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Grandmasters of Lacore

By Bret_Christopher All Rights Reserved ©

Fantasy / Romance

A Bonfire on Grocery Day

A small cheering crowd bellowed banters and bounced bets as the Crux's star students battled for the title of number one.

The tense brawling air was thinned by the crisp scent of dewy grass which provided little traction under Amaya's bare feet. Her combat was tight, and she kept her staff close to her body, spinning it with a flashy display of impenetrable defense.

Storm fought with a wide style, forcing his advancement with long precise swings with his acorium staff. “What's wrong Amaya? Did I improve too much for ya this week? Or is it just getting boring being number one.” His dark hair slid off his cheek as he lunged forward, swiping his staff downward.

“Oh, you improved? I didn't notice.” Amaya dodged Storm's swipe-attack and jabbed her staff under his right eye. He fell onto his back. She swiped his staff from his loosened grip and laid her damp toes on the side of his cheek. “Surrender?”

Storm peeked at Amaya's foot then up her leg and to her eyes. She's too damn cute. His face flushed. “Fine, you win again, but I went easy on you, don't expect the same courtesy next week.” His eyes darted to the grassy ground.

Amaya grinned. “Oh, stop looking so embarrassed. At least you didn't cry like last week.”

“I'm not embarrassed. I just–”

“Ah, dammit Storm! You're losing all of our money.” A short man with dark curly hair timidly knelt beside Storm and handed him a hand-blown glass bottle filled with fresh water.

“I'll leave you two lovers alone.” Amaya gracefully strolled away.

“But I–” Storm halfway reached out with his free hand. “Ugh, Clix.” He sat up and guzzled the water. “I was in the middle of asking her something.”

“I hope it was for money, because we're officially broke.” Clix snatched the bottle back.

“Great. That's just what I wanted to hear on grocery day,” Storm said.

“It's my fault. I shouldn't have so much faith in your skills.”

“Thanks, buddy. Just bet on Amaya next time.”

“That doesn't sound like a bad idea, ya know,” Clix said.

With a sigh, Storm was up onto his feet. Dew droplets rolled down his back. “Can you hand me my staff, please.”

“Sure.” Clix grabbed the staff and rubbed his nose with his arm while holding the staff toward Storm with his other hand. “Just don't bring it shopping with you this time,” he added as he pulled the staff out of Storm's grip. “We don't want another incident. I swear you have the hottest temper in all of Lacore,” he rambled.

“Hey, that was just one time, and he had it coming.” Wrinkles formed on Storm's forehead.

“The man just tried selling you a loaf of bread!”

“Yeah, a stale loaf of bread!” Storm scowled.

“Mhm, right. I'll hold onto your staff until we get home.”

Storm crossed his arms. “Fine, but it's your loss. That shiny new acorium gets pretty heavy.”

“Feels light to me.” Clix tossed the staff into the air a few times.“And, weren't you just bragging the other day about how light acorium is?”

Storm admired his staff. It had curled engravings etched into its sleek frame, and the acorium metal had a dark shine which imitated the glow of steel around a midnight fire. “Okay, I give in, just let me carry it. We have to stop home anyways and grab a snack to hold us over till lunch. I swear, I'll drop it off then.”

Storm merrily marched through one of Lacore's largest markets with his acorium staff in hand.

Clix drooped his head. “I can't believe I let you take that thing with us anyways.”

“I believe it!” Storm laughed. “Wait a minute.” His facial expression immediately became stern. “Is that your sister, Moxxi?”

Clix squinted. “Man, you have some seriously good eyesight. Yeah, that's her.”

“Well, I'm outta here.” Storm spun around on one foot. “Make sure you get the dried cherries that I like, and also some more–”

“Oh, I don't think so, buddy,” Clix interrupted, “You're not getting out of shopping that easily. You have to talk to her eventually.”

“But, I–”

“Come on. We'll just say hi. That's all.” Clix walked behind Storm and pushed him toward the other end of the market.

“Oh, man,” Storm said, “I really should've kept my big mouth shut.”

Clix pursed his lips and shook his head. “We all know that wasn't going to happen.”

“Oh hey, Clix. Oh and Storm too, I see.” Moxxi played with her hair. Her light brown eyes traced Storm's body as her thin lips formed a smirk.

“Hello, Moxxi. We were just getting some groceries.” Clix leaned into Moxxi's line of sight, saving Storm from another staring ambush.

“As was I. Unfortunately, money's running a little tight lately.” Moxxi patted her pockets.

“The shop isn't doing well?” Clix asked.

“Not lately, no. It seems less and less people are buying runes these days.”

“Well, don't let that discourage you. Storm and I will be on our way now–”

“Don't worry. I'm not letting a little thing like that discourage me. In fact, I have a great idea to start getting customers back.”

“Uh huh. I'm proud of you. But, listen we were–”

“Unfortunately, I need a partner who's good at creating enchantments. So, Storm, what do you say?”

Storm's head slightly flinched back. “Me? But, Clix is way better at enchanting then I will ever be.”

“Perhaps, but I need someone with fight experience. I thought who better than my little brother's best-friend who just so happened to be a star-fighter amongst the Crux's students?”

“You flatter me.” Storm cleared his throat. “But, I don't know about this.”

“Okay. It's your decision entirely. Oh, and you would of course make a profit from any of our enchanted runes that may sell.”

Clix raised his index finger to the sky. “And, with that, he'll do it!”

“Wait a minute–” Storm shook his head.

“Great! I'll see you tonight at sun down. We'll use the opal moon to create with.” Moxxi skipped away before another word could be spoken.

“Dammit, Clix. What was that about?”

“We need the money, and it's time you start pulling your own weight.”

“Couldn't I just work in the sewers or something? Your sister creeps me out.”

“What's the big deal? She just has a little crush on you. Get over it.”

“A little crush? I feel violated every time she's around me,” Storm pouted.

Clix chuckled.“Keeps you on your toes at least.”

Storm and Clix had a small home. The downstairs consisted of a kitchen and a bathroom, while the upstairs was their shared bedroom which was just large enough for two beds and a closet.

A gentle knock came from their loosely rattling door.

“Could you get that?” Clix called around his shoulder. “I'm trying to put these groceries away.”

“I guess so.” Storm stumbled over to the door and nudged it open. “Oh, Amaya!” He quickly squeezed out of his home and shut the door behind him. “I wasn't expecting to see you so soon after the fight.”

“I'm just here to remind you about the bonfire tonight,” Amaya said.

“Bonfire? For what exactly?”

“To celebrate Grandmaster Freyer's return...”

Storm's eyes widened. “Oh, yeah! That's tonight? Are you going?”

“Of course I'm going.” Amaya grinned. “I can't wait.”

“Unfortunately, we can't make it.” Clix exited their home in the same fashion Storm had.

Storm elbowed Clix. “I thought you were putting away the groceries.” He widened his eyes and tilted his head toward the door.

“Just finished.” Clix patted Storm on the back and smiled. “So, Amaya.” He folded his hands. “We appreciate the reminder, but like I said, we cannot attend. I have some books to tend to and Storm here has to meet with my sister, Moxxi.”

“Oh, I see. I was looking forward to seeing you two there.”

“Hold on.” Storm frantically waved his hands in the air. “Clix is speaking nonsense. It's not every day we have a bonfire. And, Grandmaster Freyer would expect me to be there. So, I'll be there after I take care of business with Moxxi.”

Clix let out a long sigh. “As long as you can make it work. But, I still won't be going.” He cautiously slid back inside and shut the door.

Storm and Amaya stood in silence for a moment.

“So, Moxxi, huh?” Amaya was unsure of what to look at.

“Yeah, she needed me for something.” Storm scratched his cheek.

“Are you two...?”

“What? No, no, no... no.” Storm viciously shook his head. “No. She needs help with some rune enchantment. That's all.”

“Oh, okay.” Amaya slowly inhaled through her nose. “Well, I guess I'll see you at the bonfire?”

“You bet! But, remember I'll be a bit late.”

“Okay. See ya then!”

The sun hid behind the horizon as thick clouds gathered over Lacore. A light drizzle briskly morphed with the wind.

Storm neared Moxxi's small rune shop which was neatly tucked between two rivaling glass-work stores. The bonfire was located not to far from the shop, allowing Storm to see the shop's old brick layout which was slightly uneven and covered with fuzzy moss. He planted three hard knocks on the aqua blue door and invited himself inside. The cozy scent of vanilla and the warm light from two lanterns welcomed him. “Uh, Moxxi?”

“Storm!” Moxxi shuffled out of a backroom and squeaked across the floorboards. She loosely carried bundles of parchment and several small smooth stones in her folded arms. “I have the materials ready.” She fanned everything out on a large circular table, taking care to make sure it was evenly spaced.

“Oh, good.” Storm noticed Moxxi was wearing a long nightgown with a low-cut lace-trimmed neckline. Her dark curly hair was up in a messy bun. Wow. “Well, it looks like you're ready for bed, so maybe we should reschedule.”

“Oh, I'm not ready for bed, silly. I just like to be comfy while I enchant, and what's comfier then the clothes you sleep in?”

“Yeah, of course.” Storm tried to swallow. “Do you maybe have something to drink?”

“What would you like?”

“Just water will do.”

“Mhm. I can get that.”

Storm couldn't help but to watch Moxxi walk into the back room. I don't remember Moxxi ever being this cute. It must be this damn vanilla smell messing with me. Just keep your brilliant head on right and think about the money. Everything will be fine.

“Here you go!” Moxxi held out a round wooden cup filled to the brim with water.

“Thanks.” Storm carefully cradled the cup.

“Well, shall we get started?” Moxxi patted the parchment on the table.

“Sure.” Storm sipped from the cup. “What exactly did you have in mind?”

“Combat runes.” Moxxi smirked.

Storm was speechless.

“Well? Don't leave me hanging here.”

What should I say? Combat runes would be an instant best-seller. First she's cute and now I find out she's an absolute genius. “That doesn't sound easy.”

“It isn't. But, if we work through the night we may be able to have a prototype going by the morning.”

Storm looked back to the entrance. He could see the celebrating bonfire's light dancing through a vine covered window. His eyebrows pulled inward toward the top of his nose as a half-smile wavered on his face.

“Is something wrong?” Moxxi placed her hand on Storms shoulder.

Storm looked down at Moxxi's hand then up to her shimmering light-brown eyes. His wavering smile vanished and his face relaxed. “No, nothing's wrong. Let's do this.”

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