Tara glared up at General Aldrick and pulled one of her swords out of its sheath. “True or not, if I defeat you here, the rebellion has a chance to survive! Awaken, Luxaquila!” The blade in Tara’s hand began to glow and it shifted into the form of an eagle. The eagle leapt away from Tara’s hand and began to fly in circles around Tara. “Luxaquila, attack that man!” The light eagle screeched and sped over to where Aldrick was standing, and Aldrick nimbly leapt off of the ledge that he had been standing on, Luxaquila crashing into the side of the valley, raining dirt and rocks down onto Apollos and Lucas.
Lucas and Apollos dodged away from the falling debris and glared at Tara, and Apollos drew his sword from his side. “Watch what you’re doing, Tara! You’re going to get us hurt!”
Tara leered back at Apollos. “I’m trying to stop Aldrick! Maybe you should be watching out for yourself!”
Apollos charged at Aldrick, but Charles and Hugh stepped into his way with their swords drawn. Hugh chuckled. “Where do you think you’re going, old man?”
Apollos growled at the two men standing in his way. “Move out of my way or I’ll be forced to cut you pups down!”
Charles pulled his second beast blade out, and stabbed its point into one of the stones lying around. “You couldn’t have taken the two of us on in your prime, elder. Surrender yourself to lord Aldrick’s justice! Awaken, Pijaro!” The stone wrapped itself around the blade and formed itself into a stone hawk that took to the sky. “Strike down the old one!”
General Aldrick pulled a beast blade out of the sheath on his back, and tossed it into the river. “Awaken Magnavansimia!” The water of the river began to swirl together into a whirlpool, and a large gorilla made out of water stepped out of the river. Aldrick snickered and pulled out his sword sheathed at his side. “Get the boy!” Aldrick turned and swung his sword at Luxaquila. Luxaquila pulled out of its dive and began to circle Aldrick’s form.
Lucas’ eyes opened wide in terror at the sight of the large aquatic gorilla stalking toward him, and he fumbled at the beast blades strapped to his back. His fingers finally wrapped around the hilt of one of the blades and he pulled it free, relieved to see that he had pulled Petrusa free. He drove the point of the sword into the ground next to him and shouted out, “Awaken, Petrusa!” The dirt and rock around the blade rose up into a mound that formed into a large stone bear. Petrusa drew its head back and bellowed out a defiant roar to the skies, and Lucas smiled. He pulled out the dagger from its sheath strapped to his chest. “Time to find out what you can really do.” Lucas slashed the dagger across Petrusa’s back and the spot under its arms began to glow, and two additional arms sprouted out of Petrusa.
Lucas pointed at Magnavansimia and shouted out, “Protect me from that thing!” Petrusa dropped down to its arms and legs and charged at the water gorilla, and rammed it, sending a spray of water skyborn. Lucas watched in awe for a moment or two and then glanced toward the wagon on the other side of the river. He had left his bag with all the pieces of metal he had gotten from Sharen City on the wagon, and without them he had nothing to summon Ferrumlupus with. He started to sneak back toward the wagon.
Aldrick noticed Lucas sneaking off and smirked, calling to his men, “The boy is trying to escape with the legendary blades, do something to prevent that.” Luxaquila dove at Aldrick once more and Aldrick dodged to the side and slashed out with his sword. Luxaquila screeched in pain and fell to the ground. Droplets of light dripped from the wound on Luxaquila’s back and when they hit the ground tiny light flares were given off. Aldrick turned and sneered at Tara. “Is that the best that you can do, girl?”
Tara quivered in rage and pulled out her second beast blade. “The members of the rebellion always have an ace up their sleeve, and this is mine!” Tara stabbed her beast blade down into the sandy soil. “Awaken, Tywodvri!” Sand swirled around the beast blade and formed into a bison. Tara pulled one of the daggers that were sheathed across her chest and slashed the buffalo with it. The creature’s shoulders started to glow and two wings sprouted from its back, and the buffalo took to the air, and it was joined by Luxaquila and they began to circle Aldrick. Tara smiled and shouted, “Attack!”
Hugh and Charles breathed heavily as they warily circled Apollos, and blood stained their uniforms in several spots from wounds they had received. Apollos grinned back at Hugh and Charles, wielding a beast blade in either hand, he had small cuts and gashes on his arms and legs as well. Aeroslithe was coiled up at Apollos’ side and it hissed out a warning at Pijaro. The stone hawk circled overhead eyeing Aeroslithe warily.
Hugh reached for the second sword strapped to his back and he held it in front of him. Awaken, Zrukedi, and strike down the boy!” Air swirled around his blade and formed into a cheetah. The cheetah growled and charged at Lucas.
Apollos’ eyes opened wide with fear and he drove the point of the sword in his left hand into the ground. Charles saw that Apollos was distracted and lunged at him, thrusting his sword at Apollos’ chest. Apollos deflected the attack with the sword held in his right hand, and said, “Protect Lucas and awaken, Terrambarrus!” An elephant’s trumpet sounded as the dirt around the blade rose up into a giant mound and formed an elephant. It stampeded after Zrukedi, sending tremors through the entire valley. Hugh and Charles held their arms out to the side in an effort to maintain their balance, and Apollos drew his final beast blade and shakily lunged at Hugh and Charles.
Charles and Hugh parried Apollos’ attack with their swords, and Apollos danced back several steps. Hugh smiled. “Did you really think that it would be that easy, elder?”
Apollos frowned. “No, but I had hoped that it would be. I’m afraid I can’t afford to waste anymore time on you two.” Apollos charged in once more.
Petursa and Magnavansimia were exchanging blows back and forth, but it seemed that the water gorilla’s giant fists were beginning to wear down the stone bear. Magnavansimia swung a fist of dripping water at Petrusa. Petrusa ducked under it, moved around to the water gorilla’s back, and sunk his fangs into his opponent’s neck. Magnavansimia growled out in pain and tried to shake Petrusa off, but Petrusa had latched on tight. The water gorilla started reaching with its giant arms to pull Petrusa off of its back, but the stone bear dug its claws into the dripping simian’s arms and forced them down to its side and started slashing at its back with his stone claws.
Tara bit her lip as she watched Tywodvri and Luxaquila take turns swooping down and attacking Aldrick, but Aldrick always repelled the attack with his sword. He seemed to be doing it effortlessly as well. Anger swelled up in Tara and she shouted, “Grr, just attack him at the same time!” Luxaquila and Tywodvri swooped down at Aldrick, talons outstretched and horns lowered, and Aldrick simply sidestepped and slashed at Tywodvri as it swooped past. Tywodvri crashed into the ground in a cloud of sand, but reformed itself into a buffalo. It shook his head, snorted a cloud of sand out of its nostrils, and charged at Aldrick once more.
Lucas stepped into the Karndale river, and was instantly almost swept off his feet by the force of the current. Lucas gritted his teeth as the cold water bit through his clothes, and he wondered what frozen mountaintop this river originated from, and forced his way through the river to the bank where the wagon was sitting. He turned in surprise when he heard a snarl from behind him, and fell into the river when he saw a cheetah made from air prepared to pounce on him. The cheetah jumped into the part of the river that Lucas had fallen into, but fortunately for Lucas, the current had already pushed him fifteen feet down the river. Terrumbarrus trumpeted and swung his trunk into Zrukedi’s body, sending him flying onto the other bank, and Terrumbarrus charged through the river after it.
Lucas finally was able to get his feet under him and stood up sputtering and coughing. He looked down the river where he had been and saw the two beast blades fighting realizing the elephant must belong to Apollos. Lucas looked down at the water he was standing in and smiled. “This seems like a good time to see what my new sword can do. I think I heard Aldrick call it Ryupoto?” Lucas pulled the sword out of the sheath on his back, and dipped it into the river. “Awaken, Ryupoto!”
A whirlpool surrounded the blade, and rose out of the river into a cyclone. Lucas yelped and dropped the beast blade, and the water shaped itself into a long serpentine body, and the top of the spout separated itself into two jaws filled with sharp fangs. Two short arms that ended in three claw-tipped fingers with webbing between, and the tail end of the spout grew into a webbed tail. Spikes protruded from the forming creature’s spine. The cyclone froze into a column of ice, which, after a moment, shattered to reveal a small dragon about the size of a human. It splashed down into the water and brought its head back out. A frozen mist appeared when it exhaled, and it turned to regard Lucas with intelligent eyes.
Lucas smiled. “Hello, can you go and help that elephant fight against that cheetah over there?” Ryupoto turned and charged through the water toward the cheetah, and a stream of water shot out of its mouth and crashed into the cheetah, knocking it over.
Aldrick looked over at the rising spout of water from down the river, and smiled. “That’s all I was waiting for.” Tywodvri bellowed out a low-pitched roar as it swooped down at Aldrick once more, and Aldrick raised his sword over his head. “I’ve run out of time to play with you. Turn back into the steel that you came from.” Aldrick swung his sword at Tywodvri’s head, and the blade cleaved through its body. Tywodvri burst into a cloud of sand and turned back into a sword blade, embedded in the ground at Aldrick’s feet. Aldrick pulled the blade free and threw it at Luxaquila’s circling form over his head. The blade pierced through Luxaquila’s body, and it shrieked before turning back into a blade and dropping to the ground. Aldrick turned and gave Tara a smile. Tara started gibbering in fear and reached for the other dagger belted across her chest and held them in front of her in defense. Aldrick shook his head and stalked toward the river.
Magnavansimia finally pulled its arm free and managed to grab Petrusa around the neck and drive him into the ground. Then it slammed its other dripping hand into Petrusa’s face. Petrusa’s face cracked and crumbled, and he changed back into a sword.
Tara watched in horror as Aldrick neared the river. “Lucas, behind you!” Lucas turned and terror filled his face. He pulled himself onto the far bank and ran for the back of the wagon, but was knocked off of his feet by the tremor caused by Terrumbarrus stomping Zrukedi flat.
Aldrick reached the bank of the river and crossed his arms. “Magnavansimia, to me!” The water gorilla hurried over to its master’s side, and Aldrick pointed at Terrumbarrus. “Get rid of that annoyance for me.” Aldrick and Magnavansimia charged through the river, Aldrick onto the river bank near Ryupoto and Magnavansimia into Terrumbarrus’s side. Aldrick’s sword struck into Ryupoto’s side, and Ryupoto slapped at him with his tail. Aldrick jumped back just out of Ryupoto’s reach, slashing at the tail as it passed him. He smiled, “You’re coming with me, you magnificent creature.”
Ryupoto reared back it’s head and roared out in pain. It shot a stream of water at Aldrick, who jumped back out of the way of the aquatic blast. The water from the blast froze on the ground, forming an icy sheet, and freezing a part of the river. Aldrick slipped and fell on the ice, and looked up at Ryupoto in wonder. “You are more amazing than I ever imagined. Geraldo will be very pleased to have you at his call!”
Apollos lashed out right and left with his swords, seeking an opening in his opponents’ defense, but all of his attacks were repelled. Apollos growled, “I don’t have time for this!”
Hugh leered at Apollos. “Maybe you should try showing some of that skill that Aldrick used to admire you for! Or have you lost it all in your old age?”
Apollos squatted down and swept his leg through Hugh’s legs, knocking him to the ground. Apollos lunged to finish Hugh, but Charles deflected his blade, and forced Apollos back. Hugh pulled himself back up and Charles hissed, “How about you spend more time fighting and less time taunting? If not for me this old man would have claimed your life a hundred times over!”
Hugh spat to the side, and started circling Apollos once more. “You sound as if you actually respect him!”
Charles nodded his head. “I do, and I’m surprised that you don’t.”
Tara ran to the bank of the river clutching her two beast blades to her chest as well as Lucas’ Petrursa, and watched in awe as Ryupoto and Aldrick battled. Somehow Aldrick always managed to avoid Ryupoto’s attacks and get an attack of his own off. Tara shook her head. “If that’s all that a legendary beast blade is capable of, then I’m not impressed.” She started to wade through the river, shivering as the icy water cascaded into her body.
Magnavansimia was knocked over by a powerful swing of Terrumbarrus’ trunk, but when Terrumbarrus moved to stomp on Magnavansimia’s chest, the water gorilla grabbed Terrumbarrus’ leg and threw it to the ground. Magnavansimia began to pound on Terrumbarrus’ body with heavy fists.
Lucas watched in awe as Aldrick battled Ryupoto. Ryupoto took slash after slash from Aldrick’s blade while being unable to retaliate with any attacks of his own. He jumped in surprise when Tara’s dripping form appeared at his side and punched him in the shoulder. “You weren’t planning on running away and leaving us here to fight, were you?”
Lucas shook his head. “No, I left the iron I got from Sharen City on the wagon, and I was trying to get to it to summon Ferrumlupus.”
Tara pushed Petrusa into Lucas’ hands. “Why aren’t you doing that then? Instead of gawking at Aldrick, you could be doing something to help us win!”
Lucas blushed. “This is my first time seeing Ryupoto in action. He’s beautiful, isn’t he?”
Tara sighed. “If you don’t get moving this might be your last time seeing it in action too! Besides, how do you know that it’s a he? Beautiful is something you use to describe a she.”
Lucas grinned. “You could be right. Let’s go.” Lucas and Tara started for the wagon, and Lucas glanced over at where Apollos was fighting. “It doesn’t look like things are going well for Apollos.”
Tara grunted. “Who cares about how he’s doing? He’s been hiding things from us, Lucas. We can’t trust him.”
Lucas shoved Tara. “Even if you don’t think you can trust him anymore, he’s still fighting with us. If he loses, we’re going to have to deal with Aldrick and his captains alone.”
Tara glared at Lucas, but then she sighed and her look softened. “You’re right; we need him for right now. When we’re done here, if we make it out of this, will you run away with me? We can leave Apollos behind and search for the rest of the legendary beast blades together.”
Lucas looked away. “I still want to give Apollos a chance to tell us the truth. We can always leave afterward if we don’t like what he tells us.”
Tara crossed her arms and grunted. “Why do you stick up for him so much?”
Lucas shook his head. “He saved my life when we first met. He didn’t know I was going to find the first legendary beast blade then. How could he? He decided to help a random stranger he happened upon in trouble. I owe him the benefit of the doubt for that at least.” They finally reached the wagon, and Lucas climbed up onto the bed and started looking around for the bag that contained his scrap iron.
Ryupoto lunged at Aldrick with its mouth open wide, and Aldrick nimbly danced out of the reach of the creature’s deadly fangs. Ryupoto’s jaws snapped shut and it grunted in disappointment that Aldrick had eluded him once more. Aldrick brought his sword down into Ryupoto’s neck and Ryupoto’s eyes opened wide. It reared back and bellowed in pain, and then its body shattered and it dropped to the ground in the form of its beast blade.
Aldrick smiled and pulled Ryupoto free from the ground. “Magnavansimia! Knock over that wagon and then return to me!” The water gorilla gave Tarrumbarrus one last kick to its midsection and Tarrumbarrus gave one last weak trumpet before changing back into its blade form. Magnavansimia charged over to the wagon and backhanded the wagon, sending it and Lucas flying to the side. The horses screamed as they were flipped into the air and landed with a crunch on the ground. The horses twitched and kicked weakly before falling still.
Tara chased after the wagon with wide eyes. “Lucas!” She reached the wagon and looked through their fallen supplies for Lucas, and found him unmoving amongst their belongings. Tara gently shook Lucas. “Lucas, wake up! He has Ryupoto! Please, just wake up!”
Lucas grunted and gently stirred. “I’m fine, Tara. We can’t let him get away though.”
Magnavansimia walked up to General Aldrick, and Aldrick patted him on the head. “Excellent work, as always, Magnavansimia. Now, slumber; you earned it.” Magnavansimia turned back into a sword blade and Aldrick put him into the sheath on his back. “Charles, Hugh, distract the old man for as long as you can, and then rejoin me down river!” He turned and started to run up the river.
Tara started to run after him, but Lucas shook his head. “No, Tara, we need to help Apollos first. We wouldn’t stand a chance against Aldrick on our own.” Lucas weakly pushed himself up to his feet, a chunk of iron held in his hand. Tara frowned, but after a moment nodded. Lucas pulled his beast blade free of his sheath and touched it to the piece of iron. “Awaken, Ferrumlupus!” The iron twisted itself around the sword and formed into a wolf. Lucas pointed at Apollos. and told the wolf, “Help him in his fight!”
Ferrumlupus howled and charged toward the waterfall and leapt over the river. He landed behind Hugh on the other riverbank, and bit into his calf. Hugh cried out in pain and dropped down to one knee. Apollos took advantage of the distraction, and lunged at Hugh and ran his blade through Hugh’s heart. Hugh looked down at the blade before his eyes opened wide and he dropped to the ground.
Apollos pulled his blade free and spun to meet Charles’ attack, knocking his blade aside with the sword in his right hand and plunging the sword in his left hand into Charles’ chest. Charles looked at Apollos and dropped to his knees. “You cheated, old man.”
Apollos pulled his blade free and shook his head. “There is no such thing as cheating in a fight, only disagreements in the tactics used.” Charles dropped to the ground and Apollos glanced at Aldrick’s retreating form. He started after him. “Come on, you two, we can’t let him get away!”
Tara crossed her arms under her breasts. “No, I’m not going a step further with you until you tell us how you know Aldrick, or if any of the things he said about you were true!”
Apollos threw his hands up into the air and shouted out in frustration. “Fine! But we’re going to get that wagon fixed up while we do it or I’ll leave you here and chase down that beast blade myself. Slumber, Areoslithe!” The air cobra straighten it’s coils and turned back into a sword that Apollos picked up and put into his sheath. Apollos picked up Pijaro’s blade and waded through the river, Ferrumlupus trotting along at his side.
Apollos reached the wagon, and set his shoulder into the side. “Lucas, help me get this pushed over.” Lucas started to push on the wagon next to Apollos. The wagon tipped over and landed back on its wheels and Apollos sighed. “Thank you, Lucas.”
Tara looked at Apollos. “You promised us some answers now.”
Apollos looked away. “Yes, I did. Tara, you and Lucas start loading our supplies back onto the wagon, I’ll tend to the horses.” Tara opened her mouth to complain but was cut off. “What Aldrick said about me is true. I am the one that trained him, and it is because of me that Geraldo is in power.” Tara’s eyes opened wide in fear. “It is all true, but not in the way that Aldrick made it seem. I am the guardian of the Shadow Sanctuary.”
Tara gasped but Lucas looked at Apollos in confusion. “What does that mean?”
Apollos knelt by the horses and checked on them, and shook his head. He started to undo their harnesses. “It means that it was tasked to me to make sure that no one was ever able to wield the legendary beast blade of shadow. The guardians that are chosen to watch over the sanctuary are made immortal until they grow tired of their duty and chose to pass the boon onto another. As long as the blade is in the sanctuary, I can neither be struck down or die of old age. I took my guardianship seriously, for the first ten years or so, but then Meradyth and I grew tired of sitting in one place for so long, and we started to travel. I journeyed to many different lands, and met many amazing people that I am proud to call my friends, but I’m afraid that those that yet live or that will see me are growing fewer each day.”
Tara looked down at the ground. “Sorry, Apollos.” Then she turned and glared at him. “That still doesn’t explain why you trained Aldrick or helped Geraldo!”
Apollos had the harnesses off of the horses and he was starting modify them. “I was beginning to grow tired of my guardianship, and as the guardian before me had, I sought out my replacement. I found a young man that I felt would do well in the role, and so I brought Aldrick back to the sanctuary with me. I trained Aldrick in the ways of the guardians, in swordsmanship, and tactics when choosing beast blades. As you can see, he learned his lessons well.”
Tara grunted. “You did a great job of teaching him alright. Did you teach him to work for Geraldo as well?”
Lucas glared at Tara. “Would you stop interrupting him?”
Apollos smiled. “Thank you, Lucas. Aldrick was doing great in his training to become my replacement, but one day he started trying to convince me that the shadow blade should be used to help protect the people of this country. I tried to dissuade him from this course of thinking, but nothing I said seemed to convince him, so I sent him away. Unfortunately, Aldrick was able to bring my son, Geraldo, over to his way of thinking.”
Lucas’ eyes opened wide, and he dropped the bag he was loading onto the wagon. “What? Gerlado is your son?”
Apollos hung his head. “Yes, I’m ashamed to say that he is. He wasn’t always a bad person. In fact, he was a gentle soul like his mother. That’s why I never suspected him of trying to steal the shadow blade. Aldrick returned to me one day, and told me he had changed his mind, and began to tell me this story about a vision he had when he was traveling. While I was distracted Geraldo snuck into the sanctuary and pulled the blade free of its resting place, and then he changed.
“He wanted to protect this country at first, but he quickly changed into a tyrant whose sole goal was to take over the whole world. Unfortunately, as long as he is wielding the shadow blade, he has the immortality that normally belongs to the guardians. The only way to defeat him is to bring together the five legendary beast blades, and that’s what I set out to do. I may not have been a very good guardian, but I’m determined to set things right, or die trying.”
Tara looked at Lucas, and nodded. “If you are going to stop him, we’re going to need to get Ryupoto back from Aldrick, so let’s get moving!”
Apollos stood up and wiped a tear from his eye. “Thank you, Tara. We’re going to need to act fast if we want to catch up with Aldrick before he has a chance to get away from us.”
Lucas looked up at the empty harness and frowned. “How are we going to do that without the horses? Do you want to use the wagon like a raft?”
Apollos walked over to where Tarrumbarrus’ blade lay and winked at Lucas. “Not exactly. We may not have horses, but we have something strong and fast enough to catch up with Aldrick.”
Aldrick looked over his shoulder, and shook his head. I left Hugh and Charles to die! One of them will make a mistake eventually, and Apollos will use that opening to finish off first the one, and then the other. Geraldo, why did it turn out like this? When did we start using the people around us instead of fighting alongside them?
Aldrick slowed his run down into a walk once he reached a raft, fighting against the rope that tied it to a tree and prevented it from being swept down the river, and gave one final look back over his shoulder. He could not afford to wait for Hugh or Charles. Every moment he delayed gave Apollos a greater chance of catching up with him and giving him the justice he deserved. He climbed onto the raft and cut the raft free with a swing of Ryupoto’s blade.
The bank of the river sped by him as he stood at the crude rudder at the back of the raft, which he used to avoid the muddy protrusions that popped up here and there along the river. A small tear formed on his cheek, but he quickly wiped it away. He had sentenced his two most loyal students to death, and Geraldo wouldn’t even mourn their passing. He would just instruct Aldrick to pick out others to train and take their place. He remembered when this started out; Geraldo mourned that they would have to hurt anyone, even if it meant protecting everyone else. Now, he threw people away as if they were disposable. When did Aldrick stop fighting to protect those that he cared about?
Aldrick was going to sit down and have a serious talk with Geraldo once he returned with this beast blade, and he wouldn’t allow himself to be pushed aside or deflected this time. He was going to find the gentle boy within Geraldo that wanted to help the people of this country, and he was going to bring him back.
Tarrumbarrus thundered down the river bank, and Lucas and Tara held on tight to the seat of the wagon. Apollos laughed. “Suddenly I can see the advantage of using a beast blade for transportation!”
The wagon rolled over a rock that sent Lucas and Tara skyborn, and they crashed back onto the seat of the wagon, and grabbed onto it even tighter. Lucas groaned, “Aren’t we going a little too fast, Apollos?”
Apollos bellowed out another laugh. “Too fast? Certainly not! In fact, we need more speed if we’re going to catch up with Aldrick. Faster, Tarrumbarrus!”
Tarrumbarrus trumpeted and increased his speed. Tara gritted her teeth. “What are we going to do when we catch up with Aldrick?”
Apollos stopped laughing, and his face turned serious. “We’re going to do whatever it takes to get that beast blade back. We cannot allow Geraldo to get his hands on anymore legendary beast blades.”
Lucas looked up at Apollos. “What about Aldrick?”
Apollos sighed. “Aldrick and I will settle accounts. When this is finished, only one of us will stand.”
Tara pointed at the river. “There! I see a raft on the river!”
Aldrick heard Tarrumbarrus’ trumpet echo through the valley, and turned to look behind him, and cringed. He saw a wagon pulled by an elephant quickly approaching and pulled the sword strapped to his back free. He dipped the blade into the river and said, “Awaken, Magnavansimia!” Water swirled around the blade and formed into a giant gorilla. The gorilla swam after the raft and easily kept pace with it. “I need you to help me go faster.” The gorilla clamped a giant hand on either side of the rudder and the raft darted ahead, propelled by Magnavansimia’s powerful kicks.
Aldrick watched the river ahead of the raft for anything that might slow him down, but also kept glancing over his shoulder. He cursed; the speed boost that Maganvansimia was giving him wasn’t going to be enough to stay ahead of Apollos and those children. He had sacrificed too much to allow it to end like this! Aldrick looked down at the beast blade lying in the middle of the raft. He picked Ryupoto up and dipped its tip into the foaming waters next to the raft. “Awaken, Ryupoto!”
A cyclone rose up from the riverbank and formed into the water dragon, froze and shattered, revealing Ryupoto. Ryupoto hurried down the river after the raft and Aldrick smiled. “Ryupoto, freeze that side of the riverbank!” Ryupoto turned and shot a stream of water from its mouth that turned into ice upon contact with the ground. Aldrick smirked and turned to face the front of the raft. “Let’s see you keep up with me now, Apollos.”
Apollos gasped as the wagon approached the ice. “Tarrumbarrus, quickly shatter that ice with a tremor!” Tarrumbarrus trumpeted to signify he had heard Apollos and stomped on the ground, sending tremors through the surrounding area, breaking the ice on the path ahead of them. It also broke free rocks from the valley wall that rained down on the path, sent waves surging through the river, and rocking the wagon. “Hold on tight, things are about to get bumpy!”
Tara groaned and wrapped her arms around the wagon seat. “What do you mean, ‘about to get bumpy’?”
Apollos gritted his teeth and pulled on the reigns to steer Tarrumbarrus around a stone that had fallen into the path. “Fine, they’re about to get bumpier.” A stone fell from the valley side and landed on the back of the wagon. The wagon bed groaned and splintered under the weight of the stone. Apollos punched the seat of the wagon. “Milton’s luck! That’s all we need is for the wagon to break now.”
Lucas looked up at Apollos. “What are we going to do when we catch up with the raft, Apollos?”
Apollos grinned. “We’re going to jump on it and get your beast blade back.” Tarrumbarrus raced ahead, growing ever closer to the raft. The wagon finally pulled up alongside the raft, and Apollos handed Tara the reigns. “Keep on along the bank. Lucas and I will need a ride once I’ve finished with Aldrick.”
Tara accepted the reigns from Apollos and gripped them so tightly her knuckles turned white. “You know this is crazy, right?”
Apollos laughed and climbed into the wagon bed. “It may be crazy, but I haven’t felt this young in years!” Apollos helped Lucas into the back of the wagon. “Grab what you need to summon your beast blades. I doubt that you will find much of what you need over there.”
Lucas pulled a chunk of iron out of the supply bag and smashed it against the rock on the wagon bed. A chunk of the rock broke off and Lucas picked it up, and nodded. “Do we have to do this?”
Apollos sighed. “If I could think of another way to do this, I would, but we can’t let Aldrick get away with that beast blade. Tara, move closer to the river!” Tara guided Tarrumbarrus over to the edge of the river and Apollos grabbed the back of Lucas’ shirt. “Time to go!” Apollos and Lucas leapt off the wagon and soared toward the river. They landed with a thud onto the raft and Aldrick drew his sword. Apollos jumped to his feet and drew his sword. “Give back the beast blade, Aldrick.”
Aldrick shook his head. “I can’t do that, Apollos. Geraldo is going to change the world, and this blade will ensure that I can stay by his side and try to ensure he changes it for the better. Magnavansimia, come aboard the raft and take care of the child.” The gorilla pulled itself up onto the raft and growled at Lucas.
Lucas dropped the rock he was carrying and the chunk of iron onto the raft, pulled out his beast blades, and touched them to their respective elements. “Awaken Petrusa and Ferrumlupus!” The stone bear and steel wolf formed from their blade and stood growling between Magnavansimia and Lucas. “Stop that gorilla!”
They lurched forward and Petrusa slashed at Magnavansima’s chest, and Ferrumlupus sunk his steel fangs into the gorilla’s leg. Magnavansimia roared out in pain and batted at Ferrumlupus. Ferrumlupus bit down harder and snarled at the water gorilla.
Apollos and Aldrick were engaged in a deadly dance of steel and man, each taking turns attacking and defending against the blows that seeked to end lives.
Aldrick grinned. “I’m glad to see that your old age hasn’t slowed you down any. I was afraid that this wouldn’t be a challenge.”
Apollos snarled back. “You are as skilled as I remember as well. It’s a pity that I’ll have to kill you here. Too few practice the art of the sword any longer.”
Aldrick’s grin turned into a glare. “I agree that by the end of this fight only one of us will still be standing, but I intend that to be me!”
Lucas snuck over to the side of the raft where Ryupoto was swimming. It rose out of the water and hissed at Lucas. Lucas held his hands up and made soothing sounds with his mouth. “Hey, it’s okay, big guy. Remember me? I’m the one that found you. My name is Lucas. Why don’t you slumber, Ryupoto?”
Ryupoto closed its eyes, and turned back into a beast blade that dropped at Lucas’ feet. Lucas bent over and picked up the sword and smiled. “I didn’t expect that to actually work.” Lucas put Ryupoto into one of the sheaths on his back and looked over to where his beast blades were fighting against Magnavansimia. Petrusa pulled its arm back and then slashed through Magnavansimia’s chest. Magnavansimia grunted and dropped down to its knees. It changed back to a sword and fell with a clang onto the raft.
The raft jerked to a halt, sending Apollos and Aldrick sprawling onto the raft. Lucas flew off the raft, hitting his head on a stone growing from the mud bank the raft had rammed into. Then Lucas fell into the river.
Apollos took the opportunity to jump onto of Aldrick and pin him to the raft. He pulled his arm back and then froze in mid swing when he heard Tara scream. “Lucas, no!” Apollos looked up and couldn’t see Lucas.
Apollos held his blade at Aldrick’s throat and pinned the arm holding Aldrick’s sword to the ground with his other hand. “Tara, what happened to Lucas?”
Tara sobbed back, “He hit his head on a rock and then fell into the river. Apollos, I didn’t see him come back up!”
Apollos growled. “Draxx! This is all your fault, Aldrick! Do you have anything you want to say before I send you to the afterlife?”
Thank you for checking out my story, if you liked this and want to see more stories like it, check out the other stories I’m working on writing, here: Tales of the Imagination, check out my facebook page for updates on the stories here: Facebook, and follow me on Twitter here: @EJBorchardt. Please like, comment, and tell your friends if you like what you’ve read. Don’t forget to come back tomorrow to see my review of what happened in the last chapter of Ahir, Guardian of Malor, as well as a sneak peek at what will happen in the next chapter. Then come back on Monday when I will post part of one the next chapter of Ahir, Guardian of Malor. Also, if you enjoy reading my stories, and you enjoy drawing, I’m looking for pictures of my characters. If you want to send me your fan art, I promise to include it with some of my posts! I look forward to seeing that art!