"Mak...up..."

Pratty groaned, and covered her head under her pillow. "What's Mom yelling about now?"

"Wake up! Are you even listening to me?"

Pratty continued faked a snore, and tried to get back to sleep.

"This is the seventh time I've called up there! Are you going for a record or something? The opening ceremony is today! Get down here!"

Pratty groaned again, and sat up. "Oh yeah..." She yawned, and fell back onto her pillows. "I have to get ready in a couple of hours don't I?"

Amariss's voice called from the stairwell "You mean a couple of second- What's that? AHHH!"

Pratty shot out of bed. "Mom!" As she ran down the stairs, her foot caught and she tumbled down them in a heap. She lay at the bottom of them, upside down. "Oww..."

"Well that's an interesting way to get downstairs." Amariss squatted down next to her. "You all right darling?"

"I tink I bwoke by node..." Pratty gingerly touched the center of pain on her face. "Ow... Why'd you scream mother?"

"Scream? I didn't scream." Amariss looked at her daughter confused. "You must have hit your head. Are you trying to make me worry?"

Pratty sighed, and sat up. "I'm fine mother." She stood up, and stretched.

Amariss looked her over. 'I'm worried though, that memory hiccup isn't a good sign. What's your name?"

Pratty stared at her mother. "Is this really necessary?"

Amariss folded her arms across her chest. "I'm not letting you leave this house until I'm sure you don't have more brain damage than usual."

Pratty groaned. "What's that supposed to mean? Fine, fine, my names Pratty, as if I could forget that."

Amariss glared. "Next question! What is your job?"

Pratty sighed again. 'Why me? One accident and I'm suspected of brain damage...It's almost like she's making sure she knows.' "I work for a craftknight mother. You know this."

"And what does a craftknight do?"

'This is really weird. You'd think she's totally unfamiliar with the world.' "A craftknight forges metal into weapons, and since I'm his apprentice, he teaches me. Satisfied?"

Amariss laughed. "One more question. What's MY name?"

"That's easy. Amariss."

Mother gave her a cold look. "What? How could you forget your own mother's name?"

Pratty stared at her mother. "Ha ha, very funny mom. Knock it off."

Amariss laughed. "Okay, okay, sheesh. You're free to go. Just remember to grab your ticket. The opening ceremony is starting soon."

"You're right. The tournament to hold the next craftlord... and I intend to win and become a guardian of Parista, just like my father!" Pratty gasped. "But if I'm late...!" She charged back up the stairs, and began rummaging through her dresser. "Where is it where is it..." Pratty was on the verge of panic when she heard her mother call "You told me to hold onto it for you so you wouldn't lose it." Pratty froze, and mentally slammed her head into a wall.

Pratty ran back downstairs, and grabbed the ticket and something else out of her mother's hands. "What's this?"

"It's your father's lucky charm. I made it to protect him, long ago. He took it with him wherever he went, until one day three years ago..." Amariss suddenly looked very tired. The sadness in her eyes chilled Pratty. "Perhaps he left it here on purpose, knowing you'd need it. Either way, take good care of it." Amariss embraced her daughter, and kissed her on the top of her head. "I love you darling..."

Pratty hugged back, and then pushed away. "Love you too mom, but I gotta go! Bye!" She rushed out of the door, heading to the central tower. The salty air hit her face as her heavy boots clanged against the metal walkways.

She grinned. "Ah, Wystern. Such a beautiful city." Wystern's massive central tower was said to extend to the bottom of the ocean. Supposedly it was the only thing keeping Wystern from floating away. "And supposedly at the bottom is the shrine to Parista..." She murmured to herself. Suddenly she found herself in the shadow of an enormous man. She ran into him, and fell over. "Argh, just my luck..."

"Ah, Pratty, there ya are! What're ya doin' sitting down?" Bron turned around, his massive frame softened by his enormous grin. "Aren't ya supposed to be at the tower? Yer gonna be late!"

"Oh, hello master." Pratty stood up, and dusted herself off. "I was heading there right now."

Bron ran a hand through his beard, and grinned even wider at her. "Cuttin' it a bit close, aren't ya?"

Pratty shrugged. "I've got plenty of time to spare."

Bron sighed. "Sound just like yer father. Always being late and makin' excuses for it, just like a woman..."

"Hey!" Pratty slugged the big man. "Sexist. I think I should tell mother of your poor attitude towards the female gender."

Bron looked startled. "Why'd ya go an' do somthin' cruel like that!"

Pratty laughed. "Just kidding. Not that you and mother get along terribly well anyways..."

Bron sighed, looking downcast. "Do ya really think so? Ah, it's none of my business anyways. You hurry off to the tower, wouldn't want you to be late." The big man waved her off, and headed down the walkway to the Silver guild house. "Come and find me after the openin' ceremony, I got a surprise for ya. And ya better win the tournament, I don't work with second rate apprentices!"

"Hey! If I win the tournament, I'll outrank you!" Shouted Pratty after him, She huffed, offended, and started off towards the tower. Once inside, she climbed the stairs to the second floor, and found the ceremony hall. once inside, she found a place to stand, and looked around.

Many apprentices and other craftknights were gathered in the hall. Another apprentice tapped her on the shoulder. "Who's your guardian beast?" Pratty shrugged. "I haven't gotten one yet." The young man grinned. "I've found a win than. If you don't have a guardian beast, this tournament will eat you alive" Pratty glared at him. 'I'll show him...' she thought spitefully.

"May I have your attention please." A confident looking man wearing a brilliant blue tunic called out over the crowd. "I am Sakuro, craftlord of Sapphire, and I welcome you to the tournament." He paused to wipe something off of his glasses. "Three years ago, we lost Shintetsu, our most respected craftlord."

Pratty felt her heart sink. 'Father..."

"And Shintetsu's loss was followed by the disappearance of Tyram, the craftlord of Crystal. We are gathered here to find a replacement for these men, to join the craftlords of Wystern as the guardians of Parista, the spirit that dwells within the Holy Sword. A position has been prepared for one of the apprentices in this chamber, and we will determine which among you are worthy of claiming this position."

A strange looking man with a thin, wispy mustache to the right of Sakuro cleared his throat. "The majority of you lack the skill to be a worth apprentice, let along craftlord. But all of you possess the gift of youth, and the potential thereof. We must harness that potential to protect Wystern."

A blond boy close to Pratty snorted. "Such a flawed opinion. How does he explain how many adults who can't even craft a decent weapon?" Pratty scowled at him. 'Doesn't he know how unattractive such arrogance is?'

Sakuro continued. "This tournament will be single battle elimination matches. You will be allowed to bring your guardian beast and a single weapon of your own construction to use. The fight ends when one concedes defeat, or one's weapon breaks. We will, of course, allow your masters to assist you in the forging of weapons, though they may not help in combat at all. And with that, you are all allowed into the dungeon beneath the tower. There, you can collect materials with which to craft your weapons. Later on, a person possessing keys to lower levels of the dungeon will bring them to you. There are many dangers in the dungeon, placed to ensure the safety of Parista. These dangers will not be lessened or removed for you. You will have to overcome them on your own. If you cannot, you are not worthy of being in this tournament.

"Your opponents will be announced to you before the start of the battle. Remember the craftknights code: A sword is not strength. A sword of not skill. A sword is not fellowship. Let the code code guide your efforts, and they will be rewarded. When your skill is sharpest and your weapon deadliest, you will be your own master. I sincerely hope that one of you will rise to our ranks, and join us as craftlord. You may return to your duties."

Pratty wandered back out of the hall, and headed back to the Silver Guild. 'Shouldn't be too hard...' she convinced herself. 'So long as I have some of my father's talent, I should be perfectly fine." She sighed. 'I'm so screwed.' She pushed in the large steel door of the guild house, and was hit with the heat of a dozen forges burning around her. She walked over to Bron's room, and knocked on the doorway.

"Ah, there ya are! Come in!" Bron gestured to an empty chair. A strange man was sitting in the corner, huddled in brilliant blue robes drinking a cup of tea. He nodded at her, and resumed drinking.

"Master, is that who I think it is?" Pratty nodded towards the man. He was adorned with strange talismans, and a staff leaned on the wall next to him.

"Tha's right, he's a summoner. I brought 'im here to Wystern for one purpose, and one purpose only. He's gonna summon the guardian beast that'll become yer partner in battle."

"Wow..." Pratty stood, stunned. "My own guardian beast?"

The summoner nodded. "It's an honor to summon your guardian, m'lady." He stood up, and grabbed his staff. "Lets begin."

"First, I should learn more about you, so I can determine what summon beast would best suit you. Tell me, what do you think of Shintetsu?"

Pratty though for a moment. "I really didn't know him well. I know he was well respected, but he was gone so much when I was little, I never really got to know him."

The summoner nodded. "Wise answer. The child of Shintetsu has been well raised."

"Of course she has!" Bron boomed. "She was raised by Amariss."

"Which brings me to my next question. How do you feel about your mother?"

"What, are you some sort of psychologist?" Pratty grinned "Kidding, kidding. To be honest, mother seemed a bit over protective. She didn't scold me much, but I sure as hell payed attention when she did. But she was kind, and I'll always love her for making me who I am today."

Bron nodded. "Good answer. I'd hate to see what your mother had said had you worded that one differently." Pratty pretended to gasp at him in shock, and slugged him again, knowing full well the futility of it.

The summoner cleared his trout "One last question. Did you prefer your mother's kindness or your father's strength?"

Pratty closed her eyes and thought. "I'm going to go with my mother's kindness. As I said, father wasn't around too much..."

The summoner nodded. "Very well, I'm done questioning you. Let's begin the ritual. I need something important to you, to bind the summon creature to you."

Pratty pulled out her father's lucky charm. Bron started. "Where'd ya get that!"

"Mother gave it to me. She told me it had protected father, and that it would protect me as well."

"Very well." The summoner handed Pratty a small crystal. "Hold this summonite gem, it will act as a relay between here and whatever world your guardian beast will come from. Focus your thoughts, and wish for a guardian beast to aid you in battle."

Pratty closed her eyes, and focused her will into the stone. 'Bring me a guardian beast who will care for me in my times of need...' she thought in silent prayer.

The summoner held his arms above his head. "Now I shall open a portal to another world, using words and methods handed down from the ancients... Hear me, noble beast! Hear me and submit to my power! And now, shout thy name! The name of the new bond, Thy master shall be Pratty!" A brilliant light filled the room. When it faded, a young woman floated in the center of the room. She had short pink hair that curved off of the sides of her head, and was dressed only in a black bra, shorts, and leggings. Four braided cords hung off the back of her top, and her entire outfit was cut to show off alluring bits of flesh. She dusted off her black shorts, and looked around. "Is this Wystern? What?" She turned around, and her purple eyes locked with Pratty's. "Oh hello. My name's Sugar, it's a pleasure to meet you. Please, be kind to me."

Pratty looked at her with surprise. "Oh, of course." She found herself looking over the woman's body, caught herself, and looked over at Bron.

"Well I'll be..." He murmured. "Sugar, is that you? It's been a while."

"Oh, Bron, hello there. It has been a while." She grinned.

Pratty looked between them. "Wait, what? You know her?"

"Aye, she's used to be yer father's guardian beast."

Sugar perked up her ears. "So that means, you're Shintetsu's child?" Sugar wrapped her arms around Pratty's neck, and kissed her. Pratty was stunned. Once she regained composure, she pushed Sugar away. "Woah woah WOAH!" She shouted. "What was THAT for?"

Bron laughed. "I think she likes ya. Anyways, come upstairs, I have somethin' else for ya." Bron tromped out of the room, leaving Pratty and Sugar alone. Pratty shook her head. "That was my first kiss... With a girl... Gah! Master, wait for me!"

Sugar tugged on her sleeve. "Are you... upset with me?" She looked close to tears. "You don't like me anymore..."

Pratty's face was stuck in a look of surprise. "No, uh, it's okay... I kiss other girls all the time... Sure..."

Sugar's melancholy look didn't disappear, but she seemed stable. "...Good..."

Pratty sighed. "Lets head up to the workshop..." The both of them headed up the stairs, where Bron was waiting in the doorway. "Here ya are. Only tournament entrants are allowed personal workshops, and here yours is."

Pratty walked into the small room. Most of the space was dominated by the massive forge at the far wall, and a bed next to the door and a simple washstation took up most of the rest. "Good think I don't have to live here, it's cramped."

Bron laughed. "Sorry to hear that, but you're going to be working here day and night from now on."

Pratty looked back at him, in shock. "You're kidding, right?"

Bron grinned. "Nope, now stop complainin'. Yer mother agreed that ya should live here durin' the tournament, so the decision's been made for ya."

Pratty sighed, defeated. She ran her hands through her white hair, catching them on her goggles. "Yes master..."

Bron laughed. "Yer followin' in yer father's footsteps a little too well, if you ask me. Ya should be proud. Now, it's time to teach ya the secrets of forgin'."

Pratty grinned. "With Sugar at my side, there's no way I can lose. She already has so much experience, right? Right?" The last right was directed at Sugar, who stood there, blushing. "To be honest, I don't remember much, and the trip here took a lot out of me..."

Pratty gaped, open mouthed. "So much for my advantage, then."

Bron grinned. "Well, I'd love to teach ya now, but I've got some things to take care of. You set up your room or something here." The huge man stooped out of the doorway, and clomped down the stairs.

Pratty looked around the room. When she got to the bed, she stopped. "Uh oh, there's only one bed."

Sugar smiled, and hugged Pratty around the middle. "We'll get to sleep together, master Pratty."

Pratty grimaced. 'This is not going to end well...' Her thoughts were interrupted by Sugar, who tugged on her sleeve. "Lets go for a walk, I'd love to see the ocean again."

The two of them headed to the docks. Sugar smiled, obviously in bliss. "Ah, the ocean... It's been so long..."

"Hey, check out that ship." Pratty pointed to a ship down one of the docks. "Lets go aboard!"

Sugar gave Pratty a quizzical look. "Won't we get in trouble if we go onto it without asking?"

"Of course not!" Pratty bounded up the gangplank. "Come on, we won't break anything."

Sugar shrugged, and followed Pratty onto the ship. She leaned on the railing, looking out over the ocean. "It's so beautiful..."

Pratty nodded. "It is nice..." She yawned heartily. "Well, I'm tired. Lets head back."

She looked over to see Sugar staring at her. "What?"

"Nothing, I'm just very glad to have met you master Pratty." Sugar smiled.

Pratty smiled back, blushing. 'Why is she so cute?' she asked herself. "I'm glad to have met you too, and you don't have to keep calling me master." She sighed. "I want to win this tournament like my father and become a great craftlord. But I'll need your help. Please, will you help me?"

Sugar put her hands on Pratty's "Of course I will." She leaned in close, and whispered in Pratty's ear. "I'll always be here for you, my fiance."

Pratty gasped. "Wait, what?"

"Don't you know, you were arranged to be my husband. Master Shintetsu promised me his child's hand in marriage."

Pratty stared at her. "I'm a girl, I can't be your husband!" 'Damnit dad, why would you agree to this?'

Sugar smiled. "Of course you can, I don't mind if you're male or female, so long as you're kind to me."

"W-well I mind!" Pratty stammered.

Sugar smiled again, and Pratty felt heat rise to her face. "Oh, I can't wait..."

"You better get used to waiting." Pratty scowled.