Tales of Unlikely Adventures
The story about four different adventurers who find their destinies where they least expected
Chapter 1: The Magi
Helen Myers sat on her bunk, her mind thinking back to the training session that took place. All of her peers had already advanced in some form of specialized magic. Veronica went on to become an enchanter, Desmond had finally discovered his affinity for fire magic, and even her younger brother Calvin found himself a healer. So what was wrong with her? Years of practice had yielded a firm understanding of only the most basic practices of manipulating general energies, but nothing more.
She grabbed a rag sitting on her nightstand and wiped the sweat off of her forehead. Truthfully, it couldn't be told whether it was from the rigorous test she had just taken, or if it was anticipation from what the Elder Council would decide. What if they confirmed that she wasn't apt enough to learn magic? What if she had traveled all this way to the Arcane Citadel, having spent five years practicing the arts, just to be told she wasn't cut out for it? A tear streamed down her cheek, and she realized her eyes were welling up with sorrow.
Helen walked down the forest path, growing tired of the trees she had seen for the past three weeks. "All this walking, and still, not a town in sight!" she thought aloud. The young wizard pulled out her map for the umpteenth time, to view once again how she had no idea where she was-- or where she was going. "UGH!" Exasperated, she crumpled it up and shoved it back into her satchel. "If I could just find some other person, maybe I wouldn't be stuck here, wandering the middle of nowhere!" Myers began contemplating how it wasn't so bad being in the Arcane Citadel, and maybe she would make more progress if she went back and tired endlessly casting weak spells instead of getting blisters on her feet.
Eventually, the sun descended below the trees, and Helen had to make camp. She gathered a bunch of dry leaves, twigs, and small pieces of wood, and built herself a neat little fire. She stuck her staff into the ground so that it stuck straight up. As an unnecessary yet charming gesture, she snapped her fingers, and imagined the bulb of the staff brightening intensely to illuminate her surroundings. "Well," she said smugly, "I can't be all that bad, if I can do that so simply." She sat down against a tree behind her, and opened up her book, Arcane Advancement: A Guide to a Greater Gift. She had read through the whole book twice already, and it definitely was NOT her favorite book, but perhaps there was something in it she missed that could help her discover how to shoot fire from her fingertips, or heal poison, or something. Who knew.
The fire cracked and splintered, sending little fire-fairies into the air. Helen wasn't sure what they were called, but she called them fire-fairies, because nobody was around to oppose her. Before she took any interest in her book, the girl took some time to take in her surroundings. The doom and gloom of the dark forest was masked by the mystic torchlight her staff gave off, it's light blue luminosity piercing the shadows with beauty rather than fear. She looked up to view her favorite scene of all: the stars. Helen loved stars. She recalled her mother telling her that each star was the mark of somebody who did everything they could in this life to fulfill their true fate. When asked by a young Helen Myers why some stars were brighter than others, her sweet response was that each person had different circumstances. There are some, her mom's voice echoed in her mind, who are incredibly talented in the world, and do absolutely nothing with it. They are the smaller stars. But some people don't have very much talent, yet by doing small and simple things, bring greatness about. Those, my child, are the brighter stars.
Helen sighed, closing her eyes and smiling. Such words brought peace at a time like this. She had a purpose now. She wasn't just hoping for an unseen miracle, she was out trying to make it so. Perhaps, thought she, before sinking into a deep sleep; perhaps she'll find her magic talents soon. The late-blooming flower blooms most beautifully. Maybe she has bright hopes ahead of her.
I'm a failure, Helen thought, now crying into her pillow. I'm not going to be a great wizard, am I? She didn't want to go home a disappointment to her parents, both of which were very powerful mages. Even her brother, two years younger, was nothing short of a prodigy. So what was wrong with her? She sank into a deeper sob, her breath breaking as she considered being sent home. The worst part would be being welcomed home with love and indifference to her failed career. It would be so much easier, she thought, to go home to parents who at least disapproved of her failure. Maybe that could inspire some miraculous change of soul. It would at least keep her from feeling pitied.
Her thoughts were interrupted by a knock at the door. "Come in," Myers said, her voice cracking as she sat up. The door opened to one of the old men that was present at her examination. "My dear," he said, somewhat cautiously, "the Elders have come to a conclusion." She looked up, her face begging for good news, yet fearing the worst. The old man bowed his head, using his hood to hide his face. "I don't know what they decided, but I hope for the best, dear."
"Wake up, pretty lady..." a dark and sinister voice made Helen gasp as she jolted off of the tree. She couldn't see in the pitch black. With a flicker of her mind, her staff flashed on, and three hooded figures stood in front of her, the one on the left an arrow drawn and pointed directly at her. One of them snickered at her fear-stricken eyes, which darted between the strange men. "Oh, we didn't interrupt a nightmare, now, did we?" Helen backed into the tree, stretching out a hand to ward off an approaching threat.
"Listen, um... I-I'm a wizard, y'know, and... uh... I-I don't want to hurt you." The center figure chuckled, and the one on the right took a brisk step forward and firmly grasped her neck, holding her head up.
"Of course not, dear," he said, gazing into her eyes. "We wouldn't want to hurt you either. We just wanted to give you some good company." The masked creep ran his other hand through Helen's hair, while she remained completely still, trying to keep her mind clear and come up with a plan. "You see, you looked so lonely, asleep here by this tree, and I thought that perhaps I could offer you something... fun--"
Disgusted at the suggestion, Helen quickly used both her arms to remove his grip, then snaked around behind him, putting him in a headlock. She thought about her satchel opening and he knife flying into her hand, which it did without hesitation. The other two crooks stared in amazement. "Get back," she warned, "I don't want to hurt him!" She pointed the knife toward her captive. The man in her headlock laughed darkly, and with swift strength, threw her over his shoulder. She yelped as she went soaring, then brutally found herself looking up at her stalker.
Still laughing, he waved off the bowman. "Go ahead and put that away. She won't be any trouble." Just as the henchman did so, out of nowhere, an arrow came soaring out of nowhere and pinned his foot to the ground. As he shouted and bent over at the pain, the center figure pulled out his bow and nocked an arrow, only to have another arrow from the mysterious assailant strike his right hand and go into his forearm. Helen sat up, still shocked and trying to regain her breath from being thrown into the ground. The rapist pulled out a scimitar and shouted, "Well come on out, ya Robin Hood! I'll take you on myself!"
Another arrow tagged his right shoulder, and he fell to the ground, grunting in frustration. He pulled a throwing knife out and tossed it helplessly into the night sky, failing to hit even a tree in the dense forest. As he stood up slowly, the archer approached him from the treeline with a shortsword, and went to knock him out with the pommel. Instead, with second wind, the bandit ducked forward, sliding his scimitar across the rescuer's hip as he passed. As the hero turned to fight back, he flinched at his newfound pain. Luckily, the bandit was also in a lot of pain, and wasn't moving. Helen stared in awe as all of the strangers around her sat and helplessly writhed in silent pain. Her mind completely blank by this point, because she was still groggy from lack of sleep, she quickly got up and grabbed her staff. With some quick swinging, she bludgeoned the two other outlaws with cheap blows to the back of the head, knocking both of them unconscious. Meanwhile, the hero and villain were having a pitiful sword fight, looking like two toddlers blundering around with sharp toys.
The bandit, being forced to fight with his left arm, was swinging with half of his coordination, while his opponent lazily parried, flinching at each blow. Forcing himself to endure the extra pain, Helen's brave defender finally stumbled forward, tackling the sword into the masked man's gut. They both stumbled into the ground, and Helen ran for the guy who saved her. She wasn't sure why, but she figured that she'd have the advantage if he turned out to have misintentions.
"You're hurt!" She said. The man looked up, dumbfounded at her gratitude for his saving her life. "Well," he replied, "ya don't say..." He stood up, his left arm covering his right hip, and sauntered toward the campsite only a few feet away. "Now why don't you tell me what you're doing in my forest, girl?" Helen raised an eyebrow.
"Ha, uh, your forest? I've been wandering these woods for weeks, and none of these trees have your name carved on them." The man turned around, giving her a condescending look.
"First of all," he said in his snarkiest tone, "half the trees by the wayside have names carved into them, if you'd just look. In all fairness, most of them just have two letters and a heart, but nevertheless, it's an identity. Secondly, you don't know my name, so I imagine it'd be hard for you to figure out the fact that I don't own this forest."
"I don't care what your name is," Helen sneered. "For all I know, you're no better than that weirdo with your sword-hole in his gut." This got her a look of disbelief from her new friend.
"Sword-hole? You're not from around here, are you?" He stood up, and limped toward her. "I can tell from your ears. You're an elf, aren't you? Probably thought you could handle anything that came your way with your magic and your riches. Not so high and mighty now, are we?" He folded his arms, grinning smugly. Helen couldn't believe what she was hearing.
"Excuse me?" She put a fist on her hip, and prepared to rail on him. "I'm a half-elf, just so we're clear on that. And I am from around here. My hometown is just east of the Capital. Plus, I'm not rich, and I'm not high and mighty. So next time we feel like profiling someone based on some stereotype, maybe we should reconsider!"
The man pointed a finger at her. "Hey, that's no way to be talking to a guy who just risked his life to save yours. You better rethink your attitude, or next time I see a damsel in distress, I'll look the other way and let bygones be bygones, if you... you catch... my..." Suddenly, he fell forward, and Helen yelped.
"Ah! Oh my-- crap!! Ah! Uh, um!" She frantically looked around, finding her satchel and pulling out a first aid kit. Well, she thought worriedly, I've never sown a wound before. But hopefully he's passed out enough he won't feel any pain.