Ill Tides Chapter 1

By Average Joe

A child-sized figure in an olive cape and cowl raised a small, gloved hand to rap on the shopkeeper's door. This would have been perfectly normal, had the cloaked figure been from the village and come during the day. This, however, was not the typical order that had to be filled, the shopkeeper realized as he pulled the door open.

The shopkeeper looked about, and seeing no one, looked down, spotting two large, luminous yellow eyes staring back at him from beneath a green hood. He checked to see if anyone was watching, then beckoned the person in, latching the door securely behind them.

"It's been a while Sir Glenn," the shopkeeper said, lifting his candle to light the lantern over his desk.

"Aye, that it has, Mason. Thou'rt doing well, it seems," the visitor replied, pulling back the hood to reveal a batrachian countenance.

"And you're as green as ever, my young friend. But you didn't come here to exchange pleasantries." The portly shopkeeper leaned up against his desk and favored the frog-man with one of his infectious, jovial smiles. "What can I help you with?"

"Nay, thou art correct. Mine travels were not for simple talk. I needeth supplies."

"The usual restock? I'm sure I can have the goods ready in the morning." The shopkeeper, Mason, let out a yawn.

"Aye, dear friend, that would be fine."

From the door in the back of the store, a small child pushed open the door, and shyly peeked her sleepy head into the room.

"Patta! What are you doing out here? Aren't you supposed to be in bed?" Mason gave a half-serious fatherly glare at the girl, and beckoned her out. "Come on, Patta, meet my old friend, Glenn."

The girl rushed out and hid behind her father's leg, clutching his clothes tightly in her chubby hands. "Hello Mister Glenn," she whispered with her small voice.

Glenn got down on one knee and held his green hand out toward the girl. "Hello, Miss Patriana. Art thou behaving for thy father?" Glenn smiled gently, and Mason pulled the girl out from behind him and ushered her toward Glenn. Glenn took her small hand and kissed it lightly.

"You talk funny, Mister Glenn," she told him as she wiped her hand on her pajamas.

"In the meantime," the shopkeeper grunted, hefting his bulk up from leaning against the desk, "you can stay here. I'm sure little Patta would enjoy that."

"'Tis not in mine nature to impose, but if the wee lass implores for mine presence, then let it be so." The frog-man, Glenn, gave a wide smile, which the shopkeeper returned.

"I can have a spot ready for you in--What the...?" A loud explosion rattled the panes of glass in the shop's windows. The wavering red-orange glow of fire shone like a beacon over the tops of buildings outside. Frog placed his hand on the hilt of his sword, the legendary Masamune, and strode purposefully to the door.

Lifting the wooden bolt from in front of the door, Glenn told the merchant, "I know not what happens beyond this door, but prepare thy wife and thy child Patriana to vacate should the situation spread." Glenn dropped the beam, and unlatched the door. "I shall do what I can to prevent the spread of fire."

Mason nodded, dashing off to the door in the back of the shop to alert his wife, bringing with him his toddler child. Glenn hopped out the door and into the street, bounding towards the source of the fire in the town square.

As he approached the square, groggy, panicked, half-dressed people poured out of their homes and fled from the blaze. Screams and cries were everywhere, and the flood of citizens slowed Glenn down significantly. The closer that he was to the center, the more the crowds thinned out, until, at last, the final building had been passed and he stepped into the town square.

It was an absolute horror. The town was ablaze; everywhere buildings crackled in the inferno. A few had collapsed, leaving mounds of rubble on the ground. And in the middle of it all, a lean man, clad in loosely fitting travelworn clothes, stood atop the fountain in the dead center of the plaza, launching fiery blasts from his palms.

"Hold, foul cur," Glenn shouted above the din, drawing his sword.

Two more shots were fired, then the flame-lit individual atop the fountain folded its arms and glared at the frog as if valuable time was being wasted with useless banter. "What for? I'm busy." The voice was deep and harsh, and extremely impatient.

Glenn huffed and drew himself up to his full, unimpressive height, brandishing the Masamune at his foe. "Know ye this, knave, mine name is Glenn, mine sword the Masamune, and if thou art not afraid, then thou art truly a fool."

"Know you this, worm," the man mocked Glenn's tone, "my name's Gerard, and frankly, I don't care." Gerard shot off another flaming sphere at a house that still stood.

"The names have been declared. Thus begins the battle!" Glenn charged forward at Gerard, wielding a magically-enhanced Masamune.

Gerard shot a blast at Glenn's feet, stating, "Go away. You're starting to irritate me."

"If thou'rt unwilling to wield thy blade," Glenn muttered, "then magic it shall be." As Glenn began the words of his spell, clouds began to gather in the sky.

Gerard looked up at the clouds, just as a torrent of rain came splashing down on him, drenching him and dousing many of the magically produced flames. Though he was entirely drenched, Gerard looked none the worse for wear despite the spell of Water Glenn had cast on him.

Gerard flailed his hands, ridding them of excess water. He pushed a lock of unevenly cut hair from in front of his face and coughed. "Thanks, worm, now I'm wet."

"Thou shalt be in far worse condition if this continues." Glenn pointed his sword directly at Gerard's throat. "Surrender, vile rogue."

Gerard sighed disparagingly, saying, "I suppose you're serious, then. Okay, let's get this over with." He then looked around, surveying the damage he had caused. "I guess this'll have to do...for the moment..." He pulled his katana from its sheath at his hip and sneered, "Alright, start."

Glenn dashed forward, bringing his broadsword down on Gerard in a fierce arc. Gerard pulled his sword up to meet it, hopped to the other side and, with a twist of his wrist, forced the Masamune down with his own blade. As Glenn tried to free his sword from the new cleft in the cobblestones, Gerard kicked him in the chest, sending him flying away from his sword.

"Are you going to go away now, worm?"

"Never. Mine honor wilt not allow it," Glenn growled. "Come, Masamune!" At his behest, the sword began to glow, and shot back to the frog's outstretched hand. Glenn charged again, swinging the Masamune low. Gerard leapt back, narrowly avoiding Glenn's slash. Glenn was already readying another attack when Gerard landed a split-second later. Gerard rolled to avoid Glenn's thrust, landing on all fours only to leap back up again.

"The worm's no turtle, I see," the wretch icily stated. "I suppose I'll just have to be--faster!" Almost faster than Glenn's battle-trained eyes could see, the blur of tan cloth fluttered past, nailing him in the back of the neck with the butt of the sword. Glenn fell forward, nearly dropping the Masamune.

Gerard moved behind him. Glenn, sensing this, used his prone position to his advantage, launching a surprise attack by swinging his sword at the man in back of him. The attack caught Gerard completely by surprise; he had only enough time to hop back far enough that the tip of the sword made a deep, clean gash in his thigh. Otherwise, his leg would have been nearly severed.

Gerard cursed, and hunched over, placing one hand on the incision. "Well done, toad," he snarled. "But I'll see to it that you don't do that again!" Gerard removed his hand from his freely flowing wound and stood to his full height. He drew an "X" with his katana, then brought it directly in front of him. His blade was bathed in an eerie blue-white glow until he slashed straight down. The glow seemed to tear a hole in the space between them, and in the empty darkness a man-sized bronze colored skull appeared, chattering. Its maw swirled with tens of thousands of tiny points of light, and Glenn, now on his back from the swinging of his sword, sat transfixed. "Skullstream!" Gerard shouted, and the points of light shot out of the skull's mouth, each one growing into smaller skulls of varying sizes.

The skulls hurtled at Glenn, some merely impacting, some taking bites as they passed by him, all vanishing before they hit the ground. Each one did some amount of damage, and by the time the main skull was sealed again, Glenn was severely injured.

"I won't let you get a shot like that in next time, if you decide you're going to try to stop me again." Gerard sheathed his katana, his cold, grey-silver eyes focusing on Glenn.

"What dost thou mean?" Glenn croaked, wiping a trail of blood from his lips.

"Let me put this into terms you can understand, toad," Gerard growled. His voice shifted to mimic Glenn's accent, stating, as if it was being quoted or read, "'A fortnight hence my wrath shall be incurred upon thine leiges' place of worship.' Thanks to you I've had to postpone so I can go lick my wounds. Gather whatever forces you wish; if you're the best they've got, well... you can see what I've done to the town..." Gerard gestured to the surrounding ruins of Dorino. All nearby buildings were collapsed and in ruins, and those toward the outer rim still burned.

"Contemptible villain, thy plague of terror, started here, shall end there... We shall fight back..."

"--And I'll lose? Somehow I doubt that. Goodbye, toad. I'd end your life now, but I have better things to do than put you out of my misery." Gerard's outline against the stars oozed down the half of him that was, in Glenn's perspective, outlined by burning buildings. When he was completely outlined with darkness, Gerard took a step back and faded into his own shadow.

--{600 AD}--

The following dreary morning found the former residents of the ruin of Dorino staring in dismay at the charred remains of their town. The clusters of people formed a loose ring around the circular town, and Glenn wandered for hours among the weeping citizenry searching for his merchant friend and his family. He found them at the outskirts of town near where there shop had been the day before, Mason picking through the stones, trying to find any of his belongings from the shop. His wife was huddled nearby, her face buried in her hands. Their five year old daughter, Patriana, was gently patting her mother on the back.

Glenn approached them unnoticed by both father and mother. The girl, however, looked up when she heard the crunch of boots on the grass, a look of innocent concern on her face. "Hello Mister Glenn," she said. She looked back at her mother and told him softly, "Mommy's crying right now. And daddy says we can't go home." She turned to face him, a tear in her eye. "I wanna go home, Mister Glenn... When can I go home?"

Glenn sighed, placing a gloved hand on top of her head. "Soon, little one. Thou shalt be going home soon."

She smiled a little through her tears, stating, "You still talk funny, Mister Glenn."

The girl's mother raised her head and clutched her daughter, pulling her close. "No, Patta, we... We... There's no... Oh, Patta..." she wept.

"It's okay, mommy, Mister Glenn says we'll be going home soon."

"Please, Sir Glenn, go--just go talk to Mason... I-I need to explain things... to Patta."

"Aye, madam." Glenn bowed and took his leave, making his way over to Mason.

"Hey, Glenn, please... Help me find my things. We have nothing... It-it's all--it's gone. All of it." Mason pulled up stone after stone, lifted timbers and pushed aside debris. "Nothing left... I..." Mason, out of breath, sat down in the rocks and shuddered.

Glenn put a comforting hand on Mason's shoulder. "Rest assured, dear Mason, the foul, detestable knave that wrought destruction upon this town shall find his grave soon."

Mason looked up at him, noting the wounds incurred at the previous night's battle. "In your condition? You can't--" He shook his head. "You're the best knight anywhere. If you couldn't beat him..." Mason put his face in his hands and sobbed.

"If I couldst not defeat the cur, then I shall summon mine friends."


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