The Dravenlow Chronicle's
I remembered the night so vividly. Every night, the same, terrifying dream. More of a nightmare really. But it's never whole; never all one piece. I see fragments, strewn apart like broken glass. Sometimes the memories go in order, sometimes in reverse. But no matter the order, it always ends the same. The blood curdling screams that were louder than the thunder claps echoing through the midnight sky. Everything was so red. Drenched in a crimson that would never come clean.
"Run," she would scream, "save yourself and run!"
But I couldn't. My legs were frozen. I watched the terror. The scarring terror that burned itself into my memory.
"Look away my son!" She screamed.
Why didn't I run. Why couldn't I look away. Why did I watch?! I should have done something, anything. But all I did was cower in my corner. Absolutely terrified and frozen with fear. They had already taken father to where I do not know. But they left mother, for they did not need her alive, or at all for that matter.
"Please, not my son!" She pleaded. "Don't hurt my son!"
They didn't care about her bloody son. They'd deal with me later, they said.
"You're our priority for now, sweetie." He sniggered, using his dagger to sift through her dirty, blood soaked hair. And in the blink of an eye, their steel was upon her. Why did I watch, oh why did I watch. The tears stung my red eyes. I tried to yell, but I could never find my voice in the dream. I was always silent. But she wasn't. They were not. The screams, the laughing and the ring of their steel was never mute. In fact, it got louder, as the dream went on. So deafeningly loud I had to cover my ears. And when I finally couldn't take it anymore, I would wake up.
My eyes opened wide and my heart pounded. I checked my surroundings; a long abandoned shack with a rotted roof. A warm sunrise shown through the cracks in the wood walls. My fire had gone out hours ago, leaving only blackened wood and the smell of smoke and ash. Birds chirped their morning song signifying warmer weather was on the horizon. My everything ached as I stood from my place of rest and gathered my belongings; a sack of coin, an old sword and dagger, my spell gauntlet and dwindling bag of runes as well as a pouch of rations that would need to be filled in town. Luckily their was a village nearby, Riverton I think it was called, that was known for it's commerce.
Once everything was in order I carved my initials and the date into the wooden wall I used as a headrest; D.D. 3.740. March, 740. Just 7 years after the incident. The night that replayed in my dreams every time I closed my eyes. 4
It wasn't long after I set off from the shack that I came upon a carriage on the road to Riverton.
"Oi, need a ride young lad?" A kind, old man asked. His face showed age but his voice was warm, full of youth and, best of all, welcoming. Despite his age he appeared strong, with thick arms and hands worn by labor. He didn't have much hair left; though his face was rough with stubble. He wore simple rags, a rough spun shirt and breeches.
"No, thank you sir," I replied, "I'm heading to Riverton."
He laughed until he was wheezing, "Are you now? That's a mighty long trip there my boy."
Quizzically, I raised an eyebrow, "Not quite, sir, I should be there by nightfall."
"Nightfall of next century, perhaps!" He laughed, "Riverton is the other way, lad!" He pointed east, or what I thought was east and what I also thought was the direction I came from. I never was good with directions. Or remembering recent things. Ever walk into a room and forget why you were there to begin with? That's a daily thing for me.
"Uhm.." I began, "A ride would be quite appreciated, sir."
"Hop on then lad, and don't fall off. Tis a craggy road to Riverton; we wouldn't want you bumping your head and losing your way again!"
"I would suppose not!" I agreed. "What's your name if I may ask?"
"The name is Marcell," he said, "but you can call me Gramps, everybody else does!"
"Nice meeting you Mar- er, Gramps." I said as I climbed into his carriage.
"And what might your name be, traveler?"
"Dante. Dante...er- Dante Drake." I stammered.
He laughed again, "Drake? You don't hear that name around here often. You from the North lad?"
"And you're this far South?" He asked.
"Tis a long story, sir." I chuckled. "What brings you out here?"
"I live in Riverton, but I had business in Aquella to the east."
"Ah, Aquella." I said, then glanced to the tarp covering the rest of the carriage behind me.
"That's fish I take it?" I asked, though I noticed no smell.
He hesitated a moment, slightly changing his demeanor before reverting back to his jovial grin from before, "You guessed it! Only two good things come out of Aquella: fish and women. And the women smell as bad as the fish so all you have left to take from the place is the fish!"
I laughed, "Speaking of produce sir, might a find a provisions shop in Riverton? I need to restock on my supply of food and runes."
"You'll find food to be an abundance but, you'll have to look elsewhere for runes, lad. The mayor had all the towns runes confiscated for the use of his guards." He lost his jovial demeanor once again, though this time it didn't return.
"Why would the mayor need runes for guards? Average guards have skill for sorcery."
"I use the term guards very lightly, lad," he began, "the mayor uses them to impose taxes, harass villagers and detain anybody whom the mayor deems a political threat or a threat in general. They're more foot soldiers than guards."
"Why does a mayor have so much power? I thought only the king could impose taxes." I asked.
"Because he's not just a mayor, Dante. He's one of king Lucian's seven advisors; though some like to refer to them as the Seven Sins. People call Mayor Lexil, Avarice, for his insatiable greed." Marcell explained. I could tell that just speaking of Lexil put a sense of fear into his eyes, so I decided to drop the conversation until we reached Riverton.
It wasn't until a few hours later that we reached the Riverton gates where we were met by two pike wielding guards. They crossed their weapons, "Halt," the left one said, he slurred his speech and was obviously quite drunk, "you musht pay the feh to e-entah the citeh."
"You're gonna have to speak up son." Marcell said. He didn't have any gold on him, that was obvious.
The guard on the right, who was sober, clarified, "You must pay a fee to enter Riverton."
"But I live here!" Marcell exclaimed.
"Pay the fee or turn back old man." The guard demanded. He then looked at me, "You as well lad. Neither of you can enter until the geezer pays. It's ten gold pieces, each."
"But, I don't have any gold..." Marcell said under his breath.
I had twenty gold, but that's all I had. How was I to get provisions? I suppose I could find work in town. I owed Marcell a debt for the ride to Riverton anyways. And I also needed access to the city. I could easily take the two guards. One was drunk and the other only had a pike. If I got in close enough with my sword and dagger it'd be a cinch. But that would cause trouble for Gramps. Dammit.
The guard on the right approached the carriage, "Or perhaps you'd like to hand over all your goods to the mayor?"
He began to lift the tarp when Marcell exclaimed, "No, please!"
"I'll pay!" I yelled.
"Lad, no, you don't have to. I have gold in the city." Marcell said.
"It's fine, consider it repayment for the ride here." I reassured him. I threw the bag of gold at the guard, "There, twenty gold. Now let us through."
"You're lucky I didn't charge you double, don't give me any attitude boy!" The guard warned. He yelled at his drunken watchman, "Let'em in Boros!"
"Aye sir!" Boros slurred, then opened the gate.
We proceeded on through, and into Riverton. The city wasn't exactly what I thought it would look like. I imagined a bustling city of commerce with food and trinket stands on every street, people roaming the city and children gallivanting along the stone walkways. But there was none of that. There were three shabby stands at most and they didn't seem to sell much more than old fruits and vegetables. In fact the entire city seemed to be a in a state of gray melancholy. It was lifeless; most likely due to the tyranny of Lexil. The stone houses were boarded up and those that weren't had their windows shut and curtains drawn. The occasional child would peer from a window only to have their parent pull them away.
"Dante," Marcell broke the silence, "how would you like to stay at my home for the evening? It's the least I can do for what you did for me"
"I couldn't Gramps, that was just my way of repaying you. I'm sure I can find a room at an Inn."
"Inns aren't free lad," he said, "don't think you have me fooled. You're out of gold."
Embarrassed, I looked away.
He laughed, "Just as I thought. I have a spare room and I'm sure by now that my granddaughter has already cooked us dinner." He then nudged me with his elbow, "She's not married ya know," he winked and chuckled, "and she's just about your age. Maybe a bit older."
Marriage was the farthest thing from my mind. The same with any relationship that involved me and another woman. I couldn't even think about settling down, not yet.
I sighed, "Alright, but just for a night!"
He laughed triumphantly, "Woohoo! We got company tonight!"
We soon arrived at Marcell's house at the eastern part of the city. It was tucked away from the rest of the houses on a little path through some trees. The windows were dusty and the stonework made Marcell look young and spry. The yard was a disaster of weeds and there seemed to be signs of a failed attempt at a garden; thought there was nothing left of what was grown there. Despite it's defects, however, it was a rather cozy little home that I was sure I could feel comfortable in.
Marcell pulled the carriage to the side of the house, "Go ahead inside I'll be in soon enough."
"But what about the fish? I can help you unload the-
"No, no, no, go on inside and have a rest."
"If you insist..." I complied.
I gingerly got down from the carriage, "Are you sure you don't-"
"I said I'm fine!" he yelled, "You darn kids don't know how to listen." He grumbled, getting down from the carriage.
Reluctantly, I entered the house, leaving Marcell to his work. The inside was clean and quaint. Just what you'd expect from an old man. However I would have expected a little more dust. His granddaughter must clean often, for it was evident that it was cleaned recently. I hung my sword and gauntlet by the door and proceeded to the table where I sat down. I released my dagger from it's sheathe and ran my thumb along the edge.
"You couldn't cut a bloody apple with this thing," I said. The blade was dull and nearly jagged. I'd have it replaced or sharpened but I doubt there's a blacksmith in the city.
"Gramps, are you home yet? How was your trip to Aquella?" A female voice asked as the body to match it came from the next room. She was of a middle height, about five foot seven inches, with a slender frame. Short, brown hair crept past her shoulders and her eyes were the sort of green you'd see in gemstones. I thought she was pretty, she thought I was a robber. "Thief! Brigand! Grampa, there's a thief in our house!"
Before I could object, Marcell burst through the door, "Where is he?! I'll deal with the ruffian!"
He wielded a deadly broom, and swung it at invisible thieves as he looked around.
She pointed at me, "There!"
Marcell looked at me, then back at her, then back at me and again at her, "You had me terrified! That's just Dante!"
"Who is Dante and why is he in our house?! "
"I can explain-" I began before being interrupted.
"Shut up brigand!" She yelled.
"I'm not a brigand!" I yelled back.
"Then why do you have that dagger!" She exclaimed, "Only brigands and thieves carry daggers!"
"Emerald, Dante is a traveler I met on the road from Aquella!" Marcell said, "He payed for us to reenter the city! Now he's out of gold because of me so I decided to let him stay here for a bit."
"Oh." She replied. "Oh! I am so, so sorry!" Her pale face flushed a deep red, "I called you a brigand and a thief."
And I thought you were pretty, though it seems your face doesn't match your personality.
"Emerald," Gramps began, "this is Dante Drake from...er..where did you say you were from again?"
I was hoping to avoid this question, though maybe I still can. "Oh that doesn't matter," I laughed, "I'm a traveler from the North, pleased to make your acquaintance Miss Emerald."
"A traveler? I can understand the sword and dagger but why the catalyst gauntlet? What's in the North that requires the need of sorcery?" She asked and pointed to my gauntlet. It was solid steel, forged to perfectly fit my forearm. The fingers and joints, however were of bronze chain mail, for it was the best catalyst for sorceries. At the center of my gaunlet was an empty socket that would normally hold a sorcery jewel, often referred to as a rune. However it took a special person to be able to use runes let alone channel them through armor or other objects. I suppose it would look weird for a simple traveler to carry one around. "And don't bother with formalities, it's just Emerald, after all I'm only 18."
Damn, she is older than me. Though I was much taller than her, I was only 17. "Well," I began with a chuckle, about to try and explain my way out of this predicament, "Bandits, bears, mostly big game along with the occasional fiend"
"Oh, big game?" Marcell began, "Wouldn't a bow be more suited for hunting lad?"
He was asking too many questions, and I couldn't fabricate enough answers quick enough. "Well you see-"
"If you can't use a bow just say it," Emerald huffed, "no shame in hiding it."She was awfully forward, but not so much that she came off rude. Despite calling me a brigand. And a thief.
"And if you're willing to learn," Marcell said, "Emerald is the best marksman in Riverton."
She blushed again, "I wouldn't say best. Seasoned is more the proper word."
"Don't be modest, you out shot Lexil's top guards when you were just fifteen!" Marcell laughed proudly, "Why, he even asked to have her hand in marriage!"
"Gramps!" She yelled in embarrassment.
"Well it's true!" Marcell yelled back, "'Beauty and the makes of a fierce hunter all in one girl, I must have her!' Lexil had said. But I refused to let him! She was only fifteen after all."
"Then he vowed to claim me when I came of age," she finished. With that, the mood and the room immediately changed to one of dread. She was of age now.
A girl this pretty with the skill of a trained archer? No doubt Avarice would want to wed her. Though I'm sure he wouldn't have much need of her after the first few children. That's how greed works, you finally gain what you strive so long for, and once it's lost its luster, whether it be the finest jewelry or the most beautiful girl, you toss it aside for a new obsession.
"Can't you just refuse him again?" I asked.
"I'm afraid not," Gramps said, in a grave tone, "once Avarice has his mind set on acquiring something, he never stops pursuing it.."
"Avarice will never lose his lust for me, not until he weds me and makes me his newest trinket." Emerald said sullenly.
"Hasn't anybody tried to remove him from power?" I asked, "Elections, rebellions? He can't just take you!"
The room fell silent, perhaps a fresh wound? No, more like I hit the bullseye on an old target.
"What happened?" I asked.
"My parents," Emerald began, but Marcell cut her off.
"Forget it, let the past lie," he said then walked into the next room. "Emerald, could you prepare Dante a new set of clothes? Can't wear rags to a dinner table."
As abrasive a statement that was, I couldn't disagree. I had been traveling a while without a change of clothes. My black jerkin was torn and my brownish green shirt was white when it was made for me. My trousers sported their own set of scars from my travels. My shaggy black hair was also in need of a wash, so I'd suppose I'd need a bath as well.
"I suppose he'd need a bath as well?" She yelled into the other room. Oh, a mind reader, quick, what's my favorite color? "I'll run you a bath upstairs and fetch you some new clothes, Dante. Try not to steal anything while you're alone." She retreated upstairs. A charming girl, she was. However, I couldn't tell if she was being cheeky or cautious. Though I suppose I couldn't blame her.
It felt awkward, sitting at a table alone in a strangers house. It felt like I should offer a hand in whatever it was Marcell was doing but I was afraid he'd swat me with his deadly broom, so I chose to wait it out.
About half an hour passed and my bath had been drawn. Emerald came down with my change of clothes and a raggedy towel that would serve its purpose well enough, "Here you go, change of clothes and a towel. Bath should be to your liking and supper will be ready shortly."
"T-thank you," I said, taking the clothes and towel in hand, "by the way, you never finished explaining what happened to your parents."
She dropped her gaze and whispered sullenly, "Some things are best left in the past, Dante."
First a brigand, now a dense oaf that didn't know when to let things lie. I suppose it didn't matter if I was in her good graces, I'd only be there a day. After then I'd continue my journey. "Sorry, I shouldn't have asked," I apologized, then left for the bath.
"Dante," she said, stopping me on the stairs, "thank you, for helping Gramps."
I smiled, "Not a problem at all, if it weren't for him I'd still be on the road to Aquella. I'm terrible with directions you see."
"Well I hope you won't need directions to the bath!" She said.
Thankfully she was right, the upstairs was more or less a hallway with four doors. The first door, facing the staircase, held the bath. The other three, I'd assume were the guest room, and Marcell and Emerald's rooms respectively. Had I been anybody else, I would have done my fair share of snooping, but that bath wasn't getting any warmer and I've inconvenienced them enough.
The bath, was hot. Very hot, in fact. Was she drawing a bath or a fire? If I didn't have such a high tolerance to pain it would be unbearable. But I dealt with it and after a while it wasn't so bad. I was just about finished when there was shouting from the front yard.
"Oh, Miss Emerald! I've come for your hand!" If annoyance and stupidity had a child, and that child could for some ungodly reason form words, that child would sound like the man that just spoke. At that moment I didn't care who's face belonged to that voice, I just knew that I would hate him. But by what he said, there was only one man that voice could belong to.
Quickly, I dried off and put on my new clothes that made me look like less of a brigand, or so Emerald called me. By the time I was downstairs there was already shouting in the front yard. I grabbed my sword, dagger and gauntlet and opened the front door.
"Please Mayor Lexil! Just another year! She's just a girl!" Marcell pleaded.
"Now, now, Marcell, she's 18!" The fat oaf of a mayor said atop a golden carriage drawn by white as snow horses. "She is of the perfect age to be my wife!" His mustache was thick, brown and curled at each end. A set of fat pink lips separated it from his short and stubbly goatee that would have looked much nicer on anybody besides him. His hairline had long since retreated so far back that it only left hair on the sides of his head, and his tiny black beady eyes held no soul. He was at least in his late forties and hadn't gotten any proper exercise for at least twenty of those forty years. Fat fingers were adorned with multiple rings, though not all of them were simply jewelry. Some were most likely used for sorcery, though what kind of sorcery I wasn't sure. His crimson doublet barely fit his bulbous figure and was close to bursting. There was no doubt that this man was Avarice, which gave me ample reason to hate him. On each side of the carriage were two guards clad in plate and leather. Their faces held no emotion, just stoic expressions.
"It's alright, Gramps, I'll go." Emerald said then turned to Avarice, "Just promise you won't do anything to my grandfather!"
"Oh, don't you worry dear, I have no intentions of hurting even the tiniest hair on his old head," Avarice said in his weaselly voice. He then turned his attention to me as I stood in the door. His eyebrows narrowed and his eyes squinted. His smile flipped upside down, "Who is this?"
"Just a traveler passing through, sire!" Marcell quickly spoke up, "Right, Dante? Tell him."
I had two options: comply, and everything would turn out alright, but they'd take Emerald, or help these people. Emerald was on the verge of tears, and judging by the way she spoke of her parents, Marcell was all she had and she was all he had. They hadn't done much for me, but they did more than most people would have. I couldn't stand around and allow this to happen. And besides, I could take four guards on my own.
I slipped my gauntlet onto my left arm, making sure it was snug, then placed a blue jewel from my pocket into its center. I looked at the sad excuse for a mayor, "So, you're Avarice."
He quickly grew angered, a vein pulsed from his head, "What did you just call me?" He clenched his fists. "I am Mayor Lexil of Riverton as well as advisor to King Lucian. You will address me with respect or I will have you in chains, understand boy?"
I said, putting one hand on the hilt of my sword, "Go bother somebody else. Maybe somebody your age? Or size for that matter."
Marcell and Emerald were completely wide eyed. "Dante, what are you doing!?" Marcell yelled. "Just leave things be and go back inside."
Emerald was halfway to the carriage. "Emerald, do you honestly want to go with him?" I asked. She stood, speechless, tears welling in her eyes, "I'll take that as a no." I looked at Avarice, "Leave these people be."
"Three years ago I vowed to take Miss Emerald, the most beautiful woman and the greatest archer in Riverton, as my bride," Avarice said, "and I will have my bride."
"And if she doesn't want you?" I asked.
"Emerald," Lexil began with a stern tone, "if you want your grandfather unharmed and if you prefer your home not ablaze, I suggest you come with me. Or would you like to end up like your traitor parents!?"
Emerald lost her look of despair and instead it was replaced by pure hate, "My parents weren't traitors! They fought to protect Riverton from your tyranny!" She slowly stepped back from the carriage.
"You are making a grave mistake my dear Emerald." Lexil said through gritted teeth, "If you don't come willingly you will come in chains! Or would you rather see your home burnt and your Grandfather put to the sword!?"
Emerald was out of time and options. Live a life of misery as Avarice's prize or watch her Grandfather die before her, as they set her home ablaze and take her forcefully. Her choice, no matter how reluctant she was, was obvious.
"Emerald," I began, drawing my sword, "I promise you I won't let anything happen to you, Marcell or your home. Let me take care of them."
Lexil sneered, "I don't think you quite understand how powerful I am, boy. I will have you in chains; kill him and ransack their home. This will teach you peasants not to cross me. Take the girl as well!"
"No please!" Marcell yelled as two guards ran past him, one into the house and the other to his carriage. Another took Emerald as the last guard made it's way towards me. He wielded a long spear, but looking at him, he didn't seem too confident in his ability to use it.
Probably hoping I'd back down, he was surprised when I charged forward, sword drawn in my right and dagger in my left. His spear lunged forward, but I quickly dodged around it, got underneath of it and cleaved it in half before activating my gauntlet and sending a rune charged pulse into his stomach, sending him flying backwards.
"Emerald!" I yelled as Lexil's carriage began to retreat in the opposite direction, Emerald in tow. However, he left another guard behind, this one with a shield and sword. A challenge? Probably not. Sword raised, he charged. I waited until his sword fell to knock it aside with my dagger and then sent forth a pulse with the gauntlet. He quickly raised his shield, blocking the force. However, he misjudged the pulses strength and you could hear the bone in his wrist brake. His shield fell limp as he charged again, two horizontal slashes both easily dodged, followed by an overhead slash. I sidestepped, grabbed him by the helmet and slammed him to the ground with the hilt of my sword. Once those two were dispatched, I heard yelling from behind the house.
Quickly, I ran to the carriage where the guard had a sword to Marcell's throat, "Smuggling weapons for the local resistance, eh? You're no better than you're lousy son and his wife."
Behind the guard, the tarp to the carriage had been lifted, revealing all sorts of weaponry: axes, swords, clubs, maces, bows, quivers of arrows and the occasional shield. No wonder I hadn't smelled fish, he was smuggling weapons from the port of Aquella, not fish. I also suppose that answers my question regarding the local rebels. They existed and they were more than likely actively preparing to make their move. After all, Marcell was their supplier and the carriage held enough equipment to supply a militia.
"Get it over with, dammit," Marcell said.
Before he knew it, I shot a concentrated pulse through the air and into the guard, sending him on his back. Marcell realized this window of time, quickly got up, grabbed a club from the carriage and smacked the guard a few times in the head.
"So," I began, "you're a weapon smuggler."
He looked me up and down, then at the unconscious guards, "And you're no ordinary traveler."
I shrugged, "That, I'm not." Before either of us asked for an explanation, we noticed the smell of burning. "Please tell me you left the stew on," I said in a panic.
We both bolted to the front door of the house, getting there right after the guard had finished his work. I tossed him a few feet with my gauntlet and opened the door to find the interior absolutely in flames. Marcell, in a panic, attempted to rush in. I blocked his path, "Do you want to burn as well!?"
"I can't stand back while my home burns, lad," he tried to push past me, "let me by!"
"You impatient old man," I said as I hurriedly swapped out the blue rune in my gauntlet for a clear rune. I held out my left hand and concentrated on the flames before me, "This isn't going to be easy. Stand back."
"You're definitely no ordinary traveler, who are you?"
I opened my hand, beckoning the flames into my rune. Soon enough, it was as if a strong draft blew threw the house, pushing the flames towards my gauntlet. The rune glowed as it absorbed the heat and fire, slowly turning red until it was a complete ruby color and the flames were gone. However, the rune could not undo the destruction caused by the inferno. The interior was in shambles, everything was charred from the floors and ceiling to the very walls. Pieces of the ceiling began falling, showing the relatively untouched upstairs.
"My home," Marcell began, falling to his knees. "My beloved home. I built this home from the ground up with my own two hands!" He threw his fists into the dirt. Tears welling up in his eyes, he stood back up, "He took my granddaughter. I won't let that dastard live another day."
"I'm sorry, I couldn't stop them. But you'll have your revenge, I swear it." I checked my supply of runes, which I forgot needed replenished. My dagger was cracked and my sword couldn't possibly withstand a full on raid of Avarice's Keep. "How good a quality are the weapons you got from Aquella?"
"The finest from Dravenlow across the Eastern sea!" He replied. "You're not going to storm his Keep alone are you?! You'll be slaughtered!"
I walked back to the carriage and began rummaging through the pile of weaponry until I found a sword and dagger that fit my needs. "I don't have much of a choice, now do I?" I glanced at the bow and arrows, but realized I had no holster for either. "You said Emerald was an archer, I need her holster." I then sheathed my new sword and dagger.
"It's in her room—dammit, Dante you can't take on Avarice alone!"
It was then I had an idea, "How many people are a part of your resistance?"
"Uh, at least a thousand. Nearly every able bodied man and woman in Riverton!" Marcell replied.
"Gather them up," I said while grabbing a quiver of arrows and a long bow. "I have a plan."
I explained my plan to Marcell, who looked at me both as if I were absolutely mad and a genius. Before dusk, I would sneak into the keep's dungeons through the sewer line. From there, I'd quickly and quietly dispatch the guards, making my way to the drawbridge controls. Once there, I'd lower the drawbridge, allowing for the rebels to storm the keep. Then, I'd use the confusion to find Emerald and escape, letting the townspeople extract their revenge.
"And if by dusk, the drawbridge isn't down," I said, while mounting a horse from Marcell's carriage, "assume I'm dead." Another hour and it'd be sunset. That meant I didn't have long to find a way into Avarice's Keep. Though I was usually good at operating under pressure, this plan involved actually knowing where to go, something I didn't excel at.
"Dante," Marcell began, "and what if you're caught? What if you encounter Lexil himself?"
"Well, I believe the answer to that is simple," I said, "I'll kill him. HYAH." I took off on the horse, leaving Marcell to enact his half of the plan. My half of the plan, I feared, would be more difficult than actually finding Emerald and escaping with my life. Once I got back to the center of Riverton, however, it was clear which direction Avarice's Keep lied. From nearly every angle of town, you could spot the ornate spires and towers of Avarice's keep. Any normal mayor would have a modest town hall, but not Lexil. The embodiment of greed, of course, had to have the most lavish of castle's despite only being mayor of a commerce town. Nonetheless, it would be a daunting task trying to find a way in.
Once I made my way to the keep, I scanned the moat around it to try and spot an opening. Soon enough, I found what looked to be a drain near the bottom of the castle exterior. It was blocked off by iron bars, though I could easily blow through them with my gauntlet. I checked my blue rune; it was fading, but I had one or two uses left of it. Runes relied on a finite power source. Depending on the stone used to make them, they could hold a lot of energy, or not so much. The stone also determined whether or not the rune could be refilled. Often enough, runes were a one time use. Once they were depleted of energy, they'd shatter. However, some runes are infinite in power, but must recharge after use. These are black runes and are extremely rare and more often then not contain a very powerful sorcery or can be used to summon creatures from another plane of existence. However, runes also take a toll on the user, and since black runes have a seemingly infinite amount of energy, they can severely injure the caster, sometimes even killing them.
Thankfully, there were no guards in sight, so it was easy for me to enter the mote and swim my way to the drain. I swapped out the red gem in my gauntlet for the blue and sent a concentrated energy wave into the bars. They separated and bent outwards, allowing me passage. I held my breath, and didn't stop swimming until I saw light. At the end of the tunnel, was yet another grate. I blew this one open as well, though in a much more subtle fashion. After that wave, however, my blue gem shattered. I reinserted my red rune and made my way to the surface.
Laughably, I was correct in my assumption that the drain lead to the Keep's dungeon. It was dark, damp and there was a sense of dread in the air. You could hear the moans of starving prisoners along with the drunken laughter of the guards watching over them; albeit terribly considering a teenager armed to the teeth with steel and magic just waltzed into the dungeon. However I wasn't interested in drawing attention just yet. Directly in front of the metal grate was a large wooden crate that I hid behind. The dungeon was essentially a hallway that branched off into different cells, some empty some occupied. Before the hallway full of cells, however, there was a gate separating the area from a round table and a stairway most likely leading up to the first floor of the Keep.. I noticed two guards sitting at the table, enjoying their mead while another slept upright against a wall. I knew I could take out the two drunks, so I made that my priority for the moment.
I began by generating enough heat from my gauntlet to properly dry off my bow and quiver of arrows, because when diving into the moat I forgot that arrows didn't work so well completely drenched. Once that was finished, I quickly notched one arrow after the other and sent them flying into the two drunken guards. They went silently, not even waking up the sleeping one. Quietly, I crept through the hallway, dagger and sword drawn, never letting my guard down. I tip-toed past the sleeping guard and on up the stone stairway.
Once at the top, I slowly opened the heavy wooden door, looking on into an extravagant room lined with tapestries and crimson, silk rug that spanned the entire room. This must have been the main hall, for it lead to two winding staircases, the drawbridge controls and at the very end of the room, lied two large, ornate golden doors that I would bet led to Avarice's throne room. I had a feeling he was a throne room type of man, what with all the greed and the extreme ego. Only thing he was missing was a crown. Guards were stationed at each staircase and two were stationed at the chains that held the drawbridge up. Four guards stood at the throne room doors and oddly enough there were three stationed at a staircase near the doors. Odds are I would find Emerald at the top of those stairs.
There were eleven guards in total stationed in the entrance chamber, most of them wielding swords and a scarce few armed with crossbows, not counting the plethora that could be waiting in the throne room. Wait, eleven guards? Two or three is reasonable but how was I to take out eleven solo? I hadn't thought that far ahead unfortunately.
I checked my rune and arrow count: I had twenty or more arrows so that wasn't going to be an issue for a while, but I was down to only four runes, counting the one currently in the gauntlet. One of the unused three was empty, so that wasn't going to help. Aside from that I still had my lightning rune, and a black rune that I only used in emergencies. However, each guard was using mostly plate armor, and if I could get them in a cluster a single blast of lightning could fry all of them, if not most of them. My plan was set, now I had to put it into action; of course there was no subtle way of doing that.
With all this plotting and strategizing, I didn't notice the sleeping guard from the dungeon had awoken. I also didn't notice him come up from behind me.
A rough hand shoved me through the door, and into the main hall of the Keep. "You bloody welp, you think you can just waltz in here and get away with it!" He said, drawing his sword.
I flipped myself over, still on the ground but at least I was facing him now. I quickly shuffled backwards, distancing myself from him before saying, "Yeah, sort of!" I shot forth a ball of fire, knocking him back down the stairs. It wouldn't set him ablaze or do any lasting damage but it got him out of my way. However this also caught the attention of the rest of the guards, who were now all looking at me, weapons drawn. I suppose the lack-wit did my job for me, though not as flashy as I planned.
The guards charged, the closest ones being at the controls; the others guarding the staircases were on their way but they were clear across the room so they wouldn't be a problem for another few moments. The first of the two control guards shot a pulse from what must have been a rune bearing glove. The blast was weak, being that it's catalyst was leather instead of bronze, nevertheless I dodged to my right and quickly switched my rune of fire for one of lightning. By the time I had reequipped runes, the other was upon me with a mace. Back-stepping, I kicked him away and quickly turned to send a bolt of lightning into the magic user. He yelled in pain as he was sent back into a wall, unconscious.
By this time the other two guards from across the room were at the side of the one I had planted my boot into. Two came at me at once, both wielding greatswords. I blocked both at once with my sword, but noticed the other gearing to charge at me as well. I pushed the two off of me and sent an arc of lightning into them, sending them back. The remaining guard brought his mace down, aiming at my head. I back-stepped, brought my knee into his face and put him on his back with a kick to his chest. To keep him from getting up, I sent a weak zap into him.
I was sweating, and my rune was half spent; four down, seven to go, barring the dungeon keeper and reinforcements didn't emerge. The three guarding the staircase were on their way over, but the four at the doors were likely to not move unless absolutely necessary. They were to keep me out of the throne room, that meant protecting those doors with their lives. And even if I took them out, there would be more on the other side. I had to reach Emerald as soon as possible, but first, the drawbridge.
I ran as fast as I could to the chains holding the bridge. The remaining guards were close behind, but once I got the bridge down they'd be less of a problem.
Once I reached the chains, I easily cleaved the first with my sword before sending a blindly aimed arc of lightning at my pursuers. I knew I wouldn't hit them, but it was a good enough distraction. I heard a thunk as a crossbow bolt barely grazed my left shoulder and skittered across the stone floor. Before he could reload the next bolt, I had already cut down the last chain, allowing the bridge to fall.
A flood of angry townsfolk, led by Marcell, then began to flood across the bridge, wielding pitchforks, torches, swords and shields, maces and axes. It was a full on rebellion.
"We're being raided, protect Mayor Lexil!" The crossbowman called to the guards protecting the golden doors. "Call for reinforcements!"
"What about the girl?" asked the guard who had tasted my boot two too many times.
"Lexil said to kill the wench if they came after her," said the crossbowman. The other two guards then fled, one to the staircase, the other towards the doors. A stream of guards armed to the teeth came running down the staircase closest to the drawbridge as the crossbowman before me threw his crossbow down and unsheathed his sword, prepared to kill me or die trying.
"Dante!" Marcell yelled, "find and protect Emerald! Leave him to us!"
I smiled, "Understood!" I then looked at the guard, who now realized how outnumbered he was, "Hate to leave so suddenly, but it seems you've got company!" I then made my way to the staircase to where they were keeping Emerald. As I ran, not looking back, I heard the most feminine scream from what must have been the guard being trampled by the mob. As my reinforcements proceeded to raid the Keep, Lexil's men were flooding the chamber.
As numbered as they were, the townsfolk weren't trained warriors, I knew not whether they could stand their ground against ironclad guards, but I couldn't let that stop me. My top priority was rescuing Emerald, who was now in grave danger.
I rushed across the room, dodging and knocking away guards left and right. I shot arcs of lighting into groups of guards, hoping to give the townspeople an advantage. Once I reached the staircase, they were on their own.
The guard sent to kill Emerald was still within reach, so I sped up my pace in hopes of catching him on the stairs. He noticed this, and followed suit hurrying his steps on the stairway. In his panic, he slipped, giving me enough time to catch up. I grabbed his leg, pulling him down. I shot lighting into his chest, shattering my rune and taking out the guard once and for all.
Once I reached the second floor, I began shouting, "Emerald! Emerald, it's Dante, where are you?!" However I doubt she would have heard me through the thick walls and doors. No doubt the order to kill her was passed along to all the guards.
The second floor was another series of passageways lined with heavy wooden doors. The walls bore tapestries and paintings of Mayor Lexil that I had to resist burning. It was then that I heard a scream. I had to hurry. Panicked, I began throwing open doors left and right until I caught a glimpse of Emerald. Eventually I reached the end of a corridor, where the screaming was the loudest. I tried to open the door, but no luck. It was locked from the inside. I quickly inserted my red rune and blasted the door off it's hinges.
Inside I found a very panicked Emerald, stomping on the source of the screaming, a soldier who must have gotten on her bad side, while holding a broken hair brush she probably have used to beat him with. She wore a bright green dress that showed off her curves and really brought out her eyes. Her hair was curled beautifully, though it was slightly tousled from the tussle. Lexil must have planned to wed her as soon as possible.
"Tis about time!" Emerald yelled, flipping the hair from her eyes. "Perhaps next time you'll waste less time showing off with your flashy magics and more time rescuing!"
"Well let's hope you don't make a habit of getting captured by old, fat men." I yelled.
She stomped over to me, "Is this how you treat a damsel in distress?"
"Well excuse me but I've never seen a damsel fend off an armed soldier with just a hairbrush and a nice pair of heels; so pardon me if I feel it appropriate to argue with somebody who accuses me of wasting time in hopes of looking flashy!" I yelled as she stormed past me. "And how about a bloody 'thank you' your highness?"
She yanked the bow and an arrow from my quiver from me and shot at a soldier tearing a path toward us, "You're welcome." She quickly took the quiver and holster, promptly putting them on. "Shall we?" She said, flipping more curled hair out of her eyes. "Oh I'm sorry were you hoping to blast him with more fire or stardust or something?"
I resisted the urge to argue, "Let's just go, the villagers will need our help!" We tore off down the corridor; Emerald dispatching the faraway guards while I took out the ones coming out of the doors. "And what would stardust do to an enemy anyways!?"
"Which way to the main chamber?" She asked, looking around the maze of corridors for the exit. The exit, I hadn't remembered which direction led to the damn exit! She noticed my confused expression, "you didn't."
"I didn't! Uhm. I did." I said, frantically trying to remember where it was I came from. "No, time, this way!" We raced down a corridor, until we found a set of stairs where two guards were climbing to meet us. I jumped and kicked the first guard, landing on the stair landing. Emerald promptly stuck an arrow in the guard coming from the next set. We then proceeded, repeating the process until we reached the end of the stairs where we hoped we would find the townsfolk.
We were wrong.
Somehow, the stairs we took opened up right into Avarice's throne room. A dozen or more guards met us with spears and swords. Avarice sat upon his throne, displeased with the situation. "My bride, this time you have come to me; how thoughtful of you," he said from his throne, "however, it seems you're grandfather and your little friend have caused a bit of trouble within my walls. Alas, I must call off our wedding." Avarice waved his hand, "Kill them."
A wave of guards charged, and before we knew it, there were guards behind us as well. Emerald did her best to keep the guards at our rear at bay but her supply of arrows wouldn't last much longer. I cut us a path through the wave with my gauntlet, blasting back our foes with a jet a flame that was quickly exhausting my rune. Not wanting to be left without magic, I switched to my sword and dagger, knocking aside guards to my front and quickly slashing at the guards to my left and right. Before we knew it, we were at the center of the room.
I hadn't noticed before, but the throne room was more extravagant than I would have ever dreamed. The walls, floor and even the ceiling were all solid gold. A chandelier above us was crafted from priceless gemstones; sapphires, rubies, diamonds and emeralds. Avarice's throne was entirely made of melted down gold coins and piles among piles of gemstones. He sat at the base of a giant black stone, of which I didn't know the name—wait, it couldn't have been. At the top of his golden throne, Avarice had made the very seat out of a giant, black rune.
"Emerald, how many arrows do you have left?" I asked, panicked. I knocked aside another two guards.
She knocked back another arrow and sent it into the neck of another guard, "All out, got any ideas?"
Great. Just great. She's out of arrows, we're nearly outnumbered and Avarice's very throne was a giant black rune that could unleash any sort of Hell onto us. Just when I thought we were almost out of this mess, we are placed in the middle of yet another problem. I didn't have another sword for Emerald and I couldn't protect her from the surrounding enemies for long.
I grabbed Emerald and held her close to me, "Hold on tight, close your eyes, and whatever you do, don't you dare panic!" I didn't give her a chance to ask questions. I raised my gauntlet, and called forth a storm of fire upon the crowd of guards, completely shattering the rune. A vast majority of the crowd was knocked back, but not enough. We weren't in the clear yet. I released Emerald and charged at the nearest guards still standing. With a single stroke, I took out two guards, then another two. More were getting up, as the blast of fire didn't pack as much punch as I'd hoped.
"Give up, boy, you won't make it out of here alive!" Avarice laughed.
"We'll see about that!" I screamed as I cut away at another guard, hopping back and forth to keep them away from Emerald. She was fending for herself fair enough with just the bow but that wouldn't keep them at bay forever. When I had thought I had knocked down enough of them, more came. From the staircase, from doors around the room, they began swarming in. My swings slowed down as I became fatigued, and Emerald's bow broke ten guards ago. I backed up towards Emerald, trying to keep them away from the both of us without leaving an opening. My dagger had gotten knocked away, and I didn't have the time to switch to my last rune.
I had lost hope. But it hadn't lost me.
"Dante, Emerald!" Marcell yelled as the doors to the entrance chamber slowly opened, with the mob on the other side and Marcell leading the charge. A sigh of relief escaped mine and Emerald's lips as the townfolk began beating their way through the crowd. With the guards attention on the new threat, Marcell found a window of opportunity.
"Emerald, catch!" He threw her a short bow and a quiver filled to the brim with arrows.
In an instant, the tides had turned. The swarm of guards diminished every second as Marcell, Emerald and I along with nearly the entire city of Riverton cut down Lexil's forces in a matter of minutes. Axes fell, maces pummeled, Emerald fired arrow after arrow and Marcell pounded his club into more heads than I could count. When the last of the guards were defeated, they let out a triumphant roar of victory.
"SILENCE! I DEMAND SILENCE!" Avarice screamed. "You have all made a grievous error. You will pay for your transgressions!"
I laughed, "Give it up, Avarice, you've lost."
"What are you gonna do, throw gold at us?" Emerald asked, notching an arrow and firing it right next to his head.
Avarice caught the arrow and snapped it in half. Veins pulsed in his head as he slowly got up from his throne. He held out his hand and his rings began glowing. If he really was capable of sorcery, then that could only mean that the massive black gem really was a fully functional rune. However, for now he chose not to unleash it. From his rings shot forth a storm of fire, lightning and wind. Townsfolk were pushed back by the dozen as Emerald, Marcell and I held our ground as best we could.
"Feast your eyes upon true terror, for I am the embodiment of death, and will end your existences, here and now!" Avarice said. His weaselly, annoying voice was replaced by sheer malice and evil as more and more magic shot from his hands, making the room one giant storm. The chandelier rattled and fell as wind pushed back more and more of the townsfolk until it was only Marcell, Emerald and I left in the room. With a flick of his wrist, the doors shut and the three of us were left on our own.
"Use all the fancy magic you want, Avarice, you're finished!" Marcell yelled.
Avarice narrowed his eyes at Marcell, "Die, fool." With another flick of his wrist, a gust of concentrated wind was sent into Marcell, flinging him back and into the doors where he crumpled to the floor.
"Gramps!" I yelled. "Dammit, Lexil, you'll regret that!"
"Grampa!" Emerald yelled, rushing to her injured grandfather. Marcelle moaned in pain, his body in a slump. "Dante, he's still breathing but we have to get him out of here!"
"Child, you won't be leaving here. At least not alive." Avarice said, stepping down from his throne.
"Not if I have anything to say about it!" I yelled and ran at Avarice. As quick as before, he sent a gust of wind into me, flinging me back. While airborne, I inserted my black rune into my gauntlet. I was tired, that was true. But I had no other option. And at least if I died, Emerald and Gramps could get out of there alive. "Cerberus," I began, "I call upon thee!" My gauntlet glowed and underneath of me, an enormous black, swirling portal materialized. From the portal exited a titanic black, three headed mass. This mass, was Cerberus, my demon dog and trump card.
I landed on Cerberus's back, sword drawn and my clothes torn to shreds from Avarice's last attack. "Emerald," I called to her, not taking my eyes off of Avarice for a second, "you and Gramps need to stay back and out of my way."
Avarice raised an eyebrow, "That sorcery is one of the largest I've ever seen performed by somebody your age." He raised his left hand, revealing a sleeve of bronze chain mail. If a rune was large enough, or in this case part of a throne, simply being near it was enough to activate it. However, the larger the rune, the more massive the catalyst you would need. Avarice pulled back his robe, revealing an entire vest of bronze mail. Nearly his entire outfit was one giant catalyst. "Just, who are you, boy? No need to keep secrets now; you'll be dead soon."
Cerberus growled, as an extremely large portal opened up behind Avarice. From the portal, stepped out a red, massive dragon, twice the size of Cerberus. "My name, is Dante Dravenlow."
"Dravenlow? That's not possible," Avarice began as the dragon scooped him up and placed him on it's back, "the Royal Dravenlow family of the eastern continent was killed by brigands seven years ago."
"Wrong," I began, "King Lucian ordered the slaughter of my family and covered it up. However, a certain ten year old Prince fought back the masses with his pet dog."
"But, that's just a silly story, told to children!" Avarice yelled.
"My name is Prince Dante Dravenlow, heir to the Kingdom of Dravenlow. I have come to this land to reap my vengeance on your King. And this," I gestured to Cerberus, "this is the pet dog that lay waste to half of King Lucian's army before they had no further option but to retreat."
Fear sparked into Avarice's eyes, "No matter, I'll send you to your pitiful parents soon enough!" His dragon charged, breathing fire into the face of Cerberus. He gleefully swallowed it through one head and blew the smoke from another.
"Cerberus," I said, "attack." With me along for the ride, Cerberus pounced at the head of Avarice's dragon, biting and clawing at it's eyes and neck. Avarice shot magic that I either deflected with my sword or Cerberus snacked on. I was already sweating and my sword felt heavy in my hand. Just summoning him took a lot of out me, but I wouldn't quit until I saw Avarice defeated. Claws lunged and fangs flared as our battle dragged on. The gold in the room began weeping as Avarice's dragon's continually either missed it's target or had it's fire eaten.
It was obvious that the tyrant was fatigued as well. His breathing became heavy and his bald head glistened with sweat. A look of desperation made it's home on his face. He glanced at me, then Emerald. A vile grin creeped across his face as he waved his hand in the direction of Emerald, who still had Gramps in her arms. The dragon followed his movement and turned its gaze on Emerald.
"You leave her out of this!" I yelled. Cerberus lunged at the dragon's head, tooth and claw dug into the scales, however the dragon paid no mind. A few more minutes and I wouldn't be able to stand. I only had one option left. I hopped off of Cerberus's back and ran to Emerald's side. As the dragon's fire was unleashed, I swapped out Cerberus's rune with the empty one I had stored in my pocket. As my dog dematerialized, I sucked up the dragon's fire into my gauntlet.
"Give it up," Avarice wheezed, "you're tiny rune can't possibly hold all of my dragon's f-fire!" Avarice coughed up blood into his hand. He was nearly at his limit, but I could tell that he wouldn't lose to us. It was true. The rune couldn't possibly hold that much energy. It would eventually stop absorbing all together, and then nothing would stop the fire. We'd be cooked.
Soon enough, the rune was almost filled. I needed to think of something, but what? There was no way I could swap out the rune and summon Cerberus before the fire killed all three of us. It seemed like just when we found hope, we lost it again. The rune was now moments from being filled, and I still had no plan.
An arrow planted itself in the left eye of the dragon, stopping it's fire. "You thought I'd let you save us all with your fancy magics," Emerald said, panting. Gramps was also on his feet, club in hand, though he wasn't in the greatest shape. Blood seeped from his mouth and he had a nasty gash on the side of his face.
"I won't let this sorry excuse for a man kill me yet." Gramps said, nearly out of breath.
"You should be dead!" Avarice wheezed, coughing up more blood.
"Can't get rid of me that easily! Dante, can you finish him? This old timer's just about had it for today."
"Emerald, can you knock out his other —THUNK. As quickly as the first, the dragon's second eye now had an arrow in it, completely blinding it. The beast wailed in pain, spewing fire all over the room except for where we were standing. The golden walls oozed as Avarice commanded the dragon to stop; but it was no use. He was out of energy, and the dragon wouldn't listen. Avarice tried to order commands, but he couldn't find his voice. He clenched his chest, and doubled over, falling off of the dragon.
Even with Avarice nearly out cold, the dragon still writhed in pain, showering the room in an overwhelming heat. "Avarice," I began, "it's over." I called upon Cerberus once more, though I was nearly out of energy myself, I'd need him. I climbed atop Cerberus, commanding him again. We charged forth, dodging and consuming the dragon's fire as we made way for it's head. I commanded Cerberus to jump, then leaped from his back, bringing my sword down onto the dragon's neck, cleaving through flesh and scale. Once I landed, Cerberus charged up fire, lightning and wind in each of his three heads, and sent a vortex of concentrated magic hurtling into Avarice's throne.
In a flash of light, his throne was no more, and the rune atop it had been shattered. The dragon's corpse vanished, as too did Cerberus once I removed his rune from my catalyst and replaced the newly filled one. Avarice laid in a heap on his golden floor. I looked back at Emerald, who had Gramp's arm around her shoulder to support him. She and Gramps gave me a smile as I walked back to them, sheathing my sword. The battle had finally been won, however I didn't think I'd be calling upon Cerberus for a very long time. I was also down to one rune, though I lacked the energy to use it.
"You know," I said once I reached the two, "we still never ate dinner."
Gramps laughed, but Emerald said, "Of course thats all you can think about, stupid boy."
"I don't think a boy could have done all of that!" I yelled.
"Fancy magics and what not, nothing special." Emerald said before giving me a grin. We then turned to leave.
"W-where do you think," Avarice coughed, "you're going boy?" Before I knew it, there was a flash and Gramps was in front of me, arms and legs outstretch.
"Take care of her, Dante," Marcell said. A blast of lightning struck him, blinding Emerald and I. When I regained my vision, Gramps was on the floor, smoke rising from his body.
Avarice laughed a weaselly laugh, "Stupid old man, thinking he'd get the best of me."
Emerald screamed, "Gramps, gramps, wake up!" She held him in her arms as tears began flooding her eyes.
"Emerald, your parents would be so proud, as am I." Marcell wiped away one of her tears, before closing his eyes.
"GRAMPA!" Emerald screamed, then looked at Marcell's killer, "You'll pay!" She pulled my gauntlet from my arm, putting it on and shooting a massive blast of flames at Avarice, completely engulfing him and shattering the rune.
"Emerald, I didn't know you could-"
"Shut up," she yelled, "you and your stupid magics. Avarice and his stupid magics..." She removed my gauntlet and threw it to the floor. She held Gramps in her arms as she shed more tears. I stood in silence, knowing I'd be unable to ease her pain.
The next day, the town held a funeral for Marcell, naming him the town hero. Once he was buried and the event was over, I made my preparation to depart from Riverton. After stocking up on supplies as well as fetching myself a new dagger, and although I wasn't able to replace all of the runes, I managed to find some empty ones I could refill on the way. I then made my way to Emerald's home to say my goodbyes.
"Are you leaving then? Just like that?" She asked me.
"I suppose so," I began, "I have a long road ahead of me before nightfall."
She was in a better mood, though still clearly mourning. Her room was untouched by the other day's fire, as she sported an outfit that was neither charred nor the torn dress from yesterday. She was now wearing a blue, slightly floral dress from the funeral.
"I just thought I'd say goodbye and thank you for the hospitality," I said.
"You didn't keep your promise," she said, her gaze now aimed at the floor.
"You promised to keep my home and my Grandfather safe," she said, now looking me dead in the eyes.
From hero to oaf again in a single night, now I had more to feel bad about, "I'm so sorry, Emerald. I truly am."
"Then make me a new promise," she said.
"Of course, anything!" I said.
"Take me with you!" she exclaimed.
"Sure thing I'll—wait what!?"
"Gramps and this house were all I had," she explained, "now both of them are gone. And besides, I've always wanted to explore the country. And I highly doubt you can cook!"
While it was true I was a better fighter than cook, I couldn't just randomly bring a girl along with me, "Emerald, I can't just take you with me. You heard me last night, I'm going after King Lucian. Don't you get how dangerous that is?"
"All the more reason for me to go!" she replied, "You can't take the king on alone!"
"You're talking nonsense!"
"Dante, King Lucian appointed Avarice to his position of power," she began, "if that's the kind of person he leaves in charge of a place like Riverton, think of all the other cities in the country. I have my own reasons for going after King Lucian."
There it was, a fire in her eyes. A green, fiery passion that wouldn't be quenched by any reasoning. "We'll need a carriage, and supplies."
"I told you I'm going no matt—wait, really?" she said excitedly.
"Did I stammer?" I asked, "We'll need a carriage and supplies. And you'll need your bow and arrow. If this country is anything like Dravenlow there will be any sort of brigands and fiends roaming the wild."
Her face lit up with joy, "We can take Grampa's carriage and stock up in town! I'll be right back!" Emerald then ran back into the house, returning shortly after with three large bagfuls of what I'm going to assume were necessary supplies.
By midday, we had stocked up on supplies and left Riverton.
"So, you're really Prince Dante Dravenlow?" she asked.
"In the flesh," I answered.
She held out a hand, "Emerald Lucas!" I shook her hand, thus solidifying our companionship.
"So, which way is Woodstead? I'll need to stop there to restock on my runes," I began, "and I'll need your gold to do it."
"Dante!" She yelled, almost standing up in the carriage.
"W-what?!" I yelled back, "Sit down or you'll fall out!"
"Woodstead is in the other direction! We're heading towards Aquella!"
I could tell it was going to be a long journey. Though it was well worth it. The sooner I could take my revenge on King Lucian, the sooner I could return home. And I guess having Emerald on my side wasn't all that bad. And thus I continued my journey traveling the country of Tera, and thus began Emerald's journey as my companion in our quest to reach King Lucian.