Reverie's End: Blades of Malice
Date: 4/30/991; Time: 16th hour
Unfortunately, the seasons of flames were not over yet. This day, being the last of the 4th month, was excruciating. However, nothing ever stays bad or good for long in Ethos. Tomorrow was going to be the beginning of a new season, one of rain and water. Miri and her friend Esca only had to wait for one more day before they began their journey north into the Emerald Jungle.
The two girls were staying at Twilight Sanctum, a branch of the “Shining Light”, a religious order that helped the needy and allowed travelers to stay overnight. Miri met Esca 10 months during her debut job for the Advent. They were only sent out to gather herbs but ran into some thugs that Miri thwarted with her trident, saving Esca in the process. Since then, the two became best friends and have done several jobs for the Advent together.
The Advent was an organization for adventurers and mercenaries, possessing guilds in most major cities. Clients would post their jobs and any member of the appropriate rank could take on the quest. It was important to rank the quests to keep any overconfident rookies from meeting an untimely demise. Quests cloud be Iron, Steel, Mythril, Gold, Diamond, or Crystal rank. Those that ever made it to the top were called “Legends” and out of the 90,000 members on file, only 4 held that title. Most members were never motivated enough to make it past Steel class. Miri and Esca were both rookies and remained Iron class. They had no intention of staying there and had aspirations for greater fame and fortune.
Miri was a beautiful girl of slightly below average height with fair skin, long brown hair, and light blue eyes. She was very athletic and had become quite strong from years of informal training in her hometown of Brywood, which was to the north of Gaea. Her attire included lightweight navy-blue armor and her Astral Trident, given to her by her mother when she turned 15. Miri had no trouble with the missions she was presented with thus far.
Esca was a young girl of 16, three years younger than Miri, who excelled in water magic. She was a healer and those were always welcome in any expedition. She was average in height, had mid-length blonde hair, green eyes, and wore a blue robe. The two girls made a good team, possessing both offensive and defensive abilities.
Presently, the two girls were sitting at a simple wooden table in the dining hall and eating the bread and soup before them. Miri sighed and said, “Yet another herb-gathering mission.”
“At least it pays decent,” said Esca in her sweet voice.
Miri looked over at Esca, pouted, and said, “Yeah but I think it’s about time Advent let us do some real jobs. It’s been 10 months already.”
“We’re almost there. This job will raise us to Steel class,” replied Esca in her usual kind voice.
“I’ve been looking forward to becoming an adventurer like my father. Maybe I’ll even surpass him! Let’s go back to Brywood after we make Steel class. My parents need to know,” said Miri gleefully.
“Of course,” replied Esca as she smiled.
The two ate their food, talked for hours about their plans for the future and then finally decided to go to bed. They thanked the cooks for the food and went to bed. The girls had grown accustomed to sleeping on the floor during their travels, so the shabby beds offered to them were nothing that caused concern. They slept soundly despite the hot and humid air present everywhere. They arose early the next morning to the sound of rain. A new season had begun, one they had been looking forward to for several days now.
There were several reasons why waited until the 5th month had begun. First, traveling through the Emerald Jungle during the flame season carried the risk of getting heat stroke. If they went now the gentle rain would cool them off and not cause too many problems until later in the rainy season. The other very important reason was that the season of water resonated well with both Miri and Esca.
Esca’s water magic became more powerful, making her a better healer. Miri, on the other hand, became another person altogether when Ethos poured water upon the land. She became a fierce Kali warrior, with improved battle instincts, that could breathe, speak, and swim underwater for long periods of time.
The two girls ate their simple, yet filling breakfast, packed their belongings, and stepped outside into the lightly falling rain. Immediately, Miri’s transformation began to take place. She was one-quarter part Kali or “water person”. The people of Kali were one of several non-human races on Ethos. The Kali lived mostly near the coasts of port towns and fishing villages. Anywhere there was water, Kali could be found. Many preferred to live on islands in the great sea of Ethos, which covered almost all of the east. In terms of territory, they had more than any kingdom of man.
The Kali were a noble and fierce people. They were stronger, faster, had more endurance, and recovered faster from wounds. In addition, they were taller, and could breathe, speak, and swim underwater. As with all “demi-human” races on Ethos, they outlived men by several decades. Most of mankind despised the blessings of the demi-humans.
Miri’s eyes changed to a darker hue of blue and had their pupils dilated. Emerald streaks appeared below her eyes, her teeth sharpened, and her hands became webbed. Her arms gained some scales as well, but her armor covered that fact. She also grew slightly taller and more muscular. Most of these changes were not immediately noticeable, but the eyes and streaks gave away that she was not fully human.
Miri looked over at Esca, smiled, and said, “This must be your first time seeing me like this. You’ll get used to it, maybe.”
Esca looked at her, bewildered, and replied, “I’ve heard the stories of what happens when a human crosses with a Kali, but this is my first time seeing it. Your beauty has certainly not diminished any.”
Miri replied, “You flatter me, dear Esca. This appearance gave me much trouble in my youth.”
Esca looked at Miri sympathetically and with compassion. Esca knew that Kali, as well as all other non-humans, were unwelcome in most cities. Often persecuted and turned into slaves, they hid in the forests and mountains. Many lived in the Nihil Alliance, a country comprised of Fang, Neko, Kali, and Elm. Miri’s hometown of Brywood by the sea of traitors in the far north, was occupied by many Kali. Despite occasional race-related riots, they continued to live there. Miri was bullied as a child sometimes because of her ancestry. This in turn motivated her to get stronger so that she could defend herself. Miri was not one to hold grudges; she believed her past was there to make her stronger.
The new Miri was stronger and this newfound power was necessary for their journey through the Emerald Jungle. Their job was to collect Helim Root, a useful material in potion-making that could be used to make healing salves. However, the jungle itself was not safe, and home to the Emerald tribes, savages that killed any invaders that encroached into their territory. The girls wanted to avoid them if possible.
The two girls ended their short little chat, said farewell to the people at the sanctum, and headed north across the Talis River into the jungle. They traveled for several days, making little progress every day, encumbered by the items they carried. The horses were left behind as they were a liability in the thick jungle. It was easy to contract a disease and get sick, so Esca was ready to purify toxins and to heal at any given moment should Miri get injured. Their job was risky but paid well.
The green jungle they were in was at the very center of the world, meaning it was closest to the Light of Ethos and this caused seasonal variations to be even stronger than normal. The rain was starting to pour more heavily with each passing day, making progress difficult. To make matters worse, they had to look out for poisonous snakes and other wild animals.
However, they were finally rewarded for their troubles. Esca stumbled upon a blue flower growing amidst all the greenery and shouted for joy, “I found it, Miri! It’s the Helim flower!”
Miri quickly ran over and breathed a sigh of relief. This trip had not been in vain. They started to collect the flower with its root, placing it into their leather bags. It was at this moment that they heard a rustling behind them. They quickly turned around and could hear hissing sounds behind the bushes. They were now in Emerald tribe territory and the hissing sounds were proof. Despite the rain, there was still a good deal of daylight and Miri could make out three figures in front of her. She started to slowly pull out her trident from behind her. Esca grabbed her white staff and was ready for action as well.
The three men covered in green that were hiding in the bushes ran out with their axes waving in the air, screaming at the top of their lungs. Any normal person would have been frightened. Miri was not a novice and didn’t flinch, maintaining her position. She dodged two strikes from an axe, and struck one of her targets in the stomach, and let him fall to the ground. Then she knocked the others back with the tail end of her trident and regained her ground.
One of the men decided to attack Esca, assuming she was defenseless. He understood he was sadly mistaken when she knocked him back a good distance with a water spell. Miri and Esca smiled at each other, before continuing the fight.
The remaining warrior was unfortunate enough to get three holes in his throat as he attempted to take off Miri’s head with an axe and failed. She turned around and threw her trident at the one Esca had previously knocked down, impaling and silencing him forever. On a regular day, these men would have given her trouble, but today she was a Kali, a formidable warrior blessed by the water.
Miri went over and picked up her trident and began to eye her surroundings. Her heightened senses told her that there were others. She beckoned Esca over to her, alerting her to the danger still present. They now stood back to back, ready for the next wave. Another 10 warriors jumped out from all directions, ready to swing with their axes. Miri managed to block most of their swings with her trident, but there were just too many of them. A few of them managed to cut her armor but missed any vital organs. Esca kept screaming and firing off water bullets, but this only temporarily delayed them.
Although injured, Miri kept fighting back the tribal warriors, taking them out one at a time, until six of them had been slain. There were only two left, but she was starting to get sluggish and was breathing heavily. Esca was getting ready to cry.
“Don’t give up!” said Miri as she charged towards the last two men, with her trident in front of her. One of the men aimed for her chest and missed, getting stabbed through the neck in the next moment. The other had a clean shot at Miri and would have hit her chest, but Esca blasted him out of the way. Miri breathed a sigh of relief, before finally ending the battle by throwing her trident at the man on the ground.
“We make a good team,” laughed Miri as she picked up her weapon, and stumbled over to Esca.
“I guess we do,” said Esca in an exhausted tone.
Esca had sustained a minor wound on the right arm, but Miri had gotten hit several times, some of them from defending Esca. The two were hoping that this was the end of their ordeal.
Esca healed Miri’s wounds, and then her own. The water mana in the air expedited the healing process, and the Kali was blessed with even higher recovery speeds than normal. Afterwards, they picked up whatever Helim they could find and took it with them. They had found enough and it was time to head back, but Miri thought otherwise.
“Let’s go a little further and get some more Helim. We are already here so why not make it count?” said Miri.
“Are you sure that’s a good idea? That last battle was close… you never know what could be hiding behind those bushes. It’s also getting dark,” said Esca.
“Don’t worry. I’m all better now, and I’ll protect you. It’s only going to be a short trip and then we’ll head back,” Miri said confidently.
“Well, if you say so,” said Esca hesitantly.
“Just stay behind me, Esca,” said Miri.
As they walked deeper into the Emerald Jungle, the rain intensified, and it grew darker. After several hours, Miri conceded to the notion that there was no more Helim and the two girls reversed their course. After another hour of walking, they once again heard hissing all around them. The darkness and heavy rainfall were disorienting the girls, but the emerald warriors were used to fighting in such conditions. Negotiating was not going to work; Gaea’s monarchs have wronged them too many times in the past. No outsiders were welcome. Besides, Miri had already slain quite a few of their men, the smell of their blood still on the tip of her weapon.
Miri grabbed Esca by the hand and yelled, “Run!” Even the bold Miri knew that it was not wise to fight an enemy she could not see. They ran as fast as they could under their circumstances. The hissing sounds and clattering of axes kept getting closer. Suddenly, Miri saw a large tree with a hole in it large enough to fit a human; she ran towards it and told Esca to get in. Miri stood guard in front of the tree and waited. Nobody was going to die on her watch.
She stood quietly with her trident ready, but the hissing sounds started to die down and she could hear the clanging of weapons off in the distance. Miri breathed a sigh of relief. Two rival tribes were at war with each other; the girls merely stumbled onto the battlefield at the wrong time. They were going to be safe for now, but it was unknown for how long.
Esca slept that night while Miri stood guard. She couldn’t help but feel responsible. Miri had bitten off more than she could chew and was paying for it, and so was Esca. It was a long and sleepless night for Miri.
In the morning, the two ate in silence as they pondered the events of the previous day. Miri looked over at Esca and said meekly, “Forgive me, it was a bad idea.”
Esca replied in her usual sweet voice, “It’s okay, I forgive you.”
Miri continued, “Let’s eat and get out of here as soon as possible.”
“Yeah, let’s get back to Twilight Sanctum and deliver the Helim already!” said the cheerful Esca.
They both continued to eat and talk about trivial things. Miri was starting to feel better about the whole ordeal. The girls packed their bags and set off again, with the intent of getting farther away from Emerald territory. They continued to travel for several days and grew progressively more weary with each passing day. By this point in time, they should have arrived at the Talis River, but alas, it was nowhere in sight. The girls hated to admit it, but they were lost. Miri and Esca were traveling deeper into the jungle and were getting closer to the domain of the Emerald chieftain, ruler of all 10 tribes.