Fog filled up the Sarepia Forest with tension and fear. A pack of wolves hid in the bushes, holding boomseeds and wearing clawed gauntlets, and watching a group of things the color of pure gold. The leader, a peach-colored male with a white belly and white swirls, turned to a normal blue wolf. "Ready, Princess?"
Princess turned to his leader. "I-I suppose, Prince."
"Everyone ready?" Prince howled to his pack.
"Ready!" they barked.
"CHARGE!" Prince yowled, bursting through the clearing.
The Golden Phantoms turned to the pack of wolves, but had barely enough time to react when a wolf tackled a phantom and planted a boomseed, before running away. The Golden Phantom was caught in the boomseed's explosion.
"Shield yourself! Don't attack!" one gold phantom yelled. The other phantoms muttered a spell, which made a liquid-like object circle them.
One phantom started casting spells to knock out the wolves and push them away, but more wolves started reaching the phantoms and, altough with difficulty, defeated them with gauntlets.
"We can't fight them! Flee!" the phantom commanded. The remaining phantoms fled. Muttering one last spell, the phantom knocked out the wolves. Then the phantom closed his eyes, transforming into a bright yellow wolf with a yellow old hoodie, a blue moon necklace, a gray heart locket, a blue worn blanket, and encrusted gauntlets. He ran across the forest, but before he disappeared into the trees, he took one last look at the clearing; this was the place where his kind tried protecting the animals, and where most of his kind has fallen.
He couldn't look any longer. The phantom turned around and leaped through the trees.
It's been many years since the Battle of Gold. No one feared Golden Phantoms because they believed they were extinct but just a legend. What they didn't know is that one of the survivors live among them right now.
The phantom, walked around, saying nothing and watching out for phantoms, both gold and black, but he never saw Golden Phantoms.
Well, except for one.
The phantom went to his den to rest. The birds chirped from the unusually snowy pine trees, or while they were searching the flowers for worms. Inside the den was some plushies, including a blue eagle plushie, a chair, a small table, a food bowl for a nonexistant pet, and other worthless things. On the other end of the den was a bunny shrine and two bamboo fences, both which reached the ceiling, so you couldn't see the other side.
The phantom settled down in front of the shrine and muttered something. One would've thought he was meditating until they saw him disappear into thin air. He appeared on the oter side of the shrine, where an entirely different room was. There was a chair and table, a mysterious floating green stone, a caged phantom, and two tapestries, one with a bunny and one with a monkey.
That's when it happened.
There was a pop and a Gold Phantom appeared.
Gem sighed and sat down in the chair. "What hhdo you need, Spark?"
"It's important. I overheard the phantoms- the black ones, of course -and they said they were going to steal the Alpha Stone."
Gem glanced at the green stone, floating between the two tapestries: a replica of the Alpha Stone. "And you want me to do what?"
"Assemble a team, search for it, and take it! Bring it to the Alphas! Defeat any phantom in your way!" Spark cheered.
"Thank you, Spark. I'll be at Sarepia Forest for a while." he said, before closing his eyes, muttering a spell, and dissappearing.
Gem picked up a sketchbook and a pencil, before looking around. Antlered foxes, winged wolves, there were a lot of unusual animals in Sarepia Forest. Gem noticed an alligator-like dragon with black scales and a red belly. He quickly sketched it as it romped around, letting the other animals touch it and purring like a lawn mower.
"What are you doing?"
There was a peach-colored wolf with a white belly, lavender swirls, and dark purple eyes. She looked familiar... the commander of the pack in the Battle of Gold!
"Sketching a dragon." Gem replied.
"Let me see!" the wolf looked at the dragon. "I like it!"
"Thank you," Gem said. The wolf smiled and left.
It was a while before the wolf returned again, but she came with a pink bunny, a white tiger cub, and a blue alligator. They all wore blue moon necklaces, like Gem.
"Want to be our friends?" the wolf asked immediately.
The wolf, lion, and alligator looked rather tough, while the bunny and tiger seemed faster than any animal he has ever seen. They all seem willing to help anyone. He needed help deaperately, though. If they were the wrong team, then they were doomed, but his instincts told him to trust them.
"Well, uhh... come to my den." Gem blurted out, walking through the forest, with the animals following.
"Nice den!" the wolf exclaimed. "You have nice stuff AND you're nice yourself!"
The alligator mumbled. "If this guy is leading us into a trap..."
"Shush, Croc!" the bunny said, flashing him a threatening glance. At the same moment, she jumped up a pedestal and grabbed a lollypop from a bowl of candy. The tiger chuckled as the bunny began biting onto the candy.
"What do you need us for?" the wolf asked finally.
The tiger cub said excitedly, "Do we get to fight evil animals and phantoms?"
"Ooh, if we are, then I'm in!" Croc said.
"Don't get your hopes up," the bunny said, crunching on the lollypop
"Actually," Gem said. "Yes, we are fighting, possibly. Here..."
Gem settled down in front of the shrine, muttering his spell. As they appeared in the secrt room, the animals gasped at each other.
"As I was saying," Gem said. "I need your help. Have you guys heard of the Alpha Stone?"
"Ooh! The Alpha Stone!" the tiger said. "The source for most magical abilities! The other source being the Wraith Gem!"
The wolf chuckled. "Heh, Snowy..."
"Yes, that is right, Snowy, I'm assuming that's your name. Phantoms plan to steal this stone and do who knows what with it." Gem said. He then lied, "I heard phantoms talking about it earlier. I figured we could save the Alpha Stone."
"Of course we can!" the wolf cheered. "We're awesome friends, and the best team! You couldn't have asked a better group!"
The figure floated around Spark. "If things go wrong, the Alpha Stone will be stolen!"
"I-I-" Spark stuttered. "Gem wouldv'e thought I was being silly if I hadn't brought up the Alpha Stone and blabbered about my day or something!"
"Then what makes the other visits different?" the figure asked.
"This time, I had a mission! What else should I have done?!"
The figure approached Spark. It was a rather large Gold Phantom with a nasty vertical scar going across his eye, but his eye itself seemed fine. "Do not yell at me. Got that?"
Spark didn't say anything for a moment. He only stared at the scarred golden phantom. Finally, he sighed. "Yes, Blaze."
Gem looked at his team. He couldn't help but wonder if he made the right choice, asking these animals to fight for him. Not only were they total strangers, but one was blatantly related to Prince, the very same wolf who killed half of his kind, one was a cub, one was small, and one obviously didn't trust him. Plus, it was like they didn't know what they were getting themselves into; they laughed among each other, telling each other how they'd have a great time.
The alligator then turned his head towards Gem, before quickly whispering among his friends. He didn't dare ask what they were talking about.
He then glanced at the Alpha Stone's replica. It sat there, doing nothing much more than floating. The real magic gem, the color of all things natural and green- trees, grass, moss -was tucked away in a place no normal animal knows. But Phantoms weren't normal animals. They weren't even close to animals. While animals ('And Golden Phantoms,' Gem reminded himself mentally) protected and loved each other, the Black Phantoms knew nothing more than destruction. Many questioned if they were even sentient.
"Hey," a voice spoke, snapping Gem out of his thoughts. He turned around and saw Prince- no, the wolf who agreed to help him. "Croc noticed that you were sad. What's wrong?"
Gem glanced at Croc, who was smiling and laughing among with his other friends. His mouth, which were full of sharp, crooked teeth, were curled into a genuine smile. He quickly turned his attention back to the wolf. "Are you sure you want to go on an adventure? I can always find another group of animals."
"Are you serious?" the wolf said, raising an eyebrow. "I'm Snowflake Loopypaws, the granddaughter of Prince Loopypaws who protected the land of Jamaa from horrible creatures like those Golden Phantoms!" she declared. Gem flinched when she mentioned the Golden Phantoms. "Plus, my friends are capable of anything! Candy is very quick, Snowy is very brave, and Croc is very powerful. What more could you want?"
Gem thought about it for a moment. He glanced at the animals that stood before him, and noticed that they had all stopped talking and were now staring at him with puppy-dog eyes and quivering lips. He just barely stopped himself from smiling. Plus, Snowflake was right; they did all seem suited for combat. "Alright, alright. You're willing, anyway, so that's good."
The animals grinned.
"Our first task won't be so epic, but it'll be important. I hope you like books."
The five of them stood before the library, which, admittedly, didn't look like much from the outside; It appeared to just be a dirt hole with an old wooden sign saying, "Redburrow Books". When they all went inside, however, they were greeted by the sight of tall shelves filled with books of every size and color and animals silently flipped through pages of books with titles such as, "Grooming Guide: Tips On How to Clean both Fur and Scales!" and, "Caring For Pets of All Kinds". Before Snowflake and her friends could think of how amazing it was inside, Gem hurried them over to the History section.
"Remember, we're looking for books on the Alpha Stone," he whispered, and not just because he was in the library. "Keep in mind that this mission is very important."
They then searched the shelves for books. Gem grabbed whatever book he found that had the words "Alpha Stone" on it. "Alpha Stone: The Source of Magic", "History and Mystery of the Alpha Stone", and "Alpha Stone VS Wraith Gem" we're just a few stories he found. As he was searching, he saw a book titled, "The Battle of Gold: The Fight Shrouded in Mystery". Gem took that book as well.
When they were done, they sat down at a table and started scanning the books for the Alpha Stone's possible locations. Gem briefly looked through, "Alpha Stone VS Wraith Gem", found nothing about locations, then glanced at, "The Battle of Gold". Unable to resist the urge, Gem flipped through the book.
The Battle of Gold was one of the battles fought during the Wraith War. In this mysterious battle, Prince Loopypaws's wolf pack sneaked up on Golden Phantoms and attacked them, supposedly driving their species to extinction. It is this battle that made Prince and his pack heroes among the animals, but the black phantoms, who were worried Prince would attack them next, attacked the pack in what would become known as the Battle of the Dark Canyon.
The Battle of Gold is known because of what little is actually known about it. One mystery is how the entire pack escaped unscathed. Another is if Prince really killed off all of the Golden Phantoms. Back then, it was accepted that Golden Phantoms were no more, but, recently, there was a sighting of a Golden Phantom casually floating through Jamaa Center. Witnesses swear the phantom was heading towards the ocean.
After the battle, one of the wolves in Prince's pack found stones with the words, "HELP", appearing to have been hurriedly scrawled in bright yellow ink.
Gem couldn't bear to read it anymore.
He half-heartedly scanned through the rest of the books he had picked out, still feeling sick from what he had just read. He wasn't surprised to find nothing on locations, other than what was obviously false speculation ("Some people have theorized that the Alpha Stone is hidden in the unknown land just south-west of Jamaa Central," the book, published half a year before the land south-west of Jamaa Central was explored, had said.) "What'd you guys find?" he asked once everyone was done reading.
"I found nothing," Snowflake sighed.
"Well, I found out tons of facts about the Alpha Stone completely unrelated to what we were searching for," Candy answered.
"The books were useless. If only there was a machine that allowed you to find what you need without having to go through books..." Snowy replied.
Croc simply made a quiet, disappointed growl, glaring at the books as if they insulted him.
Gem groaned and banged his head against the table. "We need to find this information soon..." he mumbled.
"...Are you sure about this, Shadow?" a voice behind Gem said. He turned his head around.
Two animals, a cheetah and a monkey, were speaking with each other. They both were black with boots and bows and arrows. The cheetah nodded. "Never been surer. We need to cross the ocean to find you-know-what."
The monkey pulled out a book titled, "Islands Outside Jamaa" with a sigh. Gem reached into a bag he was carrying with him and fingered something as he watched the two animals.
"I know he said not to search for it now, but if we don't, someone else will find it," the cheetah whispered. She hadn't noticed Gem watching.
The monkey nodded. "I see that. Marrow Isles isn't too far. I hear a boat's going there tomorrow, actually," he said.
Gem heard all he needed to know. He pulled out what he was holding and threw it towards the animals.
The boomseed he had thrown crashed against the shelf nearby the two animals and exploded. All the animals nearby, Snowflake and her friends included, covered their heads and screamed as if they expected a shower of dirt and rocks. To everyone's surprise, however, the only thing harmed in the explosion were the two animals, who were glitching between two forms: animal and black phantom.
Smirking, Gem approached the two "animals" and grabbed them by their "arms". "Gotcha."
The phantoms looked at Gem in fear. How had he known they were phantoms in disguise? What was he going to do to them. They were prepared to teleport away when, to their surprise, they were thrown into wooden crates instead. They tried teleporting away, but to no avail.
Everyone stared at Gem in silence as he caged the two phantoms. He turned to Snowflake and her friends, said, "We can go now," and left the burrow without another word, with a wolf, bunny, tiger, and crocodile trailing behind.
The boat gracefully glided through the water, going across the beautiful blue ocean. However, the only animals on the boat were Gem and the captain, a polar bear named Seasalt.
Gem had his bag slung over his shoulder. He had to make sure he didn't lose it for more than one reason.
After what seemed like an hour of sailing, a distant, foggy island came into view. "There's Marrow Island, our destination!" Seasalt yelled out. "I'm sorry your friends couldn't board, but I'm running a business, and, if you can't pay for someone to come out, they can't come on."
"Don't worry about it, Seasalt," Gem answered. "It's fine."
Soon enough, Seasalt dropped off Gem at the island and sailed away, shouting, "Goodbye!" at the top of his lungs as he disappeared from sight. Smiling, Gem took off his bag and peered into it, finding himself staring at four pairs of eyes.
"How exactly were we able to fit in here again?" Snowflake asked, climbing out of the bag.
"Bottomless bag spell," Gem answered as he watched Candy, Croc, and Snowy exit the bag.
For the next half hour, they all searched the island for the potential entrance to the Alpha Stone could be. Under bushes, behind rocks, on top of hills... there was nothing. Finally, at the back of the island, Gem noticed a fancy red archway leading into what appeared to be a mineshaft. Perched on top of the archway was a green owl who was wearing spirit armor. Gem cautiously approached the owl, followed by his companions, when everything went black. The only thing he could see was the owl, who was now standing in front of him. "Hello," she said. Her voice seemed to bounce off invisible walls.
"Err, hello," Gem said. "Can you please let us in?"
The owl shook her head. "You have three trials to pass. There is the Trial of Honesty, the Trial of Bravery, and the Trial of Truth. However, I cannot let you pass unless you answer a few questions: who are you, why are you here, and are you willing to risk your life for that reason?"
Gem thought for a moment. "I am Gem the wolf. I am here to find the Alpha Stone since it is in danger of being stolen by phantoms. If I have to die to protect Jamaa, so be it. I'll willingly give my life if it means everyone else's will be spared," he said.
"You liar!" Fire seemed to flare behind the owl, and she appeared to grow larger. She spread her now-oversized wings and flexed her gigantic talons. "Tell the truth!"
Gem stayed calm; it was just an illusion. At least... he hoped it was. "I told you the truth. I am Gem. I'm here for the Alpha Stone and I will die for it."
"You are not Gem the wolf!" the owl shrieked.
"Yes I am." Gem said, keeping his voice steady.
The owl grew larger. Her talons were now three times the size of Gem and her wings could've been as large as the islands, except Gem could only see the owl.
Gem thought for a moment. What was wrong...? Then it struck him: he was already doing the Trial of Honesty. The owl was supposed to detect lies, and, after a bit of thinking, he realized what the lie was.
He took a deep breath and spoke again. "I am Gem... the Golden Phantom. I am here for the Alpha Stone and I will die for it."
He could see the island again. The owl was normal sized and was perched on the archway again, sleeping. Snowflake and her friends acted as if they've just woken up. "Let's go." Gem said.
Inside the tunnel were torches to light the way. It seemed to go deep underground. "Perhaps now is a bad time to say I'm claustrophobic," Croc mumbled.
"Let's go. No turning back. If we succeed, the world will be saved." Gem said.
"For Jamaa!" Snowflake and her friends cheered, following Gem down the tunnel.
Soon, the tunnel lead into a large room. Sitting, of course, in front of a doorway was a gigantic phantom statue. As soon as Gem and his friends entered the room, the statue turned from gray to crimson. It flew into the air, its red eye pointed towards Gem. Everyone's fur raised due to the sheer amount of static around the phantom. The Trial of Bravery.
"I cannot let you pass," the phantom said in a deep, booming voice.
"What a surprise," Snowy mumbled.
"However, you may continue your quest for the Alpha Stone..." the phantom paused, as if it was purposely creating tension. "...if one of you sacrifice your life to let your over friends free."
Croc stepped in front of his friends, snarling. He lunged towards the phantom, but it swatted Croc away as if he was just a bug. Snowy pounced onto the phantom, but it ignored Snowy as he harmlessly bit it. Gem signed and stepped forwards, only to be shoved out of the way by Snowflake. "I'll sacrifice my life."
"What?!" Gem yelled.
"Think about it: you're the only one who knows about the Alpha Stone and all that junk. If you were the one to die, then we would be directionless. Not to mention that we have no way off this island, and you probably have the solution," Snowflake pointed out. "Don't worry about me." She smiled, the same way she did when they first met, and approached the phantom.
The phantom lunged towards Snowflake before anything else could be done, but turned into a cloud of dust before it could reach her. Instead, the phantom reappeared as a statue, and, this time, it wasn't blocking the way towards the Alpha Stone.
Gem expected the Trial of Bravery to be fighting, but, he quickly realized, giving your life is just as brave. Beyond the tunnel was the Trial of Truth, and he was ready.
They went through the tunnel again, and, to Gem's surprise, the Alpha Stone was on the other side. No trial or anything. Was there a mistake?
On the stone wall behind the Alpha Stone was an etching of an owl's face, but, otherwise, that was all the decoration available. Gem quickly touched the Alpha Stone, ready to grab it.
His arm glitched and turned into a golden tentacle. He pulled back, and his paw returned. He felt sick again; the Trial of Truth involved grabbing the Alpha Stone, and he knew exactly what the Trial of Truth would reveal. "Err, anyone else want to take the Alpha Stone?"
Everyone else had a go trying to take the Alpha Stone, but nothing happened. Whe they tried to take it, it stayed stationary. Gem grew worried. What if they couldn't get the Alpha Stone?
"The Stone will only accept your truth," the owl's voice spoke. To Gem's surprise, the stone owl etching was speaking. "Now, you must accept your truth. You'll save Jamaa if you do."
With his breath shaking and paws quivering, Gem grabbed the Alpha Stone and yanked it from the pedestal it sat on. He realized with satisfaction that it had succeeded, but that was before he looked at himself.
He had tentacles, was floating off the ground, and only had one eye. He had become a Golden Phantom again. He looked at Snowflake and her friends. They looked at him in shock.
After a moment of silence, Snowy yelled, as loud as a baby tiger cub could yell, "You're a phantom?!"
Snowflake shook her head. "It can't be... It can't be..."
"He tricked us!" Croc growled.
"We lead him right to it!" Candy shrieked.
Gem watched in fear as his new friends' trust died. His heart broke a bit more when Snowflake fled. Croc growled and approached him, with Snowy and Candy standing behind him, ready to fight as well.
Suddenly, Snowflake screamed.
Gem, forgetting his fear and sadness, quickly dropped the Alpha Stone and flew towards the noise.
When Gem flew into the Phantom Statue room, she found Snowflake surrounded by Black Phantoms. Nearby was the green owl, shackled on one of the statue's tentacles. They were placing shackles onto Snowflake as well, and Gem instantly realized what they wanted.
He flew back down towards the Alpha Stone, where he saw Croc, Candy, and Snowy whispering among each other, and he realized they were planning how to get Snowflake back. Gem grabbed the Alpha Stone, muttered a few spells, grabbed his bag, and then flew back towards the phantoms. "Hey!" he shouted.
The phantoms turned towards him, eyeing the Alpha Stone he held. He instantly recognized the heavily scarred Phantom, Ink. Ink flew forwards until he was only a few inches away. "What is it? Make it quick before my phantoms capture you, too," he said.
"You want the Alpha Stone, right?" Gem asked. The phantoms' eyes widened, as well as Snowflake's. "I can give it to you, but you'll have to free Snowflake and... y'know, the owl."
"My name's Paladin," the owl said, her voice barely above a whisper.
Ink nodded. "Alright. Give over the Alpha Stone first. I don't trust you."
"I'm not sure if you noticed, Ink, but Golden Phantoms tend to be genuinely honest. It's you I shouldn't trust," Gem remarked.
"That doesn't mean Golden Phantoms are always honest. I'm your enemy, so who knows? People do twisted things against their enemies simply because they're enemies," Ink replied.
Gem reached into his bag. "Look, right now, I just want my friends free more than anything else. So free them, I give you the shiny rock sitting in my tentacle right now, we both go our own way,"
"I don't trust you," Ink repeated.
If Gem was in his wolf form, he would've been smirking. "Well, keep in mind this didn't have to happen." He then threw the boomseed he had grabbed. He always carried boomseeds around, and he always carried tons. The only thing boomseeds could harm were phantoms, so that meant the environment and any nearby animals were protected.
Just a second before the boomseed struck the wall, Gem remembered he was also a phantom.
The boomseed exploded, killing the phantoms caught in the explosion and knocking the others away, including Ink and Gem. Gem collided with a wall and fell down. As he did, he spotted a key flying through the air, grabbed it, and crawled towards where Snowflake was shackled. She watched in fear as Gem unlocked her shackled and passed her the key, muttering, "Free Paladin."
As Snowflake worked on Paladin's shackles, Croc, Candy, and Snowy ran into the room, immediately shocked by what they were seeing. Once Paladin was freed, all the animals gathered around Gem, who was still on the floor, heavily breathing. They watched the pathetic phantom crumpled on the ground, all of their emotions and feelings conflicting each other.
When Gem noticed, he simply let out a wheezy chuckle. "Don't worry; if I was dying, I'd already be dead."
Ink had collapsed as well, but was quickly standing up, worried about the dwindling number of black phantoms in the area. He floated towards Gem. "How dare you-!" he began to speak.
"The Alpha Stone's by the statue. Take it; I got my friends out and I'm a wolf- err... phantom of my word." Gem informed Ink.
Everyone stared at him, surprised.
Ink, albeit cautiously, grabbed the Alpha Stone and floated over to the other phantoms, speaking with them. Snowflake prodded Gem, making sure he was okay, until Paladin pointed out that it was probably just causing him even more pain. The animals glanced nervously at each other, worried; the phantoms had the Alpha Stone!
They didn't notice the phantoms floating behind them, carrying shackles, until Snowy looked up. "Eep! They're here!" he squeaked.
Everyone turned around, eyes widening. "Gem gave you the Alpha Stone!" Snowflake shouted. "He said to free us in return!"
"Yes, and you guys did get freed. He never said anything about recapture," Ink said, his gaze revealing no emotion. Snowflake could only stare in disbelief as her paws were shackled.
Some phantoms chained up Gem, who didn't - and couldn't - fight against them in his current state. Snowy and Candy were captured with a surprising amount of effort due to Snowy's bravery and Candy's swiftness. The biggest challenge, however, was shackling Croc, who snapped at anyone who approached. It only took the threat of his friends and him being electrocuted by multiple phantoms for him to give him. The phantoms turned to capture Paladin, but were surprised to find her gone.
Ink watched the animals struggle, his tentacles folded as if they were arms. "Take everyone except Gem to the fortress. I'll take care of him personally. Afterwards, send out a search party to find Paladin; she'll undoubtedly be trying to search for ways to retrieve the Alpha Stone," he commanded, before turning his attention to the animals. "Call me cruel all you want, but we can't risk any of you trying to steal back the stone."
The animals struggled to no avail as they were dragged away by the phantoms.