Chapter Cover

AUX 1 : Tessa Vivuk - Character Sheet (End of Ch. 30)

AUX 2 : Tolan Morndelen - Character Sheet (End of Ch. 30)

AUX 3 : H̵̱̎͌͜e̶̘̥͙͑̀̈́̈́i̷̺̤̊̋͘ ̸͍͍̠̲͂͛̃̀Z̷̳̑͋̏͘h̴̠͖͚͆̑̔͐a̶̪͎͎͐́͠ó̵̢̒͌ ̸̫̤̮͊̉͂̊-̴͖̿͝ ̵̢͚̌̒̈́͜C̶̢͇̞̣̾́h̸̖̖̦̪̑̔̉̋ã̶͇̲̯̣̽r̶͕̄̍͜ä̴͚͕͓́̾̃̎c̵̣͎͕̈́̔͐͘ͅẗ̸̤́e̶̦̝͓͇̿r̷̦̝̯̐ ̵̠̝͎̬́S̴͕̘̱̃̀̾h̴̛̗̬͜͝e̵̝̞̓̈́̽͛ę̵̞̪̆̈t̵̮͕̦̓

AUX 4 : T̶̬͍̳̳̫͐ơ̵̧̨̜͒͛̒r̸̢͖̥̤̝̟̂̈́͊́̓͝g̷͉̺̹̫͉̥͆̊̓̅r̴̛̺̪̳͖̔̎̿̕͜á̴̖̫ķ̵̨̮͎͎̼͛̈́̀̌̔̈́ ̵̼̱̙͑̑̈́͝͝-̸͓̝͌͝ ̶̨̢͕̦̞̩̿C̶̡̰̗̫̰͙̉͝h̶̛͍͉̞̘͍̣͊̃ä̴̪̍̊͒̂r̵̡̛̻̹̫͈̳̀̐̆̚͝à̶̖̺c̶̤̜͙̗̤̬̊͋̈ṭ̷̣̎̃̎̇͛͝è̴͚̮͜ͅͅr̶͖̦̣̺̝̪͗ ̴͇̳̗̳̾̔S̴̙̞̻͇͘ḥ̵̝͉̘͌́͛̿͋e̷̢̦̰̼̍e̴̩̓͌̑̔t̵̻̗͈͍̩̉̈́

Chapter 0 : The Hero and the Dragon

Chapter 1 : Dreams From Propaganda

Chapter 2 : Running Blind

Chapter 3 : Unmet Requisites

Chapter 4 : Not a Coincidence

Chapter 5 : Kneel to Fate

Chapter 6 : Saved and Sabotaged

Chapter 7 : Apprentice of Bastards

Chapter 8 : New Lessons to be Learned

Chapter 9 : Drilling in the Basics

Chapter 10 : Fanatic Extermination Preparation

Chapter 11 : A Few Moments Before Chaos

Chapter 12 : Never Wanted This

Chapter 13 : A Little Bit of Green

Chapter 14 : The Resistance

Chapter 15 : In Through the Front Door

Chapter 16 : Conversation Between Villains

Chapter 17 : Seeing What's to Come

Chapter 18 : Spark Amongst Flames

Chapter 19 : Everything Starts with a Big Bang

Chapter 20 : The Gun Goes Off

Chapter 21 : Miniboss Meeting

Chapter 22 : The Starting Light

Chapter 23 : A Convenient Opportunity

Chapter 24 : Unapologetically Breaking a Promise

Chapter 25 : No Rest for the Wicked

Chapter 26 : But It Was Me...

Chapter 27 : Second Verse Same as the First

Chapter 28 : Ritual

Chapter 29 : That Lesson Paid Off

Chapter 30 : 30. The End of the First Story

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Chapter No1:Dreams From Propaganda

“Alright, it’s time for bed now.” “Aww . . . But could you read me a bedtime story first, though?” “Of course, dear. Which one do you want to hear this time?” “I want to hear the story of The Hero and the Dragon again!” “Again? Didn’t I read it to you last night?” “I know mommy, but it’s my favorite!” “Alright, let’s start it all over again. . .” Once upon a time, there was a peaceful town filled with happy farmers, bakers, and candlestick makers. But on one fateful day, a dragon darkened the skies and attacked the town! With one mighty breath, the town was burnt to the ground! With one swing of its tail, it turned homes to dust. The townspeople tried to fend off the monster, but none could. Valiant fighters, rangers, and wizards came to the townspeople’s aid, all swearing that they would slay the beast! The fighters charged head-on with their swords in hand! The rangers filled the sky with a blanket of their arrows! And the wizards summoned forth great spells of destruction! But none could hurt it. The dragon’s resilient scales blunted the fighters’ blades and repelled every arrow that rained upon them. And while the wizards cast their spells, the dragon’s breath overwhelmed all of their magic. Soon enough, all found themselves at the dragon’s mercy. With no other option, the townspeople prayed to the heavens for a miracle. “We beg of you, oh Great Six, save us! Save us from the dragon’s tyranny!” And in their darkest moment, the gods answered their prayer for and delivered upon them a Hero. “Despair no longer,” said the Hero, “for I shall fell the beast and return all to as it was!” Wasting not a moment longer, the Hero confronted the tyrant. The dragon bathed the Hero in its flames, attempting to burn him away like all the others, but the Hero fired back with miracles of the gods! The dragon clawed and bit at the Hero, trying to shred and devour him, but the Hero was too fast! He dodged the dragon’s hands and defended against its tail while driving it back with his sword. Soon enough, the Hero had the dragon cornered. “Dragon! I do not wish to kill you! So I shall spare you if you leave and never darken another sky again!” The dragon snarled and growled, but refused to back down. It charged the Hero, attacking desperately. But the Hero was ready, and with a blessing from the Great Six, he felled the dragon! And With the tyrant slain, the townspeople rushed to the Hero’s side. Everyone cheering and praising their savior! ‘He-ro! He-ro! He-ro!’ They praised him for his heroism and might! They praised him for being a champion of the Great Six! And once again, the town had peace and harmony. All thanks to the Hero. * * * * * Torchlight flickered against cemented stone bricks in the frosty night. The moons above waned while guards atop high walls yawned while guarding the city beneath them. All waiting for their shifts to end ascome dawn while the wind danced and rustled through the leaves of a distant forest. Letting out a yawn as he stared at the distant horizon, shivering occasionally from passing breezes, one guard spoke to another while stuck there. “Hey! Terry!” “It’s ‘Thierri’.” “Yeah, yeah, I know. How much longer we got?” Thierri let out an annoyed sigh, lowering a pair of binoculars from his face to turn and face his coworker. “Hell if I know, Aerin. One, maybe two more hours? You know the nights are longer during this part of the year.” Aerin groaned, his head resting against the spear he kept between his shoulder and neck. He leaned against the inner battlements behind him as a chill ran up his spine from the cold stone touched his bottom. Thierri resumed scanning the expanse before them for any unusual activity or stray monsters while Aerin just stared up at the starry night sky with nothing better to do. “Ya’ know, when I signed up to be a guardsman, I thought there’d be a bit more... action. Get me?” “What’ve you got to complain about? Our work’s easy, we’re paid well, always have a warm bed awaiting us, and free food every day. Hard to ask for more.” “Yeah, I guess.” Aerin stretches his arms as another chilly breeze hits him in the face. Going over to a wooden box off to the side, he pulls out a thick blanket and slumps down against the battlements. “Much better.” Thierri chuckles, “Can’t take a bit of cold air?” “Hey, I can handle the cold just fine. Just sucks that it’s still Byndor.” “Says the one currently hiding under a blanket.” “Quiet you.” “Well, it’s only another month until Aenir. Then we can kiss the cold weather goodbye.” Seeing nothing on the horizon for the moment, Thierri relaxes. Letting the binoculars fall to his side while still firmly in his hand. Thierri smirked, “At least you didn’t end up like Borin last night.” “What’d the tin can do now?” “He got dared to go commando and fell asleep mid-shift.” “Oh jeez! He okay?” “Would you be?” Aerin shuddered at the thought. “Worst part was, when Borin got taken to the infirmary to get ‘unstuck’, the nurse he’s crushing on was the one to defrost him. Guy’s bunkmates said he cried himself to sleep from the embarrassment after his shift ended.” The two broke out into a fit of laughter. Both of them holding onto their stomachs as they imagined Borin’s reaction. And as they calmed down, the sun broke over the horizon. It’s light slowly flooding the sky with vibrant yellows, reds, and oranges while the deep blue of the night retreats. Aerin wiped a tear or two from his eyes as he regained his composure, but noticed something in the distance. A small, black dot. Unsure of if he’s seeing things or not, he gently shakes his head back and forth and looks again. Only to see that what was one is now five. Then nine. And soon enough, more than he could count on his hands. Pointing at the horizon, Aerin asks what they are in an uncharacteristically concerned voice. “Hey, Terry, what’re those?” Aerin pointed off at the horizon behind Thierri, his voice unusually concerned. Confused, Thierri turned around and saw what Aerin pointed at. Immediately raising his binoculars to his face, Thierri tried to make out what was in the distance, but the sun behind whatever was out there made it impossible to see correctly. “I . . . can’t say.” Thierri turned away from the wall and moved over to the wooden box, digging through it for something. “What do you mean ‘can’t say’?” “I can’t tell what they are because of the sun. Need the dark lenses.” “Well hurry! More of them are dotting the horizon and fast!” Thierri pulls out a small box and opens it, revealing a pair of darkened lenses for the binoculars. Pushing on a button on the binoculars’ underside, it licks and pushes the lenses up and out. Grabbing them, Thierri tries to swap them out as quickly as he can. Meanwhile, Aerin tries to see what’s out there with narrowed eyes and a hand providing what shade it can. “Can’t you move any faster?!” “I’m sorry, but having icy hands makes this rather tricky.” With some grumbling and a couple scratches from the metal, Thierri finally has the lenses in. But before looking at the horizon, he notices Aerin has gone oddly silent. Turning to his coworker, Thierri sees Aerin, mouth agape, still pointing at whatever is off in the distance. Turning his head to look for himself, Thierri goes wide-eyed as he sees the sheer number of things out there. Fumbling for a moment, he quickly raises the binoculars to his eyes and focuses on one of them. And upon seeing what is flying towards them, the binoculars fall from Thierri’s hands. The glass cracking on impact with the wall’s walkway. “H-hey . . . Terry . . . W-what’d you see?” “Ring the bell, Aerin.” “R-ring the bell? I-it’s not that bad . . . is it?” Thierri turned and grabbed Aerin by the collar. “Ring it now, or we all end up dragon food! It’s a wyvern horde!” Breaking away from Thierri, Aerin scrambled along the wall to a large iron bell. Not wasting another moment, he beat it as hard and fast as he could. The deep clanging echoing across the wall as other guards quickly saw and understood what they had and carried the message along. But as the bells tolled, the screeches of monstrous dragonkin grew ever closer. Frantically, the guards readied their defenses as quickly as possible. Even dispatching a few of their own to forward warnings and request an evacuation of all civilians. Clang! Clang! Clang! But the wyverns were upon them before the first messenger had even descended the wall as violent gouts of fire tore chunks out of the stone wall. The wyverns attacked everything and anything that moved. It was a mercy to be dragged into the sky and allowed to fall to their death, or to be burned alive in the cruel ovens made out of the guards’ scattered barracks and towers. The unluckiest were those caught outside any fortifications. Torn limb from limb by the dragonkin’s fangs and talons, all while also being eaten alive. Clang! Clang! Clang! Those not caught in the horde’s initial assault beat their bells, ringing them incessantly as the city was just waking up. Some had barely awoken before finding themselves frozen in fear, paralyzed by the wyvern’s sheer numbers the moment they looked towards the sun. It wasn’t long before the wyverns started flying past the wall and diving straight for civilians. Preying upon them with extreme prejudice. Immediately, the populace fell into a panic as everyone fled to be as far away from the destruction as possible. Homes and businesses alike were reduced to burning piles of rubble as the dragonkin set fire to the entire eastern edge of the city. Clang! Clang! Clang! Amidst all the chaos, the distant explosions, screams, and screeches awoke a young girl. Rubbing one of her eyes as she sits up, she faintly hears her mother and father discussing something. Brushing the blonde hair out of her face, she gets out of bed and walks towards the door to her room. Putting her ear to the door, she can hear her father’s metal armor clink and clank ever so slightly as he speaks to her mother. “Dear, do you really need to go out there? It’s complete chaos outside. We can make a run for it along with everyone else!” “I’m one of the city’s guards. If I flee in the face of this attack, I could never hold my head high as your husband or as Tessa’s father.” “But those are wyverns, Ral! Dragons! You don’t stand a chance, none of us do! Please! We still have time to run!” “Then I’ll buy you and Tessa as much time as I can, even if it’s only a second more.” Turning the handle of the door, it creaks open and Tessa peeks her head out from behind it. Her parents’ heads immediately turned to face her. “Momma? Papa? Are you fighting?” Tessa’s mother runs over and coddles her, bending over and stroking Tessa’s golden hair while cradling her. “No, no no no no, dear. We’re not fighting. Papa just . . .” Ral walks over and puts a hand on his wife’s shoulder. She gives a silent nod and lets Ral take a knee before his daughter. “Are you going to work, Papa?” “Yes, my little sunflower. Evil dragons are attacking and your Papa needs to go fight them.” “But, why?” “The dragons are hurting people, good people, and your Papa wants to protect the good people. Understand?” Tessa remembered the bedtime story her mother had read to her countless times, and recalls how everyone who wasn’t a Hero met a terrible end. Tears form in the corners of her eyes and she sniffles, not wanting her father to meet the same fate as all the people in her story. “Please don’t go, Papa! A Hero will save us! They can fight the evil dragons and everyone will be happy again!” Ral gently ran his fingers through Tessa’s hair and gave her a tight hug. The chainmail shifted and pressed into Tessa’s face for a moment. The sword at his hip and shield on his back jingling jewelry. He could only give her a sad smile while looking into her eyes. “The Hero isn’t here yet, so your Papa has to go make sure he can save everyone. Okay?” “But . . . evil dragons are strong! They’ll hurt you Papa!” Ral lifted Tessa up into the air, holding her just under her armpits. “Papa is strong too! So he has to go help the people who aren’t. Don’t worry, my sunflower, Papa won’t let any evil dragon beat him today.” Tessa calmed down, but wanted one thing from her father before she felt comfortable parting ways for now. “Do you promise, Papa?” Ral set her down and put his hand out with the pinky outstretched for her to grab onto. “I promise.” Tessa locked her own pinky with his. And with it made, Ral ruffled Tessa’s hair lightly and stood back up. Taking a breath in and letting it go, he turned to his wife. Tessa couldn’t see his face, but she felt this was one promise her father might not keep. “Lucette, I have to get going.” Tessa watched her mother. Ral’s words cause Lucette’s face to become pained as she resists saying a tearful goodbye. Forcing the smile she always gave Ral when he left for work. “Do your best at work today, dear.” The two embraced each other, and Ral made his way to the door. Picking up his helmet and putting it on with the face guard still up, he hesitated to leave. Hugging Lucette’s leg, Tessa asked Ral the same question she always did. “When will you be home Papa?” Ral gripped the door handle tightly. “I’m not sure, my little sunflower, but I’ll be home as soon as I can today.” Lowering the face guard with a click of metal, Ral opened the door and stepped outside. “I’ll be off.” Tessa took one step towards her father as he left. “I love you, Papa!” Ral froze in place, visibly shaking, and took a deep breath. “And I love you. Both of you.” With that, Ral faced the street and started running towards the front lines alongside other members of the city’s guard. The roar of dragons much louder for a moment before being deafened as the door to his home closes behind him. Now alone with Tessa, Lucette kneeled before her daughter. Holding Tessa’s hand, she tried to speak as simply as possible. “I need you to listen to Mama, okay?” Tessa silently nodded. “Mama knows it’s scary out there, but I need you to run. And no matter what happens, don’t stop for anything. Even if you don’t see Mama, keep running.” Tessa paused, but silently nodded again. Her mother’s words scared her, but she would do as she’s told. “That’s my good girl.” The screech of a wyvern came and went past the house just as an explosion rattled the silverware and glasses in the house. With time running out, Lucette stood up and held onto Tessa’s hand. Cracking the door open, Lucette peered out to see if the coast was clear. Just at that moment, a wyvern swooped down and lit the line of homes on the opposite side of the street ablaze before flying off. Thankfully, things get relatively quiet and Lucette sees her best chance. Holding Tessa’s hand a little tighter, she tries to wear a brave face for the sake of her daughter. “Stay close now, Tessa.” Tessa nodded as her body trembled. Taking the lead out the door and Tessa’s hand in hers, Lucette ran with Tessa behind her. Trying to keep pace with her daughter so Tessa wouldn’t trip. But as they ran, Tessa could hear the cries of pain and suffering in the distance. She hoped the Great Six would protect her father. Please protect my Papa, Aeon., prayed Tessa. However, far above them, a wyvern spotted them. Gliding towards them and it let out a piercing screech, forcing both Lucette and Tessa to stop moving and cover their ears. Now stuck in place, the wyvern dove sharply and shot a fireball at them. Thankfully, Lucette recovered from the paralyzing sound enough to grab Tessa and get them both out of the way. Diving to the side and rolling a short distance, Lucette’s back hit the wall of a building while the fireball exploded just up the street. Bits of rock and brick flew everywhere, pelting everything, but she kept her arms tightly around Tessa. Taking any hits she could in her daughter’s place. Having missed, the wyvern soared back up into the sky and out of view; disappearing for now. Lucette relaxed her arms and checked in on her daughter. “Tessa, are you okay?” Tessa looked up at Lucette, confused. Inspecting Tessa closely, Lucette breathed a brief sigh of relief. There was some dust on her cheeks and a couple of pebbles in her hair, but that was about it. “Thank the Six, you’re alright.” Lucette tried to get up, but noticed something was wrong. Quickly looking down, she saw a piece of metal jabbed into her ankle. And searching the skies, the wyvern had nearly finished circling back. “Mama?” “Tessa, can you still run?” Tessa turned distressed. Her mother’s choice of words ringing alarm bells in her head. “I-I can, but what about you, Mama?” Lucette dragged her body into an upright position, tucking her legs as best she can out of Tessa’s sight. It hurt like hell to move her leg, but Lucette grit her teeth and endured it. She had to, otherwise Tessa might not keep running. “Mama’s alright, just need to rest for a moment.” “But the dr-” Lucette raised her voice to keep Tessa from raising any objections. “Listen to Mama! Okay?” Tessa silently nodded. “Do you remember what Mama asked you to do before we left the house?” “T-to run.” “Good girl. Right now, Mama needs you to do that. Run as fast as you can, and don’t look back.” “B-but what about y-” “Mama will be right behind you. I just need to catch my breath, that’s all.” The wyvern screeched again. Its effects weren’t nearly as potent this time because of the distance, but it alerted Lucette to how little time remained. Holding Tessa by the shoulders, Lucette needed to get Tessa running. “B-but, Mama, I-I don’t want t-” The wyvern crash landed just down the street before letting out a bone-chilling screech akin to jagged metal dragged across a chalkboard. “Run, Tessa! Now!” Lucette pushed her daughter backwards a bit, giving her some momentum. And Tessa took it, biting her tongue as she turned away from her mother and ran. Tears formed and blur her vision, but she wiped them away and ran as fast as she could. “That’s my good girl . . .” As Tessa ran, the wyvern followed. Its talons scraping and scratching the cobblestone street. However, with one of its prey disabled, it focuses on the one running away. The wyvern opens its mouth, readying a fireball. Rapidly, the depths of its throat glow. However, Lucette isn’t one for being ignored. Using the building to prop herself up, she picks up a rock and chucks it at the wyvern’s head. Lucette’s body glows a bright red as the rock breaks on impact, cracks a few scales, and gets the wyvern’s attention all at once. “Over here, you scaly demon! I’m the one you want!” Furious, the wyvern roars at Lucette before charging straight at her and using its head as a battering ram. Summoning forth the red energy again, she pushes hard on the building to dodge. Lucette evades the wyvern’s head, but is caught by its wing and dragged into the building as it collapses on top of both of them. Hearing the destruction behind her, Tessa hears her mother’s words echo in her head. But the guilt of leaving Lucette behind is too much. Tessa stops and turns around to see a cloud of dust and a destroyed building. “M-mama!!!” Unable to control herself, Tessa runs to the wreckage. “Mama!!!” Repeatedly, Tessa calls out to her mother, hoping for the best. “Mama, mama, mama!!!” The cloud of dust subsides and Lucette coughs. Whether by miracle or by fate, she’s alive. And looking around, she wonders where the wyvern has gone. Being dragged through the building definitely hurt, but there’s enough adrenaline pumping through her veins to nullify it. However, what injuries she’s taken to the head have her vision blurred and ears ringing. Lucette can’t clearly tell what’s going on as she hears. It takes a moment, but her vision refocuses and she can make out individual sounds again. Unfortunately, she sees Tessa running towards her, but doesn’t know where the wyvern is. Her head now on a swivel, looking every which way, Lucette looks for any clue to the wyvern’s whereabouts. She had to find it before it found Tessa. “Mama!!!” “No! Tessa! Run away! Now!” But Tessa couldn’t act on her mother’s wishes. Tessa’s emotions were controlling her, and she was helpless to resist wanting to see her mother. The fear of having said goodbye to her father for the last time was heavy enough as is, but to say goodbye to her mother by running away was too much for the child. “Mama, Mama, Mama!!!” Lucette struggled to move, but quickly realized she’s stuck. A pile of bricks and broken wood had her pinned. She tried to slide them away, moving one brick at a time, but her efforts were in vain as the wyvern roused from underneath a heap of rubble. The debris fell away as the wyvern’s head and wings emerged. Lucette could do nothing but watch in horror as the first thing the enraged dragon saw was Tessa, frozen in fear before the beast. “Run Tessa! Please! Run!” Lucette thrashed and gripped for anything she could to pull herself out, even trying to throw another brick at the wyvern. But there wasn’t enough time, and the wyvern charged straight for Tessa. Seeing the monster run at her, Tessa fell on her bottom and raised her arms to defend herself as the wyvern bared its fangs. “Tessa!!!” Watching through the gap in her arms, tears streaming down her face as she stared into the eyes of the wyvern, time seemed to slow. Tessa saw her half-buried mother crying and desperately reaching out to her before being eclipsed by the wyvern. She stared into the wyvern’s seething red eyes and counted every tooth in its mouth as it sprinted at her. It didn’t take more than a handful of steps from the wyvern before all Tessa could see was the darkness inside the wyvern’s gaping maw, and the glow of hellfire within its gullet. Its teeth now close enough to near perfectly reflect in her eyes. Suddenly, there was a bright flash of light and the sound of a drawn sword resonating in the air. The wyvern’s head fell separate from its body, rolling a good bit away from Tessa, as the rest slowly stopped running and collapsed on the side of the street. Time slowly returned to its normal flow and the flowing cape of a stranger was all Tessa saw now as her freezing fear changed to overwhelming relief. With stars in her eyes, she slowly looked up to see who saved her. Slowly, the stranger kneeled before Tessa and offered his hand. “Are you alright?” The realization of what just happened took a moment for her to understand. “It’s alright, I’m here to help you.” Tessa took the stranger’s hand, and he helped her get back on her feet. Her knees were still shaking in fear, but the relief was arguably worse. Tessa’s body was still in fight-or-flight mode, her heart pumping adrenaline still coursing through every vein in her body. Then she remembered her mother still trapped under the rubble. Tessa tried to run, but tripped over her own feet. “M-mama . . .” The stranger helped Tessa back to her feet again and reassured her that everything was alright. “Don’t worry, little one.” Tessa clung to his leg as a support, and the stranger took slow steps forward so Tessa could make her way forward. “We’ll help your mother too.” He gave Tessa a pat on the head, but this only reminded her of her father still out fighting. Tears of happiness and hope streamed down endlessly as a Hero is here to save them. “Now, are you hurt anywhere? Anything feel strange?” “N-no . . . I-I’m okay.” “That’s good.” The Hero’s words calmed Tessa. Whether it was because of his gentle and reassuring words, or his presence and kindness, the fear in her legs had come to a stop. Holding her hand now, the Hero helped Tessa walk over to her mother. As the two approached where Tessa’s mother was, she saw another stranger next to Lucette’s body. This time it was a woman, a lady dressed in regal, green robes trimmed with gold and brown thread. She’d helped Lucette out of the rubble, laying her on the ground before treating her wounds. Her hands emitted a gentle, golden light, and Lucette’s injuries quickly disappeared. Seeing all of this, Tessa ran to her mother’s side. She tripped for a moment, but picked herself up and continued sprinting. “Mama!!! Mama, Mama, Mama . . .” Tessa buried her face in her mother’s clothes, sobbing and apologizing profusely. “I’m sorry, Momma! I-I didn’t run away!” Lucette caressed her daughter’s cheek. “I’m just glad you’re safe Tessa.” The light faded from the lady’s hands as the last of Lucette’s injuries faded away. “You should be alright now,” the lady assured them. “Thank you for healing me.” “So, is Mama okay now?” “Yes, your mother is fit as a fiddle now.” Tessa resumed burying her face in her mother’s torso, refusing to let go, while the lady moved to the Hero’s side. Lucette sat up, patting Tessa’s head and addressing the strangers. “Thank you, both of you!” Tessa looked up to stare in admiration at the Hero and his companion. Putting on a slight show for her, the Hero gave Tessa an overly cheesy thumbs up. “All in a day’s work for a Hero. Don’t worry, we’ll have the wyverns handled in a flash!” The Hero’s companion snickered, but Tessa was star struck. A Hero had really come to save them, just like in the story. “A . . . Hero.” The lady and Hero looked each other in the eyes for a moment, nodded, and then took Tessa by complete surprise as they jumped and took flight. Soaring high into the sky before changing course and flying directly for the front lines. Magic particles trailed behind them as their clothes flapped in the wind. But they weren’t alone as more of the Hero’s companions joined him in the sky. Now gathered together, the Hero and his companions descended upon the wyverns. With astonishing speed, they rallied the guards who were still fighting and turned the tide of battle. The Hero led the charge straight through the heart of the monster horde, felling the beasts with his sword swinging in grand arcs. Even wielding wind magic to rend and slice the wyverns’ wings, keeping the dragons grounded. Meanwhile, the lady with him healed the injured. Casting miracles across the battlefield and helping many recover. An older man in dark robes and a pointy hat also joined the battle. Staying high in the sky, he cast a powerful spell that summoned dark clouds over the city and began extinguishing the fires the wyvern’s had started with rain. Some wyverns attacked him, but immediately struck down with lightning. Other members of the Hero’s party joined the melee alongside him or tended to those in need, and it wasn’t long before they’d reduced the wyvern horde to a brief monster hunt. And as the last wyvern fell atop the wall defending the city, the citizens crowded the area below the Hero and his party. Tessa stared up at them, amazed by their power and kindness. Raising his sword high into the air, the Hero declared victory. The crowd cheered and thanked the Hero and his party with every word they could think of, but Tessa had something else running through her mind. “Mama?” “Yes, my little Sunflower?” “I know what I want to be when I grow up.” “Oh? And what might that be?” “I’m going to be a Hero! Just like them!”