A Fiery Friendship: Part Two
Jasper marched into the room the next morning playing a trumpet in an obnoxious fashion. Just as had been promised, the tailor had sent someone to deliver his armor, which was now lying at the foot of his bed. Flame and Torch showed him how to put it on, and then the three of them made their way to the castle training grounds.
Master Torak was a large blue Grarrl who did indeed look very strict. “Welcome, squires!” he said in a booming voice, “Today I will mostly working with our newcomers.” He looked at Corran and a few others. “This is mainly to see how they will match up with our older recruits. So, newcomers, in the training ring please! Everyone else, you’ll be with Jasper today.” Corran held back a laugh as Flame and Torch groaned.
Then, to everyone’s surprise, Jeran Borodere walked outside.
“I thought I should see whether or not the squire I sponsored is any good.” The giant Lupe winked and clapped Corran on the back as the other squires’ eyes widened in jealousy. The first to enter the training ring were Corran and an apprehensive looking shadow Ixi.
“Squires will shake hands,” said Master Torak. Corran shook the Ixi’s slightly sweaty hand, and the match began.
Years of hunting in the mountains with Aedin had evidently paid off. His reflexes were much more developed than he had realized, and soon it was pure fighting instinct that took over. The Ixi was good, though. However, his attacks were too slow and cautious, and were no match for Corran’s faster and random swings.
Soon enough, Corran bested the Ixi and another squire was brought into the ring. Corran was in his element now, and it seemed that he couldn’t be defeated. He smiled as he won again and again, thoroughly proud himself.
* * *
Over in the corner, Jeran held a whispered conversation with Master Torak.
“Impressive,” the Lupe observed.
The Grarrl beside him nodded. “He’ll go far, fast.”
As Corran defeated yet another of his peers, he turned to grin at Master Torak and Jeran. Jeran smiled back. “Keep your eyes on that one,” he told Torak, and left the training grounds.
* * *
After a morning filled with fierce training, Corran was more than ready for a lunch break. He, Torch, and Flame sat at a table by themselves and talked of their training as they ate.
“Why didn’t you tell us that Jeran Borodere was your knight sponsor?” Flame said.
“Well,” Corran explained, “I didn’t really know myself until last night, and I would have told you if Jasper hadn’t ruined our conversation.”
“You were great; you smoked all of the competition!” said Torch. “Hey! That gives me an idea. By defeating every other new squire in the class, I say you’ve earned your nickname.”
He winked at Flame, and the Kyrii grinned. “Welcome aboard, Scorch.”
Corran couldn’t help but smile. The three of them certainly did look like their own inferno. Flame the fire Kyrii, Torch the orange Shoyru, and now Scorch the red Kougra. All they needed now was a yellow colored pet, Corran thought in amusement.
* * *
Days turned to weeks, and weeks turned to a month. Corran, Torch, and Flame had become sort of minor celebrities in the castle. When someone would say something offensive to one of them, suddenly the other two would appear at their side. Never had Corran had a more loyal or brilliant set of friends, though none of them were soft enough to ever admit it. Not only did they fit together perfectly on the outside, but each of their personalities matched perfectly. They were all each other’s “better halves” as Torch had put it.
And, as their nicknames insinuated, they were all fiery in every sense of the word. Flame was as wild as a werelupe; Torch was hilarious and loved to cause riots. Corran, or Scorch, as his friends called him, was the more levelheaded one, though he loved a good scheme almost as much as Torch did.
They had been on two missions before, and today they had been given another one. Normally, a knight would accompany them, but the mission wasn’t supposed to be very dangerous. Apparently, a Kacheek farmer in Illusen’s Glade had recently had several of her meowclopses go missing. More than likely it was just some wild petpet that carried them away, but the Kacheek was convinced that there should be an investigation. Corran thought of the whole matter as a sort of joke, but was glad for an excuse to spend more time with his friends.
Flame, Torch, and Corran made their way down the road toward the glade. “Tell me again,” said Flame, “why we got stuck wit this stupid assignment.”
“Well, which would you prefer?” suggested Corran. “This, or staying in the city where you’ll no doubt be ambushed by Frederick again?”
The Kyrii shuddered. He probably owed that Draik a small fortune by now. Flame really needed to take control of his gambling problem.
Before they reached the glade, they ran into a bigger problem than missing petpets.
A masked bandit jumped out of a bush with his short sword in his hand. Immensely thankful for his great reflexes, Corran pivoted on his left foot and met the attacker’s blade with his own. Apparently the bandit had not expected him to react so swiftly, and the sword flew out of his hand easily. The masked bandit ran away quickly and Corran turned to find his other two friends in a battle with another bandit. This one obviously had a lot more experience. He parried their blows left and right, which might have been easy enough to do since he preferred a twin blade fighting style.
But could he block three blades?
He could indeed, but not for long. Corran couldn’t quite tell by looking what kind of pet he was. He was slightly taller than Corran, so that narrowed it down a little. He couldn’t see his face because it was covered by a mask and a dark hat.
Realizing he was outnumbered, the mysterious bandit wisely stepped back, tipped his hat in an almost gentlemanly way, and sprinted off in the opposite direction. Flame, who was a self declared professional knife thrower, drew his dagger and aimed expertly at the bandit’s retreating back. Corran thought that the dagger would meet his mark, but just as the knife got close enough, the bandit turned and vanished in an impressive puff of smoke.
Flame swore. “Great! A bandit and an illusionist.”
“You’re just mad because your knife missed,” said Torch, feigning a calm demeanor, but obviously still flustered by the dramatic disappearance.
“Yeah, well we’ll just have to keep our eyes peeled for him later,” said Corran. “Now, c’mon, we have a Kacheek to meet.”
The pink Kacheek’s name was PinkiePosie, which was apparently some type of flower. The name definitely suited her perfectly. She was a pink Kacheek who wore a green dress with what looked like real flowers sewed into it. After they had introduced themselves, PinkiePosie led them to a petpet pen in the middle of a lush garden.
There was only one meowclops inside, along with a few doglefoxes, ganuthors, whinnies, and babaas.
“So, you’re only missing your meowclopses?” asked Corran politely.
PinkiePosie nodded. “I’ve put most of them in the house, but this one just wouldn’t stop meowing...”
“That’s okay, that helps us anyway. That way we can see if the thieves strike again,” Torch observed.
“Well, you’re welcome to stay here,” said PinkiePosie sweetly. “That way maybe you can catch them in the act.”
Once the trio had agreed, she led them toward the house. Corran found her garden fascinating. It had many exotic plants that looked like they didn’t belong there at all. There were deep blue flowers that looked almost like ice if you stared at them for too long, tropical fruits and flowers growing on wild vines, and then the occasional normal plant like a juppie or starberry.
Suddenly, the pink Kacheek stopped in her tracks, “Oh, drat,” she muttered, looking at a dead flower. She frowned at it and made up motions with her hands. To Corran’s surprise, it almost looked like the flower tilted upward. “Well, come on then.” As PinkiePosie encouraged it, the flower grew up taller and bloomed again. PinkiePosie smiled in satisfaction. “Much better.”
“How-” stammered Torch. “How did you...”
The Kacheek smiled wider. “I have some magical ability, but only when it comes to plants.” She said this very casually, as if discussing nothing more interesting than the weather. She was very strange, Corran decided, but not in an unpleasant way. She was also very sweet, and he couldn’t imagine why anyone would try to rob her.
Well, he supposed he would find out.
* * *
Torch shivered under his blanket. He was hiding behind a bush beside the petpet pen, waiting for the meowclops-nappers. It was excruciatingly boring work, and he was a bit afraid of the dark. Not that he would ever tell his friends that.
He heard a rustle from behind him and had to bite his lip to keep from shrieking. It was just a crokabek, however. He stuck his tongue out at it and crossed his arms for warmth, bickering as he did so. A moment later, he heard another rustle. He groaned and turned to smack the annoying petpet.
Instead, something hard hit him on the top of the head, and he knew no more.
* * *
It was Corran’s turn for guard duty. He searched the bushes for Torch, but he couldn’t seem to find him. Perhaps the little Shoyru had fallen asleep somewhere. He stepped on something soft and looked down to find Torch’s blanket. How strange.
He crouched down low to get a closer look. A set of large footprints led him over to the petpet pen, where the gate stood wide open. A large branch lay a few feet away. Also, alongside the footprints there was an odd looking trail, as if someone had been dragging something. Torch and the meowclops were nowhere to be found.
Suddenly very worried, he ran back to the house to tell Flame.
To be continued...