Okay, before you begin to read, here's your important announcements:
To begin with, this story is a three way crossover. The third crossover I won't mention, because it could possibly scare you off before you begin to read, and because it absolutely came out of nowhere as I was writing this story. I don't even LIKE the third crossover added in this, but it overtook my mind and made this scandalous possibility for a three way cross. That being said, I hope you don't get cold feet and continue on with the story; I rather liked how it turned out.
Warning: Artistic License Used, Does not Ignore but Does not Use Lots of Elements From Fable 3, Garth Centric, Garth x Reaver, Smart!Harry, Smart!Ron, Slash, more than likely a side pairing of Harry/Luna or Harry/Someone else, along with Ron/Hermione or Ron/Someone else, and Hermione/Victor or Hermione/Whoever the hell I want...or you want...or whatever...
More Warnings: Will probably never be updated, this story is merely one of the many I have written on my comp that I've dusted off to allow the world to view. Check my profile for adoption data, challenge info, et cetera...who actually spells that anyway? If I do continue this, updates will be slow in coming. However, do note that I still have a few more chapters of this story written.
If ever a word could fit a person so well, then such would be the case for the Samarkand known as Garth. Knowledgeable, all knowing, scholar; though he was indeed the Hero of Will, he still loved his books more than anything in the world. Perhaps that was why he'd chosen to hide away when Sparrow came looking for his old friends, faking his own death with Reaver's amused help. He didn't want anything to do with Albion anymore; he'd gotten all of the satisfaction he'd needed with Lucien's death.
Of course, that hadn't stopped him from visiting his friend's grave, thankful that no one he knew possessed the Raise Dead spell any longer, otherwise he was sure Sparrow would give him a mouthful. Though he had a lot he wished to berate Sparrow for himself. Honestly, giving Reaver control over the newly forming industrialization? Granted, Sparrow never would have known about the industry if not for visiting Samarkand, but did he really think Reaver was the best choice?
A pang of guilt went through him after the thought, knowing that Sparrow had wanted to ask him to take over the rebuilding. That was neither here nor there, however; he'd made his choice. "Finally leaving for good then?" Reaver wondered, an amused tilt on his lips. How anyone could think that he wouldn't abuse his power was beyond the scholar's knowing.
"No worries," he remarked dryly, standing from Sparrow's grave and brushing off his pants. "I won't be coming back in a heroic attempt to stop anything you plan to do…Though I can't say the same about the barbarian." A sneer came and left the pirate's face, before the amused smirk was back. Garth was surprised to know that he would miss that arrogant rogue; not that he'd ever tell him that.
"I must admit, I was planning on vanishing with you," Reaver chuckled, turning it into a laugh at the look of disgust on Garth's face. "I was going to, but Sparrow left me something that can definitely ease the boredom."
"And suddenly I'm happy about that." Which was true. Though it was still a stupid thing for Sparrow to do it at least kept Reaver off his back. "What's going to happen to his kids though?"
"No worries," and, despite himself, Garth began to worry. "I will see to it that his little Logan and what's her face are raised properly."
"Alex," he responded, repressing the icy shiver that ran down his back. "He named her after his wife."
"Yes, yes," the pirate waved a hand, making the scholar scowl. He feared for Albion's future with Logan raised by Reaver's hand, but he was sure that, should things come to be too bad, Hammer or some other Hero would show up and do something about it. Or at least that nosy bint Theresa; He and the citizens of Albion most certainly wouldn't. "Do I, at least, get the pleasure of knowing where you're going?"
"No!" The word was sharp and crisp, making Reaver smirk deviously. Garth knew that smirk, it was the I can have whatever I want smirk. He knew, without a doubt, that Reaver would find him if he truly wanted to; he would simply have to make sure that it would be a long time before such a thing became the case.
There were no goodbyes between them when he finally left, though he made sure to go opposite the way he was really headed. Only when Reaver returned towards the castle did he make his way back, though he was quite certain that the laughing man knew exactly what he was doing anyway; bastard.
The freedom he was given as a result of his supposed death was liberating. No longer were people turning to him for stories, demonstrations of magic and anything else they deemed they had a right to know. Though, truthfully, he knew that to be because he'd decided to head straight to Knothole Island, a small and remote town that Sparrow had once told him of during his travels. The little remote town always came up with interesting potions and items and was full to the brim with queer knowledge.
Where once stood weak and cowardly beings, the people of Knothole now stood tall and proud, their culture once again thriving under the tutelage of Jessica, a friend to Sparrow who had managed to open her eyes to how easily her family and friends were dying out. Though they would never measure up to their warriors of old, they were certainly a strong group, a group that Scarlet Robe would have no doubt been proud of. Though they were still secluded, Garth had no doubt that there would be a day when they were a force to be reckoned with.
Perhaps even more so than Albion, despite their small size.
Their knowledge of potions were immense, easily surpassing all that Albion knew and then some. Those there were all masters of their art. Thankfully, with as closed off as they were to the outside world, no one knew of Garth's supposed death and were more than happy to help out a man who craved knowledge so much. In return for their help, Garth gave a hand where needed as well.
To begin with, there was a financial problem the town was facing; how could they possibly get things to work with, with no money, after all? They'd been surprised at how rich Garth was and even more that he gave his gold freely, though he merely waved it away. He'd had manors all around Samarkand and Albion before selling them; they hadn't even dented his funds. Then, with that taken care of, there was the problem of Will. No one quite knew how to do such feats of magic, though they were adamant that they could create a potion to imitate the effects. Garth hadn't believed them, though he did challenge them to prove him wrong, lending them his Stop Time spell.
They'd proved him wrong.
Garth had been delighted, despite it taking two years for them to do so. Regardless of the time, they had actually done so, which made him think of other avenues of magic. It was no secret to anyone that magic was dying out, the knowledge being out of reach as people focused more on strength and skill than anything, and thus the projects of Will Focus commenced. He'd even helped create a potion that could raise the dead, though he didn't bother to teach anyone the actual spell for the focus; he could only imagine the horror that could happen with such a spell at anyone's fingertips.
And that was quite literal, considering they'd chosen gauntlets as a focus.
In the midst of their creating, Garth had also had the chance to expand and increase his magic, even teaching a few of those interested in learning some of what he knew. There was a strong difference in their levels of power, noted quite extensively as the people of Knothole finally saw what he knew all along; though the gauntlets made it easier to cast Will, and even brought forth the thought to mix Will, it was no where near as strong as Garth's own handheld Will. They didn't even dredge up enough powerful magic to receive Will Lines.
Such a thing displeased Garth greatly, though he was happy that Will wouldn't die out at the least. He couldn't deny, however, that going to Knothole was the smartest thing he'd ever done. Jessica had a way of coming across things he was looking for, or things he'd find interesting, without batting an eye. It was through her that he picked up the history and legends surrounding Knothole, Samarkand, Albion and places he'd had no idea existed, creatures he'd had no idea existed.
The most interesting of folklores he'd heard tales of were found in the Weather Shrines.
The first shrine he had visited was the Ice Shrine and he was quite amazed at what he'd found inside. It was huge, for starters, but also filled with dangers that were perfect for honing his magic and getting away from the chatter of the villagers. It was also full to the brim with old knowledge, books, artifacts and legends long since lost to the world. It was here that Garth found a story (which cut abruptly from sogginess) about the magical animals that once graced the world.
These creatures were boons to Will users, who called these animals familiars, though what little he gleaned from the waterlogged pages were that the animals chose who they considered worthy. Such a thing could be a blessing and curse, he'd mused, for the animal didn't care about personal alignment. The Ice Shrine also spoke of a great bird of ice, which brought about the cold weather by apparently beating strong wings made of ice. According to legend, the bird only appeared to those lost and doomed to die in the icy mountains. Though skeptical about it, mostly because it was seen only when lives were endangered, Garth never dismissed the legend, especially as pieces of different colored books constantly spoke in awe of such a creature.
The Ice Shrine was also home to a new magic, the Ice Storm, which took nearly a year for the Samarkand to master. It was also the first official spell belonging solely to Knothole, which boosted quite a bit of moral. With their gauntlets, it didn't take nearly as long as it had taken the hero to learn, though with the level of magic he could cast it with no one even dared to hold it above his head. His level one, mediocre casting was already surpassed their level three, making him smirk in satisfaction though he'd deny it if ever asked.
In the Sun Shrine, Garth had come across the old spells of fire, which surpassed the Inferno Spell that those in Albion knew. There was also more folklore, more pieces of these colored books that held ancient tales, and more creatures that caught the scholar's attention. This time, the books spoke of a bird of fire, who had chased off the bird of ice, causing the weather to change from one extreme to the next. Through these pages, Garth learned that they'd dubbed the birds a distinct title; Phoenix.
It was an eager Samarkand that made his way through the Storm Shrine, his eyes wide for any information that he could get. He'd assumed, correctly, that the last shrine would also house a tale of a phoenix and had scoured through every nook and cranny to find his proof. There was indeed proof of another bird, though the information Garth found had astounded him.
Whereas before, where the books and pages were burned, torn or waterlogged, the ones within the Storm Shrine were in mint condition. And the stories within were fascinating, even though his skepticism refused to reside. It was the history of the land known as Knothole, though it was the history of what had happened before those from Knothole Glade had settled there. Long before those who'd named the phoenixes had built the shrines to honor them.
The story of the ice bird was first, detailing a creature with icy wings and a great large tail with blue plumage, greeting the weary travelers in the mountains. It had been snowing then, the writer of the book noted, snowing harsh and cold with bitter winds that were unbearable, and many thought that we wouldn't make it. It hadn't taken long for us to start dying out; frost bite, pneumonia, starvation, monsters; when we first caught sight of this mighty bird. Many of the books detailed vivid red eyes through a storm staring pompously at them, as though mocking the creatures that dared to invade its lands.
The second story was that of the fire bird, though the books, strangely enough, stressed that the fire bird was the third to appear. It had appeared when the group had finally decided that, in order to survive the harsh weather, they would have to kill the gorgeous bird, aptly named Artic. The phoenix had displayed powers unimaginable, the book read, and was not amused by our attempts to slay it. With a mighty gust of its wings, the Artic One flew into the sky and drew in deeply, seeming to bring in all of the cold that caused us such pain. Our relief was short lived, for in the next moment the mighty being spat out all that harmed us, freezing our brethren, killing us mercilessly.
It was here that the Fire Phoenix came.
This great creature, eyes full of malice, barreled into Artic, stopping it from drawing in another breath. The two beings raged against each other for what may have been days, magic after unbelievable magic cast between them before Artic fled, chased shortly after by the fire one. Amazingly, with every beat of Artic's wings, the snow fell harder, but the fire one's wings, which flew off after Artic, melted the snow which had fallen. It was our saving grace, for all of the snow melted after a few hours time, giving us time to repopulate.
Jessica had often joined Garth in searching for books of their history, amazed at the tales of these phoenixes and delighted to be of use. It was she who found the third book, which spoke of the second bird, the one dedicated to the Storm Shrine. It was this story Garth found the most interesting, and he also understood the reasons for making the second bird the one spoken of in the third book.
The second phoenix had been seen a day after they'd encountered Artic through the storm, though they'd only seen the bird's eyes then. This Lightning Phoenix, Zap as they called it, had been seen flying out to sea on large yellow and black wings, following a ship in the distance. When next they saw the bird, it was a year after the Ice and Fire Phoenixes had fought.
We were leery then, wrote the narrator of the third book, for the blessings that we thought the great Mol had given us had cursed us verily. Though we no longer suffered from the biting cold, the scorching sun was just as unbearable. This phoenix would no doubt cause us trouble, trouble we were not sure we could live through. When the mighty bird landed, we didn't know what to do, so we waited. Surprisingly, this phoenix brought with it cool winds, winds that we craved desperately. For a short time, we were led into a false security; it was as we let our guard down that it struck.
The storm was sudden, brought in with great rains, heavy winds and heaving lightning that ravaged all that stood in its way. The great Zap gave a mighty screech and flew into the middle of the storm and was struck by lightning. The phoenix gave another shout, one of joy I believe, before flying into the clouds.
The storm lasted for days. It tore our homes, destroyed the forests and caused a great sadness to land upon us. This land that we'd come to was forever cursed, and we had no way off of it.
The book showed drawings of these birds before abruptly cutting off by way of torn pages. Annoyed, Garth had read the broken pieces of the pages left, stunned at what he read and wondering of what he missed. The page after the torn ones detailed a mighty battle between the three birds, causing a storm so great that all wondered how they had survived. Then the pages tore again before skipping to a picture of Knothole Island in full Spring bloom and the people happy and prospering.
The rest of the books said much of the same, though it wasn't until he read a silver book that his curiosity was put to rest. Whereas the other books explained the beginning and end of the tale, the silver book detailed what happened in between. As the birds clashed in the air a violent storm started up, causing the sea to ripple around the island, before, from within a great big wave, a white phoenix emerged.
We were stunned, afraid, and petrified; Four. Four of these mighty beings with such powers existed around us, but this new one was different. It was far larger, far more powerful, and yet, there was gentle calmness in its song. The great white fought the three others, forcing them apart for the first time in days. It was a short reprieve.
The phoenixes stayed away from each other during that time, Artic taking solace in the mountains, Zap the skies and Mol the heat of the sun. But the white one came to us.
"Amazing," Garth murmured, running his fingers over the texts. The white phoenix, the one they called Lugia, spoke to them telepathically, telling them of the problems that would happen if the fighting continued, and how they could stop it. Garth's amazement stemmed not from the bird speaking, or even that Knothole could have a Spring, but from what the people needed to do to end the fighting. And, though he was still quite skeptical of such a tall tale, all of the Will Scrolls they'd found had proven to be legit, so how could this new one be any different?
"Do you really think it's possible?" Jessica wondered, having taken the scroll from the hollow back of the book.
"I want to say it isn't," Garth admitted. "Though we all thought it impossible for those who weren't Heroes to use Will." And they'd fixed that up quite well, hadn't they?
"Then if that's true, that means that Knothole could have a Spring." A delighted smile lit on her worn face as she traced the pictures on the scroll reverently. The Samarkand frowned slightly, recasting fire to a new torch as the light began to dim.
"Jessica, I hope you recall that I'm leaving Knothole soon."
"I may be old, but I'm yet senile, Garth." Jessica gave him a mock glare, before once again letting her fingers trace the picture. "You've been here a good six years, you were bound to leave eventually. But, Garth…" She trailed off, staring at the picture with longing. "I know we promised not to ask you for anything…"
"You want to see if we could bring Spring to Knothole, then?" He interrupted, a bit excited at the prospect himself. Jessica nodded sharply. "Then, I suppose we'd better find the missing pieces of the puzzle."
"What are we missing?" She wondered, finally tearing her gaze away from the scroll.
"Lugia's Lament, for one," he mused, tapping the scroll where the person was playing a flute. He pointed to the next part of the scroll with a bit of hesitation. "Then there's the instructions for how to do that type of magic. And we have to summon Lugia."
"Mayhap the book explains that," Jessica frowned, picking up a copy of the silver one he held. "No time like the present to get to looking, right?" With an agreeing nod, Garth continued to read through the story the book called The Power of One.
Artic, Zap and Mol came back together, which shouldn't have surprised us, yet it did. The creatures, it seemed, had come to a truce, had come to fight Lugia together before they would continue to fight each other. Lugia had predicted right. Though we were petrified, we recalled all that the great white one had taught us, and immediately set up whilst it engaged the three to distract it from us.
Chief Ash sat in the middle of the storm, concentrated on his magic, whilst Lady Misty readied her flute. Healer Brock stood a little ways away from the chief, just in case something went wrong. And, while they fought, our Lady began to play…
It took two years for everything to work; first, Jessica had to get the song downplayed to memory as they'd found a note in the gold book that said only a woman could play the tune. Then there was the spell; it couldn't be picked up by just anyone, considering that it wasn't like all the rest of the spells they knew. After all, it would be hard trying to cast a spell when it required looking into one's self. The spell did, after all, turn people into animals. It seemed to be something simple, too, a spell that required no knowledge of other spells, just one's magic.
But it was quite difficult.
To begin with, one had to be aware of their magic. Garth had always been aware of Will, the spells he caused, the damage he inflicted and how to improve such things, but never of his own magic. They were indeed quite separate, as he'd learned, though thankfully he was quite good at the meditation required to reach his inner core. After that, he simply had to find his inner animal and become it, which was easier said then done. It took half a year just to find out what he was (an owl, surprisingly), which boosted his confidence enough for him to continue going.
Then there was the actual becoming of the animal. It took a while before Garth had the idea to temporarily leave Knothole to find one of them, only to come back with it completely torn apart. Jessica had been appalled, but she'd understood his reasons for doing so. After all, he didn't remotely know what the insides of the creature looked like, so it was hard to try to change himself into it. Indeed, the added knowledge made the process that much easier, no doubt shaving off what could have been years of study. It still took a year, regardless.
Jessica, no, the entirety of Knothole had been amazed at his feat of magic, even more so when they were finally let in on the secret that Garth and Jessica had been keeping. Many were quite skeptical about it happening, but considering Garth could suddenly become an animal they'd quietly taken precautions like Jessica suggested. After two years all preparations were ready.
Garth sat in the middle of Knothole, surrounded on all sides by Weather Seals. Jessica stood a ways behind him, her flute clutched in her hands as she nervously wet her lips. There was no healer for them, after all, considering they were the only two people left on the island. The others were off a ways from the island, waiting until the storm would stop with all of their valuables aboard their ships. Garth had been sure to seal all of his own items on his person, just in case.
"Are we ready?" Jessica questioned, her grip on her flute tightening. Instead of answering her, the scholar let his magic touch all of the Weather Seals, wincing as a grinding noise started up. Jessica drew in a sharp breath and dug her heels in the ground as a warm yet heavy rain began, followed closely by harsh winds and ominous thunder clouds. Garth shuddered, staring into the sky as the storm picked up. "This doesn't seem too bad," the Knothole woman stated softly, also looking up.
Her words were like a curse.
The mountain was suddenly struck by a bolt of lightning and the ice caps crumbled down and demolished the Ice Shrine. The two stared at it in shock, both from the suddenness and from the loud cry that happened afterwards. Suddenly, a bright blue light shot from the demolished shrine and from within it came a large blue and very familiar bird.
"Damn," was all Garth could say. Artic flapped its large icy wings, causing the warm rains to suddenly freeze and hurt worse than before. Even from such a distance, both humans could see pompous red eyes glaring at them, before their attention turned to the Sun Shrine as it began to crumble. Jessica barely managed to dodge out of the way of the debris as the top of the shrine rolled where she had been standing. A blast of stifling hot air came from the shrine's direction and with it another piercing wail as a red light blasted into the air.
The fiery form burst into the air, making the two humans squint against the sudden bright light. Mol flapped wings of fire, making the heat swelter, before immediately blasting a breath of pure, molten fire at the disoriented Artic. The icy bird took the hit dead on, crashing into the Storm Shrine with a loud cry. A keening wail came from newly broken shrine as a yellow light came from within it, crashing into Mol as the fire bird tried to pursue the fallen Artic.
Zap flapped pointy yellow and black wings, glaring at the screeching Mol and then at the rising Artic. Garth breathed in sharply, mesmerized at the reunion of the beings that he could no longer say were merely legends, even though he knew that the reunion between the beautiful phoenixes was not to be a happy one.
"Oh God, oh God…" Jessica chanted, rooted to the spot as the three creatures suddenly began to attack each other, loud booms of light being the only thing that they could see from the powerful phoenixes.
"Keep it together!" Garth shouted, ducking his head as a bolt of lightning struck the ground beside him. "Stay where you are and don't move!" The woman shuddered but gave a shout of affirmation, even if she was sure that she'd soiled herself. The scholar remained seated, staring at the waters that were pooling into knothole even as they slowly continued to freeze. If the lightning struck the water when it touched him, then he would be in some serious trouble. "I'd better not die," he mumbled, refusing to look at his shaking hands. He was already old, but he didn't want to die.
Not like this.
The seas began to lap harshly as tornadoes picked up above and below it, destroying the homes of those no longer inside of Knothole. Garth and Jessica both hissed in pain as the debris battered against them, though both stubbornly held their posts. They were rewarded shortly by their perseverance as a tornado of water suddenly parted the fighting trio. From within emerged the great white one, the most powerful of the four; Lugia. Jessica gave a shuddering gasp, her flute heading to her lips at once, though no tune came from her yet. Artic, Zap and Mol hesitated for the barest of moments, before, with sharp, angry noises, they charged at Lugia.
"Now!" Garth shouted to Jessica, cursing when the petrified woman didn't seem to hear him. If it wasn't for the storm, he wouldn't have minded sending a shock of lightning to her, but he had to settle for yelling himself hoarse. Jessica seemed to finally snap out of her funk when Lugia let out a loud, heartbreaking wail and crashed into the remains of her home. "Damn it, woman, play the damn song!" A few shaky notes came from her direction, barely heard over the raging winds as the three phoenixes came closer to them, their magic pooling into their mouths as they aimed at the fallen Lugia.
Closing his eyes tightly, Garth changed into his bird form as Lugia frantically beat his wings, strong gusts of cutting winds blasting at the trio before they could cause him harm. The sound of the flute grew louder as he dashed through the middle of the blasts of energy, a feeling of fear that he would never admit to within him as he charged headfirst into such high concentrations of Will, the four pieces of energy smothering him in the middle.
Had he been human, Garth would have yelled until his lungs freed themselves from his mouth. A warbled hiss was his only cry as ice, lightning, fire and cutting winds engulfed his small form. He wasn't even granted the sweet release of death. As Jessica would later describe it, the attacks seemed to melt and absorb into him, causing him to expand into a strange looking, yet beautiful bird. All Garth could remember was a major build up of power exploding out of him, covering the land in a wave of fire, then rain, then calming winds, before he finally got his blessed peace.
When he awoke it was weeks later, laying in a half completed home and feeling younger than he had in years. The sounds of construction greeted his ears and sunlight beamed happily on his face. For once though, it wasn't too hot. With a groan, Garth sat up, a frown of confusion on his face. The world seemed so much bigger than it should have been, and he wasn't too certain that he was still in Knothole. And the birds, what had happened to them?
"Finally awake, are you?" A young and happy voice turned him towards the missing door, where an attractive woman made her way into the home. She put a hand on her hips and smiled down at him as he stared at her in confusion. "I almost thought you wouldn't make it, being out for almost a month and all. It is most certainly a pleasure to see you back with us again; the villagers will certainly rejoice. Welcome back to the land of the living, Garth." She tilted her head as he continued to stare at her in bemusement. "You don't know who I am, do you?"
"No…" He admitted, blinking rapidly at the childish tone. That most definitely wasn't his voice!
"It's me, doll; Jessica." His attention quickly turned back to her, a look of disbelief on his face. "It's true," she snorted. "I know who I am. I may be old, but I'm yet senile, Garth."
"J-Jessica?" He squeaked. "What happened to you? What happened to me?"
"We died," she stated bluntly, confidently, completely shutting Garth up as he stared at her, stunned. "You…you killed us. Then, you brought us back to life."
"I don't understand." The words were soft yet blunt, making her lips twitch.
"I think we can get you caught up to speed; come along, doll. Come on." Garth's nose scrunched up at the endearment, though he quickly stood from the bed, trying to ignore his short legs and the weird clothing he wore. His hands were so small and-
"I can see." Jessica blinked in bemusement, turning to stare at him as he stopped halfway across the room. The shrunken man raised a soft hand to his left eye, where his monocle no longer resided, and stared in amazement as he actually saw his hand in both eyes. Such a thing was-should have been-was supposed to be impossible, because he'd been blind for a long time. Blind since long before becoming a scholar, since the days he'd had to fight for food and was poorer than the poorest beggar.
"You most certainly can," Jessica beamed at him. "But that's not even the best part; come on, doll." She grabbed his hand and marched him from the half completed building, letting his hand go only to put hers over his eyes when he reached the doorway.
"This is hardly proper," he tutted, though he didn't begrudge her antics. The walk was a short one, filled with soft chatter and words of amazement, before ending as Jessica abruptly removed her hands from Garth's face.
"Tada!" Garth blinked, his feet stepping forward before he could stop himself, even as he slowly turned to take in the view. Lush green fields were all around, smatterings of beautiful flowers mixed within. A river flowed from the mountains, turning what was once the middle of the village into a small lake. Beautiful white clouds hung in the air, parting to reveal a beaming sun and a glittering rainbow. Birds flew by happily, insects gleefully made new homes, the animals peered down from the forest, backed by melting mountains as a soft breeze tugged gently at Garth's hair.
It was official; Spring had come to Knothole Island.
"It's beautiful, isn't it?" Jessica's voice sounded teary as she placed a hand on his shoulder. He could only nod wordlessly. "But, that isn't all that's changed. Look into the water, Garth; look at yourself." Hesitantly, the Samarkand did as told, staring into the crystal waters that he stood above, only to get a shock that he hadn't been expecting. It wasn't the youth of his face that stunned him, despite his inner denial he'd known from the moment that he saw his legs and hand that he was a child again, though he was grateful that his Will Lines hadn't decreased in the slightest. What he hadn't expected was the change to his body.
His eyes, for one, were red; not as red as he recalled Artic's eyes, but still red. Not to mention the skin around his eyes were far darker than they had ever been, almost looking as though make up had been added to them. But even more shocking was his hair; he'd always had strange white hair, making him exotic even in his own land, but his white hair had vanished. In its place was a soft, downy mane of golden locks, which curled slightly at the ends. He pulled a lock towards him, dismayed if he was perfectly honest. He'd always loved his white hair; it was uniquely his.
A gasp left his throat as his hair abruptly changed color, the locks on his head suddenly white once more, though when he tilted his head the sun made it look golden again. "This is…remarkable," he whispered. "I'm young again, my magic feels incredible, and Spring has finally come to Knothole." His wide eyes quickly snapped up to Jessica. "You must tell me what happened; and where are my things? Bloody woman…"
Minutes later Garth sat in a hut, his items spread before him as a woman from the slowly rebuilding Knothole happily made him a new pair of clothes. He was staring at Jessica with wide eyes, completely disbelieving his ears even if he didn't detect a lie from her. "I absorbed their Will?" He questioned, getting an agreeing nod from her. "And then I…changed…?" Another nod.
"You became a phoenix," Jessica reaffirmed, her fingers occupied by a gold book. "The fifth one, the Ho-oh; just like the texts said."
"It didn't say anything about this," he muttered petulantly, gesturing to his shrunken body. She sent him a sharp glare, though he pretended not to notice. "So I became this Ho-oh," he continued, "then I…sung?"
"And Lugia began to sing, too, yes." She turned her attention to the book, her fingers tracing as she read a passage aloud. "And the mighty birds froze, their wings flapping uncertainly, before they, too, sung the tune. And the skies seemed to shudder, the grounds breathe and the seas laugh in relief as the mighty Ho-oh wailed, the destruction caused by the others vanishing under a sea of fire."
"And then the sun came," Garth continued the passage, having burned it into his memory before doing the strange ritual. "And the fires ceased, leaving the grounds full of ashes, which was then carried upon a gentle wind."
"And the rain began to pour," Jessica looked up from the book, still quoting it yet not intentionally as she hadn't bothered to memorize it. "And around us the ground began to rumble before, amazingly, the greenest grass I had ever seen sprung up."
"And the phoenixes seemed to dance playfully in the air as they surrounded the Ho-oh, their song lessening as the fifth one flew into the air with a mighty gust of winds, an arc of color beneath it. And the Ho-oh drew in one last shuddering breath…when next we woke, it was Spring." Garth frowned, picking up his own copy of the golden book and thumbing through it. "But what happened after Ho-oh, no, after I took this breath?" Jessica bit her lip, her fingers drumming on her book.
"That's when I died," she confessed, getting a sharp look from him. "It was excruciating; I can now safely say that being burned alive is very painful and cruel to do to anyone but the worst of the worst. But I do recall seeing the phoenixes fly off before I…well…" She finally looked up at him, a smile on her lips. "When next I woke, it was Spring." Garth shot her a disgruntled glare, trying to hide the guilty feelings he held. He had set her on fire, after all.
"Do you know which way the phoenixes went?"
"Artic went towards the mountains with Mol following. Zap went into the sky, and Lugia towards the seas." She hesitated, before tilting her head. "Garth, would it be too much to ask you to change into your animal again?" The scholar blinked in surprise, the thought not having even crossed his mind. Inwardly, he cursed his own foolishness, even as he settled down to feel for his inner animal.
He wondered if he could still become an owl as he searched for that familiar pull, the one that felt more animal than human. Surprisingly, the strand was still there, though it felt unbelievably hot as he drew it around himself. The heat did not burn him, much to his relief, though there was a bit of discomfort as he shifted into the Barn Owl that he had grown use to. Or not, if the stunned way the two women in the clearing were staring at him was any indication. He gave a displeased hiss and clicked his beak, making Jessica jump out of her stupor.
"That's new," she mumbled, reaching into Garth's items and producing a small mirror. The man turned owl stared bemusedly as she placed the mirror in front of him, letting him get a good look at himself. Had he been human, he would have sighed. His feathers had changed colors; whereas before he was a simple brown and white (with his blue Will Lines here and there), gold's, greens, reds and yellows had been added to his feathers. Where the light shined on him, the feathers shifted colors like a rainbow, reminding him of the way his hair changed back and forth between white and gold.
The changes did, however, make him wonder what the Ho-oh looked like. The pictures within the books were breathtaking, true enough, but having seen the real things there was no way that they could compare. Concentrating, Garth closed his eyes, once again searching for the magic within him. He decided to start off from near his inner owl, searching for another pull though he found nothing. His beak clicked in annoyance as he wondered what to do next, even as he wondered if he could even become the Ho-oh again.
Just as he was finally about to admit defeat, letting his body shift back into its natural shape, the discomfort of the flames tickled his sharp mind. They hadn't been there before, after all, he mused to himself, letting his magic flow into them. The flames seemed to lick at him happily, swirling around his magic in joy and bringing it closer in. Garth shuddered, feeling the flames suddenly burst outwards with his magic as his body began to morph, seeming to go smaller than his owl form. Just as abruptly as it began, it ended, leaving him breathless as he opened his eyes to the outside world.
"You have really got to stop doing that," Jessica murmured, holding the small bird to her chest. The Samarkand gave a huffy bark, desperately looking for the small mirror as he wondered what happened. Seeming to be reading his mind, the Knothole woman held the mirror in front of him so that he could see what he'd become. It was quite the disappointment, too, considering he was nothing more than a small and featherless bird. A cute and chunky, small and featherless bird. Angry squabs left his throat before he could stop himself, making Jessica chuckle.
"You changed from the owl into this," she explained after a moment, knowing that he was demanding an explanation. "I'm one hundred percent positive that you're Ho-oh, considering you burst into the same flames you did the last time you became him." He looked at her and squawked, his wings flapping in disbelief. "Yeah, you burst into flames," she stated ruefully, turning him to the village woman who had been stitching up his clothes. The old woman of before was gone, in her place a fainted, naked and rejuvenated younger girl.
The next year was filled with rebuilding.
Garth wouldn't admit it to anyone, but he was quite reluctant to leave Knothole Island. He'd spent a good ten years studying there and he was quite cozy with the newly improved island. The wildlife was so unique, so different from anything he'd ever seen, and each day there was something new to be found. Like the day when one of the creatures had come from the forests and, somehow, forged a bond with Jessica. A magical bond; a familiar bond.
The creature was a small and pudgy pink and white…thing. After searching the books they found, they were able to link a name to it, as well as a name to the other creatures that begun to show up after Ho-oh appeared. It was a Happiny, a creature, the book described, that helped the village Healer Brock before. It was then that both Jessica and Garth knew that, although weak at the moment, the people of Knothole would one day be a formidable force, just like the first settlers amongst the island.
The magical creatures had slowly been mingling within the village, bonding themselves to the strongest warriors and even helping out with the reconstruction. It was an amazing view to see. Garth had, however, continued to read through the books that held information about the events that happened after the spat with the phoenixes. Unknown to Jessica, he was keeping quite a bit of information from her. Like the last book that he'd found, the one that told of why the totems had been built and why Spring had reverted back again.
The black and white book was filled with ramblings of fear and disbelief, of sorrow and anger and lamenting the island once more being cursed. I write this, my last log and data, the book began, once more sitting in an icy land. It has only been three days since Chief Ash has died, Lady Misty has fallen into a state of despondency. Our familiars have cut our bonds and once again vanished into the mountains. We should have realized that something bad was going to happen then.
For sixty years we have lived in harmony and peace on our beloved Pallet, with Spring forever blossoming and the days of our first journeys seeming like awful nightmares. We had nearly forgotten what it was like to hunger, to hope that someone would save us, to curse the island we had come to consider home. We grew lax and lazy, relying on Chief Ash to do all of our work for us. We no longer had to crop, see, for he could merely burn everything and it bloomed again.
Chief Ash never seemed to age, never complained, though looking back I see now how much strain we put on his and Lady's relationship. For every time he burned, he was reduced to the body of a child and could not grow for three months. It was only after a few years when we learned that the Chief, being Ho-oh, was immortal, as were the other phoenixes. Which is why it was such a shock when he died.
Garth frowned at the book, not quite liking where it was heading, though he had continued to read it regardless. He had to know; he had to.
Our Lady was not happy with him as she had never once burned with him a day after the first time. She was old, much older than him, much older than he could become. She took comfort in Healer Brock's arms. We know this, I know this, only because our Lady berated us at the Chief's funeral. Berated us, herself, and Healer Brock. Chief Ash had died because of a broken heart. Had died because he knew. Had died because he'd chosen to.
Only hours after his death had the coldness spread.
Lugia had come to us then, had explained what was happening much to our horror. The pact that had been made between them, the bond that was made no longer needed to be held. With Ho-oh gone, there was no one to protect our island, no one to stop the four from fighting, no one who would care to. For Lugia, you see, had no respect for what we had become; we could hear it in his song, even if he never said the words aloud. He had abandoned us, no; we had abandoned him first.
And they have slowly come back again, these great and terrible creatures. We must do something, we must, or we will all die.
Garth wondered if, once he'd left the island, the Spring that had sprung would leave with him? His question had been answered mentally, words spoken by Lugia itself. Spring would indeed leave with him, as the pact between the four fighting phoenixes only held for as long as he stayed. The Samarkand had been stunned at the thought, knowing that he couldn't leave the people, leave Jessica, in such a state. He'd searched quickly for a way to rebuild the totems, though his heart nearly gave at seeing what it took, at seeing why there had been no settlers left on the unclaimed land.
They had sacrificed themselves, for the last and final time asking Lugia for help. All they had needed was for him to distract them. This will be my final day on this accursed land and I pray that the next settlers will heed my warnings. We have, somehow, survived the constant storms and managed to build our Totems of Sealing. Chief Giovanni has also chosen the three sacrifices needed to make this plan work.
Lady Misty has been chosen to seal Artic, the first one that we have seen. I do not know if she has protested this; I do not think she even knows. My friend Dawn has been chosen to seal Zap and she has confided in me that she was not given a choice. The last sacrifice is to be me, as I have volunteered for the task. I cannot live knowing what type of leader we have now, for Giovanni is not a nice man, and I will not let my friend die alone.
I do not think that any of them will survive long after we go; Giovanni is a cruel man, and I doubt he will respect Lugia's wishes. Gentle though the white one may be, he is also powerful and angry at us; I doubt he will be amused with trying to be controlled. And I know that he will try, for once Chief Ash died, Giovanni wasted no time trying to steal his familiar.
I can only hope that, when these things come to pass, my people will die peacefully. And hopefully the next travelers foolish enough to cross our lands will heed my warnings and learn to respect the gifts that are given to us.
Max, I know you are wondering why I have come here, I know that you are spying on me. For once, I am not angry. I leave this book in the open for you, dear brother, so that you can know that I am proud of you and that I'm sorry I never told you how much I love you. We seemed so immortal, living in the phoenix's ashes, but I will become a sacrifice.
Don't cry, Max, and leave at once. Follow Ralts and stay safe. And please, please, don't doubt that I love you. I will always love you, even if I have never said it. I only hope that you can forgive me for leaving you so soon.
Your loving sister, May.
"Are you okay, Garth?" Jessica wondered, sitting beside the man who had become distant over the year. Garth said nothing, staring down at the lake where the strange magical creatures swam. It was an amazing sight. "You're leaving soon, aren't you?" The Knothole woman continued on despite his silence, staring into the waters with him. "I must admit, I'll miss you when you're gone."
"When I leave, Spring leaves with me," he blurted, refusing to look up and see her reaction. For a long while there was nothing but silence between them, before Jessica gave a chuckle.
"I know," she admitted softly, kicking her legs.
"You know?" He repeated numbly, seeing her nod out of the corner of his eyes. "How?"
"You talk in your sleep sometimes." Her simple statement made him sigh, his body curling up against his will.
"Are you angry with me?"
"No." The single word made his eyes look at her, searching for any hint of lie. "I'm really not mad, doll," she huffed at him. "How could I be? You're not from here, you have no obligation here, and you granted us all our fondest wish. We knew from the start that you were leaving and we'll see you off with a smile, damn it." Garth swallowed past the lump in his throat, his wet eyes turning to once more peer into the water.
The people of Knothole, he'd decided then, were truly his favorite people in all of Albion.
I can't leave them in the condition I found them in, Garth sighed, laying down on the floor of Jessica's home. He hadn't been able to let the conversation between them rest that month, knowing by the end of it he would be leaving Knothole, the small settling that wasn't nearly as selfish as the world around them. What little they asked of him had been enough for them, they hadn't changed their minds, resented him, or asked him for more like the people of Albion had done to Sparrow. There was no way that he could leave them without a parting gift.
But he couldn't stay in Knothole forever. Jessica had said it correctly; he wasn't from there and had no obligations, nothing more than study had been his reason to come. Knothole was indeed beautiful, one of the better places that he'd ever seen, but it wasn't where he wanted to spend all of his life. The day of his leaving was a melancholy one, the familiars and even the magical creatures in the forests seeming to have quieted just for this day alone. Jessica and the other villagers had peppered Garth with gifts, clothes for his younger self, his older self, nuts and berries, books, bags, and even gold.
"Thank you for bringing Spring to Knothole," a teary Jessica said, the words followed by the rest of the villagers. "It was a pleasure to host you these past years, Garth." The Samarkand merely nodded, his throat too tight to speak for the moment. "I must admit, I'm curious as to where you will go now."
"I…" He trailed off, shaking his head. "I don't really know; perhaps I'll take a peek in on the rest of Albion." But even before he said it, he knew that to be a lie. They'd heard the rumors of Albion going through a rough time, hadn't even traded with the town in almost two years. "When I leave, you do know that Spring leaves with me, correct?" The question was for the rest of the villagers, who looked stunned at the news. Garth was expecting those looks to turn to bitterness and righteous anger, but was surprised, and quite touched, that they tried to console him, as though it was he who would be hurt by the season shifts.
"Don't worry your head over it."
"We'll find a way to do it again!"
"There's no need to feel any guilt; you just make sure you take care of yourself!" Heart light by the-the selfless words of kindness, Garth decided then and there that something would be done. No, not him; Ho-oh decided that something would be done. His Will drew up to the surface without his say so, making his eyes widen as the people of Knothole took a cautious step back. Flames burst from his feet as his body shifted, expanding into the majestic bird that had given the people Spring, the great Ho-oh. Garth was stunned as he lost control of his magic, watching as the flames seemed to search the ground for something. One line of flames snatched something from the waters, one from the sky and the last from the mountains.
What's going on? He wondered, watching as three magical creatures were burned and pulled towards him. What's happening?
There is much for you to learn, came a voice full of promises.
The creatures wailed in torment, making many a viewer put a hand to their mouth to stifle their own cries, even as the creatures began to glow. When the light cleared and the wails ceased, three doglike creatures stood in place of magical creatures of before, each looking regal in their own right. Garth felt himself calm as the knowledge of what was happening went through him, even as a gust of soothing winds began around the village. Ho-oh trilled happily as he understood.
Our final gifts to you, the legendary bird spoke to Jessica, who's eyes widened in shock as she stuttered out the words to the others. Eternal Spring.
"Thank you," Garth murmured, feeling his eyes close as the soothing fires wrapped around him, lulling him to sleep. He knew that, when next he opened his eyes, Knothole would be long gone. Ho-oh trilled again as he took to the skies, an arc of light following his feet as the villagers stared gratefully into the sky.
"Good luck," Jessica murmured, feeling every bit her age even if she did look like a teen. A hand comfortingly rested on her back, making her close her eyes on insistent tears. "And thank you, doll."
Garth wondered how much time had passed.
Many people would have no doubt considered him strange for the thought as they would have had more pressing concerns in their minds. Questions like what had happened, why were they here, where was everybody and what is going on? But the Samarkand hadn't thought about such words, even if he had been dragged into this world of darkness by the one called Ho-oh. All he wanted to know was how long he'd been in this secluded world. A minute, a month, a year even?
The great creature had not been lying when it said that he had much he'd needed to learn, and the scholar had been more than happy to learn all that he was currently missing. The existence of other worlds, time travels, lost magic, species on the planet, on the planets, the life span of a phoenix, dead languages, new languages and so much that one would expect his head to have exploded by then. However, the information had been slow in coming, not rammed into his head all at once thankfully. But with the amount of info he had received, it made him wonder just how long he had been stuck inside of the nothingness.
That was how he knew he was leaving it soon.
After all, with all of those memories to sort through (which he'd done), to all of the memories he continued to get (which had slowed), he shouldn't have had time to wonder about the time. A chuckle started up around him, making Garth's lips twitch in amusement as he slowly sat up from wherever he lay. "I'm glad you find my thoughts amusing."
My human was smart long before I came. The words filled the scholar up with warmth as he turned to see a fire slowly rising in the distance. You were correct, Ho-oh continued, you will be leaving here soon.
"I'm not sure if I'm relieved or not," Garth admitted, his head on his hands. "What happens to you when I'm gone?"
I will cease to exist, it stated simply, not concerned in the least. Though my legacy will continue through you. The flames licked at the Samarkand's face as a bright light suddenly chased the darkness away. In spite of himself, Garth felt an overwhelming bout of sadness wash through him. It always pained him to end a life and now he was ending one so soon after coming back. He hadn't even gotten much of a chance to speak the legendary creature. Do not be sad, Ho-oh admonished gently, appearing before him as his vision began to fade. For the first time since my creation, I can finally sleep.
I was right, Garth mused to himself, his eyes closing against his will. The books did you no justice. The last thing he heard was the sound of a joyful trill.