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continues from part 2
         “I meant, tell them you’re leaving, ask permission or whatever.” Laela explained to the young boy.
         “Oh.” Sajume said. “I’ll go ask her.”
         Laela looked back at the two boys. “What of you two? Are you coming too?”
         The boys nodded and then set off for their houses.
         After the boys were out of sight William spoke. “You’re not honestly letting them go right?”
         “Why not?” Laela asked.
         “Because they’re children.”
         “So, they could be killed. We’re climbing a mountain, that’s probably littered with bandits, to find a dragon egg.” William pointed out.
         “They’re boys who want to be knights. We wanted to be mages since we were kids and our parent let us play with the spells.” Laela noted.
         “Making a light and a flame are a lot different from climbing a mountain. Gods they’re not even armed.” Nicholas jumped in.
         “Look,” William continued. “I’m in charge. What I say goes and I say that we shouldn’t take them.”
         “That changed when we took the boys sword.” Laela reminded him.
         “It’s a piece of wood.”
         “Did you see how he acted when I took it. This means so much to him, maybe his uncle’s dead and this is what he remembers him by.”
         William looked at her in anger. She was right though and he was sick of arguing with her.
           She looked at William sadly. She wanted to be friends with him, and the others she just met. King Beltan sent four knights with the mages. Aaron was one, he probably volunteered, and the other three she hadn’t talked to.
         “Look William.” Laela said, approaching the mage with the wooden sword. “You and I both know what this is. Instead of fighting we should be happy. Can you imagine how the elders will react when they see this?”
         William looked at her unconvinced at first. Then he smiled and took the wooden sword, looking at the black words with interest.
         “Born from earth.” He nodded.
         “Three more left to find.” Laela smiled.
         “Am I the only one who still thinks it’s a bad idea to bring children with us?” Nicholas butted in again. “I mean, it’s one thing if we were heading to another village or something but, we’re going through a forest full of bandits!”
         “We’re not going through the forest.” William said.
         “What?” Nicholas asked confused.
         “We’ll go around it, circle around the worst of it and then follow the main path to the mountain.” William explained.
         “The main path? That will be covered with bandits.”
         “We killed a dragon. I think we can handle a few savages.” Laela noted.
         “We just healed a few knights.” Nicholas added.
         “Quit being a bitch.” Rynn spoke for the first time since leaving the castle. “By the gods you’re making my head hurt.” Rynn placed his hands over his face to try to comfort the pain.
         “What did you just say to me?” Nicholas asked angrily.
         “You heard me cleric.” Rynn said angrily back. “Don’t act like you know how to fight either, touch me and I’ll burn you I swear to Ignis I will.”
         Nicholas looked horrified by the pyromancer’s attitude. He stepped back away from him and put two knights between himself and Rynn before speaking again.
         “I just don’t think it’s proper.” Nicholas said.
         “Neither is taking a boys toy without permission.” Laela said, holding the wooden sword up.
         “That’s different, that’s a weapon born from the gods. We need that.” Nicholas argued.
         “That boy doesn’t know that. I’m not arguing this again.” She finally said.
         Nicholas shook his head and prepared another argument but, before he could the boys came running back.
         They stopped and looked at the mages. Sajume was in front and he nodded once with an excited smile on his face. Laela nodded back and motioned the boys to follow them as the started down the road.
         “What’s your names?” Laela asked the two other boys with Sajume.
         “I’m Jest.” The one with short black hair answered proudly. “Son of Aldar.”
         “I’m Yerl.” The one with brown hair answered. He didn’t look as brave as the other two boys and wasn’t as strong.
         “I’m William.” He bowed to the young boys. They bowed back.
         “I’m Rynn.” The pyromancer said, bowing clumsily.
         Sajume laughed. “I know you, remember last night at the party?”
         “Ah, I don’t remember anything from last.” Rynn laughed. The three boys laughed too and they looked at Nicholas for his greeting.
         Nicholas didn’t respond.
         “Just ignore him.” Laela said. “He’s too high and mighty to waste time with children.”
         Nicholas sneered but didn’t respond.
         Laela, Rynn, the boys, knights and even William laughed at the cleric who continued down the path without them.
         “So how long do you think it will take to reach the mountain on this trail?” Laela asked the knights.
         “Maybe a day and a half, or two.” Aaron said, looking at the sky. He nodded and slowed down to where he was walking beside Laela.
         “So what’s so special about that wooden toy?” Aaron asked her.
         “My uncle gave it to me.” Sajume said before Laela could answer. “He didn’t tell me where he got it, he just said that I should practice if I wanted to grow up to be a knight.”
         Aaron smiled. “You look like you could handle yourself in a fight.”
         Sajume smiled.
         “Have you ever used a real weapon?” He asked the boy.
         “My uncle’s friend let me shoot his pistol once, I didn’t like it though.” sajume answered.
         Aaron nodded. “I prefer real weapons.” He laughed. “Here, try this.” He removed his steel dagger that he had sheathed in his left holster and handed it to Sajume.
         The boy looked like he had handed him the power of the gods. He stopped in his tracks and stared at the shiny blade with awe, turning it in his hands, observing every part.
         “Now that’s not a toy.” Laela chimed in. “I’d hate to return you to your parents with a missing eye.”
         Sajume smiled. “I’ll be careful.” Then he fell back to tell his friends.
         Aaron smiled at Laela. The two were now alone.
         “Did you do that to be nice? Or to get him to leave?” She asked with a smile on her face.
         “A little of both.” The knight answered cockily.
         The two smiled at each other and continued down the path that was cursed for being littered with traps, rabid animals, and thieves.
         They didn’t have a care in the world.

         Darius sat foot on Hammerclaw soil and immediately spat into the soil. He despised every kingdom west of Estersea. In his earlier years, Darius had plans of killing everyone in Hammerclaw, Woodbay and Blackhall but, out grew it.

         He outgrew it because he got a list. He knew eight men he wanted to kill and had already killed three. After all eight were dead, by his hands, he would feel closure for what happened in Rosegrass.

         “Ah welcome!” The innkeeper beamed as Darius walked into the doors.          
         It had just turned night and he could have made the trip to the castle, but, he had just hiked straight from Blackhall, to Woodbay, through the forests and to Hammerclaw without resting. He was tired and wanted to sleep before seeing King Beltan.
         “How much for an hour?” Darius asked the woman.
         “Ten gold.” She answered.
         Darius looked at her plainly, unsure of why it was so expensive.
         “Look sir, after the dragon attacked everyone’s been all over this city. I got people coming in here just to say they’ve slept in the inn that the dragon was beside.” She smiled proudly.
         Darius neutrally reached into his bag and pulled out a handful of gold, he sat the coins down and counted out ten. He handed the woman the gold and then laid on the bed. He closed his white eyes and after a minute he was out.

         “Darius!” Naria yelled, reaching for her son.
         The young boy reached out for his mother who was being held back by men in thick steel plates of armor. They had a knife to her throat and were trying to rape her. She wasn’t making it easy for them though and she managed to grab a fork and dig it into one of the men’s eyes.
         He screamed and thrashed out in pain. After he finished his fit he turned to Darius and slapped him in the face, backhanding him so that the steel gauntlet struck his face. The boy yelled as blood leaked from his nose and his eye bruised up painfully.
         “Ah don’t cry child, this will all be over soon.” The man laughed cruelly.
         The man placed his steel dagger up to the woman’s throat and slid it over quickly, opening her throat and letting the blood shoot out across the small house. The three knights laughed manically at the dead woman and her crying son.
         “Enough of this.” Another knight announced grabbing the boy by his long black hair.
         He pulled out a knife and prepared to stab the child. Before he could finish him off however, a man kicked down the door and held two weapons forward. They looked like a crossbow but, there was a strange looking rectangular box attached to the tops. He held down the triggers and released a fury of crossbow bolts into the three knights, killing them all but, leaving the boy unharmed.
         “Mother.” Darius cried, holding his mother’s corpse.
         The man walked up and placed his hand on the boy’s shoulder. “Time to go.” He said.

         Darius awakened and laid in bed for a few minutes, staring up at the recently painted ceiling. He was thinking of his mother, the knights, his old master who passed down the repeaters to him.
         The traveler stood and walked towards the front door. He pulled his bag over his shoulder as he walked and then stopped. He sensed something off about the weight of the bag. He moved it slightly and then looked at the innkeeper.
         She looked back at him, a faint smile on her face.
         “What?” She asked.
         Darius looked unamused and walked towards the woman.
         He leaned in close to where she could hear better. “What’d you take?”
         She slapped him across the face. “How dare you accuse me of-.”
         Before she could get the last words out, Darius grabbed her head and slammed her face into the wooden table. She smacked it hard and fell onto the floor unconscious, or dead.

         The voices snickered. Darius ignored them like he always did and began to search the woman’s pockets. Inside he found two spotless diamonds that were obviously his. He took them out and then cracked open the metal box under the table that served as the safe. He emptied the gold and silver coins into his bag and continued on. Not knowing if the woman would recover and honestly not caring.
         Castle Hammerclaw. Darius looked up at the mighty fortress. Inside he would find what he’d been after for so long. He knew he would have to get as much information about the dragon before striking but, he knew it would be hard to not lash out at one of the men responsible for the destruction of his village and death of his mother and father.

         Darius shook the thoughts and voices away and continued down the road that would, hopefully, take him to answers, his target and his sibling.

         Sajume set away from the group around the fire. He knew his mother would be furious with him and was probably crying right about now. He wanted to feel bad for her but, he kept telling himself things like “You’re ten years old now, eleven in a month.” He only half believed himself.
         He took his mind off of it by looking at the steel dagger the knight Aaron had given him. The blade was sharp and the way the fire reflected off of it gave the blade and eerie orange look. Sajume stared at the flames’ reflection as they danced around on the shiny blade.
         Then Sajume heard rustling to his left. He turned quickly, raising his dagger instinctively. The branches kept moving and he heard something approaching quickly. He gripped the dagger tightly and prepared to attack and kill whatever threat was attacking them.
         Then Ynin popped his head out, barking happily.
         Sajume breathed a heavy sigh of relief and looked at his dog happily. The dog wagged his tail and jumped onto his master, licking his face, happy to see him again.
         “Don’t do that to me, Ynin.” Sajume laughed. “You scared me half to death.”
         The others by the fire turned and saw the dog and Sajume. They smiled and returned to working. The mages were studying their books, except for Rynn, who was helping the knights gather wood.
         Laela walked up to Sajume.
         “Where did he come from?” She asked, petting the dog on his head.
         “I don’t know,” Sajume answered. “He must have followed me here.”
         Rynn and the four knights were starting to cook a wild pig that the five had caught recently. The knights clapped Rynn on the back when they came back, laughing and drinking ale together so, he must have been the one to kill the boar. They fixed it up on the fire after skinning it and began roasting it for the group.
         One of the knights was still getting wood. He walked to the edge of camp, away from everyone else, and started to leave to get more. As he was on the edge, a bandit leaped out of the darkness, sword drawn.
         He dug the blade into the knight’s exposed face and through his head, laughing savagely as he did so. On cue, more of the brutes leaped out onto the camp, taking people hostage by wrapping their swords around their throats. They got the knights first, the ones they thought were the powerful ones.
         “Stay in the dark.” Laela whispered to Sajume, who obeyed and crouched away so that he was better hidden.
         The cleric then rushed to her friend’s aid. The bandits had Aaron, the two other knights, Nicholas, William, Jest, and Yerl by the neck. Rynn joined Laela by her side and the two stared down the bandits.
         “What do you want?” Laela asked the brutes.
         They laughed at her.
         Most people would have lost their temper, or panicked but, Laela held her own. She continued looking at the bandits calmly.
         “Gold.” One of the bandits sneered.
         “Maybe kill two or three of ya.” Another giggled.
         Again, Laela didn’t flinch at the threat.
         Some of the bandits shuffled uncomfortably. They were probably used to their victims begging for their lives right about now.
         “Look, you can have all of the gold you want.” Laela announced.
         “We didn’t ask for your permission, bitch.” A bandit growled.
         Laela looked at the one that said that.
         “Do you know what these robes represent?” She asked sternly.
         The bandits looked at her confused.
         “Represent,” She said. “What do they stand for?”
         “We know what the word means.” One of the savages yelled angrily.
         “Now, do you know what the robes mean?” She asked again.
         They didn’t answer.
         “It means we’re mages.” She finished.
         “So, you see my friend here?” She motioned to Rynn, who didn’t look as calm as her.
         “We’re not afraid of your tricks.” A bandit sneered.
         “No? What if I were tell you that he could form fire from mumbling a few word?” Laela asked the bandits.
         “You wont attack us.” They laughed, waving their swords that were around the others’ throats.
         “No,” Laela agreed. “But, a fire ball would really hurt that gold you’re looking to spend.” She nodded towards a brown bag by a tent.
         The bandits looked hungrily at the bag.
         “Now,” Laela said, breaking the bandits out of their trance. “Why don’t you let my friends go?”
         The bandit, the one in charge who had his sword around William’s neck, nodded and pushed the mage forward. Then they released, Aaron and the two knights. They kept their blades around Jest and Yerl.
         “What of the children?” Laela asked.
         “They go when we get our gold.” The bandit announced.
         Now the majority of the group was looking at the bandits. Laela, Rynn, William, the three knights. They were all watching the bandits with caution. It was night, the fire was crackling loudly and no one heard the bandit slowly sneaking up, dagger out, ready to kill Laela. No one saw the savage.
         No one but, Sajume.
         Sajume could have yelled, he could have screamed for the others to look but, how long would it take them to react? Longer than the bandit. Sajume feared that his friends, Yerl and Jest, would be killed but, he knew if he didn’t do something that their would be more deaths, and if they, or the majority of them, were killed who would help Sajume.
         With fears swarming around the child like flies, he gripped the steel dagger tightly and clumsily made his way out into the lighted camp. If it had been during the day, or if the fire wasn’t crackling wildly, the bandit might have heard Sajume. Maybe it was because he was focused on driving his knife into Laela’s neck because, he didn’t seem to have the slightest idea the boy was walking towards him.
         Sajume didn’t close his eyes when he dug the dagger into the middle of the bandit’s back. The savage screamed in horrible agony, the loudest scream Sajume had ever heard. He jumped up and thrashed out wildly, missing Laela and Sajume as he fell down onto his stomach, breathing heavily and trying to pull the dagger out.
         The others, even the bandits, jumped from the man’s screams. Luckily, Sajume’s group regained their focus sooner. William was the fastest, he sent two lightning bolts into the bandits who had the boys hostage. They flew off of him and into the forest, one striking a tree and dying on impact.
         The three knights rushed forward, cutting the savages down with mighty strikes. Rynn and William continued to send fire and lightning down onto the bandits and soon the bandits were dead, not standing a chance against the will power of magic and the strong steel of the knights of Hammerclaw.
         Only one bandit was left. The one that had a knife in his back. It must of struck him in a vital spot because he was barely moving, moaning in pain as he tried to crawl towards nothing. The whole time he did this, Sajume watched in horror. He stood, eyes blank, staring at the groveling man as he twitched and moaned in agony.
         Laela approached the boy, she knelt down and looked at him, shaking him, trying to get him out of his trance. Aaron walked up to the man, he looked at him, expressionlessly, and drove his sword into the man’s heart, putting him out of misery.
         Sajume turned to Laela. She was talking but, to Sajume there were no words coming out, he stared at her, mouth gaped a little, eyes blank.
         “Sajume….” Laela shook the young boy.
         He closed his mouth and shook his head, blinking stupidly as he left his strange trance.
         “What happened?” Sajume asked, confused.
         Laela looked at the boy with caution. She had never seen someone like this and it made her uncomfortable. She didn’t know what to say and thought about her words carefully.
         Sajume had always seen war heroes as mighty fighters, who took no pity on their enemies and cheered when they killed them. After seeing the man grovel and twitch about, he didn’t know if he could ever look at the knights the same way again.
         “You saved her life.” Aaron said.
         Laela and Sajume turned to see what the knight was talking about.
         “It’s okay to be afraid of killing.” The knight nodded. “Don’t think of it that way though, if you didn’t kill him, he would have killed her.” He nodded to Laela. “And probably a lot more.”
         Sajume nodded. He still wasn’t convinced.
         Aaron held up the steel dagger. “Still want it?”
         Sajume looked at the blade. Aaron had wiped it clean of blood and it looked harmless again, the flames still dancing on the shiny steel.
         The boy nodded.
         He stared at the dagger. Not knowing if he could become a knight in his future, not knowing if he wanted to now. He just kept thinking about all of the people the knights kill, how many Aaron’s killed, how many Sajume’s father had killed. The thoughts of the dead made him quiver slightly.
         “If it helps,” Aaron added. “We only kill the ones who deserve it.”
         “The bandit…” Sajume started. “He deserved that?”
         Aaron looked at the corpse. “How many innocent people do you think he’s done that to?”
         Sajume looked at the man, still seeing him twitch about on the dirt.
         “These bandits cover these woods, these are their roads.” Aaron said. “They kill and rob so many innocent people, travelers, explorers, people going for a walk. Just because they want to. These people are animals, and they deserve to be treated as such. You can give these bastards the most horrible kind of torture your mind can ever imagine and I will always say that it was too good for them.”          
         Sajume gulped. The knight’s words worried him, but, the more he thought about, the more it made sense. He had never heard talk of the bandits, what they do other than that they pillage and kill. Now that he knew exactly how killing was, he started to feel no remorse for the savage he had killed to save the life of his friends.
         Aaron nodded and smiled at the boy. “If you still want, we’ve only just started this trip. I could send you and your friends back with the knights if you want?”
         Sajume thought about the knight’s words. He could go back now, end his journey of dragons, magic, and most likely more bandits by saying the word. He could leave this world behind and return to his home in Ardenti with his, furious mother who would surely be waiting to flood him with yelling.
         “No.” Sajume said. “I’m going.”
         “There’s no turning back after this night.” Aaron reminded him.
.          Sajume nodded. “I’m going.”
         Aaron smiled proudly and clapped the boy on the back. “And what of you two?” He asked Jest and Yerl.
         They stood proudly and strongly, even Yerl who usually is reluctant. “No sir!” They yelled like they were knights.
         Aaron laughed and petted the boys’ heads. “That’s what I like to here.” Then he left the boys and went to bury his deceased friend. Even though he had been killed, Sajume knew that the knight died proudly, for Sajume knew that the knights of Hammerclaw are the noblest of all knights. Even though it was dark, Sajume could see the mountain peek, blocking out the full moon that brightly lit the night sky. He smiled up at the large mountain, thinking about the adventure ahead.
         He wasn’t bothered by the death anymore and was proud of himself for shaking himself out of it so quickly. However, as he sat there, looking up at the mountain peek, he couldn’t help but hear the man’s scream that echoed through the forest. He knew that he would be seeing the man again tonight in his dreams. He tried not to think about it but, the thought just kept coming back.
         In the end Sajume shook the thought as best he could and joined his two friends as they chatted happily and carefree about the event that had just occurred. Sajume could tell that the fight had made them want to be knights even more. They didn’t even realize that killing one man had shaken Sajume so much. They didn’t see through his fake smile and cheery attitude that the death had dealt a mighty blow to his morale.
         The funny thing was that Sajume hadn’t even dealt the final blow to the savage.

         A loud scream echoed through the night woods. Thraz jumped and looked around for what was being attacked. Gall looked to his left cautiously and then back to Thraz.
         “Someone’s having fun.” He laughed sarcastically.
         Thraz turned away from him  and hacked down the thick forest quickly, not wanting to look at his “friend.”
         “Come on, Thraz!” Gall yelled at his friend.
         Thraz ignored him and continued hacking away. It was night, there were mosquitoes everywhere and his friend had ended up being a bigger savage than the bandits, as far as Thraz was concerned. Gall saw this in his friend. His expressions, his silence. Gall kept telling himself that his friend was being a child, that he hadn’t seen enough of the real world, etc. In reality Gall knew that he had done wrong but, he, again, kept telling himself that she was a savage. It never bothered Thraz when they killed the bastards, why would that?
         Gall shook the thought from his head, not wanting to think of what was going through his friend’s. He continued down the path that Thraz had carved and followed in silence. Hoping they would reach Hammerclaw soon so they could get a belly full of ale and a warm bed.
         They marched in silence for a good hour. They could have taken the main path but, through the forest was faster and, believe it or not, safer. There weren’t as many bandits in the actual forest than there were near roads, ready to ambush weary travelers at night, steal their gold and what not.
         Thraz still hadn’t said a word. Gall was upset with his friend. He didn’t understand how he could be so mad at him for doing that to a bandit. He really didn’t understand how he saw the bandit as a person. She was a savage wildling who didn’t deserve anything better.
         Gall sneered at the thought and looked at Thraz in anger.
         “I’m not apologizing, Thraz.” Gall announced.
         Thraz didn’t answer him.
         Gall glared at his friend. The traveler had a temper and has killed a man for less than ignoring him. Thraz was his friend though, and he knew he could get the traveler back on his good side.
         “Remember when I saved your life?” Gall announced.
         Thraz stopped hacking, his machete mid-swing. He slowly turned back to face his friend.
         “Yeah,” Gall smiled. “I saved you, and your sister from bandits.”
         Thraz sighed heavily. “You think that made that okay?”
         Gall smiled and shrugged.
         “That’s your problem, Gall. That’s what’s wrong with you.” Thraz explained.
         “Oh,” Gall said. “So killing the bastards left and right is perfectly fine but, I have a little fun and I’m the worst piece of shit on the planet?”
         Thraz looked down at his machete, remembering the smile he had on his face when he killed all of the bandits in the camp.
         “You wanna blame a man for his sins, that’s fine.” Gall said. “But, you better damn sure check that you’re a saint first.”
         Thraz kept his eyes down, not looking at his friend directly.
         “Don’t look like that.” Gall broke Thraz out of his trance. “We’re friends, what happened back there… maybe I was out of line a little but, damn it I can’t stand traveling with someone pissed off at me.”
         Thraz looked at his friend in silence, weighing the options maybe.
         Gall was terrified. He liked Thraz, he needed more friends than enemies and right now he wasn’t doing too good on friends. The last thing he wanted was to have a man that hated him, in debt to him. He could only imagine what Thraz would do if he ever saved his life, he’d probably turn around and drive a knife into his chest.
         Thraz sighed again. “What do you think? An hour till Hammerclaw?”
         Gall smiled and walked forward to his friend, clapping him on the back and taking the machete. Then he started cutting down the large weeds so Thraz could take a break and walk behind him.
         Gall took one more swing and the two found themselves in another clearing. Thraz swore and removed his crossbow, ready to kill the bandits without thought. Then they saw several knights laid out over the camp and sheathed their weapons.
         “Peace!” Gall called, raising his hands and calmly approaching the knights in their camp.
         “Who are you?” A knight asked, approaching with his sword drawn.
         “I am Gall, of Clearwater.” Gall bowed.
         “I am Thraz, of Estersea.” He bowed too.
         “You two are a long way from home.” The knight commented.
         “We were traveling to see the, alleged dragon egg at the top of the mountain.” Gall explained.
         “Find anything?” The knight asked, only slightly interested.
         “Oh, we didn’t make it to the top.” Gall smiled.
         The knight waited for him to continue.
         “We saw the dragon in Hammerclaw and, obviously, started heading that way.” Gall finished.
         The knight looked at him confused, he hadn’t heard.
         “Well surely you saw, or heard something?” Gall asked surprised the knight didn’t already know.
         The knight didn’t move.
         “There was a dragon attacking Hammerclaw, I saw it on the mountain when we were making camp.” Gall tried to explain.
         “Right,” The knight said unconvinced. “Have you had any ale tonight, any wine?”
         “Look, I’m not drunk.” Gall said seriously. “I saw it.”
         Then it struck Gall how crazy he sounded to the knight, someone who had not seen the mythical beast.
         Gall shook his head. “Look, we’re just passing through.”
         The knight nodded. “What weapons are you carrying?”
         Thraz and Gall began counting their equipment.
         “Um,” Gall started. “A pistol, a crossbow, a short sword, two daggers, a machete and a smoke bomb.” He smiled.
         The knight looked at the two seriously. “Why do you have that many weapons?”
         “Well, look at these woods, littered with bandits and thieves, it’s only necessary.” Gall smiled.
         “Need it fight them dragons!” A knight by the fire beamed. It was followed by a flood of laughter from the others.
         Gall held his smile.
         “Get going.” The knight nodded.
         The two moved through the camp silently and began making their way through the forest to Hammerclaw, where they were ready to lay in a real bed and forget the horrible nights in the forest.

         Thraz took over and began hacking away at the leaves. The two progressed slowly and didn’t talk much. They were still uncomfortable with each other but, at least Thraz didn’t hate him anymore.
         “Ah gods, we should be there by now.” Gall complained.
         “We can only move so fast.” Thraz laughed.
         “It’s funny though, I’ve been through here before and, I don’t remember it taking this long.” Gall said exhausted.
         “We’ll be there before you know it.” Thraz encouraged his friend.
         Another ten minutes passed and Thraz finally cleared the way to Hammerclaw. They saw the large city a mile away. It was a simple walk down the path, through Ardenti and to the capitol where they would drink, eat and sleep in a comfortable bed at a local inn.
         “What the hell?” Thraz asked, looking at the horrible sight.
         Gall joined his friend, smiling that they were out of the forest. Then he looked forward at Hammerclaw, and his smile left his face.


         The voices followed Darius inside Castle Hammerclaw as he entered the giant doors that were always opened for the residence to enter. Darius knew this, he had read a lot about, Hammerclaw, Woodbay, and Blackhall. He knew the best ways to enter several of the buildings for an assassination, he knew the best ways to leave as well for quick getaway.

         Darius continued inside the castle. There was a type of museum set up in the main hallway. There were paintings of the past kings, all in King Beltan’s generation, laid up along the walls. Under them were glass cases containing several relics, holy equipment, golden weapons and armor and pieces of treasure looted from Hammerclaw’s enemies during war.

         “Can I help you sir?” A knight asked suspiciously as Darius stared at a necklace that was encased in the glass box.
         Darius snapped out of his trance. “No, I’m just looking.”
         The knight eyed the man mysteriously. He obviously didn’t trust him. Darius didn’t care though, he was used to it.
         The knight began to walk away.
         “Excuse me.” Darius called.
         The knight turned.
         “Do you remember the war between The east and west?” Darius asked, in a much more cheery tone.
         The knight looked at him oddly. “I was a toddler when that ended.”
         Darius nodded, an odd smile on his face.
         The knight squared up to where he was face to face with the traveler. Darius was inches taller than him but, the knight didn’t seem afraid.
         “My father was.” The knight said, challenging Darius to say something about his dad’s name.
         Darius chuckled slightly, a rough laugh. Anyone could tell that he doesn’t laugh often. The knight held his ground.
         “Then your father was a miserable, raping piece of garbage that was a very stain on this planet.” Darius said, with wildness in his pure, white eyes.
         The knight gaped at first but, then threw his fist into Darius’ face. The traveler didn’t try to fight back and instead pushed the man away.
         “And your king,” Darius growled. “What a terrible waste of a throne. I bet the last time you saw him was with ale in his hand, boasting about how noble your city is.”
         The knight drew his sword and held it up to Darius’ throat.
         “I should cut you down right now.” The knight sneered.
         “Do it.” Darius dared.
         The man smiled and instead called for others.
         “By law of the city of Hammerclaw I place you under arrest by disrespecting the name of a knight and the king.” The knight announced.
         Darius went without a fight, even handing over his repeaters.


         The voices favorite word.
         Darius sat in the throne room, dining tables were lined up across the way with two guards at each of the four exits. There were two others beside either side of the throne. On the golden chair, sat King Beltan the Third. Ale in his right hand, the king sipped the poison every few seconds it seemed.
         “What have you to say about these accusations?” The “humble” king asked the traveler.
         Darius sneered. “They’re true.”
         The king looked at the traveler expressionlessly.
         “I’ve gotten threats all the time from survivors of the civil war.” The king said. “But, they were all from my generation, or one down. Why do you have anything bad to say about the war. It was nearly thirty years ago.”
         Darius gulped, preparing his speech.
         “My parents.” Was all he could muster out.
         The king looked at him with the same, neutral expression. He didn’t have any hatred for the man, nor did he care about his intent.
         “You wish to kill me then?” The king asked.
         Darius didn’t answer.
         The king waited.
         Darius began to laugh. “No, I don’t want to kill you, I want to ask you about the dragon.”
         The king looked at him with interest now.
         “Why did you threaten me? To receive my presence?” Beltan asked.
         Darius shook his head. “I didn’t threaten you, I slandered your name.”
         The king looked unamused and called one of his knights so he could whisper in his ear. They thought Darius couldn’t hear them but, he could.
         “Aldar, what is wrong with this man?” Beltan whispered to his knight.
         “I don’t know sir, drunk perhaps?” The knight named Aldar suggested.
         “I assure you I’m not.” Darius interrupted. “I don’t drink alcohol.”
         The king and Aldar stood dumbfounded at the man for a few seconds, then Beltan shook the dumbness away and focused on Darius.
         “You disrespect my fallen knights and me, all to get here. Now, what do you want?” The king asked, fed up with Darius.
         “I told you, I want to know about the dragon?”
         “It was just like legends say, large, fire breath.” The king yelled. “We killed it with swords, guns and magic, it wasn’t the most difficult thing my knights have had to face.”
         Darius smiled wickedly. “That’s because it was a baby.”
         The king and knights stared at the traveler.
         “What?” The knight Aldar asked.
         “Silence Aldar, I’ll speak with this wretched fool.” Beltan cut off his knight. “A baby you say?”
         Darius nodded.
         “Nonsense, the beast reached the second story of my castle.” The king argued.
         Darius laughed. “Very much a child.”
         The king shook his head angrily at the traveler. “Knights! Throw this man in the dungeon, keep him there without food or water, let him rot down there with that bandit and witch.”
         “Witch?” Darius interrupted.
         The king looked at the traveler with anger. “Yes, you know, dark magic users, black hair. Lock him up now!”
         “It’s been lovely, King Beltan.” Darius smiled.
         The king looked at him one last time with pure frustration, the last thing he saw was Darius’ hands. He had somehow removed the bonds and placed his hands forward.
         “Fulgur occiditis!” Darius yelled at the top of his lungs.
         He sent out a ray of lightning from both of his hands. They wrapped around the king and forced themselves inside his body. Then they twisted around and burst outward, causing King Beltan the Third to explode in a gory mess of blood and guts that covered the walls and knights. Darius had cast a ward spell on himself however, and the gore was deflected off of the magic wall.
         The knights in the throne room yelled in horror and rushed towards the traveler. He closed his eyes and yelled.
         “Ignis interficere!” He screamed.
         Then, from around Darius, spawned a wave of fire that was pushed out, away from the traveler, spinning as they went. They engulfed everything in the room, save for Darius, and Aldar and the other knights were consumed by flames with the room. The top floor of the castle exploded outwards, sending flaming bodies and debris into the city.
         Darius looked up at the full moon, standing high in the sky. Then he looked out at the city, the knights were already rushing to their king’s aid. The traveler looked around for his repeaters, that couldn’t be destroyed, and found them laying in the corner of the room, or what was left of the room. He retrieved his weapons and set off down the stairs to the cellar.
         “Coming sister.” He mumbled as he rushed down the stone steps.

         “What the hell’s happened?” Gall asked a panicking civilian.
         The man shook his head. “I don’t know, everything was fine and then, the castle just…” He trailed off, gaping up at the burning castle.
         “No way that’s the dragon.” Thraz noted.
         “Why?” Gall asked.
         “Because it’s still burning.” He said, then he started off towards the castle to see what was happening.
         Gall didn’t understand what he meant at first. Then, as he looked at the mighty stone building, he noticed that the fire was spreading down the castle, burning the rock structure away, melting the cinder into lava. The sight terrified Gall inside, but, he pushed the fear away and followed after his friend.
         They came up to the part of town by the entrance. Houses and shops were ablaze from flying debris and the smell of rotten flesh was slightly in the air. Thraz stared terrified at the burning fortress. There were knights running in, wanting to find the attacker, their king. He was stuck in somewhat of a trance.
         Thraz slowly walked up to the castle, burning wood and pools of lava were splashing around him, but he ignored them and continued inside. There was a woman in the inn closest to the castle. It was on fire and she was screaming inside the burning building. Thraz walked passed her.
         “Damn it, Thraz.” Gall mumbled, running towards the small burning store.
         The door had fallen off due to the flames and the outer edge of it was ablaze. Gall stared, horrified slightly from the flames. He shook the thoughts of being caught on fire and burning alive away and leaped through the flaming door. He smiled goofily when he entered unharmed, it was broken when a large wooden beam snapped and shook the inn. The woman screamed again and Gall pushed through the flames.
         She was trapped under a large chunk of wood, either from the second floor or the roof, that luckily wasn’t on fire.
         “Get me out of here!” She yelled.
         Gall didn’t reply. He simply reached down onto the large slab and pulled with all of his body weight.
         It didn’t budge.
         A piece of the ceiling fell down and the fire smacked Gall’s back. He cringed and prayed to all of the gods that his gunpowder didn’t explode from the flames. The flames bounced back and forth in the night wind and the inn quickly felt up with smoke. Gall coughed painfully and looked down at the large flat surface pinning the innkeeper down. He didn’t know if he could tell her that it was useless.
         Gall shook his head and took out one of his daggers. He gripped it tightly and began stabbing the wood monstrously. It was slowly chipping away but, not fast enough to get her out before the entire thing came crashing down on them.
         Gall cursed and looked up at the sky, that was visible slightly through a burning hole in the roof.
         “Is this it Ignis!” Gall yelled. “You want me to die like this?”
         The woman stared up at Gall in horror, she was terrified by the man’s yelling and was about to pass out from the smoke.
         “Vita! Draconem! Devitam! Don’t help me! I don’t want your help!” Gall started hacking at the wood again, he forced a hole into it and used his hands to tear the slab apart. He was breathing heavily and didn’t want to imagine what the thick smoke would do to his insides.
         He managed to get a large part of it out and continued hacking it until the wood laid in a crummy pile away from him and the woman. He helped her up and traversed through the flames again, he pushed her through the door and jumped out just before the upper floor completely fell in, covering the bottom floor in burning wood.
         He looked back at the flaming inn and smiled to himself when he realized he hadn’t died.
         The he remembered Thraz.
         Gall jumped up and looked at the flaming castle. It was still burning strongly and there were some knights running out, choking and coughing on smoke.
         No sign of Thraz.
         Gall cursed and ran up to the giant entrance.
         “Hey, what happened?” Gall asked a knight.
         “The kings… dead…” The knight coughed.
         “What did this, how many were there?” Gall asked horrified. Hammerclaw was the second biggest kingdom, they would be the last to lose a king like this.
         The knight looked at Gall seriously, utterly terrified. “One man.” He said. “One… man did this.”
         Gall was in shock, terrified shock. He looked up at the flaming building once more, wanting to say a prayer but, not wanting to give the gods the satisfaction.
         He took a deep breath and started inside. Immediately his skin felt hotter and his eyes began to water. He closed his eyes and looked forward. The entire first hallway, the one with ancient artifacts, was already ablaze and the fine painted walls were melting away into pools of nothing.
         Gall looked back and forth for some way of finding his friend, seeing nothing he slowly started forward. Then he heard something snap above. He looked up and saw a flaming wooden beam crashing down on him.
         It struck him hard in the face, pushing him down to the stone floor.
         “I want a puppy!” Ana yelled happily. It was her seventh birthday and she had always wanted a pet. A kitten, a dog, it didn’t really matter to her.
         Her dad laughed and petted her head, hugging her as they walked down the streets of Clearwater. The kingdom had been in a rough spot lately, crimes and thievery were higher and the king didn’t seem to notice. They had been recovering from the civil war between them and the east and hadn’t had time to focus on this small increase of bandits and thieves.
         Gall and Ana didn’t seem to care though, they were safe with their father, he was a king’s guard, and didn’t worry about the criminals. They knew they had to stay together though and they walked side by side down the nearly empty streets. They laughed happily, it was Ana’s birthday, of course they would be happy.
         “We’ll find you a puppy somewhere.” Their dad smiled. He was a kind man and showed deep love for his children, always buying them gifts and toys.
         Ana smiled happily and began walking behind her father and Gall. She tried to step on their footprints that they left in the thin snow that laced the dark stone streets. Gall and his father smiled to each other, laughing about the little girl who smiled back at them.
         Gall looked at his father’s sword, that hanged by his side always, incase of a bandit attack.
         His father smiled. “You’ll be a knight one day you know?”
         Gall looked up at his father proudly. He smiled.
         “I’m serious, this sword will be yours one day, I can see it.”
         “Thanks dad.” Gall smiled back. He didn’t have the heart to tell his dad that he didn’t want to be a knight. He just smiled and went along with it.
         “You might be one too.” Gall’s father said sarcastically to his daughter, she was far to small to be a knight and he joked about it with her sometimes since she didn’t really care.
         Then she didn’t respond.
         “Ana?” Gall’s dad called, turning and finding no one. “Ana!”
         “Ana!” Gall yelled too, worried about his little sister.
         The two searched frantically, looking back and forth down the streets. Gall didn’t know where to look but, when he saw his dad following several foot prints he tagged along, following his dad down the path had formed.
         They  turned down an alley.
         Instantly Gall’s father began screaming, it was the worse scream Gall had ever heard, the pain clearly in his dad’s voice. The pain of losing a child, the pain of seeing her like that.
         Only bandits could do that…

         Gall jumped up. He rubbed his eyes as his head was instantly swarmed with pain. He looked around the room the best he could. He was in a small, nice room. The bed he was in was soft and comfortable and the curtains were closed, giving it a nice dark tone, easier to sleep. There was a candle lit on the table beside the bed and next to it was a glass of water and bread.
         “What the hell…?” Gall asked himself, looking around the fancy room.
         Then there was a knock at the door.
         “Come in.” Gall said unsurely and confused.
         A man walked in. He was older and had a long grey beard. He was wearing blue robes and was holding a folded note.
         Gall looked at him confused.
         “Your white haired friend wanted me to deliver a message.” The old man said.
         “What’s that?” Gall asked, knowing it was obviously Thraz.
         “He says, the debt is paid.” Then he sat the note on the table and closed the door behind him.
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