The truth is, feeling stranded on an entire world still feels like being trapped on an island. Especially if it isn’t our home. Xernia, for all of its impressive features, was still not Azirin. I found myself trapped in a state of wanting what I could not have, which if you’ve ever experienced it, you know it’s pretty awful.
I poured myself into my study of ice magic, and I put too much time and attention on the garrison’s operations. I was a constant presence at the fishing hut, I helped train and I encouraged soldiers to get pets for stress relief. I oversaw the tailor’s work and experimented in the alchemy lab.
Iliera, if she was at the garrison, spent most of her time training Fynn.
The young paladin quickly took to her method of teaching, which was trial by fire, and the pair were running off on dangerous adventures and missions in no time at all. They would ask if I wanted to come, and sometimes I would, but for some reason, adventuring out there always made me miss home. The garrison, with its similar structures and familiar smells… it helped me forget.
Then, one morning, I was reminded of how unlike Azirin this place really was…
“I’m only telling you what she said, Commander Sepher, I’m not saying that I like it or agree with it by any means.”
I glared at Tessa Gadson, the individual that had brought me the news this morning. She looked nervous, and clearly she didn’t like the message she was delivering, but none the less she was the one that had come to me.
My frustration had nowhere else to go. “So, to be clear,” I mumbled. “You’re telling me that an elemental creature has assumed the shape of a carrot, and it is now terrorizing our garden?”
There was a brief moment where I worried about Tessa’s mind, but then I remembered that Xernia was a very unique place. There were a lot of things that I had experienced since my arrival here, and an elemental animal shaped like a carrot didn’t sound all that bad.
“I know it sounds absurd,” Tessa added. “I don’t meant to be bothering you with such trivial matters, but Fiona was adamant. She said you’d know what to do.”
I rubbed my eyes and looked outside of my room. “You’re right. I’m sorry for sounding frustrated. Obviously, you only want what’s best for us all. I’ll head over to speak with Fiona now. I think, for now, it’s best to avoid getting too close to our new friend. The garden won’t be destroyed right away.”
Tessa looked relieved by the news and she rushed away.
There had been some tension building in the garrison over the last few days, and most of it revolved around the refugees that I had brought from Azirin to stay safe on this World Ship. Not all of them were all that heroic, and some were downright unpleasant. Still, they had no where else to go. Xernia wasn’t yet safe for a single adventurer, and the responsibility of keeping these survivors alive fell on Starfall.
I wondered if one of them might have put the elemental up to this trick.
I figured Fiona would be the most inclined to know, so I threw on some clothes and headed down to one of the small shops near the garrison entrance, where Fionia ran her business of trade, even when she was on another world.
“No,” she said. “This wasn’t our people.”
Fionia had rejected the idea of an intentional elemental. She was one of the “survivors” as we now called our group. I had originally met her in the years ago. She had nearly perished in an unexpected Yunai attack, but I had saved her at the last minute, unintentionally making her a mark for another Yunai. Oops.
I’m not sure she ever forgave me.
“If this wasn’t intentional, where did it come from?” I asked.
“It doesn’t matter where it came from. What matters is how we get rid of it.”
“Okay, sure, so how do we do that?”
She scrunched her forehead, then smiled at me. “We need a frog.”
“A frog,” she repeated. “Not just any frog, either. I need a magic one.”
“You are pulling my leg, right?”
“Were it so easy,” she replied. “If you can find me a specific type of magical frog, then I can get that elemental creature out of our garden.”
“Fiona, the assault against one of the last Yunai outposts is—”
“That doesn’t start for another few days. You have plenty of time.”
I rolled my eyes. “Fine. Where do I find one of these magic frogs?”
“Right, so that’s the hard part. We had a run in with a new type of frog while we were in the northern realm of this World Ship,” she said thoughtfully. “I think that might be a good place to start.”
“I just want to be clear here,” I grumbled. “I’m about to go hunting in the wilderness for a magical frog that might be able to defeat our magical carrot monster?”
“Well, when you say it like that it sounds silly, but the problem is still there.”
I sighed. “Fair enough. I’ll go get Surfal.”
The area where Fiona sent me was a few days away, so I rode Surfal at a fairly relaxed pace, enjoying the time to take in some of the sights of Xernia that I had been forced to rush past in my race against the Yunai before.
I arrived at the Stonehaven outpost of Highpass expecting a simple welcome.
Instead, the place was under attack!
As soldiers scattered, I grabbed my staff and leapt from Surfal with careful precision. I didn’t know if it was a Yunai attack or something that the one of the other natives had organized, but I was ready to defend these people if I could.
“Commander Sepher!” a nearby soldier shouted. “Thank the Luminous One you are here!”
“What is happening here?” I asked. “How can I help?”
“It’s terrifying, Commander! There’s some kind of magical frog invasion!”
I nearly dropped my staff. “Magical frogs?”
“Aye! They’ve been turning our soldiers into frogs and we’re being overrun! We can’t stop them!”
The news was certainly odd. The sudden appearance of a monster carrot in the garrison and Fiona’s recommendation for me to capture a magical frog… here. It seemed almost like I had just been played by the woman. “Well, I’m here to help,” I said firmly, ignoring the coincidence. “Lead me to… the frogs.”