6630 words (26 minute read)



By Jamie R. Stone



I drag the makeshift blade across my throat once again, praying that the gods rip my consciousness from this world and cast it down to the Underworld.

My unbroken flesh taunts me with its smooth perfection as I hurl the blade across my cell. Life could be tolerable if I only had the power to kill myself. To have all the strength in the world and yet being confined to these four walls is an irony that isn’t lost on me. I’ve even tried ramming my head into these bars. I had only a mild headache to show for it. I suppose it’s poetic justice. Purgatory is a fair punishment for a freak like me.

John was right, I guess; we should have stayed handymen in Fink Town… but who am I kidding? I was way too cocky for that line of work. My father raised me wanting for nothing, and yet still I persisted in going off to fight in some pointless war. What was I trying to prove? That I was this heroic soldier bent on destroying the evil forces against us? What an idiot! Somehow, I even managed to rope John into my delusions. He would’ve been a Senior Architect working for the government by now.

My gaze shoots to the left of my bed. A hand pokes through a hole at the base of the clay stone wall. It crawls toward a metal dish holding a rock-hard crust of bread and some rotten meat rife with maggots. The squirmy hand props itself up with its fingers. The middle finger pokes around like a dog sniffing around for food. I lift up the thickly bound book beside me as I lean over the edge of my bed and look straight down at the finger-sniffing dog hand. I give it a good hard rap with the leather-clad beast.

“AAAAAHHHH!!!” someone on the other side of the wall lets out a loud moan as the crinkly dog hand slithers back into its hole. He calls out to me, “DAMN FREAK!”

“Yeah, yeah… You’ll thank me later,” I mutter under my breath. It’s not that I care if this joker gets sick, but I don’t want to smell the aftermath.

I dig beneath the mattress and manage to pull out some tobacco and rolling paper. I launch myself off the bed and look out in the distance at my usual view. From here, I can see a valley separating some farmlands, a forest beyond that, and a small industrial village beyond that: Fink Town, the place I used to call home and quaint capital of Barton Parish.

As for where I currently reside, Corafin is a dedicated military state that tolerates nothing but the best. On the opposite side of our patch of land is Lithia, a country known for its technology and invention. Combine those specialties with our natural resources and the three of our powers made a formidable team. They even came up with a cute little name for it: “The Allied Trinity,” a political union that pitted us against a common foe.

Beyond our cozy union is a large sea that fades into nothing but fog. On the other end of it is a place called Verstad, a totalitarian state that rests on top of a steep plateau, the monarch of which rules with a golden thumb… It also happens to be the place I was born.

I sprinkle some tobacco leaves on the paper and lick the lip of it before closing it. I light the end of it with a match as a memory passes by my mind. The races I would have with that timid, blond kid in the forest would always leave me starving for Dad’s pot roast. John never could beat me, even on his best day, though I can scarcely blame him… I was given every opportunity in life to succeed. It’s also the very thing that landed me in this cage. Some might say I was “blessed,” but if you knew me you would see that’s not the case.

It dawns on me that it’s Thursday. Damn it… I hate factory duty. I blow a billow of smoke out the window and tap my head against the bars. My gaze drifts to a squirrel down below, stripping the bark from a tree like a jerk. Been here six months and you’d think I’d be a damned squirrel expert by now. I imagine he’s preparing for the harsh winter ahead, but sometimes there’s no reasoning with nature. I can almost sense a pattern, as if we’re all part of this same cycle of creation and destruction. The more we give, the more life takes. Unlike the tree, however, we don’t grow back.

I can’t even remember what I had for breakfast yesterday, but I remember everything that happened before I got here. I look down at a stack of parchment with pages of writing on them. I sit down and flip through them, picking back up where I left off in an attempt to reconcile the present with the past.


The grizzled man took a fatigued swing with his pickax and thrust it into the ice-encrusted rock face. He must have climbed for hours when he finally saw the top of the cliff in sight. As treacherous as his quest was, he knew it would be more treacherous to come back empty-handed.

His gaze shifted upward to see a small flower with violet petals tempting fate in the crystalline, white snow. He liberated it from its bed of snow like a bird upon leaving its nest. He took a jar from his pack and placed the flower inside of it along with a few rock fragments to keep it secure. He placed the jar in his pack, feeling a strange surge of strength as he caught a second wind.

He turned his head around to his surroundings, peering through his snow-caked goggles. He brushed his brown hair out of his line of sight, which afforded him a view of the city of Verstad, nestled within Botch City’s inner circle. As he swallowed a breath of cold air, he realized just how alone he was out here.

He had finally made it to the top of Mt. Bernard, the highest point of the Calatonian Mountain ranges. It was then that reality had set in; he had exhausted all of his food rations (save for some crackers and about ten sticks of dried meat which he would need for the trek back down the mountainside). It was at that moment that he promised himself that he would head back to Verstad by tomorrow afternoon—with or without success. It was at this point, almost as if by fate, that he looked past a cresting dune of snow to see a large crevice in the rock face.

He decided to take a chance and marched forward to investigate the anomaly. As he got closer, he could see that the crevice took on the appearance of an upside down acorn shape; it seemed to be a cave. The opening seemed to be carved out of the face of the mountain. The edges were too symmetrical to be natural. He felt a sense of hesitation and fear in this realization, though he could not expressly reason why. Perhaps it’s because somebody must have created this cave, and they probably did not anticipate visitors.

Upon crossing the threshold of the fissure, he noticed that stalactites drooped from the ceiling and almost seemed to touch the floor of the cave. Gusts of wind and flecks of ice brushed past him as if someone let the cold into a warm room. The one element he didn’t have in here was light.

He detached the main chamber of his lantern and firmly attached it to a piece of headgear he brought along for just such an occasion. He had devised his own form of fuel that would power the flame for about an hour or so at full blast, but for this excursion half blast would do just fine.

After about an hour of exploration, he realized then that he had left the boring safety of the outside world and traded it all for the mystery of a treacherous cavern. Oddly enough, some of the walls of the cave were laden with chunks of glassy black rock. “Did this mountain used to be a volcano?” he wondered.

He was hurried into another area of the cave by slick footing as his lantern lit the way, as he noticed a pit of unknown depth lay not more than four feet in front of him. He looked upward to see that the ceiling stretched on for what seemed like miles. He could see a small halo of light at the top, barely capable of illuminating the rest of the cave.

That’s when an incandescent, blue-tinted discoloration in the icy walls caught his eye. He noticed a trickle of the same discoloration running down the walls and down into the abyss. He wanted to examine more closely, but first he needed to prepare for a steep climb across a bottomless pit.

He took off his backpack and hurled a hook tied to a length of rope across the dark chasm to the cliff in the distance. He waited with bated breath as the hook cut across the nothingness as a moment of silent disappointment fell over him; he had missed his target.

He reeled the hook back in slowly. This time, he gave the line a bit more slack. He swung the rope around and kept his eye on the discolored spot on the wall. He started to lose his grasp on the rope. The hook dangled in the air. “Come now, damn it!” At last, the hook stabbed into the frigid wall, producing a burst of glassy ice debris. He looked up and saw a glowing blue light emit from the opening.

He secured the harness to the rope and started pulling himself across the abyss. He was directly over the center of the abyss when he saw the tension in the rope grow tighter. He inched his way along while keeping an eye on the hook securely wedged in the ice. As he worked his way further along, he dreaded hearing the screeching of the wheel on the harness—not a comforting sound in that moment.

Three quarters of the way across, the rope line started to loosen. The knot he had tied began to unravel itself. “NO!” his yell echoed around him. He tumbled down the length of the rope when he grabbed the catch and jerked to a clean stop. The clasp clamped down on the rope as he dangled there as a sure death lay beneath him. He looked up to see he was a mere ten feet from the top. Worse yet, his headlamp had begun to grow faint. He would soon see nothing but darkness.

He turned the knob on his head lamp to full power, knowing full well he was draining his remaining power. He took out two hooks from his backpack and started clambering his way up the icy wall. The ice chips flew off in all directions from each strike. His headlamp began to flicker. He looked up at the glowing blue light above him. Faster and faster he climbed, his muscles aching with overexertion.

His headlamp finally went out. Complete darkness.

However, he no longer needed his headlamp, for he had finally reached the source of the blue incandescent light. The light shone on his face as sweat dripped down the side of it. He could finally see what was producing that magnificent blue aura: a highly crystalline stalactite, at least three feet in length and one and a half feet in diameter.

He chipped his way through the opening and landed in a small grotto. He stood up and looked upon the glorious crystal, marveling at its majestic beauty. He came to his senses and went in for a closer look. He slid his goggles down, which had a 50x magnification lens slide. He observed a swirling motion within the crystal, almost as if it were filled with liquid. He took up his pickax and chipped off a piece of the stalactite, examining it with pure wonder.

His mind started racing with possibilities for what this could mean for science when an idea took hold of him. Excited by his own idea, he took the detached crystal and placed it inside the chamber in his head lamp. Just as he had thought, the lamp lit up a cool hue of blue as the surroundings became illuminated around him.

He did not know what manner of object he had discovered. He did not know if it had any application for his specific purposes. He did know, however, that a man’s life hung in the balance, and this was perhaps his only chance at finding a cure.


A golden-haired girl slept in a small, stone-cobbled room with caramel-colored wood furniture and beams stretching across the ceiling. The sunlight tried waking her from her sleep, forcing her to turn in her bed.

The girl hesitantly opened her eyes as an assortment of shapes and colors came into view. That’s when she saw it: a violet-colored flower with yellow stigmas nestled in a rock-filled jar. The girl smiled as she reached for it, lightly touching the petals of the flower and taking a sniff. She sat up in her bed excitedly and swung open her closet door. She pulled out her servant uniform and changed into it.

She hurried through a long-running corridor until she reached a large wooden door. She went through it as the metal parts clanged on the door behind her. She roamed through a hallway with stone walls lit by the sun shining through the open-air windows. She went down a flight of stairs until she reached a door. She knocked on it brashly as she adjusted her uniform and ran her fingers through the curls in her hair.

There was no answer at the door. She put her hand to the door handle and pushed the door open slowly. “Theodore?” she whispered. The shutters on all the windows were closed shut. There were no candles or lanterns lit, and even though it was early morning, and the sun was up, the room was as dark as night. She then remembered that Theodore kept a lantern near the door as she fumbled around in the dark for it. She found it and pressed the switch on the side as the room became bathed in warm light from the gas fire.

Holding the lantern aloft, she walked into the inner part of the rooms, avoiding crates and tables covered in equipment and various laboratory tools. Walking through a second archway, she noticed a glow coming from somewhere in the back behind some crates. She walked in curious, and saw what was emitting the glow.  It was some kind of translucent cone-like rock held up by a metal stand.

She put the lantern down since this part of the room was lit well enough by the glowing rock. She took a step closer in order to take a closer look. Something about the rock was enchanting, and she felt compelled to touch it, but she knew better than to touch anything in this room without permission first. Next to the glowing rock there was a chalkboard with diagrams and drawings scrawled on it. There seemed to be a depiction of a heart as well as some drawings of machine parts beside it. The machine appeared to be modifying the heart in some way.

As she stood there looking at the board a shadow fell over her as she heard footsteps. Startled, she turned around in a gasp. A young man, with messy brown hair, a lab coat, and an overgrown beard stood behind her. A smile ran across her face as the girl knew who it was instantly.

“Theodore,” she said, running to him, wrapping her arms around him, pulling his face down to hers for a kiss.

“You missed me, then.” Theodore said with a bit of a smirk when their lips came apart. She smiled at him sweetly, running a hand through his hair.

“You look tired and thin,” she said looking at his state of unkemptness, “You haven’t slept, and you probably haven’t eaten either, have you?” she said raising an eyebrow at him.

“I’ll get to it,” he said. “I have some other things to get to first.”

“Other things? You mean that over there?” she asked, pointing at the glowing rock behind them.

“You saw it then. Isn’t it marvelous?” he asked, walking forward, sitting at a stool in front of the table with the stone.

“I’ve never seen anything like it before,” Leeya said, “What is it?” she asked, coming to stand behind him, wrapping her arms around his shoulders.

“Honestly, I don’t know. I haven’t yet tested all of its properties, so I’m not all together sure it isn’t poisonous. I’m not sure what it does, what it is, or what it’s for,” he said as he stared at it. Leeya went to open the shutters on the windows as light bathed the room in sunlight.

“I’m sure you’ll find out,” Leeya said with a smirk as she returned back to Theodore, his face now fully lit from the bright light.

“Your confidence in me is overwhelming,” he said as he pulled her close to sit on his lap.

“Nonsense, you’re brilliant, everyone knows that,” she said with a wink. He laughed and kissed her, and then looked into her eyes.

“I missed you,” he said, pulling her close to him.

“I know you did…” she said looking up at him as their eyes locked.

“I received the flower you left me, by the way. Thank you. It was so lovely… It’s unlike any flower I’ve ever seen before. What else did you find on your trip?” she asked. She looked back at the stalactite and then looked back at him. “Besides the strange possibly-poisonous rock thing…”

Theodore laughed. “Besides that, not much… That flower was the most peculiar thing I found. It seemed to flourish in that harsh landscape. Perhaps if I examine its properties I will be able to deduce why…”

Leeya looked up at him. “Perhaps it is because of the harsh cold that it became so resilient… If it had been coddled, it wouldn’t have had a chance.”


A pair of awkward legs ambled one in front of the other as they made their way down a poorly lit corridor. Their host carried a pot of tea, cup and saucer, along with a few lovingly displayed cookies on a silver tray. Candles lined the walls, lighting up the dark, young man’s soft features as he deftly kept his balance. He stopped in front of two large French doors.

“HALT!” said a large tin man as spears crossed in front of the young man’s face, just barely missing his nose. The young man looked up at the guard.

“Just bringing his majesty’s afternoon tea…” said the young man.

“Well, look at that, Lenny… Little ponce is bringin’ His Majesty some tea. In’t that lovely?” asked a rather bulky, muscular guard.

“Adorable, George. Just precious,” said Lenny, a considerably more rotund guard. “And look at ‘is little shoes!” he said pointing down at the boy’s feet.

“What little lass made those for you? Your mum?” asked George with a crooked smile.

“Please, gentlemen… The King is expecting me, so if you would…” he said nervously, trying to crack a polite smile.

“Relax, sonny, we’re just ‘aving a bit of fun!” said George turning to his colleague, the both of them laughing self-amused. The two guards raised their spears, still laughing as the boy went past them.

He backed into the door, letting light spill out into the hall. He peered inside to see an older man dressed in a casual robe writing at his desk. The man had a pointed nose and rounded glasses anchored from ear to ear, his years of glory seemingly far behind him. His bony hand pushed a quill across a piece of parchment, looking quite busy. The old man let out a hacking cough as he wiped his mouth with a handkerchief.

The young man straightened his back as he approached the busy and evidently sick man. He lowered the tray onto the man’s desk, pouring the tea into a cup. He placed some cubes of sugar as well as some cream into the cup--all while smiling excessively. Once finished, he stood there and stared at the man write. The man glanced up at him, feeling eyes watching him.

“It’s rude to stare, boy… Hasn’t anyone ever taught you that before?” The man said with a furrowed eyebrow.

“I’m sorry, Your Majesty. It won’t happen again.” The young man bowed and turned his head to the side, not knowing what he should focus on. The King took up the cup of tea in his hands and sipped it with caution.

“Now then, Quetzal—” the King started speaking as Alexander jumped in to interrupt him.

“—Oh, uh, ‘Alexander’, Your Majesty,” said Alexander as he corrected him with a stutter in his voice.

The King raised an eyebrow at him as he sat there in judgmental silence.

“That’s quite alright, Your Majesty… Quetzal is fine.” But it wasn’t alright, since Alexander knew damn well that the King called Dr. Kemis by his first name while this was, in fact, the third time the King had asked him his name. Despite this, he decided to let go of this discrepancy, since calling the King out on a lie would be a poor life decision. Though just a young man of fifteen years old, he was driven to someday be head of security.

“You’ve been here… what, three months?” said the King calmly as he brought the cup of tea to his lips. He took a swill of it and sighed, relieved by its warmth. “Ahhh… Now that is good tea.”

Alexander smiled with anticipation. “Thank you, Your Majesty… I brewed it myself… and it will be five months in a week, actually.” Technically, it was to be four months, but whatever amount of seniority he could gain from this interaction could only benefit him at this point.

The King looked up at him and squinted his eyes. “Really? Has it been that long?” He looked back down at his tea and let out a wheezing cough. As he calmed himself down, he looked back at the boy. “Time passes so quickly for me…” He stroked his scepter and marveled at the kaleidoscopic images in the crystal ball placed on top.

“You do work quite steadily, Your Majesty… Very diligent!” said Alexander, doing his best to garner whatever loyalty he could from the King.

“Mm” said the King. “How are you liking it here?” he asked while putting down the cup. “The conditions to your liking?”

“Oh, of course, Your Majesty! Everything couldn’t be better! Though, admittedly, the quarters where I reside with the other palace boys are a bit small, but it is a small sacrifice to serve you. As a matter of fact, I feel honored just serving you your tea…” Alexander said with raised eyelids. He realized that this would sound immediately unbelievable, so he awkwardly tried to explain his reasoning. “For it is the, er, coal… that Your Majesty uses as fuel… to drive this kingdom forward. I could only hope to be half as revered as the great King Kellian someday!”

“Don’t overdo it,” said the King feigning a sardonic smile.

“Yes, Your Majesty. I apologize.” Alexander nodded with embarrassment while looking down.

The King’s finger slipped from the cup. “Oh, BLAST!” he yelled, accidentally spilling tea onto his robe. He let out a hacking cough as he clumsily tried wiping his robe with his own hands. Alexander clumsily ran to the King’s aid with a damp cloth. “No, NO! Just get me my maid,” yelled the King as he slammed his hand on the armrest.

“Of course. I will find her, Your Majesty!” said Alexander, running past the guards on his way out the door, inadvertently smacking Lenny in the face with the door. George looked at Lenny grabbing his nose in pain as he let out a loud laugh at his expense. Alexander disappeared into the castle before winding up at his destination in a huff.

*                        *                        *

“MAID?!” came a screeching voice coming from Theodore’s doorway. Theodore and Leeya turned in a rush to confront the sound. “MAID…” said the voice again. Theodore recognized his small stature and pale face immediately. It was Alexander, one of the castle boys and a shameless suck-up to His Majesty.

“Alexander, you will show a little more decency when you come into my laboratory. This isn’t a butcher shop.” Alexander sniggered at Theodore’s demands.

“Oh yes… Of course,” said Alexander with a grin in the side of his cheek as he turned his focus to Leeya. “The King requires your… services. You will go to him immediately.” Theodore immediately took exception to the tone of Alexander’s demand, but before he could say anything, Leeya spoke up first.

“I’m sorry, love. I will see you later, all right?” Leeya’s eyes lit up as Theodore smiled back at her. His eyes turned to Alexander as his brows covered his eyes with detest.

“Of course,” said Theodore. Leeya planted a small peck on his cheek as she rushed to the door. Alexander stood there as if to mimic a guard and slowly stepped out of her way, ushering her along with a wave of his hand. He looked back at Theodore as his smile turned downward. Theodore walked up to him with his head hanging to the floor.

“If you ever speak to Leeya that way again… I will have no choice but to let the King know of all your indiscretions.” Alexander’s smarmy smile melted before him. “Oh yes. Did you think you were being a stealthy church mouse this whole time? I’ve seen you crawling out of the treasury like a cockroach looking for a small sliver of food, your clothes jingling like a reindeer pulling a sleigh.”

Alexander tried to hold back a gulp of fear as his eyes turned stern in his skull.

“Now go on.” Theodore gestured with his head. Alexander ran out of his laboratory. Theodore turned around and wore a satisfied smirk on his face.


Hours later, Theodore started to become re-acclimated to his laboratory. He slowly took in the smell of stale chemicals on shelves, the dust-filled light flowing through the windows surrounding the rotunda, and the gentle creaking of the stairs leading up to his living quarters. His mind reverted from thoughts of Leeya back to his duties as he remembered what brought him on his expedition in the first place: The Ventriculator Device.

His previous experiments with the device had caused him an enormous pain in his side. Just when he thought he had worked out all the kinks, a new problem arose. This time, his problem was fuel. The fuel he had been using could barely hold a charge for a day, rendering the machine useless. What he needed was a compound that would enable the device to be self-sustaining. He had experimented countless times with every known compound at his disposal—all failures. This was his last chance to make the device work.

He wheeled out a curious machine from his closet. It had a large horn attached to it as well as a few knobs. On top was a wheel wound with tape lying flat on the device. There was also a slender rod hanging from a base at the end of a long coil. He picked up the rod from its base and put it up to his mouth.

“This is Experiment #461. I am Dr. Theodore Kemis, Head Science Research Adviser under his majesty, King Kellian, and today I will be experimenting with an element of unknown origin found in the Calatonian Mountains. The goal of this experiment is to test the element for use as a renewable fuel, the results of which will be used for life-saving devices. The main device I will be working with in this experiment is something I’ve dubbed a Ventriculator, a device I made to prolong his majesty’s life.” The wheel of tape spun slowly on top of the device as it recorded everything he said. Theodore looked over at the stalactite, taking off the sheet draped over it. “The element being studied today is crystalline in structure, radiates a bright blue color, and remains solid at room temperature. It is yet unknown if it said element is safe or toxic.”

Before Theodore could continue, his door flew open and a surly Alexander stood in its wake, huffing and puffing. Theodore looked up and waited for him to catch his breath as the boy looked at him with contempt.

“Is there something I can help you with, Alexander?”

“The King wishes to have an audience with you in the morning,” said the boy, patting his damp forehead with a cloth.

“Understood,” said Theodore looking down as he went back to his desk.

Alexander leered at him one final time before slamming the door shut. Theodore shook his head in frustration as he continued to do his work. What had he ever done to this poor boy to deserve such treatment? With an attitude like that it would be unlikely he would reach a position above the gallows in this kingdom.

Without dwelling on these thoughts for too long, he returned to his experiment and turned the recorder back on. He spent hours studying the other properties of the element and by the end of it had discovered that it was one of the strongest, most durable elements he had ever worked with. He also found that at a molecular level the element’s cells were tightly packed together in such a way that they almost had a regenerative aspect to them. He wondered if that would carry over to an organic subject.

It had been decided. He chipped off a small fragment of the element and heated it up until it liquefied. He took one of his potted plants and sliced off a small leaf, placing it onto a petri dish. He splashed a generous drop of the element onto the leaf and watched for any changes. Nothing seemed to change as he held the speaker phone up to his mouth in anticipation, his other hand on the knob of the recorder. He waited for about thirty seconds, lowering the speaker phone in disappointment.

Then the leaf started to move, causing him to flinch and bring the speaker phone back up to his mouth. Small stems started to grow out of the leaf while producing smaller leaves. The stems grew more substantial and thick with thorns as the larger stems curled into swirls. The swirls soon formed buds, which then slowly opened up to produce a variety of red-orange flowers.

“A scientific breakthrough unlike anything I have ever witnessed,” he said into the speaker phone, barely capable of catching his breath. “Having applied the element to a small leaf, it seems to have bonded to it, producing an ornate arrangement of leaves and flowers. Remarkable. Confined to its solidified state, the element exhibited a state within its surroundings, but reduced to a liquid state seems to unlock its regenerative capabil—” He stopped himself as a thought crossed his mind. “Regenerative capabilities…” He turned his head to the Ventriculator device sitting at the other end of the table.

With the help of some tweezers and a screwdriver, Theodore unlatched the back piece of the Ventriculator device. He took about a teaspoon of the element in its liquid form and poured it into the device’s fuel chamber and waited for a moment before the machine accepted the element. It was a crazy move and he should have probably tested the element further, but he simply could not wait to test out his theory.

The device lit up a bright blue as the light shined onto his smiling face. The gears of the device started to spin on both sides as the blood started to mix with the element, coursing through the tubes flowing in and out of the device. The motor in the Ventriculator was running at a low murmur, a considerable improvement from previous experiments of his where he had to drown the sound out with cork in his ears.

With this new success, Theodore would finally be able to show off the results of all his hard work. Leeya’s comment began to swirl in his mind again. If this experiment didn’t work, that’s exactly what the King would be doing; fighting for his life.


A sword sliced through the air and into a rock, producing a trail of sparks as the rock splits in half.

“Missed me again, old man!” said a young man covered in battle armor.

In a realm known only to immortals, two gods are locked in a heated battle. They tear through a serene field of flowers and long ropy moss covering the steps and courtyard. The two of them fight underneath archways and in shallow ponds, ducking under and over obstacles with ease.

"HAH!” growled the old man, his short white beard flowing in the wind as he clashed his sword against another. “Not bad for an old man, eh?” Glints of light bounced off his armor. “A hundred years goes by since our last bout and STILL I can best you at fencing!”

“Quiet! The fight isn’t over yet,” said the young man, easing his sword against the old man’s in a stalemate. He pressed forward with his sword, mere inches from the old man’s face. “You think that simply because you’re ‘Lord Solus’ that means you have divine fencing prowess?”

The old man exploded with mucus-filled laughter as it turned into a hacking sound. He snarled as he dashed with his sword, striking it against the younger fencer.

“You certainly have the cocksureness of your mother in you, Leero, my boy… Perhaps if you spent less time flapping your gums, you’d have an ounce of a chance at beating me!” said Solus as he lunged forward. His armor clanged against itself. “HARAAGGHHH!” he roared wildly, knocking Leero’s sword to the ground.

Leero’s eyes shot to his father as he nodded with his sword. The young man did a somersault over his sword and picked it up, not hesitating for a second to clash it against his opponent. Solus stood his ground as his son pressed harder this time. He leaned against his sword with all his weight as he pushed Solus toward the ground. The young man fell to one knee and started to lose his balance as he sacrificed all of his energy to win.

“LORD SOLUS!” cried out a disembodied voice. Solus’ ears perked up as a messenger with long, powder-white wings came flying into view behind Leero.

“Leero, let me up,” said Solus, breathing hard.

“You’re not getting out of it that easily…” Leero continued to press into him with his sword, not letting up even one inch.

“Son, I have business to attend to! We will continue this later,” Solus said with some difficulty, straining himself as he struggled to hold up his sword. He looked into his son’s eyes, completely empty of mercy. The messenger angel came floating into his sight with a look of confusion on his face.

“Ah, Lord… Solus?” said the messenger angel, stilted and confused.

“GO DOWN, OLD MAN!” Leero’s sword started to cut into his father’s, bits of metal sparking off of it. Solus looked into his son’s unflinching eyes as he realized he would not let up. Solus’ brows scrunched together and he let loose his final burst of energy.

“GRRAAHH!!!” Solus roared, finding his footing. He catapulted forward into his sword, knocking his son to the ground as his sword went flying into a nearby pond. His son looked up at him, panting as he wiped sweat from his nose. Solus looked down at him, flustered and out of breath. “We will discuss this later…” He said with disappointment in his voice, pointing his sword down at his son and dropping it between his legs. He looked over at the angel standing awkwardly and walked haggardly over to him.

The weary angel approached his lord and bowed immediately. “Enough of that, Giles, what’s happened?”

“It’s the Poison, my Lord… A mortal has discovered it,” said Giles, trying to avert eye contact with his lord.

Solus’ eyes widened. He could barely believe what he was hearing as one of his darkest nightmares started coming to fruition. “That’s impossible,” he said in denial, his mind racing with thoughts. The cautious angel looked up at the tired ruler, afraid to tell him the rest of it. His son started getting up off the ground, feeling foolish for his display moments ago.

“My Lord… I am afraid that is not the extent of the bad news…” said Giles, trembling with fear. Solus looked at him with a twitch in his eye.


Next Chapter: Chapter 2