The Adventures of Azarak and Zimra: The Beginning
Eons ago, as the sands of time were still barely dripping through their eternal hourglass, there lived a pair of noble heroes. Nowadays they are little more than legends, but back then the whole world knew them. Word of their coming was like a volcanic eruption, a vast pyroclastic flow rushing down across countries and cities, catching everyone in its grasp and whipping them up into a wild, burning frenzy. They were loved by the world, for they had saved the world countless times. Gifts were hurled at their feet as if the citizens were trees, and their gifts massive leaves blown free by a gust of wind during autumn. But the heroes ignored the gifts and all the riches, and instead focused on helping those in need. And thus they were adored even more.
But it wasn't always like this. After all, everyone has to start somewhere. How exactly does a hero become a hero, anyway? Did they just start life like the rest of us, or where they born special? Do heroes eat? Do they drink? Can they cry? All of these questions will be answered shortly, for this is the tale of the two heroes mentioned previously. This is the tale of the legendary 'Twins', Azarak and Zimra.
Our story starts in a grassy meadow many years ago. Not much is special about this rather plain clearing, but this is where we shall look. Is it possibly the solitary tree stump that draws our attention, or maybe the lonely group of mushrooms growing in its scant shadow? No, it is the rather comically armored Shoyru paired with an equally absurdly clad Kau that we are here for. Their voices ring high in the morning air, and anybody nearby could easily hear them. Lucky for us, we are close enough.
"Do you even know how heavy this stuff is, brother?" Zimra groaned, shifting his heavy Meridellian lance to try and redistribute the weight. "Can't I just strap it to my back and be done with it?"
"No," Azarak, his brother, replied. "You have wings, remember? How are you supposed to fit a lance on your back?"
"Oh, right." Zimra glanced speculatively at his wings. "I'm sure if I changed the angle a bit..."
"No. Besides, you look a lot more threatening holding it than with it stuck to your back."
"Threatening?" Zimra looked mildly insulted. "I always thought I looked kind of dangerous. Threatening doesn't have the same kind of ring to it."
"Dangerous?" Azarak stifled a laugh.
"Not dangerous. Dangerous. Or maybe a little Bad."
"Oh, brother, Mum always said you were off the wall." The heavily armored Kau sighed.
The two of them grew quiet for a few moments, looking around the clearing pensively. If anyone had been nearby, it would have been hard to miss the pair. Zimra looked like a miniature sun as the afternoon light reflected off of his Meridellian armor and spread in all directions. It was a miracle he didn't set anything on fire. To add to this whole effect, Zimra happened to be a bright red Shoyru, and his little wings fluttered and shone brilliantly, threatening to blind a rabbit who was desperately trying to escape the vicinity.
Azarak on the other hand was clad in a relatively somber light blue, mixed with splotches of dark purple and yellow highlights. His weapon of choice was a deadly looking spear which he wore fixed to his side. After all, Azarak was a Kau, and there aren't many places a Kau can store weapons. Nevertheless, he was a rather inventive Kau, and there were many strange contraptions made of cogs and bolts all over his body.
"Well, shall we be off then?" Azarak asked after a couple of minutes. "We have a lot of work to do."
"I guess there's no choice for it," his brother replied, his face grim with determination.
The two of them set off, quickly leaving the clearing and heading deep into the surrounding woods. As the day drew on, the sunlight slowly faded until Zimra only resembled a small volcano rather than the blinding sun. Animals of all description scurried out of their path, unused to being disturbed in their forest home. The trees grew thicker in all directions, blocking out most of the light, and the undergrowth became thick and tangled around their feet.
"Oof!" Zimra let out a cry as his feet flew out from underneath him.
Azarak turned around to see his brother head first in the foliage, his armor already stuffed full of leaves and twigs.
"Gaaah!!" he moaned, trying to stand up.
"Everything all right?" Azarak snickered, making no move to help his brother.
"Ghhanooo!" Zimra spat out a mouthful of leaves as he rolled over onto his back.
"I know you're hungry, brother, but you really shouldn't try to eat the forest."
"Shut up!" the little Shoyru growled. "Oh Hissi, that tasted horrible."
"Would you prefer this rotten acorn? I just found a whole bunch of them. They might be a nice addition to your new diet."
"Stop talking and help me up!"
A lot of groaning and straining later, Zimra was back on his feet. He looked distinctly unhappy.
"This was a horrible idea," he complained, pulling an errant twig out of his armpit.
"No, it wasn't."
"Yes, it was!" He dropped his lance to the floor. "By Hissi, why do they have to make those things so heavy?"
"Probably because they're intended to hurt people, brother," Azarak commented.
"Well, you did ask," he pointed out. Then, noting the look on his brothers face, he changed the subject. "Why do you think this is a bad idea?"
"Because it is!" Zimra kicked his lance unhappily, and then howled in pain and grabbed his toe. He started to blow on it protectively, even though he couldn't possibly reach it under all of the chainmail. "I mean, just think about it. We're supposed to be bandits, right?"
"That was the idea."
"Why couldn't we be merchants, or farmers, or something nice and wholesome like that?"
"Because it takes a long time to make money doing those jobs." Azarak sighed. They'd had this conversation about ten times already. "As a bandit, all you need to do is strike it rich once and you're done."
"But we could get hurt."
"I know. But we don't have a choice. If we don't get enough money to buy Chaewyn his medicine, then we're going to lose him."
"I know..." Zimra's eyes clouded with tears for a second, then he straightened himself up. "If we're going to have to do this, then let's get it over with."
"That's what I was doing until you tried to have a leaf sandwich."
"Oh, shut up."
Zimra picked up his lance and, hobbling slightly on his injured toe, walked ahead. After a moment, Azarak followed, plodding steadily on his four legs through the forest. They walked until nightfall and set up camp in a small, secluded grove. The trees crowded in around them, rustling in the night breeze, and Zimra fancied he could make out faces and patterns in the shadow wrapped trunks of the trees. As he watched, one of the shadowy faces slowly morphed into something so grotesque and evil looking that he flinched away, burying his head in the pillow.
"Oh Hissi!" he moaned in fear, trying not to flap his wings or waggle his tail.
Something shuffled in the darkness.
"Hey!" a voice whispered into his ear.
"G-g-g... Go away!" he moaned defiantly into his pillow.
"Wake up, you big nonce." The voice sounded faintly like his brother's. "Wake up!"
"Ow!" Zimra sat up quickly and stared at his brother. Suddenly he realised that the horrible face he had seen was only Azarak's. It was remarkable how terrifying a Kau looked in the dark. "You scared me! I thought you were a monster!"
"Thanks," Azarak said dryly. "Look, we don't have time for your games right now. I heard something."
"What? Monsters?" Zimra squealed.
"Not monsters!" A great sigh escaped his lips.
"So what? Why did you have to wake me for that?"
"We're bandits, remember?" Azarak gave his brother a long, hard stare. "So we're going to rob them."
"Oh." He paused. "I forgot about that part."
"I thought you might have. Now get your lance; we're going."
Zimra nodded and hefted his weighty lance, leaning it against his shoulder to take some of the weight off. Azarak gripped an evil looking spear between his teeth and loped off into the trees with surprising speed. With a crack of broken twigs and a flutter of wings, Zimra ran after him.
Trees blurred to either side as the duo sped through the forest, leaping fallen trees and ducking under hanging branches as they went. As they ran, a set of voices began to sound from ahead of them, raised in an angry yelling that echoed in the forest for hundreds of meters The heavily armored Shoyru began to shake as he half-ran, half-hovered through the trees.
"Sthop!" Azarak hissed from around his spear, digging his four legs into the dense undergrowth.
"Okay!" his brother replied, spreading his wings wide so they caught the air speeding past him, acting like a wind break.
"Nhow bhe velly, velly quiet." He spat out his spear. "They're right ahead. See that light between the big oaks over there?"
"Good. That's where our target is."
"How many are there?" the nervous Shoyru questioned.
"Sounds like quite a few," Azarak replied nonchalantly. "Shouldn't be any trouble."
"For you, maybe!" Zimra waved his lance around, almost embedding it in a tree. "But I can barely move in this armor."
"Shut up! You're rattling like a kettle rolling down a hill!"
"Sorry." Zimra shrugged with a sound like a mountain crumbling.
Quietly, Azarak picked up his spear with his mouth and crept forwards, moving stealthily on all fours. Zimra dropped to the ground and started to crawl. It was a laborious process for many reasons, one being the heavy armor, and two the myriad of dry, crackling twigs and leaves all over the forest floor. After around five minutes, Zimra began to view every twig with a look of severe distaste. They were all enemies, but they could not be conquered; they were foes to slip past stealthily and not to vanquish.
"I'll show you," Zimra whispered to a nearby twig some time later. "I'll crack all of you in two when I get a chance."
"Are you talking to your food now, brother?" his brother whispered, dropping his spear momentarily.
"I don't eat twigs, or leaves!" he retorted a bit too loudly.
"Shh!" Azarak raised a leg in warning. Then he placed it back down and squared his shoulders. "I think we're close enough."
"Oh, Hissi!" Zimra whimpered.
"Don't start that now."
"I'm sure they'll be more scared of you than you are of them." Azarak tried to comfort him. "And besides, we're not really going to hurt them. Just sort of scare them a bit."
"Good. Now, are you ready?"
"As I'll ever be."
"Then let's do this!"
With that, Azarak bit down hard on his spear and lifted it high, then loped off ahead with surprising speed. Without even pausing to think, Zimra followed him, leveling his lance dead ahead. Within seconds he burst out of the trees to one of the most confusing scenes he had seen in his rather tame life.
A small road lay directly ahead, spreading as far as Zimra could see in the dark. On the road was a small wagon, richly dressed with bright tapestries and a rather garish looking paint job. On the wagon itself stood a frightened looking Blumaroo, his hands raised protectively to his face. Other Blumaroos were clustered near him, looking just about as terrified as he was. Judging from the wagon and the clothes they wore, the Blumaroos were probably wealthy merchants.
But it wasn't Azarak and Zimra's sudden charge that had frightened the Blumaroos, rather it was the armor-clad group of Jetsams surrounding the wagon. They were a fearsome bunch, dotted with scars and tattoos and wearing rough, torn leather armor. Even in the darkness their swords shone, darting to and fro as if they were hungering for a fight. One Jetsam, apparently the leader, was directly in front of the Blumaroos, yelling and waving his sword around.
"If you don't give me the key, I'll make you sorry," he roared, pointing his sword threateningly at the Blumaroo.
"I can't do that, Sir!" the Blumaroo cried. "My Master will never forgive me!"
"How long are you going to keep this up for? I'm getting distinctly tired of your moaning, Blumaroo. How about I just-"
Zimra didn't have a chance to hear anymore. As he came out of the trees and onto the road, his foot collided with a huge, jagged stone. With a cry of pain, Zimra was thrown off of his feet, losing his lance in the process and landing with a thump on top of one of the Jetsams. As he pulled himself to his feet, he watched his lance go sailing through the air and slam into the lead Jetsam's cloak, pinning it to the wagon.
Azarak fared little better. Unable to stop his wild charge, he bowled wildly into a pair of Jetsams threatening an elderly Blumaroo and hurled them into a tree, knocking them both senseless. As he shook his head to clear out the ringing sound, the butt of his spear slammed into the stomach of another, throwing them head over heels.
The remaining Jetsam dropped his sword and screamed, wide eyed with terror. "By the Sea, we are undone! Monsters have come upon us!" He turned and fled, vanishing into the forest.
"We're saved!" the Blumaroos cheered.
"Not just yet!" the leader of the Jetsams grunted, smashing the Meridellian lance that pinned him to the wagon.
"Oh, Hissi," Zimra moaned in fear, taking a step backwards. "He broke my lance!"
"Indeed," Azarak managed to mumble around his spear.
"What do we do? Look at him, he's huge!"
"Fhollow my leedh."
As they were talking, the Jetsam reached to his side and grabbed the haft of a huge, ugly looking club. He approached the two brothers, whirling his club around menacingly, sizing them up with his evil looking eyes.
"Who are you?" he asked them. "To have dispatched my men so easily?"
"We are your undoing." Azarak dropped his spear.
Zimra threw a nervous glance at his brother. "What are you doing?" he whispered.
Azarak ignored him. "Come at us, Jetsam. We'll send you back to the sea where you belong, with all the other fishes."
"How dare you talk to me like that!" the Jetsam roared with anger, his eyes suddenly burning red.
The huge club whizzed through the air, but Zimra hopped backwards nimbly, easily avoiding the blow. With an angry growl, the Jetsam advanced, swinging his club crazily.
"Is that the best you can do?" Azarak mocked him. "How did you even make it onto land in the first place?"
"Shut your mouth!"
"Shut yours, you piece of seaweed." The Kau grinned. His eyes flickered momentarily to the right, a move which the Jetsam fatefully missed.
"Seaweed?" The great shark was almost foaming at the mouth. "Seaweed?"
"I suppose that is a bit too much of a compliment. How about I call you a minnow instead? Is that more appropriate to your stature, oh mighty Jetsam?" Azarak looked to the side one last time, and his grin grew wider.
"I will never forget this! Never! Do you hear me!" And with that, the Jetsam charged, brining up his massive club for one great swing.
"Now, Zimra!" Azarak yelled.
The Jetsam's club rushed downwards just as Zimra, followed by the rest of the Blumaroos, jumped onto the Jetsam's back.
"What's happening?" the shark screeched.
The Jetsam collapsed, hitting the ground with a loud thump! Zimra dropped the remains of his lance and laughed.
"You shouldn't have just smashed the tip, mighty Jetsam. The rest of it is still quite heavy." He glanced down at the Jetsam to see the form of his brother trapped underneath, still and unmoving. Suddenly panic filled his voice. "Azarak! Brother! No!"
He took hold of the Jetsam and pushed with his whole might. It didn't move.
"Oh, Hissi!" the Shoyru cried. Tears were streaming down his face, leaving runny tracks down his bright red skin. "No!!"
"What are you waiting for?" the lead Blumaroo suddenly shouted. "Help the man!"
The Blumaroos rushed around the crying Shoyru and began to push. With a sad smile, Zimra started pushing again. Slowly, the Jetsam began to move, and then finally rolled over onto his back. Zimra grabbed Azarak and shook him violently.
"Please wake up!" he cried, dripping tears onto his brothers face. "Oh please! Azarak, please!"
"Stop that!" the Kau grunted gruffly.
"Azarak?" the Shoyru sniffed, looking down.
"Stop shaking me!" Azarak shook his head violently, then licked his cheek. "Yuck, what's that? It tastes salty. Have you been crying, brother?"
"No," Zimra bawled, wrapping his arms around Azarak and hugging him so hard he was almost crushed in the process. "I never cry, you know that."
"Then stop crushing me and go wipe up your invisible tears," Azarak said angrily, although there was a hint of compassion in his voice.
"Okay," he sniffed.
The Blumaroos kindly offered to let the two brothers sleep with them that night, and by the time morning came around the Jetsams were nowhere in sight. After sharing breakfast, Azarak and Zimra prepared to leaving.
"Wait!" the lead Blumaroo called to them as they were walking away. "You can't go just yet."
"What's that?" Azarak turned.
"We have to repay you." The Blumaroo rushed inside the wagon and returned with an armful of coins, pushing them into Zimra's hands before he could resist. "For saving us," he explained.
"We can't take this," Zimra protested, trying to hand the money back.
"I won't let you leave without a reward."
"But... We're bandits."
"Bandits?" The Blumaroo looked confused. "No. You're not bandits."
The rest of the Blumaroos nodded in agreement.
With the money they made, Azarak and Zimra returned to their home town and paid for medicine to heal their sick friend, Chaewyn. After their chance encounter with the Blumaroos, the brothers decided to try and help more people. Sure enough, word of their good deeds passed from town to town, city to city and country to country. They stopped bandits, fires, recovered ancient treasure, saved damsels in distress and even battled the Snowager. But all that is a tale for another day. For now, we leave Azarak and Zimra as newly forged heroes, with the fire of adventure burning in their blood. Thank you for reading.