Chapter I – Guardia Mountain
Thunder crashed, lightning bolts lit up the sky. Rain poured down on Summerset Island as a string of storms moved through the area, the third in just two days. The islanders living there were unhappy with the storms coming so often, but were not surprised. Ever since a great light flashed from over the horizon, storms had been becoming more and more frequent. They didn't think much of it, though, because they knew that the ocean was very unpredictable and could create many storms in a short period of time. This did not console some of the young men and women of the island, who felt that something was amiss, but did not know how, or why. Such was the case of one of the young men, Damian Kenochi. He was the kind of person to not react to anything much, at least not on the outside. He often remained calm during any kind of tense situation, not worrying too much and thinking things out. However, ever since the giant flash of light occurred, he was troubled by the constant stormy weather, though he couldn't explain what was making him so worried. Taking the advice of his trusted friends, he pushed the thoughts of it aside, and eventually forgot about it altogether. It stayed like that for two years…
"Yeah, right, like that'll ever happen. I dunno why you keep saying that I will, 'cause I won't!" Damian exclaimed. His dark blue eyes showed a frustration that mirrored what he was feeling. Of course, that was offset by a face that looked much younger than he actually was, which did not convey anger and frustration very well.
"Having another argument, I see? Tsk tsk tsk. Such ill-behavior should stay out of school," Noah stated in a matter-of-factly tone. He had been walking past Damian when he heard the tone coming from him and decided to make an unnecessary appearance. "I am ashamed of you two." Damian's friend, Ann Kushrenada, who was just arguing with him, turned to Noah, apparently displeased with his remark.
"Really? You don't say," she said. "Maybe you should take your own advice Noah." Ann turned back to Damian as he spoke up.
"Yeah, Noah, get outta here. I don't need your stupid antics right now." Damian sighed as Noah walked off. "He's always trying to sound all high-and-mighty. He really needs to learn to keep outta other people's business."
"Yeah. He's so annoying, but you always seem to be able to deal with him without even reacting… Well, not that much. Not many can do that. Anyway…" Ann trailed off for a second, allowing Damian to interrupt.
"I don't wanna hear about it anymore right now. We both know it won't happen, so let's drop it, okay?" Damian was determined to end that particular conversation immediately before Ann's stubborn side showed itself even more than it already had. Ann was friendly most of the time, but she could be downright stubborn when it came to an argument.
"Fine. But I don't want to hear you saying anything about it anytime soon." Ann and Damian started to walk down the hallway leading to the exit of the only High School on the island, Summerset High. Ann stayed quiet for a moment, her head down slightly, allowing her dark blonde hair to fall over her shoulders. Her mature face, and especially her brown eyes, showed signs of much concentration. She suddenly looked back up when a realization hit her.
"Wait a sec. Isn't it your birthday today?" she asked.
"Yeah, it is. Finally decided to remember? What about it?" Damian responded.
"Touchy today, aren't we? Well, aren't you seventeen now?" Ann asked, a little more excited.
"Yeah… and? You knew that already. What does that hafta do with anything?" Damian tilted his head over to one side, making it clear he wasn't following where Ann's questions were leading.
"Don't ya even remember? Seventeen is when guys are supposed to make their own swords! Sheesh, wouldn't you think that you would have remembered something so important?"
"Uh, I actually did remember, Ann," he said as he ran his hand through his short, extremely dark brown hair. "But 'important' is hardly the word I would use for it. More like…" Damian trailed off, trying to think of an appropriate word.
"More like 'really annoying and stupid.'" Ann finished.
"Yeah, that. I really don't see the point in doing it. It's just an old, dying tradition that our parents have." Damian shrugged his shoulders and raised his hands level to his shoulders. "The way I see it, if we don't wanna do it, then we shouldn't have to."
Ann and Damian stopped walking, and Ann turned her head to face back down the hall where they had just come from.
"Well, if that's the way you feel, then tell your parents that. I'm sure they'll understand," Ann said. She then spotted someone coming down the hallway towards them. "On the other hand…" Ann said as she turned her eyes to Damian, "It may be an old, dying tradition, but it could be the perfect way to try to impress her." Damian turned around to face Ann.
"Right. And in the past, we could shoot people to the moon." Damian's sarcastic tone stood out clearly. "I don't think that I could ever impress her. I'm not exactly a handsome guy, ya know," he said. Before Ann could retort with her usual 'Of course you are!' argument, he continued. "Look at me, I'm 5-foot-nothing and have no real redeeming qualities… Besides, I think she has her eye on someone else already." Damian sighed, and looked back to find that the person, who Damian immediately recognized as Laura Torelli, was almost to them, and already smiling at them. Her brown hair, which reached down to her shoulder blades, flowed back slightly in the gentle breeze coming from the doors of the school being opened. He grimaced slightly, repressing his feelings towards her.
"Hey you two! What's up?" she asked, looking at Ann and then Damian. She made an inquisitive look after she saw Damian's face. "Anything you'd like to tell me Damian? You're looking at me weird." Damian's face took on a surprised look, then almost instantly changed into his usual neutral appearance. No need to let her see me like that, he thought.
"No, nothing at all. Just thinking to myself." Laura waited for a moment and then shrugged her shoulders.
"All right, whatever. Happy birthday Damian! You're seventeen, right? Looks like you've got to make a sword now. Good luck with that, you're going to need it."
"Why do you say that?" Ann asked.
"Well, for the past couple of years, there hasn't been much luck in making good swords. Most have broken within a week of use. Hopefully yours won't, since it takes so much time and effort to make them." Laura paused before she continued. "Personally, I'd be impressed if you can make a sword that doesn't break within a week, let alone at all." Damian opened his mouth to speak, but decided against it and shut it quickly. "Well, I gotta go, I need to get home and do my homework before I go do some other personal stuff. Bye," Laura said as she adjusted her book bag and walked off.
"See ya later," Damian said, almost under his breath. "She seems to be in a cheerful mood, wouldn't you say?" He turned back to Ann, only to find her looked straight at him with a smug face that could only say 'I told you so.'
"Don't. Say. Anything."
"Hm… What was I gonna say…? Oh, I remember! I told you!" Ann said chuckling.
"Didn't I say not to say anything? Didn't I?" Ann only started to laugh, and Damian gave a sigh of defeat. "Whatever… Okay, I'll make the sword. But I'm not going to like it."
"Well, good luck with it. Who knows? Maybe it'll come in handy sometime. See ya later Damian." Ann said as she turned and started to walk away.
"Yeah, see ya Monday."
Damian left the school and headed home. His mother gave him his usual birthday gifts, and exhausted, Damian quickly headed up to bed and went to sleep almost immediately.
A young lady appears… She is falling…
"Help me! Help! Someone help!"
A young man appears… He is reaching out to the lady…
"Laura! Hold on!"
The young man's hand reaches for the lady… But she falls faster and disappears…
"Damian! Help me…"
Her voice fades away…
Damian shot up in bed, drenched in sweat and breathing heavily.
"Laura…" He slowly calmed down and regained control of his breathing. However, horror still filled him. He put his hand on his chest and closed his eyes and muttered something under his breath.
"…A dream… it was just a bad dream…" He continued to keep his hand on his chest as his heart slowed back down to normal, and shook his head. "It seemed so real… it couldn't have just been a dream… it was too real for it to be just a dream…" He threw himself back onto his pillow and pulled up his covers and tried to go back to sleep…
…But he couldn't sleep for the rest of the night…
Summerset Island was roughly an oval shape, with a mountain covering the east half of the island. The rest of the island was relatively flat, with a few small hills here and there. Even with the mountain taking up half the island, the area where everyone lived was fairly large. About a couple hundred homes occupied the area, each with a decently sized yard around it. Unfortunately, storms came from the west, so the mountain could not shield the homes from the brunt of the storms.
Atop the mountain, named Guardia Mountain, was a large forest, full of cliffs, caves, narrow paths, and many hidden dangers. It was here that the early explorers of the island found an ancient underground fountain. Inside they found inscriptions on the pillars, along with drawings depicting the legend of the young boy. It was here that the explorers decided to settle on the island and start the tradition of having the young men fashion their own swords in honor of the young boy. They would have to trek through the forest to the fountain near the top of the mountain and create the sword. They were to create the swords as they saw fit, and make them how they wanted. It was to be made before they came back down the mountain. This tradition continued through the years, even with many coming back severely injured or not at all. It was just another fact of life, another trial that you had to pass before moving on. This was before the young men began to rebel against the tradition. Few attempted it afterwards, and fewer went through with it all the way.
"Now then, is there anything else that you need? Anything at all? I don't want to see you come back down the mountain a dead man." Damian was making his final preparations for his trek up the mountain while his mother was pestering him with questions that were answered already.
"No Mom, I have everything. My food and water, my supplies, and the materials for the sword. That's everything. So would you quit askin' me about it?" Damian asked, irritated by his mother's protectiveness.
"Well, I'm just trying to make sure you're safe up there. It's dangerous."
Damian muttered something about overprotective mothers trying to ruin kids' lives as he left his room and went downstairs to the kitchen. He grabbed a small package of chocolate and tossed it into his mouth after unwrapping it and throwing the wrapping into the garbage can. He left the kitchen, picked up his bags filled with his supplies and opened the front door. The sky was clear after the storm during the night, and no clouds were in sight in any direction. Hopefully it will stay that way, Damian thought.
"See ya later," Damian said as his mother ran down the stairs. He closed the door behind him and ran up to the trail beside his house that led up to the mountain. Just as he started up the path his mother opened the side window and started waving her goodbyes, but Damian didn't look back and just concentrated on getting up to the fountain quickly.
Weariness reigned supreme in his body. Fatigue was a constant reminder to Damian of how long he had been climbing. For three days he had been up on the mountain. He had decided to stop for the night on a ledge looking over the island. With his tent set up and his campfire blazing, Damian took some time to sit on the edge of the ledge and gaze down upon the town below. He wondered how much longer this trek up the mountain would be.
Though he had been scaling the mountain for three days already, he wasn't very far up it. The so-called path he was following wasn't one that led straight up the mountain. It wound in and around it, and was dangerously narrow at times. In fact, there had been many times that it had gotten too narrow to walk on and he needed to find a way around it. That was time consuming enough as it was, but what really irked Damian was that the path would lead him further down than where he started before it would once again take him toward the mountain's peak. One time he had entered the mountain, following the trail inside, and come out, only to find himself directly below where he had entered.
It was quite warm out, and Damian, in an attempt to cool himself down, had taken his shirt off. It helped; the cool mountain breeze flowed over him, cooling him enough so that he was comfortable. The faint outlines of muscles could be seen in the flickering light of his campfire. Damian wasn't very athletic, and as such, his body wasn't toned like many of the others at his school. He wasn't proud of his body either. He rarely let others see him without a shirt on, fearing a comparison to some of the more athletic people.
Damian clutched his left arm right below the shoulder as a wave of pain shot through it. He grimaced as he realized too late that it was a mistake. Another wave of pain shot through his arm, this one much sharper than the last. He took his hand off his arm, uncovering a cloth bandage stained with blood where it covered a large gash on the arm.
It was dusk on the first day when he had tried to climb up an extremely steep slope. The slope was rocky and, unknown to Damian, unstable. He was nearing the top when a rock gave way under him. He couldn't regain his lost balance and went tumbling down the slope. He landed on a jagged rock towards the bottom; he got a couple of cuts on his back as a result. As he landed, his arm slid across the edge of the rock, causing the gash. After staggering to his feet and moving to a safer location just off the side of the trail, he sat down and tended to the wound. He chose to stop there and continue in the morning. The wound was still causing Damian great pain by morning, rendering the arm nearly useless for the rest of the day.
Damian sighed and looked up at the stars. The sky was clear overhead, but on the horizon he noticed the clouds beginning to gather together. It was obvious that a storm was on its way, and from what he could see, it was just past the horizon.
"Great," he muttered. "Another storm to deal with. I hope the trail is easier to navigate up ahead, I don't feel like being out in the open during a storm." With that he got up, walked into his tent, and went to sleep.
The next morning, the storm was much closer to the island. The thunderclouds were clearly visible in the distance, rain pouring onto the ocean below. It wouldn't be too long until they reached him. Damian was already up and moving about, packing his tent away and preparing for the day's ascent up the mountain. His arm was still throbbing, leading him to believe something was wrong. However, being the stubborn type, he refused to go back down to get treatment. I won't be weak, Damian thought. Ignoring the pain and determined to make good time before the storm hit, Damian picked up his things and started jogging up the sloped path.
An hour into the day, Damian entered a large forested area as he moved further up the mountain. Excitement started to build in his mind, as he knew that the forest covered only the area close to the summit, where the fountain he had been looking for was supposed to be located. Excitement quickly turned to anxiety minutes into the woods, as a series of grunts seemed to come out of thin air. More of these grunts followed, coming from several other sources, surrounding him. Damian became alert and readied himself for whatever came for him. His eyes searched the trees and rocks for any sign of movement. His ears listened to the grunting, which became growls, as they slowly came closer to him. His hands started to shake nervously; Damian knew all too well that he was an easy target because of his arm, and that he wouldn't be able to fend off multiple attackers even if he wasn't injured.
The growling approached him slowly, and when they got to what seemed to be only a few meters away, they stopped where they were. Damian could hear the deep breaths of a several large animals.
I can hear them, but I can't see them! Not even a shadow… This isn't good… Why are they staying put? They have me surrounded, so why don't they attack?
Damian was about to try and make a run for it when the creatures, whatever they were, ran off and disappeared back into the forest from which they came. Still breathing heavily through his tense throat, he straightened himself and let out a sigh of relief. The unexplained departure of his stalkers had left him relieved, but suspicious at the same time. He knew fully well that packs of animals hunting only retreated if they were either scared off or realized that their prey was too strong to take down. Neither applied to the situation, and Damian quickly decided that something was very wrong.
"I dunno what's going on, but I'm not stickin' around to find out," he muttered as he started running up the path.
Two hours later, darkness befell the forest as he ran on and on up the mountain, making it hard to see the increasingly narrow path ahead of him. Thunder rumbled in the distance. Damian's eyes narrowed in annoyance at the sound of rain approaching him from behind. Just what I need, a shower. Just as he thought the words, the ground underneath him suddenly leveled out. He nearly fell on his face from the change, but managed to land on his hands and knees.
Looking ahead of him, he saw a clearing in the forest, beyond which was a cliff side. A cave, whose opening didn't appear to be much larger than a full-grown person, appeared off to the side. Rain started to fall onto him as he got to his feet. He sped up his pace, trying to get out of the forest as soon as possible. As the trees started to clear out, more and more rain poured onto him. Behind him, just off the coast, lightning sparked furiously, stabbing at the water. Finally, Damian reached the cover of the cavern. Utter darkness enveloped him as he moved in a few yards further. Outside, the severe storm that was off the coast made it to the mountain and was hammering down on the ground.
Damian looked back over his shoulder at the rain. "That was too close." A series of lightning bolts attacked the ground in front of the entrance to the cave, and thunder crashes that resulted echoed through the cavern. "Way too close."
With his ears still ringing from the thunder, and his clothes wet from the rain, he put down his bag and pulled out a thick piece of wood and a stone the size of his hand. Damian moved over to the rock wall and placed the piece of wood against it. He struck the cavern wall with the stone and sparks flew out from it, some landing on the tip of the wood piece. The wood glowed softly as it started to burn in small patches. He repeated the process and the wood began to sprout small flames. In just a second, the top of the piece of wood was aflame, lighting the cave enough so that Damian could gain his bearings.
"Well, at least this place isn't fulla bats," Damian commented as he searched the cavern ceiling. He brought his gaze down in front of him, looking deeper into the tunnel. "But there's something about this place that just doesn't feel right." Still looking into the darkness, he took a step forward. His foot landed in a deep puddle of water, soaking his shoe and foot. "This doesn't feel right either…" Damian grumbled.
Outside, the wind was picking up, blowing into the cave and into Damian. Clearly he would be staying the night. After shaking off the water on his foot, he hopped over the puddle and started walking deeper into the tunnel, looking for a suitable place to camp.
About a half-hour later, Damian found himself in a large, spacious area in the tunnel. From what he could see from his torch, it seemed to be as large as a small house. He turned to his left and moved closer to the wall. Once he was up close, he could see small grooves in the vertical rock wall. The grooves looked like they were made by small streams of water that once flowed down the side of the wall. Damian turned and went to the other side of the room. It was the same as the wall he just saw. He moved to face the back wall. In the darkness, he could barely see two large torch stands.
Finally, I won't have to hold this any longer. He quickly walked over to the stands and lit them both with his torch before putting it out. The two stands glowed faintly for a few seconds before they flared up, lighting the whole room with an orange glow. Damian's eyes widened in surprise as he took in the sight before him.
"This isn't just a large room, it's the fountain!" He stared at the fountain in front of him. It was fairly large, but shallow, and was dry as a bone. It didn't look like it had had water in it since ancient times. Damian heard the faint rumbling of thunder from outside.
"Well, I guess I should get started right away; I don't think I'll be leaving anytime soon," he said as he sat down in the middle of the room. After eating a small lunch, he pulled out his supplies and got to work creating his sword.
After two days of work, the sword was finally complete. "Now this is a sword. Nothing fancy, just a good quality sword… I hope." Damian gripped the hilt of his handcrafted sword. The hilt was a plain brown with curved sides. No angle of any sort was crafted into the hilt. The actual handle had at the bottom a round structure. Above it, the handle bulged in the middle, with lines of a silvery material crossing it. The blade was double-edged. The only part of the sword that wasn't plain was the round, green jewel attached, on one side, to both the hilt and the blade that Damian had found in the dried up fountain.
"I've completed my sword, I think I'm pretty much done here. I'll just go outside for a moment to look at this in a better light." Damian carried his sword with him as he made his way out of the cavern. He could see bright light shining in from the outside as he approached the entrance. He stepped outside and immediately squinted his eyes and put his hand on his forehead to block the sunlight. The time underground really did a number on my eyes, even though it was only for about two days. As the light struck the blade of his sword it reflected it like a mirror. Damian, after letting his eyes adjust to the light, turned the sword in his hand, admiring it. Not bad, not bad at all. He looked up from the sword and noticed a cliff a few meters away from him. Wondering where exactly he was, he walked over and stood at the edge. Far below, his town lay out before him.
"All the people down there, they look like little ants. Too bad. I was hopin' I would be able to see Ann and Laura from up here." Damian's eyes narrowed as he noticed that all of the people were heading in the same direction. "They're all headin' to the mountain… why?" His question was answered when we looked back up towards the horizon. What seemed to be a dark mist was approaching the island at an extremely fast pace. The water at the front of the mist was being pushed along as if a wall were pushing through the top of the water. Okay, there's that, but surely that can't be why everyone is running… Damian looked further ahead of the mist, and noticed a horde of bird-like creatures flying over the coastline and into his town. … so they must be the reason! I have to get back down there!
Before he could move a muscle, however, the dark mist reached the coast as well and slammed into the town. The mist had formed into what seemed to be like a wall of air. The houses shuddered and collapsed, and the trees snapped in two, some uprooted completely, when the mist hit them. Damian was shocked when the people outside were knocked off their feet and flung high into the air from the force of the mist's blow. Shock quickly turned into horror when he looked up to find the mist bearing down on him. He made to turn and run, but only managed to turn halfway around before the mist struck him. He was knocked into the air, just as the others had been, and when he landed, he slid headfirst into the rock wall behind him. His vision blurred, darkened, and then finally went black as he slipped into unconsciousness.