Chapter 12 = The Aftermath
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.
“What’s up with Marcus?”
“I dunno, Karin, you’re the medic.”
“Yeah, but… I thought you might know, what with being his friend and all.”
“No… I’ve never seen this happen before. Should we wake him up?”
“I’m not sure… do you really think it’d be a good idea?”
“He’s… probably just having a bad dream. Let’s leave him for now…”
Karin and Manny were standing at the end of Marcus’s bed, early in the evening. Xenly was on her front on her bed snoozing away contentedly, and Laen was still sleeping on her side in all her elven gear. The room was silent save for the sound of blankets shuffling as Marcus tossed and turned in his sleep, and the occasional whimpers and moans he gave, huddling into a foetal position as he did so.
Karin tapped Manny lightly on the shoulder with her left hand, and he turned to his right to face her. She put her hands on his shoulders and looked him deeply in the eyes, but he cocked his head in Marcus’s direction and whispered, “Let’s go outside… I wouldn’t want to wake him up.”
She nodded, and the two of them left the room and stepped onto the battlements of the castle, where a light breeze was blowing. It was a serene evening; the sky was tinted a myriad of reds and purples as the sun set off in the distance, and the city of Lince spread out in front of them, its denizens tiny moving dots among the sea of buildings. Lights from the windows of buildings dotted the city like tiny fireflies, but nothing could be heard up on the edges of the castle where the pair of blue Yoshies were standing with their arms around each other’s shoulders.
“Manny…” Karin began, “I want to talk to you…”
“You are.” Manny replied facetiously.
“No, no… I mean; I want to have a serious talk with you… I want to know where this is going…”
“What do you mean, Karin?” Manny said, letting go and turning his body to face her.
“Well, you see… we were always good friends… we weren’t always together in the sense that Marcus and Alziana were, that was sort of on-and-off… but we were always friends, though maybe not always lovers… but now, everything is different.”
“I know…” Manny replied, dipping his head. “You, me, Marcus… there’s nobody else from the village left…”
Karin took Manny’s hands and said, “You’re all I have, Manny… I just want to know what’s going on now…”
Manny pulled away and leaned on the stone battlement next to him, looking down at the city, his back turned to Karin. “I… I’m not sure, to be honest.” He admitted. “I always used to think so lightly of stuff like this… I never gave a second thought to anything when I got into a relationship, but I realise I can’t do that any more… this whole thing has changed me now, and I realise some things I never did before…”
Silently, Karin stepped up to him and put a hand on his shoulder. Manny gave a little smile, and continued, “I’m seventeen Chyrusian years old… I’m old enough to get married, to do all sorts of things I never could when I was younger… but I don’t have that opportunity any more, you know? I always knew I’d leave Shoreside some day… but I never thought it would be so soon, and under such dire circumstances…”
He turned back to Karin, and she nodded in agreement. “I’m almost as old as Marcus… unlike you, I don’t have any of my friends left, so all I have is you… I’m learning so much now, but I miss my comfortable life in the village, and it’s only now that they’re gone that I realise how much everyone I knew meant to me…”
“I’m here for you.” Manny said, turning back to her and taking her hands again. “I’ll always be here for you… it’s not much, but it’s all I can do…”
Karin gave a coy smile, dipping her head and looking off to one side, saying, “I appreciate it… I just wanted to know how you felt… but, you know, I’m happy that you’re here and that you want to help me… it means a lot to me, it really does.”
They paused for a minute, before Manny looked over Karin’s shoulder in the direction of the castle’s guest rooms. “Well… do you think should we be heading back?”
“Perhaps we should…” Karin agreed, “But while we have the moment to ourselves, why don’t we take advantage of it?”
Manny smiled broadly, and after checking again to make sure nobody was watching, he took Karin in his arms and pulled her close to him for a tight hug. For a few moments, illuminated by the late evening light and with the light breezy wind blowing around them, the pair of blue Yoshies were wrapped in each other’s arms, rocking back and forth slightly. They then pulled away from each other and gazed deeply into one other’s eyes, before they closed them and kissed as evening became night. Long after dark, they were still out there, talking, hugging, and kissing, before they finally went back inside out of the wind and the cold.
“Marcus… you must listen to me…”
Imprisoned in his dreams, Marcus was stumbling around in pitch-blackness, trying to get away from the voice of the demonic thing that had been in his dreams the previous day.
“Get away from me… you’re not Alziana, just a memory, a vision…”
“But Marcus… there’s something I must tell you…”
Tears streamed down Marcus’s cheeks as he continued to run, unsure how far he had travelled, which direction he was moving in, or if he was even going anywhere at all. His feet were pounding on some kind of hard surface, yet the ground didn’t seem to be moving, and the voice didn’t seem to be getting any further away.
From out of the darkness in front of him, the zombie-like Alziana lunged forward and tackled Marcus to the ground. He cried out and tried to throw her off of him, or to wake up, but he managed neither and was pinned to the ground by the heavy weight of Alziana. She had her legs on top of his, and her hands pinning down his arms, so Marcus couldn’t get away. He tried to squirm out of her grasp, but she was much heavier than she had been in real life, and he was firmly pinned down.
“Get off of me, you creature!” Marcus yelled, struggling vainly to escape.
Blood was dripping from Alziana’s many wounds and onto Marcus’s chest and face, sending shivers across his body. Alziana opened her mouth, and for a terrible moment Marcus thought she was going to bite him, but she leaned over and whispered to him, “Marcus… if you’d just listen, I’d explain…”
Marcus closed his eyes tightly to block out the scarring sight. “I don’t want to listen. I want to leave… I want something to go right for a change…”
“It can… just listen…”
After hesitating for a moment, Marcus took a deep breath and said, “I’m listening.”
“Good…” Alziana replied, “But first…”
She leaned forward and Marcus opened his eyes just in time to see her kiss him. Marcus felt a horrible sensation; her lips were cold as ice, and not soft at all, but rough and chapped, laced not with sweetness but with a bitter, nauseating taste. The sickened recoil wrenched him out of the nightmare and back into the real world, and he sat bolt upright in the bed, gasping for breath, blinking repeatedly as his eyes adjusted to the darkness.
I’m never going to sleep again, Marcus thought.
He looked around through the darkness; Xenly was lying on her front, plainly exhausted, Laen was fully clothed, mostly wrapped in a duvet, and Karin was lying on her side on the bed next to Marcus, with Manny next to her with his arm around her, both sleeping peacefully, their Yoshi gear still on, broad smile on their faces. Marcus scowled to himself, turned over, and closed his eyes but refused to fall asleep again.
When morning finally arrived, Marcus gently shook Manny to wake him up. As Manny opened his eyes, he quickly looked at Karin, at Marcus, then back at Karin and finally back to Marcus, before sitting upright.
Manny put a hand on Karin’s shoulder, looked away, then back at Marcus. “Uh… Marcus… we… didn’t… uh… well, you know, we just kissed…”
“I don’t care, Manny, it doesn’t matter to me. It’s just morning now and I didn’t get much sleep last night…”
“Oh, sorry to hear that. Bad dreams?”
Marcus nodded solemnly, then looked away. “Yeah… I… I’ll get over it, I just need time… time to think…”
Manny nodded. “Okay. Well, let’s wake up the others, then we can go get something to eat.”
The baron saved them the trouble by bursting in at that moment, flinging the doors open with considerable force, and striding to the centre of the room, flanked by his elite Yoshi guards. They meant business; they had extremely heavy armour, and carried large, broad-bladed spears, all carrying a mark of some sort, probably displaying their position as elite troops. They stared straight ahead, not taking any notice of the guests.
“Wake up, wake up, I’ve got some great news for you all!”
Xenly snapped awake at the sudden noise, and in one fluid movement she jumped to her feet, unsheathed her swords and was holding them ready, before she realised what was happening. There was an uneasy pause, before she coughed and put them back. Laen was a little more groggy, and rolled over onto her back, before sitting up and rubbing her eyes, then abruptly stood up and tried to look respectable. Karin yawned loudly as she woke, before doing the same shifty-eyed routine that Manny had pulled, promptly getting out of the bed and standing next to her blue counterpart.
“We’ve successfully liberated the city!” The baron cried. “All those filthy humans have been either killed, in the case of the ringleaders, or just simply expelled from the city. I can’t believe I was possessed…”
One of the soldiers shook his head. “It wasn’t your fault, my lord. Nobody could tell.”
The baron nodded, and then cast a glace over to Laen. “Elves are different from humans… they have culture and ethics, morals and values… you are welcome here, elf, for as long as you need.”
Laen gave a little bow, before the baron began to start out the door. He stopped suddenly, and turned on his heels to address the group again. “In celebration, it appears there’s a little unofficial fighting tournament being held… I hear the first prize is five thousand coins; it’s got to be worth a shot. I won’t keep you here any longer, so you can leave any time you like, but first, I’d just like to give you these…”
He reached under his robes, and withdrew five small, silver medals, with ribbons tied to them. In a small ceremony, he presented them to each of the five members of the group, before nodding at them and leaving. The Yoshies saddlebagged theirs, and Laen put hers in one of her shirt pockets, after reading the inscription aloud, “For outstanding bravery in the face of extreme danger”.
“Sounds about right,” Manny said, “Even though Marcus didn’t necessarily deserve one…”
“Hey!” Marcus snapped. “I -tried- to help, you know, and I was the one that got us out of that prison in the first place…”
“Alright, alright, calm down… let’s just go and check that thing out, after we’ve eaten, of course. How hard can it possibly be?”
“Tournament today:” Marcus read, “ ‘Defeat five straight competitors by death, disarmament or otherwise and win five thousand coins. Outside intervention will result in disqualification. Medical assistance not provided. Entrance fee of twenty coins. Winners today:’ … and it’s blank. Nobody’s won yet.”
Manny put his hands out in front of him and stretched, saying, “Well, we’ll just have to change that, won’t we? Come on; one gold coin, and Karin will be here if something goes wrong, right?”
Karin nodded. “I can’t fight, and I’ll only intervene if you get defeated… go on, it’s worth it for five thousand coins, right?”
“Right!” Manny said, taking a gold coin from his saddlebags and joining the small queue for entry. The queue to watch was stretching off around the corner, but friends of entrants appeared to be able to get in through a side entrance into the stands.
They were at a major intersection, a town square of some sort, in which a small arena had been quickly set up. It was little more than a raised platform of wooden planks, but it seemed to be good enough to serve its purpose. On it at the moment, Marcus noticed as he paid the entrance fee, filled out a form, and sat down next to Manny, was a female red Yoshi with a pair of nunchucks fighting a male yellow Yoshi with two small knives.
The red Yoshi appeared to have the upper hand, and a few minutes later she knocked one of the knives out of the yellow Yoshi’s hand. As he turned to watch it, he was struck across the face with one of the nunchuck weights and knocked unconscious, evidently with some major head injury. His friends picked him up from the edge of the platform and ran off along a clear path that appeared to be being kept open for that reason. The red Yoshi blew kisses to the crowd as a few of them threw coins onto the platform.
An announcer off to one side shouted, “Renna wins her third match! Who’s next to try and take the title?”
Xenly joined Marcus and Manny as they watched a green Yoshi step up onto the platform. Renna bowed to the green female, who was wearing a set of gloves with very long spikes on the end, like claws. The announcer, a purple Yoshi with a noticeable set of battle scars, was holding a tube of some sort that appeared to be amplifying his voice when he spoke into it. It was probably some sort of object enchanted by magic, and Marcus put it out of his mind as the announcer shouted, “Okay, next match: Renna verses…” He looked down at list of names, and called out, “Ellea, a second-level exiled assassin from Dhalsa!”
Xenly gasped, and as Marcus and Manny turned to look at her, she said, “She’s just like me! I used to be a seventh-level assassin in Dhalsa until I was caught and exiled… this should be a very interesting fight.”
“Doesn’t it… you know, telling people you’re an assassin…” Marcus reasoned, “…rather defeat the purpose of being an assassin in the first place?”
Xenly shook her head. “When we get exiled, we lose our status and all ties to the guild… they destroy the records of us, so sometimes being exiled is a worse punishment than the death sentence.”
The fight had already started, and the two Yoshies were cautiously eyeing each other up as they circled on the platform. Karin and Laen showed up behind them, on the other side of a railing separating the contestants from the crowd, and Karin put an arm around Manny as Xenly continued, “I’m tough… I survived after I got exiled, but I’m still homeless… not all of us do. Some don’t make it… especially the ones from Dhalsa, seeing as that entire place is in the middle of a frozen, barren wasteland.”
“Nasty.” Manny said, keeping his eyes on the fight. Ellea made a swipe for Renna, who blocked it with the chain on her nunchucks. She certainly seemed skilled with it, and when Ellea made another swipe she stepped off to one side, and Ellea missed completely. While she still had her arm extended, Renna quickly grabbed Ellea around the wrist with her nunchucks, the chain biting into the leather gloves, and one spectacular movement she threw her opponent off the platform and up against one of the railings, knocking her out. She didn’t seem too badly wounded, and a pair of Yoshies leapt over the barrier to carry her off, as the audience threw coins onto the platform for the victor to collect.
Renna started picking up all the coins as the announcer cried, “Renna wins her fourth battle! Could she be the first to win the top prize? Our next competitor is…” he began to shuffle with the lists on a small table in front of him, temporarily putting down the voice amplifier.
“There are ten levels in the assassin’s guild,” Xenly began again, “If you survive the training you’re a level one. You make your own way up afterwards, by learning the teachings of one of the assassins above you. There’s only one level ten assassin at any given time, and he or she is in command of the entire guild for a given city. I was there all my life; my parents got me in, and it took me most of my life to reach level seven, even though I was very young…”
The announcer finally picked his voice amplifier up, and called out, “Our next contender is… Manny, a decorated fighter from the Shoreside Village!”
“Decorated?” Marcus said questioningly.
“Those medals, remember?” Manny replied, standing up, and getting up onto the platform and standing opposite his opponent.
Good luck, my friend… Marcus thought, you’ll probably need it up there.
To be continued…