Chapter 2: A Master of Magic
The crocodile-like beasts snapped and snarled as they approached, and Kydan gripped his knife, breathing heavily. The Fiends' heavy footsteps made abrasions in the already coarse and cracked earth.
He knew what he had to do. He had to protect these innocent people!
I won't let anyone else die… Not on my watch!
He charged forward, yelling a makeshift battle cry, hoping to psych out the Fiends. He brandished his knife and advanced on them. It was now or never…
"I'll back you up!" Kydan turned and nodded at Auros, but wondered how the man was going to do that without a weapon.
He got his answer, and a shocking one at that, mere seconds later, when a sharp icicle whizzed past him towards the Fiends.
Kydan turned and gazed open-mouthed at Auros.
"Y-You… That was…"
"Wow, Mister Auros…"
The young boy clutching his mother was just as amazed as Kydan was at what Auros had just done. He uttered a single word, "Magic!"
"Forgive me," Auros said, "I… Deceived you about myself. While it's true that I am simply a bard and jester, what kind of performer would I be if I wasn't mysterious?"
"Whatever!" Kydan looked at him exasperatedly, "You can explain later! In case you didn't notice, your magical ice thing missed and there are two hungry, pissed off Fiends still advancing on us!"
It was true- They were growing ever closer. Kydan gripped his knife tighter and closed the gap between himself and the first dark-scaled reptilian beast.
He tried to hack at the beast, but its scales were too hard for the knife to cause much damage to it. It seemed to only make the beast even more angry, and Kydan had to swiftly evade a snapping bite from the crocodile Fiend in retaliation.
"You'll have to do better than that, lad," Auros said, before yelling an incantation.
Instead of one jagged icicle like the first time, a small barrage of them was sent forward with a mere stretch of the man's palm. This time, some of Auros' icicles met their mark, and the first Fiend was pierced by a number of them.
"See how it's done, kid?" Auros said somewhat smugly, giving the mother behind them a coy smile as if he knew he had impressed her. Kydan guessed that she was probably more fixated on the fact that there was still another one left.
The second crocodile Fiend charged at Kydan and Auros, while the older man was still distracted with looking at the woman they were meant to be protecting.
"Gah!" Auros turned, noticing how quick the beast was moving, even more enraged than before since its companion had been run through by magical icicle spears, "Th-That thing's fast!"
"Don't worry!" Kydan sighed, "Luckily you're not the only one with secrets… Dagger of Sakhtras, Form of Flames!"
Auros' eyes flashed with recognition, "That's… You've… You've got…"
Kydan didn't acknowledge his ally's bemused murmurings. The intricate symbol on the hilt of his knife reacted to his spoken words, glowing with a flashing white light, before the blade of dagger itself was encroached in flames.
"Sakhtras' Fire!" Auron looked bewildered, "Kid, you're…"
Again, Kydan took no heed. He leaped at the beast with catlike precision, avoiding its snapping jaws and landing atop its back. He then drove the flaming dagger into the beast's back. This time the blade was able to cause damage- The scales on the Fiend's back cracked and flames surged through. It roared in agony and slumped to the ground, Kydan leaping off of its back.
The flames on the knife died down and the hilt stopped flashing. Kydan returned it to its sheathe, turning to Auros and looking past him at the driver as well as the mother and son.
"It's all okay now," he said, "We… We got them."
The little boy's mouth was agape, tears of joy flowing down his face.
"W-Wow, Mister Kydan and Mister Auros… You used real magic!"
Kydan's gaze met Auros', "Yeah, what's a jester like you doing firing off ice magic? No normal commoner would be able to do that, not unless they had a magical tool of some sort…"
"Well as it turns out… I'm not really a normal man, but as much as I'd like to say I'm a noble with access to tomes of magic… I'm not one of those either. I don't even have a tool like that dagger of yours."
Kydan looked puzzled, "Then what are you? Who are you?"
The driver as well as the mother and son had moved closer to them now, watching this back-and-forth between their two saviours with intrigue.
It was then that Auros removed his hood, a look of sadness on his face being the first thing Kydan saw.
"I… I don't know the answer to that."
The next morning, they had broken camp and were about to set off on the road again in the carriage. The driver seemed to be still quite shaken up about the events of the previous night as well as in disbelief about the nature of the two men he was transporting to Mahernas, but he didn't let any worries he might have had about the city Guard and what they might do if they found out he was bringing potential threats into the city stop him from continuing to grant them seats on his carriage. He owed them his life, after all.
Kydan sat in silence once more as their journey resumed. Every once in a while he stole a glance at Auros. The man only looked to be about twenty-four or twenty-five, which was only a few years older than Kydan himself, who had turned seventeen recently. His snow-white hair gave off the impression of a much older man but his face was youthful, his eyes full of kindness.
A man with no memories who can use Elemental magic without a tome… I'd say he was lying, but I saw it with my own eyes…
Kydan thanked the Gods that Auros had been there- Even with his dagger, a magical tool of considerable power which he'd picked up in a minor Dungeon a while back, he doubted he'd have been able to take on both of those Fiends and protect their companions at the same time. It was true, he owed Auros something of a debt- Not to mention, now that he knew the man's secret, he couldn't help but think the man might be a good ally for what awaited him when they met their destination.
This was what led him to break the silence, while the mother and son caught up on sleep after the events of the night before, "Say, Auros?"
"Yes, lad?" The magic user gave a kind smile to the Dungeon Hunter.
"What are your plans for when we arrive at Mahernas?"
Auros seemed to consider the question, "Well, I'll probably find myself a nice street corner to do my performances on. Tell a few stories, sing a few songs… That kind of thing. I'll probably explore around the area, too, see if anything in this part of the world jogs my memory."
"That's why you travel? In hopes of finding something or somewhere that's familiar?"
"That's the long and short of it, yes. But so far, no luck. It's hard though since I have to keep a low profile. If I get mixed up in anything or someone sees me using magic, I'd be put to death at the hands of the local Overlord in no time flat."
"I suppose you're right… It's the same in most places- Only the so-called powerful control the means to use magic, be it through Spirit Vessels or the tomes of old…"
"They see magic and magical items as simple tools in their political games. All of them, vying for absolute control, trying to amass the strongest force to conquer all their enemies and bring whoever remains under their control," Auros spoke cynically and spitefully, the first time Kydan had seen such emotion in the man, "I hate it, I really do. That's why I admire people like the rebellion forces, and you Dungeon Hunters- You choose to fight, in whatever small or indirect way in your case, against those with delusions of grandeur."
"In my case…" Kydan repeated, "It's nothing as grand as that. I hate the situation our country's found itself in, for sure. I hate the Overlord and his stinking lapdogs as much as anyone else, and I'd love to see them get what's coming to them. But… I've seen how things play out when you try to take them head-on."
Auros nodded gravely, "The brave people of Hayvren fought to the last before their home was wrought to the ground by fire and Fiend alike… I of course heard of the events that came to pass on my travels. A terrible thing… You're mature, you know, Kydan."
"What makes you say that?"
"Because if it was me… If I had once had a home which was torched to nothing by Lendras and his brainless, armoured thugs… I'd be after the bastard's head."
It felt strange to hear Auros, who at first had seemed like a smooth-talking ladies' man, speak with such conviction about deposing an Overlord, one of the very rulers of the continent.
"But then he'd probably just get replaced by some other opportunist with charisma and a penchant for mindless killing," Kydan spoke bitterly.
"If there's one thing not to give up on in this world, lad, it's hope," Auros stroked his patchy beard, as white as the hair on his head, thoughtfully, "Have you never listened to a bard's songs, heard tales of the triumphant men of the past who fought for justice? There are still men like that out there. Take this Overlord of Yuleir for example- That man amassed multiple Spirit Vessels and gave them to his closest followers, and now he's making waves in the world. And he's younger than I am!"
"You may be right," Kydan conceded, "I've also heard of his exploits… But anyway…"
"I was wondering… And you can say no if you want, but… Would you accompany me to Alfad Remeris?"
Auros chuckled, "I thought you'd never ask. A chance to see history in the making as a total unknown claims a long sought-after Spirit Vessel? What self respecting storyteller would pass up such an invitation?"
Kydan laughed. This man was eccentric as they came, and Kydan still had a sense that he might know more than he let on, but there was no doubt that Auros had a good heart. Even though they had still been concealed behind a hood, Kydan had no doubt of the fierceness and strong conviction in the man's eyes as he gave away what was probably his most guarded secret, the fact that he could wield magic, in front of a group of total strangers, knowing full well the possible consequences.
"Thank you," Kydan gave the older man a respectful nod, "If I'm to conquer the Dungeon and live to tell the tale, my chances will definitely be higher with an ally like yourself at my side."
"The pleasure, my friend, is all mine," Auros said, "You intrigue me, you know. Although you might protest, even this amnesiac jester can tell you're destined for more than you believe, and indeed more than you might desire."
Kydan silently cursed how cryptically the bard spoke at times like this, when he said significant things but with the aloofness and whimsy that Kydan had already grown to find slightly irritating.
"I'm a master of words, what do you expect?"
That's the second time this man has seemed to read my mind…
This new alliance Kydan had entered himself into was sure to be interesting if nothing else…
And so, our two leading men have officially formed a partnership. I hope you enjoyed the chapter and are as excited as I am about Kydan and Auros' upcoming adventure into the Dungeon! (I promise, more action scenes are coming, it won't just be 80% talking next time and beyond). As always any feedback at all is appreciated, and I hope you have a great day!