A light rain started as clouds filled the night sky and the water begun to cling to my clothing. I laid there with my eyes wet and hot unable to comprehend where I was. I was in such a daze. I had jumped again. This time with the help of Celebi and the Bookmark. But where was I now?
I looked around at the large tree behind me and the stone walkways leading in four different directions. I wasn’t sure to make of the town except the fact that it was far from the bustling metropolis of Goldenrod City. Everything was Medieval. It looked like it was a Renaissance fair or the set of a Lord of the Rings movie. The town was quiet except for the sound of the approaching rain. There were lanterns dotting the streets and they lit of the small courtyard area I was in enough that I could get a sense of my surroundings.
I held on to my bag in one hand and the Bookmark in the other. It had changed shapes one again into a heavy, metallic sword dotted with strange symbols I couldn’t read.
I looked down at my feet but Chickorita was nowhere to be found.
“Chcikorita.” I whispered. “Kiki. Where are you?”
I checked the courtyard and behind the tree, but there was no sign of her.
Had I lost her? Was she back in Ilex Forest with May and R?
These thoughts hurt my head and I became overwhelmed with the fact I couldn’t get back. I kept getting sidetracked instead of figuring out how to get home. I needed to just figure that out. That’s all that mattered.
I looked around again. The rain became heavier and it started to soak my hair and the Totodile shirt. I tried my best to place the sword in the bag without tearing it, but decided it was too risky. I guess I was going to carry the sword. I did notice that the contents in my bag had changed. In there the plastic Potion bottles that Gold bought me in Violet City were now glass bottles that held curious liquids and the Pokéball that once housed Chickorita was now some kind of gem necklace with rubies on the top and diamond on the bottom.
I stood up and slung the bag onto my back, sword still in hand. Then I heard two voices coming my direction. They were speaking a language I didn’t understand, but the voices grew louder.
I started to panic. I didn’t know who these people were. I couldn’t communicate with them. Were they bad guys? Would they think I was a bad guy? I had no cover. No clue what was going on. I surely couldn’t wield the Bookmark or Book-sword. Whatever.
I quickly hid myself behind the tree. A light grew brighter from the other side of the tree.
One of them was probably holding some kind of torch.
Again they said something back and forth which I couldn’t understand and then they both grew quiet. My breath was rapid and my heart felt like it was in my head.
One shouted something out to me, but I didn’t understand what they said.
The other one shouted in English.
“Hey! Is someone there?”
I did not respond in fear that I was doing something wrong.
“It’s past curfew!” The same one spoke again.
“Ain’t nothing there,” The second voice said.
“Yeah probably right,” I heard the first one mumble and they started walking on. Their voices grew quieter and the light grew dimmer.
I sighed in relief. The rain began coming down hard and thunder roared from a far off distance.
“Pssst. You there. The boy by the tree.”
A new voice came from in front of me and I jumped a little.
I looked about but I couldn’t see the origin of the voice.
“Boy. You are new here, yes? You came through that tree?” The voice asked.
I nodded my head.
“Y…yes. I guess so. Yeah,” I said.
“Come with me, we have a lot to talk about,” The voice said.
“Where are you?” I asked.
“Best to keep quiet and unseen,” The voice replied. “If the guards catch you out past curfew, they’ll put you to work in the fields or chain you up to the stocks. They are very strict and don’t see a lot of action.”
“Ummm…right. But how can I follow you if I can’t see you?” I asked.
There was a tug on my wet shirt.
“Come on. This way. It’s not very far from here,” The voice said.
I followed my best I could trying to stay low to the ground. The tugging on my clothes seemed to come from below my waistline like a child was pulling me along. We wandered through the town. My footsteps were a lot heavier than the other footsteps and it made loud splashing sounds in the newly formed puddles. Fortunately for us, no one seemed to be following us or paying us any mind and we were able to get through the town without confrontation.
About three or four blocks from the tree we stopped in front of a house. It was normal sized with a normal sized door. It was raised about four feet off the ground with stone steps leading up to the door.
“We’re here. Now hurry inside before we both catch a cold,” The voice said.
I climbed the stairs and the door opened in front of me. I stepped inside and as the door shut behind me, I was in complete darkness.
“Hello?” I called out.
The room lit up as a small candle was lit. There standing on a chair at the center table was a small man about the size of a child. Maybe 3 feet tall. He blew out the match and set the single candle on the table.
“Well that’s better,” He said. The voice matched the person who had found me earlier.
“You? You are the one who found me,” I said.
“Of course. I couldn’t let a traveler like you stay out there in the rain. Especially when you found yourself here by exiting the Tree of Pelor,” The man said.
“The Tree of what?” I asked.
“Pelor. The Sun Father. You know the god of the sun, light, strength, and healing? You really aren’t from here,” The man said.
“No I’m not. I’m not sure how I got here,” I admitted.
“Well the important thing is that we got you out of the rain and that you weren’t caught by the guards.”
“Who are these guards anyway? Are you slaves or something?” I asked.
The man gestured at the full-size, human chair and I took a seat. He remained standing on his chair.
“No we’re not slaves. Just under the watchful eye of the Elven King Trelyr. He runs a tight ship as they say. We’re not the freest people here due to his sometime, strict rule, but we do see great prosperity. Really I can’t complain,” The man laughed.
I was taken back by the word ‘Elven.’ And this man’s appearance. I began to notice that his thinning, gray hair was covering up somewhat pointy ears.
“Are you…an Elf too?” I asked.
“Oh Pelor, No!” The man laughed. “My name is Joxin and I am a Halfling. I have been a resident of Gelliant’s Marsh since birth though.”
I shook my head.
Joxin picked up on my confusion.
“Let me try to fill you in. You seem confused about a lot of things so let me try to help you. You have landed in Gelliant’s Marsh. A city ruled by mostly Elves. King Trelyr is the current King and has been for the past 200 years. Pelor is the Sun god and the creator and his worship is very big in Gelliant’s Marsh. He bestowed the world a single Tree to the Elven Knight, Gelliant thousands of years ago. That is why the town is named after him and why we protect that tree,” Joxin said. “All of this making sense?”
“Yeah I guess so. Town is Gelliant Marsh. Named after Elven knight. Tree is important and kind of like Jesus. You’re a Halfling. I’m pretty sure I’m in a game of Dungeons and Dragons,” I said.
Joxin looked me up and down. “Ok I don’t know who Jesus is. Or what kind of game involves dungeons or dragons, but I think you’re beginning to understand.”
“How did you know I was at the tree?” I asked.
“Ah! Good question. You see. I am a connoisseur of magical goods. Like the Ring of Invisibility I was using earlier. About 5 years ago, I stumbled upon an ancient relic which allows me to pick up when ancient magic is used.”
Joxin jumped off the chair and ran to a nearby shelf. He grabbed something off of it and brought it back to the table. He sat it down on the table. It looked like a set of wind chimes made out of wood.
“These were a signal that would play a melody every time someone would use the Tree of Pelor as a gateway. I’ve never heard them play their melody until tonight. To tell you the truth I thought I might have been ripped off, but when I heard a strange sound, I knew I had to check it out for myself,” Joxin said.
“I’m guessing people don’t teleport using trees a lot, then?” I asked.
“Sadly no. A lot of nature magic and nature-based practices have been outlawed in the world. Arcana-based magic is preferred and Druids can be killed on sight. Not everyone agrees with this practice, but the majority does so Druidic magic is outlawed,” Joxin said.
“And using tree magic would fall under that. Right.”
“Another reason I’m glad I found you and not those guards. Plus I see you have magical items yourself.”
I tightened my grip on the sword.
“Yeah I guess I do,” I said.
“May I see it?” Joxin asked. His eyes grew large.
“I…I…I don’t think that’s a good idea,” I said.
Joxin’s expression dropped.
“I would give it back, you know. I wouldn’t keep it,” Joxin said.
“I know, but it’s special to me. And I just met you. You know?”
“You are just like my friend Ella,” Joxin said.
That name stuck out to me. Ella. That was the name of the woman that May told me about in Ilex Forest.
“Wait. Who’s Ella?” I asked.
“Oh don’t worry. You’ll meet her soon. She takes a bit of getting used to and doesn’t share either,” Joxin said. “I’m sure you two will have a lot to talk about. But for now we should both get some rest. Don’t you agree?”
I was feeling exhausted. Plus all this jumping around really messed with my internal clock. I have never felt jet lag, but I’m pretty sure I was suffering from it now.
“Yeah that is a good idea,” I said.
“Well luckiy for you I have another spare bedroom open, follow me,” Joxin said.
Joxin led with candle in hand down a hallway off of the main floor. We passed a door where I could hear a person snoring.
“How many people are here now?” I asked.
“Just me, you, and Ella,” Joxin said.
That must have been Ella snoring.
Joxin stopped at the next door, “Here you are. Chamber pot in the corner if you need it and my room is upstairs. I’ll prepare us some kind of breakfast in the morning. I’ll be upstairs if you need me. I don’t want this to sound threatening, but I wouldn’t go outside. You might run into guards.”
“Right, good point,” I said.
“Ok goodnight, young Human,” Joxin said.
“The name is Allen,” I said.
“Goodnight Allen,” Joxin said and walked back towards the front room and then turned the corner upstairs.
I entered my room. It was pretty bare and a little smaller than my room at home. There sat a large, wooden table in one corner and a bed in the other. I sat down on the bed. The blankets were heavy and made of a scratchy, wool-like material. It could have just been wool. I don’t know.
It took me a while to get comfortable in these new surroundings. The room kind of smelled like alcohol and leather and Ella’s snoring kept me up most of the night. I did my best to get some sleep while keeping the sword and my bag close to me.
I woke up the next morning without much sleep. I was still tired and my body ached. The sun was just peeking through the small window above the head of the bed. I sat on the edge of the bed pulling at my still damp, shirt. I really wished I had a change of clothes. Maybe something that would help me blend in to this fantasy world.
I closed my eyes and concentrated real hard focusing on some really cool, styling leather armor or a cloak or something. When I opened my eyes….nothing changed. I was still wearing my damp, Totodile shirt. Apparently my magic powers didn’t work here.
I opened my bag and pulled out the four glass vials. Three of them held a deep red liquid that kind of looked like blood. The other glass vial was a little larger and had a lighter red liquid inside.
Then I picked up the amulet. It had the red gems up top and the white gems on the bottom making it kind of look like a Pokéball. In the center was what kind of looked like a clock face, but it only had numbers ranging from 1 to 6. At the top it had a small notch which was pointing at the 1. Then in the center it had a raised surface that kind of looked like the button on the front of the Pokéball.
“I wonder what this thing does,” I said. I twisted the outer nob so the notch went from 1 to 2 to 3 to 2 again. Then to 3, then to 4, 5, 4, 5, 6, 5, 4, 3, and then it finally settled on 2. I rested my thumb on the button and held the amulet as far away from my body as possible.
“Ok, on the count of three. One. Two. Three,” I said.
I pushed the button and there was a small red flash before my room became the eye of the storm. The wind started to spinning around me and I almost dropped the amulet. There in the center of my room was a green, spinning vortex that was whipping my blankets back and forth. It was like a small, green tornado was unleashed in my room.
“Woah! Woah! Stop! Stop! Stop!” I yelled.
I fumbled with the amulet for a second and hit the button again. There was another red flash and the green twister was gone. The wind stopped blowing and I was able to steady myself. There in the center of the room now lay a mix of leaves and flower petals.
“I don’t know what that was,” I said breathing heavy.
There was a loud pounding on my door.
A female voice rang out, “What in Pelor’s name are you doing in there?”
I opened the door to see a tall, muscular woman standing there wearing half armor, half common clothes with a large mace in one hand. Her hair was a mess and her eyes were wide.
“Sorry. I…I…didn’t know I could do that,” I said.
She pushed past me and surveyed the room still holding the mace at the ready.
“Was there some kind of beast in here? Why does it smell like Ale?” She asked.
“I’m not sure. About the Ale part. There wasn’t any monster in here. I was just trying to see what this amulet did,” I said.
She turned back to me and looked down at the amulet.
“What does it do?” She asked.
“Ummm….well as far as I know, it summons green twisters,” I said.
“Looks dangerous, you should let me take it,” She said snatching the amulet from my hands.
“Hey! That’s mine. Give it back,” I said reaching for it.
She held it up away from my grasp.
“Yeah I’m pretty sure this is contraband here in the Great City of Gelliant’s Marsh. Could turn you in for a nice bounty,” She said.
“Give that back!” I said pounding on her armor like a small child.
She looked down at me and sighed. She lowered her hand and I snatched the amulet back.
“Just be careful when you use that thing, ok? I wasn’t kidding about the contraband stuff. This room reeks of nature magic,” She said.
The woman walked past me down the hallway. I steadied myself and took a deep breath. I placed amulet into my shorts pocket and placed the glass containers back into my bag. I threw the bag on my back and picked up the sword the best I could as I made my way to the main room.
The woman sat at the table drinking some kind of steaming liquid from a cup. Joxin was next to the hearth cooking away. The smell of eggs and bacon filled the air.
“Breakfast is almost ready guys and girls,” Joxin said. “Allen and Ella. Both of you place nice.”
“Allen was using nature magic in the guest room,” Ella said nonchalantly.
Joxin gave me a strange look.
“I…I…wasn’t. I don’t know how to do nature magic,” I said.
“Then he has an item that can use it,” Ella said.
Joxin brought over a large platter of eggs and bacon. Enough to feed 10 men or 2 men and one Ella as I would come to find out. All three of us began to chow down on our breakfast.
“Is that true? You have a nature based item?” Joxin asked me.
I pulled out the amulet and handed it to him. Sparks of magic flew off his hands and his eyes lit up with a slight, purple flash.
“Hmmmm… I’ve never seen something like this before,” Joxin said. “It seems to be some kind of nature-based amulet that allows you to summon the forces of nature. The item has charges that seem to regenerate over time.”
“So I must have expended two of those charges to summon that twister?” I asked.
Joxin nodded. “Yes. You have up to 6 you can use in one day’s time. You expended two this morning in your room.”
He handed it back to me as Ella finished her third helping of eggs.
I slipped it back into my pocket.
“You are a curious fellow,” Joxin said.
“Thanks,” I said.
I turned to Ella.
“Ummm…can I ask you something?”
She wiped her mouth with the edge of her shirt sleeve.
“Sure. What?” She said with a mouthful of bacon.
“Do you…uh… do you know anything about parallel timelines or alternate dimensions. Or maybe know a girl named May?” I asked.
Both Joxin and Ella gave me a look of confusion.
Ella laughed and swallowed her food.
“I have no idea what you’re talking about, human. I know nothing about these things or a girl named May.”
“Ella here is a Paladin. Or at least a Paladin in training,” Joxin explained. “She is studying history and religion as well as battle skills. Not someone who knows a lot about different plains of existence.”
“Do you know?” I asked Joxin.
“I’m afraid I do not. I focus on magical items. Not these plains,” Joxin said.
“I see. I just thought I would ask.”
I tugged at my damp shirt.
“Here, let me help you with that,” Joxin said.
He snapped his fingers and a spark of blue energy jumped off his hands and onto my shirt. Suddenly it warmed up like it was inside a dryer and it became warm and dry.
“Oh. Thanks Joxin, that’s much better,” I said.
“You’re welcome, Allen. For now it will work, but I must go out and get you something more common. The clothes you are wearing will lead you to stick out like a diseased tree. We need to get you something so you can blend in,” Joxin said.
“Right. Diseased tree,” I said with a small smile.
Ella had finished with her fifth full plate of breakfast and I finished my one. Joxin did not eat much, but he seemed to enjoy the company.
“So Ella. You’re ummm…not a Halfling, right?” I asked.
Ella scoffed. “I’m a Half-Elf. Dad was human. Mom was an elf.”
“Oh. And you don’t live with them,” I said.
“Both dead. Died when an orc raiding party came to town when I was really little. I’ve been living with Joxin for the past 4 years. Training to be a Paladin of Pelor,” Ella said. “What about you?”
“Oh well. I’m a human. Both parents still living. I’m not really from here,” I said.
Ella stood up from the table.
“Must be nice,” She said and she walked off.
There was a series of loud footsteps and then the slamming of a door.
“Did I say something wrong?” I asked Joxin.
“Ella is just kind of like that. She is strong and smart when she applies herself, but she’s not great around other people. She takes a little time to get used to,” Joxin said.
“Why don’t you stay here for a while? I’ll go out and find you something to wear and hopefully a scabbard for your sword there. Don’t want to be hauling that out in the open,” Joxin said.
“What should I do?” I asked.
“Tend to the fire and stay inside. Just don’t summon any more tornadoes inside the house,” Joxin said with a smile.
“Ok sure, I can do that,” I said.
For the next hour I stayed by the fire and fed it logs. All the time in the Scouts taught me how to build a fire and keep it going. The hearth was large and remained burning. All I had to do was add a couple logs every 15 minutes or so. Ella stayed in her room and I didn’t hear much sound coming from it. The sounds of snapping wood and crackling fire filled my ears. It was a cozy little home.
I held the amulet in my hands looking at it. I had noticed that the numbers lit up a little bit when the fire’s light bounced off of it. Both the number 5 and 6 were both dull while the others were shiny. I guess it kept track of how many charges I had left.
Eventually Joxin returned but he was holding nothing in his hands.
“I thought you were going for supplies,” I said.
“I did,” Joxin replied.
Joxin reached into a bag he head tied to his side and pulled out items much larger than the bag. He pulled out a series of clothes that were similar to his. He pulled out some armor pieces. He pulled out a series of different vegetables and meats. And finally he pulled out a sword scabbard.
“Here you go,” He said with a large smile.
“Woah! You have a Bag of Holding?” I asked.
Joxin looked a little impressed, “Yes I do. I’m glad you know the terminology.”
“I have heard of some stuff before,” I said.
I brought the stuff to my room and I changed my clothes. I shoved the modern stuff into the bag with the glass bottles. I put on the tunic and pants Joxin got me and then put on the leather armor. It was a little big on me but it had pieces for the front of my legs (like shin guards), my chest, my arms, and my hands. I even got a pair of leather boots which I slipped on my feet. I then put the sword in the scabbard and slung the thing across my back. It was pretty heavy, but I managed.
I came back out and Joxin gave me a small round of applause.
“You look very nice,” Joxin said. “Like a true Marsh native.”
“Thanks,” I said.
“Also don’t forget this,” Joxin handed me a leather sack. “It’s not as impressive as mine, but it will look better than the bag you have on you now. Plus it should tie to your belt.
I transferred the bottles and the amulet to the new bag and then put the old bag with the all my modern stuff in my room.
“Now it is complete!” Joxin said.
Off in the distance there was a loud trumpet sound and then another and then another. They began to ring out all over the city.
“What is that?” I asked.
“Some kind of warning,” Joxin said. “Ella –”
Before Joxin could finish his thought, Ella had already emerged from her room. This time she wore a full set of silver-colored armor with a large shield in one hand and her mace in the other.
“Let’s go see what is going on,” Joxin said.
“Is the human coming?” Ella asked.
Joxin nodded. “He will be safer with us.”
Ella sighed. “Fine.”
Then she turned to me, “Just don’t unleash any of your nature magic, ok?”
I nodded, “Ok.”
Joxin looked up at me, “She is right, Allen. No magic out there. Just stick with us.”
I nodded again.
We walked out through the doors, down the steps, and into the street. The stone street was still wet with a few large puddles. People walked by in a hurry. There were people of all shapes and sizes. Most of them I guessed were either Elvish or mostly Elvish, but I saw a few humans with rounded ears like mine. There were also Halflings and Gnomes walking through the street. The horns were still going on around the city.
“Where are we heading?” I asked Joxin.
“The Town Square. Not too far from the Tree of Pelor. They should be making some kind of announcement,” Joxin said.
I nodded and all three of us wadded into the crowd of peole. We made our way through the crowd and eventually followed the flow of people to the town square. It was only a block away further than the tree I had been hiding behind last night.
“Settle down, settle down!” Guards at the front of the crowds were trying to hold people back and clear an area.
There was some kind of raised, wooden stage that people were gathering around.
“The Royals are out. This can’t be good,” Ella said.
On the stage sat many of Elves dressed in fancy robes. There were also Guards standing nearby and soldiers who seemed to be wearing heavier and nicer armor than the rest. There was also an Elf who wore armor similar to Ella’s but one hundred times nicer. My guess is that this might have been a high-ranking Paladin or the person in charge of training Paladins like Ella.
“Settle down! Settle down!” The guards tried to settle the crowd, but it didn’t have much of an effect.
Eventually an Elven Man stood up and the whole crowd went silent. People bowed a half-bow and I followed suit.
“That’s King Trelyr,” Ella said.
“Greetings citizens of Gelliant’s Marsh. I have called you here for a very important announcement,” King Trelyr spoke.
His words carried much farther than I expected and it seemed like he was almost speaking hundreds of languages at work. I suspected there was magic at work that amplified his voice as well as translated his words for everyone listening.
“I speak of a great danger out on the horizon. For hundreds of years, Gelliant’s Marsh has been a peaceful city with large influxes of trade and money, but not war. Unfortunately today marks an end to that era. Scouts picked up early signs this morning of a large beast that is quickly approaching Gelliant’s Marsh. These scouts have spotted a Green Dragon.”
There were murmurs through the crowd and people began to talk quickly.
“Please. Please. I know you have your concerns. Fortunately I have already devised a plan. We plan on vanquishing the dragon before it ever reaches Gelliant’s Marsh. We are preparing a hunting party as we speak to go out and stop the beast before it can reach our fair city. If you are a skilled warrior or magic user and you want to join the party, please come to the front. If not, please go to your homes and stay inside. We will be rushing around emergency supplies if you need it. But for now, we do not want unnecessary traffic in the streets. Also we will be shutting the gates of the city in exactly one hour. So if you want to get out, you can leave, but once the gates are closed, there is no travel in and out of the city. Again we plan on taking out the beast before it can reach our city, but we are making the necessary precautions,” Trelyr took a step back and the talking resumed.
People started to disperse. Many headed back to their homes and some moved towards the stage, eager to fight the Green Dragon. The nobles all gathered their stuff and the guards began leading them away.
“We have to go fight,” I said.
Joxin looked at me, “Are you crazy, Allen? This is not your battle. You are not a warrior.”
“Yeah, you would be eaten within the first five seconds. Either that or burned with acid,” Ella said.
“Are you going to battle it?” I asked Ella.
She took a step back like she had been slapped across the face.
“This is not my quest,” She said. “I know my limits and a dragon is one of them.”
“You are not an experienced fighter, Allen. They need real warriors to go fight the beast. I’m afraid you wouldn’t be much help,” Joxin said.
“I know what you are saying and I agree completely. I am not a warrior. But I don’t think it is a coincidence that I showed up right before this dragon,” I said.
Joxin seemed puzzled, “What do you mean?”
“No one had used that tree for many, many years right? Then I use it. Then a Green Dragon shows up which is unheard of. Those things have to be connected.”
“Even if that’s true, what are we supposed to do about it?” Ella asked.
“I’m not sure,” I admitted. “But maybe I need to go stop it. Maybe I hold the key. Maybe we have to go stop the creature.”
“I don’t know about all of this ‘we’ business that you keep talking about, but if you want to go get yourself killed, go right ahead,” Ella said.
“Some holy person, you’re turning out to be,” I said.
Ella pointed her mace at my chest.
“Say that again, little man and I’ll break your kneecaps. I’ll break every bone in your body and then I’ll hand the rest of you over to the guards,” Ella said.
Joxin stood in between us even though he was shorter than the both of us.
“Both of you, stop this! We don’t have time for this,” Joxin said. “We must go back and gather our things.”
“Joxin, we must go,” I begged.
“No, Allen, we don’t have to do anything,” Joxin said. “You have been in this city for less than an entire day. I have been living here for decades. I didn’t survive this long by throwing myself at impossible challenges. I am going back to the house to gather items just in case the hunting party fails, but I am not going out there to fight the Green Dragon.”
Joxin and Ella turned and started walking back towards Joxin’s house.
“Fine! I’ll go by myself!” I yelled.
Joxin and Ella continued walking way and I stood there in the middle of the courtyard.
I looked around and saw that a small group had gathered by the wooden stage and was discussing the mission. I walked up to the outside of the group and listened in.
“We do have a limited number of horses available,” The Guard Captain was saying. “If you have your own horses, we encourage you use those. It is an 8 hour trek on foot but only a 2 hour ride on horseback. Make sure you bring all your necessary supplies. We will meet at the front gate in 1 hour and then we will make our journey to Raven’s Crest. Understood? Good Luck Men.”
The crowd began to disperse and I stepped out of the way. Raven’s Crest. I had to get there and fast. I tapped one of the guard’s on the shoulder.
“Excuse me, sir. Which was to the front gate?” I asked him.
He grumbled something to himself in a language I didn’t understand and pointed in the opposite direction that Joxin and Ella went.
“Thank you,” I said with a small wave and started heading that direction.
The streets were mostly empty so it made it easy to travel through. The people who were out and about seemed preoccupied with their own stuff, so no one paid me much mind.
Eventually I made it to the front gate which was a little more chaotic. People were trying to get in and out and the guards were trying to direct people. There was a lots of shouting. Some I understood and some I did not.
I approached another guard who was standing nearby watching the whole ordeal.
“Excuse me, Mam. I need to get to Raven’s Crest. What is the fastest way there?” I asked her.
“You? Going to Raven’s Crest. You’re not even wearing metal armor. That dragon’s breath will melt through that leather in a second,” She said.
“Please I have to go.”
“I don’t help out adrenaline junkies, wannabe heroes, or people on suicide missions. Go back home and hunker down like the rest of these would be adventurers,” She said.
“I have a magic sword that can slay the dragon,” I said.
She looked me up and down.
“Yeah right,” She said.
“I do.” I said. I took a minute to get the scabbard off my back and I pulled the sword out.
She just laughed me off.
“Get out of here. I don’t time for these fairy tales and myths. We’re getting together a real armor to fight the Dragon,” She said.
“Fine,” I stormed away towards the gate.
There standing at the Gate was a well-armored Paladin with a mace and shield on her back. She held the reigns of two horses.
“Ella?” I ran forward to her.
“Oh there you are. I was half hoping you had given up,” Ella said.
“What are you doing here?” I thought –”
“Look, do you want my help or not?” Ella asked.
“Yeah I do,” I said.
“Ok. Good. Do you know where we are going?”
“Raven’s Crest. They said that’s where the army is marching.”
“Well we haven’t much time. It will take a couple hours on horseback to get there,” Ella said handing me a set or reigns.
“I…I’ve never ridden a horse before,” I admitted.
Ella sighed and helped me up onto the horse’s saddle. The horses teamed tame enough. I didn’t know a ton about them, but mine seemed pleasant.
“Come on let’s go,” Ella said grabbing the reigns for my horse and hers.
She walked them up to the front gate and began speaking to the guard. They argued back and forth for a while in a language I didn’t speak, but I was suspecting it was Elvish. Eventually the guard nodded and waved us through the gate. Once on the other side, Ella handed me my reigns and then got on her horse.
“What did you say to him?” I asked Ella.
“I told him that we were heading south towards River’s Crossing to escape the Dragon’s attack,” Ella said.
“Oh. So you lied to him,” I said.
Ella gave me an angry look, “I couldn’t tell him the truth.”
“Yeah. Right. I just thought Paladins –”
“You don’t know anything about Paladins, ok? I helped you get out of the city. I got you fast transportation. And I’m even going on this mission of certain death. So how about you stop being so judgmental and say ‘Thank You,’” Ella said.
I grew quiet.
“Thank you,” I said quietly.
“So do you have a plan once we get to the dragon?” Ella asked.
“I have a sword that can probably slay the dragon,” I said.
“‘Probably slay the dragon.’ That’s all you got for me?”
“I know my sword is magic and it somehow connected with both me and the dragon. So I figured that the sword can kill it,” I said.
“What if the sword makes the dragon stronger? What if it’s not connected and you just think that this has to do with you? It’s such a small hunch to go on,” Ella said.
Her tone really surprised me. She wasn’t angry to ridiculing me. She was just thinking out loud.
“Can I ask what made you change your mind? About coming here?”
Ella sighed. “I had a vision.”
“A vision?” I asked.
“Yeah it was short but it was as clear as day. I about to step through the doorway when I heard a voice and my vision changed. It was so bright that I could barely see. But I heard a voice say ‘His quest is yours. Prove yourself,’” Ella said.
“Wow. That ever happen to you before?”
“Never. So now here I am. Off to kill a Green Dragon with someone who can’t even wield the sword he carries on his back and is probably some kind of runaway enemy of the state for practicing Druidic magic,” Ella said.
“Well when you say it that way, it sounds hopeless,” I said with a slight smile.
Ella looked over and smiled for a moment before she turned her head away from me.
The ride went by faster than I expected. Once we left the city, we passed through a lot of rice farms. There were large bodies of waters with people tending the crops. I wondered if these were volunteer farmers or slaves, but I didn’t ask Ella. Then as we approached the first hour mark, the terrain shifted from wet marshland to green fields. Large grassy fields with rolling hills.
We continued to ride and the terrain became steeper and rockier. My horse was having some trouble, but we made it over any dangerous terrain without much trouble. Ella held her mace ready and continually looked around.
“Is something wrong?” I asked her.
“These lands are never this quiet. Usually you spot at least one party of orcs or some griffins flying up above,” Ella explained.
“Maybe the dragon has scared them all away,” I suggested.
“Perhaps,” Ella said as she continued to look around.
It was another twenty minutes or so before the terrain became too dangerous and we had to dismount from our horses.
“Are we just going to leave them here?” I asked.
“Unfortunately that seems like the only possibility,” Ella said. “We’ll tie them up to a tree. Either we live and we’ll come back for them, or we’ll die and we won’t have to worry about them.”
There weren’t very many trees around but we found one that would make do and tied the two horses to it. They were in the shade and had plenty of grass to eat so they seemed content.
Ella and I began climbing the rocky cliffside up towards Raven’s Crest.
“So why is it called Raven’s Crest?” I asked Ella.
“Legends say that during the great war that shaped these lands, the Raven Queen, who is a mortal turned goddess, was escaping from a horde of demons. She was trying to reach Pelor in what is now Gelliant’s Marsh. However she could not escape the demons and eventually succumbed to her wounds on Raven’s Crest,” Ella explained.
“Oh wow. That’s a cool story. And this Raven Queen. She’s like the goddess of birds?”
“The Raven Queen is a goddess associated with death. She has dominion over the moments between life and death. The crossing over between the two. That sort of thing. Some see her as evil and a bringer of death while others see her as comforting and welcoming. Someone who is helping you from the other side when that day finally arrives,” Ella said.
“And which camp do you belong to?” I asked.
“I worship Pelor and I want to be a champion of the light. I do not mess with other gods or goddesses,” Ella said.
“I guess that makes sense,” I said.
Ella stopped for a moment and held up her hand. She pressed a finger to her lips and I stopped moving. We listened for a moment and then Ella waved her hand forward. We began to climb in silence.
The wall wasn’t directly vertical so it wasn’t like scaling a cliff, but the terrain was steep and very rocky, so it was hard to maneuver. Ella was in front of me pointing out hand holds as we climbed upwards. I was starting to get a hang of it and I actually felt stronger as I climbed.
Eventually we made it to the top where it leveled off and Ella helped me up. We remained silent. She pointed out in the direction that we came from. You could see the entire way we just came. There on the horizon I could make out the town and the farms. About halfway between us and the city was a large mass of people moving in our direction.
“The army. About an hour out,” Ella whispered and I nodded.
She turned around and I followed her. We looked around but I wasn’t sure what I was looking for. The area was a kind of open plateau with half of it covered in thin, sickly trees. The ground seemed barren despite the fact that the rest of the valley was lush and green.
“Something is poisoning the ground,” Ella said.
That made sense. Green Dragons were acidic and spewed poison. The presence of one probably would lead to the ground becoming poisoned.
“Where is the dragon?” I whispered.
“I’m not sure,” Ella said.
We made our way further into the woods. Ella had her mace and shield ready and I managed to pull out the Bookmark-sword. It was glowing with the soft, blue light that I had become familiar with.
“We must be close,” I said.
Ella noticed the glowing sword and just nodded.
We continued to walk and eventually made our way to a large clearing. The trees here were toppled over and the grass was black.
“It must be around here,” I said.
There was a rumbling sound and the trees around us began to rock back and forth. I grabbed onto a nearby tree trying to steady myself.
“Hello Allen,” A voice rang out. It was a low pitched growl coming from in front of us.
“Oh no,” I said.
The shape in front of us became visible. What I thought was an empty clearing was actually the resting spot for a large, Green Dragon. The Dragon almost manifested itself from the air around us. I hadn’t realized that it had been using some kind of mirage to disguise itself.
Now standing in front of us was a large, Green Dragon. It unfurled its massive wings and stood up on its four clawed feet. It let out a massive roar that echoed through the entire valley and Ella and I had to cover our ears.
It began to speak but the voice seemed to have no origin. The dragon’s mouth did not move.
“I see you have brought a friend for your demise. How quaint. As you can see, I was given a massive upgrade.”
Ella’s eyes grew large. She stood there paralyzed in fear.
I held the sword out trying to be as brave as I could, but honestly I could feel a stream of warm liquid trickling down my leg. I had no idea what I was going to do.
“Stand down, R. I have the Bookmark and I have unlocked its true power. I will strike you down and finish this once and for all,” I yelled.
“You are foolish, Allen. And a terrible liar.”
Large beads of acid dripped from the dragon’s mouth and they sizzled when they hit the ground.
“I’m warning you, R. You do not want to mess with me,” I said.
“Prove yourself. Or die trying.”
The Dragon opened its mouth and let out another roar. I immediately began running towards Ella.
“Come on, Ella,” I said pulling on her armor.
She seemed to snap out of it and we ran the way we came.
“We have to get out of here,” I yelled.
“What about your magic sword?” Ella yelled back.
“I’m beginning to have my doubts,” I said.
“Come back and face your death like a real man,” The dragon growled.
It flapped its wings and the air almost knocked us to the ground. Small tree branches flew by us and some trees toppled over. The Green Dragon rose into the air.
“What’s the plan, Allen?” Ella yelled.
“Don’t you have some god powers you can use?” I asked Ella.
“I can’t just summon a god!”
“Do you have anything you can hit it with from long range?”
“I’m a short range fighter. I use a mace. Not a crossbow.”
“We’ll have to get up close then,” I yelled.
There was a large crash and trees topped as the Green Dragon landed in front of us.
“What were you saying?” Ella asked.
Her body seemed to radiate with a bright light as she touched a locket around her neck.
“Bless me Pelor and give me strength,” Ella said in a prayer and then she ran forward with a battle cry.
I followed up behind her and readied my sword. We charged forward and the Green Dragon with our weapons ready. The Dragon lashed out with its tail which toppled several trees. The tail struck the two of us and knocked us back. I was slammed against a tree and pain encapsulated my entire body. I fell to the ground writhing in pain. My vision blurred and I almost passed out.
“Come on Allen,” Ella said as she pulled me to my feet. A warmth spread over my body and Ella’s.
“Healing magic,” I muttered.
Ella looked rough and I could imagine that I looked the same. I reached to untie my bag and I handed it to her.
“You’ll need these. Run back and save yourself,” I said.
“What are you talking about? I’m not leaving you. We kill this thing together or die trying,” Ella said.
I pulled out the red and white amulet.
“I think this will help,” I said.
“The tornado maker. Come on Allen, we need a plan. Be serious,” Ella said.
I held the amulet and placed the notch on 4. I held it out and pushed the button. The thing erupted with green light and then in front of us stood a spinning tornado of leaves, flower petals, and green energy. This one looked less like a tornado and more like some kind of humanoid.
“That thing can summon elementals?” Ella asked.
I didn’t really know. I just figured at a higher level, it would be a more powerful tornado, but instead I summoned some kind of elemental. It was about 10 feet tall and its top half looked humanoid. It had a head shape and two, elongated arms. The bottom quickly spiraled into a tornado shape. There was something familiar about it.
“Kiki?” I asked the creature.
It turned to look at me and gave me a nod.
“Cool,” I said.
“Allen. Focus. What does it do?” Ella asked.
“Well I don’t know!” I yelled. “Kiki. Go ummm…try to slow down that dragon. It’s R. As you distract it, we’ll attack from behind.”
Kiki nodded and rose into the air. It sped forward towards the dragon.
“That’s the plan?” Ella asked.
“Ella, I know that all I have to get is one good strike with the sword and it will die. I’m sure of it,” I said. “Now either you can help you can run. Either way, I need to kill this dragon.”
Ella didn’t hesitate, “I’m in. Let’s do this.”
Ella began to glow with radiant energy once again and we made our way around the massive dragon. We didn’t want to get to close while the creature was lashing out at Kiki the nature spirit. We needed to sneakily get around him and attack from behind. We tried to move as quietly as possible without being seen, but we also had to move fast. I wasn’t sure how long Kiki would survive when battling a dragon.
We managed to sneak around the backside of him without drawing much attention to ourselves.
“Ok are you ready?” Ella asked.
“Yeah let’s go,” I said.
We both charged forward once again and raised our weapons high. We stayed quiet but our footsteps seemed to give away our position. The dragon turned to look at us and swiped Kiki away with one of its claws.
“Now you face your demise,” The dragon roared. It opened up its mouth and a blast of green, toxic smoke filled the air.
The cloud of acid completely covered Ella and I and my vison went dark. One moment I remember seeing the dragon’s face. Then green gas. Then my whole body burned. Then the next second there was nothing. There was only darkness and the void. I didn’t feel warm or cold or anything really. I felt nothing. I was nothing. That is how it ends.
A small dot of light appeared on the horizon. I couldn’t move towards it or away from it. I was motionless. The light grew larger and larger and I wasn’t sure if I was moving towards it or it was moving towards me.
In a fraction of a second the light was upon me and I noticed it wasn’t a light, but a large, white mask. There was a woman wearing the mask. She stood over me but her presence was calming, not menacing.
“Hello Allen,” She spoke but the mask did not move. The voice was coming from all directions.
“Who are you?” I asked.
“I am the Raven Queen,” She said.
“So I’m dead. I died.”
“Where is Ella?” I asked.
“She is with Pelor now. A strong warrior, but easily deceived,” The Raven Queen said.
“I…I…don’t understand,” I said.
“Green Dragons are known for being deceivers and very powerful magic users,” The Raven Queen said.
“R. He led us to a trap,” I said.
“Indeed he did.”
“So. What now? It’s over. I never get to see my friends and family again?” I asked.
“Not necessarily. You can go on.”
“How? I thought I was dead.”
“You are dead in this life,” The Raven Queen said. “But you have been traveling to all different worlds, have you not?”
“Yeah I have,” I said.
“Then that is your answer. You must stop R in another life.”
“What about Chickorita? What about the Bookmark?” I asked.
The Raven Queen waved her hand like she was doing a magic trick. Then in her hand laid the sword. It was dull and dirty, but definitely the Bookmark. Then it seemed to glow and shrink to a black, raven feather.
“Take this to the next part of your journey,” The Raven Queen said. “You will need it for the next part of the story that is being written.”
“Where am I going?” I asked.
“Home,” The Raven Queen said.
There was a blinding light once again that filled my entire vision. I felt this wave of heat and my body felt like it was being pulled in 20 different directions. I tried to call out but there was no voice. I couldn’t’ see anything or hear anything. Just a single word ringing in my ear.