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Chapter 1

 

He ran.

His small, calloused fingers tightly clutched the fresh loaf of bread and two shiny apples as he sprinted through the streets, the heavy, stumbling footsteps of the vendor following him. His hair, wild and untamed, hundreds of reds, purples, and magentas, whipped behind him as he turned to look back at the fat old man he stole his next meal from, a grin spreading across his face, sticking his tongue out mockingly. He turned back around as the man yelled expletives and curses at him, and only ran faster as a response. 

He’d done this so many times before - he was silent as he snuck under the vendor’s table, grabbed what he wanted, and slithered away with his goods. Sometimes nobody even noticed. But it was hard to ignore the fact that a young boy, filthy, and dressed in rags, who could not afford even a crumb of bread, strolling casually as if nothing was the matter, with much more in his grip. Essentially, that made him stick out like a sore thumb, and that’s usually when the vendor would catch sight of him, and make the connection. 

But he always got away. He was never caught. After all, he knew the city like the back of his hand, the streets and tunnels, the secret passageways and shortcuts like nobody else did. If he was in a good mood, he would tease his victim before making himself scarce. And it was easy for him - he could be deathly silent if he wanted to, could fit into almost anything, using his small and light body to his advantage. Today was one of those days, where he would mock the rich man, steal whatever he wanted, and-

He stumbled for a split second when he felt it. 

It was strong. Unfathomable. Overpowering.

Nonetheless, he kept running, pushing away the fact that the feeling was getting stronger the longer he ran. Get away from it , his mind said. Shut up, he responded to himself, knowing that the only sidestreet or to safety at least half a mile ahead, and looping back the other way was too risky - someone who saw him running earlier would recognize him, and either try to grab him or call the authorities. And he couldn’t have that.

So he kept running, ignoring the way the back of his neck broke out in a cold sweat and his heart thudded in his chest, clutching his goods tighter to himself as he looked behind him again, only to see that the fat old man chasing him was much closer than he thought. Shit. 

He slipped up, looking for too long, he thought, as he collided roughly with something in his path. Shit! He frantically shot to his feet, the collision having knocked him down on his rear. He made to run away, the loaf of bread lying in the dirt, stained, the apples having rolled far out of his reach - but he didn’t care, adrenaline was pumping in his veins as his eyes darted around, because the only thing he could think about was how he needed to get out of here .

For the first time in his life, he was too slow. 

A huge, meaty hand, slick with sweat, grabbed him by the throat and lifted him into the air. He kicked his legs fruitlessly, his tiny, useless hands scrabbling at the vendor’s as the man viciously grinned at him. His enormous chest was heaving, ugly pants leaving the sweaty, middle aged man as he eyed the boy in his grasp as he would a dog deserving of punishment. “Thought you could steal my things, you brat? Thought you could get away?”

The boy tried to open his mouth to respond, to either curse or spit in his face - he couldn’t decide which one he wanted to do more, but all he could do was take in air in a strangled breath, trying not to suffocate. 

“Well? You bastard, look what you did. You ruined them.” He kicked at the loaf of bread with his muddy shoe. “Go on, you can have it,” he spat, squeezing the boy’s neck even tighter with a gleeful, disgusting leer, “you’ll just have to eat it off the ground, you worthless street rat.”

He couldn’t breathe anymore. He could feel his esophagus digging into his windpipe. His eyes shuttered shut, and panic settled into his veins, his whole body, mind, hell, even his soul screaming in self preservation, telling him to break free or he would die . The tips of his fingers began to burn, then spread up his arms, chest, encasing his whole body as a bright light burst behind his eyelids, and he was on fire, burning from the inside-

“That’s enough.”

The boy gasped as he was suddenly, again, sitting on his rear in the dirt, the feeling of extreme heat now gone, almost as if it had never even been there. Had he imagined it? He slowly turned his head, blinking slowly in belated surprise as beige, oddly familiar to him, filled his vision. He shook himself, clearing his head of unnecessary thoughts as he tried to understand just what the hell happened. He realized that the wall of beige was a man - the same man that he had run into, causing this whole mess.  

He was about to snarl in anger at the man, who was dressed in long, flowing beige and white robe, with an odd staff in his hand, when he inhaled sharply, his eyes widening. That feeling. It was coming from this person. He scrambled back, still on his rear, sitting in the dirt road, as he practically shook in fear from one man. “W-wha-”

He stopped as he felt something against his hand, halting his feeble attempt to get the hell away from the man with the long , greying black hair and his weird golden staff. He went against every instinct in his body that told him to keep his eyes on that person in front of him no matter what, turning to look behind him, and nearly threw up right then and there. 

The vendor. The vendor that nearly killed him was lying on the ground, unconscious - dead? - covered in blood and burns, his limbs set at grotesque angles. And the smell, oh God - it took all of his willpower to suck up the urge to be sick, covering his mouth with his hands, tears forming in his eyes at the horrific sight. 

He heard a step. He whipped back to the man in front of him,body shaking in raw, primal fear - would he end up like the vendor? He was frozen in place as he stared into cool grey eyes, his breathing erratic, bile rising in his throat, the acidic taste of it on his tongue, and he was sure this man could hear his heart beating out of his chest, because he was about to die, and he couldn’t move, couldn’t do anything- 

“Are you alright?” 

Hearing a voice from the man, who had not uttered a word since, shocked the boy. He didn’t even register the words, he just curled up into a ball, his arms covering his head, hands around his ears, as he broke down. He was muttering nonsense, his blubbering lost in his tears and sobs, sure that this was it. 

He didn’t expect the man to crouch down next to him - he didn’t see it coming, as much as he prided himself on his heightened senses. He was blocking out his senses on purpose, pretending like nothing was surrounding him as if this were a dream. The boy heard his voice again, repeating the same thing, and he flinched as he instinctively raised his head to meet his eyes.

And froze. 

Kind, intelligent grey eyes stared into his own violet ones, a look of so much concern that the boy had never seen in his life. And suddenly, the man’s words registered in his head, that he was worried for him. Why? Nobody had ever cared that much about him.

The man chuckled. “Well, that’s because I caused you to be in this mess. This is my fault.” 

The boy knew he didn’t say his words out loud.

He stood up shakily, the man following suit a few seconds later. “Y-your fault… you killed that vendor.” His voice came out small, hoarse, and still had an edge of terror to it, although less than before. 

“No.” 

The boy said nothing, his eyes narrowing in suspicion, confusion, and fear. The man must have seen the look on his face, the tear tracks staining his cheeks, the exhaustion in his eyes, because he sighed, knowing that this poor boy deserved an explanation. He was grateful that the street was empty - there weren’t many people to witness the act in the first place, but those that had had fled immediately. 

“He isn’t dead, but he did come close.” The man watched as the boy’s shoulders drooped in slight relief. He sighed before he continued, knowing what was coming. “But it was you that did that to him.” 

“You lie.” 

The man raised an eyebrow as the boy glared at him defyingly. He expected him to shout, curse at him, perhaps burst into tears, but here he was, his voice full of confidence as if he knew something the man didn’t. 

“I felt it earlier.” There was a moment of silence as they stared at each other, the boy’s eyes full of mistrust and fear, the mans’ displaying confusion and intriguement. The boy took a moment to put that feeling into words. “I felt...you. Your presence. It was strong, like it was suffocating me. I felt it all the way from the market.”

The man’s eyes widened now. He had formulated a few theories about this child in the few minutes of seeing him, but this… “You could feel my power?”

“Yes. And you had enough of it to do that ,” the boy replied as he gestured behind him, still not willing to look at the vendor again, “which means it was you.”

It was ironic - if he had actually turned around, he would notice that the vendor was gone, the man he was staring at having transported him elsewhere long ago to heal. If he had turned, he could have blamed the man even more.

“You’re right,” the man said, but he shook his head sadly, a juxtaposition to his words, “I do have the power to do that. But I didn’t.” He took a few steps closer to the boy. To his credit, he didn’t budge an inch, his previous waterworks show completely erased if not for the tear tracks on his face. “I’m not going to hurt you, my boy.” Once again, he crouched by the magenta haired child, a soft smile on his face. “I am here to help you understand yourself.”

He wasn’t impressed. “So start talking.”

The man laughed at that. He was willing to listen - that was a start. He stood up, giving the boy the space he clearly wanted. “You’re a wizard, like me.”

A thousand things flashed before the boy’s eyes as he continued to stare, not saying a word, the silence deafening. Him, a street rat with no family, who was probably born to a prostitute, a wizard? No. No way in hell. Still, the man continued. “That’s how you could sense me.”

“But I’ve never done magic before.” He knew it was a stupid response. He was only seven - magic had to develop at some point. He wouldn’t admit it, but the man’s absurd statement was actually making sense to him.

“Oftentimes, a life or death situation will trigger someone’s magic if they haven’t awoken it another way. Which is odd, because sensory is a type of magic, but if you haven’t been aware that you’ve been using it…”

“Old man, you’re rambling,” the boy sneered, crossing his arms across his chest. 

“Oh! I tend to do that. Forgive me. My grandson, he doesn’t stop me when I mumble about this and that… it appears I’ve gotten used to doing it now,” he smiled as he thought of his grandson, who was around the same age as the boy standing in front of him now. “I think the two of you would get along. By the way, child, what is your name?”

“Do you think I’m stupid?” The boy sneered again, his teeth bared, violet eyes darkening to near black. “I won’t tell you. I don’t trust anyone. Let alone some old geezer who’s acting like he wants to hold hands and skip through meadows.” Seeing the man open his mouth to say something, he continued. “Let’s say I believe you. I’m a wizard. Aren’t you done here? Don’t you have some medication to take so you don’t forget your name?

The man knew that this was the boy’s defense mechanism, but it still hurt him to see a child lash out at what was probably his first exposure to care. He quickly smiled. “I’ve said this before, but I will not hurt you, child.”

The boy was beginning to cave. This stupid old man with that stupid look in his eyes was so damn genuine . And he could tell. As much as he was good at sneaking around, he was even better at reading people, even at his young age. He clearly knew when someone was lying to him, and this man was not. But he had never, ever, been in this situation before, where someone was looking at him this softly, gently, like a parent would, and God, he was so confused. 

“And so what-”

“Come with me.” The man was completely serious, no trace of a smile, but his eyes were twinkling. 

The boy gaped. “Wh- wait, wha-”

“I happen to be one of the most powerful wizards in this dimension. I can teach you to control your powers. You show extreme potential, and I want to make sure you can harness them properly.” He stuck out his hand to the boy, which was slightly wrinkled, weathered with time. It was more than just a shake, it was an entrance to a new life, the beginning of something unknown and thrilling. 

The boy did not move to take his hand. “Who are you?”

“My name is Saladin. And you, my boy?”

The child, with the setting sun lighting his hair into a bright, blood red, stared at Saladin for what felt like years. 

And then he grasped his hand. 

“Riven.”



Chapter Text

A tall boy, reddish-purple hair gleaming in the sun, a pack slung over his shoulder, made his way on a dirt-packed path in a seemingly empty forest. He was early, he knew, but it’s not like he had anywhere left to be. Saladin had left earlier that morning, and Helia had been gone for the past week. Of course, he could have stayed for another day or two, to keep up the story he had told his friends, his roommates - that he was at a training camp, but he could just tell them that it had ended early. Or that he decided to skip the last bit. Either way, it wasn’t likely that he would see any of them, as the semester would start in about a week. Most of the other students at Red Fountain would be moving in their things in a few days, at least. 

 

But sitting alone in the mansion seemed wrong. Which was ironic, considering that he had been alone for the first half of his life, but still. Logically, he knew that he could have stayed and brushed up on his readings, or training, or hell, even taken up a new hobby. There were times where Saladin had to leave for days on end for a mission, disregarding his absence for the school semester, and Riven had used that to read the tomes in the library, or to simply play around with his magic. He’d once, when he was younger, spent a day simply watching the purple light sizzle in his palm, dancing around his fingers. 

 

But after being around Helia, Saladin’s grandson, his parents, and Saladin himself for nearly ten years, he’d grown attached. He liked Red Fountain, and the people in it, really, but he missed when he would be able to stay up late at night in the mansion’s library with Helia, pouring over spell tomes and history books. He missed watching the sun rise on cold mornings on the spires of the roof, Helia beside him, both bundled in blankets. It took him a while to open up to the other boy, at first cold, untrusting, and straight up rude, but Helia was patient, and now, Riven was grateful for that. Because despite Riven being a prick for nearly a year after they’d met, in the quiet, dark haired boy his age, he had found a friend, an ally, a brother. 

 

He’d begged Helia to attend Red Fountain with him when he started as a freshman last year, as had Saladin, but Helia had held fast and refused; he was a pacifist, an artist, and attended an art school in another realm. But he had an inkling that Helia was considering possibly attending Red Fountain; he’d stopped vehemently refusing, among other things.

 

Now, Riven stood at the gates of Red Fountain, simply staring up at the building. It’s cream colored walls were cracked, mold growing in the corners, and hot air was blowing through the open door, but this was his second home, and he wouldn’t change a thing. Freshman year had been an… experience. But he loved it regardless. The prospect of learning so much, being able to train and spar with boys his age (Helia had refused to do so), and living with his roommates that he could, albeit hesitantly, call friends gave him something to look forward to.

 

Sky, Brandon, Timmy, and Riven were so different, yet they worked together well. Their personalities clashed from time to time, yes, but they complimented each other. Timmy’s feverish thirst for knowledge was similar to Riven’s, but they were opposites as well. While Timmy was desperate for good grades, spending all his free time with his nose shoved into a book, Riven learned for the sake of learning alone. It frustrated his professors to no end, that he could be sleeping in class for half of the year and still come out nearly on top. In literature or science lecture based classes, he found himself dozing off, as he’d already studied everything covered earlier - either he’d stumbled across the material on his own, or his tutor (courtesy of Saladin) had forced him to learn it. After all, when Saladin had found him, he could not read or write. And once he had learned how to, he drank in as much knowledge as he could, about his powers, the history of wizardry, sciences, everything. Knowledge was power, and to him, it was merely another tool in his arsenal. I sound like Helia, he thought with a smirk. 

 

Sky and Brandon, on the other hand, seemed like two halves of a whole. Prince and squire, they flowed together seamlessly, but contrasted nicely. Sky, despite being a royal, was laid back, cocky, and devious. Brandon, the Prince’s bodyguard, was kind, loyal, yet strict. When they’d first met, Riven’s first impression of the blonde was that the stick up his ass must have been prickly. 

 

Riven walked through the gate, then the doors, and came to a stop yet again at the ground floor. He watched as a few students milled around - some were teaching assistants, some in clubs, preparing materials for the new semester, and others were simply there early, like him. He nodded his head as he saw Bishop, a boy in his year with purple dreadlocks tied up in a ponytail. Bishop saluted with two of his fingers in response, turning back around to pick up and move another box. 

 

Riven strode through the main floor, and climbed up the wide staircase all the way up to the uppermost floor. From there, he turned into a corridor and continued all the way into it, coming to a stop at the door on the right. He knocked once, and when an old, familiar voice said, “enter,” he did so, closing the door softly behind him. 

 

“You wanted to see me?” 

 

“I didn’t think you’d be here this early. When I told you to come after you arrived, I expected it to be in a couple of days.” Saladin said, peering up at the boy from his desk. There were papers strewn all over it; schedules, plans, paperwork - all of that. Riven could see the corner of a blueprint sticking out from under a stack of papers. 

 

He snagged it and pulled, staring at it. “Whoa, Saladin, what the hell?” 

 

It was a screw. A screw shaped building. A screw shaped building that happened to say new campus scrawled in the bottom corner. 

 

Saladin merely huffed at him, and the paper left Riven’s hands as an invisible force tugged it back. It rolled itself up and flew away into a cabinet, the little door closing with a slam behind it. “Why do I even bother telling you to come up here, knowing you always snoop around?” 

 

“To be fair, I would have done that uninvited as well. What did that mean, new campus?”

 

“It’s a surprise. Wait it out and see.” 

 

Riven knew that even if he did everything in his power to annoy Saladin, he wouldn’t be punished (severely) for it. The old man liked him, thought of him as his own, and merely brushed off his antics as if they were just play. But when it came to official school business, of course, Saladin was professional as always. Which meant that the sheer amount of times Riven had served detention, not counting the instances where it was held elsewhere, Riven knew this office like the back of his hand. 

 

“Fine. What did you want to see me for?” 

 

“I just wanted to wish you luck with the new semester approaching. And to give you a warning-” 

 

“Yeah, yeah, don’t reveal your powers to anyone, keep a low profile, don’t do anything wizardly, Saladin, I know .” 

 

“No, not just that. There’s something brewing. I can feel it; can’t you?” 

 

Riven frowned. He knew gut instincts, in magical beings, was not something to brush off. And this was Saladin , one of the best mages in the entire dimension. If he said his left elbow was tingling, he was damn sure there was something wrong on the other side of Magix. 

 

I can feel it; can’t you?

 

He closed his eyes, his frown deepening. When he focused, turned his mind inward into his own body, he could then project out and simply feel. It’s what drew Saladin to him in the first place. Sensory type mages - wizards especially - were rare, and for good reason. It took a lot of energy to feel all the life around him. He could sense everything - from the sluggish, slow flow of life of the plants, the quick heartbeats of the forest animals, and the overpowering, strong presence of the man sitting not three feet away from him. 

 

To a flash of light, of fire , a flame burning so bright that it was blinding. It was far, far away, so small that he wasn't sure what it was exactly, yet so full .

 

“What… is that?” Riven opened his eyes. He stared at Saladin, eyes serious. 

 

“I don’t know. That’s what concerns me.”

 

___________



Three hours later found Riven in the mess hall. It was sparsely full, a few boys here and there, taking their time with their meal, in no rush to get anywhere. Riven, who normally had a large appetite, was simply pushing his food around, hardly eating any of it. His mind was elsewhere. Because what in the hell was that? His stomach sank in worry. Worry for what, he didn’t know, but the tight ball of apprehension in his stomach would simply not leave. It wasn’t fear, he knew, nor was it excitement, but feeling that flame - and he had no idea where it was coming from, which was an oddity of itself - had put him on edge. 

 

So much so that he didn’t notice the person behind him until a hand landed heavily on his shoulder. 

 

He jumped in his seat, gritting his teeth to stop himself from lashing out, knowing that nobody would harm him here. It wouldn’t do to attack another student or teacher because he was feeling jittery. Riven settled for simply turning around on the bench, looking up at the figure at his back - and God, he hated looking up at people, he wanted to be on equal standing, dammit - and felt some of the tension bleed out of him at the sight. 

 

“Timmy. What are you doing here so early?”

 

“Could ask you the same thing, Riven.” Timmy easily swung down to sit next to him on the bench, setting his mug of coffee down, glancing at his roommate’s untouched, messy food. Riven pushed it towards him without a word, and ignored the ginger’s raised brow. 

 

“Camp ended early, and I was bored.” Riven offered with a shrug, feeling a bit lighter. 

 

Timmy studied the food that resembled mush on the plate, courtesy of Riven’s nervousness, and decidedly shoved it away, opting to nurse his coffee instead. “I wanted to set up my new computer in the dorm before everyone got here. And I have to manage a few things for the club, too.” 

 

“Sky and Brandon?” 

 

“No idea. Haven’t talked to them since the end of last semester. Probably still on Eraklyon. How long have you been here? I saw all your stuff unpacked.” 

 

“Got in this morning.” Riven picked up his previously discarded spoon, still piled with food, and curled his finger around the rounded end. Looking around the mess hall, he spotted Wesley, a stuffy noble he didn’t particularly like from stick-up-my-ass planet. Aiming carefully, ignoring Timmy’s soft sigh, he pulled back his finger, bending the spoon backwards, and released. 

 

The mush hit Wesley in his stupid, gelled-concrete hair, and chaos erupted from the other side of the room.

 

Riven, trying his damndest not to burst out laughing and thus risk blowing his cover, turned back to Timmy, a shit eating grin growing on his face as he engaged in conversation. 

 

He didn’t comment on the way Timmy’s mouth was twitching up at the corners. 



___________

 

Sky and Brandon arrived at the ass crack of dawn four days later. How, one would ask, would Riven know that his other two roommates had arrived so early? One just had to observe the jovial, too-happy prince jumping onto Riven’s bed at too damn early o’clock. 

 

Riven, now sitting up, too tired, confused, and angry to speak, looked to an equally looking tired Brandon standing in the doorframe, and made a helpless sort of why gesture. The blonde squire simply shrugged, dropped his bag, and left to go to his room. 

 

And left his prince on Riven’s bed, still babbling. He cursed Brandon in his head - the Eraklyons were roommates, why did he leave him in his and Timmy’s room - and kicked Sky off, sending him tumbling to the floor. 

 

“Riven, man, come on, I haven’t seen you for months, and Princess Stella-” 

 

“You couldn’t have waited another three hours?” 

 

“Well, yeah, but-” 

 

“Then get. Out.”

 

Sky pouted, his brown eyes huge and glinting in the dim light of the early sun creeping into the room. “Dude…”

 

“Not working.” Riven laid back down with a huff, throwing his blanket over his head, the dismissal clear. Not because he found himself slipping under Sky’s immaculate puppy eyes that got to everyone . No. “You can tell me all about the pictures of her feet she sent you later-” 

 

“RIVE-” A pillow connected with Sky’s head, and he turned to glare at the other occupant of the room. 

 

“Sky, shut the hell up. It’s four in the morning.”

 

The brown haired prince shivered, and wisely closed his mouth. Nobody liked dealing with an angry Timmy. 

 

A few seconds later, the prince was at the door, a hurried, soft, goodnight following his departure. 

 

_______

 

Hours later, the three were much more awake, gathered in the significantly fuller mess hall for breakfast. Neither Timmy nor Riven asked where Sky was, and Brandon didn’t seem inclined to say, which everyone was happy with. 

 

“Rough trip?” Timmy asked the blond, noticing the bags under his eyes. 

 

“Yeah, you could say that.” Brandon busied himself with his food. 

 

“Or you could just call it girl trouble,” a voice said from a few feet away. Brandon rolled his eyes. “And speaking of girls,” Sky said, setting a heaping pile of eggs, meats, swimming in a disgusting amount of oil down next to his squire, sitting down a moment later, “Princess Stella said she would call me today.” 

 

Riven wrinkled his nose, both at the speed of which Sky was eating the food meant to serve five, and at the words themselves. “I promise you, princey boy, that nobody cares .” 

 

“Oh, shush, you’re just jealous,” he replied through a mouthful of food. 

 

Riven scooted closer to Timmy, not wanting to be sprayed.

 

“Oh, by the way,” he continued, halfway done with his meal, “a new arcade opened in the city today. Class doesn’t start for another few days, and we should make the most of our freedom.” Riven thanked whoever was listening that Sky wasn’t speaking with his mouth full anymore. “Sophomore year’s not gonna be easy.” 

 

He looked to Brandon for an affirmative - which was weird, Riven thought, because why would a prince ask his squire for permission? - and both he and Timmy nodded in agreement. Sky turned to Riven. “You down, dude?” 

 

“Yeah, sure.” 

 

“Alright!” he spoke-shouted, gaining the attention of nearby students, who rolled their eyes. He didn’t seem to notice, and quickly raised his cup of juice, sloshing nearly half of it down the side. “To sophomore year, and all the rest to come!”

 

Riven snorted, and no, he was not smiling, but raised his mug (slower, not wanting to lose any of his coffee), as did Timmy and Brandon. 

 

“To new adventures and old friendships,” Timmy added, clinking his cup with Sky’s. 

 

“To comrades and bravery,” Brandon put in, joining his cup together with the other two. 

 

The three looked at Riven expectantly. 

 

He blinked, and felt a lump rise in his throat. He swallowed it down, and cleared his throat. “To us,” he said, his voice heavy with a rasp, and if they noticed, they thankfully didn’t comment on it. 

 

He added his own glass to the others’, and the four drank to a promise they didn’t yet know the meaning of.

Chapter Text

Sky was fuming on the entire trip back to Red Fountain. Even Brandon decided to steer clear of his prince, which was definitely saying something. Annoyingly persistent as his squire/bodyguard was, he knew when to leave Sky alone to fester in his own (real) anger for a while until it would die down. And damn, did it take a while to simmer down. 

Because Diaspro had come to see him off. 

It wasn’t as though Sky hated her, or even disliked her. He just hated the idea of what she was - what she was going to be - to him. But she’d changed. He remembered a few years ago, when they were coming of age, when she confessed that she didn’t want to marry someone because her parents said so, she wanted to marry someone because she liked him. Really liked him. 

It had been easier after that. The air around them went from full of tension and awkwardness to lighter and friendlier. Mind you, that didn’t mean they were best of friends - they tried to leave the other alone as much as possible - but when they had to be seen together, it wasn’t as bad as it used to be. Because Sky had thought her confession meant that she too was uncomfortable with the situation and didn’t want to be forced into a union with him. 

Until now. 

Sky was escorted out of the palace, Brandon and Gabriel, his personal squire and head of the palace guards, at his side. Their bags had been loaded onto the airship already, and all that was left was to board. 

They were set to leave in the middle of the night, where it was less likely to be seen by potential enemies. Nobody except for a few select guards and his parents knew of the departure. 

It had happened once, before, when Sky was a little boy, where the royal family left for another planet to negotiate trade in the middle of the day. Civilians had gathered outside the palace, cheering for them, wanting to see them off.

And in the midst of all the commotion, a knife flew from somewhere in the crowd, heading straight for the King’s head. 

It was deflected, of course, by Gabriel, but the damage had been done. Chaos erupted, screaming civilians and rushing guards, accusations flying as the three royals were ushered away by an entourage of knights. 

It was from then on that any time the King, Queen, or Prince had to leave the planet or city, it was done under strict supervision, at an ungodly hour of night. It didn’t have to be said that nobody outside of the palace could know. Hell, half the palace itself didn’t even know - servants would wake up the next morning and notice that their lord was gone without even a hiccup. 

Which is why Diaspro’s sudden appearance when he would leave for school, which she should definitely not know about, had alarm bells going off in his head. 

“Sky!” she had cried, rushing towards him in a flurry of silky robes. He was frozen stiff as she threw her arms around his neck, burrowing her face into his chest. Her heady, overpowering perfume invaded his nose, and he struggled not to sneeze into her hair. 

Beside him, Brandon made a choking noise. 

“Diaspro,” he said, arms slowly coming up to awkwardly pat her on the back, “what are you doing here?” From the corner of his eye, he saw Gabriel sheathe his sword back into its scabbard. 

“Isn’t it obvious? I came to see you off! I’m not going to see you for a whole year!” She looked up at him, still embracing him - he wanted to yank himself away, because were those her nails stabbing themselves into his back? - her face full of hurt. 

“Lady Diaspro,” Gabriel smoothly interjected, “please bear in mind that the Day of the Royals is happening at Red Fountain this year. Naturally, you are expected to come, and you can see Prince Sky then.” 

No, no, no, Gabriel, why did you remind her- “Right,” he shakily said. He gently but firmly took her by her arms and nudged her away, and tried to step away. 

She didn’t let him. Her hand shot up, and she grabbed his forearm, - and God dammit, her sharp nails were digging into his skin again - and held on stubbornly. “Still,” she persisted, “you couldn’t have come to say goodbye?” 

Was he missing something? Diaspro was never this clingy. She would have to keep up appearances in front of their parents, sure, but never like this. She had nothing to prove in front of Brandon, and she knew he told him everything, and it’s not like she was doing this for Gabriel’s sake. 

His shock was wearing off, only leaving room for confusion and building annoyance. It was too late - early? - for this, and the trip was a long one. He wanted nothing more to get on the ship and clock out. 

“Sorry,” he said shortly. “Goodbye, Diaspro, I’ll see you soon.” Seeing her unmoved face, clearly not happy with his short words, he lied through his teeth, adding on: “I’ll write.”

“Much better,” she crooned softly, and then leaned up and kissed him. 

He froze for real this time, eyes wide with shock, because what the hell was she playing at, and holy shit he suddenly wanted to hurl. She pulled away after a few moments and patted his cheek. He could feel her nails grazing his jaw and he shivered, but not in the good way. “Goodbye, Sky.” And with her hand dragging down his arm, she turned and left, her hair almost whipping him in the face. Her guard he didn’t notice earlier followed her out of the courtyard.

He still didn’t move. It wasn’t until Brandon spoke up - Dude, what the fuck - that he blinked. “I don’t- why-” 

Brandon, who, by the looks of it, was about to open his mouth and spiel, wisely closed it as he saw Gabriel shake his head, and stepped towards his prince. “Whatever, Sky, let’s just go. Pilot’s waiting.” He clapped him on the shoulder and quite literally forced him up the stairs of the ship. He hastily followed, throwing down a quick, “We’ll see you, Gabriel, bye!” as the door shut behind them. 

The attendant settled them into their seats, but left quickly at a look from Brandon. He chanced a peek at his prince, and yep, there it was. Sky had quite the temper when he was upset. And as his dumb shock was ebbing away, it was replaced with anger. 

“You wanna talk about it, buddy?” 

“No, not really - I just-” His hands were shaking. 

“Sky.” 

“How could she do that? She said she wasn’t into me. I’m not into her. I don’t want this, Brandon, I never did, and I don’t know how I’m going to face her at the Day of the Royals, I can’t-”

“Hey, man, don’t stress about that now. That’s months away.” His hand came up to rub Sky’s back as the prince put his head between his knees. 

Sky was still pissed, sure, but that didn’t erase the fact that he wanted to spill his dinner onto the floor. His stomach was doing flips in his worry. He took a deep breath and sat up straight in his chair, knowing they were about to take off any minute. Brandon’s hand fell back to his lap. “Sorry, Brandon. I’m fine.” 

“I have eyes, Sky. You’re not.” 

“Brandon.”

The dismissal was clear. 

Brandon abruptly stood, internally cursing Sky’s betrothed, and went to sit at the furthest chair on the other side of the room. Sky just needed to stew in his own thoughts for a bit, and he would be fine. 

Well, ‘a bit’ turned out to be well over half the thirteen hour trip from Eraklyon to Magix. Sky barely slept at all. Brandon didn’t either, worry for his best friend eating at him. Social butterfly as he was, though, he kept his mouth shut for the sake of his prince, even though the silence of the room was putting him on edge. He couldn’t text Stella on the ship, either. It was Eraklyon security policy that when a royal was traveling, all data and interweb had to be shut off, not wanting anyone to track them. He would message her when he got back, he decided. Stella rose with the sun, and that gave him about an hour or two of sleep before he could talk to - well, text - her. 

Meaning he was over the moon to see his other roommates - and talk to them - despite the early hour of arrival. He wasn’t expecting much, as Timmy and Riven were assuredly asleep, but barged in anyways. He jumped onto Riven’s bed, talking a mile a minute, before Timmy shut him up with a pillow and most definitely threatened him out. 

Seeing the slight smile on Sky’s face as he walked into their shared room, the prince having heard their yelling, was worth it. 

_______

 

Stella ended up calling when they were at the arcade. 

“Hey, Princess-”

Riven looked up from the pool table as Sky bit off his words and watched as the prince’s eyes widened in shock. Sky immediately laid down his stick on the table and pressed his phone closer to his ear, his eyes deadly serious. 

Riven slowly straightened up from his slouch over the table and made his way toward him. 

“Are you safe right now? Where are you? Don’t engage it.”

Timmy and Brandon were on Sky’s other side, Riven realized. They’d all picked up on the odd behavior, each of them getting increasingly worried. Riven strained his ears to hear Stella’s voice on the other side of the line. He couldn’t make out her words, but he heard harsh breathing and a panicked tone. 

Sky, realizing his friends were all surrounding him, quickly put his phone on speaker so they could hear her too. “I- planet Earth,” came Stella’s frantic voice. 

‘Earth?’ Riven mouthed at Timmy. He just shrugged in response, equally confused. 

“Please hurry. I’m zapped, and Bloom doesn’t really know how to fight. We’re kind of barricaded in her house. 

“Princess Stella,” Brandon spoke up, “Whatever you do, don’t engage this thing. Stay barricaded for as long as you can. Try to find a back exit and run-”

“I can’t.” Stella’s voice crackled through. “Bloom’s parents are here, and they can’t leave-”

Riven interrupted her. “You’d prefer they stay there and die? Their house can be rebuilt. Just get out and secure everyone’s safety.” He had no idea who this Bloom girl was, but from the sound of it, she was useless in a fight. And she had her parents with her. Stella had three civilians holding her down. Bad odds.

“Excuse you, Riven, there is no other way out. I’m not going through the front door where an ogre, a troll, and a dozen wraiths are waiting for me. No windows we can escape from, either, this is a shared building.” 

“Stop arguing,” came Timmy’s voice of reason. “Earth is about an hour warp away.” Riven noticed Timmy’s phone in his hand, opened up to an information page on the interweb. “We can get in a Red Fountain ship and be on our way in the next twenty minutes. Try to hold off until then, Princess Stella.” He grabbed Sky’s phone and ended the call. 

“Hey, Timmy, what gives-”

“He’s right. We’re wasting time.” Riven grabbed his jacket off the back of a nearby chair, and quickly made his way to the door. 

Sky ran after him, and they soon fell into step together. “Man, when she said she would call, this was so not what I expected.” 

_________________________

A fifteen minute walk turned five minute jog-sprint later, the four found themselves back at Red Fountain. Unfortunately, it wasn’t common for sophomores to just take a high maintenance warp-capable school ship, so they wasted the ten minutes they earned from their sprint arguing with Professor Varsh, the mechanics instructor. He also operated the ship bay, and authorized trips with any school owned ship or jet. And he wasn’t letting up.

“This is getting us nowhere.” Riven growled under his breath, a bead of cold sweat slipping down his neck. He slipped away from his friends, and strode towards Saladin’s office, his senses confirming he was in there alone, thankfully. 

He didn’t bother to knock, and quietly entered instead. 

“Riven, my boy, what brings you-” Saladin stopped at the look on Riven’s face. He was breathing harshly, and his eyes were wide in panic. 

How could I not have realized before? Stupid, Riven thought, biting his lip in frustration. “Saladin,” Riven gasped, “I need you to portal us to Earth.” 

“Us? Why Earth?” 

Riven met his eyes, and Saladin was unnerved by the edge he saw in them. “Because that’s where it is coming from.” 

The three others were there in the office with him in the next ten minutes. As Saladin created the portal, a wide, blue vortex that sent their hair flying back, pure energy and cold striking Riven’s senses, Timmy leaned over to him and whispered, “how’d you get him to make us a portal ?” 

“Don’t know. Seems like he really wants us to go.” Riven lied. 

“Boys,” Saladin said, and everyone stood alert. “This will be your first official mission. There is one fairy and three civilians trapped inside a house in a city setting with an ogre, a troll, and several wraiths wanting to get to them. Your job is to intercept them. Capture the troll and ogre if you can, but your priority is to the girls and their safety.” Saladin met their eyes, one by one, and his steel grey eyes were hard and serious. “Be safe. Remember that you are representing Red Fountain. But ….” he trailed off, and a slight smile graced his face. “You can’t represent this school like that.

And with a simple click of his fingers, the boys, previously dressed in casual civilian garb, were in their cream and blue uniforms. Riven blinked, immediately checking his pockets - which he still didn’t know how pockets existed in skin tight uniforms, but hey, magic, right? - for his weapons, confirming that they were all there. To his left, Sky was squealing in delight: “whoa, Headmaster Saladin, do that again!”, and Brandon was blinking down at himself, pulling at the fabric. 

Saladin coughed lightly, and the chatter dispersed immediately. “You’ve been briefed and have everything you need. Get going, and get back safely. The portal will open up again when you need it to.” His eyes cut to Riven for a second, and he understood instantly. I have to open it when we’re done. He nodded imperceptibly in response. 

And without further ado, the four jumped into the dizzyingly blue ocean of light.

Chapter Text

Saladin must have not aimed properly when making the portal, because the four found themselves in an abandoned alleyway, and no princess or ogre in sight. Riven didn’t blame him, of course - they didn’t exactly know where Stella was, and Saladin didn’t have senses as sharp as Riven did. But they were close. He could feel several magic entities close by.

And there it was. The thing he’d sensed earlier was much, much stronger now, burning, blazing, enormous in it’s fury, sending a flash of raw fear down Riven’s spine. 

He really hoped it wasn’t the ogre. 

“Where the hell are we? Did Saladin send us to the right dimension?” came Sky’s voice, his worry poorly hidden under a layer of sarcasm. It had been nearly half an hour since Stella called, and they had no idea how she was doing.

Timmy was about to reply, but Riven cut him off. “Let’s try this way,” he said, leading them in the direction of the - hell, what should he even call it? - flame. They made their way out of the alley, though what looked like a residential area. It was hard to tell, considering it was dark out - which threw them off, because when they left Red Fountain it was still mid-day. It wasn’t terribly surprising, though, with the fact that interdimensional travel had horrid time differences. 

They heard it after a few blocks. Roars, yelling, and one high pitched, “ Stella!” Sky took off immediately, passing Riven, who was at the head of the group. 

“Sky!” Timmy shouted, sprinting after him. That idiot, Riven thought, scrambling after them, Brandon right beside him. 

Sky skidded to a stop as he turned the corner, and the other three nearly crashed into him. He opened his mouth, ready to scream, curse, or shout a warning, but Timmy, thinking quickly, slapped his hand over his mouth. “Wait,” the ginger whispered, ever the strategist. “We have the element of surprise. Let’s not ruin it.” Brandon and Riven peeked over Sky’s shoulder, and as they took in the scene, Riven had to muffle his own curse. 

Princess Stella, transformed, was lying on her side, not moving, in a bed of shattered glass. She was bleeding, from tiny scratches all over, but mostly from her head. Shit. There was nothing else out there with her, no orge or wraiths, and certainly no civilians. Riven’s gaze traveled up, and took in the broken window, and quickly put two and two together. 

“Everyone else is inside,” he whispered, hearing muted screams and crashes from within the building. “They’re probably going to come out and try to finish her off soon.” 

“Then we have to move-” came Sky’s frantic hiss, trying to shoulder his way out of Timmy’s grasp.

“The civilians - that Bloom girl and her parents - are still inside.” Brandon spoke up in agreement, “we have to help them.” 

“No, listen, ” Riven hissed, “they’re coming out for Stella. They don’t know we’re here. So let’s set a trap for it.” Not waiting for a reply, Riven slithered out from the group, and quickly made his way to Stella’s prone form. She was breathing, and was still transformed, meaning that she wasn’t too out of it. Minding the glass that crunched underneath his boots, Riven picked her up. Her head lolled, and a pained moan escaped her. He made his way back to the other three, still at the corner, and walked past them. He set her down around the corner, out of sight from the house.

“Oh, God, Stella.” Sky was there, crouching down next to her, and reached a hand out to take her wrist, checking her pulse. 

“Prince Sky?” she murmured, and her head lifted from her slouched position, her eyes distant and hazy. “You’re early.”

“Yeah,” he replied, and a crazy laugh bubbled up in his throat. That’s what she was worried about? “Yeah, I’m here. Are you okay?” 

Brandon clapped him on the shoulder, getting his attention. He titled his head towards Riven, who had left Stella’s side when Sky had shown up, and Timmy, who were watching the house, talking frantically and gesturing with their hands. Brandon’s gaze locked onto Sky’s and he could see the question in his eyes, the way his brows furrowed in worry. He looked back to Stella, saw her eyes flicker around, and made up his mind. “Sit tight, Princess Stella. We’ll handle it from here. You’ve done great.”

“Wait.” She grabbed his wrist as he stood, stopping him in an awkward slouch. “Bloom - she’s still in there, and she has powers, but she can’t use them, and I left her there alone. You have to help her.” She was worried, talking a mile a minute, her voice filled with guilt and worry. 

“We’ll get her, Stella, don’t worry.” Brandon replied. “In the meantime, keep light pressure on your head - you’re bleeding a lot.” Sky gently pulled himself out of her grasp, and the prince and squire made their way over to Timmy and Riven. 

“What’s the plan?” Sky said, brown eyes hard as he stared out at the house, at the moving figures he could see from the broken window. 

“What makes you think we have a plan?” Riven replied, his voice light, but not enough to cover his worry. 

“You and Timmy could hatch a plan in a minute even if you two were stuck in a griffin’s stomach. Plan?” 

That got Timmy to chuckle, at least. “I’ve laid out a few explosives around the entrance and surroundings,” he said, hefting his gun to his shoulder. Gun was a loose term - more like a bazooka. It was a massive thing, as long as his leg, and as wide as his fist. He must have assembled it when Riven had grabbed Stella. Timmy was a nerd, but damn, he could be scary if he wanted to be. He was small, and light - Sky wasn’t surprised that he could sneak right under the enemy’s nose and not be caught. “I can detonate them remotely.” He raised a remote - more of a button, really - and grinned. 

“Perfect. And then?” 

Riven took over. “We’ll set one off to get their attention. When the big guy comes out, we’ll be waiting for him. I’ll be there, to the left of the house, under that awning. Sky, take Brandon’s hovershield and wait right on top of the entrance. You’ll be the first to attack. You can take it by surprise. Brandon, you’ll be at the right, behind those bushes,” he pointed to the shrubbery on the side of the house, which was a scant three feet from the broken window. “When the ogre comes out, go in and secure the civilians.”

“I’ll be the support,” Timmy said, hooking a thumb over his shoulder at the fire escape on the wall behind him. “I’ll set up there and fire and detonate the traps when you need me to.”

“And me?” 

Riven whipped around, only to come face to face with Stella. She was leaning heavily on her staff. “Stella, you’re in no condition to-” Sky began. He looked like he was ready to catch her if she fell. 

She glared at him, and as if she was about to prove him wrong, she stood up to her full height. It pained her to do so, Riven could see that, but she held in her grimace. “What do you take me for? I’m the Princess of Solaria. I’m a fairy of Alfea. I’m not some damsel in distress that needs you to rescue my friend for me. What do I do to help?”

He was impressed. Riven didn’t have a lot of respect for Stella when they’d first met. He’d thought of her as a spoiled princess, nothing more. More so when she’d flunked her freshman year. But he felt a smirk grow as he stared at her, blonde hair stiff with blood and her clothes ripped and torn. But her back was straight, her shoulders were back, and she glared at each one of them in turn.

“Fly up to the roof of this building.” Riven tapped his knuckles against the bricks of the structure that was across the street from Bloom’s house, ignoring Sky’s spluttering. “Timmy will set up there instead, and you can help him provide support. Fire at whatever you see. Just make sure you don’t hit us.”

She sniffed at him, her nose turned up, but he didn’t miss the way her mouth twitched upwards as she turned away. She shrunk her staff down to a ring and slipped it on her finger, then grabbed Timmy’s launcher. Ignoring his indignant, “ hey!” she held it close, and was on the roof in a short few seconds. Timmy scrambled up the fire escape after her. 

Riven was tugged forward by the fists in his collar, face to face with a furious Sky. “What the hell, Riven? She’s injured!” 

He untangled Sky’s hands from his cape, glaring right back. “She’s one of the strongest fairies we know. You can’t just expect her to sit by. And if you do,” he said, taking a step closer, “then you really don’t value or respect her at a-”

“Enough.” Brandon was between the two, pushing them apart, his blue eyes glimmering in the low light. “We’ve wasted enough time. We have to start.” He stared each of them down. “Good?” Sky backed down first, eyes lowered. 

“Good,” they replied together. Riven clapped Sky on the shoulder, and strode past him to get into position. Brandon handed him his shield, and did the same. Sky huffed a sigh, and threw down the shield, hopped on, and shot into the air. When he was high enough to be out of sight, he lowered himself down on top of the door. 

Boom. 

Timmy detonated a bomb that was close to the perimeter of the house, several feet away from where Sky was hovering, but he still had to right himself or he would fall over. He quickly drew out his blade, a broadsword that glowed a light green. He was ready, gripping the hilt of his sword in anticipation, sinking into a crouch. The ogre would be out any second n-

Out came a troll. It was no ogre. It was an ugly thing, its skin a deep blue, hair tangled around its face in oily, long strands, clad in only a loincloth. Sky didn’t care what it was, though, he still attacked. Raising his broadsword high above his head, he leapt off the hovershield, his blade aimed right for the thing’s shoulder. 

It barely scratched him. 

With his sword stuck in the beast’s shoulder, barely an inch deep, Sky was quickly losing his momentum. He couldn’t pull the blade out either, there was nothing to ground himself on, no solid ground to put his feet on. It was either hang onto his blade and dangle there, or let go, lose his most familiar weapon, and get some space in between them. 

He didn’t get the chance to decide, because the thing had backhanded him clear across the yard. He collided painfully with a tree, the wind knocked out of him, and did he just hear the bark splinter behind him?

He struggled to get back on his feet. With his favorite blade lost - the troll picked it out of its shoulder like it was a toothpick -  Sky brought out his other weapon, a double edged spear. Fuck, where’s Riven where you need him? Or Timmy… 

He looked around frantically. He couldn’t take the troll on by himself, and he wasn’t suited with lighter weapons - if his broadsword could hardly pierce the troll, his spear wouldn’t even make a scratch. Brandon was still sitting outside the window, hiding in the shadows - why wasn’t he inside yet? - and Riven was nowhere to be found.

The troll wasn’t making any move towards him yet. Holy shit, did it even see him as a threat? Probably not, considering that it was just staring at the doorway, as if deciding if he should go back inside. 

A large figure walked out of the door. This was their guy. Yellow, muscled beyond belief, and carrying a stench that could render anyone unconscious, the ogre made its way towards Sky. He tensed, ready to dodge if necessary. 

“Where’s the girl?” It growled, cracking it’s knuckles together. 

“What girl?” Sky stalled. “It’s just me and you out here, big guy.” His eyes darted to where Brandon just was - good, he’d gone in - and he very carefully did not look where Timmy and Stella were. Raising a hand behind his back, he held up his index, middle, and pinkie finger, and curled his thumb inwards. 

Go. 

The ogre took a few steps towards him, each sending tremors across the ground. The troll followed behind like a dog. “Princess Stella,” it growled, “where is she?” 

“I told you, I have no idea,” Sky replied, a cheeky smile on his face this time. “But if you really want, I can be your princess.”

It snarled at him, and when it took another step, the ground beneath his foot wasn’t there anymore. Timmy was a genius. With an enraged yell, it fell through the gap in the earth. The troll blinked, and after a few seconds, it turned to Sky, as if he was just realizing that it was his fault. 

Sky spun his spear, and sank into a crouch. “Alright, ugly, ready?” His eyes were not on the troll, but on a spot above his head.

“Who the fuck are you calling ugly,” came a voice from behind the troll. Before Blue - which is what Sky dubbed the troll - could blink, a wire wrapped around it’s ankle, and it’s feet were swept out from under it.

“Took you long enough,” Sky laughed. “What were you doing?” 

“Waiting for the right moment,” Riven replied airily. “Timmy!” he shouted upwards, and not a second later, a huge metal ring was flying down towards them. Riven, dropping his hold on his dagger and bola, reached out and snagged it out of the air before it could make contact with Sky’s face. It was huge, with a diameter of about a foot, and the metal sang with electrical current. 

Before Riven could move to snap it around the troll’s neck and immobilize it, something grabbed his leg, and now he found himself face down in the dirt. The ring was knocked out of his hand as he grappled with the now free ogre. 

Riven managed to flip onto his back and plant a foot in the ogre’s chest. It didn’t do much good - the ogre was about three times as big as he was, and all he felt under his foot was rock hard muscle. Shit, Riven thought, should I? He started channeling energy, and felt it build under his skin, about to release enough of it to get loose.

The ogre grabbed his wrists, jerking him out of his concentration, and pulled. Riven was rushing headfirst toward it, and he couldn’t move, the thing was practically sitting on in shins. His vision tunneled, and all he could see was a huge fist, twice the size of his head, headed right for his face. 

Something blindingly white intercepted the punch, colliding with the ogre’s head. Fucking finally. It wasn’t enough to get him out of it’s grasp, but it saved his head from exploding, at least. 

Using the distraction to his advantage, Riven managed to wiggle his feet out from underneath the ogre’s mass, and swung his legs up to wrap around its arm. A quick bolt of energy that was easily missed allowed his hands to slip loose, shocking the ogre with a sting. With all of his limbs free, Riven, now hanging from the ogre’s arm like a monkey, twisted. 

The ogre’s shoulder popped out of its socket. It howled in pain, and Riven quickly hopped off - or tried to. Faster than he thought ogres could move, it held him up in the air with its hand - good hand, the other was hanging uselessly at its side - wrapped around his throat. “Little bastard,” the yellow beast snarled.

Riven panicked. Where the hell was Sky? Wasn’t he right there with him? Forget Sky, why wasn’t Timmy or Stella firing aga-

“No, no, none of that,” the ogre spoke up, and from the corner or his eye Riven spotted Sky, crouched to pounce, his spear held at his side. “One more step and he’ll pop,” it snarled, and tightened its grip on his throat. 

Riven couldn’t breathe, and holy fuck this cannot be happening again. His hands scrabbled at the thing’s meaty hand, his feet kicking uselessly, and dear God, he was seven years old again, small and helpless, and he couldn’t breathe couldn’t move couldn’t feel- 

Control. 

It sounded like Saladin’s voice. 

Slowly, Riven stopped struggling, going limp in the thing’s grasp, even though all of his senses were screaming at him not to. As he intentionally dropped his hand, he brushed his pocket, and drew out a small knife. He spun it in his hand, and as the ogre said something to Sky, something he couldn’t make out over the ringing in his ears, he plunged the blade into the ogre’s forearm, sinking it all the way down to the hilt. 

The ogre roared in pain again, and was forced to drop Riven. He couldn’t do much besides try his damndest to get enough air into his lungs, his breaths rattling in his chest, coughing and spluttering.

An explosion got his attention, and he looked up just in time to see Brandon emerge from the doorway with a redhead at his side. He didn’t notice that the ogre was gone. His focus was on the girl, who had her hands extended out. He could feel the traces of magic on them.

Riven’s last thought was oh, it’s her, before he passed out.