Chapter 1

Upon a dirt pathway, that was rutted by wheels of passing wagons, three best friends traveled on foot; they had no specific destination time nor place.  Although they strutted proudly as if they owned the road they walked on and the land around it, the three hardly knew where they were, where they were going, or if they would ever get there.

Their names were Marclay Robert, Alejandro Diego, and Mercedes Mackenzie; or, for short, Marc, Alex, and Mercedes.  The three liked to think themselves known as, Marc the Daring, Alex the Brave, and Mercedes the Perfect; however, most who came across their paths usually ended up calling them Marc the Trouble Maker, Alex the Difficult, and Mercedes the Smart Ass.

None of them were respected nor were they welcomed back in the areas that had previously traveled, due to damages they caused while boarding there.  In fact, after leaving a town, it was often whispered that the dark gods themselves had put the trio together in order to scorn and jest at the townsfolk: that the union couldn't be anything less that the dirty work of the devils, for nothing that caused as much chaos as the friends did could have been coincidental.  Ironically, that was exactly what it was.  Their union was an accidental link of towns.

Orphaned at birth, Marc had a strange knack for being both annoying and getting himself into trouble; there wasn't a town he had met where he couldn't cause some kind of ruckus.  Besides the lack of discipline, manners, and a home, the only real thing that separated him from other villagers was their values: most men, children, and women believed the point in life was to raise families and work on farms; Marc figured the point in living was to have fun.  This slight value misunderstanding, caused the young boy to be scorned and ignored for most of his childhood.

Alex, on the other hand, spent his younger years a part of a respectful family.  Everything was pretty much in order for him, until the summer of his eighth birthday, when tragedy struck his home and family.  His two parents and sisters were all murdered in the dead of night while he stayed at a friend's house, a few doors down.  After their deaths, Alex was shipped off from relative to relative, stubbornly refusing to cooperate with any of them.

It was when he was sent to live with the eldest aunt that his path collided with Marc's.  They met and instantly became inseparable, much to the frustration of Alex's guardians.  Only a few days after their friendship sparked, the two decided that it would be best if they stuck together, helped each other out.  In their minds, the only way to do that was for Alex to escape from his aunt's house, and escape is exactly what he did.  With the help of Marc, he snuck out in the middle of the night, grabbing only a few small items.  Then the two bolted.  They left the small town Marc grew up in, both promising never to return.

Oddly enough, the town they decided to temporarily harbor in was home to a sassy farmer girl by the name of Mercedes.  The boys, having noticed her feminine looks, immediately were attracted.  Their goal, at first, was just to speak with her; however, that turned out to be a difficult task.  She acted disdainful, not at all interested in the two raggedy street boys who followed her everywhere.  Marc and Alex didn't gain appeal to her until she discovered that her parents also distrusted the two boys.

Soon after her decision to befriend them, both parents informed her that she was to be soon be married to an older gentlemen who lived in the community.  Outraged with their decision, Mercedes had insisted that the boys allow her to accompany them in their travels, insisted that they saved her and took her from the town.  The boys had anxiously agreed.  They were, however, soon disappointed when her sexual appeal was replaced with a sisterly one after only a few days.

And so the trio of traveling thieves was made.

Marc glanced around at their new surrounding casually as he asked, "So how much money in the ol' bag, Alex?"

"'Bout fifty rouples," he responded with a sigh.  "That should buy us about one night with a whore."

"Who needs that when we have Mercedes?"  Both of them smiled, it was a joke that had been going on between them for a couple of years.

Mercedes, who wiggled her way between the two boys, said sarcastically, "Haha.  Really funny."  Her brother-like figures grinned down at her, proud with their ongoing jest.  She told them, "You two can tease me all you want, and say whatever ya want, but remember this: you wouldn't be anywhere without me."  She jerked a thumb toward her chest as she spoke.  "Just you remember that."

Raising an eyebrow, the two older men now looked at each other.  Alex was the oldest at age twenty, Marc was eighteen, and Mercedes sixteen, all of them adults since the month before when Mercedes finally graduated from her adolescents.

Alex said what his younger friend was thinking, "And why do you say that?"

"Simple," she replied.  The two stopped to watch her, crossing their arms as she walked daintily ahead of them.  "I'm the woman.  I do the distracting while you men," she paused long enough to jump up onto a rock with her bare feet, turning to face them, "steal the money."

Alex demanded slowly, "What exactly are you saying?"

"I'm saying that although you may be the brawn and he may be the brains, I'm the beauty.  You wouldn't be able to steal a penny if it wasn't for me, 'cause I'm the only pretty young lady you got."  Their arms still crossed across their chests, the two boys slowly rolled their eyes over to look at each other.

There was a long moment of silence, the only thing to be heard with the occasional singing of a bird in the trees as Mercedes waited for their response.

"I beg to differ," Marc finally said, using the same superior voice that she had been.  He dropped his arms to the side, swaying over to the rock, then climbing onto it.  "I think I'm pretty good looking and Alex has called me a girl on numerous occasions."

"You think you can beat me out?" she demanded, crossing her arms as a smile threatened to twitch on her lips.

"You better believe I do," he challenged.

"Is that so?"  He nodded.  "Well, I bet you a rouple that I can get the first man we see before you!"

Marc agreed, smiling, "You're on!"

Alex laughed, shaking his head.  The two had been his best friends for over three years, and he still had problems understanding them at times.

Their gazes remained locked as the younger thieves hopped off of their perch.  Alex stepped between them, causing their eyes to break away as they started walking again.

Striking up a new conversation, Mercedes asked, "So what's the next town?"

Alex was normally in charge of the money and the map, and for good reasons.  The younger two would both spend the money frivolously and Mercedes, had she been in charge of the map, would take them to places wracked with danger.  Marc, though smart in plans and ideas, couldn't read.

"Uh…" Alex said, pulling a map out of his back pocket and glancing down at it before putting it away.  "Norsano."  He tied the bag of rouples to the loop on his pants as they walked so he wouldn't have to carry it for too long.

"Norsano, Norsano," she said, tasting the words.  "Mmm…sounds exciting!  Dragons, witches, warlocks?"

"None of the above," Alex laughed.  "Actually, it's pretty dull.  A small fishing village."

She frowned, looking disappointed.

"Don't worry, Cedes," Marc said, reaching over and slapping her shoulder lightly.  "We can turn that town upside down!"

"You want dragons, witches, and warlocks, our best bet would be to head south to Blaxela," Alex told them, jerking his thumb to the left, in the direction of the city he was referring to.

"Blaxela?" Marc asked, looking over at him.  "Now, I know I've heard that before somewhere…"

"Yeah, you know.  Blaxela.  The city that has all those witches caverns and Fire Dragon caves."

"Ohhh, that sounds wonderful!" Mercedes gasped, clapping her hands happily.

"You only say that because you want some handsome knight to come and sweep you off your feet," Marc teased, poking her side, but at the same time knowing it was true.  "Well, missy, I have news for ya, all of them knights you hear about in fairytales?  Don't exist.  They're pot faced creeps who abuse the women that they get."

"I can dream," she replied stubbornly.

"Dream away," Alex said, still heading in the direction of Norsano.

She said stubbornly, "I will.  Just you two don't be surprised when it happens for real."

Marc snorted, rolling his eyes.  "That'll be the day," Alex mumbled under his breath so she couldn't hear.

Silence fell over them once again, and it stayed that way until they arrived at a fork in the dirt pathway.  Alex looked back and forth between his two friends, silently asking them which direction they wanted to take.  To go right meant Norsano, the fishing village; left, Blaxela and the dragons.  It was obvious by the look on Mercedes' face which way she wanted to go.

Marc took off his hat, scratching his head as he examined their rout.  "Now…lemme see…" he muttered, glancing between the two.  "To go left, death is almost certain.  Men screaming, woman crying, people getting eaten…go to the right…I'll be able to relax and enjoy a nice cup of ale…"  He put his hat on.  "Looks like we're going left."

Alex smiled as Mercedes laughed, delighted with the decision..  Without another glance at the peaceful road they were abandoning, the three thieves strutted away in search of Blaxela.

AN: Hey…I'm going to try and restart this story – it's one of my older ones that I wrote last year.  It may go under some construction and if I don't like it – or more importantly, you don't like it – then I will delete it and try again from scratch; that, however, hopefully that won't happen.  Feel free to give me any constructive criticism that you think of, I appreciate it all.