Prologue - Ch. 6

Prologue - Ch. 6

A Chapter by Leon Sylar


Prologue: Thane
            The damage was irreparable, the wall was no longer existent; luckily most of the inmates hadn’t escaped. It had only been three hours since the convict that tore out the wall had vanished from custody. Even more importantly, he was heading to the borders where he would be able to escape the authorities of Falthra.
            The prisoner was named Thane; he was murder, and a brutal one at that. Three and a quarter lengths, Thane had hung, gutted and dissected several humans, living and dead, before he was caught. It took half a brigade to bring him in the first time and this time there was no force on the nation’s side that could catch him.
            That was why they called them.
            The captain approached the two men standing near the rubble, studying each individual piece larger enough to be picked up with two hands.
            “So this is the scene is it?” the taller one asked, his red hair was long and thrown back.
            “It is,” the captain said firmly, “he escaped three hours ago, we had no idea that the information had spread fast enough for people like you to come and persuade us for your help.”
            “What are you talking about?” the shorter one said, his brown hair short and his beard barely starting to grow, “He ran into us, it’s not our fault he’s so clumsy.”
            “Still,” the captain murmured, “This man has been killing for years there is no doubt that he has already started again!”
            “But there are no villages or towns for several miles according to what you said,” The red-head commented, “So obviously he can’t of yet.”
            “Besides, you said he was going south, right?” the brunette asked, “that means he’s not even heading for a town, he’s heading for Notilus. So why do you care?”
            “If he kills civilians in that nation, it could be taken as an act of war instead of an accident,” the captain gripped his throat, “And I would rather not enter a war with that land.”
            “They’re all talk and no action,” the brunette laughed, confusing the guard, “I should know.”
            “Whatever,” the red-head grunted, “It’ll cost you two-thousand scales and transportation.”
            “Absurd! I could get others for much less than that!” the captain snarled.
            “But we’ll keep it a secret,” the brunette shook his head, “other bounty hunters are less accommodating to your situation. Plus, they wouldn’t even go close to Notilus – at least the ones here.”
            The captain took his helmet off and scratched his curly hair. He looked at the region around him and tried to think of another plan, but it was futile.
            “Fine,” the captain sighed. He gave the two a large bag of golden scales, “That should cover the cost. Talk to the men at the nearest port, pirate activity has been up recently and you probably could get a good ride from them plus some extra money.”
            “Nice doing business with you Captain,” the red-head smiled, “Are you ready to go?”
            “Always,” the brunette said walking away from the wall.
Chapter One: A Price-to-be-Paid
            Two days had past since he had escaped. Thane gripped his wrists and tried to pull the broken shackles off as he continued to run. He was a bulky monster here in Falthra, and if he could make it to Notilus, he may have a chance to be free.
            He stopped in his tracks as the shackles finally shattered from his wrists. The iron fell to the floor in pieces as he looked at his wrists. Rubbed raw, his wrists began to bleed as soon as the air began to circulate around his hands. The pale appendages called his hands also filled with color. While he had been in prison, the shackles were never loosened; eventually he lost almost all motion in his hands. In a few hours, that would no longer be an issue.
            He looked south, in a few hours the sun would set and he would be home free, and ready to repay his debt. Standing up, the monster sprinted once more towards the borders.
            Thane was a large person by definition. He stood three and a quarter lengths high (the equivalent to six and a half feet) and he had broad shoulders. His build was large leaving his chest bulging out from the rest of his body and his abs - chiseled rock-hard. He leapt over a log that was in the way of his path. Though his body was so big, he was agile as a gazelle.
            The hours past and Thane’s speed did not falter. He ducked under a few fallen trees and broke through a few hollow ones as well. His physical condition had not weakened since his time in prison. This was good.
            As the sun began to set, a splitting pain sliced through Thane’s back. The scabs on his back had opened up. The pains from his lashings in jail had returned. That prison had been the equivalent to the pain he had made his victims suffer. He hunched over and fell to his knees in pain. He had made it to the border, what bad luck.
            “Who goes there,” a voice echoed in the forest. Thane opened his eyes, he recognized that voice.
            “It is Thane,” he managed to yell through his teeth as the pain in his back flared up, “I come looking for General Vaughn, Combat Mage.”
            A man wearing a red cloak stepped out of the trees towards the crippled murderer. He smiled and signaled for his men to come forward. He was a half a length shorter than Thane and definitely of smaller build. Inside the cloak, armor protected the torso of the man.
            “You seem injured Thane,” the man said kneeling down to look him in the eyes, “Is this the famed murderer?”
            “My wounds have split open!” Thane grasped at the man’s throat, “if you are who I have come seeking, close my wounds!”
            “First you must let go of me!” the man thundered calmly. Thane let go and the man rose up.
            He stepped to the side of the crippled man and studied the open wound. A large lashing about a full length across the back had split open running across the spine. The man put his index and middle fingers together and ran them down Thane’s back. At first, pain trailed after the fingers, but warmth flooded over him and he could feel the wound close and the pain vanish with it.
            “General Vaughn,” Thane did not rise as the General wiped his hands clean, “Am I free to stand?”
            “You are,” The General laughed, “It has been a long time since I last saw the famed Machine.”
            “Yes,” Thane said rising up, memories of his past flooded through his mind for a moment, he licked his lips before continuing. “Two years to be exact. I remember the promise you made to me and I to you.”
            “Good,” Vaughn said looking around; his men had not come forth. He laughed, “It would appear as if my men have forgotten their manners.” He signaled once more, and once again, still they did not come.
            “Is it possible they fear me?” Thane smiled, it was not uncommon for people to fear the Machine.
            “No,” Vaughn sighed, “it just appears as if they have fallen asleep, we expected you earlier.”
            “That is too bad,” Thane shrugged it off, “When I left, I had to make sure it was during my daily walk. Why they care about their inmates’ health confounds me.” Vaughn nodded, agreeing with the views of Falthra’s treatment of its prisoners.
            “We will head to Notilus Castle where you shall meet the Mage Lord and become acquainted with your new job and payment plan.”
            “Sounds like fun,” Thane stood erect, “are we leaving shortly?’
            “Now,” Vaughn said, he pulled forth a rod from his cloak and struck the ground. The woods around caught on fire and the men hurried out waking up in the strange occurrence, “Let us go.”
            As Vaughn approached the flames, they parted as if opening the way for their creator.
            Vaughn led Thane through the forests towards Notilus Castle for the next few days. During the travel, not much was said between the mages and Thane, an awkward silence seemed to separate them. In Notilus, things were very different between mages and normal people. In the last hundred years, things have changed in Notilus; the social status of the mage has even become higher than a nobleman or a lord. If a mage is homeless, it is considered that he merely chooses not have one as for the others it is assumed they cannot afford a home.
            In these two days, Thane began to wonder what it was the great Mage Lord was going to have him do. He could hardly remember the day he had met Vaughn two years ago. The remnants of the conversation echoed in his mind one day as he sat in his cell six months ago.
            “I am looking for Thane,” a hooded man said entering the cave where Thane had done most of his dissecting.
            “You have found him,” the monster said dropping from the indentation that lay above the cavern entrance. He pulled a knife and put it against the man’s throat, “And you have found your way to Hell.”
            “Ah,” Vaughn smiled putting his hand against the metal, “a Christian man huh? One who still believes there is a Heaven and Hell?” The metal began to melt away from Vaughn’s neck. It even began to melt in the handle until Thane held nothing but the leather that once was the handle of his knife.
            “Who are you?” Vaughn backed up spreading his legs getting ready for a brawl.
            “Not one who wishes to pick a fight with you.” Vaughn dropped his hood to reveal his face. The fifty year old man’s bald head and shaven face could have led to a false assumption of age if it hadn’t of been to the large amounts of wrinkles on his face, “I have come to bring you news.”
            “Oh really,” Thane laughed pushing himself against the shorter man, “And what news do you bring that I have not heard of?”
            “They are on your trail,” Vaughn warned, “Falthra has sniffed out your trail. In time they will come here and imprison you.”
            “Impossible,” Thane mocked him in disbelief, “any who enter this cave die!” He lunged at Vaughn only to miss the old man.
            “Wrong!” Vaughn said freezing Thane’s boot to the ground rendering him immobile, “I will leave this cave alive!”
            “Fine,” Thane smirked trying to release his foot, “You may leave, but I refuse to believe I will be caught!”
            “Would you like to make a wager?” Vaughn said thawing out Thane’s foot.
            “What kind of wager?” Thane asked watching the ice melt from his boot.
            “If you are imprisoned, you must escape and head to Notilus,” Vaughn smiled.
            “Fine, no problem. Might find better prey there,” Thane said yanking his foot free. It was filled to the brim with water.
            “But there is more, as you reach the border, anyone you see you must ask them this: Is General Vaughn here, the Combat Mage of the Mage Council?”
            “Why should I?” Thane asked reaching for the knife around his boot.
            “Because, if you lose this wager, you must come serve the Mages of Notilus,” Vaughn said waving his hand forward. The knife melted almost immediately, “Understand?”
            Thane looked once at his boot before looking back up to Vaughn, “You have my word.”
            As Vaughn began to leave, Thane shouted, “By the way, I’m not Christian, I merely mock the faith!” He spat at an upside down cross over in the corner. Vaughn shook his head and departed.
            That was all he could remember from that day, Thane thought, it was such a strange occurrence. Four months later, an entire brigade came to his cavern; he was imprisoned and spent a year and six months in the high-end security prison of Falthra.
            “Remembering the day we met?” Vaughn asked surprising Thane, “I’m surprised you had let me go. I remember returning to Mage Lord Daven and having him interrogate me trying to figure out what I did you!”
            “Heh,” Thane said looking up to see the walls surrounding Notilus Castle, “I’m surprised your king knows me so well. How did he see my imprisonment?”
            “Not just him, but the entire Mage Council.” Vaughn corrected, “These questions our Mage Lord will be able to answer for you.”
            “When will I meet him?”
            “Tomorrow,” Vaughn said looking at the sweaty Thane, “You are in no condition to see the King.”
            Arriving at the castle, Thane was immediately taken to a bathing hall through a plain hall where he was told to wash up. After this had been done, he had been given cloths just perfect for him and he was told to go to his room. A young maid led him up another plain hall to his bedroom where he was to sleep.
            Inside a single candle sat lighting what appeared to be a room similar to his old prison cell. Before he could ask for something better, the maid was gone. He shrugged it off. He blew out the candle and entered his bed to sleep for the night.
            The next day, Thane awoke to light coming from the door of his room. Rubbing his eyes, a young mage was standing next to his bed holding a lamp. “Master Vaughn has summoned you.”
            “Wha-?” Thane asked rising out of his bed. Looking down he noticed the young mage had pressed his hand against his chest.
            “And Mage Lord Daven has requested you wear these.”
            Thane studied the uniform he had been requested to wear and smiled. It was all too familiar to him.
            The shirt was a black tunic large enough to hold both him and a chain-male suite that had come with the rest of the uniform. The pants were a tough sow that allowed for easy travel and his old boots had been dried out for him to wear. A pair of gauntlets had been wrapped up tightly and shoved in one of the pockets of his pants. Putting them on, Thane looked at the boy threateningly to get him to exit the room. Taking off the cloths he was wearing, he quickly changed into his new wardrobe and stepped out to the find the boy waiting to lead him to the Mage Lord.
            Exiting the plain halls he had been led through the night before, Thane entered the grand hall that was adorned with the purple and red colors of the Notilus kingdom. Walking up a red carpet that unfolded down a flight of stairs, Thane noticed an interest of the Mage Lord. Several blades adorned the halls that led to the king’s chambers. There were makes from the Mage Wars leading up to modern day.
            Also, several mages wondered the halls. Mostly dressed in blue or red cloaks, Thane tried to remember what those colors stood for. He remembered red mages were the soldiers of the kingdom, Combat Mages. He remembered that Vaughn was the Councilmen of Combat Mages in the mage community along with the General of the Notilus army. Blue mages, from what he could remember, were known as Scholars because they taught the academies and were issued to kingdoms where Royal Mages were found.
            Continuing onward, Thane arrived at the Mage Lord’s chambers and was advised by the young mage to bow upon entering the room as to keep the Mage Lord calm. Ignoring the boy, Thane entered the doors and let them shut behind him
            “Mage Lord Daven,” Thane began before he was cut off by the booming king.
            “Thane,” The Mage Lord began, he was behind a black curtain, “I see you have come.”
            “Yes sir,” Thane said stepping forward, “I have come to fulfill the promise-”
            “Why haven’t you paid your respects?” Daven cut him off once more, curiosity mixed with anger was hinted in his voice.
            “I-I’m sorry,” Thane said falling to one knee, something about this man left a mark on his heart.
            “That is better.” Daven said, “Let the others in Mark.”
            The doors opened and General Vaughn and a blue mage entered the room. They kneeled down similar to Thane and all at once they were signaled to get up. All at once they rose and Daven stepped out from behind the black curtain.
            “Welcome, some of you, back to Notilus Castle, and for others, welcome,” Daven said happily. His skin was pale with a hint of green about it. He had a hooked nose and a jewel fastened on the center of his head. His red hair form a halo around his empty scalp and it ran off into his sideburns all the way down into his beard. Hew was about the equivalent off Thane except for about a three quarters of a length shorter.
            “Mage Lord,” Vaughn began, “I have not informed Thane of his job yet; I thought it would be best to let you explain it.”
            “Perfect,” Daven smiled, his white teeth seemed out of place on his face, “Then I don’t have to feel as if I’m repeating myself.”
            As Daven past the three men towards the door, he said, “General Vaughn, Master Jones, please join me in showing Jones one of his Targets.”
            “One of them?” Thane asked puzzled at the interesting Mage Lord following the other three out of the room.
Chapter Two: The Rogues
            As Thane followed Daven and the others out of the Mage Lord’s chambers, he began to wonder what he had gotten himself into. Wondering the halls closely behind Vaughn, they arrived at a dimly lit hall where the swords and carpets were once again gone.
            At the end of the hall, Daven and the others arrived at a door guarded by two combat mages. Stepping in front of the door, Daven waved his arm to the side and the two guards moved. Entering the doors one by one, they entered a hall so dark, only the floors walls could be seen around the torches.
            “Pay attention and be careful going down these stairs Thane,” Vaughn whispered, “We mages have an excellent night and peripheral vision it makes it so we don’t always need a lot of light to see through the darkness.”
            “It’s okay,” Thane sighed letting the memories of his past flood back into his mind, “the darkness reminds me of my old life.”
            “Good,” Master Jones said monotone, “That should make this job easier for you.”
            “That brings up a good question,” Thane looked past the two mages in-between him and the Mage Lord, “What is my job now?”
            “Ah,” Daven turned around looking at Thane, for the first time he noticed the yellow eyes of the Mage Lord, “I was hoping you would ask.”
            “Then tell me,” Thane continued, “I was hoping you would tell me in your chambers.”
            “I’m sorry for my rudeness.” Daven apologized, “Follow me.”
            Further down the hall, Daven began to explain what Thane would be doing for them, “There have been recent disturbances in the kingdom. I have seen acts of war from a fellow kingdom known as Terminas, the nation across the seas. And I was ready to retaliate when a group of mages came and stopped my plans.”
            “What were those plans?” Thane said digging to see how much he could get in on.
            “Nothing really,” Daven turned the corner, “I had seven ships ready to launch for Terminas they were to attack the naval docks on the shores facing Notilus. But these mages didn’t agree with me.”
            “So what did they do?” Thane persisted, “From what it sounds like they couldn’t have done much damage.”
            “Wrong!” Daven continued, “These mages destroyed the ships! They were once trusted officials in my kingdom and they turned around and betrayed me! I believe they were from Terminas Academy. They will pay dearly for what they’ve done!”
            Continuing down the hall, things began to brighten up around the room. They were finally able to see the stairs. Looking around the hall, Thane noticed blood stains surrounding the brightest lit areas. Looking at these blood stains once more brought the memories back to Thane. The flowing blood coming from open wounds seemed to invigorate him.
            Looking at Daven he asked: “You have been trying to reawaken the old me haven’t you?” Daven nodded his head.
            “And it has worked has it?” Daven stepped closer to the murderer reincarnate.
            “Well,” Thane licked his lips, “Were is my prey?”
            “In this next room you will find one of the Rogues,” Daven stood erect with his arms behind his back, “He is a Medic, making it increasingly hard to pull any information out of him for pain and gore doesn’t seem to bother him. Do you think you can change that?”
            “It would be my pleasure to change his mind.” Thane said walking through the door first.
            Closing the door behind him, Daven ordered Vaughn and Jones to stay outside. Thane approached the chained up man and bended over to stare at the Medic straight in the eyes. Cloudy, Thane concluded the mage had been mentally preparing him self for the pain he was going to face.
            He was dressed as a prisoner; the attire was no different among the nations. Baggy and torn pants were given to the prisoners as to make it harder to run and they were not distributed shirts in case lashings were needed to be given. Occasionally, boots were given to the workers in order to keep them from hurting their feet to much.
            Studying the man even more closely, Thane realized what the torture had done to the inmate. Across his back, the number of lashings given couldn’t be distinguished due to the overlapping of scars on his back. Continuing his search, several cuts had been made on the arms and chest. Their torture consisted mostly of pain dealt to the victim in hopes of expunging the information.
            “Daven,” Thane whipped around, “I need . . . tools, and a table where we can chain him down.”
            “It’s already been done,” Daven said motioning towards a metal table with a cart next to it loaded with the tools Thane was going to be needing.
            “Thank you oh great Mage Lord,” Thane smiled, “In order for me to do my work, I must have the privacy I had in my cave. Can you understand?”
            “Yes, yes,” Daven nodded, “I will be back in half an hour to gather the information.”
            “I only need fifteen minutes.”
            “Perfect.” Daven turned around and started to the door as Thane lifted the prisoner and moved him to the table. Latching him down, Thane whispered into his ears: “I am like nothing you’ve ever seen before, by the time I’m finished, you will finally see what makes you live.”
            Half an hour later later, Daven and Vaughn return to the dark hall outside of the torture chamber. Knocking lightly on the door, Thane came forward and smiled as he slipped through the cracked door.
            “He is dead,” Thane laughed maniacally in front of the Mage Lord, “I cut him open and showed him all of his entrails, followed by his lungs – then his heart!”
            “You sick son of a-” Vaughn began covering his own mouth.
            “Why had you done that?” Daven responded furiously, “He was our only prisoner!”
            “Not after tonight,” Thane said putting his finger against the Mage Lord’s mouth.
            “What are you talking about Thane?”
            “Nor will you need another prisoner for what you are after!”
            “Thane what are you yammering about?” Vaughn pressured the murderer.
            “This,” Thane pulled out a map from his back pocket, “During my procedure, I was able to get the location of the other six rogues you were looking for.” Handing the map over to Daven, Thane continued, “There are only five dots on the map, because I also was able to learn that the Nurse Mage Sakura would be coming tonight to release her partner – I assumed marriage of a sort, I’m not sure how you mage types work.”
            “Nurses and Medics are put together kind of like a marriage Thane,” Vaughn muttered looking at the map, “They are trained together since they were given their titles and eventually form a emotional bond that allows them to work together quite well. Sakura was Adam’s partner.”
            “Good,” Thane smiled, “If you don’t believe me, then we will just see what happens tonight.”
            “We will,” Daven smiled crookedly, “We will.”
            “Sir,” Midas, the Destroyer Councilmen pleaded, “Please listen to us, there is no way of confirming the mad man’s proposal!”
            “What are you talking about Midas,” Chaeuttue, the Elementalist, commented, “If we wait until this evening, we will see if what Thane has claimed is true!”
            “But do we want to wait that long?” Tai, the Medic spoke up, questioned, “Can’t you use your Element-Speak to see if what he says is true?”
            “Unfortunately,” he sighed, “very few Elementalists can speak the language of the Elements, and even furthermore, only Sepher could see and speak with the Elements from that far, for all we know, he already knows of this breach and has gone to warn Sakura and the others!”
            “But Sepher is blind,” Freya, the Nurse, corrected, “Plus they seem to far apart to be able to do that.”
            The Mage Council was holding its weekly meeting that was held every start of the week. Today’s conversation: The Information from Thane. Very few of the mages seemed to support the idea that Thane could be telling the truth.
            “Silence!” Daven claimed angrily, striking the floor with his staff, “Vaughn has been getting ready to send out a group of soldiers to look at the marked locations, if we are lucky, we might find a few more members of the Rogues!”
            “You trust this human that much?” Jones countered, “Is this the same man whose father brought mages to Noble Status in Notilus?
            “So what is it if Daven trusts this human?” Saphira, the Summoner, retorted, “Daven has had the best judgment since his reign began, he has kept the mages’ status high during his reign and has even suppressed several secret organizations single handedly, I think we should give it a chance!”
            “Daven,” Jones said looking at the Mage Lord with the greatest look of sorrow he could muster, “Trusting this human might bring grave results to your rule!”
            “I highly doubt that,” Daven said smugly, “the most embarrassing moment of my rule was the Catastrophe five years ago.”
            “That is true,” Jones mumbled, “Still, I do think we should keep a close eye on Thane.”
            “That is why I have devised a plan for the human.” Vaughn’s voice echoed in the Council’s room.
            The red cloaked combat mage walked into the room and stood at the edge of the table, “You see, Thane has been a murderer for years; I am going to send him out with the troops to capture the mages while Daven and I sit here and wait for the Nurse.”
            “Are you insane?” Chaeuttue claimed, “Just you two against the Rogue? We have no idea if she has stepped outside of the Laws!”
            “It doesn’t matter,” Daven smiled, as he always does, “If she had, I will still be able to over power her. Plus, I believe Vaughn has a plan for Thane if what he has told us falters.”
            “One, if we don’t see any signs of the white mage Sakura, our elementalist will send two strikes of lighting down near their camp signaling for them to kill Thane, and second, if they see that the spots marked on the map prove faulty, the Mages will kill him there and then. And don’t believe Thane can over power all the mages I have sent with him.” Vaughn nodded his head in pride.
            “Good,” Daven smiled, “I think this brings this meeting to an adjournment until we next meet. Good day to you all.”
            The sun set and Thane was informed of his job. Taking the assignment gratefully, Vaughn saw the mages and Thane off that sun set. Afterwards, Vaughn returned to Daven to prepare for the night’s agenda.
            “So Vaughn,” Daven looked at his friend, “I only want you to be my back up for tonight.”
            “What?” Vaughn sputtered strapping his sword to his waist, “Are you insane my Lord?”
            “Oh will you just drop that!” Daven said jokingly to Vaughn, “In here, in my chambers, we are just the two mages we were growing up.”
            “Still Daven,” Vaughn shook his head, “I could easily be accused of treason for not talking to you in the ‘appropriate’ way.”
            “Yeah well those Councilmen wouldn’t dare cross me, they are aware of our friendship Vaughn,” Daven said clipping his own sword to his belt. Unlike the other mages, Daven only carried a staff for the pictures, in reality; his sword was his true ally.
            In the mage community, the staff was the trade-mark sign of a mage. At age twelve, the mages from all around the world would go threw Coronation, the process of receiving their mage colors to continue their training from then on. During Coronation, each mage would bring a selected staff of their choice and they would be awarded special crystals enchanted by the Council to reveal a mages’ true color.
            Five years ago, a great incident occurred during the Coronation at Notilus Castle. Popular knowledge and rumors claimed an assassin made it through the guard and attempted to kill the king. Though this was the popular idea, both Vaughn and Daven knew there was more to that than met the eye.
            How does this have to do with the sword Daven carries? Simply enough: He enchanted his crystal to his sword in order to allow him a stronger source of magic. Royal Mages, though it was not taught, could draw more magic from weapons rather than from staves.
            “Are you ready Vaughn?” Daven asked looking out the window into the starlit sky.
            “Yes,” Vaughn said looking towards the door, “I will be in the bushes awaiting your signal to come out.”
            Outside the castle, Daven sat patiently waiting for Sakura. His legs were crossed with his hands on both of his knees. It had only been an hour after sunset and he was getting itchy for a fight. Unfortunately, Thane had not told them when she would come, so he would have to be patient.
            A few more hours past and the moon arrived over Daven’s head when he finally heard footsteps coming towards him. Looking up, he saw the silhouette of a woman dressed in a Mage’s outfit with a staff in one hand.
            “Sakura,” Daven said standing up, whipping the dust off of his uniform, “I’ve been waiting for you.”
            “How did you know I was coming?” Sakura gasped. Her blond hair fell in front of her face, keeping it hidden from Daven.
            “We found a way to make Adam squeal.” Daven said placing his left arm on the hilt of his sword. He was left handed.
            “Fine,” Sakura murmured, “Threatening his life and then taking it, how vain of you Daven.”
            “Why do you say that?” Daven asked pulling the blade out of its sheath; the purple stone gleamed in the nightlight.
            “You thought you would have had the upper hand on me by surprising me during my break in,” Sakura threw her head back, “But I have learned a few tricks – including how to summon!”
            Sakura stamped her staff to the ground causing it to violently shake. Erupting from the ground, a stone soldier formed from the dust and hardened in front of Daven’s eyes, “This is a Golem. I think they are popular among the battle types.” The stone figure rushed at Daven with superb speed.
            Pulling his sword behind his head, Daven swung at the Golem, shattering it into rubble. Scared, Sakura turned to run, but found Daven had already gotten behind her. With his right arm, Daven lifted her off the ground and smiled grimly at her.
            “You should have done more homework while you were welcome at the Mage Academies.” Daven tightened his grip on her neck, “You see, Royalty Mages are trained to easily defeat Golems-” he dropped her and gripped her hair; “You go straight for the head.”
            Pulling her hair up, Daven took one swing with his blade and took out the Nurse Mage.
            “Vaughn,” Daven called forth the General, “Take care of the body for me.” Tossing the head to the side, Daven turned back and headed for the castle’s gateway.
Chapter Three: Pirates.
            “That captain is a nut,” the red-head grunted as another ship captain walked away from the duo; “I can’t believe he expected us to pay him for our services!”
            “And he was heading towards Terminas.” The brunette shrugged, “I guess he thought it would be pointless to hire some guys, especially with the tension between Notilus and them.”
            “Ah well,” the red-head folded his arms together, “Want a drink?”
            “Yeah,” he turned around, “I think there’s one more captain left for us to interview so we might as well have a drink before we get shot down again.”
            “Predicting the future?” the red-head joked.
            “Nah, just making an educated guess,” the other said leading the way to a near by pub called the Mariner.
            Upon entering the bar, the two men immediately stood out among all the sailors at the port. Unlike the sailors in the bar, wearing their uniforms and rubber boots for sailing, the brunette and the red-head were dressed as interesting travelers.
            The brunette’s brown hair was shorter than most guys his age. He was around seventeen, just the time when kids started to put their hair in ponytails because it was getting to long, but not long enough to have it cut. Instead, he constantly cut his hair to make sure it never fell past his shoulders. It was tattered and unkempt; his beard merely scruff for the time being, he had recently decided to let it grow out. In his left hand he carried two and a half length staff with a clear crystal wound in the twisting spirals atop the branch. He wore a plain blue tunic with brown pants and hiking boots with a sword sheathed and hidden under his cloak.
            The red-head’s hair was a lot longer than his companion, it went past his shoulders about two inches and was kept back in a ponytail that frayed out into a tattered mess. He wore a green vest and green pants with his boots, a strange combination for a bounty-hunter, but that was not the most drawing thing about him. His skin was pale, a very white color that seemed to give him a ghostly feel. His blue eyes seemed to pierce through the soul due to the fact they stood so far out against his skin tone – and even worse was his forearms. Massive pieces of weaponry in itself, the red-head’s arms were unordinary muscular. A claimed birth defect, he wore them proud under his green wraps as a sign of his strength due to the fact that they made excellent tools for fighting.
            Taking a seat in the middle of the bar, the shorter one yelled, “Two bottles of beer!”
            “Aren’t you a little young to be drinkin’ kid?” a drunk sailor hic-upped.
            “What is it to a drunkard like you?” he asked. The red-head shook his head, his companion had a tendency to be cocky and a little bit of a hot-head.
            “Do you want to go?”
            “Shouldn’t we at least get to know each other first?” he joked around, “I’m Armeras – what’s your name.”
            The bar went silent. The drunkard, even in his distorted state of mind, shut up. The kid named Armeras smiled. His name meant something to several people. The Legend, of a sort, Armeras kind of liked to hear it told again and again. The Legend, as it was trademarked around Gaia, was the tale that told of the young hero’s story. He was Daven’s embarrassment, but that is a story for another time.
            “Honestly,” the red-head looked at Armeras, “If people knew the real you . . .”
            “They’d be running, not just shutting up,” Armeras laughed talking his mug from the waitress.
            The red-head let out a long breath of air, “That would be true.” He took his mug from the waitress and took a large gulp.
            “So,” Armeras kicked his boots up on the table, “Where did our next captain ask him to meet him?” He took a sip from his mug and began to rock his chair.
            “I believe he said at port twenty-nine,” the red-head took another gulp, “This one might be our ticket.”
            “Why would you say that?” Armeras put his feet down to lean forward, taking another sip of his beer.
            “His ego, like yours, is large,” Damascus took another large gulp of beer. Slamming his empty mug on the table he continued, “He’ll want to play some kind of mind game on us I’m sure.”
            “Perfect,” Armeras said finishing his mug, “Now let’s get outta here.” He looked around noticing the glares from several sailors, “I think I’m getting the evil-eye in here.”
            Heading out of the Mariner, Armeras and his companion began to port twenty-nine where they were to meet the captain of the ship Eyesore, Captain Albert, better known as Captain Al. Continuing down the rows of ships, Armeras stopped in front of a ship battered and torn.
            “Is this port twenty-nine?” Armeras asked inspecting more of the ship. Several layers of moss, barnacle and seaweed lined the bottom of the boat, “This boat looks like an ‘eyesore’ to me.”
            “We’re only at port twenty,” the red-head shook his head, “That would be a different ship.”
            “Okay,” Armeras turned around, “You’re the serious one here.”
            Continuing down the ports, Armeras and his companion finally arrive at port twenty-nine with the Eyesore, a large massive boat armed with cannons and the like.
            “Holy-” the red-head began before being cut off by another voice.
            “Are you the two men that have been trying to find a way down to Notilus the last couple of days?” the proud Captain Al came forth from the plank connecting the boat to the port. He was in his fifties with grey-hair and a wide smile.
            “We are,” Armeras shook the captain’s hand, “I am Armeras and this is my traveling companion: Damascus the Adamant.”
            “Ah,” Captain Al’s eyes narrowed, “Well, I’m afraid there’s no room on this ship. Good day.”
            “Now, wait a minute,” Armeras grabbed the captain’s shoulder, “Shouldn’t we talk this out first?”
            “Fine,” Captain Al sighed, “Come with me to my chambers aboard the ship.”
            On board the ship, the Captain’s Quarters contained a desk and a bed for the captain. It lay right underneath the steering wheel forcing a large pole down the center of the room for steering.
            “Why do you boys want to travel to Notilus?” the captain began abruptly, “From what I understand you two aren’t welcome there any more!”
            “Is any non-mage ever welcome in Notilus?” Armeras asked rhetorically referring to the Mage-Human Social Status in Notilus.
            “True, true,” the Captain sighed, “If you wish to come with us, then you must take into my demands.”
            “Depends,” Damascus simply stated.
            “Yeah,” Armeras shook his head, “We have wants too ya know.”
            “You don’t speak like a proper gentlemen for one who carries a staff,” Captain Al commented trying to insult Armeras.
            “I okay with that. Are you?” he smiled.
            “No,” the Captain grunted, “But now onto the conditions-”
            “Perfect,” Armeras interrupted, “Our price, minus food and transportation costs on our part, will equal about five hundred scales.”
            “I don’t know what you’re talking about,” the Captain gave them a puzzled look. “It is a privilege to come on this ship. The conditions are no pay, food, water, stay in the cargo hold and you have to do what I say.”
            “Well,” Damascus sniffed, “Seams like your pretty cheap captain.”
            “Not cheap,” Armeras shook his head, “it seems he’s being selfish. I’m good with the cargo hold and food with water deal, but we get to do what we want and we will be paid!”
            “I’m not sure I can do that,” the captain stood up and two guards entered the room, blades drawn, “For all I know, you’re here to interrupt my shipments to the Renegades.”
            “Wait,” Armeras said easing upward, “Are you saying you do the runs for the Renegades in Notilus?”
            “Of course,” Captain Al said drawing his own sword, “That’s why I’m suspicious as to why you would catch a ship ride to Notilus and not just cross the borders.”
            “Oh,” Armeras said staring the captain into the eye, “Well I have one thing to say.”
            “And what is that?” Captain Al said drawing the blade and pushing the tip into Armeras’s chest.
            “Your guys should be more observant to who’s in the room!” Armeras claimed clasping The Captains sword between his hands, thrusting it away. Damascus leaped forward and wiped with his two bear-arms to disarm the other guards.
            “You’re careless Captain,” Armeras smirked, “That’s why we’ll be paid.”
            “Fine,” Al sighed sheathing his sword, “I have one question for you though Armeras.”
            “What is it?”
            “In the Legend, it says you are the ‘Embarrassment to the Mage Lord’,” he stepped closer to Armeras, “What does it mean by that?”
            “Simple enough,” Armeras showed the captain his staff, “Mages carry staves with gems encrusted in the top – similar to mine. These staves allow the mages to channel their magic power into attacks and defensive tools. The reason I am the embarrassment of Daven is because I can wield magic without the training of the Academies.”
            “What?” Al cried, “Prove it!”
            “Only if the situation demands it,” Armeras shook his head.
            “Captain,” one of the sailors said coming down the hall, stopping at the doorway, “Is everything all right?”
            “Why?” Captain Al asked stepping closer to the man, “Is their something wrong outside?”
            “Well, yes and no,” the sailor muttered, “We haven’t been caught by either Notilus or Falthra for our weapons smuggling, but a majority of the crew has gotten sick. We believe it’s from the food in the eateries around here.”
            “I wouldn’t doubt that,” Damascus whispered to Armeras.
            “No!” Captain Al complained, “Now I have to find a new crew soon!”
            “Actually,” the sailor commented, “We have had some volunteers come and ask to help us.”
            “Really?” Captain Al questioned, “Do you know them?”
            “Not all of them,” the sailor looked at the floor, “But I met the leader of the group of men, he’s as trustworthy as your own crew!”
            “Good,” Captain Al said with relief, “Then we will sail at dusk.” He turned to Armeras and Damascus, “I will see you then.”
            “Later Cap’n,” Armeras waved as he led Damascus out.
            “Sir,” the dirtied subordinate saluted to his leader.
            “What is it Carthen?” the captain of the Land Pirates questioned as he looked at his followers.
            The Land Pirates were once the greatest pirates that roamed the Earth before the Mage Wars. Known for their special appearance as hired hands turned traitors, they would take over ships appearing to be loyal crewmates. During recent times, they were kept suppressed by Mages and their “second sense” of knowing traitors well. Now, they scrambled from time to time finding small ships to loot.
            “We have run into a strange position of fortune!”
            “What is it?” he leaned back in his throne in the shadows.
            “The Eyesore has had its crew catch a misfortunate stomach sickness thanks to our cooks in the Crab Head, making their captain crewless!” he kneeled down to the Pirate Leader, “And one of our men has gotten us positions on the ship!”
            “So how is this good news?” he asked, “The Eyesore delivers goods to the Renegades in Notilus. They don’t have much of a cargo if you ask me.”
            “Yes that is true and why we should be celebrating,” the youth explained, “It would appear that the Rogue Mages Garfield the Destroyer and Marche the Scholar have created a magic resistant armor! It can reduce the damage done by magic drastically! It is being shipped to the Renegades tonight!”
            “What?” The captain stood up in disbelief, his boots and pants became visible in the light.
            “We have a request that you join the cruise as to make sure that the job is done properly!”
            “With this armor, the Land Pirates could return to the light once more!” he looked at the young man in front of him. He stepped out of the light to reveal his face.
            Captain Croce, the head of the Land Pirates. His brown vest and white shirt were dirtied with years of dirt smashed into fabric and his pants the same. His boots were caked in mud and his fingernails were a nasty yellow. His brown hair was braided and frayed on the ends while his beard showed the same thing dangling from his chin. But his brown eyes were focused and showed he was in control.
            Raising his fist in the air, he yelled, “Tonight, we make history!”
            As the afternoon persisted onward, Armeras sat close by watching the new crew work. Being a partial mage, Armeras had the “second sense” and was trying to get a good reading from the new crew. As far as he could tell, they were “looking to make an honest living”. From behind, Damascus was drinking yet another mug of beer; it would have appeared that the great Bounty Hunter’s body could take more alcohol than most people with out getting too distorted.
            “Why are we still here?” Damascus said watching Armeras closely, “We could be relaxing somewhere else than here at the smelly fishing docks.”
            “Yes, but at those places I can’t observe the crew,” Armeras said coolly.
            “I can tell you they’re all scum feeders,” Damascus said looking at one of the larger members of the crew.
            “That’s the problem,” Armeras said, “Even ‘scum feeders’ have a head in charge of their migration-” he paused noticing Captain Croce approaching the ship, “-like that one.”
            He pointed towards Croce as he introduced himself to Captain Al.
            “That’s definitely the dirtiest man of the skinny group,” Damascus laughed quickly glancing over to another one of the larger men who, he swore, you could see the pungent odor coming off of his body.
            “Still,” Armeras studied Croce, “When he arrived the men seemed to work a little faster.”
            “So he’s in charge of the Replacements,” Damascus shrugged finishing his mug, “What’s it to us?”
            “Nothing, for now,” Armeras stood up, “let’s go rest somewhere else and converge back here tonight.”
            Later that evening, Captain Albert met Armeras and Damascus outside the boat as it was getting ready for departure. Taking them to the cargo hold, Croce was able to break away from his work long enough to see who and where Captain Albert was storing his hired defenses.
            “You didn’t tell me he had hired the Adamant and the Rogue!” Croce scolded the man from earlier that day. It was dinner time and that would allow them some time to talk.
            “I had no idea!” he cried, “I just knew most of his crew got food poisoning!”
            “Still,” Croce muttered, “This means we’ll have to work quicker to take care of Albert. Get the men ready, we strike after dinner.”
            “So Armeras,” Damascus said looking at the blades in one of the crates, “why were you so interested in the new crew?’
            “Have you studied the time before the Mage Wars?” Armeras responded.
            “You know I don’t have an interest in history,” Damascus reminded his friend, “I can hardly remember anything from a weak ago.”
            “True,” Armeras nodded, “But seriously, there was a group of people known as Land Pirates who took disguise as workers to get on and in the ships systems. From there, they had leverage to destroy and take over the ship. After the Mage Wars began, they were subdued to the increased amount of warfare on land and in the sea. Afterwards, the remnants of the Pirates left for different nations. Notilus was not an option for them, especially with it being the highest concentration of mages in the world. Mages can easily pick out Land Pirates in a group. Unfortunately they haven’t been around for that long meaning my understanding of their essence isn’t completely honed.”
            “So what does this have to do with the ship?” Damascus asked.
            “That man who I pointed out to you,” Armeras turned around, “I felt an unusual sense of strength in him. I think he’s one of the Land Pirates.”
            “But why would they be after this ship?” Damascus pondered.
            “I can answer that,” the chef’s aid replied, “All the crew is informed of what will be carried across the continents.”
            “And what exactly is this ship carrying?” Armeras turned around.
            “Supposedly a couple of Renegades have made a Magic Resistant Armor,” he explained, “It would allow the users the best chance to fight against the mages full force without worry of their magical attacks.”
            “Wait,” Armeras’s eyes widened, his carefree attitude seemed to vanish, “How well did the one guy say this crew was?”
            “As trustworthy as the original crew.”
            “How well trustworthy was the original crew?” Armeras asked.
            “They would steal from the ship behind the captain’s back,” he thought about it, “A few times they would be caught and made to pay for it.”
            “Damascus,” Armeras turned to his large-armed companion, “We’ve got a ship full of traitors on hand.”
            “Some action?” Damascus reached over to one crate and opened it up to reveal a circular item wrapped in several layers of canvas, “Finally.” He headed out of the cargo room with Armeras following close behind him.
Chapter Four: The Scholar
            The night was still young as Damascus and the mages traveled towards the border of Falthra. The first “x” on the map lay directly over the border between Notilus and Falthra. Next to the “x” two names were written: Marche and Garfield. When Thane first saw this, he was unhappy at what he had seen. He had recently run from this country, why did he have to return? Looking at the map he sighed, it was in his promise.
            “What troubles you Thane?” a mage asked.
            “It is nothing,” the murderer replied simply whenever he was asked this question.
            These mages seemed to pose no threat to him. He started to run the numbers once more through his head. These numbers allowed him to keep better track of his crew. There were two white mages with him, a Nurse and a Medic. Five Combat Mages and two Destroyers surrounded him to protect him from surprise attacks even though he lumbered high above them. Finally, two Elementalists protected the white mages. In total, there were eleven mages, plus him self equaled twelve people in total.
            Looking back at the map, he noticed the “x” moving closer to their position. He rubbed his eyes and looked once more at the map.
            “You,” he pointed at a Combat Mage, “come here.”
            Picking up his sword and shield, he asked: “What is it Lord Thane?”
            “This ‘x’ is moving closer to us, what does that mean?”
            “Our maps have the ability to track certain people when they are marked.” He took a turn to study the map, “It would appear as if we will meet the Scholar and Destroyer midday tomorrow.”
            “Then let us rest,” Thane concluded rolling up the map, “Tomorrow we will fight the first of our prey.”
            Stopping in the midst of deep cover, Thane’s group started to make camp. A small fire was built for the look out to sit around while the rest of the camp slept. Thane told the mages to take two hour shifts in groups of two in order to keep the lookouts awake.
            Meanwhile, in a camp a few miles away, Marche and his companion the Destroyer Garfield awaited the signal to move from their position.
            March was dressed in a scholar’s robe; a blue robe with yellow trim covered the new creation he called: Mythril. A fusion of metal, magic and cloth, mythril had the ability to repel magic, giving wearers significant advantages over most mages.
            “How long do you think it will take Sepher to get their exact location,” the raspy voice of Garfield asked as he sheathed the sword he had been sharpening. His grey beard and black armor combined with his short size made him appear like a dwarf.
            “Not much longer,” Marche squeaked in his meek voice, “He must be trying to find our exact location as to relay the message.”
            They sat in silent for a few moments waiting for the Elementalist to warn them. As they sat, Garfield had begun to place his swords in the ground around him, as if extending quills like a porcupine to protect his body.
            “Wait,” Marche said leaning close to the grass about a length and a half away from the fire, “I think I see something.”
            The grass began to recede into the ground as Sepher tried to contact his fellow Renegade Mages. It began to form letters in the grass similar to letters being formed on paper by a hand signing a document, it read: Beware, Eleven Mages One Murderer.
            “That few?” Garfield laughed leaning back into his tree, “What do they take us for?”
            “There’s more!” Marche shushed him, the grass sprung back up and new letters began to be formed: Thane is with them.
            Garfield raised an eyebrow, “Who is Thane?”
            “He is a murderer from Falthra,” Marche explained looking at the fading as to make sure the message was through, once he was sure he leaned back, “He dissected, tortured and murdered people by abduction and misfortune.”
            “Really,” Garfield sighed, “What do we do?”
            “I say you go ahead,” Marche looked at his companion handing him a sheet of paper, “I’ll give you the formula to create mythril. You go find Rik and give it to him; his alchemy skills should be able to mass produce this armor.”
            “If it abides by the rules of Alchemy,” Garfield reminded his companion.
            “I’ve done my research,” Marche assured him, “It will work fine.”
            “What are you going to do?”
            “I’m going to hold them back.” Marche smiled, “Being a Scholar gives me an edge over them.”
            “Being what we are gives us an advantage,” Garfield said sternly, “But don’t end up like Sakura or Adam, they paid for their poor judgment.”
            “No one said I didn’t know what was going to happen to me.”
            “Then good luck Marche,” Garfield bowed to him, “If you survive, it would be great to see you.”
            “We’ll all be dead by the time this war is over,” Marche looked at the ground.
            “What are you talking about?” Garfield questioned.
            “Not all of us saw the same thing when we left,” Marche shook his head, “our only hope is Him.”
            “Of course,” Garfield said, “With that, farewell.”
            As Garfield exited in the opposite direction of the camped hunters, Marche had begun his trek to Thane’s camp. On his way, he pulled out a cross from underneath his robe. While he had been gone from the Academies, he picked up an abandoned faith that some humans still believed in. He held the cross in between his index finger and his thumb. To the humans, it seemed to give them inner peace; it was a symbol of salvation and safety to them. He gave the cross a kiss and put it back under his robe. He knew whatever talismans he carried could not stop the overbearing feeling that tomorrow would be his last day.
            Stopping a length from Thane’s camp, he studied the group. He started to count the number of mages in his troupe. Five Combat Mages, two Destroyers, Two Elementalists and a pair of White Mages it was an ambush group. He would have the advantage now. Climbing in a tree a few more lengths back, he sat himself comfortably on a branch and waited for the morning to come.
            Sun came over the tops of the trees that morning as the group of mages began to wake up. Thane was already awake, looking around and into the trees franticly looking for something.
            “What’s wrong Thane?” a Mage asked readying himself for the traditional answer.
            “One of them is here,” Thane snorted, surprising him. Before he could respond, the map was put into his hands. As he watched the new “x” labeled Garfield walking away from them while the other marked Marche hovered over their position.
            “How did he know we were here?”
            “He probably saw us while he was moving last night,” Thane said climbing up one of the trees in two pulls, “he must be waiting to strike, or he has fallen asleep – either way he’s outnumbered.”
            “You don’t understand Thane,” another mage yelled up to the man in the tree, “There is more to these rogues than Daven told you!”
            “I don’t care,” Thane said spotting Marche’s boot in the tree, “I have found him.”
            Leaping to the ground, a heavy thud awoke the sleeping Marche in the tree. He stood on the branch and looked down, he had fallen asleep! What a foolish thing for him to have done. Jumping down, Marche used his staff to break his fall as he found himself standing face to face with the murderer Thane.
            “Thane I presume,” he stuttered backing away from the giant in front of him.
            “Ah,” he bowed humorously, “I see my reputation precedes me. And you must be Marche the Scholar.”
            “I am,” he replied, his voice cracked as he spoke, “I’m afraid I can’t let you pass.”
            “That’s fine,” Thane cracked his knuckles, “I was hoping that you wouldn’t come easily.”
            “Unfortunately for you,” he said taking one more step back. Thane lunged forward as the Scholar raised and pounded the earth with his staff, a gust of wind came up underneath Thane and struck him in the ribs.
            “What was that,” he coughed, the air in his lungs had been knocked out.
            “Aero,” Marche smiled, “I’m not as feeble as I look.”
            “But you are still out numbered,” Thane coughed again as the Mages sent balls of fire towards the rogue.
            “I guess its time to test the limits of this stuff,” Marche braced himself for impact as he was thrown back by the blast.
            Confident of Marche’s defeat, Thane’s eyes grew wide as he ducked down to dodge an intense flame being returned at his group. Getting out of the way, they watched as an entire section of trees behind them became nothing more than ash. Looking up, Thane saw the metallic sheen come off of the scholar’s undershirt.
            “What was that?” Thane cried as he stood up, “What is it?”
            “I’m sure I won’t live long enough for you to find out,” Marche gasped, the blast had also knocked the air out of him.
            “We’ll find out won’t we?” Thane leapt at Marche only to have him step left to avoid the tackle.
            Recovering, Thane jumped right to dodge yet another blast of aero that Marche threw at him. Running towards Marche, instead of trying to tackle him again, he punched the mage in the stomach. Curling over in pain, Marche found his face entering contact with Thane’s knee. Falling back, he dropped his staff and found Thane’s foot coming down hard on his chest forcing him into the ground.
            “So what do you think Marche?” Thane put pressure on his ribs, “Are you ready to talk.”
            “Kill me.” Marche said sternly, preying in his heart that would only provoke anger in Thane.
            “You asked for it,” Thane smiled. Bringing his boot up, the mages turned to the side in horror as Thane broke Marche’s neck with a loud crack.
Chapter Five: Mythril Armor
            “How in the world did we not see this coming Damascus?” Armeras asked as he was tied to the Captain. Shortly after exiting the cargo hold, Armeras and his team was ambushed by the Land Pirates and knocked unconscious. Damascus had been tied to the pillar running along the hull due to his larger size.
            “You ask me,” Damascus spat in the face of one pirate, “I was ready to fight when they played chicken.”
            “What was that?” Another pirate drew his knife to Damascus’s throat.
            “You know that doesn’t scare me,” Damascus snarled at the pirate.
            “It really doesn’t,” Armeras shook his head, the pirate backed off.
            “So is Croce your leader?” Armeras looked over at the dirtied mess of a Pirate Captain.
            “How’d you know Armeras?” Croce looked at the mage, “From what I hear you aren’t the best of mages.”
            “Who told you that?” Armeras leaned back, putting his head on the captain’s shoulder, “They were probably lying.”
            “Then how did you get in this predicament?” Croce kicked him in the ribs.
            “How did we get in this predicament Armeras?” Captain Al growled, “It was your job to protect the cargo!”
            “It wasn’t my fault you hired Land Pirates!”
            “The Land Pirates Captain,” Croce said menacingly.
            “Yeah, I didn’t know about them either,” Damascus put his leg out tripping another one.
            “You’re lucky we still need you,” he groaned picking himself up off the ground.
            “What do you need us for?” Captain Al questioned.
            “To make your delivery of course,” Croce smiled showing his yellow teeth.
            “That’s disgusting,” Armeras cringed back from Croce’s breath, “Do you live in a sewer?”
            “Close,” Croce frowned, “But, the delivery is an important part.”
            “Do you think we could kill you and not rub the Renegades the wrong way?”
            “No,” Damascus laughed in his dirty little mind, “is there anyway to rub them the right way?”
            “You should ask the Academy,” Armeras replied, “They would-”
            “Shut up,” Croce yelled kicking Damascus, “We need you to show up to the docks and tell those Renegades that you had to over throw your cargo in order to avoid Notilus ships.”
             “Why?” Captain Al queried, “Then they’ll only get angry at me.”
            “That’s the point,” Croce smiled again, Armeras pretended to faint before he was kicked in the ribs again; “With them angry at you, I get away home free and with the mythril armor.”
            “Is that what they’re calling that new magic-proof armor?” Armeras smirked.
            “Yes,” he looked at Armeras, “And don’t even try to pull anything on us. We’re already wearing the armor thus protecting us from you!”
            “A shame,” Damascus shook his head in disappointment, “I thought you would’ve faced us like a man.”
            “Yeah right,” Croce smiled, “I’m skillful and brave, but everyone knows facing the Adamant and the Rogue is asking for the reaper to claim your soul.”
            “But I thought you said Armeras was a fluke,” the captain tried to anger Croce.
            “I did,” Croce smiled, “Together they are a poison to all pirates and wanted men. Fortunately, I think that is different when they are separate.”
            “So you’re still gonna fight us?” Armeras tried to act excited “Oh yeah! Can I go first?”
            “No,” Croce gave Armeras a disgusted look, “actually, we’ll start with the Captain and throw you overboard as you lose.”
            “That’s a shame . . .” Armeras acted confounded, “Are we anchored right now?”
            “Yes,” Croce nodded, “Very observant, it was the easiest way to make sure we didn’t drift to far from shore.”
            “Good,” Armeras nodded.
            “We’ll be back in an hour captain,” Croce left the room followed by his lackeys.
            “We’re doomed!” Captain Al yelled at the two bounty hunters, “Croce is going to gut me and take you out!”
            “Really?” Armeras smiled, “I wonder were we’ll go!”
            “Armeras not now!” Damascus kicked his friend in the leg.
            “Sorry,” Armeras shook his head, “You know the beer always gets to me later.”
            “Will you all shut up?” the guard yelled from the doorway.
            “It doesn’t matter, Damascus and I can get you out,” Armeras started to whisper to the ex-Captain.
            “How?” Al followed suit.
            “You’re going to get thrown overboard,” Damascus started, “And so will I.”
            “What good will that do us?” Al shook his head in disagreement, “Then Armeras is up here to fend for himself all by himself!”
            “It’s okay,” Armeras whispered, “I tried to sense what Croce is going to do. I mean, Damascus could easily over power half the crew and let me go to help with the others, but this is much flashier!”
            “It’s okay,” Damascus comforted the Al, “Just try to get relaxed the entire time. Go with the flow.”
            Al hit the floor hard as three of the pirates hit him in the groin, back, and stomach, “‘Go with the flow’ my-” he was kicked onto his side by Croce.
            “Throw him over.” Croce smiled with his boot over the body of Al. The pirates came over and picked him up, and with a hardy one . . . two . . . three! He found himself hitting the water with a big splash.
            “You’re next Damascus,” Croce said as his crew untied the Adamant warrior.
            “Okay let’s see how this goes.” Damascus said. Without trying, Damascus threw about the pirates with his bear arms. Ribs cracked and some went flying off of the ship into the water and others into the gunwale.
            “You’re pretty tough,” Croce whistled signaling for the rest of the crew to join in. After a long beating, Damascus was picked up and with the count of one . . . two . . . three! Damascus found himself in the ocean next to Al.
            Damascus swam over to the injured captain and turned him face up so he could breathe. After gasping for air, he looked around and saw the ship. Finally turning around, he saw Damascus next to him.
            With a disgruntled look he yelled, “Now what? Armeras is up there alone with out his staff! And the captain told me what he was going to do to him! He’s doomed; there is no way we’re getting out of here alive!”
            “Calm down,” Damascus said floating on his back, “Croce made a mistake by first insulting Armeras and then claiming he was an ordinary mage. He will live to regret it.”
            “How?” Al asked stubbornly sticking with his idea.
            “Just watch the boat and give him some time.”
            “Is it my turn now?” Armeras asked as he was untied by the three pirates.
            “It is,” Croce smiled, “It is. And we’ve got a surprise for you.”
            Right on queue, Armeras watched as all the pirates dropped their mythril armor and drew their swords. Hearing something clank down at his feet, Armeras found his sword thrown at his feet. Picking it up, he studied the blade, it had been sharpened.
            “We’re gonna sword fight?” Armeras stuck his blade in the ground, “How cliché for this great battle between the Lord of the Land Pirates and the infamous Rogue Mage.”
            “Right,” Croce laughed, “I’m gonna give you one chance to attack as many people as you can with one attack, then I’ll kill you.”
            “Okay,” Armeras said letting his fists clench for a moment, “That’s fine with me.”
            “Then,” Croce smiled, “Go.”
            Lighting struck off in the distance as blue bolts jumped around on Armeras’s finger tips. “I have a question.”
            “What is it?” Croce asked annoyed.
            “Can I attack any way I want?”
            “I’m going to kill you anyway!” Croce sneered.
            “Yeah, right . . .” Armeras shook his head.
            “Good bye!” Armeras yelled, his fists opened and blue fire erupted from his hands in a giant wave of falling flames. As the pirates caught on fire, they ran off the ship and into the ocean leaving the untouched Croce left to fight Armeras alone, “I thought it was appropriate to make the odds fair.”
            “Amazing,” Croce watched Armeras pull his sword out from the solid wood floors, “I misjudged you.”
            “Yeah,” Armeras nodded, “And you also thought I played fair.”
            “What are you talking about?” Croce asked shock.
            “You think I’m going to fight you sword to sword while you wear a second layer of mythril armor.” Armeras laughed looking at the astonished Croce, “Good bye.”
            From the water, Al was shocked as the several pirates landed into the ocean, “I guess you guys were right, but I don’t think Croce came off.”
            “Just wait,” Damascus held Al steady in the water.
            Looking up, a large explosion erupted from the deck of the ship lighting up the sky followed by watching Croce fall into the dark sea. Approaching the Eyesore, Al moved to the side while Armeras dropped the rope ladder down to the Captain.
            “How did you do that?”
            “My secret,” Armeras smiled, “He mocked me and he stole from the ship, he paid for what he had done.”
            “Amazing,” Captain Al shook his head in astonishment.
            “Well,” Captains said, “With the lack of crewmen, we might have to turn back.”
            “Nah,” Armeras said pointing towards the beach, “it looks like the captain brought us further than I thought. We can dock and you can pick new crew members.”
            “Thank you Armeras,” the Captain bowed, “When we get to shore, I’ll pay you for your services.”
            “You mean work,” Damascus replied, “You don’t get paid for service.”
            “Right,” Captain Al nodded, “I’ll meet you men in the morning after we dock.”
            The next morning, Armeras and Damascus woke up to find the entire ship empty. Heading through the halls, not a sound was made and they dared not break the silence. Getting aboard the deck, Armeras covered his eyes from the glaring sun. Leading Damascus forward and once their eyes had adjusted; they saw Captain Al discussing pricing with the small renegade band’s leader.
            “What are you talking about?” the elderly leader snorted, “That’s outrageous!”
            “But we agreed that was the price!” the Captain cried, “I lost most of my crew, got attacked by pirates and hired two crazy bounty hunters to prevent all of that!”
            “What’s the problem,” Armeras said walking forward. When the renegade leader saw him, he spat on the ground at his feet and walked away.
            “Can’t you go convince them differently?” Captain Al frowned, “They aren’t going to pay full for the armor!”
            “What does that have to do with us?” Damascus giggled.
            “That means you won’t get paid,” Captain Al pointed at the duo.
            “Look,” Armeras yawned, “I’ve got a proposition for you. Let me and Damascus take two sets of mythril hear and except the offer. If they’ve got a beef with you for it, then just leave with all the armor.”
            “But I’d rather have the full amount of money!” Captain Al pleaded, “Why can’t you convince them otherwise?”
            “Could it be the fact that we captured one of their leaders who owed money to a man in Terminas?” Damascus looked at Armeras.
            “Or was it because I broke both the legs of the same guy while I was drunk and he was trying to escape?” Armeras looked back.
            “You two are crazy!”
            “That’s why we do these things,” Armeras smiled, “So how about the offer?”
            “To get you guys out of my hair . . .” the captain pondered it, “Fine, but you’re on your own from here. I’m not backing up you guys anymore.”
            “Whatever,” Armeras smiled, “That’s good you agreed to it.”
            “Why is that?” the captain asked waiting for the bad news to come.
            “We already took it, and if we did it the other way around, you’d have some pissed customers!”
            “What?” Captain Al gasped.
            “Nice working with you, Captain,” Armeras patted the Captain on his shoulder as he walked off into the forests ahead.
            “Hey Damascus,” Armeras looked forward, “You lied to me.”
            “What?” Damascus asked.
            “He didn’t play any mind games with me!” Armeras yelled referring to Damascus’s comment earlier.
            “So are you ready to accept my offer?” the renegade leader returned.
            “Yes,” Captain Al gulped, “But there’s been a change in count . . .”
            “What are you talking about?” the leader glared.
            “We’ve seemed to have lost two of the armors when the pirates invaded, so . . .” Captain Al shrugged, “I’m sorry.”
            “Fine,” the leader frowned, “but thanks for taking my place that is price enough.”
            “It was an honor Albert,” the doppelganger bowed.
            “Albert’s so serious,” Al sighed, “Just call me Al.”
            The real Captain Albert stood in front of the fake-captain. He stood erect and with dignity. Around his forehead he wore a white headband that kept his temperamental body temperature cool. On his right arm, he wore a self-maid crossbow and with his left arm he wielded a sword similar to Armeras. He looked back towards the two bounty hunters walking off into the woods.
            “In my opinion,” he smiled, “I had fun. And I got a cheaper deal with them.”
Chapter Six: Manhunt in the Forests
            “Armeras,” Damascus said sitting around the fire that night, “Have you tested out the durability of the mythril yet?”
            “Of course,” Armeras replied acting insulted by Damascus’s comment, “You see, when I was on the ship, I used the blue fire.” He snapped his fingers causing a little blue flame to dance above his hand, “This fire is so hot, it melts metal in seconds. But the mythril didn’t even get hot. Also, the explosion was caused by my strongest attack bouncing OFF of the armor, it’s near impenetrable!”
            “Where’s its weak point?” Damascus took a bite from an apple he had plucked earlier.
            “Around the neck, and for some of them,” he motioned towards Damascus’s buttons, “the center line.”
            “Let me guess, the armor doesn’t protect uncovered parts of the body and it slips through the cracks in the button up armor,” Damascus nodded.
            “Correct,” Armeras said, “It also has a weakness against Elemenatalists because their magic flows through nature and this armor is meant to protect from Combat Mages and Destroyers.
            “That’s good,” Damascus smiled, “Where’s life without the risks?”
            “Hiding in the corner,” Armeras shrugged.
            The next hour past in silence, Armeras had nothing to say to Damascus and vice versa. These moments were rare among the two of them; they often had to much to talk about. This time around, things were different all they had to talk about was the armor and most of that was explained right then and there, Armeras hadn’t had time to really discover anything else on the mythril yet.
            “How much longer do you think before you’ll be able to return?” Damascus asked out of the blue.
            “Huh?” Armeras looked at Damascus.
            “How much longer do you think until you’ll be able to return to the Academy?” Damascus stared directly into the flames.
            “I don’t know,” Armeras looked into the stars, “I haven’t really wanted to return to the Academy though.”
            “Why?” Damascus sighed, “You’ll get the good life, and you get everything you need, everything you desire . . .”
            “But at what price Damascus?” Armeras looked at the bear-armed bounty hunter, “I’ve seen the way normal people are treated, that’s why I did what I did five years ago.”
            “You mean assassinated the Royal Council and almost the Mage Lord,” Damascus leered at his companion.
            “Not exactly Damascus,” Armeras closed his eyes remembering his Coronation day five years previous, “Everyone has their skeletons. And some can’t be burned by a fire. Not at all.”
            “Sorry I asked,” Damascus looked away, “Sometimes I wish I could return home.”
            “Sometimes life doesn’t give us what we want.” Armeras leaned back onto the grass, “and we just have to move along. Good night Damascus.”
            “Good night Armeras,” Damascus turned over on his side and closed his eyes.
            Meanwhile a few miles away, Thane held the map out with a perplexed look as a new mark appeared on his map close to the ‘x’ marked Roger. It was a strange symbol, nothing he had ever seen appear on the map – it wasn’t even in the things that the mages had explained to him rarely appear on the map!
            “What is it?” Thane looked closer at the mark.
            The mark was near the coast, right on top of where Damascus and Armeras had camped for the night. When the mark had started to appear on the map, it began by tracing the outline of a crystal. Next, it started to draw a skull inside the crystal with a menacing snarl about it. Finally, it shaded in the crystal and began to blink quickly. Turning around, he headed directly into the tent.
            “What is it Lord Thane?” one of the Mages asked standing up as he entered into the room sensing the immense amount of worry in his mind.
            “Tell me what this mark is!” Thane cried throwing the map to the table. His face was filled with fear. The last time he had seen that mark was on his final victim before he was caught.
            The lightning flashed illuminating the cavern where Thane waited for his victims. He waited in the safe place above the cavern entrance for someone to seek shelter inside. His patience was running thin when she finally came in. She was dressed in mage’s robes, but she didn’t carry a staff with her.
            Her skin was exceptionally pale and along her arms he could see carved in patterns in her skin. Her eyes glowed dimly in the cavern a strange yellowish color. Thane leapt down from the crevice and drew his knife. Quickly pressing it to her neck, he found her knife into his neck.
            “Who are you?” Thane thundered aloud. No one had ever reacted quicker than Vaughn had months prior.
            “Selena of the Shadows,” she replied. Thane laughed.
            “Aren’t you a little young to be playing little girl?” Thane grab hold and flipped here around and made her drop her knife, “to be playing make-believe.”
            “I’m not,” Selena kicked Thane in the shin. Surprisingly, he didn’t react.
            “Come,” Thane tied her down to his stone dissecting table, “It’s time to die.”
            “If you do this, you will regret it!” she spat in Thane’s face.
            “I don’t see how,” Thane selected the longest knife in his arsenal, “I can’t be caught.”
            “If I don’t return to the patrol outside,” Selena smiled, “They’ll come and catch you!”
            “Hah!” Thane grinned, “The Falthra army hates to rely on women! Why would they pick you to come do their dirty work?”
            “They are afraid,” Selena spat at his feet. Thane had never seen a victim with this much calmness and disrespect all at the same time. It angered him, “They believe you are a mage!”
            “Hah, again,” Thane raised the knife high, “The mages would love to have me as part of their army!” He rammed the blade straight through Selena’s heart. Smiling in pleasure, she evaporated into thin air. Scared, Thane looked left and right for the girl, but all he found was the crystal and skull mark on the table he killed her on.
            “Impossible,” the mage yelled stabbing his knife in the mark, “he can’t have come back!” 
            “What are you talking about?” Thane cried, “What does that mark mean?”
            “Thane,” another mage came to confront the angered murderer, “Whatever that mark will lead to is something for Mage Lord Daven to control, even our strength – and yours, could not stand up to what could be there.”
            “Who is it,” Thane yelled, “WHO IS IT!”
            Several miles away, Daven sat patiently pondering the progress of Thane when the news came in from the large chamber room doors in the form of Councilmen Cheauttue.
            “Sir,” he knelt down in front of the Mage Lord, “He has been found on our soil!”
            “You don’t mean Him do you?” Daven stood up, his body shaking, “The one who caused the Catastrophe?”
            “I’m afraid so,” Cheauttue chattered, “General Vaughn and another patrol of mages has saddled and is waiting for your orders!”
            “Tell them I will be going with them,” Daven grabbed his sword, “He is my skeleton of my past, I will exterminate him!”
            “Yes sir!”
            Out in the forest close to Armeras, Roger waited for Sepher’s signal. There was no fire in his camp ground; he had always been taught that fire was a danger to his position. He was the Combat Rogue; one of the many Daven had bounties on their heads for. He was meditating, his sword unsheathed on his lap. Opening his eyes, he saw a fire ignite inches above the blades of grass.
            “I’ve been waiting Sepher,” Roger frowned, “It must be deathly important if you’re trying to contact me by fire!”
            “It is,” a raspy voice came through the flame, “Garfield and Marche have become separated and Marche is dead. Fortunately, the formula for mythril has made it to Renegades.”
            “That’s always good, but you could have told me in the usual way’s Sepher,” Roger sighed.
            “There is more,” Sepher’s voice became distorted by the crackling of the fire, but it was still understandable, “The Academy has hired the murderer Thane to find you. He killed Marche and is currently on your trail, your safest bet is to head to some back up you might find useful.”
            “Who is it?” Roger looked into the flames.
            “Armeras has been detected by both Thane and Daven,” Sepher’s fire began to shrink, “It will take days for Daven to catch up to you, but Thane will find you in hours after the sun has risen. Hire Armeras for help.”
            “Won’t he just help with the resistance, doesn’t he hate the Academy?”
            “He’s not like us, he’s torn about his feelings about the Academy!” the fire dimmed and eventually went out.
            Roger, grabbing his sheath, tied it to his waist and held his sword in this right hand. Replacing the fake ruby in his sword with his Mage Crystal, Roger began towards the direction that Sepher had burned into the grass hoping to find help in the famed Rogue.
            Armeras shot up quickly, something was wrong, but he couldn’t tell what it was. He looked around and found Damascus already awake and in one of the trees for cover, he pointed up as if signaling Armeras into the tree. Nodding his head, Armeras took his staff and his sword and headed upwards. Almost as soon as Armeras had gotten into the tree, the sun came over the horizon and Roger stepped into their campsite.
            “Where is he?” Roger thought to himself looking at the smoldering remains of the fire. He looked around and sat down in the grass.
            Armeras looked at the sword lying in his lap, a fine long sword with a sharp refined edge, but that was not what drew Armeras’s eyes to the blade. In the hilt, a crystal glowed bright red. He looked up at Damascus and he looked back. They knew Roger was a mage, he must have been sent to hunt them down. Looking back down, Armeras slipped and some branches fell to the ground. Roger looked up and smiled.
            “So there you are Armeras,” he started out smiling.
            Unsure of Roger’s intentions, Armeras drew his sword and leapt out of the tree towards Roger. Using the force of the fall to his advantage, Armeras brought his sword down hard; Roger reacted by blocking with his own sword.
            “What’s your problem?” Roger said parrying Armeras’s attack, “I’m not here to kill you!”
            “We all know Daven would prefer to do that to me wouldn’t he?” Armeras kicked Roger back with his boot.
            “We’ve got a problem,” Thane snarled to one of the mage’s, “Roger’s mark and the mystery mark have intersected.”
            ‘That’s not good for us,” the mage replied picking up the pace, “This could mean the Rogues are getting stronger allies!” Thane’s eyes narrowed and he dashed forward faster than all the mages towards the two fighting mages.
            “Armeras,” Damascus yelled looking in the direction of Thane, “We’ve got a bigger catch coming to us right now! Thane’s on his way!”
            “It’ll only take me a minute to take out this mage!”
            “But we don’t have a minute-gwah!” Damascus squawked as Damascus busted through the bush knocking the bounty hunter over.
            “Bad move,” Damascus recovered with a back flip onto his feet. Stretching his arms back, he rushed forward and found his fists meeting with Thane’s own.
            “Ah, the Adamant Bounty Hunter is it?” Thane grabbed his arm and threw him into a tree, “Are you the man hired to take me out?”
            “Thane,” Armeras muttered regretfully, “You’re lucky mage!” With one final attack Armeras sent Roger flying into the forest with a burst of fire.
            “Okay Thane,” Armeras said throwing his staff to the ground putting both hands on the sword, “Your time is now!”
            Damascus stood up and took his stance behind the giant murder.
            “Do you think I came for you buffoons?” Thane looked towards Roger, who was now running in the distance, “You chased my real target away!”
            “You mean the mage?” Armeras asked confused.
            Taking advantage of the situation, Thane punched Armeras in the stomach. Falling to the ground in pain, Armeras rolled back to avoid the large boot following the blow to the gut. Damascus swiped at Thane’s feet with a kick, only to have the giant leap over and counter with a drop kick to the knee. Armeras stood up to here Damascus’s knee crack from Thane’s blow. Dropping the sword, Thane laughed in astonishment.
            “Do you have a death wish bounty hunter?” Thane asked cracking his knuckles, “You seem to be a mage, yet you drop your staff – your channel of magic energy – to the ground when we started to fight; now you place your sword in the ground hoping to defeat me with your fists? You are one entertaining man!”
            “Do you know who I am?” Armeras said, his palms open, but his fingers seemed to be gripping some invisible force.
            “Unfortunately,” Thane motioned for Armeras to attack, “You seem to young for me to know your name. Damascus the Adamant has been a title known for two decades, you look no older than seventeen!”
            “That’s because I am,” Armeras’s face turned somber as bolts of thunder leapt off the tips of his fingers, “Now say good bye now and mean it.”
            “Why should I?” Thane laughed.
            But his laughter was short lived as Armeras stood erect and clenched his fist. His index and middle finger extended out and his thumb stood straight up as Thane saw the energy being emitted from his hand. “Boom” Armeras whispered as his thumb came down and a blue bolt leapt from Armeras’s fingers faster than the eye could see. Much to Armeras’s chagrin, the bolt didn’t hurt Thane. It bounced right back! Bracing himself for impact, Armeras felt the bolt leap off of his mythril and fly off into the woods.
            “How in Gaia did you get a hold of mythril?” Armeras caught his breath; sweat began to form on his brow.
            “Is that what this stuff is called,” Thane laughed as the hair on his body fell down, “I found it on a Rogue I eliminated a few days ago.”
            “So why did you want that mage?” Armeras said as Damascus got up to support his friend, he saw what had happened and realized this was going to be harder than expected.
            “I can explain that,” Daven’s voice echoed from behind them all, “Thank you Thane, this is the greatest gift that I believe you could have given me!”
            “Daven,” Armeras turned around to see the Mage Lord and his group, “long time no see.”
            “We should get out of here Armeras,” Damascus spoke as he turned around to find Thane’s group behind them.
            “I think,” Daven smiled, “You’ll be coming with me-” he quickly added looking at Armeras, “All of you.”

© 2009 Leon Sylar

Author's Note

Leon Sylar
All the Input I can get!!!

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that was alot to read, but worth it. It's very detailed. I enjoyed it.

Posted 14 Years Ago

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Added on January 1, 2009


Leon Sylar
Leon Sylar

Phoenix, AZ

I am a high school student and enjoy reading and writing in my spare time. Drug and alcohol free, I also enjoy playing the guitar and football, I run track, and find music another joy in life. I.. more..

Ch.7-15 Ch.7-15

A Chapter by Leon Sylar