Those not chosen by the fairy Part 6
“You have become stronger, Kevin,” the older beastman said, “managing to make it down here and survive was an impressive accomplishment, I admit that.”
“You…!” the prince snarled, getting to his feet even though he was unsteady.
Beast King shook his head.
“There’s no need to fight. Besides, even though you have grown much stronger than I would expect you to become in such a short time you’re not that skilled yet. Especially not in your current state.”
“You fooled me! Kill Karl!” Kevin spat, his fists shaking in rage even though he was about to loose his balance in exhaust and pain.
Father and son glared at each other, fighting a silent battle. Lise just sat there, unable to do anything for Kevin. This was his lonely…
The older one shook his head again.
“You were always weak, Kevin,” he said, “perhaps because you lacked your mother’s care. You had no anger within you.”
Kevin snorted, but Beast King went on, just as calm.
“Our people used to be weak as well, but we turned our anger into the strength that gives us life today. When Arceia died I promised her that I wouldn’t let you be weak, because there were still demons like that one around.”
He motioned at Rakadra without moving the rest of his body the slightest.
Kevin blinked, his rage staggering in confusion.
“Mother? But…” he stuttered.
“No. No, she didn’t run away. I lied to you to help you build up your anger. But perhaps you need strength from another feeling…”
The old beastman looked at Lise, and even though he didn’t smile his grim expression turned a little softer.
Kevin’s shout was hoarse with anger and cold bitterness. He threw out his arms in desperate rage, the completely meaningless fact clawing at his soul.
“For anger!?” he almost screeched.
The statement startled both Kevin and Lise, the prince stared at his father in new confusion.
“I am a beastman, some claim a demon too,” the king said and lifted his cloak, “but, no matter what many hold as the truth I see no use in killing the innocent.”
With an overjoyed barking a half grown wolf leaped forward below Beast King’s cloak and tackled the thunderstruck Kevin, who lost his balance and fell backwards with his arms astonishedly but tightly around the animal.
The wolf attacked his friend’s face with his long tongue until Kevin rolled aside with a loud laughter of pure joy. He bumped into the still dazzled but widely smiling Lise and got up into sitting, Karl leaping onto his lap.
“Karl is alive!” the prince called, as if he wanted to shout out over the whole world that he hadn’t murdered his first true friend after all.
Lise didn’t care about the fact that Beast King was watching, she caught her beloved ally and thereby also his animal friend in another fond embrace. That was until Karl managed to wriggle out of it and after sniffing her hair for about two seconds started licking her face as well.
Kevin and Lise let go so that she could try handling the wolf instead.
“You mad pup!” she laughed after miserably failing to make him calm down a little and hugged his neck in defeat.
Karl buffed her cheek with his head and then finally laid down on the ground, his tail still twitching excitedly.
“But what happened?” Kevin asked his father, as he turned to the beastman the joy fell slightly back.
“It was an illusion,” Beast King calmly said, seemingly untouched by the youngster’s happiness, “of Deathjester’s black magic. It’s not important. We should leave this place now.”
He turned his heel and walked out, not looking around once or even waiting for a reply. But as he exited the room and heard his son call upon the holy elemental’s healing powers again, the old beastman smiled a little. With pride.
‘You did well, my son.’
“My equipment…?” Lise said with a frown as she and Kevin walked towards the room’s exit, their wounds healed and with Karl jumping around their feet.
“In corridor, they didn’t bother to hide it,” the prince calmed.
The corridor was a story within itself, though. Undead warriors turned to smoke or dust when they perished, but the trained, mad wolves and the werewolves didn’t fit in that category.
Lise turned her eyes away and focused with all her might on picking up her spear, backpack and armor that laid thrown on the floor without further notice. When she straightened up she saw that Kevin was rubbing the back of his neck with one hand while Karl sat on his back legs and scratched at his half human friend with a front paw. The beastman was grimacing, staring at the floor.
He hadn’t left a pretty sight behind. The tunnel wasn’t very long and well lit either, but that didn’t help much against the simple facts. About a dozen beasts had tried to hinder Kevin and who knew how many ghosts and vampires in Rakadra’s service… all meeting the same fate as their master when they had been dumb enough to try stopping the prince from saving his friend.
“Went berserk…” Kevin grunted, a great deal of awkward shame in his voice.
He, who Lise knew hated killing.
“And you did it well, too,” Beast King said without turning around, walking through the mess seemingly untouched by it.
Lise pursed her mouth after the cold blooded beastman and dropped her spear to put her hand on Kevin’s cheek.
‘What can I tell him?’ she wondered.
She didn’t want to say “they were evil and deserved it”, because that was just horrible. If she even thought something like that she wouldn’t be any better than the merciless half demon.
Maybe “it was for a good thing”? No… that felt wrong too. Maybe more true, sure… but somehow egoistic. It just felt misplaced.
He didn’t really like fighting, but always did what he had to do. That was the truth.
“Kevin, it’s alright. It’s alright.”
Slowly he let out a deep breath and nodded.
She calmly said so when his voice trailed off.
Again she picked up the spear and Kevin took her armor as they began hurrying through the tunnel to get away from the sight as soon as possible.
Ascending up a short stair and past a torn apart bush they finally reached the fresh air and both Lise and Kevin breathed deeply of relief. Kevin’s backpack laid on the ground; he had thrown it off before entering the caves so that it wouldn’t hinder him in the fights he knew would come.
Beast King was waiting for them, but he didn’t say a word. Not until Lise managed to formulate a question.
“Rakadra claimed that it was you who helped us on the ship a few weeks ago,” she carefully said, “was that so?”
For a moment it seemed like that was all the old beastman was going to say, but then he added:
“Normally I wouldn’t interfere, but he was using tricks I couldn’t allow him.”
The silence was rather thick during a few stretched seconds.
“And why he hate so much?” Kevin finally asked.
Beast King pursed his mouth.
“Rakadra’s parents were killed by me and Arceia after a long battle that stretched over several years. And it might have caused her death, yes. I could never find out the truth about that.”
His voice had remained calm up until the last two sentences, where a growl slowly but steadily took over. He found himself and straightened up even more to mark an end of that conversation.
“And now then, why did you come back here so early?” he asked Kevin.
“Looking for Lise’s brother,” the son said after a short pause, “taken by man with red eyes who knows black magic. Thought Deathjester maybe knew.”
“A man with red eyes?”
Beast King frowned and his sharp teeth showed between his lips in a sudden growl. The effect was lightly said creepy.
“And he took your brother?” the king grimly said, turning to the princess.
She blinked, surprised at this sudden act of concern.
“Yes, he bought Elliot in Byzen’s slave market and then they both disappeared in a shadow,” she said, “that’s all we know… do you know him?”
“Yes, I do. Hm.”
The king glared at the bared opening in the ground.
“You won’t find him here, at least I hope so,” he growled, “having Rakadra in my own back yard without noticing it is bad enough but Jagan… no.”
“Jagan?” Lise repeated, frowning.
Didn’t he say…? Oh great.
“Rakadra said something about his master’s name being Jagan!” she darkly said, “and… he wanted to release the Mana stone of Light by killing me… oh goddess…!”
“What?” Kevin and Beast King said simultaneously.
“He wanted me for the Wind stone earlier!” Lise groaned, “they must have taken care of that, then… Elliot?!”
She stared at Kevin in horror, who shook his head and tried to calm her by draping an arm around her shoulders. Lise tried to fight back the despair she felt, she couldn’t give up to new fears and let them crack her down! She had to be stronger…
“Do you have any information from Jinn, Luna?” Beast King slowly said.
Lise looked up in surprise as the Moon elemental emerged from thin air, her warm light spreading over the area.
“He forgot to tell you that you can summon him since you met him, didn’t he?” Luna said with a kind smile and chuckled, “he’s such an airhead… no, princess Lise, your brother hasn’t died by any Mana stone.”
The princess held back an urge to leap forward and hug the elemental; she wasn’t sure if that would prove healthy. And Luna looked as if she was listening to a voice only she could hear, thoughtfully tilting her head.
“He says that there was a knight in a dark armor who showed up with an already half dead Altenan soldier…” the Moon guardian finally said, “Jinn had had troubles with that knight before and couldn’t stop him.”
“And would Wisp be able to fight Jagan?” Beast King roughly said.
Luna’s wings rustled nervously.
“I don’t know, Beast,” she said, “among us he’s got the best possibility, but I don’t know. He’s worried too.”
“You know that if Rakadra doesn’t show up with you, they’ll kill someone else,” Beast King grimly said.
“Jagan has Elliot, I have to confront him in any case!” Lise said, her eyes like steel.
The old beastman silently watched the two youngsters before him for a moment. Then he very slowly nodded.
“Go to the goddess statue in the south and rest for a few hours,” he emotionlessly said, “healing magic isn’t any good alone. I’ll send you a couple of birds to take you to the old kingdom of Light.”
“Wh-what?” Kevin and Lise said simultaneously, lightly said surprised.
“You heard me.”
Beast King put a hand on Kevin’s shoulder and glared at him with something that could be called harsh kindness.
“That’s all I’m going to do to help you,” he grimly said, “you’re on your own. Fight for what you believe in, Kevin, that’s all that matters.”
The prince found himself amazingly quickly and gravely nodded.
“I will. Thank you, father.”
It sounded as if he was about to say something more, but stopped himself.
Beast King just took his hand away and turned to leave.
“Your Majesty,” Lise hurriedly said as she remembered something more, important, “Rakadra mentioned that a couple of demons were on their way here to bring me to the kingdom of Light…”
He looked around and his grim expression almost turned friendly.
“I’m prepared for that, then,” he said with a twitch of his fingers that brought out a fine set of deadly claws.
And then he kept walking away without looking around.
After a while he glanced at the spirit floating by his side.
“I never thought you’d do such a thing,” she said with a small smirk.
He didn’t reply, but a tiny frown appeared in his forehead.
“You’re proud of him, aren’t you? You just can’t admit it, Beast,” Luna went on.
Beast King’s impressive eyebrows twitched once.
“Why do you keep calling me ‘Beast’?” he gruffly grunted.
“Oh, I think it’s got a nice ring to it.”
“Hang on, I know this one…” Luna thoughtfully said, “there was only one person ever to call you ‘Beast’ before now, right?”
“You should know, you’re the guardian of the forest,” Beast King growled and trampled on.
The monsters that normally would attack any traveler fled the muscular beastman and the elemental as they walked/flew on.
“Guardian,” Luna nodded, “yes, I am the guardian. And you are the king, whether you like it or not.”
Beast King stopped and gave her a look that would have thrown a human backwards into a wall.
“You are the king because you led your people so well that they finally became free from the tyranny of hunters and humans with demonic minds. I can’t say that what followed was very good, but I guess you’ll just get worse as you age.”
She smacked his head with one of her wings; he didn’t even try to duck. For had he tried, she would have missed.
“Now tell me, you old idiot,” she coldly said as she floated just a few inches before his face, “what on earth made you order the destruction of Astoria? Haldor’s labs are long gone and forgotten, the only thing that happened was that many innocent were killed. Again. And Jad? Wendel? The hunters are dead, their families are merchants and sailors.”
“Jad was a base,” Beast King said, slowly, “I believe many more than me remembered Astoria for what it used to be. I ordered no massacre.”
“You should have thought about saying something against it. What was the purpose, Beast? I thought you didn’t hate humans as much anymore.”
Luna’s voice was lower now, almost sad.
“Humans are weak minded,” Beast King said, “they forget. And people of the world were looking for new goods to sell. I cannot allow more hunters to ever enter the forest.”
“I know you can’t, Beast. But Deathjester?”
“What, do you think I trust him? Pha!”
Beast King sounded almost ironically amused as he with those words walked past the Moon elemental.
“Just making sure. And Beast, stand still when I’m shouting at you!” Luna called.
He stopped again and turned around to thoughtfully watch the elemental. She glared back.
“How, why?” he finally demanded in a rough voice.
“Because you’re so goddamn slow!” Luna smirked and drifted closer.
And as she moved up to him she transformed into a tall human woman, dressed in a simple brown dress and with a sword in a belt around her waist. Fiery red hair fell down her back and tumbled around her shoulders as she reached up and placed a pair of almost transparent arms around the beastman’s thick neck.
“Heaven is awfully peaceful without you, you know,” she said in a low voice.
“That doesn’t explain how you can be here, Arceia,” Best King grunted with rough tenderness.
She weighed absolutely nothing, not that she ever had seemed heavy to him even though she had been taller and stronger than regular human women.
“They didn’t call me Luna’s warrior priestess for nothing, you should know that,” she replied, fine yet strong fingers burying in his thick hair.
“But that you were that close to her?”
“We can do this soul switch temporarily,” Arceia said as the to everyone else seemingly heartless warrior wrapped his muscular arms around her transparent body, “but not as often as I would wish for. However, she and I agreed that I have to check on my family every now and then. You didn’t really think you were imagining your own senses, did you?”
“I never saw you,” he grunted.
“And what do you use this for?” Kevin’s mother snorted and swiftly touched the tip of his nose.
“Why haven’t you told me before?”
“Allow me to put it this way. You are the worst father figure ever to step out in the moonlight, starlight, sunlight and candlelight!”
His right eyebrow twitched a little, like his lips.
“I see,” he said.
“That is, up until now it’s just been worse. Now I note a small point upwards.”
“Now tell me honestly what you think about Kevin.”
Beast King grunted, and it sounded like a chuckle.
“You know what I think of our son,” he said, “even Jagan will face a hard battle if Kevin and his princess join forces with Wisp.”
“Yeah, I think so too. But you know, Beast…”
Arceia looked up into his golden animal eyes and shook her head.
“He can’t ever be your heir now, but you already knew that, didn’t you?”
He didn’t say anything, but the twitch of his lips spoke well enough. Arceia nodded.
“Me and Luna will find Lugar then,” she said.
“That would be a good idea.”
She lifted herself inside his embrace and became carried as she placed a smooth, half ghostly kiss on Beast King’s lips. Then she faded backwards through his arms with a sad sneer and turned into Luna again. The elemental shook her head, seeming slightly confused for a moment. Then she smiled a bit at the beastman.
“I’ll come to the castle as soon as we’re ready for another switch,” she kindly said and drifted away in the night.
Beast King slowly nodded and began walking again.
And a word so rare in his mouth it was almost extinct lived a short life as he uttered it.
While Beast King walked back through the forest Lise and Kevin entered the statue’s clearing again, Karl jumping around their feet like he had done the entire way. Somehow they had managed not to stumble on the ecstatic puppy, at least so far.
For some reason nothing had attacked them during their walk, either. Perhaps the rumors about Kevin had spread quickly…
“Karl, leave that alone…” the beastman grunted as the pup went over to the grave and suspiciously poked at the flowers with his nose.
Karl snorted and laid down on the ground, his tail waving happily.
“Let it be,” Lise calmly said, motioning at the false grave.
Kevin nodded in agreement and put her armor on the ground. As he straightened up he looked at his stained arms, as if he hadn’t seen it before running his gaze over the torn and blemished clothes.
“I better wash, gah,” he concluded with another grunt.
Lise looked down at herself. There was blood on her as well after her and Kevin’s embrace in the underground room.
Not your everyday follow-up of the first kiss…
“You’re not the only one…”
She realized what that could be translated to and automatically looked up, staring into his rather dazzled eyes. They both turned away again, blushing slightly. In the silence that followed Karl’s ears twisted, puzzled.
“Um… I’ll just… be over there…” Lise mumbled and went down to the bushes facing the statue, bringing her backpack along since there was a towel and an extra tunic somewhere within its depths.
She disappeared behind the greenery but glanced through a tiny opening between the leaves as she absentmindedly searched for the big piece of rough cloth inside her pack. Kevin stood still for a moment, in the silver light she couldn’t (just like before…) see any colors. Still she had a feeling he blushed; she still did.
After a while he sheepishly rubbed his cheek with the back of his hand, a faint smile on his lips though. He let his backpack fall and freed his bedroll, taking the blanket from it plus a smaller sack from the pack before heading into the bushes behind the goddess’ back. Karl jumped up and happily bounced after him through the shrubbery.
“Karl, stop!” Kevin yelped, laughing.
His call was followed by a loud splash. Lise chuckled to herself, tenderly.
Of course Kevin let the pup bring him off balance, the prince was far to strong to be beaten by Karl no matter if he was tired.
‘I’ve never heard him laugh like that,’ Lise warmly thought, ‘he’s finally free from his guilt…’
And Karl was such a bundle of festive trouble. She had to smile widely at the statement, laughing again as she heard the two playfully wrestle in the small river on the other side of the clearing.
Still smiling she pulled out the towel and put it in the grass, letting it go to slowly rise her hand to her lips. At the touch of her fingertips a sparkle of the earlier glow returned, causing a thrill of warm, tender excitement to run through her whole body.
No, it hadn’t been a dream. The blood on her tunic and arms, be it obscure, was clear proof.
‘I love Kevin… I love Kevin!’
Sweet, adorable, strong, handsome, brave, stuttering, dependable, shy Kevin!
Widely smiling she ran one hand through her hair, feeling strong all of a sudden despite her fatigue. And happier than she ever could remember. As her hands fell to the towel she clenched them into cloth-filled, shaking fists, not of a fury other than that of pure joy.
‘Oh calm down, you’re acting like a silly fourteen-year-old!’ her sense of duty snarled.
But the rest of her just sneered back at that sense for the moment being.
‘Be like that then!’ she snorted at it, smiling even wider, ‘but let me be happy just for once, you can’t take this away!’
‘I take everything unneeded away!’ Duty snapped back, ‘you have your responsibilities to think of!’
The normally leading sense twitched with hurt pride as Lise just chuckled again.
‘Responsibilities, right here in the middle of a forest?’ the princess sneered, ‘aren’t you satisfied with that I’ve accepted a possible suitor?’
‘Now you’re making things up! He hasn’t exactly…’
‘Oh, just shut up!’
Some other part of Lise’s mind laughed, amused. Duty seemed even more offended as the newcomer piped up:
‘Just imagine the Challenge of the Queen… you wouldn’t stand more than five seconds against him. If even that.’
‘No…’ Lise smiled, chuckling.
‘Oh yeah? And how will you even make him fight you, have you considered that?’ Duty coldly said, causing Lise to roll her eyes, ‘he’ll never want to attack you even for traditions! Stop being silly and just get cleaned already!’
Without relaxing her lips the slightest the amazon pulled her tunic over her head and stepped into the cold water, shuddering. It wasn’t that deep; she sat down on her knees and the water reached up to just barely cover her chest.
“Brr…” Lise muttered and rubbed her arms below the surface to get rid of the more stubborn stains.
Since they were on her skin the marks weren’t that hard to get rid of. The tunic would be more complicated though… oh well. It wasn’t like anybody was supposed to normally see her walking around just in that. She didn’t have much left of the piece of soap she’d gotten from Rolante, she’d rather use that on herself and not on clothes.
Come to think of it…
She had begun to adjust to the cold water, it wasn’t plain torture anymore. Okay, why not...
Lise reached out of the river, for her backpack. As her hand passed above the heap that was the tunic she thought about placing it in the water with a rock on to stop it from drifting away. That would at least help a little… but no. There was no time for letting it dry, they were only going to rest for maybe three, four hours and that wouldn’t be enough in the cool night.
Nope, this had to do.
For the sake of time she tried to keep her hair as dry as possible too, even though a big part of it was floating peacefully on the surface around her arms and tickling her pleasantly.
While she was rubbing water over her face to get rid of the last soap left in that area she suddenly heard a splashing from behind and almost dove beneath the surface by instinct. But she knew Kevin never would try anything like spying and a monster would sneak…
Lise sighed and rolled her eyes, with a smile though.
“Karl, I’m glad you think I shouldn’t be lonely, but I prefer not to have men of any kind around when I take a bath!” she said, trying to sound resolute as she waved at him with a pointing finger sticking up just above the surface.
It was just that he was so darn cute when he whimpered and paddled closer.
“Oh, no you don’t!” she stated as he tried to lunge forward to lick her face again.
Kindly but firmly she grabbed the sides of his furry body and lifted the drenched puppy out of the river. He snorted but waved his dripping tail at her as he was put down.
And then he began to violently shake off the water.
“Hey!” Lise shouted with a loud laugh as she got an unwanted shower.
“Ah, sorry for that!” Kevin called from the other side of the clearing.
“No, it’s alright,” she yelled back, smiling.
Karl snorted again and strutted up into the open field.
The amazon smiled, but her head snapped up in surprise as a strong light erupted from behind the bushes in the area where Kevin was, accompanied by his powerful howling.
“Something wrong?!” Lise shouted and slammed her palms onto the dry ground to heave herself out of the water, completely forgetting about her lack of clothes.
“Nothing, just easier drying…”
Thousands upon thousands drops of water flashed in the moonlight as a familiar sound came from the other part of the river. Lise covered her lips with her hand as she laughed and leaned back into the river, seeing a mental image of Kevin in his werewolf form shaking off the water just like Karl had done.
She figured that she should get up on dry land as well since he obviously was almost done. Shivering in the chilly night she stood up and quickly wrapped the towel around herself.
Grimacing at the cold she rubbed the cloth over her wet skin and dug her clean tunic out of the backpack. Her hair received a quick, rough massage by the towel to get fairly dry before Lise hurriedly got into the simple clothing.
Since she was still freezing she tied the towel around her waist to work like a long skirt before she walked the same way as Karl had done a moment ago.
While she sat down on the ground just by Kevin’s bedroll he entered the clearing as well, wearing his other set of clothes and the remains of what he had been wearing thrown over his shoulder. He was rubbing his face with the blanket to get rid of the last water; he obviously lacked a towel.
Lise met his shy gaze as he lowered the cloth, biting her lower lip as she desperately tried to think of something to say. She didn’t know where to begin, and he clearly felt just as lost now.
The problem was that they had realized how much they loved each other while they had been too exhausted and relieved to think; now they had had time to realize it to the fullest. Suddenly it felt more complicated than before…
Just… didn’t know what to say… what to do, where to start. Where to begin again, what was the next step?
Karl saved them from the awkward torture. Oblivious to his friends’ shy staring at each other he took a bite of Kevin’s blanket and pulled.
“Hey, Karl…!” the beastman snorted and playfully tried to win the competition, not really using any strength.
Lise laughed at the scene and stood up, rushed over to Karl as fast as the improvised skirt allowed and buried her fingers in the fur on his head. He barked in delight and let go of the blanket, pushing at Lise to make her continue scratching him behind his ears. She sat down again and smiled warmly as her nails gently worked on the puppy’s head.
“You’re a little beast too,” she told him, “but cute.”
He just snorted at that, his tail waving happily.
“What’s he saying?” Lise said in a soft voice, glancing up.
Kevin more or less forced himself not to be more timid, wrestling his accursed shyness away as he sat down just beside her. His hands felt shaky, though, as if he was scared of something.
‘Yeah, I’m scared,’ he grimly thought, ‘I really am… of loosing this realization.’
The sad happiness was a soft buzz throughout his entire being now, but the shyness was still dangerous. He thought that logically it shouldn’t be that way, but it was…
Oh, come on! Don’t let it take over you again!
Lise smelled a bit nervous, insecure… but was it the same way he felt, or was it about whether she did love him or not?
Kevin held back an urge to bite his tongue, trying to calm down enough to speak.
‘Am I overstressed?’
He swallowed and looked at Karl.
“Ah, he’s not making much sense,” he said, beginning in a low voice but it felt better as he finally got down to saying something so bit by bit he regained a normal tone, “too young. Just happy to be here. And like you too.”
That he was able to smile at her made himself rather surprised, he had been sure that he was too uptight by now to manage something like that.
‘Relax, just calm down,’ he told himself, ‘there’s no use being like this.’
Lise smiled back, carefully. Then the scent of nervousness increased for a moment, before she slowly changed her position and leaned at his arm. Kevin forced down a will to jump and took in a slow breath.
And draped the arm around her shoulders, drawing her closer.
See, it’s alright. Okay?
They exchanged glances and smiled rather sheepishly, understanding.
“Haven’t ever felt…” Kevin said in a low voice, fighting to keep the embarrassment from taking over.
She very resolutely decided not to say anything about challengers now, it could scare both of them off. The princess might have been caught in the joy but she was clearheaded enough not to start building cloud castles. What they had now was enough for the moment and it couldn’t be sweeter…
Well, apart from one thing.
She held back a sigh. Not that that helped against Kevin’s nose.
“Wrong?” he said, his tender grip of her twitching.
“No, I was just thinking of Elliot…” Lise muttered, “even if we manage to take care of Jagan there might be so many battles left and… hm?”
His left hand moved up to her face and the fingertips swiftly touched her lips to make her stop talking. She met his gaze, rather surprised. Kevin shook his head, gravely.
“Lise, please don’t worry now.”
His warm hand moved to her cheek, as he watched her with tender concern.
“But I have to be strong, Kevin…” Lise finally muttered.
“I know, gah, but not now. Should let mind rest too.”
She straightened up then, wrapped her arms around his neck and leaned her forehead on her upper arm beside his head.
‘She sad?’ Karl asked, worried.
‘No, just tired,’ Kevin silently told his young friend while placing both arms protectively around Lise’s shoulders, ‘she’s always planning the next hunt. And worry makes her weaker.’
There was no other way he could explain the situation to the puppy.
‘She’s strong! And smell nice!’ Karl happily said, lying in the grass with his tail storming and ears twitching.
‘Yes,’ Kevin softly mumbled.
Kevin wrinkled his nose at the puppy. Oh yeah, he’s growing. Not really the kid he used to be… and if he’d been in the castle he must have met other wolves.
‘That’s not what humans call it,’ the prince said.
‘But is she?’ Karl grinned.
Had the wolf been a human he could have been a seven year old, happily teasing younger brother.
Kevin’s lips twitched. When wolves said “female” and “male”, they meant it.
‘Yes, she is,’ he told Karl.
‘If she’ll have me for the rest of her life…’ he thought to himself, holding back a frown.
‘Happy!’ the pup declared, placing his head on his front paws with a merry whimper.
Kevin turned his face to Lise, his nose automatically being buried in her hair. The soft, warm smell almost made his head spin before he adapted to the first overwhelming feeling of closeness.
Now she was holding him, her warmth melting around the young beastman. Still… he was so afraid to loose her, like he had lost his mother and feared to have lost Karl as well. It had been so close when he had fought Rakadra…
The mere thought of ever failing to keep her close made him tighten the careful grip he had for the moment.
Lise’s arms carefully squeezed his neck in return, not so that he got any troubles breathing, just a brief tightening.
The silence was like the silky petal of a white rose.
“Hmm?” he muttered, snorting out a tired breath.
“The birds are here,” Lise’s voice softly said, almost whispering.
She was sitting on her knees beside him, her fine silhouette resting against one of the moons as Kevin opened his eyes with a wide yawn.
Faintly he could remember moving his slightly numb arm under her head to get some feeling back in it before he fell back into his slumber… there was some memory of her warmth drawing away too, but so slowly and careful that he in his remaining exhaust had slipped back into sleep again.
Rubbing his eyes he sat up, blinking.
Karl was standing in front of two big, feathery shadows beside the statue; he was whimpering and snorting while the birds chirped.
They hadn’t got the same language, but could still understand each other fairly well. Talking about hunting for the moment.
“Want something to eat?” Lise said and put her backpack on the ground.
The half blood looked up at her and realized that she was in her armor already. Slowly he nodded.
“And then we leave,” he said, knowing that she wouldn’t admit that she was eager to go but truly wanted that.
“Alright,” the princess innocently said.
Kevin took the bread he was offered and ate it without a word. He didn’t want to say anything that could be nagging, so he decided to just let it be. After all, the sooner they could get to the Light stone and meet Wisp, the better. He had felt the holy elemental’s presence when calling it for help, but the link Luna had provided wasn’t strong enough for holding councils.
To avoid a moment of stressing waiting Lise took a bread as well, but she wasn’t really concentrating when eating.
Waking up to find herself resting peacefully in Kevin’s arms, still holding her own over his chest and hand by his cheek, had truly dazzled her. At first she had been too drowsy to even remember that the situation was rather unfamiliar, though her mind had caught up with facts after a few moments. She couldn’t recall falling asleep like that, it must have happened while they were sitting down and holding on to each other.
Tenderly she went over the realization the he had made sure she laid completely on his bedroll, and then letting himself only be halfway away from the ground since there wasn’t enough space. So typically him.
To watch his calm face that close, able to feel his warm breath passing through her hair… she hadn’t ever wanted to move.
When the birds suddenly landed she had been forced to realize that it was time to go again, whether she liked it or not. But unwilling to disturb Kevin just yet her movements of getting out of his embrace had been slow and careful and he had kept sleeping.
After putting on her armor and remembering that she didn’t have her ribbon any longer Lise had spent another few moments watching Kevin’s sleep before carefully awakening him. He really deserved more rest after all he had done, but…
She didn’t know how to thank him for what he had gone through for her, it was so incredibly much.
“Know the way?” Kevin said as he stood up, pulling Lise out of the pool of thoughts.
“According to my memory the kingdom of Light used to be to the east southeast of where Rolante now is, in the mountains,” the princess nodded.
One of the birds chirped.
“Beast King told them already,” Kevin translated with a glance at the carriers.
“He’s really helping out…” Lise said with a smile.
The half blood thoughtfully nodded and started to wrap up his bedroll.
A few minutes later they left the Moonlight forest, entering a night sky not created by any Mana stone’s power. Karl was nervously peeking out of Kevin’s backpack, but he was safe there.
‘Thanks for everything,’ Lise thought, glancing back at the forest.
Due to her position she could only see the castle of the beastmen in the corner of her eye, but there was where she sent her thoughts.
Kevin’s father seemed cold blooded, harsh and empty of emotions. Still, it was pretty clear that no matter what he made it look like, he really did care about his son.
“You won’t find him here, at least I hope so.”
He had said so about Jagan.
Lise clenched her teeth. Not that she knew Beast King that well, however that little remark, the tone of his voice, hinted that not even he felt tempted to engage battle with the red eyed man. And that just couldn’t be good.
The princess closed her eyes for a moment.
No use worrying now. They just had to see Wisp and talk to him about it…
But she could never stop worrying about anything at all.
It was dawn when they finally reached their destination. The first sunrays lit up cracked walls built by human hands, the whole city built on a huge platform on top of a lower yet steep mountain. If the platform was natural or carved was hard to decide since the whole creation had been battered by weather and winds throughout the millennia that it had been abandoned.
A small river floated around the buildings, filling up the lower parts of them and cascading down the mountainside towards the ocean far, far down. But where the water came from was also a mystery, there weren’t any melting glaciers above the ruins. Maybe some kind of mountain springs…
The Mana stone was easily spotted, on it’s own terrace below a rather long stair on the western side of the town.
So finding the stone was no big deal. And the birds could easily land on the stair above it, so that was no problem either. And Wisp showed up just as Lise and Kevin touched the ground, gladly calling with a big chunk of relief that he had been waiting for them. No troubles there.
Well, that was a nice exception.
“Luna told me everything,” the white flame with the big, kind eyes told the travelers as they stood on the terrace, “together we might be able to protect the stone from Jagan.”
He looked down and kindly but puzzled asked:
“What’s up with him?”
Kevin and Lise looked down at the first’s backpack. The half blood had taken it off after Lise had lifted Karl out of it, and now it was on the ground. And full of wolf. Nervous whimpers came from inside and a tail flickered by the opening.
The prince sat down and put his hand on the cloth. Karl whimpered again and Kevin made a smooth, growling sound far back in his throat before straightening up again.
“Too light,” he said and shook his head, “he’s not used to it. Be fine in a while.”
The friendly softness in his eyes fell away and he turned to Wisp again.
“Can you tell us about Jagan?” the half blood asked.
“Of course,” the holy elemental grimly said, “sit down for a while, it’s a bit of a long story.”
He cleared his throat (doubtlessly only symbolic) and began to tell the tale as his guests took their seats on the stair.
“About a thousand years ago this place was a shimmering land, where magic thrived and flourished,” Wisp began, “everything had been at peace for a long time and the Mana goddess chose to call us elementals to the Holyland to meet with her and discuss any possible problem. However, as I left my place here the troubles began.”
His bright eyes were now filled with sorrow.
“The crown prince accidentally killed his own mother with a miscast spell, and even though it was an accident nobody believed him because of the normal security of that one magic. People started calling him the ‘Dark Prince’, and everyone feared and hated him for what had happened. In my absence that lasted for over two years due to the length of our meeting I could not defend him, since I was oblivious to what was happening. It was a horrible mistake and the goddess of course decided never to hold another council like that. When I returned it was too late.”
He heavily sighed and shook, bitterly.
“The prince had given up hope of any exoneration… one night demons visited him and offered him to be their king, in exchange for his soul and the destruction of his unfaithful kingdom. In his despair and anger he agreed. I returned to find only dead bodies and ruins…”
“You couldn’t know…” Lise soothingly said, trying to comfort the elemental as his voice trailed off.
Wisp tried to get a smile back in his eyes, but it didn’t work very well.
“Thank you, princess,” he said, “however I shouldn’t have left my post… the goddess never ordered us to come, it was by own free will and…”
His voice trailed off again and he shook before starting to speak again.
“In any case, what’s done is done. Now then… the Dark Prince is now one of the many demon kings in the Underworld, and Jagan in turn is one of his finest warriors. A dangerous enemy, I have to warn you about that.”
“Understand,” Kevin grimly snarled, and Lise nodded.
Wisp looked concerned and turned to the princess once more.
“There is another thing,” he gravely said, “there is one more general of the demon army in this world, but she was once a human.”
“You mean Bigeau?!”
“Yes,” Wisp grimly nodded.
The two warriors exchanged vexed glances, thinking of the same thief.
“Oh goddess, Hawk…” Lise harshly said.
“What hawk?” Wisp said, puzzled.
“He’s a thief from Navarre, he escaped Bigeau’s spell that controlled everyone else,” the princess explained, “we lost him after Rolante was freed…”
“Blue haired, thin?” the white flame asked.
Kevin and Lise looked rather surprised at him and nodded.
“Ah him,” Wisp said, calming, “don’t worry about that one. Salamando told me about a thief that helped the fairy’s friends save the Flame Kahn’s daughter from being killed for the Fire stone. Dunno what he’s doing now, though.”
“Jessica?” Lise thoughtfully said with a relieved smile, “so, is the Fire stone safe?”
“Well… sort of.”
“It’s safe in the terms of being done with,” he grimly said, “Bigeau used two ninjas’ souls instead.”
“Wh-what?!” Kevin and Lise exclaimed.
“How many stones left?” the prince asked, frowning.
“Mine, Luna and Gnome. So we need all help we can get.”
Lise hugged one of her knees and rocked a little back and forth as she asked in a concerned voice:
“What would happen if all the stones’ powers are released and the Mana sword is obtained by the Dark Prince or Deathjester?”
The elemental sighed and reluctantly spoke.
“Then the Mana tree will definitely die, and so will the goddess. The god beasts will be set free and Mana will leave this world… but…”
He “straightened up” and a sparkle of warming hope came to his eyes.
“That mustn’t mean the end,” he continued, “the fairy and her chosen warriors are destined to battle such a disaster in need. And, even if the tree and the goddess should wither, it won’t be over. The goddess took the form of a tree and trees bear fruit that can become a new sprout.”
Lise let out a deep breath of relief.
“So there’s still hope?” she said.
“There’s always hope, as long as there is life.”
Wisp suddenly chuckled.
“What are we saying?” he smirked, “we have all meet Duran and company, haven’t we?”
That even got the two warriors to smile again.
“That’s much better,” Wisp kindly said, “now… maybe we should make preparations for the more creepy guests.”
“Yes,” Kevin said and turned grim again, “but what is Jagan? Demon?”
“No, not really,” Wisp said, “though he’s got demon blood… if that’s the proper pick of words since he’s a vampire.”
The half blood gravely nodded. Lise suddenly found, much to her surprise actually, his arm around her shoulders and chose to lean at him as the situation was offered.
“I don’t know when he’ll get here,” Wisp explained, “but I’d say he’ll prefer nighttime since that’s more of his element. And it wouldn’t surprise me if he brought company too, so we can expect a couple of demons.”
“Can we really fight those?” Lise asked, frowning.
“They are actually overrated,” Wisp called, “slow and not too smart, at least not the lower ones and those are what we probably can await. Besides, if I bless your weapons they’ll be twice as effective against those ugly fellows than normal equipment.”
“Me fight with fists, claws at night,” Kevin pointed out and absentmindedly bent his fingers.
“Sacred claws it is then.”
“Maybe we can make a surprise attack?” Lise said, glancing around.
The terrace was in a pretty open area, but on the other side of the not too wide river were lush shrubberies and trees. The princess pointed.
“Look, I think we can wait there and leap up to the stone,” she said.
“That would give us an upper hand,” Wisp agreed, “come to think of it you better not hang around here too close to the evening, because if we’re going to surprise them we can’t have Jagan and his cretins feeling the smell of you.”
“They as well, huh?” Lise said and nudged Kevin’s head with her own.
He smiled at her and then stood up.
“Let’s check the bushes,” he proposed and picked up Karl to bring him over.
Sometime during Wisp’s tale the pup had managed to overcome his fear for the strange light and come out to sit by Kevin’s right side.
Lise picked up her friend’s backpack and climbed over the wall of the terrace, following the half blood and the wolf.
Behind the green wall was an unexpected clearing, it seemed like the “forest” around the ruins only was a couple of feet thick in this area. Cliffs shot up on the other side of the field, cutting it off and offering shadow for the moment. But that would surely change as the sun moved. Still, it was a good place for laying low and waiting.
Kevin put Karl down and called upon the birds while Lise went to put down both their packs by one of the trees. She turned to find Wisp thoughtfully looking towards the greenery, at the almost hidden ruins behind the short but thick forest.
“Something wrong?” the princess asked.
The holy elemental came out of whatever he had been pondering with a start and shook a little.
“Wait here for a moment,” he said, “I need to take a look at something.”
Before Lise could even open her mouth to ask, he had disappeared with a small flash.
“What?” Kevin grunted.
“I have no idea…”
Frowning Lise crossed her arms and leaned her back against the nearest tree.
“What do you think?” she said with a concerned look, “can we really handle demons, even with Wisp’s help? It’s not that I don’t trust him, I just don’t know… it’s demons we might face for heaven’s sake!”
Kevin rubbed the back of his neck, causing the whole mane to sway.
“Don’t know, Lise. Never fought full blood demons.”
His eyes darkened by the last line and he let out a low, deep growl. Lise clenched her teeth. Even though Rakadra was dead as a rock he kept haunting the beastman.
Perhaps when more time had passed, when the pain and fear was forgotten… but she had a feeling that wouldn’t ever happen.
Shaking her head she straightened up and walked over to him, putting her hand on Kevin’s cheek.
It felt so releasing when those simple touches finally was allowed and nothing could hold her back anymore. Not even Duty, or Moral. Or even Shyness.
“Don’t think of him,” she said in a low voice.
Kevin shook his head hardly noticeable.
He rubbed his neck again, frowning.
“I get mad when I remember.”
“Of course you do, I feel the same. He hurt you so horribly and…”
Lise sighed as she ran one hand down over the tiny scars on Kevin’s arm, left after Rakadra’s torture on the ship all those weeks ago.
“But in the end you were the stronger one.”
The two words leaving Kevin’s lips startled Lise and she looked up at him with a frown. He clenched his jaw and turned away, ignoring Karl as the pup whimpered and worriedly scratched at his leg.
“Called Wisp to heal and brought him off balance,” the half blood grunted, “without help, might have failed and then we’d be…”
Lise opened her mouth and closed it again. She wanted to say it was nonsense, but he did have a painful point.
“But the main thing is that you didn’t loose,” she finally said, catching herself.
Kevin shook his head again.
“Thing is,” he grimly said, “I won more by luck than strength. And Jagan is Rakadra’s master… you right, I don’t know either.”
Resolutely Lise walked around the half blood to be able to face him as he refused to look around.
“Alright, I give,” she grimly said, “Rakadra used enough dirty tricks, again, to get the upper hand. He divided us and used me to weaken you with that needle thing he did, and he could have won just because of it. But there won’t be anything like that this time, we’ll fight together.”
Kevin looked down, clenching and unclenching his fists as he listened to and watched her. And Lise sternly looked back into his yellow eyes.
“Alright?” she ended.
For a moment they just glared at each other, until the half blood sighed.
“Gah… worried, Lise.”
“Now that’s my job…”
She stepped closer and kept looking up at him. Some runaway thought was amazed at how tall he really was, she hadn’t really considered it before. But, he was often crouching a bit on the other hand. Now in his frustration, Kevin straightened up properly.
“Don’t feel that way,” she said in a low, soft voice, “we’re both here, and Karl too. Rakadra couldn’t defeat you and we will give his master a hard time.”
And with that she leaned forward the last few inches and placed her cheek against his shoulder. After a moment the strength of his arms pushed at the leather of her armor and one of his hands came to the back of Lise’s head. Another heartbeat later Kevin’s cheek carefully touched her forehead, staying there.
The princess closed her eyes, a small smile of relief tickling her lips.
The couple looked up at a very embarrassed Wisp, who had a slightly pink color of his flames.
“What?” Kevin said, not unfriendly.
“Sorry to interrupt,” the elemental said, fighting to keep his voice calm, “but there’s somebody that might help us further in this upcoming battle.”
He waved towards the ruins with a sparkle of holy fire.
Kevin and Lise exchanged glances.
“What are you going to show us?” Lise asked, looking up at the huge, slightly cracked building before them.
“Don’t worry, it’s a surprise,” Wisp said and added with a grin; “Jagan will hate us all even more for this... if it works, which I have no doubts about.”
They entered the ruin and walked up another stair.
“If an elemental has a strong connection, let us call it friendship, with a human,” the white flame softly said, “it is possible for us to bring that human’s spirit back to the living world if we need their help with something.”
“You mean that you’ve brought someone here?” Lise asked, lightly said surprised.
Right then they finished the stair and turned left into a cracked hole after a door, entering a huge, almost empty room. Strange patterns were on the walls, just like there were all over the ruins. These, and the ones on the floor as well, had been mostly saved from wind and rain throughout the millennia however.
And in the middle of the room a transparent woman stood.
She was dressed in a white, loose dress with wide sleeves that nearly reached down to the floor. The cloth carried fine silver and gold embroideries across the chest, sparkling in the sun that shone down through a hole in the roof. The only accessory she wore was a smooth gold tiara in her warmly blond hair.
The ghost was truly very beautiful, but her eyes shone with sadness that not even eternity could mend.
She pressed her palms against each other and bowed her head in greeting.
“Blessed be in Wisp’s light,” she said in a low, soft voice.
“Queen Iloa, the last queen of my kingdom,” Wisp said, an edge of sadness in his words.
Kevin managed to swallow the astonishment first and nodded.
“Luna’s peace,” he said, his voice like an echo of Iloa’s.
The princess by his side glanced at him with slight surprise. She hadn’t ever heard him say something like that, less believed that the beastmen had such a greeting. But, come to think of it something like that felt proper when meeting an ancient queen. So Lise let the little training she had needed in court behavior kick in. She placed her right palm against her armor’s chest and bowed in the old amazon show of respect.
“And Jinn’s protection,” she softly said.
“I can’t say how that warms my spirit,” Iloa said with the shadow of a sad smile, “to hear those phrases again and see people from your countries in this very room…”
She fell silent and grimly nodded, catching herself from continuing to live the nostalgia she obviously experienced.
“In any case,” she took on, “I let Wisp know that I perhaps can help you in your battle against the demons.”
The way she said the last two words made it very clear that she was pained beyond compare at her son’s fate. Her guests silently agreed on mercifully not show that they recognized it.
“We’re grateful for any help we can get, so truly thank you,” Lise said with a second bow, this one of the appreciation she spoke of.
Being the princess of Rolante and leader of the amazons she seldom bowed to anyone, she couldn’t even remember when she last had done so. However, Lise instinctively felt that Iloa deserved all respect and she would therefore bring that.
The queen almost smiled again as Kevin silently nodded agreement.
“Please,” she said, “I am the one who should take you for fighting to protect the last remaining part of my kingdom against the demons. Now then… back when I was alive, the kingdom of Light was the center of the human civilization. We had the finest warriors of the world, that all fought to protect all people against the hordes of monsters and dark beasts that always have plagued this world.”
She gravely nodded.
“And those warriors were from all over the world, even beastmen were among us as friends.”
“What happened?” Kevin asked as the queen fell silent.
Iloa sadly shook her head.
“Times change,” she said, “evil forces worked against all that was good in the world. For some reason the godbeast of Darkness was released as well, and against that the humans, even the elementals were helpless. Eventually the beast, Zable Fahr, simply disappeared. And nobody knows why. But even though that threat left the elemental of Darkness, Shade, had vanished as well. Without him to control the dark forces of the world demons slowly managed to establish securer entrances to our realm and grew in strength. So ghosts, vampires and zombies began to be common and the people of this planet were split.”
She straightened up again.
“However, that is all in the past,” she resolutely said, “ahead lies the future you are to fight for, and I’ll help you as good as I can.”
As she continued to speak she walked closer until she stood just a couple of feet from the two warriors.
“As I said we had the finest warriors in the world. Many came here to train, and eventually they all received the goddess’ blessing through the Mana stone of Light.”
“Classchanges?” Kevin said with a small, thoughtful frown.
“Yes. And also… the most trusted men and women were granted a divine item, each one special for each individual. Those items allowed the above all determined and pure hearted a second classchange, that otherwise would have been sealed because of its great power.”
With the shadow of a smile she reached forward and placed her fingertips along the sides of Lise’s head. Gentle warmth spread from the ghostly touch and the princess’ eyes slowly shut by themselves. It felt as if she was being wrapped up in a cocoon of peace, similar to what she had felt during her transformation by the Wind stone.
“There…” Iloa’s voice whispered.
The fingertips slipped down across Lise’s cheeks and then disappeared. But there was a low clinking sound and she felt a sudden, mild weight against the foundation of her neck. Opening her eyes she lifted her hand and felt an uneven, hard surface over the highest part of her armor. She carefully took a hold of it between thumb and pointing finger and held it up for inspection.
It was a necklace, she could feel the thin chain move against the back of her neck as she lifted the heavier part. Thousands of tiny links created a thin half moon carrying tiny pearls and red jewels.
A miracle of craftsmanship.
Its beauty was breathtaking, even for Lise who never had cared much for accessories.
“What…” was all that got past her lips in her fascination.
“It is the Briesingamen,” Iloa softly said, “the necklace of an ancient goddess of love; Freya. She and her friends lived on this world even before the Mana goddess, however circumstances forced them to search out a new world to protect.”
“And let’s see…”
Wisp floated up beside Lise’s shoulder and inspected the divine gift.
“It’ll help you become a vanadis,” he said in a soft voice, “do you know the title?”
Lise had blinked as she heard the word, her memory kicking backwards.
“What is?” Kevin wondered and tilted his head.
There was a bit of concern in his voice, obviously he felt his princess’ mind jump.
“It’s an old title the amazons used,” Lise blankly said, “so rare it hardly was used and it hasn’t been worthy anyone for centuries…”
She realized that she sounded like a confused history book and gave a slightly sheepish grin.
“I’m sorry, I was just surprised,” she quickly said.
The metal softly buzzed in her grip, sending warm streams through her skin and to the rest of her body.
The belonging of a goddess… of love?
‘Is that really meant for me…?’ Lise thought, her belief in that wavering.
‘What do you think your half blood friend there thinks when he looks at you?’ Wisp’s voice gently whispered to her mind.
Lise wasn’t very startled by that, however she had to restrain herself from glancing at Kevin. If she had, she knew for sure she would have blushed like a girl.
‘See?’ the elemental softly smiled.
‘Oh, stop it… you’re embarrassing me!’ the princess thought.
‘And you feel so happy at the same time?’ Wisp warmly pointed out.
“And now for you, then…” Iloa said and carefully buried her fingers in Kevin’s mane.
Lise couldn’t help a sting of defensive jealousy as her companion slowly closed his eyes by the soft, tender touch. The princess knew it meant nothing, but she just couldn’t do anything to stop the childish anger from being born and itch her chest. But reason halted its growth and pressed it back before it had a chance to grew enough for Kevin to smell. Now that wouldn’t be pretty…
“Here we are,” Iloa warmly said and removed her touch from the half blood.
Without opening his eyes Kevin cupped his big hands below the queen’s. Between her palms an orb of pure light appeared, quickly growing until it reached her ghostly skin. Then it flashed and took the form of a peculiar medallion. It was made in a strangely red-brown metal, perfectly smooth. Not like a coin, but a ribbon of hard material fondly bent and formed into a heart’s shape. Iloa carefully placed it in
Kevin’s hands; it filled up his grip. He opened his eyes and looked down at what he held.
“It’s an ancient treasure,” Iloa said in a low voice, “among the beastmen warriors in our kingdom there once was one named Tarek. He was a great warrior and also pure hearted. Before his death he magically created this artifact and placed his skills and strength of mind in it, hoping that one day it would help somebody else to reach his heights. Since he was called the Golden werewolf, that which you now hold became known as the soul of the Golden Wolf.”
The queen glanced at the approaching Wisp with the shadow of a smile.
“I believe Tarek was bestowed with the title God hand, so I trust in that that would be the appropriate path,” she said.
Wisp reached out a tentacle, then he waved back and forth a bit; a nodding.
“Yep, right you are, Iloa,” he smiled.
“Thank you,” Kevin gravely said, bending his fingers over the relic in his grip.
“Yes, thank you very much,” Lise agreed.
Iloa sadly smiled.
“I am glad to help. If I could I would help you further, but this is all I can do.”
“It will doubtlessly help a lot,” the princess said and smiled a little.
The queen turned to her.
“All I can tell you further is that your brother still is alive, but I only know that since he hasn’t entered heaven yet. Your parents are still searching for him, but we all fear that the presence of demons will cloud their vision.”
Lise’s voice choked up and she stared blankly at the queen with a thick lump in her throat.
“I am sorry,” Iloa quickly said, “I didn’t mean to shock you.”
“Are they… alright?” Lise managed to whisper.
“Yes, they are fine,” the queen kindly nodded, “and watching over you. As your mother also is, prince Kevin.”
She turned to the half blood for the last sentence, but since he had stepped closer to Lise and put a hand on her shoulder it wasn’t a wide turn for the queen. He looked up by her words and managed a smile before he turned his gaze to Lise’s slightly pale face again.
‘I can’t be like this!’
Lise mentally slapped herself and straightened up.
“Could you tell them… I said hi?” she said in a voice which hardly kept calm.
It sounded so stupid but it was all she could manage.
“And to my mother,” Kevin murmured.
“I will,” Iloa promised with another weak smile.
She began to dissolve and bowed her head.
“Fare well now, and good luck,” she said as she faded.
“Good bye,” Kevin, Lise and Wisp replied.
As the spirit softly floated into nothingness the half blood turned Lise to him with care. She met his gaze and shook her head, managing a smile.
“I’m fine, Kevin. She just surprised me a bit, you don’t have to worry about me.”
She knew him well enough by now to know that “gah” meant that he wasn’t convinced, or that he was nervous. In this case it was doubtlessly the first, his voice spoke for itself. But she didn’t have the nerve to argue for her state of mind right then.
Before she had time to propose it herself, Kevin spoke out the suggestion she had planned.
“Let’s try classchanging,” he said, straightening up but not removing his hand from her shoulder.
“Alright,” Lise nodded.
Karl jumped around their feet with excited barks as they left the building, glad that his friends finally went back out into the nice, warm sunlight.
As they reached the Mana stone Kevin turned around and sat down in front of the ecstatic wolf youngster.
All that Lise heard was a series of low growls and whimpers being exchanged by the half blood and the puppy. Whatever it was, Karl obviously made something of it. That was the conclusion due to his way of obediently leaping up on the stone wall surrounding the terrace and then jump into the river with a happy bark. He swum over to the other side and disappeared into the greenery.
“Don’t want light to scare him,” Kevin explained and straightened up.
Lise silently nodded agreement, meeting his gaze as she clutched the Briesingamen in her left hand while reaching out for the stone with her right. But Kevin caught her hand in his own with a faint smile, holding the soul of the Golden Wolf against his chest.
The princess smiled back and together they pressed their hands against the turquoise, glowing surface. They closed their eyes.
Wisp would have held his breath if he had been able to do so.
Slowly the wind subsided. The sound of the flowing water fell away. Even the birds’ chirping disappeared.
Everything turned still and peaceful as the force of the goddess began to assemble.
And the whole ruin began to shake.
“Come on, you’re almost there!” Wisp shouted above the noise.
The earthquake merely lasted for a few seconds, then it fell away as Kevin and Lise turned their faces towards the sky without opening their eyes. Serene, small smiles were on their lips.
The rainbow of heavenly light swept over them.
But this time he was training.
He couldn’t recall anything specified afterwards, just a blur of moving. Hours, days and months of training, freedom of concentrating on one single task with nothing else occupying the mind.
Apart from… Lise was there, too. Where ever “there” was, he couldn’t remember any landscape at all. But as he sent out his legs and arms, stretching his muscles again and again with growing power and fury he could see her whirl past. Her hair was like a golden wing behind her as she swept forth and back, moving faster and with more power all the time. The spear was almost impossible to see, she mastered it past every border for each “day” passing. More complicated attacks, higher leaps into the air to attack and dispose of the training material. The exercise equipment was some kind of semi-hard pillows for pure strength and images of monsters for speed and “live” tests.
He improved too, of course. It seemed as if he could transform at any time when in this training dimension, so he trained in both his werewolf and human form, training in techniques he had never heard of before but now was whispered and explained straight into his mind.
At some point, when he and Lise where resting for a moment… somebody proposed that they perhaps should try sparring with each other.
But he declined at once, couldn’t even consider such a thing. Whether training or not, he wouldn’t attack Lise. The thought was so intruding, he almost wanted to attack that instead.
She just smiled and hugged him, he could feel the strength she already had assembled.
And they would go back to training again.
At the end of each “day” they slumped down on the suddenly soft and warm ground beside each other and fell asleep. To awaken in a fond embrace, filled with new energy.
Days, weeks, months…
“And that’s all. Congratulations and good luck, my warriors.”
A warm smile.
And the light faded.
Kevin slowly lowered his head, his fingers closing up around Lise’s strong but fine hand and thereby bringing it away from the stone.
It took him a few moments and deep breaths before he opened his eyes. And another handful before he almost tentatively turned to Lise.
Because of his length she had to look up at him, but somehow it felt as if they were at the same level even there. So, she would never be physically equal, very few would. In everything else they were alike, matching each other’s souls.
‘We are the same, no matter my blood… I…’
There was still more in his mind than fit on his tongue. But it didn’t really feel important right then.
How long had they magically spent there, together in the dimension of growing power? Not much time for talking, it had been enough to just… be there. Feelings like loss hadn’t been able to exist.
The Briesingamen sparkled around her neck, seemingly using its own magic from the love goddess to fulfill Lise’s being. She was smiling a bit, still partly caught up in the serenity left behind by the Mana power. Her eyes seemed to sparkle as she met his gaze. Those blue-green eyes, like drops of water on a leaf. And the flood of sunlight falling down her shoulders and back, surrounding her beautiful face, a sparkling stream of gold.
Hadn’t she taken the final step to revealing their feelings back in the Moonlight forest, Kevin knew that he hadn’t been able to keep back any longer right then. Even if he would have been shy beyond compare.
But the shyness was pinned to the ground in that moment, not even that could fight his burning wish to stay with the amazon forever.
The soul of the Golden Wolf slid down into some pocket he had forgot he had, and he carefully let go of Lise’s hand.
As his fingers tenderly nearly encircled her head, Lise’s hands caressed their way up his arms and disappeared in his thick hair. The touches felt so new, each one something he hadn’t ever experienced before. Thrilling their sensation through his skin, flesh and bone to the very core of his soul.
Wisp swept away into the bushes to allow the two warriors their privacy, feeling like an intruder in his own lands. But very happy at the same time.
This is our peace.
A very soft and tender kiss, yet sparkling with the love and longing they both had been hidden from during all the magical months of training.
Kevin never ceased to amaze at how smooth and soft Lise’s skin felt. It seemed to melt the violence his own body was capable of, even if she could be just as fierce during battle.
We’ll win, together.
For a long while even after their kiss had floated off to just live on in their memory Lise and Kevin remained in the same position before the Mana stone, no words or even thoughts necessary.
Finally they silently moved again, leaping down into the river and walking over to the other side to rest for the possible, approaching battle.
Jagan would be facing serious trouble when he showed up.
“Aren’t we there yet? This ocean breeze is horrible for my hair!”
“You can jump in and swim by yourself if you’d like that better, princess!”
“Give me one reason to why I shouldn’t push you off the turtle, peasant!”
“You know, if you weren’t a lady, I’d… hey, watch it!”
“You wanna fight?! Come on, I’m not as weak as you seem to think! You should watch your mouth considering that you tend to have troubles with mages, Duran!”
“Dammit, that’s it!”
But while her older allies kept arguing, Carlie sat still and silent on Boskaboo’s back. They were going to the Lampflower forest, and she felt rather hesitant about that. Her grandfather had said that she’d been born there… and she didn’t know what to feel about it.
However, with her bouncily optimistic personality and due to the fact that Angela managed to knock Duran off their friendly transportation she soon got other things on her mind.
Well, he’s simply sleeping after having watched Jessica’s desert fever for one day and two nights in a row, so I can’t leave any interesting reports on him. Sorry.
Karl slept soundly, only giving away hardly audible whimpers now and then and low sounds as his paws lazily scratched the air and ground in his sleep. The birds were resting closer to the cliffs.
The slowly declining moonlight shone down through the leaves and swiftly touched Lise’s armor, hair, skin and Kevin’s tunic and fur.
None of them had slept during the night, instead slumbered through the day to be able to stay alert when the sun sunk beneath the ocean.
The sunset had been several hours ago, and no enemy in sight.
Lise wasn’t complaining though. Neither was Kevin.
At first they had been tense, filled with worried anticipation listening after the slightest sound as soon as it began to get dark. But after Wisp had told them that he’d sense the slightest surge of evil and have time to warn them long before the enemy arrived, the two warriors had managed to slowly relax.
Now Kevin had settled back against a tree, his wide mouth showing off a small, warm smile. Lise was settled by him, almost lying down as she leaned against his chest with a soft smile, her cheek against his shoulder.
They had been in much the same position for quite some time now, not feeling like moving.
Kevin’s pointing finger carefully caressed Lise’s cheek, her eyes partly closed as the simple touch slowly brushed away all worries her mind had carried for months.
He kept his claws as far in as possible not to risk cutting her, of course. It was pretty peculiar, come to think of it… the finger that touched her was hairy; a werewolf’s. That was perhaps a bit twisted, but Lise didn’t mind.
‘I’ll never mind…’
Her arms that had snaked around his waist squeezed their grip a bit at the thought, at the same time as Kevin’s warmth brushed over the corner of her lips. He turned his face to her a little, his golden eyes almost gleaming as his smile widened a bit, tenderly. Lise smiled back, straightening up to get into a better position for her legs. The right one had begun to turn a bit numb, but she hadn’t noticed.
Kevin’s finger came back to her soft skin after she had settled again.
‘Please stay with me when this is over…’ she thought, subconsciously hugging his waist tighter again as she closed her eyes against the worry of that reflection.
After all they had gone through, all they had felt, she knew she never could accept any suitor except the one she was leaning at right then. The mere thought made her throat feel soar. But still…
She knew he never wanted to be king of the beastmen, and what she asked of him was to carry the same title just in another kingdom. What if he wouldn’t…
Lise’s eyes pressed tighter shut. But as she did, Kevin’s fingers spread out over her cheek and when she looked up he was watching her with silent concern.
“It’s… I’ll tell you later,” Lise whispered.
She shifted again to sit up closer to him.
At one time she’d been frustrated about his sense of smell, just after the first battle with Rakadra… but now she only felt a warm security. It wasn’t that Kevin constantly was keeping a watching eye… nose on her, he really cared.
‘I’ll ask him after the battle,’ she thought, ‘now isn’t the right time.’
For a moment she pondered that one.
‘Heh… famous bad thing to say before combat…’
She wryly smirked a bit at the thought, pushing it away with the fact that neither she nor Kevin were fabled heroes in a fairy tale.
Kevin looked up, through the branches above them. The sky was still dark, but there was a hint of lighter blue.
“Will be dawn soon,” he muttered.
“Yes… maybe they’ll come tomorrow instead?” Lise said with a small frown.
As if called -he probably felt that way- Wisp floated into existence on the other side of Kevin, forcefully keeping his light down to make sure.
“Well, they won’t come at day,” he grimly said, “the demons hate the sun, even though it won’t kill them.”
“What about Jagan?” the princess asked.
“He’s a high vampire, the sun can’t harm him. Maybe make him a bit weaker but…”
He suddenly fell silent and his small flames literally froze. The two warriors tensed, listening intensely.
There was a distant, flapping sound. Powerful flaps. From above.
Very slowly, without making a single sound Lise and Kevin moved to stand on one knee each, getting into a position that they could break into a dash from. Wisp sunk down to the ground, the fact that he was holding his light back making it almost impossible to see him.
And one demon landed in the light of the Mana stone. Kevin’s hand touched Lise’s on the ground and the palms met, for grim determination as they watched through the bushes’ leaves.
The unholy beast was surely seven feet tall, but it was crouching more that the son of the Beast King ever did. Seemed almost like there was something very wrong with its spine. Twined horns not similar to any animal’s crowned its head, it was a pile of muscles. The sickly greenish skin was stretched over arms and legs thick as tree trunks. Three inch claws sharp as daggers were its fingertips.
And yet… though it was obviously fearfully strong one couldn’t call it a nice landing as it descended. The beast was stumbling and almost leaned at the fence of the balcony. The stone’s glow unveiled that there was a deep cut in the right arm, only partly healed. At least it didn’t bleed, but it didn’t look very comfortable.
The two human warriors exchanged glances and almost smirked, concluding.
Grunting a bit the demon reached down and began drawing something on the ground with a claw, but the low wall hid what he was doing exactly. There was just the icing sound of claw over stone to use for guesses.
A small body sneaked up beside Lise, crouching as if ready to leap. She looked down in surprise.
All of a sudden Karl looked twice as big as he normally did, and with her now well developed dark sight Lise thought that the hair on his neck seemed to bristle. He didn’t growl, not a sound escaped him. But it was absolutely clear that he was ready for battle.
“This is too dangerous, Karl!” Lise whispered, hardly even hearing herself, “please stand back, alright?”
The young wolf looked up at the princess, hurt somehow. Kevin shook his big head.
“She right,” he said in a grunted whisper, “too much danger. Go.”
Karl hesitated for a moment, but then he seemed to shrink and bitterly strutted into the depths of the small forest. The two humans turned to the ruins again.
Something erupted from the ground before the demon. One couldn’t call it a light, for it was dark. And at the same time, for a split second it was brighter than the stone’s glow. Then it faded to a black-purple glimmer reflected in the beast’s skin.
“Teleporting that close to my stone!” Wisp hissed, “he has some nerve!”
“Master Jagan,” the demon growled in a voice which was more of a hoarse howling, “the gate is ready.”
“Where is Rakadra?” a voice from out of nowhere demanded.
This one was colder, and completely free of growls and hoarseness. In fact, it was so clean of everything over all that it was completely dead.
By the words two hands gently squeezed each other.
“He is dead,” the demon snarled, anger making his voice even thicker.
“So it was true then…” Jagan hissed, “who did it?”
“The son of Beast King, Kevin.”
The hands tightened their grip again.
“I see,” Jagan said after a moment, “and the princess is of course freed?”
“Hmph. For now we’ll take the other sacrifice, then.”
Kevin held back a yelp as Lise’s fingers nearly broke a few bones in his hand when she tensed even more. She realized it quickly and let go again, sending him an apologizing look. But the werewolf just shook his head a bit and looked ahead.
For a moment nothing happened. Then suddenly four shadows materialized before the demon.
There were two more demons, standing a little less crouching than the first one, but not exactly straight either. They held a slumping body between them.
Lise’s head lowered for a moment.
That was a full grown man, not her brother.
Kevin’s hand closed up around hers, soothingly tighter. She looked up again and grimly nodded, glaring at the fourth creature.
Oh well, even so the stone must be protected.
Because of the demons’ crouching Jagan stood taller than his servants, otherwise they probably would have had to look down at him. Gray hair spread out from his deadly pale face like the wings of the devil, the pitch-black cloak that was wrapped around him working to strengthen the effect of the aberrant colorlessness.
What in the name of the high demon has happened to you?” the vampire growled, “and where is Chrock?”
“Beast King,” the demon growled, which easily said was explanation enough.
“That family be damned…”
Jagan shook his head and turned to the stone.
“… But, for now we have other things to attend to. We’ll deal with those murderers later.”
The glimmer of the Mana stone and the strangely glowing darkness created such a strange illumination that it was impossible to see the prisoner clearly. But it at least seemed to be a male human, dressed in loose, light clothes.
Lise frowned, finding something familiar about the man. But she wasn’t sure what it was.
“If you please,” Jagan smirked at the two guardian demons.
They nodded and raised their free hands.
“Now just excuse me a darn second!”
Wisp flashed out of thin air in front of Jagan, who took a step backwards with a growl. The demons lowered their arms in surprise.
“Why you insect!” the vampire snarled and tried to smack the elemental out of the air.
“Now!” Wisp shouted while he swiftly ducked.
“Coming right up!” Lise growled and dashed out of the bushes with Kevin beside her.
Even while they bolted across the river and leaped onto the rather crowded balcony Wisp sent out three pure lightning bolts to the spear and Kevin’s hands. Weapon and claws spread holy stars through the night air and the already wounded demon almost stumbled into the Mana stone.
With a snarl Jagan teleported out of the way of the continuous attack; Lise’s assault was taken by the slower left guard. The demon dropped his prisoner and clutched his bleeding side, his companion’s massive fist dashed towards Lise’s head. But even if Kevin hadn’t tackled the beast, Lise would have had time to duck.
“Come on!” she hissed and tried to help the more or less unconscious man get up.
It was… the Flame Kahn of Navarre!?
She had seen him a couple of times when she was younger, long before the war. But she remembered his peculiar beard and the clothes. He was the leader of the ninjas and had always moved very quickly and with power despite his age. Not now, however. He was slumping, though not dead according to the few movements he did trying to stand.
And there was no time for surprise.
“I’ll take him, watch my back!” Kevin growled, threw the ninja king over his shoulder and leaped into the river.
Lise swiftly followed him off the balcony and spun around to watch out for the demons’ retaliation.
The two less wounded ones flew at her with paralyzing roars, but she leaped aside by instincts earned in the Mana blessing even before she had time to feel panic. The outstretched, gigantic hands missed her and the demons landed in the water.
“Stay there!” Kevin snarled and more or less threw the Kahn into the bushes.
Water exploded around his feet as he dashed to Lise’s aid while the more crouching beast joined his friends. None of them had had time to attack her; now their concentration was split as Kevin tackled the same as before and Lise rammed his less healthy companion, cutting up a matching wound on his right side before she leaped backwards again. But as she did the first of the beasts to arrive to the kingdom stormed forward and his thick fingers grabbed her arms before she could react.
She fell with a screech, her whole body and face being pressed into the water. Through the blur of liquid filled with wild bubbles she saw the demon’s yellow teeth as he smirked down at her struggling form.
“Don’t kill them!” Jagan’s voice hissed above everything, “I want them alive! Do you hear me? Alive!”
Lise’s leg shot up and she violently planted the foot in the demon’s stomach, nearly breaking all her toes. But the grip of her loosened and she broke free, sending her spear forcefully upwards despite the fact that she hardly could see with all the water and wet hair over her face. The blind attack served its purpose however since there was a satisfying roar of pain. She hurriedly rolled aside to get out of the flow of black blood and stood up, dripping as she fought to regain her breath and push the hair from her face quickly.
What she finally saw caused her to screech in rage and bolt forwards.
One of the demons stood before Kevin with a wicked, ugly grin, raising it’s hand with claws stretched for full effect. It wasn’t that the son of the Beast King just stood there waiting for the slash to cleave vital parts of him; he was in fact struggling to get free from the other demon which was keeping him locked in a merciless bear hug from behind.
Lise nearly cut off the raised arm completely and the demon stumbled aside with a roar. It wasn’t before she stood still that she felt the pain in her left leg. The demon she had broken free from had managed to reach her calf with his claws just as she leaped.
She stumbled out of reach with a grimace.
“Take this!” Wisp shouted and a storm of pure, white orbs exploded from him.
Once more Jagan teleported away, but each one of the demons screeched and harshly bellowed of pain when the holy force hit them.
“I’ll get you yet, Wisp!”
Jagan’s clawed hand swept through the air and the elemental had to duck again.
“Oh yeah?!” he shot back and sent out tentacles of light after the vampire.
The two were caught in a violent battle on the balcony, too busy with each other to have time to aid their warriors.
But even while Wisp was starting his counterattack against Jagan Kevin used the moment’s confusion against his warden. The werewolf’s feet hit the stony, almost solid ground beneath the water’s surface and with all his might he heaved backwards. The demon lost his balance with a surprised growl and a second later there was a horrifyingly cracking sound and yet another roar.
It seemed like the demon’s wings had come between a rock and his back.
Kevin got loose and rolled aside a moment before the first monster’s claws should have buried in his stomach. Instead the ally of the attacker got even more wounded. It was amazing that he still had the power to roar after that.
Drops of water exploded from the werewolf as he quickly shook to get rid of the liquid which made his fur much heavier than it should. As soon as he had regained a more proper weight he attacked the clumsy one.
The sky was slowly but steadily turning bluish.
Lise was struggling with the other fairly healthy demon. He had gotten a grip of her left arm and tried to snatch her spear. The only reason he still hadn’t succeeded was that his badly cut arms and other wounds made the movements slower. Not that Lise was unharmed either.
The princess clumsily stabbed her spear at the demon’s shoulder and managed to break free. But she nearly slipped on a rock below the surface and her left leg screamed in pain. Wisp was a bit too busy to heal her for the moment.
Somehow she managed to keep her balance and glared at the profusely bleeding beast before her. He was starting to get a bit too many holes than even a servant of the Dark could handle without falling, yet so far he was still standing and just getting angrier the more he was hurt. Grimly the princess took her spear in both hands and tried to find a defensive stance despite her wound.
“Duck, Lise!” Kevin shouted.
She obeyed blindly and almost slipped again.
A bluish orb twice the size of her head flared past above her, tiny sparks of lightning encircling it. Before the demon had time to do anything about it the power ball slammed into his chest and went straight through without leaving a mark.
At first it seemed like the demon was unharmed, just stunned in surprise.
Then it let out a fading growl and started to fall.
Before it reached the water it had turned into eerie smoke rising towards the steadily lighter sky.
Lise spun around.
Kevin was just lowering his hands, breathing heavily and crouching a bit, but with a triumphant grin.
(Does anybody else think of the Dragonball series when he does that attack in the game? author’s note :P)
“What in the damned…?” Jagan snarled.
“Looks like the godhands are back to protect the Light, eh?” Wisp smirked.
Then the last standing demon stumbled forward and swung out his arm, smacking Kevin’s nearest hand out of the way and clawing up four deep cuts in tunic, fur-covered skin and flesh. With a yelping growl of agony the werewolf staggered backwards, clutching at his chest.
Jagan’s triumph was smashed as Wisp rammed into him, surprisingly powerfully for something being a rather small, white flame. At the same time Lise leaped forwards with a furious warcry, jumping much higher and quicker than should be possible for a human standing with water covering half the lower legs and with a wound of that caliber. With all her might she stabbed her spear into the demon’s back, wriggled it out more or less standing on him and jumped down, stabbing again when standing in the water behind the beast.
Kevin dashed forwards and raised his hand with a pained grimace. Despite the agony he flung out his claws at the demon’s throat and black blood flooded into the river.
The demon crashed into the stained water and dissolved a moment later.
“Are you alright?” Lise hissed, reaching out for her friend’s shoulder.
“Fools!” Jagan bellowed.
Wisp was sent flying over the river with an enraged screech filled with horror. The vampire spun to the Mana stone and raised his hands, guttural chanting crawling through his throat.
Two lives had been sacrificed, free to use for releasing the stone’s power.
“No!” Kevin, Lise and Wisp shouted.
The princess rushed forwards and leaped onto the wall of the balcony, trying to stab her glowing spear at Jagan’s head. But with a movement like a snake he sent out his hand and grabbed the weapon half a second before it would have hit him. The sudden stop combined with the insecure ground beneath her feet caused Lise to loose her balance and she fell onto the balcony with a harsh screech. Kevin growled and tried to rush to her aid, but he violently stumbled and fell into the river.
Furiously looking around he found the last demon, his eyes thin in agony and their unholy glow faltering with loss of blood and life. But his long, powerful fingers encircled Kevin’s ankle, keeping him bound.
Growling in rage the werewolf tried to get up and reach his foe. That was when Wisp crashed into his shoulder after another hit from Jagan. Kevin didn’t pay any heed to that, but when he heard Lise’s scream he clumsily spun back at the ruins, his soul freezing in horror.
“Let me go!”
She was struggling with all her might, trying to kick Jagan as he held her above ground with tight grips of her bare upper arms, smirking. Beside them the stars of the Mana stone weren’t falling anymore; they were dancing around it, faster and faster.
“It’s too late, you idiots,” the vampire sneered, his red eyes almost flaming.
Kevin desperately tried to tear himself free, but even though the demon groaned of pain he refused to let go.
Lise took in a shocked, fearful breath as Jagan’s arms suddenly encircled her shoulders, roughly pressing her against his chest. His cloak spread out like a pair of black wings before wrapping itself around the two.
“NO!!” Kevin roared with all his last remaining strength, fruitlessly fighting to break free to save his beloved friend before…
“Royal blood,” Jagan softly, hungrily smirked and grabbed Lise’s hair to force her head backwards, “it’s all too hard to find in such a beautiful container…”
Lise’s scream pierced the air and turned Kevin’s every muscle into ice. It seemed to last for a pitch-black, flaring eternity before she fell silent, her head limblessly falling forwards and aside when Jagan let go of her.
The vampire straightened up with a hoarse chuckling, a thin stream of Lise’s blood running out of the corner of his mouth and dripping onto her collarbone.
Kevin’s hands splashed into the water and his neck couldn’t support his heavy head as he almost fell forwards completely, red-hot, bitter tears falling into the muddy river.
The first sunray swept over the world and apathetically washed away the shivering prince’s werewolf form. He didn’t even notice.
Goddess, no… no…
“Now really,” Jagan coldly sneered just ahead of the young man, “I’d expect more from the son of Beast King.”
Kevin looked up, but he didn’t have enough emotions left to summon even the tiniest grain of hatred; completely drained of feelings.
Now Jagan was standing on the river’s surface, carrying Lise’s lifeless body by the knees and shoulders. Her arms and legs hung loosely, hair flowing over the vampire’s arm. The rising sun painted it with dead fire.
The dark one looked ahead, at the demon.
“You’ve done well,” the vampire gravely said, “go back and await your rebirth.”
Vaguely Kevin noted that the grip of his ankle dissolved, but he was still watching Jagan through blurred eyes. The vampire coldly looked back, a smirk forming on his lips again.
“What, her?” he said and moved his arms a little so that Lise’s limbs sluggishly swayed, “no, she’s not dead.”
Kevin’s whole being twitched.
“What…” he croaked.
“Of course not, in just a short while she’ll wake up as a vampire,” Jagan said with a cruel smirk.
The half blood tried to stand up, pathetically fighting to reach out with the last grain of strength he had left.
“Give her back…” he snarled without any power, “I killed Rakadra, not she…”
“And Rakadra is the only reason I spare both of you.”
Jagan’s cold, red eyes flared with anger, but dark triumph just as well as he sneered at the weakened beastman.
“As soon as we have the sword of Mana the Dark Prince will rule this world and he will revive our faithful warriors,” the vampire viciously informed, “I think that after all the trouble my disciple went through an undead slave mistress and a pet is the least he deserves.”
“You shouldn’t declare victory before counting the survivors, Jagan!”
Wisp tackled the vampire from the left, causing him to stumble a little, more of surprise than anything else though. However, in the next second a snarling, half grown wolf puppy and his blessed claws attacked Jagan’s right arm. With a growl the evil one stumbled again, clumsily elbowing Karl into the river.
There was a powerful screech from above and the two gigantic birds dived, claws glowing with Wisp’s power and stretched for not too kind grabbing. Jagan ducked out of the way with a swift movement, but as he did Kevin reached Lise’s loosely hanging arm and when the vampire fulfilled the movement he dropped the princess into the river.
Hurriedly the half blood lifted Lise’s face above the surface and protectively held her against his soar chest with the strength of relief, oblivious to the agony from his wounds.
Realizing he was outnumbered as one of the birds swept down to guard the humans, and with the other feathered one, Karl and Wisp warningly approaching him, Jagan had to admit defeat. With eyes thin with rage he teleported onto the balcony.
“Too bad you can’t do that when holding someone without dropping them!” Wisp snarled, taunting.
“Think you’ve won?” the vampire coldly said and pointed at the Mana stone, where the stars now was flowing towards the heavens, “you know it’s only for now, Wisp.”
And with that he leaped into the invisible gateway on the stone floor and was gone.
About everyone left in the area breathed in relief.
“Thank the goddess…” the elemental sighed.
“Wisp?” Kevin grunted, idly stroking Lise’s deathly pale face.
The two birds landed in the water and concernedly watched the two warriors while Karl padded up to his human friends and anxiously whimpered while sniffing the princess’ wet hair.
The elemental lowered and watched Lise for a moment, then he calmingly shook.
“Don’t worry, Kevin, I won’t let her become a vampire,” he said with a soothing smile, “let’s see… this should do it.”
A thread of holy fire swept out from Wisp’s body and into the two small holes on the vanadis’ neck. She gave an almost inaudible moan as the purifying force entered her veins and spread beneath her skin, adding an inner glow of her body as Jagan’s poison was hunted down.
But she didn’t wake up even as the light disappeared, though the paleness ruling her skin had faltered a little. Hair plastered against her head and arms by the water, eyes shut and lips lazily apart.
“She’ll need to rest for a few days,” Wisp said, “with my healing she’ll recover quickly but I’d like to see that she stays put in at least a week. And you need to rest to, young man.”
“Gah…” Kevin slurred and tried to stand up, but doing that and carry Lise at the same time in his state…
“Take it easy, I’ll help…”
Wisp showered both his human allies in healing light, and slowly the son of Beast King managed to get to his feet.
Afterwards he couldn’t recall how he made it back to their small camp, he only remembered clumsily wrapping up Lise’s wet hair in her towel so that it wouldn’t cause her coldness; knowing that the loss of blood probably would bring her very unpleasant chills anyway.
Done that he somehow managed to release the laces of her armor and free her of the equipment before he laid her back on her bedroll, wrapping her up in his arms and the blanket. He fell asleep before Wisp even had time to announce that he’d call his brother Salamando to dry their clothes. Not that drying was the only thing the half blood’s clothes needed; his pants had gotten away with a tear from the ankle where the demon had held him. However the shirt was plainly about to fall apart.
But it wasn’t something anybody had the nerve to care about for the moment.
Since Kevin had collapsed on his own bedroll which laid beside Lise’s, the only thing the host could offer the still more unconscious than awake Flame Kahn was a simple bed of big leaves. While the two birds on request tore down the green blades of the nearest trees Wisp slowly led the older, zombie-alike man out of the bushes and eventually onto the resting place. Where Hawk’s leader promptly left the awake world to the fullest.
Taken cared of everything, the four still moving exchanged glances and went to find someplace to sleep as well. What a morning…