Those not chosen by the fairy by Weiila
Dedicated to my grandpa and anyone who has suffered the shock of a sudden stroke, by own experience or by a beloved relative/friend’s.
It’s been a long way… I started taking notes on this about one and half a year before even nearing the end of the final result. And this I would like to call my masterpiece.
Seiken Densetsu 3.
Leader = Duran, second character = Carlie, third character = Angela
And now I’m going to write about…
The other three!
Well I’m kinda going to make an attempt to explain how and why at least half of the non-used characters show up at certain places throughout the game… kay-o?
And yah, I lend the characters a few… abilities that I think would be quite possible, even though the good ol’ people maybe never needed ‘em in the game. There, now you won’t have to ask yourself if you missed something while playing ;)
Oh, and this version is the non-Riesz, Charlotte and Deatheater man (for example), due to the fact that I never played the ROM (shame, shame, shame…) with that translation. But I don’t think there should be any problem, I have no troubles reading fanfics based on the Riesz-version. OK, so that’s me. Well, anyhow, let’s just get on with it…
I said action!
Carlie, wake him up so we can get started…
“Okay! Here goesh…!”
Ouch! Ah, now we’re talking!
Duran heavily rose up on his left elbow, trying to massage some life into his head. It took him several seconds to realize that he was rubbing the visor of his helmet. With a frustrated snarl he moved his hand to the back of his neck instead.
“Carlie and Duran are criminals!” a squeaking voice happily announced, “we’re in jail!”
Oh God… so Carlie wasn’t just a tiny, irritating nightmare after all…
Err… what did she say?!
Duran looked up and around, finding himself in a small prison cell.
“What the heck…?” he snarled in a harsh voice.
It all dawned on him. The big crab, Wisp, the cave… the beastmen.
Duran growled at the memory. Surprise attack, eh? And they were supposed to be the naturally strongest race of the Earth, were they?
Just afraid of him, that was it…
Well, anyhow… now what?
His sword was gone, and as he tried to stand up he fell back again a couple of times before managing. The time unconscious still had a grip of him; he was slightly dizzy.
And to make matters worse Carlie sat on the floor, her pink-purple shoes moving back and forth as she waved with her feet.
The only reason Duran had allowed her to come along in the first place was that she showed signs of having a very frustrating way of crying. So… alright, she could fight surprisingly well for being so small, he had to admit that… but she was so incredibly…
“Shtoopid hairy guys in charge here.”
“Carlie think they are big and ugly.”
“Do you think they’ll spank us?”
“Err… no,” Duran muttered and stumbled over to the door.
It was made of iron bars, and the lock looked pretty resolute.
On the other side of it, just across the room… his sword. And Carlie’s flail. And also a cane of light wood, carrying a few simple mysterious inscriptions. It looked like something belonging to an aspirant magician or something.
All the three weapons were on a table, so close and yet so far away…
“Hey, is somebody there?” an unknown voice suddenly called.
It was a young woman’s voice, and it seemed to come from the mercenary’s left. But in that direction was only a wall.
“Ohh… person in other cell!” Carlie exclaimed and jumped to her feet, rushing over to the wall closest to the voice, “hello, who’sch there?”
“I’m Angela,” the woman called back, “who are you guys?”
“I’m Carlie, the cute little girl from Wendel. And Duran is here too,” the child announced, “he’s a merchant.”
“Mercenary!” Duran growled, groaning.
He walked over to the wall too.
“Where are we?” he asked.
“In Jad,” Angela replied, frustrated, “and just how dare those beastmen keep me here?! Pha!”
Duran was about to ask what that was all about, when he heard heavy steps closing in.
“Hey, pipe down!” a snarling voice demanded; the same kind of voice that Duran had listened to when he had been in Jad the first time.
“I have a plan,” Angela hissed, “I’ll let you out when I’m free…”
Carlie and Duran turned to glare at the pile of hairy muscles that suddenly stood on the other side of the bars.
“What’s going on here?” the beastman growled.
Duran’s brain tried to figure something out, but planning wasn’t his kind of thing. So Angela beat him to action.
“Oh, mister guard!” she voice called out, dreamingly, “I need some help changing clothes, would you lend me a hand?”
The warrior of Forcena’s jaw was about to hit the floor, and he couldn’t help staring at the wall that separated him from the mad woman. The beastman looked much the same as Duran felt.
Carlie just looked puzzled.
At first the guard was stunned by the sheer surprise, then he turned and walked out of the two prisoners’ sight.
Carlie and Duran held their breath.
There was a sound of clinking keys, and Angela giggled seducingly. Then suddenly a surprised “ouff!” was accompanied by the sound of running feet.
A jail door slammed shut and the key turned.
“Hey! You fooled me!” the beastman roared.
“So what?” Angela snorted, “you’re the one who fell for it!”
Then she walked up in front of the neighboring cell.
And Duran saw Angela for the very first time.
His first and overwhelming thought was:
‘What the heck is she… not wearing?!’
You couldn’t exactly say that Angela was wearing any clothes. The peculiar clothing she had was more of a part of her body, and she was without doubt well aware of her looks. She moved with some sort of seemingly lazy sensuality, but behind the easy appearance there was a dangerous needle.
This girl could be nothing but trouble, even Duran was smart enough not to miss that.
He could feel more blood than usual move into his face as Angela made a teasing movement with her hips at the lured beastman’s direction. She moved her body so that the part between chest and legs swung, and somehow that move made Duran’s poor head spin around again.
“Angela nice person!” Carlie cheered and jumped up and down while clapping her hands, “let Carlie out now, thank you!”
The young woman gave the child a peculiar look before turning her eyes to Duran. Her eyebrows performed a small twitch, in a way that somehow lit a deep wish within the swordsman to flex his muscles in order to show his strength. He almost fell over as he tried to keep from doing it.
“Lemme out!” the beastman snarled, bringing both Duran and Angela out of the spell.
“I heard some townspeople were planning an escape,” the young woman said and used the key for its better purpose, “if we hurry to the harbor we might be able to catch it.”
Carlie leaped out of the cell and climbed onto a chair by the table.
“My flail!” she happily said, “and Duran’s big sword too!”
The warrior of Forcena jumped backwards just half a second before his weapon got partly buried between two stone plates of the floor. Grumbling he tore it free.
“Don’t ask,” he muttered at Angela’s astounded look.
“Is this yours?” Carlie asked.
“Hey, be careful with that…!” Angela snapped and caught the cane as it flew above her head.
Carlie jumped off the chair with her twin morningstar in her hand and a big grin on her lips.
“Carlie think we should spank some ugly beastmen now!” she announced and rushed up the stair.
Duran heavily sighed and hurried after her, followed by Angela.
In the building above the prison (seemingly the fort of Jad) were no other beasts than bound wolves. It seemed as if the beastmen themselves had taken the night off, or they were busy somewhere else…
‘They were going to Wendel…’ the fairy bitterly said inside of Duran’s head, ‘I opened the shield for them…’
Oh. Uh… uh-oh…
‘Don’t worry,’ Duran said, feeling a needle of guilt for being the one persuading the little sprite into opening the path, ‘we had to get through, you know. Besides, the priest of Light can surely think of something.’
‘I hope you’re right…’
Well, whatever the beastmen were doing, it was probably just as well if they weren’t in the way. Duran was certain that he could handle the weird monsters, but Angela and Carlie weren’t as strong as him.
Speaking of which, for looking like a beauty queen Angela fought pretty well. She wasn’t strong, but somehow she seemed to manage in knocking the wolves whenever possible.
As soon as he had outrun Carlie Duran lead the way to the harbor. To the three warriors’ relief a ship was still at port, and the captain waved at them.
“Hurry, get aboard!” the seadog shouted.
It was not an escape. Duran just hadn’t time for battling the beastmen; he had to see king Richard as soon as possible.
It was simply a temporary withdrawal.
Duran, Carlie and Angela dashed onto the ship, the sails were hoisted and Jad was left behind with all its new inhabitants.
And a shadow rushing down the pier, desperately waving after the leaving ship. But the night had already swallowed all possibilities of being noticed on that distance.
The ship was gone.
Lise heavily sat down on the harsh wood that the harbor was built with, staring after the distant big boat.
She’d been stuck in Jad for almost a week, unable to continue her journey. And now she missed her chance of escaping?! If she’d only managed to fend those two wolves off just a few moments faster…!
“Now what?” she muttered, rubbing her forehead as she tried to pull herself together.
Every minute wasted in this town was one minute which Elliot suffered in Navarre’s grip! She couldn’t be stuck here, she had to find a way out!
But the town gate was blocked, and climbing up the walls unnoticed would be impossible…
Take it easy… think!
Lise growled to herself.
She had been trying to think for a week. And now…
Missing the escape… it was simply worth an award for stupidity…
“Hey, don’t just sit there! They’ll see you!” a voice suddenly hissed.
Lise spun around and saw a darker shadow in the duskiness of a dark and abandoned warehouse. It waved at her to come over to the hiding place.
She pondered it for a moment, then gave up. Whoever it was he had already seen her, and the voice and shape of his body showed that he was no beastman. He grunted far too little and was too thin.
So the princess of the fallen Rolante got to her feet and hurried over to the safer shadows. Looking back on it, she had truly been unwise to sit on the pier. Anybody could have seen her…
The person in the shadow was a young man of Lise’s own age, wiry and with something of a fox about himself. He kept his long, blue hair in a peculiar pigtail beginning from his neck, and his clothes were cut in a special manner. A manner which Lise knew all too well.
Her spear whirled in her hands, accompanied by another growl leaving her throat. The young man stared at her in shock, pressing his back against the warehouse’s wall with the sharp end of Lise’s spear just below his chin.
“Stop, wait!” he hissed, “what did I do?!”
“You’re a Navarre ninja, aren’t you?” Lise growled, “you monsters invaded my home and kidnapped my brother, you…”
“Wait, wait, wait!” the sunburned man hurriedly said, “I used to be one of them, but now they’re after me!”
“A traitor?” she suspiciously asked.
Her prisoner’s shoulders dropped, and he looked so miserable all of a sudden that she removed her spear without considering it. His sadness took her too gravely of surprise.
But he didn’t exploit the chance to attack.
“Well…” he bitterly said, “in reality it’s all the others that are traitors. There’s this woman, Isabella, who’s hypnotizing everyone. She fooled me to kill my best friend Eagle and then cursed his sister Jessica… she’ll die if I tell her the truth or if Isabella dies…”
He looked up and sighed.
“I guess you won’t believe me that easily… but anyhow I’m Hawk, first class thief. Did you say you’re from Rolante?”
The last thing was asked very carefully. Lise slowly nodded.
“Yes,” she said, “I think I’m the only survivor, except my brother.”
“I’m sorry,” Hawk said with honest compassion, “but I’m telling you, the real Navarre thief guild would never kill anybody. It’s Isabella who’s behind it all.”
Nobody could look that miserable without really feeling it. Lise came to the conclusion that she probably could trust this thief, even though his story was pretty vivid. But on the other hand, the whole world seemed to have gone crazy nowadays… ninjas and beastmen invading other countries without any provocation, killing innocents and kidnapping children…
Well… at least Hawk was a human. The exile princess wasn’t the only one of that kind left in Jad, as she had feared. At least that was some better news, whatever it could be worth.
The amazon tiredly leaned against the cold, dark wall of the warehouse.
Navarre, Isabella… whoever the foe was, Lise knew that she couldn’t do much about it alone. She just had to find Elliot, that was all that she possibly could do in order to put something right again.
“My name’s Lise,” she told Hawk, at first without any real spirit.
Then she thought about his former cause and straightened up.
“Do you know anything about my brother, Elliot?” she asked, a grain of hope glistening among the troubles she carried, “he was kidnapped in the attack…”
Hawk sadly shook his head, killing the weak light.
“I’m sorry,” he said again, “I fled Navarre before the assault against Rolante.”
“I see… thanks anyway,” Lise said, tiredly.
They leaned back against the wall, both of them silent for a while.
“You wouldn’t have even the craziest idea about…?” Hawk asked, without any hope waving at the high walls of Jad.
Lise looked at the dark ocean in the growing moonlight. She had pondered swimming a couple of times, but one look at the water pushed that one away. That weren’t exactly smooth waves coming in from the east ocean. And apart from that, Jad was infamous for having nasty little fishes inhabiting its closest waters.
She shook her head.
“Nope…” Hawk muttered without the unspoken question and kicked at a piece of an old plank on the ground, “but there must be some way out of here…”
They both jumped and spun at the grunting sound. But seeing that it wasn’t really a beastman standing in the shadow just by the building’s corner the two warriors relaxed a little bit again.
But that murmur had really sounded like a beastman’s growling, and anyhow…?
“Who’s there?” Lise demanded in a not too loud voice, just enough for the stranger to hear it.
He held up a couple of empty hands in a sign of peace.
“Me not enemy,” he said.
His voice was human, but it also had a deep growl that one normally awaited from a beastman. And that peculiar pick of words…
“That’s good, but who are you?” Hawk said, his hands suspiciously easily resting by his belt.
The thief seemed to carry no weapons, but Lise knew better. Even though she didn’t know him too well she felt much better knowing that she at least had a temporary ally in Hawk.
“My name’s Kevin, gah… no attack, promise,” the shadow said.
He didn’t become less of a strange figure as he came in close up.
Well, he was human… or?
He looked mostly like a human, but… there was something different, which Lise couldn’t pinpoint. By now her eyes had gotten partly used to the night, so she could at least see Kevin’s forms.
The clothes he wore were just as uncommon as the rest of him. His pants were wide and seemed to be tiger-striped, the cloth somehow pasted just around his ankles. Above the belt he carried an open shirt, an not even meant to hide his chest. Around his neck was a crag of some sort of fur, and among the thick hair on his head was a small, peculiar hat of some kind.
Oh, the hair… that was it. It was more of a lion’s mane, flowing out of and around Kevin’s head like a dark aureole. Lise had never seen such hair before, not on a human.
He seemed to be just about her and Hawk’s age, but the amount of muscles he carried made Lise uncertain.
Kevin was obviously some kind of warrior, but she couldn’t tell from which country he could come from.
Plus, his way of speaking really was unique…
It was hard to see his face in the shadows, but in his eyes was a deep sadness that even the dusk couldn’t hide. Lise tried to look away as she noticed it. His grieve was so strong that her own troubles rose up inside of her memory, and that hurt her. But somehow she couldn’t pull her eyes away from Kevin’s, some part of her absentmindedly worried that such a move would hurt him even more.
“My name is Lise,” she heard herself say, “this is Hawk.”
“Me hear you,” Kevin said, almost shyly, “want to escape too, gah…”
A new hope carefully awoke inside of the princess.
“Do you have any ideas about how?” she asked, “we’re stuck.”
Kevin nodded and pointed at the fort’s shadow that hovered above Jad in the moonlight.
“Risk, but me think only way now,” he said with his grunting way of speaking, “many beastmen go to Wendel tonight, but birds are still there. Me can handle them.”
“Say, how can you know about that?” Hawk suspiciously asked.
Kevin crouched his shoulders, even though he wasn’t walking now. Just miserable. Lise almost reached out to touch his arm, but was held back by sense of manners.
“Me half beastman,” the young man with the mane said in a low voice, “son of Beast King…”
“You’re what?!” Hawk gasped and Lise said in surprise.
“Ah…” Kevin grunted again, “my precious Karl…”
He rubbed his cheek with the back of his hand.
“Karl little wolf, and he had no mother either,” he muttered, “so we always together. But then…”
A growling that almost sounded like a sob worked its way out of his throat.
“Suddenly Karl attack me,” Kevin bitterly continued, “after that… I fell into rage and… and killed Karl.”
He rubbed his cheek again before continuing. Hawk and Lise silently listened.
“Then hear Beast King and Deathjester talk. They made Karl attack me… me charge at Beast King, but no luck. Too strong… Priest of Light no help me either, no can do.”
Another growl, this time completely pure left his lips.
“Me go back and avenge Karl somehow,” Kevin snarled, “but stuck here now, gah. Can flee with birds tonight… ah, still dangerous go alone. You come?”
Hawk tried to catch Lise’s eyes for an exchange of glances, but she was still watching Kevin.
The princess struggled against herself as she desperately wanted to try to comfort the half blood beastman. He had lost someone he loved, just as she… but that didn’t make them less strangers.
“I’m sorry about what happened to you,” she said, deep within wanting to hug him for the shared pain.
Kevin looked back into her eyes and tried to smile a little.
“Thank,” he honestly said, “me hear you talk, sorry too.”
His eyes went to Hawk for a moment, telling that Kevin also meant the thief’s torments. Then the sad eyes came back to the female warrior.
Lise found herself smiling warmly because of his compassion. It soothed her troubled mind a little.
“What do you think?” Hawk carefully asked, more or less only subconsciously aware of the warm understanding between the half beast and the amazon.
He had a part of their compassion, no doubt. Hawk had been forced to kill his best friend, and his mind still turned over itself in pain every time it swiftly touched the painful memories. Empty and wide open eyes, screech, daggers, blood…
Kevin had killed a dear friend.
But still it seemed as if it was Lise who understood the half blood better.
Some part of Hawk snarled that he could be puzzled about such facts later, when Eagle was avenged. First of all he had to right the wrongs that he and all of Navarre had been put through.
The princess of Rolante awoke from the silent sympathy.
“I think we should try,” she said, “I trust him.”
Kevin almost shyly smiled by those words, as if he hadn’t awaited or ever heard them before. Shrugging his shoulders, Hawk nodded.
“I guess we have no other options,” he said, “you lead the way, prince.”
“No prince,” he said, “traitor and no want Beast King as father.”
“I see,” Hawk said with a slanted smile, “at least I’m not the only so called traitor around here, then.”
Silently and hesitating Lise watched the two young men.
They were going into battle together, and the amazon belief was that any comrade in battle needed to be fully trusted. Hawk wasn’t her enemy even though he was of Navarre; she had already chosen to trust him. And Kevin was… somehow it was completely impossible to even assume that he had any kind of foul intentions. Despite his obvious strength and talk of revenge he still seemed innocent. It was probably his shy way, which brought a distance to the blood running in his veins. Beastmen weren’t exactly known for being careful and awkward.
Well… it was probably unwise, but she decided to tell them anyhow. In any case, her title wasn’t worth anything now that Rolante was a part of Navarre.
“Before we go there’s something I want you to know,” she said and got her new allies’ attention.
She took a deep breath. It’s alright. It’s painful to say, but it’s just the truth.
“I’m the exile princess of Rolante,” she admitted.
Kevin seemed to take it with a shrug, but Hawk let out a low whistle.
“Geez, am I the only non exroyalty in this town?” the sunburned one said and chuckled, “what a group this has become… a runaway princess, a half blood werewolf and a thief who’s face is hunted down by his old best friends... the only things that possibly could be missing now are an elf and a magician who can’t use magic. And of course a maniac knight bent on fulfilling a quest of some sort.”
Kevin gave a short, grunting laugh in agreement and Lise had to smile at the humor in that. He was right, looking at it in that way it was a really bizarre meeting.
“I’d like to see Isabella’s face if she knew that the princess of Rolante was in the reach of a warrior of Navarre, but that he’d never dream of capturing the lady,” Hawk thoughtfully smirked.
His sneering way of saying that caused Lise to laugh shortly in a low voice. And just yesterday she had been sure that she’d never even smile again. But Kevin’s hope and Hawk’s humor, ah…
“Thank you,” she warmly said, “even if we should fail getting out tonight, at least you two have managed to make me feel a lot better.”
“Glad about that…” Kevin mumbled, smiling with that simply adorable shyness peeking out at the world again.
Hawk grinned and bowed, his way of moving bringing the mind an image of a cat.
“At your service, my lady,” he said with a low chuckle.
He straightened up and spoke once more.
“Well then, shall we take our leave?”
Lise and Kevin nodded.
The half blood beastman turned around and began to walk in his crouching way, and his allies followed him. But just by the warehouse’s corner Kevin stopped and looked around.
“Just warn,” he said in a low voice, “know beastman power; transform when night?”
Slowly Lise nodded. She had heard about that power, yet never seen it and actually believed that it was just fairytales before coming to Jad. However, throughout the past nights in town she had heard the creepy howling and heard townspeople talk about the beastmen’s other forms. Like wolves, walking on the back legs.
But she hadn’t seen it herself, wisely staying inside like everyone else while the monsters roamed the streets.
“Yeah?” Hawk said, warily.
“Me half blood and not used to it,” Kevin grimly said, “but can transform when in danger. So you know, just.”
He sighed heavily and shook his head.
“Lost control with Karl, gah…” he muttered, “but no worry, can handle it now.”
Lise figured that Hawk had called the other young man a werewolf only as a joke, for in the thief’s eyes a sparkle of doubt could be seen.
But if he said that he was able to control himself now… and well, Kevin’s plan was all they had.
She managed a calming smile.
“Thanks for the warning,” she said.
Kevin looked relieved when facing the living trust. He turned his head forwards, sniffing the clean air before looking around the corner. By his behavior Lise could conclude that he had a reliable sense of smell.
“Quiet now, careful,” he whispered.
“Tsk…” Hawk smiled, with that kindly pointing at his profession.
Since her armor was made of hardened leather dyed in Rolante’s green emblem color and not a creation of metal, even Lise was able to move fairly silently in the shadows.
There were no bound wolves around now. The last refugees that had left had been strong enough to kill a few beasts; the bodies of the animals were still lying in the moonlight since nobody who cared to clean up had noticed them yet. Lise threw a glance at the pub. By it’s closest corner she could see a dark heap. Those were the two wolves that she had killed. She grimly pursed her mouth and focused on where she was placing her feet.
The small group hurried up the stair to the fort, finding that the door was wide open. Lights spilled out into the night from the hallway inside.
Kevin suspiciously sniffed, gesturing at Hawk and Lise to be ready for anything. He finally shook his head.
“Winds make hard,” he whispered, “and smell better transformed, but gah… think at least two beastmen here.”
“Didn’t bother to close the door either…” Hawk said, unable to fully hide the tension in his voice, “think they’re awaiting us for dinner?”
“Don’t think so,” Kevin concernedly said, “but not sure.”
“Have you any idea… hm, can you smell how far away they are?” Lise asked.
The half blood sniffed the air again, as he bent at the door the light unveiled his frown.
In the light of the fort’s candles Lise had her very first chance to see Kevin’s face properly. It was a nice face overall, smooth and free of scars. Still… his skin was a bit peculiar. It was slightly dark with a reddish tone, but not like sunburn. It was hard to explain. And his hair was also strangely red, mixed with blond. It really was a mane… the hair was pointing in all directions, spreading out like the rising sun. Except for the top of his head, where his peculiar hat rested. It was blue now that the dark couldn’t hide any colors. His belt was also blue, and the rest of his clothes were softly orange with ultramarine stripes. The backpack he carried wasn’t more than a simple sack with two laces.
His eyes were strangely yellow, like a wild animal’s. But not invoking fear. However, the sadness in them was even more obvious as they were lit up.
“Me think deeper inside,” he finally said and looked around, “dare to try anyway? I say only chance tonight, when many are in Wendel…”
Lise and Hawk exchanged glances. Hmm…
He was right about the chances. They just had to trust the half blood to not lead them into a trap on purpose.
“Let’s go, people,” Hawk said, seemingly taking out two short daggers from thin air.
Lise took her spear in both hands and grimly nodded. Kevin also nodded and turned to the open gate.
The three warriors hurried inside, as quietly as possible.
There had been battles even in the fort; three lifeless, furry bodies laid in a corner of the hallway. They seemed to have been battered badly with at least a sword, but irregular wounds shining through the fur spoke of other weapons too. The imposters had no time for or interest in further investigation for the moment, though.
After the hall was yet another room, and an open door ahead.
With Kevin still in the lead the small invasion group rushed on.
In the third room was a closed door on the wall facing the entrance, and to the right of it was a stair leading down.
Lise suddenly thumped into Hawk, who had thumped into Kevin as the leader stopped. The half blood’s sharp inhalation gave a warning even before the sound of voices and heavy footsteps in the stair did so. Still, all of it was too late.
“How could you let them fool you, Freddy?” a grunting sound that could only be the voice of a beastman growled.
“You don’t wanna know…” another snarling explosion of powered up breathing announced.
Lise desperately looked around for something to take cover behind, she had a good idea about how great her and her friends’ chances were against grown beastmen… there was nothing to hide behind, and the half human beasts were already to be seen in the stair. Four of them, and a third one began to speak just before the fate of the intruders was sealed:
“Be happy that you didn’t allow someone important like Kevin to esc… huh?”
Four furry faces nailed their eyes onto the unexpected guests.
“Kevin?!” four voices growled.
“Ah… hello,” the half blood innocently said, desperately waving at Lise and Hawk to run.
His two friends hesitated…
“Lugar said to get you, turncoat!” the one who had been the second to speak growled.
Well, at least that finally guaranteed Kevin’s role as an ally. The circumstances could have been better, though.
“Run!” Kevin hissed from the corner of his mouth.
“And what about you?” Lise harshly replied, automatically moving her feet to get into defensive position.
She had lost her father, brother, friends and home just two weeks ago. It was a bit too early for her to face another loss, no matter how new and unfamiliar her ally was. No, there would never be time for her to willingly put up with another friend’s death. Her amazon instincts growled that if she was to fight she would do so, and if she was to run away she wouldn’t leave anyone behind. And her common sense agreed to the fullest.
“Me?” Kevin said.
He sounded surprised for some reason. Lise figured with a cut of sadness that he probably hadn’t experienced others’ worries for him very often, and for a dangerous moment her fighting spirit wavered.
She clamped her teeth. No feelings in battle! She was good at managing that… at least most of the time. Now and then, when someone else was in danger… she lost it and forgot the importance of complete focus on the enemy, turning to help a friend instead of keeping her own defenses up. Lise was far too concerned about everyone else, she was well aware of it. By taking the role of Elliot’s sisterly step mum she had brought a heavy task upon her shoulders at an early rate. Plus, she was the leader of the amazon army. She had to care for others, all the time. But preferably not when four muscled beasts two heads taller than her were about to attack. That would be a time where planning strategy would be more wise.
Against all pride she knew that running was the only option; the beastmen were without doubt dangerously fierce foes. But she refused to leave Kevin; he seemed determined to keep his own clansmen occupied long enough to let the members of his crisp alliance to flee and Lise couldn’t allow that.
She threw a glance at Hawk. His lips had drawn away from his teeth in a grimace screaming “not again!” to anyone who cared to look at him.
No, Kevin. We’re not leaving another friend.
“No way!” Lise growled.
He looked confusedly concerned, but the united growl of the beastmen made him turn his head again.
“But remember,” he growled, and his hair bristled, “me taught by Beast King.”
“Bring it on, if you’re that confident!” the fourth hairy beast snickered.
Kevin growled and clenched his fists, shaking off his backpack. It landed on the floor with a thump that seemed deafening, crucially drawn out into a fatal rumble.
Nothing could have prepared Hawk and Lise for what happened.
The young half blood bent his neck backwards and howled like a wolf, his body being swallowed in an intense light. Through the flashes the amazon still clearly saw her ally grow, his arms and legs thickened, something happened to his head…
She blinked as the light disappeared. Where Kevin had been a wolf now stood. A humanoid wolf, covered with fine, grey fur. He was simply built up by well defined muscles and stood up straight on secure legs which obviously ended in feet, not paws, hidden in suspiciously soft looking boots. Blond hair fell down between his long ears and over the back of the simple tunic he wore.
Kevin looked around for a short moment, and in the wolf’s face with its protruding nose which also was a mouth were still his sad, warmly yellow eyes.
“Better run,” he said, his voice even more grunting and growling in his other form.
With a piercing roar he dashed forwards, managing to tackle one of the beastmen into the wall. But the half blood’s foe grabbed Kevin’s thick arms and threw him aside, beginning to howl. Three other voices joined the first, two of the beasts sending the exile prince back and forth between them with powerful strikes even as they were transforming. Kevin had no possibility to defend himself against his strong clansmen, surrounded by hairy and clawed fists he…
“Stop!” Lise shrieked and lounged forward.
Using her spear’s hard stick she forcefully hit the back of one beastman’s neck just when his transformation ended, and with a surprised growl her enemy fell to the floor. Unconscious. The element of surprise had at least made the odds a little less bad; it seemed as if the half monsters hadn’t expected Kevin’s weak looking friends to dare an attack.
While the three evil beasts still were caught in the surprise, Hawk buried his daggers in a furry hip. The roar ended suddenly when Kevin slammed both his fists into the extremely distracted werewolf’s head. The monster fell with a curse falling from his lips (if they were to be called that).
Two down, two to go…
The couple left exchanged glances and stepped up side by side, preparing a simultaneous attack. Kevin backed and thereby he also caused his two friends to do so.
“Duck!” Hawk snarled.
Lise and Kevin obeyed by instincts, and the thief sent one of his daggers dashing through the air. The two beastmen bent aside, but Hawk had been planning for that. As his first dagger hit the wall, the other almost completely disappeared into a hairy arm.
With a growl Kevin rushed at the pained monster and rammed him into the wall, his head in particular. But the half blood wasn’t fast enough; the other beastman cut up four deep wounds on the blond werewolf’s back. Kevin’s roar was just as good at shaking walls as his half clansmen’s.
“No!” Hawk and Lise snarled.
The princess tried her back attack again, but it didn’t work twice. A thick arm forcefully hit her chest and sent her flying into the wall. Her backpack didn’t work very well as a shock absorber. Through the dancing stars and the flashing pain she heard Hawk shriek in rage, followed by a shout of surprise and pain from the same throat. Seemed like he had gotten it too… a forceful yet somehow soft rumble told Lise that her Navarre friend had crashed into a wall further away.
“Humans should not mess with beastmen!” a grunting voice snarled.
“No… hurt friends…!” Kevin’s voice snarled.
Several thumps said that the last beastman had fallen.
“Lise, Hawk…?” the half blood gasped, his voice accompanied by a few more sounds of pieces of a body hitting a floor.
Get up… come on…
With a groan Lise managed to get to her knees. After shaking her head she even got her eyes open again.
Hawk was getting to his feet with a little help from the wall. The beastmen seemed to have transformed back from their wolf forms as they lost their consciousness. And Kevin was on his knees and hands, gasping for air. He had also reclaimed his other body.
Blood dripped from his shirt onto the floor.
“Oh, goddess!” Lise hissed and dashed over to him faster than showed to be wise.
She was still dizzy and almost fell into pieces by such a quick movement. But after a moment she managed to pull herself together.
“Me be fine…” Kevin muttered and tried to smile a little to calm both his friends.
“Well, it’s not that deep,” Hawk reported and reached for some hidden pockets, “I have a little ointment…”
“Bandages,” Lise nodded and shook off her backpack.
“No worry for me…” Kevin weakly protested.
“Not another word!” both the princess and the thief stated.
Hawk helped Kevin to get his cut and bloodied shirt off while Lise hurriedly dug around in her packing. The four beastmen they had beaten didn’t show any signs of waking up very soon, but you never knew what could come up. Especially not in this town…
All three of the warriors glanced at their beaten foes every once in a while, nervously. Perhaps it could have been wise to take this chance and kill the beasts now that they were… they were helpless.
Neither Lise nor Kevin or Hawk spoke out the shared thought.
We’re not like them.
“Sit still,” the thief commanded and carefully spread a softly greenish liquid from a small bottle over the open wounds.
Kevin clenched his fists not to groan as the touch caused his flesh to burn. But as soon as Hawk
was done, the ointment could start working on the pain.
“Alright, hold up your arms and I’ll wrap you up,” Lise kindly said.
He slowly obeyed not to lit more pain, and she sat on her knees by his side as she worked.
“I’m not so good at this, but…” she slightly sheepishly said while securing the bandage over and around his shoulder.
“Fine,” Kevin gratefully said.
Lise leaned forward to wrap up the last few feet of the bandage around the half blood’s chest. And as she did so she fought against a blush for what felt like the hundred time.
It’s not like a hug, I’m not holding onto him…
But it sure was close.
Kevin’s muscular back seemed to glisten where the ointment had been, the light of the torches danced on his strangely dark red skin. Whenever he made the slightest movement it was a show of pure strength.
Lise tiredly wondered if she had been a teenager and single for a little too long… she didn’t want to think of such things, anyway.
Carefully she secured the soft cloth with a needle for the matter.
“There,” she said with a forced smile.
Kevin glanced at her.
“Lise smell bothered,” he said as Hawk held up the torn shirt for him.
The princess startled, the thief looked rather puzzled at the half blood.
“What?” Lise said.
Kevin tapped his nose with a pointing finger.
“Sorry if surprise,” he shyly said, “but feelings smell a little, gah…”
She hoped that she didn’t look too panicked.
“It’s nothing,” she assured him, “I’m just a little worried about your wounds.”
“Ah… be fine. Promise.”
Kevin smiled, and that caused Lise’s tension to crack up again. It surprised her how relaxed she suddenly felt, despite all that had happened.
Both of them got to their feet.
“This way,” the half blood grunted and waved with a finger as he walked over to the wall left of their entrance.
A blue, wide banner hung on the wall. Kevin easily tore it down, thereby revealing a door.
“Don’t like thieves,” the leader said with a short grin and pushed the small portal open.
“Yeah, they are a pain, aren’t they?” Hawk smirked, hurrying to retrieve Kevin’s backpack.
The thief took care of his friend’s pack, refusing to let Kevin carry his own stuff because of the wounds.
The door lead to a wide balcony.
About ten gigantic birds rested on the thick railing; they were twice Lise’s size. The sight was lightly said impressive and, frankly, not too pleasant. But none of the winged beasts moved. They seemed to be sleeping.
Kevin waved at his friends to wait and carefully walked over to the closest bird. Its eyes suddenly opened, glimmering in the light of the door.
The halfway human reached out and touched the feathered creature’s left wing.
“Hello,” he said in a low, soft voice.
The bird chirped, surprisingly smoothly singing for its size.
“Been eating?” Kevin kindly asked, “can you fly?”
With a warm chirp the bird waved a little with its wings. The half blood nodded and looked around.
“Hawk, let her greet you, gah…”
“Umm… okay,” the thief said, not too secure.
The bird seemed affected by Hawk’s nervous tension for a moment, but Kevin kindly patted its wings to make it calm down. As the man of Navarre finally dared to touch her himself she nodded and chirped at him.
“Good,” Kevin smiled and went on to the next bird in order to talk to it.
A moment later he called Lise forward. She moved closer with respect for the bird’s size, but as soon as she touched the soft feathers with her hand the worries flew away. There were many birds in Rolante, but she had never been this close to any of them. Except the needle birds that she and the other amazons had to clean out in order to make the roads safe for travelers, of course. But those birds were aggressive and dangerous. This one softly pecked at her shoulder with a friendly chirping.
“Likes you,” Kevin smiled, “that good.”
Lise smiled at him, a bit unsure about what to understand by his statement. Was it a compliment? She had no idea.
While Kevin got himself a bird of his own she checked that her spear was safely secured on her back, just beside the sack of supplies. She couldn’t afford to lose her weapon, especially not in a nightly flight.
“Ready?” the half blood asked.
“I guess so,” Lise nodded.
“Let’s go,” Hawk said, still a bit tense.
Kevin whistled. By the sound all the three birds spread their wings and got into the air. Then they kept as still as possible, waiting.
“Not dangerous,” Kevin said with a calming smile and reached up.
He grabbed his bird’s legs, and it rose up above the balcony. Lise and Hawk had to do as their friend did.
The princess of Rolante secured her fingers around the thick, hard legs and her feet left the building. At first she experienced a worry for the flight, not certain for how long she would be able to hold on. But then the bird’s talons carefully closed around her wrists without harming her the slightest, relieving Lise from the duty to hold on.
“Where to?” Kevin asked.
Now he and his bird were just shadows of the moonlight, therefore Lise heard him much better than saw.
“We need to go someplace neutral to plan better,” she said after pondering it for a moment, “I think that Maia is still free of occupation, but it’s almost two days’ sail from here…”
“Birds make it in few hours,” Kevin grinned, “we rest when need. Where?”
“Towards the west.”
Kevin whistled again, and the wind began to whisper in Lise’s ears.
After the first moments filled with a swirling tension the princess was completely caught up in the overwhelming feeling of freedom as she soared through the air. The bird’s grip was safe, its wings trustfully beat to keep her floating. The three moons’ rays lit up her friends and their flights.
As she watched the skies and its dress of stars, surrounded by the clean, clear air Lise was filled with a feeling of glorious triumph. She would find Elliot, she knew it! And she’d find a way to free her country from Navarre!
A laughter grown from the roses of happiness in her soul left her lips, dancing through the night like the stars above. Yes!
“What are you laughing at?” Hawk moaned, “I feel sick…”
“Get used to it after a while,” Kevin grinned, “tell when need rest. We follow coastline just for safe tonight.”
Lise looked towards him in the moonlight, a smile still on her lips. He looked back, and the weak light was enough to show the smile on his lips too.
“Happy if Lise like flight,” he said, a bit shy again.
She had to laugh again, warmly this time. Kevin was just so… cute! A kind, shy boy in the body of a monster!
“It’s great, Kevin,” she gladly reported, “thank you for everything!”
“Thank you too,” he replied, “save my life.”
By those words Lise’s memory caught up with something that caused her triumph to shatter, and that was very painful. Wasn’t her feeling of approaching victory stronger than that…? What was it worth, in that case?
“Kevin, can you really hang on with your wounds?” she asked, suddenly much less warm.
Now she was worried instead. Such an awful turn…
“Ah, no problem,” Kevin hurriedly said, almost shocked of her concern, “rest when needed. No worry, Lise.”
She said nothing at that, but couldn’t shake off the worry.
Half an hour later they went further southwards, and with the help of the birds’ dark sight landed on a beach below the mountain area north of Astoria.
“Goddess, my arms…” Hawk muttered in the darkness, and by the sound he was smacking his limbs with his hands in order to awaken them, “but you’re right about that one gets used to it, anyway.”
The last was said with a small grin.
“Me feel dizzy when first time too,” Kevin agreed with a smile, “but now great.”
“I can see that,” the thief smiled.
Lise massaged some life back into her numb arms. Flying was wonderful, but after a while it got harsher on you.
She pondered how to go on. Kevin’s wounds concerned her, by no means she wanted him to strain himself just because of her and Hawk. But she didn’t want to nag on him either…
“Hey, are you sure about flying with those holes on your back, Kevin?” Hawk suddenly said.
Lise let out a relieved breath.
“You worry, gah,” Kevin sheepishly said, “no need…”
“You don’t have to pain yourself for our sake, right Lise?” the thief said, and she could trace his concerned frown by his voice.
“Hawk’s right,” she agreed, “don’t tell us that it doesn’t hurt.”
Kevin was silent for a while. Then he gave up.
“A bit,” he admitted, reluctantly.
“Let’s rest here until sunrise,” Lise kindly said, “and I’ll check your wounds again tomorrow. This place should be safe, it’s far away from the main paths of the forest.”
“I agree,” Hawk said.
Kevin was silent for a moment.
“Well, alright,” he finally said with a sigh.
The ocean’s movements caused a whispering sound as the water softly moved onto the beach and back again.
Counting the hours by the planets’ movements the princess of Rolante patiently waited for her turn sleeping.
What a night…
Lise yawned and stretched her legs a little.
So far it had truly been a night of experiences. Now she had time to try sorting them out.
Maybe it hadn’t been a bad thing that she had missed the ship after all. It had lead her to meeting Hawk and Kevin. She didn’t really think that they’d be traveling together for very long, but some part of her wanted to hope. The two young men had no real place to go for the moment; neither had she. They all needed to find safe ground for a while in order to prepare for whatever fate had in store for them.
She sighed a bit.
The two young (just admit it, lady) peculiar men had brought some light to her darkened mind and heart. And she wouldn’t exactly say no to an offer to keep fighting together with them, the fight against the beastmen had proven that the small group without doubt could overcome frightening ordeals. Plus, the world was an insecure place these days, even for a skilled warrior. If the warrior was alone.
But she knew that their quests were too parted by the goals. It just wouldn’t work out.
Lise wanted to find her brother, and carried a faint hope of someday being able to somehow free Rolante.
Hawk wanted to avenge the death of his best friend and save Eagle’s sister. What would follow… the young thief probably didn’t know himself.
Kevin wanted revenge on his father and Deathjester, those that had fooled the prince to kill his best friend. But how he would manage that…
The three roads lead away from each other, all of them covered with own stones and thorns.
It just wouldn’t work out.
Lise sighed again and looked up at the sky. She wondered if Elliot looked at the same stars and silent planets, wherever he could be.
She missed him.
She missed her father.
She missed her friends.
She missed her country.
She could hear the desperate groans of her trusted warriors as they fought against the sleeping flowers’ poison, all of them knowing that if they fell asleep the invading ninjas would…
She could see her father’s blind eyes stare at nothing, glistening as the last of his life ran out over the green carpet of the throne room…
She could hear Elliot’s weak squeal for help, that she in her haste to save her father had ignored. In that moment she had waved the danger behind her brother’s back off, thinking that he could outrun a couple of ninjas… like a fool, leaving him to face his doom…
The princess of Rolante closed her eyes and tried to fight the memories back. A tear ran down her cheek, but she immediately rubbed it away. No tears. Not during battle. Focus. Be strong.
Lise pulled up her legs and hugged them, clenching her teeth.
She had to be strong. Miss Lise wasn’t a damsel in distress who’d break down crying after only a week of exile. No, she was the leader of the great amazons of Rolante, the wind kingdom!
Rolante is no more.
Lise clamped her teeth even harder.
It would be fine. She’d find Elliot safe and sound, they would find a way… if she just kept fighting, not allowing herself any weakness… it would be fine.
She forced her mind into focusing on those words. Clamping her teeth, hugging her legs, focusing her mind to the border of madness.
After the longest hour of her life later she went over to Hawk to wake him up.
“Waz… my turn?” he drowsily mumbled and yawned and he went into a sitting position.
“Yeah,” Lise said in a low voice not to wake up Kevin or the birds, “good night.”
Neither the thief nor Kevin called her “miss Lise” or “Your Highness”. The princess found it calming, as if the lack of titles she was used to brought her to a level of purer friendship.
As Hawk left his bedroll Lise walked over to her, even as she sat down working on freeing her hair from the two metallic wings resting above her ears with the help of her metallic headband. It was custom of the amazons; those wings pointed out the power of the creature’s devoted to the Wind.
Lise tiredly pulled out the green ribbon keeping her hair fairly under control and placed her accessories on the ground. Then she paused for a moment.
She figured it would be impossible to sleep in her armor, and by now she was gladly prepared to trust her friends anyhow. If they’d get any ideas, which she highly doubted, they should know her knowledge of battle. She could trust them.
Her skilled fingers released the laces of her leathery armor, and after taking off her shoes she crept into her cold bedroll only dressed in the simple, long tunic she wore beneath the battle clothing. Soon enough the blankets around her began to warm up by the warmth of her own body, and she fell asleep.
Hawk sat down in the sand, listening to the whispering of waves as they caressed the tiny and bigger stones of the beach.
He tried not to think about his last hours in Navarre; Eagle’s empty eyes, the blood on the daggers, the shock and accusation burning in the eyes of all the ninjas rushing into the room, Jessica’s grey face as her trust in him faltered…
Hawk’s lips formed a small O, and he slowly released a deep breath through it.
He hoped that she was alright, that Nikita would look after her as he had promised. And all the others… who didn’t trust him anymore…
He’d just have to prove himself somehow. But maybe killing Isabella wouldn’t help him to do that. It certainly wouldn’t help him save Jessica.
What to do…?
There just had to be a way to free her of the cursed necklace!
He looked over at the shadows that were his two allies. Just temporary allies… a pity, really. After only a few hours of knowing each other he already dreaded the moment of goodbye. Both Kevin and Lise had impressed him during the battle in Jad’s fort. He couldn’t keep from wondering if they thought that he had been helpful… well, he hadn’t managed to knock anyone, but at least he had helped the half blood to do so. It was just the way of the ninja; brain and quickness was far more important than brute strength.
It would be nice to keep traveling together. Not only would it be much safer for all of them, but Kevin was also the only reason they could use the birds and Lise was… strong. And she was… she was…
Hawk slapped his own face and tried to focus on Jessica instead, before he thought anything he might regret.
But on the other hand… Jessica wasn’t exactly his girlfriend, and maybe she had no trust in him left at all.
Hawk pursed his mouth. Here we go again…
No! Have to focus on Jessica! Jessica!
He sighed and rubbed his forehead with all his fingers.
Come on… blue hair, sunburned face… blond hair, smooth… ugh!
Lise surely had a dozen high class youngsters begging for her attention back in Rolante… no, wait… that wasn’t exactly possible nowadays. So much for that argument…
Well then, she is a princess… no kingdom. She’s a lawless. Oh, just like him!
She… she is… umm…
He groaned, as quiet as possible.
Good ol’ Hawk, new love every month… he seemed to return to Jessica every time though. Now that he thought about it, how many times had she really won back his attention? Heh… and did she even know?
Hmm, Kevin was a lawless too. And Lise seemed to care for him…
Yeah, she cared for him. But it was just common sense worries. At that level, Hawk was concerned about Kevin too. That half blood was crazy, hanging himself onto a nightly flight with his back torn up. It must have stung pretty badly, but he wouldn’t hold back. Tss…
And he was a werewolf. He grew fur and whiskers at night.
He wasn’t any opponent.
Hawk slapped himself again.
‘There are no opponents, I’m not in a contest for Lise’s attention!’ he furiously thought.
In her state she surely wouldn’t want any romance anyway. Exiled, in the search for her kidnapped brother… a messing thief was the last thing she wanted.
Yep, that’s it.
But she really was cute, though…
Urgh, now he had thought about it. Just great. Well done.
He looked up at the moons and stars with a deep sigh.
What a night… a real pity that they probably wouldn’t keep traveling together.
After the longest guard time in Hawk’s entire life he went over to the dark lump that happened to be Kevin. And the thief realized that among all the things that he had thought about, he had forgotten to invent a good way of awakening a potential werewolf.
Carefully was surely the wisest thing.
“Hey, Kevin!” the thief whispered as politely as possible, “wake up, it’s your turn to guard.”
By the sound of it the half blood yawned pretty widely.
“Coming…” he mumbled while rubbing his eyes.
“How’s your back?” Hawk asked.
Kevin sounded rather embarrassed, he obviously wasn’t used to speaking of his ordeals.
“Good night, then,” the thief said and managed to smile a bit, even though his new friend probably couldn’t see it.
Hawk gratefully went back to his bedroll, Kevin walked closer to the water and sat down in the sand. Better not sit on the warm blankets when keeping guard, he didn’t want to risk falling asleep again.
Kevin wasn’t really used to blankets in any case. He had bought some food and a bedroll in Mintos before leaving, using money that the few pure werewolves of the Moonlight forest had dropped after he had… made them step out of his way. The only reason Kevin had thought about something to sleep in was that he had heard that the other countries had a cooler climate. It was true, and he was happy for the precautions he had made.
The beastmen had beds in their castle, but the exiled prince had always preferred the grass of the dark forest.
Every blade of grass and of the bushes and trees glowing in the moonlight, a smooth wind gently whispering, Karl’s warm body by his side…
Kevin shuddered and rubbed his upper arms. As he did so the wounds on his back burned a little, but he didn’t mind much.
He tried to push the memories aside, tried to think of something else. His eyes, already well used to the darkness, went over to the three shadows of the birds and then to the two dark heaps on the ground.
Hawk and Lise.
Their care for him was puzzling. They kept asking him if his wounds hurt. Sure it did, but he had already told the two humans that it was alright once. Why did they keep worrying about it?
It had been hard to stay in the air; the pain had grown more and more for every moment. But still he could have continued the journey for a while longer. Kevin knew that he had to push himself if he was to gain enough strength to fight Beast King.
Yet… even though he didn’t think that it was necessary to mind, his two new friends’ concern somehow made him feel ticklish around the stomach. Almost like when Karl had been rubbing his head against his half human friend’s chest…
Kevin clamped his teeth and closed his eyes.
He wanted to think of Karl, but whenever he did so it hurt. He couldn’t keep his mind off the sudden madness in the small eyes, hair bristling so that the pup seemed much bigger and the fangs… blood on the soft-brown fur and on his hands…
Beast King and Deathjester…
A growl ran through Kevin’s throat and passed his teeth, bare as the lips had drawn apart.
All alone now… he was all alone.
He looked at the shadows again.
For just a short while he wasn’t alone. But he realized that Hawk and Lise wouldn’t travel with him much longer. This fight ahead was his lonely one. And they had other things to take care of.
Hawk was searching revenge, just like Kevin. But that was nothing the half blood wanted to share with anyone; he didn’t want anyone to know his pain. At least Lise had some hopes of finding the one she cared for. Oh, but she had lost her father and many other friends…
Kevin rubbed his cheek.
What was a father, how did it feel to lose one? He had always known that Beast King was his father, and even though Kevin had been taught how to fight by the great beastman he had never felt any closeness.
He could remember endless hours of practice, the strong voice commanding him to hit harder, kick with more force… just a teacher, a voice to take commands from.
And whenever the training was finished the young prince had gone into the Moonlight forest. One day he had found a small, lonely wolf pup. Karl hadn’t had anyone who cared for him either.
“I protect like mother!”
Kevin shuddered again. He had promised Karl that… moments later he had killed the small wolf. After all they had experienced together, so many nights of just running around in the dark, welcoming forest… free as the wind…
The half blood rubbed his cheek again.
He would return, and he would have his revenge for the death of his friend!
But he needed to become so much stronger, he knew that. But how?
Kevin shook his head, trying to get rid of all the bitter thoughts. It didn’t help him at all.
He looked up at the still dark sky. The sun would rise soon, and turn the black into a flaming scenery of wonder. And then warmly blue.
The exiled prince liked the sun. He had never seen it before leaving his home. On a ship sailing from Mintos in an early hour he had been standing with open mouth, watching the glorious morning’s beauty for the very first time.
He had left fifteen years of missed sunrises and sunsets behind.
But the sun wouldn’t help him to become stronger. Only training would. He had to find some place where he could train on his own, without being disturbed.
On his own…
He looked back at the birds and two sleeping warriors again. Lise and Hawk were strong. That was good. Without their help he wouldn’t have been able to escape from Jad.
They seemed to smile a lot. It was nice, he wasn’t used to that either. But it made him feel much better.
He wouldn’t like leaving them behind. Maybe he was worried that it would have even the tiniest similarity with the pain of losing Karl. He didn’t want to lose anyone again. It hurt too much.
Lise awoke because the sun was itching her eyes through her eyelids. She drowsily raised her arm to cover her eyes for a moment before rubbing and opening them. Her first thought was the confusion about why she wasn’t at the inn in Jad. Then she remembered what had happened, and was filled with a wave of relief. Out! Free!
She sat up, keeping the warm blanket over her legs.
The sky was a painting of flaring red, warmly purple and fantastic yellow. Kevin sat in the sand, watching the scenery with a faint smile on his lips. He was completely absorbed by the magic of nature. Lise didn’t want to disturb him, so she didn’t say anything. Instead she turned her eyes in the same direction as the half blood did, becoming absorbed in the wonderful serenity of the morning’s glory just as he was. For a moment she allowed her mind to leave all her problems.
The waves peacefully whispered their way over the sand and back.
Without really thinking about it she placed her hands on the ground behind her and leaned back, allowing the warm light to shower over her.
A few feet away Hawk opened his eyes and tried to blink the sleepiness out of them. He drowsily turned over and blinked again.
Just then Kevin happened to turn his head, his sharp ears catching up with the weak, muffled sounds of movements. He blinked too.
The rising sun’s golden light painted Lise’s simple tunic softly orange with its sacred rays, glistened in her uncombed hair that tumbled down behind her back. Her locks swayed lazily in the winds coming from the ocean, and her halfway open eyes carried the same absentminded smile which lived on her lips. The light of the sun added a somehow inner glow to her skin.
‘Jessica!’ Hawk desperately thought, hoping that his stare wasn’t too obvious.
Kevin watched the princess of Rolante, and for some reason he was unable to turn away his eyes from her. He felt something sparkling inside, almost like he had felt when seeing the sun rise for the very first time.
Suddenly Lise straightened up and looked at her two friends, the smile still dancing on her lips. Hawk and Kevin blinked almost simultaneously and tried to smile back not too sheepishly.
“Good morning,” the exile princess said.
“Mo-morning,” Hawk mumbled.
He stretched out to cover the stuttering parts of his speech.
“Good morning, gah…” Kevin said and rubbed his cheek a bit.
“How’s your back?” Lise asked while pushing her blanket aside.
Now she cared again… it was strange, but he liked it somehow.
“I’ll take a look in a moment,” she said and reached out for her armor.
‘What a life, having to walk around dressed up as if ready for battle every single day…’ Hawk thought while watching the princess get equipped.
He shook his head as he with the skill of everyday movement put on his boots without getting hurt by the hidden daggers.
Lise easily got into her armor and walked over to Kevin, who slightly shyly worked his way out of his sleeveless shirt.
‘Lucky guy…’ Hawk thought and fought back a sigh.
He almost slapped himself again. For heaven’s sake!
But he couldn’t help feeling a little jealous as Lise released the half blood from the bandages and carefully examined his wounds with small touches of her fingertips.
“Tell me if it hurts,” she said.
“A bit,” Kevin said, clenching his teeth not to yelp.
“Don’t be such a martyr,” Hawk said and came over to his two friends with the ointment.
The half blood said nothing at that. A few minutes later he put the shirt back on.
“Thank you,” he mumbled as he stood up.
“You’re welcome,” Hawk said, and Lise nodded.
As Kevin’s eyes trailed off to the big birds all three of them chirped and waved with their wings. It sounded like a question as they squeaked. The half human nodded and pointed at the ocean.
“Go eat, but come back,” he said.
The carriers chirped again and took off.
“Breakfast sounds like a good idea,” Hawk nodded and went back to his backpack.
“Yes,” Kevin agreed, walking over to his bedroll and bag of whatever he had brought with him.
Lise did as her friends did.
“I have some bread and dried meat,” she reported and took out a smaller sack from her backpack.
“Only bread, gah,” Kevin said.
Hawk turned his backpack inside out. A couple of extra daggers, a lump of clothes tied into one big knot, a mysterious small black sack and a light brown bag fell out. The thief repacked everything but the last container.
“I have a little bread, some dried meat and a piece of cheese,” he said with a smile.
He looked at Kevin.
“I’m sure that we could live on this at least until tomorrow, if your wounds hurt too much to fly…” he said, carefully.
The half blood resolutely shook his head.
“No, go today,” he grimly said, “must be stronger than that. Or never revenge Karl.”
He said it with such stubbornness that Hawk and Lise had to give up. It was obvious that they wouldn’t be able to talk him out of it.
They shared the food they had equally, and the leftovers were split in three by a democratic agreement without any protests. They had only known each other for a handful of hours, but as Hawk chuckled:
“Nothing creates an alliance like a battle of life and death!”
Even if it was rather bizarre if you went deeper into the topic, it was true and in this case it was truly not a bad thing.
While waiting for their ride the friends took care of their package and other business.
Lise sat on a rock, brushing her hair to get rid of all the knots born during the night’s turns. Her filled backpack lay by her feet. Hawk fought not to glance at her too often, and he was somewhat jealous at Kevin who seemed able to forget about the female friend. At least he was free of such troubles.
The half blood was in the water, with the liquid above his knees. In those conditions he worked on kicks and jumps to improve the strength of his legs. Concentrating fully on one task. Despite his wounds. He could forget everything, it was simply amazing.
At least that was what Hawk thought.
In reality Kevin trained more for the reason that he needed to clear his mind from Lise. He felt so strange when he looked at her, both happy and sad at once. And he didn’t know why he kept either feeling. He just couldn’t help it. It was so strange… and he needed to focus on revenging Karl. Focus… battle… must be stronger…
Water danced around him, the resistance forcing him to use more strength than usual. It made even the simpler kicks hard to perform. Good.
Beast King had told him about it once.
“Whenever you can, train in water. It’ll help you build up the power of your basic hits.”
Kevin stopped for a moment, his back stinging.
Wasn’t it wrong of him to train with advice from the one he wanted to defeat? But he had no other ways; Beast King was his only teacher. It was the custom of beastmen that the heir fought and won against the old leader.
He was meant to battle his father.
No father. Just Beast King. Evil.
Kevin growled and jumped again, violently sending a shower of small drops above and back into the ocean.
He hadn’t ever liked fighting before. He still didn’t, but he’d avenge Karl no matter the prize. The crime of killing an innocent friend weighed heavy on the half blood’s shoulders, and he’d do anything to ease it.
“Don’t strain yourself, pal,” Hawk called, “I haven’t got an endless supply of ointment, you know.”
Kevin looked around, frowning. He had to become stronger, didn’t Hawk understand that? Hadn’t he killed a friend too, without wanting to? Why wasn’t the thief training for revenge, come to think of it?
The thief picked up a small, rather flat stone from the beach and sent it jumping on the surface of the ocean. Automatically Kevin sent out his hand and caught the projectile as it was about to pass him. Hawk whistled in surprise.
“You’re just unbelievable, beastie,” he said with raised eyebrows.
Kevin looked at the stone. It was white, somehow looked like it could have been clear as glass if it hadn’t been for the color. Millenniums of waves had given it a round, smooth surface. Such stones hadn’t existed in the forest either.
The young man with beastman blood wondered how much he still had to discover about the world outside of the endless night.
“How did you do that?” he asked, looking at Hawk.
He went off track again, when he needed to concentrate on training he asked about how to make a stone leap upon water. No discipline… Beast King had said something about that too.
Always Beast King… taking so much room after being a major part of Kevin’s life.
“The rock thing?” Hawk said and smiled with a shrug of his shoulder, “it’s all in the wrist.”
“How come a desert warrior knows how to do that?” Lise wondered while securing her headband and hair wings.
“The fortress isn’t that far from the ocean,” the thief said and picked up another stone.
Kevin watched the second pebble go and then tried to imitate Hawk’s movement. The white stone managed two hops.
“That’s good for a first try!” Hawk grinned, bending down again.
The half blood watched the new stone jump and reached out. He found a triumphant grin on his lips as he managed to catch that too.
As he raised his gaze he found that Lise watched him, smiling. She still sat on the rock, now with all her equipment on. Her warmly greenish armor, the peculiar things in her hair. The bladed end of her spear was to be seen behind her left shoulder. Kevin felt that strange happy sadness again as he looked at her.
A shadow fell on him, and he turned to the sky. The three birds swept in over the beach again, each one carrying a couple of fishes in their claws. Kevin nodded at them and went ashore. After the carriers had had their meals the small group took the sky again, aiming straightly northwest.
The horizon really seemed to have a small, townish dot beside the cliffs.
“I think we better not land inside of the town,” Hawk pointed out, “such an entry might cause interest we don’t want.”
“True,” Kevin agreed.
He looked up at his carrier.
The bird’s chirp sounded almost like a chuckle.
About ten minutes later they swept down over the “golden road”, the national symbol of the trading between Maia, Forcena and Byzen. It wasn’t made of real gold, of course. It was just a road made of bricks of a yellowish kind of stones that could be found in certain parts of the mountains. Somebody must have thought that it would look nice to have a yellow brick road to travel between the cities.
A couple of hooded, furry monsters yelped and dove into the bushes as the three warriors dropped from their birds. Hawk glanced at the greenery.
“I guess we’re not completely safe here,” he sighed, “but at least there shouldn’t be any beastmen around.”
“Think they’ll attack?” Lise asked and pointed at the bushes with her thumb, doubting it but still ready.
The monsters had hid, and they hadn’t looked that strong either. But you could never know.
“Probably not” Hawk said with a small snicker.
Kevin looked up at the birds, who kept up in mid air.
“Better go and find somewhere to hide,” he told them, “but stay around here in case we need you.”
The birds took off towards the cliff area to the south. Meanwhile Kevin, Lise and Hawk began to follow the road to Maia. The town wasn’t far away; they could see the rooftops about a hundred yards away.
“It’ll be nice to be in a town where you don’t have to fear being chopped or hunted doooh!” Hawk calmly began, but ended in a shout as he fell to the ground with a whip secured around his knees.
Lise ripped forth her spear and swung it at the whip, thus cutting it. While Hawk worked on getting his daggers and freeing himself Kevin turned to the bushes with an irritated look.
“Go away,” he growled.
There was a sound similar to “Eep!” and then the bushes swung back and forth for a while as the monsters fled.
“Thanks,” Hawk sighed and rehid his daggers, feeling embarrassed that he hadn’t seen the attack coming.
Lise offered him her hand to help him stand up. Feeling somewhat blessed the thief grasped the smaller grip and got to his feet.
Without any further problems they went towards and into Maia.
It was a small town; it was rather famous for that. Called the tiniest dot on the map; nobody was really sure if it was to be named a town or merely a village. But it was also known for being peaceful and the country had no Mana stone.
With a sigh of relief Lise went to sit down on one of the small benches by the pier, placing her spear across her lap since she hadn’t returned it to her back. Just keeping sure in case they should have encountered more brave or rather dumb monsters. Kevin’s thick arms should be enough for a beast with the slightest intelligence to ponder an attack wisely.
After hesitating for a moment Kevin too gave in to his leaving tension and sat down to fully relax. There had been several nervous days… he was still amazed that none of the beastmen had found him in Jad by his mere smell. Too many people moving around, probably. Otherwise he would have been killed long ago. A heir being overconfident enough to be so easily defeated by his father and then even having the nerve to run away… he wasn’t really a traitor; more of a shame of the race. Beastmen were strong because weakness wasn’t accepted. Hopeless failures were removed.
And Kevin was doubtlessly and proven to be considered far beneath any kind of mending process. The son of the greatest warrior should be a model to everyone else.
He’d like to talk with someone about it. But he didn’t really know why, or what he could say. Not to who, either. It just felt hard to carry all this anger and shame alone. Karl would have listened… barked a little and licked his face… and all troubles would have been gone.
Kevin heavily sighed, blankly watching his hands. Hawk sat down on the other side of Lise just a moment after the half blood’s settling.
The thief heard his friend’s sigh, but didn’t ask. He didn’t want to be considered a babysitter.
Even though he tried to relax his brain went off to ponder all paths he could take now. Just like Kevin he had visited Wendel and the priest of Light before the magical shield against the beastmen was created. But the old man hadn’t been able to help him either… the curse of the necklace was too old, too powerful, too forgotten.
But there had to be some way!
So, what to do?
Hmm, since Isabella had cast the spell, she should know how to remove it as well. That seemed pretty logical. He hadn’t any other options.
Maybe if he could capture Isabella…
Hawk almost chuckled bitterly.
Yeah, fat chance… but what else could he try? Frowning and thoughtful, he leaned back against the bench.
Capture Isabella somehow. The more he thought about it, the more it dawned on him that that probably was the only way to save Jessica. If he could only force Isabella to remove the curse… she was the only one who could know how to do it, as far as Hawk knew.
Madness. Yep. Suicide. Indeed. Last hope. Afraid so.
Okay then, step two. Where could she be now? In Navarre or Rolante?
Hawk pondered it for a moment, finally deciding that the later was the most logical alternative. The kingdom had been invaded not too long ago, and as the leading mind Isabella surely would like to stay for a while to make sure her troops were in place and fortified properly.
The thief smiled a little to himself.
Well, at least he had an expert on Rolante with him. Question was, would Lise want to help him? After all she had just fled and was set on finding her brother. But Isabella might know something about Elliot… it could be possible to talk Lise into it, if he only managed to think of a few good reasons. That shouldn’t be too hard.
Making Kevin help wouldn’t be bad either; he was an unbelievably strong fighter and the birds would without doubt be very helpful. But he could be harder to convince. The half blood had, after all, nothing to do with the fall of Rolante and the source of said.
Some part of Hawk said that he shouldn’t try to get someone involved in his personal battle, but the other half of him wanted to aim for all help he could possibly get.
But in the end it was their decision, of course. He could only hope, not force.
He stood up and stretched out a bit.
“I have a little money left, think we can afford a decent meal?” he said.
The unstable state of the world and the recent closing of Byzen had harmed the amount of travelers passing through Maia, thus forcing the inn of the small town to lower the prices.
Kevin used a knife and fork really well, a little clumsy but not too badly. This was a slight surprise in Hawk’s view; not that he was a racist or anything but the beastmen were… well, they were beasts. More intelligent than your everyday monster, but still beasts and not supposed to be used to the eating ceremonies of humans.
The half blood was crouching as he ate just as when he walked, it seemed as if his back had taken the hardest hit of his crossed lineage. That and his tongue.
Remembering what he had experienced in Jad, Hawk realized that the “true” beastmen had no speech problems whatsoever. Their voices had a collective grunting and snarling, but they said “I’ll be fine” and not “me be fine”.
Was it the mixed genes that caused the problems?
Or was Kevin just… well… stupid?
Hawk frowned and tried to concentrate on cutting a potato into two neat pieces to go with the stew.
He told himself that it was mean to even think such things. Without Kevin’s help he could have been dead, killed by angered beastmen in Jad. Or at least he would still have been stuck there.
None of the three warriors said a word, tired after the escape’s tension releasing them.
Hawk pondered if he should talk to Lise after they had eaten or wait until the next day. In the end he decided that he’d wait, since he felt like his brain was about to turn into cotton candy and it wouldn’t hurt if her mind was clear as well. Then she’d have the energy needed to listen to and ponder his arguments. Talking to Kevin could wait to, for the same reasons. And Hawk hadn’t really been able to think of something strong enough to convince the beastman.
He had to sleep.
They all needed that.
Kevin could smell that Hawk was bothered in some way, but didn’t ask. He was so tired that he just wanted to finish his meal and get to sleep.
The half blood glanced at his friends past his thick, waving fringe. Hawk was frowning slightly as he ate, deep in thoughts. But Lise looked almost like a zombie. Her eyes were half closed, and she seemed to eat more because she knew that she paid for it and that she really needed to eat, than of real hunger.
Just like he felt.
Tired of the run and of the endless wondering about what the next step would be.
But she still kept up. Behind that exhaust in her eyes was a fragile but determined flame of will. Kevin held onto the wavering he saw far back in those green-blue eyes, finding a weak smile on his lips without really knowing what it was doing there.
As he laid on the bed in his own room later on, even though he could have slept standing… the sleep just kept at bay. So Kevin just watched the dark roof, his eyes soon getting used to the darkness.
Maybe he was just too tired, had past the wall and gotten so exhausted that it was impossible to sleep. Kevin grimaced at the thought.
The bed was too soft and smooth. He missed the kindly tickling grass in the forest; there he had never experienced troubles to sleep. The wind had whispered lullabies in the bushes and trees, Karl’s warm little head on his stomach…
Kevin sighed and moved his arm from under his head to cover his eyes.
The arm fell away, its hand traveling down to the place where the wolf’s head had used to be. The touch of his fingers almost burned Kevin’s skin through his high belt, and he removed them. The memory was far too painful still.
When he moved his fingers he touched the bandage surrounding his torso.
Lise and Hawk…
As if the mere touch called for it, his sharp nostrils recaptured the even for him now distant smells of the cloth. The sweet scent of the ointment was pleasantly vague; at first it had made Kevin feel a little dizzy after a few moments. About the time that Lise began to cover his wounds with the bandage, actually. But it had worn off soon after.
The cloth carried a remaining scent of the exiled princess after the time in her backpack and her working with it.
Kevin smiled a little and fell asleep, his mind embedded in the soft smell of his allies.
He slept so deeply that even his sharp ears didn’t catch the low argument, late at night.
“I am so sorry, sir, we only have one room left. It’s for three persons…”
“Not again! I’m so tired of sleeping in the same room as this snoring, armed peasant! As if the infernal boat ride wasn’t enough!”
“Who are you calling a peasant!?”
“Carlie say Angela and Duran shut up and schleep now!”
And even if the half blood had heard the short discussion, it hadn’t meant more to him than a swift sort of irritation before he’d turn over and fall asleep again, forgetting about it. So in the end it didn’t matter that he didn’t hear the Mana heroes speak right then. Of course the three blessed ones would be important to him at a later point, but right then it was more important that he got the rest he needed.
Somebody snored peacefully from on of the other rooms; it didn’t sound like Hawk nor Kevin. Besides, she didn’t think that either of them had gotten a room on the lower floor since that of tradition was for three people.
“Good morning, lady…” the innkeeper drowsily mumbled as she walked past him.
He was almost lying across his desk.
“How are you?” Lise asked, following her character as a caring person.
“Well there were these late guests… came with a ship from the goddess know where, didn’t tell and I don’t care… and they argued with each other until they fell asleep, kept me awake through half the night…”
He yawned and waved with a hand.
“I appreciate that you care, m’lady, but don’t worry. I’ll just sleep when my brother comes here, let him handle things here for a while. Breakfast is ready, it’s included in the price.”
Lise opened the door to her left went into the dining room and found Hawk working on a bowl of porridge. Finding that a good idea she found her own bowl and served herself breakfast. It was some time ago that she had eaten two proper meals in a row; the beastmen had taken almost all sort of supplies in Jad.
“Morning,” the thief said with a wry smile as Lise sat down on the chair on the other side of the table.
“Good morning,” Lise kindly replied, “is Kevin still sleeping?”
‘Would she ask Kevin that if I was the one still in the hay?’ Hawk wondered deep down.
“I think so,” he said aloud with a shrug of his shoulders, “either that or he’s up very early.”
Lise nodded and began eating. After glancing around a bit just to assemble the little bit of courage he needed, Hawk opened his mouth to speak again.
“I need to talk to you, by the way,” he said, “but it can wait until we’ve finished breakfast.”
Lise looked surprised for a moment, but nodded without questioning.
A short while later she put her spoon in the now empty bowl and straightened up.
“What gives?” she asked.
Hawk finished his sandwich and glanced around again out of habit. Nobody else had showed up and the innkeeper had fallen asleep.
“Look, now you’re gonna tell me I’m crazy,” the thief said in a low voice just in case, “but at least hear me out.”
Lise nodded, waiting for him to continue.
“I’ve been thinking,” Hawk mumbled, “I think the only way I possibly can save Jessica is by capturing Isabella and forcing her to remove the curse. And I’m pretty sure that she’s still in Rolante.”
The young, blond woman before him startled, staring at him.
“You can’t go there, it’s madness!” she hissed, bending slightly forward so that only Hawk would hear her low voice.
“It’s my only hope,” the thief grimly said, “and…”
He pursed his mouth, hoping his attempt to pull a few strings would work out.
“She might know where Elliot is, after all she’s the one commanding the troops that kidnapped him,” he ended the sentence, “what if he’s still in your castle, held captive in his own home?”
Lise fell back on her chair, her whole being showing signs of raging doubts, hopes and worries within her. The friend on the other side of the table almost held his breath.
“I can’t… I can’t allow you to go there alone,” Lise finally said, grimly, “but you were hoping I’d say that, didn’t you?”
She didn’t sound too bitter saying that, so Hawk dared to nod.
“A bit,” he admitted, “but that’s your decision. I’m going whether you’re coming too or not.”
‘Come with me, please come with me,’ he grimly thought, ‘sneaking into that place will be hard enough, but it’ll be easier if I have a company who knows the area.’
‘Who are you trying to fool, you hopeless flirt?’ some hidden part of him sighed.
The exiled princess watched the table, frowning and leaning her cheek in her hand as she wrestled herself. Afraid to irritate her into neglecting his suggestion, Hawk kept from trying to encourage her even more. He knew the delicate weighing of a woman’s mind through a few more or less painful experiences.
‘He’s got a point…’ Lise hesitantly thought, ‘I know that Elliot wasn’t in the castle when I left, father told me that and he’d know, but I don’t have clue where I should be searching. Isabella must know… but I can’t go back! It’s too painful!’
“I need to think about it,” she said aloud after several moments in a tight silence.
“Okay,” Hawk nodded, “take your time.”
“Thanks. See you later.”
Lise stood up and left the inn. The owner of the place was still sleeping, and she heard snores from the three persons’ room again. Well, it was understandable since those people had come to Maia in the middle of the night. The princess swiftly wondered where the late travelers had come from, but her mind was too occupied by other matters to truly bother.
For a couple of minutes she just leaned against the wall of the inn, staring at nothing while trying to sort out her inner chaos.
She had to find Elliot, and Isabella could be a certain road to him; the only road she had to chose from. Where else could she really search?
A movement in the corner of her eye caught her attention, and she turned her head at the golden road. A gigantic, green bumblebee with knives as legs soared backwards through the air and disappeared into the greenery beneath the mountains rising up from the land. It came back, buzzing furiously and loud enough for Lise to hear it despite the distance. The buzz called a couple of other monsters of the first one’s kind, cleaving leaves with their claws as they busted out of the bushes to help their friend with whatever foe he had encountered.
Well, Kevin’s appearance around the corner of the road proved that he wasn’t a sleepover after all. He came walking down the road, as if he was moving in a completely safe place where there were no angry insects of the size of a barrel.
But on the other hand, Lise figured, when it came to the very core that young man probably could feel completely safe. Still she reached back, freed her spear from the metallic rings of her armor and went to meet him.
One of the green, tubby monsters turned around as it heard her steps and knitted its claws at the sight of a less strong-looking human. The first bumblebee to get attacked and the other acquaintance kept their concentration on Kevin and flew towards him.
“Morning, Lise,” he said in his slightly grunting way of speaking while clenching his fists to meet the two attackers.
“The same to you.”
The words sounded dull and meaningless in her mouth; she was still bothered with Hawk’s ideas. She frowned and grabbed her spear with both hands in order to face the violent insect. Think later.
The monster zoomed back and forth a few times, trying to confuse her before sending out a thorn of the size of Lise’s thumb. But she leaped backwards and forth again, sending out her spear to smack the creature’s side. For a moment she considered if she had any real reason to kill it; after all it hadn’t caused her any harm. But on the other hand these monsters were complicating the land-bound trading between Forcena, Maia and Byzen, and her daily patrols in Rolante had been meant to keep the paths safe for travelers...
Would she ever be back in Rolante?
Lise clenched her teeth. Not now!
The bumblebee raised its claws, but she parried with her spear. Her foe drew back and tried to get around her, forcing Lise to turn and dance backwards. The sound of Kevin’s battle came closer. A glance over her shoulder showed that he was backing in her direction, with only one enemy left. The other one was lying on the road, twitching a little and clearly alive; just a bit dizzy.
“Hawk still sleeping?” the half blood asked as they almost stood side by side, looking in different directions while preparing for the next attack.
“No, he’s still in town,” Lise said and tracked her deep worry by her own, tired voice, “he was saying…”
She sighed and fell silent.
“Bother?” Kevin asked with a distinct trace of concern in the single word.
By the sound of it he sent the bug of his flying a few dozen yards away.
“I’m sure he didn’t mean to…” Lise muttered and knocked out her own foe with the flat end of her spear point, “I just don’t know what to do.”
She turned around to face him. Kevin was rubbing the back of his neck rather sheepishly while watching her with that shyness which could only be described as cute.
“Lise help me, gah,” he mumbled, obviously not knowing what to say, “if I can help, I try.”
The exiled princess smiled a little before she even knew about it.
“Thanks, Kevin,” she said and glanced at the dizzy bumblebee by her feet, “let’s talk somewhere where there’s no monsters.”
They began walking back into town.
“Me just check on birds,” Kevin explained to fill up a silence he found unpleasant.
“Are they alright after the long flight yesterday?” Lise asked, glad that he had stopped any concerned ice to form.
“Ah, not very used to flying that far, but we three not heavy as many beastmen.”
They entered the town and went over to sit on the same bench as yesterday. Lise placed her spear in her lap again, just as before. She needed a moment to think about what she could say, and Kevin waited in silence.
“It’s like this,” the princess finally began, “Hawk thinks that the only way he can help Jessica is by capturing that Isabella woman, who probably is still in Rolante. So he wants to go there and I can’t allow him to do that alone… he also pointed out that that Isabella could know where Elliot is.”
She figured it all had tumbled out rather quickly and tried to calm down again.
“I realize that it might be the only way I can find my brother,” she continued in a slower manner and shook her head, “but I don’t want to return to Rolante yet, I don’t know if I’ll be able to face my home in whatever state the ninjas have brought it too…”
Her voice trailed off and she stared at the her spear for a moment. Kevin still said nothing.
“And what can it bring?” Lise finally muttered, “there’s only two of us! I can’t return before I have a chance to free my country!”
With a sigh she placed her cheek in her hand and the matching elbow on her knee.
“I want to go back there, I’m so worried about Palo too,” she said in a low voice, “it’s just a fishing village but they might have been attacked as well after I fled… but I can’t do anything to help anyone as it is now!”
Frustrated she kicked at a pebble on the ground, not caring about it being childish. And Kevin finally spoke.
“Lise worry about everybody,” he said, “worry so much that it hurts.”
“I can’t help it,” she muttered.
“Me think we should go there even if not army. Try anything possible to win, gah.”
Lise straightened up and looked at him, hesitating.
“‘We’?” she said, a little bit hoarse, “oh no, Kevin… I don’t want you to get entangled in a battle which isn’t yours…”
He looked surprised, almost hurt.
“It’s Hawk’s and my problem,” Lise tried to smooth the whole thing, “I’m really glad that you want to help, but should you get hurt because I got you into trouble... you’re my friend, I don’t want to bring you into danger.”
Kevin shook his head.
“Lise and Hawk my friends,” he gravely said, the boyish sense in his eyes melting down beneath a frown, “me only have to get stronger anyway.”
At first Lise didn’t know how to face this sense of trust mixed with his practical wish to train in order to one day be able to avenge his friend. Training by fighting in a war he didn’t belong in? It didn’t seem to fit the Kevin she knew; the shy half blood. But on the other hand, she figured with a singe of ugly realization, she couldn’t possibly know him that well yet at all. They had met only two days ago, come to think of it.
But despite that fact, he was still a friend. And she wouldn’t drive him into danger senseless to him.
“Kevin, I understand that you want to help. But should you get killed by a ninja who wouldn’t normally be your enemy you’ll never be able to right the wrongs in your life and in the Beast Kingdom.”
Too late she realized that that hadn’t been the smoothest pick of words. Kevin’s eyebrows twitched.
“Me won’t let Hawk and Lise go alone if you can die,” he grimly said, for every word less and less the timid friend she had met in Jad.
Lise shook her head again, trying to handle this change of personality. Maybe Kevin had a far more complicated character than she had thought, after all…
“It’s not your battle, Kevin,” she tried again, desperately seeking a way to talk him out of it, “would you want me to get killed by Beast King because I wanted to help you?”
Kevin frowned and looked away. After a moment he slowly shook his head.
The princess without a kingdom held back a relieved sigh as the two letter word left Kevin’s lips.
She forgot about his extraordinary good sense of smell, though. But he didn’t say anything about it, neither did her relief irritate him. Kevin was just sad to realize that even though he so dearly wanted to help his friends, Lise was right. He would never let anyone else at Beast King, so he could finally understand what the princess meant.
“But if you go, no be killed,” he said, and as he turned his head again Lise once more saw and felt the deep sadness he carried within.
Kevin’s eyes almost flashed with pain as he spoke. Before she had time to even have the nerve of pondering it Lise reached out and took the left one of his big hands. It was almost twice the size of hers, but she didn’t even think about that detail.
“I promise, Kevin,” she gravely said straight to his face without taking her gaze away from his warmly yellow eyes, “I won’t die, and I won’t let Hawk do it either. And you have to stay alive as well.”
Kevin stared at her in surprise at first, then his fingers closed around Lise’s hand in turn and he nodded.
“Okay,” he said in a low voice.
Lise managed a weak smile.
“Seems like I’ll be going then, after all,” she said, just as low as him, “thank you for helping me decide.”
“Lise decide,” Kevin replied, a bit shy again, “me just listen and talk.”
“It was what I needed.”
On the second try it was easier to smile. Especially since her friend made an attempt as well.
Kevin seemed a bit rusty when it came to smiles, which was fully understandable. But when he tried, all of his grim side and his warrior’s mask melted away and he became that calm, slightly shy but honestly friendly half blood again. And Lise found that she thought that the boyish side suited him much, much better. At least she liked that side of him more than the grave one. When he looked grim and coldly determined he resembled too much to the beastman side he carried within.
She stood up and hooked her spear onto her back again, still not letting go of Kevin. Or maybe he was the one not letting go; by her movement he also stood up. After leaving her spear Lise placed her free hand on the reddish one holding her other one.
“Thanks Kevin,” she said again, “I appreciate it.”
When Kevin timidly rubbed his neck again with a sheepish look in his eyes she could smile kindly without any troubles whatsoever.
‘Be like that, Kevin… you’re not meant to be a cold warrior,’ Lise warmly thought.
“I’ll go tell Hawk,” she said aloud.
He bent up his fingers so that she could take away her hand from his. Then he watched her go for a moment before sitting down on the bench again, leaning his cheek in the hand which had held Lise’s. The reason was not any sort of exhaust, but thoughtfulness and…
He didn’t know why he liked it.
His fingers still had a faint smell of Lise after the touch.
There was more sadness than happiness in the strange feeling now. And it didn’t feel right at all.
The long, sharp locks of his fringe hung before his face, waving back and forth in the salty wind coming from the ocean. He let the hair shadow his face as he was lost in thought and the quickly fading smell of the blond princess.
No… it didn’t feel right at all. He didn’t want to leave his newfound friends alone in enemy territory, he didn’t want to lose another one he was fond of. But… Lise had an important point. It really wasn’t his battle, and considering it he was sure that if it had been the other way around he’d doubtlessly forbid her and Hawk to follow him.
Still, it was wrong!
He frowned deeper and had to hold back a growl.
It was wrong not to help them, they had saved his life back in Jad. He couldn’t leave them like this after what happened there! What if Lise or Hawk would get killed if he wasn’t there to help them?
He frowned deeper and let his hand fall, watching the fingers.
The soft smell of Lise was fading, but the memory of her touch still remained on his skin. Nobody had touched him like that before, like a friend. Except for Karl, of course, but he hadn’t been another human being…
Kevin fought another growl.
She was right about that… Lise was right about that if he died, Karl wouldn’t be avenged. Yet, that fact clashed with the fact that Kevin now risked to lose two other friends. He didn’t want to bear that.
Frustrated by the ever turning dilemma he got up and walked over to the northeastern corner of the small town and rushed out down the golden road, soon enough attracting the interest of a few rabites and giant bumblebees. It was just his intention.
For Kevin was half beastman after all, and when he got frustrated the side of him where the claws belonged tended to get the better of him. It hadn’t happened while he had Karl, but before and after the wolf it had happened. He had friends now, but they were, by no one’s will, the source of his anger. So he let out his anger by beating up anything stupid enough to attack him.
Meanwhile, Lise went into the inn to find Hawk. The first thing she found was that the sleepy innkeeper had been replaced by another man, probably his brother since he had mentioned that.
By the sound of it the guests in the three persons’ room had finally awoken and was getting ready for departing. They seemed to be waging a minor argument, but kept their voices low enough to be strangled by the wall.
A glance through the door gave the information that Hawk had left the dining room. So the princess turned to the man in charge.
“Good morning,” she politely said as she crossed the short area to the desk, “I’m looking for my friend. He’s got long blue hair and foreign clothes.”
“You say so, miss?” the man behind the desk said with a slightly amused look at Lise’s armor by the ‘foreign clothes’ remark, “if we’re thinking about the same person he went upstairs a while ago.”
Lise went upstairs and knocked on one of the two doors that didn’t belong to her own room. A strangely scraping, familiar sound came from inside, so it wasn’t much of a task to find the right place.
“Who is it?” Hawk called, his voice sounding muffled and distant because of the wood blocking the words.
“It’s me,” Lise called back, “can I come in?”
“Sure, go ahead.”
She opened the door and found him sitting on the floor with his legs crossed, working on sharpening one of his daggers with a square, reddish stone. The scraping sound had come from that process. Lise found it familiar from her own care taking of her spear.
For half a second she pondered if she should close the door behind her. Maybe it would make him embarrassed? Nah, Hawk wasn’t that much of a shy person… on the other hand, she knew as little about him as about Kevin.
Maybe she hesitated because she didn’t want to become embarrassed herself.
For heaven’s sake…
But she hadn’t ever been alone with a man of her own age in a hotel room, with or without closed door.
Tch, she hadn’t even been in an inn at all before the whole terrifying mess with everything began…
Lise fought back a frown at all the thoughts. What did a door matter among all her other problems? It wasn’t like she or Hawk were planning on something more than talking. Well, she wasn’t, and she was pretty sure the thief wasn’t either. He had Jessica, after all.
But still, a closed door… it’s just a piece of wood, for heaven’s sake! And why even bother about closing it, are you afraid of spies or something?
‘Maybe I’m just afraid to fully step over this border and seal my fate of returning to my home so soon…’ she thought with a silent sigh, ‘but it’s already too late to turn back. I’ve decided. Calm down.’
She left the door open, but took only a single step into the room.
Hawk stood up and sheathed his dagger again, or rather made it disappear. The stone was left in his hand.
Instead of saying anything he waited, letting her announce her decision. Such courtesy fell in place naturally.
Lise needed to take a deep breath to get a better grip of herself after the silly hesitating.
“I talked a bit with Kevin, and he convinced me that I should come with you to Rolante,” she said and tried an encouraging smile.
But once again it was hard to get the lips into the right position.
Hawk nodded with a glistening of relief in his eyes.
“I’m glad to hear that,” he said.
“He wanted to help us,” Lise told the thief in a lower voice, “but I don’t want him to get hurt in our battle, so I talked him out of it.”
At first Hawk just watched her, and she couldn’t read the emotions flashing past in his eyes. Finally he gave another nod.
“You’re right,” he slowly said, “I admit that I wouldn’t have been sad if he came with us, but you’re right. It wouldn’t be fair to him.”
‘Not smart, not smart at all,’ Hawk thought, ‘but it’s the right thing. Still, it wasn’t very bright.’
He silently cursed the holy codex of “right thing to do” and all its complications. Another ally, especially one with Kevin’s strength, hadn’t been too bad. Apart from that, Hawk was picking up a friendly liking of the werewolf.
“It’s not like I don’t want him to follow,” Lise said and shook her head, “but it isn’t his war.”
“I’ll go see if there’s any ships leaving for Palo.”
After Lise had left, Hawk tried to start working on his daggers again. But the excitement he couldn’t help feeling about getting a good chance against Isabella made it hard for him to concentrate. It was his only hope, and with Lise’s help he had a much greater chance to win.
There was something else, too.
… I don’t want him to get hurt in our battle.
Hawk sighed so loudly that it almost was a groan.
Give it up already, you flirt!
But he knew he couldn’t.
When Lise was walking towards the stairs she heard the sleepy travelers leave.
“Alright, let’s move already!” a young man’s voice boomed out enough to startle the whole town, “we’re going to Forcena!”
“Yayies!” a squeaking voice squealed, “let’sh go!”
“I don’t see why I keep up with you two idiots!” a young woman’s voice groaned before the door to the inn slammed shut.
The man by the desk turned around as he heard Lise’s steps, and the two of them exchanged a look of twisted puzzlement.
About twenty minutes later, Kevin happened to glance northwards and saw three people rushing into a cave in the cliffs surrounding the golden road. But by the distance he could only see that two were tall and one short, and that the leader seemed to have a sword in his hand. In any case, the half blood hadn’t much time to care since he was giving three hooded foxes a lesson in picking their prey wiser:
One, if they move as if they were ready for battle, stay clear. Two, if they also are very muscular, stay clearer. Three, if they resemble to lions too, leave it! Especially if they are growling.