|Blessed Book 1: Son of Wrath
Author: Streak566 PM
I'm weird. Being a Blessed will do that to ya (though, being the son of a powerful mafia boss probably doesn't help too much). Being a Blessed means you're a very special kid with very special abilities. But I've recently found out there's so much more to it than that. There's a whole secret side to this world I once thought I knew so well. And I'm gonna get to the bottom of it.Rated: Fiction T - English - Adventure/Supernatural - Chapters: 14 - Words: 154,518 - Reviews: 51 - Favs: 6 - Follows: 12 - Updated: 05-14-13 - Published: 10-12-12 - id: 3065039
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
Hello, minions! First off, I'd like to say that I'm just so, SO sorry for the REALLY late update, and I'd like to promise you that it'll never happen again. I'd like to, but unfortunately, I can't. See, what happened with the delay of this chapter is since the second quarter of high school started last week, I've been swamped with homework and projects, and between that and practicing parkour on the weekends, writing hasn't been very easy. In addition, my birthday was last week (FUCK YEAH!), so I was celebrating with my family and friends. Plus, Assassin's Creed III came out last week as well, and being the gamer that I am, I had to get all over that (I'm at least halfway through the game so far, and I'm LOVING it!). Also, contrary to popular belief, I DO have a social life, and it DOES need attention. And on top of all that, my older and younger brothers have recently come down with some kind of sickness (we think it's Mountain Spotted Fever, but we're not sure), and I've been taking care of them- and between you and me, I think I may have caught the disease, because I've been coughing a lot and I have a perpetual headache. My point is, my life has been pretty hectic lately, and to be honest, I'm pretty sure it's only gonna get even more so. But I'm gonna try my absolute hardest to get these chapters up as quickly as I can, so please, bear with me. I know you're used to weekly updates by now, but please...think of the children...
P.S: As promised, here are the review replies!
- MSanderwich: Thanks! The story is really fun to write, too. And yeah, I like to incorporate a healthy amount of pop culture into my writing. I love it when other authors do that in their books (Rick Riordan is a great example), so I figured I'd do the same. Apparently, it's working out well!
- Guest (10/29/12): Holy crap! Thayer was right about the fangirls! ASSEMBLE, MY PUPPETS!
- JSmith: Smith, you just went and boosted my confidence, which wasn't so great an idea. Trust me, you do NOT want me any more conceited than I already am...
- JThayer: We here at Blessed, Inc. do not condone insane behavior, nor do we condone the feelings of awkwardness between a man and his sister that are the result of being caught engaging in said behavior. We do, however, find it fucking hilarious.
Part Two - Road Trip
Chapter 4: My Mission, Should I Choose to Accept It
I rode the elevator straight to the top of the parking garage.
For the entire ride upward, I kept my mind completely clear, not letting a single thought enter it. It was more of an instinctive thing than an intentional one; as a child, I'd been trained to keep my emotions in check, since there was a direct connection between them and my powers. Being angry was especially dangerous, because I ran the risk of completely losing control of my flames. As I got older, it became less and less of a problem, but it still wasn't a good idea to make me mad.
The elevator doors slid open, and I stepped out onto the roof of the parking garage. Though the sun was already relatively high in the sky, the morning air was freezing cold. I strode over to the edge of the roof and looked down over the little section of NYC that I lived in, which was already alive with the chatter of bustling pedestrians and the impatient honking of car horns. I took a deep breath, backed up a bit, and leaped off the edge, allowing myself to fall a few feet before igniting flames at my boots and Jetting away from the building.
Jetting in broad daylight was extremely reckless and risky, since the chances of me being spotted by some random person were much greater than if it were night, which is why I almost never did it. At the time, however, I really didn't care about any of that; I just wanted to get away from HQ so I take some time to cool off.
I'm honestly not sure how long I soared through the sky- probably somewhere between 15 minutes and half an hour- but at some point, I began to feel exhausted, so I found an empty parking lot and landed there. Figuring that a single teenager hanging out in an unpopulated parking lot would strike most people as shady, I made my way to the sidewalk and joined the crowd of pedestrians that flowed up and down the sidewalks.
The thing about Jetting is it tends to make me hungry, so when I spotted a McDonald's, I wasted no time making my way to the doors. I waited in line for what felt like forever, but when I finally got my chance to order, I asked for six large Big Mac combos, which surprised the dude behind the counter.
"Are you positive that's what you want?" he asked, using a probably unintentionally condescending voice that made me feel like a child. "That's an awful lot of food."
"I'm hungry," I answered tersely.
The guy smiled at me, which only manged to tick me off even more. "Be that as it may, your order is large enough to feed at least five adults. Perhaps your eyes got a little bigger than your stomach, hmm?"
"No, they didn't," I replied in a slightly irate tone. "Trust me, I have a big appetite. Here." I reached into my wallet, pulled out a $50 bill, and slid it across the counter.
The man glanced at the bill for a moment, then looked back at me, that annoying smile still on his face. "I'm sure you do, but-"
I lost my patience before he could finish. I reached across the counter and grabbed his collar, pulling his head down so it was level with me. "Look, stronzo," I snarled, my tiny hint of an Italian accent slipping into my voice, "I'm in a bad mood, and you're putting me in a worse one. Now, listen closely: You're gonna take my order, and then, unless your next words are 'would you like fries with that?', you're going to shut the hell up. And if I don't see six meals in my hands within the next five minutes, someone's gonna get stabbed. Capisce?"
The man, who looked satisfactorily horrified, nodded silently before clumsily stuffing my money in the cash register and rushing toward the kitchen.
"Cazzo stupido," I said under my breath as I jammed my hands in my pockets and waited for my food. By then, everyone who wasn't already staring at me had their gazes fixed in my direction. Normally, I would've ignored it, but I was feeling particularly pissed off, so I turned and growled at them. Suddenly, everyone found their food or the window or their wallet extremely fascinating.
As per my request (I suppose some would call it a demand), I walked out of the McDonald's with three bags in my grasp, each holding two meals. I walked down the street for a little bit, looking for a place to eat, before coming across a small park. It was filled with little kids playing with each other and laughing, which wasn't surprising, seeing as how it was Saturday. Despite the wary and suspicious looks I received from the parents, who chatted close by as their children played, I walked into the park and took a seat on a bench that was located on the opposite side, far from everyone else.
I was halfway through my second Big Mac when I heard something rustling behind me. My ears twitched as I tried to tune them in to the sound, but it had disappeared, so I ignored it and continued eating. However, 30 seconds later, I heard the noise again, so I stood up and turned around just in time to see a figure disappear behind a tree. Setting my food down, I cautiously walked toward the tree. Slowly and silently, I moved around the tree to the back to find...
A little girl.
She sat huddled against the tree trunk, her arms wrapped around her knees. She appeared haggard and weary, and her clothes were in full of holes. She wore a tattered blue skirt, worn-out white sneakers, and a torn white t-shirt that looked like it was a couple sizes too big. Her unruly blonde hair was a rat's nest that fell all the way to her ankles, and she looked up at me with big golden eyes filled with fear.
I was kind of surprised to see her at first- to be honest, I was expecting another Nightmare- but I quickly got over it and put on a warm, friendly smile. "Hey," I greeted her.
"H-hi," she replied, her terrified little voice barely above a whisper.
I crouched down so I could talk to her eye-to-eye. "My name's Ignis. What's yours?"
The girl hid her face behind her knees. "A-Artemis."
"Artemis, huh?" I repeated. "Okay, Artemis, you hungry?"
Artemis nodded slowly.
"Well, I've got some burgers and fries. C'mon, we'll split them." I stood up and held my hand out to her, and she yelped and flinched, covering her head with her arms.
"P-please...don't h-hurt me," she squeaked, and I saw tears begin to stream down her cheeks.
I frowned, confused by her response. "What...? I'm not gonna hurt you. I just want to share my food with you."
Artemis peeked at me from behind her arms. "...Really?" she sniffled.
I gave her a reassuring smile. "Of course."
Slowly and hesitantly, Artemis took my hand, and I pulled her to her feet. When I felt her hand, I found that it was freezing cold, and I realized that she was shivering. Not surprising, seeing as how it was 45 degrees out there, and her clothes had pretty much lost all ability to supply warmth. "Here," I said, shrugging my jacket off and handing it to her. "Take it."
The girl looked up at me with a slightly confused expression, almost as if she were trying to determine if I was tricking her. Finally, she took my jacket and wrapped it around her shoulders. "Th-thank you."
I led her to the bench that I was sitting at and pulled a burger and fries from one of the bags and gave it to her. She devoured the thing in less than a minute.
"Whoa," I muttered as I gave her another meal. "And I thought I was a messy eater."
Artemis started in on her burger, this time eating less ravenously. She looked really thin, and I got to wondering what could have happened to her for her to end up like this.
I grabbed some fries from the bag and stuffed them into my mouth. "So, Artie- can I call you Artie?"
Artemis paused for a moment, then nodded and returned to her burger.
"Alright then, how old are you, Artie?"
"Five," she mumbled.
"Where are your parents?"
Artemis was quiet for a few seconds. "...I don't have any parents..."
That took me by surprise. "Then who looks after you?"
I fell silent for a few minutes as I thought about that. The concept of a little six year-old girl living alone was truly saddening. She really had no one watching out for her? No one at all? Even I had my dad and the Salvatore. They're not exactly your average, conventional family, but they were something. Artemis didn't have anybody.
Suddenly, Artemis stopped eating and set down her burger. "They're here," she whispered.
"Who's here?" I asked, my train of thought broken.
Tears began to form in Artemis's eyes as she stood up. "I brought them here. I put you in danger. I'm sorry."
I scowled, trying understand what she was saying. "What are you talking about?"
Just then, a shadow fell over the ground. I looked up to find that the once clear sky was now covered with big, dark, looming clouds. An unnaturally cold breeze blew through the park, which I had only then realized was completely empty, save for Artemis and I.
"Go away!" Artemis shouted at the sky as the wind began to pick up. "Don't hurt Ignis! He's nice to me!"
I stood up and put a hand on Artemis's shoulder, and she tensed like she was about to flinch again, but she didn't. "Artemis, calm down," I told her in my best soothing voice. "Just tell me what's going on."
"They came here," she explained, her expression wrought with fear. Tears managed to escape her eyes and roll down her face. "The storm people. They want to hurt us."
"Who are the 'storm people'?" I queried. Before she could answer, I heard a loud clap of thunder. I noticed something move over by the playground, and when I glanced over at it, I saw at least a dozen mini-tornadoes tearing toward us, making the swings swing and sending mulch flying everywhere. When they reached us, the tornadoes morphed into extremely large men- at least 15 feet tall- whose bodies were made entirely out of shifting, churning smoke. Their eyes flashed as bright yellow orbs, and they stared at us menacingly.
"We've come to collect you, Son of Wrath," one of them announced. His voice sounded distant and empty, like it was just a bit of sound being carried by the wind, it held a heavy trace of some foreign accent that I wasn't familiar with. "And you as well, Daughter of Greed," he added, regarding Artemis.
"Who are you?" I demanded, stepping in front of Artemis and reaching back to put a hand on the handle of my katana. "What are you?"
"How nice of you to ask," the man answered, stepping forward- though, it looked more like he was gliding over the ground rather than walking. "We take great pride in our race, but we don't don't get to brag very often. Usually, anyone who's there to hear us runs off in the other direction before we get the chance to say anything. But I digress; we are the Storm Jötnar, the mighty Norse giants of wind and storm!"
"And I don't suppose you'd be willing to leave if I asked nicely, would you?" I said sarcastically.
The Jötunn laughed, and it sounded like wind whistling through holes in stone. "Very humorous, half-breed. Unfortunately, I'm afraid the time for joking is over. We're going to need you to come with us."
I drew my katana, and it burst into flames. "Don't count on it." The Jötunn lunged at me, and I slashed him in half with a single swing. His smoky form separated for a moment, turning into two amorphous clouds of darkness. Then they recombined, and the man's form was restored. He grinned at me cockily.
"Did you honestly expect that to work?" he cackled. "You cannot cut the wind, fool! Brothers! Show this Son of Wrath just how strong a storm can be!"
Within seconds, I was completely surrounded by Jötnar, their smoky figures swirling and their yellow eyes gleaming as they attacked me. I hacked and slashed vigorously, but every time I cut one down, he just repaired himself and attacked again. Artemis clung to my leg, and I fought as hard as possible to make sure storm giants didn't get to her. That was easier said than done, though; the Jötnar were vicious, using sharp gusts of wind to cut at any part of my body my katana couldn't reach in time, and I quickly began to grew exhausted.
"Surrender!" the same giant from before shouted. "You cannot defeat us!"
"Shut the hell up!" I exclaimed as I swung my blade at him. A stream of fire flew from the tip of my sword and engulfed the giant in flames. They were quickly extinguished, however, which made it clear that my fire wouldn't be able to help me much in this battle.
Just then, I heard Artemis scream at the top of her lungs, "GO AWAY!" As she continued to yell, the ground began to tremble, causing the Jötnar to stop attacking and pay attention to the dirt beneath their feet. I watched in startled amazement as the earth began to ripple outward from where Artemis and I stood. They grew larger and larger with each passing ripple, eventually turning into massive waves of land that violently buffeted the giants. They were too busy focusing on the moving earth to think to fly up into the air, and as a result, they were tossed around like a salad, slamming into the rising ground and demolecularizing into smoke, and then getting hit by another wave before they had a chance to gather themselves together again. When Artemis finally stopped yelling, the waves of earth died down, eventually returning to normal, revealing one gigantic, churning cloud of Jötnar.
I stood there, gawking at the scene in complete shock and awe. "The hell just happened?" I wondered aloud.
"Run!" Artemis yelled as she grabbed my hand and pulled me off in one direction. I snapped back into reality and picked up my feet, quickly falling into pace with Artemis. Apparently, the Jötnar had managed to separate from each other and put themselves back together, because I heard wind blow forcefully behind us as the branches of trees shook violently. I sheathed my sword, picked Artemis up into my arms, and poured on the speed, running at a velocity that most humans couldn't reach.
I looked down at Artemis, who in turn gazed up at me. "I want you hang on real tight, okay?"
Artemis nodded and wrapped her arms around my neck. I sprinted for the nearest tree, and jumped a good 10 feet into the air to land on one of its branches. From there, I bounded onto the branch of another tree, this one slightly higher up. I bounced from tree to tree, gaining altitude as I did so, until I finally leaped into the open air and Jetted up into the sky. I was still pretty spent from when I'd flown earlier that day, so I was running almost entirely on adrenaline. When I glanced back, I saw the Jötnar hot on my tail, ripping through the sky with dark clouds following them.
"Accidenti!" I cursed. I tried to accelerate, but I simply didn't have any energy left. I was running on fumes as it was. Suddenly, I heard another loud clap of thunder- really loud. Loud enough to seriously jack up my eardrums. I cried in pain as blood flowed from my ears, causing me to make the fatal mistake of losing my concentration. The flames on my boots sputtered and died, and we began to plummet toward the ground. I tried to ignite them again, but we were falling too fast; I was only able to tuck Artemis into my chest to protect her before I slammed into a tree. I hit nearly every branch on my way down, until I finally smacked against the merciful dirt with a thud.
My vision began to blur from exhaustion, as well as the multiple blows to my head. I heard Artemis screaming and saw the grinning face of a Jötunn before I finally blacked out.
I woke with a start.
"Ooohh, my head," I moaned as I sat up and put a hand to my forehead. I felt like my skull had been bashed in by a wooden club- then I remembered that that was essentially what had happened.
Taking a quick look around, I discovered I was in a cage, similar to one you might put a canary named "Tweety Bird" in, only human-sized. The floor was a circular metal platform about eight feet in diameter, and iron bars ringed the edges, rising seven feet up to form an imprisoning dome. The cage hung suspended 15 feet above the ground, and I quickly realized that it wasn't attached to a pole or anything. It was simply floating in midair.
A large, unpopulated forest clearing spread out below us, and while it looked like it might have once been a beautiful spot of nature, the grassy floor was now torn up and flung around, and some of the tress that surrounded it had either been knocked down or violently ripped into splinters, making it look like a tornado had hit the place. Despite the chaotic scenery below, a multitude of tidy and organized tents littered the area, and at the center of the clearing, a sizable campfire roared in a fire pit. Near it sat a large, smooth stone that was wide and flat enough to be used as a dinner table, next to which I spotted my katana, which must have been liberated from me while I was unconscious.
Suddenly, I felt a light tug on my shirt. I looked down to see Artemis sitting next to me, pulling on my t-shirt.. She was still wearing my jacket, which was obviously way too big for her. "You're okay," she whispered shakily. Her tears dripped onto the floor as she cried. She seemed to do that a lot. "I thought... I thought you were..."
"Don't worry, Artie," I told her in a soft voice, quickly getting over my surprise so I could comfort her, "I'm fine. I promise. Do you know where we are?"
Artemis looked up at me with eyes that were puffy and red from lacrimation. "I don't know," she answered, her voice wavering as if she might burst into tears again at any minute. "The storm people took us, and then...I...I can't remember... I'm sorry."
I ruffled her hair. "It's okay, kiddo," I said. I looked up to see that the sun had gone down and the stars had come out, meaning that it had become nighttime while I was knocked out.
Just then, I felt a sharp stinging pain run all throughout my body. When I looked, I found myself covered from head to toe in cuts. I sat for a moment, wondering where they'd come from, and then I remembered how the Jötnar and used the wind to try and chop me to pieces. The majority of them were just minor injuries, with only a few being big enough to almost be a problem, which made me ask myself why they hadn't healed already. My regeneration ability should have taken care of them long before then.
"You're hurt," Artemis remarked as she took notice of my cuts. "That's my fault..."
"N-no, it's not your fault!" I assured her, desperate to make sure she didn't start crying again. "And besides, I'm not in very much pain. It could be worse, right?" It took me moment to realize what I'd just said. "Whoa, I sounded like Dylan just now..."
Artemis's eyes swam with curiosity. "Dylan?"
"Yeah, that's my older brother," I explained. "He says asinine stuff like that all the time. He's kind of an ass, but he grows on you."
"Older brother," Artemis mused as she stared off into space. She looked as if she were trying to imagine the concept for the first time. After a few seconds, she turned back to me and gently pushed me so I was laying down on the cold metal floor again. "Here. I'll make you feel better."
I frowned, puzzled. "Um...how?"
To my surprise, Artemis actually flashed a smile at me. "You'll see." Rolling up the sleeves of my jacket so that they didn't cover up the entirety of her arms, she stuck both hands out, letting her palms hover about two or three inches above my chest, then closed her eyes. At first, nothing happened; but after about thirty seconds, the air around Artemis's hands began to glow bright green. Without warning, a warm, calming feeling was engendered within my chest. It was an amazing sensation, one that took the place of the pain that had already begun to fade away. The feeling slowly began to spread, reaching every part of my body until I was relieved of all my pain- even my splitting headache.
Finally, Artemis opened her eyes, and her hands stopped glowing. She crawled backward a few steps to give me space to sit up, which I did. When I looked at my arms, I found them void of any and all injuries. "Unbelievable..." I whispered in awe. Putting my hands on the floor behind me, I rolled back onto my shoulders and kicked upward, launching myself off of the floor and onto my feet. I moved my limbs experimentally. No pain whatsoever. "Holy crap... Artemis, how did you do that?"
Artemis, who had been smiling with a hint of pride up until then, suddenly changed her expression to that of worry, quickly followed by sadness. She hung her head in sorrow and fixed her eyes on the floor. "You...you probably think I'm a freak now, don't you...?"
That stunned and bewildered me almost as much as her healing abilities. "What? Why would I think that?"
"Everyone else does," she answered sullenly. "I...I try to help people...make them feel better...and then they call me mean things, like 'freak', and 'witch'."
What she said hit me hard. How could people be so cruel? And to a little freakin' girl, no less! The very idea that there were such ungrateful bastards in this world that would turn around and call someone an abomination right after they helped them out made me sick to my stomach.
"You do think I'm a freak," Artemis concluded, and my train of thought was broken. I saw the girl's shoulders shaking, and I realized she was crying again.
"I don't think you're a freak," I told her as I walked over to her and knelt in front of her. "In fact, I think you're anything but."
Artemis looked up at me, running an arm across her face to wipe tears out of her eyes as she did so. "R-really?"
I nodded. "Artie, you're the sweetest, kindest little girl I've ever met. I'm proud to call you my friend."
Artemis was silent for at least a minute, and I almost thought she was going to start crying again. But instead, she lunged forward and wrapped her arms around me in a tight hug. "Thank you."
"Don't mention it," I said as I returned the embrace. We stayed like that for a minute or two before finally letting each other go. I sat down and leaned against the bars that kept me from escaping, trying to get as comfortable as I possibly could while imprisoned within a cage- which, for the record, wasn't very comfortable at all.
Interesting little tidbit about me: I tend to get claustrophobic really easily. For example, if you'd care to recall the first chapter, I got nervous and paranoid as soon as I entered public school for the first time. Suffice to say, I was not sitting happily in that cage. As a matter of fact, it was taking nearly all of my willpower to keep from just freaking out.
Artemis began to crawl over to me, but she hesitated. She gave me a questioning look, and it took me a moment to understand what she was asking. I raised my arm, inviting her to sit with me, and she practically squealed with delight. Rushing to my side, she snuggled up against me and hugged my arm before resting her head on my chest.
For the next five minutes, the only sound was that of the campfire down below, which crackled and popped as it ate up its kindling. Finally, Artemis broke the silence.
"Ignis?" she began, and I could tell from her tired voice that she was close to falling asleep. "Can I ask you a question?"
"Go for it."
"Are you...are you like me?"
"What do you mean?"
Artemis shifted a bit under my arm. "Well, I was just thinking about when the storm people came for us at the park. I remembered you making fire appear, and I wondered if...if you had powers like me."
"Yeah, I do," I answered. To demonstrate, I held up my free hand and snapped my fingers, and the air above my hand ignited, birthing a single flame. "I can manipulate fire."
"Whoa..." Artemis gasped as she gazed at the flame with captive interest. "How do you do that?"
I snapped again, and the flame instantly died. "I don't know. That's like asking you how you heal people." I thought back to our fight with the Jötnar. "Or make the earth move to your will..." I added.
Suddenly, something occurred to me- a hypothesis that, if proven true, would be extremely saddening, to say the least. I glanced at Artemis. "Artie, how long have you been living by yourself?"
"Ever since I can remember," she replied.
I took that into consideration before asking my next question. "Have you ever touched water, and it...burned you? Made your skin steam?"
"Once," she said with a nod. "I was sleeping in a church and I knocked over a bowl of water by accident. It hurt real bad."
This isn't looking good... I thought. So far, all of her answers point to her being a... No, I should make absolute sure of it before I jump to conclusions. "One last thing, Artie: These Jötnar- er, 'storm people'... Have they ever called you 'half-breed'?"
Artemis thought for a few seconds before answering, "I think so."
That proved it. I was sure of it now. As much as I didn't want to believe it, as much as I didn't want it to be real, there was no denying the truth: this girl, this poor, poor girl, shared my unfortunate curse.
She was a Blessed.
I thought about telling her about what she was, but I ultimately decided against it. Why? I wanted to protect her. Not from the demons and devils and spirits, but from herself; I didn't want her to lose any more self-esteem than she already had throughout her lifetime so far. She really couldn't afford to, and finding out that you're demon spawn doesn't exactly make you feel that great about yourself. It was a pointless reason, really, seeing as how she'd been through so much grief already; and besides that, her eventual discovery of her true nature was both inevitable and imminent. But I didn't care. I just wanted to do something for her.
"Goodnight, Ignis," Artemis yawned before finally letting her eyelids close.
Masking my feelings of pity and sorrow, I smiled at her as I heard her breaths become heavier and more relaxed.
Fuck you too, sleep.
I sat in the cage, Artemis snoring under my arm, and gazed up at the star-speckled night sky. It had been around three and half hours since Artemis had fallen asleep, and though my watch had been smashed to pieces during my fight with the Jötnar, I hazarded a guess that it was sometime around two in the morning. Despite the fact that I was looking at exhausted in the rear-view mirror, for some reason, I just couldn't manage to find my way into my dreams, so I'd been awake the entire time, amusing myself by playing with my flames. Now, I'm pretty easily entertained, but fire can only be so interesting for so long.
I absentmindedly tossed a ball of flame from hand to hand as I thought about everything that had happened since I started going to public school- the Nightmares attacking, my weird dream, the truth about the Salvatore family, the Jötnar capturing Artemis and I- everything. I'd been spending the last few hours just trying to make sense of it all, but it was far too confusing for just one brain to handle- especially when that brain is addled by ADHD that keeps swinging its focus back to food. I was fantasizing about a steak the size of Texas when things started getting...weird.
Well, weirder. You know what I mean.
"It's good to see you again, Ignis," a deep voice reverberated.
I immediately extinguished the fire in my hand and looked up, only to find that there was no one there. I looked around the cage, then scanned the campsite below for any people, but Artemis and I were still the only two people there.
"Did I imagine it?" I whispered to myself. "But it seemed so real... Great, first I can't sleep, and now I'm going nuts. This is just perfect."
"You're not going mad," the voice spoke again. It didn't sound like it was coming from any particular direction; rather, it sounded like it was coming from within my own mind- which, needless to say, creeped me the hell out. In addition to that, the voice sounded ridiculously familiar, but I just couldn't think of where I'd heard it before.
"Oh, sure," I said sarcastically, "I'll bet everyone hears a random voice in their head. ...And I'm talking to the one in mine. Goddammit, I am nuts!"
The voice chuckled. "Your sense of humor is refreshing. Very well then, if it would make you feel better, I shall show myself."
I heard a sound like a pair of fingers snapping, and a single flame appeared in front of me, floating in midair. But this wasn't just any flame- it was colored black with a white center.
I scratched my head. "Wait a minute...you're a ball of fire?"
The voice laughed, and the flame seemed to flare slightly in response. "No, I am not a ball of fire," he answered. "I cannot fully manifest in the physical realm without certain circumstances being met, so I use this flame as a representation of myself- an avatar, if you will."
I stared at the flame in awe. "...Who are you?"
"I have many names, but you may call me Vedelith. You may remember that I contacted you once before; I was the demon who spoke to you in your dreams."
Suddenly, I remembered where I'd heard Vedelith's voice before- like he said, it was in my dream, in the field that had been set ablaze with black fire (In retrospect, I probably should have made that connection when he manifested himself as a black flame, but, oh well). Immediately after coming across that revelation, I tensed up recalling something he'd just said. "So you're a demon, huh?" I said, my voice harboring hostility now. "Well, that explains a lot. Have you come to try and rip me apart again?"
Vedelith's flame dimmed slightly. "My apologies; I did not mean to injure you," he replied in a remorseful tone. "My presence is an immensely powerful force that cause great destruction. I should not have shown you so much of myself in your dream. However, there is something you must understand: not all demons and devils are evil. In that respect, we are just like humans- some of us are benevolent, and some are malevolent."
I gave the flame a skeptical look. "I'm waiting for the part where you tell me why I'm supposed to believe this."
"Ignis," he sighed, "you've experienced but a small portion of my might, and it brought you to your knees within a matter of minutes. Do you really believe that if I wanted to bring you harm, I wouldn't have already done so?"
I was about to argue, but I realized I had nothing to say to that. It made too much sense. Vedelith was magnitudes more powerful than me. If he really wanted to kill me, he could've done it whenever he wanted, but he hadn't. "...Fine, I believe you."
"Excellent. Now, do you know why I'm here?"
"To ask me if I've accepted Jesus Christ as my Lord and savior? Though, coming from a demon, that'd be pretty freakin' disturbing..."
Vedelith laughed again. "I agree. At any rate, my reason for coming is to assist you. I am here to help you on your quest."
I cocked an eyebrow. "Quest?"
Vedelith's flame bobbed up and down, as if the demon were nodding. "You know of the demon Furfur by now, yes?"
"Yeah," I answered, recalling the conversation I had with Furfur in my dream. "But I thought he was an angel. I mean, he had wings and everything."
"Furfur's appearance can be deceiving," he explained. "But I assure you, he is one of the farthest things from an angel. And he's plotting something..."
I waited for a moment, expecting him to continue, but when he didn't, I let loose an exasperated sigh. "Are all demons so goddamn vague? It's sounding less like you want to help me and more like you want to confuse me."
"I apologize, but I was not trying to be vague. All that I know is that Furfur has a plan, the details of which I am unaware. However, I'm sure that whatever he is going to do won't turn out well for humanity."
"And so you want me to stop him."
I eyed the black ball of fire with a curious look. "...Why are you doing this?"
"What do you mean?"
"You said you wanted to help me," I elaborated. "Why? Why do you care what happens to me, or humanity, for that matter? You're not even human. Whatever Furfur does, it won't affect you, right?"
"As I said," Vedelith replied, "some demons are good, and some are evil. Personally, I see the value of humanity's existence. That's why I seek to preserve it."
I was silent for a while, taking everything that he'd said so far into consideration. After a long minute, I took a deep breath. "Where is he?"
Vedelith hesitated. "...I'm not sure..."
That kind of pissed me off. "What the hell do you mean you're not sure?" I exclaimed. Suddenly, Artemis shifted positions under my arm, making a brief muttering sound before resuming her snoring. "You're the one who's telling me to defeat this guy," I hissed, lowering my voice so as not to disturb Artemis, "and you don't even know where he is?"
Vedelith's flame dimmed again. "I apologize. Unfortunately, Furfur seems to know that I'm trying to put a stop to his plans, and in order to impede my actions, he's been hiding in the spiritual realm. I can't locate him."
I scowled. "Spiritual realm?"
The flame began to move, floating to one side, then floating to the other. I figured that wherever Vedelith was, he was pacing back and forth. "Yes, you see, this world is comprised of two realms: that of the physical, and that of the spiritual. The realm in which you reside, the physical realm, encompasses all that is living and tangible. The spiritual realm, on the other hand, contains everything that has to do with the supernatural. The realms are kept separate by a force called the Veil. The Veil is rather weak and is pierced easily, allowing spirits to manifest themselves in the physical realm. Even the spirits who aren't powerful enough to enter the physical realm can still affect it from within the spiritual realm. Ghosts are prime examples of these; being the spirits of deceased mortals, they lack the strength to get completely past the Veil, so they work through it by levitating and interacting with objects without ever manifesting. Does this make sense?"
"Not really," I admitted with a shake of my head. "Though, to be honest, I didn't expect it to. Go on."
"Well," Vedelith continued, "at the moment, only an iota of my essence lies in the physical realm, which is the flame through which I am speaking to you. The rest of me resides in the spiritual realm, as does Furfur."
"Wait, wait, wait," I stopped him. "If you and Furfur are both in the spiritual realm, then how come you can't find him? Can't you use some kind of freaky demon magic to figure out where he is?"
"I am afraid not. The substance that is tracked when one uses their 'freaky demon magic' to locate another spirit is called spiritual energy, which is given off by those who possess it, thereby allowing their 'presence' to be sensed by others. The stronger the presence, the more spiritual energy the spirit has. Most humans possess a small amount of spiritual energy, but spirits generally have much more, which makes them easy to track when they're in the physical realm. However, the spiritual realm is made up entirely of spiritual energy, and as a result, it's exponentially more difficult to locate them. It's not impossible, mind you, but it would still take months, perhaps even years, before you could find whoever it is that you're looking for. Furfur is hiding in the spiritual realm for that exact reason. All I know of his whereabouts is that he is somewhere in the southwestern region of this continent."
"I don't suppose we'd have months or years to find Furfur, would we?" I asked, though I was fairly certain I already knew the answer.
"No," Vedelith replied. "At best, I believe we have until October 31st to stop him."
"How do you figure that?"
"The Festival of Samhain- you would probably call it 'Halloween'- is an auspicious day. Most demons and devils choose auspicious days to carry out their plans because they are stronger at the time."
I didn't speak for a few minutes as I thought about everything that had happened so far, and debated with myself over what to do about it. After thinking and thinking until my head was pounding (...again...), I sighed and ran a hand through my hair before returning my determined gaze to Vedelith's flame. "...Alright," I finally said. "It's well past midnight by now, making today the 22nd. October 31st is only nine days from now (not counting today). If we're gonna do this, we've gotta get started right away. Can you get Artemis and I out of this cage?"
"Artemis?" he asked.
"The girl," I answered, gesturing to Artemis, who was still snoring peacefully under my arm.
"Ignis," Vedelith began, and based on the tone of his voice, I already had a good idea of what he was about to say, "perhaps it wouldn't be the wisest decision to bring her along. She may prove to be a hindrance in our quest. I know of a place where she could stay-"
"No," I cut in, hardening my voice and locking my jaw as I pulled Artemis closer to me. "Artemis stays with us. I refuse to leave her alone. She's been forced to live for five whole years without someone to care for her, and I'll be damned if she has to spend another second like that."
Vedelith's flame froze for a few moments until he finally sighed and his flame began to vanish, getting smaller and smaller with every passing second. "Very well then, Ignis," he replied, his voice fading. She may come. As for releasing you from your prison, well, that will be taken care of very soon, but not by me."
I scowled at the flame as it died completely, leaving nothing but darkness in its wake. "What do you mean? Wait- where are you going?"
"Worry not, child," Vedelith's disembodied (or disenflamed?) voice chuckled, "I am always by your side..."
And with that, he was gone.
"Well, hows that for cryptic?" I whispered to myself before leaning back against the cage. "That aside, how the hell are we gonna get out of here?"
Just then, Artemis sat bolt upright, her eyes wide as pancakes. She stared off into the forest, though I was pretty sure she wasn't focusing on anything in particular.
"Artie? Y'okay?" I asked, putting a hand on her shoulder. Breaking out of her brief trance, she turned to me with a terrified expression and buried her face in my chest.
"They're here," she squeaked as she began to shake, probably out of fear. "They came back."
I gave Artemis a concerned look. "What are you-"
Suddenly, I felt a hostile presence enter the vicinity. Angry dark clouds blanketed the night sky, and I felt a cold gust of wind smack against my face, followed by the sound of trees snapping and a large group of men cheering.
The Storm Jötnar were back.
I glanced at Artemis. "How could you tell they were here before me? It took me years of practice to be able to sense presences as well as I can."
Artemis shrugged. "I don't know, I just...did."
I felt another gust of wind, this one much stronger than the last- so strong, in fact, that it almost put the campfire out. I stood up and put myself in front of Artemis as the 15 foot-tall tornado-men stormed out of the trees on the edge of the clearing.
...I just realized how completely whacked-out that last sentence sounds. What the hell has happened to my life?
"Hello, half-breeds!" one of the giants boomed, and I saw that it was the same giant that had spoken the last time we'd met. He seemed to be the only one allowed to talk- or maybe the others were simply incapable of speech. Either way, I'd labeled him as the leader. "Did you miss us?"
I gripped the bars of the cage angrily and glowered at the Jotunn. "Let us go now, and I'll consider not wasting you bastardi and sending you back to the North Pole."
The giant lost his form for a moment, dissolving into a black cloud one second and reforming the next, only now, his smug expression had been replaced one of severe irritation. "Do not insult my heritage, Angry Prince," he warned in a dangerously calm tone. "You will find that it is a dire mistake. Our race hails from Scandinavia, NOT the North Pole. Do not forget that."
"And besides," he continued, a smirk finding its way to his face, "if we let you go now, you would not be present to see us execute some people you may know." He gestured to two Jotnar, who stepped aside to reveal three teenagers who looked like they'd lost a fight with a sharp piece of paper. They were covered in small cuts, and their hair was tossed into messy rat's nests, like they'd survived a tornado. I quickly realized that the teenagers were my friends, Fletcher, Lexi, and Tess.
When they turned and saw me, their sullen faces were brightened up by surprise and hope. "Ignis!" they called in unison.
"Guys!" I shouted back. In a desperate attempt to escape, I took a few steps back before charging forward. I threw my shoulder against the bars, but they didn't budge; instead, I felt a powerful gale fling me backward into the bars on the opposite side, simultaneously slicing my skin open in random places all over me, effectively making a waste of Artemis having healed me. I fell to the ground, my entire body stinging with papercut-like injuries.
"Ignis!" Artemis cried as she rushed over to me. "Are you okay?"
"I-I'm fine," I managed as I slowly got to my feet, Artemis doing her best to help. I glared down at the giant leader, who had a satisfied grin on his face.
"Escape is impossible, half-breed!" He gestured to the cage. "As you can see, your prison is enchanted with the almighty magic of the Storm Jotnar. Unless you wish to be made into mince-meat, I suggest you stay put."
"Don't hurt him, you son of a bitch!" Lexi growled. She started for the leader, but two other Jotnar stepped in front of her, grabbed her by the arms, and hurled her back. She crashed into Fletcher and they both went down, hitting the forest floor with a thud. Lexi stood back up immediately and continued to stare daggers at the giant leader; Fletcher, on the other hand, having been on the worse end of that exchange, stayed on the ground for a moment and moaned in pain.
"Oww," he groaned as he let Tess help him up. He looked at the giants that had thrown Tess. "The hell was that for? I didn't even do anything! Dicks..."
The Jotunn leader laughed and motioned for the other two giants to move aside so that he could stand in front of my friends. He knelt down and focused on Fletcher, who immediately gulped and took a step back. "You are rather amusing," he noted with an interested look, and I figured Fletcher couldn't have felt very comfortable at all with the giant's face that close to his. "I'm almost tempted to keep you as a personal jester... Ah, but I mustn't. I am under orders from my employer, you see. You must share the same fate as your friends."
Fletcher let out a nervous laugh. "You, um... You sure you don't wanna reconsider? I'm pretty amusing, y'know. I-I can juggle!"
"Wait a minute," I spoke up, getting the leader's attention. "You said you had an employer. Who is he?"
"He is a very powerful demon indeed," he answered. "You should be thankful that he is not here to execute you himself. His methods of taking lives are much more painful and...creative."
"Could his name possibly be Furfur?"
The Jotunn raised his eyebrows in surprise. "Oh, so you know of him? Interesting; I suppose his reputation precedes him more than I thought."
I gritted my teeth. "Where is he?" I demanded.
"Come, now, Angry Prince," he snorted. "We know that you hunt for Count Furfur. Do you really think us to be so stupid as to reveal his location?"
"Well, I don't know, you were stupid enough to piss me off. Who knows how many times you Storm Midgets ate glue as children? If you want my best guess though, I'd have to go with 24/7."
I couldn't help but smile as I saw the giant leader, along with most of his kin, lose his cool again and deform into murky black clouds that crackled with angry lightning. Making people mad was a hobby of mine- one that I enjoyed far too much. You should try it sometime; it's fun as hell, but you gotta remember one rule: Always, always, ALWAYS make sure you can either outrun your victim or beat him in a fight. Trust me, that's some good advice.
"Dumbass!" Tess shouted at me irately. "Do you mind NOT insulting the people who want to kill us?"
"Enough of this!" the Jotunn leader, having completely reformed, ordered. His tone and facial expression showed that he was clearly ticked. "We have been stalled long enough; we shall proceed with the execution now!" He turned to face my friends. "The jester shall go first."
"Jester?" Fletcher repeated with a confused look. Then his eyes widened with sudden realization, and his face was filled with dismay. "Oh, you mean...fuck. Um, you know I was lying about being able to juggle, right?"
In response to his reluctance, all of the Jotnar held out their hands, and the air began to swirl around them, gathering itself and taking form. In a matter of seconds, they were all armed with large spears made entirely out of shifting wind and smoke, just as they were. One of the giants prodded Fletcher forward with the butt of his spear, causing him to stumble forward.
"Fletcher!" Tess yelled as Fletcher was forced to walk toward the fire. She looked like she was about to rush after him, but she must have remembered what had happened to Lexi earlier, because she stayed put.
"Great," Fletcher sighed. "This is just freakin' great. I'm only 15 years old, and I'm gonna die a virgin because some asshole named Count Furry sent a bunch of psychotic storm dudes to come kill me! This sounds like something out of a bad fanfic..."
"Yeeeaah...I don't think that's the only reason you're going to die a virgin," Lexi mumbled.
"Fetch the ceremonial knife," the giant leader commanded as Fletcher reached the table. As directed, a Jotunn went into one of the tents, returning with a huge, wickedly sharp knife that was painful just to look at. As soon as Fletcher saw the blade, he freaked out and jumped up on the table in an effort to get away from the giants, which wasn't very effective, since he was already surrounded by eight of them.
"Whoa!" Fletcher exclaimed. "That thing don't look too friendly."
"Indeed, it is not," the Jotunn leader told him as he took the knife from his subordinate. "This blade shall be used to carve out your entrails, which shall then be cremated in the fire. Now sit still, so that I may end your life!"
The giants started in on Fletcher, and I began to think. Time slowed down as my brain went into hyperactivity mode. I scanned the entire area, taking in the terrain and the positioning of the objects and people upon it, then closed my eyes and ran millions of battle plans in my mind, fully analyzing and determining the success rate of each one within a matter of nanoseconds.
Unfortunately, the overall success rates of each plan were dangerously low- like 1.53%. My first plan had been to summon my katana to me, but apparently, the giants were already aware that I possessed such an ability, because the blade was blanketed by several layers of heavy chains, which it would never be able to break through. Suffice to say, that plan was a dead-end. Finally, I had gone through every strategy I could think of, but every single one of them was extremely unlikely to actually work. I had just begun to panic when I remembered something that opened up a new door of opportunity, through which hope shined.
I reached into my left boot and pulled out the Desert Eagle that I kept in there at all times. I'd forgotten about it since I hardly ever used it (usually, either my powers alone or my katana were enough to eliminate any threats). Nevertheless, it had come in handy this time.
"Fletcher!" I called, trying to get my friend's attention. "Catch!"
I threw the gun down to him, praying that he'd be able to catch it. Fortunately, he was able to do so, and though at first he fumbled it in his hands for a moment or two, he managed to get an awkward grip on the gun. He pointed it at the giants, who had stopped advancing to stare at the strange new-age contraption that had fallen into their victim-to-be's hands.
Fletcher was sweating bullets, and I'm certain it wasn't just from the heat of the fire. His hands shook with anxiety as he aimed the gun at each giant in turn. Finally, he did the absolute stupidest thing I'd ever seen.
He threw the gun.
He threw the gun.
HE THREW THE GODDAMN GUN.
The gun sailed straight through the torso of one of the Jotnar before disappearing into the forest. Lexi fell to her knees from the sheer force of Fletcher's stupidity, while Tess just smacked herself in the face. "There are no words to describe how fucking idiotic that was..." she mumbled in disbelief.
I simply stared at Fletcher in stunned silence, arms hanging limply by my sides as my jaw scraped against the floor. "Dude... What the HELL?"
"I panicked!" he yelled back.
Just then, the giant leader decided to take advantage of our confusion by lunging toward Fletcher and slashing his knife down in a deadly arc. Fletcher crossed his arms over his face in defense, and a split-second before the knife could tear Fletcher to shreds, a blindingly bright white light filled the entire clearing. A strong gust of wind, more powerful than the Jotnar could muster, blasted outward from Fletcher. The storm giants were sent flying away from Fletcher, coming to a stop at the edge of the clearing.
After a few more seconds, the bright light finally died, revealing Fletcher, who was still standing on the stone table, exactly the same as before- except for one thing. In his left hand, he brandished a large, white and blue bow. I couldn't tell what material it was made from, but it certainly didn't look like wood.
Fletcher opened his eyes and, apparently having felt something appear in his hand, examined the bow in awe. "Whoa... Where'd this thing come from?"
The giant leader, who had reformed after getting pushed back toward the forest, turned to his comrades and ordered, "Attack!" All 12 of them rushed at Fletcher at once, with the leader bringing up the rear like a coward. Without warning, Fletcher snapped to action; raising his bow, he pulled the string back, stretching it to its fullest extent, then took aim at the nearest Jotunn, doing everything like he'd done it his entire life.
I was wondering how Fletcher was going to be able to shoot when he had no arrows when suddenly, the air near his hand which had the string drawn began to shimmer, and a straight line of whitish-blue light about the size of an arrow engendered itself out of thin air. Without a second thought, Fletcher released the string, which shot forward with a "TWANG!" The arrow of light flew forward at a speed so fast that I nearly lost sight of it, piercing the chest of one of the giants and going straight through his heart- or, at least, where his heart would be, if he had one. The giant stopped dead in his tracks as light the same color as the arrow emanated from his mouth and eye-sockets, just before he burst into dust.
The other giants came to a halt as they saw one of their own disintegrate, as that was apparently enough to deter them, but a shout from the leader forced them to charge onward, thought at a notably slower pace and with much less vigor. Tess and Lexi sprinted to Fletcher's side.
"Fletcher..." Tess began, staring at his bow. "How-"
"I have no clue," Fletcher assured her.
"Fletch!" I called down to him. "Let me out! Shoot the cage!"
Fletcher aimed his bow at the cage and drew the string back again, and an arrow appeared in the string once more. He fired, and the arrow shot straight through the floor of the cage, burning a hole through it that was just wide enough for me to get through. I grabbed Artemis and held her close as I jumped through the hole and finally escaped from my prison.
"Oh, sweet freedom," I gasped as I hit the ground.
Lexi frowned at Artemis. "Who's she?"
"I'll explain later," I promised, turning my attention to the oncoming giants, who were rapidly nearing our position. "Right now, it's payback time. Take the girl and get to the edge of the clearing. You'll be safe there."
They all nodded, but when I tried to hand Artemis over to them, she refused to let go of my hand. "What's the matter?" I asked.
Artemis gripped my hand tighter and moved closer to me. "I...I'm scared..."
I sighed before dropping to one knee. "Listen, Artie, these guys are my friends. There's nothing to be afraid of. I just need you go with them for a few minutes while I take care of the storm people. I promise I'll come right back, and nothing bad will happen to you. So can you do that for me?"
Artemis hesitated, then finally nodded. She took Tess's hand, slowly releasing mine, and my friends fled toward the edge of the clearing.
The first thing I did was uncover my katana from the chains that bound it. I unsheathed my sword, and it immediately burst into flames. The energy I gained as a result of the sword's power made me feel great.
"Your puny metal stick will not aid you in this fight!" the giant leader snarled as he and his subordinates finally managed to surround me. "You know this. Or have you forgotten our last battle?"
"Oh, I haven't," I replied with a cocky grin. "And you're right, my 'puny metal stick' won't be able to do much in this situation- at least, not at the moment. However, you dumbasses made a terrible mistake by making a campfire. My sword's name is 'Dell'inferno Animosità', which is Italian for 'Hell's Animosity'. And as you can see, it's capable of channeling my flames without a problem. But that's not all it can do."
I held up my katana and pointed it at the fire. "Y'see, my sword has a variety of abilities- one of which is the power to consume fire and convert it into delicious, nutritious energy for me. Of course, it doesn't work with my own flames, but naturally-born flames are a different story." Tightening my grasp on my blade, I said, "Consumare," directing my command at my sword. Subsequently, the campfire shot into the air and arced, racing toward my katana, which absorbed the flames. In a matter of seconds, the campfire was completely gone, and I was feeling more powerful than ever.
"Ahh..." I sighed contentedly, a bit of fire escaping my mouth as I did so. "That was refreshing."
The giant leader's face momentarily flashed to one of slight nervousness before immediately reverting to one of conceit. "Consume as many flames as you wish, Son of Wrath. Your fire cannot harm us!"
I laughed. "That's what you think."
The giants began to charge at me again, so I decided to make the fight quick. I jammed my katana into the ground before sticking my hands in my pockets and facing the Jotnar with a smug smirk. "Bruciando Serpente," I uttered. Suddenly, a huge column of fire shot from my blade, causing the giants to screech to a halt and take a few steps back, nearly falling over each other.
The column rose high into the sky, then split off into several individual streams of fire, arcing and weaving through the air before finally racing back down to the ground and weaving together to form an enormous snake, at least twice the size of the Jotnar, that was made entirely out of raging flames. It hissed, and its flaming forked tongue slipped out between its lips for a few seconds before returning to the inside of its mouth.
"Sic 'em, boy," I ordered, and the snake obeyed. It lunged toward one of the giants and opened its huge maw and swallowed him whole. Then it turned on the next one and breathed fire over him until he was no more. One of the giants got the bright idea to attack it, so the snake turned around and quickly coiled around him, squeezing him until the pressure became too great, and which point he exploded with a rush of wind.
The snake quickly worked its way through the entire group of storm giants before finally turning on the leader, who had been brought to his knees. The snake was just about to attack him when I dismissed it, at which point it was extinguished. I strolled over to the Jotunn leader triumphantly.
"Well, that didn't take long," I noticed. "And here I thought the Storm Jotnar were such a powerful and mighty race. Oh well."
"We are powerful and mighty!" the giant argued, though it sounded more like he was trying to convince himself.
I shrugged. "Hey, man, whatever helps you sleep at night. At any rate, I have a proposal for you: You tell me where I can find Furfur, and I'll consider sparing your life."
The giant was quiet for a long minute. Finally, he began to chuckle, and it quickly grew into raucous laughter. When he managed to compose himself, he addressed me. "You are strong," he admitted. "I will give you that. However, I can assure you that your power is demonstrably inferior to that of Count Furfur. Even if you were to let me live, I would still be forced to face his wrath for giving away his location, and however much pain you can inflict upon me, he can unleash three times that amount. You may as well strike, for I refuse to speak."
I stared at the Jotunn for a few seconds in thought. Dammit. Well, I can't just kill him- I need that information, and the sooner I get it, the better. But then again, judging from the look in his eyes, it doesn't look like he's gonna budge. I guess I have no choice...
I sighed and scratched the back of my head, knowing what I had to do. "Fine. Have it your way." I raised my hand and said, "Venire." As soon as the word had left my lips, my sword loosed itself from the ground where I had impaled it and traveled across the clearing to come rest in my hand. Taking a step back, I raised my sword and sliced through the air vertically, and a trail of fire was left in the blade's wake. I slashed the air again, this time horizontally, and then twice more diagonally, until a flaming asterisk was floating in front of me, its bright light piercing through the darkness of the night.
I raised my left hand and positioned it behind the center of the asterisk. "Stella Cadente," I muttered. The asterisk of fire flew toward the Jotunn and made contact with him, engulfing him in flames. Sheathing my sword, I turned and walked toward the edge of the clearing where my friends had gone, the giant screaming in agony all the while until he finally just burst into a cloud of dust that dissipated within a matter of seconds.
I found my friends standing near a small circle of trees just beyond the boundary of the clearing. The second Artemis saw me, a wide smile spread across her lips, and she ran to jump into my arms. "Ignis!" she cried with glee as she hugged me tightly.
"Hey, Artie," I replied as I mussed her hair. "Told ya I'd be back." I turned my attention to Tess, Lexi, and Fletcher (whose bow had somehow disappeared), who were all staring at me weirdly. "...What?"
"Was that...was that a snake made out of fire?" Lexi queried hesitantly.
I grinned. "Yeah. Pretty cool, huh?"
Tess let out a humorless laugh. "More like pretty damn freaky..."
I rolled my eyes. "Ah, who asked-" My sentence was cut short when I felt a immense wave of fatigue wash over me. My entire body suddenly ached terribly, and my thinking ability was obstructed by a brain-splitting headache. Without warning, I lost all feeling in my legs, and I pitched forward, and I would've face-planted on the ground if Fletcher hadn't caught me.
"Whoa," he grunted as he took on my weight and slung my arm over his shoulder for support. "Y'okay, dude?"
I was so tired that even talking was a Herculean task, but I managed to find the strength to explain. "...Used up...too much...energy..." I said between heavy breaths. "...Really exhausted..."
Tess scowled in confusion. "But I thought the campfire replenished your energy."
I tried to focus on Tess, but between the fuzziness of my eyesight and the yellow dots dancing across my field of vision, the simple action proved to be rather difficult. "Didn't replenish...Only temporary boost...Like a...massive sugar-high..."
"We should find somewhere we can rest," Lexi suggested. She gave me a concerned look. "This can't be healthy for him."
Fletcher nodded in agreement. "Good idea. Let's get moving."
"Great..." I gasped as my vision began to darken. "...I'm just gonna...take a nap..."
I slowly let my eyelids droop shut, and the moment they did, I drifted off to sleep.
Aaaaand, that's a wrap! Have you ever heard of a plot device? Well, this entire chapter was essentially just one huge story contraption designed to move the plot along. But don't let that take away from its enjoyability. (Is that a word? Whatever; it is now.) At any rate, I gotta run. Adios!
"Stronzo" - Asshole (Italian)
"Capisce?" - "Do you understand?" (Italian)
"Cazzo stupido" - "Stupid fuck" (Italian)
"Accidenti!" - "Damn!" (Italian)
"Bastardi" - Bastards (Italian)
"Dell'inferno Animosità" - "Hell's Animosity" (Italian)
"Consumare" - Consume (Italian)
"Bruciando Serpente" - "Burning Snake" (Italian)
"Venire" - Come (Italian)
"Stella Cadente" - "Shooting Star" (Italian)