The Commander appeared behind the distracted magi. He used his great, big diaphragm to sigh so joyfully, so loudly, that in fact John heard him over the clamor. The hapless enemy turned to meet the new threat and was rewarded with the slice of a giant broadsword.
One wizard’s head flew clean off, over the ramparts, and onto the battle raging below. Another’s chest met the edge of Janus’s steam-powered axe. John's brutish companion bellowed with the satisfaction of a clean kill.
Sharp bolts shot from above, poking holes in the enemy. The magi found themselves short of time, unable to summon barriers of protection. Rena worked, quiet in her method, raining fatal darts upon her hapless foes. Her crossbow spit steam as it fired repeatedly. John laughed as her weapon overheated, but she hopped calmly down from her perch and prowled into the fray. The spells of two magi were interrupted by Rena punching one man in the face and kicking in the other’s knee. An incoming fireball forced her to fall back.
Two magi remained pinned between John and the others.
The larger mage grew enraged at the sight of his fallen comrades. “Do you think you can defeat magic with your feeble, primitive toys?!” His voice boomed so loud it shook the entire battlefield. “Watch the glory of our arcanum splendor, you savage fools! Long Live Arcanus!”
They pressed their backs together and chanted in unison. “OlClenium-Des-Di-Donus-Nolius-Incarnum-Donila…” The ground around them glowed blue.
The butt of John’s sword slammed against the smaller one’s skull mid chant. Like the Commander, John shunned the use of steam-powered weapons. His victim’s eyes popped loose from the blow and rolled trails of blood along the granite floor. A lifeless body followed.
An errant fireball from the fingertips of the dead mage splashed against the larger one’s groin. He dropped to his knees in pain. His face flushed. His body stood still. His fingers trembled. His voice wavered. “You…You shouldn’t have done that…” A gargantuan Adam’s apple bobbed as he muttered an indecipherable enchantment. His eyes reddened with blood only fury could summon.
“He’s gonna blow! Get out of here!” John retreated back to his stone pillar.
The blast wave was fierce, the red crimson gut-mist blew over him.
John heard Rena’s voice as the commotion subsided. “Um, where did John go?”
“Here I am!” he panted as he emerged from his cover.
Rena walked toward the vanquished Magi. “Oh, good.” She silenced the wounded with her dagger.
“Like I’d get myself killed by these savages,” John boasted gleefully.
“Ah yes,” chimed Janus, “John and his brave soul, two things wholly unvanquishable.”
“Good observation!” John screamed as he ran onward. Into a tower, down a hall, down a flight of stairs, and into a small, empty room. The place stood empty but well-furnished. He picked up a golden candelabra from a nearby table. “Now if we, or rather I, can just find where the Archmage is hiding…” He placed the thing down with a goofy smile. “I will surely receive another medal of honor, and the favor of lovely women everywhere.” John sat on a nearby chair, wrapped in fantasy.
“Quickly! In here!” The soft, yet stern, female voice stirred John from his daydream.
He slid under a nearby bed.
The door opened and a man and woman entered the room quietly.
The male voice responded suggestively. “Yes. Your room makes a perfect hiding spot. They are probably after the Archmage, not acolytes such as yourself.”
The man’s tone grew serious. “You know, Drogans are simpleminded barbarians. Perhaps, they may accidentally wander into our room in apish confusion. To be safe, let us hide beneath the sheets of your bed. In fact, if we both get naked I can cloak us in invisibility. There is no need to fear with my Adept Ranking. I will protect you from those fools with their contraptions. The machines of men will never rival true magic.”
The young woman first removed her slippers, then the colorful dress slowly began to descend.
“Good. Good,” the man responded in a more frantic tone. “Oh, good.”
John stirred at the thought of a naked woman, hitting his head as he tried to get a better view.
Hearing the noise, yet unaware of its location, the man whispered loudly, “Hurry! Take off the rest of your clothing and get in the bed! It is surrounded by a magic sphere! There’s no time to waste!”
Instead, the woman scoffed as she put her dress back on, walked over to the door, and peeked outside.
“Don’t worry -- you’re safe!” The man barked in frustration. “But I cannot cast my invisibility spell if your dress is on.”
It was time to block the man’s crude advances. John removed a dagger from his hilt and stabbed the man’s left foot.
The man fell to the ground, mouth agape. “H-h-how dare you?!” The man shrieked. “HELP! I have been accosted! Someone help us! I have been gravely wounded!”
The woman stared blankly at her fallen protector. “Well, are you going to protect me or not?”
The wormy man opened his mouth to respond, but John delivered a quick jab to the jaw, knocking the petite man out cold.
John answered for him. “No, he isn’t.”
She rolled her eyes. “Not amused.”
“Well…” John pulled at a corded string tied around his neck. At the end of the cord hung a piece of fabric and a vial he kept for a very specific purpose. “Can’t say I’m much the entertainer.”
The girl stiffened and regarded him with cold eyes. “I doubt you’re much of anything. If you knew who I was then you might reconsid--”
“You are a pretty one.” John oiled the fabric with the substance from the vial.
“How dare you?! I am a powerful magician and even more important than that I--” It took only a moment, a slight squirm of protest and she slept soundly in his arms.
“As they say,” John laughed as he removed the fabric from her dormant mouth, “to the victor goes the spoils.”
John turned on his horse as Janus called from behind. “She’s coming to! Want me to give her another dose of the sleepy stuff?”
“Nah! Let her come to.” Chain mail rattled as John rode to them.
The princess hung unceremoniously over the back of Janus’s horse. She stirred and groaned. John waved for Janus to take her down. The large man obliged, hopped off his steed, and dragged her off. “There we go,” he remarked as he steadied her, “Right as rain.” He straightened her and stepped back. She wavered and fell back into Janus’s arms. “Sorry! I’ll just hold her steady for the moment.”
John hopped off his horse. “Good!” He approached her and brought his face close to hers. He searched her eyes for signs of life. “Welcome back to the land of the liv--”
Her befuddled look changed into a hawk-eyed stare. There was little warning she would strike, but strike she did. Pain shot through John’s head as he tumbled backward. “Ow-ow-ow!”
“Just the tip of what you deserve,” the princess snarled.
John grabbed his head. “You, you head-butted me! What type of girl are you?!”
“An angry one. A kidnapped one.”
“Hey! Fair is fair, honey. You weren’t kidnapped, I merely won you in a battle.”
“Say it how you please.” She spat in his face. “Do you even know who I am?”
Spit ran down his cheek. “Yes, yes-- I figured out who you are, Princess. You are the daughter of the Archmage Asinon, who happens to be one of my many archenemies. Isn’t that right, Lyra?”
He stood, removed the saliva which ran all the way down to his shirt, and dusted his pants. “But perhaps you should know who I am.”
Lyra smirked. “Why?”
“Why? Because I am John, heir to the great kingdom of Dragonia, one of her best warriors, and - it just so happens - a handsome prince who’s in need of a pretty, pretty princess.”
Rena’s face contorted, her eyes fluttered sardonically. “Are you telling me…we just left the service of the Dragonian army to bring this girl back to your castle…so you can make this wench your ‘future queen’?”
Janus laughed hard enough to cause the princess’ hair to lift in the air. “You know, if what Rena says is true, the Commander is going to be hella pissed!”
John sneered. “Please, the old fart can lick my codpiece. I am royal. What is he gonna do?”
The princess crossed her arms. “A well-mannered gentleman of the highest order, surely.” She shrugged herself loose from Janus’s tree-trunk arms.
Rena laughed at her spunkiness. “I think she’s feeling better.” “No thanks to you lot,” the princess snapped.
John found Rena’s humor contagious. “You know, the Archmage might have gotten away but boy, can you imagine how angry he’s gonna be when he finds out we took his daughter? He might just explode like that unfortunate fellow-that big one on the palisades.”
“Ha! Yeah, I remember him!” Janus pointed to a dried up dark splotch on his tunic. “How can I forget-one of his guts hit me right here in the chest!”
John found himself encouraged, in equal parts, by his friends’ laughter and the utter disgust written on the princess’ face. “I imagine magical flames pouring out of the Archmage’s ears with steam bellowing from his ghastly nose.”
Janus continued, “P’raps he’ll fart and set himself on fire!”
John laughed and, for a moment, saw the princess’ lips spasm upwards as if a smile fluttered by and flew away.
Her smile emboldened him to launch phase two of courtship. He looked from Rena to Janus and back again. “Jokes aside, you know, the princess is not only quite valuable, but of noble birth, and should be respected as such and well protected. Why don’t you two scout ahead a bit while we settle for the night? The sun is growing tired. We’ll pull off the path a touch and start a small fire.”
“Are you sure?” asked Janus, oblivious to the look John was giving him.
Rena, the sharper of the two, took the cue. “Ah yes, great idea m’lord. Come, Janus, let’s get going.”
The princess squinted at John and spoke something bordering on a growl. “Don’t get any ideas. I can be dangerous.”
“M’lady, I may very well have my imperfections, perhaps, but I assure you lechery is not one of them.” John gestured toward the woods.
She stiffened. “You go first.”
He stepped off the path. “Suit yourself.” He’d used this spot before-a small clearing cradled by large trees and a rich canopy. A hot spring bubbled next to the clearing, providing an ideal spot for bathing. John quelled the memories of times past. He didn’t want to mess this up, for if he returned home without a bride he would be forced into marrying his second cousin Brunhilda, a hawk-bill snob of the highest order. A shiver crept up John’s spine and left a lump in his throat. The prospect of it was odious. He gagged.
“Are you alright?” asked the princess.
“Yes, thank you, it’s nice that you care.”
“I don’t, really, just thought you might be swallowing your tongue so I might escape.”
“I’m sorry to disappoint you, Lyra. Is it alright if I call you that?”
John stopped and looked at her, pleased with himself. “Please, call me John.”
“No. Ugh. Fine.”
After only a little more traipsing, John found his spot. He went about setting up camp-one tent at first, then a reluctant second. The camp-setting process was tedious, something he often had Janus and Rena do. He even asked Lyra to help, who, in turn, laughed at him. He grew angry at the indignity, but it was a nice laugh that carried with it a hidden sweetness, the ripe inside of a strawberry.
And boy, did John enjoy the taste of her strawberry. “You have a nice laugh, you know, even if it is at my expense.”
“Stop acting weird.” She averted her apple-green eyes.
“What do you mean?”
A wisp of auburn hair fell across her cheek. “I mean, don’t say things like that.” She brushed at the rogue strands of hair.
John grew jealous of her hand. “Look, I’m not a bad guy.”
“Most bad guys say something like that.”
“You would know! Compared to your father, I’m a saint. I mean, that guy has done some nasty things. Your dad is a way bigger dick than I am-by a long shot. I’m surprised you aren’t some kind of evildoer yourself. I mean outside of being annoying, you seem pretty tame, nice even. You are better off coming with me before you turn into some kind of monster.”
“Oh, and here I am thinking I’ve been kidnapped-but, ho! Look at that, turns out I’ve been saved?”
John couldn’t help but smile. “I guess it is a matter of perspective, yes. You see, I think I freed you, you were a prisoner in that godsforsaken castle, caught between a monstrous father and that creepy wizard fellow. If I hadn’t come around, his wormish figure would still be slithering next to you in his magic bed.”
She laughed. “Maybe you’re right. My father is loveless, and I couldn’t stand another advance from that creepy wizard, Minsor. But what makes you so different?”
“Well, for one, I can have fun without skinning innocent people. Take this bottle here, this bottle is a special blend twenty years in the making: Dragonian Dragon Spark!” John proudly thrust a gleaming bottle toward her face.
She rolled her eyes. “What’s wrong with you?”
John frowned. “Well forget it.” He tossed the bottle away.
“I am a princess, after all, it will take more than money and extravagance to win me over.”
John smiled. “A warm bath, perhaps? In the hot spring over there? Before the night chill settles in. It has been a while, hasn’t it?”
“What? How DARE you? Besides, I washed just yesterday.”
“No, you didn’t.”
“Of course, I did. I think I’d know better than you.”
She shot him a puzzled, exasperated look.
He continued, “You’ve been sleeping for the better part of three days.”
Her eyes widened in rage. “WHAT?”
“Yeah, we’ve kept you sleeping. Feeling a little sore around the rib area I take it?”
“You son of a bitch!”
“Listen I know you-- Ow-ow!” A ball of flame came right for him, curved away, and extinguished in the nearby spring. John considered himself lucky this girl was a novice, or else he’d find himself on the wrong side of charred meat. He held his arms up. “OK, calm down! How about I make it up to you?”
The princess stood across from him. Menace ran down her face. Her fingers twitched with a fiery glow of embers.
“How…” She spoke coldly. “How…exactly…do you plan on doing that?”
He lowered his arms. “Well…how about we start with a warm bath and a hot meal?”
She cocked an eyebrow at him. “Are you--”
“Hear me out,” he cut in. “I meant you, not ‘we’. This spring here, it’s sacred-like, like a heal-all. I’ll give you your privacy. I brought two prepared hares for the fire, we’ll roast those little suckers in the meantime.”
She clenched her fists and her body tensed.
John flinched a bit as he spoke. “Come on, it’ll be nice.”
She sighed deeply, and her shoulders slouched. It seemed, for the moment, the fight had left her. “I hate feeling dirty.”
John rummaged through his supplies. He finished setting camp, skewered the rabbits, and set them atop a fire. The smoky goodness rose into the air.
Night fell, and the mushrooms scattered throughout the forest emitted blue luminescence. Their spores filled the forest like embers from an indigo fire. So it was the darkness of night could never completely claim these woods.
John sat by the edge of the hot spring with his back to it. He tried his best to ignore the allergic itching he felt in his nose. The mushroom spores were beautiful, yes, but John’s body had never reacted kindly to them.
He had promised Lyra privacy and so kept his gaze fixed ahead, yet he used his ears to monitor her movements. He listened closely in case she came too close behind him or tried to escape on the other side. He listened as she moved around, as she cyclically raised from the water to lather and submerged again. His ears danced with the sounds of droplets falling from her skin. He became so intent on listening that he startled when she spoke.
“A true gentleman, after all.” Her voice wrapped itself around him.
“Uh-eh, yeah, of course, just one of my many valuable qualities,” he stammered.
“You are rather defenseless, sitting there. What’s keeping me from torching you with a fireball?”
“Trust. My trust in that you aren’t that kind of person, I guess.” Silence reclaimed the night. John tossed a rock. “Truth is, when I saw you there, in the midst of battle, something changed for me.”
“Is that so?”
“Yes, something I never felt before… I decided I needed to bring you here for this very moment.”
He fished another rock off the ground and flicked it. “I wanted to know you, and I saw no other way. I didn’t want Rena and Janus to know how I felt, so I sent them ahead. I’m sorry for what we did. I’ll leave you alone. You can make up your own mind…if you want to stay or not. I’ll leave a bag of supplies. If you want to dry off and hit the road, make a left on the path and you’ll be heading west. I suspect one of your father’s minions have picked up our trail by now. They’ll take you to him.”
John left her in silence and rummaged through the camp. The rabbits were just about right-succulent, juicy little roasters. He hoped to have a companion to enjoy them with. His hope diminished over time, however, and he found himself returning to the hot spring to an expected sight: she was gone and her supplies with her.
John threw his hands up and cursed the night air. A clunking sound from the camp interrupted his tirade. Puzzled, he clamored his way back to the fire. His things were scattered about. Something wasn’t right.
Then he saw it.
There was no mistaking the slimy texture, the green color, the swampy smell. Goblin sign. John hated goblins and their foul, mischievous nature. They also ranked among the most elusive of dark creatures. He really hated goblins.
Frustrated, John threw a supply bag against a tree, spilling its contents onto the ground. Two bottles of Droganian Dragon Spark glimmered in the dim light of the campfire.
He grabbed one of the bottles, removed its cork, and swallowed all the liquor in ferocious gulps, then smashed the bottle against a tree and wiped his mouth. The moments piled up while he thought over his dilemma. The alcohol settled in.
After blankly staring into the fire, he roared, “What fools! This is my adventure, my story, and my princess! Those ingrates! I’ll--” John belched. “--I’ll get em.”
He staggered awkwardly toward the hot spring. “Only one way they could’ve got ‘er”. He found more goblin sign on the other side of the spring. “Gotta be this way somewhere, Yar!”
He stumbled through the woods armed with his sword and a second bottle of dragon spark. Luck would have it he noticed a glowing light through his drunken haze. John followed the distant light as a moth to a flame. As swift as a drunkard could go, he approached the ever brightening flame until he met with a shrill voice that could only have come from a goblin.
“Minsor, sir. We want to go back and take all the treasure they’ad! Girls are nice but liquor! And rabbits! And yummy horses! Maybe we find a shiny coin or two, if we go back?”
John moved close enough to see a small encampment full of henchmen and filthy little creatures. At the center of it all stood Lyra and her captor, Minsor.
John shook his head at the creep. There was a damsel that sure needed saving, but the alcohol worked against him. The dragonfire boiled inside of him like a stew of bubbling rage.
Responding to the goblin, the wizard shouted, “Never mind that! My name is Minsor! Stop calling me sir! And go stand guard with the other goblin!”
His ghoulish servant wandered away muttering to itself.
Minsor turned toward Lyra, licked his lips and stared proudly.
“That imbecile doesn’t know a true treasure when he sees one, does he, my dear? But I suppose I can’t expect much from summoned creatures. They are truly one-dimensional.”
Lyra spoke apathetically, “Which imbecile? I suppose you are here to bring me back to my father.”
“Several hours ago that may have been the case…” Minsor moved his hand over her shoulder, massaging it lightly, “…but his men are dead now. I will bring you back to my home hidden in the heart of the forest. It will be safe for us there. I have a nice small, secured room in the basement. My last wife didn’t quite mind the accommodations.”
“That sounds like a lovely fantasy, but what makes you think I want what you have to offer?”
Minsor laughed. “Lovely, innocent, young lady. Remember, I am an Adept. I have ways of influencing women with my charming arcanian words. I’d rather not use them, but if I must, I will.”
“I’m not one to get easily excited by any man and his wily ways.”
“Oh, but did you not seem excited earlier by that—little boy?”
Lyra defiantly retorted, “Please. I have no interest in him. He is simply another fool who doesn’t know what he really wants.”
“A fool?! Me?!” John winced as he pointed to himself and inhaled the last gulp of dragon spark.
Minsor was still talking. “Like me? I heard everything about that immature oaf. Don’t compare me to him.”
“Immature oaf?!” John’s anger built.
Lyra responded, “I never asked for protection, or to be your wife. You just follow me around. Don’t try so hard. I might have found it cute.”
“And that frail excuse for a man is cute? I think not. He’s a coward, stabbing me in the foot and stealing my lady. Perhaps a taste of my charm will show you what a true man is!”
Minsor kneeled before Lyra. He opened a nearby bag to reveal a giant, worn down tome labelled, ‘Intermediate Enchanting, third edition. Forward by Rallian Fizzlefoot.’ Minsor flipped through each page impatiently until he found the right spell. “Ah, here it is. Now, let’s see. ‘There is nothing to it! Just turn around ten times, chant ‘Sen-Do-Re,’ and the target will be enthralled without delay.’” Minsor shut the book eagerly, turned to Lyra, and smiled. “Now, don’t be afraid. I am an expert after all.”
Anger welled up in John and poured from his mouth. “Excuse for a man--coward.” He’d heard enough insults. In a furious, drunken rage, John pulled out his sword and charged into the camp site, running directly toward Minsor. The two goblins stood in his way.
“We’ll protect you min, sir! Wha--”
John picked the little thing up. “Out of the way, peckling!” He shouted.
The second imp looked up, “Minsor? Or Min, si--“
Before it could respond, John beat him over the head with the first imp. Like mashing a potato, chunks of goblin flesh squished into the earth.
Five men ran to the blood bath. They hesitated, weighed Minsor’s gold against their lives, and rushed at the solitary figure.
John faced them with a sword in one hand and a goblin head in the other, readied for the onslaught. The first mage to reach him quickly conjured a stalactite several feet above John’s head.
“Oh, come on!” John shouted in frustration.
The cone of rock shattered behind him, propelling John toward his adversary. Both men tumbled to the ground. A fist fight ensued as they rolled across the earth.
A second mage looked on helplessly and turned to the others. “You three. Help me summon a boulder to crush them both.”
The third mage ran his hand through his hair. “But we’ll kill Julian.”
“More money for us!”
“Oh. I see.”
“Yes. Now you’re thinking!”
The remaining magi sang in unison.
John barely heard them as he rolled about with his adversary. He glimpsed Minsor nonchalantly checking his fingernails.
Anger surged through John. His rage channeled into his saliva as he spit into the eyes of his adversary. Primordial power surged into his fist as his knuckles split the skin of the mage's face. Unaware of anyone else, he grabbed the goblin head, raised it high, and drove it downward with all his might. Severed head and unresponsive face met in a passionate kiss of brain-splattering death.
Between each hit, John angrily introduced his friend, “HE--JUST WANTS--TO SAY--HELLO--SIR!”
John took notice of the boulder above him just in the nick of time. He rolled to the side as a mist of red dust rose from the crash. Several moments of silence passed before John felt a sharp pain on the back of his head, “That hurt!”
A whirlwind of rocks flew around him.
Laughing at their small victory, the magi brought John before Minsor and forced him to the ground.
“Minsor, we got him. We better get additional hazard pay now that Julian is dead.”
“Good job. Of course--of course. You’ll get that and more. Now, conjure a stone dagger and slice his throat.” Minsor smiled a toothy grin.
John showed little concern for the danger he was in. “Whatever this creep is paying you, I can match it and then some. I’m rich--he’s just full of it. Do you know who I am? I am John of Drogan!”
The magi looked at each other, then two of them responded at the same time, “We should keep him as ransom. Give him to us as part of our reward.”
Minsor, already fuming from John’s insult, yelled, “Of course not! Now do your job!”
“I think not.” Two of the magi stepped forward. The older one continued his threat, “We want the boy and the gold and we want it right n--“
Before the sentence could be completed, both their heads detached cleanly from their necks, flying high into the air.
Minsor cowered, ran, and dragged Lyra with him.
Rena and Janus had arrived.
John scowled. “I could have handled this! Why aren’t you still scouting. Anyway, keep these men busy--I’ll save the girl.”
Janus smiled. “Thanks for the warm welcome”
Rena added, “and the generous support.”
As more minions filled the glade, John noticed his mortal enemy dragging his damsel in distress into the woods.
John filled with fury. “That dung-chewing…” He rushed into the forest. He left the sounds of the melee behind, for there could be no doubt Rena and Janus would make short work of the leftover vermin. As he plodded through vines and bushes, two figures appeared ahead. Minsor had birthed two more otherworldly midgets. Unfortunately, they were in the way of a raging alcoholic.
The first goblin said with a confusing confidence, “M-my master says you can’t pass!”
The second goblin responded, “Look at his face! It’s so angry. I’ll bite you if I have to!”
John snarled as his speed-walk hastened to a jog.
“Don’t make us hurt you. Stop! Um. He’s not stopping.”
“Just bite him already!”
“I don’t know if this is a good idea.”
“Ruaugh!” John grunted, splitting the first imp in half with his sword. The second goblin grabbed John’s leg, pulling at him with both its arms and teeth. However, the small shell of a body could do nothing to stop the giant of a man.
John ignored the small imp gnawing on his ankle as he reached an open meadow. Before him was an odd sight--Minsor was spinning around in a circle, while Lyra was laughing loudly.
“I don’t think you’re going to impress any girl doing that.”
“Quiet! Now, which direction was I supposed to turn again?” While Minsor started spinning again, Lyra quietly chanted a spell and aimed her index finger precisely at Minsor’s ugly face.
John slovenly appeared from behind the bushes, running awkwardly toward Minsor. “Come here, odious swine!”
Lyra’s fireball missed its target, hitting a tree branch far in the distance.
Minsor stopped spinning and looked around in nervous confusion.
“Hey, I’m talking to you! Stop prancing around like a little fairy!”
The goblin biting John’s ankle responded with its mouth full, “Rairwe? wur? It tastes derwicious!”
“John! You idiot!” Lyra yelled.
Minsor stared at the fire in the distance and turned down looking at the princess with an air of haughtiness. “My dear, leave real magic for real men. Little girls have no place in complex machinations. You are a delicate flower, meant for an obsequious life, dominated by great and imposing men.”
For the first time, Lyra appeared angry as Minsor spoke.
As John cut the distance in half rather quickly, Lyra aggressively commanded the situation. “Don’t you dare! He’s mine!”
John halted his advance, mouth slightly agape.
Minsor laughed. “What are you going to do woman?! Overcook my dinner?! Clean my dirty clothes with too much fairy dust?! Do not fear, you’ll make a wonderful housewife in time!”
As soon as Minsor completed his sentence, a dart of flame shot from Lyra’s fingertips, aimed perfectly between the wizard’s legs.
Minsor let out a sharp, high pitched shriek and ran deep into the forest. A trail of smoke followed behind him.
Soon after seeing Minsor’s ‘fireballs’, John’s run turned into a slow and cautious walk. He winced. “Now those are fireworks I don’t want to see again.”
Lyra’s demeanor melted from hatred to indifference. “He just wasn’t my type.”
“I can see that!”
He walked over to a stump and used it to splatter the hitchhiker goblin against his leg. He spoke between kicks. “So -- Honey -- I was originally thinking about just going back to my castle -- but maybe -- we can still go back to my castle -- and then go on a quest together -- all romantic-like.” He finished scraping the goblin off and looked up.
Lyra bit her lip as she held John's gaze.
He continued, “And not just any quest, mind you. I’ll take you around on my royal stead to far-off lands. You’ll be my wife, and we’ll live happily ever after.”
Rena and Janus appeared fresh and victorious from the fighting. They looked winded.
Lyra smiled and responded thoughtfully, “How about just dinner first, Prince Charming?” She took John’s hand as they strolled together in the direction of his friends.