Summary: Aphaya is Echo, an infamous and cold-hearted mercenary. Kaze is Emroy Eyson, her next target; a sixteen-year old like herself with a gift. What will she do? Kill Emroy and claim her gold, or help him on his own journey?

Note from the author: Thanks for the reviews! Sorry about the huge-eh-mundo delay with this chapter, but I was on a half-roll (of beans) with my Ay Caramba! story and I didn't want to stop the momentum. :) And you're not supposed to get the half-roll of beans comment ... inside joke, you see? Be warned; this chapter is very, very short. The goods are coming up next chapter, I promise!

Disclaimer: All the ideas, characters, plot, etc., in this story belong to me unless otherwise noted. Infringement of anyone's copyright is unintentional.

Aphaya and Kaze
by Nickety

Chapter Three: Fishermen and Friends
Wellian, eighteen-year old son of a Kalius fisherman, lay on his back in his father's boat.

It was nighttime. Lake Helado, a lake in the Kalius realm (happening to be the only one in the West Kingdom), lay in a state of slumber. This was definitely a nice change from the bussling of the morning hours where fisherman set out for the day's catch; after all, Kalius was a fishing empire. He was drifting lazily on the water, staring at the stars, ignoring the oars on either side of him.

He also ignored his red-faced, pig-nosed father, who was hopping up and down on the docks in rage a few hundred feet away, looking very unpleasant.

"No one likes a rebel!" his father roared. "Come back here - now!"

Wellian snorted. Him being rebellious? Of course not. He liked to call it ... escaping.

"You thief!" continued his father. "Stealing the boat and rowing around in the middle o' the night ... a thief, that's what you are! You know you're going to come back some time so I suggest you do it sooner than later because it'll be - be hell for you the moment - you - set - foot - on - "

Rolling his eyes, Wellian sat up.

"Fine, I'm coming, I'm coming, keep your clothes on ..."

He ran a hand through his dirty brownish-blonde hair and grasped the handles of the oars, slowly rowing himself back to shore. It was a shame, really. After all, Wellian had been real clever about it; he'd waited until his father had been completely knocked out (helped along by a bottle of brandy, of course) before stuffing his bed covers with pillows and sneaking into the harbor. If only his father's damned dog had kept its bloody mouth shut -

Would it've been too rash if he'd slammed a pan into the rut's face?

Nevertheless, it definitely was hell when Wellian set foot on the docks. His father seized him by the ear and started dragging him back to the house (which was build on top of his father's second boat, the Canidella).

"Ow! Geroff, you - "

"You're going to get it," his father raged. "No meals until you've learned your lesson!"

Wellian rolled his eyes. "Fine by me." He tore himself from his father's grasp and slumshed bad spiritedly onto the deck of the Canidella. "Bitter old frager," he muttered to himself. He took a last look at his father, who was inspecting his rowboat for damages.

"I'm leaving this place the first chance I get."

For a moment, there was complete and utter silence. Then -

"Empty," said Noavan gruffly. Emroy opened his eyes in relief, and raised his hand to his face. His eyes went straight through it and landed on the four men at the doorway. It worked! But he'd still have to escape as quick as he could - he couldn't risk staying invisible for too long. Keeping very close to the stone walls of his room lest he start to flicker in and out of sight, he inched toward the open door while the men discussed his absence quietly with each other.

"Breive, are you sure you scouted the upstairs thoroughly?"

"Yes - "

Noavan cut in automatically. "Go again, and take Lombard with you this time. Mren, you're to check this room for any sign of - anything. Leave no nook or cranny unchecked. The boy's got to be here ... Zezoriel said he would be."

"Yessur. Nuttin' issa goings outtasite."

At the sound of the name Zezoriel, Emroy frowned, but decided that he'd ponder whoever that was later. Mren and Noavan went farther into the room, and Emroy, feeling dizzy, sidestepped them. Quickly and silently, he scooted out of the bar and into the night.

This had been his first step out of the bar since the time Barboly needed him to do some late-night errands, and he could see that not much of the nightlife had changed. In the daylight, the Borquo road, the most prominent passage way from Kalius to Grome, was overrun with wagons pulled by horses, traders and farmers. Now, however, it lay in a slumber with only a few late night travelers strangling by, kicking at the dirt path as they went.

The faces of these people, mostly men with large stomachs and big, bushy beards, looked drunk, worn, and delusional. They shot very suspicious looks at the door of the Flying Frager which had opened on its own accord. But, being drunk, worn, and delusional, they ignored the oddness of it all and shlumshed on by.

Emroy dashed across the road and as deep as he could into the dark trees of the Bayta Forest, which lined the Borquo. Once he was sure that no one could see him, he un-invisiblized himself. He had a pounding headache, and, on top of feeling very weak and sleepy, the urge to vomit came over him.

So he did.

I am never, he thought, holding his euphorin close to his chest and wiping his mouth, ever going to do that again.

Once he'd caught his breath (this took several minutes), he took the more pressing problem at hand. He was officially some kind of fugitive. Where was he to go now? This Zezoriel knew he lived at the Flying Frager, and would probably hear soon that his four henchmen had failed ... so he'd have to run for it. Get a new identity. Move to a different realm (Kalius or Grome the most practical), or even a different Kingdom.

Dumping his rolled-up mat next to him, he let himself fall to the floor beside a tree trunk. He knew for one thing that Zezoriel wanted the staff, of course. What was the use of a boy like himself? So he was part lemaiso. Big deal. The staff was much more powerful than he'd ever be.

I've got to return it or destroy it, he thought suddenly. It's not safe with me.

He frowned, trying to think of a place he could stay in the meantime, and then he smiled. Wellian! I can live with Wellian ... hopefully he still lives by Lake Helado.

These were his last thoughts as, lying down on the forest floor, darkness overcame him and he fell asleep.

Nickety: The connection between Emroy and Wellian will be explained in the next chapter. Good day!