We started to fall, Menardi and I.
In this blistering rain, slicing our hides in its random, unrelentless manner, we could no longer keep ourselves upright; could no longer hold on to our swords in the tight, confident grasp as we did moments ago, swinging them bravely with our soon-to-be-matched strength.
Our pursuers had finally caught up to us. The blonde haired boy with eyes as cold as ice had become much stronger, his skills with dangerous weapons honed to a level that matched my own. His friend-- the red-haired one-- also seemed to have grown, but was no smarter than he was when I last saw his conceited grin. The two of them had been flanked by one more pair, made up of a short, skinny, blonde child, and a humble-looking young woman. Both also proved to be formidable.
When we found ourselves cornered by the four of them, Menardi and I fused our psynergy, becoming one, a two-headed dragon that which we knew to our best knowledge had no match. As one, we fought with breath and claw, charring the stone ground with the seemingly limitless power pumping through our dragon veins.
And then we lost again, exhausting our supplies of energy. I had fallen on my armored knees, clutching my pale, blue throat breathlessly as though choked. My hands were warm with my boiling blood. My once handsome hair was wrangled over my sweat-laden forehead, the band holding it back long cut away.
I could swear, the boy was sent by the devil himself. I could call him the Devil's Manservant to stop us on our journey now, only halfway through at Venus Lighthouse. I would call the ones who sent him the Devils. The Devil's Bastards. Bastards. Bastards. Those Bastard Children.
We were cornered. And with no strength left... no energy, neither Menardi nor I could continue. The Bastard Children had sucked away all hope of saving Prox and its people. The journey was for naught. The people who died for us--their lives meant nothing now. I tried as hard as I could. Menardi and I-- we let ourselves go over the lighthouse edge with no hope to spare. Had we any left, we would not have given up...
The air beneath me rushed past my face as did the water once I hit the salty, rock-infested sea. The freezing water rushed into my ears and nostrils as I sputtered to keep from drowning, frantically grappling onto the liquid water I hoped would somehow materialize into a safe, solid ice I could lock my fingers into. Alas, it made no difference as the ocean rejected me and spewed me onto the rocky beach at the bottom of the cliffs of the lighthouse. I had found myself beached no quicker than when I had hit the vehement, ocean waves.
Menardi, however, faced a different fate. She had washed up on shore, lifeless. Her fire-red hair was strewn across her pale cheeks and crimson, full lips, soon to be become as pale as the coldest ice. Her armor seemed to have been ripped tumultuously away, exposing her pale, rose-colored skin and hide that would otherwise be unseen. I crawled to her, and shook her to, perhaps, call her soul back. It would not happen, for her forehead seemed to be bleeding as ice from the northern glaciers melted in the mid-summer. She was unfortunate enough to hit the Nails of the Devil, the sharp rocks that I had chanced to miss.
I could not cry. In my hapless mind I cried unrestrained, for my energy was sapped to truly express this sorrow. I held her in my arms, gripping her wet, unmoving shoulders, feeling such a lament that the pleasurable warmth of her skin was no longer there; instead, replaced by the burn of the cold touch of death.
In the beginning, I could have never imagined such a scene. I glanced at the night sky, blanketed with the bright, rainbow stars that were becoming discernable with the parting of the storm clouds. The sand and mud beneath me was numbing to the touch, afixed by the grip of the chilling sea. The white moon lit her cheeks up, giving the impression that the water on it, in fact, wept from her eyes.
On my father's life, I would never have foretold myself holding her like this under the moon on the beach of Venus Lighthouse. I would never have known that the bastard children of Vale would be this world's undoing. It should never have ended this way...
Call me Saturos.
The name is one of old origin, a combination of the two Anemian words "satu" (meaning "long-lived") and "rozen" (meaning "flame"), given to me by my mother who I never met. Said she who died in childbirth, "Give my son the name of the brother who died." The one she was referring to was the infant brother who died prematurally when my mother, at the time, was ten. When Saturos-- the infant-- died so suddenly, she was pained when she would never have a sibling. So, to fill in that space when she had me, called me Saturos just like him.
My father had told me this since I was very young, and often relayed the information to me so as to, perhaps, not forget a mother I never knew. The man was obviously very attached to her, and made sure that her wishes would be carried out. I thought him a bit over-emotional. He was a very good man, however, as he attempted to play the part of both parents. He was a wonderful cook and medicinal artist, as well as a very talented swordsman. His strength knew no bounds (to my knowledge), as I saw him slay wolves, deer, and bears, and cook them all to a tender crisp easily as though he were picking fruit from a tree.
Often, he and I would spar so he could pass his skill and prowess to me. His efforts were not unfruitful. Eventually, he passed our family sword to me, which I soon learned to use at its full extent.
I had been sleeping when a familiar voice and knock rapped at my cottage door.
"Satu-kun! Wake up, buddy! You still sleeping?"
Indeed, I was. It seemed Melenor had come a little earlier than expected, as I had promised him yesterday that we would go south and go fishing for blue anchovies down at the glacier sea. I popped open one eye, the sunlight of the windows blinding me momentarily as I saw my friend's shape behind the cracks of my chamber door.
"...hrmm... you are much too early, Melenor," I managed to groggily remind him.
"I'm sorry, Satu-kun! I'm afraid we'll have to cancel our fishing trip. There is--"
"Cancel in what manner," I asked with insincere curiousity as I slowly creeped out of bed. "There is what?"
The chilly, rough, wooden floor of my cottage creaked as my bare, gray feet walked upon it to shelves where my day clothes laid.
My cottage was strong and well-made, a place that my father, intending it to be for the entire family, had built. With my mother's death so many years ago, it had been just he and I. It was cone shaped, looking like all the rest of the ones in the village, though touched with the flair of Fiore (my father's name) that made it so implausibly enduring. The inside of my house, though maybe stark and austere in another's eye, was very nice despite the lack of ornaments and extraneous objects. It served its purpose very well, protecting me from the cold and the storms throughout the years
I put on my shirt and my boots, tightening my trousers as I was at it. Within moments, I had unlocked my cottage door, and in came in my visitor, completely suited up. He also wore typical Proxian attire: baggy, white trousers; leather top, and thick boots; at his side-- a small axe.
"Satu-kun," he gave me a most gay smile. "Buddy, you're up! Hey, I came to get you. There is a town meeting. Very important one, I think."
"I see. Very well. I'll be there in a moment."
Town meetings-- we had had been having them recently, The last few meetings addressed the recent decrease in climate temperatures, as well as the state of the northern rift which was reportly widening rapidly. It was concerning the Elders. Was the matter of great consequence?
I strapped on my boots, put on my brown cardigan, and joined Melenor for a walk to the town square as we would have it.
It was mid-summer. The medallion of the blue sky peered over the balcony of clouds, its gaze welcoming to all who had courage enough to expose their skin in its wake. Prox this morning, despite the sun's appearance, was heavy with snow, the rooftops and staircases caked with its perpetual icing. What little pine trees we had not cut down held stiff banks of snow in their evergreen branches. It was, in a sense, a most typical summer day for your average Proxian.
My neighbor's son and current best friend, this Melenor man took pride in the thick hide of his arms and shoulders. In Prox, it is considered attractive to have tough shoulder hides with deep, masculine hues and a smooth, diamond pattern. Melenor had such traits and, as such, automatically tended to magnetize many of those of the opposite sex behind him without intending it. Because of this, he was slightly conceited, but only just. Melenor was a good man of twenty-one, like myself. Aside from the traits he inhereted from his father, we looked very much alike. Our skin was a healthy, pale blue color suited to the average Proxian. My eyes were a cherry red-- from my mother-- in contrast to Melenor's lavender iris'. Our hair differed in that, in comparison to my teal hair, Melenor's hair was dark crimson. The only trait of mine that Melenor envied was the one of my ears-- I inhereted markedly sharp ears which little children would occasionally stroke (much to my dismay) as if they were some tassel cats play with.
Melenor, as we walked, began on a subject I had no desire to talk about.
"Satu-kun," started Melenor in a serious tone that hardly matched his jolly joice. "Codscale! When are you going to stop flirting with that kinderchild! Come on-- you and I-- we've got the right stuff! When are you gonna start considering to look for real women?"
We strolled around the bend of an abandoned cottage, crippled by the winds of time. Its shutters hung tattered and unmanaged as snow gathered between the blinds. "Do not say silly things like that," I snapped away at him, even though it was doubtless a joke. "Esra is only six- a kid!"
Melenor made his signature snigger. Esra was a little girl with lilac hair that seemed to take a particular liking to me, and visited me at my house often. She would say I need to "loosen up". How so? She said she found me fun to play with; her parents would allow me to babysit her while they were away, and thus I was forever included in her saccharrine-happy life.
"I've told you before, Melenor. There is just no one that interests me at this moment in time."
He scowled, "You say the same thing every time. Our looks don't last forever, buddy. That's why I take advantage of this." He felt up his scaly arm, looking as though he were polishing them like precious stones. Then, he flexed those bulging biceps and examined them in a very "sad" state of fascination.
"Look at my biceps, Saturos," said he with a most proud grin. "Aren't they just sexy?!"
I scowled at him with distaste, trying to walk a little faster in the hopes of losing him in his state of being. Although my best friend, (as I had known him since early childhood) occasionally he would have one of his "moments" which I would find irascibly irritating. He began to make his biceps undulate.
"We're here, Melenor," I announced to him, a few feet behind me.
"Ah, I see we are! What an assembly! I haven't seen this many people gathered since the funeral of your father last year!"
We reached the town square which, to no surprise, was already full of people. They gathered around the clearing, forming a thick, circular assembly around a bonfire situated before the Elders and Chieftan Puelle. Smoke from the giant bonfire rose into the blue sky. The snow cracked beneath our boots as we joined the encirclement.
The town square was a large, snow-covered clearing with little vegetation in the middle of town. It was in the shape of a large semi-circle with various shops and buildings scattered all around. Many of them seemed to not have opened yet seeing as to how early it was.
"Ooh... here comes your girlfriend," Melenor sniggered.
Esra ran daintily down the slope of a hill of powdered snow, looking eager to reach me. Her twin-tails swung this way and that as she took her steps with a clumsy cuteness.
"Satu-chan! You is here today?"
"Yes," said I somewhat flatly. "Yes, I is here today."
"Mommy say that the meeting is vary important! What is they talking about?"
"Eheh... I'm not quite sure, Esra. I only just got here."
"Oh," and she looked quite crestfallen then.
I asked her where her parents were, and she said they on the other side of the square talking to their friends. I motioned her to follow us. Melenor continued to grin at me, the sick bastard.
The Chieftan's loud booming voice overrode the crowd's compulsive chatter. His skin was a grass-green hue, characterized by the many dozens of wrinkles that carved his skin. The Chieftan was incredibly old. The village elder flanked his side, just as old as he.
"I see we have many people gathered today," Puelle began to speak before us all, his hands pocketed in his long, wool trenchcoat. "We are gathered here today to discuss something that is sure to plague the community in the future.
"The rift to the north of us-- it is widening. We ancient Proxians who have lived here in peace for many centuries now face a dilemma that may change our lives, and ruin the ones we set out for our children, and their own unborn children. With the widening of this rift, the northern valley is shrinking. And soon-- the elder tells me-- Prox will be swallowed with it if we do not act soon."
Suddenly, there was an outbreak of voices as the men and women in the crowd began to clamor amongst themselves worriedly. I heard one woman incredulously express her worry as she held her child ever so tightly. One man asked what the cause of the widening of the rift was.
"I'm not quite certain, but the elder claims that the source of all Alchemy-- the legendary Elemental Stars that feed the world their endless energy-- has been removed too long. I'm sure everyone in this crowd knows the legend of those Stars, which are in fact orbs containing essences, which in fact do exist, but are quite out of reach..."
The Elder stepped forth and continued.
"Since the very beginning of my ancestors' legacy of passing down ancient stories and legends, we have known that the Stars do exist. They are not figments of our imagination. Even now, they rest in the highest mountain of the land-- Mount Aleph-- within the sacred Sol Sanctum. The Stars, for those who are uninformed, contain four different essences of the elements: Earth, Water, Wind, and Fire. There are four Elemental Stars each containing each element. The Stars, when broken, unleash their energies upon the world and nourish it. Fewer of you still recall the story of the lighthouses that states that when the Stars are dropped into their respective lighthouses, Alchemy will be released back into the world. The ancient people from long ago, as you know, sealed away Alchemy in the form of these Stars in order to keep the art of Alchemy away from those who would use its power for evil. However, in doing so they removed the source that moves the cycle of nature along. Weyard is dying without the Elemental Stars. Without them, not only we, but the entire land will turn to dust."
There was utter silence as we took this in.
I always heard of the tale of the Elemental Stars as a bedtime story. My father would tell it to me at night, and it would put me to sleep. He said that because of the Stars' absence, most of the people in Weyard had lost their ability to use Psynergy, a power to control nature by way of the mind. I had always been able to use Psynergy as long as I could remember, so the story had meant little to me.
"This isn't very good news, is it Saturos," asked my friend Melenor as soon as the crowd began to roar again. "The situation is much more serious, no?" He still had his jolly demeanor.
I merely nodded to his cheeky face. The Chiftain began again.
"Its just as the Elder tells it-- both Prox and the rest of Weyard will be turned into nothingness if action is not taken. We are unsure of how much time we have left until the rift erodes unto our snow covered town, but to be safe, we will be taking action as soon as possible. The Elders and I have decided what is best..."
I awaited their answer as the crowd was silent.
"We will restore Alchemy to save our village, and this world as we will have it."
Then the crowd cheered in a jubilant ovation. Melenor joined them as I watched idly. I wouldn't have expected any less from a leader like Puelle who found human life worth more than anything else. He started once more, one last time.
....stay tuned for the continuation!