A Chapter by Leon Sylar


Chapter Seven: Memory Lane
            “Why so hasty Daven?” Armeras said crippling over one knee, “We just got started, why don’t you let us finish this little brawl of ours?”
            “I’m afraid you can’t do that,” Daven leaped off of his black stallion, “You might kill a man under my contract!”
            “You’re contract?” Damascus clenched his fists as the mage lord approached, “What contract could a murderer have with you?”
            “He lost a bet,” Vaughn said stepping forward from behind the Mage Lord, “Two years ago to be exact almost to date.”
            “A few days over due,” Thane coughed.
            “You see,” Daven kicked Armeras in the ribs, Damascus stood steady he knew that making an attack on the Mage Lord now would result in death, “We went to warn Thane of his demise. The Mage council knew that he wouldn’t believe us. Thankfully he was to ignorant to even pay us respects.”
            “You knew I would reject your prophesy?” Thane coughed again, blood started to flow from his mouth, “heh, what do you know? Armeras did some damage after all.”
            “Yes we knew Thane,” Vaughn came forth with a Medic to heal the damage, “You see, we were hoping in your pride you would think you had the better end of the deal. Sorry we needed to trick you, but it seemed the only way to get your help.”
            “Perfect,” Thane sneered, “Played like a children’s toy.”
            “None the less,” Daven smiled, “it had been shortly after this that my own council turned on me! The traitors believed that the kingdom couldn’t be ruled the way I intended to!”
            “What can I say,” Armeras stood up, “You know what happened when we still had slaves, eventually civil war erupts and the tables are turned.”
            “You are merely a fool Armeras,” Daven said, “You will be returning to Notilus where you will be tried for your treasonous acts. I hope you are ready for this.”
            “No prison can hold me; you should know this by now.” Armeras smiled. Daven, in a moment of rage, struck Armeras in the back of the neck knocking him unconscious.
            “So,” Damascus sat relaxed in the wagon in which he and Armeras had been confined to, “they’re bringing me along as a ‘witness’ to your evil deeds of treason.”
            “How come?” Armeras scratched his head to find himself bound in ropes, “I haven’t done anything here illegal!”
            “Well there was five years ago,” Damascus glared over, “Did you forget about that?”
            “Oh,” Armeras stuttered, “yeah.”
            “Shut up will ya?” a mage soldier said, “You’ll anger the Mage Lord, he doesn’t want to here a word from the traitor!”
            “Fine,” Armeras muttered swearing under his breath, “What does it matter anyway? You’ll just-” Thane got close to Armeras and struck him in the back of the neck.
            “Annoying kid,” Thane looked at Damascus, “How did you get stuck with this kid? The Amazing, the Immovable, the Unbeatable Damascus the Adamant, how did you get stuck with an annoying mage?”
            “Life is a tricky thing,” Damascus smiled, “It was sometime in the middle of my career. I was labeled for murder when a client’s target appeared to be a government official. I remember the poster, it read very clearly:”
            “The nation I had come from,” Damascus remembered, “The land of mercenaries: Haz wanted my head and my title.”
            “Damascus of clan Haz-Neon,” the council men repeated form memory, “you have been charged with the death of Councilmen Arsan. You have pleaded guilty and will be punished accordingly.”
            The younger Damascus frowned. He had been turned in by the man who had hired him. He was also guilty of the plan and the normal punishment for political assassination in the Haz community was death.
            “The case against you was a mysterious man by the name Ramaser hired you to kill a man stealing money from a local business. The man, whom later was named as Councilmen Arsan, had been guilty of stealing the money. Quickly ending your mission, you later learned your target had been a member of the Haz Council.”
            Damascus closed his eyes and awaited for sentencing, he was hoping for beheading. Quick and painless.
            “Your sentencing will now be decided by the council.” The men convened for a moment. After a brief conversation they returned, “You will be banished from the Haz for your life.”
            Sighing with relief, Damascus turned and left the council chambers. In banishment, one had two days to clear up one’s loose ends and collect his personal things. Loading on a boat to Falthra, he bumped into the legendary Rogue.
            “Damascus the Adamant,” Armeras smiled, he had yet to start growing facial hair.
            “Nice to meet you,” Damascus passed by, it was odd to find someone so friendly after being banished; “You aren’t from around here are you?”
            “My name’s Armeras,” he smiled extending his hand, “It’s a pleasure to meet you.”
            “Fate works in mysterious ways,” Damascus continued to walk side-by-side with the cart, “On the same day you were banished you met the legendary Rogue.”
            “In Haz only the ordinary are legendary and rare are those legends spoken of.”
            “Why didn’t they sentence you to death like you had said the councilmen would have normally done?”
            “In Haz, when we finish a job, ten percent of the pay goes to the country to pay for our debts and schools,” Damascus closed his eyes, “I had contributed a good million or so scales to the kingdom – a rare thing for anyone to succeed in their life time was something I did in fifteen years.”
            “Do you still send wages home?”
            “Yes,” Damascus smiled, “And even more surprising is they still accept them!”
            With his questions answered, Thane fell silent. He continued to keep up with the cart. Damascus studied his facial expressions; he saw something in Thane he never would have thought he would have seen: fear.
            “What’s wrong with you?” Damascus said bluntly, “You look like my story brought the ghosts of your past back to haunt you!”
            Thane glared at Damascus as if he had pinched a nerve, “Fine, I’ll back off.”
            The days continued and silence haunted the wagon where Armeras was kept. Whenever he would wake up, he would begin to harass the guards until he was rendered unconscious again. Damascus and Thane never spoke a word, though the murderer walked side by side with the cart parallel to Damascus. Finally they reached Notilus Castle.
            “Armeras,” Daven walked back to the wagon and looked inside at the Rogue, “Your trial will be tomorrow morn. Be ready for death.”
            “Right,” Armeras shook his head, “Bias because I’m a rogue, I get it.”
            Armeras and Damascus were unloaded and lead into the castle. After passing through the empty front halls and the decorated back ways, Armeras and Damascus were locked up in the same torture chamber that Thane had murdered Adam in.
            Thane returned to his chambers. He wished to stay for the trial and Daven had approved his request. Two things had begun bothering the great, stone-hearted murder. One was the mysterious legend of the Rogue Mage, but this thought had been tucked to the back of his mind. He sat on his bed and pressed his forehead against his palms. After hearing Damascus’s story, Thane had begun thinking about his own past – how he had become the murderer he was today.
            Thirty years ago, a few months give or take, the tragedy struck Thane’s household that would forever change his future.
            Thane came from a shattered and broken family. His father was the town drunkard and a man who often went from job to job earning minimum wages to support his drinking and hardly leftovers to support his family. His mother, a devote Christian before the death of the faith, worked day in and day out to try and keep her children alive. Thane, the eldest of the two kids tried to earn wages, but found him self only making a few scales every week to feed his family. Sara, Thane’s younger sister, often helped her mother with daily tasks such as sowing and milking the family’s only cow.
            One day, a noble walked by the wretched family and was struck by Sara. Thane agreed even though his family was impoverished, his sister still held some beauty. He approached Thane’s parents and offered to marry there daughter, Thane’s father offered to sell her to the nobleman for ten thousand scales. Finally, a way to pay off all their debts and live better lives! But all hope was lost; Thane’s father took the money down to the tavern and gambled it all away.
            Thane’s mother had gone to prey that evening when the drunken husband came into the chapel. Thane had come with his mother and had only gone out to relieve himself. He was infuriated with his family for selling his sister, but he knew it was better for her not to be apart of this fiasco called his family. He walked in to see his father suffocating his mother. Running forward, he began pounding on his father trying to release his father’s grip on his mother. Crying and screaming, Thane couldn’t do anything as he was thrown off to the side. He then watched as his father did everything sinful to his mother on the holy grounds, the priest and some soldiers finally came out and arrested his father.
            While walking the drunk out, Thane’s father escaped and for nearly ten years eluded authorities. Thane lived a life in solitude, he worked hard, mostly plowing and received enough money to live along with the physical workout that built his physic. Then one day he found his father. Hiding in a cave where Thane would later do his murdering, he found the passed out body of his forsaken father. Clenching the cross in his hand over his heart, Thane picked up his father and placed him on a flat stone tablet in the middle of the room. Taking his father’s own knife, Thane cut up his first victim – and he enjoyed it!
            The perfect start for the life of a psychopath, Thane understood the cliché of his life yet it didn’t bother him. Sun shone through his window and he picked himself up from his bed. He had fallen asleep while reminiscing about his path and Armeras’s trial was about to start!
            Arriving in the council chambers of Notilus Castle, Armeras was dressed raggedly and chained to the floor in front of the mage council with Mage Lord Daven in the center. Damascus was set on a bench with other witnesses far off from Armeras closer to the council’s platforms. Thane had missed the recollection of the witnesses and was only going to here the legends own recount of his story.
            “Armeras Rogue,” the Scholar Councilman Jones yelled in the hall, “what is your recollection of Coronation Day five years ago.”
            “The legend is pretty accurate,” Armeras smiled, “On the Coronation Day, during the middle of the ceremony-”
            “We’ve heard the legend countless times,” Jones slammed his staff to the stone ground echoing in the hall, “A young, well trained mage broke into the Coronation Ceremony and attempted to assassinate the king! We all know full well what the legend says and everyone is this court room agrees, it is nothing but an embellishment!”
            “Actually,” Armeras shook his head, “it is nothing but an understatement.”
            “What?” the courtroom began to fill with chatter as Jones tried to calm down the spectators, “What are you talking about?”
            “I’m only seventeen,” Armeras pointed out, “That would make me twelve five years ago, it was my Coronation Day!”
            “What in Gaia,” Thane murmured pushing through the crowds to get closer to Armeras.
            “When it all began,” Armeras smirked, “I was like every other mage in the Academy. Eager and excited about becoming a mage!”
            “Then what changed your mind?” Chaeuttue questioned the accused.
            “I met a mage dressed in green garbs, an Elementalist who said change was on the horizon. He told me to watch the citizens as I walked through each town.” Armeras looked at the Elementalist councilmen, “I didn’t see his face or catch his name, but I took his advice. I saw nothing but misery across the land for non-mages. I took it upon myself to stop this and attack the Mage Lord!”
            “Are you saying a student tried to assassinate the Mage Lord?” Freya stood up in anger, unsure if she wanted to believe what she was hearing.
            “Even better,” Armeras retorted cockily, “I almost assassinated the Mage Lord if it hadn’t of been for the current General Vaughn’s attack.”
            “Then what did you do?” Daven sneered; Armeras was having fun with his trial.
            “I ran,” Armeras shrugged, “I just tried to pull off a political assassination, not to good looking for the record. Eventually I met up with Damascus the Adamant and found my way back here protecting a ship full of magic-reflecting armor with a few miscellaneous adventures in between.”
            “You are dismissed,” Daven choked looking back up at the crowd, “The council will now convene for sentencing.”
            “What do you think Armeras?” Thane teased finally getting within the earshot of the Rogue, “Death? Life imprisonment? Are your ready for the harshness of your crimes?”
            “What crimes?” Armeras jokingly asked, “I would have done the world a favor by eliminating the great and all powerful Mage Lord. Besides, they know if they put me in either of those sentences I’ll escape.”
            “Then what do you suppose they’ll do?” Thane stamped his foot to the ground, “They aren’t going to let you go scotch-free you know!”
            “The saying is ‘scot-free’,” Armeras started, “And scotch sounds pretty good right now. Is it an alcoholic drink? It doesn’t matter; they’ll probably band me from my vice and assign me to something they hope will kill me.”
            “Like what?” Thane pondered as Daven called the hall back to order from its recess. Something about Daven’s face seemed different, he was confused.
            “The council finds Armeras guilty of treason,” Daven gulped, it appeared very obvious he wasn’t pleased with the sentencing, “Armeras will be banded from all pubs in Notilus and he will help Thane hunt down the Rogues plaguing the nation.”
            Thane’s jaw dropped in shock as Armeras turned around and shocked the iron shackles into breaking. Armeras and Thane were now partners in contract.
Chapter Eight: Only the Strongest Will Survive
            The crowd gasps in shock, Armeras was being sent free? Uproars from the crowd sent a shockwave through the courtroom. Thane, in complete shock, started for the exit only to be stopped by numerous people asking if he had a hand in the sentence. Trying to deny the accusations, he continued to push through the court room. He had been stopped countless times as he pushed his way through. He was becoming impatient as more and more people surrounded him. Vaughn, seeing Thane’s anger surfacing, came down from the stand and help escort the man out before his anger got out of hand.
            Damascus stood from his chair and walked towards Armeras. His hair had been released from his ponytail and it seemed to flair back like fire on a torch blown back in the wind. Armeras had already begun to cut his own shackles. Snapping his fingers, bolts of electricity severed the locks causing them to lose on his arms.
            The crowd began to move towards them, countless weaponry lifted in the air. Daven stood erect in front of the crowd and gave them a menacing glare. Interestingly enough, the crowd stopped progressing. The crowd watched him with bewilderment, something about this look made them stay back. Armeras turned around and patted Damascus on the soldier giving him the hint to stop.
            Relaxing, Damascus and Armeras headed out of the court room with out further disturbance from the crowds.
            “What had happened?” someone said looking up at the Council.
            “What was that?” another repeated.
            “Daven,” Cheauttue whispered to the mage lord, “was that Armeras or Damascus?”
            “I’m not sure,” Daven said confused. Whatever made the crowd stop had effected even the council and Daven himself. The feeling that waved through him, to his own disbelief, was fear! What had Armeras, or Damascus, brought to the table when they announced his punishment.
            “We must convene . . . tomorrow after they leave.” Daven turned and exited the courts through his back door.
            “Vaughn,” Thane muttered as they continued to stroll down the courtyard away from the riot inside, “What was that?”
            “I’m not sure,” Vaughn spoke, “I do not have a choice in the sentencing, and neither does Daven unless a tie needs to be broken. Something about that court case was odd none the less.”
            “Daven and the court were so determined to sentence him to hanging or imprisonment,” Thane thought aloud, “But when I talked to Armeras he was confident that he would be safe from either sentencing.”
            “In all reality,” Vaughn sighed, “putting him in either predicament is putting the executioner under the axe.”
            “Still,” Thane stopped to look at a bush that appeared to have started withering from lack of water, “I can’t help but wonder if Armeras is telling us all the truth.”
            “Why?” Thane pondered, “We have countless testimony from witnesses five years ago!”
            “Not everything is at it seems,” Thane looked at Vaughn, “It could be said for the Rogues.”
            “What?” Vaughn asked looking at the man he once thought was merely a payable worker, “What are you thinking?”
            “Don’t take me for a fool Vaughn,” Daven turned and proceeded towards the exit, “It’s obvious why you want the Rogues dead. You can only be proxies until the originals are gone.”
            “You,” Vaughn stepped forward ready to attack.
            “Calm down,” Daven looked at Vaughn, “Armeras won’t be informed.”
            “How can I trust a murderer?”
            “By the name of God I swear to you Vaughn I will not tell Armeras.”
            “The man who mocks Christianity swears under God? It seems hypocritical to me.”
            “So is acknowledging another’s flaws yet denying your own.” Thane turned around and walked off leaving Vaughn alone with the bush.
            “This is the same bush from five years ago,” Vaughn sighed, “He told me this bush would wither like the kingdom.” He looked at the brown leaves and snapped the twig in two, “I remember he told me that. He did. Now I can’t help but wonder if what he said was true.”
            “What happened in the court room Armeras?” Damascus asked walking along side his friend, “I know it wasn’t my gaze that stopped their commotion.”
            “I’m not sure what it was,” Armeras kicked a rock at his feet, “That move was taught to me by Daven’s father, Mage Lord Devin – not to be confused with his son, a much kinder man.”
            “So was he your master?” Damascus looked behind him to make sure none of the crowd had followed them out of the courtroom.
            “Actually, he taught a group class on basics of magic,” Armeras thought, “He was an old man when I was going through my last year of training. He died the same night I tried to assassinate Daven. But all in all I guess it could be said he was one of my masters.”
            “Intriguing,” Damascus replied, “So that would make you and Daven practically good friends.”
            “One would think,” Armeras wiped his wrists for the first time; they had been rubbed raw a bit from the shackles, “But Daven despised his own father, they had completely different ideals. It could be said that the mage class was hardly higher than the regular working people before Daven.”
            “That’s sad,” Damascus shook his head, “It is sad that such political ideas could divide a father and a son.”
            “Yeah,” Armeras sat down at the trunk of a nearby tree, “I wished my father could have been the same.”
            “Did you know your dad? I thought mages were pulled away from the families before they were too old to remember them.”
            “Sometimes, some mages are actually from broken families wishing to have a better life – they had better hope they have the potential of a mage. But, I was about six years old and can only remember a selfish man who wished for only social status and to have connections in all place.”
            “Do you still talk to your dad?”
            “I severed the connection long ago, right before I met you to be exact, disassociating my self from the family.”
            “What about your mother?”
            “Died giving birth.”
            “That’s a sad life Armeras,” Damascus leaned against the other side of the tree, “My father wasn’t a kind man either, then again in the Haz clan, if you were first born in the family it was required for you to go into assassins’ training.”
            “Were you the first born?”
            “No,” Damascus sighed, “Actually, after the first, families were given the opportunity to send other children off to the schools. Yet again, I was not part of this group. I was born with obscenely large arms; my parents abandoned me without a thought.”
            Silence seemed to take place after Damascus finished speaking. The next few moments were filled with observations. The courtyard was filled with several flowers and bushed foreign and native to the Notilus Kingdom. Because of the elementalists in the castle these plants could grow. The bushes were plush green with vibrant yellow flowers blooming from them and the roses were a vibrant red in the light of the sun.
            “Why are we telling each other all this now?” Armeras laughed thoughtfully, “Much more importantly – why are we telling each other this in a flower filled courtyard?”
            “It makes you fell quite queer don’t it?” Damascus said standing up off the tree, “And if you think about it, nothing has ever prompted us to share this much about ourselves in our entire career together.”
            “Now you really sound queer,” Armeras stood up wiping off his pants, “I could go for some whiskey about now.”
            “You were banned from the taverns remember.” Damascus laughed as Armeras swore under his breath.
            “Okay,” Armeras muttered, “Let’s find Damascus and get this ‘sentencing’ over with.”
            “Where have you two been?” Thane commanded from door way as Armeras and Damascus came down the empty halls.
            “The same could be said to you,” Armeras moved his way past, “You ran scarred when you heard my predicament come true.”
            “True,” Thane shut the door behind Damascus, “But I thought about it and it was only a logical thing. Not a prediction.”
            “Whatever,” Damascus sat in the window, “Let’s get this over with – who haven’t you killed yet from the Rogues?”
            “Only three or four of the Rogues remain,” Thane pulled out a map and laid it out on the table.
            “Which ones?”
            “Roger the Combat Mage,” Thane pointed to the furthest ‘x’ on the map, “No thanks to you.”
            “Our pleasure,” Armeras teased.
            “Then we have Garfield the Destroyer, Sepher the Elementalist, and Haylee the Summoner.” He pointed to each individual ‘x’ on the map.
            “Looks like they’re planning a party,” Armeras noted looking at the symmetric square made by connecting the dots on the paper.
            “Whatever they’re doing it must be because of yesterday’s actions.” Damascus chimed in.
            “Will you two shut up?” Thane shouted, “We need to think of a plan.”
            “On the contrary, my dearest Thane,” Armeras shook his head.
            “If it had just been Roger we would have let you come along for the ride, “Armeras folded his arms, “But destroyers and summoners? And the legendary seer? It would be a pain in my rear end to have to lug your carcass around with me back and forth!”
            “So they’re that dangerous Armeras?” Damascus rubbed his chin.
            “More dangerous than any target we’ve taken down together Damascus,” Armeras sighed, “I know I’m ready for the fight – but are you ready to take the ultimate leap of faith and take them on with me?”
            “Armeras,” Damascus shook his head, “What is faith in the world today?” Thane twitched when he had said this, “I know that you can get me through this!”
            “There you go again . . .” Armeras shook his head, “So, our idea is you come along with us, once all four of them are dead or incarcerated, you can leave and we’ll say you died in action.”
            “No you fool!” Thane refused to listen to Armeras, “I will not be made fun of!”
            “No one said I was mocking you,” Armeras shook his head.
            “I don’t care,” Thane sneered, “I’ll be joining you in the morning, tonight we rest and prepare for the battle.”
            Armeras and Damascus stood up without a word and approached the door. Turning the knob, they stopped for a moment to hear Thane say: “And once I’m free – your heads are mine.”
            “Right,” Armeras snickered walking through the door and down the hall.
            “Did you intend to piss him off?” Damascus asked looking back down the hall.
            “It was the only way to make sure he was determined,” Armeras kept his head held high, “Once I was sure I could push his buttons and keep him from backing down, I would know he was ready.”
            “Yeah,” Damascus finished. Silence settled in for a few minutes as they continued down the halls.
            “You know,” Damascus added, “Did you notice Thane flinched when I asked what faith was today?”
            “He says he mocks God yet he can’t deny he believes in him,” Armeras walked forward.
            “I wonder why one would hold on to something so dead,” Damascus sighed, “I guess it is similar to our situation isn’t it? He is only hoping for something that may never be true.”
            “Right,” Armeras lowered his head for the first time that day.
            The long walk to their rooms became filled with silence. Something about the day’s events just seemed to get on everyone’s minds. Arriving at the two uninhabited dorms, Armeras and Damascus entered and found their beds. Lying down, it was only minutes before both were calmly asleep.
            Back in the woods, Roger sat up with great astonishment. Armeras had mistaken him for an enemy! Was he that torn between the Academy and the resistance? Roger stood up and found his sword broken in two. The gem, a few lengths off, had found itself logged into a tree. Walking over, he noticed his arm was badly burned accompanying a wounded leg. Forced into a limp by the new found pain, Roger dislodged the gem.
            As he was about to turn, the indent in the wood began to take shape, it was Sepher’s next communication. Shocked, Roger read: Council.
Chapter Nine: The Councils
            As the sun set outside the castle, the activities in the Council’s Chambers were rising to a new height. The topic: the Court Case of Armeras. The entire Council had gathered from all the nations in the time frame since Armeras’s imprisonment to sentence him to death. Yet when the decision came down to it, the court was divided – Equally!
            “If not for Tai’s sympathy,” Saphira attacked, “We might have been rid of the great abomination that has plagued our Lord!”
            “What are you talking about Saphira?” Freya asked defending her partner, “Have you not considered the fact that it was not his decision that tilted the balance in the courts?”
            “Have we changed that much in the last five years?” Cheauttue exclaimed, “I remember feeling that Armeras’s death was necessary, yet I couldn’t sentence the rascal to his grave!”
            Comments raged across the court room as Daven and Vaughn rested in another one of his chambers a short distance away. Daven had dropped his blade and placed his gauntlets to the side. His hands were clasped together and pressed against his forehead.
            Vaughn, also defenseless, had his arm raised, his temple resting on his forearm. They were getting ready to protect themselves from the attacks of the Council.
            “Daven,” Vaughn cried in confusion, “I don’t see how he could have learned that attack! We all know it was your father’s signature, he wouldn’t teach it to anyone, not even his own son!”
            “That kid has gotten on my nerves enough!” Daven slammed his head against his knuckles, “Why couldn’t I have just sent him to the graveyard like so many of our traitors?”
            “Are you going to be able to face the courts?” Vaughn asked stepping towards Daven, “They are going to question your thoughts. So many of us thought you were going to execute the boy!”
            “I know!” Daven rose of his bed in a fury, a black aura seemed to be emitted form off his hands, “That Rascal King!”
            “Sir,” Vaughn stuttered, “I don’t think that the Courts are going to look at the fact he used the legendary White Light spell with such perfection! They are going to want to know why you didn’t send him to his death!”
            “I’m aware of that Vaughn,” Daven calmed down, the aura vanished, “Yet I can’t see how he has eluded my grasp so many times. I think it is time we revealed the truth!”
            “And besmirch your family’s name?” Vaughn grabbed Daven by the shoulders, “That would be unwise sir!”
            “No,” Daven’s anger rose, “It is time the Council knows what Armeras’s true crime was. Something he danced around during the trial.”
            Another hour past while Daven and Vaughn prepared to face the council and arguments still raged between the Council, but outside the castle, not to far off another council had met, one that believed they would never of had to convene like this again while Mage Lord Daven was still King of Notilus.
            Roger, after a day of healing, was finally able to make the trip to the woods a good distance away from Notilus. The woods where Sepher had pointed him to had been were Armeras had helped unload the mythril for the fake-Captain Al. Roger approached the fire lighting the way throughout the entire camp. Several tents had been set up in the clearing where he had been led. The ragged tents housed ordinary rogue soldiers of the militia that has for years rebelled against the mage social status in Notilus.
            Near the fire, two of the other rogue mages watched the fire burn as if waiting for a sign. Garfield held a dark look about his face as he remembered the grim fate that befell the Scholar Marche.
            The other mage standing next to Garfield was a female warrior dressed in black armor and mythril. She held a staff in her arms that was crossed against her chest as she curled against it. He black hair fell into here eyes, which appeared to be glazed over. She was a Summoner, one of the more dangerous mages spawned from the Academies. She was Haylee.
            “Where is Marche?” Roger looked over at Garfield who didn’t respond.
            “I see,” Roger muttered to the ground after a few moments of silence.
            “Three of them are gone now,” Haylee said coldly to Roger, other than her mouth she did not move, “Taken from us by the mysterious murderer and the Mage Lord.”
            “My life might have been taken too if it hadn’t of been for Armeras’s twisted ideas.”
            “What?” Garfield thundered in the silence of the night, “Are you saying Armeras aided you? Without pay?”
            “On the contrary,” Roger sat down on the opposite side of Roger, “In fact it was he who tried to kill me! But when Thane arrived his interests shifted and I was propelled into the forests.”
            “Hum,” the commanding voice of the real Captain Al mumbled joining the three rogues by the fire, “Armeras wasn’t looking for us then. That is a good sign.”
            “Still,” Roger worried aloud, “It can’t be helped to know that he doesn’t trust us.”
            “Or remember us,” Haylee added.
            “Did Sepher say when he was getting here?” Al questioned folding his arms and hunching forward gazing deeper into the fire.
            “He’s coming?” Roger asked shocked.
            “Through the elements as always,” Garfield nodded, “He’s to old to move as quickly as we do.”
            “Oh,” Roger felt dumb for a moment. Sepher was the oldest mage in recorded history, he was nearly one-hundred and twenty years and he had served on three councils!
            Another hour past before anything happened. Roger, who had begun to get tired, nodded off for a few minutes before the crackling of the flames woke him up. Soon, they began to think Sepher would never arrive when the old man’s head began to form in the fire.
            “Are we all here?” Sepher asked the group.
            “All who are still alive,” Garfield spat into the dirt. Sepher’s head seemed to have four faces in the fire. It was assumed it was for the purpose of seeing everyone at the same time.
            “You mean that three are dead?”
            “We had thought you would’ve known Sepher,” Haylee still didn’t move from her spot, “It is, of course, your talent to see and hear all.”
            “Yet it takes a lot of strength that I no longer posses as frequent as two score ago.”
            “Well,” Garfield sighed, “I’ll explain. Adam and Sakura had tried to assassinate the Mage Lord Daven much to our disapproval. Adam was captured and Sakura escaped. Adam, in custody was confined by Daven and tortured by Thane into finding our whereabouts. That evening, Daven killed Sakura by beheading and Thane was sent out to find the rest of us.”
            “I see,” Sepher sighed, “What is the news of Marche’s death?”
            “After your warning, Marche gave me the plans to make more mythril and took off to face Thane himself,” Garfield stood up, “He claimed we would all be dead before this war was over and claimed our hope was in ‘Him’. I assumed Armeras, until he attacked Roger when he came seeking aid.”
            “You mean Armeras isn’t on our side?” Al exploded, “That can’t be true! Doesn’t he hate the Academy?”
            “His feelings are torn and what Marche saw is even a mystery to me,” Sepher’s fire grew, “It was believed it was Armeras who would end Mage Lord Daven’s reign, but I highly doubt that now.”
            “Why?” Roger asked joining Garfield on his feet.
            “Armeras has been accepted back into the Mage Academy,” Sepher sighed, “But he is not aware of the deal. First he must eliminate us all from Daven’s list.”
            “Why?” Al pondered, “Why would the Mage Lord want him back?”
            “We don’t know,” Sepher admitted, “But its been decided that if Armeras is to side against us he must be stopped!”
            “I’ll do it,” Roger volunteered, “It would be easier for all of us.”
            “That isn’t a good idea,” Garfield shook his head, “If what Sepher says is true than he’s going to be traveling with Thane and most likely his bounty hunter partner the Adamant. That’s three to one I wouldn’t even want to take on.”
            Haylee, whom had been mostly silent, spoke, “Send Garfield and I.”
            “What?” Garfield asked in shock.
            “It is true what Marche said,” Haylee’s eyes cleared up and the bright blueness of her eyes glowed in the light of the fire, “We all saw different things on the day we rebelled. This is one I saw, we must fight him.”
            “Are you crazy?” Garfield exclaimed, “We’ll die!”
            “That’s the point,” Haylee closed her eyes, “I’m not naïve to the situation, but Marche was correct when he said the war can’t be over until we are all dead.”
            “Who’s the ‘we’ by definition?” Roger asked.
            “That is for one to interpret.”
            “Then it is settled,” Sepher commanded in a large tone, “Haylee and Garfield will leave immediately to take on the new threat to our cause.”
            “I have called you all here to talk about some disturbing news.” Daven said standing erect in the council chambers, “We all know what it is so let us cut to the chase.”
            Shouting exploded from the council, it would have appeared as if the council had all gone mad if not for Vaughn shouting: “Silence!”
            “Thank you my friend.” Daven shivered, “What happened yesterday was some startling news.”
            “Why did you change your mind Daven?” Saphira exclaimed, and she would have eagerly continued to if it had not been for the Mage Lord’s gaze.
            “Five years ago,” Daven closed his eyes, “Was a terrible day. An attempt on my life had been taken and my father had died. This is what I wish to discuss.”
            “Daven’s greatest secret is about to come out and all you can do is gossip in hushed tones?” Vaughn rose from the table noticing the whispering going on about the council as if they were common village girls.
            “What we punished Armeras for was not the worst part of his crime,” Daven leered, “We neglected to charge him with one more insidious crime – the murder of my father!”
            Gasps and looks of shock erupted from the council. This was new to them, no one could have ever imagined this!
            “My father had been told to have died from natural causes thanks to our Scholar, but it appears as if Armeras had murdered my father.”
            “How did you come to this conclusion?” Cheauttue inquired.
            “The move Armeras used to remove the charmed-chains on his hands was a signature move of my father,” Daven explained, “He said he would take the secret to his grave. I believe Armeras had found a way to absorb my father’s power and learn his secret attack!”
            “But with the White Light spell he has enough power to kill us all!” Jones slammed his fists into the table.
            “I’m fully aware of that,” Damascus frowned, “But that also means he has enough power to take out the remaining Rogues. I’ve extended an offer to Armeras, if he kills the rogues, he will be aloud back to the academy – under my mastership. If he crosses any of us,” the dark aura was once more emitted off his arm, “it will be his funeral.”
            He stepped down off the platform that raised the table a few inches off the ground and walked to the front of the room explaining his on coming demonstration, “I’ve master my own special move; I call it Shadow-Aura. It takes the excess anger of one’s own energy and turns it into a vicious attack.” With one wave of his arm, the dark wave exploded against the stone wall. Once the smoke had cleared no damage was relevant.
            “How is this going to help us?” Midas studied the wall.
            “Wait a moment,” Daven smiled. Moments later the wall began to disintegrate into air. Bit by bit, the particles of the wall could be seen flying into space, never to be seen again.
            “With this spell,” Daven raised his arm, “Armeras can have no counter for it is a spell of its own! And with it, I shall have total control of the Rogue Mage!” The council, in approval, nodded their heads and clapped for the ingeniousness of their Mage Lord. Yet, Vaughn stood still, remembering the withering bush.
 Chapter Ten: Thane’s Demise
            As the night drew closer to the dawn, Garfield arose from his cot in the militia’s camp and prepared to leave. His companion, Haylee, had not yet awakened and that was what he had been hoping for. He tightened his sword to his belt and gathered his other materials, extra cloths and medical supplies, in a bag and wrapped it around his staff.
            Secretly, he and Haylee had once been in love. So in love it was to the point that legally they were husband and wife. Their relationship, though very active to start, had died out with time. Haylee, being a summoner, had a certain class of higher intelligence that outwitted Garfield most of the time and Garfield’s intense strength more often than none would out do Haylee any day. The love they once had was gone but he still had feelings for her.
            Walking over to the summoner, he kissed her on the cheek and head out of the tent. The rest of the camp was still asleep, except for one soul – Captain Albert.
“I told you and Haylee to go together!” Al folded his arms with calm authority.
“Sorry,” Garfield stared into the Captain’s eyes, “But I feel it is necessary to go separately.”
            “Personal feelings should never intervene with the mission!”
            “I don’t care Albert,” Garfield raised and clenched his fist, “Sometimes it can’t be helped!”
            “What?” Al cried, “Yes it does!”
            “Marche said himself that we all saw things differently on that day,” Garfield stepped forward closer to Al, “This is what I saw! I will die today, but it will be because it was because I was protecting someone I love!”
            “That is a bad idea,” Roger approached Garfield from behind, “Armeras is hoping for a duel match.”
            “What are your guys’ problems?” Garfield took a defensive stance.
            “Let him go,” Haylee whispered coldly from the entrance of her tent.
            “What?” Al said in shock. Roger did not say or do anything in response. Garfield, straightening up, headed out into the woods.
            “He’s a stubborn man,” Haylee frowned, “It was one reason I had to leave him. Now, he has to learn the hard way once more.”
            Garfield, looking a head, saw Notilus Castle where he would face Armeras and his allies.
            Thane, eagerly waiting for Armeras at the gate, was about ready to pounce on the mage for arriving so late. He was dressed in a black tunic and brown pants he had found in his dorm room. His knives had been returned to him and they now decorated his belt and filled his boots. His hair and eyes hadn’t changed, still wild and untamed.
            Armeras and Damascus rounded the corner of the castle where Thane had thought they would’ve appeared. Armeras was eating an apple with one had in his pocket. Damascus walked tall with no change in appearance, yet something seemed different. Armeras and Damascus seemed to omit a new source of command that they hadn’t shown before. After a moment of thinking about it, Thane realized he had lost command of the mission.
            “Where have you been?” Thane exploded at Armeras, “We were supposed to leave at sunrise! It’s been nearly an hour since!”
            “I needed to find an apple,” Armeras tossed the core to the side; “I was hungry.”
            “Then why didn’t you go to the cooks and ask for one?”
            “I’m not the most revered person here Thane,” Armeras gave an ugly look to Thane, “They could have poisoned it.”
            “What’s gotten into him?” Thane asked Damascus as they walked past him.
            “He acclaims it is a headache,” Damascus laughed, “But I think he’s been withdrawn from alcohol for so long that he’s not taking it so well.”
            Thane frowned at the thought of working with Armeras in such a stressful situation, yet it was unavoidable and they headed out for the Rogues. He studied both Armeras and Damascus as they ventured from the castle. Damascus was clothed in his normal wardrobe, but Armeras was dressed in a similar outfit that he was wearing: a black tunic and brown pants. He had his staff and a sword at his waist, tied to the right side of his hip due to his left-handed training.
            They traveled for a while and Thane looked at the map. Three of the marked mages had not moved, but one known as Garfield was approaching them.
            “What do you know of Garfield?” Thane asked stepping over a log in his path. It was consistently pushing towards them and at an alarming rate.
            “Yeah,” Armeras grumpily continued his walk, “Garfield is the Destroyer Rogue clad in black armor.” Damascus continued ahead understanding what Thane was getting at.
            “Garfield was known for two things,” Armeras drew his sword and put his staff to the ground, “One was his destruction of four military camps throughout the kingdom. A miniscule fete compared to his mastery of the Demi-Cut.”
            “The Demi-Cut?” Thane drew one of the knives from his belt.
            “It’s quite a dangerous spell,” Armeras looked ahead trying to sense Garfield, “When sent though the air, it merely cuts or handicaps the enemy. But if applied directly, let us say you won’t be waking up any time soon.”
            “Great,” Thane put the map away and continued behind Armeras.
            Meanwhile, Damascus has headed ahead of them. After picking up Armeras’s subtle clue to scout forward, he took to the trees and continued forward. Hearing the cracking of branches, Damascus slowed town and halted on a branch high above the ground. Looking down, he saw Garfield in his black armor carrying his sword in his hands. He turned around to go back, but found himself falling to the forest’s floor.
            “The Adamant,” Garfield to his stance as the bounty hunter picked himself up off the floor.
            “Garfield?” Damascus turned around, “I’ve been looking for you.”
            “Why is that?”
            “I’ve been hired to kill you,” Damascus reached for an odd shaped item inside his shirt.
            “What is that?” Garfield took a step back.
            “It’s called a shuriken,” Damascus whipped it out releasing the four other black blades, “It’s a Terminas weapon used by assassins.”
            “Interesting,” Garfield smiled, “Let’s see how effective it is.”
            Garfield raised his arm and opened his palm releasing a ball of fire towards Damascus. Leaping backwards and releasing the shuriken, he leapt into the trees. As the forest was set on fire, Garfield leapt to the side as the spinning weapon went past him. Damascus came overhead and tried to use his large fists to knock Garfield unconscious. Blocking the attack with the flat end of his sword, Garfield leapt backwards into Damascus’s shuriken.
            “Argh!” Garfield shoved his chest out, “How did you get it behind me?”
            “The shuriken have specific designs meant to help with special tasks,” Damascus came closer to the Destroyer, “This one has a boomerang type attribute.”
            “To bad,” Garfield smiled. A black blade leapt off his arm and flew towards Damascus.
            “Da-” was all Damascus could get out before the attack made contact.
            “Damascus!” Armeras yelled running forward.
            He had sensed the attack that Garfield had just used. Damascus was surely wounded pretty badly. Thane, unaware of what Armeras had felt, followed with hope that it would lead to Garfield.
            It was a good five minutes before they arrived at the site of the attack. Damascus, propped against a tree, was profusely bleeding from his shoulder and right arm. Armeras rushed over and knelt next to his companion. While he checked for consciousness, Thane approached the attacker a few feet away.
            “Have you no mercy to fight like a man?” Thane shouted drawing a second knife from his belt, “Using magic on a man who has none?”
            “Whatever are you talking about?” Garfield joked.
            “You can’t do this!” Thane leapt into the air with both knives ready to strike the Destroyer, but it was too late. As he got closer to Garfield, the mage had set out a Demi-Cut spell, slicing Garfield right across the stomach.
            The final memory of Thane flooded back into his mind as he slowly fell to the ground. All the way back to the night he failed to save his mother . . .
            “You can’t do this!” Thane shouted continually as he approached his father, pounding his fists on the drunkard.
            No verbal response was elicited from the old man who continued to attack his spouse. He merely looked at Thane before knocking back the scrawny ten-year-old. His eyes welled up with tears as he picked himself up to go and try to free his mother one more time. Water trickled down his face as he continued to beat on his father, who only waved him to the side again. This time stumbling back into the sacrament table, wine trickled down the cloth and on to his head. Finding its way down to his face, he attempted to stop his father once more yelling, “You can’t do this! You can’t do this!” but it was hopeless.
            Once more thrown to the side, the priests had come out of their chambers to solve the problem. Taking hold of Thane’s father, the young child could only say to himself: “You can’t do this.”
            Armeras’s head propped up as Thane shouted his final cry. He had finished checking for Damascus’s wounds and, though they were covered in dried blood, now only existed as scars. Thane, eyes and mouth wide opened, now lay dying in-between himself and the Destroyer. He dropped his staff and walked towards Garfield.
            “I haven’t had anything to drink in the last week,” Armeras’s eyes scanned the fighter checking for weaknesses. His anger concealed his true intentions as he progressed, “I have to work with a man I was charged to hunt down, and now you’ve decided to nearly kill my only friend!”
            Garfield, in fear of what Armeras’s rage might bring, charged up a Demi-Cut. Seeing this, Armeras unbuttoned his set and ripped it out from underneath his cloak. Firing the Demi-Cut, Armeras swung the mythril with such great force that it returned the spell faster than Garfield had anticipated! Hitting the Destroyer’s mythril, it didn’t get reflected but instead cut through and stopped.
            “How in the world did you-?” Garfield had dropped his sword and was reaching for it when Armeras put his blade into the man’s coat.
            “Don’t touch it,” Armeras leaned forward on the handle of his sword, “I know you’re a powerful rogue, but I know that you don’t have any magical capabilities without your stone.”
            “Then how did you get a hold of mythril?”
            “Simply this,” Armeras leaned closer into Garfield, “I took it.”
            A few hours past and Armeras had calmed down. Damascus, now awake and sore from the fight, carried Garfield’s sword with him at his side.
            “Are you ready to return Armeras?” Damascus asked looking at his companion.
            “Not yet,” Armeras walked over to the practically dead Thane.
            “He wasn’t wearing mythril,” Damascus pointed out, “It would appear as if Daven had it removed from his person.”
            “Oh,” Armeras ran his fingers across Thane’s wound as he whispered something very, very quietly in his ear. Standing back up, he headed for Notilus.
Chapter Eleven: The Lovers
            As Armeras and Damascus led Garfield through the woods, away from the battle zone, thoughts past through the Destroyer’s mind. When Armeras had defeated him, he realized something that he had learned and now forgotten. When he and Haylee were married, she had gotten into an argument with him that changed the course of his life.
            “Don’t you understand?” Haylee shouted.
            Several years ago, almost five to be exact, Haylee had been so full of life. Her eyes were bright and her skin full of color. He missed those days.
            “Clearly not,” Garfield retorted.
            “Argh!” Haylee pulled at her hair, “You’re so ignorant!”
            “Huh?” Garfield approached her, anger was rising in his voice, “How am I ‘ignorant’?”
            “You believe your strength can over come any obstacle!” she started, “You think just because you can destroy mountains, you are unstoppable!”
            “Because it’s true!”
            “No!” she stepped forward. Garfield, ready to speak, found himself shushed by Haylee, “Silence! One day you will find a warrior stronger than you, but that won’t be how he will beat you! He will use his smarts, his knowledge on things you can’t even comprehend to knock you down! Even worse, he will do it in blind rage!”
            “Right,” Garfield shrugged it off with a smug grin on his face.
            “You really don’t listen,” Haylee folded here arms, “if you listen to me, we’ll go together.”
            Garfield stepped forward and leaned forward to Haylee. Their lips touched and they kissed. The connection the two rogues had burned intensely when they touched, enough to bring even a priest to his knees. But Haylee still pulled away.
            “I’m sorry,” she turned away.
            “I can’t risk your life!” Garfield turned also.
            “Then this is good-bye.” Haylee started to walk away, “I can’t feel your love any longer.”
            That had been the night she left him for good. Friends of Haylee, and even himself, slowly saw the change in her life and attitude turning her into the cold person she is today. Now he had seen she was right. Armeras, in a fit of blinding rage, took him out by merely whipping around a protective armor. He needed no effort to defeat him, and now he would suffer for it. Yet, some hope still remained in his head. This battle could still be won. But not alone.
            “How is he?” Al asked Haylee as she examined the remains of Thane’s body.
            “The wound has clearly close,” she pressed down her palm against his heart, “Yet I can not feel any life.”
            “Is he dead?”
            “I can feel no life in him.”
            “Well then,” Al put his hands on his waist, “I’ll deliver the good news – Thane is dead!”
            “No,” Haylee stood up and looked forward, “Armeras’s and the Adamant’s bodies have not been found. Thus we have no confirmation of life or death.”
            “Do you think they have Garfield, if they’re alive?”
            “Dead or alive they might.”
            “Then what do you suggest we do,” Al was saddened to here that the heroism of Garfield hadn’t paid off.
            “I want you to return to the militia and inform them that Garfield and I are dead.” She looked at him seriously, “And make sure they understand they will becoming towards them.”
            “What?” Al stepped forward, “You can’t be serious?”
            “I am.” Haylee closed her eyes, “I know I will die today, if not tomorrow it is better that they are aware of the situations now facing the cause.”
            “Great,” Al frowned, “We are losing you guys by the minute!”
            “It’s okay,” Haylee looked up to the sky. “Leave – Now!”
            Al picked up his bag and turned to leave as Haylee took a deep breath in. Clouds from all ends of the globe swarmed towards her, leaving a small gap of light shine down upon her.
            Above the clouds, an even darker shadow could be seen flying towards her. Whatever it was, it had speed that was increasing quickly. Haylee opened her eyes as the light above vanished as a dark, winged, creature descended above her.
            It was Umlaut.
            The dragon landed elegantly next to her with grace and silence. The forest did not stir when the beast landed next to Haylee. His crimson eyes opened and he stared at Haylee, who placed her hand on the face of the beast. The black scales that spread about the being were more plate-like than one would have believed. They circled around his long neck, shaped to fit every aspect of her flesh and skeletal structure underneath. Gaps on his back had been left to allow the wings to spread to full length across her back. A helmet shaped piece of scales protected her head from any damage.
            “It has been a long time Umlaut,” Haylee whispered, “Guardian of Shadows.”
            “What is it you require, Haylee?” the dragon communicated telepathically, “You know I am only to be summoned on emergency.”
            “I know,” Haylee half closed her eyes, “I know.”
            “Then what is it?” Umlaut communicated, “Dragoon can not be kept like this. We are the last of our kind.”
            “I understand.” Haylee stamped her foot, “Garfield has set himself in danger against a common enemy to the rogues and the Guardians.”
            “I see. Is it Armeras?”
            “Climb on my back,” Umlaut’s wing touched the ground, “We must hurry.”
            “The Guardians have always protect us,” Haylee sighed, “Now I must admit, today you will die.”
            “We too foresaw this day.”
            “Then there is not much else to be said.” Haylee watched as they ascended into the skies, “Head to the village further away from here.”
            “Why?” Umlaut soared in the given direction.
            “Armeras will sense my power and he will let my husband go to find us. We should make it as easy as possible for them.”
            “Armeras,” Damascus croaked as he looked into the sky, “Do you sense that?”
            “Yeah,” Armeras found a flask in Garfield’s possessions, “And it smells like a brew!”
            “Not that!” Damascus slapped the container out of Armeras’s mouth, “It’s something more potent on the vicious side!”
            “Oh yeah,” Armeras looked up, “It’s just some summoner’s magic if I’m not mistaken.”
            “Haylee,” Garfield muttered under his breath.
            “Hey, Garfield,” Armeras cut the ropes to his victim, “Don’t try running yet, I’ve got a proposition for you.”
            “What?” Garfield turned around ready to pounce on Armeras only to find his sword drawn and his flask in Armeras’s mouth.
            “I’m gonna let you run,” Armeras sheathed his sword and returned the Destroyer his while he was in shock, “Go ahead, go!”
            Without hesitation, Garfield dashed off into the woods with such incredible speed it would have appeared as if he hadn’t even been wounded. After a moment, Armeras threw the empty flask to the ground and smiled with false happiness.
            “It’s been a long time.” He smiled.
            “Armeras!” Damascus grabbed the shoulders of his friend, “We’re dead when Daven finds out we let him go!”
            “The summoner is Haylee,” Armeras whipped out the map and showed the speeding ‘x’ marked with her name, “She’ll meet with Garfield and we’ll catch ‘em both.”
            “Hehehe,” Damascus cracked his knuckles, “Then let’s get going.”
            “One second,” Armeras pulled out another flask from his side, “I stole this off of Thane, who would have thought he DRANK!”
            Damascus ripped the bottle out of Armeras’s mouth, “We really need to get you off of it!”
            “That was rude,” Armeras folded his arms and followed Damascus through the woods.
            Garfield stopped as he reached the front end of the village. As the commoners came out, the village leader asked what pleasure the villagers had of having a mage in their home. Without time for explanation, Garfield told the villagers to run, for it they didn’t, they wouldn’t be aloud to see the day again. Taking this advice to heart, they quickly grabbed their necessities and abandoned the village. Shortly after, Umlaut and Haylee landed in the center of town.
            “They are coming,” Garfield gasped, “I knew they would follow me to you, but I thought if we worked together we might –”
            “Beat them?” Haylee shook her head, “I’ve come to die.”
            “What?” Garfield looked at her.
            “I told you we would go together if you listened to me.”
            “But I don’t understand . . .” Garfield looked at his hands, “I thought if we won, we would be able to . . .”
            “No Garfield,” Haylee’s mouth formed a familiar smile that Garfield hadn’t seen in a long time, “But we will live forever in the eternities.”
            Garfield grabbed Haylee and kissed her on the lips, and she kissed back. Umlaut rolled his eyes as he saw the cheesy and unrealistic romance these two had. Quickly becoming alert, he spoke, “He is the one?”
            “Yes,” Haylee stopped kissing Garfield as Armeras entered the village, “It is him.”
            “Dragoon will be most shocked.”
            “He needs to know.”
            “Long time no see Haylee,” Armeras had dropped his robe and was down to only his white shirt and mythril, “And Garfield, thank you for bringing us here.”
            “It was a pleasure,” Garfield drew his sword as Armeras mimicked him, “I thought, for a challenge, we should even the odds.”
            “I like it,” Damascus starred at Umlaut, “A dragon, nice choice of summon.”
            “It won’t be long before you realize what an understatement that is,” Umlaut responded, insulted.
            “Life’s life,” Armeras took stance, “I think it’s time we stop talking.”
            “Yes,” Umlaut roared rushing at Armeras and the Adamant.
            Leaping out of the way, Armeras signaled for Damascus to take out the other two while he dispatched of the dragon. Departing their separate ways, the battle had begun.
            Damascus rushed forward attempting to attack the rogues. Haylee, with exceptional stamina leapt onto the roof top of the village while rain began to pour onto the city.
            “I’ll weaken him,” Garfield pressed forward attempting to strike Damascus, only to find his blade mashing with the shuriken.
            “I won’t make the same mistake twice,” Damascus shouted rushing into Damascus. With his arm stretched out, his joint struck the Destroyer’s neck knocking him to the ground while the Adamant followed through by smashing his elbow into his chest. With the air knocked out of him, he rolled over to the side and tried to stand to find it difficult to stay up.
            “I broke a few ribs and most likely punctured a lung,” Damascus rose up, “You will die soon.”
            “No!” Haylee shouted in rage coming down on Armeras only to have her self suspended by her neck above the ground.
            “I’m not going to kill you,” Damascus threw her into Garfield. “I’m not that cruel.”
            “Armeras,” Umlaut turned around as Damascus was facing against the rouges, “Why have you done this?”
            “Not everything is this simple Umlaut,” Armeras dodged a breath of fire barely, “You should know this when you met with King Devin!”
            “Yet I still don’t comprehend it!” He rushed towards Armeras and rammed him head on into a rock, “You hated the mages!”
            “And your armor is impervious to mage!” Armeras shoved his hands in the crack between the helmet of Umlaut and his neck scales, “Yet there is always something underneath!”
            “Armeras,” Umlaut cried in pain ascending into the skies bringing the mage with him, “Don’t think you can so easily defeat me!”
            “Yet you believe you know me!” Armeras swung around and straddled the dragon while it bucked in the sky, “What proof do you know?”
            “You recruited Damascus into your little game known as life!” Umlaut took off past the village back into the woods swerving and spinning trying to shake off his enemy, “Don’t think I don’t know your secrets concerning him!”
            Armeras’s eyes widened causing his grip to loosen, forcing him off of Umlaut. Crashing into a tree, Armeras found himself propped up on his feet by a branch a couple lengths off the ground.
            “I know about your connections in the court and Ramaser!” Umlaut cried, “Once Damascus learns these things won’t he leave you?”
            “He might,” Armeras aloud the electric charge in his hand to build, “And you could say it would benefit him.”
            “How?” Umlaut cried opening his mouth, ready to devour Armeras, “That he will finally know the truth and lose his only friend!”
            “But he will be safe from me!” Armeras sent the sparks off his hand initiating the White Light Spell he had become so accustomed to using. They flew inside of Umlaut and bounced about inside his armor until eventually it began to bother the dragon.
            He began to squirm and writhe with pain as the spell hurt him. Umlaut thrashed about, causing trees to fall and his echoing roar to awaken all parts of the globe. Finally running out of energy, he fell to the ground, causing all the trees he had just knocked over to bounce around.
            “I told you,” Armeras got himself down and used his basic healing magic to fix himself up; “There is always something underneath.”
            “Armeras,” Umlaut glared, “You will pay dearly for this!”
            “Will I?” Armeras stepped closer to the dragon, ignoring the threatening motions coming from it’s body, “I suffer enough now being who I Am. Drowning in my own lies.”
            In the last bit of rage, Umlaut tried to take one final blow to Armeras but found another electric charged spell coming into contact with his bare flesh. He looked at the ground in despair as he watched the remains of the dragon wither away into the dusts of Gaia’s soil. It was becoming relevant that things were becoming more complicated. He knew who Umlaut was; he was one of the Guardians of Gaia’s populace, both magical and non-magical.
            “Armeras,” Damascus cried breaking the silence, “They’re both dead!”
            Returning to the battle grounds of the Adamant and the Rogues, he saw the crippled body of Garfield on his back, lifeless and without motion while Haylee lay on his chest lifeless.
            “Out of no where,” Damascus described to Armeras, “The color returned to her cheeks for a mere moment and then she past out. I checked her heart beat but found nothing.”
            “Huh,” Armeras muttered. He guessed that maybe their lives had been more connected than he had assumed.
            Turning around, Armeras and Damascus gasped at the sight behind them.
            “Who are you?” Armeras asked the figure mysteriously appearing from out of the woods.
            “I’m not a friend, if that is what your asking.” He said coldly. Only able to make out the distinct features on his hands – oddly, Armeras noticed the engravings of an Outlawed Magic: Alchemy.
Chapter Twelve: The Alchemist and the Seer
            Alchemy, an ancient art of magic that has existed for nearly a hundred years, has been outlawed from the kingdom of Notilus. Noted as one of two types of non-magical related spell forms, it was outlawed when an alchemist tried to assassinate one of the Notilus kings. With the power to fuse and separate objects according to complicated laws of science and magic, one line sums up the actions of alchemy: “Equivalent Exchange”.
            “An alchemist,” Armeras stood at the ready, sword raised.
            “Correct,” the man claimed walking forward.
            He was a peculiar man from what the two bounty hunters could confirm off of looks. His face was wrapped in bandages leaving only a few strands of blond hair and his own blue eyes to be seen. He wore a blue tunic over his chest and, from what Armeras saw through a brief moment of movement towards him, some mythril. He didn’t carry a weapon, but they new he wouldn’t’ need one.
            “You have the option to surrender,” he sighed in monotone, “Or you can die.”
            “He’s here isn’t he?” Armeras took a step forward daring to challenge the power of the alchemist, “I can sense his energy.”
            “Then he did not intend to hide from you,” he closed his eyes, “Yes he is here.”
            “Well then,” Armeras started to continue past him, “Then you can play with Damascus while I find Sepher.”
            “You don’t know do you?” the alchemist looked back as a wall raised out of the ground, blocking his path, “You have to go through me first.”
            “Your choice,” Armeras swung left with his sword.
            The Alchemist jumped out of the way and avoided a blow to the stomach. Damascus, taking action, threw his shuriken at the Alchemist. Clapping his hands to the ground, a wall of dirt ascended into the air and halted its progression.
            “What is this Armeras?”
            “It is expert alchemy,” he dodged a spike thrown at him from the alchemist. He was now free morphing objects.
            “I thought they needed circles or special incantations to use it!”
            “They do,” Armeras got close enough to swing, but missed again as he moved out of the way, “But he’s mastered the use of physical channels.”
            “What?” Damascus avoided a spike that erupted from the ground.
            “It means that he has the ability to use circles imprinted on his body with out changing his own shape or matter make-up!”
            “Great,” Damascus took a swing at him but found he also missed him. Another spike erupted from the ground underneath Armeras catching him by the boot.
            “What the?” Armeras looked at the spike growing from the ground, “We’ve got bigger problems.”
            “What are you talking about?”
            “These spikes aren’t coming from him! They’re coming from Sepher in the woods!”
            “Great,” Damascus frowned, “So we are being double-teamed from a guy who can’t see us!”
            “No,” Armeras circled around the alchemist, “Sepher is quite legendary; he has the ability to see through the elements. But he is totally blind physically.
            “Well that doesn’t help,” Damascus followed suite. Both charging at the alchemist, he clapped the ground once more and put up a protective barrier around himself. Hitting the pod, they were forced to back up from pain.
            “Not necessarily,” Armeras grabbed his wrist, the force from the strike left his hand shaking, “If I can get close enough to him, it will make it an easier fight for you!”
            “Then get going!” Damascus yelled as the alchemist emerged from his pod.
            Turning around, Armeras found another wall rose in front of him.
            “Not going to happen.”
            “I disagree,” Armeras thrust his hand into the wall. Using an earth-related spell, the wall crumbled on contact and Armeras past through.
            “No!” he readied to set up another but found himself thrown into a tree by Damascus.
            “It’s just you and me now kid.”
            “I’m no kid,” the alchemist got up.
            “I know,” Damascus cracked his neck before charging at him.
            Armeras leapt over several destroyed houses as he approached the woods. If Sepher was really in the woods, he would finally have the chance to annihilate the greatest threat to the mages. He smiled to himself. This would allow him to get even closer to Daven and achieve his ultimate goal. Hearing the crackle from below, Armeras rolled forward dodging a set of roots emerging form the ground. Sepher was now watching him, and that meant he was getting close. But where was the mage?
            “Why do you do this?” the alchemist tried to hit Damascus with his fist, missing consistently.
            “What are you talking about?” Damascus tripped the alchemist, “I am merely helping a friend.”
            “But how well do you know him?” the alchemist picked himself up, “From what I understand, you’ve only done jobs together. I’ve never heard of anything else between you guys.”
            “Really?” Damascus dodged a spike from the ground caused by the alchemist, “Then what is your relationship with this ‘Sepher’ person?”
            “I never said he was my friend.”
            “Got it,” Damascus leapt on the other spike when another rose from the ground “Point taken.”
            Armeras continued to dodge countless whips extending from the bottoms of the trees. The roots and vines were becoming relevant threats and even the wind was being uses against him. A violent gust of wind blew in the direction opposite he was traveling causing him to move slowly. He began to get tired and he fell to the ground for a moment before picking himself back up. Leaping left and right, he avoided a few more roots whipping out of the ground, but he soon found himself face down when the wind blew him over.
            “That’s enough!” Armeras exclaimed letting loose a ring of fire from his body. He fell on his hands and knees as the ring extended and wiped out the trees around him.
            He had become much more reliant on magic then he had ever been in the last five years. Something about this mission was changing him. Or was it bring back apart of him he hadn’t seen in five years.
            “He’s getting closer,” the alchemist frowned, “Damascus!”
            The Adamant stopped moving and folded his arms across his chest, “What do you want?” Both of them were exhausted and since he made no signs of attack, and the ground didn’t seem to threaten him, he stopped.
            “I must leave,” he bowed in farewell.
            “No you don’t!”
            “But think of this before I leave,” he raised his hand staying Damascus, “When you think of the word Ramaser, if you rearrange a few letters and change one of the A’s to an E, you get a peculiar name.”
            “Don’t you move!” Damascus started towards the alchemist, but he was gone. What did he mean? Ramaser was the one who had gotten him banished from nation. If he did what he said, it would spell Ramaser, rearranging the letters (with and without the letter change) made two logical names: Saremra and Armeras.
            “Armeras?” Damascus paused in shock, “Could it be?” He took off into the woods to pursue the alchemist.
            “There you are,” Armeras stood up, regaining his strength. At the edge of his attack, he could see the green-clothed mage sitting on a stump. He started towards him at full speed. At about a third of the way there, he saw the mage’s staff, a hand carved Verden – an extinct tree.
            “You?” Armeras froze.
            The Elementalist didn’t move. His eyes were closed and his white hair circled around his head down into his long beard. His garb was similar to the Terminas kimono, but modified to fit with the mythril underneath. His staff was held up with his right hand, the emerald glowing underneath the tightly wound roots encasing it in place.
            “Gahg!” Armeras yelled as he was thrown to the floor by the alchemist. He had rammed him from the side while he watched the elementalist.
            “Rik!” he exclaimed, this man was Sepher.
            “He was here to kill you!”
            “I’m well aware of the situation!” Sepher proclaimed. He may have been the eldest mage alive, but that didn’t mean his energy was dead.
            “I’m . . .” Rick stuttered, “sorry.”
            “Good,” Sepher said rising from his chair, approaching Armeras, “It has been five years.”
            “A long five years,” Armeras’s eyes narrowed.
            “You two know each other?” Rick questioned.
            “The man from behind the scenes,” Armeras remembered, “That’s what you called yourself when you told me the revolution was coming!”
            “And little did I expect you to show such potential!”
            “Armeras,” Damascus caught up; he had witnessed the odd change in mood, “What’s going on here?”
            “Damascus,” Sepher smiled, “The great Adamant and companion of Armeras.”
            “What’s it to you old coot?” Damascus started to walk, “I know who you are.”
            “Then you’ll stop Damascus,” Armeras looked back.
            Damascus froze in shock. Armeras was unnaturally serious! This only happened when he had been sober for too long, but this time it seemed completely intentional!
            “Rik,” Armeras turned away, “If I am not mistaken, I believe you already told Damascus about the name.”
            “Correct,” Rik folded his arms, “And I believe he want’s an explanation.”
            “He’ll get one,” Armeras started towards him, “Just give me a moment.”
            “Fine,” Rik snorted.
            “Be respectful Rik!” Sepher slammed his rod into the dust, “There is much more at stake here than you could ever believe!”
            Rik said nothing as Armeras and Damascus headed back towards the village.
            “What’s going on Armeras?” Damascus asked a good distance away from the others, “Ramaser and Armeras, what is that supposed to mean?”
            “You never saw the man’s face who hired you and you can’t understand how such a ‘powerful man’ could have had such a weak voice.” Armeras began.
            “How’d you know that?” Damascus’s eyes opened, “I’ve never told anyone that!”
            “Because I was Ramaser.”
            “Yeah, right.” Damascus shook his head in disbelief. No way Armeras had sold him out.
            “Do you think that I just happened to treat you with such respect after your trial?”
            “Armeras,” Damascus stopped and confronted the mage, “What are you trying to say?”
            “Bluntly?” Armeras asked, Damascus nodded his head in approval, “When I left the mage academy, I had a bounty on my head the size of an elephant! I needed back up and I went to the closest source. Haz.”
            “You mean you used me for protection?” Damascus swung his arms about violently, “You needed me for business reasons only?”
            “Damascus,” Armeras’s eyes narrowed again, “I’ve told a lot of lies in my life. Even more surprising is no one has ever doubted my lies. I’m only seventeen; there is no way I could be as strong as people say.” He looked into Damascus’s face, though he couldn’t see his eyes, tears streamed down the outcast’s face, “Today we say good bye.”
            “Armeras,” Damascus picked him up by the collar of his shirt, “I should take you out ri-” Armeras dropped as Damascus fell unconscious.
            “Why were you following me Rik?” Armeras asked getting up.
            “I wasn’t so sure if he was ready.” Rik’s eyes were unmoving, “I’ll take him to an inn. You go back to Sepher – now!”
            “Fine,” Armeras shook his head, “When the day is done, things’ll never be the same.”
            “What do you mean?” Rik put Damascus on his back.
            “You’ll see.” Armeras turned around and headed for Sepher. With no more words to be said, Rik turned around and put Damascus into one of the empty inns and returned to the old mage and Armeras.
Chapter Thirteen: Unprecedented Events
            “Al,” Roger shook unsteadily, “They are both dead.”
            “She told me they would be by the end of the day,” Al looked over the horizon towards Notilus Castle, “I didn’t think she meant it.”
            “Do you think those mages really saw their own deaths?” a lower class soldier asked Roger.
            “In all honesty,” Roger said stripping himself of the secret coveted by the Rogues, “The only one who saw anything was Sepher. He then revealed to us the relevant parts of our future.”
            “Did you take?” Al looked at Roger.
            “No,” Roger shook his head, “I said I would play along but I wanted nothing to do with the business. I thought my future should be a surprise.”
            “That is the way most men find, for the lack of a better word, idiotic,” Al shook his head, “But I believe the same, what use is their to live when you know what is to come?”
            “True,” Roger said motioning for the lower soldier to leave. Once he was gone, he continued the conversation, “I spoke to Sepher.”
            “What does he want us to do?”
            “In three days we will need to be at Notilus Castle,” Roger looked even more intently at the horizon, “Supposedly we will see a great change take place in the kingdom.”
            “What about Armeras and Damascus?” Al thought, “Won’t they still be a threat?”
            “Sepher explicitly mentioned he has taken care of both men,” Roger pulled his sword from his sheath. Then, with extreme anger, thrust the blade into the ground.
            “What was all that about?”
            “Maybe I was unwise in turning away from Sepher’s prophecy,” Roger’s face showed deep unhappiness, “And then maybe I could leave the enigma of my future behind me.”
            “That’s quite paradoxical if you ask me,” Al folded his arms, “Leaving your future behind? I don’t think it works.”
            “True,” Roger laughed at the thought, “But what should we do when we get to the castle?”
            “You mean he didn’t tell you?”
            “Not the slightest,” Roger shook his head, “It’s as if he doesn’t care if we know or not what to do. I guess he just want’s our presence there.”
            A moment of silence passed as the men thought about their orders from the Elementalist. Were they supposed to attack? If so, would their strength be enough? In three days, the mage council will have convened once more, increasing their chances of failure.
            “You know Roger,” Al turned away and began to head for his tent, “Haylee said by the time this is all over, she said we would all be dead.”
            “I don’t think she meant us in that.”
            “What are you talking about?”
            “She was a summoner,” Roger said not letting off all of his knowledge, “Who knows what she was talking about.” Al shrugged and headed into his tent as he whispered, “But them who will die?”
            The mage council quietly waited for the mage lord as he prepared for the unexpected meaning. Though silent, tension ran through them all. Not a single one of them knew what the purpose of the meeting was. Vaughn, who currently sat in Daven’s seat at the front of hall, had his hands pressed against his wrinkled forehead, twiddling his thumbs. Looking left and right after a good long moment of this, he stood up in shock when Daven entered the room, with a smile on!
            “Daven,” Freya stood up in quick rage, “What is the meaning of this? Why have you called us here with ‘an urgent’ case and enter with a smile on your face?”
            “Calm down Freya!” Vaughn scolded. Ready to continue, he had only breathed in when Daven raised his hand in protest.
            It is alright,” Daven said coolly, “You have a right to be angry. I have called you from your own business here today. But here me out, we’ve run into a new problem facing our nation.”
            “What is it Daven?” Cheauttue called from his seat.
            “We have spotted the resistance not far off from here,” Daven urged the Scholar Councilman, Jones, to bring him a map similar to Thane’s old one.
            “Then let us exterminate them!” Midas shouted.
            “Be patient my dear friend,” Daven expressed. He laid the map down on the table and pointed to the new ‘x’ marked Armeras next to the names of Roger and Sepher, “They seem to have a new ally.”
            “Who is it?” Freya calmed down as she sat in her chair.
            “Armeras,” Daven said. He paused and allowed yells of rage and confusion break about the halls. After a moment, he looked up at Vaughn who had a look of sadness on his face. Raising his hand, they became silent so he could speak.
            “I know what you are saying,” Daven rolled up the map and put it in his belt, “You are thinking to yourselves, ‘Why didn’t you kill him?” and ‘Why didn’t we see this coming?’ the truth is, we did.”
            “We have a plan!” Vaughn shouted as the restless council began to move in their seats.
            “We knew how long it might have taken to find all the mages,” Daven smiled, “And I knew Sepher had played an important part in Armeras’s life. We sent him in hoping to get an inside man.”
            “You see,” Vaughn continued, “We knew, no matter what, that Sepher was their leader and inspiration for this movement, but the other Rogues made them stronger. We thought by putting Armeras in the rebellion, he might have tried to convince the rest of the Rogues to come against the castle where we would have been ready!”
            “But he killed two more Rogues instead,” Saphira began, “Why would he have done this?”
            “We underestimated Armeras’s plans,” Daven frowned, “We thought he would have turned on me, no matter what offer I gave him. But when I offered reinstatement into the Academy, he leaped at the chance.”
            “We thought that maybe Armeras was going to use this as an opportunity to get at the king,” Vaughn explained, “So the Mage Lord developed the Shadow Aura attack as a precaution, luckily, we saw this change in his attitude. Now we have a move that can and will eliminate most of the resistance.”
            “Most?” Tai leaned forward.
            “We know for a fact Sepher won’t be fighting in that battle,” Daven said, “But we’ve struck a deal with the rebels.”
            “Something has changed in their tactics,” Vaughn picked up, “We were able to exchange amnesty from past deeds for Armeras and Roger. Oddly enough they accepted.”
            “So you took the deal?” Freya persisted with her attack, “What in the world made you accept? They could change their minds and attack you!”
            “We will be leaving tomorrow for their camp,” Daven said disregarding the question, “If they attack the deal will be off and they will not live to see the dawn of the next day.”
            “You are both going?” Cheauttue exclaimed, “Isn’t that dangerous?”
            “That’s the catch,” Vaughn took a seat in his own chair next to the contentious Freya, “If we don’t go, they won’t accept the deal.”
            “Are you sure about this Sepher?” Roger folded his arms as he looked at the two mages in front of him.
            “It’s an odd time to start questioning him now isn’t it?” Al thought aloud, “Last I checked, you would do anything he asked, contrary to what I’ve said.”
            “But this?” Roger whined.
            “It’s nothing but a plan,” Armeras chimed in.
            Several days had past since the deaths of Haylee and Garfield and though the gap had been bridged, Roger still wasn’t comfortable working with Armeras. Rik, Sepher’s regular companion, had not come with the two others. Instead, he went to investigate a past encounter he had earlier on.
            “And what if it fails?”
            “Then we both die,” Armeras joked, “Sepher’s leaving soon, and they already know I let him live. And, may I stress to you, they are already on their way!”
            “But you’re a liar,” Al reminded him, “We know of your past. How do we know you can be trusted?”
            “Faith would be nice!” Armeras erupted, not thinking about the words coming out of his mouth.
            Though profound as they were, Roger retorted: “Christianity’s dead!”
            “Yet faith has many applications outside of religion,” Sepher noted the true definition of faith, “Al, can you ready my horses? I should be leaving now.”
            “Why not Sepher,” Al smirked, “Old man.” Walking away he mumbled, “If you can control the elements, can’t you make the trees do it or something?”
            “Later tree hugger,” Armeras blurted out again towards Sepher. Once more he had been taken off the alcohol and was not able to fully control himself again.
            “That was rude!” Roger shouted grabbing Armeras by the shirt. He noticed his mythril was gone.
            “I’ve got a question for you,” Armeras raised his finger, “Who do you trust? If not me, then do you trust Sepher and Al?”
            Roger stepped back and let Armeras go, it was true, he was turning on the men he trusted, “Fine. But you better be sure about this.” Turning around, he walked off into the camp.
            Damascus’s head hurt intensely as he awoke in the village’s inn. A wet, white cloth had been laid across his forehead. As he sat up, he rubbed the back of his neck and noticed a large shadow extending from the door way. Reaching for his shuriken, he found it was gone.
            “Why do you continually try to attack me?” Rik said leaning against the doorway.
            “Because you attacked me,” Damascus stood up, but almost immediately fell over as well.
            “Careful now,” Rik threw the shuriken in the dirt, “You might hurt yourself.”
            “Tell me where Armeras is,” Damascus picked up his weapon, “I’ll kill ‘em for you.”
            “Armeras is on my side now,” Rik didn’t move, “There is no point in killing him now.”
            “He didn’t lie to you,” Damascus closed the shuriken and put it away.
            “He lied to the world,” Rik’s eyes narrowed, a common act he chose to do, “You would be surprised what you would find in Armeras’s past.”
            “Then let me find out,” Damascus stepped forward.
            “You will,” Rik turned around, “But on one condition.”
            “What is it?” Damascus asked as he finally regained full control of his body.
            “You’ve got to help us with an assassination.”
            “Who is it?”
            “You’ll know when we get there.” Rik left the inn with Damascus following closely behind.
            Armeras had waited on the ridge by himself as the rest of the day past. It had given him time to think over several things. The first thing he thought about was the Truth. Armeras had achieved his position only through lies. The great Rogue had come to existence by lies. He had indirectly lied to Damascus about his identity when he forced the Adamant out of his own nation. He had lied to the world about the famous assassination. In fury, he threw his blade into the ground, crossing Roger’s own blade left in the ground earlier. It was time to come clean. Without the alcohol, Armeras had been able to see what was needed, and it was time to drop the alcohol. Also, Armeras would let the world know who he was in reality, not the famous Rogue he had been title as.
            Coming back, he saw the brigade being led by Daven and Vaughn into the camp. Al met with Armeras at the top, bringing Roger with him.
            “Here they are Daven,” Al folded his arms, “Both of their weapons are here, locked in the ground.”
            Daven looked over and acknowledged the swords, “Good. Bind them!”
            Four soldiers rushed forward and bound the hands and feet of the two rogues. Placing them in a cart behind them, Daven smiled, “You have kept the end of your bargain.”
            “You better honor yours,” Al’s face was as stone.
            “It will be honored,” Daven pulled a rolled up parchment from his horse’s bag, “This is a statement of withdrawal, and all prices on your heads have been removed.”
            “Including Sepher’s?” Al double-checked.
            “His affiliations with you have been cleared,” Daven laughed, “But his prior deeds have not been cleared, he is still wanted.”
            “Son of a-” Al muttered as he stared at the parchment, “You will pay.”
            Daven ignored him as he took off back towards Notilus. He was baiting them with reason to attack. He didn’t know what to do until, in the clouds, Sepher spoke to him: It’s Time. Drawing both Armeras’s and Roger’s swords from the ground, he retuned to the tents to ready his troops.
            Thane came up on his hands and knees as he finally regained consciousness. Garfield had put a number on him and Daven had taken his mythril from him and he hadn’t even noticed! Cheated by his employer. He swore continually under his breath as he sat himself against a nearby tree. He had been disgraced, half-killed by a mage and then saved by a man he hated.
            As he replayed the time of half-life that he had existed in the last few days, he remembered the words Armeras spoke into his ears. In “Half-Life” he could see and hear anything that happened to his corpse. Somehow Armeras had suspended half-life upon him, something most mastered nurses and medics couldn’t even do.
            “You better be there Armeras,” Thane picked himself up, “Or else I’ll look like a total idiot for walking into the coliseum with only a stick.” He found a broken branch and used it as a staff as he headed for Notilus.
Chapter Fourteen: Storm
            Armeras and Roger patiently waited in their individual cells as time past in the world around them. As day and night continually flowed about them, the eternal darkness in their prison kept them dazed. Armeras had begun to meditate patiently in his cell while Roger paced back and forth.
            “Calm down,” Armeras looked up, but not necessarily at his inmate, “you’re not helping yourself.”
            “What do you expect me to do?” Roger pounded the walls, “They’ll kill us both, they are only putting us on trial to appease the law!”
            “Well then,” Armeras returned to his meditation, “You should try to enjoy your last moments of life.”
            Roger, in frustration, threw himself at the cell’s gate. He knew he could not escape, but maybe he could wring Armeras’s neck from a distance. After a constant struggle to get at him, he finally fell from exhaustion. It was either their second day or second night in the cell and they hadn’t been fed.
            “You know,” Roger walked toward, what he believed to be, the back of his cell. Dipping his hands down he drank of the water condensing there, “We haven’t been fed in a while.”
            “Fasting is a strange thing,” Armeras muttered, something banged about in his cage, “They’re doing something different with me though. I haven’t had a drop of alcohol in days. That’s torture for me.”
            “You’re only seventeen,” Roger shook his head, “How are you already an alcoholic?”
            “Strange things drive men crazy,” Armeras flipped the plate in front of him, “And those men are driven to drink.”
            Roger stood up and continued to pace around the room, for what he supposed to be, a few hours. After that, a blinding light flew into the room and two shadows were seen walking past his cell. Unlocking a cage, one of the prisoners was taken off into the light before the door was locked again.
            “Armeras,” Roger called. There was no answer as his voice echoed through out the dark chamber, “Armeras!” he called again. No answer. “ARMERAS!” Once again, no response, the guards had come for him.
            “So this is our new recruit,” Al looked at the battered Damascus, “Surprising. You look a little more worn than Rik had described you.”
            “It’s not my fault your guys are all brutes,” Damascus had been aloud to rest on a chair while Al talked to him.
            “What do you know so far?”
            “I’m wanted for an assassination. Rik is my technical employer.”
            “Okay,” Al laughed, “Rules: none. Other objectives: Free prisoners.”
            “Wait a second,” Damascus sat up, “Where are we going?”
            “Notilus castle,” Al folded his arms.
            “You heard him,” Rik entered the tent, “We’ve got a new fight to pick with Daven.”
            “He didn’t keep his end of a bargain,” Al summarized before Rik could continue, “Of all people we know you hate debt.”
            “Of course.” Damascus stood up, cracking his neck, “but if I see Armeras, he’s dead.”
            “That’s your problem, not mine,” Al stepped closer, challenging the Adamant’s authority, “but if I don’t get my men back, it’s your head.”
            Thane arrived outside the castle as he journey closed to its end. Armeras had given his instructions to arrive at Notilus castle. What was there for him to do? He sighed as he pressed forward he arrived at the gates where to guards refused to let him in.
            “What’s up with you people,” Thane shouted, “Don’t you know who I am?”
            “No sir,” the guard answered uncaringly, “I neither do I want to know!”
            “But you should know,” Thane leaned closer, “I am Thane, one of Daven’s contracts!”
            “That’s not possible,” the other guard laughed, “He’s dead! I saw the body!”
            “Well then,” Thane drew a knife, “Then he truly has resurrected from his grave!” Taking the knife, he stabbed both soldiers before they could throw a spell at him.
            “Shameful,” Thane shook his head. He lowered the gate himself and walked into the city. Oddly, a lot of youthful mages were crowding the streets. Seeing this, Thane concluded: “Coronation.”
            “Armeras,” Daven smiled, “You have done a great deed.”
            “Whatever Daven,” Armeras frowned, “You took my alcohol away. That was cruel!”
            “But so worth it!” Daven smiled clapping his hands at Armeras’s act of catching Roger, “Now all we need is Sepher for everything to be complete!”
            “No,” Armeras shouted, “I don’t believe that is an option.”
            “What?” Daven asked turning around. The entire mage council had come to see Armeras’s brilliant scheme confirmed, but now it seemed other wise.
            “Daven,” Armeras smiled, “you should have known all along I wasn’t really after the Rogues, the money, the reinstatement, or anything! It was to get back at you!”
            “Daven!” Chaeuttue yelled standing up, “What is this?”
            Lightning leapt from Armeras’s hands and took out all the councilmen.
            “How did you do that?” Daven asked looking at Armeras, “You don’t even have your crystal!”
            “We both know that’s a symbol,” Armeras laughed, “Nothing more than that.”
            “That’s it Armeras! You will pay!” Daven’s Shadow Aura attack charged up alarmingly fast. Waving his arm, Daven sent the spell flying towards the warrior. Leaping out of the way, Armeras watched the floor disintegrate underneath him.
            “New moves huh?” Armeras laughed, “Well then, let’s go!”
            Thane pressed forward, the crowds round about had expected a joyous time of fun and jubilation, but all that joy appeared to have been crushed by gathering rain clouds. People had begun to crowd inside pubs and houses in order to stay dry but Damascus pursued onwards.
            “So cliché,” Thane laughed letting the rain fall on top of him, “a fight in the rain. Armeras, you know how to bring about the climatic end.
            Damascus and the renegades stood on the hills not so far off from Notilus Castle. The Adamant Bounty Hunter had seen Thane enter and defeat the two guards. The scouts had observed that the city was full of mages not yet given full membership into the Academy.
            “So they moved up coronation day,” Al said leaning on his knee propped upon a rock, “They did it most likely for Armeras.”
            “Traitor,” Damascus sneered.
            “You are quite naïve Damascus,” Rik folded his arms, “It is quite surprising that one such as you could be so blind to the circumstances.”
            “What are you talking about Alchemist?”
            “I was the one who persisted Armeras to tell you the truth,” Rik straightened up, “I thought you could handle the truth. Armeras needed your help because he was weak, now he is stronger, yet still unprepared to take on an entire army like this on his own.”
            “What are you talking about?” Damascus questioned
            “The old Mage Council: Sepher, Marche, Garfield, Haylee, Adam, Sakura, and Roger said they saw things that only they knew the importance of,” Al drew his blade, “But in all truth, only Sepher and Haylee saw anything.”
            “Are you saying they saw the future?”
            “Only of certain individuals,” Rik continued for Al, who turned to ready his forces, “They saw their own deaths, Sepher, unfortunately, also saw Armeras’s future, it is more than he can bear alone.”
            “Are you saying I’m his baby sitter?” Damascus said insulted.
            “No,” Rik turned around to head for the troops, “You are his only true friend.”
            “Damascus,” Al returned, “You are to head in before us, once you enter the city, we shall engage as well. Your target is Daven and to free the prisoners.”
            Damascus didn’t respond, he was pondering Rik’s words.
            “And Damascus,” Al said thoughtfully, “I know you’re not a sentimentalist, but, realize that in the end, Armeras might just save us all.”
            “Good bye,” Damascus leapt off the hill they stood on, using an energy none of them knew he carried.
            “Good bye Damascus,” Al turned to his soldiers, raising his arms to rally his soldiers, “And Good Luck.”
            Thane approached the castle’s entrance; one by one he had taken out every soldier in the courtyard. Something about this seemed different, not many soldiers had been out protecting the young men and even fewer to guard the castle. What was Armeras planning?
            “Thane?” Damascus said landing next to the killer, both of them now drenched from the rain, “How are you alive?”
            “Armeras put me into something called a Half-Life,” Thane turned around, shocked to see the Bounty Hunter alone, “It is when the spirit is temporarily separated from the body. More importantly,” he added, “Why are you here alone?”
            “I’m on a one-man mission,” Damascus looked at the door, “Or at least that was what I was told.”
            “Do you think Armeras planned for all of this?” Thane pressed his hand on the door.
            “What are you talking about?” Damascus copied him.
            “The fact that the most unlikely teams would join together for one great battle?”
            “Know? Armeras?” Damascus and Thane thrust the doors open, “He probably doesn’t know!”
            They braced themselves for action, Thane had drawn his knives and Damascus had drawn his shuriken, but Thane’s thoughts had been proven right. Something was terrible wrong. No guards walked the main hall, it was entirely empty, but a strange light was being emitted from the court room.
            “What is that?” Thane stepped towards it.
            “I don’t know,” Damascus stood in place, “But I think it would be considered trouble!”
            “Is it . . . ?” Thane through out hoping Damascus would get the hint.
            “Maybe, but if it is, we need to get some back up!”
            “Whom are you suggesting?”
            “Do you know where the prison is?”
            “Follow me!” Thane led him down the undecorated halls towards the torture chambers.
            “Armeras!” Daven exclaimed missing continually with his attacks, “Why do you continue to play with me?”
            “You should know Daven,” Armeras said, almost out of breath, “I need an audience!”
            “For what?”
            “The Truth.” Armeras sent a bolt of lighting from his finger. It intentionally missed Daven by a fraction of a space.
            “What ‘truth’?” Daven took one more swipe at Armeras, “What truth is there to tell!”
            “You will have to wait and see!” Armeras ran towards the door, narrowly dodging another Shadow Aura attack – which eliminated the door. Daven chased after him, in anger, rage, and confusion.
            “Roger,” Sepher’s voice whispered to the exhausted rogue.
            He aroused from his sleep to find the torches lit and a hole burned through his iron bars. He looked around and noticed all the guards were taken out. Still disoriented, he was unsure of how to react when he saw Thane and Damascus running down the halls.
            “The rogue?” Thane looked at the Adamant, “You want his help?”
            “He’s an ex-councilman,” Damascus explained, “He can help!”
            “What’s going on?” Roger panted taking Damascus’s water flask, forcing it down his throat.
            “Al ordered a storm on the city,” Damascus started towards the exit, dragging Roger behind him, “I was sent ahead to kill Daven.”
            “Then what is Thane doing here?”
            “Armeras left it as his ‘last request’,” Thane followed closely behind, “I don’t know what he was thinking though.”
            “Where are we heading?” Roger asked as they got deeper in the undecorated halls towards the main chambers.
            “We needed back up,” Damascus answered shortly, “We’re heading for-”
            He was stopped by the utter shock that startled them. As they arrived at the end of the hall, they watched as Armeras and Damascus both exited the council’s chambers. Armeras had been able to avoid the attacks of Daven for a long while, but Damascus could see the tired spirit beginning to weaken. Daven, taking advantage of the opportunity, through his sword at Armeras piercing his left arm and paralyzing him as he was thrown backwards through the open doors and into the courtyard where he hit an oak tree.
            “Armeras,” Damascus thought simultaneously with the other two men with him.
Chapter Fifteen: Sacrifice
            “Rik,” Al whispered as they walked the empty streets, young student mages watching them closely. The rain had mostly subsided in the markets but the militia still kept the youth inside, “Did you notice something odd.”
            “None of the guards of the city are here,” Rik nodded his head, “And even stranger is any of the soldiers here are dead.”
            “What do you think this means?”
            “Anything really,” Rik started up the incline, taking lead over Al, “But my guess is Daven didn’t want any soldiers here.”
            “Who do you think killed them?” Al caught up with his friend.
            “Thane, Damascus, maybe even Sepher before we arrived,” Rik stopped the captain, “But I think it might be smart to split up the army.”
            “What?” Al stood erect from insult, “Why?”
            “Have them scout the city for guards,” Rik suggested, “They’re wearing mythril so they should be safe. Meanwhile, you and I should head for the castle.”
            “Oh,” Al smirked understanding Rik’s motion.
            “Men!” Al turned around raising his fist in the air, “Here are your orders! Gather yourselves into groups of ten and spread out around the city! Take out any soldiers that may attack or threaten you!” He watched as the soldiers formed their groups, “Also, please do not touch the youthful mages!”
Sighs of displeasure rang through the groups, once they had subsided, he continued, “I know this may be disappointing, but maybe they will lead to equality among Humans and Mages!” With those words, the soldiers departed.
            “Are you ready?” Rik asked as the soldiers spread out and about, passing them as well.
            “As ready as we’ll ever be,” Al said leading Rik onward up to the castle.
            “Daven,” Armeras swore attempting to remove the blade from his shoulder, but he came to no avail.
            “Nice try Armeras,” Daven rested his hand against the oak behind his foe. Thane and Damascus watched far off. The blade pinned Armeras’s sword hand down, but they could not figure out why Armeras wasn’t casting a spell towards him.
            “What should we do?” Roger asked Thane, who looked at Damascus for orders.
            “I have a mission,” Damascus said as coldly as he could, trying to mask his true feelings.
            “A mission?” Roger looked at Thane who bore a grim expression on his face.
            “Yeah,” Thane drew a knife, “his mission.”
            Damascus drew and launched his shuriken out towards Daven. Striking the back of the Mage Lord, he was soon taken down by a quick moving Thane. While he was being distracted, Roger quickly moved next to Armeras’s side and removed the blade from his shoulder. Meanwhile, Thane looked up with a grin on his face, Daven was unconscious and Damascus was on his way over to the four others.
            “No!” Armeras screamed as blood began to pour from the wound.
            “It’s okay,” Roger placed his hand over it, temporarily stopping the bleeding, “I can heal it.”
            A light surged through his arms and he felt the wound close on both sides of Armeras’s body, “There; that should do it.”
            Removing his hand from the wound, blood once more began to pour from Armeras’s wound. In disbelief, Roger placed his hand over the spot and tried to heal the wound. This time, the blood began to pour worse from his hands.
            “What the?” Roger pulled back his blood covered hand.
            “Daven’s blade,” Armeras gasped, “Must have been enchanted with something.”
            “No,” Roger grinded his teeth, “I should be able to stop it!”
            “Not with basic healing,” Armeras fell to his knees, “Only Nurses and Medics have the ability to cure these things!”
            “Is everything alright?” Damascus asked.
            “No,” Roger stood motionless, “The blade that penetrated Armeras had an enchantment on it, now the wound won’t stop bleeding.”
            Armeras began to pant now in extreme pain, the wound was reopening from the pressure.
            “There’s a group of mages in the city!” Damascus noted, “Maybe we can find a white mage who can heal him there!”
            “Then let’s get going!” Roger put Armeras on his shoulder. Thane, noticing the current predicament, did a “one-up” on Roger by putting Armeras in his arm. Acknowledging his help they rushed into town, the unconscious body of the almighty Mage Lord left on the grass outside his castle.
            “Who’s that coming over the horizon?” Rik asked Al as they reached the halfway point to the castle.
            “It looks like . . . Thane?” Al’s eyes widened, he had seen the dead body of the murderer in the woods, could that have really be him coming down the hill?”
            Thane, followed by Damascus and Roger quickly noticed the duo and proceeded towards them. Rik, shocked himself, headed towards them. He saw Armeras in Thane’s arms and instantly became worried.
            “What happened?”
            “We’ll tell you later!” Thane didn’t stop running down hill, Armeras’s limbs flawlessly bounced as they ran, “We need a white mage now!”
            “How do you think we’re going to get one?” Rik turned volt face and started to head down hill, “They’re all afraid of us!”
            “Maybe Sepher can do something!” Damascus said from behind.
            “Armeras said he needed a white mage!” Roger called back, “It must have been serious!”
            “Where was his mythril?” Al asked, “Wasn’t he wearing any?”
            “I don’t know,” Damascus said quickly moving in front of Thane as they reached the cobblestone road of Notilus City, “Even so, the wound was inflicted by an enchanted blade.”
            “Great,” Al stopped, “how are we supposed to help him?”
            “I don’t know,” Roger mumbled. They continued to run until they reached the edge of the city, Al’s soldiers were patiently awaiting his next order, and they quickly turned and headed out of the city. They had instinctively understood the urgency of the situation.
            “I’ve got to lead the troops,” Al smirked, “I’ll give them some vague details, just enough to convince them it was reasonable to turn back.”
            “What do you want us to do?” Damascus asked looking at one of his employers.
            “I don’t know,” Al scratched his head, “Things have been going weird today.”
            “You should get him to the woods,” Rik decided, “It might be for the better. Daven saw you, Thane, and Armeras, it would be better to lay low for now.”
            “Sounds like a plan,” Thane split off from the others.
            “But what about Armeras?” Damascus shouted, “He needs help!”
            “We can’t give it to him!” Roger shouted, “Get out of here!”
            Reluctantly, Damascus followed Thane into the woods while Al and Roger organized the troops with Rik inspecting the ranks.
            In the woods, Thane found a spot where Armeras was laid next to a river. Damascus knelt next to Armeras and pressed his hand against the wound, but the bleeding would not stop.
            “Damascus,” Sepher’s wisdom whispered in the wind, “Move your palms.”
            Damascus moved his ape-like hands to watch the bark from the tree behind him expanded through the wound closing over the wound. The bleeding stopped.
            “Sepher?” Thane looked around, where was the Elementalist that he could have seen Armeras’s wound? Almost in answer, he heard him once more, but this time, it was in the minds of both the Adamant and the Murderer.
            “You two have been very gallant,” Sepher began, proudly, but his voice declined into sorrow as he continued to speak, “You have saved Armeras from a pain worse than death, but death will still come to claim the young mage. Daven, unfortunately, is not dead either, once he comes to, you will all be wanted. I highly advise you leave for the safety of yourselves and for others.”
            The voice faded away and Damascus turned to face Thane, “It’s only reasonable.” He sniffled, “Armeras has lost a lot of blood, and not even a white mage can return that.”
            “I’m sorry for your loss Damascus,” Thane closed his eyes, “But we must move post-haste, if what Sepher said is true, then Daven will soon be up and after our blood.”
            “What about the Rogues?” Damascus stood, “Won’t they protect us?”
            “I doubt it,” Thane smirked, “I bet even they are going to running from the Mage Lord. We’ll not be welcome here anymore.”
            “You’re right,” Damascus looked back at Armeras, “Goodbye my friend.” As they took off deeper into the woods, the bark protruding from Armeras’s chest covered the body making a coffin.
            Vaughn coughed violently as he arose from his unconscious position. He was disoriented from the blast. Once he came fully to, he saw the destruction caused by Armeras. The other Councilmen were now dead, or on the brink, and he did not see the Mage Lord.
            Using the wall as his brace, he headed outside where he found Daven hunched over on his hands and knees. He tried to utter Daven’s name but nothing came out. Exiting the castle, he noticed the black aura around Daven’s body.
            “Daven?” he finally sputtered after a few more attempts. The Mage Lord turned around, the wild fury raging in his eyes.
            His teeth were bare and he was foaming at the mouth. His eyes were wide opened and his pupils had dilated outward. He stood up and turned towards the castle. Flicking his arms outward, Vaughn watched as the power all became focused around his chest.
            “Daven what are you doing?” Vaughn cried as the Mage Lord let out a wild howl. He leapt out of the way as a beam of the Shadow Aura leapt from his body. Faintly, Vaughn thought he saw a dragon shape protruding from the attack.
            Once it ended, Notilus Castle stood no more and the Mage Lord breathed deeply in exhaustion, getting closer, Vaughn managed one more time to call out his liege’s name, “Daven?”
            “Vaughn,” Daven cried in a raspy voice, “They will all pay for this!” Collapsing on the ground, Vaughn began to work on his wounds immediately.
            “So we’re splitting up?” Rik asked the Al as they all patiently stood around the camp fire that evening, “That’s it?”
            “Not forever,” Al smirked, “Just until Daven’s flames have gone out.”
            “What do you plan on us doing?” Roger looked at him.
            Several days had past since the storming of Notilus Castle. Sepher had joined the group since that time and had informed them of Armeras’s passing. They were now considering the fact of splitting up, the militia had been disbanded for the time being and now they were deciding what to do.
            “I’ll head back to my shipping business,” Al frowned, “I’ll be avoiding Notilus mind you, and Rik here’s going to Falthra to speak to their king about possible acts of war against Notilus.”
            “Hah,” Roger laughed, “if they’re brave enough!” Al had not answered his question.
            “Roger,” Sepher answered, “I’ll need a companion for my journeys out of the kingdom, if you would like to accompany me that would be most excellent.”
            “Where are you heading?” Roger asked.
            “A kingdom across the ocean, it is called Terminas,” Roger flinched at the name, Terminas was literally on the brink of war with Notilus, “Though we won’t be widely excepted, it will be better than sitting here.”
            “I guess old man,” Roger shrugged, he wasn’t about to turn on the Old Seer now.
            “Then it is decided,” Al concluded, “Then God be with you until we meet again.”
            “A man who believes in God?”
            “There is always a higher power,” Al smiled, “Whether we acknowledge him or not.”
            “So where are you heading Thane?” Damascus asked as the two moved along the plains towards Falthra.
            “I don’t know,” Thane shook his head, “I’m wanted for murder in most places. How about yourself?”
            “I’ll be heading for Falthra,” Damascus thought, “I need to report on my recent activities to the courts.”
            “What?” Thane questioned. He believed Damascus was going to turn him in!
            “Don’t worry,” Damascus laughed, “I’ve grown quite fond of you. I’ll tell them your dead.”
            “Thanks,” Thane smirked, “Mind if I tag along?”
            “Hard to tell them you’re dead if you’re right there!”
            “That’s okay,” Thane smiled, “I’ll be in the shadows for that, but it looks like you need a new companion.” He extended his hand as a sign of friendship, and partnership.
            “Sounds like a plan,” Damascus accepted the handshake, “In Memory of Armeras!”
            “In Memory!” Thane resonated as they continued their walk forward.
            Back in the woods, Armeras’s cask lay untouched by any animal or soul, until recent date, a soldier found it and reported it back to Daven and Vaughn. Daven, with joy, thought he killed Armeras, but Vaughn advised him to make sure it had Armeras’s body in it. Disagreeing at first, after some coercing, he finally consented.
            Daven and Vaughn rode alone the unmarked grave alone. It was not to far from their residence. The home of the two remaining mages in the castle now resided in a cottage with the mages of the town until the castle could be rebuilt. Opening the cask, Daven smiled with glee. Inside the casket lay nothing but ashes of some remains with the cork used to plug the wound caked in solid blood. Armeras was gone.

© 2009 Leon Sylar

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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..