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The three remaining members of Grimstone grabbed their weapons and were instructed to head out with Macestar to one of the testing fields. It was an open field with the remnants of a ruined stone building. Grimhawk gathered them around in a half circle as he explained the rules.

“Compton, Cully!” The old man leaned forward on his staff. “Stand on the perimeter. The rest of you are going to play, ‘I’m Hungry!’ Spells are going to be fired from these two and your job is to complete your mission safely.”

It was a simple test. They had to go retrieve an egg from a box at the far end of the field, then return to the other side. There would be two teams, Macestar versus Grimstone. Dying took one to the start of the field. First one to give an egg to Grimstone was the winning team. Noting this, Chickadee chose to retreat further. He got to the top of a nearby hill and started to set up his cane.

Tish looked over to the mage on the hill. “Are Chester and Mister Cully not allowed to fire at one another?”

Grimhawk shrugged. “That would make it interesting.” He scratched at his beard in thought. “No, no. The ground team needs to figure out how to defend yourselves in a warzone.”

The pairs started out on one end of the field, with Zaniyah tapping her foot impatiently. Alton pulled out a box from his belt and opened it, offering some soft wax to her afterward. She balled it up and placed it within her ears, thanking him with a nod.

The staff within Grimhawk’s hands shifted into a wooden cone that he held up to his lips. “Begin!” His voice bellowed out over the field.

Zaniyah was fastest to move out onto the field. She jumped over the fallen rubble with ease, then gave a pause, hunching over as she did so. The ground below her had begun to vibrate. A stone pillar shot up below her, sending her flying towards the goal. Chickadee always did have her back, and she had the experience to know what sort of earth magic was heading her way.

She was bracing herself for the fall when an orb of water flew up at her from below. Chester was hiding out between the stones. He waved a wand in the air and the water wrapped about her waist. A wide motion of his arm was made and she was forced to fly directly at Tish. She heaved her hammer forward as though she were aiming for a ball, and gave a solid hit to Zaniyah’s skull. The blast made her erupt in a golden light, transporting her to the start of the field.

“My axe is still over there!” Zaniyah pointed to the halfway point of the field where she had dropped it. It was swallowed into the earth and popped up right nice to her. She caught it with her hand and balanced it on her shoulders. “Thanks, Chi!”

Alton had taken the opportunity of Zaniyah’s distraction to move forward. Evan appeared around the corner, winging down with his longsword. This was deflected by Alton’s buckler, and his rapier slashing in the air forced Evan to take a step back.

He took a step forward before lunging with his rapier again. This time, Evan merely stepped off to the side. Alton attempted to adjust his course, but the ground beneath him had frozen up. He skidded as a strong wind blew at him, forcing him against a wall.

The ice melted as Evan charged towards Alton. The latter not being able to stand as his feet skidded about whenever he made an attempt. A swing down of Evan’s sword and Alton found himself teleported next to Zaniyah.

“This doesn’t appear to be working.” He vocalized his concern to his blue-haired squadmate, who had pulled out the wax ball in an effort to hear him.

“They’ve got some solid teamwork,” she replied. Both Tish and Evan let out synchronized yelps as they vanished into the ground, and reappeared in a gleam of light next to them. “But we have some awesome backup.”

Alton let out a sigh. “It would be great if I had an aerial view of the area because I am having trouble keeping track of where Chester is. Maybe if we had a lookout that could shout out a warning or something, like, ‘Hey, look at that mage there! The one to your left that’s about to cast a spell!’ … That would be nice.” He looked over to Lydia and glared at her. She gave a shrug before floating up in the air.

“What?” Zaniyah had put the wax back in, and couldn’t hear him.

“If you ever grow wings, be sure to let me know. We could take a flight together sometime.” Tish gave off her motherly smile and twirled her hammer around. She then jumped onto the handle as a large pair of wings erupted out from the hammer’s head. “Until then, stop daydreaming!” Her hammer begun to carry her skyward as she let out a laugh.

Zaniyah tsked her tongue. Chickadee would have trouble hitting her if she was up there. She nodded over to Alton and they ran forward as a pair. They dashed along the field with Evan not that far behind them.

“Move left!” Lydia called out. Alton shifted from Zaniyah’s right to her left. He grasped onto her elbow and gave her a tug just as a massive icicle flew in their direction.

“I’ll stay floating directly over him!” Lydia called out again. Alton turned his head and saw that Chester wasn’t that far off. He gestured over to Zaniyah to take the long way around to avoid direct confrontation with the mage. She shrugged and followed his advice.

Taking the long route meant that Tish had reached the egg box first. As soon as she touched down, a half-sphere of stones swallowed her up, keeping her imprisoned there. Chester reacted by casting a heavy mist to envelop the area. Now Tish was trapped and no one could see anything.

The thumping sounds of hammer hitting stone could be heard. It was actually a blessing, leading Alton and Zaniyah directly to the spot. Alton’s voice started to ring out in a wonderful melody. The thumping carried on for a moment, followed by silence. Zaniyah brought her axe down to shatter the stones. She was about to finish off Tish when a hoop of water carried the cleric to safety.

Alton continued his singing to keep Evan away. He tilted his head towards the box and Zaniyah grabbed an egg to offer him. Alton took it, shoved it down her shirt, and then stabbed her in the gut before she could react.

“Oh, what the…” She teleported to the start of the field. “Alton! You jerk!”

Zaniyah gritted her teeth and looked up. Tish had already taken to the skies again. There wasn’t much time left. She clutched the egg to her chest to keep it safe and ran as fast as she could up the hill and towards Grimhawk. She managed to get there just before Tish did, pulling the egg out and presenting it to her knight first.

The old man took it. He muttered and the wooden cone shifted into a staff again. This was roughly tapped against the shell until it had fallen away. He then plopped the entire thing into his mouth and once.

“I’m still hungry…” He spoke with his mouth full. “Go and set up again. We’ll keep going until I’m full.”

Both teams stopped and stared at him. A gust of wind blew the fog from the area and Alton let out a sigh. “So, this is a great use of our time. I’m so glad I chose to do this.”

Tish landed down near Grimhawk and handed him the egg she had been carrying. He cracked it open and gobbled that one down too. “Good, good. Macestar gets the second round! Set up and go again!”

---

Everyone seemed to be in for a long afternoon, much like how Sybil’s day dragged on for what seemed like an eternity. She turned her head, watching the wall as the room began to be bathed in the different tones of dusk. Several people had stopped by during the day, but Blu had turned them away unless there was an injury.

The lady wasn’t one for conversation while she was watching a patient. She preferred to sit quietly in the corner and work on a quilt. Though this is how she spent most of her days when there wasn’t anything happening. There was also the acolyte program that she managed, but they never met on days when she had a patient.

“Greetings, Dalkirk. Has something happened with your squires again?” She didn’t even look up from her quilt, knowing who it was by the near-silent way he had entered the room.

“I am here to see the squire who is truant from my squad meeting.” Dalkirk left the door open behind him, allowing for a slender, tanned skin man to slink in behind him.

He had a light gait to his step and wore a long shirt that went to his knees. His clothes were brown, with a pale blue sash with gold trim tied about his waist. A gold brooch sat on the knot of the sash, made to look like a spiraling thorned vine. A nod was exchanged between himself and Blu, but neither said anything.

Dalkirk moved to the side of Sybil’s bed, kneeling so she wouldn’t have to struggle to look at him. “It may be difficult to remember, but you will need to try. When you first saw the beast, was anyone else there? Anyone other than Moontear Squad?”

“No,” she replied. There was only the beast. Her sword let her know exactly how many people were watching her at any given moment, and there was no one else but it.

The man Dalkirk entered with joined him. He picked up Sybil’s sword and looked it over. He took a moment to examine the sheath before setting it back down. Again, he remained silent as he moved about. This time picking up one of Sybil’s daggers for a closer examination.

“There was evidence of elemental magic being used during the fight,” said Dalkirk. “Are you absolutely certain that you did not see or sense anyone else?” He set down the dagger and folded his arms.

Sybil bit down on her lip. Everything that happened after she had been struck down seemed like a fevered dream. There was no way they’d believe that she was granted powers by Tyrtain. “That was done by the beast. I think it was trying to trap me so it could finish me off.”

Dalkirk stared at her in silent judgment. It was so intense that Sybil wished the bed would swallow it whole so she wouldn’t have to bear it any longer. A shake of his head was given. He gestured for the other man to step forward.

“The professor has questions for you,” he muttered. Dalkirk then snapped his fingers to catch Blu’s attention. “I must speak with you in your office, Sarya.”

This made the doctor look up with a tilt of her head. “Now?” Dalkirk’s gaze hardened on her. Sarya frowned in return, then they stared at each other for a moment before she gave up and began to clean up after himself. “A moment.”

The man that Dalkirk had entered with watched the pair out of the corner of his eye until both of them had left. He then pulled up a chair and sat by the edge of the bed. “My name is Tallosi Rosethorn, and I was a professor of mist studies at Grand Temple. Currently, I am overseeing Kingspaw Squad as its mentor. May I call you Sybil?”

“... Yes.” Sybil attempted to sit up so that she may speak with him more easily, but Rosethorn gestured for her to not move.

“The reports from Moontear stated that elemental magic had been used in the fight against the tainted beast, but you claim that it was the beast that was using it?” She nodded. “They also stated that the area was flooded with mist at the time. Was that your doing or was that also the beast?”

She nearly shook her head but remembered the pain she was in. “No, that was…” Her eyes fell upon her sword for a moment. “Sometimes the sword does that. I can’t seem to control it at all.”

Rosethorn picked up the sword and attempted to pull it out of the sheath. He frowned when he was unable to do so. The blade was twisted this way and that as he examined it, then he began to look over the large blood iron coin that was embedded into the leather.

“Was there any common factor whenever that happened? Or did anything unusual happen when it did so?”

Other than spooky mist people, which she didn’t think she should mention, there was… “It happened three times. Once when someone next to me had been attacked, another time during my fight with a necromancer, and the third time was after I had been struck.”

Rosethorn set the sword upon his lap and placed a hand on top of it. “They were all times when your own life was in danger?”

“... Yes. Yes, they were.”

“I see…” He paused as he gathered his thoughts. “Blood iron, when forged in a certain manner, maintains an emotional resonance. When a user’s emotional state matches that of its item’s resonance, they are able to use that item’s full potential. This was not without cost. It was not uncommon for users to lose themselves to this mental state in order to grant themselves more power.

Such techniques for making weapons and armor was made illegal shortly after the Others were forced out of Lustro. That would make this blade at least over six hundred years old.” Rosethorn ran his hand over the sheath as he looked down at it again. “You should seek to understand what that emotion is. It will help you in the future.”

“But it was made illegal for a reason. Wouldn’t that make it dangerous?”

“Indeed, but it could possibly be the only way to guard yourself against temptation,” he replied. “Accidentally activating that power in times of crisis may have unknown effects on your mind and body. Mood swings, hallucinations, possibly other risks as well.”

“... Oh.” When he phrased it like that, Sybil was becoming wary of even touching the sword again. No wonder no one had ever seen Grulick use it.

“However, that was not meant to deter you from mastering your weapon. Quite the opposite.” Rosethorn stood up and set the sword next to the nightstand. “Your sword appears to have an affinity for mist magic. With practice, you and I may be able to find a way for you to use some of that power without having to force you to be within a certain emotional state.

During my time at Grand Temple, I have studied both the mist and blood iron. My role there was as a historian and a professor. I may be able to use that knowledge to assist you, but that will be your own decision. For your safety, regardless of what you decide, I do suggest you find out as much as you can about your sword and its abilities.”

“... Thank you,” she muttered as a reply.

Rosethorn gave her a brief bow. “I will leave you to rest. I look forward to your response, but take your time to think it over carefully before you do so.”

He left the room, and shortly afterward, Dalkirk and Blu returned as well. Dalkirk wished her a speedy recovery before he chose to leave as well. Sybil’s head was too full of information for her to make any sort of decisions or conversations with anyone… All she wanted to do was sleep it all away.

She could make out the sounds of Alton’s harp playing drifting through the open window. It began to lull her into a peaceful world. One without pain, or monsters, or swords that threatened to ruin her mind… What a lovely world that was.

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About the author

Adelaide West

Bio: Author of the Grimstone Series and Duck and Wolf.

I have a Twitter. I check it often, so I guess tag me anytime you want. I just don't post very often. @AdelaideGWest

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