Chapter 32:

Blonde Bandits VII

Sword Quest

The next night, Mel leaned against a thick tree at the forest’s center, where it met the small lake. He thumbed the string of the spare bow he’d brought, quietly waiting. The violent sounds of siege battle beyond the forest failed to reach him as he stared out into the vacant, moonlit lake, thinking back on his last conversation with Selmy.

“Do you think Hastor and the girls will really protect them?”

“Yeah, I believe they will.”

“Then… what about you? Will they protect you?”

“I’ll take care of myself. The Red Wolves should know not to attack me anyway, unless something were to go wrong.”

“And… if something does go wrong?”

“Well, it isn’t as if I haven’t planned for that.”

Selmy had seemed no less tense after he’d explained the involvement of the guys from class, but she hadn’t questioned him further.

Farum should be arriving at the ruins with my bow any time now.

There’s no doubt, they’ll notice the message.

They’ll make it here, without fail.

Farum, Berd, Kaolo, Geraint, Jorge... how about you?

As the remaining top-ranked students of our age…

Will you meet my expectations as well?


The cloudy night’s sky exploded in red light, showering the forest’s opening in a mural of moonlight and ruby red glow as the sounds of the battle in the distance seemed to disappear momentarily.

Mel stepped to the edge of the lake, observing the spectacle in silence.

He understood, after watching his friend struggle before triumphantly sending the light skyward, just how pointless his previous attempts were. He’d sullied his own hands, ruined the lives of others, and forced his friends into this dangerous situation. Yet his only choice was to look on at the result of his work with steadfast resolve and focus.

While Cedric turned slowly in his direction, his aura doused in that daunting red light, Mel could only look straight ahead, resolving himself once more.


Come, Cedric. I’m prepared… are you?