Purification episode 49: Winding Tunnels.

The tunnels were a pain. According to Twila, some of them were naturally occurring while others had been deliberately dug by the dark elves. The result was a mess of winding, twisting paths that came to abrupt halts at places or merged unexpectedly with others. Axra found herself relying on Lilly’s sense of direction, knowing that she would be going in circles before too long if she were by herself. 

They had reported back in for the second time. No one had found anything yet. 

“Wait,” Lilly said. 

“What is it?” Twila asked, pausing. 

“That’s the way we went before,” Lilly said. “We need to take the other fork.” 

“And this one might lead to a dead end too,” Axra said. “I’m so sick of these tunnels.” 

“They are quite difficult to navigate,” Twila said. “Lilly, you seem to have the best grasp of where we’ve been already. So, you lead the way.” 

“Oh… Okay, if you want me to,” Lilly said. 

She led them down the tunnel for a while until they came to another fork. 

“We haven’t been here before, right?” Twila asked. 

“No, we haven’t,” Lilly said. “Which way would you like to go?” 

“Let’s try the left,” Twila said. The three headed down the tunnel, eventually finding themselves against a wall. 

“Dammit!” Axra cried. 

“It’s okay,” Lilly said. “I know you’re frustrated. We all are… but I’m sure we’ll find our way.”

“We may already have,” Twila stated. She was examining the wall. “Look at this rock face.” 

“It looks about like any other wall to me,” Axra said.

“Not quite,” Twila said. “It’s very smooth. Here, feel.” 

Axra walked over and touched the wall. “Oh, so it is. Is it the entrance?” 

“Possibly,” Twila said. “I’ll cast a mapping spell. It should show how thick the wall is. If it’s thin enough, I’ll try phasing through it.” 

“Shouldn’t we all go?” Axra asked. 

“Well, it’s a bit risky,” Twila said. “I can’t know what’s on the other side until I’m actually there. So, I should go alone.” 

“Then send me,” Axra said. She quickly held up her hand to interrupt Twila’s protest. “You’re the only one who knows how to use that phasing thing. So, someone else should take the risk.” 

“Th… then I should be the one,” Lilly stated. “Af… after all, I… I’m the least important.” 

“You are not,” Axra said. She grabbed Lilly’s shoulders and looked her directly in the eyes. “You will always be important. I should go because I can draw my sword faster than you can notch an arrow, and I can keep swinging.” 

“B… but…” Lilly started to protest. 

“Calm down,” Twila interrupted. “Both of you. Listen to me for a moment. I have to go.” She looked from Axra to Lilly. “I just finished the mapping spell and I can get through the rock. But I’ll have to recast the phasing spell to get back here again. It won’t last long enough to make it a two way trip.”

“Then I’m going too,” Axra said. “To watch your back. I know you don’t want to risk anyone else, but there’s no way I’m letting any friend of mine go into something like this alone.” 

“M… me too,” Lilly said. “Th… there’ll be strength in numbers.” 

“Very well,” Twila agreed. “We’ll all go. After we’ve confirmed whether or not it’s the right place, we’ll come back and rendezvous with the others.” 

The three stood together while Twila cast her phasing spell. Axra felt her body tingling. She also felt strangely light. 

Twila nodded and the three ran into the wall. It felt a lot like swimming, but with greater weight and pressure. The three eventually came out the other side. They were on a ledge overlooking a pretty deep chasm. 

There were signs that a large staircase had been carved leading up to their platform, but over the years it had been overrun with subterranean plants and there were several visible gaps where segments had worn away and fallen.

Axra looked out at the bottom. She could see the tops of several large buildings. 

“We found it,” Lilly whispered. 

“Indeed,” Twila said. “Let’s go get the others.” 

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Purification episode 48: Delving Deep

Lysara returned looking dejected. She laid down on her sleeping bag and faced away from everyone. 

Bonnie returned roughly fifteen minutes after with a large amount of wood. “I’ll keep watch, Princess,” she said. 

“You can take the first watch,” Axra said. “Wake Velvet halfway through the night to take the second.” 

“Understood,” Bonnie stated. 

Axra took Lilly’s hand. “Come with me a moment,” she said. She led Lilly just out of sight of the camp. 

“W… what is it?” Lilly asked. 

Axra leaned forward. “What is going on with those two?” she whispered. “I know that you know.” 

“I… it’s none of my business, really,” Lilly said. “Or even… even yours.” 

“It could jeopardise our mission,” Axra argued. “If they’re bickering we need to get it resolved so they can work together. Don’t you agree?” 

“I… don’t… I don’t think it’ll be a problem,” Lilly muttered. 

“You know I trust you,” Axra said. “If you tell me that it won’t interfere with Bonnie’s skills, I’ll believe you and let it drop. So, is this going to affect Bonnie’s skills?” 

“I… it wo… it probab…it probably will,” Lilly stated. “But… but it isn’t something we can fix. Bonnie… she… she’s in love with Lysara. But, the thing is, she doesn’t want to admit it.” 

Axra was taken aback. She turned away from Lilly and looked towards the camp. “I wasn’t expecting that,” she said. “Don’t know what I was expecting… something I could fix, I suppose.” She sighed. “Thanks for telling me, though.” 

*****

They continued their trip the next morning with Lysara and Bonnie not talking to each other. Lysara kept glancing at Bonnie whereas Bonnie deliberately avoided looking at Lysara. 

Axra talked with Twila and Lilly. She avoided mentioning Bonnie’s situation but she did think about it. On one hand, it would be good for her if they got together. It would keep Lysara away from Twila. But that was a selfish thought and she was ashamed of it.

They finally reached the underground entrance. Like before, they left the horses with the dark elf guards. 

“Velvet, leave the dogs too,” Axra ordered. 

“Why?” Velvet asked. 

“Because we’re going into a dangerous area and I don’t want them hurt,” Axra stated. 

“What a pain,” Velvet muttered. “Now I gotta walk.” He got out of his wagon and reluctantly gave his dogs into the care of the dark elves. 

“Be good puppies okay, Vicki, Jaime, Leela, Turlough, Ace and Lucy,” Lilly said, speaking in a quiet, soothing manner. The dogs wagged their tails and looked up at her. 

Twila cast a darkvision spell on herself, Lilly, Lysara, Bonnie and Reginald before they proceeded downwards. 

Their guide took them to the city gates before returning to the surface. 

The group hurried through the city and to the tunnels on the other side. 

“So, the old city is through here?” Reginald asked. “Quite noisy for a taboo area.” 

“We aren’t in the old city yet,” Twila said. “These tunnels are used for several purposes.” She pointed to one that sloped very slightly downwards. “That one leads to the mines. And that one…” she pointed at one sloping slightly upwards “leads to some fields. They grow several kinds of edible mushrooms and other plants.”

“So, which one takes us to the old city?” Bonnie asked. 

“I don’t know,” Twila said. “The entrance was sealed off, remember? We’re going to have to find it.” 

“We’ll split into teams and search,” Axra said. “Lilly, Twila and I will check one area. Velvet and Lysara can check another. Reginald and Bonnie can check another. We’ll meet back here every hour and report. Come on, let’s go!” 

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WordPress Anniversary

One year ago I signed up for WordPress. Since then I’ve had 114 posts in my main blog, including the entirety of Omicron Squad and the current Purification story which has almost reached fifty posts. In my anime review blog, I’ve had 112 posts with both excellent and terrible anime popping up as well as everything in between.

It’s been a pretty productive year and I owe a lot of that to all of you. Yes, those of you who follow, read and occasionally comment on what I’m doing. With special thanks to Yvonne who drew this lovely image of Sirvanna from Omicron Squad.

Sirvanna by Yvonne

It’s thanks to all of you lovely people that I’ve come this far and I hope you’ll continue to support me for another year. I’ll keep doing my utmost to make the content compelling.

Now, since it’s been a year, I thought I’d ask a few questions of my readers.

1. Did you prefer Omicron squad or Purification? I’d highly appreciate it if you explained your answer.

2. In Purification, what are you hoping to see happen?

3. In Omicron, what part of the series did you like best?

4. Which character have you liked the best so far?

5. What do you think needs the most work in my writing? While I don’t guarantee that I’ll change anything, I will take any constructive criticism into consideration.

Feel free to answer as many or as few questions as you like, although I really would appreciate it if you answered a couple. If you don’t want to answer in a comment, my e-mail address is on my “about” page. Feel free to answer that way. And I’ll gladly answer any reasonable questions that you have as well.

In the meantime, enjoy these pictures of my dog (I could have put one up of myself, but I’m sure you’d rather see dog pictures.)

Dogtor

Would you like a Jelly Baby?

Thank you all again. Let’s have another great year.

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Purification episode 47: Painful Words

The three stood, hands linked. They moved slowly, carefully. One wrong move and they risked hitting the centre, and the violent backlash that would come from it. 

No amateur mage could have managed such a precise use of magic, but these three were all veterans, experienced practitioners of their craft. Slowly they cut away all the pieces of the spell until only the centre remained. Then, they cut off their efforts and opened their eyes. 

The snow had stopped everywhere save for a small area in the town square surrounding the ice sculpture of Lilly. They had done it. 

“That went well,” Isaac noted. 

“It’s unfortunate that we couldn’t dispel all of it,” Zero stated. “I suppose they’ll have to get used to the sculpture.” 

“It might be good for them,” Moira said. “An eternal snow surrounding a grand sculpture of a beautiful maiden. Travelers will come to see it.” 

“Perhaps,” Zero said. He walked away from the two. “Rachel, we’re going home!” 

*****

“Ahh the underground,” Reginald said. “You know, I’ve never been there.” 

“We have,” Lysara declared. “On this trip too. Right, Bon?” Bonnie ignored her, keeping her eyes ahead. 

“W… will your aunt be mad if we don’t stop by?” Lilly asked. “Maybe we should stop by her place again… just to make her happy.” 

“Aunt Elaine is very busy,” Twila said. “She won’t mind if we pass through without seeing her.” 

“We should stop by,” Reginald said. “After all, I would dearly love to meet your family, Fair Twila.” 

“Why?” Twila asked. 

“We don’t have time anyway,” Axra argued. “The longer it takes us to find these things the more danger Lilly’s in.” 

“I could stop by her place and visit for all of us,” Velvet suggested. 

“That wouldn’t be helpful,” Bonnie said. She turned to Axra. “It’s getting late, your Highness. I suggest we make camp.” 

“That okay with you, Twila?” Axra asked. 

“We probably should,” Twila conceded. 

The group found a clear space and quickly set up camp. 

“Hey, Bon…” Lysara began. 

“I’m going to find more firewood,” Bonnie said, excusing herself. 

“What’s up with them?” Twila wondered. 

“I… I wouldn’t know,” Lilly said. “How would I?” 

“Okay, so you do know,” Axra observed. “Come on, out with it.” 

“It… it’s complicated,” Lilly said. “And, you know, not my business.” 

*****

Bonnie took her time gathering wood. It was all about control. She just had to force herself to not react so strongly to Lysara’s attention. How was something that sounded so easy so damn difficult?

“Bon?” 

Bonnie froze. Lysara had followed her. “Bon, what’s the deal? I thought we were friends so why are you ignoring me?” 

Bonnie looked over into Lysara’s golden coloured eyes. Eyes that sparkled and pleaded. She felt her face flush. “Bon, talk to me, please.” 

Bonnie abruptly turned away. “I’m here as a soldier for my princess. Nothing more. Extra relationships… friendships… they aren’t part of my duty.” 

“So, you don’t care about anything aside from duty?” Lysara asked. She’d positioned herself back in Bonnie’s line of sight. 

Bonnie took a step back and looked to the side. “What else is there to care about?” The words sounded weak even to her. 

“Bon, is that really true?” Lysara asked. “Why won’t you look at me?” 

“Gods you’re persistent!” Bonnie declared, forcing herself to look directly at Lysara. “I don’t have time for friends, okay?” 

“Sorry,” Lysara said, looking at the ground. “I’ll leave you alone.”

She walked sadly away and Bonnie felt a terrible pain in her chest, tears coming to her eyes. This was for the best, she told herself. But… she’d hurt Lysara and seeing the pain in the young bard’s eyes… Bonnie dropped to her knees and hid her face in her hands, hoping that no one else would come to find her. 

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Purification episode 46: Risky Plan

“You and Miss Solanis seemed close,” Axra noted. 

“She was always my favourite teacher,” Twila explained. 

“Is that right?” Axra asked. She wanted to ask if that was all. If there had ever been anything more between them, but she stopped herself. She was just jealous, that was it. It had to be it. 

The two found Velvet, Lysara, Lilly and Bonnie waiting. 

Lysara ran to Twila. “So, how did it go?” 

“We found leads for two artifacts that could help us,” Twila said. “The problem now is finding them.” 

“Well, we’ll just have to start with the last known locations,” Axra said. “She wrote them down for you, right?” 

“Yeah,” Twila answered. “The last time Zerstörelicht was seen was underground in the old city.” 

“The old city!” Lysara exclaimed. “We can’t go there, can we?” 

“What’s wrong with the old city?” Velvet asked. 

“It’s supposed to be highly dangerous,” Bonnie said. “Or so I’ve heard.” 

“I heard about it in my history lessons,” Axra stated. “Back before the cataclysm the dark elves lived deep, deep underground. Far below where they currently reside. During the wars, a powerful enemy was unleashed against them, and they were forced to flee upwards, sealing the old city behind them.” 

“Bu… but if it’s sealed, how do we get in?” Lilly asked. 

“Simple,” Twila said. “A phasing spell. We just have to find the old entrance and I can get us through whatever’s blocking it.” 

“Sounds like a hassle,” Velvet muttered.

“But what about the enemy?” Lysara asked. “Won’t they try to brutally murder us?” 

“There’s no guarantee they still exist down there,” Twila said. “It has been a long time since the great cataclysm and the war leading up to it.” 

“Perhaps,” Bonnie said. “But there’s no telling what now resides in the darkness.” 

“Bon, don’t scare me like that,” Lysara protested, squeezing Bonnie’s arm. Bonnie hastily pulled away from her. 

“I want to know,” Twila said. “Even if it’s dangerous, I want to know what’s down there.” She looked over at Lysara. “You don’t have to come, I can go alone.” 

“We’ve been over this already,” Axra said. “We’re coming with you.” 

“Yeah,” Lysara’s voice sounded uncertain. “We’re all coming.” 

“Sounds like everyone’s having an interesting conversation,” Reginald said. “What did I miss?” 

“We’ve found information about some artifacts,” Twila explained. “We’re going to go to the old city to try and find one.” 

Reginald whispered. “Interesting. Well, let’s be off then, shall we?” 

*****

Zero paced back and forth. 

“Calm down, Father dearest,” Rachel said. “Here, I made you some tea.” 

“Another failure,” Zero whispered. “We’ve gotten nowhere.” 

“That isn’t quite true,” Moira said. “After observing your efforts these past few attempts, I think I’ve got the key to dealing with the problem.” 

“Really?” Zero asked. “What is it? Tell me!” 

“Step back,” Isaac warned. “She’s about to.” 

“The spell’s focal point is the square,” Moira stated. “Every time you begin dispelling it, the counter-reaction kicks in once you attack the focal point directly. It should be possible to dispel the spell around it while leaving that point intact.” 

“But that would keep the snow going,” Zero said. 

“Only in the square itself,” Moira stated. “Everything around it would go back to normal. The people of Choltin would be able to live their normal lives. Just with a small area in town that’s constantly covered in snow.” 

“In any case, it would be way better than it is now,” Isaac argued. 

“True enough,” Zero conceded. “Very well. We’ll leave that part of the spell intact. I’ll send word out to everyone to prepare for the attempt.” 

“Not necessary,” Moira said. “If I’m right, the three of us should be able to manage it. We’ll just have to direct our magic carefully, avoiding that point.” 

“You seem confident,” Zero observed. “Very well, we’ll try it your way.” 

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Purification episode 45: Information Gathering

“So, who are we talking to?” Axra asked. 

“There are three teachers who might be able to help us,” Twila said. “Ms. Solanis, Mr. Starsky and my mother.”

“Your… mother,” Axra muttered. 

Twila nodded. “Ancient artifacts is one of her areas of expertise.” 

Axra suddenly felt very nervous and exposed. She was going to meet Twila’s mom. What should she say? How should she act? Should she try to impress her or adopt a more humble attitude?

“Oh, there’s Mister Starsky,” Twila said. Axra looked over. He was an old dwarf with a beard going down to the floor and an absurd pointed hat decorated with ostentatious embroidered stars. “Mister Starsky!” Twila called. 

The old dwarf looked over. “Oh, if it isn’t young miss Magia. I haven’t seen you in class for a while. You haven’t been slacking, have you?” 

“I’ve moved on to independent study, remember?” Twila asked. 

“Oh yes, I suppose you did,” he said. “How is that working out?” 

“Well, I did find something of major interest,” Twila said. “And, unfortunately, very dangerous.” 

“Oh,” he exclaimed. “Is that so?”

“It is,” Twila said. She explained to the old dwarf about how they’d found the chambre with Eritos and their journey to learn her identity, leaving out any mention of the djinn or their trip to the moon. 

“A half goddess,” he muttered. “That’s bad, very bad indeed.” 

“That’s why I came back,” Twila explained. “Do you know of any artifacts that might be of use in stopping her?” 

“Artifacts for use against one such as that are rare indeed,” he muttered. “If you could find one of the divine artifacts it could very well do the trick.” 

“Do you know of anything else that might help?” Twila asked. 

“Something else…” he trailed off. He removed his cap for a moment to scratch his bald head underneath. “Miss Solanis might.”

“I’ll happily check with her, of course,” Twila said. “If you do come up with an idea, contact me with a sending spell.” 

“Yes, of course,” he said. 

*****

“Hey guys,” Lysara said. “Still waiting for Twila to get back?” 

“That was a short performance,” Lilly noted. “But I’m sure it was very good.”

“I wish,” Lysara said. “Seems like no one hangs out at the pub in this town. The library was pretty packed, but they wouldn’t let me play there.” 

“Well, maybe the pub gets busy at night,” Lilly suggested. 

“Could be,” Lysaa shrugged. “Hey, Bon…” Bonnie picked herself up from the ground and walked away. “Guess she didn’t hear me.” 

“W… well, she is thinking really hard,” Lilly said. “I’ll go… make sure she doesn’t wander anywhere dangerous.” 

Lilly hurriedly followed Bonnie. 

“I… I don’t mean to pry,” she said. “But avoiding her… is it really a good idea?” 

“I’ve decided what to do,” Bonnie said. “These feelings… they’re in the way. The only thing I can do is rid myself of them.” 

“I… I don’t think it’s that easy,” Lilly said. 

“It doesn’t matter,” Bonnie stated. “I can’t fulfill my duty t the Princess, to Nervius as long as they’re holding me back. So, I’ll relinquish them. I’ll make myself forget what I feel for her and I’ll go back to my duties.” 

“Do… do you really need to force yourself like that?” Lilly asked. “I mean… can’t you love someone and do your duties?” 

Bonnie put a hand on Lilly’s shoulder. “I respect what you go through for your love of the princess, but in your case your duty to protect her benefits from that. In my case, I don’t have any duties towards her. These feelings are nothing but an indulgence I can ill afford. The best thing I can do is forget them.” 

*****

Miss Solanis was a pale elf with long teal coloured hair and pale purple eyes. Twila was lightly blushing the entire time she was explaining the situation to her. 

“My, you have been through a great deal,” Solanis said. “And you need to know some artifact that might aid you besides the divine ones?” 

“Yes, Miss Solanis,” Twila said. 

“You’re in luck, my faithful student,” Solanis said. “Lately I’ve been studying weapons forged by Hephaestus and left on the mortal realm. There are three with whereabouts that are unknown. The first is a staff called simply the staff of elements. The second is your friend’s blade, Todberührung. Which I suppose I’ll have to mark off of the unknown category.” She looked over at Axra. “I really would love a chance to examine it sometime.” 

“Maybe once we’ve beaten Eritos,” Axra said. 

“Of course,” Solanis said. “The final weapon is called Zerstörelicht. But I don’t know what kind of weapon it is or what it does. I can give you the last known locations for both the staff of elements and Zerstörelicht, though.” 

“I would be most grateful if you would,” Twila said. 

“I’ll get it written down for you,” Solanis said. “Be careful, Twila. This quest may prove dangerous indeed.” 

“I will,” Twila said. “By the way, have you seen my mother around?” 

“Moira went to Choltin along with Isaac and several others,” Solanis stated. “Something about a difficult spell that needed dispelling.” 

“I see,” Twila said. “Well, thank you for your time.” 

“May the Gods be sympathetic to your cause,” Solanis said. She hugged Twila. Far too tightly and long as far as Axra was concerned. What kind of teachers did this academy hire anyway? The two separated and Axra followed Twila out of the academy. 

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Purification episode 44: Bonnie’s feelings

“I’ll draw its attention!” Shin cried. “Try to bring it down while it’s focused on me.” 

He faced the golem with his shield out in front of him. He didn’t even reach for his sword, instead he put both hands on the shield. He managed to roll under the golem’s initial blow. The second came directly after. He put his shield in front of it, preventing serious injury but nearly getting sent flying backwards. 

While the brunt of the golem’s attack was focused on Shin his allies moved behind it. Their mage began preparing a spell while the other two worked out a plan to trip the monster up. 

Shin evaded another couple of blows. Keeping the golem’s attention wasn’t a problem but staying alive was proving to be a grave challenge indeed. 

both the golem’s fists came down at Shin. His shield split in twain under the force of the blow, sending shards of tempered steel into his flesh. His arms felt limp and weak. 

He dropped to the ground and rolled as far away as he could, but the golem wasn’t far behind. Lumbering towards him.

His troops interfered then. Hacking at the golem’s lower legs. It stopped its pursuit of Shin and went after them. They ran back the way they’d come, staying just barely out of its reach. They led it back towards the mage who finished her spell and hurled a ferocious cone of ice around the golem. Its movements slowed, eventually stopping altogether. 

“Shin, are you all right?” The young man hurried over to him. The other soldier brought out her war hammer and shattered the now brittle golem. 

*****

The Academy was composed of a large domed building with pillars around the entrance arch. It was an impressive, even imposing, sight.

“I thought they’d have more decoration,” Lysara said. “Isn’t it a little… I don’t know, bare?” 

“It’s made for practicality,” Twila answered. “There’s really no need for extraneous decoration.” 

“Well, it’s still totally magnificent,” Lysara said. “The architects must’ve been really skilled.” 

“I’d give you a tour,” Twila said. “But we really should hurry.” She dismounted. Fang shifted his position on her shoulder. “I don’t know how long I’ll be. The main town has some recreational facilities if you need them.” 

“I’ll come along,” Axra said. “Maybe I can help you find the books you need.” 

“I didn’t really come for books,” Twila said. “I came to speak with a couple of the instructors. Still, you’re welcome to come along.” 

“I’ll stay right out here with the dogs,” Velvet volunteered. 

“I’ll check the recreational areas,” Reginald said. “It has been quite some time since I’ve been to a city of high culture.” 

“Bon, you wanna watch me perform at the nearest pub?” Lysara asked. 

“No,” Bonnie snapped. “I’ve been to enough of your performances.” 

“Oh, okay,” Lysara said. “See you soon, then.” 

It didn’t take long before Bonnie, Lilly and Velvet were outside of the academy on their own. 

“I… I don’t mean to pry,” Lilly said. “But what was that about?” 

“What was what about?” Bonnie inquired.

“Well, earlier you threw a rock at Reginald,” Lilly said “And the way you just talked to Lysara… are you okay?” 

“I’m fine,” Bonnie stated. “I don’t really know why I threw that rock or why I’m irritated with Lysara.”

“Are you sure?” Lilly asked. “I… I’m not trying to force you but we’re friends so, you know, if you want to talk… I’m here.” 

“I just felt really irritated with him and his flirting,” Bonnie confessed. “And there’s something about her… I don’t know how to describe it. I just feel really confused when she’s around. When I see her fawn over Twila I get really mad. Honestly, how pathetic is that? But…” Bonnie took a deep breath. “But when she calls me Bon, when she talks to me or smiles, I just get this strange feeling and I don’t know how to react to it. It’s like my stomach and brain just start tingling.” 

“Hmmm,” Lilly muttered. “Maybe, and this is just a guess so don’t be mad if it’s wrong, but just maybe… could it be love?” 

“Love?” Bonnie stated, incredulously. “Me? That’s ridiculous! I don’t love her! I don’t even care about her in the least.” 

“Of course you don’t,” Velvet chimed in. “She’s overly bubbly. Excitable. And she’s just following along with no idea of what she’s doing. You might even call her obnoxious.” 

Bonnie stomped over to his wagon and slapped him. 

“I thought you didn’t care about her in the slightest,” Velvet said, rubbing his cheek. 

“I… I…” Bonnie dropped to the ground near Lilly. “By the Gods… it is love.” She looked over at Lilly. “What in Tartarus do I do?” 

“I… can’t answer that,” Lilly said. “You… you could tell her how you feel or, maybe, you could be satisfied just to be by her side.” 

“Like you are with the Princess?” Bonnie asked. “I really don’t know if that’s my style. I need to think about this.” She looked over at Velvet. “I can’t believe I let this guy trick me.” 

“I didn’t trick anyone,” Velvet sighed. “Not even a bit. What you want to admit to is your own business.” 

“Well, let’s leave it at that,” Bonnie agreed. She lay down on the grass and stared up at the sky. 

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Purification episode 43: Shin Trapped

“So, where are we headed, My Dear Ladies?” Reginald asked. 

“To the Academy,” Twila answered. “I need to find something that I can use against Gail.”

“D… do we really need to fight her?” Lilly asked. “Maybe… just maybe, if we plead our case she’ll see things our way and behave herself.”

 Axra let out a loud disapproving grunt and stuck her nose in the air.

“It was just an idea,” Lilly muttered. 

“It wouldn’t hurt to try talking with her,” Twila agreed. “But if that fails we’re going to need to be prepared to fight. Which means that we’re going to need some kind of artifact or spell that can stand against a half Goddess.”

Axra held up Todberührung. “She said this sword was Hephaestus’ work, right? So, if I can cut her with it won’t it kill her?” 

“Possibly,” Twila said. “But I wouldn’t want to go into a potential battle with a single blade to rely on. It’s not that I don’t trust your abilities, but I really don’t like the thought of you fighting while I stand back and hope for your success.” 

“I understand completely,” Axra said. “We’ll find you a weapon too and the two of us can make short work of Eritos or whatever she wants to call herself.” 

“Remember,” Lilly cautioned. “We… we’re going to try talking first.” 

“I’ve never been to the Academy before,” Lysara said. “I’ve heard it’s totally magnificent.” 

“It is quite pretty,” Twila stated. 

“How romantic,” Lysara said. “Don’t you think so, Bon?” 

“I wouldn’t know about things like that,” Bonnie answered. 

“No way!” Lysara cried. “You have to know about romance. You’re a girl!” 

“Always have been,” Bonnie said. “But that and this have nothing to do with each other.” 

“Twila, help me out,” Lysara said. “Girls need to know about romance, right?” 

“I shouldn’t think so,” Twila said. “Romance was never a part of my curriculum.” 

Reginald winked at Lysara. “You’ll find me quite well-versed in the romantic arts, Madame.” A stone flew backwards and barely missed hitting him in the face. “What? Where?” He looked around frantically. 

“Careful,” Bonnie said. “These roads aren’t great. You never know what the horses are going to kick up.” 

*****

It was yet another dilapidated building. “All right,” Shin said. “Gather up two groups of four to examine the inside. Everyone else will remain out here in case they try to escape. I’ll lead one and Caide will lead the other.” A dark elf woman nodded. 

“The Hestial League may have numbers, but they certainly don’t have any wealthy backers,” Caide quipped. 

“True enough,” Shin said. 

“Be careful in there,” she said. “Wouldn’t want a loose bit of ceiling falling on your head.” 

“I’m more worried about the League,” Shin said. 

“Assuming they’re in there instead of the buildings Mister Lulu or Axel went to check,” Caide said. 

The two led their parties in opposite directions. Shin kept a close eye on the shadows and the floors, hoping for some sign of the League. He hated the idea of his uncle being the one to find them. 

His team found their way to a large chambre. Probably a mess hall or a meeting room back when the building saw regular use. Right now, there was nothing inside except a large pile of rocks. 

Shin went inside first, shield ready. His team followed quickly behind him. Their final member paused for a moment when coming in. 

“Something wrong?” Shin asked. 

“I felt something… strange. Something magic,” she said. She stepped inside the chambre. Behind her, a stone wall slid over the door. 

“Damn,” Shin muttered. “A trap.” 

“Captain! The pile of rocks… it’s converging.” 

Shin looked over. The stones were indeed coming together. They quickly formed a large humanoid figure towering over them at nearly four metres tall. 

“A golem,” Shin muttered. “Approach it carefully,” he ordered. “We have to bring it down quickly and carefully.” 

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Purification episode 42: To Stay or Go

Twila returned to find Axra waiting for her, leaning against the Inn’s wall. 

“Yo,” Axra greeted. “Everything go okay?” 

“It went very well,” Twila said. “Thank you for asking.” 

“No need to be formal with me,” Axra said. “C’mon. Lilly and I booked the three of us a room.”

Twila followed behind. It wasn’t as large as her aunts’ room, but it was more than enough for the three of them. 

“There’s something I need to tell you both,” Twila said. “And I’m going to need you to promise me you won’t say anything until I’ve finished.” 

“Oh, of course,” Lilly agreed. 

“No problem,” Axra said. 

“Okay then,” Twila said. “Eritos getting free was my fault. Lilly’s predicament is my fault. Fixing these problems is my responsibility. So, I want you both to return to Nervius with Velvet and Bonnie. I’ll also ask Lysara and Reginald to move on. It’s my responsibility and I’ll take care of it. I’m certain that I can find something of use against her.” 

“You done?” Axra asked. Twila nodded. “It’s not happening,” Axra stated. “I was there when you undid the seal and I encouraged you to do it. It’s easily as much my fault as it is yours. So I’m going to go with you even if you blast me with a spell or something. I will stay by your side because I…” Axra looked away, feeling her cheeks flush. “Because I care about you. We’re comrades, after all.” She turned to Lilly. “You can return to Nervius. My dads won’t like it, but I don’t want to see you hurt.” 

Lilly shook her head. “Oh, no. I… I couldn’t possibly leave you. I… that is to say… my place is with you. Not, you know, as a servant… but as a friend.” 

“You guys,” Twila protested. “I don’t want to see you get hurt because of my mistake.” 

“And we don’t want to see you hurt,” Axra countered. “So we’re going with you. In the morning I’ll offer Velvet and Bonnie the chance to go home. But it’s been settled. The three of us are sticking together.”

“Very well,” Twila said. “I suppose I can’t stop you. But that does leave us with one unanswered question. Who gets the bed?” 

Axra couldn’t help but chuckle. It was a stupid thing to laugh over, but she was feeling relieved that the matter had been settled. 

She looked over at the single bed. “You can take it,” she told Twila. 

“I couldn’t possibly,” Twila said. “Lilly?” 

“Oh… it should be Axra who takes it,” Lilly said. 

“I already said you could have it,” Axra said. 

“We could draw straws,” Twila suggested. 

“Ummm… there’s probably enough room for all of us,” Lilly noted. “It is… pretty big.” She glanced from Axra to Twila. “I’m sorry… was that weird? I… I wasn’t trying to sound weird. Please don’t think I’m weird.”

“It is sufficiently large,” Twila said. “Although it will be quite close.” 

“Yeah,” Axra agreed. “No big deal. Let’s go with that.” 

*****

In the morning Axra summoned Bonnie and Velvet to her side. 

“You’ve both stayed by my side and kept me safe,” Axra said. “You’ve fulfilled your duties admirably. And I’ve written up commendations saying as much.” She handed them each a letter. “Now, I’m freeing you of that duty. You may return to Nervius with your heads held high.”

“And you, Princess?” Bonnie asked. 

“I’m gonna hang with Twila and Lilly,” Axra said. “Nothing that’s going to require your services.” 

“Are you ordering us away?” Bonnie asked. 

“Not ordering, no,” Axra said. “I’m telling you to do what you want.” 

“What I want is to continue this journey,” Bonnie said. 

“Going all the way back by myself is a hassle,” Velvet muttered. “Cooking, setting up camp, getting debriefed, receiving new orders… It’s too much of a pain.” 

“We could be looking at trouble with a half-Goddess,” Axra warned. “It’ll be better for you to go home.” 

“That’s an excellent reason to remain at my post as your guard,” Bonnie stated. 

“I really hate cooking,” Velvet said. 

“You guys…” Axra began. 

“Didn’t you just say that we can do as we wish?” Bonnie interrupted. 

“Well, yes,” Axra said. 

“Then it’s settled,” Bonnie said. 

The three walked outside to find Lysara holding tightly onto Twila’s arm. 

“What’s going on?” Axra demanded. 

“I suggested that she and Reginald return to their respective wanderings,” Twila explained. “And this happened.” 

“I won’t let go!” Lysara cried. “Going without me is definitely, definitely not allowed!” 

“Did you explain that we may have to fight Eritos?” Axra asked.

Twila nodded. “She insists on coming along regardless.” 

“Ladies,” Reginald said. “We’re wasting the morn. Let’s continue onward on our valiant quest!” 

“So did he,” Twila added. 

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Purification episode 41: Falcon’s Feather

Axra and Lilly found the rooms that Lysara and the others were staying in without any trouble. There were two of them, side by side. There was no answer from the first so they moved to the second. Inside, they found Velvet lying on the floor with his dogs surrounding him. The canines promptly rose and moved over to Lilly. 

“That didn’t take too long,” Velvet muttered. 

“We’re leaving in the morning,” Axra said. “Be ready.”

“What a hassle,” Velvet said. 

“Ummm, where are Lysara and Bonnie?” Lilly asked. 

“They’re at a local tavern. The Quail’s claw or something,” Velvet answered. “Reginald is resting in the room right now.” 

“Who?” Axra asked. 

“The elf who helped us while Velvet and Bonnie were away,” Lilly explained. 

“Oh, right,” Axra said. “I forgot about him for a moment.” She shrugged. “Well, you and Reginald can prepare the supplies. Lilly and I will go fetch Bonnie and, I guess, Lysara.” 

*****

Twila and Fang arrived just in time to meet Reira and Lexine on their way out. 

“Wow, you finished your research much faster than I thought you would,” Lexine said. 

“Our young Twila’s a smart young woman,” Reira stated. “Let’s see… oh my, that is bad.” 

“I just came to thank you,” Twila said. “For all your help.” 

“Are you going to need help against Eritos?” Reira asked. 

“Don’t worry about Eritos,” Twila answered. “I’ll think of something.” 

“Well, if you change your mind you know sending spells,” Reira said. 

“Just once I wish you’d let her explain so I know what’s going on,” Lexine said. “You’re always like this.” 

“And yet you never stop loving me even for a second,” Reira said. “Don’t worry. I’ll explain later.” 

“Well, I should be getting back to the others,” Twila said. “I wish you both well with your travels.” 

“And we wish you and your companions well,” Lexine said. 

“Hold up,” Reira said. “About this difficult decision of yours. Sometimes, the best choices aren’t the most obvious.” 

*****

Lysara played her lyre while singing a melody for the tavern’s patrons. Several stopped by to drop coins in her bag while she worked. She finished her set and went to grab a drink when a young nobleman approached her. 

“You have a lovely voice, Dear Lady,” he said. “Perhaps you’d care to ditch your bodyguard and grant me a private performance?” 

“No thanks,” Lysara said. “And Bon isn’t my bodyguard. She’s a friend.” 

“oh yes, I see,” he said. “Well, it’s disappointing but I understand.” He dropped some coins on the counter in front of her. “The songs were lovely. I do hope you’ll continue performing.” 

He walked away whistling happily. 

“Thought I was going to have to break his arm,” Bonnie muttered. 

Lysara laughed. “Oh, Bon. Not everyone who approaches me is a fiend who needs to be beaten back.”

“I’m just looking out for you,” Bonnie said. 

“And I appreciate it,” Lysara said. “You want a drink?” 

“No,” Bonnie said. “And don’t have too much. I don’t wanna have to carry you back to the room again.” 

“That only happened once,” Lysara protested. 

“And we’ve only been waiting a few days,” Bonnie said. 

“Bonnie!” Axra called. She and Lilly hurried over. “I’s a good thing we found you. That idiot told us you were at the Quail’s Claw.” 

“How do you even confuse that with the Falcon’s Feather?” Lysara asked. She looked around. “Where’s Twila?” 

Bonnie turned and saluted. “Ready for orders, Highness.”

“Where’s Twila?” Lysara asked. 

“I don’t have much for you in terms of orders,” Axra said. “Just be ready to depart tomorrow morning.” 

“Understood,” Bonnie said. 

“Hey, where’s Twila?” Lysara asked. 

“She… she went to see her aunts real quick,” Lilly answered. 

“That stinks,” Lysara muttered. She pouted for a moment and drained her glass. She hiccuped and fell over. Lilly moved over to check on her.

“Request permission to take her back to the Inn,” Bonnie said.

“Go for it,” Axra said. Bonnie knelt down and cradled Lysara’s sleeping body in her arms. She then managed to get her lyre under her right arm. 

Axra looked over at Lilly. “Well, that was weird.” 

“She… she doesn’t seem good at handling her liqueur,” Lilly observed. “I hope she doesn’t have a really bad hangover.” 

“If she does I’m talking super loudly,” Axra said. “Come on. Let’s go meet up with Twila and the three of us’ll get our own room.” 

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