War of the Spirits

Saphira is the future leader of the isolated mountain village Natallian. However, just as she left to being her training, an incident takes place in the naboring town that changes her course of life forever

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14. Chapter 14

Saphira had made her way back to the Volcanic Terrain and stood in the area where she had been injured before. She was cautiously walking through the area, unsure if she was alone or not. She carefully surveyed the area, but she couldn't see any living beings in the area. The only humans here were the corpses of the men Zach killed. She felt her stomach tighten as she saw them, the cut from Zach's blade allowing her to see their insides. But there was something else that caught her attention. When she saw the corpses, she noticed that they had been burned in numerous places. And they were recent as well.

"That's not Zach's doing. He's a Nightmare Aolis, he isn't able to do anything like this," Saphira moved a bit closer to examine the burns on their bodies. She sensed some Leot emanating from it, which meant that there was a Spirit involved. "Maybe the Guardian did something,"

"Which means the only likely suspect at the moment is the Fire Aolis in the area. This Shakaku character that Kyni cub told us about," Flarenix said, Saphira nodding as she stood up. The scent form the bodies made her stomach curl, and she didn't like the idea of examining dead humans. It felt disrespectful. She examined the area one more time, in case the Guardian was somewhere nearby. But she still couldn't see anyone in the near vicinity. She looked up at the volcano again, and she could sense someone's presence near the top. The presence was weak thanks to the energy emanating from the volcano, since it was the fragment of a Spirit. But she could definitely sense an Aolis.

"Of course the Guardian would be in the most difficult place to get to," Saphira sighed as she tried to see the best way to climb upwards and thinking how she would do it without straining her arm too much at the same time. "I hope Ruby’s alright. I still haven't seen her after she went to bring that cub back,"

"Something might've happened to the Kyni pack. The cub was trying to escape from something, wasn't he?" Flarenix suggested, Saphira almost forgetting that the cub had run from some Humans. Not only that, but she remembered that Flarenix said that the Chimera had entered the Kyni's territory.

"I hope not. But it seems like that's the most likely scenario," Saphira said as she began to climb up the volcano. She knew Ruby would be able to take care of herself, but Saphira was still worried about the Kyni. As she made her way upwards, she noticed that a few pebbles began to fall down towards her. She looked up and saw that a large boulder began to fall down towards her. She quickly looked around for anything she can hide under or something similar, a small platform to her right. Not having enough time to hesitate, she jumped and just barely landed on the platform. The boulder rolled downwards behind her, the sound echoing loudly around her.  She looked behind her and turned her attention downwards, the boulder finally landing on the ground.

"That was certainly unexpected. What do you think caused the rock to fall?" Flarenix asked, Saphira not sure. She was about to start climbing again when she heard a scream from the top of the volcano. The scream sounded like someone was a pain. She began to climb a lot faster to see what was going on. Once she reached the top, she saw the Chimera on top of a woman about her age. She had something on front of her that the Chimera tried to pull away. Saphira looked behind them and saw that Ruby sat there, blood on the ground in front of her. Wasting no more time, Saphira ran over towards the Chimera and swung her blade at it. It quickly noticed her charge and jumped off the woman and distanced itself from them. Saphira stood in place and waited for it to make its move. She already knew that it was stronger than her, and her arm was still not completely healed.

"Don't fight it!" the woman next to Saphira yelled, startling her. She looked over at the woman as she stood up and had a harsh glare in her eyes. "The poor thing has been tormented enough! It doesn't need some stupid kid to cause it more grief!" Saphira was honestly completely stunned by the woman's words. The last thing Saphira expected was for someone to defend the Chimera. Before any of them could say another word, the Chimera leapt off the volcano and left. Saphira let out a sigh as she sheathed her blade again. "Damn it, I was so close to figuring it out,"

"Figure it out?" Saphira asked, though the woman complete ignored her and instead walked over to Ruby. The Kyni growled as the woman came closer, which seemed to offend her. Saphira let out a small breath as she walked over to Ruby as well. "Are you OK? It looks like you got injured again,"

"No, I have not been injured a second time. The injuries from the first time reopened during a scuffle between me and that young Chimera," Ruby answered, the woman next to her letting out a gasp in shock. Saphira placed her bag down and pulled out her bottle of water and a piece of cloth. After pouring water onto the cloth, she began to clean Ruby’s fur and wound so the blood wouldn't stick to her fur. Once the blood was cleaned, Saphira applied the herbal cream and bandaged the wound again. "Thank you,"

"Don't mention it," Saphira smiled as she placed her items back in the bag, after drying the cloth of course. As she was about the stand up, a blade like object was placed against her throat. She slightly turned her gaze and saw that it was a spear, held by the woman who got upset with her before. "Were you that offended that I chased away the Chimera?"

"You act like you're close to the Kyni, but they despise Humans. So what have you done to make it act like this towards you?" she asked, Saphira narrowing her eyes. She understood that the woman cared about animals based on her reaction towards the Chimera and wanting to help Ruby before. But Saphira wasn't too fond of being accused of wrong doings.

"Shakaku, she has done nothing special to make me follow her. She saved my life and we have assisted each other since," Ruby explained, her tone sounding rather annoyed. Saphira recognized the name the Kyni said, the cub they found when they arrived. He mentioned that he was scared of Shakaku. What the reason for that was, Saphira couldn't figure out.

"Like hell. You may not be a part of the pack right next to this place, but a Kyni is a Kyni nonetheless. So spill it, what did you do?" Shakaku was much more persistent than Saphira had expected, which only frustrated her. "No intention of answering, huh? Then I'll force the answer out of you!" Before Saphira could say another word, the spear Shakaku held to her neck began to move. Instinctively, Saphira moved her head back and under the spear and jumped to create some distance between her and Shakaku. "That's some reflex. But it won't save you!" Shakaku charged at her again, Saphira drawing her blade to protect herself from the spear.

"You're really starting to get on my nerves," Saphira spat back, pushing Shakaku off and began to attack back. Shakaku blocked Saphira's attack with ease, her injury not helping. Throwing Saphira off, Shakaku tried to stab her once again. Saphira dodged and stood in a defensive position, waiting for Shakaku to make a move. She could hear Ruby growling, and Saphira took a quick glance at the Kyni. She was in a hunting position, her eyes right on Shakaku. "Don't make this worse, Ruby. She already thinks I forced you to come along with me. She'll blame me if you attack her," Saphira said, Ruby’s growling stopped and her eyes locked with Saphira's, as if to make sure she was serious.

"Very well," Ruby said in the end before she laid back down. Saphira thought it was because of the wound, since she had just cleaned it. Before she could think any more on it, however, she noticed a red flicker in the corner of her eye. Her body reacted before her mind could, jumping backwards as a serpent made of fire passed in front of her. It turned and went towards Shakaku, and circled around her.

"Keep your guard up. She's not just going to stand there while you talk," Flarenix warned her, Saphira quietly thanking her as she waited for Shakaku to make her move again. The serpent was quickly sent towards her again, Saphira holding out her hand and sent her own flames to counter the serpent. when the two flames clashed, they erupted and blocked Saphira's view. She could hear footsteps running towards her, Shakaku jumped at her. Saphira noticed that the blade on her spear was set ablaze, Saphira channeling flames into her own weapon as she blocked. The flames began to circle them both, Shakaku slightly overpowering Saphira. But it wasn't enough to give her much of an edge. And Saphira had trained with Faith, which certainly helped her. Saphira used all the strength she could to throw Shakaku off her blade and quite a distance away from her. Before Shakaku could regain her balance, Saphira swung her blade in her direction and sent a slash of fire straight towards her. Shakaku was just barely able to cancel it out, much to Saphira's disapproval.

"I'll admit, you're a lot stronger than I first thought. But I wonder if you're as good without your weapon and Spirit," Shakaku taunted, throwing her spear behind her. Saphira wasn't sure if this was such a good idea. Shakaku wasn't that much stronger, that much Saphira knew. Even with her arm like this. But the Guardian was so confident, more so than she should've been.

"You should never become overconfident in a fight. Just a warning," Saphira said, deciding to accept Shakaku's duel. She placed her blade in the sheath and untied it from her waist. She placed it on the ground beside her and walked forward a bit. She could notice that Shakaku was slightly irritated at her comment, the Guardians eyes glaring deadly at her. Before Saphira had a proper chance to prepare herself before Shakaku jumped right at her. She punched at her with full force, but it was predictable. Saphira skillfully dodged the attack and countered with a kick to her side. Shakaku groaned in pain, losing her balance. Taking this chance, Saphira quickly punched Shakaku in the stomach. Shakaku gasped for air and clutched her stomach as she fell to her knees. Saphira kept her distance in case she suddenly sprang up at her.

"Ouch, you pack one hell of a punch. And a kick, for that matter," Shakaku commented, Saphira not letting her guard down just yet. Shakaku stood up, a bit unbalanced. "While your ability to control your Spirit’s, power could be better, you're no slouch in hand-to-hand combat," Shakaku just grinned at her, seemingly very pleased or amused. Saphira honestly couldn't tell which it was. "I guess what you said before could be true. I can kind of see why a Kyni took a liking to you,"

"Finally," Saphira sighed, walking back to get her blade and placed it on her back. "Why were you so persistent about that, anyway? You were also upset when I pushed that Chimera away,"

"I thought you were one of those bastards that came here to try and pull me into this pathetic excuse for a war. Honestly, if they think this is a war, they would never survive the one at The Beginning," Shakaku complained, Saphira not expecting her to bring that war up. It was the first war that ever broke out after the Humans were given their own Realm. She had read about it all her life, including the time right before she left. "That Chimera was still around at the time, and they thought they could try and capture it. I interfered and scared them off. Being a Guardian and all, I can't exactly kill whenever I want,"

"Because you're supposed to be protecting the people in your area?" Saphira asked, genuinely interested. Neither Mizuko or Sarudoshi had said anything about killing, nor had any of them resorted to it.

"Not quite. It has more to do that our powers are made to protect, not destroy. So when I was given the title of Guardian, I wasn't able to use my power to bring someone close to death, let alone kill them," Shakaku explained, Saphira not wanting to know why she would ever want to almost kill someone. "Anyway, the Chimera ran around the area for some time, and I left it alone. Then this Kyni suddenly arrived and began to survey the area. I guess she was looking for you," Saphira gave a short nod and allowed Shakaku to continue. "The Chimera was probably hungry or just pissed off, but it caught her scent and attack her. I didn't want the Kyni or the Chimera to get too injured, so I intervened. As it turned its attention to me and had me pinned, that's when you came,"

"You seem to care strongly for animals," Saphira said as she walked over to Ruby, who by now had shrunken into her smaller form. When Saphira approached her, she jumped onto her shoulder and made herself comfortable. "Anyway, I came here because I need your help with something,"

"I figured. Mizuko and Sarudoshi have already given me a heads up, thinking that I might try to chase you off or something," Shakaku said, walking past her and into a small cave entrance Saphira hadn't noticed before. "Come on, I need to show you something," Not having much choice in the matter, Saphira and Ruby followed the Guardian into the cave. The air inside the cave was hot, and it felt like it was alive. Similar to Crystal Mountain. "This the core of Hooni's volcano, so I don’t usually bring anyone else in here. But I think you'll be alright, since you’re a Fire Aolis like me,"

"That's explains the sentient feeling from this place," Saphira said as they continued deeper into the caves. She noticed that there were ashes on the ground, as well as a few bones. She examined one of them, and she could feel her heart grow heavy. "Why are the Human bones here?" She meant to ask that to herself, but the echo of the cave made Shakaku hear it as well.

"What, you don't know? All of the areas that we Guardian protect acted as a shelter for all of the wounded Humans during the first war. These places hold a special connection to the Spirit Realm. And as you might have guessed, not everyone was able to get out alive," she explained. Saphira hadn't noticed it before, but thinking back, Sarudoshi's home did look like a shelter. But Mizuko lived in the water of a fishing port, so that didn't quite fit. "The fishing port near Mizuko was turned into a village by the survivors as they could live off the fish in the area. So it might be harder to find traces of the original purpose of that place,"

'Can she hear my thoughts or something?' Saphira thought, standing up and walked up to Shakaku, who began to walk again as well. After a short period of time, they arrived at the end of the narrow path and into a large, circular room. The walls seemed pretty solid, and Saphira could feel that the air was slightly cooler in here.

"Here we are," Shakaku threw herself onto a pile of blankets, making herself rather comfortable. "This place makes quite the decent home, believe it or not," Saphira dropped her bag and sat herself on a boulder close to Shakaku.

"So, why did you lead me here?" she asked, Shakaku moving to a sitting position as she looked intensely at Saphira.

"You know who the last Guardian is?" Saphira remembered Sarudoshi mentioning something about him. The Guardian of Shadow. She nodded in response, Shakaku's gaze not easing up. "He's a complete nut ball, and has no idea what is considered right or wrong. He's lived in isolation his whole life thanks to his ability to hear the souls of those who've passed away,"

"So he can hear the dead?" Saphira asked, Shakaku nodding. Saphira felt a chill up her spine. Just like when Faith created that dummy that looked like a cheap ghost interpretation, she felt uneasy about them. She couldn't explain it, but she was terrified of them. "Can he actually hear them?"

"There are a lot of frauds out there, true. But he's the real deal. His Spirits allows him to hear the voices of souls and other Spirits," Shakaku explained. Saphira hadn't heard about a Spirit that let you hear the voices of the dead. "Now, there's an art I need to teach you before I let you go off to find him. The second to last step to Sulos,"

"The part where I coat myself in Leot, correct?" Saphira asked, Shakaku nodding. Saphira remembered that the reason for it was to protect herself from Flarenix's own Leot if she ever performed Sulos. "So what do I do?"

"First, try to picture a thin blanket that covers your entire body and blocks you from your surroundings," Shakaku said, Saphira doing as the Guardian said. She closed her eyes and imagined a blanket that covered her. It felt a bit weird, since it felt like there really was a blanket on her. "Now channel your Spirits power over your 'blanket'," Shakaku's voice instructed, Saphira trying to wrap Flarenix's power like she was told. It didn't feel like she was doing anything, since the blanket didn't actually exist. Soon, she could feel a warm, soothing sensation all over her body. "Wow, you did on your first try. Impressive," When Shakaku commented that, Saphira opened her eyes and noticed that there was a thin coating of Leot all over her entire body. The coating was a faint red color, so it represented her element.

"It felt a bit weird to execute," Saphira said as the coating disappeared. It didn't last too long, and she recalled that it would take her long to perfect this particular step. Before Saphira was able to say another word, Shakaku handed her a golden object. It looked like an amulet of some kind, something written in Aleric around the edge.  She took it and turned it in her hand as she read the text engraved on it.

Dragons Fight, Elders Guide, Guardians Protect.

"What does the writing mean?" Saphira asked. It didn't sound familiar to her, but she could tell that it had some significance to her.

"It's a poem that establishes the roles of the three mentioned. Back when the dragons had a lot more authority than they do now, they were charged with the responsibility to fight all those who threaten the peace. Spirit or Human. The Dragon Elders were tasked with guiding all of the Spirits, including the Dragons. And we Guardian are given the job to protect Humans and Spirits from each other," Shakaku explained, Saphira examining the amulet again. She could see something that resembled a Dragon and a Human on either side. "Anyway, since you learned Sul, you should get going. The less time you waste, the better,"

"Alright. Thank you for all of your help, Shakaku. I appreciate it," Saphira said, giving her a light bow. Shakaku didn't say anything and just gave her a wave in farewell. Taking the hint, Saphira grabbed her bag and gestured Ruby to follow her as they exited the cave. "Now, we should find out which town is the closest to here and see if we can get some information on where the last Guardian," Just as she finished her sentence, the sound of multiple voices caught her attention. Curious as to what was going on, she went over to the edge and looked down. And her entire body froze and her breath was caught in her throat.

The warriors from her village were fighting and losing against the rebels that have been causing havoc the last seven days.

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