Ana sat on the frozen ground of the ice plains. The heat she was radiating had called some of the animals to her. The animals were adapted to the cold, like her, but unlike her they needed warmth as well. She didn’t need the warmth she radiated, but she didn’t want to spend the night alone. The animals of the ice plains were better than nothing.
Reaching out a hand Ana cooled it so that it wouldn’t burn skin and petted an ice rabbit. “Hello there, friend. How are you?”
The ice rabbit couldn’t respond to Ana, she knew that, but she just wanted to talk, she didn’t care if conversation actually flowed.
A small voice piped up from the ice rabbit. “Warm now that you’re here. Who are you?”
Stifling a gasp with her other hand Ana stared at the ice rabbit. “I’m Ana, The Burning Ice.”
“Oh.” The ice rabbit blinked at her. “I’m Thrum.”
“Nice to meet you, Thrum.” A smile spread across Ana’s face. “I’m going now. Hurry home before you lose my warmth.”
The ice rabbit turned and started hopping away rapidly.
“That goes for all of you.” Ana said this loud enough for the other animals to hear. “I’m going soon, so hurry home.”
The other animals dispersed, some more slowly than others. Once they were a distance away Ana teleported back to a temple dedicated to her. She pulled a sheet of paper from a small stack, wrote a note on it, and left it on her head priest’s lectern. It read: “Discovered new ability. Will be gone for a week or so. Ana.”
– – –
The Burning Ice stood in a small clearing in the forest in Aliaz. Several elves looked on as she fed the warmth of life into a small acorn. The transfer was visible as an orange haze flowing from her into the acorn. The acorn started to sprout and Ana backed away. She motioned for the elves to do the same.
“Today, the elves find a home. The people who were once afflicted by a disease and were purified by the Fount of the Gods shall at last have a homeland. This forest.” The small oak sapling behind Ana burst up, out of the ground with a thunderous crack and the ground trembled violently. Reaching up to the sky the oak sapling became a massive oak old-growth with strong branches. “This is the first iron oak tree. Use its bark to create tools, and its branches as foundations for your homes. If you live in the tree, the tree will live in you.”
The elves, recovering from the shock of the tree bursting from the ground, began to approach her one by one. They showed her their thanks and worshiped her.
The last elf that approached her was their leader. He bowed deeply to her and kissed the back of her hand. Her hand was the perfect warmth. “If I thought you would say yes I would ask for your hand in marriage, Burning Ice, but we both know better than that.”
“Yes, we do.” Ana smiled at the elf. “Here, Grevak.” She put something in his hand. “When this grows I will be returning. I have other places to be, but I will be back.” She let go of his hand and vanished.
In Grevak’s hand was a small, metallic acorn. He smiled and held it up for his people to see. They cheered and began using the magics Ana had taught them to have trees give them branches without being cut down. They used the branches of the other trees to start building houses in the branches of the iron oak.
Aram quickly woke up Throbor and helped him into his armor. The gargoyles were nearly upon them when they finished.
“So, you know of gargoyles. Do you know anything that can help us fight them?” Throbor asked, directing the question at Tribst.
“Hmm…” Tribst thought quickly. “No, I don’t. If we had more time I’m sure I could find something, or Erin could cast a spell to learn of them. For now, we need to fight. Here they come!”
The gargoyles didn’t just land in the courtyard, one of them attacked on the way down. It was able to sink its talons into Tribst, but Erin got an attack off on it as it tried to make off with him. Tribst was dropped hard, and the gargoyle’s left hand was missing some fingers.
Annoyed at being grabbed Tribst shot some force magic at the gargoyle, causing some chipping to appear on its body. “I’m not some lizard for you to snack on you treefting piece of shast!”
Erin stared wide-eyed at Tribst for a moment before sheathing her long sword and grabbing her short bow. She shot the gargoyle that had attacked Tribst, increasing the chipping on its body.
Three of the gargoyles rushed forward and attacked Aram and Throbor. Throbor was able to interpose his chisel between himself and a gargoyle while Aram’s shield was only able to help him with one. The one that hit him left a large claw mark in his left side.
The fourth gargoyle, the one Tribst and Erin had damaged, flew back over to Tribst. It attempted to slice at him, but used its left hand and missed with the remaining fingers.
Aram sliced at the gargoyles around him with his sword and hit the one on his right. Chips appeared where it had been struck.
Gripping his hammer in one hand Throbor swapped his chisel out for another hammer. He struck at the gargoyle before him, trying to crush its wing between his hammers. The gargoyle blocked one of the hammers, only taking a glancing blow.
Tribst pulled out a dagger and tried to bury it in the chest of the gargoyle beside him. He was able to sink it into a chipped area, but it didn’t stay there.
Switching back to her long sword Erin gripped it in both hands. She ran over to the gargoyle and tried to slash at it. She missed horribly, rethinking her weapon choice.
Seeing an opening in Throbor’s defense the gargoyle battling him ducked under his arm and circled around behind him. He struck at Throbor’s back, leaving large, raking claw marks in it. The back of Throbor’s leather armor was ruined.
The two gargoyles fighting Aram buffeted his shield with attacks but were unable to hit him. In the midst of the blows, Aram shoved the uninjured one back and struck at the one he had hit before. His sword pierced a wing, causing it to crumble and fall off.
“Aim for the wings! Cut off their escape!”
Spinning around to face the gargoyle that had just raked him Throbor focused a searing energy into his right hammer and brought it down on the gargoyle’s left wing. The wing shattered into pieces leaving the left side exposed. Throbor side-stepped and brought his left hammer to bear on the gargoyle’s exposed side.
As the hammer connected with the rocky skin cracks appeared along the left side of the gargoyle.
Tribst watched in horror as the gargoyle that had been attacking him turned to take a bite at Erin. It took a chunk out of her shirt as well as her side. Responding instinctively Tribst once again shoved at the gargoyle with his dagger. This time he was able to find its heart. The gargoyle turned into stone, then shattered into pieces. “Stone to stone.”
Seeing the gargoyle turn to rubble in front of her Erin decided it would be prudent to heal herself. She said a small word of power and the wound on her side started to knit together ever so slightly. She then moved forward to help Aram with his gargoyle problem.
Erin continued to grasp her sword with both hands but this time aimed her strike before she swung. The injured gargoyle was able to dodge the worst of the attack, but more chips and some cracks started to appear on it.
The gargoyle that Erin had hit let out a powerful and horrible screech. The gargoyle next to it, the only one with both wings, took off for the edge of the city. Unable to do anything to stop it Aram took another swing at the one next to him. It shattered into pieces.
The Gargoyle on Throbor slashed again, this time missing entirely. It was met with two hammers to the face, crushing it to dust. Throbor dusted himself off and handed some blue ash to Erin. “Here, finish healing with this.”
“Thanks.” Erin took the offered bag and started rubbing the ash into her wound. “I hope we don’t meet them again. They weren’t hard to kill, but they sure hit hard.” She took a fistful of the ash and started rubbing it into Throbor’s back wound. “Here, you need this as much as I do.”
Tribst took a small handful from the bag and rubbed it into his shoulders. “I don’t know where they’re going, I’m just glad they’re gone.” He pulled another handful of blue ash from the bag and gave it to Aram. “For your side. That looks nasty.”
“Well,” Aram said after their wounds were attended to, “the sun is already rising. Should we just continue out of this city for now?”
“Sounds good.” Erin stared at her exposed side under the torn leather armor and at Throbor’s exposed back. “Maybe we should keep an eye out for better options on armor.”
Throbor looked around at the ruins and saw pieces of metal everywhere. “No, I have a better idea.” He removed his leather armor and handed it to Erin. He looked less intimidating in his cloth clothes. “I think Tribst can help make you armor with that. I’m going to forge out my own later.” He started to collect scraps of iron from around their campsite. “I can make you a set too, Aram, if you want some better armor.”
“In that case, Erin should take my leather and Tribst should fashion himself something more protective. My size is similar to Erin’s” He didn’t start taking off his armor. “For now, however, I will keep my leather. If we get in a fight I want to be in the thick of it with protection.”
In this episode, episode 10, we talk about invisible stalkers and invisibility in general for far too long before we get to the world design part. Episode 9 will be re-uploaded with audio at a later date. My apologies.
Intro music: Cataclysmic Molten Core by Jingle Punks Intro voice: Michael Connelly
Brevman sat at a small desk. He was staring at the talisman that The Calculating had given him. He stood up and stretched. His lower arms mirroring his upper ones. He then turned to leave the room.
“Where are you going, Balance?” A voice whispered from the shadows in a corner of the room.
Shaking his head Brevman turned to face the source of the voice. “Not now Desecrator. I have to go do funeral rites for some people.”
“Those dead have been claimed by me already. They cannot be blessed away.”
The door handle was grasped by one of Brevman’s lower hands. “I do the rites for the appeasement of the living. Funerals are for the living, not the dead.”
Mrto materialized from the shadows. “So you won’t attempt to take them away from me?”
“You know I could if I needed to for the balance.”
“You don’t answer my question, salaman.”
Brevman opened the door and stepped through it. “You don’t listen, human. If that’s what you still are.”
– – –
The Balance walked through the streets of Rentaz. He was in the poorest part of the city. Many houses were nothing more than canvas tied to posts. He pulled bread out from his pack and began handing it out to the children.
“Come, little ones, and collect some bread. Balance says you should not die so young.” Brevman was dressed in a cleric’s robe with the hood up. Many of his local clerics had told him they were being attacked when they gave bread to the children. He had to know why.
After spending most of the day handing out bread Brevman was surprised that nothing had happened. He pulled out the last few pieces from his pack, and that is when they began to filter out of the dark places. Adults, thin with starvation.
“At least you still have the decency to let the children eat first.” Brevman set down his empty pack and next to it he placed his basket with the last of the bread. “Will you talk with me while you partake?” He was hoping this would not turn violent. The balance did not require their deaths, but if they attacked after a peace was offered he would find the balance elsewhere.
Surprised at the demeanor of the salaman the adults walked forward and cautiously took what was left of the bread. When the bread was getting low Brevman cast a small spell on it, careful not to let the people notice what he was doing.
When the last man approached for his bread he took the last piece. When Brevman had set the bread down there were ten pieces left. Now, after over forty people, the last piece was taken. The skravyn who had taken the last piece looked up at the salaman in recognition.
“You’re no cleric. You’re-” the skravyn stopped seeing Brevman hold one finger to his lips in the universal sign for keeping quiet. “Thank The Balance for this bread.”
Brevman took the talisman from Gormaliev and removed it from his pocket. He looked at it then back at the skravyn. “Here, I want you to take this.”
T8-T3 watched as Ao walked down an incline saying something about that’s where they part ways. T8-T3 had seen Jedi having visions before, and he knew enough about aquatic species to tell by Ao’s breathing that he thought he was underwater. T8-T3 beeped something to himself and tried to ping Lousro’s comm.
– – –
Lousro was most of the way to the cave again when he got a ping on his comm. “Why do these bloody things only work part of the time?” He pulled the comm from his belt and landed. His wing was still sore and he needed the break. He answered the comm. “Lousro here. Are you okay, Tate?”
A string of binary assaulted Lousro’s ears. He curled his snout in annoyance and rubbed his beard. “So he’s in the cave and he’s having a vision. You think he believes himself to be underwater. I’m almost there. If you can connect to the ship there’s a message for you in binary. I can’t read it.”
There was a long pause before T8-T3 replied with an affirmative beep and cut the connection.
Sighing to himself, Lousro beat his wings through the air again and took off in the direction of the cave.
– – –
Ao swam through the salty water. He assumed it was what Glee Anselm’s oceans felt like, but he didn’t remember it well.
Pushing through the currents, Ao felt himself being pulled one way but invited the other. Sensing that the current was the Dark Side and the invitation was the Light, the nautolan swam towards the invitation.
The current became powerful and tried to pull him along it but Ao pulled on the power of the Light Side. He augmented his strength and speed allowing him to break free of the current and swim toward the still waters.
– – –
Lousro walked into the cave through the tree trunk. It was the third time he had been in the cave, but the first time he hadn’t fallen in. “Where did they go?”
T8-T3 heard Lousro’s toydarian voice echoing in the cave and rolled out of the small passageway in the wall. He beeped softly.
“Ah. There you are Tate.” Lousro fluttered over. “I sense a calling.” He stroked the shield emitter on his left wrist. “It’s familiar, yet different.” He idly walked towards the crack in the wall. “In here. It’s coming from behind this wall.” He dropped to his feet and walked through the crack.
T8-T3 tweeted loudly at Lousro trying to stop him.
Lousro stopped and looked back briefly. “I know it’s a vision Tate but when a crystal calls you, you listen.” He returned to walking down the small corridor.
T8-T3 beeped something about Jedi and stupidity but followed Lousro.
– – –
Ao found himself in still waters. Above him was inky blackness and below was a bright light. He felt as if the world had inverted and that swimming up would take him to an abyss but swimming down would take him to the surface.
With strong, swift strokes Ao began to swim downwards. The inky blackness coalesced into tentacles and reached for his feet, snagging one of them.
Feeling something wrap around his ankle Ao looked up to see the mass of dark tentacles. He tried pushing them with the Force, but he didn’t move. Panic began to swell inside him.
In his panic the Jedi code found its way to the forefront of his mind.
Emotion, yet peace.
Ignorance, yet knowledge.
Passion, yet serenity.
Chaos, yet harmony.
Death, yet the Force.
– – –
When Lousro exited the passageway into the chamber he didn’t see the chamber, he saw Toydaria. The swamps were different than the ones on Dagobah. They were more inviting.
Lousro shook his head. “It’s an illusion, like the caves beneath The Way of Balance temple on Vergaiun.” He glanced around to see if there were any creatures poised to strike.
Calming himself by drawing from the Light Side Lousro attempted to peer through the illusion. At the edges of his vision the illusion started to fade, but then it snapped back. He stopped attempting to see through it. This was a different test.
– – –
Ao focused on the line of the code “passion, yet serenity” and instead of fighting against the tentacles to reach the light he extended his senses toward the light.
The source of the light was a small point at the bottom of the flooded cavern. Ao reached out with the Force and pulled the light to himself.
Awaking on a dry cavern floor Ao looked around in confusion. He felt his hand grasping something. He opened his palm and looked.
Two orange crystals sat in his palm. They sang to him in the Force, happy to be with him at last.
Gormaliev stood in the great plains in the realm of Nevre. She enjoyed visiting the realm from time to time. The salamen intrigued her greatly. She had once set one on the path to godhood. She smiled to herself and in her distraction she tripped over something.
Standing and brushing herself off Gormaliev turned to look at what she had tripped on. Sitting in the middle of the road was a small, wounded red fox pup. She reached down and picked it up. “Well, I’m sorry. I didn’t see you there.” Gormaliev looked around. “Where is your mom, little pup?”
The fox stared up at her. The fox’s eyes showed an intelligence behind them. It shook its head, as if to say it didn’t know.
“Very well. I guess I’ll just have to look after you myself.” Gormaliev used a little of her power to heal the tiny creature. “There. Now let’s go to the Feylands. You’ll love it there.”
The fox pup licked Gormaliev’s nose.
“That tickles. Stop it.” Gormaliev made the jump to the Feylands. Once there she started a ritual to tie the fox to her as a familiar. She always wanted a pet, and this one would be tied to her even tighter than the Aelfson line was.
– – –
“Aliziyah, what are you doing?” Gormaliev looked around the clearing. “You’re trying to hide from me. That doesn’t work very well.”
The red fox walked from between two trees. Her stomach was swollen with a litter of pups. “Sorry, I just wanted some rest.”
Gormaliev smiled at Aliziyah. “Oh, well if you just told me that would be fine. There are a few warlockes I want to give your pups as familiars. Is that okay?”
Aliziyah thought for a moment. “As long as they will be cared for. I also need to ween them first.” She sat down on her side. “They should be coming any day now, I think.”
“Yes, the weening time is definitely the earliest. Your first pup will go to a Sorley in England. He has a great destiny ahead of him and some companionship would do him good.”
“Well, then they shall grow up together. You’ve mentioned him before.”
“Yes, my fox, I have. I had a vision of him longer ago than I want to think about. He will be a great force in Domhan.” Gormaliev rubbed Aliziyah’s belly gently. These pups will know the joy of friendship from the very first.”
“How emotional of you. You’re supposed to be calculating, not caring.” Aliziyah stretched out on the soft grass of the Feylands.
Gormaliev smiled. “That’s the name the people of Nevre refer to me by, The Calculating. That doesn’t mean I’m cold, that just means I calculate.”
“Keep telling yourself that.” Aliziyah fell into slumber.
In the early years of warp travel, many ships were lost trying to jump through warp space. The ones that returned intact fueled the design for the future drives. Eventually, the failure rate of drives dropped to astronomical rarity. Occasionally there were ships that went missing, but nobody knew if they had gotten destroyed during travel or if another malfunction had happened.
At one time a group of scientists purposefully trapped themselves in warp space to better study the area. They had a plan to jump back out, but that didn’t pan out. The shuttle they used to test the exit procedure exploded the moment the engine fired up. Any subsequent designs also failed until a scientist made a discovery.
“Look, we’re using the same calculations to leave as we used to get here. These are the entrance calculations. We’re already here!”
The scientist’s assistant looked at her strangely. “Okay, I don’t follow.”
“We have two…well three calculations for warp travel. The first is the entry, the second (which isn’t important here) is distance, and the third is the exit back into regular space.”
“I thought the entry was the same equation as the exit only inverted.”
“No, there’s a few other calculations involved. I think it was just assumed they weren’t relevant because we weren’t moving through warp space.” The scientist turned to her computer and typed in afew lines of code. The screen showed a simulation of a shuttle. The shuttle disappeared from warp space without an explosion. “The only problem is that we no longer know where we are in relation to regular space…”
The assistant looked over the equations on the computer. “Hmm…but where are you going to find someone willing to test it? Everyone else has begun building a sustainable society. They’re all resigned to their perceived fate.”
“Then I’ll just have to try it myself, won’t I?”
– – –
The door leading to the warp drive was silent after the inner door shut. Blavet looked at Elinog and motioned at the door. “Should I try it or wait?”
Elinog shrugged. “No, I’ll open it. Keep your laser ready.”
Careful not to bang against the door with his radiation suit Elinog inched the door open. Blavet positioned himself to be able to see in the door when it was open enough, but not close enough that something could jump out at him.
The outer door opened and there was nothing inside. Blavet nodded at Elinog to continue. Elinog opened the door the rest of the way.
“So, do you think they’re inviting you in?” Janine’s voice crackled over the intercom. “They’ve collected at the other end of the warp bay.”
“Perhaps. Or it’s an ambush. What do you think, captain?”
Blavet scratched the chin of his radiation suit. “Well, there’s only one way to find out. Let’s go in. Lasers at the ready.”
Nodding Elinog went inside the door and Blavet followed. They closed the door behind them and waited for the all clear to open the other. It didn’t take long. It was exiting that the foam sprayers would activate, and the radiation would be scrubbed from the suits.
Elinog opened the inner door and stepped through. He saw a writhing mass of large, pink tentacles. He thought he could make out four of them before they charged forward.
Without thinking of the consequences Elinog immediately opened fire. Following Elinog’s lead Blavet also began firing his cutting laser.
The tentacles slowed their charge and assumed a more defensive stance, raising their heads high to strike. As they did so Elinog’s laser found an eye and killed one of them. The long body fell on Elinog, in a glancing blow. The laser cutter went flying from his hand. He immediately grabbed for the spare that was still attached to his suit but he didn’t make it in time.
Blavet watched in horror as one of the tentacles ripped through Elinog’s torso, launching greenish blood into the air. He quickly resumed firing, focusing on that tentacle. It went down and fell toward him. He attempted to side-step the body, but it pinned him against the wall. He felt a searing pain in his tail and passed out.
The other two tentacles ignored them now that they were not moving and made for the door. It shut behind them and the foam started spraying them.
– – –
Blavet awoke in the small medical bay. His tail felt stiff and he was unable to move it. He looked around the room and saw Janine working on Elinog. The lower half of his body was missing, but one of his lower arms remained. Blavet watched as Janine started to attach biomechanics to the bloody mess before he passed out again.
Allie watched the med bay cam from the cockpit as she tried to figure out which direction to head. She noticed Blavet wake up on the cam and saw him take in his surroundings before he slumped back on the bed. She was worried that he wouldn’t be able to function with only half a tail, but she was more concerned about their mechanic. If Janine couldn’t save him, they were going to have a hard time. Sure, Janine could do the mechanical work, but she didn’t know the ship like Elinog.
Allie sighed to herself and turned her attention back to piloting. She wasn’t sure what else could go wrong today. First, they got into a stutter, then the tentacles got onboard, then the tentacles tore through half of the crew.
When Elinog was attacked Janine had run out of the cockpit so fast Allie’s feathers were ruffled by the wind. When Blavet had gone down she wanted to run down there too, but she had to make sure that Janine wouldn’t get attacked by the tentacles.
Allie had rerouted the two tentacles to an airlock and launched them into drive space. They then changed their momentum and started heading for a point below and behind the ISS Dominiot.
Coming to a decision, she turned the ship around and started to go in the direction the tentacles were headed. Now that the tentacles were off the ship they seemed to know where they were going…
“Shast! They caused the stutter! They wanted to be here, in warp space!” She quickly typed her revelation into a document Janine had started on the tentacles.
– – –
Blavet paced in his room. His balance was a little off now that his tail was only a half meter in length. He still had a splint and a bandage on his tail and a wrap around his chest for a couple of cracked ribs. The bandaging could be removed in a few days.
He tried to think about his own injuries or how the tentacles could have gotten on board, but his thoughts kept going back to Elinog who was only barely alive, and Janine who was trying desperately to keep him that way.
Janine had installed every piece of biomechanical patch she could to his system, practically rebuilding the lower half of his torso. She had then started to attach cybernetics to him. They didn’t have the type of advanced products she needed in storage, so she had started to cobble him together using spare parts.
Unable to keep his mind off Elinog, Blavet decided he should visit the cockpit again. He had tried to relieve Allie of duty earlier, but she said that he was in no state to fly. She was right, but he felt like he needed to do something. He left his quarters and started back up to the cockpit.
Allie was annoyed to hear footsteps climbing the ladder. There was only one person it could be, and she knew the stupid emris would try to take over flying again. “You are in no state to fly.”
Ignoring the statement Blavet sat down in the co-pilot’s seat. “I see you swapped seats.”
“Yeah. Feels weird flying from the other chair.” Allie was relieved that he hadn’t insisted on giving her a break.
Blavet pulled up a side cam on his screen and watched the colors of warp space fly by. “You know, this place is beautiful.”
A clicking sound filled the cockpit as Allie laughed silently. “It’s a bad place for a date, though. You have to get trapped here to see the colors like this.”
Laughing slightly Blavet winced and doubled over. “Ah, don’t make me laugh. I have a couple of cracked ribs, remember?”
“Sorry. Just stating the truth.” Allie turned the ship to avoid a large rock. “Hey, can you check the receiver readout? It keeps flashing at me, but I don’t have the time to look.”
The readout appeared on Blavet’s screen as he pressed a few holo-buttons. “Hmm. We shouldn’t be getting any signal here. Maybe it’s just interference?”
Allie nodded. “Right, that’s what I’m thinking. Shouldn’t be anything intelligible.”
There was a pattern showing up on the visual signal display. It kept repeating the same thing. “Hmm…this seems manufactured. It’s like there’s a signal on a loop.”
“Well, let’s hear the audio then.” Allie flipped a switch on the pilot’s seat and interference started playing from the speaker. Her skravyn ears picked up a quiet repetitive section. “Okay, I don’twant you flying, but I need to clean this signal up. This could be important.”
“Okay. Taking the stick.” Blavet switched controls to the co-pilot cluster. “I’ll try not to ram us into a boulder.”
“Quiet. I need to hear.” Allie pulled up the filter controls for the receiver and started eliminating the obvious sounds.
– – –
Janine was glad to see Elinog’s vitals stabilize. She took a moment to down a coffee pod and force some nutrient paste down her throat. She didn’t have time to get real food. Just because Elinog was stable for now didn’t mean she could leave the room.
Parts were scattered all over the second, unoccupied bed. She didn’t think Blavet was ready to leave the med bay, but she needed the extra room. With great effort, she cut off Elinog’s remaining lower arm. She had hoped that it wouldn’t need to be removed, but the casing needed more bone to attach to, and the arm was in the way.
Designs for replacement arms were on display on her datapad. Mostly things she could think of while she was working on the emergency biomechanics. She screwed the last front plate into place and carefully turned Elinog over to connect the wires to his spinal column. She tested the wires before inserting them, then screwed on the last back-plate.
There wasn’t enough artificial skin on the ship to cover the whole apparatus, so she made sure to put pads on the bottom of the feet and a few other places. She jotted down a note to start growing a new batch of skin in the cargo bay when she had the time.
After she finished final checks on the cybernetics Janine started flooding Elinog’s system with nutrients and a wake-up stim. He slowly began to stir.
Elinog opened his eyes and saw Janine leaning over him, concern on her face followed by relief. He felt lighter and heavier at the same time. He opened his mouth to speak and found his throat was extremely dry. “Water” was all he managed to get out.
“Right.” Janine grabbed a dropper and filled it with water. She slowly dripped it into Elinog’s mouth. “Small swallows. You’ve been getting hydration from drips.”
It took a while for Elinog’s throat to feel wet enough to speak. “What happened? Last I remember a tentacle shot at me.”
“Well…I did what I could. There’s no easy way to say this, so I’ll just tell you. You lost the entire lower half of your body.”
Elinog propped himself up on his elbows and looked down his body. Just below his ribcage, he saw the silver and black plates. He lifted a leg to get a look. “Well, you did a good job. The leg looks right. I think I need some time to process, though.”
“Do you want to be alone?”
“No, doc. I want you here.” Elinog looked at Janine. “Thanks.” He tried to swing his legs over the edge of the bed. It took more effort than he was used to. “Ugh. Looks like I need to work on my upperbody strength.”
“Careful! The connections are still fresh.” Janine rushed to stabilize him. “You’re both more and less fragile than before. You need to be careful.”
Elinog nodded. “I understand…wait. Where did you get the parts for this?”
“Uhh…I had to raid your spares.” Janine said, sheepishly. “There weren’t enough cybernetics on the ship for this.”
“Okay. Well, we’ll just hope we don’t need anything you used then.” Elinog finished standing up. “Oh, I can feel the bottoms of my feet. Am I supposed to?”
Janine watched as Elinog took a few steps. “Yes, there’s not enough skin on the ship to cover the whole thing so I just dealt with the important places. I’ll grow more when I get the chance.”
“Right.” Elinog looked down at his sides. “So, about my lower arms. Can we do something about those?” He looked over and saw one of his arms on a tray with other, mashed organs. “Oh, I assume that neededto be removed?” He motioned at the tray.
Looking where Elinog was motioning Janine nodded. “Yeah, I needed more bone to secure the legs.”
“I assume the metal will keep them from regrowing.” Elinog sat back down. “Okay. Now I need to process alone.”
“Comm me if you need me.” Janine kissed him on the cheek. “Don’t try to fix anything by yourself. Talk to me first.”
The Tinkerer sat at a workbench and started to disassemble a piece of a machine that was able to fly. Not glide from a high place, but actually fly. The technology had come from another realm and it wasn’t clockwork or magical. It had wires and other things running through it. Unfortunately, the object only half manifested on Nevre, causing it to crash.
On the workbench behind him Zdenko had started construction on a clockwork version of the machine. He didn’t have access to wires with the strange substance covering them that the machine had, but he was doing his best to recreate the form and function of the craft itself.
Zdenko began to think about the other people in the workshop with him. Most of them salamen, halflings, and gnomes. The other races rarely had representation in the workshop, not feeling the same curiosity at the machines that Zdenko had acquired throughout the years. Recently a skravyn had come to learn the ins and outs of tinkering, but he had to start from the beginning. He was from the city of Rentaz in Zentar. The skravyn there weren’t treated very well by the other races. Especially humans.
“Ah, my mind is wandering from the task at hand.” Zdenko stood up, his white, wispy hair taking a moment to realize it was moving, then another moment to realize it had stopped. He addressed the workshop. “Where’s Skreeve?”
There was a hush in response then a skravyn stood up, lifting his feathered arm up above his head. “Over here! I’m coming!” There was some plodding and scraping as the skravyn hurried over to Zdenko. “What does The Tinkerer ask of me?”
“First, I ask everyone else to focus back on their work.” The workshop returned to the sounds of gearwork. “So, I wanted to ask you a few things, Skreeve. First, how did you learn of me?”
“At the temple to the known gods in Rentaz. One of the priests there was surprised I was interested in tinkering and recommended I visit here.”
“Okay. Do you prefer fine-tuning things or scrabbling things together to do what you need even if it only lasts a few times?”
“Putting something together quickly and maybe later working on the finer points.”
Zdenko nodded. “Last question. Are you devoted to the work you’re doing here?”
“Very.” Skreeve looked down at his feet. “But my instructor doesn’t like my improvisational techniques.”
The Tinkerer nodded. “I don’t have many clerics in my order. Mostly just tinkerers. What do you think about doing that?”
“I can give it a try.”
“Well, I give you the position of cleric.” The Tinkerer waved his hands a little and some power moved from him into Skreeve. “So, look at this piece of machine here. Not the clockwork one, the other one.”
Skreeve looked at it. “Very well made. Probably not made by hand.” He reached a hand out then stopped himself. “May I?”
“Go ahead.” Zdenko smiled, waiting for the power he had given the skravyn to manifest.
The taloned hand touched the machine and Skreeve started moving a few of the wires. Suddenly a dim light jumped from his hand to the machine and back. “Wow!” He started pulling some of the wires out of the machine. “These are for lights. They’ll just distract you.” He grabbed a tool and unscrewed one of the housings. “This in here is the actual engine…” He started to sit at the workbench and began pulling off all of the unimportant bits.
Zdenko sat at the workbench with the clockwork engine and continued working on it. He glanced back at Skreeve every once in a while and noticed he was cobbling together his own engine. It was going to need some tweaking, but it wasn’t a replica. It was an improvement.
Two dwarves hung from a rope stretched across
a cavern. They were clinging on for dear life while a human and an elf pulled
them across on a ferry style setup.
“Oi, can you speed this up a little?” Lukren
yelled. “It’s getting toasty here!”
Sorley pulled on the rope again. “Pitons aren’t made for this. They’re resisting the movement. If we go faster, we risk breaking the rope. You don’t want that.”
“Aye, but it feels like I’m turning into a roast duck here!” Lourek started inching his way forward to speed up the process. “All that’s missing is the sauce!”
Helena rolled her eyes and sighed. She tugged on the rope with Sorley then called out, “if you move like that it’s harder to pull the rope!”
The movement stopped and Lourek cursed silently under his breath, waiting for the rope to take him to the side of the crevice.
After a few intense minutes, the two dwarves were standing on the same side of the crack as Sorely and Helena.
“Okay. I’ll go get the other two pitons. I’ll be quick.” Sorely started to climb the wall, leaving Ember behind so he wouldn’t need to worry about her.
“Make it quick. Lourek and I are going into the passage. I don’t want to stick around here for much longer.”
On the opposite side of the cavern, a green head poked around the entrance to the tunnel. “They’re here, alright. Looks like the human is coming back across. Let’s attack him then.”
The ice wolf pawed silently, ready for a fight.
Sorely made his way back across the top of the cavern quickly. He climbed down the wall and made for the pitons.
Watching from the other side Helena saw Krakust and Evryn sneaking up on Sorley. “Sorley! Behind you! It’s Krakust!”
With a quick twirl, Sorley turned to face the orc and the ice wolf. “What do you want from me?”
“To know how you got here.” The orc growled.
“You aren’t from Domhan. You’re from another realm.”
Lukren poked his head out of the tunnel on the side where Helena was. “Did he say not from Domhan?”
“Aye, he did.” Lourek too poked his head out. “What does that mean?”
Ember turned to the dwarves, “not now. Can you do something to help Sorley out from here?”
“No, we only have melee weapons. No bows or crossbows.”
Orby, Helena thought to her familiar, can we hit the orc or wolf from here?
No, they’re too far away. You can send me over to help, maybe.
The green light that was Orby started floating across the cavern. The light was dimmer than before, but still noticeable.
Ember noticed Orby and thought to Sorley, looks like Helena is sending Orby to help. I don’t know what it can do to help.
Tell her thanks. Sorley stared Krakust straight in the eyes. “No, I’m not from here. I’m from Earth. My family sent me here as a last resort to keep me alive. Some orc and its dog aren’t going to keep me from breaking my promise to my mother.” A purplish flame appeared in Sorley’s hand. “If you want me, you’re going to have to fight me.”
Krakust pulled a wicked blade from his belt. “Oh, so you don’t want to die? Well, you decided your fate when you and your elf friend shot me with flames before.”
Snarling Evryn started inching forward toward Sorley.
“Tell me what I want to know, and you will die quickly.” Krakust took a step forward. “How did you get to Domhan? How do you travel between realms?”
A small grin appeared on Sorley’s face. “You think I can do that sort of magic myself and you approach with a blade? If I could you would already be defeated.”
“I’ve dealt with magic users before, boy. They can be dealt with.”
That’s right, Sorley thought to himself, keep talking. Give Orby some time to get here.
Krakust walked closer to Sorley, cautiously. “So, are you going to stand there all day, or attack me?”
About to form a reply Sorley felt a strange sensation on his back then a presence entered his mind. Orby?
Yeah, it’s me. Sorry, didn’t have time for a warning.
The purple flame in Sorley’s hand grew larger and gained green highlights. “I think now is the best time.” Sorley shot the flame, but not at Krakust. The flame went right for Evryn’s side where the flameskull had hit her before.
Surprised that the human had decided to attack her first Evryn wasn’t able to avoid the flame. It hit her side where the burns were still fresh and shot pain through her body. She staggered under the blow and scampered backward.
Rage appeared in Krakust’s eyes. “You will be paying for that, human.” He rushed forward with his blade pointed at Sorley. As he did so Orby passed back out of Sorley to in front of him and sent out a blinding flash in Krakust’s direction.
Step to the side! Quickly!
Sorley stepped aside as Krakust, unable to stop his momentum, went over the side of the chasm. At the last moment, he was able to grip a protruding rock but dropped his blade in the process. There was a dull thud as the metal hit the magma and Helena saw it sink beneath the molten rock.
Ignoring her pain Evryn ran forward to Krakust, trying to see if there was some way she could offer help.
Should we leave him and go back to the others? Orby asked.
You go back. I need to get the pitons still. Sorley motioned towards the two pitons nearby.
Orby bobbed in response and started floating back across the crack.
The pitons pulled back out of the rock without too much trouble and Sorley took one close to where Krakust was. He drove it into the ground and attached some rope to it. He coiled the rope then looked at the ice wolf. “Use this to save him. I’m going back to my friends.” He turned back to the wall and started climbing.
Wasting no time Evryn took one end of the rope in her mouth and pulled it over to Krakust.
“Stupid human. You should’ve killed me.” He carefully grabbed the end of the rope and started to pull himself up.
“No, I made a tactical decision. When next we meet we will be on the same side.”
“I doubt that greatly.”
Sorley finished the climb to Helena and the dwarves. Without a word he picked up his pack and started walking to the cave. Ember started following beside him.
“Well, shall we go?” Ember asked when the others didn’t start following.
“Uh, yeah. Let’s go. I have some questions, though.” Lourek started following Sorley. “What’s Earth, first of all, and exactly how did you get here?”
“Aye, I wish to know that too.” Lukren started following behind as well.
Helena smiled slightly to herself. Good job, Orby.
Thanks. You know, Sorley is tied to something powerful. I didn’t really do anything to his flame attack, I just strengthened the connection.
That would be the person he talked about being in his vision.
She’s strange. Like an elf but not an elf. She didn’t talk to me, but I felt her gratitude when I helped.
Interesting. Helena started jogging after the dwarves. There was a noticeable incline in the passageway. She hoped they would reach the surface soon.
– – –
Gormaliev smiled at Aliziyah. “Looks like Sorley has some interesting allies. That light elemental knows a little something about connections. It made it easier for me to connect with Sorley. I usually wouldn’t care at the strength, but with there being so few Aelfsons these days I appreciate it.”
“It may have consequences. If the connection is closer to that of a familiar now he may have a lifespan that lasts until you die…or break the connection.” Aliziyah was curled atop a mossy stone. “How do things go on Earth?”
“Well, the Aelfson line survives on Earth for another day. I don’t know how things will go, the future is too cloudy. I don’t know how long the people will last, and every day the danger grows. The inquisitionhas already wiped out a line of warlocks of the great old one. Only one though. I put all my eggs in one basket long ago. Now I have to deal with thatdecision.”
“At least one of the eggs is in a separate basket now. Sorley.” Aliziyah stood next to Gormaliev. “And my daughter is with him. She will keep him safe.”
“Yes.” Gormaliev petted Aliziyah on the snout.“If all else fails they may yet survive.”