Ozrune’s Farm

Joseph tapped a knuckle against the charred ground and raised an eyebrow. The slayer had seen the blackened land in the distance as he drove his cart along the road. It was only after driving his horse-drawn carriage across its surface that he began to suspect anything out of the ordinary. The land felt like volcanic rock, but he hadn’t heard anything about volcanoes in this part of the world.

The wolf leaped from the driver’s seat and began sniffing his nose along the ground.

“You smell anything, Silver?” Joseph asked.

Silver looked up at Joseph. “Just brimstone.”

Joseph frowned. “I was afraid of this. We’re gonna have a hard time finding this one in this environment.”

“What was this demon’s name again?”

“Saneth, I think. Ernie at the Slayer’s Guild told me that this was a flying demon.”

Silver’s gaze shifted to the horizon. “Oh, that’s just lovely.”

Joseph turned his attention toward the sky, but he saw nothing but gray clouds in every direction. The two of them got back into the cart and drove off.

As the cart rattled against the hard earth, there came a yawn from the back. Ruth poked her head through the curtains. Her orange hair still looked lovely to Joseph, despite the dull lighting.

As she glanced around, her eyelids were still half closed. “Why is the ground all black?”

“It’s as much a mystery to me as it is to you, Ruth,” Joseph said. “Go back to sleep. I’ll wake you when we arrive.”

“Okay.” Ruth kissed Joseph on the cheek and slipped back into the cart.

A smile formed on Joseph’s face, and he slapped the reigns to make the cart increase its speed. The world around them was a wasteland, but the sight of it didn’t dampen Joseph’s mood. The people who still lived in these lands were working hard every day to restore to its original luster, and he was coming there to do his part in this.

They passed by a dead tree that still stood fully upright. Its leaves had fallen a long time ago and been swept away by the breeze. There were other lifeless trees similar to it around them and in the distance.

A few miles down the road they saw a farm. A trail of smoke blew form its chimney into the air. But as they drew nearer, Joseph narrowed his eyes.

He couldn’t see anyone working around the farm, nor any livestock. With the ground made of volcanic rock, he understood why there were no wheat fields, but it would make for a decent dairy farm, provided with a steady supply of corn from the traders.

When they stopped near the log cabin, the windows seemed pitch black, like someone had rubbed charcoal across them. Joseph called out a greeting, but no one answered him. He sat in the cart for a moment and waited, before turning to Silver. His hand rested on the sword at his side.

“Keep an eye out, while I take a look inside,” Joseph said. “Make sure nothing happens to Ruth.”

Silver sat up. “Will do!”

Joseph stepped out of the cart and ran up to the cabin’s front door. It was unlocked, so he entered, calling out another greeting. Again, there was no reply.

The interior walls were all bare, and the living room had a pile of burnt wood lying in the center. They didn’t have any of the usual wear and tear that everyday use brings to home furniture.

A doorway led to a small kitchen, and what Joseph saw there made him pause. The walls were covered in scorch marks. Either someone had a terrible kitchen accident, or they had been the victim of a demon attack.

“Saneth,” Joseph muttered. He left the kitchen to search the rest of the house, hoping to find survivors. The bedroom had been ransacked, with clothes scattered across the floor. The bathroom was in better shape, but Joseph didn’t find anyone hiding there either.

He was about to check outside when he spotted a door near the entrance. It led downstairs to the basement. Joseph snapped his fingers and descended the wooden stairs.

When he saw the mess on the basement floor, Joseph’s stomach soured. He stepped around the fallen tools and broken boxes as he searched for any sign of life. Something moved beside him, and he turned to face it.

In the dim light of the basement, he saw the outline of an imp. It came up to the waist of a full grown man. A long thin tail curled up beside its head.

Suddenly, light bloomed as a fireball appeared in the palm of its hand. The fire shot towards Joseph. He ducked down, and the fireball passed over his head. It landed in a toolbox behind him and fizzled out. He turned back to the imp and drew his sword.

“Where is it?” the imp demanded.

“Where’s what?”

“The staff of Sabhar! Where is it?”

“How should I know? I just arrived here from another country.”

“You lie!” The imp threw another fireball at Joseph.

He swung his sword against it. The ball of flame deflected off it and whooshed past him. The heat was strong against his arm as it rushed past.

Joseph advanced toward the imp. His fingers tightened around the hilt of his sword. The short demon readied another fireball.

The imp threw its ball of flames, and Joseph swung his sword. Steel collided with flame. The slayer pushed back against the fireball. His arms strained under the momentum.

The blade of his sword began to cut through the fireball. It sliced the ball of flames in half. Both parts spun out around him, landing in the debris.

The room began to glow as the fires spread around them, and the air filled with smoke, making it harder for Joseph to breathe. The intense heat made his skin sweat. His eyes narrowed at the small demon before him.

He thrust at the imp. The small demon stepped aside. Joseph’s blade struck the basement floor.

The imp threw another fireball. Joseph held his sword up to block. When the flames struck the blade, the metal became hot. The slayer’s fingers burned, and he pulled back. The fireball shot above his head. He blew on his hand and clenched his teeth together to dull the pain.

Joseph slashed at the demon. The imp sidestepped his attack again, but the blade sliced through its tail. It screamed so loud that Joseph had to cover his ears. His eyes widened when the imp tackled him.

Joseph was surprised by the weight of the small demon. He tried to throw the imp onto the floor, but couldn’t get the leverage on him. The imp brought his hands together over his head. A fireball formed between them, larger than the others.

The slayer took his sword in both hands. He held it firmly above his head as the demon brought the giant ball of fire down on him. The blade began to cut through the fire, but the imp kept it held together. Soon the blade would slip through it, and the demon would be free to burn Joseph’s face.

Sweat soaked Joseph’s clothes and poured down his neck. His arms tired as the ball of flame inched closer to his head. All he could see around him were flames and rising smoke.

He heard a bark come from the staircase behind him. Silver dove at the imp sitting on him. The wolf sunk his teeth into the imp’s arm, and they tumbled into a stack of boxes near the back of the room. The imp’s giant fireball landed beside it, the flames licking the wooden crates.

Joseph rushed into the fight with his sword ready to strike. The imp struggled to pull his arm away from Silver, but the wolf held on tight. The slayer pounded his blade into the demon’s two tiny horns, splitting its head down the middle.

Silver let go of the demon, and it fell back into the pile of broken boxes. The fireball chewed at the debris around it. Joseph turned to Silver and motioned for them to leave.

They ran through the smoke and flames to the basement stairs. Joseph pinched his nose as he ran up the stairs. When he reached the top, he rushed out of the house with Silver right behind him. They stopped at the cart, and Joseph leaned against it to catch his breath.

“How did you know I was in trouble?” Joseph asked in between breaths.

“I started to suspect something was wrong when smoke floated through the open door,” Silver said.

Joseph sat down against the cart and patted the wolf on the head. “Thanks, Silver.”

“Don’t mention it. It was no trouble at all.”

“The imp mentioned a staff he was searching for—the Staff of Sabhar. Any idea what it might be?”

“I’ve never heard of it.” Silver glanced back at the house. “But if it’s still inside the cabin, it’s lost now.”

Later that day, the fire consumed the whole house, flames laping the walls and stretching toward the sky. Joseph stared up at the burning building as he sat on the road beside Silver. His clothes were covered with sweat and soot from the fire, as was Silver’s fur.

Behind him, he heard a shifting in the cart and the door opening as Ruth stepped outside. She stared awestruck at the burning building several feet before her. When she turned to Joseph, she gasped, hands held to her face.

“Oh, Joseph! Are you hurt? What happened?” She bent down to inspect his body for wounds.

“I’m all right, Ruth. I just got a little hot down there in the basement.”

She turned to the wolf. “And you, Silver?”

“Yes, ma’am.” Silver lifted his head. “There was a fiendish imp in the house, but Joseph and I took care of it good.”

“Are you sure it’s dead?” She turned toward the house.

Joseph sighed. “I guess we can take a look in the morning, after the fire goes out.”

After making camp, the three of them ate dinner and went to sleep for the night. Joseph lay on a cot insde the wagon, while Ruth sat beside the bed, keeping watch on the road. Outside, the burning cabin still roared.

Joseph’s mind ran through several questions he had, keeping him from falling asleep. The imp couldn’t have carried out the attack on the farm alone. The creature mentioned something called a ‘Staff of Sabhar’, but no one had informed him of any such object.

Without any way to find answers, Joseph eventually fell asleep. Morning came in the blink of an eye—one moment his eyes were closed, and in the next light was filling the wagon.

He sat up. Ruth slept against the wagon wall. Silver’s tail could be seen poking through the window as he sat in the driver’s seat. Outside, the fires had mostly died down, though the cabin was a charred, broken ruin. Joseph took a roll and a piece of meat as a quick breakfast, before leaving to inspect the wreckage.

The roof had fallen into the house during the night. Sections of the outer wall had collapsed with it, though the four corners still stood. Smoke rose from the burnt logs, and ash covered the debris lying on the floor.

He found the door to the basement, but piles of debris filled the stairway. The slayer waved an arm at the wagon, and a moment later, Silver ran toward him.

“Something the matter, Joseph?” Silver asked.

Joseph pointed to the open door. “Do you think you can squeeze through that opening and search the basement for the imp’s body?”

“Sure, I’ll see what I can find.” Silver ran through the house and down the basement stairs. Joseph heard the sound of crumbling wood from the stairwell. Awhile later, Silver reappeared in the doorway, covered in ashes.

“Find anything?”

Silver shook his head. “There was a large pile of ashes at the back of the room, but that could’ve just been the boxes it fell in. I didn’t find any remains.”

“Which means it could still be out there. I better start driving, before it causes us any more trouble.”

They ran back to the road and leaped into the driver’s seat of the cart. Joseph was about to wake the horse when he saw a figure approaching them from far down the road. His eyes widened when he noticed the two large wings hanging behind the figure.

Joseph got out of the cart and drew his sword. Silver landed beside him on the road, growling. Behind them, Ruth stirred in the cart.

“Huh? What’s happening?”

“Stay out of sight,” Joseph said. “Saneth is here.”

The cart shifted as Ruth moved away from the window. Joseph advanced toward the demon, while Silver followed him close behind.

“Tell me where the Staff of Sabhar is, human,” said Saneth, his voice dripping venom, “or I will ensure that your death is long and painful.”

“I’m gonna tell you the same thing I told that imp working for you. I’m from another country, and I’ve never heard of this staff you speak of.”

“So be it.” Saneth pushed off from the ground and flew towards them, his fingertips lit ablaze with fire. Joseph held up his sword to block.

Fire met his blade as the demon rushed at him. Its wings flapped, pushing it against Joseph’s blade. The slayer held his sword firm against the attack. Beside him, Silver bit the demon on the ankle. Saneth screeched.

The wolf dragged Saneth away from Joseph. The weight against his blade faded. He pulled his sword back and swung it at the demon’s neck.

Saneth grabbed the blade with its hand. The flames along its fingers intensified. Joseph’s sword grew hotter the longer the creature held it. Finally, he could hold on no longer and had to let go.

He blew on his palms and slapped his pants to dull the pain. Before him, the demon threw Joseph’s sword into the ruins of the cabin, kicking up a cloud of ashes. Joseph’s eyes darted around.

Silver dug his teeth deeper into the demon’s foot. Saneth grunted and kicked him with his other, but the wolf didn’t let go.

Joseph ran at the demon and rammed his shoulder into its lower jaw. He shoved Saneth to the ground and punched him again and again with his fists. Thoughout the attack, Saneth kept his teeth held shut.

Saneth made fire appear in both hands and brought the flames to Joseph. The fire burned his back. Joseph cried out in pain and struck Saneth again. Silver ran off.

The flames ate away at the skin on Joseph’s back. Despite the pain, he continued to beat the demon’s face. But no matter how many blows he landed, Saneth didn’t seem even phased by the attack. Finally, he couldn’t take the pain anymore and rolled away.

He lay on the side of the road. His clothes were burnt, and his skin still ached, but the fire had gone out. The demon stepped into his vision, standing over him. It made a ball of flames and raised its hand to throw it at him.

Silver ran up to Joseph and dropped his sword on the ground beside him. The wolf spat out wet ashes, his tongue lolling from his mouth. Breathing heavy, Joseph took his sword with a grin.

The demon tossed the fireball. The slayer swung his sword. The ball of flames bounced off to land beside Saneth. Joseph stood and held his sword between them.

His back hurt from the fire, and his legs started to weaken. He glanced up as the demon formed another fireball in its hand, juggling it back and forth with a sinister grin.

Joseph held the sword at his side and rushed at the demon. Saneth threw the ball of flames. The slayer ducked under it. He thrust the tip of his blade into the demon’s chest.

Saneth gaped as blood flew from its mouth. It held its hand to form another fireball, but stopped, its eyes wide. The demon jumped back and took to the sky, blood leaking from its wound.

The world around Joseph became blurry as he watched the sky. His head started to spin. He turned to walk toward the cart, but he saw something that made him pause.

Before him stood a wizard wearing blue robes that swept across the ground. The old man had a long gray beard that went down to his waist. A trail of liquid ran swirled his hand.

“You must be the demon slayer we hired. I’ve been expecting you.”

The wizard introduced himself as Ozrune and cast a spell to make the burns heal faster, though a full recovery would still take a few days. When they returned to the cart, Ruth bandaged the burns on Joseph’s back. As Joseph lay on the cot, Ozrune drove the cart to his own farm a couple miles away.

Silver sat beside him in the driver’s seat to keep a look out. Ruth sat on her knees beside Joseph’s cot and stared at him with with a still face. As the cart crawled down the road, Joseph kept an eye out through a nearby window, searching the sky for any sign of Saneth or his minions.

Clouds still blanketed the air, giving cover to any creatures flying high above. Anything could drop down there them and attack at any moment. Joseph was determined to spot it before the demon landed.

They arrived at Ozrune’s farm about an hour later. When the cart finally stopped, Joseph rose to his feet, groaning. Ruth took his left arm and held it close, staring up at him with eyebrows raised. Joseph grabbed her wrist with his free hand and pulled it away, then patted her on the shoulder.

Outside the cart, Joseph stared awestruck at the sight before him. Green grass spread out around the farm. A few trees sprung up tall by the farmhouse, each one with big ripe apples of different shades of red.

His eyes traveled to the spot on the yard where the grass ended and the hard ground began. He walked over to it and bent down to inspect closer. There was a thin patch of yellow grass bordering the green blades.

The sound of footsteps came to him from behind. When he stood and turned, Ozrune was there. The wizard had a smile on his face behind his long gray beard.

“The field in this part of the land looks wonderful!” Joseph said. “How did you manage to grow grass here, when the rest of this country is in ruins?”

“Come inside the house, and I will tell you,” Ozrune said.

Joseph followed the wizard into the house, and they entered into the kitchen. Dirty dishes were piled high in the sink and on the table. The floor was covered in a thin layer of dry soil, with a few cloth napkins scattered about.

“Pardon the mess.” Ozrune closed the curtains over the sink, casting the room into darkness. He took a candle out of a drawer, placed it on the table, and lit it.

“What’s with the lights?” Joseph asked.

“I’d rather our conversation be kept private.”

Joseph found a stool and sat down. “I’ve never known a field of grass was so secretive.”

“The grass itself isn’t special. It’s the dirt under it that’s different. You do know the reason why nothing grows in the land beyond this farm, right?”

“No, I’m not. The whole time I’ve been here, I’ve been wondering what happened.”

The wizard cleared his throat. “Many years ago, a small army of demons invaded this land and took over. It took our country’s best fighting men and mages to defeat them, and in the process the land was destroyed. Now we can’t get anything to grow, and our survival depends on traders from other countries.

“The most intelligent magic users gathered together and created a magical device which can restore part of the land. We called it the Staff of Sabhar.”

“Yes, Saneth and his imp both mentioned the Sabhar.”

Ozrune nodded. “Saneth has made it quite clear that he intends to destroy the staff in the swamp of Sabhar. That’s why we placed it in hiding.”

“Why not simply use it to restore the whole land as soon as possible? Then it won’t matter if the staff is destroyed, for it will already have served its purpose.”

“No, Saneth can sense when and where the staff is used. We used the staff to heal the land around this farm, and only an hour later, Saneth attacked this farm. It killed the farmer and all his farmhands, leaving only me behind. I was lucky that another had taken the staff away, or the demon would’ve destroyed it, and killed me too.”

“Yes, I suppose it’s best if the staff isn’t used again until after Saneth is defeated.”

“Not exactly. You will find and use it once to alert Saneth of its presence. Then when the demon arrives, you will kill it.”

“Sounds good to me. So where’s the Staff of Sabhar hidden?”

“I’ll take you there. It’s not too far away from this farm.”

They stood and went to the door. When Joseph opened it, Ruth was there, and her eyebrows shot up at the sight before her.

“We’re going on a short trip, Ruth,” Joseph said. “We’ll be back a little later today. Just stay in the farmhouse until then.”

“Oh, okay.” Ruth’s eyes fell to the floor.

“There’s a set of sharp knives on the kitchen counter in case one of Saneth’s underlings comes around to attack you,” Ozrune said.

Ruth looked back up at him, holding a hand to her open mouth.

“Oh, don’t worry. So long as you didn’t overhear our previous conversation, they won’t have any interest in attacking you.” Ozrune turned to her. “You did just arrive at the door, right?”

“Yes, I didn’t hear a word you guys said.”

The wizard smiled. “Excellent. You should be safe here then.” He pushed past her and walked toward the cart.

Ruth’s gaze followed him, until Joseph turned her to face himself and gave her a quick kiss.

“Like I said, we’ll be back soon.”

“All right, I’ll wait here until then.”

Joseph smiled at her and left to follow Ozrune. When he glanced back, Ruth was still standing in the doorway, staring at him. A moment later, he sat in the cart beside the wizard.

Without a word, Ozrune drove off down the road. Silver stuck his nose through the opening behind them, sniffed a few times, and dropped back down into the carriage. Joseph stared out into the wasteland.

Sometime later, the cart stopped in the middle of nowhere, and Joseph began to worry that the magic users had buried the staff underground. Ozrune stepped out of the cart and walked to a tree several yards away from the road. Joseph and Silver followed.

When they came near, Ozrune held up a finger, smiling. He bent down and pushed against one of several mushrooms growing out of the tree. The mushroom collapsed in on itself, and a large piece of the tree bark fell away, revealing a hollow log. Inside the tree, lay a large wooden staff with a green scepter.

Ozrune took the staff and held it high above his head. The green stone in the staff began to glow brightly. He brought it down against the ground, which shook upon impact. A wave shot outward from where the staff struck the soil, turning it from a charcoal black to a soft, earthy brown.

Joseph bent down and scooped a small handful of dirt into his hand. He let the fresh soil slip through his fingers, before standing back up and dusting his palm off on his pants. Silver dug a hole in the dirt beside him.

“Get ready, Joseph,” Ozrune said.

At the words, Silver froze and stared up at him. Joseph drew his sword and shot his gaze toward the sky. Seconds later, he saw a figure fall from the clouds.

The demon landed some distance away, just at the edge of the staff’s magical reach. It flew toward them and stopped a few feet away. The wound in Saneth’s abdomen was stitched closed with uneven threading.

Joseph held his sword before him as the demon approached Ozrune. The wizard back up and stepped behind the tree, his face growing still. Silver bent low and growled.

Saneth reached for the Staff of Sabhar. The slayer slashed at its wrist. The demon pulled back just before the blade would have severed its hand.

Saneth turned to face Joseph. Its blood-red eyes seemed to pierce through him. The slayer recoiled from the demon, his grip tightening on his sword. Saneth stepped towards him.

Silver leaped at the demon and shoved it to the ground. With Saneth’s hypnotic stare broken, Joseph felt the sharp pain in his chest disappear. He aimed his sword at Saneth.

He brought the blade down toward its head. The demon rolled out of the way. Joseph’s sword pounded the dirt. Saneth threw Silver off and stood. The demon scratched Joseph across the chest. The slayer fell onto his back, his sword still sticking out of the ground.

Saneth turned to face the wizard. Ozrune ducked behind the hollow tree, then ran as the demon followed. Saneth lifted off the ground and flew after him, slashing at Silver as the wolf tried to intervene.

Silver spun to the side and lay on his back. As Joseph ran to him, he noticed a long red scratch along his side, but he was still breathing. As Joseph stared down at his friend, the wizard screamed some distance away. He looked up to see Ozrune lying face down on the ground, while the demon flew away. In its claws, it held the Staff of Sabhar.

Joseph ran to the wizard and helped him sit upright. “Are you all right, Ozrune?”

“I’ll live,” Ozrune said. “But this land is doomed if you don’t defeat Saneth and get that staff back.”

The slayer looked up to see Saneth disappear in the clouds.

The wizard told Joseph the location of Sabhar Swamp, the place where the staff was first created. Disposing of the staff in the swamp was the only way Saneth could destroy it, for if he burned it or snapped it in half, its power would destroy him in the process.

So Joseph set off for the Swamp of Sabhar, with Silver following close behind. The slayer’s body still ached from the scratch across his chest and the burns on his back. Silver looked downcast as he trotted along, but kept pace with Joseph.

They passed by the ruins of a large house on their walk, appearing as though half the building had been eaten by a large fireball. The other half had a second story floor that was beginning to cave in, with a broken dresser lying on its side underneath it on a pile of debris.

Joseph glanced away and continued onward. Sometime later, they came across a man wearing ragged clothing. He was picking mushrooms off a dead tree. When Joseph approached him to ask if he needed any help, the ragged man screamed and fled.

Further down the road, they saw another man who kept his distance. He disappeared out of sight the moment Joseph looked away. The slayer scanned the surrounding area, but didn’t see any sign of him.

When they arrived at Sabhar Swamp, the demon stood by the murky water. Saneth stared at the staff, which stuck upright in the bubbling, murky water. It seemed that the swamp would take some time to consume the staff.

Saneth turned at the sound of Joseph’s approach. The slayer drew his sword and held it before his face. Silver stood next to him, his tail raised.

The two of them advanced toward the demon. Saneth conjured a fireball in its hand, holding it for a moment before hurling it at Joseph.

The slayer brushed the fireball aside with his sword, running at the demon with his sword held at his side.

Joseph swung his sword, and Saneth lit its fingers ablaze as it blocked the slash. The metal began to grow hot again. The slayer pulled the blade through Saneth’s grasp, away from the fire.

Silver leaped at the demon. It stepped aside, but the wolf tore through Saneth’s right wing. The demon screeched.

Saneth kicked Silver in the rib cage. The wolf tumbled away, stopping at the edge of the swamp. Joseph stepped toward his friend. The demon held a fireball to his chest that made him stop. It shoved the fire into Joseph’s right arm. The slayer dropped his sword and screamed.

Silver got back on his paws and rushed to Joseph. His eyes darted between Joseph’s burn and the demon’s claw before sinking his teeth into Saneth’s forearm.

The demon made a fireball with his other and brought it toward Silver’s head. Joseph gasped and grabbed the arm with both hands, keeping it away from Silver.

Slowly, Joseph aimed the fiery hand back at the demon, then shoved it in its face. The smell of brimstone. became so intense that Joseph’s senses were overwhelmed, but still he held on to the demon’s arm.

Soon, the fire in Saneth’s hand died down. The demon ripped its arm away from Joseph’s grasp. It’s face was ashen and covered with boils, but its expression showed no pain.

It kicked Silver in the side a couple times, but the wolf held on tight. Joseph scowled at the demon and picked up his sword and sliced through Saneth’s arm.

The demon screamed. The ground shook, and a wave rippled through the swamp. Joseph held his ears, grunting.

When the noise ceased, Saneth rushed at Joseph with another fireball, aimed right for his chest. Joseph held his sword before him. His blade blocked the flames from touching his body. He held the hilt tight in his hands. The metal started to grow hot again. Sweat began to accumulate on his palms and forehead.

Silver growled and leaped at the demon. The wolf ripped away the thread, reopening Saneth’s old wound. Blood poured out of the old wound. The fire against Joseph’s sword extinguished.

The slayer slashed under the demon’s head. Its eyes shifted to Joseph as blood leaked from its throat. Saneth slashed a claw at the slayer. The wolf bit into the demon’s wrist. It struggled to pull free, but Silver held on tight.

Joseph stabbed his sword through the wound in Saneth’s chest. Blood flew from the demon’s mouth as it coughed. Saneth fell back onto the ground and lay still.

The slayer relaxed his stance, then turned his attention to the Staff of Sabhar. He waded through the swamp and pulled it free of the murky water. On the way back, he held it high above his head. Once he was free of the swamp, he sat down with the staff laid his lap.

Silver stepped toward him. “How long was the staff in there? Do you think it still works?”

“Only one way to find out.” Joseph held the staff up and struck it against the ground before him.

A wave shot out, restoring the soil to a healthy state as it passed. It didn’t reach as far as when Ozrune had used the staff, but it clearly still worked. “Looks like I’m not as powerful with magic as the wizard is, huh Silver.”

The two rested by the swamp, until Ozrune arrived and took the staff. Then the three journeyed back to Ozrune’s farm. By the time they arrived, the sky was beginning to grow dark.

The aches and pains in Joseph’s body grew more intense as the sun sank below the horizon. But they vanished from his mind as he saw Ruth staring through the window of Ozrune’s farmhouse. She disappeared at the sight of him, then burst through the front door and ran towards him.

“Oh, Joseph, your arm is burnt!” she said.

“It’ll be fine,” Joseph said, but he couldn’t suppress his pained grunt at Ruth’s touch.

Ruth gasped and looked up at his face. “Let’s get you inside and bandaged up.”

Joseph nodded, and they followed her into the farmhouse.





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