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Rebirth, the story of Luris

Discussion in 'Literature Library' started by Fable_PH, Mar 18, 2018.

  1. Fable_PH

    Fable_PH Pixels and Paints

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    Prologue: The Story of Creation

    Several eons ago, back to the beginning of time, the goddess Libera ruled over the world of Luris. In Libera’s rule, Luris was a chaotic yet beautiful world. More than anything, the goddess valued freedom and left the world to its own devices. However, she realized that while the world she oversaw had freedom, none of its creatures had a free will. So, from the dust of the land and sky, she formed a new beast and instilled this free will into it. She named this beast “man”, and the first man’s name was Adoni-Zedek. To this first man she bestowed part of her power, as he was her magnum opus. With this power he founded the first nation of the world, Uspal.

    Now, in man’s early years he created chaos unlike anything Luris had handled before. He hunted its beasts, ate of its fruits, and ravaged its lands as he travelled. This only grew more problematic as man procreated and multiplied. Libera, however, was pleased. She viewed this as the natural progression of the world, and had no desire to impose on the freedom of man. She did nothing to direct man away from the destruction of Luris. Eventually, Adoni-Zedek opened his eyes to the destruction his kind had wrought on their home. His home. So, he began ushering man in a new direction- one of order and law. On the trunk of a great tree with golden leaves, the place Libera was said to have first created the world, he etched what would become the first law of man. While there, he prayed to Libera to help him guide man and seek a balance between Law and Freedom. Upon hearing Adoni’s prayer, Libera flew into a rage, infuriated that her greatest creation would ask her to betray what she valued most. She appeared to Adoni in the form of a wolf, and attacked the tree in an attempt to remove the laws he had written there. Adoni was shocked and enraged himself, incapable of understanding how someone could allow their creation to rot in chaos and disorder. He declared war on Libera. Mankind became split between the two divinities. Several stayed with Adoni-Zedek, believing his ideals of law and order to be the best path for mankind, even if they were rigid and strict. Another sect split away from Adoni and the nation of Uspal, believing in the ideologies of Libera- that man should be free with no one to rule over him. These rebels formed the nation of Elysia.

    The war between Adoni-Zedek and Libera lasted many decades. In this time, Libera finally came to terms with the destructive power of man and saw the pain and misery man could inflict on the world. So, she concocted a plan to end the war forever. Using yet another part of her power, she created an emblem of the Crescent Moon and bestowed it on the most powerful warrior in Elysia, and commanded him to take the emblem to Uspal, to the palace where Adoni-Zedek ruled. She told him that he was to take her with him, and that all would be clear once they reached their destination.

    The warrior of Elysia gathered three of his most trusted friends, and together with Libera, took the war to Adoni-Zedek’s front door. The battle was hard fought, and there were several casualties, but the Elysian forces were able to seize Adoni’s throne. With a blade to Adoni’s neck, Libera marched him and the warriors to a grand stone altar originally built in her honor. There she commanded the warrior to hold the emblem high, and as he did it shone like the moon and split into five pieces- the sword Earthwyrm, the bow Lobera, the lance Amalger, the axe Helmfried, and the magic tome Eblavack. Taking the tome, Libera ordered the other four to choose a weapon. After the choices were made, she commanded each of them to strike Adoni-Zedek with their weapon. One by one, the heroes of Elysia attacked the Bringer of Law. As his body and spirit finally yielded to the assault, Libera trapped his soul and the power she had granted him in the grand altar where he lay. A seal of flames was placed to mark the spot and prevent him from ever breaking free and defying her again. This seal became known as the Lock of Embers.

    Having exhausted most of what remained of her power, Libera found herself trapped on the mortal plane. Not wishing to ever again interfere with the proceedings of man, she took the form of a wolf once more and fled, ashamed of the destruction she had brought to her world. Elysia took up the emblem of the Crescent Moon as its national crest in remembrance of Libera and what she blessed them with. Uspal took up the symbol of the scales as its crest, in a solemn remembrance of Adoni-Zedek’s law and guidance.

    Uspal still follows the original Laws of Man that Adoni-Zedek had blessed them with all those years ago. It is a prosperous northern land, bountiful in natural resources and fertile soil. Today, Uspal is ruled by King Warren, a man famous for his lack of leniency towards those who would break his laws. His society, while somewhat strict, is well structured and organized

    Elysia today still values what Libera held sacred, freedom. However, they realized over the years that unchecked liberty leads to chaos and anarchy. While lenient, law and structure does exist and has become more prominent in the recent years under King Raginmund. While Elysia is a beautiful land, it has been suffering. It has found itself overpopulated and struggling with limited natural resources. Worse yet, tensions have been high with Uspal the past 20 years, leading to a cold war. At this point, anything could spark a war
     
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  2. Fable_PH

    Fable_PH Pixels and Paints

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    Chapter 1: Crowns

    The sun was still high in the sky by the time Alani had reached the Petrean-Elysian border. It was only by a stroke of luck that she had managed to snag a ride on a convoy train headed from the capitol, turning her two week journey into a mere three days. To add to that, the convoy directors were even kind enough to share minor provisions with her- fruits and sections of salted meats they had stored in case they encountered trouble along their way.

    “You’re absolutely certain that I’m not a burden?” Alani asked, wiping sweat from her brow and gently tapping her cheeks. The black residue that formed on her fingers quickly told her that her facepaint was running. She made a point to simply clean it all away as the lead director responded. “Miss it isn’t an issue in the slightest. It isn’t like you’re just sitting there and taking up space. Getting us out of the ditch outside of the capitol was more helpful than you might understand, and shooting that boar down gave us an extra day or so of rations. If anything we should be thanking you.”

    Alani simply responded with a gentle laugh, gazing at the horizon. Dark clouds gathered in the distance. “Something the matter, miss?”

    “Oh, no, no! I’m alright, just a little curious about the front is all.”

    The director snapped the reigns of his cart, causing the lead horses to come to a slow stop. He contemplated on the horizon for a few moments before looking back to the girl beside him. His bushy mustache curled into a smile.

    “No worries miss, that front will pass us soon enough. If you look there,” he shot a stubby finger towards several thin, wispy clouds to the northeast, “You’ll see that the wind down that way is blowing westward. Given how far we are from the storm, I imagine if it hasn’t moved a good bit to the west the most that will get us is a light misting.” He let loose a small chuckle.

    “What’s so funny?” Alani asked, eyebrow raised in confusion.

    “You struck me as an outdoorsy girl is all, the way you took down that boar down to your look. I’m surprised you don’t know your meteorology is all.”

    Alani smiled. “And what about my ‘look’ gave you the impression that I was ‘outdoorsy’.”


    The director raised an eyebrow and smirked. “Oh please, miss. The green hooded tunic with elegantly tanned leather shoulderpads, the expensive oxhide boots, the buckler arm guards...why you even have Akeakamai hair and face paint!”

    Alani ran a hand through her hair. It was true, her hair was in traditional Akeakamai style. She had long bangs covering over a single eye with the rest of the length framing her face and pulled back into a ponytail. Combine that with the fact that the furthest tips of each strand were tipped in a verdant green, she looked like a standard Akeakamai tribesman….but….

    “How do you know what an Akeakamai looks like? I thought they were wiped out twenty years ago!”

    “Despite my youthful complexion,” replied the pudgy, graying, and wrinkled director, “I’ve been alive a good few years. Once upon a time I even ran a few routes down to the ports that connected the Akeakamai’s islands to the mainland, out of Petrea.”

    He snapped the reigns once more, and the horses resumed their steady trot. Alani leaned back in her seat, enjoying the gentle bounce of the cart as they continued along their route. The two sat in a comfortable silence, and Alani took the time to watch the scenery change around them. The forest that marked the Elysian-Petrean border melted away to flat farmland. In the distance, the dark clouds creeped ever nearer as the sun danced across the sky. For a moment she almost felt worried about a potential oncoming storm, but remembering the director’s words she cast the thought aside. The scent of salty seawater carried on the westward breeze allowed her mind to wander, and soon she felt her eyes begin to flutter shut. As she dozed she reflected on her short adventure so far, taking some pride in the few ‘outdoorsy’ achievements, as the director had called them. Maybe she is a proud example of and Akeakamai woman, and not some dainty duchess. No, she would be able to thrive in the wild for a few months it seemed. A smile found itself on her lips as she enjoyed the silence of the world around them, not even broken by the songs of birds. Abruptly, however, her peaceful dreamland was interrupted by the director’s voice once more.

    “My turn to ask a question, then. To what do I owe the honor of having the adopted princess of Elysia in my caravan?”

    Alani shot up, fully awake. She could feel her heart pounding alongside the trot of horse hooves on the forested path. “Wh-what gave it away?”

    The director laughed once again, a deep, booming belly laugh. “You haven’t been outside of the castle very much have you? You’re lucky you got a ride with a Petrean man, and one that hasn’t seen many days within Elysian borders. I imagine that any typical Elysian would recognize you instantly.” The director turned and gazed back over the horizon, watching the front slowly make its way west. He snapped the reigns, and the horses picked up their pace. Alani and the director sat in silence for a few moments. She could feel her heart beating faster in her chest, and she did her best to avoid the director’s glance. She found her right hand running through her hair, tracing the part and fidgeting with her bangs. The other hand tapped mindlessly beside her.

    “No, miss, for me I had no idea. It took me a bit to figure out the Akeakamai features. I hope you don’t mind me staring, but as you started to drift off your countenance seemed more and more familiar, and eventually I yanked the Bremian’s tail and remembered Elysia’s adopted princess! But back to my question, what brings you down this road? Official royal business in Petrea?”

    “No, no, nothing of the like. I’m just….out on my own for once is all,” Alani answered, gazing out towards the sunset as the sky slowly darkened. “It’s lovely, isn’t it? It’s nice to finally get some long term exposure to something real.”

    The director shot her an inquisitive look. “Palace life not treating you right?”


    “Nothing like that! It’s lovely, more than I could ever want or dream for. But it’s all so fake. The walls, the gardens, the people….it’s a world designed around my comfort and happiness but something about it is almost uncomfortably…”

    “....Fake?”

    “Right, fake,” she sighed, leaning back in her seat once more. She began tracing her finger over the wood grain in her seat, watching it intently as if it were the most interesting thing in the world. “Sorry, I must sound like some kind of spoiled brat whining about the good life.”

    The director simply smiled as a bead of rain fell on his forehead. “Miss, what you feel is common in nobel, royal types from what I hear running up and down these trade routes. Some people just aren’t cut out for the the glitz and glamor, especially if they weren’t properly born into it.” Another drop of rain, quickly succeeded by another. “Ugh, I guess my weather predictions were wrong, then. Seems like we’re going to pass right through this storm. Good news is that we’ve already passed into the Petrean border, so we should be seeing an inn soon. I just hope we can cross the Elysian river before then, that damned thing always floods when it rains.”

    “Anything I can do to lend a hand?”

    “About how much do you weigh?”

    Alani’s expression clearly gave away her surprise and shock at the statement, but she quickly answered regardless. “About 140 regals, why?”

    The director turned back to a tarp over the first car in his small wagon train. “That tarp right there is covering a shipment of clothes for one of those high end boutiques in Traver. Once the winds start picking up, it’s a goner. If you’re willing to sit on it and weigh it down that would be a huge help!”


    Quick to act, Alani vaulted over the small wooden barrier between the seats and the cargo, positioning herself atop the tarp. She immediately tumbled, losing her footing on the soft surface. Attempting to right herself once more, she hesitantly stuck her arms out to the side before finally sitting down. The bouncing of the horse, once almost relaxing, now served as an obstacle to keeping herself on the cart and atop the cargo. She did a quick body check to ensure nothing was lost or broken in the tumble. Bag….bow...check, everything was as it should be, and with good timing as the sky decided in that moment to open up and let forth its deluge it had been holding back. The sunset was drowned in the downpour as visibility dropped to near non existent.

    The cart lurched forward, and Alani could hear shouting from ahead. Strange, to be so close to someone yet unable to hear what they had to say. She was thrust onto her back as the cart again jolted forward with sporadic and panicked movement. Every few moments she felt herself being thrown in the air as the cart picked up speed, the storm pounding on her head.

    “Is everything alright up there?!” she shouted, trying to hide the fear creeping up her throat. All she received in return was a drowned response. “I’m coming up, I’ll be right there!”

    Another lurch, and she was rolling back into the tarp. Her vision was filled with blue fabric, and she found herself suddenly fighting rain and fabric for a view of her surroundings. In the distance she could almost make out the sound of flowing water. Finally, she freed herself from the tarp and tossed it aside, clawing her way back towards the director and grasping his shoulder.

    “SIR! Is everything alright?”

    “We’re good, we’re alive still! Hahaha, come on then you damned woman! Hit me with all you’ve got, I’ve survived worse! Gahahaha!”

    ‘This man has lost his mind,’ Alani’s panicked mind thought, trying to string together a verbal response. “We’re headed towards the river, we should try to find shelter!”

    “Too late for that, my dear! We’re already crossing the river!”

    ‘My people would be ashamed of me,’ she thought, resisting the urge to slap a hand to her face. Granted, however, when one’s surroundings are obscured by water, it becomes decently difficult to make out more water. Comforting herself, and her pride somewhat with this knowledge, Alani focused on maintaining a grip on the cart. The lead horse was wailing and fighting against the reigns, but the director’s grip remained firm.

    Firm, that is, until lighting finally cracked across the sky. Alani could barely see the director’s once white-knuckle grip on the reigns yield ever so slightly, allowing the horse to pull just a bit too hard and break free. In a screaming panic, the steed ran free before slipping off the bridge into the torrent below. The cart itself rolled for a few more feet before fishtailing in the back, throwing the back cart in the train off the bridge and trapping the front cart’s wheels on the supports. The front cart now sat at a forty five degree angle to the whitewater rapids nearly thirty feet below. Alani found herself desperately clinging to the director’s neck, only slightly concerned that she might be in the process of strangling him.

    Another crack of lighting, and the flesh she held leaped from beneath her. Her body was thrown down into the waves below. Thunder rang in her ears as she lost what little sight she still had of the world around her, her mouth filling with the taste of salt and her lungs beginning to fill with water. She struggled against the tide and waves, only to find herself swirling deeper into the depths below. Eventually, her body went limp as it was thrown further down river, at the full mercy of the unforgiving rapids.

    --------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    The clash of wood and metal rang in Drake’s ears as he silently watched over the dueling youth before him. One boy a tall, powerfully built human with broad shoulders and clean cut blond hair, not unlike his father. The other, a thin creature with a freckled face and long, wiry black locks hastily pulled back into what might have once been a ponytail. The same duo dueled for him each day, and each day the result was the same. The smaller of the boys would drop into a fool’s guard, lowering his blade before him and leaving himself open to attack, and the blond boy would take the bait, swinging from above with either a cross cut or a diagonal strike towards the shoulder. The smaller boy’s guard would give him time to parry, and a single riposte later his larger opponent would find himself disarmed and staring down his opponent’s blade.

    Drake did his best to stifle a yawn as, surprise, the same thing as usual happened. The victorious boy looked up at him with stars in his eyes, and Drake gave his usual thumbs up of approval before rising and helping the other child off the ground.

    “It’s not fair!” the larger boy whined, “He’s cheating, he’s gotta be cheating!”

    Drake simply shook his head, adjusting his gloves as the boy found his footing once more. “You aren’t being cheated out of a win, Alois, you just aren’t learning from what I’ve been teaching! Blaz is expertly using the guard I taught you both three weeks ago, and you keep approaching him with the same strategy. Here, let me show you,” He drew his sword from its sheath, “Blaz, are you willing to be my partner?”

    The boy gave a quick nod, raising his practice blade once more as Drake pointed his practice blade in his direction. He was tempted to test Blaz with his real blade Liberace, an ornate longsword that had been bestowed unto him several years prior, but decided against it. Despite whatever prodigy this boy showed towards swordplay, no one needed to risk more than a bruised rib today. The two bowed to one another and took their positions on either side of the practice field. The noontime sun beat down from above as Alois took a seat in the shade to watch the demonstration.

    “Blaz, take the fool’s guard you had before. Alois, watch how I approach and strike!”

    Blaz quickly dropped his shoulders and lowered his blade before him, perpendicular to his waist and pointed towards the ground. Drake lowered his own blade in turn, and dashed forward. As Blaz raised his blade to parry, Drake struck the boy in the side of the leg. He yelped out a small sound of surprise before falling to his knee, his sword clattering to the ground beside him. With a small flourish, Drake sheathed his blade before extending a hand to help Blaz back to his feet. He then turned back to look back to Alois.

    “Alright, great work Blaz! Hope I didn’t beat you up too much. Alright, Alois, tell me what you learned.”

    Alois scratched his head for a moment, face twisting up in thought. “Uh…” he finally said, “You hit him?”

    Drake shook his head and laughed. “You’re not wrong, but come on! I know for a fact that’s not all you saw! You see, the fool’s guard is called that because it ‘foolishly’ leaves the upper body open for attack. It’s a control move, when you use it you direct your opponent’s action somewhere you can quickly respond. That’s how Blaz here can parry your strikes so easily. The trick is knowing that, despite the blade guarding the bottom half of the body, that’s the area most vulnerable to attack. Blaz instinctively raises his blade to protect from above, and when he does you strike at the leg or hip.”

    Out of the corner of his eye, Drake could see Blaz’s once proud expression fade away, quickly replaced by one of worry. Drake bit his lip, thinking of a proper response. ‘Damn it all,’ he thought to himself, ‘How the hell do parents handle kids?’ “Not to say that having an instinct is wrong, Blaz!” Drake walked over and placed a hand on the quiet boy’s shoulder, giving him a patient smile. Blaz looked up, a small tear in the corner of his eye sparkling in the sunlight. “It just means that you need to be reactive to all kinds of potential outcomes, and that’s hard. Trust me, I know, kid! That’s part of why we learn and train, so we can get better at this. Now, how about you two head back inside and we can get lunch, yeah?”

    Blaz’s face immediately lit back up as he and Alois darted back inside the wooden studio. Drake remained in the courtyard, throwing himself out on one of the log benches and sighing. His eyes watched the sky, contemplating the clouds. They had such strange shapes, twisting in and out of various forms. How odd….to be able to constantly change appearance yet always be recognized as what you are. He mused on this thought for a while, only to be interrupted by small lizard claws digging into his thigh.

    “Wilderwind, you can just ask for food instead of trying to steal from my bags you know.”

    The small, draconian creature’s head popped up, yellow eyes falling to his master.

    “Don’t give me that look, I don’t keep those bags strapped to my thighs for ease of access to troublesome dragons like yourself you know,” Drake said, sitting up to gently stroke the thin, scarlet stripe across the otherwise silver creature’s snout. Wilderwind cooed happily in response. Drake looked the dragon in the eye, mentally tracing over the details of the sclera and slitted pupil. Wilderwind simply licked his eye in response.

    “Okay, you win,” Drake laughed, reaching into a pouch strapped to his thigh and removing a small strip of meat, “But don’t go expecting seconds, mister!”

    Wilderwind happily took the jerky and began working at it with his tiny fangs, hopping from Drake’s leg and finding a spot in the sun. Alois and Blaz ran back out from the studio, plates in hand. Atop the plates sat a simple meal of beans and fish, freshly caught from the Elysian river earlier that morning. The boys found a seat on either side of Drake, Blaz laying a plate in Drake’s lap. He found himself smiling at this small gesture, taking the plate and tossing a bean towards Wilderwind who swiftly caught it in his maw like a starved street dog.

    The three ate in silence, watching the small dragon struggle with the jerky he had previously been supplied with. Alois finished his plate first, and was the first to speak.

    “Sir DeDavenpurt? Why do you have a dragon, aren’t they, like, super rare?” the boy asked, eyes fixated on the small creature.

    “He’s an anima, bud! I think I was about your age when I conjured him….maybe a bit older? You two are 15, right?”

    “16, Blaz is 15.”

    “Right, and it was about 4 or 5 years ago….so yeah I was your age! I’d been studying magic and swordplay under the governor, and it just….happened. One minute I’m practicing elemental magic, next minute I have a striped lizard nipping at my leg. I didn’t even know what I’d done until governor Archard explained it to me. I’ve been stuck with the little brat since.”

    Wilderwind happily trotted over and attempted to climb Alois’s leg, causing the boy to jump and throw the small creature off. Wilderwind let off a frustrated huff of smoke before climbing up Drake’s leg and curling up in his lap. Drake gently ran his finger down the dragon’s spine, causing him to contently purr into slumber. Blaz cautiously reached over with a single finger, looking to Drake for approval.

    “You can stroke his snout, he won’t mind.”

    Blaz smiled and pressed down on Wilderwind’s snout, startling the dragon who quickly nipped at the offending appendage. He quickly realized what he had done and released, running away to hide. Blaz recoiled and covered his finger with his other hand. Alois laughed as Drake tried to assess the damages.

    “Alois, shut it. Are you alright, Blaz? Here, let me take a look….”

    The boy furiously shook his head as Drake removed his hand from the safe cover of his uninjured palm. He could feel the tears begin to fall as the damages were assessed.

    Looking over the injuries, it clearly wasn’t a serious injury. Wilderwind had caught on fairly fast that he was biting a human, so the marks were no more than a simple puncture wound. Drake sighed and rose to his feet.

    “Ah, it’s nothing bad at all, kid! Here, let’s get that wrapped, all right?”

    Blaz sniffled and nodded slowly. Drake moved to open the doors back inside as the two boys followed behind, stopping to glance over the court to see if he could spot his troublemaking dragon, but to no avail. Giving a cursory glance to the sky and seeing nothing but what appeared to be rain clouds rolling in from the west, he headed inside.

    The studio was not a large or impressive building by any means, being a simple cottage Drake had retrofitted into a teaching and living space. The first floor was dedicated to the swordsmanship school he ran, with a large open area near the back courtyard decorated with damaged training dummies and blades hung on the walls. In the center of the room’s back wall were two paintings of Drake and previous students, commissioned after they had graduated from the program.

    Connected to that room was a small kitchen space used as a mixed feeding and sitting area for longer classes. Just off that room was a small storage closet, where Drake kept his first aid supplies. From said closet, Drake withdrew a small box of cloth bandages. After fumbling through it for a minute and nearly dropping it on Alois’s head, he selected a thin strip of bandage that he carefully wrapped around Blaz’s finger.

    “There, see? All better!”

    The boy smiled in response, as a knock was heard from the front door.

    “Ah, dammit. I guess it is about time for class to end, huh?” Drake said, headed towards the tight main hall between the kitchen and the kitchen and the front door. Opening the door revealed the massive man that had been knocking, a towering figure that bore a mighty blond beard and several battle scars up and down his powerful arms. Across his back a bow was strung, and Drake could tell from the small spattering of dried blood across the man’s leather tunic that he had been hunting.

    “Good to see you, sir Ochs,” Drake said, craning his neck to look the man in the eye. It was rare that anyone stood over Drake, who already stood at an impressive six foot three. This man was easily two or three heads above even him! “Alois is in the kitchen. Do you want me to call for him or would you like to step in?”

    “Call for him,” the man stated in a gruff voice not unlike the growl of a mountain cat, “Storm’s coming, we need to get home.”

    Drake needed not say a word, as before he could call Alois the boy had already sidled up to his father. Seeing the two side by side, the family resemblance was clear. Same blond locks, same twist of the mouth in the right corner, and same emerald eyes. Hell they both even stood the same way, somewhat hunched with legs even with their shoulders. The warrior’s stance, he had always called it.

    Drake simply waved goodbye as sir Ochs took Alois and left, and returned to the kitchen to see Blaz staring out the back door into the courtyard. The boy seemed entranced by something, and was startled when Drake placed his hand on his shoulder and leaned down to also see what was so interesting. Apparently Wilderwind had found himself engaged in a battle with the local squirrels, as he was hunched over and hissing as one of the furry rodents paced around him. A few moments later they pounced on each other, tooth meeting nail in a flailing, tumbling dance. A small puff of smoke erupted from Wilderwind’s jaws and the squirrel dashed off, with its tail smouldering. Content with his work, Wilderwind resumed his meal of dried meat.

    “He really is something else, isn’t he Blaz?”

    The boy nodded excitedly, looking up at his mentor.

    “Looks like that storm is getting closer, kid. If you’re going to walk home you should probably head out now yeah?”

    A simple furrowing of Blaz’s eyebrows told Drake all he needed to know. He sighed.

    “All right, Blaz. I think I have a cot stowed around here with some extra blankets. You can spend the night with me, alright?”

    The bright expression returned to the boy’s face, as he quickly embraced Drake. Drake nearly jumped back, before hesitantly returning the boy’s hug. ‘I swear- when I finally meet this kid’s parents I’m going to kill them. No kid should be this starved for affection and approval,’ he thought to himself, leading the boy upstairs into his living area.

    Where the first floor served to house the studio, the second floor had been converted into Drake’s main living space. A simple open area next to the stairs’ landing served as his primary reading area, housing a simple armchair, table, and shelf with a few scattered books. Off that room was a small bedroom with a bed and wardrobe, as well as a ladder leading to an attic space over the house. This is where Drake found the cot and blanket he had been searching for. He laid it out in the reading room, placing a pillow taken from his bed atop it.

    “Just stay here for now, I need to go wrangle Wilderwind and get him back inside. Feel free to read whatever catches your eye, alright?”

    Blaz crawled into his cot with a shine in his eyes and nodded. Drake smiled before heading back downstairs and out into the courtyard where he was greeted with sheets of rain. He swore under his breath as he buckled his collar, trying to cover his face even slightly. The cloth from his headband whipped him in the face as he stepped out into the wind.

    “I swear this one came out of nowhere!” he muttered to himself, “One minute, nothing. Next minute the damn sky is dropping an ocean on you! WILDERWIND! COME ON YOU DAMNED LIZARD, TIME TO COME IN!”

    A crack of lighting overhead cast some temporary light over the courtyard, enough for Drake to find the small dragon curled up and trembling under a bench. He rushed over and scooped the sopping wet creature up and stuck him in his collar. A boom of thunder, and Drake raised his head to the north.

    Was that...shouting?

    No, he must be hearing the rain. No self respecting Petrean would be out in weather like this. Well, no one except from him that is.

    Then, from the distance, he heard it again. A distressed neigh, a deep laugh, and someone shouting about shelter.

    ‘You’re kidding me….who is crazy enough to be near the river?’ He began heading back towards his cottage when another flash of lighting lit the sky and the sound of splitting wood was heard. In one swift motion he opened the door, threw Wilderwind inside, and raced towards the water. He was panting when he arrived to the sight of wreckage. Some kind of cart train had fishtailed and fallen over the bridge. In the water, a woman with green tipped brown hair was flailing and struggling to stay afloat. He tried shouting to her, but to no avail. She had gone limp and was at the mercy of the river. Without thinking, he dove in after her and swam in her direction as fast as he could. Gripping her under the shoulders, he pulled her towards the shore.

    When the two were finally on land once more, Drake quickly assessed the damages. He quickly detected a pulse, and breathed a small sigh of relief knowing she was still alive, but unless he acted fast she wouldn’t be alive for much longer. Placing the heels of his palms just under her breasts, he delivered a series of rapid chest compressions. After what felt like an eternity she sputtered and vomited river water on herself and him, eyes slowly opening.

    “Can you walk?” Drake shouted over the rain. The woman simply looked at him, dazed, before vomiting once more.

    ‘No time...this storm is getting worse. I gotta get her somewhere safe.’

    Drake hoisted her over his back, his shoulders supporting her weight as he slowly made his way through the rain and back home. It was slow going, but after about an hour he finally managed to throw the door open and set her down in the kitchen. Blaz ran down, a panicked expression painted on his face and a visibly upset Wilderwind on his shoulder. Wasting no time, Drake barked out orders.

    “Get the box I have in the closet off the kitchen, I think she might have a head wound.”

    Blaz nodded and ran to the closet, grabbing the first aid box as Drake checked the woman’s head over. Sure enough, there was blood leading to a small wound on the back of her head. He applied pressure to the spot as he slowly wrapped her wound and forehead in cloth bandaging. Once he was done, he wiped the sweat and rain from his brow and handed the bandages back to Blaz, who returned the case back to its original home. Drake looked the woman over carefully, checking for any other injuries before attempting to communicate once more.

    “Are you alright, miss?”

    “I-I’m...I’m alright,” she sputtered out, coughing and shivering violently in her seat. Drake recoiled in fear that she might once again cover his boots in vomit, but none came. Blaz sat quietly behind them, observing. “Where am I, e-exactly?”

    “My studio. I snatched you outta that river before it beat you up too bad, but you still have a nasty spot on the back of your head you need to watch for a bit. Heh, I guess you can call me….Drake the Hero or something, huh?” He laughed at the absurdity….though he couldn’t help be straighten his posture slightly upon saying it.

    “Is that your name? Drake?”

    “Yes ma’am. Drake, the finest swordsman in Petrea, at your service!” He stifled another giggle. A few self-servicing remarks weren’t so bad every so often, right? He met her gaze, taking note of her remarkable emerald eyes. “I’d guess with eyes like those you aren’t Petrean….though you are definitely no Elysian, either. What’s your name, stranger?”

    “My name? M-my name is Alani.”

    There was hesitation in her voice, and upon reveal of her name it all clicked in Drake’s head. He smiled and reached out his hand.

    “I guess I need to reintroduce myself then, princess,” Drake rose, and proudly bowed, “I’m Drake, prince of Petrea.”
     
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