Caution: Quills may be sharp Circulation: 164,193,775 Issue: 173 | 14th day of Sleeping, Y7
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Midwinter War: Part Three


by shadowcristal

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The Scorchio sat there, in absolute darkness. He stared at the iron door that he had walked through in order to reach this horrible place. Nothing would work. Pounding at the walls, shouting for help... He should've known it.

     A scratching noise came from the door as some bread with gravy was thrown in. A jar of water followed. Charmond jumped up and caught food just in time. Holding the items, he suddenly had a vision.

     "I must look like one of those prisoners living on bread and water," the Scorchio thought as he devoured the food. Even though it was stale bread and watery gravy, it tasted delicious. Then, as Charmond took the jar and started to drink, he heard some voices.

     "How about this? We'll let him out tomorrow and there'll be another one battling for us," a sinister voice asked. Charmond almost choked, recognizing Retart's voice.

     "Y'know what, old buddy?" another voice retorted with a teasing tone. "Our oh-so-great Lord would be most displeased if you let his little precious spy out early."

     "You should know your place, Philip," the Grarrl said.

     "An' you should know what's right and wrong," the pet named Philip replied. The Scorchio was amused. Here was one of those little daring pets that would challenge a great Grarrl... Suddenly Charmond wondered if he would ever meet Philip, for that'd be quite interesting.

     "Watch out, little one. I will not be in trouble, but you will." With that, the Grarrl walked away. Charmond returned to his seat at the wall, feeling kind of better after hearing the conversation.

     "But what mission do they mean?" a curious voice asked in his head. Charmond yawned. The questions in his mind grew distant as the Scorchio went to sleep.

     -

     "Get up!" Retart shouted at the Scorchio as he grabbed Charmond's arms.

     "Mff?" Charmond yawned. Why did this annoying Grarrl have to disturb his beauty sleep right here and now?

     "Remember," the Grarrl said coldly, "You are not a guest, but a prisoner."

     "What am I supposed to do? What's the mission about?" The words left Charmond's lips before he realized what he had asked.

     "NONE OF YOUR BUSINESS!" Retart screamed as he dragged the Scorchio to the yard.

     Wow. They must really be keeping this mission hush-hush, Charmond thought as he obediently followed the Grarrl. The Scorchio wasn't really the type to follow someone blindly, and he grinned as an idea formed in his mind...

     "Ouch!" the Grarrl cried out as the Scorchio's teeth sunk in his flesh. Free, Charmond ran out of Retart's sight. He would definitely not be caught again... The Scorchio squatted down behind wooden crate in a corner to catch his breath.

     "Good move, matey," someone told him. Charmond could hear that whomever that had been speaking to him was right beside him. The Scorchio turned around and looked into a pair of sea-blue eyes.

     "Y'know, you should really watch out. They dun like troublemakers here." The Blue Zafara grinned at Charmond. The Scorchio didn't feel at ease, even though the pet had that relaxed, laid-back manner. But something was wrong...

     "I don't trust you," the Scorchio blurted out. The incident with Felix had taught him not to keep things bottled up too long.

     "Yarr, matey, I s'pose you don't," the Zafara said, "But no one would trust a stranger, eh? Lemme introduce myself. I'm Philip,"

     Charmond was stunned. This was Philip? The obnoxious little pet who had replied to the Grarrl so nonchalantly?

     "Well, we'll be seein' each other later, so you dun have to tell yer name right now." The Zafara waved as he took a huge leap and disappeared into the shadows.

     "There you are!" The Grarrl snarled at him. Charmond spun around. He had promised himself not to get caught, and now this?

     Retard grabbed the Scorchio's arm and dragged him down to the field. "You'll be battling here today," the Grarrl said shortly and practically threw the Scorchio into the weaponry.

     "W-what can I do for you today?" an old Techo asked as Charmond came flying in through the door.

     "Um... I'm here for some weapons for today's battle," the Scorchio stammered nervously. He noticed that the old Techo wasn't really listening, but measuring him. The Scorchio could hear the old one mutter a few words, so he took a peek to see if Retart was still there.

     "T-there are your weapons," the Techo told Charmond. He dumped a shield, a sword, a bow and a bunch of arrows in front of the Scorchio. Charmond wrinkled his nose. The iron was rusty and odd-colored at some places, the longbow plain and as big as himself and some of the arrows looked half-broken. The Scorchio gulped. This would certainly be a challenge.

     "Thank you, sir." At least he knew how to be polite. But it was too late. Just for a second, the old Techo had seen his face expression, full of distaste and disdain.

     "G-get out of here!" the Techo stammered as he weakly kicked Charmond. "You dishonor those weapons!" The old one grabbed his staff and tried to whack the Scorchio, who was running around and trying to get all the stuff before being thrown out.

     That was weird, Charmond thought when he finally got out of the weaponry tent. That old Techo certainly had some problems concerning personality...

     "Get ready!" Retart shouted at the Scorchio. "Battle begins in half an hour!" Then the Grarrl stomped off to yell at somebody else.

     Charmond sighed as he looked up at the sky. He'd have to be strong now. This wasn't the time to cry and run home. Besides, he couldn't even run home if he wanted to. The Scorchio looked at his weapons, then started to do some warm-up exercises. Suddenly he thought back at the dream. The battle wasn't what it had seemed to be in the first place. It wasn't all that exciting with blood rushing through one's veins...

     "Hey matey, y'doin' some exercises?" a voice called out behind him. The Scorchio turned around fast and ducked just in time for an arrow.

     "That... was... dangerous!" Charmond shouted after he had recovered a little bit from the shock.

     "Y'ain't gonna live if you stand and daydream like that," the pet commented as he walked closer. When he was close enough, the Scorchio gasped.

     "And you'd better not act as if ye've seen a ghost," the Zafara added, sharpening his spear.

     "Um..." Charmond mumbled as he marveled at how smooth and careful Philip's actions were.

     "Want me to teach you?" Philip grinned. The Scorchio didn't hesitate.

     "Sure!" Charmond said and held out the bow. "How do I do this?"

     "Y'mean y'dun know?" the Zafara raised an eyebrow. "Oh well, we all have to learn sometime," he continued as he showed Charmond how to put an arrow and release it. In a surprisingly short time, Philip taught the Scorchio how to manage the sword too.

     "There! A swish!" the Zafara called out as they practiced battling against each other, "Defend yourself!" Philip poked Charmond in the stomach and the Scorchio immediately fell to the ground.

     "Ye gotta watch out for those incomin' pointy things, or you won't be battling so long," the Zafara commented. "Practice makes perfect," he continued as he reached out a hand to help Charmond up.

     "Thanks," the Scorchio said, feeling somewhat overwhelmed. Philip was definitely amazing. He was really great, in a way that Felix never could've been. Charmond sighed a little bit as they continued. Perhaps Felix might've been that great, but maybe he never saw it?

     "Well, battle's beginnin'," Felix said as the grabbed their swords. The dark clouds at the horizon signaled that the enemy was arriving. "Let's go!"

     With a battle cry that rose to the skies, the pets ran into each other. Here and there, swords clashed and muffled cries were heard. The grass was flattened, the flowers exterminated, as the two sides fought against each other with unrelenting force.

     "Give it your all!" Philip shouted over the noises of the battle. Charmond smiled. That Zafara was sure working hard to encourage everyone.

     Clang! A sword had hit his shield. The Scorchio sighed, somewhat relieved, as he turned around to face his opponent. The enemy looked like a normal pet, except for the eyes. The eyes were in a weird, shiny color, and it was swirling and changing the whole time. One second it would be lime green, the other one crimson red. Charmond shuddered. What could such an opponent do to him?

     "It's war!" another pet shouted behind them. Almost mechanically, his opponent threw a spear that hit the Scorchio on the shoulder.

     "Ouch!" Charmond cried as he retaliated with a hit of his own sword. "There!" Feeling satisfaction in battle, the Scorchio went forward and struck with his sword again. The enemy growled, and hit back. The battle went back and forth like that, both pets oblivious to the world around them...

     Suddenly something swooshed. The odd noise made Charmond look up, and that was what it took to lose. It was as if it was an ephemeral illusion... That big, black birds with soft streaks. A loud screeching noise, and something hit his head. Then it all went black.

     -

     "Hey buddy, you okay?" a familiar voice asked as Charmond blinked twice. The light wouldn't really focus, and his head hurt quite a bit.

     "Not really. My head hurts..." the Scorchio groaned as he tried to move around and see what was going on.

     "No wonder. Y'know, you hit your head on a sword," the Zafara commented.

     "Really?" To be truthful, the Scorchio was too tired to think.

     "Yeah..." Philip's voice grew distant as Charmond fell into a restless sleep.

      It was watching him, every second, never leaving his side. The black bird seemed like a harbringer of doom, yet there lingered a sweet, flower-like scent around it. The bird was sitting on a branch, following him wherever he went.

     As he reached the end of the forest, he looked at the big, beautiful stone fortress. It lied protected, in a valley of murky water and dead tress. Then he looked back. The bird of the night stared at him for a second, then flew to the fortress. He knew it was stupid, but he followed it. It was almost as if he was coming home...

     With a final twist, the Scorchio woke up, sweaty and scared. The dream had seemed so real, yet so far away, hidden in the mists. Why were those dreams haunting him? He thought of his own home, now distant. Charmond's mind couldn't focus... The colors of his NeoHome blurred and turned into a mess. But that blurry home was his home, and he would do anything to be back there right now.

     The Scorchio looked around, and spied a calendar. It was a little bit torn and tattered, but he could see the clear, red number in the soft moonlight. It was New Years. He thought of what they would do at home... Perhaps Alice would set up some vivid decorations and Felix would sing some songs. Maybe they'd even have a special dinner! Then they would all go to the balcony and watch the fireworks as the countdown to the new year begun...

     Charmond sighed of regret. It was too late, all to late to say 'sorry' and be accepted back. After all, he had left of his own free will. Now he'd have to create his own home, or go back... And he couldn't even go back! There was nothing to do but to continue down this path...

To be continued...     

 
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Other Episodes


» Midwinter War: Part One
» Midwinter War: Part Two
» Midwinter War: Part Four
» Midwinter War: Part Five
» Midwinter War: Part Six



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