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Continues from PART 3

         The voices laughed happily at the burning knights in the flaming castle. Darius rushed down the stairs of the flaming fortress. He was hurrying along, not wanting to kill anymore knights and wanting to find his sister before the building collapsed down on them.

         “You there! Stop!” A knight ordered as he came around the corner.
         Two more came around to join the knight’s side. Their swords were drawn and they prepared to attack.
         “Ignis interficere!” Darius yelled, sending a fury of fire into the knights, killing them all and pushing their burning corpses away.
         Darius looked around the corner, he was in the main hallway now. The room to the dungeon was straight forward but, Darius wanted something else.

         The voices continued crazily.
         Darius came up to a glass container. He looked inside and stared at the necklace trapped inside. It instantly triggered memories of his mother and his old village of Rosegrass. He shook the thoughts away and punched through the thin glass. He wrapped the necklace around his hand and continued to the dungeon.

         Then a sharp piercing object struck Darius’ shoulder. It was painful but, Darius didn’t react in pain. He simply turned to see what had attacked him.
         There was a man with white hair holding a crossbow forward, pointed at Darius. He was wearing a raggedy grey robe so, he could have been a peasant from Hammerclaw or one of the surrounding villages. However, he was wearing thick heavy boots and brown trousers so, he was most likely a traveler. Darius looked forward angrily, preparing to kill the man with fire. Then…

         The voices screamed the name in Darius’ ears. He looked at the man strangely,
         Is this Sajume?
         “Who are you!?” Darius yelled at the man, he could barely hear himself over the crackling wood and falling stone.
         The man glared at Darius but, didn’t answer.
         “Sajume!” Darius yelled.
         The man’s eyes widen a little. “How do you know Sajume?” The man yelled back.
         Darius sneered and cursed the voices. He pushed his hands forward and yelled his fire spell. He sent a fireball towards the man but, he rolled out of the way with speed Darius had never seen, other than himself of course.
         Darius started to walk forward but, a falling wooden beam cut him off. He wanted to find the man, ask him where Sajume was, then kill him. The castle was nearly destroyed though, so he had to push on forward to his sister.
         As Darius began to walk away another crossbow bolt went flying from the man. It didn’t hit flesh but, it tore part of his black robe away. He growled and turned, pointing his repeaters forward. He unloaded a clip at the man, missing every shot. He yelled at the man.
         “Come and face me!”
         The man didn’t respond. Darius sneered, hoping he killed the man but, knowing he didn’t.
         He turned and ran down the stairs to the dungeon.

         “Venessa!” Darius yelled as he entered the dark, cold dungeon. Surprisingly cold actually, due to the burning building.
         “Darius?” Came a voice from inside the room.
         Darius continued deeper inside the tombs. He turned around a corner and a knight brought his sword down onto Darius. The traveler dodged the sword sharply and placed his hands around the knight’s head, turning his hands quickly, snapping the man’s neck and allowing his corpse to fall to the ground.
         Darius saw his sister inside the barred cell. She was laying on the floor, tired, weak wanting to die but, unable to do so. Her skin was the same pale color as always and her lips and nails had been painted black to match her hair and clothes. She wore black leather clothes similar to Darius’ with a black cape.
         There was also blood around her mouth and on her hands. Darius looked suspiciously at the blood. He looked around the rest of the cell but, he couldn’t see very well due to the lack of light. Then he saw what looked like the outline of a body. Then he remembered the king saying something about a bandit and a witch.
         “I don’t know where the keys are.” Venessa mumbled weakly.
         Darius smiled. “Neither do I.”
         The he mumbled “Ignis interficere.”
         He allowed a small torch of fire to form around the lock. He held it there as the weak metal lock slowly melted into a pool of boiling, liquid metal that bubbled lightly on the stone floor.
         “You’ve gotten stronger.” Venessa noted.
         “You haven’t” Darius responded as he picked up his sibling and began to leave the castle.
         “Do just plan on walking out the front door?” Venessa asked tiredly.
         Darius shook his head. “Out the back.”
         Venessa thought for a moment. “There is no back.”
         Darius only smiled.
         Darius stopped. “What the hell?” He asked himself after the voice spoke.

         “Aaron, Dante, Griggs!” Laela called for the three knights. “Come here please.”
         It was morning now. The knights had been worried about their kingdom when they saw the thick smoke the night before. They hadn’t heard any cannons or gunshots though so they dismissed it. They were still curious about it though, and kept looking over the trees towards Hammerclaw.
         The knights approached the mage and listened intently.
         “Look, if you want to head back I have no problems with that.” Laela said honestly.
         The knights looked at each other, waiting for the others to answer.
         “We’re not going anywhere.” Aaron answered before Dante and Griggs had time to.
         “Are you sure?” Laela asked.
         Aaron nodded. “Our king ordered us to go with you to find the dragon egg. That’s what we’re going to do.”
         Laela could see Nicholas sneer. He didn’t like the knights, or children being with them and Laela knew it. She didn’t want to do anything about it though, he got on her nerves and she never felt like bossing him around because he would argue with her instead of listening and continuing on. Even though William was supposed to be in charge he kind of fell out of power, not wanting to lead and allowing Laela to take his place. The others didn’t seem to have a problem with letting a woman lead, except Nicholas.
         The group had been marching since they woke up, they slept where the bandits had attacked, even after Nicholas’ complaining, and wasn’t bothered the rest of the night. Aaron, Dante and Griggs wanted to nail some of the bandits to trees, as a warning to the others but, Laela refused, saying that even though they were savage killers it wasn’t proper to stoop to their level. She did agree to not burying them though.
         The group continued onwards, to the mountain. They hoped they would reach it by tomorrow so they could all return to their homes.
         Laela was walking in the middle of the group, she had Sajume’s wooden sword and was looking at the black words carved in on the fake blade. She touched it gently and thought about the other three she would have to find.
         Sajume came up to her side. He was luckily still happy and cheery as he was before killing the bandit.
         “Hey Laela?” he asked.
         “What is it?” She asked, still examining the sword.
         “Can you tell me about my sword now?” Sajume asked.
         She looked at him, thinking. She didn’t want to disobey her rules but, really saw no reason why she couldn’t. It had always been stories of the Blackhall scholars though, even she didn’t hear about it until she was studying for it.
         Then again, she saw no reason why not to tell him.
         She nodded. “Okay.”
         Sajume smiled excitedly.
         The two walked next to each other as she began the story.
         “I’m sure you know of the legends of the gods right?” Laela asked.
         “Do you mean the god of light and dark fighting?” He asked.
         She nodded. “And after that.”
         “Ignis, Vita, Draconem and Devitam got their power.” Sajume nodded.
         “And what did they do with that power?” She asked.
         “Made the planet.”
         “And us.” She added.
         Sajume nodded. “Why?”
         “Have you heard the old legend?” She asked with a sly smile.
         Sajume looked at her questioningly. “Old legends?”
         She nodded. Sajume shook his head.
         “The old legends say that the gods created the dragons by accident. They tried to create us but, couldn’t control their powers so then dragons were born.” Laela explained.
         “What does this have to do with my sword?” Sajume asked.
         “I’m coming to that.” Laela continued. “In my books, they fit your sword in without mentioning the gods creating the dragons. They say that, the dragons were born from the explosion of the first two gods, Deum and Deten. Born from destruction. However, the four gods created four swords with their power so that the humans could have a chance against the dragons.”
         “But, you guys killed that dragon easily.” Sajume argued.
         Laela smiled, unable to hold it back. “But you were there, and this sword.”
         Sajume looked at his sword, still not understanding fully.
         “The reason it was lighting up is because it weakened the dragon.” She finished, smiling at Sajume.
         Sajume looked at his sword, and then back at the mage. “There’s four of those?”
         “Not, these specifically.” She continued. “Your sword is born from earth, it’s wooden, from a tree.”
         Sajume nodded. “So there’s a fire, water and air one too.”
         Laela nodded again. “The one born from fire is obsidian, it’s formed when lava cools. Since it’s black the words are hard to see however. The one born from water is glass, formed from sand from the first ocean.”
         Sajume nodded. “What’s born from air?”
         The smile formed on Laela’s face, she was unable to hold it back.
         “Bone.” She finished.
         “Bone?” Sajume asked confused. “How is bone born from air?”
         “Dragon bone.” Laela continued. “That’s why the story in my books don’t make any sense. If the dragons were born from Deum and Deten’s death, then they would be too powerful for the gods to kill, but, Draconem killed one though and formed his sword from the beast’s bones.”
         Sajume nodded, looking at his wooden toy that he never realized was an artifact born from the god of earth.
         “Why do you want it?” He asked.
         Laela’s face turned serious. “When the swords are alone, except for when they’re near a dragon, they’re useless. However, when you get all four together they are the deadliest weapons. Their power will be unimaginable.”
         “So, you want it so that no one can have that power.” Sajume finished.
         Laela nodded.
         “So, what power do you get?” Sajume asked curiously.
         “The power of the gods.” She smiled.
         Sajume’s eyes widen. “Which god?”
         Laela answered. “All of them.” Then she continued down the road.

         “The power of the gods.” Sajume kept mumbling Laela’s words over and over. He couldn’t imagine such power, or why such power would exist.
         He knew that it was put on the planet to kill the dragons but, he kept thinking about how easy it was for the knights and mages to kill the beast in Hammerclaw. It wasn’t anything worse than a large group of bandits, and humans needed the power of the gods to kill them?
         Sajume kept his thought to himself as they marched. He did think about it though, thinking about destroying them. He didn’t know if they could even be destroyed though. He thought about asking Laela but, she seemed to want to keep them away from evil, not destroy them.
         Maybe that meant that they couldn’t be destroyed. Then he thought about all of the close calls he had made with his sword. Jest had broken several wooden swords, but, Sajume’s had never chipped, never scarred.
         Maybe they were indestructible.
         “Hey Sajume!” Came Yerl’s voice.
         Sajume turned and saw his two friends running up to him.
         “So what did she say?” Jest asked, eager to know the truth about his friend’s wooden sword.
         Sajume thought about a lie. He didn’t want to tell them the truth for some reason. Maybe it was because Laela didn’t want to tell him, or maybe it was because his sword was created by a god and that it holds Devitam’s power. In the end, he couldn’t think of a fib and he didn’t see any harm in telling his friends.
         “It was made by Devitam.” Sajume simply said.
         His friends looked at him amazed for a few seconds, then they laughed.
         “Yeah right.” Jest laughed.
         “It’s true!” Sajume yelled.
         “It’s a wooden sword.” Yerl said. “Wouldn’t a weapon made by the god of earth be, I don’t know golden or something?”
         Sajume sneered at his friends angrily. He turned and walked up to join Laela and Aaron.
         “I would prefer you not tell everyone about the swords.” Laela said neutrally as Sajume came up to her.
         He looked down, “I’m sorry.”
         “Don’t worry.” She smiled. “I doubt your friends will tell anyone.”
         Sajume nodded.
         “You know,” Laela continued. “Not many people know about the legend of the four swords.”
         Sajume waited for her to continue, unsure of what she meant.
         “How many people do you think even know they exist?” She finished.
         An excited smile formed across Sajume’s face after he realized that the ten people group were probably the only ones in the world who knew about them.
         “Hold on.” Aaron said.
         Everyone stopped and stood in silence on the dirt road. The knight looked around, in the trees to the right, and slowly began walking towards them. He drew his sword and shield and looked at them cautiously.
         “Get back!” A voice called from the woods.
         Dante and Griggs drew their swords as well and prepared for a fight. They slowly approached Aaron’s side and the three knights stood strongly together, ready to kill any bandit that attacks.
         “I said get back!” The voice yelled again. He sounded older, unusual for a bandit.
         “Get out here bandit!” Aaron yelled into the woods.
         “I’m no bandit, who are you people?” The voice called back.
         “Get out here and face us, then we’ll talk.” Aaron ordered.
         No response.
         “Now!” Aaron yelled.
         “Okay,” The voice called. “Okay, we’ll come out.”
         Out from the trees stepped an old man. He had short grey hair with a short beard to compliment it. He was wearing a large blue and green robe that had been torn and ripped from something. Behind him was a short blonde girl, wearing a similar robe. She was maybe thirteen or fourteen. The group stared at the old man and girl dumbfounded, obviously expecting a bandit.
         “I am Minwu of Blackhall.” The man bowed. “This is my granddaughter, Marissa.” He motioned the girl. Her clothes had also been torn and her face was dirty with mud and some blood.
         Aaron gaped at the old man, thinking about what to say. He gulped and spoke after a few seconds of silence. “You’re a long way from home.”

         “So where were you guys going ‘fore the bandits gotcha?” Rynn asked, passing Minwu a flask of water.
         Minwu looked at the mage cautiously. He was obviously weighing his options of whether or not to tell him but, he decided on the latter.
         “There were rumors of a dragon egg on top of the mountain.” Minwu said, sipping the water thankfully.
         Rynn nodded.
         “That’s what we’re doing.” Dante explained.
         They talked a little longer, what happened, where they heard the rumors from, that kind of stuff. Marissa sat away from her grandpa while they talked. Aaron and Laela handed her water while Aaron, and Griggs began setting up a fire so they could cook them food.
         Sajume approached the girl.
         “What happened to you guys?” He asked her curiously.
         She moved her dirty hair out of her face and took a sip of water. “We were traveling to see the egg.” She explained. “My grandfather, me and some others from our church.”
         “Where are they.” Sajume asked.
         Marissa closed her eyes and it looked like she was fighting back tears. “The bandits killed them.”
         Sajume looked horrified, “I’m sorry.”
         She nodded and took another drink of water.
         “How’d you guys get away?” Sajume continued, sitting next to Marissa.
         “They um…” She started. “…left for some reason, they heard something, a gunshot it sounded like. They all went running after it yesterday and while they were gone my grandfather got the lock off and we started running.”
         “That was brave of you.” A voice said from behind the two.
         They turned and saw Jest standing there.
         “Oh,” Sajume said, “Marissa, this is my friend Jest.”
         Marissa smiled. “It was really my grandfather who got us out of there.”
         “No,” Jest said. “I know a lot of girls who would have sat there, cried and not have ran away.”
         She smiled and took another drink of water.
         Jest walked up to the two and jumped in between them, turning away from Sajume so he could talk to Marissa.
         “You know of Hammerclaw right?” Jest asked her, he had a sort of, cocky tone to his voice.
         “Of course,” Marissa laughed, “It’s practically the capitol of the east.”
         Jest smiled and nodded. “My dad happens to be the king’s guard.”
         Her eyes widen slightly. “The king’s guard?”
         Jest nodded proudly. “He stands right beside the king.”
         “I know, I’m told that I’ll eventually take his place.” Jest continued. “I’m training to be a knight.”
         “Really?” She asked with interest.
         “Training?” Sajume laughed.
         Jest and Marissa turned to the white haired boy, he had his steel dagger out and was spinning it in his hands.
         “I wouldn’t call playing with a wooden sword training.” Sajume finished with a sly smile.
         Marissa looked at the dagger with caution, she looked wary of the thing, obviously due to the incident with the bandits. She clearly didn’t want to be around the weapon but, Sajume failed to see her reaction.
         “You’ve had that thing for a day.” Jest laughed at Sajume, a touch of jealousy in his voice.
         “Have you…” Marissa started, not taking her eyes off of the knife. “Killed anyone with it?”
         Sajume smiled proudly. “You see her?” He pointed to Laela.
         Marissa nodded.
         “A bandit was going to sneak up on her, kill her. I stabbed the bastard right in his back.” Sajume finished, the smile never leaving his face.
         “Wow.” She said, looking at the knife still.
         “Actually,” Jest interrupted. “Aaron killed him, you just… slowed him down.”
         “Saved her life.” Sajume nodded, not losing his ground.
         Jest looked at his friend, he had a blank smile on his face and looked at him unamused, Sajume held his gaze, the same expression on his face.
         “Marissa!” A voice yelled. It was her grandfather, calling her over to the group by the fire.
         The three children walked up to the rest of their friends and took a seat around the fire. The sun was slowly setting and the star now set lower to the ground, ready to disappear for the night in a few hours.          
         “Are you feeling up to continuing for today?” Aaron asked the kids.
         “I’m fine.” Marissa said instantly, not wanting to spend another night in the woods.
         Aaron smiled. “Not you, your grandfather is wanting to go back to Hammerclaw, I’m sending Dante, Griggs and Rynn with you two.”
         “We’re not going to the egg?” She asked, somewhat angrily.
         “Dear,” Minwu started. “These woods aren’t safe, we should go.”
         “Well we’ve come this far.” She argued.
         “Marissa.” He began to argue.
         “If don’t see this through then all of our friends died for nothing.” Marissa yelled. “Alex, Rendal, Darren. They all died for nothing.”          
         Minwu looked hurt and surprised from his granddaughter, he had obviously never seen her talk like this and was speechless.
         She looked at Aaron, who was equally surprised. “I don’t know about my grandfather but, I’m going.”
         Aaron looked at Minwu who simply shrugged, he was tired and had no words to argue against Marissa.
         Aaron laughed. “Alright then, let’s get going.”

         “The girl’s got spirit.” Aaron laughed as Laela and him walked down the dirt road together.
         “That doesn’t seem like enough in these woods.” Laela added, looking sadly at the trees.
         “Oh, don’t talk like that.” Aaron shrugged. “We’ve lost one man through this hike, that’s a hell of a lot better than most.”
         “They killed your friend.” Laela said, stopping and looking Aaron directly in his eyes. She didn’t like the way he shrugged off the knight, Logan’s, death.
         Aaron looked at her strongly, he nodded and continued. “Logan was my friend, he died doing what he wanted.”
         “What? Leading a couple of mages to a mountain that people’s been talking about?” She asked, unconvinced.
         “No, he died as a knight of Hammerclaw.” Aaron said, proudly.
         She looked at the knight confused. She was unable to understand how someone could be proud of their friend’s death when it was from a bandit. She always heard talk, mainly from Hammerclaw, how savage and monstrous bandits were. She couldn’t comprehend how a death by them could be considered proud. However, she believed Aaron. The knight held her gaze firmly as he said it. He undoubtedly believed his friend had died an honorable death.
         She nodded and continued, not completely agreeing with Aaron but, not wanting to argue with him either.
         “I don’t know why you’re so worried about bandits.” A voice said from behind the pair. They turned and saw Nicholas behind them, walking angrily, snubbing his nose at Minwu and Marissa. “You’d probably let them join us too.”
         Aaron turned and stopped. Nicholas ran into him and fell back.
         Aaron didn’t budge.
         “This entire trip you’ve done nothing but bitch and bitch about how everything is.” Aaron said angrily. Nicholas stepped back, his eyes were wide and he was rubbing his arm where he had connected with Aaron’s steel armor. “What the hell’s your problem anyway?”
         Nicholas sneered. “I just think it would be wise to think about this. You find two strangers in bandit infested woods and you bring them with us? They could be leading us into a trap.”
         “In the direction we were originally going?” Laela jumped in.
         “We don’t know them.” Nicholas insisted.
         “Shut the hell up all of you.” The knight Griggs grumbled, walking past the three travelers. “Gods damn it all I’m hungry and all this bickering isn’t helping.”
         He was followed by Minwu, Dante, then Rynn and William who shook their heads at their fellow mages and followed the knights onward.
         Laela and Aaron glared at Nicholas then turned and followed the rest of their group. The four children not far behind.

         Laela looked at Minwu with interest.
         The group was taking a break, sitting around the road and eating some bread and drinking water. They didn’t start a fire and were simply resting their feet. They would get up in mere minutes and continue towards the great mountain where they would hopefully find something to report back to Blackhall.
         That was the problem.
         Laela knew nearly all of the priests in the churches. She figured he must be simply one of the elders but, she couldn’t place his face at all.
         “Excuse me.” She said with a smile, approaching the old man.
         He bowed respectfully. She followed his gesture.
         “What is it?” Minwu asked.
         Laela gulped and took a seat next to him. “It’s just, I don’t recognize you.”
         He looked at her neutrally for a few seconds, then he spoke. “I don’t blame you, I left Blackhall years ago.”
         She breathed a sigh of relief. Nicholas had gotten her worried from all of his talking. She cursed her friend in her head and was happy to know the old man meant them no harm, nor anybody harm.
         “Sorry,” She apologized. “My friend was talking about how we keep letting people join our group.”
         “It’s fine.” Minwu smiled. “It’s good that you’re protecting your friends.”
         Laela smiled and nodded at the old man. She felt bad for thinking the man meant them harm and regretted that the thought had even crossed her mind.
         “We were… exiled from Blackhall actually.” Minwu continued. Laela looked at him in shock. She had never heard of anyone forced out from the honorable kingdom. “My wife, my children and me.”
         “What did you do?” She asked.
         “I was accused of stealing.” He continued. He sighed after saying that, he looked like he was fighting back tears. “One of the king’s guards he… caught me looking at their battle plans during the war. I had heard rumors that hey were going to make peace with the kingdoms in the west and then attack them. I was horrified, I didn’t want to believe that King Ezra would do such a thing.”
         Laela looked at the old man confused. She had never heard of her kingdom stooping to tactics of lying. “Did they do it?”
         He shook his head. “I don’t know, I never heard anything about it so, maybe they never planned on it anyway. Or maybe they thought word got out because of me I don’t know.”
         “I thought you said you were accused of stealing though?” Laela asked.          
         “I was. Thievery isn’t tolerated in Blackhall.” He explained. “I had no chance of a fair trial.”
         She nodded, recalling how much thieves, liars and murderers were hated in her kingdom. She stood and walked away from the old man, not wanting to think about her kingdom as liars themselves.

         Aaron, Griggs, Dante, and, for some reason, Rynn were all sitting together. Talking amongst themselves. The knights all had their visors up, except for Aaron, who hardly ever wore it, his helmet was off. It was the first time she had really gotten to see Griggs and Dante’s faces. Which was odd seeing as how she had been traveling with them for days now.
         Griggs had a thick brown beard and hair. He also had a scar going down his left eye. It wasn’t blind but, the scar looked like it came awfully close. His voice was thick and strong and he seemed like the type of knight who enjoyed a drink. No wonder Rynn got a long with him so much.
         Dante was, surprisingly, clean shaved. He was young, probably nineteen or twenty. He had short black hair that Laela could barely see with his helmet on and his eyes didn’t have that spark that the other knight’s did. He didn’t look like a knight and obviously hadn’t seen a lot of action. It’s probably why Beltan, or Aaron, chose him. So he could get the experience.
         “Ah, Laela.” Aaron stood, greeting the cleric as she approached them.
         She nodded back to them and took a seat beside Dante as they continued to talk.
         “What did he say?” Dante asked.
         She shook her head. Taking a drink of water from her leather flask. “He said that he was exiled from Blackhall years ago, during the war.”
         “Never heard of Blackhall exiling people.” Rynn noted dryly.
         Laela nodded and looked over at Minwu. She was convinced but, she thought there was still something odd about the man. He seemed innocent enough, and his granddaughter didn’t look like much of a threat. She shook the thought from her head, not wanting to think about the man or the little girl. She was tired, hungry and her head was in slight pain. She only wanted to eat and go to bed for the night.
         “What did he do?” The pyromancer asked.          
         “He said he saw war plans that were supposed to be secret. He said that King Ezra was planning on declaring peace with Fairbourne and then attacking them after they trusted him.” She answered simply, not holding anything back from her friends.
         Rynn nodded neutrally.
         “What?” She asked, surprised by his calmness.
         “I heard about that, said that a thief and his family got exiled for stealing war plans.” Rynn answered.
         “I thought you just said you never heard of Blackhall exiling people.”
         “Thieves aren’t people.” Rynn added.
         Laela looked at her friend silently, thinking about his words. She didn’t like how her friends thought of Thieves and bandits as monsters and savages. If someone steals food for their starving children they’re considered savage brutes to her people. She was brought up to believe that but, over the years she’s spent in the school’s library she’s had a new outlook on the clans in the forest. She agreed that some were brutes but, not all.
         “Is the food done?” Laela looked at Aaron.
         Aaron nodded, “Nearly.”
         “You disagree with me.” Rynn continued with Laela.
         She looked at him, starting to get angry. “No.”
         “I wasn’t asking.” He took another sip of ale.
         “If a man has to steal to feed his family I don’t see the problem with it, no.” Laela answered, ready to argue with the pyromancer.
         “You’re the first person from Blackhall I’ve ever met who’s said that.” Rynn said, semi-drunkenly.
         “Why do you disagree, you grew up poor you know how hard it is. I’m sure your father-.”
         “Don’t you ever talk about my father!” Rynn bellowed at Laela, standing up, looking down at her furiously. “Days went by when my brothers, sisters and I went without food and not once did my father steal, not once did he stoop that low. He worked, my mother and oldest siblings too. All I wanted was a taste of food, a drop of water and I couldn’t have it because we believed in honor. You want to support those brutes, take a walk into the forest, let’s see if they rape you or put a sword in your head ‘fore you get a damn word out.”
         “Rynn, take a seat, calm down.” Griggs said to the mage, standing up, talking to him softly.
         Laela looked at the pyromancer with a mix of fear and anger. She had thought she was closer to him since he wasn’t a snob like Nicholas and William. She turned to see the others and found them all staring at the five. Some with fear, others with anger. Nicholas and William were especially furious at the mage. He saw that and stood, walking towards them.
         “What the hell are you two looking at?” He asked, ready to kill them in his present state.
         “Just a rat.” Nicholas snickered.
         She couldn’t see him, but Laela was sure a smile crossed his face. Rynn was looking for an excuse for a fight and Nicholas gave it to him. He rushed towards the cleric and grabbed him by his hood. He pulled him and flipped him down onto the ground. Nicholas punched at Rynn but, the pyromancer was much more skilled in combat. He swiftly moved, letting the fists pass through the air harmlessly. Then he brought his own fist down onto Nicholas. His nose jerked to the left and blood shot out of the nostrils.
         He punched the cleric slowly, powerfully. He screamed for help but, no one aided him. He should have kept his mouth shut and didn’t, now he was paying the price. Laela looked down in shame. She knew this was partially her fault. 
         Rynn went a few seconds punching the cleric furiously before he stood silently and looked over at all of those who had formed a circle around the two. He was breathing heavily and then wiped his face with his hand, smearing some of Nicholas’ blood over his forehead and cheeks.
         “I’m not sorry.” He said, then he walked out of the circle, in between Griggs and Aaron, and over to his sleeping mat where he laid down, facing away from them and went to sleep.
         “Laela.” Aaron said. The cleric looked at him, not knowing what he wanted. He nodded at the bloody Nicholas and she realized he wanted her to heal him.
         She rushed over to her friend and placed her hands on his face, she mumbled the spell and the blue light formed over Nicholas. The light brushed over the bruises and they vanished promptly. The clerics stood and Nicholas held his head in agony. He glared at the pyromancer in anger, wanting to kill him but, unable to do so.
         Laela shook her head and walked out of the circle as well, going over to her own sleeping mat and laying down, not wanting to listen to the snobby cleric complain about how unworthy and disrespectful Rynn is. She closed her eyes and tried not to think about anything.
         It didn’t work. However, her thoughts didn’t distract her and she some how found a way to fall asleep with an empty stomach and a full mind.

         “Is he always like that?” Marissa asked Sajume and Jest.
         She looked at Rynn warily. After last nights incident the kids were a little cautious of the pyromancer.
         “No, he’s been okay before last night, I don’t know what happened to him.” Sajume answered before Jest could.
         “It was Laela’s fault.” William said, coming up behind the children. He didn’t whisper it and he didn’t care who heard.
         “What did she do?” Sajume asked, interested in knowing what sparked the pyromancer’s rage.
         The black clothed mage shook his head, obviously regretting telling the children their personal affairs.
         “Come on!” Jest yelled.
         A few in the front of the group glanced back but, paid little interest.
         “Calm yourself child.” The mage ordered. “It’s none of your concern.”
         Jest sneered. “Adults do that all the time.”
         “Do what?”
         “Don’t tell us things, we’re old enough.” Jest argued.
         William shook his head, continuing to ignore them.
         “It’s fine.” Sajume spoke.
         The other three looked at him surprised.
         “You’re right, it’s not our concern.” He explained.
         William sighed, “Rynn’s father died two years ago, when Laela spoke of him it set him off alright.”
         “I thought you weren’t going to tell us?” Jest snickered.
         “I didn’t, I told Sajume, you were eavesdropping.” William said.
         Sajume and Marissa laughed at their friend but William didn’t change, he just continued onward.
         “So what’s your favorite spell?” Marissa asked the mage.
         William look at the three children, he hadn’t received this many questions since his early schooling years, he was pleasantly surprised at the young children’s interest. He smiled at the girl and began to explain.
         “No mage really has a favorite spell, we just, use whatever we find necessary for whatever situation we’re in.”
         “What one do you tend to use?” Sajume asked.
         William formed a slight smile, he tried not to smile at all but, couldn’t help it. “Anything with lightning.”
         “More useful than healing, better than fire. At least in most cases.”
         “Why didn’t you just use lightning spells only then?” Jest asked confused.
         “Because I love learning. I’ll eventually learn cleric spells but, right now I’m trying to master destruction. I still need to learn Duartus and Venenum Caligo.” William continued, finding himself unable to stop talking about magic.
         “Don’t you just say a few words?” Jest asked, skeptical of the mages claim of difficulty.
         “No you fool, it’s much much more than that.” William snapped.
         Jest looked upset at the mage and walked ahead of them, leaving them behind to get away from William
         William shook his head at Jest and continued. “With magic, one has to find their inner spark, they can’t just ‘say a few words.’ They have to believe in the spell, they have to find the right moment to conjure it to life, the right moment to release it, the right amount of energy.”
         “Energy?” Marissa asked. “How does energy matter.”
         “If you put too much energy into a spell it will get out of control, maybe even kill the one who cast it.”
         “Does that happen a lot?” Sajume asked, now wary of spells.
         William sighed, “Too often.”
         “Did you… know anyone it happened to?” Marissa asked.
         William shook his head silently.
         The two children didn’t say anything.
         The mage continued. “That’s why you have to practice spells, to get them just right so that they’re useful.”
         “So it’s harder to be a mage than a cleric?” Sajume asked.
         “How so?”
         “Well, since a healing spell can’t really kill you if you put too much energy into it right?” Sajume explained further.
         William smiled. “I’m afraid not. Where do you think the energy of health comes from?”
         Sajume and Marissa didn’t respond.
         “It comes from the caster.” He explained. “Destruction spells use your energy, if you’re tired they’ll be less useless see? Restoration and Conjuring spells use the caster’s strength, their health. It’s actually harder to become a cleric in most people‘s eyes.”
         “But you’re trying to do them both?” Sajume asked, interested in the mage’s dreams of learning as many spells as he can.
         William nodded proudly, the small smile not leaving his face.
         “Is their a word for what you’re trying to do?” Marissa asked, equally interested.
         “A wizard, the highest honor in Blackhall.” William said.
         “How many titles are there?” Sajume continued.
         “Mage, cleric, scholar, pyromancer, healer, wizard, and elder. Those are the titles given in Blackhall.” William said.
         “Do your robes matter?” Marissa asked.
         “No, we choose our colors on our own, usually they accompany the spells we study but, it doesn’t matter at all.”
         The two children nodded, they were both now fascinated in sorcery and although neither would ever what to learn it, they had a new-found respect for it.
         The three continued onward, behind their group.

         The group shifted, as they often did, and Sajume found himself a few steps in front of the other mage, Nicholas, who was walking alone in silence. The young boy slowed down until he was beside him and spoke.
         Nicholas glanced at the boy but, continued forward with no interest.
         Sajume frowned at the mage, not knowing what to say and instead continued beside him in silence as well.
         After a few minutes of silence Nicholas spoke.
         “I’m sorry you had to stab the bandit earlier.”
         Sajume looked at him in shock. He had successfully pushed the thoughts from his head, telling himself he had to do it, that he wasn’t even the one who actually killed him, and such. Then he thought about how he gloated about it to Marissa and tears began to form, he pushed them back however and continued in silence.          
         “What do you want?” The mage asked after Sajume didn’t respond.
         “I don’t know, to talk I guess.”
         “About what?”
         “I don’t know.”
         Nicholas didn’t respond.
         Neither did Sajume.
         Nicholas pulled down his dark blue hood. He rubbed his hand through his light brown hair and felt his beard line. He had a light stubble from where he hadn’t been able to shave and frowned at the touch of the awkward facial hair. He left his hood down and continued forward.
         The two marched in silence for another few minutes before Nicholas sighed.
         “Look, do you have anything you want to say?”
         “What’s wrong with you?”
         The question shocked Nicholas and he stared at Sajume in confusion. He hadn’t expected a child to understand feelings and what not, he just expected them to goof around and get in the way. Then he realized that Sajume had actually saved Laela’s life, possibly his life as well. He knew that Sajume had stabbed the bandit but, he never realized what he had truly done until now.
         “Sorry.” Sajume said when Nicholas didn’t respond.
         The mage sighed. “No, I’m sorry.”
         Sajume looked back up at the mage, hopeful to actually be able to talk to his companion for once.
         “This is the first time I’ve been away from Blackhall.” Nicholas explained. “Everything I’ve learned, everything I’ve been told, explains not to do what these people have been doing.”
         “What do you mean?”
         “Taking children with us on a life threatening trip, drinking alcohol during a mission, picking up strangers. It’s just… wrong.”
         “What about Rynn?”
         “What about him?”          
         “Seems like you don’t like him.”
         “No what?”
         “I don’t like him.”
         He expected Sajume to say ‘because why’ in which case Nicholas would have probably turned and smacked the child. However, he didn’t, he continued in silence. He realized that Nicholas didn’t want to talk about it and, surprisingly, respected that. Nicholas had a new perspective on the child now.
         “He’s immature, vulgar and unworthy.” Nicholas explained. Surprised just as much as Sajume that he continued.
         “How is he unworthy?” Sajume asked intrigued.
         “Because he’s a street rat.”
         “A beggar, poor, flea covered that sort of thing.”
         “How is that unworthy?”
         “Because he didn’t grow up in Blackhall and he didn’t earn his place. It was given to him.”
         “Why don’t you go ask him?” Nicholas asked, starting to get annoyed.
         “I’m sorry.” Sajume said.
         Nicholas sighed. “It’s alright.”
         Sajume was confused by Nicholas. He still didn’t know a lot about the man and wanted to be friends with him to avoid conflict. He was also unsure of his reasons for not liking Rynn. The pyromancer seemed okay to him and there weren’t any “street rats” in Ardenti or Hammerclaw. In the end, he shook the thoughts away as he fell further back to Marissa, Jest, Yerl and Ynin as they continued towards the mountain that seemed so far away.          

         “So what about the pyromancer?” Aaron asked Laela as they walked.
         “Rynn. What about him?” She asked. She was very hurt by her friend’s actions and didn’t want to talk about it.
         “What happened? What set him off?”
         Laela sighed. Everyone knew the story of the mage, she hated telling it to the ones who didn’t. “When he was little one of our elders, Rolof, my master, was visiting Indignis. It’s a small, poor village outside of Blackhall.”
         Griggs and Dante began listening now, interested.
         “While there, a thief tried to rob him of his gold. He put a dagger to his throat and threatened to cut it if he didn’t obey. Since he was a cleric he couldn’t defend himself. He was shocked by the behavior and didn’t know how to react. Before the thief could cut his throat though, someone saved him. They cracked a pot over the rat’s head and knocked him unconscious.”
         “How did mentioning his father get him mad though?” The young knight Dante asked.
         “I’m getting to that.” Laela said sadly. “Rolof offered Rynn a spot in our school. His parents agreed. A warm bed, food, water. What poor family wouldn’t want that for their child? He went to the school and chose to study fire magic.”
         She paused not wanting to continue.
         The three knights waited patiently.
         “A few weeks into his study, a group of thieves raided Rynn’s old house. They killed his mother, father, brothers and sisters… all of them.” She finally finished.
         The knights nodded. As warriors, they were all too well associated with death.
         “That’s why Nicholas doesn’t like him. Because he’s poor.” Laela shook her head.
         “Even so.” Griggs said. “He’s no right to speak to you like that.”
         “Yes he did.” Laela argued. “I shouldn’t have talked about his father, especially not like that.”
         She sighed and turned to look at her friend.
         She nearly screamed when she saw him behind the four.
         Laela stopped walking and stared at the pyromancer who stopped with her. He had a neutral face on, a frown, blank eyes and such. She was terrified. How much had he heard? She cleared her throat and tried to speak but, couldn’t.
         “It never gets easier…” He said before she could react. “…hearing the story.”
         He smiled sadly.
         Then he continued walking, Laela followed in between him and Dante.

         “It’s Laela’s fault.” William’s voice said from behind the five.
         She cursed the mage silently. Her and Rynn had made up and he was going to ruin everything.
         “It wasn’t your fault.” Rynn assured her.
         She sighed, relieved.
         “I’m sorry for happened, honest.” Aaron said to the pyromancer.
         Rynn nodded his thanks.
         Griggs laughed and clapped the mage on the back. “You just needed to let the anger out. Nicholas served as a nice punching bag.” The knight laughed as he looked back at the other mage who was walking alone.
         “Vulgar brutes.” Nicholas mumbled angrily.
         Griggs laughed even harder at Nicholas’ comment and had to stop to catch his breath.
         The other four smiled at their friend as he began crying from laughter.
         Nicholas sneered at the knight and continued forward.
         The group walked for another few hours and he sun began to slowly set. Laela was angry that they still hadn’t reached the base of the mountain but, Aaron assured her they would tomorrow. They set up camp around the road like usual and started a fire, sure that they could handle any bandits that came in the night like they had before.
         Laela looked around the camp at the group. Griggs, Dante, and Rynn were cooking a pig that they had hunted earlier. Jest and Yerl were playing with Ynin as he barked happily. Minwu, Marissa and William were talking beside a tent, reading from a book. She was surprised to find Sajume sitting next to Nicholas. The mage wasn’t saying much and was instead staring into the fire, sad looking for some reason.
         The she realized Aaron and her were, once again, together.
         She sat down next to the knight who was polishing his sword, admiring the blade that he had killed so many enemies with. Laela looked at the sword with caution.
         “How do you do it?” She asked.
         The blonde knight looked up at her and then back at his sword. “Do what?”
         “Kill.” She added.
         Aaron sighed. He sheathed his blade and looked at the cleric. “Look, back with the bandit I think-.”
         “I’m not talking about the bandit, and I’m not judging you.” Laela explained. “I just… I mean how?”
         Aaron nodded. “I guess I’ve never really thought about it.”
         “That works?”
         “Hammerclaw teaches you of the honor of fighting, we worship Devitam, the god of Earth, might, courage and such you know? We’re just, natural fighters I guess.”
         “There’s a difference between natural fighters and natural killers.” Laela said.
         Aaron smiled tightly. “What do you consider me?”
         “How so?”
         “Did you volunteer to go with us or did King Beltan choose you.”
         “I volunteered.”
         “Yes, honorable.”
         Then the two smiled at each other.
         Aaron, without warning, leaned forward, eyes closed. Expecting a kiss.
         In Blackhall’s school, relationships are forbidden. Laela had never kissed a man and in the few short seconds she had to react to Aaron’s gesture, she weighed the options. She had been raised on the rules of Blackhall, as the others had as well. When you’re taught your whole life what is right and what wrong, when you’re unable to make your own decision you accept them as facts.
         That’s why Nicholas sees Rynn as unworthy.
         That’s why the knights kill so ruthlessly.
         That’s why they see the kings as gods.
         However, some people see beyond what they’re told. She saw that in Sajume when he stabbed the bandit. Even though he had to do it, even though he saved her life, watching that man in pain and agony struck him hard. He had been raised as a knight’s son, someone who defends his land by killing. Yet he still was horrified by the sight of death.
         That’s why Laela and William accepts Rynn.
         That’s why she sympathizes with the poor.
         And that’s why she kissed Aaron.
         She closed her eyes as their lips passionately connected beside the bright fire of the night.
         She instantly regretted not doing it sooner.
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