This past month has taken a heavy toll on the Shackonian Forces.  Only days after his reincarnation, Orvus had raised an army from the Dark Realm of Uzemae and pierced through the lands just as easily as a heated dagger through butter.  The northern settlement of Vyladia Keys was first to fall and every village within a fifty mile radius has already been reduced to ruin, leaving nothing but death and ash in his wake.  The Midlands of Ephyrous have teamed with the Vampires of Junckyrd and have managed to hold off Orvus’s forces, but for how long is uncertain.

Although despair is overwhelming, all is not lost.  The Shackonians of the Fifth and Sixth Order have constructed a map that will lead us to The Scroll of Prophecy and a brave few have been selected to recover it from the Isle of Irk.  Our very existence now depends on a single squadron of mismatched heroes:

 

Due to the possibility that spies have infiltrated the population, our heroes’ quest began in secrecy and their departure was cast away in silence.  The only delay was created by cRyptic, Necromancer of the Fourth Order, who insisted in bringing several heavy trunks, filled with large books and old scrolls.

After eight days aboard the SS (Shackonian Ship) Erotica, our very existence is being threatened by a violent storm in the middle of the Shackonian Sea.  The tempest alone is manageable, but deep within the howling winds and icy rains our heroes have detected life; this is their story:

Rain and snow fell from the sky at the same time and the strong winds had forced the crew to lower the sails and tie the booms in place.  The waters had been violently attacking the ship for more than a day, and now the thick, dark clouds and unnaturally warm air was pushing in a black mist from the starboard side—against the wind.

Elected captain, Jevidiah Olando Hexibus Nor, whom the crew called Captain JOHN, battled with the helm as Alexander, Cirrus and Ulysses struggled to keep booms from knocking the crew overboard.  The remainder of the shipmates scurried about with buckets in hand, draining water from the hold and dumping it overboard.  Each and every crewmen doing their part, except for the young Micca Yolti, Dark Prince of Junckyrd, detested son of Comicality and Vampire of the Forth Order.

Micca stood at the bow of the ship, facing the starboard side and stared out at the blackened mist as it neared the SS Erotica.

“Micca!” yelled the mighty voice of Alexander, Defender of the First Order, as he struggled to secure a rope to a wooden cleat.  “Micca, we need you!”

The boy gripped his hands against the rail, bracing himself for another violent wave before turning back and pointing out at sea.  “Alexander!” his voice battled with the wind.  “There’s something in the mist!”

“Forget that, boy!” bellowed Alexander.  “The seas are about to swallow us whole!  Grab a bucket and start bailing!”

“But…”

“A bucket, boy!  Now!”

Just as Micca was about to give in, the blinding mist rolled over the deck like a cloud of toxic smoke, consuming the SS Erotica in one thick breath.  Visibility immediately obscured, making it impossible to see more than a few feet beyond themselves, yet the entire crew still crowded the deck in anticipation of an attack.

The mist was warm and sticky and carried the familiar stench of death.  Although nothing could be seen, the sounds of the other crewmen’s voices assured everyone that they were not alone.  The slice of swords against their sheath could be heard as weapons were drawn and readied, but the mist remained as silent as a forgotten tomb.  And then it happened…

A roar of disturbed water echoed through the blinding cloud and rocked the ship so hard to one side that it almost capsized.  Fortunately, Lemonians Espotia, Elemental of the First Order, conjured a wind just strong enough to prevent our heroes from falling overboard while the ship regained its position.  By the time the waters settled, and the crew were back on their feet, it became evident that they were not alone.

Through the darkness, everyone stared out into the nothingness, knowing that deep within its black something truly horrifying was lurking, waiting for a daring fool to step too close.  Then they saw it; two blurry, glowing eyes could be seen in the distance.

“Serpent!” bellowed Anubis of Elvendore as he raised the bulk of his staff out in front of him and enchanted its end with a magical light.

The crew jolted back in terror as the form of the gruesome beast before them burned its image in the foggy cloud, standing more than 100 feet above the water—and that was just what they could see.

“It’s a matticus!” shouted cRyptic, recognizing the beast from his necromancy studies as one of the few beasts of the realm immune to his abilities.  “It’s immune to magic!  Draw blades, brethren!”

Ulysses and Cirrus criss-crossed the deck, weapons drawn and minds linked, by way of Cirrus’ ability as a Shadow Warrior of the Second Order, and in unison the spun, kicked their weight off the rail of the ship and plunged their swords deep within the beast’s scaly torso.  The matticus, however, was unaffected and shook the heroes off of its body, like a man would a mosquito, before its fearsome pointed teeth bore down on the centre mast and snapped it like a twig.

Being an elemental, Lemonians had nothing but his magic, which rendered him useless in battle against the beast.  However, there was one thing he could do to even the odds.  Lemonians entire body appeared to dematerialize as a strong, circling wind began to spin and strengthen in intensity.  As the other heroes battled the beast, Lemonians’s feet left the deck as his eyes glowed white.  The winds continued to circle the ship, and the thick, putrid mist became caught its ever-forming funnel.  Then, as the clouds above began to part, Lemonians drove the mist up into the heavens.

The matticus was unveiled and immediately began to choke on the thin, clean air.  Unfortunately, as the clouds parted the sun was also unleashed and instantly began to burn the flesh of young Micca Yolti.  With no regard for his own wellbeing, Micca climbed the shrouds, still attached to the beast’s teeth like a mouthful of spaghetti, and dove for its throat.  Piercing his fingers into its scales, Micca chomped down on creature with his thin, razor sharp teeth.

Surprisingly, the boy’s attack seemed to paralyze the matticus completely and its limp body fell down into the sea—with Micca still attached.  Nytentia and Mikaielle immediately dove in after him while Anubis conjured an orb of darkness to protect the prince from the unmerciful sun above.  Within the blink of an eye, Mikaielle submerged from the water with Micca on his back and Nytentia at his side.

In one fell swoop, Lemonians raised the team from the sea by asking the waters to rise and place them on the deck.  The moment Micca was back onboard, the heroes crowded around him in anxious curiosity and joy.

“How did you do it, Micca?” asked Captain JOHN as he knelt down beside him.

The boy burped up a lung full of water and smiled proudly.  “While Borticous studies to become King of Junckyrd, I study pressure points and anatomy.”

“And your books cover the matticus?” asked cRyptic, ever so curious.

“No,” the boy smiled.  “But yours did.”

cRyptic grinned uneasily, fearing he had let his team down, as the rest of the crew helped Micca down below before the orb of darkness expired.  Captain JOHN, however, patted cRptic on the back and shook his hand.  “I owe you our thanks, cRyptic.”

“But why?” he asked, lowering his head in humiliation.  “I should have known what to do and almost got the entire crew killed.”

Captain JOHN shook his head and smiled.  “Without your books, Micca wouldn’t have known what to do and we’d all be dead.  Because of your insistency to bring those blasted books, we shall live another day—and one step closer to uncovering the Scroll of Prophecy and freeing the land from Orvus’s army.”

The captain’s words helped to settle cRyptic’s guilt, and he followed Captain JOHN to the quarterdeck and stared up into the clearing skies.  “It looks like the weather’s finally turning,” he said.

“Yes,” Captain JOHN rolled his eyes.  “An entire day of storms and battling the elements and not once did Lemonians mention that he was an elemental, capable of changing the skies.”

“It’s easy to possess a power, Captain.  It’s hard not to abuse it.  I think Lemonians did the right thing by holding his tongue until it was needed.”

“Well let’s just hope that one of these outcasts has the power to fix that mast,” said Captain JOHN.  “We won’t be going anywhere with a few tattered jibs.”

The outcasts did have the power to fix the mast, and in no time they were sailing onward.  In only a few days they would arrive at the Island of Irk, which is when the real journey will begin.

 

To be continued.

Published September 1, 2012

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