“Are you alright?” Hanali asked.
Otta pulled his hand back and clutched it against his chest. “Can’t do it. Sorry.” He clenched a fist and stood up.
“What do you mean you can’t do it?” Evalieh asked.
Otta looked away and his face turned red. “Too afraid. Flame won’t work. It hurt mother and father.”
Hambone waddled in clutching onto his wolf cane for support. “Here you lot are. Why did you leave me all alone?! I only stepped outside for a moment.” He squealed and looked up at Otta.
“Hambone, light the fire,” Otta said. He wouldn’t look down at the pig imp and walked out of the room.
Hambone held his staff out over the firewood and closed his eyes. He flung his eyes open and opened his palm. “Ablaze!” A burst of fire came out of the wolf’s wooden mouth and lit the firewood with a warm red flame.
Evalieh warmed his hands by the fire. “How nice—you’re actually useful.” He looked down at Hambone with a smug grin.
Hambone growled shook his cane at Evalieh.
“What’s wrong with Otta,” Hanali asked.
Hambone sulked his head and fumbled his hands around his robe. “My lord is sad.” He looked up and saw Otta standing at the door with a frown on his face. “The shamans cursed his bloodline by tampering with their house’s flame and tainting the magics they held. During a shaman attack, the king and queen went berserk and ended up killing each other in blind fury.”
Otta rubbed his thumb across his glassy eyes and flicked the tears away. “Mother, Father—I could not save them.” He clenched his fist and flopped down.
Hambone said, “My lord and his siblings succumbed to the same fate when they tried to use their flame. However, if they don’t try to use their flame’s magic the curse remains inactive.”
Hanali leaned towards Otta and placed his hands on the wolf’s shoulders.
Hambone gasped loudly and staggered backwards. Evalieh raised a brow and looked disgusted when the pig bumped into him. “You—you—you cannot do that! M-my lord! No one may touch him!” Hambone said.
“Is fine.” Otta waved his hand around and sighed.
Hanali observed Otta’s ruby earring by nearly touching his nose and eye against the stone. He was trying to sniff out something suspicious. The flame brightly flickered inside the gemstone. “Interesting, it looks perfectly fine, but I never knew the flame could be tampered with. Why would the shamans want to harm the wolf tribe?” Hanali asked.
“Mother and Father…guarded sun tear,” Otta said.
Hambone said, “The tribe of the Dusk Wolves work closely with the Warrior Clan’s leader. Being that the Warrior Clan functions as a militant kingdom, they focus on strength and strong tactics. With their numbers, strength, and speed the wolves were the perfect choice to guard the sun tear.” With his staff, he made scuff marks along the stones trying to draw out the desert region. Beyond the boxy fortress of the Warrior Clan’s main city, stood the Dusk Wolves’ tribe in the mountainous west. “Deep within a labyrinth of caves, the sun tear’s tree grows in a secret grotto. The wolf family has guarded the tear for many generations until the shamans decided to steal it for themselves.”
“But no one can touch the sun tear except for, Evalieh,” Hanali said.
“I knew that, but the shamans still tried." Hambone shook his head. "So, when their plans failed, they turned the family against the tear hoping the wolves would destroy the tree. Instead, the king and queen lost their lives to protect it and their children.”
Otta growled and leaned back, looking up at the ceiling. “Revenge! Must become stronger for family and bring shamans to justice!”
“Mother must know about this,” Hanali said. “I wonder if she’s caught wind about the wolf who protects the desert.”
Evalieh stepped forward, nudging everyone out the door. “How will you tell her?” he asked.
“Watch this.” Hanali closed his eyes and pulled out his sun pendant. “Illuminose.” His flame began to glow, and a shooting star shot out. It flickered around the room and landed in Hanali’s hands. It grew into a large ball of light and took the shape of a golden peacock. He told it all about their travel so far and who they had met. When he had finished the bird chirped a little tune and fluttered away at a lightning speed. It swooped downstairs and shot up through the fireplace, lighting the gaps in the stones before disappearing.
“I really need a bath but what was that?” Evalieh asked.
“Easy! Everyone has an entity within their flame. It takes the shape of something dear to you and acts as an extension to your eyes and ears,” Hanali said.
Evalieh smiled and nodded, he was impressed and shut the door, making sure they were all on the other side. He threw off his robe and tried to unzip his bodysuit from the back. The zipper had broken off, making it hard to pull. He was furious and strained his arms trying to pull the zipper. He smashed into the wall and stumbled.
“Everything alright?” Hanali said.
“I’m fine—don’t come in here!” Evalieh tugged and pulled, nearly choking himself at the neck. Finally, the zipper broke loose and slid open with a tear. A chill of horror shot through Evalieh’s body, making him feel queasy. His body suit fell around his waist, and he couldn’t bring himself to look down. His heart sank and he couldn’t breathe. He felt hollow and mindlessly stepped into the tub after removing the rest. He stared at the wall as if he just lost everything, ignoring the steam that dampened his face and eyes. In a moment of silence, he let out a loud scream.
Hanali and the others clambered through the room and slammed the door open. “What’s wrong?!” they asked.
Evalieh clung onto the tub and peeked over the edge like a submerged alligator. He pointed his trembling hand at the suit and wailed. “I broke it! What’ll I do now?!” He pulled his knees into his chest and rocked back and forth. “What’ll I do now? Without my suit I’m nothing. What’ll I wear? What’ll protect me? I’ll die without it!” He started to hyperventilate.
Hambone whacked Evalieh in the head with his cane, bringing him to his senses. “Enough! It’s just an outfit you baby!” Hambone said.
Otta picked it up and inspected the damage. The earring Evalieh’s mother gave him fell out of his pocket and across the floor. “We can fix it,” Otta said. He picked the earring up and gave it to Evalieh. He nodded with a toothy smile.
Hambone gasped and his jaw dropped open. “Us? My lord? How?” He staggered back holding his chest. “We don’t know how to sew.”
“Take home. Infernose—Hambone. Send home,” Otta said.
Hambone scoffed and looked up at Evalieh. He widened his big yellow eyes and snarled. “This wretch? You can’t be serious?! We can’t send this wretch’s clothing to our home.”
Hambone flinched and scrambled over to his master. He took the bodysuit and held his hand over his earring. “Infernose.” His flame grew brighter, and a fireball shot out. It swirled in Hambone’s tiny hands and transformed into an exact copy of him. It looked just as grumpy and wrinkled as the real thing. Hambone instructed it to take the suit home to their seamstresses. Without a word, the entity snatched the bodysuit up and left through an open window.
“You didn’t have to do that—but now what’ll I wear?! I feel so naked without my suit. If I fall what’ll happen to me? I’ll get hurt or die!” Evalieh said.
Hambone whirled around scratching and clawing. “You wretch—how dare you! Be grateful my master helped you!” He grumbled and pointed his cane at Evalieh. “Ablaze!”
Fire shot out of the wolf cane and heated the tub, making it boil. Evalieh squalled and jumped out of the tub. He snatched his robe up, feeling embarrassed and danced around, flailing his arms to cool off.
Otta and Hanali shook their head and sighed. Hambone chuckled menacingly and hobbled away.
“Why you…you’re going to be smoked!” Evalieh said.
Hambone whirled around and pointed his cane at Evalieh. “Oh yeah? You think you can beat me, wretch?!” Hambone said.
“Enough, Hambone,” Otta said. He wrapped his hand around Hambone’s head and picked him up. He squished Hambone around like a stretchy balloon. “Don’t be mean.”
“But my lord…”
“Can’t you two just get along?” Hanali asked.
Evalieh and Hambone both huffed and looked away from one another.
“We’ll find you something to wear in the morning, Evalieh.”
“But what if this creep tries to do something weird? He thinks I’m a pervert!” Evalieh said.
“Because you are,” Hambone said. He angrily narrowed his eyes at Evalieh. Otta squished the pig again and made him squeal.
Evalieh rolled his eyes and shrugged. He clung onto his robe and Hanali led him out. “At least it’s just for the night,” Evalieh said.
“Actually, I was thinking Otta and Hambone should join us both.”
Both Evalieh and Hambone gasped loudly. “What did you say?!”
They all went downstairs to eat and sit amongst the fire. The smell of the dried fish and fruits mixed with the fireplace smoke. Evalieh sat with his legs crossed and robe tied tightly against him. He made sure to face away from Hambone as he chomped on his food. The warm air caressed his skin, a feeling he rarely felt back home. He was so used to always wearing his bodysuit he had forgotten the last time his pale body saw the sunlight.
Hanali paced around the room explaining the problems during the ceremony. Then, he explained why he and Evalieh were traveling to gather the sun tears. “I think it would be wise to help each other out—especially now—since we know where the warrior’s sun tear is. We’ll need your help to get it,” Hanali said.
“So, this wretch is divine, huh?” Hambone poked Evalieh’s leg out of suspicion. “Doesn’t seem very divine…more like a wretch.”
“Will you stop that, I’m no wretch,” Evalieh said.
“Lies! A wretch’s lies!”
Otta wacked Hambone on the head with his hand.
Evalieh leaned back in his chair. “If only I could be helpful. Maybe this wouldn’t have happened to me.” He sulked his head and his eyes bled into a teal color. “I wish I could do more, but I don’t understand my body and mind anymore. It feels so foreign.” His body looked as though it were melting into the chair. His skin turned pale blue and slimy. It dripped along the floor in globs.
Hambone winced, out of disgust.
Otta looked worried. “You okay?”
Hanali tried to put on a brave smile and grabbed Evalieh’s sticky arms. “Evalieh…” Hanali pulled away and a stretchy goo spread between his hands. He looked sad and Evalieh snapped out of his daze.
“I’m okay!” Evalieh said. Instantly, his eyes returned to normal, and his body soaked up all the goop. He was back to normal, and the others looked wide-eyed and dumbfounded. “W-What are you looking at?”
“Nothing,” they said.
When it came time for bed, they gathered upstairs and laid out their blankets. Feeling awkward, Evalieh kept a tight fist around his robe and laid off to the side. Hanali flopped down close beside him and bundled up with his blanket. Evalieh wiggled away, feeling the cool floor brush against his skin. He didn’t want to appear cold in front of the others because he didn’t want to be any weaker than he already felt. Without Hanali’s warden powers, he wondered how the four of them will survive. Evalieh felt guilty for being unable to contribute but hoped Otta and Hambone would make things easier.
Soon after, the room grew quiet and the fire crackled downstairs. Otta snored with little howls and Hambone snored with raspy snorts. Evalieh’s eyes twitched with every bit of noise they made. He flopped around, trying to get comfortable.
Hanali popped his head out from beneath the blankets. “Hey, it’ll be okay,” he whispered.
Evalieh balled up, pulling his knees in close to his chest. He buried his face beneath the covers and closed his eyes. He drifted off to sleep, hoping Hanali would be right.