General Caine knelt before Lord Geraldo with his head bowed. Lord Geraldo roared, “How could you allow yourself to defeated by a boy and an old man? My Acerbus that survived your blunder has informed me that you failed to utilize them in the battle until it was already lost!” Geraldo pounded his fist down on the arm of his throne. “You received the position you have because you supported me in my conquest, you have kept it because you haven’t failed me yet. Give me a reason not to have you drawn and quartered now and give your position to someone else?”
Caine raised his head and looked at Geraldo. “My Lord, I simply went into the battle over confident, I didn’t take the old man and the boy seriously. A mistake I won’t make again! In terms of beast blades I had them beat sire, but then the old man got involved! I’ve never seen a man fight so ferociously before! Who would have thought it possible to stand against beast blades with a sword?”
Lord Geraldo glared General Caine down. “That’s another matter, you lost one of our prized beast blades. Aquacornu has given you victory on countless battlefields. Now it’s in the hands our our enemy!”
“Please, sire, give me a second chance, I won’t fail to recover Aquacornu as well as the other beast blades that they are carrying. Allow me to redeem myself, my lord!”
Geraldo sat on his throne and tapped his finger on the arm of his chair. An Acerbus that was standing in attendance dropped down into a shadow and darted deeper into the castle. “You will be given one chance to fix this. I will send twenty Acerbi with you, and I will send you with Herbacervus. If you fail to use the Acerbi properly this time, don’t even bother coming back. Live your life for as long as you can until my servants catch up to you, and have no doubt, they will catch up with you. Do I make myself clear?” The Acerbus returned carrying a sword, which it gave to General Caine.
General Caine accepted the sword and stood up before he bowed to Geraldo. “I will not fail you, my lord.” He turned and started walking out.
Caine stopped for a second when Geraldo said, “Caine? Even if you don’t come back I expect that sword to.” General Caine’s hands formed into fists and he continued out of the throne room.
General Caine murmured to himself, “Once I get that legendary beast blade you are the first one I’m going to kill with it.” Someone bumped into General Caine’s shoulder, he spun, ready to spew curses at whoever it was that had bumped into him, but his curse died on his lips when his eyes fell upon a man in a red cape wearing red leather armor on his chest.
The man smiled. “General Caine, my apologies, I must have been preoccupied with my thoughts on what is going to happen to you once you fail again.”
Caine grimaced at the man. “General Aldrik, I didn’t expect you to be here. I thought for sure you would be down in the jungles of Swarn fighting the rebels there.” He looked at Aldrik with suspicion. “What are you doing here? News of the legendary beast blade only surfaced three days ago, and you were stationed at least a three day ride from here.”
“Lord Geraldo called me back last week. Since things are going so well down in Swarn, Lord Geraldo wants me to oversee the invasion of Falance to the west. I’ve spent the last couple of days studying the positions of our troops and the rebels before I take command. I was to be sent out this morning, but Lord Geraldo wants me to stay close to retrieve the legendary beast blade when you fail. He doubts your abilities, but has confided in me he is certain you will be rotting away in his dungeons soon.”
Caine ground his teeth together and then forced a laugh. “Ha-ha, I’m going to enjoy making you into my personal servant once I become the emperor of this land.”
Aldrick raised an eyebrow. “I wonder what Lord Geraldo will think once he hears of your planned betrayal. I’d leave now if I were you, otherwise, you might not get the opportunity to leave here alive.”
Panic swelled up in Caine as he desperately thought of a way to turn his comment into something that didn’t sound so treaturous. “What are you talking about? Me? Betray Lord Geraldo? Never, but someone is going to need to step in and take his place once he ascends into godhood, and as the one who is going to bring him the legendary beast blades, that will obviously be me.”
“Don’t worry, I’m not going to tell Lord Geraldo of your betrayal… yet. I’ll save that for the slim chance that you actually manage to return with the beast blades. For now, I’ll just enjoy watching you return and be punished for your failure.” With a flick of his cape General Aldrik turned and walked into the throne room.
General Caine formed his hands into a tight fist, and trembled with rage. “Maybe you won’t live long enough to become my servant.” He turned and walked down the hall and out of the palace. A servant was waiting outside holding onto the reigns of Caine’s horse, trembling and trying to watch all around him at once because of the twenty Acerbi surrounding him. General Caine took the reigns from the servant and shoved him out of the way. “You’re dismissed boy. Get back to your other duties.” He pulled back on his reins and his horse reared back and turned it so it was facing south down the path, and then broke into a gallop with 20 darting shadows pursuing him.
Lucas walked down the dirt path next to Apollos, his head hung low. Apollos looked over at Lucas and frowned. “Is something bothering you, Lucas?”
Lucas turned his face toward Apollos and managed a weak smile. “I’m not used to all of this walking, and my feet are a little sore, that’s all.”
Apollos glanced up at the sky and took note of the position of the sun. “It’s almost mid day, why don’t we stop and have something to eat? We can continue on after that.”
Lucas nodded his head and turned off of the path and sat upon a rock. He pulled off his boots revealing two feet with worn socks, the big toe poking out of the right sock. He wiggled his toes and gave a sigh of relief. Apollos took a seat on the ground next to Lucas and pulled the sack he carried over his shoulder off. He reached inside and pulled out half of a loaf of bread, tore a piece off, and handed it to Lucas before tearing a piece off for himself. He put the loaf back into the sack exchanging it for a cloth wrapped bundle. He opened it, revealing a roasted rabbit that Lucas had caught the night before in a snare he had made. He tore a chunk of meat off for both of them and handed one to Lucas before he rewrapped and put away the rabbit.
Lucas tore hungrily into his food, but Apollos took his time. He pulled out a water sack and took a drink before passing that to Lucas as well. Lucas lifted the sack up to his lips and took a deep drink. Apollos cleared his throat. “It is quite fortunate for us that you are so skilled at hunting, Lucas. Tell me, where did you learn to set snares like that?”
Lucas pulled the water sack from his face and turned to look at Apollos. “I learned to do it while living at the plantation. They barely fed us enough to keep us alive, so everyone knew how to set snares.”
Apollos raised one of his eyebrows. “The Acerbi allowed you to hunt? I have a difficult time believing they would allow any such freedom.”
“The Acerbi allowed us to set these snares because they saw it as pest control, but they only allowed us out to set and check them for fifteen minutes each day, so we all got very good at setting them.”
Apollos smiled at Lucas. “It seems like quite the useful skill to have. It will certainly help to keep a little more food in our bellies.” He looked down at the chunk of bread with one bite taken out of it. “It’s better than this stale bread for sure.”
Lucas swallowed his last bite of rabbit and started licking the juices off of his fingers. In between licks he said, “Stale bread is better than no bread. You’ve learned a little more about me, only fair I get to learn a little more about you. I’m sure you have plenty of stories to tell.”
Apollos frowned. “Aye, I have plenty of stories to tell, some I wish I could just forget. Fair is fair though, and I will tell you a story about my past… once you get your boots on and we’re back on the road.” Lucas gave Apollos a sad look and started to pull his boots back on. “It’ll make walking easier. A story should distract you from the pain in your feet. I’d like to make it to those woods by nightfall. We should be able to find some shelter there, this wind carries the scent of rain on it.”
Lucas stopped struggling to pull his boots on and sniffed the wind. “I don’t smell anything.”
Apollos smiled at Lucas. “One of the many benefits of living to be this old. One part of my body or another can sense the change in weather.” He stuffed the last of his bread into his mouth and rose to his feet. “Come along, Lucas, the road beckons.”
Lucas jumped off of the rock and hopped on one foot as he struggled to pull his left boot on. He finally got it on and stomped his foot a few times to get it on comfortably. “Okay, so we’re walking again, what is this story you’re going to tell me?”
“I think that you would appreciate hearing the story of how I received that beast blade I gave you. I captured Petursa myself you see.”
Lucas looked at Apollos in surprise. “How did you do that?”
Apollos chuckled. “The point of my story is to tell you that, so be patient, pay attention, and I will tell you. Many years ago, back when I was still a young man, I made a journey into Sharen City. My mentor, Master Alaster, taught me about beast blades and the art of using the sword. After what seemed like forever, he sent me to get a beast blade of my very own.
“The world was a safer place then. The Sage Wars had ended, and powerful wizard kings sat upon the thrones of nearly every kingdom in the realm, so the journey to Sharen was a quiet one. Most nights I would share a fire with other travelers, and almost always the night would resound with the sounds of our laughter and singing, and everyone slept with warm food in their bellies.”
Lucas interrupted. “That sounds wonderful, I wish things were like that still.”
Apollos sadly nodded his head. “So do I son, so do I. I ended up traveling most of the way with a family of farmers who were on their way to Sharen to sell their crops, and thats when I met Meradyth. The moment I laid eyes on her my heart stopped and I knew that I was in love. Meradyth was the oldest of five children, and her and two of her sisters had joined their father, John, on this journey, while her youngest sister remained home with her mother that was nursing her baby brother.
“I considerably slowed by pace after I met with Meradyth, and offered my protection to her family in exchange for a place by their fire at night. Her father accepted my offer, though I secretly thought he knew why I was offering it. Meradyth and I would stay up late late into the night talking and laughing. I dreaded the day when we reached Sharen and we would have to separate. Once we reached the market we said our goodbyes. I turned and walked away, certain that I would never see her again.”
Lucas interrupted again. “Did you ever see her again?”
Apollos turned and glared at Lucas. “Do you want to hear the story or do you want me to just tell you how it ends?”
Lucas cringed. “Sorry, Apollos. I’ll be quiet and listen.”
Apollos stroked his beard and cleared his throat. “Where was I? Ah, yes. I turned and walked away from Meradyth, certain that I would never see her again. I crossed the city, tears welling in my eyes, and approached the tower where a beast blade dealer named Tarren did business. Before my foot hit the first step of the tower I heard Meradyth’s voice cry out from behind me. She leapt into my arms and knocked the both of us to the ground.
“Her father had seen the way that she watched me walk away and told her to go after me with his blessing. Overjoyed the two of us continued up the stairs and met with Tarren. I used the money that Master Alaster gave me to buy an earth base beast blade. After that Meradyth and I left the city and took off into the Turren wilds. I spent the rest of the day searching the woods for a creature to turn into my beast blade, but I only found squirrels, rabbits, and some birds, none of which I wanted as my first beast blade. We made camp for the night and planned on searching more the next day.
“Meradyth and I sat up late around the campfire, talking about our future life together, when we heard a growl from the woods. I stood and drew my sword, fighting down the fear the I felt rising up in my chest. The forest grew quiet, no crickets or frogs cried out, as if none of them wanted to draw the attention of whatever it was that prowled that forest. My heart pounded in my chest so loudly that it was all that I could hear. I decided to venture into the darkness to try and find whatever had made that noise. I was outside of the ring of light our fire made when I heard Meradyth scream.”
Lucas swallowed loudly, his eyes wide and a worried look came over his face. Apoloss continued, “I ran back toward the fire as fast as I could, ignoring the branches that slapped at my face and the roots and bushes that tripped me up. Finally I saw what Meradyth was screaming about, the biggest bear I had ever seen was prowling closer and closer, sniffing at the air and Meradyth, who was holding the ladle from supper before her as if it were a sword. I shouted out a challenge at the bear as I ran into our campsite, and the bear turned to regard me. It stood up to its full height, towering eight feet tall, and it bellowed a challenge back at me.
“I leapt over the fire, my sword held high over my head and I crashed into the bear, plunging the beast blade I carried with me into its chest. The bear bellowed out in pain as rocks from our campsite crashed into it, merging with with its body until it was made entirely from stone. The bear disappeared and the sword dropped to the ground. I picked up my new blade and embraced Meradyth as she wept into my chest. and I marveled at the way the fire glimmered on my sword. And that, Lucas, is the story of how I got Petursa.”
Lucas walked alongside Apollos, a new look of admiration shining in his eyes. “That’s amazing, Apollos! Whatever happened to Meradyth?”
“She came back with me and we were married. I buried her years ago though.”
Lucas lowered his eyes and quietly replied. “Oh. I’m sorry about that.” He pulled Petrursa’s blade out from behind his back. “Here, I can’t keep this beast blade that you captured with your wife.”
Apollos pushed the blade back into Lucas’ hands. “It’s fine, Lucas. I wouldn’t have given it to you if I wasn’t okay with it. The memories I have with her are good ones, and you need a beast blade you can easily summon for protection. There is no one I would rather have Petrusa protect than the wielder of the legendary beast blades.”
Lucas walked along in silence for a distance, staring at the blade in his hands. “I will do my best to be worthy of this gift, Apollos. Thank you.” Lucas yelped in surprise when an Acerbus jumped out of a shadow at Apollos’ feet and slashed at Apollos with a shadowy blade.
Apollos drew his blade faster than Lucas’ eye could follow and met the Acerbus’ blade inches from his throat, one hand on the hilt of his sword and one hand bracing the flat of the blade. “Lucas, start summoning all the beast blades you can! We’re being ambushed!” Apollos shoved the Acerbus back a step, and charged after it, the metal of his blade rang as it collided with the shadow blade of the Acerbus.
Lucas pulled Petrusa’s blade out of his sheath and plunged it into the dirt path. “Awaken, Petrusa!” The dirt of the path rose up into the form of a giant stone bear, that bellowed out a deep throated roar. “Defend us from the Acerbi!” Shadows darted at the three of them from every direction.
Apollos pulled one of his beast blades out of their sheaths with his left hand and he held it up into the air. “Awaken, Aeroslithe!” Air swirled around his upraised blade, took the form of a cobra, and jumped out of his hand and onto one of the attacking Acerbus. It sank its fangs into the Acerbus’ shoulder, and the Acerbus inflated and exploded. Aeroslithe slithered into the group of Acerbi.
An Acerbus popped out of a shadow at Lucas’ feet, pulled back its arm which changed into a sharp curved blade. Lucas brought his hands up in front of him, and the Acerbus brought its blade down. Lucas cringed, deeply regretting leaving the plantation and finding Pyrequine. After several seconds Lucas opened one of his eyes, trying to figure out why he was still alive, and all he saw was Petursa’s lumbering form moving into a another group of Acerbi that were overwhelming Apollos.
Apollos’ sword was a blur of steel, moving in precise slashes, meeting the Acerbi attacks, but he was not gaining any ground against them. The swaying water skin hanging over Apollos’ shoulder caught Lucas’ attention. He pulled the beast blade containing Aquacornu out and ran over to Apollos and sliced through the rope that was tied to the water skin, and grabbed it before it hit the ground. Apollos spared Lucas a glance to see what he was doing, but immediately returned his focus to the Acerbi he was facing.
Lucas pulled the stopper out of the water skin and poured water onto the blade in his hand. “Awaken, Auquacornu!” The water he was pouring swirled around the blade, forming into a rhino. It charged into the Acerbi attacking Apollos, goring one of them and knocking the rest of them away with the tidal wave that parted around Apollos, and solidified once it was past..
Apollos pulled his last sword off of his back and tossed it to Lucas. “Keep up the good work, Lucas! We might survive this yet!” Apollos charged back at the group of Acerbi that Aquacornu had knocked away and brought his sword through the neck of one of them.
Lucas picked up Apollos’ sword and started to pour water onto it, when something crashed into him and sent him flying back down the path. Lucas gasped as all the air was knocked out of his lungs, he fought to regain his breath. He looked up to see what had hit him and saw Areotestudine standing over the water skin that had fallen from his hands. A light shined into Lucas’ eyes and he looked over at a hill that rose up next to the path. He groaned when he saw what had drawn his attention. Ferrumlupus was standing next to General Caine, who was seated upon his horse, a wicked smile upon his face.
General Caine barked out the command, “Attack!” and the steel wolf charged down the hill at Apollos. Lucas fought for breath to try and shout a warning to Apollos, but all he could manage was to wheeze as his lungs struggled to fill with air once more. Areotestudine began to advance on him, slowly at first, and then it started spinning, a small tornado rising up around its shell. It drew its limbs into its spinning shell, and the tornado charged at Lucas.
Ferrumlupus Leapt into the air, meaning to crash down into Apollos. Apollos was busy fending off the attacks of three Acerbi engaged with him, so he was unaware that Ferrumlupas was approaching. Petrusa rose up onto it’s hind legs and swatted Ferrumlupus into the ground with a swing of its mighty paw. The three beast blades that Apollos and Lucas had summoned were making slow progress against the Acerbi, who were fighting in groups, but together they had knocked them down to only fifteen remaining. Petrusa and Ferrumlups circled each other, snarling and jaws snapping at each other.
Aquacornu charged at Areotestudine with its head lowered and a large wave following him. He got to the tornado, and was pushed back until his tidal wave pushed him back into it, the water that collided with him getting sucked up the tornado, sending water drops raining down on the battlefield. Aquacornu thrust his head back, his horn crashing into Areotestudine, knocking him out of the tornado that surrounded him and onto the ground. Lucas looked at the waterdrops falling down on him and raised up Apollos’ beast blade and managed to gasp out, “Awaken, Aquaper!” The water dripping down the blade swirled around the blade, forming tusks and then the body of a large boar.
General Caine’s face contorted in rage. “Milton’s luck! What is it going to take to kill these two?” He pulled the last sword strapped to his back and held it out upside down by it’s hilt. He let go of it and it fell blade first onto the ground. “Awaken, Herbacervus!” The grass on the hilltop stretched out and wrapped around the blade forming into a deer made out of wood. Hard bark covered its legs and bushy leaves grew out of its body. Horns grew out of its head like branches, with leaves and some sort of hard shelled nut growing off of the branches. The buck snorted and pawed at the ground with hooves made out of walnut shells. “End the boy’s life.” The deer charged down the hill at Lucas.
Aquacornu charged off after Areotestudine, a tidal wave pursuing him. Aquaper stood in defense in front of Lucas, he snorted sending a mist out of his nose. Hervacervus lowered it’s head, preparing to ram Aquaper. Aquaper waited till Hervacervus was five feet away and then it charged at Hervacervus. They collided in a giant explosion of water and leaves.
Apollos knocked away a shadow blade that was thrust at his chest, and he managed to dart his blade into the chest of the Acerbus that had attacked him. He pulled his blade out quickly and deflected an attack from another Acerbus. The Acerbus that Apollos had attacked began leaking a smokey blackness, which rose up into the sky and slowly dissolved. Apollos spared a glance for the rest of the battle field, and frowned. Petrusa and Areoslithe were keeping the other ten Acerbus busy, but they weren’t gaining ground fast enough. Apollos gasped as an Acerbus blade slashed the front of his leg, drawing his attention back to his fight. His black pants grew wet and tinted crimson as blood began to flow from his leg.
Apollos gritted his teeth in pain as he brought his sword up to block an attack. Apollos face fell as he realized that he needed to end this fight soon, that he was going to start slowing down, and when that happened he wouldn’t be able to keep up with three enemies. He almost called out for Areoslithe to come and fight with him, but thought the better of it once he realized that he would bring the five Acerbi he was battling along with him, and that would likely result in the demise of both of them.
Aquacornu stomped upon Areotestudine’s shell, crushing it to the ground. It deflated and turned back into a sword. Aquacornu turned it’s attention back to Herbacervus, who had Aquaper pinned to the ground with it’s horns, which had sprouted small pink blossoms. Herbacervus raised its head up and drove its horns into Aquaper, who let out a squeal before it turned back into a sword. Aquacornu snorted and charged head down at Herbacervus. Herbacevus flew through the air and landed with a thud on its side. It jumped back up as Aquacornu’s wave crashed over it, and the blossoms on its horns grew into more of the hard shelled nuts.
Herbacevus shook its head and the nuts broke free of its horns and pelted Aquacornue, each of them giving off a small explosion. Aquacornu staggered and one of its legs collapsed under him. He bellowed and rose up to all four of his feet and charged at Herbacevus once again. Lucas watched in horror as Aquacornu repeatedly charged into the Herbacevus. The damage he dealt to Herbacevus was recovered as soon as the tidal wave hit, and more of the nuts that it was attacking Aquacornu with grew. Lucas looked over his shoulder back down the path, trying to figure out if he should just run away, when he noticed a cloud of dust rising up on the other side of the hill.
Petrusa swung his paw at Ferrumlupus, and connected, swatting it into the group of Acerbi fighting against Areoslithe, giving Areoslithe an opening to sink its fangs into one of the Acerbi’s necks, causing it to swell up and explode in a smokey cloud of shadow. Ferrumlups jumped up to its feet and took a bite at Areoslithe. It’s powerful steel jaws snapped shut on Areoslithe’s back, cutting it in half. It transformed back into a blade and dropped to the ground. Apollos cut off a curse as two more Acerbi joined with the group harassing him, and the others went after Lucas.
Lucas waved his arms over his head trying to get the attention of the man riding his wagon toward him, a great dust cloud rising up behind it. Lucas finally got the man’s attention and he whipped his horses into action. They charged towards the fight, and the old man called out around the smoking pipe held between his teeth, “Hold on youngster, I’m a comin!”
Shadow’s darted past Lucas toward the wagon, and Lucas held out his hand. “No! Leave him alone!” It was too late, the Acerbi reformed in front of the horses spooking them. The horses reared up and whinnied, the wagon crashed into and pushed them forward. The old man was sent flying from the wagon onto the path, along with the girl that had been seated beside him that Lucas had missed before. The wagon tipped over, taking the horses with it, pinning them to the ground. The horses franticly tried to get up and escape, foam dripping from their mouths. The Acerbi moved down the path to where the old man and girl were laying. Lucas charged down the path toward the Acerbi, drawing forth his last beast blade, Pyrequine, the whole while thinking to himself, What am I doing? I don’t know how to use a sword well enough to take on three Acerbi at once! But I can’t leave those two to deal with them alone! His heart pounded in his chest, he swallowed hard and accepted whatever his fate was to be, and tightened his grip on his blade.
Petrusa pounded past Lucas, Ferrumlupus dragging behind him with its steel jaws clamped down on his leg. Petrusa reared up onto his hind legs and swatted at the Acerbi that were harassing the two figures lying prone on the ground. The Acerbi flowed out of Petrusa’s reach and transformed their arms into shadowy blades. The young girl got up from where she lay and shook her head. She looked at the Acerbi surrounding her and at Petrusa, and her hand darted down to a dagger she had belted at her waist. She jumped to her feet and ran at Petrusa and slashed the dagger along its back.
Lucas stopped on the path and waved his arms, “No, he’s on our side!” The five Acerbi that had been attacking Petrusa shot past Lucas as shadowy puddles and rose up, surrounding Petrusa. The cut on Petrusa’s back started to glow, and then two five foot long stone wings grew out of Petrusa’s shoulders and large stone feathers sprouted from them. Petrusa reared up onto his hind legs and spread his wings wide, slicing through the Acerbi standing around him. He let out a loud bellow and flapped his wings, lifting off of the ground and taking to the air. Ferrumlupus still clung onto Petrusa’s leg and flew into the air with him.
Lucas looked over at the girl, and she winked at him. “It looked like your bear was having some difficulties with these guys, so I thought I’d help him out a bit.” The smile faded from the girl’s face when she looked over at the old man who lay unmoving on the ground, smoke still rising up from his pipe. “Grandpa, are you okay?” She ran over to her grandfather’s side, and Lucas followed behind her, his eyes lingering on the smoking pipe laying on the path.
Lucas picked up the pipe and upended the smoldering contents onto the blade that he held in his hand, the embers glowing faintly orange. Lucas muttered to himself, “It’s worth a try. Awaken, Pyrequine!” The embers resting on the blade burst forth into a fiery blaze which surrounded the sword. Lucas released his hold on the blade as the fire started to take the form of a small pony with a small horn growing out of its head. The pony whinnied and snorted, flames coming forth from its nostrils when it did so.
The girl looked over at the horse and went, ‘Aww, how cute, but what good is something so small going to do?”
Lucas heard Aquacornu bellow out and he turned to see Herbacevus standing over Aquacornu, which was transforming back into a sword. Herbacevus turned and regarded Lucas, pawed at the earth twice before breaking into a charge at Lucas, its head lowered and horns pointed forward. “More than you think. Pyrequine, attack that beast blade!” Pyrequine rose up onto its hind legs and whinnied, before dropping down onto all fours and galloping at Herbacevus, head down and tiny sparks dancing away from its hooves with every step. Pyrequine’s horn started glowing orange and seemed to grow longer, flames erupting around it as it drew nearer to the charging Herbacevus.
Apollos’ blade rose and fell to meet each of the shadowy blades that sought to end his life, far more sluggishly now than they had been before. The various nicks and cuts that he bore were starting to take their toll on him, it wouldn’t be too much longer before one of the blades came faster than he could react to, and that would be the end for him, for Lucas, for any hope the world had of defeating Lord Geraldo. A loud thud sounded next to Apollos, followed by a howl of pain, but he didn’t even spare it a look. He knew that if he got distracted, even for a second, it would spell out his end.
A large stone wing swept in front of him, and three of the Acerbi he was engaged with erupted into a cloud of shadowy smoke. Apollos moved quickly, taking advantage of the opportunity and sent out two slashes, separating the two remaining Acerbi from their heads. Apollos turned quickly to figure out where his next enemy would be coming from, and stared in wonder at the nearly empty battle field. Petrusa stood triumphantly bellowing with his two stone wings outspread. The only things still fighting were Pryequine and Herbacevus, and from the looks of that fight it wouldn’t last much longer. He eyed the hilltop that General Caine had been standing atop and saw that it was empty.
Pyrequine’s horn and Herbacerbus’ horns clashed over and over again, fiery sparks flying from each impact. Herbacerbus was smoldering from several places, and the blossoms that had majestically graced his horns before now were wilted and blackening. Pyrequine charged forward and dipped under the horns of Herbacerbus and brought his fiery horn up into Herbacerbus’ body. It burst into flames before transforming back into a sword blade. Pyrequine happily trotted back over to Lucas and nuzzled him on his leg. Lucas hesitantly reached down and patted Pyrequine on the head. It felt warm to the touch, but it didn’t burn him, and his cautious patting turned into a gentle petting.
Lucas smiled down at Pyrequine. “Thank you for your help Pyrequine, you did good today. Now slumber, Pyrequine.” Pyrequine turned back into a sword, and Lucas put it back into its sheath. He hurried over to the young girl’s side, tears flowing down her cheeks, and he looked down at her grandfather. “Is, is he okay?”
The young girl shook her head and sobbed. Lucas looked solemnly down at the old man lying on the path. “I’m sorry. If he hadn’t tried to come to my aid this wouldn’t have happened to him.”
The girl sniffed, tears still cutting rivers down her cheeks. “Grandpa was a good man, and he died the way he would have wanted to, helping someone else.”
Apollos interrupted, “Lucas! General Caine is stealing the beast blades!” Lucas turned and saw that General Caine was running back over the hill, three beast blades gathered in his arms.
Once Caine reached the top of the hill he turned and waved to Lucas. “Luck was on your side this time boy, but victory will belong to me next time. Live in fear of that until the next time we meet!” General Caine started to stick swords into sheaths as he walked out of sight onto the other side of the hill.
Lucas looked over at Petrusa lumbering toward him and shouted, “Petrusa, after him!” Petrusa leapt into the air and flapped his stone wings, attempting to gain some height before dropping down into a dive at General Caine. The young girl at Lucas’ side groaned, the dagger she was still holding dropped from her hand and she fell to the ground. The wings on Petrusa’s back started glowing and then broke into shimmering blue motes. Petrusa let out a startled growl before dropping from the sky and crashing into the green hill below him. Petrusa changed back into a sword blade, point embedded into the hill.
Lucas knelt down at the young girl’s side, gently tapping her on the cheek. “Miss, miss, are you okay? Please wake up.”
The girl stirred and groaned, and her eyes opened slowly. She weakly respond to Lucas, “Did you get your beast blade back?”
Lucas shook his head. ‘No, Petrusa’s wings disappeared before he was able to catch up with General Caine, but that’s not important. Are you okay miss?”
The girl smiled. “Yes, I am fine, or at least I will be after I get something to eat. It’s the major drawback of using power blades. My name is Tara by the way, so stop calling me miss.”
Apollos limped over to join them. “It is indeed a weakness of power blades, and the reason I don’t use them. If I were to run out of energy in the middle of a fight it would likely cost me my life. I’ll put my faith in the steel of my blade and the power of my beast blades over one of those daggers any day.” He turned his focus on Lucas. “I’m glad to see you survived that fight, Lucas. I was afraid something may have happened to you after I lost sight of you in that fight.”
Lucas looked back and forth between Apollos and Tara, his face riddled in confusion. “What are you talking about? What are power blades?”
Apollos answered, “Power blades are another type of magical blade that wizards have created. Slash a beast blade with a power blade, and the beast blade gains a new ability, as you saw, the power blade that girl carries with granted Petrusa wings and the power of flight. There is a drawback however, the energy that powers these added abilities comes from whoever uses the dagger, which means if you use it too long, you end up like this girl did.” Apollos’ gaze lingered on the body of the old man. “Who is this?”
Sorrow crossed Tara’s face and she started to cry again. She answered between sobs, “He was my grandfather, Thomas Cade.”
Apollos’ eyes opened wide with shock. “The Thomas Cade? The leader of the rebellion in Falance? What could have possibly made him leave front lines?”
“We heard rumors that Lord Geraldo was going to send General Aldrick to Falance, to put down the rebellion. Grandfather and I were making a trip to Sharen city to stock up on more beast blades for the rebellion. Grandpa saw you two fighting against the minions of Lord Geraldo and he couldn’t help but come to your aid. The Acerbi spooked the horses though, and the tumble from the cart was too much for him. Oh, grandpa!” Tara broke down and began weeping again.
Apollos knelt down at Tara’s side. “Lucas, go quickly and find some food for her.” Lucas stood up and ran down the path to where Apollos had been fighting and grabbed their supply bag from where Apollos had dropped it. He hurried back to where Apollos and Tara were quietly arguing.
Apollos shook his head. “I’ve already told you that it cannot be done. I am in the middle of a more important quest!”
Tara angrily responded, “But the rebellion will break apart without a leader! Please, you must return with me!”
Lucas pulled out the bread and rabbit, tore off a chunk of each, and handed them to Tara. “What are you two arguing about?”
Tara tore hungrily at the food, but replied in between mouthfuls, “I’m trying to convince your friend that he needs to return with me and lead the rebellion in Falance, but he refuses to do so! What could possibly be more important than dethroning Geraldo?”
Apollos started to protest, but Lucas answered over him, “We’re on a quest to find the five legendary beast blades so that we can defeat Lord Geraldo.”
Tara turned and looked angrily at Apollos. “This is the fool’s errand that prevents you from coming to our aid? People have searched for ages to find the legendary blades, but nothing but rumor exists of them. Come with me, the two of you, and do some real good.”
Lucas responded, “It’s not a fool’s errand, we’ve already found one of them! See, this is Pyrequine!” Lucas pulled his sword out of its sheath and Tara’s eyes opened wide in amazement.
Apollos placed his hand over his face. “Lucas, you shouldn’t be so forthcoming with that information with strangers we just met.” Tara turned and stared at Apollos, and he sighed. “Yes, its true. Lucas found Pyrequine and now we are on a quest to find the other four. A quest that we must get back to, if you will excuse us. Gather up the beast blades Lucas, we need to get going.”
Apollos turned and started walking down the path, and Lucas smiled apologetically at Tara and turned to follow him. Tara’s voice called out after them, “Would you really leave a young defenseless girl all on her own, collapsed on the side of the road?”
Apollos stopped and sighed. “You can’t come with us, the journey we’re on is far too dangerous, and you aren’t prepared for it.”
Tara weakly laughed. “Not prepared for it? I’ve been part of the rebellion since I could walk.”
Apollos turned and looked at Tara, and crossed his arms across his chest. “The dangers you faced as part of the rebellion are nothing like the dangers we face, Geraldo is sending his Generals against us personally.”
Lucas looked at Tara and then back at Apollos. “Apollos, we can’t just leave her here like this. We’re all going to Sharen City, why don’t we at least let her travel with us that far?”
Tara started to slowly raise to her feet, groaning as she did so. “Lucas speaks sense, why not allow me to travel with you at least that far? I can purchase more beast blades and return to the rebellion. Assuming its not too damaged I can even offer you a wagon to ride in, what do you say?”
Apollos regarded the upturned wagon and the horses still hooked up to it. “Fine, you can travel with us as far as Sharen City, but no further.” A rumble sounded overhead and Apollos glanced at a cloud filled sky and sighed. “I suppose we should bury your grandfather and make camp here for the night. Lucas, go and retrieve Petrusa, he should be able to dig us a grave without too much trouble.”
Tara smiled at Apollos victoriously. “Thank you for your aid, you will not regret it.”
General Caine shoved open the doors and strode into Lord Geraldo’s throne room. Servants quickly moved out of his way except for one servant that was holding a tray with golden goblet sitting on it filled with a dark red wine. Caine punched him in the face, knocking the servant to the ground and the tray and goblet flying. The goblet crashed onto the floor, spilling wine everywhere. Caine continued across the throne room and knelt before Lord Geraldo. “Victory was mine! If that girl hadn’t interfered I would have had their heads!”
Caine looked up when he heard laughter and applause. He noticed that General Aldrick was standing beside Geraldo’s throne, clapping and walking forward. “Your victory was stolen by a girl? Mayhaps you misread the battle field, or maybe are just incompetent?”
General Caine growled at Aldrick, “The old man and the boy were being overwhelmed and would have fallen at any second, but the wench was carrying a power blade! I don’t even know where she came from, but suddenly she was there and…”
Lord Geraldo raised his hand. “Enough! I don’t want to hear your pathetic excuses Caine. I wish to hear your report. Where did you find them?”
Hope filled General Caine’s voice. “They were traveling East Road, and it is likely that Sharen City is their destination. Lord, allow me to return to the Donku Province. I’ll gather my men and we will sweep down over them. We will surely bring the legendary blade back…”
Geraldo interrupted Caine, his voice calm. “Did you bring back the blade I gave to you?”
Caine quickly pulled the blade that contained Herbacevus and the blade that contained Aquacornu. “I did my lord, and I was able to recover Aquacornu as well.”
Geraldo motioned toward Caine and three Acerbi formed up around General Caine. One took the two beast blades from him and the others grabbed him arms. The first Acerbus pulled the last blade out of the sheath on Caine’s back. Caine struggled in the grip of the two Acerbi. “No, Lord Geraldo, mercy! Give me another chance and I’ll be certain to bring the beast blade back, I swear!”
Lord Geraldo responded in a calm voice. “Mercy is for the weak, and punishment is for those who fail. Take him to the dungeons.” Lord Geraldo turned and regarded General Aldrick, and spoke over the protests and screams of Caine swearing his revenge. “Aldrick, I want you to track down this old man and boy. Take what you need, and don’t return without their heads and that blade.”
General Aldrick bowed to Lord Geraldo and smiled. “It will be as you say, my lord. Judging by the amount of trouble this old man is giving us, I think I may know who he is. If I’m right, I know exactly how to deal with him.”
Thank you for checking out my story, if you liked this and want to see more of it, you can find the previous parts, as well as other stories I’m working on writing, here: https://ejborchardt.wordpress.com/index/ check out my facebook page for updates on the stories here: https://www.facebook.com/EJBorchardt?ref=aymt_homepage_panel, and follow me on Twitter for random facts about my stories here: @EJBorchardt. Please like, comment, and tell your friends if you like what you’ve read.