There was a time when a large troll raged in the lands of Mentis Schaffe. It tore villages out of the earth and caused even the most powerful grand city -Ratio- to crumble. Eventually, thirteen of the twenty-seven grand cities worked together to defeat it. The war was devastating: -scars mark the earth even today and even then, they hadn’t managed to defeat the troll.
The war saw hopeful events such as an arm torn off by cannon fire, a leg chopped off by Dragons tamed by powerful mages and finally the day they shot a stake as large as a castles tower through its skull. However, the limbs grew back and duplicated, the head healed around the stake, the roars… only grew louder.
After years of loss the troll had many extra limbs, losing track of which was arm, leg or both. Its head was a mess of stakes of varying materials, some being actual castle towers and others being the equivalent size of castle towers. At some point it seemed it had grown tired, as if the extra limbs had begun to drain too much energy: -it began to rest more often, it began to rest for years and eventually it stopped waking for decades.
With the advancement of technology and the increasing amount of knowledge on topics like magic, the thirteen kingdoms decided to seal it away for good while it was still in deep slumber. They began by sealing the body in a large fissure -created by the giant during one of the wars many battles- and then to strengthen the seal they built a special bridge over it, connecting two of the grand kingdoms. Eventually they made bridges connecting all thirteen kingdoms involved in the war, thus creating the City of Bridges: -a crossroads between them that served to remember the bond they forged, and the lives lost to the troll.
The bridges were created with tubes of a blue liquid substance that was a living being of sorts, it hosted many fairies that consumed the energies of those passing through and used them to further strengthen the seal. The city’s main buildings were made at the edges of the fissure and towered high above the clouds along with the thirteen main bridges. There were many smaller bridges connecting towers to buildings and stairs that connected the main bridges to each other.
The city flourished as many crossed it for safe passage between the grand cities and for a chance to view the history of the slumbering beast at a museum in the lower areas.
A young man, 20 years of age, -now visits this city in search of an old friend whom he had first met four years ago.
They had met near the fields of Fen’s village as he was practicing his archery, an arrow had flown into the forest by accident and urged on by a guilty conscience, he checked to make sure he hadn’t hit a traveller with it.
To his surprise he had found a boy the same age as him asleep on the ground. However, his arrow had landed only a few feet away and had not harmed the body.
The boy had no memory of who he was and was eventually given a name by Fen: that name was Steff and from then on, the two grew close. Two years later, however, Steff had set out on a journey of self-discovery and hadn’t been seen since.
Fen set out a year later to learn more about archery, magic and how the two could be fused to create a valuable power useful in combat and perfect for his travels.
Within a year of his studies and near the final exam for first years, he had received a letter from home which had shocked him, Steff had visited home and sent him a letter inviting him to meet at the city of bridges.
After passing his exam the week after he set out to the city.
He was now finally here after days of traveling through plains and a few more days on one of the main bridges.
There were thousands of people walking to and from other places, the noise of the other cities he had visited was nothing in comparison.
One could easily get lost here and then could just as easily find their way again.
The main bridges were massive, and all connected to each other, once you found your way onto one of them you were no longer lost.
Fen was on the fifth highest of those seven remarkable bridges. He began to admire the architecture when he heard a familiar song.
It was a song he had heard long ago, only it had been added upon and fine-tuned. The voice was deeper but there was no mistaking it: it was Steff.
He had somehow had the incredible luck of finding his friend as soon as he arrived, but, where was he?
He looked around the crowd but there were so many people that he soon gave up and called out.
“Steff! Is that you!?”
A reply came soon after, sounding close yet far, “Fen? Is that you up there?”
Fen thought to himself for a moment, “Up? What does he mean up? Wait. Could he be?”
He soon realised what that meant, he ran over to the side of the bridge and looked below.
There, smiling up at him from one the large suspended pools of one the fifth bridge’s many hotels was his best friend who he hadn’t seen in years.
As he was waving down at him a few kids running after each other bumped into him causing Fen to fall over the edge and into the pool below.
For a moment Steff began to panic.
“Fen! Are you ok?!”
“I’m fine haha, nothing like a dip in the morning.”
With this reply all worry had blown away with the wind and Steff was back to his cool, collected demeanour.
“Well I hope nothing in your satchel was ruined by the water.”
“Oh, it’s alright, it’s just my bow and some arrows along with my money pouch, so it’s fine for a swim.”
Steff chuckled as the satchel floated by and began to unbutton Fen’s shirt.
“Most who go for a morning dip remember to remove their shirts and boots first.”
Before Fen could think of a witty reply a loud bang in the distance interrupted their reunion.
It was a firework display rehearsal, only there were no fireworks.
It wasn’t a firework display but something similar, a flight show.
A show where tamed birds performed dances and wonderful shapes in the night sky with dust pouches slowly leaking out a very bright fluorescent powder that shone nearly as bright as fireworks themselves.
Fen had seen them before when he was a child during a trip to the third grand city Tanzen.
The birds were a breed of sparrow called the Plump Familiar, they were ten times the size of normal sparrows and are also the easiest avian species to befriend as they were familiar hence the name Plump Familiar.
The Plump Familiar are deaf, so in order to tell them what actions they are supposed to take during the flight show they are trained to understand the different pitches of the air pistols that are fired during the shows.
It sounded like fireworks but looked far more beautiful and diverse, especially when they turn off the city lights so that the light pollution does not interfere with the magnificent sight.
They both stared in awe at the dance of the Plump Familiars.
Steff looked back towards Fen, he stared admiringly at his hazel eyes and dark brown hair.
He then noticed his hands were still on Fen’s waist and nervously removed them, looking away from him in order to hide a fierce blush.
“Hey, is everything ok?” Fen who had been admiring the rehearsal had only now noticed Steff’s strange behaviour.
“I-I’m fine! Speaking of, -we should get out and get your clothes dried. There’s some pretty cool things to look at in this town!” Steff’s words were rushed, they failed to hide his embarrassment, but Fen just laughed it off and they got out of the pool.
He had laughed it off, but not because he hadn’t noticed, because he had noticed and had wanted it to go on longer, but he could never admit this to Steff.
Both harboured feelings that the other only had a vague inkling of, but neither really knew whether or not it was wishful thinking or something they’d truly hoped for.
After checking into the hotel Fen had stubbornly paid for half of the room that Steff originally planned to pay himself, it was a normal two-bedroom suite with a view of the pools they had just been in and the city view beyond those pools.
Fen had put his clothes in the drier and sat awkwardly on the bed wearing a towel with Steff still in his swimming trunks.
“So how was your archery exam?”
“Oh, it went well, I passed.”
“Awesome. You gonna use your bow on your travels?”
Steff had tried striking up a conversation to ease the awkward atmosphere between them and soon after picking up on this Fen began to joke around sarcastically.
“No, I think I’ll just use the arrows and ditch the bow somewhere.”
“Really? I thought you were dumb but not that dumb…”
“Hey, watch it or I’ll throw you into the pool.”
Fen jabbed Steff jokingly causing them to begin a small fight of sorts with their elbows.
They had fought like this many times before and by habit Steff had pinned him down onto the bed. Usually this would end with Steff laughing in victory, but this time was different. Something had changed in the years where they hadn’t seen each other, their bodies and minds had grown.
This became quite evident to Steff as the towel became slightly undone, revealing a little bit of the area below Fen’s snail trail.
“You’ve changed a bit.”
He said in a quiet voice as his hand traced over unfamiliar scars on Fen’s chest, likely received during his archery course.
The tone had become more serious as they breathed more deeply now.
Fen stared at him, from admiring his matt black hair to gazing at his yellow eyes as they examined his scars, he began to wonder if the thick tuft of hair on his chest hid any unfamiliar scars that he hadn’t noticed.
He began to feel exposed as Steff began tracing the scar that ran down the side, it was more sensitive down there and as he was about to let out a low moan-
BEEP BEEP BEEP BEEP
The sound of the drier had brought them back to their senses.
“Oh, they’re done. These machines are quite fast.”
Steff let out a nervous laugh.
“Haha, -yeah they are.”
He immediately sat up as Fen got up and made his way to the bathroom to change back into his warm clothes.
Steff took this opportunity to change out of his swim trunks and into his casual outfit, a simple buttoned shirt tucked into his black trousers.
He then laid flat on the bed waiting and stared into the ceiling lost in thought, “What was that, why do I feel like this suddenly? What’s changed?”
His thoughts were interrupted by Fen’s voice.
“So where to now?”
The streets below were noisy with the talk in the crowds parading around cheerfully.
The whole city was preparing for the festival of the slumbering giant, a celebration of the peace brought forth by the Troll’s rest beneath its glistening bridges.
The higher up bridges of the city were far less populated and the top one had near to no one walking about: most people were either heading home or helping prepare for the night’s celebrations.
On the highest bridge Steff was leading Fen somewhere above all the noise, the awkwardness of the hotel room earlier had completely faded, and they talked about various things.
“Hey, were you singing back there at the pool?” Fen inquired.
“Y-yeah, I was. It’s that song I started writing when I lived with you back at the village.”
“Wow you’ve finished it then?”
“Um… well no, not yet, but it’s close. Soon it’ll be finished.”
“That’s great! You’ll let me hear it when it’s done won’t you?”
Steff’s cheeks began to flare up in a bright red glow and he quickly changed the subject, “So, your bow! How’s that going?”
“It’s going well, I think I was meant to use one rather than a sword, it helps that I already have a head start with magic too.”
“Have you found your contractor yet?”
Fen shook his head.
“No. I haven’t found out anything about it at all, since I only just passed my first year of archery, we haven’t used any spells in training yet so there’s been no need to register our contractors yet. Until that happens there’s no way of bringing it up, I’m sure they’ll aid me in searching once I start the second year.”
A contractor was an angelic or demonic being that signs a contract with a person to grant them powers dubbed as magic. Depending on the being some elements of magic would be stronger, weaker or unusable by the person at all. Usually it is an angelic being that people contact as they are easier to deal with and they don’t always try to add sinister conditions or manipulate their contractee. However, there are still cases of people contracting with demonic beings because of a belief that they hold more power. At the various academies for weapon mastery it is required that students on their second year (or first year for mages) should register their contractors, or search for one if they do not already have one.
Fen had been able to use magic for some time now, though he can’t remember how or when he gained this power.
It had happened one day as he and Steff were being attacked by a bear in the woods by the village, it was about to strike them with its claws when Fen suddenly forged a wooden short bow out of some fallen tree branches.
The arrows it shot caught fire as they were drawn, but the fire didn’t burn the bow or Fen’s hand. It struck the bears raised claw and stuck into the centre with an audible sizzle, it roared in pain and fled towards the river.
The bear wasn’t seen again after that and ever since Steff and Fen had looked for the contractor but never found them.
Fen had been too embarrassed to admit it, but he had forgotten about the search during his first year studying archery at the academy. He had been having so much fun that it had slipped his mind, except some nights when he would think of how Steff was doing, and the thought would creep into his mind for the night before fading away in the morning.
“Why don’t you have a contractor Steff?”
Fen asked suddenly.
“Well, I don’t feel like I need one, I’ve always been fine on my own with a sword and I don’t really like the idea of being tied down for power.
And besides, back in the old days people got by fine before they figured out how to use magic.”
Fen smiled think about how that was such a ‘Steff thing to say’ as they walked on.
His eyes were fixated with the tubes of blue light that ran along the bridge’s walls, they shined and sparkled wonderfully in the sunlight.
Steff had noticed this and began to speak again.
“You know, those tubes are said to have fairies living in them, that’s what gives the liquid inside such a beautiful blue glow. They also say that the small sparks of light you see in those tubes are the fairies looking out towards the people on the bridges.”
“Wow really? That sounds amazing!”
They arrived at the centre of the seventh bridge, the highest main bridge and the only one to connect three bridges together in a sort of three-way crossroads.
At the sides of this crossroads were three sets of spiral staircases that lead up towards the top of a dome roof that stood over the expansive area.
Steff began making his way up the nearest staircase.
“Hey where are we going?” Fen asked as he followed him up the winding stairs.
“I want to show you the amazing view of the city from this lookout, it’s the highest point around here.”
Steff led the way up and at the top was a breath-taking view of the whole city just as he had told him.
The sun was beginning to set and brought a beautiful twilight that changed the city’s colour pallet at once.
The lookout was large and vacant, not a single person was around.
The railings were adorned with a lovely design that looped and weaved around the shining blue tubes found all about the city.
If they could see the tiled floor from above, they would see that same design there too, only instead of a deep blue it was a pale yellow and orange.
Fen ran up to the centre of the lookout and marvelled at the city while it became painted in various golds, yellows, oranges and reds.
Two arms embraced him from behind, it was Steff.
Fen began to laugh.
“H-hey cut it out, are you trying to fight me twice in one da-?”
“…Stop. I can’t stop…”
At first Fen had thought this was another of his usual jokes but the tone in his voice was far too serious to be a joke.
He sounded scared and his arms tightened around Fen’s waist.
“I can’t stop thinking about you, I found myself missing you a lot when you weren’t at the village when I visited and… when I saw you today, I felt so strange, I wanted to be next to you straight away and when I was, I found that I still wanted you closer. Back in the hotel room I was so fixated on your body that I almost lost myself, I-I’m sure that I wanted to strip you of your towel and if that drier hadn’t gone off, I feel I would’ve…”
Fen’s face was blushing, he couldn’t hide the shock of hearing this, Steff had pressed his face against the nape of his neck, and he was sure that he felt tears streaming down onto him.
Steff began to lose his voice in little sobs as he continued.
“Even now I can only think of you, when you weren’t there in the village, I was scared at first, I thought something had happened to you… When I heard you were at an academy, I thought about how you’d be surrounded by friends other than me and I got so jealous! I-I don’t know why I feel like this… but I’m happy holding you here.”
Fen turned to face Steff (whose arms remained on his waist) and began to tear up himself.
“Steff… I think I know what you’re feeling because I feel it too, I was so scared, I thought you didn’t feel the same, when you left the village, I felt so sad. Steff… I love you.”
Steff’s eyes widened and he fully embraced Fen who embraced him too.
Once their embrace lightened and their eyes met, they slowly closed the distance and kissed passionately.
The act sent adrenaline rushing all throughout them both and they were erect almost instantly.
Their bulges were noticed by one another straight away and the feeling was almost like a dream the feel was… strange?
Suddenly Fen became weak and limp, he was unable to see the world clearly anymore as his vision blurred and he blacked out.
Steff held him, kneeling on the ground shocked.
The tubes of blue light around the city turned a fiery crimson and burst all at once.
The red liquid danced around the two of them on the lookout and took on a humanoid form, this was their true shape.
The fairies he had talked about moments before were laughing and dancing around them as Fen laid unconscious on his lap.
Suddenly surges of pain shot through Steff’s head and he… remembered.
Remembered who he was, why he was here, why the man he loved was unconscious and… half dead.
Beneath the city smaller bridges broke and crumbled with the towers around them, the earth was caving in due to a sudden large earth quake.
Usually the fairies would protect the city from this, but they were no longer anywhere to be found.
They were meant to protect the city from this should it ever happen, but today was the day the city fell, today they were on a permanent brake.
A roar rose up from the depths of the crater the city was built upon, the screams of terror rose soon after from people falling into the abyss below as the first four grand bridges fell.
Thousands on the bridge plummeted to their end and became what survivors later described as a lake of blood and mashed bones with entrails.
The giant Troll of legend had awoken and had destroyed the first four bridges (and countless smaller ones) by simply standing up, it then climbed onto the debris of the fallen bridges and began to topple over the large towers on the eastern edge of the crater.
Any who may have survived the fall were then crushed to death under the feet of the towering creature, it used the buildings as steps up towards the lookout where Steff and Fen had just poured their hearts out moments ago.
Fen began to regain consciousness and sit up slowly; the screams of horror began to ring louder and louder in his ears as the world came back into view.
There was fire everywhere, the beautiful shades of twilight had become tainted with crimson flames of destruction.
His vision slowly began to blur as the lookout shook violently, the towering giant was here and looking right at him.
It was no traditional Troll; it had an absurd number of limbs wrapped around it and its head was littered with holes spewing a thick yellowish-green puss.
It had one large eye surrounded by smaller ones growing all around it incoherently.
Its mouth was missing the lower jaw and the tongue swung around naked, covered in open wounds from scraping against all the debris down below.
It was a terrifying sight, but Fen couldn’t see it, it was a large blur, his eyes would not focus.
He looked down below the bloody titan to what remained of the lookout and saw Steff surrounded by corpses of men and women with striking crimson hair that matched their clothing and… wings?
He thought to himself suddenly, “Were these the fairies that guarded this sacred city?”
He could see them clearly as they were closer than the large blur that only grew and became more menacing as it got closer.
He could also see Steff clearly, which made him feel relieved that he was safe, but that relief soon became concern. He could see the blood on Steff’s shirt and hands, the blood that seemed to also be on the corpses of the fairies.
One of the giant’s hands slammed down onto the lookout, causing the floor to crack all over.
Fen took out his bow and tried to fire an arrow while keeping his balance, which was already taking up nearly all his concentration.
The bow was cracked in many places and fell apart as he drew the arrow which didn’t light a single spark.
He was speechless and fell back to his knees, all his magic had left him as well as his strength.
His sight was also partially gone but he could still see Steff, he tried shouting his name, yet nothing emerged from his mouth.
Steff began to change in front of his very eyes, some debris had flown by and tore his shirt open, but the wound healed instantly.
As if the blood had bled inside, his skin began to turn a light shade of red and horns emerged from the sides of his forehead.
Finally, a tail sprouted out from the base of his spine and tore a small hole through his trousers, it resembled a lion’s tail only it was red rather than yellow.
Steff placed one hand on the Trolls own hand and muttered something Fen couldn’t quite hear
In an instant it wailed in what sounded like pain and fear as cracks and fissures infested its body.
Blood poured profusely from these like waterfalls, for a moment it looked like a fountain before shattering to large meaty pieces and becoming part of the blood lake below.
Steff turned to an astonished Fen and began to speak.
“Fen… I’m your contractor. I didn’t remember back then but when I came to this world, I needed a contract to survive. Remember, I asked you ‘will you help me?’ When you found me, and you said yes, not ever realising what I was. I had lost so much of my life force that I lost my memories as a side effect.”
Fen used the little strength that remained to speak with Steff.
“Why now? Why did you… suddenly remember? Why did all this… happen?!”
“Our contract dictates that if we are to fall in love and commit a physical act of love with each other then your soul will be consumed by me, whether I want it or not. That kiss just now gave me part of your soul and woke up my old memories… It also awakened my powers which in turn caused the giants return…”
“You… did this? You killed them… the fairies… Why are they dead?”
Shock was apparent on Fen’s face and his lips trembled with what seemed to be something he never wanted to feel towards Steff… hatred.
“I… lost my temper with them and I couldn’t control it, my powers, they surged and caused me to kill them. But I swear I never wanted this! I-I wasn’t lying when I said how I felt to you! I’m… I’m so-”
Tears were streaming down both their faces, Fen in frustration could only say one thing at this moment.
“GO AWAY! JUST GO!”
Steff wanted to reply but was unable to, his heart was in immense pain and it was breaking.
He left silently except for one thing he whispered; the whisper found its way to Fen’s ear despite the screams of the city.
“I love you.”
Fen gasped and got up, he swayed a bit and then tried to make his way to the stairs quickly.
“No… no. No, no, no! What am I saying! Steff! Wai-!”
But it was too late.
There was no one there, Steff had already disappeared from his life once again.
In the aftermath of the disaster all the survivors of the event had been those on the western edge of the crater who ran as soon as it started.
Those who stayed and watched burned alive in the crimson flames.
The thirteen kingdoms connected by the bridges deemed the demon sighted at the tragedy to be the cause of the Trolls awakening and its death.
The kingdoms were surprised to find that after several days, the chunks of the Troll in the blood lake hadn’t reformed, it was really dead.
They had assumed the demon had devoured its soul and thus decided that was its goal all along.
Fen returned to his village with the help of some travellers who aided the survivors and rested before setting out once again. He was headed to the academy to train for his new journey to search for his friend, his love… and to apologise for not listening when it counted most.
Far away on a distant mountain Steff sings to himself, he closes the book he is reading the lyrics from and talks to himself, speaking words meant for someone he holds dear.
“Hey. I finally finished that song.”
I was all alone, no one around.
Then you found me, on the ground.
And I wondered why your smile.
Made it all worthwhile.
You gave me a home.
Where I could roam.
No longer on my own.
But then I left one day.
I could hear you say.
‘Don’t go, please stay.’
I searched for a sign of what I forgot.
But over time I missed you a lot.
I went back for you.
I had something to say.
But my plans fell through.
You had gone away.
I wrote a letter of how I feel.
I burned it up, this can’t be real.
I’m so unsure, so unaware.
Jealous you’re having fun without me there.
I wrote another letter, I want to meet.
I almost didn’t send it, heart skipped a beat.
When you get here, I won’t know what to say.
Except, I love you.
It’s been days since I said it.
But now you’re gone again.
I don’t know if I regret it.
I want to see you, but when?
I did something terrible and you got hurt.
Now I miss those days when we’d joke and flirt.
I’m so sorry, I didn’t mean to do it.
But now it’s too late, it’s all gone to shit.
I want you so badly.
I still love you madly.
But you should be free.
You’ll never forgive me.
You might hate me but this is true.
I still love and miss you.