Interlude - The Lightning Thief

"Hey Tyee, I got Class Evolutions!"

Tyee looked away from the corpse of the young Dark Bear towards the Hero who was climbing down from the tree.


The human was a bundle of contradictions. Exceedingly smart at one moment, incredibly naive at another. He had had dealings with human scum before, much to his chagrin. They had no honor, they chased no glory, their actions were without valor. It seemed to be a similar case with his charge as well. Similar, but not the same.

Interestingly enough, the Hero seemed uncomprehending of the words themselves. Unlike the other humans who understood but discarded these notions, his charge simply couldn't fathom them. Like a week-old foal. Unfortunately, his unending curiosity did not guide him to these virtues.

Neither had he known a human to be so blindly trusting of a Centaur before. As if the war between their species was a mere spectacle on the side. Perhaps trusting was not the right word? Ignorant, maybe? Like now, when he was throwing up the secrets of his Class like a smoke signal to the world. Perhaps it was the difference of being from a different world.

"Here's option one: Battle Mage."

Tyee froze. Thankfully, he was already standing still and the Hero was otherwise engaged. Battle Mages among humans weren't rare, but they weren't common either. But it wasn't Battle Mages themselves that mattered, it was those that ascended above from there. Now those were rare.

"What's the next after this? War Mage? Pff. Useless."

The Mage Hero snorted. And just like that, his incredible insight and alarming ignorance were laid bare once more. There hadn't been a War Mage among humans since the last one died over a decade ago, but just about all creatures on Alteraz had heard the horrific tales of the destruction wrought by that one human. He exterminated the Goblin tribes. He pushed back the faeries that overwhelmed human forces down south. He brought the other beast-kin to heel. He brought together the human clans that now sought to conquer the rest of the region. If a War Mage was to be bred amongst humans today, their war was as good as lost. And yet, Tyee couldn't bring himself to lie to the Hero.

"It is a powerful Class."

The Hero looked up at him, eyes clear. Tyee suspected the Hero had stashed a Status Crystal inside his robes but he hadn't brought it up.

"I mean, yeah. It sounds powerful. But it's sooo generic. Like, couldn't whoever was in charge think of a better name at least?"

Tyee, as usual, ignored the gibberish tirade. He had quickly grown to sidestep the equally gibberish explanations that followed as well. Kai would've been amused, he was sure, but he himself preferred to be grounded in reality.

"Are there other options?"

To think there were other options besides an already powerful one. It was rare among the foals to get multiple choices, they usually started riding in one direction immediately after getting their Class from the crystal, so there aren't any surprises later on.

"Hmmm, a Spell-Maker."

Tyee's breath caught in his throat. Spell-Maker was a Class supposedly restricted to humans and Elves. And according to Kai, there hadn't been a Spell-Maker among the humans for centuries. It was not overtly devastating like a War Mage, but knowledge had a power of its own. And to hear Kai say it, it was a power to change the world. Amongst the Elves, Spell-Makers were downright revered.

"Seems kinda redundant to me." The Hero-who-could-be-Spell-Maker spoke lightly.

"Redundant?" Tyee echoed back. His shock at the reveal still abetting.

"Yeah, I can already make... spells..." The human looked up at Tyee, presumably from his Status Window. He had blurted out another one of his secrets but at least seemed to realize his mistake immediately. For some reason, Tyee felt his heart fill with pride at that.

"How do you make Spells?" Tyee asked.

"U-Umm, Hero-stuff, ya know? Hard to explain." The Hero stuttered. Tyee decided not to pursue the chain of conversation any further. It was a surprise for him too, that his charge was a Spell-Maker all along. Nor did he know what to say any further. Instead, he changed the topic.

"We should skin the bear, its hide is quite the prize." Tyee motioned towards the dead creature. The starry glow on the ground had subsided since, but it still felt surreal to be inside of a charm like that. Not that Tyee showed it on his face.

The Hero looked away, even now averse to skinning and gutting prey.

"Yeah, I'll just stay... over there."

¤ ¤ ¤

Tyee finished setting up a new campfire. It was relatively safer here in the thick copse. The fire wouldn't be visible from far. And with the Dark Bear's marking still covering the region, not many monsters would follow their curiosity.

"Holy Shit!" the Hero exclaimed in between his mutterings.

Tyee looked up, still searching for the flints. He was sure he had put them in his right back pocket.

"What is it?" Tyee queried. The Hero wasn't prone to such loud outbursts.

"I chose the Battle Mage path," he said as Tyee suppressed a shiver, "and the amount of volume I can push at once is insane!"

The Hero excitedly stood up from his seat on a fallen log, gesturing wildly. "Like... imagine I had a bucket worth of mana to use. Earlier I could only pull from it with a straw. And now? I can throw the whole damn bucket!"

Tyee was not sure of what a straw was, but he got the gist. "So you made your choice then?" Tyee's cold hands finally found the flints. They gripped with more strength than necessary.

"Not much of a choice, eh? I mean, I thought about it for so long, got all info, weighed all the pros and cons, but anyway..." The Hero waved the question off. "It's like the System is confused about what to do with me. Lol. Hey, shall I start the fire?"

Tyee nodded his assent. The Hero helped when the flints were being stubborn. Which was almost every time.

The Hero raised his palm.

"Um, can you back up a little?" His charge worried needlessly. Tyee had seen his previous protracted efforts in lighting the fire. In his opinion, the flint was more dangerous. Despite that, he backed up and watched as the Hero focused.

"Okay, here we go." He took a deep breath and spoke in a clear neutral voice, "Incendio!"

For a second, nothing happened. And suddenly the entirety of the timber stack blazed in a yellowish-orange inferno. Tyee took several steps back, his eyes wide. A vision of his tribe's camp on fire flashed before his eyes for a quick moment. He watched as the conflagration quickly but steadily leveled out to a normal campfire. Then he stared at the Hero while Kai's words echoed louder than ever before.

"For our world to survive, a Hero must endure." she spoke wistfully, cradling her favorite artifact. Tyee noticed she stressed a Hero on purpose. "I was expecting the Scout Hero, but perhaps fate has other plans."

She turned to him, as he noticed the giant tear on the otherwise perfectly maintained instrument. "However, we cannot simply bend to the whims of fate. We must take charge of our own destiny."

Tyee agreed but did not speak up. His elder wasn't finished yet. "And so, Tyee child, I must place a heavy burden on your back."

"The Mage Hero is still low-leveled. Not unlike one of our colts. I..." She coughed, then took a small sip from the mug beside her. "I believe he has the potential to become our greatest ally or our greatest foe."

Tyee took a breath, knowing that the next words were what Kai had been driving towards. "Circumstances will force you to flee. When you do, flee west, towards the Dragon's roost." She raised a hand to pre-emptively cease his questions, "and see for yourself if the Hero is worth our trust. If he is, then it will be your duty to ensure he lives. If not," Kai traced her aged fingers over the tear, the weight of the world on her brittle back, and spoke so softly that Tyee almost missed it, "then Nina shall have her revenge."

The human Mage Hero, his charge, his responsibility in more ways than one, was gawking at the fire with a half-open mouth. In no way did the man's visage look evil, but Tyee couldn't steady his erratic heart. Kai's pitying gaze as he left her hut finally made sense.

"FUCK. ME!" The Hero jolted from his self-inflicted amazement. "Did you see that? Daaaamn man!"

Tyee was sure he could have seen the flames even if his eyes were on his rump. Before he could say anything, the Hero raised both his hands and pointed at a distant boulder. "Alright, I still have enough mana for another one. And I don't even need a physical target anymore! Watch this, it's gonna be awesome! I can already feel it."

This time, it was no clear dignified voice that came out of the Hero's mouth. Even with Tyee's limited knowledge of human emotions, he could see that the human was clearly giddy.

"STUPEFY!" the human shouted, and stood still for a few seconds. Then the world went white. A deafening impact resounded along with it, taking his hearing as well. Out of instinct, Tyee went in battle stance and pulled on his Healing Skills.

Within moments, his sight was back. He noticed the smoking ruins of half of the boulder spread around it. As if a bolt of lightning had struck the boulder from the skies. No, a lightning did strike the boulder, except the Hero had stolen it from the skies for himself.

Then his hearing returned, only to notice the Hero laughing menacingly...


Chapter 40 - Evolution
Chapter 41 - Home is where the heart is