The Rescue of Nezbith
In a time of great darkness, when evil sweeps the land, a prophecy foretells the coming of a savior, a child that will defeat the forces of evil and save the world. She is Kyria, the Chosen One.
With a new school year underway, Kyria begins her studies along with everyone else without having to try and catch up as she had the year before. She has her routine with her classes, her private sessions that help her to learn to control her exceptional abilities, and her new duties as the starting goalie for the Dragon’s Breath Lumnia team. Things should finally be going according to plan for Kyria, but things certainly were not.
Life in the Imperium has become increasingly dangerous with the rise of Zoldex, and the Council of Elders has decreed that all Mages return to the Mage’s Council. On top of the plight of the realm, Kyria has been having visions of her childhood friend, Nezbith, in desperate need of help. Relieved that her friend was not dead, but fearing that his current predicament was her fault, she is desperate to find some way to help him.
Confronted by the realization that she has been placing the lives of her friends—Mica, Sartir, and Tyrene—in jeopardy, Kyria decides that she must find a way to help Nezbith on her own. With guilt eating away at her from all sides, she makes mistakes that have dire consequences. Only with the help of her friends does she have a hope for succeeding, and in putting her faith in them, she learns the true value of friendship.
Even in her wildest dreams, Kyria never could have imagined anything quite like this—standing in front of a net, tense and alert, watching as a sixteen-foot cyclops was bearing down upon her. His lone eye remained fixed upon her, his muscles bulging and tense, the frustration of what was happening was clear to everyone, and Rygarg’s explosion of anger was something that very few were surprised by.
A line of defense closed in upon him: Garthra, a female orc, and Fornisashalla, a female raspler. The pair had been in this situation before, and had the experience of time between them. They were confident that they could stop anything that approached, protecting Kyria behind them. They had never been so wrong before in their lives.
Rygarg lowered his shoulder, and like a force of nature impossible to deter, he rammed his way through, with no sense of regret as the two girls landed hard upon the ground, neither moving. His focus was set, his resolve stern—nothing would keep him from the goal.
Kyria watched and cringed at the power of the hit. Even more than thirty yards away, she thought that she could hear the unmistakable sound of bones breaking. She risked taking her eyes momentarily from Rygarg, and searched for one of the referees. Karkistyn, a sarnal who served as the Head Referee for the game, was jogging off to the side of Rygarg, a whistle between his lips, but he was not blowing it to stop play.
Somewhere along the way, perhaps millennia ago, Kyria thought for sure that the rules had changed: Lumnia was a game, not a war zone. The original rules could not possibly have allowed players to physically harm others without reprieve. Perhaps Sartir would know for certain; she’d have to ask him later, if she survived the cyclops’s advance.
As Kyria watched the next set of defenders moving into position, Dragon’s Breath’s trio of Defensivebacks, Kyria began to wonder if they had too many girls in the starting lineup—there seemed to be little that they could do to stop Rygarg! Of the three, only Rozerial, a centaur, was a boy. The other two were Allarien, a photon and co-captain, and Osyf, an ornery dwarf who just looked so tiny compared to her opponent.
Allarien led the charge, trying to swipe the ten-inch dragon-scaled ball from Rygarg’s hand, but he merely raised his arm, making it impossible for her to get at it. With a spin to the right, he circled around Allarien, and collided with Osyf, who fell with a grunt.
“Out of my way, shrimp!” Rygarg growled as he leapt over the dwarf, and ran towards the goal.
Rozerial galloped over and tried to strike Rygarg, to force him off course, but Rygarg lowered his left arm and held the centaur’s head, pushing him aside. Just like that, it was down to Kyria and the cyclops.
Kyria began shifting her weight back and forth, bouncing on her toes so that she could move either to the left or right. This was the first time Rygarg made an advance upon the goal, in more than two hours of play, allowing the Forwards to do their job. Their ineffectiveness apparently was enough to set him off, as he had grabbed Borsik—a first-year sarnal player on his own team—by the neck, and then took the ball from his hands. After seeing the damage he did to her defenders since getting the ball, Kyria was growing concerned.
After everything that she had been through in the past few months, perhaps the sight of the cyclops bearing down on her should be second-nature. After all, she had seen the destruction of her home, including the death of everyone she ever loved; she had watched two centaurs that she called friends be turned to stone before her eyes; she had been abducted and brought to the Mage’s Council against her wishes; she had been trapped deep in the past of the Seven Kingdoms, with little hope of finding her way home again; she had faced a Warlord sorcerer that was so tyrannical that the Mages found it wise to erase him from all written records of past events; she had fought all varieties of creatures, including the stampeding brooswar, the carnivorous fargesbeek, the rampaging torogon, the vicious koxlen, the eerie kriverlings, and even a dragon; and she had faced the very real threat of her prophesied nemesis, Zoldex, including his apprentice: Kruskall. After all of that, what was a mere cyclops trying to score a goal against her? What could he possibly do?
Kyria watched as Rygarg cocked his arm, preparing to throw the ball. She tightened her hands into fists, feeling the flow of her magical powers surging through her fingers, and then opened them, certain that she could use her powers to help prevent the cyclops from scoring, just as Master Hdrorion, her coach, had been instructing her.
Rygarg grinned, mischievously. In that moment, Kyria wondered if he was about to try something unexpected, but quickly dashed those thoughts away. Rygarg was a brute, a thug. His unstoppable sprint through the Dragon’s Breath defense was clear evidence of that. She decided that he must merely be confident that he could throw the ball so hard that she had no chance of magically slowing or stopping it.
In the next few seconds, Kyria would realize that taking an opponent for granted, and making such bold assumptions, was an act of pure folly. Rygarg did throw the ball, but not until after he kicked off from the ground, leaping into the air, soaring directly toward her. In mid-flight, he threw the ball with all of his might, directly at Kyria’s head, his massive forty-three hundred pound frame following on the same trajectory.
Kyria raised her hands, instinctively trying to defend her face by catching the ball. She used her magic to slow the ball’s velocity, only to realize that she only slowed the ball, not Rygarg, who was on top of her within seconds. Kyria first felt the ball touch her fingertips, then Rygarg’s shoulder impact her chest. It was a blunt impact, and the pain was numb at first, but began throbbing in seconds. She could hardly breathe, struggling to make her lungs work against the pressure that had suddenly constricted her.
Lying upon the ground, staring in pain at the net, not even certain what it was because it was spinning so quickly, Kyria thought she could make out a few sounds. One was both unmistakable, and in her mind, unbearable—the sound of the Drelenkin’s Fin’s noisemakers, a wail that sounded far too much like someone slowly dragging their fingernails down a chalkboard for her liking.
The second sound she heard could only be described as a laugh, but it was so sinister and evil, that Kyria shuddered when she heard it. It was Rygarg, taking pleasure in the success of his strategy. She could not see clearly enough to focus upon him, but she could feel him getting off of her, beginning a celebratory dance. When he finished, she clearly heard him say, in what sounded like a low growl: “That’s how it’s done. Better luck next time, golden girl.”
Kyria was not certain how long she was lying on her back. Time did not seem to be flowing, but in an instant, Rygarg was gone, and Master Hdrorion and half of the team was kneeling down around her, including one of her best friends, Sartir.
“Are you with us?” Master Hdrorion asked.
“Where’s the ball,” Kyria wheezed, her words soft, almost a whisper as she strained to get them out.
“Kyria, they scored,” Sartir said.
Kyria tried to lift her head, but as soon as she did so, she felt dizzy and nauseous. She hated feeling this way. Realizing that, she wondered, not for the first time, if deciding to play Lumnia was a bad idea. Sartir certainly loved it, and she wanted to share that with him, but she had a future full of pain and agony with her prophecy—did she really need to bring more upon herself for a leisurely sport?
The sudden doubt was absurd. She had been hurt before, and she was sure that she would be hurt again. At least this was in an organized game, and not someplace where Zoldex or one of his disciples was trying desperately to insure that the prophecy could not be fulfilled. This was fun. If she had the energy, Kyria would have laughed at that.
This was opening day, the first game of the 7951 Lumnia season. It pitted the prior season’s championship teams against each other, drawing a much larger crowd that Kyria had expected. They had been preparing for this game all week—it seemed like they could talk about nothing else but opening day—and Master Hdrorion and the team, and much of the Mage’s Council for that matter, felt that Drelenkin’s Fin lost too many players to repeat this year, leaving the league wide open for an improved Dragon’s Breath.
It was not only the regular turnover that hurt Drelenkin’s Fin. After all, every team loses Academy students that graduate, and they would certainly miss Xiomen, one of their stars, but they also lost their leading scorer, Kruskall, at the last moment. Kyria could not feel bad at all about that. Kruskall had tried to kill her, and she was glad that he was gone. He had been poised to take over the Center Forward position, though, and now there was a definite void where experienced players had been. At the last moment, Jialie—one of Kyria’s least favorite students at the Academy—had been added to the roster as a replacement for Kruskall. Along with Borsik and Tierell, their Forward line had three first-year players, completely tarnishing their biggest strength the prior season.
Kyria tried to get up again, and nearly managed to do so, but her body went limp and she began to collapse. Sartir caught her and helped her to her feet.
“I think it’s time to play dirty,” a deep masculine voice said. Kyria still could not focus enough to see the speaker, but she knew from his voice that it was Greer, a sarnal who could throw the ball so hard that it could break anyone’s hand that tried to stop it. Kyria had to agree—Rygarg went too far; if that was they way they were going to play, then Dragon’s Breath would have to step-it-up and give as good as they got.
“None of that,” Master Hdrorion said. “We’ll win this one playing our game, not stooping to their level.”
Kyria’s eyes were still a bit blurry, but she was beginning to see the blue flames of Master Hdrorion’s head. At least she was returning to normal. “How are the others?”
Kyria noticed a definite hesitation before Master Hdrorion replied, “They’ll be fine.”
Kyria looked up at Sartir, and saw his face set in a scowl. They may be fine, but they weren’t at the moment. “Tell me,” she pleaded.
Sartir glanced at Master Hdrorion, as if asking permission to tell her the truth, and then looked back at Kyria. “Fornisashalla and Garthra are both on the way to the hospital wing. Fornisashalla has not regained consciousness, and Garthra has a broken leg.”
“Easily mended,” Greer shrugged. “She’ll be back on the field before this one is done.”
“Let’s hope,” Sartir nodded. “Osyf and Rozerial were a bit shaken up, but they are fine.”
“That’s good, at least,” Kyria sighed. She hated the thought of her teammates being injured.
“Coach, we need to get the game going.”
Kyria strained to see, but could not identify which referee had just made the comment. She thought that he was an elf, but could not be entirely certain.
“Let’s get you off of the field,” Master Hdrorion said. “Jaunin, have Chorhan take the goal.”
“I’ll be fine… in a minute or so,” Kyria said.
“I’m glad to hear it,” Master Hdrorion said. “For now, let’s just make sure we can give you that minute or two.”
Sartir helped Kyria all the way to the sideline, and then, with the assistance of Katara, lay her down on the bench. “We’ll get it back,” Sartir said encouragingly.
“Sartir, Tarburr,” Master Hdrorion called. “You two are in as Middlebacks. Bonde, take over for Osyf. Borke, you’re in for Rozerial.”
“Wish me luck,” Sartir said.
Before Kyria could say “Good luck,” she heard Traina, Sartir’s girlfriend, wish him luck and saw her squeeze his hand. She and Traina had never really gotten along, but as long as she made Sartir happy, Kyria was determined not to interfere.
“The dragons won’t have to see you, oh no—after that, they won’t have to see you, oh no.”
Kyria tried to focus on Katara, the girl who was speaking. She was a bit aloof at times, talking about how the dragons would come and take care of anyone that bothered her. Kyria wondered why she was suddenly off of the list, not that she really knew why she had been added to it in the first place. Since Katara stood up and walked over to watch the game by the sideline, Kyria missed the opportunity to ask.
She remained on the bench, staring at the lights above the stadium until she felt somewhat better. She had never really taken the time to examine the lights before. It was a Friday night, and everything should be pitch-black by this time, but the Colosseum was lit as brightly as if it were daylight. Kyria wondered if she could somehow peek her head above the bright barrier that provided the light, if it would be the night sky. It had to be.
The roar of a dragon brought her attention back to the game. She glanced at the field, realizing that her vision was much better now, and saw Jaunin patting Sartir on the back. A glance to the floating scoreboard showed the score as nine to one, Dragon’s Breath. She couldn’t believe that she just missed Sartir’s first goal!
The zeroes floating next to the score under each soaring mascot made Kyria wince. It was still zero to zero, meaning that they were only in the first match. The game may have started Friday night, but shortly it would be Saturday morning. Her Saturday morning Philosophy class was quickly drawing near, and any hope for sleep was fleeting.
Drelenkin’s Fin quickly responded to Sartir’s score, with Jialie passing the ball to Tierell, who threw the ball sidearm into the net, trailing away from the lunging Chorhan. Kyria had been adjusting to that sidearm-throw all night, and silently berated herself for not being in the goal and stopping it.
Standing up, Kyria took a deep breath and was glad to see that she was no longer wobbly. Master Hdrorion substituted Katara for Jaunin, Vorth for Rhiner, Traina for Zallenor, and Findinel for Ba’Shin. Only Greer remained in the game for the starting Forwards—a fact that Savaria, another first year mystral, seemed visibly dismayed about.
“You’ll get in,” Jaunin said comfortingly. As he patted her back, he raised his arms in cheer: Katara passed the ball to Greer, who then threw a bullet into the net, evading the magical attempt at deflection by Atharell.
“Savaria—you’re in for Greer,” Master Hdrorion said.
“See,” Jaunin grinned. “Go get ‘em.”
Kyria knew that Jaunin was one of the team captains, and that his attention to Savaria was for the benefit of the team, but deep down, she felt uneasy. Could it be jealousy? Jaunin had always been nice to her, and when she was enamored with Kruskall, Jaunin had offered to take her to the Founding Ball, but was willing to vanish if Kruskall had come to dance with her. They were only friends, but she just could not shake this feeling. Was it more?
He glanced over at her and winked, then walked over and shook Greer’s hand, congratulating him on the goal. That wink was so beautiful, and Kyria suddenly felt happier than she had in a long time. Uh oh, she thought, she was falling for Jaunin!
In the next few minutes, Drelenkin’s Fin kept the pressure on Dragon’s Breath, keeping the ball on their side of the field no matter how hard the defenders tried to clear it. Before Kyria could even register what was happening, the score was ten to eight. They were catching up. Poor Chorhan just looked completely frazzled in the goal.
Master Hdrorion stepped back to see Kyria. “How are you feeling?”
“Better,” Kyria said.
“Are you up to playing?”
“Put me in,” Kyria said, her posture and voice presenting such determination and confidence that Master Hdrorion did not hesitate. He signalled one of the line referees and substituted Kyria for Chorhan, and also put Zax in to give Tarburr a rest.
Kyria returned to the net, and slowly rubbed her fingers along the steel poles that supported it. In that moment, her mind cleared—completely cleared—and she knew that nothing would touch the net again, no matter what.
Before she was tested, both Traina and Katara scored, bringing their score up to twelve. Three more points and they would win the first match. Atharell, the opposing Goalie threw the ball to Chured—another of Kyria’s least favorite players—but the orc must not have been paying attention, as the ball struck his back and bounced away. Savaria was close enough to scoop the ball up before Chured even knew what was going on, and she sent the ball to Vorth—a seasoned-veteran of the team—who went for the goal, but found his ball deflected by a mystical shield that Atharell erected before the net.
This time, the ball was given to Rygarg, who must have decided that it was time for a repeat performance, because he began running directly toward Kyria again. Kyria braced herself, watching as history began to repeat itself. Rygarg elbowed Zax and dropped him to the ground. Sartir leapt onto Rygarg’s back, but the cyclops was not deterred, running down the field uninhibited.
Allarien did her best to coordinate Bonde and Borke for a better tactical defense against Rygarg this time, but the wraiths did not even slow the massive Middleback.
“Just you and me, Goldie!” he shouted challengingly.
Kyria was ready this time. There was a reason that Master Hdrorion wanted her for his team so badly: she had more magical abilities than anyone in the Academy. Of course, if she wanted to get technical, she had more magical abilities than almost everyone in the Mage’s Council. Only Masters Pierce and Ilfanti had more gold on their robes than she did. This innate magical ability was also part of the reason she was prophesied to save the realm from Zoldex—it was her destiny for greatness. It was time that Rygarg learned to respect that.
Kyria stretched her arms out wide, her palms open and facing Rygarg. All around her, wind began soaring. Her hair and red Lumnia uniform began blowing wildly; the grass of the Colosseum was being blown so hard that it was either torn from the ground or flattened; and the referees near the net had to raise their arms to shield their eyes.
With the wind swirling at velocities that could tear down buildings, Kyria slashed her arms forward and pointed at Rygarg. At once, the near-hurricane force winds swept toward him, consuming him and swirling around with the winds, sending him hurtling through the air all the way back to the other team’s goal.
Kyria grinned with satisfaction at the look of shock and horror on Rygarg’s face. As he neared his own goal, Kyria carefully ended the spell, knowing that poor Sartir was also swept up in her mystical barrage. She hoped that he was both all right and that he could find some way to take advantage of the situation. She need not have worried, as he grabbed the ball from Rygarg’s grasp, leapt into the air, and sent the ball hurtling into the goal of the stunned Atharell.
“Now that’s how it’s done,” Kyria whispered to herself, using Rygarg’s taunt. With the score, the sound of dragons roaring and breathing fire filled the air. Now they were within two of winning, and Kyria was quite pleased to see Rygarg walking off the field, looking awfully wobbly.
With a few more substitutions, a well-rested Greer and Zallenor led the charge, scoring the remaining two goals and winning the first match. The second match was much swifter, and, Kyria thought, it seemed like the other team was suddenly afraid of her, because their attempts at scoring were becoming paltry and few and far between.
By the third and final match, Garthra was back, her broken leg mended, and subbed into the game. Sartir thought that he would be taken out, but he and Garthra remained the two Middlebacks. As if seeking vindication for her injury, Jaunin and Katara both kept passing the ball to Garthra, and she scored four goals in the final match. Sartir—Kyria was proud to see—scored two more himself.
Fornisashalla also returned from the hospital wing in time to see Traina kick the ball into the goal for the final point, and then everyone rushed onto the field to celebrate their victory. Dragon’s Breath won, and though there were definite areas in the defense that they needed to work on, everyone was optimistic for a return trip to the Championships, and hopefully a title.
After the game was over, Master Hdrorion kept the team for half an hour talking about the game, some things to think about, and areas of improvement. Kyria marveled at how he always seemed upbeat and optimistic, but at the same time could make it sound like everything the team did was wrong, and that constant work needed to be done to improve their game play.
Perhaps that was what made him such a good coach—he didn’t allow them to celebrate the fact that they swept the prior season’s champions, and instead was keeping them focused on what they need to do to get ready for the next game, which Kyria was pleased to hear was not for two weeks. Their next opponent was Griffin’s Beak, a team coached by Master Mayeenuddin, an elf that gave Kyria the impression that he was always expecting people—or at least her—to do something wrong. Of course, that did not stop him from trying to recruit her to play for his team.
When Master Hdrorion finished his discussion, finally congratulating everyone on the win, he let the team go to their respective locker rooms. Kyria stopped at her locker and glanced at her chronometer, groaning as she realized that she only had four hours until class began. Hopefully future games would not last as long, but she did recall Mica and Sartir mentioning how sometimes games last for days if both teams are good enough. She could hardly imagine playing a single game for days.
Kyria debated whether she should get cleaned up or not, since that may keep her awake, but she realized that her adrenalin was keeping her up anyway. There was no way that she would be falling asleep anytime soon.
After bathing in the mystical showers and getting dressed, Kyria saw that Traina was standing by the door and waiting for her. Kyria picked up her Mage’s satchel and stuffed her uniform into it, then walked over to where Traina was. “Good game.”
“You too,” Traina said. “You sure showed Rygarg.”
Katara walked by at that moment, giggling as she reenacted Rygarg flailing helplessly through the air. “Priceless,” Katara said, and then left the locker room.
“Thanks,” Kyria said, turning back to Traina.
“It wasn’t a compliment,” Traina said, coldly.
“W-what?” stammered Kyria, shocked by the harshness in Traina’s voice.
“Did you even stop to think that you may have hurt Sartir? He was on Rygrag’s back!”
“I would never hurt Sartir,” Kyria said.
“Sure, but you sent him hurtling 90 yards down the field on the back of a cyclops! You also take him on your little missions, where—I might add—he has been hurt, numerous times. Oh, and don’t let me forget, you outright attacked him!”
“I was under mind-control at the time! It was Kruskall!”
“Likely story,” Traina said, brushing off the retort. “You’re dangerous, and Sartir is blind to it. If he stays close to you, sooner or later, by accident or not, you’ll either kill him or get him killed.”
The words stung Kyria. How could Traina think that she would purposefully harm one of her friends, or put them in harm’s way? The thought was ludicrous. This was just another attempt that Traina was making to force a wedge between her and Sartir. It was bad enough when they arranged to take all of their classes together, so that he was in different sessions than she and Mica were, but now to try and make her feel guilty and thinking that she will wind up killing Sartir? That was taking things too far.
“I’m not trying to hurt him,” Kyria said, defiantly.
Traina shook her head as she turned to leave. “If that makes you sleep better at night. I wonder how well you’ll sleep when you see Sartir with a snapped neck or something the next time.”
“There won’t be a ‘next time’,” growled Kyria. “The prophecy is mine—not my friends’.”
“Good,” was Traina’s only reply as she walked down the corridor and out of the locker room.
Kyria watched her go, trying to fight back tears. Nobody had to try and make her feel guilty; she knew that she felt it all on her own. The entire time that she, Mica, and Sartir were trapped in time, she felt the very real burden that if anything happened to either of them, she would never be able to forgive herself. She knew that the prophecy was for her, and not her friends, and she had tried to distance herself from them, but they would not allow it. Perhaps she really did need to be alone… at least until Zoldex was defeated.
Drying her eyes on her sleeve, Kyria made her way down the corridor, and saw Sartir and Traina waiting for her. “Good game,” Kyria said as she walked by Sartir, not pausing for any more pleasantries.
“Kyria,” Sartir called out. “What’s wrong?”
“I just want to get some sleep,” Kyria lied. “Good game tonight.” In her peripheral vision, she saw that Sartir looked wounded, upset that she would dismiss him so readily; but she also saw that Traina was grinning approvingly.
At the entrance to the Colosseum, Kyria saw both Mica and Tyrene waiting for them. Before Mica could even say a word, Kyria held her hand up and walked past her, leaving her stunned and speechless behind her. She could hear Tyrene asking Mica what was wrong. Perhaps in the morning, nothing would be wrong; for now, Kyria just wanted to be alone.
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