Saturday, March 20, 2010

Chapter 7: Recovery

The orcs came over the hill in a raging rush, crushing plant and adventurers as they came. Drag's initial reaction was nothing more than his disgust for orc blood on his lance though he readied it none the less. With his pack pushed into the bushes tucked behind a rock for safe keeping he had nothing to worry about. He tightened his grip as he took stance against the orcs.

"You'd better turn tail and run before you irritate me." Drag called to the orcs attempting to flank him. They circled slowly with no intention of backing down. The battle grunts of the orcish sergeant were fierce as his blade came crashing forward with force enough to cleave a human in half, had there been one. Drag laughed as his jump landed him on the back of the orcs head, smashing its face into the sand. The orcs came in one by one as if in some predetermined order.

Drag's lance struck the the first attacker in the throat before spinning behind his head and thrusting backwards into the gut of the next. A sword came swinging down sluggishly and easily countered knocking the Orcish Neckchopper off balance. Drag added insult to injury with a kick to the teetering Orc's groin. With a grin, Drag timed his next jump perfectly so the two flanking orcs would collide skewering one another. Drag landed in his battle stance as he stood face to face with the last orc, who in turn panicked and ran shouting insults as he went.

"That's what i thought." Drag sighed and moved to a palm near the rock where he stashed his pouch. Cape Terrigan was quiet with the sun finally set over the rising tide as the sand whipped around the edges of the palm trees.. Drag's mind was calm as he pulled his satchel close and reclined for a nights rest.

. . .

The morning sun was just peaking over the horizon as drag finished carefully fashioning his armor. His footsteps drug as he headed towards the outpost at the interior of the cape. Drag's training had made him tired and he was in desperate need of a soft bed and a full meal. He made it within sight of the the outpost before the burning sun finally beat him down. His armor clattered as his knees buckled crashing into the sand. He knew he would probably be killed if he didn't move but his armor made it almost physically impossible. He had accepted what was to come when a voice came from what seemed like quite a distance away.

"Get up you idiot. You'll get killed and i don't feel like raising you." A young woman approached Drag with a familiarity to her walk.

"Always around when you're needed, aren't ya Tebby?" Drag smirked as he fought to raise his head to greet her.

"Just come on..." Tebby sighed as she helped drag to his feet. She muttered an incantation as the two disappeared from sight. They moved with haste as they headed to the outpost encampment before the enchantment wore. Resting his eyes in the shade of the wooden shack, Drag awoke to find the sky covered with scattered stars and a full moon. He searched his bag for one of his four warp cudgels as he took inventory of his belongings. With all his items in tact and accounted for he activated the enchantment on the cudgel warping him back to the last home crystal he had touched.

He moved from the crystal at the gate in Upper Jeuno towards the residential district to rent a room for the next few days to recuperate.

"Drag! Hey bro! long time, no see." A man dressed in the garb of a veteran red mage approached at a leisurely pace.

"Warblade?" Drag called blinking a few times removing his armet as he plodded forward. The two shook hands and saluted as War took Drag's bag from him, much to Drag's relief.

"Where you headed, my friend?" War questioned as he took notice to the bruises and cuts on drag's face and arms. "You need to go see Monberoux, he'll patch you up."

"Nah I'm ... *cough* Okay, let's go do that" Drag couldn't help himself as he spoke and staggered.

The nurse called for the doctor as soon as Drag shuffled though the door leaning on Warblade for support.

"Please allow me to take your weapon while you are seen." The nurse spoke as she quickly helped Drag to the back room.

"I'll be in town for a few days bro, look me up after you're rested!" War called to his friend as he tossed a money pouch with 5000 gil on the desk for payment and waved farewell.

Monberoux stood helping Drag out of his armor as he assessed the situation. He frowned as he saw the cuts and bruises were not only on his face but all over his body. He spoke as he prepped himself for what was going to be a tedious evening. "Well, I'm going to have my nurse cast a sleep spell on you to help ease the pain. You'll wake up feeling better than ever. Your treatment was paid for in full so you'll be ready to go as soon as you are full recovered. Sleep well."

Drag's eyes grew heavy but he fought sleep long enough to mutter, "Keep the egg warm...."

Chapter 6: Homebound

The sun slid behind the rocky valleys of South Gustaberg, plunging it's valleys into shadow as the chocobo cantered into the Republic of Bastok's Chocobo stables. The Stable master 's face was filled with excitement to see his lost bird returning at last.

“Thank you very much. I was afraid she wouldn't come back and be integrated into the riding force for the Ducal Stables. You have my appreciation as well as that of all my caretakers.” he spoke through a grin as he stroked the bird's crest.

“It was our pleasure. Now, can you tell me which way to the residential district?” Sul grunted as he picked Feyna up off the chocobo trying his best not to wake her.

explained the way and showed Sul which key he believe was the key to Feyna's apartment as he spoke. “Miss. Fey has deliveries of the status updates of her chocobos on a daily basis so we know where her apartment is. I don't know for sure but I'm pretty sure this one is the key. I'm sure she trusts you to sleep under your watch but I'm also watching so don't try anything...”

Sul blinked unsure what to say. He nodded and carried Fey out of the stables towards her home.

Upon arriving at her door the key was indeed her key and he opened the door very carefully and entered the dark room. He stopped and spoke in a clear but quiet voice. “Moogle, please turn on the lamps. I have Lady Feyna here. Please also prepare he bed. If you wouldn't mind.”

“Mr. Sulmorko, I'm assuming? Yes, I would be happy to prep her bed and light the lanterns.” The moogle responded immediately as he fluttered over to pull the covers.

Sul placed Feyna on her bed carefully removing her hat from her arms in the process. His ears burned as he realized she would need her armor removed to rest comfortably. He removed her boots, gloves, and accessories without a second thought but her tabard was where his hesitation lingered. He and the moogle exchanged glances and a nod as he unbuttoned the first of the many revealing her milky skin. Sul stopped questioning the moogle. “Can't you do this?”

“No sir. She is too heavy but it needs to be done.” the moogle replied quietly.

Sul's face was flushed and his hands shaky as he removed buttons two and three still showing more of her skin. Eyes closed, Sul unsteadily unbuttoned the last of her fasteners unsure of what laid underneath. He held his breath as he opened the armor to reveal the standard hume undergarments. Sul sighed partly of disappointment and mostly of relief. The moogle helped him finish removing the tabard folding it and placing it with the rest of her gear on her almirah.

Sul's head felt light as he tucked Feyna into bed. He turned and headed to the door though he noticed that the floor was coming closer instead of the door. Sul heard the moogle asking him if he was okay. His head swam as he responded. He closed his eyes for what seemed like a few seconds before opening them again to find his head on a pillow and a sheet covering him. The room was dark though he could see that he was now on Fey's bed. She was asleep next to him wearing a night gown with her hair down and brushed. He was conscience long enough to yawn and flip the pillow before his head hit the cool comfort and he was off to dream again.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Chapter 5: Counting Sheep

Sulmorko's face was warm as his mind slowly came around from the distant lands of sleep. His eyes were still blurry as he remembered his waking dreams. His thoughts fled back to his foster family and the wonderful way he was treated in the little home in Windurst. He smiled as he remember the day he and his step-brother parted ways. He promised Azureaa that everyone would talk about the Tarutaru and Elvaan brothers that ruled the Northlands and disposed of the demons. He chuckled and stretched as his feet hit the floor. The cold shock of the wooden planks woke him completely and he readied himself for his meeting with the hume red mage he'd met the day previous. His eyes struggled to adjust to the day as he left the Jeuno residential area into the sweet air of the upper level, Ru'lude Gardens. The sun wasn't even at its peak as Sul rested on a bench in the shade of a Rolanberry tree. His meeting time was at high noon with Feyna and he realized he was at least 3 hours early. With his pack as a pillow his eyes slid shut and his mind grasped for dreams of his childhood again.

. . .

Feyna finished her morning ritual and readied herself for the day. She stepped into the brightness that was the mid-day sun and looked for the monk. She walked the gardens for ten minutes before snores coming from the base of a tree peaked her interest. She smirked as she saw the monk lying there arm over his face and drool on his chin. Feyna spoke words in a rhythmic pattern until a small bubble of water formed over the Sulmorko's face.

Sul's mind sharpened as he heard a familiar sound. He shot up but the sudden realization that he was sitting up into a water spell wasn't enough to stop the momentum he had built.

-SPLOOSH- Feyna giggled into her hands as she watched Sul's face go from shock to acceptance as he sat up. She offered him a handkerchief as he stood shaking like a dog.

"C'mon drippy, let's go." Fey said with a rougish grin as she headed to the exit for Upper Jeuno.

The chocobo stable master stood with his hands on his hips and an expression of agitation as he tapped his foot with an unapproachable air about him. Sul walked up and stood beside the man looking at the same bird the man was. The man payed Sul no attention until Sul started petting the Choco.

"Can I help you?" the stable master spat his words.

"What are you looking at?" Sul said with a dopey grin on his face.

The stable master blinked in an almost confused manner as he spoke again "This chocobo was brought here by mistake but it belongs to the stables in Bastok. I don't have a single person who can take it there.

"I'll do it. I"m going to Bastok anyway." Sul replied with a brisk nod.

"I can't just. . . aww screw it. Take her back. Do you have a license?" The man spoke with slight relief in his voice. The man just wanted the bird out of his hair.

"No but i'm an excellent rider. I learned from Camereine and we ride frequently." Sul spoke hoping that his name dropping would work and it did.

"Oh yeah? I know her. She learned to ride under me! I'm sure if she taught you that you're fine. Here, take this." the man grinned ear to ear at the mention of his student and handed Sul a Chocobo License.

Sul and Fey thanked the man and began riding towards their eventual goal of the Republic of Bastok. The two rode through the vineyards of Rollanberry Fields and the wet-lands of Pashow Marshlands before coming to the rolling hills of Konstat Highlands. They spoke little and rode hard until the hills when Feyna's eye was caught by a camp to the side with the fire going.

"How careless travelers are, leaving their fires to burn the highlands to a crisp. We need to put that out." Feyna sighed as they rode towards the camp. They tied their chocobos to a nearby tree before taking the time to clean up the mess.

"What happened to make them leave all their things like this?" Sul questioned Fey as she crouched to douse the fire. Fey shook. "What the..." Sulmorko stopped mid sentence as the ground shook under his feet. Sulmorko's eyes rose from Feyna to the giant ram breathing down at them.

"My you're a big boy." Sul said with obvious sarcasm. Feyna sighed dejectedly.

The sheep reared back, aiming to stomp the mage into nothing. Acting without a second though, Sul dove forward, rolling Feyna out of the way of the massive hooves as they came crashing down. Feyna jumped to her feet, chanting a spell for sleep, but no avail. The sheep blinked a few times and snorted. He lumbered towards them and thrashed his head, hoping to hit at least one, but his strikes were slow and easily avoidable. Sul's training came into play as he focused on hitting the sheep and dodging its strikes. Feyna's magic had blinded and weighed down the ram; she then followed up with her sword, cutting at its thick, matted wool, hoping to do at least a bit of damage. The ram's horn caught Sul off guard, flinging him backwards into Fey, knocking them both to the ground. Sul wrapped his arms around the stunned mage, hoping to take the brunt of the ram's brutal onslaught.

"Hey Ugly!" A booming voice came from behind the sheep, provoking its attention.

"Hey Ugly? Is that the best you have, Kerb?" a second voice called from the same direction.

Sul struggled to turn and find the source of the new voices. Two galkas joined the attack on the ram. The first wore the white garb of a Paladin; with sword and shield in hand, he blocked the sheep's blows as if they were the wind, and counter attacked with mighty swipes of his sword. The second galka's heavy armor and large greataxe belied the fact that this man was of warrior bent. The two hacked at the ram as though it were made of ice. Sul channeled his rage at the beast into a mighty punch that gathered wind as it went. The impact howled as the wind rushed by the ram knocking it towards the two galkas.

"Nice. I've not seen a hit like that from a monk in ages!" the Warrior called as he jumped, swinging his axe with enough force to cleave the ram's right horn clean off.

"Have a trophy!" the Paladin chuckled as he kicked the horn towards Sul's feet.

The fight raged on as Feyna recovered; she pulled back and began casting curative magic on the group. Sul's punches slammed into the ram's side with the sound of hollow drums as the two Galkas continued to hack at its massive, swinging head. Finally, the ram let a great bleat and teetered inexorably towards the earth.

The Warrior bowed courteously to Feyna as he spoke. "I'm Famine. It is a pleasure to make your acquaintances. That there is Kerbasi." Famine turned to point at Kerbasi, only to find he was no longer beside him. Famine frowned.

"I think he's over there," Sul said, a bit confused, as he pointed. The other two turned to see Kerbasi's new location in a flower bed. Sul looked back at Famine before saying, "I am Sulmorko of San d'Oria and this is Feyna of Bastok." Bowing, Sul motioned towards where Feyna had been standing. He stopped and blinked as he noticed that Feyna was no longer there. Sul and Fam turned as they heard laughter. Their faces were blank as the two of them watched Kerbasi and Feyna sitting in the grass, stringing flowers into necklaces.

Famine blinked as he turned back and began chatting with Sul about his techniques in battle. They slowly made their way to sit with the other two, resting and chatting until the sun started to settle behind the mountains.

"It was very nice meeting you both. Maybe we'll catch up in Bastok sometime soon." Kerbasi called to Feyna and Sulmorko as he and Famine rode off on their chocobos

Fey's smile faded as she realized that one of the chocobos had broken its ties and run off during the fighting. "Looks as though we'll have to take one the rest of the way. It's yours, so you can drive," she said with a long yawn.

Sul mounted the chocobo and lifted Feyna in front of him side sattle.

"Head south and follow the path. That'll take you to Gustaberg. You can follow the trail there all the way to the city," she directed him, resting back against his arm. Feyna removed her ha,t letting her golden locks fall on to her shoulders.

Sul's mind rushed as she nestled into his arm. Until now he hadn't noticed that the woman leaning against him was by all standards beautiful. He went to speak, but realized that she had fallen asleep almost immediately. Sul's mind flew in a thousand directions as he placed his arm around her waist to steady her as they rode. He tried to clear his mind as his hand felt the curve of her side, but it turned out to be easier said than done.

"Okay, focus Sul. Get to Bastok" He muttered to himself as he spurred the chocobo into motion and rode to the south along the path Fey had pointed out.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Chapter 4: Dragon Requiem

The fragrance of the night air drifted across Dragon’s nose, snatching him back to reality. His quest had put him in the natural labyrinth known as the Maze of Shakhrami, and he was resting by the entrance. The scars on the landscape in the ancient cavern told unruly tales of battles from long ago. The scattered skulls of the once mighty Wyrms gave undeniable proof of which the final victory belonged to. The largest of the skulls stood several feet high and wide with slashes embedded deep. Drag paused a moment, removed his gauntlet, and placed his hand on the skull. Even as a child, he was enraged at the “heroic” stories of the dragon slayers. He knew good and well that most of them were destroyed out of fear or greed. With his homage paid, he pressed on towards the back of the cave. The cave was deathly quiet, without even the cackles from the Goblin diggers who usually roamed the caverns. He loosened the clasp on his lance as he scanned the area for any signs of a possible attack or way-ward beast. He continued slowly towards an area where the bones became less scattered, and more full skeletons could be found. Drag raised an eyebrow as he realized all the skeletons had been facing the same direction. He was moving opposite the flow of the skulls without even a second thought until now.
“Why? Hmmm, maybe because of the mouth of the cave?” he whispered aloud though no one was around to hear.

He quickened his pace as he moved following the increasing number of skeletons through the maze. Without warning he dropped four or so feet over a ledge and found him self in what appeared to be the mass grave of the Wyrms. Skulls of all shapes and sizes scattered without any sort of rhyme or reason. In this room were many human bones among the wyrm. The size difference in the larger skulls lead him to believe that not just wyrm skulls but dragon and wyvern skulls as well. Carefully climbing his way towards the back of the room he was struck by an epiphany. “Oh dear Altana …” the words fell from his mouth like drops into a bucket.

“They were protecting a nest- this is their hatchery.” Drag was floored by the hundreds of broken eggs and tiny wyvern skulls scattered behind what he guessed was a dragon’s skeleton. It appeared as if the dragon had curled around the nest as a last line of defense.

Drag kneeled in respect to the lives of all the creatures lost in the battle to protect the young just as he mourned the loss of most of this majestic race of creature. When he rose he moved silently in and out of the broken shells and bones looking for a sign that any of the eggs survived. Hours passed by as he dug and searched until he found something that would make his search was made worth-while. Not only did he find signs of hatchlings surviving but to his own surprise he found an unscathed egg. With the care a midwife would put into handling a new born he picked the egg from its resting place and secured it into his bag. Finally, his quest for the egg was over but now to hatch it.

Drag triumphantly exited the cave to have his parade rained on instantly. The sun was blocked by a shadow and much to his dismay the shadow belonged to a wyrm.
The beast was ancient and battle ravaged though the amount of fight left in his weathered eyes was immense. Drag’s eyes widened at the sight of the monstrous creature but his amazement was cut short by a quick whip of the beast’s massive tail. The beast watched intently as the dust settled where the intruder to its lair stood but as the creature waited for proof of its prey’s demise it was struck viciously by a sharp blow to the head.

“Ha! Ya thought ya had me? A Dragoon, of all people...” Drag called out as he hopped back to a near by ledge. In a violent rage the wyrm reared back and swiped at Drag’s position several times before being smashed in the head by yet another jump. Drag quickly tucked his lance by his side and began circling the beast. His movements were quick but sporadic which made him a hard target to hit. Drag cut towards the wyrm and jumped again landing on the beasts head and slamming it to the ground with an earth shaking thud.

“You did good old girl but I’m just too quick for ya. I figured a few blows to the head would put you down for a nap” Drag boasted to the now unconscious wyrm slumbering at his feet. He patted the creature before clasping his lance to his back and heading to his next destination.

Chapter 3: Chance Encounter

Sul was face down on in the dirt, unable to move. That goblin had indeed shown him who was boss, just as he boasted he would when that first shot hit its mark. This was the first time Sul had been rendered unconscious. He was in a dream-like state for undisclosed amount of time. His thoughts went to the previous day's events and on his friends. He had seen them off as they left for their own adventures and to find themselves. His thoughts were interrupted when he felt a warm light envelope his body. He saw a shape, a slender red form standing before him in the process of casting.

"You're alright now, the goblin is gone." She said with a smile. At least Sul thought it was a smile since his vision was still quite blurry. It quickly registered that the girl was a Red Mage and he bowed in thanks to her. His father had taught him that Red Mages were very powerful, having a mastery of white and black magic. They also had several spells that were unique to them alone. As she tipped her hat her golden ponytail fell from where it had been kept. Her hair was long and gorgeous; Sul had never seen hair so well kept from an adventurer before. His eyes followed her hair around her head until they met with hers, though she looked a bit confused.

"Are you alright? You still seem a bit dazed. Can you speak?" She leaned in with one eyebrow raised waiting on her questions to sink in.

"Yes Ma'am, I'm sorry. I just notice your pretty hair and I uh, thank you for helping me. That goblin surprised me and I couldn't take him." Sul seemed to be snapping out of his daze now; he continued talking at her almost babbling.

"My name is Sulmorko; I was trying to get from here to the Nation of Bastok when he jumped me." Sul sighed and realized that he wasn't just talking at her constantly he was also standing perfectly still staring at her; he quickly looked away. He wasn't sure why but he was very nervous.

The girl smiled softly and put her hand in front of her mouth to keep him from noticing the laugh she was holding back. He looked and acted as though he'd never met a female before and seemed quite shy. She put her hat back on and sheathed her sword before she spoke.

"I am Feyna, of the Nation of Bastok. I'm glad you weren't seriously hurt by that goblin. You know, you could have taken a chocobo and not had to worry about the goblins, right?"

Sul looked around trying not to stare at Feyna as she spoke. Her voice was soft but commanding and she looked very distinguished in her armor. Sul was awestruck when he remembered his father's description of the Warlock's Armor. She was indeed wearing the fabled Red Mage Artifact Armor. Her hat, he was sure, was her most treasured possession for it was a very rare and hard to obtain item. Suddenly, Sul realized that she was waiting on a response from him and he forced the words at her from an unready mouth.

"No, I'm sorry; I don't have a chocobo license. The chocobo renter said I'd have to get one before I could ride a chocobo or the bird might get away from me or hurt me." Sul's face dropped into a frown as he spoke these words but he continued on. "The man in San D'Oria always let us rent a chocobo from him but here they don't know us so I guess that's the reason. My friends and I came here by chocobo, actually."

"Yes, you are required to have a license here, silly boy. And please, just call me Fey, not Ma'am. You're making me feel old." Fey said with a smile and a small chuckle. She looked up at the sky for a moment and noticed the airship coming over their heads. She pointed and spoke, "That's the ship that goes to and from Bastok. Do you have an airship pass and 200 gil?" She was pretty sure the answer was no but she figured it wouldn't hurt to ask.

Sul frowned at her and spoke down, looking away. "I'm sorry Miss. Fey, I don't have a pass. They are 500,000 Gil and I don't have nearly enough for that." He was so new to the world but he never seemed to give up hope. She knew exactly what he was doing when the goblin attacked him. She lifted his chin and spoke to him in a very honest tone,

"You tried to walk, by yourself, to Bastok, didn't you? Tell me the truth now."
Sul looked into her eyes and felt almost compelled to be completely honest with her. He sighed and frowned again, like a scolded puppy.

"Yes, I was going to walk and I crossed the goblin's path. I didn't even make it out of eye-sight from the city." Sul looked at the Jeuno and then back at Feyna and spoke again, more triumphantly this time.

"I will make it to Bastok though. My future is there with Master Oggbi. He will train me to be the best monk there is and the name Sulmorko will be known throughout all three nations and Jeuno as well. Nothing is going to stop me, heh, except maybe a goblin here or there." Sul had gone and cracked himself up; he laughed for a few minutes and realized that Fey was also laughing. She very well could have been laughing at him though.

"You're an amusing fellow. Go stay the night in a rental Mog House and meet me by the guide stone in Lower Jeuno in the morning. I'm headed home and I have some extra time so I'll help you get there." Fey wasn't sure what she was getting herself into but she knew that at least the trip would be anything but boring. Sul seemed incredibly happy that she was willing to help him and hugged her then pulled back immediately. His face burned as he blushed uncontrollably.

"I'm sorry, my emotions got the best of me" He bowed as he spoke. He was sure that this display would make her withdraw her offer but to his own surprise there was a slight blush on her cheeks as well.

"It's um, perfectly fine. Please remember to be on time tomorrow, if you aren't by the stone at Eight o'clock I'm leaving without you." Fey waggled her finger at him.

"Yes, I'll remember. Thank you again." Sul bowed again and rushed off back into the city, leaving Fey standing there with an amused look on her face.

"He's like a puppy; lovable and cute but so dumb." She said aloud though no one was around to hear her. She smiled and walked back into the city thinking about this oh so random encounter, not knowing what to expect upon tomorrow.

Chapter 2: Serperation

The corner booth sat mostly empty when the end of the week rolled around, Kolev being the only occupant. His books were spread across the table as well as a map, which depicted several different areas. The map had a path marked from the kingdom’s gates to a hidden crevasse known as Ordell’s caves. This was his final task before he was a battle-ready, full fledged Paladin. He sat, thinking back to his teachers words the previous day,
“Kolev, my pupil, you are now ready for your final test. You have studied hard and persevered where others have failed. You are ready to join the ranks of many other Paladins before you. A sword you must quest, my son, Go to the Caves in La Theine Plateau. There you will see many dangers that you must overcome. You may bring trusted friends to help you along your way but you and only you can enter the caves and obtain the answers you seek. Deep underground is an item that will alloy you to attain your sacred blade. Now go and may Altana’s blessing be upon you.”

Kolev’s thoughts were interrupted by the preasence of the Barmaid, Lotte. Her upbeat attitude was dampened by the expression of somberness on Kolev’s face as she drew near. She approached cautiously and waited a moment before speaking.

“What’s the matter, honey? Something got ya down?” Her smile was forced to try and brighten what ever may have got the boy down. When he didn’t respond she tried again, “You’re friends coming in soon? We’ve already got their orders brewing.”

Kolev dropped his head a bit as he started to speak. “They have all moved onto their own paths, seeking things that they need and desire. I’m also leaving tomorrow to search for my future. Thank you for all of your kindness here. I will say that there is a chance that we may be less in numbers when next we meet.”

“I’m sorry to hear that, Sugar. I’ll get your order to you, it’ll be on me.” She said with a wink. This made Kolev’s mouth tilt at the corner with what she figured was his best attempt at a smile. She leaned in, with her hand on Kolev’s shoulder, and kissed him on the cheek.

“I know your friends will be back, we couldn’t get rid of the four of you even If we tried.” She whispered as stroked his chin before floating off to the kitchen to prepare his order. Normally Kolev would have enjoyed that but now all his thoughts were on his friends the perils that lay ahead of them.

Sul, Drag, and Phen traveled in an uncomfortable silence. They knew that upon their destination, Grand Duchy of Jeuno, they would be split and on their own. They each tried to speak but their words fell from their lips like a lead weight. There was sadness in their eyes but they had all been preparing for this day for a long time. They had all wanted to visit Jeuno but under different circumstances. Jeuno was the central and neutral hub for the three nations. It was a prosperous city where all races and nationalities were treated as equals. The three traveled swiftly by Chocobo and knew that the city would be within site by nightfall. There they would continue traveling in different directions: Phen by airship to the Island of Kazham, Sul would be headed to the Nation of Bastok, and Drag off to the peaks of Meriphataud Mountains. In the end, they knew that the trials ahead were going to be dangerous and difficult but the thought of failure never crossed their minds.

Chapter 1: Friends

The boy opened his eyes to look out on the water in front of him. He was no longer a boy for there were years between now and then but his meditations always brought back that night in particular. The boy looked out, lost in thought, thinking on the words Master Oggbi spoke to him before they parted ways, “Sulmorko, go and train your mind and body and make a name for yourself. I knew your father. He was a good man and a valiant warrior, I am sure you will be the same. Make him proud, my friend.” He would always remember those words. He lived like his father lived and worked as his father did. He would be strong like his father was and maybe one day, like Master Oggbi. Sulmorko was proud to be his father’s son; he wished to be no other. He indeed trained mind and body but he also learned valuable life lessons such as fun and humor. He learned a great deal from his three best friends: Phen, Drag, and Kolev. The four of them shared a bond that made them no less than brothers.

“Sul, have you seen my fishing pole? –Huff- I was fishing and I –puff- fell asleep and when I woke up –wheeze- it was gone” said familiar voice, which seemed rather out of breath.

“You lost another one? You, my friend, are hopeless.” Sul said with a smile before he continued, “I’m going to stop helping you get them if you keep losing them. Let’s see if we can find it though, heh”

They walked to where Phen had been fishing and in the tree they heard a sound. “Who’s there?” shouted Phen, pulling his dagger out.

“Put that silly thing away, Phen, It’s not match for my Mighty Lance! JUMP!” the voice called out as a shape jumped out of the tree and landed on one knee in front of them. “Oh mighty Dragoon Dragonbite, ‘Tis an honor,” Sul said mockingly with a bow. Phen laughed a little and noticed that the “Mighty Lance” was his fishing pole.

“Hey gimme that back, jerk. You’re gonna break it smacking it on the ground like that.” Phen said with an irritated sigh. The three laughed it off and headed back to town for a drink and a meal. There they would meet up with the fourth member of the group, as they always did at the end of each week. They liked to plan out the coming week, so as to leave time for relaxation and fun, in between their studies and training.

Upon entering the Lion Springs Tavern, the friends looked for the familiar corner booth in the back. They knew he always sat in the same place. The table was always covered in books and scrolls when they arrived and it was never any trouble to help get everything together and cleaned up. They wrapped the scrolls and packed the books into the bags without a second thought.

“Ah, my friends welcome to hell. Okay, it’s not that bad but still. If this is all I’ll be doing then I want your job, Drag. I wanna run around and hit things with a sword all day.”

Drag’s gaze never left the book bags he was trying to get closed. “You know I do more than that, its hard work and dangerous. At least you are learning magic and a real fighting style. I have to get the damned egg before I can even start my dragoon training.”

“Touché my friend, touché,” Kolev said with a smile. He knew that he was studying everything he’d need on the battle field as a paladin but he still hated it. Kolev pulled a book from beside him and tossed it at Drag. Not even seeing the book Drag’s face caught it with no trouble.

“Ouch, damn that hurt. What the hell is it?” Drag took the book and looked it over. He noticed that it was an older book but he slowly came to realize what it was. With an anxious smile he opened the book and started reading right away.

“That’s my old white magic book. I got a new one today and figured I’d let you have this one. Take good care of it; it’s saved my ass a couple of times.” Kolev had ordered the usual for everyone before they had even arrived. Lotte, the server, came to the table and gave them each their respective drinks.

“Hi boys, it’s good to see you again.” She walked over tray balanced between her hip and hand as she set the drinks down. She smiled and winked as she began to speak again, “You boys don’t ever order anything different do you? Not that’s any business of mine or that I’m complaining. It’s always a pleasure to serve drinks to four handsome guys like yourselves. You keep those nasty beastmen out of our town and I’ll gladly keep settin’ the drinks down.” She always flirted her way into good tips; her thin frame with not-so-subtle curves always got the men’s attention. She used her womanly charm to her advantage. She flipped her sable braid from over her shoulder as she turned around to wink at the four in the corner before heading off to attend to the other customers.

“Phen, you seem quiet today, usually you are talking up a storm. Is something up?” Sul looked over at his buddy just swirling his finger in his drink. Phen didn’t seem to hear him at first but then suddenly pulled his head up and out of the world he was in.

“Nah, I’m fine. I was just thinking about the future and what we all gonna do.” Phen said in a low tone almost not sounding like him self. Phen wasn’t one to let the world get him down but he seemed a little weighted at the moment. He pulled his drink back before he continued talking, “–ah- I just know that we are gonna be separated soon by our jobs and that we won’t see each other much. I like being able to hang out with you guys and just do stuff. It makes me wish these days could go on forever.”

Kolev sniffed and wiped a fake tear from his eye before throwing a book at Phen’s head. Phen knew it was coming, though, and caught it right before it hit him.

Phen flipped through the book and smiled but seemed confused. “Why do I need an atlas? Am I going on a trip that I didn’t know I was going on?” Phen asked questioningly. Phen was being facetious and everyone knew it. He wasn’t as dumb as he acted but it always got a laugh out of everyone.

“Check the back; it’s got a map of Kazham. That’s where Sea Serpent’s Grotto is. You know, where the Tenshodo headquarters is.” Kolev pulled the book down on the table and pointed to a map in the very back and continued explaining, “You head through the jungles and into the cave at this point on the map. Head down through the cave and you’ll reach a place called Norg- at least I think that’s what it’s called. Anyway, they can teach you to be a samurai there, Phen my friend.” Kolev knew that Phen’s ambition was to be a samurai. He always played one as a kid, with a broken flower pot on his head and a big stick at his side.

“Sweets, I had no idea where or how to get trained in that. Thank you, my friend, thank you. I’m so happy!” Phen’s entire mood had changed and he seemed himself again. None of the friends liked to see the others down and would do practically anything to cheer them up, even if it meant being completely and utterly humiliated.

“Crisis avoided; at least everyone’s pants stayed on for that one.” Sul laughed reminding them of a situation they all laughed about from time to time.

“Oh great Altana, you had to bring that up again, Sul,” sighed Kolev; he knew it would have to be explained or poor Phen would be so lost. Phen hadn’t been around for the events of that day.

“Here Phen, let me explain: Kolev was told that tradition called for him to cleanse himself before he started his paladin training. He was instructed to remove all clothing other than his under garments and bathe under the waterfall in West Ronfaure…” Sul stopped and looked at Drag to let him know to finish the story.

“We went out with him to keep the Pugils away when we heard a yelp. The water was cold but it had to be done. Sul and I knew it would come down to us to get it done so we wore our swim suits under our clothes. We came behind Kolev and stripped his clothes off and carried him kicking and screaming under the waterfall. What a pansy,” Drag said with a chuckle.

“He would have waited for spring to start his training had it not been for us. We thought winter was a good time.” Sul laughed as he threw a San d’Orian bread roll at Kolev.

“Geez, I always miss the good stuff when I’m out on a job” Phen said with a laugh. The four friends laughed and carried on until the tavern closed and they headed to their homes. They all enjoyed their time together and in the end it is what they all wanted to remember.