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Legends of Wind Book 3: The Quest

The Quest

Overflowing cup of juices from the finest Liran berries drains past my lips. I hastily gorge myself on the fine bounty of the evening, while at first noting the fair ladies of the tavern in half-drunken glances only to be met with fits of giggling from the latter. Lowering my cup, and leaning back in my fine stuffed leather seat, I contemplate the day’s events. Truly, and without question, it had been an arduous and trying day. My bones creaked amongst my worn and weary flesh as I picked my goblet back up, gazing through its crystalline parts to observe the scantily clad femme-types in the vision of berry bliss. Without warning, I am joined by a bothersome man, who takes up the seat across from me at the same table and yells for the bar-maid.

“Oy! Yah, bring me some-a-dat-dere cherry flavor beer, …aaan, um,…some good macadamias in a short glass!”

“Just when I thought this night couldn’t get any worse!” I chuckled sarcastically,

“Gallen, you twisted old freak! How have you been?”

Gallen was aptly named after his grandfather, whose name was legendary as the one who forged the sword “Cerrus” for the King of Cerrinnor.  

“I be just awful, little one!” The kingdom of Creation has seen better days to be sure, and it’s always me they blame! I swear to the blessed blade, they only think of me as their scapegoat!”  

At this, Gallen was smacked solidly across the back of his balding head by the bar-maid, who had already arrived with his refreshments on a silver platter supported by her lovely fingertips.

“Don’t swear by the blade, you old pervert! I’ll not have it in my father’s tavern!”

Gallen rubbed the back of his head as the bar-maid served the drinks. I chuckled a bit to myself, but then cleared my throat in order to take another sip from my goblet. The bar-maid sauntered over back behind the bar, throwing around her large skirt and bustier. From the outside of the tavern, the amber glow from the windows set the mood for the evening. People walking by on the street were drawn into its seductive light, and became seemingly possessed by the smells of sizzling meats and hot drinks such as honey mead and liran berry cordial. One, however, was not drawn in by these things, but by a matter of some urgency. A young man barged in haphazardly, dressed in an oversized couriers uniform with large hole-ridden earflaps. The color scheme of the uniform was stark white and bright red, contrasting the darker montage of the tavern’s patronage. He caught his breath and sat down at one of the tables, calling for the bar-maid, who had sneaked up behind him.

“Bar-maid! I’d like a-”

“Well aren’t you a cute young thing!” the bar-maid grimaced as she grabbed his sides flirtatiously, scaring the lifeblood out of him.

“GAH! Wha? Hey! I’ll-”

The young courier blushed at the sight of the bar-maid, who had known his brothers, and had not had the proper chance to begin teasing him, until now.

“Um, yeah, urghm! Yah, I’d like a hot cup of mead, and some information please.”

“Hmm,..Information? What kind of information?” asked the bar-maid as she not-so-innocently ran her fingers across his chest.

“Erghm! Cut it out! My older brothers told me stories about you!”

“Oooh, whats the matter? Are you having a problem? Do you need a stiff drink?” she teased as she grasped his lower extremities.  

“GAH! I said quit it! I’m, ..uh, oh! Oh! Ok. Woah! Hey! Yeah, I’m on a mission! I’m looking for a man named Jin!”

The bar-maid looked at me, and then back at her young friend.

“What do ya want with that drunken bastard eh?”

At this I choked on my liran berry cordial, causing the young man to glance in my direction.

“So, you’re Jin-Lir! I’ve been looking for you! I have a message!”

He flicked a dart at my table, which stuck in deep right next to my right hand. The young courier raised his right hand to his right ear and shouted:

“The Living Force of Intelligence! Yah-Yoh!”

At the moment he spoke these words; the hallowed words of sealing and unsealing; ‘Yah-Yoh’, there was suddenly liquid from within the dart that bled into the table, forming words that could only be seen by my eyes, and even vanished from the table the moment they were read. I noted the first marking as serious business, as it was the Royal Seal; The Imperial Sigil of the Light Empire’s ruler; Emperor Mathias Mindblade. I read the message to myself and then closed my eyes, removing the dart from the table and tossing it back to it’s courier.  

“Looks like I have to go, Put mine and Gallen’s drinks on my tab.”

“That brings your tab up to 10 thousand, old man!” scowled the bar-maid as I walked out of the tavern. She hissed at me before returning her devious intent towards the young courier.  

“Hey, get off!”

“Hmm, you first”

“Hey!”

Their voices became dimmer to me as I wandered beyond the warm glow of the tavern.

I walked out past the border of this small town and deep into the forest. The haze of the morning mist was coming into view among the trees as the sun began to peak over the distant horizon. I stopped near the edge of a clearing and surveyed the area. The ground was littered with stones and bits of ancient ruins, along with a feeling so strange and so subtle that it could only be known by one such as I.

“Ah, so there it is!” I mused to myself.

A long wooden staff lay in the center of a clearing; a strong oak pole; carved up to suit handling by human hands. Its thickness was liken unto the right arm of a messenger, and it was twice the length of a full grown man. I walked to the center of the clearing, and picked up my staff, pointing it towards the heavens.I closed my eyes and spoke words that had not escaped my lips for many years.”

“I call within to the far and the free!

A fireball of extropy!

Looping power, looping might!

Unto the empire, guide my sight!

Into my eyes, burning bright!

Fill them with Loporian Light!!!”

The moment I spoke these last words, I was no longer among the trees, and could not be seen in the sky or the stars. I had vanished from this world, and gone unto another. My departure had fragmented the landscape into a circle of equally spaced displacements every 4 degrees , and shattering these ancient ruins even further than the last time I broke into this level of reality. I was now a blur of thought and energy, flowing through the interdimensional matrices of overlapping vibrational levels of reality. This space has been called many things by different people; The Dreamtime, The Tree of Life, and by my own people; The Metaverse. It was the nexus between all levels of reality, yet in many places there were now direct, and man-made pathways connecting a variety of different reality levels to forge a number of mighty empires. There were four empires to be precise; each ruling over four kingdoms to make a metaversal nexus of 16 kingdoms, linked together by way of spoken poetry activated gateways that were spiritually constructed in areas where the barrier between reality levels was weak , and worn down even weaker by sheer force of human will.  

It was beautiful. The grand hall had a slew of polished stone pillars that were ten feet thick, and rose high above to the marble domes ceiling which was half a mile straight up. The walls were lined with archways that held locked doors shaped to those arcs. The floor was a marble cutting of many designs related to the synthesis of spiritual, alchemic, and mechanical effects. At the far edge of the grand hall, there were two massive thrones of various shining metals and pillaresque gemstones. Upon these thrones sat a man and a woman. The woman wore light armor and clothing of gold and black, with light green latex holding back her two endowments of generous and spherical proportion. She wore a golden and white crescent shaped crown upon her long, curly locks of strawberry blond hair. The man was as young looking as the woman beside him. He did not wear a crown of any type, but his over-elaborate armor made up for it. His shoulders and back were covered with dark brown tendrils that were as thick as arms, and twice as long as legs, as well as of the highest number quantity as physically possible. His hair was a matching color, and hung down to a bit past his chin. His armor was also variations of brown with many spirals on his chest plate along with a glowing stone of the purest green lodged into not only his chestplate, but also the better part of his solar plexus. Upon his hands were razor-sharp gauntlets of shining silver; each with a bright red gemstone lodged into the back of the hands. This was the Imperial Palace of the Royal House of the Empire of Light. It was a realm known as ‘Loporia’ or; ‘Kingdom of Light, borne of a Loop’, and was the capital kingdom of the Empire of Light. Also lining the walls, standing solidly on the floor was the ‘Imperial Guard’; the finest soldiers to be had, regarding those within and of the Light Empire. They were ever vigilant, and their glowing eyes watched over The Emperor Mathias Mindblade as well as the Empress Sentura Locke-nor. From out of a side archway door, about 16 feet over everyone’s heads, a ball of watery light came gushing out and swirled around, landing in the center of the circular marble cutting most suited for a royal audience.

“You may take form.” said Mathias.

The watery bioluminescent ball drained backwards into itself and became me as soon as the elements of my spirit and body were aligned with my omnipresent mind. This omnipresence became more finite when all of these elements became balanced. Now self-aware once more, I looked upon the beauty of the Grand Hall in awe. It was not my first time in the Imperial Palace, but its majesty and glorious mystique had never ceased to amaze me, after all these years. The Empire of Light, at this time, was not that old at all, and not many years had passed since its inception. But I, in my Elder status, had known the emperor since he was only a child, as well as his brother, Razus Razorblade, who had been disowned from the Mindblade Clan after the blame for his sisters disappearance was placed squarely on his shoulders. I looked upon my Emperor and Empress, bowing in reverence.

“Jin-Lir, I am happy to see you again. I really need your help with something.” Said Mathias.

“I am always ready to serve his majesty.”

“Don’t call me that, Jin. You are family as far as I consider it. That is also why I trust you enough to place you as the leader of a yet-to-be formed group of warriors from all across my Empire.”

“What is this about,..Mathias?”

Mathias grinned at my apprehension, but continued.

“I imagine that my brother, Razus, is taking the same measures. It seems we have a common enemy. The Empire of Chaos was not ever very cordial or sociable with us, but our spies have confirmed that they have started planning stages for an all-out assault on both the Light and Darkness. In this matter, and only in this matter, we have achieved a truce with Emperor Razus Razorblade and Empress Nightraven of Blackhalo. You will scout 2 children of proper age to fight from each of the four lower kingdoms of Light; Creation, Peace, Love, and Lifeblood; otherwise known as Cerrinnor, Oaenalia, Faroakes, and Taeerannor.” Our 8 Warriors will meet up with the 8 currently being scouted from the Darkness Empire’s lower kingdoms at a location yet to be revealed for security reasons until all 16 have gathered.”  

At this, Mathias tossed me a small leather bag, tied up with leather twine. It was quite heavy. I looked back at him curiously.

“Please don’t tell me you don’t feel anything from that bag.”

“Give me a second! I’m an old man!” I stammered as he chuckled under his breath. The sense from inside the bag was unmistakable, and almost felt like the contents might burn my hands if handled haphazardly. I looked back at my Emperor; dumbfounded and horrified.

“Th-These are f-f-from D-DOMMINNA!!!!!!”

Mathias gave me a toothy grin; a look of overconfidence that frightened me.

“Yes. Those are 8 silver coins from the only Metaversal Realm higher than this one; Domminna. I’m sure my brother obtained an equal amount of coins from Rhyhiao.”

“Do you seriously think that teenagers are fit to even touch these? This method of forcedHigh Nobility is well known even to myself, Mathias. I know it was common practice during the times of the old council, and you may have grown up with this kind of thing happening all the time, but in this modern age we know better! This kind of power must be earned through hardship, wisdom, and patience! Casting Advanced Adulthood upon a teenage child is not only immoral, it’s downright sadistic!”

“!-SILENCE-!” Mathias boomed so hard that it shook the foundations of the palace. The voice did not come from his mouth, but from his whole body, resonating visible waves of sound on a wide range of frequencies. I, as well as everyone else present, covered our ears instinctively. When the roar died down, as well as the ringing in my ears, I placed the bag into my satchel that hung over my shoulder. I then glared back at my Emperor, whom I had once known only as a child.

“Fine. I’m going. But, there will be blood.”

“I’ve bled oceans for my Empire. I’ll expect nothing less from so small an army.” Mathias grumbled. I bowed to my Emperor and Empress again, and closed my eyes as I raised my staff high.

“It is my will, and fixation

to summon the power of Creation.

I swear upon the Blessed Blade

Open the Gates! The Path is Made!”

At this, my mind, body, and spirit were brought into entropy convulsing, pulsing, and rippling out an echo that wove its way into another archway door that shut behind me.

There was silence in a dark hallowed woodland. The wind blew strong through the trees that were full with leaves in accord with the season. The sound touched my heart as I reformed back into my old grumpy self with robes flowing and staff in hand, along with a secret among my belongings of which I would not dare tell. I fear for those I’ve yet to choose, and feel my hand was turned into a hand of death. No one should have to grow up the way Mathias had, but it was now my solemn duty to cast 8 Souls from my own beloved Empire into that Rhyhiao; that Metaversal Hell. I walked back into the same town I had proceeded from. As it was now evening yet again, I breathed a sigh of exasperation, noting that it took my ancient soul a whole day to journey back between realms. Given that I’d made the trip twice recently, it was most likely that two days had passed. I dearly missed the sun, but for now the hearty glow of a tavern’s windows suited me just fine. It even beckoned my entrance along with the smells and sounds of good food, drink, and merriment. I decided to keep my staff on-hand while I walked through the door; plopping down at the same table as a thoroughly plastered Gallen. The bar-maid was still tickling, teasing, and nearly starting a drunken riot with her mischief and feminine wiles. I sat back in my chair.

“Bar-maid! Bring me a Lirian Berry Cocktail, and make it a double!” I bellowed half-heartedly in my weakened state, She soon brought me a large crystalline mug of liquid happiness, and grazed my ear playfully with her left breast in doing so. That sent a shock of electricity through my whole body.

“Ah, there’s life in this old crank yet! Heh-heh!”  

Falling. The darkness is infinite around me as I fall through emptiness. I can hear nothing except my own breath, heartbeat, and the rustling of my cloak. Hours pass, and still nothing. All at once I am jolted into consciousness by metallic clanging sounds. I have been dreaming, it seems, with my head resting in sticky berry cordial and drool. The sun was starting to rise, signaling all of the tavern-ridden persuasion to begin a new day with a fierce hangover. I stood up and wavered, struggling slightly to maintain balance in my grogginess. Present company was similar in constitution, and there was already a short line for both the lords and ladies restrooms. Not willing to wait, I took my leave from the murky tavern only to be ambushed by sunlight. Staff in hand, I started into a jog towards a nearby lake. Catching the viral morning breath of summer wind, I broke into a run. Leaves rushed past my face as I quickly drew close to the lake, and pole-vaulted with my staff straight into it. There was a might splash, and my sobriety became complete as I bubbled to the surface.

“Aaah!” I heartily groaned as I shook my head about like a wet dog. After floating about for a while, I decided to dry off and get some breakfast. Getting into some dry clothes would be more of a problem for someone less proficient with the handling of the elements, but not for me.

“Syphia! The Living Force of Wind!” I bellowed,

“Yah-Yoh!”

I was taken up swirling and spiraling up into the air in a tumble-dry process that ended shortly as I landed on my feet, as dry and refreshed as I could be.

I walked back into town, smelling chocolate-chip pancakes and sizzling crispy bacon, as well as the sweet aroma of numerous variations of coffee. Drawn further into town, and almost Chaosing off my feet, I found myself sitting at a table. I waited deliriously for my delicious looking waitress to take my order, and forthwith to serve me a delicious breakfast to abscond me into euphoria.

“What’ll it be?” she said, with almost the same level of grogginess as myself.

“I’ll have the scrambled eggs, bacon, and hazelnut coffee.”

“Is that all?”

“Yep.”

“It’ll be about 20 minutes sir.”

My sobriety grew even sharper when I felt around in my satchel for my money pouch, and coincidentally touched a pouch of coins other than the one I was reaching for. The resulting emotion almost made me jump out of my seat.

“!!!!!!!!!!” I boomed from within inaudibly.

I resolved to acquire a good bit of cloth later that day, have it purified at a temple, and then have it charged by those working in the latter as a barrier insulator for strong spiritual energy. I needed to wrap the aforementioned cloth around the pouch of domminnian coins if I was to maintain any measure of sanity in handling it. But given this idea, the more urgent problem came to light once more. 2 children from this kingdom had to be scouted. Where to start? Who to choose? How to choose? These questions, among others, riddled my brain and heightened my blood pressure. I looked around for possible prospects. There were, at this time, no children, save for the young waitress, of any age at this restaurant. Aside from her, there were only sobering drunkards and busy travelers here. The waitress arrived with my coffee, and told me breakfast would be coming in another 15 minutes. Sipping my coffee, I continued to think. Where do teenagers gather in great numbers? There were, of course, the schools to consider. But teachers as well as parents were ever watchful to guard their children from old and creepy men like myself. That was another thing to consider; the parents. How could I convince any parent to send their children off to fight in a war, not to mention having them brutally augmented beforehand? It wasn’t like I had a choice to back out of this mission, either way. Nobody disobeys an Imperial Command, not even family, without expecting far worse a fate than I had in store for my chosen ones. I couldn’t let the parents or the teachers know, and I also had to steer clear of the homes and schools of possible choices.

Luckily, I knew this realm like the back of my hand, as I have spent a good deal of time settling in here. That meant I had some advantage of a home playing field. I knew there was only one place to go where I wouldn’t be hindered by troublesome teachers or parents; The City of Aoen. Aoen was a hidden place, used extensively by teenagers and forbidden by teachers and parents alike. It had been built by former denizens of “Sabbaeo”; a dark realm of children who had taken leave from their parents and their senses in order to rule themselves. Sabbaeo was one of the 4 lower kingdoms of the Empire of Darkness. In any case, Aoen’s qualities allowed for perfect amnesty for runaways, deviants, or simple curiosity seekers of early age, for no adult would dare enter, lest they be eaten by the remaining Sabbeoite children whose policy was to keep their territories purified from adult tyranny by way of pack cannibalism.

I knew that any teenager with any sense of adventure would be lured there, and most would attend regularly to see the coliseum matches and gorge themselves on all manner of frivolity otherwise sternly forbidden by authority figures at home and at school. There was even a small percentage that took to the culture altogether, and used it as a stepping stone towards the Sabbbeoen realm. There, they would grow into dark soldiers to be used in “Necros”; The Demon-Machine Army of the War Kingdom; “Rackvor”. The waitress returned with my eggs and bacon, placing them in front of me. I nodded a thank you and she rolled her eyes before walking back into the kitchen. I noted that expression with some interest. She had to be about 16 years old, and looked as defiant as ever to boot. Without her knowledge, I threw out a tracking seal with my thoughts that quietly and painlessly tattooed itself upon her back, where she would be hard-pressed to notice unless in very particular circumstances. She felt nothing, and that was due to my skill at hidden tactics, such as the tracking seal. But despite this, she definitely caught me staring at her. I averted my eyes quickly when I noticed, but it was already too late. The damage had been done.

“What is it?”

“No, its nothing.”

“Is there something in my teeth?”

“No, I’m sorry.”

“Sorry for what?”

“I said nothing!”

“You just said something!”

“No, I didn’t!”

“You were staring at me weren’t you?”

“You. You’re a dirty old man!”

“No, I’m not! Listen, I’m truly sorry if I-”

“You keep your dirty old hands to yourself! I know what you want! Damn it! Every time I work the morning shift this happens! I get ogled by hoards of dirty old men! Calling me ‘sweety’, slapping my butt, and somehow coping a feel without even getting close to me! I’ve had enough! ” she stomped, huffing and puffing herself into more and more of a blood rage. I tried to escape her imminent catharsis upon my form, but it was already too late to leave the restaurant or even the table in the conventional manner. She was leaned over and blocking me from leaving, and looked about ready to pounce like a cougar.

“Daddy! Daddy!! This dirty old man was molesting me!!!” she bellowed as she held her arms tightly over her chest. A very large man came out of the kitchen and started towards me with a severe look of irritation.

“Oh, Rhyhi.” I mumbled under my breath. The waitress smirked wickedly at me, and now, for some reason, one of my hands was already stuck to her chest. This threw her father into more of a frenzy than before. I knew at that moment that drastic action would need to be taken. I closed my eyes.

“Undinae! The Living force of Water! Yah-Yoh!” I yelled.

All of the sudden, water began to gush out from the kitchen faucets back in the galley. It also started to run from the hoses outside of the restaurant. It all collected together from the outside and inside to form a single torrent of water that smashed into the little lady and her father, pushing them up against a group of customers that had just gotten up to leave. This gave me my chance to escape. I quickly got up out of my booth and bolted out of the restaurant. I knew that I should most likely, at least for a while, vacate the premises and lay low. This seemed like one of my better ideas, since I was now faced with an angry mob spilling out of the doors faster than the water of in the flooded restaurant.

“Sylphia! The Living Force of Wind! Open your eyes! Yah-Yoh!” I yelled.

Adding the phrase, “Open your eyes”, to the elemental summoning gave it an extra boost, and allowed me to become airborne and consistently in a practical manner for the purpose of travel. I found myself at 3,000 feet in the air; the wind currents treating me well, and gravity losing its grip upon me. I looked thoughtfully at the ground below, and chose a location. It was a thickly wooded area, far from my pursuers, and also held a secret known only to myself. I dove down at a 45 degree angle, picking up speed. As I grew closer to the ground, I changed my angle to 90 degrees and dove down headfirst, protected by currents of wind that surrounded me in a thickly woven bubble of spinning wind elementals. This barrier became more apparent as I rushed past the tips of the tallest trees and the branches broke before my decent, not even touching me. The last thing to be broken was the ground, or rather the wooden gate covered in leaves and brush. It was hinged in the center by a large pipe, making for a fine revolving door to anyone striking it with the kind of force I was about to dole out. I struck the gate, which flipped over as I passed into the hidden entrance to an underground tunnel, and closed behind me. The gaseous barrier rolled around my body, now serving as a pinball along many obstacles and pathways. At last I arrived at my destination; a large room with all the comforts of home. I had burrowed a good number of underground safe houses, such as this one, throughout the Empires. They definitely came in handier than usual in the task for which I now found myself enlisted. With a kick of the heel, and a snap of a fingers, I slowed to a halt; the gaseous barrier dissipating. I was definitely getting somewhere. That little firecracker was either my first choice, or my ticket to Aoen City. First, though, I would need to change. As this room was rather large, it was perfect for my intentions. Up on a nearby shelf was a jar of pure and smooth quartz stones. I took up the jar and emptied all of them onto a side table. There were 16 of them in all, the perfect number; for my intent, and to all who knew of the sciences, arts., and magicks of any Empire; anywhere in the Metaverse. I picked up one of them, and held it tightly in my fist.  

“Infusion of CreationStone!!!” I yelled

When I opened my hand, the quartz was glowing from within. I placed it in the center of the room and called out:

“Echo of the Union!!! 16 Stone Circle!!!”

The glowing quartz sent out a 2 dimensional circular shockwave that slowed and stopped when it struck the first wall in it’s range. It then proceeded to burn itself into the floor and disappear. The marking of a huge circle was left, with equidistant smaller circles bisected by the larger one. The small circles were 16 in number. When the quartz in the center lost it’s inner glow, I took it up once more, yelling:

“Infusion of CreationStone!!!”

I placed it in the center of one of the small circles, and then picked up another quartz; closing my fist around it. I observed the opposite circle from where I had placed the CreationStone Infusion.

“Infusion of DestructionStone!!!”

I placed this glowing quartz down in the aforementioned circle, and picked up another quartz, repeating the entire aforementioned process for the rest of the infusions.

“Infusion of PeaceStone!!!”

“Infusion of WarStone!!!”

“Infusion of LifebloodStone!!!”

“Infusion of BloodlustStone!!!”

“Infusion of LoveStone!!!”

“Infusion of HateStone!!!”

“Infusion of IntelligenceStone!!!”

“Infusion of EmotionStone!!!”

“Infusion of MotionStone!!!”

“Infusion of EnergyStone!!!”

“Infusion of FireStone!!!”

“Infusion of WaterStone!!!”

“Infusion of EarthStone!!!”

“Infusion of WindStone!!!”

There was now a circle of ash with a glowing quartz crystal every 22 degrees. I stood in the center of the circle and closed my eyes.  

“Staff of Union, Become my Spine!”

“Crystals of Knowing, become my Hands!”

“Crystals of Being, become my Feet!”

“Circle of Union, become my Heart!”

“All I ask is a single Wish!”

“By the Blood in my viens, glowing Rich!”

“Align to my Will and flare out Free!”

“Make me young again, like I used to be!!!”

All of the stones jumped upward in unison, and simultaneously struck me like bolts of lightning before they all went dark once more. I felt omnipotent for about 4 seconds; my body in a state of pure energy, echoing out and writhing in the fires of transformation.

As a young man, I might have enjoyed this feeling longer, but being as old as I was, I passed out; a problem I was not likely to have for a good number of years after this largely taboo performance. I dreamed wildly of women, magicks, food, and good stories, all the while my new body cooling. Steam rose from my tanned skin and a generous length of raven black hair as I awoke from the dream. I looked into a mirror hanging from the ceiling near the furthest wall and grinned. How many times have I done this now:5, 15, 36? I had lost count. Needless to say this was a secret few carried, but we were all older than any of the Empires, and memories of our origins had long since faded. I imagined the one to gather the warriors from the Darkness Empire was of a similar status. I walked over to a dresser and began pulling out clothes to wear out to the restaurant. I eyed my staff, but decided to leave it here, and use a smaller tool for inter-realm travel, should it become necessary sooner than later, one that could fit inside my down-filled coat. It was a dagger, and had symbols carved into the length of the blade. I took it up with its sheath into my coat and zipped up the middle. I pulled back my hair and bound it up into a long straight ponytail with a long strap of black leather. I took out all of my belongings from my old satchel and placed them into a leather backpack, having less trouble with the pouch of silver domminnian coins than before. Contemplating my choice, it would be indeed be possible to scout prospects at the schools, but I figured on stopping by Aoen City first. When I was all packed and ready, I brandished my dagger and closed my eyes.

Chapter 2

Coin

“Sylphia! The Living Force of Wind!” I bellowed.  

I then proceeded to leave my hideaway in the exact same manner as I had entered. This time I landed softly behind some thickly wooded area behind the restaurant I had visited previously. I could see the waitress in the window, mopping up all the dirty water and swearing by the blessed blade. Her father was still apologizing to customers and even doling out vouchers for free meals. Thankfully I was close enough to the restaurant to hear them. I decided to have supper there at the end of the day. For now, I brushed off my shoulders and headed for the temple. ‘23rd Temple of CreationStone’ it was called. These words were carved in stone over the entrance, which was quite elaborate, but didn’t even hold a candle to the beauty of the Grand Hall of the Imperial Palace. I walked up to the two guards, who looked more than a little hesitant to let me in.

“By Delieloe, I come on Imperial Business.” I whispered into one of the guard’s ears.

“Yah-Yoh, by the blade.” Said the guard; ordering his subordinate to let me pass.

I walked through the massive stone archway, and down a long corridor lit with candles and lined with paintings. The large wooden frames held oil paintings of famous CreationStone Avatars throughout known history. The floor was thickly carpeted and the ceiling was buttoned plush polished leather. The air was full with a strong scent of patchouli incense, and the candlelight cast dancing shadows every which way. At the end of the corridor, I was met by three priestesses. They said nothing, but smiled and took my shoes, backpack, and coat, and sat me down in a chair similar in looks to the ceiling. Here, they washed my feet and massaged my shoulders, chanting softly to themselves. When I grew more relaxed, they gave me a cup of herbal tea, placing a small table in front of me on which to place my cup. The tea was sweet smelling, but too hot to drink yet. I placed the teacup on the table, and I noticed that 2 of the priestesses were knelt by my sides, and the 3rd priestess was entering the main temple. I had to acknowledge their beauty, as well as their serene manner. The priestesses, without looking at me, each fondled my legs, sides, and arms with one hand; the one nearest my chair. My intentions, apparently, had been relayed to this temple in advance by the Imperial Council of Mystics, who had not only noted my reactions in the Grand Hall earlier, but had remained hidden in doing so. This was their prerogative as the Security Intelligence Agency to the Royal Family of Light. After a little while, I started sipping my tea and one of the priestesses handed a buttered biscuit. My level of happiness and relaxation was now at a strong level. Noting this, both priestesses stood up and softly guided me to the door of the main temple. They ushered me inside before the large stone circle door shut behind me with the sound of polished stone moving over polished stone. What lay before me was an awesome sight. There was my pouch of coins, floating in mid-air in the center and above a circle of 16 meditating priests. The remaining priestess whispered in my ear:

“Authorization to Insulate?”  

“Authorized.” I whispered back.

“Yah-Yoh” She whispered as she raised her cloth-draped hands, signaling for the priests to begin. All of the priests began chanting in unison; faster ,and faster, and louder with each recitation. The area around the floating pouch became luminous and sparkling; an effect growing in intensity until I could no longer see the pouch. Their chanting continued; furious and fiery as the spirals of light shooting from the shining cloud. After 16 minutes of this, all of the priests stood up as if lifted by some unseen force, and opened their eyes, now apparently replaced by glowing crystal orbs that shined brighter than the shining cloud. All of them suddenly stopped chanting, and there was a moment of silence as all of the bio-luminescent smoke infused down within itself and took the form of a young girl dressed in light robes with short silver hair. Her eyes were closed as she floated to the floor, touching down softly. A young priestess from outside the circle cast one long, large black ribbon into the circle. Another young priestess did the same from another direction. The two ribbons swirled around the maiden, and ended by securely fastening themselves around her head; effectively blindfolding her.

“YAH-YOH!” was the ominous call from the lot of everyone present, including myself. At this all things returned to dim normality and the maiden fell to her knees. Most of the priests walked off into other rooms, but a couple of them stayed to help the maiden stand up. They guided the blindfolded maiden towards me, and then took their leave as well. The priestess ushered us both outside the main temple, and down the corridor. She thanked me for my visit, and locked the archway doors. I led the maiden down to the street, holding her hand. We walked for a while until we came to a large park with cobblestone walking paths and a large fountain in the center. I looked expectantly back at the maiden as we sat down on a bench.

“Do you have a name?” I asked.

The maiden shook her head ad clutched my arm, looking more than a little frightened. She smelled like blueberries, and shivered just slightly in her fear.

“I thought as much. You used to be my coin pouch.”

She nodded at this, and clutched at her chest, now shivering a bit more.

“You don’t have eyes yet do you?”  

She shook her head again, feeling the blindfolds wrapped around it.

“Fortunately for you, I happen to have the perfect name stowed away.” I said as I placed my hands on the ends of the knots holding the blindfolds fastened.

“Young lady, your name is Coin! I yelled as I removed both blindfolds by pulling out both knots at the same time. As soon as she heard her very own name for the first time, her eyeholes became luminous and her green eyes became real. She looked at me with those eyes. She had never seen me, or anything before, so expectantly she was frightened by this new sense. She ran screaming from the bench and hid behind the fountain. I chuckled a bit to myself, but then sternly called out to her.

“Coin! Hey! Coin! Why are you running away?”

I walked over to her, only to see that she was gazing at her fingers like a newborn. Technically, she was one, but up until now she had existed as the inherent intelligence over the combination of the leather pouch, and all 8 Domminnan Coins therein.

“I am Jin-Lir. You may call me Jin. From now on, you belong to me, and you will be in this form until our mission is complete. Do you understand?

She stood up and dried her eyes, gazing back at me with an empty gaze.

“Yes. Yes, master.” She said, her voice calming.

I was quite unnerved by that blank stare, and I didn’t feel like viewing her as a machine, especially with her calling me “Master”. Nonetheless, her situation did not exactly give hope for the future. With each silver coin she gave of herself to the next potential warrior, she would lose a large chunk of her soul. Considering that, it made good sense that she would be distraught and even feeling hopeless. That was something, even given time restraints, I could not bear to watch.

“Its time for lunch. You’ve never eaten before, so I’ll take you some place nice.” I said.

Coin nodded, still distant with all manner of vacant expression on her face. I would cheer her up,..By the Blessed Blade I swore I would. We walked back to the restaurant and picked out a nice table. A booth would not do for this afternoon. The waitress arrived soon and gave us both menus, never batting an eyelash at me. My plan was in effect, I thought to myself, she didn’t recognize me.

“Would you like to hear the specials?”

“Not really. We know what we want. My girlfriend wants 3 slices of cheese, mushroom, and sausage pizza, with a tall glass of chocolate milk with double the syrup. And for dessert, a chocolate sundae. I’ll have the same.”

“That all?” the waitress snorted, obviously perturbed about something.

“Yup!” I said cheerfully, “That’s all!”

“It’ll be about 20 minutes.” She said, turning to go back into the kitchen.  

I grinned at Coin, who gazed back at me with that blank gaze again. She wouldn’t stay that way for long, for I, in my adepthood, knew many chinks in the armor of the female mind, and how to best exploit them. Chocolate was one of these weaknesses. Coin, at this moment, was nothing but a doll even to herself. I could objectively define her suffering, but I was not even remotely ready to relate to it. All I could do at this point was to be there for her. The waitress returned with our pizza, chocolate milk, and sundaes. I caught her making flirtatious glances at me, as well as some slightly seductive body language. I was hoping this might evoke some sort of jealous reaction from Coin, but there was still nothing. Nothing, that is, until she took her first sip of chocolate milk. You could almost hear the blood rush and the electricity racing through her brain as she visibly exploded emotionally and bolted down the remainder of the chocolate bliss with tears in her eyes. She then proceeded to gorge herself on the pizza, which activated an even higher sensation of euphoria by catapulting off the first one. She finished the whole meal in record time: 3 minutes, 23 seconds.

“Aaah! That was GOOD!!” She laughed, looking somewhat on the border of nervous madness mixed with tears of joy.  

“Don’t look now, but you’ve neglected your chocolate sundae!” I beamed.

She looked back at me and blinked. Then she looked at her ice cream and blinked again. Then, she cried even larger tears as she shoveled it all in. I took to my own lunch as well. The pizza was excellent, but I was even more happy that I had finally broken through Coin’s shell. After chocolate catharsis had abated, she was chatting non-stop, even with chocolate still on her face.  

“Where did you get that dagger? Can I have one? What are we doing on this mission exactly? Why me? Am I really your girlfriend? Can I have some more chocolate?”

I had a feeling this would be a journey to remember.

Chapter 3

Aoen City

After lunch, we headed for the entrance to Aoen City. I didn’t know where the entrance was, but the waitress did., I was sure of it. She had taken off for the later part of the afternoon and into the evening. I was sure that she wasn’t going to a study group either, specifically because of what she was wearing when she took her leave from the apartment above the restaurant. She was wearing a long jacket so that her father wouldn’t see, but I could tell she was wearing something shiny and revealing underneath it. Coin and I followed her from a distance, with help from the tracking seal I had cast on the girl earlier.

It was easy, and downright necessary, to fade in with the crowds when following a target. Coin stayed close to my side, still a little apprehensive about being around so many people. I smiled at this, and held her hand, which she nervously clutched. I didn’t know the name of the waitress, except for her surname: “Lennin”, which was a poor clan of lower class workers that mostly operated shops and restaurants in the local area. I say “local” because I’m hard pressed to call this place a town. It has a tavern, a restaurant, and an artisan guild, as well as spattering of houses. There were crowds of people here, but they were only passing by into the larger city of “Karroe”. This town’s inhabitants called their home “Oaeboaken”, after a hero from many wars past. The crowds grew thicker, and more aggressive. At the saturation point, there formed, in the pattern of the crowd, a shift which caused one half of the mob to flow one way, and the other to flow in the opposite direction. This made the flow in both directions speed up immensely, and Coin, in the confusion was nearly torn away from my arm. This only served to strengthen her resolve as she clamped back down on my arm even tighter than before. Coin and I were soon nearing the town border, which was a white mailbox from a house that had long since been destroyed by shockwaves. My tracking seal let me track any person marked with it for a 16 mile radius, so Coin and I could afford to be patient and stay out of sight while continuing our pursuit. So, when we were clear of Oaboaken, we took our leave from the heavy traffic in favor of an alternate route to Karroe. As we walked I attempted to further comfort the young coin. She seemed to be increasingly detached from reality. Understandably so, since the hard truth she bore was far more than could be expected for one so young.

“Are you ok Coin?”

“…”

“Do you need more chocolate?”

She shook her head and continued on in her daze, as if shirking her desires.

“I know what you’re dealing with, and I’m really sorry it has to be this way.”

At this she looked at me again with that blank stare. I saw no emotion in her eyes, but the tears were visible. Apparently my presence gave her no solice. Just the opposite, in fact, or maybe just in my opinion, because it was my mission that caused her to live, and then only to slowly die away with each coin she was to dole out to each chosen warrior. Truly a cursed life, but was even that better than no life at all? I decided to gain some kind of lead on the young waitress, given that the alternate route was a good deal slower than taking the main road, but I also did not wish for us detected. The perfect thing to mind, and a smile came to my lips as I waywardly brandished my shining dagger.

“The Living Force of Motion over the Living Force of Loporia! The Infinite Blade of everyway, never known or seen, become our world, become our path, upon this grass of green! Yah-Yoh!”

At once, we were both invisible and catapulted into the air with great force. I could not see Coin, but I could feel her. She was wrapped around my arm and shaking, obviously terrified.

“We’ll be okay, I promise.” I said to her, not knowing whether or not my words would reach her among the cords of raging wind and distortion that carried us aloft and kept us there. I looked out over the land. My target had stopped short of entering the city of Karroe, and had taken a side road, approaching another clearing in the forest.

“Where is she going?….!!!..Oh Rhyhi!”

I shifted the direction of my dagger, which had the effect of hurling us both 45 degrees down towards the clearing. Coin screamed, and I felt obliged to do so as well, but I held my tonque, and held my hand over Coin’s mouth as well. She struggled a bit but then looked back at me and calmed down. Just when we were about to hit the ground, I shifted my dagger once again, and we landed upon a soft cushion of air currents that let us down gently to a standing position near the edge of the clearing. When we landed, I did not yet sheath my dagger, as I still wished for us to remain invisible for a while longer yet. As the waitress walked to the center of the clearing, she dropped her heavy trenchcoat, revealing her perfectly beautiful body clad not so modestly in shiny silver and black stretching cloth. She stopped, and held her right hand straight up, breathing in sharply.

“Ao! Ao! Aoen! Open the Gate!” she bellowed fierce as the fire in her eyes. I was certainly impressed with the way she carried herself, but this was not enough to make her my first choice as of yet. Quickly and with much jarring of the ground, a large circular doorway constructed of wood, iron, and oversized gemstones erupted from out of the grass. The gate was followed by its keeper, who appeared in the same manner as his charge. The gatekeeper was a young boy, clad in wooden polished armor, and wielding a long wooden sword. He and the waitress smiled at each other.

“Children come and go as they please, as the drums are beaten” he said

“If their parents try and stop them, surely they’ll be eaten” the waitress cooed back.

The wood-clad boy stepped to the side of the gateway and it opened, revealing an underground tunnel lined with stainless steel that grew darker as one would look within it. The waitress gleefully jumped forth and slid down the tunnel, vanishing from sight. I sheathed my dagger just as the boy was about to seal the gateway. Coin and I were now visible, and I called out to him.

“Children come and go as they please, as the drums are beaten!”  

The boy stepped towards me a few feet, and then drew his wooden sword.

“You’re no child! This is the wild! You’ve gotten me riled! I’ll not be mild!”

He closed the gateway and broke into a run towards me and Coin, with his wooden sword held out menacingly before him. I, in turn, pulled out my dagger and rushed forward. When we were five feet from each other, the boy stopped and struck the grass with his sword, causing a shockwave that knocked me backwards and left a good sized crater in the ground. He was taken up by the shockwave up into the air for about 300 feet, and then turned over as he descended, obviously intending to strike me head-on. I knew that he meant to strike me with another shockwave at a vital spot on my body, so I wasn’t about to stand still. I stabbed the ground beneath me and yelled:

“The Living Force of Motion!!! Yah-Yoh!”

The ground trembled, becoming chaotic and increasingly displaced as gravity became impotent within a 1000 foot radius. I jumped up and flew with grace and speed towards the boy, holding my open palms out as weapons. The boy, a bit disoriented from the sudden change in setting, could only panic as I formed a stronger shockwave from between my hands and released it as I passed him. He was sent plummeting down, smashing himself an even larger crater than the first one he’d made. When the dust cleared, I noted that he was out cold. I flipped over and descended, retrieving my dagger and sheathing it, causing all the floating objects to fall and the dust to settle. I looked over at Coin, and motioned for her to follow as I walked towards the gateway. She complied, and snapped back onto my arm as we both peered down into it. The gateway had spiraled open in the few seconds preceding its keeper falling into unconciousness. Given Coin’s anxiety, I was more than willing to bet that she was afraid of the dark, let alone claustrophobic. I took out her blindfolds from my satchel, and wrapped them around her eyes and ears before holding onto her even closer and diving headlong into the tunnel; the gateway closing and descending behind us. I didn’t know it yet, but that boy was part of a large Aoen Guild, and I was in a whole lot more trouble than I could handle when he woke up and reported back to them. It would be a different story altogether when I had more of an army on my side, but that luxury was a-ways off yet, and I had already expended too much energy today to deal with the hoards of Aoen, let alone the more vicious brats from Sabbaeo. I was tired, and needed to bed down and then get some good food in my belly before I started in on any more bending, spindling, and mutilating of the fabric of reality. We slid down for a long time; longer than expected. The longer we slid down the slippery stainless steel tube, the more I anticipated something greater of Aoen city than I had before. Children had built this, and given that children were not known to be individually very strong by comparison to adults, I was amazed that large groups of them could commit themselves to feats of this measure. I also wondered if even my Emperor could stand up against the lot of them when they fanned out and swarmed like wasps against their prey. I saw a light at the end of the metallic tunnel, and Coin and I were suddenly airborne as we shot out of the tube. After falling through the underground space of no distinction, yet properly lit, for about 5 minutes, we both landed in a large room filled with pillows and stuffed animals.  

We were now walking through Aoen City, with all its decadence and ritzy glamour. This underground city was kept up quite well to be run by children, but I soon realized that it was not the young ones, but the the living force of the city that took care of itself. This was made most apparent from the street lights that sported bioluminescent bulbs at the end of fleshy posts that would bleed if one were to cut them. The posts pulsed slightly with the blood flowing in and out; the veins and arteries shifting behind ebony skin of such the sight of a living city, which was more than a little disconcerting. It seemed that our target was headed towards the massive colloseum up ahead, so I decided to follow and get tickets to see a match or two while we were here. I looked around and didn’t feel any eyes watching us, nor did I sense much malice directed in our path. Given this, it was an easy assumption that the warrior from earlier had been an isolated case. Unbeknownst to me at this time, however, was the Guild which the young warrior swore by. Even now they followed us, cloaked in stealthy shrouds of invisibility much like the one I had cast upon us earlier. The colloseum that lay before us was 30 stories high, and looked rather intimidating; so much so that I wondered why Coin was no longer shaking. This oddity of nature was solved by the fact that she was wearing her blindfolds again; not wanting to be overwhelmed. I didn’t blame her in the least, nonetheless it wouldn’t necessarily do to have her locked around my arm forever.

“Why don’t you come out? It’s a beautiful city, it really is.” I said, pulling at her blindfold, only to have her protect it with her hands, with some animosity in her grip. I decided to leave her alone for now, but this problem was headed in a direction I didn’t want to contemplate. After all, I had my own sensibilities to deal with, all things considered. Apparently, we didn’t even need tickets, because nobody stopped us from walking right into the colloseum. So, we followed a flight of stairs up to the lower seating area, which looked full. Not all of the seats were taken though; I saw a couple of seats in the middle seating area, and maneuvered towards them, meeting with sneers and annoyed remarks as we passed through the thickly packed rows. Finally we arrived at two free seats and sat down. It was just in time too, because the next match had just started.

The announcer’s voice boomed out of the loudspeakers:

“Allllllright! That was incredible! Who would have thought?! For all those who sided with the beast, my heart goes out to you, but I’ll take your money anyway! Bwhahaha!!! Ok! Next up is a little cutie from Oaeboaken that certainly impressed us in her last match, please welcome: Heliael-Lennin!!!”

It was the waitress! She pranced out onto the colloseum floor in her skimpy little outfit and waved to the crowd. A large, lion-like behemoth was dragged out of the arena by about 50 boys with long ropes and large metal hooks. Another behemoth waited behind a steel gate at the other side of the arena. The crowd was beginning to get restless, so the gate went up.

“Ready! Set! Place your bets!!!” yelled the announcer as the entire arena was now filled with switching sounds. These sounds were from 10,000 children placing their bets on the match with the mechanical betting instruments built into the handrests of their seats. Big money was being wagered either way, but I stayed out of it for right then,…possibly later on. The behemoth roared and took off.  

“FIGHT!!!!!” the announcer bellowed ferociously. Heliael took off as well, heading straight for the behemoth and screaming bloody murder; her clear intent. The crowd grew slient for a few seconds as they were about to collide. Only one would walk away from what was obviously turned into a sudden death match. The very air stood still, as if holding its breath, as both the Behemoth and Heliael readied and launched death blows of shining lethality. Heliael brandished her spiked gauntlet with razor tipped fingers, and like poetry in motion, carved a bloody sigil upon the behemoth’s flank. The behemoth missed her as it came down with a mighty swipe of its claws. She, in her gymnastic mastery, flipped about the arena without gaining one single cut or bruise. When she knew that she had put enough space between her and the behemoth, she knelt down and began to pray. Her prayers were to the Stone of Creation; the cardinal stone of the Kingdom of Cerrinnor. Instantly, the gate opened for that particular force from out of the sigil she had carved into the behemoth’s side, and it was overcome by a growth of flesh that quickly turned it into a giant ball of pulsing, living mass; as unable to run away as a tree in the forest. She hadn’t killed the beast, but she had done far worse. Heliael jumped with excitement, waving to the crowd, which cheered loudly as the announcer called out:

“WOW!! What a finish!!! This young prodigy has shown us a marvelous feat of her fiery will, ladies and gentlemen!! Lets hear it for her once again!! Heliael-Lennin!!!”

The crowd cheered even louder at the sound of her name as Heliael cried with tears of joy, still waving to the crowd. I smiled, knowing that, ironically, she was my first choice. It was then I decided to bet on the next match as they rolled the mutated behemoth out of the arena. I noted with some curiosity that about 20 children pounced upon the rolling mutation with blowtorches and all manner of seasoning, ripping and tearing it to pieces like piranha.  

“OK!!” shouted the announcer with more intensity in his voice,

“Heliael-Lennin has one more test, which will be out last fight of the afternoon! Not a beast, but a full-fledged soldier of high rank from NECROS! THE DEMON MACHINE IMPERIAL ARMY!!! Please welcome,..Raziel Necros!!!”

An armored man walked into the arena. His armor was covered with large black razors and his body was wrought with mechanical prosthetics. He had a way, and a glare about him, that fended off even the most bloodthirsty child. Many of them stared in awe, actually, as Rackvorian soldiers of the Dark Imperial Army of Necros were revered heavily here; mostly because it was a goal for those who sought the more “hardcore” lifestyle in present company. Needless to say, these soldiers were the exception to the rule for the cannibalistic stripping of adults by the Aoen denizenry; especially of Sabbaeo.

Raziel glared down the arena at the now half-blushing, half-terrified Heliael. I looked at the two, and knew that this was an uneven matchup. Raziel would tear little Heliael to pieces. This was not because he was older necessarily, but because of his rank, and place, in Necros. It made him a living gateway straight to the Stone of War. One rank higher, and he would be one of the HIGH LORDS OF THE POWER GATES for crying out loud! Needless to say, my money was on him, Sad, really, because Heliael was just about to become my first choice. The crowd grew silent again, and Heliael, not being a fool, was suddenly vanished from the arena. She would have been stopped by the colloseum guards, but they were frightened off by her shit-eating grin as she held out her razor-laiden gauntlet. The audience laughed heartily, and Raziel turned away in disgust. I breathed a sigh of relief, and decided right then to have a domminnan coin placed in her hand later on that evening. Raziel began to walk out of the arena, but stopped suddenly as a new challenger blinked into position in a flash of speed. He turned around to see an amazing sight that had me looking at the empty seat beside me in horror. Coin now stood ready, with her blindfolds still wound tightly around her eyes, but not her ears. The announcer choked out loudly:

“We-W-We have a new Challenger, ladies and g-gentlemen! Its an unknown little girl?! What can she do against Raziel Necros?! What can she do?! Uhh,..OK! Whatever! Ready! Set! Place your bets!!!”

Coin started to resonate, and she opened her mouth, singing out loud straight notes that were a beautiful series of soprano moans collected such a way as to ring out haunting music. The area around Raziel began to tremble, and all of the sudden a new seriousness fell over the crowd, followed by ominous clicks that seemed more harmonious than in the previous match. Coin’s skin glowed as she sang, and the area around her started to ripple and fade in and out of reality. She was the avatar of 8 domminnian coins, no, scratch that, she WAS the 8 coins, and this made her more dangerous than any Emperor, High Lord, or even one of the 16 stones upon which our reality was founded. The Necros soldier knew this, and stepped back. He then proceeded to leave the arena once again, this time in silent fear, gnashing his metallic teeth as he walked with a shadow over his eyes.

Coin continued to sing, and the audience was visibly moved, many of them to tears. I closed my eyes and sighed. I was becoming peckish, and soon I would be liking some good supper. Luckily, Heliael had left the arena and even Aoen City in fright. It was fine though; I knew where to find her The restaurant was my next stop anyway. After a long and moving performance, Coin appeared back in the seat next to me. I held her close, but noted that she had stopped shivering; a fact which I couldn’t really grasp the reason for. That reason could only come from Coin, and she wouldn’t talk to me. I took her up, and proceeded to leave the colloseum, not caring for any more gambling tonight.  

Chapter 4

Monsters

As we made our way out of Aoen city, I noticed that more and more children were starting to take notice, particularly because of Coin. No child had ever made Raziel or any Necros soldier even blink, let along tremble. I didn’t like it, though. It was always better to blend in with such a society, and that advantage was quickly ebbing away. I took Coin in hand, and walked faster towards the Aoen City gate. We were definitely being followed now, and I didn’t want to make a scene, lest hoards of bloodthirsty rugrats find out who I really was. One of them grabbed Coin’s other hand.

“Just who the Rhyhi are you anyway?” said the indignant child.

I brandished my dagger and pointed at him, giving out a sour expression. He nervously let go of Coin, and I turned back towards the path to the gateway. This wasn’t good. Now we were even more of a spectacle. More children followed us now, and I as sure as Rhyhi didn’t feel like being eaten by sticky fingered cannibals tonight. I turned around, held out my dagger, and closed my eyes; focusing upon the dagger.

“The Living Force of Creation! Open your Eyes!” I yelled.

At the moment I spoke these words, my dagger grew into a blazing broadsword with all manner of magickal sigils carved into the length of the blade. It, as a whole, was on fire, yet the color of the fire was white, like lightning, and did not burn me. Within moments, I had made my point clear and the followers scattered. The dagger renewed itself back into its original form when at last I could renew my calm demeanor. We soon reached the gateway, which sucked us up through a great system of interconnected and oversized pipes to the surface, where we were duly departed from out of the hollow of an old dead tree in the middle of the forest. We both landed painfully, and in a manner most unbecoming; with our bottoms stuck up in the air and our faces intimate with the grass and twigs. We stood up and brushed ourselves off before heading back up to the main road back to Oaeboaken. I didn’t know about Coin, but I was very hungry, and also ready to begin my quest with a victory. Heliael-Lennin would be my first choice from Cerrinnor, and I didn’t care if her father was present. I wasn’t going back to that blasted city any time soon, tell ya what!  

The restaurant was packed that evening as Coin and I walked in. Smells of cooked meat and bubbling liquor filled the air, along with the sounds of happy voices; chatting away in leisure. We found a table and sat down, waiting for our lovely waitress. She was buzzing about like a bumblebee from table to table, as if pollinating flowers in her garden. In this manner, she arrived at our table, flicking out menus expertly before our placemats. She held her notebook closely.  

“What’ll it be? Or do you need a few minutes?”

“Hmm, we’ll both have the fried pot-goart with a side of crispy fries and a virgin liran berry cocktail for the little lady, regular for me.”

“Ok, that’ll be about 30 minutes.”

She buzzed back into the kitchen, clipping our order up on a string for her father to pick up and start cooking. It seemed to be a single fluid motion as the doors didn’t have the chance to stop swinging before she flew back out; buzzing to the next table with a large tray of food and drinks balanced on one hand. I looked back over at Coin, who seemed more lively than usual. Still, I was starting to worry about her even more. I wondered what kind of effect losing a coin would have on her. It was nearly nightfall, and the sunset cast its brilliance of oranges and yellows through the windows of the restaurant and reflected every which way within, making for a stunning sight. I was starting to become anxious, but Coin seemed innocently oblivious to the radical changes that were soon to befall her. It was so nice to see her happy, and with her blindfolds taken off. I really did not want to take that feeling away from her. This wasn’t good. I was beginning to see her in a manner that contradicted my mission; not as a mere facilitator of divine power, but as a daughter. I sighed in spite of myself and munched upon one of the rolls in the basket between us. Coin was already on her 3rd roll, with her eyes closed in pure and innocent enjoyment of the evening. I needed to shake this looming feeling of discord before I ended up failing in my mission. My master taught me to question everything, including imperial commands, but I never seriously considered doing so, until now. My apprehension was beginning to show, and Coin noticed immediately. She showed her concern through her eyes. I, quite honestly, did not know what to say to her. Nonetheless we needed a child from Cerrrinnor; two, in fact. I knew from the beginning that all of this would not be easy, but I hadn’t imagined it would have been this hard in the least. I knew Mathias Mindblade as a child, and he was no different than the one seated across from me. The waitress arrived with our food and drinks, and I took up a steaming piece of pot-goart into my mouth. If not for hunger, then to gouge my emotions relating to what I would need to do in the next hour or so. After 40 minutes, both of us were full and ready for the bill. The bill, hmm; oddly enough, our bill, which Heliael had cheerfully brought to us just recently, was 16 copper coins; 8 for each of our meals. 16 coppers was the equivalent of 1 common silver coin. This was going to be a huge mess! As Heliael walked over to collect, I could only hide my face behind my menu(that she had neglected to take)and motion for Coin to be the one to handle the check. Coin looked back at me sadly but understood. Heliael held out her hand, as she had done many times before to collect from the patrons of this restaurant. Even now, she had her mind in other places, but she was about to receive a swift kick from reality as Coin nervously reached out and touched the center of Heliael’s chest. Now, Heliael would have expected such from me, the dirty old pervert, if she had recognized me. Coin, however, was another matter, being a young girl and younger than her at that. She didn’t have time to fully grasp this manner of situation, for she felt something odd touching her breastbone. It felt oddly metallic and patterned like an intricately minted coin. She almost took it as payment by way of a common silver coin, even in this ridiculous manner. But she didn’t have the time to fully contemplate that idea either. The silver coin merged into the center of her breastbone, and immediately she noticed two things. One, her hair had turned from dark brown into a light neon pastel sort of red and was now growing faster than coffee pouring into a cup. Two, Coin’s hair had also changed color from silver to light blue, not increasing at all in length. Heliael was frightened. She grew even more so when she felt her whole body start to resonate. As I thought it more appropriate, I stood up and yanked her towards the door.

She was in a daze, and did not fight me as we left the restaurant, and Coin, behind. Coin was so upset by the loss of a coin as to tether the ribbons back round her head and over her eyes again. Yes, we had attracted attention. Many spectators looked out the window, some even following us outside to see what was happening. I threw the girl onto the grass, where I knew she would have at least enough space, and watched as her body burned brighter and brighter.

“You are a person! Remember that! Don’t forget!”

My screams were hopefully accepted and even heeded, but she gave me no indication of this. She began to scream, in pain, confusion, and outright terror.

“WHAAAAAAAGH!!! YAAAAAAAH!!!!”

Her eyes now lost all manner of commonality, as they were turned into shining gems as smooth as her eyes used to be. Her fingernails became each one of them a foot in length, and they were also turned into shining gems, yet razor sharp and glowing as well. She looked like she was giving birth and yet, even more painful, it was a rebirth. A golden haze erupted from her eyes, mouth, nose, and ears; wrapping her in a cocoon of her own living spiritual energy. She now appeared to us a ball of golden light.

“You are a person! Remember! Human! Your are HUMAN!!!” I screamed.

Those screams had to be in vain now, but I still hoped she would heed my words.

All at once, there was an explosion of light and a loud thunderclap, and Heliael was turned into a comet, bursting upward and high into the sky until she could no longer be seen. The restaurant patrons were flabbergasted as I walked back inside to retrieve Coin and pay for our meals properly, albeit when Heliael’s father would return from outside.

He was in tears, and on his knees, watching his only daughter fade out of sight into the evening sky.  

“What have I done..” I murmured to myself  

“I took Coin by the hand and we took our leave quietly from the restaurant. At first, it seemed that some of the onlookers were becoming more than a little curious about me and Coin. My shadowy glare fended them off, though, and thensome. Looking up at the night sky, I cursed out to the stars. I remember Mathias’s own father did the same to him as a boy, using different means but the result was the same. Humans were turned into fierce elemental lords; personifying the force generated in the core of their hearts. The resulting mental backlash permenantly scarred them, and left them set apart from the rest of humanity. They were no longer human. My emperor was nothing more than some kind of “thing.” A monster in moderately human shape, yet I was bound to serve his imperial will unto my death if need be. Heliael would not return to this place for a long time, as her mind was in a state of entropic chaos. She was at this moment most likely still in the form of a comet, resonating a deafening scream as loud as the fires that exploded out from within her. She needed time, and I was going to let her have it , if for only a good while at least. I decided, while doing so, to head for my next target from the Kingdom of Creation. This one would not even take me near Aoen City again. I was going back to school, and I had to admit, my smoothed features and my new height made me fit the part of a schoolchild. Coin, of course, was born to play this sort of game, and would, undoubtedly, fit right in. For tonight, though, all this would undoubtedly fit right in. For tonight, though, all this would have to wait until morning, as I was growing very tired from all the mental strain I was only incurring upon myself. We walked into the forest and found the clearing. Coin was looking absolutely dreadful, having lost a part of herself. I didn’t blame her, but I supposed that a good night’s sleep would be good for her. I brandished my dagger and pointed to the heavens, holding Coin close to me. The ground below me shifted as I began my concentration. I focused my heart and mind, calling out:  

“The Living Force of Wind! Open your Eyes!!!”

Coin buried her face in my coat and held on tight as we both were hurled up into the night sky. We dove up and then down, down towards my safe-haven once again. She screamed into my coat, and even louder once we struck the revolving door. Landing safely, I slowly pried her away from my body and started fluffing pillows. I had a guest bed for this kind of situation and pointed her towards it. She phloomphed down into her soft luxury and instantly fell into a deep sleep. I smiled, and changed into my sleeping robes before bedding down myself. I was sure to dream of this, and it was not likely to be very pleasant. I turned out the lights with a whisper, and pulled my soft blanket over my now much smaller body. Such a thing was mildly amusing, but it was still the last thing I contemplated before my eyes shut and I went to sleep.

Chapter 5

Folly

I dreamt heavily that night; mostly of monsters becoming people, and back again. I dreamed of all my loved ones being consumed within the fires of their own transformation. Lastly, I dreamed of Coin wilting away into nothing until she was just a leather-faced doll with twine for hair. No, without her last coin she would revert to an empty pouch; immobile and faded from life as we know it. Yet, I knew this was her destiny from the beginning. Now, however, it vexed me terribly. I Chaosed in and out of lucidity for much of the long hard night. Waking up in a cold sweat, I noticed that it was still dark outside. Perfect. I got out of bed and lit up my fireplace with a bit of my “Firebreath”; a little trick that I had picked up while traveling with a nomadic group that called themselves: “The Children of the Fire Goddess”, who was most likely one of those taken into extropy by the old ways of Deep Magick. “Deep Magick”, as it was called, was the prime subject of study in all of these chaotic matters I found myself wound up in. It was a high class, highly taboo subject, and of course children, especially teenagers, loved to get their hands on anything even remotely connected with it. I began cutting and peeling vegetables, and grinding tea leaves for our breakfast. Of course everything was fresh and ripe for the picking from vines growing out of the walls, where I had planted them much earlier. I hummed a little tune to myself while working in my makeshift kitchen, which woke up Coin with a torrid start.  

“Good Morning!” I chuckled, slicing up green peppers for our omelets.  

I had eggs and cheese too, but these were both stored in a conventional ice-box, and not so old that they would not be at least edible. Coin ambled out of bed and sat down at the table in the kitchenette side of the room while I was just about ready to mix in the eggs and cheese in my lovely ceramic bowl. I poured all of the contents of the bowl onto a large metal plate over the furnace. It had upward pointing grooves on the sides, should any bit of egg move waywardly. I waited a few minutes and then brandished my spatula, flipping my concoction over so as to cook both sides. Coin yawned and scratched her head, becoming more unnerved by her change in hair color. I flipped the finished omelet onto a plate, and handed it over to Coin. I then returned to work on the tea-leaves for the delicious objective of bazzel-Coin tea for the two of us. When that was brewing, I took back to omelet making for myself. Coin happily ate her cheesy, peppery omelet in pure delight with her knife and fork. It amazed me that a newborn could use utensils, but there were things far more odd about this young girl than innate intelligence. I decided not to worry about it, for now at least. When I had my fill of breakfast, I tore into a back closet, throwing out books and pieces of clothing. I had to get ready for school. It being the middle of the current school year for those attending the lower grades, I was in good fortune. I got to be the new kid; again. My earlier years were peppered with such times, and this was no exception. Coin, however, would have to come with me, and I didn’t see that as a problem. The only problem I could fathom was the guardian issue. To enroll in school I needed someone to play the role of my father, or mother, and that wasn’t going to happen because my real ones, if they were even alive, were long lost and older than even the old council of Cerrus, back in the universe. Yes, Cerrus was the planet we had come from before discovering the Metaverse all those many years ago. It was fitting that the holy blade of this Kingdom should bear its name. Anyway, I still needed a parental figure. Luckily, my 16 stone circle was still usable, albeit a bit frayed from the last time. There were 16 crystalline capacitors within the handle of my dagger as well, which made it as good as my walking staff for use with the circle. This was all well and good, but my intentions required not only the circle and dagger, but also a magick book I had hidden away called: “Arcanum Mystica 4”; of a series of magick books written by Orbius; my master and long time friend. He was also the highest ranked wizard and personal advisor to the royal family of light. Alas, it was not here. I needed to find a copy somewhere for various reasons, including my current plight, but I could not remember who would have one that I could get to at this time of day. Regardless, I would have to just show up in one of the classes unannounced. This was a tad dangerous, but if I was caught, I could claim that Coin and I were recently orphaned with no living relatives, and work along with the pity as the faculty would dote on us. Even in this form, I knew I was just brimming with good ideas.

It was later that morning that we headed into a small moving crowd of children headed for a local school. They were all dressed in uniforms, unfortunately. When we arrived at the school, Coin and I were immediately turned away by the headmistress. A horrible chuckle came from one of the students. I barely recognized him, but I was too late to catch him. I was wise to think earlier that the one collecting warriors from the Darkness Empire was like me. It was my brother; “Wonn-Lir”, and he was hunting for chosen ones in not only the wrong kingdom, but the wrong Empire! I walked away with Coin from the school with dread under my breath. I didn’t get far though, before I heard a choir of screams from the school. I looked back at the school to see two comets exploding from out of the roof! A large crowd of concerned teachers and parents soon overtook the building, and Wonn wandered outside with a little boy in tow. He walked up to me and grinned maniacally. The little boy next to him giggled as he bit his own finger, drawing blood. Coin cringed at the sight.

“Hello brother, so how many have you got?”

“One.”

“Really? I have two now, haha!!”

“Wrong Empire, dumbass!”

“Don’t talk to me like that!”

Coin began to cry, and I stopped myself. I ushered her away from that place while my brother laughed at us.

“I’m way ahead! I knew it! Ha ha ha ha!!” Wonn crooned.

I hurried away, carrying a frightened Coin in my arms. Two at once?! This was too much! I tried to console her, but it was in vain. The damage had been done. The comets faded from view as they left the planets atmosphere. Good riddance, I thought, but I knew I would see them again, just as I would Heliael, who was bound to be rather angry with me and Coin when she returned with her sanity. We had to prepare for her recoil, before it was too late!

Chapter 6

Prince Valus

At this point, it was clear that I was not attaining a chosen warrior by way of school ties or rebellious youth, so instead of taking Coin home, I headed back to the clearing in the forest.

“Sorann Lier Yah Ova Lirium!” I bellowed as soon as I arrived.

At this, my old staff reappeared exactly where it had been before. I gave the dagger to Coin, strapping the belt and scabbard around her waist,

“Here, Coin. This works better when you can jump into other realms with me. We’re not leaving yet though. There is one more place I want to try.”

I picked up my long staff and called out to the 16 seals of creation.

“Si! Bo! Ne! Ke! Re! Jah! Molo! Wonn! Vue! Coi! Yah! Yoh!”

Each seal gleamed upon my staff, causing both Coin and myself to vanish from the forest. This was interspacial travel, not interdimensional. We only had time to blink as the world swayed around us, then proceeding to swirl around until we were were both standing somewhere which wasn’t even remotely close to a forest. This was the grand palace of the Kingdom of Creation. All around us there was nothing but polished stainless steel. There were also giant gemstones built into the walls of the courtyard as bright and gleaming as the sun. We walked past the massive courtyard and towards the majestic main gate, where we were met by two palace guards who blocked our path with their large broadswords.

“Who be you then?” They sneered.

“Jin-Lir. This is Coin. We come seeking Prince Valus.”

“Oh? What for?”

“Imperial Business.” I said as I showed them my engraved Loporian Seal set in leather. They both looked at each other and stepped aside. We walked past them into the main hall, where we were greeted by a host of royal servants. I had to bring out my Loporian Seal many times before I was allowed and audience with the Prince. Prince Valus walked into the main hall, looking rather displeased. He was dressed half in royal garb, and half in light armor, just as most royal figures were. The colors of his ensemble were blue, black, and white. His defiant glare pierced my heart, and caused me to lose my bearings but for a moment.

“What, may I ask, does an Imperial Servant want with me?” he grumbled as he took a seat at the far end of the main hall. I walked closer, and became more confident. I dared not show any weakness now, before royalty. My eyes returned to their usual calm and strong solidarity before the prince.

“I come seeking a champion. I have a domminnian coin for one worthy of receiving it.”

Prince Valus went wide-eyed and stood up.

“Deep Magick?! Oh yes, I know all about it. Let me show you.” Prince Valus said as he walked out of the main hall. Coin and I promptly followed. We all walked down into a chamber filled with books. Prince Valus took one off the shelf and handed it to me. I went wide-eyed as well when I saw the title.

“Arcanum Mystica 1?! How did you aquire this?  

“I have 4 of the 16 volumes, and I have studied them well.”

“I see. Then you would be the second chosen one from Cerrinnor.”

“I would be? Who was the first one? What is this all about?”

“Our Empire is in danger. The armies of Emperor Turok are gathering. We must have an army of warriors to fight them; a small special operations army with high levels of divine power. I am traveling to each kingdom in our Empire, seeking chosen ones for the task at hand”

“Well then, do not seek any more commoners! We children of the royal houses are much more fit to accept such a great honor! My siblings and cousins of the other Kingdoms also are well versed in Deep Magick, as all the other volumes are in their possession!”

“Incredible! When did you all aqquire these books?!”

“A gift, from High Wizard Orbius. He treats us all well when he visits.”

“Well then, I couldn’t feel better about choosing you, my prince”

I motioned for Coin to pony up another coin, but I was stopped by Prince Valus.  

“No, no, not here We’ll go to my inner sanctum. I have ‘special equipment’ for this sort of thing.” He said, closing his eyes for a moment.

He directed me into another lower chamber in the castle; one with large iron doors and a large spinning lock. Coin followed, looking rather distraught as usual. The “inner sanctum” was centered around a large contraption with many large shackles to hold every limb separately. It was amazing, like some kind of torture chamber, except that torture was not our intent. Prince Valus jumped up and laid himself up into the contraption, and I proceeded to bolt his arms and legs securely into place.

“Bolt my arms and legs more tightly!” he grumbled.  

Coin wandered closer, and suddenly got a goofy look on her face. I backed away quickly as she lunged at Prince Valus and smacked a coin straight onto his chest, where it fell through to his heart like a knife through butter.

“YARGH!!! YAAARRR!! ARG! HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!!!!!”

Prince Valus exploded with laughter as madness overtook him.

“HAHAHA!! GET THE RHYHI OUT! LOCK THE DOOR!!!”

We both vacated the room just as his skin began to glow. His golden hair had turned black, and Coin’s had turned purple. I locked the door in fright with the spinning wheel until it clicked loudly. I knew that he would not be ok for a good long while, so I decided to take Coin and proceed with our plans for Heliael. We now had 2 warriors, boiling in their own blood and fire, from the Kingdom of Creation. To tame them would be a matter of time, and we were running short on that with the Armies of Chaos building and hoarding in number just a poem’s reach away. They dared not attack yet, for the Imperial Guard of Light had been monitoring and blocking their interdimensional entry into any and all Kingdoms of the Light Empire, especially the capital. Yet they couldn’t hold the Armies back forever. As we didn’t have much time, I thought, Heliael would still have to wait! I looked at Coin and held on to her shoulder.

“We are leaving now Coin. We shall depart henceforth to the Kingdom of Peace! Oaenalia!”

Coin nodded and we took our leave quickly from the palace.

Chapter 7

Songrunner

We walked out past the courtyard, and I held my staff to the sky, motioning for Coin to do the same with her dagger. She crossed it with my staff as I called out to the heavens.

“Emblem burned upon my heart!

With which peace echo has become part!

Harmony, Balance, Peorth, and Scroll!

With these things I am made whole!

Let the path before us be laid!

I sign this treaty! The path is made!”

Coin did not scream. In fact she cooed, for we were surrounded by a warm golden light before we vanished from Cerrinnor, while Prince Valus continued to laugh and burn in the shackles of his own creation. With a whisper, and 16 flashes of alternating visions of stone and light, we arrived in completion of form in the Kingdom of Peace, far from the troubles that lay behind us, at least for a good while. It occurred to me though, that I did not know the seals to get to the Oaenalian Palace. I would need to find someone who did, and the only way I could figure on doing that was to get to a local tavern and ask around. This was a realm overrun with law-enforcement. Soldiers wandered the streets instead of police, but then again, only to keep the peace. I was surprised we were not arrested on the spot for being strange visitors without any identification cards. I had my Loporian Seal, but I still didn’t feel like drawing attention. Instead of waiting to get arrested, we walked into a law-enforcement office. I showed my seal, and gave the good woman at the desk our names, prompting her to reveal a plethora of forms for us to sign and stamp. When we had done so, and so much that our arms were tired, she took our photographs and gave us our identification cards. I knew how valuable these were. Each of them held a flat crystal that radiated a force, repelling solidiers and their scripts of 100 questions like vinegar against mosquitoes. It was lunchtime, and I didn’t know about Coin, but I was hungry. We walked for a short while and found a good looking restaurant. It was about noon, and it was packed, so we kept walking. Finally we found a good tavern, obviously serving some good food. We could smell cooked pot-goart and hard apple cider from outside the tavern, so we walked in. There was great merriment afoot here, no question about it, on 3 floors no less. I sat Coin down at a table and walked over to the bar. The bartender looked at me suspiciously until I brandished my identification card and put his fears to rest.

“I’m looking for someone that knows the 16 seals of peace, in order to get to the Holy Palace of Oaenalia. My name is Jin, Jin-Lir. I am gathering champions for the Emperor, and need entry to the palace as soon as possible.”

The bartender nodded and pointed me over to another table. There was an old man sitting there, smoking a pipe with blue smoke rising from it. He had sized me up with his thick spectacles before I had even spoken to the bartender.  

“Yah, ye Liran boy! I know who you are, so yah don’t need to flash one of those blasted cards! I heard about your mission from the Loporian Ministry of Intelligence not too long ago.”

I walked over and ushered Coin to sit at the old man’s table, where I sat down as well. The old man took another puff from his pipe.

“Ah, this must be Coin! Yah, they told me of her plight as well. Poor girl, she must be up in arms over this whole ordeal!” said the old man before taking another puff from his pipe.

“Do you have the se-”

“Yah, I have the seals young’n! But I don’t have the authority to just hand them over! I’ll bring you and Coin to the Holy Palace myself.” Said the old man, interrupting me in a jovial manner.

“Well then, lets be off!” I choked out.

“Yah, wait just a minute there, we’ve got time.”

“No we don’t! Weren’t you listening?! This is a serious problem we have on our hands! There are Rhyhianish warriors from the Empire of Chaos, and-”

“I KNOW! Darn it young feller! Let me smoke my pipe for a bit longer! Its not like you’re up to speed about the situation too much either! We have more time than you seem to think! There has already been an advance force sent to battle these ‘Chaos’ as they are called now! So just sit tight young’n!!”

The old man took another puff from his pipe before taking in his last bit of lunch. He had been eating a roasted pot-goart sandwich with a glass of black cherry ale. I was hungry too, so I motioned for our waiter to come to the table.  

“Can I help you?”

“Yes, I’ll have the same as the old man. Same for the kid, except for the ale. She’ll have a virgin cherry cordial with her sandwich.”

“Very good sir. That will be about 20 minutes.” Said the waiter

“My name is Lucien.” Said the old man, leaning back in his chair.

“Lucien?! Would that be ‘Lucien Songrunner’?”

“Yes. Yah know of me then?”

“You are a great hero! A legend even! I read stories about you from the days of the ancient rebellion of light!”

“Yes, and from that rebellion was sparked the first flames of the Light Empire. I remember. That was so long ago.”

“Didn’t you serve on the old council? Why aren’t you a High Lord of The Power Gates?! I heard all those who ruled Cerrus on the old council were given that rank and title when the Empires of the Metaverse were reorganized!” I clamoured.

Lucien chuckled and took another two puffs from his pipe.

“I never wanted any of that! I never sought fame or fortune in any of my dealings or endeavors. I leave things like that to younger folks. When you reach 1000 years, you’ll most likely think the same way.” Lucien grimaced.

I fidgeted in my seat, knowing that I was indeed that old, if not older, yet I could not remember the old days, as my incessant resetting of my physical age had taken its toll upon my memory. There were flashes now; fragments, and they were not good for much. The memories, at best, only served as a minor annoyance because of their shattered nature.

“I,…I’m of the sort that pursues the Deep Magick, so I’m actually quite a bit older than you even, if that makes any sense.”

Lucien narrowed his eyes at me and grumbled a few words I couldn’t understand. One word was clear though.

“BLASPHEMY!”

Chapter 8

Darnlia

I wondered whether or not Lucien would take us now, since he would not speak to me after that taboo had been dropped. Even after our meals and drinks arrived, he said nothing. In his eyes, I was a heretic; a blight upon peaceful society. It was at least nice to get some good food and drink into my belly. Lucien was just about finished with his pipe as well.

“Fine then! Let’s be off!” he said at last.

With that, the 3 of us rose, leaving money on the table,(except for Coin of course), and headed out the door.  

“We need to find someplace hidden.” Said Lucien as we walked down the side of the busy street. This ‘hidden’ place was not easy to find, as we were in a thickly urban area. Finally, we found a small abandoned building that was perfect for our intentions. We had to hurry though, since even with identification cards, Oaenalian Soldiers would be attracted to such areas where criminals were sure to congregate. I cleared the floor of debris and motioned for Coin to pull out her dagger. She crossed it with my staff, and Lucien drew his broadsword; crossing it with my staff and her dagger. He called out:

“Mah! Rain! Tob! Saah! Tel! Ye! Boh! Rah! Ova! Ne! Que! Loh! Meta! Laine! Yah! Yoh!”

It happened just as before. The world swirled around us and back again This was a wholly different sight from the Palace of Cerrinnor. The Holy Palace of Oaenalia was constructed of giant smooth slivers of wood and stone. The slivers swirled around, making the entire palace seem like it was a spiraled tower surrounded by a giant bird’s nest. Lucien sheathed his sword, as did Coin with her dagger, and we walked into the crystalline brambles of the courtyard. Two guards were there to meet us. Instead of swords, they held out scrolls, which they unraveled before us; reading in unison:

“Welcome to the Holy Palace of Oaenalia! Come in peace, and remove your shoes!”

After taking off our shoes, we passed through the gate and into the palace; walking a considerable distance down a long and winding hallway. I began to wonder how much longer Lucien would be accompanying us. I certainly did not want him to see the eventuality of this endeavor, since he was obviously a highly religious man, and thus opposed to all forms of Deep Magick. Given his state of mind, seeing Coin transform another chosen one would not have very beneficial effects upon his aged heart. Without warning, a hoopring dropped down from the ceiling; effectively encircling me as it hovered to a point just above my waist. I stopped; confused and bewildered by the situation, which became even more strange. I soon found my face buried between the breasts of an amorous young woman who looked to be about 19. She laughed as she ran her long, red, shiny fingernails through my long black hair. When I pulled my head back for air, I noted that I was no longer in the hallway, albeit I was surrounded by long red hair. The young woman pulled me closer, and her breasts enveloped my neck as she squirmed venomously about in devilish glee.

“I am Princess Darnlia, Mistress of the Eros Hoopring!”  

Having said that, I was taken from her clutches by many female hands and thrown backwards into a flurry of beanbag chairs that covered the floor of the room in which now found myself.

“And you have entered the domain of our Mistress!” clamoured the ladies who were dressed in fine silk sashes of various colors. They all danced in a circle around me as Princess Darnlia loomed over my form menacingly, as if ready to pounce.

“I already know you’re here to recruit warriors for the Empire, little man. I’m getting that Coin before my brother takes it, I hope you know!” She spouted.

Her long hair fanned out, as if carried by some unseen force, and her piercing eyes burned their gaze into me. A look of irritation soon became rooted in her gaze.

“Where is it then?! Where is my Coin?!!” she angrily stammered like a spoiled child.

Being quite overwhelmed with the current situation, I could only choke out a response while I edged away from the over-zealous amazon.

“S-She, ..I-I m-mean her, ..uhh.”

“What the Rhyhi are you blabbering about?!!” she yelled as she stepped closer.

“The. …T-The young girl I came with! Yes! Her name is L-Coin! She has your C-Coin! ” I stammered, shaking with fear.

“Coin? Hmm, yes there was a little girl with you wasn’t there? I’ll have to go and find her as well.” She venomously giggled to herself as she stepped even closer to me. The maidens danced closer to me and held me down against the beanbag chairs, while Princess Darnlia continued her piercing gaze. This time, she really did pounce on me like a cougar, only tickling and searching all over my body, which was still a more than a bit frightening but not altogether unpleasant. It seemed that all of the maidens giggled in unison at me.

“What, do you think I’m stupid?! You have the Coins don’t you?!” gloured the princess as she tickled me at a feverish pace.  

“NO! Ha ha! STOP! Ha ha ha! NO! Ha! NO I Ha ha ha! DON’T!” I yelled, trying to fight her off unsuccessfully. All I could do was wiggle about against my maiden hand restraints.  

“I don’t believe you!” Princess Darnlia chortled.

Just then, Lucien walked in the roon with Coin and called out to us.

“Hey! That’s enough now young’n! Now quit yer molestin’ of the Princess!”

I tried to pull away, much to the delight of the Princess, who continued unfettered and even more fervently to the task of information extraction. Lucien walked over and pried her off of me with a wide and strong grip that left Princess Darnlia in a huff, but not unimpressed. Looking up to see who dared to handle her in such a way, she lit up like the shining moon to see her old tutor again.  

“Songrunner! I’m so happy to see you! It’s been far too long!” cried the Princess as she ran into a large hug with her ancient friend. Lucien, however, was knocked over backwards by the overbearing young woman who now had him pinned to the beanbag chair ridden floor.

“Aye-Yah! Oh, it’s good to see you too little one! Now would yah mind kindly getting off of me for a quick second? Yah knocked the breath right out of this old body!”

Lucien ambled to his feet as Darnlia let go of him.  

“So, little lady, Urghm! Have you been well?”

The princess only glared back at him sarcastically and and advanced slowly towards him.

“Ay! Quit it now! I’m through being one of your toys!” grumbled Lucien.

Darnlia’s eyes soon moved over to observe Coin, who was shaking terribly. The eyes of the Princess sparkled quite evidently, as it looked as though she could see right into Coin, and the hidden treasures she possessed. Darnlia lunged at Coin, who could only block with her hands in spite of her fear and anxiety. I really wished that she would have run away just then, that is, instead of using her hands. A foot would have been better, in order to put this harlequin in her place by a strong kick to her backside. But no, she had to use her hands, inevitably forcing a Domminnian Coin right through into the silk laden chest of the Princess. Darnlia fell back a few steps and started to giggle. Unlike Prince Valus, she was unrestrained and had no means by which to control what was happening to her. She fell over backwards onto the beanbag chairs as her eyes began to glow. Her hair had changed to a bright collaboration of white, red, light red, and orange; shortening to just below her chin, about the same length as our Emperor’s hair. Coin’s hair, in turn, had turned in color yet again to a deep scarlet with streaks of grey. I didn’t like the look of this at all, since the grey hairs were accompanied by a much older look. Coin now looked to be about 30, and she was not taking it well in the least. Her body had suddenly filled out, causing an issue with balance, so she fell over herself as she ran out of the room screaming. Darnlia took on much the same temperament and bodily changes as Heliael. Crystal and Fire overtook her body, and she screamed loudly as reality rippled around her, slamming down upon her in increments. Reality beat itself into her blood as she cried out in all manner of ancient tounges that had been taught by her tutor. Still, she suffered, and much like Heliael, turned into a violently erupting comet that surged through the high ceiling of the palace. I looked down, and punched the floor. It looked like we had another warrior now, but again, I was always tormented by the ways in which these tasks were undertaken. I cursed out loud, throwing my head back with tears streaming from my eyes at what I had brought here; at what I had done.

Chapter 9

Upheaval

Lucien was noticeably infuriated; stomping over to me with eyes of a raging bull. His very presence seemed amplified somehow, and I fell under his long dark shadow. I wished dearly that the Princess or even one of her intrusive court maidens were here at this moment. My eyes were still filled with tears. Lucien looked down at me with deep, angry furrows in his brow.

“Y-You knew. You knew this is what had to be done!” I choked out.  

With that, a straw had been broken, and a line crossed. I never saw him move. Oh my stones, I never even saw him blink! But, nonetheless, his old bony fist crunched into my face, evoking blood from my cheek and sending my flying twenty feet. Luckily the floor was covered with beanbag chairs or I could have broken my neck. Coin wasn’t here to comfort me now. I was alone; alone with this coarse old man from a far by gone age. I ambled to my feet and held my hand to my bleeding cheek, which was beginning to swell. Lucien stood silent, as if set into stone.  

“Yah, you little heretic! I know yer Rhyhian mission alright! It just breaks this old heart to see the damage you be doing to people’s lives like this, as if they were your toys! Have you no shame?! The Deep Magick was forbidden for a reason!” the old man barked as he reached into his cloak, pulling out a metal bottle. He took a swig from some strange liquid and squinted; his wrinkled face imploding upon itself temporarily while he swallowed his vice. I walked back over to him, still holding my face. He scowled at me and turned around.

“Where are you going?” I asked.

“To go and find your consort. Poor girl; aged so much in just a few moments. It’ll be Rhyhiao for her right now, and I reckon that she needs some comforting. Far more than you, that is.”

Lucien walked over the beanbag chairs and out into the hallway. I grumbled to myself, but acknowledged that he was right. If not for my broken memory, I would be just as he was, if not worse, and would have never accepted such a mission, but I had no choice in the matter! As I followed him down the hallway, I noticed that our path was slowly changing to match the outside of the palace. We were beginning to walk upon crystalline brambles that were flattened by years of walking traffic. Coin was still nowhere to be found. She had obviously run deeper into the palace in the frenzy created by her sudden changes. The hallway gradually became completely encrystallized, and vanished altogether as we reached the outer parts of the center of the palace. This was the place I had only heard stories about; The Forest of Living Stone. These petrified wood trees reached up farther than I could make out before they disappeared into the crystalline brambles. Here, among the trees, we found Coin with her head buried in the arms of a young man who looked to be about eighteen. He looked up at us and grinned. Dressed in royal garb, we assumed that this was Princess Darnlia’s younger brother; Prince Vallon.

Coin was still crying into his chest, apparently not releasing any more coins at the moment. Prince Vallon only stared back at us, his majestic presence almost as powerful as his older sister’s.  

“Well, well. It seems that my dear sister beat me to the punch! And who might this beautiful woman be?”

“That is Coin.” gloured Lucien.

“Coin?!” the Prince boomed.

“Yes, I trust you’ve heard of her.”

“By Rhyhi! Why have I not already absorbed a Coin from her, and why is there a full grown woman in my arms instead of a little girl?”

Prince Vallon shrugged off Coin, who fell to the floor, still wrought with suffering. She took to her feet at this indignity and her eyes sparked with more than a little bit of rage. She spoke words at that moment that nobody could understand. Immediately the trees from the Forest of Living Stone entangled Vallon. Coin, still with tears in her eyes, drove her hand past the breastbone and straight into his heart! A cold wind blew through the palace as Prince Vallon screamed loudly. He hadn’t expected this. His sister had filled his head with all manner of dreams about the Divine Power a Coin of Domminna could bestow upon one chosen to wield it, but she had failed to inform him of this horrible feeling that even began at his very core. Coin removed her hand and her hair turned black. Even so, the streak of grey remained. She fell backward and rolled over before standing up next to me, tugging at my sides incessantly as Prince Vallon, as well as the entire forest, began to glow. There was a rumble all throughout the palace, as if Vallon had some deep connection with it. This must have been true, for many crystalline brambles shattered high above and all around us; the bits of crystal racing to encapsulate the evolving explosion that would be. I was almost cut by one of them. Soon, Vallon was in the center of a ball of thick crystal, which pulsed with its own frightening energy; about the same rate as the energy pouring out from the Prince. Soon, the pulses were in harmony, and there was nothing within the crystal ball but pure white light. It was as if a supernova had been tamed within the ball to become a star about the size of what had once been the Prince. All the same, this ball of pure white light rose from out of the crystalline prison and surged with great force straight up until it could no longer be seen.

There was no scream. There was no struggle. There was no death. There was only silence now. I could not bear it. Lucien put his hand on my shoulder and looked into my eyes solemnly. I was ready for another beating, but received none.

“Yah, it’s a shame, but this needs to be done. I’ll come with you from here on, young’n. You’ll need me soon enough. How many warriors now occupy the starscape right now from this venture?”

“Four. F-Four warriors. Coin has four more Coins within her. Once she has run out of Coins, I-I don’t know what will happen to her. The Priests of Cerrinnor turned a pouch of Domminnan coins into a young girl; Coin. Without these Coins, is she only personified by a pouch and a leather strap? Will she still be alive after all of this? I just don’t know.”

“Well, we’ll deal with all of that in good time, young’n. For now, Let’s get ourselves out of Oaenalia. I’ve got a bad feeling.”

This feeling was right on the mark, as it turned out, because the next person to arrive was Lanea; the Queen of Oaenalia. She was not amused, and even noticeably furious.  

“What have you people done with my children?!” she barked.

“They were transformed by Domminnian Coins, my Queen. Please do not fear for them, for they will now be stronger than ever.” I said.

The Queen narrowed her eyes in anger and stomped down upon the crystal floor, causing some cracks before she barked back:

“You know very well I never condoned this, Songrunner! I never agreed with the Emperor’s decision about ‘raising up’ children this way, and I certainly never thought my own children would be subjected to this madness!!”

“Pardon me, my queen, but if even you are to question an Imperial Ruling, it is considered to be an act of treason!” Lucien bellowed.

This infuriated the Queen even more, and, as often happens with hysterical women, she reached a point where words did not reach her. Her fury was visable as green smoke around her body that drew close to her skin and reflected the spiking patterns of her aura.

Lucien realized the coming of the communication breakdown before I did, and had begun to step backwards; away from the Queen. For she now possessed a presence greater than both of her children combined.

“I’ve had it with you! This is the Kingdom of Peace, and you have caused a violent upheaval. I will balance that upheaval with my own! The Living Force of Energy!!” she yelled. With that, a shockwave pulsed outward from her body and smashed many crystals in bits and pieces from above, below, and all around us. The shockwave itself knocked all of us over.  

“The Living Force of Oaenalian Light!” she bellowed, calling four columns of green light to her sides. She thrust all of them forward and one of them struck Lucien in the leg as we all tried to dodge.  

“YE-OW!!” yelled Lucien, now bleeding from his right leg. We had to get out of there, and fast. I stood up and glared at the Queen.  

“Even more treasonous! To call upon the Light, and even tainted with your own Kingdom’s force!” I yelled, but she could not hear me.

“The Living Force of FIRE!” I called out strongly.

Two massive tunnels of flame burst from my hands, but did not burn them. They roared through the air and blasted past the quee, who only laughed. She was only a bit singed, but otherwise unaffected.

“I am surrounded by the Living Force of Peace! You cannot harm me with any element! It will balance out anything you can throw at me!” yelled the queen.

Now I will show you the power I wield! The Living Force of PEACE!” she yelled, causing her aura to produce a beam of energy that became two, then four, then twenty, then a hundred. Soon there were thousands of beams of energy emanating from her form. They all entered into crystals and bounced off of their reflections as well, causing even more severe multiplication. All of the broken crystals surged back into perfect harmony and order; which was bad for us, because apparently there had been no hallway here originally; only crystal, which was coming back into it’s own. The Queen only grew more furious.

“You want treason old man?! I’ll show you TREASON!”

She closed her fists and summoned up a great force from within her.

“Echo of the Union!!” she bellowed.

I didn’t like the sound of that at all. She was about to cast something I couldn’t defend against right away. This was the power only held by the Thrones of the Lower Kingdoms and Royal Family of Light! Now, we had to get out of there, and quickly before she finished the declaration.  

“Infusion of PeaceStone! Infusion of-”

“RUN!!” I yelled as we all got to our feet. I helped Lucien up as we all raced out of there, not only avoiding the Queen, but also the waves of crystal moving in on us from the sides.

We raced out of there with wild abandon and barely made it before the walls closed in on us.

“-LifebloodStone! Infusion of Love“-LifebloodStone! Infusion of LoveStone! Infusion of..” her voice trailed off as we left the palace. We turned and witnessed from afar the final infusion and seal: “Four Stone Burst” which was an attack that summoned the forces of all the stones in the Empire to create a burst of True but Raw Loporian Light. Against that, we wouldn’t have had a chance. Besides, the path behind us was now completely turned to crystal. The Four Stone Burst was beautiful, and helf us in awe as the entire palace glowed with Loporian Light, before fading like an ancient dwarf star,

The palace was darkened again, and the Queen temporarily isolated within The Forest of Living Stone until she had the strength to smash through the crystal to make another hallway. We walked away from the Palace, deciding to head back to the capital city on foot, since Lucien only knew the seals to get to the Palace and there were no seals to return. I knew the Poem to get to Faroakes, but we all decided that a good deal of supper and rest was certainly called for, after the trek back into the city, which was fine with me as long as Lucien was treating.

Chapter 10

Misunderstanding

And so, I , Coin, and Lucien Songrunner walked over the many hills and winding paths leading away from palace and towards the nearest town. My feet were beginning to blister, as quite a few miles had been traversed over slightly rocky terrain. Coin too, looked to be increasingly worn out, ambling with her new body and trying to get used to the cumbersomeness of all the added weight Soon though, a sign appeared in the distance: “WELCOME TO TSUCORIN – City of the Scroll”

It was a large, ancient, wooden sign with cracks along the sides and golden embossed lettering. A path appeared to the right of the sign that was nicely paved and bordered with cobblestone.  

“Ah, a welcome change from the other road, if yah want to call it that.” Lucien said as he skipped onto the smooth pavement. I, as well as Coin, could surely say the same. It was much nicer walking on a properly paved road, yet my blisters still ached and my feet begged for some down-time. The buildings were sparse in this place, but became more concentrated as we continued walking. Finally, in a more densely urban area, we spotted a tavern next to a large inn. My feet nearly cried out for joy as we all slumped down into our chairs. We sat around a large table with a candleholder in the center which held a green candle that was lit by a warm, orangey flare. I gazed into the flame and thought about the fires I had summoned to fight the Queen. This fire was about the same, which felt rather odd to me, as over the long years I have had a great deal of experience with summoning all colors of fire and even all of the elements with just a flicker of my tounge; speaking words that brought about these elemental explosions to my benefit. In front of a simple candle, now, I was genuinely mystified.  

Soon, the barmaid came along and took our orders. Looking at the menu, I took a liking to the fried mongoose legs, as well as a large glass of black cherry wine. Lucien ordered two pot-goart burger with red onions on garlic flavored buns with a side of battered fries and a tall glass of ale. Coin, now being physically old enough to drink, smiled broadly as she ordered a large berry cordial with a half pound of meatloaf. Our lovely barmaid was not unlike the one from the tavern in Cerrinnor, twisting around seductively, causing her skirt to fluff up to reveal her black pantyhose, which by all means caused an effect with most of the young men in the tavern with the good fortune to be glancing in her direction. Lucien only chuckled though.

“So, what of the Warriors you’ve already chosen? Where are they now, and when are they coming back?” said Lucien.

“They surged up into the stars to blow off a good deal of excess power and emotion. When they calm down, balance should assert itself, and they’ll come looking for the one who changed them; seeking answers.”

“Answers? What are they confused about? The Princess looked eager enough to participate, to be sure!”  

“That may be the case with her, Prince Vallon, and Prince Valus, but the first one I sought out was a commoner named Heliael. Of all those chosen so far, she will be the hardest to control, for it was not by choice that she was taken by the powers of the Domminnian Coin.”

“You chose a commoner?! What were you thinking?!”

“Its not as bad as you might think! I observed her in an Arena match in Aoen City. She was quite remarkable.”

“Aoen City? Of Sabbaeo?!”

“Of Cerrinnor. It’s between the realms, I’ll have you know.”

“Right. You and your heretic ways; fraternizing with the Darkness.”

“I was only watching!”

“And with a coward’s tounge as well!”

On that note, we both fell silent, grumbling under our breath.

After a delicious meal, for which Lucien insisted on paying, we headed over to the inn to have a good long rest for the night. We would need our strength for the journey still ahead. The pillows and blankets were very fluffy as I dropped down and phloomphed into them. Lucien and Coin promptly bedded down as well, in separate beds of course, and we all fell asleep to the glow of the evening moon overhead. That night, I dreamed of that single candle in the tavern. It blazed up higher and took the form of a woman. It was Heliael, and she looked rather unamused, glaring menacingly at me through gleaming red eyes. Just as she was about to lash out at me, I woke up in a cold sweat. It was morning, and Coin and Lucien had already left. I scrambled downstairs to the tavern to see them both eating breakfast. I sighed with relief and joined them, ordering ham and scrambled eggs with coffee. The barmaid looked as though she was just now waking up, as her clothes were severely ruffled and she had an even more severe case of bed-head when she took my order.  

“Sleep well last night?” I asked.

“Hardly. I was kept up all night by a customer.” she yawned.

“Really? Doing what?”

“Never Mind! Your breakfast will be ready in 15 minutes!” she snapped.

Lucien chuckled, while Coin blushed several shades of red.

The barmaid walked back into the kitchen and Lucien smirked at me through his coffee as he took a sip. So, umm, what’s say we get moving to Faroakes after breakfast? I feel a lot better now.” I said.

“Yah, we’ll get going in a bit, young’n!” snapped Lucien.

I fidgeted about in my seat, waiting for my food. Finally the barmaid arrived with my eggs, ham, and coffee on a platter propped up with her fingers, placing it on the table in front of me.  

“Here ya go. Your bill will be ready shortly.”

“Don’t worry, young’n. I’ve got it.” Said Lucien.

I did sort of understand why he kept calling me “young’n”, after all, much of my memory only went as far back as a child’s; given the side effects of the technique I was using to stay forever young. I ate my breakfast happily, thoroughly enjoying the coffee. After that, we all got up and Lucien left some money on the table before we all walked out of the tavern. Still being in Oaenalia, we wanted to avoid trouble from Oaenalian Soldiers, so we walked and walked until we reached a park in the center of the city that was thickly laden with trees. Walking behind the large oaks, we found a perfect clearing. I held up my staff, Coin drew her dagger, and Lucien brandished his broadsword. We all crossed our weapons together and I called out:

“From down below and up above!

Flying like a great white dove!

Summon the path!

Let loose the way!

Send us to the Land of Love!”

With those words spoken, all of our weapons became luminous and the whole world around us seemed to explode and implode as we were turned into pure energy with a bright and watery consistency. All the bits of disembodied fabric of reality swirled around us and changed hues, as did we.

In Faroakes, The Realm of Love, all was peaceful in the middle of Taeren City. Peaceful, that is, until 3 balls of watery light exploded from out of a makeshift gateway built into the wall of one of the buildings. The 3 balls of light formed back into us quickly and we held back our weapons. Lucien and Coin sheathed their blades, and we started to walk through a startled crowd.

“Oh! Ok, this is more conspicuous than I’d hoped!” I said.

“Agreed. We might be having some trouble soon.”

At first, it seemed as though Lucien was right. We soon became surrounded by young women dressed in brightly colored smoks.

“Welcome, travelers, to Taeren City of Faroakes!” The all chimed in unison.

The beautiful young ladies crowded around us, giggling and shaking our hands before the lot of them urged us down the street. They guided us until we reached a large building and they opened the two doors. A similar number of women about Coin’s age greeted us as soon as the doors opened. They guided us in similar fashion down a long hallway. We came at last to a circular chamber with thick carpeting. The designs upon the carpet were remarkably similar to the stone floor cuttings of the Imperial Palace of The Empire of Light. The women pushed us into the center of the room and danced around us hypnotically. They cast multicolored smoke bombs to hide themselves as they danced.  

“Su! Ro! Kae! Doe! Bine! Ra! Jo! Lah!” They all called out in succession. Lucien looked like he was about to die with fright when they stopped calling out the seals

“Wait! What are you doing?! Complete the Seals! You’ve only spoken half of them!” yelled Lucien, waving his hands around in the smoke. But the smoke was there for a reason. It adequately masked the swirling about of reality around us. Now, the women were gone and the smoke cleared. Soon, we found ourselves in the presence of two Palace Guards. Only there was no palace, just a circular doorway that led to nowhere. They both leered at us.

“Please finish the seal” one of them said.

“We don’t know the rest of it! We were sent here by-”

“NO ENTRY THEN!!” they both bellowed.

We backed away slowly and turned around. What we saw shocked us. There was nothing here! No land, no trees, no buildings, nothing. We turned around again, facing the two Guards who were now chuckling.

“You are between Realms right now. To return, you need only recite the seals backwards: the ones that put you here.”

Lucien held both of our hands; closing his eyes.

“Lah! Jo! Ra! Bine! Doe! Kae! Ro! Su!” Lucien called out.

We swirled out of sight and reappeared in the same carpeted room. It was empty, but some of the women were still in the hallway.

“Hey! Why did you do that to us?” Lucien yelled.

The women laughed and then walked up to Lucien.

“Don’t tell us you haven’t registered for entry to the palace!” one of them said.

“You need to go to the registration office and apply for entry to the Faroakes Palace before you receive the rest of the seals.”

“Well that’s just DANDY!!” Lucien yelled in an irritated fashion.

“Come on, Coin, lets go.” I said as we turned to leave the building. As we took our leave from what was obviously a hidden entrance to the Palace, I noticed that Lucien was becoming increasingly perturbed. He kicked rocks and stomped as he walked with a sour expression.

“STONES! Why are they jerking us around like this?!”

“It can’t be helped Lucien. Let’s just get to the registration office and be done with it.” I said, trying to calm him down.

“Rhyhi, no! I’m going to get a drink!” Lucien yelled , stomping off in the wrong direction; the opposite way from which we were directed by the older women of the gateway house.

I followed, along with Coin, who looked a little too eager to have some more liquor.

Chapter 11

Drinking

We walked without speaking for a good long while until we reached the tavern. It was old, but covered in carvings of beautiful and prominent women. There were many types of wood used for the outside theme, so they didn’t require any paint for the colors to vary in the flamboyance of the motif. It even smelled nice from outside. A faint smell of hard apple cider teased our noses and brought us inside, which was even nicer. The lights were amberish yellow and apple incense burned all around, causing the amberish light to filter through the incense smoke to cast an effect upon the rest of the tavern that was simply fantastic. Of course, all of the tables and chairs were of varied kinds of wood as well, and were covered with carvings from lovers who had had visited in the past. We were happily seated by 3 beautiful bar-maids in heart-covered smoks of a particularly stretchy fabric.

“And what can we get for you this afternoon?”

“Loporian Thunderbolts! 3 of them!” grumbled Lucien.

“Right away, sir!” they all cheerfully replied.

As the 3 barmaids sauntered away, I looked at Lucien with a strange expression. Loporian Thunderbolts? That was some pretty hard liquor for the middle of the day! Soon, our drinks arrived, and tall, glowing, full glasses were placed in front of each of us. A Loporian Thunderbolt is a bio-luminescent mixed drink procured by a talented bartender with a minimum of 3 years experience actually handling Loporian Light, which was sold in bottles by the Lopo-nir; an organization that collected off-shoots of Loporian Light that emanated from the outer court of the Imperial Palace in Loporia. Being that the liquefied version was usually only used in weapons designed to fight the Darkness Empire, it had to be carefully mixed with distilled vodka and various fruit nectars to even be considered fit for human consumption. They were still smoking slightly as I took mine to my lips drinking it in slowly and holding my nose. The steamy kick from that drink almost knocked me out of my chair. Lucien seemed to be having no trouble with his glass, but Coin was only staring and poking at hers. She seemed a bit nervous at first, but then slowly built up some nerve and took a large gulp all at once. I noted visible stars in her eyes as she swayed in a daze from side to side, and then passed out with her face hitting the table with a loud thump. I picked up her head and shook her; waking her up. She looked at me with a surprised expression and then reached for her glass again. Lucien looked miserable, but his temperament her certainly improved. Soon, he began talking again, but his voice sounded strange. Yes, he was already starting to become drunk, little by little.  

“What the Rhyhi…What was their problem anyway?”  

“I don’t know Lucien. I guess that’s just the way things work here.”

“Aw, Rhyhi, *gulp* damn it that’s not it!”

“It isn’t?”

“Rhyhi no! This is the Realm of Love! Where is it? Where is it, Jin, tell me! Where is the love?”

I took another sip and started to agree with him. This felt too much like Oaenalia; with its tight security. One would think that a realm of love would be more open. Coin, who had been mostly silent thus far, began to speak up.

“What’s Rhyhi anyway? *gulp* I keep hearing about Rhyhi this, and Rhyhi that! What is it?!”

Lucien and I looked at Coin like she was crazy. Then we remembered how young she truly was on the inside.

“Rhyhi is short for ‘Rhyhiao’.” Said Lucien.

“Just like Domminna is the divine realm above Loporia in the Light Empire, Rhyhiao is an infernal realm below Dark Equestria in the Darkness Empire.”

“Yah, that’s right. Your coins from Domminna, little one. Just as I’m sure the same was done from Rhyhiao with another one such as you.”

“Yes Lucien. We met that little boy earlier. Her was with my brother; Wonn-Lir, on a similar quest to find warriors to fight the Chaos.”

“Who are the *gulp* Chaos?” Coin asked.

“The Chaos are our enemy. They come from the Chaos Empire; building up their forces to invade both the Light and the Darkness. We need eight warriors from the Light Empire and eight from the Darkness. With those 16 warriors we’ll have a small army to fight off the Chaos. That is your purpose, to give coins to the eight chosen Light Warriors so that their powers will blossom.”

“Wow. *gulp* I never *burp* realized I was that *hic* important ”

Drunken banter Level 2 glasses

Drunken banter Levek 3 glasses

Kicked out of the Bar for Illicit Behavior

Directed by the authorities to Registration Office to aquire the missing seals.

Denied the Seals due to Residency Requirements.

Kicked Out of the City

Run in with Police

Disarmed by Police

Imprisoned for Vagrancy

Released in a Rush

Dizzy and Ill

Lost in Faroakes

Confusion

The Arrival of Wonn-Lir

What do you want with us?

Why would you help us?

Introduction of Daylan(little boy w/ Rhyhian Coins)

Acceptance of help

Poem by Wonn-Lir to Dark Equestria

Threatening Surroundings

Fear

Terror

Escape to the Palace

Meeting with Princess Xandria

Dark Ambitions

Presented with New Weapons

Escape from the Princess

Wonn-Lir gives up a Scroll of Seals to all the Palaces of The Light Empire

Poem and Seals ride to The Palace of Faroakes!

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