Matthew woke up to the sweet smell of his mother's cooking. Nothing beats a meal cooked by your family. Okay not entirely true as Matthew considered Garet his family and all the Mars Adepts made was charcoal. From the smell of things meat was involved in the upcoming meal. One thing was stopping Matthew from running down the stairs to find out what Jenna was cooking. Sveta was still nestled against him. Sometime during the night she had managed to fully wrap her arms around him and even asleep she had a strong grip. Matthew knew that he couldn't wake her up she was sleeping too peacefully for him to do that.
She looks like she's sleeping well. Matthew thought as he looked at Sveta's sleeping form. I hope that she doesn't have another nightmare. From the way she acted it was really bad. We never really did stop to mourn Volchek after the Apollo Lens was fired. Guess we all thought she did that back in Morgal.
"Isaac, Matthew, Sveta! It's time to wake up." Jenna shouted from downstairs.
Sveta stirred in her sleep. Matthew could feel her grip weaken as she started to wake up. It was quickly re-established as Sveta buried herself deeper into his chest.
"Sveta we have to get up." Matthew said as he tried to breath. "And I need air."
Opening her eyes Sveta let go of Matthew. Filling his lungs with life sustaining air Matthew propped himself up. Watching Sveta rub her eyes sleepily Matthew could understand what his dad had meant when he said that they were tempting themselves by sleeping in the same bed. Sveta looked cute laying in his bed in a nightgown and lazily waking up. With her pointed ears sticking out from her mess of unbound hair and her fangs showing when she yawned just added to her appeal. She shuffled out of the bed it apparent that she didn't want to. Matthew got out after and headed out of his room so she could change.
As Matthew left the room Flint hopped along after him. They both stood outside the door Djinn and Adept waiting patiently. Feeling something tap his leg Matthew looked down to see Flint's tail smacking against him. Squatting down Matthew held out his hands for the elemental to jump into. Flint moved his tail in a come closer motion. Matthew set Flint on his shoulder rather than hold Flint up to his ear.
"Matthew don't worry about last night. I won't tell Jenna or Isaac about Sveta's nightmare. That's something that should stay between the both of you." Flint whispered into his Adept's ear. A Djinn's tail is a lot like a dog's, you can tell what they're feeling by it. Flint's tail was draped over Matthew's shoulder lying still. A sign that the elemental was worried or sad. "Haze came out last night to talk with me. She said that Sveta has been having these nightmares for a while and all her Djinn are starting to get worried."
Even knowing that the Djinn had genders, based off of personality, it still caught Matthew off guard when Flint addressed Haze as a she. It was saddening that Sveta had said something earlier. It had to be real bad if her Djinn were starting to worry over her. Until they learned about Umbra Adepts, Jupiter was the most mental oriented element. So if Jupiter Djinn were worried about their Adept's mental state then it threw up a red flag. There was the problem that Matthew didn't know how to approach Sveta about. She had told him last night that she wasn't ready to talk about it and she would let him know when she was. Now though with the knowledge that it had been happening to her for some time he grew more concerned.
Sveta came out of the room while Matthew was thinking about what he was going to do with the new information. He jumped a little when she tapped him on the shoulder Flint still standing on. The quick motion launched the Djinn into the air and onto the passing Isaac. The older Venus Adept plucked Flint off of his head and placed him on his shoulder without missing a beat acting like flying Venus Djinn was an everyday occurrence. In all honesty it probably would take a lot more to shock Isaac than Flint soaring through the words passed between father and son as Isaac headed down the stairs. Awake as he might have acted Isaac wasn't a morning person. It would take something important or really annoying to get him to speak before he had fully woke up. Sveta pointed to the open door of Matthew's room letting him know that she was done. Nodding his head Matthew went in and got changed.
Now they were all heading to the meeting room they had been in yesterday. They all wanted to know who was going to be on the other two teams. By the time the four got there everyone else but Garet was waiting in the room. Ivan stood near the back wall next to a blank paper that was hung up. Taking their seats around the table they all waited for Garet to get there before they started. Matthew wondered about who he would be traveling with and what assignment he would end up having. Looking for and fighting monsters they had already killed didn't sound that great. But collecting Mia and Piers sounded really dull. Sure it'd take some time to find him but it really didn't seem like it would take a full team of people to do. He was worried that he'd be split up from Sveta, beyond the fact that she was his girlfriend and he wanted to spend time with her. It was going to be impossible for him to learn about her nightmares if he wasn't going to be with her.
Seven minutes or so after Matthew's family, and Sevta, had sat down Garet came rushing in. He let out a sheepish chuckle when he noticed that everyone else was already there. It was bad that the group of four beat the group of one to the room. Even worse since Garet's house was closer to the castle than Isaac and Jenna's. Taking the last chair Garet sat down and refused to look anyone in the eye and just stared at the paper that Ivan had put up.
"Now that we're all here." Ivan started looking directly at Garet. "I suppose we should get right to it. Once the teams are written up break into your groups and discuss what you'll need to bring. These teams aren't negotiable. Soren and I put a lot of thought into who would go where."
Ivan turned to the paper and wrote Monsters on the far left side and Imil on the other. Under the monster column Ivan started writing the names. Jenna, Eoleo, Gatrie, Boyd,Lucia, and Rhys. Shuffling over to the other side of the paper Ivan wrote down the remaining names even though everyone had figured out by now what they were going to be doing. Under the Imil label Ivan wrote Matthew, Sveta, Rief, Garet, and Reyson. Ivan wasn't even finished writing Garet's name when everyone got up and moved into their groups.
Garet had gone over to the right hand side of the room and waved the team over to him. He might act like an idiot, a family trait apparently, but Matthew knew that Garet was just as smart and focused as the rest of them. Probably more than most of the people in the room. Once they had all congregated by the tall Mars Adept there was a moment of silence before anyone said something.
"Alright Rief. Unless Sveta there has been to Imil recently you're the one who was last there." Garet laughed at his own bad joke. "Anything we should expect on our way up?"
Rief looked uncomfortable as he was put in the spotlight. With a nod in Rief's direction Matthew gave his friend the most support he could. It wasn't everyday that Rief was thrust into a leadership role. They would be basing what to bring along with them in accordance with what information he gave.
"Mom said that the winters have been steadily getting worse ever since Mercury Lighthouse was lit. Last year's was pretty bad and we'll be arriving at the start of the season if we leave now." Rief pushed up his glasses as he spoke.
Remembering how cold the northern parts of Weyard were caused Matthew to shudder. Eoleo and Rief seemed to have been the only two that weren't affected by how cold it was. The rest of the group was glad that Kraden had made them stop in one of the villages and pick some heavy coats in case they did need to travel to the colder areas of Weyard. There hadn't ever been a time when Matthew had been as cold as he was when they passed by the Mercury Lighthouse. That section had been under the effects of the Grave Eclipse so Matthew had chalked the cold up to that. Now knowing that it was probably just the area's normal temperature did not make Matthew happy.
"That means we'll need to stock up on furs if you don't have them already." Garet reasoned. "Reyson. I'll take ya to the market street where we'll find something big enough to hide them wing's of yours."
The Heron nodded his head in agreement. Matthew had seen what Ivan and Soren had done with the groups. The weakest had been pooled into one team with a strong member for wasn't a fighter and no matter what they did Matthew knew that the his parents and the other Warriors would look down on them due to their age. What annoyed him the most though was that the Adepts hadn't been spread out like they should have been. There were four in one group and only two in the others. In all actuality it would make the most sense to have Matthew's group be the one with two Adepts while the others had three. Bringing Mia and Pires back to Kalay wasn't a dangerous enough mission to warrant the fire power the group had.
A few more instructions from Garet on what to bring for the road to Imil and they were sent out to gather the necessities. Reyson left with Garet leaving the three young Adepts to hit the street of Kalay on their own. Never having been to the city before Rief and Sveta followed Matthew closely. Being the smart one that he is Rief had written down what Garet had told them to fetch and handed Matthew the list. Heavy coats was written first the ones they had gotten before being back at Tellius on Eoleo's ship. Leading them through the vendors and shouting merchants Matthew helped make quick work of gathering the supplies.
It was mid afternoon when everyone everyone had gathered at Kalay's eastern gate. Packed and ready to head the group of Adepts and Tellians were ready to go their separate ways. They would be traveling together for a few days before the paths between them diverged. Matthew's team and his mother's would spend the most time together before they would split inside of Konpa Cave. His team would take the northern exit while Jenna's would take the southern heading towards Ayuthay. Eoleo had sent a message to his great-grandmother to have a ship sent there for them. From Ayuthay they would explore the eastern reaches of Weyard doing a quick search as the Apollo Lens group had spent their journey on the Eastern Sea.
Night fell and the large group created their campsite in a matter of minutes. Talking could be heard throughout the night as they set up the tents. A few went off hunting preferring the taste of fresh meat to the flavor of dried. Mostly everyone sat around one of the two campfires talking with their friends and family before they would have to leave each other. Sometime tomorrow the Mt. Aleph bound ground would be leaving the large group to head to their destination. Matthew was spending this night with his parents knowing that it'd be a month or two before he was able to see his dad again and an unknown amount of time before he would see his mother. With the fires extinguished the camper slowly drifted of to sleep the ever watchful Djinn ready to alert them should monsters try to attack.
Matthew was still awake in the tent he shared with his parents and Sveta at the insistence of his parents. Anyone looking into the tent would have probably had laughed at what they had seen. Both boys were laying on their backs with with their girls lying on their sides next to them using the chest of the males as pillows. It was as if they had planned it out to lay the same way. As Matthew lay there looking up at the roof of the tent he could feel Sveta's hand grab ahold of his shirt. Her whole body drew in closer against him as her nightmare started. Not knowing whether to wake her or not Matthew started to rub her back trying to soothe her. The effects took a while but Sveta soon loosened her grip on Matthew and her body seemed to relax more. Once Sveta seemed to be fine Matthew let himself fall asleep hoping that Sveta would be able to rest peacefully for the rest of the night.
Taking down camp was just as fast as setting it up had been. They were on the road once more. One of the good things about traveling with a large group is that the vast majority of monsters were smart enough to leave you alone. Oh sure you'd get a random idiotic group of monsters that just insisted on attacking a group three times its size but they were easy to deal with. As the sun started to reach the horizon they reached the path where the first team would leave.
"Alright everyone," Isaac spoke loud enough for all to hear, "remember to check in with the other group via the carrier pigeons I gave you before we left. They all know Jenna, Matthew, and myself and they shouldn't have any troubles finding us."
The remaining members all nodded their heads in acknowledgement. Each group had been given four pigeons with which to contact the other two for safety measurements. There were key places in each group's travel where they were supposed to send a message to let the other know of the progress they made. The birds were quite amazing really. They seemed to be able to find a person no matter where they were at in Weyard so long as the pigeon knew who the person was. Everyone said their goodbyes to the departing people when Isaac pulled Matthew away from the others. Making sure that they were far enough away that even the laguz would have to strain to hear Isaac looked down at Matthew worryingly.
"I want you to look out for your mother while you're still traveling with her." Isaac placed his hand on his son's shoulder as he spoke and looked him directly in the eye. "She practices with her Psynergy still but she's rusty. I don't think that she'll get hurt but keep an eye on her."
"I will dad." Matthew promised as he looked over at his mother who had her staff out using it as a leaning post. Something that Matthew knew his dad would yell at him for if he ever thought about using a weapon that way. "I have a feeling you're right about mom being a little out of practice."
"Gods Jenna." Isaac sighed as he spotted what she was doing. "Thanks son, even if it's just for a few days. I know you have your hands full watching out for that girl of yours with her nightmares but I feel better knowing that someone is watching out for Jenna. "
Matthew almost suffered from whiplash as his head spun to face his father. How was written over the young man's face
"I'm not as sound a sleeper as everyone make me out to be." Isaac chuckled answering his son's unvoiced question. "You did well last night son."
Doing the only thing he could think of Matthew nodded his head in agreement. It was a little much for him to take in that his dad had seen what happened last night. With a brief man hug Isaac said goodbye one last time to his son before heading towards the rest of his team. Those heading to Konpa Cave waved at the departing figures. It wasn't until they could no longer see the departing that the large group headed out towards the cave.
Travel was as boring as you could expect it to be in Weyard. Carver's Camp was already behind them as they came to the entrance to Konpa Cave. The mouth of the cave loomed in front ready for the travelers to enter. For the Adepts and Tellians it marked the next place where they would split once more. Garet was the first one to take a step into the grey mouth of the mountain and entered the dark cave ready to continue.
It didn't take long for them to reach the room where the path split. Standing on a lower level Matthew looked up over in the direction of the exit. A large opening in the ground with sturdy pillars making platforms to jump across led to a ladder leading to the upper level. This was the very room where Matthew along with Karis and Tyrell had met with Kraden, Rief, and Nowel. Here in this room where the Tuaparang made themselves known. Alex, under the guise of Arcanus, and Blados had kidnapped Rief during a battle against a few of the Tuaparang grunts. They forced Kradena and Nowel to take the northern route while Matthew and his two friends took the south. Now Matthew would be heading north up to Bilibin.
No long goodbyes were exchanged this time. Everyone wanted to get out of the cave before nightfall which was fast approaching. Matthew asked Eoleo to look after his mother for him while they traveled together. He knew that the pirate would make sure that his mother would stay relatively safe while staying out of her way. Hopping across the few stones and climbing up the ladder the Adepts made their way to the northern exit. Reyson simply took flight and met them top. Matthew turned around and looked down at the floor below watching the others head away. Once again he was separated from both of his parents and on the road. Only this time he wasn't going to retrieve a simple feather.
Konpa Cave's Bilibin bound path was straight forward as it was used most often by traveling merchants. There were even a few scattered torches along the walls to light the way. No need to roll logs out of their way in an overly complex manner, no need to use Psynergy to create a path, and oddly enough not a single sign of any monster. In fact the only thing even remotely annoying was the worn dirt path that had more ups and downs in it than any road had the right to. A gust of wind was the first thing Matthew felt that told him they were nearing the exit. The breeze brought along the cold crisp smell of night air to the dank cave.
Leaving Konpa Cave behind them the group walked out into the open fields of Bilibin. It was open landscape as far as Matthew could see at night. Off in the distance there might have been a forest but it was too dark to see clearly and could be nothing more than a trick of the dim light. Always ready for such instances Garet produced a small flame in the air casting light over the ground letting the travelers see what they were stepping on. They set camp up an hour's time away from the cave's entrance. They didn't make a campfire and ate by the light of Garet's Psynergy. Keeping a small flame like that going for an hour or two was barely a drain on the Mars Adept's reserves. Garet's Psynergy reserves had grown vastly since his first adventure. Now he was more of a balanced warrior than a brute strength type.
"We're going to need to stop in one of Bilibin's towns to stock up on a few supplies." Garet said as he rifled through his bag. "Either that or we start hunting for our food."
"I vote for hunting." Sveta said. "Bilibin is not a place for a beastman to be. They have tried to start a war with Morgal and forced my brother to close Border Town. I do not know if my replacement has done anything to resolve the disputes but I do not wish to take the chance."
"Hunting it is." Garet tossed his bag onto the ground. "Well you kids can set up a tent if you like. I'm hitting the hay."
Garet's flame stayed suspended in the air for a few seconds. Just long enough for the Adept to take out a blanket and fluff his pack so it was comfy enough to use as a pillow. Matthew and Rief glared at the dark shape that was Garet. Unlike Sveta and Reyson their eyesight was greatly diminished by the lack of the flame. Sveta's green eyes glowed slightly as they caught the moonlight. She and Reyson helped the blind boys grab blankets out of their packs and made sure no one slept on a rock by accident.
Squeaking was the noise that caused Matthew to stir awake. Giant Rats were scurrying around the campsite visible enough in light of the just now rising sun. One had its nose in Rief's pack sniffing out anything it considered edible. A few Djinn could be seen standing around the camp. From the way their heads bobbed up and down they appeared to be sleeping which explained how the rats managed to get into the camp without a warning. Taking a glove off Matthew placed his bare hand on the cool ground. Physical contact with the ground helped establish Matthew's connection with the powers of Venus Psynergy. Able to feel stones shift as rats moved past them Matthew called up vines ensnaring the majority of the creatures, some of which he actually couldn't see. The ones that weren't trapped ran away not wanting to work for their meal. Not wanting death to be the first thing he accomplished in the morning Matthew flung the rats away from camp.
Sensing the Psynergy the other Adepts, and Djinn, woke up. They woke Reyson up and had a quick meal before heading out for the day. Goma Cave, the only path through the mountains that separated Bilibin from Imil, lay only a day's walk away from Konpa Cave. With a good pace they would be able to make their way to the cave before the moon was in the sky. Following the road the group came across a few humans that didn't seem to pay them any mind even though Reyson's wings were on full display. It wasn't until they came to a crossroads that they were glad not to head into a town. There was a large bulletin board displaying the latest laws and news. One of the posters was an order saying that if anyone spotted a beastman to report it to the local authorities. No one in the group wanted to know what would happen if Sveta or Reyson were reported. Garet did have the courtesy to rip off the poster and turn it into ash.
The road lead them near a forest where they ducked in to see if they could find anything to catch. One of the nicer things about being a Venus or even Mercury Adept is that you always had a trap ready to catch animals. Rief had frozen a rabbit's feet to the ground rather than chase after it while Matthew used his Growth Psynergy to catch their food. Of course both boys were no match for Sveta. Reyson who refused to eat meat picked wild berries that the Adepts had shown him were safe to eat. Garet was in charge of gathering firewood for when they stopped for the night.
It took four days to navigate through the maze of Goma Cave. The path through felt like it double backed quite a few times. They would head east only to head west a few yards later. If someone took the time to make a new path straight through it probably would take only a third of the time to get through. All five members of the group were dressed in their fur coats. They were now in the northern reaches of Weyard which seemed to be stuck in a perpetual winter. According to Rief they were arriving at the worst possible season, winter. Upon exiting the cave they were greeted with a blast of snow and icy wind. Matthew dug himself deeper into the hood of his coat trying to prevent the wind from getting trapped in the hood. While in furs Rief didn't seem to have any problems with the cold wind. His coat hung loosely on him in stark contrast to the others who all bundled up as best as possible. Even Garet had made sure that his coat was snug against him. Reyson looked humorous as his wings had forced him to buy a coat that was at least three sizes too big for him. He was drowning in the sea of furry warmth.
A few more days of walking, hunting, and pitching the tent at night they were only three hours away from Imil when a pack of eight Lizard Kings stopped the travelers. Thirty years ago Lizard Men lived in Mercury Lighthouse. With the effects of Alchemy flowing in the surrounding area the Lizard Men had evolved into more intelligent fighters. Encumbered as they were by their outfit they relied on their Psynergy. Reyson's Galdr kept them from overtaxing their reserves the magical song restoring their Psynergy if only by a bit. They couldn't blast randomly though as the monsters used the raging snowstorm to hide. After getting slashed a few times by the axe the Lizard Kings wielded Sveta shrugged off her coat and changed into her beastform. Snow collected in the lavender fur as Sveta dashed after one of the monsters.
Casting Stone Spire Matthew tried to hit one of the creatures near Reyson but missed by a few inches. The Lizard King raised it's axe and was about to turn Reyson into a meal when Sveta leapt in front taking the blow for him. She let out a howl of agony as the axe bit into her shoulder. The damage was severe enough that it caused Sveta to drop out of her beastform and return to normal. Dropping to down on one knee Sveta put a hand over the wound trying to stop the bleeding. Matthew sensed the familiar feeling of a Boon wash over Sveta as she tried to heal herself.
A small Gaia erupted underneath the Lizard King as Matthew ran over to her side. Matthew cursed as he could feel Sveta's lifeforce slipping. Rief was too busy with trying to protect himself from the attacks of two Lizards to come and heal Sveta. Garet was letting loose a Liquefier on one of his own monsters. Everyone was occupied and unable to lend aid to the bleeding girl. Pouring all his remaining Psynergy into one spell Matthew unleashed the strongest Potent Cure he had ever managed. It bordered on the fourth tier Grand Cure a spell that Isaac had mastered only a year ago. The healing was in vain though as another Lizard King appeared out of the snowstorm behind Sveta. Tapped out and too far away Matthew could do nothing but watch as the axe ripped open Sveta's back. The beastgirl collapsed to the ground from the strength of the blow.
Reaching Sveta Matthew balled up his fist and slammed it into the monster unleashing Flint. He followed it up with Ivy turning the Lizard to stone and smashing it with Gears. Unleashing Garland on Sveta the Venus Adept did the only thing he could to try to heal his girlfriend. The wound was too large for the Djinn to heal, only a small part stitching back up. Matthew dropped to his knees and pulled Sveta close to him. None of his other Djinn could heal or even restore Psynergy. The others were still stuck dealing with their own monsters. Matthew tried to think of anything that he could do to save Sveta. He racked his brain until he came up with a crazy idea that even Boyd would call insane.
Mentally Matthew called out to Sveta his eyes closed in concentration. He could feel a presence touch his mind in response. It felt like a warm breeze on an autumn day with just a touch of ferocity hidden within. Recognizing the feeling from the single time he had felt it before Matthew coaxed it to come towards him. The presence was unsure of what was going on but soon gave into Matthew's demands. It let Matthew bring it into him taking it away from it's normal home. Once he was sure the presence had fully entered him Matthew slowly set Sveta down on the ground. Standing up fully Matthew opened his eyes and looked at the snow storm that raged around him. Raising his hand and pointing his palm outward Matthew did something that no one would have expected. Wind whipped into a whirlwind in front of the Venus Adept. Pushing his hand forward he sent the whirlwind out at one of the Lizard Kings. While it wasn't strong enough to cause enough damage to the monster it did get its attention. Doing the international sign for bring it on Matthew stood ready for the monster.
Rief watched wide eyed as one of his best friends, who was a Venus Adept, cast Whirlwind. At first he wasn't sure if it was really Matthew or Sveta somehow getting off one last attack. Rief had saw her go down but the two Lizard Kings in front of him had stopped any chance of him getting to her. What convinced Rief that Matthew was indeed the one who called up the Whirlwind was the incantation the blonde had used. Kraden had taught Rief that attention to detail was key if you wanted to be a scholar. As part of his training Kraden had taught Rief how to read lips. Noting the small differences on how the mouth moved to form certain words helped with Reif's attention to detail. Sure enough as Rief watched Matthew call forth another more powerful whirlwind Rief could read the incantation for Tornado on Matthew's lips.
"Enough!" Garet shouted as he set an Inferno directly into the chest of a Lizard King that had gotten to close.
The Mars Adept turned on the remaining monsters and Rief could see a vast amount of Psynergy gather around the man. Rief had only seen that much Psynergy in a body when his mother had developed her Angelic Ply. Garet raised his hand to the sky flames started to form in front of him.
Roaring red flames encircled the remaining six Lizards Kings. The flames grew high and hot melting the snow around them. Lowering his hand Garet caused the flames to pull inward charring the Lizard Kings. A path to Sveta now open Rief rushed over to her readying a Pure Ply as he ran. Matthew was squatting next to her when Rief appeared. Again he was muttering the words for a Jupiter spell. This time it was one of Sveta's Boons.
"Rief. Please heal me." Matthew said looking directly at Rief.
Confused Rief looked at Matthew. There were no worrying injuries on him that Rief could see. It wasn't until he saw Matthew's eyes that Rief got even a hint of what was really going on. Instead of the piercing blue that the blonde normally had. A pair of amethyst eyes stared back at Rief.