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It was extremely difficult for me to live in Cadieux Castle for many years after my father’s death at the hands of my master’s Wolverine Army. I knew I was mostly responsible for his demise. I was forced to spend my nights in my father’s old room. I slept very little, and when I would drift off, I’d awake from terrible nightmares. In each terrifying dream I was the one that killed my father, even though I wasn’t sure how he had died. I never saw him after Rainer and I left him in the fields between Cadieux Village and the castle. The lack of sleep made me uncomfortable in my tight, dry skin. It itched all the time. Some nights I wouldn’t even make it to the dreams about my father because my skin would burn so badly, just as it did the day LaCroiux turned me into this…this thing.

Rainer never returned. Sometimes I would sneak away and watch from the edge of the forest with the magnifinder LaCroiux made hoping to see my brother return…with the emerald in hand.

I spent my existence in servitude to my master and the king.

Recently, LaCroiux returned to the castle in a flash as he did on most occasions, but this time with a vibrant smile. He called to me immediately. He pulled me inside the castle and into a secluded room in a far wing.

“Do you recognize this room, Ethan?”

I searched the small darkened room for any clue as to where we were. Then suddenly, an image of the emerald glowing brightly in the center of the room emerged in my mind.

“The emerald!”

“Yes,” LaCroiux acknowledged my wide-eyed recognition. “I have located your brother, Ethan. Here is your opportunity to redeem yourself.”

“Yes, I’ll do anything, master?”

“I have discovered a way to reopen the portal that your brother created using the emerald of power so many years ago. Now, you will go through the portal and lure him here,” LaCroiux said as he grabbed me by the arm and led me back into the hallway.

An orange flash of light meant we were travelling. Now we were in the Wolverine Forest.

“Aren’t I to steal the emerald?” I asked

“I doubt very much that Rainer will carelessly leave it laying about for you to steal, so we need to make him want to return…and return with the emerald.”

“What must I do?”

“You will go through the portal and steal something from him. His family.”

“What?” I responded.

“His grand child, a girl. You will kidnap her, Ethan, and bring here to Mistasia.”

LaCroiux explained how I would need to enter the portal, travel through the woods and then enter a house just beyond. Inside would be a young girl. He handed me a white pouch, within it was a powder that would reopen the portal allowing me to return to Mistasia with the girl.

He grabbed a handful of the powder from the pouch and tossed it at my feet. The ground began to shake and tremble. Then it started to spin and swirl. I had seen this once before, when my brother disappeared forever. Was LaCroiux tricking me? Was he punishing me one last time? Would the ground open up and I be sucked down into the depths never to be seen again?

I would soon find out. I felt a tugging on my feet, and I began to sink into the portal. LaCroiux smiled.

Just as I began to feel the portal pulling me in, Sorcerer LaCroiux hit me with a blast of ferocious wind and knocked me to the ground.

“We have company,” he pointed to two Elven Warriors tracking through the forest. “Despose of them. Then use the powder to reopen another portal.” He pointed to the portal as it closed. Sorcerer LaCroiux vanished in a flash with a single tap of his staff upon the ground.

I tracked through Wolverine Forest. I stopped and inhaled deeply. The scent of elves was unmistakable upon the air, sweet and fruity as it entered my reptilian nostrils. They were easy to find.

I slithered up behind them; Grace Tallon, guardian to Princess Merran Cadieux, and Mecca Begron, an elven warrior.

“Just two elves? I am hurt to know your princess thinks so little of me that she believes it takes only two Elven warriors to defeat me.” I mocked.

Grace spun aiming her meager arrow directly at me. I felt laughter begin within my tainted heart. She truly believed she could stop me with a single arrow? It would take hundreds. I faked a panic and placed my hands in the air.

“I surrender.”

“Really?” Mecca blurted out in astonishment.

“No,” I replied with a laugh, confusing the simple-minded elf.

Grace’s temper flared. She fired her arrow, but I summoned a burst of wind with a wave of my hand directing the arrow toward Mecca.

The muscular elven warrior wore armor, yet jumped out of the way just in time. It pierced the ground where he had been. Mecca brandished his sword and slashed at me.

I danced away from each attempt while laughing. These two were the best warriors the princess could send to stop me? What a joke. I had a task to perform. This battle was becoming bothersome. I gritted my teeth and blasted Mecca with a gust of wind knocking him to the ground. Then, I summoned tree roots around the fallen warrior. Roots burst free from the soil wrapping themselves around Mecca, trapping him.

“Grace, run!” Mecca shouted as he struggled to free himself.

I spun toward Grace. She ran.

For a moment, I wondered if I should chase.

“Dispose of them!” my master’s voice echoed in my head.

I chased the fleet-footed warrior through the forest. Grace ducked under roots and between the trees. Her sweet scent led me directly to her. I discovered her hiding behind a group of intertwined tree trucks.

“Tell me, Grace Tallon.” I whispered in her ear after slinking up beside her unnoticed.

She turned to face me and raised her bow and arrow.

“How do you think you’re going to stop me? Do you really believe you alone can defeat me? I’ve already defeated your weak friend.”

“Just give me one good shot, Whizzenmog. That’s all I need.” Grace defiantly replied.

We glared at each other. I stalled her as my next attack approached. A rhythmic rustling emerged in the distance.  A wicked smirk overcame my scaly face. A new scent reached my nostrils. Wolverines. Their strong, pungent odor was distinctive and overpowering in small numbers. This approaching scent was nearly deadly to those not accustom to it.

“This is my cue to leave, my dear. Tell the princess I’ll take care of everything. It was good to see you…for the last time.”

I moved with great haste back toward the Whizzenmog dwelling just outside Wolverine Forest.

There would be the perfect place to reopen the portal. My large reptilian feet stood firmly in the short wet grass at the edge of the forest. The sun was setting with a pink glow changing the color of the sky around it to light purple.

I closed my eyes to compose myself for a moment. The excitement of my redemption was overwhelming. My heart pulsed at great speed, racing my blood through my body.

A sudden rush stabbed the air behind me. I turned just in time to block an arrow that would have struck me in the back.

“Tallon!,” I hissed.

The two elven warriors had somehow survived and raced toward me.

“Don’t move, Whizzenmog!” Grace barked. “It’s over!”

“Over?” I questioned the crazy thoughts of a diluted warrior. “You are too weak to defeat me?”

“I am far from weak, Whizzenmog. You are weak. Your whole family was nothing but thieves and betrayers,” The angered elf scolded.

“My family betrayed me!” I screamed in pain. “It was my brother who turned out to be weak.”

“I heard you helped him steal the last emerald,” Grace replied arrow now pointed at my chest.

“No, but I will retrieve it from him.” I removed the small pouch given to me by LaCroiux and poured a sand-like powder into my palm. I leapt back into the air and tossed the powder on the wooden door of the old Whizzenmog home.

A bright light flashed followed by rushing winds.

The elven warriors struggled in the tall grass.

The wooden door had changed. It was now a spinning vortex of colors. The colors slowly faded as did the powerful wind. When the colors had completely faded, all that was left in the doorway was a spinning black portal that resembled the nighttime sky.

Mecca stood up in the grass and yelled, “Grace, stop him! He’s entering the portal to Greenville!”

I leapt into the portal, but Grace Tallon latched onto me as I entered the spinning black hole. We entered together and spun violently. She released her grip on me inside. The dizziness forced my eyes to shut.

When I reopened my eyes, I was alone. Grace wasn’t near me. The forest was enormously tall. The blades of grass blocked my vision. I lifted my head. That’s better, I thought. I was very low to the ground. It was quite disorienting. The trees were so tall here. I tried to move my legs, but felt my hips slide to the side. I looked back and noticed I had no legs, but my scaly body stretched out into the grass and disappeared. I lifted my hind end and there was a tail, with the white pouch at the very end. I shook with fear and heard an odd sound. I did it again and the sound returned. It was coming from me. My tail was rattling. I realized I had transformed into a snake.

I panicked. I needed to return to Mistasia as quickly as possible. I slithered through the grass. It wasn’t very long until I reached the edge of this forest. Here it was open and raining. The grass was now shorter. In the distance was an elven-like figure sitting. She was holding a unique object above her head deflecting the water away from her body. Behind her was a home, quite a bit larger than the ones the elves called home in Mistasia.

A voice called out to her. She didn’t respond. I couldn’t understand what they were saying, because the rain was running down my head and across my back. I could smell the fresh water along my nostrils. I lapped at it with my forked tongue.

This was the girl that I was to retrieve. This was Rainer’s grandchild. The one I must steal. It was my redemption. She stood up and walked toward the opening in the side of the home. I began to thrash my tail back and forth propelling myself across the slick grass. I was gaining on her. She entered the home and disappeared into the darkness. I slid off the grass and scratched my underbelly along a stiff rocky substance just before the door. I heard more voices calling out, but I ignored them. I was completely focused on her. I could see the funny-looking object still above her head, but her body was hidden behind a dark material. I now found myself gliding across a new substance. It was like grass, but darker and itchy. I lifted my head again as I move around to see the young girl sitting and crying.

Here was my opportunity, my redemption. I just needed to wrap myself around her and she would be mine! I sprung forward. My fangs exposed and tongue lashing. She screamed.

Sweat Redemption!

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