"I certainly wish we would know where we were heading for once," whined Dracon.
"Well, has it failed us before?" responded the monk.
"... Yes!" The boy began to rattle off examples, "The first time we just ran into imps on a horse, the second time we got pwned by the Purpleless Pointless Wizard, and the third time I dropped my ice cream cone."
"Ice cream?" questioned the Eagle under his breath. "Pwn?" He would have pressed these thoughts further, but he noticed their surroundings shifting by faster than their pace was moving. Soon the two and their many beasts were being ripped through the air by some mysterious force. They came to an abrupt halt in the middle of no where, floating off the ground. Unable to move their bodies, panicking eyes darted about to attempt a source of the strange events. From the bottom of his eye, Dracon spotted something on the ground below. It was a small, warm glow. Had it not been for the faint luminescence, it would have slipped from his notice.
"There's something down there, Eagle," he told his companion, "something... shining."
"Shining? Could it be," the student blindly guessed, "the Carbuncle?"
"No, that was a bright light," he corrected. "This is dimmer. Who are you?" the boy cried out. Silence followed, broken by a croak. "... what?" A tiny being rose before them in a radiant aura. It was a small, amphibious creature with a round body. Unlike most toads, however, this one possessed a shell on its back like that of a turtle. Again, the thing let out a grumbled chirp from its throat which blended into some deep, belly laughs. A figure emerged from the dark shadows of the forest, but only advanced to the fainter shade, never touching the light.
"Why greetings, my friends," a cheerfully pitched, thundering voice poured from a misshapen mouth. "I apologize for the rough treatment, but I had to find you."
"Who are you?" Eagle asked again. "And what do you want with us?" The large eyes of the quivered, deeply wounded by the harshness of his tone.
"Why, friend, I only wish to speak to you," the man spoke as if apologizing, despite doing nothing wrong. "And my pet-friend only has you still held so that I may speak with you face to face." With a snap of his fingers, the phantom force that bound them loosened but did not disappear. Free to fully examine their situation, they saw that whom they spoke to was a giant, standing at least eight feet tall. "Allow me to introduce myself, friends," the titan spoke. "My name is Gwm."
"O-okay, um... Goom," Dracon struggled to say, bowing with the tall man, "now that we have met, can you let us down?" Another basal chortle arose from his mighty gut.
"I am sorry, friends, but I cannot do that, either," Gwm insisted, still deep in his bow, "for I do not want you to run, either."
"Why would we run?" inquired Eagle from his upright possession, soon discovering the answer for himself. In the giant's stooping bow, a long, menacing, spike-covered tail was observed as protruding from out his green robes. "What are you?"
"Now, now, friend," the non-human soothed with his harsh voice, "there is nothing to worry about. I mean you no harm." Straining their eyes, they noticed the man they were speaking to drastically different from men. Features were exaggerated or disproportionate, his digits were webbed, and his body was entirely covered in wetted, yellow fur. "To settle your curiosity,friends, I am called a Fuath by your kind."
"Foo-ah?" exclaimed Eagle. "Are you not foes of humanity?"
"Cannot there be exceptions in the world?" he wisely put with the most gentle tone he could obtain. "Tell me, friends, you are foes of the regal mage?"
"Regal mag- Oh, you mean the Pointy Purple Wizard," Dracon rationed and earned another chorus of laughter from the hairy brute. "You are his enemy as well?"
"Oh, my friends, if you only knew," he merely stated. "Did he place his curse upon you as well?"
"Unfortunately," Eagle divulged, "but if he cursed you, then why do you wield that grand cudgel?" In a restrained act, he bent his finger to point to a large branch with a claw or tooth or some sharp bone structure sticking through it.
"Oh, yes, friends, he did," Gwm agreed, "but the wood used for this club was sacred. So, you are trying to defeat this wizard, yes?" Floating, they nodded. "But how will you accomplish this great deed without use of your weapons?"
"We have our familiars," confidently stated Dracon. "Stanley took on Akilokipok before, he will be able to do it again."
"Yes, wonderful, my friends," enthusiastically cheered the Fuath, "but their is one problem."
"What would this be, Gwm?" the lad questioned, sincerely wondering.
"Akilokipok is no fool!" After his terrible roar, he threw his arms forth, commanding his Strong Toad to hurtle the two men far away with the power in its stare. With the telekinetic restraints no longer confining their arms, they quickly lashed out to grab their familiars as they were cast threw the forest's canopy. As their bodies sailed through the breaking twigs and boughs, they hated themselves for being so trusting. They should have realized sooner that nothing the "gentle giant" said was true to how they thought it to be. He was an agent of the Akilokipok and was only after their familiars. Dracon realized how lucky he was that he was able to grab Stanley before they could be separated again as he smashed into the earth at the end of the psychic push. Eagle, however, was not so fortunate.
"He's gone," he said, filled with despair. "He's gone. They got him. They got..."
“…They got…They got Asfaloth.” Then Eagle broke down and started crying.
“No!” Dracon cried out upon realizing what happened. He knew full well the despair that accompanies the loss of one’s familiar.
Dracon attempted to calm and reassure Eagle, telling him that everything will be okay. After a while, Eagle got himself up, along with Dracon.
“At least I’m lucky to still have FoxMcBlur, but what should we do now?” the monk asked, in a voice noticeably fainter than usual.
“Don’t worry, Eagle,” Dracon answered. “We’ll head back to the thief guild and regroup there. We’ll talk with the Boss, and then decide what to do.”
They began heading back, with Dracon and Eagle keeping Stanley and FoxMcBlur, respectively, close to avoid any more capture attempts and for protection.
“Do you have any idea on how we will rescue Asfaloth?” Eagle finally asked.
“I honestly do not know how we alone will be able to pull it off,” Dracon admitted, in a lower mood than before. “Last time I had much more help. This time you and I are incapacitated, and our familiars are at risk of being captured themselves.”
Eagle then started looking gloomy again, so Dracon quickly added, “We’ll find help, Eagle. No doubt about it. There’ll surely be others who want to defeat Akilokipok and that wizard.”
“…You really think so?” Eagle asked, his hopes rising a little bit. “You really think that we could amass ourselves a large group to help us?”
“I do!” Dracon stated, his mood beginning to rise as well. “Nobody wants people around that’ll steal their familiars away and curse them. They’ll fight back, right?”
“Right!” Eagle agreed.
Then they came within sight of the guild headquarters. As they got closer, Dracon and Eagle could hear the sounds of a commotion.
“What’s going on?!” Dracon asked.
"Dracon," strained Rook to say, "how could anyone come and help us? We're being smashed to the ground by unbelievable force. No one could withsta-"
"Hey, guys. What's shakin'?" Pushing over their pressed eyes, the band of three saw a goblin standing over them. "Oh. Hey, Rook."
"Thought ya looked familiar," he admitted, tossing Rook his pilfered goods.
"Bimblesnaff? But you- ... but how- ... what?" stammered Dracon. "Why aren't you being crushed by gravity?"
"Gravity?" the green one scoffed, expelling foul air from his tightly closed lips. "Like it's the boss of me."
"Well, Mr. Goblin," Eagle spoke up, "since you're up and about, could you bonk on that pesky mage-boy?" Pondering deeply, and shortly wincing in pain from such, the Ghobling boldly thrust his finger high into the air.
"No!" he cheerfully proclaimed.
"He, um, destroyed the ale cart?" quickly lied Dracon while he lied. As he panned his eyes about to find the goblin, no one was in sight. "Well, I'm guessing he got him to stop," the lad stated, sitting up with no problem.
"Or he went chasing a butterfly," suggested Rook, rising as well.
"Or," the monk began, pulling himself from the earth. As his torso went erect, his body was tossed through the air, soaring over the other two men. Leaving Eagle's previous location, a sweeping, bone mace flung back around behind the hairy giant.
"Looks like I forgot to get something from you, my friends," Gwm snarled as his heavy tail whipped behind him in a frenzy. "You're lives!"