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The sun is up, birds are chirping, people are buying the fat man's wares, there's a beautiful woman sleeping on top of me... and I can't feel my arm. I guess this wouldn't be so bad if she hadn't thrown a knife at my head yesterday, Viizhiar thought, simultaneously trying to figure out a way to get up without waking Violierna.

“Will you stop moving around...?” She groaned. Seemingly oblivious as to where she was, with her hand finding its way inside Viizhiar's mouth. The sensation made him instinctively gag. “Now I've got you...”

What is she talking about!? Viizhiar raced, his eyes crossing from the discomfort as she grabbed his tongue. This is by far the weirdest thing that's ever happened to me, and that's not counting the prostitute jester and a man who thought he was a flying rodent.

“Come here, little light,” she muttered, poking Viizhiar's uvula. The motion made him vomit, stirring her awake. “That is just disgusting!”

“Your hand has been in my mouth for two minutes!” Viizhiar exclaimed, rubbing his tongue and cheeks. “Blech! That is the last time I let you have the bed.”

“And you didn't do anything about it?”

“You threw a knife at my head yesterday! You don't just wake up someone after they do something like that.”

“That doesn't explain why I was no longer on the bed.”

“Do you always talk in your sleep and stick your hand in people's mouths?” Viizhiar asked rhetorically, scrubbing his tongue with his fingers. “That would have been enjoyable if... you know, you hadn't thrown a deadly weapon at my forehead yesterday, and your hand wasn't in my mouth. Don't look at me like that, you're the one who landed on top of me! Am I that irresistible that one woman tries to drug me with a love potion, and another falls off a bed right on top of me?”

“How did you know about that?”

“Erisanwe is predictable,” Viizhiar said flatly, getting to his feet and pacing about the room. “She's desperate, really. My sister keeps telling her she needs to move shop to a big city if she's looking for someone, but she just refuses. She's pretty and all, but she's not my type.”

“Your type?” Violierna queried, cocking an eyebrow.

“I mean, I don't want someone I have feelings for looking down on me all the time.”

“That was stupid...”


“That was just really stupid. You are a child in a man's body.”

“First time I've ever heard that.”

“What, the truth?”

“That particular insult. You can't give me a better one?”

“Can you comprehend a better one?”

“I'm not sure if that's clever or not, but it probably wasn't intended to be clever, just blunt and to the point. Anyway, I need to wash up. After you clean your hand off, why don't you wonder around town for a while?” Viizhiar suggested, opening the door. “The guards can take care of Crassus.”

As he left, Violierna sat in silence for a couple minutes, trying to process what had happened before she woke up.

“Why was my hand in his mouth in the first place?” She muttered, rubbing her forhead with her clean hand. A water bucket was placed by the nightstand behind her. Dragging it over to her, she took the dripping rag out of the bucket and used it to rinse her soiled hand, now sticky from air drying. “And what dream? All I remember is waking up with vomit on my hand.”

Standing up and walking around the bed, she faced her armor and turned to the left. Swiping her right arm across her chest, the armor obeyed, straps and buckles binding, chain mail and plate armor stacking into place, and laces tying themselves autonomously. Flipping her hood up and rolling her mask up to the bottom of her chin, she proceeded out the room door and down the steps.

“Hey! Got a moment?” The barmaid from last night asked, pulling Violierna off to the side.

“I guess. What did you want to ask?”

“How did you get with that dark elf? He doesn't seem interested in a little tavern girl.”

“We're not together in the way you're thinking. We may travel together, but we're just friends. He may be too busy with his current occupation to concern himself with women in that respect.”

“I see,” the barmaid slumped.

“You're upset that I couldn't give you any advice when dealing with men?”

“Oh, no, it's nothing!” The barmaid exclaimed, waving her hand in defense.

“You can tell me.”

The woman sighed. “Last winter, a man I was interested in took another girl. We were pretty close, but I just can't stop thinking about it. I guess him not telling me he was already in a working relationship with another woman made me shallow and desperate. It seems like all I do now is push men away. All except the most shallow types. I guess I thought if I could catch his eye, I would be able to snag him before you did.”

“I've never really been in a relationship myself, but I guess I could try giving you some advice,” Violierna sighed. “Just try holding casual conversation with men. Find common ground. If there's enough there, then perhaps a relationship could work. If not, then there's always another fish. Don't take my word on it, though. Like I said, I've never been in an actual relationship, so there's little I can do to help.”

“Thank you,” the barmaid said with a relieved sigh. “It's just nice to see someone who isn't so judging when I ask for relationship advice.”

“I'm not really in any position to judge. Take care,” Violierna bid, heading for the door. As she walked out, the cook emerged from the kitchen.

“What was that all about?” He asked, folding his arms over his apron.

“Just girl talk, Lucius.”

“If you say so. I made you your favorite, if you're hungry.”

“You're kind. Do you have time to talk over some food?”


“Excuse me, sir?” Violierna asked, patting a guard's pauldron.

“What is it, civilian?”

“Would there happen to be a church in town?”

“Just head west until you see a small building with a pointed tower sticking out of it. Be careful, though. There are times the priest has a stick in his ass. Otherwise, he's a pretty decent man.”

“That sounds painful.”

“That's why it's a figure of speech. Good day.”

Following the guard's direction, Violierna quietly strolled down the worn, dusty path. Passing shops as she went, a jeweler managed to hold her attention long enough to procure a silver and sapphire necklace. While it was indeed pretty and elaborate, the stones coming off of a silver chain from the back, gradually becoming larger, and layers being added until a column of large gemstones met in the middle, with a single, large sapphire dangling on two tiny silver rings.

“How much would something like that even cost?” She queried, curious.

“Four hundred and thirteen gold, sixty seven silver. You look like the type of young lass who would be able to afford something like this necklace, and look good showing it off.”

“There was a time when I might have been able to afford this fine piece, but I have, most unfortunately, become economically embarrassed. So, it seems I will have to pass.”

“I understand. Is there any jewelry at all you would have any interest in purchasing, today?”

Pretending to skim through the selection of rings, necklaces and bracelets, she simply shook her head and bid farewell. Proceeding the way she was headed before becoming distracted, it was less than a minute before the chapel came into view. A small, but long mud and brick building, the materials used and the size of the structure served as a reminder of the tiny, isolated town it was linked to. While it was nowhere near as awe-inspiring as the ruined cathedral back home, it did have its charm. Approaching the small building, an elderly man swung the door open as she reached for the handle.

“Are you the priest here?” Violierna asked, her voice wanting confirmation.

“Yes, but service isn't for another two days. I was just finishing cleaning for today.”

“If it's not too much to ask, I would like to pray.”

“Well, I can't say no to that. The church is always open to those who simply feel the need to pray.”

“Thank you,” Violierna said with a slight bow. The old man stepped aside, allowing her entrance. Her footsteps echoed only slightly as she made her way to the prayer bench. The priest left her to herself and closed the church door behind him. Kneeling on the oak bar, Violierna dropped her hood as she hunched over and folded her hands. “Father, God. I want to ask you to forgive me of my sins, and to show me who my friends are in these confusing times. Give me direction. Tell me, what am I supposed to do? I don't know who to trust. Amen.” Putting up her hood, she turned to leave the building, only to find the mercenary from the night before blocking her path. “Please step aside. I have no further business here.”

“You shall not pass,” the mercenary growled.

“And what reason do you have for keeping me here? I have done nothing wrong!”

“Silence! Your magic aura is foreign,” he hissed, drawing a curved sword. “I will uncover what you are, even if it means killing you.”

“So, you're going to fight me? In a church, of all places?”


“Forgive me, Father,” Violierna whispered, drawing her own blade.

The mercenary lunged forward, thrusting his blade toward Violierna's face, causing her to bend backward to evade. A kick swept her feet out from underneath, and the mercenary was on top of her, holding her sword arm still while he embedded his scimitar in the floor next to her head.

“Now, then, where were we? Oh, yes. We were just about to remove this hood,” the mercenary hissed, reaching for Violierna's hood. Right before he grabbed it, he found her free hand against his chest, and the ground went away from him as he flew backward, hitting the eastern wall with a solid thud. In a daze as he slid down the wall, Violierna took the opportunity to run out the door past him. The last thing she wanted to do was spill blood in a church.

“What happened?” The priest asked, confronting her. “What was that noise?”

“There's no time,” Violierna replied, frantically making her way past him. She could feel the mercenary breathing down her back, despite the fact he was probably only just gathering his weapon. Sprinting down the road back into town, she slowed her pace so as not to alert the public. A hand appeared on her left shoulder, causing her to leap away some feet. Her hand on her sword, she quickly spun around to face the threat, to find it was only Viizhiar.

“Easy, easy. Is everything alright?” He asked, voice heavy with concern. “You seem spooked.”

“I was just attacked in a church, of all places!” Violierna exclaimed in a hushed tone, straightening her posture. “How do you expect me to react?”

“You've got a fair point. Stay in the inn. I'm going to get my gear.”

Following Viizhiar through the inn's dining area, and up the stairs to their room, he equipped his leather jack and snatched his lance from the wall.

“Any idea what this bastard looked like?” Viizhiar growled.

“I think it was the mercenary eyeing us up last night. Studded armor, wields a curved sword. Azhurian, by the looks of it. You're not going to...”

“I'll warn him first, but if he insists on attacking a woman without provocation, one who was praying, no less, then I will cut him down. I don't really like those who attack someone without provocation, especially if the victim's a woman. You can either stay here or stick with me. Your choice.”

“I think I'll stay with you. It might deter him from attacking if he sees I have a business partner.”

“That's a sound theory, but I guess there's only one way to find out if it's worth a damn in practice.”

Following the dark elf the way they had just came, Violierna quickly scanned the area for the mercenary, finding him harassing Crassus.

“Listen here, fat man. You have two options; either tell me where the girl you came here with went, or you can be gutted like a fish.”

“I don't know, she and her partner went off and did their own thing after we got here. I don't keep tabs on my guards, because they aren't children and are entirely capable of taking care of themselves. Now, leave my presence.”

“You foolish, fat lump. I gave you a chance, and you've thrown your own life away. Pity. Looks like I'll be digging a grave twice the normal size.” No sooner had the mercenary drawn his blade than he found a wooden pole across his chest. “What do we have here? Didn't your parents ever teach you to not interrupt a conversation?”

“Not that I can remember, but that's beside the point. I'm going to give you two options, mercenary. Either stop harassing my partner and employer, or you're the one who's going to be put in the ground.”

“You don't know when to quit, do you? I've been trained by Eidolon Academy, and have been in the game for four years.”

“Funny. I only underwent four years of training, and have been a member of the Söldner for ten.”

“You think being a member of some little group makes you special?”

“No. As far as I'm concerned, I'm just another man trying to make his way in this world. You, however, think that going to some little school in the mountains makes you better than everyone else,  even invincible. What's worse? You attacked a woman who was praying. I cannot forgive that.”

“Here we go, more of the holier-than-thou white knight crap,” the mercenary sighed as Viizhiar withdrew his lance. “You aren't the first to get in the way of my target, and you won't be the last. Now, hand over the girl.”

“And what crime has she committed?”

“You don't sense just how foreign her materia is? It's completely different from any other I've felt, and I want to know why.”

“Why does it matter if her materia feels different? I could say the air feels different here than it does in the capitol, but it's the same air.”

“You're a damn fool. Die,” the mercenary hissed, thrusting his sword forward. Viizhiar brought the blunt end of his lance up, parrying the blade.

“A cutlass? I would have expected a better blade.”

“But this isn't even its final form,” the mercenary laughed.

“Very well, humor me. Show me everything that blade is capable of.”

“As you wish,” the mercenary sighed, bringing his hand along the blunt side of the blade. Running his hand along the back edge, the blade widened into a serated clever nearly double the length and four times the width of the original blade.

“So, you've given yourself a heavier, more clumsy blade? Am I supposed to be impressed?”

Before he could blink, the rogue mercenary was upon him, bringing the gigantic clever crashing into the ground as he instictively back-stepped.

“Fool. This blade only gains mass to you. As for me, it's light as a feather. An extension of my will. All of us who have even made it into such an academy as I have can wield their weapons this way! Considering you haven't attended any academy, I'm going to assume that's just an ordinary pole sword? Pity. I was hoping for an actual fight.”

“I'm assuming you have what's known as a 'Gift', right? Then show my everything you've got,” Viizhiar challenged.

“As you wish,” the mercenary sighed. “I was hoping it wouldn't have to come to this, but you leave me no choice. Try not to blink.”

Closing his eyes for less than a second, and opening them again, Viizhiar was shocked to find he was surrounded by more than a dozen copies of the rogue mercenary.

“Only one of these is the real me, but each of these clones will hit you with my own full force,” the clones all said in unison. Spinning around, each of the copies looked exactly the same.

“I see,” Viizhiar conceded. “Then, it is a fair fight.” The clones all erupted into maniacal laughter.  “Now, allow me to show you what a Söldner is capable of, even with a basic weapon.” No sooner had a clone attacked from the side than the blade of Viizhiar's pole sword had impaled him, releasing a cloud of smoke upon its destruction. Another charged from the left, and was effortlessly destroyed by the blunt side of the pole sword. More came, a flick of the blade dispatching one, and a sweep destroying the rest. Taking in his surroundings, Viizhiar noted their numbers had not decreased. Raising the pole sword over his head, he twirled it at ever-increasing speed until it was a blur. Fire erupted from Viizhiar's body, forming a tornadic structure around himself. The clones backed off slightly amidst the heat as Viizhiar stopped twirling the pole sword and embedded the blunt end of the pole into the ground directly in front of himself, unleashing a fiery explosion in all directions. Standing straight, the clones had all disappeared, and the real mercenary was covering his face.

“Using your clones to shield yourself from that explosion? Clever. Even so, that only bought you a little time,” Viizhiar said calmly, approaching his adversary. Bringing down his pole sword, a loud, whip-like snap echoed through the town as the rogue mercenary crumpled to the ground, in obvious pain. Kneeling down, he continued, “I'm going to let you off with a warning, this time. If I find you harassing my partner or my employer again, I will put an end to your miserable life. That isn't a threat.” Pausing, he stood straight. “It's a promise.”

As Viizhiar turned, the mercenary gave a few coughs, and balanced on his fore-arms. “You... you have my word,” he spluttered, collapsing from exhaustion and pain.


“I hope this isn't going to be a theme,” Violierna muttered, turning a page on the book she had purchased the day before.

“Wuts 'at?” Viizhiar asked through a full mouth of bread, laying down next to her on the shady side of Crassus' carts.

“Back at your home, you were attacked and almost killed by an assassin who hunts members of your group. On the road, I was nearly raped while bathing, and Crassus was attacked by bandits. Here, I was attacked by a mercenary immediately after I got done saying a short prayer. It does raise cause for concern.”

“I'm sure it's all just a coincidence. Sometimes, that happens.”

“Maybe. Though, you must never forget; once is a mistake. Twice is a conincidence. Three times is a pattern.”

“Perhaps. Just don't let it get to you, alright? I've had periods where trouble would just follow me wherever I went. If nothing else, it was good for me. Made me realize I should watch my back, no matter if I'm in the wilderness or in a port somewhere.”

“I hope you're right that this isn't an omen.”

“You're not superstitious, are you?”

“Not really. Why do you ask?”

“Eh, I just don't really like working with people who rely on psychics, star signs and palm readings to tell them what they need to do or what's in store for them. It makes me sick, watching such people swindle the naïve.”

“I see. What do you think of the religious?”

“So long as they don't try to force their religion on me, I don't give them much thought. I don't really mind it when someone is handing out religious text to anyone who wants it, but it does disappoint me when someone starts chewing out some priest for handing out religious text simply because it offends them. Pah. Little sweetrolls like them make me want to... to... I don't know where I was going with that.”

“Well, at least things have quieted down a bit. Perhaps tomorrow, we can finally get some peace from all this violence that's been surrounding us.”

“Yeah. I can agree with you on that one.”
“How long until we reach Havelaan?” Viizhiar asked, giving an exaggerated sigh to emphasize his boredom as he sat on a large wooden beam between the box seat and cargo hold of the first cart.

“Not long.”

“I hope so,” Viizhiar replied, leading to a brief moment of silence. A steady breeze helped cool the otherwise hot, humid air, which had prompted the merchant to lose a few articles of his clothing.

“Your lady friend is quiet,” the merchant said, gesturing back toward Violierna, who was sitting on the left side of the second cart. She was staring off into the wilderness, likely watching birds scatter and regroup between trees, and watching them sway slightly in the wind. “Almost too quiet. It's starting to scare me, really.”

“She's not really one for starting conversation. Never really has anything to talk about. Not very social, either. Doesn't like taverns, parties, or anywhere with more than two or three people.”

“It would be wrong of me to say the two of you are strangers to combat?”

“She took down a hydra yesterday and something quite bizarre happened. I've got a contact I'm going to take her to. Hopefully, we can put our heads together and come up with some kind of answer.”

“You're joking.”

“I've got some of its teeth, blood, and scales in my pack. We were just there to take out some leviathans, but even that wasn't right. It was stumbling around drunkenly, covered in something similar to spider silk. Why just one? Normally, there's a pack of at least three or four.”

“And where does the hydra fit into all of this?”

“We fell through the ground during a quake.”

“I thought the ground wasn't supposed to shake until after dark?”

“Real funny. Somehow, I was unharmed, but her arm was broken,” Viizhiar replied, analyzing his left forearm. “She's a decent healer, and a great fighter.”

“You're lucky to have found a woman who can fight, but is also remarkably beautiful. I suspect she would make many noble women green with envy.”

“We're not together like that. We're just acquaintances. I met her only the other day.”

“I wish I were that good with women...”

“She's probably never going to like me in that way, anyhow,” Viizhiar remarked, laying down on the beam behind the box seat, the leather covering reflecting some of the sun's heat, not that he noticed. “If you knew her family, you'd know she is way out of my league. Someone like her could bring the Söldner back, make us feared and respected again. And if you wanted to be good with women, you could start by dropping a few pounds.”

“Where I'm from, being fat is a sign of wealth,” the merchant remarked, adjusting himself in the box seat.

“And where I'm from, being fat is a sign of laziness,” Viizhiar groaned, the boredom becoming even more insufferable than the summer heat.

“Oh, there's the road,” the merchant said, turning the carriage onto a small, dirt trail. Untrimmed branches threatened to snare on the cart hulls, but slid off harmlessly, and provided a break from the sun's glare. “Being fat isn't all that bad. Just means you get to wear less in the winter.”

“I'm pretty sure nobody would appreciate that kind of sight. I know I'm not.”

“Admit it, you're jealous,” the merchant teased in a sing-song voice.

“Not really. If I looked like a beached whale, I wouldn't be as keen to go waterfall diving.”

“I'm pretty sure your lady friend would appreciate you more for it!”

“I already told you we're not like that!” Viizhiar exclaimed, slightly flustered, standing up and pacing on the beam. “Besides, in the almost zero chance it got to that point, do you really think she'd want to be with some lardass? I mean, just take a good look at her. Does she seem like the type of woman who would be interested in a man whose neck is twice the size of her waist?”

“It helps when you don't have a neck.”

“You're fat, just not to that point. Yet.”

“I'm working on it. By this time next year, I should have five chins!” The merchant exclaimed, stroking his chin and blubbery neck.

“I don't know if that's anything to be proud of...”

“Just what are you two on about up here?” Violierna asked, laying down on the leather protecting the small mountain of goods in the first cart from the elements.

“Oh, we were just talking about how you would probably appreciate your good friend more if he looked more like me,” the merchant teased. “If he did, you both would probably have a little more fun, and...” Crack!  Viizhiar smacked the merchant's back with the handle of his lance, resulting in what sounded like a horse whip, and garnering a howl of pain from the merchant. “Why do you have to be so mean?” He whimpered, shoving himself to one side of the box seat.

“You know why,” Viizhiar growled, marching over to the cart's right side and sitting down, facing away from the peddler.

“Did I miss anything important...?”

“No. Just a bit of inane ramblings from someone who is better off staying quiet.”

“You mercs have no sense of humor, these days.”

“Maybe I can buy one at the next town...”

“Do you always have to be so crass?” Violierna queried.

“Why are you so conversational, all of a sudden?” Viizhiar asked. “Get tired of eavesdropping, already?”

“No, it just gets dull sitting on the side of a cart with nothing to do except look at except the local flora. Besides, my ass is sore.”

“Oh, and would you like me to give you a massage there?” Viizhiar asked, perking up, receiving a hard glare. “Lighten up, I'm joking.”

“I didn't find that funny. This is what passes for professionalism in these parts? A slothful merchant and a lazy mercenary, both of which have a penchant for making crude jokes about a woman in their presence?”

“Don't be so uptight,” Viizhiar sighed, laying back down, his boots near Violierna and directly behind the merchant. “You need to learn to loosen up a bit. Helps tremendously with the stresses of this job.”

“I have problems of my own, you know,” Violierna shot, not perturbing the nonchalant dark elf in the slightest.

“Don't we all?”

“You two should get a room. A sound-proof one, preferably. Someone might overhear you two getting down to busine- Oof!” The merchant exclaimed as Viizhiar firmly planted the thick sole of his boot into the merchant's shoulder. “What?”

“I already told you, we're not like that,” Viizhiar growled, visibly irritated.

“You made a joke like his just yesterday,” Violierna remarked, bringing Viizhiar's unintentional hypocrisy to light.

“Fair point.”


“And, we're here!” The merchant exclaimed, stirring Viizhiar from his nap on the wooden beam behind the box seat. Dusk was upon the village. The dense forest surrounding the settlement was nearly impossible to see into.

“Took long enough. Must have dozed off, waiting to get here.”

“You should try picking up a book, sometime,” Violierna countered. “I've gotten through quite a few chapters in the time you were out.”

“You criticize me for taking money off of some dead mercs, and here you are, stealing books,” Viizhiar muttered audibly, rubbing his eyes.

“Oh, she already paid for it. I have a special policy on books. Try-before-you-buy. Read a couple chapters, and if you like it, you can buy it from me. After all, nobody wants a book they aren't going to enjoy.”

“Can't remember the last time I picked up a book that wasn't paperwork...”

“You two are going to love the food at this tavern! It's one of my favorite places to eat.”

“It seems like all you do is eat...”

“I do not!”

“Then explain the egg shells, bones, and apple cores in your seat!” Viizhiar shouted, pointing to the mess in the box seat.

“I was hungry,” the merchant whined.

“My point, exactly.”

“Well, if it isn't my favorite customer!” A man exclaimed. Looking over to the left of the cart, a tall, skinny man with a thick, curled mustached in a once white apron holding a ladle flagged down the caravan. “Crassus! My brother! It's been so long since you've stopped by. Where are all of your guards?”

“Bandits, brother. These two are the reason I'm even still alive,” Crassus replied, gesturing to Viizhiar and Violierna.

“Your parents named you Crassus?” Viizhiar asked, incredulous.

“What's wrong with that?”

“It sounds like your brother was the favorite.”

“It seems I forgot to properly introduce myself. My name is Cocus.”

“Guess I was right.”

“You don't look like much, boy. So I'd say watch your mouth.”

“Big things come in small packages, but I imagine you would know-”

“Viizhiar!” Violierna interrupted, visibly furious, even though only her eyes were visible. “Will you stop being so snide for two seconds?”

“Crassus brought it on himself when he was talking about things that never happened between us, not to mention his jokes were even worse than mine!”

Thunk. The pommel of a throwing knife impacted Viizhiar's forehead with enough force to send him reeling, and attempting to try and find balance, before falling a few feet onto the ground.

“While I agree that Crassus was in the wrong for being so perverted, you weren't much better when we were in those caves, and you were a complete arse half the ride here. It's going to be a miracle if he pays us, at this rate.”

“If this job doesn't pay, I'm not taking it. I'll hitch a ride, whether he likes it or not, but if bears or bandits come along, I won't fight them for his sake. After all, it wouldn't be my job.”

“He does have a point,” Cocus began. “Come, you three must be tired and famished! I have a private dining room prepared for whenever my brother comes to visit. Don't worry, the town guard will ensure the caravan is safe.”

“Thanks for the offer, but I think I'll just go to the inn,” Viizhiar began, feigning a yawn and stretching out his left arm, summarilly receiving a bemused look from Violierna, despite nobody being able to see her face. “I'm not really that hungry. Besides, my back hurts from laying down on that cart's frame.”

“Oh. I see. Then, what about your lady friend?” Crassus asked, glancing up toward Violierna. It almost sounded as if he were begging for someone to try his brother's cooking.

“I think I'm going to need to decline, as well,” she answered, hopping down from the cart she was seated on. “The magic I used to save you was rather taxing, so I need to get some rest.”

“I... I see. Well, I guess I'll see the two of you in the morning,” Crassus said as he went to rendezvous with his brother in the tavern.

“I'm glad you declined, but...” Violierna began quietly, her stomach growling.

“Don't worry, the inn sells food, and they typically aren't picky about where you eat... unless it's some high-end place I'd never be able to afford. By the way, smart move not getting more excited than you were when I was mocking Crassus.”

“My kind generally doesn't like drawing attention to itself by creating more noise than is necessary. However, there are times when a foot must be put down to set a child straight.”

“I'm not a kid!”

“My point, exactly. You're brash, somewhat brassy, a total ass, and your overall intelligence is up for debate. Don't kid yourself. I've witnessed several morons swing swords and cast flame jets.”

“Well, that stung... Are you still angry about my joke back at the river?”

“I had let it go until you brought it up. Mostly, it was your snide commentary.”

“Okay. So... about dinner?”

“We haven't known each other a week, and you're already trying to ask me on a date?”

“What- No! I'm trying to make up for being so... obnoxious. Besides, something like that wouldn't work, anyway. I also highly doubt your parents would approve of you not just being with a peasant, but a mercenary, to boot. I know you probably don't care what your parents think right now, but do still respect them, and keep whatever shred of honor you have left, by not associating with someone like me beyond that of an ally. We may watch each other's backs, but we are not friends.”

“Your behavior suggests you're trying to become friends by buying me dinner. An ally would apologize, but not try to make up for something like that. That's something a friend would do.”

“Where the hell did an analysis like that come from...? It's not important, so don't bother answering. Let's just eat, I'm starving!” Viizhiar exclaimed, heading toward the inn, pursued by Violierna. Upon entering, the unusual pair were hardly noticed by mill workers and travelers. Another mercenary in studded leather armor seemed to be reading a book and eating some lobster at the far end of the dining area, who Violierna noticed was watching them as Viizhiar approached the young Azhurian woman tending the bar. “Room for two.”

“That will be fifteen silver and six copper. Is there anything else I can help you with?”

“What's on the menu? Anything worth eating?”

“Lobster, crab, catfish, bass, all caught fresh from Credence Lake and the Fjuld river. We also have beef, chicken and lamb.”

“I'll have some lamb,” Viizhiar said, turning to Violierna. “What about you?”

“I think I'm going to go with the catfish.”

“Your meals will be ready shortly after I notify the cook. That will be two gold, twelve silver, and one copper, bringing you to two gold, twenty-seven silver, and seven copper.”

“Here you are,” Viizhiar muttered, counting out the coins as he placed them onto the countertop.

“Thank you, your room is on the second floor, third door on your left,” she said, handing Viizhiar the key with a wink and somewhat flirtatious smile, probably in an attempt to spite Violierna, who was neither amused nor annoyed at the gesture as she accompanied Viizhiar up the flight of stairs.

“What was that all about?” Viizhiar queried.

“What was what?”

“The innkeeper.”

“Oh, you mean her winking at you and being slightly flirtatious with that smile of hers? I'm pretty sure she believed you and I were on much... better terms than we currently are.”

“Oddly enough, even though I was in the same room as two beautiful women, I have no desire to be in a meaningful relationship with either of them for two completely different reasons,” Viizhiar replied, inserting the key in the lock and twisting it, with the door responding with a click and creaking open.

“So, what is a catfish, anyway?” Violierna asked, quickly trying to change the subject. “A cat that's a fish or a fish that's a cat?”

“I don't know, but if you like, I can show you how to catch one with your bare hands.”

“No, thanks.”

“You're no fun. Anyway,” he began, removing his pole weapon and transdimensional knapsack from his back and setting them in the corner of the room immediately to the right. “I did bring a deck of cards, if you wanted to pass the time while we waited for our food?”

“No, thanks,” Violierna replied, laying down on the soft mattress.


A knock came through the door as Viizhiar wrapped up a one-man card game he was playing. Picking up the cards and placing them on the candle stand, he answered the door to find the maid from earlier holding two dishes, one with lamb and the other with fish. Both had corn and a potato as sides. Receiving the meals from the maid, she gave a slight bow, giving Viizhiar a direct view of her cleavage, much to his embarrassment.

“Thank you... for delivering our meals,” Viizhiar stammered, Reversing through the door, turning around, and shutting it with his back. The air around his face suddenly felt quite warm.

“So, what happened?” Violierna asked, sitting upright. The slight grin on her face told Viizhiar she knew what had just transpired.

“That maid won't quit trying to flirt with me,” he replied quietly, looking off to the side. He was sure his face was a rather dark shade of red.

“That's not really anything for you to be embarrassed about. Her, however...,” Violierna trailed off, receiving her catfish from Viizhiar.

“It's funny. I've been many places, but never has a woman ever... approached me like that,” the dark elf began, taking a bite out of his lamb. “Women are strange. They completely ignore you until you have another woman at your side.” Cutting open his potato, he continued. “So, what was all that about some prince of yours you were supposed to marry?”

“It was an arranged marriage,” Violierna began, following Viizhiar's lead. Instead of elegantly cutting open the spud, however, she took a large bite out of it. Swallowing, she felt a great amount of pressure in her chest.

“What, no butter?” Viizhiar asked, dragging his knapsack over to himself and fishing for a bottle of anything to help her get the starchy root down. Finding one, he handed it to her without reading the label, in which it was immediately opened and half of it downed in just a few seconds.

“Anywa-y,” Violierna hiccupped, taking another drink from the bottle. “As I was saying, it was an arranged marriage. We hadn't had much interaction beforehand at all. We saw each other at a party my family was invited to, but that was six years ago. We made small talk, and he went about his business. Come to think of it, Romulus isn't much older than I am.”

“That's quite a casual way to talk about a major political figure,” Viizhiar remarked, grabbing a similar bottle from his knapsack. “So, you've only spoken to him once, you say? I find it rather suspicious he would want to have an arranged marriage with someone he's never spent an hour with. Granted, you are a beautiful young women, probably no more than two years younger than himself, but come on! You two know nothing about each other. Eye color?”

“Red, I think?”

“Weapon of choice?”


“What does he do in his spare time?”


“Boot size?”

“What does that matter?”

“Just as I thought,” he began, taking a drink from the bottle. “You know about as much about him as I remember about my life before I was fifteen.”

“This again?” Violierna asked, finishing off the drink.

“Tired of hearing it, already, huh?”

“I heard enough, and I've tried to help you. Got anymore of this drink?” She asked, handing him the bottle. Examining it, it dawned on him he had given her alcohol.

“You sure?”

“Of course I'm sure. I feel less anxious than I was when I walked in here.”

“Well, alright. If one of us asks why the rum is always gone, I know who I'm blaming,” he replied, complying with her request for a second bottle.


“You know, I'm glad I stopped you after that second bottle,” Viizhiar remarked, removing his leather jack, leaving him with a white undershirt and the pants he had been wearing all day. “You're a little... loosened up”

A metallic clatter caught his attention as he saw Violierna holding her arm out and her armor stood on its own on the opposite side of the room, leaving her in a black full-body garment that was somewhat baggy, but generally hugged her body, making her as small as possible.

“Are you trying to tell me something?” Violierna asked, taking a seat on the foot of the large bed, deliberately teasing the dark elf by crossing her right leg over her left and cocking an eyebrow.

“I was just about to ask you the same thing,” Viizhiar replied, taking a bed roll out of his knapsack and unrolling it on the side of the bed nearest the window. “But I am aware you're just teasing me to be a total jerk.”

“I learn the weaknesses of people, from combat to personal. I think I have found yours.”

“What, charming women? That's every man in his twenties. Now, I'm going to go to sleep before you kill me for watching you undress the rest of the way.” Laying down on the roll, he was lightly snoring within seconds.

“I wish I could be that carefree,” Violierna sighed, pulling back the covers and climbing under them. What was I thinking, allowing myself to be part of an arranged marriage with that bastard? Because of me, Garndt's dead. The king's right hand! Dead, all because of me! Slowly, the tears came. One after another, each one reminding her of her crime, adding to the guilt and grief.
The heat and soft crackling of a nearby fire stirred Violierna from her rest. She was still in her armor, sitting up against a tree with her hood pulled up over her head. The sun had just set, the last rays of light fading from the sky above. Some heavy tromping could be heard coming from behind. A man carrying firewood made himself known to her. As he set down the pile a few feet away, she was almost relieved to find it was just Viizhiar.

“I'm assuming you have questions?” He asked, taking a seat across from her and tossing a couple logs into the fire.

“Where are we?”

“This is the White Forest, not to be confused with the Wight Forest down south. I carried you on my back for several hours while on the road to Havelaan. We're still a day's walk away from the village. From there, we can go to Durq and report in. Don't worry, we're far out of sight of travelers on the road.”

“What happened back there? After the hydra died?”

“It started glowing for some reason, and it's body fired a lightning bolt at you. I collected a few  teeth, some scales, and some blood to confirm our kill. You'd be surprised how much people will pay for just one hydra scale. I got a whole sheet. Safe to say that with the right buyer, we'll be set for a while. And, before you ask, the reason your hood and mask were up is because if somebody were to stumble across camp while I was out, odds are they wouldn't disturb someone in black armor.”

“Uh-huh. I remember you asking me if I could teach you how to make one of these blades?” Violierna asked, picking up Nachttänzer from the forest floor.

“That's right. My lance is just pathetic by comparison,” Viizhiar sighed, staring at the wooden pole to his left, with it's steel tip buried in the ground.

“Each soldier who is undergoing training to serve on the Royal Guard crafts his or her own sword. You saw Nachttänzer in action, and that is not something to be taken lightly. No two Royal Guardsmen's weapons are the same, or even have the same effect. With mine, the detachable blades are only visible when stationary or in contact with another object, as you witnessed. It took over three months to craft and enchant, but my mentor created his blade in about a week.”

“What was the name of his weapon? What did it do?”

“The name of his sword was Urteil. Judgment. I've been told it's abilities are so terrible that such information has been strictly classified, and I have never witnessed the blade in action, myself. The last time I saw that longsword's blade was when he sacrificed himself to protect me from his own men.”

“That takes dedication. I'm sure it wasn't an easy choice.”

“It couldn't have been, but he always knew the score, and he always knew what had to be done, but I can't help but feel that he was finally out-matched.”

“He died doing what he believed to be right. Protecting you.”

“And leaving me to an uncertain future.”

“Well, there's that. So, um, if Urteil means Judgment, what does Nachttänzer mean?”

“Night Dancer. It took me several years to become proficient in it's use. Anyway, you said there was a river nearby? Did you bring any soap or shampoo?”

“Did the hydra's innards really smell that bad?”

“What do you think?”

“Check my knapsack. I think I remembered to grab it.”

“If I find you peeking, I'll make sure you regret it,” Violierna warned, proceeding to dig through the leather bag.

“What, you didn't appreciate my joke, earlier?” Viizhiar asked with a grin, only to receive an unamused glare in response. “Point taken.”


“Well, aren't you just gorgeous?” A rough voice hissed, receiving only a firm glare from Violierna. “Some kind of elf?”

“You need to work on your stealth skills, thief,” Violierna replied nonchalantly, facing away from the voice. “I heard you coming from fifty meters away.”

“I don't know what you thought I was doing from that far back, but I could come a little closer, if you wanted,” he purred, taking a few steps into the river.

“Are all wanderers such perverts?” Violierna muttered in disgust. “I'm only going to warn you once. Step away now, or...”

“Or what? You're going to suffocate me with your breasts? That wouldn't be a bad way to die, come to think of it.”

“I may not have killed before, but I assure you, I can easily snap your neck,” she growled, turning to face him and covering her chest, with as much of her body as possible turned away from the perverted thief.

“Well, I'm not so much a thief as I am a bandit, but you sure would make a fine prize for my boss. He may even let me be first in line after him!”

“I'm not going anywhere.”

“I'm afraid you don't have much choice,” the bandit said, making a clumsy lunge toward her, which was easily side-stepped, with him falling in the river and being briefly swept down-stream.

“What the hell's going on, here?” Turning around to face the new voice, Viizhiar was gripping his lance, and looked ready to fight.

“Just a bandit,” Violierna replied. “He's currently being washed down the river...”

“I've got the armor! Quit playing in the water and get the girl!” Another bandit shouted as he ran past, holding Violierna's armor and sword.

“I'm on it, I'm on it!” The first bandit replied, getting to his feet and running along the river bank. “Come here, missy!” No sooner had he put his hands on Violierna than his head was resting on his shoulders in an unnatural position, and he fell backward into the river.

“Aren't you going to stop him!?” Violierna shouted.

“Oh, right. I almost forgot,” Viizhiar said, downing a potion, then chasing after the vagabond. Within a matter of seconds, he was ahead of the bandit and twirling around his lance, with it engulfed in arcane fire.

“That's a pretty light show, kid, but we'll be taking this armor and your girlfriend, regardless.”

“You really have no idea just who you're dealing with, do you?”


“Viizhiar Qauerous, Söldner. Oh, and don't bother calling on your friend to help. He's been hung out to dry. Well, he'll need to be when we fish him out of the river to loot his body.”

“I've never even heard of you, but I have heard of that little guild of yours. How many members are you down to? Fifteen? Twenty? People are leaving faster than they're joining, and there's nothing you can do about it. Face it, kid, you're in a second-rate guild with no influence that will take practically anyone. Whatever stories you may have heard about the Söldner, I can assure you, are far in the past. The little gathering is in it's death throes, and has basically become a gathering of drunks in it's little gathering hall.”

“Shut up,” Viizhiar growled, the flames enveloping his weapon spreading to his body and turning a deep red.

“Oh, did I say something?” The bandit asked, setting down Violierna's armor and pulling a staff off of his back. “It seems you need to cool off.” Charging up an attack, the ice from the weapon engulfed Viizhiar's body, smothering the flames, and rendering him motionless.

“All talk,” the bandit spat, picking up Violierna's armor and proceeding on his way with it. After passing Viizhiar, the ice coffin shattered, and heat took over the area once again. Dropping the armor, the bandit procured his staff again and fired another spell, only to receive a very hot blade slashing across his arms and chest in multiple places. Trying to block with his staff, it was snapped by the lance like a twig as it disemboweled him, before being spun around one last time and plunged into the vagabond's heart. As the bandit lay dead on the ground, Viizhiar sheathed his lance and gathered Violierna's armor and blade. Nearing the place she was bathing, he placed the apparel and blade on an exposed boulder.

“You alright?” Viizhiar asked after a moment, only to receive a rock to his forehead. “What was that for?”

“For just standing there silently,” Violierna said in a less-than-pleased tone. “I'm almost done, I'll meet you back at camp.” As Viizhiar walked off into the trees and bushes, she took time to digest what she witnessed, and after a few minutes, dried herself off, dressed, and summoned her armor back onto her body. Slinking back into camp, Viizhiar was already face-down on his bed roll, lightly snoring. “He really is not that efficient with his materia, is he?” Preparing her bed roll and lying down, she found it hard to sleep, having watched someone be carved up before they were finally allowed to die.


“Hey, wake up, Sleeping Beauty. Anyone in there?” Viizhiar asked with a sigh. “I said, wake up!” No sooner had his hand touched her shoulder than he found a fist imbedded in his face. Laying on his back, he moaned in pain as blood ran down his cheeks.

“It seems my dream was a little too real,” Violierna said, casting a healing spell, stopping the bleeding. Viizhiar shot up immediately, rubbing his face.

“What dream!?” He shot. “You were perfectly still!” Instantly, his nose started bleeding again.

“I probably should have used a higher-grade spell,” Violierna muttered, casting another healing spell. When Viizhiar pulled his hands away from his face, he gave the most curious expression. “Why are you looking at me like that?”

“Do all shadow elves' eyes change color?”

“What are you talking about?” She asked, dispelling the magic.

“Your eyes were gold when you were casting that spell, but now they're blue. Does that happen to everyone in your race?”

“Are you sure that's not just an optical illusion from the spell's aura that was surrounding your body? Sometimes, that happens.”

“I guess that's a possibility. Anyway, since we lost all of our coking pots and utensils when we fell through the ground yesterday, looks like we won't be having any meat until we can buy more from the next town we come to.”

“How did you lose all of the cookware, but none of the rations!?” Violierna shouted, bewildered. Viizhiar almost came up with an answer, but was silenced by a loud growling.

“You're that hungry?”

Constricting her stomach with her arms, she nodded in response. After some minutes, she found two eggs, some fruit, and half of a loaf of bread held out before her.

“Fruit first, then bread, then the eggs,” Viizhiar said, taking a large bite out of an apple. “Just saying. Learn from those who learned the hard way.”


“Just why are you helping me?” Violierna asked quietly, breaking the silence, walking along the dirt and cobblestone path next to Viizhiar, her hood and mask up. “You do realize what you're doing is basically treason?”

“Hey, didn't you come running up here to escape the wrath of your homicidal fiancee?”

“Well, yes...”

“Then don't you think it'd make more sense to try and help you out instead of outright killing you?”

“Sounds more like you're taking your time handing me over to the authorities.”

“Was I thinking too loud?” Viizhiar asked sarcastically, looking up at the sky, his index finger on his chin.

“Real funny...”

“Hey, check it out,” Viizhiar began, pointing out a rather portly man in a fur suit. “Think that's what caused yesterday's quake?” As he neared the pair, his panicked expression became quite obvious, with tears streaming down his face. “Do you think he'd move faster if he rolled?”

“Hey!” Violierna exclaimed, grabbing the collar of the man's attire. The sudden shift in momentum dragged Violierna face-down into the dirt, where she found the fat man on his back. “Would you mind telling us what it is you're running from? I've never seen a man your size run for that long.”

“Bandits!” The man shouted. “Bandits attacked my caravan and slaughtered my guards! Please, if you are capable, you have to help me!”

“Don't worry about it,” Viizhiar began, first helping Violierna to her feet, with her helping Viizhiar help the merchant to his. “We'll take care of those bandits for you.”

“Oh, no, here they come,” the merchant whimpered. Turning around, a group of six bandits came strolling down the road, appearing rather bored.

“I told you we should have just killed him. What was the point of this? Now, we need to dig two more graves.”

“I thought it'd be funny to watch him roll down the hillside and into the river if he tripped. Besides, you could lose a warhammer in those folds.”

“You thought? You thought!? I'm the one who does the thinking around here, you slug-brained idiot!”

“These are the guys you're running from?” Violierna asked, clearly not impressed. “Stay here, both of you. This won't take too long.” Approaching the group of bandits, one of which was already strangling the one he was arguing with, they turned to face her as she came within just a few yards.

“Look at this little lady,” one chuckled. “You want to bring her back to the boss?”

“Depends on if we can take her alive,” the one who had just strangled one of his comrades sighed. “Hey, wait a minute. I've never seen black armor before. Some kind of assassin? Why's she just standing there?” A spray of blood from four of the bandits around him made him draw his short sword and a round, wooden shield, along with his last remaining friend.

“What's going on?” The last subordinate asked, panicking, scanning the area for archers. “Why are they all dead?”

“You can stop looking around,” Violierna said calmly, standing perfectly still, save for her right arm, which she used to draw a black short sword. “I'm right here.” Flaring her sword down and to the right, the subordinate bandit dropped dead where he stood, with the leader of the group looking around for more unseen attackers, before focusing on Violierna and readying his shield. As she thrust her blade down and forward, the bandit instinctively raised his shield, and felt the impact of multiple objects. Lowering his shield, he noticed what appeared to be four black blade fragments embedded into the shield. Being helplessly dragged forward, the shield detached itself and smacked him in the back of the head, staggering into a short sword that impaled his chest. His body went limp as he slid off of the blade, falling to the ground in a heap. Nachttänzer's weak reformed, and the longsword put back in it's sheathe. “You're no longer in any danger, peddler.”

“Who are you people?” He asked, pointing to Viizhiar and Violierna.

“Mercenaries,” Viizhiar replied. “Need some protection on the road?”

“Name your price.”

“We can discuss the cost of our services when we find your caravan, peddler,” Violierna interrupted. “Just how far did you run?”


“We... finally found it,” the merchant wheezed, marinating in his own sweat and body odor.

“Wow,” Viizhiar began. “You ran all that way and weren't even phased, but now you're out of breath just by walking? Impressive caravan, by the way.”

“Horseless carriages,” Violierna remarked. “Very expensive to produce, but relatively low maintenance. It seems this train is held together by ropes and hinged iron rods. Is everything still accounted for, merchant?”

“It seems so. All four carts are still intact, piled high with goods for the big cities and small villages.”

“What do you sell?” Viizhiar asked, curiosity contorting his face.

“Anything and everything. Look, name your price. I guarantee I will have enough to pay you both after selling off my merchandise.”

“What were you paying them?” Viizhiar asked, gesturing to numerous bodies strewn about the area. “Seriously? Just six guards? For a caravan like this?”

“He's down to two, now.”

“Well, the two of you certainly seem more competent than these fools. So, how about fifteen percent?”

“Sounds like a fair price,” Viizhiar grinned, nodding.

“Excellent. Find a seat somewhere, and let's get going!”

“Not so fast, fat man. Even though I may not be able to bury them, I'm still going to give these guys a proper rest.”

Dragging the bodies of the mercenaries off to the side of the road, Viizhiar laid them out straight, folded their arms over their chests, and placed the hilts of their swords in their hands, weak pointing toward their feet.

“Are you seriously taking their money?” Violierna scolded.

“What? It's not like they're going to be needing it anymore!”

“He has a point,” the merchant sighed. “They're basically forfeiting their pay. It's the way of the wilderness.”

“Can we just go?” Violierna huffed, folding her arms.

“Alright, I'm ready! Keep your greaves on, will you?”

“I had no intention of taking them off, thank you very much.”

“When you two are ready to stop bickering, we can get a move on. I'll be in the box seat.”
“I thought you brought rations with you?” Violierna inquired, fishing a chunk of meat out of the boiling kettle. “And I've been meaning to ask, how did you even transport all this stuff?”

“A zero-dimensional plane one of my contacts prepared for me. You may get to meet her soon enough. Let's just say she's been around for.... quite a long time, and has contacts in some pretty high and low places.”

“Black market dealer?”

“No. She just keeps everyone in line. Besides, while I did bring rations with me, leviathan is better eating. Makes you full longer. Besides, the meats are preserved, and on me, but not with me.”

“Another pocket dimension, I'm assuming?”

“Yes, except.... wait. Something isn't right.”

The kettle's lid danced on the rim, with the large pot slowly lurching over to the edge of the fire pit, where it dumped scalding hot water.

“A quake?” Violierna asked the wind, the shaking steadily growing much more intense, trees swaying, and some large ones toppling over, before the ground opened up between herself and Viizhiar, swallowing them, and the immediate area in one gulp.

Falling through the gradually darkening cavern, flaming logs gradually lagging behind, Violierna felt something wrap itself around her body, before being sent into shock by the sudden impact of cold water, and the already dark world becoming pitch black.


Gradually coming to, a nearby, very warm fire cracked and hissed, illuminating the walls of a tall cavern, a waning half-moon shining directly into the hole in the ground above, the water only a few feet away shimmering in it's gaze.

“That's right,” Violierna began, quietly. “I fell through the ground during that quake. Viizhiar must have softened the impact on the water, but where's my armor?”

“I removed it so you wouldn't succumb to hypothermia,” Viizhiar said, shyly. “I knew you wouldn't appreciate me removing too much, so I kept it to just your armor and put you as close to the fire as possible without it hurting you.”

“How did we survive?”

“I took most of the impact, and I don't know how, but I was pretty much unharmed from it. You weren't so lucky. You passed out almost as soon as we went under. Your arm didn't fair so well, either.”

Raising her left arm into the light, a bandage was wrapped around the forearm, from the elbow to the wrist, coming together around the flesh between the thumb and index finger.

“This looks more like a wrist cast. Why not use a healing spell?”

“I'm a lot of things, but a healer just isn't one of them.”

“No big deal,” Violierna sighed, conjuring a glowing ball of magic and holding it against her arm. After many slight twinges of pain and a noticeable crack, followed by a greatly suppressed howl, the bandage wrappings were removed effortlessly, her arm and hand bending and twisting as she commanded.

“Look, you're pretty much the only other person I know who seems like they'd understand if I told them something that's been bothering me for the past fourteen years.”

“What could possibly be bothering you for that long?”

“Well, let's just say most people would look at me as if I'd just grown a few extra heads, and I'd be run out of town. You're exiled, and I'm effectively a social outcast hiding in plain sight. I'll just get to the point. My memories... they don't make any sense, whatsoever. I've tried to make sense of them, trace the pieces, but all I end up with is a garbled mess and a headache in the end.”

“What if you just aren't meant to know?”

“Even so, I have to try. I can't go my whole life without making sense of things.”

“You should get some rest. I don't know how long I've been out, but you clearly need sleep. Just give it time. It should come together eventually.”

“I hope you're right,” Viizhiar sighed, laying down on his sleeping mat. She's got problems of her own. I probably shouldn't have bothered her with mine...


A crack, the sound of grinding, and a crash startled Violierna from her sleep. Looking over to the source of the sound, she noticed Viizhiar standing over what appeared to be a toppled stalagmite.

“Guess I woke you up a little earlier than intended,” he chuckled, rubbing the back of his head. “We should get to town so we can report our finding. I'll leave you to yourself.” Walking up the makeshift bridge, he disappeared into an almost round tunnel, slightly taller than himself. Looking up, sunlight shown through the cavern's ceiling, and a large bird circled, before disappearing into the foliage above.

“I just had the strangest sense of déjà vu,” Violierna muttered to herself, stretching her arm out toward her armor and swiping it across her person at chest level. The armor obeyed her command, and wrapped around her as it had been the day before. Chain mail, plate armor, and leather all fell into place, with the pieces buckling and lacing together autonomously. “I will never be able to thank Garndt enough for teaching me that. Always wondered where he learned it... Oh, well.” Venturing up the stalagmite, it teetered slightly from side-to-side, and a slick patch almost caught her out. Taking another step, a piece of the stone slipped away into the subterranean lake, and she fell onto the face of the pillar, instinctively holding on for dear life.

“Do you need some help?” Viizhiar asked, not one yard away. Somehow, he was balancing effortlessly on the stalagmite.

“How do you make this look so easy!?” She pleaded.

“Ten years sure does a lot to you,” he replied, extending his right hand. “Try not to think about it, and just go.” Bringing Violierna to her feet, he strolled back over to the tunnel, and waited as she teetered on the stone, and as it crumbled on the last step, she fell forward into his chest, with him supporting her. “It's like watching a child. Don't worry, you'll get used to it.” If her skin hadn't been as dark as it were, he could have sworn she had blushed as she stood, likely from embarrassment. “Let's see what's on the other side of this tunnel. Might be a way out.”

Heading into the tunnel, Viizhiar conjured a small ball of light as darkness quickly engulfed the pair. Violierna conjured one of her own shortly after, giving some extra light to the already well-lit chamber.

“Are you sure something didn't dig this?” She asked, noting what appeared to be scratches, some deep, some fine, running along the wall and ceiling.

“We're on a slight incline, so an underground current must have carved it out.”

“I don't think river water makes scratches in rock. Look, we need to just find the way out. These lines are making me a little uneasy.”

“You scared of small spaces?”

“No. In case you hadn't noticed, this tunnel is almost perfectly round. I really hope we don't run into a giant snake.”

“What if it's giant rats?”

“I don't know about you, but I don't really fancy being eaten alive. By anything.”

“What if it's by a man?”

“That's cannibalism.”

“Not that kind of eating.”

“You sick, perverted bastard...”

Continuing their trek through the tunnel, it was several minutes before light was visible again. Entering another cavern, it was almost identical to the one they came from, except with a large, crystal stalactite chandelier hanging from the cave ceiling, at least imitating sunlight. Heading down to the lake's shore, many smaller crystals lay in the sand.

“It's... glass,” Viizhiar said, observing one he had picked up. “If it came from up there, then... What could have created this?”

“Actually, it's quartz,” Violierna interrupted. “Glass only occurs when sand is melted, and without proper refinement, never turns out this clear. Don't look at me like that, I live underground! I... used to live underground. Point is, I know the difference between glass and quartz. That, hanging from the ceiling, is white quartz. It appears transparent when it's in small chunks like this...”

“Alright, I get it! It's a rock! Spare me the lecture, will you?” Viizhiar shouted. Looking over into the lake, he noticed a large fin disappear beneath the water's surface. “Stay there. I'm going to see what it is we're dealing with.” Taking a few steps into the water, there was a steep drop-off from where he was standing. Peering down into the abyss, a large, serpentine figure lay curled up at the bottom, but unraveled itself as it quickly approached the surface. Staggering backwards, the serpent broke the surface, revealing white scales, blue eyes that appeared to glow, a forked tongue, at least two rows of sharp teeth, and transparent blue fins on the sides of it's triangular head. It sniffed the air, snarled, and let out a deafening roar. “It... it can't be... the legends...”

“What legends!?”

“That's a hydra. An unstoppable force of might and magic. Nothing gets through those scales.”

“Well, weren't you saying something earlier about how you wanted to kill one to get the attention of some legendary warrior?”

“Yes, but...”

“What changed?” Vilierna asked, drawing her sword. The points doubling back on either side of the longsword detached, split in half, and floated gracefully through the air, causing a severe drop in the sword's overall length. “Don't tell me that after all that talk, you're just going to give up?” Thrusting the point of her sword forward, the four blade fragments obeyed the command, and while they momentarily disappeared, soon reappeared after colliding with the hydra's armor, and deflecting off. Regrouping on either side of Violierna, she sent them out again. This time, they easily penetrated the fins on either side of the hydra's head, cutting one clean off, and damaging the other. Another deafening howl, and the hydra became engulfed in flames. Looking over, Viizhiar had conjured a flame jet and fired it at the monster, but it was being dispersed by it's tough scales. Snarling, the hydra disappeared below the water.

“Is it done?” Viizhiar asked, shaking. “I've expended so much of my materia...” Pulling a vial of clear fluid from his pocket, he downed it immediately.

“I don't think so. It might just be cooling off. Nachttänzer did the most damage, I think.”

“You designed that yourself?” Viizhiar asked, examining his lance. The simple pole weapon was pitiful by comparison.

“Yes. We all do, though I've never seen my mentor's blade in action, I imagine it's much more impressive than my own,” Violierna replied. “Hey, a good warrior does not a fancy sword make. That's what he always said.”

The hydra reappeared out of the depths, and brought it's large head down onto Violierna, who leapt out of the way, only to be caught up by it's tail and knocked into the water, where it scooped her up and swallowed her whole in plain view of Viizhiar. Growling with satisfaction, it turned to face Viizhiar, before letting out yet another deafening howl, this time in pain. The blade fragments of Nachttänzer pressed into it's long neck, only a few feet down from the head. The scales began to crack from the pressure, eventually gave, and the fragments disappeared into the hydra's throat, with it writhing around in unfathomable pain. The fragments reappeared through it's eyes, and it dropped dead on the sandy shore. Grabbing the knuckle from his utility belt, Viizhiar punched through the layers of sharp teeth at the front of the mouth, and found Violierna clawing her way back up with her sword and a dagger.

“Can you teach me how to make one of those?” Viizhiar asked, gaping as Violierna exited the mouth and sheathed her weapon, the fragments rejoining the rest of the blade. “Hey, are hydra supposed to glow?”

Turning around, Violierna looked in time to see a large blast of light that hit her in the chest. Her world spun briefly, and immediately went dark.
  • Listening to: Instrumentals
  • Reading: Dhampir
Pillaged from :iconmakotomikami:

1. Do you snore?
Not that I'm aware of.

2. Are you a lover or a fighter?
Can't it be both?

3. What’s your worst fear?
Being eaten alive and then slowly digested, then ending up in Hell.

4. As a kid, where you a lego maniac?
I had Legos as a kid, but I was more into cars.

5. What do you think of “reality” tv?
Not reality, actuality!

6. Do you chew on your straws?

7. Were you a cute baby?

8. Is the single life for you?
Might have to be.

9. What color is your keyboard?

10. Do you sing in the shower?

Do I even remotely look like Weiss Schnee? There's your answer.

11. Have you ever sky-dived before?

12. Any secret talents?
If I have any, kissing ass isn't one.

13. What’s your ideal vacation spot?
No idea.

14. Can you swim?

16. Have you seen the movie "Donnie Darko”?

17. Do you care about the ozone?
According to NASA imaging from 2004, the hole over Antarctica had decreased in size by 44% since observation began in the 1970s.

18. How many licks does it take to get to the center of a tootsie pop?

Don't know, don't much care.

19. Can you sing the alphabet backwards?

20. Have you ever been on an airplane?
On one? No. In one? No.

21. Are you a single child?
No, I have an elder sister who is more successful than I am.

22. Do you prefer electronic or manual pencil sharpeners?

23. What’s your stand on hunting?
I don't have a problem with it. My tool dealer goes for deer every other week during the season for them.

24. Is marriage in your future?
Don't know.

25. Do you like your handwriting?
Eh, could be worse.

26. What are you allergic to?

27. When was the last time you said 'I love you?'
I don't know.

28. Is Tupac still alive?
Should I care?

29. Do you cry at weddings?

30. How do you like your eggs?
Over medium.

31. Are blondes dumb?
Not always.

32. Where does the other sock end up?
With the other one.

33. What time is it?
As of answering this question, 8:18 PM

34. Do you have a nickname?

35. Is McDonald's disgusting?

36. When was the last time you were in a car?

37. Do you prefer baths or showers?

38. Is Santa Claus real?…

39. Do you like having you neck kissed?…

40. Are you afraid of the dark?

Not really.

41. What are you addicted to?

RWBY. Can you tell?

42. Crunchy or creamy peanut butter?

43. Can you crack your neck?
Not really.

44. Have you ever ridden in an ambulance?
If I don't crack my neck, I won't have to.

45. How many times have you brushed your teeth today?
Once. So far.

46. Is drug free the way to be?
I'd rather not be one of the 'Faces of Meth' they show you in high school.

47. Are you a heavy sleeper?
Not sure. I guess it's variable. Some things wake me up more easily than others.

48. What colour are your eyes?
A green ring on the outside of the iris, with a wide amber ring in the middle, and a red, kind of spiky ring in the middle. Yes, I did get bored and look in the mirror that hard. Okay, I didn't have to look too hard. But they look brown.

50. Do you like your life?
Could be better.

51. Who’s better: Stone Cold or The Rock?

52. Are you psychic?

53. Have you read "Catcher in the Rye"?
What's that?

54. Do you play any instruments?

55. Have you ever stolen money?
I have borrowed without asking, before. Years ago.

56. Can you snowboard?

57. Do you like camping?
Used to.

58. Do you snort when you laugh?

59. Do you believe in magic?
I wish I could say yes.

60. Are dogs a man’s best friend?

61. You believe in divorce?

Can't kill 'em and can't live without 'em.

62. Can you do the moonwalk?

63. Do you make a lot of mistakes?
You can't in my line of work.

64. Is it cold outside today?
Kind of chilly. Just another day in Missouri.

65. What was the last thing you ate?
A salad, toasted ravioli, and some cookies.

66. Do you wear nail polish?
Absolutely not.

67. Have you ever been kissed?.


68. What's the most annoying TV commercial?
This one. It's like they're trying to give you a headache so you'll buy the damn product!

69. Do you shop at American Eagle?

70. Favorite song at the moment?
Vengeful One - Disturbed

71. Do you like your job?
It's not bad.

72. Do you like your classes in school?
I graduated 3 years ago.

73. How do you like your meat cooked?

74. Do you like these surveys.

75. Do you know how to tag three peoples? because he really wanted me to...

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RobotCatArt Featured By Owner Jan 15, 2016  Hobbyist Digital Artist
2015-1024-ChibiNekoSticker by RobotCatArt  
GlassLotuses Featured By Owner Sep 28, 2015  Hobbyist General Artist
Thank you so so so much for the watch!!! :squee: :squee: :squee:
Alienotic-Freak Featured By Owner May 25, 2015  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Happy Birthday!
Neutral-Death Featured By Owner May 25, 2015  Hobbyist Writer
KreKael Featured By Owner Dec 19, 2014  Hobbyist General Artist
Keep up the great work!
Neutral-Death Featured By Owner Dec 19, 2014  Hobbyist Writer
I'll try.
Alienotic-Freak Featured By Owner Edited Nov 25, 2014  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Hey man did not talk to you for a while! how are things going?

I am currently sick with bronchitis and a fever
Neutral-Death Featured By Owner Nov 25, 2014  Hobbyist Writer
Things are going pretty well, I'd say.
Alienotic-Freak Featured By Owner Nov 26, 2014  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Thats good! :D (Big Grin) 
LucyJayy Featured By Owner May 25, 2014  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Happy Birthday! Patrick (Cake) [V1] 
Neutral-Death Featured By Owner May 25, 2014  Hobbyist Writer
deathreborn Featured By Owner Jan 20, 2014  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Also -- I think you need the one that does this:
Neutral-Death Featured By Owner Jan 20, 2014  Hobbyist Writer
I saw that one in the Steam Workshop. It looks neat, but Hyrule and Tamriel just don't meld together as one would expect.
deathreborn Featured By Owner Jan 20, 2014  Hobbyist Digital Artist
I would love to see a Zelda game with the scope of an Elder Scrolls game. I mean, I LOVE the Zelda games, but the stories are always so linear. I would love some huge side quests other than hunting skulltulas and bizarre masks.
Neutral-Death Featured By Owner Jan 20, 2014  Hobbyist Writer
Even still, it's not very lore-friendly to either series.
deathreborn Featured By Owner Jan 20, 2014  Hobbyist Digital Artist
How about the mod for Thomas the Tank Engine?
Neutral-Death Featured By Owner Jan 20, 2014  Hobbyist Writer
I've heard of that one, and while it's funny, I find it to be ridiculous.
jgilronan Featured By Owner Dec 13, 2013  Professional Traditional Artist
Neutral-Death Featured By Owner Dec 13, 2013  Hobbyist Writer
You're welcome.
GoldenBrownNugget Featured By Owner Dec 6, 2013  Hobbyist Digital Artist

Neutral-Death Featured By Owner Dec 11, 2013  Hobbyist Writer
GoldenBrownNugget Featured By Owner Dec 12, 2013  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Stupidity ever wins
Neutral-Death Featured By Owner Dec 12, 2013  Hobbyist Writer
You aren't exactly winning, you know.
(1 Reply)
weirdo-mess Featured By Owner Nov 25, 2013  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
Hi, and thanks a lot for faving my DD "Own Space". Much appreciated!

Have a nice day!
Neutral-Death Featured By Owner Nov 25, 2013  Hobbyist Writer
You're welcome.
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