For Friends Chapter 1

 

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1 A time for beginnings; and other mishaps.

Part one

Not a lot of imagination was used in naming Creeks-Bend village. The slightly larger than average village was nestled in a river’s bend which flowed along the border of the village. The area opposite the bank and the surroundings of the village were covered in woods. There was also a dirt road and a small wooden bridge which formed a pathway through the village, so occasionally a traveller would stop at the village to rest from a long journey.

Most of the buildings in the village had walls made from wood, thatch roofs and dirt floors. It was by cabin much like this, on the edge of village right next to the woods where Rios the hunter was laughing as he was being attacked. The old man had greying hair and stubble and was dress in a drab but loose tunic and trousers, with a leather belt, arm bracers and leggings across the shins. The clothes he would use on his hunts.

In front of him were two boys.

One with blonde hair and blue eyes was clumsily using a staff to try and hit him. Even though he tried to read and anticipate the old man’ movements, his poor handling of the weapon made it easy to read and side step the attacks.

The other boy had messy brown hair and light hazel eyes had a spark of determination to them. He had a toy wooden sword and by the way he used it you could tell he has been seriously practicing swordplay. However he lacked actual battle experience and would charge with straight forward attacks. Through it required bit more skill he could still easily read and dodge the brown haired boy.

As Rios was side stepping both the staff and the sword, he saw movement in the corner of his eyes and quickly ducked to the side to dodge two attacks.

The first was from a girl with short brown hair and blue eyes and had tried firing a surprise shot at the old man with her slingshot. Her slightly short messy hair, dirty clothes and boyish grin gave the feeling that she was a tomboy. Offcourse the feeling would be correct.

The second was from another girl who apart from the longer hair tied in a pony tail and cleaner clothes would be the mirror image of the girl with the sling shot. She had been waiting patiently in the bushes slowly sneaking closer to Rios waiting to jump out and grab him. Unfortunately due to his ducking the stone from the slingshot girl flew over Rios’ head and hit the sneaking girl right in the middle of her forehead as she was in mid pounce, causing her to lose her balance an topple face first into the ground.

“Haha, that went too well,” laughed Rios at the scene. That just fuelled the children’s drive to get him. He didn’t mind it just made it more fun, and caused him to feel young again. Well… younger.

There was a perfectly normal reason why he wasn’t worried about the assault on him. So let’s go back earlier in the day to find out why it’s alright for children to attack an old man.

No, wait that came out wrong. Children shouldn’t be attacking the elderly for fun.

Hmm. Well to an outsider it could look more like an old man assaulting a group of children so you could say….

NO! THAT’S EVEN WORSE!!

* sobs*

A message from “SP”: Dear readers currently the narrator is sobbing in a corner. The story will continue when he regains his confidence as a storyteller. In the meantime please consider following the religion of the Sacrificed Prince. Once he figures out how to bless his followers with cookies we will never go hungry again! Join today!

Part 2

First let me start by saying I was sulking in the corner not sobbing. There is a difference SP!

SP’s note: yeah one is only slightly less pathetic.

Anyway where was I… That’s right we were going back to earlier.

*clears throat*

Most watchmen are just a group of villagers who volunteer to help keep the peace and act as the occasional bouncers for the local tavern. That changed for Creeks-Bend’s watchmen when two dragon slayers from the northern countries decided to settle down in the village. The two were husband and wife and the elder of the village appointed them to be in charge of training the watchmen, and provided them with an empty yard for practice.

The training from hell the two dragon slayers gave caused the number of watchmen to drop from 30 volunteers to about 7 people who were paid out pity and admiration from the villagers for still being associated as a watchman and carrying out the practice.

For the record though those 7 could put normal professional soldiers to shame.

It was in the watchmen training yard where one brown haired boy was practising drills with a wooden sword and a training dummy, under the watchful eye of one of the dragon slayers.

Thuck, thack, twack. The sound of the wooden sword hitting a wooden dummy. Sun was beating down on the boy as sweat dipped down his neck to the drenched shirt. He’d been up since sun rise out on the field, and it wasn’t by choice.

“Alright Leon that’s enough!” said the dragon slayer. He was a large man in his late thirties, soon to be early forties with a shaven head and muscles for his muscles. Half his body was covered in dark scars that formed a haphazard web pattern across his face and skin. They were the result from a terrible incident with a dragon’s flame. It was an occupational hazard for dragon slayers.

He was imposing and would some nervous. For the watchmen he trained he somehow always appeared in their nightmares. To Leon this scary man was…

“Is that it dad?” Leon said as he lowered his arms to rest.

His father nodded, “Now do you know why you had to do the extra training.”

“Because of the Matterson’s flowers,” said Leon in that dragged out manner children complain in.

“And what did you do wrong?” his father pressed him.

“We cut their flowers without their permission,” Leon dragged on. “But really it’s not that bad as those times I fought with some of those kids!”

“Those kids you fought were bullies who had it coming,” Dragon slaying father had said, “but you didn’t grow those flowers. The Matterson’s did, so they belonged to them.”

“… Fine” said Leon looking to the side “I’ll ask for permission when we want flowers.” ‘We’ being Leon and his friends.

“Look me in the eyes when you’re talking to me,” said DS father.

“I’ll others permission before I use their things.” Leon said flatly.

His father just sighed. “I guess that’s the best I’m going to get.” Some of the watchmen were starting to come to the yard so he decided to dismiss Leon. “Alright head off to the river and wash out that sweat. Then you can go hang out with your friends.”

Leon face cracked in to a smile, “Okay!” and he began to run off. “See ya dad!”

“See ya,” his father waved him good bye. He’s going to get into trouble again, Thought the dragon slayer. He sighed again. Well time to discipline the other kids.

Part 3

The seven watchmen lined up in the training yard wearing leather armour over their torsos and leg, with metal bracers protecting their forearms. Tied to their back was a wooden quarterstaff. They may have been trained better than some soldiers, but they weren’t as well equipped.

The dragon slayer, their captain, stood in front of them wearing the same equipment, except he was armed with a broad sword spear and a metal shield tied to his back.

“Before we start, I’d like to ask you something.” The captain was pacing along the line of five men and two women who were standing legs shoulder width apart, hands held behind their back. “Apparently one of you have been collecting the visitors fee from travellers when they enter the village. This is news to me since there is no such fee!” his voice stern, his eyebrows frowned.

He stopped his pacing and turned to faced them head on. Looking each one in the eye he said “This is your first and last chance, I know who you are. Step out now and I’ll reduce the punishment!”

The captain paused and waited, but no one moved out of the line.

He’s bluffing, thought one of the taller thinner men in the line.

The captain looked directly at the man and said in a cold voice, as if reading the watchman’s mind, “I don’t bluff Jenkins.”

“Crap!” Jenkins tried to run away but was grabbed by the two watchmen either side of him.

“Take his top off. We’ll give him twenty lashes before handing him off to the elder!” technically the elder would set punishments for crimes such as stealing from guest to the village, but the captain was allowed to discipline the watchmen if he chose to do so.

Jenkins was struggling at the other watchmen were stripping his torso “No! No wait! Wait sir” Jenkins cried, “It wasn’t for me! The money was for someone else!” his top was now off and they were tying rope around his arms and legs

“Oh? But didn’t I give you a chance?” said the captain. “I did give him a chance right?” As he looked at the other watchmen they too nodded, they wouldn’t have risked it as a bluff.

In actuality 20 lashes with a cane would be considered light for disciplining guards in the Ivory Kingdom. The kingdom Creeks-Bend belongs to. Any serious damage could be healed by the local apothecary or alchemist so really it was just exposure to pain.

“No please just listen!”

However when it was a dragon slayer who would be delivering the lashes there was the ever so slight risk of multiple broken bones. Even with potions they would take time to heal.

“You can explain it to the elder after we’re done!” Said the captain. He said there would only be one chance for mercy, and he was not one to back on his words.

“Wait!” Jenkins was now tied to a post as the captain walked towards him with a cane.

“NOO! Please don’t hurt him!” shrieked a new voice, everyone turned in the new direction, “I’m with child! That’s why he did it!” the young woman stood between the captain and the topless Jenkins.

He was about to push her out of the way when he realised. Isn’t she dating…?

“You’re pregnant!?” two other watchmen exclaimed, and then looked at each other. Apparently she’s been with more than two watchmen.

“Oh!” the air headed girl didn’t see those two, “no wait it not his!” she defended herself.

“huh?” x3. That was news to Jenkins

“You see it was with Damascus…”
“DAMASCUS is the father!”

The sound of clattered metal was sounded as the blacksmith’s apprentice was walking nearby dropped some metal goods. “I’m going to be a father?” he asked with hope in his eyes, unaware of the current situation.

As the devolved into some sort of love drama, they forgot that the captain was going to punish Jenkins. Captain just stood off to sidelines of the drama. His finger and thumb massaging his frowning scarred forehead.

“Err… captain.” Said one of the watchmen

“What is it?”

“They’re starting to fight, should we stop them?” an argument had broken out and it was turning into a fist fight, somehow two more boys were revealed to be love rivals to.

“Have they drawn any weapons?”

“No…”

“Then let those idiots beat themselves up,” He was getting a headache just from thinking about having to solve this mess. It was going to be a long day. “Also get Maya and elder, we’ll need them here as well.”

Two more had joined the fray.

A really long day.

If only he knew how true it would be.

 

Part 4

The village’s alchemist had a garden where she’d grow her herbs and plants she’d use for potions and experiments. Located near the edge of the village and the woods the garden was large enough to contain some of the plants the alchemist would need.

The garden contained a variety of specimens from weeds that grew only as high as someone’s shin, to flowering bushes at waist level, to trees that towered overhead.

In the garden kneeling on the ground a blonde boy was picking leaves and snapping of sprigs and putting them into his bag to take to the alchemist.

It would have been a quite task. That is if it weren’t for a group of three kids who were walking along the path next to the garden. The group stopped as they noticed the boy.

“Look it’s the witch boy!” out of a group of brats one pointed at a blonde haired boy.

It’s not worth it, thought the boy with an expressionless mask for his face. Be good, you’re not supposed to fight. It might cause trouble for mother. Just ignore it. It wasn’t the first time this has happened.

“Shh! Don’t say things like that, he might curse you!” another child whispered a little too loudly so the boy could hear it. The rest of the children giggled

Ignore it. Ignore it. The boy kept on picking leaves from the plants in the garden. He was starting to get annoyed.

The teasing continued until someone said.

“Oi witch boy didn’t your dad leave ’cause your mum’s a witch? Why didn’t you go with him?!” one tried to provoke him.

If Leon was there he would have gone attacked them for those comments regardless his chances of winning. But Marcus Stardust was taught to avoid fighting. That violence was never the answer. That comment still struck a nerve though. So being the child that he was he stopped picking leaves and stood up and spoke.

“Do you mind leaving me alone? You’re making me angry.” He asked nicely in a flat voice. He wasn’t the best at dealing with people.

“Ohh we’re going to make him angry.” One kid mocked him

“What you’re gonna do pipsqueak? I don’t see your bodyguards anywhere.” Another said hauntingly. It’s so easy to mock someone when you have number on your side.

I asked them nicely so it should be alright to use it now right? Marcus thought to himself as he reached into his bag. And technically it’s not violence, he thought to himself as he pulled out a clay jar. The brown jar was round with its top sealed and could fit easily into the palm of an adult like a ball.

“Stop teasing me or you’re going to be leaving in tears,” he said. With his brows now furled the first signs of emotion appeared on his face. It was anger.

They children just continued to mock him. There were three of them and only one of him, what could he do to them?

I warned them. He wound his right arm back, preparing to throw the clay jar at them. He began to take aim when…

“Let’s not do that.” Rustling was heard from the tree above as something fell behind Marcus

Suddenly Marcus felt two hands. One hand was gripping his throwing arm stopping him from being able to throw the jar. The other hand was grabbing the clay jar in case the Marcus dropped that.

Marcus turned his head to find an old man wearing old hunting clothes. He was looking at Rios who was smiling at him.

He tried struggling to free his arm but the old man’s grip was fierce. When Marcus turned his head to look at the group of kids he found that they had run at the sight of an adult, or that of an adult falling from a tree. It was only after the bullies had left that Rios let go of his arm.

“What was that for?” Marcus said his frown still visible annoyed he couldn’t give them a taste of their own medicine.

Rios raised his hand with his fore finger pointing up. “First, never fight just because of what someone says, even if it hurts.” Those words caused the young boys conscience to flare and brought a bit of guilt for ignoring it from the start. The frown lessened.

Rios raised a second finger. “Second make if you’re going to fight that you’re going to win.”

Marcus tilted his head in confusion. “But I was going to win.”

Rios took a glance at the clay ball jar that Marcus held in his hand before he continued with his lecture. “Using Weeper’s Fog wouldn’t have caused you to win. After they cleaned their faces they’d be back for revenge once you’re alone.”

The fact Rios wasn’t wrong finally caused Marcus to calm down.

“They deserve it though.”

“But you don’t deserve to get beat up.”

If those kids did come back they’d probably start a fight with him, and if he was alone without his friends he would get beat up. Alone Marcus wasn’t any good in a fight, and he knew that.

Only traces of his frown were still visible as Marcus grumpily put the Weeper’s Fog potion into his bag. After taking a deep breath his face was back to an expressionless mask. “So what are you doing here uncle?” uncle was just a friendly term to address someone of the older generation in the village.

“I just came to see your mother. Is she in?”

Marcus nodded, “sure, I’ll take you to her.”

Marcus picked up his bag with its potions and ingredients and led Rios to the alchemists hut.

Something occurred to Marcus as they was walking, “Why were you in that tree by the way uncle?” he asked curiously.

All Rios did was chuckle, “you’ll understand when you’re older.”

From that particular tree you had a great view of the river. The calming river where people collected water, played, swam and bathed. If you looked at the river at the right time it was quite the sight.

Marcus knocked on the door as they entered the alchemist’s workshop.

There were two rooms in the workshop. The first room was entrance area for clients and customers. Selves lined with different potions, salves and creams occupied the space here. There was also a wooden counter near the wall opposite the entrance. There was a door of to the side of the counter which led into the true alchemist’s workshop where the potions were made.

“Mother customers!” yelled Marcus as he entered the shop with Rios in tow. “It’s uncle Rios!”

“I will be there!” a muffled voice came from the back room.

They heard muffled sounds of equipment being put away before the door opened to reveal the alchemist. She was a short albino woman wearing a white cloak to protect her clothes and a silver necklace could be seen around her neck. Her white hair stopped at her pale light neck. The necklace gleamed and hanging from it was a pendant. It was a simple design of a circle inside an eight point star inside of another circle.

SP symbol
What Maya’s pendant looked like

Her skin was smooth and with no signs of aging on her face and short stature you may mistake her for a short young woman or a teenager. Her eyelids dropped over her red eyes giving her almost expressionless face a touch of tiredness to it. One could say Marcus showing little expression on his face was proof he was his mother’s son.

“Rios… what are you doing here?” she said with an emotionless voice.

“Busting with expression as always, eh Maya?” He cracked half a smile then continued. “There’s something I’d like to have a look at it.” He tapped a leather pouch tied to his waist. It had something the size of a fist inside.

“What is it?”

“Something magical” he said as he cast a glance towards Marcus.

Following his gaze Maya understood what he meant. “Marcus please start preparing the ingredients you collected.”

“Okay,” he responded in an equally emotionless voice and began to head to the door to the workshop before he remembered something. “Could I also try making some potions as well?” he asked his mother.

“Certainly but you and your friends aren’t allowed to test them.” Potion testing was dangerous. Even if the goal of the potion isn’t to harm but heal, or it isn’t going to be ingested it can still cause harmful side effects to the user.

“But…” slight signs of disappointment showed on his face.

“Marcus,” Maya shot him a cold gaze.

He fell silent under the mother’s gaze.

“Don’t worry Marcus if you make some throwing potions then I’ll test them with you,” Said Rios.

Marcus cheered up and began to head in to the back of the shop.

“Brave of you.” Said Maya as the door closed.

“Well what’s the worst that could happen with potion testing?” said Rios casually

“The undead may rise.” She replied in a flat voice

“See not… Wait, what did you say?”

“The undead may rise.”

“… I’m not good at knowing if you’re joking Maya.”

“Sorry. At worst it might only burn a house down”

“Still joking?”

“… What is in the pouch Rios?”

She must still be joking he thought. “Well,” he untied the pouch and brought it to the counter, “Have you ever heard of Remus wolves?”

In the back of the shop Marcus was unpacking the indigents he collected in the garden onto a bench. He then reached for a small stained pair of leather gloves, and then wrapped a piece of cloth across his nose and mouth. Safety first after all.

Then standing on a stool so he could reach the bench he got to work.

He first began tearing some of the leaves he gathered and stuffing them into small cloth bags.  Once his mother sewed the bags shut then they could be used to soak the leaves in water and potion bases.

After packing away about half of the leaves he gathered he grabbed a mortar and pestle and began to grind the roots from another plant paste. He then emptied the mortar’s contents into a bowl and poured in clear water. He then mixed the paste and water together forming a white cloudy mixture. These were one of the simpler bases used for potion making.

After pouring the bases into the correct storage containers Marcus did all he could do without being supervised and began to finish up one of the potions he started the previous day.

He pulled out a glass container that had a red potion base with a cloth bag soaked at the bottom. Using metal tweezers he pulled out the bag and dropped it in a bin that contained other used bags.

He then began pouring the contents into a round clay jar similar to the one he was about to use on the bullies. After filling the jar he picked up a cork and was trying to push it in to seal it.

It was at this point Rios entered leaving the door slightly ajar.

“So what are you working on?”

“Corking a throwing jar.”

“Need a hand?”

Marcus nodded and hand the filled jar to Rios. After pushing the cork as far as it could he handed it back to Marcus.

Removing his gloves and the cloth over his mouth and holding the potion in both hands, Marcus was staring intently at the jar trying to put the finishing touches on the potion. To be an alchemist you sometimes need to use a little magic. Rios continued the conversation.

“Listen I may have been a little harsh when I said you couldn’t fight earlier.”

“You were right though” it was slightly eerie when Marcus the young boy said that without any expression on his face or in his voice.

Should a kid really be thing like that? Rios thought. Wouldn’t a normal boy at least be a little upset even if it was true? Or at least less… logical? Cold? “Well if you want to learn how to fight you just have to ask”

Marcus stopped concentrating to look up at Rios “It’s okay if my potions work then I won’t need to learn how to fight.”

“But if they don’t work…” Rios’ voice trailed off in worry for the boy. He then began to hear noises in the shop and putting his head against the wall he could hear Maya talking with someone.

“Incident… training yard… lovers’ quarrel… fist fight… might have some injured.” Rios only caught a few words.

“I will travel… prepare first… go back now.” Maya dismissed the person before entering the back of the shop. She explained to Rios about the brawl at the training yard and how she’d be leaving the shop to handle any injuries. “I think you should come too,” she said to Rios

“It’ll be fine I’ll send someone else to handle it.’

“Then would you look after Marcus then?”

“To make sure he doesn’t burn the place down?” he joked with a smirk, “I’ll keep an eye on him.”

“Good.” She nodded and then gathered some potion and medicine and went out to the training field.

“I’m off Marcus, Rios.”

“See you later mother.”

“Take care Maya

As she left Marcus raised the clay jar towards Rios

“It’s finished,” he said, “So are we leaving now? When will we test the potion?”

Rios nodded as he took the potion “how about we visit Ru and Lu first?”

A slight smile appeared on Marcus’ face. “Sure,” he said as he got up and left with Rios.

“Hey uncle? Even if my potions don’t work it’s alright,” Marcus said the small smile still on his face.

“Oh?”

“After all I’m not alone anymore.” He looked up at Rios. Gone was the expressionless mask and it was just the sweet innocent smile of a child.

“Since you met Leon, Lu and Ru, huh?”

“And you uncle.” Marcus added

Rios chuckled as they walked. It was those cute innocent lines that confirmed that Marcus was still a child. Child that’s as bad as his mother when it comes to interacting with people, but still a child.

Part 5

She was grumpy. Rouge Mercury was young boyish girl, with shortish brown hair and blue eyes, and she wasn’t happy. She was fed up with the children her age in the village. She still hadn’t forgotten how some of those jerks treated her when her family first moved to Creeks-Ben. There was no way she would play with them. The rest generally fell into two categories. There were the girls who spent more time talking and playing with dolls which bored the tomboy and there were the boys who stopped playing with her because she was a girl. They may also have stopped because she would always beat them in their games, but they would tell her it was because she was a girl.

Apart from her sister she only had two other friends who she liked to play with. Since one was grounded from their last adventure and the other had to work with his mother she was bothering her sister.

“Come on Lu I’m borrreeed!” she whinged as she stood in front of her sister.

“Go away Ru.” Lucia said flatly. In appearance apart from her longer hair that was tied back in a ponytail with a ribbon she looked exactly like Rouge.

Rouge and her twin sister Lucia Mercury were in a field near the road side. Lucia was sitting behind tall bushes trying to find some privacy to read her book. Being one of three children in the village who could read, she had a reputation of being weird and cold among the other village children.

“But there’s no one else to play with.” She began pacing, “the girls are boring and the boys won’t play with me!”

“Bother Marcus,” Lucia her eyes never left her book. “He might need help with the potion.”

“He’s working.”

“Try asking Leon.”

“He’s grounded, remember? He took the blame for the flowers.”

“He’s done with his grounding”

“How can you know that?”

“He’s trying to sneak up on us in the bushes.”

“BOO!” Leon sprung up as tried to scare Lucia. Rouge jumped from being startled and tripped and fell backwards. Lucia turned to the next page of her book.

“How’d you know I was there?”

“You make too much noise moving.” Lucia didn’t even look up from her book.

“But how did you know it was me?”

“Don’t scare people like that!” Rouge got up from the ground and interrupted them as she tried hitting Leon for the scare.

“Sorry, sorry” he said with a laugh. He wasn’t sorry. Lucia began to start attacking Leon with her fists.

Finally giving up on reading her book with this commotion Lucia placed her book marker and closed the book. “So what are you doing here?”

As he was grabbing Rouge’s wrist to stop her from hitting him, he turned to Lucia “I was bored. Umphf!” Rouge got one of her wrists out of his hold and managed to get a hit in.

Another one huh? Lucia thought, as Rouge content with her hit calmed down and stepped away from Leon.

“I thought we could help Marcus at work. The sooner his chores are finished the sooner he’s free and we can test the new potion,” he said rubbing his gut. “So interested?”

“I guess I could give it try.” Rouge said. It would be the first time they would help Marcus.

“Hmmm,” Lucia was thinking when a noisy group of kids passed by on the road. The bushes hid Leon and the twins from the field of view, so the group didn’t notice them.

“… just weakling, we’d have won if the old man didn’t show up.”

“‘ ‘Mind leaving me alone? You’re making me angry’ he’s pathetic”

“Yeah, we would have creamed him”

“The witch boy got lucky”

Leon lost his smile and was about to head out and ‘talk’ with those kids. Their friend Marcus was the only person who got called ‘witch boy’ and all the kids knew he hated it.

Rouge grabbed his arm to stop him. “Don’t” she shook her head with a frown, she wouldn’t have minded ‘talking’ with these kids too. Leon was about to respond when she continued, “Lu’s got it covered” she nodded her head to the side where there was a closed book and empty bag on the ground, and no Lucia.

Though he still had a frown Leon controlled himself. He hadn’t noticed Lucia move in the bushes and even now didn’t know where she was exactly. It was as if she vanished, which is good for a surprise attack.

“… ‘leave in tears’ how was he planning to do that”

The noisy bullies heard the sound of pottery braking, or possibly that of a hollow clay ball shattering, the type of clay ball that could hold throwing potions.

“What was that?”

“Who knows… huh?”

Smoke had engulfed the bullies, and the best was yet to come.

Weeper’s Fog, a throwing potion Marcus created and shared with his friends. It first acts as a smoke bomb when the jar breaks exposing it air, blinding the target or in this case targets. But a smoke bomb alone doesn’t always deter bullies so Marcus experimented and added another effect to the potion, specifically the smoke.

He found a way to infuse the equivalent of onion and chilli extracts into the smoke. The results:

“AHHH!”

“WATER!!”

“IT BURNS!”

Bullies and jerks would run away with tears in their eye and snort running down their noses.

“Heehee,” Rouge and Leon giggled as this group ran away to wash out the burning sensation. For the record the potion does wash out with water if the smoke gets into the eyes and nose.

Lucia had emerged from the bushes near her book and bag. She dusted herself as if nothing important had happened and began to pack her thing. As she picked them up she said, “let’s head to our place first so I can put this away and then visit Marcus.”

The three friends left the field and made their way to the twins’ house.

As they reached the twin’s house they could faintly hear an old male voice.

“So they’re out… I guess we’ll just have to look for them ourselves.”

As they got closer they could hear female voice talking to the man

“Anything else you wanted dad?”

“Just one other thing Miriam…”

As they rounded the corner they could see the grey and grizzled Rios talking to his daughter in law, Miram. In her late 30s with dark brown discerning eyes and her dark brown hair tied back Miram was also the twins’ mother.

“Grandpa!”

“Grandpa!”

The twins ran and jumped onto Rios and gave him a hug. Their grandfather hugged back with a laugh and feeling of love for his grandchildren.

“Old man,” Leon said with a nod and a smirk as he also walked up to Rios.

“I’m here also you know” Marcus popped out from behind Rios.

“Marcus!” the three said. As the twins let go of Rios, they and Leon moved greet him. Rios was left alone in the background.

Marcus smiled as he talked with his friends. He was rarely wore the expressionless mask when he was with them.

As the children chatted, Rios continued his conversation with Miriam. “There was something that happened in the training yard, do mind checking it out for me?”

Miriam’s eyes narrowed in suspicion, “Isn’t that a job for you, dad?”

“As you can see I’m looking after the children,” he said with a cheeky smile. It was just an excuse to avoid work, and a bad one at that, but it didn’t matter.

Miriam sighed tiredly giving up. She’s lost this discussion of her father-in-law doing his own job so many times that there was no point in arguing further. “I’ll be there in a moment.”

“Oh thank you. What a sweet daughter I have.”

“Daughter-in-law.” She not impressed with her in-law’s cheery mood. She soften her expression and lowered herself with a smile to the children’s’ eye levels and spoke with her daughters. “Girls can you keep an eye on your grandfather for me? Make sure he doesn’t get into trouble, okay?”

“Okay” the said in unison as the nodded their heads.

With a smile she nodded as children continued chatting after that interruption. The smile was gone and her expression hardened when she rose and turned to the in-law. “Don’t get into trouble.” And she closed the door to get ready to leave.

Rios was staring at the closed door.

“So did you get the potion ready Marcus?” asked Leon.

“Just one, and Uncle Rios has it, mother said to we needed someone to test it for us”

“So let’s go test it old man.” Leon called out to Rios, breaking his staring contest with the door.

“You should ask nicely and with respect,” he lightly scolded Leon

“…Uncle old man?”

Though Rios was frowning on the outside, on the inside he was smiling.

“So grandpa can we please test the potion?” Lucia said grabbing Rios’ sleeve with big up turned eyes. If left to Leon she thought that it would be ages before they actually began to test the potion.

“Please grandpa?” Rouge grabbed the other sleeve and copied her sister’s look. She also had the same thought.

Looking down at the adorable faces of his granddaughters Rios’ heart just couldn’t say no. “Alright then,” he freed his sleeves and ruffled the twins’ hair, “let’s get going!” Acting like a child, the aged man raised his arm to in the air and then began to march towards his cabin with exaggerated steps and arm movements. He was hoping to be more fun with the kids.

The four children looked at each other. Though young they weren’t so young to be entertained by such gimmicks. However he did played with them and was close to the four of them. Silently it seemed like they came to a conclusion and shrugged. They copied Rios’ and marched with him.

They didn’t want to ruin the old man’s fun and dreams.

Part 6

Rios had a cabin right on the edge of the woods for when he wished to go hunting. I say cabin but since it was built like all the other houses in the village. It was far enough from the village to safely test the potion. To make sure that it couldn’t cause damage to the village.

Once they arrived at the cabin Rios pulled out a silver pendant from under his clothes. The silver necklace had the same design as Maya’s (Marcus’ mother). He closed his eyes as he grasped the necklace in both hands focusing his mana through the charm. One done he then placed the necklace on the ground some way from the cabin and place the clay jar with the experiment potion nearby he then stepped away as a red circle of light about a meter in diameter formed on the ground around the pendant and jar.

It was a simple containment spell but it would take time for it to be completed. On the off chance that Maya wasn’t joking when she said the potion could blow up a house he wanted to be safe and contain whatever the effects of the potion. Now all he had to do was keep an eye on the children till the necklace completed the spell and then they could test what this potion could do (he himself was also curious).

Meanwhile the children were hanging around the cabin when they found something interesting and fun. Leon smiled picked something up and walked up to Rios after the containment circle appeared on the ground. “Hey Uncle old man, it’s been awhile since you spared with me this time I’ll beat you.” He was pointed a short wooden sword at Rios.

Behind Leon, Marcus had a wooden staff, Lucia had two short pieces of wood shaped like single edged knives and Rouge had a sling shot and was picking up stones to use as ammunition. They had found some of the mementos of the past Rios had, when his sons were still boys.

“First just call me Uncle,” it was starting to get annoying being called Uncle old man. “And second,” his voice took a provocative tone, like one competitor trash talking the other, “you weren’t even able to touch me last time, and you won’t be a able to even hit me again”

“I’ve gotten better old man!” said Leon “I’ll hit you so hard you’ll feel it into next week!”

No he wouldn’t, Rios thought in a matter of fact way. Keeping the provocative tone of voice he replied, “even if all four of tried you wouldn’t be able to hit me!”

“Ooohh?” Lucia and Rouge’s competitive spirit began to awaken.

“…Uncle…” Marcus was just slightly disappointed that Rios was acting childish.

“Don’t believe me then how about if any of you hit me I’ll do a spit just for the four of you?” Let’s try and make this a challenge Rios thought.

At the mention of a spit the children’s mouths began to water. The slow cooked meat with a crispy outside, seasoned the spices Rios had acquired from his previous adventures and from the exotic merchant who occasionally stopped at the village. It was a delicious meal that all four of them loved.

“GET HIM!” Yelled Marcus. It was especially his favourite.

“Haha!” now it’s time to have some fun, thought the old hunter. The old hunter who once served in the kingdom’s army in his young years.

The children spread out as Lucia and Rouge began to prepare for their own surprise attacks, Leon and Marcus began to attack from the front.

And that brings us up to where we started. See told you there was a reasonable excuse.

SP: you could have just said something like “they were playing around to kill time while waiting to test a potion” from the start.

But then I wouldn’t have found a way to properly introduce Rios and the kids

SP: you’d of found a way… wait were you trying to start the first chapter with a scene out of context? Isn’t that a bit clichéd?  

…How about you continue telling the story then, SP?

SP: oh would you look at the time, I have to be somewhere for a thing.

… You just moved to the next room

SP (his voice slightly muffled by the wall): just continue with the story.

*sighs* why do I even bother…

Moving on

As Lucia fell face first to the ground from Rouge’s shot and Rios laughed, fuelling their drive to get him. The only problem was they weren’t looking where they were going. As Leon and Marcus rushed towards Rios they didn’t notice that Lucia had dropped her wooden knives when she fell when she struggled to keep herself from falling. The wooden toys in question were thrown some ways in front of where she had fallen. As luck would have it in their charge towards Rios both the boys ended up stepping on the knives and tripped over them.

It was worse for Lucia because when she was up from her fall Marcus had crashed into her forcing her to the ground again. Rouge ran over to see if her friends were alright. Rios though laughing with a wide grin also made his way to check on the fallen.

“Are you okay Leon?” Rios asked as crouched down to help him up. A wooden sword came flying towards Rios. Out of reflex he blocked it with his leather brace before it could hit the rest of his body.

“Got you,” Leon raised his head with a cheeky smile, proud his trick worked.

Rios cleared his throat and pointed to the containment behind him with his thumb. The containment circle had turned from red to green during that fall. The spell was finished he had won already won.

“Guuuuhhh,” Leon groaned as he lowered his head back to the ground in disappointment.

Part 7

After making sure Leon, Marcus and Lucia were okay and raised to their feet it was time to test the potion.

“Why didn’t you make more Marcus?” asked Rouge curiously.

“It was the only one that finished brewing,” He replied, “After I started and finished one, mother needed more help around the shop. The other potions I started on will only be done tonight.” He had made seven other potions which were still brewing in at the workshop.

“Okay everyone stand behind me.” Rios interrupted to warn the children as he pulled an arrow from his quiver and nocked it to the bowstring. The children took a step back behind him. Their eyes glued to the clay ball in the circle, waiting to see what would happen when the arrow breaks it and the potion is released. The containment circle would let the arrow in, but wouldn’t allow anything inside to escape until the spell was cancelled. Well anything except light, they had to be able to see what was happening.

In one smooth motion Rios raised the bow and drew the arrow back. Taking aim at his target he released the arrow. It flew through the air like the thousand of arrows Rios had fired across his life, and hit the target.

As the clay shattered flames burst out from the jar. They rushed to the edges of the circle, then as if hitting and invisible wall the flames just stopped at the edge of the circle and just jumped higher.

Though the circle kept the heat contained, the flames spread so quickly it was almost as if there was a flash of light which started the five observers. They stood in awe as the flames crept up this invisible wall higher and higher as if forming a pillar of fire. It was beautiful as the red oranges and yellows moved as if alive in that pillar. This was when alarm bells began ringing in Rios’ head.

There shouldn’t be a pillar of fire. At most the potion should have burnt itself out and maybe the grass inside the circle. It shouldn’t be a 3 meter and growing pillar, there wasn’t enough fuel for the fire to burn. (It would only be later that they would figure out that the flames could use mana as a fuel source).

“Everyone head behind the cabin,” he said beginning to step towards the cabin, and then he realised it. The spell was beginning to wane. He could sense the mana he poured into the necklace was, for some reason, running out.

“But…” one of the kids tried to argue.

“NOW!” he yelled slightly panicked.

The kids shut up ran. He may scold them lightly, but rarely did he ever raise his voice at them. So when he yelled they listened.

As they peeked from behind the cabin they saw the pillar still growing till it…

At the watchmen’s training yard, Maya was treating the last of those injured at in the lovers brawl. The watchmen did eventually break up the fight and restrained the fighters. Miriam had just arrived to begin to sort out this mess to decide what should be done about the would be love rivals. The Village elder was nowhere to be seen.

As she began to clean a nasty cut across this patient’s forehead with a cloth soaked with a special potion, Maya again noticed something strange about the patient. He has been charmed too, she thought. Being an alchemist Maya had some knowledge about magic and the aliments it can cause. From the first patient to the last she noticed that all involved with the brawl had a charm spell cast over them. All except…

After finishing with the last patient her gaze wandered to a dark haired girl who was the cause of the fighting. Violet Matterson… she would have to let Miriam and the watchmen’s captains know about this.

“Maya is everything alright?” asked Miriam as Maya approached her.

“Ya look a little worried there,” added a woman with dark reddish brown hair and scar and an eye patch over her left eye. The second in command of the watchmen who came running over once she heard about the fighting. With a solid and a sword attached to her belt build Malinda Wilhart was the wife of the captain and Leon’s mother.

“There is a problem” she said as she raised her head to look up at Miriam and Malinda. “Nearly everyone in the fight… was…” Her voice trailed off as she began to notice the growing pulse red pillar behind them.

The other two turned around and also notice the growing pillar. All three mothers had a bad feeling.

“Isn’t Rios’ extra cabin where that pillar is?” asked Malinda. The other two nodded

“And he’s with the kids…” added Miriam, “but they couldn’t have…”

“They were going to test Marcus’ potion.” Maya replied.

The three mothers didn’t even need to look at each other. They began running as fast as they could towards the cabin. They were nearly at the cabin when the pillar began crumbling. It was throwing balls of fire onto the cabin, the surrounding fields and woods.

When they finally reached the area they could  see and feel the heat from the flames scattered around. If action wasn’t taken swiftly the small scattered fires could combine to start an inferno and burn down the village.

“Maya!” Miriam look and the short albino women.

“I will do it” she nodded. She understood what she was ordered to do.

Maya took a step forward and began to chant in a clear voice.

Oh fire please warm this ice cold heart.

Travel like a cart

Give this soul life

Not strife

Maya then inhaled deeply with her mouth. The flames seemed to jump from their spots and fly straight into her mouth to form a bright red glowing bead. Once all the flames had gathered and disappeared from the surroundings Maya closed her mouth and swallowed the bead. For brief moment her red eyes shone brightly before returning to normal. “Urrrghp” after she gave a quick burp that was all of the fire.

“Can you sense them Mal?” asked Miriam

She nodded, “their behind the cabin.”

The three women walked behind the slightly charred cabin to find Rios lying on the ground with a slightly singed cloak spread to cover the kids to protect them from the fire.

He looked up to see the three women looking down at him. “Am I glad to see…” he noticed the frowns, “you” he said in a quieter voice.

“Rios” Miriam growled.

Rios and the children noticed the frowns and angry glares the mothers were giving them there was only one thing they could do.

“He did it!” the four children pointed at Rios. All they could do was pass the blame

“he… he… he…”he chuckled nervously. Right now he was the one responsible for them.

They were the five problem children of the village. The four children who caused trouble around the village and sometime fought and pulled pranks on other kids. And Rios the village elder who was more childish than a child.

This is a tale about four of them.

And just so we’re clear I’m referring to the kids, not Rios.

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Message from the Author

EDIT: originally this was the start of the post, but you guys would have liked to read the story first right?

Hey Dear Reader.

EDIT: IT’S DONE!! I may have rushed it to get it done before the end of April so there may still be some editing involved but other than the small stuff I’m done! enjoy!

EDIT: started on part 5 and decided not to delete the edit messages (they kind of act a log of the work I’ve done) anyway enjoy the update!

EDIT: Released all of part 4, and I’m beginning to rethink my release strategies, anyway hope you like the story!

Original message below:

I planned to release one whole chapter a week after the prologue, but you know what they say about the plans of mice and men, and people who move house.

Anyway here’s part of the first chapter.  It’s mostly introducing characters and small parts of the world. Not gonna lie I hope it doesn’t end up becoming boring. I really hate it when some stories take too long with introducing character, or add too much unnecessary world building fluff. Fingers crossed that I won’t fall into the same trap.

So here’s part 1 of chapter 1 of “For Friends” with plans to release one part every week or fortnight. But you know the best laid schemes of mice and men go often askew.

By the way if you’re starting the story here you should probably read the prologue first.

Kairos5 out!

 

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