Chapter 1 = Shoreside Slaughter
Disclaimer: Although all characters here are of my own invention, the original Yoshi is copyright of Nintendo, and I make no money from writing this.
As the sun set again over the coastal area, the treetops obscured the view from inside the forest, and from the two Yoshies who were wandering back home. They hadn’t been very lucky, only finding a few grouse for lunch, which Manny’s throwing knives dispatched, and only one very small cave. But Marcus had saved Manny from falling into a river, and Manny’s sharp eyes picked out the trail that led back home. Both of them were extremely tired and wanted to get back home to their beds.
But as they rounded one of the last corners of the path, a sharp, smoky scent filled their nostrils. Marcus figured it was someone roasting meat, but he wasn’t so sure when he looked at his friend. The colour had drained from his face and he looked more like a turquoise Yoshi. He was muttering something.
“Speak up” Marcus told him.
“That’s… that smell…”
Marcus inhaled deeply, and it hit him hard.
Manny had already started sprinting along, tearing through the lush foliage that covered the forest floor, running faster than Marcus had ever seen him run before. Marcus was only just able to keep up with him, and he was running out of breath when he ran full tilt into the back of Manny. The two of them tumbled over, then untangled themselves and leapt to their feet. Marcus’s mouth fell open.
Their peaceful village had been utterly razed to the ground. Not just burned or destroyed, but totally ransacked. All of the huts and houses had been levelled, and only smoking piles of ash were left in several places. Smouldering timbers and strands of smoking thatch littered the ground, and most of the open soil had been overturned and sown with salt. It was deathly still, and total silence prevailed, except for the crackling of fires. The air was filled with dark smoke from the burnt thatch and charred timbers, and dead bodies of Yoshies littered the ground, all bearing sword marks across their chests, their open eyes blank and lifeless. Marcus recognised many of them. The smoky smell of wood fires filled the Yoshies’ nostrils, and left a sharp taste on their tongues. Flower gardens and vegetable plots had been trampled by horsemen, and often burned up as well. Marcus couldn’t believe that there had been any real threat in this little village; a comparatively small, self-reliant community of Yoshies that he had spent his childhood years in. A combination of the smoke, the emotional pain at the sight of the savagery, and the corpses that were scattered over the barren, overturned soil brought tears to Marcus’s eyes.
Manny drew his sword and pointed with it towards a crouching form on the other side of a mound of splinters. Without any concern for themselves or their safety, the two of them leapt forward in great bounds towards what turned out to be a white Yoshi. They let out harsh cries, and the Yoshi turned before drawing two long, curved swords. Marcus already had his flail handy and swung it as he jumped.
They collided with an audible clash of metal against metal, and started fighting. The two young Yoshies were nimble and managed to avoid the slashing swords, but all of their own attacks were parried. Their opponent seemed to be trying not to hurt them, using the flats of its swords to attack, and trying to sweep their legs out from under them. The white Yoshi then backflipped away from them and responded in a worried, high tone that revealed her gender: “Wait! I’m not your enemy!”
Marcus and Manny stopped, sweating profusely, the spiked balls on Marcus’s flail still swinging. “You destroyed our village!” They shouted in far from perfect unison.
But the white Yoshi lowered her swords. “No, I didn’t. How could I have done all this on my own? But I think I know who did.”
Marcus cocked his head to one side questioningly. “You’re just buying time.” But she shook her head, and Marcus spotted her long eyelashes.
“Only professionals make a job of it like this. And only hired mercenaries, at that.” She said. Manny sheathed his sword, but Marcus was wary, and kept his flail up despite his overwhelming exhaustion. “Oh yeah? Who?”
She gestured around towards smouldering wreckage. “Look at those flames. They’re not normal. They’ve been caused by spell damage. Look over there, those flames are green, and those over there are blue. They must be magical fires.” Marcus couldn’t fight his tiredness anymore and dropped his flail, before falling over backwards from his fatigue.
Suddenly, all of his thoughts were pushed aside by a sudden concern: Alziana. Summoning up the last of his strength, he got up and staggered towards the pile of debris that he had seen her in this morning. He dug through the wreckage, as did Manny, and soon the blue Yoshi coughed to indicate he had found something. Weary with dread, Marcus stumbled over, and helped remove timbers, forcing himself not to look. But he could no longer restrain himself, and he glanced at what he recognised as having once been his girlfriend.
Her eyes were open, and dark bruises covered her chest where her ribs had been shattered. There was blood all around her mouth, and a small line of it ran from the corner of her mouth down the side of her face and neck, and there was also blood running across her chest. There was a deep slash across her nose, and her once-soft skin had been roughened by hot ashes and wood splinters. Marcus reached out and touched the side of her head, and felt a chill as her cold skin brushed against his fingers. Her pretty necklace of pearls had been darkened by the ash, and Marcus gently undid the clasp and picked it up. Holding the ends in his hands, he held it out in front of him, and the flood of memories it brought back pushed him over the edge.
Marcus let out an unworldly wail of despair, tipping his head back and looking up to the heavens, and tears rolled down the sides of his cheeks and onto her body. He felt Manny’s reassuring hand on his shoulder, and the white Yoshi stepped forward and used its fingers to close Alziana’s eyelids. Marcus’s sobs broke the silence and filled the air as darkness began to close around the village.
“This… can’t… be happening…” He choked on the words, and fell forwards onto her body as a fresh wave of tears appeared. What did I do to deserve this?
Marcus heard a low, painful moan, and raised his head, still sobbing. Manny had jumped back in surprise, and the white Yoshi was slowly walking away backwards. Could it be? He listened hard, but couldn’t hear anything. Then Alziana’s eyelids opened slowly, and she moaned with pain. “Mar…cus…?” she gasped. He could hardly believe it. He was still choking on his tears, but they were now tears of happiness. It’s a miracle! He thought, and he put the necklace down so he could hold her and support her back.
“It hurts… Marcus…” she was barely able to speak through the pain. Her eyes slid in and out of focus, and she whimpered as Marcus wiped the blood off of her mouth. Marcus brought her close to him and whispered, “It’s alright. I’m here now. Don’t worry.” But her sight was fading, and she couldn’t feel anything in her arms or legs. He saw her shut her eyes and he shook her gently.
“Stay awake” he said.
“I… can’t…ugh… Foryo…”
“Someone called… Foryo… he attacked… uhn…and… the mercenaries… urgh… called his… name… I… ugh…” She drew a sharp intake of breath, and continued, “Marcus… I’m… dying…” She gasped for air, and then coughed, before swallowing heavily.
Marcus felt very cold. He couldn’t lose her, not now… he’d just gotten her back. Was she going to leave him already? He hugged her again, and pleaded with her, saying, “Don’t leave me…”. But he knew in his heart that she was dying, and he couldn’t do anything about it. All he could do was ease her passing for her…
“The ring… Mar…cus… the… ring…”
He looked down and saw it, the one she had offered him earlier. It was clutched protectively in her left hand, and only the very edge was visible. He laid her back down on the ground and gently pried it loose from her weakening grasp. He slipped it on, moving his hands to allow her to see, and she forced a smile.
She was choking on something. “Nev-… Never forget… Marcus…”. Her heart was pounding, and she was short of breath. Her eyesight failed as Marcus held her in his arms again. She coughed, and whispered, “Good-bye…”
She started to say something else, but could only gasp. Marcus bent over and kissed her. With a final, sudden, low moan of pain, she went limp in his arms. Manny picked up the string of pearls, and placed a comforting hand on Marcus’s shoulder as he let Alziana’s body fall lifeless to the ground.
Marcus was utterly distraught. Everything that he once had was gone, taken away forever. All that was left of his village -his life- was him and his friend, and the few things of Alziana’s he now held. The white Yoshi had introduced herself as a wandering Yoshi, and she only identified herself as ‘Xenly’. Currently she was engaged in a deep conversation with Manny, who had decided to leave his broken-hearted friend in peace. Marcus had cried until long after dark, before finally willing himself to bury the body of Alziana. He had taken some of the trampled lavender shoots from the ruins of the garden and spread them across her shallow grave, but it didn’t seem enough.
He had cleaned the string of pearls with a little seawater, and placed them in his saddlebags. He glanced at the ring he had retrieved. It was fine gold, and was wrought to look like a pair of snakes. Small, red jewels had been set into the gold as their ‘eyes’. However, the sight of it brought memories that made him sadder, and he fell backwards with a moan of despair, and listened to the snatches of conversation.
“I think she drowned.”
“Blood may have gotten into her lungs.”
“Ah…how do you know all this stuff about that wizard?” Manny’s voice floated across the barren land.
“Simple” came the voice of Xenly. “I’m a traveller. I hear things. I’m an assassin, and I could have minced you two if I had wanted.”
“Even so… Just tell me the truth. All of it.”
“Listen to me this time. Foryo is a Dark Wizard on the mainland. He’s got a castle, but I don’t know where exactly. It’s near some backwater town that I can’t remember the name of. If you’re really going to go ahead with this, you’d better go soon, but you’ll exhaust yourself if you go tonight. Get some sleep.”
Manny nodded. “Alright. Thank you.”
“No problem. Maybe I’ll see you again, maybe not.”
Marcus heard her footsteps plod off into the distance. Manny came over to him, and Marcus stood up, swaying on his feet, the salty streaks from recent tears plainly shown on his face.
“You okay?” Manny’s voice was filled with concern.
“I… I’m not sure…”
“Come on, you’ll be alright.”
Marcus looked over at the hastily made grave, and stifled a sob. Manny rolled his eyes, and placed a hand on his friend’s shoulder. “Get some sleep. You’ll feel better.”
Marcus wanted to object, but he was so weary that he flopped back down onto the ground. His dreams twisted into nightmares; he saw visions of fire and steel; the look on his deceased girlfriend’s face; a dark and terrible man ordering the destruction…
When he awoke his friend was shaking him, and Marcus was drenched with sweat. He jumped to his feet. Manny slowly rose, and gestured for him to follow.
“Where are we going?” Marcus asked.
“To avenge the village!” came the reply.
Marcus stopped dead. Manny paused, and then walked back up to him. “Don’t you want to get your revenge? It’s what Alziana would have wanted.”
“I…uh… don’t… really… think so. She wouldn’t want us to kill any-”
Manny was filled with rage at his friend’s folly. Before he fully realised what he was doing he had brought his hand down across Marcus’s face. Marcus gave a cry and gripped his cheek, and Manny burst into a torrent of words.
“You fool! Don’t you see? Alziana is dead; she’s gone, and she’s never coming back. There’s nothing to gain by sitting there feeling sorry for yourself. I, for one, am NOT going to let this pass over my head. I’m going to find this… this ‘Foryo’ person and make sure that this is the last mistake he ever makes, whether you come or not. Do you think Alziana would rather see you exact your revenge, or sit here and pity yourself to death?”
Marcus stood there, shocked to his very soul. His friend’s words were filled with conviction, and he had spat them out in pure anger. Marcus had lost everything else, and he couldn’t – wouldn’t – lose his only living friend. Alziana’s final words resounded in Marcus’s head: “Never forget… Marcus…”. Marcus nodded and picked up his flail, casting one last glace back towards the ruins of his home. “You’re right.” He said. “I can’t let something like this go unpunished, even if it’s the last thing I do.” They strolled into the forest, burning with spite.