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An old warrior Legend, a Mage, a Treasured Antique wielder and a young girl walk through the woods. It sounds like the start of a bad joke, but it was reality for them. After agreeing to be companions, travelling for half a day and getting to the border of Paiurej, the four decided to spend the night next to a river that split the two countries. Gathered around the flickers of red from the burning wood, looking at each other, they stood in solemn silence.
‘Well, I have to pee. I’ll be right back,’ Ratin said, getting up and going into the forest. When he couldn’t be heard, Iruka positioned herself on the other side of the fire, in front of Schamm.
‘You know, I’m not stupid,’ she said, making the warrior feel droplets of sweat at the back of his head and down his back.
‘I hope not’ he replied, preferring the silence opposed to his true identity being found out.
‘Oh, come on, you can’t say you haven’t noticed. Your companion is more than he seems.’
This made Schamm spit his drink, almost putting out the fire. ‘What?’
‘His bracelet. That’s a Treasured Antique.’
Neveah had no clue what the two were talking about, so she kept silent.
‘So? Your Glaive is one too,’ Ratin’s voice could be heard to Schamm’s right.
‘You know, it’s not nice to eavesdrop,’ Iruka frowned.
‘And you should know that talking behind one’s back leads to problems, dear’
Iruka got up, holding her weapon at her side.’ How do you know?’
‘I know the one that made it and the one that is supposed to have it. Are you so kind to explain what happened to Araiel?’
‘How dare you say his name like that? He’s the greatest two-hand weapon fighter!’
The other two sighed after hearing it. Schamm was on the edge of giving an argument about how he had never seen anyone else smash other’s faces in like Brassbeard, but he realized he was too lazy to intervene.
‘I’ve had the pleasure of knowing him for most of my life. He is a great man, and I would be thoroughly saddened if I knew that something happened to him.’
‘It’s a long story.’
‘I have time. An incredible amount of it,’ Ratin motioned with his hand for her to lay down.
Iruka squatted, looking at the ground, seeming as though all of her face muscles contracted into a frown.
‘After Mahen took care of me until I was 16, he introduced me to Araiel. He was tall, his red short hair shining in the light that wasn’t reflecting off his perfectly white teeth. His muscular build intimidated me at first, those emerald coloured eyes both inviting, friendly, but deadly and the same time.’
‘Iruka, sweetie,’ she looked confused after Ratin’s first words.’ Indeed, maybe that is not the right way to say it, but the message I’m trying to convey is that I could never forget him. Both his body and mind. I want you to tell me what became of him.’
‘He’s back where he came from. Dead,’ she said, a tear starting to form in her right eye. It was clear that she despised crying, feeling weak, so Ratin didn’t push any further.
‘Good job on winning the duel. I hope you’ll make him proud, wielding his pride.’
‘Yes, I made a promise that I will.’
‘You two are weird,’ Schamm said all of a sudden.
‘What?’ they both replied.
‘You dance around words like that, beating around the bush. I know that you are strong,’ he said, looking at Ratin ‘at least emotionally. I’m not that smart, but I think I also deserve some explanations.’
‘As to what, dear friend?’ the Mage asked.
‘Why are you on this journey, really?’
Iruka seemed surprised, more by the fact that Schamm knew how to think in order to ask the question. Nevertheless, her sight was now pointed towards the Mage.
‘I have an idea. Let’s all say why we’re here and what our objectives are.’
‘Are you sure?’ the warrior asked.
‘Indeed I am. Do you three agree?’
After Schamm said ‘three’ the others remembered that Neveah was staring at them, with an empty expression.
‘Don’t let me interrupt you.’
‘Fine. Let’s do it.’
‘I guess the majority wins. You go first, Ratin,’ the warrior said.
‘I am on the lookout for all the wielders of the Treasured Antiques. You know, Scha-…Shambler, Iruka was right. My bracelet is indeed a Treasured Antique. It’s the Bracelet of Feeling. I can manipulate the feelings of a person, amplifying it and affecting him physically.’
‘Why do you have to find the rest of us?’ Iruka asked.
‘I sense great peril coming our way. The High Commanders are not in agreement as they used to be, and with Valcus stepping down soon and Gazuvius being as destructive as he is as of late, things may go the wrong way. If so, we’ll need for all of the Treasured Wielders to be together in order to set everything back to normal.’
Valcus? I haven’t caught up with the different High Commanders but that surely could not be who I think he is…
‘Peril?’ the three asked.
‘Do you really think the countries would wage war on each other?’ Neveah asked.
‘Yes. And considering that the threat of a Slither invasion is getting frighteningly more realistic by the day, we must also assume that they have something up their sleeve. But that’s it from me.’
‘I’ll continue,’ Schamm offered. ‘I spent my whole life doing things for others, things I never want to do again. I figured that seeing the world with a helpful companion might help me find a way to find a better life. A lawful one. He wanted to mention his other side, but if he did, he’d be sure that the word would spread of who he really is. I need to come up with something.
I have been thought something in my youth… the ability to communicate with spirits. Of course, this is too dumb of an idea to not be considered real at this point. They used to help me through my journeys directly, guiding me through the thick forests that seemed to last for eternities, like a rat lost in a maze without end. I would suddenly gain strength when being close to losing a fight. I owe them a lot, but lately, they mentioned a name. Sarb Valege. I don’t know who he is, where he lives, but because the Spirits have saved my life countless times, I have no choice but to do their bidding. I guess that weird dream helped me somehow. Your turn, miss,’ he concluded as he looked into the Iruka’s eyes. After a long sigh, she began talking.
‘Since Araiel, I haven’t found a worthy opponent on which to fully test my might on. Yesterday I heard of the 5000 Gold bounty on some Saudin, called Schamm. I do care about the money, but just the opportunity to fight someone as strong as that, I just can’t pass it up, so my only choice is to go to the North. There are also two others searching for him, though one… is questionable.’
While Schamm was busy trying not to vomit and show the intense sweat pouring down his face, Ratin asked ‘Questionable?’
‘Well, yes. For lack of a better word, he looked like an idiot.’
‘Can you describe him?’
‘He was dressed fully in purple and white, like some kind of desert prince from the old books. He was pretty muscular, but when he agreed to the bounty he had a finger up his nose, looking as though he didn’t have a care in the world.’
‘Do you know his name by chance?’
‘No. There was another man. He was a bit shorter than our friend here’, she said as she nodded towards Schamm ‘and he looked weird. He seemed to look in your direction as he heard the description of the hunted man. Being honest, you do match, Shambler. Wouldn’t it be funny if people would attack you, thinking you were Schamm?’
‘No, it wouldn’t be. I’m not that strong.’
‘Unfortunate. I thought about having a friendly match with you.’
‘I’d suggest not to,’ the Mage stepped in. ‘Let’s not try to attack each other now, okay?’
Iruka exhaled swiftly ‘Fine. Boring grandpa.’
‘And here I thought I still had some young looks in me. I’m only forty, you know.’
The girl laughed, more like a bellow. ‘You are funny sometimes, for an old man.’
‘You’ll hate it in a few weeks,’ Schamm said.
‘How about you, lady?’ Iruka asked.
‘Oh, I’m just joining because it’s the best choice for a future that I have, along with mister Shambler here,’ Neveah answered.
‘Speaking of, how many years have you fought through, warrior?’ Iruka asked.
‘I’ll tell you only if you tell me yours.’
‘It’s not nice to ask a girl her age. I’m twenty-two.’
‘Young, fresh. Take advantage of that as much as you can. I am somewhere in my thirties, lost count. It doesn’t matter in the North, anyway. Bloodshed has no preference over age. Anyway, judging by the moon, it’s 12. We should rest. We need to get up at the crack of dawn.’
‘The first watch will be on me,’ Iruka said.
‘We appreciate it greatly. I’ll be the second one. Change after 3 hours,’ the Mage concluded before getting in his tent.
The night’s sky. So beautiful, so full of stars. I might get the hang of companions, old one. Let’s hope my toys won’t break. Maybe I’ll get to reunite with my old ‘friend’, Iruka thought to herself.