Title to come

CrazyMonkeyDude

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Frederick Tahn came around a woody bend in the small dirt road – more of a path, really – to see him smiling friend Xack Alnon waiting for him, as if he had just gotten there. Frederick smiled, calling out to Xack and holding up the small deer he had caught for dinner. He knew Xack would be there, as he always was, and brought food for the short, young, and plump sorcerer dressed in oceanic blue-green robes.

“Ah!” Xack called out. “Venison, my favorite!” He gave Frederick an inquisitive look, “Did you find anything new or interesting out there?” Xack’s double-chin wobbled with the flapping of his tongue. Being a scholar, he was always interested in anything new.

“No, same old woods as they always are.” Frederick reported, before giving him a meaningful stare. “You know, you’d have better luck finding something if you came with me for once.”

At this, Xack gave a merry chuckle, reaching up to pat Frederick’s earthy brown forester’s vest at the shoulders. “No, I trust your eyes; if you don’t see anything new, then there mustn’t be anything new.” He dodged the invitation smoothly. He looked back to the deer. “Ah, let me help you with that.” And with a flick of his wrist that sent the fuzzy cuff of his robe swirling, Xack unleashed magic that lifted the deer off Frederick’s other shoulder and floated it to the door.

“Shall we?” Xack proposed, patting his stomach, “The walk here left me famished.” Rolling his eyes, the forester followed his long-time friend inside.

---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

This is my writing contest entry, or at least the first part of it. Any feedback would be grateful. I'll update with more of the story as I write it. :D
 

Shadeska

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You should make co-erection of you're spilling misteaks.

And definitely add to the story. Maybe something before they meet on the road? Like Fred hunting the deer. You begin talking about this peaceful deer and the serenity of the whole scene, then his arrow comes out of nowhere to cripple the deer's leg and Fred rushes in to basically mutilate it. Well, I thought it was funny. Or maybe I'm just insane >.>
 

CrazyMonkeyDude

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Xack walked over to the well, lazily gesturing with his hands, causing the water from the well to rise up and fill the pot. Hand gestures weren’t required for magic, a fact that Professor Haruta had given him flak for, but Xack felt that magic without a little flair was boring.

The pot filled, the short sorcerer waddled back towards the house. He stopped dead in his tracks as twigs snapped in the woods nearby. A lot of them. Obviously, Frederick had noticed because Xack heard the slap of the dead deer falling into the basin, and Frederick was at the door; knife in hand, elbows dripping with blood.

“What was that?” He mouthed to Xack. He gestured for Xack to come inside, just as a dark figure walked behind Frederick. The man had a sword in his hand.

“Watch out!” Frederick and Xack yelled in unison. A bolt of fire and a knife flew through the air in opposite directions, felling the men standing behind each of the friends.
 

The Man In Black

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CrazyMonkeyDude said:
Frederick Tahn came around a woody bend of the small dirt road, if the word road could even be applied to the path. He could see his friend, Xack Alnon, waiting outside Frederick's cottage, smiling as if he had just gotten there. Frederick greeted Xack with a nod and turned sideways, revealing the small deer he had hung over one shoulder. He knew Xack would be there, as he always was, so he brought food for the plump sorceror.

“Ah!” Xack called out. “Venison, my favorite!” He gave Frederick an inquisitive look. “Did you find anything new or interesting out there?” Xack’s double-chin wobbled with each jaw movement. Being a young scholar, he was always interested in anything new.

“No, same old woods as they always are,” Frederick reported. “You know, you’d have better luck finding something if you came with me for once.” At this, Xack gave a merry chuckle, reaching up to pat Frederick’s earthy brown forester’s vest at the shoulders.

“No, I trust your eyes. If you don’t see anything new, then there is nothing.” He dodged the invitation smoothly. His eyes traced the deer's body. “Ah, let me help you with that,” he said as flicked his wrist, sending the fuzzy cuff of his robe swirling. Frederick felt the weight being lifted from his shoulder as Xack guided it through the open door with easy hand motions.

“Shall we?” Xack proposed, patting his stomach, “The walk here left me famished.” Rolling his eyes, the forester followed his long-time friend inside.
I've fixed a few phrasings and spelling mistakes. For the description of Xach.. That sentence was definitely too wordy. Try not to put so many adjectives in. The other descriptions were good, and I like how they're spaced out across the whole chapter (if this is the full one). I'll start work on the other one in a bit, and I'll likely double post for it.
 

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CrazyMonkeyDude said:
Xack walked out the backyard and to the well, lazily gesturing with his hand. The well water obeyed his every command, rising up and filling the pot he held in his other hand. Hand gestures weren’t required for magic, a fact that Professor Haruta had given him flak for, but Xack felt that magic without a little flair was boring.

The pot filled, the short sorcerer waddled back towards the house. He stopped dead in his tracks as twigs snapped in the woods nearby. A lot of them. Xack heard the slap of the dead deer falling into the basin. Frederick was at the door, knife in hand, elbows still dripping with blood.

“What was that?” He mouthed to Xack. He gestured for Xack to come inside, but a cloaked figure appeared behind Xack. The glint of a sword was barely visible in the folds of cloth. Frederick felt the air move behind him, but did not turn to confront the newest visitor.

“Watch out!” Frederick and Xack yelled in unison. A bolt of fire and a knife flew through the air in opposite directions, felling the men standing behind each of the friends. Frederick brushed his shoulder, removing some of his singed vest.
 

CrazyMonkeyDude

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Thanks... These are products of free writes (about 30 mins in class go to just sitting there writing) and journals (a page of writing while at home, just like free writing), so it's good for them to be looked over by someone else than me. I'll likely have a new part when I get home from school. I'm not sure how I've going to divvy these into chapters just yet.
 

CrazyMonkeyDude

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A-haha, I just noticed: I forgot a chunk of the chapter. (If you noticed something odd, that's why). I'll be editing this post (or making a new one) when I finish up... I just did a lot of writing today, and I need to get it typed up for my creative writing class tomorrow. Again, MiB, thanks for the proofreading/editing. :)



EDIT: Here's Chapter 1 in its entirety.

Frederick Tahn came around a woody bend of the small dirt road, if the word road could even be applied to the path. He could see his friend, Xack Alnon, waiting outside Frederick's cottage, smiling as if he had just gotten there. Frederick greeted Xack with a nod and turned sideways, revealing the small deer he had hung over one shoulder. He knew Xack would be there, as he always was, so he brought food for the plump sorceror.

“Ah!” Xack called out. “Venison, my favorite!” He gave Frederick an inquisitive look. “Did you find anything new or interesting out there?” Xack’s double-chin wobbled with each jaw movement. Being a young scholar, he was always interested in anything new.

“No, same old woods as they always are,” Frederick reported. “You know, you’d have better luck finding something if you came with me for once.” At this, Xack gave a merry chuckle, reaching up to pat Frederick’s earthy brown forester’s vest at the shoulders.

“No, I trust your eyes. If you don’t see anything new, then there is nothing.” He dodged the invitation smoothly. His eyes traced the deer's body. “Ah, let me help you with that,” he said as flicked his wrist, sending the fuzzy cuff of his robe swirling. Frederick felt the weight being lifted from his shoulder as Xack guided it through the open door with easy hand motions.

“Shall we?” Xack proposed, patting his stomach, “The walk here left me famished.” Rolling his eyes, the forester followed his long-time friend inside.

The dirt floor welcomed the young bald sorcerer and the raven-haired forester. Frederick pointed to the large stone basin, and the deer carcass floated over and settled down inside it. He took in the rest of his cottage. It was on the small side, with a small straw-stuffed bed and had a little hand carved oak side table with a half melted candle atop it. There were a few plain glass windows in the rough log walls, and a sink across the room from the bed, next to the basin. There was some counter space, but not much.

“So,” Frederick pressed, as he grabbed his skinning knife and began cleaning the deer, “Are you sure you’ll never come along with me into the woods? I have a lot of fun, and it’d be a great learning experience for you.” He glanced back at his tubby friend, who had sank into a colorful padded chair he had given Frederick a year or so back. Xack gave the question little pondering.

“I have plenty to study by myself, you know, and the professor still calls upon me from time to time.” He said off-handedly. His robe fluttered as he flicked his wrist, magicking a small stool from a few feet away under his fat toes, which were stuffed into sandals.

Concentration on his task breaking a little, Frederick glanced back once again. “Professor Haruta? I thought he moved.” He stated with a questioning look.

“Well, yes,” Xack replied with a smile and held up an index finger. “But a man like him is always moving about the country. It’s not too hard. He has means of transportation that I hope to master soon enough.”

“Right.” Frederick said, not really listening. He grabbed a large pot with a bloody hand. “Do me a favor and fill this up from the well outside? I’m in the mood for stew.” Xack sighed.

“I can conjure water from here just fine.” He was feeling lazy. Frederick laughed.

“Yes, but have you managed to not make it taste weird? The taste of conjured water sets my teeth on edge.” He waved the pot once more. Xack gave an overly dramatic and woeful sigh, and then burst into a grin. Flicking his wrist once more, the pot flew from Frederick’s hand and followed Xack out the door.

Xack walked out the backyard and to the well, lazily gesturing with his hand. The well water obeyed his every command, rising up and filling the pot he held in his other hand. Hand gestures weren’t required for magic, a fact that Professor Haruta had given him flak for, but Xack felt that magic without a little flair was boring.

The pot filled, the short sorcerer waddled back towards the house. He stopped dead in his tracks as twigs snapped in the woods nearby. A lot of them. Xack heard the slap of the dead deer falling into the basin. Frederick was at the door, knife in hand, elbows still dripping with blood.

“What was that?” He mouthed to Xack. He gestured for Xack to come inside, but a cloaked figure appeared behind Xack. The glint of a sword was barely visible in the folds of cloth. Frederick felt the air move behind him, but did not turn to confront the newest visitor.

“Watch out!” Frederick and Xack yelled in unison. A bolt of fire and a knife flew through the air in opposite directions, felling the men standing behind each of the friends. Frederick brushed his shoulder, removing some of his singed vest.

“What the hell was that?!” Frederick questioned.

“I don't know,” The pale-faced sorcerer replied, “But it was close.” Another twig snapped in the distance.

Frederick ran back inside, reappearing seconds later with a light bow and a quiver full of arrows slung over his back. He deftly grabbed an arrow from the quiver, knocked it, and sent it flying in the direction of the snap. A man cried out and pain, and then the brushes rustled loudly as the man charged out.

He had a long sword which gleamed in the setting sun. The man dropped before he had a chance: Xack's waving arms cast magic that exploded the assailant's heart.

“We need to get out of here.” Frederick whispered, another arrow at the ready. “Follow me.” He stepped into the forest, sweeping the bow around, looking for more shadowy figures.

Suddenly they were surrounded. A dozen men seemed to appear from the brush. Damnit! Frederick thought, How did I not see them? They were doomed the moment they set foot into the forest. All the men, dressed in black clothing, began closing in. The red sunset glinted off their blades, looking all too much like blood.

CRACK! Another figure appeared; a man in his apparent old age. Gray hair, bald on the top, and a long white mustache with a long thin beard. Professor Haruta swept back a few of the men with a blast of air.

Frederick rolled away as one of the men swung at him. Another yelped as Xack heated his blade red-hot. Skin, along with sword, were melted as the man dropped the sword. Frederick released another arrow into his immediate attacker. The man clutched the arrow in his heart as he fell forward. Frederick picked up the dropped short sword as another man charged him.

“Stop!” The professor yelled. The men froze in place. Eight of the dozen attackers were left. Haruta looked strained, his hands held, palms facing away from him, into the air.

“My tower.” Professor Haruta grunted through gritted teeth, shaking with strain. “Teleport.” He commanded to Xack, fixing him with an authoritative stare.”

“But, Professor,” Xack protested, “I'm not done with my-.”

“NOW!” The wrinkled old man roared, cutting off his student. The men started shaking; Professor Haruta was losing control of them. Xack charged at Frederick, tackling him before Fredrick could react, and teleported.

Everything went black.


Copyright © Chris Clark 2008
 

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Will read/edit later >_>

Middle part -
The dirt floor welcomed the bald sorcerer and the raven-haired forester. Xack pointed to the large stone basin. The deer carcass floated over and gently settled down inside it.
Frederick took in the rest of his cottage. It was small, with a down trodden, strawstuffed bed in the corner. Next to the bed was a hand carved, oak side table with a half melted candle atop it. There were a few plain glass windows in the rough log walls, and a sink across the room from the bed, next to the basin. There was some counter space, but not much.

“So,” Frederick pressed, as he grabbed his skinning knife and began cleaning the deer, “Are you sure you’ll never come along with me into the woods? I have a lot of fun, and it’d be a great learning experience for you.” He glanced back at his tubby friend, who had sank into a colorful padded chair he had given Frederick a year ago. Xack gave the question little pondering.

“I have plenty to study by myself, you know, and the professor still calls upon me from time to time,” he said off-handedly. His robe fluttered as he flicked his wrist, beckoning a small stool to slide under his fat toes.

Concentration on his task breaking a little, Frederick glanced back once again. “Professor Haruta? I thought he moved,” he stated with a questioning look.

“Well, yes,” Xack replied with a smile and held up an index finger. “A man like him is always moving about the country, though. It’s not too hard. He has means of transportation that I hope to master soon enough.”

“Right.” Frederick said, not really listening. He grabbed a large pot with a bloody hand. “Do me a favor and fill this up from the well outside? I’m in the mood for stew.” Xack sighed.

“I can conjure water from here just fine.” He was feeling lazy. Frederick laughed.

“Yes, but have you managed to not make it taste weird? The taste of conjured water sets my teeth on edge.” He waved the pot once more. Xack gave an overly dramatic and woeful sigh, and then burst into a grin. Flicking his wrist once more, the pot flew from Frederick’s hand and followed Xack out the door.
End -
“What the hell was that?!” Frederick questioned.

“I don't know,” The pale-faced sorcerer replied, “But it was close.” Another twig snapped in the distance.

Frederick ran back inside, reappearing seconds later with a light bow and a full quiver slung over his back. He deftly grabbed an arrow from the quiver, notched it, and sent it flying in the direction of the snap. A man cried out and pain as he charged out, the arrow sticking out of his right shoulder.

The sun reflected off of the sword, temporarily blinding Frederick. He heard another scream as he rubbed his eyes. The assailant lay on the ground and clutched his heart while Xack balled his fist.

“We need to get out of here.” Frederick whispered, another arrow at the ready. “Follow me.” He stepped into the forest, sweeping the bow around in search of more shadowy figures.

In a manner of a few seconds they were completely surrounded. A dozen men seemed to appear from the brush with weapons drawn.
"Damnit!" Frederick thought. "How did I not see them?" They were doomed the moment they set foot into the forest. All the men, dressed in black clothing, began closing in. The red sunset shone on their blades, looking all too much like blood.

CRACK! Another figure appeared; a man in his apparent old age. Gray hair, bald on top, and a long white mustache with a long thin beard. Professor Haruta swept back a few of the men with a blast of air.

Frederick rolled away as one of the men swung at him. Another yelped as Xack made his blade red with heat. Skin, along with sword, were melted as the man dropped the sword. Frederick released another arrow into his immediate attacker's chest. The man clutched the arrow in his heart as he fell forward. Frederick picked up the dropped short sword as another man charged him.

“Stop!” The professor yelled. The men froze in place. Eight of the dozen attackers were left. Haruta looked strained, his hands held high, palms facing away from him.

“My tower,” grunted Professor Haruta through gritted teeth, shaking with strain. “Teleport,” he commanded Xack, fixing him with an authoritative stare.”

“But, Professor,” Xack protested, “I'm not done with my-.”

“NOW!” The wrinkled old man roared, cutting off his student. The men started shaking; Professor Haruta was losing control of them. Xack charged at Frederick, tackling him before Fredrick could react, and teleported.

Everything went black.
NOTE: Frederick's thoughts and the "CRACK!" are supposed to be italicized.
 

CrazyMonkeyDude

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Chapter 2

Frederick couldn't breathe. Xack was still clutching him in a bear hug. He was being pressed from all sides. Is this the way it ends? He considered the possibility as he spent his eternity in the inky blackness. How long had it been? Minutes, days, years? All meaning of time was lost.

Frederick's mind was swimming in confusion. It was in a daze, pieces of his life flashing before his eyes. Then even Xack's image went black.

“Father!” A teenage Frederick called out, arriving home from his tutelage.The small two-bedroom house he resided in with his parents and sister felt a comfort after a dull day. “I'm home!” Frederick walked into the den, depositing his school things on a desk just inside the door. His father was sitting in an armchair; his favorite one. His back was to Frederick.

“Father?” He asked, walking up to the chair.

“Son!” His father exclaimed, startled, “There you are. We've been waiting for you. Your mother and sister are in the other room.” He called their names. Clara's, his sister, name he heard fine, but his mother's came out in a buzz, like that of a bumblebee. He found that he couldn't remember her name. Why couldn't he? For that matter, his father's name was a blur, too. He walked in front of the chair to see if his father's features would remind him.

Frederick choked. His father had no face.

His father's skull turned as the two figures walked into the room.

“Ah,” His father said, calling his mother's name in the buzzing, “Crana, and Frederick!” He continued listing off everyone's names. “We're all here.” His mother, like his father, was in tattered clothes, smeared with dirt. They were both decayed to skeletons. His sister seemed oblivious.

Crana was dressed in a sunny yellow dress, adorned with small white-petaled flowers made from silk. It was the birthday present Frederick had gotten for her that year. He had spent all his money on it. Her long raven-black hair tumbled down her sturdy shoulders. Her piercing blue-green eyes stared into Frederick's. She had silky white skin on her face, and a small nose. Crana's lips were also small, but curled into that smile that she always gave him, filled with sisterly love and warmth. Her features changed to concern as she studied Frederick's.

“Frederick,” She stated, looking worried, “Is something wrong?”

“Is something wrong?!” Frederick's voice cracked with panic. “Look around you, Crana!” Crana looked around, to their father, to their mother, around the room, and back. She fixed Frederick with an inquisitive stare. The logs around the house started decaying.

“Frederick?” She asked, but not in her voice. “Frederick!” She yelled. No, not her.

Frederick gasped. Xack was leaning over him, his face looked worried. Frederick was covered in a cold sweat.

“Oh, thank the Goddess.” Xack sighed, sitting down hard in a chair. His face relaxed. Frederick sat up in the small pallet. He gazed around the white stone room. It was rather small, almost suffocating. He saw another pallet a few feet away from him. They were both covered in white linen sheets, and raised a few feet off the ground by magic, probobly.. There was an eerie glow coming from nowhere, yet everywhere, illuminating the room. Other than an open doorway, the beds, and the small chair Xack sat in, there were no furnishings, and certainly no decoration. This was a small room made for one function.

“Where am--?” He began.

“My tower.” Stated Professor Haruta as he strolled into the room. He looked more tired than Frederick felt. “And how long? About a day and a half.” POP! Another small chair winked into existence behind him, and Frederick felt a short burst of pain in his chest. “Thank you, Xack.” The tired old man sat in it. “I was just leaving for a rest as you awoke.”

“W-What happened?” Frederick stammered. A headache was beginning to form behind his eyes, a product of the eerie light. Xack's clothes were covered in blood and dirt, the usually festive fuzzy cuffs matted to his wrists. He looked more exhausted than the professor.

“I...” Xack began. His eyes gazed off a bit, almost glassy. “I botched the teleportation spell. We were stuck in the in-between for over five hours.” He fixed his stare on Frederick. “It gets dangerous if you're in for longer than five minutes.”

“It took all my effort to bring you boys back,” Stated Haruta, “And many dangerous spells. When you did come back, you were both unconscious. Xack woke within minutes, screaming your name. He was in a frenzy, conjuring all the magic he could. You had stopped breathing.”

Xack was in tears. “I couldn't let you die. Besides the professor, you've been my only true friend.” He wiped the tears away. “I couldn't...” Professor Haruta's face went dark.

“Xack conjured some pretty dark magic. I wouldn't have thought him capable of such skill. I knew he had always been curious, but I didn't know he went this far.” He glared at Xack Alnon, who shrank back slightly, then seemed to bounce back defiantly.

“And what did you want me to do?!” He retorted, “Let him die? Professor, what would you do in my situation?” Professor Haruta sighed.

“I would have done the same.” He conceded. “Nevertheless, you left a dark taint on your friend, here.” Frederick jumped.

“What?” He demanded. “What do you mean, 'dark taint'?” He tried, and failed, not to sound panicked..

“I'm afraid so,” Haruta said solemnly. “I'm not sure if I can remove it.”

Xack sniffed. “I'm so sorry, Frederick. I...” He opened his mouth, but no words came out. Another tear slid down his large cheek. Frederick put his hand on Xack Alnon's shoulder.

“It's okay, my friend. You did what you had to do, and I am grateful.” Frederick had gathered himself. He didn't want to upset his friend, even though he didn't want to have the dark taint. It wasn't like he had a choice.

Frederick stood up and stretched. “Now, can we get out of this tiny room? This light it giving me a headache. Professor Haruta was drawn out of his thoughts by the comment. “Of course, of course. Follow me.” He lead the two out of the small room. As Frederick left the room, he felt a small tug at his chest. He stopped, then turned around. The room had gone. He was beginning to get an odd feeling about what had happened to him.

The professor showed them the way to his main room. It was filled with junk. Many things had collected dust, looking as though Haruta had got up and forgot about them in the middle of work. It was large room, about as large as the governor's hall in the town of Merts, where he had grown up. The circular room's walls were covered in bookcases, some with piles of books stacked in front of them. A table cleared itself, creating the weird sensation in Frederick's chest again, as they walked towards it. Professor Haruta motioned them to a chair.

“I'll go get some food. I believe you are hungry?” He looked at Frederick and Xack, keeping his gaze on Xack for a few seconds longer. He turned on his heel and walked through a doorway nearby. Frederick returned his gaze to the room.

“You know, I've never actually seen this place,” he noted. “Though you keep talking about it.” Frederick looked at his friend, who was still glancing at him guiltily. Or, rather, trying not to. Frederick scoffed. “Oh, get over it. I told you I forgive you. Trust me, if I could, I probably would have done the same for you. The past is the past, and we should dwell on it.” Xack seemed to look better. Frederick continued. “Besides, we need to focus on the solution, not the problem, or we're going to stay right here, dwelling on what happened and not what we should do.”

“You're right.” Xack sighed. “The professor and I will try to think of what we can do about that. For now... Just relax. I'm really not sure what will happen.” Xack was still uneasy about looking at Frederick, as though he saw something that Frederick couldn't.

“Well, I've noticed something.” Frederick said. “Try casting some magic.” Xack looked at him for a moment, before nodding. “Alright. I'll just call a book over.” He pointed to a book, before crooking his finger. The book rose slowly, and Frederick could feel it moving. It felt like pinpricks in his chest. “Bring it over.” He said. Xack nodded once more, and called the book over. It zipped, and the sensation increased until it felt like a knife point was pressed on Frederick's sternum. Xack caught the book, and the sensation stopped. Frederick closed his eyes; in thought and in the ghost of pain.

“Alright.” He said, opening his eyes. Try something more advanced.” Xack was looking at him oddly. “Are you sure?” The chubby sorcerer asked. “You're looking kind of pale.”

“Just do it, please. I need to know what happens.” Frederick said. Xack hesitated, but nodded once more. A fire grew in his palm, and the knife point returned to Frederick's chest. “Throw it.” He said. Xack responded, casting off the fireball at a random wall. Frederick yelled in pain, as it felt like a plank had just hit him in the abdomen. The fireball vanished, but Frederick had already fallen on the floor.

“Frederick!” Xack gasped. “I'm sorry! Are you alright?” Frederick groaned. “Yeah... Fine... Just dandy...” He mumbled. Frederick got back into the chair, and noticed Haruta standing in the doorway with a tray.

“I thought as much.” The professor said. “It's tied in with Xack's magic.”


Copyright © Chris Clark 2008
 

CrazyMonkeyDude

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Well, I'm taking a creative writing class right now, I plan to do so when I go to college as well... So the ideas are flowing quite freely. ;)
 

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Chapter 3

There was silence except for the clatter of the tray being set in front of Xack and Frederick as Professor Haruta sat down. Frederick looked at the small meal: Oat porridge with three glasses of water, a loaf of bread, and some cheese. Absentmindedly, Xack reached out, tearing a bit of bread off the loaf and grabbing a slice of cheese.

“So... What now?” Frederick asked, not feeling hungry. The pain still lingered in his abdomen. He took a gulp of water instead.

“I'm not entirely sure, my boy,” The old man responded. He had grabbed some bread and cheese himself. “If they could find you in your house in the middle of the woods, they will undoubtedly find my tower.. Especially now that they know who's protecting you.”

“Who if 'dey?” Xack asked, spraying bread crumbs across the table. He grabbed his glass and took a sip. “Sorry, who is they?” He asked again.

“Your guess is as good as mine, Xack.” Said the professor. “Nevertheless,” he began, rubbing one eye, “We are all too tired to do anything right now.” He stood up, stuffing another big of bread into his mouth, then stared at Frederick. “Are you alright? I know this is a bit of a shock, but you need to keep going.”

“Yeah... I'm just... Yeah... Exhausted.” Frederick mumbled. He yawned.

“Well, eat up. You need to conserve your energy for whatever lies ahead. I've shielded all the entrances to my tower, so you shouldn't worry at least for the rest of the day.” There were no windows, and Frederick was puzzled how the Professor even knew what time of day it was. He signed it off as Haruta's magic. Professor Haruta glared at Xack, who was methodically eating everything on the tray. “Tonight, we'll make for one of my cottages; try to contact one of my colleagues.” He yawned, looking still more tired than Frederick felt. Frederick grabbed some food.

* * * *

“So, are you ready?” Professor Farnsworth Haruta asked. The Professor, Xack Alnon, and Frederick Tahn had all packed away rations for their travels. “Follow me, then.” He commanded. Xack and Frederick complied. They departed from the Northeast exit of the tower, heading off in the middle of the night to be less conspicuous. Frederick looked over his shoulder at the large, gray stone tower rising up into the night, at least as far as he could see. Even the moon seemed to sense their troubles and kept hidden behind dark clouds.

Hours passed, the trio traveling in tense silence. They all were wary of ambush; Frederick's keen eyes scanned the underbrush for signs of other humans. Suddenly, he stopped. Xack almost bumped into him, Haruta stopping a few feet forward.

“Something wrong, my boy?” The Professor questioned.

“Yes. It's about to rain.” Frederick turned his gaze to the treetops. “And hard.”

“How can you tell?” Xack asked, gazing up at the clouds. They had actually thinned since the three had started their journey. Frederick turned back to Xack, raising one eyebrow as if to question Xack's question. Xack coughed uncomfortably.

“Anyway, there's a traveler's pine around here. We can wait it out inside.” Frederick stated. “Follow me.”

“What's a traveler's pine?” Xack asked, following close behind.

“You'd know if you came with me into the forest instead of making up phony meetings with the Professor.” Frederick said over his shoulder with a smile. Professor Haruta chuckled, and Xack resumed embarassed silence. They continued for a few minutes, finally arriving at a huge pine. The boughs were all pressed together, making it look almost impenetrable. “This,” Frederick said to Xack. “Is a traveler's pine.” Xack looked at it oddly, studying it's appearance. Frederick pulled back one of the boughs, revealing a spacy interior. The lowest branches were at least four feet high, growing long and thick to fall towards the ground.

“Ah, yes!” Haruta exclaimed. “I've read about these; the interior is large enough for the people to stay inside. The tree produces some sort of fire resistant sap, allowing you to build a fire, if you keep a good eye on it.” He gazed at Xack, who smiled, noting the information. Xack and Haruta squeezed inside as Frederick held open the bough, then Frederick followed. Within a minute, there was a downpour.

“Well, so much for firewood.” Frederick sighed.

“My boy, do you forget what I am?” Professor Haruta scoffed, appearing offended. A fire popped up in his palm. Frederick felt a wavering pressure as then fire flickered and produced warmth for the refugees.

The three travelers waited for the rain to stop, having a small meal of dried meat and cheese while they waited. Eventually, the rain petered out and the clouds cleared. They resumed their journey.

Several hours later and the trio stumbled out of the underbrush onto a cottage in the middle of the forest.

“Wow,” Frederick said, a little confused. “I don't think I could have found this even if I had been looking for it.”

“Of course not.” Xack responded with a smile. “It's shielded against intruders; you won't be able to see it unless you know exactly where it is.” He was looking at things Frederick couldn't see. Professor Haruta chucked. “Correct, my boy. Let's head inside.” He started towards it again, but stopped with his hand on the door. Frederick's hand went to his bow. Haruta seemed to think for a minute, then threw the door open.

The small cottage slightly resembled Frederick's own, though this one was deceptively larger than it looked. Frederick noted the large windows, kitchen obviously powered by magic, and otherwise spacious opening. Then he noticed something else. There was blood on the floor. So was his sister.

“Crana!” Frederick yelled. He heard his friends say something different. Frederick ran towards his sister's prone body, but Haruta's deceptively strong arms brough him short. Frederick struggled, yelling his sister's name, before a blast of air knocked him on his rear.

“Frederick!” Haruta roared. “That is not your sister. Calm down, damnit!” Haruta cursed. “It's a trap, Frederick, designed to show you what you fear most, in an attempt to draw you in.” The Professor looked around, suddenly paranoid. “We need to get out of here. Now.” He turned around quickly and started for the door.

Frederick, Xack, and Farnsworth ran outside into the rising sun's light. Haruta took a few steps before being his in the back of the head with a blackjack by a man, dressed in black, who popped out of the shadows. The man fell, an arrow suddenly in his knee as Frederick's bowstring twanged. Another twang and there was an arrow in the man's head. Xack was scared witless, unable to cast magic for fear of disabling his friend.

“Xack, take this. Learn fast!” Frederick commanded, handing a short sword to his friend. An arrow flew over Xack's shoulder as his friend picked off another attacker.

Suddenly, dozens of men appeared, seeming to pop out of the shadows of the trees. They were all wearing pitch black clothes with black hoods that concealed their faces. Frederick's bow yanked itself out of his hands, and Xack's sword did the same. One of the men stepped up to the two friends.

“Good. He said in a raspy voice. “He will be pleased.” He let out a dark chuckle.

“Who is he?” Frederick asked, strangely calm. He knew he had no chance to fight, so he at least wanted to know why he was hunted and who was hunting him.

“You'll learn soon enough.” The man snarled. Frederick noted something different about some of the hooded men. He couldn't quite put his finger on it, though. Another man came up and bound Frederick's wrists. They used a different kind of rope on Xack and the Professor. They picked up Farnsworth's unconscious form under his arms.

“Let's go!” The leader barked in command. A completely opaque hood was slammed over Frederick's head.

Copyright © Chris Clark 2008
 
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