Haizea hated going on the pilgrimage to the Fount of the Gods. It was something every elf in the capital did at least once every other year, but her family had to go when it was winter. Every time. She hated the snow. Why did they have to go when there was snow on the ground?
“Hey, sleepy head. Wake up. We’re leaving soon. Dad’s gonna be mad if you don’t get up.” Haizea’s little brother bounced on the end of her bed.
Pulling the cover off of her head Haizea stuck her tongue out at her brother. “Get out and I’ll get dressed.”
Her brother hopped off the bed. “Ok, but hurry.” He knocked over the oil lamp on her dresser on the way out. It shattered on the wooden floor. “Sorry.” He didn’t stop to clean it up.
“Your clumsiness is going to get someone hurt one of these days!”
– – –
“Ugh. How much longer will we be in the mountains? It’s cold enough before this leg of the journey.”
“Haizea, you know it’s going to be two more days of travel. Ertval won’t be so bad after the mountains.” Haizea’s mom focused back on the trail. “Keep an eye on your brother. Don’t let him fall.”
Haizea’s brother stuck his tongue out at her. She responded in kind.
“Get along, you two.”
“We didn’t say anything, dad.”
“I know the sound of sticking your tongue out. Act more respectful to each other.”
Haizea’s brother leaned over the edge of the path. “Woah, the trees look like splinters from up here!” He started to lean away from the edge again when a bird flew in his face. “Gah!” He slipped and started to fall.
“No, you don’t.” Haizea grabbed her brother by the back of his tunic. “Got you.” A stronger hand grabbed her brother’s shoulders and pulled him up from the edge.
“Be careful, you two.”
Haizea looked at the man and he disappeared before her eyes. She looked to her parents and they were staring with wide eyes.
“Who was that?”
“Haizea. That was The Pathfinder. He’s never late, so he must’ve known you would be able to catch your brother.” Haizea’s father picked up her brother. “You’re coming with me. No more accidents.”
– – –
Several days later Haizea saw the Fount of the Gods. The ruins surrounding the fount were centuries old, but they still looked like they had just crumbled yesterday. No snow was within a yard of the place.
“Ok. We’re going in through the side entrance, as usual. Hold your sister’s hand.” Haizea’s father put her brother’s hand in hers.
After entering the castle ruins they looked down the side of the stone staircase and saw the pool the fount had formed. They looked up and saw the floating source that seemed to flow from nowhere.
Usually, Haizea felt nothing magical in this place. Today, however, she felt the stirrings of the arcane within her. She paused for a moment, letting go of her brother’s hand. When she realized she had let go he was already leaning over the edge, looking down.
“Wow, it looks so cool! I mean it always does, but I’m in awe every time.”
Haizea moved forward to grab his hand and pull him back when he stood up suddenly, knocking them both off balance. In the moment before he fell Haizea pushed her brother back onto the stairs, causing herself to fall instead.
“Nooo! Haizea!” Haizea’s brother called out.
Haizea’s mother and father turned to look back and caught a glimpse of Haizea falling before she splashed into the pool. She did not rise back to the surface. Haizea’s father broke into a sprint and ran down the rest of the stairs.
“No, she’s fine.” The Pathfinder stood at the bottom of the stairs. “If you go in after her you will die.”
“You knew she would fall? Is that why you saved my son?”
“No. She would’ve fallen either way. I saved your son and you at her request. Do not go in after her.” The Pathfinder disappeared.
Haizea’s father knelt at the edge of the pool, weeping. He did not enter it.
Sighing with annoyance Krakust pulled the
piton from the rock and shoved it and the rope in his pack. “What was that
human thinking, Evryn? He could’ve gotten rid of me. He’s not like other humans
I’ve encountered. The tribal ones would’ve left me to die, and the ‘civilized’
ones would’ve watched.”
Krakust kicked a rock down into the magma.
“There’s no way for us to get across. Let’s go back and follow the compass to
them. Maybe we’ll catch up. I can’t return without either them or proof of
their deaths anyway.”
With an agreeing snort Evryn started walking
through the tunnel they had followed to the cavern. There were no other exits
on their side of the chasm.
By the time they made it to the surface, it was night. The snow was deep, but not so deep they couldn’t get out of the cave. Looking around Krakust realized that he had no firewood and he didn’t see any.
“Looks like we’re going to be cold tonight,
– – –
“Look, we’re almost to the surface. I
“Lukren, you said that four hours ago. Let’s
just camp here and continue later. It’s past midnight on the surface.” Helena
stopped jogging and sat down.
Shrugging, Sorley also halted. “She’s right.
We need to rest.” He pulled his pack off his shoulders and rummaged through it.
“I’m almost out of heaven’s bread, but it looks like this cook’s pack has some
stuff I can work with.”
“No, I’ll be doing the cooking if we need it,
get that heaven’s bread out and let me see the pack.” Helena held her hand out
to take the pack.
Lourek stopped jogging and looked back. “Hey,
Lukren. I kinda agree. Let’s sleep in this passageway. We’ll get above ground
“Fine. I don’t know why, but I feel like we
need to get out of here now.” Lukren stopped jogging and turned to walk back to
Helena and Sorley. “Don’t say I didn’t warn you.”
“Here you are, the last of the heaven’s bread.”
Sorley handed the small bites out.
Lukren sat down and ate the bread. “So, are
you going to tell us about where you came from and how you got here?”
“Ok. Fine.” Sorley pulled Ember onto his lap. “Do
you want to try to explain it, Ember?”
“Sure. So, we are from a place called Earth.”
Sorley looked at her with an inquisitive face.
“So, you really don’t remember? Does the name Aliziyah
ring any bells?”
“No, who’s that?” Ember cocked her head to the
side and turned to look at Sorley’s face.
Sorley shook his head. “It’s Gormaliev’s familiar.
Ember cocked her head the other direction. “No,
I-I don’t remember her.”
“Here.” Sorley sent his memory of Aliziyah to
Ember. “I’ll talk about Earth now.” Sorley looked at his companions. “I’m from
Earth. Europe to be specific. My family is a line of warlockes and we were
being hunted by a church that wants to wipe out all warlockes from Earth.”
Helena prodded with the question she knew the
dwarves were wondering about. “Where is Earth? Is it far to the north?”
Sorley smiled slightly. “No, it’s a different
realm. The orc was right, I’m not from…Domhan was it?”
“Yes, this is the realm of Domhan.” Lukren
“Well, my parents opened a portal and sent me
through. I think it was open for three days. It felt like three days, anyway.
It closed when I arrived, so nobody followed…I think.” Sorley paused,
collecting his knowledge of portals. “Yeah, nobody should’ve been able to
follow at that point.”
Helena looked concerned. “You seem unsure of
“We don’t know that much about portals.” Ember
spoke up. “Dad…I mean Sorley’s dad. He never taught us much about them.
Probably didn’t think we’d need to know.”
“Right. Realm portals anyway. Regular portals
we learned about. Those are instantaneous and last an hour. Not the same thing,
though. Portal requires a high-quality gem. Realm portals require that and
more. Dad never said what, though.” Sorley glanced at his grimoire. “Though, I
can probably find out. I am the rightful owner of the book now. It won’t hide
things from me.”
The dwarves glanced at each other and Lukren
spoke up. “What do you mean by now?”
“Well, this belonged to my father.” Sorley
picked up his grimoire. “Now that he’s gifted it to me the things he wanted
hidden from me are unlocked. That’s how he said it worked. Normally, I would’ve
gotten my grandmother’s because she was the warlocke in his family, but her
grimoire was burned before I was born.”
“By the group that’s trying to kill all
warlockes?” Helena seemed interested in the grimoire.
“Yes, they burned it along with her. I never
got to meet her.”
A confused look appeared on Helena’s face. “So
how would your family have continued with the grimoire tradition?”
“Oh, the same way the younger siblings would
get a grimoire. They would copy down anything that was unlocked by their parent.
When copying a new grimoire for a firstborn the grimoire unlocks completely for
them.” Sorley shrugged. “At least that’s what dad told me when I asked about
“Anyway, we need to get some sleep. I’ll take
first watch.” Lourek stood up and sat his pack on the ground. “I’ll start
making a perimeter, you guys get to sleep.”
– – –
Krakust and Evryn made their way through the
fresh snow. The layers were taller than Evryn so Krakust ended up leading her
instead of riding her. “Shouldn’t be too long over land. We might get there
before them. It’ll take a few more days for us. Probably several for them.”
“Right. If the snow doesn’t melt some we won’t
catch them. Plus, if the tunnel comes out earlier than I thought we’ll be
behind.” Krakust waded through some more snow and almost tripped on something. “What
Evryn sniffed the snow in front of her and
pulled a frozen leg up.
“Oh, some unlucky traveler. Leave it. We can’t
do anything about it.” Krakust started walking away when the leg twitched. “Or
not, it may still be alive.” He sighed loudly. “Fine. Let’s see what we found.”
It took some time to shovel the snow off the
body, but by the time he was done Krakust wasn’t sure he could do anything for
the creature. He wasn’t even sure what the creature was. It was covered in
scales and had a lizard-like face. It reminded him of the tales of dragons he
heard when he was little.
After clearing out some more snow Krakust
gathered what sticks he had found and made a campfire. “Evryn, lie down next to
it. This small fire can only do so much.” He stared at the creature. “Its
scales are a strange color. Are they metal of some sort?” The scales were a
mottled dark grey that had metallic, reflective spots.
– – –
The lizard-like creature slowly stirred. Its
eyes opened slowly revealing cat-like pupils surrounded by light gray irises.
It slowly sat upright and Evryn backed away from it. “Where am I?” It asked in a
guttural, grating voice. “Who are you?”
“I’m Krakust and that’s my ice wolf Evryn.”
Krakust motioned to Evryn. “We found you beneath the snow. What and who are
“I am Donaar Thruuvth and I am a dragonkin.
Have you never heard of us?”
“A dragonkin?” Krakust took a few steps back. “But,
you have no wings. I thought you had wings.”
Donaar laughed deeply. It sounded like the
rattling of two magnetite stones. “Yes, many a creature has said the same to
me. My race has not had wings for millennia, but the stories still survive.”
At the sound of the laugh Krakust came to a
conclusion. “So, you are a metallic dragonkin, not a colored dragonkin?”
“No.” A fierce look came to Donaar’s eyes. “Have
you seen any colored ones?” Donaar reached for his weapon and noticed it was
gone. “My great sword, where is it? And my outer armor?”
Krakust motioned at a pack next to the small
fire. “This is what I found with you. It may be in there.”
Donaar stood and walked to the pack. “Well, my
armor is gone. Leather will have to do for now either way. Not wearing plate in
snow like this.” He motioned to the snow drifts around the cleared area. “Ah,
here’s my sword at least. Good. Wouldn’t make much of a Defender without
something to defend with.”
“Sir Donaar ‘Shield Biter’ Thruuvth at your
service. Knight of the Order of Defenders.” Donaar stood straight then sagged a
little. “Last known survivor of the Night of Gore.”
“I’ll tell you later. For now, I’ll follow you
wherever you’re going. You saved my life, after all.”
Krakust stamped out the fire. “I probably
wouldn’t have if I realized you were a knight.” He sighed. “Fine, I’m trying to
find a human boy. He’s an escaped slave and by the tradition of my people I
cannot return home without him.”
“Hmm…well, I may just have to talk you out of
“Also, the sky elf that’s with him. She also
escaped. They met up with a couple of dwarves. I don’t care about them, and I
really don’t care about the tradition either. I let them escape. The intent was
to torture information out of them, but that isn’t going to work now.”
Donaar shook his head. “Torture? Well, at least you changed your mind. Tell me, what information you are seeking?”
Ellain wiped her sword off. The skravyn blood was thick and black. She was working as a mercenary in Zentar, fighting off the hellspawn that The Desecrator had created. They were sealed away for a reason, but now they were set free.
“At least they don’t have wings anymore.” Ellain looked to the skies, reveling in the bloodshed. “Well, who’s next?”
Five skravyn, their beaks gleaming black and their feathers rustling in the wind. They charged at The Vicious as one, and as one they fell. She had used the serrated edge of her blade, sawing through each of them in turn. The last had tried to run but had found her dagger in its spine and her blade in its neck.
Rivers of black blood fed back down into Dark Under as The Viscious drew ever closer to the cave the skravyn were flooding through. The first had no weapons with them, but now they had weapons. They were mostly make-shift, but some of them had real swords. As she approached another group of skravyn she saw Kemp out of the corner of her eye. The king slayer. She slayed the skravyn in front of her and turned to approach him.
“Right, you haven’t done that before, multiple times.”
“Not to the king I was working for. Though if I were mad enough I wouldn’t be surprised to find myself doing it.” Ellain paused, looking Kemp up and down. “I wouldn’t have expected you to do it, then lose your sword to his brat.”
“Well, that was my payment. What do you think about these skravyn? Do they deserve your viciousness?”
“Deserve? No.” Ellain sheathed her blade. Kemp didn’t look like he was going to stop talking. “If we didn’t go so far back you wouldn’t still be talking.”
“I know.” Kemp shrugged. “I just wanted to know if you felt the pull of the hole in the gods. Do you know where The Vengeance is?”
Ellain nodded. “Ah, I see you felt compelled to dispense vengeance on the king for the skravyn. It stopped the army, but the prince can’t cancel the mercenary contracts. We were paid in advance.”
“Now leave, so I can kill ten more to fulfill the contract.”
“Do I have your word you will stop there?”
“Yes, but these ten will take some time…” a wicked smile covered Ellain’s face. “Would you like to watch, squad mate?”
“No, I’m going to try to find Stigr. He might know where The Vengeance is.” Kemp turned and walked off.
“Heh, I knew you wouldn’t. The bond of squad mates lasts beyond service.” Ellain redrew her sword. “So, birdbrains, who wants to be strung up by their intestines and slowly bleed to death?”
Three figures walked up to the temple in the middle of the plains. They
had been traveling East of Brangmar for one day. The three of them were
surprised. There were very few settlements outside the city and those that
existed were far away, or so they had thought.
Doenranak Ironspeaker, a human in flamboyant clothes, shrugged. “Well,”
he said in a very gruff voice, “looks like a temple to me. Anyone want to
Veviir, a male centaur, shrugged. “Well, why don’t we have the cleric of
The Morrigan knock? She’s a priest, right?”
Mumbling, Morana SilverAxe walked to the temple door. Her dwarven
sideburns blowing in the wind. “It’s a temple. Have the cleric knock. Every
Doenranak glanced at Veviir. “So, you think we’ll make it to these
Deathlands within a week?”
The monk shrugged, his shoulders rippling with cords of muscle. “I
dunno. Last time I went out here we got lost for five days then gave up. We
need to deal with those undead, though.”
Morana knocked at the door, the skeleton of her late brother standing
next to her in a robe that fooled no one. “Be ready, brother. We may need you.”
Her brother stood taller than a human. She never had the heart to tell him that
he was adopted in life, and now, in death, it didn’t matter anymore.
The door creaked open slightly and an acolyte peeked his head through
the crack. He saw the holy symbol around Morana’s neck and recognized it as the
symbol of The Morrigan. He pushed the doors open wide. “Hello, priest of The
Morrigan. Welcome to the temple.” The human looked over Morana’s shoulder to
the human and centaur in the distance. “Are the bard and monk with you?”
Looking back Morana realized they had backed away when the door to the
temple had opened. “Yes, they are.” She sighed and rubbed her temples, then
called out to them. “Get your behinds over here! They’re offering to let us
in!” She turned back to the priest and saw that he too wore a holy symbol of
The Morrigan. “Will you let a fellow follower of The Morrigan spend a night in
“Yes, yes. Of course.” He turned to another priest. “Go tell the acting
high-priestess we have guests for the night.”
The two other adventurers joined Morana and her brother to enter the
temple grounds. Nobody commented on the large skeleton that appeared to be
under Morana’s control.
– – –
While Veviir was content to stand around and help a little with the
daily tasks of the priests before bed, Morana and Doenranak started moving
about the temple.
“So, you’re the acting head priestess?” Morana walked next to a human
woman in a simple robe with a small amount of filigree on the collar.
“Why, of course. Nobody has risen to the rank of high priest or
priestess since the last war. This temple to The Morrigan is more focused on
the war side of the goddess. Only those who have served in war or shown valor
in combat may rise to that rank.”
Morana smiled. “Does that mean I outrank you?”
The woman smiled slightly. “Only if you can prove to us you have been
tried by combat. Perhaps you will have a chance to prove yourself, but in these
more peaceful times I doubt it.”
In the shadows behind Morana and the high priestess, a dark figure passed from door to door. Doenranak was searching for papers important to the temple. He found a document room and slipped inside. He opened a few scrolls and came across some ancient, important texts. He pulled out his quill and some parchment. He copied a few scrolls and by the end his handwriting perfectly matched that of the scrolls.
Smiling to himself Doenranak pulled another scroll and read through it.
This scroll mentioned a cave below the temple with a guardian of crystal
inside. He copied that scroll too, and then left the room in search of the
When he got down there he saw Morana speaking with the high priestess.
“So, only the high priest or priestess can go down there?”
“Yes, basically.” The high priestess nodded. “Only the true high priest
or priestess can go down there. We haven’t had one for a long time.”
Nodding to himself, a plan formulating in his mind, Doenranak went back
to the quarters the temple had provided for them.
– – –
Veviir was still standing outside the door to Doenranak’s and Morana’s
quarters. He didn’t seem to have moved or breathed since the previous evening.
He nodded at Doenranak as he left his quarters. Drawing in breath he greeted
the human. “Good morrow, Morana’s already talking with the priestess. Shall we
“Do you ever sleep?”
“Well, let’s go then. We have a cave to search.” Doenranak walked
swiftly towards the main hall, knowing Morana was expecting to leave.
“What?” Veviir asked, but Doenranak was already gone. “Ugh, humans and
their impatience. Remind me of minotaurs sometimes.”
“So, we’ll be going. Trying to find out about those rabid undead in the
deathlands.” Morana nodded to the head priestess.
“Actually, I’ve heard something about those caves.” Doenranak wedged
himself into the conversation. “Can we see them?”
The priestess turned to Doenranak. “Only the high priest or priestess
can. The official one, not acting. We don’t have one now. Nobody has seen war
and risen to that station in nearly a century.”
Morana shook her head. She knew where this was going.
Smiling Doenranak motioned with his arms. “But we’ve seen war. We’re
from north of the Mushroom Forest. War is always waging up there. We came down
here for rest and relaxation.”
Sighing Morana nodded. “Yes, we’re from the north. We’ve seen battle.”
“Well, there’s still no reason to go down there, but if you wish Morana
you can become head priestess here after your adventure is complete.”
Doenranak pulled a scroll from his pack and unfurled it. “Well,
according to what I know about your order today is a holy day.” He pointed out
a few dates on it. “See, that’s today.”
“Let me see that scroll.”
Doenranak handed the priestess the scroll. “Sure. It’s just something I
found back in Brangmar.”
The priestess scanned the scroll. “Hmm…so it is a holy day today. May I
keep this scroll?”
“Of course. I have made a rough copy of the information on it. I don’t
need the original anymore.”
“Craig, would you kindly take our guests to the stairs. I need to store this scroll in the archive.”
Frevren looked over the alchemist’s equipment sitting on the table in front of him. “What do you want me to do, exactly?”
The Sorceress smiled. “You really don’t remember, do you Frevren? Who you are and what you can do?” A salaman poked his head into the room and motioned at her. “Try to make that lump of lead into gold. I’ll be right back.”
“Lead into gold? I thought you were The Sorceress, not The Wanderer!” Frevren didn’t hear a reply. The Sorceress was already gone. “Lead into gold, yeah right.” He mumbled to himself.
The wall next to Frevren was covered with alchemical reagents. Nothing was labeled. He assumed that they weren’t labeled because The Sorceress already knew what everything was. “Well, time to start cataloging I guess.”
– – –
When Taika returned to the room where she had left Frevren she found that all of her drawers were labeled with what ingredient was where. Something she hadn’t needed to do since she could remember. She always knew which one to grab at any time. She hadn’t thought that it wasn’t the same for Frevren. She looked over the labels. “Oh, that’s what it’s called. ‘Snake Snout’.” She pulled a root from the drawer and looked at it. It vaguely resembled the head of a snake.
“What?” Frevren looked up from the worktable. “Oh, you’re back.” There were empty vials lying on the table and a lump of gold-colored metal.
Taika looked over the table. “Hmm, interesting choices. Yes, those would certainly work for me turning lead to gold. How did it do for you?”
Shrugging Frevren handed her a saw. “See for yourself. I assume it looks like lead not too far down.”
The saw bit into the lump of metal easily and when cut in half it revealed the entire lump was gold colored.
“Hmm. Interesting.” Taika cast a small spell on the metal. “Even more interesting.” She pulled a small booklet from her robe and jotted a note on it with a piece of sharpened charcoal. “Do you believe you made gold?”
Frevren scoffed. “No, I believe I colored lead to look like gold. If you give me a set of scales and gold that matches the volume I can prove they aren’t the same weight.”
“Oh, but it would prove you have made gold.” Taika smiled at Frevren. “Even when they don’t know who they are the gods can perform miracles.”
“What did you say? You were mumbling for that last bit.”
“Nothing, nothing. I think you could make a great mage. Would you like to study transmutation?”
“Sure, why not? I still don’t think this is gold, though.” Frevren shook his head.
A smile spread across Taika’s face. “You have access to my instruments. Test it yourself.”
Gaemacirch went to meet with the captain of the guard. The captain wasn’t at
the guardpost, however. They asked a couple of the guards where he might be and
finally one of the guards directed them to the northern wall.
newcomers. Here to volunteer on the wall tonight?” The guard captain moved to
the ladder next to the gate and slid down. “I’ll be glad to have your help, and
some in the guard will be glad to have you in sight.” He smiled broadly to show
that he wasn’t one of them. “I assume Samuel sent you to get free rooms?”
to offer help before that. The southern gate guards mentioned night raids by
creatures from Dark Under. When should we report for duty?” Gaemacirch spoke
for the both of them. “We’ve been traveling all day and have some need of rest
first, if we can have it.”
“Yes, go sleep
in the guardhouse for a few hours. One of the men will wake you for the night
watch then.” The captain shook their hands and climbed back up to the top of
the wall. “Oh, and if you’re hungry there’s a stocked pantry too.”
– – –
A few hours
later a guard woke up both Dreekt and Gaemacirch who felt well rested even
after such a short sleep. “Time for the night watch. If either of you knows
magic talk to the mage at the south-east watchtower. That’s the best place to
cast from, and he has a list of specific effects you should avoid.” The man
paused for a moment, a worried look on his face. “For the safety of the town of
course.” It was clear that he had a fear of magic.
“I’ll head to the tower then.” Dreekt glanced over at Gaemacirch who looked
annoyed. “What’s wrong?”
“I don’t think
it’s a good idea to separate. Seeing how we’re both dark races.” He practically spit out the phrase. “Unless you feel
more safe with us apart.” He didn’t break eye contact with the soldier,
misinterpreting the worried look on the soldier’s face.
“Uhh, I don’t
care. You should forgive those that do right now. We are getting attacked from
where your races began. Even if you’ve never been there in your whole lives. I
never would’ve thought you were evil or anything like that.” The man babbled on
for a moment longer until he realized that Gaemacirch and Dreekt were already
– – –
out of the Blue Flagon. She was careful to not let the barkeep see her on the
way out. She made her way to the mayoral building, shifting from shadow to
mayoral building were two guards. They were alert, but their attention was on
the skies. They were watching for attacks from flying creatures from Dark
Under, not keeping watch at the door like they were supposed to. Not that it
mattered to The Vengeance. Being a goddess she could just pop right inside the
building. That wouldn’t be fun, though. She wanted to try to sneak by the men
the mundane way.
Sneaking up to
the men was the easy part. Adalet stood next to the door to the building
already. The hard part would be opening the door without them noticing. In
fact, there was no way to open the door without them noticing. Sighing quietly
in annoyance Adalet decided to pop into the building using a teleportation
spell. In an instant she was on the other side of the door.
quietly The Justice made her way to the mayor’s office. There, hanging on the
back wall, was Grigori Petrovich’s quarterstaff. She had no idea how he had
gotten it enchanted so quickly after magic had been released into the world,
but he had.
with a steady hand Adalet pulled the quarterstaff from the wall and immediately
a magical alarm started to go off. She tried to teleport out of the room, but
something blocked her.
how to escape ran through Adalet’s mind until she remembered that even if she
was caught they couldn’t kill her. Smiling to herself she clutched the
quarterstaff to her body and ran out the front door of the building. The two
guards were surprised that the thief would come out the front and she dealt
with them swiftly.
on her escape route for a second as she saw a shrine to The Justice in the
village square. She jogged over to it and blessed it. Taking the quarterstaff
was vengeance for Grigori Petrovich’s murder of her parents, but she had no
reason to hate the town. As she turned to continue her escape she didn’t notice
that two familiar figures were now chasing her down.
– – –
A loud magical
alarm woke Burner up. She shot bolt upright and grabbed the dagger next to her
bed. Looking around the room she realized that Adalet was gone. “Shast, she
probably went after that quarterstaff.” Burner dressed quickly, making sure
that her waxen skin was covered and pulled her cowl up over her head. Armed and
dressed she made her way out of the inn, going up one flight of stairs to the
– – –
Gaemacirch were walking up to the door of the mage’s tower when an alarm went
off from the center of town.
inside. I’ll see what’s up with that alarm.” Gaemacirch nudged Dreekt forward
and turned towards the alarm, running to catch up to a guard heading that way.
“Hey, what’s that alarm mean?”
broken into the mayor’s office, but that’s the least of our problems. That
alarm is going to draw in more Dark Under creatures. I need to go disable it.
You keep an eye out for anything suspicious.” He handed Gaemacirch a small
badge. “Pin that to your shirt, they’ll know you’re with the watch.”
took the badge and bent the back so it clipped to his armor. “Ok.”
doubled his pace as Gaemacirch looked around for anyone acting suspicious. He
spotted Adalet running through the streets holding a quarterstaff, and Burner
following behind. He intercepted Burner. “Hey, what’s going on?”
at Gaemacirch and continued running after Adalet. “She took something from the
mayor’s office. We need to get it back.”
– – –
I don’t want to hurt you.” Burner stood ten feet from Adalet who had stopped
running just outside town. “Give back the quarterstaff and we’ll let you leave.”
A smile came
to Adalet’s lips as she turned to face Burner and Gaemeacirch. “You can’t stop
my vengeance. You won’t be the first to try.”
a short tune and a wave of sound rumbled around and shot at Adalet.
Adalet stood her ground as the sound wave passed through her without harm. “My
turn.” A bolt of lightning shot out from the quarterstaff as she pointed it at
Burner. The bolt hit Burner in the chest and she fell to one knee. Adalet
turned back around and started to walk away. “It’s no use. Don’t try it Gaem.”
fury Gaemacirch through a kunai at Adalet. He had meant the blade to hit with
the flat against her head to knock her out, instead it severed her brainstem at
the base of her skull. “Oh, that’s not what I meant to do.” The fury had
drained from Gaemacirch’s body. “I guess we need to get that quarterstaff back
and deal with her body.”
stood back up, “she was holding out on us. That packed a punch.” She walked
over to Adalet’s corpse and took the quarterstaff from her grip. A piece of
parchment dropped from Adalet’s hand as the quarterstaff left it. “What’s that?”
reached down and unfolded the parchment. “It says that the man we’re looking
for is named Magnus, and he isn’t evil.” He stuck the parchment under his
armor. “I’m too in shock to register what that means.”
It means she knew him the whole time, and I’m just as surprised as you.” Burner said. “I didn’t think they were both selfish pricks. Oh well, come on Gaem. We need to find this Magnus fellow.” Burner looked up suddenly. “Odd, I could’ve sworn I saw…nevermind. Let’s drag her to the side of the road and cover her. We need to go back.”
– – –
A few minutes later the path to Dregton was clear and quiet. Nothing in the forest stirred. Adalet’s body disappeared from under the pile of rocks Burner and Gaemacirch had hastily covered her with. A puff of smoke poured out from between the rocks and coalesced back into Adalet. She stood shivering next to the rocks, naked. She quickly moved the rocks off her clothes and put them on. Her coin was gone, but her bow and arrows were lying nearby. “So, they left me something. My vengeance is complete. Once the Dark Under creatures arrive maybe those three can save the town, maybe not. I have a date to keep.” Adalet teleported away. A few moments later the path to Dregton was filled with skittering creepers, and the sky was full of noxious flyers heading for the town.
Avron loved working the forge and the dwarves had the best forges. Sure, it had taken a while for him to get used to being underground every day. He had tried to keep a normal sleep-wake cycle but eventually gave up. As long as he had his orders filled on time it didn’t matter when he slept.
– – –
The clanging of hammers at the Forge of Time was loud at all times of the day and night. Nobody lived in the same cavern. People only visited to work, place a work-order, or pick up a work-order. There was no housing within the cavern…except for Avron’s house.
The house stood in a secluded section of the cavern where most of the hammering had fallen silent. He needed no food or drink so he rarely left the forge.
“M’lord?” A child dwarf stood next to Avron at the forge. She had waited until Avron was between items to speak.
Avron turned to face the dwarf. “Well, what is it, little one?” He bent over to be more on her level.
“An automaton is here. He says he needs your help. His name is Slapper.” The girl paused for a moment. “Well, he wrote it down, anyway. He’s an older one. He can’t speak.”
A smile spread across Avron’s face. “Yes, Slapper. I remember him.” He set down his tools. “Well, lead me to him.”
– – –
An ancient automaton stood in the corner of a small tinker shop in the citadel. The tinkerer kept glancing over at him in a distracted manner.
After a few more moments of silence the tinkerer set down his project and walked over to the automaton. “Look, I know you can’t speak and you aren’t trying to distract me, but you’re distracting me just by being here.”
Slapper nodded and slowly walked to the door. His gears groaned as he moved. As he was about to reach the door it opened.
“Ah, Slapper. So good to see you.” Avron stood stooped at the door and glanced at the tinkerer. “I trust he was no trouble?”
“No, but he was a little distracting just standing in the corner. I need to get back to work if you don’t need me.”
Avron looked Slapper up and down then chuckled. “You don’t want the opportunity to work with a god and fix up an ancient automaton?”
The tinkerer turned to his workbench and shoved everything to one side. “He’s not distracting if he’s a patient.”
Slapper nodded at Avron and sat on the bench, squeaking the whole way.
“Hmm…when’s the last time you had an oil bath?” The tinkerer asked handing Slapper a parchment and quill.
Avron turned to the girl and gave her a gold piece for her troubles. She smiled at him then turned and grabbed a tool set. “My grandfather will be happy to be paid.”
– – –
Avron was back at the forge, this time building parts for an automaton. He knew just as well as Slapper did that if Slapper wanted to he could let the wear and tear take him and he would get a fresh, new body. If he was not willing to do that then there must be something else going on and Avron aimed to find out what.
He pulled round disk from the fire and hammered it into a sprocket. He quenched the sprocket and added it to a pile of cooling metal. Slapper was getting a new chassis. Hopefully, the soul that was Slapper would remain even after replacing 90% of him.
– – –
The dwarven tinkerer pulled the face plate off of Slapper’s head. “You original models can’t talk. I have some newer parts, but they don’t run off clockwork anymore. They run off of something else. Difficult to explain. Anyway, I digress.” He held up a small box with gears on the outside. I reverse engineered this back when I worked with Zdenko at his workshop. The Tinkerer himself. Well, you probably know him too. I’ll hook this up and you tell me if it works.”
There were a few screeches as Slapper attempted to speak in the first time since the incident at The Fount of the Gods. “I thiiiink theeere’ssss aaaa proooobleeeem.”
“Ah, one of the sprockets is the wrong size. Let me see if I have something for that.” The tinkerer walked behind his counter and started rummaging through some boxes.
The door swung open and a cart pushed through it. The child dwarf rode atop the metal pieces. Avron peeked out from behind her. “How’s it going buddy?”
“Theeeere’ssss aaaa hiiicuuuup.”
“Oh, that’s great!” Avron shooed the dwarf off the pile of metal and started sorting it. “I mean it’s great that it’s even to that point. Here, why don’t you help me arrange this stuff?”
“Ok, leg pieces there, arm pieces there, and main chassis pieces there.” The tinkerer pointed in three cleared areas. “I’ll start assembly as soon as I finish with the talk-box.” He motioned at Slapper. “Lemme see it again, please.”
– – –
Avron began to disassemble Slapper’s chassis. He unpinned the front from the back and shook his head. “I was the best smith in the land even then, but this was my first time working on parts so small with such precise measurements. I’m surprised I did as well as this. I’m even more surprised you’re a legitimate mkI that’s still functioning.” He looked at some of the pieces and saw some wooden replacements. “Hmm. No wonder you need repairs so badly. They did a good job, but wood is not a good replacement when everything else is metal.”
The dwarf tinkerer slotted the talk-box back into Slapper. “Give that a try while he roots around inside you.”
“Testing one-two, testing one-two. I am Slapper, the one who slaps dwarves.” Slapper nodded. “Not today, of course. You’re amazing.”
Avron smiled. “Ok, sorry old friend, but I need to detach your head from your chassis. I don’t know what this is going to do, but it needs to be done.”
A few grueling hours later The Smith and the dwarven tinkerer slotted the last cog into place. Slapper slowly sat up and started moving all of his parts. Now he had a much slimmer chassis and looked more like a human. He smiled at Avron.
“My friend. I haven’t felt this good since the explosion in the palace. Thank you.” Slapper shook Avron’s hand then turned to the tinkerer. “And thank you. Next time I see The Tinkerer I’ll let him know about this amazing shop.” Slapper rummaged through his pack and pulled a pouch of coins from it. “Here, keep the change.” Slapper picked up the pack and walked out the door. He glanced back and waved at the dwarf girl trying not to cry then the tinkerer and the girl never saw him again.