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Excerpt for Heart of Fire Season One Episode One by , available in its entirety at Smashwords

Guardian Hearts

Heart of Fire Episode One

Written by TheCrimsonDM

Heart of Fire

By TheCrimsonDM

Copyright 2018 Coriantumr Pace

Smashwords Edition



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Table of Contents

Chapter One: Panic in the Library

Chapter Two: Map and Monster

Chapter Three: Workshop Sleepover

Chapter Four: Crazy Nights

Chapter Five: Hi-Ho-Morning

Chapter Six: Statuesque Nightmare

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Chapter One: Picnic in the Library

If there was one thing about growing up that Rita hated it was the fact that she went from doing monotonous research on random crap in school, to doing monotonous random research for work. Living in Castle Night Thorn might have been a good plus, though she knew she couldn't stay here being Lamont's assistant forever. For now doing research for him and helping out with his missions gave her a place to live, free food, and money to spend on building whatever crazy invention she wanted.

Rita sat cross legged on an old wooden chair in the dim light of a library. In her hands was an open copy of ‘Dark Myths of Silver Glow’. It was not a particularity well written book about several myths which could prove useful to her current research. The wall of books surrounding her table all included similar kinds of books on old folk lore, reports of strange magic, and dark fairy tales taken straight from the Evergreen and Everfrost themselves.

The shoddy lighting in the lamp above her flickered every now and again, and it’s white light cast the books into strange shadows that seemed less trustworthy now than before she'd begun reading. The creaking of the old wood and the sound of shutters flapping about outside of the windows created the kind of atmosphere which made reading these dark stories just that much more difficult. Rita wouldn’t admit it to anyone else, but she was feeling the teeniest, tiniest bit absolutely terrified of being alone in here.

Every page she turned only seem to have darker tales awaiting her. The dark gifts granted by the Wish Coins. The evil genocides committed by Silver's Ghost legion. Finally she thought she might have been onto something with the demonic shadows that stole children in the middle of the night taking them to lands where they could never return.

It wasn't until she chanced upon a passage detailing the Lady of Nightmares and Rita’s heart skipped a beat. She’d been at this search for nearly four hours looking for something along these lines. The image of a shadowy lady with more than perfect curves stood as an artist’s depiction of what this creature could look like.

The Lady of Nightmares, a creature from our darkest dreams and mistress to the forces of balefire themselves has only left scarce rumors about her. Many people scattered about the kingdom of Silver Glow have mentioned having nightmares of this beautiful creature, and thinking they were in for a treat following her into the darkness of any forest, cave, or ruin that would appear alongside her. Of course these dreams all turn to horror as the Lady would reach out and instead of the pleasing touch most expected, they’d feel dreadful chills running down their body, so cold are her fingers that it's like having ice icicles digging through flesh and scraping against bone. All of these dreams end with the dreamer being engulfed by green flames. In each case reported thus far, these individuals would awake with a terrible fever and chills still running down their spine. A terrible cold generally follows suit afterwards leaving the only conclusion to being that this creature of shadow, the Lady of Nightmares, had caused their illness.

Out of the corner of Rita’s eye she spotted something move in the shadows. With almost instinctual response she drew her revolver and took aim at the shadows. There was a quiet and familiar squeak. Rita growled as she lowered the gun and put it back into the holster at her hip.

Rita went back to her book as she said, “Damn it, Lulu, you know you can’t sneak up on me like that.”

There was silence for a moment before a young woman, standing at only four foot ten inches, about the same miserable height that Rita founder herself at, came out of the shadows. This was Lucille Wonder Cross, one of Rita’s closest friends and a proud member of the starling race of humans, indicated by the lavender colored star on Wonder’s forehead. Wonder had a fairly unique brand of starling hair comprised of not one of the usual prismatic colors but two colors, sky-blue and silver stripes lined her curly hair. At one point Rita had actually been jealous as she herself had very mundane terran brown hair from her father, and her father wasn't even a terran.

Wonder walked up to the table, her eyes narrowed onto the stack of books. “It’s not my fault that you stuck yourself in Lamont's library doing research again.”

Rita rolled her eyes. “And what would you rather be doing?”

Wonder laughed. “Anything more appropriate of a young lady. Trying on cute outfits, playing music and singing, or painting to name a few. Not boring research. I did not graduate Kilik's school to continue wasting my time with such things.”

“Yeah... I'm going to have to pass on all of that. Look if you're going to help me do research on the shadowy monsters, fine, but if you're just going to distract me then leave.”

Wonder folded her arms over her chest and stuck her nose up into the air. “Oh? Is that how it is? I come here to check up on you and you do nothing but scold me?”

Rita lowered her head into the book. “No, that’s not what I meant.”

“Then I guess my delightfully petite figure will just have to be ruined as I'll have to eat all these sandwiches by myself.”

Rita finally took a good look at Wonder and noticed the picnic basket that was under her arms. A sly grin spread over Rita's face. “You're not supposed to bring food in here, buuuut if you give me some of them I won’t tell anyone.”

A matching grin spread across Wonder’s face. “Blackmailing me now are you? Whatever am I to do? I guess I’ll have to share this food which was prepared with plenty of love and care with a demon such as yourself.”

“Fear the mighty demon Rita, for she hungers!”

Wonder pulled out one of the sandwiches, it was a delightful owlraptor and cheese sandwich with mayo. One of Rita’s personal favorites. Rita put her book down and the two of them took a seat on the cold stone floor as the table was too cluttered to enjoy a meal there. Wonder pulled out her wand and waved it about. The stone floor began to change into bright green grass and a red and white checkered picnic blanket formed beneath them.

“Nice,” Rita said touching the newly formed grass but still only feeling the cold stone beneath. “Your illusions are getting really good.”

“Really good? Getting? Surely you jest, I, The Impossible Wonder, am clearly the best illusionist there ever was and have been that way since I was born.” Despite her words, Wonder was still beaming at the complement.

Rita took a bite of food and said around a mouth full of sandwich, “So what brings you here?”

Wonder glared at her for a moment. “Please don’t talk with your mouth full.”

Rita swallowed and grinned. “Oh come on, don’t be such a girly girl.”

“I will be whatever I want. But if you must know, I came here because Lapis told me you’d been doing research for six hours straight and that she was forbidden from contacting you.”

Rita blinked. “Oh… yeah.”

“What happened this time?” Wonder asked.

Rita grumbled at the thought of how annoyed she still was over this morning’s incident. “Lapis found her way to my panty drawer… again.”

Wonder shook her head but a sad smile formed over her lips. “She has trouble... tempering her interests in you.”

Rita folded her arms over her chest. “That's true, but she’s still our friend so I'm choosing to forgive her.”

“You're not even disturbed at this point are you?”

“Not really. Just annoyed.”

Wonder giggled. “You should steal her panties in revenge.”

“Are you kidding me? I don’t want this to escalate anymore than it already has.”

Something slimy and wet rubbed against the side of Rita’s face. Instinct kicked in and she rolled over grabbed for her gun at the same time. Next to where she had just vacated was a single tentacle sticking out of the ground. “Damn it, Wonder!”

Wonder stared at the tentacle with wide eyes. “It wasn’t me.”

A high pitched voice shrilled with laughter from up above them. Rita looked up to see another young woman with blue hair swaying as she hung upside down from the rafters. She wore a set of teal colored robes with green and blue trim lining them.

Rita growled, thought about pulling the trigger anyway, but forced herself to holster the gun once more. The books were too valuable to risk here. “Lapis!”

Lapis smiled innocently. “What? Don’t you like my tentacle? It can do all… sorts of things.”

Rita stood up. “Gish damn it. I just wanted to do some research.”

Lapis lowered herself to the ground with a tentacle arm. Once she touched the cold stone her arm changed back into a normal human’s arm. “Actually I came because I wanted to apologize.”

Rita gave her a level look. “Really?”

“Yes.”

Rita shook her head. “Okay, I forgive you.”

“Great!” Lapis beamed. “Now I’m allowed to sneak into your room again!”

“No!” Rita snapped, she saw the contemplative look in Lapis’s eyes and merely shrugged. “Fine, just don’t steal anything, or watch me shower, or watch me sleep, or touch me.”

“But what if I need a hug?” Lapis pouted.

Rita softened her voice. “If you really need a hug, and it’s for good reasons then… ugh I’ll find someone else to hug you.”

Lapis squeed. “YES! Hugs from the sexy, succulent, and sensual Rita!”

A facepalm wasn’t nearly enough of a physical response to Lapis’s typical response, but it was all Rita really had at the moment. “Fine, whatever, I don’t care. I love you both, but right now I am trying to do research.”

Wonder butted in, she seemed to have finished her sandwich while Rita dealt with the intruder. “Why exactly are you doing research into shadow creatures anyway?”

“That’s,” Rita began before deflating a little, “A really good question.”

Wonder raised an eyebrow. “Wait, you don’t know?”

Rita scratched at the back of her head. “Hehe, uh… well I was asked to do so from Lamont, but he didn’t exactly tell me why.”

Wonder began wiping her fingers clean on a napkin. “You are more than just his dog, you should be allowed to know more about the work you do for him.”

A pang of anger flared through Rita’s heart, but she kept it contained. “I am not his dog, I actually didn’t ask why I was researching it because I forgot too.”

The large wooden double doors swung open and slammed against the wall. This time Rita didn't bother to point a gun at the intrusion, clearly it was just another night of being bothered by everyone in this castle. A man in his mid to late twenties burst through wearing robes of blue and black. Around his neck was a red fox pelt much like one would wear a scarf. He ran up to the trio and stopped just short of colliding into Rita, he was clearly out of breath. “I,” he gasped and wheezed through his sentence, “forgot, to tell, you, something.”

Rita shook her head slowly. “And see that, it was actually his fault not mine.”

Lamont had his hands on his knees and looked about to keel over. “There’s a reason, I’m doing the research.”

Rita continued shaking her head. “And why is that?”

From the doorway a bulgy humanoid shaped shadow appeared. Lamont looked back at it and said, “That’s why.”

She was quick on the draw and Rita had her revolver out before anyone could do or say much of anything. The fire charge roared to life as she pulled the trigger and a bolt of flame spat out of the gun speeding toward the shadowy creature. The flame hit the creature, blasting a fist sized hole through it and then splashed against the stone wall behind it.

Lamont reached out and pushed the gun toward the stone floor. “What are you doing?”

“Killing it!” Rita complained.

“With fire! Inside the library!”

Rita felt suddenly very stupid and very lucky that most of the tower was indeed constructed from stone. The shadowy creature on the other hand regenerated the shadows where there had been a hole in its chest. The thing started a limping charge toward them.

Lamont looked back at the thing. “Also, killing it doesn’t seem to work. What did you learn so far?”

Rita swallowed. “Nothing useful.”

Lapis jumped in front of them, her arms transforming into tentacles before their very eyes. Lapis swung her octopod arms at the creature, slashing through the shadows but only managing to make the thing slow down as it again regenerated from the blows. Rita’s mind galloped and raced for any idea on how to defeat a creature of pure shadow. It was a creature of darkness existing in the light. How could they stop it?

Rita looked back toward the little picnic area. It was as if a light bulb turned on in her mind and she quickly met Wonder’s wide eyes. “Lulu, shoot light at the thing!”

Wonder raised her wand with a shaky hand. A ball of light formed at the tip of her wand and then shot out toward the beast. It hit the beast in the chest, and as soon as it made contact the ball of light exploded into a bright flash, bright enough to force Rita close her eyes and look away.

For a moment all Rita could see was white, but slowly Rita’s vision came back. The creature had completely vanished leaving no trace behind. Rita looked back to Wonder and saw her sitting on the cold stone floor, the picnic area was completely gone but she was there, safe and sound. Everyone else looked to be okay as well.

With the shadow gone Rita helped drag Lamont over to the chair she had been sitting in and sat him down. She looked at the others and then back to him. With her hands on her hips Rita was about to ask some serious questions, the most important of which of course was, “What's going on?”



Chapter Two: Map and Monster

A chill wind blew through the castle that night and brought with it the feeling of dread that Rita had become very much accustomed to on dark nights such as these. Even with her two closest friends in tow, following Lamont through the old stone walls after encountering the shadowy beast left her on edge. Each step through the castle only raised the tension. Outside the windows far down the mountainside Rita could catch glimpses of the city of white, Starsera, lit up with its beautiful lights, and its white stone buildings standing out against the darkness of the night sky.

“So,” Rita said as she tried to focus on what was important here. “When are you going to explain to us what’s going on?”

All Rita could really see was the back of Lamont’s robes and the back of his messy black hair as he spoke. “In just a moment. It'll be easier to show you.”

Rita was about to complain against him treating her like a child when they both knew perfectly well that she’d understand anything he could explain, but when she looked at her two friends the question of whether or not they’d be able understand came into question. As much as Rita loved them, neither one truly comprehended magical theory. Go figure the terran in the room was the only other one to have a good understanding of magic, and not the two magic slinging starlings.

Lamont led them into the map room which was a large round chamber with no windows and illuminated by a large crystal casting bright blue light down into the room. The map itself was a three dimensional representation of Silver Glow created with a messy series of illusion runes that Rita had had to repair a good number of times now. A series of chairs stood around the map and both Wonder and Lapis took seats immediately. Rita however took a close look at the map. She saw the city of Starsera sitting on its mountain side, the long winding road south of the city went down the mountain complete with the many little farms, outposts, and even a few gas stations that stood along the way. Just north of the mountain and the city was a little valley full of a rainbow of flowers and a small village that Rita knew all too well. In between the two of them stood a forest covering the mountain, and a black spot that seemed unlike anything else on the map proper.

Lamont spoke up almost catching Rita off guard. “So you see it too. That black spot represents an anomaly I found in the Lost Forest. I found some old ruins long forgotten by time itself. I thought these ruins were safe at first until I was attacked by these shadowy beings. I was with a good friend of mine at the time and he was hit by some kind of sharp blade which came flying out of nowhere. He collapsed fairly quickly, yet I managed to escape with him. Unfortunately it would seem that one of them had managed to follow me all the way back up here, and I’m glad that my message had reached you so soon as I lack the ability to weave light magic and so continuing the fight with only fire would have been annoying.”

“Did you know how to defeat it before?” Rita asked.

“I had my suspicions but couldn’t test my theory.”

Rita leaned in closer to the table to examine the area where the black dot was. Through the woods a small temple of sorts stood. “So what’s in there?”

Lamont rubbed at his chin where some black scruff was busy growing. “I suspect that was originally a part of an old castle or a town though with most of the surrounding ruins being gone it’s difficult to tell. Of course if it is, there’s no telling what kinds of old treasures, lore, and surprises could be in there.”

Wonder kicked her feet up onto the table and leaned back in her chair. “I can already tell you one thing that’s in there; monsters.”

Lapis leaned forward resting her elbows on the table while cradling her chin in her hands. “Hmm, that doesn’t look too far away.”

Lamont nodded. “Your right about that, in fact it would only take a couple hours at most to get down there and back on foot. Most of the trip would be on the return up the mountain.”

Something about this ordeal left a sour taste in Rita’s mouth. Monsters weren’t uncommon to deal with, even in the big city of Starsera, but something about the old temple and the strange creature itself left Rita feeling like there was a whole lot more going on. She wanted more information before jumping down the shadowy rabbit hole and into this mystery, or at least a new weapon.

Rita stood up. “Where’s your sick companion at?”

Lamont stepped away from the map. “He’s in the infirmary downstairs. Saturn is taking a look at him.”

“S-Saturn, as in Princess Saturn?” Rita asked. Just hearing the princess’s name brought with it a burning flame in her chest which spread to her cheeks, as well as a delightful beat to her heart. “Is she doing okay? I mean how is she? Like, is everything okay with her?”

Lamont laughed. “You just asked the same question three times. She is just fine.”

Before Rita even knew it she was halfway to the door. Lapis’s voice was the only thing to keep Rita from breaking out into a full on sprint. “Where are you going?”

Rita looked back at her. “To check out Saturn, I meant check on Saturn.”

Lapis's eyes narrowed in a predatory fashion. “Sure you did.”

Rita had already turned around and was out the door so she hardly even noticed. As she practically raced down the stairs all Rita could think of was how excited she was to finally see Saturn again. It had been a good couple months since she’d seen the woman as Saturn was out destroying some evil magical crystals on the queen's orders. She could already imagine her heroine clad in her pure white full plate armor, and sparkling long sword, the long pink and white swirled hair flowing behind her as she knocked enemies away with her teardrop shield with the image of the sun emblazoned onto it.

Let’s not say that being caught in a day dream was the best way to traverse the halls of a castle, as pointed out by the fact that Rita ran right past the turn to the stairs only realizing that she’d past them after a few seconds. After making quick adjustments and heading back towards the stairs, Rita made haste as she stormed down them. She even jumped the last few steps of the stairs and continued running at full pace. She hit the infirmary door and slid to a stop inside.

On the bed lay a man with nothing covering his chest so that his chest was exposed. There was a deep gash stitched back closed across his chest with black veins spreading out over it. The man was breathing rapidly and his face was in a grimace of pain despite his sleep. A neat pile of armor lay near the bedside which Rita imagined belonged to him. His wings were folded against his back.

A cold shiver ran down Rita’s spine as she approached with slow cautious steps. There was a bowl of water stained lightly red with a rag inside it. Clearly he was in the process of having his wounds cleaned. If Rita had known more about medical science, she’d like to help out unfortunately although she knew next to Lamont she was the smartest person in the castle, she mostly focused her research into the aether sciences.

A rough but feminine voice sounded from behind Rita. “I didn’t realize you were here.”

Looking back showed Rita a tired looking version of Saturn wearing a loosely fitted white dress. The woman towered over Rita at just over six feet tall with a white star on her forehead, and a pair of pink and white wings folded against her back. The black rings around her eyes and the hard look of determination told Rita that Saturn was in no mood for games and likely very focused on her task, whatever that was at the moment.

“Uh… yeah, I am,” Rita said as she stepped to the side to allow Saturn to pass by.

Saturn took a seat in the wooden chair next to the bed. “Are you still working for Lamont?”

Rita nodded a little too quickly. “Yes.”

“Are you working for him right now?”

“Yeppers, and I’m looking into this shadow monster fiasco.”

Saturn looked back at her with a serious expression. “This isn’t the first case of the Shadow Sickness.”

Rita swallowed. “O-oh?”

Saturn studied her for a moment before saying, “I know you're smart, and that you do hard-work. Your family history aside, I will trust in your ability to solve this issue.”

It was like being punched in the gut by both a complement and an insult at the same time. Rita took a step back and shook herself. Saturn was right, the crises was much more important than her crush right now. “What can you tell me about the sickness?”

Saturn focused on the unconscious soldier. “I can’t heal him. The sickness will kill him in a few weeks if he’s lucky.”

“If he’s lucky?”

Saturn shook her head. “Either he dies and stays down, or turns into a dark corrupted being. There’s a reason I asked Lamont to help out, and suggested he ask you for your assistance as well.”

“You contacted him for support?”

“Yes. As the right hand of Queen Solaria I’m tasked with taking care of the kingdom, and when things this severe happen so close to the heart of our kingdom it becomes a very big concern.”

It took a moment but Rita caught the second part of what Saturn had said. “Wait, you asked him to contact me specifically?”

“As much as I might disagree with your… behavior, I do acknowledge your skill and intelligence.”

That comment stung, but it had been well earned and Rita was quite proud of her explosive past... for the most part. “Thank you for that, I guess.”

Saturn reached into the box on the floor and pulled out some bandages. “It’s a compliment.”

“Again, thanks I guess.”

Saturn began to bandage up the wounds. “Even my healing magic won’t affect this wound. It’s almost like it nullifies magic itself.”

“How did he get this exactly?”

“Ask Lamont for confirmation, but I suspect that the wound was caused by a dagger.”

Rita started pacing. “So it's possible the shadow creatures came from the temple ruins, attacked this man and likely others, each attack leaving this sickness behind… is it contagious?”

Saturn shook her head. “No, only whatever causes these wounds can cause the infection.”

“So it’s less of a disease and more of a poison or toxin.”

Saturn shrugged. “We’re calling it Shadow Sickness as there’s been no indication of venom being involved, at least any we can recognize.”

“Then treating it becomes an impossibility without knowing at least the exact reason of infection.”

Saturn nodded. “Now you see the gravity of this infection.”

“The creatures can be killed by light magic, have you tried using light magic to burn the infection out?”

Saturn nodded. “Yes, I have.”

Rita didn’t like this one bit. She’d dealt with some dark forces before, but dealing with some sort of highly toxic monster was on a whole new level. The worst part being that she was going to have to contend with some more of them soon enough. Even with Lamont on her side, dealing with more of these creatures would be a problem without the proper weapon.

If only Rita could learn more about these creatures before going into their lair. That was unlikely but she could however do her best to defend both herself and her team from them. A few ideas of weapons she could use already came to her mind.

“What are you thinking?” Saturn asked.

Rita looked toward the doorway leading back into the main hall. “Give me a few hours and I’ll let you know.”

Rita said a quick goodbye and walked out at a brisk pace into the hall. Lamont was at the staircase coming down it already. She looked up at him and explained, “I’m going to need a few hours in the workshop.”

Lamont nodded. “Of course you will, you know that’s what I always admired about you.”

Rita cocked her head to the side. “Oh yeah, what’s that?”

“Your ingenuity. You find a way to defeat any obstacle that appears before you, no matter the challenge you will use your mind and creativity to come out on top.”

Rita laughed. “Yeah, well if that was really true then I’d never lose anyone.”

Lamont offered a sad smile. “Sometimes loss is an important part of our lives. You can learn a lot from it.”

“Yeah… about how I could have been better.” Rita shook her head. “But I'll just have to set my aims higher, and never lose again.”

Lamont folded his arms over his chest. “You know that you can’t always win.”

Rita stuck her tongue out at him. “Screw that, I’m never going to lose again.”

Before Lamont could react Rita was already marching toward the front gate. “If anyone asks, tell them I’m making something.”

“Rita, we decided to leave in the morning, you might want to get some rest before then.”

Rita laughed. “Sleep is for the weak."



Chapter Three: Workshop Sleepover

The cold night air nipped at the parts of skin that were open to the elements. Luckily Rita was still wearing her trench coat which blocked out the cold night air. Castle Night Thorn was located on top of a mountain just north of, and higher than the capital city of Starsera, granting anyone on the walls or in the towers a great view of the city below. The lighting in the courtyard was fairly low with light posts far and few in between, most of the light came from the few windows on the castle.

In the bailey there were few buildings and the cobblestone road was falling apart. Rita believed that there was maybe three or four staff total to this little keep. In all honesty there were no real guards as the threat of being invaded was very low thanks to the location and the owner. The location was well within safe territory from real invaders, and the owner, Lamont Frost Fire was almost never here. Most of the time Castle Night Thorn felt much more like it belonged to Rita and her friends than anything else.

Sure Rita had her own apartment in the city, but the castle was filled with an impressive library, a great workshop, and best of all, almost no people. Her close friends bothering her was something she could deal with so long as it allowed her to avoid the hustle and bustle of the city proper as much as she could.


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