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Light! A few revelations and twice the mysteries!

"Hmhmhm..." Judas chuckles lowly as he removes his blade from its casing. I don't see what's so funny, Judas!

"You and I very well know why I was originally put in charge, Brahm. You're better off stepping back and retreating..." Judas seems confident in his ability. I feel so useless... just sitting here. If I only had time for my magic capacity to recover... I would've ended this by now! Then again... Judas could be tricking me, for one reason or another. Why in the world would he do that, though, I don't have a clue. He doesn't seem like the kind to beat around the bush.

This mountain man, Brahm, simply points his axe with the most macho of grins. "Maybe it would've turned out differently if I was alone, but I'm not. You blokes! Get the girl!" Immediately, a gang of club-hefting, human-smashing, musty-smelling trolls lumbers out of the brush. Their eyes glow eerily, reflecting the waxing twilight while they grunt and look for the one addressed as 'the girl'; me. Soon enough, they seem me and charge like a stampede of wild horses. I have no choice but to lead this parade of insanity. As I pass by Judas, he whispers to me that he'll keep Brahm at bay. I, again, have no choice but to trust him.

"I'll handle stoneboy here..." rumbles Brahm. He handles his axe and approaches Judas, and that's the last bit of the scene that I have to catch as I swing off a branch and into the more thickly-wooded area.

Luckily, I'm athletic. I can only owe it to all my traveling and healthy habits! Being a sorceress is a lot of work, so it's paid off as far as situations like this are concerned. There were twelve trolls, but killing trolls is a little more than hacking their body to pieces. For one, they're very tough. For two, they have an uncanny ability to regenerate. Because of that, my blades are all but useless in this situation. Hmm... I'm feeling a bit fresher, despite my lack of sleep, almost like an invisible weight has been taken off my shoulders. Heh... it's not completely recovered, but I can cast a few spells now. I stop to look back and see if my pursuants are close behind.


That's... odd. Not one is in sight.

A rumbling. Someone's casting earth spells not far from here, and I'm willing to bet that it's Judas. Brahm just doesn't look like the magician type... "YEEP!" I shouldn't have let my guard down! A troll came up and grabbed my left leg by the ankle, lifting me up into the air with a deafening bellow. That was, no doubt, a signal to his equally-stenched comrades. This particular troll probably didn't expect what I did next. "Levitation," I abruptly called, just as I was turned upside down. My body becomes lighter and rushes up like a plank of wood that someone tried to hold underwater. I made sure to hold my right leg out rigidly as it made contact with the bottom of his jaw. As I land on a high branch, a little sigh escapes my mouth. No amount of natural regeneration is going to bring Mr. Troll to his wits anytime soon. But, his buddies will be here soon. I make haste and rush back to Judas' location in case he needs help... I would Levitate my way there, but my magic energy is still fairly low. I need to conserve in case another need arises.

I get back to the main stage of this crazy story in time to see pillars of stone crumbling, raising hell in terms of dust and racket. "Judas!" I called, but I got no answer. I'd like to be sure that it was because of all the noise that he didn't hear me, but I'm not the faithful type. I drop one branch, catch it with my outstretched hands, and swing to a low one, only about seven feet off the ground. I squint a little... after a lot of the dust is down, I can see Judas moving calmly around Brahm's apparently-frustrated attacks.

"You'll never be able to defeat me, Brahm," he states. "Even if you strike a blow... it will do naught but scratch me." As if it was cued, Brahm lets out a roar as he throws the deathblow at Judas. The shaman raises his left arm and stops the axe's blade with his forearm. He then smartly thrusts his sword past the muscleman's right inner leg, gashing it, and drives the elbow of the same arm, his right, up into Brahm's throat. It was quite a sight, seeing someone knock down an opponent over half their size. The giant favored his throat, snarling at Judas as he angled his sword at Brahm's throat.

"I'm not particularly cold-hearted, Brahm... I'm giving you this chance to retreat... but only if you tell me how you found out about my defection."

Brahm closes his eyes and laughs as I drop to the ground and approach the pair slowly. He begins a short explanation while leering up at the dominating swordsman.

"Peh heh heh... you thought Lord Seto wouldn't find out? He knew you were up to this... he can see inside your rocky skin, Judas... my former leader."

I never thought I'd see it, but Judas was overcome with a genuine fear. Not a trembling, shaking, break-down-and-cry fear... but a deep-seated foreboding. A great dislike for what is to come, if you will.

"Hmph." Judas retorts and covers his emotion with practiced ease, "You can tell "Lord" Seto that I don't work for him anymore. If he's going to burn villages and pillage those that have no involvement with us, he can do it himself." Judas' slitted eyes dialate as he widens his eyes before adding the verbal coup de gras, "Now begone... or more of you will decorate the forest floor than does right now."

I've gotta give it to him; Judas is pretty intimidating. Brahm, perhaps with begrudging gratefulness, picks up the axe that is almost as big as me and drags it and himself back to the chapel, I assume. The trolls are not so thoughtful, though. Luckily, they are self-minded. When I finally got to Fireball the group, the survivors up and retreated without a second-thought. Now, Judas and I were free to talk... at least, for the moment.

"So, Judas," I began, "what's up with you and this group all of a sudden?" I remember and scowl, "And what the hell does it have to do with me?!" Although Judas is hesitant, he begins.

"As you know... Syrius was on the ship that you robbed and sank, the one that belonged to 'the most feared band of cutthroats to sail the Demon Sea'..."

"Uh-huh... go on."

"When you attacked it, he was burned quite... painfully, to say the least. He was on the ship for a reason... he was supposed to get two things that the pirates stole... for me. I had no intention of handing them to Seto."

"Hmm." At this point, I was quite intrigued. I could discern at why I was targeted now... although I still didn't like it that I had been pulled into this mess. I could've sold all the junk I had by now and made a fortune. Sigh... but I gave it all to Kari. Bum. I wonder where HE is NOW...

"And who's this Seto guy? I dunno... but you looked pale when that guy--Brahm, was it?--mentioned his name."

Judas looked uneasy at this point and was trying to avoid my question. Luckily, my family has always been good at persuasion... more specifically, the women in my family. So, he finally answers me.

"Seto... I suppose you could call him a mentor of sorts. He hasn't been himself lately, though..." The young chimera closes his eyes and continues, "Ever since he came across the legend of the Sorcerer Stone and its ability to produce the Elixer of Life, which supposedly promotes eternal life in the hands of a skilled alchemist, he has been obsessed." Judas looks aside to the nearby running stream, just across from us. His temporary silence seems to augment the sounds of the birds' songs and the sounds of various early summer insects. Yeah... any self-deserving sorcerer knows about the Sorcerer Stone. Its existence is still legend, however, and remains yet to be proven. The legends say that the one who wields the Sorcerer Stone's power can live forever, turn plain metal into gold, and control enough power to bring destruction to even the most mighty kingdom. I can see why it would be a problem if someone with anything less than good intentions got their hands on such power.

"Even though he's still fairly young--" Judas' soft voice interrupts my thinking and seems to drown out the sounds. "--he knows that research of such magnitude would take time. The prospect has... twisted his judgement. Syrius and I were tracking you ever since your presence at a certain town created a brand new bay..." I smile in a little shame at the memory of what happened at Aoi-Umi. "I kinda' overdid it a little, huh? Well... contract negotiations were too short for me to give out the disclaimer, so it's also that old guy's fault... kinda'." Judas gives me a small glare before shutting his slate eyes again. "He no longer thinks of those who have assisted him... I joined him to find a cure for this... this... curse." A noise not unlike the forced grinding of stone-against-stone resonates. My eyes trail a little bit before finally seeing how tightly Judas' hand is clenched. I look up at him, kinda' wanting to sympathize with the guy. "And," I continue, "he just forgot about you? Like that?"

Judas unclenches his fist and lifts his gaze to level with the opposite bank. "I wanted to be strong... strong so that I could venture out and find a cure for this wretched body. I longed to be human at one point... but Seto's apathy and selfish actions have turned my allegiance. Now... I just want to kill him. Letting him have the Stone is out of the question." His head angles gradually to eye me from the corner of his left, "That is where you come in, Rina Erris..." I blink oddly. What does the Sorcerer Stone have to do with me? Rather... what do I have to do with it? "Say what, Judas?"

Judas looks a bit agitated... "What you stole had one particular item... it was a goddess statue... but it wasn't crafted from just anything. It was made of orihalcon, the very metal which supposedly seals the Stone's form within itself." Hmm. I quirk a brow as Judas stands and takes a few steps away. "You didn't have a single one of the things you stole on you when I captured you. I can only assume that you gave them up to your swordsman comrade..." Well, he assumes right. I have to give credit where it's due, "That's right!" I'm quick to glare off to the side and mumble a few things, "If only I knew where the stoneheaded dip was now..." I look up in time to catch a frozen glare from Judas. Eh heh... I should watch my 'stonehead' comments near Judas, from now on. "Sorry!"

"..." Judas just turns and pulls his cloak's hood up. "I'm going to find your friend and retake the things he has. Good luck to you and your journeys, Rina Erris..."

I stand up quickly and angle an index finger towards Judas as if I were a mother lecturing a child, "Now listen here, Judas! I don't quite trust you, even after your sob story! And there is no way in hell I'm just letting you have your way with Kari. Besides... he still has my treasure! I'm coming with you!" I can hear Judas emit a groan of deep disapproval, but he'll just have to deal with it. Looks like Judas is with me to stay!