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Cornelius

Once upon a time, there was a man named Cornelius who lived at the very peak of Mt. Romani. Several years he had been hiding from his family in his lonely cave, concealed by the heavy clouds that surrounded the mountain. His only company was of those called Mistians, flying creatures with scaly bodies. Most humans were frightened by these long-necked creatures, but Cornelius’s need for companionship drove him to befriend the mystical beings.
One day, as Cornelius was bathing in a pool of melted snow, a Mistian named Sampson brought terrible news. Cornelius listened gravely as the creature relayed the incident.


“The wolves have attacked your village. Your father and many others have been abducted,” said Sampson. “The humans defended themselves the best they could, but they were overpowered by the sheer number of the wolves.”


“No,” said Cornelius. It seemed to be all he could say as the image of a vicious wolf dragging away his father played over and over in his mind.


“You must go. You are the only one skilled enough to defeat the beasts,” said the Mistian. He waited for a response, but when it was clear that none was coming, he spoke again. “Please. Think of your father.”


But Cornelius was thinking of his father. What was the last thing he had said to him before fleeing to isolation? ‘I never want to see you again, you arrogant fool!’ They had not spoken since.


“Cornelius?”


The creature’s scratchy voice brought Cornelius back to reality, and he became suddenly elated. “I will not go! I have severed all attachments to that man long ago, and I do not plan on resurrecting our terrible relationship any time soon!” Cornelius paced back and forth, punching the wall of his cave repeatedly and mumbling unintelligible things.


“You would be wise not to lose your head, boy. Your temper only brings you more stress,” said Sampson. “Sit, Cornelius, and do what your heart tells you to do. I will leave you now, but I must warn you… the deaths of all those people will fall on your head if you do not attempt to help them.”


Cornelius lay awake on his stone bed that night, a thousand thoughts running through his mind as he struggled to make a decision. The Mistian was right; Cornelius was the only one with enough skill to defeat the wolves. The villagers would surely die if he did not come to their aid. He sat up straight then. He knew what his responsibilities were and what he owed to the people of the village.


Cornelius began preparing for the trip. A sack full of food, water, and his favorite sword. That should be sufficient. He stepped outside into the cold air and had barely whistled when a Mistian by the name of Iris appeared before him. Sampson, a much slower flier, arrived a few seconds later. The creature’s eyes locked on Cornelius’s sword, and the grin on his face told Cornelius that the creature was happy with his choice.


“Human, you have done well,” said Sampson. “A squabble between a man and his father should not keep him from fulfilling his duties. Actually, I have a story that–”

“Yes, yes. We would all love to hear one of your wise fables, but there is a more pressing issue at hand,” said Iris playfully. She turned to Cornelius, her smile broadening. “You’ll be happy to know that the bears have agreed to join you in your quest.”


Well, this was great news. The bears were not only larger than the wolves, but they outnumbered them as well. “They would be lovely allies, but how can this be? You have gotten word of my decision only seconds ago,” said Cornelius, his eyebrow raised.


“We knew you’d make the right choice,” said Iris with a wink. She lowered her head and nudged Cornelius in the chest. “Now come, Human. We have many miles to travel.”


Cornelius did as he was told and boarded the creature’s slick back. He waved goodbye to Sampson as Iris lifted up off of the mountain.


Cornelius had always loved flying. The view was so beautiful from the sky. He wished the clouds that surrounded his mountain were less dense, so he could lean over the edge and see all the way down to the bottom, where there were trees, beautiful trees, as far as the eye could see. Cornelius admired them now, leaning off of Iris’s back as much as he could. Then, something caught his eye. A brown mass, covering at least a mile of land. It was moving, he could tell, but what creature would be big enough to cover this much forest?


“The bears have picked up on our scent,” said Iris, reading his mind.


“Whoa! Those are all bears?” Cornelius squinted against the sun as he tried to get a better look at the brown formation. Sure enough, he could make out individual bears, running side by side. And, as Iris flew lower, he could hear their war-cries.
Cornelius began to laugh, but his happiness quickly faded when he noticed the wolves marching – in several rows – towards the bears. There were many of them, but Cornelius was still confident that the bears would win out. Then, something very bad happened. In the center of the wolves’ army was a very large and menacing creature called a Yarion. The creature was equipped with six razor-sharp claws on each paw and stood higher than any bear. Almost immediately, the Yarion advanced to the front line and began tearing its way through the regiment of bears.


“Iris, get lower!” Cornelius screamed as he drew his sword. Iris did as he said and flew towards the beast.


“Protect my wings, Human! I cannot fly if they are injured!” Iris screeched as she accelerated her speed.


Cornelius drew back his sword and searched for his target. He had only ever fought one Yarion and it had become apparent that the unarmored neck was its weakest point. This was where he aimed now, as he thrust the sword into the beast’s throat. The blade made contact, but Cornelius could tell that it had not gone deep enough to kill the creature.

“Right!” He yelled just as a claw came within inches of his left ear. Iris performed a spin maneuver that put them directly to the right of the beast, who was slashing the air furiously. Cornelius swung again and his sword made contact with the creature’s calf. This made the Yarion bellow a terrifying sound, and Cornelius knew that the beast would now try even harder to kill him.
“Up!” Cornelius yelled, foreseeing the creature’s next attack.
Iris flew directly upward, just missing the fangs of their opponent. They circled above the beast, who was pounding its chest in fury.


“Human, I grow weak. Find your target and make it count,” breathed Iris. Her scaly skin was covered with sweat and her breathing was heavy. Cornelius knew he would only get one more chance to kill the Yarion. Mistians tire easily, and they had already been flying for hours.


Cornelius studied the monster as it snarled at them. It could not jump high, due to its injured calf, but it was still getting close enough to make Iris nervous. She began making awful screeching sounds, and Cornelius hoped she would not go into a panic attack.


“Iris, calm yourself. I just need to make contact one more time, and the beast will die. I promise you this much,” said Cornelius in a strong voice. “I need you to trick it. Pretend to go left but actually go right.”


Iris made a high-pitched sound and began to perform the maneuver. The Yarion, assuming they would continue their course of direction, began to swing left. But the Mistian dodged the claw and went right, just as Cornelius shoved his blade into the monster’s throat. Blood began to gush from the Yarion’s wound, and it fell to the ground, where a group of bears finished it off with ease. Iris was able to fly a couple more yards until she had to land because she was on the verge of fainting.


“You did marvelously, Creature. You have made quite a legend for your ancestors to hear,” said Cornelius in a soothing voice. He patted her neck and closed her eyes, willing her to rest. He then gripped his sword and turned to join in the carnage when he realized that the fighting was basically over. The few wolves that had not been slaughtered were surrendering. Cornelius almost felt bad for the puppies that were begging the bears to go away. But these were the wolves that had ransacked his village and taken the villagers that once adored him. He slowly made his way to the front of the bears.


Cornelius faced the wolves and said in a booming voice, “I am He called Cornelius. The village you destroyed was once my village. The people you have held here were once my people.”


“But they are not anymore. So of what significance are they to you?” A large wolf hisses at Cornelius.


“I have lived with these people. I’ve seen witnessed many of their births and have seen many of them grow old. I will always care for these people, and I have come to free them from the likes of you,” Cornelius said. He had raised his sword and was now pointing to the wolf that had spoken out. “Now release my people!”


The wolf growled but waved his paw in the air. “Release the humans.”


Within seconds, dozens of villagers were running toward Cornelius. He resisted the impulse to flee and accepted them warmly. Among them was his father.


“Hello, Father,” said Cornelius stiffly. He tried to ignore the longing that was creeping up inside of him.


“Son,” replied the parent.


They stared at each other for a moment and then embraced. Tears rolled down Cornelius’s father’s cheeks. They stayed like that for a while, but then broke apart when a little girl tugged on Cornelius’s armor.


“Is that your daddy?” She nodded towards his father, but walked away without an answer when an embarrassed mother called to her.


Cornelius smiled and waved to the mother, who he recognized as the village healer. Then he reluctantly turned his attention towards the man that stood before him. “Father, I realized today that either your life or mine could be over in an instant. And I don’t want to be on bad terms with you when that time comes,” Cornelius looked down and tried to swallow the lump in his throat.


“I have come to see this very thing,” said his father. “There is no reason for a father to fight with his son so long. Shall we consider it history?” His father smiled, and put a hand on Cornelius’s shoulder.


“History,” Cornelius repeated.


And they all lived happily ever after.





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zadiekatie23 This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Sept. 10, 2011 at 8:02 pm
I enjoyed reading this; clever and creative and hooking and full of action! I also liked the ending; usually I don't like when stories end that way but it worked for yours, to tie it up, although it could have been left out. Otherwise, great story! Thumbs up!
 
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