Ashera: Chapter 8
A story by Writerial.
When Ashera awoke the next morning, Fox was already sitting upright in bed. She gave her a small smile, which Ashera returned. "Have you gotten a morning meal yet?" Ashera asked.
Fox shook her head. "I don't want to disturb Wizzbee."
"Well, we need to eat," Ashera said, standing up. She started walking out of the secluded room where they were staying and almost tripped on Ryan's sleeping form. She grinned as she saw him. His mouth was wide open and his hair was jutting out in every direction-not that it was an irregular thing.
She continued into the study. Wizzbee was at work, sitting at his desk, scribbling something with a quill. "Good morning, sir."
Wizzbee dropped the quill and spun around, clutching his chest and panting. "Oh, it's you," he said, breathing heavily.
"I'm sorry. I didn't mean to startle you, sir."
"Aw, it's no worries," Wizzbee said, though he was still trying to catch his breath. "You're probably ready for breakfast, aren't you?"
"Breakfast?" Ashera asked.
"Yes," Wizzbee said, not understanding Ashera's confusion. "You know, food."
"Oh, we call it morning meal," Ashera said.
"Well, let me prepare a morning meal for you, then," Wizzbee said, walking to another room. He pulled out a few containers and started mixing something. "I'll leave a couple of extra bowls here so your friends can get them when they awake."
At that moment, Fox slunk into the room. "Good morning, Whizzbee sir," she said, startling him again.
"Both of you! Did the elves never teach you to announce your presence?" he asked, irritated. He handed each of the women a bowl of what looked like a weird mud. "It doesn't look great, but it's good," he said when Ashera wrinkled her nose.
Fox and Ashera glanced at each other and-at the same time-lifted the bowls to their lips and drank the mushy liquid. The texture wasn't amazing, but Wizzbee was right, it didn't taste too bad. "Thank you very much," Fox said. "It tastes delicious."
"I'd hope so," Wizzbee said. "Now, what do you need my assistance with?"
Fox and Ashera shared a look. "It could take a while to explain," Ashera said. "And Ryan could word it better than I ever could."
"And I assume he's still asleep?" Fox nodded. "Ugh, humans. They sleep the whole night an day away. Large wast of time, if you ask me."
"We hardly sleep at all. There's too much thinking to be done to sleep," Wizzbee said.
"That's very interesting."
"I think so too. Pity we aren't taken seriously," he frowned, turning to Ashera. "You must know what that's like, given your unique position."
"How did you-"
"Us gnomes are pretty smart," Wizzbee said with a grin, tapping his forehead. "Now, where were we? Ah, yes, the matter of my assistance. Well, I'm sure there are things that you could tell me that Ryan need not be here for."
"I guess that's true," Fox shrugged.
"Okay, so where did this all begin?"
Ashera told him the story about that day years ago hunting with Saria. Wizzbee stopped her when she was describing the wolves. "Wait a minute," she said, rushing over to his desk and fumbling with some papers. "Not it. Not it. Not it. Ah Ha!" he said triumphantly, holding up a sheet of parchment. He brought it over to us. "These wolves, do they happen to look like this?"
Ashera glanced at the parchment. There was a scrawled drawing of a huge, muscular black wolf. Its lips were pulled back in a snarl and its eyes glowed with an unnatural red shine. "That's them," Ashera said. "How do you know what they look like?"
"These wolves have lived in this forest for hundreds of years-far longer than I have," Wizzbee said. "They are called Calidi."
"Why wouldn't we have seen them before?" Fox asked. "Our tribe has lived here for centuries. We would've noticed them, right?"
"You might've, but Calidi don't normally look as they do now," Wizzbee said. "You see, all Calidi follow a leader called The Alpha and when they're under The Alpha's ruling, their eyes glow red. Otherwise, they just appear to be normal black wolves."
"The Alpha...is it dangerous?"
"Very much so," Wizzbee said. "Calidi are extremely evil creatures. Their ruler needs to be just as evil, otherwise they won't accept them."
"When was the last time Calidi acted...well, like Calidi?" Fox asked.
"Well before our lifetime. Have you ever heard of the sorcerer Ember?" Ashera and Fox shook their heads. "He was a vastly evil sorcerer who wreaked havoc upon this land. He did many, many horrible things. He created Calidi, terrorized citizens, and-of course-created the Orb of Reality."
"The Orb of Reality?" Fox and Ashera asked at the same time.
"You don't know what the Orb of Reality is?!" Wizzbee asked, amazed. "You elves must not be taught much about magic. The Orb of Reality is only the most powerful object of all time. It can alter anything-and event, any human, anything you could imagine! It only has one use, but it only takes one wish to destroy a world."
Ashera's heart was pounding in her chest. "Does anyone know where this orb is?"
"Of course not! Our world would have been destroyed long before then! When Ember died, he hid it far, far away. People have been looking for it for a long time but no one has ever found it..."
"I have a bad feeling about this," Ashera told Fox.
"I do too," Ryan said, appearing at the doorway.
"You startled me," Fox told him.
Ryan grinned. "You're not the only one who can be stealthy."
"You're right. Ashera's the only one that can't."
Ryan smiled. "I supposed I'm not important enough to be included in this discussion?"
"We were just catching him up," Fox said curtly.
"I heard," he said. "Have you already explained Ashera's abilities?"
"No," Ashera said before Fox could reply. "I think it'd be best if you did that."
"Well, I didn't see it all," Ryan said. "We were fighting these...Calidi-as you call them-and I was getting my ass kicked. One of them had taken a huge bite out of my side-I thought I was a goner. Then, I saw this glowing light from the corner of my eye. And Ashera was there-glowing. Every swipe she made with her sword was made with deadly accuracy and the Calidi were running from her. She walked towards me and it was like I was in the presence of an angel or a goddess. She put her hand on my chest and I could feel my wounds closing and healing. The light around her dimmed and she passed out."
Wizzbee was nodding slowly. "Has anything like this ever happened to you before, Ashera?"
"No, never," Ashera said, thinking back. "Well, in the fight with Saria a Calidi lunged at me and it fell back like it was in pain, but other than that no."
"Well, that's not surprising. Evil creatures are susceptible to light magic," Wizzbee said. "It is likely that you have some angel in your bloodline."
"A godly being."
"I know what an angel is," Ashera said, getting frustrated. "But I'm not one! I don't have any angel in me."
"Oh you most certainly do," Wizzbee said. "Who are your parents?"
Ashera frowned. "I-I-"
"She doesn't know," Fox said. "She was abandoned when she was a small child."
"Of course, of course, I should've put that together," Wizzbee said. "Pity that we don't know, though. They could've been very powerful celestial beings."
"I-I-" Ashera stuttered. "I'm not...I'm not that. I'm not special. I'm not powerful...I-"
"Don't lie to yourself, Ashera," Ryan said. "What kind of not-special person can clear out a pack of Calidi in one blow?"
"I don't know..." Ashera said. "How...How do I control it?" she asked Wizzbee.
"I'm afraid I do not know much about light magic. Arcane arts are more my specialty," he said.
Ashera nodded slowly. Fox said, "Is there anything else you know? About Calidi, The Alpha, the Orb of Reality, any of it?"
Wizzbee shook his head. "I have vast knowledge on many magical items, but I'm afraid I do not know much of those things. The most I could tell you is that the Calidi have acted in this way for a couple of years now, so The Alpha has been in control of them for a few years. I'm sorry I could not be of more help."
"No, no, you've been a great help," Ashera said.
"Yes, thank you so much, sir."
"It's no trouble at all."
They stood there in silence for a moment, not sure of what to do next. "I think we should get going. We have to track down this Alpha. I have a feeling it's connected to my sister," Ashera said.
"I agree," Fox said.
"Well, before you go, let me grab something," Wizzbee said, retreating into a room. In a few minutes, he returned with a gleaming sword-a bit smaller than Ryan's. He handed it to Ashera. "I do not know much about light magic, but this may help you."
"Oh, you don't need to give me this."
"I know I don't. But what use will I have for it?" Wizzbee asked. "Besides, you will do great things, Ashera. It would be better suited in your possession."
"It is no problem. I suppose you'll be on your way, then?"
"I'm afraid so," Ryan said. "Thank you for all of your help, uncle."
"Of course, of course. Don't be afraid to stop by if you need anything at all."
Wizzbee walked the three of them to the door of the tower and-hugging the old gnome goodbye-they continued on their quest, into the forest.
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