Fear and terror rushed through her mind, clouding any other thoughts that tried to seep into the young girl’s brain. She held her head down as she scrunched her body together, trying to become as small as possible to avoid the coming strike. She just didn’t want to die there. She didn’t want her life to end!
And then she had felt it – a response from the strange sword she had picked up only seconds ago. She still sat with her eyes clenched shut, unsure what was going on as a strange power flowed down her arm and through her body. In the next instant she felt something quickly creeping up around her. The young woman cracked her eyes open as vines coiled around her body, quickly rising up over her head to block her view – the view of The Tree Frog about to cut her in two. She clenched them closed again, heart racing as she began to wonder what was happening. And then… nothing.
Ivy sat, scrunching her body together tightly as the minutes slinked by, seeming to last an eternity as the frightened teenager wait to be slashed in two by the Creature of the Gods, but that attack never came.
Curious and hopeful, after a few minutes of silence, the green-haired girl allowed her eyelids to split open ever so slightly so she might look around. As the barriers slid from atop her eyes, the young girl immediately realized something was different – strange.
Ivy lowered her arms from atop her head, raising her skull to glance around. The vines that had crept up over her were gone, and the room they had hid from her sight had vanished too. The pinnacle of The Tree Frog’s Tower no longer surrounded the young woman as she turned to glance around.
Ivy sat in a grand room – larger than any she had ever seen. Or so she assumed. The room was so sparsely lit it made it difficult to see much of anything that lay in the hall other than what was inherently close to her. She turned her head up, eyeing the nearly opaque skylights that lined the buildings roof, letting it sprinkles of light throughout the hall.
As the girl stared at the strange windows in the ceiling, a slight tremor shook the room, causing something unseen to let out an unnerving jingling sound. Ivy spun her vision back to the ground, turning her eyes back and forth as she looked for the source of the shaking. Paranoia and uncertainty brought to mind images of The Tree Frog suddenly crashing down on her, or leaping from one of the shadowy crevices of the room, but she didn’t find anyone or anything lurking down there as she searched. And, a moment later, the faint tremor faded away, leaving the room motionless and dark – the exact same as it had been when she had arrived except for the now faint sound of something like dangling crystals bumping lightly into each other.
Ivy’s voice cracked as she nervously called out to the empty room. Her voice seemed to echo faintly in the cavernous hall, but that reverberation was her only reply as she stared into the darkness. How had she gotten there? Had it been…?
The green-haired girl turned her eyes downward, eyeing the twin spiraling blades of the strange sword still grasped in her hand. The metallic green blades seemed to glimmer lightly as she stared down at them, drawing her eyes. She tried to recall what insane thought had caused her to lift the blade from where it had been kept in The Tree Frog’s lair and irrationally challenge his ten thousand year long rule. As she watched the light gleam off its surface, she could almost remember the strange feeling she had got when her fingers first grazed its surface – but the exact reaction seemed to elude her.
“Son of a spiny-haired wolverine!”
Ivy jumped as a strange voice echoed loudly through the hall, forcing her to tear her gaze from the weapon in her hand and spin around to face the source of it.
“I won’t give it to you! Even in death!”
Ivy’s heart began to race as she scooted backwards across the floor, staring at the strange man that had suddenly appeared and begun screaming less than two feet away from her. She had never seen anyone quite like him – with wild unkempt white hair. He was dressed in thick, winter clothing and looked like he had just walked in from a blizzard, snow and ice falling from his shoulders and legs as he kicked and trashed about on the floor.
Frost flailed his arms and legs about with all the strength he could muster, trying to knock the falling, frozen ceiling away as the deadly icicles careened down toward him. He screamed out threats and names at the beastly Kylma, cursing him – ensuring the monster he wouldn’t go down so easy. A good thirty seconds passed before the Artican suddenly realized he hadn’t yet been crushed by the icy death from above.
The teen allowed his clenched eyes to open as he stared up at a dark and distant roof. He blinked again, as if to make sure what he was seeing was really there. There was no ice above him – there was no living room around him. The fool wasn’t sure where he was, but he knew where he wasn’t: he wasn’t in his house any more.
Frost questioned no one as he sat up suddenly, twisting his head back and forth as he searched for the yeti-human beast he had just been fighting. The only thing he found in the dimly lit, spacious room, though, was a girl unlike any he had seen before. She was mildly attractive, though poorly under-developed, and in the gloomy hall, it looked like she had vines or snakes, or something like that flowing down out of her head.
“Who are you?” Frost asked suddenly, blinking as he gazed out at her.
“I could ask you the same thing!” The girl shot back, her tongue sharp as she spoke. The boy frowned slightly, wondering if asking her name had somehow pissed her off.
“You could,” Frost replied, “but I asked you first.”
If she was already mad, he might as well go for broke and keep pressing his luck. No point in trying to recover from a bad first impression, after all.
The girl didn’t respond at first, staring across the short distance at him, eyes narrowed as she studied him up and down. It was times like those that Frost wished he wasn’t so damn intimidating and impressive looking. It tended to scare the women-folk.
“Ivy…” She stated curtly after a long moment. “My name’s Ivy.”
“I’m Frost.” The teenage boy replied, stretching a hand out toward her. The green-haired girl eyed it distrustfully, not bothering to stretch out her own. Frost got the distinct impression he wasn’t going to get anywhere with this one.
The fool sighed, exhaling deeply as he lowered his gaze. It was then that he noticed, and only then that he realized, he was no longer in pain. Curious, he stripped the glove from his injured hand entirely, finding the frozen fangs of blood were gone, and the wounds they had created were healed. Though he knew he’d find the same thing, the teen stretched a hand down and lifted up his shirt, checking his stomach. There was no sign of his injury there, either.
As the confused Artican tried to make sense of the sudden disappearance of his injuries, the room around him began to shake, albeit gently. The fool raised his head, lowering his shirt as the tremor rocked him and the girl gently, the distant sound of something rattling filling the quiet in place of their speech. It only lasted a brief moment, settling as the jingling noise continued.
“What was that?”
Frost turned to the girl, seeking an answer. The look of distress that coated her face was enough to tell the teen that she had about as much of an answer to that question as he did.
The Arctican sighed, turning his head away from the girl to glance around the room. He pushed himself up, getting to his feet as he looked around, not able to see much through the gloom. Frowning, he took a step forward, heading toward the distant silhouette of… something.
“W-where are you going!?”
The teenage boy stopped as the girl called out to him, sounding alarmed. He turned, glancing at the green-haired girl over his shoulder as she hurriedly got to her feet and took a few steps toward him.
“To look around?” Frost replied, thinking the answer obvious. The girl stared back at him, looking incredibly anxious as she stood in the middle of the foreign room. Frost lowered his eyes slightly, watching the young woman’s clenched fists shake slightly as she held them down at her sides. She was scared.
The Arctican sighed, turning back around. Even though she was already becoming a bit of a pain, his innate and curious sense of decency wouldn’t allow him to leave the panicked girl alone and afraid. So instead, he took a step back toward her and dropped down to the ground, taking a seat right back where he first arrived. The strange girl – Frost had already forgotten her name – wavered a moment, then sat back down as well, bending her legs beneath her.
“What was your name again?” Frost questioned as he stared at the girls semi-transparent robes and the short green dress she had on beneath. “Susie?”
“Ivy!” The girl insisted vehemently, sending the boy an angry glare along with the response.
“Right, Ivy.” Frost nodded. “Just making sure you remembered.”
“Why would I forget my own name?” The girl asked, somewhat indignantly.
“I don’t know. Why does anyone forget anything?” Frost replied with a shrug before abruptly changing the subject. “Did you just get out of bed?”
“Wh… what?” Ivy responded, confused.
“Did you just get out of bed!?” Frost shouted the question a little louder.
“I heard you the first time!” The green-haired girl shouted back. “Why are you asking that? What’s that have to do with anything?”
“I was just wondering why you’re wearing a nightie.”
“A-a what!?” The girl replied, startled. Ivy’s cheeks flushed red as the heat rose to her face. “Wh-what are you talking about!?”
“A nightie.” Frost repeated succinctly. “A negligee, a camisole… that thing you have on!”
“Th-this isn’t a nightie!” Ivy shouted back embarrassedly. “I-it’s a dress!”
Frost tilted his head slightly to the side, raising a hand to gently stroke at his chin a moment as he very carefully and intensely studied the girl’s gown. At the same time Ivy could feel her face burning even hotter from the boy’s judging gaze as he looked her up and down, suddenly feeling very much outside her comfort zone in the strange getup.
“Nah, that’s a nightie.” Frost announced after a moment of silent deliberation, using the hand he had been stroking his chin with to very firmly point at the girl’s outfit. “It’s way too revealing to be a dress. I can almost see your breasts, after all.”
“Don’t look!” Ivy screamed angrily as she lifted her arms to cover his cleavage.
“Don’t worry. It’s not like there’s a lot to see.” Frost replied with a shrug.
“And what the hell is that supposed to mean!?” The green-haired girl demanded, still doing her best to hide her chest from the boy’s view.
“There small.” The Arctican replied matter-of-factly. “They’re like goosebumps.”
“Th-they are not that small!” Ivy screamed, the heat in her cheeks finding a new fuel as the young woman switched from being embarrassed to being downright infuriated. “They’re bigger than yours!”
“Yeah…” Frost replied, a tone of uncertainty in his voice. “Mine are supposed to be small though… I’m a guy.”
Ivy felt the fury within give way once more to the feeling of humiliation. She was fairly sure her face had to be nearly as red as a rose by that point, between the anger and shame she was feeling. She quivered with rage a moment before quickly spinning around to face the other direction.
“W-weren’t you going to go look around!?” She shouted, suddenly finding solitude in that foreboding and dark room preferable of the man’s company. “Why don’t you go wander off and disappear somewhere!”
Frost was neither able to finish his sentence, nor have Ivy hear his thought as an incredible flash of light and fire exploded into existence directly between the two, briefly dispelling the darkness of the room, and at the same time blinding it’s two occupants as they quickly covered their eyes. As the flames died, and their shine faded, the young male lowered his hand, gazing at the point where the fire briefly lived, finding another strange person standing there now instead.
“Oh my god, your head’s on fire!”
Frost screamed out as he stared at the wavy mass of red and orange sitting atop the newcomer’s head. It somehow failed to occur to the alarmed teen that the ‘fire’ he was seeing wasn’t emitting any sort of light or heat. In a quick – or rather, rash – decision, Frost lifted the blade still gripped in his hand, aiming the tip carefully at the stranger’s head as the man turned a bewildered look in his direction. The newcomer had no time to dodge or duck as the apex of the icy blade unleashed a brief, but still powerful, blast of snow at the suddenly alarmed new face.
Flare had little time to think, let alone dodge as a strange, powdery white substance shot toward his face, smacking into him with more force that he would have even thought possible from the otherwise soft feel it had as it knocked him from his feet. As he toppled backwards, a blob of white blocking everything from his vision, he was certain he could hear a female scream out, a portrait of his friend flashing through his mind as he crashed to the ground.
“Jenna!” The Flamian screamed out as a burst of heat surged through him. Almost instantly, the white powder coating his head vanished, melting away to nothing but a pool of water. He quickly pushed himself up, swinging his blade around to point at the source of the strange attack. While he expected the strangely humanoid appearance of The Salamander to grace his vision, he was instead meet by the befuddled and alarmed face of a stranger – an odd looking man with hair and eyes as white as the stuff that had just tossed in his face.
“Oh my god, it’s not out yet!”
Flare didn’t have but a second to speak as another burst of the strange substance was released from the apex of the stranger’s blade, coating his head and face once more, though this time it seemed to fail to knock him over. Coated in the now slowly melting powder, Flare blinked, freeing the substance from across his eyes as it fell into his lap. He stared across the short gap that separated him from this white-haired fool, watching him with an odd sense of annoyance and amusement as the man leaned forward slightly, as if checking to make sure he was okay.
“Would you not do that anymore, please?” Flare requested as he reached up to brush the substance from him, shaking it from his head – his hair now limp and pressed down against his head by the melting material.
The crazy fool blinked, staring intensely at his head as the powder was brushed away, as if he had found something incredible atop it. Flare just eyed him cautiously, the man’s sword still half-raised in the air as he stared.
“Phew, you’re okay.” The man replied, letting out a sigh of relief as he smiled and dropped his hand and sword back to the ground. “For a second I was worried I hadn’t put that blaze out in time.”
“Are you an idiot?”
Flare blinked, turning his head as he heard an unfamiliar female voice – recalling the scream he had heard a few moments prior. As he spun his head to look behind him, a somewhat scantily dressed, and noticeably attractive young girl with vivid and eye-catching green hair came into view. The Flamian froze, transfixed by the woman a moment as she spoke again.
“That wasn’t fire. It was his hair.” The girl sighed, shaking her head, the forest green braids stretching down from it shaking gently as she did.
“Hair doesn’t look like fire, Nightie.” The man opposite the girl replied condescendingly. “I think I can tell the difference between the two.”
“I don’t think you can.” The girl shot back, sounding painfully exasperated by the conversation already. “Did you even notice that that ‘fire’ wasn’t even glowing?”
Flare heard a short pause, turning his head in that moment to see the look of realization and regret slide over the white-haired man’s face. The strange guy turned to look at him, grinning awkwardly for a moment as his cheeks became faintly red before once again turning back to the girl.
“Yeah, well, at least I can tell the difference between lingerie and a dress.”
“It’s not lingerie!” The girl shouted back in response. “Stop saying that!”
“It’s indecent, you know, for a young girl like you to walk around in her underwear like that.”
“This looks nothing like underwear! It’s a dress! A robe! A gown!”
“I don’t mean to interrupt your conversation,” Flare broke into the argument, turning to look back and forth between the two, “but does one of you want to tell me what’s going on here?”
The Flamian took a moment to glance around the room he suddenly realized he was in – trying to figure out where Char had vanished to. The last thing he could recall was the Flash Fire that The Salamander had unleashed – the burning orb of fire which seemed to have a power rivaling the suns. Just as he had thought his sword’s protection was about to give out, the fire had vanished, the world had become dark, and he had been pelted in the face with the wet foreign substance tossed at him but the man with white hair.
“Your guess is as good as mine.” The faire-haired man replied with a shrug. “I haven’t been here much longer than you, and when I got her all I found was this girl running around in her skivvies.”
“Would you shut up, with that!” The girl spun her head back and forth, eyes searching the ground. “You’re lucky I don’t have anything to throw at you!”
“Alright, let’s try this again.” Flare interrupted once more with a sigh and a laugh. “I’m Flare. What are your names?”
There was a brief silence as the Flamian asked the question, as the green-haired girl eyed him with what he felt was undue suspicion and the other member of their mismatched group stared blankly at the girl, as if offering her the chance to speak first. When the woman remained quiet, though, the strange man shrugged and finally answered.
“I’m Frost. Frost Ice.” The fair-haired teen extended a hand as a welcoming gesture. Flare smiled, reaching out to shake it with his own.
“Strange name.” the Flamian replied, pumping arms a few times before releasing his grip.
“I’m--!” Flare turned as the girl began to reply, facing the young beauty as she suddenly blushed and lowered her eyes, cutting herself off. Another brief moment of silence passed before she raised her gaze to meet his once more.
“I’m Ivy.” She stated politely, arms remaining clenched around her chest as she turned a distrustful glare back to the man named Frost. “I’d shake your hand, too, but I don’t want the pervert staring at my breasts again.”
“Pervert?” the white-haired teen replied, sounding genuinely offended by the comment. “I’m not the one walking around in a nightie.”
“It’s not a nightie!” The girl screamed, her face flushing red again. “Stop saying that!”
“Wardrobe aside,” Flare smiled awkwardly as he broke into the argument once more, “does either of you have any clue how we got here? Or what we’re doing here? Or where here is?”
“No.” Ivy replied, sounding a bit more genial as she addressed him.
“Not a clue.” Frost answered, shaking his head. “I was gonna take a look around earlier, but…”
The teenage male trailed off as he stared across the way at the female in their midst. Flare wasn’t exactly sure what the strange look he was giving her meant – and he wasn’t entirely sure he wanted to know, given their constant bickering. With a sigh, and a shake of his head, the Flamian pushed himself to his feet, dragging the flame-shaped sword still clenched in his hand up with him. He turned his head side to side, staring at the darkness filling the area, and decided first thing was first: they needed to shine some light on their predicament.
The redhead raised his sword up, baring the weapon like a torch. With a simple thought, the swords blade burst into flames. Or, rather, it would be more accurate to say the sword’s blade became a large tendril of flame that stretched out from the hilt, casting an eerie glow on the world around them.
“Whoa, incredible!” The white-haired teen stood, staring at the shimmering blade of fire as he did. “Wait, don’t tell me that’s…”
“The Flame Sword.” Flare smiled, nodding as he answered. “Mystic Blade of Fire. Yup!”
Flare twisted his head the opposite direction, turning his eyes to the girl still kneeling on the floor. “You have a Mystic Blade, too?”
“Wait…” Flare paused, shifting his gaze back and forth between his two new acquaintances. “Don’t tell me you both have one as well!”
“Mystic Blade of Ice.” Frost hefted up the strange translucent sword that had covered the young Flamian in cold white powder not long before that. “Arctic Blade.”
“And I’ve got the Thorn Cutter.” The girl reached down to her side, lifting a strange dual-bladed sword from the ground beside her. Flare hadn’t even noticed it until that moment.
“Do you think these have something to do with what’s going on?” Ivy questioned, turning her eyes to stare at the spiraling green blades of her sword.
Before either of the men in the room had the opportunity to answer, the room began to quake – the shaking more intense than the last couple that had rocked the hall. Frost and Flare stumbled from the brief but powerful tremor, but somehow managed to remain on their feet.
“The hell was that?” The Flamian asked as the shaking passed.
“I don’t know, but that wasn’t the first one I’ve felt.” The faire-haired teen beside him answered.
“They’ve actually been coming just before—“
“Am I dead…?”
All three of the teens jumped as a fourth voice – another female – suddenly joined their group, ringing out from some unknown location. The three of them glanced around quickly before finally laying eyes on another girl – roughly their age – pushing herself up from on the floor behind them. The blue-haired girl stared up at them, a befuddled gaze fixated on the three.
“Am I dead?” Myst repeated as she stared up at the strange group clad in the shadows of the room. “Or is this another vision?”
The nymph glanced around at the dark, gloomy room, and the plain, bare floor – it reminded her eerily of her premonitions. But the area was slightly different – slightly brighter thanks to a glowing torch. And there were people there. Aside from that, the last thing she remembered, she had been lying in the rain, seconds from being slaughtered. She wasn’t sure what to make of any of it.
“Who are you?” the man standing in the center of the three in front of her – the one with red hair – inquired.
“Who are all of you?” Myst countered, eyeing each of them in turn.
“We asked you first!”
The nymph turned an eye to the other man in the room – the one with white hair – as he emphatically pointed out the obvious.
“Good to know it’s not just me you like to try and annoy.”
Myst turned to the last of the three, a girl with deep green braided hair.
“I don’t try and annoy anyone.” The white-eyed teen replied. “When I put my mind to something, I succeed at it.”
“Trust me. That’s painfully obvious at this point.” The girl sighed in response.
Myst turned here focus back to the redhead of the group as the young man took a step toward her, offering down his hand to help her up. She stared at it a moment – his skin was darker than normal, and his hand and arm didn’t seem to have the slightest bits of hair on them.
“That’s Frost. And that’s Ivy.” He continued, nodding to each in turn. “Try to ignore the bickering – they don’t seem to know how to stop.”
“I’m Myst…” the nymph replied, reaching out to accept the man’s offer to help her. She wrapped her fingers gently around his palm, pulling on the arm as the man nearly lifted her from the ground entirely on his own. She stumbled forward a second as she stood, pressing up against the redhead’s chest, her face stopping a few inches from his own as she did. A flash of recollection shot through her mind as she suddenly noticed the man’s red eyes, and the shades of yellow and orange that also streaked through his hair.
Myst quickly turned her gaze, staring at the girl with braids, studying the strange green strands of hair and the girl’s vibrant green eyes. She spun once more, staring at the goofy mug of the other boy in the room – at his stark white hair. She had seen these three – they had appeared to her in a vision. She had almost forgotten about that strange premonition she had had right before her fight with The Serpent and her men. But with these three faces suddenly standing there in front of her, it was hard not to remember it.
She turned to look into the fiery red eyes of the teenage boy she was still pressed up against, staring at the strangely familiar face.
“I know you…” She stated quietly, mostly to herself as she stared at the boy.
“What was that?” the boy – Flare – asked, tilting his head slightly to the side.
“I know you.” She repeated, loud enough for all of them to hear this time. “I know you all!”
All four of the teenagers in the room were caught off guard as yet another tremor, distinctly more powerful than the last, shook the room. Myst quickly fell to her knees, pulling the fiery redhead down with her. As the shaking stopped, the shadows of the room suddenly vanished as lit lamps burst into existence around the hall, flooding the area with light. The four shielded their eyes from the sudden brightness.
“Good, you’re all here.”
Myst blinked, trying to clear her vision and find the source of the new voice.
“We haven’t much time.”