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Madeleine R Krausse

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Caves of Chaos
by Madeleine R Krausse   

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Action/Thriller




Roslyn Cinn, princess of Auhm has fled from her palace in attempt of rebellion and chance of freedom; Cour-Hagen, the nearest city, is her only choice. In order to keep her identity secret, she is forced to join a life-threatening quest riddled with secrets that could change her forever.

Prologue         

This city used to mean something to me. The looming castle within the depths of it’s kingdom still stays strong with it’s pride shining down upon the country. But no pride shines down on me now, for I have chosen to flee the clutches of my mother and father, the royal King and Queen.

            Oh yes, I had the life, bathing in hot crystalline waters, servants and butlers coming at my every command. Every sheet smelled like roses, every pillow at it’s softest abundance; food was prepared at premium quality in the occasional banquet, and guards were positioned at every doorway of the palace; but that wasn’t why I was dissatisfied with the lifestyle I had been taught and forced to run.

            At the time I had turned the age of a woman, when I had become fertile, my father had started to bring in suitable bachelors of blue-blood. Fine young men dressed in suits, golden chestplates and gauntlets, or even diamond armor strutted into the huge brass doors of the throne room.

            All of the men come to visit had never grabbed my attention, for I already had the richest most exquisite and gorgeous gems and artifacts- I wanted a man of personality and something true- but still, my father had made his choice. Me being at age 18, chosen for my betrothed was a man of the finest, richest quality; behind the armor and the gold was selfishness and strict actions.

            But what had really been the problem was that I was a headstrong, independent young woman. I was tired of being continuously escorted by guards. I could never have an ounce of fun or create a single friend, for the security at my tail had kept me from doing so. The city folk were all over me, willing to buy me a drink with whatever money they had left to survive. Beggars with their ragged, worn down clothes and dirty skin came to me and clung to me, picking at my clothes for loose gold coins or tugged at my engagement ring.

            Living a life as royalty with nothing but forced actions and unhappy lifestyle wasn’t going to happen.

So I ran.

Just a leather bomber jacket sat loosely on my shoulders, some black, leather pants hung from my hips and a forest-green longsleeved shirt stuck to my sweaty torso. Carrying all I could in hidden pockets, I stuffed about a chest-full of valuables into pockets and my brown leather boots on my feet.

            Hidden under the back of my jacket was a silver and red-tipped Fumma Shiriken- my weapon of choice that I had learned how to use in my younger years; my father had assured that, in the unexpected case of the shortage of guards, I would be able to defend myself with ease. But even so, I still had been escorted everywhere and anywhere with guards at my heel—until tonight, that is.

             Stars dotted the sky while I shuffled away from the towns, adrenaline pulsing through me as I sprinted; nobody had seen me, for my steps were light and the guards were changing their shifts. Houses covered with ivy and bricks whizzed past my peripherals in a blur as I never relented.

            The huge grey walls surrounding the palace ended with a gate welcoming citizens in and out as they please- with the way I had set my disguise, I had my hood pulled over my head, my dark golden curls pulled into a bun so as to hide my royal appearance.

            The guards, unconcerned with my looks (royalty dressed into formal gowns and dresses, and maybe an unexpected pair of jeans, but only ironed and washed at its best condition) a woman in dirty leather clothes would have been seen as a commoner rather than a princess…

            Slipping through the gates with ease, I smiled darkly with satisfaction as I headed west, toward the dark, forested area. Even past that, the city of Cour-Hagen laid for me in wait while the enormous, hushed palace sleeps unnoticed of its absent princess.

 

Ch. 1. Unexpected Confrontations

(2 years later)

            The city of Cour-Hagen isn’t too shabby- brick buildings sat side-by-side with children running around in their lawns, fluffy chocobos transporting townsfolk around the square, and through the parallel streets that held curio shops, armories, leather tanners, a pub and more.

            Coming from a home of riches, it’s difficult getting used to the mediocre surroundings around me; there were still a few beggars, but no airships for travel. There were Soldiers trained at the base at the far end of town, but most were out at war with other countries.

            But nonetheless it didn’t matter how well run the town was; all I needed was a refuge to hide within and keep a simple lifestyle- a common bartender was a suitable, and timely job.

            Sharp rays of the sunset crawled through the wooden entrance of the pub when several guards came in- their shift had ended, and it was time for some spirits to end the day.

“David, John,” I welcomed with gratitude as the town’s guards came to sit at the far table in the corner. Bringing my feet to their spot, I set my hands on my hips and asked in a kind voice, “what’s on the menu tonight boys?”

            “Two dwarven beers and a, er…,” David scratched his beard while waiting for John to order some food. After a few moments of decision making, they both waved it off and ended with just the drinks.

            After returning back to the bar and pouring their beverages into some iced mugs, a tall young man, covered in what seemed like Soldier armor, came to sit on a stool before me. His dark hair covered his eyes partially while his dark blue gear covered his torso and legs. A gunblade, trimmed with neon-blue designs was strapped to his back and his dark hazel eyes came to look at mine. I recognized him as the town’s royalty and pretty-boy, Enit Cour.

            Enit was not of the blue-blood, he was only famous due to his grandfather’s heroic actions. Haen Cour, Enits grandfather, had killed one of the most feared demons of the country. Not long after, Haen had disappeared, was, and still is, presumed dead; but the memory of him and his outstanding actions has been remembered ever since. However, being in Haen’s family bloodline, Enit is widely famous and (to me) the most self-centered idiot in town.

            Of course, this didn’t detract from his good looks or charm, but no matter what, he always got every girl’s attention. He was famous for wrecking some parts of the down due to fighting off occasional orc attacks. His strength added to his perfection, and gave him even more popularity.

            Tearing my eyes away, realizing I had been staring, I muttered out, “I’ll be with you in just a moment, let me give this to…,” I hurried off with the beers, delivering them to John and David.

            “Anything else I can get for ya?” As a response they shook their heads and I was back at the bar within seconds.

            Taking my position back to where I was before, I began to clean a glass covered with some stubborn spots before looking back up to where Enit was. Handsome as he was, he was still a self-centered moron.

            Blushing, trying not to listen to the teenie weenie voice in my head that said, “yum,” I cleared my throat, but Enit had begun to speak before I had the chance. “Hey, Roslyn, you heard any news about the Caves of Chaos?”

            Pursing my lips, I narrowed my eyes, “yeah; I’ve heard some guards mentioning about how the attacks in Cour-Hagen are getting worse, and I’ve heard a few stories from John about it; apparently from what he’s seen, theres undead roaming around there… Why’d you ask?”

“I’m planning on clearing them out; I need someone to help with the journey.”

            Nearly choking on my own saliva, I widened my eyes and belted out, “what?! That’s a suicide mission! Are you fucking kidding me?”

“HEY! Lay off the language Rose,” came a booming, husky voice from behind me.

Turning to my side, I looked down to my boss, Horus. Being a dwarf and all, his voice was pretty strong, but nice all the same. If you stayed on his better side, you’d get along with him just fine.

            “Sorry Horus; it’s just that Enit here is interested in the Caves of Chaos…,” I muttered, before turning back around and looking to Enit who had lost interest and ventured to another table.

            Keeping my eyes on him, I realized that he was taking the chance to talk to some Soldiers, a few of my previous customers who had been in the pub for almost 45 minutes now.

            Tugging at one of my blonde curls, I set down the glass, and picked up another one, starting to eavesdrop while rubbing off some stains on the next dish.

            “Hey, are you guys willing in helping me out clear the Caves of Chaos?”

            One Soldier looked over to him, his hood up and hiding the golden glow in his eyes before turning slightly, presenting his grand showcase of armor that hid under his dark robes.

On every visible piece of armor there were several materia slots; his gauntlets, boots, chestplate, shoulderpads,  and pants were filled with at least two sets of materia.

            Materia is simply a way of casting magic without having to become a wizard or a sorcerer. The substance is found deep in the bowels of the earth and contains an energy that if you use it without a magic device to put it in, it slowly drains you of your life. Materia these days costs at LEAST two thousand gold pieces, and the armor to cast it from costs at least double the price of the materia.

            This Soldier, with the facial expression he gave to Enit, seemed to show he had better things to do than clear out some random caves… Soldiers had other-better things to do than rid a town of a few goblins or cults.

            Enit frowned but wiped it off his face immediately as the woman sitting across the male Soldier spoke out with a laugh, “you’re the town’s prettyboy aren’t ya? Heh… find someone else… we’re just taking our break while we can before we go back into the headquarters.”

            The woman, with a deep, nasty scar that ran across her face down to her neck, looked over Enit with delight. She, too, with equal amount of materia, seemed to have an interest in his looks, but only that for she was a Soldier. Drinking some spirits was a fine way to have a break away from training.

            The man just smiled sarcastically at Enit before taking another swig of his beer and sighing out, “sorry bud, maybe the guards will help you out.”

            The woman sitting across from him waved to the bar, signaling for me to come over.

            Setting the plate down, I set off for the awkward group and stopped at their table with a smile before she said, “get this kid a beer; seems like he really needs it,” chuckling before she continues, “good luck on your journey sweetie,” she said in a low voice before taking another sip of her own beer.

After fixing up Enit’s drink and handing it to him, the female Soldier gave me two silver pieces.

Refusing, Enit set the drink down onto the table, and said in a kind voice, “I’m good, thanks…”

Enit set off for another table, towards a man in a black robe- or at least, I think it was a man. His face was completely shadowed and the robes kept from showing any form of gender. Under his robes, all you could see were two golden eyes, droopy from the large amount of alcohol he consumed. And from all the bottles and mugs that crowded the table, it was obvious he was drunk.

“Hey, buddy, how ya doin,” Enit said happily, finding something nice to work with.

The man’s eyes lit up happily before he slurred out in a low, husky voice, “I’m GREAT!”

“You seem like you need someone to talk to,” Enit said cunningly before heading back to the table with the Soldiers.

My curiosity got the better of me, so I headed to the table with the Soldiers and stayed there while Enit said, “hey… can I have this beer back?”

“Sure,” the woman said with a dark smile, watching Enit head back to the table with the man in the robes.

“I got the perfect thing for ya,” Enit said happily, handing the glass to the robed man, who excitedly took it from him, chugging it down thirstily before looking back to Enit. Without hesitation, the chair the man had been sitting in fell backwards along with the man passed out, limp on the ground.

Horus, David, John and the Soldiers chuckled, unable to hide their laughter as they stared at the drunken man on the ground.

“Thanks guys,” Enit said as he picked the man up and hung him over his shoulders. Walking out the bar, Enit muttered under his breath “camp outside…”, and soon the door shut tightly and before turning back to the bar, I wondered what Enit Cour could possibly be up to with the black mage…

“Interesting,” I muttered as I went back to my dishes, thinking about the Caves of Chaos with a deep concern for Enit.

 

Ch. 2. Welcome to the Party

“See you tomorrow evening Horus,” I hollered as I made my way out the door. An evening breeze settled down on the city as I trudged through the streets, and weaving between households until I finally reached Cour-Hagen’s large city gates.

My curiosity of Enit dragging the drunken mage out of the bar grew so intense that I couldn’t help but find out what was going on between them. Perhaps Enit was wanting a mage to be by his side in the expedition to the caves…

If the issue with the Caves of Chaos gets out of hand to the point where guards from Auhm will come solve the issue, I will surely get caught. They’ll be at Cour-Hagen for a pit-stop and the possibility of guards coming into the pub are quite high.

Clearing these caves seem like a much better idea than risking my royal ass from getting caught. It’s already been two years since I had fled from the comfort of a palace, but independence seems much more preferable than being choked by perfumes, fancy dresses and a man who doesn’t truly love me.

Forget that. I’m finding Enit whether I want to or not; I’m not letting myself get put back behind the bars of forced matrimony and unnecessary bodyguards.

Forcing my mind away from my past and what could possibly happen if I don’t put my words right, I could get into a hole I’ll never be able to dig my way out of. It’s better off to think of how to be persuasive… better to think Enit—or anyone else at that matter—will never find out my true identity.

As far as the eye can see, all there is is a limitless amount of foothills and fields before me, but upon the horizon, there is the forest line. About half a mile to my right is a small campfire, with embers that burn brightly and shadow a pair of humans; one seems to be sitting upright, as if to keep watch while the other is lying down on the grass below(he seemed to be rocking himself).

I walk up to the group carefully, as if to not startle them. “Enit,” I say as I come about 10 feet away from the camp.

Turning his head sharply, his shadowed face meets mine, but I see his eyes shine by the firelight. I can tell by how narrowed his eyes are that he’s about to question my presence.

“What are you doing here Roslyn, shouldn’t you be making drinks at the bar,” he asks gruffly.

I let my eyes trail over the campsite, coming up with a quick explanation while looking over the robed mage, sprawled out on one side of the fire. Even with the light of the flames, the darkness under the hood keeps me from seeing his face.

“I heard you were going to travel to the Caves of Chaos; I thought you might need some more help with that-,” I explained, but I was quickly cut off by an abrupt, “I don’t need to bring a simple little bartender who thinks she can fight off monsters in the Caves of Chaos; you are of no use to me. Go back to Cour-Hagen and leave us.”

You ignorant, incessant little…

I dare to take several steps closer until I’m about 3 feet away from him before I slip out my Fuuma Shiriken from under my jacket. The blades on the star slice through the air, cutting the silence of the night with metal popping into place. The reflection of the fire stands out on the silver while the red tips of each blade glow a bright, hot crimson.

After the simple gesture, the weapon stands about an arm’s length in diameter, and the weapon held at a dangerous length from Enit’s exposed face.

“Wanna try saying that again hot-shot?”

Enit stands up, slowly, never taking his eyes off mine before slowly pulling out his gunblade, flaunting off his weapon and leaning it on his right shoulder.

“Interesting Fuuma you got—,” I stop him, holding out my other arm, which is covered in an iron gauntlet that currently holds two sets of materia. I have another in my satchel at home, Cure, but I had no use of it at the current moment.

A yellow and orange flame is summoned in my hand and Enit’s eyes grow wide for the slightest second before he hides his surprise.

“I’ll help you through the caves; I’ll heal you when you fall, and I’ll do the same for your little friend here… that is… if he joins. Who knows; I might save you if you come close to death. Let me help you, Enit…”

            After what seemed like a few long moments of waiting, Enit huffed out a sigh and nodded before turning around to gaze at the campfire, his dark hair gleaming in the glow of the soft flames.

            I let my eyes roam over his back, and noticed that he had taken off his gear; perhaps to be more comfortable, but either way, it took away from his looks of strength. With just a plain, black shirt and the slacks he had on in the bar, he looked more like a man than just a weapon. His broad shoulders pushed against the mesh fabric as he popped his back before he said in confidence, “we’ll be leaving in the morning; I suggest when the bar opens back up, you should go and talk to your boss about this…”

            His voice trailed off with a yawn and I realized how tired he must be, having to keep watch while he waited for his drunken companion to become sober.

            “Enit, let me do you a favor; I’ll keep watch for a bit. Get some sleep.”

            Enit eyed me warily for a moment but laid down where he was, curling into a warm ball of safety. I smirked at this, before taking my place, opposite of the robed man and Enit.

            Dragging my attention to the drunken mage, or what seemed like one(I had never really made contact or talked to a mage like this one before), I stared at his sleeping form.

            Pulling out a bottle of beer from my jacket pocket, I popped the cap, and Enit jerked from his place, looking at me with wide eyes. He looked from me, to the bottle, and then to the robed man before looking back to me.

            I just shrugged and took a swig of the alcohol before looking back into the fire.

“Roslyn… could I have some of that?” Enit asked excitedly as he pulled himself over to the other man at the fire.

            “Sure,” I muttered with a questioning face before watching Enit take the bottle and pour some liquid on the sleeping man.

            The robes twitched and I could hear some mumbling about fire and killing someone.

I studied the robes more carefully and could see two thin slits where his eyes were; a sign that he was sleeping with the help of Enit interfering with his dreams.

            I have no idea what Enit is thinking right now; at the moment, after he set the glass bottle down, he started to reach his hand under the hood of the robe and after what seemed like curiosity, turned into surprise.

            Enit pulled his hand out just seconds before the mass of robes sneezed a cone of fire, illuminating the campsite even more; Enit seemed to burst into laughter as he wiped his fingers on the grass beneath him.

            Idiot; Enit stuck his fingers up his fuckin’ nose, making the guy sneeze. But, I couldn’t  argue, it was a rather funny sight, seeing the robed man mutter what sounded like chanting before sneezing the fire and chanting some more before mumbling, “stupid spells……. Won’t wor—,” but the rest was inaudible as he started snoring obscenely loudly, turning over and facing his back to the fire.

            I giggled at Enit as he picked up the nearest stick and poked the mage repeatedly, getting the reaction of some swipes and more inaudible mumbles and groans.

            After a few minutes of prodding and pinching, Enit let up on the sleeping mage and returned to his place at the campfire. We exchanged one last glance at each other, and not too long after, Enit had settled in for a light slumber.

Ch. 3. Call Me “Black Mage”

Hours passed and before long, the first rays of dawn peeked over the grassy horizon. The orange embers are only but small specks in the grey ashes, and Enit had begun to stir.

            “Enit, wake up; I’ll be leaving to go tell Horus of the trip to the caves pretty soon if you don’t wake the hell up…,” I said in a sing-song tone.

            Enit pried his eyes open, setting his dark, hazel eyes on me before grumbling and propping himself on his arms. His attention immediately flickered to the sleeping mage to his left, disappointed that his company had not awoken at all since the night before.

            “I’ll be back within an hour,” I explained as I eyed him while he attached his shoulderpads and gunblade back onto his body.

            Stepping away from the camp, I eyed Enit warily before running off to Cour-Hagen.

            After convincing my boss to let me have a few days off my shift, and after I had gone home to pick up my satchel and a day’s worth of rations, I had ventured back to the outskirts of Cour-Hagen to find that the party had not abandoned me.

            Sitting by the campfire was Enit looking bored as ever while he continuously pricked at the sleeping mass of robes. After several attempts of trying to wake the mage up, Enit had stopped, but continued to glare at the lump with a spark of irritation growing in his eyes.

            “Enit, he’s dead to the world; if and when he wakes up, he’ll be angry as hell for being so sore because you’ve been probing him with that fucking stick all night-,” I was interrupted by a low moan and what sounded like cursing coming from the mage before me.

            The robed man propped himself up on his elbows, grabbing at his head while he glared at us with pain contorted in his golden, glowing eyes, “where the hell am I and why do I HURT EVERYWHERE? Who are you?”

            His expression wasn’t unreadable, for his emotions played in his eyes while he looked both Enit and me over with question written under his hood. After a few moments of glancing over to Enit and waiting for him to speak, I talked first.

            “Well, to answer your first question, your outside of Cour-Hagen,” I pointed toward the drab colored walls that held the city hostage before continuing in a low voice, “and from what I’ve seen, Enit here has been trying to get you to wake up for a few hours now; you’re in pain because he’s been poking you with a stick all night.”

            Enraged, the mage got up and swept over to Enit, and looked him in the eye, “what did you do to me, and why were you poking me? How did I get outside of town and WHY do I smell like burnt alcohol?”

His hands started to radiate with heat and his hands became distorted as waves rippled over them; large crimson flames appeared in his possession and eyed us with a silent threat in his eyes.

            Raising my hands over my head, I looked over to the side and shrugged coolly before saying innocently, “Enit was the one who got you that last beer; its my job as a bartender to follow my customer’s orders. I didn’t drag you out of town, I wasn’t the one who poured alcohol on you in attempt to wake you up, and I certainly wasn’t a benefactor as to why you have all those bruises on your body…”

            The mage’s attention swept back to Enit with ferocity burning in his pupils, but kept silent, for he seemed somewhat embarrassed to speak angrily.

            “In case you haven’t noticed, er…,” Enit ended with a questioning look as his eyebrows knit together as to remember the mages name. The man slurred nervously in quick haste, “Black Mage. Call me Black Mage…”

            “Black Mage… I’m not here to harm you in any way… I’m in need of a party to help me clear out the Caves of Chaos. In case you haven’t noticed… there’s been quite a few attacks happening in the town, and they all seem to be coming from the caves…”

            Enit backed away, pulling out his gunblade as to defend himself, but that only seemed to enrage the man worse.

            “What makes you think I shouldn’t just incinerate you for dragging me out here and kidnapping me in the first place? Fire sure is fun to play with,” the mage laughed happily as the flames in his hands grew in twice the size before simmering back down into their small balls of fire.

            “So, we got a pyromaniac here… Sweet,” I muttered with excitement. Black Mage could cause a lot of trouble if he joined the expedition, but he could be a lifesaver and an exceptional form of entertainment. Already I had grown a liking for the mage and I haven’t even spoken to him for more than a minute.

            “You can incinerate anything and EVERYTHING you find in the caves if you join us. You might even have some fun in the act if you truly do have a thing for fire…,” Enit explained quickly, backing away from the scorching heat of the inferno the mage possessed.

            Immediately, the mage hollered in delight, and the flames burst high into the sky as he raised his arms above his head. Slowing down noticeably, Black Mage groaned with discomfort before heaving slightly, but not vomiting.

 Smiling, entertained by the random dancing and bursts of fire, I turned around and looked over to Enit and chuckled before notifying, “I brought everyone a day’s worth of rations. We’ll just have to hunt for more when we continue to the caves.”

Nodding in agreement, Enit started to pack up his belongings while I strode over to the mage, keeping my voice low so as not to worsen the effects of the hangover.

“Black Mage, I brought some food for the trip; you seem like you need something to hold you over until tonight,” I handed over some jerky and my personal canteen of water which he gladly accepted, but avoided my eyes completely.

Eying him suspiciously, I began to watch him put his hand into the darkness of his hood and pull out with a few crumbs of the jerky on his gloves. How he ate, I had no idea, because all I could see of the man were two golden orbs for eyes and the rest of his body draped in the black robes; even his hands were covered with gloves, and absolutely no form of skin was shown.

My curiosity had been fixed, but still, it was odd how you heard him chew, but couldn’t see his mouth move as he ate.

Pushing this aside, I looked over to Enit and saw that he was readily packed and waiting for us to finish whatever preoccupied his party. I simply waved my arm for him to come over, and once he stood beside me, I gave him some jerky as well before I turned east, towards the heavily forested area.

Enit pushed ahead of me, leading the group toward the entrance of the woods in the direction of the legendary Caves of Chaos.

Ch. 4. Squirrel Hats and Oversized Bonfires

            The day had been a fairly easy trek through the woods, and the majority of the food I had brought had been mostly eaten by Black Mage who honestly seems to have an endless stomach.

            After the hours have passed, we came across a small opening amongst the underbrush and without hesitation, I sat down on the nearest log and made my point that we were to camp here for the night. Relieved that nobody disagreed with the decision, I hunched over and let my back snap and pop, not worrying about ladylike manners. So what if my spine grew at an odd angle, and so what if I popped my knuckles? It’s not like people cared anyway.

            A loud stomach growl came from Enit’s direction, who was turned away, kicking loose debris out of the area. “I’ll go fetch the firewood and scout out the area. You and Black Mage hunt for a bit; with the way his appetite’s working, we’ll need a lot,” Enit groaned as he hurried from the camp, picking up large, broken branches and dragging them into the clearing before breaking off the twigs first and throwing them into the center.

            “C’mon…,” I groaned as I dragged my feet away and back into the brush. But immediately my senses became attentive and aware, as I began sneaking through the lush green forest around me with the black mage following my tail.

            About an hour had passed and luck had not come to my tastes; there were plenty of fresh kill waiting out there for us, plenty of wandering fauns, the occasional rabbit and a few birds here and there. But once Black Mage had set his eyes on the prey, he ran after it with no sense of caution. He had scared away every bit of food we could get except for a single squirrel that I had caught with proximity and chance, and a rabbit that Black Mage had successfully caught.

            Walking back to the camp, irritated, I wandered around and noticed Enit sitting beside an unlit fire. Sweat trailed down his forehead and neck as he pursued with determination, but failing miserably at lighting the fire manually. From behind me, Black Mage yelled happily, “I WANNA HELP!”

            Before Enit could react, the camp was ignited in the soft glow of firelight and the mage jumped with delight. Dragging my hand down the side of my face, I huffed out a long, exasperated sigh and walked out of camp, after suggesting I go back out and try hunting again.

            But with no luck, I had come across nothing. All the prey had been scared away, unwilling to come back into the area of where a crazy mage had ran around, helplessly trying to catch something.

            Another thirty minutes had passed by and darkness started to settle in as I dragged my way back to camp, famished and exhausted.

            About ten feet away from camp, I heard the sound of the mage, laughing and chanting in some unrecognizable language, and the light from the fire was much brighter than when I had left for the next round of hunting. Gaining speed, I ran into the clearing immediately finding that the campfire grew three times as large, the flames reaching into the treetops but not quite reaching the tips of their blackened leaves. Black Mage was leaping around the fire, his hands in the sky as he chanted some sort of prayer or ritual while Enit sat on the log, staring the mage down with annoyance hidden in the depths of his hazel eyes.

            Rolling my own, I walked over to the saner companion of the group and asked Enit, “have either of you even started cooking the rabbit or squirrel we caught?” He simply shook his head and I yelled over my shoulder, “OI! BLACK MAGE!”

            The mage flinched and stared at me with wide eyes before looking down dejectedly. He walked slowly over here, avoiding our gazes, but speaking in a low voice, “I was just trying to make the fire suitable for cooking…,” but I knew fairly well by the way he sounded and avoided our eyes that he was a terrible liar.

            I just shrugged it off, “I don’t care about the fire; I just need some help cooking this,” I suggested as I pointed my chin toward the small rabbit and squirrel that were laid out beside an irritated looking Enit who was toying with his gunblade.

            Snorting at this, I picked up the rabbit by one of its legs and took it to the fire, but the mage simply took it from my grip, “no, no, no, this’ll be MUCH faster,” he suggested.

            And before I knew it, the rabbit was set aflame and burned in his hands. Getting a few loud giggles, the mage let it scorch in his hands and after a few minutes, he said, “I think it’s done!!”

“Black Mage, that’s burned to a crisp…,” I said as I took the charred rabbit and picking it open. A poof of smoke and tiny bits of what was left of the rabbit fell to the ground, and all that was left was stringy, dried and petrified pieces. The organs weren’t even taken out, so those, too, were burned to a crisp while the blood inside the fur dried to the skin.

            Frowning with disgust, my eye twitching with lack of sleep and annoyance, I grumbled out, “we still got the squirrel… Black Mage, try skinning it first, rid it of its innards and ROAST it rather than BURN the food…”

            His face contorted and he began to frown, taking back the rabbit and tearing off a chunk of what was left of the morsel. Shoving the burnt remnants under his hood, he began to chew on the hunk of burnt meat before saying willfully, “tastes fine to me,” before putting down the rabbit for himself to eat later and picking up the squirrel.

            He too, sat upon the log and started to peel the skin away, getting blood on its fur before staring at the skin with narrowed eyes. Setting that down on the log, he held the squirrel above his other hand and slowly began to roast it as suggested.

(to be continued…)


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