Angon had left the Gavin, and Buster behind. He raced across the desert far faster than his friend’s could go, even with the mounts they had gained. But the forge had another thing going for him; he couldn’t tire, at least he had never felt tired since he had awoken.
On he ran, following Gavin’s compass stone that was attuned to Lavina. The beam shot due north, leading the racing forge.
Angon was worried about Lavina. Ramona hadn’t seemed like an inherently bad person, but she had stolen from them, and that couldn’t be easily forgiven. All he could do was hope that the halfling wouldn’t hurt his friend.
“Lavina!” Angon shouted, seeing a horse standing idly, looking about quite lost.
He ran past the horse, which took off like a crossbow bolt. Another mount, a pony was already fleeing from his path.
“Where are you?” Angon cried, as the sun beamed down.
His head snapped back and forth, and he skidded to a stop just before a pass between two mountains. Laying on the ground was Lavina’s compass stone, and other than that, there was no sign of either girl.
“Oh no.” Angon gasped.
He took off into the pass, not even thinking to wait for Gavin or Buster. He needed to find Lavina and fast.
Shadow from the tall mountain cliffs fell over Angon. The path ahead turned off to the west, and a little farther down, to the right.
Angon stopped and stared down the western path. It became more narrow, and looked like it eventually might turn into a cave.
“I don’t know how track…” Angon whispered, looking to the northeast and then back to the path beside him.
He looked down to the ground. Two sets of lightly embedded boot prints headed down to the west. The feet looked small, so surely they had to belong to the girls.
“Lavina!” Angon shouted, and burst into a sprint down the western path.
Before he made it a few yards, a geyser of sand shot up before him. Angon stopped short of it, and even took a step back. Was it a sand shark? Or another monster?
But the geyser crashed down and standing in its place was a cloaked visage of a humanoid.
“W-who are you?” He asked. “What did you do with Lavina?”
“You are the one who should be stating your name.” The sand person spoke. “For you have passed into our home.”
“My name is Angon.” The forge said. “And I want to know that my friend is all right.”
“Your friends are fine.” The visage said, seeming to no more than a thin layer of sand now. “I see your aura… I request that you come inside. I will wait for your other friends.”
The visage of sand fell to the ground, and Angon was left alone. He stared at the pile of sand, wondering if it was alive, or the image he had seen was some kind of magic.
A moment later, he snapped out of his stupor and carefully stepped around the sand hill. He walked quickly around a twisting path that finally opened into a cave.
“Lavina?” Angon called inside.
He stepped through the mouth and peered ahead into a torch-lit cave.
“Angon!” Lavina called back. “Come inside.”
“Lavina, are you safe?” Angon shouted, and walked further in.
He turned a corner and came upon a scene he hadn’t expected. Sitting in a large circle were twelve of the cloaked figures, Lavina, and the halfling.
“What’s happening here?” Angon asked.
The tallest figure sat upon a tree stump. It stood and looked to Angon.
“We are one of the four great druidic tribes of Anhsook.” The apparent leader said, but Angon had no idea what a druid was.
“I came for Lavina.” Angon said. “You can keep the little one.”
“Hey!” Ramona snapped. “These guys are interesting, but I’ve no plans on staying here.”
“You aren’t coming with us.” Angon said. “Lavina, come on.”
“Wait!” Lavina pleaded. “The druids are the oldest race upon Anhsook! They know of the magic used to create you.”
“You do?” Angon asked, looking at the standing druid.
“We do.” He replied. “I beg of you, come in for a moment. We will explain what we can, and then personally take you to Angel’s Outpost.”
“O-okay?” Angon replied with hesitance. He stepped past the circle and sat behind Lavina.
Ramona looked over. “What? Afraid to sit near to me? I don’t bite, much.” She snapped her teeth, making Angon feel uncomfortable.
The lead druid cleared his throat and sat back upon his tree stump.
“I would like to give you the full story, but there isn’t much time.” The leader said. “A powerful foe follows in your wake. He comes for the shards of the weapon, ‘Soul Rupture’, which the halfling here has on her person.”
“No I don’t!” Ramona gasped.
“We can feel its power.” The druid said, as the others sat in a deathly silence.
“Fine!” Ramona sighed. “I stole it from that orc woman Gonzeelda.”
“And it is imperative she does not get it back.” The druid said. “It contains the power to create numerous beings like yourself, Angon. And I wish I could say that would be a good thing. But you were created special—With a pure soul. I fear the others would not be as innocent.”
“Created with a pure soul?” Angon asked, tilting his head.
“I cannot tell you about who you were before, but I can see what makes up your very essence. And it is good.”
“Thank you, but I don’t understand why you’re telling me this.” Angon asked.
“It has to do with your purpose.” Lavina said, reaching back and taking Angon’s hand. “And your burden.”
“What burden?” Angon furrowed his brow.
“To slay the gods.” The druid said.
“W-what?” Was the forge’s reply. “M-me?”
“There are no goodly gods left…” The druid said. “The last of them died with Sheeva.”
Lavina sighed, and Ramona sat back, bringing her knee to her chest. She looked up at the ceiling of the cave, and didn’t utter a sound.
“I don’t want to fight gods!” Angon said, standing up and throwing his hand out to the side, nearly taking out one of the druids.
“That is between you, and your creator.” The druid said. “And as you know, he is in Angel’s Outpost. To where I will now send you, with a guide.”
“I’m not so sure I want to go.” Angon took a step back.
“You have to!” Lavina said, standing up.
“I want to go.” Ramona piped in. “It sounds interesting.”
Angon shook his head, and ran out of the cave, stumbling on a rock, and slamming into the wall. He bounced back near the entrance and darted outside, right past Buster and Gavin.
“Wait!” Buster shouted. “We just got here!”
“We’re leaving!” Angon said. “And going back to Windale.”
“What?” Gavin cocked an eyebrow.
“We’re going north.” Lavina said, emerging from the cave. “Angon is just a little upset right now.”
“Upset?” The forge stopped, stomping back. “Of course! I’m a machine made for destruction!”
“Didn’t you listen to the druid master?” A voice said from the cave. “You are pure, so you have the ability to decide your purpose.”
The group all turned to face the mouth, and out stepped a young, gray wolf. Everyone looked past the animal and expected one of the druids to step out. When none did, the wolf looked up at the group.
“What is everyone staring at?” It opened its mouth and spoke.
“Huh?” Buster’s eyes popped wide. “What sorcery be this? A talking wolf?”
“I’m not a wolf—Not really.” The animal said. “My name is Hero, and I’m the youngest druid.”
“I’ll be damned I’ve seen it all now.” Buster grumbled, turning back to the mountain pass.
“We’d better go.” Hero said, walking past he group. “The master wants me to take you to Angel’s Outpost. I’m anxious to return and continue my training.”
“Let’s go.” Lavina took Angon’s hand, and pulled him to the pass. “Don’t worry, everything will be all right.”
Angon didn’t believe so.
A few hours later, the group rode their mounts through the Sencian Fields. Angon walked jogged alongside the horses.
“We should stop in Sencia for supplies.” Ramona said, from the back of Buster’s stone-lizard mount.
Buster grumbled. “If we stopped everytime ye be saying so, we’d be in Windale still.”
“I didn’t even know you in Windale.” Ramona crossed her arms.
“And I wish we still didn’t.” Angon grumbled, not happy with the halfling’s presence.
“Oh you saved my life!” Ramona sang. “Which means now I have to stay with you until I repay my debt!”
Of course, Angon knew she was being a smart aleck, which made him want her gone even more.
“I’m not stopping anywhere.” Hero said from the front of the pack. “I have one mission, and I’m going to complete it good! Then I’ll get to learn a new form!”
“What is all this about forms?” Gavin asked. “Are you saying you can turn into other things?”
“All druids have the shape shifting ability.” Hero said, wagging his tail. “I just happen to know very few forms. They’re kind of like spells from nature.”
“Nature spells?” Lavina giggled. “That’s exciting!”
Angon stared to the north and saw a great walled-off city; he wondered if was Sencia, the city where Lavina was born. He wanted to ask about it, but it didn’t seem the right time. Inside he felt grim, and as if he were coming apart. He didn’t like violence, he didn’t like fighting, and he certainly didn’t like the idea of slaying the gods.
“Angon?” Lavina asked, looking over from the back of Gavin’s horse.
“Yes?” He muttered.
“We’ll have your answers soon.” She said. “Look. To the west you can see the snow clouds. Just past the mountain pass is Angel’s Outpost.”
Angon followed her pointing finger. Every step he took, felt like the death sentence. He felt as if he heard his destiny from his creator, then it was finalized, set in stone, and forged in iron.
“Can’t we turn back?” Angon shook his head.
Lavina shook hers as well. “This is something you have to do. Or you’ll never forgive yourself.”
With a resound sigh, Angon trudged alongside the party until they reached the mountain pass. This pass, was different from the previous. The mountains here were way taller, and snow crested their peaks. The pass ran straight on and at the opposite end was the beginnings of what Angon expected to be a snow-covered wasteland.
Hero stopped and sat down, his tail wagging.
“I’ve brought you as far as I dare to go.” Hero said. “It’s too dangerous beyond here. The land is cursed.”
“We know.” Gavin said. “And we are grateful for your escort.”
“Aye, little puppy.” Buster chuckled. “Return to your people. We got it from here, don’t ye doubt.”
Hero nodded his wolf-head and took off running across the fields.
Ramona looked back and saw that over the mountain pass where they had been hours before, was a dark storm cloud. She didn’t say anything to Hero, but it might’ve been safer if he hadn’t gone back. She shook off the thoughts as they entered the mountain pass, and soon, before nightfall, they’d be in Angel’s Outpost—And one step closer to saving her mother.