Singe stares at her bleak surroundings, fear naked in her eyes. She has never been truely alone before. Since the time she was born from the flames her brother and sister have always been there to protect her, to look after her when she has nightmares, to make her laugh when she feels sad, to find her if she gets into trouble while exploring the world. Even on this adventure away from them she'd had Sylas to watch out for her, and she'd been eagerly planning how best to boast to her siblings about crossing the river all by herself without being frightened or anything. Now no one can reach her.
Swaying gently to stop her ever growing panic from consuming her, she fumbles in her pouch for her pack of cards. Risk had warned her before the fight that her luck was running out but she hadn't listened; she'd ignored the card because she wanted to show everyone how clever and fast she was. And then the horrible god-like creature had Sylas by the throat, and she'd been so scared that it had killed him, and Farrek and Darvan had said they needed the bracelet, and she thought with it they could do a ritual and save everyone with it, but the bracelet was on the creature's arm... Scorch and Cinders were going to be so angry with her.
Shuffling the cards with trembling fingers, she holds them face down and turns over the top card. Queen of Spades. Risk has forgiven her. Smiling, she carefully puts the cards away before looking around again, hoping to see Sylas or another Hero who hadn't survived the attack. Instead, the landscape is empty. Distant sounds of fighting and snarling quickly wipe the smile from her face, and she starts to chant.
"Lady Risk, keep me safe from anyone who wants to hurt me and hide me from their sight. Let them look through me as if I wasn't there so I can move past unharmed and find someone who can help me. I have lost my bet with Death but your blessing is still with me." ((OOC Invisibility))
Once invisible she feels a little safer, though her flaming body is still flickering with fear. She has to find Raile. He likes her and is clever and can help her get back to Scorch and Cinders, and she can tell him all about how she saved his baby. Even so, it is hard to move when everything around her screams danger.
"You're a Hero now, " she softly reminds herself. "Like the King in Sylas's story."
Very slowly she starts to walk forward, whispering a story to keep herself calm. It had been told to her at dawn, on the day she'd help save the world, and she had never forgotten it.
"Once upon a time there was a King who lost to a DragonLich. Now a DragonLich is the most evil and horrible thing in the world; it has the huge, scaly body of a lizard, with long, sharp claws and teeth, and the black, souless eyes of a LIch, with a heart so dark and terrible and full of evil desires that nothing can compare to it. And instead of killing its victims, as most nasty creatures do, it takes from them their most important skill and leaves them alive, crippled and useless. The KIng was the ruler of a tribe of powerful warriors, and in order to be King he had to be the best swordsperson in the tribe. But the DragonLich took his right hand, and without it he could not wield a sword. He tried with his left, but it was no good- he could no longer rule his people. His tribe was devastated because he had been a great and wise king, and no other could fight with a sword half as well as the KIng could with his right hand.
So the King asked his Wise Woman, the cleverest one in the tribe, what he should do. She said, "The DragonLich has taken your hand and now keeps it in his heart. This is where he keeps everyone's powers, so he can use them himself. To get back your hand you must kill him and take his heart."
The King knew that he alone could not kill the DragonLIch, for he had failed the first time, and now it had stolen his ability to use a sword and could use that power against him. So he asked a band of heroes to help him. The fight was long and hard and bloody, because a DragonLich is nearly impossible to kill, and the King was almost overcome with despair and exhaustion. But finally he managed to drive a weapon into the evil creature's lung, and it collapsed, dead.
"Quick!" said the Wise Woman. "Cut out its heart!" And the King did that, and put it in a box, and took it home. In most stories, defeating the DragonLich would have been enough to get the King's hand back, but this is a real story about a real Hero, and in real life things are not so simple.
"In order to get back your hand you must eat the DragonLich's heart," said the Wise Woman sadly. "But do not try all at once because it is so full of evil and poison that more than a sliver at a time will kill you." So the King cut off the tiniest tiniest piece of the foul, black heart, and slowly started to chew. It was the most disgusting thing he had ever eaten, and it was all he could do not to throw it back up. Even once he had managed to swallow it, it gave him terrible stomach cramps, and he felt so ill that he had lie down for the rest of the day. When it came to the next dawn, the King felt a lot better, so he took out the box, cut another tiny piece of the heart off, and ate it. Again it made him horribly horribly ill, but the next dawn he had recovered just enough to eat another tiny piece. This went on for many months, with the King eating a tiny piece every day, and feeling iller and iller. His friends and advisers could not bear to see him in such agony, and begged him to stop, but he refused. Eventually, they were so much despair and had lost so much faith in their king that they tried to hide the heart, or pretend to him that he had eaten some when he hadn't, and he had to take the heart and go out alone into the wild. He slept in a cave and drank dirty water from a stream because he was too weak to look for food and his body was too ill to cope with eating anyway. And every day he ate a tiny piece of heart.
One day, the King looked at the heart and realised that there was only one tiny piece left. I could probably eat that in one go, he thought to himself. But this idea scared him so much that instead he decided that it was best not to risk it incase that last piece killed him. So he cut the tiny piece into two even tinier pieces, and left the last one for the next day. The next dawn he came across the same problem. His mind was feverish with the obession of eating the heart, and he could not summon the courage to consume the last piece. So once more he cut it in two. How long this went on for I don't know, but finally the heart could no longer be cut, and he was forced to eat the last piece. And as soon as he swallowed it, the illness was lifted from his body and his hand grew back.
He ran back to his tribe, laughing with happiness as he did so. At first they didn't recognise him because his hair was matted and dirty and he was dressed in rags and he was so thin all his ribs were showing, but the Wise Woman knew who he was, and once he held a sword in his right hand everyone could see she was right. So the King became ruler again, and everyone was happy.
If this was a story it would end there, but this is real and it doesn't. Perhaps a year had passed since the King had got his arm back when a messenger arrived at his door. He came from another part of the world on behalf of a friend, who had been a great warrior before he had been beaten by the DragonLIch that had taken the King's hand. This warrior had been the bravest man alive, but the DragonLich had stolen his courage, and now the warrior sat huddled in a room, terrified of his surroundings, but even more frightened of leaving them. "Please," begged the messenger. "Can you help him?"
"Well I don't know how," said the King. "But I will try." So he travelled to where the warrior lived. He found him shaking and trembling on the floor of a wooden hut, a plate of food beside him that he was too scared to eat because it might be poisoned, even though he was desperately hungry. The warrior's fear was so great that he was in constant panic that someone would attack him or something bad would happen, and only when he was totally exhausted did he ever sleep. Even then his dreams were full of nightmares. The King felt a great sadness, and understood what a terrible life this man must lead. At first he could think of no way to help, but then he remembered how eating the DragonLich's heart had given him his hand back, and that all the skills the DragonLich had ever stolen had been in that heart, and maybe those skills were now within him. So he took his sword and cut off half of his littliest finger on his right hand and gave it to the warrior to eat.
It took a long time to persuade the warrior to eat the finger, and eventually the King had to threaten to kill him if he didn't. But finally the warrior ate it, and once he did, all his courage came back. And he stood up, and thanked the King, and once more could adventure and protect the land.
A woman had watched what the King had done, and that night she went up to him and also begged him for his help. "My sister was once a very powerful healer," she explained. "But the DragonLich took her magic, and now she has no way to survive unless I give her food and shelter, for she was born blind, and without her magic cannot heal herself." The King agreed to help, and went to the healer and explained to her the situation. He cut off the rest of his little finger on his right hand, and she ate it, and suddenly all her magic was back, and she was able to heal everyone again. Word started to go round that the King could heal those who had been crippled by the Dragonlich, and people came from all over the world to ask him for help. The King did not refuse, for he understood their pain and torment, and every time he helped a victim, he cut a little bit of his right hand off.
Eventually all the people who had ever had their skills stolen from the DragonLich had them back. And the King no longer had a right hand. That's what it means to be a Hero."
Haze: A distrusting feline. With a mask.
Safina Kor: Human warrior from the Kor tribe (because everyone knows men can't fight...
Singe: Child-like efreeti scout.