Fireheart: Part One
All commas in this story are dedicated to my first editor, Hilary.
Episode One-(Prologue) Early Travels
If the past is complicated for most, then mine is a tangle of mystery and knots of treachery. When I was young, back when life was simple and little things seemed much more important than the big picture, people called me Enna the ‘Fireheart.’
I thought the name was a huge honor, but now thinking about, it was just a silly nickname that the townspeople called me to humor my antics. (And also of my Xweetok-flaming red hair.)
In Altador, things were peaceful and everyone was happy. They were all my friends, or so I thought at the time, and walking down the street they called greetings to the Fireheart. Life began during the games and ended when they ended, the rest of the year was spent sailing boats in the harbor and stealing juice from the shop.
No doubt life had its problems back then, but I rarely noticed them. My magic classes with the old Professor who worked in the library, and who was my guardian ever since my mother and father died from an illness when I was very young, were the highlight of my days. I loved my classes because I excelled at them. But when I just turned fourteen, I discovered a treacherous plot while practicing a charm.
I was in the old dusty class room in the library, surrounded by dusty books and clouded bottles of potions. The professor hadn’t arrived yet and I was getting some extra practice in on my hearing charm.
Mumbling the charm, the whole world around me seemed to be magnified. Then I heard them. “Nine thousand? That’s fair enough, I suppose.” I felt my heart jump into my throat.
“Good. The assassins will be around tomorrow,” the other person said.
“Are you sure they are able? This senator is a tricky fellow,” the first person said.
“Yes, yes, I’m sure. He’ll never know what hit him,” the second said darkly. My heart pounded as I sprinted from the room. Right then I wanted no more to get away from these schemers, completely forgetting I could just deactivate the hearing charm.
At the time, I felt like a hero when I ratted them out, but now I wish I had been more inconspicuous about it so the information given to the Altador peace keepers couldn’t be traced back to me.
Well, the schemers got caught, but the assassins were sent after me to get pay back for their employers. My teacher of magic gave me a pack of food, a page of directions, and sent me out of my beloved city in the dead of night.
I ran hard the whole night until I collapsed in the road. In the morning I continued to move, following the directions on the parchment, having no idea where I was going.
Twelve days after leaving Altador, I came to an old bridge that spanned a bottomless gorge. The directions told me to cross, so I did and came to Shenkuu, where I met the fortune teller, Madam Seer, who could read cards, the stars, or rocks and bones and knew a person’s future.
I loved it there. I learned how to tell the future and predict events using the stars at the Lunar Temple. I played with petpets at Fauna’s store and ate spicy food from Culinary Concoctions. I learned to use some herbs from the old Ruki who ran the medicine shop, too. I enjoyed those classes, and it was exciting to know I could heal people with plants. I stayed there for about a year before the assassins showed up asking questions around town. Once again I was handed my pack and a parchment and snuck out at midnight.
This time I headed to the southwest, over the once impassible mountains, celebrating my fifteenth birthday along the way. Traveling for twenty days landed me at home of the great, or at least he thought so, chemist, Arthur Van Trumpscin. He wasn’t anything like the Professor or Madam Seer; he was vain and selfish.
Instead of exploring the land and learning charms or fortune telling, I was stewing love potions and mixing morphing mixtures for him. And for the first time I prayed that the assassins would show up so I could leave.
Seven months into my stay with the chemist, my prayers were answered. I stole away in the night taking my pack and an old stolen map from Van Trumpscin, who didn’t bother to get out of bed to divert the assassins, let alone write out directions to somewhere safe.
I continued going southwest, celebrating my leaving the chemist and being on the road again. Soon I came out of the mountains and into a great desert. Checking my map, I discovered I had arrived sooner than planned. I traveled into the desert, apparently the Lost Desert, for many days, losing track after the thirtieth, running out of food that day and water a few days later.
Starving and parched in the desert was not the best way to run from a group of men set to kill me, but fortune smiled on me in the form of finding a river that had fresh water flowing in it.
Following the river was my best plan at the time, knowing civilizations had to have water nearby to thrive. I traveled along that river that I called Hope, for three days, heading due west. My choice was rewarded on the morning of the fourth day when a great city appeared to the north and another, farther away, across the river.
I looked down at my map. If my following along it was correct, there shouldn’t be a city along the river. I shrugged. I wasn’t complaining. If there was food and shelter from the glaring desert sun, then this was the place for me.
I turned from the river by midday, heading to the gates of the great city. Following the flow of the river of people entering it, I ended up in the marketplace. Finding a shady patch under a canopy, I took out the cards Madam Seer gave me, looking over them like I usually did when I needed comfort.
A sun-tanned Zafara with coal black hair that matched the black eye liner around her eyes sat down inquiring if I was a fortune teller. I answered, yes I was. I told her fortune, and soon another customer came, a Ruki that reminded me of the old one who ran the medicine shop back in Shenkuu. Then another came and another, and soon there was a crowd surrounding my little shady patch under the canopy and my money pouch jingled with coins.
It seemed the citizens of the city didn’t see real fortune tellers much. I told so many fortunes I lost count, but after telling a particularly pink Usul, the crowd parted and a beautiful Aisha stepped through. Many members of the crowd murmured “princess,” and they all bowed to her.
I gazed at her in stunned silence. Was I in trouble? Was the princess going to have me thrown in the dungeon for fortune-telling? My heart hammered against my chest as the princess, with her guards following closely behind, approached.
I gulped as she looked down at me, and then she asked, “Are you telling fortunes?” I nodded yes, and then she said, “Will you tell mine?” I regained my voice at that point but decided just to nod. She sat, and I began to lay out my cards. I turned over three--past, present, and future. The past was the Phantom of Trouble, the present was the Lady of Peace, and the future was the Man of Riches. I told her each meaning, and she nodded and looked very happy.
When I finished, she stood and thanked me, saying, “I want you to come to stay at the palace and be my Court Magician.” The crowd cheered and I nodded dumbly.
My days at the palace were from a fairy tale with great feasts and fine furniture. Comfort and luxury were plentiful. The clothes the people wore were exotic, the food was like nothing I’d ever tasted, and the marketplace could sell itself. There I met the troublesome Seti, Kedmiel.
I was at a petpet stall, the princess had convinced me to get one, and I had just made up my mind to get a Nuk. I leaned forward scratching the little one’s head, admiring its antlers.
Then I heard shouts and running feet, “Stop that Seti!” A plump red Skeith came barreling into the row of stalls, chasing a long legged petpet, who looked like he was going for a walk in the park instead of running away from someone.
He skirted around me and hid in my shadow. “Hey!” I squeaked.
“Hide me!” he urged, looking at me with big eyes, trying his best to look cute.
“No!” I said, glaring back at the Seti with determination.
The Seti met my glare with his own, before his face softened and he smiled, “I like you.” And that was that. He followed me home, much to my annoyance, and the princess was overjoyed with my choice of a Seti, although I never actually bought him.
I learned from the Desert Mages that appeared in the city every once in a while. They taught me spells and enchantments. A green Nimmo Master Ammon, the master of energy magic and healing, came many times to the city.
One day when the sun was particularly hot, we held our training session at the indoor practice fields. We were sitting and watching the guards practice with swords. Master Ammon stood up and strode into the chaos, formed two blue swords with his energy, and beckoned me onto the field.
“Young pupil Enna. It is time to learn how to fight while using magic without actually using it.” This confused me to no end at the time, and it made me extremely annoyed, but I soon figured it out.
Master Ammon taught me how to form energy swords; he preferred the two sword fighting style, and so that’s what I learned. I was taught to hold my swords, and then given paces to work on. I practiced every day, and when next the Master came to Sakhmet I had improved quite a bit.
The next time Master Ammon came, he taught healing and herbs to me, which I was excited about since I love herbs. I still practiced my sword work along with my healing, spells, and charms practice.
But the fantasy ended when the assassins appeared in the marketplace five months after my arrival and a few days after my sixteenth birthday. I fled with the princess’ blessing and a gift from her, a gold staff with a massive ruby on top of it. It was a wizard’s staff, and the princess said it would be more use to me than it ever would to her. This time, however, I wasn’t alone; Kedmiel insisted on coming along.
Kedmiel and I ran from the city, heading north this time. We traveled across the desert for five days, following the princess’ directions, reaching the forest on the sixth. We entered, spurred onward by the black dots on the horizon moving towards us fast.
The forest at first was a relief from the scorching sun and gave a feeling of protection to me, but soon we realized where the name ‘Haunted Woods’ came from.
We came upon the Brain Tree unawares, and when it spoke, I nearly blew it up with my staff, but fortunately Kedmiel knocked it out of my hand before I finished the charm; otherwise we would have made an enemy that would not have been good to have. We still sprinted from the Brain Tree, though.
“That was close,” I said to Kedmiel as we slowed our pace back down to a walk.
“Close? I wouldn’t say that. I mean an inch closer then, and we might have been fried from the Tree’s anger, but I wouldn’t say close, not at all,” Kedmiel replied sarcastically.
“If I need the Sarcastic Patrol, I’ll send word, thanks,” I said glowering at him. He was about to open his mouth to reply when four dark shapes appeared from the trees.
My temper flamed, as it easily did nowadays, I clutched my staff tight, and waited to see what they would do.
“We finally caught you. You’re one slippery fish,” one of the cloaked figures taunted. I couldn’t tell which one, and so I decided not to strike anyone with a flame of Wizard’s Fire quite yet. Wizard’s Fire is a basic spell that I learned with the Professor. It has many uses, including frying people.
“You did catch me, but this fish has a few tricks up her sleeve,” I said slyly. That’s when they attacked; they had swords out and jumped forward with a savage battle cry. I still don’t get the whole ‘battle cry’, thing, it’s just like screaming to your enemy, ‘We’re going to attack you now!’
The swords came at me, and I deflected them with my staff, but they were too close to try firing at; I would probably get burned too. So, I dropped the staff and formed my two swords, beginning to fight them sword-to-sword.
Kedmiel was flying around, jumping from one head to the next, and sinking his claws into each cloaked head. A sword clashed with mine, but there were too many. I had to finish this; I was fighting a losing battle.
I threw up a red energy barrier between my four opponents and me. I drew the energy back from my swords, and shuffled through my memory of spells and charms. I finally decided on a spell that could do different amounts of damage; I chose the spell for its full power.
I lowered the barrier, and the assassins sprang forward. I chanted quickly, “Let these evil minds forget what they have done in the past and make them listen to their new histories, fast!” The four men froze mid stride, and had a blank look in their eyes. I cleared my throat and began to explain how they all were traveling performers that were very good, and on their way to Altador to perform at the next games.
The beauty of mind wipe spells is that the mind expands on the little information you give the person and their imagination makes up the rest, and they completely believe the story. It is dangerous to do the most powerful form of the spell, but desperate times call for desperate measures. Kedmiel and I watched them as they faded into the forest, alternatively singing in barbershop harmony and doing back-flips, all the while bowing to an imaginary audience. Kedmiel and I glanced at each other before bursting into peals of laughter.
It was such a relief to get rid of the fear that had been terrorizing me for over two years now that I had no idea what to do with myself. All I knew was I needed to get out of the forest, before something worse than assassins came along.
A month after entering the woods, with lots of wandering, fighting, sword practice, and being scared along the way, Kedmiel led me out onto grassy hills that were a sweet relief from the dark forest. We traveled northwest, to where the map said ‘Brightvale,’ hoping to find a place to stay.
After a glorious and trouble-free journey, we arrived at a white stone castle with green roofs and stained glass windows. There was little demand for a sorceress or any magic of any kind as far as I could see, but I did stay there about a week telling fortunes and restocking my food pack.
Kedmiel had the bright idea of my telling his fortune to see where we would go, and the cards showed a huge white castle with red turrets and a grumpy old king on a throne. Meridell. So off we traveled again, to the great kingdom known for bravery and heroism.
Halfway there, we came to a stone pass where we were set upon by abnormally large Drackonacks. We fought them off--but not without a great many scars of our own, and losing my staff and pack in the process--before making it through the pass and into a lovely forest, the polar-opposite of the Haunted Woods.
Our running feet slapped the ground as we ran harder from the oncoming patrol of Drackonacks. “Blast them, Enna!” Kedmiel shouted, dodging around trees.
“Magic takes energy, Kedmiel! If I try to blast them, then I’ll collapse!” I explained in between gasps for breath. I may be able to sword fight for long periods of time, but running cross country was not one of my strengths.
“Better you than me!” Kedmiel said, snapping as he hurtled over rock.
“Kedmiel, I’ll sooner blast you than them!” I said before my foot struck a tree root that was growing along the top of the ground instead under. I fell forward towards the grass that carpeted the forest floor.
“Look, I was kidding. Enna? Enna!” Kedmiel shouted, no longer in his snappish tone, but a worried one.
The last thing I remember is feeling a jarring ache in my skull and Kedmiel crouched next to me looking anxious, then I closed my eyes to the sweet comfort of darkness.
To be continued...