***Chapter 1: The Last One***
“You don’t know what I’ve been through, Gavvar,” a man named Aldar said. “You can’t ask me to train you in a time like this.”
The young man named Gavvar sighed. “But you’re my teacher! Without you, where am I going to learn the knowledge?”
“You’ll get someone else. Don’t worry, I wouldn’t want my pupils to go without finishing their training. I’ve already appointed someone to take my place. She may not be as qualified as me, but she has been my apprentice since she was three,” Aldar replied. He smiled. “She showed great potential back then, but lately she’s been slacking off. I want you to be good to her and help her see how important it is to take druidism seriously.”
Gavvar groaned. “But master, why? Why this? Please, consider asking the elders for a healing! At least until this group of students is done with the training!” Tears sprung to his eyes. “But… you’re not going to, of course. Alright then.”
“It’s okay, Gavvar. You know if I got a healing to keep me alive until you were all done, I’d be around for another five or so years! You yourself have at least another three to complete, and you’ve been busy for the past six,” he said, and wheezed a little. “Just listen to what Carinn has to teach you, and I’ll see you when it’s your time. Now go, today’s lesson continues.”
Gavvar smiled and wiped his eyes. He turned and walked towards the door, but stopped when he reached the opening. He turned back to face Aldar, and said, “I’ll make you proud.”
Aldar nodded. “I know you will.”
“The knowledge of the ancient druids will be mine as well. In honor of you, I will unravel the gift of beasts, and the world will know my name, and the name of who taught me,” Gavvar said proudly, and left.
Aldar coughed and turned to the window beside the bed. “Good luck, young druid. Your path is unclear. Blurred. It is uncertain what destiny holds for you…”
“You must be Gavvar,” the young man heard from somewhere in front of him. He looked up and saw a young woman, who couldn’t have been much older than himself. She had dark red hair, which was sleek to her shoulders, where it curled up at the ends. Her deep, blue eyes looked serious but her face was kind and sweet, and Gavvar knew he would have no troubles with this girl.
“Yeah, that’s me. Sorry for being late, I was with Aldar,” he replied, looking down, for she was a couple inches shorter than him.
She smiled. “It’s alright, I understand. You were close to him I heard, so it must be hard for you.”
Gavvar sighed. “I’m losing a friend, mentor and the closest thing I have to a parent. But I’ll be fine. I just have to stick to my goal, and never forget him.”
The girl smiled even wider, exposing shining teeth. “Well, we should get started. As I already told the rest, we’ll be studying a special spell that should only be used with great caution, and only when truly necessary. The spell is so dangerous, that it never should
be necessary,” she said. She gazed at Gavvar as he laughed.
“You’re talking about the Spell of Reverse? The one that allows you to reverse your bloodstream’s flow and that of the one whom you’re in contact with? The one that can take away your own life if you don’t abort it on time? Yeah, I think I’ll skip this lesson, and I advise you not to teach it,” he said. His look became very serious as he said that. “That spell is extremely dangerous, and belongs to the top five most lethal spells in the world, and is number two in druidism.”
“Number three,” the girl said. “You’re forgetting the gift of the beasts.”
Gavvar laughed and shook his head. “That’s not a spell, and is hardly considered lethal. That’s more for support, and it’s a transformation. Spells require you to use your energies to be able to cast them, while the gift requires great discipline, concentration and of course, the understanding of the beast into which you wish to change.”
Everyone clapped, and the girl went red in the face. “I guess you’re right. I’m sorry, I just figured it would be good as a first lesson.”
Gavvar smiled. “Well, depends who you’re teaching. The whole class besides me has been studying for only a year, so the reverse spell is way too soon for them, and it has no use to teach me.”
“Oh? You know how to cast it then?” the girl asked, and Gavvar couldn’t tell if she was amazed or laughing at him on the inside.
“Yes. Master Aldar had taught me three years ago, that was one year before I lost my parents. When combat struck the village, I lost focus and cast it without realizing how dangerous it actually was,” he said, as tears began to roll down his face again. “The pain alone was almost fatal, and when I couldn’t stop it I grew frightened. My attacker froze in his tracks, for he had me pinned to the ground. I watched his eyes go wild, and he quickly died on top of me, and there was no way for me to stop…”
Everyone held their breath as they waited for him to gather the strength to finish his story.
“And then Aldar came to my rescue. When he touched me, I could see him writhe in pain, but he interrupted the spell, and brought me to safety as I watched the village burn, and…” he gasped for air. “And I watched my parents fall to the blade of Dimo’Ran, the warlord of the orcish tribe called Grimgrip. He came after the master and me, and that’s when I learned how to really control the spell. Master thought it would be the perfect teaching moment. Since then, the Grimgrip tribe has been hunting him down, along with a boy who was with him during the orc’s final hour.”
“That’s quite the tale. How old were you then?” the girl asked.
“I lost my parents when I was eighteen. I learned the spell when I was seventeen. But I heard you’ve been showing signs of druidism since you were three, so what I’ve learned is nothing compared to you,” Gavvar said quietly.
The girl blushed and looked down at her feet. “Who can say? Anyways, class dismissed. I’ll think up another lesson, and contact you all for the next date.”
She turned to Gavvar, who already knew she wished to speak to him.
“Aldar always spoke of you, you know. You were his favorite by far,” she said as they walked down the path to the giant lake that lay at the foot of the village. The trees were as green and alive as they always were, but why shouldn’t they be, when they have several druids taking care of them?
Gavvar looked up to the sky, thoughtfully. “Well, I have been around longer than anyone else. I was born and raised here, while the other druids come in from other places for training by the great druid Aldar. Heh…”
The girl stopped, and Gavvar followed suit. They looked at each other, and the girl stuck out her hand to shake. Gavvar took it, and she smiled.
“I’m Carinn, by the way. Thanks for asking,” she said with a small laugh.
“Aldar already told me, so it was nothing new to me,” Gavvar replied.
They let go of each other’s hands, and Carinn flew into Gavvar’s arms in an embrace and began to cry.
“I don’t want to lose him, Gavvar! He’s been so kind to me, and he’s always looked after me! What am I supposed to do without his guidance?” she cried loudly on his shoulder.
Surprised by this sudden turn of emotions, he returned the embrace and patted her on the back. He too, was sad, so he knew exactly how she felt.
“It’ll be fine. He’ll always be around, probably as a spirit of nature. He’ll keep an eye on us, don’t worry,” he said and looked at Carinn. Her eyes were bloodshot and her nose was red. He wiped the tears away from her face, and took a step back.
“You know the students won’t stay without Aldar. He’s the reason why they came. The next person they’d really listen to is me, but even then they know I was still nothing but a pupil myself,” Gavvar said sternly. “Make the right choice. Don’t set up a next lesson, and put an end to his legacy. His time has been great, and we shouldn’t take it into something less great.”
Carinn nodded. “His story ends here.”
Gavvar looked towards the lake and saluted the horizon. “Here’s to you Aldar, may you rest in peace, and forever protect the nature you fought for your whole life.”
Carinn also turned to the lake and dove in, making the water splash over the side at Gavvar’s feet. “Come on, follow me, there’s something I want to show you!”
Gavvar didn’t think twice, and dove right in after her, and followed her to the other side of the lake, where an enormous tree stood: the one that carried the great spirit of nature herself.
“You know what this place is, right?” she asked Gavvar as they pulled themselves onto the bank, after several minutes of swimming.
Gavvar nodded. “Of course I do. I am a druid after all. The Spirit Tree is nothing new.”
Carinn giggled. “The Spirit Tree… the name used by the ones in this village and the rest of the world, but not the proper name. Master never told you?”
“Its true name? He did,” Gavvar said as a dark look swept his face. “The Devil’s Horn… a tree planted by the master demon himself, in order to help dark spirits cross over from his realm to ours.”
Carinn looked amazed. “He really taught you a lot. I’m amazed he didn’t choose you as his follower.”
“He had his reasons, I guess. He probably didn’t like the way I dressed or how I combed my hair,” Gavvar said, and Carinn laughed.
“I just met you, but it feels like we’ve been friends forever,” she said.
“Probably because of our bond with Aldar. Such bonds can bond others as well. All it takes is a connection,” Gavvar replied. He turned to his new friend to smile, but noticed she had come really close. His heart began to beat furiously, and his face went numb. He could feel himself blushing, and wanted to pull away, but was scared to do so.
Carinn smiled and leaned in closer, and without another thought, it was Gavvar who closed the gap between them and kissed her, which didn’t last long.
A scream echoed from across the lake, and Gavvar quickly pulled back and could see smoke rising in the late afternoon sky. He jumped up to his feet and quickly dove back into the water and began to swim towards the village.
He heard Carinn behind him, and she was a much faster swimmer than him, for she had quickly caught up. “What do you think happened?” she asked in a frightened tone.
“I don’t know,” Gavvar wheezed back. “But when we get back, I want you to gather the woman and children that haven’t gone to safety and bring them to the temple. That’s the safest place of the village. The rest of us will do what we can to protect everyone.”
“The rest of you?” she asked curiously.
“The men,” he said shortly.
Carinn said no more, and hurried on ahead, and Gavvar tried to keep up, but failed. Finally, he reached the shore and saw half the village was burning. He quickly hurried forward and saw an enormous beast, with razor sharp claws and foot long fangs. It had a dark red fur with a white underbelly, and its blackened eyes were following something in front of him. When Gavvar got closer he saw it was Tulaan, a mighty warrior who had seen the battlefields all across the Lands, and even participated in several in his younger days.
Gavvar grabbed a sword from the ground and rushed forward to help the warrior, but was pushed to the ground by someone. Gavvar looked up and saw another dark and sinister creature lurking above him, ready to thrust its blade through the druids gut.
As the skeleton drove the blade down, it was blasted back by a great ball of energy produced by one of the mages. Gavvar nodded to him and turned back to Tulaan and the beast.
“TULAAN! YOU HAVE TO RUN, THAT BEAST ISN’T WHAT IT SHOULD BE!” Gavvar yelled.
“I KNOW! BUT I KNOW HOW TO DEAL WITH IT!” he shouted as he dodged the whirlwind of claw. “IT’S ONE FROM THE FALSE NEXUS! RUN, GAVVAR! GET EVERYONE… AARGGHHHH!”
Gavvar gasped as Tulaan was thrown aside against the side of the mountain that lay beside the village. The beast had slashed him, and drew back one of its immense paws again, ready to finish the job, but Tulaan easily rolled away, and staggered over to Gavvar.
“Don’t worry, I’ll try to heal you!” Gavvar yelled.
He began to focus upon the wound, and sought for the right energy current, but it couldn’t be found.
“The beasts and creatures from the False Nexus block several energy currents… my life ends here, Gavvar…” he coughed and spat blood on the ground as he fell. “Please, get everyone away from here. These beasts cannot be slain without…”
But what was needed to slay the dark creatures, Gavvar didn’t learn, for the beast swept Tulaan into his claw and swallowed him whole, and Gavvar watched the warriors’ axe fall to the ground.
“No… Tulaan…” Gavvar whispered, and quickly ran to grab the weapon, and as he tried to flee again, he was pinned to the ground by the beasts’ paw. It put its face up to Gavvar’s, and licked its lips, dripping blood onto the druids’ face.
Gavvar could hear people scream, and the scurrying of feet towards the temple. He could hear Carinn shout out his name, and Gavvar could hear himself cry for help. Any kind of help…
As the beast opened its jaws wide, ready to take a bite, Gavvar lost all focus, and became more frightened that he had ever been before. The images of his parents popped into his mind, being slain by the orcish warlord. The image of Aldar falling ill, and saying he was dying crept across his eyes. Carinn’s face swam into view, and a pain that pierced Gavvar’s very soul erupted inside him. He thought that the beast had struck, but he opened his eyes and saw it had frozen, and was twitching in what appeared to be pain.
Slowly, he could feel his life slipping away from him, and the druid realized he had activated the Spell of Reverse without even knowing it. He pulled his mind into focus, knowing Aldar wasn’t around to save him this time. He watched as the beasts’ giant head began to swell, and its eyes started to bulge. Gavvar heard more shouts, but could barely hear them. His own eyelids began to droop, and knew he had to break the spell soon.
“Gavvar, break it now,” he heard.
Gavvar’s mind became clear, and he saw everything perfectly. Within a mere second, he let out a shout of pain, threw off the beast and broke off the spell, returning his blood flow back to normal.
He got up slowly, clutching his heart, and watched as the beast twitched. The others who were fighting made sure none of the other vile creatures would reach the druid. He felt someone wrap themselves around him, and knew it had to be Carinn. He turned around to her, and pushed her back.
“Not now. Go back to the temple, wait until it’s safe!” he said.
She gave a little cough in protest, but she obeyed. Gavvar quickly turned back to see the beasts’ head had turned to look at him. It was a scary sight, but quickly its eyelids closed and the beast died.
“GAH!” Gavvar shouted out as something hard hit him on the back of the head. He fell to the ground, and drifted off…
<What should we do with him?>
<He’s here. We should use him.>
<But is he worth it?>
<He defeated a Nexus beast.>
<A False Nexus beast, the two can’t be compared.>
<He’s just a boy!>
<He is powerful. And so young, it is amazing.>
<He is waking.>
Gavvar opened his eyes and looked up. What he saw made him jump to his feet, and feel frightened yet again. What he saw was a rare sight, and it marked his doom for sure.
Four enormous dragons were towering above him, in a pitch-black area. Gavvar could see nothing but his own body and the magical creatures above.
“Who… are you?” he asked uncertainly.
<Don’t be frightened,> said the red dragon.
<We’re here to help you,> the blue one replied.
The green one nodded and the black one said or did nothing.
“Help… me?” Gavvar was confused. Was he dead? Dreaming? Or was he in some other world?
<Yes,> said the black dragon. <And in return, you will help us.>
<We will grant you knowledge. We can give you the knowledge to find and use the gift of the beasts, and you shall receive our very own blessings,> the green one added.
The red one dragon spoke next. <We are in need of a defender. The Lands have been plunged into darkness, and dark creatures are appearing from everywhere and out of nowhere.>
<It has come to our attention that your village was recently attacked by Nexus creatures,> the blue one said.
<False Nexus,> corrected the black one.
<False Nexus creatures. You slew the mightiest of the group, the Grim Kargrân, by using the most lethal druid spell, and successfully too,> said the blue dragon in a proud voice.
The green dragon took a step forward. <You may not realize it, but you possess great power. We wish to send you on a certain path, but that is if you take the right fork in the road.>
<We have forged your destiny. But you hold the power to change it. Somewhere along the road, you will come across a decision that will send you down either the path to the Lands’ salvation, or down the path that leads towards its destruction,> said the black dragon clearly.
Gavvar’s head was spinning. He was talking with dragons who wanted him to save the Lands.
<Don’t worry, druid. You will not remember any of this until you make your decision. After the choice is made, the path cannot be strayed from,> said the red one.
<We hope you make the right decision, when the time comes. Until then, accept the blessing of your old mentor, Aldar. He will help you in your quest,> finished the blue dragon, and Gavvar felt himself rising upwards.
The dragons faded from view, and another voice echoed inside his hear: “You are the last one with the power to protect the Lands. Its fate lies in your hands.”
Gavvar had no idea what was going on, but he did know he wouldn’t remember any of this, so he decided to ponder upon it no more…