoran, wore a long, clean collection of green hair that fell over his sharp ears, to his shoulders. His eyes a startling emerald, could pierce, his eyebrows, slanting, could scare. His nose was overall rounded three centimeters from his face. His arms were slim, though strong, as a rock of great proportions could be lifted with one hand. His clothing portrayed nobility that only kings could adorn, a white tunic below a robe of green dyed fur, hemmed with golden lace trim. Whilst the other, older Mystic, only wore a loincloth of leather that protected his genitals, both from sight and from pain. His features were almost identical to the younger Mystic, despite his growing of a small goatee of green hairs that appeared out of place. “Why do you have to leave me?” Redoran asked, his voice immature and higher pitched. “I just need to leave. Life beckons me away from here, to take to a grand adventure with my kin, the dragons.” The older Mystic held a hand out to the younger. Redoran clasped the hand held before him and was pulled into a warm, brotherly embrace that he hadn’t felt in over half a decade. “Before you leave, would you be willing to have a friendly spar with your younger brother?” Redoran asked, preparing to cast a spell to summon two, dull, iron swords. “As it is our last time seeing each other, sure. You do remember the rules of combat though? Do you not?” Redoran waved his hand and the two blades appeared on the ground afore the both of them. Both blades flew into the antagonists’ hands. Redoran shifted to a pose that would allow him strength and speed, but restricted the forms of fighting he had learned, while his brother positioned himself well enough for him to use all three of his dominate traits, agility, balance and strength. “There shall be no magic in this fight, all there will be is prowess with the blade. I will strike first.” The older Mystic lashed forward, driving the forte into what would be Redoran’s chest, but to his bemusement, Redoran was no longer there, but behind him. With a quick spin, the older Mystic caught the forte of Redoran’s blade in the blood groove of his sword, and then twisted the blade away striking at Redoran’s left arm in the process. Redoran ducked and slashed at his brother’s legs, only to be parried and have a blade come down and imbed itself into the soft earth below. He jumped back, somersaulting, then landing on his feet, the forte of his blade glinting in the sunlight from above. Redoran panted as he charged forward, the blade horizontal before him. Just before impact, he feinted a quick left then a came down strong right, striking the elder Mystic in the left set of ribs, cracking three and shattering a fourth. Redoran retreated to a safe distance while his brother recuperated. “I give you permission; your wound may be healed.” The elder brother held his right hand to his broken ribs and uttered a word in the magic language. “You are most generous, though in a real battle, you would have died there.” Redoran chuckled, “Well, this isn’t a real battle is it? I cannot kill someone in pain, so therefore I allow my opponent to heal if they can.”

“That will be your downfall.” The older Mystic said as he charged forward again, his blade glinting in the sunlight. Redoran blocked with the blade of his sword, causing the sound of metal shattering. He looked at his blade and sighed, he was defeated. He cast the broken sword to the ground and raised both hands, a sign that he had surrendered. “As you can see, if you had’ve struck me then, you would have won the fight. Your mercy is a weakness.” The older Mystic banished the swords from sight with a combination of incantation and hand movement. “It takes a great man to have mercy on an opponent, for they know the consequences and act accordingly, they do not kill, they preserve.” Redoran retorted, contempt for his brother’s words pouring into his statement. “Name any heroes you have heard, that have been merciful in battle, name anyone, who, when in battle does not kill.” “You don’t need to recite to me any of your war ballads, for they have been told many times and have lost the original story behind them, and also, they have been made that way to make the heroes seem better than they are.” Redoran replied, forming a fist that pulsated blue with magic. “No need to threaten me Redoran, I am just merely stating a fact,” his voice calm and under control. “I am guessing you need to leave now. Because your kin are flying off into the horizon” Redoran pointed directly to the east, and there, radiance shining from every scale, was a communion of dragons, all green. The older Mystic turned to face the great assembly, “I guess this is goodbye.” Fire engulfed him and grew larger, allowing the older mystic to change into an amazing emerald dragon. With a quick beat of his wings, he propelled himself into the air. He craned his neck forward and began to fly, his tail whipped about behind him, balancing the mass of muscle and scale. Redoran stared out into the horizon, watching his brother leave him. And for the first time in his life, he was alone. “Goodbye Arthur.” Redoran said softly into the wind, watching the green spot disappear beyond the horizon. Three years past while Redoran lived atop the mountain, hunting and practicing his sword play against foes he had magically summoned. Eventually he tired of his daily chores and let himself be drawn into peace, allowing him to meditate and feel the world around him in a conscious standpoint. One day, as he sat meditating, a Burgundy-haired Mystic came climbing to the pinnacle of the mountain, unsurprised to see the young Mystic sitting there, calm, and without sounds. “Hello young sir. Why would you be here?” the Mystic said, startling Redoran to the point of disruption. “I am a resident of this mountain, for I have lived here for over three years, providing myself food and water.” Redoran brushed his dirty, old tunic and stood. “Why are you here?” The Mystic with burgundy hair replied indignantly, “you have been secluded from the world for far too long boy, Our kind has been thought as demon worshippers for the past year, and I have come to construct a place where Mystics can be appreciated and trained, a place where they can learn how to defend themselves from man’s onslaught. “Would you require assistance making this temple? Because I know a great many magicks.” Redoran asked.

The elder Mystic nodded, “I would very much require help, for I require the power of two to make this place attract Mystics from afar.” “Then I will assist you in the construction and the enchanting of this temple.” The pair began constructing immediately, and in seven days time, they were complete, with the final day being a day of rest.

A Brief Conversation
Many years later, Redoran had grown to full stature and had gotten a decent build upon his body. The temple was complete and many Mystics had come from near and far, those of pure breed and those of hybrid blood between human and Mystic. All had come to learn how to defend themselves, or enhance their abilities under the tutelage of Master Morindel, the royal advisor to the once alive king of the Mystics, Alstinen Enders. Redoran was a prized student of Morindel, who had known him from an early age. Redoran kept up with all his studies and had taught some of the younger, less experienced Mystics how to fight with the sword and use magic. His knowledge and wisdom was a great asset in the assisting of Morindel. Redoran strode alongside Morindel through the temple gardens, his emerald hair blowing softly in the breeze, and his green eyes fixated on the ceiling of the world, the heavens full of bright, soft lights. The burgundy-haired Mystic walked beside him, collecting all the scenes that nature offered them, for they would not have had these beauties if not for magic. “Life is peaceful here.” Redoran uttered with conviction, “to think, I will soon have to leave, and help those others who can’t make it here, or even take a human as an apprentice. I love teaching things that I know perfectly.” “I know you do, Redoran. That is why you have been given the responsibilities of someone like your father. You may not be the head of this temple, but you are of the highest caliber of students, which makes you perfect for the teaching assignment I am about to give you.” Redoran started, “You are going to assign me to teach some of the inductees?” he asked, confused and surprised. “No, you will be teaching some of the older residents of this, our home. I think you are ready to help me with the work I have been left alone with for the past few years. And I know that you really desire this.” Redoran smiled, “Thank you Morindel, you have made me more pleased than I have been in my life.” He held out his hand in a friendly gesture. Morindel took the outstretched ligament and shook it heartily, “You are a good man Redoran, and I hope you can show me that you are better than I think you are.” They began to walk forward again, looking all around the area. But Redoran did not desire it to be silent, “When do I start this great undertaking.” “You begin tomorrow morn, and it will be a difficulty at first, but you should be fine after the first week of teaching the Mystics swordplay and magic.” Morindel smiled, “I believe you will do fine. You should have no fears about meeting expectations because you already exceed them." Redoran found the elder's words empty, and without truth, yet deep inside he knew it was true, he was strong in many aspects, but he was also humble and respecting. He lacked the arrogance of some of those royal brats whom lived in their castles all high and mighty, saying 'I am holier than thou.' He was prideful, but he never had an ego. In battle he could have mercy, and in some fights, his ferocity was unrivaled. He would fight to protect his kin, his fellow mortals, and close personal friends. "Don't be nervous, I may be giving you a massive task, but all you need to do is collapse the thoughts into one, it will pose no problem for you." Morindel turned and set a hand on Redoran's shoulder. "Trust me." "I do trust you Master Morindel. I don't trust myself." Redoran shook his head, letting his hair toss around. "This is why I believe you ready, for in my experience, those that believe they are ready to go out into the world, are not. Those that believe they aren't are fully able to of their own

conviction. When one does not believe themself, and believes that they are not able to do as they are assigned, it means that they know what lies ahead, which makes them more prepared than the one that says that they are able to go immediately." "I do not understand what you are saying Morindel." Redoran looked down at his feet, frowning, "I know I should understand what you have said, but I don't." "When one thinks they are ready, they have no idea what lies ahead, when you doubt yourself, you know what you shall have to face. You understand now?" Redoran smiled, "Yes, Master Morindel." They had walked into a hallway, which was painted with a vibrant crimson paint, and covered in closed doors. It was long in either direction, almost spanning the entire length of Crystal Mountain, though maintaining itself upon the mountain's zenith. "To think, I helped in the construction of this structure. I never would have thought myself strong enough, even now I think that this is just an illusion." Redoran smiled as he turned down a hallway, "This place just seems too much a part of my life. I could not imagine leaving such a fragment behind when I am allowed out into the world." "You did well Redoran, you did better than your father could have done, for he was good in many aspects, but you have the heart." Morindel explained, "Your father was a good man, an amazing warrior and magic user, but his abiliies were barely a fragment of what yours are when he was your age." they walked on down the hallway, listening to the sounds that the Mystics made in these waning hours of the night; some made groans and grunts in their sleep, others could be heard speaking to themselves. They walked to the end of the hall in silence, and then turned once more. It was a smaller coridoor, less than fifty metres in length. And on the right side, there was only one door. The door to Morindel's office, which connected to his private chambers The pair came up to the door and entered, leaving the dark halls for the warmth of candlelight and the soothing colour of the walls. Within the room, there were two candles sitting on an ebony desk. The desk itself was covered in stacks of paper, and an oak chair rested behind the desk. The walls were painted with a soft beige, giving the room a tranquil aura. Across the room, there was a door which led into Morindel's private chambers, where he slept and performed personal acts. Morindel strode to the seat behind the desk and sat, opening a drawer in the polished ebony, withdrawing a stack of parchments that had a strange dialect written upon it. "This is an enbound spellbook in which I have written all the spells and enchantments I know." he tossed the papers onto the desk, scattering the sheets across the multitudes of papers already there. "I want you to study what I have there, and then teach your students what you can, along with your swordfighting, which I know you are extremely adept at." Redoran conjured up a chair with a quick incantation, "Thank you, Master Morindel." he sat in the seat that had been created with magic, and drew the collection of papers into his hands. When he had studied the first page, the writing no longer seemed archaic, for it was ancient Mystic, a dialect his own father taught him when he was young. "Tomorrow I will assisst you with your first lesson, for I have no doubts you will be nervous unless you are teaching swordplay." Morindel laughed, "Do not worry." "I am not worrying about how I will do. I am worrying on how the students will react once they learn I am their teacher." Redoran chuckled nervously. "You will be fine." he clasped his hands together and set his elbows upon the table, "So, how has your personal project coming along." Redoran smiled, "I have finished almost one hundred pages of that spellbook, but I do not understand a word of it. I have no idea how I can write something I do not understand." Redoran surely was puzzled, because he had taken random sheets of parchment and had begun writing collections of symbols in a golden-green ink which seemed to be flourescent. "I can't explain that either. All I can do is bid you luck."

"Thank you, Master Morindel."

A Lesson In Swordplay
Redoran stood to the fore of an entire class of late teen-year Mystics. Beside him was the burgundy-haired Morindel, smiling eagerly and urgingly. The class was smaller than most that Redoran had seen before, consisting of a small handful of people, ten, maybe fifteen at most. "Today I will teach you some more complex dueling terms, ones that I will use in future classes. You had better pay attention, for these manouvres and accompanying terms will help you understand the fundamentals of advance dueling, which you will use against me." He concluded his short speech with a short incantation, meant to cunjure a steel sword directly into his hand. Morindel grinned, then whispered to Redoran, "You are doing fine." Redoran continued the lesson, impaling the sword into the mountain below him. "This is a finely crafted sword; composing of a sharp forte, also know as the point, and tempered section straight down the middle, known as the blood groove to the general public. The cross section separating the hilt from the blade is called a crossguard." He pulled the weapon from the ground and held it aloft, the point, directing at an angle towards the sky. "Who would like me to explain further techniques? those used in battle itself?" A blue haired Mystic stepped forward, ahead of the class. "I will." "Good, good, good. Summon a weapon, so that we may continue." Redoran smiled, "Everyone should watch, and listen, for this lesson could be very useful when dueling with another sword user." The blue-haired Mystic complied with what he was told, summoning a steel blade in the air and plucked it from the open space. "Please do not hurt me, I don't want to be injured." "You should have no worries, for my blade shall not touch your flesh." Redoran nodded. "Attack me." The blue Mystic brought the sword across from his shoulder to his hip, aiming at a cross body slash on Redoran. Redoran stopped the weapon with the flat of his blade, and slowly span it away, pushing in the reverse direction of the slash, "This is a parry, when you push the blade away from its intended target. It opens you opponent to a riposte, which is a counter attack after a block or parry." He knocked the blade out of the demonstators hand and swung his sword toward the blue-haired Mystic's exposed throat, but fell a decimetre short so not to harm the student. "Please practice these techniques now, your riposte and you parry." Redoran handed his sword to one of the other students, who took it gladly. "I told you. You did well." Morindel said to Redoran as he returned from his momentary lesson. "Thank you, Master Morindel." "Please, you are now among the level of mine, you may just call me Morindel." "Thank you, Morindel.

A Letter And A Feast
Sweat drenched the ground below the two combatants, each wielding a custom blade, though dulled with magick. One combatant was Redoran, his form much like his brother’s when he was young. The opposite antagonist was a white haired Mystic of the same rough age. Redoran ducked under a two-handed swing and slashed at his opponent’s knees, only to be blocked with his blade resting a decimeter from his antagonist’s leg. He cursed and lashed out with magic, uttering not a word. The white-haired Mystic flew back and fell on his back. Redoran came up from his crouch and charged at the person on the ground, his blade set with the forte pointing downward at a slant, waiting to place the tip against the Mystic’s throat. The Fallen Mystic jumped to his feet and parried the oncoming blade. Redoran, humiliated by his opponent’s lack of skill, yet proud with the way his opponent acted. Redoran feinted a left, then a right, coming up between his antagonist’s legs in a fatal blow. The white-haired Mystic made a weak attempt at a block, letting the edge of the blade intercept the oncoming sword. And as a consequence, the blade chipped, then shattered as the force sent him sprawling back. He stood then raised his hands in defeat. Redoran sheathed his blade in the scabbard at his waist, letting the smooth, blemish-free blade slide into the decorated leather. And as per tradition, he strode before opponent, drew his blade and held it before him, the flat of the blade resting on Redoran’s index finger. The white-haired Mystic took the blade and slid in across his arm, letting the blood groove fill with his own, white blood. He halted the movement and proffered it back to Redoran, who took it without expression. “Well done Redoran, your prowess with the blade is most impressive, but you have yet another year before you may leave this temple if you so wish.” The burgundy-haired Mystic strode from the viewing chamber of the temple and out into the light. “Thank you, master Morindel, but it is not I whom you should be congratulating, for this Mystic has been a difficult opponent to defeat, and if you ask anyone at this temple, who has fought me, they would say he has done a great feat, that not many people have accomplished.” Redoran retorted, pride lying on the breeze that was his words. “Yes, I would agree, though he still could not defeat you.” The burgundy-haired Mystic waved his hand and the bleeding wound across the white-haired Mystic’s arm healed painlessly. “You may return to you chamber, Guran.” Mystic named Guran brushed past the old Mystic and Redoran, leaving them to themselves, for whatever their reasons “Redoran, you have received a letter that had been written long ago, almost two decades past. Would you like to read it?” from the robe of Burgundy, Morindel removed a green wax sealed envelope, with rough calligraphy stating the day of production and who it was addressed to. Redoran took the envelope with haste and removed the wax seal, sliding the sheet of parchment from the sleeve.

Dear Redoran, I am sorry to write this but I must pass my legacy to you when the time comes, but one month before your birth is an absurd time to write to you. Our estate in Verequine, I leave to you, along with many of my possessions that reside in secret vaults that will reveal themselves to you in time.

I know you will be where you are now while I write, and I know the circumstances of why you’re there. Despite the rules placed upon you by my royal advisor, but if you have him read the letter, I assure you he will let you go. You must go to our estate in the north, and while there, you must uncover a Mystery that I have yet to solve. Please son, I beg you to come to our estate, where you may learn your true heritage. I am afraid that when this letter gets to you, our place in the world will be raped by men, and therefore you must go with utmost caution, for odd folk live in the forests and towns, all of them men. From your loving father: Alstinen Enders
All the while Redoran was reading the letter, Morindel had snuck behind him and read over Redoran’s shoulder. Yes. You may go. You will leave tomorrow morn, so you will be well rested, and fed.” Redoran began to return the letter to its sleeve, but was halted by the Elder Mystic. “You may leave that with me, because it might have been made by foreign hands.” Morindel took the letter and the envelope, and pocketed the parchment. “Now, you may go to your practices, or you may rest, do as you may, for the journey ahead is long and grueling.” “I’ll continue with my day, for the rest would come slow to me.” Redoran turned and strode into the temple, abandoning the elder where he stood. Redoran plucked a blade of grass from the garden, teasing it between his fingers, letting its essence become familiar, for he would have to understand its nature before he could change it. His mind pried into the depths of the organism in his fingers and began uttering in a low voice, a magic language only known to him, he felt into the pulls of magic in the air and began to draw upon it. His words layered over top the blade of grass, surrounding it in a sphere of silver tendrils that licked its sides. He uttered the last word and the tendrils surrounding the grass disappeared, leaving a beautiful flower in its wake. The flower was like none ever seen before, the petals were opalescent, the stem was a beautiful shade of topaz that flickered light around when caught in the radiance of the sun. Redoran set the flower down where it had once come from, though another miracle was observed, the flower lifted itself vertical, the bottom began sprouting roots of pure crystal, and the flower became more beautiful. He glared at the gorgeous organism that grew before him, his eyes sparkling with an ethereal light. “I have perfected the spell at last, I am able to change organisms.” He smiled and placed his hands behind his head. “I can finally rest, knowing that my magic truly works.” He turned around, and with a quick stride quit the garden, to step into the hallway. He ran through the corridor, along the length until he arrived before the door of his chamber. He placed a hand gingerly on the knob of his door and turned it precariously until it clicked and he was admitted to his room. The inside was lit with a low candle flame that flecked orange hues on the walls. The floor was laden with crumpled sheets of parchment with meaningless scribbles upon them. His desk stood on the wall beside his bed. Atop his desk stood a stack of parchment that had been written upon with glowing gold-green metallic ink. Beside which was an inkbottle filled to the brim with the same sparkling ink. Redoran conjured a chair to rest his bottom on, pulling the energy required from the air. As the object materialized, Redoran sat, grabbing a quill from the inkbottle, and gazing at the parchment. One-month prior, he had a sudden thought, a moment where he knew that he was special, and on sudden impulse, he began writing the archaic text that was prominently

displayed on the paper, and unlike manspeech it was wrote in columns. Upon each page he would write, in his own tongue, the name of each page. And for a crude reason, he deigned that before he left he would bind it and carry it thence forth into the known territories and beyond into his father’s estate. A knock ruptured Redoran’s thoughts as the sound of wood on wood resonated through the room. “Come in.” Redoran said. The door creaked open, letting Morindel purchase to the room. “I came to ask you if you would join us tonight in the singing of songs, the retelling of ballads and the gift giving, around a fire. As a celebration of you leaving and venturing out into the world to do great deeds.” He laid a hand on Redoran’s hunched shoulders, “I personally have a great gift for you if you choose to accept the temple’s gift.” Redoran turned in his chair, “Of course I’ll come, why wouldn’t I, an honour such as this should be celebrated.” “Then, come immediately, for the gift giving comes after the feast which is due when the sun is just hiding on the horizon. And soon it will be upon us.” Redoran smiled and stood, “Then let us prepare…” The feast was great, the succulent potatoes rested upon a plate of gold, the pounds of Herthen (A rare species of animal nearly extinct) were being sliced into bite sized portions, the pasta, with the long noodles lay piled on every single crystal plate, the endless bottles of wine being poured into glasses of diamond and ruby, sapphire, and emerald. The exotic plates filled with beautiful vegetables not planted by men for ten millennia. As the food was passed around, the standard practices of gift giving were not followed, as people were sneaking gifts under the table and bewitching them to find Redoran. Though most presents given made him happy, Redoran found that they were crafted by their own hands, and therefore not as reliable. But as he finished his plate, the burgundy-haired Mystic stood at the far end of the table. “I have a simple announcement to make.” He cleared his throat. “As we all know, Redoran, our very first inhabitant, will be leaving us, to venture forth into the world and claim his father’s legacy as his own. But before he leaves, we will partake in celebration, for this is but half of the festivity. When the moon is at its pinnacle, and the spirits of the dead are freed, we will sing ballads of heroes past.” He paused for a moment. “But first, I shall let the gifting begin, with my gift being the first.” Redoran clapped, and he was the only one, for all else, people were warring over who’s present was better. “Silence!” Morindel shouted, and the students complied. He directed a question toward Redoran. “I did not know which you would prefer, so I ask you now, will you take a wand and a sword, or a staff and a sword?” Redoran smiled, “If you insist I take a magickal item with me, I would choose the wand, for it would not hamper me or be slow to draw if required.” Morindel reached into the folds of his robe, and withdrew a gorgeous shaft of silverin wood, decorated with all the gems of the trade, diamond, emerald, sapphire, ruby, topaz, opal, jet and the tip embedded with a thin layer of crystal. Both base and tip were ringed with bands of gold. Suddenly the wand began spinning, growing faster and faster as swirling burgundy tendrils wrapped it in a blanket of purplish-red. The wand glowed then vanished. “What did you do?” Redoran’s voice dripping with venom, “You said I was going to receive a gift, and you make it disappear before my very eyes.” He stood and pressed his hands firmly into the banquet table.

“Don’t say that just yet, check your tunic.” Redoran felt his shirt, and surely there was an object pressed against his breast. “I am sorry Morindel, my humblest apologies.” He sat and removed the wand from his tunic. Morindel once again dove into his robe, and once again he removed an object, this item wrapped in a cloth. He placed the cloth-bound article lightly on the table and pushed it forward, letting it slide from him to the recipient across the table. Redoran caught it under his upraised hand and felt a thrill he never felt before, the sense of longing writhed snakes in his intestines, pressuring the fingers to unveil the object. In a blink of an eye, the curtain of cloth disappeared, and in its place a scabbard with the hilt of a sabre showing through the uppermost edge. Redoran traced his hands across the leather, following grooves in which were inscribed magickal runes of great power. As he traced his fingers, the sudden urge to remove the blade engulfed him. He raised the scabbard, both holding the leather and the hilt; he pulled the blade from the sheath, and was blinded momentarily by the radiance. The blade itself was marvelous, the cold blend of steel and bronze kissed Redoran’s cheek as he positioned the single-sided blade to his face. The forte was inset with an oval emerald, whilst the blood groove of the blade was inset with jewels of various types; an opal closest to the bottom edge and an onyx stone closer to the tip. The hilt was covered in a red satin, soft to the touch, yet firm enough to stay to the silverin wood below. Redoran ran his finger along the edge of the blade, and as he removed his ligament, the gems inset in the blade began to glow. Morindel spoke, “That blade has been made by the dwarves of the Great halls of Koric Mountain. This blade, Turic, was gifted to your father when he visited their home in the mountain. This is a great blade, for they had their finest spellweavers to enchant this blade with great magicks. Use it well.” Morindel laughed heartily, “It is time to retell ballads into the night my friends! This will be a night to remember for your lives!” Redoran returned the blade to the scabbard, content with his two gifts.

A Failed Assassination
The next morning saw Redoran sitting on a mammoth horse with great, white tufts of fur near its hooves. His sword was swaying from the right side of the saddle, while a bow of silverin wood was strung behind his back with a saddlebag full of goose-feather fletched arrows. A pack of food and drink, Redoran had on his back. “You will always be welcomed back if you will want our company.” Morindel said as he fitted a bit and bridle into the horse’s mouth. “And there will always be time for us to come to you, if you so wish.” Redoran laughed as he pulled himself into the saddle, his feet set firmly in the stirrups, “Once I have arrived to inspect the damage, I will call upon you to help rebuild.” He removed his wand from his tunic, “and thanks for the gifts by the way, I am sure they will help me in the future.” He tickled the horse’s belly with his heels, and began a quick canter. “Goodbye, Morindel. May you have many years ahead of you.” “And goodbye to you my friend.” Morindel turned and began walking back to the mountain, his happiness mingling with his sorrow. Redoran stole the sword from its scabbard and waved it in a salute as he rode off into the forest Redoran dismounted his horse in the middle of the forestation between the Crystal Mountain and Merasena. His horse was growing tired, and he was sore from riding upon the massive horse. His feet landed on the soil without a sound. He slipped the sword, Turic from the saddle and clipped it to his left hip, allowing for easy access if he was to be ambushed by the bandits that resided in woodlands all around Irequoci. Redoran walked to the horse’s front and held its head between his hands. He gave the horse’s muzzle a quick stroking and turned, knowing that he would need to set up camp. “Time to fix this situation.” He removed the silverin wand slowly from his tunic and brought it to his fore. He twisted the golden bands at either end until the topaz and the ruby were in line with his thumb. His green hair whipped around as magick erupted from the crystal embedded into the tip of the wand. Blue tendrils flew from the wand to a collection of leaves near the roots of a maple tree. The leaves burst into a multicoloured flame and grew, the flame receding as the item below came to the appropriate size. The flame disappeared and underneath was a collapsible tent of sticks and a thick curtain of what Redoran thought was cowhide. He returned to his horse and hefted a saddlebag from the saddle, from it he wrested a cotton blanket that he would use for warmth in the cold, spring night. He scrambled over to the tent and ducked into it, the inside providing a shield from the chilly wind blowing around. He unfurled the blanket and set it against the cold earth, but as he removed the wrinkles, he heard the shrill neigh of his horse outside. Instantly Turic came to his hand, the opal at the base of the blade glowing intensely. He rolled out of the tent and came up on his feet, feeling the arrival of an unwelcome man. The Onyx blazed as if covered in pitch, knowing that antagonists were near. From the trees to the north, ten sparsely clothed men leapt into the small area Redoran was going to camp, nine armed with longknives and the last with a shortsword. The clothing they wore were torn, bloodied and overall distasteful, but as is the life of highwaymen and cutthroats. Redoran instantly sprung into action, his sword at a ready stance, his legs spread, toes pointed towards his selected opponents.

“Well, if it isn’t the whoreget child’s son.” The one with the shortsword snarled, before rushing in with his sword slicing through the air. Redoran sidestepped and slashed at the man’s flank, catching him across the rear. He fell to the ground, clutching his bleeding rump. Three more men rushed, carrying their knives high above their heads, hoping to bring the blades down into the soft flesh of his skull, but with a quick curse, the three people fell to the ground, grasping their ruptured chests, blood staining their previously stained clothing. Then finally the last six men came forth, but unlike their predecessors, they were properly trained, they knew the form of offense Redoran was using, and sought to counter his attempts. One removed a small object from a pouch hanging from his belt, and whipped it forward. Redoran watched the object sail through the air in slow motion, and analyzed it as a bladestar, a weapon of great potential, especially in the hands of a well-trained infantryman, or mercenary. The center poured red liquid into grooves along each blade. Instinctively Redoran uttered a spell to halt the weapon in mid-flight, but then reworded the spell to reverse the direction the bladestar originally came from, making it seem as if Redoran himself threw it. The weapon spun towards the one who cast it, the red liquid still pouring from the middle. It struck the man in the sternum, shattering the bone and propelling itself into the heart of the victim. Another, who seemed to know Redoran’s every move, took a small wooden bar from his trouser pocket. He whipped the object forward and sparks flew from both ends. Redoran was caught off guard, but reacted quicker than anyone ever could, and uttered a prayer, then held Turic before him to intercept the wand, a split second before a swirling tendril of blue energy could reach him. The wand split and Redoran drove forward, driving the tip of his sabre into the man’s stomach with a thrust. The others he dispatched with a swift swipe of his blade, beheading each man effortlessly. He turned to see the leader struggling to stand, his bloody posterior covered by his torn shirt. His chest was bare and his weapon was held in his hand, wavering. Redoran laughed deeply, “You have learned your lesson, now be gone, I do not want to see your bloody rear or your fearful face.” Redoran held his sword in a threatening gesture. “Kill me, I have been shamed, I am nearly dead, and my life is worthless.” He staggered to his feet and held his arms out to his side. “No, you will not die today, nor will you die tomorrow. Step toward me and I will heal you, then get out of my sight.” Redoran thrust Turic into its scabbard, and raised a glowing hand wrapped in tendrils of red and blue. The man stepped forward into Redoran’s touch and gasped, he instantly shuddered and collapsed, his torn posterior healed, and him unconscious. “Goodnight Eriale, may you have sweet dreams.”

The Merchant of Merasena
Redoran exited the tent and saw that nothing had changed from the day before. His horse was peacefully sleeping and the man that he had fought yesterday still lying on the ground. He stood and walked quietly over to where his horse was sleeping undeterred and slowly woke her with pats on her muzzle. “It’s time to be going, we should arrive at Merasena in a few hours. For you and I will need nourishment.” He stroked her mane, and then turned to collapse the tent with a sweep of his hand. Instantly the pile of sticks shrank in a ball of flame and became pocket sized. With the rising of his hand the debris floated in the air and wafted to one of the saddlebags and deposited itself hastily., Redoran took hold of the horse’s mane and hoisted himself into the saddle. He took hold of the reins and urged the horse forward with the heels of his boots. The horse began slowly at a steady trot, then as the trees began to spread apart, she grew faster, going from that steady trot to a quick canter. As the horse went, Redoran could feel every impact of hoof on soil, hear the sound of the creature snorting and breathing, and smell the horse’s fur. His senses heightened by his exposure of the inner workings of magick. Not long after, Redoran found himself at the gates of a small city, staring high unto the walls that surrounded the structures inside the city’s perimeter. Redoran gazed beyond the stones and mortar into the city beyond, to the great stone building in the center of the dwelling. A great monument of rock and mud, glass and wood. A small castle by castle standards, but well enough to hold three infantry regiments. Redoran’s horse trotted to the gate, where four men, donned each in a sea green, halted him with a show of swords and bows. “State your business in Merasena.” The foremost guard demanded, pulling his sword halfway out of its leather scabbard. Redoran dropped from his horse and handed one of the green-donned men the reigns. “I have come to re-supply and rest. And if I may be so prudent, would I have special permits to maintain my weapons within the walls of Merasena?” “You may proceed.” The men lowered their weapons and retreated to the hovels from whence they came. And with the grinding of gears, the massive gate that barred Redoran’s passage receded, allowing him to look into the sprawling city of Merasena. Every home was painted with gay colours that each accentuated each other, hues of beige and peach separating the orange from cyan. Redoran strode into the city, his face full of astonishment. He was amazed at the display of wealth throughout what he saw of the city, the standards that showed the militias barracks from the homes of civilians were prominently shown high into the cloudy sky. The streets were clear of debris and were paved with gravel that would grind under peoples’ boots. The men and women that walked down the streets were adorned with jewelery, whether it be rings, bracelets or necklaces. Redoran could see that the king wasn’t as pompous as most others, with all people dressed in garb that would be suitable to lesser nobles. Redoran stared around, letting his sight wander from house to house, person to person. He knew he stuck out like a sore thumb, with his poor demeanour and less than worthy clothing that was dirty and ragged. He stopped at one of the many vendors lining the street, and browsed through the merchant’s merchandise. A great selection of weapons dominated the stall’s flattop. Longswords of various sizes, sabres of different lengths, crossbows made of multitudes of diverse woods. His prying eyes brought many different reactions, from the merchant, he got a twice

over, which seemed to arouse suspicion from the other inspectors. His green hair obviously deigned attention, from both street-goers and the people who were perusing the many wares of the stall. “Why are you here Mystic?” the merchant said with disdain. The merchant wore a red satin tunic with bright leather trousers. He had slight wrinkles on his face that belied his age. “Keep a civil tongue in your mouth, pathetic peasant. I have more power in my smallest finger than you have in your entire body.” He let a hand fall to the hilt of his sabre, and drew the blade only enough to show the merchant his bronze blade. “Leave, I will not have any threatening near my stall.” He raised a hand, as if to sweep the green-haired Mystic from his sight. Redoran snarled, “You dare not hold your tongue before the Mystic king’s son. And if you don’t, I will challenge you to a duel.” He half drew Turic from it scabbard. “Leave or I will be forced to strike you down where you stand.” The merchant strafed from behind his stall, showing his two swords, without scabbards. Redoran scowled, he drew Turic completely from its scabbard and waved it to his fore. “May someone draw the circle in the road, I will not take this insolence without a fight. Now come and face me like the man you say you are!” One of the men that were watching this exchange of verbal threats, turned to the road, took a sword from the stall and drew the circle into the gravel. The merchant strode to the edge of the circle, as did Redoran opposite him. “I assume you do not know the Mystic dueling traditions.” Redoran held his sword aloft, the forte of the blade parallel with the merchant’s throat. “I will not use magick or trickery, and we will only use one weapon.” “I do not want to know your traditions.” The merchant drew both his swords from his belt and stepped into the circle. Redoran likewise stepped into the ring of gravel, with Turic glinting in the orange sun’s light. The merchant charged at Redoran, his swords held to his side, ready to cross the blades in a swift swing. To his dismay, when he crossed the blades, Redoran blocked. Redoran riposted quickly, the blade of the sword sliding effortlessly through the air towards the merchant. The man caught the sabre between his crisscrossed blades, then dropped the sword to the ground with the flick of his wrist. Redoran dove to the ground, snapped up the blade, before the merchant slashed downward to cleave Redoran’s chest. The Mystic rose to his feet and jumped, somersaulting over top of the merchant. He pressed the bronze blade into the man’s back, “Return to your stall, and keep a civil tongue in your head.” Suddenly the thundering of hooves on earth could be heard down the street, and a cloud of dust was flowing in the breeze as six horsemen drew close to the arena. The first horseman, as Redoran could see was wearing a sea-green robe of intricate weave, which belied to Redoran that this man was in fact, the king of Merasena. The two first men wore each a hauberk and carried a long pike in their right hands. And the rear three wore each an intricate robe, the king’s green-blue, with their cuffs maroon, symbolizing themselves as the king’s honour guards The foremost man halted his horse as he came near to Redoran, and then dismounted, “Well, if it isn’t Redoran Enders, why would the son of the great king be here in such a lowly city? And with dwarven armament?” Redoran dropped to one knee and held his head low, “I have come to re-supply myself with food and drink, and to retire to a warm bed for the night. And my weapon is my father’s, as is gifted to him when he visited the dwarven halls in Koric Mountain.” He rose to his feet, “Why would you come to greet me here, in the district of the common folk if you did not know I was here?” “I knew not that you were here but I had heard a merchant was stirring up trouble because a Mystic had appeared by his stall.” He pointed at the merchant who Redoran had

fought just barely before, “Is it he who insulted you with the lack of civil tongue?” Redoran nodded, “your people here need to learn some respect for those who have higher power than they. But on to business, this man needs to be punished for disobeying a direct order from me.” The king shook his head, “As per the Mystic dueling tradition, he will punish himself for losing to you in a duel, to show to him that he is an ignorant fool that deserves to be dealt with by his own hand, give him your sword so as he may prove to you that he is more worthy than he is now, or I will strike him down and let his corpse be eaten by the gore crows atop the city walls.” “He does not deserve such a death, but if he runs I will let you do what you wish” he turned from the king and proffered Turic to the merchant, who hissed an insult between his yellowed teeth. The king dismounted, drew his sword and held it toward the merchant, “Take the blade, cut downward along your forearm, and I will not strike you down!” The merchant scowled, though he took the blade, he rested his eyes upon each gem set into the blade. “I will give neither you nor the king the satisfaction that I abide by this pathetic creature!” he growled as he raised the sword to his clean throat, and with a quick flash of bronze steel, his neck was slit, blood pouring from the wound. Redoran turned away in disgust, he had mutilated and killed before, but never had he seen a man take his own life, and it disturbed him more than seeing gore sprayed along the ground. The king frowned, trying to conceal a grin. “He has punished himself, though more harshly than I had thought. But now he will not cause anyone more trouble.” Redoran nodded, then looked around, gazing at each man and woman, all emptying the contents of their stomach onto the gravel below their feet. “Will you join me tonight, for I know you will have a long and painstakingly difficult journey with little appreciation, or respect?” Redoran smiled, “Yes, I would indeed join you tonight, but before I go along, will there be any special events tonight?” he flicked his hand and returned Turic to its scabbard. The king grinned, “There is. For my daughter, Shilara, is coming of womanhood tonight, and I would be holding a banquet for all the lords in the Kebol Territory, and I will hold a ball of sorts.” “And it is to my understanding that you want me to dance with Shilara tonight.” Redoran smiled again, “Let us go, for I must get dressed for the celebration tonight.

Seamstress and Princess
Redoran stood with many seamstresses surrounding himself, all working on the creation a suit that would be appropriate for the dance that would be accompanied by a feast in the honour of Shilara. The woman that was measuring him around the waist looked up and spoke. “How have you come to be milord, why has your hair gone from any standard hue to this amazing shade of green?” Redoran looked down and smiled at the woman, “I was born like this, my eyes, blood and hair are all forest green, for I am what my people call a pure Mystic, I have been born to two pure Mystic parents. And because of this, my family’s royal colour is forest green, which will look nicer on me than your sea green. “Then when I am finished, I will send for the most forest green cloth we have, for you should look your best when you address the king and his daughter.” The woman returned to her focused measuring. Redoran smiled down, “For the king, I needn’t look any different than when I came here, but for this great honour, I must be my best, I will have my hair washed, my body bathed and dressed in appropriate garb.” He let a hand fall to the hair of the woman who had begun the conversation, “You have done an amazing job of keeping me occupied while this boring time is going along slowly, may I see your face, and know your name?” The woman looked up again, but in another light. Redoran could see her beautiful features, a beautiful set of icy blue eyes, a small, though luscious set of lips, light brown hair that fell to her shoulders, and a well rounded nose. “My name is Shilara.” Redoran almost reeled, but was held in place by the fear he might hurt somebody. “I never knew you existed, let alone seamstress. I never thought you were Shilara.” “I understand, for my father knows not that I’m an apprentice to the great seamstress. But I have been taught well, and I will not do to disappoint you milord.” She returned to her work as if Redoran held nothing for her. Moments later, Shilara stood and dismissed the other seamstresses, and to each saying, “I need you each to find cloth of forest green dye, milord requires it for his clothing.” When she had closed the door that the seamstresses exited, she took Redoran’s hand with warm, gentle care, letting herself guide him into another room that had an entrance within the room they now stood. She conducted him as if he was blind towards a gray door, letting her opposite hand push open the entrance, and she led him in. The room was full of steam, stinging the eyes of the room’s occupants, three women filling a tub full of hot water censed with pine needles. They were dismissed and Shilara escorted Redoran towards the bath. Just short of the tub, Shilara and Redoran halted. “Shall I bath you, or shall you do so yourself?” she said expecting not what she would receive. “If you so wish, you may bathe me.” Redoran waited, watching the expression of shock on Shilara’s pretty face, become one of happiness. “I will not disappoint, milord.” She stepped forward and removed his belt, setting it on the floor beside her, then she drew Redoran’s tunic over his head to let him be removed of it. She took his hand once again and guided him into the tub of hot water. The instant his toe touched the water, Redoran felt relaxed, he let himself sink into the water, just showing his shoulders above the hot liquid. His skin tingled at the slight touch of Shilara's smooth fingers, tracing his spine slowly and gently. Redoran heard Shilara gasp as she felt into a location that Redoran knew would frighten. “Why are you marked so milord, this white line that goes from your hip to the middle of your spine?”

Redoran grinned, “I earned that while fighting my brother when I was very young. When I was learning to fight with the sword, I had challenged my brother to a friendly duel…” Shilara turned to pluck a bar of soft, goat’s-milk soap from a shelf, “…and when we were fighting, he flipped behind me and slashed me across my back, it didn’t hurt, as I had enchanted myself with an anesthetic spell.” Shilara stroked the bar of silky soap up and down his body, beginning at his back, then working her way around clockwise, letting the suds bunch on his skin. “But to see myself bleeding like that was enough to make me faint, (which I did) and when I woke up, I felt that scar right there, where I had been struck. I have kept it as a reminder that I had a brother and that someone in the world loved me.” Shilara washed Redoran’s left arm as he finished his story, she had to say, it was a great story, and one that he hadn’t shared before, she assumed. “I think that it makes you more handsome milord, because those that don’t receive any gifts do not deserve them, and those that do deserve are the most gifted of us all.” She finished his body bathing and then replaced the bar of soap on the bath shelf then removed a clear bottle of a thick blue, lavender smelling liquid soap for his hair. “Do have any more stories to tell, milord?” she asked. Redoran smiled, “Many. And if you would please call me by my name, for I am not used to being called a lord, and I never will.” He splashed the water over his body to remove the soapsuds from his skin and then settled into a more comfortable position. “Yes, mi… sorry, Redoran.” She poured the soap into Redoran’s evergreen hair. “May I hear more while I bathe you?” She scratched his head; lathering the lavender scented liquid into his long, flat hair. “Perhaps I will tell more tonight, during the feast when they will be heard by all, and maybe I will recite some Mystic hero tales, which I think you will greatly enjoy.” Shilara smiled, “May I hear a ballad now?” she continued to lather the thick, blue shampoo into his green hair. Redoran shook his head, “I will not spoil anything to you, so it will be more exciting when the time comes.” The princess cupped her hands in the water, then brought them to rest on Redoran’s head. She poured the warm, censed water out onto his scalp and rubbed, massaging the suds of the soap away. Redoran smiled again, “I can wash myself from here, you may fetch me my dressing if you so wish.” He raised a hand from the water and laid it on Shilara's fingers. “Very well, Redoran.” She removed her hand from his head, stood, and then turned to the door. She strode out swiftly, closing the door lightly behind her. Yet as she left, Redoran felt a sense of longing, for he knew that his heart desired which he could not have, and he cursed his feelings for the curse they placed on him. He suffered through his desire for her, knowing that his day might come to have a wife, and he hoped that it would be Shilara, or even another of the royal daughters that might catch his heart as it came down upon them. He let his head lie on the water and he splashed the suds from his cranium. The warm water soothed his aching mind, but could not mend his aching heart. He set his hands on the edge of the tub and pulled himself into a standing position, and in a mirror that had been set before the tub, he saw his reflection, his hair was clean, though in a disarray, his skin was spotless, providing an excellent view of his rippling muscles, his leather riding trousers were wet and ruined, though he doubted that it would be needed for the rest of his journey. He turned and twisted his head, so his back was facing the mirror, and he could see the scar that Shilara had touched, it pained him to see it, but knew that it was a reminder of a time long past that did not deserve to be forgotten. Other than the one white blemish, his skin was flawless. The door creaked open and in came a seamstress, “I am sorry to say that Shilara has been occupied and that I am to deliver your adornment.”

With a wave of Redoran’s hand, and a slight incantation the green tunic, trousers and button shirt flew from the woman’s hand and before the tub. “You may leave me while I dress.” The lady bowed then receded, “Yes milord.” The door shut and Redoran was left to dress himself appropriately with the clothing he had been given.

“From the deepest sea To the highest mountain, Auran traveled far Killing those before him He fought leaders And assassinated lords He overtook many fords But in one night With the slip of a knife He caused great strife” Redoran smiled as he watched the faces of the assembled men and women brighten with happiness. But as he laid his eyes on Shilara, he saw her smile and wave tentatively towards him. He wore the clothes he was given well, the tunic he had donned fit perfectly and was a great backdrop for his deeper coloured, buttoned shirt that accented his hair. His standard leather boots had been replaced with bright boots that complimented his emerald green trousers. “Do you have another poem to sing to us?” A lord named Marik asked, swallowing a bite of chicken breast. He wore a credulous outfit of cyan, his family’s official colour. Redoran grinned, “I have many more poems that I can sing unto you, but I must eat and drink before I can recite any more, for I haven’t I bite or sip of this delicious food prepared in the honour of Shilara, a delightful woman who is very attractive in every manner.” Shilara giggled beneath a dress sleeve, “I may say Redoran, that you are most gracious and wise. Which should be celebrated in one such as you.” Redoran smiled again, “Thank you, Shilara, for I have not received a compliment for quite some time.” he took a fork in his hand and studied the food on his plate, deciding which he should eat first, the tilapia that had been fished from Opal lake, the rice that had been made from a mill on the outskirts of Merasena, or the vegetables harvested from the castle gardens. With a quick decision, he slowly drove his fork into the fish; he pulled the fork up, bringing with it a chunk of meat that Redoran slowly placed into his mouth, when he closed his jaw, he chewed leisurely, taking in the tastes of a blend of spices and the fish itself. He lowered his fork onto his plate and took the flute of champagne from beside his plate. “A toast to princess Shilara, the woman of today, and the child of yesteryear.” Redoran raised his glass into the air and shouted, “May she have many year before her!” Almost simultaneously, everyone raised their glasses in a toast, reciting what Redoran had just rehearsed. They brought their flutes down to their lips and tilted them up, letting the drink pour slowly down their throats. Redoran set his glass down and continued eating, tasting every morsel on his plate. And before long he was finished and the time for an after dinner treat was about to be revealed. A man dressed in white with a toque resting atop his head brought in a platter, he set this platter in the centre of the long table, and pulled the lid off to expose a brilliant cake of dark chocolate. “May you all enjoy my masterpiece of divine taste?” He retreated back into the room whence he came and let the men and women eat with each other’s company. The platter was passed from person to person, each cutting themselves a little slice of the brilliant cake, but when it came to Redoran, he quickly passed the food to the person next to him. “I am sorry for not taking this dessert.” He apologized, “I cannot eat such a rich food, for it makes me nauseous. But while you eat I may recall another poem, though it isn’t the happiest, for it isn’t about a hero, or a king, or anyone of good stature.”

The assemblage of people erupted in cheer, happiness spreading across their face as if they had just received an amazing gift. “I must warn you that this tale has been laced with magic. Its telling will bring an image into the air and describe the events of what happened during the time this tale is about.” He cleared his throat “From the darkness He came forth With a cloak of emerald flame A steed of living onyx And a mask of black and white The bane of heroes With no mercy No remorse He slew the Mystic king And took the crown For an eternity or so Before the dragon lord Pierced his heart” In the air above the table, an image shimmered to life, showing the shroud of the darkness, with the cloak of fire, the steed of black rock and the monochromatic mask. It changed throughout the telling, showing the shadow killing men and women, swords in their hands, or bows slung across their back. And for once scene depicted, it showed a Mystic with opalescent hair, shimmering in the light of the image, with a sword through his stomach. and the final scene portrayed the shadow, with a great rainbow dragon behind him, with a talon through his black chest. The men gasped and the women cried as the display vanished from their sight. Marik bellowed an unidentifiable word and Shilara hid behind her father. Redoran was the only one without an expression. “This poem contains great meaning for me, as I will say now. The Mystic king was my great grandfather, and to have that shadow kill him, I never like retelling this tale, for it reminds me that everyone in my family, whether I knew them or not, has died or left me.” Redoran bowed his head. The king nodded, “I feel your pain Redoran. And I may be able to remove that pain from you momentarily, if you would join us in the grand hall for the ball.” He pushed his chair back and took his daughter’s hand. “Will you lead the way, my daughter?” Shilara smiled, glanced at Redoran, winked, then replied, “Only if Redoran may hold my hand, father.” Redoran chuckled as the king gave his answer. “If he wishes so, you may guide him and us to the grand hall.” Redoran stepped forward to take the woman’s hand, when they touched, Redoran felt tingles run down his fingers, and he could tell that she felt the same way as he. “Shall we go?” Shilara smiled, “Of course we may.”

An Unexpected Change Of Plans
The next morning, Redoran woke, feeling refreshed and happy. His happiness came from the warmth he gleaned from Shilara within his arms, and the refreshed feeling came from his nights rest, for he had adjourned early in the night to the room he had been given, and in the night had been woken by Shilara, pleading him to sleep with her. Redoran unwound himself from the young woman slowly, as to not disturb the princess, but as he stood, his attempts, he discovered, were in vain. “Redoran, are you leaving?” She asked groggily. “Yes, I will need to quickly re-supply, retrieve new riding gear and be off in less than three hours.” He crept back to the bed and let a hand slip through Shilara's hair gingerly. “Your equipment has been taken care of, for my father ordered the guards to pack your bags with a set of clothes that would work well while riding and set your horse with another pack full of fruits and bread.” She had begun to stand, “And there will be another horse with you on your journey, with even more load than you had originally intended. For I am coming with you.” Redoran’s eyes opened in shock, “are you sure you wish to accompany me, because I am going across the world and not coming back unless I am required, you’d never see your father again. And it will be a long and arduous voyage, there will be conflicts on the road, and in the forests.” Shilara smiled as she stood on her feet, “My father said it was fine and I chose to go, because I love you Redoran, you are exotic and handsome, what girl wouldn’t envy me, taking on someone such as you?” she embraced Redoran, hugging him around the middle, tugging him tight. “Most women won’t envy you, because we Mystics are now thought of as demons, people who were born from fiery pits. But I don’t care, for those that are like that deserve to be punished, and I punish them.” Redoran tangled his fingers in her brown hair, teasing it between his second and third digits. “I guess you may join me, for I like your company, and you. More so you.” Shilara beamed brightly, “Then we shall depart now, I suppose.” Both Redoran and his companion slung the saddlebags in the saddle, preparing for their hasty departure. And as they packed their bags, Redoran began explaining what he had been sent to do, and had even shown the princess his gifts, the jewelled, silverin wood wand and Turic, each she took herself to her hand, letting them rest in her grip. Redoran took hold of his shire’s mane, and hauled himself into the leather saddle astride the mammoth beast, while Shilara hoisted into the saddle via the set of stirrups. “While we are on this journey, I will teach you to defend yourself, and I might be able to teach you to use magick, if you so wish.” Redoran patted the horse’s head then tickled its belly with the heels of his leather, riding boots. “Then I will greatly enjoy, for you must know much and will not force upon me many things.” She smiled as she pressed her horse forward with a squeeze of her legs. They started off at a steady trot, gradually increasing their speed as they rode away from the large city, they knew not which direction they were going, but only that the city lay behind them, and that their future lie ahead.

Time Alone
As the night crept upon the land of Irequoci, Redoran and Shilara had begun to enter a thickly laden forest of both coniferous and deciduous trees, bearing fruit and creepers, tangled with berries. The sounds of life teemed from every tree, every centimetre of earth, the birds laying down to sleep, the owls preparing for the midnight hunt, the ants crawling to and fro on the earth above and around their small colonies, the soft rustling of grass as nocturnal animals crawled slowly along the ground, dragging their bellies in the dirt. All these sounds were preternaturally loud in Redoran’s pointed ears, and the sights he sported were sharp in contrast, and brightness, his sense of smell was overloaded, the pungent scent of corpses and the soft aroma of mingling fruits, both different and conflicting. As the night bore down until the moon was discernable over the treetops, Redoran halted their proceedings and dismounted his shire; his feet touched the ground gracefully, barely making a sound in the din of the forest. As he dropped he removed his wand from his tunic, spun it around his head three times, then brought it down, the tip pointing to a collection of leaves. A collection of swirling tendrils of green sprang from the crystal tip toward the pile of discarded foliage. Like before it burst into flame, growing as the leaves expanded up and outward, creating a tent, enough space inside for two. He smiled at his handiwork and turned, to tend to the princess. He strode to her horse’s side, gripped her hand lightly, and guided her from the uncomfortable leather saddle. “Quite a display, Redoran. That was amazing!” she squealed with adoration. Redoran smiled as he guided her from the horse, tying the leads around a tree where they would stay for a night. “that is only a small extent of my magick, for I can do more. I know you would have loved to see my experimentation with a magick that I had discovered.” He let go of her hand. With a whip of his wand, two tree roots curled up from the ground, forming seats that both Shilara and Redoran could be seated upon without dirtying their clothing. “Which would you prefer to study first? The art of swordplay or the workings of magick?” Redoran asked, setting his posterior on the gnarled root that he had pulled from the earth. Shilara though long and hard before she answered, which came as a question, “Which is more effective, and practical?” Redoran frowned, “Swordplay, because it provides more protection than magick, for each spell is a complex series of enchantments and it can be quite difficult if you can’t concentrate.” He drew Turic from its scabbard and flipped it in the air, so that the hilt was directed toward Shilara. She moved her hand forwards tentatively, gazing into Redoran’s eyes for confirmation. When he nodded, she let a hand slip around the hilt, and instantly it melded to the digits entwined around it. “Well, that’s good, this weapon contains perfect balance in your hand, which means that you are well suited to the sabre. But to get a well constructed one you must go to the Koric Mountains to beg the dwarfs to create you one.” He smiled, “Now, to start, I will let you strike at me, though don’t aim for any killing blows, for if you strike me down, you will have to return to your city and tell your father, and I assure you, he will not take to the news lightly and will deject you from returning.” Redoran grinned and held a hand up to Shilara, “Proceed.” She frowned, “I can’t. You mean too much to me, I cannot strike you.” She cast aside Turic. Redoran stepped to the sword, took the blade between his thumb and forefinger, and proffered the sword back to Shilara, “Might you be able if I magickally alter my appearance?” Redoran asked as Shilara took the sword again

“Perhaps…” she hadn’t finish her sentence before Redoran had uttered an enchantment, and in Shilara's eyes, he had changed to a ragged bandit, with filthy leather clothes, matted black hair and a grimy face. Redoran himself had not changed, but from Shilara's point of view, he appeared none the like of Redoran before. “Will you strike me now?” Redoran shifted into a stance that mimicked that of a swordsman, legs spread apart, arms held aloft to his side, a stance that provided a multitude of strike points, he could feint right and come in left, go left shoulder to right hip and any blow between. Shilara nodded. Then came in with the blade held level with her bosom. She swung left hip to right shoulder, yet as Redoran moved his stance as if to block with an imaginary blade, the sword halted in midair with a shriek of steel grinding on steel. She disengaged and drove the forte of the blade forward into what would be Redoran’s sternum; the weapon was batted aside by Redoran’s invisible blade. “I thought I said no kill shots.” Redoran smiled gently as she came in again, slashing low at Redoran’s legs. Redoran jumped back from the bronze blade, surprised. His eyes followed the sword’s movements, understanding the exact location that it would collide with his flesh, and not allowing it to strike him. “Try to baffle me, come in at angles that I would have trouble defending, feint every once in a while.” He managed before the sword came up at his groin. He stopped the blade effortlessly, and uttered a spell that cast Shilara back. “Enough playing, I will actually fight now, as you have grown accustomed to the weight of the sword in your hand, I will not abide by the Mystic traditions, as you are but an apprentice, a learner under my care, but as we grow to learn each other’s strengths and weaknesses, I will start following the rituals accompanied by a friendly duel.” He uttered a spell that returned his sword to his hand, and another spell that he had used ten years prior that caused a sword of iron to appear on the ground before Shilara. She bent double to reach the blade, and as the sword graced her hand, Redoran came forward, he went to cleave his sword through Shilara's spine, but in a quick flash before he could make contact, the iron sword came up and blocked the blow. “Perfect, you have the reflexes that a warrior should have, but can you control it in battle?” he asked as he disengaged her. And instantly he drove forward, ready to strike at any given points, he would need to control the blade, for he could not kill Shilara, so with a quick iteration, a golden glow enveloped the bronze blade, providing a sheath for the ever sharp blade. Shilara reacted too slow and the blade came across her hip, and instantly she clutched the lesion in pain and surprise. “Must you be so rough?” she asked as Redoran lowered his blade “I must if you are to truly become a decent fighter, capable of defending herself in a fight to the death.” He thrust Turic into its scabbard, “We will continue the exercises another time, but for now we must eat and rest.” He sat on the gnarled roots of the tree he had removed from the ground. Shilara sighed. Still clutching her aching side, she sat down upon the root opposite Redoran. “What will we eat, for I saw not food in the bag, nor do I see any game abound.” Redoran uttered some more words and an open fire burst from the ground, without fuel. “I had packed some food before I had left the place where I had originally come from, it is not much, but it is a good, healthy food nonetheless. Instantly a chunk of Herthen flew from one of the saddlebags into Redoran’s hand. “This is Herthen, an animal that has all but gone extinct, it is a rich meat, only cooked by the finest Mystics in the world, for the Herthen recipes have been all but lost to those few.” He tore it in half and then handed the meat to Shilara, who took it slowly and cautiously. “Are you sure I’m able to eat this?” she asked, feeling the previously cooked meat

“Of course you are able to eat it, the workings of Mystics and human’s are almost identical, though we have coloured hair, and use magick.” He bit the hunk of Herthen that was in his fist greedily, he swallowed as the sweet taste ran through his mouth, causing him to salivate, “This meat was eaten by those humans that were brave enough to hunt these beasts, for they are predators, omnivores also, for they ate both caribou and berries.” Shilara felt a wave of curiosity come over her before she dug into her small morsel. She took a quick bite and swallowed before asking a question. “How large were these Herthen?” her question begged an answer and so she received her wish. “Herthen were only the size of a wolf, but their size is never looked at, it is more so the tremendous three rows of teeth inside their maws. They looked akin to a rabbit, with the head of a fox and a tail of a squirrel, three animals that people would never have believed so dangerous.” Redoran once again bit into his meat, gazing at Shilara's horror-crossed face. He knew he should not get pleasure from seeing Shilara scared, but he could not resist laughing at the expression of utter terror on her magnificent face, and without a second thought a low chuckle became a roaring laugh. “I know, three nice animals combined into one viscous creature, it is very disconcerting.” His laughing fit ended as Shilara gave him a menacing stare. Silence followed, before being interrupted by a question from Shilara, “Redoran, would you be able to go to my pack and remove a small wooden box from the bottom, for I think you would greatly enjoy what is within it?” She smiled at him in the darkness. Redoran finished his Herthen, then stood. he turned in the direction of the horses and walked towards them, his long gait carrying him quickly towards the two beasts. As he came upon Shilara’s golden palomino, both it and the shire snorted. He patted both their muzzles before turning to the pack on the palomino’s saddle. he searched down into the bag, feeling with the tips of his fingers. he came upon many objects, some of which were clothes, a bar of soap and the box he was examining the bag for. He let his fingers wrap as far around the rectangular-prism as he could and lifted it from the saddlebag. He returned to his gnarled tree root and handed the box to Shilara, who took it with grace. She let one of her long, feminine nails slip in a small crack between the lid and the base. With care, she lifted the top from the bottom. Redoran couldn’t see what was inside of the rectangular-prism, but he saw Shilara lift a long item from the case and blow on it. “What is it?” Redoran asked, squinting at the object held in her smooth hand. Shilara smiled again, “It is an instrument that I had received from my mother before she had died of the influenza virus. This is all I have to remind her by. Every night, I play many songs on this, most of which I was taught by my father since she died.” She began sobbing softly. “I am so sorry to hear that, as I have felt the same, both my parents died when I was barely a decade, and I have nothing to remember them by, other than this sword I carry, which even then was a gift to my father and was given to me by his advisor just nights ago.” He frowned as his hand fell to the hilt of Turic. “I know a song that would suit this situation.” She brought the instrument to he lips, and began blowing across a small hole, working her fingers over smaller holes down the instrument. Suddenly a sharp sound echoed through the trees, then steadily dropped to a more dull, low sounding echo. Redoran’s eyes lit, he recognized the song, for it had been sung to him when he had lain in his crib. Instantly he began whispering the words softly, then as the song progressed, he increased the volume at which he was singing. “The beautiful river flows from the sea to another sea, carrying amazing creatures and the rainbow beneath the surface. And when this river ends, it calms and slows.” he finished and

glared at Shilara with astonishment. “You know ‘the river’? what a surprise.” Shilara was bewildered, “Why is it a surprise?” Redoran grinned, “That is an ancient song Written by a Mystic by the name of Heao. He had written many songs prior, but that is his most well known song. What surprised me was that your father knew how to play it on that instrument.” “Oh, I did not know it was so old.” She replied, then placed the hole before her lips again, and began playing another tune. Redoran listened intently, trying to piece together the notes being played, and when Shilara finished, Redoran shook his head. “I do not know that song. It is probably just a human song.” Shilara frowned, then returned the instrument to its wooden case, “Do you feel sleepy, because I do feel very tired?” Redoran nodded in the dark, “Shall we adjourn to the tent, or shall either of us sleep outside?” He asked, expecting not the answer he was given. “I would like the protection and warmth of you, for I have never been in this environment and I know not what lies within the depths of the forest.” Redoran grinned, though his eyebrows slanted inward towards his nose, for he knew that what she truly wanted, he knew would have to wait, “I will give you warmth, but that is all.” Shilara frowned, stood, and begun to walk to the tent Redoran likewise followed, preparing for the day before them.

Strange Occurence
Unconsciously, Redoran felt the pulsating energy envelope his consciousness, it was an alien presence, though not in entirety, it had aspects that redoran himself had encountered when he had looked into the souls of creatures. It had a brutish, prehistoric feel. Though through the energy, his consciousness rested within a great abundance of wisdom, something he had never encountered in a creature’s makeup before. His curiosity drew him into the energy, pulling his mind into its own. In the sea of unknown information, Redoran found what was the heart of this power, though he could not determine what it was, or why it touched him. “Redoran.” a soothing voice said. Redoran tried to flinch, but found his consciousness bound in the limitless energy that he so stupidly let himself get tangled into. “Yes.” His subconscious voice answered “You are strong, hatchling, and I very well knew your father. to answer your unvoiced question. I know you still do not understand why you are here, but I tell you this now, the sword you carry is rightfully mine, I have had that weapon you now have for longer than you or your father ever lived, but I know that you will use it well.” “I have anoth-” he was cut off by another statement from the energy swirling around him. “I do not have enough time to answer all your questions, what I have come to you is to tell you that an ancient prophecy is about to happen, and it involves you, your father and the shroud of darkness, I can say no more, for to know one’s future is to stop it from happening. “good-bye Redoran. May you proceed without molestation.” Redoran felt the energy tendrils drop from his consciousness. he was left with many questions that he required an answer for. Who, or What, was that? What ancient prophecy? How did he know my father? as day crept from the horizon, Redoran began awakening, slowly came to consciousness. He had forgotten the mysterious encounter, though he was left with the words that the being had said to him, ‘to know one’s future is to stop it from happening.’ He was jostled awake when Shilara had wrapped her arms around his torso unintentionally. His green eyes fluttered open and his arms pushed away the arms surrounding his upper body gently. As his ligaments came into view, he became aware of a strong tingling in his right arm. He pulled the sleeve of his tunic up to the shoulder and examined his flesh with scrutiny. There on his forearm was a pair of symbols glowing green-gold. He let himself out of the small tent, watching his arm with an inescapable gaze. When he sat on the gnarled root that he had raised from the soil the previous night, he pressed two fingers to the radiant symbols. Instantly, an emerald flame lit in Redoran’s open hand. Instinctively, Redoran closed his hand, extinguishing the flame. He removed his fingers then replaced them upon his radiant flesh. Once again, the flame burst from the palm of his hand, though Redoran left the fire unquenched. He shook and removed the two digits from his skin, and the flame died and the symbols paled. “Odd.” he whispered, then he began preparing the horses.

An Ill Cheiftain
As the days progressed, Redoran began to understand what the symbols on his arm were meant to do, and he recognized them from the script he had written in his last days at the temple. The symbols, he now deigned, were a collaboration of conjuration magicks and fire. He at last remembered some of the symbol collaborations, and knew how to paint himself with the glow. Redoran smiled as he made Shilara giggle when he tickled her feet in the morn. The breaking of the night’s fast was nigh, and Redoran was to break the fast with toasted bread peppered with delicious herbs and spices. “Stoppit! Please stop!” Shilara cried as he continued to tickle her with gentle finger dragging. “I want to eat!” Redoran ceased his tickling and let the woman before him turn to her meal and eat, while he took the toasted bread in his hands and bit deeply into the hardened dough. The familiar flavour burst into his mouth, the mix of spices and herbs that he had peppered on the bread added a new sensation, his mouth began to feel the adverse burning that accompanied the garlic and other spices. Shilara fanned her mouth as the spices took hold; she took her wineskin from her horse’s saddle and poured the sweet mead that had been prepared prior to their departure, down her gullet. “What were you trying to do? Burn me to death?” Shilara cursed under her breath. Redoran smiled then heard a rustling from beyond the curtain of trees around them. He silenced both he and Shilara with a wave of his hand, listening intently to the sounds around them afterwards. He felt the breeze brush past his head as an arrow whipped through the clearing from the east. Redoran turned as the projectile embedded itself into the soil behind him. He simply examined the arrow with a quick once over, and knew that he was now in Auran territory. The arrow was fletched with Salans feathers, feathers from an animal that only existed in the southwest reaches of Irequoci. He stood and raised a palm to the east then to the west; he clamped both hands over his chest and spoke in the Auran’s native tongue. “Do not loose your arrows upon me, for I am a friend of the people.” Another arrow came, though it landed before redoran, sticking into the ground just half a meter in front of him. A man strode forward from the west, and a coyote from the east Shilara ducked behind Redoran out of fear, she knew coyotes from stories, and knew what they could do if severely pressed. The man was dressed in nothing but a loincloth, although his body was decorated with all mannerisms of tattoos, each signifying him as an individual. There was a great symbol on his chest, an eagle with a red orb in its beak, the Auran symbol of bravery and loyalty, earned both in one act, a very rare occurrence. The man had his face painted with the likes of an Auran warrior, around his eyes a dark red, his forehead painted with a bright yellow, the chin painted black as night. “Mystic.” The Auran warrior said in an undertone as his spirit companion, the coyote, snarled. “Yes, brave, loyal Auran warrior.” Redoran bowed, removed his sword from its scabbard and set it on the ground before him Shilara stared at redoran with uncertainty. The man smiled, “Redoran, I am sorry I didn’t recognize you before, your father knew my

father well.” Redoran grinned, “Xelos, old friend, I have not seen you since I was three summers. An adult now, I can see.” Redoran strode towards the unclothed man and placed a firm hand on his shoulder. “What is your companion’s name?” Shilara retreated slowly from the coyote as it came closer to smell her. “She is named Cyrillea. And what would your companion’s name be?” Xelos asked. Redoran smiled, “This is princess Shilara of Merasena, she begged to accompany me on this jaunt through the land.” “I see.” He whistled sharply and Cyrillea came rushing to his side. “I am sure my father would enjoy seeing you, as he was very fond of your antics.” Xelos grinned wryly Redoran chuckled, “I am no longer a child by human standards, and we Mystics always mature faster than men, so my antics, I no longer have, though I am positive that he would enjoy me teaching his warriors a thing or two about fighting.” Xelos placed a hand on Redoran’s clothed shoulder and smiled, I am sure he would, but for now you will have to be content with speaking to him, because he has been ill, and will be with mother soon.” Redoran frowned as Xelos turned to lead them to the village. The curtain of fox pelts was pulled aside to allow the viewing of the bedridden chieftain, who was covered in a soft jaguar blanket. The inside of the hut was dull, the walls dry and crusty clay, the bed, a frame of cut wood covered in uncomfortable cowhide. The roof was thatched straw, thickly layered. Xelos kneeled beside his father’s bed, spoke in hushed tones into the chieftain’s ear, and then removed the jaguar blanketing. The chief was stark naked, adorned with only a feather augmented necklace that lay across his chest, curled into a ball. The tattoos upon his body depicted his rank and his feats. The great wolf on his stomach indicated he had a born son, the blue shadowing his eyes designated that he was an elder. His arms were tattooed with many pictures meaning a multitude of meanings that Redoran did not know. The hair adorning the old man’s head was almost a silvery-white, as was his short beard that had been neatly trimmed. Every breath came in choking gasps. Redoran cried out in anguish, though he felt no pain himself. To see an old friend in the state the chieftain was in now was very paining. The chieftain coughed hoarsely, his breath coming in raspy wheeze. “Redoran?” the chieftain asked gravelly, “is that you?” Redoran let himself smile, if the chief was speaking, there was a chance that he could heal the chieftain. “Yes it is me, I have come to help you.” “Help me? Help me? There is no way I could recover from this. I cannot bear living anymore. So I ask you now, kill me, please kill me! I demand it of you!” He had a coughing fit immediately after his exclamations, and then he lay still. Redoran turned to face Xelos, who nodded solemnly. “I cannot kill you, no matter if you ask me, I may attempt to heal you, but I will not kill you.” He shook his head. Shilara, who had been eavesdropping on the conversation, threw aside the curtain of fox pelts carrying a small bottle of what appeared to be a thick green liquid. Redoran held up a hand, “What is that?” Shilara held the small vial up, allowing the sparse light coming from behind the doorway play light over the substance in the bottle. Instantly Redoran knew what the green liquid was. “Where did you get dragon blood?” “There is a dead dragon less than a kilometer from here. I knew to get it because in my

studies I had learned that dragon blood could provide long life and heal any wound created by natural means.” Shilara replied, she walked to the side of the bed and held her hand out. “I am sorry chieftain, but this will hurt.” She turned to Xelos, “could I have an arrow, the only way this will work is if I drop the blood in an open wound.” Xelos proffered the woman an arrow and she took it with haste. Shilara held the blade against the chieftain’s arm, then slid the sharp edge across his arm. The blade opened his flesh enough so that a thick liquid could mingle with his own bodily fluids. The chieftain cried out in pain, but did not move. Soon after the cut, he felt a scorching liquid pour onto his flesh. Redoran watched the dragon blood enter the cut, and he heard the chieftain’s cry of anguish. He turned away, as to not experience the pain himself. The chieftain sprang from the bed, a deep green mist pouring from his every orifice. His face contorted into a pained scowl, his grey hair darkened to a black. The man fell back onto the bed, eyes closed, breathing calmly and deeply. He was asleep

“Thank you for saving my father.” Xelos held Shilara’s hand in his own and softly pressed his lips to the back of her hand. “I know I cannot take responsibility of this tribe at this moment.” Redoran smiled, “For that reason I know you are. A man who thinks he is ready, is not, but someone who thinks they can’t know what they are required to do, so therefore they are ready. You will be a great leader when the time comes, my friend.” He hooked his arm over the Auran’s shoulders and pulled Xelos into an embrace that he would give a brother. “You are most wise Redoran, as wise as you are prestigious, which is why, I must inform you, that my father wishes you stay for a short while. He says that if you so wish, you may assist in militant practices, or help those in the tribe do what they wish.” He paused. “Also, he would greatly enjoy it if you would spend time with my younger sister, who will be choosing her spirit companion after her journey of life. You do not have to be present at the ceremony, which will be held just before the first fall of snow.” He held Redoran’s shoulder firmly, “your task with my sister is to assist her in the choosing of a companion, for she doesn’t know the truths of how the spirit companion is chosen, she will require guidance.” Redoran let his arm come back to his own side. “I will try, though, if I fail you can not hold me responsible.” He quickly told Shilara to wander about, to do what she wished, then hastily departed to the chieftain’s daughter’s hut. Redoran pulled back the light curtain of red fox pelts, revealing a room all too familiar. When he was but two summers, he would come to stay here with his mother and father, this was the hut he had slept and ate in while his father had visited the Auran Elders. It had the same feel, as the ripples of time passed through this focal point. Though there was one thing different from then, there was a female lying on the bed that was centered in the medium hut. The female turned her legs over the edge of the bed and sat. The girl was beautiful; she had graceful, sleek and polished-looking ebony hair. Her eyes were startlingly brilliant, the green flecks mingling with the deep chocolate brown gave her face a look that Redoran could not comprehend. Her almost flat nose seemed perfect in every way. She wore a light silk shirt and plain leather trousers. He recognized the face, barely. “Kerrianna, how are you. Last time I saw you, you were but a babe.” The girl named Kerrianna nodded, smiling. “I have been told that your companion has saved my father, but how do you know me?” Redoran smiled sheepishly, “I knew you when you were born, I was there when you were given life.” “Oh” Kerrianna said, then, “Why are you here?” Redoran sat beside her on the bed, “Xelos asked me to talk to you about your spirit companion choice. He says that you have so many talents that you could reflect on in your choice, because your animal is attracted to you, as you are to it, but he had explained to me that you have many abilities, and are attracted to many animals.” “I do have many talents, most of which aren’t akin to Xelos’ for I enjoy weaving, I am fair at swordplay, and amazing at archery. I am a girl of many abilities, so therefore I cannot be attached to one of the animals I am attracted to.” Redoran began scratching his chin, “I doubt you would be able to do this, but…” he paused momentarily, “…ask for a dragon, they are proficient at almost all of the abilities you

had presented to me. But as I said, I doubt they will let you do so, as dragons are the highest sentient being in Irequoci. And to treat them like a common possession would be a great insult.” Kerrianna frowned, her eyes showing a great worry. “I think I have decided my creature, but I will let you hear before I say it before my father. I have chosen a black widow spider, for it is a spider, which is great at weaving, it is the deadliest spider, which reflects my prowess with the blade and arrows.” Redoran smiled, “that is a great choice, for it also has another quality that you have too, a magnificent beauty that I have not seen in a very long time. Your eyes are your mother’s, and your smile is your father’s.” She leaned into Redoran, setting her hands on his thigh, “Is that so. If we are exchanging compliments, then I must say your hair is very fine, your eyes are intoxicating, and your ears are exotic.” She leaned closer, her face almost touching Redoran’s. “Your dark locks are very sleek, your face is perfect.” He was almost ready to utter another compliment, but her luscious lips touched his, and he was pulled into a passionate embrace

Show Off
Xelos almost fainted when he heard the words that came out of Redoran’s mouth. He wasn’t expecting that his younger sister would become this way, for she had never come into contact with another male other than himself and their father. Redoran gripped his friend’s shoulder to steady him. “You…you…why did you?” Redoran frowned, “I had no intention on kissing her, I said one thing and she came closer to me.” He explained “Well, I should be happy, because I would prefer her to have a husband that is of my friends.” He said, and then changed the topic. “My father wants you to go to him, for he has a gift that you would enjoy greatly, I think.” He rushed off, Cyrillea trailing swiftly behind him. Redoran found the chieftain standing, watching three of his warriors training vigorously inside a fenced circle, the ground spattered with droplets of maroon. The chieftain was adorned with his cloak of Herthen pelts and the ox hide trousers that all the Auran warriors wore. His hair was pulled back into a warrior’s ponytail and his beard was trimmed short, so that the longest hairs reached to the middle of his throat. His eyes were bright, the same likeness as they were ten summers prior. Redoran strode beside the chieftain, smiled and addressed him. “I have been told that you required me.” The chieftain grinned, slowly removing an object from inside his Herthen hide cloak. As his hand came into view, it clutched a small handle with a curve of silver sweeping from a blade to just before the pommel. When it was removed completely, Redoran saw a dazzling dagger made of silver, wood and diamond. The blade was untarnished silver, the handle was wrapped in soft cloth and the pommel was an opalescent diamond. The chieftain flipped the weapon in his hand, so that he held the forte of the blade as he held it towards Redoran. “This weapon is known as Clorian, it is my gift to you, knowing that your father was a great man and that you are too. Redoran’s hand slid into the guarded handle easily, he smiled and said, “Thank you. Is this all you wanted me for?” The chief shook his head, “No, I called upon you so you may help my warriors train. You may or may not decline, but if you decline, know that it is a small price to pay for hospitality. Redoran smiled, ‘How many warriors shall taste Clorian’ he thought, then answered, “Yes, bring forth your three best warriors and they will feel the pang of defeat as silver kisses their flesh.” “Splendid!” the chief exclaimed, pleased. He turned to the person beside him and ordered that he fetch his three best men. Inside the arena that the chief had lain, Redoran stood in the focal point of the chieftains three best warriors, he had Clorian unsheathed from its arm scabbard that had been fastened to his arm only a short while before. He wore a padded leather jerkin and a pair of thick riding leathers. His green hair had been pulled back into a warrior’s ponytail so that it wouldn’t affect his vision. The antagonists were all adorned with the same attire as Redoran, though they were armed with Auran blades, one-handed weapons with a double-edged blade, etched with family symbols. All of them had a scowl on their face, anger focused on Redoran, for to them, it

appeared he mocked them, wielding only a dagger, while they all carried their swords. Redoran smiled, he knew that he was going to have a great time, showing these pompous warriors that a hero, which he used the word loosely, was not as good as his weapon. He twitched his left hand, the hand with the dagger, in a fashion that would begin a battle. As he expected, the man before him came forth first. The Auran blade came up in a sweeping arc, coming within an inch of Redoran’s thigh before Redoran swiftly blocked with the pommel of the silver dagger. The man snarled, then snapped the hand opposite his sword in a beckoning motion to the other warriors, who hesitantly came forward, as they had witnessed Redoran defend himself with the pommel of Clorian. They had to decide which they thought most likely, either luck, or extremely skilled. They chose luck. Redoran almost laughed as the three men converged on him, swords glinting in the sparse sunlight from above. They moved with a jerky motion, which belied them as poor swordsmen, for great warriors should move with a swift grace. They continued on as such, until the three Auran warriors began to tire, their strikes sluggish and labored. Redoran began to realize said fact and pressed forward, pushing the men back into a small hovel where Redoran could batter their defenses, knock each one to the ground and hold them hostage to the gleaming silver blade he wielded. With a quick, strong strike, Redoran shattered the first Auran warrior’s blade, thrusting him back with his elbow, then drove the silver dagger into the blood groove of a second warrior’s sword, slicing the blade in two. The third man had enough common sense to drop his sword and raise his hands in the air; he knew he was defeated, for if a man could destroy swords with a puny dagger, he was not worth reckoning with. Redoran smiled as he thrust the silver dagger into is shoulder sheath. He quickly nodded to the chieftain then began his clambering over the fencing that caged him in the ring of dirt and blood stained grass. The chieftain clasped Redoran’s shoulder, assisting with the hoisting of his body over the wood. “That was very pleasing.” Redoran said as his feet touched the ground softly.

Redoran hefted Shilara’s saddle onto her horse, which was tied to a tree, where it had stayed for the past week, being fed by the Auran women who had come to love the gentle beast. Redoran patted her muzzle gently as he lifted the piece of leather onto the back of the creature with one hand. He could hear the horse’s steady breathing, smell the horse’s clean fur and could feel the light breeze wafting through the thick mane. Shilara came up behind Redoran and set a firm, yet gentle hand on his muscled shoulder, which he so prominently displayed with a bare torso. “I see we are almost ready.” Redoran smiled kindly, “Yes we are, but from the tone in your sweet voice, I am under the impression that you want something before we depart. “No, no, I do not want anything before we leave, but I do want to ride with you on your horse.” Shilara wrapped her arms around his chest, clasping her hands together over his sternum. Redoran grimaced, “Unfortunately, I cannot let you, for my horse already has to carry a heavy weight and I doubt he would want even more.” Shilara frowned in disappointment, expecting a more expedient answer than what she was offered. Redoran finished laying the cowhide on the beast’s back and took Shilara's smooth hand and assisted her into the saddle atop the steed. When he accomplished that task he turned to his own horse that strode about grazing the sparse grass that poked through the crusty dirt. He swiftly slung himself onto his horse’s back and had the creature trot over to where Shilara sat astride her mighty beast. “Shall we go?” Redoran asked calmly. “Yes we shall.” They started off at a steady trot, and as Redoran gazed behind, the world seemed to shrink away, leaving only those that he held dear in his profound sight. He waved, but it was too late, for the tribe was long behind them, and the long, winding road lay before them. Redoran and Shilara stayed on the road for many weeks, and throughout those weeks, the weather became restless, storms brewed at the most unseemly times, and Redoran knew that the cold times were coming soon, as the leaves on deciduous trees were turning warm and falling to the wet, windswept ground. Only a week from the sprawling city of Oriin, the ice crystals began to fall, slowly at first, then as the two vagabonds approached the capital of the Kirill Territory, it began to become heavier. It was a trouble to reach the gates of the city after a long day of persistent frozen precipitation; the waist high snow was slowing the horses, and was chilling any body part that had contact. Redoran felt the painful chill nip at his already frozen ears, and was regretting his decision to not stop at one of the trading posts in the Nomad Territory. His arms were coated in a thick white sheet of crystals, and his hair was bleached. He rode up to the gate as swiftly as possible, hoping that his respite would come closer when he entered the large city doors. Two guards stood clothed in thick woolen robes that wrapped tightly around their torsos to keep them warm. They carried long spears, with iron tips that appeared sharp enough to impale trees.

Both stepped forward, the solidified ice crystals underneath their boots crunching and compacting further. “What is your business?” they both said in unison. Redoran shivered and pressed his two fingers to the symbol on his arm, starting a fire before him, warming the air around him and seeping warmth into his frozen form. “We are here…” he pointed to Shilara, who was a short distance to his rear, “because we require respite from this bitter cold and would indeed like rest and nourishment.” Both guards nodded to each other then nodded to the travelers, who proceeded forward. The door opened without effort, for the roads behind had been cleared of ice and collected ice crystals. Redoran rode in quickly, forcing his horse to gallop into the town and to the closest inn or tavern he could find, so he could have complete warmth again. Shilara came slowly behind, taking the time to see the layout of the city. The door to Albon’s Inn opened quickly as Redoran pushed with a swift thrust of his arm. He strode in quickly, eager to down a pint of ale, sit by a warm, crackling fire and have a hot meal unlike those he had eaten during the cold months of solid travel. He stepped to the side to speak to the woman at the Inn’s reception desk, who was busy scrawling a brief note on a browning sheet of parchment. “A room for two if you would please.” He asked as Shilara came bounding in gracefully. The receptionist nodded and looked up, taking a key from below the tabletop. “Room three is empty, though it only has one bed.” She handed it over to Redoran by sliding the key across the desk. “Are there any other rooms that are open?” Redoran asked, hoping his wanted answer would come. His question was answered, “This is the only room available.” Redoran was very displeased “Thanks.” He said in an unpleased tone, and then made his way over to an oak table where he could bask in the warmth of the fire and could be served. Shilara followed tightly behind him, as deranged men were watching her very closely. They sat down at a table nearest to the controlled, crackling blaze that lightened the room with innumerous shades of yellow, orange and crimson. A waitress with ginger hair, wearing a pink dress that accentuated her barely seen bosom, came to the table side with a small piece of white parchment that she scribbled letters tightly together so they were illegible. “What would you like today, sir…” her eyes rested upon his sleek green hair only a moment then turned her gaze to the woman, ”…Ma’am?” Redoran flicked one strand of his emerald locks away from his face, and then answered promptly, “I would like a pint of your finest ale and a medium rare steak, slathered in sauce made from the leaves of Pirus.” The woman nodded then turned to Shilara, “And you madam.” Shilara smiled at Redoran, “I would like the same as my traveling partner, though instead of ale, would I be able to receive a glass of your finest white. The waitress bowed deeply then turned away towards the kitchen where food would be made for the two vagabonds. Shilara started the dinner conversation, saying, “We haven’t truly talked in a while, and I know that those lines on your forehead aren’t because you’re aging. What’s bothering you?” Redoran frowned, “I’m worried that when I reach Verequine that I might find that it lies in ruins and it cannot be rebuilt. And I’m concerned about what might happen on the last few months of travel.” Shilara reached a hand forward to caress Redoran’s cheek and smiled, “It doesn’t matter, for I know that as long as I am in your capable hands, I shall not be harmed or befouled.”

The kitchen doors opened and the waitress came out with the glass of white wine and Redoran’s pint of ale. She came quickly to the table to deposit the beverages then bowed once again saying, “The meal shall be finished within the next few minutes.” She receded back into the room whence she came, leaving the two to themselves once more. Redoran gazed around the room, then turned back to the female before him. “You can’t honestly say that, because I am not the most perceptive of people, and even though I am able to combat and succeed many people with a dagger, there is a number that I cannot breach without assistance, although I may not know that number, I can certainly guess.” Shilara nodded, “Then what is your guess?” “I haven’t guessed, and I don’t want to. Can we talk about something else, like perhaps what we shall do here while we wait for the storm to ride out.” Shilara nodded, agreeing with his choice. “Why does it always seem that you know every single king and queen across Irequoci.” She asked as the red-haired waitress came out to their table carrying the food that they had ordered. Redoran smiled and thanked the waitress as she set down the meals. She quickly departed to another table to retrieve their orders, or to refill their drinks. Redoran could smell the sauce that had been plastered on his thick steak, and on Shilara's. It had a sweet tang to it, intermingling with the nice smell of mint sprigs. He took a long swig of his ale, content with the taste and the way it glided down his throat. “I know the rulers because my father would take me with him to the cities that required attention, whether they be without money, warring with each other or just seemed like a place that needed help.” “Then why don’t we just go to the castle and ask for a place to stay.” Shilara asked, taking a fork and a knife that had been laid on her plate and began cutting the meat on her plate. “This was one of the only places my father despised, and so too did the king despise my father. I would not be given a place in his castle.” Shilara frowned, disappointed. She turned to her food and began to eat, enjoying the food thoroughly. Every so often she would take a slow sip of her wine; indulging in the little delicacies that time gave her. Redoran likewise enjoyed his meal, though for him it appeared bland. He was used to the complexity of the meals he had with his people atop the Crystal Mountain. He could still taste the cooked Herthen as it melded with the taste of the vegetables and other meats they revered. When Redoran finished his meal, he gazed out one of the inn’s sparse windows into a black sky littered with ever-luminescent stars. “We should get some rest, only time will tell what may happen tomorrow.” Redoran pushed his chair back and stood. He stepped forward and took hold of Shilara's chair back. He pulled slowly back, letting her retreat from the table and then he set it back to its original position. Shilara clasped his arm and proceeded with him, towards the stairs that they would ascend to reach their designated room.

To Kill The King
Once again the insurmountable energy swirled in tendrils around Redoran’s conscious mind. The energy was greater in power, which Redoran guessed that this was because he was closer to the source. And again, the soft, snake-like voice protruded on his inner thoughts. “Redoran, I’m sorry to disturb you again, but this is deathly urgent.” Redoran’s conscious mind retorted back “What!” “There is no need to get hasty and rash, you should know that I only speak to you when it is urgent.” “Sorry.” Redoran apologized “I would be wary of your friends, and you should stay away from that which doesn’t concern you, just a note to make reference of. I know that you are traveling to the north to reclaim your rightful home, but be careful when you arrive, for there is something there that should remain hidden, so if you are to find a secret passage or such, do not enter.” The voice hissed, almost afraid. “What is hidden?” Redoran asked, curiosity sparked. “I cannot say, for it is most terrible. Please make haste, for the faster you get to your destination, the faster you will be reunited.” “Reunited? With who?” Redoran was bewildered “You will know…” the voice dragged off as the morning hours slipped upon the world. Redoran woke, with only words in his head; he remembered none of the transpired conversation within his mind that connected him with the stream of magick. He swung his legs over the edge of the bed and clutched the frame. This was when he noticed two new symbols etched green-silver on his thigh. He recognized the symbols from the pairings he had done with the symbols on the parchment at the Mystic temple. Combat magicks mingled with flame, a lethal combination. Directing his left hand in a direction that he thought the spell would cause less damage and let the two foremost digits on his right hand befall the symbols on his thigh. Instantly, a barrage of green fire erupted from his fingertips, lashing out in swirling tendrils of heat until it struck the walls made of solid stone, where it dissipated in swirls of smoke. Redoran smiled, set his toes on the carpeted floor and stood. He then noticed that the bedside table had a set of clothing for both he and Shilara. He lifted the clothes laid out for him, a fleece tunic with an eagle sewn into the left breast, and light leather trousers. And below that, a thick coat of oxhide that would keep him warm in the cold of winter. He stripped down to nothing, then donned the clothing laid for him quickly. He waved his hand and an aging sheet of parchment had been set on the clothes laid out for the woman. He buckled his belt up and strapped his dagger scabbard onto his shoulder for quick access if he were to have an issue in the town. He grinned with heat boiling in his eyes; this would be a day to remember. The door to Oriin’s king’s dwelling opened without problem, and Redoran strode in without molestation, for he had never been here and no one recognized his green hair and eyes from when his father came the once. He thundered up the steps leading to the royal banquet hall where he knew the king ate at this moment. As he neared the top of the steps he drew Turic and Clorian from their scabbards. He ran across the tiled floor, taking up the distance between him and the dining table in less than ten

bounds. The king was alone, eating his meal without disturbance until Redoran came bursting through the arch that divided the entrance hall from the dining hall. Redoran gripped the side of the table and swung himself into the air. He could hear the whistling in his ears as he flew across the table to the king, who was frozen in shock. “Alstinen!” he uttered angrily before Redoran held his unstained bronze blade at the king’s neck “No, don’t play stupid, you pompous, self-centered, wallowing creature, I know that those men I met before I arrived at Merasena were your men. Now, learn that you will die by whose hand I have yet to decide. Your fat, overfed citizens will not kill me, nor will I be killed by your guard.” Redoran hissed between his teeth, “Go ahead call them, they will all be dead with seconds, and your throat will be slit.” He growled. “Pathetic whoreget child, you have no idea what my guard can do. Guards! Take care of this intruder!” he shouted Redoran heard the clanking of heavy armour resound throughout the halls of the large castle, and by the quaking of the ground; Redoran could determine the amount of men converging on their location. “You have given your last order.” He quickly turned around on the table to view the amassed group of steel clad warriors. He looked back at the quivering face of the king, “Once I’m done with them, you’re dead.” Redoran jumped high in the air, rolled and landed with Clorian dug into the chest of one guard, who had so eagerly stepped forward to let himself die. Redoran thrust Turic into the helmet of another man. So onward the battle raged, Redoran never pinked by the blade, and never injured by flanged maces. He twirled round, dancing and weaving a pattern of dead on the ground. He knew what he was doing was wrong, but he enjoyed the thrill he received when he heard blood spray from the wounds he caused. He enjoyed the sight of blood pouring down the blood groove of his saber and pooling on the ground below his feet, and his boots were soon soaked crimson. Within less than five minutes, the entire assemblage lay on the ground in a great pool of maroon, which was steadily growing as the blood fell loosely from the bodies on the stone floor. Redoran turned to the king, who was now kneeling on the ground with his hands in his lap and head hung, he knew that he was going to die, and he could do nothing to change Redoran’s mind. “You see that your attempts are futile, so why do you even attempt?” The king sighed, “I was trying to do the best for my nation.” Redoran strode back to the king, and scowled, “What would your nation receive by killing me?” venom was spraying from his mouth like wildfire. The king looked to the floor, “Nothing but peace.” “Is that so. Well then how about I give it peace now and place a new king upon the throne. If you step down from your position and I select the new ruler, I will not be forced to behead you.” Redoran’s eyes were starting to turn red “Just kill me, you whoreget child, I am useless.” “I will not kill you until you decline my offer.” The king scowled, “I will not step down! My people will take up arms against you and kill you.” “Are you sure, and do you think they could kill me. I’d be doing them a favour by removing you from this world.” “Fine, kill me and choose my successor.” Redoran scowled once again as he brought Turic down in an arc to cleave through the tendons and bones in the king’s neck. But he stopped just before impact, he felt an urge to not kill the man that had sent assassins to molest himself.

‘Why will my blade not fall upon his neck and rid the world of this creature’ he thought, and then he understood why as the energy swept through his mind once again saying, ‘this man may have caused many deaths and attempted murders, but after what you have done here, he will understand what it is to be a true king. And you may need him in the coming future if you remembered my warning.’ Redoran removed the bronze from the king’s neck and held his gaze for a moment. “Go, leave my presence, or if you know what’s good for you, you’d invite me into your home for our stay.” The king spat, “Never!” Redoran grinned, “Well then, enjoy your day.” He turned on his heels and ran out of the castle, back to where Shilara was waiting, probably worried, indefinitely curious.

We Need To Go
“Where were you?” Shilara asked with a worried air, her face was wrinkled with worry lines Redoran replied plainly, “Just dealing with unfinished business somewhere.” “What sort of business?” Shilara asked, for her curiosity would not be sated. “Business that you will be sure to find out when we leave this inn.” Redoran said, uneager to speak to Shilara about the crime he had just committed, and he knew that she would disapprove of his choice. “Fine, don’t tell me what you were doing, but when I find out, there’s going to be hell to pay.” She said as she stepped towards the door, which Redoran left ajar. As they exited the inn, they were halted by three men dressed in ceremonial magicker robes, black, stitched with their family crest over the left side of their breast. Redoran grinned a chagrined grin, he knew who these men were, and what they were doing, what they were going to attempt, and before they could do or say anything he uttered a spell that would defend and reflect anything they were to try and cast. “Redoran Enders, Mystic representative of the Mystic temple upon Crystal Mountain, we have come to escort you to our holding, where you will be given a fair hearing for the treason you committed only an hour ago.” The first of the mages stated. “Treason!” Shilara exclaimed, “What has he done? Besides go for a quick stroll to finish unfinished business with a friend!” The second of the spellweavers spoke, “He has gone to the castle to assassinate the king, though he failed because he was overpowered by the king’s guard.” Redoran burst out, lashing with all his might with the spell tattooed on his leg. The spray of fire sprang forth from his open hand to engulf the magickers. He watched their bodies and garb turn to ash before he fully turned towards Shilara. “We have to go, we don’t have time to retrieve the horses, I have committed treason, and murder, but it was because the monster that controls this territory, that I had killed his guard, I nearly killed him because of what he has done!” he took hold of her hand tightly and pulled her along with him, though she fought back and cursed throughout the town. They crossed few guards, but Redoran knew why, they were all collecting near the exit of the town so they may bar his way. But they had no knowledge whatsoever on what he could do. Redoran ran through the town diving down alleyways to avoid being seen by loose straggling guards that knew about him and would attempt to kill him on sight. All the while he gripped Shilara's hand, and onto the hilt of Clorian in case he required the weapon to survive the fight with a guard. Shilara dragged behind, gasping for air as Redoran forced her to run through the city streets. She was still bewildered, she had never seen Redoran in such a frenzy, and she didn't understand why. All she could grasp is that Redoran had committed a crime that would force him to flee. The pair of fugitives neared the gates to the city, and as they drew close, Redoran let Shilara's hands go and he handed her Clorian, "defend yourself if guards come and attack, I will return when the people who hinder us will hinder us no more." Redoran drew Turic and ran down the rutted, uneven street towards the guards and his departure. He rounded a corner and found himself at a dead end, before him a house rose two storeys. Instantly he flung himself at the wall, uttering a spell just before impact to allow him to ascend to the top of the structure. Like a spider he climbed, using his spell to cling to the wall. Soon he flipped over the eave and landed on his feet and gazed down to the men below. ‘Pompous, ignorant fools,’ Redoran thought as he prepared to dive into their midst to

clear his path. Only an instant before he jumped, he began to regret what he would have to do, he felt the urge to kill moments before, but now he felt sick to his stomach, he couldn’t dive and kill those men down there. He wretched onto the flat rooftop and collapsed. He had fallen unconscious. He awoke as the moon was creeping out of the sky, his sleep lasted an entire day and he didn’t remember anything that had transpired before he had fallen unconscious. He remembered only that he had attempted to kill Oriin’s king. He stood up steadily, knowing that if he jumped into the air and land on his feet, his legs would crumple beneath him. When he had fully risen to his feet, he stepped to the side of the building to watch whatever was happening below. There in the middle of the street lay Shilara, flat on the ground with her hands tied behind her back. Her brown hair was in disarray, tangled and matted by blood. Around stood guards that had been there the night before, and one held Clorian and was examining the craftsmanship displayed in the silverwork. Another was gently tapping the flat of his longsword on his gauntlet, and a third was wrestling with a fourth. Redoran’s gut wrenched as he saw the man at the head of the group, it was the king garbed in full armour. Instantly Turic came to his hand, his bloodlust had returned, he wanted to unleash the power in his thigh, but he knew it would strike Shilara, so he would have to go in with his blade. He slid his finger down the blade to sight his first target, the king. He flung himself down to the street, somersaulting through the air to give himself distance. He needed to fly across the lane to arrive before the king so he could remove him from the living before he could do anything else to hurt anyone. He rolled three times before landing on his feet with Turic impaled into the king’s chest. The group of men gasped as their ruler fell back with the sword protruding from his breast. Their eyes moved from the king’s chest to the murderer, and they snarled. They all drew their weapons and stepped forward, in unison they bellowed a war cry that they thought would intimidate Redoran, but their attempt was in vain. Redoran smiled at their attempt and began wailing a spell so loud they began to retreat, afraid of what this green-haired man would do to them. Redoran uttered the final word and the armed men fell to the ground in a heap, dead. Redoran once again felt a wave of nausea and wretched, he was losing his intestinal fortitude. Shilara looked up at Redoran’s face and smiled happily, for she had never been so afraid, and he brought her away from the terror. “Redoran, please help me.” Redoran gained control of his stomach and darted to Shilara’s side and reached into his tunic where his wand lay. He pulled the short jeweled bar from his torso and pointed the tip towards the roped that bound her hand together. Flame erupted from the tip and incinerated the bonds. “We have to go, but now that we have no obstacles we can retrieve our steeds.” He pulled her up and held the back of her head, feeling the cuts in her head and uttering spells to heal them. She groaned in pain as her healing process was sped up and the agony that would have occurred during the natural process, was compressed into the short span of time. “Now let’s go.” He let his fingers entangle in her hair one last time and he disengaged his fingers.

No More King
The smell of blood pervaded the air, mingling with the scent of sweat and feces. Fear transmitted through the fabric of space as Redoran entered a strange room filled with cadavers, recently gutted and slashed to ribbons. A strange flickering light illuminated the gore filled scene Redoran laid his eyes upon. His steps echoed off the walls, a heavy thud of leather boots and the clanking of a sword. Other than the reverberating sounds, there was nothing to be heard other than the heavy sound of breathing, deep breaths. Redoran walked to the centre of the strange room and the corpses evaporated, only to be replaced by a large pentacle engraved in the floor. Across the room, situated the exact opposite of the entrance was a large device, a bulb full of a black liquid, or what appeared to be liquid, and a tube angled towards the utmost point of the pentacle. The hair on Redoran's neck prickled at the sight of the black liquid swirling within its container. Redoran sat, unknowing of what he should do. Suddenly the liquid began pouring out, it flowed down onto the star etched in the ground, and from there it slid through the etching and soon the entire pentacle was glowing black. A mask appeared before his face, a blood painted mask with ancient symbols painted all over it. A voice pervaded the mask, a deep menacing voice. “Wear me, Wear me. And the Ancients will envy your powers over darkness. You will be kept above all others, I can make you almost a god, you will be free to control whomever you wish...” came the voice persuasively, it lured him to touch the clay. But as his fingers made contact, the object disappeared and the centre of the pentacle collapsed, dropping Redoran into a deep hole of never ending darkness. The luring voice continued to drone through Redoran's mind, “You can control the darkness with which resides within everything, nothing could defeat you...” Redoran began to get perturbed by the drone of the mask. The darkness ended abruptly, along with the hole, light dominated Redoran's vision, and his legs crumpled under his weight and force of the fall. “But to retrieve me you must fight for your life and survive.” the taunting voice came again. Redoran stood, darkness flashed momentarily, giving Redoran a moment of blindness. The light returned and Redoran was faced with five, armed warriors garbed in pitch black robes seemingly made of shadow. He reached for his waist, where Turic would have been, though it was not there. He cursed briefly before the five strange men walked within striking distance. Their swords grew to a massive lengths. Their swords flashed, and Redoran flipped into the air. He was surprised at the ferocity and speed of their strikes. The blades of their swords split into equal sized shapes, they became whip-like. Redoran only knew these weapons from legends from long before his father was born. The users could not be defeated, according to legends, and not all legends were based on fact. All five warriors lashed out with their whip blades, their swords flying to the same position in the room at the same time, making it easier for Redoran to dodge the lacerating tips. Redoran landed on his hands and flipped onto his feet. He may not have his weapon but he did have his raw skill, magic and natural instincts that befitted his stature. “They are nothing more than zombies without the ability to think or comprehend battle strategies. He rushed in while the warriors were returning their blades back into their original form, he struck one in the middle of the chest with his open palm, launching the shadow cloaked warrior across the room, the whip blade flew out of his hand and another of the warriors caught it. When the warrior who Redoran had struck recovered from the hit, the warrior who had

caught the sword tossed him his whip sword. Redoran cursed again, they weren't mindless zombies, they had their own plans, they coordinated their strikes, and relied on their teammates to defeat Redoran. Once again, the men whipped their blades in the direction of Redoran, who once again dodged away from the blades, the warriors were predictable, they were going to synchronize their strikes and then slowly array them in different positions, making it appear that they went from organized to randomized, as was the strategy of most warriors who fought in collaboration with others. Redoran smiled as their strategy began to unfold, the blades retracted back into the sword formation. And once again they lashed out with their weapons, this time spreading their weapons so that there was more of a chance of Redoran being struck. The whoosh of Redoran dodging was loud. “I must find a way of removing them from their swords, for if I am to remain like this, I will most likely die.” he whispered to himself. He then noticed a distinct pattern in their forms, when he had knocked the first warrior down, he threw it to one of the men in front of him, if Redoran could hit two at once and then strike a third immediately afterward, there would be a chance of him receiving a weapon to kill these men with. Redoran dashed away from another whip, he flipped into the air and uttered a spell to increase his speed, for he knew full well that he could not use a spell to kill one of the men, for they were probably protected with a reversing spell, which would cause Redoran to die if he cast a spell of death. With his speed enhanced, he dropped between the five warriors. He curled his hands into fists, and thrust each of them into the faces of the men to the left and right of him, and then kicked the third before him. Somehow the plan Redoran had fabricated within a minute worked, the three men released their weapons, and because of this, only two hands were open to catch the flying blades. Two men caught the blades they could and the final sword flew across the room to where Redoran had previously dashed, and he caught it in mid flight. “Now you will all die!” he charged forward, for he was not accustomed to using whips, let alone whips where the end is covered in short blades. He drove his new sword into the gut of the warrior he had stolen it from whilst lying on the cold hard rock. The other two that had been knocked back had regained their stead and returned a strike once their comrades returned their weapons. They split the blades and flung them forward, aiming at both Redoran's right and left sides. They were foolish, for Redoran would not fall for that trick, he stood still, waiting for the men to retract their weapons. The blades began to return to their average size, and that was when Redoran chose to strike, he darted forward, weaving his sword into a rhythmic pattern, he slashed to his right, cutting through the first man effortlessly with a shallow left hip to right shoulder strike. Then he switched to his left, cutting from left shoulder to right hip. The warriors began to bleed out and soon, there were only two left. A measly amount that Redoran could easily dispatch without any effort whatsoever. For the first time, the fighters did not unleashed their weapons, they dashed forward at an alarming speed, their velocity took their swords before Redoran's chest. With an almost too late block, Redoran deflected their blades with a twitch of his hand, letting his sword take the full brunt of the blow. The men appeared behind him, light flashing off their blades. “you are pathetic, you fight as though you are mindless, although you have weapons given only for the champions of life.” he spread his legs apart and held his stance open, “I'll let you both take another shot at me, then you will die!” the warriors spun to face Redoran, giving each other a strange glance that Redoran couldn't decipher. They both ran forward and they bother released their blade's fastening,

rotating around Redoran, assuring that he would be bound within a tight circle of steel. The whip blades tied themselves around the opposite blades, tightening as the men pulled. Redoran jumped, and the warriors immediately tightened the circle, lacerating Redoran's ankles, and keeping him from becoming airborne. “You bastards!” he lashed out with his consciousness, prying his mind into both of the fighters, making them lose grip on their realities, taking control of their bodies. He forced them to drop their weapons after loosening the grip on his ankles. “as I predicted, you will die after your last attempt,” he dislodged the blade from the gilt crossguard and span it to bite into the warriors' flesh. The blades drove themselves into either of their chests, piercing their hearts, killing them instantly. The taunting voice of the mask pervaded the silence the deaths had brought, “You have completed the challenge, you may have me once you find me.” Darkness came as these words came to an end... Redoran awoke with a startle, it was midnight. “What a strange dream.” he returned his head to the ground and revisited sleep.

Almost There
Redoran clung to his shire’s mane tightly as to stay astride his mighty beast as it galloped through the trees that dominated the land of Irequoci. Shilara’s horse rode beside him, pounding the ground with its great hooves. They had been at it for three days straight and they were nearing Redoran’s father’s estate. They were only a few hours ride from the city surrounding the castle that they were to arrive at. The wind whipped by as Redoran pressed his face into the horse’s neck and braced himself against the harsh wind. Shilara did the same, because the wind stung her eyes. Night was fast approaching and they were growing tired, they couldn’t make it to Verequine before sundown, so they stopped to rest for the night. Redoran dropped one of his saddlebags, and then dismounted. He once again he whipped out his bejeweled wand to cast a spell to conjure two identical tents. He flicked the tip and instantly the tents sprang up out of nowhere. Shilara had already began uttering words that she knew in the language of magick to create a fire to keep them warm through the cold winter night. She grabbed food from her saddlebag and dug into it greedily, for she hadn’t eaten since their breakfast on the morn after they arrived in Oriin. Redoran likewise ate, though after he had set up their encampment, and he didn’t eat with ravaging hunger. When they finished their quick meal, Redoran felt the urge to sleep, so he snuck quietly into his tent so he could rest Redoran grew tired of the energy’s frequent visits and notifications, and this time was no exception. The energy swirled around his consciousness and took hold of it. “You have come once again, why?” Redoran asked, becoming annoyed. “I understand you are nearing your destination, and I will let you know once again, you will meet someone again, someone you once knew, someone you have long forgotten. And be leery of anything you find in the castle, whether it is a weapon or otherwise.” The energy replied, “We’ll meet once again, only once, and it will be face to face.” Contact was disconnected and Redoran saw something in his mind’s eye, a figure like himself, though older with a goatee. He recognized him, his older brother. He imagined him with the same clothing that he wore the day he left him. He had a grasp on the image for a moment, then it faded as he drifted into a deep sleep. Redoran bore out of his sleep as the sun hit its zenith in the sky. Shilara was already awake and was preparing the horses for departure, for it would only be an hour before they arrived at Verequine. He pushed aside the curtain at the front of his tent so he could exit the cloth structure that he had slept in the night before. He stepped out of his tent and into the sparse sunlight. He found Shilara feeding the horses, and preparing them for their run. “Well, what a wonderful day it is to be so close to my goal.” He sat beside the dead fire and pulled his saddlebag towards him with a wave of his hand. He rifled around until he found the last chunk of Herthen he had and dug into it with his teeth. “I assume you’ve already eaten.” Redoran said to Shilara. Shilara replied, “yes I have. Waiting for you wake up does bring hunger to one’s stomach.”

Redoran grinned, “well, then there’s no sense waiting here while there is work to be done. Saddle up, we should be there in a short while. And when we arrive, we have work to do.” Shilara complied and swung herself onto her beast so they could disembark. Redoran jumped onto his horse and dug his heals into its sides, causing it to gallop further into the forest. Shilara came behind quickly racing towards the horizon. An hour passed as the two rode towards the estate within Verequine. Near the time for the midday meal, the pair arrived at the Verequine border, and they gazed upon the once magnificent ruins of the city. The castle at the centre was the only structure to have survived the onslaught of man. The castle was massive, it was probably the largest structure Redoran had ever seen, and it was marvelous. The stained glass windows were beautiful, displaying images from Irequoci’s past. The walls were flush, smooth despite the use of rocks and mud mortar. “Well, here we are.” Redoran said, eyes still lingering upon the home that was now his. Shilara smiled, she was happy that their journey was over. “Well, shouldn’t we be going up there?” Redoran nodded, and pressed his horse once more forward, towards the structure that was now his residence.

An Evil Presence
Shilara had given Redoran time to get himself comfortable with his own rule. He sat in the throne room upon his father's throne, while she had gone about the castle, curious of what lay beneath its fair appearing surface. In here hand she carried a thick stick with a heap of pitch stuck to one end which was lit ablaze, for it was dark in the hallways that had been deserted for such a long time. She had fears of what may lurk within the shadows, yet she doubted anything was there. Shilara walked briskly down the hallway, half expecting a vicious animal to suddenly appear behind her to attack and swallow her up for a meal. Her hands shook, sending light which played around the corridor in licking tendrils of orange and crimson, which added to the erieness of the ancient Mystic castle. She found it strange that she had not yet found another hallway branching off from this main passageway, for her own home had many nooks that she had not explored. Perhaps this was only a path from the castle to the outskirts of the city, because it was long enough to be. By now she was already tiring, but she proceeded further. There had to be an end to this extremely long corridor. A distant light appeared within Shilara's sights, expanding as she sped up to the point where she was running her fastest. Within moments, she burst into a flame lit room where the walls were glass smooth, except for carved words on the wall opposite the entrance. She was finally out of that dark corridor, and was silently rejoicing. When she had completed her session of glee, Shilara looked around the blank room. It was strange how seemless the chamber appeared, except the wall in which an enscription was carved. She approached the words, and realized they were not of her own tongue. It was an older dialect than ancient Mystic tongue, and she knew that somehow. Her fingers traced the symbols with an expert hand, following the twisting curves and sharp lines that crossed. "Damn." she uttered as she passed over a sharp edge of the smooth wall. She pulled her hand away and looked at her index finger, which had begun to bleed. "This hurts." she said. Yet she placed her hand once again on the wall and drew her fingers across the sleek, shiny surface. The blood dribbled into the recesses of the archaic text, and spread rapidly. Magic caused it to flow up and down, left and right until the whole wall was coated in the rich crimson liquid. She stepped back, watching the whole barrier collapse, revealing a small nook. Shilara walked in with anxiety, for she knew not what resided within and feared what could be. Slow, slow steps she took into the dark, once again expecting something to charge at her. Within the first five steps, a great flash of light illuminated the room, blinding Shilara and restricting view of anything that would have transpired. When the light dissipated, Shilara stood with a cloak of jet black around her shoulders and a hood covering her head. A jolt of lightning dashed between her fingertips and then directed itself towards the floor. She raised this hand so that she may see it, and noticed that her angle of vision had shrunk signifigantly. Instinctively, she felt her face, but no flesh was felt. She felt hard, damp clay. She now wore a mask. "No. No. No." Shilara exclaimed through the mask. "You have no control anymore." Shilara said in a different tone and voice, almost as if another person had altered her.

The Emerald Dragon
The mighty gold throne stood rigid at the end of the hall, decorated in multiple jewels that displayed the wealth of whom it was designed for. Redoran sat prominently upon the gold, gem studded throne, looking upon the empty room before him. Shilara had gone looking about and he had the rest of the day to himself. Redoran began to hear a cracking above him, so he looked towards the ceiling. There in the centre of the roof, was a great fissure, crumbling under weight. The warmth in the room began to rise as the rocks that the ceiling was created by, were burnt red. The roof collapsed, throwing debris across the room, and buffeting Redoran to the ground. A great gust of wind came down through the gaping hole as great wings beat to slow the creature’s descent. Redoran launched himself behind the throne as the creature that destroyed the ceiling came through the roof to land on the smooth floor before the throne. The Mystic turned his head around the corner of the gold seat to gaze upon the massive beast in the throne room. There between the massive doors and the throne, stood a green dragon. Its scales shone with an emerald hue, accentuating the golden-green symbols on each scale. Its horns were ivory and twisting, beautiful in their ferocity. The dragon opened its mouth to roar a deep, bellowing growl. Its teeth were perfectly white, sleek with saliva. Its eyes were a startling deep green that could strike into someone’s soul. Its tail was a great length and the tip was sharp enough to cleave through rock effortlessly. “Redoran, show yourself, I will not befoul you.” The dragon bellowed, raising its head to look towards the golden seat. Redoran stepped from his hiding place and looked into the dragon’s eyes. Instantly his body was engulfed in a ravishing flame that rose high above him, almost making contact with the ceiling. Redoran howled in boiling agony, his nerves were being scorched and his skeleton was being altered, transforming into a dragon’s. His body grew larger and a tail extended from above his posterior. The fire receded, and the pain disappeared. And all that was left standing was an amazing emerald dragon. Redoran became temperamental, “Why did you do this to me dragon?” “I have somewhere to take you, and I am also saving you from a terrible fate.” The dragon said “What terrible fate?” The dragon shook its sparkling head, “that woman you came here with has become a shadow sorcerer, because she had discovered a mask below the castle and wore it. It has now become her face.” “What?” Redoran said, both angry and discombobulated. “She has put on an ancient mask hidden beneath the castle, and is now shadow, she cannot be saved. We have to go, now!” the dragon explained, “but if you can go to the armoury and grab your weapons if you desire.” “My weapons aren’t in the armoury.” Redoran answered. “There is a weapon there you may find useful.” The dragon stated “Where is the armoury?” Redoran asked, not understanding what was happening. “Go down to the grounds and find the building that has no windows. Enter and find a long stick with a wide end, a bag full of black sand and oval rocks. All of these are a portion of the weapon.” Redoran nodded and beat the wings that were now his, he flung himself out of the hole that the dragon had made only minutes before. his wing beats propelled himself over top of the castle towards his goal. He looked back

to find the green dragon following him. Inside the armoury, Redoran had become his original self, so that he may enter the structure to retrieve the weapon that the dragon had spoken about. Almost every weapon in Irequoci was held here, from daggers to shortblades. There were even robes meant to carry weapons. Sabres were contained in glass cases that could be opened easily, throwing knives were set inside sheaths that could be strapped to a man’s body. Redoran stepped around racks of weapons, and then he saw the weapons the dragon described, and they were beautiful. The weapon had a long, barrel-like tube extending from a triangle-like rear. It had a small steel hammer that had been positioned to the posterior of a miniscule shard of flint. There was a small handle protruding from the opposite side of the hammer that Redoran suspected was where he would put those oval rocks. On the rear of the weapon, there was a steel guard and a curved piece of iron wove its way into the back of the barrel-like tube. He quickly made his way over to the weapon and took it in his hand. He placed the triangle end to his shoulder and placed his right hand in the steel guard with his first digit holding the curved piece of iron and his left hand underneath the barrel. He squeezed the iron piece and flame erupted from the tip of the weapon. “Well, that’s interesting. Now to find the bags of rocks and black sand.” Redoran uttered to himself. He searched around the many shelves of weapons, but couldn’t find anything. Suddenly he heard footsteps behind him. “Looking for these?” came a hissing voice. Redoran span on his heels to let his eyes fall upon the cloaked female figure, who held two large cloth sacs in her left hand. “Shilara?” Redoran asked, and he was immediately answered. The cloaked figure threw back its shroud to display a skull-like mask, it was perfect, sunken eye-holes, cracked teeth and a nose hole. The skull itself was potholed and old looking. “Shilara is no more.” The jaw moved up and down with the vocalization. “I know Shilara is in there somewhere, but I know I will be forced to release her by killing the darkness here before me.” Redoran took hold of a sword hilt beside him and drew it into the air, and he dropped the fire sprayer so he could fight effectively. “I said she is no more, which means she is dead, I overwhelmed her and removed her from this world.’ Redoran took a throwing knife in his right hand and cast it towards the shadowy figure before him. The blade flew through the air towards the cloaked woman with the skull mask. The blade flew true, but when it should have made contact, it passed clean through the body, as if it were only air. “Your mortal weapons shall not harm me.” The shadow hissed. Redoran frowned and growled, he pressed a finger to his thigh and held his palm out towards the shadow sorcerer. Fire erupted from his fingers, flying forward in tendrils of red, yellow and orange. The flame struck the woman figure and she dissipated, like darkness to light. Redoran cursed, he knew that she wasn’t gone, just merely pushed back. he rushed from the armoury with the fire-sprayer in his hand and the bags of equipment in the other hand.

Short History Lesson
“So where are you taking me?” Redoran asked the dragon beside him as they flew through the sky southward. “I know you have been contacted by someone in the Koric Mountains, so that is where I’m taking you.” The dragon answered. “Are there more questions you want answered?” Redoran nodded his horned head, “who are you exactly?” “I have two names, my dragon name is Azhrachtsi, and I have forgotten my mortal name. If that answers your question.” “Azhrachtsi, I have a second question, how do you know me?” Redoran asked The dragon nodded, “I knew you would ask that question, and here is your answer. I have known your family for quite a long time, ever since I was birthed from a mortal mother.” “You have answered all my questions Azhrachtsi.” Redoran said. “Any questions you would like to ask?” “None?” Azhrachtsi said solemnly, as if sad that he didn’t have any questions to ask. “Then I should assume we should be focusing on the task at hand, am I correct.” Redoran said, watching clouds roll by through his new, enhanced eyes. “Correct.” Azhrachtsi said just before they flew together in an unbridled silence. Redoran broke the silence, "could you please explain to me about the dragons, for I feel that I need to know things. I despise ignorance of things I should know." "What exactly do you want to know?" Azhrachtsi asked dully, "just ask." "Could you give me a brief history of the dragon race?" "I could." Azhrachtsi retorted. "Please may you?" Redoran asked, getting slightly perturbed by his technical attitude. "At what point shall I start?" Redoran thought hard, and then replied with his answer, "could you begin at the beginning, when they were first created?" Azhrachtsi grinned for the first time as Redoran had seen him. "We were created by the great benevolent Ancient, Uranous, who formed us with the stars from the heavens. There were only eight beings he created, one male and one female of four hues and talents. There are the greens, which were created for magic, we have the ability to do anything as long as the ancient symbols are upon our scales. Then there are the golden ones, who are the possessors of all the knowledge that people have recorded and before. I learned all I know from a golden dragon named Macintyre. Red dragons maintain the strongest bodies the world has ever known, in their prime, they are larger than even the oldest of gold dragons. And finally, there are the blue dragons, which are the embodiment of physical attraction, their aura pulls other dragon's of varying colours towards them. "We all had gotten into a war with the humans in the beginning of the world, allied with the Mystics. We fought the humans until both factions lost many lives. We dragons had the most casualties, because there was one Mystic who fought on the human's side, who had created a weapon that could peirce dragon scales, which is impossible with any mortal weapon, even those of legendary status, like Turic. When the war was over, the whole of Irequoci was ravaged, valleys and mountains had been formed in the carnage, so we all made a pact, so that the land and our people wouldn't be harmed any further by the whole of nations. We had disbanded into different factions of the world, Mystics took the northern-most recesses of Irequoci, creating the city Verequine, where the seat of power over the whole of Irequoci resides. We, the dragons, took the Koric Mountains in the centre of the mainland, but we are known for being lone creatures, only travelling in

groups of two to ten. The humans took the south, but have since taken over the rest of the land, except the unnamed territory to the north, in which Verequine resides." Redoran listened intently, taking in every detail. "I see. Thank you for giving me a brief history lesson, I no longer feel ignorant of facts." Redoran bared his fangs in a smile, "How long until we arrive?" "Not long at all."

Redoran's Revelation
“Well, then shouldn’t you give me a name, so that I may enter?” Redoran asked, impatient. “Yes, just let me think. I must think of a good word that would describe you.” A short silence followed, “Ochriactuin. I appraise you the name Ochriactuin. You are now my next of kin, and are the offspring of my blood. A true dragon you now are.” Azhrachtsi finished the rite of birth, and Redoran looked down, and there was a gaping hole. “Dive!” Azhrachtsi exclaimed as he dove down into the fissure. Redoran hesitated a moment then complied, opening his wings and spinning to have his horns pointed towards the halls of Regna. He whooped as he swung into the hall way that had been flown down by many different dragons before him. The hall itself was amazing, despite the crudeness with which it was created. His eyes traced the lines carved into the floor, and walls, and he recognized the swirling patterns that the castle was decorated with, and he began to question his life. His wings snapped to his side and he landed hard on his thick legs. He smiled a broad grin, showing off his pearl fangs. Twitching his head, his body was engulfed by flame and he reverted to his Mystic form. He appeared without clothing, though his white tunic and riding trousers fell to the ground a metre behind him. He blushed briefly and hurriedly lifted the clothing from the ground and donned them with haste. “Well, your entrance went well.” A human came up behind Redoran and placed a hand on his shoulder Redoran almost leapt into the air, “Who are you?” “I have been your guide all the way here, I am Azhrachtsi, and you are Ochriactuin. My brother in pretense.” Azhrachtsi had deep chocolate eyes and short blonde hair that spiked up. He wore no clothing, except a loincloth that seemed oddly familiar. “Come, I have much to show you.” He took hold of Redoran’s arm and dragged him behind. The halls of Regna were beautiful in their crudity. The walls appeared to be chiseled with a sharp, on pointed implement, which Redoran guessed was dragon teeth. The ceiling of the cave was made of solid crystal, the only gem to have energy giving properties. “This place is amazing.” Redoran managed to utter before he was pulled into a large, almost endless hole that was lined with large caves. The uttermost top was shining a beautiful shade of crimson. “This is the hold of Ansectum. And that light up there is the star of life; it is a scale of Irequoci’s creator.” Azhrachtsi uttered, “The only black dragon to exist.” “The light is red, not black.” Redoran stated. “The black is a very dark red, which when the sun is at a certain location in the sky, the black appears scarlet.” “Well then, I want to see these scales up close.” Redoran gazed up and flame engulfed him. His wings sprang from his back and his body changed its form once again. He beat his wings and drove himself upward towards the shining object that covered the roof of the hold. His strong wing beats made him apparent to all the other, older dragons in the mountain. He collided with a blue dragon that was flying across the hold to another hovel. The dragon was female, which was realized by the sound of its voice. “Sorry, I need to watch where I’m going.” The blue dragon said “No, I need to watch where I’m going. You weren’t the one looking up. Or down I should say.” Redoran chuckled nervously as he gazed at the dragon’s face, which he defined as

flawless. The dragon had scales of sapphire, perfect and smooth. Its horns were ivory in colour, its wings were large, though smaller than Redoran’s in comparative size. Its eyes were gorgeous in their milky blue hue. Redoran felt a shock ripple through him and then stated, “You are the most beautiful creature I have ever laid eyes on.” He retreated in nervousness, hanging his head solemnly. The sapphire dragon smiled, “Thank you. My name is Crazharkt, meaning Crystal.” She flapped higher to remove herself from Redoran’s larger wing’s radius. “My name is Ochriactuin, I don’t know what it means.” Redoran raised his head and smiled back. He was sure glad that she didn’t realize how nervous he was. “I better go back to Azhrachtsi, considering I left him at the floor.” “Azhrachtsi, really, Arthur?” Crazharkt laughed, “He has taken in another dragon child.” She smiled once again, showing her pearl teeth, “I’m sorry, it’s just he took me in when I was only sixty moons.” “Arthur? Really? Why does that name sound familiar?” Redoran tilted his head in deep thought. “I would love to see him again, he was so kind, although he talked a lot about someone he had left behind so he could live his life.” Crazharkt dove down towards the ground, but lingered as she noticed Redoran not following her. “Aren’t you coming?” “Let me linger here for a moment, I need to think, unless you will be able to clarify.” She was bewildered, “Clarify what?” “Do you remember the name of the person Azhrachtsi left behind?” Redoran closed his eyes momentarily waiting for the answer she was to give him. “I believe he said Redoran. Yes, the person he left behind was Redoran.” “Redoran!” Redoran thundered, startling Crazharkt, “That Mystic has condemned me to ignorance!” he dove faster than his wings could carry him, he erupted in a roar that shook the mountain, crumbling some of the rocks that lined the hold’s walls. “Arthur!” Redoran crashed into the floor and, a gout of flame sprang from his jaw. Azhrachtsi. Arthur placed a hand on Redoran’s heaving side. And then spoke sadly and solemnly, “I am sorry for leaving you ignorant, Redoran. But I needed to, for your own safety.” “My own safety! My own safety!” Redoran roared, anger was quick to come to him, especially when he discovers friend or family has been dishonest, and give only part truth. “Yes, just let me explain.” Arthur attempted. “No, I won’t let you explain, because you don’t deserve to.” Redoran changed form and summoned a sword to grasp in his left hand. “You have asked me to forgive you when it is not the will of those in the void. Draw a blade and you will receive what you deserve.” Redoran leapt back, somersaulting. “I don’t want to do this Redoran, you were always better in swordplay, don’t make me do this.” “It is the will of the void, and the rewards of you winning are explaining why you did what you did.” Redoran once again resumed the position he had so readily assumed nine years prior when he had fought his brother on their departing day. Arthur conjured a sword and then thrust it at the ground, “Brother, the enemy is out there, not here, and I don’t care if the void says we must fight, I won’t.” “take up your sword, for damning me to ignorance shall not go without any form of punishment!” Redoran boomed. “Fine, but I will not be fair, and you should know that.” “good, it will be a good challenge. And I have shed my old ways also.” Redoran jumped forward, arcing the blade above Arthur’s unprotected head. In a weak attempt, Arthur raised his sword above his head, flat of the blade directed

upward to block the incoming blade. Steel upon steel clanged as Arthur drove his conjured sword up and launched Redoran back only three decimeters. “I see you have gotten better.” Redoran sneered. His menacing scowl becoming more vicious. “Yes, and as I can see, you have also, but do you know the secret?” “What secret!” Redoran spat. “This!” Arthur pressed his free hand to his shoulder, and Redoran flew back even farther, almost colliding with the wall of the hold. Redoran grinned, as he thrust his sword into the ground. “Yes, I do! Now watch!” he tilted his palm towards his brother and tapped two fingers onto his thigh, causing tendrils of flame to burst forth in a frenzy of red, orange and yellow. Arthur dodged the fire erupting towards him and yelled, “It has taken me years to learn the only dragonmagic spell I have now, how is it you have gained that one spell in less than two days?!”. “I have known that spell for the past month, way before you came to me. I also know this spell.” He opened his palm and there in his hand was a small green flame, floating only centimeters from his palm. “how did you receive these?” Arthur snarled. “The swirling energy that has come from this mountain, from the scale above!” Redoran drew his sword from the ground, pleased with the distraction the conversation posed. He charged, the forte directing forward, aiming into Arthur’s sternum. Arthur knew Redoran’s tactic, and knew how to counteract it. As Redoran drew closer, he acted as if he was still surprised, but as Redoran came within striking distance, he swung his sword so fast and strong and battered the blade Redoran wielded from his hand. “What were the rewards of me winning?” he cast the sword into the ground, sticking it deep into the thick soil. “Explain yourself then!” Redoran said with disdain, it would take a moment for his anger to be assuaged. Arthur nodded, “I knew that if you knew who I was, the shadow sorcerer that has taken over Shilara would use you or I to get to the other.” “I see your point, but I’m still angry.” Redoran was engulfed by a green fire and his body, once again, changed. His wings beat and propelled him into the air. He flew up through the hold until he rested his eyes upon a vacant cave that he would rest within. His feet grasped onto the earth beneath his feet, his claws raked into the rock, scoring it. He set his belly against the hard soil of the hold. His wings folded down to his sides and the tail curled around his stomach. He rested his head upon the ground and closed his emerald eyes. He twitched his tail before becoming unconscious.

A Morning With Beauty
Redoran awoke, almost wishing he could forget what happened the day before. His body stirred and his eyes opened wide. A groan escaped his lips as he stood, stretching his newfound muscles. Crazharkt stood at the entrance of Redoran's cave, smiling at the waking form of Redoran. He knew not that she was there, but she did not care. When Redoran had come to his full sneses, he turned to face the entrance to his cave. He saw a sapphire tail slowly moving away from the entrance to the left, and went to investigate, walking on all fours to the beginning of the crevasse in which he slept. As his head escaped the stone fissure, he found the beautiful face of Crazharkt, staring at him with her milky blue eyes so seductively. "Good morning Crazharkt, how are you today?" Redoran said with his gravely draconic voice, trying to sound kind. "I am good this fine morn, Oh, Great Ochriactuin." she had said with an alluring tone, almost beckoning Redoran to come with her when she had need to depart. "That is always good." Redoran retorted, not recognizing the want in her voice. "I am still a mite perturbed about the revelation that I was given yesterday. I never know when a painful discovery that will change my life would happen." "Yes, it can be a bit unnerving. "So, you're Azhrachtsi's brother that he had left behind? I would never have thought a brother of his would be so handsome. Or elegant." Crazharkt smiled, showing her pure white fangs, unstained by blood, unlike most dragons. "Thank you very much Crazharkt, I have not been complimented as such for a very, very long time. And if it makes you feel better, you are the most beautiful creature I have ever seen. And I have seen many specimens that have piqued my eye." Redoran smiled gently, letting his own spotless teeth show in a dazzling display. Crazharkt looked away in embarrassment, "Thank you, Ochriactuin. I have likewise not recieved such a compliment in a long time. It is an honour to be considered beautiful by you, Ochriactuin." Redoran continued to smile, "There must be something you came here for. I know that look in your eye." He chuckled as she turned her head once more, "You can tell me, for I am what you came here looking for." Crazharkt remained silent, but brought her gaze to rest upon his marvelous emerald eyes, which seemed to glow with intrigue. She was seduced by those eyes. Eyes that could hold his soul within their glassy walls. Eyes which were clouded with white. She wished to unlock the truth behind those bewitching eyes. "Please..." Redoran began, "You do not have to hold in words which you desire to say." He blinked, causing Crazharkt to come out of her intoxicated trance. Crazharkt was finally willing to say what she had desired to vocalize, "Would you want to go out to hunt with me? I have no doubt you are hungry. And because of your situation, have no idea how to hunt with claw or fang." "Thank you for the offer. I think I will, because you are a kind creature and I do not have any experience with these ligaments of mine. My appetite is massive also." "Well, then I guess it is safe to say that we will be having a big meal, eh?" She smiled, "Race you to the exit!" She lashed her tail playfully then dashed away, leaving Redoran with a grin on his face. "Such a cute, gentle creature in manner and appearance." he jumped out of his cave and followed.

Redoran leapt upon the body of a small doe, digging his claws into its soft hide, savouring the feeling of blood flowing onto his green scales. This had been his fourth catch of the day, but it would most likely not be sated. "Good catch." Crazharkt said through chewing teeth, crushing bones, causing it to come out more gravelly than it would have had she not been eating. She swallowed the animal she had caught, and began again, "Have you had your fill? Or shall you continue to eat?" Redoran tossed the beast he had clamped tightly in his claws, into his wide open jaw, and swallowed the doe whole. "I think that this is quite sufficient for now. I will eventually require a second and third meal. Want to go to the stream I hear nearby? for I have no doubt you will desire a drink." Crazharkt smiled, showing off her bloodied teeth, "You are very intelligent, Ochriactuin, and you provide great insights when you do not know things." She watched Redoran with baited eyes, waiting for him to do something. "Thank you." He flapped his scaly wings, pushing himself above the treetops. Crazharkt followed close behind, licking the blood off her ivory teeth which had already dug into plenty of meat and flesh within the past hour, but this was not why she licked so fervently. She felt a prominant desire to be with Redoran, a desire that went above all those she had before. She could only find one word that could come close to what she felt. Love. Redoran looked around, searching for the stream. When he found its location, he dove at the flowing water as if he had not drank in months. Crazharkt had no choice but to follow, and she mimicked his every movement. A loud thump echoed around for kilometres as Redoran crashed down hard on trees and the earth before the crashing fluid. He hastily drove his head into the water took massive gulps of the clear liquid. Crazharkt landed beside with less noise and destruction and slowly lapped up the cool water with her snake-like tongue that darted in and out of her mouth. Redoran pulled his head out of the water with an alarming speed, sending droplets of water sprawling in all directions. Most spattered Crazharkt, who turned and looked at Redoran with a grin on her face. "Sorry Crazharkt, need help cleaning that off?" Redoran asked sympathetically. "Please would you, for I can't reach the far end of my back." Crazharkt said with a wry smile. Redoran turned to her and began darting his tongue in and out, licking up the water droplets that shimmered upon her sapphire scales that she had no doubt cleaned many times. She continued lapping at the stream as if nothing was happening. Redoran finished his small task, and then smirked, "You enjoyed that, didn't you. I can see it in your eye." "Nothing can get past you, Ochriactuin. I did enjoy you cleaning my scales, for it is something that happens seldom that I enjoy." Crazharkt removed her face from the water and faced Redoran, "Are you finished?" "Yes, I am. Shall we get back to the Mountain? "Of course."

A Meeting With A Dwarf
The night was long and restless for Redoran, for his mind was racing through the jumble of information that was now within his brain. His travel companion had become enslaved mentally, the dragon he had gone with was his brother, and now he had to cope with all these details at once. His eyes fluttered open, the pupils of his eyes widened to allow the sparse light to reflect back, giving him the ability to see. He pushed himself up onto his feet, the day was ahead, and he needed to start off good. But his requirements weren’t to be fulfilled. Crazharkt flew into his little cove, and growled happily. “Good morning Ochriactuin.” Redoran attempted a smile, “Good morning, and I would prefer it if you would call me Redoran.” “I will, but I have not come for pleasant greetings, Azhrachtsi has asked if I would pass to you, a message.” Redoran looked away, “What does he want?” Anger rose in his voice. Crazharkt heard the malignant tone in Redoran’s voice, and then attempted to quiet him down. “He wants you to have tea, whatever that is, with him this morning. He wishes to discuss the problem civilly.” “Where is he?” Redoran asked, calming slowly. “He is beneath, with the dwarves in their halls” Crazharkt receded, leaving Redoran to his self. She jumped and turned, flying off into her own hovel. “I guess I should see to him.” Redoran uttered before walking forward on thick legs and diving to the floor. Redoran had not known what the dwarven halls had appeared like, but now that he stood before the entrance, he gained infinitesimal knowledge on their beliefs. The door was etched with symbols that depicted the dwarve's history, from their first king, to their great heroes. Before the door, there stood two diminutive men. Their arms were burly, thick like tree branches, and in their stubby hands, a short handled axe was propped against their shoulders, blades pointed outwards. Redoran stepped forward, unknowing of the enchantments that protected the doorway from intruders. He came within two metres and he was launched, almost instantaneously, ten metres back. “You may not pass this door, unless you are dwarf, or dwarf friend.” the guards cried in unison. “My brother is within the dwarven home, I deserve to pass by unmolested.” Redoran explained. “Redoran, good. The king and Arthur await you in the throne room.” The dwarf on the right of the door informed. The barrier that separated Redoran from the entrance collapsed, allowing him purchase. He walked forward, holding his hands out to push the great door inward. Redoran pushed the great throne door inward, his hands pressed tightly against the intricately carved symbols. His fingers hurt as the great entrance swung to the side. The ceiling was held up by six thick, hand carved columns. The walls were plastered with the king’s blood, ceremonial of the dwarves. The floor was tiled with marble, mined from deep below the crust of the world. The room was dark, despite the red lanterns hung on the roof. The

magnificent dwarf throne was erect at the end of the room, with a small, wide figure resting upon it. Before the dwarf king, sat a taller man, one with green locks and a heightened posture. Arthur. “I am so glad you could join us, Redoran of the Enders family.” The king exclaimed heartily, he beat his hand against his chest in a formal greeting. Arthur turned his head to face the open doorway, and likewise greeted Redoran. “Redoran, come, take a seat with us while we converse about present events, and drink tea over the receiving of a gift.” Redoran hollered a welcome in the language of dwarves, and the king smiled. “I am Gerdov Deboli, of the clan of stone smiths.” The kings said as Redoran came closer to sit upon one of the stone chairs that were uncomfortable. “May you have a long life Lord Deboli.” Redoran uttered, respect pouring into his words. Redoran sat slowly, his posterior lowering itself onto the seat. “I am sorry if I am slightly late, it was difficult getting past the guards.” He exaggerated. “It is fine.” Both Gerdov and Arthur stated. “Why was I called down to grace you at this hour?” Redoran asked. He was curious to know. Gerdov nodded, “I knew that you were going to ask that.” He frowned. “We have summoned you here because, I have a gift for you, and news that will assist you in your quest.” Redoran nodded, he understood now. “So, should the gifting happen first or the news.” “Neither,” Arthur said, “I have also wanted to discuss the full reason why I never told you the truth.” He snapped and a dwarf came scurrying from a side corridor with a tray of three small cups and a large teapot. Arthur took the cups from the servant and handed one to both Gerdov and Redoran. He stole the pot hastily and poured into the dwarf’s and other Mystic’s miniscule cup. Redoran took a quick sip of the hot drink, and scalded his tongue. He scolded himself and put the cup into his lap as the explanation that Arthur was to be giving began. “You know that I hid my identity from you so that the Shroud would not use me to get to you. But I should have told you besides.” Arthur shook his head, “you deserved to know, and I kept you away from the truth. “I understand why you did it Arthur, don’t harbor it. What is done is done.” Redoran brought his drink to his lips as Arthur began again. “I cannot forgive myself for condemning you to ignorance.” Arthur pleaded, “I cannot live my life knowing that I kept a secret from you.” Redoran shook his head, “Please put it behind you, there is nothing you can do about it and it is done.” “I can’t forget it, but I can distract myself from the issue.” He turned to Gerdov and said, “News.” Gerdov smiled, “thank you Arthur.” He turned to Redoran. “I have heard that the Shrouded One has returned, and I remember an old tale that speaks of a way to kill the shadows that have taken hold of your friend. We think we have decoded the tale and would like to assist you in this matter.” “I understand. Would you be able to recount the tale in its original glory?” “I believe I can.” He cleared his throat. Scourge upon Irequoci, shadows dealt in evil, across four plains, the man must go, to discover, weapons long forgotten, to remove this plight, from our hallowed home. It is moreso a bard’s tale, but it is still a lead.” “And you say you have figured out what this tale means.” Arthur questioned. “Yes, I have studied some of the maps that old dwarves have drawn. And I have read scrolls written by some of the greatest Mystic philosophers to go to this. The scrolls mention four places that have high magickal content. They have felt presences that are not familiar with Irequoci and recorded that they have heard whispers from these places. And on the maps, I have

noted four different locations on the map that are marked different than most other map markings.” “So you’re thinking that these are connected?” “Exactly, and one of the locations that is recorded is here, in this mountain” Gerdov explained, “I was hoping you would be able to examine this.” “I will attempt.” Redoran nodded, “And what is the gift you were wishing upon me?” Arthur interrupted Gerdov as he was about to begin speaking. “I would like to gift you something first, as being of your relation. “I know you lost many things at the castle in Verequine, so I have prepared you a gift to replace them. Redoran shifted in his seat as Arthur reached behind himself. Arthur smiled as his hand clasped the spherical object he was retrieving. He brought his hand up and tossed Redoran the object. Redoran caught the item with both hands. His mouth widened to a smile as he recognized what it was. “You still had my magick test ball!” Redoran exclaimed, it wasn’t a question, but a joyous statement. “Yes, I did, I had to keep it to remind me who I was and what I left behind. It is what led me to take in young dragons, it gave me nostalgia.” Arthur explained. “I thank you Arthur, for I haven’t received such a gift in many moons and summers.” “You are very welcome.” He turned to the king and uttered, “Proceed.” Gerdov snapped his chubby fingers and the servant once again came into the room, carrying a package of a decent length. Gerdov took the bound object hastily from the servant’s hand and waved his hand, dismissing the dwarf. “This is a gift made from our spellweavers and our metalworkers. I have contributed to this gift also; placing etches on the side of the blade for good luck.” He proffered the item to Redoran, who took it deftly. Redoran unbound the item and exposed a beautiful zhwiehander. His eyes gawked upon the curving blade that extended from an intricate gilt crossguard shaped in the image of two dragon heads. The hilt was bound in tight fitting violet velvet, the gorgeous colour accentuating the pommel of crystal, which was the greatest detail on the weapon, for the image carved from the magnificent jewel was a cruciform. “This is the most gorgeous weapon I have seen.” Redoran took the hilt in his hand, it was perfectly balanced between his fingers. “How was it that you were able to create this weapon of magnificence?” Gerdov grinned, “Before I answer your question, look upon the blade and recite the enchantment.” Redoran glanced at the symbols along the edge of the blade, but did not utter them. “You used ancient Mystic to enchant this blade. Where did you learn?” “Your father had taught me some while he resided here, or moreso the hold above. This enchantment he taught me when I first became king, he told me that it would protect me if I recited it once. He must have spoken the truth because no injury has befallen me ye…” he began to choke. Redoran spun to face the door, unsure what had caused the king to start to choke. There before the open door, stood a rigid figure garbed in black, a staff within its left hand. Its right arm extended forward and the fingers curled in a choking motion. Redoran acted instantly, uttering a curse that would kill the creature. But when his spell failed, he drew one conclusion. “Shroud! Let the king be, I’m the one you want!” Redoran roared as he drew the zhwiehander from the binding of cloth. “Redoran, how nice to see you, I have not come for you though. I have come for your brother, who has taunted me long enough.” the Shrouded One twitched the staff in her hand and

it cast a bolt of white energy towards Arthur. Arthur rolled away from the blast and summoned his own sword to combat with. “You see, I was the one who killed your father, and your brother here, was the one who put me beneath the castle, taunting me to return. So I have come to deal with the person who removed me from the memories of mortals.” She struck the ground with the butt of the staff, and lightening skittered across the floor towards Arthur and Redoran. Redoran uttered a quick counter spell and the energy tendrils halted in their path. “Stop this now!” Redoran snapped and thunder boomed through the room, causing the ground to quake and the ceiling falter. “You must still be in there Shilara.” “Shilara is no longer! I am The Shroud of Darkness, I am all that is within this body!” she roared just as she twirled her cloak around her and disappeared. “Are you okay Gerdov?” Arthur asked, for he had not seen the king collapse to the floor No answer was forthcoming, and both Redoran and Arthur were alarmed. The pair instantly turned to face the lifeless cadaver of the dwarf king. They had failed to protect the monarch of the dwarves, and now they would be despised by the entire dwarf population. “We should get out of here, for if the dwarven people find us in here with him dead, they will kill us.” Arthur pointed out. “What about the five items. There is one here, so we have to go and retrieve it.” Redoran exclaimed, “If we can get the item, we may be able to kill the Shroud.” “If we are to do that, then put the king onto the throne, make it seem like he’s accidentally fallen asleep.” Redoran complied, and hefted the stubby, diminutive creature, and placed him, head up, into the throne, and then turned to Arthur. “Where do you think the location is, upper or lower levels?” “I believe it is on the lower levels, in the corridor to the right, at the far end of the tunnel it should be there.” “Well then, let’s get going.” Redoran said as he began his exit.

Magically Disappearing Redoran
The light of the tunnel illuminated the two Mystics as they scanned the walls and floor for any signs belaying the slightest hint of magick trace. Searching for almost ten minutes, nothing was made apparent, until Redoran pressed lightly against the wall of the cave and his arms fell straight through. “Arthur, help me! I’m falling through the wall!” Redoran shouted, suddenly feeling his weight collapse through the wall and land on hard ground. The other Mystic span to face where Redoran was only seconds before, and found, to his dismay, a sight devoid of his younger brother. “Where are you?” When no audio was forthcoming, Arthur became erratic, he began shouting and hollering. He thrust his fists against the rock, putting power behind every blow. He kicked at the ground angrily. Curses came fluttering out of his mouth as he began to get winded. “Rah!” Arthur shouted in dismay, he had lost his brother again, though it appeared it would be for the last time. Meanwhile, Redoran looked up and gazed upon a city of trepid morbidity, a hovel of flame within a dome that protected the base of the city from the deep water abound. He quickly attempted to stand up on the small piece of rock that he had landed on. As he pressed himself to his feet, he got a better view of the land; he could see volcanoes off in the distance, surrounding diminutive dome cities, along with a large set of seas. “What creature are you?” a deep gravelly voice came from behind Redoran. The Mystic span around and found the sentient being that had spoken to him. The creature had dark grey flames pouring from his every pore. It was humanoid, for the flames created arms, legs, and all the features of the face. Its dark description carried a sense of foreboding. “I said, what creature are you?” the flaming beast questioned again,. “I am a Mystic of Irequoci, and what would you be?” The creature created a sword of flame in his hand, and held it towards Redoran. “Where is that place?” Redoran scowled, “I don’t know? I came through a portal and now I can’t get back.” “Infidel!” the creature exclaimed, “go back whence you came, or I shall strike you down where you stand!” “I can’t, and if you strike me, you will die.” Redoran swung his hand and then the zhwiehander appeared in his hand. “Return to your city and I will follow and be received by your lord, or else I’ll be forced to kill you.” The flame sword came at Redoran, along with an enraged roar that appeared inhuman. It swung down, lighting the expression of hatred on Redoran’s perfect face. The blade flew through Redoran’s zhwiehander like parchment and caught Redoran’s face deftly. Redoran was cast to the ground, his face collided with the compacted soil, burned from the right eyebrow to the jaw bone. The creature kicked the Mystic’s face and Redoran fell unconscious.

A World Of Fire
Redoran awoke to a blazing fire scorching his burnt face. He heard a deep warbling from all around him. He knew not where he was, but he knew he was in danger. The flame crackled and snapped, tossing embers high into the stale air. “Achzarst, whextcem orwhixfezct. This groundwalker has invaded our home!” one of the flame creatures cursed. “We should dispose of him immediately, for even having him within our midst is an insult to our nation!” “Hachzart! Let him explain himself, for you heard the warrior, he said that he was a Mystic from Irequoci, which I have not heard of, and never seen on the map.” Another of the creatures exclaimed. This time, what sounded like a female spoke up, “he does not appear like any of the other groundwalkers, for his eyes are green, likewise with his hair.” Redoran fully opened his eyes, and saw a great collaboration of flaming beasts. He reached his right hand up to his face and felt the peeling skin. He shrieked in shock and pain, his scolded face still had the stinging remnants of hot embers just beneath the skin. “He stirs! Contain him! Kazhact!” the eldest of the creatures shouted as the angry pikemen came forward and pressed their flame spiked sticks towards Redoran’s exposed flesh. “Halt, beings of everlasting flame, I have not come to harm you, and I respect your honour, so if I shall be killed, you shall do so.” Redoran shook his head and looked up at the creatures above on the seats around him. “Wise words the groundwalker speaks, he is accepting of the truth unlike the others. He shall remain until he is an issue to us.” The elder said, smiling beneath a scowl. The female stood, “thank you father, for he should be examined, under the watchful eye of myself.” She sat and held her head down in silent prayer. “You may watch him, but if he should step out of line, he will be punished.” The elder stood, “let him be released, remove your weapons from his presence, and take him to my daughter’s quarters, there he shall stay whilst we converse on what shall be done with him.” The elder whisked his flame covered hands in a dismissing motion. Redoran was caught in the crook of the arm and was lifted to his feet, then dragged from the audience chamber, into the dark hallway. As he was being dragged behind the two flame creatures, he was able to view, through open windows, the magnificent simplicity of how the city was constructed. The base of the city was just as Redoran had suspected, magma, the buildings of many differing sizes were constructed through the hot, liquid rock filled liquid. All throughout the city, there was a bustling collection of streets, filled with an assortment of enflamed beasts of burden, which were being ridden about through the streets to differing structures. The trip to the female’s room was short, or so it appeared in Redoran’s situation, for he had no perception of time in this strange place. He felt the grip on his arm loosen as he was shoved into a small room. The room was, compared to Redoran’s experiences, diminutive, for it housed only a small bed, barely large enough to accommodate himself, and a desk made from hardened magma. He tossed himself onto the bed as the guards disembarked back down the hallways towards the central audience chamber. Despite it being made of rock, the bed was quite comfortable, for it shifted its exact design to accommodate Redoran’s linear form. His eyes closed and he fell in to a deep sleep. A short while later, the female flame creature entered the room, slamming the door behind her. She growled in frustration, waking Redoran.

“Hachzart, why does he always have to do that!” the female flame creature shouted. Redoran bolted up in bed and shifted his hand to where his sword would usually rest, but found it no longer there. He scowled and jumped over the side of the bed while the flame creature had turned away and pressed his hand to the creature’s back. “What are you, who are you and why did you save me?” The creature started, “oh, hello groundwalker. I had forgotten you were sent here.” She turned to the Mystic on her bed. “For your questions, what I am, I am a Shazhar Ohtuman. Who I am, is Orviror, daughter of the elder Ezhezact. Why I saved you, is because you are different than the other groundwalkers.” “I am, am I? How so?” Redoran asked, puzzled. “Unlike the other groundwalkers, which have brown eyes and brown hair, you have both green eyes and hair. And the other groundwalkers do not carry weapons of such magnificence.” Orviror explained, sitting beside Redoran, who had collapsed back onto the bed. “I am also understanding that they cannot do this either.” He twitched his fingers while uttering an incantation. Suddenly he burst into flames and remained locked in combustion. Orviror shrieked slightly as the surprising event happened, “How have you turned yourself to appear like the Shazhar?” she touched Redoran’s skin and twitched her hand at the cold touch of his flesh. “I have, what my people call, magic, which allows us to do as we wish, we could cause fires, or summon water…” Redoran was cut off as Orviror hissed, cursing out loud shortly thereafter. “Do not say that repulsive word, it is the bane of all Shazhar!” Orviror struck Redoran, out of revulsion. “I am sorry, but I did not intend any insult or disturbance.” Redoran took Orviror’s hand, and pressed his lips to the palm of her flaming hand. “I accept your apology. And may I ask you the questions you had asked me?” she removed her hand slowly from Redoran’s grasp. “I am a Mystic, a being of greater ability than that of humans, or groundwalkers. My name is Redoran, and I am of royal lineage.” Redoran shook his head, “I came here from my home in Irequoci to find an item of immense power.” Orviror shifted her position, “what sort of item?” curiosity piqued. Redoran shook his head, “I honestly do not know, for I had not heard of any specific description. “But I am guessing it appears as a portion of armour, or armament.” “Armament, like a pike or sword, and armour, akin to a helmet or breastplate?” Orviror asked. “Yes. Exactly like that. Have you seen any strange pieces like that I have explained?” “The lord Archyt has a winged helmet that does radiate a pulsating light, I always feel an energy within that light, almost the same as I felt when you had become alight.” “You speak the truth? If you are, I'll be both able to teach you my magicks and retrieve the item I had come here accidentally to get.” Redoran lay back and smiled. “I'll be out of this strange place in no time.” “Why the rush to depart, why can't you stay here for this moment.” she lay back also, closing her eyes and breathing deeply. “It has been a wonderful day despite the argument my father and I had.” “Has it?” Redoran queried, likewise closing his eyes, sighing. “Yes it has, for you have come here, I have been given the chance to teach you our ways.” “Oh, I see.” Redoran opened his eyes and smiled, “shall you begin teaching me tomorrow?” he closed his eyes once again and let his consciousness slip away.

Redoran stood before the council of the Shazhar, his eyes were closed and his mouth was barely moving while taking deep breaths as the elder Shazhar spoke to the assembled creatures. “this Groundwalker has been allowed into our hallowed halls, only because of my daughter Orviror. There is only one way for us to not be ashamed, and it is to pit both him and our greatest warrior in a fight to the death. And if the Groundwalker wins, we shall allow him to live with us as a hero, any disagreements?” A large Shazhar with a bronze helm stood, and Redoran felt a pulsating energy emit from the solid bronze. He smiled as he recognized the traces of magick that he had felt so many times. It was the trace of human magick, and he could glean this information due to the presence of broken magick strands. “This Groundwalker appears alike to one of our Ancient visitors, for notice how this Groundwalker has both the green hair and eyes of the old Groundwalker we had in these hallowed halls a millennia ago. He should be given the same hospitality as the previous Groundwalker, for this one is likely the descendant of the one that came here prior.” He sat down and smiled beneath the flaming skin. “Thank you lord....” he was cut off as the Elder stood abruptly. “It appears that you are correct lord Archyte, for if he had not been here, he would not know you were a lord.” the Elder nodded, pleased. “No, he is not.” Said the lord, still seated, “the lifespan of Groundwalkers are only sixty years, and the first Groudwalker to be allowed came one thousand years before now. He can't be the same one. Commence with the test, but be fair, for he could just possibly be the descendant of Alstinen, the Groundwalker that came here before.” Redoran's face contorted with surprise and shock. “Alstinen! He's my father!” Redoran exclaimed. “My father came here a millennia ago? how is that possible!?” “Lies!” the Elder shouted as he sprang from his seat, throwing himself into the air, somersaulting over the heads of every Shazhar before him, landing in front of Redoran. “Archyte just proved that you can not be Alstinen's son because of you life span.” “Is there anything that he could do, that other Groundwalkers could not? Perhaps this?” Redoran snapped and, like the day before, he combusted instantly. He watched as the assembled Shazhar stood in shock. “Congratulations, you have proven yourself. My daughter was intelligent in saving you, for we are in a crisis, and you are probably the only one that can help us.” The Elder stated. “Like your father, you can save us from the end of our race.” “What is happening?” Redoran asked. “The north dragon has been awakened by the Groundwalkers. Your father had saved us from this crisis a millennia ago, so we hope you can save us like him.” “If I can, I will.” Redoran said, but then pondered. “If I can have my sword back, and be able to stay with your daughter.” he shook his head, “If you can supply these, I will assist.” “Why do you wish my daughter?” The elder said, laying a flaming hand on Redoran's shoulder. “She is kind, smart and full of life, I would wish to have her as a friend, and seeing I have nowhere to stay, I shall stay with her.” He took the elders hand and shook it, “I will be kind with your daughter, she will not be someone I command or control.” “That is reason enough, your requests are granted.” He signaled to one of the Shazhar near the door and he went to the armoury to retrieve Redoran's weapon. “You may proceed to my daughter's chamber once you receive your weapon and we speak upon the matter that plagues us.” Redoran spoke, “Shall I be admitted up to your seats, as I am to assist, and will probably

have to stay here for longer than I wish to be?” The elder flipped back into his seat, flying over top of many Shazhar in the process. “Speak, for now is the time to make action!”

Hidden Room
Redoran found himself once again sitting on Orviror’s bed, contemplating his own life. The discussion he had held with the council of the Shazhar left him shaken. They had spoken of his father, and his contributions to the colony and how they hoped he, Redoran, could make equivalent or better contributions. He just wished he would be free from the torment they had placed upon him. He could not match his father’s prowess with such things. These thoughts he pushed out of his head as the door to the room opened, allowing entrance to the female Shazhar, Orviror. “Redoran, would you be willing to come with me? Would you like to see the whole castle?” Orviror offered, hoping to relieve her mind of thoughts that she harboured since he arrived. “There is more to this place than even the lord can account for, and I hope to impart some secrets with you.” Redoran smiled, then brushed some hair from his face. “It is kind of you to offer. Yes, I will go.” he stood from the bed and Orviror took his hand. She felt warm, and she radiated a gentle aura which Redoran noticed. She began to pull him, almost running with him trailing behind, staggering out of surprise. Once he had gotten past the initial shock, he began to accelerate, keeping pace with the firefleshed creature. They passed many paintings of elders and lords prior, each of them painted with a delicate, light touch. Through the hallways they ran, passing many a Shazhar, who cursed them for their lack of patience. They turned round a corner and found themselves at a dead ended hallway. “I learned of this place a long time ago, quite possibly thirty years ago when I was but a young girl.” Orviror explained, “at that time, I was unaware of my...ability. Though I could feel something different, I could not tell what it was. I doubt this was placed here by any of my kinsmen, because, as you said, it is a unique ability.” Redoran put his hand over his forehead in thought. He began to massage his head, pondering. “This is unlike anything I have ever felt before. It not dragon, human or Mystic. I doubt I would be able to anything in relation to this, but I can try.” “Please do.” Orviror asked, clasping her hands together, almost begging him to. “I need you to back away, at least five metres. Is that alright with you?” Redoran asked, placing his hands together, fingertip to tingertip. Orviror did as she was asked, and watched intently as Redoran worked with his thoughts and controlled the floes of magic. Redoran began to go into a trance-like state, his eyes rolling back in his skull and lights dancing about his arms. A chant escaped his lips, barely understandable. Tendrils of electricity dashed from his shoulders into his fingertips, building into a silver orb that pushed his hands apart. The sphere flickered gold and he released the energy that had compressed, driving it forward. Smashing down the magic fortifications, his conscious state returned. Orviror gaped in astonishment, not only did the magic remove the wall, it opened up a room full of ancient, dusty tomes. “This is amazing!” Redoran grinned and took a step into the new room. It was strange, why would there be books in a place that housed a race that were fire. It made no sense at all. Orviror followed, gazing at the shelves of dust and webs. “I wonder who could have done this.” Redoran stated, “But what is this?” he had seen an unrolled scroll in the middle of the room, held up by a pedestal which also housed three small orbs, maybe the size of his small finger’s nail. He approached it slowly, and when he was close enough to read what was written, he could understand it perfectly.

“by thine hands bid me free. By thine hands, make the power more. By thine hands, make thee immortal” Redoran read the first line of the text. He could not hazard a guess at what that meant, but he hoped that he would never find out. He continued reading. Bear within. Create. Destroy. This is heart of divine prevalence. Embed in flesh, all desires become true. To be the sole being, is to carry all. He could not bear to read any further, for the text seemed to be a tome for those that desired absolute power. “We must go.” “Why must we go?” Orviror asked, bewildered. “This room was hidden for a reason, and by my father no doubt. Quickly, before anything happens.” His statement was too late. For a dark, pulsating form drew itself up from the pedestal. Soon it became solid. It took the form of a human warrior, garbed in solid steel. “Run! Go! Make haste! I’ll deal with this!” Redoran exclaimed to Orviror, who seemed to just stand there, eyes glazed over. Redoran cursed. He called to his hand his zwheihander and scowled. The dark form likewise pulled a massive sword from the air, a sword that was longer than itself and twice as thick as any normal human being. Although the creature used it like any other weapon, without hindrance, though it was still slow. Redoran dashed forward, and swung his sword from the left abdomen to the right abdomen, and was blocked before contact. The sword was batted aside and Redoran was sent sprawling backwards into a bookshelf. He groaned as he stood, staggering from left to right. He felt weightless, lacking any extra weight that he had grown accustomed to. When his disorientation left him, he looked intently at the conjured demon-shadow, trying to spot a weakness in the creature that he might take advantage of. It came forward, bearing its sword directly in front of itself, blade pointing outward and the forte straight up. It had complete control over the situation. Redoran was empty handed, and it lacked the knowledge that the Mystic had the ability of magic. Redoran thought quickly, hastily making a prayer to the Creator to help him, and then uttering an incantation filled with words of death. He doubted they would do much harm, as the being he fought now was a shadow. A creature of magic. But to his surprise, the evil began to dissipate, slowly making its way back to the centre pedestal of the room. Redoran watched in silent awe as the darkness returned to the three small orbs filled with magic. “Strange. Such strange magic. It is not of any that I have seen before, yet it works like the inner magics of Irequoci itself.” he turned to the now fully conscious Orviror. “We must go. This room was too dangerous for even I to open.” they both turned and left, not looking back into the horror that had been the secret library.

A Cave, A Sword, And Magic
Many weeks after Redoran's entrance to this strange place, humans came to the city doorstep carrying weapons of war, poles with rock arrowheads used to spike and rocks for throwing. Redoran had watched this procession as it unfolded from Orviror's bedchamber as he taught her the ways of Magick, Dwarf, human and Mystic styles. He watched in bemusement as the humans below began launching the rocks up in the air, bringing a white flag up from the rear. He heard the lead human shout, in the same tone as most other humans that Redoran had heard when declaring a truce or pact. “The red dragon has come from the north and has burned our city, we shall join you if you are going to fight the beast!” the fore man shouted, stamping a long pole into the earth before the city. Redoran shrugged and continued to assist Orviror with the magic weaving. “Recite revarus torntalus, evarium.” “Revarus torntalus, evarium.” she smiled as a dark ball appeared in her ablaze hands. “Engroge.” she stated, making the orb larger. She cast it out the window at the assembled humans by the gate of the city. Redoran watched their horrified expressions as they scrambled to disband from the menacing orb of darkness. He chuckled at their reaction and patted Orviror on the back. “You have done well in conjuration magicks, but that does not mean you are proficient, but before I strain you with more difficult conjurations, would you prefer to learn different magicks, perhaps combat, or healing?” Orviror smiled, “shall you teach me some combat magick, for I should enjoy assisting you defeat the south dragon. Are there any combat spells that involve flame, or metal?” Redoran nodded, “Both require conjuration magicks to work, but you know how to conjure flame and metal shards, all you need to learn is how to accelerate a thrown object. This is the hard part, because if you overexert yourself by propelling the object too far or too fast, it will drain you of energy and will leave you useless.” “And if I were to conjure something too large to propel, it would also take energy from me, correct?” Orviror asked, hoping she was correct. “You are right, now, lets start off easy, first conjure a single shard of metal.” Redoran commanded. “Sharac, nevelmi!” she shouted, allowing a single sharp needle to appear in the palm of her flaming hand. She smiled happily, for this was the second time in two weeks that she was able to conjure any form of metal. Suddenly there was a knock at the door. “Orviror, Redoran, I need to show you two something.” Orviror tossed the metal out the window of her chamber and Redoran opened the door. “Well, where shall we depart to?” “Follow me, and do not ask questions, for this should not be revealed to anyone, whether they overhear us or witness what we are doing.” his flaming hand waved through the air frantically. “Fine, Orviror, let’s go with your father.” The cave's mouth opened like a Dragon's jaw when the elder uttered a three syllable word Redoran did not understand. Inside rested a great stone with a massive claymore stuck into the top, with the base of the blade and the hilt half a metre from the rock. The sword itself seemed almost normal, but the seven red jewels encrusted in the base of the blade told Redoran otherwise. The velvet wrapped hilt also posed another aspect to Redoran, one that he did not

know. A steady dripping caused Orviror to panic, she quivered as Redoran set a hand on her shoulder. The elder walked forward and when he arrived next to the rock, he grasped the sword hilt. “Redoran, you should come and read what is written in the rock.” Redoran frowned, “why, can’t you read it to me?” he steadily strode forward, making his way to the elder. Orviror stayed behind, afraid of being dripped on. “No, it is an archaic dialect to me, but you may recognize it.” Redoran arrived at his side, staring at the writing. He gasped deeply as he recognized the writing, it was dragonspeech, an ancient writing used by dragons before humans came upon the worlds. “I can't believe this, I recognize this dialect, and I can make out a few of the words.” he motioned to Orviror to come near. “ 'Only those of ancient blood may remove this sword.' Is all that I can understand.” “Well, there are many different ways to determine what that means, we could take it literal or figurative.” the elder said, frowning beneath his inflamed face. “Knowing how this blade is constructed, I would guess it was of Mystic make, so I am under the understanding, that seeing I am of ancient blood, meaning that I was born into an ancient royal line, I would be able to draw the blade from the rock.” “Try as you might.” the elder said with obvious doubt in Redoran's logic. Redoran took hard grip on the handle, and pulled. His strength sapped away, draining him of almost all his energy, he had collapsed on the floor almost a few seconds after his hand made contact with the hilt. He panted, closing his eyes, calming his nerves, attempting to regain some fortitude before he stood. He managed to choke out a few words, “Pull the blade out...” he choked off as he inhaled deeply, reopening his closed eyes. The elder's eyebrow raised skeptically, but he did as he was commanded. He took hold of the sword's hilt, and attempted to remove the blade from the firm rock. His energy was likewise sapped from him and he collapsed to the floor. Redoran had stood up by this point, panting, and holding his hand across his pained breast. “Orviror, now you try...” he exhaled then inhaled, “...you have the energy from both your father and I in the rock, it should either crack or let the sword go.” Orviror's lower lip quivered beneath the orange licking flames covering her body. “Are you sure it won't do what it has done to you and my father?” “No, I am not sure, but if I am correct, then you should fear nothing, for we could always imbue our energies into it at a later time to overload the rock.” Redoran placed a hand on Orviror's shoulder to comfort her. She hesitated before moving her hand to the hilt of the sword in the stone. As soon as she made contact with the wrapped hilt, the rock crumbled, and Orviror reacted instinctively, she released the sword and jumped back, giving the rock a wide girth. The sword collapsed beside the elder, who had, by this moment fallen unconscious. “Good job Orviror, you freed the claymore from the stone. I am too weak to collect it, but you can. Will you please do so.” Redoran asked. Orviror didn't say a word as she took another grip of the hilt. She smiled as it slid firmly into her hand and molded to her fingers. She stared at the intricate blade, gazing at letters engraved into the tip, and the gems encrusted in the base of the blade. She ran a finger down the blood groove, stopping at the gems at the base, she fingered a red gem for a moment, and it began to glow, pulsating as if with anger. She stared blankly at the ruby, startled, and attracted. “Please may I hold the blade, just for a moment?” Redoran asked. Orviror held her hands out, proffering Redoran the claymore. She smiled, for she was happy she could help him.

Redoran held out one hand to take the sword from Orviror, but as his hand made contact with the hilt, he was thrust backwards by an unseen force. “What the hell!” Redoran managed to utter before his head collided with the wall of the cave, cracking his skull. He was barely alive...

He's Alive
Redoran opened his eyes, he had no doubt of his own death swiftly approaching. Pain seeped through his head at a breakneck speed, causing more anguish than he had ever felt in his life. What he saw through his eyes was hazy with thick red blotches that stung horribly. He could only make out the form of Orviror, who was only distinguished by the orange-yellow light she gave off. He tried desperately to sit up, but the agony stopped him, along with Orviror's hand pressing against his chest. He heard a concerned voice rising over the heavy beating of his heart and he strained to hear it. Trying as hard as possible, he still could not make out what was being said. Attempting to speak, he uttered two words, "The...sword..." came the rasping of his voice. He then felt the kiss of cold steel against his hand, and a quick pulsating attempted to batter him, but all it did was direct a magickal energy into Redoran so that he may assist Orviror in aiding himself. Every moment Redoran gained strength, the closer he came to death, he had to hurry or else he was going to fall into the empty void that was the binder of all realms. His life was withering away into nothingness, and he was fearful that he would not make it. Once he had enough energy to utter two words, he let them come. "arontala, sacremuntosa." Orviror shook her head, "What does that mean? Please don't leave me, you are my only friend, the only one that I liked. Please tell me what it means." she began to sob, not tearing but making a sound worse than a wail. Redoran barely managed to choke out one word before he fell unconscious again. "Say..." his last breath choked out. "Please, don't leave me Redoran!" she broke down into a cry. "For the past five weeks have been the best in my life. Just dont leave me!" tears began to roll from her eyes as she sobbed. "I've liked you ever since I saw you, you were unique, special." she layed her head on his chest and heard his heart begin to slow. "please! Don't die on me! Arontala, Sacremuntosa! Please!" She felt her energy being sapped away as the spell took effect. The effects were immediately noticeable, Redoran's heartbeat increased and deepened, his breath came back to him, deep, thick breaths that helped him regain consciousness. He moved his hand from his side to the back of his head, feeling the crusted blood. "What happened?" Redoran asked, peeling away the blood, allowing fresh blood to flow again. The wound sealed, producing a slight bald spot on Redoran's scalp. Orviror staggered because of the toll the spell took on her. Although she had enough energy to embrace him with enough force that could crush his ribs. "My prayers were answered. You are alive." She layed her lips on Redoran's cheek, "I couldn't live without you." Redoran attempted to stand, but was forced down by Orviror. "Stay down, please, you have just been through a traumatizing event." She set the sword on the ground, and continued to embrace the Mystic that lay on the ground in the cave. She smiled through her pain, and kissed him on the cheek again. "Why? Why do you care for my life?' Redoran asked. "I... can't tell you... or at least, not yet." Orviror slipped both her her ams under his body and lifted him up, despite her seen exhaustion. She, along with redoran, walked to her father and kicked him lightly in the side, waking him from his unconsciousness. "What are you doing?" he exclaimed, in his half awakened state. "get up father. Redoran's injured, and we need to get home. Could you retrieve my sword from the ground?"

The elder shook his head, "yes my daughter." he stood slowly, pained. Groaning with discomfort, the elder walked across the cave to the ruby studded sword and plucked it from the soil. Suddenly a second gem glowed, illuminating the cavern. "We have to leave, for night is almost here." Orviror frowned and began to walk laboured out of the cave, towards the castle.

Archyte And The Dragon
Redoran was lain on Orviror's hard, stone bed that molded itself to his form. He was unconscious, due to the lack of energy and the requirement thereof for him to keep his eyes open and his mind clear. Orviror knew that if Redoran wanted to, he could have kept himself awake, but he did not, which puzzled her greatly. “Sleep well, my good friend.” she took this moment to let her lips touch his, and it was a kiss he would not know, and she was happy for that. For if he knew that she... Her thoughts were interrupted by her father entering the room. “How is he?” he had asked. “He is fine, but I don't know why he has gone into the state that he is now presently in.” she frowned as her father advanced into the room to take a look at Redoran. “I hope you're right, because if you aren't this could mean disaster. Both for him and our home..” He was just able to finish his sentence before a loud crack resonated through the castle and the raging screams of the Shazhar below. Redoran bolted up, and twisted his spine, he fell back limp and Orviror howled in anguish. A menacing growl emanated from beyond her bedroom window as the red dragon came barreling towards the castle with flame gushing from its massive jaw. Atop the mighty beast, there stood the ruler of this realm, the lord of this hallowed city. The elder shouted in shock and surprise, he darted from the room, dashing down the hallway so that he may arrive at the armoury and arm himself with as many weapons as he could carry. Orviror stayed back, stunned as she watched the horror that writhed outside her window. She buckled to her knees as a tremor ran through the castle, splitting the bed on which Redoran lay. From her kneeling position, she decided she would attempt magic to assist her kin. “Flachsh, arima, destrucstio!” she shouted, attempting to make the dragon collapse in on itself, but she failed as the dragon continued to advance, with the flame continually spraying from its wide open mouth. Her face contorted with fear as she began to recite prayers to her deity, one that only she prayed to. Redoran briefly opened his eyes and said, “Use the sword Orviror. It only has the power to defeat the dragon...” his voice petered off once more as he fell into unconsciousness. She uttered one word, a word that Redoran had taught her the first day she began to be taught the ways of Mystic magic. The spell that would bring to her hand any object she had previously had contact with. Suddenly the sword appeared in her hand. “What am I supposed to do with it? Please tell me Oh Great lady of fire.” her prayers were answered almost instantly as all seven rubies began to glow to such a tremendous light that it blinded Orviror for just a single moment. As the light disappeared, she felt her skin tearing apart. She howled in agony, she felt the flames that surrounded her for her entire life be torn away. She knew not what was happening, and she couldn't understand anything through her pain. Redoran awoke to find Orviror screaming in outraged pain, he watched as her flaming flesh was torn from her body and replaced with the silky flesh of that of a human, though with angular features. Her agonized fit lasted longer than it had felt like, for the measure of time was the intense heat seeping through the castle walls. It became more and more profound with each passing second and Redoran knew they had no time to waste. He stood slowly, and said to the now human Orviror. “Come with me.” he walked over to her and took her slender, silky hand. “You must cling onto me with all your might, never let

go until you feel that you can, for if you do, you will fall and plunge into the earth below.” She'd clasped onto his hand and stood, though stricken with pain and fear due to her ordeal. “Grasp around my waist, and be careful as I launch myself out the window.” She wrapped her slender arms around his middle, and was barely able to gasp out, “Are you crazy!” before he did as he had explained. They flew from the open window into the air, falling at a speed too great to measure. Orviror looked up to see the red dragon, along with the lord fling themselves against the castle, bringing down the massive walls that surrounded the internal structure. Redoran flashed out his wings in an eruption of flame, startling Orviror and slowing their descent. He curved the tips of his appendages upwards, so as to ascend to meet the lord and the beast which he sat astride. Redoran's head snapped up and he thrust himself with a mighty wing beat. His jaw came up and he roared, smoke billowing from his nostrils. The red dragon's head rotated to face Redoran, and his mouth opened and a long gout of flame. The heat wave blasted Redoran, and he was forced to utter a single word to defend Orviror from the liquid flame the poured from the beasts great jaw. “Lord, beast, why do you attack this humble city? Especially you my lord, you are resident here.” Orviror shouted, “You bastard.” Redoran flew about the great red dragon, uttering as many counter spells to combat anything the Lord could dispel with the Helm of Orthium, and anything the Red dragon could do itself. His swift speech saved he and Orviror from many a burst of flame from the mouth of the massive beast. “Orviror, summon the sword, I can't hold them with only defense, we need some offense. Quickly!” Redoran shouted with a throaty voice, hoping the Shazhar on his back would obey his command. He flipped upside down, narrowly avoiding his wing being speared by a shard of light shot from the lord's hand. “I do not require teaching for me to understand magic, and I knew that you had come to retrieve my helm, and I knew you were teaching the Elder's daughter of the ancient Mystic ways. I can see the future you pathetic Mystic whelp!” the lord shouted as he cast another bolt, through this time, directly towards Orviror's head. Throughout the speech the lord gave, Orviror had begun the incantation to bring the sword to her hand. Her spell worked just in time for her to block the oncoming bolt. The lord shouted in frustration as his dragon spiraled through the air, his hand flashed a brilliant red and he conjured a greatsword. “Orviror! Fight me, sword to sword, lets see who really has the power to fight! Jump from your beast and meet me on the ground below!” the lord stood upon a set of scales. He shouted as he dove from the red beast, plummeting to the earth below at a tremendous speed. Orviror, frightened and fearful of her death closed her eyes momentarily, praying she would survive the coming ordeal and her fall. She began to utter an ancient Shazhar prayer, she laid her sword on her legs and spoke in a deep, monotonous voice. “Achratch, Freschez, Ohulazhax, hear my plea, have mercy upon my spirit, though I am not of your allegiance, give me strength.” she stood slowly, gripping the claymore with one jittery hand. Suddenly her muscles tensed, her veins stuck out from her flesh, and it was possible to see her blood flowing beneath her skin. “Pray I make it...” she bent down and kissed Redoran's scales. “...Because...I love you!” She jumped, sword trailing behind her as she made her swift descent. Redoran moaned, for she had deserted him and left him to fight the massive red dragon. He ground his fangs together and growled deep in his throat, attempting to make the most viscous sound his pathetic dragon vocal chords could muster. The red dragon was unfazed by Redoran's weak attempt. It responded with another gout

of flame from its jaw. The flame expanded and buffeted Redoran's horned head, singing his Brilliant green scales, scorching marks onto the edges where they were vulnerable. Redoran swerved away from the flame and bellowed a mighty roar. He charged, snapping his mouth open and approaching the red dragon's neck he came within range of biting a huge hole into the great beast's throat, but has thrown away with a massive claw batted into his side. He shook his head as he regained his composure, but as he looked to his side, he growled menacingly. There, in his emerald scales was a great huge gash, as long as a canoe. He howled in outrage, he struggled to maintain his altitude as he began falling. Below, Orviror just landed on the ground, sword flashing in the licking flames above. Before her stood the Lord, garbed in silver armour, flame flashing through the joints. She feared her life because she was devoid of any protection, except the cloths she wore and the claymore, which couldn't completely protect her. “I see you have changed since the day prior, you are now the likes of an groundwalker, you have grown frail because of your bond with Redoran, so now I must defend my land from his influence, for I came here, not to destroy the city, but to kill Redoran.” The lord span his sword, showing off. “Archyte, you retched creature, you never will kill Redoran. You shall never be able to kill him, for his powers are far greater than yours!” Orviror placed the sword blade between herself and the lord. “your dragon will never kill Redoran either!” The lord Archyte shouted a ravaging war cry and began a horrendous war chant, “Okalakal, azha, delizcaxnt orkinzact prloxz, bezzhact!” His mighty cry was heard over legions before he dashed forward, sword flashing menacingly behind him. He came to Orviror's fore and swiped his blade before him, hoping to cleave Orviror in half at the stomach. To his dismay, She flicked the sword in front of her just before the blade made contact, she parried the sword and went in for an underhanded riposte. The lord just managed to dodge away from the blade jumping two metres back. "You are proficient with the blade, but that was merely a test, now I come at you with my best, and I'll make it easier for you, I will pink you eight times then I shall kill you, if you manage, you shall abide by the same rule.” “I don't care about your rules, they are useless prattle, meant to distract me from the battle.” She dove forward, kicking off from the ground, she launched herself into the air, wielding the claymore above her head, aiming for a vertical downward slash to Archyte's helmet, meaning to cleave it in two. His greatsword came in a flash of steel, the cold blade struck Orviror's thigh, causing her to cry in anguish just before she was swatted aside by Archyte's elbow. Above in the sky, Redoran struggled to fight the massive red dragon that fought him. Its jaw had ripped through his scales many an time, striking non vital body parts, disabling him from doing anything but breathe fire and use magic which he hadn't utilized yet. He had heard her pained scream, but all he could do is listen to her anguish. His side was still bleeding, and his leg was torn in many places, so his pain shut out the urge to look at the girl lying on the earth, with a gash in her leg. The red dragon roared once again and dove at Redoran, who was too slow to react, and the strong jaws impaled Redoran's wings, causing Redoran to cry out once again. The red dragon released its grip and backed away, looking at its masterpiece before attacking again. Its teeth shone just before its jaw closed on Redoran's body. Below, Orviror had just received her third pinking and was losing quite an amount of blood. She had not succeeded in injuring the lord at all, his body was still spotless, Orviror clutched her leg with her left hand, while maintaining the sword in her right. Her hand was stained crimson, and she had to continue fight, despite her injuries.

“You going to continue fighting or do you surrender? If you surrender, I can continue onto Redoran and remove him from this land.” The lord let the tip of his greatsword touch the ground as he spoke, giving the impression of a surrender. “I will never surrender, I am not a weak girl like you think I am.” Orviror removed her hand from her wound, releasing some blood she kept built up. “Well, then you wouldn't mind another wound from my sword.” the lord ran forward, swinging his sword, slicing Orviror's arm to the bone, spraying blood across the soil. “That is four cuts, only four more cuts until I can remove you from my way. “You can cut me as many time you like, but I will never back down, you may kill me, but you will never remove me from this world, for my spirit shall remain here until you are vanquished. “Well then, I shall kill your spirit after I kill your physical body, so that I may combat that pathetic groundwalker.” “You shall never defeat me!” Orviror hollered, laboriously walking forward, carrying the claymore at her side, dragging the forte of the claymore in the soil. Her face contorted in pain, she lifted her sword into the air, planning on bringing the sword across the lord's chest in a left slash. The lord, unchanged in the means of energy, was faster in thought and reflexes than Orviror, anticipating her strike, he was able to block her incoming slash, and deal two strikes to her chest, revealing her ribs, casting maroon across the ground. “Two more strikes, then I will kill you.” his cackle echoed across the land, causing men and women to shudder and Shazhar to quake. Meanwhile, in the sky, Redoran was likewise being injured in the most horrific fashion. His chest was torn open in many places, revealing the bones and the internal organs. His blood had splashed all over the red dragon's scales, giving them an ethereal sheen that both frightened and disturbed Redoran. His Green scales were tainted by the thick congealing maroon. Redoran cursed under his panting breaths, his energy was depleted, and his attacker was unharmed and unfazed. The red dragon charged once more, snapping its jaws as it went. Redoran furled his wings and dove out of the red dragon's way, narrowly avoiding the sharp fangs withing the massive mouth. His energy was waning, and his fear was taking control of his actions, he had to react now, he needed to use his magic to kill the red dragon to help Orviror. His mind began to cloud with pain, and his sight faded as blood poured across his forehead onto his eyes. The red dragon roared, startling Redoran. “Incarnum, Achratx, Inflariust.” Redoran choked out, sending shards of light in all directions, spreading across a small distance then targeting the red dragon. The needles sped along the track faster than a dragon's flight. The red dragon attempted to dodge the light, but the projectiles homed in on it and the dragon couldn't avoid them. When the light struck the dragon, it disappeared in a cloud of smoke. When the smoke wafted away, he closed his eyes and fell unconscious then began to spiral to the earth below. His wings wouldn't unfurl to slow his descent, and his fall increased speed until he reached the speed of a peregrine's flight. Within minutes, Redoran collapsed onto the earth, blood pooling in bubbles. A short distance away, Orviror had just received her last pinking, and was going to receive the final blow if she didn't do anything. “I sense that Redoran has been incapacitated, he can't save you from your fate now!” the lord jumped high into the air, positioning his greatsword above his head, preparing to deliver the final strike in a downward slash, which would split Orviror in two. Suddenly, time seemed to slow down, she watched the sword that would have sliced her skull, slowly descend, along with Archyte. She was just able to sidestep, through her pain. She

laboured to lift her sword in the position to deflect the greatsword and slide into the lord's ribs, which would tear his lungs, and perhaps even slice his heart to ribbons. She moaned in pain and then time sped into proper procession. The lord shouted in bewilderment as his body fell onto the massive claymore, he managed to gasp out a curse before his heart burst, spraying liquid maroon across the ground and onto Orviror. He fell to the ground limp. Lifeless. Orviror gasped as she likewise fell onto the ground, falling unconscious with haste. Redoran, now in his Mystic form, bleeding heavily, had his heart slow, almost to a stop, just barely keeping him alive. “Cleanse his wounds and dress them before you remove him from the ground, he needs immediate attention.” the elder said, “You-” he pointed at another Shazhar, “-Retrieve that groundwalker female, she may be linked to this, and someone get the claymore and the Lord Archyte's helmet.” He prayed silently, “Pray we make it through the day!”

A Shazhar's Feast
“Redoran...” a hissing voice resounded in Redoran's unconscious mind. “Listen...” Redoran replied to the voice, “I'm listening.” “I can only project my voice this far into other dimensions, if you exit this dimension and go to a further one connected to this reality, I will no longer be able to reach you.” “Black dragon. I thought you had left me to myself, considering that you haven't contacted me for over a month.” “I understand your confusion, but you need back here now, your brother is severely injured and the Shrouded One is gaining control over the human population...” the consciousness faded and then restrengthened “Even now, she tries to take control of my mind, and I have to fend her off because of the sword you have in your possession...” “I can't come, I myself am in critical condition, for while I was in my dragon form I received a dragon bite ranging from my shoulder to my hip, I have been immobilized for quite some time and, besides, the sword is no longer in my possession, last place I had it was in the hallowed halls of Ansectum.” “No, this can't be, if she retrieved that weapon, I will no longer be able to fend her off, I will be able at this moment be able to heal your wounds and give you a spell to be able to transport yourself to any place you have already been, meaning you will be able to come back here and save your brother, but you will not be able to go to the other three dimensions the Mystics of old went to and hid the items.” the Consciousness seeped away, but not before leaving a trace of itself behind, just barely enough for Redoran to realize that it was large enough to grow and swell so that it could enhance him without the black dragon's contact. His own consciousness dipped off into a dream state. “Redoran, please wake up.” Orviror Repeated a third time, waking Redoran. “It's about time you woke up.” she said as his eyes fluttered open wearily. Redoran moaned as his groggy state lifted and he was able to think clearly. “How long have I been unconscious?” Orviror smiled, “Surprisingly three days, and it has only taken that long for all your wounds to be healed with only scars remaining. As there is one long white strip along your right side from your shoulder to hip. Redoran scrabbled to get up and out of the bed he laid upon to see the scar that the dragon had left upon his body. When his eyes were laid on his flesh, he scowled in agony, every spare centimetre of his skin was pasty white because of the numerous scars the dragon had given him. “How is this possible?” “Possibly magic is at work. Do you think you'd be able to walk and be able to attend a ceremony?” Orviror asked, smiling, hoping he would be able to attend the ceremony of victory. Redoran slung his legs over the bed ledge and set his feet upon the floor and stood. “It appears I am able to stand, but I am still weary so I will not be able to be active in any matter other than walking, eating and sleeping. Will this ceremony have anything other than these activities.” “Maybe watching, but that's the only thing other than your selected activities.” Orviror took his hand and laughed, “Do you remember anything from before we were separated?” “I only remember one thing, you said you loved me.” Redoran smiled, “was I supposed to remember that?” Orviror, unaccustomed to her fleshy body, blushed a deep rosy red. “I hoped you hadn't... unless you feel the same.” “as a matter of fact, the thought had crossed my mind quite a few times that I was

attracted to you, but then again, every female I have come into contact with I have fallen for, and each has ended with me leaving them or them leaving me, so I don't know how to react to you, for I know I will have to leave this place to return to my own world, because my brother and kind are in danger and I wouldn't think you'd want to come with me into a place where it may as well be hell for you.” “I'm sorry to hear that. But if you say it is too dangerous, I will come with you, for you need someone to protect your pathetic fleshy hide.” she laughed heartily. “Well, we better get to the ceremony chamber so we may depart this realm to enter yours. And I am pretty sure you will enjoy this victory celebration.” “I'm sure I would,” he took a step and landed firmly on his feet. “I can walk myself, I don't need to help although I will need escort.” Orviror removed her hand from his body, and he laughed, “I said I can walk by myself, I never said I would.” she smiled and Redoran grinned. She returned her appendage to his body, and began leading him out of the room that he had been left to heal in for three days. The hallways seemed longer than they had been when Redoran first stepped foot into this brilliant Shazhar hovel. Halfway through the corridor, there was a massive hole in the brickwork, no doubt caused by the dragon. Redoran had to stop and look out the hole at the rest of the castle, and he frowned, there was a fair amount of carnage, few Shazhar lay on the ground, dead, the plateau on which Orviror and the lord fought, was painted with blood, and to the west was a massive ditch caused by Redoran's fall, it appeared like a scar upon the earth. The sea of lava was beautiful in the pale sunlight, and Redoran was enthralled. He did not want to leave, for this land was beautiful once he became used to the appearance. They continued onward for minutes until they arrived in this large hall, there was a long table, seated around this table was the entire Shazhar council, all smiling beneath their flame coated bodies. The table was covered in porcelain plates painted with beautiful aspects of the world. At the far end of the table sat the newly appointed lord, Orviror's father. There were two free seats close to the door, which was where Redoran was led. Every single Shazhar burst into applause when Redoran finally sat, the Lord stood and smiled while he beckoned to the crowd to quiet down before returning to his seat. “Redoran. You have done us a great service, and because of this, you will always be remembered in our history. I shall leave the floor open to whoever wishes to speak.” he opened his arms, pointing his hands towards the wall, encompassing the entire collection of beings. Orviror took Redoran's hand, wrapping her fingers through his, “I would wish to say a few words.” she removed her digits from Redoran's and stood. “If it hadn't have been for Redoran coming to our hallowed home, I would never had become like I am now, which I feel better than how I did when I had the flame over my flesh, and if he had not helped me learn my true potential, I would never have defeated the lord. Magic is with me and Redoran helped me realize it. I also wish to say, not as praise but as a declaration. I am leaving this world! Redoran at my side and my sword at my hip, I will forge my life in another existence, I pray you all live happy lives.” she sat, concluding her speech. When no more declarations or speeches came, the lord stood and smiled, “Before we deliver our gifts upon those who had helped us attain victory, we shall feast upon a glorious meal.” he bowed low and waved his arm at the servers, who stood waiting with silver platters on their hands at the rear doorways. The servers brought the dishes in an orderly fashion, smiling as they laid down the food all along the table, and removed the covers and revealed the feast below. There were plates full of exotic meat, soups of all aromas and fabulous salads. A final server had a bottle in his hand and went around filling everyone's goblet to the top with an opaque red liquid. “This food looks delicious, but what is this liquid?” Redoran asked, licking his lips, preparing for the meal. “The drink is never the same, it usually is partial to the battle, for the last victory feast it

was the blood drained from the dragon, this time it is a combination of the lord's blood and the dragon's. Do not worry, it has been cleansed, and the flavour will be sweet and spiced.” the lord smiled beckoning the collection of Shazhar and Redoran to eat. Everyone piled masses upon masses on their plates, and then they took a sip of their beverage, while Redoran watched. Orviror smiled at Redoran after she took her sip, and whispered to him, “This is customary, you fill your plate and then take one sip of the drink and then toast.” Redoran thanked her and then filled his plate before drinking from his goblet. As everyone raised their goblets and cheered, Redoran did the same, and then silently blessed the health of everyone in the room. The lord smiled and told the guests to begin, and the collected people ate to their hearts content, barely pausing to speak, while Redoran ate his food slowly and solemnly, drinking his beverage with shallow sips. He tried to make conversation with other beings, but they ignored him as the swallowed the delicious food. Redoran finished his plate and waited while the whole table was emptied of food and the goblets were whisked away and replaced by a splendid dessert, a massive burning cake with strawberries and cherries adorning the top layer, and a new set of drinks, which Redoran finally recognized, a sparkling white wine bubbling and fizzing. The Shazhar said they had stolen the recipe from the Groundwalkers, who called it champagne. He downed the champagne quickly after he ate his slice of cake to wash it down. He stood once everyone had finished their meal. “It has been a great meal, and I am happy to be placed among your history, but I must leave soon because my home is in danger of becoming destroyed. So, if there is nothing else to be happening, I must prepare for departure.” The lord and Orviror stood and stated, “There is but one more part of the festivities to attend to, the gifting. Each of us has constructed something to give to you, as customary, I will bestow upon you my gift, then Orviror will give you hers and everyone else will then give you theirs.” Orviror sat and the lord smiled, he reached behind him onto his chair and brought up a small, leather-bound package. “This is not a permanent gift, but you will surely enjoy it,” he pushed the article across the table with incredible force, it skidded until Redoran stopped it with his arm. He twisted his arm around to grasp the package and open it. Within the leather, was a miniscule amount of the dragon and lord blood beverage, along with a small biscuit. “I thank you.” he nodded and smiled, turning to Orviror, winking. “You should enjoy my gift.” Orviror said, “I have made this by hand with the scales of a dragon, and the love of my heart.” She snapped and a sweet potato shaped instrument appeared in her hand. “This is an ocarina, blessed with healing magics and the ability to bring upon you a creature of shadow for assistance when different tunes are played. Do not play a flat note or you will summon a pathetic creature She proffered the ocarina to Redoran who took it with gratitude. “Would there be any tunes not blessed with the creation of a creature for my assistance?” “Any that you create yourself, you can also bless a different tune with different spells, I left it open for formatting. Have a go, present a song to us if you can.” Redoran frowned, “I apologize, for I cannot play it just yet. I shall wait for the other gifts.” Redoran explained, yet what he said was only part truth, receiving this instrument reminded him of Shilara, who had also played a beautiful instrument like that which rested within his hands. He set it on his lap and then waved his arms in a manner to instruct the rest of the Shazhar to proceed. Redoran was bombarded with gifts, most food and beverages, one had delivered a brilliant dragon scale layered with an oil that would never dry so that Redoran could cook upon it.

Once the gifts were all delivered, Redoran smiled, waiting for the next words to come, when none came he turned to Orviror. “It is your turn to say a speech of thanks. You may say anything as long as you make an insinuations of thanks to anyone.” Orviror whispered to Redoran and took his hand. Redoran returned a thanks and stood, thinking about what he was going to say. After a short pause, he began to speak, “These last few months have been the best I have experienced within my recent memory, I feel as if I myself am a Shazhar like the rest of you.” he extended his arm and pointed to the assemblage. “you have taught me more about life than my own father and mother, you all have made me happy, and this celebration is testament to this truth. “Orviror herself has made me happier than I have ever felt, for we were together for that final fight, apart in body but together in mind, there were three words that Orviror told me, I do not know if she is comfortable enough for me to say this,” he looked into Orviror's eyes and smiled as she nodded slowly. “Before we had separated in the fight, she told me she loved me, which brought me a great joy, despite the fact that we may die within the coming minutes, it told me that despite our differences, two people could care for each other, and that is the whole purpose of life, to understand and care for the person to either side of you, behind you and before you.” Redoran grinned, “And when it comes to caring, we were all built to care for one person more than everyone else, and that is the person we love. “I am happy to say that Orviror, great lord, is the person I care for the most. You should be honoured that we have come together in a beautiful fashion. You may have a son not of your kin, but a friend to your people. I thank you all.” he sat, winded, but pleasured, his face belied this. “I am honoured. And now, because of this plausible union, I myself shall deliver myself upon the Groundwalker's land and bid them homage within our halls, because of your speech today.” He raised his fiery fist into the air, “Long live Redoran the wise, and may our future be bright!”

Returning Home
Redoran took a slow, long swig of the sweet blood beverage, letting the liquid flow down his throat, soothing the nerves he was presently feeling, for he knew not how it was faring on the other side of the rift he was about to open for he and Orviror. The fear Redoran felt along with the anxiety came from how he might find his homeland, it could be in disarray, or it may be fine, despite what the Shrouded one had caused. Orviror laid a hand on his shoulder and smiled, seeing the wrinkles appear on his brow. “It will be alright, I know it will not be in its entirety destroyed.” “I hope you're right.” he hugged her, letting his hands rest on the small of her back. “because if you aren't, I don't know what will happen.” he scowled, raising his hands onto her upper back. The lord came rushing down from the castle, carrying a package, a leather bound box. He brought it up to Redoran and handed it to him. “you deserve this for helping us.” Redoran smiled as he removed the leather and opened the box. Within it was the helmet worn by the previous lord. It glowed brilliantly in the pale sunlight, the features of the molded bronze were magnificently displayed, the magick radiated from it like wildfire. “Thank you. This will help me greatly in the time to come.” he shrank it with an incantation, shoving it into his trouser pocket before he turned to pat the lord on his fiery back before turning to Orviror. “There will be no turning back once we leave, do you still wish to come with me.” he expected the answer that came, but he had to make sure. “Of course, I would not abandon you to fend for yourself in your homeworld, how mean would that be.” she kissed him lightly on the lips and smiled, “There could be strange beasts that lurk within darkness.” she laughed heartily. Redoran likewise brought his mouth to a curve, “well, we should be going.” he turned to face the lord again, unsheathed the zhwiehander at his waist and saluted with the blade. “May you live for many generations more, and be prosperous in your endeavors.” he grasped Orviror's hand and with the spare ligament he touched his wrist, and they disappeared. The warp stream battered Redoran and Orviror for just a moment before they came tumbling out the other end of the hole. In midair, they remained suspended by a spell Redoran had uttered withing the rift. He lowered them to the ground and tapped his feet on the stone ground. Redoran breathed in the earthy smell of the Hold of Ansectum, for it had been months since his previous time here. Although, it was quiet, unlike before. He Transformed in a burst of flame and flew up into the nesting holds, hoping to find Arthur or Crystal. He searched every little nook and cranny, there was no sign of life anywhere; even the pulsating energy from the dragon above didn't appear. He came back down to Orviror who had her claymore set already in her hands, and had been practicing against opponents made of nothing but imagination. “No one seems to be here, I do not know why.” Redoran said puzzled, he searched the halls of Regna and even the dwarven mines with his mind, but could not find a single consciousness. “Maybe they have all vacated because of something?” Orviror questioned herself, “Let's check outside.” “Good idea. Hop on my back.” Orviror took hold of Redoran's green scales and hoisted herself up, positioning herself between Redoran's shoulder blades in a crook that appeared to be used for riding. Propelling himself up with his powerful legs, and keeping himself within the air with

strong wingbeats. He tossed himself around so that his nostrils were directed at the exit of the hold and into the halls of Regna. With the propulsion with his wings he began to go forward. He smiled a toothy smile, despite how his life could take a turn for the worse within the next few minutes. He hadn't felt the true thrill of being in flight, for in battle the thought of saving yourself pervades every other emotion or thought. “This is a nice place Redoran.” Orviror stated before they shot straight out into the bright light of a sunset, and they were bestowed an image of pure beauty, the light from the sun reflected off the ocean to the west and through the trees that dominated the land of Irequoci. “What are those?!” “Those are trees and the ocean, they are a beautiful sight aren't they?” Redoran span his neck around to face the Shazhar upon his back and showed her his whole mouth of sharp fangs. “Seeing I am no longer made of fire, the water no longer seems to disconcert me, and it appears a brilliant element, and the trees, how do they get to be such a marvelous shade of green?'' “They are grown as such, you will soon understand that this world is not like yours, this world is based around all four elements, while yours was a fire based world.” Redoran turned to the way he was facing, “Right now we are going to my family's estate, for I have a hunch that there is something there I must see, it may pose a clue to why all this is coming together, why there was no presence within the Koric Mountain range.” “I do not think this is such a topic to be speaking of at this present moment. Could you tell me about this world?” Orviror asked. “What do you wish to know?” came the gravely voice of a dragon, not that of Redoran. With a lash of his tail, Redoran attempted to swipe aside the dragon that gave voice. “Do not strike me childish fool, I only wish to fly in peace, I came close because I saw a green dragon, one of the last few I have heard.” “What do you mean?” Redoran asked as a brilliant gold dragon came up beside Redoran and smiled at him. “A decade ago, almost all of the green dragons were killed by the creature that calls itself the Shrouded One. You seem almost like one of the last dragons to be killed, I believe his name was Azhrachtsi.” the gold dragon held its head low, almost in sorrow. “I miss that young one.” Redoran fought back the urge to yell out in dismay, only yesterday the black dragon claimed that Arthur was severely injured, but it couldn't have taken ten years to get here, they arrived almost seconds after they departed the world of fire. “Did you say Azhrachtsi? For if you had, he is my brother, and I wish to know how he died.” Redoran held his head high, despite the sorrow welling up in his already pained heart. “I am very sorry for your loss my friend, he was a great creature, he fought valiantly in his last few moments, his claws should have torn through the beast which now controls the human population with an iron fist.” the dragon growled deep in his throat. “Do you know where the Shrouded One resides now, for I will have to tear her to shred with my own teeth for what she has done to me!” “As a matter of fact I do, she, has claimed the ancient ruins to the north as her throne. Verequine, I believe is the city it looms over.” “I thank you, now I know why my father's estate was pulling me, my destiny resides there...”

Damned Sorcerer
The scent of decay filled the air, pervading Redoran's preternatural senses as he began to land on the earth before the city of Verequine. The earth squelched as Redoran's Feet made contact with the blood soaked dirt, covered by maroon stained grass. The ground was strewn with bodies, which Redoran knew to be Mystics. The castle was painted with vibrant, metallic green blood, Arthur's Blood. "Who could do such a thing?!" Orviror took grip of one of Redoran's spines and lowered herself to the ground as he crouched. Redoran scowled, tears flowing slowly from his eyes. "This was caused by the Shadow Sorcerer who has taken control of my previous companion whom I had also loved, she had become who she is today ten years ago in that castle. My castle!" Flame engulfed his figure, becoming smaller as his body became proportionate as a human's body. Then the flame dissipated, leaving Redoran as his green haired self, with his Zhwiehander slung over his back. They both drew their swords from their sheaths, casting in the muddy earth, causing a spray of liquid to erupt onto the blades. "Destiny has brought us here to return what is rightfully mine and that of the entire Mystic nation!" Redoran roared. A Screech echoed across the expanse of the territory. Followed by a shout, "Good to see you again Redoran! It has been ten years since we last met. I'll come down to see you." Suddenly a black dot came flying out of the throne room window, being carried on the wind like it weighed nothing. A glint came from the dot's direction, a flicker of purple. Redoran waited with baited breath, for he knew that she could defeat him right now, for only weapons that could be awarded legendary status could kill her. The black dot soon became a sightly figure, and Redoran could see the black cloak and the long staff the Shrouded One carried. It was made of three entwined woods, and resting upon the claws carved from the wood, a glimmering amethyst. Soon, the sound of flapping cloth pervaded Redoran's sensitive eardrums, she was growing closer, close enough to see her mask at that moment. Redoran knew this seemingly endless time would have to come to a halt, and at that instant he would have to face his former lover, and defeat her, for if he did not, he would lose his life and the fruits of his labour. If she knew about the five items, and he died, the world would have no chance of defeating the Shrouded One. Suddenly the Shrouded One appeared at Redoran's nose. "you have not changed at all since I saw you last," she raised her hand to trace her long nails along his jaw, drawing a rivulet of blood. "I see that you noticed my new weapon, it is the Soul Reaper, one of the great warrior's items of the past. I feel that you yourself have one of the items." Redoran reached a hand into his pocket and removed the shrunken helmet. "I have the Helm of Orthium, and I intend to retrieve the others, but I cannot while you have possession of this weapon." He uttered a spell to enlarge the Helmet. "Before I seem rude, who is this woman you are with, have you abandoned me already?" she appeared at Orviror's side, resting a cold hand on her shoulder. "That is my new companion Orviror, and leave her out of this!" Redoran drew the zhwiehander from the earth and pointed it towards the darkness controlled Shilara. "I never intended to bring her into this, she was just a piece of the puzzle that is life. And by the way..." she reached into her cloak and withdrew two articles, an arm strap with a small dagger hilt protruding from the bottom of a sheath and a belt carrying a beautifully decorated scabbard. Redoran recognized these, they were his old weapons, Turic and Clorian. "...I believe these to be yours." she cast them to Redoran, who dropped the zhwiehander and caught them deftly and proceeded to return them to their original positions on his body.

"I wouldn't want to leave you to fight with a blade unaccustomed to, and I do not want an unfair fight. For you would not be able to hurt me without an enchanted blade." the Shrouded One suddenly appeared before Redoran, staff poised as if a sword. "I'll make this deal, if you can hurt me in any way without dying, you may have your city and castle back, but if I kill you, well, there's nothing you can do." "Sounds fair, considering it was I who taught you what you know about defending yourself." Redoran drew Turic and smiled, it was untarnished and had the same brilliance as when he first saw it. He positioned himself in the fashion he had many years prior, when he fought his brother before he had left. His strength and speed were required in this fight, not his ability to be versatile. Orviror backed away, giving the two combatants a fair distance between them and herself. She could feel the tension rise in the air. And she feared for Redoran's life. “How do you feel Redoran, how do you wish to fight?” Shilara cast a bolt of lightening into the sky, brightening the battle field as the bolt halted in midair and became spherical. “I believe that this will be a long fight.” “I shall let you use any native abilities of your staff, and I shall use my own abilities with the blade, just to make it fair.” Redoran smiled, despite his current standing. “Shall you strike first, or shall I in the duel of fates.” The Shrouded One nodded, indicating her decision, she would attack first. She raised her staff high into the air and brought it down, digging the base of the entwined woods into the soil,causing a bolt of energy to fly towards Redoran. Redoran jumped high into the air, avoiding the energy, he then thrust himself forward with an incantation under his breath. His sword flashed as he spiraled forward, the forte of the blade in trajectory with the Shrouded One's midsection. The bronze of his blade seemingly shifted from bronze to silver to gold to copper. As Redoran came into striking distance of Shilara, she batted aside his blade with an effortless swing of the Soul Reaper. “I apologize for what I am about to say. You have not gotten any better than you were ten years ago.” She drove the amethyst forward towards Redoran's stomach. Orviror watched Redoran dodge the assault, from what she could see, he could defend himself well, and he had more skills than the pompous, insignificant woman he fought. “I disagree with your sentiment, I have grown in skill, but not in my swordplay, for I am able to to more than what I used to.” he tapped his wrist and he appeared behind Shilara, he smiled as she stared around in bewilderment. “I did not recite any incantation, and you can not tell where I have gone. “You bastard!” Shilara spun to face Redoran, “I do not know how to do that spell, and I know every mortal spell in history, how do you, someone who has only been on this world for twenty eight years?” “It is mot magic that can be learned by mortal means, for it is dracomagic, the magic given to all green dragons through their lifetime. And you wish to know how I attained this?” “Show me!” the Shrouded One exclaimed. Once again the flame of change enveloped Redoran, growing to an amazing size. The flames licked about the grass, scorching the edges and tips. Within moments, Redoran had become an amazing emerald dragon, menacing in his baring of teeth. He growled deep in his throat towards the Shrouded One. “Now, now, what do we have here? A green dragon who I have not slain. A pity, it would have been fun to see you howl when I killed your brother with my own hand.” she laughed deeply, sending a sharp twang of pain through Redoran's heart. Redoran lashed forward, snapping his jaw. Shilara dodged out of the way and launched a fireball with the amethyst of her staff. The fireball flew true and struck Redoran in the neck while he couldn't respond to the assault. With his neck scorched, Redoran aimed to return the

favour, he opened his jaw and let loose a thick spray of fire, that scolded the very air itself. His head swiveled in all directions, catching the Shrouded One ablaze. She cursed, uttering something under her breath Redoran could not recognize. She put out the flames with a rotation of the Soul Reaper then paused, she was obviously tired, for to focus the energy of a weapon would be very taxing if it were even a plain weapon, but as Shilara explained, it was made by the same people that made the helmet he had possession of. “I can see you are growing weary.” came the gravelly voice of a dragon, “I have not even broken a sweat, you were never a match for me in a battle where the very placement of grass hangs in the balance, I have always watched for significant details in my opponent's style, while you just fight for the present, you do not watch what I am doing, you just react, and that will be your downfall.” Redoran lunged for Shilara again, this time, she reacted too slow. Although she jumped out of the way before Redoran could do any serious damage, she had gone too late so now Redoran had her leg clamped in his jaw, crushing the shadow beneath his powerful, and sharp, teeth. But in a brief moment, while Shilara was trying to gain freedom, shadow excreted from her leg, and Redoran inhaled, sucking the darkness through his nostrils. Ecstasy rolled through Redoran's eyes as the feeling engulfed his body in shuddering spasms. His lips curled into a smile and he released the Shrouded One. “I feel weaker somehow...” the Shrouded One coughed out as she collided with the earth, causing a squelching fit, spraying up blood that waterlogged the soil. “You sucked the darkness from my body, how could you have?” Redoran gasped as the gore crows, flying through the sky, screeched their whines of want. His body shuddered once more as the shadow made itself less apparent. With the twitch of his neck, the ecstasy disappeared. He somehow felt slightly stronger. A groan escaped Redoran's lips as he turned to the Shrouded One. “You have been harmed, leave my kingdom and never return.” Shilara didn't reply and disappeared in a puff of black smoke that enveloped her form and expanded as it thinned. As the smoke evaporated, a laugh of the cruelest kind pervaded Redoran's ears. “You will never be free from my grasp, for I will return to take your helmet and your life once I attain the other three items, and you will be powerless to stop me!” Redoran shouted into the air, cursing his fortune, he had won, but he would never be free of the taint that the Shrouded one had left upon his land and soul, for the shadow was still in his body, and it would be harder to remove from his soul. “Don't damn me!” Orviror came to Redoran's side, and placed her hand on his glimmering scales. “You shall be fine Redoran, we will find the other items and then take the staff from her so that we may defeat her.” smiling her laid her head on the emerald scales, “But for now, shall we rest, for it has been many a day where you have fought.” “I believe you are right, but I can not rest until this city is repaired and I have revisited the different cities, to purge the taint the Shrouded One has delivered upon this world. First I will require man power, perhaps from some spare Mystics abound and some Auran warriors. You may be allowed to enter the castle and find a place to reside for the remainder of our time staying here.” Redoran engulfed himself in flame, and shrank to human proportions as he had many times before. “Well, which shall we do first, go and retrieve man power, or have a brief day of rest?” Orviror turned to look at the castle, frowning as she gazed upon the glinting green blood that painted the side of the structure, giving it a foreboding aura. “We shall depart for the Auran Territory tomorrow morn, rest well and prepare yourself, for we are getting there by flight, and ‘tis farther than the mountain range we had started from.”

The shrouded One cursed. “How could I have left that fool to live? Why did I give him the weapon back?” she stood at the pinnacle of the mountain that resided upon the Lorian Island. It was dark here, dark enough for her to be undetected. “It is because of me. When Redoran bit into you, he stole away the darkness you placed around me to hold me back. Nothing can defeat the power of love.” “Shut up!” The Shrouded One shouted at herself. “Shilara, you shall be buried again!” “You can no longer shut me out. Don’t even try. Without your magic you have no hold.” The Shrouded One struck her staff against the floor, causing light to dance up the handle into the amethyst set in the wooden claws. “Get out of my head Princess! You do not deserve to disturb my thoughts!” “You are but a parasite, not worthy of saying that you are a being of your own. Create your own body and I will leave you to yourself.” The Shrouded One cursed, “Get out of my damn head! Begone! I shall remove you from this body and make it but a shadow. Shilara huffed, “I bid thee farewell.” her consciousness disappeared from the shadow, leaving only a slight presence behind.

Hello, Old Friend
It was a long arduous trip, riding upon Redoran's scaly back, scratching Orviror's hind, causing a redness to appear on her rear because of the constant contact with the sharp, lacerating scales that could bring blood without effort. The trees Redoran flew over, were vibrant in colour and distracted Orviror from the pain of the trip. Redoran had to laugh once in a while to stop himself from letting tears flow from his eyes, for it seemed that laughing could only halt his flowing sorrow. He prayed that the warriors to the south could help him, for they were his only hope in rebuilding his city. His wings had grown tired from time to time, causing the need to stop for rest. After their short rests along the journey, Redoran would have a hard time regaining flight, for each moment that they wasted, the more Redoran felt the desire to stop his trek. His desire to live was diminishing, either due to the loss of his entire family, or the parasitic shadow within his body that tainted his every thought. Within A week, Redoran and Orviror had just breached the Auran Territory border, and it would take another day to arrive in Xelos' Village, and that extra day could provide a disastrous outcome if that one day was all the Shrouded one needed to gain the upper hand. Redoran came upon the small section of the territory in which Xelos' village resided, and they began their descent into the forest, a small way away from the village as to not shock the citizens and get harmed themselves. Redoran's heavy wing-beats shattered the still of the forest, the strong buffets splitting trees nearest Redoran in half, and sending innocent animals crashing against coniferous trees, spiking them, blood pouring onto the green of the needles. Orviror slid off Redoran's back as his feet made solid contact with the soil. She patted Redoran's emerald scales, “That trip was better than the last one, it was longer, but it provided an amazing view, I love the trees of your world.” she grinned, “How long 'till we arrive at your friend's home.” before Redoran could answer, a spear came flying through the air, whistling as the tip rotated at a great speed.. the arrow, Redoran guessed, was flying for his shoulder, probably because the thrower had not dealt with a dragon before and had expected the spear to flow straight through. The tip clattered off the emerald scales as it made contact, it bounced to the earth, and Redoran laughed. “Auran warrior, I can not be defeated by mere arrows, and I doubt you'd want to kill me, for I am an old friend of your people.” Once again, Redoran's body became engulfed in a green flame, the flame shrank and became proportionate to his normal size. Once his body had returned to size, he spoke once again, “As you can see, I am an old friend of Xelos, who I believe is now the chief of this encampment.” A man in his third decade came walking out of the brush, tailed by a coyote. “Redoran, what you speak is true, I am now the chieftain of my tribe, for my father died in battle many years ago.” the coyote opened its mouth and howled, “Cyrillea, bids you both a good welcome, and asked why you are here.” “My companion and I have come down to your encampment to receive help, for Verequine has been destroyed and we desire to rebuild the city. And I know you would want to help.” Redoran completed, and then motioned to Orviror, “This is a new companion, as my previous company has been taken as a host for the shadow sorcerer known as the Shrouded One. She is named Orviror, she is not of human or Mystic descent, she is of Shazhar, a race of fire people in a different realm I had just returned from.” Xelos strode forwards and took Orviror's hand, “You do not appear to be of fire my dearest lady.” he brought her hand to his lips and kissed it gently. “t'is a pleasure to meet you.” Redoran smiled, he placed a hand on Xelos' shoulder, “It is a great pleasure to see you

again old friend, but as I have noted, I am not here for pleasantries. Will you be able to assist me in the reconstruction of Verequine?” “It may take a couple of days to think over, as our population is dwindling because of the shadow sorcerer you claimed took host in your old companion's body. Do you have any days to wait before I decide? “Unfortunately, I have very little time, for although I have defeated the Shrouded One, she will return with more powerful weapons, and the more time I waste, the less prepared I am.” Redoran removed his hand from his friend's shoulder and gave him a brief shove. “Hey!” Xelos exclaimed, “Don't push the chieftain of this tribe, I can banish your from our lands.” he began laughing, followed by the two companions. When there was silence, Xelos made a comment that reminded Redoran of his first day in Orviror's world. “What happened to your face?” Orviror spoke before Redoran could reply, “That is of no concern of yours.” Redoran smiled, “If he desires to know I will tell him, it is not up to you to say if it is not his concern or not.” he then turned to Xelos, “I earned this in a short battle with another of the Shazhar, who's sword was completely made of fire. He had struck me in the face, incapacitating me and causing this irremovable burn mark to appear.” he brought his right hand up to touch his face. “Interesting tale. But onto the present, shall you come with me to the settlement? I am sure that my sister would be very happy to see you again, as you helped her discover her true self.” Redoran's eyes briefly lit up, but then diminished, for he knew that Orviror wasn't blind and would go with him into her tent. “I shall come with you.” The group began into the forest, Cyrillea trailed behind, watching her rear and to the left and right. “Redoran! It is so good to see you after so many years.” Kerrianna ran forward and grasped Redoran around the chest. On her shoulder there stood a small black spider with a red spot on its abdomen. She wore a violet velvet dress that accentuated her bosom and her hips. “You have not changed a bit.” she squeezed harder, causing Redoran to cough. “It is great to see you too, I see you have grown and now have your spirit companion.” Redoran returned the embrace, “How has your life treated you?” Kerrianna released Redoran and stepped back, “life hasn't been as simple as anyone would have wished, the shadow sorcerer tried to take control of our land. But other than such, it is fine. The ceremony where I was gifted my companion was difficult, as there were many a retardation, but once it was through and I had received, Carila, here everything fell into place like a puzzle.” She smiled softly, “how has your ventures treated you?” Redoran grinned, “I will probably be here for quite a while, so tonight I will tell you my tale.”

King Arthur, The Ancients, And A Plot
Redoran rolled out a thin blanket upon the bed he and Orviror had been given by Xelos in his old tent, it was kind of the old friend to spare a hovel for the vagabonds. Finishing the bed, Redoran collapsed onto the cot. Orviror walked in and smiled, “I see we are prepared for a long night's sleep.” “That we are.” Redoran replied. He span his body so that he lay perpendicular lengthwise of the bed, with enough space beside him to let Orviror to lay with him. The woman came forward and repeated the same process as Redoran. “Good night Redoran, Have a good sleep.” Redoran returned the pleasantry, “may you have one also.” he closed his eyes and let his consciousness slip away. A black inferno surrounded Redoran, engulfing his body, but causing no damage to the skin upon his bones. The smell of charred flesh immersed Redoran in a tendril of havoc, for all the other senses he relied upon were being likewise overwhelmed, the crackling of the fire, loud and distracting, the heat of the flames, licking at his exposed flesh like as if dry firewood, and the taste of char lying upon his lips and tongue. Through the blaze, only one thing could be seen, a sword impaled in a stone unlike what Redoran had ever seen. Suddenly the sword rippled and there came a screen of black liquid, squiggling and rippling. The stone was surrounded by men, all garbed in steel sheets of metal hammered into a set position, plate-mail armour. One man came forward and took a loose grip upon the hilt that protruded from the stone. He jiggled it forward and back, and then side to side until the blade was loose enough to remove from the strange stone. With a final tug, the sword pulled free of the rock, and Redoran could see its magnificence. The sword was made with the finest steel man or Mystic had ever seen, and inset at the forte was a golden topaz, and by the base of the blade, an insignia was imprinted with black charcoal that had stained it for many a millennia, a dragon's head with a diamond upon its forehead and twisting horns. Redoran recognized this symbol, it was his ancestor's family crest, it proved the sword was of Mystic manufacture. Redoran was transfixed on the image that took place before him, and watched intently as a man with a massive white beard garbed in massive purple robes came forward and clasped the man's arm, and then heard a soft voice shout high into the heavens, “Here stands Arthur, he is now...” he waited a moment for dramatic effect, “...Your king!” The clatter of a horse's hooves on wood came next, and suddenly Redoran no longer stood within a place of fire. He was pulled into the world with the sword, stone and the man named Arthur. It was bright and the grass reflected the light, giving the world a green appearance. The sky was painted a brilliant bright blue, and the sun alighted the sky with big red and orange fluffy clouds. The trees on the horizon, in all directions made Redoran feel trapped. Redoran saw the mountain off in the distance and felt slightly reassured. “Who are you stranger?” Arthur asked, he still had the sword in his hand and the robed man at his side. “My name is Redoran Enders, son of Alstinen Enders and the rightful king of Irequoci, that sword you now possess is likewise rightfully mine, it was made by my ancestors and then brought here thousands of years before now.” Redoran felt his waist for Turic, but it was not there. The robed man put his hand into his cloak, and removed the leather scabbard and the sword that Redoran kept at his waist. “I see you would be looking for this.” he tossed it to Redoran, who caught the hilt of Turic and swung, casting the scabbard away and into one of the

men surrounding the stone. “Who are you?” Redoran asked, directing his question towards the one who returned his sword. “I am Merlin Ambrosius, a magician, sorcerer and alchemist of this fair place, Camelot.” he stuck his hand within the folds of his robe and removed a small vial of black liquid. “I can demonstrate my abilities here and now, for this liquid is liquified obsidian, consistently as it is because of the substances I have added into it, and I can conjure animals from the air.” Merlin smiled beneath his beard and tossed the vial to Redoran. With a quick iteration, the vial stopped in midair, and Redoran slowly pulled the bottle towards him. He watched the surprised faces upon the multitude of men surrounding him, they went from astounded to scared, they had not seen any true act of magic. “You are not the only one that can use magic, and I believe I would be a higher caliber when it comes to spells and enchantments.” Redoran took the vial from the air. “If you would like to see a further display, I can fight this new king here using only magic and my latent abilities. Just as an entertaining display for those watching.” Arthur chuckled, “I accept your challenge, but I have no training whatsoever when it comes to swords and daggers. I have used a knife to defend myself, but it was lighter than this sword.” “Do not worry, I will do you no physical harm, but I shall defeat you, you may remove my dagger from my body and I will hand Merlin my sword, you shall be perfectly fine.” He raised his hand to his shoulder and unlatched the leather clasp that situated the dagger scabbard on his upper arm and let the straps fall down his ligament and land in a lump on the earth. He had already let the sword in his hand fall to the ground, so he was ready to duel the one who had, what Redoran believed to be, the Dragonsword. Arthur dropped into an assumed position; he had no experience fighting with a sword so he had to make do with luck. Redoran smiled, he would have fun teaching this mere boy how to truly fight, not unlike he had felt when he had assisted the old Auran chief with his own men, and even then he used a weapon, now he would use none and defeat this human. “To be fair, I will let you strike first, as I am the challenger and the more skilled of the two of us.” Redoran dropped into a crouch, almost sitting on his haunches, waiting for the first attack to be made. Merlin raised his hand into the air, the let of a shower of sparks originating from his sleeve, commencing the fight. His face was contorted in bewilderment though, he knew not why a man with green hair, a strange colour to have your locks, would fight a man with a sword without a weapon. He knew there was something to Redoran that he couldn't place, almost as if the energy Redoran radiated he had felt before. Arthur roared a war cry, attempting to unsettle Redoran, but failed as his sword came down in a right shoulder to left hip slash. Redoran had already dodged before Arthur could see what had transpired, and his sword stuck in the soil, because he had lost control during his slash and it fell too far from target. Redoran snickered, “Beginner's mistake.” he dashed forward and caught Arthur in the midsection with the palm of his hand, imbued with a magic meant to numb through contact. Arthur flew back three metres, still standing, though clutching his abdomen as if he was bleeding. The sword remained in his hand, despite the debilitating assault assailed upon him. “I wouldn't call it a mistake.” Arthur choked, “Just merely gaining a steady understanding of my own fighting style.” Arthur once again came forward, though unlike before, he would not let his blade stick into the earth below him, he set the blade at his left hip while he ran at Redoran. When he came within striking distance, he brought the sword across to his right, in a cross slash. The Mystic blocked the blade with a magically protected arm and punched Arthur in the chest. “Another mistake.” Arthur remained where he had stood, but he keeled over and clutched

his injured chest, though he did not make a single sound. “You are good stranger, but I will not give up so easily.” he spat to his side, laced with a small trace of his blood. “you can come and come again, but I will never surrender!” he brought his sword up above his head and brought it down, aiming at the disgruntled Redoran's head. Redoran, with faster reflexes than any normal man, dodged out of the swords way via jumping, all he could do is chuckle, the boy would become a great king, but it would take a long time before he could face Redoran in combat evenly. “Final mistake!” his body combusted within less than a second, an emerald green flame leaping from his flesh, and steadily growing larger. His flesh changed slowly from the smooth beige colour into a scaly forest green. Horns protruded from his head above his brow. The eyes grew and changed design, becoming cat-like, and his mouth expanded and fangs appeared in the hard tissue from which teeth protruded. A tail extended from below Redoran's rear and the tip instantly sharpened itself. With no more arms, he landed on the earth, awaiting the wings to sprout from his back and unfurl into a menacing display. When the procession had been completed, Arthur collapsed on his back and crawled to what he assumed would save him from the demonic thing before him, the rock would not protect him for long, even if Redoran were to assault him. “I am merely just showing you that you could never defeat me, nor any of my kind, be it dragon or Mystic.” Redoran reverted back to normal, reversing the same process that he had used to transform. The last thing he saw was the terrified expression on Arthur's face before the scene changed once again. There were now trees of golden fruit surrounding a copse; the ground was littered with trilliums, blood lilies and many other flowers that Redoran didn’t recognize. Around him there were eleven carved trees, each chair in the likeness of an element or object. The first chair observed was carved with a hazy image, not unlike steam, the second chair was just a carved tree, but adorning it was a great many insects encased in orange amber. The third was shaped like the rolling waves of the sea. The fourth was a shining tree, without any distinguishing properties, the fifth was in the image of a timepiece, the headrest was a sundial of sorts. The sixth was in resemblance to a brain. The seventh had an eye engraved into the headrest, symbolizing the ability of foresight. The eighth was covered in craters, symbolizing the moon. The ninth had four armrests, supposedly for a four-armed creature. The tenth had a rising sun set into the headrest, symbolizing dawn. The eleventh was just a shining sun engraved into the armrests. In each of these seats, there sat what Redoran had come to know as the Ancients, being who controlled the fabric of which their element designated. Uranous, the lord of the sky, Gaia, the lady of the earth, Oceanus, the lord of the seas, Hyperion, the lord of light, Cronus, the lord of time, Coeus, the lord of intelligence, Prometheus, the lord of forethought and foresight, Selene, the lady of the night, Atlas the lord of strength, Eos, the lady of dawn and Helios, the lord of the sun. Uranous stood from his smoke-like chair and smiled, “Welcome, friend of all races. We have been watching you for quite some time, and we have desire to speak to you this night.” he sat, signaling his brother Oceanus and his sister, Gaia, to rise from their seats and bid Redoran a fair welcome. Uranous, nodding as his siblings made their greeting, began to speak again, “We desire to truly meet in person, for only the three of us have true form here in your consciousness at this moment, but while we are here, we have important matters to briefly discuss.” Redoran nodded tentatively, he knew not how the Ancients went through their days, and how they treat those that were disrespectful to them so he kept his mouth shut. “We have monitored your home, Verequine for many decades now, for that shadow sorcerer mask was hidden for a very specific reason. Unlike most magical object you have encountered on this journey of yours to retrieve the five Mystic made items, it has more power than a Mystic, dragon and Human combined. The Dragon creator, the one that had created us

before all else was made, could succumb to the power of the shadow magic imbued in that mask. We require you to retrieve the items before the Shrouded One does, for if she gains control of all five, she will have the ability to dethrone each of us, and become the supreme ruler of the realms. “Right at this moment, we are only allowed to push you in the right direction so that you may succeed in your task. Gaia has the map of the true Irequoci with her right now, but can give you a mental copy so that you do not have to come straight to us and retrieve it. If you just let your mind flow freely, Gaia can enter your consciousness and implant the information you seek directly to your memory.” Redoran, wary of these ancient and powerful beings, decided to speak before letting anything come of him, “I do not desire to be given a memory that I will soon forget, I have decided to come to you. I shall depart for you tomorrow night. Which territory do you reside in?” Gaia smiled gently, then she made her first words of the meeting, and she sounded like swan-song, “We do not live in any of the territories, but if you were to put us in any relative perspective, we would be above the Nomad Territory, a floating haven in the sky. And if you desire to reach us, you will have to breach the gates themselves, which are barred to any outsiders to our abode. We will have to let you in, so you shall have to time your arrival appropriately.” Redoran shook his head, “Flight is not reliable, I can't time my departure and arrival, which will cause hazard. Mayhaps, I will be able to create an elaborate act for you to recognize, so that you may let me enter.” “Your proposition on your admission is a well made one,” Uranous chuckled, “You shall call your name, draw Turic and then salute. And then we shall let you in.” Redoran smiled, “We have that set, now may you release my consciousness so that I may depart sooner, or at least appear to leave sooner.” Gaia snapped, and Redoran was dashed away in the breeze that reduced him to sand, then she spoke to her brothers, “Shall we tell him once he arrives, or shall he discover by himself? For he truly deserves the truth.” Uranous's face went grim, “If we tell him, we will all be in jeopardy, if we don't tell him, it will also be disastrous, for he will be concentrating on his sorrow than on his quest.” he placed his head on his hand, “I do not know what we shall do, perhaps we shall lead him to the truth, instead of giving it straight to him.” “I pray your plan works brother.” Redoran's eyes fluttered open, it was still dark, so he could not see well. He reached in front of him, hoping to brush against the shoulder of Orviror, but as his arm extended to full length, no contact with flesh was made. Suddenly his pulse increased, rising to tremendous levels, fear for Orviror overriding all of his other nerves and reflexes. He tossed aside his blanket and tossed himself out of the flaps of the tent. He stopped just outside the temporary lodging and stared around, a deep shadow had enclosed the encampment. A crack ended the silence of the night, followed by the shrill cry of terror coming from the north. The shadows lifted and there was a bright light shifting in colours from red, orange and yellow. Fire. Redoran cursed, a shademancer had taken away Orviror, and now he was going to burn down the Auran tribe with the abilities of a pyromancer. “You Bastard!” Redoran jumped high into the air and looked about the northern end of the encampment, there was no one there, despite the sound that had come from that direction not even a minute prior. He began to shout the loudest he could, “Get out of your tents, fire has ripped through

your arms tent to the north, hasten, hasten!” he landed on the ground and rushed through the encampment to Xelos' pavilion. Barely seconds after, he brushes against Xelos, running to his right, “Evacuate all your people, women and children first, they are at the most risk!” Redoran exclaimed over the crackling of the fire and the screams of young children and women fearing for their lives. “Have your men collapse the tents so that the fire is put out!” out of the corner of his eye, he saw Xelos nod. Then he continued on his way to help empty the encampment of those powerless against the fire. His eyes grew heavy, his limbs weakened, and he collapsed in a ball on the soil, unconscious.

Good Sir, Why?
“Uggh, where am I?” Redoran groaned as his eyes opened slowly, his limbs were numb and he felt blood dribbling down his chin, flowing from his lower lip. He struggled to move but discovered he was bound with enchanted rope, and it tightened itself around his wrists, ankles and stomach. He coughed a mite of blood and cursed. “Where are you you shademancer? Show your face!” A moan escaped lips from behind Redoran. Orviror. “Redoran, help me!' she cried, “This hurts so much!” she spluttered up some maroon liquid from her lungs, helping her to breathe. Laughter pervaded their ears, a deep masculine chuckle, “You two are pathetic, a Mystic whom I have met before and a beautiful human who I shall have the pleasure of meeting. Well, Redoran, do you recognize me?” An inky figure appeared before Redoran, whirling about enough to form a solid shape. A bewildered gasp mingled with a moan escaped Redoran's lips, for the figure before him was Shilara's father. “I thank you for taking my daughter off my hands and then having her taken over by a malignant spirit. Because of you I turned to spirit magic to save my own daughter. You shall pay for not keeping her safe, and here I shall deal you the blow you deserve, I will kill your friend here, who seems almost as precious to you as my daughter was. “You see, Shilara was my only daughter, and the only one I could ever have, for her mother died when she was young, and that struck pain into my heart, so I treasure her for as long as I had her. I treated her well and then you came along and she fell in love, she went with you across the continent, for what, she became a host to a shadow sorcerer long gone, trapped in a mask. “Now you will lose the closest thing to you. Your friend.” he brought up his hand, uttering demonic whispers, releasing shadows from his fingertips. They slowly made their way to Orviror's neck, moving at a pace unbearable to watch, for Redoran could do nothing to save either of them. He was bound in magic and so was Orviror. No doubt the king had uttered spells to halt the uttering of spells from Redoran, but it was unlikely that he knew about the teachings he gave Orviror. He tried to rotate so that he faced his partner, but the rope lashed around him continued to constrict, contracting until Redoran coughed another spurt of blood, it had begun to lacerate his skin to the point of congealing plasma. He groaned in discomfort. The king began to laugh menacingly, the shadows pouring from his finger tips writhed in unison with his laughing. He turned to Redoran, “This is what happens when you ruin a life, destroy it. You yourself shall be punished.” the black shadow tentacles touched Orviror's skin and entangled themselves around her bound body. And all she could do is scream in terror and pain. The darkness continued to spiral around her torso, wrapping around her stomach, then breast, making its way towards her face. It whirled to her neck and layered itself thickly there, beginning to strangle. Redoran let out a cry as he heard the breathless cries of his friend behind him. “you beast!” Redoran choked out, he needed to free himself of this man's grasp so he could save the one he truly cared about. All of a sudden, a darkness descended upon the three, and the king's concentration was shattered, and Orviror could let her breath flow from her open mouth. But what Redoran found disturbing is the release of his bindings and the slight tingle he had riding down his back. A spurt of blood splashing against the earth destroyed the stillness of the steady breathing. “You are safe Redoran, but for saving you, you must give up something precious to you, Orviror will be safe with me, and you shall not have any contact with her until I release her from my possession when it is required.” the voice seemed almost familiar to both Redoran and

Orviror. But both of them shrugged it off as mere coincidence. The darkness was lifted, and all that was left there was Redoran, bewildered, yet alive, and he knelt down on his knees. Tears flowed from his eyes, which were red and stinging. Sobs escaped his lips as he cried hard and long, this was the second one he loved that was torn away from him. “Why do you have to pull everything I love away from me! You damnable gods!” he remained frozen there, sorrow filling his heart, he knew that it wouldn't help but it wouldn't hurt.

Long Time No See, Beautiful
Redoran grieved still over the loss of the one he cared about, as the tears continued to spill over his scaled snout as he flew north to the Nomad Territory, where he would hopefully unravel some of the questions locked in the recesses of his mind, the questions to why all that had transpired has, or even why he was the centre of all this action. “Why must I be the one to lose the loves that I had so tenderly nurtured like a flower, the blossoms were just forthcoming, but were snipped away by a pair of shears?” Redoran lamented over his tremendous losses. But he was being followed, he could sense it. He twitched his tail instinctively, which brought a fit of female dragon giggles, a deep, gravely sound that sounded almost laudable. Redoran had to rotate his neck to face the being following, she was familiar, a sapphire scaled dragon, ivory horns growing from her head and the milky blue hue within her mesmerizing eyes “Crazharkt? Is it really you?” “In the flesh, oh mighty Ochriactuin. I apologize for following you and not making my presence known until this moment.” She smiled, revealing her sharp teeth, perfectly smooth and bone-white. “It has been a long time, since I last saw you.” “I know,” Redoran halted his flight and waited for Crazharkt to come to his side. When she had arrived he continued his speech and propulsion, “You have grown well, as I can now see you are almost the size of I. No doubt you are due for an egg within the next few years, I shall hope it turns out alright because I may not be here for that time.” She began to breathe nervously, but Redoran knew not why. “You would be correct Ochriactuin, I actually should have one within my next year for it has been almost twenty two years since my birth, but there is only one problem with the situation.” she looked away for a brief moment. “Why is this?” Redoran asked tentatively, for he knew not what she would say or how she would react. All he could do is wait for the answer. “I have not found a desirable mate for such a thing, and because of the shadow sorcerer, there aren't many of us left, we are sparse and few between, I am actually surprised I found you here after so many years, considering she killed all the green dragons she could find.” explained Crazharkt, she had begun to cry herself. Redoran came as close to her as possible and tapped her foreleg gently with his wingtip, attempting to reassure her. “It will be alright, you can find someone whom you shall love enough to have a child with. You could have one within the next month if you searched hard enough.” “You may be right.” she tried to smile, but all that she could muster was a blank face. “Could we converse on something else, for this is growing heavy on my heart?” “We could, what would you like to talk about?” Redoran asked, smiling. “Where are you going?” she questioned, for she was curious, Redoran could see that in her eyes. Redoran smiled, “I thought you might ask that.” he stated, “I am going to see the ancients within their home, they have invited me to have an audience with them, perhaps to give me something or tell me something.” Redoran explained, “I know not what is to happen, but if you desire to come with me, you may, but should you, you must wait outside the gates while I am given audience.” Crazharkt thought deeply, considering what she would do, and when she was finished, she nodded and returned a statement to the green dragon flying beside her, “I shall venture with you today, but, I make a simple request, if you can get the ancients to permit my entrance, do so.” “I will try all I can, but I can not promise results.” Redoran chuckled. An awkward

silence followed before Crazharkt disturbed the stillness. “How did you survive the onslaught brought upon by the shadow sorcerer? Because not even Azhrachsti survived.” Crazharkt asked. Redoran flew for a moment before he answered, “I was not here in Irequoci, I was in another realm where creatures known a Shazhar live, they are a race of people born of fire, for their flesh is surrounded by a blaze, so they fear water.” Redoran shook his head, “I was treated well among their people, and I grew close to the daughter of the Elder of their race, she was my previous lover whom was taken away from me by an unknown sorcerer. I had learned much while I was there, for I resided in their world for the past ten years.” He explained, “What has happened to you while I was gone?” “Not much has happened, that you did not know, but what transpired with me, just travelling abound the world searching for some respite so I could just settle down and wait.” they continued to fly on, slowly decreasing their speed until they were moving at such a crawling pace that night came before Redoran had arrived on the border of the Nomad Territory. Redoran began to descend from the altitude from which he flew, it was getting to the time where the moon was nearly at its full zenith at midnight, and he was growing weary from the short flight from the eastern Auran Region to the uttermost north of the same territory. “We should feast, then rest.” Crazharkt noted, but she said this just after Redoran had begun his drop. And she began to follow in his wingbeats. But asked if they should find food before they retired for the night. Redoran had replied with a positive answer, saying that he could sense a small group of deer nearby. Through the trees that reside around where they were to land, Redoran could see the family of animals with his enhanced vision, and started to dive at a steep angle to catch the creatures by surprise. Crashing into the brush, he clenched his jaws on an unsuspecting young doe, and dug his foreclaws into the bellies of two bucks, who went off kicking and attempting to run before they bled to death. He had to smile, for this was the first catch he had ever attained while within dragon-form, and he was proud that he caught not only one, but three prizes that he would have to devour to keep his strength for the next day, and maybe even farther into the future he flew up, out of the trees and returned to Crazharkt's side, boasting his good fortune. He had raised his head and displayed his marvelous kill, and Crazharkt had made a positive remark. “that is a good catch, but shall you share in your earned meal?” Crazharkt laughed heartily, the gravelly tone coming from her throat. “Of course you will, you've collected enough for three.” Redoran nodded, and returned to his flight, they were close to their landing zone and Redoran prepared for a two legged landing, for he would not want to crush his and friend's meal. Once they were directly above their destination, the beating of scaled wings lessened in intensity and speed, and they began to drop. Crazharkt guided Redoran to the soil below with a gentle touch with her wingtip, and he felt that it was necessary to return the gesture, and he brought his own ligament and set it against her shoulder scales. Touching down on the cold hard earth, Redoran dropped the deer, and let them roll so that he had enough space to land beside the female at his side. The loud thud that accompanied weight collapsing onto dirt, and creating a small earthquake only felt by the living things in the miniscule vicinity around the dragons. When the massive beasts had settled, Redoran gripped one of the carcasses of the bucks and passed it to the beautiful creature beside him, and she dug into the raw meat with vigour, tearing chunks from the bones without effort, and crushing the body with her mighty, powerful jaw.

Redoran watched Crazharkt with envy, he could not imagine how she could be able to do so without even considering the animal, not sparing it the decency to be buried. He felt it necessary to give the creature a burial once it was finished being eaten, but he wanted to not deprive himself of the experience of eating as his alternate form. “I apologize, I can not eat like this, I must change to my human form, is that okay with you , Crazharkt?” Redoran asked, “I prefer to have decency when I kill a helpless animal, for they deserve a fair burial.” Crazharkt lifted her gore soaked face from her meal, “If you do not desire to fill your belly fully, then I shall not retard you, do as you would wish.” she returned to eating, painting the beautiful blue glow of her scales scarlet. “Thank you.” he uttered before being engulfed by an emerald flame that shrank as he grew smaller and proportionate to the body of a Mystic. When he had changed completely, he sat, making an illustrious command with Mystic magic, calling the deer carcass to his fore. With a quick incantation he brought a knife to his hand and began to slice the meat off the animal, carving the flesh from the bones with an expert hand, his blade never scored the milky white substance beneath the red muscles. Soon, he had removed all of the muscle and sinew from the dead beast, and had constructed a small cooking fire from spare twigs littering the ground around the clearing. With a long stick, being used as a spit, Redoran cooked a small enough chunk to sustain himself, but not deprive. The meat roasted slowly, and evenly as Redoran span the long tree branch. The once red article of food became brown, and could be eaten without an after illness. Drawing the wood from above the fire, Redoran removed the meat, and bit into it ferociously, for he was famished. Setting down the meat after a few deep bites, Redoran had to return to a conversation, for it was getting deathly quiet. “I do not know why you had followed me, could you please tell me why?” Crazharkt finished her meal, and rotated her head to Redoran, she smiled with her massive ivory teeth, “I just wanted someone to be with, someone that I knew that I could speak to and relate to. All I could find was you.” Redoran thanked her for the answer she gave, and then he ensued silence, for night was upon them and he grew tired, but before he could go to sleep, an owls coo echoed through the forest around them. A bird came flying towards the male Mystic, and landed on his finger. It was a beautiful bird, and its song, a spirit singing from the body of a sweet and small creature, almost heavenly. Its breast was a rich cream, flecked with light specks of light brown, its back and wings, a soft shade of copper, its twig-like legs, bent and leading to the claws which wrapped themselves around Redoran's first finger. Redoran whispered into its ear, and it took flight, “Do you know what animal that was?” He asked the sapphire dragon. “No, I do not.” she replied. “That bird was a Catharus fuscescens, also known as a veery. Within the Mystic beliefs, to see one means to have fortune smiling down upon you, but to have one land upon your hand, means to be doomed. You have just witnessed one, but it has landed upon my ligament, so you shall see luck with what you deem requires luck to happen, while I have been given a terrible omen, that may or may not mean death or things far worse.” Redoran explained, his face began to contort with worry lines upon his brow, “Pray that your ambitions will become real.” Crazharkt nodded, smiling, though sympathy filled her large heart, “it was a beautiful bird, despite the nuisance of its dreadful song.” Redoran smiled then himself, “It is getting late, I believe we should retire until morn.” The sapphire dragon agreed, saying, “I would agree, and I doubt you would desire to be cold, would you be willing to nestle close to me heart to keep warm and lay beneath my wing to weather the elements?”

walking over to the beast's side, Redoran patted the beautiful scales, “If it would please you, and help me, I can not see any issues that might arise, so I shall gladly do so.” Crazharkt rolled onto her side and exposed her underside, Redoran could hear the heavy beating of her heart. She unfurled her wing so that it would be prepared for covering the Mystic, who began to set themselves down for rest, closing their eyes and letting sleep overcome them. Crazharkt lowered her appendage, enclosing Redoran in perfect darkness. “have a good sleep, Ochriactuin.” She let her milky blue eyes shut and unconsciousness availed her. Through the darkness, only a single, pulsating teal light could be seen through human eyes, the light forming alike to a massive egg, larger than a human torso. Redoran approached it with caution, for he knew not what it would happen to be. The pulsing of the light was synchronized with a sound akin to the beating of a heart, a steady thud that was rhythmic with Redoran's own. Redoran was close enough to touch the egg light, and he did so, reaching forward and resting his ligament upon the object, and looked with uninterrupted focus. After a stare that lasted for five seconds, he recoiled. He saw his face within the round item, but the features were changed slightly, the hair was teal, and likewise were the eyes. Redoran saw caring in those teal eyes, a sweetness that he, himself did not possess. The egg began to crack, splintering from the top down, shattering when the pressure within became intense enough to send shards of cracked eggshell across a room, and lacerate anyone within radius. Redoran was unscathed by the assault, but was still shocked at what he had seen. From what used to be the egg, a small dragon appeared, a baby of hybrid colour, of green and blue. It was curled up in a ball, it's tail wrapped around its body. The wings were petite, barely a forearm in length. It's eyes, were the same milky shade as Crazharkt's. Just a bare hint of its horns had begun to appear, only a pinky long. It turned to face Redoran, and with its barely developed vocal chords, uttered one word... “Daddy!”

Another Near Death Experience
Redoran awoke with a start, what had begun as an ordinary dream had become quite disturbing, why would a dragon child call him like a young son would his own father. This question plagued him as he moved away from the flesh of Crazharkt and lifting the wing that shielded the light of night or day. Redoran had exited the makeshift tent constructed of wing, and gazed up into the sun of breaking dawn, and feeling the dew upon his skin after a long spring night. The hour was young, and the female dragon had not yet woken. “A new day, fresh enough to take a stroll through the forest, before those that slumber through the night awaken.” Redoran commented to himself as he began to stride to the south, right of the rising sun. His tunic had grown filthy and damp through the night, due to the silt and morning wet, he decided that he would find a nearby creek to wash within, and bathe his soiled flesh. He could hear a steady flow of water nearby, perhaps half a kilometre, a bare seven minutes due his set direction. Redoran continued to progress, he broke the tree line and urged forward, having set his mind to the task, he would complete it. Every tree he passed, he laid a hand gently on the bark and whispered something indecipherable each time, seemingly blessing the trees themselves, the oaks, the maples, the poplars, even the occasional pine wood that was rarely seen abound the massive continent. This act proceeded until he arrived at a small waterway filled with brightly coloured goldfish, silverfish, and rainbow fish. Kneeling down, cupping his hands into the crisp water full of life, Redoran drew enough liquid to sustain him for a day, for he knew not if he be treated well within the Ancient's home he and Crazharkt would arrive at within the day. The water fell smoothly down his esophagus, cooling and quenching the thirst that aggrieved his belly. Once he had drunk his fill, he removed his silk shirt, revealing the scars delivered upon him by the beast he had encountered in the world of the shazhar. Wincing as he gazed upon the largest scar upon his body, he dropped the tunic into the water. It fell straight to the bottom, landing on the rocks set at the riverbed, and as the water flowed, so to did the stain upon the shirt, the dirt lifted and floated away, leaving the garment without filth. Wind blew through the lush greenery that surrounded the little creek, brushing against Redoran's exposed skin, sending chills through the spine. He drew the clothing from the water, and set it on a rock to dry while he bathed himself. He slowly made his way into the cool liquid flowing down the way. The crisp water lapped at his legs, sending chills all the way through his body. He continued forward into the water until it rose up to his middle thighs, and at that point he lowered his entire body, bending his knees until his face lie beneath the waterline. He moved his hands soothingly all across his body, washing away all the dirt and grime, releasing it down the creek. His face burst out of the water with a gasp, the air within his lungs was depleted and the water was cold on his flesh. He began to exit the water, walking slowly towards the land. When Redoran was ankle deep, a skeleton hand suddenly came out of the water, grasped Redoran's calf, and pulled hard and hasty, causing Redoran to fall into the water, his head colliding with a sharp stone on the base of the creek. Blood flowed freely from the hole in his head, draining the consciousness from his mind. He fought to stay awake, but the loss of blood was forcing his brain to decrease its function, and lower his heart rate. The hand continued to pull upon his leg, and he was dragged back into the middle of the waterway, being drowned because of the possessed hand that clamped itself around his leg. He spluttered in an attempt to breathe, he inhaled liquid, and it filled his chest until he could no longer take in oxygen. Death was close.

Above the water, a roar echoed across the landscape, followed by a flash of bright blue that burned the tops of the trees over the creek. Crazharkt came and ripped the trees from the ground by their roots. She bellowed a mighty cry of anger, and with a brilliant display of grace, dipped her talons into the water, wrapped them around the unconscious form of Redoran and pulverized the bones in the process. She flew up, carrying the almost dead Mystic in her claws.

She's Pissed
Redoran coughed, spluttering up the water that filled his lungs, and then took a deep breath, he was alive. He attempted to sit, but found himself stuck fast within an iron grip. As he began to regain full consciousness he became aware of the lack of support in his middle back, and the scaly claws holding him up. A groan escaped his lips as he felt the bruises on his leg and the pain in his skull due to the rock puncturing his head. “Thank you for saving me, if you had not come and taken me from that creature I would have died.” Redoran uttered. “You were reckless.” Crazharkt replied, “If you had've stayed where I was, that would not have happened and you would be fine and flying yourself. For now rest, until we arrive at the doorway to the Ancient's home. It should only be a short while now.” Redoran let silence ensue, despite the heavy thuds of wing beats. He rolled over onto his front, looking down unto the earth, feeling the weightlessness as he was being carried. A low monotone chanting carried over the wind, and he could see the source, a group of druidic acolytes stood around a ring of stones. He recognized the language they spoke, Mystic tongue. He translated their words into manspeech, and then repeated them aloud, “...Grant us the wisdom of old, oh great being of Aisenai, deliver upon this troupe knowledge above all else...” was all he could decipher because of the steady increase of distance that he and Crazharkt had committed to. The wind rushed by as they sped up, whistling in both their ears, causing Redoran to go deaf for a moment. “How far until we arrive there, do you expect?” Redoran shouted over the loud wind blowing in his sensitive ears. He could not see the valley floating in midair before the shining beast that carried him “It is less than a minute away, only a couple wingbeats, does that satisfy you?” she asked Redoran, irritation seeping into her voice. Redoran recognized the situation he was within, and said nothing. He would continue to be silent for the remainder of the trip.

Meet the Ancients
The heavy thud of weight collapsing on soil echoed across the sky, extending in all directions as Crazharkt touched down and dropped Redoran, who had closed his eyes and had begun to drift into sleep, for no other reason than to remove himself from the pain. The island in the sky was magnificent, despite the appearance of only a gateway of solid platinum, with detailing made with pure gold. At the pinnacle of the gate arch, a massive diamond shaped like a heart was placed. Within this gem, a beautiful singing radiated, it was soft, calming. Redoran opened his eyes to see the amazing display of beauty, and he knew that this was where they were supposed to be. He struggled to stand, blood rushing to his head and dripping slowly from the puncture wound in his head, causing him to stumble and become lightheaded. The weight was missing from his hip, so his balance was off. The marveled gate swung open slowly, squeaking on oiled hinges, and a woman of monstrous size came forward from a vertical, rippling pond that radiated a strange energy and bright light. She was as beautiful as the sunset, magnificent hues of orange, red, and yellow were caught within her soft eyes, and within seconds it changed to a midnight blue, almost black, flecked with white dots. Lady Selene, the Ancient that presided over dusk and night. Within her eyes, Redoran could see serenity and solemnity, as if she could see his death fast approaching. “Welcome!” she said in an almost singsong voice, “To the valley of dreams, the home to emissaries of the ancients and the ancients themselves. I am Lady Selene, and your supervisor while you stay here.” “Thank you Lady Selene, but I do not require any supervision, but I do require medical attention, for this hole in my head is causing nothing but grief.” He managed to say before he collapsed backwards onto the flying earth. Minutes later he awoke to find himself feeling awake and energized. He bore upon his body a new set of cloths that fit him perfectly, a soft tunic of an unknown material, and leggings of the lightest leather. Boots had been sized to his feet and laid beside the bed in which he lay. A cold numbness encircled his crown, soothing the nerves. A gentle hand squeezed his ligament, rough and shifting, like the sea, and he woke up. His shiny emerald eyes fluttered open to see the sea-green of the ocean within the eyes of the Ancient known as Oceanus, the lord of water. “It took you longer than we had expected. Are you alright?” Redoran raised his free hand to his head, which was dressed in a fine cloth that appeared slightly wet. It was tied at the back, only loosely, and he began to untie the knot. He was not stopped, and once he was finished he laid it beside himself. The hole that was within his head had disappeared, and all that was left was a scar, small, but it was still there. “I am fine now, thank you for patching me up well.” Redoran swung his legs to the side of the bed, “Where is my companion?” “She is fine. She is in the audience clearing as we speak, which we should get to now if we want any time for a discussion of magnitude.” Selene stated as she entered Redoran's view. “If you are well enough, that is.” her eyes sparkled as shooting stars dashed across her iris. “I am well,” he stood up and walked up to the lady of the night, placing a hand on her ancient shoulder, “let us go then.” Selene removed the Mystic's hand from her body and rotated a semicircle, departing the natural room Redoran had rested in moments before. Oceanus appeared at Redoran's side and then assumed the same gesture as him, placing his old hand on the young man's arm, winking.

Redoran gazed in awe as he entered the clearing in which the ancients held vast discussions. There were trees of solid, pure gold, and the fruit the bore, silver beyond any mortal manufacture, reflecting light even when there was none. At soil level, lilies, tulips, roses, and many numerous flowers of ranging beauty, the air was sweet like honeyed sugar, and the scent was intoxicating, filling the nostrils of all the occupants, sending thrills of ecstasy through their flesh and up their spine. The ground was soft, but not mushy like a blood-soaked field. The sky was a bright blue, yet it was filled with many dark dots. There were thirteen seats made of carved tree, but only twelve ancients. Crazharkt stood on the edge of the clearing, watching. “Hello Redoran.” Uranous said, he was garbed in a kilt of white cloud, and his torso was bare. Gray were the eyes within his head, gray like cumulonimbus clouds about to pour. A beard of light gray adorned his jawline, giving him an old appearance. “You took longer than we had expected, a day longer.” Redoran knelt to his knees, “I apologize, I did not want to fly through the night, as we would never have arrived as early as we did.” “it is alright, but it is precious time lost in the war with the shadow sorcerer. We all hope you can keep our weight upon your shoulders for now though.” Gaia explained. She was the lady of the earth and nature, so all she wore was vines wrapped around her breast and leaves at her waist suspended by small twigs. Her eyes were a murky brown, flecked with green stripes from the pupil to the edge of the irises, akin to topsoil and grass. “That we are.” agreed Oceanus who had just sat down. “You are the only hope for this world, Redoran. The only hope we have are the five items, which one you already possess, and the others within your grasp. Except one, the staff.” Redoran stood, “Are you sure, I came across the helmet accidentally, I had no idea it existed until I heard about it momentarily, and I know not where the other three are. Unless you can tell me where they are, I will be unable to complete this quest.” Prometheus, the lord of forethought and foresight stood. “We are in possession of the riddles designed to show you the way to each item.” His head was covered in clear hair, and he wore nothing upon his body except a loincloth. He was a strange Ancient, for he had three eyes, two golden eyes in their normal place, and a third, closed eye in his forehead. “Well then, please tell me the next riddle so that I may continue my journey to defeat this menace that has plagued this land for many generations.” Redoran uttered, “I would preferably hope you tell me the riddle that leads me to the armour.” “No! Not now!” Uranous thundered, standing up and pounding his chest once, then seating himself again.” Redoran looked over at Crazharkt for reassurance, but when she just returned the gaze, Redoran felt no less secure. “What I had originally called you here for, was to tell you a truth which you will find either most pleasing or make you go mad with rage.” Redoran nodded, not willing to speak. “Redoran, your father did not die when everyone believed he did, he lived and hid, deep in the recesses of the world, where not even the tunneling dwarves would dare go. He knew this day would come.”

Why Must You Do This To Me
The news hit Redoran like a rock in the gut; he almost staggered back as his mind processed this information. His father was alive! How could this be? Had he faked his own death? He struck his fist against his thigh, sending shooting pain up his leg and through his body, “Tell me where he is now! Tell me the riddle!” his mind went into a frenzy, and the control he had in himself was no longer there. The revelation that his consciousness analyzed, he could not contain. “Tell me now!” “We do not know where he resides.” Atlas stated. He was a burly man, with four arms and a massive hammer strapped across his back. His abdomen was hard as diamond, and he could crush mountains with one punch. All he wore was a pair of leather pants. “I must find him then!” Redoran exclaimed, “Give me the riddle and I will be on my way to complete this quest and find the man whom shares my blood!” he stomped once, hard. Coeus spoke, “The white ice of north, beneath surfaces lie your destination, only the strong and ancient may enter.” he had no definitive shape, almost like the swirling tendrils of the minds chaos. He was the lord of knowledge and wisdom. “Thank you my lord. Now I will be on my way.” he turned around towards the exit of the clearing, “Crazharkt, we must leave.” The blue dragon turned to face the Mystic that was departing, then glanced back at the ancients, and saw in their eyes the truth. they knew where Redoran's father was, that she knew. “Good bye, lords and ladies of the elements.” Redoran entered the portal that separated the home of the ancients from the land of the mortals, who were completely oblivious to their lowly existence. Determination was spread across his face like a mask, and it contorted his face into a hideous visage, creases formed in his brow, gooseflesh dominated his body in anxiety, and an ethereal chill that swept through his body without a moment's notice. But, despite his appearance, the emotion he truly felt was fear, he was afraid that he would not live up to the expectations of his people, afraid he would not survive the ordeal that would stare him in the face, afraid of life itself. Crazharkt followed close behind, beautiful face displaying signs of worry. “Are you okay?” “I am fine. I just can't believe my father evaded us all, and because he wanted to.” Redoran hit his leg again, in anger, and raised his face to the sky. “Toying with my emotions, taking my friends from me, What next you bastards?!” he sank to his knees, and shoved his face into his hands and began to cry, tears flowing freely from the tear ducts within his head. Crazharkt raised a sapphire wing and touched Redoran's seemingly frail body with the wingtip, “It'll be alright. how about we rest up for the journey tomorrow.” “No! Tomorrow we make for Crystal Mountain, there is something there that I need, a book of spells I had written many years ago. I just hope it still exists.” Redoran removed his head from the appendages at the end of his arm. “Today, I will not sleep, for I have much to think on.” “Fine.” Crazharkt laid down, “but, if our detour takes too long and the shadow sorcerer retrieves another item, I will be the one to tear you apart, doesn't matter if I love you or not.” and she turned away in embarrassment, she immediately regretted her words. “You love me?” Redoran blinked in astonishment, he should have been used to this, females being drawn to him, but after all his traumatic pains, it was as surprising as the first encounter. “This complicates everything! Do you know what happened to the last two who loved me, they were torn from my grasp. The first became the shadow sorcerer, and the second

was captured by someone I do not know. I cannot stand another falling prey to my misfortunes!” “I will not, for I am stronger than those others.” She closed her eyes, “When I told you about the egg, I lied, it is due for shorter, perhaps only days away, maximum two weeks. I had hoped to win your heart within these time constraints, but you seem to not care about my hints, or you ignore them outright.” Redoran frowned, “I did not even recognize your hints, I just saw them as friendly acts of kindness, I am so sorry. But I do love you as well, I loved you the first day I saw you, those ten years ago when I had arrived in the Koric mountains. Though I do not know why you would feel attracted to someone like me when you, yourself are a majestic being of higher quality than those of the earth.” “Race has no boundary on the care that each of us gives the other.” Redoran pondered on her statement before answering, “That may be true, but, civilization looks down upon such things. So unless we can transform you into something that the people will look up at you, this relationship will not work...” he paused, thinking. “...wait, I remember a dragonmagic symbol set that would work in this situation. I had once changed a plant into a gemflower of beauty, just a slight altering of the set would allow me to change you into something akin to a Mystic though without magic.” Crazharkt smiled, baring her fangs, “If you are to do that, then we must call me by my translated name. Crystal.” “That we would.” Redoran laughed, “Sleep well, Crystal.” “I will, have no doubt about that.” Crazharkt let her mind drift into a restless sleep. Redoran knelt there, unblinking, hoping that the fate that had befallen his previous lovers would not come down upon Crazharkt. Sorry. Crystal. He would have to get used to that, calling her by the human name that her name was translated into. Then he remembered the spell he had been given by the black dragon before he had departed, he would be able to go to the mountain and return before Crystal had awoken. He moved his hand to the symbols upon his leg, and a portal appeared in the ground before him, and he could see the temple in its splendour. He was surprised that The Shrouded One hadn't destroyed it before now. Redoran stood and stepped into the portal, and he was now at the entrance to the temple, but to his surprise, there was a mirror. But when the mirror started to speak, Redoran knew that something was wrong. “Hello, son.” Alstinen said, smiling, “It is a long time since I last saw you my boy.”

Crazharkt's Transformation
“Father?” Redoran choked. “Yes, and I am very sorry for hiding in the shadows, and keeping you in the dark. Could you forgive me?” he was a perfect mirror of Redoran, the long hair and the eyes pure emerald. Redoran clenched his teeth behind a closed mouth, “How can I forgive you? You hide from me and the rest of the world, without even as much as a farewell. Leave, now. Because of what you did, I will never let you back in my life!” “Redoran!” Alstinen exclaimed as his son rushed deftly passed him, “I had to, if I hadn't, the world would have been destroyed before now because I would have put on that mask. I needed to hide from the overpowering lure of strength, so I hid.” “Just disappear, I have work to do.” He pushed open the doors to the temple, causing a loud creak. He rushed inside and down a corridor until he arrived at the room which used to be his. Alstinen appeared at the door behind him, “Please son, give me another chance, and I’ll make it up to you.” Redoran rifled through the desk which he stored all his possessions in, and found a leather bound book. He lifted it onto the desk and flipped the cover, and there, on the heavy paper, were the symbols that had been placed upon his flesh, many of them. He closed the book and dove deeper into the drawer. Within a minute, he brought out a small bottle of mottled goldgreen liquid and a sharp quill. “I told you to disappear, I have work to do!” Redoran turned and shouted, “Your not welcome in my life anymore, I already told you that, now get out.” Alstinen stepped back, “Fine, if you desire that, I will be going.” then he disappeared in a flash of light and tendrils. Redoran gathered all the objects he had come for in a bag. “I hope this works.” Crystal awoke, stretching her legs. Her jaw opened wide, showing her brilliant fangs. Milky blue eyes opened to see Redoran, sitting there. “Good morning.” Redoran had the book open on his lap, dragging his fingers down the pages, scanning for a spell that would transform the dragon that had just awoken. He flipped the page and his eyes opened wide. Crystal noticed this action and enquired, “What is it?” she extended her wings and brought them back in. “I have gone to the Crystal Mountain and brought back the book. I searched through the book until I found a spell that would work to change you into a mortal form, while allowing you to alternate forms.” Redoran watched as Crystal stood and yawned again. “Good. Now, could you do the spell now?” Crystal walked over to Redoran and looked over at the text written in the book, and then gasped. “You know how to read this?” Crystal asked, astonished as she gazed at the archaic text. “Yes. Why? Can’t you?” Redoran asked, equally bewildered.” Crystal continued to stare at the symbols without answering, she was bewitched by the swirling lines and sweeping arcs of the written figures. “I Wrote this, I did not know what it was until I was given this...” he showed her his arm, “dragonmagic.” he pulled his arm back towards his body hastily. “What was I supposed to see?” Crystal said in bemusement, she had not seen the symbols that he had pushed into her face. Redoran waved his hand in dismissal, then proceeded to speak. “If I can write this upon

one of your scales, I would be able to channel energy through that symbol combination, into your body, therefor, transforming your body in that of a mortal being.” he brought his hand to his chin, “Are you sure you want me to do this?” “Yes. Please.” Crystal closed her eyes tight, waiting for Redoran to write upon her body. Out came the ink from the pack Redoran had so easily obtained. The quill would be useless upon a hard surface like scales. He would have to use his own fingers to paint. He dipped his first finger into the liquid and felt a burning begin in his fingertips, but continued on, bringing his hands to rest above Crystal’s left foreleg. Once his hand was in position, there was a blur of action, Crystal could barely see the Mystic’s hands as they worked their way through intricate lines and complex curves. Redoran stepped back as he finished his work, the golden-green ink seeping into the hard surface, he would have to transfer the energy now if he were to succeed in his project. He closed his eyes and grasped onto the energy wave flowing through the air, creating a dam and then redirecting it through the fabric of time into the bright light burning within his sight. The magic gushed through like a torrent of water lapping upon an unsuspecting shore. Soon, the air around them was dry and powerless, but he saw not what had become of his work. The lids of his eyes spread apart and he saw what he had done. Standing before him, was not a massive, majestic beast, but a beautiful woman, barely beginning her twentieth summer. Crystal’s new shoulder-length hair was a gorgeous cyan, silvery, but blueish-green, but the eyes, the eyes that were so filled with kindness, was still the milky blue hue. Her body was perfect in every way, swaying hips, long, thin legs. She opened her mortal eyes and moved her ligaments about to get a feel of them. When she had gained control of her bodily functions, she managed to choke out between tears of joy and harmonious laughter, “Thank you. Thank you. Thank you!” she struggled to walk towards Redoran, and she fell onto her front. Redoran smiled, and helped her up. Crystal wrapped her new arms around his torso and squeezed with all she could muster, embracing him with as much force as she had within her body. “Your crushing me...” Redoran coughed as his lungs compressed and all the oxygen within his lungs shot out. She released him immediately and kissed him on the cheek. “Thank you, Redoran, you have given me all I would ever want. The ability to be with you forever.” Crystal backed away slowly, hoping she did not have the same accident she had moments earlier. Redoran smiled, but then began to frown, “I am sorry, if you were hoping to be with me forever from this moment on. The child you are hoping to have soon, I will not father it.” “Redoran, you don’t know what you’re saying.” Crystal stated, “If a female dragon does not mate before the egg is laid, the child that grows within it will die as the egg is laid. You will be responsible for the death of a child. Do you want my unborn child to die? Please Redoran, this will be my first child, and it would be terrible if I could never see it.” Redoran shook his head, “Unless you can convince me otherwise, I am very sorry, but I will be gone into the land where I can find the second piece of the armour.” Crystal began to tear, “You are terrible.” “I am so sorry, but I can’t think of that right now, having a child would a distraction, a problem for me to deal with, and what could cause the world to cease being how it is.” Redoran was engulfed in the flame of transformation.

To A Long Forgotten Place
A bitter silence had ensued after that conversation, even as they flew through the sky. No words were exchanged, Redoran had wanted to distance himself from her for a while, because she had just been through a slightly traumatic event. Having a child and it dying before it was truly born was something that would spark sorrow and grief. The white ice of north, beneath surfaces lie your destination, only the strong and ancient may enter. What could it mean? The white ice of north, could only mean that they had to find the northern ice, but no where in Irequoci had ice year round. Beneath surfaces lie you destination, Redoran assumed this meant that he had to break through the ice. Only the strong and ancient may enter... “What could the last clue mean, the strong and ancient? Could it be meaning a strong creature with ancient ties, or a strong old man? It wasn’t much of a riddle.” They were travelling over the western edge of the territory without a name, the state that Verequine resided within. The sights below were amazing, the greenery would open in clearings, in which Redoran could see standing stones in a circle. Crystal decided to break the silence, “I am sorry for lashing out at you earlier. You understand why I did it though? Right?” Redoran nodded, “You care for the unborn child within your body, I would have felt the same in your position. But, if you had’ve told me about the proper timing, I might have felt differently.” Redoran felt a weight begin to settle on his shoulders, the heaviness of sympathy. Crystal decided not to press the matter further and the silence returned. It would be a long time before either one of the two would get over the trauma. Especially Crystal. Redoran broke the still that lay suspended in the air a second time, “I have been thinking about the riddle.” Redoran paused for a comment but when none was forthcoming, he continued to speak, “The white ice of north could mean winter, or it is possible there is a cold spot out in the ocean, large enough to be a portal. Beneath the surface lies your destination could mean that we must shatter the ice and go through it. But I don’t know what, only the strong and ancient may enter, means. “Perhaps it means dragons, for we are one of the oldest and strongest races.” Crystal offered, knowing that he would react to that positively. “You may be right. And let’s hope you’re right.” Redoran said as he flew along. The weight that had been there moments before, had lessened due to the release of pent up energy. the ocean spanned across in all directions, gently lapping upon itself, waves crashing through each other. It was a soothing sight, to see the rippling of an almost glass-like substance. Many times did the two dragon dive beneath its surface, for bathing and drink, and only once or twice for food. It had been a long time since they had begun their journey across the land, and it was growing close to nightfall, but they would search through the night until they found their destination. Cold swept through the air like a forest fire, blowing softly across the majestic beasts’ torsos, The moon began to rise in the sky, hidden by dark fluffy clouds about to burst in a shower of thunder, lightning, and a downpour. They hoped it would not become stormy before they found the ice. Redoran watched the western horizon, and viewed a bright beacon of light appear on the edge of his sight. No. Not a beacon. A glowing that was not seen upon the land, ethereal or real. It was a jagged neon pulse, warm and beckoning. They were both strangely attracted towards it. Within minutes they were able to see the object clearly. A patch of white ice, reflecting

the light reflected off the water, which is why it seemed like a steady beat, but the heat could not be explained, except, Redoran knew the reason. Active magic gave off a distinct warmth when in large amounts, this was where they were supposed to be, the entrance to the realm where the armour was kept. Their wings flapped harder, propelling them the fastest their sore wing could. It would be a relief when they broke through the ice and arrived. They could rest, breathe deeply, and sleep. “We’re nearly there!” Redoran exclaimed joyfully, though he hoped he would be greeted better than he was when he entered the fire realm. Crystal smiled, revealing her teeth in a gleeful manner. “I knew we would find it quickly, it wouldn’t be too hard.” but her smile broke as easily as it was made. Redoran knew what he must do, but he did not want to, it would only complicate things. The ice was almost directly below them now, and they were far above the ocean. They would plummet through the air, dive through the ice, breaking it, and then be transported through the portal. “Redoran...” Crystal said, almost crying, “...I’m scared. We might just collapse against the ice and get seriously injured.” Redoran acknowledged her statement, “If you are afraid to be hurt, cling to me while we dive, the ice should break then.” Redoran tipped his nose towards the chunk of frozen water, and maintained his altitude, waiting for Crystal to grasp onto him. Crystal mimicked Redoran’s pose and moved slowly towards him. When she was breast to breast with him, her wings folded around his neck, almost like a hug. Her head buried itself in his neck and the tail at the base of the spine wrapped around his. “Hold on tight!” Redoran exclaimed as he folded his wings inward. They fell at an alarming rate faster than a shooting star going across the night sky. The ice cracked and splintered, shattering as the two magnificent beast collided with it. The barrier was broken, and they were admitted into freezing water, frost glistening on their scales and movement laboured. Crystal released herself from the male dragon she had clung to, and began to look around. It was dark, that was all her mind registered. But there was something else, a residual illumination from below. Redoran was the first to notice this, and his eyes opened wide. It was a great city, as large as Tomb Island in Irequoci. He had heard tales of a legendary city that resided below the waters, bedtime stories his father told him. It was called, Atlantis. Scales prickled up on both the dragon’s necks, and they felt air rush through. Filters. “Crystal.” Redoran managed to speak, despite water going into his mouth, “This is Atlantis, a great city my father told me of.” the female dragon looked down and her jaw dropped, all she could do was gasp at the beautiful sight that her eyes befell upon. It was glowing, bustling with commotion. “Atlantis.” Redoran repeated with shock still persistent within his voice. “Let’s go down there.”

the gel-like outer wall of the city was biological, and bioluminescent, creating the glow in which they had seen high above the underwater city. It was soft, squishy, and when Redoran’s wing brushed briefly against the material, there was nothing. Within the gel, creatures almost akin to a human had gathered at the edge of the city to watch the dragons swim. The people had the same body shape as men, but there was no physical indications of sex, and there were gills on either side of the face and neck. They had some fish-like scales along their arms and legs. They were beckoning the beasts in the water into their city waving their hands frantically. Redoran whipped his tail through the gel and felt the weight lessen upon entering Atlantis. Soon his entire body had entered the habitation, along with Crystal and they were being treated well. The creatures had all bowed down at their feet, uttering what Redoran believed to be a prayer or hymn. Redoran burst into flame and transformed into his humanoid form, and the being’s eyes opened up in surprise. “Welcome, welcome.” The Mystic replied with shock, “Thank you.” Crystal herself also transformed, smiling as she was received the same manner. One of these creatures that appeared older than the rest of the crowd pushed through the assemblage. When it had arrived at the head, it began to speak, “Welcome to Atlantis. I am lord Mizu.” he bowed low, keeping webbed hands at his side. “We have been expecting you for a long time. Come, please. Kudasai.” He began to weave his way through the host of Atlantians, while Redoran with his female companion followed close behind, being swarmed by the multitude of people. It was a long walk, and the Atlantians were insufferable, barely able to keep themselves in check, always bowing and uttering greetings, multiple times each person. But solace was given once the journey had ended, and a massive mansion stood resolute before the three people. It was lavish, banisters ascending up a straight stair case festooned with sliver and a crimson rug. Many windows occupied the face of the structure, providing an excellent view of the internal workings of the magnificent building. “Welcome, to my humble home, please, if you would follow me up the grand stairs and through the door.” he had turned to face the pair as he spoke, “I hope you will enjoy it within my halls.” he returned to facing the stairs, and began to take steps up. Redoran and Crystal smiled before following his lead. The doors opened of their own accord, and the three were allowed admittance to an entrance hall of startling glory, a candelabra of still diamonds with lightning flashing between each of the crystalline formations, providing a bright light that lit up the entire entrance way. The walls were covered in radiant tapestries of various colours. A glass window had been painted at the farthest wall, depicting a scene that seemed all too familiar to Redoran, a green haired man carrying a sword of great magnitude, with a smile on his face. Redoran commented upon the decor, “Who is that?” he pointed at the stained-glass window. Lord Mizu gave him a solemn glare, “That is a great warrior who came here many years ago, it is recounted in some of the tomes I own in my library, but I have not looked within their ancient pages. When I had seen you, I thought he might have returned and would be able to see him with my own eyes. But looking upon you now, you are not him.” “Would his name be Alstinen?” Redoran queried, stepping further into the great hall. “That I do not know.” he replied, “Shall we adjourn to the dining hall for food? It is close to dawn.”

“It is awfully kind of you to let us rest here.” Crystal said before she dug into the fillet of fish on her plate. She swallowed it instantly and took a drink from her goblet. The room was smaller than the entrance hall, but it lacked no luster. Golden lamps hung from the walls painted with murals of historical scenes. Glass hung from the ceiling, light flashing between each of the glass crystals. “Yes, we are both grateful. For we may or may not be here for a long time, I just hope that it is not too long though. For I have no doubt your hospitality will not last for longer than a year.” Redoran brought a forkful of fish into his mouth and began to chew. He swallowed and proceeded to speak, “We have come to find an object of great importance to my world, a suit of armour, golden, would you have any idea of its location or even if it exists within your history?” he took a quick sip from his wine goblet to wash away the taste of the fish. “Actually, it is recounted in our oldest tomes, I learned of such during my days of young. It was brought here by the same warrior that was etched into the glass at the end of the entrance hall.” Replied Lord Mizu, he put his hand out, palm up, and Redoran could see a small trinket, perhaps a token or amulet. Next he brought his other hand forth, which carried an almost identical item. Redoran was bewildered by Mizu’s actions, “What are those?” Mizu dangled them from a chain, and Redoran could see what they were, gemstones, carved into an ellipsoid shape. Clinohumite, bright orange flecked with red and yellow, giving it the appearance of fire and ammolite, a rainbow of colours that were split by scale-like formations. “These, were made almost a millennia ago for you, they are to help you, trinkets with magical properties. Please, take them as a sign of faith. Kudasai.” Redoran smiled, he reached forward and took the ammolite. “This has also been found where I live, just barely beyond the shores and quite a fair distance below the surface of the water.” he explained as Crystal took the clinohumite. “We harvest the clinohumite from the ocean floor, and find the ammolite just on the surface.” Mizu explained, pride creeping into his voice. “Our alchemists had imbued the gems you now possess with an energy only to be unlocked by the descendants of the hero whom is within our histories.” He pushed his chair back and waved to the guests of his house to follow. Redoran grinned, following suit. “where are we adjourning to now?” Redoran helped Crystal out of her seat. “The library, and then to your living quarters for rest.” And he disappeared, almost running towards the dining hall entrance.

A Welcomed Surprise
Redoran opened his eyes in awe, his mind rummaging through memories to see if he had been in such a large library, full of dusty old tomes and yellowing parchment rolled up into scrolls. The whole library seemed to be as large as the manor itself, and was filled with more books than he had ever seen in his life. Eyes darted around with much enthusiasm, taking in the names of many books that seemed intriguing. Lord Mizu came up beside Redoran and smiled in pride, eyes glowing in the bright. “This is my entire collection, handed down to me by my father and to him by his father before that. Most of these tomes were written by one person, his title was scribe and he was Yami. I am proud to call he who made this collection my great uncle.” he strode forward, making his way to a shelf on the far end of the massive room. It was only the two of them, because Crystal had gone to her chamber and had told them she was going to rest there for the night. No one knew why, but it was no one’s business to question, she was tired so she desired respite from the labour of day. Mizu plucked a hardbound book from the wall and opened its thick, heavy pages to a scene in which a mighty green dragon fought with a deadly sea serpent. And grinned as Redoran came near to remove the weighty book from his hands. Redoran looked at the page beside the image and read each and every word twice, taking in the truth of what seemed to be a myth. When his eyes passed through the page, he dropped the book in shock, it recounted days long gone when his father had been there, but it did not specify any details, just writ with the information that his father had been there. “My father was here, Mizu, he came to hide the armour that he wore before.” Crystal sat on her bed, it was a waterproof cloth that could hold in any liquid, and it was filled to the brim with cold water, providing her posterior a cool chill. The room itself was large, big enough to host a thousand year old dragon. There was a wardrobe, filled with gorgeous cloths that would flatter any woman, and a bedside table set at the side of the bed. The pain in her abdomen was just unbearable, it was akin to a knife being inserted into her stomach. The only way to relieve this pain was to remove the pressure, but she could not in her human form. She would have to alter her appearance so that it would be gone. In a flash of flame, her body grew and scales protruded from the flesh upon her bones, it was still slightly strange for her to do so, as it was an unnatural transformation. When her alteration was complete, she sat on her haunches, and felt the agony release, followed by a sickly squelch. A new pain ensued, a pain that felt as if her body was being ripped apart at the waist, and with a final groan of ecstasy, a human-size torso ellipsoid fell onto the floor. Crystal pulled herself away from the object and gazed at it intently. It was a teal, a combination of her own blue and green. Smooth and flawless like cut diamond, it sat there in the middle of the floor, reflecting the light from high up. Crystal could see through the shell of the object and saw a pair of beautiful eyes, eyes with a masculine sense, but with a kindness that tempted her to crack the object open right that instant. It was her child. Redoran turned around, sensing ripples in the nature of things, a surge of energy too large to just let past, and too sudden. But it felt familiar, almost as if he felt it on a daily basis but was subconsciously recording the information in the back of his mind. He returned the book into Mizu’s hands, “I need to go and check on Crystal, to see if she is fine.” his legs carried him faster than they had before, his mind was dead set on reassuring that

she was fine. He passed hallways that were decorated in veils and paintings, numerous and overwhelming. His fears only increased as he approached crystal’s chamber. Fear, he hoped was just a figment of his mind. Her Eyes were affixed on the item as Redoran burst into the room, panting and cursing. When he saw the egg, a sigh of irritation mingled with relief escaped his pursed lips, waking Crystal from her trance. “I am sorry Redoran.” she apologized, “but I couldn’t let my child die.” she changed back into the form reminiscent of Redoran. “How?! How did you do this?” Redoran demanded answers as Crystal strode forward to collect the egg. Crystal removed the round object from the ground effortlessly, despite it carrying a child as large as her own torso. She then began to explain, “I just couldn’t let my first child die, it is something that all female dragons face at this time of our lives, and I wanted you to be the father. But, because you said no, I had no choice but to adhere to trickery. When we were coming through the portal, when I held onto you, it created him, my son. And yours.” Redoran reeled, his dream, that he had thought was mere coincidence, had come true. But, as he stared through the almost transparent shell, he began to feel joy, happiness that he would be a father. He was selfish in his decision not to sire the child, but now he saw the faults in his mind. “It will take a month to a year before it has fully reached hatching stage, so, hopefully we can get out of here before then and finish this quest so that the child may be happy with a sit alone family.” Crystal hoped. Redoran smiled, in a way he had never done before, a grin of contentment and peace. “I hope so too, Crystal.” He strode closer to her and wrapped his arms around both her torso and the egg, holding them close, and feeling the heartbeat flowing from both their warm bodies. “We will make it through this.” he reassured them.

Attempted Assistance
Within the darkness, a bright gold sheen could be seen, refracting light throughout the emptiness. It was a ten centimeter thick blade, forged with slightly impure obsidian, which caused the orange-like glow. The blade was attached to a thick silver crossguard shaped like twin draconic wings and at the base of the blade was a dragon’s head. The hilt was silverin wood, wrapped in a soft crimson velvet. This was the Dragonsword. It emanated an energy so profound, Redoran felt it in his waking consciousness, but just a bare hint. His eyes opened wide, to the sight of Crystal hanging over his still body. She was wearing one of the new outfits that had been laid out in the wardrobe. A vibrant red-pink blouse that stuck to her gorgeous form tightly. And like-wise tight leggings of a light cream colour. A short woven skirt had been given to her as well, powder pink and restricting. “it is about time you woke up. Get dressed, we are supposed to meet the elders of the Atlantians today. And I have heard that Mizu want’s to learn some swordplay.” Crystal backed off, letting the father of her child come to his senses. “Ungh.” Redoran groaned. “Thank you.” he tossed the blanket off his body, exposing his finely toned legs and torso. His hair was in total disarray, and all of his flesh was open to viewing. Crystal chuckled, giving Redoran a quick once over. “I have never seen your lower muscles other than in your dragon form. I have to admit, you look more attractive right now than I have ever seen you.” she giggled again, causing Redoran to shift uncomfortably. A knock came from the room door, and Redoran covered himself so that only his top half showed from below the cloth. He was just in time, for Mizu entered and smiled. “good morning you two.” and then he noticed the egg in the corner. “Lovers? I would never have thought.” he began to walk out of the room, “You better hurry and get dressed Redoran, it will be but an hour until noon, when we shall meet the elders, and then shortly after that, I hope you will teach me swordsmanship.” he closed the door and Redoran could hear him chuckle from inside the door. “Seems you were correct, Crystal.” he thrust the comforter off his form once more and sprung to his feet, and darted across the room to his own wardrobe, which he had moved over to Crystal’s room, along with his bed so that they could be together and watch over the egg. The chest opened, and provided Redoran a good view of what clothes the Atlantians had picked out for him. It was full of clothing that Redoran found extremely pleasing, probably clothes from when his father had been here leaving the armour. It was all forest green, deep, yet bright. The style was akin to what he wore in youth, a robe of dyed fur and hemmed with exquisite lace. Redoran was greatly surprised. He pulled out a light white tunic and a pair of leather leggings, pulling them on roughly and then donned the magnificent green robe that lay beneath it all. When he had completed this process, he turned to Crystal, who stared at him in awe. “You look mighty princely, Redoran. You seem to be happy wearing that clothing.” Crystal observed. “Alstinen was you father? Correct?” “Yes. Why?” “Wasn’t he king of Verequine, the Mystic settlement? Because I just realized something. Because Azhrachtsi is now dead, you have taken up his mantle, you are the prince of Irequoci.” Crystal smiled, proud of her deduction skills. “You are right Crystal, but I do not want to be, if I must I will, but if I do no have to do so, I will not.” he fingered the ammolite necklace around his neck feeling the scaly texture, and hoping what Mizu had said the day before was true. “I guess we should drop that subject, eh.” Crystal remarked, “Let’s go and see to these elders the lord told us about.”

“Great idea. Shall we bring him?” motioning towards the egg enthusiastically, “just to ensure he is safe.” “That is not your reason, you want to show off our child, a being brought to life by deception, but loved anyways. No, he should be fine under the covers of the bed, keeping him nice and warm.” “Fine, Crystal. Shall we adjourn.” “Yes we shall.” The Elderchamber was in a completely different structure, unlike what Redoran had thought before. And the the whole building was a single room, filled with many seats in a circular formation around a large, movable podium. The walls were painted a bright blue, with wavy streaks throughout, symbolizing water and freedom. In the most center mast in the ceiling was a hanging star that illuminated the faces of all the Atlantians who sat in their respective seats. Redoran and Crystal stood at the entrance, smiling, despite their want to not be there. It was loud, the air filled with thousands of jabbering fish men and women. Mizu at that moment strode unto the podium, where he raised his hands and the crowd silence immediately. And then his voice came loud and clear, reverberating around the auditorium. “Welcome my fellows, I have come bearing great news. The son of the great warrior from a millennia ago had come to our hallowed city of Atlantis. He has come in search of a suit of armour, and he must retrieve it soon, for he has told me that the fate of his whole world rests on his shoulders. Even his deities rely on his completion of this task. “So, I endear you all to try and help, assist in the location of the item which will help him. But before we disband, Redoran, please come up to the podium. Kudasai.” he waved towards Redoran, beckoning him to come up.” Redoran shifted on his feet nervously, and he hesitated. “Kudasai.” Crystal shook her head before leaning into Redoran’s ear, and whispered something. She then kissed his cheek which caused Redoran to gain some courage, and he began to stride forward towards the centre of the room. Redoran ascended steep stairs and arrived at the side of the lord, and grinned at the assemblage before going into a speech. “Many years ago, my father had come here in search of a location to hide a suit of armour that had the ability to grant almost unlimited power to those that carried all of five items on their person, but now I have come to defy my father’s rulings because there is an evil that lies on my world that could and would destroy your great city if I fail. So far I possess one of these five items, it is a helmet, but a helmet is useless without the body. “so, if there is any notations on where it was hidden, I would like someone to tell me of such a clue. For this matter may just effect all worlds besides this one, for one of my friends has been affected by this. And she was taken from me.” Redoran smiled again and bowed low to the gathering of Atlantians, all the while twiddling with the necklace he had been given. “Dismissed!” the lord exclaimed, causing the assembly to almost jump out of their seats. And when they had recovered from their shock, began to disband, exiting from the building, leaving Redoran, Mizu and Crystal to themselves. Redoran chuckled. “Thank you Lord Mizu. It is kind of you to help.” he bowed once again. “It is but a pleasure, but I do hope for some repayment, something that is only of educational value, I want to learn how to fight with a sword.” “You do not have anyone here to teach you?” Redoran asked, puzzled. Mizu answered, as such, “No, We do not even have weapons here, or at least not in the sense that they were made. For we have knives, which are not essentially a weapon but could be

used as one. I had hoped you would have at least one on your person, but from what I see here, you do not even possess a knife or stick let alone a blade.” Redoran chuckled, “I can perform an ability called magic, it allows me to summon, destroy and alter. So, you can choose where we are to spar and then I will teach you from there.” Redoran bowed once more, paying respect to the host. “My manor does have an empty room that we could use, and it is fairly large so we could have a whole training session with training dummies that would provide useful with personal training.” Mizu explained, beginning his descent from the podium. “Good, let us be off.” he motioned to Crystal to come.

The Teacher Is Taught
Redoran removed his cloak and shirt, letting sweat drip down his torso. He hadn’t even started to fight, and the water of his flesh had already dribbled onto his trousers. “It is quite warm in here.” But Redoran continued without interrupting further. “There are many forms of swords, and the most basic is known as a longsword. It is almost a metre long including the handle. It could be one of the hardest to learn, because of the weight and balance issues. But there is also a sabre, which is a one handed weapon, extremely light, and with a one sided blade, the balance is brilliant. It is one of the beginner weapons, because it could be used in conjunction with any other configuration effortlessly. And then there are variations of these weapons and some other, but these are the most common forms. “Would you desire to learn the art of sabre or longsword?” Redoran conjured a sample of both, so that Lord Mizu would be able to understand the base design of each type. The Atlantian reached forward, to take the sabre from Redoran’s hand. He tested its weight and mobility, then place it at his side, reaching forward to pluck the longsword away from Redoran’s grasp. Instantly he felt a connection, placing his palm against the flat of the blade, letting it wander across the shiny steel surface. His finger slid across the sharp, causing a rivulet of blood escape his scaly flesh. “This shall be my weapon to train. And I forgot to thank you. Thank you. Arigato.” he carried it in both hands, still not accustomed to the weight and imbalance. Redoran called the sabre back to his hand, then settled down with his right leg out at his side, holding his arm fully extended above the ligament, with the sword’s tip pointing straight forward. His stance was wide, and provided a more stabbing advantage. “This is one of the poses I learned first, it is very useful when fighting armoured opponents, because most armour you will see is plate. Please mimic my pose. We shall begin there.” Mizu smiled, and followed Redoran’s instruction to the letter, matching his pose effortlessly and his mind was set on doing the best he could. “The first lesson you should well learn is to guide your blade. Move with the weapon, don’t stand still and swing.” he made a stabbing motion, leaning forward whilst driving his sword forward. And then began moving into more complex movements, all the while becoming with the blade, matching or reversing its moments, giving him an almost graceful appearance. Mizu watched in awe, he had not seen a dancer like this, such marvel, such grace. He had no doubt that he would be able to fight well after a couple of months of vigorous training. But he attempted to follow Redoran’s example, but found it was harder than it appeared, dropping onto his posterior after the first couple of tries at some of the more difficult positions. “It is not something to be taken lightly. Although I have been more inclined towards swordfighting, it still took me a handful of years to learn all of the techniques I am teaching you now. But you are doing well for someone who has never seen a sword.” Redoran brought his feet back together and held his sword aloft. Mizu grunted, “Thank you, Redoran. Master.” “Keep your sword. It shall be yours forever, unless, of course you can provide me with metals that I could shape and wood that shall be the hilt.” Redoran slid his sabre into his belt, holding it in place. “Maybe, if you get better at your swordplay, we could provide your people with a display of entertainment. A great fight that will be recorded in your histories.” “Yes, it would be a day of great festivity.” he set his sword beside him, and began to bow. “Arigato Gozaimasu.” Redoran bowed back, and smiled. “I only hope it won’t be too long until we find the armour.”

A Morn Of Happiness
A week after their arrival, it seemed like the pair had been there their entire life, each of the Atlantians knew them by face and name. Lord Mizu had already become a fairly decent swordsman, his skill rivaling a town’s untrained militia, and was able to transition between moves with a grace Redoran lacked. But he was still a novice, a rookie. Crystal’s egg had already shown signs of life, as it would shake and vibrate in the middle of the night, waking Redoran. It was calm, peaceful, tranquil. In the middle of the night, Redorn sat on his bed that lay beside his lover’s, gazing out into what seemed to be an endless expanse of nothingness. He closed his eyes, picturing what his child would look like, and each attempt, he had come up with these cute things which did not meet his approval. He did not want a child which seemed all cute and cuddly, he wanted a son who would be strong, brave, fierce. Someone who he could fight with and be injured by. Darkness prevailed in his consciousness, swirling tendrils of chaotic spiderweb-like strands. It had a familiar feeling but it was different from what he had felt before. It felt like the creator, the black dragon, but weaker, faint. It was distorted, wrenched through space. “Redoran.” the voice was feeble, just the barest hint through the realm’s barrier. “Your time is growing thin...” it faded through, information from the other side. But then the connection severed, letting Redoran to return to his complete conscious state. It was morning, Crystal had already left the room, and he could hear footsteps down the hallway. A knock came to the door, and it was opened slowly. Mizu came in and smiled, “Crystal says she tried to get you to come, but you just ignored her with blank eyes. What is the matter?” he approached Redoran’s bed. “My time is running out.” his eyes rolled back in his head then returned, “I have very little time to get back, I need to find the armour soon.” he stood and grasped Mizu’s arm, this may be one of our final days here, so, your training shall be hastened, for today, we shall move onto the more complex movements. And we should be done by the end of the week.” “Thank you Redoran.” he pulled his arm away from the Mystic gently. “Shall we go eat in the dining hall?” “Of course. Lead the way.” Redoran smiled, letting Mizu guide him through the door and down the expansive hallways plastered with drapes and paintings innumerable. Many times he had been down this hall, yet it still causes awe to appear in his heart and head. Its splendour never seemed to diminish. They arrived at the dining hall door, which opened of its own accord, allowing them permitance into the great room in which feasts were held, private conferences spoken, and where the morning meal was always a warm organic sample. Crystal was there, sitting beside Redoran’s usual seat, right on the point of the table. Her beautiful form accentuated by her bright blue skirt and shirt combination. “Well, well, well, look who finally came to.” Crystal laughed. “I am sorry.” Redoran replied as he strode forward and sat down beside her. His hand wandered to the arm which she had so readily placed on the table, letting it befall the ligament of his lover. “But I was being drawn back to our home via the mind of The Creator.” Crystal smiled, “It is alright you don’t have to be sorry.” she leaned into his neck with care, cradling herself within the crook of his shoulder. Smiling, she closed her eyes. “It is comfortable this way.” Redoran had to draw his arm from hers and wrap it around her neck and place his hand on the opposite shoulder to him. “It is fine, I really enjoy this. His head dipped to lie upon hers, his sharp-pointed ears collapsing against her skull. Mizu himself sat across the table from the pair. “You two seem to be in high spirits.” a

grin spread across his fish-like, humanoid face. “What has happened that I do not know about?” he said, almost in parental concern. “We are just happy, a bit too happy.” Redoran replied, his face seemingly iridescent. “Is that something to worry about?” Mizu shrugged, “I guess not.” He snapped his fingers, summoning the servers and cooks to the table. “Could you please bake up a good loaf of sweetbread and concoct a beverage using the fruits we gathered yesterday from the ocean floor.” All of them bowed, and then said in unison, “Of course Lord Mizu.” they backed out of the room, still bowed low. When the cooks and servers had gotten into the kitchen, they began chattering, each making snide comments in reference to Crystal or Redoran. Maybe one or two made any compliments to the pair. Redoran shook his head, “I can hear your servants, insulting Crystal and I, and they have been each time we come for the breaking fast meal. I have been hesitant to tell you this because I thought the conversations in the kitchen would subside, but after a week, I guess it is not so.” Mizu frowned, “I guess I should tend to that as soon as possible.” He placed his interlocked hands on the table. He decided to change the subject, “I have been practicing my swordplay all night, and I was hoping you would be able to teach me some more difficult techniques today and some days following.” Redoran smiled, “Have you now? You will have to show me your skill before I begin teaching you any further abilities. And if you please me enough, I shall even imbue you with the ability to move faster than most people I know, probably faster than I.” The servers came into the room carrying a loaf of bright white bread, and three wine glasses full of a luminescent maroon liquid, which could be smelled from across the room. The Atlantians came unto the table and set the bread in the middle of the three entities and placed the goblets before each of the people seated around the table. “We do hope you enjoy this fine breakfast.” each of them gave Redoran a venomous glare. “Especially you, our guests.” they backed out without glancing towards the table. Redoran grinned as he raised his hand and began weaving it through a simple movement, which caused swirls of crimson to flow to the bread, and it cut into slices three centimetres thick. Redoran’s hand dropped to his lap where it just rested, palm up. “Thank you Redoran. Your talents are quite useful, even in the most unneeded moments.” Mizu reached forward and took an end slice, and began to eat, sinking his teeth into the moist, sweet bread that smelled of morning dew and honey. Redoran also brought a slice of the bread to his lips, and took a small bite, and he began to salivate. The taste was just so alluring, it tasted of lemon, honey and a mix of spices that he recognized, though could not name. Now he knew why they called it sweetbread. As soon as he finished the slice, the goblet which had been set before him, was drained, the liquid pouring down Redoran’s throat as if it were a waterfall. Even its taste was simply marvelous; cherries, strawberries, blueberries, blackberries, raspberries, grapes; but richer, stronger, and slighly varied tastes. Crystal giggled, for she had never seen Redoran so ravenous. Her smile could not be hidden as she went for a slice of her own. When she had brought the bread up to her nose to give it a sniff, she almost gagged. She may have gotten used to wine and other fruit based foods and beverages, but this bread was too much for her. “I am sorry, but I can’t eat this.” she set the bread onto the table and pulled her chair away. Redoran followed suit, setting down his goblet and attended her side. “What’s the matter?” he wrapped his arm around her torso, pulling her into his own body. She shook her head, “I just cannot stomach this food, its getting to the point where I need more meat than they are giving me. I am sorry Lord Mizu, but this nourishment is too little

for me to handle, and these fruits and vegetables are making my stomach wrench. I will meet you two in the room where you train with the sword. Mizu shook his head, “No point. I’m going there now anyways, I am finished my breakfast and I feel energized. Redoran, are you finished? “Yes sir. Let us adjourn to the training room so that you may prove to me that you are fit for my blessings and more difficult fighting styles.” he closed his eyes and felt a wisp of energy flowing through the air. He pulled it into his flesh and smiled, it would be useful for later, especially if it manifested within his body. Redoran opened his eyes and Mizu was nowhere to be seen. “Impatience...” And he followed.

A Warrior Infused
Redoran opened his stance wide, positioning his sword with the blade angling towards the floor. He was almost begging to be struck. His right arm was held aloft, perfectly parallel to the ground and his legs created a large triangle. The arm that held the sword came forward and the blade began to rotate so that the forte was pointed into the air. Mizu smirked. With a loud battle cry he dashed forwad and swung his blade in a left shoulder to right hip slash, but was parried and sent rolling onto the floor. With a quick recovery, he blocked Redoran’s incoming sweep and riposted with a vertical swing. Redoran back-flipped into the air hastily, narrowly dodging the incoming assault. When he landed, the sword was sailing through the room towards his extended hand. He caught it effortlessly on the balance point and squeezed, letting blood flow through his fingers. He tossed it into the air and snatched the handle as it came falling down towards him. “Fancy...” Mizu chuckled. With a quick jump, he somersaulted before Redoran and began to slash in all directions he could think of. But each attempt was blocked or parried without effort and in split seconds. Redoran was good. Amazing. The best. Redoran intercepted one final blow and thrust with a fragment of his strength, sending Mizu sprawling two metres away. He strode forward and lowered his sword tip to Mizu’s exposed neck. “You have come a long way, granted, and you have become a decent swordsman in this short amount of time. I shall begin teaching you further techniques later today, when we have some spare time after the dinner meal.” “No! Teach me now! Teach me while we are still here!” He rolled away from Redoran’s sword and began to attack with all his ferocity. Redoran leapt back, and smiled. Mizu was brave, courageous, daring, and bold. He had become a great swordsman. But he still lacked one vital, important piece of his training, and it could only come with defeats and victories. Discipline. But he could not help this. It had only been a week since they started Mizu’s training, and he could not expect for the Atlantian to have discipline after such a short time. “Good tactic, make it seem like I have the upper hand then break away all the sense of accomplishment. I shall teach you how to use more difficult forms of fighting, but it will strain your body to its limits, maybe further than your limits, so you have to understand that I cannot be held responsible for your actions.” Redoran battered aside the sword which Mizu was swinging and frowned. Mizu bowed, “Thank you, Master Redoran.” He brought his torso back up to see Redoran drawing a figure upon his left arm with a quill, and it began to glow. “This is a form of magic long forgotten by most people; it requires a mixture of dragon blood and liquid gold. It can be called dragon magic, but this is more sophisticated and dangerous than all the other magic forms combined. This uses a variant of the own users strength to power itself, unlike most which uses the power drawn from the air around them. Also, this can influence the body’s own makeup, contorting the body as it needs.” “So what are you doing to yourself exactly?” Mizu asked tentatively. “You’ll know when I am finished etching this symbol unto my flesh and pour my own energy into it.” He closed his eyes and let his hands draw the sign, ignoring all else except the scratching of the tip upon his skin. When he finally opened his eyes, the etching was complete and it spanned from his inner elbow to his wrist. “Please, step five steps away from me, as you could get hurt because of the energy about to be displaced. Mizu complied with Redoran’s desires and took five large strides away. “Please do not harm yourself too much Redoran, remember that you have your people to tend to.” Crystal frowned from the side of the room, and then whispered into the air, “Do not hurt

yourself my princely warrior. Our child needs a father.” Redoran surged into the air and an emerald flame seemed to leap from his chest and enveloped his whole body, leaving no skin exposed. It swirled in tendrils, growing steadily faster, and engorging itself upon the energy of his body. But almost as soon as it began, it was sucked through the air into his arm. Redoran howled in anguish and agony as it burned through his flesh into the bone. Soon the flame was gone and the air tasted stale. Redoran collapsed onto the floor with a loud crash. He was still awake, but barely so. Crystal rushed to his side and took his head into her cradling arms. “Are you alright?” she asked, but no answer was forthcoming. “Please, speak to me.” Tears began to well up in her eyes, “Redoran, Wake up!” the water of her eyes began to trickle down her face with the barest of motion. She buried her face into his chest, “Why? Why did you have to do this?” she began to sniffle, and her emotional pain became audible. Redoran’s heartbeat slowed, and his breathing stopped. He trembled, but it soon died away and all that was left was a raggedy body, devoid of what seemed like life. His heart, though, still pounded in his chest. “Redoran!” Crystal shouted through her tears, “Please don’t leave me!” His heart stopped.

Transfer Of Power
A bright white emptiness revealed itself unto Redoran’s consciousness; it was the void of his thoughts. But it was changed almost instantly, to a scene that he recognized all so well. He was young again, barely five years of age, when his hair was still short and he was a bundle of pure energy. He sat on a stump of a tree with his mother, who was beyond beautiful, slivery hair and silver eyes that seemed to make her face vibrant a cheery. “I want to be a hero mommy, I want to be a good man like daddy.” He jumped up and hit his chest with his fist, “I will become strong and brave, monsters that hide shall fear me, fear the name Prince Redoran.” His mother smiled, “I know you will Redoran, just pray that day comes sooner rather than later.” She chuckled. “I will have daddy’s sword and I will be powerful with magic mommy. I will protect you, and daddy, and Arthur.” He picked up a stick and began swinging it around like a sword. “You will, will you? His mother smiled, her silver hair blowing gently in the wind. Her eyebrow raised, “What about all the other people in the world? Will you protect them from the monsters?” Redoran nodded fervently, “Of course. What sort of prince would I be if I didn’t? you silly mommy.” She held her arms out to the side and Redoran hopped into them, pulling himself into the embrace of parental care and love. “I love you mommy.” “I love you too Redoran.” She kissed him on the forehead. Redoran opened his eyes to find Crystal leaning over him with glistening tears on her face, and Mizu holding her shoulder in reassurance. He groaned as the pain returned to his arm, and raised his free hand to comfort Crystal. She started and then wiped away her tears. She looked into his eyes and smiled gently. “You’re alive.” “Of course I am, why wouldn’t I be?” Redoran asked bewildered Mizu was the one to answer his question, “Your heart has not beaten for the last hour, you should be dead right now, but I don’t know why.” Crystal broadened her smile, “But you are alive now, and that is all that matters.” She brought her lips to his for a moment and closed her eyes. She did not know why she did it, it was instinct. Redoran kissed her back, glad that she was no longer crying upon his breast. He drew away after ten seconds and said, “I am fine now, you can stop crushing my chest now.” Crystal laughed lightly and began to stand, “I am sorry Redoran.” “It is all right.” He struggled to stand, but when he was on his feet the faintness of his strength ebbed away, and he felt perfectly normal. “Are you ready to see the strength of a magic infused warrior, Mizu?” Redoran grinned, a sparkle played in his eye, alluding to the desire to show off his talents. The Lord nodded, and took a step away from Redoran, who seemed to require a large amount of space for everything. Redoran stood completely erect, legs straight, arms held loosely at his side and his head was just slightly tipped forward. He went to release built up energy in his arm, but stopped himself when he noticed there was nothing to release the energy on. With a quick wave of his right hand, a solid wood training dummy appeared a metre

before him. Now he could release all the energy that he drained from himself and transferred into the symbol written upon his arm. Suddenly, the air directly in front of Redoran became hazy, almost as if smoke was rising. Soon, what seemed like smoke became brilliant flashes of blinding light. Redoran’s arm seemed to be remaining still, but it moved just so slightly, almost as if he was just twitching his arm. When the flashing stopped, the dummy remained the same as it was before the strange occurrence. Yet, after two seconds of being left alone, it fell into a fine powder. Redoran was swinging the sword so fast, all that could have been seen was a constant set of bright flashes, and it would explain Redoran’s arm twitching, except it wasn’t twitching. Crystal brought her hand to her agape mouth and Mizu gasped in surprise. “What have you done to yourself?” Mizu asked cautiously, “I never thought it was possible to move that fast.” “It is not a safe form of magic, so it has been forgotten by those who have not searched. And it is an unnatural speed, yes, but it is possible without magic assistance if you are the right person. For my father could use this form of fighting without aid of magic, but he did not move as fast as I have.” Redoran dropped the sword and collapsed into a sitting position. “I have probably drained myself more than he had, using that technique. “Do you really desire to learn more complex techniques, knowing what I have just shown you?” Redoran asked, almost gasping for air now. “I still desire what you have shown me, it appears to be a useful technique in battle, for I have no doubt anyone who would face me would survive the ferocity of the attacks you displayed on the training mannequin” Mizu approached Redoran and took his arm, pulling him up until he stood. “Yes, it may be dangerous, but what is life without a little danger.” Redoran chuckled, “You are brave, or foolish. One or the other, or perhaps both.” “Is it possible for you to give me this ability without causing me to go through what you went through?” “Yes, but it requires great sacrifice of someone else or another living object. If you can draw the energy from a constant source. For example, if I were to be the one that gives you the energy, I would have to constantly be drained each time you used an ability like that. If you do not choose a living thing with a seemingly inexhaustible amount of energy, once it is empty it will drain heavier from you than if you chose yourself from the beginning. Are you sure you want to use anything other than yourself if you were to do such a thing?” “I was merely asking a simple question.” Mizu smiled. Redoran looked down, and mumbled something to himself, then turned his head up to face the Atlantian, “But it is possible for me to transfer magic given unto myself, by myself to you via transfer spell, but, it will cost you slightly more energy to use the ability. The base energy usage will be non-existent.” Mizu grinned, “Well then, are you willing to part with your ability?” Redoran smirked, “You better be ready for the energy requirements, because after this, there is no going back.” “I understand.” “Well then. We best get started.”

Festival Of Atlantis
As Redoran and Mizu had planned, the festival had come to fruition. Preparations had taken place for two days before the actual date it was scheduled to be on. The Elderchamber had been outfitted akin to a stadium, and the city had been decorated in numerous bright colours. Streamers had been hung from rooftop to rooftop. Food had been prepared the day of for the enjoyment of the spectators and the attendees alike. Redoran was in the Elderchamber, donning a thickly padded shirt and heavy trousers. He hoped that this fight lasted for a decent amount of time; he wanted to know that his student was a great warrior. His hopes were nothing compared to reality, he had given himself a handicap, giving Mizu the ability to swing his sword faster than a hummingbirds wings flap. Though, he would still be proud if Mizu defeated him today, for he would have accomplished more than most people. Crystal sat on the outermost ring of seats, watching her lover getting dressed in all that he could, for a suit of armour was out of the question. All she could do was smile gently, and hope for the best. A loud crash resonated throughout the structure as the front doors slammed shut. Mizu came rushing in with a gold, skin-tight outfit that was seemingly glistening in the light delivered by the lightning darting between the crystals in the chandelier. Redoran smiled when he saw the Atlantian. He did not know why. And the outfit radiated an energy that was faintly familiar. “Where did you find that getup?” Redoran asked, curious. “I found this in my wardrobe, behind all of the clothes that lay in it. Why?” Mizu came up the steps of the podium and bowed to Redoran. “I am feeling a strong essence rolling from it, and it feels familiar. Could I test it?” Mizu raised an eyebrow, “What do you mean? Test it?” “I need you to take it off and allow me to slash it. Because this energy I feel also came from a helmet which I found a long time ago.” Redoran bowed himself, as to not appear rude. “I see no problem with your request except, what will you do if your…test…fails?” Mizu questioned, worried that he might never get the outfit back. Redoran shook his head, “If it is the armour I have been searching for, then you shall have no worries, even if it is not, and I cleave it in two, I shall repair it without any issues.” Mizu bowed, “I shall do as you ask.” He brought his torso back to straight and rotated himself until he faced away from Redoran. He started with the upper half of the suit, pulling the skin tight material over his head and held it in front of him before returning to face the greenhaired Mystic. “This should be sufficient to complete your test.” Redoran nodded and waved his hand, conjuring a steel sword in his hand. “Here goes.” He brought the sword to his right and then swung. It sailed through the air with a whistle and clanged against the golden outfit, creating a loud, high pitched whine. Mizu dropped the cloth and covered his sensitive ears to the agonizing sound. It appeared that the outfit that had been buried in the back of his wardrobe was the golden armour that Redoran required. When the horrid ringing ceased, Redoran smiled, “My search for the Armour of Gods has finally ended. Thank you Mizu, for assisting me in this matter.” He bowed, and in the language of the Atlantians, “Arigato Gozaimasu.” Mizu removed his hands from his ears, and began to speak. “You dare take my possession before we duel. No! You shall fight me before you leave.” “I intended to, you should have no fear. And as a sign of respect, you may use the armour for our display, but immediately afterward you must deliver it unto me, so that I may get back to my home and save my people.” Redoran took the top of the armour and handed it back

to the Atlantian who possessed it before him. “Well, then all is good. Should we practice before the chamber becomes filled with the spectators?” Mizu grinned, “Of course we should. We don’t want either of us dying.” Redoran shrugged, and then dropped into a stance he was all too familiar with. “Just don’t tire before the real spectacle.” Redoran wiped away a bead of sweat from his brow with his sleeve. Before Redoran had finished, Mizu came, slashing vertically, aiming to remove Redoran’s weak arm. Redoran moved swiftly to intercept, and caught the blade full on with his own, causing a chip to appear in the flawlessness of the steel. With a hasty response, he pushed hard away from him, tossing the Atlantian into the air. With a quick back flip, he had given himself enough space to recover and assess the situation. He could not believe that Mizu had not tired yet. It was strange, because Mizu had not even been practicing for that long and had no previous experience with weapons. Mizu landed on his feet, and began to attack once again, dashing forward and barraging Redoran with effortless attacks what were almost too fast for most eyes to recognize. But Redoran was prepared, and blocked each and every slash Mizu attempted. Redoran maintained a calm composure, waiting for the moment where he would stop playing around and begin getting serious. All it would take is Mizu releasing the magic Redoran had given him and it would begin. ‘How can he remain so calm?’ Mizu thought, ‘he just seems too calm.’ He disengaged from the green-haired Mystic and prepared to release tremendous amount of energy into his arm, he wanted to test out this ability so badly in a real fighting scenario. Redoran smiled, he knew what was coming next. Now it was time to increase the amount of effort put into this fight. He hoped Mizu would make him proud. With a brief surge of magic, the Atlantian’s arm went berserk, twitching faster than a hummingbird’s wings. Redoran watched with keen precision, following the blade’s movement with one eye, and concentrating on the Atlantian with the other. The blade was swift, but its movements were choppy, easily read. All one would need to do is direct their blade directly in front of the wielder of the swift blade. But he wouldn’t end Mizu’s fun just yet, he would play along and act as if he had no chance, and when the audience least expects it, would stop the sword and go in for the finishing act. The lord began to advance, slowly, taking each step deliberately and with precision, for if he took one wrong step, he could collapse. The energy being used was tremendous, though sustainable. Redoran took to drama, leaping back a metre each time Mizu took a step forward, and made it seem like he was truly afraid he might die then and there. He did not know that he was such a good actor, because all of the spectators, including Crystal, gripped the arms of their seats until their knuckles turned white, and gasps had escaped their lips. He turned his head to the seat where his lover had sat, and saw her expression go from fearful, to joy. She knew he would triumph, because he was the one who taught Mizu to fight, and in cases such as this, it was rare for the student to defeat the mentor. Redoran vaulted high into the air, providing an excellent display of dramatization. He rolled, twisted and contorted his body until he landed deftly upon the floor. His sword was still soaring, for he had released it in midair. It sailed directly into his open hand, the hilt sliding right into the palm. With another dramatic display, Redoran raised his blade into the air, and then brought it down, swinging it to his left, providing a completely open stance. Mizu was shocked; he had not expected Redoran to be so nimble. He had been watching

how Redoran behaved during this fight, and it was not how he had seen him in the training room, he lacked certain ferocity. He was taking this too calm and collective for him to actually have been trying. Redoran shrugged, and then brought himself into position where he would go on the offensive for a while. His sword was held to his fore with one hand on the hilt, the other gripping the pommel until his knuckles had turned pale. Mizu halted his berserk sword swinging and pivoted to face Redoran. His strength was sapped, and he doubted he would be able to use that ability for a short while, maybe five minutes. He would have to make do with his latent strengths. “Tired yet?” Redoran chuckled. Once again, he wiped away the sweat from his forehead “Not at all.” He uttered a battle cry and charged, carrying his sword parallel to his head. Redoran laughed, “I thought I trained you better than this.” He set himself to block any attack that Mizu could possible perform. But in a surge of energy, Mizu began swinging his sword swifter than he had before Redoran had jumped over his head. Redoran began to doubt his own abilities, for if Mizu could begin using that ability, right after his energy had been drained because of it; Redoran could not endure in this fight. The Mystic’s blade was a flurry of movement, attempting to block each blow. But most of the slashes breached Redoran’s defences, only pinking his arms or legs. Every strike that made contact with his flesh stung like one thousand nettles, and it became unbearable. He let out a cry of agony, and attempted to back away. But he was caught in the web of endless, intertwining attacks. Mizu was tiring quickly, because he was pushing past his limits. It wouldn’t be long until he had no energy left to even fight. He would need to cut off the floes of energy if he were to have any chance of success. He pulled the surging force that was being directed into his arm, back into his torso so that it could be salvaged, and then redistributed. His arm halted its movement. Redoran backed away and smiled, “Tired now?” he jumped forward, making his body parallel with the ground. His sword was held to his side, blade angling outwards, but easily manageable. When within reach of the Atlantian, the sword Redoran handled, came across horizontally, hoping to reach shoulder to shoulder. But Mizu parried the incoming weapon and punched the Mystic in the chest as he came within striking distance. Redoran was tossed into the air, and could not help himself. Redoran reached the pinnacle of his ascent and began to descend. He fell fast, though to him it was slow, almost at a dead standstill. But this allowed him to reflect on what had transpired. He had been defeated, or he was seemingly defeated. When he landed, he would become unconscious. He was proud of Lord Mizu, for not many people had bested him in battle without being dishonourable, but Mizu had. It would be a long time before he could forget the shame of his defeat. When time seemed to return to its normal procession, Redoran’s head collided with the floor and he became incapacitated, bleeding, and severely injured. People swarmed to the limp body and had become frantic. Crystal was the first among those who swooned to the body, and she felt his chest. The heart was still beating, and his breaths were shallow, but he would be fine after some care. The wounds all over his body were numerous, but were easy to tend with, so they should be tended last. The concussion that he might have would be more serious, and needed to be dealt with as fast as possible if he were to have the concussion. “You did good Redoran, but you need not be so foolish”

Merely The Beginning
Redoran awoke on a comfortable bed, with his arms and legs bandaged. He wore no clothing, but was covered in a soft blanket that covered his body from the neck down. Warmth spread from his feet to his chest, and he realized that Crystal was almost lying over top of him. He made to move and she jolted to alertness. “You’re awake?” She said with such glee and fervour, “I thought you wouldn’t wake so early.” Her smile made Redoran euphoric, and he was happy that she was too. “Yes, I have awoken from empty blackness to find a beautiful woman within my vision.” Redoran grinned, “Although I do enjoy the warmth of your body, could you please get off so that I may stand?” Crystal smirked, “No. You must stay here until I die.” She laughed and pulled herself up, giving Redoran space enough to sit up and stand. The Mystic groaned as he pushed his body into a sitting position. It seemed the wounds from yesterday’s fight had not healed yet. Redoran considered this and he knew it had been less than a day since the dramatic display, except drama was not in the mind of most people after they saw him smashed in the stomach with an Atlantian fist. “Crystal, could you please get me some clothing? I can’t stand without harming myself.” Redoran groaned, forcing himself to lean forward to stretch his back. Crystal smiled gently, “Of course Redoran, anything for you.” She turned around and approached a bedside table with light clothing, gold leather leggings, and a golden tunic. She took the normal clothing and delivered them to Redoran swiftly. Redoran pulled on the shirt first, then had Crystal put on the pants. Once that was done, Redoran went to stand, but was pushed back onto the bed by the cyan-haired dragon-human hybrid. “You... you stay here and let your injuries heal,” she said, but that wasn’t her reason. She brought her body down, placing her face barely centimetres from Redoran’s. She lowered herself further, pressing her lips against his. A passionate kiss, all she wanted at that moment, was a passionate kiss. Redoran moved his arms to wrap around her head, but it hurt him too much, so all he could do was lie there and kiss back. He savoured the taste that her lips gave, almost cherry tasting. He could smell her fragrant hair, which had the scent of rose petals drifting on a sweet spring. Her skin felt like silk, soft and sleek. He wished this moment would last forever, but he knew it couldn’t and shouldn’t. He needed to get home, and then on to the other realms in which the items were hidden. He pulled away from Crystal, “You need not worry about my health, I will be fine. Go eat, I will deal with myself.” Redoran smiled. “Fine, Redoran. I’ll go and talk to Mizu.” Crystal drew herself away from his body, “I will be in the dining hall when you are finished.” She left the room, leaving Redoran to his own devices. The Mystic moved his arm onto his chest and howled in agony, he needed to deal with these sores before he attempted to stand again. With a small incantation, the wounds covering his arms and legs, disappeared, leaving small scars upon his body. He sat up and smiled, “I can’t believe that Mizu defeated me. I am proud of him, but I am also ashamed of myself. I became too cocky and I took his skills for granted.” He then looked to the area which Crystal drew the clothes, and saw the golden outfit. His eyes closed, and a presence filled the room until it was pitch black. When his eyes opened, he saw the face of the black dragon, The Creator. “Finally, we can have a face to face talk.” Redoran said, “Why are you here exactly?” “I came to congratulate you on obtaining the Armour of Gods.” The black scaled beast

spoke, “This feat is worthy of praise, is it not?” “Yes it is. But that does not explain your reasons, because you never came to me when I achieved the possession of the helmet. You have more you desire to speak to me of.” “You are wise Redoran, a great trait in which I praise. You are correct, I have come bearing news and something that may or may not help you think upon further matters. Not all the green dragons have been exterminated; some have hidden deep within the earth, and survived the Shrouded One’s onslaught. Perhaps your brother has survived.” “I don’t believe that, because I saw my brother’s blood on the walls of my castle.” “That may be, but that doesn’t mean he is not alive.” “I’ll agree with you there. What else were you going to tell me?” “I have a prophecy, one that may influence your thoughts on some things, and maybe even sway your decision soon to come. “Speak of it.” “Five warriors gathered, one of each element, to defeat the one omnipotent.” “That’s not much of a prophecy, but, it does make sense. Five warriors gathered, that one is obvious, one of each element, meaning one of water, fire, air, earth and light. The one omnipotent, that’s obviously the Shrouded One.” “Could be so, I don’t know. I just hear these things.” “Well, I will contemplate the meaning of this.” “Good.” “I just hope that this journey will end soon.” “This is just the beginning of your long journey ahead.” “What do you mean?” “This is merely... the beginning.”

Remove The Impurity
Redoran slept soundly on the Atlantian bed, dreaming about his family from before they had all disappeared from his life. It was peaceful, seeing his mother smiling and his father with his arm wrapped around his form. His brother stood before him, grinning in a childish way, it was sweet how he could be with his family at this time, when all of them had perished or had vanished from his life. But the beautiful scene that had played before him, soon became distorted by a dark, malevolent presence. It was the shadow he had inherited when he had fought the Shrouded One earlier that month. He could not stop the swirling tendrils of ink that enveloped his consciousness. “You can't hide from me Redoran, because of the shadow you swallowed when we fought not long ago. You will never be rid of me, and because of this, you will never be able to use the five items to their full potential. You may be of pure heart, but your soul is plagued by the darkness that is within you.” Redoran rolled in his sleep, his face contorting in outrage. “I will be forever pure, you can't stop me from that.” “Believe what you may, Redoran. But without a pure soul, the items' true powers will never reveal themselves to you.” The darkness disappeared, pushed back by the presence all too familiar. He was thankful to The Creator this time, but in the future he wouldn't be so forgiving when he disrupted his thoughts personal and private. “Redoran, I can now feel the darkness staining your soul, and the Shadow is right, unless you can purify your soul, the items will be forever blank to you. But, be fortunate, I can transfer you to a place where you can begin your purge.” The Creator explained, “Time shall proceed as normal, but you will not wake up until you have passed the trials of purgatory.” Redoran replied with full mental force, “Please, take me there, I need to purify my spirit of this evil taint so pervading of my being.” The Creator laughed, “You realize this may take days, if not weeks to accomplish, depending on how strong the taint to your soul.” “I need to purge this evil from my being. Send me away immediately so that my fate shall be true.” “I can see your mind is set on this, I will grant your request. But, only if you recompense for you earliest act of defiance against me, you shall have to face the consequences of killing the king of Oriin. An inferno shall engulf you until you shall have felt the pain he had before he died. Now, I shall leave you to your devices. I will warn you, if your spirit dies in the purging, you will be lost forever.” The scene changed almost immediately, which found Redoran in the centre of a cavern lit by an etherreal light which seemed to emmanate from the walls. The cave was slicked with water, and the ground was pooling the liquid in large puddles deep. There was one direction, forward, and its appearance did not bade well. A dark crimson flowed from the walls further down the earthy corridor. Blood, glowing with an unreal sheen. Redoran proceeded forward, taking every step quickly and without hesitation. He wanted out of this place before anything befell his unborn child or Crystal. He hoped the purge wouldn't be too difficult, for he did not want his soul to die here. The darkness of the endless tunnel was growing more and more as Redoran stepped, almost as if his fear controlled the light. But the darker it got, the more his fear rose, until the point where he could not see through his fear and the darkness. He was hyperventilating, he began to run. His steps were wide apart and each time his feet made contact with the floor of the

cave, it pushed off again, sending him forward at incredible speeds. He was crying, sad that he had done this, sad he could not grasp Crystal with his firm hands. Sad he would not see his child's birth. He knew he would die here if he could not see. No! He could not think like that, he would survive, he would free himself from this taint. “I will be free!” The cave disappeared, the darkness had dissipated and all that was left was light. He was in an endless field of wheat, spanning in every direction flat. Redoran groaned, it was worse than the dank cave coated in blood, for at least he had a sense of fear, which excited him, yet made his mind rush about. Now, he just stood in the centre of a boring field of wheat. He could only hope that time was the measure of this test, because if it wasn't, he would not know what to do. The wind gusted through, pushing over the wheat to reveal an intricate symbol dug into the ground. Redoran could not see the whole thing, but understood what he saw as he rotated his whole body, it was the ancient Mystic symbol for... “Run.” Redoran uttered under his breath, and as soon as he had said it, a heavy thudding had began to his right. With a small turn of his head, he could understand why he would need to run. “No! No! This can't be happening!” An assembly of massive red dragons were flying towards him at a breakneck pace, and they were breathing their bright red flames that burned the wheat until it was roasting in cinders, releasing the scent of burnt bread. They were approaching fast. Redoran turned and attempted to run, but his legs remained rooted to the spot, he could not move from that location and would have to face the wrath of the magnificent creatures that were so hastily approaching. A breath, that is all he could have before he would die, a single breath, and then he would turn to the dragons and accept his own death. He inhaled and then rotated his entire body to see the gigantic beasts that were barelling towards him, but, they were not there. They had seemingly disappeared in the blink of an eye. “This is so chaotic, I do not understand a thing of this purging.” and once again the scene changed. Though this time, there was a semblance of purpose. He stood in the throne room of the castle in Verequine in front of a dark form. His back was to the throne itself, and the glass that would have dominated the floor after the Shrouded One's attack, was not there. “Redoran, it is so good to see me.” the darkness said. “Wouldn't you agree?” its black form transformed from the dark into more lively hues; taking on the guise of human flesh and silky hair. The hair went from jet black to forest green, and the face became akin to Redoran's own. “Can you see the family resemblance?” “Dammit!” the real Redoran cursed, “You have toyed with me long enough Shadow Sorcerer! Face me you false being of darkness, fight me on fair grounds!” “This is your last test of purge, you must defeat the darkness within yourself to exit this place within yourself.” the false Redoran said, “Defeat me and you shall be free. Free from the confines of your own evils! Fight!” Redoran, the real one, had no time to react before he was assaulted with a torrent of flame. He held up his arms in defense and the fire dissipated in a steaming display. He lashed back with a gust of wind powerful enough to launch the imposter across the room into the door. A loud clatter echoed around the chamber as the shadow being collapsed to the ground. “You think you can defeat yourself? Your pathetic!” The false Redoran jumped to his feet and then drew a longsword from thin air. “Come and attack, see what happens.” The real Redoran also conjured a weapon from the air and smirked, “I don't think you understand that darkness is weaker than light.” he hurled a barrage of stones and followed after them, carrying his sword parallel to his head. The shadow dodged the stones, but did not anticipate the charging Redoran. He needed to act fast or else the real Redoran would cleave him in half. With a quick parry with his sword, he batted aside Redoran without effort. With a swift slash, he laid open Redoran's thigh, causing

blood to splatter upon his own sword. The real Redoran howled in agony, clutching his leg and curling up his leggings to stop the blood flow from his upper leg. “You bastard, how could you tear me open, when if I die you will cease to exist.” Redoran struggled to stand, but the excrutiating pain that rode up his leg kept him down. “Darkness shall always exist, whether you are dead or not. It does not matter if I kill you while you are here. I will continue on to your love Crystal, tormenting her until she desires to visit you in the afterlife.” The dark Redoran laughed maniacly, “She will beg for mercy, but I will not give her such joy.” “You can kill me, you can kill my soul! But you can never, never touch Crystal.” he thrust his hand forward into his evil's face, tearing straight through its fleshy appearance, and it disappeared without a second thought. “You have passed the test.” the Creator said, “And it has been less than a week. I am impressed Redoran, and that is hard to do. But, there is one thing left for you to suffer through. You must go through the Inferno of Acheron.” The Creator snarled, “you must pay repetance for your defiance against me. You killed the king of Oriin, despite my advising that he would be useful later. He would have been a valuable ally in the war against the Shrouded One. Keep your friends close, and your enemies closer, unless they are distinct nemisis. “Begon to the place of torment, I shall await your soul's return to this plain of existance.” Redoran disappeared from the consciousness of The Creator, and found himself engulfed in bright orange tendrils that curled and lapped at the Mystic's soul, tearing it apart. His being screamed out it intense agony, his spirit was being torched in a flame that was hotter than that of a dragon's breath. He could feel his whole being roast within Acheron, a hell worse than what he had been led to believe. He could not think with the agony he felt at that moment. His soul was being ripped apart, he could feel his own life ebbing away, slowly draining away from his physical body. He hoped he would survive this ordeal, because if he didn't, the child that Crystal had gotten off him, would be fatherless, and Crystal would be in complete and utter chaos. He took his soul, and clenched onto it tight with a grip as hard as an iron vice. He pulled the peices together and reformed them. Now, he could understand the pain of defiance. “I will not succumb to the agony that is presented by this hell!” Redoran's spirit bared itself to the Creator, “You will never get the best of me! No one will ever get the best of me!” He awoke with a start, having his body shaken and tears falling onto his naked torso. Crystal began beating on his chest, “The egg is gone!” she sobbed, “Our child is gone!”

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