The Legend of Shining Force 2
written by Moogie (1997-2001, still not finished!)
~Please Select a Chapter~
           
Nightmares in the Storm
"No!", I screamed as the windows rattled in the storm. Sweating, I awoke to find that it had only been a dream. No, not a dream: a nightmare. Nothing that terrible could ever happen in the peaceful town of Granseal. Why, Grans Island must be full of places to have adventures, but not this town. Not Granseal. A quiet and boring life where nothing exciting ever happens, unless that is, you count the opening of a new pet shop. Sometimes a soldier from Galam would pass through here to collect supplies. Maybe even a messenger with news for the King... but never anything of interest for me and my friends.
"Bowie!", my mother called. I pretended not to hear her. It had been a rainy night and my sleep was frequently interrupted. School was the one thing I just couldn't face today.
"Bowie! You're up early this morning... good, you'll be at school on time today! Sir Astral's been angry about all these late mornings... it's just as if you don't care..." but before she could finish the sentence, I was out of the door. Even going to school was preferable to listening to my mother. I heard her voice as I left the house: "Bowie? Bowie! Come back here right now..."
As usual, Jaha wasn't at school when I arrived. I couldn't even see old Sir Astral anywhere, but Sarah and Chester were there. Just like Sarah to be there on time... Sir Astral's Star Pupil. She was the same age as me and already training to be a priest! What sort of a profession is that? I'd much rather be a Hero, out fighting the evil hordes of Darkness like in the Legend of Max and the Shining Force. What it would be to have my own Shining Force! Well, a boy can dream. Chester, well, let's just say he's strong in the body and not quite so strong in the head. Never mastered any magic, but really kicks butt in a fight, and I mean that quite literally, because he's a centaur.
Getting tired of waiting, I went downstairs to find Sir Astral. He was there, nose buried in a book. I wasn't surprised... he's the King's Advisor and probably the wisest man in the world... wiser than Old Hawel I'll bet. Astral seemed a little concerned about the storm we'd had in the night... mentioned something about a sense of evil. I put it down to his age. Everybody knows that Dark Sol and Dark Dragon were killed years ago... well, those that still believe in them anyway. Most people shrug those tales off as myths, but not me. Those times must have been fun! Journeys and adventures, fighting goblins and demons, now that's what I'd like to do. If I had been born a few centuries ago, I might have been Max and lead the Forces of Light to victory against Runefaust!
I was brought back down to earth by the swift entry of a messenger. He and Astral exchanged words and left abruptly. Amazed by his lack of courtesy to at least tell us where he was going, Chester, Sarah and I started planning. We came to the conclusion that they must have gone to the castle, and so we followed. Sarah came up with a great plan to get us into the heavily guarded Castle of Granseal, and within no time we were inside the thick, grey walls. I wondered to myself how many battles had been fought here... the sieges with arrows flying through the tall thin windows. I didn't know any archers, in fact I don't even think the sport is taught on Grans anymore. One day I'd go to the Main Land and seek adventure and sword fights there!
It wasn't very difficult to find Sir Astral, as there were very few people around the castle to catch us. When we found him, it was obvious why... there was something wrong with King Granseal! He was just lying there in bed, shaking, shaking so terribly! And beside his bed was Princess Elis... so young and fragile, yet her face seemed to have aged beyond years with the knowledge that her father was very ill. I caught Astral's eye and before I could move it was too late. He had me in his gaze, staring at me... probing me. He didn't get a chance to get angry, since the Minister got the first word in. He thought that Sir Astral had sent for us with some special purpose in mind, and that was how it all began...
Of Kings, Towers and Gizmos
Of course, if Astral had said anything to contradict what the Minister assumed, then he would have looked stupid, so he played along, cool, calm and collected:
"Er.... yes! Yes, I brought them here to, er... investigate what's been happening. Yes, that's it,"
he said, with another angry glare directed at me.
"Well kids, we'd better go have a look around the Tower of the Ancients, I'm sure we can work all of this out, if you'll excuse us, Minister."
He didn't say any more to us as we hurriedly walked through the long corridors of Granseal Castle. Drawing near to our destination, Astral paused and drew in a deep breath. He told us to wait outside the tower while he checked it out. While he was checking it out, we had a bit of a wander around outside. Behind the tower I found a strange looking grey rock, which I put in my pocket (and forgot about).
"Okay kids, come on in!", came Sir Astral's voice from within the tower.
He was on his hands and knees, muttering to himself. Sarah walked over to join him,
"Stay back!", Astral warned her, in something close to a whisper.
Sarah, being a goody goody walked back to join me and Chester.
"I've seen this symbol before... I can't remember quite what - "
but before Astral could finish his sentence, the grim reality hit him, and as it did we too knew what was wrong, for before us was something hideous. Despite it's repulsive appearance there was something about it that just made you want to keep looking at it.
"Don't just stand there, do something!", cried Sarah, who was obviously scared. If she had been part of Max's force she wouldn't have lived long. Just as well there was only one evil gizmo there. Why, if it had been more, maybe I would have been scared too. I looked over my shoulder at her and gave her a reassuring smile,
"We can take 'im!", I said with confidence, though I knew that Sir Astral would be the one to do that.
"em", Chester responded.
"What?", I questioned, but as I spoke I saw fear in Chester's eyes.
"em", he said again, nervously, "You said: 'We can take 'im', but it's not just 'im anymore, there's loads of 'em!".
Now I was scared. But, I had to be strong for my two friends. I glanced over at Astral, but he appeared helpless to the powers of the gizmo's, just standing there, staring. It was time for me to take command, or we'd all be dead. Charging into action, I swung my wooden sword in front of me. My attempt was no good though, the gizmo was simply too fast that time, but that wasn't gonna put me off: my friends lives were in danger. I charged again, this time I was more lucky, hitting the gizmo right on, he was stunned for a moment and I took this opportunity to strike him again. I'd never killed before, and I was sure that if I ever did I would feel terrible about it, but it was different this time, I had done it in the name of the Powers of Light and for my friends lives.
Once Chester and Sarah saw my success they were not as scared. Chester was next to join in the fray, and though he didn't manage to kill he did do some serious damage, leaving the enemy vulnerable to another attack from yours truly. However, while my attention was diverted something terrible happened. I heard a scream, and immediately turned to see if Sarah was alright. She was fine, keeping well away from the battle. I wheeled around to see blood all over the ground and as I lifted my head I saw Chester with a huge gash in his rear left leg. But there was nothing I could do for him, we just had to keep going, there were still three gizmos remaining.
I continued to fight, but in the back of my mind I was hoping - praying - that Sarah would help us. Almost as if she had read my mind I saw her rising from the corner of the room to her full height, her arms outstretched in a position I knew meant she was weaving a spell. But what use would that be? She didn't know any attack spells, all she knew were priest spells... heal! So that's what she was doing! She was gonna heal Chester. And not a minute too late either, I could see he'd lost a lot of blood, and it was all he could do just to keep standing, flailing his wooden stick around in hope of hitting something. A flash of light! Sarah had worked her magic and suddenly a new strength seemed to well up inside of Chester. He seemed like a new man... er... horse.... er... Centaur!
Suddenly our prospects of winning looked better, me and Chester were knockin' them out left right and centre and Sarah was on our six, heal at the ready should we need it. Naturally we both got a few cuts and bruises but nothing serious and within a few minutes our first ever battle together was over. I didn't expect there to be any more, well not for us anyway. I mean, we're just a bunch of kids, right?
Possessions and a Proposal
As we were about to leave the tower, Astral (who was okay now) said that he still had an uneasy feeling. We soon dismissed all that though, as we told him all about the fight. This proved to have been a bad idea, as what happened next caught him completely off-guard. As we walked back through the castle the place was in a terrible state and when we found the minister his face was as pale as the sands of Parmecia are said to be. He was trembling as he told us that he had seen a spirit entering the King's body! Astral looked at us and said,
"I thought you told me you killed them all!"
"We did!", Chester protested.
"Well, there's no time to argue now. Minister, take me to the King!"
"At once, Sir Astral.", the Minister replied courteously, and off they went.
The three of us followed, well what else could we do? We knew what was happening, and wanted to hear anything else that might develop. We quietly climbed the staircase to the King's Quarters, where Sir Astral was trying to calm the frenzied monarch. King Granseal was possessed! Astral tried to reason with him, but to no avail. Another approach was necessary. He motioned his hands as if he was about to weave a spell, but out of the corner of his eye he noticed us hiding behind the door. Again, he glared at me and motioned for us to stand back. He began to weave the spell again, whispering some kind of incantation as his hands traced out the intricate motions required for such a high level spell.
In a moment of inspiration I realised why my spell levels never got any higher: it must be to do with the motions. To perform such movements with the fingers to trace out the ancient symbols in the air requires the upmost accuracy. My fingers must be too big! No wonder why it's only girls and scrawny men that seem to master the more difficult spells. Sure, muscley men can cast low level bolts and such, they are simple, but to weave a fire or a snow storm from nothing but the air around is a great skill which I shall never know.
My thoughts were shattered by the final cry of the incantation. A fireball burst from Astral's palm and hit the King! The gizmo left the King's body, but before we could catch it, it had already gone. Exhausted from the fight, Sir Astral collapsed and we aided the King in putting him to bed. King Granseal wanted to wait with Astral for a while, so we agreed to leave. As we made our way back downstairs we heard the Minister's voice. Curious, we went to find out what was happening and were surprised to find soldiers from the army of Granseal in the throne room! The Minister gave them instructions to hunt down the gizmo and not to return without proof that it was dead.
At that moment the King rushed in, red in the face from coming down all those stairs in such a hurry.
"Has the entire army left?!", he asked, breathing heavily.
"Yes, Your Majesty: every last one of them! We'll have that gizmo dead in no time!", replied the Minister.
"Your Majesty?", he enquired.
"Sir Astral's been talking about the Tower of the Ancients. He seems to think there's some link between the door opening and the gizmo's appearing. He wants us to send soldiers to an old historian named Hawel, who lives just past Yeel. You're certain that all of the soldiers have gone on the mission?"
"Yes, Your Majesty. As I said, every last one. Is it a long journey to reach this Hawel?"
"No, not far, but if he knows something about all of this, his life may be in danger and also those of the people who go to get him. But I think I'm seeing a way around this problem..."
"So am I.... Bowie, I know you, and I have heard your two friends did very well against those demons in the Tower....", the Minister looked towards King Granseal, hesitant.
"It's not a difficult mission", said the King, turning to us. "Are you up to it?"
A New Shining Force?
"You bet!!", Chester and I shouted in unison.
Sarah looked concerned. Fighting just wasn't her thing, and we all knew it.
"We need you, Sarah", Chester encouraged.
"I... I don't know...", replied the uncertain Healer.
I walked over to her and clapped her on the back.
"Chester and I will take care of you, are you in?", I asked, hopefully.
Sarah glanced round at the people who were clearly counting on her. I smiled and reminded her, (albeit with a hint of jest) "The fate of the continent hangs in the balance"
Reluctantly she agreed. The room echoed with the exhaling of a half dozen people who had been holding their breath with anticipation. The tension was gone, and if I had my way so too would the threat to our people.
As we left the castle, Astral approached me with a stern look on his face. As he drew nearer however, it became a slight smile.
"Well, you've really done it this time, haven't you, boy? What will your mother say?!" he teased.
My mother! I had forgotten about her... no matter though, once she knew how important this mission was she'd be okay with it. And for once in my life I was right. She bundled me up in some warm clothes and sent me on my way.
I met up with Sarah and Chester later in the day, when we decided to take a wander around the town, in case it was the last time. Going past the docks I noticed some strange green leaves growing on an old empty barrel. I tore them off and put them in a little bag, so that I could show them to Astral and ask what they were. I forgot. Sarah found a store of meat and took a couple of chicken legs in case we got peckish. Once they were salted for preservation she put them in her knapsack.
It was dark as we were about to leave the town, and suddenly a voice came as if from nowhere...
We looked around, then continued to walk.
"I said WAIT!!!", came the voice again.
I felt the air move around me, and noticed a flash of light. And another. Light on metal. An axe! I ducked just in time to avoid my attacker. Chester took an offensive stance. Sarah cowered behind him. Jaha plunged his axe into the ground, clearly annoyed.
"When I say 'wait' I mean stay still!" he growled, but I could tell he wasn't really that angry.
"What are you doing here, shorty?", I teased my friend.
His eyes flared in the darkness, and he raised his axe above his head.
"NEVER call me SHORTY!!!" the dwarf hissed.
I pretended to be scared, just to appease him, "Okay, okay! What are you doing here anyway, bud?"
"I would have asked you the same question if your mother hadn't just told me", he replied, a little less defensive.
I cocked my head, indicating that he should continue.
"I just went to your house and found your mother there alone. She told me that you're off to save the world or something dumb like that."
I resisted the urge to act like a Hero and justify my actions, and instead I just replied: "The King requested that we fetch someone for him, so that's what we're doing."
At least that didn't sound as stupid as what Jaha had said.
"Oh..." said Jaha. I guess I took him down a peg or two.
"So, are you gonna come, or are we just gonna stand here arguing all night?" I asked, getting impatient by this point.
"Well, if the arguing all night's an option..." said the dwarf, who always enjoyed winding people up.
"NO!" I said, in a hushed, but serious tone.
I gestured to Chester and Sarah, who were now sitting down chatting quietly. They rose and we started off at a fair pace. Jaha stood where he was. We walked on further, out of the town gates. Looking back, I saw a stumpy little fellow trying to catch up. Maybe I would become a leader of a great Force after all!
Large Vermin and Piles of Goo
The terrain was easy and so we walked through most of the night, until the world went black, and then we rested. As dawn began to break I could hear the sound of Jaha sharpening his axe. His look was intense, and I could see that nothing could distract him from his task. He always loved his axe, ever since he got it. Of course he never thought he'd have a chance to use it, and perhaps even then he didn't think he would. But, this was more than just a fetching mission. This was important!
Then the world went quiet. Not even the sound of the axe blade being sharpened. Sarah turned her head quickly but silently. Terror appeared in her eyes, and she nudged Chester who was still dozing beside her. He started and was about to yell when I reached out and covered his mouth. Something wasn't right here. Even at this time of year birds should be singing. Jaha's look was still intense, but now he was listening. A scratching sound was faintly audible. And a strange sound like none I'd ever heard, a kind of slimy, bubbling sound.
And then they came. Two... no, three... no, four things which could only be described as puddles of Ooze. But that wasn't all, oh no! Scurrying along behind them were a couple of Huge Rats. Maybe they wouldn't spot us. If we just stayed low to the ground...
"RRRRRRRRRRRRRRrrrrrrrrrrrrraaaaahhhh!!!!", boomed Jaha's war cry!
Sssshhhllllluuurrrrppp went the Ooze as bits of it went everywhere.
Wiping some of the blue goo from his face, Jaha screamed out: "Anyone else wanna play? Or are y'all scared I'll give you a fatal blow too?!"
While Jaha was showing off, a Rat had crept up on him and was about to lunge at his knees. I put a stop to that with a swift swing of my wooden sword. Well, I almost put a stop to it... the Rat turned it's now-bruised head, leapt and bit me on the shoulder. I gripped the wound and started to kick the Rat. After a few kicks it went limp, lifeless.
While this was happening, Jaha had wasted another two of those blobs. He was covered in goo, which seemed to be weighing him down or something, as he didn't look so good. Chester was trying to poke a Rat to death with his stick, but was failing badly. I glanced back at Sarah and whistled. She slowly rose to her feet (having been too frightened to fight) and began to weave a heal spell. I pointed to Jaha, and she threw the spell his way. What we needed now was metal, and he was the one who had it. The goo dropped from Jaha and he leapt into the air, landing beside the other bruised Rat. With a swift blow he cleaved it's head right off, then wiped the blood off his axe onto his clothes.
Just one more of the gooey things left now. I decided that Chester needed a chance to fight and that I should hold off while Sarah healed me. As I have said before, Chester isn't too strong in the head, and in looking for the blob, he accidentally stepped in it. Not quite the death I had in mind for it, but quite effective nonetheless. So, with all the beasts dead and all of us healed (if a little tired), I now had time to ask Jaha something which had been bothering me...
"Why the heck did you leap on them, when we could've just hidden?!!" I asked, almost angry.
"No-one, and I mean NO-ONE disturbs me and my axe!", he replied, calmly.
Another town, another friend
There was no point in us trying to get any more sleep, it was light already and we were all feeling a little hungry after the battle. The four of us found a sheltered spot and sat down to tuck into those chicken legs Sarah had brought. She took them out and though there wasn't much meat on them, she was happy to share. We, however, were not. She was clearly exhausted from using so much magic, and from walking so far (besides, she's only a girl!) and so as true gentlemen, we let her eat the lot. We decided to stop at the nearby town of Yeel to pick up some food for the rest of us later on. For some strange reason, after eating the chicken, Sarah said that she felt like running all the way to Hawel's, then back again... maybe it was just me, but I could have sworn that she was walking much faster than usual as we continued our journey to find old Sir Hawel.
It didn't take us long to get to Yeel, and on arrival we found most of the townspeople were still in bed. Bed... wouldn't it be nice to be back in my warm, comfy bed again? Still, our mission was important and besides, it shouldn't take too long to fetch the old man for the King. Little did I know how wrong I could be!
We wandered around the town awhile to see if there was anyone around who might be able to give us more precise directions to old Hawel's house. While looking, we noticed that Jaha wasn't around. He must've gone off to look by himself, so the rest of us had to sit and wait for him. Trust him to keep the rest of us waiting around. Who did he think we were? Schoolteachers?!
"Hello there", came a voice from behind us. It was not Jaha.
I turned quickly, to see a tall young man, cloaked in brown. Although his face was hidden by his dark robe, his eyes glowed bright green through the shadows: not an eerie green, more of a reassuring green.
"Yes?", I responded, wondering who this stranger was and what he wanted with us.
"There is no cause for alarm", the main said serenely, "I am Kazin, a student of Sir Hawel. The man has great powers, and though they fade as the years go by, he assured me you were coming... and here you are! Shall we go?"
Amazed at what I was hearing, and somewhat shocked, my tongue turned to jelly in my mouth, and all I could utter was,
"Uh....um...er.... yes... I mean no! I mean... uh, my friend..."
"The dwarf? Oh, he'll be here shortly", the mage assured us.
And so he was, and hot on his has was an angry-looking villager.
"GIVE ME BACK MY SEEDS!!!" yelled the man.
Jaha continued to run.
"You sneaky little thief! Just be glad you weren't here when those soldiers came through town earlier... I'd've reported you right away and your thieving days would be over!"
"Ppppllluughhhhhh!!!", wobbled Jaha's tongue, as the man stood in an alley shaking his fist and muttering under his breath.
"Are you quite finished?" said Kazin, almost impatiently.
All attention had been on Jaha, and now, turning to face Kazin we saw that he had pulled the hood of his cloak down. His hair was long and golden (maybe one day I'll have hair like that), and though his face was young, his bright green eyes held the wisdom and knowledge of many years. It must be an honour to learn from the wise old Hawel, and I was certainly looking forward to meeting him.
Jaha, however, was not impressed at being spoken to like that. His eyes were scrunched up, his hands gripped his axe firmly and his mouth bore a scowl like no other. I could tell that the next leg of our journey was going to be an interesting one. Chester dragged his hooves on the ground impatiently. Sarah was trying not to laugh at Jaha. Kazin just stood there, silent.
"Let's move!", I encouraged my friends.
"Hhhmmmph....", grumbled the irate Jaha, under his breath.
Mystery, Magic and More Monsters
All around us were trees... big trees. Kazin, who clearly knew the area well, strode confidently into their midst. The rest of us followed, somewhat reluctantly into this eerie forest. Sarah just wouldn't give any of us any peace... she kept on 'seeing things' moving in the trees, or seeing eyes in the darkness...
"There it is again!", she whispered in a panic.
By this time there was no point in trying to reassure her. She had said the same thing at least a dozen times and we were starting to get sick of it. We all just turned and glared, well, all of us except Kazin that is. He was just far too friendly, and said he'd walk beside her if it made her feel more comfortable. Mentioned something about setting the monsters on fire if they went near her.
Whhhhhhoooooooossssshhhhhh! This time we all heard it. A slow, whispering sound through the trees, as of something flying. But it couldn't be. Sarah had just made us all paranoid, there was nothing to worry about! We continued to walk, perhaps picking up the pace a little however.
BOOM! A somewhat frazzled looking bat fell out of a tree. Sarah stood beside it, gibbering like an idiot. Kazin grinned.
"Sorry friends, I thought I should get rid of that one before it became a nuisance", the mage told us, still grinning. "Did I forget to tell you about the bats around here?"
Jaha scowled even more, and I'm sure that under his breath he was growling. He turned just in time to see the large rat that was about to leap at him and to see Chester kick the rat into a tree. We all looked up at where it landed, and decided that it certainly wouldn't be coming down from there for a while.
Chester whinnied loudly, "Any more for any more?!!"
Clearly he had enjoyed that immensely, and as if to answer his question, another rat came out from the undergrowth ahead of us, along with three more of those gooey blobs.
"You know what to do", I told my friends. They proved that they did.
The familiar sound of Jaha's war cry rang throughout the forest as his axe turned a pile of goo into, well, several less lively looking piles of goo.
Chester, caught up in the moment, plunged his wooden stick into another slimy mess and swirled it around. Swinging the goo-covered stick above his head, he lashed at the air with it and sent the monster to a rather leafy demise.
I was about to go for the other rat, when from behind I heard the roaring of flames. Kazin's eyes were shut tight and his fingers were weaving what looked like a fireball. I jumped to one side to clear his path. Kazin pulled back one arm, then hurled the fireball at the unsuspecting rodent.
A sort of "Skreeeeeeeeeek!" sound came from the general vicinity of of what was now a burning mass. I sincerely hoped that Jaha might learn from this, and decide not to hold a grudge against our new friend Kazin for much longer.
Right, only one monster left to go now, but once again I was beaten to it, this time by... Sarah! What kind of damage could a healer such as herself do? She stood a short distance away from the blob, and began to motion her hands in a way we'd never seen before. Kazin stood close by, looking on hopefully. He winked at us.
We all saw Sarah's face drop as she finished the motions and nothing happened. The goo was getting nearer to her, so I rushed in and pushed her out of the way. Turning, I found the goo was almost on me, so I kicked it it back, then with a mighty swing, I hit it with my wooden sword, and the goo was no more. It kind broke down into lots of little bits of goo, and sank into the ground. And that was that.
A sad end and a new beginning
Jaha was fuming. Chester was not overly impressed. Myself, well I was curious and Sarah, let's say she was more than a little disappointed.
"Why did you just stand there?!" Jaha shouted at Kazin.
Kazin looked puzzled. "When?" he questioned.
"Just then... you just stood there while that lump of goo was about to attack Sarah. What were you thinking?!", he almost screamed, though he was clearly pleased to have been given this opportunity to yell at the new guy.
"Oh, then!" replied the mage. "While we were walking through the woods I tried to teach Sarah a new spell which could come in handy. I call it 'Blast'..."
"...but I guess I haven't quite mastered it yet," finished Sarah. "Give me time and I'll get it right."
"Sure you will," said Kazin, comfortingly, "and I just know it will come in handy sometime!"
Chester was dragging his hooves again. "Isn't it time we were going?", the centaur asked.
"I think so" replied Jaha, through gritted teeth, "I've had enough of this trouble maker, the sooner we get to Hawel's, the sooner we can ditch him!", he finished, staring at Kazin.
Kazin's face feigned a hurt look, then he brightened up and, grinning that broad grin of his, responded:
"Watch it, stumpy, or I'll turn you into a frog!"
At this point our dwarven friend could not take it any more... he stormed off into the forest, and after a few loud noises of metal whacking wood, he emerged again. He grumbled under his breath as we continued on our way.
After what seemed to be a very short walk we came upon a kind of glen, in the middle of which stood a fair-sized building with smoke coming out of the chimney. This must be the place!
"Something doesn't feel right" said our new friend.
Chester looked around. "It's too quiet." the centaur agreed.
Kazin approached the door nearest to us and knocked.
"Master Hawel?" he asked, "can we come in Sir? It's Kazin and your visitors."
Kazin opened the door and gasped.
"You? You're not supposed to be back yet!" came a gruff voice from inside. Surely this could not be the voice of wise old Hawel?
"STOP!!!" yelled Kazin, dashing inside.
We ran in after him, just in time to see two heavily armed soldiers fleeing through the back door. Turning, I saw Kazin kneeling beside a body slumped on the floor.
"Master Hawel! Oh Sir, what have they done to you?", the mage said, with tears welling in his eyes as he spoke, "Sarah, I need your help!"
Sarah approached Kazin and his master, slowly. Looking at her face I could tell this this situation needed magic far more powerful than she possessed. She touched Kazin's shoulder, and he turned to see her slowly shaking her head.
"Groundseal...", came a whisper from the old man's throat.
"What?" Kazin turned to his master, "What about it?"
"My notes..... they took them..... all of them.... my... notes...", came the response, fainter this time.
I whispered to Kazin, "Ground Seal has opened... can your master tell us anything more?"
"I may be almost dead, but... I can still... hear you!", Hawel croaked. "But, how can this be? ... If this ... is true.... Grans Island is lost! .... The tower...... the tower confines the most terrible... of devils. ... Two jewels.... two...", the man coughed, clearly struggling. "Two jewels were... installed.... ... This was not supposed .... to happen!"
"Master, hush now", Kazin pleaded, "If you keep talking you'll die!"
"Don't be stupid, Kazin... I'm going to die anyway! Now.... listen to me.... my student..... you..... you must find....... the jewels... to seal..... ancient........", the man's voice trailed off into silence. His eyes closed and his head sank to one side.
He was gone.
We stood, silent. Kazin wept openly, it may have been grief, but equally it may have been anger at the soldiers who had done this to his beloved master.
"Master! No! Don't leave me!", the mage cried.
Sarah hugged him, trying to comfort him. Eventually he said to us:
"Bowie, my master's last wish was for me to find the two jewels.... this ties in with your quest, does it not? Please allow me to join you, to fulfill my master's wish!"
How could I refuse him? After all, he seemed to be a nice enough guy, and Jaha would get used to him eventually.
"Of course", I replied. "We're happy to have you, my friend."
Kazin tried to muster a grin.
"I think it's time we left this place", he said with a sigh.
"So do I, my friend, so do I".
Soldiers and Lemons
"Greetings, Granseal scum!" rang a voice throughout the forest.
Startled, I turned, and in the distance I could make out a red, armoured figure. Jaha wasted no time in readying his axe. He was always ready for a fight.
Tears of anger welled in Kazin's eyes once again.
"Look!" he shouted, pointing at another small group of figures, "those are the men who killed my master!"
Chester suddenly sprung into action -
"CHA-A-A-A-R-GE!!!" the knight shouted, levelling his stick as best he could from this distance, and running straight at the guy in red.
The man in red sank back behind his men, and shouted, "I want them ALIVE, remember!", and hastily retreated to safety.
Chester had not expected this (well I did say he's not too strong in the head, didn't I?), and on reaching the spot where the red soldier had been, was faced with a tough decision - what to do now?!
Three soldiers closed on him, and with lightning speed our knight kicked out with his back legs, knocking two of them down. The third soldier took a swing at him, and although he tried to dodge, he still suffered a slight cut on his right shoulder. This disabled his lance (well, stick) arm, but it didn't matter too much because by this point the rest of us had made it across the forest and were ready to deal out some punishment.
I was about to attack the third soldier, when something sharp hit me in the arm - an arrow. I yelled to Jaha, "Archers amongst the trees!".
Instantly, the stumpy little man ran into the forest, swinging his axe wildly, with a look of glee upon his round face.
"Go get yourself cleaned up", Kazin called to me, "I can handle that soldier scum!"
The mage raised himself up to his full height and strode, eyes blazing, towards the soldier (who, oddly just stood there, seemingly mesmerised).
"You! Why did you kill my master?", the mage said, with an anger like no other in his voice.
The soldier said nothing.
"I asked you a question!", insisted the usually peaceful man.
Still no reply.
Kazin did not ask again. He lifted his arms and traced the age-old motions in the air with his wand-like fingers. From nothing more than the air around him, our newest addition summoned a wall of fire so bright and so hot that Volcanon himself must've been able to see it!
Slowly, the wall of flames moved towards the soldier who was by now paralysed with fear. As it engulfed his body he screamed in agony then fell, as ashes, to the ground. The two soldiers who still lay unconscious on the ground, well, we'll never know whether they felt the pain, but they certainly ended up in the same state as Kazin's first human victim.
There was a grim satisfaction in the mage's tone as he dryly stated, "I think my blaze spell just got better."
Doubtless, it had.
While Kazin had been dealing with the soldiers, Sarah was busy healing both myself and Chester. As for Jaha, well, all we know is that there was a lot of noise coming from the forest, and then a few minutes later our dwarven fighter emerged with a bloodied axe in his hand, and a broad grin on his face. In his other hand were some arrows, snapped in two.
"Like these would be a match for this!", the dwarf said mockingly, holding his beloved axe with pride.
We didn't ask what had happened to the archers. I don't think any of us really wanted to know.
Victorious again! This journey was turning out to be more of an adventure than I'd expected.
"Everyone ready to go?" I asked my force.
"Swooooosh!" came the combined sound of a giant bat swooping at Jaha, and of his axe cleaving the bat in two.
"I am, now", shouted the dwarf, oblivious to the second bat coming at him from behind.
"Duck!" shouted Kazin at the dwarf.
"Huh?" responded Jaha, turning to the mage. He turned just enough to avoid the fireball Kazin was hurling towards the offending monster.
The bat burst into flames, and for the first time in my life, I saw fear in Jaha's eyes. He looked at Kazin and it seemed as though his feelings towards the mage may have changed a touch. This was certainly not a bad thing.
"Thump!" came a sound from behind me - not another one?! This time, Sarah had managed to give it a wallop, sending it headfirst to the ground. Finally, I got a taste of the action, and went in for the kill.... with my wooden sword. It was at this point I realised that we'd soon all be in need of better weapons if this adventure was to go much further.
The battle over, we turned to one-another, exhausted, and said - in unison - "Onwards!"
"Not so fast!" came a voice from up ahead. The guy in red armour had returned. Great.
"I must praise you, Granseal Force. Your battle tactics are quite impressive for such inexperienced soldiers. It almost saddens me that I must now imprison you!" said the man. I wasn't sure if he was mocking us or not, and I didn't have time to decide either - one of his accompanying soldiers rushed at me, and the last thing I remember seeing was his fist.... heading towards my face.
Then there was darkness.
An unjust imprisonment
I awoke to the sound of Sarah's voice, she was talking with someone whose voice I did not recognise.
"...but what could King Galam want with Ground Seal?", the stranger's voice replied to Sarah.
King Galam... hmm, could we be in Galam?
"This prison is a dump!", came yet another unfamiliar voice.
Prison? Galam Prison? What on Rune were we doing there? I groaned - my head still hurt.
"Bowie! You're alive!" exclaimed Sarah, but I could not see her. I assumed she was in another cell.
"We're discussing Ground Seal," said Jaha, "come join in."
I slowly got out of bed, only to fall flat on my face.
"Owww", I groaned. No-one had told me there was a stool beside my bed.
I started to get up, when I noticed something pink under the stool. Looked like a pair of sandals. Someone must've left them there. I picked them up, then went to sit beside my friend Jaha to hear what they had been discussing.
"It must be the Jewels", said Sarah through the cell wall.
"Mmmmm", agreed Jaha, "whoever stole those Jewels is to blame for all these terrible things!"
"Why would Galam, one of our allies, be going to war with us?", pondered Chester.
War? That was the first I'd heard about any war. I must've missed that part. My mother! Would she be safe?
"We can't just stay here", I piped up, frustrated.
"We need to escape", agreed Jaha.
"But how?", Sarah asked, "we're just kids!"
"We're more than just kids now, Sarah", I said, intensely, "We're more strong than people think... we're... we're..."
"The new Shining Force", concluded Kazin, Chester and Jaha altogether.
A hushed voice came from the cell next-door.
"I can get you out", he whispered, "I'm Slade, a thief... just a moment..."
Silence followed, interrupted only by the sounds of Slade utilising his skills as a lock-picker. Within seconds he was outside our cell door, doing the same to ours as he had done to his own. The wire rattled in the lock, which promptly opened. Quietly, the rat opened the door, and urgently whispered to us: "Go on! Hurry home and save them!"
Sarah then came through to us from the cell next door with quite an unusual look on her face. It was half happy, but half suspicious. She turned to the rat, and asked none-too-politely:
"Why are you helping us?"
A Pearshaped Gesture
Sarah's voice echoed around the prison. Slade shuffled his feet, but said nothing.
"It was you, wasn't it?", Sarah accused.
Chester looked puzzled.
Jaha brandished his axe.
Kazin smiled, knowingly...
...and then I understood.
Before she could say another word, I voiced my thought:
"So, he's the thief that stole the Jewels!"
Slade turned to me, glanced at our axe-weilding ally, and - whiskers twitching nervously - said,
"You got me..."
Sarah and Kazin struggled to hold the enraged Jaha back.
"...but it's not what you think", continued the rat, "the Jewels weren't for me!"
"What did you do with them?", growled Jaha, through gritted teeth.
Sarah butted in -
"Haven't you heard the tales, Jaha? Oh, probably not - we were told them in morning lessons at school, sleepy head! The thief Slade is not just a common thief, he steals from the rich to give to the poor. I guess taking the Jewels was just a mistake, he didn't mean any harm."
Slade opened his mouth to reply, but was cut short by another growl from Jaha.
"Do you realise the trouble you've caused? The whole world is in danger, and it's all because of you. It's your fault".
Unable to contain his rage any longer, our sturdy friend broke free of Sarah and Kazin's arms and leapt towards the thief.
Unexpectedly finding himself falling into and Sarah, Kazin blushed as he straightened himself out.
Meanwhile, Jaha found himself in a spot of bother, having thrown himself at ‘the enemy', only to be pushed away - and straight into the wall - by Slade's lightning fast reactions.
Rubbing his head, Jaha got up, ready for another tackle - but thought better of it, and sank back into the shadows to sulk.
"That was amazing!", I exclaimed, "you know some pretty neat moves, my friend!"
"Friend?", questioned Slade, "I thought you all hated me because of what I've done. Well, love me or hate me, I'm coming with you. The great thief Slade never allows a wrong to go un-righted!". A grin appeared on the thief's face.
"Follow me...", he whispered, and then vanished.
A Daring Escape
"He's fast", said Chester, always the first to state the obvious.
"Where did he go?", Sarah sounded concerned.
"Down there", grumbled Jaha, "he knocked that table to one side - there's a hole. I say we cover it back over and leave him down there".
"...and what good will that go us?", queried Kazin, in his usual, calm voice, "it certainly doesn't help us escape now, does it?".
Even in the shadows, I could see Jaha's face glowing red as his anger once again flared up. It would seem the incident with the bat was now forgotten, and Jaha's dislike for our serene mage had returned.
To resolve the situation, I decided we should vote on our next step.
"All in favour of following Slade, say 'aye'".
"AYE!", came the response, along with a slight grumble.
"Then it's settled, down we go!"
"It looks dark down there, maybe I can light it up with a little magic", Sarah pondered.
"Okay Sarah, you can go first". I would have expected her to object, but she put up no arguments and began to climb down the hole. One at a time, we followed her. Chester went last, and even then with some difficulty!
"What took you so long?", the rat snapped at us.
We said nothing, as Slade turned and began marching down the dim tunnel. As Sarah walked by, the light from her spell reflected off something shiny in the rock. I had a quick look and found a lump of some kind of metal, very much like the one I'd found earlier at the tower. Stashing the find in my pocket, I moved on with the rest of my force.
The tunnel was not long, and we soon reached a rickity old ladder. Chester muttered something under his breath about 'centaurs not being designed for these sorts of things...', clearly annoyed at the feats we were forcing his equestrian body to perform. With a small struggle, we all made it up the ladder and found ourselves in a store room in the castle of King Galam.
I sat down on a barrel for a moment, only then realising just how famished I was... not to mention thirsty.
"Since we missed the gourmet delights of the prison menu tonight, we should see what we can scrounge up around here", Slade suggested.
It must have been the main storeroom for the castle's kitchens, because we found nothing less than a feast there. If only all the meals during our adventure had been so delicious!
Our merriment was short-lived however, as our banquet was cut short by a voice resounding through the tunnel:
"The prisoners have escaped!"