A/N: Okay, this is my first fanfic, so I hope it's acceptable. I'm extremely new to so please be patient with me as I figure out my way around. One thing you should know about me: I will never leave you hanging for weeks and/or months for an update. I'm sure that's a relief to all of you reading this. Okay, another thing you should know: this fanfic takes place immediately after the war. If it's not too clear, in the story, I'll make it clear now and probably mention it again at the end, just in case. L'Arachel, Dozla, Rennac, and Myrrh have already been escorted home. So, the group should be somewhere between Jehanna, Renais, and Grado, which would be smack in the middle of Magvel.

Disclaimer: Ugh, the dreaded disclaimer. I own nothing of this, not the characters, not the places, not the awesome, unique names, well, you get the point. I only own the plot, and a few random names. But that's all.

Now, on with the story! And please review!

xXx flashback/passage of time

1) The Road Back

"Artur, wake up."

"Fimermits." He mumbled incoherently in his sleep.

"Wake up!"

A hand shook his shoulder. He cracked open one eye. He saw a large, hairy, multiple eyed, fanged face staring at him. Artur let out a strangled yell, flailed in the saddle, and fell to the ground.

"Ow," He muttered, sitting up. He heard a stifled giggle from above him and looked up.

Lute.

"Rise and shine, sleeping beauty." She teased.

Artur stood and rubbed his lower back. He grimaced when he saw the spider sitting on her palm. Lute giggled again and he scowled.

"Still afraid of spiders, I see." She observed with a grin.

"I wasn't afraid. I was merely… startled." Artur protested, climbing back into the saddle.

"Hey! What is the holdup?" a voice, Artur knew is to be Kyle, called from behind.

Artur sighed exasperatedly. "Nothing," he called back. The line of knights, returning from the war, began again. Artur shot Lute a look. She grinned in turn.

"Why couldn't you let me sleep?" he asked.

Lute shrugged. "You were going to fall anyway, the way you were slouching. Besides, I found your reaction to a simple, non-lethal spider very interesting."

"Gods help me." Artur muttered under his breath, thinking back to a moment in time where he found himself besieged by the arachnids. He shuddered. He glanced at Lute and saw that the spider had disappeared. He hoped it wouldn't be back.

Lute was beaming, her expression nearly as bright as the Fire she commanded. "I can't believe we're going home!"

Artur too, felt his spirits lift, forgetting about the spider for the time being. Home. The word sounded so good. The war was finally over and they all could go home. He sobered for a moment as he remembered the village in Za'ha Woods. It was there that he first met Princess Eirika and her tiny army.

xXx

He stared in revulsion as revenants lurched out behind the trees. The stench of rotting flesh met his nose. The rattling of bones met his ears. Artur turned and saw the hideous bonewalkers with empty eye sockets and sinister grins, drawing their swords. The fierce growling and burning eyes of the mauthe doogs drew his attention.

He saw the travelers ahead and hurried toward them.

"Travelers, you must listen to me! The ancient forest of Za'ha is dangerous. Head south and pass through this place before the fiends surround you!"

A woman with a gentle face and turquoise hair turned to him. "Who are you?"

"My name is Artur. The temple has assigned me the task of cleansing the forest of these… things. There are so many of the fiends, though. I wonder if I stand much chance alone. So if you would, please flee now while you have the chance."

"Fiends? You're not talking about the same fiends that served the ancient Demon King? That can't be right… They're nothing but legends and fairy tales…"

"Yes, I felt the same when I heard. And yet here they are. This place is filled with them. I wonder how far they've spread… Surely they're not in Renais alone."

"But…why are they here? How?"

A knight with auburn hair and gleaming silver armor stepped in front of her protectively. "Beware, Your Highness! Something approaches!"

Artur turned and saw the revenant limp up to them. "Please allow me to deal with this. Evil shade! May the blessed light drive you from this land!" he flung out a hand and a powerful bolt of Lightning struck the fiend. The reanimated corpse fell to the ground, now but a pile of ash.

The knight spoke. "We ought to help. He can't fight them all alone. Do you have orders?"

But the battle began without even a spoken signal. The monsters of legend charged forward, death in their eyes and, for those that lacked eyes, death was in their movements. The tiny army surged forward to meet the creatures. Artur took his place among the trees and forgot his fear. Lightning coursed through his body and filled him with courage.

Lute is still in the village, he thought. He repeated it to himself as he blasted away the monsters, leaving scorched, smoking remains. There was a flurry of wings and Artur half feared the enemy now had flying allies, such as the gargoyles. But, instead, a white pegasus landed next to him, folding its wings.

"Come with me!" a green haired woman with a calm face called, reaching out a hand.

Artur hesitated. In that moment a bonewalker lunged at him. The woman thrust out her lance. The bonewalker crumpled to the ground in a pile of splintered bones.

"Ah, thank you." Artur said to her.

"You are welcome, now, come with me." she said, grabbing his wrist and helping him up into the saddle behind her. "Hiya, Titania!" the woman urged her mount to the sky. The pegasus shot into the air with a well balanced leap. Artur yelped at the stomach dropping rush. The green haired woman talked to him over her shoulder.

"Princess Eirika has ordered that I take you to the village. There is a girl there?"

"Yes," Artur replied, raising his voice above the wind. "One of my companions is in that village to the south. If you can get there swiftly, I implore you to watch over her safety."

"Well, why don't I just take you to her? It would be easier this way, she knows you. " she said. "I am Vanessa of the Frelia Pegasus Knights. Who are you?"

"I am Artur, a monk of Renais." He answered. "Are we in any danger from those…things below?"

"Just keep an eye out for spears and javelins, anything that can be thrown or shot this high." She warned. "Also, lean into the turns and dips as I do. We will be able to avoid them easier."

Artur found that watching the ground below was a bit too much for him as it past beneath him in a blur. In any case, the pegasus's pure white feathered wings where in the way to see much of anything. Then, with a warning from Vanessa, Artur leaned left as the knight did. He saw a spear fly by before disappearing from sight. Artur followed Vanessa as she sat upright again. Artur's robes fluttered in the wind and the pegasus knight's green braid waved in front of him. He noticed she held no rein in her hands and he briefly wondered if the knight was as mad as the villagers rumored them to be. As he further studied the mechanics of riding a flying horse, he learned Vanessa directed her mount through touch. Flying was quite nice and fast, but Artur preferred to stay on the ground.

"That is the village, right?" Vanessa pointed with her lance toward the small cluster of houses off to their right.

"It is."

"Hang on, we're going to land." She warned as the pegasus descended. Artur clamped his legs tightly, fearing the wind caused by the descent would rip him from the horse's back. But it did not, much to Artur's relief. Once the pegasus landed, Artur slid to the ground, legs just a little bit wobbly. Vanessa turned to him from the back of her mount.

"You were pretty good for a first time flyer." Vanessa said.

"Really? You could have fooled me." Artur remarked.

"Go find your friend. I'll watch your back." Vanessa urged.

Artur nodded and hurried into the village. He found Lute not long after. He rushed to her.

"Lute, help has arrived."

She said nothing.

"Lute?"

"Your flesh shows no sign of putrefaction. It seems you're not a revenant." She replied at last.

"Well, I should hope not! I wanted you to know help has arrived. Please be patient a bit longer…"

"No, no. I insist on joining you in combat. I've been reading up on these revenants. They are, quite simply, no match for me. I am superior after all."

xXx

"Hey, Artur, you are not asleep again, are you?" Lute asked from beside him.

"No," he answered, casting a cautious glance for the spider…just in case. "I was thinking, not sleeping."

"Oh," Lute paused only half a second. "What were you thinking about?"

"The village in Za'ha Woods." He answered. "The last time we were there, it was overrun by monsters and destroyed. Do you think they have started reconstruction yet?"

"Hmm…" Lute pondered the question for a moment. "Maybe they have. It's been, what?, a little more than two weeks since we left Darkling Woods. I hated making all those stops to the kingdoms, even if we were escorting royalty. I wanted to go home. Did you know there is a special type of lizard that always knows where they are going and where their burrow is?"

Artur sighed. "Please, Lute, not another of your speeches."

Lute frowned. "What? I had just thought you would like to know. I read it once in a book called—" She frowned further. "Now, what was it called? Gods, it has been so long since I have read a book like that." She looked over at Artur. "Ever since I was engaged in the war, I have studied all the magic books I could. I have practiced endlessly and I haven't read like I used to."

"I realize that. I was there when you practiced, remember?"

Lute grinned sheepishly. "Yes, I do…along with a few other moments I would rather forget."

Artur grinned. This was his chance to get back at her for the spider scare. "I believe I clearly remember the time you set Fire to Prince Innes's tent."

Lute grimaced. "Don't remind me. I never thought anyone could be so angry… Well, it's no surprise that he did get angry. He's always angry. But then, of course, I did set Fire to his tent… I'm just glad Princess Eirika was able to calm him down and that no one was harmed."

"Indeed, how fortunate for you that Princess Eirika was nearby. I'm sure Prince Innes would have made you polish tack for a week or more!" Artur chuckled at the thought.

xXx

Soon night fell over them after a dazzling display of the setting sun and the oncoming twilight. Lute was so taken by the colorful masterpiece that she was oblivious to Artur's remarks as she rambled on about the colors. Since the haggard heroes were no where near a city, not even a village, they were forced to make camp along the road among the hills.

Lute had set up her tent without any help. She remembered that she had always needed help with the daunting task early in the war. But now she could manage the simple tent. She had set her saddlebags within and had lit a few candles. Her bedroll was spread out on the ground and Lute had taken off her boots. Her many books of magic lay in stacks and bulged out of her saddlebags. Well, not all of them were hers, but she seemed to accumulate every book the troop owned. Thus, her tent was quite crowded. She sat on her bedroll, staring at all the books. Books of basic and advanced Fire and Elfire. There were safety guides for Lightning, Bolting, and Thunder. She had books on the legends of Excalibur, Fimbulvetre, Ivaldi, and many more.

Lute felt unbearably cramped in her tent. She picked up her bedroll, blew out the candles and walked outside. She noticed a few other people lying beneath the stars. She also noticed the people were Princess Tana, Vanessa, Syrene, and Cormag—the flying mounted knights. She spread out her bedroll on the top of a grassy hill. Lute sighed. The stars were so beautiful tonight. She smiled and studied the constellations she knew, which was near all of them.

Lute heard someone approaching and turned her head. Artur lied his bedroll next to hers and looked up at the portion of the night sky she had been staring at

"There is Suzukin, the wyvern of legend." He said. Artur tilted his head to one side. "And right beside her is Chan Lyar, the leader of the Gwyllgi. Do you remember facing those three-headed demon canines? I do." He sat on his bedroll, crossing his legs. "The books say they battled for the freedom of Grado's east coast. Suzukin won the battle and that is why the Grado Empire has wyvern knights instead of pegasus knights, or so they say."

Lute sat up and pointed to a cluster of stars. "And that's the Sacred Stones." The stars made four points of a diamond with the fifth star in the middle. "One star for every Sacred Stone that used to protect Magvel." Outside the diamond there seemed to be a sprinkling of crushed stars, like dust. Artur lied down on his back with a sigh. He closed his eyes.

"Home. In just a few days we'll be home." He murmured. Lute smiled, wriggling under the covers of her bedroll. Then she frowned.

"Where would home be, Artur? The temple?"

He crawled within his bedroll as she spoke. "Well, the temple sent us to cleanse the land of the fiends, which we have done. Yes, I believe home would be back in the temple." Lute stared at the night sky with a slight frown. She sighed, turning onto her side.

"What is it, Lute? I know something is on your mind." She turned to face him and saw he was propped up on his elbow. "Well...I like living out here, in the country. Besides, the temple is so boring."

Artur raised an eyebrow. "Do you realize what you are saying? You would give up all the books in the temple to live in the country?" His tone was surprised. It was probably the last thing he had ever expected to hear from her.

"I'm not saying that!" She responded quickly. "I simply mean, the country is more peaceful than the temple. Plus, there are so many fascinating things out here!" she gestured to the sky. "The stars for example."

Artur nodded. "True, there is that. But, Lute, think of how your power has progressed in the past months. If you return to the temple, you'll be highly regarded and respected."

Lute shrugged. "I'm a prodigy. What did you expect?"

xXx

A/N: First off, I should probably refresh your memory and tell you where everyone is at. There's a lot of characters and they can be hard to keep track of. L'Arachel, Dozla, Rennac, and Myrrh are back home. Remember that. It's important. Everyone else is still with Ephraim and Eirika.

Okay, what do you think? You know, you could review and tell me. Come on, you know you want to. Just press that cute button down there and type a review. Okay? Thank you!