"Oh no, not again!" Cleo complained, "Majic this is the third time today you've dropped our luggage!"
Majic was unusually grumpy that day, his short blond hair, narrowed baby blue eyes, and scowl had replaced his normally placid features, giving his usual peaceful demeanor an expression of severe irritation. The usual backpack chore was one thing and her addition of the suitcases was fine at first but after several days of carrying them, Majic had finally reached the end of his rope.
"Why don't you carry some of this stuff for a while?" Majic whined, "I've had to carry these bags for days and you haven't even bothered to carry one."
"Well, I am a lady," Cleo replied loftily, "Besides, you're supposed to be the gentleman and carry my bags."
"If you're a lady then I'm a stuffed turkey," Orphen interjected disregarding the murderous look the blond girl sent his way, "At our next stop you're going to carry some of your own bags." Turning to Majic, Orphen continued, " And stop whining Majic, no student of mine is going to be a quitter."
"Yes Master," Majic sighed dejectedly,
Later that night, at the camp they made, Cleo began to set up the campfire. Her golden hair shone in the firelight, enhancing her fierce countanance, making it difficult for Orphen to concentrate. Cleo suddenly looked up almost as if sensing him watching her. She stood up, hands on her hips.
"What are you staring at?" Cleo asked, sarcasm thick in her voice.
"Oh nothing," Orphen said smirking, "I was just wondering what kind of charcoal you're going to shove down our throats next."
Majic inwardly groaned, knowing what was going to happen next. He was not disapointed.
"How dare you insult my cooking!" Cleo screeched, "If you haven't forgotten, Mr. High and Mighty Sorcerer, the last time you cooked, Majic had to hurl because you forgot to keep the fire stoked when you cooked!"
"Damn it I forgot about that," Orphen thought grudgingly acknowledging her point, "But I still have a few aces up my sleeve..."
"So what?" Orphen said, "He recovered. Unlike what would have happened if he'd eaten some blonde brat's attempts at stew, even when cooked from from a can!"
"Well then," Cleo said in an eerily calm voice, "Why don't you cook?" She grasped the frying pan before shouting, "Here, you'll need this!" and she flung the frying pan at Orphen's head.
That action led them into a long drawn out fight as per usual. Majic and Leki stayed well away, both remembering what happened the last time they interrupted one of Orphen and Cleo's childish spats. After that particular incident, Majic and Leki, dripping wet from the lake Orphen and Cleo had thrown them into, never got involved again.
Eventually, Cleo's hunger won the arguement and she snatched the frying pan back from Orphen, who had caught it in midair when she threw it at him, and started heating up their dinner. While eating, she stared into the fire, deep in thought even as others,namely Orphen, admired her deep blue eyes that reflected her inner fire even while she sulked.
"Why do I even bother talking to that man?" Cleo wondered, "Whenever I disagree with him he always talks or pushes his way out of it. His looks don't help either. When I see those eyes of his I always give in! Why do I feel this way? I know he loves Azalie. He doesn't even look at me twice! He has some nerve..."
Suddenly Orphen looked up interrupting her musings as the starlit sky faded into total darkness and a fog began to creep towards the meager light of the campfire they were around. Animals ran from the fields, quickly seeking shelter from what appeared to be a sudden thunder storm.
Cleo was trying to hold back a suddenly agitated Leki, who was growling loudly.
"I sense an ominous presence..." Orphen thought before recognizing the aura, "It's Azalie! I have to get Majic and Cleo away from here otherwise she might try to hurt them to get the sword again.
"Where did the fog come from?" Majic said nervously, "It was a clear night just a moment ago...Master what's wrong? You look pale."
"Never mind me," Orphen said as he drew the Sword of Baltanders, "I'll be fine, get the hell away from here. Both of you! " Orphen's eyes had darkened and his whole body was tense with anxiety. When Majic didn't move fast enough for him, he added, "You heard me! Get out of here!"
"Wait a minute," Cleo thought with growing fear, "He only looks like that when Azalie's nearby..." Out loud she shrieked, "No way! What if she decides to rip you to pieces? I'm not going to let…"
"Shut up, Cleo!" Orphen shouted, "Azalie is almost here and I have no time to argue! You are no use to me whatsoever! You gripe and complain when things don't go your way and you are too unskilled to face Azalie anyway!"
"Fine!" Cleo said, her eyes brimming with tears, "I'll go since you don't need me. Leki, come on!" Cleo left, her eyes tearing up even though she would rather die then let 'that idiot sorcerer' see them again. "Well if he thinks I'm useless then I'll leave him alone. He's faced Azalie alone before. He'll come back and when he does I'll really let him have it."
Majic looked at Orphen for instructions, and after his quick nod, Majic followed Cleo. Orphen watched them go. "I didn't mean to be so hard on her," Orphen thought, feeling guilty as she ran off, "I just can't let her get hurt."
"Hey Cleo!" Majic shouted, following quickly behind her, "Wait for me!"
It was raining heavily as Majic and Cleo ran into the cave. Both of them looked worried and strained. Cleo's hair was plastered to her face and their clothes were soaked. Cleo was ready to breathe fire and Majic was trying as hard as he could to calm her down.
"Cleo," Majic said quietly as they sat quietly in a cave, "You know Master doesn't mean what he said."
"Majic's right. I know Orphen, he's not that cruel, I bet he insulted me to make me leave." Cleo thought, "Well he's not going to keep me away this time!" Cleo stood up determinedly, continuing aloud, "You're right! And that's why we're going back to help him!" Cleo grabbed her dagger and began to walk out.
"But Cleo, Master said we couldn't help him!" Majic cried, "We'll get in so much trouble!"
"We'll deal with that when he finds out."
"This is it," Orphen said to himself as black lightning filled the air. Azalie had finally come. "He blinked in slight shock, each time he encountered her, he was still surprised by the changes in her. She was enormous, with razor sharp claws and fangs, hard scales, and blood-red eyes that glinted maliciously.
"Why are you here?" Orphen shouted. Azalie didn't acknowledge him as she flew, launching red-hot fire-breath at him. Orphen chanted "Towers of Heaven that Dance Around Me," and teleported out of danger.
Before Azalie could finish turning back to attack again, Orphen chanted, "Sleep of Atonement!"
Ice began to surround Azalie, silencing her roars and putting her to sleep, when Cleo, still worried about Orphen ran towards him exclaiming, "Orphen!"
She effectively ruined, Orphen's concentration and enabled Azalie to break free. Her roars echoed as she flew toward Orphen, grazing his arm as she flew by.
"Damn it!" Orphen swore while clutching his painfully throbbing arm, following Azalie's departure with his eyes until they fell on a new target for his ire, Cleo. "I thought I told you to stay away."
Cleo approached Orphen, disregarding the dangerous look in his eyes. "I just wanted to help…" Cleo gasped when Orphen pushed past her as he walked in the same direction that Azalie flew off in.
Majic watched the interchange, unsure whether he should follow Orphen or stay with Cleo. A faint whimper caught his attention and he asked, "Are you okay Cleo?"
Cleo's face went from hurt to angry and resolved in a split second as she stormed after Orphen, "What's your problem?" Cleo cried, returning Orphen's glare while she positioned herself in front of Orphen.
"My problem is a blonde menace who keeps getting in my way," Orphen ground out, "Because of you Azalie got away!"
"She's not Azalie anymore!" Cleo shouted, holding back tears. "She hurt you and she doesn't care about you! You have to accept that sometime!
"She was the most important part of my life! I'm not just going to let her go! Orphen said vehemently, "I will not rest until she is back to her old self!"
"I can't believe it." Cleo thought, still shocked by Orphen's words, "After all she's done to him? I... He'll never think of me like that. Still I wont let him kill himself like this!"
"This is killing you, Orphen," Cleo said in a whisper, "I won't let you get hurt."
"It's my choice," Orphen said, "If you can't accept that, leave."
Cleo flinched as though he had struck her. "If you want me to leave then I will..." Cleo hissed through clenched teeth, before turning away from him. She ran into the forest, not once looking back, with Leki trailing after her whining.
"Cleo wait, come back! It's not safe!" Majic shouted.
"Don't worry she'll come back." Orphen said, not noticing that his hands were clenched so tightly that his knuckles were white."Damn it." he thought, "Why do I have to lose my temper all the time? I was just worried," Orphen's eyes widened, "Worried? Why should I be worried about her?" Orphen looked into the forest Cleo had ran to.
Meanwhile, Cleo ran as fast as she could, not caring that the road in front of her was getting blurry. "Why does he treat me this way?" Cleo cried, "What have I done to him?"
She ran and she ran and she ran, tears blocking her eyesight. She didn't notice the hundreds of trees disappearing as she sprinted past them. Blinded by the pain, she never saw the cliff...