After spending a few days with the Wanderer, Nina got over her apprehension of him, it also helped that he seemed to be good friends with Bleu. As she spent more time with him, she noticed that he bore a great resemblance to Ryu and so she felt she could trust him. However there were still things about him that were a mystery, a mystery Nina felt was necessary to explore.
"You came from the same continent we did right? Why did you come all the way out here?" She had asked of him as they walked.
"I came because I made a promise to her. I promised I would protect Ryu and his friends." He replied.
The way he had said 'her' made Nina even more suspicious than she had previously been that he was indeed the consort of the queen Nina from four hundred years ago. However, that was something to look into some other time, she was more concerned about what he was doing here.
"Protect us from what? The sandworms of the desert maybe?" She said, joking, trying to allay her own fears.
The Wanderer smiled for a brief moment and the resemblance between him and Ryu shouted for the entire world to see. Nina again wondered if the Wanderer and Ryu might be related. Then he grew grim and the darkness of the night grew even more oppressive, despite the illumination of the stars and the moon.
"Sandworms are nothing to laugh at, especially in a desert. They can grow large enough to swallow adult goats whole. But as to what I'm hoping to protect you from, one man threatens your lives. Ryu's life in particular." The Wanderer said.
"A single man?" Nina asked, disbelieving. "We fought and defeated DeathEvan and he was a god, or close enough anyways. How can a single man pose any threat to Ryu?"
"Shax is more than a man. He has a very powerful benefactor and he desires revenge against the dragon clan; the line of the destined child, Ryu, in particular." He responded.
"He still doesn't sound any worse than anything else we've fought before. What makes him so dangerous?" She asked.
"He has some of the Goddess Keys and he is looking for the others at the behest of his benefactor. The powers of the Goddess Keys is what makes him so dangerous, it's his search for the Keys that brought him here."
"The Goddess Keys were used to imprison the Goddess of Desire Tyr. You can imagine the power of such objects if they were used to imprison a goddess. Alone they are very powerful, one can change night to day, another day to night, one can cause the very earth to tremble and another can cause time itself to go askew. If these Keys are brought together there's no telling what they can do, besides imprison gods, that is."
"So why should he bother us then. It doesn't sound likely we'll see him."
"Well he has a grudge against Ryu's family for one and Ryu, if he's like the other Destined Children before him, he'll head toward trouble like a moth to a flame. If Shax knows there is a Destined Child here, he'll make it his business to hunt him down, possibly even against his master's orders. Trust me, he might be more than even all of you can handle: Shax has been hunting dragons since before you were born. Hell, he was hunting dragons before I was born too." The Wanderer concluded.
Nina considered this, the fact that there might be someone stronger than DeathEvan who was hunting Ryu worried her, but the fact that this Shax person was looking for the Goddess Keys made her worry even more. She was about to ask Bleu about when she felt a great rumbling beneath her. The ground in front of the party burst apart as an enormous sandworm emerged from the ground; it looked like it could easily swallow the four of them whole at once.
"Told you sandworms were nothing to laugh at, though this one is easily ten times the size of the largest one I fought, the goat eater. I'll take Jean while you and Bleu ready your spells." The Wanderer said as he dashed by a startled Nina.
The Wanderer grabbed Jean and headed to one side of the behemoth while Jean headed for the other. The two began attacking the monster and while not causing it any real damage, the pain was a distraction for the monster knew not where to attack and thus it would swerve from side to side attempting to discern which side was the irritant coming from. The distraction was enough for Bleu and Nina to start casting their spells.
"Lords of thunder and lighting, bring down your hammer on the vile ones. BOLT X." Nina incanted her most powerful lightning spell.
The sky above the worm was suddenly filed with dark clouds and a great blast of thunder cleaved the heavens and struck the worm. The thunder was so loud Nina thought for a brief moment that her eardrums would burst. However, the spell did no such damage to the worm. The only effect had, besides making the worm's head smoke was that the impact of the blast had knocked Jean to the ground. The Wanderer had been able to remain on his feet and continued to attack, distracting the monster further.
"Shit! A thunder spell won't affect it; it just dispels the electricity into the ground. I guess I'll have to use one of my older spells on that thing." Bleu said as she slithered forward.
"Angels of Light and Demons of Darkness, come together and strike down my enemies! NOVA X!" She incanted.
A great flash of light exploded in the area, the noise so loud as to be beyond hearing. When Nina came to, and it could have been only a second or two after the blast, she saw that even the Wanderer had knocked off his feet and Jean had been rolled over so far as to have fallen in the nearby river. The worm rocked back and forth in immense pain, its skin was split in many places, oozing a white viscous substance.
"Dammit, that wasn't enough. Guess I'll have to use that spell. I really wanted to avoid this. Hey Nina, pay attention, you're about to witness a spell that hasn't been seen in several millennia." Bleu said as she raised her cane before her.
Watching her, the Wanderer's eyes widened as he began to run towards the river, diving for cover within its watery depths. Nina watched Bleu in utter fascination, this was going to be one hell of a spell and she intended to learn it. She calmed her mind and focused her spirit as her teachers had told her when observing spell casting. The spell was in two parts; the first was a simple containment spell that held the worm in place. A circle with intricate arcane designs surrounded the worm. As the monster waved around, trying to escape, it merely rebounded against the walls of the spell. Next came the second part of the spell; Bleu spread her arms and a second and third arcane circle appeared at the midsection and head of the monster. In a strong, clear and loud voice Bleu began to incant.
"I call upon HwoShin of Fire,
I call upon ToShin of Earth,
I call upon SheiShin of Water,
I call upon FunShin of Air
Grant me strength.
Thou of foul name and impure heart, False Apostle, hear now the judgment of heaven:
A column of light descended from the heavens piercing the circles and brightening the area so it looked lighter than day. The worm thrashed in pain and agony, but there was nowhere it could escape, it could not even find refuge in the blessed earth from the light that so hurt it. The monster did not even have a chance to scream as most of it dissolved in the light. All that remained of the monster was the hole it made and several chunks of flesh that had escaped destruction. Jean and the Wanderer approached, thoroughly waterlogged from their swim in the river. Jean examined the bits of worm as the Wanderer helped Bleu who looked ready to collapse.
"Bleah I hope I never EVER do that again." Bleu said trying to catch her breath. "Hope you were...payin' attention kid cause I ain't doin' an encore." She said to Nina.
"Ze worm parts are in good condition. J'amerais avoir a little caramel sauce, it would go perfectly with zis worm." Jean said.
Any reference to her once and only time tasting Jean's cuisine, his 'worm with caramel sauce' in particular made Nina want to vomit. Indeed, her face became quite pale and she clutched her stomach, praying the nausea would go away, trying not to think about 'worms with caramel sauce', 'cockroach with green onion salad' and the famous 'gold fly pudding'. The Wanderer noticed her apparent state of illness and smiled.
"Actually, those are delicious delicacies As long as you don't think about what you're eating." He laughed as he helped Bleu to the river to get her some water.
I hope Ryu and the rest are having a better time. She thought.
It was twilight when the Urkan caravan came upon Garr and Gaist. The people of the caravan were dispirited and afraid because of the attack that had taken place several nights ago. Gatz approached the two and Garr's eyes widened to see his friend so obviously different from when he had last seen him. Garr rose to greet his friend and marveled at the gargoyle's appearance.
"You went through the Guardian Ceremony early?" Garr asked amazed.
"Yeah The Goddess herself told the Sudama apparently. And it seems it was necessary too. We had a little trouble on the road."
"What kind of trouble?" Garr said, fear creeping into his voice disbelieving that one of the Goddess' chosen could have trouble against any opponent.
Not wanting to expand on the subject, Gatz searched for something, any way to change the subject. He found his means of conversational escape as he spotted an unfamiliar young man on the ground, unconscious, next to the sleeping Gaist.
"Who's that? I've never seen anyone like him around here before." Gatz said, pointing to the young man.
"Him? We found him a couple of days ago. I don't think he knows who he is anymore than we do. He slips in and out of consciousness a lot, but from when he is awake, I can tell you the only thing he remembers is his name, which is Ryu." Garr replied, looking over to the young man.
"Amnesia is it? Any idea why?" Gatz inquired.
"Ideas? Well it might have been from the wound he had when we found him; Gaist is still recovering from healing the kid. Gaist doesn't think so though; he says the amnesia might be caused by some emotional trauma the kid suffered just before being wounded."
"He sounds lucky to be alive. The Goddess must have something for him to do still." A musical, feminine voice said.
A young woman approached them from the wagons. She had short-cropped red hair and luminous green eyes. She was slim, petite and had a youthful attractive face. Her pale skin, which was quite the oddity for a desert faring folk, seemed to glow in the moonlight.
"Do you think so, Jasmine? He doesn't look very special." Gatz said.
Jasmine approached Ryu and knelt beside him. She smiled at his careworn face as she stroked his blue hair. She looked at Garr and Gatz, who were staring at her quizzically.
"I think I will stay with him. I feel the will of the Goddess moving me in this." She said as she continued to stroke Ryu's hair.
'Heh everything is the will of the Goddess if you ask an acolyte." Gaist said, stirring at the trio's conversation.
"Gaist, you seem to be doing better. What do you think about all this?" Garr asked his friend.
"About the kid? We should take him with the caravan and wait in the city of Dragonia and see if there is anyone who'll recognize him. Jasmine, I guess will have to stay with us, if she has her heart set on the kid Goddess intervention or no." Gaist mused. "If your also asking me about the 'trouble' Gatz had, I won't be able to tell you anything until I get more information."
If Gatz had been surprised by the apparent fact that Gaist had heard his mention of the problems he had had on the road here, none of it registered on his face. Gatz sighed heavily as he thought about what to say. In truth he did not know anything about the enemy he had faced beyond the name and that its allegiance lay not with the Goddess.
"There isn't much to tell, I found an enemy and couldn't defeat it. You're well versed in history, right Gaist? Have you heard of anyone by the name Shax?"
"Shax? Can't say that I have Why?" Gaist asked his eyes narrowing.
Gatz declined comment at his change of subject. Meanwhile, Ryu began to stir on his makeshift bed. As Garr and Gaist had surmised Ryu could not remember anything from his past, the earliest memory he had was of being healed by Gaist. Through half open eyelids he looked up at the young woman stroking his hair. For a brief moment he saw a woren woman with red hair and green eyes. He couldn't shake the feeling of familiarity the image invoked.
It's a shadow of a memory for she is beyond our grasp now. A voice in his mind said. The voice sounded familiar but he could not place it. The image disappeared and before him was a human girl he knew not at all.
Your memories are full of pain. A woman's voice said, it was full of love and warmth, but it provoked no feelings of familiarity in Ryu. Let go of your past, I can provide you with eternal happiness if you will let me.
"Who are you?" Ryu asked, a pain in his chest cutting of his speech.
"Hmmmm? Did you say something?" Jasmine asked startled by Ryu's sudden movement. "My name is Jasmine, I'll be taking care of you for a while, Ryu. I hope we can be good friends."
Ryu could not respond to Jasmine's greeting nor to either of the mysterious voices' words for he fell back into unconsciousness, into dreams he would not remember upon his next awakening.
Author's Notes: I should have mentioned this before. The symbol for 'sky' that I was referring to in the previous chapter is the same as the symbol that is on Akuma's (from Street Fighter Alpha 3) back. It's a Japanese character meaning 'sky' or 'heaven'. Also the names of the elemental gods I used for the spells are Chinese words (I think) meaning the following: Hwo is fire, To is Earth, Shei is Water and Fun is wind. I'll be able to confirm this later.
Artificer Urza's Fanfiction