The Yuke known only as Gale sprawled out on top of the caravan, his slender body fitting comfortably between the rolled up canvas. Barely seen between the slats of his Mythril Sallet, his eyes drifted shut, perhaps in deep contemplative reflection, perhaps in rest before they reached their destination, perhaps he was simply keeping the hot evening sun from scorching his delicate ocular tissue. It was always hard to tell about this outcast from Shella. Even among the strange ones he was a strange one. Coming from a long line of alchemists, he loved all things mysterious, but had an incomprehensable obsession for the shiny blue metal known as Mythril, and many of his so-called “experiments” involved combining various materials with the mysterious mystical metal. He sometimes sold his creations for more than they were worth by suckering hapless travellers with exaggurated tales of their mystical properties. He loved life, Gil, Mythril, eating, sleeping, and that was about all that was known about him. He folded his feathery wing-like arms around his Mythril Hammer and sunk deep into a trance.
Kyre struggled to keep his eyelids open, his grip considerably loosened around the paupaumous’ reins. Sweat poured from his Selkic pores. It was somehow his duty to drive the wagon in this two-man caravan with Gale riding shotgun. And since the elder of Tipa had entrusted the sacred Crystal Chalice to Kyre’s capable hands, it always seemed that he ended up with “chalice duty” as well. That was Kyre the Blue Wolf for you, the paupaumous on whom the inconvenient burdens of the world were tossed. It had been this way ever since he stowed away on a ship out of Leuda and had found himself in Tipa. All alone with not a Gil to his name, Kyre managed to become “adopted” by a small Selkic family there who were learning blacksmithing as a way of life. The Elemental Cudgel he carried; Kyre had forged that weapon with his own hands, pouring his soul into every strike of the steel, infusing the mace with a powerful kind of magic that only he knew. His nickname likely came from his blue-silver hair and his fur garments, but rumors were spreading amongst Tipa’s children that he actually became a werewolf at the sight of a full moon. Kyre sighed, wondering if that could be true. A part of him wished it was. He decided he should jump down off the wagon and lead the paupaumous on foot.
For several years these two had been raiding the hives of monsters and diving headlong into irreputable territory, risking life and limb in search of the precious myrrh that kept Tipa’s miasma-thwarting crystal alive. Years passed quickly in this land, but still, it became as if Gale and Kyre had known each other all their lives. Perhaps their misfit status drew them together, but most likely it was a fluke of fate that the elder would call them to the task of gathering myrrh. To guard a city that they seemingly didn’t really belong to; this was their duty, and they fought fiercely. They didn’t particularly like living in Tipa, but that was home. Family was there, a family that not only loved them, but counted on them to restore the crystal’s glow. In Alfitaria they caught wind from a shady character with curly hair that there was a little-known town just northeast of Alfitaria where a myrrh tree grew. A town with it’s own myrrh tree? The very thought was unheard of, but the possibility of gathering a drop of myrrh without having to fight for it was just too tempting for the tired caravanners to pass up. With their chalice two-thirds full already after much hardship, they set off for this little-known town.
Kyre rejoiced when man-made structures began to break the horizon, “Alright! Finally we’re here!”
Gale sat up slowly af if he had been asleep. He got to his feet and nimbly leaped down from his lofty perch into the back of the wagon. Kyre parked the wagon and fed their faithful beast of burden. “Alright paupau,” Kyre said to the animal, “You stay here and we’ll be right back with a chaliceful of myrrh, OK?” The animal seemed to understand and answered with a moo. Something heavy fell from the sky testing Kyre’s Selkic reflexes. He caught it quickly avoiding any serious head trauma, and the object had a familar feel and weight. Kyre glared at his Yukish partner, Gale’s sadistic grin showing through his sallet. “Don’t forget the chalice!” he said lightly, “We kinda need that!” The Yuke might have suffered some blunt force to the head had not Kyre’s hands been full. He made a wolfish growl, “Let’s just go get our myrrh and go home.”
They took off running like thirsty men to an oasis, their steps tearing through the soil as they went, and unseen to them the soil began to turn from a lush green to a dull brown and then to a haunting grey. The trees once alive became withered and decayed. The smell of rotting death filled the air, yet it was not until they reached the very gates of the city that the thirsty souls realized that their oasis was a mirage. A very haunting and evil illusion that became a reality. When they came to their senses, they were standing before a decrepit sign on which the text was barely legible, “Welcome to Tida! The Sunniest Village Anywhere!”
Both Kyre and Gale stood stricken for an eternal moment by the ghastly presense here. The houses, the roads, the trees; a fungal blight had covered it all. Miasma struck the chalice, activating it’s protective barrier that shielded the adventurers from it’s lethal cloud, but even through it’s mystic barrier, the stench of decay was strong.
Kyre stood aghast, “What... what kind of town is this?”
Gale pondered the scene for a moment, first emotionally, then objectively as an alchemist. Finally he uttered, “Miasma?”
Kyre’s eyes flashed with thunder, “Where are the people here?” He drew his mace and feigned boldness to hide his fear. “What evil magic is this?”
Gale followed suit and whipped out his Mythril Hammer from it’s holster. “Miasma is powerful here. There may be monsters nearby...”
Gale had hardly finished when a creature of bones materialized from underneath Kyre’s feet. The skeletal fiend wielded a sword and shield and took a wild swing at the Selkie. Kyre dropped himself and the chalice under the swing just as a scorching fireball set the beast ablaze. Smoke still rose from Gale’s feathery finger-gun. Kyre made a wild slashing swing to the skeleton’s torso that shattered the bones into splinters. Kyre’s heart pounded, “Did you see that?”
“See what?” Gale answered sarcastically, “I was too busy blasting a skeleton with Fire.” He ran over and inspected the monster’s remains. “Strange,” he thought aloud in a rather nonchalant voice, “It’s helm and sword seem Clavatian in nature. Yet different somehow. What do you think, blacksmith?...” The bones, helm, sword and shield soon disappeared into ethereal oblivion, leaving behind a few physical coins. “Monaaay!” Gale dived for the monetary prize.
“You don’t think that was...” Kyre’s jaw dropped as a Yukish-looking skeletal mage wearing a sallet appeared up ahead and attempted to charge up a Thunder spell to hurl in their direction. Kyre’s eyes widened, being one not too fond of things beyond the grave. His wrath waxed hot and his cudgel glowed with his spirit’s fury. There was a vaccum in the air between Gale and Kyre, they charged towards the beast just as the electrifying blast exploded behind them. “Die you heartless bony freaks!” A searing Soulshot of pure blazen fury shot from Kyre’s cudgel and sent the skeletal creature flat on it’s back against a fungus-eaten wall. “Why bury the dead when cremation is so much more fun!” Gale’s feathertips sizzled with Fire, razing the undead bones in purging flames. Before the flames went out, he quickly unzipped a potato from his satchel, stuck it on his hammer’s solitary spike, and commenced to cook and eat a light meal over the blaze. “Yummay!”
While Gale engorged himself, Kyre set down the chalice and ran ahead as far as it’s protective radius would allow, slaying a couple of Gremlins and a Magic Plant that was firing toxic blasts in their direction. “Hey Gale,” Kyre turned and hailed his comrade, “You gonna sit there and pig out or what?”
“A moment please,” Gale had gathered a bit of fungus and was toasting it over Fire.
“You’re not actually gonna eat that, are you?” Kyre asked.
“Shh! Research I do, and I must not be disturbed!” Without a moment’s hesitation, he popped the crispy shroom in his mouth. He relished it’s shroomy flavor for a moment. “Tasty!”
“Is your sallet too tight or what? Those mushrooms are probably poison!”
“Hmm...,” Gale pondered aloud, as was his Yukish habit, “It would seem that miasma has claimed this villa, and these mushrooms seem to enjoy the company of miasma. They taste similar to the big green one we found in the Forest of Mushrooms. Hmm....”
With little other choice but to wait while the Yuke completed his “research,” Kyre sat beside Gale and watched as the Yuke cooked more mushrooms. “Those mushrooms... They’re evil.”
Gale spoke with a mouthful of ‘shrooms, “And how did you come to that hypothesis?”
“Can’t you feel it? There’s an evil aura in this place,” Kyre said, sniffing the air like a dog on the trail of it’s prey, “Just like that Mushroom Forest. You can smell it.”
“I smell nothing. Mushrooms maybe. Evil perhaps, but delicious. Yum!”
“Surely you can feel the presense of lost souls wandering here. Those monsters....”
“In a land of legend there were monsters called Stalfos,” the Yuke recited, “and also the ReDead and Gibdo. These mocked human forms but were only creatures of darkness created by an evil king.”
“I’m not so sure....” Kyre had never felt such an odd mix of pure terror and zealousness before. “We must put these wandering spirits to rest!”
Gale pondered Kyre, the one mystery he could never solve.
“This place,” Kyre muttered, “It’s like a dream, or worse, like a nightmare. It just doesn’t seem real.” He touched a fungus-covered signpost just to see if his hand would pass right through an illusion. It was solid enough, and out of simple curiousity he peeled away the fungus to read it, “Only three days until our caravan returns! Let us give them a warm welcome!”
“It’s so obvious now.” Gale stood and answered, “This is merely the shell of a town. Their caravan did not return. Their crystal died.”
“And with it, it’s people....” Kyre’s fist clenched, his blue eyes becoming like the moon, “What kind of evil is this, this miasma, that it spits at people’s lives like this?”
Gale mourned, but did not let it show through his armor. He spoke off topic to relieve the tragedy, “Myrrh trees bloom best in places where miasma is strong. We will find myrrh here.”
“Don’t you care?! Have you no heart behind all that skin and metal?!”
“You want Tipa to become as this place? They await our return as well.”
Kyre’s Elemental Cudgel burned with his soul as he lifted the chalice with one strong arm. “The fallen souls trapped here will rest tonight.” Gale’s obvious confused expression showed through his sallet. “Gale, we have to tear down this place and all the wicked monsters in it!”
Gale did not understand even in his Yukish wisdom, yet his hammer twitched with the idea of punishing evil. “Let us not waste any more time then. Lead the charge, Selkie.”
A narrow road lined with enormous looming fungal growths lay directly ahead, and at the other end, Carrion Worms waived their anttenae in preperation for casting spells, Bombs grinned sadistically with tongues of flame lapping from their heads, Skeletons rose from the earth and readied their weapons, Hell Plants licked their chops, daring the two avengers to step onto their turf. Kyre and Gale glanced at each other, drawing a moment of strength from each other. A mace shined with holy rage, a mallet burned with mystic power. Their warcry resonated throughout the miasma-infested region, and their bold charge kicked clouds of miasma up with each furious footfall.
“Aieeeaaaaaah!” The Yuke’s outstretched arms razed two worms. A Selkic roar drove a squadron of Gremlins into the ground like nails. A Bomb summoned a meteor, an agile bird-like figure charged through the smoke and fire, Blizzard froze the Bomb in it’s tracks. A carnivorous weed spit poisonous bursts towards an enraged Selkie, a flurry of Soulshots filled the gaping jaws of the Hell Plant until it burst into mulch. A trio of Skeleton Mages cast Thundara, Fira, and Blizzara like magic cannons, the Yuke threw a frozen Bomb at them, a missile that exploded on impact igniting them all, and with a surge of energy the Yuke struck with quaking force shattering the bones into burning splinters that caught fire to the ever-present fungus hanging on the walls and hillsides.
Living tendrills of fungus grew across their path, as if the fungus was an all-present sentient entity trying to keep them out. It was afraid. Undaunted, Kyre joined what little magic power he had with Gale’s to create the all-consuming Firaga which easily burned away the fungi. Hell Plants and Stone Plants claimed a field once tilled by Tida’s citizens. Blizzaga was an awesome power, for the frozen monsters shattered like glass bottles. The enourmous abominations aptly named Abaddons almost quelled the avengers’ wrath, but their wings were broken like rotted leaves by Gravity, and pinned down by the arcane power of the earth, they were ultimately beaten back into the corrupted soil that had spawned them. With righteous fury, Gale and Kyre slashed, smashed, and burned their path through the city of death that, no doubt, had once been the greatest city upon the land, but now forgotten, all memories of the city eaten away by the demon Raem. Perhaps it was better that it be completely forgotten, the dead remains were now twisted and corrupted by the blight of miasma. Now it was up to two avengers to bury the shell.
At last, they came to an open field. In the center stood a solitary structure overgrown with mushrooms. Gale spotted the unmistakable green shimmer of a myrrh tree in an alcove on the other side. But Kyre’s sensitive senses felt the dark presence within that house, something like an evil spirit. That was the stem of the fungus that had destroyed this town. Kyre’s terror turned to boldness as he stood at it’s front door. “Selkie!” Gale shouted as he dashed for the myrrh tree, “Enough of this! The myrrh tree lies just beyond here, let us grab the myrrh and run!” Kyre was inclined to agree, he had also had enough of fighting and the chalice grew heavy. But just as the two were about to reach that narrow passage, the all-present fungus prevailed in blocking their path.
Behind them, it rose. The disgusting pile of mushrooms and rubble twisted itself into life, a chimney became an arm, a broken fence became another, a head grew from poison, it’s eye surfaced and opened with a red rage. It glared at the intruders maliciously as if it were the grim reaper itself.
Their muscles ached, their weapons were gaining weight. “Yet another boss demon.” Gale muttered, cursing that pink-clad curly-haired stranger under his breath.
“It’s never easy, is it?” Kyre hefted his cudgel across his shoulder and stared down the monster. “I doubt you can understand,” Kyre snarled at the beast, “but you are the most disgusting evil demon I’ve ever faced! You feed on the remains of the dead. You snicker at their destruction like a hyena with it’s mouth full of blood...” His soul began to burn with holy rage as it always did in the presence of pure evil.
“The souls you’ve taken can never rest! You torment them!”
“Kyre! Help me Firaga this....”
“You demon! You have no respect for life at all!”
“You’re to weak to fight Kyre! Don’t try to....”
Kyre’s grip clave around his mace, “You live to bring death! Now it’s your turn to die!” Fearless, Kyre charged the enormous disgusting heap of mold with all his fury, bashing away at it’s single fungal foot. With seemingly little effort, the beast raised it’s cannon and fired a toxic blast, then backhanded the hero as one swats away an annoying insect. Kyre slid across the field and into a fence. Miasma began to invade his lungs as he drifted away into darkness....
“Snap out of it Selkie!!” Gale threw the chalice down beside Kyre’s body and slapped a Cure spell into the side of his head. The soothing green aura rejuvenated the Selkies senses, and he quickly rose back to his feet. “You want to fight that demon so bad, fine. But I won’t let you die and leave me here with it!”
Kyre dusted off his fur clothing. He sensed the sincerity Gale was trying to hide behind his sallet, and he knew, if never before, he had a powerful ally. “Thanks, Yuke.” The Selkie turned to glare down the demon, “Is that the best you can do, reaper of souls?!” He clenched his cudgel, which was now radiating a strange yet fearsome type of cold blue flame, “Your eternal torment has just begun!” With a howl Kyre charged, cudgel blazing.
“Yes, what he said!” The Yuke grabbed the chalice and threw it down at the feet of the monster. His feathered hands erupted into blazing spheres of magic. “Burn in hell!”
Kyre’s strike knocked the demon into a temporary daze, giving time for a flurry of blows to work in some damage. The monster became enraged and focused on Kyre, taking a wild swing at the Selkie. Kyre rolled underneath the wooden arm and grabbed the chalice just as the impact quaked the ground. The monsters chimney cannon fired furiously as Kyre nimbly dodged each shot even though burdened with the chalices weight. The Yuke ran around back, two feathery finger-guns became automatics attached to Gale’s arms, letting fly with a hailstorm of fiery bullets that sheered the miasma-thick air and through the demon’s tough mushroom hide. Kyre tossed the chalice down once again and readied his mace. Gale charged his hammer with energy, “Die demon!” The quaking force shook the demon violently, it vomited spores and miasma. Kyre threw the inately indestructable chalice down again, his weapon blazing in the cold flames and resonating with more power than he could hardly contain in his mortal hands. He readied himself, it was time to finish it now, and he channelled the weapon’s energy into the beginning of a Soulshot. Gale noticed the Selkie’s resolve and followed suit; first his hands, then his arms, became engulfed in quite possibly the biggest Fire spell he’d ever mustered alone. The demon’s single eye gleamed.
“Now DIE!” Gale unleashed his fiery wrath in an explosive rage similar to Firaga, perhaps even greater. Kyre’s soul truly burned with the Soulshot that was unleashed from his weapon with a soul-rending howl, the blast crackled with blue flames of intense bone-shattering cold. The demon stood at the point where fire and ice converged, and the resulting chaotic enigma could only be described as total obliteration. The demon’s body, though made of decay itself, decayed and disintegrated, leaving only the demon’s last tormented screech to echo through the hills of Tida.
Exhausted, the two adventurers made it to the myrrh tree’s alcove on their last remaining drops of stamina. Kyre barely was able to lift the chalice onto the ceremonial pedestal to collect the precious single drop of life-giving myrrh; and as the drop of mystic fluid fell from the tree’s crystalline branches, so fell Kyre into a deep sleep.
“So tired..., must... eat....” Gale barely lifted the mushroom to his never-before-seen lips when he too collapsed into a peaceful slumber.
Their bodies were discovered by a frequent visitor and his new-found friend. “Mail’s here, kupo! Kupo??” The moogle pondered the unconscious caravanners, “Look at that, the heroes of Tipa. They certainly have a long journey ahead of them, kupo. Don’t you think, kupo?”