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Continues from PART 5
         The group marched in silence. Laela held Aaron’s hand tightly as they walked to the mountain. They didn’t rest, they didn’t stop they just kept going, wanting to reach the mountain and leave the monstrous woods.
         Before they moved on Aaron and Griggs dug holes to bury the dead wanderers. It seemed to hit Sajume the hardest, no one was talking now but, they had been when they sat around resting from the fight. All except the young boy. He just held Aaron’s steel dagger tightly and stared off into the woods.
         William, Aaron and Laela tried to talk to him but, he would shake his head or look at the ground. She regretted bringing the children at all.
         Nicholas also was paranoid now, he took one of the bandit’s iron daggers and tried to give Laela one as well. She rejected it and Nicholas threw the knife into the woods angrily.
         “It’s okay.” Aaron said to her, holding her hand after Nicholas’ yelling. That was the last words said in the group.
         For what seemed like days of constant walking, they finally saw the base of the mighty mountain. The group walked over to the steep, rocky surface and Aaron placed his hand gently on the large rock. He was the first to speak.
         “We can climb it now and then make camp in one of the small caves, or camp out here for the night and climb tomorrow.” The knight announced.
         William threw his backpack off and removed the harnesses the mages had packed for the climb. “We’ll climb now, we need to get out of here as quickly as possible.”
         “What are those?” Dante asked, nodding to the harnesses.
         “We’ll wear them while we climb, that way if someone fall the others can pull them up.” William explained.
         Nicholas grabbed one and wrapped it around his waist, while William did the same.
         “We have three sets that can hold four people each, we’ll split into three’s.” William explained, holding the final harness out, waiting for someone to take it.
         “Why don’t we wear the front ones?” Griggs asked. “We’re the strongest, no offense, so we’ll be able to pull up anyone easier.”
         “I’d like to be in charge of my own life. No offense.” Nicholas said.
         Griggs sneered at the mage and strapped himself into the harness behind him. Smiling at Nicholas’ reaction.
         Dante took the third harness and strapped it around him.
         Laela placed the one second to Dante’s around her. Aaron went to take the third but, Sajume got to it first and wrapped it around himself in silence.
         Laela smiled sadly at Aaron who smiled back, taking the third spot in Nicholas’ line, behind Griggs, allowing one of Sajume’s friends to be behind him during the climb.
         The group was finally all strapped in.
         The first line of harnesses was William in front, then Yerl, then Jest.
         The second was Dante in front, then Laela, then Sajume.
         Aaron was going to switch to be in Laela’s group but, decided not to take up anymore time.
         The third group was Nicholas in front, then Griggs, Aaron and finally Rynn.
         “What about Ynin?” Sajume asked. His voice was very deep and made a cold chill strike Laela’s back.
         “He’ll be fine.” Aaron assured the boy.
         He didn’t argue.
         “We take this nice and slow alright?” William stated.
         Everyone nodded.
         “Let’s go.” He ordered and the group started their climb.

         They listened to the mage, and one by one they slowly placed one hand after anther as they worked their way up the mountain. No one was experienced with climbing however, and they struggled a bit before finding the appropriate way to scale the stone surface. Ynin stayed on the ground, barking up at the climbers, wagging his tail, oblivious to anything.
         Jest and Yerl had a lot of trouble and William cursed them and yelled every time they would slip, causing him to nearly fall himself.
          Laela moved very carefully, making sure every rock she held onto was secure, Dante and Sajume kept the same pace and she was surprised to find the boy could climb very well.
         Nicholas’ group was moving the fastest, the mage was moving fairly quickly, all without faulting.
         “Damn it, slow down!” Griggs yelled up at Nicholas.
         The mage didn’t obey.
         The knight grabbed the harness rope and yanked on it, causing Nicholas to slip and slide down onto the knight. They both cursed and Nicholas just barely managed to grab a rock with his right hand, coming to a quick stop and wincing at the pain in his right arm. He looked down and glared at the knight who also nearly fell.
         Griggs didn’t say anything. Nicholas turned back around and continued up the mountain, slowing down slightly.
         The other two groups had stopped and were staring Nicholas’ in fear. They were terrified of losing more people, and definitely didn’t want it to be a healer and a strong knight.

         The mountain seemed so high. Laela glanced down after they climbed for a while and nearly gasped from the sight. It seemed nearly as high as the school in Blackhall, maybe even higher.
         She wanted to find a cave now, and make camp.
         “Hey William.” She called.
         The black robed mage glanced over, waiting for her to continue.
         “Shouldn’t we make camp?”
         Before William could answer the mountain shook slightly. Everyone stopped and looked around for the cause. Yerl screamed and held onto the rock tightly, not wanting to fall. After a minute of silence, Aaron spoke.
         “Just an Earthquake.” He announced.
         “Yeah, camp sounds good.” William nodded.
         He looked up, squinting at the glare of the setting sun that reflected off of the shiny rock of the mountains surface.
         “There’s a small cave just above us to the left.” He stated.
         They all continued upward quickly, eager to get some rest. Nicholas’ group was closest to the cave and as such, the cleric reached it first. He climbed up past it and placed his foot on the foot on the small mound of land that was protruding from the bottom of the cave.
         He landed safely and turned to help the Knight Griggs up. As he turned another earthquake occurred, this time shaking the mountain violently. Yerl screamed again and hugged the rock and, to everyone’s horror, the rock that Griggs, Aaron, and Rynn were holding onto gave way, falling hundreds of feet down to the forest below. The knights cursed and fell, causing Nicholas to be pulled onto the ground hard. He yelled and grabbed onto one of the larger rocks lining the cave’s wall.
         Griggs, Aaron and Rynn were now hanging from the thin harness rope around Nicholas’ waist. The mage was holding onto the rock but, he was slipping and had to shift his hands constantly.
         “Nicholas just, hold on!” Laela yelled, rushing over to the cave.
         The mage didn’t respond, gritting his teeth hard, trying to hold onto the rock. The rope was pulling his waist hard, he clearly felt like it was going to tear him in half.
         Griggs reached up to the harness rope and tried to climb up to the safety. As he pulled, Nicholas yelled in agony. Griggs swore and let go of the rope, he slid down slightly, causing it to pull on Nicholas again. The mage yelled again let his left hand go. Laela gasped, thinking he was letting go.
         Instead, the mage reached down to his waist and pulled out the iron dagger.
         “No Nicholas wait!” Laela yelled again.
         “What’s he doing?” Rynn yelled. The pyromancer was at the bottom of the group and couldn’t see anything.
         “Laela what’s going on?” Aaron yelled again.
         There was another earthquake and Nicholas yelled loudly as the rope pulled him again. After the quake he looked at Laela.
         “I’m sorry.” He said, and cut the harness rope.          
         Laela yelled as Griggs, Rynn and her first love, Aaron fell from the mountain, down far, far below, disappearing into the thick forest.
         Nicholas rolled over into the safety of the cave, holding his stomach painfully. Laela had stopped moving and was staring down at the trees, unable to see anything just looking. Tears flowed down from her eyes.
         Dante and Sajume didn’t react the same way however, they were moving quickly over to the cave eager to get off of the mountain before another earthquake.
         “Laela.” Dante mumbled, pulling gently on the harness rope, trying to get her to move.
         She kept looking at the trees, then slowly looked up at the cave. She followed the others, scaling the mountain with the others.
         Dante made it to the cave and immediately fell to his stomach, pulling Laela up. She made it to the surface and tore the harness off then went to Nicholas while Dante helped the others up as well. The cleric was leaned up against the very back of the small cave, looking at her in shame, still holding his stomach.
         “What the hell was that?” She yelled at the mage sadly.
         He bowed his head. “I’m sorry.”
         “Why wouldn’t you let Aaron be in front, or Griggs? They could have pulled you up, then you would all be alive you piece of shit!” She continued.
         Nicholas held his head down.
         Laela fell into another fit of tears and walked away from Nicholas as she cried, leaning against the opposite wall.
         Dante helped William and the children up and then they all stood in silence, some looking down at the forest below. Maybe looking for any sign of them being alive or, maybe just not wanting to make eye contact.
         “What the hell?” Dante said in a mix of anger and confusion.
         Sajume was beside the young knight. “What is it?” He asked quietly.
         Dante was shaking his head, looking out at the kingdoms. He saw Castle Woodbay, the kingdom closest to Hammerclaw, and he saw Castle Blackhall in the distance but, there was no sign of Hammerclaw’s.
         “Where’s the castle?” He asked.
         “There’s Ardenti.” Yerl said, pointing to his home village.
         “Yeah,” The knight nodded. “And there’s Hammerclaw but… the castle it’s… gone.”
         Before anyone could say something a third earthquake occurred, causing everyone to drop. Sajume fell down to his stomach, looking over the edge of the small chunk of rock hanging out from the mountain. Yerl scurried over to the others in the deep of the cave. Dante turned to do the same but, then the rock cracked.
         His eyes widened as the surface Sajume and he was on began to give way. Sajume started to climb over to the others but, as he moved it snapped, causing the young boy and the knight to fall with it. Laela yelled and ran over to the edge, reaching her hand out. No one grabbed it though and she stared down in horror. The rock fell flatly and connected with a large chunk of the mountain. She was hoping the rock would have landed and stayed still so that Dante and Sajume would be unharmed but, it didn’t.
         The land that it struck gave way and opened up, causing the two to fall inside the mountain to who knows where.
         Laela, Nicholas, William and the two boys were the only ones left.

         “Do you want me try to find the faces?” Venessa asked her brother as he returned to their “camp site.”
         Darius looked down at the ground. “I have the third name.” He sighed.
         “Isn’t that a good thing?”
         “No.” Darius shook his head. “I would have liked to have found one at a time and two would be hard enough. It would have been easier to focus without three.”
         “When is being a traveler ever easy?”
         Darius nodded and sat back down by the fire, feeding it more sticks to keep it alive. He sliced another chunk of meat off and fashioned it over the flames.
         Venessa sighed and laid on her back, looking up at the clouds. She closed her eyes and relaxed, meditating to Draconem.
         “You should have killed as many of them as you could.” She smiled.
         Darius closed his eyes, trying not lose his temper.
         “They’re an abomination.” She continued.
         “You’re an abomination.” Darius retorted.
         “It’s Draconem’s will.”
         “Why would he help create humans if he wanted them dead?”
         Venessa smiled dryly, laying back down in the grass.
         Darius’ focus returned to the cooking deer meat, he flipped it over on the stick and let the other side cook.
         “Give me their faces.” Darius said after a short silence.
         Venessa stood swiftly and turned Darius so he was square with her body. She placed her hands on either side of his face and closed her eyes. Mumbling some words.
         She stopped and removed her hands, her eyes wide.
         “What?” Darius asked blankly.
         She shook her head. “All those… voices…”
         Darius stared at her, waiting for her to continue her spell.
         She gulped and returned her hands to her brother’s face. She closed her eyes again and focused hard. She winced slightly and had to focus hard to find the memories of the people who knew Sajume, Gall, and Laela.
         Darius closed his eyes after he knew his sister was actually trying. He focused as well and an image of a woman appeared in his head. She had brown hair that was only slightly visible due to her white hood.
         After another few minutes of meditation a boy appeared. He was smiling and had semi-long white hair that wasn’t overly groomed and was messy. The normal child’s hair style.
         The final face took the longest, but, after several minutes, a man appeared in Darius’ head. He had warrior’s eyes and a thick, graying mustache and goatee. He was also wearing a hood, a torn, battered gray robe.
         Darius and Venessa opened their eyes at the same time. Venessa was smiling and Darius held is normal frown.
         “Blackhall.” He nodded.
         Venessa didn’t respond.
         “That woman, Laela. She’s a mage.”
         “Why not go to Hammerclaw, wouldn’t that be where Sajume and… Gall, are from?” Venessa asked,
         “Gall looked like a traveler, he could either be from there or passes through there. Besides, I don’t know for sure if Sajume’s from there as well.”
         “I guess the town rats wouldn’t take too kindly to you either.” Venessa smiled dryly.
         “No, probably not.”
         “Why not kill them, it would be easier to find the three?” Venessa tried again with her craving for bloodshed, in the name of Draconem. She wasn’t a fighter though, so she couldn’t do anything to the remaining people of Hammerclaw without being captured or imprisoned.
         “Because they did nothing wrong.” Darius answered, beginning to feast on the deer meat.
         “Neither did the knights in the castle.” She noted.
         “They were in my way, if they had laid down their swords at the death of their king they would still be alive.”
         “But they didn’t.”
         “No, they didn’t.”
         Venessa shook her head at her brother and laid back into the grass, once again looking up at the clouds, silently praying to her god, who she believed wanted the humans to die and have dragons rule the world.
          Darius disagreed with her religion, and despised her for worshipping his god in vain. Although they hadn’t spoke in over thirty-years, he had kept up with her, seeing her life from the shadows, wanting to be her brother but, unable to. Now he regretted it, not getting involved when she met the necromancers and other outcasts of Dragonfire that hated everyone.
         He shook the thought from his head and stood, walking away from his sister and towards the main road that led to Blackhall. One thing he was thankful for was the fact that he would be out of the woods now. Traveling from Woodbay to Hammerclaw was a pain and he was hoping for a swift, easy trip. Maybe purchase a horse, make it even easier for himself.
         “Darius wait.” Venessa said seriously, standing up and walking to her brother.
         He turned and waited patiently for her to continue, glaring naturally.
         She looked into his white eyes nervously, unable to find her words.
         Darius’ eyes slowly began to alter, turning his attention to the deer corpse, laying beside the dying fire.
         He walked towards the dead body, bumping shoulders with Venessa, not moving out of her way. He walked up to the carcass and tore his finger into a soft spot on its chest. The blood covered his index finger and he removed it.
         He reached into bag and dug through the gold and jewels, removing a scroll. He took off the seal and unrolled the paper. He placed it flat on the log beside the fire and slid his bloody finger over the word.
         ‘King Beltan III of Hammerclaw’ was now marked in blood.
         “There.” Darius nodded, rolling the scroll back up and returning into his purse.
         “Who’s next?” Venessa asked, starting to get intrigued.
         “The next person is why I’m going to Blackhall instead of returning to Hammerclaw.” Darius answered mysteriously.
         “Is it the king?”
         Darius nodded. “Another as well.”
         Venessa smiled. “Who?”
         “One of the elders of the school.”
         “Think you can pull that off?”
         Darius nodded. “If I can’t, I won’t be able to get the third as well.”
         Venessa’s eyes widened. “You’re going to kill three officials in Blackhall?”
         Darius nodded.
         “Who’s the third?”
         Darius smiled, revenge in his eyes. “ Sicarius’ other apprentice.”
         She waited for him to continue, eyes full of excitement.
         “Our brother.” He finished, smile never leaving his face.

         The five survivors all sat against the back of the cave in silence. Jest and Yerl were crying quietly and holding their face down, buried in their arms.
         William looked out at the two castles, maybe thinking of home, closing his eyes from time to time, holding his left arm. It might have needed healed but, neither Laela or Nicholas offered.
         The two clerics sat on either sides of the three in between them, not saying a words and sitting in silence as the sun continued to set. Laela wasn’t crying anymore but, her cheeks were still wet from her not wiping them off. She sat, looking at the words on Sajume’s wooden sword sadly.
         William stood up after nearly two hours of silence. He threw his bag on the stone floor and removed the pocket where he kept his bread. He only had a small chunk left and tore it apart into five pieces, sitting them apart on the stone floor. He ate a small chunk and then took a small sip from his remaining flask.
         “Here.” He said quietly, holding it out to Laela.
         “I’m not hungry.” She responded, even quieter, not removing her cold gaze from the legendary sword.
         William ate her share without asking again.
         He held another piece out to Yerl, who shook his head as well.
         He moved it over to Jest, who stood and silently walked over to take it, sitting next to the mage while he ate.
         He took the final two pieces and offered one to Nicholas. He nodded his head as well and closed his eyes.
         William gave another chunk to Jest and ate the final piece. He drank the rest of the water and then laid on his back, closing his eyes and breathing heavily.
         Laela turned the sword over and looked at the blank side of the wooden blade. It was so smooth and flawless compared to everything else. There wasn’t a scratch on the thing, even after being a child’s toy for how ever many years.
         Tears began to form again when she remembered the young boy, falling to his doom inside a mountain. All she could think about was that it was her fault for bringing him along, and she felt sad.
         Then she would blame Nicholas, even though it didn’t make sense to blame him for Sajume’s death, and she would fill with anger and hatred.
         She looked over at the cleric, glaring at him, wanting to walk up and drive the wooden sword into his stomach. He was holding his waist painfully, leaning his head against the stone wall, eyes closed.
         She put the sword down and rubbed her eyes, trying not to think about anything. 
Unable to, her mind was almost immediately filled with her fallen friends, mainly Aaron. She rolled over, away from others and closed her eyes. Hunger and her lack of energy quickly swarmed her, and she was asleep within minutes.

         Laela’s eyes slowly opened. She found herself standing in a beautiful sanctuary, with water seeping through several pipes lined along the wall. They all led down into two separate streams, which met in the middle of the fine stone room to circle around a large fountain.
         The fountain was also a bright grey stone that had three separate plates, the second of which had tall, hooded figures holding out their hands. The water led up into their bodies and out of their hands which were cupped upwards, like they were offering something to their god. The water was emptying out into the third plate to flow back down and circulate again.
         Laela walked beside the large fountain, admiring the fine art of the stone structure, staring around the room in awe. It held a dim blue tint to it from the bright water, and reminded Laela of her home in Blackhall that she missed every second.
         While staring at the beauty of the room, she made her way over to the only door. It was large and stood at least three times the cleric’s size. It wasn’t painted and blended in with the stone walls.
         She approached fearlessly and placed her hand on it gently. It opened slowly and the two separate doors fell back, pulling apart from each other. She stepped through and saw a thin stone bridge with bright blue water on both sides. There were candles along the walls that led forward to an elderly woman sitting on a stone bench, throwing something into the area behind her.
         Laela stepped forward and as her foot touched the narrow path it lit up bright blule from beneath her. She moved her feet to inspect it but, there was nothing out of the ordinary. It just looked like normal stone tiles. She stepped back in the spot and it illuminated yet again. She ignored it however, and continued forward, the lights following her footsteps to the old woman.
         Laela came up to the woman and looked into the spot behind her. It was a small pond that was full of bright white fish that she was feeding with bread crumbs. The animals swam around happily, eating every crumb before any touched the stone floor. The woman threw the last bit of bread into the water and turned to Laela, smiling warmly to the mage.
         Laela looked back sadly, waiting to see what was happening.
         “I figured more respect for your god.” The woman said frailly.
         Laela’s eyes widened and she fell onto her knees, praying up to her.
         “Forgive me Vita.”
         The woman laughed kindly. “It’s quite alright child, please, stand.”
         Laela obeyed, eyes full of excitement, nervousness and still sadness.
         “Do you have any idea why have called you here?” Vita asked the mage, her voice was very quiet yet, Laela heard every word clearly.
         “No my lord.” Laela answered.
         Vita nodded and turned back to the white fish, she laid the tip of her finger into the water, causing rings to spread shoot out from the spot, traveling to the stone edges of the pond before disappearing.
         “These are my spirits.” Vita said, not taking her eyes off of the bright pond.
         Laela waited patiently for her goddess to continue.
         “My power.” She continued.
         “You’re a god, I thought you had endless power?” Laela asked confused.
         Vita shook her head. “God, goddess, those are your names.”
         “What would you call yourselves?”
         “I’m not sure. We are basically humans though, just with great power.”
         “Wouldn’t that make you god?”
         “Would it?”
         Laela nodded. “I have worshipped you my whole life, you are my god, along with many, many others.”
         Vita smiled. She looked so old, so feeble. Laela still didn’t lose her faith in the woman however, mages aren’t meant to be strong. They are meant to be wise and that’s what Vita was always said to be.
         “Do you… hear our prayers?” Laela asked, intrigued. Regardless of whether or not it was a dream.
         Vita smiled. “Every word.”
         Laela smiled back. “And what about… when we die?”
         Vita’s smile faded slightly. Her mouth was still curved upwards but, she failed to hide the sadness in it.
         She turned back around but, instead of looking at the fish she looked over the pond. Laela just now saw a second stone door. She started towards it.
         “Wait, my child.” Vita warned.
         Laela stopped and looked at Vita.
         “If you go in there, you will not return. It is for the souls of the ones who worship me. Once a soul enters, they will never return.”
         Laela nodded. “Did a man named Aaron pass through here?”
         Vita shook her head. “Only the ones who worship me come here.”
         Fear crept up Laela’s spine. “Am I…?”
         Vita shook her head, the bright smile returning. “No, I’ve called you here for another reason.”
         Laela breathed a sigh of relief, she sat down beside her goddess and continued to listen quietly.
         “You have one of the four swords.” Vita noted.
         Laela remembered the wooden sword and retrieved it from her side. She held it our to her god. She looked down at it and noticed the words were now lighting up again, shining a bright golden aura.
         Vita nodded but, didn’t take the sword.
         Laela sheathed the wooden blade again and looked back at her goddess.
         “What do you plan on doing with the swords?” Vita asked.
         “We… we’re going to lock them away. So no one can have your power.” Laela answered.
         Vita nodded. “You may need to… rethink your plan.”
         “Is something wrong?”
         “Not presently but, there may be problems in the near future. Problems that will require four of you to fight with these weapons.” Vita nodded at the wooden sword.
         “Four of us?”
         “Yes.” Vita nodded. “One using the sword born from fire, one born from air, one born from earth and you.”
         Laela’s eyes widened and she stared at Vita, no words able to form in her mouth.
         “I have chosen you as one of the four warriors of light and dark.” Vita smiled.
         Laela looked back down at the wooden sword. The words were still glowing and she stared at the aura in awe.
         “That is not your sword however.” Vita interrupted her trance.
         Laela turned back to Vita.
         “You are meant to wield my sword. The glass sword.” The goddess added.
         “Who is meant for this sword?” Laela asked, barely able to form the words.
         “I cannot say but, you will know.”
         “Where is my sword?”
         Vita smiled, it was more of a sad smile. It was obvious the gods were not allowed to become directly involved. Maybe they were allowed to give them hints of sort but, they can not say much.
         Laela nodded firmly. She was happy the god of water had chosen her and was eager to return to her friends, terrified of whatever terror was about to attack the nine kingdoms but, ready for whatever it is.
         “Thank you my goddess.” Laela bowed respectfully. “Do you have any other use for me?”
         Vita shook her head. “You may return to your friends.”
         Laela looked around the sanctuary. “Um, how do I…?”
         Vita chuckled. “Oh child, this is all just a dream. You never left the cave.”
         Laela looked at her goddess confused before her vision flashed and her eyes snapped open, looking out at the castles of Woodbay and Blackhall.
         She breathed heavily, she felt her forehead and realized she was sweating. She stood and walked to the edge of the cave. The sky was dark and the stars littered across the abyss calmed her. She removed her hood and closed her eyes, letting a gentle breeze relax her. She sat down, her legs hanging over the edge, and stared out at the land in front. Thinking about her dream, her god, and whatever evil awaits.

         The knights and people of Hammerclaw cheered loudly and smashed their mugs of ale together as they chugged the alcohol. Gall laughed at the citizens, amazed at how easily they recovered from the deaths and destruction two nights ago. They had lost their king but, the bandits must have been a bigger issue.
         Gall grabbed a large mug of ale and tilted his head as he swallowed the liquid quickly, trying to beat a large knight next to him. He finished off the alcohol first and cheered loudly, the citizens and knights that had crowded around them cheered as well, passing coins around as their bet won or lost.
         Gall and the knight stood, the knight nearly tripping. The traveler clapped the man’s back and raised his arm, cheering again, receiving much louder cheers in return.
          Gall reached forward and took the coins placed on the table. He looked around drunkenly and remembered that Thraz had taken their bag with him, leaving him only a small pouch of twenty or so coins.
         “Excuse me, is anyone selling a large purse. I’ve seem to have misplaced mine?” Gall waved forward to the people.
         Several merchants in the middle of the crowd waved leather bags in the air, trying to get to the wanderer for a sale.
         An elderly man reached the table first and Gall pushed half of his pile out. “Will this be enough?” He asked, head swaying slightly.
         The man smiled greedily at the gold and handed Gall the leather bad. He took it and scooped the winnings into his newly purchased bag. “Thank you sir.” He smiled to the old man, who was trying to pocket the large amount of gold,
         Gall stood and turned, heading towards the inn that hadn’t been burned in the fire.
         The people cheered loudly behind him, wanting him to continue drinking. He stopped and smiled to himself, enjoying his fame. He turned and held out his arms, wanting them to cheer again. They did.
         “Alright!” He yelled, a proud smile on his face. “One more drink!”
         The citizens cheered yet again.
         After all, people need a hero.

         Some travelers that knew how to play instruments removed their tools. Some people set up a makeshift stage and the band played loudly while the citizens danced. Gall jumped right in the middle, dancing with all who approached, never faulting even in his drunken state. The people slowly dispersed, sitting away and talking amongst themselves while some others stayed and danced.
         After an hour or so, Gall stepped out of the cheering circle and went to the barrels of ale that several shopkeepers had supplied. He refilled his glass and stumbled over to a group of people.
         He sat down in between and young boy and a woman. He raised his glass and titled his head back as he chugged the alcohol. He blinked dumbly and let out a loud burp, which all the people around laughed at loudly. Gall smiled and sat the glass down, waiting to join the conversation.
         “So where you from?” A large knight with a scruffy beard asked across the table.
         Gall nodded slowly, in a daze. “Clearwater.”
         “Ah, long way from home.” The woman next to him noted.
         “Ay, that’s what everyone here says.” Gall agreed.
         “Weren’t you eating pork earlier?” The young man next to him asked.
         Gall nodded. “I don’t worship Vita.”
         “Oh, sorry.”
         “Don’t be. I’m from Clearwater but, I don’t really have a home. My family lives there but, I haven’t seen them in… well over a decade.” Gall explained.
         “That’s what I want to do.” The man next to him said.
         Gall smiled. “It’s a fun life, I’m traveling to every kingdom.”
         Gall nodded proudly.
         “Ever think about settling down?” The woman asked.
         Gall smiled again. “If I had settled down, I wouldn’t have been here to save all of your asses.”
         They all laughed and cheered.
         “That pistol.” The knight with the beard nodded toward. “Where’d you get it at? If you don’t mind me asking.”
         Gall laughed at the knight’s politeness. “I bought the thing from a merchant in Stonewell. Or… one of the villages outside of Stonewell.”
         “Are all of the buildings really made out of… stone?” The boy asked.
         “Hence the name.” Gall said, which was followed by the others laughing at the young man.
         “So, where haven’t you been to?” The woman asked.
         “Well,” Gall started. “I’ve been to all of the nine kingdoms, except for Fairbourne and Glasspond. I tend to prefer the smaller villages more.”
         “What’s your favorite city?” The knight asked.
         “Why, Hammerclaw’s my favorite city of course!” Gall stood to yell. The citizens cheered at his response and he sat back down, the smile stuck on his face.
         “You’re enjoying this.” The man noted.
         “Shouldn’t I?” Gall laughed. “Say, what’s your names?”
         “I’m Henry, of Hammerclaw.” The knight said, raising his glass to drink.
         “Catherine.” The woman stated. “Hammerclaw.”
         “I am Alan, of Kerrahan.” The young man said.
         “Kerrahan?” Gall laughed, not meaning to. “Aren’t you a little far from home?”
         Alan smiled. “No, Hammerclaw is my home now, I came here to become a knight, I said I wanted to travel.”
         Gall looked at Alan seriously, his smile nearly fading completely. “How old are you Alan?”
         “Eighteen.” Alan nodded.
         Gall thought the age over. He was sixteen when he left Clearwater, he didn’t return until he was thirty-two. It wasn’t anything new to the traveler.
         “You want to travel?” Gall asked.
         Alan nodded, “I said I did yes.”
         Gall laughed, “I meant, travel with me?”
         Alan looked at the traveler with excitement. “Really?”
         Gall nodded, not entirely drunk. “Absolutely, my other companion… moved on.”
         “Why?” Catherine asked him.
         Gall looked at her uncomfortably. “He… didn’t agree with me.”
         “If you’re looking for a team, you got me and my axe.” The knight Henry said, holding his battle axe up, by his side, as if going to war.
         “What of your city?” Gall asked.
         “The city’s fine, I’ve been a knight my whole life, I need something better to do than defend a dying kingdom.” Henry answered.
         Gall nodded firmly at the knight, it was clear he had lost faith in kings, god and such well before the attack on the city.
         “I’ll go too.” Catherine said, surprising all the others around the table.
         “I thought you ran a shop?” Alan asked.
         Catherine smiled. “I did run a shop, it was destroyed though after the attack.”
         “Husband? Kids?” Gall asked.
         “Look, why did you accept them and then pander me with questions?” She asked. “Is it because I’m a woman?”
         “No, no it’s just…” Gall tried to explain.
         She didn’t respond.
         Gall sighed. “Fine, we got us a team.”
         The four around the table cheered and raised their mugs, Gall having to leave to refill his cup.
         He came back and drank his ale with his new team.
         “We’ll have to get you some armor.” Gall nodded to Alan and Catherine.
         “Weapons too.” Henry agreed.
         “You guys have any training?” Gall asked.
         “My husband taught me how to fight with a spear a while ago.” Catherine said.
         “Where’s your husband now?” Gall asked, still interested in the woman who wanted to leave her city so swiftly.
         She sighed. “Look, he died a while ago, and my son left with a woman from Stonewell so I’ve been on my own for years. I’m sick of being in the shop and I want to leave. Okay?” She explained, losing her temper again.
         Gall smiled. “You make sure you bring that anger out when we fight.”
         She smiled proudly, taking another sip of her ale.
         “And you?” Gall asked Alan.
         “No, I’ve been fighting with a sword but, no training or anything.”
         “That’s fine, I taught myself and I’m the best fighter in the nine kingdoms.” Gall boasted.
         “That’s up for argument!” A voice called.
         “I’ll fight you right now if you’re up for it!” Gall yelled back into the crowd happily.
         No response.
         “Smart man to hold his tongue.” Gall laughed back to his group.
         “Couldn’t you train me?” Alan asked.
         “Not free of course!” Gall exclaimed, the others laughed again.
         Alan smiled and sipped some of his ale.
         “Oh, I’ll train you boy.” Gall laughed, clapping the young man on his back. “Or Henry will, you’ll learn to swing a giant axe around. Maybe a spear too.” He nodded to Catherine.
         They nodded to Alan and drank from their own mugs.
         “Now,” Gall said, leaning in, gaining a more serious tone. “We’ll take care of each other sure but, don’t expect this to be an easy life.”
         They nodded.
         “We’ll face bandits, rogues, nature itself. It’s hard but, the outcome.” He held out his large bag of gold. “Is well worth it.”
         They all smiled, hungry for their own gold.
         “Of course, I’m going to be spending this on armor for you sorry oafs so, we’ll have to get more.” Gall smiled, tipping his head back to swallow the rest of his ale.
         They did the same.
         When they finished, they all slammed their mugs onto the table.
         “We got us a team.” Gall said, smiling at his new companions.


         “Can’t we just go back to Hammerclaw, it’s closer.” Venessa complained, mainly to irritate her brother.
         “Shut up!” Darius snapped, yelling at both his sibling and the voices in his head.
         Venessa tensed up and waited for him to calm down.
         Darius sighed and turned back around, pushing the branches and thorns out of his way, not holding them back for his sister. He pulled one back as he stepped over a stump, he released it and it snapped back, clubbing Venessa in the face. She cursed her brother and stepped forward, tripping over the stump and falling into a bush of thorns.
         “Aren’t you going to wait?” She yelled for her brother.
         Darius didn’t stop and continued forward, not responding.
         Although he wouldn’t admit it, Darius hated the forest, he wanted to be out of it as soon as possible and find the road connecting Hammerclaw and Blackhall.
         Not too long after they left, Darius emerged into an open area. There was a very large path in front of the traveler, a stone road in the middle. There was forest on the other side but, he had no intentions of going there.
         Without hesitation, Darius set foot on the stone path and continued to the north, eager to kill his next three targets, while at the same time hopefully finding the woman, Laela.
         ‘There’s only four more left.’ Darius thought, taking in the realization that the thing he hungered for his entire life was nearly over.

         Darius looked up at the dark sky. The sun had set and the stars were now littered across the abyss. He closed his eyes as he walked, letting the cool breeze drift over his face.
         He heard the sound of sticks snapping and leaves rustling as Venessa found her way out of the forest. He didn’t say anything to her, just continued forward.
         “You really think three of the people you need to kill will be in Blackhall?” Venessa yelled at her brother, trying and failing not to sound angry.
         Darius didn’t respond.
         “You know, you’ll need me.” Venessa said, continuing to follow. “I can be just as deadly as you.”
         Darius crouched, removed his dagger and placed it to Venessa’s throat before she could react. She yelped and Darius glared into her eyes, filling her body with a chill that she didn’t think could exist.
         “I’m allowing you to follow me but, say one more word and I will cut your throat.” Darius warned.
         She was looking terrified at her sibling, nearly in tears. She had held a figure of someone who had seen so much death. Someone who was immune to fear but, in the end she was still just a scared child, not sure what she was doing with her life.
         Darius released her and walked away, carrying his dagger just incase she spoke again.
         She didn’t.

         Darius continued down the road. Not glancing back at Venessa once. She continued following him anyway for a reason oblivious to her. She didn’t know why she wanted to be with her brother, maybe she thought she could convince him to join her religious cause of ending everyone’s life in Dragonfire, or the even entire world.

         Darius walked forward, staring straight. He never glanced to the left or right, never turned his attention to a stray rabbit or squirrel. Venessa stared at her brother in fear and envy. She had tried to train herself to be completely empty inside, to cast out everything she loved, rid herself of nothing but hate. She failed. Darius had succeeded.
         She wanted to ask him how. How he had achieved such a gift. He to notice of this. She kept opening her mouth, only to close it at the sight of Darius’ dagger.
         Darius still didn’t speak to her.

         The voices lapped harshly now that their master was stuck in silence. He ignored them walked forward, paying no mind to any of his surroundings, inside or outside of his head.
         It would take them days to get to Blackhall, weeks if they continued only on foot. They would only pass Kerrahan and Indignis on their trip, and they surely weren’t going to get a horse from Indignis.
         Kerrahan trailed off of the main road, so they would have to take a detour if they really wanted a horse. If not, they would have to walk all the way to Blackhall. Venessa yawned and stretched her arms over her head. Darius clenched the dagger tightly and sneered at his sister. She didn’t speak but, he was sick of hearing noises. All he wanted was silence. Her yawn was like screech.
         The siblings continued down the road in dark silence for what seemed like hours. Darius soon realized that they couldn’t walk all the way to Blackhall, he couldn’t stomach his sister’s presence any longer. Kerrahan seemed so far away.
         Then, as if Draconem granted his wish, as the two travelers passed over a small hill, they were greeted with the sight of a large fort. The wooden building stood tall off to the right of the road, soldiers present, waiting for any signs of bandits.
         The knights were obviously ready for a fight but, the two wanderers approached the fort fearlessly.
         “Stop!” One of the guards ordered. Darius obeyed, Venessa followed her brother. “What are you doing out here?”
         “Traveling.” Darius answered.
         Some of the guards mumbled to each other, snickering. “You’re a long way from Blackhall.”          
         “We know.” Darius agreed. “We were hoping maybe you could spare a horse.”
         “It’s not safe to be out here at night. Don’t you know about the bandits in these woods?” The guard asked.
         “Where are you from?” Darius asked.
         “Blackhall, we’re here to try to connect the cities more.” The guard answered, it was like he was having a normal conversation. To Darius, The people of Blackhall were much more civil than the brutes from Hammerclaw.
         Darius nodded. “What about the horse?”
         “Well we can’t hand over a horse to a couple of night walkers. You’re welcome to spend the night in the cell and we can talk in the morning if you like.” The guard invited.
         “Very well.” Darius accepted, already heading for the warm fort.
         The guards of Blackhall were much different armor than the ones from Hammerclaw. The Blackhall knights had no visor on their helmets and instead had a large, open area, providing little protection for the face while allowing them to have better vision and a lighter head piece. Their armor was also lighter as well, having a chain mail undershirt and a thick leather vest, which was painted blue with a golden serpent painted down each side. The leather armor also gave them less protection but, allowed them to move much faster than the giant steel brutes from Hammerclaw.
         The knights also sported a thick leather round shield instead of the steel kite shields used by the ones from Hammerclaw. Their shields were painted blur as well, with a golden serpent placed neatly down the middle. The warriors also carried a steel short sword and a strong spear that the city was famous for, beside their magic school.
         Darius nodded to the guard as he entered. Venessa looked him over and continued in with a frown. Instantly, Darius felt the heat of the candles. He smiled, welcoming the light. While he preferred the shadows, he couldn’t live in darkness forever.
         There were several guards setting at a table, eating chicken and drinking ale.
         “Would you like some?” One of them said with a smile, holding up a cup of ale.
         “Food would be nice, yes.” Darius nodded, not returning their smile.
         “Don’t drink?” Another asked.
         Darius shook his head.
         “And her?”
         “No.” Venessa said with a sneer.
         “Sorry.” The guard said, dropping his smile at Venessa’s outburst. “There’s a well out back, no one uses it so good luck.”
         Venessa looked at Darius who nodded. She left for the water.
         “So what are you going to Blackhall for?” One of the guards asked, pulling a chair out for Darius.
         “Looking for a few people.” Darius answered, accepting the chair and sitting next to the knights.
         “Hopefully not stirring up trouble.” A warrior said, he was only half joking.
         “Just meeting up with my brother.” Darius clarified.
         “You from Blackhall?” Another asked.
         “No, Estersea, well, a village outside of Estersea.” Darius continued, answering their questions without thought.
         “What’s your name?”
         “Hmm, don’t know a Darius. I’m from Estersea as well.” The knights sitting next to Darius said. He had a thin mustache and short brown hair. He was missing an eye that closed by a thick scar he wore proudly. “I’m Joshua.” He held out his hand.
         “Pleasure.” Darius nodded, not shaking his hand.
         The knights across from Darius placed several pieces of chicken on a plate and passed it to the traveler. He took it and ate without hesitation.
         As he finished off the chicken Venessa came back with two mugs of water. She handed one to her brother and walked to the other side of the room, eying every guard suspiciously.
         “Thank you for the meal but, we’ve traveled a lot. If you could please point us to the beds we would be grateful.” Darius said after he finished the chicken.
         “Yeah.” A guard nodded and walked into the room Venessa was standing by.
         It was a simple room with iron bars placed against the back wall. They didn’t have any prisoners, bandits didn’t take prisoners, neither did their enemies, so the cells were empty. The beds were simple, rough cloth stuffed with straw. They weren’t very comfortable but, compared to the ground Darius was used to sleeping on he welcomed it warmly.
         Venessa laid in the separate cell, still not speaking. She rolled over, away from Darius and was breathing heavily within minutes.
         Darius stared up at the wooden ceiling. He thought about how close he was to finishing his list. He knew it would most likely have to wait until the four swordsmen ordeal was completed but, still… so close.
         He pushed the thoughts away for now and closed his eyes. He was asleep shortly after.
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