Terra Incognita – Ch. 17

Krakust swam quickly towards the figure that had thrown a fishing spear at him. As he did so the creature threw another one. It glanced off of Krakust’s arm, taking a chunk of flesh with it. Grunting in pain he continued forward towards the creature. He was finally close enough to make it out. It was a large, blue-green, anthropomorphic frog. He hadn’t seen anything like it before, all he knew was that it had attacked him first. He swam faster and, before the creature could throw another spear, he buried his dagger deep into one of its large eyes. He pulled the dagger back and slashed the throat of the frogman. A thick, black sludge seeped out of the wounds and into the water. Krakust backed away from the substance then turned to continue the swim downward.

Ember was having a hard time keeping up with Krakust. Foxes were not designed to swim under water and she had to fight against her buoyancy with paws that wanted to push her towards the surface. The close call with the first spear did not help and she floated upwards quite a ways. She tried her hardest to keep up with Krakust, who didn’t seem to notice, or didn’t care, that she was falling behind. Looking around at the rocky walls of the deep pool she decided that it might be better to push off them to get downward momentum. She swam to one and tried pushing off of it. It certainly was faster than swimming by itself, but not very much.

Slow down! I can’t keep up! She tried to communicate telepathically with Krakust, but he didn’t seem to hear her. Shast!

Krakust continued to swim downward. After a long swim he saw the bottom of the pool expand into and underwater cavern. The heat from the water was increasing. It wasn’t uncomfortably hot yet, but he expected it would get much warmer the farther down he went. Glancing around he noticed another frog creature guarding an underwater cave. He oriented his body to swim that way when he realized Ember wasn’t with him. He looked up to see her slowly making her way toward him. Well, the sentry hasn’t noticed me yet, I’ll wait for her to catch up.

Pushing off the walls took a lot of Ember’s concentration. She pushed off the wall again and realized there was no more wall below her. She looked around frantically and noticed Krakust waiting for her. With a sigh of relief that released bubbles into the water she began swimming toward him. He nodded at her then turned to swim in another direction. Well, at least he waited for me before going out of sight. Ember made her short legs work all the more to try to keep up with the orc. How did Helena get this deep? I certainly would’ve drowned by now without the potion Krakust had. Ember shook her head. No, don’t think about that. She must be fine.

The frog creature finally turned to face Krakust, but it was too late. He was already reaching out with his dagger to kill the sentry. The same black substance from before oozed out of the creature and Krakust once again made sure not to swim through it. He swam into the cave and up into an air pocket. He heard the distant sound of struggling and almost ran towards it before remembering Ember was still behind him. “Probably should’ve brought the dwarf with me except he would sink like a stone.” He muttered softly to himself.

After a few moments Ember surfaced and made her way out of the water. She shook herself dry and looked around, confused. “Aren’t we below the water level?”

“Keep your voice down,” Krakust said softly. “This is an air pocket and it’s probably not very big.” A scream echoed down the narrow passageway as if to punctuate his point. “We might want to get a move on.”

“Agreed.” Ember started padding quickly down the passage, not waiting for Krakust. She poked her head around a nearby blind corner then pulled it back. By this point Krakust had caught up with her. “Helena is tied up and looks unconscious. There’s two of the frog things with her.”

Krakust nodded. “I can take them. The other ones were pretty weak.” He took a moment to focus, then his muscles became move defined and his blood vessels stuck out slightly. “Here we go.” He rounded the corner and lunged at one of the two frog men.

Following behind Ember saw the other frog man shoving something into Helena’s mouth then turned to attack Krakust. She ran forward to Helena to see what it was.

A pink object changed color to match Helena’s tongue. Helena’s eyes went wide as the thing ripped her tongue out and attached itself to the stump. She then passed out again.

Ember turned to see Krakust finish off the second frog creature by smashing its head in with his pick hammer. “Quick!” She yelled. “Helena’s tongue was replaced by a parasite!” She pointed at the slab of pink flesh on the ground with her snout. “You need to cut it out!”

“What?” Krakust looked at the flesh. “If I do that she won’t be able to talk.”

“Just do it!”

“Fine.” He pulled his dagger out and wiped it off on his leg. “Here goes.”

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Terra Incognita – Ch. 16

Donaar jumped onto the raft and gripped a femur tightly with his left hand. With his right he started passing out the potions of acid resistance. “Here, chug them and we might make it out of this alive!”

Sorley and Lourek each took one of the potions and downed them swiftly then gripped onto the raft.

“Here it comes!”

The wave crashed into the bone raft and the three creatures holding onto it were covered in acid. There was about a half a centimeter invisible barrier keeping the acid from touching their skin. The kobold above didn’t have that luxury and he appeared to be having a hard time holding onto the piece of debris.

Orby, Sorley thought at the elemental, can you push that creature closer to us?

It’s called a kobold, since you don’t seem to know what it is. Orby replied. I could, but the acid would hurt me. As long as I stay part of you it won’t affect me.

Sorley mumbled something to himself then grabbed a handful of flour from a sack he had tied to his waist. He then threw the flour toward the kobold. The flour imploded halfway between the two groups causing them to get closer to eachother.

“What are you doing?” Lourek yelled. “We’re already in a precarious position! Don’t make it worse!”

Throwing another handful of flour Sorley responded, “this isn’t going to make it any worse. In fact it might make the wave smaller.” The flour imploded again, taking some of the acid with it where ever it was going.

– – –

On the surface of the hot spring the serpent’s face contorted and it started coughing and hacking. Lukren and Evryn backed away from the serpent as it began to thrash about wildly. It was yelling something in draconic, but Lukren didn’t understand the language.

The serpent yelled in draconic again then started to calm down.

With a last string of draconic the serpent shot water into the air then dipped beneath the surface of the water and disappeared from Lukren’s sight. “Great,” he muttered, “now it’ll be even harder for them to get out.”

– – –

Just as Sorley was close enough to reach out and grab the kobold the entire belly of the beast convulsed and the feeling of weightlessness came over him. “Quick! Grab on!”

Seeing the outstretched hand the kobold pushed off of his piece of debris and grabbed onto Sorley’s forearm. “Thank!”

The grip was so tight that the kobold’s claws broke Sorley’s skin in places, but he held on all the tighter in response. If he could save this innocent life maybe he could save others. Not like his parents had, sacrificing their lives, but surviving another day to save more. By the time the stomach acid had settled down his arm was oozing blood from several places and the kobold was unconscious. Carefully pulling the kobold onto the raft Sorley grabbed the tattered pieces of his tunic and wrapped some strips around his arm.

“Will he be okay?” Sorley asked Donaar.

“I’m not sure.” Donaar placed a hand over the kobold’s nose. “I feel his breathing, so possibly.” The dragonkin looked around. “Is there someplace we can land this raft?”

Lourek pointed at a distant pile of debris. “That looks as good a place as any.” He pulled an arm from the raft and started using it as an oar. “Only one way to find out.”

The raft slowly made its way to the isle of debris in the sea of stomach acid. The surface of the debris above the acid was by no means dry when they got there, but it was better than their raft. The acid immunity potions were starting to wear off and the acid was beginning to sting their eyes. By the time they disembarked from the raft the skin of Sorley and Lourek was starting to burn.

“Those scales sure come in handy. Another barrier before you start getting burnt.” Lourek motioned at Donaar. “Though, I suspect it’s worse once the acid gets through them.”

“I don’t want to find out.” Donaar threw the kobold over his shoulder like a sack of potatoes. “We need to get out of here, and soon.”

Sorley pulled the pouch of flour off his hip and threw it into the stomach acid. “That’s ruined now. The acid got absorbed by it.” He started sifting through some of the debris that was piled up. “Maybe I can find some bone to grind into powder. Needs to be mostly unaffected by the acid, though.”

“Don’t worry about that right now. I think there’s something buried over there.” Lourek pointed at a piece of carved stone protruding from the pile. “Maybe it’s something more immediately useful.”

With a shrug Sorley walked towards the gray stone. Upon closer inspection it appeared to be part of a portal. Seeing that it could in fact be a way out Sorley started digging frantically only to discover it was shattered into various large pieces. He pulled up as many as he could and started arranging them.

“Well,” Donaar asked as he gently set the kobold down, “is it anything we can use?”

“Not if it’s as broken as it appears,” commented Lourek.

Sorley pulled his grimoire from his pack. The cover appeared to be a little damp, but he quickly wiped it off. Undoing the buckle on the cover he flipped to a blank page. “It’s not very helpful right now, no, but I think it could be important.” He pulled a quill and a stoppered bottle of ink out. “I’m going to sketch it. It appears to be a teleportation circle or a summoning circle. Could be either at this point. I’ll do some research on it later when we aren’t in this situation.”

“Wait, could you teleport us out of here?” Lourek stood on a piece of debris to look over Sorley’s shoulder. “I’m no expert, but if you’ve been somewhere before it should be simple, right?”

“Simple?” Sorley paused from his sketch. “Teleportation is an exact science. There’s no simple about it.”

“What about a portal? You said one brought you here to Domhan. Could you make a smaller one to jump to a point you remember here?”

“That would be better if I could see where I was going. Not very possible from where we are. If I get anything wrong,” Sorley resumed sketching the magic circle, “we could end up in the wrong place in pieces.”

The kobold opened its eyes and looked around weakly. “Where Kefderent now?”

Donaar turned to the kobold. “What’s Kefderent?”

“I Kefderent. Of Kef Clan.” The kobold slowly stood up. “Me sore, but alive.”

With a smile Sorley finished the sketch and turned to the kobold. “Hi, Kefderent. I’m Sorley Aelfson.”

“I’m Donaar ‘Shield Biter’ Thruuvth a knight of the Order of Defenders. The dwarf is Lourek.” Donaar motioned at Lourek.

“Aye, nice to make your acquaintance.” Lourek turned back to Sorley. “Well, will you at least try to make a portal?”

Sighing, Sorley took a seat on a piece of the magic circle he had pulled from the detritus. “I’ll need to commune with Gormaliev first. I’ve never cast anything that complicated before.” He folded his legs and fell into a trance. As he did so Orby floated out of him.

I can’t be part of that conversation. Orby thought to Donaar and Lourek. Is there anything I can do for the two of you?

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Terra Incognita – Ch. 15

“Kingdom politics?” Helena looked disgusted.

Krakust shrugged. “If I hadn’t killed him he would’ve killed me.” Sitting down he smiled. “And if I couldn’t defend myself there I would have given up any claims to return to my tribe. Even if I had Helena and Sorley with me.”

“Which you never will, not as slaves.” Helena stood and started walking away. “I’m going to find a smaller pool to relax in. Yell for me if you need anything.”

Ember got back to her feet and trotted after Helena. “I’ll keep an eye out for you.”

Walking swiftly Helena found a secluded pool and stripped to her underclothes. “Keep watch for me and when I’m done you can have a turn.” She slowly lowered herself into the warm water and let out a sigh of relief. Sinking under the water she realized that she couldn’t feel the bottom of the pool. Before she could start swimming back up to the surface something grabbed her by the foot and pulled her under.

Walking back and forth Ember heard some splashing then bubbles break the surface of the pool. Thinking nothing of it she waited a minute before checking on Helena. She peered over at the hotspring only to see nobody in the water. “Helena! Where are you? This is no time to play games, you know.” Ember looked around for Helena and found no tracks and no scent to follow. “This isn’t good.” She turned and scampered back to Krakust and Lukren.

The two were passing their alcohol back and forth when Ember ran back into sight. “Help! Helena is missing!”

“Again?” Lukren jumped to his feet. “Where was she?”

“She disappeared under the water, I think. I couldn’t find a trail of any kind.”

Krakust got to his feet and pulled a compass from his pack. “I can find her with this.” He focused on the compass and pointed in the direction of the pool she had chosen. “This way to start. He glanced at Ember and Evryn. “Evryn, stay here. I’ll go with the fox.”

With a short wine Evryn curled up near Lukren.

“Well, uh, sorry about earlier Evryn.” Lukren said.

Evryn snorted softly and looked at the gaping mouth of the serpent.

“She’ll forgive you eventually.” Krakust said over his shoulder. “At the very least she’ll keep you safe cause I told her to.”

Ember scurried behind Krakust as the green orc hurried towards the pool. When they arrived at it he circled it multiple times. “She’s below the surface, I think.” He glanced up at the sky. “She’s certainly not above us. The sky is oddly clear today.” He began to remove his armor, making sure to keep his pickhammer and dagger on him then pulled a potion out of his pack. “I only have one of these, and I was hoping I wouldn’t need it.” He chugged most of the potion then held it out for Ember to drink. “It’ll allow us to breathe underwater.”

“I guess since you drank first I shouldn’t worry too much about it.” Ember drank the small amount of liquid remaining in the bottle.

With a grunt of approval Krakust dove into the pool, head first. As he went under he saw a jutting rock barely miss his face. Probably shouldn’t do that again. He used the momentum to swim swiftly downward. As he passed what appeared to be the half-way point of the depths a fishing spear flew past his left ear and he turned to see it barely miss Ember as well. He readied his dagger, the pickhammer was too big for underwater use, and swam towards his assailant.

– – –

The two kobolds lunged repeatedly at Lourek and Sorley. They connected a few times but only left minor scratches and bruises.

“How long,” Sorley said between dodges, “until we can dispatch them?”

Donaar looked across the board, remembering where the pawns were before. “Now isn’t a bad time.”

With a grunt Lourek swung his short-swords and heavily damaged on of the kobolds. Immediately after the swing Sorley shot a bolt of energy at the same kobold, dropping it.

“No!” The spirit of the mage cried out. “You’ve blocked my king in!”

“And with this outstanding move I’ll get you into checkmate.” Donaar moved a rook in to check the mage’s king. “Checkmate.”

“Wait.” The spirit looked over the chessboard. “Shast! You’ve won, sir knight.” The spirit bowed. “What is it that you want?”

“Help us get out of this place,” Donaar motioned at the belly of the serpent, “safe and sound.”

The spirit smiled and produced three potions from under the table. “These are potions of acid immunity. Use them well.” Then the spirit disappeared.

“I’m not sure how to use these yet.” Donaar picked up the potions and put them in his satchel. “Let’s continue in the direction Lourek was heading and think about it.” He motioned for Lourek to move on when he realized the second kobold had stopped attacking and was looking around, confused. “Oh,” Donaar said in draconic, “I thought you would be returned home after I won.”

The kobold turned to face Donaar, its metallic scales the same color as Donaar’s. “I need go home,” it said in broken common. “Where here?”

“Uhh…the belly of a serpent…” Donaar said hesitantly. “We’re trying to escape.”

“I help escape you help me.” The kobold pointed in the direction Lourek was heading. “Me be advance scout.” It scampered off and out of sight.

“We won’t see that thing again, will we?” Sorley asked, watching it disappear.

“Most likely, yeah.” Donaar shrugged. “I can only hope it doesn’t try to swim in the bile.”

The belly of the beast rumbled and a wave of acidic bile rolled towards the characters in the direction they were heading. The kobold was riding the wave by holding onto a piece of debris.

“Quickly!” Lourek yelled. “Get on the bone raft!” He pointed at the thing he had found earlier and everyone ran for it.

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Been a While Update

So, it’s been a while since I posted here. I’m going to be taking a look at some of the stories that I’ve gotten really far in and choose one of those to focus on. I want to get one of them done then go back to the others afterwards. Chances are that it will be either Darkness Ascending, Terra Incognita, or Medakus Grimoires that I focus on. I’ll start posting chapters again as I finish them.

-Josh

Dragon Gymleader!

I am now the dragon gymleader for The Chimera League.

Battles are in Sword/Shield and are single battles at lv 50 with six Pokemon. No legendaries are allowed. Five of my Pokémon are dragon type and one is a wildcard.

I will DM Chimera when I am defeated and by whom.

If you wish to challenge me please do so either while I’m streaming on Twitch or in the Pokémon channel of my Discord.

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Millennial Hawken: Ship Stats

For those of you who wish to follow along with the podcast (Sword or Sorcery RPG) at home then the next time we do space combat, you will have the Millennial Hawken stats in front of you! Also, the ship looks like SSV Normandy from Mass Effect.

Name: Millennial Hawken
Hull Class: Freighter
Hull Type: Free Merchant
Speed: 2
AC: 4
Armor: 2
Crew Min/Max: 1/6
Hit Points: 20
Free Power: 0
Free Mass: 5
Free Hardpoints: 0
Cargo Space in Tons: 100

Weapons
Multifocal Laser: Damage; 1d4, Special; 20 Armor Penetration
Sandthrower: Damage; 2d4, Special; Flak (double damage to fighter class hulls)

Defenses
Augmented Plating: -2 AC, -1 Speed
Hardened Polyceramic Overlay: Reduces armor penetration of incoming weapons fire

Fittings
Armory: Allows access to armor and weapons up to TL4 for up to six crew members
Boarding Tubes: allows boarding of disabled ships either via airlock or cutting into the ship
Ship Locker: Allows access to survey and exploration equipment up to TL4 for up to six crew members
Cargo Lighter: Orbit-to-surface cargo shuttle, holds up to 200 tons of cargo
Survey Sensor Array: Improved planetary sensor array
Fuel Scoop: The ship can scoop fuel from a gas giant or star

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The Fractured Mountains: Darkness Ascending – Chapter 25 (pt 2/2)

Dreekt came to in the middle of a battlefield in the Great Plains. The fields were burning, and the air reeked of burning flesh and smoldering metal.

“Three-En-Ar-Three-Five-Five, report!” An automaton shouted. The voice was low-quality and had an undertone of static.

A matte black automaton arm broke through a layer of rubble and glistened in the fire. “3-NR-355 reporting. Enemy wave eliminated.” The automaton pulled itself out of the rubble.

“No, you missed a skravyn.” The first automaton pointed at Dreekt.

Enress turned her head to look. “No, he’s fine.”

“What did you say?”

“Does it look like he has wings, Smithed?”

Smithed turned his scrape-covered head to get a closer look at Dreekt. “What in the name of The Commander?” Smithed raised his pick hammer defensively. “Get off the battlefield before they see you!”

“Who sees me? Enress, what’s this dream about?” Dreekt looked around the battlefield, confusion in his eyes.

Enress shook her head. “So, Syb sent you in, did he? Smart bird. He can’t be here for this. The Winged War…rather, he’s already here.” She pointed up in the sky. “Leading them, in the thrall of The Desecrator.”

Dreekt turned to look up. His beak started clicking in terror. “Th-there’s hu-hundreds of th-them!” The sky appeared to be full of winged skravyn, all glistening black and dark grey. At the head of each group was a golden skravyn with a red ring around its head.

“No, there is only one group of twenty left. The others are illusion.” Enress rubbed her head with her hand making a sound like the gritting of teeth. “I ran the first time, and Smithed lost his memories. I will not turn back now! I will stand my ground!”

The fear disappeared from Dreekt’s face and the chittering of his beak slowed and finally stopped. “The Desecrator has him under his thrall?”

“Yes.”

“Well, I think I can do something about that.” A black cloud began to surround Dreekt.

Smithed’s pick hammer rushed down in front of Dreekt’s face, missing by the width of a feather. “No, that’s how he turned them. They summoned The Desecrator’s power and it corrupted them!”

“That’s not what Dreekt does, this comes from within him. He can help.” Enress laid her hand on Smithed’s shoulder. “Trust me.”

With smiling eyes Dreekt finished the transformation into a visage of death, scythe and all. “I will deal with the regular ones. Enress, try to break The Sentry of this curse.”

“What?” Smithed turned to Enress. “That’s The Sentry? A god is being controlled by another god?”

Enress shook her head. “Apparently so.”

– – –

Multiple winged skravyn divebombed at Dreekt as he approached their altitude. He immediately turned and dove back down toward Smithed.

What in the world are you thinking, Dreekt?! The spirit’s screech echoed through Dreekt’s skull.

Dreekt had to speed up his dive to avoid stalling in the air. Calm down! It’s a dream! Weren’t you paying any attention up to this point?

It took me this long to reach your thick-skulled mind. Your body will take damage if you take damage here. This is an unnatural dream! Can’t you tell?

What? Pausing for a moment Dreekt glanced behind himself to make sure the enemy was still following him. They weren’t too far behind and he continued toward Smithed. Well, we better resolve this quick then. My dream wasn’t quite so dangerous.

The spirit chuckled. Just because you didn’t notice the danger didn’t mean it wasn’t dangerous. Just be careful, and don’t cast any spells if you can avoid it.

With a thwump Dreekt landed next to Smithed. “Hey, uh, is there any reason I shouldn’t cast any spells here?”

“Yes!” Smithed said, alarmed. “Don’t cast anything! The Desecrator has cursed this field of battle. If you cast anything other than necromancy here it will backfire.” The automaton faced Dreekt. “I know you’re the visage of death right now, but please don’t cast any necromancy unless your life depends on it.”

“No problem. Since I don’t know any.”

We’ll have to change that.

“And I don’t particularly want to learn any.”

Smithed nodded. “That’s a good idea. No necromancy, no chance for it to corrupt you.” He held up his pick hammer, ready to swing. “Here they come!”

The first winged skravyn learned a valuable lesson about trying to fly with wings smashed by a hammer, and the second took a scythe to the face. Behind the winged skravyn The Sentry watched as they began to pick apart his last battalion. He started to move forward when Enress pulled herself out from under a pile of smoldering dirt.

“Not so fast, turncoat!” Enress jabbed at the yellow skravyn with her brass knuckles.

The Sentry laughed. “You think you can take me, a god, on head to head?” He pulled a wicked two-handed scimitar from his back. “Let’s go, mortal.” He swung the sword down, towards the base of Enress’ head, where the neck would be if she were organic.

“The automatons are not mortals!” Enress grabbed the sword with her left hand. “If I die here, I will be reborn.”

“How did you stop that?!”

Enress held up a glowing, azure stone in her right hand. “By The Commander, I cleanse thee!” The glow of the stone expanded and covered both the fighters in its light, obscuring them from the view of Dreekt and Smithed, who were still fighting the winged skravyn.

– – –

Dreekt didn’t get a chance to see what happened next, when the light faded he found himself lying on the ground next to Enress. She wasn’t matte black anymore. The silver color put him at ease as he sat up, rubbing his beak. “Enress, are you okay?”

With a chirp Syb landed on Enress’ shoulder and pecked at the side of her head.

“Yeah, yeah. Get off me, turncoat.” The words would’ve been harsh if the tone they were presented in weren’t so soft. She patted the bird as she sat up. “Well, who’s next?”

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The Fractured Mountains: Darkness Ascending – Chapter 25 (pt 1/2)

[With the holiday season I’ve had little time to write this last couple of months, but here’s part of the next chapter for Darkness Ascending.]

Syb circled the adventuring party’s limp bodies. He tweeted repeatedly in shrill tones, hoping the adventurers would awaken. They did not stir from their slumber. In desperation Syb landed on the shoulder of Dreekt, the skravyn, the most bird-like of the party. Using a claw, he began to scratch an arcane sigil into his armor, between the shoulder blades. He knew what the sigil would eventually do, but he needed to awaken one of the party before it was too late.

– – –

Four skravyn sat around a table. Dreekt and Kreet were fighting over who was going to get the largest portion of dessert. Their father was reading a book, idly shoving food into his mouth, while their mother cut exactingly equal proportions of Wishing Day Sweetbread.

“Now, now you two. I always give you the same portion of dessert. Especially on Wishing Day. Now take your portions and make a wish.” Their mother placed the cuts in front of them and sat down to her own, smaller piece. “Dear,” she addressed the skravyn reading a book, “your piece is on the counter when you finish your meal.”

A knock echoed through the house that made Dreekt hop a meter into the air. As he peaked and began to fall a pain exploded between his shoulder blades and the scene faded.

– – –

Dreekt found himself roaming mists. They weren’t the same mists from the stone visions, but they weren’t too dissimilar. “Hello? Is anyone there?” His voice was muffled by the fog.

“Yes,” a deep voice responded, “I am here.”

Dreekt approached the voice. He saw a skravyn silhouette start to coalesce out of the mist, but something was different about it. Something that made the pain between his shoulder blades pulse to life again.

– – –

Around Dreekt the vision of Wishing Day returned.

The chair clattered to the floor as Dreekt landed on it, unbalanced. He stood up quickly and ran to the door yelling, “I’ll get it!”

The door opened before Dreekt could get to it. A yellow skravyn stepped through the door. “Hello. I believe you are Dreekt, aren’t you?”

Dreekt’s dad put down his book. “You are not welcome here, Balare!” He stood up and approached the doorway.

“You don’t have any say in that. The Sentry request’s Dreekt’s presence.” He held up a hand and a pulse of energy emanated from it. “It is his decision, not yours.”

With a nod Dreekt walked out the door. “I’ll go.”

– – –

Dreekt once again found himself in the mists.

“This is not how that day went, was it?” The deep voice asked.

The figure in the mist was still to far away to make out more than a silhouette. “No, it wasn’t. We had Wishing Day out of the city that year. In the forest.”

“Why do you think that was?”

“Father, he didn’t want Kreet or I leaving to forge our own lives. I’m not sure what his reasoning was, but it seemed right to him.”

The silhouetted skravyn strode forward. It had the markings of a goldfinch, the same as Syb, but it also had wings between its shoulders. “Well, you’re here now. Let’s wake up, shall we?”

“Syb? You’re The Sentry?”

“Yes, cursed to have a finch’s form. Only here, in dreams, can I be what I truly am.” He grabbed Dreekt by the arm, turned him around, and slapped between his shoulder blades, where the sigil had been scribed.

– – –

Dreekt awoke to Syb pecking at his back. He turned over and sat up. He saw his friends lying face down in the dirt around him. Even Enress was affected by this magical sleep. He approached her first. “Syb, whatever you did, does it allow me to enter their dreams as well?”

The goldfinch nodded and landed on Enress’ back. He pecked lightly at the base of her head and chirped at Dreekt.“Well, here goes.” Dreekt reached down and placed his palm on the back of Enress’ neck, where Syb had pecked.

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The Sight: Assassin – Chapter 1

Einar pulled the porcelain mask off his face. “Can we switch to scarves? This is rubbing against my acne.” He scratched at his left cheek. “I turned 15 last week anyway. I’m not required to use the mask now.” He stood around five foot three inches and was very thin with a look of dexterity about him. He quickly put the mask back on his face when he saw the stern look in Hildr’s eyes.

Standing three inches taller than Einar, Hildr sighed deeply. She, too, was thin and dexterous. “Next mission. The mask must be stained with the blood of your first solo kill. Remember?”

“Fine, fine. Who’s the mark?” Einar grabbed for the scroll nestled beside the knives and Hildr’s waist.

Hildr slapped his hand away. “Woah, no. Hands off. You know the protocol.”

“Right. Wait until we’re in the city proper.” Einar hung his head. “I’m just eager to see what they assigned me…and hope they have an item I can trace backward. Needs to be relatively fresh, though.”

A smile crept across Hildr’s eyes. “Yes, I know your gift. We’ve worked together for a couple years now. I wonder, though. Will I keep you as a partner or put in for another apprentice?”

Einar swung down from the door in the side of the assassins’ guild tower and down onto a rooftop. “Let’s go. You know you’re the luckiest mentor to get someone with my gift on the second go.”

“Doesn’t mean you need to be snarky about it.” Hildr muttered under her breath before following Einar onto the city rooftops. “Let’s find an alley that’s clear and break the seal on this scroll. Looks like it came from the top, by the way.”

With a smile hidden behind the porcelain mask Einar started running along the rooftop. If it were daylight out he would never risk such a move. The assassins’ guild was not officially recognized, and as such the guards had carte blanche as to whether they should be shot on sight, taken in, or ignored all together. Rentaz had a difficult bureaucracy to navigate, what with it hosting The Council of Zentar in the district known as The Cave. That would be an interesting place to try to find a mark. The busiest area of the city aside from the market, and better watched, too. Einar pulled himself out of his thoughts as he approached a clear alley. He dropped down and waited for Hildr to follow him down. She wasn’t far behind.

“Did you do all the checks?” Hildr looked around the alley then stopped herself. “Oh, right. The Sight.”

Einar nodded. “Let’s see it, then.” He held his hand out for the scroll. He was now tracing paths backwards from the scroll, trying to decipher if there was an item on it that could lead to hints of his mark, but without a specific item in mind the web grew too quickly.

“Catch.” Hildr tossed the scroll toward a mud puddle, but Einar was there almost before it left her hand, snatching it out of the air. “You’re getting better at reading people…whichever way you’ve ended up doing it.”

“Thanks.” Einar broke the seal of Taithleach, The Sneak, from the scroll and unfurled it. “Is this actually from The Sneak, or did someone attain the rank of guild master again? I didn’t hear anything, but last time it took months for the information to trickle down.”

“Nope, no new guild master. Either someone was told they could use her seal for this, or she sealed it herself. Either way it’s from her.”

Quickly skimming the scroll Einar confirmed that it was either written or dictated by The Sneak, because Taithleach had signed the scroll and stamped it. There was a talisman attached to the scroll with sealing wax. He traced the feel of the item in his hand backwards through the many people who had held it recently into The Cave and around the neck of a man who lived there. He opened his eyes and read the scroll again, this time looking for the details for the hunt.

Apprentice Einar,

Please trace this amulet back to your mark. He is a minor noble in The Cave, though I suspect you traced the amulet back before you read this. His name is Lester Estran. He is a human male and is 32 years of age. You will most likely find him best killed in his chambers, but that may prove difficult to enter. Since you have The Sight you will have better knowledge of his movements than I. Kill him quietly. His death is not to be public. You can stash his body away if there’s someplace convenient and steal his money. This is meant to look like a robbery or mugging gone wrong. I have already alerted the thieves’ guild not to do an investigation into the matter. They do have strict rules about killing on the job, after all.

Signed,

Taithleach, The Sneak

“Well, I’m off to The Cave. Are you supposed to go with me? That detail was vague.” Einar shrugged at Hildr.

“The Cave? I have the option to go with, watch from a distance, or leave you alone.” Hildr hopped in excitement. “This one? I’m going with, of course.”

Einar nodded then tensed. “Let’s go, someone’s coming.”

The two of them scurried back up to the rooftops just as a guard rounded the corner. “Hmm…must have been rats and not voices. Let’s keep going.” She turned around and left the alley.

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The Fractured Mountains: Darkness Ascending – Chapter 24

Syb lead the party to the stand of trees. In the dim light the vines looked even more sinister than before. They writhed of their own accord and lashed out randomly.

Holding her new stone torch high Enress approached the vines. “I have only my knuckle dusters. You guys will need to do most of the attacking.” She grabbed one of the flailing vines and attempted to hold it down. It started to lift her off her feet. “Or all the attacking…”

With a swift motion Gaemacirch brought his katana down on the vine, severing it near the base. He quickly ran away from the swarming masses of vines swatting at him. “Well, you can still be useful.” He smiled slightly at Enress. “Though, I suppose we should not grab these. If it can lift an automaton it will fling any one of the rest of us.”

“Agreed.” Burner moved forward to the vine and studied it. “Hmm…I’ve never seen this kind of vine before. Julian?”

Moving forward to get a better look Julian shrugged. “I’m not really good with this sort of thing. It was Adalet’s area.”

Enress sighed. “Let me get a better look. Shine your lantern here, Julian.” She pointed at the end of the vine. The vine squirted a purple liquid in Enress’ eye. “Well, good thing I’m a construct, because that would have been very damaging to you organics.” She wiped the liquid from her face. “It’s a purple deathgrip. The purple comes from the poison’s color, since the vine itself is green. Also, if it constricts you pray to your god that it grabs you around the ankle so you don’t die from it. There’s also rumors that they’re animals and not plants.”

“Great.” Dreekt put his taloned finger out and Syb landed on it. “Let’s keep you close.”

Syb tweeted something at Dreekt than perched himself on the left shoulder.

Dreekt pulled out his dagger, Julian readied his axes, and Burner readied her rapier.

“Well, dim as it is, sunlight is better than night. Let’s go.” Burner moved forward, stabbing at any vine that dared move in her direction.

Following Burner’s lead, the rest of the adventurers followed behind. Gaem cutting through vines, and everyone else slashing and stabbing.

Before too long the party found themselves in a clearing filled with the bones of some ancient creature. After a moment of silence as the party tried to process what kind of creature the bones could’ve originated from Enress spoke up.

“That’s a cyclops skull. It only has the one eye socket, but that’s a pretty big skull. A giant cyclops maybe?”

Dreekt nodded. “I’ve heard stories about ancient creatures that were larger than their modern forms, but that would’ve been millennia ago. These would be dust.”

“Let’s just be glad,” Gaemacirch interjected, “that we don’t have to fight this thing.”

As the party began moving around the cyclops bones the shriek of jekawir pierced the air. There were at least three distinct cries.

“That’s not good.” Julian grabbed his handaxes and looked to the sky.

Burner started humming a dissonant tune. “Get ready.” She pulled her bow from her back and notched an arrow. “Take them down as soon as you see them.”

The grotesque sight of the jekawir assaulted the eyes of the adventuring group. The neckless creatures had pink humanoid skin with tufts of grey fur that seemed placed on them at random. They had large wings that were bat-like, and had legs like those of a frog, but with human hands where the feet would be. Their tongues lolled out of their toothy mouths and were accompanied by a noxious breath that made it hard to focus.

Burner and Julian launched their attacks at the jekawir first. Burner’s arrow pierced the hide of one of the creatures, while Julian’s handaxes fell harmlessly to the ground. He had underestimated the range.

Dreekt shot a bolt of arcane energy into the sky. He didn’t end up hitting the jekawir, but he caused the injured one to swoop towards the ground, creating an opening for Gaemacirch to swing at it.

With a mighty swing, Gaemacirch’s katana beheaded the jekawir. The head of the creature went flying and knocked another jekawir out of the air and onto its back. “Well, that worked out pretty good.”

The jekawir that was knocked to the ground righted itself and flapped towards Gaemacirch. The one still in the air swooped down and attacked Gaemacirch with the sharp nails at the end of its humanoid hand-feet. It missed and shrieked in Gaemacirch’s face, getting its noxious breath directly into his face, then Enress punched it in the face with her knuckle dusters, surprising it more than hurting it with a glancing blow.

Swapping to her rapier Burner walked up to the uninjured jekawir and jabbed at it, forcing it to jump to the side and leaving an opening for the next person to attack it. Seeing the opening Julian ran for one of his axes, picked it up, and chucked it at the jekawir. The flat of the axe hit the creature in the back, causing it to cry out in pain.

Drawing his quarterstaff Dreekt turned and whacked at the jekawir that Enress had punched. He forced it to lose some balance, but he was unable to hit it. Seeing Dreekt set up yet another jekawir for him Gaemacirch swung at the creature with his katana. He wasn’t able to hit it, but it completely lost its balance and fell on its back. It hopped back up and bit at Dreekt, ripping through the flesh of his arm, ripping out feathers and exposing his skin.

The second jekawir slashed at Gaemacirch with its wings. It didn’t hit, but caused Enress to lose some of her balance as the wings slashed around in the same area she was occupying. In retaliation she punched it in the chest, expecting to wind it, but she found extra resistance there.

“Are these things designed to take hits or something?” Enress stared at the creatures. “These don’t look natural.”

“We can talk about it later. Just focus on taking them down!” Burner jabbed at the jekawir that had just bit Dreekt. She also found resistance just under the skin. “You may be on to something, though.”

Julian picked up his other axe and tossed it at the same jekawir that Burner had just attacked. “Take some more of this!” The axe buried itself into the creature’s hid and hung there. “That’s not what I meant…”

Seeing the creature in front of him was barely standing Dreekt swung at it again. He missed and forced the creature to bump its companion off balance, opening up yet another advantage for Gaemacirch.

“Look, I appreciate you creating opening and all, but could you also do some damage?” Gaemacirch sliced at the jekawir that was off-balance. He sliced its head off its non-existent neck and the swing continued through to finish off the other jekawir as well.

“Ok,” Burner said, “let’s take a quick break, and I’ll see if I can learn anything about how these jekawir tick.” After ten or so minutes she had one of the creatures, the one Gaemacirch hadn’t beheaded, flayed open. “Hmm…it seems the place where the neck would be is the weakest area. No surprise since that’s how two of the three of them were killed.”

“Interesting, but we need to get to Slapper. Let’s get moving again, shall we?” Julian motioned at the next wall of writhing vines. “These vines seem more active than the ones we’ve already moved through. They may prove to be more of a hassle.”

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