PART I: Chapter One

 

 

 

 

Many years ago, there was a massive conflict between two proud leaders, Orakio and Laya. They constantly battled and battled, until eventually, Orakio defeated Laya and restored peace. Ever since that day, Orakio's followers, the Orakians... and Laya's followers, the Layans, hate each other to this day.
   
    Nearly 1,000 years later, a young woman was found unconscious on the shores of Samesina, near the town of Landen. Her hair was a shade of turquoise blue, and her complexion was fair. Her clothing, which consisted of a simple white dress, didn't suggest much about her heritage. This news spread to the town of Landen, and eventually reached the ears of the Orakian Royal Family of Landen.
   
    Rhys, the Prince of Landen, had gone to the shore and rescued the woman. When she regained consciousness, Prince Rhys found out that she was named Maia, and she was a princess of another land. She could not remember much, for she had amnesia. Although they had not known each other for long, Prince Rhys found himself falling in love with Princess Maia, much to the disgust of his father, King Nathaniel of Landen.



* * *


"Prince Rhys! Report at once!" King Nathaniel shouted. He was the King of the large town of Landen, and Prince Rhys was his son.
   
    "Father, I'm here! What is it?" Rhys asked. The prince of Landen was a very upper-class individual, and he showed that in two ways - his dress sense and the way he spoke. He had short ocean-blue hair, and he was wearing a light blue shirt, a pair of navy blue pants, a pair of white gloves and a pair of white boots. A brown belt was around his waist, and a sheathed hunting knife was attached to it. He had a white cloak clipped around him.
   
    "Princess Anna is here, awaiting your hand in marriage. You do remember that you are marrying Princess Anna, don't you?"
   
    "Father, my heart is with Princess Maia." As soon as Rhys had finished speaking, King Nathaniel looked very cross. He had arranged for Rhys to marry Princess Anna, and he was rejecting her.
   
    "You want to marry a girl you found on the beach? Prince Rhys, if you had your way, you'd marry every girl in Landen, regardless of who they were! You don't know anything about Princess Maia... she could be a Layan. At least we know that Princess Anna is of Orakian heritage." Nathaniel said sternly. The Layans were the enemies of the Orakians, and there was something about Maia that made Nathaniel suspect she was a Layan. Rhys couldn't figure out what it was.
   
    "That's preposterous, Father! And nothing you say can stop me marrying her, so I will marry her, regardless of whether you like it or not!" Rhys snapped, just as Princess Anna entered the throne room.
   
    "Your bride is here, Prince Rhys." the guard who had just escorted Princess Anna said.
   
    "She is not my bride!" Rhys shouted. King Nathaniel looked very fierce.
   
    "Yes she is, Prince Rhys! Now marry her or be condemned!" Nathaniel boomed, frightening Princess Anna. Rhys was also startled. It was just then that Princess Maia padded out of her room. She saw Princess Anna, and she turned to face her.
   
    "And who are you?" Princess Maia asked.
   
    "I am Prince Rhys' bride, Princess Anna." Anna replied.
   
    "Shut up, you ragged old bat! I am Prince Rhys' bride!"
   
    "Enough of that! You were left to die on a beach!"
   
    "No, I'd actually been washed ashore!"
   
    "Liar, liar, dress on fire!" King Nathaniel rose from his throne.
   
    "Silence, princesses! Since we cannot settle the matter, I will now ask Prince Rhys to choose whom he will marry." Nathaniel said. He turned to face Rhys. "So then, who will you marry?"
   
    "I will marry Princess Maia." Rhys said calmly. Nathaniel was furious with the prince's decision, but he had said that it was Rhys' choice.
   
    "Fair enough. You know the marriage ceremony off by heart, so we don't need a priest." Nathaniel said. He sat back down on his throne, and Rhys led Maia up in front of Nathaniel.
   
    "I, Prince Rhys, do take thee..." Rhys began, but an almighty crash prevented him from saying any more. A huge dragon had burst through the roof of the castle, and it grabbed Princess Maia in its clawed hands! It was a large brown dragon with leathery wings and very bumpy scales. It had two curvy horns on its head.
   
    "You horrid Orakian! How dare you taint a Layan princess!" the dragon roared, tightening its grip on Maia. Rhys unsheathed his hunting knife and thrust it at the dragon.
   
    "Release her this instant, you foul beast!" Rhys shouted. The dragon laughed and spread its wings.
   
    "I'm sorry, Orakio-lover. I really can't allow you to marry Princess Maia. It would disgust Laya herself!" the dragon snarled, flying out of the hole in the castle roof with Maia in tow. Rhys sheathed his hunting knife.
   
    "She was a Layan all along! I knew it..." Nathaniel grumbled.
   
    "I'm sorry, Father. I didn't know. But I still love her. I will rescue her, I swear it!" Rhys announced. Nathaniel called to the guards.
   
    "You need to cool off in the dungeons." Nathaniel said, ordering the guards to take Rhys down there. When the guards grabbed him, the prince began to struggle.
   
    "Release me, this instant!" Rhys shouted.
   
    "Sorry, Prince... your father's orders overpower yours." the guard replied. He and the other guard dragged Rhys down to the dungeons, where they locked him into a cell. As the guards began to leave, Rhys rattled the bars of the door.
   
    "This is uncalled for! I order you to let me out!" Rhys roared, but the guards ignored him.



* * *


In a cell in the dungeons of Castle Landen, Prince Rhys was pacing around impatiently. He had no idea why his father had told him to 'cool off in the dungeons'. He only got angered after Princess Maia was kidnapped by the dragon. A guard ran up to the barred door and caught Rhys' attention.
   
    "Prince, there's a Layan in the dungeons! A Layan, and a really nasty one at that!" the guard gasped in panic. The Layan he had been talking about rounded the corner. He was a tall, well-built man, and he was wearing a brown vest, a pair of grey pants and black boots. He had long, bright green hair that was tied in a ponytail, and his fringe was very wayward. He had a simple white cloak clipped around him by a silver clasp. He was holding a staff with an emerald on top in his right hand.
   
    "A Layan? What Layan?" the man asked.
   
    "You, of course!" the guard replied. The man snickered.
   
    "Alright, you win. Yeah, I'm a Layan. But I heard you guys locked your own prince in the dungeon! You daft bunch!" the man said, waving his staff at the guard. A fireball shot out of the staff and hit the guard squarely in the chest.
   
    "Ack! A powerful Foi Technique!" the guard groaned. For information's sake, techniques are the equivalent of magic in Samesina. The Foi Technique is a basic attack technique that throws a fireball. The power of the fireball depends on the ability of the caster.
   
    "Yeah. But that's what you get if you lock up your own prince." the man said quietly. The guard yelled about the fact that there was a Layan in the dungeon. Rhys, in his cell, got the man's attention.
   
    "Are you going to rescue me?" Rhys asked.
   
    "Yeah, I am. I saw that King Nathaniel wasn't too happy with you going after Maia." the man replied. He tapped the lock on the cell door with his staff. There was a click as the lock released. As Rhys exited the cell, there was a rhythmic pattering of feet approaching the twosome.
   
    "That other guard got their attention! You have to get out of here!" Rhys panicked, pushing the man in the opposite direction of the pattering noise.
   
    "Yeah, and so do you! If they see you've escaped, I dread to think what they'll do. Your dad doesn't seem like the sort for mercy." the man said, grabbing Rhys' arm. Just then, the guards of Landen Castle had entered the dungeons. One of them pointed at the man.
   
    "There's that Layan! He's kidnapping Prince Rhys! After him!" the leading guard shouted. The man pulled Rhys away from them, and then the twosome began to run.
   
    "This way!" the man yelled, bounding up a staircase. Rhys followed, and the twosome found themselves in the Landen Technique Shop, which sold wands, potions, spellbooks and scrolls to do with techniques.
   
    "They've gone into the Technique Shop! Quickly, get them!" the leading guard shouted when he reached the bottom of the staircase. The other guards darted up the stairs and into the Technique Shop, but they were too late. Rhys and the other man had got away.
   
    Meanwhile, Prince Rhys and the strange Layan man had escaped from Landen and were now in the main area of the Chalst Province, the central province of Samesina. The twosome had stopped in a forest to catch their breath.
   
    "Thank you very much. But, who are you?" Rhys asked, panting. The man cleared his throat and took in another mouthful of air.
   
    "I'm Lyle. I come from Shusoran, in the Helskiz Province." Lyle replied. The Helskiz Province was a province that was situated northwest of the Chalst Province. Rhys had noticed that Lyle had a sophisticated air around him, yet he had a very common way of speaking.
   
    "In that case, Lyle... I am Prince Rhys of Landen. But why would you rescue me? I am Orakian, you are Layan. Orakians and Layans are enemies."
   
    "I'm completely sick of the whole enemy thing. Just because someone's Orakian or Layan doesn't mean that they're a bad person."
   
    "You're right, Lyle. But I must rescue Princess Maia from the foul beast that took her!" Lyle looked at Rhys thoughtfully.
   
    "OK, I'll come with you." Lyle said, and Rhys accepted. The twosome decided to head for the Helskiz Province to try and find some clues on the whereabouts of Princess Maia.



* * *


From the Chalst Province, Lyle lead Prince Rhys into a cave. It was dim and dank inside, and it was teeming with monsters.
   
    "I'm sure I got rid of those guys when I came through here before..." Lyle muttered to himself. Rhys looked at him.
   
    "Nothing at all, Rhys. Oh, no... I forgot my manners..." Lyle said suddenly. Rhys replied that he didn't mind not being called 'Prince'. Lyle nodded and turned to face the monsters. He pointed his staff at them and muttered a few words under his breath. Massive bolts of lightning crashed into them all, frazzling them.
   
    "Another day, another bunch of monsters, another Zan Technique!" Lyle shouted, laughing slightly. For information's sake, the Zan Technique, like the Foi Technique, is an attack technique. This particular technique causes bolts of lightning to strike down over a 30 foot area in front of the caster. Anything that is hit gets shocked. Since Lyle is a very proficient technique-caster, the lightning bolts rained down like bolts of instant death.
   
    "That speeds things up. Come on, Lyle. We need to keep going." Rhys said, and so he and Lyle went further into the cave. Another group of monsters was waiting nearby. Just as Lyle was about to raise his staff, Rhys stopped him.
   
    "Lyle, watch me. I'll dispatch these creatures!" Rhys said confidently, unsheathing his hunting knife. He charged forward and sliced two of the monsters. One monster jumped, but the prince stabbed it. He swung the knife at the rest of the monsters, cutting some and missing others. Lyle leaned on the wall of the cave and sighed.
   
    After 20 minutes, Rhys had killed all the monsters. He walked over to Lyle, who was sleeping on the floor.
   
    "So then, Lyle! How was my effort?" the prince asked. Lyle sat up and stretched.
   
    "I'm awake! Oh, about your attack? Not good. You took the best part of a lifetime to get rid of them!" Lyle replied sharply. Rhys looked fierce.
   
    "Well, I guess you did take care of them. OK, let's keep going." Lyle said, and so he and Rhys kept trudging through the cave. More groups of monsters attacked them, but Lyle killed them all with his powerful Zan Technique.
   
    Eventually, though, Rhys and Lyle made it out of the cave and into the Helskiz Province. A wintry wind blew from the east. Lyle shivered.
   
    "That's weird. When I left, it wasn't this cold. Someone's tinkered with the weather!" Lyle said, his teeth chattering. Rhys unpinned his cloak and wrapped it around Lyle.
   
    "You need to keep warm. You can borrow my cloak." Rhys said.
   
    "Thanks, but what are you gonna do?" Lyle asked.
   
    "I'm fine. I'm used to cold, draughty Landen Castle. So this is nothing to me." the prince replied. The twosome waded through knee-deep snow, trying to find some sort of town or any sort of building. Vast expanses of white snow lay in front of them, and more snow was falling from the sky. The twosome were getting colder, and they were nowhere near a town, a village or even an abandoned building.
   
    "We could die out here! We've got to hurry!" Lyle said through his chattering teeth.
   
    "I'm beginning to feel the cold now! This is much worse than Landen Castle!" Rhys replied, rubbing his gloved hands together. Lyle unwrapped the cloak from around himself and gave one end to Rhys. They huddled together inside. But even so, the twosome were still getting colder and colder. The snow was getting deeper and deeper. And the journey seemed to be taking longer and longer. But they could see someone walking in their direction.
   
    "Hey! Over here!" Lyle shouted, frantically waving his staff in the air. It seemed to be working; the figure was coming closer to them.
   
    "Our situation is dire! Do come over!" Rhys yelled, waving his free arm. The figure broke into a run. It stopped right in front of them, and revealed itself to be a young woman. She had bright red hair, and she was wearing a red sleeveless top and a short red skirt. She was also wearing knee-high red boots. Strangely, she wasn't shivering or showing any signs of feeling the cold.
   
    "I know you. You're an Orakian prince from Landen. I am charged with the protection of Orakian princes." the woman said.
   
    "Very well. But, who are you? I am Prince Rhys, and this is my friend Lyle." Rhys said, indicating Lyle. The woman looked slightly frightened.
   
    "I am a cyborg, Mieu type. Call me Mieu. But, your friend Lyle is a Layan. I am bound to exterminate Layans." Mieu replied doubtfully. Lyle shivered even more.
   
    "I think I'd rather die of cold than die from a cyborg attack." Lyle mumbled. He could see that Mieu was putting on a pair of gloves. The gloves had sharp claws at the end. Lyle panicked.
   
    "No, don't kill me, please! I'm trying to stop this hatred between Orakians and Layans!" Lyle shouted, just as Mieu swiped at him with the claws. Thankfully for him, she missed.
   
    "Regardless of your goals, all Layans are evil." Mieu said calmly, striking Lyle with the claws. They opened three nasty gashes in his right arm, but the cold temperatures stopped him from bleeding.
   
    "Mieu, I command you to stop this instant!" Rhys yelled. Mieu froze mid-swing and lowered her arm.
   
    "What is your wish, Prince?" Mieu asked. Lyle nudged Rhys and whispered something in his ear.
   
    "Whilst you're with me, you will not attack Lyle, or any other Layan that joins our party without my explicit permission." Rhys said sternly. Mieu nodded and removed the clawed gloves.
   
    "Now, I have heard from the village of Rysel that the Weather Station in the Bernink Province has been messed with. Come on, I will lead you to the passage that takes us to the Bernink Province." Mieu said, walking to the west. Rhys and Lyle followed her to a cave. They went inside.
   
    "It's warmer in here, at least..." Lyle said, letting go of his end of the cloak. Rhys straightened it and re-pinned it.
   
    "Indeed, you're correct, Lyle. We'd better keep up with Mieu." Rhys replied, running through the passage. Lyle ran after him. As they approached the opening into the Bernink Province, Mieu stopped them.
   
    "You two should be careful. This desert was never intended for human life." she said, walking out into the desert.



* * *


If Prince Rhys and Lyle had been too cold in the Helskiz Province, they were too hot now. Mieu had been right about the temperature of the Bernink Province; it wasn't intended for humans.
   
    "Come on, let's find Hazatak. It's a town of cyborgs in this desert. We should be able to get some information about the Weather Station there." Mieu said, bounding ahead. Rhys and Lyle panted and dragged their feet across the sand. Sweat was trickling down their foreheads. The wound that Lyle had received when Mieu clawed him began to bleed. Rhys had noticed.
   
    "Lyle, you should get some kind of bandage on that. Here, I have something you can use as a makeshift bandage." the prince said, taking a long strip of white cloth out of his pocket. Lyle stopped and allowed Rhys to wrap the cloth around the wound. The prince found a pin in his pocket and used it to securely fasten the makeshift bandage.
   
    "Thanks." Lyle said, beginning to walk again. Mieu was at least several hundred yards ahead of them, for she was just a red speck on the horizon to Rhys and Lyle.
   
    An hour later, Mieu was back with Rhys and Lyle. She had stopped to let them catch up with her. As they trekked over the sand dunes, Lyle collapsed under the heat of the scorching sun. The party had to stop until he had recovered. They carried on, but Rhys collapsed soon after, and so the party were forced to stop again until he had recovered.
   
    The party progressed slowly through the desert, only stopping if Rhys or Lyle collapsed from the heat. However, there came a time when both Rhys and Lyle collapsed from the scorching heat, and so Mieu decided to carry them to Hazatak.
   
    With Mieu carrying Rhys and Lyle, the party reached Hazatak within an hour. She took the two men to the inn and went inside.
   
    "Where are we?" Lyle asked as he regained consciousness.
   
    "We're in Hazatak, the town of cyborgs. I carried you here, as I could tell you wouldn't be able to walk much further." Mieu replied.
   
    "Thank you very much, Mieu." Rhys said. He had also regained consciousness. Mieu paced over to the innkeeper and asked for a room for the night.
   
    "A room for one night, is that, madam? OK then. How many of you are staying?" the innkeeper asked Mieu.
   
    "Three. Myself and those two over there." Mieu replied. The innkeeper eyed them both.
   
    "You appear to have got yourself a nice prince! If so, you can stay for free."
   
    "Yes, that's right. I have Prince Rhys of Landen with me." The innkeeper nodded his head and groped under his desk. He pulled out a key.
   
    "That's the key for your room. Have a nice stay." the innkeeper said, handing the key to Mieu. Thanking him, she took the key and helped Rhys and Lyle walk to their allocated room.
   
    "You two looked so tired, I thought we could rest for the night and start fresh tomorrow." Mieu explained.
   
    "That's very thoughtful of you, Mieu. That would be the best course of action." Rhys said, and so he, Lyle and Mieu climbed into their beds and began to rest up.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

PART I: Chapter Two

 

 

 

 

After a good night's sleep in the inn of Hazatak, Prince Rhys, Lyle and Mieu were feeling refreshed. They woke up, got ready and left the inn. Mieu had already suggested that they should ask the local cyborgs where the Weather Station is.
   
    "Excuse me?" Rhys asked one cyborg.
   
    "Yep, what is it?" the cyborg replied.
   
    "I need to go to the Weather Station and fix the weather in the Helskiz Province. Where is the Weather Station?"
   
    "You'll need to get Wren first. He's the only one who can make sense of that old machine."
   
    "And where would we find Wren?"
   
    "In a cave, west of here. Then go east of here." Thanking the cyborg for the information, Rhys told Mieu and Lyle what he had found out. They made haste for the desert immediately.
   
    As the party trudged through the desert, Rhys and Lyle found that they weren't collapsing as often as before. They had now grown accustomed to the heat, which helped to cut their travelling time down. In the distance, several mesas were on the horizon.
   
    "I can see some mesas! That's promising." Rhys said as he looked at the horizon. Lyle followed his gaze and saw the mesas. Mieu was leading them towards there, so they followed wearily, the sweat now pouring down their faces.
   
    After an hour and a half, the party were at the mesas. They stretched high into the sky, and one of them had an entrance carved into it. Lyle had spotted that entrance.
   
    "Hey, I can see an entrance in that mesa!" Lyle announced, pointing to the entrance in the mesa. Mieu suggested that they go inside, and so that's what the party did.
   
    The threesome had entered a cave that had been carved into the mesa. It was much cooler in here, and Rhys and Lyle didn't feel so faint. The passages were rugged and twisty. Mieu concentrated for a second, and then she turned to Rhys and Lyle.
   
    "I've found Wren. Follow me." she said, jogging through one of the passages. Rhys and Lyle followed her. Water dripped on their heads, and they brushed against some of the thinner passages, but with Mieu's help, the party reached a large, open cavern in a matter of minutes. A cyborg in a black and silver suit of armour was stood at the far end. He was also wearing black boots and black gloves, and he had short black hair that spiked up naturally.
   
    "Ah, you must be Wren. I am Prince Rhys of the Chalst Province, and we need your assistance." Rhys said politely. Wren looked at him, and then he turned away.
   
    "I'm not interested in helping anyone from that Orakio-loving province." Wren replied calmly, anger showing in his tone slightly.
   
    "Well, will you help me? I'm Lyle, from Shusoran, in the Helskiz Province." Lyle said, and to his surprise, Wren did turn around to face him.
   
    "Yes, I will help you. But you seem to have forgotten who you are." Wren replied, sauntering over to Lyle.
   
    "Hmm? Are you nuts, Wren? I can remember my name, so I've not forgotten."
   
    "No, I'm not nuts. But you are not just Lyle, who comes from Shusoran... you are Prince Lyle of Shusoran!" Wren announced. Rhys and Mieu gasped in shock. They didn't know that Lyle was a prince! Rhys realised that that was why he noticed a sophisticated air around Lyle.
   
    "Now, Wren... those two are with me. Don't hurt them. Our little problem is that the Helskiz Province is frozen solid, so I can't return to Shusoran. And Prince Rhys needs to rescue his wife-to-be." Lyle explained. Wren looked at him thoughtfully.
   
    "In that case... I will join your band. You do know about the Weather Station, don't you?"
   
    "Yeah, I do."
   
    "We need to go there, so come on." Wren began to walk out of the cavern and through the twisty passages. Lyle followed him, and Rhys and Mieu trailed behind. The party made their way out of the cave and through the sand dunes of the Bernink Province.



* * *


It had taken Prince Rhys, Mieu, Prince Lyle and Wren over three hours to traipse to the Weather Station. Despite the fact that they had accustomed to the heat, the two princes still found it hard work walking through the scorching heat.
   
    "Almost there!" Wren shouted as he marched through the sand dunes towards a building made of corrugated metal. The party stepped inside the building. The two princes breathed a sigh of relief; it was much cooler in here. They walked down the long main corridor until they came up to a strange abstract device with many different levers and buttons. A man wearing a black T-shirt and a pair of jeans was running around the controls, pulling levers and pushing buttons. He's clearly not from Samesina, Prince Rhys thought.
   
    "Move away from that machine!" Lyle shouted at the man, storming ahead of Rhys, Mieu and Wren. The man turned around to face him.
   
    "Shut up. If I can figure out how this thing works, I'll be pioneering the discovery of alien technology!" the man snapped, pushing a large red lever to the left and pressing a small green button. Lyle looked puzzled. Alien technology? The man saw the look of confusion on Lyle's face.
   
    "I'm Dr. Liam Styles, from England, on Earth. I work at the Xenoform Laboratory, a specialist scientific unit that looks at life beyond Earth. And here, I've just found the ultimate piece of alien technology!" Liam said, pulling another two levers. Lyle began to get angry.
   
    "Yeah, OK. Whatever. I'm Prince Lyle of Shusoran, in the Helskiz Province, here on Samesina. And that's the weather control for the whole world! Look, the weather in the Helskiz Province is messed up, because it shouldn't be so cold." Lyle snapped, pointing his staff at Liam. He flinched, but he took out a clipboard and pen and began to write.
   
    "OK, Prince... you're saving me time here. What does it do exactly, and how does it work?" Liam asked, tapping his pen impatiently on the clipboard. Lyle looked fierce.
   
    "Uh, I don't know exactly. That thing's not been used for over 500 years. And why are you asking me this? Just go back to your world and leave us alone!" Lyle snapped, anger flaring in his tone. Liam put away the clipboard and pen, sighing. He knelt on the ground in front of Lyle.
   
    "Please, Prince... forgive me for my rudeness. It's just that our research led us here, and I was sent to investigate. In fact, I'm only a rookie scientist. I'll come with you and your friends and help. It's the least I can do. I don't like working there, anyway." Liam pleaded. Lyle held out his hand and helped Liam to his feet.
   
    "I'm not sure if I should accept, but you sound like you mean it. OK, you can come with us, on one condition." Lyle said sternly.
   
    "What's the condition?" Liam asked timidly. Lyle looked at him and snickered.
   
    "As long as you don't mess around with any more gadgets, you can stay with us." Thanking him, Liam went over to Rhys, Mieu and Wren and introduced himself. They also introduced themselves.
   
    "I'll fix the weather. No doubt his so-called research is what's behind the weather in the Helskiz Province." Wren sighed, walking over to the weather control centre and pulling a few levers. A few more button-presses later, and Wren was done.
   
    "How did you... that's like... oh my..." Liam stammered.
   
    "If I told you, I'd have to kill you." Wren replied.
   
    "May I suggest that we head back to the Helskiz Province?" Rhys asked.
   
    "Yeah. We can have a look round Shusoran, and see if we can find where Princess Maia was taken." Lyle replied. Liam was puzzled, but Mieu quickly told him about the situation. After that, the party made their way out of the Weather Station and began to trudge through the Bernink Province.



* * *


Prince Rhys, Prince Lyle, Mieu, Wren and Dr. Liam Styles had finally crossed the Bernink Province, and they traipsed through the passageway into the Helskiz Province. Prince Rhys was feeling a lot happier than he had been, and that was because he was another step closer to rescuing Princess Maia. There was a boat just ouside the fishing village of Rysel, which the party used to get to the island which Shusoran was situated on.
   
    "You'd better be careful, Rhys. Shusoran is a Layan town. They don't take well to Orakian visitors." Lyle hissed.
   
    "Very well. I'll watch my back." Rhys replied. The party walked into Shusoran, but there were no people wandering about. Maybe they had seen the Orakian visitors and hid, Lyle thought to himself.
   
    "It's not the sort of town I was expecting..." Liam sighed.
   
    "OK. But I think I can remember where Princess Maia was taken now. She was taken to Cille, north of Shusoran. Trouble is, you need to go through Shusoran Castle to get there. You'll probably have to fight the guards, but that should be no problem for you all." Lyle said.
   
    "I take it you will go the easy way and have the guards let you in?" Rhys asked. Lyle smirked.
   
    "No. It'll be much more dramatic than that. I'll pretend that you lot have been trying to kill me and get their attention." Lyle replied. Rhys rubbed his chin thoughtfully.
   
    "And then we show them the coup de grace. You have my approval, Lyle."
   
    "Alright! Let's do this!" On those words, Rhys, Mieu and Wren readied their weapons. Liam held his fist ready to strike.
   
    "Go!" Lyle broke into a run, yelling for help, with Rhys, Mieu, Wren and Liam pretending to try and kill him. They ran all the way to Shusoran Castle.
   
    "Help me! I've got Orakians on my tail, and they want to kill me!" Lyle panicked as he approached the gate of Shusoran Castle. The guard standing nearby had already seen the foursome running over. He had a pike in one hand.
   
    "Quickly, Prince! Get inside!" the guard shouted, opening the gate and ushering Lyle through. As soon as the prince had crossed the threshold, the guard shut the gate and locked it, just as Rhys came up to it.
   
    "Have you seen a rogue Layan pass by here, young man?" Rhys asked, holding his hunting knife by his side, hidden by the folds of his cloak.
   
    "Rogue Layan? That was Prince Lyle you were trying to kill!" the guard snapped, lowering his pike.
   
    "Well, will you allow me to finish the job or do I have to run you through?"
   
    "You'll die first, Orakio-lover!" On those words, the guard thrust his pike forward. Rhys dodged and swung his hunting knife in an arc, cutting the guard's left arm.
   
    "Cad! You'll regret this!" Rhys roared, stabbing the guard in the right leg with his knife. As the guard crumpled to the floor in pain, Mieu charged forward and shredded him with the claws on her glove. When they had finished, Rhys and Mieu wiped the blood off their weapons.
   
    "That was fun." Liam said, wiping his forehead with his arm.
   
    "We still have to catch up with Lyle. Let's advance." Rhys replied, groping around the gate for the lock. He found it and pulled it sharply to the left. There was a resounding clang as the lock released, and the party were then able to enter Shusoran Castle. As they entered, they heard voices.
   
    "Prince Lyle, we captured Lena and tied her up. That scheming little Orakio-lover."
   
    "Yeah, OK. Leave it with me." Lyle's words were enough to make Rhys explode with anger and storm into the room where Lena was being held.
   
    "Lyle, you cad! What have you done?! This has gone too far!" Rhys shouted, baring his hunting knife.



* * *


"Look, Rhys... I can explain..." Lyle said slowly, turning round.
   
    "Well start explaining, you ne'er-do-well! Why have you tied up Lena?" Rhys shouted, pointing at Lyle with his hunting knife. The Layan prince shrugged and turned to face the struggling form of Lena. She had been bound to a chair with a thick rope.
   
    "It wasn't my idea. The guards did it, and I didn't want to disapprove, as much as I'd have liked to."
   
    "Cad! You lie!" On these words, Rhys stormed forward. Lyle turned to face him as he approached.
   
    "OK, if you want her to be free, fight for her!" Lyle shouted, baring his staff at Rhys. Rhys bared his hunting knife at Lyle. The two princes looked into each other's eyes.
   
    "A duel? Very well, if you insist on doing things the hard way." Rhys snarled, striking the first blow. Lyle reeled back slightly, but he swung his staff at Rhys, knocking the Orakian prince to the floor. Rhys stood up and kicked Lyle in the shin.
   
    "You're good! Try this on for size!" Lyle said, muttering a few words and casting the Foi Technique. The fireball hit Rhys in the chest, catapulting him back towards the wall. From outside the room, Liam gasped. The Orakian prince picked himself up and stormed over to Lyle, who cast another Foi Technique as he approached. This time, he missed and the fireball crashed into the wall and scorched it. Rhys threw his hunting knife at Lyle. It missed the Layan prince, but it caught in his cloak and pinned him to a wooden support beam just behind him.
   
    Although Lyle was pinned, he could still attack. When Rhys came up to him, he batted him away with his staff, sending the Orakian prince to the floor with a sickening thud. Even in her predicament, Lena could see the whole spectacle.
   
    "Come on, Prince Rhys... you can do it!" Lena whispered to herself as she struggled in vain to free herself from the ropes which bound her to the chair.
   
    Meanwhile, whilst Rhys was recuperating, Lyle had finally managed to pull out the knife from the beam and free himself. Rhys got up and sprang at Lyle. He knocked the Layan prince to the floor.
   
    "OK, that's enough, Rhys! You win!" Lyle said, pushing Rhys off. He stood up and brushed himself down.
   
    "I believe what you said now. Now stand by your word and free Lena from her predicament, as you said you would." Rhys replied, sheathing his hunting knife. Lyle crossed over to the chair and untied the rope that bound Lena's hands together. She stood up and rubbed her wrists. Rhys could see that she had short brown hair, and that she was wearing a white blouse and a dark green skirt with a pair of black shoes.
   
    "Thank you, Prince Rhys. Now, didn't Prince Lyle come and rescue you when Princess Maia was taken and you were put in the dungeon?" Lena asked.
   
    "Yes, he did." Rhys replied.
   
    "That's because I told him. I'm an Orakian, but I'm trying to bring peace between the Orakians and the Layans. But as I was leaving Shusoran Castle, the guards grabbed me and tied me up."
   
    "Very well. But I must rescue Maia! How can I get to Cille? Lyle already told me that she had been taken there."
   
    "Cille is north of here, but there is a land bridge we need to cross. It won't come up until the two moons are in proper alignment. We'll need to go back to the Weather Station in the Bernink Province." After Lena had finished speaking, she began to walk out of the room.
   
    "What did she say to you?" Liam asked Rhys as soon as Lena had left.
   
    "She said that we need to go back to the Weather Station in the Bernink Province. Come on, let's go." Rhys replied. He lead the rest of the party out of Shusoran Castle, out the town of Shusoran and to the boat. When the party had disembarked, they made their way through the passage and into the Bernink Province.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

PART I: Chapter Three

 

 

 

 

After a long, exhausting trek through the inhospitable desert of the Bernink Province, Prince Rhys, Prince Lyle, Mieu, Wren, Dr. Liam Styles and Lena had finally made it to the Weather Station.
   
    "The satellite controls should be further down the main corridor, a way away from the weather control." Lena said as the party made their way down the main corridor. As they approached the satellite controls, two men were waiting for them!
   
    "We heard from the guards of Shusoran that you were headed to Cille, filthy Orakian." one of the men said to Rhys in a very rude tone. Rhys looked fierce.
   
    "And who might you be, you cad?" Rhys asked. The man laughed nastily.
   
    "Me and my acquaintance here are the guards of Cille. I'm called Ray, and my acquaintance is called Carl. We're here to protect the beautiful Princess Maia from being tainted by you, you dirty Orakian prince." Ray sneered. Lyle stepped in front of Rhys, staff in hand.
   
    "Time's up! Get out of our road, or else!" Lyle shouted at them. Carl glared angrily at Lyle.
   
    "Hey, if it isn't Prince Lyle! What are you doing with these Orakio-lovers?" Carl asked with a hint of cruelness to his tone. Lyle banged his staff on the ground.
   
    "None of your business! Now, move!"
   
    "Hey, look, you were the one behind the kidnapping of Princess Maia, anyway!" On these words, Rhys stormed up next to Lyle and shook his fist at Carl.
   
    "That's preposterous! Why, Prince Lyle was in the dungeons of Castle Landen, trying to rescue me just moments after Maia was taken! He couldn't possibly have kidnapped her and come back to save me, unless of course he had super-powers. But super-powers are not real." Rhys said crossly. Ray began to laugh.
   
    "So does the ability to transform into a dragon not count as a super-power?" Ray asked, still laughing.
   
    "Shut up!" Lyle snapped.
   
    "A dragon, you say? That's utter stupidity spilling from your mouth right there, Ray! Dragons do not exist, except in fairy tales!" Rhys snapped in reply to Ray's question. But, the Orakian prince began to sense a grain of truth within the tall tale. His father, King Nathaniel, had told him that Layans have strange powers when he was just a little boy. He would have to quiz Lyle on that later, though.
   
    "Hmm! Don't you guys reckon you should do as Prince Lyle ordered and move out of our road?" Liam yelled from the back.
   
    "Idiot boy! We're the guards of Cille, not Shusoran! Prince Lyle has no right to order us around!" Carl shouted in reply. At the front of the group, Rhys and Lyle were beginning to get very wound up.
   
    "Yes, but even so, you shouldn't refuse to follow orders from a prince. Our friend Dr. Liam Styles is right. You should be following an order." Rhys said calmly. Both Ray and Carl began to lose their tempers.
   
    "Shut up, Orakio-lover! You can't order Layans around!" Carl shouted.
   
    "And since when has this been a rule of Samesina?"
   
    "Um... I just made it up..." After Carl had finished speaking, Rhys stormed up in front of him.
   
    "Now, do as Prince Lyle has said and remove yourselves from our path!" the Orakian prince hissed. Carl sighed and slouched over towards Ray. The two of them stormed out of the Weather Station in a huff.
   
    "Well, that's them sorted. I'll go ahead." Lena said, pacing over to the satellite control system. The rest of the party followed her, and in front of them were the satellite controls. Lena was already hard at work, pulling a few levers and turning a few dials. She took a gem out of her pocket and placed it in a hollow on the machine. As the gem clicked into place, the floor began to rumble violently. Lena was thrown against the machine, and the rest of the party were thrown into each other. The rumbling stopped as suddenly as it had started.
   
    "What's happened?" Mieu asked, smoothing her bright red hair down.
   
    "Ah! Lena has re-aligned the two moons of Samesina." Wren replied. Just then, Lena walked over to the rest of the party.
   
    "Right, the moons are back in alignment," Lena said, her attention turning to Rhys, "and now we can go to Cille. It's only a matter of time before we can rescue Princess Maia, but it won't be long now!"
   
    "Yeah, let's get going." Lyle said, leading the party out of the Weather Station and into the Bernink Province.



* * *


The party had crossed the Bernink Province and traversed the Helskiz Province mainland, and they were on their way back to Shusoran. Whilst they were on the move, Prince Rhys had been thinking about what those two guards of Cille had said. Could Lyle really turn into a dragon, and was he the real reason Princess Maia was snatched?
   
    As the group made their way through Shusoran, Rhys could ponder no longer. He had to find out the truth.
   
    "Excuse me, Lyle?" Rhys asked. Lyle turned to face him.
   
    "Yeah?"
   
    "I've been thinking about what that guard said, about the fact that you have the ability to turn into a dragon. I noticed that this could be truthful, because my father had told me that Layans have some rather strange abilities."
   
    "So you're asking me if all that's true or not."
   
    "Yes, I am. I want to know if it is the truth or if it is just a preposterous rumour, as I first thought."
   
    "The simple matter of the fact is, it's the truth. I can turn into a dragon."
   
    "You can, Lyle? Very well, next question. A dragon kidnapped Princess Maia, and the guards said that you had done it. Do these two things fit together or have I been mislead?"
   
    "Rhys, the truth is... if I told you, it'd be a big hit."
   
    "Do not be frightened, Lyle. I'm prepared."
   
    "OK, yeah, the guards were telling the truth. I did kidnap Princess Maia, but I didn't mean to." Rhys gasped as soon as Lyle had finished speaking.
   
    "But that's impossible! How can this happen? I don't want to fall out with you again, Lyle. Please, I must know the truth!" Rhys gasped in disbelief. Lyle looked away for a brief second, then turned back to face the Orakian prince.
   
    "OK, I'm one of a select few Dragon Knights."
   
    "Hmm? Dragon Knights?"
   
    "Yeah. A small group of Layan individuals with the power to turn into a dragon. The thing was, the power only activated if something happened that would disgust Laya."
   
    "I think I understand now. I am an Orakian prince, and I tried to marry a Layan princess. The rumours reached your ears, and you turned into a dragon, gatecrashed the wedding and took her away."
   
    "Yeah, that's the reason I did it. My Dragon Knight instinct was far too powerful, though. I didn't want to do it, yet I did, and I sorely regret it."
   
    "Yes, but you've made up for it, by helping me to rescue her."
   
    "Yeah, and now my power won't be activating unless war between the Orakians and Layans starts up again. And that's because my inner Dragon Knight thinks that the Orakians and the Layans have made up."
   
    "Well then, Lyle. Thank you for explaining that to me."
   
    "Not a problem, Rhys." As the two princes had been walking and talking, the rest of the party looked around the town they had just entered.
   
    "We're here." Lena said.
   
    "Hey, look! Our chat took us to Cille!" Lyle said triumphantly.
   
    "Princess Maia, here I come for you!" Rhys announced. The party began to traipse through Cille.



* * *


As Prince Rhys, Prince Lyle, Mieu, Wren, Dr. Liam Styles and Lena made their way through the town of Cille, the locals made rude comments about the fact that Orakians should never be allowed near Layans. The party ignored these, and then they approached Castle Cille. The gate was locked tight, and there looked like no other way in.
   
    "There's no way in here." Wren said.
   
    "Yeah, there is, actually. The King of Cille is my uncle. I come here a lot, and sometimes I sneak in through a side entrance. Look at the fountains." Lyle replied. Everyone looked at the ten fountains in front of the walls. There were five to the left of the gate and five to the right of it.
   
    "I'm unsure of this." Rhys sighed as he scanned each of the fountains carefully. The rest of the party were ready to give up when they saw Lyle walking towards the third fountain on the left.
   
    "Look at this!" Lyle said, pointing to a small tunnel that went right underneath the fountain in the direction of Castle Cille. Everyone doubted Lyle's suggestion, but they all followed the Layan prince through the tunnel and into the gardens of Castle Cille. As everyone climbed out of the tunnel, they noticed that there were guards on patrol.
   
    "He could be expecting us..." Liam said to himself, but Lyle overheard him.
   
    "No, he's just a bit big on guards." the Layan prince replied. Mieu decided to lead the party past the guards, but as they got into the castle, they were ambushed!
   
    "Oh, we have some intruders. Let's deal with them." a swordsman sneered. He drew his sword from its scabbard, but just as he was about to attack Rhys, Lyle knelt in front of him humbly.
   
    "Please, don't hurt them! They're with me!" Lyle said, panicking slightly. The swordsman replaced his sword in his scabbard and helped Lyle to his feet.
   
    "Ah, Prince Lyle of Shusoran. I apologise for my rudeness. It is just that there are Orakians with you."
   
    "It's OK, really. Orakians aren't bad people. I'm here because Prince Rhys wants to rescue Princess Maia." Lyle pointed to Rhys as he spoke. The swordsman rubbed his chin thoughtfully.
   
    "The King of Cille is out. As in, taken out." he said. Lyle stared at the swordsman in horror.
   
    "What the--?"
   
    "He was beginning to overwork the people and pay his guards peanuts. I mean, they were only getting 50 meseta per day!" Now, for information's sake, meseta is the currency of Samesina. It's roughly 500 meseta to £1.
   
    "Yeah, I can understand that. So, where's Princess Maia?"
   
    "Follow me." The swordsman turned away from Lyle and strode down a long, elaborate corridor. The party followed him, and they were soon in a large dungeon. A guard came running up to the swordsman.
   
    "Sir Longsword, the girl! She slapped us!" the guard panicked. Sir Longsword stared at him fiercely.
   
    "Where is she?"
   
    "In this cell! Come on!" The guard ushered Sir Longsword towards a large cell with a young, turquoise-blue-haired woman locked inside. It was Princess Maia.
   
    "Please, let me go!" Maia screamed, but the guard silenced her.
   
    "Shut up, you insolent snake." another guard sneered. Rhys lead the rest of the party towards the cell. Maia gasped as Rhys strode up to the cell with Lyle.
   
    "Oh, Rhys! You're here!" Maia said.
   
    "Don't worry, Maia. Everything will be fine soon." Rhys replied. Just as Lyle was about to use a technique to blow the door off, a middle-aged man in a suit of armour came waltzing over to the two princes. He stopped in front of them with a sword in his hand.
   
    "Good day. I am Lord Denziel of Cille. Just before the King was killed, rumours of an Orakian prince heading for the town reached my ears. I can't let you stay here any longer, Orakian." Lord Denziel said, pointing his sword at Rhys. The Orakian prince unsheathed his hunting knife, and Lyle readied his staff in his hand.
   
    "Now, Lord Denziel! I order you to release Princess Maia from her predicament, this instant!" Rhys shouted, but Lord Denziel just laughed.
   
    "Well then, fight for her! I'll even let Prince Lyle help you!" Lord Denziel announced, charging forward slowly. His armour meant that he couldn't move very fast. Rhys stormed forward and pushed Lord Denziel to the floor with great effort. The lord's helmet fell off with a metallic clatter. Lyle walked up to Lord Denziel with his staff high above his head. One quick downwards swing and Lyle hit Lord Denziel in the head with the staff. The lord recoiled back, but he swiped his sword. He missed Lyle, but he hit Rhys with the flat of the blade, winding him.
   
    "Wait a minute, I've got an idea!" Lyle said. He muttered a few words under his breath and waved his staff at Lord Denziel. A cloud of green gas enveloped the lord and when it dissipated, his armour had gone! Lyle had cast the Disarma Technique, which is a technique used to destroy armour.
   
    "Well, this makes it fair play now. We weren't wearing any armour." Rhys said to himself, picking himself up and swiping his knife at Lord Denziel, cutting his right arm quite nastily. Blood trickled out of the wound and stained the lord's garments.
   
    "Fair play? Hmm! You think." Lord Denziel said, swinging his sword again. This time, the edge of the blade caught Lyle in the left leg, opening a large wound. The Layan prince crumpled to the floor in pain, but a few minutes and a Resta Technique (a basic healing technique) later, he was back on his feet again.
   
    "I've had enough of this!" said a voice from the rest of the party. It was Lena! She had borrowed Sir Longsword's long sword and was now charging at Lord Denziel. She jumped and impaled him in the chest. The lord called a halt to the battle. Lena withdrew the sword and handed it back to Sir Longsword. Lord Denziel clutched at his wound and stood up.
   
    "It appears that the young woman has helped you win, Prince Rhys. In that case, you can now choose. You can marry either Princess Maia or Lena. Marry Maia and you'll become the King of Cille. Marry Lena and you'll become King of Landen." Lord Denziel said, wincing slightly from his injury. Rhys turned to face Lena.
   
    "Though I sought Maia, I choose to wed you, Lena." the Orakian prince said, taking Lena's hand in one of his own. From inside the cell, Maia was hot with anger.
   
    "How could you, Rhys? I'll get you for this!" Maia screamed, but Lord Denziel silenced her.
   
    "Don't worry about her, Prince Rhys. Let's begin the wedding!" the lord announced, and so everyone headed back to the main corridor of Castle Cille.



* * *


And so, after a long journey, Prince Rhys had finally rescued Princess Maia. However, Lena had captured his heart during this journey, and so he decided to marry her. They became King and Queen of Landen, and Nathaniel, Rhys' father, became the Lord of Landen so that his son could be King.
   
    Soon after, Queen Lena gave birth to a son, whom she named Nial. The King and Queen of Landen hoped that everything would go smoothly, but nothing in the future is certain, for the future is not yet written.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

PART II: Chapter One

 

 

 

 

Two days after Prince Nial's sixteenth birthday, some bad reports reach the ears of King Rhys and Queen Lena. It seems that the Queen's birth town of Satera, west of Landen, is being destroyed! King Rhys, along with Mieu and Wren, tries to investigate...


* * *


"This wasn't such a good idea. Queen Lena will be worried sick!" Mieu said as she gingerly stepped over a pile of broken wooden beams. She, Wren and King Rhys of Landen were in Satera, the town where Queen Lena was born and raised. Scouts from Landen had seen the town get destroyed, and so the King of Landen had come to investigate.
   
    "I know, but I would rather find out what destroyed my wife's birth town. Something evil is afoot..." King Rhys replied. Even though he was now in his early thirties, Rhys hadn't changed much. He still had his short, ocean-blue hair and his sophisticated manner and dress sense. The only real change was his change of weaponry. He now carried a two handed sword instead of a hunting knife.
   
    "Look, what's this?" Wren asked as he crossed over to a collapsed house and pulled out a small black-haired doll. Rhys took hold of it and held it in his hands. He closed his eyes and a tear fell.
   
    "The destruction was so great that no-one had time to evacuate. I can sense that." Rhys said quietly, the breeze ruffling his hair. Mieu and Wren worked together to clear away some of the wrecked house, and there they found the body of a little girl.
   
    "You were right. The people couldn't evacuate. But who would do such a thing?" Mieu said, her voice choked with sorrow. Rhys clutched the small doll close to his chest.
   
    "Some malevolent individual is behind this, and we must find out." Rhys said confidently, putting the doll into his pocket. Heavy footsteps approached the threesome.
   
    "So, do you like my mess?" a tall man asked Rhys. The king looked up, and he saw that the man had long, lime-green hair that was all over the place. He was wearing a short-sleeved purple top and a pair of black pants with dark green boots. His hairline was covered with a blue embroidered headband and his arms were adorned with bracelets. He had a choker around his neck. A throwing knife and a sword were jammed into his belt.
   
    "I disapprove of your malevolent destruction, you cad! What have you done?" Rhys yelled, getting very annoyed. The man smiled at him.
   
    "I just cleaned up the western part of the Chalst Province. I'm a cleaner." the man said jokily. He laughed heartily. Rhys looked fierce.
   
    "You destroy a town, and you call it cleaning? What kind of monster are you?" Rhys drew his sword from its scabbard and bared it at the man.
   
    "Monster? I already told you, I'm a cleaner!" The man muttered a few incomprehensible words under his breath and cast the Rafoi Technique. Like the Foi Technique, it is a fire-based attack, but this one causes a huge fireball to explode with a range of 10 metres from the caster. It attacks everything within a 10 metre radius. Rhys, Mieu and Wren were blown to the ground with a sickening thud.
   
    "Well, that went with a bang!" the man said coolly before strolling off.
   
    "Cad!" Rhys roared, but the man drew his sword and stabbed Rhys. He fell to the floor, moaning in pain. As the man walked away, he cast the Zan Technique on both Mieu and Wren, frazzling and paralysing them.



* * *


Two weeks on, and Queen Lena was sat on the throne in Castle Landen, awaiting the news from King Rhys. She knew that these kinds of investigations took a while, so she was trying to hold off her worries. Just then, a guard came through the door.
   
    "Queen Lena! I have terrible news." the guard said.
   
    "Please, share it with me." Lena said.
   
    "Your husband, King Rhys... he said he'd be contacting us today, but we haven't heard anything from him! I fear he may have landed himself in trouble!" On these words, Lena stood up and padded over to the guard.
   
    "Whatever are you talking about?" Lena asked. Just as the guard was about to speak, a young, brown-haired man pushed past them. He was Prince Nial, King Rhys and Queen Lena's son. He was wearing a brown shirt, a pair of brown pants and a pair of brown boots. He had a white cloak pinned around him, and a short sword was jammed in his belt.
   
    "Move aside, slackers!" Nial shouted. His manner was very unprincely. In fact, he stole, looted and killed without a second thought. He even spoke so rudely that people nicknamed him 'the rogue prince'. He stormed up to the throne and sat down on it.
   
    "Nial, do you mind? I was having a word with the guard!" Lena shouted, angered by her son's attitude.
   
    "Shut up, Mum. I don't care if you were chatting him up or not. I've had a long day, that's all." Nial replied bitterly. He folded his arms and surveyed the throne room aimlessly.
   
    "Now, Your Highness... as I was saying, I fear that King Rhys may have been killed!" the guard said sadly. Nial heard him, and he cheered silently.
   
    "No more pushy posh dad to bother me now..." Nial said to himself. After Lena had just about accepted the news, she stood up and walked over to Nial, who was now lounging on the throne.
   
    "Nial, my son, I need to ask you a favour." Lena said quietly. Nial didn't reply. He fiddled with a lock of his short, brown hair.
   
    "Excuse me, Nial! I'm talking!" Lena shouted.
   
    "Oh, sorry, Mum, was I supposed to listen? Go away. I've got better things to do." Nial hissed in reply.
   
    "Listen to me, though. My birth town of Satera was recently destroyed."
   
    "Yeah, and Dad went out and got himself killed. What's it got to do with me?"
   
    "I want you to find out who did this. I can't let this get away unpunished."
   
    "I'm NOT your personal slave or your errand boy, Mum! You want something done, go and do it yourself! I don't have time for your stupid little jobs!" Nial turned to look into Lena's eyes. He saw the fierceness burning within. He sighed.
   
    "Fine, I'll go. But I'm not going on my own."
   
    "In that case, head for the Helskiz Province. Your father's friend Lyle lives in Shusoran. He could lend a hand." After Lena had finished speaking, Nial stood up and stormed out of the throne room, his cloak flapping wildly behind him. He headed for the Helskiz Province.



* * *


After a trek through the Chalst Province, a wander through the Helskiz Province mainland and a voyage on a small boat from the fishing village of Rysel, Prince Nial had made it into Shusoran. People were running around in a panic, screaming. Nial sighed and walked through the town in a carefree manner, snatching a few things from any interesting stalls he passed. He approached the gate of Castle Shusoran, where a few people were standing.
   
    "Hey, you! What's going on here?" Nial yelled at a young man with bright green ponytailed hair. What he didn't realise was that he had just shouted at Prince Lyle. Even though sixteen years had passed, he was only a few months older. Dr. Liam Styles had suggested that he should go into cryogenic sleep, and so that's what he had done. The guards of Shusoran Castle had woken him up two months ago. Lyle didn't respond to Nial.
   
    "Damn it, you nut! Over here!" Nial thundered. Lyle did turn round then. He faced the prince with a fierce glare.
   
    "Hey, what's your problem? You lost or something?" Lyle shouted in reply. The Layan prince ran over to Nial and looked at him closely.
   
    "No, I'm not! I'm Prince Nial of Landen, and I've come to ask for your help." Nial said quickly. Lyle put a hand on his hip. His other hand was holding his staff.
   
    "So you're the son of Rhys and Lena. I like you." Lyle replied thoughtfully.
   
    "Well that's nice to know."
   
    "Yeah. You're a lot more laid-back than Rhys. He was far too posh." When Lyle had finished speaking, Nial laughed. Even Lyle had thought that Rhys was very posh!
   
    "Now, Lyle! Will you help me? My mum's been at me again." Nial said, his tone sounding slightly fierce.
   
    "Do you want me to sort her out for you?" Lyle asked.
   
    "No," Nial replied, "it's because the picky old bat wants me to find out what destroyed her birth town. She wouldn't leave me alone." Whilst the prince was speaking, Lyle tapped his staff with his free hand.
   
    "Yeah, and the same thing's been trying to destroy Shusoran! Some crazy guy with lime-green hair and a ton of bling. But I thought Orakio banished him to the moon Dahlia 1000 years ago!" Nial was confused. He hadn't heard much about past events. Lyle looked the prince in the eye and smiled.
   
    "Tell you what, Nial, let's go back to Landen and ask your mum what she knows. I'll do the talking, so there's no need to worry." Lyle began to walk out of the town. Nial didn't follow straight away. He had seen two men at a ready-made kebab stall. The prince stormed over to them.
   
    "What can I do fer yeh, mate?" one of the men asked.
   
    "Get me a kebab!" Nial ordered. The other man flinched and began preparing. There were already two on the stall, so Nial took one.
   
    "Hey, yeh can't 'ave it fer free, mate! 400 meseta fer a kebab!" the first man shouted, but Nial had already escaped with the kebab. He caught up with Lyle and began to eat.
   
    "Where'd you get that, Nial? I'm famished!" Lyle asked as the prince bit into the kebab. Nial looked up.
   
    "From a stall in Shusoran." the prince replied, his mouth full of food.
   
    "How much?"
   
    "Didn't cost me anything."
   
    "Free kebabs?"
   
    "Nah, I nicked it." On those words, Lyle began to get cross. Nial had stolen a kebab from a stall!
   
    "Hey, Nial, you shouldn't do that! Stealing is bad!" Lyle shouted. Nial finished his kebab, wiped his greasy hands and mouth on his cloak and turned to face Lyle.
   
    "They don't care in Landen." the prince replied fiercely. Lyle sighed.
   
    "Still, it's bad! A crime in most places. Anyway, we're nearly at Landen. I need to talk with your mum." Lyle said, striding towards Landen, his hair swishing and his cloak flapping wildly behind him. Nial ran after him.



* * *


Prince Nial and Prince Lyle had finally made it to Castle Landen so that they could have a talk with Lena. Just as they were about to go into the throne room, they heard a gasp. Lyle opened the door of the throne room and allowed Nial to enter. He followed straight after, shutting the door behind him.
   
    "I apologise, Queen Lena. His wounds are too grave." a doctor said. He, Queen Lena and two warriors were gathered around a bed, where King Rhys was lying. His clothes were bloodstained and his movements were feeble. Lyle saw him and ran over.
   
    "Rhys, what the heck happened to you?" the Layan prince asked in horror. Rhys turned slowly to face him.
   
    "That cad... destroyed Satera... almost killed me..." Rhys croaked, his words almost inaudible.
   
    "Look, do you know who it was?" Lyle asked, his voice choked with concern.
   
    "I can't... quite remember... but he said... his name..."
   
    "Which was?? I swear I'll do him in for you."
   
    "His name... Emperor Lune... the foul scourge..." On those words, Lena began to panic. Tears were soaking her face. She looked at Lyle.
   
    "Please, Prince Lyle, stick by your promise! Go, find Emperor Lune with Prince Nial and kill him!" Lena sobbed, taking a handkerchief from her pocket and wiping her eyes. Although Nial wasn't really too concerned, he went over to Rhys and looked at him.
   
    "Ah, Nial, my son... it's too late..." Rhys croaked, holding out a trembling hand towards Nial. The prince took it, and a change seemed to overcome him. His roguish personality seemed to dissipate for a few brief moments.
   
    "I'm so sorry, Dad. I was never a good son. I gave you and Mum misery, and I..." Nial began, but he couldn't find the words to carry on. Rhys managed a small smile.
   
    "Don't worry, my son... I don't want you... to misjudge... but I think..." Rhys began, but his eyes closed and his head fell to the side. Nial shook him gently.
   
    "Dad, what is it? Tell me!" the prince wailed. The doctor walked over to him.
   
    "I'm sorry, Prince Nial. Your father... is dead." he said. Nial had never really cared about his family, but the doctor's words were too much for him to take in. The prince couldn't believe that his father was dead, no, he refused to believe that his father was dead. He knew a fair bit about techniques.
   
    "Doctor, try using a Reverser Technique!" Nial said, shaking the doctor. He pulled away and backed down.
   
    "I'm sorry. The Reverser Technique does not work for this kind of death. Please, you must accept the facts." the doctor replied.
   
    "No..." Nial sobbed, dropping to the floor and crying. As much as he didn't like his father, he couldn't believe what this mysterious Emperor Lune character had done. He would avenge his father's death, even if that meant he gets hurt himself. The two warriors that were standing by the bed walked over to Queen Lena.
   
    "Look, we also pulled Mieu and Wren out of there. They've been quite severely damaged." one of the warriors said. The other warrior crossed over to two more beds, where Mieu and Wren were lying. Sparks were still fizzling, and each spark made them twitch sporadically. Nial wiped the tears from his eyes and strutted over, with Lyle following.
   
    "I'll get someone in to sort them out." Lena said quietly, her voice still choked up with sorrow. She walked over to Nial and Lyle.
   
    "Please, you two, you have to find and remove Emperor Lune from the picture! I've heard that the town of Divisia in the Salvadayna Province was nearly attacked. The people there might know something." Lena told the two princes. Lyle looked at her.
   
    "You leave it with us. Lune won't know what hit him!" Lyle shouted triumphantly, striding away from Lena and out of the throne room.
   
    "Yeah, we'll get him!" Nial yelled. Lena took his hand.
   
    "Good luck... my rogue prince." Lena whispered. Nial smiled and left the throne room to catch up with Lyle.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

PART II: Chapter Two

 

 

 

 

"I didn't realise just how much my dad meant to me until then..." Nial said to Lyle as the two princes made their way across the Chalst-Salvadayna border and into the Salvadayna Province.
   
    "You just don't know what you've got until it's gone, really. But, even as much as you tried to deny it, deep down, you love your parents. That's what I've learned." Lyle replied. The twosome made tracks along the open, grassy plain, but as they approached a rock formation in the distance, a man jumped out at them! He grabbed hold of Lyle and held a dagger near to his throat.
   
    "Right, Layan! Time's up! Where's Lune?" the man hissed, pressing the dagger harder against Lyle's throat. The Layan prince gulped and tried to struggle.
   
    "I don't know! I'm looking for him!" Lyle cried, trying in vain to free himself from the man's grasp. The man pushed him down on the ground and pinned him. The man held the dagger dangerously close to Lyle's cheek. Nial drew his sword, just in case he needed to help Lyle.
   
    "Now, are you working for Lune, or are you working against him?" he asked. Lyle struggled violently and vainly.
   
    "I'm working against him! Look, my friend's father was brutalised by that horrid Lune, and I've got a score to settle." The man sighed, sheathed his dagger and helped Lyle to his feet.
   
    "OK, you're a good one, I'll admit. By the way, did you know that Divisia, the town here, was nearly attacked?" the man asked. Lyle hesitated for a second.
   
    "No. Why?"
   
    "Well, you see, the guards captured Alair, Lune's younger sister. It's a good job they did, though. She's a creepy Layan. Like you."
   
    "How did you know I was Layan?"
   
    "The hair says it all, pal. Orakians have more subdued shades. Layans have extravagant colours. I mean, you could make a rainbow out of Layan hair colours!"
   
    "Yeah, OK. Sure. Anyway, me and my friend need to go. We're going to Divisia and we'll find and exact our revenge on Lune."
   
    "You'd better watch your step, Layan! The guards might lock you in their dungeon, just like they did with Lune's sister!" The man laughed and darted off. Lyle brushed the grass off his clothes and flicked his wayward hair out of his face.
   
    "That creep! Are you OK?" Nial asked.
   
    "Yeah, fine. Come on, let's go to Divisia. If they've got Lune's sister, she might know where Lune is. Let's go!" On those words, Lyle ran ahead. Nial followed him, and they reached North Divisia in a matter of minutes. The gate was locked shut.
   
    "Let me take care of it." Nial hissed, and then he stormed up to the gate. He banged it with his fist.
   
    "Right, you people! This is Prince Nial of Landen, and I'm ordering you to open up!" Nial yelled. A guard glared at him from the other side of the gate.
   
    "Sorry, Prince. You've got a Layan with you." the guard said calmly. Nial exploded with rage.
   
    "Shut your fat mouth, you lousy pigeon! Let us in!" the prince boomed, but the guard didn't flinch. He laughed instead.
   
    "Your Layan friend is working for Lune. We won't allow followers of Lune to enter this town." the guard snarled. Now it was Lyle's turn to get angry.
   
    "In fact, my home town of Shusoran was nearly destroyed by Lune! I hate that guy more than I hate having to eat my greens!" the Layan prince shouted. The guard sighed.
   
    "Alright, you've got a good argument. Come on in, both of you." he said, opening the gate and allowing Nial and Lyle to enter.
   
    The town of Divisia was massive, and it was split in two by a huge castle. The two princes were in North Divisia, where most of Divisia's industry and manufacturing was based. The town was renowned for the quality of its cooking equipment, and every road was lined with people making pots and utensils to sell. There was an old, rickety building next to the gate into Castle Divisia, which was a tavern. Nial and Lyle made their way towards it, and Nial (as was the norm for him) snitched a couple of the items off the stalls. Luckily for him, no-one had seen him, not even Lyle.



* * *


Prince Nial and Prince Lyle made their way into the tavern of North Divisia. As they entered, they could smell alcohol. Nial strode over to the bar.
   
    "Hey! Get me some ale!" Nial shouted at the barman.
   
    "OK, let me just serve this customer." the barman replied. He filled a tankard with ale and gave it to an old man, who hobbled over to the table in the corner. Lyle came over to Nial.
   
    "Get me a drink, Nial. I'll find us somewhere to sit." Lyle said, and then he walked towards a table in the corner opposite to the old man and sat down.
   
    "Barman, make that two!" Nial called. The barman got two tankards out from a cupboard and filled them with ale. He passed them to Nial.
   
    "That's 1350 meseta." the barman said. Nial looked around. He couldn't hope to get away with taking the ale without paying, despite the fact that he was a seasoned thief. He decided to pay. He fumbled through his pockets, but he could only find 1000 meseta. He placed it on the bar and took the tankards of ale over to where Lyle was sat.
   
    "Thanks, Nial." Lyle said as Nial handed him a tankard brimming with ale. The two princes glugged their ale like the rest of the people. Well, they didn't want to look stupid or anything. As they were about to stand up, the barman came storming over to Nial.
   
    "Hey, you, rogue! You only gave me 1000 meseta, and I told you it was 1350 meseta! Where's the other 350?" the barman shouted, grabbing Nial around the wrist. The prince shook his head.
   
    "That was all the money I had!" Nial replied sharply. The barman noticed the purse attached to the prince's belt. He shook it with his free hand and heard a jangling sound. Nial heard it too.
   
    "OK, maybe I did lie. But so what? It's only 350 meseta!" the prince shouted, trying to free himself from the barman's grasp.
   
    "Nial, will you just pay the man?" Lyle sighed, shaking his head. Nial looked at him, his eyes flaming.
   
    "I don't do payments very often! The guy was lucky to get 1000 meseta out of me!" the prince roared, finally wrenching himself free from the barman. As the barman was about to chase after Nial, Lyle stopped him.
   
    "Sorry about this, he's not one for paying. I'll give you the rest of it." the Layan prince said, taking 350 meseta out of his purse and handing it to the barman. He took it and sauntered back towards the bar. As the barman went away, Nial strutted over to Lyle.
   
    "You owe me, Nial." Lyle said as the prince walked past him and sat down.
   
    "What's your problem?" Nial asked sharply.
   
    "I had to pay the barman because you wouldn't! Come on, it's not a big loss. It's only 350 meseta." Lyle replied.
   
    "He's sorted now, Lyle. Can't we just forget it and ask these people something?"
   
    "Hey! I'm not gonna keep paying YOUR debts, Nial! I'll tell you now - you either pay the 350 meseta you owe me or I'm out. Gone! Back to Shusoran! You hear me?" Nial sighed and shook his head.
   
    "Fine, Lyle. But you'll have to earn it."
   
    "Yeah, fine. If it makes you happy."
   
    "You have to ask these people what they know about Lune's whereabouts and Alair's capture."
   
    "Sure. Where's the cash?"
   
    "In my purse. I'll give it to you when you've finished asking." Lyle gave Nial a doubting look and walked around, quizzing people on what they knew about Lune and Alair. Eventually, an old man told him. He was the same old man that had been served his ale before the barman sorted out Nial's order.
   
    "So, what do you know about Alair's capture?" Lyle asked the man.
   
    "She was taken into Castle Divisia and locked in the dungeons. Lune found out and he tried to destroy the town to save her, but our guards fended him off with ease."
   
    "Yeah. And what do you know about Lune's whereabouts?"
   
    "Nothing much. But, there is a group of rebels in a cave southwest of Divisia. I hear that they're hot on Lune's trail. They want him down, as well."
   
    "OK, thanks." Lyle walked back over to Nial.
   
    "So? What did you find out?" the prince asked as Lyle sat down next to him.
   
    "Well, I found out that when the guards captured Alair, Lune nearly destoyed the town to try and save her. Luckily the guards stopped him. And, no-one knows where Lune is, but a group of rebels in a cave to the southwest are tracking him." Lyle replied. Nial counted out 350 meseta and handed it to the Layan prince.
   
    "You've earned it. Now, I think we should go and talk with Alair." Nial said.
   
    "Yeah. Let's go." Lyle replied. The two princes stood up, left the tavern and entered Castle Divisia.



* * *


As Prince Nial and Prince Lyle entered Castle Divisia, a guard strode up to them.
   
    "What is your purpose?" the guard asked.
   
    "We need to speak with your prisoner." Lyle replied. The guard folded his arms and raised an eyebrow.
   
    "What? Alair? Are you Lune's friend or something?"
   
    "No, but we think she might know something about Lune."
   
    "Sure thing. Follow me." The guard walked into the castle. Nial and Lyle followed him to a steep spiral staircase leading downwards. As the two princes were about to go down, the guard stopped them.
   
    "Careful, she's a tricky one. To get to her cell, go down the staircase, first right, second left, third cell on the right." Lyle thanked him and the two princes descended the spiralling staircase.
   
    "Now it's time to find Alair." Nial said, taking the first right, as the guard had instructed. The two princes then stayed close as they took the second left and found the third cell on the right. Inside the cell was a young woman with long lime-green hair. Her hair was adorned with hair wraps and clasps, and she was wearing a royal purple dress with white trimmings. She wore bracelets on her arms, a choker round her neck, a pair of earrings and very heavy eye make-up, the kind of eye make-up that would make Amy Winehouse seem like she's not wearing any make-up at all. She was Alair, Lune's younger sister.
   
    "Who are you?" Alair asked in fright. Lyle strode up to the bars of the cell and peered at her. Nial stood next to him.
   
    "I'm Lyle, Prince of Shusoran. This is my friend, Nial, Prince of Landen. Now, we need to ask you a few questions." Lyle replied. Alair stood up and glared at Lyle.
   
    "Questions? Look, I'm innocent, really I am." Alair sighed.
   
    "Prove it!" Nial snapped. Alair shuffled on her feet.
   
    "I came to Divisia to warn the people that my brother had lost his marbles, but they captured me and put me in this cell. I wanted to save lives, but I got myself in a mess." she said. Nial raised an eyebrow.
   
    "You nearly got the town in a mess. Lune nearly destroyed it because you got captured!" the prince said, his voice sounding stern.
   
    "We need to ask you a few questions." Lyle said.
   
    "OK, then. Ask away." Alair replied.
   
    "Where's Lune?"
   
    "I don't know. Really, I don't."
   
    "OK. Where did Lune come from?"
   
    "The planet Dahlia, one of Samesina's moons. Orakio banished Lune and I there over 1000 years ago."
   
    "And how are you still here?"
   
    "Cryogenic sleep."
   
    "I mean," Nial said to Lyle, "if Alair is innocent, then we should release her."
   
    "And then they lock US in these cells. Nial, use your head!"
   
    "Sorry, Lyle. But..."
   
    "Alright, Nial. We'll release her." Lyle tapped the lock on the cell door with his staff, muttered a few words under his breath and cast the Houdini Technique, an all-purpose escape technique. The real name of the technique is unknown, so I decided to name it after Harry Houdini, a famed escapologist. Alair walked out of the cell, but before she could go any further, Nial stopped her.
   
    "You'd better be careful, Alair." the prince said, taking Alair's hand.
   
    "You too, Prince Nial." Alair replied. Nial let go of her hand and she walked up to Lyle.
   
    "Thanks for rescuing me, Prince Lyle. I'll go and try to stop my brother. I don't want any more towns being destroyed." she said. Lyle smiled, and Alair began to put a veil over her head. She told the two princes that this was to conceal her identity. She concealed her clothing with a large, hooded brown cloak and made her way up the staircase.
   
    "I guess we'll have to go out to that cave full of rebels in the southwest." Nial said, heading towards the staircase. The two princes made their way out of the dungeon, out of Castle Divisia, through South Divisia and back into the open plain of the Salvadayna Province. They headed southwest, towards the cave that the old man in the tavern had mentioned.



* * *


Prince Nial and Prince Lyle entered the cave, and they found themselves in a brightly lit passage. A man was wandering around aimlessly. He saw the two princes.
   
    "All opponents of Lune are welcome! If you hate Emperor Lune, you've come to the right place!" he announced.
   
    "Great. We hate Lune, too." Lyle said with a smile. He then walked further down the passage with Nial following close behind. As the two princes walked further into the cave, they felt that they were going around in circles. There were no maps, and the passages were very twisty. Just as they were about to give themselves up for lost, a woman came over to them.
   
    "Can I help you?" she asked.
   
    "Yeah. Where's the leader of the group?" Nial said.
   
    "Follow me." The woman began to walk down a thin passageway. Nial and Lyle followed her, and then they found themselves in a massive, echoey cavern. The walls were jagged and the floor was uneven. Several people were wandering around and chatting. The man who was standing in the middle of the room was familiar to the two princes - he was the same man who had threatened Lyle! He had short, jet-black hair, and he was wearing a green shirt with a pair of blue jeans and a pair of brown cowboy boots. A pair of sunglasses shaded his eyes. Nial strode over to him.
   
    "Where's the leader?" the prince asked sharply. The man folded his arms and looked cross.
   
    "I'm here, you daft idiot." His gaze shifted towards Lyle as the Layan prince made his way over to Nial.
   
    "You again! You really are working for Lune, aren't you? You wouldn't follow me unless you were." he said, pulling a long quarterstaff from an elaborate wooden stand. Lyle realised what was coming, so he readied his staff.
   
    "I am NOT working for Lune!" Lyle shouted, but the man didn't listen.
   
    "Snivelling Layan creep. Lying... and threatening to kill me! How interesting!" the man replied, swinging his quarterstaff in an arc. Lyle ducked and jabbed the man with his staff, knocking him to the ground.
   
    "You need to speak to my friend here. He'll tell you the truth!" Lyle said, indicating Nial as he spoke. The man picked himself up and brushed himself down. He faced Nial and straightened his sunglasses.
   
    "So, what do you have to say?" he asked.
   
    "Well, first of all, he isn't working for Lune. He's helping me avenge my father." Nial replied. The man raised an eyebrow.
   
    "And who killed your father?"
   
    "It was Lune."
   
    "You've got a good argument. But it still doesn't suggest that your Layan friend isn't working with Lune. As far as I'm concerned, he's one of Lune's men who's trying to infiltrate my gang!" When the man had finished speaking, there was a flash and a loud bang. Someone had entered the cave by using the Ryuka Technique, a teleportation technique.
   
    "You rebels! Defying my rule, are we, eh? I'll sort that out." the man who had just appeared said. Lyle looked at him.
   
    "Hey, you nearly destroyed Shusoran! So you're Emperor Lune, huh?" he asked. Lune laughed heartily.
   
    "Yes, I am the incredible, the amazing, the simply stupendous Emperor Lune! I cleaned up the west of the Chalst Province and removed a poshy king." Lune replied.
   
    "That poshy king was my father!" Nial snapped.
   
    "You're Prince Nial, aren't you? Your father did mention you. Said you were a bit of a rogue. You'd be perfect for my group." Lune said thoughtfully. Nial raised an eyebrow.
   
    "If I were to join your group, what would I get?" the prince asked.
   
    "You'd get 2,000,000 meseta every day, and you'd have the chance to loot and kill as much as you liked!" Lune replied.
   
    "I don't think so, Lune. You've got a very bad sales pitch."
   
    "Ah, come on, Prince Nial! Everyone who joins Team Lune loves it!"
   
    "No! Get the message? You killed my dad, so why should I even vaguely trust you?"
   
    "I am the best of the best. Simple. You don't hang with the best, you can never be the best." Lyle had had enough of hearing Lune try and persuade Nial to join him. He stormed up to Lune.
   
    "Lune, knock it off! Prince Nial doesn't want to join you! Get over it!" Lyle snapped. Lune laughed.
   
    "Oh, alright then, I'll stop nagging the poor prince. That does mean you'll have to accompany me." Lune replied.
   
    "No chance, Lune. Prince Nial's father was also my friend. I won't go with you."
   
    "The decision was made before you could even argue back." Lune grabbed Lyle around the wrist and cast the Ryuka Technique, teleporting them both out of the cave.
   
    "Lune, you daft old git!" Nial roared. The leader of the rebels came over to him.
   
    "Look, Prince Nial. I'm sorry about my rudeness towards your Layan friend before. My name's Ryan, and I'm the leader of this gang. We track Lune and we try and take him out. All those stories about us being rebels are wrong." Ryan said, placing a hand on Nial's shoulder. The prince turned round to face him.
   
    "OK, Ryan, my Layan friend is Lyle, Prince of Shusoran. We've got to rescue him!" Nial replied, shaking Ryan's hand off his shoulder.
   
    "Indeed, Nial. Oh no, I've not..." Ryan began, but Nial hushed him and said that it was alright. He didn't mind Ryan not calling him 'Prince'.
   
    "Let's get going!" Nial ordered, beginning to walk out of the cavern, but Ryan stopped him.
   
    "Let's do it the easy way." he said, taking hold of Nial's hand and casting the Ryuka Technique. They appeared outside the cave.
   
    "Come on, we've got a prince to save!" Nial said, heading back towards the town of Divisia, with Ryan following close behind.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

PART II: Chapter Three

 

 

 

 

Meanwhile, on Dahlia, Prince Lyle was stuck in a cell made of a hardened glass-like substance. He had been banging on the wall, demanding to be let out for the past fifteen minutes.
   
    "Can't you be quiet for a minute? I can't hear myself think!" Emperor Lune snapped. He had been standing outside the cell the whole time.
   
    "Let me out, you pathetic old goat!" Lyle shouted in reply. Lune peered into the Layan prince's eyes.
   
    "No, I can't. She'll flip her lid." Lune said quietly.
   
    "Who is she?" Lyle asked.
   
    "I've said too much. You'd better be quiet." Lune strode away from the cell, leaving Lyle on his own. He knew he had to find out who 'she' was, who Lune seemed to be working for. Since he was now alone, he quickly cast the Houdini Technique and pushed open the cell door.
   
    "Time for some spying..." Lyle muttered as he lightly darted across the long corridor. As he neared the corner, he stopped and hugged the wall. Sidling along carefully, he peered around the corner. No-one was there. He dashed across the gap and stopped in front of a door. He put his ear to the keyhole and listened.
   
    "Do yourself a favour, Lune. Why don't you just brutalise that prince you captured?"
   
    "No, my sweet, I'll use him as bait. I'll use him to lure Prince Nial here, then I'll smoosh the pair of them!"
   
    "Prince Nial? Who is this prince?"
   
    "Remember the guy who wanted to marry you?"
   
    "Yes, why?"
   
    "When he ran off with Lena, they had a son called Nial." Lyle peered through the keyhole and saw the woman smile at Lune. He noticed that she had long, turquoise-blue hair.
   
    "Maia!" Lyle hissed to himself. He put his ear to the keyhole again and listened some more.
   
    "Very well, Lune. You may use your captive to lure Prince Nial here, but when Nial is here, there is no need for him. I suggest you kill him as soon as Nial is in sight."
   
    "I can't do that. I'll see what Nial would do to save him."
   
    "No, you will kill him as soon as Nial is in your sight!" Lyle had had enough. He'd found out that he was going to be used as live bait, and that Lune would kill him as soon as he had seen Prince Nial. He had to tell him, but how? Just then, the latch on the door he had been eavesdropping at clicked, and Lune stepped out.
   
    "Well, we have an escaper!" Lune said cheerfully, grabbing hold of Lyle's wrist and putting the Layan prince in an arm-lock.
   
    "I know what you're up to, Lune! You'll force Prince Nial to come here, then you'll kill me!" Lyle shouted, trying in vain to struggle free. Lune was rather strong.
   
    "You're smart! Why, you might even be a genius! How did you know that?" the emperor asked jokily. He was making the situation seem like a game. Lyle, on the other hand, had other thoughts.
   
    "I listened in on your conversation with Princess Maia." the Layan prince replied calmly. Lune growled and slammed Lyle into the wall. He had finished being jolly about the situation.
   
    "You idiot! Why did you... listen in?" Lune asked, forcing Lyle to the ground. The Layan prince cringed in pain.
   
    "I needed to find out what you were up to. Now I know that you're not the real suspect." Lyle said, and to his surprise, Lune released his grip on him. Lyle stood up and faced Lune.
   
    "True, I'm not. Look, you'll have to tell Prince Nial." Lune said.
   
    "How?" Lyle asked.
   
    "Simple. Write a letter and use the Ryuka Technique to send it."
   
    "I don't have anything to write with. Or write on, for that matter."
   
    "OK, follow me." Lune lead Lyle down to a small room with a desk. On the desk, there were several sheets of paper, some envelopes and a selection of pens.
   
    "There you are. All the writing stuff you'll ever need." Lune said, ushering Lyle towards the desk. The Layan prince walked over to the desk and sat down. He picked up a pen and a sheet of paper, and wrote his letter. He folded it, placed it in an envelope, licked it, addressed it and put it on the table.
   
    "Now what?" Lyle asked.
   
    "Like I said, cast the Ryuka Technique and send it to Prince Nial. I'll do it." Lune strode over to the desk, muttered a few words and cast the Ryuka Technique. The letter disappeared.
   
    "OK, I'll have to take you back to the cell now." Lune said sadly, grabbing hold of Lyle's wrist and leading the Layan prince back to the cell.



* * *


"We've practically been walking non-stop for the past two hours, Ryan! Can't we stop and take a rest? My feet hurt!" Prince Nial snapped. He and Ryan had been trudging through the Salvadayna Province, across the Salvadayna-Bernink border and they were now in the Bernink Province. They had been walking for two hours, no breaks, and Nial was thoroughly fed up.
   
    "Look, Nial... we can't take too many breaks. I don't know what Lune will do to your friend, but I know that he's up to no good." Ryan replied. Nial sighed.
   
    "Yeah, you're right. But, even so, my feet are killing me!"
   
    "Alright, we're nearly at the cyborg town of Hazatak. We'll rest there." So saying, Ryan grasped Nial's arm and hurried the prince into Hazatak. When they got there, they sat on a bench just outside the inn.
   
    Five minutes later, a cyborg came running up to the twosome.
   
    "Wait... aren't you Prince Nial?" the cyborg asked, looking at Nial thoughtfully.
   
    "Yeah. What do you want?" the prince snapped.
   
    "Ah. I am Wren. I was with your father when we were attacked by Emperor Lune." Wren said. Nial shot him an odd glare.
   
    "Uh-huh. You were with another cyborg. Redhead girl."
   
    "Yes, that was Mieu. Unfortunately she came out worse off. Anyway, Queen Lena sent me to aid you."
   
    "We'll need more help anyway..." Ryan cut in. Nial gave him a funny look.
   
    "Let's hear what Wren has to say." the prince said calmly, despite the fact that Ryan had angered him through his interruption. Wren cleared his throat.
   
    "I came to tell you that I found a young woman on my way here. I don't know what to do." he said.
   
    "You could've brought her here!" Nial snapped. Wren sighed.
   
    "I was in a hurry."
   
    "OK, where is she?" Wren didn't answer. He beckoned to Nial and Ryan, and then he strode out of Hazatak. Nial and Ryan followed him to a small temple, and there they saw the young woman. She had long blonde hair that swished in the light desert winds. She was wearing a red and white short-sleeved dress, brown boots and a silver tiara. A quiver was slung over her shoulder. There were several gashes covering her body. To everyone's relief, she did show signs of life.
   
    "She's been hurt!" Ryan gasped. He picked up the unconscious young woman and together, he, Nial and Wren headed back to Hazatak. Being as careful as he could, Ryan lay the woman on the ground and took out his quarterstaff.
   
    "What are you doing, Ryan?" Nial asked.
   
    "As much as I'd love to chat, I have work to do." Ryan replied, then he muttered a few words under his breath and cast the Resta Technique on the young woman. Her wounds healed and she began to regain consciousness.
   
    "Where... am I?" she asked wearily. Nial knelt in front of her.
   
    "You're in Hazatak, the cyborg town. My friend Ryan healed you up. I'm Prince Nial of Landen, and there's Wren." the prince said. The woman flickered her eyelids and shook her head.
   
    "I see, Prince. I am the sister of the great leader Laya. I am also called Laya." Laya said, still trying to right herself. Nial helped her to her feet.
   
    "Laya, we need your help. My friend was kidnapped by Emperor Lune." the prince said. On the mention of Lune's name, Laya gasped.
   
    "My sister trusted him with her life! And now he's kidnapped your friend? Well, he needs to be sorted out!" she said triumphantly. Nial folded his arms and looked at Laya.
   
    "You're right. Let's go." the prince said, but just as he swung his arms downwards, he felt something brush against them. He swished his cloak to one side and checked his pocket. He pulled out a letter.
   
    "What's this?" Nial muttered as he checked who it was addressed to. It was for him.
   
    "You've got a letter?" Ryan asked.
   
    "Yeah. It wasn't there before." Nial replied. He tore open the envelope and pulled out the letter. He read it aloud.
   
    Dear Prince Nial,
   
    I'm writing to you all the way from Dahlia, and I've found something rather shocking. It seems that Emperor Lune isn't the real culprit for the destruction of Satera and your father's death.
    He was just a plaything for the real perpetrator, Princess Maia.
    I don't know if you already knew this, but your father said he would marry Maia, but he married your mother, Lena, instead. Bet you this was her revenge!
    The thng is, I've found out that Maia's going to kill me if she sees you on Dahlia. You'll have to watch your step, because I don't think she's one to go back on her word. Anyway, there's a town called Aerone in the Salvadayna Province, where the people of Samesina keep spaceships. They have a place where they'll fly you to Dahlia. Make sure you check the envelope - I left you a gift in there. Well, I hope I'll see you soon!
   
    Lots of love,
    Your friend, Lyle.
    X X X
   
    P.S. I think Alair fancies... no, I shouldn't say that. Forget I wrote that.

   
    Nial checked the envelope and found the gift that Lyle had left for him. It was a small, irregularly wrapped bundle. The prince unwrapped it and found 1000 meseta.
   
    "That's nice. He even sent you some spending money." Ryan said.
   
    "I wonder who he thinks Alair fancies..." Laya said, lost in thought. Nial folded the letter up and put it in his pocket. He also put the 1000 meseta in his purse and faced Laya.
   
    "So then, where's Aerone?" the prince asked.
   
    "It's in the southern area of the Salvadayna Province. Come on, let's go." Laya replied, but Wren stopped her.
   
    "Come on, Laya. I have an easier method." the cyborg said, taking out two strange metal wings. They shone silver in the light.
   
    "An easier method? Wren, what ARE you doing?" Nial asked in shock.
   
    "Why, Prince Nial, did no-one tell you! I can transform!" Wren replied triumphantly. He attached the metal wings to himself and began to transform. Metallic clangs rang through the air and sparks flew as the transformation took place. Nial, Laya and Ryan looked away.
   
    Five minutes later, the transformation was complete. Wren had transformed into an aerojet.
   
    "What are we waiting for? Let's go to Aerone!" Wren said impatiently. Although he had transformed, he could still communicate with the rest of the party.
   
    "Right. Get on board!" Nial ordered, ushering Laya and Ryan onto the Wren-jet. The prince boarded soon after, and then the Wren-jet was off, soaring across the Bernink Province and across the Bernink-Salvadayna border.



* * *


The Wren-jet landed just outside the outskirts of Aerone. Prince Nial, Ryan and Laya disembarked, and then the Wren-jet transfromed back into Wren.
   
    "Well, how was that?" Wren asked.
   
    "Great." Ryan said.
   
    "Fast, sure." Nial sighed.
   
    "It was OK." Laya said. The party then made their way into Aerone, but there seemed to be a panic as they entered. People were running around, screaming.
   
    "What's going on?!" Nial asked a man who was watching.
   
    "People in Aerone think that you're going to destroy the town. They're so wary of Emperor Lune that they think any foreigner that enters is with him." the man replied. Nial folded his arms.
   
    "That I'll destroy the town? No, I won't! I have to get to Dahlia and defeat Emperor Lune!" On those words, the man stood up and told everyone to calm down.
   
    "It's alright! These four are here to put the pain to Emperor Lune!" the man yelled. Everyone calmed down, but they were still wary.
   
    "They could be saying that, and then they'll destroy the town when they have our trust!" one woman panicked.
   
    "If they do destroy it, I'll haunt them after my death!" a man growled.
   
    "Idiots, you don't understand! My father was murdered by Emperor Lune!" Nial snapped. All the inhabitants of Aerone gasped loudly.
   
    "Hmm, you have a good argument. Even so, you could be saying that." a man said. Nial began to lose his patience.
   
    "I'm not! If you don't believe me, ask my mum, Queen Lena of Landen!" the prince yelled. The people began to chat amongst themselves.
   
    After several minutes of muffled discussion, a woman strode up to Nial.
   
    "Prince Nial, we have made our decision." she said.
   
    "Which is?" the prince asked rudely.
   
    "You're leaving. Now." On those words, the woman snapped her fingers. Two men came out and tried to grab Nial, but just as they were about to get him, the prince knelt down and dropped to the floor.
   
    "I'm not going to hurt you, people! I only want to hurt Emperor Lune. He's the one I'm after. I need to lend a spaceship to get to Dahlia!" Nial said, his voice sounding needy. The woman ushered the two men away and knelt down in front of Nial.
   
    "I still don't believe your words, Prince. However, you sound like this is an emergency. I can't possibly stop you attending to an emergency." she sighed, resting her hand on Nial's shoulder. The prince stood up.
   
    "Let him go to Dahlia." the woman said, standing up as she spoke. She ushered Nial to a small spaceship, where three men were standing. Ryan, Laya and Wren followed him, and then they all boarded the spaceship.
   
    "OK, we're off to Dahlia. Next stop: the pain train for Emperor Lune." Nial said, flicking a switch on the spaceship control panel. Wren pushed a few buttons and pulled a lever. There was a whirr of engines and a whizz of power.
   
    "Emperor Lune will pay for this!" Laya said determinedly.
   
    "And so will Princess Maia, since she was the mastermind behind it." Nial added.
   
    "Or so our friend Lyle says." Ryan sighed. Nial piloted the spaceship, Wren navigated, and within an hour they had landed on the surface of Dahlia. They disembarked and looked around. The stone walls looked just like the party had travelled back in time to Earth's Ancient Rome, but they couldn't see any Romans roaming.
   
    "Let's find Emperor Lune and save Lyle!" Ryan said, waving his quarterstaff.
   
    "Come on!" Nial ordered. He began to run away from the spaceship, with the rest of the party following.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

PART II: Chapter Four

 

 

 

 

"This should be a walk in the park, huh?" Prince Nial asked the rest of the party as they made their way along the wide, cobblestoned corridor.
   
    "Not as far as I can see, Nial. I can smell a rat. This is too easy." Ryan replied to the prince's question.
   
    "Yes, far too easy!" a voice called. Emperor Lune strode out from the shadows.
   
    "Ah, you must be Emperor Lune. My sister trusted you, and look what you've done now!" Laya said, angered. Lune folded his arms and laughed.
   
    "Oh, what I've done? All I did was clean up a few problems on Samesina." Lune replied, not taking this seriously at all. Nial drew his sword.
   
    "You'd better give me some answers, Emperor Lune! Why did you kill my father?" Nial snarled, pointing the sword at Lune. He flinched slightly.
   
    "That pushy poshy wishy washy was getting in my way. Not only that, but my mistress ordered his demise." the emperor replied, fear showing in his voice, albeit only slightly. Nial pressed the blade of his sword to Lune's throat.
   
    "Your mistress? Who is she?" Nial asked impatiently, driving the blade into Lune's throat, but not causing any wounds.
   
    "Hmm! I thought your friend would've told you. He sent a letter, you know." Lune said, surprisingly calmly. Nial removed the blade from Lune's throat.
   
    "Yeah, I know. You're following the orders of Princess Maia. Who is this girl, anyway?"
   
    "Your pushy poshy wishy washy dad wanted to marry her, but he ran off with someone else. She wasn't happy."
   
    "So this is all about some love story?"
   
    "Not quite. You see, Princess Maia was... well, not happy with Lena, because she got her kidnapped in the first place. She told me to destroy Satera and kill Lena, but I couldn't find her. I didn't realise that your pushy poshy wishy washy dad would be there with two cyborgs."
   
    "No doubt he put up a fight."
   
    "He didn't, surprisingly. One Rafoi Technique, a stab in the stomach and he was down! Knocked out! Defeated! KO'd! However you want to put it. And then I had some fun with him before I sent him back to Landen!" Lune shouted triumphantly. Nial looked very cross.
   
    "You may have been told by Princess Maia to kill my father, but you should still get your just rewards!" Nial growled, swinging his sword at Lune. The emperor ducked and pulled out a dagger, cleverly concealed by the bracelets on his left arm. He swished it at Nial and cut his left leg. The prince cringed in pain.
   
    "Anyway, Princess Maia told me to kill you as soon as I saw you, then kill your friend. I already disobeyed her once, by letting your friend write to you. I can't defy her orders any more." Lune said sadly, cutting Nial's left arm with the dagger. That arm was also the prince's sword arm. He winced.
   
    "Lune, this can't go on." Nial said quietly. Lune laughed.
   
    "It's only two little cuts, Nial! You're a toughie, aren't you? Come on, keep fighting!" the emperor said happily.
   
    "Surely, if Princess Maia is using you, then we should be fighting together against her! Have you lost it?!" Nial snapped. Lune didn't answer. He thrust the dagger forward, stabbing Nial in the side. Blood seeped out of the resulting wound.
   
    "No! I can't do that!" Lune panicked.
   
    "Fine, then. I won't give you any leeway whatsoever!" Nial growled, thrusting his sword forward and cutting Lune in the side. The emperor cried in pain. Lune retaliated by throwing his dagger at Nial, impaling the prince in the stomach.
   
    "Funny that. I stabbed you!" Lune laughed. He seemed to be enjoying this. Nial cried in anguish, pulled the dagger out of his stomach and swung his sword at Lune. The emperor dodged the savage attack and sprang forward. He pushed Nial to the floor and grabbed the prince's left wrist. Nial knew what he was trying to do. He tightened his grip on the hilt of his sword.
   
    "You're good, Nial! Really good! How did you guess what I was about to do?" Lune said, clapping his hands together, feigning applause.
   
    "My friend Ryan knows a lot about your attack methods." Nial replied calmly. Lune struck the prince across the face.
   
    "Silly prince! You could have looked oh-so-cool then, but now you're just a cheat!" the emperor laughed, pressing down on Nial's shoulders and looking into the prince's dark brown eyes. Nial thrust his knee upwards and caught Lune... er, where it hurts the most. The emperor cried in pain and rolled off the prince. Nial stood up and held the blade of his sword at Lune's throat.
   
    "So then! Tell me, where's my friend, and where's Princess Maia?" the prince sneered, jamming the blade against Lune's neck harder. The emperor began to whimper quietly.
   
    "I can't tell you! If I did, Maia would murder me!" Lune wailed, instinctively moving backwards, away from Nial's blade. As the emperor moved back, the prince advanced.
   
    "Doesn't matter. Tell me where they are, and I'll let you go." Nial hissed, keeping his blade against Lune's throat. The emperor swallowed and looked up at the prince with a stare that feigned innocence.
   
    "Wait a minute! Call this off! Stop the fight!" Lune yelled, much to Nial's surprise. The prince jammed his sword back into his belt and helped Lune to his feet.
   
    "Go on, why should I stop? You never stopped for me!" Nial snapped.
   
    "I just remembered! You rescued my sister Alair. I owe you one, Nial. I'm sorry." Lune sighed, hiding his dagger in his bracelets, but wiping the blood of it first.
   
    "Alright. Where's Princess Maia?" the prince asked.
   
    "Follow me." Lune replied. He led Nial, Ryan, Wren and Laya to a corridor built out of a glass-like substance.



* * *


"Ah, great timing, Emperor! Did you deal with Prince Nial?" Princess Maia asked as Lune rounded the corner. She had a short sword in one hand and a key in the other.
   
    "No, Maia. I didn't. But, it's time you paid for this!" Lune shouted, taking the sword from his belt and baring it at Maia. She laughed maniacally.
   
    "Whatever are you talking about?" Maia asked.
   
    "You used me, you filthy cow!" Lune snapped in reply. Nial rounded the corner with his sword in his hand. He was still injured from his scrap with Lune.
   
    "So you were the one behind my father's death." Nial snarled, striding in front of Lune and looking Maia in the eye.
   
    "I don't know if you knew this, Prince Nial, but your father Rhys was going to marry me! Then he elopes and runs off with Lena, the woman who got me kidnapped in the first place!" Maia screeched. From inside the cell the princess was standing nearby, Lyle was listening to the whole ordeal.
   
    "It's not all about marriage, is it?" Lyle asked quietly, but Maia overheard him.
   
    "Quiet, you tramp!" she snapped.
   
    "Tramp? Who are you calling a tramp? I'm Lyle, Prince of Shusoran, on Samesina!"
   
    "You're also the Prince of Daft Gits Who Go Round Kidnapping Princesses!" On those words, Nial gasped.
   
    "Have you finished making Lyle look bad?!" Nial snapped at Maia.
   
    "Oh no, this is the truth, Prince Nial! Your friend Lyle kidnapped me sixteen years ago!" Maia replied, surprisingly calmly. Nial stormed forward, sword in hand.
   
    "Enough, Maia! If you take my father's life, I'll have to take yours!" the prince shouted, swinging his sword at Maia. She swung her sword and stopped the blow from hitting her.
   
    "OK, then we have a duel. If you win, you can free Lyle and go. If I win, Lyle is as good as dead." Maia said ominously.
   
    "So you're fighting over me, all of a sudden?! Jeez!" Lyle said in shock. Maia snapped at him to be quiet. Then she thrust forward with her sword. Nial dodged and swung his blade. He contacted the princess on her sword arm (her right arm).
   
    "Really, boys shouldn't fight girls. You're now a big puff, Prince Nial!" Maia laughed, slashing Nial's right arm fairly savagely. The prince cringed in pain.
   
    "Don't care! You killed my dad!" Nial roared, slicing Maia's leg. The princess moaned in pain and dropped to the floor. She clutched at her wound.
   
    "Ah, Prince Nial... you're good..." Maia said slowly, still gritting her teeth against the pain in her leg.
   
    "Over already?" Nial asked, holding his blade against Maia's neck. The princess shoved him away slightly.
   
    "Not quite." Maia stood up quickly and kicked Nial... er, where it hurts the most. The prince cried in pain and dropped his sword. Whilst Nial tried to recuperate, Maia wasted no time in attacking him, leaving lots of small cuts on his arms, his sides and his legs.
   
    "Hmm... you seem to be a tough nut to crack..." Nial said slowly, before crumpling to the floor in excruciating pain. Maia kicked the prince in the side, making his wounds bleed more.
   
    "It seems your friend will die!" Maia laughed, walking over to the cell. But, as she peered through the glass-like wall, to her horror, Lyle was gone!
   
    "How did he get out?" Maia muttered. Nial stood up, wincing.
   
    "Come on, then! Let's finish this!" the prince shouted, limping forward as fast as he could manage. He swung his sword, and it contacted Maia's sword with a resounding clang.
   
    "It's already finished. Your friend is gone!" Maia laughed, pushing Nial to the floor. Just as the prince hit the ground, there was a flash and a loud bang. Lyle had appeared!
   
    "Perfect timing! Any escape is easy with a Ryuka Technique!" Lyle said cheerfully, tapping his staff with one hand. Maia gasped, and then her face contorted with rage.
   
    "You escaped?! How dare you!" Maia screeched, pointing her sword at Lyle. The Layan prince readied his staff.
   
    "I do dare, Maia. I see you've beaten up my friend Nial. Looks like I'll have to beat you up now..." Lyle sighed, walking forward and casually knocking Maia off her feet as he walked past her. The princess hit the floor with a loud thud. Just as Maia fell to the ground, Nial picked himself up. He was weakened by his injuries, but he still had a lot left in him. He saw Lyle at the far end of the corridor. The prince smiled, and Lyle returned the gesture. They stood still, looking at each other. They seemed to have forgotten about Maia, who was lying spread-eagled on the floor.
   
    "Wait a minute! If she's down, get her! Go on, Prince!" Lune shouted as encouragement.
   
    "You heard the Emperor, Nial. Finish her!" Ryan yelled.
   
    "Don't let her get away with this, Prince Nial. She was the one who killed your father!" Wren said loudly.
   
    "Make her suffer! Let her bleed!" Laya screamed. Nial looked at them all.
   
    "You're right, guys." He turned back to face Maia. "This is the end, you filthy dad-murdering cow!" Nial roared, and then he drove his sword deep into Maia's chest. Just as he withdrew the sword, the princess opened her eyes and looked at him.
   
    "I'm so sorry, Prince Nial... I was just..." Maia croaked, but then her head fell to the side and she was silent. Nial remembered that this was the way his father died, but here, he didn't have an overflow of emotions. He wiped the blood off his sword and jammed it back into his belt. Lyle strutted over to the prince.
   
    "It's done. Revenge has been dealt. We just have to tell Lena." the Layan prince said, putting an arm around Nial, who smiled.
   
    "Don't you think you should heal his wounds?" Lune asked.
   
    "Yeah, I should. Come here, Nial." Lyle replied. He waved his staff and cast the Naresta Technique (which is a more powerful version of the Resta Technique) on Nial, healing all his wounds.
   
    "Well, that's that problem dealt with..." Laya said.



* * *


Prince Nial, Prince Lyle, Emperor Lune, Laya, Wren and Ryan were gathered in a little circle at the end of the glass-like corridor. They were talking about marriages - Prince Nial's marriage in particular.
   
    "So then, Prince Nial! I reckon it's high time you got yourself a wife." Lune said cheerfully.
   
    "A wife? Why would I need one of those?" Nial asked, confused.
   
    "Well, your wife'll have your kids, and then those kids will carry on the legend that is YOU, Nial. And then they'll have kids and the Legend of Nial will run through them, et cetera, et cetera." Lune replied. Nial smiled at the emperor's description.
   
    "I did mention in my letter that Alair fancied someone, didn't I?" Lyle asked.
   
    "You did, but you told me to forget it." the prince replied.
   
    "I couldn't possibly tell you. Alair fancied YOU, Nial!"
   
    "Alair and Nial, sittin' in a tree..." Lune sang. Ryan snapped at him to be quiet. Just as Lune was silenced, Alair padded over to the group.
   
    "Hi, everyone. What's going on?" Alair asked.
   
    "Well, Sis... we were talking about Prince Nial getting hitched. You fancy him." Lune said cheekily.
   
    "And so do I." blurted Laya. Everyone turned to face her.
   
    "Ooh, I sense a rather juicy love triangle here!" Lune laughed.
   
    "I thought marriage was a serious decision." Wren said calmly.
   
    "Wren has a point, here." Ryan said.
   
    "Nonsense! Let's have a fun chat about it, eh?" Lune said. Wren gave him a funny look.
   
    "It isn't so simple, Emperor Lune." the cyborg said.
   
    "No, it isn't. It really isn't. Don't forget, whoever Prince Nial decides to marry, she has to love him, and he has to love her." Alair added.
   
    "Agh, this is a tough decision! I fancy Laya AND I fancy Alair, but I don't know who to go for!" Nial said, his voice having an overtone of frustration.
   
    "Well, both marriages will tie the Orakian and Layan bloodlines together..." Lyle said.
   
    "I can offer Nial more than Laya can." Alair said, without thinking. Laya looked at her doubtfully.
   
    "Why, what do you offer?" Laya asked.
   
    "More than you!" Alair snapped.
   
    "Ah, but I am the great Laya's younger sister. Take that!"
   
    "I'm the sister of your sister's most trusted general!"
   
    "Ex-most trusted general."
   
    "I share a passion for Nial!"
   
    "Ah, but I am the younger sister of the leader Laya. My relation to the leader Laya is stronger than yours."
   
    "Meaning??"
   
    "The Layan bloodline will be properly tied with the Orakian bloodline if I married Nial. Lune told me his father was a distant relation to Orakio."
   
    "You're nuts, Laya."
   
    "Pack it in, Alair!"
   
    "Ladies! Shut up, both of you!" Nial snapped. Laya and Alair stopped arguing and turned to face the prince.
   
    "Pick me, Nial. You know you want me!" Alair giggled. Nial grimaced and looked away from her.
   
    "Hey, don't sway him, Sis!" Lune shouted. Alair sighed. Meanwhile, Nial had been looking longingly at Laya.
   
    "I've decided. I'm going to marry Laya." Nial said, taking Laya's hand in one of his own. Everyone clapped. Despite the fact that she wasn't happy with Nial's decision, Alair congratulated him anyway.
   
    "Let the celebration begin!" Lune shouted, and so everyone began to prepare for the wedding.



* * *


And finally, after an epic journey, Prince Nial finally found that his mother's birth town had been destroyed by Princess Maia, and that she had caused the death of his father. He found love in Laya, and they married. They became King and Queen of Landen, where Nial was born and raised.
   
    Soon after, Queen Laya gave birth to twins - a boy called Adan, and a girl called Gwyn. The family wished that peace would prosper on Samesina, but that is never predictable, considering that the future is not yet written.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

PART III: Chapter One

 

 

 

 

Sixteen years later, whilst King Nial and Queen Laya concentrate on ruling Landen, Prince Adan and Princess Gwyn help them as much as they can. However, Gwyn's dreams were troubled one night...


* * *


Princess Gwyn awoke screaming. Terror flooded her eyes and she clutched the bedcovers in fear. Her brother awoke with a start.
   
    "Gwyn. Gwyn, what's wrong?" Prince Adan asked. He was Princess Gwyn's twin brother, and he cared about her very much. The flickering candlelight on his bedside table highlighted his short, blonde hair and his emerald-green eyes. He hated to hear his sister screaming like this.
   
    "Adan, it was terrible! I saw... the castle collapsing..." Gwyn whimpered. She shrank under the bedcovers, but the candlelight in the bedroom danced along her long, straight blonde hair and flickered in her terror-stricken emerald-green eyes. Gwyn loved her brother Adan, especially at times like these.
   
    "Collapsing? You're not having another nightmare, are you?" Adan asked inquisitively. These dreams had been happening every night for the past month, and Adan couldn't figure out why. He knew Gwyn was easy to scare, but who would make her dream of such terrible things? He climbed out of bed and crossed over to Gwyn's bed.
   
    "I don't know... but I think that this may be a premonition..." Gwyn whispered, her eyes flooding with tears. Adan sat on the bed beside her and put an arm around her shoulders.
   
    "Are you saying that your dreams are the future? That can't be!" Adan said. He was mainly an optimistic person, and didn't like to think about any negative things for too long.
   
    "The last dream I had... about that time when you would get injured whilst you were out hunting? That really happened, I remember it." Gwyn whimpered. Her brother liked hunting animals, and he always brought back his kills to feed the less well-off people of Landen. Adan was well-known for his kindness and generosity.
   
    "Yeah, I know. But not all your dreams are true, are they?" Adan asked, cuddling Gwyn close to his chest. He ran a hand through her soft hair and looked into her tear-riddled eyes.
   
    "They are, they are... everything I dream of... it always happens..." Gwyn cried, throwing her arms around Adan and embracing him.
   
    "Look, you should try and get some sleep. We'll talk about it in the morning." Adan said, disentangling himself from Gwyn and standing up. As he was about to go to his own bed, Gwyn stopped him.
   
    "Please, just watch me until I fall asleep." she said quietly. Adan nodded his head and faced her.
   
    After ten minutes, Gwyn had finally fallen asleep. Adan made a quiet wish to Laya (that is, the leader Laya, not his mother) and paced back to his own bed. He climbed in and fell asleep instantly.



* * *


Next morning. The sun streamed through the large windows of Castle Landen, illuminating the cold, stone corridors and throwing patches of light over the floors. Princess Gwyn was the first to wake up. She pulled herself out of bed and changed into a knee-length red dress with black trims. She slung her quiver (inherited from her mother, Queen Laya) over her shoulder and put on her brown boots. She crossed over to her brother, who was sleeping in his bed like a log.
   
    "Come on, Adan. Wake up." Gwyn said softly, tapping Adan lightly on the cheek. The prince woke up and rubbed the sleep out of his eyes.
   
    "Alright, Gwyn, I'm up. Let me get dressed." Adan said. Gwyn walked out of the bedroom. As soon as she had left, Adan climbed out of bed and changed into a red shirt, a pair of scarlet-red pants and a pair of black boots. He attached two sheathed knives to his belt and pinned a white cloak around his shoulders. He also had a quiver, but he attached his to his belt, rather than slinging it over his shoulder like Gwyn. He paced out of the bedroom and straight into the throne room, where Gwyn was waiting with King Nial and Queen Laya. The prince heard a sharp voice.
   
    "Damn it, Gwyn, will you stop telling me about these dreams already? I've got enough on my plate as it is!" King Nial snapped at Gwyn.
   
    "But Dad... they're becoming so terrifying... I don't know what to do..." Gwyn whimpered.
   
    "Forget them. They're just dreams, Gwyn. Stop stressing over something like that." Nial replied sharply. Adan strode over and faced Nial.
   
    "Dad, leave her alone! She told me last night - these dreams are premonitions." the prince said. Nial laughed.
   
    "Adan, you're an idiot. Premonitions? Pah! Why, what did she dream of last night, then?" he asked. Gwyn plucked up the courage to speak.
   
    "I dreamt that this castle would collapse. Landen will be hit by an earthquake." she said quietly.
   
    "Nial, she could be right. I mean, her dreams do seem to foretell future events." Queen Laya said. Nial faced her.
   
    "Oh, Laya... I do wish you wouldn't do this. Of course Landen isn't going to..." he began, but a huge rumble shook him out of finishing the sentence. Nial, as well as Laya, Adan and Gwyn, were struggling to stay on their feet. The shaking was very violent.
   
    "Great sons of Orakio! What's going on here?!" Nial said in disbelief.
   
    "I tried and tried to tell you, Nial... Gwyn's dreams are premonitions!" Laya replied. Meanwhile, Adan and Gwyn huddled together.
   
    "It's OK, Gwyn. It'll pass. Earthquakes don't last very long." Adan said reassuringly. Gwyn looked up and saw that cracks were forming in the roof of the castle. A large lump of rock came loose.
   
    "Adan, watch out!" Gwyn screamed, wrenching herself away from Adan and darting to the left. The prince dove towards her, just as the rock crashed into the floor.
   
    "I know, why don't we all stand here and die?" Nial shouted above the rumbling. No-one had bothered to mention evacuating the castle.
   
    "No, Nial! Let's get out of here!" Laya yelled, grabbing Nial's hand and pulling him towards the castle exit. She beckoned to Adan and Gwyn.
   
    "Come on!" she shouted.
   
    "Gwyn, we have to go!" Adan shouted, grasping Gwyn's hand. She pulled away from him slightly.
   
    "I can't! I need to get my things." she said. Adan looked fierce.
   
    "Forget that, Gwyn! Your life's the thing I'm worried about, now let's go!" the prince yelled, grabbing Gwyn by the arm and running towards the castle exit. Pillars and walls fell all around them, slowing their progress. They could see that the archway that led out the castle was weakening.
   
    "Hurry up, Adan! We have to get through the arch before it collapses!" Gwyn screeched, urging Adan on. The prince was very fatigued, pain seared through his legs, he was gasping for breath and sweat was soaking his face, but he tried to keep going. He had to, for his own and for his sister's sakes.
   
    "Come on, Adan! Come on, Gwyn! Hurry up!" Nial yelled, beckoning towards them. Adan made a last dive for the arch and just managed to slide clear of the collapsing arch. He picked himself up and helped Gwyn to her feet. They turned around, and they saw Castle Landen collapse in on itself. Nial sighed deeply.
   
    "I'm sorry, Gwyn. I'm sorry I didn't believe you." he said.
   
    "It's alright, Dad. Everyone makes mistakes." Gwyn replied.
   
    "You have to find out what caused this terrible earthquake! Emperor Lune, who lives on Dahlia, might know about it." Laya said.
   
    "I'll do that. Don't you worry, Mum." Adan said, still trying to regain his breath.
   
    "I'll go with you, Adan. I don't want to leave you on your own." Gwyn said softly, embracing her brother.
   
    "Right, you'll need to head to Aerone, in the Salvadayna Province. They've got spaceships that'll take you to Dahlia." Nial explained. Adan and Gwyn thanked him, and then they were on their way.



* * *


Prince Adan and Princess Gwyn had just crossed the Chalst-Salvadayna border, and they were now in the Salvadayna Province. They looked around, and they saw smoke hanging in the air.
   
    "What's going on here?" Adan asked himself as he led Gwyn towards the town of Divisia, just a few miles away. When they got there, Gwyn began to sob. She buried her head in Adan's chest.
   
    "Gwyn, what's up now?" Adan asked his sister, running his hand through her hair. She didn't respond. Adan shook her gently.
   
    "Hey, Gwyn! What's up?" Adan asked again. Gwyn looked up at him, tears flooding her eyes.
   
    "That town... it's been destroyed... just like our castle..." Gwyn sobbed, embracing Adan and hugging him tightly. He looked around and saw someone trapped under the rubble.
   
    "Hang on, there's a survivor! Come on, Gwyn, help me get them out!" Adan said, disentangling himself from Gwyn and running over to the person trapped under the rubble. Gwyn brushed the tears from her eyes and followed Adan.
   
    Adan rubbed his hands together and grabbed one of the large pieces of rubble. Gwyn grabbed hold of it, too, and together they shifted it aside. They saw who had been trapped underneath - a tall, well-built man with wayward, bright green, ponytailed hair and a very unsophisticated dress sense.
   
    "Wait a minute, Adan! Didn't our father mention him one time?" Gwyn asked as she helped the man to his feet.
   
    "Actually, yeah, he did." Adan replied. He watched the man as he began to regain consciousness.
   
    "What the---? Huh? What the heck... ah, I made it out..." he mumbled, trying vainly to support himself. He shook the drowsiness out of his head slightly.
   
    "Hey, who are you?" Adan asked the man. The man gazed at Adan with half-closed eyes.
   
    "Ugh, do I have to tell you? Alright, I'm Lyle, the Prince of Shusoran." Lyle said groggily, collapsing onto Gwyn.
   
    "Our father did mention you!" Adan gasped. Lyle stood up fully, but unsteadily. Gwyn supported his weight from behind.
   
    "Your dad... is he King Nial of Landen, by any chance?" Lyle asked, smiling slightly. Adan nodded. There was a pause. "So, anyway, who are you?" Lyle asked, holding his hand towards Adan.
   
    "I'm Prince Adan of Landen, and behind you is my twin sister, Princess Gwyn." Adan said, indicating Gwyn as he mentioned her name. Lyle looked at Gwyn intently. She backed away slightly.
   
    "It's alright, Gwyn, I won't bite!" Lyle said jokily. Gwyn nodded. Lyle turned to face Adan again.
   
    "Hmm, Adan, your sister's not much of a talker, is she?" Lyle asked, fiddling with his ponytail with one hand.
   
    "Some people aren't, though." Adan replied. He pondered for a brief moment. "Anyway, since you're here, you must know something about what destroyed this town. Do tell!" he said. Lyle tapped his chin in thought.
   
    "Not really, but I do know that several towns have been destroyed in this way. Some people say it's terrorists, some say it's Megido Techniques (the ultimate technique that's dubbed 'the destruction incarnate'), but most are putting it down to some old evil thing." the Layan prince said, scraping his foot on the floor. Gwyn began to panic slightly.
   
    "So, what's this old evil, then?" she asked. Lyle faced her.
   
    "Dark Force." Lyle said simply. Gwyn fainted. The Layan prince faced Adan again.
   
    "Your sister fainted when I mentioned Dark Force. Is something bothering her?" Lyle asked. Adan hesitated for a second.
   
    "Look, Lyle, Gwyn's been having these insane dreams. They're also premonitions. I think she might've seen Dark Force in one of those dreams, but it scares her so much... She wishes to Laya that these dreams didn't happen, but there's nothing anyone can do." Adan explained, hanging his head. Lyle rested a hand on his shoulder.
   
    "How long has this been going on for?" the Layan prince asked.
   
    "About a month." Adan replied. Meanwhile, Gwyn had come to. She had a look of terror in her eyes. Adan rushed over to her.
   
    "Gwyn, what happened?" he asked. Gwyn embraced Adan and hugged him.
   
    "I saw it... I saw Dark Force. It will come from a world beneath the Bernink Province... and it will destroy Samesina... or it will simply reduce this world to a barren, evil wasteland..." she mumbled, shaking with fear. Adan comforted her. Lyle rushed over.
   
    "Is she gonna be OK?" Lyle asked. Adan looked him in the eyes.
   
    "Yeah... she had another premonition. This time, she saw Dark Force. In a world beneath the Bernink Province." the prince replied, still trying to comfort Gwyn.
   
    "I know what you're talking about."
   
    "OK... but my father told me to go to Dahlia and speak with Emperor Lune."
   
    "Him? Oh, alright. The guy's a mine of information, if you know how to stop him joking around."
   
    "Joking around, huh? Sounds more like Emperor Loony than Emperor Lune."
   
    "Heh heh heh, yeah, I thought that too, but don't say it to his face. Anyway, what do you want to ask him?"
   
    "About the things happening around Samesina."
   
    "Ah, OK. No problem. Tell your sister to come here. Let's go to Dahlia first-class." After Lyle had finished speaking, Adan called Gwyn over. Lyle drew a chalk circle on the ground and asked everyone to stand in it. When they were all inside, Lyle just remembered something.
   
    "Oh no, I've lost my staff!" he said suddenly. Gwyn looked at him.
   
    "Check around where you were when we found you. It can't have gone far." she said. Lyle nodded and began to rummage through the rubble, and eventually he found the long, emerald-topped staff he had been looking for. He walked back into the chalk circle and planted his staff on the ground. He muttered a few incomprehensible words under his breath and cast the Ryuka Technique, teleporting them all to Dahlia.
   
    "We're on Dahlia. Now to find Emperor Lune - or as Adan so rightly put it, Emperor Loony." Lyle said, strolling off to the first staircase he saw. Adan and Gwyn traipsed after him.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

PART III: Chapter Two

 

 

 

 

"Come on, this way!" Prince Lyle shouted, beckoning to Prince Adan and Princess Gwyn to follow him. They stopped in front of a large, dull, metal door. Lyle knocked.
   
    "Who is it?" a fairly deep old woman's voice called.
   
    "Granny, it's Prince Lyle! I've brought you a prince and princess from Landen to come and visit!" Lyle replied. Gwyn couldn't help but giggle. Adan began to laugh.
   
    "Push the handle down, and the door will open!" the deep old woman's voice said loudly. Lyle pushed the handle down and the door opened. He strode in, closely followed by Adan and Gwyn, who were staggering about, laughing.
   
    "Well, my friend Lyle! Long time no see!" said the cheerful voice of Emperor Lune.
   
    "You got that right, Lune. In fact, it's my two new friends who want to see you." Lyle replied. Lune ran his hand over his messy lime-green hair. Before Lune could reply, Lyle began to speak again.
   
    "Emperor Lune," the Layan prince said, "why did you make yourself sound like an old grandma?"
   
    "You know me well enough, Lyle! You know I like a good laugh!" Lune replied happily. Adan and Gwyn now walked over to Lune. They had managed to stop themselves laughing.
   
    "Are these your two new friends you were telling me about?" Lune asked, his question aimed at Lyle.
   
    "Yeah." the Layan prince replied. Lune strode over to Adan and Gwyn with a huge smile on his face.
   
    "Hello, and welcome to Dahlia! I am the simply amazing, the stunning, the absolutely stupendous and fantastical Emperor Lune!" Lune announced proudly, bowing in front of Adan and Gwyn. They stifled a laugh.
   
    "Nice to meet you, Emperor. I am Prince Adan of Landen, and this is my twin sister, Princess Gwyn. Sorry if my introduction wasn't very showy." Adan said, indicating Gwyn as he said her name.
   
    "Anyway, let's drop all formalities and call each other by name. How does that sound?" Lune said cheerfully. Lyle nodded in approval.
   
    "Fine by me, Lune." Adan said.
   
    "Sure." Gwyn added quietly. Lune asked Adan what he and Gwyn had come to Dahlia for. The prince told him everything - about the destruction of Castle Landen, how they had found Lyle under the rubble in the remnants of Divisia and Gwyn's premonition of Dark Force returning to spread havoc all over Samesina.
   
    "Ah. It sounds like we've got a problem." Lune said, unusually seriously.
   
    "A big problem!" Gwyn corrected.
   
    "OK, let me give you two some background info. As the Orakians say, the Orakian-Layan War ended when Orakio defeated Laya. The Layans will tell you that Laya defeated Orakio. The truth is: they were never enemies in the first place. They had been deceived. They say that some evil creature had used them to satisfy its hunger for pain and suffering. When they realised this, Orakio and Laya joined forces to subdue and seal away this evil creature, because they didn't know how to defeat it. However, the seal would only hold for 1,000 years. Those 1,000 years have nearly passed." Lune explained.
   
    "Was the evil creature Dark Force?" Adan asked.
   
    "Yep, that was it. Now let me continue. Before departing from Samesina, Orakio and Laya gave strict instructions to their four highest-serving individuals, two from Orakio's army and two from Laya's army. I, as Laya's right-hand man, was one of them. They were all given one of the Four Gems of Salvation. As long as the gems were kept separate, and away from the secret world beneath the Bernink Province, everything would be OK. Because, if the Four Gems of Salvation came together in the world beneath the Bernink Province, the seal binding Dark Force to that place would be broken, and Samesina would be in the utmost peril."
   
    "Four Gems of Salvation? Tell us about those." Adan said. Lune cleared his throat.
   
    "The Four Gems of Salvation were, and still are, highly prized artifacts of Samesinian magic. They are the Ruby of Power, the Emerald of Purity, the Sapphire of Clarity and the Amber of Protection. Orakio and Laya used these four gems to seal away Dark Force, and then they gave them to their most trusted warriors. I, as Laya's right-hand man, was told to protect the Ruby of Power. Rulakir, Orakio's twin brother, was charged with the protection of the Sapphire of Clarity. The Emerald of Purity became a Layan family heirloom to the Layan Royal Family of Shusoran, and the Amber of Protection became an Orakian family heirloom to the Orakian Royal Family of Landen."
   
    "Looks like I'll have to turn Castle Shusoran upside down..." Lyle said. Lune laughed.
   
    "Lyle, you silly billy! You know the emerald on top of your staff?" the emperor asked.
   
    "What about it?"
   
    "That is the Emerald of Purity!"
   
    "Oh... so we've got two of the Four Gems already." Lyle said after a few minutes of silence. Lune nodded and took a large ruby out of his pocket, telling everyone in the room that this was the Ruby of Power. Whilst Lune had been showing everyone the gem, Adan and Gwyn had been rifling through their pockets. Lune had just noticed.
   
    "What are you doing?" Lune asked.
   
    "Well," Gwyn explained, "since Lyle was unwittingly carrying the Emerald of Purity, we thought we'd check to see if we've got the Amber of Protection. I've not got it."
   
    "Nope, I've not got it either..." Adan said sadly.
   
    "Well, we've got to gather the Sapphire of Clarity and the Amber of Protection. Then we have to break the seal on Dark Force." Lune explained.
   
    "Let's get going." Adan said.
   
    "We'll head for Castle Landen first - that's our nearest port of call. Come on!" Lune said enthusiastically, ushering Adan, Gwyn and Lyle out of the room and back to the corridor. Lyle drew a chalk circle on the ground. He told everyone to step inside, then he muttered a few incomprehensible words under his breath and cast the Ryuka Technique, teleporting them to the Chalst Province, just outside Landen. Lune looked around.
   
    "You can normally see the castle from here... but where is it?" the emperor asked.
   
    "It was destroyed in an earthquake." Adan said quietly.
   
    "Right... now let's find that Amber of Protection!" On those words, Lune led Adan, Gwyn and Lyle into Landen.



* * *


"Ah, smell that fresh air of Landen! I think I'll move in once we've dealt with Dark Force." Emperor Lune said cheerfully as he, Prince Adan, Princess Gwyn and Prince Lyle made their way to the remains of Castle Landen. When they go there, King Nial and Queen Laya were still stood outside, wondering what in the world of Samesina to do.
   
    "There's my friend Nial! He's a king now, and that's fabulous!" Lune said happily, bounding over to Nial. Adan and Gwyn shook their heads. Now they knew why some people called him 'Emperor Loony'.
   
    "Huh? What is it?" King Nial asked rudely as Lune came running over to him.
   
    "Your Majesty! Long time no see!" Lune squealed, clapping his hands together excitedly and grinning cheesily. Nial shook his head.
   
    "Yeah, fair enough, Lune. Now what do you want?"
   
    "You see, Your Majesty, I..."
   
    "You don't have to be so formal, Lune. Call me Nial."
   
    "Fair enough. Nial, there's something we need to ask you."
   
    "Uh, 'we'? Who's 'we'?"
   
    "Myself, Prince Adan, Princess Gwyn and Prince Lyle."
   
    "Ah, alright then. Ask away."
   
    "Nial... do you know about a gem called the Amber of Protection?"
   
    "No, I don't. And even if I did know, I wouldn't tell you."
   
    "Why not?" Nial began to look fierce.
   
    "I still haven't forgiven you for what you did over sixteen years ago." Nial said ominously, folding his arms and looking cross. Lune gulped.
   
    "And what was that?" the emperor asked, a note of fear in his tone. Nial blew his top.
   
    "You, Lune! You murdered my father in cold blood over sixteen years ago, you pathetic little screwball!" the king shouted. Adan and Gwyn came running over.
   
    "Dad, what's going on?" Adan asked.
   
    "Don't worry about it. It was nothing. I've... got a shouting problem, that's all." Nial replied quickly, breathing heavily and trying to calm himself. Gwyn closed her eyes for a few brief moments, and when she opened them again, she was shaking. Her brother quickly picked up on what was happening.
   
    "Gwyn, what did you see?" Adan asked softly, putting an arm around Gwyn and cuddling her close to his chest.
   
    "I saw... what my dad was shouting about. The neighbouring town of Satera... Emperor Lune destroyed it, and when our dad's dad went to check it out, Lune used a Rafoi Technique, then he stabbed him and walked off." Gwyn replied fearfully.
   
    "I thought you were only having premonitions. Now you're having flashbacks to before you were even born? What's happening to you?"
   
    "I don't know..." Gwyn said softly, and then she began to sob pitifully. She thumped Adan on the shoulder. He winced.
   
    "Adan, make it stop!" she cried. Adan shook his head sadly.
   
    "I'm sorry, Gwyn. There's nothing I can do." the prince replied, stroking his sister's hair gently. Nial saw them, and he strode over.
   
    "Adan, is something wrong?" he asked. Adan looked up at him.
   
    "Dad, it's Gwyn. She saw what you were yelling about." the prince replied. Nial looked puzzled.
   
    "You told me she was only having premonitions. Now she's seeing the past? What - or who - is doing this?"
   
    "I don't know, but you need to make it stop, Dad! It scares her so much... and I can't bear it when she's scared..." Nial knelt down and looked Adan in the eyes, which was something of a rarity for him.
   
    "Listen," Nial said, "there's something I need to tell you. I'd actually known about Gwyn's premonitions all along. Trouble was, they were so accurate I couldn't bring myself to believe them. Anyway, about the last premonition she saw... what did she see?" Adan couldn't speak. His throat felt dry, and Gwyn's last premonition was so horrific that he didn't want to think about it.
   
    "Adan, what was that last premonition Gwyn saw?" Nial asked calmly. Adan swallowed.
   
    "Terrible, Dad. She saw Dark Force, breaking out of a world beneath the Bernink Province and ravaging Samesina. Then Emperor Lune told us that the seal holding Dark Force under the Bernink Province was weakening, since it's been nearly 1,000 years since it was sealed under there." the prince finally said after a few moments of silence.
   
    "Ah, I remember now! Orakio and Laya used the Four Gems of Salvation to seal away Dark Force, and the seal would hold for 1,000 years. When nearly 1,000 years had passed, it was the sole duty of the four 'chosen ones' to gather in the world beneath the Bernink Province and renew the seal." Nial said suddenly. Gwyn, who had now finally calmed down, looked at him.
   
    "You know about this?" she asked. Nial looked at her and smiled.
   
    "Of course! It was a tale passed down through my family. Although..." Nial paused. "Wait, did Emperor Lune mention the Amber of Protection? Of course! He did! That's one of the Four Gems of Salvation, but I don't know where it is..." Just before Nial had finished speaking, Lune strode over, with Lyle following behind him.
   
    "Nial, if you don't know where it is, I know someone who might." Lune said. He had overheard what Nial had said.
   
    "And who's that?" Nial asked, his tone sounding slightly rude.
   
    "Your dad." Lune replied. Nial ran a hand through his short, dark brown hair.
   
    "My dad? He's been dead over sixteen years!"
   
    "Never stopped anyone trying out Reverser Techniques..." Lyle said. Nial looked at him.
   
    "You were there when my dad died, Lyle! Why didn't you revive him there and then?" Nial asked fiercely.
   
    "Hey, look, your dad was my friend, too! I was still too upset, and I never even thought about it!" Lyle replied, his tone sounding angered. Nial sighed.
   
    "You're right. We wouldn't have been thinking straight. Come on, follow me." Nial said, leading Lyle to the Royal Graveyard, to the right of the ruined castle. Lune followed them to a large gravestone. The words on it had been worn away with time, and were too worn to make out. Nial studied the gravestone with his dark brown eyes.
   
    "This is the one." Nial said. Lyle looked down at the ground. He knelt down and ran his hand over the soil and the sporadic tufts of grass.
   
    "We should dig up some of this soil." the Layan prince said, scooping away some of the soil with his bare hands. Nial helped him, and then they worked together, clearing away the soil until they came to a piece of polished wood.
   
    "The coffin." Lyle said. He pulled on the lid. It opened easily. The Layan prince didn't fully open it; he just checked it would open and then he stood up. He picked up his staff, which had been propped against the gravestone, and stood by the hole he and Nial had dug. He closed his eyes, chanted a few incomprehensible words and cast the Reverser Technique. The green light went down the hole and into the coffin. Lyle, Nial and Lune heard a huge gasp for breath and the loud bang of the coffin lid as it opened suddenly.
   
    "It worked! I don't believe it! The Reverser Technique worked!" Lune said happily, jumping up and down. Lyle cleared his throat.
   
    "Uh, you didn't cast it..." the Layan prince said. Lune shook his head. Nial, Lune and Lyle all heard a voice soon afterwards.
   
    "Goodness gracious! What has happened here? Malevolent scouldrels, whoever they are..." said a rather posh voice. Lyle, Nial and Lune turned to where the voice had come from. There were a few tears in Nial's eyes.
   
    "Well, if it isn't my friend Rhys! Long time no see, huh?" Lyle said happily, his eyes fixed on Rhys. He hadn't aged at all, but his clothes were slightly tattered and his ocean-blue hair was a right mess.
   
    "Lyle, what has happened to the castle? Where is the culprit?" Rhys asked politely, smoothing his hair down with one hand. Lyle didn't answer. Rhys turned to the left and saw Lune.
   
    "Ah-hah! I knew it. Lune, you insolent cad, what have you done?" Rhys asked, his voice having a note of anger to it. Lune stepped back a few paces.
   
    "I didn't do this, Rhys. Honest to Laya, I didn't!" Lune said fearfully, sinking to the floor and cowering. Rhys took a few steps forward and put his hand on the scabbard attached to his belt. It was empty.
   
    "My weapon! Where is it?" Rhys said, checking himself frantically. He found his hunting knife, which was sheathed behind his tattered cloak. He drew it and bared the point at Lune.
   
    "Foul creature, pray tell, what did you do to Castle Landen? Answer me, this instant!" Rhys shouted coldly, stepping forward and thrusting his knife at Lune threateningly. From nearby the ruined castle, Nial had had enough. He stormed forward and grabbed Rhys by the wrist.
   
    "Dad, that's enough! Lune isn't behind this, I know that for definite!" Nial said loudly, wrestling the knife out of Rhys' hand and letting go of him.
   
    "Nial, my son, do you have proof?" Rhys asked. Nial ran a hand through his hair uneasily.
   
    "Yeah, Dad. My own experience. Landen was hit by an earthquake, and the castle collapsed. My daughter predicted it, too!" Nial replied. Rhys put one hand on his hip.
   
    "A lot seems to have been going on, then. You have a daughter, you say?"
   
    "Yeah. Her name's Gwyn. She's got a twin brother, who we called Adan."
   
    "And who is your wife, or have you not yet married?"
   
    "I got a wife, and her name's Laya."
   
    "Laya? But she is dead, is she not?"
   
    "No, this Laya is the leader Laya's younger sister."
   
    "Ah. I see." Rhys stroked his chin thoughtfully, and then he changed the subject of the conversation. "Then if Lune didn't destroy the castle, who did?"
   
    "You see," Nial replied, "my kids Adan and Gwyn had a chat with Lune and there are a few speculations, that Lyle came up with. Some say it's terrorists, some say it's Megido Techniques, but most blame Dark Force." Rhys gasped.
   
    "Dark Force? That malevolent spirit that was sealed away beneath the Bernink Province?" Rhys asked, his tone quavering. Nial nodded. Whilst the twosome were talking, Adan and Gwyn had walked over.
   
    "Lune has searched that rubble five times, and we still can't find that damn gem!" Adan said, frustrated. He looked at Rhys.
   
    "And who is that? He looks nothing like any of our family." the prince said, looking at Rhys disapprovingly. Gwyn took one look and faced Adan.
   
    "He is in our family, Adan. That's our dad's dad. That makes him our grandad." Gwyn said quietly. Adan laughed.
   
    "Gwyn, that's utter rubbish! He's not any family member of ours!" the prince said, still laughing. Rhys strode over to them.
   
    "What is so funny?" Rhys asked. Adan couldn't stop laughing.
   
    "My brother Adan doesn't believe the fact that you're our grandad." Gwyn replied to Rhys' question.
   
    "Are you Gwyn? My son was telling me about you."
   
    "Yeah, that's me." Gwyn looked at Adan, who was still laughing heartily. She slapped him lightly on the cheek.
   
    "Adan, snap out of it!" she hissed. Adan stopped laughing and looked at her.
   
    "No, he's not our grandad. He's about the same age as our dad." Adan said, panting and trying to stop himself laughing again. Rhys looked him in the eye.
   
    "Ah, but it is true! I'd been revived after sixteen years, and during that time, I had not aged a month!" Rhys said triumphantly. Adan and Gwyn were confused, but after some explaining, they understood. After several minutes, Rhys broke the silence that had fell upon the group.
   
    "Now, why would you need the Amber of Protection?" he asked.
   
    "We have to strengthen the seal that holds Dark Force." Adan replied.
   
    "We might have to break the seal, then subdue and reseal Dark Force, though..." Gwyn said softly, but loud enough for Rhys to hear.
   
    "Listen - Orakio and Laya had a hard time sealing away Dark Force. How can you be sure that you can do it?" Rhys asked. Just then, Lune strode over to them with Lyle following behind.
   
    "Rhys, we need your help." Lune said. Rhys avoided looking at the emperor.
   
    "Malevolent person! I have no desire to help you!" Rhys snapped, folding his arms.
   
    "Look, we're trying to find the Amber of Protection. Please..." Lyle pleaded. Rhys let out a long sigh.
   
    "Very well, the gem was somewhere in the throne room. Check around there." he replied. Lyle nodded and walked back to the rubble. Lune followed him, and together they looked through the rubble that had once been the throne room. As they moved away the broken pieces of wall and the smashed furniture, they came across a glittering yellowish-brown stone. Lune picked it up and ran back over to Rhys.
   
    "Found it!" Lune called.
   
    "Impressive, Lune. But now you are not wanted here. You must leave. Immediately." Rhys replied sharply.
   
    "Anyway, we still have to get the Sapphire of Clarity. Come on, let's go." Adan said, walking away from the ruined castle. Gwyn, Lyle and Lune followed him.
   
    "Good luck with everything!" Nial called as they left.



* * *


"I've got an idea! Let's search around the Stalden Province - there's bound to be some clues there." Emperor Lune said as he, Prince Adan, Princess Gwyn and Prince Lyle left the town of Landen and made their way through the Chalst Province.
   
    "Thing is - how do we get there?" Adan asked.
   
    "There's a way past the Bernink Province." Lune replied. Lyle looked doubtful.
   
    "No way am I going through that desert again. Once was enough for me." the Layan prince said disapprovingly. Lune looked at Gwyn.
   
    "I don't like the idea of going through deserts, either. I'm with Lyle on this one." she said, standing next to Lyle. Adan also said that he didn't like the desert idea, either. Lune sighed.
   
    "There's no other way, folks." the emperor said.
   
    "Let me deal with it, Emperor Loony." Lyle said deliberately.
   
    "My name's Emperor Lune!" Lune cried. Lyle ignored him and traced a circle on the ground with his staff. He told everyone to step inside it, and they did... except Emperor Lune.
   
    "I'm not going in there!" Lune said, swinging his head to one side so that his hair swished around.
   
    "Why not? It'll be quicker!" Adan asked. Lune pointed at Lyle and scowled.
   
    "I'm sorry, Lune. I didn't think..." Lyle mumbled. Lune let out a long sigh.
   
    "Fair enough. Now let's go!" Lune shouted, stepping into the circle traced on the ground. Lyle muttered a few incomprehensible words under his breath and cast the Ryuka Technique, teleporting them all to the Stalden Province. When they go there, Lune sniffed up contentedly.
   
    "Ah, the air smells so fresh! I used to live in the Stalden Province, but that was over 1,000 years ago." the emperor said. Adan was confused, and so was Gwyn, but when Lune explained the fact that he had been in cryogenic sleep, they seemed to understand.
   
    "Now, where should we go?" Gwyn asked.
   
    "Let's head for the city of Endora. The place is a mine of information." Lune replied. He led the party towards a bridge that crossed the river, but as soon as they got there, a man with a mace stopped them! He told the party that he was a guard for Northern Stalden. The Stalden Province is separated into two pieces - Northern Stalden and Southern Stalden - by the river that runs through the province.
   
    "Stop right there! What's your business?" the mace man asked.
   
    "We would like to go to Endora. We've got an inquiry." Lune replied. The mace man looked disapprovingly at Lune.
   
    "And your inquiry is...?"
   
    "What's it got to do with you?"
   
    "You tell me and I might let you into Northern Stalden so you can get to Endora."
   
    "Fine. We need to know about the Sapphire of Clarity." The look on the mace man's face changed from seriousness to horror. The colour drained from his face.
   
    "The... the Sapphire of Clarity?! You don't mean to say... you're going to release Dark Force?" he asked frightfully.
   
    "We plan to renew the seal that holds Dark Force beneath the Bernink Province. We don't want it to cause chaos. Anyway, it's nearly been 1,000 years. Orakio and Laya said the seal would only hold for 1,000 years." Lune explained. The mace man seemed to calm down. He raised an eyebrow.
   
    "And how do you know this, huh?" he asked.
   
    "Because I am Emperor Lune, Laya's general!" Lune replied. The mace man bowed.
   
    "Very well, Emperor. Go on, go to Endora and find out about the Sapphire of Clarity." he said. Thanking the mace man, Lune walked over the bridge, with Adan, Gwyn and Lyle following, and headed for Endora.
   
    After five minutes, they arrived at the city. It was bustling, and there were lots of people walking around the market stalls, looking for things to buy. Lune looked around.
   
    "OK, let's split up and quiz these people. I'll ask around the market stalls. Lyle, you go round the taverns and ask around there. Adan, you head for the city centre and ask around there. And Gwyn, you go to the big shops past the city centre and ask around there." the emperor explained. The foursome split up and began to ask the people about the Sapphire of Clarity.
   
    An hour later, the foursome were gathered at the city centre, discussing their findings.
   
    "So, how did we do?" Lune asked.
   
    "I found out that the Sapphire of Clarity is somewhere in the Terminus Province." Lyle replied.
   
    "Some of the people I asked mentioned the Terminus Province, but one said something about the sky city of Samesinian Heights." Adan added.
   
    "A few of the people I asked said that Rulakir was residing in the sky city of Samesinian Heights in the Terminus Province." Gwyn said. Lune smiled at her.
   
    "Well, Gwyn's found it! Now, we just need to get to the Terminus Province." the emperor said. He shot a glare at Lyle.
   
    "Huh? What do you want, Lune?" Lyle asked.
   
    "Let's not walk. The technique... the Ryuka Technique..." Lune replied. Lyle nodded and traced a circle in the dust on the ground. He told everyone to step inside, then he muttered a few incomprehensible words under his breath and cast the Ryuka Technique. The traced circle glowed a shade of mauve, then it died down.
   
    "What's going on?! The technique didn't work!" Adan said in horror. Lyle sighed and looked at his staff. He shook his head and shrugged. He didn't know what was going on. Silence blanketed the foursome. They stood there for a few moments, lost in thought and confusion. Then Lune snapped his fingers and broke the silence.
   
    "I think I know what's going on - there's a massive magical interference in our destination, the Terminus Province. Since Rulakir is Orakio's twin brother, he, like Orakio, hates the use of techniques. Which is why he uses a barrier around the entire province, stopping anyone entering using Ryuka Techniques." the emperor explained.
   
    "Why didn't you tell me before?!" Lyle snapped.
   
    "I didn't remember about it until then. Sorry, Lyle."
   
    "No need for apologies, Lune." Silence fell upon the foursome again. They began to ponder over their next course of action. Adan clapped his hands together and shattered the silence.
   
    "How do we get into the Terminus Province, then? If we can't use a Ryuka Technique, there must be another way." the prince said. Lune sighed.
   
    "There's only one way to get there, and we have to go through the Bernink Province, then cross the Frigidia Province. Beyond that, I don't know." the emperor said sadly. Lyle scowled.
   
    "What's up?" Gwyn asked.
   
    "Ugh... we're gonna have to go through the Bernink Province, which was what I was trying to avoid." the Layan prince replied, slightly angered. He turned to Lune.
   
    "What about using a Ryuka Technique to get to the Frigidia Province?" Lyle asked. Lune shook his head.
   
    "The Frigidia Province has a barrier against Ryuka Techniques because the locals there didn't like people just... teleporting in and screwing things up. I'm really sorry, Lyle." the emperor replied. Lyle scowled again, but he knew there was nothing he could do except go with Lune's plan. The foursome began to trudge out of the city of Endora and they headed for the bridge. They crossed into Southern Stalden, and then they headed for the Stalden-Bernink border, making their way towards the Bernink Province.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

PART III: Chapter Three

 

 

 

 

"Sorry, guys... we don't have any other choice..." Emperor Lune said sadly as he led Prince Adan, Princess Gwyn and Prince Lyle through the scorching desert of the Bernink Province. As they walked on, the heat tortured the foursome remorselessly, and as they looked at the horizon, it shimmered.
   
    "Can't we take a rest?" Gwyn asked. They had been trudging through the sands for over an hour.
   
    "No time!" Lune answered quickly. The foursome began to feel dizzy under the unfaltering heat. The sweat began to trickle down their faces and their backs, but still, Lune urged them on, ignoring all their requests and demands for a break.
   
    Another hour passed. The foursome were fairly dehydrated, weakened and hungry. Despite their condition, Lune carried on ushering them through the desert, oblivious to the fact that he too was feeling the effects of the scorching heat. They were just about to walk past Hazatak when Lyle stopped them.
   
    "We need a break!" the Layan prince said, heading into the town. Adan and Gwyn followed him.
   
    "But we're..." Lune began, but everyone was out of earshot now. He sighed and followed them into the town. When Lune got to Adan, Gwyn and Lyle, they were stopped outside a tavern.
   
    "Don't worry, we'll make this quick." Adan said as he saw the scowl on Lune's face. The foursome went into the tavern, but unlike the other cyborgs that were here, they got water to drink and not ale. Adan went over to the bar to get the drinks. As he was about to reach for his purse, the bartender stopped him.
   
    "It's alright. We entitle human customers to free water." she said. Adan smiled and took the glasses brimming with water over to the table. No sooner had the glasses been put down, they were picked up again and drained of their contents. Lune sat back on his chair.
   
    "I know," the emperor said, "why don't we ask them if they'll give us a huge bottle of water to take with us. That way we'll have supplies and we can hurry along." Adan nodded, stood up, and walked over to the bar. The bartender smiled as the prince came over.
   
    "Same again?" she asked cheerily. Adan cleared his throat.
   
    "I was just asking," the prince said, "would it be possible to get a big bottle of water for me, my sister and my friends? We've got to trek through the desert, and we're going to need some supplies." The bartender beamed at Adan.
   
    "Yeah, that's fine. I'll do that for you." She went into a small room, and when she came back out, she had hold of four large bottles. She filled them to the brim with water, put the caps on, and handed them to Adan.
   
    "Thanks." the prince said, smiling. He took the bottles of water and returned to the table.
   
    "There's one for each of us." Lune said, taking a bottle and stashing it on his person. He crossed his hands on his lap and looked at the rest of the group intently. Some of his long, lime-green locks fell over his face.
   
    "Yeah. We should be OK now." said Lyle, also taking a bottle and stashing it on his person. Gwyn took her bottle and smiled at her brother.
   
    "We'd better get going now." the princess said, standing up. Adan then picked up his bottle and, like Lune, stashed it on his person. He walked over to the bar, thanked the bartender and gave her 5000 meseta for her kindness. The bartender smiled and took it off the bar.
   
    "Good luck on your journey." she said, waving. Adan took one last look at her, waved, turned around and left the tavern. When the foursome had assembled outside, Lune began to speak.
   
    "OK, we've had a drink and a rest. Let's carry on." the emperor said, leading Adan, Gwyn and Lyle out of the town and back into the vast expanse of desert. They began to stride through the sands at a quicker pace then before, because they had stopped to rest and rehydrate. The party all looked to the left. They saw the small river that ran south of Hazatak. But as they looked at it, Lyle noticed the emerald on his staff glowing brightly.
   
    "Is that supposed to be happening?" Adan asked. Lyle shook his head.
   
    "It should only be doing that when I cast a technique, but now..." but the Layan prince could say no more. He stared at the river, which was now pitch black. It looked like a murky, viscous stream of oil.
   
    "The seal is really weak now! We'll have to hurry and get that last gem!" Lune panicked, trying to pull everyone away from the black river. Adan managed to stop looking and stare at Lune. Lyle was rooted to the spot, unable to move. Gwyn was lying on the sand. Adan rushed over to her whilst Lune tried to sort out Lyle.
   
    "Gwyn. Gwyn, it's OK. I'm here now." Adan said soothingly, but Gwyn didn't respond. She lay there, unmoving. Adan picked her up and checked her vital signs. She was still alive, to his relief. However, the blackened river was now beginning to emit dark smoke that clouded the party. The smoke was thick with manipulative magic.
   
    "Gwyn, please wake up... oh, please just wake up..." Adan said. His words were slurring and his head felt sore. He brushed his hand over his sister's face, trying to wake her up. Eventually, she opened her eyes slightly.
   
    "Gwyn... tell me... what's going on here..." Adan said slowly, the pain in his head almost unbearable now. Gwyn reached up and put a hand on his cheek.
   
    "Dark Force... is returning..." she began, but even she had a terrible pain in her head. She put her other hand on her forehead. "My head... is killing me..." she murmured, before she fell faint. Adan also collapsed and fell on top of her. His inert form then rolled to one side.
   
    Meanwhile, Lune could feel the dark power emanating from the river pulsating through his head now, He tried vainly to get Lyle's attention.
   
    "Come on, Lyle! Stop staring at that thing!" he shouted. Lyle turned his head slowly to face the emperor.
   
    "I know what's going on now..." the Layan prince began, placing a hand on his head. The dark power was tearing through him, as well.
   
    "What?" Lune asked. Lyle swallowed and bent forward.
   
    "1,000 years have passed... the seal is breaking... Dark Force... returning..." was all he said before he collapsed to the ground. Lune turned away quickly.
   
    "What?! No..." Lune stammered. He looked at the desert to the right of the river. Dark shapes were approaching from the horizon.
   
    "Samesina is doomed..." the emperor said, before collapsing to the floor, overwhelmed by the dark power.



* * *


"Come now, wake up." a voice said over Prince Adan's head. He had been knocked out by the dark power, and he was struggling to open his eyes. He had a terrible headache.
   
    "Everything is OK. Wake up." the voice said again, this time slightly louder. Adan half-opened his eyes and stared at the ceiling. In the corner of his eye, he could just make out the face of a man with short, tousled, brown hair.
   
    "You look like my dad... are you...?" Adan murmured, still trying to wake up completely. The man let out a slight laugh.
   
    "No, I am not your dad. I rescued you from the dark power in the Bernink Province." he said. Adan finally managed to fully open his eyes. He sat up a little and looked the man in the eye.
   
    "Uh... where am I?" the prince asked, still not completely in synch with what was going on around him.
   
    "You're in Samesinian Heights, in the Terminus Province." the man said simply. Adan let out a small gasp. The Terminus Province! That was where he and his companions wanted to be, but where were his companions?
   
    "My friends... where are they?" Adan asked.
   
    "Follow me, please." the man replied. Reluctantly Adan pulled himself to his feet and followed the man out of the room and into a long, echoey, candlelit corridor. The candlelight flickered across the cold stone and danced around the shadows. There were some people wandering around hurriedly, as though they were late for something important. The man strode down the corridor, swinging his arms. Adan followed him, albeit more slowly and less steadily. He had to partially lean on the wall to support his weight. The man pushed open a door and stepped into a small room. Adan stayed outside.
   
    "Excuse me, where is His Highness?" the man asked.
   
    "He'll come soon." a female voice replied. Adan heard her clear her throat. "Your Ma-ajesty! Are you there?" she called. Adan saw a tall, well-muscled man with dark brown hair rush into the room. The prince heard the three people in the room talking.
   
    Several minutes later, the woman popped her head out of the door.
   
    "Excuse me, His Highness wishes to speak with you now." she said, smiling. Adan nodded and walked unsteadily into the room. The tall, well-muscled man he had seen enter beckoned to him and pointed to a wooden chair. Adan obeyed the man's subtle command and sat down. The prince looked the man in the eye once he had seated himself.
   
    "I guess you're wondering what you're doing in here." the man said. His voice was low and smooth, with a slight posh accent. When he spoke, everyone stayed quiet. They dared not speak whilst he was speaking. He had that air of authority around him. When the man had finished speaking, Adan began to speak.
   
    "Yeah I am, but..." He paused. "Who are you, anyway? I don't know." The man placed a lean hand on Adan's shoulder. He and the prince looked eye to eye.
   
    "I am Rulakir, King of Samesinian Heights." Rulakir said. Adan let out a muffled gasp.
   
    "Rulakir!" the prince said suddenly. Rulakir sat back on his chair and brushed his hands over his short, dark brown hair.
   
    "Then, who are you?" Rulakir asked, leaning forward again. His cool, calm gaze met Adan's uncertain gaze.
   
    "I'm Adan, Prince of Landen." Adan replied. He shuffled on the chair. Rulakir sat back again and propped his chin up with his hand.
   
    "You said that you wanted to know why you're here," Rulakir explained, "so I'll tell you. Me and four of my subjects were taking a walk through the Bernink Province, and we saw... that blackened river! My worst fear seemed to be coming true, and that was the fear that today was the final day that the seal would hold Dark Force under the desert sands. Then I saw four figures in the distance - you and your three companions. When I saw that you had been knocked unconscious by the dark power, I ordered my subjects to bring you here." He paused for a second and looked into Adan's bright green eyes.
   
    "My companions... are they OK?" Adan asked. Rulakir gave the prince a comforting nod.
   
    "Yes, two of them were. They recovered very quickly. However, the damage that the dark power had done to you was much more devastating than anyone could have predicted. Somehow it seemed that Dark Force had used a fragment of its power to try and control you. I did manage to find a technique that would suppress its effects, but I could not remove it completely. When you confront Dark Force, which you will, it may use that small fragment of power to try to either kill you or make you switch sides."
   
    "My sister... what about her?" Adan's throat felt dry as he asked Rulakir about Gwyn.
   
    "Ah yes, the girl we found you lying with. She has the gift of prophecy, does she not?"
   
    "She doesn't think it's a gift! The things she sees... they frighten her so much..." Adan began to sob. He didn't like talking about the premonitions that Gwyn had, because of how much they scared her.
   
    "Yes, but despite the fact that they scare her, they are very accurate, aren't they?" Rulakir asked calmly. Adan felt too choked up with tears to say anything. He nodded weakly and buried his head in his hands, crying bitterly.
   
    "Come now, Prince Adan. I didn't mean to upset you." Rulakir said softly, standing up off the chair. He walked over to the sobbing prince and knelt down in front of him. Adan looked up. His face was reddened and several tears trickled down his cheeks.
   
    "It makes me upset when I see my sister so scared... after all, she's only 16 years old, like me..." Adan said quietly, straining to get his words out. Rulakir took hold of his hand.
   
    "May I tell you about what happened to your sister?" he asked. Adan nodded feebly and closed his eyes.
   
    "Now," Rulakir explained in a soft voice, "when we found your sister, we saw that Dark Force's power had gotten to her much more than it had gotten to you. She didn't have much left in her, because Dark Force's power was killing her slowly and painfully. But, we did manage to save her, however she is in no condition to come with you when you go to defeat Dark Force." Adan opened his eyes and looked pitifully at Rulakir. He took his hand out of Rulakir's grasp and sobbed again.
   
    "Please, tell me! Will my sister be OK?" Adan wailed, his woe blanketing him now. Rulakir looked at him with a saddened expression.
   
    "Not soon, but later." Rulakir said simply. Adan nodded weakly. He couldn't believe what the power of Dark Force had done to Gwyn. He tried vainly to stem the flow of his tears. The man and the woman who were in the room with Adan and Rulakir exited quickly. They realised that this was no time for them to be in the room.
   
    "Please... you have to save her, Your Highness! I can't... I don't want her to die!" Adan cried. Rulakir put one arm around the prince and gave him a slight hug.
   
    "I'm doing my best to make sure that won't happen. I can't guarantee anything, though." Rulakir replied sadly, putting his other arm around Adan and giving him a comforting hug. The prince wept pitifully.
   
    "I have to see her... where is she?" Adan asked quietly, his voice just breaking through his melancholy situation.
   
    "I could show you, but it would pain you to see her in her current condition." Rulakir replied. Adan wiped the tears from his eyes and gazed pitifully into Rulakir's deep, misty grey eyes.
   
    "I just want to see her." the prince mumbled. Rulakir nodded and gave Adan a handkerchief. The prince took it and dried his eyes. Rulakir stood up and began to walk out of the room.
   
    "Your Highness!" Adan said. Rulakir stopped at the doorway and faced Adan.
   
    "Please, call me by name." he said smoothly. Adan nodded his head.
   
    "Rulakir, I... Thank you. For saving me, my sister and my friends." the prince murmured.
   
    "It was nothing. I could never let anyone succumb to the evil power of Dark Force. Its power disgusts me." Rulakir replied. He beckoned to Adan with a simple arm movement. Once the prince had managed to curb his sorrow, he stood up and followed Rulakir out of the room.



* * *


"This is where I am keeping your sister until she gets better. Are you sure you want me to let you in to see her?" Rulakir asked as he stopped outside a large, wooden door with metal bars going across.
   
    "Yes, it's fine! Just let me see her!" Prince Adan blurted. His voice was still strained from his sorrow. Rulakir pushed open the door and allowed Adan to enter. He then followed the prince and closed the door gently behind him.
   
    "Oh, Gwyn... Why has this happened to you..." Adan mumbled softly to himself as he sat on the edge of the bed where the unconscious form of Gwyn was lying. All the fear and horror had gone from her face, and now her slightly reddened cheeks and her lightly closed eyes made her look like she was just sleeping. Adan reached for her limp hand and took it in one of his own.
   
    "Gwyn, can you hear me? It's me, Adan, your brother..." murmured Adan, now weeping softly and glancing at his unconscious sister. Rulakir walked over to the prince and consoled him.
   
    "Please, don't cry for her. She will recover, it will just take her some time." he said, putting his arm round Adan's waist. The prince looked into Rulakir's cool, comforting, misty grey eyes.
   
    "You're more like a father than my real dad..." Adan whispered. It was true, however. Since he and Gwyn were five years old, King Nial had just tried to ignore them as much as he could. The prince turned his head to look at his sister. Rulakir used his other hand to gently ease Adan away from looking at Gwyn again.
   
    "Do not be afraid, Adan. Your sister will be fine." Rulakir said. Adan closed his eyes and wept.
   
    "She doesn't look fine! Please, Rulakir, do something!" the prince wailed, slumping down on the bed. Rulakir helped him back up and looked him squarely in his tear-soaked face.
   
    "I am sorry, but only time can heal her. No Resta Technique can bring her back to consciousness any quicker." Rulakir said calmly. Adan said nothing, but cried bitterly. He turned to face the unconscious form of Gwyn again.
   
    "Please, Gwyn... come back!" Adan sobbed, brushing his hand over Gwyn's cheek. Rulakir placed a lean hand on Adan's shoulder.
   
    "Come now, Adan. I will show you where your other two companions are." he said, his misty grey eyes looking at the weeping prince calmly. Adan nodded feebly and wiped away his tears. Rulakir stood up and walked towards the door. Adan then stood up and followed him. He took one last look at his unconscious sister, then he walked out the door and after Rulakir.



* * *


Rulakir strode along the stone corridor with a sense of pride. As the King of Samesinian Heights, people walking along corridor waved to him as he passed. Rulakir smiled at them and went on his way. Behind him, Prince Adan followed him. He kept his distance from Rulakir out of respect. Eventually Rulakir stopped outside a wooden door. Adan waited behind him.
   
    "Come now, Prince Adan. Your other two companions are in here." Rulakir said calmly. He pushed open the door and allowed Adan to enter first. He followed the prince into the room, shutting the door behind him.
   
    "Hmm? One of them is not here..." Rulakir muttered under his breath, but Adan was standing close enough to hear him.
   
    "Yeah." the prince said simply. He saw the back of a head draped with long, lime-green hair at the far end of the room, opposite to where he was.
   
    "Ready or not, here I come!" called the cheery voice of Emperor Lune. He turned around and began to search the room thoroughly. Rulakir brushed his lean hands over his short, dark brown hair and sighed.
   
    "What is he doing?" Rulakir asked. Adan let out a slight laugh.
   
    "I think Emperor Lune and Prince Lyle are playing hide and seek!" the prince replied, now laughing. The idea of Lune and Lyle playing hide and seek subdued his sorrow, that same sorrow that he had had when he saw Gwyn unconscious.
   
    A few minutes later. Lune was crouched besides one of the beds, peering underneath it. Lyle was stood behind him, making no sound. The emperor was unaware of his presence. As Lune began to stand up, Lyle stepped back and tripped over a chair leg. The noise of the Layan prince's fall attracted Lune's attention.
   
    "Found you!" Lune said happily, pulling Lyle to his feet. The Layan prince looked the emperor in the eye.
   
    "Alright, now it's your turn to hide." Lyle said, before he turned to his left and saw Adan. "Wait a minute! Lune, Adan's OK!" the Layan prince called, running over to Adan and embracing him. Lune walked over and saw Rulakir.
   
    "Ah, Rulakir. There's something I need to ask you." Lune said. Rulakir faced him and surveyed the emperor with his cool, calm, misty grey eyes.
   
    "Emperor Lune. What do you need?" Rulakir asked, standing bolt upright and placing one hand on his hip. Lune cleared his throat and ran a hand through his long, lime-green hair.
   
    "Well, me and my companions were headed here to ask you a favour." the emperor replied, flicking some of his wayward locks out of his face. Rulakir kinked his head slightly to one side.
   
    "And what is that?"
   
    "We came to ask you for the Sapphire of Clarity. Do you have it?" When Lune had finished speaking, Rulakir let out a slight gasp. If he gave the Sapphire of Clarity to Lune, that would mean that the Four Gems of Salvation were together again, which was what Orakio and Laya had forbidden! Then he begins to think. Dark Force had been able to free itself from the seal to manipulate Adan, Gwyn, Lune and Lyle with its power. He realised that maybe they could subdue and renew the seal on Dark Force.
   
    "Emperor Lune, I have been thinking. You are going to break the seal on Dark Force, then you will subdue and reseal it, are you not?" Rulakir asked.
   
    "Yep, that was our plan exactly." Lune replied.
   
    "Good, because I have to tell you something. You are the only ones that can destroy Dark Force. The four 'chosen ones' have been reunited."
   
    "Chosen ones?" Adan piped up.
   
    "Indeed," Rulakir replied to the prince's question, "we are the chosen ones. I, the protector of the Sapphire of Clarity. Emperor Lune, the protector of the Ruby of Power. Prince Lyle, the protector of the Emerald of Purity. And you, Prince Adan, the protector of the Amber of Protection. Now, we must head towards the Bernink Province to subdue Dark Force!"
   
    "Wait a minute," Lyle said, "but how are we the 'chosen ones'? I'm still uncertain..."
   
    "Ah," Rulakir said, "I will explain briefly. When Orakio and Laya worked together to seal away Dark Force, the Four Gems of Salvation were the keys to breaking the seal. The two leaders realised that if they were together, held by one person, they may unwittingly release Dark Force upon our fair land of Samesina!"
   
    "I did explain all this to them, but I think I missed out a few parts." Lune sighed. Rulakir began to speak again.
   
    "Therefore, Orakio chose his twin brother to guard the Sapphire of Clarity. That is how I am its guardian. He also entrusted the Amber of Protection to the Royal Family of his home town of Landen, which is how you are its guardian, Prince Adan."
   
    "And what about Laya? Did she choose people to guard the other two of the Four Gems?" Lyle asked. Rulakir nodded and carried on explaining.
   
    "Yes, she did. Laya entrusted the Ruby of Power to her most trusted general, which is how Emperor Lune is its guardian. She also placed the Emerald of Purity under the care of the Royal Family of her home town of Shusoran, which is how Prince Lyle is its guardian. Now, did you understand fully what I told you?" Everyone nodded their heads. Rulakir began to walk out of the room.
   
    "Now, all of you need to come with me. We will need special weapons to destroy Dark Force. We are not going to just subdue and reseal it. This time we will remove it from Samesina for good!" Rulakir said, striding out of the room. Adan, Lyle and Lune followed him.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

PART III: Chapter Four

 

 

 

 

Rulakir strode along the long, echoey, torch-lit stone corridor with grace and finesse. People who were around at the time stopped to wave at him. Rulakir smiled and walked on. Behind him, Prince Adan, Emperor Lune and Prince Lyle walked after him. Together, the threesome and Rulakir were the 'chosen ones' that would destroy Dark Force.
   
    As they were walking, Rulakir explained, "Now, we cannot destroy Dark Force with any old weapon. No. We must work together and use the four Weapons of Light. As it reads in the Samesinian Chronicle: 'As the four lights converge upon the dark one, the bright light of justice will dispel the shadows and purify the world'. This basically means that when the four Weapons of Light are used together, their combined power will send Dark Force back from whence it came!"
   
    "The... the four Weapons of Light? What are those?" Adan asked.
   
    "I will explain briefly," Rulakir replied, "and you all will listen well. The four Weapons of Light are: the Sword of Eternal Justice, the Bow and Arrow of Truth, the Staff of Revelation and the Knife of Light. Each one is imbued with a power much greater than that of Dark Force, but that power will only work if all four Weapons are together."
   
    "Who's using what?" Lyle asked.
   
    "We will use the weapon best suited to our fighting ability. I will take the Sword of Eternal Justice." Rulakir replied.
   
    "Looks like I take the Staff of Revelation." Lyle said.
   
    "Bags I the Knife of Light!" Lune cried.
   
    "Which leaves me with the Bow and Arrow of Truth." Adan sighed. The foursome stopped near to a door.
   
    "This is where the Weapons of Light are kept." Rulakir said, observing his companions with his cool, calm, misty grey eyes for a brief moment. Then he turned back to the door and muttered a few words under his breath. There was a magical fizzle and the door swung open.
   
    "What was that?" Adan asked.
   
    "That was the Secura Technique, which locks and protects doors, chests, anything with a lock on it. It also puts a shield around the item in question. I merely dispelled it so that we could get into the room where the Weapons of Light are kept." Rulakir replied. He strode into the room, with Adan, Lune and Lyle following close behind.
   
    The room the foursome had just entered was dark and gloomy. Cobwebs hung everywhere, and piles of greyish dust settled on everything in the room. Several plain wooden crates were stacked around the room, along with another few various items. It was a complete contrast to the grandeur of the rest of the place. There were also a few cupboards near the room entrance. One of them had a large padlock on it, and it was this one that Rulakir walked over to and opened. The cupboard had been protected with a Secura Technique, so Rulakir had to dispel it before the cupboard could be opened.
   
    "Here they are." Rulakir said. He reached into the open cupboard and pulled out a brown leather quiver with a silvery bow and gold-tipped arrows with red feathers at the other end. Adan took it from him and attached it to his belt. Rulakir reached into the cupboard again and pulled out a small knife with a wickedly curved silver blade. Lune took it from him and jammed it into his belt.
   
    "Thanks for the weapon, Rulakir!" Lune said cheerfully. Rulakir faced him and smiled, then he went back to the cupboard and took out a long, silver staff with a large emerald set on the top. He handed it to Lyle.
   
    "Thanks." the Layan prince said. Rulakir bowed his head, then he went to the cupboard once more. He checked it several times, then he scrabbled around it frantically. When he stood up and faced the other three men, he was slightly shaken.
   
    "Th-the Sword of Eternal Justice! It is missing from the cupboard!" Rulakir gasped.
   
    "Maybe you're carrying it and not realising." Lyle suggested. Rulakir checked himself, but there was no Sword of Eternal Justice to be found. Adan and Lune began to panic.
   
    "Does... does that mean that Dark Force can't be defeated?" Adan asked fearfully.
   
    "Do not be frightened, Adan. I think I remember that I kept the Sword of Eternal Justice separate from the other Weapons of Light." Rulakir replied coolly. He led the other three men out of the room and towards a spiral staircase leading downwards. They walked down, pressing their hands against the cold stone walls to stop themselves falling. Lune felt around when they got to the bottom, and there he found an unlit torch. He cast a Foi Technique and lit it. The light of the burning torch was thrown around them, flickering on the uneven stone walls.
   
    "Castle dungeon, huh?" Lyle said abruptly, without thinking. Rulakir faced him.
   
    "You could say that." he replied. He whirled back round and strode through the thin passage. Lune walked behind him, lighting his way with the torch. The party's heavy footsteps echoed through the passage, and the air around them was thick with dust. Adan accidentally breathed in some of the dust and coughed.
   
    "It's alright, I'm fine." Adan spluttered when the rest of the party looked at him. They then walked on, following Rulakir and staying close to him. They did not want to get lost in this strange environment.
   
    Eventually the thin passage opened up into a small room. Light was streaming in from some small holes in the ceiling. Rulakir took the torch from Lune and stepped further into the room. Although he knew this place well, he could feel his breath catching in his throat. The small radius of light from the torch left the deepest corners of the room in darkness. Rulakir turned to his right, then a silvery flash swooped past his left.
   
    "What was that?" Lyle asked Lune and Adan, pointing to where the flash had been.
   
    "I don't know." Lune replied sadly. Adan shook his head. Lyle sighed. Then the silvery flash swiped just in front of Rulakir. Lune shrugged.
   
    "Huh? Is someone there?" Adan asked himself. He stepped forward, but just as he did so, the silvery flash whooshed past him! Someone is in here, Adan thought. He reached for one of the knives attached to his belt, then decided against using it. He unpinned his cloak and swished it. A cloud of dust arose from the ground. When it settled, Adan could see that it had revealed a vaguely human shape. He re-pinned his cloak and turned to Rulakir.
   
    "Rulakir, pass me the torch!" the prince hissed. Rulakir handed the torch to Adan, who took it and pointed it at the human shape. The flickering light illuminated a fountain of long, fuchsia pink hair, which belonged to a woman dressed entirely in skin-tight black leather. She looked at Adan. The prince could see her eyes were burning, but he knew that this was just a trick of the torchlight.
   
    "Who are you?" Adan asked. The woman made no response. She placed her dainty, pointed hand on her breast and faced the prince. She swished her head to the side, and her hair flew through the air and wrapped itself loosely around her neck. She then took a step closer to Adan and reached out to him.
   
    "Just tell me who you are!" Adan demanded, thrusting the torch threateningly at the pink-haired woman. She stepped back slightly and crossed her hands in front of her stomach. She still did not respond to the prince. Adan began to lose his patience. He drew one of his knives from its sheath and bared the point at her.
   
    "Tell me who you are, or I swear to Laya I'll run you through!" Adan roared. His patience had hit rock bottom. The woman moved closer to Adan again, and she placed a hand on his shoulder. Adan shook it off with disgust.
   
    "Don't worry, Prince Adan. You and I will meet again soon." the woman said seductively, stroking her hair with one hand. She began to utter a few words under her breath, and then she was surrounded by a fiery purple glow.
   
    "She's using a Ryuka Technique! She's getting away!" Adan shouted. Lyle pointed the Staff of Revelation at her and focused. The fiery purple glow died down.
   
    "I've got her." the Layan prince said. He had cast a Restricta Technique, which is the opposite of a Ryuka Technique. When cast, it stops anyone from using a Ryuka Technique within a certain radius of the caster. This radius depends on the caster's ability. Adan nodded and gave the torch to Rulakir, freeing his hand. He then grasped the woman's wrist and pulled her towards him.
   
    "You've got some explaining to do." Adan hissed. He threw the woman to the ground and knelt in front of her. She seemed unmoved by the rough treatment she had just received.
   
    "What do you want to know?" the woman asked, rather rudely. Adan cleared his throat.
   
    "Who are you?" the prince asked. The woman flicked several locks of her hair away from her face. She began to stand up, but Adan forced her back down to the ground.
   
    "I am Mariah. I come from the town of Landen." Mariah said calmly. Adan gasped and fell back.
   
    "Landen! But... how do you know me?" the prince asked. Mariah laughed.
   
    "You're the Prince of Landen, silly!" she replied. Adan placed a hand on her shoulder and made sure she didn't stand up.
   
    "What are you doing down here, Mariah?" the prince asked, sounding calm. Mariah kinked her head to one side, and her hair fell around her cheek and down her back.
   
    "I need the Sword of Eternal Justice. The Layan people of Cille asked me for it when I visited them." Mariah replied. Adan put his knife on the ground and rubbed his chin in thought. He picked up the knife again and faced Mariah.
   
    "And what do they want it for?"
   
    "Nuh-nothing important, Prince Adan. But they did mention some idiot Orakian with a posh accent." When Mariah had finished speaking, Adan gasped.
   
    "What, Rhys? He's the old king of Landen. Why would you need the Sword of Eternal Justice if he's involved?" the prince asked. He swallowed.
   
    "The people of Cille want to deliver eternal justice to him because it was HIS fault that their princess was murdered in cold blood! And do you know WHO killed her?"
   
    "No, but I guess you're gonna tell me."
   
    "It was your father, Prince Adan! Yes, King Nial, your loving father, killed Princess Maia of Cille sixteen years ago!" Adan fell back in surprise. He struggled to get his words out.
   
    "But... why would you need to kill Rhys if King Nial was behind it?"
   
    "Because he started it, of course. Maia wasn't happy when he didn't marry her." Adan was beginning to get fed up of the converstion. This constant argument with Mariah was wasting precious seconds. He had to tell her the current situation.
   
    "Mariah, forget killing Rhys, forget the people of Cille... you have to listen to me!" the prince said agitatedly.
   
    "And why should I?" Mariah asked rudely.
   
    "Samesina could be destroyed! Dark Force is trying to break out of the seal holding it beneath the Bernink Province as we speak!" Adan replied, his voice pulsating with panic. Mariah looked startled.
   
    "De-destroyed?! And... Dark Force? Oh... no..." she said, her voice trailing off. Adan looked firm.
   
    "And that's why we need the Sword of Eternal Justice. We need to use it to destroy Dark Force before it destroys Samesina!" the prince said. Mariah tugged at a knotted piece of leather on her belt. When she freed it, Adan saw that it was attached to the Sword of Eternal Justice in its scabbard.
   
    "Here it is." Mariah said. She held the Sword towards Adan. Before he could take it, Rulakir sidled up next to him and whispered something in his ear. The prince stood up and looked down at Mariah.
   
    "Rulakir has said," Adan explained, "that he needs to stay here and guard the Terminus Province. He suggested that you should come with us, Mariah. Keep hold of the Sword, because you'll need it." Mariah nodded and re-attached the scabbarded sword to her belt. She stood up and faced Adan.
   
    "Prince Adan, you won't regret this!" Mariah said confidently.
   
    "Let's not be so formal. Call me by name." Adan said to Mariah. She nodded and began to streak out of the room. Rulakir followed her with the torch, with Adan, Lune and Lyle trailing behind.



* * *


Meanwhile, in the town of Landen in the Chalst Province, King Nial was storming impatiently up and down the main path to his ruined castle, thinking furiously. Halfway down his 120th trip, he stopped, put his hands on his head and let out a long sigh.
   
    "Look, if everything's true, even my daughter's premonition... Samesina is doomed. And there's nothing we can do!" Nial said fiercely. His anger stemmed from the fact that he now knew Dark Force was returning.
   
    "We appear to have only one choice, and that is to hope to Orakio that your son and daughter remain safe!" Rhys said disconcertingly. After being recently revived, he had now picked up on what Samesina was to face if Adan and Gwyn didn't succeed and destroy Dark Force.
   
    "We also have to wish to my sister Laya, because this isn't just Orakio's concern. It's her concern too!" said a rather upset Queen Laya. She shot a sorrowful glance at Nial.
   
    "Laya, there's nothing we can do to help my son and daughter! Nothing!" Nial stopped. His tone grew more sorrowful. "If Adan and Gwyn don't come back to me alive... what am I to..." His anger came back to him. "No! I can't give up hope! There MUST be something we can do to help them!" Nial began to storm up and down the grass surrounding the wrecked castle more furiously than before.
   
    "We will have to try something. That cad, Dark Force... if it ever disentangles itself from the seal... then we are as good as dead!" Rhys muttered. He walked over to Nial and stopped him.
   
    "My son, I have an idea." he said. Nial turned his head and looked Rhys in the eye.
   
    "Go on, tell me." the king said rudely.
   
    "We must head for the Bernink Province! If we are to give your son and daughter any assistance, we have to be there!" Nial shook his head.
   
    "What do we do when we get there, Dad?"
   
    "Do you not think? We will utilise our skills, aid your children and their companions, and we shall send Dark Force back from whence it came!" Rhys said triumphantly. Nial raised an eyebrow.
   
    "The Samesinian Chronicle." he muttered.
   
    "Say what, Nial? The Samesinian Chronicle? Insolence! The words of that book are mere folklore!" Rhys exploded.
   
    "Dad, you don't understand! The laws of Samesina are based on the lore in the Samesinian Chronicle. You told me when I was only a little boy, remember?" Rhys sighed when Nial had finished speaking.
   
    "So I did. Well, I was mistaken. The Samesinian Chronicle was written by insolent scholars who knew nothing of the truth! Their words are meaningless!" Rhys' tone grew angrier as he spoke. Nial shook his head again.
   
    "When you said we could help my kids with our skills, it says in the Samesinian Chronicle that: 'As the four lights converge upon the dark one, the bright light of justice will dispel the shadows and purify the world'. It refers to the four Weapons of Light, hidden within the Terminus Province. I found that out after asking an information trader in the Helskiz Province when I was fifteen."
   
    "I saw you, Nial. You threatened to massacre his family. Malicious brute you were then, and you still are now! Some things never change." Rhys sighed. Nial's eyes flickered with anger, but just before he could say anthing, a cry from Laya made him turn and look at the sky. It was getting dark... ominously dark.
   
    "Laya! What's going on?" Nial asked, his anger quickly turning into panic. Laya turned pale. She pointed at the sky.
   
    "The sky... it's dark!" she gasped. Rhys looked up and when he looked back at Nial, his mouth was open in shock.
   
    "It appears... that the seal has broken. This is the beginning of the end for the Samesinian people!" he panicked, running forward towards Laya. Nial ran after him.
   
    "Come on! We have to get to the Bernink Province and help Adan and Gwyn!" Nial ordered, ushering Rhys out of Landen. He then took hold of Laya's hand and together, they ran towards the Bernink Province and the dark power lurking within...



* * *


But whilst King Nial, Queen Laya and Rhys were headed towards the Bernink Province, Prince Adan, Emperor Lune, Prince Lyle and Mariah were already there. Lyle had cast a Ryuka Technique to get them there quickly, as they could not delay any longer to go and defeat Dark Force.
   
    "It's gotten awfully dark, hasn't it, Adan?" Mariah asked, pointing at the sky. She looked at the prince, who was clutching at his chest.
   
    "Adan, what is it?" Mariah asked soothingly. She placed a hand on Adan's shoulder and looked into his eyes.
   
    "It's fine..." the prince said, before his voice trailed off. He thought for a moment. "No, it's not fine. Rulakir rescued me when I'd been hit by Dark Force's power. He couldn't remove all of the dark power it had left in me."
   
    "You think that's what's making this happen to you?"
   
    "Yeah... it can't be anything else." Adan gritted his teeth and leaned on Mariah until the pain had gone.
   
    "We'd better get moving. If Dark Force is able to mess with Adan, it must be close. Come on!" Lyle shouted, running ahead towards the heart of the desert. The seal binding Dark Force had completely broken; now it could escape. The heat of the Bernink Province had dissipated, and now the desert had been turned into a vast, cold expanse of nothingness.
   
    "This isn't the Bernink Province as we know it... the dark power is already altering our land!" Lune panicked, dashing after Lyle. Adan and Mariah followed close behind, and soon they found themselves at the river south of the cyborg town of Hazatak. The very same river that had seeped out that dark manipulative power which had affected Adan, Gwyn, Lune and Lyle. As the party approached it, they could see that the river was completely black, and plumes of thick black smoke were rising from it. Above their heads, they could hear a low, booming voice.
   
    "Finally... 1,000 years have passed... My vile bonds are broken... I have returned..." it rasped.
   
    "Dark Force..." Mariah said in a scared whimper.
   
    "Right, everyone!" Lyle said loudly, calling everyone to attention. "As we all know, Dark Force has broken free. We've got the four Weapons of Light on hand, and our fight skills." He paused. "Ah, who needs tactics anyway. Let's just mess Dark Force up."
   
    "Ah... where is young Prince Adan?" hissed Dark Force. Adan swallowed and stepped forward.
   
    "Thank you for your help." Adan shrugged at Dark Force's wispy existence.
   
    "I never helped you at all!" the prince snapped.
   
    "Ah, but you did, you fool! The sorrow of your sister's condition came to me, and gave me power! Anger, pain, sorrow, disputes and suffering are my strength!" Dark Force roared in reply. Adan stepped back. He tripped over his cloak and fell heavily on the sand.
   
    "You know about my sister?" the prince asked fearfully. Dark Force laughed maliciously.
   
    "Of course! That smoke that knocked her out, along with you and your little friends, was MY power. Now it is time for you and your pathetic companions to experience TRUE suffering!" it roared. Black clouds began to settle over Mariah, Lune and Lyle.
   
    "Wh-what's this now? No..." Lune said in horror.
   
    "This can't be right... Dark Force is..." Mariah gasped.
   
    Lyle yelled, "Knock it off! You don't scare me!" in an attempt to get rid of the cloud. He swung the Staff of Revelation at the black cloud settling over him, but even his attempts to break free from the dark cloud were in vain. Adan looked with impuissance at his captured companions.
   
    "Now it is time to wallow in your suffering, young Prince Adan..." Dark Force hissed. Its wispy existence swirled around the captured, struggling forms of Mariah, Lune and Lyle. They began to feel a slight throbbing pain in their heads. Adan felt it too, but his was much worse. The prince collapsed to the floor, whimpering and clutching at his head.
   
    "Please... don't... do this..." Adan murmured, but the pain didn't go away. It began to get worse and worse. Dark Force laughed rancorously.
   
    "Your pain is making me stronger! Do not resist!" it boomed.
   
    "Agh... no! Make it stop!" Adan cried. Tears were welling in his eyes from the excruciating pain that pulsated through his head. Just as he was about to surrender himself to stop the pain, he glanced at the horizon. Three figures were approaching. He squinted and looked at the front one. He cried in anguish as the pain in his head became unbearable. Then he saw his father, King Nial, running straight towards him!
   
    "Dad... come here..." Adan said. The pain he was feeling was so intense he could barely shout. He closed his eyes and listened to the distant shouts.
   
    "My son's there! Come on, hurry up!"
   
    "Such is Dark Force's manipulative abilities. It appears to be feeding off your son's pain!"
   
    "We can't let Adan suffer at the hands of Dark Force. Let's hurry."
   
    Adan thought he heard a voice over his head. It sounded like his father, but he couldn't be sure. He thought that Dark Force was messing with his mind.
   
    "Adan! It's me, your dad!" the voice called. Adan half-opened his eyes and looked. He found that King Nial was stood over him. He opened his eyes fully, but then he began to cry in pain.
   
    "What is it?" Nial asked.
   
    "The... the power... m-my head... it hurts..." Adan sobbed in reply. Nial looked around and saw that Mariah, Lune and Lyle were trapped in clouds of dark magic. He knelt down and embraced Adan.
   
    "Let's see if I can get rid of that pain, Adan." Nial murmured softly in the prince's ear. Instantly the pain dissipated from Adan's head. The wispy existence of Dark Force recoiled in shock.
   
    "The power of love... such foul power..." Dark Force hissed in disgust. Nial's father Rhys stepped forward and confronted Dark Force.
   
    "You contradict yourself, Dark Force. May I inform you that your power is the only foul power at this current moment?" He paused. "Ha, do you see your mistakes?" taunted Rhys. Dark Force snarled.
   
    "Fool!" it roared. A cloud of black smoke began to approach Rhys, who instinctively stepped back and crossed his arms over his chest.
   
    "By Orakio's name! This power is too much for me to overcome alone. But still, it is dark power, and dark power always falters. I yield... for the moment." Rhys dropped to the floor. Meanwhile, Nial and Adan were locked in an embrace.
   
    "Adan, where's Gwyn?" Nial asked softly. Adan kept his tears at bay and looked Nial in the eye.
   
    "She's not well. Rulakir is looking after her in the Terminus Province, in the sky city of Samesinian Heights." the prince mumbled. Nial nodded his head.
   
    "I'm sorry for everything I've done wrong, Adan. I was never a good dad for you. Just like I was never a good son for your grandad." Nial said softly, his roguish personality leaving him for a few brief moments. He then pulled himself away from Adan and drew his sword. He stormed up to the wispy existence of Dark Force.
   
    "Right, Dark Force! It's time I showed you what you deserve. Eat sword!" Nial yelled, springing forward and thrusting his sword at Dark Force. The blade cut effortlessly through the plumes of black smoke, but Dark Force showed no sign of pain.
   
    "Your stupidity could be your undoing..." it hissed, then it disappeared in a puff of black smoke. Nial grumbled under his breath.
   
    "That's not the last time our paths will cross, that's for sure..." the king growled. Rhys had come over to him.
   
    "Do not fear, Nial. That scourge will perish, no matter what. Remember, dark power always falters, but light power only loses intensity. It never dissipates completely." he said. Nial gave a slight smile. Meanwhile, Adan had been gathering Lune, Lyle and Mariah with him.
   
    "Where would Dark Force go?" Mariah asked cautiously.
   
    "Two possibilities." Lune replied simply.
   
    "Which are?"
   
    "It would have either gone to the Chalst Province, which is the Samesinian central province, or the Terminus Province."
   
    "And why the Terminus Province?"
   
    "So that it could get to Gwyn, I think." When Lune had finished speaking, Adan began to panic.
   
    "Not Gwyn..." the prince gasped.
   
    "Don't get worked up, Adan. I'll find that Dark Force." Lyle said reassuringly. He waved the Staff of Revelation and cast the Triangula Technique, which, as the name suggests, triangulates positions. He closed his eyes to focus the power, and in a matter of seconds, he found Dark Force.
   
    "Well, where is it?" Adan asked.
   
    "It's in the Helskiz Province!" Lyle replied loudly, so that everyone could hear.
   
    "We must make haste, Lyle. To the Helskiz Province!" Rhys shouted, but Nial stopped him.
   
    "Not yet." he said. Rhys looked at him and raised an eyebrow.
   
    "What now, Nial? It's not like you to exercise caution."
   
    "Dad, we're talking about the biggest evil ever. Not some stray people from Landen, or anything like that. We need some kind of plan."
   
    "And what do you suggest?" piped up Lyle.
   
    "We've got the Weapons of Light, haven't we?" Nial asked.
   
    "Yep. I've got the Knife of Light, Mariah's got the Sword of Eternal Justice, Lyle's got the Staff of Revelation and Adan's got the Bow and Arrow of Truth." Lune replied.
   
    "Your assumptions are incorrect." Rhys sighed.
   
    "Now what?" Nial snapped.
   
    "Your plan is based upon the lies of the Samesinian Chronicle. I refuse to take part."
   
    "Rhys, for your information, Orakio and Laya wrote the majority of the Samesinian Chronicle. It's made up of 136 books, and 120 of those were written by Orakio and Laya."
   
    "I question your argument, Lune. What of the other 16 books not written by Orakio and Laya?"
   
    "Stop this prattle!" Nial yelled.
   
    "Nial, your plan is..." Rhys began, but Nial cut him short.
   
    "Pack it in, Dad! Now, no more doubts. We have to weaken Dark Force first. I suggest a Grantz Technique." he explained.
   
    "I can do one of them." Lyle said. Everyone nodded.
   
    "Then we use the Weapons of Light. Is that right, Dad?" Adan asked. Nial gave him a thumbs-up. Meanwhile, Lyle drew a circle in the sand, told everyone to stand in it and cast the Ryuka Technique, teleporting them all to the Helskiz Province.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

PART III: Chapter Five

 

 

 

 

"There's nothing to stop Dark Force except us. We've got to go for it!" Prince Lyle said as he led Prince Adan, Emperor Lune, Mariah, King Nial and Rhys through the Helskiz Province mainland and towards the fishing village of Rysel. Queen Laya had stayed behind in the Bernink Province to cheer the group on from there.
   
    As the party approached Rysel, they could see black clouds mushrooming over Shusoran, Lyle's home town.
   
    "Dark Force is trying to destroy my home! We have to stop it!" Lyle yelled, charging towards a small boat that was docked outside Rysel. Everyone else followed him, but as they ran, the boat seemed to be getting further and further away. The distance between the party and Dark Force seemed to be increasing.
   
    "This is an impossible chase. As we approach, we seem to be getting further and further away. This cannot be!" Rhys said as he looked at the mushrooming dark clouds, which were now smaller than he had first seen.
   
    "It feels a little like a treadmill." Mariah sighed. She looked at Lyle, who was still running frantically towards the black clouds. Everyone else had dropped to the floor through exhaustion. Mariah let out a long sigh and dropped to the ground.
   
    "There's no point running, Lyle! You're not going anywhere!" King Nial shouted. Lyle stopped and looked at him.
   
    "What's going on?" the Layan prince asked.
   
    "It looks like Dark Force is using some kind of magic to stop us reaching it. I'm thinking that we should walk to the boat over there and take it slow. Sounds daft, but it might work." Nial replied. Following his advice, the party made their way slowly over to the boat and climbed inside. This time the boat didn't seem to get further and further away. Lune picked up a pair of oars and drove them into the water. Mariah found another pair of oars and helped Lune to row the boat to the island where Shusoran was situated.
   
    "Row, row, row your boat, gently down the stream, merrily merrily merrily merrily, life is but a dream!" Lune sang.
   
    "Still your tongue, Lune! This is no time for childish actions!" Rhys snapped. Lune sighed and carried on rowing. As the boat approached Shusoran, the sky got darker and darker.
   
    "I just hope to Laya that no damage has already been done..." Lyle said to himself. The Layan prince could feel his heart pounding heavily against his chest and the sweat coursing down his back. Never before had he been so nervous and shaken. It wasn't just him, though. Everyone else was feeling nervous and shaken, but it was Lyle who felt it most.
   
    "Nial, Rhys... you two stay here." Mariah said. Rhys sighed, but Nial's temper exploded with a passionate fury.
   
    "Do you really think I'm just gonna sit around with my dad and watch you? No! I'm coming, and that's the final word!" Nial yelled. Mariah sighed.
   
    "You don't have one of the Weapons of Light..." she said. Nial was not to be deterred.
   
    "Shut your trap, Mariah! Who needs Weapons of Light, anyway?" Mariah let out another sigh.
   
    "You didn't harm Dark Force with your sword when we were in the Bernink Province..."
   
    "So? Is that a problem?"
   
    "Yes, because you're putting yourself in danger when you don't need to."
   
    "I do it a lot! You ask my dad!" Mariah grumbled under her breath. She decided not to ask Rhys on the matter. She walked over to Adan, Lyle and Lune. Nial followed her.
   
    "Nial, what did I tell you?" Mariah asked impatiently. Nial shrugged.
   
    "Shut up, Mariah. You're not bossing me around." growled an angered Nial under his breath. Mariah let out yet another sigh.
   
    "Fine, come on then. But if you get hurt, don't think I'm going to be nice." she said. Nial nodded and followed her to the town of Shusoran, where Lune, Lyle and Adan were waiting. Beams, thick with dark magic, shot down from the black clouds above, turning Shusoran into a ghost town. Above them, the party could hear the distinctive, rasping voice of Dark Force.
   
    "I will destroy this pathetic town, then I will destroy them all!" Dark Force hissed. Meanwhile, Adan, Lune, Lyle, Mariah and Nial were gathered near the town entrance, discussing their tactics.
   
    "I can see four dark beams coming down from the clouds. There are four Weapons of Light altogether. So, why don't we split up and attack each of the beams separately?" Adan explained.
   
    "I'll distract Dark Force." Nial said. Everyone nodded, then they began to get to their allocated positions. Lune, Lyle, Adan and Mariah ran for and attacked the dark beams coming down from the pitch black sky, whilst Nial tried to keep Dark Force's attention away from them.
   
    "Hey, come on! Hit me!" Nial called to the wispy existence of Dark Force. As tendrils of black smoke began to curl around Nial, Mariah had managed to cut through the dark beam she had been attacking. She then dashed over to help Adan.
   
    "One down!" Mariah said to Adan. The prince nodded and shot more arrows at the dark beam, weakening it. Mariah then cut cleanly through it with the Sword of Eternal Justice. She then went to help Lune, whilst Adan changed his aim to help Lyle.
   
    "Two down!" Mariah hissed to Lune. Together they hacked through the dark beam with impudence. They then dashed over to help Lyle, but as they did, the dark beam he was attacking had grown thicker. Nial's distractions weren't working as well as they should.
   
    "That's three down, but this one's got thicker!" Mariah said, horrified.
   
    "I'm doing my best to keep it occupied." Nial hissed. He then looked up at Dark Force's wispy existence. "Hey, Dark Force! Come on and get me! You know you want to!" he yelled. Dark Force roared and hurled a dark ball of magic at Nial, who promptly dived out of the way. The dark ball hit the ground like a meteorite, leaving a crater where it had impacted. As Nial dodged the magical attacks launched by Dark Force, Lune, Lyle, Adan and Mariah chopped, bashed and shot at the dark beam, and eventually they managed to destroy it. The dark clouds hovering above Shusoran seemed to thin, then they swooped down to the ground and formed a hideous and grotesque creature.
   
    "Let us see if you are truly worth your might. I know for a fact you are not." snarled Dark Force.
   
    "Alright, you. Take it easy. I bet you'd still lose even if everyone had one hand tied behind their back!" Nial taunted. Dark Force roared in rage and lunged for him. It grabbed him around the waist.
   
    "Get off, you little scumbag!" Nial shouted, but Dark Force didn't let go.
   
    "This is what you get for your impudence!" boomed Dark Force, grasping Nial's neck with a twisted, ugly, black hand.



* * *


"Just... let go... of me!" King Nial choked. Dark Force was strangling him with its grasp, and Nial struggled frantically to get out.
   
    "We have to stop it! My dad could die if we don't help him!" Prince Adan panicked. He readied the Bow of Truth in one hand and got an arrow with the other. He aimed for Dark Force's arm and shot. The arrow pierced the ugly arm, forcing it to drop Nial, coughing and spluttering, to the ground. the king stood up, brushed himself down and straightened his short, brown hair.
   
    "Ugh. That was awful." Nial coughed as he walked towards the rest of the group. As he went back to the group, Lyle charged forward with the Staff of Revelation bared.
   
    "Playtime's over, Dark Force! No more Mr. Nice Guy!" the Layan prince yelled, springing forward and bashing Dark force in the side with the Staff. Dark Force let out an anguished roar and sunk to the floor.
   
    "Can't they make these battles with evil deities any harder?" Nial asked flippantly. Before anyone could reply, Dark Force had got up from the ground and was charging towards Nial in a passion of fury!
   
    "Yes. Your flamboyant ways of talk are your undoing." it thundered, swiping for Nial with an ugly hand. The king dived out of the way, only to get hit with Dark Force's ugly tail. Nial slumped to the floor, unconscious.
   
    "That's it! I've had it with you, Dark Force!" Adan yelled, shooting a volley of arrows at Dark Force. As the tips pierced effortlessly through its dark skin, it let out a pained, howling cry. Mariah charged forward with the Sword of Eternal Justice and sliced at its knobbled legs. The blade cut through them as if they were wisps of cloud.
   
    "This is impossible... you cannot defeat me..." Dark Force growled. It whirled round and charged at Lune.
   
    "Now, you spoilsport! Did I hit you?" Lune said. Dark Force swung its mace-like tail at the emperor and he crumpled to the floor in agony.
   
    "I have had just about ENOUGH of this!" shouted Lyle. He walked casually forward and closed his eyes. The Staff of Revelation in his hands began to glow with yellow light. He said a few words under his breath.
   
    "Lyle, what are you doing?!" Mariah asked in horror. Lyle made no response. He carried on chanting the words under his breath. A massive glow of light surrounded him. To the rest of the party it looked like he had turned into a huge ball of glowing light.
   
    "What is this... light that shines upon me?" Dark Force hissed. It began to sink to the ground. Its dark power was weakening. Lyle, who by now was totally encompassed in light, pointed the Staff of Revelation at Dark Force. The crystal on the top of the staff glowed brightly with white light. As it glowed brighter and brighter, the light surrounding Lyle shrank until it was only the Staff that was glowing. The Layan prince opened his eyes.
   
    "Good riddance, Dark Force!" Lyle yelled, thrusting the Staff forward and throwing an intensely powerful Grantz Technique at Dark Force. The light impacted the grotesque creature and began to melt it into a dark puddle.
   
    "This is no time for me to die... I cannot die..." Dark Force growled as it liquified. Black steam arose from the dark puddle. The light from Lyle's Grantz Technique had acted on Dark Force like a hot day to ice. The light from the technique had literally melted Dark Force away to nothing. The dark puddle then evaporated. All the traces of Dark Force's destruction were erased, and Shusoran was once again a bustling town.
   
    "That Grantz Technique... that was huge!" Lune gasped as he stood up.
   
    "Yeah, it was. But, most of its power came from the combined power of the Weapons of Light. Maybe that snippet from the Samesinian Chronicle was right all this time." Lyle replied, leaning on the Staff. The power of the Grantz Technique had had a physical effect on him. Just as they were about to call it a day, a Telepatha Technique (a technique that allows the caster to communicate using telepathy) came to them.
   
    "Come quickly to the Terminus Province! Now!" The party heard Rulakir's voice in their heads.
   
    "Look, what is it?" Lyle asked.
   
    "It's about Princess Gwyn. She is well again, but it seems she is troubled. I'll drop the shield around Samesinian Heights. just get here on a Ryuka Technique - it's urgent!" Rulakir's voice said, then the Telepatha Technique left the party's heads.
   
    "My sister!" Adan gasped.
   
    "If that's the case, then we'd better get to the Terminus Province. Come on!" Lyle yelled, hurriedly drawing a circle on the ground. Adan ran over to check on Nial, and he was now conscious. As the two of them got back to Lyle, they stepped into the hastily drawn circle with him, Lune and Mariah. Lyle chanted a few incomprehensible words under his breath and cast the Ryuka Technique, taking all five of them to Samesinian Heights, where Rulakir was waiting for them.



* * *


Rulakir strode along the long, stone corridor in the castle of Samesinian Heights, waiting for Prince Adan, Prince Lyle, Emperor Lune and Mariah. A fiery purple glow to his right alerted him, and when he turned round, he saw who he had been waiting for. He had also noticed King Nial standing next to Adan.
   
    "And who might you be? I've never seen you around." Rulakir asked Nial.
   
    "I'm Nial, King of Landen." Nial replied.
   
    "Pleased to make your acquaintance, King Nial. I am Rulakir, King of Samesinian Heights. You may address me by name."
   
    "You can call me by name, too."
   
    "Ahem! Didn't you want to tell us something, Rulakir?" Lune interrupted. Rulakir walked over to him and looked at him with his cool, calm, misty grey eyes.
   
    "Yes, I did, Lune. Now, where's Prince Adan?"
   
    "Here!" Adan called. Rulakir walked over to him.
   
    "I did tell you that your sister is well, did I not?" Rulakir asked. Adan nodded.
   
    "But you said it was urgent!" Mariah screeched. Rulakir cleared his throat and looked at her.
   
    "It is. Although Princess Gwyn is well, she is very troubled. I cannot calm her." he said in a melancholy tone. Adan let out a small, muted gasp and followed Rulakir to the room she was in. They could hear muffled screaming.
   
    "Please, be careful." Rulakir said. Adan bowed his head and faced the door. He pushed it open and stepped inside, closing it behind him. He saw Gwyn running back and forth, screaming.
   
    "Gwyn! It's me, your brother Adan!" Adan called. Gwyn stopped running and screaming instantly. She faced Adan with tears in her eyes.
   
    "Oh, Adan... I knew you'd come back." she sobbed, dashing towards Adan and embracing him.
   
    "You were screaming before. What's going on?" Adan asked, running his hand through Gwyn's hair.
   
    "I... I know why I was in such a state when Rulakir found us." she said quietly, burying her head in Adan's chest. He rubbed her back comfortingly.
   
    "So why were you in such a state, Gwyn?"
   
    "Adan... this is terrifying for me... please, I can't..." Gwyn began to sob harder.
   
    "Just tell me." Adan murmured soothingly.
   
    "I had another vision." Gwyn replied, her voice straining through her woe.
   
    "What did you see?"
   
    "I saw... that after Dark Force had knocked us out, it left a fragment of its soul inside me. That allowed it to feed from my sorrows and get stronger."
   
    "Mm-hmm. And I was also left with some of that dark power, although it didn't have much effect on me. But Dark Force used it to get to me."
   
    "Look, Adan... Dark Force won't die completely unless I die with it." Gwyn mumbled, her eyes flooding with tears. Adan let out a loud gasp and stared at his sister in horror.
   
    "What are you talking about, Gwyn?" Adan asked, horrified.
   
    "You have to kill me, Adan." Gwyn replied. Adan began to sob.
   
    "N-no. I can't. I would never do such a thing!" the prince cried. Gwyn looked at him with her bright green eyes, which were glistening with tears.
   
    "You have to. There's no other way. Unless you want Dark Force to come back..."
   
    "That's the problem, Gwyn! I don't want Dark Force to come back, but I also don't want to kill you!" Adan began to cry. He dropped to his knees in sorrow. Gwyn padded over to him and placed her trembling hand on his shoulder.
   
    "To be honest, I don't want you to kill me either, but if it destroys Dark Force, we have to do it. Don't think of this as a heartless killing, think of it as though you are sacrificing me to save the world of Samesina. Please..." Gwyn pleaded. Adan stood up and embraced her again.
   
    "I need to think about this..." the prince said, walking out of the room, sobbing. He walked past Rulakir, who followed him back to the rest of the group.
   
    "Well?" Lyle asked as Adan walked over.
   
    "My sister... she wants me to kill her..." the prince moaned, shuffling forward and embracing Lyle. The Layan prince returned the gesture and patted Adan on the back.
   
    "Now why would Gwyn want Adan to kill her?" Lune asked.
   
    "That's what I want to know." Lyle replied. He looked into Adan's tear-soaked eyes.
   
    "I just want to know something. Why does your sister want you to kill her? It seems really harsh." Lyle said softly to Adan. The prince wiped the tears from his eyes and sniffed up.
   
    "Remember when we were at the river in the Bernink Province?"
   
    "Yeah?"
   
    "Well, when we were there before Dark Force escaped, we were hit by that magic..."
   
    "Yeah, I remember. We all went out cold and Rulakir saved us."
   
    "Gwyn says... she says that Dark Force left a fragment of its soul inside her... and..." Adan couldn't continue. Lyle comforted him.
   
    "That means... that means Dark Force is using her to stay alive!" the Layan prince deduced with a triumphant yell. Everyone else stiffened with fright. Adan, on the other hand, began to cry more pitifully than before.
   
    "No... I didn't fully understand what Dark Force is capable of." Rulakir said slowly.
   
    "Maybe that's why we all got a scare. We're only afraid of what we don't understand." Lune reassured him. Rulakir nodded and began to tap his head in thought. He raised a hand above his head and faced the group with a slight smile.
   
    "I think I may know what to do. Now, I will explain the plan, and you all will listen carefully." Rulakir said. He cleared his throat. "As it was written in the Samesinian Chronicle: 'Should some of the dark power retreat from the battlefield, all is not lost'. We still have hope."
   
    "Not helping..." Lune sighed.
   
    "If we've still got a chance to get rid of Dark Force without killing my daughter, will you spit it out already?! So what's the plan?" Nial growled.
   
    "It is not as simple as it may seem at first," Rulakir explained, "because it involves a lot of spiritual power. As the Samesinian Chronicle explains: 'If the retreating dark power is found within one that the chosen liberator of evil has a deep connection with, then the bond is under jeopardy if this one is made to stay alive'. This would go with what Adan has been saying about Gwyn wanting him to kill her. Further on, the Samesinian Chronicle reads: 'Should there be no wish for death on either side, the chosen liberator of evil must bestow upon themself the power to separate light and dark'. However I have no idea what this means."
   
    "You know the Samesinian Chronicle back to front, inside out and standing on your head!" Nial said suddenly, impressed and shocked at the same time.
   
    "Your derogatory statement has nothing to do with our current situation, Nial. Keep quiet." Rulakir ordered calmly. Nial, who normally wouldn't take orders from anyone, not even his parents, followed Rulakir's subtle order and stayed quiet.
   
    "So, this whole chosen liberator of evil thing... who is it?" Lyle asked.
   
    "It would appear that Prince Adan is the chosen liberator of evil, for it is his twin sister that is affected by this plight." Rulakir replied. His misty grey eyes flickered across the room and settled their gaze on Adan.
   
    "This thing about the power to separate light and dark... what does that mean?" Mariah asked.
   
    "That I do not know." Rulakir replied sadly.
   
    "Well, Rulakir... I don't know if this will help, but..." Lyle said. He took out a large, thick, leather-bound book with golden writing on the cover. He saw Rulakir's confused face and he explained, "This book is the Tome of Layan Lore, a collection of books written by the leader Laya and her scholars. It's made up of 82 books, and ten of them relate to techniques of light and dark."
   
    "So you reckon that there may be some kind of mention to a technique that separates light and dark?" Rulakir asked.
   
    "Yeah. It seems likely." Lyle replied. He flicked through the Tome, glancing at the pages quickly. Eventually he stopped flicking and opened the book for all to see. He cleared his throat.
   
    "The Separa Technique," Lyle read, "is a technique used by those who do not wish to be afflicted by dark power. It can be used by anyone of either Orakian or Layan blood, and its effects are simple. It merely separates a person (the 'vessel') from any dark magic that lurks within them. Although the technique can be directly used by the 'vessel', it is highly unrecommended because the separation power is not as strong. The separation power is at its strongest when the user of the technique is of close relation to the vessel."
   
    "So, that means if Adan uses the Separa Technique on Gwyn, it should separate that fragment of Dark Force from her!" Lune said triumphantly. Lyle hung his head. He read from the book again.
   
    "However, the effectiveness of the Separa Technique depends upon the ability of the caster and the bond between vessel and possessor. Some of the darkest magics cannot be separated from their vessels." the Layan prince dictated. Lune shook his head.
   
    "It doesn't matter about that! We should try anyway!" the emperor said.
   
    "Lune's right. I have to do this!" Adan said determinedly. Lyle walked over to him and told him the words to chant to use the Separa Technique. As soon as the prince could recite them without Lyle's help, he headed straight for Gwyn's room.



* * *


"Gwyn, I'm back." Prince Adan called softly through the door as he entered. Gwyn ran over to him and embraced him.
   
    "There's no other choice, is there, Adan? You will have to kill me after all..." Gwyn murmured. Her eyes began to fill with tears.
   
    "No. There is another way." Adan said hopefully. Gwyn brushed away her tears.
   
    "R-really?" she asked. "Is there really another way?"
   
    "Yeah. Our friend Lyle told me about the Separa Technique, which separates people from things that are possessing them, or otherwise out-of-place." When Adan had finished speaking, Gwyn's eyes lit up with hope. She wished that Dark Force hadn't left some of its soul in her, because that's what had made her so desperate to die. If her brother could remove this... why, she and Adan could lead an almost-normal life.
   
    "Just cast the technique." Gwyn wheedled. Adan placed his hands gently on her shoulders and chanted the words for the Separa Technique. His voice was shaky and he feared that the technique might not work. A few seconds after the words had been chanted, Adan's hands began to glow with a shade of blue.
   
    "This had better work..." Gwyn muttered to herself. As the glow coming from Adan's hands got brighter, a dark shard forced its way out of Gwyn's chest and fell to the floor. Adan's hands stopped glowing. He removed them from Gwyn's shoulders and looked at the ground. The dark shard was still there.
   
    "Is it safe to pick up?" Adan asked.
   
    "Don't chance it, Adan. Please." Gwyn replied, but Adan picked it up anyway. The shard did not let off any smoke, or glow, or do anything out of the ordinary. Adan took it to show Lyle.
   
    "It worked, Lyle! You're a genius!" Adan said cheerfully, showing the dark shard to Lyle.
   
    "The last piece of Dark Force's power. All we have to do is destroy that and it's all over." the Layan prince replied. As he was about to charge up a small Grantz Technique to destroy the shard, an ominous voice emanated from it.
   
    "I am unstoppable, you impudent fools. Yes, you have beaten me this time, but I will be back in 1,000 years! You will be dead, but I will surely enjoy toying with your descendants!" rasped the voice of Dark Force, and then the shard disappeared out of Adan's hand!
   
    "Do not fear. Dark Force will be no match for your descendants in 1,000 years time. Samesinian lores, techniques and weapons will have improved by then." Rulakir said calmly.
   
    "You know, since we got Dark Force, I say that we should celebrate!" Lune announced.
   
    "Totally agree. Let's have some fun whilst we can!" Nial said, and so everyone, including Princess Gwyn, went to the main hall of the castle of Samesinian Heights for a huge celebration.



* * *


Prince Adan and Princess Gwyn endured many hardships throughout their journey, and there were times when all semmed lost. But, with their strong will and their undying wish for peace, together they beat Dark Force and restored that peace to Samesina, with the help of their companions: Prince Lyle of Shusoran, Emperor Lune of Dahlia, Mariah, King Rulakir of Samesinian Heights and their father, King Nial of Landen.
   
    Their love for each other and for their companions was one of the many things that aided in the subduing of Dark Force. That, combined with the four Weapons of Light and the immense power of the Grantz Technique, all worked together to send Dark Force back from whence it came.
   
    After their journey, Prince Adan and Princess Gwyn returned to Landen with King Nial, and their castle was rebuilt. Emperor Lune, King Nial's former enemy, moved away from Dahlia and went to live with him in Castle Landen. All their enmities had been forgotten over the course of this journey. Meanwhile, in the Helskiz Province, Prince Lyle had finally found love, and he married, becoming the King of Shusoran. Funnily enough, his wife is Mariah, the young woman he had worked with to help subdue Dark Force. In the Terminus Province, King Rulakir began making preparations for the chosen ones of the next millenium.
   
    And so, the world of Samesina, along with its two moons Dahlia and Satellite, will remain in peace for at least 1,000 years. However, since the future is not yet written, no-one knows when Dark Force will return, all they know is that it will return. The Samesinian people hope it is not soon. For, as the words in the final book of the Samesinian Chronicle say: 'The darkest of dark Samesinian powers can never be totally destroyed. It can only be subdued by those who are pure of heart and strong of will. When it is subdued, it will not fully regenerate for the next 1,000 years, unless its seal is prematurely broken.'