By: Russell Downing
"To a wizard the world is not but an object, not a source of life from which all gather strength; wizards rely on themselves and themselves alone, not on others whose only intention for befriending them is for the strengthening of their group. No, wizards, wizards travel alone, no matter how strong or weak they are. That my friends, is the first and most important rule for ones whom study wizardry."
-Transcript from "The Book of Mages".
Head Mage Aristolin Merlin.
The night was cold and quiet, not a sound escaped from the thick forest. Tall, boisterous oaks and ferns pierced the cloudless night sky. As unnaturally tall and foreboding as they were, this didn't stop a young woman from fleeing into their depths. Her hair was long, past her shoulders, and blonde. Her dark grayish eyes were wide with terror and sweat dripped down her face. Close behind her were small, black, devilish creatures, all dressed in midnight black armor with gold trim. Three demonic horns sprouted from each of their heads, and their blood red eyes danced in the moonlight. Their strange, long, claw-like weapons stretched from their three fingered hands all the way down to their ankles; the group of beasts, which was about seven, stopped at the entrance to the forest. Hopping and chattering, they waited for something, then they split apart to let a group of dark purple horses with dark, black cloaked, riders enter their ranks.
One of the five riders looked at the forest, and then at one of the monsters. The short thing gasped, but then bowed in an awkward way. It quickly turned and, followed by its kin, trudged into the forest. After the creatures had vanished one of the cloaked men held up a pale hand, it's fingernails sharp and dirty. He made a few, quick movements with it then stopped with his pinky and pointer fingers stuck up into the air. Two small, glowing, purple balls formed at the tips of the two extended fingers and the man muttered: "Harris hup-U-dab." Suddenly the balls shot into the air and collided!
A mess of ebony feathers floated down before a winged version of the earlier creatures plopped onto the ground. It was obvious that the feathers from before belonged to this new monstrosity and it's weapon was replaced by a wicked emerald green bow, a sling to match was slung across it's back. The rider looked at the creature and nodded, as if the beast could read his thoughts it took flight and disappeared into the darkness that hung over the forest. The rider then kicked his horse and shot off into the disrupted stillness of his new troublesome obstacle, his companions waited at the entrance.
The young woman continued to run, her pursuers would only allow her five or six minutes rest before their hideous chattering could be heard growing nearer. When she ran, she ran clumsily; with almost every three or four steps she would bump into a tree or get smacked by a branch, even trip a few times. Because of this she was covered with scratches. Her brown dress was torn in places and her navy blue shirt had small bloodstains splattered on it. Although her obstacles were many and running was obviously a trouble for her, she trudged on, unwilling to allow herself to be caught by those…things. Suddenly the faint sound of an ocarina came to her ears. She could tell by the slow daunting tone that it was far ahead of her, but the person playing might offer her help, or at least a hiding place. So she pushed her self and heard the chattering grow lower and the strange song of the flute grow nearer. Soon she burst through a patch of rose bushes that she had to have been blind not to dodge and landed in a clearing, letting a cry of pain out from the additional cuts the bushes' thorns had given her.
The sun was slowly sinking down as a young man, who was somewhere in his twenties, traveled through a thick forest. He was an odd looking man, whose hair was as white as snow and bangs came down to hide his right eye slightly. A black headband was wrapped around his forehead, and his eyes were a deep crimson. The tips of his slightly pointed ears could be seen protruding from his shoulder length hair. He adorned a sheathed sword on his back and was carrying a dark brown leather travel pack, which could not have held at least a week's worth of food. He wore a long sleeved white shirt and black pants, and tough brown boots protected his feet. He came to a clearing and stopped to behold it's radiance.
It was as if an extremely flat and smooth stone had rested here, everything was flat, except for a single tree stump near the center. The grass hadn't grown too long and rose bushes spotted the area around it. He could see the sun setting behind the mountains, giving the sky a color that started with red nearest the ridges and faded to a lovely violet furthest away from them. He made his way to the center of the clearing, noticing that stars had already began to dot the night sky. He began to set up his camp that was basically a fire and a large blanket that he carried by tying it to his traveling pack. After he lit his fire he sulked off past some bushes and into the wood that surrounded the clearing.
He walked quietly; he dare not snap a branch or disrupt a leaf for he was hunting his dinner. He wanted meat, for the past three days he had eaten nothing but vegetables. He moved around trees and other plants in a swaying like motion, trying to mimic the movements of the trees as best he can. Then he heard a faint crunching sound. He quickly checked his feet as to assure he hadn't caused the disturbance and then, after he had reassured himself, he peered past the branches in front of him and saw a brown hare! "What a fine stew that would make!" he hungrily thought to himself. He slowly bent down and lifted up a pebble, a small smile growing on his face. "No turnips for me tonight." He thought as he centered the small rock in the palm of his hand. He brought his hand close to his lips, angling it towards his prey, and then, in a very low whisper he said: "Hala." The pebble slowly rose off his hand and hovered in front of his face for a while. He waited for the rabbit to come into a less densely occupied area of the woods and when it did; he gave his hand a slight jerk. The pebble shot forward, and before any other noise could be heard the hare fell to the ground, a small bleeding hole in it's head. The young man slowly walked over to his dinner and picked it up. He made his way back to camp, less cautiously this time. He looked up and saw that the sky above him had turned a dark blue, stars dotted all over it. He reached the clearing and saw that a bit of pink was left, as if the sun was lazily making his way down a case of stairs.
The young man sat down and began to skin his catch with a dagger that he had unsheathed from it's sheath on his waist. It's blade was ridged and sharp, it was probably a good ten inches long, not including the emerald incrusted handle. The process took about fifteen to twenty minutes. Soon he was slicing the meat off the bones and was cutting them into small square chunks. When he was done he laid the pile of meat on a large leaf and stood up and stretched. The sun had finally gone down and his only light source was his campfire. He walked away from the campsite a ways and dug up an arm full of dirt with his hands. He then walked back to his camp and sat the mound of dirt a few feet away from the fire and began to rummage through his pack when he heard the sound of wings flapping above his head. He looked up and was able to make out the dark outline of a rather oddly shaped bird.
"Aha! There's my breakfast!" he said aloud. He quickly picked his dagger up off the ground and tossed it into the night air calling out: "Hala!" The dagger then shot forth like an arrow, nailing it's mark! Before he could rejoice however the creature gave a loud, horrid, cry and then began to plummet to the earth! The thing landed with a thud and the sounds of breaking bones could be heard as he hit. The young man took one look at it and gasped, he quickly spun around and began to search the night sky, his hand gripping the handle of his sword. Once assured that their were no other air born animals in the dark blue, star speckled sky he turned and walked over to the thing he had killed. He nudged it with his boot and it gave a wretched jerk.
"Still alive, eh?" he asked it. For a while there was no answer and then…"Wh-…Who be yee?" replied a shrill voice. The young man smirked. "Aha…So you are a conjured creature. That explains your lack of flock members." He said, kneeling down beside the creature. It wore gold trimmed, midnight black armor, and it's head was adorned with three horns. It's eyes were sealed shut from the fall and one of it's ebony wings were crumpled up, a broken emerald green bow law a few feet from him. "Who summoned you Ha'lurkknel? Tell me or you won't be able to breathe much less move."
"Who be there? Who be yee?" was all the thing could manage to say. The young man stood back up and drew his sword. The blade was probably three feet long, curved to a point like a teardrop. The hilt was golden and in the shape of a triangle, the handle was black and long enough so two hands could grasp, and at the bottom of it was a dark blue jewel that reflected the fire's dancing motions.
"My name is Navashine Morta Highland…and I'll be putting you out of your misery." Navashine lifted his sword and brought it down, severing the Ha'lurkknel's head. "So much for breakfast." He said, whipping off his blade with a red cloth, which he had pulled from his pocket. The greenish blood stained the cloth, but he merely thought "Clenessy" and it was spotless once again. Navashine turned and went back to his dinner; just thinking of how the rabbit would taste in a stew made his mouth water.
He once again began to rummage through his pack until he found a hand full of small metal beads. He picked one out and turned to the pile of dirt he had dug up. He gently tossed the bead into the mound and placed a hand over it. His hand began to glow a grayish color as he began to mutter "Ala sen bien!" The mound slowly began to quiver then the metal bead liquefied and spread out to cover the dirt. Slowly the pile began to flatten, and when it was completely flat Navashine turned his hand, palm up, and cupped it. The metallic colored dirt began to quiver, ripples running through it, and it floated into the air. Soon it began to turn up, leaving a dipped in area in the center, and four spokes came out of the bottom. Soon Navashine was looking at a self made pot. He placed it over the fire, the spokes holding it up like the legs of a table; the flames licked at the bottom. Navashine wiped beads of sweat from his head. He wasn't worn out from the magic, but even the most talented wizards would break sweat after transforming dirt to metal.
Navashine sighed. "Now for some water." He reminded himself. This would be the easiest task, other than hunting the rabbit; he would have to perform so he could have his dinner. He simply dug up to handfuls of dirt and pronounced "Ele'frice." The clumps of dirt then began to freeze; then, after a few seconds, they both turned into solid ice! Navashine dropped them into the pot and they soon melted into boiling water. He went back to his pack and pulled out three turnips and two carrots. He then proceeded to cut them into chunks with his dagger and tossed them into the pot. He then picked up the meat and dropped it in, leaf and all. "If I remember right, that leaf will act as a natural tenderizer…or at least that's what my master told me." Navashine plopped down a few feet from the fire on the old tree stump he had seen earlier, the campfire's warm light still reached him, so he began to relax as his food cooked. Navashine reached into his pack, which he had brought over with him, and pulled out a silver ocarina. Navashine took a breath and then began to play a song. He played a slow and sorrow filled song. It was as if a hidden sadness that had been buried inside him was coming out in his music. He played for about five minutes, letting his feelings out, when a crashing noise and a loud scream interrupted him!
Navashine dropped his ocarina and jumped up quickly, once again reaching for his sword. To his surprise he saw a woman lying on the ground! Her clothes were torn bruises and scratches were clearly visible, and she was extremely out of breath. "In the name of the gods…" Navashine gasped as he ran over to the maiden. "Holy heavens, what happened to you?" he asked her once he reached her side. Her face was stained with tears and she acted as if she could not see him standing next to her. Suddenly she lunged forth and hugged his legs.
"Please sir, please I beg of you!" she cried. Navashine stood still a look of confusion on his face. "What?" Navashine muttered, stunned. "Please help me, I'll pay any price! Just keep them away from me!" she continued, her grip growing tighter. "I…I…" Navashine began to go over the "Wizarding By-laws" within his mind, none of the rules said he could not help a traveler, just that he could not fight that traveler's battles. The woman was crying incoherently by this time, so Navashine bent down and began to comfort her. "Trust me miss, I will take care of you." He placed a hand on her head. She calmed down slightly, but only for a moment. "Oh thank you! Thank you, oh so much! Please just make them stop chasing me!" Navashine sighed. He didn't want to tell her, but he couldn't let her get her hopes up. "Ma'am, I am a wizard, by the laws I can not fight your battles." Navashine said with closed eyes. "But you must-" suddenly Navashine's hand glew a soft white, and the young woman began to trail off. "…Help…me…uhh." With those last words she fell into a light sleep. Navashine lifted her up and walked back over to his campsite. He laid her down on his blanket and began rummaging through his pack for something. Suddenly Navashine heard a faint chattering sound. He looked over at the sleeping girl and then back at the woods. Navashine sat there, his mind raced, as the noise grew nearer.
"Oh…dammit to hell!" He quickly turned back to the girl and yanked the blanket out from under her. He then covered her up and dumped the contents of his pack all over the blanket. He looked back at the woods; the noise was very close, quickly he grabbed a book out of the pile of stuff and lay down, pretending to read. Suddenly a group of small devilish creatures burst forth from the woods. Navashine pretended to leap up in surprise "What the hell!?" Navashine wasn't acting like he had planned to. The creatures that stood before him were only of a requitionner's creation. "But of all the people to have been chasing her, why in the name of the gods did it have to be a Requitionner!?" he questioned himself ferociously. Navashine put on his best confused look and then: "What do yee want here?" he asked, his acting at a poor quality do to the fact that he was mostly trying to figure out how far away their summoner was. The creatures sat there stupefied, of course they thought this guy was acting odd, but to make it simple…they're idiots. Obviously their master hadn't done a good job enhancing their minds. Apparently bad grammar and the brain of a five years old was the best he could do in that department.
"We look for girl, she ran this way. You tell where girl go." One said with a raspy voice. Navashine began to think that this wouldn't be much trouble so he decided to disperse of them quickly. "I have no clue as too who it is you search for, so leave me in peace." Navashine answered. "Girl! We search for young, no-see, girl!" said another one of the beasts. They were obviously very reluctant. "If you can't see her then way are you searching for her?" To Navashine's not so surprised relief the creatures were falling for his acting like a crow against a window, and to be honest he was having fun doing it. Until something shook under his pile of supplies. "Dammit." He thought to himself.
"What be under there?" asked one of the strange goblin like creatures. "Would you believe me if I told you a very big mouse?" a couple of the creatures' hands went up to their chins and a few even scratched their heads in thought. "What a bunch of idiots…I need to think of something fast or otherwise they'll charge the girl. Dam wizarding by-laws and their complicatedness!" Navashine looked up and saw that a few we're making up their minds. "Curse my good intentions…hold on…I got it!" Navashine looked up with a smirk on his face.
"Hey you bunch a' shit eaten, inbreed, lil' freaks, are you going to leave me alone or will I have to slay yee?" All of the creatures stopped what they were doing and looked up at their new obstacle. They may have been idiots, but like almost any other living thing they could tell when they're being insulted. "What you call us?" demanded one of creatures pointing a wrinkly, gnarled, finger at him. Suddenly the pile quivered again and the girl sat up. "What happened?" she asked.
One of the Lurkknel, which was basically a wingless form of the flying Ha'lurkknel that Navashine had killed earlier immediately spotted the girl. "There she be! There she be!" the Lurkknel hopped up and down with excitement.
Navashine stood there, thinking of something to do next. "Dammit! By the laws I should do nothing, the girl must fight her own battle…wait a minute!" Navashine's face suddenly grew serious. "Curse the things I do to save people." He muttered to himself. He suddenly reached down and pulled his dagger from the sheath on his ankle. "By the blood of a wizard!" Navashine suddenly cut a small line into his finger and it began to bleed. "And by the blood of the innocent!" he quickly turned around and grabbed the girl by her wrist. "Do you want to be saved?"
The girl sat there confused for a second then quickly replied "Yes!"-"No matter what I have to do to save you?"-"Yes!"-"Then you have accepted the tying." He suddenly cut her finger as he did his and placed the two together. Suddenly a crimson light flashed between their fingers and Navashine removed his finger from hers. Navashine slowly turned around and faced the creatures that were confused and amazed by what they had seen. Navashine raised his hands; his fingers were ready to give a snap. Suddenly he spoke "Fey-la-ri" he suddenly snapped his fingers and flames shot forward and engulfed his enemies. The girl sat there stunned, not knowing what to say. Navashine turned to her and smiled. "Milady, I have vanquished our foes."
To be continued…