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Toto Caelo: The Beginning

By Rory Howard All Rights Reserved ©

Mystery / Fantasy


The Black has returned to Nusefil by an unknown means. A corporeal disease that gripped the northern realms seventeen years ago, bringing them to the brink of destruction. Though this time, it has evolved, a more intelligent threat than the last plague that swept the land; it knows how to hide and when to strike. Rory, Keilum, Alicia and Raven have landed on the Kingdom of Caelo, a land where age-old religious treaties that have been honoured are now crumbling with the very ground they stand on. The land shall be engulfed in a war that will change the course of history forever. Death and betrayal shall pave the path to a short lived victory with a new crowned king, but after all... this is only the beginning

A New Beginning



Something sinister ripped them through the air and sky that day. Rory, Keilum, Alicia and Raven fell through the tear in reality and into the open sky of another world entirely. The curve of this new earth spanned the horizon with vast mountain ranges and lush forests dotting the epic terrain below.

Rory’s senses were dulled; everything seemed to move in slow motion. He heard the muffled screams and shouts of the other three. He looked below; a small blue speck grew into a dot, then a blob and the outline of some kind of lake started to form, with an immense forest surrounding the southern and western sides, and a mountain range to the north, though he couldn’t see past it. He then thought he saw a city far off into the distance, but it vanished too quickly for him to tell.

The lake grew larger, Rory could see four specs reflect on the water, they grew in detail as well. He had heard hitting water from a great distance was like hitting concrete. He prepared himself for an inevitable death. Rory closed his eyes and cleared his mind, he was accepting his demise with open arms after witnessing Mila’s ambiguous martyrdom.

He felt a rush of cold air, like a strong breeze. It was as if his body slowed to a halt. This sensation was over before he could open his eyes.


The water submerged Rory entirely, the cold shocked him. He thought he had died and this was him going into heaven or some form of an afterlife. He then heard another series of three splashes. The cool water had sobered him, for when he penetrated the lake’s surface reality hit him like a hammer; everything moved in real time if not quicker and the screams seemed louder, crisper even.

Rory wasn’t a strong swimmer and panic began to engulf him like the water, he didn’t want to drown. His muscles tensed and the claustrophobia began to set in and clog his throat. The water’s current pulled him under. His hand fruitlessly reaching up towards the light as his body was falling deeper into the darkness of the lake. Alicia grabbed the protruding hand and yanked his body away from death, his head came up and he gulped down the fresh air. Keilum put Rory’s arm around him and swam awkwardly to shore where he threw his mentally, emotionally and physically drained body against the damp sand.

Raven kicked her way over to the shore and spread her body on the sand and it clung to her tanned, bare legs. She inhaled and exhaled heavily. Even though her eyes stung she still stared intently up into the sky, trying to figure out where they fell from and how. When she heard Rory cough and splutter, it only seemed to bother her. She turned to look at him retch out water while Keilum and Alicia attended to him like nursemaids.

Raven turned to face the sky again, it really hurt her eyes this time. She thought of Mila and what she did. How she did it and why. Why did she work with the man who tried to kill them? Those thoughts would only hinder her now, she’s been to hell and back and needs to figure out how and why she’s here. Rory’s ‘damsel in distress’ act will only jeopardize a possible return home. She knows he can’t be trusted, he at least knows how they got here.

“What do you know? Where are we?” Raven said coldly but sternly, her head turning to face the three. There was a fire in her eyes she could not hide.

“What?” asked Alicia breathlessly, hitting Rory a final time on the back.

“Rory! What does he know?” she scrunched her brow, her tone more harsh. She was frustrated that this wasn’t the priority and for some reason he was.

“He knows nothing?” Keilum said defensively, as if Raven’s question was the most stupid thing he had heard, “Why would he?”

“Well I don’t know?” she let herself laugh sarcastically, “Maybe because his witch bitch of a girlfriend worked with the man who tried to murder us!” Her voice shot up in a high pitched upward inflection.

Anger was a poison she needed to purge from her body. She refused to cry before them. Her tears would boil in her eyes before they fall.

They all turned to face her now. She looked at Alicia, then Keilum; the same look of shock and betrayal and reproach lingered in theirs, but it was all directed towards her. She did not falter or take back her comment. Fists clenched she stood strong. However when she made eye contact with Rory, the look of hurt... It was so strong. His eyes red from crying, his cheeks burnished with tears. She remembered how much he loved Mila, and how he cared for all of them. Mila’s betrayal would hurt him the most, and now she has said this.

“It’s just…it’s. It’s a little suspicious,” she said, though the tinge of regret and doubt now swam in her voice.

“Raven be-,” Alicia began.

Rory had arose from his retching foetal position, his eyes bloodshot and tender, and his face, pale and hollow from emotion. His face looked so tired. He was so exhausted. He was held prisoner, he tried to figure all of this out. He just wanted to help, and he genuinely believed everything Mila said. He failed everyone.

“I knew nothing. I knew nothing,” he could feel it, the sharp pain at the back of his throat indicating he was going to cry, “I knew,” his voice shattered, “... nothing.”

Keilum had placed his arm around Rory, and he buried his face in his hands. Alicia was hugging him from the side, resting her head against his lurched shoulder, “What is your fucking problem?” she spat bitterly.

"My fucking problem?” she glanced at Rory and frowned. “My problem is I don’t know what happened, I don’t know where I am. I don’t know... I don’t know what my fucking problem is because the fact I don’t know anything is my problem!”

“We all just experienced the exact same thing you did! But we don’t lash out at each other because it will get us fucking nowhere!” Alicia barked.

Raven bit her tongue, to stop her from retaliating. She closed her eyes and looked at the ground. Adam came back into her head, so she closed her eyes tighter, trying to get him out, but to no avail. She wanted something to make sense. Memories of them together ran back and forth and clouded her mind. She slumped down and buried her head in her hands, though she didn’t cry, just wanted to think. To let her memories cloud her mind, go back to when she was happy, before all this happened. She stayed in her little fantasy world until the splashing of water awoke her accompanied by the sound of a piercing scream.

“Christ what is that noise?” Alicia yelled, hands occluding her ears.

“What noise?” Keilum said standing up, eerily upbeat, “I hear the voice of an angel!”

“I hear it to…” Rory said pitifully sitting on a rock looking away from the water. “Though barely. Faint singing. Do you think it’s someone who can help us?”

“Look out there, on that rock thing,” glee had strung it’s note into Keilum’s voice as he ran further into the lake.

Alicia and Raven both got up looked into the distance, Rory turned his head. The ugliest creatures sat there, fish like monsters combing wires of hair that came in a range of colours from maroon red to vomit green and acidic yellow. They were screaming at one and other and pointing towards Keilum as he got ever closer. A blue haired one swam out sank into the water and began approaching him. Their long tongues slapped against their lips and faces at the sight of the easy prey.

“Mermaids?” said Rory to himself, he could scarcely believe it, then he remembered what they done, “Keilum come back!”

“What’ll happen?!” Alicia replied confused and frightened with all the screaming.”What the fuck are those things?”

Rory couldn’t bring himself to say the words aloud. It was to preposterous, “They’ll drown him!” Rory yelled and got up and ran into the water.

The creatures got closer to Keilum. He was deaf to the screams of the others. He could almost touch the silky skin of the gorgeous mermaid. He could envision his life with them, though he’d have to adopt gills. He turned to see his friend’s faces, how happy they would be for him. Keilum waved. He felt the silky hand around his neck and then it loosened and went limp. He turned to see what was wrong. An iron arrow protruded her right eye and nearly touched his fine nose.

Keilum’s smile faded when he saw the grotesque ugliness of these creatures. All of them, sitting like scaled gargoyles, looked at him with starvation in their wide eyes. More arrows pierced their slimy, sticky, scaly skin. He began to panic and kicked away from the beast. The deep-crimson blood grew greater in diameter, he didn’t want to get caught in it. He felt the arm of Rory around the shoulder and he was too shocked to speak, kicking frantically till he reached the shore.

Rory looked to where the source of the arrows came from, the woodland at the lake shore. He stretched out his arms, as if protecting everyone, “Who- who’s there?” he yelled bravely.

No reply came, although the bushes rustled. A man then emerged, standing tall, his face slightly dirty though definitely handsome. The stubble on his well chiseled jaw was badly shaven, as if done with a rugged blade and speckled with bald patches. His dark hair, lightened by the sun, grew unkempt and uncut, yet fell to suit his face.

The hunter’s brown eyes glanced over to the four. He knelt down, slung the bow over his shoulder and quickly washed his face. His clothes were all hand made, his leather shoes had morphed to the shape of his feet. He brushed his long hair back with his hands to show his impressive bone structure and strong brows, he then casually walked over and smiled at the shocked faces of everyone else. He had a confidence as if he done this a thousand times before.

“I believe a thank you is in store?” he spoke with a coy, boyish grin.

“Who- who are you?” Raven demanded.

“Whoa there, settle down dear. I just saved your friend’s life from those things,”

“Mermaids? They did try to kill him,” Rory said unsure.

“Sirens is the proper term… sirens, Gorgons, Harpies, all pests to me,” the hunter laughed.

His accent was peculiar, though thick and strong. He had a kind of rustic charm about him, one Raven had picked up upon, her defences were down, though the charm wasn’t working on Keilum, “You haven’t told us who you are.”

“Well, my name’s Sagittarius Wysnamor’e, but you can call me Stag. What are your full names?” he grinned kindly.

Keilum sniggered at his peculiar name, even Alicia raised her eyebrows.

“Rory Raymond Howell,” he smiled back, he didn’t want to offend the man trained with a bow\.

“Keilum Paul Wallace,” he muttered after a moment.

“And the lovely ladies?” he bowed his head a little.

“My name is Alicia Adenike Huntern and this is-.”

“Raven Maria Ó’Fionnagáin” she smiled, bowing back.

“Such pretty names for such pretty girls.”

Rory shot a glance at Alicia who returned with a glare; she hated being measured by her looks. Keilum had rolled his eyes so far back into his head he was surely looking at his brain.

“Well, why are you all wet and in such weird, tight clothes? You lads look as though you were in a fight? Are you for the fete?”

Silence was cast over the group. Their faces turned sullen and bitter. Stag had realised he touched a bare nerve here. Rory was on the verge of crying but trying with every ounce of his being not to. He quickly changed topic, or at least tried to:

“Well, where are you guys from?” He smiled, though receiving the same treatment as before, but this time it was more reinforced, “Oh…erm, where are you heading?”

“Oh, where are we?” Rory said to take his mind of the hard questions.

“Well,” Stag thought this was odd, “specifically we’re at Lake Altum, and if you follow the Altum Road, it’ll take you to an inn, but it’s about a day’s journey east.”

He could see everything pass over their heads. He could tell by the looks on their faces that this was so alien to them, they hadn’t heard of any such place. “I could accompany you, if you like? I know this area fairly well, it’s gets bad around here after dark. And I have the feeling you aren’t from around here.”

They all turned to one another, though no voices were exchanged, just a series of polite nods suggested they had better take all the help they could get. “Yeah sure. Thank you,” Rory smiled nervously, “Lead the way.”

Stag had beamed a smile so large it looked almost goofy. They looked like they needed the help, in fact he hadn’t seen anyone in a while, just the Eiriaf Laidromirp. He felt excited, new people always brought excitement and new adventure. A plus was that he was able to visit the Sleeping Goat Tavern; the proprietor, Moira, he had taken a fancy to.

He jogged onward up the road, having to stop every once in awhile so they rest could catch up. The journey was relatively quiet though, not much talking going on, though Rory was avid and had a curious mind, questioning all sorts, though none directed at Stag; he spoke in vague phrases. They had reached the top of a steep hill and Stag hopped onto a rock that jutted out of the land and exhaled.

“Aye, look at that, the Magian Plains, no finer a place,” he exclaimed.

The rest of them scrambled up to the top of the hill. The sun had mostly dried them off, Alicia’s hair closely resembled a lion’s mane. When they reached to the point where Stag was standing they gazed over a vast and beautiful range of hills and a few copses of trees. The hills a dull green, reminded Rory of his hiking trip to the Mourne Mountains back home, though much drier and less marshy. The countryside was bathed in the sun’s golden gaze. The sky blushed with the pinkish hue of the pastel clouds.

Splashes of vibrant purple lavender and cobalt bluebells dotted the landscape and the dirt road zig-zagged over an array of emerald hills. They turned around to see where the came from and an equally photogenic scene was displayed. The glittering lake in the evening sun shot flashes of light and the deep pine wood that extended so far to the south west, they lost sight of where it halted. A mountain range stretched towards the sky with great white peaks. Stag extended his finger to a large copse of trees ahead of them.

“That’s where we’ll head!” he bellowed.

“Those trees?” spoke Keilum peering his eyes.

“Aye lad, we’ll set up camp,” smiled Stag hopping off the rock.

The sun set quickly and the sky was blotted inky blue; the enchanting nature of the Magian Plains began to leave as each sliver of sunlight shrank under the mountains behind them. Raven has hurt her ankle slightly, tripping over a loose stone and was aided by Keilum the rest of the way. Rory remained surprisingly quiet, taking in the surrounding area, keeping his keen eyes peeled off into the distance, hoping to see something otherworldly. The eerie night was illuminated with small orbs of light lining the path they walked.

“Where did you say we were, Stag?” asked Rory admiring the orbs.

“Central Caelo. Oh and don’t fiddle with them, the Eiriaf won’t be too pleased,” said Stag as if nothing was unusual about the sentence at all.

“Eiriaf?” asked Rory.

“Oh sorry, they prefer their official name. Fairies basically, they watch the Magian Plains and Altum Forest,” he said matter of fact.

Rory looked around to make sure everyone else heard what he had said, “Where the fuck have we landed?” whispered Raven bobbing along, slung around Keilum like a cast.

They had finally reached the seclusion of trees. Though these trees stretched far higher than thought, reaching heights of fifty feet with thick coniferous vegetation. They did provide an effective shelter because when they had arrived, rain had begun to fall and none had fallen to the ground.

“We’ll camp here,” said Stag slinging his bow and backpack to the floor and reaching out a series of hunting tools; a knife, arrowheads, rope, herbs and berries, some bait, and some fine string and a hook, presumably for fishing.

“Okay, what do we do?” asked Rory eagerly.

“You stay here and attend the women, I’ll teach you how to hunt later, as for now we’re in a rush and so need to get it done quickly. The lad, Callum-,” Stag began

“Keilum…” he mumbled under his breath, loud enough to be heard.

“Sorry, Keilum, is stronger and I’ll need him to lift a few things,” he finished.

No debate came from Rory, Raven or Alicia, though Keilum looked uneasy, “If Rory wants to, he can, more men will get it done quicker,” Keilum argued.

“Aye, but what of the lovely ladies, one of them is injured,” said Stag.

“I can take of myself thank you.” Raven forced herself to smile.

“Yeah, we aren’t helpless,” said Alicia.

“Aye all right, but if you two die, I’ll blame these two,” he pointed his knife at Rory and Keilum, “Right ladies, here’s the stuff to start a fire. We’ll be back.” Stag had begun his journey into the forest. The sound of water suggested a small stream was nearby.

Stag had made a false assumption on Keilum’s behalf. He was strong, years of rugby had hardened his body and toned his arms, but he was by no means ‘outdoorsy’. In stark contrast with Rory and his now waifish figure, he examined everything with the wonder of a child.

“You seem to be a keen naturalist,” smiled Stag admiring Rory’s outdoorsmanship.

“Yes, it’s just interesting I guess. Keilum was never one for it though,” Rory grinned.

“It’s not that I don’t like it. I, like, respect it and whatever. It’s just I prefer remaining inside when I can, you know?” he said.

“A man who likes a man’s comforts, nothing wrong with that,” Stag smiled reassuringly.

A crack in the night made Keilum and Rory flinch.

“Right you two collect some food, I’ll get us some shelter and see what made that noise,” Stag whispered, shoving a makeshift fishing rod into Keilum’s hand and a basket for Rory to collect berries, “The fish here are pretty stupid and easy to catch, be back at camp in an hour or so, don’t die.”

Meanwhile at camp Raven and Alicia began to talk in the comfort of the burning fire. Raven was drying her thick, dark hair when she broke the silence, “Do you think he knows something?”

“Hm?” Alicia replied, not hearing what she said.

“Do you think Rory knew something?” Raven reluctantly repeated.

“No, don’t be so silly Raven. For God’s sake can you show a little compassion. He was about to die, then Mila just jumped in front to save him. It’s fucked up enough,” Alicia snapped, silencing the conversation.

This was a subject Alicia was determined to avoid, in case it caused a rift in the group. They’re in a new country or realm or world and didn’t need to be arguing amongst each other. Though it is suspiciously in Rory’s area of ‘expertise’, however his curiosity of here shows he knows nothing of the end, but what of the means? He may know how we got here and maybe why, but that’s how far Alicia believes Rory’s knowledge extends to. Mila was suspicious and they were onto something with the Witch’s Tale, but that won’t benefit them now. Alicia’s dreams are still questionable, she had prophesied the gory events, maybe now that she’s here she can solve this riddle and perhaps all the other unsolved ones, as for now, they need to see tomorrow.

“Alright, jeez. I trust him and all don’t get me wrong, I just didn’t trust Mila or his affection of her,” Raven went on.

“We’re dropping it Raven, before the boys get back,” Alicia said finally.

Raven gave a subtle ‘hmph’, a noise Rory made when he was annoyed, eager to change the subject she blurted, “What do you think of Stag?”

“Well he’s a saint, saving Keilum like that and being so, like, nice to us and stuff. Though he’s pretty sexist, the way he thinks we’re helpless and all,” Alicia debated.

“Oh go burn your bra somewhere else!” laughed Raven, “No what do you think of him?”

Alicia stared at her a moment and then realization hit her. “Ohhh, nah. You know I’m ace anyway?”

“Oh yeah sorry. I guess I’ll mount for the both of us then,” she winked.

Alicia gave a sharp laugh in shock. She felt her damp pocket and graced her phone. “Oh fuck off,” she moaned.

“What!” perked Raven.

“Check your phone,” Alicia sighed.

Raven pulled her phone out with her waterproof case. She began to tap on it, but there was no signal.

“I can’t get anything here, maybe it’s the trees?” she asked.

“Yeah or maybe electricity doesn’t exist? I don’t think Westeros has any WiFi,” laughed Alicia.

Raven sighed and threw her phone and wallet to the dirt. They then heard the breaking of twigs coming from the forest, immediately they shot upright. Alicia had a long stick clasped in both hands ready for battle. Raven had armed Stag’s bow.

“Who’s there?” she said sternly.

“Oh it’s only me, don’t worry,” Rory chirped with a basket of berries and fish, caught proudly by Keilum who emerged from the dark shortly after him.

A smell slowly crept around the small camp, that of blood and flesh. The stomach turning smell made Rory gag, then Stag bloodied emerged holding the pelt of a bear and her cubs over his shoulder.

“Oh my God, Stag are you alright?” gasped Alicia dropping the club. Raven set down Stag’s bow.

“Aye I’m fine. Right lads!” he smiled, flopping the foul smelling, though clean, pelts in front of him, “Beds!”

“What?” gasped Raven holding her nose.

Keilum nearly fainted, he hated the sight of blood or flesh where it wasn’t supposed to be seen.

“Beds! That foot didn’t affect your hearing did it? Aye, with my tent in my bag, Rory, Keilum and me will sleep in these, and you two get my tent. Fair?”

“Yeah sure. Uhm, did you kill a bear and her kids for beds, I would of gladly slept on the floor,” said Rory, holding Keilum’s shoulder to show moral support.

“No, Gods no, I hate killing animal unless it’s utterly necessary. She was already dead and so were her cubs. She was in a fight with something and lost, her cubs starved,” he said solemnly.

“Aww,” Alicia and Rory said in sync, “that’s so sad.”

“Nature’s rough, you still okay with staying in them?” he addressed Rory.

“Yeah, uh, totally,” he hesitated slightly.

“Excellent, we better head to bed now if we want to get an early start. You two can put up a tent if you were prepared to kill a wolf or bear or worse to death?” he chuckled.

“Yeah, we’ll be fine,” smiled Raven sitting on a mouldy log.

“Aye, but first dinner and some stories,” winked Stag at Keilum and Rory.

They laughed and joked and feasted all through the night, till only embers remained of the fire. Stag was mesmerised and horrified by the story they all had to tell of the Harbinger and the tests they went through, though that’s all, they avoided the emotional trauma. Stag told stories of women he’s ‘conquered’, as did Keilum, to which all but Rory seemed shocked. Stag was exceedingly proud of Rory’s feat with his test. Stag laughed once too hard at a fart joke he told and flung his head back.

“By Luna, Solaris emerges. We better get some shut eye now. I’ll wake ya’s up!” spat Stag laughing.

“What did he say?” asked Raven, though the reply was a hearty shrug from the rest.

They got into bed, whether it was tent or animal skin, the same thought plagued the peaceful rescue of sleep. Where are they? Why and how did the get here? And for how long shall they stay? What shall tomorrow bring? Though the latter posed a sort of excitement for Keilum who was so used to routine. The next day ought to bring enjoyment for all of them.

Sun split the sky and the swarm of midges had started to arise. Stag had tiptoed at day break around the camp, eating his leftovers for breakfast and preparing breakfast for the others. He poured some water on Keilum and Rory’s faces who reacted how you’d imagine, muttering obscenities and grumbling. He woke the girl’s up in a most chivalrous manner.

“Ugh I hate him,” Keilum gritted under his teeth, drenched, though awake.

“Oh shut up,” laughed Rory, looking refreshed after wiping the cool water away, “Just because he done what I was planning on doing all those sleepovers at yours.”

“I would’ve killed you!” he grumbled, snatching the cloth from Rory.

“Oh and not Stag, do you love him so?” Rory was being deliberately antagonizing on purpose now, to wind up Keilum.

“Oh fuck off, he skinned three bears you tool, I can’t fight him. And I know what you’re doing. Go wind the girls up and leave me here to die,” grunted Keilum rubbing his face vigorously.

“Fine then, hmph,” Rory huffed, walking over to the tent, a fish in his hand, he threw it in and the screams of the girls would have cut the trees down.

Stag, Rory and even Keilum laughed slightly as the girls rushed out, Alicia with her matted hair glowing with ferocity in the morning sun and Raven quickly hopped out, squirming and brushing herself off as if the fish clung to her curvy figure.

“That cured her ankle,” laughed Rory, receiving a punch and a series of thumps from the girls and running menacingly around the camp

“Right, right,” Stag announced, drawing attention to himself, “we have to get to Woodern by midday if you have any hope of getting to the city.”

“The city?” asked Rory curiously.

“Aye, one of the major cities in the south, Magus, I know someone rather high up,” he winked at him, “Right, c’mon.”


The walk to the inn was a lot quicker than thought, Alicia doesn’t know why they couldn’t just head straight here. Although she thought because no conversation was exchanged the last time it just seemed longer. They came to an area known as ‘Tri-Goddess Pass’, which showed a stone statue of the Moon Goddess Luna. An iron post with signs pointing north, east and west listed some city names; Donlon, Magus and Aqua.

“We’re heading east to Magus. Woodern lies on the road to the city,” he said as the passed the ethereal statue.

The town was not the town they were used to, to say the least. There was a series of homes and buildings all made from wood with thatch roofs. Some stood three stories tall with balconies and patios, some a story tall. The ground was paved here on out, though dirty and trampled. People, simple people, passed with crates of common goods. Though it wasn’t all too spectacular to look at, you could feel the sense of community; though they did not smile, they lived to survive. When they walked down the main street, smiles and greetings were flung in their way, mostly directed at Stag.

“Hullo Stag,” one portly man bellowed, “who are your friends?”

“Hey Nick, ah, I found them at Lake Altum. This one was playing with Sirens,” he ruffled Keilum’s greasy hair as if he was his son.

“Oh those dastardly beasts, lure any man to his death. No difference there with any women,” he laughed heartily.

Alicia audibly gagged.

“We’re heading to the inn Nick, you’re welcome to come,” invited Stag kindly.

Nick put his hand on his beer belly, “Naw,” another laugh erupted from them both, “You stay away from that ale and mead now Stag, don’t want to get a gut like this one.”

Stag and Nick waved goodbye, and headed down to the inn, the large building on the left with the balcony. They entered, the tavern was rife with the smell of alcohol and testosterone. Everyone bellowed ‘Stag’ and clinked their mugs and glasses. Alicia looked up at the sign hanging from a wooden column in the centre. It read:


“Oh my God, I am actually going to be sick.” sighed Alicia pointing at the sign, and then to a woman getting her posterior spanked by a bearded barbarian.

“Lighten up Alicia, this is a different culture,” smiled Keilum slapping her on her posterior, only to be punched firmly in the chest.

“It doesn’t make any sense, but it could be worse,” debated Rory gingerly.

“Oh yes, Kimberle Crenshaw would be so pleased,” she spat sarcastically.

Stag had laughed at this and ruffled Keilum’s hair even further. “Must just be freed from Hellasea that one,” he whispered. He looked curiously into the distance and placed his hand above his eyes, “Moira!” he bellowed at the fair-haired and slender waitress, who was the woman that got crudely spanked.

“Oh Stag, hello!” her voice shouted above the ruckus behind her, “What you looking for?”

“Just a room and food,” he blushed, he seemed so bashful in front of her.

“Aren’t we all,” Stag laughed enthusiastically at her remark, “Right, you all can sit over there,” she gestured to a table opposite the bar, “I’ll get you to your rooms when you’ve a wee bit to eat,” she turned her head to face the busy bar, “When this lot pipe up!” she was meet was as series of wolf-whistles and ‘yo-hos’.

They all sat down, Keilum and Rory laughing with Stag about the atmosphere, Raven and Alicia looked awkward as the men stared at them. Alicia’s tongue was cutting the inside of her mouth, she wanted to bite at the perverts with such witty remarks, but didn’t want to cause trouble.

“Would you mind not staring?” Alicia asked politely to the same bearded man who slapped Moira’s backside.

“Can I touch then? I’ll close my eyes,” he laughed. His breath reeked of alcohol and Alicia looked offended and turned away, angering the man, “Whoa lass, am I not good enough? I thought you dark exotic types put out” he jibed, gaining jeers from the other men around her.

Raven gritted her teeth and Alicia’s eyes’ burned, “Racist pig, don’t leer at me thinking you can get something,” she rebuked to his anger.

The grown man seized Alicia’s wild red hair and pulled her head back so she was looking up at his ugly hairy nostrils. She then saw a fist break the man’s nose as blood dripped onto her freckled face. The gruff man immediately let her go and she saw Raven standing poised, his fist clenched and reddened. Stag arose beside Raven, and Rory consoled Alicia. Keilum was trying to wipe the blood from her face. The grown man tackled Raven into the bar and Stag broke a stool off of his back, knocking him from her. He got up and swung a punch at another man who was sitting at his table. Rory pushed Keilum and Alicia down, and overturned the table and entered the brawl himself. Within seconds the pub had turned into a full scale, fist fight. Raven and the bearded man were centre stage.

“Come on then you foreign fucking bitch,” he said swinging a punch, which she swiftly dodged.

Raven swung a punch, hitting the man’s lip, splitting it. He spat some blood out and grinned, “Hitting so hard must mean your cunt is tight.’

Alicia grabbed him by the shoulder forcing him to turn around. The bridge of his nose met her bony fist and his face burst open, thick gushes of dark blood flooded down from his nose, “There’s nothing wrong with that, surely?” Her voice sounded hoarse and spiteful.

The bearded man tried to speak, but Alicia grabbed him from the back and brought her knee to his jaw and mouth, a frightening crunch silenced the fighting in the room; he spat out three teeth and collapse unconscious onto the wooden floor. The blood stained his cloth vest, he gargled and spluttered out more blood from his rouged lips, three men brought him to his feet in case he suffocated.

Rory stared wide eyed and Raven had her mouth covered at the gruesome sight of which Alicia was the architect. Alicia looked around at the scared and frightened faces; they were all directed at her.

“What?!” she spat aghast. She turned to Rory, “He started it!”

“Well, you certainly finished it,” he replied meekly.

“Maybe if he didn’t feel so fucking entitled to me. Maybe if he wasn’t so fucking racist! He won’t do it again,” she argued, her voice shaking slightly as she swore.

“Alicia, no one is arguing with you,” Raven said, the same cautious tone as Rory.

Alicia stormed past them both, separating Rory and Raven and entered a room in the tavern. She slammed the door behind her and the whole pale wooden room shook, dust fell from the crevices in the walls. She looked at her bloody hands, they were shaking violently. She got flashbacks to her gruelling test. So much blood. Alicia grasped her frizzy red hair and sank into the corner of the room heaving to herself.

Her head jolted up at the sounds of someone entering, her stomach was knotting. She tried to cry but couldn’t, so she remained doubled over with a cocktail of emotions she didn’t know how to explain.

“Lass?” a gentle woman’s voice called, “Are you alright?!”

Alicia turned her head to face Moira, her freckled nose and pockmarked slim cheeks were more visible in the well lit room. She had big, kind jade toned eyes and for some reason she was smiling at her. This added a shot of shame to Alicia’s emotional cocktail.

“I’m sorry, I didn’t-,” she began but Moira shushed her.

She sat down beside her and offered a drink, which she accepted. She hadn’t realized it was alcoholic and shuddered as it washed down her throat, Moira grinned and breathed some air out her nose which constituted as a laugh.

“What you did was very brave,” she smiled. Alicia didn’t say anything, “Men, and women, are so used to seeing girls as delicately looking as yourself brush off a lewd comment or grope with a simple smile and batter or your pretty, little eyelashes,” she mocked the battery of lashes which made Alicia return a smile. Moira let her head fall back against the wooden wall, “Do you know how many men have slapped my arse? And I want to kick the living shite out of each man, married or not, but I don’t; I just do what’s expected of me, brush it off, ya know?”

“Are you alright?” Alicia asked as she saw the wet stain of a lone tear fall down her face. Alicia felt slightly awkward.

She ignored the question and continued slowly, “I smiled and winked and flirted, to give them enough to leave me alone, well... it didn’t work. They didn’t leave me alone. They said I led him on and flirted with them...” there was a silence in the air for a few moment. Moira wiped the tear away, “What I’m saying is; any person who leers at you without your consent is edible to get the shit kicked out them and if they touch you, you kick and scream and punch until you think they get the fucking message. And don’t let anyone say you stepped overboard, they did the moment they felt entitled to lay their hands on you. And don’t you dare change just because some arsehole gets his feelings hurt.”

Alicia didn’t know how to react, “Moira, I-” she said mouth opened.

She looked down and laughed slightly, then back into Alicia’s bronze eyes, “You’ll catch flies if you leave your mouth open like that dear,” she winked, “Come on, come help me clean up the mess in the hall.”

Moira shut the tavern much to the displeasure of the customers. They cleaned the tavern in silence; Raven held Alicia’s hand, Rory smiled and Keilum nodded his head, though no words were exchanged, they approved of what she done. Stag even looked at her and grinned with pride. Alicia let out a sigh of relief and looked forward for something to eat after the hard work.

After their meal which was full to the brim of jokes and laughter, they shared more stories until night fell and they headed to bed. In the bitter morning they had to make their way to the city of Magus. Entering Caelo for them granted the gift of a new slate, and hopefully, a new beginning.

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