Quest for the Treasure, Chapter 11

Fiction By Jackie West // 9/3/2010

The crew marched off in lines of two. Breanna found herself in the last pair with Jaza, who did nothing to bring up the events of the previous day.

“So, Brea, do you want to be my apprentice or not?” she asked.

Breanna recalled Jaza’s gift as the Master of Disguise. “Yeah, sure. When do we start?” she asked inquiringly.

“Soon,” Jaza said. “Maybe when this fighting business is cleared up.” She jerked her head in Jason’s direction.

 

Matt found himself with Jarein.

“Do you have an idea of where we’re going?” he asked.

“No.” Jarein shrugged. Jason never really has a destination in mind. He just wants adventure in the place he calls home.

“Like with those recent incidents,” Matt said.

“Kinda,” Jarein said. “If it catches his eye, you can almost guarantee that he’ll be caught up in it.”

“Why does he do all the fighting?” Matt wondered.

“He’s the leader,” Jarein answered, shrugging again. “It does make sense.”

“If Jason couldn’t-or wouldn’t- fight, who would?” Matt wondered.

“Cien,” Jarein replied. “If not Cien, Breanna. If not Breanna, me. After that..it’s basically anyone who would step forward and do it, knowing that they could die.”

“How come Breanna is in the fourth command if she’s older than you an’ nearly everyone else?” Matt wondered. “She’s been in this crew longer than almost anyone else, and Cien and Jason are the only people older than her.”

Jarein got an almost mischievous look on his face. “She’s a girl.”

“So?” Matt said. “My only sister was the oldest sibling in my family. Then there’s me and my two little brothers.”

Jarein only shook his head.

“Raen!” Jason called.

Raen came trotting back to the group. “Yeah, Jason?”

“Find that path out of the backwoods,” Jason ordered.

Raen raised an eyebrow at the odd-sounding request, but hurried off obediently.

Cien almost spoke up to question Jason’s order, but then wisely decided not to.

“What’s cookin’?” Marya asked Cien from the third line from the back.

“Jason is going somewhere because he feels like it,” Cien replied. “Out of the woods, for that matter!”

“Is he insane?” Marya exclaimed. “He’s never done that before, and besides, there’s war brewin’ out there that we shouldn’t get mixed up in!”

“He must be wanting an early death,” Cien said.

“I heard that!” Jason called back.

“Whatever,” Marya muttered.

They were sitting around a campfire that evening when a clump of nearby bushes rustled. Everyone ignored it.

“Ready to die, kidnapper?” came a nasty voice.

“Yeah, but how about you?” Jason shot back.

The bushes parted and Jaazaniah emerged. He had shed all but his sword and its sheath, and was dressed in jeans, a t-shirt, and a vest.

“You,” Jaazaniah said, pointing his sword at Jason’s crew, “can give an early welcome to your new chief.” He then pointed at Jason. “His grave marker can be the memorial of an epic fight.

Jason’s crew shot back at his speech.

“Hah! It’ll be your grave marker as the memorial, pal.”

“Pal? Yeah, RIGHT!”

“We’ll gladly say an early goodbye to our ‘new chief’!”

Snickers rippled through the group at the comments. But this only made Jaazaniah more furious.

“If your leader is too cowardly to face me, anyone else want to die?” he sneered.

Cien stood slowly, drew his sword, and pointed it at Jaazaniah.

“No one would be foolish enough to call our leader a coward,” he said evenly, though his eyes were flashing. “If you wish to let him live, how about you take on me instead? I’m one of the best fighters on this crew,” he challenged.

“Yes, I take the challenge, gladly lessening this coward’s crew. “Jaazaniah put a satisfied look on his face. “I’ll take on anyone in this crew. “I could probably kill you all off if I got the chance.”

“That chance,” Cien said, walking toward his opponent, “will never come. Any of us would make sure of that.”

Shouts of agreement reached his ears.

“Now,” Cien said, gripping his sword, “are you ready?”

In answer, Jaazaniah whipped his sword out of its sheath. “As ready as you are!”

 

The fight began!

 

 

“This is it!” Nadezda thought. “I’m dead!”

Then all of a sudden, the hissing stopped.

Bewildered, Nadezda opened her eyes and looked around. The snakes were wriggling off as fast as they could, leaving Nadezda and the baby unharmed.

“Get up. And please hurry.”

Nadezda turned, surprised. She saw a huge, silvery-white, winged horse, with a passenger astride its back. He beckoned to Nadezda.

The horse lowered itself. The lean, strong passenger helped them aboard. “We have to hurry,” he said. “There is still more to be done.

The horse flew up to a huge black hole.

“I think that the snakes are delivered through this hole,” he said. “And, by the way, my name is Jaremiah.”

Nadezda introduced herself. She did not really want to know how Jaremiah had found her.

 

They landed in the woods near the boulder.

“Try to hide,” Jaremiah whispered.

Then a voice crackled through Pegasus’ portable radio.

“Pegasus, you don’t think you could come and help, do you?”

Pegasus snickered and neighed. He glanced at Jaremiah, who came over and spoke into the radio.

“I’m coming in.”

“What are you talking about!?” David replied.

“Details later. I’m out.” Jaremiah turned off the radioand hurried away. Pegasus followed at a slow pace.

Nadezda hid herself and the baby in a nearby clump of bushes to wait. And wait. And wait...

Nadezda woke when she heard a voice.

“Nadezda! Hurry, come on!”

Nadezda dashed out with the baby in her arms. Jaremiah hurried them onto Pegasus. “Ladies and children first!” he said.

Valora, Farren, and Dacinia were also put aboard. David climbed on and Pegasus took off.

“What about the others?” Farren yelled as the air whooshed by them.

“They’re going on foot!” David called back. “We’ll see them in a few days!”

 

“Keep going!” David told the escapees. “I’ll come soon!”

As they rushed off, David prepared to defend himself. When the first opponents appeared on the scene, he started zapping them off. He had just finished dealing with a couple dozen enemies when a full fledged army charged at him. He drew his sword and charged.

Then Jaremiah arrived. He drew his two swords and started fighting. David zapped electricity with one hand and skillfully handled his sword with the other.

They continued wreaking havoc until the last enemies fled. Then they. hurried off.

Nadezda awoke when sunbeams hit her face. She sat up and looked around. The others who had ridden with her her were asleep, all except for David, who was pacing impatiently. He looked up and saw her, and pointed to a bunch of bushes at the edge of the clearing they were resting in.

“Blackberries. Help yourself,” he said, resuming his pacing.

After eating all they wanted of the berries, they set off again on Pegasus. They arrived at the Nolay residence early the next morning. They were hurried inside, while David restocked his supplies and flew off again, arriving at the boulder two days later. He rested, sharpened his sword, and went to the boulder. A guard stepped forward.

“Who are ya? What’re you doing here?”

“That’s none of yer business,” David said. “I came to talk to your leader.”

“How’d you find out about him?” the guard said.

“I heard about him,” David said, drawing his sword and pointing it at the guard. “Quit the questions and take me to ‘im.”

The guard decided not to continue. “C’mon.” He pushed the boulder aside and beckoned for David to follow him.

David trailed after the guard, taking in all he could, acting like he had never been there before.

The guard pointed to a door. “That’s the Pit o’ Doom. Full o’ snakes.” He grinned evilly. “A slip’ry prisoner fell in d’other day. Dead by now, methinks.”

David made a noise that sounded like a mix of a snicker and a pig snort. “Really?”

“Yeah. Tryin’ to save some momma’s baby. What a waste of time.”

They finally arrived at Ulysses’ bedchamber. The guard departed, and David knocked.

Ulysses, assuming it was a guard, growled, “Come in.”

David opened the door and strode in. “Need any more men?”

Ulysses stared at him.

This guy must be twice as old as I am, David thought, inwardly grinning. “Well? I’m a good fighter.”

“Well, even the best can be defeated, can’t they?” Ulysses returned, drawing his sword as he stood up. “You fight me, then you fight the best in my army.”

David unsheathed his sword and they began to fight. He knew some good moves. He dodged around, avoiding Ulysses’ sword point, until Ulysses got tired. Then he started lashing out. After a while, Ulysses gave up.

“You blew by me,” he said, “but wait until you fight against my best man. I admit, he’s much better than I am.” He grinned slyly.

“Who’s that?” David asked.

“Oh, just someone we call Iron Muscle,” Ulysses said, leaning back on his throne. “How about a staring contest?”

“Oh, sure,” David answered. He faced Ulysses.

The contest began. After a while, Ulysses was wondering why David was not under submission to his power.

David was enjoying the contest. He had put up his invisible electric shield and was able to hold off his opponent’s stare.

A puzzled Ulysses finally declared a tie. “We’ll call Iron Muscle and eat.” He pressed some buttons.

Soon, some trays arrived, and so did Iron Muscle a little while later. The trio ate together, and the trays were cleared away.

David noted that Iron Muscle was slim, yet had plenty of muscle in his limbs and, though he was often very sure of himself, David was more doubtful than anything. “Does he have special powers?” he whispered to Ulysses.

“Yep, and he’ll use them,” Ulysses answered.

OK, David thought. Then I’ll be able to use mine. I wonder what surprises this guy has up his sleeve.

“You ready, pipsqueak?” Iron Muscle growled impatiently.

“Pipsqueak yourself,” David returned.

“You ready?” Ulysses said. “Go!”

David missed Iron Muscle with his first ice shot. Iron Muscle gave him handshot viper gas, which David repelled with a protective electric shield.

Then, unsuspectedly, Iron Muscle made a miniature bomb appear on his hand. He threw it on David, who immediately extinguished with ice. Ignoring the hot pain, David threw electricity on his opponent and stunned him.

Ulysses hid his surprise. “You, man, are so on my side. My father couldn’t have made a better choice! We’ll start you off as a guard.” He handed a paper to David.

David waited for a guard escort to the bunk room. The escort who arrived was the one who had shown him to Ulysses’ bedchamber. The guard and Ulysses conversed in whispers for a while, then Ulysses dismissed him.

In the bunk room, David settled on a bunk and scanned the paper. He stopped in surprise when he saw the names Zircon, Ruby, Sapphire, and Opal Praen.

Amethyst’s sisters!

 

Back at the Nolay residence, the travelers rested before they set off again. The girls hung out with Andromeda and Cassiopeia, while the boys got weapon practice with Perseus, and tips on good fighting with all kinds of weapons.

Then they set off again. Farren read their most recent riddle that they had received:

 

Continue on the path of brown,

Beware the dark ones five done,

Meet the one by light found,

And with him go; he is the one!

Go to the IOX,

Drop your guide,

Travel on to drail paths thrice,

In the brave one then confide.

 

“Well, now we are aware of the dark ones,” Sanole said, setting his eyes on the path ahead.

“Where are ya all goin’?” Lewis asked.

“Treasure questing,” Nadezda answered.

“Alright, bring me back to the place we stayed at. I ain’t getting’ killed questin’ for some dumb treasure,” Lewis demanded.

“Sorry, Lew,” Zanorm answered. “It’s kinda late now. You can stay at some place where we stop or something like that.”

Lewis pouted, but stayed silent.

Nadezda told her story, and her companions told theirs. Then they listened to Lewis’ story.

“I had a brother and three sisters,” Lewis said. “They disappeared when I was a toddler, and soon after that, my parents were accused of being spies and were thrown into Ulysses’ prison. My mother died a few days later, and my dad was executed just before I escaped because he stopped working due to exhaustion. I saw him die.”

“What did your dad do?”Farren asked.

Lewis’ face looked puzzled. “I dunno. I was confined to our cell. He had to do hard work to gain Ulysses’ favor again, which never happened.”

“Do you remember the names of your siblings?”Sanole asked.

“My brother was Najaen,” Lewis answered, “and my sisters were Brenna, Caeron, and Daier.”

They continued chatting until they stopped for lunch, which was prepared relatively quietly, then picked up as they sat down to a meal of fresh fruit and cheese.

Then they heard low voices. The bushes across the clearing parted and two men emerged.

 

Cien was very experienced and skilled. He had joined Jason’s crew as soon as he was able to, then being a very good fighter. Now, he was even better, which Jaazaniah soon discovered as the fight progressed.

As their swords flashed around the clearing, Jaazaniah began to regret ever having challenged his enemy’s crew. After a while, he gave up and fled, seeming not to care, but his hate for his enemy’s crew growing with every passing second.

He soon burst into another clearing where his own gang had settled for the night. He was second-in-command there. His older brother, Jaziah, who was 21, got to his feet.

“One o’ them just creamed me!” he burst out. “They don’t know I have a gang. Let’s attack ‘em and kill ‘em tonight!”

“No, no, no,” Jaziah said firmly. “Chill out, Jaazaniah. If one guy creamed you, how would you like him and his pals to be sticking their blades in us?”

Jaazaniah sat down grumpily beside the campfire. “What if they find us and kill us?”

“That’s a better problem to consider.” Jaziah tossed his little brother some food and sat on a rock some distance away.

A girl known to everyone as Dayaera whispered to her male companion Xaerien, “Don’t expect him to be calm for long. His blood is full o’ fire!” They turned to talk to their other companions.

Jaazaniah talked with his brother.

“Learn anythin’ at all?” Jaziah asked.

“Jaza’s with ‘em, that’s what!” Jaazaniah blurted.

The rest of the crew turned and stared openmouthed at him.

“What?” said a younger crew member whose name was Jami.

“Well, you aren’t always one to tell the tr-“ Jaziah began, stopping abruptly when Jaazaniah elbowed him.

“Hey!”

Everyone burst out laughing at the look on Jaazaniah’s face.

“Alright, alright!” Jaziah said.

The rest of the crew turned away to talk.

“Boy, the look on his face was priceless!” a 15 year old named Jaeryah laughed.

“Yeah, it was,” said Kyraen, imitating the look with his sister, Carien. The inseparable pair were the crew’s comedians. The action set them all laughing again.

“You were saying....?” Jaziah gestured for Jaazaniah to continue.

“Jaza’s with ‘em,” Jaazaniah repeated. “Really. If you don’t believe me, come an’ see.”

He lead his brother to the clearing where Jason’s crew was situated. Jaza, Dan, and Marya were on guard duty. A single torch blazed from where it was stuck in the ground.

“See?” Jaazaniah said.

“Shh!” Jaziah cautioned.

The guard trio looked in their direction, then set their gaze elsewhere and continued talking in low voices.

Dan whispered something to his fellow guards, and they grinned. They kept wandering around the clearing and chatting. Soon level with Jaziah’s and Jaazaniah’s hiding place, they whirled in and grabbed the pair.

“What are you doing here?” Dan demanded as he gripped Jaziah’s arm.

“Nothing,” Jaziah said, freeing his arm and pushing Dan away.

Then Dan noticed that Jaazaniah and Jaza were gone. “Hey, where’s our friend?” he growled. “If you’ve kidnapped her...”

Jaziah sped off into the darkness.

Dan whispered something to Marya, who nodded and went to the tent.

The crew quietly and quickly took down their camp, while raen went to scout out the path they would take and keep an eye on Jaziah’s crew. The second best scout, Jarein, stayed to guide the rest.

They loaded up and set off after Jarein. They soon spotted Raen, who beckoned to them. He pointed to an empty clearing.

“There are fresh ashes from a recent campfire,” Raen said. “The footprints here are fresh, too. They left in a big rush.”

They set off after the kidnappers.

 

When Jaziah reached the camp, everyone was hurriedly getting ready to leave. Jaazaniah had tied Jaza to a tree so that she couldn’t escape.

“Some brothers,” she muttered to herself. “Kidnapping their own sister.” She yelled aloud, “What’s the point, kidnapping me?” She kicked Jaazaniah went by.

“We’ve been trying to find you for years,” Jaazaniah said. “We didn’t kidnap you, we rescued you from your kidnappers. But if you prove to be worthless, we can always do away with ya...” He jumped out of reach of Jaza’s leg.

“I challenge you to a fight!” Jaza shot back angrily. “When I am free, I will kill you!”

“Just you try, little sis,” Jaazaniah snorted. “It’ll be your dead body that they find.”

“All the same, I challenge you,” Jaza said. “You’ll see what 3½ years on my crew has toughened me.”

Jaazaniah stuck his face in Jaza’s. “Oh yeah?” he growled. “You’re a girl. I’ve been using real weapons for twice as long as you have.”

Jaziah came up and pushed his brother away from Jaza. “Stop botherin’ her, kid, and help load up. We gotta get outta here!”

They went off.

Jaza suddenly stiffened when she heard a voice, relaxing only when she knew it was Raen.

“Jaza, it’s me, Raen. You’ll escape soon, we’ll make sure of it. It’d just too dangerous right now.”

“I can’t wait,” Jaza whispered back. “When I get to that brother of mine, that rat Jaazaniah, he’s going to be sorry!”

“I understand, but more time for that later!” Raen slipped away.

Jaziah helped Jaazaniah get Jaza ready to go. Jaza was calm, feeling that Raen was right.

Jaziah’s crew went off in a close group. Jaza was closely guarded in the middle.

Jason’s crew slipped quickly and silently through the dark forest after Raen and Jarein. When Jaziah’s crew came into sight, they fanned out and closed in on them, trapping them easily.

“Release my follower!” Jason ordered, drawing his sword and pressing it into Jaziah’s neck.

Jaziah had no choice if he did not want to die. “Let ‘er go.”

Jaeryah cut the ropes, and Jaza pushd her way through to Jason’s crew. “Jason,” she said, “clear everyone to the sides of the clearing, please. Jaazaniah and I have a fight to be done.”

Jaziah and Jason ordered their crew back.

“You’d better not kill me,” Jaazaniah said as he took his sword in hand.

“Oh, don’t worry, I’ll only mostly kill you.” Jaza smiled sweetly at him, but she had a dangerous glint in her eye.

“Go!” Jason shouted. 

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Chapter 6

 

 

   The crew marched off in lines of two. Breanna found herself in the last pair with Jaza, who did nothing to bring up the events of the previous day.

     “So, Brea, do you want to be my apprentice or not?” she asked.

     Breanna recalled Jaza’s gift as the Master of Disguise. “Yeah, sure. When do we start?” she asked inquiringly.

     “Soon,” Jaza said. “Maybe when this fighting business is cleared up.” She jerked her head in Jason’s direction.

 

     Matt found himself with Jarein.

     “Do you have an idea of where we’re going?” he asked.

    “No.” Jarein shrugged. Jason never really has a destination in mind. He just wants adventure in the place he calls home.

   “Like with those recent incidents,” Matt said.

   “Kinda,” Jarein said. “If it catches his eye, you can almost guarantee that he’ll be caught up in it.”

   “Why does he do all the fighting?” Matt wondered.

   “He’s the leader,” Jarein answered, shrugging again. “It does make sense.”

   “If Jason couldn’t-or wouldn’t- fight, who would?” Matt wondered.

   “Cien,” Jarein replied. “If not Cien, Breanna. If not Breanna, me. After that..it’s basically anyone who would step forward and do it, knowing that they could die.”

   “How come Breanna is in the fourth command if she’s older than you an’ nearly everyone else?” Matt wondered. “She’s been in this crew longer than almost anyone else, and Cien and Jason are the only people older than her.”

   Jarein got an almost mischievous look on his face. “She’s a girl.”

   “So?” Matt said. “My only sister was the oldest sibling in my family. Then there’s me and my two little brothers.”

    Jarein only shook his head.

   

   “Raen!” Jason called.

   Raen came trotting back to the group. “Yeah, Jason?”

   “Find that path out of the backwoods,” Jason ordered.

   Raen raised an eyebrow at the odd-sounding request, but hurried off obediently.

   Cien almost spoke up to question Jason’s order, but then wisely decided not to.

   “What’s cookin’?” Marya asked Cien from the third line from the back.

   “Jason is going somewhere because he feels like it,” Cien replied. “Out of the woods, for that matter!”

   “Is he insane?” Marya exclaimed. “He’s never done that before, and besides, there’s war brewin’ out there that we shouldn’t get mixed up in!”

   “He must be wanting an early death,” Cien said.

   “I heard that!” Jason called back.

   “Whatever,” Marya muttered.

  

   They were sitting around a campfire that evening when a clump of nearby bushes rustled. Everyone ignored it.

   “Ready to die, kidnapper?” came a nasty voice.

   “Yeah, but how about you?” Jason shot back.

   The bushes parted and Jaazaniah emerged. He had shed all but his sword and its sheath, and was dressed in jeans, a t-shirt, and a vest.

   “You,” Jaazaniah said, pointing his sword at Jason’s crew, “can give an early welcome to your new chief.” He then pointed at Jason. “His grave marker can be the memorial of an epic fight.

   Jason’s crew shot back at his speech.

   “Hah! It’ll be your grave marker as the memorial, pal.”

   “Pal? Yeah, RIGHT!”

   “We’ll gladly say an early goodbye to our ‘new chief’!”

   Snickers rippled through the group at the comments. But this only made Jaazaniah more furious.

   “If your leader is too cowardly to face me, anyone else want to die?” he sneered.

   Cien stood slowly, drew his sword, and pointed it at Jaazaniah.

   “No one would be foolish enough to call our leader a coward,” he said evenly, though his eyes were flashing. “If you wish to let him live, how about you take on me instead? I’m one of the best fighters on this crew,” he challenged.

   “Yes, I take the challenge, gladly lessening this coward’s crew. “Jaazaniah put a satisfied look on his face. “I’ll take on anyone in this crew. “I could probably kill you all off if I got the chance.”

   “That chance,” Cien said, walking toward his opponent, “will never come. Any of us would make sure of that.”

   Shouts of agreement reached his ears.

   “Now,” Cien said, gripping his sword, “are you ready?”

   In answer, Jaazaniah whipped his sword out of its sheath. “As ready as you are!”

 

  The fight began!

 

 

    “This is it!” Nadezda thought. “I’m dead!”

    Then all of a sudden, the hissing stopped.

    Bewildered, Nadezda opened her eyes and looked around. The snakes were wriggling off as fast as they could, leaving Nadezda and the baby unharmed.

    “Get up. And please hurry.”

    Nadezda turned, surprised. She saw a huge, silvery-white, winged horse, with a passenger astride its back. He beckoned to Nadezda.

    The horse lowered itself. The lean, strong passenger helped them aboard. “We have to hurry,” he said. “There is still more to be done.

    The horse flew up to a huge black hole.

    “I think that the snakes are delivered through this hole,” he said. “And, by the way, my name is Jaremiah.”

    Nadezda introduced herself. She did not really want to know how Jaremiah had found her.

 

     They landed in the woods near the boulder.

     “Try to hide,” Jaremiah whispered.

     Then a voice crackled through Pegasus’ portable radio.

     “Pegasus, you don’t think you could come and help, do you?”

     Pegasus snickered and neighed. He glanced at Jaremiah, who came over and spoke into the radio.

     “I’m coming in.”

     “What are you talking about!?” David replied.

    “Details later. I’m out.” Jaremiah turned off the radioand hurried away. Pegasus followed at a slow pace.

    Nadezda hid herself and the baby in a nearby clump of bushes to wait. And wait. And wait...

    Nadezda woke when she heard a voice.

    “Nadezda! Hurry, come on!”

    Nadezda dashed out with the baby in her arms. Jaremiah hurried them onto Pegasus. “Ladies and children first!” he said.

    Valora, Farren, and Dacinia were also put aboard. David climbed on and Pegasus took off.

   “What about the others?” Farren yelled as the air whooshed by them.

   “They’re going on foot!” David called back. “We’ll see them in a few days!”

  

 

    “Keep going!” David told the escapees. “I’ll come soon!”

    As they rushed off, David prepared to defend himself. When the first opponents appeared on the scene, he started zapping them off. He had just finished dealing with a couple dozen enemies when a full fledged army charged at him. He drew his sword and charged.

    Then Jaremiah arrived. He drew his two swords and started fighting. David zapped electricity with one hand and skillfully handled his sword with the other.

   They continued wreaking havoc until the last enemies fled. Then they. hurried off.

  

  

    Nadezda awoke when sunbeams hit her face. She sat up and looked around. The others who had ridden with her her were asleep, all except for David, who was pacing impatiently. He looked up and saw her, and pointed to a bunch of bushes at the edge of the clearing they were resting in.

   “Blackberries. Help yourself,” he said, resuming his pacing.

   After eating all they wanted of the berries, they set off again on Pegasus. They arrived at the Nolay residence early the next morning. They were hurried inside, while David restocked his supplies and flew off again, arriving at the boulder two days later. He rested, sharpened his sword, and went to the boulder. A guard stepped forward.

    “Who are ya? What’re you doing here?”

    “That’s none of yer business,” David said. “I came to talk to your leader.”

    “How’d you find out about him?” the guard said.

    “I heard about him,” David said, drawing his sword and pointing it at the guard. “Quit the questions and take me to ‘im.”

     The guard decided not to continue. “C’mon.” He pushed the boulder aside and beckoned for David to follow him.

    David trailed after the guard, taking in all he could, acting like he had never been there before.

    The guard pointed to a door. “That’s the Pit o’ Doom. Full o’ snakes.” He grinned evilly. “A slip’ry prisoner fell in d’other day. Dead by now, methinks.”

    David made a noise that sounded like a mix of a snicker and a pig snort. “Really?”

    “Yeah. Tryin’ to save some momma’s baby. What a waste of time.”

  

   They finally arrived at Ulysses’ bedchamber. The guard departed, and David knocked.

   Ulysses, assuming it was a guard, growled, “Come in.”

   David opened the door and strode in. “Need any more men?”

   Ulysses stared at him.

   This guy must be twice as old as I am, David thought, inwardly grinning. “Well? I’m a good fighter.”

   “Well, even the best can be defeated, can’t they?” Ulysses returned, drawing his sword as he stood up. “You fight me, then you fight the best in my army.”

   David unsheathed his sword and they began to fight. He knew some good moves. He dodged around, avoiding Ulysses’ sword point, until Ulysses got tired. Then he started lashing out. After a while, Ulysses gave up.

   “You blew by me,” he said, “but wait until you fight against my best man. I admit, he’s much better than I am.” He grinned slyly.

   “Who’s that?” David asked.

   “Oh, just someone we call Iron Muscle,” Ulysses said, leaning back on his throne. “How about a staring contest?”

   “Oh, sure,” David answered. He faced Ulysses.

   The contest began. After a while, Ulysses was wondering why David was not under submission to his power.

    David was enjoying the contest. He had put up his invisible electric shield and was able to hold off his opponent’s stare.

    A puzzled Ulysses finally declared a tie. “We’ll call Iron Muscle and eat.” He pressed some buttons.

    Soon, some trays arrived, and so did Iron Muscle a little while later. The trio ate together, and the trays were cleared away.

   David noted that Iron Muscle was slim, yet had plenty of muscle in his limbs and, though he was often very sure of himself, David was more doubtful than anything. “Does he have special powers?” he whispered to Ulysses.

   “Yep, and he’ll use them,” Ulysses answered.

   OK, David thought. Then I’ll be able to use mine. I wonder what surprises this guy has up his sleeve.

  “You ready, pipsqueak?” Iron Muscle growled impatiently.

  “Pipsqueak yourself,” David returned.

  “You ready?” Ulysses said. “Go!”

  David missed Iron Muscle with his first ice shot. Iron Muscle gave him handshot viper gas, which David repelled with a protective electric shield.

  Then, unsuspectedly, Iron Muscle made a miniature bomb appear on his hand. He threw it on David, who immediately extinguished with ice. Ignoring the hot pain, David threw electricity on his opponent and stunned him.

  Ulysses hid his surprise. “You, man, are so on my side. My father couldn’t have made a better choice! We’ll start you off as a guard.” He handed a paper to David.

  David waited for a guard escort to the bunk room. The escort who arrived was the one who had shown him to Ulysses’ bedchamber. The guard and Ulysses conversed in whispers for a while, then Ulysses dismissed him.

 

 

  In the bunk room, David settled on a  bunk and scanned the paper. He stopped in surprise when he saw the names Zircon, Ruby, Sapphire, and Opal Praen.

  Amethyst’s sisters!

 

 

  Back at the Nolay residence, the travelers rested before they set off again. The girls hung out with Andromeda and Cassiopeia, while the boys got weapon practice with Perseus, and tips on good fighting with all kinds of weapons.

  Then they set off again. Farren read their most recent riddle that they had received:

 

Continue on the path of brown,

Beware the dark ones five done,

Meet the one by light found,

And with him go; he is the one!

Go to the IOX,

Drop your guide,

Travel on to drail paths thrice,

In the brave one then confide.

 

   “Well, now we are aware of the dark ones,” Sanole said, setting his eyes on the path ahead.

   “Where are ya all goin’?” Lewis asked.

   “Treasure questing,” Nadezda answered.

   “Alright, bring me back to the place we stayed at. I ain’t getting’ killed questin’ for some dumb treasure,” Lewis demanded.

   “Sorry, Lew,” Zanorm answered. “It’s kinda late now. You can stay at some place where we stop or something like that.”

   Lewis pouted, but stayed silent.

   Nadezda told her story, and her companions told theirs. Then they listened to Lewis’ story.

   “I had a brother and three sisters,” Lewis said. “They disappeared when I was a toddler, and soon after that, my parents were accused of being spies and were thrown into Ulysses’ prison. My mother died a few days later, and my dad was executed just before I escaped because he stopped working due to exhaustion. I saw him die.”

   “What did your dad do?”Farren asked.

   Lewis’ face looked puzzled. “I dunno. I was confined to our cell. He had to do hard work to gain Ulysses’ favor again, which never happened.”

   “Do you remember the names of your siblings?”Sanole asked.

   “My brother was Najaen,” Lewis answered, “and my sisters were Brenna, Caeron, and Daier.”

   They continued chatting until they stopped for lunch, which was prepared relatively quietly, then picked up as they sat down to a meal of fresh fruit and cheese.

   Then they heard low voices. The bushes across the clearing parted and two men emerged.

 

   Cien was very experienced and skilled. He had joined Jason’s crew as soon as he was able to, then being a very good fighter. Now, he was even better, which Jaazaniah soon discovered as the fight progressed.

   As their swords flashed around the clearing, Jaazaniah began to regret ever having challenged his enemy’s crew. After a while, he gave up and fled, seeming not to care, but his hate for his enemy’s crew growing with every passing second.

   He soon burst into another clearing where his own gang had settled for the night. He was second-in-command there. His older brother, Jaziah, who was 21, got to his feet.

   “One o’ them just creamed me!” he burst out. “They don’t know I have a gang. Let’s attack ‘em and kill ‘em tonight!”

   “No, no, no,” Jaziah said firmly. “Chill out, Jaazaniah. If one guy creamed you, how would you like him and his pals to be sticking their blades in us?”

   Jaazaniah sat down grumpily beside the campfire. “What if they find us and kill us?”

   “That’s a better problem to consider.” Jaziah tossed his little brother some food and sat on a rock some distance away.

   A girl known to everyone as Dayaera whispered to her male companion Xaerien, “Don’t expect him to be calm for long. His blood is full o’ fire!” They turned to talk to their other companions.

   Jaazaniah talked with his brother.

   “Learn anythin’ at all?” Jaziah asked.

   “Jaza’s with ‘em, that’s what!” Jaazaniah blurted.

   The rest of the crew turned and stared openmouthed at him.

   “What?” said a younger crew member whose name was Jami.

   “Well, you aren’t always one to tell the tr-“ Jaziah began, stopping abruptly when Jaazaniah elbowed him.

   “Hey!”

   Everyone burst out laughing at the look on Jaazaniah’s face.

   “Alright, alright!” Jaziah said.

   The rest of the crew turned away to talk.

   “Boy, the look on his face was priceless!” a 15 year old named Jaeryah laughed.

   “Yeah, it was,” said Kyraen, imitating the look with his sister, Carien. The inseparable pair were the crew’s comedians. The action set them all laughing again.

   “You were saying....?” Jaziah gestured for Jaazaniah to continue.

   “Jaza’s with ‘em,” Jaazaniah repeated. “Really. If you don’t believe me, come an’ see.”

   He lead his brother to the clearing where Jason’s crew was situated. Jaza, Dan, and Marya were on guard duty. A single torch blazed from where it was stuck in the ground.

   “See?” Jaazaniah said.

   “Shh!” Jaziah cautioned.

   The guard trio looked in their direction, then set their gaze elsewhere and continued talking in low voices.

   Dan whispered something to his fellow guards, and they grinned. They kept wandering around the clearing and chatting. Soon level with Jaziah’s and Jaazaniah’s hiding place, they whirled in and grabbed the pair.

   “What are you doing here?” Dan demanded as he gripped Jaziah’s arm.

  “Nothing,” Jaziah said, freeing his arm and pushing Dan away.

     Then Dan noticed that Jaazaniah and Jaza were gone. “Hey, where’s our friend?” he growled. “If you’ve kidnapped her...”

     Jaziah sped off into the darkness.

    Dan whispered something to Marya, who nodded and went to the tent.

    The crew quietly and quickly took down their camp, while raen went to scout out the path they would take and keep an eye on Jaziah’s crew. The second best scout, Jarein, stayed to guide the rest.

    They loaded up and set off after Jarein. They soon spotted Raen, who beckoned to them. He pointed to an empty clearing.

    “There are fresh ashes from a recent campfire,” Raen said. “The footprints here are fresh, too. They left in a big rush.”

    They set off after the kidnappers.

 

    When Jaziah reached the camp, everyone was hurriedly getting ready to leave. Jaazaniah had tied Jaza to a tree so that she couldn’t escape.

    “Some brothers,” she muttered to herself. “Kidnapping their own sister.” She yelled aloud, “What’s the point, kidnapping me?” She kicked Jaazaniah went by.

    “We’ve been trying to find you for years,” Jaazaniah said. “We didn’t kidnap you, we rescued you from your kidnappers. But if you prove to be worthless, we can always do away with ya...” He jumped out of reach of Jaza’s leg.

    “I challenge you to a fight!” Jaza shot back angrily. “When I am free, I will kill you!”

    “Just you try, little sis,” Jaazaniah  snorted. “It’ll be your dead body that they find.”

   “All the same, I challenge you,” Jaza said. “You’ll see what 3½ years on my crew has toughened me.”

   Jaazaniah stuck his face in Jaza’s. “Oh yeah?” he growled. “You’re a girl. I’ve been using real weapons for twice as long as you have.”

   Jaziah came up and pushed his brother away from Jaza. “Stop botherin’ her, kid, and help load up. We gotta get outta here!”

  They went off.

   Jaza suddenly stiffened when she heard a voice, relaxing only when she knew it was Raen.

   “Jaza, it’s me, Raen. You’ll escape soon, we’ll make sure of it. It’d just too dangerous right now.”

   “I can’t wait,” Jaza whispered back. “When I get to that brother of mine, that rat Jaazaniah, he’s going to be sorry!”

  “I understand, but more time for that later!” Raen slipped away.

  Jaziah helped Jaazaniah get Jaza ready to go. Jaza was calm, feeling that Raen was right.

  Jaziah’s crew went off in a close group. Jaza was closely guarded in the middle.

 

    Jason’s crew slipped quickly and silently through the dark forest after Raen and Jarein. When Jaziah’s crew came into sight, they fanned out and closed in on them, trapping them easily.

  “Release my follower!” Jason ordered, drawing his sword and pressing it into Jaziah’s neck.

  Jaziah had no choice if he did not want to die. “Let ‘er go.”

  Jaeryah cut the ropes, and Jaza pushd her way through to Jason’s crew. “Jason,” she said, “clear everyone to the sides of the clearing, please. Jaazaniah and I have a fight to be done.”

  Jaziah and Jason ordered their crew back.

  “You’d better not kill me,” Jaazaniah said as he took his sword in hand.

   “Oh, don’t worry, I’ll only mostly kill you.” Jaza smiled sweetly at him, but she had a dangerous glint in her eye.

  “Go!” Jason shouted.

 

 

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Comments

Fight! Fight! Fight!

Fight! Fight! Fight! ;)

Jaza's brothers don't seem to care about her much; why are they bothering with her?

Leandra | Sat, 09/18/2010

I'm sorry

 I'm sorry, are you sick of the fighting?

 I'm not sure why!

Jackie West | Mon, 09/20/2010

Nonononono, not at all. It

Nonononono, not at all. It was just the setup there at the end made me think of kids egging each other on to fight. That's all.

Leandra | Mon, 09/20/2010

Oh, OK.

 Oh, OK. But really, they're not kids.

Jackie West | Tue, 09/21/2010

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