fter a week of easy traveling by foot, Alexle alerts you to an observation.
“Enchanter, according to the map, the path we are taking is not the direct route.”
“I know. We’re taking a detour to meet with some of my old friends from other schools. Afterward, we’ll cut through Troll Woods, and we’ll travel together for safety until we get to Separation Point where we’ll rest for the night.”
After an hour of walking, you reach the agreed upon meeting spot at roughly the same time your friends arrive. As your eyes meet, you’re flooded with emotions tied to vivid memories from past adventures. It was from those events that each of you earned your nicknames. Warrior always loved to compete and conquer opponents. Rogue came from a family of meager means but made up for it by beating others to treasure. Gadgeteer never stopped playing with gadgets and was always absorbed in them, even at parties.
You greet each other excitedly, talking over each other in your eagerness. As you travel together, you swap stories of the last year and share your hopes and dreams for the future. Eventually, the conversation dies down, and each of you are lost in your own thoughts.
As you walk, you notice the T-1 looking at you.
“What is it?” you ask.
“I didn’t know you had friends,” Alexle replies.
“I have some. Why does it matter?”
“I see how they care for you. I’m learning from your interactions.”
At last, your group reaches the edge of Troll Woods. The incredibly tall trees have grown densely over centuries, and their foliage blots out the sun within the woods. You look at your friends to make sure they’re ready, and they nod back in determination. You proceed into the forest. As you move along, you’re reminded of your brief experience with trolls. Most of the time, they would just steal deliveries left at your front door. Your security viewing lenses would catch them in the act, but you were never home to stop them. More obnoxious trolls would use their dark arts to take control of your Command Crystals and adjust the temperature in your home while you slept.
The T-1 suddenly stops in its tracks. “I sense danger,” Alexle says. You look around but find no signs of threat.
“Hey, um…” Gadgeteer says, “I really hate to say this, I think there’s someone hanging right there.”
You follow Gadgeteer’s gaze upward and see a dozen trolls hanging onto rope and dangling from high branches. They descend in unison and surround your group. You and your friends stand back to back, ready to meet them.
Before you can give Alexle a command, the T-1 snaps into action and begins pummeling the trolls. They scratch and claw at T-1’s armor, but you designed the chassis well. Nothing short of molten lava is going to damage that metal. One of the trolls breaks free from T-1 and charges directly at you.
“Stay away from my friend!” Alexle shouts as the T-1 grabs the troll and throws it against a tree. The trolls attacking you reconsider and, instead, turn to run. You look over your shoulder to check on your friends, and they’ve dealt with their trolls handily, as well.
“Are you OK?” Alexle asks, the T-1 checking you for wounds.
“I’m fine,” you confirm.
“Good.” The T-1 pulls you in for a hug. You’re surprised at first. Feeling the rough edges of the machine against your face and body is awkward, but you find the hug not unwelcome. You hug the T-1 back.
You gather your party and continue on to Separation Point.
Your group arrives at the small hamlet at sunset. You give your friends one last hug before heading to your hostel, exhausted from the day’s events. As you walk in, the proprietor looks up from his ledger and recognizes you immediately.
“You’re Enchanter, correct?” he asks. You nod. “I have a bunk prepared for you, and someone left a message for you.” He hands you a small envelope. You open it and read the message.
It reads: “Machines can’t protect you forever.” The ominous message makes the hairs on the back of your neck stand up.
The message is signed “LC”. You climb into your bunk racking your mind over who “LC” could be and what threat he or she or it presents. With no immediate answers coming, you drift off to a restless sleep.