Sacred Planet Xai
It was a cold day when they caught me. When they caught me… And I didn’t escape.
I’m sure the guards were mighty pleased with themselves for catching Siya Nara, one of a handful of mages who had managed to escape from every single prison. As a matter of fact, they reflected, it was odd how I was so easily caught each time. I barely put up a fight when the Anti-Mage Force threw me into a cage to be carried through town to the nearest prison.
I’ve escaped death, and men are nothing to be compared.
And you’d think they would have figured out why I was captured so many times, only days after my last capture. It would have been easy to hide in the woods, or travel to some distant island and escape all the pain and suffering. But I couldn’t.
I had to find him.
Before I should explain to you who he is, I should tell you who I am. My name is Siya, and I’m a mage. A mage is kind of like an elf, though not as up-tight. We have hair of two shades, normal ears, colorful eyes… We almost look human in fact. But we’re not. We’re more inclined to magic; and that makes people afraid. Normally someone has to train their body for years to get good at the magics, even elves need some learning. Mages are different; we’re born naturals. We’re also a minority.
I’m fairly standard for a 14-year-old mage. I’m a bit tall, maybe five feet and eight inches? My hair is brown and pink, kind of long when I don’t tie it back. I’ve been wearing the same clothes for a year; a blue sleeveless top with a laced front to my chest, black boots, a leather belt, light pants with pockets on each thigh, a navy blue cloak, one long fingerless black wool glove on my right arm… I can’t remember when I lost the right one…
When they caught me for the last time, I remember hearing deftly about taking me to the Big House. It didn’t matter. As long as he wasn’t there, I wouldn’t stay long.
But it was to be different a that prison. This was the final destination for all mages who had done things so horrible and atrocious against humans and Queen Aros’ monarchy. The jailers were meaner, the prisoners stronger, and the overseer Aros herself.
I didn’t care.
Until they tried to put the collar on me.
A big, heavy, ugly steel band. You couldn’t run away with cold hatred strapped around your neck. Nor could you hold your head up high with something meant for a dog on you. It was to break you physically and emotionally.
I wouldn’t let them.
I must have put up a fight, because the next thing I saw was stars, which was odd since I was face-down in the dirt. Then, as my vision faded in and out, a woman in a red robe lifted my chin up by the toe of her boot. She mentioned something about Cell One with the ‘other four’. I felt something slip around my neck. Then it went dark.
When you lose consciousness... I can’t explain it to the best of detail. One thing that happened was that memories returned, some I had forgotten. Then again, it may have been a dream. But my dreams show me the future, not the past.
There were ones of Iito and me when we were younger and living in a small mage village on some island far away. We seemed so happy, even though trouble ‘followed us’ wherever we went. It was so real... I could almost reach out and touch Iito’s spiked orange and brown hair, and see into his brown eyes. It was as if my best friend had been miraculously returned to me.
Another memory. I remember it now... I was nine, and Iito two years older. We had snuck off during prayer session to go meet some elf children we discovered in the woods. It was a fun day, until we returned. The entire village had been reduced to hot, smoldering rubble. The stench of death filled our ragged breaths.
I discovered something that day. Most mages get their energy from Xai itself, and nature. For some mysterious reason, I get mine from other sources of energy, like a power-hungry leech. When people die, they release energy into the world, and the amounts I got from the deaths of my family and clan was amazing. I thought it was amazing...
It made me sick.
How would you feel if you realized that you were growing stronger from the deaths of others? I felt terrible. I had to keel over to keep the vomit from coming. My breathing was hampered, and cold spells ran up and down my back.
Iito was another story. He leapt into action, trying to find a survivor so we could find out who did this, and what had happened to our home. Already he was seeking revenge while I lay submissively in self-pity.
He didn’t find any survivors.
It must be said now and forever that Iito is a better person than I’ll ever hope to become. While I sat there crying like a whipped child, Iito made it his personal mission to bury each and every one of our clan--our family-- in separate graves.
Iito wasn’t the same after those long weeks.
I went out and brought back food, while he dug holes, blessed a body, filled the hole, and started all over. I give him great credit and respect for walking up to each stinking and rotting corpse and identifying a member of our clan. The ones whose faces had been burned off he had to identify by any jewelry or clothing left. I couldn’t handle the sight of bodies that had been tortured until they turned a dull gray-blue or horrible red flesh that oozed blood. So Iito worked, while I cried and become stronger from it all.
Eventually, the elves found us and took us in. Iito would return to the site every day until his task had been completed. I never went back, not wanting to remember...
Years later, when we left the elves, Queen Aros spread hatred to the mages, blaming the failing economy and health of people on us. We had to go into hiding, but Iito always knew it wouldn’t last. He finally got captured, leaving me to run alone again. He just couldn’t escape prison; stealth was not his forte. I had been searching for my friend ever since, not wanting to have to cry alone anymore.
Then again, he never cried.
I swore I’d be just as strong as Iito, and never shed another tear.
A day later I woke up.
Iito was there, staring down at me.
As shock welled up in my eyes, looking into his face, remembering so many things, places, people that bound us together since early childhood…
He punched my head.
Iito said I was an idiot for trying to find him, he was sure there was no other reason for me to have been captured easily. Even in this remote location, rumors told of a pink and brown-haired mage who refused to stay in one place long.
What if I had gotten killed?
I was about to scream at him when a hand lay on Iito’s shoulder. We weren’t alone. The hand belonged to a boy with long green and chestnut hair, olive colored pants, blue eyes, bare feet, a purple vest, and more poise than I had ever thought possible.
He was beautiful.
It was odd for a male to be beautiful, but he was.
I could call him ‘Tama’, he informed me. Then he took my hand and helped me off the floor and past a fuming Iito.
It looked like I was going to be here for a long time, so I may as well meet the rest of ‘Cell One’.
Tama led me over to a sleeping girl. She was curled up on a wooden bench, thumb up to her mouth almost as if she’d begin sucking it at any second. Her name was Keri, and she’d wake up soon enough, he promised me. I glanced down.
Her clothes were faded from dirt, but I could tell her green jumper dress, purple shirt, and striped stockings had once been bright and full of color. Her fluffy blonde hair fell over her face. She puffed air out of her nose to get it away.
My first thought was… She shouldn’t be in here.
Keri’s skin was tan and her thumb calloused. She was used to the wide outdoors, not this little stone cell. Sure, there was a gated area outside the door, but this wasn’t for her.
I never felt so sad in my life.
The last person was in a corner, looking aloof. His black hair was striped with purple and his green eyes glared daggers out the barred window. Any half-wit could sense he was strong. Quite the opposite from Keri’s bright ensemble, his clothing was mainly of blacks and silvers.
Tama led me over to him, and introduced me as ‘Miss Siya’. The young man’s eyes flicked respectfully to Tama’s, the hardened when they reached mine.
Before I could say a thing, he left us. Just got up, walked to the ‘door’ (a cloth over a door frame. Yay prison decorating.) and left to join Iito outside.
Tama asked me to forgive Yamato. He wasn’t used to guests.
His name was Yamato.
My first thought was… He’s an ass.
But he reminded me of Iito a bit. A little too much, if you ask me, considering how different they two looked, acted, and…. Uh… Well, trust me. There was something about him that made Iito’s image flash in my head.
A shiver ran down my spine.
I’d be lying if I said it was my idea.
It was my second week in this hell hole.
After Keri (who I didn’t feel quite as sorry for) displayed her A.D.D. by bounding off the freaking walls, Tama whispering to me that he was actually a prince from another country, watching Iito get whipped by the guards for healing my bruised noggin, and Yamato’s bad attitude….
You could have told me the only way to escape was to dress up like a chicken and dance the waltz and I’d have asked ‘when and where’.
Through my brief conversations with Keri (I could barely stand her hyper-ness for more than a minute), Iito (he’d scold me for doing something dumb, making me wonder why the hell I tried to find him anyway) and more lengthily ones with Tama, I learned a few things.
1. The order of our ‘arrivals’ are: Yamato, Tamahashi (Might explain why
Yamato will only talk to him) were alone for three months, then Iito came
and it was the ‘Three Amigos’ for a month, and a month ago, Keri joined.
2. Yamato doesn’t like me very much.
3. We all seem have ‘accelerated powers’, whether it be transformation (Keri),
control over nature (Tamahashi), summoning items at will (Yamato), or healing. (Iito.)
Myself? The whole death thing. And the dreams.
4. Tamahashi was rich before he got caught. I mean filthy, stinking, rich.
(Tamahashi and Yamato ‘met’ when Yama tried to steal a whole lost of stuff
5. Yamato really, really, really, doesn’t like me. (Or the name ‘Yama’...)
6. They took turns ‘taking the blame’ for healing other mages who could slip
through the guard’s forces. (But Iito’s the only one who actually healed. And
none of them would let Keri take the blame either.)
7. There are a lot of things Yamato doesn’t like. I am one of them.
8. Collars suck. They also limit your magical power to around 10%.
9. Keri used to be an acrobat in the circus.
10. Yamato is staring at me right now, and I think I’m gonna pee my pants.
11. Yamato and Iito fight a lot.
12. When those fights break out, Tama has to play ‘peace-keeper’.
13. Keri’s half elf, half mage. Even though Keri looks more Elvish than Magese, the Anti-Mage Force arrested her because someone overheard that her mother was a Mage.
14. Oh My GOD!!! WHY IS HE STILL STARING AT ME!!?!!
It was Tama (which I found out was short for Tamahashi) who came up with the plan that would destroy Aros.
We were the strongest. That’s why we were in Cell One. Aros was too arrogant to consider separating us. (Fool!) But she had a right to be that way. I had tried at least twice to get out of the compound and found it downright impossible; with Yamato scorning me each failed time. Iito yelled too. It was the only thing the older boys agreed on; that I was a moron for being so damn impulsive.
(Between Iito and Yamato’s fist-fights with each other, it was amazing they had any free time to chide me. Where was I..?)
So Tamahashi told us basically, we’d fight our way out. In all the chaos the other mages were sure to join or flee to safety. It sounded good.
We’d each take a different wall and fight there. Iito and Yamato would take the North Wall since it was the most likely spot for real danger. Aros’ lookout tower was right above it.
But why now, I asked. Why not a month ago?
Keri smiled sweetly and turned around. She lifted up the back of her hair that covered her collar slightly. There was a line in it. Just a nick, but it went all the way through! She informed me the boys had been whittling away at it with their limited magic. The collars apparently had some sort of magic shielding against regular tools that I hadn’t been aware of. It took a whole month, but they got through the part where it had been welded shut.
I didn’t think this meant anything.
Keri grinned impishly. I’d see eventually.
So at , on a Monday, we put the plan in motion. Keri went out into our little yard of dirt with Tamahashi. I stared out at the two from my place in the doorway. Iito and Yamato sat beside each other against the back wall, far away from the other two.
Nothing could grow in that dirt but weeds, and that was enough. Aros had given the guards orders to make sure nothing green touched our cell. Yet one tiny little dandelion managed to slip their grasp. It had turned white, its small stem wavering in the chill breeze that blew. Tama plucked the seeds in his hand and thrust his fist through the iron bars. The wind picked up the tiny things as soon as he opened his palm and scattered to the prison yard below.
Had I known we were fighting them with seeds, I may have tried to escape on my own the previous night.
But my lack of faith didn’t matter, for soon the seeds grew… and grew… Large green roots shattered stone and steel and took root in the earth. The guards yelled at these giant plants towering above them in mere seconds. The dandelions blossomed, eight… no twelve gigantic yellow suns towering above us.
Tamahashi returned, ignoring my shocked expression and the guard’s yelling, and turned to the two brooding men. “It’s Keri’s turn.”
Remember when I felt sorry for Keri? I take it back. She’s fine. Really, she is.
I watched the young lass from my sheltered spot, not knowing what was about to happen. (Ok, I have the attention-span of a rodent. When Tama was explaining the plan to escape I was counting cracks in the wall.) Keri was taking deep, even breaths, seeming as if she was trying to stay calm amidst the commotion Tamahashi had created.
Then I saw it. Keri lifted up her right arm to inspect it. Having been out of my view, I couldn’t see what had happened. But as she held it up, it was no longer a human appendage.
Brown, ragged fur covered down from her elbow to cover her hand as well. Her hand was about two times the size of her head, and has massive, disfigured claws. Keri gave me a little smile, possibly noticing the look of ‘Holy Shit’ on my face. “You better go back in, Miss Siya,” she motioned to where the others sat. “It’s gonna get crowded.”
I nodded dumbly, not even able to get to my feet at the fur continued to spread. I scooted back against the wall between Tama and Iito. “What… what the…”
“She can transform,” Iito informed me. “The dandelions were just a distraction.”
“Or weren’t you paying attention?” Yamato cast me a distasteful look from his side of Tamahashi.
Before I could come out of my stupor, Iito defended me. “Hey, ease off, goth-boy. Siya’s not too bright, that’s all.” Well… He kinda came to my defense… I’ll get him for that later.
Brownish-orange fur bristled over Keri’s rapidly growing body. She shot up a good five extra feet before the claws started to appear on her toes and fingers. Another foot and the fence around or cell shattered, and I realized why the cut in the collar was so important. It was pretty obvious Keri was our ticket out of here, but had that collar been on, there’s a good chance she would have suffocated instead of breaking it.
A tail with a razor-pointed end emerged out of nowhere, and her clothing dissolved into masses of fur. Cat-like features replaced her face, a large nose, squinty green eyes, and sharp whiskers appeared. This creature stood upright, at least two stories, if not more, and had three claws on each appendage that were twice the size of any man. The forearms and feet became massive, and a slick, black mane traveled down her back. The teeth could make any grown-up cry for their mother. Two canines, bigger than the claws, and three rows of pointy, jagged yellowed teeth…
The four of us had stood as soon as her collar hit the ground, all twisted and bent. We were in a state of shock at this beast; how a little girl could turn into something that would make most men sob in horror.
The guards immediately forgot about the giant dandelions and cowered in fear of Keri. Drool hit the ground as she turned to face them evenly. Her mouth opened up, and the loudest, most terrifying roar echoed across the plains. There was no way Aros couldn’t be on to us by now. Then again, it didn’t matter; the guards were running for the hills in a second.
If I hadn't been gaping, and dodging kitty drool, I would have been most jealous at the powerful sight before me, and that her collar had snapped off. Tamahashi, however, was the first of us to recover from awe. “Keri? Can you hear me?”
The creature turned and looked down at us. Tamahashi nodded.
In three giant leaps, he was up on Keri’s shoulder, surveying the fields beyond the prison. “They’ll get reinforcements soon enough; there’s a military camp about a mile away. We don’t have much time, and I don’t see Aros either.”
“Right,” Yamato turned to Iito. “There’s a set of keys in the tower by the main door; you might have to fry the padlock. I heard that the guards keep the key for the collars somewhere in there too.”
Iito shrugged. “Fry the lock? No skin off my nose,” and he bolted to the tower.
I’m trying to keep my tale short, friends, so there’s no point in wasting your time. Iito found the keys for the cells, and I had the honor of running around and setting all the mages free. It was a wonderful feeling to see the gratitude in their eyes. That look was replaced with uneasiness as they walked past Keri…
The mages left. They grabbed the horses, carts, anything they could that would get them out of there before Aros’s reinforcements arrived. Iito had found the key for the collars, which was really a small rod with a sharp diamond on the end. It was tedious work to cut through the collars one by one as the mages left the fort, so Iito cut off Yamato’s first. With his power restored, the green-eyed boy summoned a dozen more collar keys, and the job was done in minutes.
As the last prisoner made their way out of the fort, heading for the Madnug forest to the south, I wondered why we didn’t leave. As Yamato cut Iito’s collar, my friend told me that the four of them had made a pact to end this nightmare at the Big House; for all mages.
Tamahashi told me I could leave if I wanted; technically I hadn’t been included in the pact.
“Ch’,” I rolled my eyes and made my way to the tower. “I never back out of a fight.”
We found food a plenty in the tower, and I ate the best dinner in ages. The stars were coming out as night crept upon us, and I would have thought the Big House would be creepier when there were only five of us and the crickets. But it really wasn’t; we had a cheery little campfire going, Keri had returned to her normal shape, and Tamahashi made some pasta dish called linguini or whatever.
It was peaceful, sitting there, listening to Iito tell us myths and legions about the Black Dragon, the Deity of Magic, Barbarian wars from long ago… He’s not a very good story teller, but Tamahashi seemed to know the parts Iito forgot, and added to the presentation when needed.
I was about to drift off to sleep when Keri stood up suddenly. I was about to ask her what was the matter when Yamato shushed me to silence. Keri’s elven ears twitched, and she declared that our time was up.
The fight would now begin.
There were hundreds of men marching towards the fort, Keri told us. She could hear their boots in the distance and even smell bits of their flesh on the wind. Perhaps they slackened their pace for fear of the demonic creature Keri portrayed, but they would be upon us in minutes nevertheless.
Yamato turned to me as the others put out the fire. “Can you use a weapon of any kind? I can summon anything you’d need.”
Frankly, I was shocked he even made eye contact with me. “Um, I used to play with wooden swords when I lived with the elves...”
Yamato ignored him and raised a dark eyebrow. “You’re kidding, right?”
A sigh escaped his lips. “It’ll have to do,” he said. Yamato raised his hand, and three dark portals appeared. A long, black sword with a red gem on the hilt floated out of the first, followed by a much smaller one of gray, and a white one matching the first’s design. As the portals closed shut, Yamato grabbed the long black sword, and tossed me the other. Iito picked up the white one and grunted something similar to ‘thanks’.
“I have to use this?” I looked at the object in question.
Yamato started to walk to the main gate. “You have a better idea?”
“Magic,” I stuck out my tongue at his retreating back.
“You better stick that back in before I chop it off,” Yamato said calmly, his back still turned.
“Eep,” I hastily obliged.
Tamahashi sighed. “Yamato, you can be so difficult.”
“More like a pain in the ass,” Iito muttered behind the two.
“Hn,” Yamato grunted as we all followed him to the gate.
“Let’s get out there before they do; we don’t know what side they’ll attack from,” Tamahashi yelled down to us from Keri, who had already transformed. “Better open the gate.”
“Gladly,” a small energy blast appeared in my palm. I tossed the tiny thing towards the gate.
Yamato huffed. “And what is that supposed to do?”
On cue, the little ball exploded, sending splintering wood everywhere. There was now a big hole where a gate once stood.
I turned to the moody teenager. “Nyah, ‘what’s that supposed to do!?’ Oh Siya’s so stupid, she couldn’t ever do anything right,” I retorted in the most mocking tone I could muster.
A set of cold green eyes fixed a death-glare on me. Suddenly, my self-confidence shot to negative levels. “Heh, heh...” I made a hasty retreat for the gate.
It’s pretty obvious we kicked ass that day, or else I would not be here to tell you my tale. Human reinforcements arrived quickly, but by then the fort was ours, and we weren’t going to leave until Aros had repented her Mage-hating ways or died by our hands.
Yet I still had not seen Aros since the day I arrived.
And so the battle was to begin, and I would be the one who---
“This is bullshit,” the kid snorted.
Siya stopped mid-sentence. “What?”
“Yeah,” his little friend backed him up. “There’s no way in hell YOU were the one who killed Aros!”
“Sure I was!” Siya frowned.
“No fucking way,” the older peasant boy retorted. “If you did, you should have something you looted off her body.”
“Looted!?” Siya slammed her palms on the tavern’s wooden table and stood up abruptly. “That’s a dishonorable thing to do to a respectful adversary you little brats!”
“Yeah right! Maybe if you did loot something you wouldn’t have to con kids into buying you a free meal with their own money!”
“Oh yeah? Well who’s stupider, me for conning you or you for believing me!?” Siya stuck out her tongue.
The young boy named Luca was really getting fed up. He and his friend came in the tavern looking for something to do and came upon the pink-haired mage sitting at an empty table. The boy threw a pea from the floor at her from behind, hoping to cause some ruckus, but was amazed when she caught the projectile in mid-air. Siya had grinned to them then and beckoned them over, saying she’d tell them a great story if they got her a bite to eat.
Luca gave the Mage the finger. “So then where are your friends, huh?”
Siya shrugged and sat back down to her ale. “Dunno. I guess Tama and Yama are back at Eres’ castle, helping her get settled in or something. She did get thrust into being the Queen of Clubs after her cousin’s death and all.”
Luca’s friend laughed openly at that one. “Now I know you’re lying. No way would the new Queen of Clubs let some ruffians help her ascend Aros’ throne!”
“Come on, Jaimah,” Luca pulled his friend’s wrist before Siya could say anything. “We have better things to do than listen to some half-wit.”
“Stupid kids,” Siya muttered dejectedly as she watched the two youngsters walk out of the tavern and into the street. She poked at the remnants of her meal and sighed.
..Is it too much to ask that someone give us credit for what we did?