Lake Elan---the largest body of water in the Forgotten Kingdom and what the capital, Dessar, used as its biggest attraction. Being a large metropolis in the middle of a desert was certainly a challenge, but a large fortress located atop the Great Dune next to a body of fresh water certainly helped them gain prominence. The lake stretched so far over the horizon, many called it a sea. Tourists often wondered where their fresh water came from as there were no mountains or rivers anywhere in the proximity, but those who visited Lake Elan and studied it could quickly surmise the source.
Today, the sun was beginning to dip toward the western horizon as the athletic golden blonde Nagy Oaxi-Nogl swam her 50th lap along the coast of Dessar. As her synced biomechanical arm and feet propelled her through the last lap, her drenched golden sky-high ponytail waved and bobbed like a flag. Her arms parted the mild current as her body glided across the water in her stylish orange one-piece suit, while her legs propelled her meters with every fierce kick. After a solid few minutes, she eventually made her way back to the shoreline. She had left her stuff on the northern side of the commercial area of the coast, close to where the piers and docks jutted out over the crystal blue water.
As she got to the edge of the pier, she noted her towel and parasol, an ultrathin carbon-fiber rod with a translucent film fanning out from it giving her towel and bag a bit of shade. Nagy grabbed her yellow cover-up skirt and attached it around her waist before taking a seat on her towel and gazing out at the evening horizon. The bright yellow sun was slowly turning a nice golden brown and decorating the sky with a range of warm shades of orange and yellow. The main thing that caught her eye was the tower amidst the horizon.
The Tower of Life was by far the spectacle that drew attention after the initial feeling of relief long-traveled wanderers often had. A large spire that floated high in the sky towards the center of the lake, the tower would continuously release cascading waterfalls from its base to continuously fill the lake. Expeditions to the tower were made by The Truth, a group of Aeon Priests who studied the ancient tech, the Numenera, of the previous Eight Worlds of Earth. Still, the Tower of Life was just one modern marvel to behold.
Nagy had asked around quite a bit about the Tower, but few seemed interested in indulging her beyond the notion that it was important and guarded by Dessar for that reason. When she sought out the Truth for more, they gave her a long-winded explanation that she did not quite understand, and was not sure she wanted to. From what she could gather from their jargon, it was a modern marvel from the Age of the God-Kings that dispensed water. She had also learned that the price of going there without royal approval was severe.
There was a time when Nagy would see such a line by an Aeon Priest as a challenge and take it upon herself to test it out. As Nagy began to find her mind self-reflecting, she turned to her bag which had her change of clothes. She reached under her newly tanned golden leather pants and grabbed the red cloth tied to her boots. As she unfastened it and re-affixed it to her metallic upper arm, she couldn’t help but think aloud, “I hope you're eating properly. You always got yourself into trouble, and you’re gonna need the energy…”
Nagy turned back towards the sky and began calculating again. She was getting better at it, now that she was in the habit of it. “1 month, 2 weeks, 3 days, 20 hours…” she concluded. She began to feel the urge again and reached back into her large golden leather bag and pulled out a small, clean canvas and a light rectangular box, about the size of her forearm. She unhooked the latch and folded the top back until it seemingly snapped into place against the other end. Inside was a series of brushes huddled in section with 6 smaller square sections lined next to the brushes. She pressed a button on the side of the box and it began to whir as a flat, clean, white palette extended over the top section. As the sound continued, Nagy extended long metallic spokes from the corners and adjusted them in the sand until it was positioned at the perfect height for her convenience.
As soon as she had finished adjusting the stand, a little chime went off from the box indicating it was done preparing. She flipped open the tiny boxes to see the freshly mixed primary colors she set as well as an additional tray filled with water for her to reset her brush. She began pulling her primaries onto her palette and mixing the colors she envisioned. As she dipped her brush in the rich red on the palette and brought it up to the canvas, she started reminiscing on her muse.
The sun was just lifting over the eastern section of The Great Mesa as a small blonde flame guided a small red wisp through the crowds moving up and down the sections in transit. The small flame stood only a couple inches taller than 4 ft as she guided the smaller black figure with a red wisp trailing behind him. She pulled his arm through the crowds of giants five to six feet tall, as he reluctantly held on.
“Come on Gavin! We’re gonna be late…” she called out to him, tugging him to help him speed up. She had to give him credit; even though she was quite fast and two years his senior, he could keep pace with her. But Nagy knew he could go faster if he really put his all into it.
Artesa was a vibrant city built into the largest of mesa in the line that littered the northern and southern horizons. The layers and pathways up the mesa divided the city into districts which each had a distinct look to them with artwork and murals on display for many to see. Aside from being the largest mesa, Artesa’s high city was located literally above the mesa on a free floating structure that had served as a modern marvel to help distinguish it from the rest of the drab landscape.
Nagy eventually pulled Gavin out of a crowded side street, arriving at the front of their designated primary school. It was a tall building painted a lush yellow with ornate purple floral arrangements carved into the stone of the window sills and railings. Above the large red double door entrance to their school was a sign that read: “High-2B Primary”
It was considered one of the nicer ones in the upper area of the Mesa. Despite the fact that they lived in the middle districts, Nagy never quite understood why they went to this one instead of the one that was closer to their home. She chose not to question it. It was cleaner and more colorful than the alternative, so she figured that it was for the best.
“Alright, I think we made it,” she started. “Now we just have to get you to your homeroom and---”
“I’m fine. I can get there by myself from here,” Gavin interjected as he jerked his arm away from Nagy’s grasp. His voice was cold, and cut deep.
“N-no! I’m supposed to take you to school and---” she started, her eyes turning red with anger from his tone.
“You did! I’m here and I can do it by myself! You’re not my mom!” he yelled, before turning and dashing up the stone-cut staircase into the building. The crack in his voice told her he was on the verge of tears.
Nagy stood there, a little dumbfounded, quite a bit hurt, and angry. She glared after him, her eyes burning red and her hair breaking from the side ponytail she’d made this morning. He was going to pay for that later, and she had a feeling they both knew that.
When she was sure he was gone, she could feel the tears forming in her eyes, trying to overtake her. She knew she was just as late as Gavin for class, but she couldn’t handle any of that right now. Turning from the entrance to the building, she made her way back down the crowded blue alleyway.
At first she couldn’t tell where she was going, she just start wandering down the mesa in the direction of home, thinking about Gavin. ‘He’s going to pay for that…’ she thought over and over, her red eyes still fighting the tears that would occasionally spill over.
After a few minutes of rage filled dashing, she noted an orange cafe with nice wireframe tables on the patio. She recognized this building as the coffee shop dad would drop by on his way back from missions. She looked down the street and noted the light green vendor stall of the crazy old tinkering man that she knew. She knew where she was again, comforted with the familiar colors of familiar streets, and started adjusting her route to get back home. As she wove through some of the side streets, she noted the average looking home built into the side of the mesa, like so many around it. She unlocked the door with the technicolor flower she had drawn on the door when she was younger--from a simpler time. The small copper handle clicked with the key and she made her way in.
Their house opened up into a spacious living room that connected to the left with the kitchen. There were two hallways, one that jutted out from the living room and went further back into the Master Bedroom. The other hallway seamlessly formed past the connected kitchen and led to a bathroom with a door on the right side of the hallway leading to a secondary room which Nagy and Gavin shared. Their house wasn’t grand. There was a bland, brown couch with a matching chair adjacent to it in the living room. The kitchen held a nice Oaken table with matching chairs. Nagy remembered being told that had been a present. Aside from the table, most other furniture seemed to match the boring earthen shades of the living room.
On the counter, Nagy spotted a note that had not been there when she left:
New Mission came in today. Said it was urgent. Here’s some shins for the week.
‘Thanks dad,’ Nagy thought in monotone, taking the pile of shins and heading to her room. She deposited the amount into her sack that she kept locked in a chest just below her bed. She started counting through the amount she had saved up. She had only been gone for maybe an hour when she had taken Gavin to school and come back. Was that really all the time dad needed to come home, get a message, then head out again? She tried not dwell on it too much as she finished counting. She had a few to spare this cycle so she added them to her purse and laced it onto her belt loop.
After securing the chest, Nagy’s eye caught the nightstand that separated her bed from Gavin’s. Her mind dwelled on an object inside that she always carried with her. She scowled, remembering all the time recently she had forgotten it. How could she could forget such an important part of her? She opened the top drawer of the stand and removed a small, silver sheened box. She quickly opened the box and pocketed its contents. As she made her way towards the door, the precious momento jingled in her pocket lightly with the motion of her leg.
Nagy exited the house and locked the door behind her. She could feel the heat in her eyes and hair falling back to normal as she began to think about what she was going to do with all her extra free time. She decided to make her way to the market stalls, Gavin’s words still lingering in the back of her head. She loved the vibrant colors of the market. She often had to remind herself not to get distracted by the beautiful reds and yellows contrasted by the sharp blues and greens, so that she could be efficient with her allowance. Even if he could sometimes be a pain, she still had a kid to think about.
As she began to make her way over to the first stall she frequented, a young lady caught her attention. She was wearing a red dress with a matching bow adorning her long brown hair. “Excuse me little girl, what are you doing out here?” she asked innocently. She was carrying a basket with a colorful variety of flowers.
Nagy knew she was older but couldn’t tell if she was in her late teens or early 20s. “Umm, just buying some food…” she said nervously. Most strangers just left her alone, so Nagy wasn’t used to being talked to by random passersby.
“Are your parents around? I can help you find them,” she offered. Her tone seemed pure and Nagy couldn’t sense anything but the best of intentions from her.
“My parents are . . . gone. I’m buying groceries for the rest of my family today,” she said, opening up a bit more to this cheery young woman.
“Oh no, that’s so sad. Here you go love, have a flower. Whichever one you want,” the woman said, gesturing to her basket. The flowers there were beautiful, and the vast assortment of shapes and colors made her eyes grow wide.
Nagy scanned them for a moment--she loved the yellow ones, sunflowers, tulips, and dahlias--until she spotted what she wanted. “Can I have this one, but red?” she asked, pointing to a yellow rose tucked into her basket.
“Of course, I have some right here,” she said, walking a few feet back to her stall which was covered with a wide array of flowers even more dazzling than her sampling basket. When she returned, she held a single red rose in her hand.
As the young woman handed it off to Nagy, a thought occurred to her. “How much can this buy me?” she asked, pulling a few shins out.
The young lady looked over the shins. “More than you need sweetie! What do you want?” she chuckled, grabbing a bag and container for the bouquet she was about to make.
As the sun finished its climb directly overhead, Nagy made her way to the bottom of the mesa, colorful bouquet in hand and a smile back on her face. As she reached the bottom gate, she spotted large man wearing a full glowing plate armor that she recognized. His face was square and rigid which matched his broad shoulders. The runes that adorned his armor glowed a gorgeous shade of orange which always stood to contrast the drab color of her dad’s hunts that she always saw him dragging in.
Nagy approached him instead of the other guards that stood in front of the gate. “Excuse me,” she called as she approached him. “Did my dad come through here?” she asked, trying to fill her voice with the same innocent tone as the flower girl. She knew that young children were not allowed out in the wastes without permission. Peril ran rampant out there and a children went missing and perished all the time.
The man’s face perked up and he turned to face her. “Ahhhh… Volk’s daughter, right? Nagy?” he asked.
“That’s right!” she said proudly. She knew her dad was a well known huntsmen. She had seen a few of the beasts that he brought in. Most were twice the size of normal man and required a few guards to haul to wherever they took them. “He forgot some things and I was hoping to catch him before he gets too far out . . .” she said, gesturing to a freshly bought lunch box wrapped in the cloth Nagy had used for a belt this morning.
“Hmmm . . . a little unorthodox,” he stated, looking at her suspiciously. Nagy could feel the lump forming in her throat. She thought she had a pretty good story here. “You should be able to catch up to him if you head around the western side,” he said, signaling to the others to let her pass through.
Nagy’s smile grew. “Thanks!” she said sweetly, dashing past him and the other guards stationed throughout the line of statues and multi-colored banners that lined the Southern Gate to The Great Mesa.
“Make sure to head back soon and stay close to the Mesa!” he called out after her, concern somewhat evident in his tone.
Nagy raised her hand and waved back at him in response as she made her way into the large cavern to the outside. The six statues of the founders lined the walls of the cavern to the entrance, some humbling, some showing proud posture, and some showing fierce strength. Their variety gave an aura of mystery and wonder to the city to see the men, women, and even a child carved so intricately. There was also housing and a few stores that lined the Cavern District between the statues of the founders. Many of the populace were militia, guardsmen, and extended family who formed a community close to the entrance.
As she reached the end of the extended cavern, she noted the bit of sunlight that shone brightly in. Both ends of the cavern were trafficked by travelers, guards, militia, and bounty hunters who were passing through or stopping in for a nice place to stay. Being centrally located between the four major kingdoms, Artesa always had interesting visitors from all over the world in the Cavern District especially. It was nice place to meet foreigners, but not the best place to be caught in trouble due to the number of militia and guard families living there.
The barracks and guardhouse flanked her upon her emergence to the Outer Mesa, the courtyard between filled with militia practicing their skills. The sound of loud sparring matches in rings around the barracks filled the air with the soft chatting of guards on the opposite end enjoying their lunch break by the guardhouse.
The main gate--a massive metal marvel covered in symbols that Nagy swore belonged to a language far gone--could both captivate an artist and intimidate a general by its sheer size and fortification.
Nagy nodded at one of the guards stationed atop the arch of the main gate like her dad did when they passed through. She could see a raised eyebrow from one of them as they turn back to the guards station for affirmation. She turned her head to follow their gaze, and she saw the guard adorned in shining orange armor at the entrance to the cavern giving an approving signal back to the guards atop the gate.
She felt a sense of satisfaction from doing this all by herself. She gazed out to the southern horizon, breathing in the euphoria. She was taking life into her own hands for the first time in forever. The landscape before her spread out vast and empty. The ground was firm and hard with a thin coating of desert weeds smattered here and there. The wind whirled to the east with dirt and dust within, tugging at Nagy to follow. Nagy knew the path well. She had visited it a few time with her father, but never alone.
She took her time following the wall of The Great Mesa, stopping only once to enjoy the lunch she used to get her here. As her trek took her in the path of the wind, her hair swirled and flickered like a restless flame against it. Her hand moved down reflexively to her jingling pocket, and she reflexively drew it close to her chest, refusing to give the gusts any chance to rip her memento away.
After about an hour or two of walking, the dirt path that winded around the Mesa started to diverge off into the western horizon. It morphed into a large road that started making its way into the western plains. The hard ground started to give way to more shrubs, allowing some life to flourish. She knew great warriors and mercenaries would often use this road to head between kingdoms. Almost as soon as reached it, she located the small path from her memory: slightly hidden, with only a slight disturbance in the ever-thickening shrubs to serve as a marker. Nagy spotted her destination--- a small stone strine about a few minutes off from the main road--and made a beeline toward it, with increasingly anxious steps.
The final walk to the shrine was always the longest part. She could feel the weight pulling on her chest, the emotions trying to well over through tears that she didn’t want to shed. She was soon but a few steps away from the statue, its full view on display for the world to honor. A double-bladed scythe--- the blades extending on each end of the shaft and facing opposite each other--- was carved masterfully in stone with a large stone arrow crossing along it in the design of a large “X.” The stone statue was hardly ornate, but still a masterpiece, situated atop a stone slab with a small vase designed into it.
The soft words she had been taught echoed in her head as she knelt down on one knee before the shrine. The wind slowed down to a light breeze as she knelt, as if it understood the mood. She placed the flowers--- a mixture of white, red, and yellow roses--- in the vase. Now that her arm was free from its load, she lowered her left arm from her chest and opened her hand. A sparkling silver necklace rested in her palm, with a unique sun charm dangling on the end. As she fastened it around her neck, the memories she held continued to flood forth and her tears finally welled over. She looked down as the tears flowed, not wanting to shame the words that she was taught. “Thank you for everything . . . Mom . . .” she recited, trying to sound proud. Her eyes scanned over the engraved slab, taking in the phrase there, over the engraved slab that read:
“To Serve and Protect what I Cherish, I tenderly Scatter” --- Sol Carmine.
Her voice was giving her away. She missed every moment Sol wasn’t there, but she knew she had to be strong. Not just for herself, but for everyone in her family that was falling apart around her. Her mother had given her the necklace, not only to remind her how strong she was, but also that when she was at her weakest, her mother would always protect her. Even now, she could feel the same warmth that held her while she was young and afraid radiating from the sun she wore.
Nagy remembered making the sun charm for her mom. Sol had refused to take it, telling her daughter she was obviously a skilled artist to make something so beautiful. Together, they fashioned it to her necklace, and Sol told her, “I can tell that one day you’ll grow up to be a great artist.” Those words were the only things that guided her passion. Those moments she had designing things with her mom were all she had to cling to when she continued to make new art. She pulled her head back up, the colorful array of roses swaying in the breeze arranged exactly the way she wanted them to be. Yellow for her, red for Gavin, and white for Sol.
If only she could talk with Sol again. Just for a moment. But she knew as soon as the thought manifested that it wasn’t possible. She wasn’t spiritual. She had feelings that her mother was still with her, but it was probably just nostalgia, wishful thinking, a child’s prayer. Still, she allowed herself the indulgence just this once, and spoke in her thoughts with her departed idol ‘I . . . just don’t know what to do . . . you told me to protect him. You told me to raise him the best I can . . . but I just don’t know if I’m doing it right anymore . . .’ she thought, the tears continuing to flow as she stared blankly at the double-bladed scythe.
Her thoughts seeped out through her trembling lips, forming their conclusion, and drifting off: “I just wish I was enough . . .”
“I think you’ll figure that part out,” a gruff voice answered back.
Nagy turned toward the voice, startled. To her left, she saw a sturdy six-foot tall man, with a beard and olive-colored skin. His hair was jet black and his eyes were green. He wore a golden-bronze chestplate that seemed heavy while carrying a large round-shield strapped to his left arm. He wielded a short sword that remained in its sheath while carrying a long scythe fastened on his back. His red cape followed with the wind, torn on the edges, brushing over his arms all the way down to his knees. He wore a stern but curious expression that reminded her a lot of her dad’s typical emotionless guise.
Nagy wasn’t particularly happy with the intrusion on her moment. She turned away, scowling for leaving her feelings out there for anyone to pick up. Nevermind the fact that the road had been empty when she traveled it moments before.
“It doesn’t matter . . .” she answered coldly, feeling the heat of embarrassment flushing from her cheeks.
“You shouldn’t do that, you dishonor her . . .” the man corrected, softer this time.
Nagy turned back, the blush still shining on her face. The warrior had gotten closer to her mother’s grave, a solemn look upon his face as he gazed upon the shrine. He turned and looked back her. “You must hold your stance. Keep your poise strong. The dead are gone, and the living should hold head high. This is how you honor them,” he said, his words reminding her of similar lessons to her mother.
She corrected her slumped shoulders and put her hand over her heart, grasping her necklace charm with firm strength. She could feel the sun’s warmth bathing her. A reward from mother, or perhaps a reminder, she wasn’t sure. The silence that followed seemed to stretch on for an eternity. Quiet usually unnerved her, but now she could feel the serenity of calm humming throughout her whole body.
“There you go,” his voice showing a hint of approval. He unstrapped his scythe and shield, letting them rest in front of him as he sat next to her. Up close, she was able to notice a lot more roughness to his features. His head bore scars across his forehead and left cheek, but not nearly as extensive as what she had noted on his arms. Figuring from his stance he was neither a combatant nor a kidnapper, she repositioned herself to sit with him.
“So this is your… ?” he started.
“Mom,” she stated, her gaze turning briefly back to the mastercraft of the shrine. “She was a great warrior,” she said. “She was from another place, but she was a warrior among warriors.”
“Hmmm, a Sigmarite?” he guessed, his head lightly cocking to the side.
“A . . . what?” she asked.
“A Sigmarite. From the proud Kingdom of Sigmar. We hail from the west and comprise the best glaives of the world in upper ranks,” he said gruffly. The more he spoke, the more she could tell his language was harsh and cut, somewhat foreign, and laced with words a local wouldn’t normally use.
“The warrior kingdom! Yeah, mom used to tell me about the great warriors on the western sky,” she said. Already her mind was filling with the tales of her youth, Sol’s stories, whispered by glowglobe before bed, when she was sick, when she was sad, when she was happy. They were always amazing, always thrilling and wonderful.
“See? We’re quite famous for this,” he said, a grin growing on his face in pride.
“What is a Sigmarite doing on his way to Artesa?” she asked curiously.
“Can’t tell you,” he answered, shaking his head. “I was sent out on mission to deal with problems in the wastes. It’s not uncommon for a skilled warrior.”
Nagy pouted, hmph-ing so hard her ponytail bounced. “Are there really such scary things out in the wastes that you can’t tell a kid?” she asked, trying to lure him into an answer.
“M’girl, there are horrors out there that scare mightiest glaives in Sigmar. Don’t ever forget that,” he warned, in a stern yet protective tone.
The possibilities swirled in her mind, colors and dangers unimaginable, such that she couldn’t help but prod for more. “Like what?”His brow furrowed, but he eventually looked up at the crystal blue sky, closed his arms and began to ponder. After a moment of silence, he took a deep breath, the wind picking up in tandem.. “There is creature out there who blends in with trees. Its arms twist like branches and you may think its fingers be butterflies. While it is coward, it does not fight with its long, skinny limbs. It has thousands of tiny slugs,” he began, the memory clearly turning his tone cold as he weaved the story.
“Slugs? That doesn’t sound so bad . . .” she said, her head cocked.
He turned to her and stared into her eyes, his gaze piercing through her soul, his voice sinister. “They don’t seem so bad, until they crawl upon you in thousands, each trying to burrow in the brain. They eat away your head until they are full, then return to mother to nourish it with stolen intelligence,” he stated.
Nagy stared on in awe, completely captivated. Leaning forward, eyes wide.
The sterness in the Sigmarite’s tone didn’t waver. “I’ve seen man who completely lost his brain to one. Had to put him out of misery since he was no longer soldier when we killed it. You should always be careful of the common and question simplest things,” he said, breathing in and letting out a deep sigh as he finished his description.
A lump caught in her throat, and she gulped hard, struggling immediately to reclaim her cool. “B-but! My Dad could take that thing down, no problem. He’s a huntsmen y’know!” she declared proudly, her confidence reinvigorating her.
The man chuckled. “Trust me girl. This beast was not something that could be felled by simple hunter,” he snorted.
Nagy scowled. “Trust me man. My dad isn’t just some “simple hunter.” He’s good. I bet he could even take you on in a fight,” she sneered, rubbing her nose as she jeered at him.
“Hah, that sounds like nice offer. Afraid I don’t have time at the moment though, but if he was strong enough to handle Sigmarite Gal, then he must have something in him,” he jested, hoisting himself up and patting himself down.
Nagy stood back up with him. She had only just met this man, but she couldn’t help but be a little sad that he was leaving. Almost as though she’d met a kindred spirit. “Maybe someday when I’m big like you, I’ll take you on myself,” she offered, the feelings of warmth giving way to an innocent smile.
He chuckled. “If I’m still around, I always willing to have nice match. I look forward to that day . . .” he paused, gesturing for her name.
“Nagy,” she finished for him, “Nagy Oaxi-Nogl.” She puffed up her chest, filled with pride over her name.
“T’s been nice Nagy. My name is Dynami. Hopefully we can meet again when you have some stories of wastes to tell yourself,” he said with a warm smile. He lingered for a moment, something clearly weighing on his mind as the wind blew softly around them.
After a brief moment of silence, he began to undo the fastener for his crimson red cape. He swept it off his shoulders, and held it down to her height, offering. “A gift for the good conversation and time,” he said.
Nagy stood there for a moment, stunned and overwhelmed by the surprising events. But after a second, she reached out and took it in her hand, bundling it up in her arms so it would not get dirty.
“May you stay strong and vigilant in your life journey,” he recited, his words sticking out like a form of ceremony. He turned and began to make his way up the northern path that led to woods, and beyond that: The Frozen Kingdom of Pulsaris.
Nagy watched him walk until he was a speck in the distance, the music of nature humming melodies in the wind and with the shreds of grass shrubs that swayed with it. She turned back to the southern road and began to make her way back home, the memory still fresh in her mind.
As Nagy approached the tall yellow building, her mind reflected back to the strange events of the day. As the sun gleamed on the ornate grooves set in the stone window sills that reminded her of autumn tree leaves, she clutched onto her new red hood that she kept coddled in her arms. The waves of children began to pool out of the double door entrance and down the long flight of stairs, and Nagy stood like a pillar among them, her eyes peeled for the small black figure she was supposed to escort.
After a few minutes, the river ran dry and it was just Nagy, leaning against the lone pole in front of the building that illuminated the street after dark. She was growing a little tired of waiting for Gavin as she turned her gaze to the bright blue sky, yellow-orangish hues being to paint on the western horizon. “Where is he . . .?” she thought aloud, as she turned her head down and sighed.
She began to pace about the side of the building to the courtyard when she heard a familiar voice. “Leave him alone! He can’t even fight you anymore!” It was almost like instinct, Nagy’s legs moved as fast as they could toward the source of his voice. As she began to round the corner on the scene, Gavin’s words from earlier stuck in her head. She darted against the wall, deciding to keep her distance and watch the scene unfold from afar.
She saw three tall, well-toned boys dressed in shades of purple and yellow-- their school’s colors-- skin-tight athletic one-piece tracksuits. They were towering over a younger, pale boy, who she could swear was a 4th Year like herself. He always read books and had interests in the Numenera studies. Though she couldn’t remember his name, she knew that his father was a contact with the Aeon Priests. He didn’t ever bring much to eat for lunch and many in her grade assumed him to be poor. She knew it was weird since he went to such a nice school.
Standing between these tall, tan boys and her classmate was her brother-- garbed in his tight, black pants and a black track shirt with his zipper halfway undone. He stood like a monument-- firm and unyielding-- with his arms outstretched to protect the defenseless boy. She could see the scowl and glare of frustration on his face from behind his long, black hair that turned rose red as it ended by his collar. Though Nagy could feel the fear resounding through his heart. Or, maybe it was her own.
“Ey kid . . . Gavin, was it? Why you looking to pick a fight with us? Do you even know this kid?” a larger, more toned kid talked down. He was built like a young pack Aneed with roaring muscles that could haul cargo for miles. Nagy actually recognized him as an athletic student from three years ahead of her. Behind him was two other athletic kids, not as built, only one grade above.
“B-but . . . you won. He can’t do anything!” Gavin stuttered, the bravery in his voice matched only by his fear. “L-leave him alone. You got what you wanted…”
“Oh, but I’m not satisfied. That kid owes me a lot . . . and I don’t let kids make a fool outta Jarvis,” he said, his eye raised. He cracked his knuckles and moved toward Gavin. “And you’re . . . not gonna let me? That about right?”
Gavin stood between the gang and the broken kid on the ground. His mouth couldn’t even open for words, but his glare answered Jarv’s question for all of them.
“Alright then . . .” Jarv said, with a dramatic crack of his knuckles. “Suppose I’ll have to take out the rest of my anger on little heroes like you!”
His large fist planted right into Gavin’s cheek with a resounding crack, followed swiftly by a sweeping kick that sent Gavin to the ground.
As the other kids rushed him, Nagy’s eyes ignited. The promise she made to her mother resounded deeply in the core of her being.
And in her mind, an unfamiliar voice commanded: ‘Go.’Jarv looked on as his two croneys continued to kick the helpless Gavin, grunting in pain. “Well hero, thanks for the entertainment, but I think it’s time we say good night,” he said, winding up for a powerful swing down on Gavin’s face.
Right as he leaned in, Jarv’s fist was met something he’d not encountered for a while--- resistance. As Jarv looked up, he saw the golden flames defying the breeze and swaying to their own rhythm, his eyes met with a piercing glare of red. “Wh---” he began, before his hand was twisted around into a submissive stance.
Nagy held his arm around with his hand against his back as Jarv howled in pain. She could feel the eyes of her brother looking up at her, expectantly.
She knew what she should do, but she wasn’t in the mood for mercy.
The other two boys, awe struck at first, regained their composure and lunged at Nagy, swinging their fists wildly upon approach. Nagy pivoted her feet and swung Jarv around into the two boys, sending them all tumbling back against the ground. She stood firm between her brother and his assailants. Nothing would pass her.
“Let me tell you boys something,” she recited as she entered her stance, more than ready for the coming brawl: “Heroes never lose.”
As the memories cycled to an end, Nagy placed the last few strokes on her canvas. She held it out against the twilight sunset that shown against the distant waves of Lake Elan, to admire her work: bordered by the light, a black silhouette with reddish hair and garbed in a red cloak dancing through the night sky. The rose petals that trailed after him marking the intricate steps of his dance with a long quarterstaff. However, the position of the staff was perfectly aligned with the crescent moon so he appeared to wield splendorous scythe. A tear formed in her eye, her hand jotting down the name of her piece in the corner as well as her signature. “The Crescent Rose . . .” she read aloud, as she stared back it, the tear falling over her cheek.
She gave it a minute to dry before she pulled the canvas against her chest, holding it tightly. “I miss you . . . so much . . . everyday . . .” she thought aloud, her words beckoning another tear. Her body curled up in the sand a few moments, in a ball, as the sun finally set on her, and she was left alone again in the dark. And there she stayed, for a few moments, removed from her reality. Her new life here. It was everything she wanted, but there was just one important piece missing.
She sighed, bringing herself back to reality and wiping away the tears. She closed up her supplies and packed them back into her bag with the finished sketch of ‘The Crescent Rose.’ As she fumbled around organizing things, she noticed the device again. It was no bigger than her hand, spherical with a large indent and a button. At the bottom there was a receiver and at the top there appeared to be a slot for the antenna to extend. She stared at it longingly. Everything she ever wanted was right there, but… could she bring herself to do it?
She pulled it out and stared at it, the moonlight reflecting in its glossy exterior. She could feel her emotions sucking her back in as her finger swirled over the button. “Gavin…” she whispered, the desperation setting into her voice. She had gone years without seeing her brother, but now that she had been with him for just a while, she could feel the anxiety from having him torn away from her again. “Maybe… I’m just not good enough…” she said, another tear falling from her face as she placed the device back into her bag.
Nagy slung her bag around her shoulder and started to get up when she noticed footsteps walking toward her. As she turned to see who it was, a dark, gruff voice greeted her, “Hey.”
Nagy blushed. This was the worst timing ever. Her voice cracked and gave away her stressed state that she had just spent the last hour in. “Hey…” she responded half-heartedly.