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(AU) Neoforce: Camp Mosaic

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(AU) Neoforce: Camp Mosaic

Post by RKRobot on 10/18/2017, 3:26 am

((Hi, so here's another AU that I really loved doing!  Here's some basic information before I post the first chapter.))

Summer Camp, a time of year where kids of all shapes and sizes come to socialize, learn new skills and make memories for themselves; only this isn't an ordinary Summer Camp!  Welcome, my friends, to Camp Mosaic!

Note: Some of the characters used for this story are not mine in anyway, but I have been given absolute permission to use them for any and all artwork/written work pertaining to this AU.  Furthermore, if the creator of the character no longer wants their property to be used in this work any further, please let me know so I can take immediate action.  Otherwise, if you would like your character to appear in this story, or have any other ideas for me to take advantage of, please contact me.
I apologize in advance for making any characters appear out of character or misrepresented, and again, if you have any suggestions on how I might fix this, please contact me.  Thank you for reading!

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Chapter 1: More Than Just A Playdate

Post by RKRobot on 10/18/2017, 3:28 am

"How much more do I have to pack, Mom?" the lime green Conger Feean boy asked his golden-furred mother.

The blue-eyed woman took a step back and examined the numerous suitcases of supplies crowding up her son's bedroom.  Removing her hand from her pale chin, she sighed lightly and put her bare hands on her hips.

"I suppose that's enough for now."

The young boy slumped onto his bed in relief, hitting the back of his head on another suitcase barricading him from laying down.  Rubbing the place it where it hurt, he then asked, "Why did you make me pack so much stuff?  How long am I gonna be gone for?"

"A little while longer than you normally would get off school for winter break," his mother smirked.  In the back of her mind, she was somewhat excited to have some quality time with her sister, friends and husband without worrying too much about her son.  "Think of it like an extended camp!"

He pouted and stuffed his hands in his pockets, responding with, "Speaking of school, does this mean I'll have to bring homework with me, too?"

"Your dad's taking care of that as we speak," she smiled, leaning down to deliver him a quick kiss to his forehead.  "What you'll be doing this break is far more important than school, honey."

"Okay..." he blushed, pausing for a minute to collect his thoughts.  "I'll do it..."
-
The night came quickly and with the rising of the Conger Feean moon, Exodus was waiting for departure with the rest of his family outside his home.  Everyone he came to know and love was there: his mother, father, his aunts, and many of their friends with their kids.  Being the quiet one of his age group, several of his friends were surprised to see him go off and participate in this "exclusive camp."  Either way, he was glad they weren't coming - he felt like he needed a break from normalcy anyway, though he was nervous about meeting new people and experiencing different things.

After many hugs and kisses goodbye, the taller, green and red-furred Conger Feean came forward to give him some instructions.

"First rule, don't be so nervous," Genesis grinned, gently poking his son in the chest.  "Second rule, once you get there, find the Light Junction.  That's the central area.  From there, take the transport system to your campsite.  Third and final rule, since you won't be the only one going to this event, talk to someone else!  I assure you, they're going to love you."

"Th-that's a lot to remember, dad..." Exodus stuttered, holding onto his dad's gloved hand.

Genesis pushed his forehead into Exodus' and held his son's shoulder steady to keep him from shivering.  "There's nothing to fear.  If you should ever need us, you know how to cast the emergency spell."

The boy finally calmed down, and once Genesis took his hands off him and stepped back, Exodus' family and friends vanished in a flash of bright white light.
-
The bright light faded after what felt like hours, bringing Exodus to a grassy plain with a few trees scattered about.  The cloudless sky reflected the night, as it was back home, but it wasn’t exactly familiar.  The constellations were different here, and the air felt dryer.  He bent down to collect his magic bag, the place where his mother put all his well-organized suitcases and things.  (That was probably the best thing his crazy uncle ever invented...)  Swinging it over his shoulder, he began his uneasy trek through the plains until he spotted something in the distance.

He muttered a telescopic spell under his breath and using a flick of his wrist, manifested a temporary transparent telescope to help him see the point of interest.  Peering through his device, he determined this is probably what was known as the Light Junction.  It was very well lit here and he could hear the blue and red-shifting sounds of trains coming and going through.  There appeared to be a decent amount of aliens hustling about on the platforms, but he didn't recognize any familiar species.

Flicking the telescope into glittery magic dust, Exodus headed right for the Junction.  Even though there was a bunch of people around this strange place, he still felt alone.  He figured he must've been the only Conger Feean around, even though lots of beings had ears and tails like him.  Now that he'd gotten here, he tried to recall anything else his dad told him...

"Second rule... take the transport system to the campsite..." he repeated quietly to himself.

Around him, large bullet trains held up by magnets pulled in and out of the illuminated parallel tracks.  Echoed voices he could barely understand rang out over the intercom, likely announcing new arrivals.  What was he going to do if he couldn't figure out where he needed to go?  What if he missed his train already?

Standing next to a bench, Exodus clutched his bag straps tightly, trying to hard not to freak out over his potential mistakes.  Right before his breathing began to escalate, he heard a loud voice coming from behind him.  He spun around to silently watch a young Tropican boy with blue and green fur and really long ears try and talk to a information machine.

"TRAIN 75, I NEED TRAIN 75!" the brown-eyed boy yelled, annunciating every syllable as clearly as he could.  When the machine in front of him refused to recognize his vocals, he grunted and pulled his ears down in frustration.  "This is why WE have a bad name, geez!!"

Right when the frustrated youth laid eyes upon the spectating child, Exodus flipped back around and even pulled his dark blue hoodie over his head.  He didn't mean to stare, honest!

Out of sheer curiosity, as it was killing him as to what would happen to this other kid, the Conger Feean slowly turned back around to see where he'd gone off to - only for him to be right there!

"Hey, sorry about that!  I guess I overdid it again," the pink-muzzle on his face brightening out of embarrassment.  "I've been trying to keep my temper under control for a while now, but I promise it won't happen again!"

"It-It's really okay... I'm sorry to hear you're having a hard time..." Exodus nodded, avoiding direct eye contact with this overzealous personality.

"Yeah, when you can't understand this terrible overhead audio quality and all the booths are incapable heaps of metal, it's pretty tough to figure out where you're going here," the Tropican pouted, hopping around to Exodus' front.

From here, Exodus could get a better look at who he was talking to.  This boy was taller than him, and looked to be a couple years older, too.  The white, fluffy chest hair on his body was very shapely, coming out at four points.  He had four spines coming from the back of his head, like hair and two coming from his back.  His tail wasn't that long, and his shoes looked custom made.  There was also a matching set of sharp bracelets and anklets.  As he looked this boy over, the Tropican kept blabbing on.

"Did you miss your ride, pal?  I don't mean to judge, but you look a bit lost," he inquired, scratching behind his left ear.  It was then that he noticed this kid wasn't carrying anything.  Where could you possibly travel that you didn't need to bring anything?!

"Oh, I don't know.  I'm... I'm supposed to go camping, but I don't know what train I need to take..." Exodus exposed, getting a good enough vibe from this guy to remove his hood.

The Tropican small smile turned into a wide grin the second Exodus finished his statement.  Immediately, the kid leapt high into the air and punched the sky.

"ALRIGHT!  WHOO!  I already found my camping buddy!!"

Exodus blinked, his mouth hanging open in confusion. "Wh-what?!"

"The name's Wrath!" the Tropican revealed, zipping in to grab Exodus' hand and shake it vigorously.  "Wrathias Kaos, superstar-er, superhero of Tropic and your newest best friend!  What's your name, buddy?!"

"E-e-ex-o-o-od-du-duss-ss," the Conger Feean rattled out, holding his head after Wrath let go of his hand.  What was this all about?  Was this all a part of his father's plan?

"Exodus," Wrath exclaimed, eagerly pumping his fists.  "This is gonna be great!  I was hoping to meet somebody on the train, but I met you BEFORE the train!  That's even better!  We can be cabin buddies!"

"Y-Yeah, I guess, but..." the light green boy managed to get out, his dizziness finally fading.  "If you can't even figure out which train was number 75, then we're both out of luck.  Maybe I should call my dad..."

"No, no, wait!  Let's figure this out!" Wrath stopped him, turning around to eyeball what they had to work with.  Upon his second 360 degree turn, his big eyes fell upon a feline figure straight across the platform.

Exodus noticed Wrath's dilating eyes and squinted at him, not sure what he was doing.  "Wrath?  Wrath?  Hello?" he asked with a concerned tone, waving a little in front of his face.  He then finally turned around to watch a red and black-furred Ailuro dismount one train and take a seat.

"We, uhh, we should go over there," Wrath told Exodus, his mouth hanging open in awe and his voice particularly monotone.

"Wait, we can't just ask random people- Wrath, wait!" Exodus whispered after him, trying to pull him by the wrist.  The spiny blue and green boy was pretty tough for his size, Exodus not being able to move him much at all!  What was this kid made out of?!

No matter how hard he pulled or wished Wrath would just listen to him, Exodus cringed as the Tropican tried to flirt with this random being.

"Hey there~" Wrath smirked seductively at the Ailuro.  Her ears twitched briefly and she turned around in her seat to face him.  Underneath her raised eyebrows, her violet eyes shone brightly.  Exodus admitted to himself that whoever this person was, they were quite pretty.

"I knew what this place is called, but I didn't realize YOU were the light of this junction~" the long eared Tropican grinned, pointing two finger-guns at her.

Immediately, her expression went sour.  "How creative.  Did it take you all of two seconds to come up with that one?"  By the sound of her tone, she didn't really care to be flirted with right now.

"S-Sorry about him!  I tried to tell him it was a bad idea!" Exodus stuttered, pushing forward, his face redder than his bangs.

"Playing the pity card won't get you any farther than him," she bluntly stated, crossing her legs and arms.  "You have any other attempts or can you leave me be?  I've got a ride to wait for."

Wrath then jumped over the bench's back and swung around to the available seat beside the angered Ailuro.  He didn't get close enough to her to invade her personal bubble, but the idea of him next to her made her glare fiercely.  Exodus could see her toes clench in her sandals as he nervously awaited a slap or something.

"So do we!" Wrath told her, throwing up his arms over the back of the bench.  "We've gotta take train 75 out somewhere, but since it's my first time here, same for my friend, we don't exactly know how to identify these trains from one another!  You look pretty seasoned, though."

So that was his plan, Exodus thought to himself, relaxing a little in his stance and walking around to stand behind Wrath.  He was just in time to see the cat in the beige and white clothes jump in surprise.

"That's ridiculous!" she spat, reeling back a little in her seat.

"Pardon?" Wrath asked with a cheeky grin, his ears swiveling around to hear her better.  Even Exodus appeared stunned.

"N-No, it's nothing, just go away," the red-furred one hissed, folding her arms across her chest and turning away from the other two.

"Weird," Wrath chuckled, leaning over her seat, now completely invading her personal space.  "I thought I heard you say us getting on train 75 was ridiculous!  But that wouldn't make sense, unless you TOO were getting on train 75, isn't that right Exodus?"

"You really think that's true, based on her reaction alone?!" Exodus questioned, getting a bit closer to the pair.  "Wow, that's some really brave deduction!"

"It's not brave, it's accurate!" the Ailuro growled, shoving Wrath's head out of her way.  "UGH!  Why did dad have to send me off to camp with these idiots?!"

Exodus caught Wrath as she pushed him back, both boys watching her get up from the seat, her short tail puffing up and flicking about furiously.  Wrath then looked up at Exodus from his position in his arms and laughed.

"Funny how that worked out absolutely in our favor~"

"Yeah!" Exodus smiled, helping Wrath get up to his feet.  "And now we know that we didn't even miss the train!  What a relief…"

"Let's follow her.  She was obviously much more informed than we were," Wrath nudged Exodus and began to strut after the miffed Ailuro.  This time, both of the boys kept their distance.

What they didn't know, was that they were being followed by a red anthropomorphic mammalian being with a white stripe of hair in the middle from his top-most spine.  A lone, golden ring shone brightly on his bare, pale chest as it hung from a necklace string.  Hooked onto a belt strap was a special looking sword sheath, easily concealing a powerful weapon.  He held onto his sheath as he moved forward, following the group silently.  No one seemed to notice him among the average travelers.
-
There wasn't much to say to one another after they reluctantly left the Kingdom of Iciaura.  Their mother and father, the Queen and King of the Planet, had ordered them to complete this mission as part of their royal training, but why would they do so on a whole other world?

Continuing their waiting at the train station, the male of the twins, Prince Garment Brimagh-Matarex, sighed heavily from his side of the bench.  Bored from all this waiting, he kept kicking the metal support beam of the bench, irking his twin sister, Princess Mystessia Brimagh-Matarex.

"Stop, Garm," she shushed him, shooting him a quick angry glare before resuming her staring at the illegible television broadcast of the trains coming and going.  It was in a language she hadn't yet understood, but she imagined she'd figure it out sooner or later if she stared long and hard enough at this one screen.

"You're not doing anything important," he fired back, his long, thin, red tail flicking about.  Being identical twins, they each had similar anatomy, including inheriting their father's Lavaborne origins.

"Compared to yourself?  When I can read full - whatever this language is - that'll show you what's more important," Mystess snubbed, lifting her fluffy white chin up high.  Of course, after a few moments, she had to readjust her position in order to attempt to read more of the screen.  Even the numbers looked different!

"Technically, if I keep kicking this, I'll be a really strong kicker," he growled, starting to kick the bench more aggressively, now with both his feet.  "So I think that's more important than reading a language I haven't even heard of!"

A gentle stream of mist fizzled out of Mystess' nostrils, clearly expressing her anger.  "Keep it up and I'll knock you all the way back to your messy room in the castle..."

"I bet it's neater than yours!" Garm barked loudly, but right before his sister could lunge at him, the twins heard a friendly voice come from behind them.

"Garm!  Mystess!"

The vicious expressions the siblings shared turned right into smiles once they saw their close friend - the Ailuro girl Wrath and Exodus were bugging - coming into view.  Both teenagers hopped over the bench and went to go hug the calming Iodes.

"Wow, Iodes!  What are you doing here?!" Mystess asked, holding her friend's hand excitedly.

"Dad didn't explain that much to me, except that I was doing something for the greater good," she stated, feeling a lot better now that she'd seen some familiar faces.  "Of course, you know him - always so cryptic."

"Yeah, same for our family," Garm shrugged with a smile.  "Can't really change that ol' Triple Threat from keeping secrets."

"Tell me about it," the Ailuro added with a light chuckle.  Out of the corner of her eye, however, she detected that she didn't leave those weirdos in the dust after all.  "Let's sit where you guys were for now.  Make sure there's no spaces."

"Why-" Mystess tried to ask, but was hushed and pushed forward by the grumpy feline.

As Wrath and Exodus approached the scene, followed by the mysterious sword wielder, the children of the Triple Threat quietly occupied an entire bench that faced opposite of the boys.

"Well, if this is where she decided to be, then the train must be on its way!" Wrath concluded with a finger pointed high in the air.

"I hope you're right," Exodus said, clasping his hands together.
-

As if on command, the moment the Conger Feean finished his wish, a large train came zooming into the station, stopping before the group on a dime.  No one exited once the doors opened, even though the yellow lights that illuminated the cars made it clear this was the proper time to exit.  Mystess then shouted, and pointed to the television she was watching.  Sure enough, she could pinpoint a pair of numbers that looked like 75.

"This is the right one?" Garm inquired, looking at his sister and friend.

"I can't be 100% sure, but I don't exactly feel it's the wrong one either..." the Ailuro explained, causing the siblings to nod.

Without much more thought, the trio entered at the nearest point with their things, the lights in the car now a shade of green.  Wrath then turned to Exodus; they both determined they should follow.  Of course, that meant the unknown mammalian walked after them.

-

The inside of the train was very technologically advanced.  Sleek, stylish windows, bordered one entire side of the train.  On the other side were private cabins, enough room for four people per room.  The doors to the cabins slid open automatically and the booth-style cushions looked comfortable, built for long rides.  Each cabin had a window and space to hold private cargo.  It all looked really amazing!

Exodus kept following Wrath, seeing as he was proving to be worth having around despite his silly antics.  It was only now that he realized they were being followed by someone they hadn't met before.  He looked behind him briefly to see the straightforward glare of a red guy with pale skin on his muzzle, arms and chest.  A bit frightened by his sudden appearance, Exodus scuttled faster to keep up with Wrath until the Tropican ducked into one of the cabins.

"We're gonna sit right by that girl and her friends since she knows where we're going," he told the lime green boy, taking a seat on the left.

With a simple nod from Exodus, he took a seat opposite Wrath to try and occupy space, putting his bag in the space beneath the seat.  Unfortunately, that didn't deter this other guy from coming in and sitting next to Wrath.

"Sorry, the other cabins were full," he stated, his voice young, but strong.  For one reason or another, Exodus felt he was lying about that.

"It's okay, we're happy to share!" Wrath smiled to the newcomer.  "What's your name?"

The red guy stopped removing the sheath from his belt and blankly stared at Wrath before responding with, "Cole."

"Cool, Cole!  I'm Wrath, and this is Exodus," the Tropican introduced.  "Where are you from?"

Exodus cowered in the corner a bit further after Cole looked from him to Wrath.  "Far away."

"Really now!" Wrath said sarcastically.  "Cause I'm from Really Far Away, and Exodus happens to be from Super Far Off.  The other guys next door must be from Many Miles Away~"

This got Cole to roll his eyes and Exodus to chuckle.  Wrath continued to start conversation, even when the train began to move.  They were finally one their way to camp!

"Are you going to camp, too?" Wrath asked, well aware he was getting on Cole's nerves.

“Yeah.  You too?" he responded, taking off his shoes to fix his socks.

"Yep!  Wanna be our cabin buddy?  You can hang out with us for as long as you'd like!" Wrath encouraged, gesturing to both himself and Exodus.

"I guess so.  I barely know you though," the red one grumbled, putting his shoes back on.  They felt much better with his socks adjusted!

"I don't know Wrath very well, either," Exodus chimed in, finally gathering the courage to talk freely.  Someone was more quiet than him and that helped greatly.  He was happy to be with someone supportive and crafty like Wrath, but also to be in company with someone who didn't really like to socialize.

Cole raised his eyebrows.  "Really?  From the looks of it, it seemed like you two were really close."

Wrath stuck his tongue out a bit and giggled, "We just met tonight!  Do we really look like close friends?"

"Eh, everyone's so different around here.  Different in looks, different in relationships..." he trailed off, that last statement getting him a lot more attention than he wanted.  "Anyway, how old are you guys?  Shouldn't your mommies or daddies be with you?"

"I'd like them to be, but they're busy quite often," Wrath quickly replied.  "They also figured 13 is a good year to start doing stuff on my own.  I don't disagree."

"You're really only 13?!" Exodus exclaimed, jumping out of his seat a little.  "I'm only 3 years younger than you!"

"You guys are really only 13 and 10?!  I'm 15!" Cole added with surprise.

"Yay, variety!" Wrath blurted, clapping a little.  His silly little outburst, however got all three of them erupting in laughter.

-

By the end of the train ride, the trio of young men were much more friendly than when they began.  With a new dawn over the horizon, the laughing boys came out of their cabin both cheerful and exhausted.  They had stayed up the whole night just talking away, after all.  The neighboring cabin's residents came out a lot more quietly, looking a bit disturbed at all the noise the boys were making.

"Of course it was them," Iodes sighed as she gathered the few things she took with her.  "At least now I know who to avoid."

"Yeah, and you have us," Mystess commented, exiting first and hurrying to the exit.  Personally, she was quite eager to start whatever mission she was meant to partake in.  She couldn’t say the same for her brother, however, who came out last.

Exodus, Wrath, Cole, Mystess, Iodes and Garm had all left the train and headed down the platform in one group.  The more uppity trio lead the pack while the chattering guys hung behind.  Now that they were all clustered together, Wrath was more than ever curious to formally meet the other three.

Skipping ahead and walking backwards, Wrath held out a hand to each of the heirs and introduced himself.  "Nice to meet someone more stuck up than my dad at a gun show~  I'm Wrath!"

Sheepishly, they all shook his hand and revealed their names to him.

"Garment."

"Mystessia."

"Iodes."

“Wow, you guys take notes from Cole?  What’s with the one-word answers?” he shrugged, letting them pass him as he resumed the normal walking position.

“Don’t bother us, creep,” the red Ailuro hissed, still bitter about his unsolicited flirting from earlier.  If this were her turf, she could have easily flagged him for harassing such an important being, if she didn’t beat him to a pulp before reporting him, anyway…

Exodus shook his head as he looked up at Wrath, letting him know not to bother with them.  He knew from personal experience not everyone was going to like him, so that’s why he largely kept to himself to prevent anyone from hating or liking him too much.  At least being temporary partners with Wrath and Cole gave him a boost in confidence and prevented him from being too lonely.

The walk to the camp grounds seemed infinite, until they finally reached a forest of trees.  These trees looked really different compared to each of their home world’s vegetation, but they still had leaves, small fruit and a thick trunk.  The dirt pathway they’d been taking lead straight into one of the centermost trees, which was particularly peculiar.

“Wait,” Garm stopped and reeled back. “Did we miss our turn?!  Did we walk too far?!”

“Nobody knows!  We’ve never been here before!” Mystess exclaimed in return.

“I’m guessing no one has a map,” Cole sighed, crossing his arms over his chest.

Wrath cocked his head to the side.  “Didn’t expect to need one, considering this path was just a straight line…”

Exodus then stepped forward, getting very close to the tree.  He put his hand to the bright green trunk, and a faint glow suddenly spread from where he touched it.  He turned around to the group and told everyone, “Quick, come over and touch the tree’s trunk!  It’s going to take us to the place!”

Iodes sighed roughly, “It’s just crazy enough to work!”  She then bolted to Exodus’ side and pressed hard against the tree, a different color coming from her handprint.  Could this be their Emission guiding them, she wondered?

The other four stopped talking and rapidly made their way over to the tree, and once they each pressed a hand to it, a bright flash turned the tree into a rainbow beacon of light!  Everyone gasped, and before they knew it, they were hovering a silent white abyss.  The rainbow beam fluctuated into a swirling tornado, eradicating the white void and exposing a new area to the group.  With the new area fully revealed, the rainbow vanished into a few sparkles, which faded from existence in no time at all.

Adjusting to such a strange form of teleportation, the dazed and confused group of kids began to admire the new setting.  A massive lake with a sandy shore, rolling green hills, a lush forest and a series of structures portrayed this domain not unlike a small village.  A sign overhead the team read ‘Camp Mosaic’ in big bold letters.  The symbol on either side of the title was a six-pointed star with rainbow tips.  That explained the rainbow, then.

Wrath and Exodus looked amused, Cole and Iodes appeared indifferent, and Garm and Mystess seemed unimpressed.

It was then that a white-furred anthropomorphic being wearing a black cloak with gold and silver adornments on his shoulders and shoes came out of one of the buildings closest to the crew.  He wasn’t a fast walker, but he seemed excited to meet them, judging by the smile expanding across his pale muzzle.  Moving the messy red hair from his view, he finally came within talking distance.  He was just a bit taller than the twins, but the experience in his eyes told the group he was well over his 20’s, maybe even his 30’s.  Either way, Cole immediately reacted and stood close to Wrath and Exodus.

Everyone could tell there was something off about him, especially when he opened his mouth to speak.  “Greetings Campers.  My name is Veit.  I will be your Camp Leader.  Who do I have the pleasure of addressing?”

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Chapter 2: Camp Mosaic

Post by RKRobot on 10/18/2017, 3:35 am

With the golden sun still creeping up over the treetops, and the youth arriving at Camp Mosaic, the day was only beginning.  All six of them felt some level of exhaustion, but as the approaching man in a dark cloak introduced himself, his creepy appearance and voice had them all wide awake.

"No one wants to go first?" Veit asked, extending an arm outward.  There was this pompous air in his tone, almost like he demanded a form of respect from the get go.  The royal children understood that some titles were earned from years past and were okay with this, but the other informals weren't going to give the Camp Leader their respect so easily.

"I guess I'll go first?" Garm exhaled, dropping his luggage to the ground to stretch his arms.  "I'm Prince Garment Brimagh-Matarex of Planet Iciauara."

"And that would make me his sister, Princess Mystessia Brimagh-Matarex of Iciaura," Mytess continued, rubbing her eyes with the back of her hand.

Veit smiled warmly.  "Very good!  I was looking forward to having you two come to this place!  Is everything to your liking?"

Garm shook his head, his brows furrowed and his voice echoed disappointment.  "I mean, the forests are cool, but we packed for colder climates and there's not even a snow-topped mountain around here..."

"I can't even go ice-skating if the lake isn't frozen over by any means," Mystess whined, swinging her hip to the side and crossing her arms.  "You'll fix this, won't you?  Especially if you've been looking forward to hosting the future rulers of ICE-iaura?"

Waving his hands down to help calm the irked twins, Veit explained, "Ah, right, that detail must've slipped my mind when setting up!  I will fix it as soon as I can.  Any other recommendations for future reference?"  His bright red eyes traveled from Iodes, to Wrath, to Exodus to Cole.

"What've you got so far, aside from what we can clearly see?" Iodes inquired.  "Oh, right, and I'm Iodes, Ailuro of Anount."

"Um, my name is Exodus, sir," the young Conger Feean offered up, hiding a little behind his jacket.

"Wrathias Kaos, reporting for role call!" the Tropican saluted playfully.  He then nudged Cole's arm, indicating it was his turn.

"Cole," the red one muttered, shifting his stance into something more relaxed.  His eyes had remained locked on the Camp Leader ever since he arrived.

Veit grinned and turned around slowly, beckoning the six to follow him.  "Very good.  Please, follow me.  We'll begin with a tour."

-

The kids walked along a coarse dirt pathway until they reached a log cabin-like building.  It looked quite fancy and spacious.  The windows were so clean, it appeared as if one could walk right through them!  While Veit stepped onto the staircase leading up to the door, he kept the kids on the pathway.

"This is the Camp Lounge, the main headquarters, if you will.  It comes with many facilities and rooms for all kinds of entertainment, but it is off limits for today," he elaborated, watching the disappointment flood the faces of the kids.

"Alright, that's strike two," Mystess complained.  "One more strike, and I'm calling my parents.  You're proving to be a terrible Camp Leader."

"You are quite quick to judge, my dear," the cloaked man laughed.  As he stepped down, he inched his way to the front of the pack.  "Fret not, the tour is far from over."

Walking made the group less weary of Veit and much more tired.  He showed them a variety of areas, including a lake dock, a large playground with plenty of equipment, a couple pavilions, a blacktop meant for sports, and an outdoor/indoor gymnasium.  Finally, they arrived at what appeared to be a construction site.  A large truck filled with materials and tools was off to the side, and surveyors marks were placed in various places.  It looked like there was supposed to be a house built here, but Veit stopped in front of it like it was finished.

"This here, is going to be your house-" but before he could finish, Mystess grunted angrily, throwing her bag to the ground.

"WHAT?!  THERE'S NOTHING THERE!" she yelled, her orange eyes glittering with fury.

Garm put his hand on her shoulder and tried to calm her by uttering, "Wait, you didn't even let him finish!"

"Thank you, my boy, however... she is correct about there not being a house here.  In fact, that is your first task as campers: build your house," Veit told them, presenting the tools on the ground next to the truck.  He opened the door to the vehicle and pulled out blueprints and additional supplies placing them down to the others.  "If you do not finish your house by the evening, I will return with sleeping bags so that your may rest regardless what kind of roof is over your head."

Before he could scurry away from the frustrated group, Iodes blocked his exit with an aggressive stance.  "Wait, you've got a Lounge over at the entrance, so why can't we use that?"

"It's off limits," Veit sternly repeated, but kept the smile on his muzzle.  Even though Iodes was about to retort, the man in the cloak ignored her stammers and walked off into the distance.

Mystess approached her friend, both of them so confused and so angry at the same time.  The blue girl then withdrew a special crystal from her dress pocket and shook it lightly.  Iodes could only watch her shake the crystal harder and harder.  Nothing seemed to happen.

"Great.  My Calling Crystal isn't working," she sighed putting away the rock.

"That means there's gotta be something blocking it's signal.  How much you wanna bet Veit set up a block so we can't call out?" Iodes groaned.

As the two girls carried on about the annoyances of this camp, Cole was already on the truck and grabbing some lumber.  Wrath, Exodus and Garm were just watching him, unaware of how he knew where to begin.

"Has anyone built a house before?" Garm asked the other two guys.

A 'nope' and a shaken head was the response.  Garm then walked over to Cole, now on the ground and examining the foundation.

"So, uh, Cole," the Lavaborne inquired.  "What'cha doing?"

Immediately, he was given a plank of wood to hold.  There wasn't any time to question it, as Cole gave him a direct order: "Put one of those down on each of the foundation's sides.  Use two if you have to, but I'm going to get the nails."

Now seeing Garm helping Cole, Wrath was also interested in helping.  "Come on, let's see if we can do something to help him out!" he told Exodus, pulling his friend over by the hand.

Wrath was then tasked with slicing the wood at the right measurements, and Exodus was told to hold onto the box of nails while Cole smashed each one of them into the wood set up by Garm.  Once the boundaries were set up, Cole wanted to install heavier beams of wood for the corners of the house and for the roof, so he waved over the girls to come help.

Inspired by the progress so far, the girls decided that bickering and whining wouldn’t progress the day any faster and agreed to help the others.  Cole instructed them to set up the four corners, while he stood on Wrath's shoulders to build the door frame.  Garm and Exodus used a metal ladder to start the frame of the roof.

With six of them on this task, and Cole leading the pack, the kids successfully set up the entire frame of the house and even got the insulation in.  It wasn't a big house by any means, but it was big enough for all of them to sleep in and have space for their belongings.

Soon enough, the sun was setting.  Cole didn't actually stop working on the place, even though the others took a break now and then.  Exodus even fell asleep on the roots of a nearby tree, using his bag as a pillow.  During the last of their breaks, Garm deemed it was too dark to continue working, even though he knew he could easily brighten the place up with his unique ability.

"Hey Cole, come on and rest a bit, will ya?  If you keep this up, I'll feel terrible for you not getting any sleep," he told the red one.

"It's not done," Cole replied, climbing down from one of the walls he'd just finished sanding.  Although the light was fading from the day, the Lavaborne could easily determine Cole was sweating like crazy and his muzzle was red with exhaustion.

"Yeah, but you're gonna wear yourself out," the Iciaurian consoled him, pushing him away from the building and over to where the others decided to set up for the night.  Cole hardly put up a fight, proving to just how drained he was.

In the distance, the six kids could see Veit coming forward pulling a red wagon of various things.  Iodes woke up Exodus from his nap.  “Looks like we’ll be getting those bags as promised,” she said to the boy, waiting for him to fully awaken before getting up.

“That’s good,” Exodus yawned.  “My neck hurts from sleeping like this…”

The cloaked man wheeled his cart around to show the kids he kept his word.  Inside were six different sleeping bags all rolled up and big picnic basket filled with sandwiches and drink sacks.  They quickly surrounded the wagon as Veit passed out the sleeping bags.  Each of the cozy wraps was a different color, correlating nicely to the fur colors of the mammalians.

“Now,” Veit started, grabbing some lumber from the truck and returning to the kids.  “Will the young men aid us with a little light?”

At the same time, both Wrath and Garm stepped forward and said, “Sure.”  Not realizing it until they heard one another say it, the genuinely surprised boys looked at each other and blinked.

“Pardon me, I believe he was speaking to a professional pyro,” Wrath grinned at the prince, eyelids lowered playfully.

Garm audibly gagged in bewilderment.  “YOU?!  Keh, you’re quite arrogant to think any fire you’d produce can hold a candle to mine.”

The others might’ve imagined it, but they all could swear to seeing a bright spark of rivalry between the guys.  As Vein stepped aside (once his little fire pit was formed) the Tropican and Lavaborne blasted a unique flame from each of their fingertips.  Exodus, Cole, Mystess and Iodes appeared quite startled; there were two guys in their group that could utilize a similar technique?

Iodes glanced over at Cole and Exodus.  Could those two match hers and Mystess’ powers like Wrath did Garm’s?  Or could this be just an odd coincidence?

Exodus felt her eyes on him and he shyly looked back at the Ailuro.  Iodes turned away quickly once she’d been caught staring.  The green boy didn’t know what she was thinking, but he had a feeling she was wondering about their powers too.  He was intrigued by this sudden reveal, going as far as to assume this was a camp meant for magic training.  Would he be proven right?

Veit broke the silence with a few claps.  “Very good, boys,” he cheered with a smile.  Wrath and Garm appreciated his applause, the long eared boy bowing dramatically and the prince dusting off his hands proudly.  “Now, let’s eat.  I’ve taken everyone’s dietary information into account, so nothing in this basket will cause your various allergies to flare up.”

As Veit withdrew the sustenance from the basket and began to pass it around to the campers, suspicious Mystess questioned how he knew this.  “So our parents must’ve told you everything, then.  You already knew Wrath and Garm could make fire, and you probably knew that Cole could make a house-"

“It was Cole that organized this?” Veit cut her off with eyebrows raised.

“Yeah, he just kinda started building and we figured we’d help him get it done faster,” Garm added, taking a seat to enjoy his sandwiches.

The cloaked being nodded, then looked to the red mammalian.  “So it seems we’ve got an aspiring leader of this group, already.  I’m proud to host such a capable team.”

Cole refused to speak in response and scarfed down his food and drink.  Exodus, who sat next to him, tried to eat quickly too.

Bitter that she’d been ignored, Mystess spoke up again in between bites, “Ahem, anyway… My Calling Crystal isn’t working.  Is there something that can be done about that?”

“Oh, dear,” the camp leader softly exclaimed.  “That doesn’t sound too good.  Would you like me to take it to the lounge with me tonight and so I could have a look at it?”

As he began to get up from his position beside the wagon and walk around the fire towards Mystess, she clutched the pocketed crystal fiercely.  “W-Well, its not broken,” she stammered, a little afraid he’d take it and never give it back.  “I think I’ll just try it again in the morning.  Maybe I wasn’t standing in the right spot to get a good enough signal.  Thanks, anyway…”

“As you wish, Princess,” Veit exhaled, returning to his seat, watching Mystess release her grip on the crystal wearily.  She and Iodes looked at each other briefly, sharing the same creeped out expression.  The leader of the camp took note of this and changed the subject.  “I imagine you all have camped at least once before?"

Wrath fought back a burp before announcing, “No!  I wasn’t allowed to sleep outside at all before this!”

“I only slept outside really close to my house.  I was never this far away from home,” Exodus claimed after he wiped his crumb-covered mouth on his jacket collar.

“Camping never interested me,” Iodes stated bluntly, seating herself comfortably on her bag.

“Mph, so we have plenty of experience and inexperience,” Veit understood, flicking the hair out of his face.  “So then, for those of you who don’t know, it is common tradition for group leaders to share ‘campfire stories’ to their peers.”

Garm yawned loudly.  “Dude, do you know how old we are?  I think some of us are way too old for those things.”

“NO!!  I wanna hear a story!” Wrath yelled back, raising his hand high in the air.  “What does age have to do with stories anyway?!”

Right as the male twin opened his mouth to make a snarky comeback, Veit stopped him by answering Wrath’s request.  “I would ask that all of you reserve judgement, for the story I wish to tell is a chilling horror tale.”

Immediately, the group fell silent, Wrath dropping his hand like an anvil.  Mystess of all people was the most intrigued, her ears swiveling around to the front to listen well.  Garm even did as he was told and reserved his remarks, curious as to which story this person was going to tell.  However, Exodus squirmed a bit in his seat, his lower lip quivering lightly.

Cole picked up on his body language and rapidly stated, “I do not wish to hear such a story.  May I be excused?”

“Yeahmetoo!!” Exodus added nervously, his fearful expression more apparent to the others.

“Very well.  I will be finished before the moon is overhead us.  Please be back by then,” Veit nodded with a faint smile.  Moments later, the two boys picked their things up and walked away from the unfinished house.  Wrath seemed a bit saddened by their departure, but remained seated with the others all the same.  The three royals did not object to their leaving, let alone the telling of the promised ‘scary story.’

With Cole and Exodus straying from the camp’s main pathway and heading in the direction of the heavily wooded area, the leader of Camp Mosaic cleared his throat in preparation for the tale.  Each of his listeners were waiting in anticipation for the unveiling of this tradition, Mystess appearing the most excited.

“Have you ever heard the wind whistle?”

-

The red and green mammalians kept walking, the younger of the two glad to be so far away from the telling of scary stories.  When he looked up at his older companion though, it surprised him that Cole didn’t want to be there with the others.

“Hey, Cole?” the Conger Feean asked, walking a little closer to him.  “Do you not like scary stories either?”

The red one didn’t even glance at Exodus when he replied, “Sometimes.”

One-word answers were Cole’s thing, apparently, but Exodus felt like there was something more to Cole’s reason for leaving the group.  “Um, if you saw me getting scared and you just felt bad for me, you can stop hiding it now,” the green one supposed.  That was the only reason that made sense to him other than Cole’s next response.

“I also didn’t feel like it was appropriate for a creepy guy like him to be telling a group of kids about scary stuff,” the red one said, finally turning to look at Exodus’ weary expression.  He then halted both himself and his younger companion.  “You know, if you have something you object to, you’re allowed to speak up, and if you don’t feel comfortable being alone, just ask me.  I’m sure Wrath wouldn’t mind keeping you company either.”

Looking into Cole’s sincere green eyes, Exodus knew he could trust his new friend’s words.  “Thanks, Cole!”

Without making the moment drag on for too long, Cole returned to leading the way deeper into the forest.  The two guys inspected the different trees and discussed the differences between the vegetation here and back on each of their home worlds.

“You never did mention where you were from, Cole,” Exodus curiously prodded, fondling a flower bud stemming from a low hanging branch.

“Neither did you,” retorted the red one, sliding his gloved fingers across the bark of another tree.

“Oh,” the green boy giggled, feeling more inclined to share personal information.  “I live on Conger Fee.  It’s kinda on the outskirts of the Mosaic Galaxy, but my dad thinks it’s better than living close to all his other friends.”

“That’s news to me,” Cole shrugged, leaning against the tree he was just touching.  “I don’t know much about space or the galaxy as a whole, but I know that where I lived, I was close to a lot of different kinds of people.”

“So when you answered ‘Far Away’ on the train, you weren’t as far away at all!” Exodus joked, stepping around on different bulging tree roots.

Cole snickered, “I guess you’re right about that one - didn’t think it through enough, I guess!”

-

“When the wind whistles, what does it sound like?  It may sound like call from an avian creature, the cheerful noises of an insect, or the playful cries of children.  Yet, when the wind becomes so severe and so loud, does it not sound like a scream?” Veit told the other children around the campfire.

Wrath’s fur stood on end as he huddled closer to the other three.  Mystess’ smile broadened, while her friend and brother’s expression became quite perturbed.  They all wondered where the camp leader would go with this story.  Now that he had their full attention, he continued.

“This is a retelling of a true event that occurred quite some time ago… On a cool night, just like tonight…”

A wisp of icy wind shot through the group as if on command; it tickled the arms and legs of the seated campers and slashed through the glistening fire for a split second.  Following that sharp gust of wind, came a cool layer of clouds, covering most of the rising light of the moon.  This was either purely coincidence, or Veit was somehow making this happen, thought Garm and Mystess with a simple shared look.

“There were two young children coming home from an after class sports session.  They were neighbors, so they appreciated one another for the company, as their parental figures were usually quite busy for work and could not come escort them home.  Mere minutes into their stroll, they noticed a line of police vehicles lined up horizontally along the road they used to take home.  The flashing lights of the police cars were blinding, but the children could still make out the figure of a policewoman standing beside one.”

‘Excuse me, can we get through?’ the boy asked the woman in uniform.

‘I’m sorry, but we’re in the middle of a very important investigation.  You’ll have to take another way,’ she explained, a guilty expression on her face.

The young girl shrugged and suggested they take the park trail instead.  The two thanked the policewoman and took a left down the forested path. The path had very few signs or directors indicating which way they should go next, so they put their heads together and tried to remember how the path looked in the daylight.

‘I’m getting tired of walking,’ the girl complained to her friend.  ‘Do you think we’ll be back on the main road soon?’

‘I hope so.  I didn’t see anything behind that policewoman or the cars, so I don’t know what they were really trying to investigate,’ the boy pointed out.

‘That’s true.  Besides, don’t friendly police people help young children find their ways home or give them a ride?’ the girl furthered, a quizzical look appearing on her face.

The boy pondered this for a brief moment before shaking his head.  ‘She was probably told to keep watch no matter who came by.  Our parents are always busy, so maybe she was busy, too.’

Even though they deemed the behavior suspicious, the children marched onward, the crunching branches, dirt and leaves filling the silence in between their questions and makeshift answers.”


-

Cole and Exodus continued to walk around the darkening forest, wondering when Veit’s story would end.

“Are you scared easily, Cole?” Exodus prodded, fluffing up his jacket a bit.

A shaken head was his first response.  “I used to be, but then I got more realistic.  I learned how to rationalize my fears and combatted them with my strengths.  Proving how brave I was became a priority.”

“In what situation would that be useful?” the green boy wondered aloud as he looked around him, not seeing the raised eyebrows on Cole’s face.

The red one’s initial response would have been too sarcastic, maybe even too mean to say to a 10 year old, so Cole rethought his wording before finally speaking, “The situation I was in required my actions.  It was useful for me, but my strategy might not be for everyone.”

The Conger Feean got the hint and turned around to apologize.  “Oh, sorry.  I didn’t mean to belittle your experiences…"

Cole inhaled and exhaled quietly, accepting it.  “You’re a very interesting individual to talk to, Exodus.  You certainly reminded me of someone I used to know.”

“Really?  Who?” the surprised boy asked, his eyes widening with curiosity.

Before his elder could answer, a strange humming sound filled the air.  With every passing second, it grew louder, like it was coming closer to them.    Their ears twitched about, trying to locate the sound exactly, but as Exodus squirmed with fear, Cole grabbed the ring hanging from his chest with one hand and clutched the handle of his sword with the other.

Suddenly, a thin, black line shot straight toward Exodus’ head!  Right before the line pierced the boy’s forehead, Cole withdrew his blade and deflected the weapon faster than the speed of sound.  Fresh tears began to flow down Exodus’ cheeks, horrified at what he’d just witnessed.  The scene continued to bewilder him, however, as Cole began to change right before his eyes.

-

“The children felt they’d been walking for hours, but neither of them wore watches or carried time-telling devices.  They could not tell where the moon was in the sky, as it had become quite cloudy.  It was almost like the night didn’t want them to come home, as if the night itself wanted to keep them walking perpetually in its dark entwined forests…” Veit spoke to the four other campers.

Wrath couldn’t help but shiver with every change in Veit’s vocals.  Even Mystess was so creeped out she began to fidget around with a patch of grass under her sleeping bag.  Garm and Iodes continued to hold the most composure, though they each had to admit they were worried about the ending of this tale.

Veit already felt accomplished just by looking at the kids’ faces, but he had to go on.

“Now the wind was picking up and the tree branches around them started to twist and bend.  The shaking of the leaves caused each of them to look behind every few feet or so, but in trying to outrun the noise they’d walked quite far from the path they were used to.  Neither child noticed until one of them tripped on a particularly large root of a dying tree.

‘Please be more careful!’ the young girl scolded her friend, but helped him up anyway.

‘I’ve been watching our backs, so it’s hard to look ahead of me,’ the boy whined, coming up with a fairly reasonable excuse.  ‘And besides, we’ve only tripped because we’re not on the path!  The dirt road never had roots like these.’

‘Oh, I didn’t notice that until just now… Maybe we shouldn’t try and run away from the noise and just focus on going straight in one direction?’ the girl suggested, albeit a solid idea.  Her friend agreed and so they set out for home yet again.

Ever since they went along with this plan, however, the more odd things became.  The screeching sounds of scraping branches on trunks of other trees echoed in their ears, and the rustling of leaves all around them gave them a sincere sense of dread.  No matter what sort of noise they were faced with, they went on… and on… and on…

The children eventually grew too tired to wander further and decided to stop for a rest.  Not only could they hardly see one another, but now they had some trouble hearing the other over the wind’s increasing volume.  They knew they didn’t want to stay in this area for very long, as the weather was getting far worse than they expected, but they still had little confidence they would make it out of the forest before dawn.  It was then that the girl suggested climbing the trees to see where they were from a high enough point.  The boy was still quite exhausted, so he did not volunteer himself to climb the tree, but he did help his friend get to a low branch.

Inch by inch, as careful as she could be, the young girl crawled her way up the rough and scratchy bark of the tree.  She tried her best not to get covered in wood chips and splinters but if this helped them at all, then they would be home in no time and be patched up by their parents.  It seemed like a fair trade to her.  As she grappled the next branch above her, she felt something slimy, sticky and unclean.  She wasn’t quite sure what she grabbed, so she retracted her hand immediately and looked at it.

As dark as it was, the consistency and the texture of the mysterious material told her one thing…

It was blood."


-

The red fur covering most of the mammalian’s body stood sharply on end, and the white stripe on his top-most spine almost seemed to defy gravity with how spiky it had gotten.  His green eyes appeared to glow as gold as the ring on his necklace, and he readied his sharp silvery blade in the most warrior-like pose Exodus had ever seen.

Cole turned on heel to glare at the attacker.  A hairy, eight-legged spidery monster dropped from one of the taller trees, it’s icy blue eyes stared right through Exodus.  Was this the thing that shot that black arrow at them?!  At him?!

Hiccuping in fear and instantly regretting the decision to come out to the forest, Exodus tried to clutch Cole’s arm for safety, but the sword-wielder already dashed forward.

His movements were so fast, Exodus had trouble keeping up.  Slash after slash, Cole tried to cut down the spider monster, but it ducked and dodged most of his movements.  Crawling around the speedy mammalian, it managed to launch another few black arrows (which turned out to be sharp hair fibers from its legs) at Cole, forcing him to decide between hitting it or getting hurt.

Cole wasn’t about to miss the opportunity to eliminate his foe, so he squeezed the ring on his necklace and began to radiate a bright light from his body.  The light pulsed outward a few feet and froze the spider and its projectiles in time, giving him a moment to cut down both the ammunition and the monster’s legs.  A second later, time unfroze and Exodus witnessed Cole finish off the scary beast by thrusting his blade into its head.  He didn’t even break a sweat doing all that!

The two then watched carefully as the creature disintegrated into ash and blow away in the wind.  Exodus wiped his teary eyes and ran towards Cole, ready to thank him for saving his life the way he did, but the celebration had to be withheld.  Cole pushed out his hand at Exodus, preventing him from coming any closer to his savior.

Lo and behold, behind the boys, three more blue-eyed spiders dropped down from the treetops, and fired six hair-darts at them!

-

“The girl screamed, and her friend looked up in horror as she showed him her bloodstained hand.

‘What is it?!’ he yelled back worriedly.

‘Its blood!  Blood is on this tree!’ she exclaimed fearfully.  She didn’t know whether to climb down or to keep going…  She was almost to the top after all!

‘Maybe its from something like an animal?!  Or maybe something ate red berries up there?!’ the boy desperately tried to calm her down, but she wasn’t having it.

‘I’m going to jump down!  You have to catch me!’ she cried, trying to position herself closer to her standing friend.

The boy was shocked at her decision to come down.  She was the one who came up with the tree-climbing plan after all!  Sure, the blood was horrible, but he was more concerned with getting the two of them home.  ‘Come on, please keep going!  I’m sure this will work!’

Without another word from his companion, he heard her jump from the tree, screaming on the way down, but then, just as he expected her to hit the ground…

…silence.  The girl was gone!  The boy looked frantically all over the ground to see if she fell elsewhere on the debris-ridden floor of the woods, until he felt a warm drip from above fall onto his cheek.  He reached up to touch his face, rubbing the strange sticky liquid between his fingers.  How did blood get from the top of the tree to his face, when he had moved away from the tree she climbed?

Then he heard a noise.  A squelching, crunching noise.  Another few droplets of blood rained down on his body, along with oozing transparent saliva.  An unfamiliar growl came from above him.

Slowly, the boy turned his attention to a strange figure crouched atop of a sturdy branch.  He began to tremble as he gazed upon its grotesque, pale body; it looked emaciated, with sharp claws on its hands and feet.  Its bones and ribs were visible through its thin skin.  It had a long slimy tail that wrapped arounds the tree branch, holding it in place as it loomed over the fearful child.  Its furless head was no bigger than his, yet he could only see its massive mouth, as he watched it clamp down on his friend’s lifeless body, hanging horizontally in its massive glistening jaws!

Immediately, the monster dropped the girl to the ground with a loud crack, her clothes and things soaked to the brim in dark blood and spit.  The monster above the boy then looked to him, a wide, toothy smile spreading across the entire lower half of its face.  On its body the boy cold see remnants of blue clothing and a golden badge exactly where the policewoman from before had hers.

Unfortunately, that was the last thing the boy ever saw.”

-

Cole held up his blade sideways, ready to block the darts, but for extra protection, Exodus quickly threw up both of his hands and created a bubble-shaped shield.  The red one blinked in surprise at the actions of the green one, but smiled about it regardless.  The darts faded into thin air after hitting the bubble, so Exodus popped it, and Cole shot forward at the spidery creatures.

Rather than stand back and weep, the Conger Feean concentrated some of his energy into a few tiny balls of light and returned fire to the attackers.  This helped Cole get rid of them faster, as it only took him one slice to turn them into ash rather than two.  He proudly replaced his blade in its sheath and ran his hand through his spines.

He sighed loudly, shook his head and then immediately stomped over to Exodus.  He didn’t appear to be angry, but the Conger Feean was still quite wide-eyed and clutching his chest when he approached him.

“Are you hurt?” Cole asked sternly, his green eyes firmly locked onto Exodus’ blue ones.

“Thanks to you,” Exodus exhaled, trying to remain calm.  “I am.  Are you alright?”

Cole averted his eyes and ignored the question.  “Listen to me, I’d be lying if I said I never expected something bad to happen during this trip, but… I want you to forget that you ever saw it.”

Exodus furrowed his brows and cocked his head to the side.  “Even though this is something really important that should be brought up to Veit?  What if he doesn’t know there’s monsters in the woods?!”

“That’s not what I meant,” the red mammalian face-palmed.  “I meant my actions.  It would be wise of you to never tell anyone you saw me using my abilities like I did.  They were supposed to be kept secret, and I’ll admit I was rash in using them so soon, but… I won’t leave this place until you promise me.”

The green one was taken aback by this demand.  At first, he didn’t like the idea of keeping this secret from everyone, but in true Cole-fashion, he intended on staying mysterious.  Maybe he felt more comfortable if everyone kept to themselves?  After all, not everyone could be as silly as Wrath or as expressive as Mystess.  Reluctantly, he nodded.

“Alright.  I promise I won’t tell,” he pouted.

Receiving a pat on the head from his older friend, the red one began the trek out of the forest and back on the main pathway.  Exodus walked beside him, and while he was sure he could keep this secret from everyone else, he certainly became a lot more curious about the true nature of Cole and what he could really do.

-

“Very few, lucky individuals have encountered this beast and lived to tell the tale, but more often than not, if you’re out with friends on a dark, windy night, your last scream could be heard as a mere howl of the wind…"

Across from the storyteller, the four remaining campers were all quite convinced of the story’s accuracy.  Wrath was huddled up on the floor, speaking another language to himself, while Garm clutched the edges of his bag so tightly, his hands were changing color.  Iodes and Mystess hugged each other in pure fear when the story ended, their teeth chattering up a storm.

Veit looked more than pleased with himself.  “Well, I’m glad you all seemed to enjoy my little tale!  I cannot wait to do this again to-“

“NOPE WE’RE FINE THANKS FOR ASKING!” Wrath sat up with a start, grinning sheepishly at the camp leader.  Garm screamed at Wrath’s sudden response, cupping his hands over his mouth in shocked that he did that aloud.  This snapped the other two out of their fear-induced trance and they let go of each other.

“Hooo, yeah, I didn’t expect such a good story-“ she began, but caught herself mid-compliment.  Clearing her throat, she finished, “I mean, it was okay.  You could work on your delivery a bit, but yeah, not a bad start."

Veit bowed deeply after getting up and grabbing his wagon’s handle.  “Why thank you, my dear.  Let me know if you would like to hear another story sometime, then.  I would be more than happy to oblige.”

Iodes opened her mouth to thank him as well, trying to think about something else other than the description of that story-creature, but turned to see Cole and Exodus on their way back.  “Oh, they’re back!  What great timing.  Maybe I should go with you guys next time!”

“Yeah, that story was chilling!” Wrath agreed, jumping up and zipping over to his friends.  “What did you guys do out there?”

“We explored the forest.  Not much to see out there.  Had a conversation or two,” Cole answered with a light smile.  "Were we really gone that long?  It felt like just a few minutes went by.”

“Y-Yeah,” Exodus stammered.  “So, the story was really that scary?!”

“Totally!  I mean, I’d offer to do a retelling, but I’d actually like to get to sleep sometime tonight, ya know what I mean?” Wrath chuckled and shrugged as he led the boys back over to the dying fire pit.

Before Veit began his walk back to the lodge, he stopped beside Cole for a moment.  “Thank you for going with him,” was all he said before turning towards the path and wheeling his wagon away.

The red one kept watching Veit as the others became calmer and squirmed into their sleeping bags.  It was only after Veit was completely out of sight that Cole finally decided to join them.  He took a spot away from the other five and situated himself into his cozy brown bag.  As he looked up at the night sky, which had become clear and a lot less windy since Veit finished the story, he picked the little golden ring off his chest and held it up in front of his face.  

Stretching his arm out as far as it would go so the ring looked as if it fit among the stars, he spent his night thinking to himself until he finally fell asleep.

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