I noticed that the chapters have gotten progressively shorter... Woops. Oh well, I'll fix that in the next chapter.
All credit to Namco Bandai Tales Studios.
When Mithos awoke the sun was already streaming in through the curtains. For a brief moment, he forgot where he was. Then the event of last night trickled back and he remembered the crazy old man who let them stay. What was Boltzman's story, he wondered. How did that old coot wind up with an amazing place like this? He would have to remember to ask him later.
Sitting up, he noticed a set of clothes laid out on the edge of the bed. On top, there was a note. I noticed how dirty your old clothes were, so I hunted around and found these old ones. They should fit. They're not much, but at least they're clean. When they were on, he examined himself in the mirror. "I look like a cleric…or close to it," he said, running a hand through his blond hair. "They are comfortable though." He decided to keep them.
Voices trailed in from downstairs. One was the cheery singsong of his sister; the other voice was the quick, choppy speech of Boltzman. "…What color they were wearing?" That was Boltzman.
"Um, I don't really remember," Martel admitted, embarrassed. "Oh! Good morning Mithos."
"I see you found the clothes I left out for you," he said as soon as he rounded the corner to the kitchen. "Wasn't sure how you'd take to 'em."
"They were red," Mithos blurted.
"The soldiers – the ones who came to Heimdall – they were in red armor."
Boltzman breathed heavily and was silent for perhaps half a minute before, "Well, that certainly changes things. Not really, actually, but it puts the right perspective on things."
"Why's that?" Mithos took a seat next to his sister. Only then did he notice the black-and-green blouse that was obviously new. It surprisingly complemented her light-green hair.
"What color the armor was denotes which nation those soldiers served under. Sylvaranti Red, you say?" Mithos nodded. "Then the Empire of Sylvarant is looking for you."
"But why?" Mithos blurted again.
"I wish I knew child," Boltzman hung his head. Martel reached over and squeezed Mithos's shoulder to reassure him. It was nice, but it didn't help. "The only thing I can tell you is 'don't go to Sylvarant'. I wish I could tell you not to go to Tethe'alla either, but…at least then you'd have a political entity surrounding you."
Curious, Martel asked, "Whish nation controls this area?"
"Officially? No one. Tethe'alla and Sylvarant launch their armies at each other up and down this continent every now and then. Unofficially, Moria allies itself with Sylvarant, and while the Elves feign neutrality, they support Tethe'alla. They send resources and high grade magitechnology to Meltokio – the capital." As an afterthought, he added, "Tethe'alla's not exactly famous for its tolerance, however. You'll find less Half-elves there than in Sylvarant."
"We can't exactly be picky, not with one side actively hunting for us, can we?" Martel asked bitterly.
"No, I don't suppose you can," Boltzman admitted. Finding nothing more to say on the matter, he invited them to join him for breakfast. The meal passed in uncomfortable silence, as the siblings pondered their future, and Boltzman tried to come up with a way to help them.
As they were cleaning up, he turned to Mithos. "Would you mind doing me a favor, young man?"
"S-sure." He couldn't very well refuse, not after being put up for the night and two meals.
"Run into to town. Follow the main street until you come to a bookstore. Go in, and look for a book: Verita Magicae Novitesse." He handed him a coin purse. "Give the bookkeeper the three gold coins he'll ask for, and if he give you a look, give him two silvers more. You shouldn't have any trouble."
Mithos looked to his sister, who only smiled. "You don't need my permission."
"Okay." He told the old man.
"Splendid. Should be quick, but don't dawdle. Go on now, scoot." He saw him out the door, and turned back to Martel. "He's quite the timid one."
"So you noticed," Martel sighed. Then she chuckled in spite of herself. "Yes, I suppose he is, but can you blame him? Heimdall wasn't exactly a friendly place to grow up."
"Oh no, forgive me. I wasn't accusing."
"No, it's fine." Martel slumped back into her chair from earlier.
"If you don't mind me asking, how did you two end up alone in that village? Er," he fumbled around for the words he was looking for. "What I mean is – "
"How did our parents die?" Martel supplied them for him.
"It was a long time ago. Mithos doesn't remember it; he was too young. I don't rightly know exactly what was wrong with her, but she always told us that she was sick, and wouldn't be around much longer. I guess we kind of got used to the idea and didn't take it as hard as we should have. Then one day, she was gone. The funeral was almost immediately." She paused, reflecting. "Did you know that Elves cremate their dead, rather than bury them?"
"No, I did not know that," Boltzman admitted.
"Well, they do. I never got to see one last time." Tears formed in her eyes, and she had to stop speaking. "No, I don't think Mithos remembers that day."
"I…Forgive me, Martel, I didn't mean to…"
"No, it's alright. I'm fine."
She wiped her tears away and put on a brave smile. Boltzman smiled sadly back. After a moment, he spoke again. "How much Healing do you know?"
"What an odd question." Then, "Very little, I fear."
"I can teach you more, if you would like."
"Can you?" Martel's eyes widened. "But, I thought Humans couldn't use magic?"
"They can't. Healing does not draw upon mana, but upon chi to function. Chi is present in all living things, and so we draw from ourselves to Heal. Chi magic existed long before mana came to the world, and might probably outlive it."
"I would be very grateful if you would teach me."
Boltzman frowned. "Unfortunately, there are no tomes of Healing as there are other magic. As such, most of our techniques are passed on by word-of-mouth."
Martel nodded, then thought of something. "Boltzman? What was the name of the book you sent Mithos to get?"
"Verita Magicae Novitesse," he said slyly.
"Yes, but does it mean?" She put her hands on her hips.
"I see you already suspect the answer," he observed but continued. "It means "A Beginner's Guide to Magic." That set the two of them laughing.
Mithos did his best not to attract attention as he walked through Aeleus, which only succeeded in making him more noticeable. He shuffled along with his head low, and didn't speak to anyone. The greetings he failed to return bought him curious glances. Everyone said "Hello" to each other in town; when someone failed to do so, it made people aware that he was a stranger.
At least he had remembered to comb his hair down over his pointed ears. The last thing he needed was another reason for people to look at him. If they saw his ears, chances are they would run him out of town. Not to mention Boltzman along with them for harboring Half-elves. He clenched his fists angrily at the thought, but otherwise went right on being "inconspicuous".
The bookstore wasn't hard to find; it was right where the old man said it would be. He went inside ever so carefully, as if not daring to disturb the world around him. He knew the bookkeeper was looking at him, could feel his eyes boring into the back of his head. Doing his best to act casual, Mithos browsed the shelves. He encountered a few in languages he didn't recognize, which made him nervous. What if the book is in another language and I can't find it? But find it he did, though the words meant nothing to him.
Just as Boltzman predicted, the bookkeeper gave him a curious glance when he laid the book and three gold coins on the counter. He weighed the coins in his hand a little longer than necessary and then raised an eyebrow at Mithos. Mithos placed two silvers on the counter. They were swept up at once at the same time as he said, "Have a nice day."
With the new book under his arm, Mithos walked a little more confidently ack, even returning some of the greetings from the locals. It felt good, the best he'd felt since…well, since before the Sylvaranti came to Heimdall. For just a moment, everything didn't seem so dark.
"Come on, keep up!" Jax yelled back to Duncan, who had fallen behind on their patrol.
"I'm just watching your back, Jax."
"I actually feel more in danger when I can't see you. Now get up here." Duncan shrugged and doubled his pace.
"You know what?" Duncan asked, but went on before waiting for an answer. "Every time I belch silently, my mouth is filled with the taste and aroma of bananas." Jax stared. Hard. "Seeing as how I ate a banana for lunch, this is pretty normal."
Jax was speechless for a few minutes. "You know, I think I like it better when you were still drooling over that girl."
"Oh man she was hot!"
Jax groaned and mentally calculated if killing Duncan would be worth the punishment he would receive. It wasn't. Barely. A few minutes later, Duncan fell out of step again. Just as Jax was gearing up for a good exercise in stress releasing, he saw the kid.
"There he is!"
"The kid we're supposed to be looking for." He got a blank stare. "The kid whose sister you – "
Jax groaned again. "Yes, now come on!" They raced after the blond Half-elf, but stayed far enough behind so as not to draw attention. At the edge of town, they quit following. "He must be going back to that old man's mansion. It's the only place that way."
"The mansion we were at – " Jax gave up, seeing no ground would be gained in Duncan's thick head. "Never mind. We gotta tell the Lieutenant!"
"What mansion, Jax? Jax!" Duncan called after his squad leader; he received no answer.
"…And that's the spell for curing poisoning." Boltzman concluded proudly.
"Thank you so much!" Martel clasped his hands in hers.
"It was nothing. You learn very quickly." He hesitated, then, "Was your mother a Healer?"
"I don't know? Why?"
"Healing often runs in the family. I was merely curious. Pay it no mind. Ah! Mithos has returned." The young boy rushed up to Boltzman and thrust the book out.
"I got it! I did just what you said." He seemed very proud of his accomplishment.
"That's very good, Mithos, but this book isn't for me."
"No. It's for you."
"For…for me?" Mithos pulled the book back.
"Yes. Do you know what the title means?" He waited for Mithos to shake his head. "It's a guide for learning to use magic."
Mithos's eyes got wide. "Really?"
Boltzman nodded. "Yes. Beyond the title, the passages are written in several languages, one of which, I believe, is the old Elven tongue. You should be able to read it, but I can help translate if not."
Mithos was staring at the book. "I… Thank you!" He reached out and hugged Boltzman close.
"You're welcome, my boy. Now go on, have a look."
Mithos detached himself from the old man, found a seat at the table, and set to devouring the book. Martel looked on like a proud parent. "I've never seen him this excited about anything before. Ever. Thank you very much, Boltzman."
"Oh, no, it was my pleasure." He smiled at Martel. Then he was looking past her, out the window. "What's going on out there?"
Valkyrie Lieutenant Gigorrah cupped his hands to his mouth and shouted, "Attention, Boltzman! We know that you are hiding the Half-elf refugees Mithos and Martel inside your home. Turn them over to us now, and you will be spared." The last sentence should be just vague enough to frighten the old man. After all, what was one lowly old man going to do to stand up to the Valkyries? And a Human one at that.
A few minutes passed, but he received no answer. Gigorrah repeated the demands, and added, "This is your last warning." Still nothing. Finally, he made a motion to his troops. The rank of archers beside him let fly a barrage of fire-tipped arrows. The front rooms of the mansion were instantly ablaze. "Go in," he told the infantry behind him. A few troops yelled in pain when they touched the front metal doors to open them. "Idiots."
"Come on, then." Boltzman calmly ushered the two children away from the burning sections of his home. As an afterthought, he turned and said, "Barrier," sending up a magic wall that might delay the attackers a bit.
The room he led them to was small and filled with what looked like treasure chests. Boltzman locked the door behind him and yanked open the nearest chest, muttering to himself.
"What are you doing!" Mithos exclaimed, watching the old man jump between chests.
"We can't very well go out on our own without any sort of weapons, now can we?" He produced a sword and a shield and handed them to Mithos before diving back into the chest. When he surfaced again, he was holding an elegant staff. "For you," he said to Martel.
"Me? Why?" She took it tentatively.
"The staff is the symbol of the Healer. Without it people won't – ah, it seems they're inside now." The house shook. Some part of the structure had been knocked in – or exploded. "Let's go."
"Go where? You locked the door behind you," Mithos reminded him.
"What? Oh, yes." Boltzman wrinkled his face, as if trying very hard to remember something. "Ah! Yes, it should be…here." He pressed his hand to a section of the wall. It swung outward, allowing the heat from the fire to rush inside. "You don't think I'm insane, do you?" Mithos was too busy coughing to respond.
"There's no one inside, sir!" The Valkyries dressed in Sylvaranti Red raced out of the burning mansion an instant before the whole thing caved in.
"What do you mean?" Gigorrah grabbed the nearest soldier by the throat and lifted him high, his body flowing with extra energy provided by his exsphere. "People just don't disappear, especially not an old man and two children." He squeezed. The man gasped for air. Something popped. The man struggled harder. Snap. The man fell limp. Gigorrah tossed him aside, disgusted.
"Which of you is captain?" he asked the squad that had raced out of the mansion.
"Congratulations, then," Gigorrah pointed to the man who had spoken, "you're in charge now. Find them!"
"Yes, sir!" The new-captain urged his troops forward. They all wished Jotnar Tyr were still here; he never killed anyone outright for failure. But they said nothing. They didn't want to die.
Mithos almost stopped and turned around at the call. It sounded very authoritative, and disobedience was not a tolerable attitude back in Heimdall.
"In the name of Nid…uh, Sylvarant, stop!"
Mithos risked a look back. The soldiers were gaining.
"What?" She looked back. "Oh. Boltzman!"
"What?" He looked back. "Oh." He kept running. "Mithos, you know offensive magic, correct?"
"A little. I mean…I've never used it on anyone before…"
"You're going to have to learn fast then." He skidded to a stop, catching the Yggdrasill siblings before they fell, and spun them round.
The squad kept on charging.
"Uhh…" Mithos aid meekly.
"You can do it, son," Boltzman encouraged.
"Please, Mithos," Martel smiled urgently.
"…Right…uhh…" He nearly froze with that dull expression of his face, but somehow found his courage. "F-Fireball!" Fire erupted from his outstretched hand and slammed into the nearest soldier. He went down. Only after another followed suit did that squad halt.
"Pow Hammer!" That was Boltzman, Mithos realized. Several what appeared to be squeaky hammers fell on the soldiers. It was enough – however silly it looked, because more went down. Mithos called on a Wind Blade to send the remaining four to the ground.
"Had we more time, I might teach how to use that blade," Boltzman muttered, half to himself. "But we must flee. Come."
Thelleius felt himself get kicked in the stomach. He jerked awake to find Lieutenant Gigorrah towering over him. "You failed me, Captain." His voice was as cold as ice, and felt like another kick in the gut.
"B-But sir, th-they had magic, and-"
"Silence." Thellius fell silent. "I don't want to hear excuses, I want results, and you, Captain, have failed to deliver those." He hoisted the terrified man off the ground with a hand around his throat.
"P-Please…don't. I have…a wife and…"
"You're pathetic family is not worth more than seeing our Lord victorious, is it?" the question was unintentionally rhetorical, as Thellius was unable to reply. A sickening snap a moment later answered the question far better than words ever could.
"Follow them," Gigorrah ordered, pissed off. "We must not fail Jotnar Tyr."
Thanks for reading!