"Well kiddos, the time has come," the man pacing in front of the ranks of the seventeen year old candidates said. Their rows were perfect, their expressions flawless, and their blades ready for action. Among them, side by side, were Filan and his buddy Remus. The two have come far through their training since the day Eeil had joined the 'academy'. In truth the place was actually the training ground of the armies of the humans, but that wasn't ever pointed out. Still, Remus had come to know a lot because of the Unican, and Filan had learned by proxy.
"Today you will be taking your tests to see if you will be accepted into the military or not. We've reports of odd disturbances in the east. You're being shipped to Nilusk. You are to investigate, and whoever among you return with answers alive and without major injury are in. The rest of you... don't even bother reporting back... You are dismissed."
And so the boys split off into the groups that had formed over the years, leaving Remus alone with Filan.
"Can you imagine it? We're going to Nilusk! We're outta this place. That means more missions! We'll get to see the world!" Remus said, tucking his hands behind his pale green hair. Since he was no longer a first level trainee his hair and eyes were up to him now.
"See the world I doubt. Be stuck at the northern wall and in Heniko for months upon months is more likely," Filan pointed out as the followed the other teen towards the fort, and towards the chambers of Eeil, where they always went when there was free time to be had.
"Naw, we're too cool for Heniko. AND they aren't going to waste a shifter or a Totemic on such a boring style. I'm thinking royal escorts, or maybe securers of weapons from Hevat or something cool like that stuff."
Filan opened the door to the office for Remus, whose eyes were closed as he thought about all the possibilities, and Filan instantly froze. Remus, soon upset by his friend's lack of response, cracked an eye lid open and the playful attitude soon dropped.
"What in Decessus's name is going on?" Remus said, taking the name of the old goddess of death for the first time.
The room before them was bare of anything that would imply someone had been living there. No bed, no desk, none of the things Eeil had used to predict the future. Nothing. Remus moved slowly into the room, unable to believe that this place was bare. There was dust piling up on the few things there were here: old books, broken chairs, discarded clothes.
"Remus... Tell me that you haven't been coming in here and talking to yourself for years. Tell me I haven't been doing the same thing."
"He was here Filan, trust me. He did his before, in my home town. I met him and then he disappeared. But there is always something to prove that he'd been there," Remus said, digging through the rubble. Finally he found whatever it was that he'd been looking for.
"Come here. I found it..." Remus said.
Filan soon joined his friend in pushing a few broken chairs from the way to see what Remus was referring to. It turned out to be a single word scratched into the wall: Slirvorm.
"Slirvorm? What is that?" Filan asked. "It could just be some made up word a student carved here."
"Eeil told me about them. They are the pets kept by that race he told us about. Bad stuff..."
Filan shook his head, "Whatever. Come on, we've got to get ready to go to Nilusk."
Remus sighed and followed his friend out. If Eeil had left it either meant that they didn't need him, or it was too dangerous for him to remain anymore. With the presence of the word upon the wall Remus was afraid it was the latter.
Now, while it wasn't like Remus to plan ahead, there were a few precautions that he did take. What if the message left by the Unican was a warning as to what he would encounter in Nilusk. And if there were Slirvorm then there would be, without a doubt, Egsu not far behind. Egsu... without dragons upon Carodos to protect them. This was not very good at all. But still Remus went about the normal routine he would for any other test. It would have to be enough.
Once more a hand strayed to the claw hidden under his shirt. The gesture had become more common that ever in the recent years. The thing was more than a comfort object now. Eeil had taught him to channel his own magic through it and gain more control over his shifting. And, beyond that, it was like the thing was part of him now, something he just couldn't believe.
Three days later found the many armed youths landing outside of Nilusk, orders being given one last time with the knowledge that half of them might not return. Remus and Filan just smirked at each other, all thought of the Slirvorm gone from their minds and Eeil as well. What was first and foremost was the fact that they were about to go into battle for the first time.
Their arrival found the village in flames. Villagers watched in shock and terror as their lives went up in flames. While most of the others testing just watched in amusement, Remus, Filan and the very few recruits from the village sprung into action. The dark skinned Filan quickly got together the villagers for a bucket chain as others rescued those in the houses still. Remus did something else entirely... investigate what was going on. The vibrantly haired man moved around the houses, noting large and rather unique prints in the ground.
Now Remus was no expert in tracking, but he was PRETTY sure that there weren’t any animals or people native to this area who left two inch deep prints like cloven hooves. It just wasn't natural for an area like this.
"Slirvorm," Remus hissed, pulling out his sword. All that he could remember of the creatures from Eeil's lessons were the weak spot at the neck joints. Everything else ran a blank.
"Filan!" he shouted, "Get the men together, we've got FAR bigger problems."
The Totemic soon joined his friend looking at the odd marks, "Those aren't natural in the slightest."
"Get the people to the beach, now! The rest of you help me. They aren't safe until we find what did this!"
One of the other candidates, a young man from Raynen, crossed his arms. "Like you have any clue what is going on here. Get real!"
"If you want to live, you will listen to me," Remus said, before turning away, shifting himself up less obvious hair and eyes, and slipped off towards the plains. If need be he'd take the Slirvorm alone until Filan got back.
The plan really would have been great, except for the fact that Remus didn't last that long. Alone he left the town, but he really didn't expect that many people would follow him blindly into battle. No sooner had he lost sight of the village than he saw them. They were ugly things, large, black and covered in thick armor and scales. The eyes burned with some kind of sentient emotion, and the large hooves, claws and all, stomped at the ground. Remus rushed forward, sword out and aiming for the neck of the beast, only to have the long, thick tail of another to strike him in the back and knock him to the ground. His blade went spinning off in one direction and his body in another.
A scream of pain escaped Remus as the sharp, pointed hoof of the one he had intended to attack cut into his back. The weight of the beast drove the tip deep. Blood, a shade of red that even Remus couldn’t replicate with all of his magic, was soon spreading around him. Everything seemed detached for a little bit, before the blissful relief of unconsciousness laid its hands upon him.
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