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Rated: ASR · Fiction · Action/Adventure · #2162723
This is a first draft of my story. This item will be updated every Monday.
                                                                     Chapter 1
         Niall looked up through the driving rain seeing only dark stone and heavy clouds that clung close to the sides of the mountain, and Niall when he looked behind could only see the stone steps he had already traversed dropping down a short way before being hidden by more clouds that lay like a great soft blanket over the lands below. Shivering with cold as his thread bare clothes clung to him and his wet hair was plastered to his forehead. Three days of climbing had exhausted his supplies which had been little to begin with and had depleted his strength. The rain had done little to improve the situation as he had nothing to protect himself from its cold wet embrace.
         He was slowly climbing step by step, not knowing what else to do he began to sing songs that made no sense and might have earned him a ticket on the first train to madness if anyone had heard them, but there was no one listening except the bare rocks. Niall paused in his singing and tilted his head back drinking the falling rain that splattered his face. When he again looked ahead he found he had come to a large landing which was occupied by a short bearded dwarf.

          “Greetings young hero, I am Nolan, guardian of the Falling Tears.” The dwarf announced the moment Niall put his feet on the landing.
         “Hello.” said Niall. “I’m Niall, but I’m not a Hero, I’m just a Commoner.”
         “I was not referring to what class you belong too down there.” Nolan answered with a wave of his hand indicating the area below the landing. “I was referring to your courage in coming here, which does make you a hero, and I should also point out that you are what the Magicians would classify as a Hero.”
          “You are mistaken. The Magicains tested me with magic when I was born, and I’m just normal.” Niall responded. “Could I just get on my way?”
         “Okay Normal Niall. But first tell me this, what do you seek here?” Nolan asked gesturing over his shoulder.
         “I’m here too find the Blooming Ivy.” Niall answered.
         “And for what purpose do you wish to posses the rare Blooming Ivy?”
         “It is for entering the Craftsman Guild. Each applicant needs to bring something to prove their worth and I chose a rare plant.” Niall explained. “Why are you asking me these questions?”
         “Oh there standard questions.” Nolan responded. “What is your full name, and what is your present occupation?”
         “What does that have to do with anything?”
         “You don’t answer the questions you don’t go in.” Nolan said in a way of responding.
         “Niall Nightwood, Farmers assistant.” Niall answered.
         “Okay. What does your father do, what does your mother do and do you have any siblings?” Nolan asked. “And what kind of education do you have?”
         “How is any of this relevant?” Niall asked beginning to think this whole thing was some kind of trick.
         “In case I need to contact them in case of fatality and I need to know if they can afford funeral expenses.” Nolan replied.
         “I’m just here to pick a flower!” Niall exclaimed.
         “Just humor me.” Said Nolan.
         “Fine. My father his a farmer, and my mother works for the local Summoner Magician, as an enforcer of the law.” Niall said. “While my two brothers were born Heroes and were attached to the Archsummoner’s family as guardians.”
         “Well what about your education, I need to know if your qualified to do this task?”
         “I know how to read and write, but I don’t think that would be helpful when picking a flower.” Niall pointed out.
         “I see. Well what about fighting? Do you know anything about that?” Nolan asked.
         “Well not really. Commoners aren’t allowed to own weapons or learn how to fight.” Niall said.
         “Okay, final question, would you like a granite tombstone or one made of plain stone, or perhaps you would like to go with a cheaper wooden one. Although I wouldn’t recommend it, considering it breaks down quickly.” Nolan said.
         “What kind of question is that?!” Niall asked. “I’m just here to pick a flower.”
         “We’ll make it wood then.” Answered Nolan. “Any last words to be printed on the tombstone or would you like us to place whatever the last thing you yell on your grave?”
         “Is there something up there I should know about?”Niall asked.
         “Yes.” Nolan replied. “So we’ll go with option two then.”
         “Well, whats up there that I should know about?” Niall asked.
         “Follow the stairs up until you get to the gates, knock three times.” Nolan said. “Here your going to need this.”
         Nolan handed Niall a club made from oak.
         “Wait. Whats up there?” Niall asked again.
         “Good luck.” Nolan said before vanishing into a wisp of cloud.


         Niall looked at the club and then up the mountain. This was his last opportunity to turn back, but he really had no choice he had no food and it was a three day journey to the bottom. His only option was to go forward. He started up the steps. What ever lay up ahead he wasn’t ready for it, but turning back seemed the worse option after all he knew what lay that way, and the dwarf might have just been trying to scare him. Or maybe he was going to die? Niall tried not to think about that, but it hung in his mind. He passed through a cloud and came suddenly out above the storm and gasped at the blue sky and bright warm sun that shone out above the gray clouds. It was like stepping out into another world. A flock of birds appeared far away gliding above the storm for a short time before they vanished from sight.
         Niall took a moment to drink in the warmth of the sun before he climbed toward a set of gates. He couldn’t see what was beyond the gates nor could he see over the wall into the area beyond. He knock three times and the gates swung back revealing a path surrounded by blossoming peach trees which blocked his view deeper into the garden. Niall entered looking around constantly trying to see anything that looked threatening. He saw nothing except peach trees and perfect grass with the path wandering through the beauty.
         Niall didn’t notice the gate softly close behind him because he was caught up in the beauty of the garden. What ever Nolan had been talking about didn’t seem to be true. Niall followed the path drinking in the smells and sounds that filled the garden. He passed a statue of a man in armor who was holding his helmet in his hand.
         Niall heard a snorting sound and a pig ran across the path. He had raised his club, but just felt foolish because it was a pig so he threw the club away. Nolan had just been trying to scare him, Niall decided. He continued on his way passing more statues which seemed oddly placed many of them be close together. Niall was not an expert on garden care, but it did seem funny that they would be so poorly placed. He paused for a moment in front of a statue of a man with bulging muscles and a proud sneer on his face. Niall was sure if the sculptor had been paid well by the man whose likeness was captured in stone, because the man was obviously rich and the craftsmen was immensely talented. Niall glanced around at some of the other statues, some were laughing others seemed serious, but they all were life like in every detail.
         Niall guess whoever owned the garden was very rich. Niall heard snorting and heavy hoof falls and spotted more pigs roaming beneath the trees. Niall wondered what kind of garden came with a herd of pigs, they weren’t exactly pretty creatures. Niall passed a tree and heard the flutter of wings and spotted a large raven flapping away deeper into the garden. It was the only other creature besides the pigs Niall had seen.
         Niall passed another statue, but this one was different. It was a person screaming in anguish or was it terror. Niall was starting to think the garden was owned by a tortured artist. Maybe the artist had started out with a good life and the early statues reflected that life, but now Niall had come to the first of the tortured pieces of art. He walked on wondering if he would find anymore statues. He did, one kneeling weeping old man dressed in fine robes, and a man covering his face with his hands so his eyes were only partially visible, but Niall could see that he too was crying. The artist was entering his depressive state, it would appear.
         Niall continued on for awhile until he saw a man with long black hair, a ruffled beard and black robes that were crumpled and as untidy as his hair. It would seem the tortured artist had made an appearance.

         “Ah, our guest.” The man noted as he came close to Niall. “Well it is a pleasure to meet you, Niall.”

         Niall wasn’t sure how to reply without seeming rude, so he said the politest thing he could think of.

         “Who are you and how do you know me?”

         “You filled out an application with Nolan.” The man said. “My name is Corbran.”

         Niall was guessing that Corbran was not a tortured artist at all, he seemed too calm. He put the whole idea out of his mind and decided to take things one at a time and not try to guess ahead of time.

         “Glad to meet you.” Niall responded. “I didn’t realize it was going to be this much trouble to pick a flower.”
         “About that, is that the only reason you came here, think carefully now.” Corbran asked.
         “Yes, I only want to become a herbalist and join the Craftsman guild.” Niall said. “Why is it such a big deal.”
         “That’s it?”
         “Well I do have a craving for apple pie too, but I just need Blooming Ivy blossoms.” Niall explained.
         “Well I can let you proceed I guess, but first have a look at this.” Corbran handed Niall a mask painted black on one side and white on the other.


         Niall was not impressed with the craftsmanship it being a rough mask with no decoration.

         “Its okay, I guess.” Niall said trying not to hurt Corbran’s feelings.
         “Its hideous.” Corbran responded. “Now the Ivy grows in the center of the garden near a pool. I’ll see you later.”

         Then Corbran vanished just like Nolan, and Niall was left alone again.

         That was strange. Niall thought.

         He began following the path again, but he past no more statues. It didn’t take Niall long to find the pool, it was clear and glassy smooth overshadowed by a blossoming cherry tree. Niall noticed the ivy tendrils climbing up the trunk and mixing its own blossoms with the cherry’s. Blossoming Ivy at last, he ran around the pool and nearly tripped over a chest that was sitting between the roots of the tree. The lid of the chest was missing and Niall could see that a large flat red stone was sitting at the bottom. Niall had an idea, he took the stone out of the chest, but hesitated it was a really flat stone. He looked at the pool, maybe just one time. He skipped the stone across the pool and watched it bounce twice before it sank under water. Niall looked around, maybe he shouldn’t have skipped the stone, it might be a family treasure of Corbran’s. Niall turned the treasure chest over so he could stand on it and reach up to one of the ivy blossoms and pick it.
         Niall got down and righted the chest. Now he had to get the stone out of the pool and replace it in the chest, he didn’t want Corbran knowing he had skipped the stone. Niall waded into the water finding it cold and refreshing he used his foot to move the stone around hoping he wouldn’t have to dive for it. He was able to move the stone into the shallows at the far side of the pool where he was able to use his hand to lift the stone out. Niall sighed with relief walking out onto dry solid ground again. He looked at the stone in his hand and then at the chest across the pond. He looked around to make sure he was alone and then he did something he knew he shouldn’t. He skipped the stone again across the pool only this time much harder. The stone bounced four times before it bounced out of the water and hit the tree and fell back into the chest. Niall danced around and fell on his knees yelling.

         “YES! Victory! NIALL WINS!”

         “Hahhahahehe.”

         Laughter broke into Niall’s celebration. Niall leaped up and spun around facing Nolan who was laughing to the point of tears, while Corbran stood looking amused. There was also a girl there who was shaking her head in disbelief. Niall felt his face becoming hot, he tried to make it stop, but there really was nothing he could do.

         “How long have you been standing there?” Niall asked feeling a little annoyed.
         “The whole time!” Nolan said between laughs.
         “What!? Were you spying on me?” Niall asked feeling worse.
         “We were watching you to see if you would steal the Flame Gem, that’s our job.” The girl said.
         “Yes, many people come here and try to take the gem.” Corbran explained. “They wish to posses the jewel and will lie about their intentions. That’s why I gave you the mask, if you were lying you would have been turned to stone the moment you looked at the mask.”
         “But I wasn’t lying.” Niall said. Now realizing the true nature of the statues.
         “No you weren’t.” Agreed Corbran. “But many who do not come here looking for the gem try to steal it when they see it.”
         “What happens to them?” Niall asked, already guessing the answer.
         “I turn them into pigs.” The girl said coolly. “I’m Elinor, by the way.”
         “Its a pleasure to meet you.” Niall responded. “Now do I get something for passing your test?”
         “Are you suggesting that we give you the Flame Gem?” Elinor asked frowning.
         “I was think like Apple pie.” Niall said.
         Elinor relaxed and Nolan laughed again.
         “I knew I was going to like you.” Nolan said. “Now apple pie sounds good to me.”


         A little while later they were all sitting on the grass near the pool eating apple pie, which appeared through magic when ever Elinor wanted it. Niall was devouring it eating it so quickly that Corbran had to tell him to slow down or he would make himself sick.

         “So why didn’t you take the gem, you must have needed the money, you could have sold it?” Elinor asked. “I mean you being a farmer.”
         “Oh, is it valuable?” Niall asked.
         “Yes.” Elinor said. “You had no idea what you were skipping on the pool was, did you?”
         “Well I never heard of the Flame Gem before.” Niall said shrugging. “I really don’t spend much time learning about rocks.”

         The three hosts looked at each other.

         “See you are a Hero, an ignorant hero, but still a hero.” Nolan said. “Your honest, brave, and strong enough to journey all this way.”
         “Well maybe up here I seem heroic, but down there I’m just the son of a dirt farmer, and also I’m a boy.” Niall said dejectedly. “I have no chance at being anything better then a craftsman, but at least that is better then a farmer.”
         “What does you being a boy have to do with anything?” Elinor asked.
         “Only girls can earn money, hold positions in the military and government.” Niall explained. “So my dad works in the fields and my mom is payed for his work. If your not born a Hero with special powers then you have no chance at a better life.”
         “Couldn’t you move to a different place?” Corbran asked.
         “No. Moving is forbidden in every nation for commoners, only Magicians and Heroes can travel outside their homelands.” Niall said.
         “It is getting late.” Nolan noted. “But Niall remember, heroes are not born, they are made through hardship. Heroes are people who make the right choices even when they seem impossible, they are people who push the hardest, and they are people who fall, but rise again and again continuing when others quit.”
         “Thanks Nolan.” Niall said.
         “One day you will understand Vi and the nature of Heroes.” Corbran assured Niall. “Goodbye Niall.”
         “Goodbye.” Echoed Elinor.


         Niall felt himself being pulled away from the garden.

         “Wait!” He called. “What is Vi?”

         But he saw the garden vanish and then found himself standing in his fathers field in the rain again. He trudged home his feet becoming wet with mud and water. He hoped his mother had not returned from guard duty at the summoner’s home during his absence. His father didn’t care what Niall did, but his mom was a believer in the system and all its rules. Niall was aware that being away for three days was not exactly acceptable behavior in a male commoner. Girls were allowed to do everything!


                                                           Chapter 2
         Niall saw the lights of the house through the gloom and rain. The house was large, with plain white walls and red tiled roof with a few balconies jutting out here and there making the house seem grand and imposing. Niall’s mother, Rhona, was mainly responsible for the luxury of the house, being the body guard of the local summoner.
         Niall ran up the road, but stopped short of the main door. His mother’s Unicorn drawn chariot was parked out front, except the Unicorns had already been led away to the stables. Niall ducked around the side of the house. Luckily his room was on the first floor and would not prove too difficult to slip in unnoticed. He always left his window unlocked just in case he had to do this, which happened often. He reached his window noting that the lights were off, which was good, and opened the window and climbed over the sill gently lowering himself onto the floor he slid the window closed again. Sighing, he crept across his dark room to where the switch was and turned on the lights. They were magic lights crafted by Magician smiths to work with just a flip of a switch. Niall turned around relieved that his entrance had gone unnoticed, he just needed to change now.

         “Where have you been?”

         Niall almost screamed. His mother was sitting in his armchair watching him.

         “I . . .” Niall was not good at making up stories or concealing the truth.
         “Well?” His mother asked again, her eyes cutting into the wet soggy Niall.
         “I went out for awhile.” Niall said truthfully.
         “Really? Niall I got home last night.” Rhona said. “Your father said you went away three days ago. So what is important enough to keep you away that long?”


         Niall hated when his mother was calm. She must be really crazy mad at him to stay this calm.

         “I want to become a herbalist and join the Craftsman guild. I went to get this.” Niall said pulling out the blossom of ivy.

         His mother was frowning and tapping her foot.

         "Niall,” Her voice was calm and almost kind. “Only girls can become herbalists, if you want to join the craftsman, you must become a blacksmith or an artist.”

         Niall felt a lump in his throat, he had already failed both the tests for those fields and no one had said only girls could do the other fields. It was unfair! He turned away from his mother. She got up.

         “Now lets not have anymore of this nonsense, you will just have to settle with being a farmer.” Rhona said briskly.
         “I don’t want to farm!”
         “Well what you want is not what your going to get.” Rhona said. “Now get changed your getting water everywhere.”

         His mother swept out of the room. Niall didn’t feel relief at not getting punished. He let tears roll down his face and mingle with the rain water already on the floor while he changed and dried himself off. He had accomplished nothing, three days of hunger and weariness for a flower that was suppose to secure his future away from the farm, but had done nothing except raise his hopes before being let down with a crash.
         Niall put on dark black paints and shirt, men were not allowed to wear bright colors, and went out into a short hall that lead into the dining room. His mother and father were already at dinner. Niall slide into his chair glancing at all the empty chairs, especially the two were his brothers use to sit. Looking at his parents, who were not paying him any attention, Niall felt unhappy. He looked at the food, but didn’t feel like eating. He wished he could get up and just slip out, but if he got up his mother would make him sit back down and eat. The door bell rang. A few moments later, a tall slender man who Niall didn’t know stepped into the dining room.

         “The Archsummoner and her followers are at the gate, shall I show them in?”
         “What?! Of course show them in quickly.” Rhona said jumping up. “Remember Niall don’t make eye contact with any of them and say nothing unless they ask you something. Keep your answers brief.”
         “Do you think, Sean and Finn are here?” Niall asked.
         “Maybe, but don’t try to find them. If their here they will find us when its appropriate for them to do so.” Rhona said.


         A moment later the doors of the dining hall opened and two female warriors in armor came in first splitting they stood on either side of the door. Next an old woman dressed bright blue came in followed by a gray haired man. The women was the Archsummoner and the man was her husband, they were followed by their two granddaughters, who were still quite young the oldest only being ten. The two little girls were holding the hands of Niall’s two brothers Sean and Finn, who were there bodyguards. The boys were only sixteen and were practically identical. Niall was careful to keep his eyes down and only peeked every once and awhile.

         Rhona approached her guests, but respectfully waited for the Archsummoner to speak.

         “Greetings daughter Rhona.” The Archsummoner said. “Surprising you this evening was by accident, but I hope it is a joyful accident for you.”

         Everyone smiled, except Niall, but it went unnoticed by his mother, yet he got the suspicion that the Archsummoner noticed, when he accidentally caught her eye, and realized she was watching him. He looked away. The Archsummoner didn’t say anything about Niall, but she continued to watch him throughout dinner. The evening dragged on for Niall with every moment being filled with agonizing worry. What if someone said something to him? Or what if he spilled his drink, dropped a biscuit, or tripped on a rug? He also was hoping that the Archsummoner didn’t turn to him and say,
         “So son Niall, why don’t you find me funny?”
         He would just drown himself in the pudding if that happened. Luckily everyone ignored Niall, even his brothers. Niall was glad when dinner was over and everyone broke up and went to their rooms. He sat up looking at himself in the mirror wondering what he was going to do with his life.
         There was a knock at his door. Niall wondered if it was his brothers. He leaped up and opened the door, but no one was there. Closing the door Niall turned around and almost had a heart attack. The Archsummoner was standing in his room.

         “So Niall, how was your trip to Falling Tears?” She asked. “Did you find what you were looking for?”
         “How . . .who told you about that?”
         “I know most things that happen in my country, and right now I notice that you don’t follow our customs despite the fact that your mother taught you them.” The Archsummoner said. “My guess is that your not content with the way things are.”

         Niall realized he had broken several rules, but then it wasn’t everyday the Archsummoner just stopped in for a chat.

         “I’m not content.” Niall admitted.
         “Is that why you traveled to Falling Tears?” She asked again.
         “Yes, I wished to prove I could do more then farming.” Niall said. “I just want a chance to show my mother that I’m just as good as . . .” Niall paused.
         “Your brothers.” The Archsummoner said. “You are trying to compete with your brothers, because you think if your like them you will have your mother’s love and respect.”
         “I see the way she acts when people talk about Finn and Sean, she is proud and happy, but when people talk about me, the helpless boy, my mother becomes silent and unhappy.” Niall explained bitterly. “I just want to be treated like I matter too.”
         “Everyone matters, and you know there is no dishonor in farming.” The Arch summoner said. “Besides you may prove to be just as powerful as your brothers. What do you know about when they tested your brothers and you?”
         “I don’t know too much. I know they used some sort of magic to find which ones were special.” Niall said.
         “The magic they used involved the four elements. They placed small amounts of each element, water, fire, and earth, air of course being a little difficult to pin down was not used, but basically if your a magician one element will be attracted to you will the rest will not move. If your a commoner none of the elements will move, but if your a hero then all the elements will be attracted to you.” The Archsummoner said. “When you were tested none of the elements moved, so of course you were labeled a commoner.”
         “I’m sensing a ‘but’” Niall said.
         “But there is another reason for this reaction. Why the elements are attracted to magicians is because their powers are drawn from one of the elements meaning that element is attracted to them. Heroes are different they draw power from all the elements, but in a different way from magicians. But like I said there might be a reason for why you didn’t cause the elements to move. You might be a special hero you somehow is not connected to the four elements.” The Archsummoner said. “Now I propose that tomorrow you retake the test.”
         “No.” Niall responded turning away.
         “I must have completely misunderstood you, you implied that you were unhappy farming, and you have tried other things and have had no success.” The Archsummoner said. “Besides I think you know that your not cut out for any of these things.”
         “I won’t take the test again, I won’t relive that shame.” Niall said.
         “Fine.”
         “What?”
         “I said fine.” The Archsummoner repeated. “But may I give you something?”


         She pulled a small wooden box with plain sides and a smooth lid.

         “I want you to put this somewhere safe for the time being, don’t open it until your next birthday.” She said.
         “But that’s only three days from now.” Niall said. “What is so important about when I open it?”
         “Well it won’t open until your birthday anyway, so there is no good trying before then.” The Archsummoner said.


         Niall accepted the box, mainly because it would be rude not to, and put it inside his dresser.

         “Well, in the morning I’ll make sure your brothers visit with you before we leave.” She promised. “Now I shall retire, and please say nothing about my visit or the box to anyone.”

         The Archsummoner vanished.

         “I won’t say anything to anyone that’s for sure.” Niall muttered.

         The next morning Niall awoke to find that the rain had gone and the sun was shining from the clear sky. Niall had missed breakfast, but he went into the kitchen and grabbed a piece of bread and slathered butter on it. Everyone was out side preparing to see the Archsummoner and her party off. Niall found his parents with his two brothers in the living room. Finn and Sean were twins in every way except in temperament.

         “Niall!” They both exclaimed.

         They shook his hand and hugged him. Niall didn’t know what to say, it had been a couple of years since their last meeting; who knew how much they could have changed?

         “How are you doing?” Finn asked.
         “What have you been up to?” asked Sean.
         “Nothing to much,” Niall said. “Just the same thing as always.”
         “Come on we know better then that, you must be still getting into trouble.” Finn said, glancing at Sean.
         “Yeah, why don’t you just spill?” Sean agreed.
         “Seriously, what do you want me to say?” Niall asked. “I’m not getting in trouble, or that I sneaking out and go rampaging across the countryside?”
         “Have you been sneaking out?” Finn asked grinning.
         “Yes he has.” Answered Rhona.
         “This sounds like a good story.” Said Sean rubbing his hands together.
         “Yes.” Answered Rhona. “It should be.”


         Niall felt embarrassed that he would have to explain this again.

         “I just was trying to do something more with my life.” Niall began. “I tried to compete the herbalist task by finding a Blooming Ivy.”
         “That’s a rare plant, where did you go to find it?” Finn asked.
         “Well,” Niall glanced at Rhona. “ I went to Falling Tears.”

         The room was silent for a moment.

         “Wow, that took a lot of courage.” Sean commented.
         “Yeah, more then the common farmer anyway.” Finn agreed.
         “I think your missing the point.” Rhona said, standing up. “Niall’s actions went against the traditions of this land. He cannot be anything but a farmer, that is the truth.”


         Sean and Finn looked at each other. Niall looked at the floor. There was a noise from outside.

         “We need to go.” Said Finn. “Sorry we can’t stay longer.”

         They said goodbye to their parents, and Niall, before they left and joined the rest of the Archsummoner’s party. Niall watched the chariots and wagons turn out onto the road heading toward the border with Kuzbendel. Rhona dressed in a suit of armor with a helmet and sword, went to perform her duties at the local law enforcement bureau. Niall begged the day off from work, but his father refused.


                                                                               Chapter 3
         The morning after the Archsummoner’s departure, Niall awoke before the gray light of dawn and felt the need to spend alone time outside before he had to go to work again. With his boots in hand he opened his window and dropped out onto the wet grass. Putting his boots on he began trudging away from the house, crossing the road and passing through the fields he came to the edge of the forest. He had taken many similar walks when he wanted to be alone. There was a path that led down to a hollow where there was a little stone monolith that was marked with an unknown symbol like an upside down ‘v’. Niall just would like to visit the stone, maybe because no one else knew or cared about it, making it a good place to be alone.
         Niall thought about farming for the rest of his life, but that made feel sick. He turned his mind to the gray morning drinking in the sounds and smells that filled the air. He was cold, not having thought to bring a coat, so he began heading home. He made it to the ditch beside the road and took a look down noticing the dark puddles that were sitting in the ditch. The road was also covered in dark splotches which seemed curious, but not something Niall took much notice of.
         He crossed the road and stopped. Ahead the grass had been matted down and blood was splattered everywhere. Niall stared in shock and began feeling a weakness in his knees and his stomach began to twist. He saw a mess of flesh, hanging down from bones that jutted up from the pools of blood, and a head that looked like something large had stepped on it was laying in blood. Niall collapsed to his knees and began shaking violently.

         “Niall, Niall!”

         His mother was calling him, but his eyes wouldn’t rise to see where she was, his voice was stuck in his throat, and his legs did not want to move. However, his ears heard her call him again, and then the sound of footsteps in the long grass that paused before making a crunching sound when the boots hit the road. Niall felt his mother lift him from the road and carry him toward the house. His head rolled back and he saw something move on the edge of the forest, but it was far away and his eyes were clouding over.
         Niall was aware when they arrived home, and he felt the softness of his bed and the blankets that were placed over him. His mother left for awhile, but he heard her come back a short while later. He was beginning to recover slightly and sat up.

         “Mom?”
         “Yes Niall, I’m here.” Rhona said gently. “Here drink some of this.”
         Niall drank a small amount of the water.
         “The law enforcers are on their way, they may want to ask you a few questions.” Rhona said.
         “What would do that?” Niall asked.
         “It could have been a wild animal.” Rhona said, doubting her own words.

         Niall didn’t believer her. He also had thought of something else that was unnerving.

         “I walked that way not fifteen minutes before, that means I must have just missed what ever killed that person.” Niall said.
         “Don’t think about that. Just rest.” His mother said.

         But Niall was feeling better already, and was now feeling curious.

         “It couldn’t have been a wild animal, what wild animal would tear there food apart and scatter it over that area?” Niall asked.
         “Niall, we are not going to worry about it, we’ll let the officials complete their investigation.” Rhona said firmly. “Now if your feeling better, I think you should try to eat if you can.”

         Niall didn’t feel like eating, his stomach was a little upset still. He got up and began wandering around the house. His mother had gone out when the officials had arrived leaving Niall alone except for the strange butler who was named Brianhurst. Niall began to wonder something else. Who had been killed?

         His mother returned just before lunch.

         “They determined that a pack of wild dogs must have killed the man, but they don’t know who he was.” Rhona told Niall as they sat down to eat.
         “Do they want me to answer questions?” Niall asked.
         “No. They don’t think they need too.” Rhona explained.

         Niall was relieved. He still couldn’t stop think about the man who had been killed, but he didn’t want to answer questions about the situation.
         Niall when lunch was done slipped upstairs and opened the door to the attic, which groaned as he pushed it back revealing the dusty stairwell. Niall turned the light on and began looking around for a book his grandfather had owned. He was searching over the bookshelf that took up part of the back wall when he heard a soft sound from the other side of the attic. Do we have mice? He thought. Turning around he looked across to where the light didn’t quite reach. Two eyes glinted in the dark, Niall staggered back nearly pulling the bookshelf over.

         “Who are you?!”

         The eyes vanished and didn’t reappear. Niall edged his way around to the top of the stairs keeping his eyes focused on the dark corner. Once he got to the top of the stairs he threw caution over his shoulder and took off charging down the stairs imagining the thing coming after him. He burst through the door and slammed it behind him. He stood there panting, until he remember he had left the light on. He opened the door quickly and missed the switch once but hit it the second time. He slammed the door again.

         “Hey!”
         “AHH!”
         “Stop slamming doors!” His mom said coming around the corner.
         “There was something upstairs!” Niall said.
         “Come on Niall lets go down and make you some tea, you had quite a shock this morning.” Rhona said.
         “Okay.” Niall said, but he had seen something even if his mother didn’t believe him.

         His mother pampered him and kept an eye on him the rest of the day until he went to bed. Niall didn’t fall asleep, he couldn’t he was looking out for the eyes from the attic, but they didn’t appear and Niall eventually fell asleep.

                                                 .           .           .

         Niall’s birthday dawned clear and peaceful with the sound of birds in the fields. Niall always worked a half day on his birthday and today was not an exception. After breakfast his father ordered him out to the west field, which was on the opposite side from where the man had died, to inspect the fence and the health of the young plants.
         Niall trudged over the lawn and down a hill, passing through the gate into the field he saw a strange old man kneeling in the field apparently studying the plants. Niall approached meaning to ask the man who he was, but as he drew closer he noticed the man had long yellow hair except it looked more like grass, like the man was wearing a straw wig.

         “Hey, what are you doing here?” Niall asked.

The man stood up and turned his wrinkled face toward Niall, who noticed that the man had one blue eye and one green eye.

         “Hello Master Niall, I’m your humble servant, Llyr.” Llyr said.
         “Did my mother hire you?” Niall asked.
         “No.” Llyr said. “I use to work here many years ago, and I have returned to continue that service like many of my brothers.”
         “Wait, you can’t just come back and start working without telling anyone or getting hired.” Niall pointed out.
         “Of course I can this is my land it has been for a long time, but I didn’t stop to discuss my rights.” Llyr said. “You must hurry if your to become a Hero.”
         “What?!”
         “Do you know what I am?” Llyr asked.
         “What do you mean?” Niall asked in confusion.
         “I’m a Polevick, a spirit of the fields.” Llyr said. “I bet you never heard of a Polevick.”
         “I suppose not.” Niall agreed. “Your not a real spirit are you?”
         “Well I’m more of a fairy really, I think I might be distantly related to gnomes or was it dwarfs.” Llyr said. “Well no matter, the point is your running out of time, in fact you better head back to your house and get your Hero box.”
         “My what?” Niall asked.
         “Didn’t you receive one for your sixteenth birthday?” Llyr asked.

         Niall remembered the box the Archsummoner had given him. She had said not to open it until his birthday maybe she knew this would happen.

         “Yes, I did.” Niall answered.
         “Good. Now go get it and meet me at the Vi stone.” Llyr said.

Niall had heard of Vi before in Falling Tears, but he still had no idea what it was.

         “Do you mean the one in the forest?” Niall asked.
         “Yes, the one you often visit.” Llyr answered.

Niall remembered the mangled body of the man, and shuddered.

         “Don’t worry the beast that killed the messenger is not here, not yet anyway.” Llyr assured him.
         “Messenger?”
         “Yes the man who died was carrying a message from Kuzbendel. My brother delivered it to the capital and a man will becoming to summon your mother, which is why you need to hurry and get home and meet me near the stone.” Llyr said. “Now go!”

         Niall ran home and went through his window retrieving the box from his dresser. He charged out over the road noticing the dust cloud approaching from the capital. He ran down the forest path to the monolith with its strange symbol.

Llyr was already there waiting.

         “Alright open the box.” Llyr commanded.
         Niall opened it and there was a flash of blue light then nothing else.
         “Great your ready, sorry there is no time to explain anything else, just remember when you come back run home and . . .well you’ll know what to do.” Llyr said. “Now touch the column and say ‘Ven’.”

         Niall did as he was told and at first nothing happened, but then there was a twisting feeling in his whole body then a blast of cold air. Wait I don’t know this guy and I’m just doing what he tells me!


         It was too late he saw the stone and the forest vanish and things went dark for a moment before he looked up and saw a light that shimmered and danced casting a bluish color down into the darkness. Suddenly Niall felt water on his face and he found himself rising up through water. At first he began panicking and splashing around before his head broke the surface and he found himself in another forest bright with color and filled with sweet scents. He staggered out onto the bank looking down into the pool he saw nothing but a sandy bottom through the clear water.
         Where am I, and how in the name of parsnips am I suppose to get BACK?!
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