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The Lodestone country side is beautiful. Many unique fauna and flora make their home here.
 
Sally had taken the liberty of planning. Besides the usual she packed both swords and Tom’s gun. Hopefully she didn’t want to break any laws, but she didn’t take time to read through all the policies. She decided that they should arrive early to enjoy touring the capital, where the royal family and parliament resided.
 
The reason her graduation present was belated wasn’t very convincing. Tom waited till the last moment and it took more than a while to be forged. Tom had taken his jade encrusted sword and asked a skilled blacksmith to duplicate it. Although it was nothing compared to the original, it was top-quality.
 
was similarly balanced and shaped, but it did have a few faults. Instead of the Tinker’s distinctive alloy, it was made out of steel. The sheath was plain metal as opposed to the shining mock-ivory.
 
Most of all, the piece of jade was replaced by opal. Tom supposed that all quality swords must have a gem, so he chose opal, Sally’s birthstone.
 
Sally was a little upset at the lack of detail, but the sword was greater than anything she had ever seen, well, you know, except for Grandpa’s sword.
 
It felt even more natural in her hands than the original. She figured it was slightly modified. In actuality, Tom carefully took in consideration her style and adjusted the weighting accordingly. Tom never dared to tell, but he was actually quite observant.

Nonetheless, she warmly thanked her brother. She hoped she would one day use the grand sword in live combat one day. Throughout the long trip she thought about the last few days. “Out of the oven, into the frying pan,” she whispered to herself. After all, she had just graduated.
 
Tom sat uneasily in his seat. The cold feeling in his chest was unbearable now. It consumed him, threatening to take his sanity. It was gone last week, he thought. Pop! He finally understood his feelings.
 
It was fear; the icy sensation was fear. No matter what, Tom could only hide his fear. He feared for his own safety while staying at the capital. He feared not being accepted by his new peers. He feared those same things happening to Sally.
More and more thoughts ran through his head. Something could happen to Father or Grandma. Thieves could loot the house while we’re gone.
 
Worst of all, he feared darklings. What was he thinking, training to become a Lodestone knight. Although Sally was away, he remembered the night his mother was killed.
 
It was a mild summer night. He remembered the sweet, caressing wind that blew over him. Tom was just a child, a mere ten year old. He sat with Mother on that grand night. He was enjoying a light snack outside the house. The tantalizing aromas of his food taunted him even today. He heard a wolf’s howl, but he dismissed it as it was too distant.
Suddenly, nearby shrubbery rustled. He briefly saw a silhouette.  A full-fledged darkling, taking the form of a wolf appeared in the shadows. Tom screamed as the darkling leapt towards him and his mother.
 
Tom was now in a deep trance in the car. Sally presumed he had fallen asleep with is eyes open.
 
The darkling reduced Mother to ribbons of scarlet. A knight responded and swiftly ended the darkling’s existence. It was too late, the deed had been done. The knight faced towards Tom now. Just as like the darkling, his body was indistinguishable from the shadows.
 
At this point, his memory became chaotic and hellish. The knight tried to comfort the child with a voice of a banshee. Right after, he melted to nothing. The starlight and moonlight vanished. The gentle breeze was abruptly replaced with a blizzard. It tore at Tom. He himself started to disappear as the curtain closed on his surroundings.
 
Tom saw nothing. A void had replaced his field of vision. He was nothing, and he was alone. He embraced cruel oblivion as he was powerless to change his fate.
 
Tom gasped loudly.
 
“Brother, are you ok?” Sally asked. She put her own hands around his. Tom was sweating profusely now. Tears ran down his face.

If there was one thing he couldn’t do, it was that Tom could never disappoint his sister. He composed himself quickly. He wiped his face and smiled halfheartedly at Sally.
 
“No worries, Sal. I’m completely fine,” He answered calmly. He had to be strong. He had to be strong for himself and for Sally. If she found about his weakness, she would grow weak too, Tom believed.
 
She closed her hands tighter now. “If there’s anything you need, don’t be shy. You were thinking about that night again, weren’t you? She wouldn’t want you to be stuck on that day forever. That’s also why I decided to become a knight, so things like this won’t happen again. It’s okay to be weak sometimes.”
 
Tom didn’t yield.
 
Sally continued, “This isn’t like you. You lusted for adventure more than anything else. Fear and anguish weren’t a part of your dictionary. Knock some sense into yourself, or I’ll do it myself.”
 
Tom smiled, she was completely right. Tom finally felt a newfound fire in his heart. It showed in his eyes.
The ice hadn’t completely disappeared, but it receded into the outer reaches of his mind.
 
He had someone to protect, someone to avenge, and someone to aspire to. There’s no way he could let such a petty emotion stand in his way. 
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Zarelliel

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