Welcome friend to the first entry of "Tombs and Titans"! Alongside "Dragon Pact" this is a story I'm 'jump-starting' my account with. Unlike DP, this one is technically a remake of an old tale of mine which years ago I began uploading on a different account here. I came to a conclusion that version wasn't very good and decided to start from scratch. While I will implement some elements from the original (the pilot chapter, for example, is greatly similar), most of it is gonna be freshly prepared for this story.
Originally this was supposed to be called "Monsters and Mazes", but a friend of mine (some of you may know him as he's a member of this site as well: penname Shang) pointed out to me that name was already used (apparently there was a movie parodying 'Dungeons and Dragons' or whatever), so I searched for a different title that fit this route, because yes – the influence of D&D will probably be quite visible at the tale's core. But this is a manga type story, so don't expect too many nods to D&D. In fact I am also aiming to make this a bit more humorous, much like "Dragon Pact", so here's hoping.
With that said, I believe there's nothing left for me to do, but invite you to the first entry of the story:
Chapter #1: A Boy and His Dream
Volume cover: teenaged Cobalt is standing in the middle with his arms crossed while in the background on his right there's a shadow of Lukan and on the left - Kraag
Title page: young Cobalt is having a piggy-back ride provided by Lukan
The warm, summer sun slowly climbed onto the sky, casting its light upon the lush plains of Greendale. The day was merely beginning, yet already the town of Styx was filled with hubbub and commotion as people proceeded with their daily routine; bakers were finishing up their morning chores, farmers provided breakfast to their life stock, while merchants set up carts in the marketplace, potential customers gathering in the square.
However there was something out of the ordinary among the usual bustle of the townfolk: a group of eight - definitely not merchants – walking through the gates. Armed with various weaponry, their appearance didn't seem to faze anyone though as the cortege continued on, only occasionally being interrupted by greetings from the citizens, to which the visitors kindly replied.
Marching in the back was the most muscular in the bunch; roughly one and a half the size of regular humans, the figure towered over all around him and while his height alone was enough to make people of this behemoth, his face certainly didn't help matters. With no hair covering his head, crimson-red eyes, sharp fangs growing from his lower jaw, pointy ears and almost pig-like nose, decorated with a large, golden ring, it was no mystery that the giant had orcish blood flowing through his veins. The rotten-green tint of his skin was a dead giveaway as well. Dressed in a black armor with spikes on the shoulders, he also carried a large, two-cheeked ax on his back, adding to his intimidating demeanor.
The duo walking before him certainly looked more human: the female, barely in her early twenties, seemed a bit shorter than average, allowing her long, black hair, clipped in a ponytail, to reach all the way down to her waist. She seemed relaxed, yet her brown eyes remained alert. A reddish, oriental dress with an apron-like cover that left her legs mostly bare, feet wrapped in sash of the same color and yellowish skin gave her an exotic look, yet unlike her companions, the woman didn't seem to carry any sort of armament.
Next to her traveled another man clad in armor, though his was a mixed of white and light-blue. A helmet with a golden hawk sculptured on the top covered most of his head, leaving only the face visible from which a pair of stoic, violet eyes gazed out front. With a triangular shield on the back and a spikes mace tied to his belt, the man gave the impression of a veteran warrior.
In the center of the procession walked a figure clad in green and brown garb with a bow and quiver strapped to his back. Slightly taller than most of his companions, this man – by appearance no more than nineteen years old – had green eyes and long, blond hair that fell freely down his back, allowing only for the tips of two, pointy ears to rise above the curtain of his golden strands.
Beside the elf there was the most mysterious-looking member of the group: a man of slim posture, whose body was mostly hidden beneath a brown, hooded cloak. The hood cast a shadow on his face, hiding it from view, yet even so one could easily tell his skin to be of much darker tone, nearly as brown as his cover. Every now and than, when the wind would blow, rising his cape, a pair of daggers tied to his belt would reflect sunlight in their blades in a blinding flash, showing that he too was armed.
Keeping a stead pace before the others was the shortest individual in the mix: a dwarf of sturdy build whose short, gray hair and beard suggested advanced age, even while his green eyes remained sharp. Sporting a rusty-looking armor that clanked as he walked, the man also carried a hammer, almost as big as him, on the back.
On his right journeyed the second female of the troupe, only slightly younger than the previous. Dressed in a tight, violet outfit that showed her alluring curves neatly along with a low, v-shaped cleavage between her particularly well-developed chest. Eyes matched the color of her attire with long, black hair pinned into a chignon with a pair of long strands framing her pretty face. A long, wooden staff was strapped to her back with one end housing a large amethyst.
The one out front was a boy roughly nineteen years of age with short, spiky, black hair that formed a fringe peak over his forehead, casting a slight shadow upon his icy-blue eyes... or rather 'eye' as his left pupil was completely white, while a vertical scar ran through it. Despite carrying a scimitar with a long, thick blade on the back, he was not clad in armor like his melee weapon wielding comrades. Instead, we was dressed in a white t-shirt with an unbuttoned red waistcoat on the top, which sported black and gold patterns on the edges. Red, a bit baggy pants covered his legs, while a white tattoo of a paw with claws decorated his left shoulder. This boy was known to all as Lukan, leader of 'White Wolves' – the most famed team of adventure hunters in the region.
"You're back!" the group suddenly heard a cheerful yell as an eight-year-old boy dashed towards them, a wide smile plastered on his face. Short, spiky, blue hair waved gently upon his head, while his blue eye glittered at the sight of his heroes. Wearing his usual black t-shirt and slightly baggy, blue pants, he rushed to greet the group, excitement written all over him. "How did that tomb exploration go?!" he asked, jumping up and down impatiently.
The cloaked figure flashed a toothy grin as he took off his hood, revealing a storm of medium-length, black hair made into dreadlocks and a pair of hazel eyes which settled on the boy: "Hyperactive as always, aintcha Cobalt?" the blackman replied, making the violet-clad female roll her eyes at his behavior: "The hunt went good; all those stories about the undead lurking in the shadows were not exaggerated, but the pay-off was certainly worth the hassle, for as we battled through the legions of the underworld, the final chamber came into view and within it..."
"Oh gimme a break" the girl interrupted him, shaking her head in negation. "Hennet, you need to stop filling the boy's head with nonsense!" she scold her teammate, rising her finger in a lecturing fashion. "The tomb was so ancient that most traps stopped working ages ago and even bodies turned to dust. All we got for our trouble was a little gold that can barely cover a few nights at an inn."
"Come on, Nyssa" the dreadlocked man responded with a playful tone. "What kind of a story is that? Where's the excitement? The drama? With a body like yours it's a wonder you know nothing of fan service..."
"DIE PERV!" the girl, Nyssa, shoot back as she reached for her staff, pointing its crystal at Hennet. In a flash the gem shun brightly before releasing a ball of fire that flew right at the man's feet, forcing him to jump up to avoid a burn.
"Now, now, lets all take a deep breath" the blond elf stepped in between the two, waving his hands in a calming gesture as he sweat dropped. "We don't want a repeat of the Estera Incident, do we?" he asked with a forced smile, making the female mage narrow her eyes while the blackman covered behind the half-orc in fear.
"Brats and their stupid antics" the dwarf grumbled under his nose, spitting to the side at the sight of the whole spectacle.
"Well, if it wasn't dangerous, than why didn't you bring me along?" the boy demanded, pointing an accusing finger at the group in general. He knew them long enough to know that these sort of scenes were commonplace between Nyssa and Hennet; despite having surprisingly similar personalities, the two were often at each other throats. Cobalt always said that they should just get married and get that over with. "You never let me come!"
"Cobalt, we've discussed this already" the man in the white-blue armor reminded him, taking off his helmet to reveal medium-length, silver hair, held back by a pair of pointy ears. "You're too young to be an adventure hunter; even though this time there was no danger, that isn't always the case and there's no way of telling which expedition is risky. The world is a dangerous place and you shouldn't underestimate it."
"But you gotta start someday!" the boy argued passionately. "I've been training my swordsmanship lately and I think I'm getting pretty good at it! I wanna fight all the beasts, monsters and bandits like you guys! I want to protect people!"
"Admirable" the woman with yellowish skin admitted calmly, gaining his attention. "But we all have our limitations Cobalt-san. Learning to recognize them brings you wisdom and for an adventure hunter wisdom is just as important as his fighting skills. You cannot rush these things if you wanna live through your first expedition."
"At this rate, I'm not gonna live long enough to even have my first expedition" the youth whined as he kicked a stone near his feet.
"Being an adventure hunter isn't a child's play!" suddenly Lukan yelled, sending the boy an angry glare. With a swift spin on his foot, the young warrior turned his back towards the child and proceeded to walk away, adding over his shoulder: "You're not going with us and that's final."
"Cobalt, I thought I told you not to harass the White Wolves!" a worried shout reached their ears as a woman with long, blue hair - held on top by a yellow hair band – and golden eyes rushed towards the group. She wore a rather plain attire consisting of a simple, blue shirt and wide, yellow skirt that covered her legs almost entirely. "I'm terribly sorry; this boy just won't stand still..."
"Don't trouble yourself, miss Miska" the blond elf replied with a friendly smile, waving his hand dismissively. "We actually like your son's company" he assured her before glancing after his team's leader. "Despite possible evidence to the contrary" he added, sweat dropping.
Meanwhile Cobalt's eyes were stuck on the ground, all the enthusiasm drained right out of his body. The large, armor-clad half-orc sent him a worried glance just before his eyes traveled to the side; the whole situation certainly could've been handled better...
-later that day-
Cobalt threw another pebble into the pond, which sunk to the bottom with a loud 'splash'. The ripples spread through the surface, making the reflection of the setting sun undulate in the water. The sky was turning red as the star slowly hid behind the horizon. He didn't even notice when another figure appeared at the edge of the water, walking right behind him.
"You've got a moment?" came a little husky voice as the green-skinned adventure hunter placed his hand on the boy's shoulder, taking him completely off-guard.
"Eek!" the boy jumped up from freight, his heart pounding like crazy. "What the heck, Kraag?!" he snapped, screaming at the half-orc, his body still shivering: "You already have a scary face, so you shouldn't sneak up on people, dammit!"
"Sorry" the green-skinned warrior replied with a chuckle as he sat down next to youth. For a while neither of them said anything, yet finally the silence was broken by the ax wielder as he spoke with a gentle voice, one that most would never associate with him: "Don't be mad at Lukan for what he said earlier" he asked, throwing his companion a worried look. "It's not like he doesn't approve of you becoming an adventure hunter; he just wants you to be well prepared once you finally set out on your own path..."
"Yeah, right" Cobalt snarled, blowing air through his nose. "No matter what I do or say, he always just claims that I'm too young. How am I too gain any experience if I'm stuck doing farm work? I even scouted out a good place for an expedition! See, old man Ronald had been telling me he saw some strange creature roaming his fields in the night; I looked around and there's this cave just south of town with weird footprints at the entrance, so..."
"Do you know how Lukan got that scar on his eye?" Kraag suddenly cut him off, glancing at the pond.
The question took the boy completely off-guard; sure, he often wonder how someone with Lukan's reputation and skill could've been wounded so badly, but he never dared ask about it, believing the subject to be too personal. His eyes still widen in shock, he shook his head in disagreement, allowing the half-orc to continue: "When he was young, he too decided to become an adventure hunter; growing up in a village not so different from yours, he trained day and night on a dummy made of straw to hone his skills. Because of that training he grew confident in his abilities and so – being just slightly older than you are now – when bandits came to town, he thought he could fight them. Sadly, things didn't turn out exactly as he envisioned..."
Kraag paused for a moment, his eyes narrowing while his head lowered a tad. Taking a deep breath, he continued with a touch of pity in his voice: "In the process of disarming him the bandits cut his face, scarring the left eye. I guess you could say he got lucky that those goons found him funny and decided to play with him for a while, otherwise he would not be among the living anymore. They've kicked and punched him, ripping his clothes in front of the entire village. Knights from the local garrison managed to arrive just as they were about to kill him, making bandits run for the hills, but thanks to their intervention Lukan survived. The whole ordeal pushed him to train even hard, but also humbled him enough to make him realize he should not rush into anything."
"What I'm trying to say is that Lukan merely wants to prevent you from making the same mistakes he did" the half-orc stated with a serious, yet worried expression as he turned to look at the boy: "Life of an adventure hunter isn't exactly a fairytale the songs and stories might lead you to believe. It's a dangerous profession. This is part of the reason we enjoy coming back to your town; the serenity helps us rest and relax before we move elsewhere."
At this point he got up and ruffled Cobalt's hair, a friendly smile returning to his face: "Don't be so quick to hate Lukan just because what he thinks is best doesn't reflect what you wish to do" and with that he walked away, leaving the boy to his own thoughts.
-the next day-
"Leaving already?" Miska asked a bit disappointed as she observed the White Wolves readying their horses. "You returned just yesterday..."
"Can't be helped" the blond elf replied with his usual smile as he patted his stallion gently. "There are rumors of an abandoned tower that supposedly belonged to a powerful wizard in the local mountains; it's a safe bet we can find some items of value in it, assuming no-one ransacked the place yet, but we need to hurry as there's news that Black Spears have been sighted in the region. If we delay the expedition too long, they'll swipe the prize from right under our noses."
"Where's Cobalt?" Hennet questioned somewhat disappointed as he glanced around the square from the back of his steed. "Up til now he has always came to set us off, if only to bug Lukan about taking him along" he chuckled while his blue-white armor-clad companion helped the dwarf climb onto the horse so that they would ride it together. "Is he still depressed over yesterday?" he added, this time with a hint of worry in his voice.
"He seemed fine this morning" the woman answered, turning towards the hooded man. "Though he did ran off somewhere right after breakfast. Skipping his chores, I might add" he gave out a soft laugh at the memory, yet Lukan narrowed his eyes at hearing this.
He didn't say anything though and – instead – turn his mount towards the gate, giving Miska a nod as 'goodbye'. A moment later his companions followed as the woman watched them leave, still smiling. She wished her son would find himself a safer dream than becoming an adventure hunter, but as far as role models went, heroes such as White Wolves weren't all bad...
-same time, south of the village-
Cobalt adjusted his backpack before unwrapping his homemade sandwich and taking a bite. Skipping breakfast was not his idea of starting the day, but he couldn't waste his time eating at home; if mom would've caught him, there would be no way of weaseling out of doing his chores and he preferred to have daylight on his side for this, particular venture: "I'm not like Lukan!" he told himself firmly, his eyes narrowed. "I'm not gonna let my flame get extinguished like that! Just you wait – I'll show you guys what I'm capable of" he proclaimed as he resumed his march towards the farmlands.
It took him a while to reach his destination: a small hut surrounded by crude, wooden fence with an animal pen out back. This was old Ronald's farm, the very reason he was eager to leave the house early. At this time of the day the host of this establishment have already went to Styx's marketplace to sell his goods and buy necessities. That also gave the boy a perfect opportunity to investigate.
Carefully checking the pen, Cobalt managed to conclude that the 'strange creature' which, supposedly, haunted the place has been a no-show for the last, few days. Still that alone was not about to deter his resolve as he reviewed the shack for anything that could be used as a weapon; he knew at some point Ronald served in the army – he loved to hear his stories about the days of glory and battle. They were one of the motives he kept visiting the old man.
Luck appeared to have been on his side as among pitchforks, shovels and pickaxe he managed to locate a simple, short sword, no doubt a relic of the host's military years. Checking the weapon for weight and damage, the blade seemed as sharp as ever; probably old Ronald thought of keeping it in shape in case the beast that he mentioned grew more dangerous than just scouting the outskirts of the farm.
Tying the sword to his belt he shut the doors and resumed south, towards the cave he discovered a few days ago; with all the evidence he's gathered so far that seemed like the most likely place as the creature's base of operation. A quarter of an hour later we was at its entrance, the ground nearby still sporting suspicious paw prints all around it.
Reading his weapon, Cobalt took a deep breath before slowly making his way into the cave, his eyes set on the shadows beyond the arc of the entrance. As he kept on walking, his steps echoed through the cavern. He didn't get particularly far when a strange noise reached his ears coming from the front. Getting into a fighting stance, the boy tensed up, his heart pounding.
A few moments later something emerged from the shadows of the cave; the entrance still being close to his back, Cobalt could make out the size and shape of the creature that now neared him; a quadruped beast so frightening that made his blood cold.
The monster was about twice the size of a wild cat with its hind side resembling that of a black goat, front legs being those of a large lion and bat-like wings growing from the sides, Cobalt didn't need to see three heads sprouting from the fore to realize he stood before a chimera. As the dragon and lion heads on the beast's right and center respectively let out a growl, the goat one observed him closely while the creature slowly circled the boy.
Gulping loudly, the youth followed the monster with his blue eyes, feeling sweat covering his body. A moment later a roar escaped the beast's mouth - sending chills down Cobalt's spine – before the creature jumped right at him, claws ready.
Acting more on instinct that conscious thought the child rolled to the left, barely dodging the assault and coming to a stop, he swung his sword in an attempt to slice the monster's side. The chimera easily avoided the attack by running forward and before the youth could do anything, it was already behind him, slashing at the back.
Cobalt only managed to turn around in a desperate attempt to block, but he wasn't fast enough; when the claws met his blade, a loud 'clang' spread through the cavern, yet the sharp fingers already did their job, cutting his chest diagonally, making the child gasp at the sudden pain. Dropping to the ground, his grip on the sword faltered, leaving his unarmed as panic took over.
Breathing quickly as he heart pounded from adrenaline, the boy tried to back away, his butt still on the ground, while the creature took its time to kill the prey. Finally after what seemed like hours it bended its knees, ready to pounce, Cobalt lowered his head as he accepted his fate: Some warrior I turned out to be...
But just as the beast was about to jump, an arrow struck its dragon's head eye, forcing a furious roar out. Quickly shifting its attention to the entrance, the monster sent a menacing growl to the visitor that dared to interrupt its moment of triumph.
Malavir? he more stated than asked as his eyes registered the blond elf reloading his bow. In a flash the rest of the White Wolves charged into the cavern. With the second arrow launched, the chimera strafed to the left, straight into Hennet's throwing knives that dug deep into its lower side.
The creature lashed out with its hind legs at the dwarf - fury evident in its movement – but the half-elf clad in white and blue managed to come to his short companion's aid, blocking the attack with his shield. The dwarf wasted no time and swung his hammer horizontally, slamming it hard into one of chimera's wings with a cracking sound. Clearing the beast would not be using that appendix anytime soon.
Meanwhile Nyssa completed her spell and aiming her staff at the monster released another ball of fire that scorched its fur lightly with a hissing noise. Realizing it was outmatched, the chimera returned his attention to the boy, aiming to bring at least someone down with it.
Throwing itself at the paralyzed youth, it flashed its fangs, ready to snap them on the child's throat, yet before the creature could reach its target, Lukan appeared between the two and with a quick 'stay behind me', he brought his scimitar down, slicing the monster's front as its blood sprayed his face. Instantly the beast dropped to the ground motionless, all life drained from its body immediately.
Turning back to look at Cobalt, Lukan asked the boy as friendly as he only could: "Are you okay?"
To this the boy only managed a weak nod as he looked around the cavern, seeing the rest of the White Wolves putting their weapons away. The battle was over, yet a worried expression crossed the child's face, mixed with tremendous amount of guilt and shame. The leader of the group seemed to notice this and before the blue-haired male even manage to ask the question, he announced: "I figured something was off when you didn't came to sent us of this morning; Kraag mentioned old Ronald's farm and a cave to the south, along with the weird beast spotting. We decided to check it out."
"But..." Cobalt began, confusion written all over him. "But what of the wizard's tower? What of all the treasure?"
"There will be other treasures" Lukan replied simply, a gentle smile showing on his face. "But there's no way to bring a friend back to life. For us, you're way more important that a little gold and some magic trinkets" he announced, patting him on the head.
Giving the cave another glance, the boy noticed other Wolves were smiling too, even the dwarf. Cobalt felt water gathering in his eyes just before he embraced the young adventure hunter and began crying freely. A moment later the teen wrapped his own arm around him, rubbing his back as the child only whispered between sobs: "I'm sorry... so sorry..."
-few days later-
"What, no more 'take me with you' Cobalt?" Hennet asked with a devilish smile, teasing the boy, which earned him a smack on the back of the head from Nyssa. Their dwarf companion, Thok, rolled his eyes at this:
There was just no reforming these two he thought to himself, sighing heavily, before turning towards the eight-year-old: "Because of one failure you're abandoning your dream of becoming an adventure hunter?" he questioned, rising an eyebrow.
"Of course not!" the kid responded immediately. "But this whole ordeal helped me realize that Lukan and Kraag were right... that all of you were" he stated, managing a smile. "I'm not yet ready and forcing it is just suicide. I'll train hard and, someday, I'll grow strong enough to set out on my own adventure! And after that, I'll become even more famous than you guys!" he announced, widening his grin.
"Will you now?" Hennet responded with a smirk of his own while Nyssa walked over to the boy, giving him a soft kiss on the cheek:
"We'll hold you to it" she proclaimed with a warm smile, making the blue-haired kid's heart beat faster as he felt his body growing warmed, a deep blush spreading across the face.
"You know, he really does resemble you in a lot of ways" Kraag noted quietly to Lukan as the leader of the White Wolves was finishing strapping bag to his steed. The scar-faced youth only smirked under his nose as he glanced over the shoulder at their fan who was now arguing with Hennet for some reason.
"Where are you going this time?" Miska asked curiously, gaining the silver-haired half-elf's attention.
"North" Jozan replied simply, adjusting himself on the horse. "The mayor of Hanatan is offering a large reward for whoever takes care of the bandits that's been causing trouble on the roads. A couple of caravans have already gone missing, so someone has to do something about it..."
"Will you come back?" Cobalt inquired with a sad expression, already knowing the answer.
"Someday perhaps" the woman in the oriental dressed, Mei, responded with a forced smile. "After all none can predict the future. But we've already explored this region twice over; can't really count on finding much adventure here anymore" and with that she jumped on her steed.
Looking around, the blue-haired boy noticed her companions did the same, Thok riding with Kraag this time. Lukan threw the child a final glance, his voice calm, though Nyssa could've sworn she felt a hint of sadness in it: "I suppose this is goodbye for the time being, Cobalt. But lets meet again when you're grown up and famous; I'd love to put those sword skills you brag about to the test" he teased, giving a smirk.
"Oh, I'll let you taste my steel, count on that!" the boy responded with a smirk of his own, challenging the adventure hunter. "Just be sure not to die until than!"
"Well, you better hurry than; I do not intend to live forever" and with that proclamation both chuckled a bit, making the rest gathered follow suit. Calming down, Lukan gave Cobalt and Miska a final nod and led the White Wolves through the gate...
-ten years later-
"Well, I'm off" announced an eighteen-year old boy with short, gelled-up, spiky, blue hair held upwards by a metal forehead protectors. Wearing a black t-shirt with a brown, unbuttoned waistcoat over it and a pair of slightly baggy, dark blue pants, he sheathed his sword, throwing it over the shoulder as he clipped the belt with his right hand, which also sported a black, fingerless glove. His blue eyes gaze at the woman that came to bid him farewell as they stood in front of the town gate.
"I knew this day would eventually come, but it's still hard to say goodbye" Miska stated with a weak, forced smile, feeling that her eyes were tearing up. "Please, don't forget me..."
"That will never happen" the teen assured her as he embraced the woman. "I love you mom" he whispered into her ear before letting go, taking a few steps back. The two stared at one another for a moment, until the silence got broken by the female:
"You remembered to pack something to eat, right?" she asked, making Cobalt nod his head in agreement. "And some gold from your part-time job at the tavern for expanses?" she went on, receiving another beck. "Clean underwear?"
"Mom!" the teen snapped, his face red as a beetroot. At this point Miska gave him the final kiss farewell as the youth dashed away at top speed; it would've been too hard for him to say 'goodbye' if he were to linger any longer. And so Cobalt ran towards the horizon, to the world that awaited him... towards his dream of becoming an adventure hunter. He already knew a lot of hardships laid ahead; for some he was ready, for other less so, but he was determined to see this through, no matter the odds. A long journey has just began...
-next: eternal winter!-
This is where the first entry of "Tombs and Titans" end. I hope you enjoyed it. It was, more-or-less, self-contained story about the main character's past. It followed the original version quite closely – with all the good and the bad, I suppose - though most of the White Wolves have been changed in one way or another.
The next chapter is where the tale truly begins, but do keep this one in mind as it is not just here for the sake of being. I prefer to not say more at this time. Anyway I hope you had fun reading this and see you with the next update!