It was a peaceful day at the village, the villagers all doing their part like any other day, working in the fields, helping out with home improvements, fetching water and food for the animals, sharing an afternoon meal at the large table in the town square. Of course, it wasn’t like this a few weeks ago, where one of the village children was out playing by the river until she came running back screaming and saying there were dead people in the water.
Some of the villagers had gone to check it out and when they brought the four bodies in, they realized that they were very much still alive but injured. So they were taken in to one of the larger homes where they have been since. Now the same girl, who had saw them in the first place, came out of the home screaming that one of them is now awake. Some of the villagers got up from the table and hurried inside to check on them.
One of them walked into the room where the little girl said that was awake, and saw the man was indeed awake. “Finally, here we had thought that you and your companions were cursed or something.”
Vakai sat there on the edge of the bed, rubbing his temples as he felt one hell of a headache. He saw a glass of water on the end table and immediately grabbed it to gulp down all the water in it.
Vakai looked up at the man and frowned. “Where am I?” Then he remembered the man said ‘companions’ earlier. “Where are we?”
“My name is Gregory, and you are in Pitchton, small village of the south western continent.” Said Gregory as he grabbed a chair and sat down before Vakai, putting his hands right on his neck under his jaw, where Vakai nearly jumped. “Relax, lad. I am a healer. Not like your other friend, but if it were not for my medicines, I believe you and your companions surely would not have made it.”
Vakai sat there and let Gregory do his thing. “We are in your debt then, Mr…?”
He chuckled, “Please, just Greg will do.”
“Greg. How bad were we?” Vakai asked.
He lowered his hands and arms with a sigh. “You and your companions had been unconscious for almost three weeks.” He shook his head before standing up and putting the chair back. “Come along. You and your friends woke just in time. We are having our afternoon meal.”
Just the sound of that made his stomach growl. Vakai smirked and stood right on up, only to follow Greg out of the house, where he then saw his friends just ahead of them. “Greg. You said that this village is on the south western continent. What does that mean?”
Greg sighed once more and stopped, making Vakai stop with him. “We found a letter in your belongings, as we were hoping to identify you and your friends. Roquesia is just beginning to have it where large kingdoms require residents to have identification cards, a way of keeping track of their citizens, as well as extra security I suppose. But its a very new system, has not reached our village yet but we assumed that maybe you came from the kingdom up north since you and your companions were found in rhe river near our village. The letter bears the mark of a certain Kingdom that can only be found on the north eastern continent.”
Vakai frowned, “How long would it take to travel to that Kingdom from this village?”
Greg snorted, “For one, we are not near any coast, so you would have to travel to the town east from where, about a days journey and then pay for the travel by boat which can take several months. Then of course, the continent is massive, and I have no doubt that they will take you to the nearest port, as no ship will go further than that. So traveling by foot from that port to the Kingdom could take a few more months.”
Vakai took a step back and frowned as hd thought it over. “So almost half a year of travel…then how did we get here? We were…investigating a disturbance, one that was causing a lot of trouble. Have you heard any word about the rising dead? Or other vile creatures?”
Greg raised a brow. “We have heard rumors but we hardly ever listen to rumors. Are you saying that those rumors are true?”
Vakai sighed, “They are and we were suppose to recon and return to that said Kingdom to report what we saw. But we made a foolish error in attempting to stop it…stop the sorcerer. She was…far more powerful than we realized.”
“Strange. And yet, you’re not dead.”
Vakai nodded, “That is what bothers me as well. Did she spare us, and sent us far away on purpose? Or did someone else save us? I…can’t remember past the part of being bound by her powers, except maybe she was suffocating us…then I blacked out.”
Greg snorted and shook his head, “I would not know what to say on that, lad. But that is something you will have to figure out later on when ya can. But nevermind that now, you must be hungry. Come.” Greg then resumed to the table and there, Vakai sat down between Ryker and Sivol.
Both Ryker and Gomez were chomping down on what looked like chicken, whereas Sivol was gulping down some broth, maybe chicken broth or something, while also stopping just enough to get a couple bites of carrot in before slurping some more. Vakai shrugged one of his shoulders and saw a large bowl of what looked like some sort of macaroni salad. He took the bowl, sniffed it and it smelt amazing. He did a taste test with his finger only to dive his face into it and started munching down everything he can. Practically everyone at the table had stopped eating to watch the chaos of the four. Ryker taking a mug and gulping down as much of the juice he could while some of it seeped out from the corners of his mouth, as Gomez took handfuls of mashed potatoes and stuffed her mouth while Sivol literally had leaves of lettuce and cabbage in her hands, tearing the leaves up with her teeth.
After an hour of the afternoin feast had finished, the four of them walked together with Greg leading the way to their gear. Vakai cleared his throat, “I apologize for our manners at the table but…the food was quite delicious.”
“Best we ever had in a long time.” Said Gomez.
“But we should have used better manners.” Said Sivol.
“You kidding? We were starving! You know how long we were out. I swear, I could of eaten a whole cow.” Said Ryker.
Greg chuckled, “Do not worry about it. It may have been the most strangest thing we have seen in years but it won’t change the fact that we had done something noble. We weren’t going to just let the four of you float down the river and into the open waters for some foul beast of the ocean to gobble you up. No. We knew we had to do something, and so we did.” He said as he reached the door to the hut and opened it up. “Your gear are laid out in separate piles on the table inside.”
The three went in to gear up but Vakai stood there. “I must thank you again for saving us.”
“Nonsense! It was the right thing to do and we are all happy that we did it. The worst thing to do is not do something that you could regret for the rest of your life. And we would rather be proud than live with the guilt on our conscious.”
Vakai smiled, “Still. It means a lot to us.” He then stepped inside and geared up, soon all four of them stepped on out.
Greg smiled, “Ya’ll look like you’re ready for an adventure.”
Ryker sighed, “We have to be, since it is going to take us a long time to get back to that King.” Vakai had explained to them inside the hut of their situation and how long it could take.
Greg nodded his head, “We can provide as much provisions you can carry for your journey.”
Vakai shook his head, “You’ve been too kind to us already, we can’t take your food.”
“Nonsense! We got plenty of it! Heck, next week we will be sending a cart full of our crop to the very town that you need to visit. We make more than enough so we have a stall in the market to sell the excess, which allows us to buy more seeds and other necessities.” Greg explained.
Sivol looked to Vakai before looking back to Greg. “Then if you do not mind, we would be happy to travel with your cart to the town.”
“Splendid! That is, if you four don’t mind doing some work. Everyone here contributes to the village, whether it be tending to the crops, feeding the farm animals, or doing patch work and improvements on a building or two. In fact, we’re actually thinking about turning our dirt paths into stone paths, with some of the hundreds of large rocks and small boulders we got from the quarry over yonder. That alone is going to take a lot of us, and we certainly could use the help from an extra pair of fine strong men!” Greg sad as he slapped both Vakai and Ryker’s arms as he laughed.
Vakai and Ryker looked at each other, both grinning before looking back at Greg. “Tell us where to set our gear back down and we’ll get to work right away.”
Greg’s face lit up like a christmas tree. “You four just made me a very happy man. Please, just return them where they were in the hut and we’ll also get you some different clothes to work it, don’t want to make your outfits all wet and skanky from all the sweating you’ll be doing.”
Thus the four adventurers stayed at the village for the duration, digging up the dirt paths and laying down the stones, packing in the mud to bind them to create the more ‘fancy’ stone path that they wanted. With Vakai and Ryker assisting, while the ladies helped in the fields and with the farm animals, they were able to get the paths finished before it was time to send a cart to the town over. But before that day came, they spent the night drinking around a large bonfire, signing whatever song that Greg and his fellow men came up with that Vakai and Ryker knew nothing about but found a way to follow along. Then when morning came, and after a few herb drinks to get rid of the migraines that Vakai and Ryker were suffering from, they geared up and escorted the cart all the way to town, along with four hefty bags full of food that the four could carry. Course, when they found a ship that was able to transport them across the vast ocean to the North-Eastern continent, they chose to share some of the food as they didn’t want any of it to perish along the way.
Back at the crater of where the meteorite laid and the dark crystal emerged out of it from the top, the sorcerer was relentlessly chanting, which she has been doing for days and this moment she was trying desperately to not allow sleep to overcome her, as she was trying very hard to amend the damage that the party of four had caused to the crystal, trying to restore it to it’s former glory and return to resurrecting the dead and summoning the beasts from dark realm. But she could tell that she was failing, she could feel the power of the crystal fading day by day and she knew that if she didn’t think of something next, there will be no power left and no chance for her to become the Empress of Roquesia, then perhaps, Empress of the Galaxy. She dreamt big, very big, bigger than any dark sorcerer or mage has ever dreamt of before on this planet, but she was determined to fulfill her dream, one way or another. Then, an image crossed over in her mind like a blur that threw her off of her chanting, but she quickly recovered while also figuring out what was it that her mind was trying to say. No…the crystal…it was speaking to her…it was telling her what she should do next to preserve its power. She quickly thought hard, focusing all her efforts on recollecting the image until finally, she knew exactly what the crystal wanted in order to survive. She quickly changed her chanting spell, quickly switching from a passive stance to a more active one until finally…she completed the spell and a bolt of lightning shot out from the crystal and hit her right in the abdomen, sending her back a couple feet into the dirt on her back till she came to a sliding stop, only to roll over onto her right side as she held her stomach in pain.
She then heard the most heart piercing sound, the crystal had shattered into a hundred pieces, all crashing down over the meteorite and landing with soft thuds into the dirt. She quickly rolled back over so she could sit up with her hands in the dirt, supporting herself up as she looked at the destruction of the very source she needed to take over the world, and at first she was in shock over the fact that the crystal and its power was all gone. Until she remembered what she did to preserve that power, where she opened up her robe, lifted up her shirt just enough to reveal her belly and saw a dark violet hue just glowing in her abdomen. She sighed heavily in relief as she lowered her shirt and pushed herself up onto her feet. She stared at the remains of the crystal before looking back down at her abdomen until she started to laugh like a maniac. “Those fools…even if they return here, they will never stop me now. Not entirely what I had planned, surely this will delay my reign over this world…but it will certainly be glorious.” Then her voice boomed, “Come my minions! We return home and bide our time, for the right time to strike!” She laughed once again before disappearing in a dark plumb of violet smoke.
Months will go by, the four adventurers finally returned to the North Eastern continent by ship, but restocked on their provisions and resumed their trek back to the Kingdom of the King who hired them to investigate the source of these foul creatures. And more months would go, none too eventful as they walked their way into the lands of the Kingdom. Course, upon arriving at the same village that which they been captured and shackled, they presented the letter to the guards who came right up to them out of suspicion and once they saw the letter, they allowed them to pass through the village and resume their trek to the Castle in the very center. Here, they encountered Lady Medalla just outside the gates.
She didn’t even try to hide the look of sheer surprise on her face when she saw them. “By the knights of the round, you’re all alive!”
The four stopped before her, Vakai being the closest. “Indeed we are, and we have news of the source.”
She nodded her head before turning around and shouting at the guards to open the gate before leading them inside the castle walls. “I hope you’re here to tell me and my King that you were successful in not only gathering the intel he requested, but also stopping this madness from continuing?”
The four looked at each other with confused looks on their face and Vakai hurried his pace to be right by Medalla’s side. “I do not understand. What do you mean by ‘stopping’?”
It was Medalla’s turn to show a confused look on her face to them as she stopped in her tracks. “You mean, you did not destroy it? Whatever it was.”
Vakai shook his head, “No. In fact we were nearly killed when we tried.”
Now a look of concern grew on her face and she then resumed her pace towards the Keep, forcing Vakai and the others to quicken their pace as well. “This is grave news, grave news indeed. If you did not stop the source, then something else far worse is going to happen.”
“I did manage to crack the crystal with explosive arrows.” Sivol exclaimed.
Medalla turned her head to look at Sivol but did not stop moving. “So it was a crystal?”
“And a sorcerer, a crazy lady for that matter. Powerful too.” Said Ryker.
Medalla shook her head, “It is best that you inform the King of everything that happened, but I assure you, he will not be pleased. As this only means that the inevitable has been halted for the time being and may resume at another time. When? That will be the question for sure.” Thus, they hurried up and into the Keep, rushing towards the very chamber where the King sat in his throne, coming up nearly to his feet before she dropped down on one knee and bowed before him. “My King, these are the four mercenaries that you hired for the task to investigate this dark plague upon us. Their news of the situation is not as good as we thought it was.”
The King rose from his throne and raised his hand. “Rise, Lady Medalla. You know you have my most dearest respect, you need not bow before me.” He told her, who did just that before moving off to the side to allow Vakai and his friends to approach the throne. “I am King Christopher, to whom am I speaking to?”
Vakai repeated what Medalla had done, dropping to his knee and bowing before him, the others doing the same right after. “My lord. My name is Vakai, my companions behind me,” He rose his head and pointed at each one with the open palm of his hand. “James Ryker, Ashley Gomez, and Sivol.”
The King waved his hand off to the side, “You also have no need to pay me such formality and respect as it was I who hired you four in the first place, and the very four I expect to tell me what has happened on your quest.”
Vakai and the others rose to their feet, and Vakai went on to explain exactly what happened, word for word, from the moment they arrived, to what they saw on their way to the crater and what they saw in the crater as well as their attempts to stop the sorceress and destroy the crystal. “Then we woke up in a village named Pitchton in the south western continent, apparently we were found floating in a river near the village and we had been unconscious for several weeks.”
King Christopher frowned deeply as he began to pace back and forth on the floor of his throne that was two steps higher than the floor of the entire throne room. While he was busy with his thoughts, Medalla stepped closer to them. “You were thrown that far? How come the sorceress did not kill either of you?”
Vakai shrugged his shoulders. “I have no idea to be honest. It may be because we were incapable of stopping her, because of how powerful she was, and so she wanted us to bear witness to our failure, to punish us by watching the world succumb to her darkness. Maybe even shame us for being so weak.”
“But we got so close though!” Ryker spoke up. “I mean, if Sivol had fired off one more shot of those enchanted explosive arrows…we could of destroyed the crystal and saved Roquesia.”
Sivol let out a soft sigh. “I was not fast enough.”
Gomez shook her head and gently grasped Sivol’s arm. “You did your best. We all did. We tried to distract her, keep her off balance while you get another shot in. We had no idea how long it would take for you to enchant another arrow to be explosive again, but we still tried. We all did. She was simply too strong.”
Vakai nodded his head, “And when she realized what Sivol was about to do, she went into full attack mode. As soon as she did that, we lost.”
King Christopher then stopped before them, even took a single step down closer to them. “We must prepare ourselves for the worst. Lady Medalla, inform your sergeants, tell them to start going around the Kingdom and begin recruiting for the largest army the world has ever seen. Tell them of how grave importance this is, that the holy light of our souls must do battle with great evil threatening to enslave our realm. Tell them that we need more soldiers, fast, so we can begin training for as long as it takes. We must be ready.”
Medalla bowed half way before taking a step back, turned around and took off in a faster pace than she’s ever taken to do what her King has asked her to do.
Vakai looked to King Christopher, “My lord. We know the dangers that are coming, we know what your army will be facing. I must ask, neigh, insist that we be drafted into your military and train with your army, to prepare ourselves for what is yet to come.”
King Christopher smiled some, even Medalla slowed in her tracks when she heard what Vakai said but resumed her pace as she did not want to linger for too long. “I knew I chose the right mercenaries from the start. The records the guild holds, your reputation, it completely baffles me. So many mercenary groups will do absolutely anything for money, even if it meant harming the innocent. But you…your group…you choose only the most honorable quests, quests to save lives, to protect the innocent and now you are choosing to no longer be a mercenary group but to add your experience and skill to my army. You are much different than what I had expected, and it pleases me very much so. It is almost as if all four of you were born of noble blood.” He took in a deep breath before reaching for his sword and drew it before them. “Kneel, my comrades. Kneel before your King!”
Vakai looked to the others and nodded his head, all four of them kneeling down before King Christopher, who then gently tapped the tip of the blade gently onto Vakai’s right and then left shoulder. “As King, I hereby decree that you and your companions be Knighted. As Knights of my Kingdom, you will have the equal rank of a General, like Lady Medalla, and each of you will command a battalion of soldiers, all who will be well trained under your leadership. Rise, Sir Vakai, Sir James, Dame Ashley and Dame Sivol.” The four rose to their feet. “I will send forth a messenger to our armory for the four of you to be properly equipped, or you may choose whichever is to your liking. Once Lady Medalla has finished, she will assist you in settling in as well as point you in the direction of where our training grounds will be. Surely they will be somewhere outside the castle walls, as the army that we will be training will be quite vast. Train hard with them, my Knights, for whatever evil is coming, we must be ready for it.”
-So Vakai and the others had survived the encounter with the sorceress and had ended up very far away. Why were they spared? Was what Vakai said true? That she wanted them to bear witness to their failure in stopping her?
-And what the heck did the sorceress do? Is she now carrying a child? Or is she the carrier of this odd dark magic?
-And how long will our adventurers have to train until the time has come to face this…dark force? When will such a force even arrive?
-And something else is about to be revealed in the next chapter… So stay tuned for Chapter 10!