Always be prepared
For life is forever changing.
As we sat perched in the scrub before the building which contained our weaponry, the light from the rising sun beat down upon our backs. Dawn was soon approaching. We needed to get in and out before it was full light. “I’ll take out the guard, should be simple.” I smile. I could finally begin the long path to the North. “Don’t take too long, I want my shotgun back, along with my bandana.” Maize hits me on the back and I grin. “I’ll make it quick don’t you worry.” Swinging my sword over my shoulder I charge towards the unaware guard giving him no time to react. In under a second his half armoured corpse lay motionless. I find myself taking unexpected joy in his death. One less human on this corrupt planet that could rip my family and friends from my arms. There’s a high pitch battle cry from behind me as Reyuma burst from the bushes, wooden sheath raised high over her head. “Rah!” she giggles, poking at the soldiers head with the end of the scabbard. “Take that armour giant!” Maize appears behind her, placing a hand on her head and squatting down to her level “Good job Reyuma, you got him!” Grinning, she skips around our small group, encasing us with her joyous laughter. I look at the three demons who stand before me. Wait…Three? Where in hell is Xzenox? Surely he wouldn’t still be waiting in the bushes right… Suddenly, the doors of the small stone cottage are splintered open by the leather boot of none other than Xzenox. With his leg still in the air, he holds his black hilted swords above his head “The weapons have been liberated!” Reyuma cheers at this, running to Xzenox’s side, waving her weapon. He stomps his foot back to earth and points one sword forward “For justice!” No sooner than we had blinked Xzenox had run off with Reyuma right behind him into the forest. Talow’s eyes still hover over the spot where they had ran off “Was he…ah… always that…how do I put it? Eccentric?”
“As long as I’ve known him…yeah.” I reply.
“What’s more the point is how did he get in there when there are no windows on that building?” Maize studies the doorway and the inner part of the structure, finding nothing that could explain Xzenox’s teleporting act. I shrug “Sometimes he gets away with some pretty weird stuff, so it wouldn’t surprise me if he even just walked through the wall to get in there.”
Maize’s voice echoes out from the building “Hey Talow! Found your explosives!” he laughs, before shouting “Fire in the hole!”
“Corn sprout what the hell are you doing! Don’t you dare set them off!” she storms in after him “For a twenty five year old you are extremely childish!”
“Come on Talow you know I wouldn’t actually set any of them off, plus you’re no better once you start with the fire crackers.”
“Shut up corn sprout.”
“I am not a corn sprout and hey, what is this cool looking thing?” the familiar metallic glint of my double edged scythe catches my eye. “My scythe!” I exclaim happily. I had grown an attachment to the weapon, being without it for the past couple of days had seemed strange, peculiar, and just not right. “This bad ass thing is yours?! How come you get the awesome double sickle thing hah? Where did you even find a weapon like this?” Discarding my sword, I take the weapon from his unwilling grasp and swing it a couple times, getting back the feel of it. “You’re going to have to ask Xzenox for that one, since I doubt he stole it from the armoury like he said he did.” Maize continued to admire the crescent blades for a while longer before Talow hit him on the head “Stop fan-girling over Damien’s weapon and go find your own. You want that pretty head band of yours back don’t you?” her eyes are slanted and a sly grin splays across her face. “Corn-“
“Okay, okay I’m going.” Maize reluctantly pulls his eyes away from my scythe and continues his search for his gun, muttering under his breath “And I am not corn!” Talow giggles quietly and she gestures to me as she walks back into the open air of the quiet, leafless forest. “You and Xzenox, where exactly are you from? There has to be some reason you two were caught in the village. Demons don’t go there without good reason.” I lower my gaze. Zasha… “It’s ok if you don’t want to say anything, really. I was just curious, that’s all.” She smiles weakly.
“We were looking for a friend of ours. She was taken away from us not too long ago and we thought that, if we went to the church in the village, we might find a clue or a sign that we could go by, to find out where she could be.”
“That’s horrible! Did you find anything useful?” Talow asks tenderly.
“Apparently they took her to the North. We will be heading there once Xzenox comes back. Our friend… she means a lot to us.”
“Then we will come with you.” Maize surfaces from the building, shotgun resting over his shoulder and red bandana tied in its rightful place. “You got us out of that hell hole, it’s only fair that we repay the favour.”
“There’s no need for you to come with us, surely you have things you’d like to do now.” They want to come with us? But, they’re free now, they can go where ever they please. “As much as I’d like to say that we have a life to go on with, we really don’t. That was taken from us a long time ago. If there is somebody who needs help, I’ll help. So whether you like it or not, we are coming with you. Right Talow?” Talow nods, smiling. “Of cause. Plus it’s almost winter now; I can start us a big pretty fire! Oh! And we can roast vegetables! And burn things! And cook things!” Maize leans down and whispers “You can probably already tell, she’s a complete pyromaniac.” I smile and immediately Talow stops listing all of the many things that one can do with fire, narrowing her eyes “What was that corn sprout?” Maize takes a step back.
“Say it again. I didn’t hear you the first time.”
“You’re a…pyromaniac?” Talow clenches her fist, raising it in front of her face. “Better start running, Corn Sprout.” She mutters.
After Talow had successfully pummelled Maize’s head in, we decided we would stay outside the malformed, misshapen shack for the night and be on our way in the morning. This was also the most likely place which Xzenox and Reyuma would return to, we couldn’t leave without them. “Hey Damien! Want to see my magic trick?!” Talow had arranged a circle of stones with a large pile of wood stumps and twigs clumped into the middle. Her tail wagged happily, anticipation in her eyes. “Ok, sure.”
“Yay! Okay ready? One…Two…Threeeee!” she raises her arms in the air and a blazing red inferno shoots out of the stone circle, setting alight all within its centre. Talow laughs and woos while the blaze keeps up its impressive height. It has a mesmerising colour, a sort of scarlet red with hints of black and brown, adding vibrancy to the dull, grey environment around us. The fire calmed and sat happily munching at the wood which Talow had provided it; eating through and melting it. “Was that cool or what?!” Talow exclaimed.
“It was absolutely beautiful.” Maize droned sarcastically. “I couldn’t believe my eyes. It was just…so… whimsical.”
“Want me to come over there?” Talow challenged. Maize’s come back was interrupted by loud footsteps rushing through the forest. There was more than just one pair of feet. There were two. And with the steps, came an extremely unexpected noise; chickens clucking. Chickens? Why the hell am I hearing chickens? This can’t be right. I must be going insane. Reyuma is the first to surge into view, in her hands, a struggling chicken. “We caught dinners!” she yells. Xzenox arrives behind her, two more birds in his arms “Lots of dinners.” He grins. From behind me Talow lets out a squeal. Reyuma stands over her and is trying to give her the chicken “This one is for you Talow.”
“Noooo! Get it away from me! Away away away away away!” she shrieks. Maize takes the bird from Reyuma’s small hands “But Tallow, you’re half cat; you’re supposed to like birds. Or are you…”
“Maize, Maize, please don’t do what I think you’re about to do. Take it away, please. I hate birds. Take it away.” Maize’s eyes glint with mischievous joy. This was his time to get back revenge for every corn sprout ever spoken “…too chicken!” Talow screams and scrambles to her feet, sprinting off to safety away from Maize and his chicken of horror. Xzenox, Reyuma and I all watch on from next to the fire, laughing until our eyes start to water. “You damn corn sprout! You’re a terrible person! I am never going to forgive you for this corn sprout! Not ever!”
“Whatever you say chickadee!”
That night we had a roast chicken dinner, surprisingly cooked by Talow. Although she hated birds she seemed more than happy to eat them. Our party is sure a strange one. A young water spirit, an insane fox spirit, a cat demon who is terrified of birds, a blood demon who never shows his true form and loves bandanas and a shadow master. It’s strange that we all get along together. But it seems to work just fine.
When we awoke the next morning the scarlet flame was still burning, licking at the last small fragments of twig. Xzenox was sitting bolt upright, with something in his hands. “What is this? It’s very…freezing!” he shivers, grinning as usual. “Aw…it went away…Ooh another one!” he snatches at a white fragment which was floating slowly by. He opens his hands, searching for the object “Where do they keep on disappearing to?!” he gasps and glances evilly at another one of the white flecks “Bandits.” He whispers. I face-palm and shake my head. Again with the bandits? “You’ll never catch me off guard!” he prances after the fleck, jumping over Maize and managing to kick him in the stomach. “Who the hell was that?!” Maize reaches for his shotgun. “Oh. Just you.” Xzenox slashes violently with his swords at the falling flecks. “It’s snow, Xzenox.” I inform him “Haven’t you seen snow before?” He looks at me, lowering his swords “Snow? Oh yeah… So it is. You can never be too careful though, right?”
“What you need to be more careful of is who you kick.” Maize mumbles.
“Oops, sorry about that. Guess I got too carried away with bandit slaying…So when are we leaving? Can we go yet?”
I yawn “I guess we can go soon, we’ll wait for the other two to wake up and then we can gather some provisions and go.” Reyuma stirs next to Talow. Her black eyes open and a snow flake positions itself on the end of her nose. “Talow wake up! Talow wake up! Talow wake up!”
“Huh? Wah? What is it? What’s happening?” Talow sits squinting in the morning light. “Snow!” Reyuma gathers several flakes in her hands and presents it to Talow. “Ooh it’s pretty. I haven’t seen snow in a long time. The last time would have to be…years ago.” She sits observing the shiny white flecks until they melt in the warmth of Reyuma’s palms. Xzenox grabs my arm pulling me to my feet “Okay everyone is awake now so let’s go, come on.”
“You have to wait a second Xzenox, we get provisions first, and then we go, okay?” he folds his arms, anger flaring in his eyes.
“Don’t you want to get Zasha back as soon as possible?” he says.
“Yes! I do! With every ounce of my soul! But in order to survive the path to the north, we need supplies. We can’t get there without them.” I yell. His anger fades a little and he nods “Right…let’s…get supplies then.”
We all gear up, gathering weapons and food which was still left within the remains of the shack. With the first flakes of the winter’s cold falling from the grey skies, it was important that we make our journey as quick as possible. As we past the cluster of houses which made up the village, I could see that the town was in disarray. Our escape had caused some havoc but I’m sure they will recover soon. Arching around to the back of the village we continued up out of the forest and onto the path of the grassy plain between the hills. The further away from the forest we got, the more snow that appeared upon the once life-filled ground. It didn’t take long for the snow to start biting at our ankles. Reyuma had to be carried by Maize; the snow was too difficult for her to be walking in. The small feet of a six year old were no match for the five inch deep layer of icy white. The plain stretched all the way from the forest village to the next. There would be no shelter or places where we could rest in warmth along this path. There would be neither caves nor trees of which we could sleep under. This was the quickest way to the Northern village. The only way to the Northern village. Lord Talson had chosen his location carefully. He knew that we would have to cross through here to get to him. He was most likely hoping that we would die on the way, but there’s no way I am going to lose to something as lowly as a little bit of snow. Xzenox -who is at the head of the group- stops in his tracks. “What is it?” I ask. I catch up to him and stand by his side. I look down in the snow, at the figure which lay ahead of us. “What’s a person doing all the way out here?”