Age of Ember beta
The sun rose above marking another day. Everyone eagerly awoke to leave their homes. They were ready to meet up and start on the quest. The night before everyone had already placed whatever extra items, they needed inside of Odrian’s black hole. It was rather convenient. They all met in the middle of the city with the exception of Arachnia, who was running behind. After a couple of hours, she finally showed up late yet again.
“M-my deepest apologies,” Arachnia was flustered and looked as though she had just woken up. She took a deep bow. Ziggy looked at everyone, sizing them up for today’s journey.
“Elf City is almost a 2 weeks journey out from west,” Sabrina informed everyone as she stood by Ziggy. She looked like an angel compared to the rugged-pirate appearance of Ziggy.
“Right,” Ziggy continued. “But don’t think this gonna be some sort of cakewalk kiddos. We will be running once we reach the Desert of Reflections and we will be swimming or flying through the Mid-Bertic Ocean.”
Sabrina wore a smile that was much different than her usual pleasant. Considering that Ziggy would be delegating tasks throughout the entire way, Victori hesitated to ask:
“Are we going anywhere fun for training?”
“We’ll be training the entire trip.” Ziggy’s eyes glowed passionately.
The expression of despair appeared on everyone's faces, except Verona and Arachnia. They were perplexed as to why everyone would be so sad on the idea of training the entire trip. Little did they know of Ziggy’s rigorous methods, it wouldn’t be long before they found out.
They set off toward the Moonlit Sacred Forest of Aigest. Upon first glance, the forest was unassuming in its ordinary presentation. But at night the trees would glow with radiant blue rings and some mushrooms and flowers would tower above the trees. A magical mist would fill the air throughout the entire forest and made the area quite a romantic scene. Majestic setting aside, it was within the darkest hours that turned it to breeding grounds for hostile creatures that slept during the day.
Hopping from tree to tree, Odrian needed to ask Sarah for a favor. He picked up the pace to get closer to her. He then tapped her on the shoulder in a slapping motion with his right hand. As soon as his hand connected with her shoulder, she went flying off to the left. It was as though someone had delivered a powerful punch. Her body broke the sound barrier and decimated a nearby mountain as soon as she collided with it.
“Oh shit,” Odrian wasn’t sure what to say about what had happened.
Odrian’s face fell flat. He looked upon the still-collapsing mountain as he pondered his strength. He had hoped that he wouldn’t misuse his powers in such a devastating way. Landon left immediately to go check on her. Victor, Verona, and Arachnia stood by, unsure of what had transpired. Knowing better than anyone else, Ziggy and Sabrina turned toward the direction of Odrian, who seemed visibly devastated by what he had done.
“Sarah, right now is not the time for games!” Sabrina had scolded Sarah.
“Fine,” Sarah reappeared next to Odrian with her hands folded.
Once Sarah reappeared, the mountain returned to normal as it wasn’t completely leveled moments before. Landon rushed back, upset by her unwelcomed humor. She turned toward everyone else with a grin on her face and teased:
“Wow, I fooled everyone here! I can’t believe you fell for it!”
“Hey, Sarah, nobody is laughing!” Landon voiced his opinion strongly, surprising everyone in the group. “ Remember a forux is meant to be used to fight, not goof around.”
“You scared the hell out of me by what you did,” Odrian felt compelled to say. At this point, he no longer wanted to ask her for a favor. “You know about what happened those years back” Landon hinted at the past.
“I-” Sarah choked, unsure of what to say.
Landon went ahead of everyone as Sarah was last to leave. It was rare that Landon had lashed out, but he had a point. She misuses her power to deceive rather hone it for something more positive. They all continued moving on top of the flat trees to cover some more ground. He came toward Verona and Arachnia, who were talking this entire time.
“Is she always like that?” Arachnia asked Verona.
“Yeah.” Verona answered, knowing Sarah liked having fun, no matter how obscure it was.
Victor came to Odrian’s side and gave his shoulder a slight tap.
“Don’t go flying on me,” Victor grinned. “We’re going to get her back. Don’t worry.”
“Whatever,” Odrian was still upset about what happened. He knew Victor meant well, but the scare of his powers being unleashed scared him, especially since he thought he used it on his sister.
After countless miles of tree hopping, Ziggy and Sabrina stopped once they found a suitable spot to rest. Ziggy turned to the others as he rested on a branch and declared:
“Here looks about right. Great! We’ll set up camp here.”
Without hesitation, Odrian opened a portal and all of everyone's camping equipment fell out. The boys set up camp on top of a large tree. They had set up two tents, one extremely large occupying most of the tree and the second tent was mid-sized, big enough for 4 people. The ladies set up on the nearby treetop.
“The big tent is mine,” Ziggy looked at Victor, Landon and Odrian. “So, none of you may enter.”
“Ziggy,” Sabrina called him out on his selfishness. “Is that necessary?”
“You know how it is, babe. It’s a cold world out there. Good thing this has good insulation.”
Sabrina sighed deeply. She wasn’t going to convince him tonight.
The trio of boys looked at each other knowing they had no other choice and went in to set up their sleeping areas. The ladies on the other hand had their tent set up in no time and went to get some rest. Some time after, the boys finished and went to sleep. The day was still young but they rested for a short time.
“GET UP!” Ziggy and Sabrina were yelling for everyone to get up. They had slowly awaken, showing up one by one with Victor being the last one to arrive. They all looked around their surroundings. The treetops were connected with colorful glowing mushrooms and flowers. As balls of light flew around in the air, Verona tried to touch one as it came close to her. They all walked over to an empty tree with a hole in the center. Sabrina looked at them:
After landing from a 30ft fall inside the trunk of the tree, there was another hole for them to walk out into the forest. The forest’s ceiling was covered by plants, but it wasn’t lacking in light. It almost felt as if they were in a city, filled with all kinds of lights, all kinds of creatures running around, some eating the plants and others eating others.
After giving everyone a few minutes to enjoy the scenery, Ziggy stood in front of everyone and demanded:
“I need each of you to catch a bull rabbit. Alive.”
“A bull rabbit?” Victor had never seen one.
“Of course” Arachnia thought aloud excitedly. “This forest is the only habitat where bull rabbits can be found. There a delicacy in many parts of the world!”
“Indeed!” Ziggy cut in. “Can’t train on an empty stomach!”
Ziggy had one in his hand to show them what it was. It was a rabbit that was about a sixth of their size with bull-like horns and 2 fuzzy tails. It had a mane around its neck and 2 pair of eyes. Everyone stayed quiet as they knew there was going to be more than what he just said for face value. They were about to train on an empty stomach, many had likely conceded.
“Standard rules! No powers! No weapons!” Ziggy told them, much to their dismay. “Also, no running! Walk!”
Catching a bull rabbit at walking speed was deemed difficult, if not impossible. The second it notices you; it would flee immediately. The students dispersed as soon as he finished.
As Ziggy waited for the kids to come back with the rabbits, Sabrina approached him from behind him, resting her chin on his shoulder. Ziggy still holding the bull rabbit by the ears was looking at her. He knew the look in her eyes and what it meant. He didn’t have much words to say while the rabbit looked at her with its eyes wide open and an expression begging for saving. Ziggy was feeling weak in the knees by her presence. He looked over to her to find a faint smile along her face.
“What’s wrong, babe?” Ziggy asked with a hint of concern.
“Sometimes, I wish you’d be easy on those kids, Sabrina answered. She said it knowing that he wouldn’t really consider it.
“Wish I could, but you know we didn’t have it easy growing up. We gotta keep those kids strong.”
“Which? Babe, they are our kids. We took those boys in.”
“That we did. I don’t think you told me everything that day. Why you? Why us?”
“You try standing before 5 of the most powerful beings in the universe and ask them a question.”
“Ziggy Tade ain’t no bitch.”
“Well, I’m not a fool either.”
They both laughed jovially. Sabrina had no regrets about being their mother. She wondered if they could’ve done something more than take up the mantle of warriors. She couldn’t reject that nature of reality. Ziggy’s tough love was meant for them to survive and learn from it because someday he may not always be there to defend their children. It was a troubling thought but one that provided a sense of hope. Sabrina continued:
“Bae, I got an idea for what to do with Odrian.”
“What to do with Odrian?” Ziggy was a little confused.
“Yeah. I saw the look on his face when he thought he punched Sarah into that mountain. I think he’s afraid of his own strength.”
“That’s just silly.”
“Remember what happened to that school?”
It all came back to Ziggy,” He redacted his statement almost immediately.
“That’s right,” Ziggy acknowledged. “And the boy is only going to get more powerful as time goes by. I think those bracelets can only do so much. I’m all ears.”
“I was thinking… That we should get him trained.”
Ziggy turned himself to face her. He didn’t like where the conversation was going.
“By who and where?” Ziggy asked.
“Well, he’s in the Elfin City,” Sabrina answered. “Who can train him better than us?”
She looked him in the eyes with confidence. Ziggy didn’t want the answer or to say it, so she did:
“No!” Ziggy responded immediately and turned away from her.
“Come on, bae. His powers are similar... He could help Odrian a lot."
“It’s a no, sorry.”
“So, you’re thinking about yourself rather than the future of your child?” Sabrina’s tone took an even more serious shift.
Ziggy let go of the bull rabbits' ears and held it in his hand looking at it face to face.
“You hear all of this, Smith?” Ziggy spoke to the bull rabbit as though it were capable of understanding and responding.
Ziggy named his dinner also.
Sabrina did not like being ignored, so she stood in front of him and took the bull rabbit out his hand by the ear. And placed her other hand under his chin and gave him a kiss.
“Bae, I know you don’t like the idea, but this would help Odrian so much. I can make the arrangements if you don’t want to deal with him. But if you’re saying we can’t always be there then we need him to be at his very best.”
“I trust you,” Ziggy gave his blessing after considering her argument. She smiled in turn as she took the rabbit away.
“I'm going to get something ready for them to eat.”
“Hold on. What are you doing with Smith? Brina? Baby?”
Sabrina walked away and pulled a knife out from the back of her skirt and swiftly skinned the bull rabbit. It was done in an instant, leaving it flawlessly clean in its presentation. She looked back with completely clean hands and gave an alluring yet sinister smile.
“I’m getting dinner ready, of course,” Sabrina said happily.
“Ricccckkkkk!!!!” Ziggy yelled with tears welling up.
“Rick?” Sabrina questioned. “I thought you named him Smith?”
Ignoring what she had said, Ziggy reminisced about how he caught it and the fun times they had together. He recalled how it ran to him while he was grabbing some fruits and ate them all, even giving him the idea to capture them for meat. It also sat in his hand faithfully, Ziggy felt a real connection. Ziggy muttered:
“You will always be remembered.”
“Oh god,” Sabrina couldn’t help but laugh at Ziggy’s disposition. “Stop playing around. I think ones coming back.”
Ziggy wasn’t playing around, but he quickly pulled his act together.
“Let me stop playing,” he lied to himself. Losing Smith, that hurt.
“You always know how to have fun. That’s why I love you.”
But the loss was felt deeply by Ziggy.
Ziggy looked at her and asked:
“Is that the only reason?”
“Oh, you’ll find out the rest tonight,” Sabrina said playfully.
Chills surged throughout Ziggy’s spine while he maintained composure, he thought with a wide smile: Now that’s what I'm talking about