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Adventure Fantasy Friendship

       Tankard looked at the map and at the Six Peak Mountains off in the distance. He turned the map around and slanted his head to try and fit their heading towards the course. 

         “This looks right… Like this here… No… Like this…”

         He turned around and looked at the Yout River, then to the Panaba Hills on his left, then back at the map. 

         “Yes. This way.”

         “Why are we doing this, again?” Paxso asked.

         “To find the Amulet of Hartla, Paxso,” Tankard replied.

         “What is so special about the Amulet of Hartla, Tankard?

         “The Amulet of Hartla gives the beholder peace.”

         “So as to trick the victim, then kill them?!”

         “No.”

         “Does the peace kill instantly then?”

         “No!”

         “What is the peace for then, Tankard?”

         “So, you do not have to kill, Paxso.”

         “I do not understand Tankard. You are the greatest killer in all of Jartow.”

         “At night, I have had dreams Paxso… Come, let us ride.”

         The two started off and followed the trail on the map. They headed north along the coast of the Barubian Sea. The land wrapped around in an inverted “J” formation, then protruded with four peninsulas. Each peninsula had an accompanying jewel for each treasure, or so legend told.

         They spent days moving along the coast. On horseback, the journey took almost a fortnight alone. On the final night before reaching the first peninsula, Tankard told Paxso about his dream. 

         He told him of the great battle he was fighting against the Kitcharians. He had already slaughtered as many men as years he had been alive. 

         Covered in blood and dirt, he heard a faint song, a beautiful Siren’s call. As he stopped to listen, the song grew louder and louder. He felt a feeling in his stomach, one that he never felt before. His heart danced to the song. 

         In his stillness, another Kitcharian attacked him. Tankard disposed of him easily but as soon as he returned to listen, the song was dimmer. As he enjoyed the low tone of the song, his heart began to feel again. The song continued to grow louder. 

         Another came to fight Tankard.

Another fell.

         The song dimmed again. 

         Tankard moved toward the direction of the singing. It grew louder and louder. He entered the Xerion Forest and could hear the battle behind him and the song ahead of him, more beautiful than before. 

         Three warriors followed Tankard and as he fought them, the song dimmed away. After the three were dealt with, Tankard no longer heard the song. His heart no longer felt. 

         As he stood there, blood dripping down his sword and hands, he began to sob. The loss of feeling he just had and never before felt, was gone. His tears fell, he wiped them away smearing dirt and blood across his face. 

Through the trees, a light shined. He walked through the shrubbery and made his way to the light. Floating there in the middle of a small clearing was a ruby red jewel, the size of an apple. The jewel sat in his hands and the feeling began to return to his heart. 

         From behind a bush, a small child with a cherub face and stature walked out and told Tankard about the Amulet of Hartla. Its power was to give the holder its feeling of song and joy. But it’s attainability is a difficult and long journey.

         Tankard awoke from the dream with the image and nostalgia of the stone and song.

         Paxso sat with mouth agape. He had never heard a story so incredible. 

         His mate of many years, one that he has been through many battles and fought hundreds with, is moving away from the thing that their people are known for. 

The Teymanians are a tribe of warriors known for fighting and winning. From an early age, they study the art of war. Tankard, above all, is known for his ability to take a man’s head clean off without remorse, a simple motion done on his way to his next victim.

         Paxso thought of the feeling that Tankard felt in his dream.  Never would Paxso think that Tankard would be moved to the verge of tears speaking about anything. A small part of him was unsure of this side of Tankard that he had never seen before even though he, himself, wanted to experience it. 

         As Tankard talked, the waves crashed in the distance and a cool breeze blew across their camp. The rage that Tankard felt every day of his life settled and he clung to the serenity that came with this moment.

         The next morning, they crossed into the first peninsula and toward a temple. The temple was overtaken with moss and swallowed with vines. There was a place for a door but the door was not there; only a long corridor and torches that lit the way. 

         The two stood at the entry, looking for whatever gave them the feeling that things are not right.

         Tankard drew his sword and crept into the temple. Despite his heavy frame, he stepped lightly, making note of the walls and floor around him. Paxso followed behind with his sword drawn as well, ensuring he stepped where Tankard did. 

They reached the end of the corridor. However, there was no other hallway, no staircase, or nor door. Only a dead end.

The floor then broke beneath them…

They slide down…

Further and further…

End over end…

Into pitch black darkness…

One falling over the other…

For minutes…

For hours…

What seemed like a day later, they saw light ahead of the darkness, a green glowing light. Then the light of the blue sky beyond it. As they slid through the opening, they kicked the amulet out and fell outside of the temple. They hit the ground with a mild force and shakenly looked over at the corridor where they first entered. 

“How can this be?” Paxso asked, looking at the top of the temple.

“I do not know.” Tankard replied. “But I am not completely vexed by this.”

Tankard reached over and pick up the green jewel. 

“Is that the amulet?” Paxso asked.

“No. The Amulet of Hartla is red-in-color, and I’m convinced not as easy to acquire as this. Let us continue to the second peninsula.”

         The two Teymanians made the half-a-days journey to the end of the landmark. 

There, at the end, was a gaping hole. 

“Step back Teymanians!” A voice called out.

Tankard and Paxso drew their swords and immediately faced the direction of the sound. There stood a Verber Latisma, a strange bird whose feathers sprawled out in a jagged pattern, all black with green tips. It had an extremely long tail that would whip around and feel it’s victims coyly, and playfully try to choke them. Verber Latisma’s have the capacity for storytelling but not the ability for conversation. The bird spoke…

“Teymanians have no place here. No one has place here… There once was a tree that stood high as the sun… Now there is nothing for no one… A jewel was there that would make you rich… But the greedy greedy made it falls in the pit…”

As the bird told the story about the pit, its tail moved around the two. They repeatedly smacked the nuisance away while trying to listen. By the end of the story, Paxso became frustrated and grabbed the tail. He pulled the Verber towards him and in one movement threw it in the pit. The Verber squawked and flew across the hole and up into the sky, bothered and upset at them. 

Tankard looked on and laughed at the frustration Paxso showed. “Too much of an annoyance, old friend?”

“Yes… Still, I should exhibit better temperance.”

“Worry not.”

“Shame about the jewel, Tankard.”

“Yes, but there are still two more chances. Come, it’s getting late in the day. We shall make camp.”

Camp was set up in a simple way. The two warriors laid out beneath the stars on the beach. The crashing waves lulled them to sleep. They ate a dinner of leftover bread and some fish they caught fresh out in the reef.

When morning came, they awoke and made the path into the third peninsula. At the end, there was only the shop of a blacksmith. They saw him as he moved about the cabin and continued to work on the sword he was making.

Tankard moved closer and stood with his chest out and head up. Still, the blacksmith did not see them. 

Tankard cleared his throat and bellowed, “You there!” The blacksmith was not concerned. 

Tankard and Paxso looked at each other. Paxso took a step inside the shop.

The blacksmith leapt up onto the table, grabbing a nearby sword. The movement startled the two as they both drew their swords and moved towards him.

The blacksmith did a backflip off the table, over a barrel, and hopped out of the rear window. 

Tankard and Paxso once again looked at each other in confusion.

From outside they heard, “Come come, for what you seek… A fight for the prize, or the loss of your life… For I am The BlackSmith”

“I say, that woke you up, ehh Paxso?” Tankard laughed.

“I am not in the mood for games this morning. Let’s dispose of this miscreant and be off.”  Paxso replied.

The two walked outside and around the shop to an outdoor corral. The BlackSmith was now shirtless, perched up atop a post in the middle of his makeshift arena. When he saw them enter, he once again performed a backflip off the post and gracefully glided around the corral.

The BlackSmith studied the two as he moved about. 

Paxso rolled his eyes.

“You will earn the prize IF you defeat me... En Garde!”

Tankard and Paxso looked at each other with a notion of intrigue that defeated their annoyance. “It is your turn, I believe.” Said Paxso.

“With pleasure.” Muttered Tankard.

Tankard moved directly toward The BlackSmith and swung, narrowly missing his chest. The BlackSmith jabbed and parried, stabbed, and twirled. Tankard mistook The BlackSmith’s level of skill for folly. For an hour or so, they circled each other, clanking, swinging, missing, and banging swords. They danced a warrior’s dance together. 

Paxso called out, “Mind if I have a go?”

The BlackSmith, perspiring but smiling, looked over at his fresh partner, “Ooo…”

Tankard, out of breath and unable to form words, stepped back and stuck his hand out toward the blacksmith so as to say, “Have at it, then…”

Tankard moved out to have a seat as Paxso moved in.

Paxso danced more gracefully with The BlackSmith but still could not subdue him. He went on longer than Tankard then they switched, once again.

For hours they fought, taking turns and matching blades with each other. Yet, not a single hit was made.

At dusk, The BlackSmith hopped up onto his post, breathing slightly harder and looked out towards the setting sun.

“Gentlemen, I have not enjoyed myself this much in years…”

Tankard and Paxso, were bent over, trying to catch their breath, looking on at The BlackSmith. 

“For the honor of this courteous and difficult duel, I shall relinquish the prize, for you have earned it. I bid you adieu.” The BlackSmith stepped off his post, rolled over the corral railing and slithered into the rear window of his shop. 

In the blink of an eye, the shop disappeared and a wooden trunk stood in its place. The two walked over and opened it up. Inside was a die-cast ball and chain. On the chain was a cuff attached and embedded in the iron ball was a blue gem. 

Tired and unwilling to ask questions, the two dragged the chest back to the base of the fourth peninsula and immediately fell asleep. 

They awoke the next day to the blazing sun. It was already mid-day. The duel from the day before cause an exhaustion like after their battles in war. Their hips, shoulders and back were spent. 

“Breakfast? Tankard asked.

Paxso rolled over and groaned. “If we must…”

Tankard reached up and moved his massive arms and chest, stretching. He heard multiple cracks from his spine and whipped his head around, emitting a massive *POP*.

As he stood up, he saw a doe by the clearing of the trees, grazing. He reached over and grabbed his bow and an arrow off his horse. He took aim, hearing the waves in the background and the tightening of his bow, he fired and they instantly had an agreeable meal.

As they cleaned up, they heard a faint song playing in the distance.

“That’s it!” Tankard exclaimed.

“That’s the song you heard in your dream?”

“Yes.” Tankard closed his eyes. His heart filled with joy.

“I see now.” Paxso said, looking up over the trees, a single tear streamed down his face.

“Come, let us follow the Siren’s song.”

The two rode towards the end of the fourth peninsula. 

They came to a small garden; the trees and the vines grew into an elegant display of foliage mixed with the bedding of bushes and flowers. The waist-high shrubs grew in a symmetrical pattern; almost like a labyrinth but you clearly saw its center. 

The center connected to a path heading towards the beach and into the Barubian Sea. The bushes flowed into a smaller rock wall with colored stones that descended into the beach and the water. 

As they walked closer to the water, the song became louder and louder. They stood on the water’s edge and could see the waves dancing along with the creatures that swam by. 

They went into the water and down to a small pyramid at the center of four golden pillars that glowed with an amber light. When they examined its base, they studied the circular hole that was dug into the stone. Tankard realized what its purpose was for. He swam back to the surface as Paxso followed closely. 

They exited and walked back to the horses.

“What is it Tankard?” Asked Paxso.

“It’s for The BlackSmith’s ball.” Tankard said as he opened the chest. He heaved out the heavy ball and carried it into the water. With its dense mass, he took a deep breath and quickly sunk. He placed it in the fitting and moved it around but nothing happened. 

After a minute of looking around, they came back to the surface for air.

“What’s wrong with it?” Paxso asked.

“There must be some sort of lever, let’s keep looking.”

They went back down and looked around the monument. On the opposite side of the pyramid, there was a notch in the center wall for a stone. Paxso pulled out the green stone from his waist pocket and placed it in. The stone shined lightly but slid down as he let go.

They once again returned to the surface.

“I got it! I placed the green stone in a notch and it glowed but nothing happened.” Paxso said.

“Let me try something, come.” Tankard replied.

Paxso placed the stone in the notch and waited. Because it was on the opposite side of the pyramid, Paxso couldn’t see what Tankard was doing. 

Tankard readjusted the ball and closed the cuff attached to it. The stones shined, but nothing happened.

Against his better judgement, he reopened the cuff and placed it around his ankle, closing it again. The amber pillars shined brighter than before along with the two stones. 

As Paxso held the green stone in place, the top of the pyramid opened and the Amulet of Hartla floated out. He let go of the green stone and swam up to get it. As he reached for it in victory, he looked down at Tankard. 

Tankard’s leg was in the hole that the ball once was. The ball sank in and the weight was pulling Tankard in with it. Tankard was furiously trying to pull the ball up while trying to uncuff the chain.

As Paxso turned to swim toward Tankard, the opening atop the pyramid spewed like a geyser hitting Paxso with a thick stream of water up to the surface. He broke through and shot several feet in the air. When he splashed back in the water, he quickly took a deep breath and dove in. 

He swam as fast as he could but there was no longer the brightness of any stone light, only the pillars’ amber glow. When he returned to the pyramid, everything was as it was before… except Tankard was gone, as well as the ball and stones. 

He tried to move the pyramid and anything else around to create some sort of opening but was unsuccessful. 

He tried to find anything to open the pyramid or door; repeatedly swimming to the monument then the surface for air, for hours.

He eventually swam to the surface, exhausted.

He crawled onto the beach, alone. 

The Teymanian people do not mourn death. They celebrate life because of its cycle. Still, he missed his friend. 

But Paxso knew what the stone meant, and what it meant to Tankard. 

He thought about the journey they just made as he watched the sun set.  He took the Amulet of Hartla out and could feel the peace it emitted, and felt, for the first time, happy. He knew he had to try and share it’s power with everyone, and that’s what he set out to do.

December 17, 2021 23:36

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7 comments

Graham Kinross
09:46 Dec 23, 2021

I see you had problems with the paragraph indentation on here as well. That has annoyed me a few times. This was really good. My only critique would be that a lot of sentences start with He towards the end and its nice to see variation in the first word visually but I've been called out for that as well, and for overcompensating afterwards. Is there more of this? If not, will there be?

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Omar Alvarez
21:31 Dec 23, 2021

Yes. I need to begin verifying indentation and aesthetics when I post... I try to throw in a variety of words or try and project thoughts in a variety of ways. I wasn't planning on it at first, but after I began writing, I realized I could create more perspectives and stories on this subject or in this world.

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Graham Kinross
21:36 Dec 23, 2021

If you go to the effort of making a world you might as well get the most out of it, that’s how I feel. Then you add more details and you need to use them.

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John Hanna
00:18 Dec 23, 2021

Hi Omar, My name is John and I have been assigned your story from the critique circle. I like receiving stories from the circle because I most often choose to read SF and these stories expose me to masteries I learn from. Normally I wouldn't pick at small points but as a circle assignment, I attempt to nitpick as far as my skills allow. I could only find one grammar error that you didn't pick up. cause an exhaustion - caused As far as the story, it flowed easily and kept me enthralled. I enjoyed the characters and experienced desires for pe...

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Omar Alvarez
21:28 Dec 23, 2021

Hey John. I appreciate your thoughts and effort to share them. I'll take care to proofread more carefully.

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Thomas Giorgione
16:23 Dec 21, 2021

You hit all the right notes, checked all the boxes, and wrote a wonderfully complete hero’s journey. Well done.

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Omar Alvarez
16:16 Dec 22, 2021

Thank you! I appreciate your time and words.

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