• Dane sprinted through the forest, terrified of what he knew was following. He nearly tripped over a root, and tears sprang to his eyes as he marveled at the closeness of a fatal blunder. He couldn’t reach over his back to reach Firetongue, nor could he go any faster without losing all of his breath. The werewolf was nearly upon him, and there were still at least fifty yards to the edge of the forest. In a final effort, he leaped over a log and dove for the forest edge. The claws were scratching his legs, and he was sure he had missed the edge, but in that final moment, he was clear. The werewolf was thrown back by the barrier around the town, and Dane was safe.
    Breathing heavily, drenched in sweat, Dane lay on his back and looked at the stars. Firetongue’s hilt dug into his neck. Irritated, Dane reached over and grabbed at it. He pulled the sword from around his shoulders and laid it on the ground beside him. After a few minutes, Dane sat up and looked around. He could see that he was on the south side of the town. He stood up and started towards his home. He was going to get a thrashing from Mary Anne for being so late, but it was worth it. He reached into his pocket and dug out the rune that he had just recovered. The smooth surface had several bright blue lines dug into the center. He could feel the power core in the center gently pulsing. The importance of this rune was beyond most in the town, but to Dane it was worth his weight in gold. He closed his fist around it and walked up to the door of his house.
    He silently opened it, but, as he expected, a lamp was already lit and Mary Anne was sitting at the table, arms crossed and a frown on her face.
    “Where have you been?” she demanded.

    “I-I was ummm, uhhh, uh…” he stuttered.

    “You were out rune hunting, weren’t you?” she asked.

    “Well, yeah… But I can explain! Really!” he cried.

    “Uh-huh. Care to explain why it’s the middle of the night?” she asked.

    “Look!" he said, pounding his fist. He dropped the rune onto the table. She gazed at it, suddenly more mystified than angry.

    “What is it?” she asked reverently.

    “I think that it’s a mana rune.” he said.

    “Really?” she asked.

    “Yup. I nearly died getting it too!” he laughed.

    “WHAT?!!” she yelled, suddenly furious again.

    “Whoops.” Dane dashed up the stairs and into his room.

    “Goodnight!” he called.

    The next morning, Dane got out of bed and threw a tunic on. He grabbed Firetongue and slipped out the window. As he walked towards the fields, he heard someone calling his name.

    “Dane! Dane!” the voice called.

    Dane hid a smile, recognizing Alice’s lilting voice. He hadn’t seen her in a while, and they had a lot to catch up on. He continued his stroll towards the fields, and let her catch up to him. He had already unsheathed Firetongue and was guiding it through his exercises when he heard her labored breathing behind him. He turned, dropping Firetongue, and embraced her. Her soft red hair tickled his chin. She looked up at his face, and he realized how much taller he had become. He cupped her chin and lifted her face to his. He kissed her softly, and then let her down. She smiled at him and stepped back. Quickly, with amazing agility, she drew her rapier and thrust at his chest. Not even close to being caught off guard, he picked up his sword and parried.

    “I see that being away hasn’t made you lose your edge. You’re just lucky I guess.” she smirked.

    He swung his sword down, flickering flames flying from the edge of his blade. She quickly stepped back and made a horizontal cut, blocking his edge. He was amazed at her improved ability, but even more impressed at the fact that her flimsy blade didn’t shatter under the weight of his greatsword.

    “You’ve fortified your sword, haven’t you?” he asked.

    “Surprised? Wait’ll you see how much I’ve really improved!” she cried.

    They continued to fight for another quarter of an hour. Finally, they collapsed next to each other, holding hands.

    “It’s been too long, Dane.” she whispered softly.

    “I know, Alice. I know.” he whispered back.

    And they would have been there for another hour had the rain not started pouring down. Little did they know that that rained out morning would be the last peaceful time they had together for a long while.