Author's Note: Hey there, everyone! This is AOF, and I've decided that this story needs more love! Last time, I didn't even get to show the main characters! I've been feeling guilt over it, but not anymore! Now we're finally getting somewhere! And I just realized that I should avoid overusing exclamation marks!
By the way, just in case it's a bit confusing: horizontal bars (if they appear after editing) signify splits between the story and these notes. .===. marks mean that the story's cutting back to the two Lilties from the Prologue. .~~~. marks mean that time has passed. You don't need to remember this, but it may or may not help later on.
Crystal Chronicles: Scarlet Footprints – Chapter 1: The Journey Begins
"Some journeys start with a single step. Others start with both feet in the air, as some people are literally thrown out into the world around them."
As far as days go, the day that the Scarlet Rogues were first established was rather average. The town of Tipa was basked in beautiful sunlight, causing the village to look downright enchanting at times, though there were a few clouds scattered here and there. But, there had been a fierce rainstorm the day before, and all of the locals were a bit too preoccupied with cleaning up the mess left behind to enjoy the current state of affairs.
…Well, almost all of the locals. There were two villagers who weren't bothering with his clean-up duties: a Selkie by the name of Glen Pai, who preferred to be known as 'Scarlet', and a Clavat by the name of Tobi.
To Scarlet, there wasn't much of a point of helping the townsfolk, as he never really considered himself to be an actual part of the community. He had left his hometown of Leuda years ago to search for a long-lost friend, drifting from town to town along the way. But once he hit Tipa, he realized that he was just chasing a dream, and decided to just settle down until he actually had some knowledge about what to do. The family of millers had a room for rent, so he accepted their offer and moved right on in.
Since that day, practically nothing had changed. Most of the other townsfolk still thought that he was a strange outsider, a belief that Scarlet's vibrant hair did little to dismiss. He used Cherry Clusters to dye it a vibrant shade of red; it was an odd habit, but it was part of the promise he once made to the long-lost friend he sought. And Scarlet was too caught up in his dreams of grandeur to bother opening up about himself to anyone. The only exception was Tobi, who loved to hear the Selkie rehearse for his theatre performances. Sure, Tipa didn't have a theatre, but Scarlet wasn't going to let a detail like that stop him.
Tobi was a Clavat in his late teens who loved to pretend he was part Yuke. This was probably because he had deep respect for his stepfather, the town miller. Sadly, his stepfather had a rather dark and mysterious past, and thus the family rarely showed themselves to the public incase his history caught up to him. Still, Tobi had managed to find a friend in Scarlet, and that was all he needed.
But, that's enough back story for now. It's time for the main performance.
"He slams his fists against the post, and still insists he sees the ghost!"
"Great enunciation, Mr. Scarlet! …What kind of ghost? Spectral, ectoplasmic, or the kind you can knock off with a few good casts of Holy?"
"I have no freaking clue. And, as long as I got the line right, I don't really care. Oh, and stop calling me 'Mister' Scarlet; I'm only four years older than you!"
While everyone else from town was actually out-of-town, carrying chalices and clearing up the caravan path, Scarlet and Tobi had opted to stay back at the millhouse near Tipa's entrance. This was the perfect time for Scarlet to recite lines from his favourite plays without any interruption, with his best friend as sole audience member and distraction.
"Alright then, Mi- I mean, Scarlet," Tobi said, quickly catching himself. The Clavat fidgeted a bit in his seat before deciding he should talk to his friend about something important. "Hey, can I ask you something? Just between us comrades?"
Scarlet, who had been standing upright and holding a script, decided to throw his papers onto a nearby chair and give his friend the attention he wanted. "I'm fine with it. Shoot."
"Twang! Arrow through the heart!"
"...Did you really want to ask me something, or are you just playing around?"
"Oh, fine," said Tobi, who had thought his earlier reply was quite funny. "Scarlet, there's something I want. Really want. And I know exactly how to get it, too. But I'm scared of the consequences, because it's something that my parents wouldn't want me to have. Have you ever been in this kind of situation?"
"Yeah; whenever I want a taste of grade-A alcohol. Did you know that Roland's got a hidden cabinet of the stuff in his basement? I snuck in there once, and it was absolutely glorious. My respect for the old coot increased a lot that day; I can tell you that much for sure…what were we talking about?"
"Whether or not I should do something my parents disapprove of."
"Just do what your heart tells you; it works in all of those best-selling novels. Now, if you excuse me, I should probably go and help clean up the mess from yesterday's storm. At least, I should do enough so that they stop calling me a worthless lay-about. After the first fifty times, that can really get on your nerves. We'll talk some more about this when I get back," Scarlet told his young friend. The Selkie then left the building, leaving Tobi all by himself.
"All right, Tobi; I'm back. Now tell me more about…what the heck?"
When Scarlet returned from his one hour of work, he thought that Tobi would have been patiently waiting for him. In hindsight, Tobi was in his late teens, and probably wouldn't stick around like an obedient toddler being promised a lollipop in exchange for patience. But still, Scarlet certainly didn't expect to find his friend cuddling with one of the monsters from the River Belle Path. If there was anything positive about this situation, at least it had a collar.
"Isn't he cute?" Tobi asked, a smile on his face. "I've named him Mook! Mook the Mu! Yeah, I know it's not all that clever, but I couldn't really-"
"TOBI! You'd better tell me here and now how you snuck a monster into the town without anyone knowing!"
"Well, I guess the River Belle Path flooded during the rain, because I saw this little guy frolicking near the edge of the crystal's limit. They don't usually come this close, y'know? Anyways, since everybody else was at the other end of town, I just kinda snuck him in. Don't worry; he's too young to claw me, and he didn't try to bite me once! I've always wanted a pet; please don't take him from me!"
Now, at heart, Scarlet wasn't just an egotistical jerk. He really did care for people like Tobi, and was now quite concerned for the lad's safety. "Tobi, what I'm about to ask you is very important. Were you followed?"
"I already told you, everyone else is at the-"
"Not by people, you idiot! By other, potentially more dangerous monsters!"
Tobi was about to reply, when he and Scarlet suddenly heard a rustling noise coming from behind the house. Mook quickly darted underneath a nearby couch for safety, while Tobi and Scarlet looked out of a nearby window. Right in there own backyard, there were at least ten Hedgehog Pie beasts making a bigger mess than any storm possibly could.
"Whoops. I didn't see that coming," Tobi commented. "I wonder why there's so many of them…"
"Well, now's not a good time for explanation, but I have no clue if I'll live to scold you about it later," Scarlet said. "You see, monsters are smart enough to know about the ten or twenty adults in town that chase them with pointy objects of death. They see one kid without an adult guarding him or her, and they figure the adults are out. Next thing you know, you're in a situation just like this."
"Oh. Think if we wait long enough, they'll just get bored and leave?"
"That won't work! If we let these things escape, there's no how much damage they'll cause. Worse, they might call for their relatives; even with everyone in town prepared for it, this place could certainly do without a Hedgehog army at its front step," Scarlet told his Clavat companion. "So, here's the plan: you keep the townsfolk distracted so they won't find out what's going on, and I'll find some place to lock the beasts up until we can figure out what to do with them."
"Got it, sir!" Tobi replied, saluting for good measure. Quickly, the boy snuck out of the front door, trying not to make noises to attract the beasts.
Scarlet exited through the back to deal with the problem directly. It took less than two seconds for the pack to catch Scarlet's scent and turn towards their new prey. Like a herd of buffalo, the Hedgehog Pies charged at him as one giant unit, clearly with intent to maim and kill. Realizing he accidentally left his fighting racket back inside, Scarlet turned tail and ran for it.
After a good two, maybe three minutes of running for his life, Scarlet somehow managed to reach the house of village elder Roland. The house had two levels, and thankfully for the Selkie, the higher of the two had a balcony installed. Using natural Selkie jumping ability, Scarlet leapt up and climbed onto the balcony, while the Hedgehogs rushed inside through the thankfully-left-ajar front entrance. Once they'd all rushed into the building, Scarlet hopped back down, and locked the front door. He figured that, since the elder was a V.I.P., it should hold for some time. Scarlet then hurried back to the millhouse, where Tobi was waiting for him.
"Don't worry; the others should still be busy for another two hours or so. So, Scarlet, did you get a chance to lock them up?" Tobi inquired.
"Yep, though the only place I could find to hold them was Roland's," Scarlet answered. "Don't worry; he'd probably agree with me that just letting those things run free would've been much worse."
"I guess so. Hey, didn't you say that Roland has a hidden supply of alcohol in his basement?"
"So they get a bit drunk. How much more dangerous could they get?"
"Well, I've been told that Hedgehog Pies use fire magic. And alcohol is flammable, isn't it?"
A few mere seconds later, a loud explosion could be heard in the distance. Turning around, the two guys tried to spot Roland's house, but could only see a massive inferno where it should be standing. "This day could have gone a lot better," commented Scarlet, understating their current situation.
"Well, thank you for the spare chalice and everything, but…seriously? We're being kicked out of town? I mean, eventually, I was going to leave and resume my old quest, but…seriously? Geez, you're a grumpy old bas-"
"Scarlet! Don't be so rude! These two were practically my grandparents growing up, so treat them with respect!" Tobi scolded. "Besides, it could be much worse. The house was still standing even after the fire, so Roland's got a place to live. If he didn't, the ban would probably be permanent. Plus, we're carrying enough supplies to last us at least until we hit Marr's Pass, and we're allowed to come back home in a year's time. That's only, what, thirty weeks long?"
"It's a lot more than that, little buddy. I think. Back in Leuda, we used a ten-month calendar. I hear it's got the same number of days as other calendars, so that caravans can always keep track of time limits, but I've got no flipping clue-"
"Could you two whippersnappers just let me do my speech, and get this over with?" Roland requested, a bit of anger evident in his tone. The three men, as well as Roland's wife, were gathered together on the bridge leading out of Tipa. Tobi was clinging onto the chalice given to him by Roland like he was lost at sea and it was the only floatation device for miles.
Scarlet and Tobi shut up quickly, so Roland continued. "Now, I'm sorry that this had to happen, but there was no other punishment we could deem fitting, especially as neither of you could be blamed more than the other. Know in your hearts that I am terribly sad to see you both leave for parts unknown, and that I dearly hope for your survival. When your punishment has been fulfilled, may you come back with a little more wisdom and responsibility, and a lot more sense."
Roland then gave a bow, signaling the duo troublemakers that it was their cue to leave. After a quick wave goodbye, they turned their backs to the old couple and began walking. "So, Scarlet, I guess we're officially vagabonds now. What do you think we should do?" Tobi asked, as his grip on the chalice tightened.
"Well, we'll just have to accept every last one of Mother Nature's good graces! Take everything that this land has to offer, and leave nothing behind but footprints! Don't worry about a thing, Tobi," Scarlet uttered, though he was faking his positivity. "I can sense that this is the start of something grand!"
Meanwhile, the town elders were still standing at the gates of the village, watching the two leave. As Scarlet and Tobi walked into the distance, all that Roland could do was let out a long, depressing sigh. Scarlet could just barely hear the old coot mutter, "May Odin have mercy on their souls."
"…And that's when the Scarlet Rogues were first formed, technically," uttered Sol Racht, back in the present where this tale began.
"Pardon my rudeness, but that's not the best of starts," commented Knocfelna. "You didn't even tell me what happened to Mook!"
"Well, not every story can begin with mystical prophecies and fighting prodigies, especially when this is only a second-hand account of events. Besides, I can assure you that this tale becomes more and more interesting over time. Do you know of a Lilty named Alco Bai Gramont?" Sol asked politely.
"Know him? He's one of the reasons city counsel decided to put THAT thing up!" Knocfelna burst, pointing to the gigantic lock and chains around the town's crystal. "Okay, so you've regained my interest. Now do tell me, how does a crazy-as-heck Lilty like Alco tie into this tale of yours?"
"Well, from what Scarlet told me, it was about a week after leaving Tipa. Walking on foot, they had just reached the outskirts of Marr's Pass…"
Author's Note: We're finally getting somewhere! Ladies and gentlemen, this story will try to give equal time to every character that is introduced. With that in mind, the Selkie and Clavat introduced in this chapter are the stars of this tale. If you don't like them, wait a few chapters until character development kicks in.
Also, I'd like to take a moment to give a shout-out to SasukeBlade. I showed her some rough copies of this chapter, and used her advice to the fullest. Without her help, this chapter would not be at the fine quality that it is today.