The Value of WordsFrom when we were youngWe all learned how to talkSome of us took a while to learnOthers spoke before they could walkSince that day some spoke littleWhile others simply never stoppedBut nearly no one takes a pauseTo think about the words they dropEveryday we use many wordsWe use so many all the timeAs if they are without valueWorth not a single dimeThey were our first inventionAllowing us to work togetherTo share ideas and knowledgeMaking all our lives betterWords have a power unlike othersTo think they don’t is a big mistakeAlways choose yours carefullyWords can heal as well as break.
Burning Fist: Chapter 3Chapter 3: The Frozen Cavern Part 1The morning sun rose over the forest located just north of Greenwood, its rays dodging their way through the trees as the light began to fill the world again. The sunlight soon reached the forest clearing where the young trio had been camping since last night, first reaching the face of the youngest and newest member of the group, Keon Chival.Keon opened his eyes for a moment, closing them with a grimace as he rolled to face the dirt, that doing little to shield his face from the sun. He eventually relented, opening his eyes, which he shielded with a hand. Before he could slowly rise on his own, he suddenly jumped as he heard the echoing boom of lightning, bringing him to his feet shaking.“Wh-Wh-What?! A st-storm?!” He studdered, the sudden lightning strike causing him to shake as he looked into the sky. Oddly enough, while there were clouds in the sky, they were all a soft white, like soft balls of cotton on a colorful canvas of orange and blue, far from the look of any storm cloud. Another strike caused him to squeak before he heard a low groan, seeing Damion slowly sit up. The bluehead's face was still in partial slumber as he groggily looked up into the sky, rubbing his eyes.“Mira’s training early this morning…” He yawned before stretching his arms, trying his best to wake up, his words easing Keon somewhat. They then remembered a few minutes earlier, opening their eyes just enough to see Mira stand up and walk off before returning to sleep. Once they were both up and alert, they gathered all of their belongings, including the bag of gold that Mira buried last night, and walked down one of the paths, which lead to a nearby lake.At the edge of the lake, Mira could be seen, the top of her gi on the ground beside her, leaving her torso concealed in just a short black top to hide her chest. Sweat traveled down her face and body as she reared back her right arm, before thrusting it forward, a bolt of lightning shooting out. The resulting boom echoing across the lake and forest like the roar of a powerful storm. It seemed that she had performed that technique several times in succession, as she grimaced after throwing the punch, stretching her arm to try and dull any pain. She appeared to be finished as she reached for her uwagi, noticing Damion and Keon out of the corner of her eye, letting out a quick gasp before throwing the uwagi around her, a slight pink color glazing her cheeks.“H-How long have you two been standing there?!” She sputtered as she reached for her obi, frantically tying it.Her apparent embarrassment was not evident to Damion, who tilted his head slightly, shrugging, “We just got here. Now that you’re done here, I guess you’re ready to head out?” His words gave off a sense of nonchalance, helping to ease her tension somewhat. Her blush did darken slightly as he handed her the bag of gold and the backpack.She nodded, following them as they started through the forest path. A gentle breeze passed through the trail, making branches and bushes sway, some losing a leaf or two in the process. Combine the breeze with the light of the morning sun, and the temperature was perfect, at least to Mira and Keon. Damion, meanwhile, shivered, as if all he could feel was the breeze.“Geez, it’s freezing out here!” He whined, hugging himself in a futile effort to warm up. “At least it can’t get any colder, right?”Keon turned to him, raising an eyebrow as he scratched his head, feeling a slight warmth from the still-rising sun. “But it’s the middle of summer, isn’t it? How are you cold?”“Honestly, neither of us know why he’s like this,” Mira mumbled as she placed her hands behind her head. “It would take a ridiculously hot and humid day for him to think the temperature is fair.”“Perhaps we can buy you a jacket when we get to Southshire,” Keon said with a snap of his fingers, glancing at Mira, who gripped the straps of the leather backpack she carried. That’s when he realized that their bag of gold was in the pack, and Mira seemed quite protective of the group’s finances.“The top priority from a financial standpoint is to make sure we have enough for food and boarding throughout this pilgrimage.” She spoke while giving the younger boy a slight glare, sighing, "Though I don’t want to hear Damion complain about “being cold” throughout the journey. Maybe we can squeeze a decent jacket into the budget.”“And if need be, maybe we can do a short quest or two?”“Maybe. As long as we get to Northveil in time, that’s all I care about.”They then turned to Damion, who had walked ahead of them, stopping at the forest’s edge. His gaze locking onto a collection of buildings that seemed to be about a mile from their current position. Even from such a distance, he could see that the town larger than Greenwood, causing Mira to grin and giggle enthusiastically as she got a look of her own.“YES!!!” She exclaimed as she pumped her fist. “We finally made it to Southshire!”“You’re pretty excited to finally get here, aren’t you?” Damion smiled softly, though his look turned into one filled with curiosity. “By the look on your face, it’s not just because we’re a little closer to Northveil, is it?”“For the most part, it is, but…”“But?”“Because, while we’re here, we can also get our hands on some of that sweet, delicious Southshire ale!”She hummed to herself as they began to walk down the trail that led into town, Keon soon tugging on her gi to get her attention. “Um, Mira? What’s so exciting about getting some ale?”She responded by turning to him, chuckling while rubbing the large crimson flame that was his hair. “Oh silly Keon, you still have a little while to go before you can truly appreciate the qualities of good ale, especially Southshire ale! It just so happens to be this town’s best export, as well as the favorite drink of many Astrilian aristocrats! Even the king has voted Southshire ale as the best drink in the kingdom for the last fifteen straight years!”Damion glanced back at the two of them, his ears having caught everything that she said, “How do you know all of that, Mira? Was it from your time living in Everborn?”His words caused her to quietly gasp, her enthusiasm turning to an unsettled feeling. She tried to respond, stuttering, “W-Well, somewhat, yeah… B-But, most of that I learned from Hahanaru when I go with her to market!”She smiled sheepishly, but soon relaxed as she saw him shrug, sighing in relief before jogging ahead of him. Her excitement returned as a series of small wooden bridges came into view, crossing over the banks of what looked to be several streams. Keon gasped as his eyes widened, though Mira didn’t see his apparent shock even when she turned to him.“M-M-Mira! Those streams…” He stammered as he felt her hand grab his shoulder as she wrapped her arm around him.“Yep! Those streams bring water from the lake we were at this morning!” She exclaimed as she soon let go, slowly moving closer, giddy with anticipation, her voice taking a near sing-song tone. “The water from the lake is so pristine and clean on most days, and best of all… The water from these streams is what the brewers here use to make the legendary… South… shire… Ale…?”Her expression slowly deteriorated as she looked into the stream before her. Her heart sinking as she opened her eyes, seeing that the water was no longer flowing, the supposed “pristine” water now nothing more than a sheet of ice. It wasn’t just this stream either, as she looked out to see every stream in sight, nine total, all sharing the same frozen fate. She stared silently as if all the joy she had held since entering Southshire had been frozen over as well.After standing in place for what felt like an eternity, she slowly turned her face towards her companions. While her eyes were entirely shaded by the few bangs that hung over her forehead, she locked her gaze onto Damion. “Damion…” Her voice was now empty, monotone as if her very soul had left her body behind. “Come here. Melt the ice. Now.”He didn’t seem too worried about the situation at hand, shrugging as he walked up to the stream, getting on his knees before pressing his hand against the ice. A sharp chill rose through his spine upon making contact but soon closed his eyes as he began to concentrate. Keon walked over to observe, seeing Damion’s suddenly start to glow a bright orange.“Melt,” he muttered, releasing what looked to be superheated energy onto the ice, causing the very air around them to become much warmer. The temperature around him rose quickly, as evidenced by sweat growing on the brows of everyone nearby. After a few minutes, Damion let out a soft gasp as the energy disappeared. He shook his head in shock, mumbling, “I-It’s not working…? Why?”Keon stood right beside Damion, scratching his head curiously. He drew his sword, poking at the ice, not even producing a scratch. “This doesn’t make any sense… It’s the middle of summer, so it shouldn’t even be possible for water around here to freeze at all, let along be this thick. Something’s wrong with this picture.”“This… This is horrible!” Mira groaned as she fell onto her back, tears slowly starting to form in her eyes, trying to contain them with all her might. “How could something like this happen?!”She wiped away the tears that just about escaped, opening her eyes enough to notice a figure walk by her. She stood up to see the figure standing between her and Damion. The two boys turned to see the individual, an older looking man with gray hair, similarly colored stubble covering his jawline. His brown eyes gave the two boys a stern gaze before looking past them, gazing at the frozen stream. He let out a slow sigh before speaking, his voice low and gruff, “This is no ordinary ice, travelers. This was the result of magic.”The eyes of the three youngsters widened a little at his words. Mira then stood up, walking to stand by her companions, her tone now calm, yet her eyes were also as stern, “So someone did this? Who the hell would want to do something like this?”Instead of directly answering her question, he took a step to his right, raising an arm to one of the smaller, brick houses that stood several feet away. “Before I answer, I ask that you come inside my home. We can discuss this matter there.”The trio all looked at each other, soon shrugging before following the old man into the house. The interior was more humble than the brick exterior suggested, with each step taken with the wooden floors creaking. The old man soon took a seat in a wooden rocking chair, slowly rocking back and forth as he waved towards a few more wooden chairs. They nodded before seating themselves, all facing the old man, who let out a sigh as he leaned back in his chair.“As the elder of this village, I’ve seen a lot of strange happenings,” He began before slowly leaning forward, using a hand to rub the stubble on his face. “However, this occurrence to our streams, it is easily the worst of them, as that water is the very source of this village’s income and livelihood.”“Just a little bit ago, you said the streams were frozen due to magic,” Mira responded, crossing her arms. “Do you know who was responsible?”He nodded slowly before taking a deep breath, his stern face giving a more grim expression, “I don’t know what exactly this thing is, but… I have reason to believe that the one responsible is… A Hyōki.”“A… Hyōki?” Mira scratched the back of her head and repeated the elder’s words, raising an eyebrow, her face, and mind both filled with confusion. “Is that some kind of animal or something?”“Far from an animal. In fact, the Hyōki are human, or at least they once were… Long ago, Rodinia was plagued by demons. While many fear and reviled demons, some wished to harness the incredible magical power they possessed. Legend tells of a man who bargained with a demon to save his home town from a vicious snowstorm, even offering the warmth of his soul. The demon took advantage of the man’s offer, turning him, along with everyone in his town, into a frozen people that can harness the power of cold. The Hyōki.”“So this Hyōki or whatever is some kind of demon, right?” Damion chimed in as he leaned forward. “Is it strong?”“I think the magic it used on our streams can speak for itself.”Mira shook her head at Damion’s words, resting a hand over her face with a sigh. Typical Damion, always thinking with either your stomach or fists. She then cleared her throat as she sat up straight, smiling as she adjusted one of her black fingerless gloves. “Anyway, we’d be more than happy to track down this Hyoki or whatever its called. That is… For a price.”The elder’s brow furrowed, letting out a low, almost growl-like noise, soon sighing, “How much will it take?”“Oh, not much… Maybe five hundred gold? And throw in a couple bottles of that delicious Southshire ale while we’re at it!”Her words caused his eyes to widen slightly, before a soft smile curled over his face, letting out a light chuckle, “That’s all? I figured with what I’m asking of you that your asking price would be at least triple that amount. Very well, then. Allow me to show you where the Hyoki lives.”The elder grabbed a nearby wooden staff before leading the trio out of town, leading them into a nearby forest, following one of the frozen streams. The stream seemed to snake its way around trees and bushes endlessly until they came to a clearing. Upon reaching the clearing, the three youngsters looked around with wide eyes, gazing in awe at what sat before them. The entire clearing was covered in clear blue ice, as chilling to the touch as the streams. In the middle rested what looked to be a frozen cave, shaped to resemble the mouth of a strange, dragon-like creature, perhaps one that died out long ago.“Whoa, it's so pretty!” Keon exclaimed. “It's like a little winter wonderland!”“I’ve seen better,” Damion responded, his mouth suddenly beginning to water as his thoughts began to drift. “Like a huge bowl of piping hot udon!”The two boys each felt a hand suddenly smack the back of their heads, bringing them back to reality as Mira took a step forward, turning to face them. Her voice took on a slightly stern tone, “Focus, you two! We’re here on a critical mission. We have to save the al- I-I mean the town’s water!”Damion raised an eyebrow, muttering, “So you can get that ale you keep talking about?”His words were met with another smack to the back of the head from Mira, who gave him a slight glare before the elder took a few steps towards the cave opening, pointing his staff towards it. “As you might have realized from the surrounding area, this is where the Hyoki resides. Before you enter, I must warn you three to be careful.”Mira glanced away from Damion as she heard the elder’s words, crossing her arms, “I’m guessing this thing is dangerous, huh?”“Correct. Hyōki have often been said to be cruel, sadistic creatures as a result of the demon’s curse placed upon them. We had sent adventurers inside to try and kill it in the past. However… Nobody ever came out.”These words caused Keon to let out a quiet squeak, shaking all over as he hid behind Damion, who exchanged glances with Mira before both nodding. “We’ll be careful, sir. Come on, guys, let’s go.”Damion nodded before leading Keon to follow Mira into the cave. At first, the cavern looked like any other, dark aside from the light coming from outside, cold, damp. That perception changed upon entering into what seemed to be a dead-end, a large slab of ice standing tall in the center of the room.Mira was the first to touch the slab, her exposed fingertips turning blue after only seconds, prompting her to pull her hand back with a squeak, shivering, “Sh-Sh-Shit, that’s cold!!” As she blew on her fingers to return warmth to them, Keon and Damion looked around the room, occasionally glancing at the slab.“This is a pretty small cave, empty too,” Keon muttered, holding a hand on the hilt of his sword as a precaution. “M-Maybe the Hyōki’s not home?”Damion then stopped and placed his full attention on the slab, staring intently before slowly approaching. Something was suspicious about this slab. He put his hand on it, using his fire magic to protect his fingers from the cold. He saw the area around his hand begin to melt, slowly falling to the floor, causing his eyes to widen upon the heat-making contact with the slab. He placed his other hand on the slab to double the magic output, watching as the ice melted more. It got smaller before eventually revealing what was underneath, causing the group to gasp as they gathered around Damion’s discovery.“I-It’s a stairwell!” Keon exclaimed with wide eyes, before turning to Damion with a raised brow. “How did you know something was there?”“Honestly, I didn’t know at first,” Damion responded, rubbing the back of his head. “I figured there was no other option but to investigate the slab. When I touched it, it felt different than the streams. It didn’t feel anywhere near as thick as the frozen water.”Mira rubbed her chin with two fingers, her other hand tucked into the sleeve of her gi to warm it up as she pondered the discovery. “The elder said that the streams were frozen using ice magic… If that ice didn’t melt from your magic, but that slab did, maybe that slab was made from natural ice?”“Makes sense…” Damion muttered, stretching his arms before fighting off a shiver, feeling the chill of the cave send shivers up his spine. He glanced at the stairwell, nodding as he began to turn to his companions. “What are we waiting for then? Let’s go-”He suddenly stopped as he saw Mira and Keon holding onto each other, shaking nervously, smiling sheepishly as they both pointed towards the stairwell. Mira let out a slow “giggle” before studdering, “L-Lead the way, Damion! We’ll be right behind you! Heheheh…”“Y-Yeah, wh-what she s-said!” Keon chimed in.Damion rolled his eyes before starting down the frozen steps, feeling another cold chill wash over him as he led the way. Despite going underground, it appeared to be getting brighter the deeper the three descended. Upon reaching the bottom, all three looked at their surroundings in awe. Everything around them looked nothing like a typical cave. The walls, floor, the ceiling, and even the scattered stalactites and stalagmites looked as if it were entirely created of ice. Sunlight from cracks in the ceiling helped to illuminate the ice around them, giving it the illusory luster akin to that of crystals. The three took a moment to stop where they were to take in the frozen work of art that surrounded them…Little did they know that even in this frozen landscape, a figure watched them from the shadows, using magic on a sheet of ice to observe them from afar. An odd hand colored blue held the sheet firmly, its grip growing tighter as a sigh of irritation escaped the lips of its master. Its voice, with a mix of gentle femininity and cold harshness, slowly filled the seemingly dark, empty void in which it was residing.“More adventurers have entered my domain…” The voice said, displeasure eminent. “Even with their water source frozen over, those damned villagers will not leave me alone. I suppose I’ll just have to take care of these three as I have many before them… Mm?”Her eyes then turned to Damion, leaning in to get a closer look at his face, a pair of blue eyes trying to lock with his. A smirk slowly curled over her lips as she examined him from head to toe, nodding with a sinister giggle.“On second thought… I won’t kill all three of them~.”End of Chapter...
Fool Me OnceIt was that little glimpse of joyThat got me so enthralledWhen it turned out to be a ployI wished to end it allMountain of shame, a sea of tearsAnd valley of lost hopePain that lasted me for yearsAs I struggled to copeI looked for signs of deep regretFor all the damage doneOr just a little guilt, but yetI found that there was noneAll responsibilityWas mine alone to bearCowards like that bring tragedyAnd vanish in thin airStricken down, I rose anewI'm not easy to killOnce now beaten black and blueHonestly, quite the thrillJust a bit of gratitudeFor the hurt that made me wiseThe life within me is renewedAnd you cannot fool me twice
a time of peaceIt's magical this time of year
a time of family and song
a time when miracles appear
the tree goes up smelling of pine
drizzled with colored lights and a star that will shine
The country side all dressed in white
fire burning to keep us warm
hot cocoa under the starlight
the scent of fresh baked gingerbread
visions of eggnog and tinsel dance in my head
Family will come together
for that alone I will rejoice
and we'll enjoy winter weather
morning comes- we gather to feast
in ugly Christmas sweaters we wish you all peace.
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