The ship pulled into port. The four young warriors met on the top deck of the ship with their bags slung over their backs. The four walked down the stairs to the busy port. The sun had just begun to rise, and a whole new day was about to begin. Aeria felt her heart flutter, and tried hard not to skip as they left the port. Jake too had a smile on his face, but more then likely with the events that the day might bring, he would not have that smile at the end of the day. To the world, Zuriel remained expressionless, but in his mind he was preparing himself. This all felt like déjà vu to him, as if he had already played this out. Varick was trailing behind, griping a little that he was still tired.
"Here we are…" Jake said. He motioned straight ahead to the walled in town. Aeria stepped up beside him in awe, looking at the city walls, and the castle that loomed into the sky. Jake looked over to her, unable to hide his smug smile. "So where do we go from here O wise one?" Jake said sarcastically, looking over his left shoulder as Zuriel approached.
"Whatever you feel like O jackass."
"Varick I wasn't asking you, shut the hell up," Jake yelled back.
Zuriel stepped up beside Jake. He stood still for a moment and adjusted his bag. "Why not to Corneria itself?"
The four walked together to the front gate. Varick stayed behind, glaring at Jake. The hierarchy had already been set in place, but Varick was far from happy by it. His mind was already running through, plotting his downfall. No, no one ever embarrasses me like that. I'll get my revenge.
"Wow! It's so pretty here!" Aeria said as she walked onto the first little path of Corneria.
"It seems as if the earth here has yet to whither away…" Zuriel commented.
"And there's a breeze," Jake commented.
"This is Corneria, the city where dreams are woven," a girl in a pink dress said standing a few feet from Aeria.
No wonder Grandpa said this would be a good place to begin an adventure… Aeria mused to herself. She turned to face the other three. "So Light Warriors, what next?"
A soldier dressed in the typical uniform, a bronze helmet with bronze armor began to pass to the left of the young warriors. "Our King is searching for the Light Warriors…" He mused to himself quietly. Aeria turned to look at him, and held back her giggle. Somehow she found a solider staring at the ground mumbling to himself amusing. "Wait!" He suddenly exclaimed, stopping in his tracks. He quickly looked over at the four warriors standing on the path and the grass next to the path. His eyes began at the white mage, seeing a blue crystal lying on the front of her white robe. It then moved to the fighter, seeing a red crystal glistening in the morning light against dulling red armor. His eyes excitedly moved to the thief, who, for once, had his green crystal lying against his chest. "Can it be…?" He began, as he looked at the black mage, who, aside from looking at the solider funny, had a brown crystal, easily noticeable against the blue robes. "Please go see His Majesty at once!" The solider pulled at Jake, who was the closest one to him, dragging him out of the city. Aeria dashed after him. Zuriel began to follow them. He looked over his shoulder. "Come on Varick. You're a Light Warrior too." Varick shrugged and walked up to Zuriel, the two of them following close behind Aeria.
The crew walked on the curvy dirt pathes of the walled in Corneria. The solider was in the lead at a brisk pace. Jake followed close behind, with Aeria right on his tail. A short ways behind that, Zuriel walked with Varick. While all of them were taking in the beauty of Corneria that was unheard of elsewhere, Aeria was reacting the most. She would stop every once in a while, staring at the buildings off the distance, or the flowers growing in a field. "C'mon Aeria," Jake continually said to her, and she would giggle and run back in her spot until the next thing stole her attention.
Once they arrived at the top of the hill, the solider stopped for a moment as Aeria exclaimed "Oh my! Is this the castle? It's incredible!"
Jake chuckled, staring at the the stone mansion before them. "Yeah, I guess it is. Suppose I had the same reaction first time I came here."
"You've been here before?" Zuriel asked.
"Yeah, my brother's a member of the Royal Guard."
"Wow…" Aeria continued.
Zuriel glanced over to Varick, who had a small grin on his face. "You seem rather unimpressed."
"Actually," Varick began to reply.
"He's already stolen from the treasury!" Jake interrupted, laughing as he did.
"This is my first time seeing the castle. I've heard stories of it and seen paintings, but I've never actually seen it myself," Varick continued, hiding his clenched fist.
Aeria looked over her shoulder with a smile on her face. "It's incredible isn't it?"
"Yeah," Varick replied, his fist loosening. "I guess it is."
Zuriel looked over to see that the solider had been staring at his glowing yellow eyes. Zuriel nodded. "We're ready to move inside." The solider nodded quickly, as if confused by the low raspy voice. He led the four warriors to the castle, nodding to the two guards who opened the large double doors for him.
"Wow!" Aeria cried out looking around at the marble tiles and beautiful ornate walls of the castle. There was a small, audible gasp from Varick. Even Zuriel was somewhat amazed inside, but noticed that the feeling of déjà vu just continued to get stronger and weaker at the same time. It was a weird feeling that for the moment, he decided to shake off, since he heard Jake getting another jab at Varick in.
"He's probably planning on what he'll take as a suevenir."
Zuriel watched as Varick cursed under his breath and began to lunge towards Jake in frustration. Swiftly and firmly, Zuriel had his arm out which caught Varick just as he was moving towards Jake. It held Varick back long enough for Aeria to pull on Jake's arm to end the problem. At least for now.
"Quickly!" The solider said, running up the two flights of stairs in front of them. The Light Warriors followed. Aeria did nothing to hide her astonishment and curiosity as she walked up the long white marble stairs. She looked at each of the paintings, probably of kings and queens of past. Varick too looked at these, but did his best to hide his curiosity. Jake concentrated on following the solider and Zuriel eyed both Varick and Jake.
"Wait here for a moment," The solider said to them before entering the throne room.
"What do you think will happen?" Aeria asked nervously.
"I don't know," Jake said after a thoughtless pause.
"We'll have to see," Zuriel added.
A few long moments later, the solider returned out to see the four warriors. "His Majesty wishes to see you now. Please follow me." The four warriors walked through the large door. Jake followed the soldier with Varick behind him, Aeria and Zuriel on either side of Varick. After walking a few brisk steps, Jake and Zuriel kneeled to show their respect. Aeria and Varick quickly followed in suite.
King Estevan rose and took a step towards them. "Please rise," he spoke, his voice even sounding full of pride and power. The four warriors quickly stood. "Travellers, is it true that you are the Crystal bearers?"
"Yes, your Majesty, it is," Zuriel answered, holding up his brown crystal. The other three held up their crystals in response.
The King nodded. "The prophecy says: When darkness veils the world, four warriors of light shall come."
"But your Majesty," protested the Chancellor. Aeria turned her head toward the man that was standing to the right of the throne. He was a funny looking man. Tall, with a red coat and a pony tail, though he was balding at the front of his head. "We have no truth that these four our the true warriors."
"Hey!" Varick exclaimed. "We have these crystals don't we? And we've come before you in the time of darkness." Jake looked over his shoulder and glared at Varick, clenching his fist, vowing himself to get back at him later.
"But we have had several groups appear, telling us too that they were the true Light Warriors, how do we know that you are no different?" The Chancellor said. Zuriel smirked, hearing the irritation in the Chancellor's question.
"Did they have crystals?" Varick shot back.
"Surely it is not coincidence that four warriors bearing crystals have appeared now," The King said thoughtfully, drawing attention at himself. Jake looked at the King's lavish outfit. It appeared to be robes upon robes, and a gold crown, sparkled with gems and jewels. He mused to himself that Varick probably would try to pawn that off too. "Brave ones," The King continued. "I need your help."
"What is it Your Majesty?" Jake asked.
The King's voice grew softer. "Please rescue my daughter Sara."
Aeria's expression became one of sympathy. "What happened to her?" She asked meekly, showing compassion in her voice.
"Sir Garland, once a high knight here in His Majesty's service, has abducted Princess Sara. We have learned that he is in the Temple of Fiends, north of Corneria. We attempted to rescue the princess, but his powers far surpassed ours," the Chancellor explained, his hands frantically moving with his words.
"So you believe the power of the Light Warriors will be enough to surpass Garland? You believe that we can succeed where you failed?" Zuriel asked, his tone darker and raspier then usual.
Both the Chancellor and the King looked at Zuriel, the Chancellor with a somewhat evil glare.
"But what about us?" Zuriel continued. "As Light Warriors, surely you are aware of our destiny."
Varick's eyes narrowed. How can they possibly know, if we have no idea what we're supposed to be doing?
A smile soon grew on King Estevan's face. "Perhaps you wish to cross to the northern strait. The bridge that once spanned it was lost long ago. If you bring my daughter back safely, I will build a new bridge."
"Sounds fair to me," Zuriel replied.
"I am counting on you," King Estevan replied. He returned to his throne.
"You are dismissed," The Chancellor said sharply, a bit of contempt hidden in his voice.
The Light Warriors bowed once more before turning and leaving the throne room. The door shut behind them.
"What was that?" Jake said, anger seeping into his voice.
"What was what?" Aeria asked innocently, looking over at Jake.
"What was that all about?" Jake said turning his back to Aeria, staring straight into Zuriel's yellow orbs.
"We're Light Warriors. We have a destiny to fulfill. Let's not get off track," Zuriel replied. "So let's get ourselves prepared."
"But, what do we do?" Aeria asked, finding her heart fluttering once more.
"I'll go get us weapons and armor," Jake offered.
"Save 200 GP," Zuriel instructed. "No matter what you do."
"Why?" Jake asked, feeling somewhat offended.
"Both Aeria and I need a magic spell."
"They cost money?" Jake asked.
"Of course they do. The Orders of Magicks need funds to keep themselves together," Zuriel replied, somewhat amused at Jake's ignorance.
Aeria turned around and looked at one of the soliders standing by the door. "Umm, is it a huge problem if I wander around the castle a bit? Will anyone mind?" She asked quietly.
The solider smiled a little as he watched the blood rush to her face. "It is fine Light Warrior."
"Thank you," Aeria mumbled, not sure what else to say. She ran past the three guys down the two flights of stairs to the bottom level.
"What got into her?" Jake asked, folding his arms.
"Probably curiosity," Varick replied.
"Why don't we all meet up at the center of town by the fountain by high noon?" Zuriel suggested.
"Then we'll head to the temple?" Jake asked.
"No, we're going to need to build our strength up a bit and practice fighting. Aeria has yet to be in an actual fight," Zuriel reminded.
The group split up. Aeria wandered around the castle, somewhat in awe. "You cannot enter this room young lady," the solider told her.
"Why not?" Aeria asked innocently.
"The Queen has shut herself in her room from such grief of her daughter missing," the soldier replied.
"My group is on a mission to rescue the Princess…" Aeria replied. "May I tell her?"
The solider looked around nervously. He swallowed hard, and stepped aside, allowing the white mage inside the room. Aeria hesitated, but moved. "Your Majesty?"
Varick quickly ducked out of sight. Better to get away from Jake then to fight without Aeria around, he mused. Once down the stairs and through a few corridors, Varick allowed himself to relax and take in the magnificence of the castle. He pondered so many things, wondering how he would suddenly adjust to three traveling companions, one who hated his guts, when he always traveled alone. What about his original journey? Would he have to put that on hold? The thief stopped in his tracks, staring at a portrait of a knight dressed in full armor. He looked at the knight's eyes. Seeing the dark eyes nearly spooked him, and Varick had to take a moment to regain his composure. "Who's that?" He asked to no one in particular.
To his luck, there was a scholar standing nearby, watching the thief. "That is the great knight Garland. The portrait was done a few years ago, before the recent turn of events."
"It seems somewhat…dark," the thief commented. "Was he a dark knight?"
"Garland was once an honorable knight. What could've driven him to hatred?" The scholar mused, ignoring Varick somewhat. After a few more moments of looking at the knight he was supposed to take down, he decided to turn away and see if he could find Aeria.
Jake walked quickly out of the castle with a set destination in mind. Weapons and armor were something that had always entranced him since he was a young boy, thus driving him to become a fighter. He knew which weapons were the best for what classes, and he could visiualize the armor on somebody with ease. While purchasing equipment, he bit his lip, forcing himself to buy armor for Varick as well, finding himself wanting to sabotage it. He's a scoundrel, he'll be expecting something like that…I need something better to get back at him.
Zuriel, having nothing important to do, walked out of the castle and stood on the path back to the city. He looked above him at the sky. Why did all of this seem so oddly familiar? It was as if there were memories trapped inside of him that did not exist. Not allowing them to drive him mad, he shook them out of his mind and continued to town, to see if he could find anything more about their princess.
Varick stood with his arms folded at the entrance of the castle. Within a few minutes he had cleared both floors and had yet to find Aeria. He was not sure where else to look, especially since the soliders at the entrance said that the young white mage had not passed by since all of them entered. His silent question was quickly answered. "Varick?"
"Hmm?" He answered, looking up and to his right, seeing the white mage walked towards him. "Where were you?"
"I was visiting the Queen…I wanted to tell her that we were going to rescue her daughter," Aeria replied with a smile on her face.
Varick raised an eyebrow and tried not to laugh at her. "Did you now?"
Aeria folded her arms and glared at Varick, although he was unable to tell whether it was serious or playful. At this he could not help but burst out into chuckles, which only made her react more to him. "Yes I did! It was the nice thing to Varick!" She shouted at him before exiting the castle to the morning light, leaving Varick to his laughter.
Her eyes squinted slightly as the sun shined brightly. The temperature was mild, and there were only a few clouds in the bright blue sky. Giggling a little, she walked, or rather skipped, down the path, looking at the trees and plants around her.
The sun reached the peak of the sky, and the four Light Warriors met at the center of town, Varick pulling Aeria along since Aeria had left before they had decided when to meet up again. He grumbled slightly every time she insisted on stopping to look at something, but found her laughter too contagious to resist. Jake and Zuriel were already waiting when Aeria and Varick walked to the fountain. Jake scowled, his arms folded, his brown eyes glaring at the thief. Varick looked back, his eyes just as sharp towards Jake. Aeria did not notice, but Zuriel was already prepared to spring to stop yet another fight between the two of them. He could not help but wonder if their pointless and rather random rivalry would ever end. What had sprung their hatred towards each other anyway?
Weapons and armor were distributed. Aeria watched curiously as Jake put on the seemingly heavy chain mail with only a bit of struggling, except in the back where Zuriel helped him tie it together. Varick slipped on his new leather armor, tying it at the top and at the sides. "Aeria, here's your weapon," Jake said, pointing to the iron hammer resting against the waterfall.
"But…I have my grandmother's staff…" The white mage protested.
"Trust me, this weapon is much more effective," Zuriel said.
"I wouldn't know how to use it! I don't even think I can lift it!" She continued to protest.
This caused mild frustration in Jake, and mild amusement in Varick. Zuriel simply motioned for Aeria to walk towards him. She did, still clutching the staff. "Put the staff down…" He said. She resisted for another moment, until Varick pulled the staff out of her hand. He lost grip of it which caused the staff to fall onto the gravel path, bouncing around a bit. Her heart pounding wildly, Aeria looked back at Zuriel, finding herself a bit mad at Varick. "Pick the hammer up," he once again commanded. Biting her lip, as if picking the hammer up was a difficult decision, she placed her hands on the handle, gripping tightly. "You attack with a hammer over the head." Aeria just looked at him, puzzled. "Let go, and watch." Aeria stepped back. Zuriel, picked the hammer up with ease, which surprised him greatly. He brought the hammer over his shoulder, so the handle was resting on his shoulder. Pretending to struggle a bit - since no black mage was supposed to be able to use a hammer - he swung it over his head so the hammer head would have slammed into the enemy. Instead, the hammer head just hit the gravel, which caused dust to float around the area. Once cleared, Zuriel stepped back, motioning for Aeria to pick the hammer up. She did as she was told, took a practice swing rather clumsily, and managed to get the "That'll work, I guess." approval from Jake.
"So are we heading to the temple?" Varick asked.
"What are you, a moron? Didn't you hear what Zuriel said we were going to do?" Jake retorted.
"Well Aeria had no idea where we were going, so I figure a nice reiteration of our plans wouldn't hurt. Oh, I'm sorry, did I speak too quickly for you?" Varick countered.
"Guys!" Aeria exclaimed, getting in between them. "Will you knock it off, please?"
"This guy thinks he's the damn leader," Jake said.
"And what the hell do you think you're doing?" Varick asked, trying to redirect it back towards him.
"If anyone's going to be the leader, it should be Zuriel, he knows what he's doing," Aeria interrupted.
"Leader? Him? Yeah right.." Jake said sarcastically.
"We don't need a leader," Zuriel said, his voice calm and raspy as always. "We're fine the way we are."
"And aren't you acting as a leader by dictating that?" Varick remarked, a small smirk on his face.
"He certainly knows a lot more then you do," Jake countered.
"I wasn't talking to you," Varick replied harshly, gripping onto his new rapier.
Zuriel just shook his head. "Aeria, we need to get you magic. We'll be right back," the black mage said, ignoring Jake's and Varick's latest spat. As he walked towards the magic shoppes, he motioned for Aeria to follow. Tugging the hammer along, she did, leaving Jake and Varick glaring at each other, near ready to kill one another.
"There are eight levels of magic," Zuriel explained. "As you grow stronger from the experience of fighting, you will be able to endure casting more spells and stronger spells. For now, do not push yourself too hard. A Fighter may be able to push himself and swing his sword a few extra times, but it is not in the well interest of the team to push your mind for one more spell when you feel you are unable to endure it. Human strength may seem limitless, but magical power is not." Aeria just listened, absorbing as much in as she could as they purchased the learning scroll for Cure and Fire. Zuriel then taught Aeria how to learn the magic off of the scroll and be able to use it without carrying the scroll into battle.
Once rejoined with Jake and Varick, who had managed not to kill each other, they left to practice with their new weapons and magic. Aeria's first battle was against five imps. Her heart pounded as she clutched onto the hammer resting on her shoulder. Jake rushed in to attack one, although finding to his dismay that he was unable to kill the imp in one blow. Aeria watched as Varick snuck around to attack a imp, and no sooner did he return and Zuriel was attacking the same wounded imp, killing it. "Go!" Aeria heard Jake yell at her. Copying Zuriel, she advanced towards the imp Jake was unable to finish. However, another one rushed in around her, and in the fury of confusion and panic, Aeria struck that imp on the head, and rushed back to her allies, leaving the imp somewhat dazed and confused. The fight continued, and Varick continuously got pounced by the imp's attacks.
"Heal him!" Zuriel commanded.
Aeria looked to Varick, who had blood in his hair and bandana, and was using his hand on the ground to help keep himself up. The white mage put the hammer down, the handle leaning against her stomach, and began to focus on magic. She felt the warm white energy circulating around her hands as she chanted her prayer, then looked towards Varick, using the healing powers on him. To her surprise, it worked, and he stood back up as if nothing had happened. She smiled slightly, but before she could even turn back, one of the imps attacked her. Varick rushed at it, swinging his rapier across the imp's throat, the blood falling onto the green grass. The fight was over.
The white mage stood there in shock. She felt pains in her arm where the imp had just attacked her, and looked at the imps, wondering if she should feel remorse for them. She then decided not to, as they were just disguting creatures anyhow. Varick returned from his round at each corpse, collecting scattered gold the imps had stolen from humans before. The four continued to walk through the forest, allowing Aeria the valuable practice she had needed. They battled against more imps, and stumbled across a wolf, which attacked Aeria, leaving her with a nasty wound. Moments later, Jake ran in to counter, as if enraged that Aeria had been wounded.
There was another battle against imps. Aeria found her attacks growing weaker due to the simple fact her body was growing a bit weary. The battle was going on, and they had learned that if Zuriel and Varick attacked together, an imp would fall, and the same if Aeria and Jake attacked together. However, as Aeria was bringing her arms up to swing at the imps Jake had just wounded, another imp rushed in at Aeria, and struck her with a blow that made her cry out and fall to the ground, her hammer landing on top of her.
"Aeria!" Jake yelled out, taking a swipe at the imp, before rushing next to her. Varick and Zuriel continued to attack, and instead of rushing around to collect the gold, they both dashed back to the white mage lying on the ground.
"Is she conscious?" Varick asked, picking the hammer up.
"No, she's not responding," Jake replied, trying his hardest to get Aeria to respond somehow.
"We're going to have to take her back to town. It'll be the only way to get her to come to," Zuriel said. Jake picked the white mage up, carrying her as Varick held her hammer, taking the back to make sure nothing came up behind them. Zuriel took the lead back into Cornelia.
As Zuriel led them to the church so they could resurect Aeria, Jake found his heart pounding as he held her close to him. Many thoughts ran through his head, some along the lines of taking her home because there was no way she could adapt to fighting with them.
"Maybe…we should just take her home…" Varick said to no one in particular.
"You know she doesn't want to," Jake replied, irritated.
"She's a Light Warrior, this is her…this is our destiny," Zuriel replied, pushing open the door to the church. "Please, aid her," Zuriel asked, holding the donation he knew the priest would be waiting for. With a nod, the priest took it from the black mage's gloved hand, and proceeded to awaken Aeria. The three Light Warriors had to cover their eyes from the light, but when the light was faded, Aeria had opened her eyes.
The white mage coughed a bit. "Uh…what…happened?"
Varick knelt down beside her, helping her sit up. "You took a nasty blow from an imp," Zuriel explained. "Let's take her to the inn, it's getting late anyway." Zuriel walked out of the church, heading towards the inn.
"Cmon Aeria, I'll carry you," Jake said, pushing Varick away from the white mage.
"Or we could let her try to get up on her own?" Varick questioned, his frustration apparent in his voice.
All Aeria could do to get them to stop was to cough a few more times and fall back into Varick. Varick stood up, and lifted the white mage to her feet. "Can you walk?" Aeria shook her head no. "All right, try walking with me then," the thief insisted.
"Walking can't possibly good for her at this stage! She needs to rest! What the hell is wrong with you Varick!" Jake feebly called out as the two left the church, leaving Jake fuming to himself, before walking out and heading to the inn himself.
"Right in here Varick, I already have our room," Zuriel said, rushing down the hall to their room. Varick followed, pulling most of Aeria's weight. "Here, we'll put her down here…" Varick helped Aeria onto the bed, and layed her down.
"You all right Aeria?" Varick asked.
A small smile slid over Aeria's face. "Thank you…" She closed her eyes, took a deep breath, and drifted off to sleep.
"Come on, let her rest," Zuriel said to Varick as he walked to the main room of the inn to await Jake's arrival. "You know…if she hadn't fallen, we would've head enough for another magic spell," he said with a chuckle.
The next day went on, and they continued to battle imps, Aeria getting more used to wielding her new hammer, as they all began to grow more used to fight near each other. With the money they found on the imps and occasional wolf or crazy pony, Aeria learned Fog and Harm while Zuriel learned Lit and Lock.
"I'm sick of fighting imps!" Varick exclaimed on their way out of Corneria the next morning.
"Fine, we'll head towards the Temple of Fiends and see how fast we get clobered!" Jake replied, the sarcasm apparent in his voice.
Aeria whined, "Stop it! It's too early for sarcasm Jake!"
The Light Warriors traveled to the north, where they had been told the Temple of Fiends lied. In some odd attempt to spite Jake, the four battled against nothing more then imps, and the occasional imp guard. Their battles brought upon nothing interesting, much to Varick's disliking.
In front of the four Light Warriors stood a large grey temple, in horrible shape. Pillars had collapsed, window frames were cracked, and everything about the temple seemed to disturb the four, even Zuriel. Fear was apparent through Aeria's eyes, and both Jake and Varick looked in amazement. Zuriel, on the other hand, found himself battling a strange urge rising inside of him. Though the breeze was slight, he brought his gloved hand to his wizard hat, as if about to rip it off. No! I can't do that! What am I thinking? It must be the temple, there must be a strange magic surrounding it! Yes, I'm sure that's it. Perhaps it is the same magic that has controlled Garland? "Cmon," Varick said, breaking the uneasy silence. "Let's venture inside."
"I'm not sure if that's a good idea," Zuriel stated, moving his arms back to his sides.
"I never said face Garland now!" Varick countered.
"But if we've come this far, why leave a princess another day?" Jake asked, folding his arms.
"She's survived the last few days, hasn't she? Obviously Garland's waiting for something, some time. You don't just kidnap someone that important and randomly kill her. You would most definitely try to get one hell of a ransom out of it, or whatever you're going for."
"You'd know that, wouldn't you?" Jake asked. "She's probably going through torture in there damnit!"
Varick just sighed and walked in the temple. Zuriel followed, beckoning for Aeria and Jake.
Jake took a few steps towards the temple and noticed that Aeria was not following. "Come on Aeria."
Panic was apparent on the white mage's face. "I…I don't want to. I don't want to go in here. It's going to be the start of something horrible! I can just feel it! No!"
Although Jake had no patience with Varick, he seemed to have much held for Aeria. He took a few steps towards her. "It'll be all right, okay? We'll go in, take a look around, and then head back down to Cornelia to stock up."
"That's all?" Aeria asked, her eyes planted on Jake's face. "Just a few hours?"
"Just a few hours," Jake repeated. And if the 'brave' one and the 'wise' one insist differently, I'll just prove them wrong. He held his hand out to Aeria, who timidly took it, and followed Jake inside of the temple.
"This isn't a walk in the park…" Varick said, staring at Jake holding Aeria's hand.
"I was just-"
"It…It's okay!" Aeria exclaimed, cutting Jake off. As she did, she pulled her hand away from his, afraid that she was going to be seen as too weak. The hand that Jake had been holding moved to her robe, which she fiddled with nervously. "What!" She exclaimed.
"Nothing," Varick said, turning. "Let's explore."
"The outskirts!" Zuriel suddenly exclaimed. "Explore the outskirts, not the center."
Varick looked over his shoulder to the black mage. Instead of remarking, he took a left and walked down the corridor. The group moved together, Aeria staying close to Jake's side. Their first battle within the temple walls was against nothing more then imps. "In here?" Varick asked, pushing at the heavy wooden door gently. As he pushed it, the door crumbled, which caused Aeria to shriek from being startled. Whether or not her shriek caused it, three skeletons suddenly began to move from the wall of the treasure room, and walk towards them. Jake darted in front of Varick, drawing his rapier and advancing towards the skeletons. Aeria freaked out, chanting the spell for Harm. As Varick rushed to strike one of the skeletons, he found himself jumped back and shielding his eyes as the holy light caused each of the skeleton's body to disentigrate and fall as a pile of ash on the dusty floors. Aeria let out a huge sigh, as the other three looked her. "Slightly overdone," Zuriel commented with a chuckle. Aeria turned bright red and picked her hammer up again, staring at the floor from embarassment.
Jake walked further into the room, examining the rusty chest in front of them. He knelt down, trying to push the chest's lid up. He struggled with it for a few moments. Without a word, Varick moved towards the chest and was about to help, until Jake pushed it open with one last grunt. Dust flew about everywhere, causing Jake to cough and try to swipe the dust away. He peered inside, and pulled out the only reward the chest contained for them, a simple cap. In disbelief, he looked back in to find nothing more was in the chest then cobwebs and dirt. With a crooked face, he turned back to his group. "That's it?" Varick asked.
"That's it," Jake answered.
"You're holding out, there must be more!"
"I'm not like you Varick," Jake shot at him.
Aeria looked between them, wondering why they had to take shots at each other at every possible opportunity. Her thoughts were distracted when Zuriel piped in, "Why don't we give it to Aeria, out of all of us she still needs the most protection." Aeria looked up, her eyes looking between them.
"No, no, I'll be fine!" Aeria shouted quickly, her body mimicking her voice.
"You need the most protection of all of us," Varick said, stating the obvious, causing Aeria to scowl slightly.
"Look at it like this Aeria," Jake jumped in. "You're the white mage. If you fall, we're screwed."
Zuriel looked between the fighter and white mage. "He's got a point. Your magic will surely hold us all through."
"O…Okay," Aeria said, walking towards Jake, who handed her the old cap. Jake walked back to the door, Zuriel following. "Erm…" Aeria muttered quietly, spinning the cap around over and over. Varick stood a few steps in front of Aeria and caught glance of this. His eyes shifted slightly to the side and he smirked from amusment. "Er…Varick?" The white mage peeped quietly. "How do you wear this…?"
The thief turned and bit his lip as the white mage blushed profoundly. Suavely, he took the cap from her and put it on her head, then pulled her hood back over it. With a small chuckle and a pat on the head, Varick turned and walked towards Jake and Zuriel. Aeria quickly bounced behind.
The ensemble traveled up the hallway. Aeria still clutched her hammer, looking around in fear and walking closely between Varick and Zuriel. Zuriel found his heart pounding beyond belief while Jake on the other hand, well, was Jake.
"This is far too easy! I could do this with one hand tied behind my back!" Jake boasted.
"Are you kidding me?" Varick retorted sharply. "I'd love to see you wander this place by yourself with one hand behind your back!" He challenged.
Jake stopped and looked over his right shoulder. He was about to say something, but Aeria shrieked, causing Jake to look in front of him and draw his rapier. Two black widows lowered themselves from the ceiling, placing their legs on the dusty hallway. Though they all attacked, the only one to connect was Jake's since Aeria missed by a long shot and Zuriel's was interrupted by a strke on him. Jake grunted in frustration when the black widow was only weakened, not killed, by his attack.
Jake rushed in to attack the weakened black widow again, his pride not to be destroyed. "Varick!" Aeria exclaimed, getting the blonde's attention. The white mage rushed past him to swing at the black widow, her hammer striking its body. When the black widow turned its attention towards the white mage, who was attempting to back away, Varick delivered the finishing blow, the black widow falling to the ground. With a soft sigh, Aeria heaved her hammer over her shoulder and looked towards the next room.
This door was already open, so the Light Warriors advanced right into the room. Upon entering the room, a gigas worm was awaiting them. They assumed their fighting positions. The gigas worm attacked Aeria, causing her to stagger back past Zuriel and fall on her rear. Using her hammer, she propped herself back up as Zuriel began chanting under his breath, magic gathering in his gloved hand. Once standing, Aeria healed herself as Zuriel's Fire connected with the gigas worm. The Light Warriors watched as it melted to the floor before the final flames lingered and gradually died out. "Remind me not to piss you off…" Jake murmured as Varick retrieved the few gold pieces lying on the floor. The rivals each went to one of the chests in the room, pushing open the heavy rusted lids revealing a heal potion and a tent, both showing them to Aeria and Zuriel with a bit of pride evident.
The Light Warriors continue exploring, finding only locked doors and treasures. Their battles were nothing more then imps mostly, except about one battle against four ghouls, where Aeria put them to rest with Harm. "Varick! What the hell are you doing? You're missing against imps!" Jake shouted as they left the Temple of Fiends to head to Corneria to rest as originally planned. "Will you focus already!"
"It's not my fault they keep moving out of the way!" Varick countered.
"Well you're supposed to anticipate that, don't you know anything about fighting?"
Varick didn't reply, he simply glared at the back of Jake's head.
"Jake has got a point," Zuriel commented a few moments later as their boots crunched across the dying land. "Varick, your focus has been on Aeria more then the imps." Varick's head snapped around to Zuriel and Aeria looked away at the trees struggling to survive on her left.
"What the hell are you doing that for?" Jake asked. "Don't tell me you're trying to go after her!"
"No!" Varick exclaimed. "Will you stop accusing me for these stupid things all the time!" He shouted back.
"Enough," Zuriel interjected. "It's been a long day. Let us rest this evening, prepare for tomorrow, and return to the Temple of Fiends for the Princess. Then we'll continue our journey."
"Continue? It's only been-" Jake spat.
"Shut up. Just, shut up," Zuriel insisted, quelling the possible argument immediately, leaving the group in a strange silence. As they traveled, the only time they communicate was when they were fighting imps and imp guards, and even then, it was minimal. Their conversations before bed were nonexistent.
"Cmon Varick, wake up," Zuriel said, arms folded, standing over Varick's bed.
Varick opened his eyes slightly, looking at the black mage. Even when the bastard's standing over me can't see anything more then those damn yellow eyes… "Wake up already?" He muttered, staring at the ceiling.
"Aeria and Jake have already gone to the item shop to pick up a few last minute items, then we'll be traveling to the Temple of Fiends once more," Zuriel explained.
"Sounds like a plan to me," Varick replied as Zuriel walked out of the room.
"So, what do you think we'll need?" Aeria asked Jake as they walked inside.
Jake looked at her, unsure of himself. His guard was down, but even so, he wouldn't let her inside. But maybe, they could grow closer? "I'm not sure," was the only response he allowed himself to give. With the gold pieces they had collected from their encounters, the paid purchased five heal potions, one tent, and one pure potion. Placing the items into the sack that Jake carried on his back, they walked back into Corneria, meeting up with Varick and Zuriel. "Okay…" Aeria said quietly. "We're…ready to go?"
"I believe so," Zuriel replied, looking to Jake and Varick, who both nodded in agreement.
Their journey to the northern temple ensued. Fighting little more then imps, they were focused and pumped, as well as a bit nervous. They were fighting well together, hearts pounding, Aeria fully admitting to her fear, Jake boasted about his supposed lack-of, Varick expressing it otherwise, and Zuriel contemplating it. "Let's go," Jake said confidently, hoping quietly the others did not catch the uncertainty waivering in his voice, which he soon cursed himself for.
"Straight ahead," Zuriel said. "Don't look back, don't retreat." His words soon allowed the others to push their uncertainties down as Jake rested his hand on the door in front of them. He looked over his shoulder. Aeria gripped her hammer and nodded. Zuriel flipped his knife in his hand, his yellow eyes giving his confirmation. Varick's hand rested around the handle of his rapier, right foot back, ready to spring into action, his game face planted on. With that, Jake looked back to the door and forced it open. The Light Warriors ran inside, all but Jake with their weapons drawn.
The dark knight chuckled slightly, looking at the princess lying unconscious at his feet. "At last…" He said, his voice echoing throughout the bare temple room once the schuffle behind him stopped. "In exchange for the princess' life, all of Corneria and its riches will be mine!"
Zuriel stiffled a chuckle as Jake and Varick looked to each other, their adrenaline building off of each other's. "Hey! Loverboy! Hate to break up the date here…" Varick announced.
"What the hell is that!" Jake whispered to the thief, interrupting him. "That was the dumbest thing…"
"Doesn't matter!" Varick hissed back. "Just go with it!"
Jake cursed under his breath, his mind quickly working on what to follow up with.
"But alas," Zuriel jumped in. "We are not here with the wealth of Corneria. Instead we have come to reclaim one of her greatest prides!" His voice echoed throughout the room more then Garland's had.
"Wow, that sure impressed him…" Varick sarcastically muttered under his breath.
"Quit it!" Aeria scolded, her voice just as hushed.
Garland suddenly turned around, his dark cape flying in the air, resting behind his shoulders. He smirked slightly beneath the helmet upon seeing the white mage jump at his action. His dark armor glistened slightly as the high afternoon sun peered through the cracks in the ceiling. "Blasted pawns of the king! No one can stop me now! None of the kingdom's soldiers and certainly not any of you!"
Jake drew his sword, holding it on guard in a firm stance. "Your power is nothing to the Light Warriors!" He shouted back.
"Very well," Garland replied, accepting his challenge. "I shall take on all of you!" He paused for a moment. "Light Warriors."
Jake looked over his shoulder quickly before rushing in to take the first strike, piercing through a bit of Garland's armor as Zuriel chanted the prayer for Focus on himself. Garland advanced toward Aeria, but while she was casting Shield on herself Varick swung at Garland, striking across his side. This move caused Garland to miss his attack on Aeria. Aeria looked up in front of her, pulling courage from an unfamiliar source. The iron hammer came from over her head and struck at Garland with such a force that nearly knocked his helmet off. As Aeria backed away a bit, Garland braced himself for Zuriel's Fire spell. Jake and Varick looked at each other, turning their swords slightly, motioning for their joint attack. With a quick nod to each other, the fighter and thief dashed towards Garland. As the dark knight turned around quickly, both of them struck at Garland. Only Varick's attack fully connected because as Jake's rapier moved towards Garland, Garland knocked Jake off balance with his arm. Jake cursed as he dropped his rapier and fell back a bit. Aeria's eyes widened upon seeing Garland's armor was cracked. She then looked over to Zuriel, who too had noticed and had already started chanting another Fire spell. Within moments he held his right gloved hand in front of him. Garland braced himself, but was unable to prevent the loss of his heavy armor. Garland drew his sword to strike at Zuriel, but Varick darted around to the front and stabbed his rapier through Garland's heart.
There was an eerie silence as Garland staggered back, armored hands on the rapier's end. The Light Warriors could hear his breathing becoming short, and only watched as Garland fell to the temple floor. "It…! Is…not over…Light Warriors…" A bright black light surrounded the Princess before suddenly dissipating into the air. She opened her eyes and pushed herself up with her hands, leaving them there as her blue eyes scanned the area. With the only other sound being a thud, Garland rested on his side, slipping into eternal slumber. Zuriel put his knife away and walked over to Jake to help him up. Aeria watched as Varick walked over to Garland and pulled his rapier away. Aeria retrieved Jake's rapier and handed it to him to put away. The Light Warriors then walked near the weakened Princess.
"Th…Thank you for saving my life…" The fragile young girl said to the four warriors. "I am Sara, Princess of Corneria."
"Are you all right your highness? Did he injure you?" Zuriel asked.
Princess Sara looked up at the black mage. "Nay, it was nothing more then a holding spell I believe…"
Jake knelt down onto one knee. He rested his hand on the Princess' shoulder. "We're going to escort you back home to Corneria."
The Princess nodded. "Thank you. I am grateful."
Jake held his hand out and aided the Princess to her feet. Varick took the lead with Aeria close behind as Zuriel took the rear behind Jake and Princess Sara. With this, the Light Warriors headed back to Corneria, Varick leading most of the offensive since Jake was protecting the Princess.
"We're here Princess," Aeria said, motioning to the city walls with the castle in the distance.
"Please," Princess Sara looked to the Light Warriors. "Come with me to the castle. My father will be quite grateful for your valor."
"Of course," Jake said, standing to her left. "Wouldn't be right to leave without escorting you to the castle." Princess Sara blushed softly and the five set on the dirt path for the castle.
"That was pretty pathetic if you ask me…" Varick whispered to Aeria.
"I thought he was sweet to her!" Aeria whispered back.
Zuriel watched Varick's contorted face. "Varick, you're just jealous because you made the final blow." The mages chuckled and Varick just shook his head and stepped away from Aeria.
As they walked down the path, crowds soon appeared, throwing flowers at Jake and Princess Sara, who were in the lead, and cheering for Varick, Aeria, and Zuriel who were behind them. Shortly after several soldiers stood in front of them and behind them, a small parade to the castle starting. Zuriel caught glance of Jake and Princess Sara looking at each other, eyes cast on each other and their smiles innocent and bright. He just shook his head slightly.
Upon entering the castle, the two soldiers at the front moved to the side showing King Estevan and Queen Jayne their eldest daughter, alive and well. Princess Sara bolted from Jake's side into her mother's arms. King Estevan watched her daughter for a moment before looking up. "My daughter is safe. I am forever in your debt."
Jake looked from Princess Sara to King Estevan. "We did what had to be done."
King Estevan brought his arms up, announcing to all those who could hear the words that needed to be spoken to the world. "Lukahn's prophecy has proven true. You must be the Light Warriors of whom he spoke. So, I ask you to do what only the Light Warriors can: Rekindle the light of the crystals. Only then will the monsters infesting the world be banished and peace finally restored. To aid your journey, I will rebuild the bridge to the north. I'm afraid that is all I can do for you."
"Of course Your Majesty," Aeria replied, courtesing slightly. "We will do everything in our power."
"I thank you Light Warriors." The King and Queen turned around, heading towards the throne room, beckoning Princess Sara to join them.
She looked to her parents, then looked back to the Light Warriors. She stepped towards Jake, handing him a small item. Curiously, he took it into his hand. "This Lute has been passed down to the princesses of Corneria for generations. Garland had talked about it when he abducted me. Had you not come, he would surely put it to some terrible use. Please accept it as my gift to you. It may prove useful in your long battles."
"Princess…I…" Jake stuttered, looking at the pocket-sized instrument. Their eyes met, and Jake found a softness he had not seen in a long time. "Thank you," he said to her, placing it in his satchel gently. She smiled once more, and blushed slightly as Jake took her right hand and kissed it softly.
"I...I wish you could... If you'd like…" Princess Sara whispered, her whispers ending off both times.
"What is it?" Jake asked, whispering softly.
"No, it is nothing. You must prepare for your long journey ahead." She courtsied to Jake before turning around and leaving with her parents.
"Light Warriors, we will forever be grateful for your saving of our princess," the soldier on their right said to them.
"Come," Zuriel commanded to his companions. "Let us head towards the inn and get our rest. A longer day awaits us."
Varick dropped his bag, armor, and weapon at the side of the bed before flopping onto it, lying on his side. Aeria took the bed next to his, sitting Indian style, her robes resting neatly around her. Jake lied down on the bed across from Aeria, his body flat on the bed minus his left knee crooked. Zuriel took the last remaining bed in their room, sitting up, leaning against the headboard. "One hell of a last couple days…" Varick muttered to no one in particular.
"Hey, Jake," Aeria perked up. "Princess Sara seemed to have taken an awful liking to you!" Jake turned red as she giggled.
"Yeah…I guess she did…" Jake replied, scratching the back of his head slightly. Varick just bit his lip and suddenly found a leg of Aeria's bed quite interesting. "I'll have to make sure I write her."
"So, tomorrow we cross the bridge?" Aeria asked. Zuriel nodded, confirming.
"So, what's actually beyond the bridge to the North?" Varick asked, sitting up.
"Our future," Zuriel replied.
"Uhh, can we be anymore vague?"
"Sure, if you'd like me to. Our destiny."
Varick grumbled slightly. "No, really though. What's so important about the north? There isn't anything beyond there aside from Pravoka?"
"Mayt-whadya?" Jake asked.
"Here, how about this plan? We'll travel north to visit Matoya tomorrow, take camp, and continue our journey to her cave. We will listen to her advice and decide accordingly. I believe the move after that would be to head to Pravoka to board a ship where we need to head to."
"That's it?" Jake asked. "No better plan then that?"
Zuriel turned his head toward Jake. "What, would you like me to look to the future to figure out exactly what we should do?" Zuriel shook his head. "Nevermind, I don't want to hear your answer. Let's just get some rest and we'll gear up again tomorrow morning before heading to Matoya's Cave."
Aeria smiled, looking at her comrades. "It's an adventure guys! Come on! Don't be so grumpy!"
The three guys just looked at her and shook their heads. "Newbie," Varick muttered before pulling the covers over him.
"What was that!" Aeria exclaimed, looking over to Varick who turned his back to her.
"Aeria, just get some sleep," Zuriel said.
With a smile, Aeria blew out the candle between her and Varick, Jake blew out the candle between him and Zuriel, and the Light Warriors drifted to sleep.