Dark Tidings
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Alex sat on a log beside a round stone table. He looked around at the scenery surrounding him. The morning sun shone down on the clearing, and the parts of green foliage it touched seemed to glow. There was a clean smell of the trees that set a tranquil atmosphere. Grass tickled Alex’s ankles, cool against his skin, and wet with drops of dawn dew. The scenery of Vitaras never got old.

In his palm there rested a mango, bright red and larger than his hand. He took an obsidian knife from the table and slid the glossy black blade through the peel, cutting off a slice. Dropping it on his tongue, the juice oozed out as he bit into the mango’s silky pulp. It was rich and sweet as honey. Cool juice trickled down his chin. Across from him, Caelyn Minerva smiled.

With a flick of her fingers, she was suddenly holding a handkerchief. She held it out to Alex. “Is it possible for you to eat a mango without getting juice everywhere?” she said. Her voice was soft like a winter breeze.

Alex blushed as he reached for the handkerchief. As he took it, his fingers brushed against hers, and he shivered at her cool touch. She was beautiful in an unnerving way, with a placid expression like an endless expanse of snow.
“The fruits on this Island are incredible. I’ve been here for monts and I’m still not bored with them,” said Alex. He sliced off another piece of mango.

Caelyn nodded. “Nor have I, and I’ve been here longer than you.” Alex found it hard to meet her gaze.

“It occurred to me a while back, actually—most things on the Island are better than what there is Outside, not just the fruit.” He gestured at the scenery, then licked fragments of mango from his fingers.

“The Meteorite is very effective, I suppose,” Caelyn said. The notion that deep under the island was a meteorite that had not only created life on this world, but steered it for eons to match earthly conditions, had seemed ludicrous when they’d first been told about it, but it was hard to argue with results. She sighed. “Unfortunately, it also makes everywhere except Vitaras… well, dull.” Alex realized that this is the first time that he had been alone with her. The thought made him shiver.

“Yes, I agree.” Alex heard his stomach growl. “Come on, I want to go to Eric’s. I am hungry for something more filling than fruit.” From the corner of his eye, he saw Caelyn nod. Alex started to get up when he heard the sound of rustling.

It came from a bush behind Alex. He looked back over his shoulder to find its source. Courtney Chora came through the bush. She was handsome—her soft caramel hair was tied in a messy bun and hazel eyes were bright. When she saw Alex, she gave him a smile. He breathed a sigh of relief for her company—being alone with Caelyn frightened him. Alex returned the smile and patted the wooden log beside him.

Courtney started toward him when Travis Austin, mounted upon a brown mare, rode through the bush. His polished wooden armor shone like strands of gold. There was a frown on his face. He stopped at the edge of the clearing. Courtney took a seat beside Alex. He sliced a small piece from the mango and handed the rest to Courtney. Behind them, Travis cleared his throat.
“I come here with dark news. I wish to speak with Deus Everlace,” he said. His voice was quavering. Travis was usually carefree, never taking anything seriously. It was strange to see him so shaken.

Caelyn said, “Tell me the message you wish to tell the Deus and I will pass it to him.” Travis nodded. Relief washed over his face as if the problem had been solved. A mischievous smile stretched on his face.

“Fine, I’ll tell you later.” He turned to Alex. “Hey, Alex. How’s your training with Lucis going. Have you gotten past the boring philosophical lectures yet?”

Alex raised his eyebrows and said, “I think that Lucis’ philosophical lectures were quite interesting.” Travis was taken aback by Alex’s response.

“How dare you think—”

“I,” Courtney said, “agree with Alex. Lucis’ lectures were really enlightening. Although you probably don’t have the ability to comprehend the deepness of his ideas.”

Travis shrugged. “You two are strange.”

Alex said, “To answer your question, Travis. Yes, we’ve gotten past the lectures. I could do some magic.” He twirled his fingers.
Travis tilted his head. “I want you to show me some magic tricks later.” Alex blinked at that request. He wasn’t any good at magic. The only rune he could do was knocking back small objects with magic. Even then, he had successfully casted the rune only twice before.

Courtney noticed Alex’s expression and said, “If the information you want to tell Lucis is so important, then we don’t have any time to waste on magic tricks.” Alex made a mental note to thank her later.

Caelyn got up from her log and strolled towards Travis. The ends of her white robes brushed against the long grass. Sunlight streamed down from holes in the canopy. The light reflected off Caelyn’s skin and made it seem as if she glowed. She reached Travis and examined the glossy chestnut coat of the mare.

Travis looked down at her and said, “Caelyn, I haven’t eaten since I had received the news from my spies. I’m hungry.”
Caelyn narrowed her eyes and glared into Travis’s eyes. Her eyes were so fierce that Travis averted his gaze. Alex saw that Travis’ smile wavered.

Caelyn said, “I am not your handmaiden, Travis Austin. For, I am the Seraph, Mouth of the Deus. Get down from your horse, right now, or I will force you off.” Travis dismounted.

Alex said, “We have mangos.” He picked up a mango from the stone table and offered it to Travis.

“Mangoes bore me,” said Travis.

Courtney said, “I am quite sorry to disappoint you, Travis. Nature doesn’t grow fruit based on entertainment value.”
“We eat them every single day. It gets tiring, you know.”

Caelyn rolled her eyes. “Jokes aside, we were about to go to Eric’s.”

Travis’s smile returned to his face. “Ah, how’s Eric doing. I miss his cooking. His fish was cooked just right and his mango salsa was first-rate.” With that said, the four of them left the clearing for the East Village.

The journey to the East Village was serene. The sky was a rich shade of blue, clear and pristine. Shining high above was the sun, its radiation heated the air. The heat was tempered by the cool breeze that drifted from the ocean. The trees seem to glow with vivid green light. Birds chirped in the trees above them and small animals scuttled in the lush grass.

They entered the East Village, and came to the main dirt road. The road went straight, all the way to the shore. It was wide enough for them to stand shoulder to should and still have enough space for a person to come through on each side. Smaller roads branched from the main, ending up in the fields, where farmers grew crops. Along the roads were single room huts, with wooden walls and thatched roofs.

As the four of them headed toward Eric’s hut, the villagers were busy in their commerce. Finally, they arrived at Eric’s hut. Eric was the cook, who most consider to be the best on the Island. His hut was distinct from the others, for a large fire pit was dug beside the main shelter. Smoke bloomed up from the fire, fragrant with the smell of herbs. Eric knelt by it. When he saw Caelyn and her companions, his eyes lit up.

Inside the hut were three tables, all empty. They settled around a table farthest from the door. A moment later, Eric brought plates of roasted fish. Alex looked at his roasted fish. It was dripping with orange salsa. The fish smelled aromatic with fresh herbs and smoke. Travis tasted a piece of fish. He nodded, “Eric’s cooking seems to get better with time.”

Alex used his fork to pick apart a piece of the snow white meat. He added a dash of the sweet mango salsa. He put it in his mouth and savored it. It was fragrant with Vitarian spices and the smoke from the wood. There was a hint of fresh lemons on it as well. The mango salsa was sweet without overly so. It was slightly spicy and very savory.

After a while of eating, Caelyn said, “Now tell me why you are here. With the details.”

Travis nodded and said, “So yesterday night, some of my spies came to me. He said that in the West, the Nocturivus are gathering. We were very disturbed by this news, so we came to you.”

“Very strange tidings, I have to agree,” said Caelyn, “I have to be honest with you. Since the last war, the Nocturivus are too weak to attack us. I will pass the message to Lucis, but for now, you shouldn’t worry about the Nocturivus rising against us.”

Alex nudged Courtney. “Who are the Nocturivus?”

She stared at him for a moment. Finally, she shook her head. “Lucis does not allow me to tell you this.”
Alex nodded. He focused back to the discussion Caelyn and Travis were having. It had somehow turned into banter. Alex listened for a while until Caelyn stood up.

She said, “Come, let’s get some fresh air.”

Travis got up from seat. “Yeah, that meal was filling. Hadn’t had such good food in so long.” He stretched out his arms and yawned. “Come, let’s go.”

The four of them left the hut and made their way to the edge of the village.

“Ah, I love the East Village. So, much better than the North. The food here is amazing.” said Travis. “The North is boring. I wish I was the Nephil of the East, instead.”

Caelyn rolled her eyes. “The East doesn’t have a Nephil. You know that, and I’m pretty sure Deus Lucis Everlace wouldn’t make you the Seraph.”

“Being the Steward of the Seraph is also good.”

“Well, I don’t want you to be my steward.”

Travis sighed. “I wonder how Roland is doing in the South. At least they have fun weapons and armor.” He knocked on his wooden chestplate. “While we use wood for armor.”

“Enchanted wood. Be thankful, Travis. Deus Everlace made the armor especially for you.”

Alex mumbled, “Lucis never made any armor for me, wooden or otherwise.” Courtney heard him and laughed.

She said, “Be glad that he hasn’t given you any armor. Because if he does, then we are at war, which is bad.” Alex shrugged.

“We should go to the North, some time. I want to see if it is as bad as Travis said it is,” he said.

“The North isn’t as bad as Travis makes it. I prefer it over the South. But yeah, I agree with you, we should go there.” She smiled.

The four companions arrived at the edge of the village. Trees loomed over them, casting a shadow. Their branches were gnarled with age and their canopy of leaves were dense. Travis and Caelyn stepped into the shadows of the forest. Alex and Courtney followed.

After walking for a while, Alex noticed that something was off. There was no sound of birds chirping, nor the sound of animals scrambling through the thick grass. A shadow passed above them, yet Alex could see no cloud. The trees rustled in a nonexistent wind, both resembled the sound of ghostly whispers. Courtney glanced at him with a worried expression on her face.
In front of them, Travis and Caelyn chattered and laughed, oblivious to these changes. Courtney pointed at the waning sun. Alex shook his head—the sun was still high the last time looked up.

“Something isn’t right, should we warn them,” she whispered.

Alex nodded, his eyes darted from tree to tree. The temperature seemed to decrease as they walked deeper into the forest. The ghostly whispers were more distinct. He had a feeling that the whispers were not so mundane as the rustling of leaves. Alex opened his mouth to warn the others.

Suddenly, Caelyn whipped around. A silver sword materialized into her pale hand. She swung it at Travis. He threw himself to the ground, narrowly escaping the blow.

He rolled and got to his feet. A wooden stick appeared in Travis’ hand. Tendrils of lightning raced from his hand to the pointed tip of the stick. With the sound of thunder, the lightning arced toward Caelyn. Caelyn blocked it with her sword.

Alex was paralysed with shock. His eyes widened as he saw Travis’ desperate battle against Caelyn. Beside him, Courtney’s eyes darted from Caelyn and Travis. In her hand was a double bladed sword. She was poised in a stance.

Caelyn’s sword was a blur of silver as it sliced Travis’ staff. The pieces fell to his feet. She stabbed the blade into Travis’ chestplate. The sword met no resistance as it penetrated the enchanted wood of his armor and exited through the back. Travis’ body slid down from her blade and hit the ground without a sound.

Blood dripped from Caelyn’s sword as she strode toward Alex and Courtney. Courtney stepped in front of Alex with her sword raised. Alex felt useless in a battle. Caelyn raised her blade, about to bring it down on Courtney. Alex closed his eyes and prayed.

There was a flash of light. The ghostly whispers stopped. He opened his eyes and saw Caelyn Minerva stumbling back. A golden light came from behind him. Warmth flooded into him. Caelyn melted into shadows.
Alex turned around and came face to face with Lucis Everlace, Deus of Vitaras.

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