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Title: The Gloam Invasion (A Free Realms What-If Fantasy)

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    Default The Gloam Invasion (A Free Realms What-If Fantasy)

    Prologue
    This is the story follows the perilous quest of five, ordinary teens who live in a distant realm, known as Sacred Grove, that gets invaded by mysterious evil creatures from an unknown land. Their world has been changed forever due to the arrival of these creatures. Now together they embark on a journey to fight for their world and hopefully return to their normal lives. Our story begins in the small peaceful town of Stillwater Crossing...

    Chapter 1: A Place Called Simplicity

    Spoiler: show
    Stillwater Crossing is a quiet town in the southeast of Sacred Grove. The town lies alongside a huge river that separates the two larger cities of Sanctuary, in the west, and Briarwood, in the east. It is the tranquil home of many warm-hearted, hospital people and is often the choice place for many travelling adventurers to stop and rest; the latest being famous adventurer extraordinaire, the beautiful Miss Stella Greenfield.
    Into town, she rides her trotting cocoa brown stallion. The townspeople murmur amongst themselves. "It's Stella Greenfield!" one says. "Who?" says another. "She's an amazing adventurer how don't you know about her? She's was last month's cover girl for Journeymen's Weekly!" "She's that great?" "Even better!"
    Out of the still growing crowd, walks a friendly face with thick, black, curly hair and grassy green eyes. To Stella Greenfield the cheerful woman says "Welcome to Stillwater Crossing adventurer! My name is Valerie and I'll be more than glad to assist you in any way I can to make your stay here a good one. Is there anything I can help you with?"
    Stella looked down upon her from atop her horse (in more ways than one). Very condescendingly she replies "Sorry but I don't have time to waste here. I have more important things to do."
    Her words immediately set in with the large crowd that had gathered causing a series of scornful whispers and comments. "Are you sure you don't want to stay for a while?" asked Valerie. "Both you and your horse look a bit tired. We have a cottage open for adventurers who stop by. You can stay the night there and leave in the morning. What do you say?" The crowd’s murmurs became louder as they awaited Stella's reply.
    "I guess a bit of rest could do me some good..." Stella answered. "Alright, I'll stay for tonight but, I have to leave at sunrise."
    "Of course." said Valerie.
    As Valerie left to show Stella to her cottage, a young woman came running and yelling "Waaaaaaait!" The girl had long, wavy blonde hair with rainbow highlights and bright azure eyes that resembled the sky. She wore a beautiful white blouse under a velvety crimson vest with a pair of red plaid punker pants to match as well as red hightops.
    The girl stopped in front of Stella panting for breath. "Ohhhh..." she said starstruck, "Stella Greenfield! It really is you! I've read all of your adventurer logs since your very first journey to the Blackspore Swamps! Please can I get your autograph?!"
    Stella was creeped while at the same time annoyed and it showed in her expression. She sighed saying "What am I signing it?"
    The girl suddenly froze and began frantically searching herself for something to write on. "Welly well well..." she said emberassed, "Looks like I left my autograph book at home."
    "Then what am I supposed to sign then?!" Stella scolded angrily. "You should've come prepared!"
    The girl looked around hoping to find a scrap or piece of paper. Then, after not finding anything, she looked back to Stella and said "How about you just sign my arm!" She rolled up her sleeve and patted her arm as if to signify which area she wanted signed.
    "You're serious?" The girl nodded enthusiastically. Stella sighed and pulled out a pen from her backpack pocket. "What's your name you irksome little troublemaker?" she asked as she signed the girl's arm.
    "Lyla. Lyla Moondale!"
    "Well, Lyla," she said as she finished signing her arm "I'm going to need a lot of rest so don't disturb me when I get to my cottage."
    "I understand!" Lyla said jauntily. "Thank you!"
    She ran off happily. Stella sighed "What a tiresome child..."
    Valerie giggled "Yeah, Lyla is quite the handful but she looks up to you. That whole exchange was probably the biggest moment of her life."
    Stella thought nothing of it. Valerie showed her to the cottage and Stella unpacked and settled herself in. She made herself a cup of tea then sat at a table near one of the cottage's two windows. She looked outside and was able to see the sunset beyond the distant mountains giving a beautiful orange and gold reflection on the river. She thought to herself "This place may not be half bad..." Suddenly, a knock came at the door. She rose from her seat and answerred the door finding Lyla standing on the porch in wait for her.
    "Miss Greenfield!" she said.
    "I thought I told you not to disturb me?" Stella answered angrily.
    "Really? I don't remember anything of the sort!" (Of course, Lyla was only pretending not to remember.)
    Stella sighed. "Well, what do you want?"
    Lyla began to blush saying "I was just wonderring where you were going for your next adventure.."
    "Not that it's any of your business," Stella replied. "but I'm heading back to Pixiewood so I can get another job from the request board."
    "Oh! So you're going to Sanctuary? Will you take me with you?"
    "No."
    "What a quick response! Why not?"
    "My last job ran far over and I'm already late to check back with my client as it is; you would only slow me down. Do you even have any adventuring experience?"
    "Well no… But that's why I wanna go to Sanctuary with you! I'll be able to find a guild and become a full-fledged adventurer like you! Then I'll prove to my parents that I'm not as helpless as they think."
    “She has the motivation for it but is she as ready as she thinks?” Stella contemplated to herself. Stella sighs then looks to the bright-eyed Lyla saying “Fine. Pack yourself up tonight, get lots of rest, and at sunrise meet me outside of town. If you’re late, I’m leaving without you, understand?” Lyla couldn’t hold her excitement as she squealed “Of course! Thank you so much Miss Greenfield; you’re the greatest!” She hugged Stella tightly and ran off just as quickly as she did when they had first met. “What have I gotten myself into?” thought Stella. She took a deep breath and stepped back into the cottage. At this point, the sun had disappeared beyond the mountains only giving a faint, dark orange from where it had once peeked. The crescent moon shone brightly and the stars twinkled. Stella took the last sip of the tea she had brewed. She then got up turned out the lights and went to bed. The next morning, Stella cleaned the cottage quickly leaving a note of thanks for Valerie and the generous townsfolk. She took her horse by the reins and led it to the outskirts of Stillwater. “I wonder if Lyla remembered to meet me…” she said to herself, “she probably isn’t even awake yet.” Stella chuckled. “About time you got here!” Lyla called out to Stella’s surprise. “And you were warning me about being late!” “Hmph, congratulations you woke up early but news flash rookie: the adventure has only just begun.” “Well let’s get going then! No time to waste, right?!” Lyla sped ahead hastily. Stella climbed onto her horse and rode slowly after her. “Maybe I misjudged this girl.” Stella thought to herself. “I guess we’ll see soon enough.”

    Chapter 2: Guild Search
    Spoiler: show
    It had been nearly 3 days since Stella and Lyla’s departure from Stillwater Crossing and finally they had arrived at their destination: Sanctuary, the center of Sacred Grove and commerce capital of the realms. It is also home of the queen of Sacred Grove, Queen Valerian as well as many famous adventurer guilds. Lyla gawked all around as they walked through Queensfield, an area outside of Sanctuary where people farm exotic fruits and vegetables and the more wealthy people of Sanctuary reside. Queensfield is also home to the human-like insects, the Bixies who more or less live peacefully without bothering the people in Sanctuary. Lyla and Stella continued to walk as they crossed the seemingly natural stone bridge. “Wait, Stella!” said Lyla. “Is anything beneath this bridge? The water from the two waterfalls flow under it so it got me wondering.”
    Stella kept walking as she replied “Not anymore; it used to be the entrance to the Royal Vault but one day a whole slew of vines sprouted and tangled the door shut. People tried cutting them but they grew back the next day double as strong and three times longer.”
    Lyla jogged to catch up with Stella asking “And you don’t know why?”
    “No one does. Not me. Not the queen. Not even the druids could figure out their origin or how to get rid of them. It will remain a mystery.” Lyla peered over the springwood rail so she could see into the cave below the bridge; it was just as Stella said. Both walked into the busiest part of Sanctuary known as Pixiewood. Though only one long street in both directions, it seemed to her like that one street was the whole city. “Soooo many people!” she exclaimed. She sniffed the air and surveyed her surroundings. “I can smell fresh strong arm stew… Oh! That girl’s midriff is so cute! But how could she afford it? It costs like 50,000 veniis! Is everyone here rich? Stella?”Stella looked back to Lyla “This is where we part ways, Lyla.”
    “What?!” Lyla shouted appalled. “After all we’ve been through you’re just gonna leave me here by myself?” “And what have we been through exactly?” “Don’t pretend like you forgot that time we… ohh… right we didn’t go through much together did we…” Stella sighed, shaking her head. “Look. I have to report back to my client. You have to find a guild, remember? That’s why you came with me in the first place.” “But how am I supposed to find one?”
    “That’s not my problem. I’ve gotta go.” Stella hopped onto her horse. “See you some other time.” “Waaaaait!” Lyla called out as Stella rode off. “Awww… Well I guess I’d better start looking but where?” Lyla began strolling through Pixiewood. Even though her main objective was to look for a guild she tended to find herself getting distracting by many different things including celebrities, clothes, and, most often, food. She passed by the renowned Chef Bordon Cloo’s cooking station five times every time staring as he cooked. The sixth time she repented Bordon’s patience had worn thin. “Is there anything I can help you with, miss?” he said. “Who me?” Lyla inquired. Bordon nodded. “Oh! No… I’m fine…” “Are you sure? You sound very uncertain and not only that but this will be the sixth time you’ve passed by here.” “Well… Do you mind telling me what you’re cooking?” “Oh, this? I’m preparing one of my favorite delicacies, Royal Stew Du Jour.” “Aaah… Sounds delicious… Maybe I could have a sample taste?” Bordon looked up to see Lyla looking desperately at the pot. It was obvious to him now that she was famished. His conscience now at work, he spoons a bit of his soup and gives it to Lyla. With a huge grin, she took the spoon, and said “Thank you Mister Cloo!” And with that she slurped in the sample. Almost instantly, she purred like a cat in heavenly satisfaction. “Oh… Oh… Oh… Soooooo good…” Bordon was disturbed by her noises and leaned as far away as he could as he continued to prepare his meal. “Mister Cloo… How much might a bowl of that stuff cost?” “Hmmm…” Bordon thought as he looked down into the pot. “How about 5000 zeniis.” “5000?!” Lyla’s jaw dropped in utter shock. She check her money bag and was able to get a few of her coins out and count them. “Uhhh… It looks like I only have 200 zeniis… Could you maybe make a special exception?” “Or better yet.” A joyful voice from behind said. “How about I pick up the tab?”Lyla turned around to find a handsome young lad with brunette hair that covered one of his orangish-brown eyes. He wore a dark blue short-sleeve plaid shirt, baggy blue jeans to match, and was shoeless. The boy put money on Bordon’s counter and winked at him. “Thank you, sir!” Bordon said brightfully as he ladled some of his soup into a bowl. “No, no, no. Thank you!” the boy handed Lyla the bowl, smiling at her gently. “Th-thanks…” she stuttered. She could feel her face turning red and looked away as she took the bowl. “No problem.” Bordon waved as the two walked away from his station calling out “Have a nice day!” “So you seem pretty new around here.” The boy said as he casually put his hands behind his head. “Yeah, I just got here today. Everything’s going so fast – I didn’t know it was so easy to get lost.” Lyla replied. “Yeah, it’s always been that way in Sanctuary. What made you wanna come here?” “I’m looking for a guild, so I can become an adventurer!” Lyla exclaimed as if she were a turtle coming out of its shell. “A guild, huh? Well, y’know, I’m in a guild.” “Whoa! Really? Which one are you in? Nexus? Insiders? Mystic Mayhem? The Amazing Jumping Beans??” “Nope. Nope. And Nope. The guild I’m in is better than all of them.” “Oh, really? And what’s the name of this great guild? Speaking of which, what’s your name?” “Oh! Sorry how rude of me! My name is Dalton Gold and you are?” “Lyla Moondale. Now about this guild…” “Just follow me, M’Lady.”
    Lyla giggled and followed him back out to Queensfield. They walked passed a ranch, a wacky compilation of blocks that look out of place, a mansion, and the harvesting area. They then crossed a rustic wooden bridge to another mansion. It stood tall with 3 stories and a huge door.
    “Is this it?” Lyla asked.
    “Indeed, it is princess.” Dalton answered cheerfully. “Allow me to welcome you to…




    Chapter 3: The Adventure Begins
    Spoiler: show
    Dalton opened the door wide and yelled “Dragon Wing!” Lyla walked in, stepping onto a brown, fuzzy welcome mat with a dragon insignia on it. The hardwood floors were a sturdy, dark brown, the walls were well-painted in a dark scarlet color, and the opening room was pleasantly, quaint while at the same time chic and modern. A beautiful gold and crystal chandelier hung high in the ceiling and a professionally stuffed dragon head was mounted on the wall separating two wall lamps. In the corner to her right, was a small area with a team of chefs and a few people sitting at the counter. The smell of sweet gummyfruit wafted through her nose as she turned to look the opposite direction. To her left, were two stairways-one going up and one going down.
    “Wow…” Lyla stated in awe “This place is huge!”
    “Yeah,” said Dalton as he stood in the threshold of the door to the next room, “and you’ve still got lots more of it to see.”
    Lyla steadily strode to the following room to find a bar installed in the distant back wall and many people sitting at the various tables that filled the room. The floor in this room was a bright almost yellow hue and the walls were a clean beige color. The room was permeated with the various conversations and laughs of the people that sat inside at the tables.
    “Oh wow…” Lyla said without breath “So many people…”
    “Are you gonna be this awestruck the whole time?” Dalton commented.
    “It’s my first time in a guild gimme a break!”
    “Excuse me.” a familiar voice from behind said.
    Lyla turned around and dropped her jaw at what appeared to be an exact clone of herself. Her shock kept her from saying any understandable words instead she uttered quiet verbalizations.
    “I haven’t seen your face before.” The clone said. “Are you a new guild member?”
    “Wh-why do you look like me?” Lyla said completely perplexed.
    “I don’t look like you; you look like me!” The clone snickered.
    “Knock it off, Hapete!” Dalton scolded. He walked over and then proceeded to harshly hit the Lyla clone over the head, knocking it to the ground.
    “Dalton!” Lyla shouted. “I didn’t know you hated me that much!”
    Dalton burst loudly in laughter. “I don’t hate you Lyla,” he said after regaining his composure “You don’t understand what’s going on is all.”
    “Well…” Lyla said impatiently. “Explain!”
    “I can do that for ya!” The clone suddenly said in a shrill high voice. Suddenly a poof of smoke popped and out of it the clone revealed its true self as a small fairy whose whole body barely reached up to Lyla’s kneecaps. Its skin was a pale blue, its face was similar to that of a young boy, its choice hairstyle was a green mohawk, and it had golden eyes. The small creature wore a long sleeve white shirt with a red stripe lining the shoulders and both sleeves, a tan pair of cargo shorts, and small, white sneakers. The fairy fluttered around Lyla happily giggling at the prank it pulled. “My name is Hapete and I’m a fairy!”
    “Awww, adorable!” Lyla said holding the thing close to her body. “I get it now, Dalton. You’re a majickster, aren’t you?”
    “Certified majickster, yes, indeed.” He replied proudly.
    “And I’m his transforming fairy!” Hapete said brightfully. “I can change into any weapon he wants me to at any time. All majicksters have one!”
    “I know, mister prankster.” Lyla said, “That’s pretty impressive; not a lot of people are capable of being a majickster. You must be really strong.”
    Dalton chuckled as he casually raised his hands behind his head again. “Yep, I know. I’m just awesome like that.”
    “Hey! I’m awesome, too!” Hapete interjected.
    “Yeah, but awesome people don’t prank me.” Lyla replied.
    “Okay, enough chat you gotta meet our leader so you can be an official member.” Dalton said advancing forward.
    “I thought I already was a member?”
    “Nope. Right now you’re just a recruit.”
    Dalton approached a gorgeous woman with straight, long, silver locks and a single pink bang that had been combed and gelled back. She wore a burgundy mini-dress over well-stitched, snow white capris that had been rolled up just below her knees and black strapped shoes with heels. She sat on the table of the bar chatting with one of the other guild members.
    “Is that the guild leader?” Lyla whispered to Dalton.
    “No, she’s one of our officers.” He replied.
    The woman noticed them coming close and turned their direction. “Dalton,” she said “you’ve brought a new recruit?”
    “Yep! This is Lyla Moondale.”
    Lyla curtsied. “Good day… Miss..?”
    “Felicia Whitemist. It’s great to meet you.”
    Lyla stared openly at Felicia and waved her hand in front of her face. “Miss Whitemist,” she said. “are you blind?”
    Dalton was shocked by her straightforwardness. “Lyla!”
    “No, Dalton, it’s fine. And yes, Miss Moondale, I am.”
    “Sorry…”
    “It’s alright. It’s not a sensitive topic.”
    Dalton cleared his throat saying “Well, now that we’ve all gotten to know each other. Lici, where’s the old man?”
    “He went to an emergency guild masters’ conference in Seaside.”
    “Whaaat? Wasn’t there one last week?”
    “Apparently, this is about some very urgent matter regarding the safety of Sacred Grove.”
    “Hmmmm…”
    “Since he isn’t here I can do the initiat—“
    “NO way!” Dalton interrupted. “C’mon, Lyla. We’re goin’ to Seaside!”
    “But wouldn’t it be easier to have Felicia do the initiation?” Lyla inquired.
    “Sure but, it wouldn’t be as fun. Besides, I have a request from someone in Seaside.” Dalton ran outside and yelled behind him “I’ll be waiting outside of town when you’re ready!”
    “Are you going with him?” Felicia asked.
    “Well, I’ve always wanted to go to Seaside and if I’m gonna be initiated I guess it should be legit.”
    Felicia smiled tenderly. “I was hoping you would say that.” She got down from the table and walked away. “Wait here; I have something you’ll need.”
    “Alright.”
    Felicia strolled to a different and just as quickly as she left she came back with a backpack, a small brown sack that had been tied shut, and a dagger inside of a decorative red and gold bejeweled sheath. “You can pack all your essentials in the backpack. The brown sack has 100,000 zeniis and the dagger is just in case you guys run into trouble. I already packed 3 elixirs in your backpack in case you get injured. Be careful out there.”
    “Wow, Miss Whitemist! Thanks so much!”
    “Please, just call me Felicia.”
    “Lylaaaaa!” Hapete whined. “What’s taking so long? C’mon let’s go!”
    “Oh, sorry! I forgot you guys were waiting! I’ll be right out!” Hapete fluttered off and Lyla began transferring some of her clothes and essentials into her backpack then ran after Hapete after she was finished. “Thanks again, Felicia!”

    *

    Stella progressed atop her horse to the Royal Palace door. The royal guards manning the entrance took the horse by the reins as she got off and walked inside. The walls were similar to the outside of the tree, there were smaller trees decorating the room and an elegant rug on the floor. The room was lightened by resplendent wall lamps and the smell of animals wafted through the air as dogs and cats laid around.
    Stella walked up the stairs to Queen Valerian and bowed. “Greetings, your majesty. You sent for me?”
    “Yes, Stella. I have a request and I trust only you to fulfill it properly.”
    “And your request, your majesty?”
    Valerian paused and floated away from her throne. “Sacred Grove may be in trouble. I have been having a reoccurring nightmare that tells of a very bleak future.”
    “What do you need me to do?” Stella asked.
    “First… I need you to find a friend of mine.”


    Chapter 4: Seaside Bound
    Spoiler: show
    Stella, well prepared for another thrilling adventure, saddled up on her trusted stead and started her quest that would take her to the northern corner of Sacred Grove, Shrouded Glade. As her horse began trotting down the dirt path, a familiar voice called from behind her, "Miss Greefield, please wait up!" She turned to see who had interrupted her rather dramatic leave and found a young man with dark hair that swept to the left of his face right above his eyes and light tan skin. He was dressed in a purple striped shirt, tan baggy pants, and black striped sneakers and was jogging in pursuit of her. "Who are you and what do you want?" Stella asked impatiently, "I'm in a rush so can you make this quick."The young man bowed in respect for the noble adventuress saying "My name is Kyle Earthflame, also known as the 'Dragon of the Swamps.'" "And what do you need from me?" "I was getting to that. Ya see, Miss Greenfield, I grew up with stories about the noble guards of Sanctuary who protected Queen Valerian and pretty much the whole realm from destruction and ever since I was small I always wanted to be one. So I came all the way from the swamps in Briarwood just so I could come and train to fulfill my dream. But when I got here, they told me that I was too weak to ever be a royal guard." "Are you telling me..." "Miss Greenfield, please let me join you on whatever journey you're about to take; when the guards hear that I went on an adventure with you they'll be so impressed they'll HAVE to train me!" "Listen. Kurt--" "It's Kyle..." "Sorry, Kyle, listen. The quest I'm about to go on is really dangerous not a job for an amateur such as yourself." "With all due respect, Miss Greenfield. I'll ask that you don't underestimate me; I AM from Briarwood you don't know what I'm capable of. Besides, the more dangerous this journey is the more impressed the guards will be."Stella growned in frustration. "You aren't gonna take 'no' for an answer, huh?" "Not a chance." Stella sighed and covering her face with the palm of her hand and shaking her head. She looked back to him and said "Sorry but..." She lashed the reins of her horse and galloped swiftly away yelling behind her "I won't be giving you a 'yes' today! Later, kid!" "Sooner than you think!" Kyle growled. He reached into his satchel and toss his precursor hoverboard ahead of him then proceeded to hop atop of it. In no time at all he was able to cut off Stella. He smirked at her and in a condescending manner says "So, we meet again." "You're wasting my time, get out of the way!" "Miss Greenfield! Please, I beg of you, please let me join you on your quest. I promise you I won't hold you back." Stella looked into his bright, brown eyes and thought back to when she met Lyla. "If all kids are this annoying, I'm never getting married..." "What?" "Nothing, forget it." Stella trotted forward slowly. "As long as you travel with me, you are going to follow every one of my orders, no questions asked. Understood?" "Yes ma'am, of course!" "Hop on then, we've wasted enough time as it is." "Yes! Thank you, Miss Greenfield. You won't regret this I swear it!" "You had better hope not." Stella grumbled as Kyle put away his hoverboard and climbed onto her horse. "For your own sake that is." And with that her quest truely began. The two road off into the horizon ready for whatever may lie ahead of them
    *
    Meanwhile, Lyla and Dalton ambled through Pixiewood gathering the last of their needed supplies for their own journey to Seaside. A list of which included a last minute mea for Dalton. Lyla impatiently tapped her foot waiting for him to finish what was to be his last plate as Hapete rested on her shoulder with his head resting in his hands. "Wow you have no idea how delicious this Spiralmint Steak is!" Dalton exclaimed with his mouth full. "Are you sure you don't want any?" "I already told you, I ate my fill and it's time to go so hurry up!" Lyla replied in an embittered tone. "Yeah, yeah..." Dalton said nonchalantly as he savored his next bite. Lyla snarled and stormed to his table. "We are leaving NOW!" She shouted. "Lyla, you're making a scene..."
    She yanked him by the ear as hard as she could pulling him out of his chair. "Thank you for the wonderful meal, Jacque!" She set money on the table and tugged Dalton away. The three walked to the Pet Adoption Center, at Dalton's expense.
    Dalton broke away from Lyla saying "Geez, Moondale, did you have to get violent?" "Well, maybe if didn't eat as much we could have left earlier and I wouldn't have had to hurt you. Honestly, who eats three bowls of soup and eight plates of steak?" "Me." Dalton laughed to himself "Well, I hope you had your fill cuz we're leaving now." "If we don't get to Greenwood Forest by tomorrow we won't make to Seaside before the guild convention is over." Hapete exclaimed in agreement. "Alright, alright," Dalton sighed "Sorry, for holding us up. Let's go."
    The gang of three had traveled for five hours; the sun had changed to it's scarlet color and began to disappear in the distance. With the light of day growing dimmer Lyla, Dalton and Hapete decide to set up camp. Lyla and Hapete stayed at the camp site to set up the tents while Dalton went to gather fire wood for the night. Once the tents were erected, Lyla wandered a little ways from the site to a place where the forest's array of tree branches didn't obstruct her view of the beautiful night sky. Meanwhile, Hapete gleefully floated around imitating the night life and trying to catch fireflies in his hand.

    "Wow," Lyla thought aloud to herself, "I'm finally on my first actually adventure and I'm gonna be part of a guild. It's hard to believe that just two days ago this was all just a dream. It's incredible how quickly things can change. But, at least, i know one thing never changes. The beautiful night sky. I never get tired of looking at the stars." As Lyla gazed at the radiant night stars and the resplendent lustrous silver moon, her eyes caught a glimpse of a bright golden shooting star with a mauve colored streak flowing swiftly from the back of it. "A shooting star!" she exclaimed. Delighted by the alluring sight Lyla closed her eyes and whispered "I wish... I wish–"

    But before she could invoke the star's supposed power to grant wishes, she was gagged from behind and abducted by a large figure with flaxen skin. "Sorry, girly," the figure spoke softly into her ear. "No one trespasses onto our turf and gets away with it. You're dealin' with the Thugawugs now." Upon hearing those words, Lyla was thrown into an even bigger panic than she was in the beginning—kicking and flailing as hard as she could—but her screams, and yelps went unheard as she was carried into the shadows of the night by the unknown figure.

    Around that same time, Dalton had returned to the camp site with the firewood. He looked around for Hapete and Lyla as he pulled the flint out of his pocket to light the fire. Suddenly, a rustling came from the nearby bushels putting Dalton on his guard. "Whose there?" he shouted. The rustling continued and a parade of frogs hopped out followed by Hapete who playfully mimiced them and hopped around. "Oh, Hapete, it's just you."

    "Ribbit!" the cute, little fairy replied, "Who is this Hapete? I'm a frog! Ribbit, ribbit! Watch me hop!" Hapete bounced around giggling ingenuously as he continued to chase his frog friends.

    "Ha ha. Funny. Where's Lyla?"

    Hapete stopped his playing and flew around the camp site then back to Dalton. "I thought she was still here."

    "So you don't know where she is?"

    "I'm sorry..." Hapete said in a disheartened voice.
    Dalton sighed "It's alright but we need to find her she could be in trouble." And suddenly Dalton had an epiphany. It didn't take him long but he already knew where Lyla was and with the new found sense of urgency looked to Hapete and said, "I think we've got some Thugawugs to deal with."



    Chapter 5: Trouble on the Chosen Path
    Spoiler: show
    Later that same night, Lyla had been tied to the trunk of a large tree and gagged with a rather unclean cloth. The think rope used to tie her was so tightly constricting her body to the tree, it put her in agony to even breathe. Between her lack of breath and the intolerable foulness of the rag that muzzled her, it became easy for Lyla to begin to languish. Eventually, it was a struggle for her to even cling to her consciousness. The only thing that kept her awake was the bright light of the fire in front of her made by the Thugawugs–whom at that time were downing sarsaparilla by the gallons as they shared amusing anecdotes among themselves–that had captured her. Though the scene was bleak, Dalton and Hapete had already found the Thugawug hideout; she didn't know it but hope was still alive. "There's so many of them!" Hapete exclaimed. "Stop yelling!" Dalton said in a hushed low whisper. "We won't have to fight them. If we can find out which of these lummoxes took Lyla, we can just force him to tell us where she is and sneak her out of here." "Oh, that's a good idea! But how are we gonna know which one took her?" "That's the hard part... If we're gonna figure that out, we'll need to get close enough to one of their fires to eavesdrop on one of their conversation; it would probably be the topic of the night for obnoxious morons." "But how are we gonna get that close?" "Easy. You just have to be really quiet and super sneaky." Dalton dove silently onto the ground and crawled noiselessly with his stomach closely paralleling the ground. Though extremely reluctant at first, Hapete soon floated contiguously near to him and they snuck to the nearest fire to investigate as the whereabouts of their missing friend. Meanwhile, Lyla had begun to fade closing her eyes to the sound of the Thugawugs' laughter. "I have to do something quick; I can't stay tied up for ever," she thought to herself. "But what can I do?" She exerted herself and tried herhardest to turn her exhausted neck. She looked for a solution that could not be found. "There must be something I can do... Something I can use to cut this rope." It was then that she got the thought. She struggled and squirmed to loosen the ropes just so she could dig into her pocket. She felt around in her back pocket before finally finding her ticket to freedom.

    *

    Elsewhere during that same time, Stella and novice adventurer, Kyle, had arrived at Highroad Junction just after the soon had set. But, unlike when she arrived at Stillwater Crossing, Stella's arrival went completely unnoticed and uncelebrated. One could say it was because the townsfolk had already made their preparations for bed but, there was a thick eerieness and dullness that convinced the two otherwise.
    "Where is everybody?" Kyle asked as he surveyed the ghost town.
    "Why do you think I would know?" Stella replied.
    "Well, you're supposed to be an expert adventurer so I thought maybe you had seen something like this."
    Stella dismounted from her horse and took a few steps out into the town square then took a quick glance of the area. "I think we'll need to do a little bit of reconnaissance if we're going to figure out what's going on around here."
    "Reconnaissance?"
    "We need to examine the area for anything out of the ordinary that might help us figure out what's going on."
    "Okay, where do you want me to go?"
    "You go look outside of town for someone or something suspicious. And be careful. I'll look around town here. In 15 minutes, we'll meet back here and share all the intel we gathered and if we have enough information we'll deduce what could have happened."
    "Yes ma'am!" Kyle exclaimed while saluting her. The two then dispersed to their respective place they planned to observe.
    Stella paced around slowly as she surveyed the town. The area where Merigold normally floated around greeting was a lot less homey and the light fixture that she floated under was broken. The light that it no longer provided gave the already gloomy town even more of a melancholy aura. The boombox that once played nonstop at the Highroad Junction Tavern had apparently died and no longer blasted the ecstastic dance music. The pets at the adoption center were insensate and irresponsive; the normally most jubilant animals were almost lifeless and had sprawled themselves out across the ground with extremely unhappy faces.
    At first glance, she didn't see anything of much help but, upon close examination of the ground she noticed a faint sound coming from under the cobblestones around the light pole that stood tall in the center of town. She knelt over and hovered her ear over the ground and knocked on it as if it were a door. To her surprise, the cobblestone that paved the ground was actually wood.
    "There's something under here" She said as she stood back up. She continued to look around the area hoping to find a way inside. Her search appeared be futile as she searched for minutes unable to get a clue as to how to get inside or what might be in there.
    Moments later, Kyle road up to her on the cocoa brown horse saying "I hope you found out something 'cause my little search came up with zilch."
    "There's something under here but I don't know how to get inside."
    "What makes you so sure?"
    "I'm an 'expert adventurer', remember?"
    "Right. So what do you suppose we do? Why not just blast it open?"
    "Well, there's bound to be a reason it's here. If people are inside, then we might hurt them and if they retreated here to avoid something then it's very likely that the blast will attract its attention."
    "Then what?"
    "I'm not sure. I guess we'll just have to look around for a way to open it without causing so much attention. There might even be another hidden opening."
    "So, we'll look for that other opening."
    "Right. For now, that's our only lead."



    *



    Back at the Thugawug Hideout, Lyla had cut through the ropes that bound her. As her strength returned, she steathly slid around the tree trunk out of the Thugawugs sight, out of her bindings, and into the shadows. As she begun to sneak away, a commotion had arisen elsewhere in the encampment.
    "Look at what I found snoopin' around the camp guys!" a Thugawug exclaimed as he held Dalton and Hapete by the collar of their shirts. The other Thugawugs were thrown into an uproar of laughter and heckling. "What do you think we should do with 'em?" the first said. "Let's teach 'em a lesson about trespassing!" they all yelled in unison.
    "No!" Lyla exclaimed stepping out of the shadows, dagger in hand "Let them go!"
    "Hey! What're you doin' loose?" her captor exclaimed.
    "Get 'er!" another said moving towards her.
    "Lyla!" Dalton exclaimed as he broke from the Thugawug's grip. "Get down!"
    Lyla ducked and covered her head as Dalton landed on the ground. He took a deep breath and when he opened his mouth a flurry of flames burst forth and blew back the Thugawugs. "Hapete! Shadowblade mode!" Dalton commanded
    "Right!" Hapete said as he broke away and poofed himself into a sharp, crimson, iron shadowblade. Dalton took hold of him by the handle and swung him around as fire flowed from the blade.
    "Woah!" Lyla interjected.
    "Bask in my awesomeness later! Let's get outta here!"
    But as they made their daring escape, the leader of the Thugawugs, Muggenstomp, along with more of the brutes jumped into their path and blocked. "Y'all aren't goin' anywhere..." he said in a brash voice.
    "Out of the way, you giant moving water bed!" Dalton exclaimed.
    Muggenstomp chortled obnoxiously and smugly said with a vile sneer "An' whose gonna make me, tiny..." He flicked Dalton's forehead with his oversized pale yellow fingers causing him to stagger about. The Thugawugs standing behind him joined together for a group chuckle at his expense. "You wouldn't last three seconds against me especially with my boys backin' me up. So, I'll tell ya what: how about you give me everything you got and for our trouble everything in the girly's bag too and in exchange we'll only rough you up a little bit."
    "No I'll tell you what," Dalton said as he rose from the ground "How about you move out of the way and I won't have to embarrass you in front of your friends."
    Muggenstomp chuckled more softly than the time before. "I was hopin' you'd see things my way... But apparently we're gonna have to get mean."
    "Bring it on." Dalton taunted as he gripped his shadowblade and readied himself. Lyla by this time had managed to hide herself in a nearby bush and had a good view of the event as it transpired.
    "All right, have it your way then," Muggenstomp said shrugging his shoulders. "More pain for you means MORE FUN FOR ME!! GET 'EM BOYS!"
    And with those words, the Thugawugs sprang at Dalton and a ferocious battled ensued. Dalton appeared to have the upperhand given his amazing agility and evasiveness allowed him to avoid most of the Thugawug assaults and use the openings they left to knock them out one after another. But regardless of all the flames he blew and all the Thugawugs he took out it seemed as though they were continuing to come without end. As the fight drew out, Thugawugs that had previously been disposed of had begun to awaken and join the fray and the advantage Dalton once appeared to have slowly disappeared. Outnumbered seven to one, Dalton began getting pumbled more than one could normally take.
    Muggenstomp confidently chuckled and snorted. "What's wrong, boy? What happened to all that speed from before, don't tell me you started holdin' back on us! C'mon give us all ya got!"
    "That's not it at all," Lyla thought to herself. "He's not slowing down, he's getting tired!"
    Daulton fought back hard as he could exhausting his endurance beyond normal human limitations but, his exhaustion left him less aware of his surroundings and his fighting sloppy. As the Thugawugs back him into a corner, he tripped over a rock from behind. The Thugawugs pounded him while he was on the ground laughing and teasing with each blow.
    "Alright, boys," Muggenstomp said. "He's had enough." The Thugawugs stopped their senseless violence and backed away from the battered and broken Dalton giving Muggenstomp a chance to walk up and talk to him personally. "Listen, shorty, I hate having to see good folks like you go through such pain so I'm gonna give ya another chance to just leave witho—" Dalton spat in Muggenstomp's face interrupting him mid-sentence. Muggenstomp wiped his face and chuckled fakely. "Fine then. Get him outta here, boys. Oh! And give him the 'V.I.P. Treatment'."
    The Thugawugs laughed amongst themselves popping their knuckles as they slowly approached the incapacitated boy. Dalton turned his head to look toward Lyla and nodded his head almost as if he were trying to reassure her. Regardless of his confident nod, Lyla got misty eyes as she saw the ruffians walk towards her friend.
    "No! Stop!" she shouted as she leaped to his side from the bushes, tears welling up in her eyes. She knelt on both knees and tried to soothe his pain by rubbing his bruised body. "Dalton! Are you okay?"
    "Move aside, girly," A Thugawug dictated. "Unless you wanna end up like him."
    Lyla glared at the large round figure as tears streamed swiftly from her eyes. "I refuse..." She said as she stood undauntedly with her knees buckled inward, her arms out front, and her dagger held tightly in by both hands.




    *


    Stella scoured around the perimeter of what seemed to her to be a secret tunnel but she still found no clues. Her frustration began to build up inside her as she stomped around inspecting everything she came across. Kyle rode up to her on the cocoa brown horse appearing to be just as frustrated.
    "I looked everywhere," he complained "I haven't found anything! What are we even looking for?"
    "I don't know! I don't know!" Stella irately shouted. "Just keeping looking!"
    "But, I looked literally EVERYWHERE; I didn't see anything." Kyle replied.
    "Well, look harder!"
    Kyle sighed and turned to leave sarcastically saying, "Alright... I'll leave no stone unturned!"
    And at that moment it hit her; Stella had an epiphany. "No stone unturned..." she thought allowed to herself as she looked at the faux cobblestone. "But this isn't stone." She scrambled to the ground and closely examined the cobblestone. She took one of the large pebbles and tried her hardest to move it to no avail. She crawled a little ways up and tried again on a different stone once again failing. She tried her luck once more crawling up to a different stone. She lifted the small stone and realized that her assumption was correct; The fake cobblestones are used to hide the secret door. She solved the puzzle!
    "Kyle!" she called (though he hadn't made too much of an effort to disperse yet and was only a few steps away).
    "What!" he yelled back.
    "These stones aren't real. They're hiding the door to the secret tunnel; help me move them."
    "What?"
    "Just start moving stones!" Kyle shrugged his shoulders, plopped to the ground, and started tossing away the fake stones and brushing away dust and dirt. With his help, Stella was able to unearth the secret tunnel door. It was relatively small; nearly half the size of most normal-sized house doors. The knob on it was painted over to look like it was another stone. With the door exposed, the low sound Stella initially heard was now obviously the sound of a distant bustling underground town.
    "So there IS a secret tunnel. Wow, Stella, you're pretty amazing to figure all this out."
    "Hmph, I know. Now, let's figure out why these people are in here." Stella opened the small door revealing a ladder that led into a deep shadowy hole. "Well, let's go." She grabbed the two opposing sides of the ladder and swiftly slid to the bottom of the hole.
    "No wonder she's considered one the best." Kyle said to himself before diving inside behind her.
    Upon reaching the bottom, the tunnel had begun being lit by several torches. The fragrance of Savory Spiralmint Soup wafted through and the pleasant laughter of children could be heard from just down the long corridor. The two continued traipsing through the tunnel until they reached a large entranceway that lead into a mini Highroad Junction that was composed of only tents, smalls pavilions, and caves. The town seemed to be as lively as it would have been above ground; children ran around playing, young people danced to the party music of a boombox outside of one of the pavilions, and the adults sat and walked around chatting pleasantly.
    The pleasant red-head, Merigold, walked up to Kyle and Stella and greeted them saying "So, you've found our makeshift town. Sorry we weren't above ground to greet you properly."
    "No problem," Stella said in reply. "But why exactly are you down here?"
    "It's a very long story." Merigold said glumly.
    "Then let us explain." a clogged up, stuffy voice said from behind. Stella turned around to see who followed her and found a group of forest trolls standing tall in the entranceway of the tunnel.


    Chapter 6: Secrets Revealed
    Spoiler: show
    The townspeople cowered and murmured at the sight of the trolls in silent dismay. Merigold stepped back behind Kyle fearfully. Stella glared at the vagabonds grabbing her bow from out of her backpack and one of the concealed arrows in her boots. "What are you doing here?" she interrogated fixating her aim so she couldn't be caught off guard.
    Spoiler: show

    "Are you guys the ones behind this?" Kyle said boldly.
    "No, it's the opposite," one of the trolls replied stepping forward. "We're victims too!"
    "What!" Kyle interjected. "No way!"
    "Yes, please, listen to our story, then mayble you'll understand," the troll softly requested. "My name is Gorak. A few days ago our troll village was attacked by strange monsters. They ravaged everything taking the life force of all the plants, forest creatures, and trolls nearby. One of those trolls was my wife, Kilna. We fought back as hard as we knew how but, these monsters were to strong for us. They kept coming and coming until our entire village was completely ravaged."
    "And why should we believe that?" Stella skeptically asked still focused on her target.
    "Because it's the same thing that happened to us." Merigold spoke up
    "We were the only ones with enough strength to come looking for help," one troll said. "We know we haven't been the most peaceful neighbors but, please we need your help and you need ours!" another pleaded.
    The crowd was thrown into a quiet judgemental discussion about the situation. The trolls waited nervously for their answer. At this time, Stella had put away her weapons and was also thinking hard about what should be done.
    Kyle stepped forward clenching his fist in a righteous anger. "For you to swallow your Forest Troll pride and come beg us for help... I admire how much you care about your friends and family! If no one else will, I'm gonna help you destroy these monsters so this never happens again!"
    "Kyle..." Stella thought aloud to herself. "Hmph, it's decided then I'll help you guys out too." The crowd went into an excited murmur once again.
    "Oh! Thank you! Thank you so much!" Gorak groveled.
    "Yeah, yeah," Kyle confidently smirked. "Now show us to the village these monsters attacked you in."
    "Right! Follow us."


    *


    Lyla stood strong. Her first battle was like to begin at any moment. The Thugawugs were shocked at her stalwart resolve to protect Dalton and babbled amongst themselves. Dalton lied on the ground trying to keep his consciousness also in a state of shock. Lyla's tears at this point had dried and she was able to menacingly glare at the brutes that hurt her friend. The fire that Thugawugs had lit grew dim and barely lit the night at this point. The thin smell of embers flowed through the air and the crickets played a pleasant melody unbefitting of the mood.
    "Well," Muggenstomp said "You heard 'er; if she wants to end up like her friend why not give 'er what she wants."
    "Yeah!" a lacky exclaimed. "No one disrespects the Thugawugs! Let's get her!" He roared after her and pounced like an oversized lion. Lyla tried to stand her ground but was knocked back by the hit. She ignored the pain and rose for the ground grabbing her dagger. "Want some more?" the Thugawug shouted. He went forward and struck her down with a shoulder tackle.
    But Lyla refused to give up. She stood once again having to ignore twice as much pain as before. "I told you," she said as she reached down for her dagger. "I refuse to let you hurt my friends anymore!"
    "Fine!" the Thugawug replied. "I'll just have to hurt you!"
    He advanced forward yelling as he charged for another attack. Lyla also charged clenching the dagger with both hands and swiftly lunging with all her might and thunderous emotion. And at that moment, a streak of dazzling, silver lightning flew out of the blade in multi-directional flurry. The Thugawug didn't need to be struck by the blade itself the light knocked him back and all assumed he had been put down for the count.
    The other brutes gasped at the scene. "What the sarsaparilla was that!" Muggenstomp shouted in shock.
    Lyla was just as shocked as them. She looked down to the blade and said to herself "An enchanted...dagger?"
    "Hmmm, interesting," Muggenstomp wondered. "Well, enchanted or not no magic is strong enough to beat the Thugawugs! Let's show 'em, boys!" The thugawugs and their boss band together and charged at Lyla. She got back into her amateur stance and began using the seemingly magic dagger to combat them. Unfortunately, being the rookie she was, she didn't hold a candle to Dalton's skill. She knocked out quite a few of the Thugawugs but in a short amount of time she found herself in the same position as Dalton was – exhausted and unable to fight as well as she did in the beginning.
    "I can't keep this up," she thought to herself as she distanced herself from the approaching lot of thugs. "There's too many; I can't take them all..." She stepped back holding her dagger avertingly. As she stepped back, her foot slipped. She yelped as she fell and her ankle rolled against the ground bringing her to her knees right beside her friend. She quiverred as she tried to rise back to her feet but the pain was too much to overcome.
    "Well, well, did the lil' girl hurt 'erself?" Muggenstomp scoffed.
    "Stay back!" Lyla commanded thrusting her dagger into a defensive stance. Lightning struck out from it missing Muggenstomp mowing down a group of Thugawugs near him.
    "Sorry, girly, just let me putcha outta your misery..."
    "No..." Lyla could feel hear heart pounding... "No..." It was hammering hard inside her chest as if it were a drum... "No!" Her emotions were in pandemonium, her whole body trembled. Then all her feelings, her will to survive was pushed out to the forefront. She tightly shut her eyes and she shrieked. "NOOOO!!!!" And almost as if in response, the lightning enveloped her and Dalton in a powerful, scintillating veil of roaring thunder and pale, beryl lightning. The protective field branched out smiting Muggenstomp and all the other Thugawugs in its path.
    Lyla opened her eyes and saw the remnants of the lightning surging through the night air. All the Thugawugs were on the ground moaning in an absolute pain worse than imaginable. The fires of the camp were reignited by the burst of electricity and blown through the encampment slowly burning it to shambles. The lightning scorched the outside of all the trees nearby and their leaves brown and crisp slowly descend to the ground as they disintegrated.
    "Did.. I do this?" She asked herself. She opened her hand and looked down to the dagger. Then the thought came to her – the whole reason she decided to fight in the first place. She turned to Dalton who had lost consciousness half way through the battle and didn't witness the big finale. "Dalton!" She called out as she ran over to him ignoring the pain in her impaired ankle. She knelt down beside him on both knees. She looked at her dagger again thinking to herself "If it did all this damage, then maybe it can help him!" She pressed her dagger against his chest and closed her eyes tightly beseeching the power of her blade. "Please work!"
    A light shone brightly from within her hand proliferated in pulses over Dalton's body. His bruises slowly began to fade away like the light of a distant candle. He moaned and slowly began to open his eyes as if waking up from a good nap. "Lyla?"
    The overjoyed girl wrapped her arms around Dalton's neck and yelled. "Dalton! You're okay! It worked! It worked!"
    "What worked?" He said as he sat up.
    "I'll tell you later! Let's go before those buttbuckets wake up!" Lyla tried to rise forgetting her hurt ankle and cringed falling back to the ground.
    "You're hurt," Dalton said rubbing her now swollen ankle. He looked over to his shadowblade and remembered everything that happened. "Those thugs!" he exclaimed. "What did they do to you?"
    "Don't worry about it!" she replied reassuring him. "I took care of it, can we please just go?"
    Dalton looked around and saw all the defeated Thugawugs and withdrew from his yearning for revenge. "Fine. Hapete, standby."
    Dalton's sword poofed and from the smoke Hapete glided out wearily. "Did we...win?" he said as he yawned.
    "'Don't worry about it! Lyla took care of it!'" he said mockingly as he lift Lyla onto his back.
    "Shut up!" Lyla scolded playfully.
    Dalton laughed saying "So, about your insulting skills... Buttbuckets?" Hapete died of laughter at the thought.
    "I said shut up!" Lyla giggled as they finally left the campsite.

    *


    The troop of forest trolls lead Stella and Kyle deep into the forest as the the sun began to set on this part of Sacred Grove. It was fairly easy to notice the damage done to the trees and forest ground which kept Stella from questioning the credibility of Gorak and the trolls' story. The animals, like the pups and kittens back at the Highroad Junction Adoption Center, were lifeless and irresponsive merely watching the group as they walked through. The wind howled in an almost enticing, silent, lamenting whisper that beckoned to all who heard – it was the only sound to be heard besides the group's footsteps.
    "Wow," Kyle whispered to Stella glumly. "This really couldn't get more depressing..."
    "Something doesn't feel right," she replied.
    "You still don't trust them?" Kyle inquired quietly. Stella kept looking forward without giving an answer. "Okay, then...'
    "Our village is right ahead," Gorak stated solemnly. "Once we get over this hill we'll only have a little m--" The noble-hearted troll stopped in his tracks holding his arm out to deter the rest from walking passed him as well.
    "What's wrong?" Kyle asked.
    Stella knelt on a one knee and put her hand on the ground. "Something large is moving. A lot of large somethings are..marching? Gorak, what's going on?"
    Gorak continued to look upward as a column of clouds with a dark purple luster began to fill the sky. "They're coming back."
    "The monsters?" Kyle asked.
    "No, the bunny parade," Stella answered sarcastically. "Gorak, what exactly are these 'monsters'?"
    He turned to her with gloomy eyes and said, "Miniature mountains enchanted with a powerful dark magic that makes them glow with eyes of amethyst and gives them an unquichable thirst for destruction. They are made of stones, black stones with purple aura corsing through them. They won't stop until everything is destroyed and with this many coming we are never going to save anyone."
    "Don't say that there's always hope, Gorak!" one of the trolls said. "Yes, Gorak," another joined in the encouragement. "We can never give up hope!"
    "They're right, Gorak," Kyle said. "If you give up hope, what else will you have?"
    "Nothing, nothing at all." a sophisticated voice said playfully.
    All looked around from tree to tree, and grass to rock, hoping to discern where this mysterious voice was coming from. "Who are you?" Stella said taking her bow off her shoulder. "Show yourself!"
    "Whoes hiding?" the voice said. Suddenly, a corridor of a thick smoky, black dark aura with dark lavender and lightly tinted mulberry ripples opened from within the air above the group. From it came a youthful man with dark brown hair, a single silver streak, and a complaisant smile. The white of his eyes were black, his irises were a vivid titian color and his skin was a pale gray.
    He wore a long flowing white robe with a purple trim resembling an archmagus's on top of an dark amethyst longsleeved shirt that rippled into a light frill at his knees. His puffy pantaloons were a pale, dark blue that resembled the night sky and were tied at the bottom with thin silver ribbon. He had low rising bottonable boots that covered his ankles and reached to the bottom of his pants. His sleeveless robe was wrapped across both shoulders and around his torso and waist being tied into a thick knot in the back. The shoulders and forearms of his longsleeved undershirt were plated with thin charcoal armor with a thick golden around them.
    "Who are you?" Stella commanded drawing a bow and aiming for the youthful man.
    He stepped down as if walking down a stairwell to the ground and responded, "Sorry, I'm afraid I don't have any time for formalities." He snapped causing multiple more corridors of darkness similar to the first to appear on the ground summoning monsters fitting the description made by Gorak and, in no time, the group was surrounded by these bedrock beasts.
    The trolls formed a triangle formation putting themselves back-to-back and balled their fist appearing to prepare themselves for hand-to-hand combat. Stella quickly altered her aim to one of the large moving stone creatures; she constantly shifted her eyes at the others to keep from being caught off guard. Kyle reached to his back grabbing a large brown Twin Crescent Axe with his left hand and twirling around the fingers of his right hand a smaller axe similar to the Axe of Earthquake used by amateur warriors.
    The youthful man had no trouble expressing his unwholesome amusement in a low chuckle as he teased them saying, "So, you're going to fight back? How cute, you think you actually have a chance of winning."
    "Oh, we're going to win alright!" Kyle said displeased with the teasing. "Then, I'm gonna personally deal with you myself!"
    "We'll see about that."
    The youthful man snapped his fingers again and almost as if it were a command the monsters attacked with their full force. The troll troop all teamed up to take out one at a time with brute force. Kyle chopped down one after another only using his left axe while Stella provided cover for both him and the trolls. The situation seemed bleak as more and more of the bedrock beasts continually marched from out of the corridors of darkness. Soon the group found themselves surrounded again by two times as many monsters as before.
    Stella rapidly launched arrow after arrow – four arrows were enough to make one of the boulder-built creatures toppleover. Suddenly, one grabbed her from behind squeezing tightly to keep her from firing arrows. "Sorry to disappoint you big guy," she remarked. "But it's not gonna be that easy to get me!" She reached to her concealed arrows in her boots and stabbed it in the torso with an enchanted arrow; immediately, the monster was set aflame and fell to pieces.
    She backed away as the others quickly approached her; she looked around and thought of an idea. She put it into action dashing at one of the stone savages and somersaulting off its head onto the trunk of a tree. She wrapped her legs around a branch and fired multiple arrows simultaneously while hanging upside down. Upon contact with anything, the arrow created a small tundra within a square meter which was enough to freeze all of the monsters in place. She dropped from the branch only to notice that even more still came.
    Kyle continued chopping down beast after beast but it appeared he couldn't take control. He laughed after seeing Stella's marvelous display of skill and experience. "You're not the only one with enchanted weapons, Stella!" he shouted. He tightened his grip on his right axe and whispered into the blade, "Tear through the earth, Montaginterra!" He slammed the blade of his right axe onto the ground causing thick stalagmites and spikes to sprout from it and cleave through the surrounding beasts. "How's that?"
    "I won't lie," she replied. "That was impressive but, don't get cocky – here comes some more!" His victory was shortlived for as his earth rumbling attack crumbled even more monsters marched towards him.
    Unfortunately, the overwhelming numbers of monsters faired well with the troll troop. The monsters pounded away at them and prevailed over all of the troll troop excluding one shaman and Gorak. They were backed into a corner and completely outmanuevered. They had no chance especially with their bodies beginning to give way to exhaustion. Kyle and Stella made multiple attempts to assist them but, the innumerable fleets of monsters continued to obstruct their path and seemed to be insurmountable to defeat them all.
    "This is becoming more and more unpleasant to watch by the second," the youthful man said. He smirked and silently snickered to himself as he used his powers of darkness to slowly shift through space. He teleported in front of Gorak and his last troll friend. "Your fear..." He licked his lips with a vile, snake-like grin. "Is delicious!!" The youthful man thrusted his arm passed Gorak and squeezed his troll friend's skull. The troll friend howled in agony and fear. The youth's hand emitted an eerie dark purple light and the troll began to lose vitality before Gorak's eyes as his screams began to die.
    "No!" Kyle shouted roaring like a lion and ferociously cleaved through the monsters hoping to save the troll. Stella stabbed the ground with a flame arrow and rushed through the fire to do the same. Stella launched another away but, it was easily deflected. When Kyle was finally in range for an attack, the youthful man had finished the dastardly deed and easily dodged.
    "Ugwen! Ugwen!" Gorak rushed to attend to his friend who was left in a state of lifelessness. The troll barely responded to Gorak; it was just like the animals and pets seen before.
    The youthful man laughed maniacally to himself and said, "That was a delicious meal."
    "You're gonna pay for this!!!" Kyle snapped.
    "Hmph. Sorry, I don't have any coins right now," the youthful man taunted arrogantly. "I'll have to repay my debt some other time." He turned his back to them opening a new corridor of darkness and waving. "Ta-ta!" He walked through as the monsters began to march out and decimate everything in their path once again.
    Kyle clenched his axes and growled furiously, "Not this again!"
    "We can't keep this up," Stella huffed.
    "We have to!" Kyle shouted. "We can't let them destroy the forest or anything else!"
    At that moment, a flurry of arrows rained down on the rock wreckers blasting away a great number of them. The two craned around at the sound of a horn to see a small armada of forest trolls. From over the hill, troll archers, troll shaman, and troll warriors came and began combat with the stone monsters.
    "The cavalry has arrived, my friends!" a troll warrior said running to them. "Your assistance was appreciated but you are no longer needed here!"
    "What! No way!" Kyle refused. "You can't take these things out yourselves!"
    "No," Gorak said rising from the ground. "He's right. We don't need to risk having more losses than we already have. Just go, we can handle this."
    Stella and Kyle looked to each other with mutual understanding. "Fine," Stella said putting her bow and arrows away. "Just don't lose."
    Kyle hesitantly put away his axes saying, "Stay strong, Gorak." The two dashed through the battle and out of the forest as the crescent moon shone brightly above them in the distance. It was a dereaving and one-sided battle with the trolls falling one by one like dominos.
    The youthful man watched from above on a high up tree branch. He snickered and chortled to himself in the shadows. "Fools. Don't you know the shadows in your heart will only make us stronger?" He lept to the ground and laughed maniacally as he joined the inevitable, hopeless battle.


    Chapter 7: After the Storm
    Stella and Kyle escaped from the threat of the mysterious monster army and their leader, the youthful young man with dark powers, arriving back at the underground Highroad Junction. As to be expected, they were flooded by townsfolk upon their arrival whom all asked of their encounter with the monsters that destroyed their town. None expecting however the grim tale told in response. The townsfolks slowly dispersed after shuddering from a crippling horror of abiguity. What was to become of them if the monsters were to return and find them? It was a thought they all shared as they dispiritedly trudged back to their temporary homes.
    Merigold approached the two smiling to hide her disappointment and said, "Thanks so much for trying. There wasn't much else you could do."
    "No!" Kyle exclaimed. "We could've done more, we could've stayed, we could've fought, we could've--"
    "Lost." Stella interrupted. "I know you feel crummy about leaving Gorak behind Kyle but, Merigold is right: there wasn't more we could do; we tried our best and that's all he asked of us that's why he let us go."
    Kyle clenched his fist as a tear of anger fell from his face. "I won't let that guy get away with this," he growled under his breath. "I will pay him back for this. I swear it."
    "And you won't be alone," Stella reassured him as she placed her hand on his shoulder. "I'll be at your side when you face him. Taking a life, troll or otherwise, is wrong and we won't let him get away with it, right?"
    Kyle turn to Stella and nodded, "Right."
    "Well, now that that's settled," Merigold pleasantly said in a gasp of breath. "You two won't be able to do much if you don't get any rest so follow me to your tents."
    Merigold walked them to two of the larger tents that had been erected. Stella made herself a nice home in one and Kyle tossed his stuff to the side in the other, reclining on the ground with his hands behind his head. Though he and Stella had resolved to avenge Gorak and the trolls, the thought of what had transpired in the forest still haunted him. He nearly went without sleep the whole night; only a few hours after his soul found ease, he and Stella had to arouse themselves from slumber and the very next morning continue on to Snowhill.




    *




    Lyla, Dalton, and Hapete had long left the Thugawug territory finding refuge at the Chadty camp in Greenwood Forest. Chadty and his camp counselors helped them restock all the supplies lost to Muggenstomp and his band of brutes and even took the time to tend to the groups wounds and bruises. After a short rest they then resumed their journey to Seaside hoping to arrive the next day before the end of the guildmasters' convention. Not long after leaving the famous Chadty campsite, the three came to a small mountain pass. Not far into the distance was an ever-twirling prism of exquisite chromatic colors that spun into the sky and rained sparkles of unimaginable colors. This twister of alluring beauty was known as the Ever Rainbow.
    Lyla gawked at it in utter awe of its comely serenity. "Is that the Ever Rainbow?" she enthusiastically asked Dalton squeezing his inner arm though she already knew the answer. "We made it to Merry Vale! Oh! I've heard so much about this place!"
    "So have I..." Dalton moaned suspiciously.
    "Please say we're staying here for the night!" Lyla playfully implored.
    "Oh, I wish we could," Dalton sarcastically remarked. "But if we stay here we won't be able to catch the old man before he leaves tomorrow."
    "And why is that a problem?" Lyla asked discontented with his answer. "Won't we cross paths when he leaves, anyways?"
    "No, he and the other guildmasters are going to use the warpstone to go back to their guilds so if we don't get to Seaside before then we'll miss him."
    "Well why didn't we use the warpstone?"
    "Two reasons. One: only A-class adventurers or other people with sufficient privileges are allowed to use warpstones; I'm only C-class and you're a rookie E-class. And, two: you can only warp to places we have passes to so even if we were both A-class niether of us have been to Seaside and gotten a pass so we wouldn't be able to go there."
    Lyla crossed her arms and put her snoot to the air pouting, "Well, that's just not fair."
    "Yeah being C-class is no fun," Hapete complied.
    "Well, if we can't stay the night here, can't we just stay long enough to get some of Merry Vale's famous cotton candy?"
    "Candy?!" Hapete shouted with glee. "I LOVE CANDY!"
    "I don't know..." Dalton pondered aloud.
    "C'mon, pleeeeease!" Lyla and Hapete begged in unison.
    Lyla's daintiness and Hapete's innocence struck Dalton's heart making it skip a beat. He gulped down his bashfulness and turn so they wouldn't see him blush. "Fine," he finally conceded. "But we have to leave in an hour."
    "Yay!" the two shouted in celebration.
    "Meet me at the North Pass bridge when you're done having fun!" Dalton called out as they dashed into town. He sighed and thought aloud to himself, "Honestly, I don't what I'm gonna do with them." He reluctantly walked into town after them unaware of what trouble they were about to get into.






    *




    Stella and Kyle had finally arrived at Snowhill. As the name implies, the town was covered in a large desert of snow and the frosted heavens constantly provided a new sheet of it everyday. A small pond of frozen water provided a place to ice skate and playfully toss snowballs and passing bystanders. In the center of town, standing tall in front of city hall was a large tree which during the holidays is beautifully decorated with elegant ornaments and footed with a galore of presents. Around it was an arry of buildings, from the small restuarant where Lucca De'Flor was preparing his families famous fried dumplings and Garrison Gold challenged and defeat lines of amateur card duelists to the post office where penguins and humans worked side-by-side to deliver mail to the townsfolk.
    The two walked passed it all including the famous Snowhill Hot Springs until they reached city hall. The door was held for them by a nice young pixie fellow with spiked hair and they meandered into Mayor Crystalline's office where the elderly pixie woman sat at her desk, resting her head on the back of her hands stressfully looking for documents sprawled across the top of her desk.
    "Mayor Crystalline?" Stella spoke up.
    Crystalline looked up rather suddenly as if she were surprised by their presence. "Oh, Miss Greenfiled, please come in!" Stella and Kyle entered the room shutting the door behind them and sat at the two seats in front of the desk. "And who is your friend?"
    "Kyle Earthflame at your service." Kyle said shaking Crystalline's hand.
    "Nice to meet your, Mister Earthflame." she replied.
    "Now, that we're all acquainted," Stella began. "Mayor, I understand strange things have been going on here in Snowhill."
    "Yes, it's a little too much to explain so please follow me." Mayor Crystalline ascended from her chair and lead them out the back door. There was a familiar air about the situation but, Stella and Kyle couldn't put their finger on it so, they catiously followed Mayor Crystalline to the scene which she spoke of.
    Mayor Crystalline drowsily floated towards the infamous Snowhill Crystal Barrier; it had become obvious that whatever the issue was, it kept her up nights on end trying to resolve it. The snow around the area encompassing the Crystal Barrier was unusually thin and the trees appeared to be in an accelerated aging state as most of them seeemed to be on the brink of death. The animals in that same space had a sense of lifelessness that was all too familiar to Kyle and Stella.
    After stepping further and hiding behind a boulder, the three had a perfect view of the Crystal Barrier. The normally bright almost aquamarine crystals had turned black and glowed a menacing purple hue reminiscent of the aura that enveloped the monsters Kyle and Stella fought in the forest not long ago. Guarding it was a small armada of evil snowmen; they had previously been dealt with long ago but now they had risen again with an even more malign aura. Their eyes glowed an ominous reddish violet and their bodies were disproportionate – having more muscle on one side than the other. A malevolent black and mauve flame flowed from their bodies but didn't melt them.
    "What is this?" Kyle said bewildered and dismayed.
    "No one knows," Mayor Crystalline sighed. "The crystals were suddenly tainted with this dark power two weeks ago. At first, noone thought much of it but then some tourists came for vacation and saw a strange man taking a sample from the crystals. Concern started to arise from the townspeople and rumors began to spread so, of course, we decided to investigate. When we did the man summoned that snowman army and since then whenever we got too close to the Crystal Barrier they would attack without mercy."
    "Well, that can't be too much of a problem," Stella said. "I understand that people are afraid but, all you need to do is cut off the Crystal Barrier from the rest of the town and tell everyone not to go near it."
    "We tried that. We built a wall around the area and everyone was informed not to go near it but, that same night the snowmen tore the wall down and attacked town. Not too much damage was done but, soon, the attacks became more frequent and townspeople have started to go missing. Anyone found after their abduction have been in a bizarre state of almost lifelessness, not responding to any type of stimuli."
    "This is..." Kyle said in daunted indignation.
    "What?" Mayor Crystalline said puzzled as Kyle's anger gradually boiled to the surface.
    "We've seen something like this before," Stella whispered somberly. "I hoped it wasn't the same situation but--"
    "Look!" Kyle interrupted pointing towards the Crystal Barrier.
    There stood a tall man with long, silky, golden hair that was parted in the middle and spiked back. His skin was pale similar to the youthful man from the forest. His eyes were similar as well, his whites being black and the irises being a vivid turqoise color. His arms were heavily clad with silver armor and exquisite silver gauntlets. On both legs, he wore long armored boots that reached to his knees; the pants under it had a silver armor plate on the thigh area and a matching fauld around the waste. His chest was protect by a finely detailed, silver breastplate that was underlaid by a satiny black shirt. A velvety dark purple cape with a bright white extended from the back of his breastplate and flowed with the wind.
    The man broke off a piece of the crystal barrier and looked at it in an unnappeased manner; he tucked it away. He then rose his hand, as if he were reaching for the clouds, and suddenly shadows of trees, animals, and nearby objects were drawn to it and formed a black orb that pulsed with a dark, multi-colored aura. He thrusted the ball of shadows into the Crystal Barrier and watched as it became even more tainted in darkness.
    "Oh no!" Mayor Crystalline gasped.
    "We have to stop him!" Kyle said as he reached for his axes and started rising from his crouched position.
    "No!" Stella quietly exhorted. "We can't fight him right now especially not in town. We don't know what he or those snowmen are capable of."
    "C'mon! They're snowmen!" Kyle groaned. The man opened a corridor of darkness and began to walk through. "He's getting away!!"
    "No, Kyle, we have to come up with a plan before we confront this guy until then we need to make a wall those snowmen can't break through." Stella rose from her crouched position and watched the man leave. She then reached for her bow and three arrows. She aimed all three arrows at the snowman fleet and began to recite an incantation of sorts into them. "Disintegrate, black dog of the realm of darkness. Look upon yourself with horror and claw out your own heart! Way of the binding, number nine! Crimson wall of the firebolt!"
    Suddenly, the arrows began to give off a deep red light; Stella shot them and they all dispersed surrounding the snowman fleet putting them into a confused frenzy. The arrows grew brighter and their lights connected into a red outline of a triangle. All of the snowmen suddenly glowed the same color and all froze in place unable to even cry out with their direful moans.
    "Miss Greenfield, you never cease to amaze me." Mayor Crystalline said in awe.
    "Me either," Kyle agreed.


    *

    Lyla and Hapete ran rapid all over Merry Vale doing everything they could before they had to leave at their appointed time and as always time goes faster when you're having fun. Eventually, sun began to set on Merry Vale and their day of fun had to end. However, after waiting two hours for Lyla and Hapete to meet him, Dalton got really worried.
    "Where are they?" Dalton said to himself. Displeased with their tardiness, Dalton finally marched into town and began to investigate as to where they were. He interrogated every other person he came across all of whom had seen the two but couldn't offer any other helpful information besides that. After walking around the whole circle that is Merry Vale, Dalton became anxious to find them askng anyone and everyone he passed by.
    There was someone else causing a commotion. A young pixie girl was harassing Mayor McFairy yelling, "Where is she?! I know you and your cotton candy had something to do with this!"
    Dalton immediately turned to listen in after hearing the fuss about cotton candy. "Miss, I can assure you that I have no idea what you're talking about," Mayor McFairy replied calmly. "What makes you so sure that our cotton candy has something to do with your missing friend?"
    "My sister started acting weird after eating YOUR cotton candy. Then she goes off to get some more and now I can't find her!"
    "Well, Miss, I have a show to prepare for but, afterwards I'll gladly help you look for your lost relative." The mayor floated away from her condescendingly leaving the pixie girl furious.
    Dalton approached her and said, "Hey, you, what do you know about the cotton candy?"
    The pixie girl turned to him yelling, "You talkin' to me?"
    "Yeah, you."
    She slapped him harshly across the face saying, "My name's not 'you', it's Keena Diamondshard. Learn it."
    "I don't think it was necessary to slap me but, anyways, I'm Dalton Gold. Nice to meet you. Now about that cotton candy..."
    "I don't know much but, if you heard any of that little back-and-forth me and the mayor had you should know that the cotton candy makes people act a lot different than normal."
    "How do you know it's the cotton candy?"
    "I've asked around and I'm not the only one missing a friend; I asked a chugawug, a robgoblin, one of those campers partying in the eastern part of town and I'm assuming I can add you to the list."
    "Well, no one knows where to find them so what're we gonna do?"
    "Easy. We'll beat the truth out of that lying mayor and then we'll burn this disgusting place to the ground."
    "Someone's violent..." Dalton said playfully. Keena glared at him in all sterness. "I think our only chance is to wait until this show and then confront the mayor."
    "Good idea! Then I can beat him in front of everybody!"
    Dalton sighed and went to the viewing area in front of the Ever Rainbow stage. Keena followed him and they both sat on the bench waiting for the show to began. Time passed and people began to gather for the show. The sun finallly set beyond the hills of Merry Vale and the sky turned a peachy orange color magnifying the vividness of the Ever Rainbow. Suddenly, six lights started to shine on the Merry Vale stage and six women wearing different colored matching outfits appeared.
    "Finally, the show is starting," an elderly pixie said.
    "Okay ladies let's get the show started!" one of the women said.
    Music started to play and the women began to dance in perfect sync. The crowd cheered and Dalton and Keena used this opportunity to sneak away. They searched for a way on stage but instead found Mayor McFairy with a group of people backstage who all appeared to be in some sort of trance.
    "Lyla and Hapete are over there!" Dalton exclaimed.
    "My sister is too so let's go!" Keena quickly flew to the stage drawing Mayor McFairy's eyes. He took the group of people around to the stage. Keena tried to follow them but blocking all entry to the stage was a rainbow wall. "What the?"
    Dalton ran over and knocked on the rock-hard rainbow wall. "Huh? What is this?"
    The crowd suddenly joined together in a loud applause that could be heard from as far of a distance as where they were. When the applause came to a silent halt the mayor could be heard saying "Let's give the Sassy Sunflower Six another round of applause! I never get tired of seeing them perform."
    The crowd cheered to the point that the two had to yell for each other to be heard. "How are we gonna get through?" Keena shouted as she banged on the wall with her fist.
    "I don't know! I don't know!" Dalton replied frantically searching for a weak point in the wall.
    The crowd quieted down again and the mayor enthusiastically shouted, "Now the event you've all waited for..."
    "Oh no..." Keena gasped.
    "What?" Dalton questioned.
    "The rainbow has been calling all of us!" Mayor McFairy continued to shout.
    Keena turned to him pointing at the Ever Rainbow. "He's going to make them part of the Ever Rainbow!" she yelled.
    "What!" Dalton exclaimed in distress. "What does that mean?"
    "I don't know but, what I do know is that any and everyone who let's that rainbow touch them is never seen or heard from again. And I can't let that happen to my sister!"
    "And I can't let that happen to Lyla!"
    The two banged hysterically on the wall as the Mayor continued to egg on the watching crowd. "As long as the rainbow glows," he said. "There's happiness year-round in Merry Vale! But what wonderful bliss waits at the end of the rainbow..? Today, this group of lucky participants will find out and experience the happiest moments of their lives!"
    "Not if they don't have a life to live anymore!" Keena yelled continuing to beat the rainbow wall.
    "How do you feel about that, young lady? Are you excited?" McFairy said looking to Lyla.
    "Yeah! I can't believe I was picked! This is so exciting!" She squealed in excitement unable to comprehend the danger in her current situation.
    "Lyla! No!" Dalton yelled.
    "That's what we like to hear!" the mayor enthusiastically encouraged. "Let's do this then! Cheer them on everyone!" The crowd went wild applauding with abounding exhilaration as the mayor lead his group of oblivious victims up the stairs to their beautiful doom. The group waved at the crowd happily then turned to Ever Rainbow clasping each other's hands.
    "No! Stop!" Dalton commanded hoping to yell louder than the crowds cheers.
    "Move, Gold!" Keena roared. Dalton turned to see her holding a large Iron Torque Thrasher ready to swing as if it were a bat. She struck the wall with her full force as Dalton dove out of the way. Upon impact, Keena's hammer blasted against the rainbow wall shattering it into pieces that turned into tiny particles of light after hitting the ground. "Let's go!" Keena yelled tugging Dalton by the arm.
    The group of entranced citizens and tourists stepped into the Ever Rainbow as everyone cheered. The two ran to stop them to no avail. The Ever Rainbow whisked the group away off into the night sky as the mayor slipped away into the shadows and the crowd cheered louder than ever. Dalton and Keena watched helplessly from the stairs.
    "Lyla!" Dalton shouted. "Hapete! No!" He fell to his knees in dread having witnessed the possible loss of his friends.
    "No! Nina!" Keena shrieked. She growled as she tightly gripped her Torque Thrasher and angrily said under her breath, "The mayor..." She scanned around for any sign of him and saw him as he escaped from backstage and flew to a cave in the distance. "C'mon, Dalton! It may not be too late to save them!"
    Dalton watched as Mayor McFairy fluttered away and angrily said, "Let's get that mayor..."


    Last edited by AnnabelleLionclaws; 02-09-2013 at 04:37 PM.
    chase123456tan likes this.

  2. #2
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    Default Re: The Gloam Invasion (A Free Realms What-If Fantasy)

    Hi guys! Sorry for taking so long to update this thread but I haven't really had the free time. I went to edit the original but I couldn't so here you go! Enjoy and stay posted for Chapter 4. Or, if you just can't wait, I've already gotten to Chapter 7 in the original forums so you can check that out here: http://forums.station.sony.com/freer...topic_id=34888

  3. #3
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    Default Re: The Gloam Invasion (A Free Realms What-If Fantasy)

    Hey guys! Chapter 5 has been posted! And remember if you like my story you can check out the original forums to read up to Chapter 7! http://forums.station.sony.com/freer...topic_id=34888 Enjoy!

  4. #4
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    Default Re: The Gloam Invasion (A Free Realms What-If Fantasy)

    Sorry for taking so long but Chapter 6 is finally here! Enjoy and stay posted for the upcoming Chapter 7! Or, if you're really enjoying it, visit the official forums for a better reading experience and a further progressed story (all the way to Chapter 9)! http://forums.station.sony.com/freer...=34888&#385559

  5. #5
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    Default Re: The Gloam Invasion (A Free Realms What-If Fantasy)

    Chapter 7 is finally here! Enjoy and stay posted for the upcoming Chapter 8! Or, if you're really enjoying it, visit the official forums for a better reading experience and a further progressed story (all the way to Chapter 11)! http://forums.station.sony.com/freer...=34888&#385559

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