Welcome to the Slant, where you'll find reviews and original writings by the members of Martin Library's Teen Advisory Board.

Saturday, February 28, 2009

Microsoft's Left 4 Dead review by Jose D.

Left 4 Dead…

Where to begin?

Left 4 Dead is an action packed survival horror game created by ValveE designer Mike Booth co-designer of both the Counter Strike series for ValveE.

This game takes place in an zombie apocalyptic setting based around 4 different scenarios all created with their certain bonuses and perks; and while the source of the zombie outbreak is never revealed, the intro scene does state that it is “2 weeks” after the infection began.

You chose from one of the four survivors
Bill -A Vietnam War veteran
Zoey-A horror movie fanatic
Francis-Your typical hardcore biker
Louis-A computer salesman

And on team infected are
Hunter-Agile, quick dangerously vicious infected, these attack with a vicious pounce and slash secondary attack
Boomer-A morbid obese infected who can draw the horde on specific individuals via vomit…Yes vomit, secondary attack being that of a punch
Smoker-Tall, slim smog induced infected with the ability to pull survivors from a distance using his tongue (which is very long) either strangling them, or bringing them in for a beat down, secondary attack being slash
Tank- A large, very muscular infected resembling the incredible hulk, minus the green. This large monster has the ability to punch with the grace of a thousand rhino’s and the power to life chunks of concrete off the ground before…launching it at you

All of these characters are playable.
The Witch-This beautiful infected does absolutely nothing. She usually is found in random spots on her knees crying…yes crying. She is completely harmless unless you bother her. Things that bother her are loud sounds, gunshots, screams and the almighty flashlight. If you mess and annoy her, she WILL kill you. No doubt about it.

Now, you begin the game by first selecting one of the four scenario/campaigns. Where the main point of each is to make it from safe room A to safe room B and so forth, safety with as many survivors as possible, all leading to the final scenario where you must hold up a base and await for extraction.

These are the four scenarios currently available.

-No Mercy: An urban setting taken place in a city, subway, sewers and hospital.

-Blood Harvest: A country/farm like setting where you must make your way to extraction via Military Evacuation.

-Dead Air: A scenario taking place in an airport setting where you must navigate your way through a traverse airport whilst defending yourself against the zombie horde.

-Death Toll: The survivors are once again brought out of there big safe room and thrown into highways, forests and a small town where evacuation is that of boat extraction.

These are the current available scenario/campaigns available at launch, more scenarios and infected, perhaps even more survivors will be released with the expansion of DLC (Downloadable Content) being released whenever ValveE feels necessary. (Hopefully in the near future)

Overall this action packed game is well worth the $50 offering very high replay. You will be playing this game, over, and over again. I personally, cannot stop playing it. I highly recommend this game to any avid first person shooter, horror, survival zombie fanatic.

Book Review: Bloodhound (Tamora Pierce)

by Becca L.

How dare she!?! She is supposed to be with Rosto! ROS. TO. Not this "Dale" person. I don't care if I'm giving things away, I am angry. Serves her right. Serves. Her. Right. What serves her right, you ask? Sorry, my judgement-clouding anger has abated. I will give no more away!

Beka is back, and and, to be horribly cliche, better than ever. Though she is taken from her dear Corus (and Rosto. ROSTO.), she continues to fight for truth, justice, and the Tortallan way. And now she has a doggie! As anybody who is anybody knows, Tamora Pierce was at our dear Martin Library this summer and read an excerpt from her latest book, Bloodhound. Beka is undercover chasing down colemongers with the help of Goodwin and a rather silly hound named Atchoo in Port Caynn. Cool people will recognize Port Caynn as being close to Pirate's Swoop, Allanna's home with Beka's decendent, George.

Everyone, and by everyone i really do mean everyone, must read this book. But wait, I hear you say. I thought you were angry. Thank you for paying attention, dear reader. Yes. I am angry. I am infuriated. I want Tamora Pierce to die, and then come immediately back to life because I love her and I'm sorry for saying such horrible things. It is my anger that should clue you in to the sheer awesome contained within this book. I want to slap Beka. She isn't real, but I still want to slap her. Only a truly amazing read causes such emotion toward a character and an author.

Run, do not walk, to your nearest time machine, go to April, buy this book, read it, shred it in fury, buy another one, shred it in despair, buy one more, and don't you dare hurt this one! Do you have any idea how many trees you people have killed? But you told me to, I hear that same observant voice say. I want to throttle a fictional character. I am clearly not to be trusted. Now shoo. You have some sad and lonely waiting to do until April.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Comic Review: V for Vendetta (Alan Moore)

by Jesse B.

A young girl is pressed against a wall by a group of policemen who ready themselves for raping and subsequently murdering her. Suddenly, a cloaked figure wearing a smiling mask approaches, quoting Macbeth. The man releases a stream of tear gas and drops off a bomb as a souvenir. He grabs the girl and carries her to safety on the city rooftops. Together they watch as the Houses of Parliament are bombed to the ground. Fireworks follow.

So begins the stunning graphic novel V for Vendetta, written by Alan Moore and illustrated by David Lloyd. In a post-nuclear war England, a Neonazi group comes into power and establishes a totalitarian empire. All minority groups are sent to "relocation camps" and are systematically exterminated.

Enter "V", a revolutionary bearing a Guy Fawkes mask who devotes himself to the principles of anarchy and aims to destroy the current government and its institutions. V saves the life of Evey Hammond, a sixteen-year-old orphan, and shelters her in his "Shadow Gallery". He grants the girl access to all of the cultural knowledge forbidden by national law. Evey wonders at all of this, but most of all wonders at the mystery of the man behind the mask.

A brilliant analysis of modern society and a disheartening picture of a potential future, V for Vendetta is of a surety one of the greatest graphic novels one will ever read. But if the above material did not impress this upon the reader, let it now be made plain: This novel is not for the faint of heart. Murder, rape and genocide are but a sampling of the heavy topics touched upon by Lloyd and Moore. V for Vendetta is not your standard comic book fare, as the majority of the novel focuses on philosophy, sociology and politics. If one undertakes the reading of this novel, that person should be prepared to experience both disgust and elation. One must remember, "England prevails."

Alone: A Poem by Aketzalli G.

My biggest fear is being alone
The word and the action I fear of
Stranded in the middle of no where
The thought of being the only one
Nothing or no body there
In an endless world of darkness
Where that evil hides and I get the feeling I don’t want to exist
Where there’s no light to bring hope
No hope
To believe in what’s right or good
For the peace in my mind in which is hard to find
No peace
To brighten the day for the one who believes in a new future
Too much chaos of angry voices to not notice no signs of life
In which we all eventually die in the end
The only reason to live is for love so we are not the only one
To dream into a new better world other than the dark one I’m in
Where two people truly care for each other and not worrying of being alone
With that word my fantasies disappear
The only thing I fear of
Only darkness and negative feelings come into my thoughts
That word makes peace and love fade away
And welcomes me back into the world of darkness with the evil that hides
Where I’m the only one
Nobody to help
Just me
Frightened of what’s coming
With no body there
I don’t want to be alone
Alone is what haunts me
Please somebody don’t leave me alone


Saturday, February 14, 2009

Where I Am: A Poem by Aketzalli G.

I walk alone down an empty street
Looking for things I know will never exist
I’ll try hard to one day see
All dreams come true
And wishes happen to become real
A small piece of heaven between harsh hell
In a world where evil and hatred intertwines
The day I’ll feel a beautiful feeling
Be the day of my discovery of peace
Or love…
Or maybe all the feelings that’ll make me feel alive
Something that’ll guide me to where I am
A little light that’ll show me the way out
Into the daydream world that I always believed exist
Someplace where your heart can’t burn
In a place where promises can’t be broken
But now I have to catch up to others
To stay and deal with this hell
Until I relieve from this cruel feeling
And be the person whom I was
Only three questions hurts and irk me
Where am I?
How do I get out?
And who will I become after I get out?

J.K. Rowling's The Tales of Beedle the Bard: Review by Nathan W.

The newest J.K. Rowling book, The Tales of Beedle the Bard, is what Harry Potter fans have been waiting for. For the past year and a half, Potter fans have been trying to cope with the ending of the series and trying to find other books to satisfy themselves.
The Tales of Beedle the Bard is mentioned in the final Harry Potter novel, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, and is a great read for both hardcore Potter fans and those who simply want to read a new book. There are five short stories in The Tales of Beedle the Bard : “ The Wizard’s Hairy Heart,” “The Tale of the Three Brothers,” Babbity Rabbity and her Cackling Stump,” “The Fountain of Fair Fortune,” and “The Wizard and the Hopping Pot.”
My favorite story was “The Wizard’s Hairy Heart” due to its darkness and its ending, which is Romeo and Juliet- esque. This is a story of a young man who refuses to fall in love and removes his heart, which becomes hairy and moldy after its removal. When he finally falls in love, the wizard realizes his mistake and kills himself (his lover also commits suicide). “Babbity Rabbity and her Cackling Stump” was a bit of a disappointment for me. I was expecting a happy, cherry rabbit-based story; instead, reader read about an old woman who makes a fool out of a charlatan. “The Tale of the Three Brothers,” as Harry Potter fans know, was mentioned in and was instrumental in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. This story tells of the deathly hallows: the elder wand, the resurrection stone, and the invisibility cloak.
The Tales of Beedle the Bard comes with commentary from Albus Dumbledore, our favorite Hogwarts headmaster. The commentary is funny. Another ode to Harry Potter fans is that the book “was translated from the original ancient runes by Hermione Granger.” The proceeds from the book go to the Children’s High Level Group, a charity that helps orphaned children. While Harry Potter fans have to wait for J.K. Rowling to finish her Harry Potter encyclopedia, The Tales of Beedle the Bard is a great way to pass the time, and reader will donate to charity in the process


Monday, February 9, 2009

Ruveneska, Chapter 11: Yet Another Journey By Darro C.

Shuren looked at the army of Zelzes before him; they were ready to follow his orders. He turned and gaped at Zelzor, “You organized an army for me?”

Zelzor nodded. “Shuren, you are ready to fight, I have trained you well. This is it, the war.” He signaled the Zelzes on the ground to take flight. He turned back to Shuren and said, “Prepare yourself Shuren. We will meet them so they don’t reach the mountain.” He took a deep breath and screamed, “FOR ORYK!”

A loud cheer rose from the army as they flew forward. Each Zelze soared through the air swiftly and with such harmony. They seemed as if they were born to fly.

Shuren called for a Zelze. A dark green Dragon halted in front of Shuren. A Zelze called Shuren to climb on. His black hair was tied back in a ponytail that reached his back. He had a clean face, and dark green eyes. He jumped on with the weight of his weapons barley slowing him.

“I am Thegor,” he said, he pointed to his Dragon and told Shuren, “and this is Rissam. It is an honor to battle with you Sir Ruven.”

“I thank you,” Shuren said. He signaled for Thegor to fly. As he did, his army followed behind.

They flew forward. The vision of the mountains before them grew each second of flight. The wind blew Shuren’s half white hair backward. Ahead of them they could other Zelzes flying for battle. The sky was filled with Dragons and Zelzes.

Within minutes of flying, Shuren and Thegor passed the mountain range of Aela-Doria. The sun glared in Shuren’s face, making it hard to see. As they flew lower Shuren could see giant plains that stretched out as far as the Esanci River. That’s where he saw it: a massive bunch of creatures marching across the plains. They would be right above them if they continued to fly at the same rate.

Shuren noticed some Dragons were carrying large boulders. Shuren smiled, and then signaled for them to drop them. A flock of boulders rained on the army, knocking many of them down.

Shuren flew closer with Thegor and Rissam. He was able to see the build of the army. The front marched Oughalds that knocked anything that was in their path; behind them were trolls that barley kept up. After the trolls, were the Sleepwalkers followed by a group of Ingles.

Soon, the army spotted the Dragons and began shooting arrows. Rissam dodged the ones that flew its way. Shuren told Thegor to swoop down and Rissam to attack with fire.

“I will shield Rissam from arrows,” Shuren said.

“I trust you Sir Ruven,” he said.

Rissam glided downward. Shuren used a small portion of his energy to guard the Dragon’s unshielded areas. It opened its mouth as a dark blue flame ignited. It lunged forward and destroyed a group of Oughalds. Shuren felt a few stings on his shield from arrows.

“We have to fight on the ground Thegor,” Shuren said, “or they will draw nearer to the mountain.”

“What of the Dragons?” he asked.

Shuren thought for a moment as Rissam gained elevation. “Have them drop more boulders that should help us on land.”

Thegor nodded. Rissam turned around and flew back. Now they were above an empty area in front of the army. Rissam swooped down and landed as others did so. Shuren dismounted himself. Once he was on the ground, Rissam took flight with the other Dragons. Behind him was an army of Zelzes ready for combat.

“We are outnumbered,” Shuren thought. Their army was less by three times. “But they are not as strong as we are.” He turned around and shouted, “Prepare yourselves everyone!”

Shuren heard a lot of clang as the Zelzes armed themselves. Each had a shield and either a sword or spear.

He looked forward as the army approached them. He looked up in the skies for Zelzor or Lloyd. He spotted a red Dragon that stood out; Zelzor rode it. He looked for the sapphire blue Dragon that Athar and Lloyd rode, but they were nowhere to be found.

He switched his mind to the army that marched towards them.

“Arm your bows!” Shuren hollered back. A mass line of bows aimed the air with arrows. “Now fire!” Shuren yelled. The air was filled with swooshing as the arrows glided through the air. The enemy army did not slow down.

“Get ready!” Shuren said. The army was not far. He clutched his scimitar. “ATTACK!” roared Shuren. He ran forward and clashed with an Oughald.
Shuren found it easy to defeat these creatures. Not only was he able to evade the attacks better than before, he was able to use magic to block them. Shuren jabbed his blade forward, disintegrating a demon troll. His slashed his blade behind that killed an Oughald.

He looked around as chaos rose. He was engulfed with flames of battle. The Zelzes easily overpowered the creatures. Each second, more beasts fell to the ground dead and the fire of the plains grew. Above, Dragons burned down Sleepwalkers and threw giant objects.

In an instant, the tide of the battle changed. The army of Sleepwalkers grew dramatically. The Zelzes began to fall, Dragons began to cry of pain; they were loosing. No matter how many times the Sleepwalkers were killed, they were revived again. He thought of how to kill the Ingles so the Sleepwalkers stopped coming, “We have to attack from the back.” He looked at the struggling army and thought, “We don’t even have enough to fight here.”

Shuren ran back into the pile of chaos and began slaying Oughalds. It was more difficult than before, now that the Zelzes were weak, Shuren had to protect others while protecting himself, but still he managed.

“Grundells and Ingles are here!” Shuren heard Blayger yell from the sky.
Shuren felt a shock of excitement. “Thegor, take me into the air,” Shuren called. Thegor summoned Rissam and they took flight. Shuren looked out in the distance.
Shuren saw an army approach them. It was great in numbers. In the front, Shuren saw a familiar group riding Paleps towards him. Linkouz, Strata, Wresta, Zeal, Nina, and a bunch of Grundells were charging at full force. Beside them were Karoline, Ajek, Rojan, and Morphin riding to them fully equipped.

“We have hope!” Blayger shouted to Shuren and Thegor.

“Yes we do!” Shuren shouted back. He told Thegor, “Please tell Rissam to fly to them, I need to talk to them.”

Thegor nodded. Rissam glided toward the army ahead of them. Shuren saw Karoline stare at him. Rissam swooped down as they came to a halt. Shuren jumped off and ran to Karoline.

“Shuren,” she said when he was close enough.

“Everyone attack the Ingles from behind, so we can envelope them,” Shuren instructed.
Karoline turned to her army, “Get ready to fight.” Everyone seemed to already be armed.

Linkouz turned to his army and said, “ATTACK!”

The battlefield flooded with roars and yells as the army ran to battle. Karoline and Shuren stayed behind as Thegor and the army went to fight.

“We were loosing until you came, now I think we may win,” Shuren said with courage.

“We came at the right moment?” Karoline asked.

“A little earlier would have been nice,” Shuren said back chuckling.

There was a loud clash in the sky. Shuren and Karoline looked up to see the clouds began to turn dark and scurry together. The sun was covered up as darkness surrounded the plains. For a moment, the battle stopped; everyone was curious to what was happening. A black bolt of lightning struck the ground far behind Shuren and Karoline. A familiar dark smoke rose from the ground. The smoke cleared up to reveal five men in black; the Mawbryn.

A sudden burst of terror surged through Shuren. He was ready to flee for his life. Five Mawbryn were on the battlefield! Shuren remembered his last encounter with three of them, he was defeated by just one, but this time he was stronger. He was sure he could defeat one.

“Ah, young Ruven, so we meet again,” said the Mawbryn in the middle.

Shuren was silent. He was even more terrified. Shuren was face to face with the Mawbryn. He pulled off his hood that revealed an ominous face. He had black eyes that stared cruelly at Shuren. His long dark silver hair covered half of his slender face. He was definitely an Ingle, but he was superior to an average one.

“Who are you guys?” Shuren asked.

He smiled. “It is only polite to know your killer’s name. I am Belzor, your slayer, young Ruven,” he said malevolently.

“Shuren, we can take them,” Karoline said, equipping herself.

Belzor laughed. The Mawbryn on his left ran and knocked Karoline down before she was able to react.

“Karoline!” Shuren yelped. He ran to her, but before he could reach her, he was stopped by Belzor.

“Kinaz, you and I will fight this here Ruven,” Belzor said to the Mawbryn on his right. “Dragar, you kill that traitor elsewhere.” Dragar nodded and threw Karoline away from them. He turned to the remaining Mawbryn and said, “Scout and destroy all enemies, but leave Zelzor for Lord Garland.”

“Garland?” Shuren exclaimed as the others ran into the battlefield.

“Garland was coming! That changed the entire level of battle!”

“Lord, Garland, for that mistake I will have your head!” Belzor said. He punched Shuren across the face.

Shuren was picked up by Kinaz. For a moment Kinaz did nothing. Shuren kicked him and was free. He charged at Kinaz swiftly. Kinaz was caught off guard and barley dodged Shuren’s attack. Shuren shifted his weight toward Belzor and swung. Belzor blocked it and struck back. Shuren dodged it and saw Kinaz strike at Shuren again. He smacked his sword with his scimitar and blew him with Dinwoa.
Shuren turned to see Belzor shocked. Furiously, Belzor swung at Shuren, who dodged it. Shuren ducked and swung upward, but found nothing there as he swung. Belzor had disappeared before his eyes. There was a strike of pain at Shuren’s face as he flew through the air.

Shuren was picked up by Kinaz. He glared at Shuren before punching him. Shuren was sent back to the ground. He spat out blood before being lifted again, this time by Belzor.

“This is where my blade tastes your blood,” Belzor said lifting his blade. He arched his arm backward, ready to stab Shuren. Shuren saw Kinaz walk behind them.

Suddenly, there was a loud swoosh sound, followed by a clang. Belzor turned to see an arrow that was blocked by Kinaz’s sword. Another arrow flew toward them and Kinaz blocked it. Shuren searched for the source. He saw a figure in the sky above them.

It was a Dragon flying beneath the dark sky. Another figure jumped from the Dragon and shot three arrows at them. Kinaz blocked them again as the figure landed, it was Lloyd.

“Lloyd!” exclaimed Shuren. Belzor was distracted for this one moment. Shuren exclaimed, “Ferina!” and shot a ball of flame at Belzor. Belzor dropped Shuren to block.

“Shuren, I’ll take care of this one,” Lloyd said, drawing his arrows. Kinaz ran at Lloyd faster than an Oughald. Lloyd drew him to another area. Now it was only Shuren and Belzor.

Belzor scowled at Shuren. He ran and charged at him. With ease, Shuren dodged it and slashed at Belzor’s left arm. Blood stained Shuren’s blade for the first time. “That should have made him turn to ash!” Belzor was finally on the ground. Shuren lifted him up and placed his scimitar to his neck. “This is it, I’m going to end it now,” Shuren thought to himself. “You are defeated,” Shuren said proudly.

Belzor was furious, but did not make a move. Suddenly, his face turned to a smirk. “You think you are able to slay Lord Garland? I am not the leader of the Mawbryn. My master is three times stronger than I, and Lord Garland is even stronger. Go ahead, slay me, but you will not be able to save these precious friends of yours!”

Shuren lifted his scimitar and slashed Belzor’s chest. Belzor fell to the ground, slain. Shuren cleaned his scimitar on the grass nearby. He looked at the landscape, covered with fire. Cries of battle still filled with air. Dragons were still battling with Zelzes. Grundells and Ingles were still fighting.
Shuren searched for Karoline, but she was nowhere to be found. Among searching for Karoline, Shuren did not find Lloyd either. “They must be in the battle,” insisted Shuren. He started to run back to battle that they seemed to be winning.

* * *

Lloyd stared at Kinaz, who seemed to be enjoying this. They were a far distance apart. Lloyd had the advantage with his bow. Kinaz’s long sword was barley enough to shield him. Lloyd shot another barrage of arrows, one struck Kinaz’s left arm. Kinaz showed no pain.

“What are you?” Lloyd asked.

“Your slayer!” he said back as he quickly ran toward Lloyd.

Kinaz was running to fast for Lloyd to shoot at. He quickly pulled out the short sword on his back and placed his bow on his back. He foresaw Kinaz’s attack and blocked it. Kinaz aimed for Lloyd’s neck, but Lloyd ducked. He heard Kinaz mutter something, but ignored it. Lloyd lunged forward. It struck something hard and fleshy. Lloyd smiled, but as he looked up his grin turned to a frown. Kinaz summoned a Sleepwalker to take the blow. Kinaz elbowed Lloyd’s face, and knocked him to the ground.

“Hmm, you are a strong Grundell,” Kinaz said. “Join us, and you will be spared.”

Lloyd spat blood from his mouth. “Ha, you think this is strength? Why don’t you ask Lyath how strong I really am?” Lloyd unsheathed a knife from his ankle and threw it at Kinaz’s leg. Kinaz showed an expression of shock more than pain. Lloyd rolled backward and stood up.

“How do you know Lyath?” Kinaz asked as he pulled both the knife and the arrow from his body.

“Let’s just say we’ve had a history!” Lloyd said as he ran toward Kinaz. He jumped and struck downward at Kinaz. Kinaz raised his blade and blocked it with ease. Kinaz grabbed Lloyd by the throat.

“Hmm, maybe I’ll ask him right now.” He said as he prepared to stab Lloyd.

Lloyd gagged for air. He managed enough breath to say, “He’s here?”

Kinaz laughed, “Yes he is, but you won’t live to say goodbye!” He struck.

Lloyd used a Grundell shield spell. It was not enough to stop the blow. Kinaz’s blade struck through and impaled Lloyd at his rib cage. Lloyd cried out in pain. Kinaz dropped him and stared at the blood on his blade and smiled. He began to walk away.

Lloyd began to feel his body go numb. He struggled to roll over onto his stomach. The weight on his wound caused him to spit more blood. He began to shift the weight onto his arms and knees. Slowly, and in pain, he stood on his knees. He used every ounce of his energy to maintain balance. He pulled the bow from his back and his remaining four arrows. Kinaz didn’t seem to notice that Lloyd was still alive. Lloyd turned his bow horizontal and aimed two arrows at the back of his knees. He pulled back the string as far as his strength would allow and released.

Swiftly, the arrows cut through the air and headed straight toward Lloyd’s intentions. They struck Kinaz behind his knees, and he yelped in pain as he collapsed to his knees, causing more pain for him. “You’re still alive?”

“I will not die until my goal is accomplished!” said Lloyd as he pulled another arrow.

Kinaz than began to laugh. “You have skills Grundell, I’ll give you that. You may kill me today, but you will not win this war. Lord Garland will wipe all of you out!”

“What does Garland want?” Lloyd asked furiously.

“You’re not worthy of that kind of knowledge!” Kinaz said.

Lloyd felt his fingers slip. The string slipped from his grip and the arrow flew forward. “No!” The arrow struck Kinaz at his heart. He fell to the ground dead. Lloyd couldn’t react fast enough; he had not planned on actually killing him.
Suddenly, the skies grew darker. The pitch black skies stormed with lightning. The air began to feel heavy and Lloyd lost his breath. A cloud of darkness appeared. Lloyd peered at what was happening far in the distance. Than, pain surged throughout his body and he collapsed on the floor.

* * *

Karoline struggled to keep up with Dragar’s speed. Dragar punched Karoline across the face. She took a few steps backward. He caught her hair and pointed his rigid blade sword between her eyes. “Traitors like you will be slain.” He lifted his blade slightly to strike. Karoline reacted; she swung her leg and kicked Dragar. He released her hair to avoid being hit as she tried to hack at his arms. She jumped backward and readied herself for another duel.

Dragar looked at her and said, “Any traitors that stand in our way will be killed.” He ran towards her and clashed with her blade.

It took Karoline both arms to stop his blade, while he used one. Karoline saw his arm move and she jumped back. Dragar reacted and lunged forward and slashed at her. Karoline barley raised her daggers up in time to block. She felt a cold object pass on her arms. She felt a liquid run down her arms, followed by an intense sting. Dragar lifted his leg and kicked her gut forcing her through the air back several yards.

The kick left her breathless. He looked at her arms. There was a long horizontal cut on her right arm leading to her left forearms. She clenched her teeth as they stung even more. She stood up slowly.

Dragar laughed, “You are such a weakling. You weakness is a disgrace to us Ingles. I’ll do Oryk and favor and rid of you myself.” He walked to her.

When Dragar was close enough, Karoline wailed her arms at him, and blood from her wound splashed into his eyes. He covered his eyes and yelped. Karoline ran to him and slashed at him. He jumped back and avoided being hit. “Alayvarda!” he screamed.

Sleepwalkers sprouted from the ground and surrounded Karoline. Karoline tried to fight them off, but they were stronger than usual. She was overpowered and knocked to the ground. Suddenly, there was a flash of white light, and the cloud Sleepwalkers before crumbled to the ground. Karoline looked up to see Rollan behind her with a slender silver staff in his hands.

“Rollan,” Karoline said.

“I’ll take care of this Karoline,” he said as he walked past her and to Dragar.
Dragar’s facial expression changed dramatically. Instead of hatred and killer intent, it was now fear. “You again?” he said nervously.

“Yes, it is,” said Rollan smiling. “And this will be the last time you see me.” He raised his staff and muttered a silent word. Dragar suddenly froze and fell to the ground. Within a spilt second, Dragar was dead.

“That was amazing Rollan,” Karoline gasped.

“Are you alright?” he asked. She nodded. “Where’s Shuren?”

“He’s battling someone I think,” she replied. Suddenly, they felt an ominous aura in the air. The skies grew darker. The pitch black skies stormed with lightning. The air grew heavy and hard to breathe. In the distance, a black cloud of smoke appeared. “What is it?”

“I think I know, follow me,” Rollan said as he led them somewhere onto the battlefield.

* * *

“Shuren,” Shuren heard Zelzor call from above.

“Master, Garland is coming!” he said instantly. Zelzor swooped down and landed ahead of him.

Terror struck Zelzor’s face. “That can’t be true.”

“It is, Belzor said that Garland was coming to kill you,” Shuren explained.

Shuren began to feel a strange portentous presence. He looked down at Belzor’s motionless body. The strange aura was coming from something else. Shuren searched for it, but found no source. Suddenly, the skies grew darker. The pitch black skies stormed with lightning. Shuren gaped at the strange weather conditions. The air began to feel heavy. Shuren collapsed to his knees, struggling to breathe. A small cloud of darkness rose.

Panic struck Shuren’s body. The cloud of smoke cleared to reveal a man. He was wearing a dark suit similar to the Mawbryn, but it was more ominous. He had black hair that passed his piercing black eyes. He looked as old as Cotoz, but more powerful even than Zelzor. “ . . . Garland,” Shuren thought.

Zelzor climbed off the Demon Dragon and stepped before Garland. Zelzor did not seem to be affected by the aura in the air. The Demon Dragon took flight as if he was sent away. “Stay out of this Shuren,” he said.

“But master, I can help-”

“No, stay out!” Zelzor said. He touched Shuren’s chest.

Shuren felt a force, he was sent back through the air. He fell to the ground immobilized. Zelzor did not want Shuren to fight.

“Ah, Zelzor, you have finally come out from your hiding spot,” Garland said cruelly. He tapped the blade at his hip lightly.

“Garland, you will not get what you want,” Zelzor said, “You will be stopped.”

Garland laughed. “Who would that be? I will be stopped by you? Ha, today you will die!” Garland unsheathed his sword and dashed at Zelzor incredibly fast. Shuren did not even see Garland move.

Zelzor reacted to this barley fast enough. His blade was drawn. Garland struck Zelzor’s blade. The ground shook from the impact.

“I know your secret, Zelzor,” Garland said.

“Why are you here?” Zelzor asked blocking another attack.

“For your boy,” Garland said sinisterly.
Shuren’s gut tightened. Garland was talking about him! “What business does he have with me?”

“Ormentha!” Zelzor said shooting a giant orb of blue light from his hand. Garland simply smacked the orb away.

“I will show you how to use magic old man!” Garland said. He clutched his hand and said, “Nysbura!” A black orb of energy shot from his palm and Zelzor across the chest. Shuren felt the ground beneath him shake.

Zelzor flew backward and landed on his back motionless. Garland smiled, “You really let yourself go, old man.”

Shuren felt a painful surge in his gut. “No way,” he thought. Zelzor was the strongest being Shuren ever knew, and for him to be defeated so easily was too farfetched. He did not believe it.

“Garland . . . You will not prevail,” Zelzor said softly.

Garland laughed. He walked over to Shuren. Shuren was terrified, but he could not move for he was immobilized.

“Ah, the young Ruven,” Garland said as he approached Shuren. He flicked his finger and Shuren was painfully lifted in the air. “I see that you have defeated Belzor, quite an accomplishment for one so . . . Young.”

Shuren was trembling, he did not talk. “What is he going to do to me?”

“Well, since I already killed your only master, you are no longer a threat to me,” Garland said, “though you never were in the first place.”

“What are you going to do to me?” Shuren finally asked.

“Nothing, yet,” he answered simply. “I need you alive for now.”

He flicked his finger again and Shuren fell to the ground. Garland turned to his army and shouted, “This battle is over, Zelzor is dead, and they have nothing.”

Shuren heard a majority of the crowd cheer; the enemies. He was able to move, but he didn’t dare to.

* * *

Lloyd spotted a Mawbryn in the distance. The Mawbryn was fighting a Zelze. He tried to crawl, but his wound would not let him. A green Dragon halted landed next to Lloyd. Thegor jumped off of Rissam. “Sir, I will heal you,” Thegor said. He slowly turned Lloyd on his back. He placed his hands over Lloyd’s wound and said, “Cay’et.”

Lloyd felt unexplainable warmth throughout his body. “Sir, please focus your remaining energy on being healed, it will make the process faster.” Lloyd nodded.
He focused himself on feeling better. He concentrated his energy to his wound. Soon, he felt relieved of excruciating pain. “Thank you!” Lloyd said. Thegor nodded.

Lloyd stood up and ran toward the Mawbryn he saw fighting the Zelze. Lloyd took put his bow, and shot his last arrow at the Mawbryn. He saw it coming and dodged it. The arrow halted the battle. The Mawbryn turned and looked at Lloyd.

“I am your opponent now, leave the Zelze alone,” Lloyd said.

The Zelze looked at Lloyd and said, “Sir, I will join the rest of the Zelzes! Lecha!” he yelled as a dark blue dragon descended from the sky. He jumped on and flew into the battlefield.

“So here we are, after all of these years,” the Mawbryn said sinisterly.

“So here we are, Lyath.” Lloyd said back.

The Mawbryn took down his hood. His face was unlike any other Mawbryn or Ingle. It was long a slender. He had short spiky black hair and eyes that could penetrate a steel wall. He was a Grundell.

“It’s funny what one word can do to our lives,” Lyath said. His sword was in his sheath still. Lloyd did not see him put it back. He must have been fighting the Zelze without a weapon!

“Why did you do it Lyath?” Lloyd asked.

“Isn’t it obvious? I wanted greater things than farming in a village and hiding in secret! You were foolish for not coming with me!” Lyath said.

“I chose not to be a murderer!” Lloyd shouted.

“It’s not too late. Join us, and you will be better than all of this, and you will survive the war!” Lyath said.

“I was already offered that today, and I stand by my answer, and Shuren.” Lloyd said with courage.

“You mean that pathetic Ruven? Ha, Lord Garland is here to kill him as we speak!” Lyath said.

Lloyd looked around and spotted the black cloud of smoke. “Garland is here?” Lyath laughed and nodded.

There was a rain of cheering. Lyath looked up as the black clouds swirled around, he said, “Looks like old man Zelzor is dead, and it’s time to leave.”

Lloyd was petrified. “That’s not possible!”

The black smoke began to grow and engulfed Lyath. He said, “Stay with that Ruven of yours and you will all meet the same fate! So long old friend!” and vanished.

* * *

The clouds began to descend and the surround the field. “Bye bye young Ruven, next time we meet, you will be dead,” Garland said. Soon, he and his army was swallowed by the smoke and vanished into thin air.

The black sky cleared up but only to reveal a gloomy gray sky. The fire of the plains dyed out but the ground was covered in corpses.

Shuren dashed after Zelzor. Shuren reached him, but he was nearing death. “Master . . .”

“Shuren, I must tell you about Ruveneska,” he said hoarsely.

“Don’t talk, you will die if-”

“I was going to die had I met Garland or not. Listen Shuren, casting Ruveneska is not done by using your energy. It is the only spell that uses your soul energy. Don’t use it before you are ready,” Zelzor informed.

“Master . . .” Shuren said in tears.

He smiled, “Shuren, I believe in you.” His body turned cold in Shuren’s arms as Lord Zelzor, savior of Oryk, died.

Shuren wailed uncontrollably. Shuren hadn’t even notice Karoline and Lloyd come to his side. They were sobbing at the sight. They fell to their knees and wailed.
The entire army walked over to them. Everyone was crying, including the Dragons. The sky rolled of thunder as rain fell from the skies.

“The sky is grieving his death also,” said a familiar voice.

Shuren turned around to see Rollan walking towards them. His clothes were worn out; he was covered in marks as if he were at battle. Shuren did not feel cheerful after seeing Rollan, the moment was too gloomy.

* * *

The funeral felt like a dream to Shuren. It seemed too horrible to be true, but it was all too true. The Zelzes and their Dragons were airborne atop of the mountain.
Everyone else was surrounding Zelzor’s grave at the peak of the mountain. They were all wearing black clothing.

Shuren was in the first row, next to Lloyd and Blayger. Rollan stood before the grave, giving his final words.

“Everyone knows of the great tale when Lord Zelzor fought the Dark Ruler all those years ago. His deeds were significant to us and all of Oryk. And to those who were lost during the great battle, we honor them now. Their lives may have ended saving ours, but they are still within our hearts. Lord Zelzor the Great, may you rest in peace.”

Shuren could no longer cry. He was out of tears after three days of grief. Everybody went up and presented their gifts. Shuren walked up and placed a smooth hard stone.
It was the first stone he had melted from his training.

That day, Shuren stayed in his room, doing absolutely nothing but mourn. His wounds had yet to heal and he didn’t bother to bathe in his enchanted pool.
There was a knock at his door. Shuren did not respond; he did not want company. The door opened, it was Catalina. She walked up to Shuren and sat beside him on his bed.

“What is it?” Shuren asked sullenly.

“I know what you are going through. I feel your pain,” she said with a grimace.
Shuren said nothing back. There was a silence. She got up and walked toward the door. Before leaving, she said, “Sir Rollan wishes to speak with you Sir Ruven.”

Reluctantly, Shuren rose from his bed and trudged to Rollan’s room. His room was similar to Shuren’s, elegant and big. There was Karoline and Lloyd.

“Shuren, we need to talk,” Rollan said, gesturing for Shuren to sit.

Shuren took a seat next to Karoline. He looked at them, but they were no happier then he was. “Talk about what, Rollan?”

“What we are going to do next,” he answered.

“There is still a war, and we have lost our leader,” Lloyd said.

“What do we do now?” Shuren asked.

“Shuren, you are our only hope. Everyone expects you to lead,” Karoline said.

“Why is it me? My master is no longer alive, so how am I supposed to learn the spell? My power is pointless now that he is gone,” admitted Shuren.

“That is not the point Shuren,” Rollan began, “you are the hope left to them. They expect you to; you are the highest in power now.”

Shuren clenched his fists. This was too much for him to take in all at once. Still, there was one thing on his mind, “I will do it. I will not let master’s death or anyone else’s end in vain.”

Lloyd and Karoline smiled for the first time in days. Rollan looked at Shuren and said, “There is one thing we must do.”

“What is that?” Lloyd asked.

“For the past several months, I had been investigating Garland’s plans,” Rolland said. He took a deep breath and said, “I found out most of it. He is searching for this crystal.”

“What does this crystal do?” Shuren asked.

“It is an ancient crystal, often told in stories. It is properly known as the Neo Crystal,” Rollan said.

Karoline gaped at Rollan. “The Neo Crystal is real?”

Rollan nodded.

“What do you know about this crystal Karoline?” Lloyd asked.

“It was merely myth passed down through generations for us Ingles. We Ingles fear it,” Karoline explained.

Rollan nodded again. “No one truly knows what it can do, but Garland is after it.”

“Why would he want something the Ingles fear so much?” Shuren wondered.

“What ever it is, it can’t be good, knowing Garland,” said Lloyd.

“We must find the crystal before he does and stop him,” Rollan said.

“Where do we start? What lead do we have?” Shuren asked Rollan.

“I was thinking I might ask Karoline that,” Rollan said placing his eyes on Karoline.

“I know some things about it, but only through stories, though I don’t believe they are true,” Karoline explained.

“That is all we may need,” Lloyd pleaded.

Karoline paused, all eyes were on her. “Very well, I will tell you. There was a story, more like a riddle. It was about a lake and a secret chamber.”

“Can you speak it for us?” Rollan asked.

“I shall try,” Karoline said. She went into a deep thought. Suddenly, she spoke:

“Three ruins, all wrapped by nature,
Three keys, all wrapped by ruins,
One crystal, wrapped by one tomb,
One tomb wrapped by ravaging death.”

Shuren sat still, soaking in what he had learned. “Do you understand any of this?”

Karoline shook her head.

“I am positive that we can decipher it,” Rollan said.

Shuren stood up from his chair. “I need time to think this over,” said Shuren before leaving the room.

Shuren walked through the deserted halls and into his room. He needed to think. “A crystal . . . We must find it before Garland does.”

Garland’s words rang in his head repeatedly: “Next time we meet, you will be dead.”
Shuren walked out on the balcony of his room. The sun was shining for the first time since the battle. He sat for sometime, thinking. It seemed so long ago that he was just a confused Gippy trying to survive. Now he was a strong Grundell with great duties to be fulfilled. His entire life changed before his eyes.

The war had just begun. Shuren was expected to lead it. It was all too much for Shuren to contemplate at once. “First thing’s first, we must find this crystal before Garland does. When we do, we’ll keep it and hide from him, and then we will continue to fight this war.” They had no lead on where it might have been, except the story Karoline spoke of.

Shuren stared in the direction of Hogony and thought of the trio. He hadn’t seen them in so long. Their presence would enlighten him. He remembered being assigned a rescue mission to save Rollan. Along the way, he met the most beautiful girl he’s ever seen. Found his most valuable and powerful weapon he’s ever had. Upon rescuing Rollan, he gained his village’s trust. What started put as a rescue mission to save a villager, turned into a mission to save the world. It was definitely not over.

There was yet another journey.