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The Experiment

This story was written as an experiment between Daniel and Joey. As such the quality is very raw and not really representative of either of our writing skills. It has not been edited at all

The rules were: around 800 words before handing it over. Leave a challenge or two in the text. We can also agree verbally on a "lyrical challenge" which means the other part has to include part of a song lyric specified by the challenger in the text. Such lyrics are in bold typeface in the story. Challenges are included as notes.

 

 

Joan looked beyond the rolling hills in front of her. The sun was reflecting off her polished emerald green armour and her shiny blonde shoulder length hair. The reflection from her armour could have easily blinded anyone that might have been looking in her direction. She didn't have to worry about this because it was only her and her horse. She rode a white horse that she named Ghost. She was the quietest horse she ever rode. Her hooves barely seemed to make a sound on the ground. When Joan had finished looking admiringly at the hills in front of her, she prodded Ghost into a gallop down the hill to a very small group of very small buildings.

 

When she arrived, there was a small box of implements near the skeletons of some buildings being built. These must be the tools of the carpenter, Joan thought to herself. The small group of buildings seemed to be completely deserted. However, she could hear some voices coming from behind one of the buildings. It was something of a hushed whispering.

 

Joan dismounted and hitched her horse to a stand near the box of tools and did her best to move silently towards the sound with her helmet in hand. It was always a gamble walking around an unfamiliar place unhelmeted but she also didn't want to scare whoever might be around the corner. Her instinct told her that they were peolpe needing protection and that she herself did not need the protecting. That said, her left hand rested instinctively across her body on the handle of her sword which rested on her right hip.

 

When she turned the corner, she saw two young girls sobbing. One of them held a small ragdoll in her hand while the other one sucked her thumb and held a tattered scrap of cloth which must have resembled a security blanket.

 

Joan looked around her to make sure they were alone before walking to the other side of the building to make sure there was no one else there. The two girls seemed to ignore her as she did so. When she was sure that they were alone, she crouched down and rested her helmet on the floor. The soft metallic clang the helmet made caused one of the girls to look up at Joan with wide eyes.

 

“Child, why are you crying?” asked Joan in as soft a voice as she could.

 

“My brother has gone and I don't know where he is” she said between sobs.

 

“When did he go missing?” asked Joan.

 

“I have not seen him after I woke up this morning.”

 

Joan looked up at the sky. The sun was slightly westerly and she deduced it couldn't be after midday. The child was probably overreacting. Her brother had probably gone into town to get some supplies.

 

“And what of your mother and fatherr?” Joan asked.

 

“They both died in the war” she said without a glimmer of extra sadness in her eyes.

 

“Is this your sister?” Joan asked trying to change the subject.

 

“No” said the girl “I just found her here while I was trying to look for my brother. I don't even know her name. She won't speak to me. She just sits there sobbing while sucking her thumb. I don't know what to do.”

Joan was moved at how the girl with the doll had put aside her own worries to try and comfort her younger friend.

 

“Your brother, what is his name?” asked Joan in as gentle a voice as she could.

 

“Harold” said the girl, simply “Harold Osbourne.”

 

“I will find you your brother” said Joan as she went back to her horse to get some supplies for the two girls to tide them over. As she turned around to head back, she heard Ghost neigh loudly. Joan knew that Ghost was in trouble. Usually she was so quiet. Joan turned the corner to see someone trying to unhitch Ghost.

 

“Stop!” commanded Joan and drew her sword from its holder.

 

The figure who seemed to be covered in hair looked in her direction and then half hobbled, half ran into the nearby woods. Joan looked at Ghost, she didn't seem to have been hurt and Joan felt her relax as she patted her snout.

 

Joan noticed on the floor that the hairy figure had left speckles of blood that added up to a path into the woods. Joan figured the thief might know something about the disappearance of all the people in this small town. She put the sword back in its holder and mounted Ghost.

 

Joan put the helmet on her head but kept the visor up. She prodded Ghost into a trot into the forest. Her instinct told her that the answers would start with finiding this mysterious hairy troll-like man.

Challenge opened: Joan has to find out where the people in the town have disappeared to.

Capture the potential horse thief

 

 

Ghost obiently started to trot towards the forest. The forest closed in on Joan like a cloak. As she followed the trail of blood she noticed that Ghost slowed down. She stopped and dismounted. Uppon touching the ground her soles sank into the lush moss. That would be why Ghost had slowed down, the ground was not stable for a heavy horse.

 

Joan considered her options. The blood would not be visible for much longer on the wet moss. Perhaps she should walk with Ghost in following her, on their own they may just be light enough. With a slight pull on the reigns she started the pursuit on foot. With a shake of her head Ghost followed her.

 

The sun was shining in through the green roof of leaves and giving everything a green tint. Joan loved this time of day the sun still warm and the forest seemed inviting, almost magical. She stopped and smelled the air. The air was earthy full of the smells from a forest, the faint smell of pine needles and birches, she could smell stagnant water somewhere near by, and a smell of, of.

 

“Blood” she said out loud before she could stop herself.

 

She resumed the pursuit. Presently the trail of blood turned a large rock. She had long since sheathed her sword in the scabbard she had, knowing well that her skill would allow her to pull it out at a moment's notice. She turned the rock and assumed she would find a long trail of blood snaking its way deeper into the forest. In the shadow of the rock sat the would be thief. The rock was not just a rock Joan notice but the entrance to a cave. At the front of the cave was a well and signs of a cooking fire. A horrible thought entered Joan's mind as she saw the creature sitting there, what if the creature had eaten the villagers? It seemed to not have noticed her yet, she unsheathed her sword and pointed the sword at it.

 

“Do not move, I will kill you if you do” she said loudly.

“That would almost be an improvement” the creature gruffed, speaking clearly.

 

It turned its head up and looked at Joan with a clear challenge in its eyes. Joan could see streaks of red from the eyes running down the cheeks of its furry face.

 

“What, who are you? What are you doing here?” She asked for lack of any better questions.

“My name is Narcist. My father is the Nix of the river here, my mother was a woman from the village that he seduced.” the creature responded.

“What I do here? I live here, but the well has dried up when the villagers moved. Once I filled it with my tears of blood but it did me no good.”, it continued.

“Why did you try to steal Gho, err, my horse” Joan demanded still not quite knowing what to make of the creature.

“I was hungry, and it looked well fed, now kill me”

“I will not kill you. Not now” Joan said and sheathed her sword.

 

The spoke for a short moment about how he had lived as an outcast from the village and rejected by his father since he was no water nymph and could not shape shift. Recently life had been pretty good for him, except for the incident with the well. The kids of the village came and gave him food. He thought it was his mother that still loved him and made them do it. Then last night no one had come and the sounds of the village had died away. When he had dared to go closer the village was all but deserted.

“It is as if they had all just packed up and left. You should seek council from my father” the creature said.

 

Without any further words he hobbled into the cave and left Joan standing at the mouth of the cave. She considered her options. She could probably walk after him into the cave, but what good would that do her? She was better off finding his father. She tapped her forehead trying to remember everything he had said. His mother was a woman from the village, so she would be gone now, but his father was Nix. She did not know anything of Nix, the creature had spoken as if she should know, and she had not thought it was important.

 

With a quick turn that startled Ghost she made her mind up. She would go and find the children and ask them about Nix. The way the creature had spoken about him it sounded like he was a well known figure and they were sure to have stories to tell. She easily found her way back to the village and found that the children had not moved.

 

Challenge closed: Capture would be horse thief

Challenge still open: missing villagers.

Challenge opened: Find Nix who is http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Neck_(water_spirit) Scandinavian version. (traditionally with one foot of a goat, human head with goat horns, playing the violin _really_ well.

Joan made her way back to the village. She went to look for the two little girls but they were now gone. Joan softly scolded herself for not staying and looking after them.

“There she is. There is the knight!” yelled a small voice from behind her. It was the young girl with the doll tugging on a young man's arm. The man looked tired and his face was dirty and cut as if he had fallen down a rocky slope.

Instinctively, Joan's hand went to her sword. She let her hand rest there. She was still wearing her helmet and the visor was up.

“Halt, who are you?” said Joan with authority.

“I am Chester Winfield. My father is Lord of this town.”

Joan smirked slightly at the idea of callign this handful of buildings a town. However, she kept this to herself.

“Is this your brother?” asked Joan of the small child.

The small child nodded without looking at Joan.

“Where are the rest of the people of this village?” asked Joan.

“We were being chased by the fire flies: said Chester who still seemed to be trying to catch his breath.

Joan knew the fire flies well. They were small but deadly insects that travelled in large swarms. They were beautfiul to watch but they would explode as soon as they came close to humans. No one knows how they came into being but they were very aggressive, especially if they felt like their colony was under attack.

However, it was quite unsual that the fire flies were found in this part of the land.They were usually found in the drier parts of the land. However, Joan didn't know this area that well the lush forests around her and the bright green plains she rode through suggested that this was not typical firefly territory.

Soon, the weathered looking villagers trickled back into the village looking defeated and tired. Joan figured that she might be able to convince Nix to help her. After all, water did manage to quench fire. Perhaps she would be able to convince him to help her fight off the fire flies and save the village.

“What do you know of the one named Nix?” asked Joan of Chester.

“Nix?” asked Chester “he is just some myth that we tell to our children to make sure they don't go to the lakes alone and get attacked by brigands.”

“Nix is real” said a voice behind them.

An old man with no iris or pupils stepped forward. He was wearing a ragged old dirty white robe and carried a staff.

“I have seen him with my own senses. And his son Narcist is close too. Narcist has been sent by Nix to protect this village.”

“You silly old fool” said Chester with contempt as if this old man had repeated the same story so many times.

You believe not what you see” said the old man. The old man hobbled over to Joan seeming to almost walk passed her and touched her face.

“Why do you seek such a powerful force, my beautiful child?” asked the old man. His breath smelled really badly as if he had never once scrubbed his teeth.

“I believe he holds the key to ridding this village of the fire fly attacks” said Joan trying her best to not pull away from the stench.

“I can take you there” said the man “but my good deeds come at a price. They must be balanced by a good deed of your own.”

“What is your price?” asked Joan a little annoyed that the man would think she would expect to be accomodated as a freeloader.

“My squire is missing” said the man and Joan had to suppress a smirk at the thought that this man was ever a knight, let alone now. But her knight training had told her not to prejudge anyone and that lead her to be more humble in her approach.

“What is your squire's name? Where did you see him last?” asked Joan as gently as she could still trying to suppress the thoughts that this old knight was just a deluded old blind man.

“His name is Rufus. His family name was forgotten long ago. If you call out Rufus he will know why you have come for him” said the old man somewhat cryptically. A smile broken out across his wrinkled face as if he were satisfied that he may have confused Joan.

“When did you last see him?” asked Joan.

“I sent him into the forest to complete his knight's training” said the old man who Joan realised was nameless “He was to wait in the forest until he felt like he was ready to come out.” Joan had never heard of this kind of knights training but kept her opinion to herself. The idea of going back to the forest where she would be in close proximity to the eerie and strange Narcist did not appeal to her at all. However, she knew that a kinght had to put her own desires below the service of the greater good. It was clear that her personal discomfort was insignificant compared to the threat of the winged exploding invaders against these defenceless villagers.

 

Challenge closed: Find the missing villagers

Challenge still open: Find Nix

Challenge opened: Rid the villagers of the fire fly attacks.

Featuring the lyrics of: Nightwish - Amaranth

Joan stood still and thought about what the old man had said for a moment. Chester looked at her while she stood motionless. His gaze almost felt uncomfortable and she decided that something had to be done rather soon to move things along. She turned her steel grey eyes at Chester and looked back at him.

"So what is your answer? Can you tell me where I can find Nix? Can you offer me a better alternative than the old man here?" Joan said with a not very well hidden hardness in her voice.

"I, I, uhm, no", Chester said and turned his eyes down.


That cleared things up for Joan, with only one alternative the choice was easy. She said a quick thank you and a promise of return to the villagers in general and Chester and the old man in particular. She did not dare to leave Ghost with the villagers and again she lead the horse into the forest. As soon as she was out of sight from the village she stopped and let all the air out of her lungs. This was not what she had come up North for, but her sense of right and the compassion she felt for the villagers meant that she had help them before she could continue on with her journey. As she stood there she remembered what the old man had said, 'Call out Rufus and he will know why you have come'. She had little to loose by following the cryptic instructions.

"RUFUS!" she yelled as loud as she could.

A bit of shuffling and branches breaking to her right a young handsome man dressed in rags appeared.

"No need to yell, I'm right here", he said and stopped at a safe distance from her.

She looked him up and down. He was well built, a bit thin, but still strong. His blonde hair was dirty and had leaves and twigs stuck in it. His clothes, if that's what they could be called, was no longer identifiable pieces of garment clearly.

"Rufus? Mr, uhm, an old man sent me", Joan said, "he said you would know how to find Nix", suddenly she felt a bit silly but she should follow this through.

"So spoke the noble one. He managed to convince us all, with his sweet words. He is a gifted one. Alas, I do not know how to find Nix. But old man Gregor knows. I will convince him to speak if you take me to him." the man spoke with clear elegance.

 "Noble? Are you saying that the old man was noble?" Joan could not quite believe what she was hearing.

"He is, or rather he was. He lost his fortunes when the lands were invaded by the Goblins a decade ago. Right now he lives in his dreams, thinking of the times of old. He sends me out on tasks every so often, on some sort of crusade. I usually just leave the village and camp on the fringe of the forest. It makes him happy", Rufus continued his story.

"So all in all, it is just a poor man's crusade. Now let us get back to the village so I can find Nix"

They walked back to the village in silence. Joan couldn't think of anything to say to the young man. He spoke with elegance but he dressed like a poor man. She concluded that he was doing a good thing. Back at the village they found the old man Gregor waiting for them. He was over joyed by Rufus returning. While embracing the old man Rufus winked one eye at Joan to indicate that he was well aware of the absurdity of the situation. She saw that he whispered something quietly in the old man's ear and he nodded soberly. After they released from the embrace the old man asked Joan to follow him. She did.

The old man led them to a little tent in the outskirts of the village and went in. She could hear him looking for something in the tent by how things were moved and tossed and with the accompanying swearing. A minute later the old man Gregor appeared again holding a stick shaped like a Y. He held one of the shorter ends of the stick.

"Here this is a divining rod! Old mr Nix lives in the river just east of here. With this rod you can find him easily. Just old on here and when the rod points down you know that water is near. Now I must go and meditate on your success. I bid you farewell!" the old man turned around and went back into his little tent.

"So the river is about fifty yards in that direction. If you can find Nix or not I do not know. Legend has it that he lives in the rapids close to the water falls. Just follow the river downstream" Rufus said.

Joan thanked him and then went on her way. She could soon hear the river. She continued to lead Ghost as she did not think it would be worthwhile to mount for such a short journey. As she got closer to the river she heard someone playing the violin. She was amazed at the skill of the player. She reached the river and saw a young man sitting on one of the rocks in the middle of river playing the violin. Joan stopped for a moment admiring the player and enjoying the music. She felt compelled to step out into the water to help the boy to dry land. It was only the neighing and resistance of Ghost that snapped her out of the trance. She shook her head to clear her head and then she saw that his left leg was that of a goat and she could see small horns protrude on his head. So this was Nix. She had found him. Now she had to engage with him to make him give up some secrets about Narcist, the fireflies and his relation with the village.

Challenge closed: find Nix

Challenge still open: rid village of fireflies.

Challenge opened: Convince Nix to reveal the connection between Narcist, the fireflies and the village.

Featuring the lyrics of: Poor Mans Crusade Lyrics by Demons & Wizards

Joan didn't quite know what to say. She had seen some supernatural things in her time as a knight and at every occasion she found herself lost for words. A horse with wings, gigantic centipedes and even the exploding insects that were now threatening the village left her with a sense of awe.

“Yes” said Nix.

Joan realised she had been staring at Nix with her mouth open, admiring the majesty of this half-man, half-goat playing such hauntingly beautiful music in the middle of this river. Even though the sound of the rapids were quite loud, the sound of his beautiful music carried above it. And even though the rapids were violently smacking the rocks around him, they didn't seem to touch him. He just seemed to be standiing on the water as if it was a solid bank and playing his music unperturbed. And as he spoked to Joan, his music continued to play.

“Yes, is the answer” said Nix.

“But what is the question?” asked Joan. She was absolutely enchanted by the music of Nix. She couldn't concentrate properly, let alone remember why she had come.

“You are trying to help a bunch of strangers whom you owe nothing to. You are wondering whether this is the right path since you are being distracted from your original purpose. The answer is Yes. Three times, Yes.”

Joan at first was startled that Nix could read the thoughts that she didn't even realise were in her head. She felt invaded at first, and then confused and then, once again enchanted as the music seduced her ear drums.

“Yes, I will help you rid the village of the fireflies. See how I control the water? I can quench the fire of the fire flies. Yes. There is a cost. I want the blood of your horse.”

Joan was once again startled but now it was because she was being forced to make an impossible choice. She looked at Ghost who was peacefully scraping her hooves on the floor and nodding her head almost in a trancelike dance to the music. She was seemingly oblivious to the goings on around her.

“Why would you demand such a thing?” roared Joan with contempt, her hand drifting to the handle of her sword.

“You foolish mortal” said Nix with equal contempt “Nothing lasts forever. It is most likely that you will see your horse die. Then you will die. All the pathetic villagers you try and save will die. And then all memroy of you will die.” Nix emphasised the last word for effect. Joan felt a melting pot of emotions. The evilness behind Nix's words didn't take away from the beauty of his music which he continued to play. Nix didn't look at Joan while he played and spoke. He merely turned his focus downstream.

Nix could sense the turmoil in her heart “Pitiful mortals. Always looking for this fleeting thing called love. The lovers you need, it hurts when they bleed. And you come to me, a god and are not greatful when I don't crush you under the might of my waters or the deafening of my sirens. Pathetic.”

With tears in her eyes, Joan lead Ghost to the water. Again, her hooves were playfully scraping the ground as if she were dancing to the music. Joan came to the painful conclusion that if Ghost could talk, she would probably tell Joan that she would gladly give her life for the needs of the villagers, so noble was her spirit.

After Joan lead Ghost to the bank of the shore, the sadness in her heart contrasted by the joyous dancing of her horse, Ghost walked ahead of her and into the river. She was not touched by the raging rapids. They seemed to be an optical illusion that Ghost disappeared into. Joan thought she was seeing things. She tried testing the water with her hands but immediately pulled out as the water felt like it would pull her fingers off as her finger tips only just broke the surfance tension. The rapids were very real and Ghost was really gone.

“When you have faith in that which is larger than yourself, you become almighty. When you surrender what little things you call yourself and your own to the nature around you, you start to realise that you are the nature itself and nature bestows her power upon you! Now you have the power within you, to quench the fire of the fire flies”

And with that, Joan's palms immediately started becoming clammy and then sweating profusely. Within seconds, water was trickling from her finger tips and seeping through the plate junctions in her armour. She pulled her gauntlets off which was made difficult by the greasiness of her hands. She felt a surge coursing through her heels, her ankles, calves, thighs and through her torse and chest and then radiating our through her arms and fingers. She felt elated and somewhat scared because now there was a pulsating pressure in her head as if her brain was trying to burst out of her skull. Instinctively, she raised her palms to the heavens and jets of water shot from the palms of her hand. And with a great roar, the power of the rapids coursed through her and her armour exploded away from her. She was now naked, but no logner skin and bone, but rather a force of pure hydro energy.

Immediately, Joan felt to the floor. She was exhausted.

“And now you see that you have tapped into the power that can help you defeat the fire flies. But you have to learn to control it, or it will control you.”

Challenged closed: Convince Nix to reveal the connection between Narcist, the fireflies and the village - (misread by Joey as "Get Nix to help them" - sorry, learned to write but not read)

Challenge opened: Control the hydro power

Challenge still open: rid village of the fireflies

Featuring the lyrics of: Pet Shop Boys – Young Offender

 

Joan laid on the ground breathing hard. With every ounce of willpower she managed to quench the flow of water. Tears streamed down her face but they were invisible in the water already on her face. She dared not move as her entire being was focused on controlling the water. This was not what she had bargained for. She had set out to seek help for the villagers that happened to be on her way. Now she was cursed with water, or blessed but at the moment she thought it was more of a curse than a blessing.

 

Slowly she felt more and more in control of her new gained power. The water had ceased coming from her. Shaking she stood up. She felt very self concious of being undressed in the presence of a stranger. Powerful divine creature or not, she was just human, and naked at that. She looked down on her body.

 

She gasped at what she saw. Her entire being was blue as water, the water was visible flowing under her skin. She was no longer human at all. Carefully she touched her stomach not sure what to expect. He hand met with the warm resistance of human skin, but it was clearly not human. She turned and looked at Nix stilling sitting and playing his violin as if nothing unusual had happened here.

 

Where will you be if you don't go? You will never find the source of the fireflies, now go. Remember I am the reason you run you can thank me later.” Nix said before taking a swan dive into the rapids and not surfacing again.

 

Joan felt her new power growing, just under the surface of her control. She couldn't help but giggle. She had gained a power that had transformed her being. She looked at her armour. It lay there buckled and broken. She had loved it, it had served her well but something in her told her that she was beyond the need of armours now. She bent down and picked up her sword though. Swords were always useful. She fastened it with her old belt, the belt buckle had broken during the transformation so she resorted to tying it in a knot. She turned towards the village.

 

She took a few steps and then stopped. She was still naked. Even if she was no longer completely human she still felt and thought like one. She looked over to her armour again, hoping to find her tunic and hoses still intact after some rummaging around she found them. They were both badly torn but she deemed them better than walking into the village naked. She quickly dressed in the rags and again turned her nose towards the village.

 

She was not quite certain at how she could use her new power to rid the village of their fireflies but at the price she had paid she was sure to win over them. It was the only option. As she approached the village she suddenly stopped as realising that the simple villagers would perhaps not welcome her back. She stood there feeling so far away from the village even though she could see the houses through the trees. The long cold divides, she felt the pain divided her. She decided to walk around the village. The fireflies had come from the north east so that was where she had to go. She walked quietly around the village trying to not be seen. The sun was slowly setting in the east giving the day the last warmth and bathing the forest in a warm golden glow.

 

Joan looked down and saw her blue body shimmer like a prism when hit by a direct ray from the sun. She stopped, how would she even be able to live in a world where she refracted light? In a world where she was different from the norm? She would have to get transformation taken away from her when her task was done. She had no idea how to do that but that was a thought for tomorrow.

 

She found the nest of the fireflies by virtue of her nose. The smell of burning peat and wood directed her straight there. The fireflies swarmed out trying to defend their nest but as they landed on her body trying to burn or bite her they drowned. Joan unleashed the full power she had, she doused the nest and the fireflies came raining down as the queen died. She had broken the spokes in the wheel and now the whole wagon came crashing so to speak.

 

With an effort that brought her to her knees again she stopped the water flowing from her hands and body.

 

Challange closed: control power

Challenge closed: rid village of fireflies

Challenge opened: revert transformation

Challenge opened: confront Narcist about fireflies

Featuring lyrics from Beautiful Mine  - The Butterfly Effect

Joan dragged herself away from the fire flies' nest and towards the village. Unbenknownst to Joan, all the villagers saw was an anomalous stream of water that extended for about ten feet and then disappeared as quickly as it emerged. Joan had become a river as Nix's spell continued.

With the fireflies now gone, even more villagers trickled into the nest of previously abandoned buildings. Joan didn't have time to cehck on them. With Nix disappeared under the surface of the rapids, she had only one chance to get back her human form before the sun had finally gone down and it would be too late.

She accepted that it could well be her fate to live out the rest of her years as part of the powerful ocean with its roaring waves and supreme power. However, she had to try but one more thing. Joan had to find Narcist and see whether she could bring poor, innocent Ghost back.

The thought of her noble friend again brought tears to her eyes but she choekd them back as hard as she could knowing that with the fluid she lost it would make it so much harder to get to where she needed to go.

When she arrived in the forest where she had found Narcist before, she found a small camp fire but no one was around.

“Oooohh, what do we have here?” asked a voice.

Joan could sense it was Narcist.

“It is me. Joan” she tried to speak but it sounded like a gurgle coming out of her mouth.

“Oooh” said Narcist “a water spirit has come to visit me. Its the work of my father no doubt.”

“The village is safe and you can return” said Joan.

“Me? Return?” said Narcist and he let out a laugh “You must be the blind knight that came to me earlier in the day. And no doubt you visited my father, hmmm?”

“I can see perfectly” said Joan indignantly.

“Yes, but no doubt you needed Nix to show you the way. Defeated the fire flies and saved the village did you?”

“I did. But at great expense to myself” Joan said wistfully.

“And now you want it all undone, true? You want your old human form back do you?”

“No. Well, yes. I would love that. But most of all, I want to bargain for the life of my horse. I had to sacrifice her to save the village and I want to see if I can trade my life for hers. She never harmed anyone. You should know what a peaceful soul she was.”

“My father is a cruel old fool” said Narcist, stroking his long beard, the smile now drained from his face.

“You are truly a heroine” said Narcist “You sacrificed your friend and your humanity for the villagers. You hid them from the winged demons and saved mankind. And now, instead of enjoying your spoils and your great power, you want to trade your life for your friend. I cannot remortalise your horse, nor can I give you back your human form. But the thought of undoing my father's handywork does fill me with great joy.”

Narcist picked up a log from the camp fire, seemingly unperturbed by the heat and touched his palm to the glowing end. The sound of sizzling hissed through the trees as Narcist sang a haunting hymn that would have complimented Nix's violin beautifully. The contact between Narcist's hand and the log spilled through the forest until it was so thick that it was all that Joan could see.

This hissing soon stopped and heard a familiar whinning? of a horse. She had not heard it in years, not since Ghost was young. But sure enough, she could see her as the smoke was starting to dissipate. Joan felt herself coughing and she looked down and she had returned to human form. With great joy, Joan threw her arms around her old friend's neck and buried the side of her face against her.

“I believe you have somewhere to be” said a voice that sounded like Narcist's but much deeper “but make sure you dress the part”

With a loud clang pieces of metal rained down on the ground next to her. She and Ghost were a bit startled but neither were harmed. Once the smoke cleared she realised that it was her armour. The armour floated up around her and fastened around her body, legs and arms. The helmet remained on a large log that Narcist had been sitting on. As she walked towards it, it ascended a few feet and hovered over her before sliding snugly over her head.

“Farewell, noble knight” said the voice “now begone, who knows how many more villagers like this are awaiting your arrival.”

Speechless, Joan lead Ghost out of the forest. As soon as she was able, Joan mounted Ghost and was on her way to her destination. Despite the several challenges that she knew lay ahead, a smile crept over her helmet clad face because she realised that Ghost had been raised from the dead and a village had been saved but resting was the last thing on her mind as she hurtled towards her next adventure.

THE END

Challange closed: rid village of fireflies, revert transformation

Challenge still open: confront Narcist about the fireflies

Featuring lyrics from Helloween  - Keeper of the seven keys