Chapter 1: Chapter 1 - Welcome Back, Team Amethyst

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Status: In Progress  |  Genre: Fantasy  |  House: Fantasy Realm

Reads: 1010

Total blackness enveloped Elfred. Day or night, eyes open or closed; he knew not.

He tried gasping for breath, but his lungs failed to obey. Attempting to move proved futile, for he felt nothing. There was no pain or numbness, as though his mind had become separated from his body. He couldn’t even feel his heart beating.

In that case, he must be-

No. Not yet.

An unfamiliar voice interrupted. Rather than sounding from somewhere nearby, it echoed directly in his head. While calm and deep like a grown man, its tone reverberated in a manner no human could hope to achieve. It reminded him of the trailing ends of distant thunder, and gentle waves rolling on a sandy beach.

Unable to speak since he could not draw breath, Elfred thought.

Who are you?

He sensed a flicker of amusement from the unseen presence.

You’re experiencing a rather rare and interesting phenomenon, and yet you are curious about me? You should be more concerned about yourself.

Confusion wormed into his mind at the voice’s cryptic words. More than that, he recalled its earlier statement.

I’m… not dead?

Correct. At least, not yet.

Another obscure answer. Irritation flashed within him.

Answer me clearly! Am I dead or not?

Tut, tut, tut… Always on a short fuse, Elfred Stalwart…

The unseen voice sighed as if addressing a troublesome teen.

Yet despite your troubled past and all your shortcomings, you strive to be good. It’s been quite interesting observing you.

Elfred felt a prickle in his mind, and the blackness enveloping his field of view vanished.

He was five-years-old again; hiding in the dark, dusty, cobwebbed-filled cupboard under the wooden stairs. A woman screamed from the floor above, along with a man’s maddened shouts accompanied by-


Elfred roared into his mind, tearing the memory to shreds and allowing darkness to return. He sensed pity from the unwanted presence within.

What… do you want from me?

demanded, but was met with silence. Moment later…

That. Is what I will soon be asking you.

Elfred’s eyes flicked open.

A beige-painted ceiling came into view. It met a white-colored concrete cornice towards the right, followed by light-brown wallpapered-wall. On the left, a familiar olive-skinned man peered at him from standing height.

“Time to get up.”

Dezmond Alcast bade before turning to resume packing his duffel bag resting on an adjacent bed. Calm and collected would be the best terms to describe the man, with shaved black hair and dark eyes. Though not as tall or as broad-shouldered as Elfred, underestimating him would be a grave mistake. The olive-skinned Aszyrian could carry twice his weight, navigate an obstacle course with the finesse of a mountain lion, and complete a marathon within three hours with enough stamina for another.

“Go get some breakfast. The girls made it this time.”

Another unusual statement from Elfred’s comrade-in-arms. Not regarding the latter, as the team had agreed months ago to alternate cooking responsibilities, but the former. Every day he either woke up first, or soon after someone else.

Am I the last to wake…?

Turning to see two other vacant beds confirmed his internal query. Noting he had less than an hour to get ready, Elfred got off to tidy Though mildly peeved at being last to wake, the twenty-four-year-old Aragonian decided to look on the bright side. At least he had a good night’s rest.

At one point, he recalled experiencing a strange dream involving an unpleasant conversation with an unfamiliar voice. But try as he might, he could not remember any of it.

Deciding not to dwell on frivolous matters, Elfred finished his task and moved towards the dorm’s adjoining toilet to perform his morning routine. As he passed the closed door leading to the hallway connected to the team’s communal area, he noted sounds of cutlery clinking and familiar voices engaged in casual conversation.

A calm, refreshing morning.


Five hours later, as the afternoon sun reached its zenith. Thanks to clear skies, bright sunshine shone all over the valley of Cambreford. Even so, autumn in this region was chilly at best, and freezing cold for the most part.

As for the sixty-three male and female Guardian trainees belonging to the fighting division, they shivered miserably while running in a stretched-out line across hilly terrain outside the city. The source of their misery: identical off-white T-shirts tucked into gray shorts worn by everyone.

Right now only one-tenth of their ten-mile run, which they began thirty minutes ago, remained. Their goal – a white flag on a tall pole – was visible atop a steep hill where a handful of drill instructors waited for their arrival.

Fifteen spots away from the last place, twenty-year-old Aria Windchaser struggled to keep pace. To avoid accidentally biting her tongue due to cold-induced teeth chattering, she kept her spasming jaw clenched. Behind her, three quarters of the remaining stragglers were women as well, with her being the leading female.

Aria’s arms and legs ached from earlier’s warm-up routine – a hundred sit-ups and press-ups. Her fingers had gone numb due to cold. She felt lightheaded from oxygen deprivation. And, running for so long had made her bountiful bouncing chest so sore she wished they could be taken off.

But for all her discomfort, not a hint of complaint rose within. She – and everyone else – had volunteered to attend this fitness routine. Why? To qualify for the toughest combat course available: Ranger training.

Straining her neck upwards to glare at the flag and take an extra large gasp of breath, Aria spied Dezmond halfway up the hill with Elfred half a dozen paces behind him; both among the leading ten runners starting to ascend the hill.

Envy coursed through her. How easy it must be for a man, with less body fat and more muscle mass. They need not worry about making a bloody mess every month, nor concern themselves with its physiological and psychological side-effects.

However, that’s not to say Aria was dissatisfied with being a woman. Despite those setbacks, she also knew and appreciated its perks. For one, she’s allowed to keep her wavy gold-platinum hair long; now tied in a ponytail. She’s also exempted from most heavy-lifting duties, and on several occasions when it’s her turn for night-duty, a guy would volunteer to take hers.

That being said, Aria was far from powerless. Where she lacked in endurance, she makes up in raw upper-body power, excellent core strength, iron-hard knuckles, and unyielding wrists. In other words, her punches hit like a brick wall.

And if she wore her beloved Shard Energy powered gauntlets – right named Rhea and left Lucy – even a foot-thick concrete wall could not stand in her way. Those bronze-colored, hand-and-forearm encompassing gauntlets were presently secured in her locker back at the Guardian headquarters.

Aria soon began the final uphill climb to the finish. Channelling her physical exhaustion and mental frustration into stubborn determination, the Avalonian blonde pressed onward. Her weary thighs groaned in agony as she forced them to rise higher than before, and her numbed calves cried bitter tears as they strained to carry her weight.

Through sheer willpower, she powered on without slowing down. When at last the flag pole’s base came into view, along with the sight of her peers sprawled all over in exhaustion, she barked with relief and surged through the last dozen meters.

Once passing the white pole, Aria’s body decided it was time for a reboot. Her legs continued for several steps before buckling, and she maneuvered her torso to roll back-first onto the cold damp grass, gasping and choking through a dry throat.

She was not the only one. Over half of those who made it earlier was floored like her. Even Dezmond and Elfred were not exempt, the two bent over with hands resting on knees, perspiration bellowing from their wide-open mouths and sweat trickling down their faces.

When the last runner arrived, the call ‘attention’ was barked. Dozens of voices groaned in protest, Aria’s among them, as the trainees pulled themselves up and reformed ranks. Once ready, their drill instructor who stood near the flagpole moved to confront them.

A short and stocky one-eyed man with an unkempt beard, wiry black hair, crooked nose, and missing teeth. Cratos was his name, overseer of the Ranger training program and a member of the program’s first graduating class.

Casting his one eye over the unsteady columns filled with wheezing and wobbling weaklings, the senior Guardian officer scowled.

“Ten mins, boys n’ girls, then another ten miles run!”

He sneered at the renewed groans from wannabe Rangers.

“Quit whining! It’ll be the last un’ for the day!”

Yeah right, you’ve said that twice already…

Aria grumbled to herself and took a deep breath to clear her mind. Gone were the days where she’d stick around one other person throughout training, a guy who’s physically weaker than her in every aspect despite being the leader of their team.

I know he’s not cut out for this, but still. It’s a shame he’s not here.

Aria exhaled, feeling a cramp forming in her chest.

Roland should be in class now. Lucky for him, being nice and cozy indoors learning to become a commissioned officer. I wonder how he’s doing…


Back in the Guardian headquarters in Cambreford, within a classroom walled by dark granite. Two-dozen smartly-dressed, recently-graduated Guardians sat hunched over their test paper. Only one of them wore a simpler uniform worn by trainees, and his name was Roland Ironheart.

And with three minutes left on the clock, Roland flushed with anxiety as he stared at the final question.

Indirect economic coercion... Interior countervalue risk… DIMEF policies… All familiar words, yet when combined made as much sense as mixing mud. Further fuelling his stress were pens scribbling with fervent fury all around him. 

Running a hand through his messy, dirty-blond hair and grasping a handful at its base, the nineteen-year-old Avalonian leader of Team Amethyst struggled to find the logic to obtain an answer. He was almost there when the examiner called ‘stop’, signaling the test’s end.

Letting out a strained sigh, Roland released his pen and waited for the examiner to collect everyone’s paper. Once the order ‘dismissed’ was issued, the till-now silent classroom erupted into sounds of chatting and chairs grating as two-dozen Guardian officers-in-training rose from their seats and made their way out.

After gathering his things, Roland followed suit.

“Hei, Roland. How’d you do?”

A friendly and confident voice called, belonging to one Victoria Chaser. Inches shorter than Elfred and half-a-hand taller than Roland, the silver-blonde woman approached to walk with him out of the classroom to their next lesson.

“Not too good, I couldn’t answer the last question.”

“Ah. Oh well, don’t worry about it. It’s just a chapter review so make sure to revise it properly before the real exam.”

“Yeah, I will. Thanks.”

Roland found it difficult to meet the woman’s alluring cyan eyes, who regarded his light-blue ones without hesitation. She was his only acquaintance out of the two-dozen officer cadets, for several reasons.

First. He’s the only one among them still a trainee, meaning all of them were seniors he recognized by face but not by association.

Second. As a result of the first, most of his fellow cadets regarded him poorly, a sentiment he’s constantly reminded of as one pair muttered none-too-discreetly from the side.

“Hei, here comes 'Lord' Ironheart.”

“Can’t believe he’s here after he and his team went AWOL.”

“I heard they assaulted civilians and committed thefts in Aszyria. It’s insane they only got suspended leave…!”

Roland grimaced. Despite those events occurring and concluding months ago, rumors of his team’s exploits continued to float, dissipate and regurgitate; each time evolving further to generate more fantastical tales. However, none of them made any attempt at denying or clarifying anything since they were ordered to remain mute regarding the whole affair.

“Uhuh. Not only that, he’s not even doing the tryouts for Ranger training. No wonder they say he’s the weakest fellow in his cohort.”

Roland reddened at the insult he often heard but could not refute. Indeed, he was weaker, slower, and less agile than everyone else in his cohort.

“Makes no sense how he became a team leader. Or why he’s here, despite being a trainee.”

“It’s his name. Who’d dare say no to a son of the great General Iron-”

“Are you two done?”

Victoria snapped, cyan eyes sharpening at the two officer-cadets, both of whom she knew by name. They paused, turned and recoiled at the hostility in her gaze and tone.

“Both of you are suggesting our superiors committed nepotism. Would you be willing to take those accusations to an inquiry hearing?”

Her intentionally loud voice carried, causing many to pause and turn to witness the commotion. In the face all of this unwanted attention, the two cadets flustered.

“Uh… We weren’t really…”

“And there’s no reason why Roland, a trainee, can’t be assigned officer training! If you don’t like it, why don’t you complain to the commander?”

At the mention of the word ‘commander’, the two cadets blanched.

Their commander-in-chief, decorated general and Aragonian war veteran Bartholomew Bealus, held the official rank of ‘marshal of the Guardian Organization’s armed-forces’. The next person above him would be Gandalin Minstral, director of the Guardian Organization.

“No… Erm, we apologize for being rude.”

“Yeah… sorry…”

Both cadets apologized to Roland in turn, yet their chastened demeanor contained shadows of malcontent.

As for the third reason why Roland was regarded poorly, it was because Victoria Chaser – an ace of her cohort and a popular figure among trainees and recently-graduated Guardians – was romantically involved with him.


Somewhere within the center of the Guardian headquarters, within a ground-floor chamber capable of holding hundreds of standing individuals. Though walled, floored and roofed by concrete, the walls and ceiling were coated with porous sound-dampening rubber.

Why? To contain the racket generated by Alsius Aurelius, executive secretary of the Guardians with the title ‘Proctor of Research and Archive’, and the director’s personal assistant.

Clad in a long-sleeved white blouse with pleated cuffs, knee-length black pencil skirt, and heeled boots, the woman with braided light-blond hair stood at one end of the chamber with one hand clasped over the other behind her back. From there, she hurled a barrage of fist-sized rubber balls against a blue-outlined spherical barrier on the other side.

Now one might be wondering. How could she be hurling rubber balls when her hands were figuratively tied behind her back? The answer: Shard Energy.

Shard Energy. An invisible, intangible force generated by all living creatures except Beasts. However, only a fraction of the human population – called Shard Energy users – could utilize it through Shard crystals; minerals mined from deep underground containing fossilized Shard Energy.

Indeed. Within the Alsius’ closed right palm, a white Shard crystal glowed with such blinding intensity it glowed through her hand. Tapping into the crystal’s energy reserves and manipulating it using an innate ability only Shard Energy users knew how, the rubber balls responded to her every will.

That being said, she was not hurling them randomly. Every rubber ball flew exactly where she wanted, and struck the precise place desired with a specific amount of force intended. As such, she attacked the spherical barrier from every possible angle, probing it for weakness. Her lips formed a thin smile of satisfaction upon finding none.

While continuing with such masterful skill that seemed almost unbelievable, Alsius announced.

“I shall now be increasing the intensity, trainees. Prepare yourselves!”

Huddled within the defensive sphere, seven trainees – each carrying a smaller Shard crystal – struggled to hold back Alsius’ escalating bombardment. Though each of them was capable of shielding themselves against such low-impact projectiles, this time they focused on generating a single barrier encompassing everyone.

A task easier said than done, as each individual’s Shard Energy manipulation was as unique as their handwriting. It would have been easier to have them paint a wall blindfolded and expect every square-inch to be double-coated. As such, every one of them grappled to synergize their efforts, marked by furrowed brows and clenched jaws.

One trainee, Jemma Elizabeth Richards, resisted the urge to wipe away a bead of sweat trailing near her eye. Besides maintaining her portion of the barrier, she – being in charge this time – had to supervise and coordinate her team.

Sensing weakening sections within the barrier, her crystal blue eyes darted about to observe parts of the shield yielding to Alsius’s barrage.

“Rhea, you need to focus! Your segments are caving in!”

“I-I’m… I’m trying!”

The other woman gasped in reply, her expression panicky. Clicking her tongue with exasperation, Jemma focused and pressed her mind into the fray.

Forcing her consciousness into the segments under Rhea’s control, the nineteen-year-old Atlantian brunette drew forth the Shard Energy inside her crystal. After it into the desired shape and form, she layered it over Rhea’s like plaster. Within seconds, those segments stabilized.

Noticing Alsius directing a tiny nod her way, Jemma allowed herself to huff with pride. At the same time, a tinge of wistful loneliness crept into her.

If Irene were here, this exercise would a piece of cake. Most problems relating to manipulating Shard Energy became so whenever that girl was involved.

Though then again, Jemma would rather do a cartwheel – which she can’t – than attend Irene’s specialty training. Not because it’s particularly complicated, but because she’s incapable of handling anything gorier than a slab of steak.


Several miles away from the Guardian headquarters, within Cambreford’s central business district.

Populated by numerous skyscrapers – some over thirty floors tall – the city center bustled with activity. Since the working day was reaching its end, the mood was frantic as everyone hurried to complete their day’s tasks.

As a result of this rushed hour, no one noticed a lithe Aszyrian woman scaling one of the taller buildings from its shadowed corner-side.

Clad in gloves, shoes, and overalls identical in color to the red-bricked building, nineteen-year-old Norah Dust climbed; hugging both sides of the right-angled building corner. To better blend-in, she hid her chin-length black hair under a red toque. Thus, if she remained still, a casual observer would most likely fail to recognize her as a person three-quarters of the way up the building.

Despite being a long way from the ground, Norah felt a rush of exhilaration.

Though the fiasco in Aszyria ended four months ago, she remained embroiled in assisting the Guardians’ investigations against her former guild. Being witness, providing testimonies, identifying individuals, she did all those and more; all under witness protection, of course.

And now that her role in the matter was over, she was free – both figuratively and literally.

Even so, Norah felt her muscles trembling more than expected, and her grip weaker than normal. Strange, she hadn’t neglected her routine exercises during the four months, so why was she struggling?

A sudden unpleasant scrape of chest against brick reminded her why. Her upper-torso region had developed, meaning extra dead-weight. Wondering whether she should bind them using cloth, Norah continued climbing with un-vigilance until a window mere feet to her right slid open without warning.

Her heart clenched in a manner she hadn’t felt in months. She froze, waiting.

Something flicked, followed by a short pause. At last, someone exhaled, and a cloud of smoke bellowed out of the window.

“Ahhh… Can’t wait to clock out. At least I’m allowed to smoke wherever I like outside.”

An unseen man’s voice uttered, and a sleeved forearm holding a lit cigarette landed on the windowsill. Such was its close proximity that when a gentle breeze wafted by, a piece of burning ash broke off from the tip, flew into and singed Norah’s cheek.

“Not for long. The governor mentioned introducing a ban on smoking in all public spaces.”

Another unseen man’s voice replied nearby.

“What!? Then where are smokers supposed to go?”

“There are smoking rooms.”

“Urgh, what a drag! It feels like stepping into a gas chamber.”

A tiny pause, enough time for one to shrug.

“Guardian policy. They claimed smoking in public affects others nearby.”

The cigarette-wielding forearm retreated from sight. After another cycle of inhaling and exhaling, it returned to the accompanied by a new cloud of smoke. While holding her breath, Norah squinted to prevent her eyes from watering.

“I don’t like it. It feels like the Guardians are sticking their noses into everything. Don’t you think so?”

No reply.

Come on, you can't not think so after what they did in Aszyria? They arrested a commissioner by force! If they can do that, who knows what they’ll do next!?”

 “… I think-”

The sound of an opening door cut short the second man’s response.

“Hei, what are you guys- you can’t smoke in this lounge!”

Norah observed the sleeved forearm tossing away the cigarette before withdrawing.

“W-what are you talking about? I was just getting fresh air!”

Utilizing this distraction, Norah resumed climbing, soon leaving the heated voices behind. As for her thoughts regarding that conversation, it went along the lines of:

Compared to her previous employer and biological father, the Guardians were saints. If it weren’t for the Guardian Organization, a former assassin like her wouldn’t be living here in peace. As such, while she couldn’t vouch for every member of the multi-national peacekeeping organization, she trusted its director and her seven teammates without reservation.

A minute later, Norah hauled herself over a ledge onto a flat rooftop. Save for a small brick shed connecting the roof and the building via a door, the place was empty. From here, she had a prime view of the surrounding landscape.

Cambreford’s reputation as a modern, multi-ethnic metropolis was well-deserved. In addition to incorporating architectural designs from each nation, the city was organized into neat square blocks, each surrounded by wide asphalt concrete roads with smaller ones snaking in between.

Numerous automobiles and stagecoaches drove along the black roads. They queued in orderly lines, moved stopped or slowed depending which bulb was lit at each tri-colored lampposts, and followed a host of other signs. A massive difference compared to the rest of Raetrethra, where animal-driven vehicles were still common.

Turning to the side granted her a clear view of the Guardian headquarters.

Situated close to the central business district and surrounded by commercial and residential blocks, the multi-national peacekeeping organization’s headquarters consisted of a handful of interconnecting structures surrounded by various types of open land; all surrounded by a tall black metal fence.

Before she could identify each structure, the single door to the rooftop opened behind her.

“Ah! You’re here already?”

A familiar flamboyant voice greeted with surprise. A one-year-younger Norah would’ve reacted with cold indignance. This older one, however, turned to reply with-

“Is that how a latecomer to a meeting they organized should be acting, Nemo?”

The tallest among Team Amethyst and second oldest after Elfred, Nemo Westport could be summarized in two words: tall and lean. A sheepish smirk forming on his thin face, the Atlantian dipped his auburn-haired head in apology.

"I beg your pardon for being tardy. T'was quite a challenge fooling the receptionist into believing I’m an intern. And I was interrupted by a charming yet perceptive manager down-”

“You mean you got distracted.”

Norah’s counter caused Nemo’s smirk to shift into a wide, unabashed grin. Taking a quick look at his attire, she remarked.

“Nice outfit, detective.”

“Why thank you. As they say, clothes make the man. Though personally, I prefer something more casual.”

Nemo shrugged, the corner of his mouth tilted in amusement. Indeed clad in a black-colored, custom-tailored two-piece suit over a long-sleeved white shirt and branded dark leather shoes, he looked more like a CEO than a Guardian trainee assigned to the city’s detective bureau.

Closing the door behind him, he moved join Norah in viewing city landscape under the glow of a setting sun.

“Ah. No matter how many times I’ve seen this sight, tis’ still stunning. How does everyone fare in my absence?”

Norah sought a kinder answer to his query, but found none.

“… Fine.”

Appal crossed Nemo’s demeanor.

“Oh, lo and behold! To think my existence is so insignificant that mere weeks being absent is enough to erase all longing for my presence!”

His melodrama elicited an amused snort from his single audience. He’s better suited to being an actor than an agent of the law.

“So? Why did you call me here?”

The Atlantian’s demeanor altered to take on an innocent mien.

“Can’t I meet my compatriot in reconnaissance?”

“Of course you can. However, that doesn’t mean there’s no ulterior motive involved.”

A delighted chuckle escaped Nemo at her swift rebuttal.

"Alright, you've got me! Very well then... In a nutshell, I would like you to help me with a case I’m currently investigating.”

Hearing the Atlantian announce his intentions in such plain terms made Norah pause. Though his attitude remained carefree, she knew internally he felt anything but.

“What exactly is this case?”

Instead of answering, Nemo reached into his suit to retrieve a folded piece of paper and offered it to her. Gaze switching between him and the paper, Norah accepted and unfolded it.

Over two dozen faces, all young and mostly girls, were printed in color on the single page. Along with their names, physical descriptions, last-seen date, and last-known location.

“Missing children?”

“Kidnapped. Without any ransom given. These children were simply never seen again.”

Two seconds passed.

“Human trafficking.”

Norah murmured, bitter disgust washing through her.

“Aye. From what I’ve garnered, more than one group is committing these heinous crimes. What’s more, I suspect the ‘Sons of Akkad’ is involved.”

Norah frowned at the mention of that religious group, which originated in Aszyria centuries ago and had since spread all over Raetrethra.

Ranging from ordinary citizens to fanatical extremists, its members believed two doctrines: everything in existence was created by a divine being named Akkad, and that in order to reach paradise in the afterlife one must worship this divine being and carry out its will.

To that end, the cult-like religion had gained notoriety for committing civil disobedience, with a significant number of extremists partaking in outright criminal activities for the ‘glory’ of their faith.

“So? Can you help me bring down these scum and prevent more children from falling victim?”

Nemo asked, his tone neutral yet clearly expecting a certain answer.

“I… I don’t know.”

Nemo’s demeanor did not shift in the wake of her response, but the air did.

“Don’t be mistaken. I want to help. However… I have been offered another assignment.”

In an instant, the uncomfortable mood vanished.

“Ah… I apologize for asking the impossible.”

Though he did not ask, Nemo’s curiosity regarding her ‘new assignment’ was palpable.

“Foreign Service.”

Those two words caused the lanky Atlantian’s brows to shoot up, and he whistled in awe.

“Being groomed to become Aszyria’s next commissioner?”

Both of them thought of Aszyria’s previous commissioner and snorted in amusement.

“I don’t know why they chose me, whose background is sabotage and assassination.”

Norah remarked. Nemo shrugged in response.

“And I, a freelance fencer, am now a detective. We’ve come a long way from what we were a year ago, little red riding hood.”

Besides glowering at the mention of her nickname, Norah did not retort. A quiet hush descended as both reconnaissance members of Team Amethyst observed the city that had become their second home. A chilled breeze tickled her nose, and she fought to keep her teeth from chattering.

“Fine. I’ll help you.”

Norah declared.

“Oh? What brought about this change of heart?”

“… Personal reasons.”

Despite her reticent response, Nemo understood. Though not equal by any means, her circumstance as a child raised to murder was not so different from being kidnapped and trafficked like cattle. The same was true for him, however that’s a tale for another time.

As he considered what to reply, a sight from far away caught his attention.

“Little red riding hood?”

“… What?”

“Do you remember, about two weeks ago, an airship took off from headquarters on a classified mission? Do you remember anything about it?”

Norah frowned while browsing her memories before answering.

“An R-3 Long Range Surveillance Airship (R3-LRSA), serial number 41-24485. No special markings. Six crew and one senior Guardian named Wynstal whom we met in Aszyria. Why?”


Following Nemo’s arm and finger, Norah identified a critically damaged blimp limping towards the city from the East.

Numerous crimps and patched-over spots across the gas-filled balloon spoke of the terrible hardships it suffered. Even the Gondola, with all its windows shattered and dented everywhere, looked as if it had been battered by giant clubs. It looked ready to drop out of the sky at any moment.

“It’s returned.”

Submitted: February 18, 2018

© Copyright 2021 AJLKS. All rights reserved.


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