by Luna Manar
13 years later
"C'mon, Dane! I'll beat you there!" yelled Warren to his dog, a shepherd named Dane. The dog raced toward his master and friend, intent on proving Warren's statement untrue.
The two raced each other across the wide plains of Pandora, the dog inevitably gaining the lead. They both stopped at the city gates. Warren leaned on the wooden 'Welcome to Pandora' sign that was stuck lopsided at the gates.
"Whew! You win again, boy," he wheezed, scratching Dane behind the ears. The dog woofed softly in boast and accepted his master's friendly hand.
Warren looked toward the mighty city of Pandora. He had to get back home, to his house in Potos, a town not far from Pandora. It was late in the evening and Elder Elliot would be expecting him back. Still patting Dane, he walked into the city of Pandora. It was the easiest way back.
As he walked through the city, he admired its beautiful houses and the shining tower in the background. He felt a soft pang of jealousy for the people who lived here in such luxury, but knew he had it better than most people.
He was not exactly sure how it had happened, not many people were, but the world had become inexplicably hot and dry in the past fifteen years, and many towns had been thrown into drought and were not faring well. Pandora was one of the few cities that was still strong and well fortified, but even now, the weather was taking its toll on the powerful capital. The only reason Potos was as well off as it was was because of its closeness to the rivers of the mountains. Warren considered himself lucky.
A shout to his right jerked him from his thoughts.
"Hey, you! Frizzletop!" called a plump boy about his age. Warren scowled at the brown-haired teen.
"What do you want, Detrius?" Warren snarled.
Detrius smirked and approached the taller youth and flipped at Warren's dark red bangs, which stuck up slightly as they always did. Warren shook away the hand, causing the rest of his long hair to cascade over his shoulders.
"Stop that," he growled, glowering at Detrius, "Go away. I have to get home." He turned again to leave.
But Detrius only followed him.
"Aw. Will daddy get mad if you're not home in time for supper?" he chided. Warren ignored him and kept walking. Detrius decided to push it farther.
"Oops! I forgot! Let me rephrase myself. Will Elder get mad if you're not home in time fo–"
Detrius was cut short by Warren as the taller boy whirled and cast Detrius a piercing stare.
Detrius gulped, back and involuntarily looked away from Warren's glare. He knew he'd gone too far this time.
"Temper, temper, Frizzletop. No insult intended, of course."
Detrius was a rich boy who lived in the Pandora castle. He had always been fond of teasing people, bragging, and just being a brat in general. But he especially enjoyed teasing Warren when their paths crossed, because of Warren's mysterious heritage. No one knew where Warren came from, not even Warren himself.
But this time their paths hadn't crossed. Detrius had been looking for Warren. He had plans for the red-haired youth. A dare.
Quickly changing the subject, Detrius drew forth a whistle, blew on it. It made a high-pitched squeal that was barely audible. Dane growled and hid behind Warren. Detrius casually put the whistle back in his pocket and pasted a crooked overconfident look on his face.
"Have you heard of the ruins up in the Ice Country, Frizzletop?" he asked slyly.
Warren frowned at mention of the ruins. He had heard tell of them.
"I've heard of them," he said simply, not sure of and not really wanting to know what Detrius was getting at. "Why?"
"Because," continued the plump youth with a smirk, "I was thinking of going there. I've heard there's treasure to be found. I was wondering if you'd want to come?" he put a mock-questioning look on his face.
Warren's scowl deepened. No way. Not those ruins. Any others, but not those. This was a trick, Warren could smell it. Detrius was a bad liar.
Warren was about to say, "No. Absolutely not," when Detrius added,
"Unless, you feel safer in your little house? Oh, never mind. I should never have mentioned it in the first place. You've always been too scared to go anywhere fun."
That did it. Warren took Detrius's hand in a rough shake.
"You wanna make a bet on that?"
"I dare you!"
The second that was said, a gust of wind blew back the hair of both boys. Dane barked and backed up as Trent, Detrius's dragon-like companion, winged itself in over them, hovered, and landed a few paces away. It half-opened its razor-edged beak in a toothless grin at his master.
Trent was a drac, a relative of dragons and a favorite pet of rich families. Though about half the size of their immense cousins, dracs were still eleven feet tall at the shoulder and, when trained, could easily carry two people in flight.
Trent was a typical drac, with a long neck, a comparatively short tail, a long, gray-scaled body, bright red bat-wings that contrasted ridiculously with his body, straight, sharp horns at the back of the head, strong, stout front and hind legs and feet each armed with three strong toes and sharp, powerful claws, hard, smooth reptilian scales, a short mane that ran from the back of his head to the base of his neck, and, most notably, a razor-sharp beak.
Trent lowered his head for his master to pet affectionately.
"Then we'll leave now."
Warren stepped back, startled at the suddenness of the proposed excursion.
"B-but, what about Dane? He can't go with us," he protested.
"Send the mutt home," Detrius said irritably with a casual wave of his hand, "He knows the way. You've been through here many a time."
That was true. Dane did know the way home, but what would he tell the Elder?
"What about the Elder? He'll want to know where I am."
Detrius turned from the drac and sneered at Warren. "Who'll care where you'll be if you bring back treasure? I've caught wind of a great treasure that was left there years ago. If we each bring back half of that, we'll both be rich!"
You're already rich, thought Warren, but he didn't say the comment aloud. Instead, he turned to his dog.
"Dane, go home. I'll be back before you know it. Don't worry. Go on, now," he gave the shepherd a pat on the back. With a small whine, the dog turned and sped off toward Potos.
Warren turned back to Detrius and Trent.
"Alright, then. Let's go."
At Detrius's signal, Trent lowered his red wing, and the two boys climbed on. He then spread his wings, and skillfully rose into the night air.
Trahern put his hands to his forehead. This wasn't working! What was he doing wrong? He'd followed all the instructions on the ancient blueprint, but it just wouldn't work! What was going on?
He threw the longsword he had just made down on the ground in aggravation and frustration. For what must have been the thousandth time that day, the young dwarven metalsmith turned to the ancient blueprint he had been studying. Something wasn't right.
He again put one hand to his forehead.
"Come on, Pops!" he said aloud to an unseen person, "Tell me, what's going on? Why can't I get this right?" He paused, as if waiting for an answer. None came.
Of course not, thought Trahern, That's a little hard when you're not among the living.
He had to get this work done, and soon. He knew that. His village depended on him. His people, perhaps every living thing on the planet depended on his getting the weapon done.
He set to work forging a new blade. The rhythmic poundings of his hammer ringing through the caves of the dwarven village.
Trent soared high over the clouds on his way to the Ice Country. He was quite intent on reaching his destination, and was oblivious to the conversation taking place on his back.
"So, Frizzletop, what do you know about the ruins?" asked Detrius in an overly-casual manner.
Warren turned his attention to the plump rich boy. He didn't usually encourage engaging in conversation with Detrius, but at least it would be something to take his mind off wondering and worrying about how high they were.
"What do I know about them? Not much," he answered, "Just that that's where the Mana Knight and the wizard Thanto...Thatnos....something had their final showdown fifty years ago."
Detrius nodded his head. "Some say that the walls still crawl with his monsters," he said, trying to sound creepy.
Warren turned his attention back to wondering how far up they were.
Suddenly Detrius pointed.
"Look! There it is!"
Ahead, on the early morning horizon, the shore of the Ice Country came into view. With it came the looming, menacing ruins of the ancients.
Trent banked and glided toward the ancient buildings. Warren shivered when he realized where they were heading. Trent was taking them straight into the center of the ruins, to what used to be a mighty tower, but was nothing more but a huge hallway exposed to the open air. From the looks of it, the tower had been torn clean off. Looking down, Warren could see piles of debris and walls that had fallen in lying scattered on the floor inside.
Trent set down fearlessly in the center of the ancient room. Lowering his red wings, he waited patiently for his riders to climb off.
Warren was hesitant. He knew very little about the ruins, but he knew Detrius well. It would be just like him to let Warren go first and then take off, leaving him there. He'd done it before.
"You first." Warren motioned to Detrius.
Detrius rolled his eyes and jumped off.
"Wuss..." he muttered.
Seeing Detrius off, Warren jumped down behind him.
Detrius turned to Trent.
"Trent, stay here," he ordered, "We'll be back, and we'll be rich!"
The drac obediently sat on its haunches, and looking like some sort of freak-giant dog, began its patient wait.
Detrius and Warren started off in the direction of a huge pile of rubble to begin their search.
"Just what exactly are we looking for?" asked Warren, warily eyeing a fearsome-looking statue of some sort of bat-winged creature.
"A jewel," answered Detrius, turning over a rock in his search, "A large emerald. I heard some soldiers talking about it in a tavern... don't ask me how they knew of it, but they said it was worth thousands!"
Warren stared at Detrius curiously.
"Aren't you a little young to be wandering into taverns?" he asked, but Detrius simply waved him off.
With a half-smile, Warren set to work searching for a treasure he knew probably wasn't there. It was always like this. Detrius would catch wind of some rumor of treasure or other riches, and he'd take (dare) Warren with him. Warren would humor him, probably get in trouble in the process, but they would always come back empty handed. It wouldn't worry Elder Elliot, Warren knew. This happened often, and he'd likely simply get a lecture that he'd heard before a hundred times over. He was used to it.
A glimmer caught Warren's eye. Walking over to a stone he had seen near the glimmer, Warren began searching. He cleared some rubble away from the area, and found what appeared to be the shattered remnants of a sword.
A platinum hilt lay a few yards away. This wasn't an uncommon find in ruins. It had probably been here for centuries. Warren was about to pick up the platinum hilt, which would fetch a fair price at the smithy shop in the dwarven kingdom. At least this time they found something.
Then he saw it again. A glimmer – no, not a glimmer, but a glow, a shine. Warren walked over to where he had seen it. By now, Detrius had realized that his "friend" was on to something, and was soon close behind him.
"What is it? did you find it?" he asked emphatically.
"Shut up," scolded Warren, "I'm looking." Clearing away some more fallen debris, he tried desperately to find the glow again. He was just about to give up looking when he found it – by a stone he had pushed over, hiding in the shadows, was a dust-covered, walnut sized emerald.
Quickly grabbing it up, Warren dusted it off as much as he could and gazed at it intently, Detrius right by his side.
"Wow," he said to Detrius in amazement, "I guess this time, you were right. What'll we do with it now?"
Detrius's eyes lit up with excitement.
"Give it to me!!!" he yelled, and before Warren could stop him, he grabbed for it.
The second his hands closed around it, he was thrown back by the powerful shock that was emitted by the stone.
"Yeeeow!!" he screamed, and turned his hands over to stare at them. They were blackened where his palms had closed around the green stone. "Gee wizz, Warren! How can you hold that thing?!"
Warren was too startled to answer. He stared down at the emerald in the palm of his hand. He certainly didn't get a reaction like that out of it. He raised his other hand to touch it, to see if that hand got a different reaction. That hand happened to be holding the platinum hilt he had found, and when Warren held it up, he saw that, in the center of the hilt, there was a small hollow space.
An idea sparking in his mind, he held up the emerald to the hollow space in the hilt. They were exactly the same size.
"Hey, Frizzletop! What are you doing?" Detrius called over to him. He would have come nearer, but for fear of the green gem.
"Detrius, c'mere," said Warren, intent on his newfound interest, "Look at this."
Cautiously, Detrius walked over to where Warren stood.
"Look," Warren continued as Detrius approach him, "The gem. It fits." He started to place the emerald in the hollow spot on the hilt.
"I wouldn't do that, if I were you, Frizz," warned Detrius, "Not after what that thing did to me."
"Oh, come on," reassured Warren, "It didn't do anything to me. Maybe it just doesn't like you." He smiled at Detrius's embarrassed frown. "Anyway, what could possibly hap–" He was cut short as he placed the emerald in the hilt. There was a screech from Trent as a bright light expanded from the hilt and flooded the open-air chamber. There was an equally animal-like squeal from Detrius.
All fools think alike, thought Warren as he shielded his eyes from the glare.
After a few seconds, the light died, and the room was left in utter silence.
Finally, Detrius's whimpering broke the still air.
"W-what was th-th-that?" he squeaked, cowering in a corner of fallen debris.
Warren turned, the hilt, which was now silent and cold, still in his hand.
"I don't know," he said honestly, "But I have a feeling that we'd better get ho–"
Detrius cried out as Warren reached out his hand.
"Stay away from me!" he bellowed, then got up and darted for Trent.
"Hey! Wait!" Warren called out and started to chase after the rich boy, but by the time he got there, the drac and Detrius were already in the air and were soon out of sight.