Disclaimer- Why even bother reading this? Is there really even a point? It always says the same thing, no matter what story. So and so does not own whatever company and game etc. I'm getting sick of these things. Seriously.

Skies of Arcadia: The Ruins of Tal'Kalen

Chapter Six: Outskirts

Aika had barely even slept that night. She was up before anyone who had gotten to sleep, and was ready to get moving. She really wished everyone would get up so they have breakfast, pack, and get out there. She wanted to see what this city was really like, and if it was as glorious as the tales told. More importantly however, she wanted to find out what kind of treasure was hidden there.

Aika pulled on her sturdy leather glove and picked up her trusty hydra wing. She squeezed the handle tightly, psyching herself up. After a few moments she sighed and quietly snuck up onto the deck, trying her best not to wake anyone.

When she reached the deck she started stretching herself out. First she stretched her arms out, pulling them across her chest and then doing windmills. Then she pulled her arms over her head and stretched them out. Next she pulled her right leg up by the ankle and brought it up to the small of her back, stretching it out. She repeated this action with the other leg and cracked her neck. Moons, how long would it be before anyone else woke?

"Ready to get going I see?" Maiev's voice called out as she appeared on the path outside of The Journeyer. Aika turned around, surprised by the sound of her voice.

She smiled as Maiev hopped onto the deck and walked over to her. "Yes, I wasn't able to sleep much at all. I really need to just let loose some of this pent up aggression. Any evil creature crawling around in here will be a perfect start to venting. What about you? Couldn't you sleep either?"

Maiev giggled warmly. "No, I didn't even bother trying. My mind was going too fast, I was still worked over from last night."

"Speaking of which, what happened exactly?"

Maiev smiled lightly. "Well...I may as well tell you. I guess in a way it concerns you." Aika nodded. "Well, last night, I found my long lost brother. Who would've thought one could find a lost relative in this hell."

Aika looked surprised. "Well who was it? Come on, don't leave off right there! And how does it concern me? Do I know him?"

Maiev smiled again. "Yes, you know him. Well...it's Domingo."

"Are you serious?"

"Yes. One hundred percent serious. I'd spent my life looking and hoping that I'd find him, and I have."

"Well congratulations!" Aika and Maiev embraced in a quick friendly hug. "Have you told anyone else yet?"

"Only you and my crew knows. I'm keeping it secret for now, everyone can learn of this once we get out of here. Domingo feels the same way."

Aika nodded. "Well, if nothing else, at least this has happened. No one will leave with a complete feeling of loss if we don't find something down here." The pair smiled happily.

Maiev cut off. "Hey...you said you wanted to get out some aggression. Where does this stem from? If you don't mind my asking of course."

Aika frowned a bit. She turned away from Maiev and looked out into the stone ruins, leaning heavily against the ship railing. "It...it's nothing, really. I'm just ready to go and pound anything out there so I don't end up venting on someone else. I'm not fit to talk about this right now...but I will later if you still want to know," Aika finished turning back to Maiev.

Maiev nodded solemnly. "I understand." They stood in silence for a few moments before Maiev spoke up again. "How long do you think it will be until everyone wakes up?"

"It depends on how much loqua everyone had last night." The pair giggled. "I'd say Vyse and Fina and Kirala will be up soon, they usually don't rest very well before something big. Now, Gilder and his crew...it could be awhile before they show any signs of life." Aika and Maiev laughed again, waiting for the rest to wake.

Within two hours everyone else was up except for Gilder and his crew. They had restarted the bon fire and were quietly eating breakfast, no one talking about the upcoming day.

Another hour passed by before Vyse became tired of waiting for Gilder. Vyse and Domingo traveled up the path and climbed aboard The Claudia. It wasn't long before they found Gilder passed out on the bridge. "Gilder," Vyse called. He called his name again, sounding a little more agitated. Vyse carefully nudged Gilder with his foot. Vyse sighed, not getting any response.

Domingo suddenly smiled, an idea coming into his head. He pulled his bottle of loqua from the night before from his coat and poured a bit onto Gilder's face. "Lola, for moons sake, I told you already. Let me rest some more," Gilder muttered in a daze. Domingo chuckled and nudged Gilder with his foot. Gilder sat up with a start, breathing heavily. It took him a few moments to catch his breath. He looked up at Vyse and Domingo, a half frown on his face. "That's not the way to wake a drunken man. You could've at least brought some coffee."

"Well, if Lola was here, I'm sure she would've," Vyse said with a smile.

Gilder grunted. "Yeah, she probably would've. Is my crew up yet?" Vyse shook his head. "Go back down then, I'll wake them up."

"Can we trust that you won't just go back to sleep? Will you actually wake them up?" Vyse asked.

"Vyse, you know me. Of course I'll wake them up. Moons, you help a guy save the world and he still doesn't fully trust you..." Gilder mumbled as Vyse and Domingo walked back down to the bon fire.

Gilder got up to one knee, then up on his feet. He gave a grunt as he rubbed his eyes, noticing something was missing. Ahah. His shades must have fallen off the night before. Gilder reached over with a grunt and picked them up before heading down into the sleeping quarters.

Gilder arrived to see his crew sound asleep. He sighed, wondering how long it would take to get them around. Suddenly he shouted, "Rise and shine boys. Today is the day." No response. Not even a twitch or a yawn. "We got a new shipment of loqua today? Do you guys want first dibs?" Still nothing. Gilder sighed, and tried one last time. "Code Red! Everybody up, Clara is coming!" The three men fell right out of their hammocks and onto the floor.

"What? Clara is coming? How did she find us down here?" Kareem, the Nasarian man said in a tired slur.

"No way she could find us," Turk, the blonde Valuan mumbled.

"Cap'n Gilder, are you lying to us? You are aren't you? Just trying to get us up?" Roland, the mop-topped navigator complained.

"Oh, stop your whining. It was now or never. Now let's get outside and have something to eat before the day gets started. We have a long day ahead of us. Now let's get going!" Gilder said as the three men stood up and ran out, heading for the deck. Gilder chuckled to himself. They were certainly meant only to be on his crew.

Half an hour later, the plan for the next few days unfolded. Vyse addressed everyone while Kirala and Jade were packing food and supplies into packs. "We will split up into two groups. One group will travel into the city so we can try and find the Heart of the Desert. The other group will stay behind and hold this area. That group will also be charged with repairing our ships to full working order."

The assembled group nodded. Aika whispered to Fina, "Who knew Vyse could sound so official?" The pair giggled silently as Vyse continued.

"I will be leading the group headed into the city. Jade, I want you to lead the group here."

Jade looked up in surprise. "Wait...what? Me?" Vyse nodded. "Oh come on, I want to get out there! I can't just leave you guys out there wandering about, you'll all end up lost without me! At least if you plan on leaving me, take someone else from the crew! A woman's intuition is the best."

Vyse chuckled. "Don't worry, Jade. Joining me will be Aika, Fina, Gilder, Domingo, Maiev, and Morgan. The rest will stay behind. Are there any objections?"

Morgan spoke up. "You're joking, right? Do you really think seven people will be enough trudging through this hellhole? Come now, legend or not, it would just be foolish."

"I must agree with Morgan here. It wouldn't be very smart traveling in numbers so few," Maiev said.

"May I suggest I bring some of my crew as well? We'll have enough brawn to get through anything then," Morgan said.

"Aye, I want to go as well. I don't know if I could stand being here, not seeing any action," Baltor spat.

Vyse sighed in defeat. "Ok. Morgan, pick out some of your crew to take along with us. Same with you, Maiev." Maiev and Morgan nodded. "Baltor, you and Korgon can come as well. Everyone else will stay behind and guard the area and work on the ships. Jade and Kirala will act as temporary commanders." Murmurs of agreement rose from the crowd. "All right then, let's get moving! I want everyone assembled in front of The Journeyer right away." The group dispersed, heading for the downed ship. The crews split up into their dual factions.

Vyse put a hand on Kirala's shoulder. "I'm counting on you, Kirala."

Kirala nodded. "Don't worry, Cap'n. Me and Jade will make sure everything goes smoothly while you're gone."

Vyse nodded and smiled. "Good to hear. Keep them in line." Vyse turned away from Kirala and looked at his expedition group. Aika and Fina stood next to each other, both looking fairly anxious. Gilder was absentmindedly pawing at his pistol, thinking. Baltor and Korgon stood silent, staring at the ground and waiting for further orders. Domingo finished the last gulp of his bottle of loqua, then turned to Maiev and whispered something into her ear. They embraced for a moment, then fell back to normal. Vyse wondered what the situation there was, but decided to let it slide for now. Morgan stood silently, most of his crew crowding around behind him. Gix, Lupe, Trey, Azinzas, Yoshi, Arlo, and Birbry stood behind him.

Morgan stood facing the last two members of his crew, Wildro and Sega. He spoke, his voice oozing with authority. "I want you two to stay behind and help the rest. Don't goof off, and do what Jade tells you. And for moons sake, don't mess up. If I find out that you messed up any part of this up, I'll have your skulls to drink loqua from." Sega and Wildro just nodded nervously, afraid to speak.

Maiev looked back to her crew. Tyrande and Angela stood facing her, each with weapons drawn. "Cap'n, you have to take us with you. At least us," Tyrande said.

Maiev sighed. "Tyrande, I want you to come with me. Angela, I need you to stay here though. While I'm sure Kirala is a capable leader, Jade's sarcasm may get the best of her. I'm going to need you to keep an eye on her." Angela frowned dejectedly, but finally nodded. "All right then." Maiev turned and walked off to the rest of the group, Tyrande following closely behind.

Kirala and Jade started handing out supply packs. When everyone had received one, Vyse gave the order to head out. Calls came from those remaining behind as the expedition group started for the opening from which Razmodan came.

"Don't worry, Vyse! We'll get The Journeyer up and flying again in no time!"

"You come back safe, you hear me Cap'n Maiev!"

"The same goes for you, Tyrande!"

"We'll be waiting with a barrel of loqua, Cap'n Gilder!"

"We'll do our best, Cap'n Morgan. I promise not to mess up!"

Morgan could only sigh and hope for the best.

The group of seventeen moved quickly and silently past the stony outskirts of the city. Before long they had disappeared completely from the view of those back at the ships. They traveled in a straight line, Vyse up front and the rest two wide. Everyones nerves were high, and some of them were starting to feel uneasy enough that they would become trigger-happy. At every odd sound pistols would be raised in that direction and the line would stop, only to pick up a few seconds later when nothing was seen. A few times someone would squeeze off a round into the sounds direction, but the bullet would fly harmlessly through the mist. Gilder tired of this quickly. "Listen up. Moons, do any of you even know how to properly handle a pistol? Keep your fingers away from the trigger until it's actually time to blast something."

"Well, technically, I thought it was time to blast something. That's why I fired a shot. Multiple times," Trey said.

"And what exactly where you shooting at?"

"Well...ended up being more or less nothing..."

"Exactly. Nothing. You fired at nothing, and you hit nothing. This results in a total progress of nothing. Keep your goddamn fingers off your triggers until you actually see something worth shooting."

Nobody else fired a meaningless shot for the rest of the trip.

After passing through increasingly rocky territory, the group came across a large area of clearing. They had made it through so far without any encounters, but everyone knew that wouldn't keep up. Vyse stopped the group at the start of the clearing. "Alright everyone, we'll rest here for a bit," he said, and everyone gave a sigh of relief.

"Man, we've hardly gone anywhere but my feet are killing me," Aika said as she plopped down onto the ground, rubbing her foot through her boot.

"Me too. This terrain is really tough," Fina said as she sat down next to Aika. For once, the pair's conversation seemed a little strained. They both knew why, and they both secretly hoped it wouldn't keep being like this. Tensions would ease up eventually.

While the rest talked and rested, Domingo had snuck away in front of the group and sat staring into the mist. He was starting to regret drinking so much loqua the past few days. The loqua in combination with this walking was giving him a horrible stomach ache, one of those ones were you just keel over and pray the pain will soon pass.

Something caught Domingo's eye in the distance. Squinting his eyes he looked closer, and saw a bright red light shining through the mist. Two of them. "What the-" Another jolt of pain stopped Domingo mid-sentence. He keeled over and clutched at his stomach, grimacing in pain. Domingo sighed inwardly as he felt the burn of bile coming up his throat. He fell to the ground and threw up.

Domingo's breaths were heavy. He coughed, his throat burning from the bile. Domingo took a deep breath and spat upon the ground. He then fell back and leaned against a rock, staring back out at the lights. He sat for a few moments, staring right into the light. It was rather beautiful, and seemingly drew Domingo in.

After a few moments of this Domingo violently shook his head, clearing out the cob webs. "I have to go tell Vyse about this..." he said and stood up, shaking his head again. He walked slowly back over to the others.

Vyse looked over his shoulder at Domingo. "Hey, where'd you creep off to?"

"Well, Vyse, I know where we should head to next."

"Where? What did you see?"

"Straight ahead of here, I saw a bright red lights emanating through the mist. I don't know what it is, I didn't want to get too far ahead. My guess is the city is actually located there though."

Vyse nodded, in thought. "All right then, we'll head there and find the source of this light. Good work, Domingo. That's why you were my crew's lookout, sharp eyes and a sharp mind. All right, everyone. Five more minutes, then we're heading out again. Enjoy the rest while you still can," Vyse announced to the group. Half the group nodded, and the other sighed, not wanting to get up and move anywhere.

Five minutes later the group was moving again. The line moved slower this time. Since they were moving through a clearing, they wanted to make sure that they were protected from all sides against an ambush.

The group continued on like this for a good fifteen minutes before Aika stopped them all with a gasp. "Vyse! Look!" she said, pointing straight ahead of them. Lying before them was a stone parapet with a giant wooden drawbridge. The stones looked ancient and had mildew growing on them, but otherwise looked like they might've so many years ago. The drawbridge was worn down by the ages, but still looked sturdy. On each side of the parapet stood a giant stone statue of a pirate with a cutlass raised high as if in victory. In each pirates right eye was held a sparkling red jewel, its light mesmerizing. Aika ran forward, and caught herself just before the cutoff between the drawbridge and the land. She looked down and saw nothing, a bottomless pit. Aika looked back and held up an arm to stop the rest. "Hold on! There's a pit here, I can't see the bottom. If there even is a bottom."

The rest of the group walked forward cautiously. Gilder gazed up at the parapet and noticed the flags hanging there. "Hey, this must be the city. There's flags hanging out of the wall. They all look like they have the red moon sewn into them."

Fina nodded. "Yes, then this is the entrance to Tal'Kalen."

"It really is marvelous..." Morgan said to himself softly.

"Quick question here, but...um...exactly how do we get into the city?" Maiev asked, her voice full of wonder.

"Fina? Do you know?" Vyse asked.

Fina shook her head. "No, but I bet these pedestals have something to do with it," she said motioning over to a pair of marble pedestals, each with a small indentation in the center. They stood directly across from the pirate statues. "Now, if only we could get to those jewels-" Fina was cut off by a low growl.

"What was that?" Aika asked.

"I don't know, but it sounded hungry," Gilder said, slowly pulling the pistols from his belt, backing up.

"Everyone, back away a bit. That growl came from the statues," Vyse whispered, inching backwards himself.

Domingo raised a brow as he followed suit. "Are you serious? You mean to tell me these stone hunks of junk growled?" Domingo was answered by another growl. He froze, then slowly pulled a brand new bottle of loqua from his coat. The statues both seemed to smile, a dead, lifeless smile. "Well what the hell," Domingo said softly as he pulled the cork of the bottle out with his teeth and took a drink.

"I suggest everyone get ready for a fight..." Morgan stammered. Just then, the statues came to life and jumped across the abyss, landing with a rumble in front of the crew.

"Well, if they want a fight, they came to the right place!" Vyse snarled as the battle began. The statues acted first, each slamming their stone cutlass into the ground causing a shockwave. This shockwave knocked out Baltor and Korgon along with all of Morgan's crew except for himself and Azinzas. "So, you want to play rough I see?" Vyse said and charged the first statue, Aika and Fina in tow, Gilder and Domingo following them, pistols drawn.

"Go Cupil!" Fina shouted, and Cupil morphed its shape from a bracelet around her wrist into a silver claymore. Fina rushed at the statue and rolled under a clumsy blow, coming up at its back and giving it a strike with Cupil. The statue was caught off guard, and took the full force of Vyse's Vorlik Blade as a result. The statue rocked back a bit, but stayed on its feet.

"I think you need to cool off! Moons, give me strength!" Aika shouted, and a column of ice rose from the ground smashing into the statue, the crystalum doing heavy damage. As the ice broke away Domingo and Gilder opened up, pistols blazing.

Meanwhile Maiev, Tyrande, Morgan, and Azinzas were attacking the other statue. Azinzas fired his pistol at the golem while the others harassed it with strike's from their swords. These blows made the statue stagger a bit, but it came back with a full blow to Azinzas, knocking off his feet and out of consciousness.

"Fine then. Prepare yourself!" Maiev yelled as she went into a defensive position. A swirl of red energy enveloped Maiev as she focused harder, staring right into the dead eyes of the golem. "Moon charge!" She screamed as she ran full force at the creature and ran it right through, the tip of her blade infused with enough energy to send it right through the rock. The statue fell backwards and hit hard, the force of the attack catching it completely off guard. "Haha! Now we got him!"

Meanwhile Vyse and company were pounding away on the statue, which could do little more than feebly defend himself and occasionally counterattack after a devastating cutlass fury attack. They were starting to feel a bit overconfident, and were taken completely off guard when the golem slammed his blade into the ground, sending another shockwave forward and hitting the whole party. The blast took everyone off of their feet, stunning them for a second. Gilder got up the fastest, and glared at the lifeless golem. "I'll make sure you pay for that one," he snarled, and raised up his pistols. "Come on," he said, aiming the pistols, "Dance for me." The flurry of shots from Gilder's pistols sent the creature into an exotic dance, trying its best to move its bulk away from the tearing bullets. When all was said and done though, the creature hit the dirt, its visage cracked and chest broken open, tiny pieces of rock crumbling away from it.

Meanwhile, the other golem got up and gave a growl towards Maiev. It pointed its cutlass towards her, getting ready to charge. Maiev smirked. "Bring it on." The golem charged at her, and took a huge swing at Maiev. Maiev nimbly evaded the strike and counterattacked, slicing into the rock. The creature growled and fell flat, defeated by the strike. Maiev gave a victorious laugh as the creature fell and stayed down. Tyrande and Morgan both gave sighs of relief when the creature dropped.

Vyse called over to them. "Are all of you ok?"

"Everyone that didn't get knocked out by these ancient hunks of junk," Maiev quipped, and sheathed her blade.

"We can worry about getting everyone back on their feet after we get these jewels away," Morgan said as he knelt down beside the golem. The creatures head had twisted to the side when it fell, allowing him a clear view of the jewel encased in its eye. Morgan gripped the jewel and pulled it out, his force rolling him to the ground after he pulled it out. Morgan got up and brushed it off, intently studying the red jewel. "Beautiful...it's a real gem this one." Maiev and Tyrande peered in at the jewel as well, mesmerized by its glow. Gilder had pulled the other jewel away from the golem, but Aika had stolen it away, and her and Fina were staring at it, smiles spread across their faces.

"Wow...it's so sparkly...and shiny...and pretty..." Aika mumbled on as they continued a one-sided staring contest.

Vyse stood with his arms crossed, an exasperated look on his face. Gilder snapped his fingers at the girls, trying to break them of their trance. Domingo got the loqua back out and took a swig, glad the girls were wasting some time. Anything for a break. "Do you girls plan on staring at that gem all day, or are we going to try and find a way across?" Vyse said.

Fina snapped out of her trance. She cleared her throat and nodded. "Right, I'm guessing if you slide these gems into the pedestals the drawbridge will come down. At least that's what I'm hoping." Fina took the jewel and placed it into the pedestal.

Aika sighed as she watched Fina take the gem. "There'd better be more of them in this place. I want to take a whole chest of them home..."

Fina placed the gem in the indentation of the pedestal. Nothing happened. Fina looked over to Morgan. "Place the gem in." Morgan nodded and slid the gem into place. The drawbridge then slowly lowered, the mechanical clank of the rusted chains screeching, bridging the bottomless gap. Fina smiled. "Well, the path to the city has opened. We can begin our journey into the city."

Domingo took another swig of loqua. "Yeah, once we get everyone up that is," he said, looking at the knocked out crewmembers.

Fina sighed and looked to Aika. "I guess we'd better get started then..." Aika nodded and the two went about, calling upon the power of the silver moon to cast riselem upon those who had fallen.

Author's Note: I've started school again so the chapters will be a little slower. Please drop a review if you're still reading, it gives me extra incentive to get chapters out faster.

Thanks to Arcturus, Borknagar, Type O Negative, Fall of Empyrean, Hades, and ...And Oceans for the influential music.