Kiawk fumbled with the pendant in his pocket. He smiled slightly at the feel of it. He had kept the pendant in his possession after becoming a god. He was waiting to either have it taken from him by Gormaliev or to give it to someone he knew would make a good god. He wasn’t sure what feeling he was waiting for, but he knew he would recognize it when he felt it.
The streets of Rentaz were crowded with people rushing to and fro. Kiawk accidentally ran into an orange cart and fell backward. “Sorry. I was distracted by my thoughts.” He started to help pick up the fallen fruit.
“No, don’t worry about it. I’ll clean it up myself.”
Kiawk tossed the orange seller a coin and took one of the oranges from the ground. “Keep the change.”
Turning back to the street Kiawk saw an automaton, one of the newer ones. He cocked his head to the side and then to the other side. Clicking his bead a few times he strode forward, weaving through the crowd to reach the automaton.
The automaton turned and looked at the skravyn. “May I help you?”
Kiawk handed the automaton the pendant and said, “Here, take this. You’ll know what to do with it when the time comes.” He then turned and walked away, disappearing from the automaton’s view.
With a look around Kiawk shunted into a side alley and popped out of Rentaz. He reappeared on a cliff overlooking the city. He often went there to think. Sitting in the spot Kiawk usually sat in was The Jester and standing behind him was The Kindness.
“Hello, Mimic. Do anything destiny related today?” The Jester smiled warmly.
Simisola nodded at Kiawk. “So, you found the recipient of the pendant. Why do you think he should have it? He was at the Fount of the Gods when it was created and it didn’t find him worthy then.”
“Such unkind words from The Kindness.” Kiawk turned and looked at the city. “You know very well that people grow and change. He may not have been ready then, but he’s not far off now.”
“Maybe,” The Jester suggested, “you saw a mimic of yourself in him. Someone who had something forced upon him and you saw a way to make his prison freedom?”
The mimic clicked his beak. “Maybe. We’ll see if I was right.”
A large, for a
small creature, riverfolk stood squared off against Draveth. His stance told
Draveth that he’d been through many battles. The duel was to go until one of
them gave up. Draveth stepped sideways around the marked-out circle. The snow
and grass had been cleared from the spot, leaving only cold, hard earth.
followed Draveth step for step, brandishing his twin swords. He had to take
longer strides, but he kept up.
riverfolk shouted in riverish. “You’re supposed to fight! Fight!”
“They say get
going!” Kreet shouted at Draveth.
Draveth muttered. “You want a fight? You’ll get a fight.” He walked forward and
swung his claymore towards the riverfolk.
blow coming the riverfolk parried with one of his swords and tried to hit
Draveth’s midsection with his other. To his surprise Draveth had already moved
to his side. He turned to face him. “Tricks no help. Only battle sense.” He
attacked Draveth again, but Draveth was able to sweep both swords to the side.
changed his grip on his claymore and swung laterally, hoping to get the
riverfolk in the side. The riverfolk half blocked the blow, taking only a small
inexperienced, human.” The riverfolk grinned. “You lose.” He stabbed thrice in
quick succession, one of the stabs pierced Draveth’s armor and grazed his side.
up and jabbed into the riverfolk’s left arm with his claymore. The riverfolk
dropped his left sword and his arm hung limp at his side. “I have better reach,
dodged under the sword and came up under Draveth’s guard. He jabbed upward with
his sword, but it bounced off the armor. He stayed close to Draveth so he
couldn’t bring his blade to bear. “I get close, cancel reach.”
brought his pommel down on the riverfolk’s head, or at least tried to. He ended
up hitting the riverfold’s left shoulder again, agrivating the fresh wound.
The riverfolk winced in pain and jabbed at Draveth again with his sword. This
time Draveth interposed his chain mailed arm to block the brunt of the blow.
The riverfolk growled in anger.
pommel down again Draveth hit the riverfolk square in the center of his head.
The riverfolk fell to the ground, dazed.
Human win!” The riverfolk dropped his remaining sword and cradled his head in
his right arm.
– – –
said. “That arm should be fine in a couple of days.”
tested his left shoulder. “Sore, but work.”
said in riverfolk, “you said you would tell us what you know about Krash being
“Krash is the
elf?” The riverfolk responded in riverish.
to Krashaeletin. “He’s Krash, I’m Kreet, and the paladin you fought is
shook his head. “A paladin? That explains a lot.” He rubbed his shoulder again.
“Another tribe captured your elf friend.”
“Why did you
shoot at him when he went to get his quarterstaff?” Kreet put her hands on her
hips and clicked her beak. “That doesn’t make me want to believe you.”
looked back at the nearby group. “Trest has a twitchy finger.”
“Fine, just tell us why you think they wanted him.”
“I don’t think
they wanted him in particular. They just wanted a traveler.” The riverfolk
nodded in Trest’s direction. “He shot because we were raided last night. He’s
still a little shaken up.”
we stay away from the water’s edge?” Kreet motioned at the river.
nodded. “That would be best. Also, watch out for sea srengaa. They’ve been forcing
other tribes upriver and out of the ocean.”
at Krashaeletin and Draveth. She switched back to common. “What do you two know
about sea srengaa?”
eyes went wide. “The Drowned Cursed? What about them?”
Draveth shook his head. “I don’t know about them, seems like Krash does,
though.” He turned to Krashaeletin. “Anything we should know?”
cursed by The Drowned. The elven goddess. I thought everyone knew about them. I
guess I was wrong.” Krashaeletin sat down on the path. “They were originally a
group of riverfolk like these.” He motioned at the riverfolk tribesmen. “They
looked like halflings with gills in the same way. One day the tribe decided to
attack and kill everyone in the riverfolk village The Drowned called home. They
killed the warrior, the women, the infirm, and even the children.” He shook his
head. “They attempted to kill her, but as you know the gods are immortal. In
order to take vengeance on the tribe, she cursed them. They became known as the
sea srengaa after a time. Many call them sea devils and they mostly reside in
the depths of the ocean. They don’t resemble riverfolk anymore, except for once
in a blue moon when they bear a child that looks like a riverfolk.”
her head and switched back to riverish. “Is there some offense against these
sea srengaa? Can any of the tribes push them back to the ocean’s depths?”
shrugged. “Alone, no. If we could be united? Yes.”
Draveth saw a strange look in Kreet’s eyes.
“A change of
plans,” Kreet said in common. “What do either of you know about sailing?”
“What are you
thinking?” Krashaeletin asked.
the riverfolk defeat the sea srengaa.”
“If you want
help, you need prove self first.” The riverfolk spoke up. “You defeat me, you
must same to chieftains for unify.”
the conviction in Kreet’s eyes and stance. “Well, where do we begin?”
Some people owe me a favor. Maybe they’ll give me a riverboat for it.”
“I want to hear that story, sometime, Krash.” Draveth collected his pack.
“It’s actually rather boring. I healed some people. Those people offered me money and I said I’ll take a favor. I’m sure it won’t be a very nice riverboat, but any riverboat is better than none.”
“I go with.” The riverfolk chieftain hit his chest with a closed fist. “I say you beat chieftain in ritual. I Grefin. You call Grefin.”
Tibdast sat in the Hematite Flagon on Nevre, and in Tibdast’s Tavern and Inn on Domhan, and in a nondescript tavern on Midgard, and in a pub on Earth, and in an inn on Yerkir. He wasn’t busy in any of the realms at the moment and he let his consciousness float between his five existences. It wasn’t often this happened.
Well, Tibdast, he thought to himself, what information do you have that should cross realms?
The story of the serpent from Domhan filtered to the front of his mind. No, that’s something I shouldn’t tell in Midgard. Thor may find out.
Deep in his thoughts, Tibdast almost didn’t notice an automaton enter the Hematite Flagon. The instance he did his consciousness splintered back into its five pieces. He sighed deeply on all the realms and on Nevre he faced the automaton.
“Oh, Slapper. How are you?” Tibdast smiled broadly at the automaton.
“Great, am I interrupting something?” The automaton looked around and realized he was the only thing in the tavern.
Tibdast shook his head. “No, just deep in thought.”
Slapper nodded. “Sorry, I know that’s rare for you. I was wondering if you’d seen Syb around? I haven’t seen him for a few days. He’s usually back by now.”
“Oh, he left here with another automaton. He went by Smithed, I think. Left to help someone with something.”
Slapper cocked his head to the side. “Is something wrong? You never forget…well, anything really.”
“Just feels like I’m sluggish for some reason. Not sure why.” Tibdast stretched and yawned. He looked at his hands strangely for a moment, seeing human hands overlaying his gnome ones. He shook his head hard.
“I know you aren’t supposed to sample your own stock, but maybe you should have a drink.” Slapper threw a gold coin on the counter. “I’ll buy.”
Tibdast smiled broadly then frowned as he glanced back down at his hands. They looked gnomish again. “I think some stuff is bleeding through that shouldn’t be.” He shuffled to the rack of ales, then shook his head. “Maybe something stronger.” He turned and walked to the liquor rack. “Hmm…yeah, this will do.” He pulled a small bottle from a shelf and filled two shot glasses with the golden liquid inside. “A little more than what you paid, but worth it.”
Slapper nodded as a shot glass was placed in front of him. “Yous sure you don’t want to give me water instead? It’d be a waste of good alcohol for me to drink that.”
“Oh, it’s not just alcohol. It’s imbued with some focus magic. I don’t open that bottle much.” He thought to himself. “Last time was back when Gormaliev gave it to me.”
“Keeps you focused on the here and now?” Slapper poured the drink into his throat analog. He didn’t need to eat or drink, or even breathe for that matter, but he often did all those things around organics.
“Yes, the here more than the now. It should help you focus on what to do without Syb nearby. Looked like he wanted to stay with Smithed for a while.” Tibdast downed his shot glass and felt himself snap to full attention…well a fifth of his attention, but focused on Nevre with no bleed effects.
Slapper tipped his head toward Tibdast. “You appear more here now. Isn’t it about time you met up with yourselves? It’s been a couple hundred years, hasn’t it?”
“Who’ll watch the bar while I’m gone? Specifically this one. The other ones have people who can watch them.”
“I will. You go.”
“Ok.” Tibdast stood, and started walking out of the Hematite Flagon. “Just be careful. No slapping dwarves while I’m gone.”
T8-T3 rolled to the door of an apartment near the Jedi temple. He bumped into the door a few times. A dull thud echoed into the apartment.
Ao opened his black, nautolan eyes at the sound. He got up and put on his robe. He didn’t like staying in the temple. Everyone kept talking about Lousro this and Lousro that around him. Sure, they had given him the rank of Master after his death, but they hardly knew him.
The thud echoed again, this time accompanied by a series of whistles and clicks. Ao got dressed faster.
“Be right there, Tate. Hold your horses.” A smile crept onto Ao’s face and he shook his head. His head tentacles shook around like dreadlocks. “I’ll be just a moment.” He swiftly walked to the door and keyed it open. “What’s up, buddy?”
T8-T3 chirped quickly then extended an arm and poked one of Ao’s two lightsabers sitting on his nightstand.
“Get packed and don’t forget those?” Ao pretended to kick T8-T3. “That happened once! Just once!” He chuckled. “Ok, I’ll pack. Not that I have much. Where do we meet?”
T8-T3 sent a message to Ao’s commpad. “Oh, It’s called the Tempest now? I like it.”
– – –
Ao and T8-T3 walked up the ramp to the Tempest. Ao knocked on the bulkhead as they made their way to the cockpit. “This ship brings back memories. Happy ones and sad ones both.”
Jor-val stuck his head out of the cockpit. “Ao, is that you?” He walked to the nautolan and grasped his forearm. “Long time no see. You’re a knight now?”
“Yes, master…I mean Knight Ondelios.”
“I was your master for like a week before they reassigned you.” Jor-val shook his head. “Do you remember Dor Thay?”
“Vaguely. I met him like once.” Ao walked into the cockpit. “Are we all warmed up?”
“Assuming you have your lightsabers, yeah.” Jor-val poked Ao in the ribs, jokingly. Then he looked serious. “You did, right?”
“It was once! Once!” Ao turned around and went to the crew quarters he used the last time he was on the ship. “If you need me, I’ll be meditating.”
– – –
After a short wait in the skies of Coruscant in the queue to break atmos, the Tempest made the jump to lightspeed. It was heading to coordinates on the edge of known space.
“So,” Jor-val stood at the door to Ao’s quarters, “what assignment did you say you were going on?”
“I said I was exploring. I’m an honorary member of the Jedi Explorer Corps.” Ao held up his holopad showing an Explorer Corps charge account. “Complete with all the perks.”
Haizea awoke from a bad dream. In the dream The Pathfinder hadn’t shown up to save her brother and her father. She felt like she was seeing into another timeline, but that wasn’t part of her abilities…was it?
Fumbling around the dark riverfolk house she panicked for a moment. She realized she was underwater, then calmed herself. She could breathe fine. “Dresz, are you there?”
A riverfolk halfling poked his head into the room. “Yes, Drowned, I am. Have another nightmare?”
“Maybe just a glimpse into a nonexistent past. Is The Pathfinder still here, or did he leave? The water breathing root I gave him should last for a few days.”
“He left. Mumbling something about messing with the timeline, but isn’t that what he does?” Dresz opened a basket on the wall and pulled a raw fish from it. “Hungry?” He offered the fish to The Drowned.
Haizea shook her head. “No, I’m good.” Haizea floated out of her bed. “I’m going to the surface. Would you like to join me?”
“Not really. I’m comfortable here.” Dresz started eating the fish himself. “Where are you going?” He said, his mouth full.
“Mind your manners.” Haizea shook her head. “I’m going to visit Aalz. Been a while since I’ve been home.”
– – –
Emerging from the ocean, water slicking off her skin, The Drowned looked at the forest. She’d been in the ocean for around a century. She had forgotten how beautiful the forest was.
Stepping onto dry land she looked around the beach, sniffing the air. There was something in the air. Something wrong. Something that smelled of damp, dark caves and death. Instead of heading north to Aalz she turned east, to head deep into the forest. To find the source of the smell. She realized the smell was going against the wind to reach her. This was not a natural thing.
– – –
Finding her way to the city of Eltriaz, The Drowned saw other elves. It had been so long. She strode into town and the elves bowed. They knew who she was, the only elven god. Though she was not their choice of worship, she was the first elf to become a god.
The Drowned approached a small temple to herself. A priest stood outside in his regalia and addressed her.
“My lady, may I ask why you visit our city?”
“I smell something damp and dark to the east. What has happened during my time beneath the waves?” The Drowned motioned to the east.
The priest nodded. “Yes, the east. The skittering creepers have taken hold of some of the eastern forest. We’ve tried to push them back into Dark Under, but they have adapted too well to the forest. It is now a dark place.”
“You believe nothing can be done?”
“I believe we can hold them where they are, but without help, we cannot push them back.”
Nodding in understanding The Drowned turned to another temple. The temple to The Commander. “Do you know how I can get in contact with Amir?”
A priestess poked her head out from the temple doorway. “You’re asking me?”
“Uhh…I think he’s not on Yeodiax any more.” The priestess to The Commander shook her head. “The automatons have been disappearing as well. When they…” She looked around at the crowd and picked his words carefully, not wanting to spill the secrets of his order. “They don’t come back to Yeodiax when they…get replaced.”
“Ah, I understand. Do you think he’s in the islands to the east, or below in Nezkidar?”
“Probably Nezkidar.” The priestess shook her head. “A long and difficult journey.”
“For you, but I can swim under the waves. I will see if he can help.” The Drowned turned to address the gathered crowd. “In the meantime, keep as much of the forest sacred as you can! Push them back as far as you can! Protect the Forest of the Elves!”
There was a shout of agreement and the city guards beat their fists against their shields.
“I’ll be off for now. When I return I will have the commander with me. If you have dealt with the threat by then we will show him the might of the elves!”
There were shouts of agreement as The Drowned turned and walked back toward the sea. The elves were a proud race, she expected them to hardly need The Commander’s help by the time she returned.
Throbor adjusted the metal on his back and pointed to an opening in the crumbling city wall. “There, we can leave this wretched place. I only hope we can find others to help us.”
“Well, in my experience elves live in the forest.” Tribst pointed to the north-west. “If I’m not mistaken there are some trees on the horizon.”
Aram pulled a spyglass from his side and looked through it. “Yes, quite a few days away, I’d wager.”
“Where’d you get that?” Throbor motioned to the spyglass.
“Oh, Yerkir is an island realm. I’ve spent a lot of time at sea. I’ve spent some time in the crow’s nest.” He put the spyglass away and pulled out a sextant. “This might come in handy, but we can see the forest on the horizon so I don’t think we need it…unless we plan to travel at night.”
The party glanced at each other to see if anyone thought that was a sound plan.
“Well,” Erin voiced, “none of us can see in the dark, so that’s probably not a good idea.”
“True.” Throbor motioned to the horizon. “Well, let’s start going then. The daylight’s a waisting.”
– – –
After a half a day’s travel in cold rain towards the forest the group found an abandoned guard outpost. The outpost had flowers and grass growing out from between the masonry, but the roof was still intact. Thankful for the respite the party went inside the small building.
“So, how long do you think this place has been abandoned?” Tribst poked at the stools positioned around a small table. “The wood’s not rotten.” He sat down on the stool.
“I’d guess it hasn’t been used as a guardhouse for a long time. Maybe someone else has been using it.” Amir looked out the window, ever alert.
Erin tested another stool then sat down. “Well, at least we can have a short meal in peace.” She pulled a few pieces of dried jerky from her pack. “Who wants some?” She popped a piece in her mouth and began to chew slowly.
Reaching down and taking a piece from Erin’s hand Throbor shrugged. “Whoever’s been using this place isn’t here. It’s a cold day and it’s raining so it wouldn’t surprise me if they’re holed up somewhere.”
Tribst took a piece of the jerky and began chewing on it. “Aram, you want some?”
“Yeah, sure. Just don’t want to let anything sneak up on us.” Aram snagged the last piece from Erin and broke it in half. He put the first half in his mouth but didn’t chew.
“You, know, on Earth jerky is a delicacy.” Erin moved her stool against the wall and leaned back. “It comes in a whole bunch of different flavors, too.”
“Really?” Throbor sounded interested. “What can you tell us about Earth?”
“I can really only tell you about the country I’m from. I know some older stuff about other countries, but I haven’t lived there.” Erin shrugged. “I’m sure America would be interesting to you guys, but it feels boring compared to what I’ve done since I’ve gotten here.”
Aram chewed and swallowed the first half of his jerky. “This feels relaxing to me. I’m used to standing vigil on a ship for days straight then rushing into battle on the shore.” He shook his head. “That magic pulled me from a battle. I think I was about to die.”
“Well, I don’t know much about your culture. On Midgard, humans that fall in battle go to Valhalla.” Throbor shrugged. “I expect that they really go to the open arms of Hel, but I’m not a human.”
“Hel? Who’s that?” Tribst was jotting things down in a small tome.
“If I’m not mistaken,” Erin replied, “Hel is the goddess of the underworld, and the underworld is also known as Hel.”
“Right. You know a lot about the culture here and from my home.” Throbor motioned to Aram. “What about his culture?”
Erin looked at Aram. “What is the name of your home realm?”
“Yerkir.” Aram shrugged. “Our common tongue was once known as Armenian.”
“Oh,” Erin shook her head. “I don’t know much about Armenian myths. In my realm, there’s a country called Armenia, but they mostly follow a different religion. I don’t know anything about the old one.”
“What about Nevre, do you know anything about that?” Tribst asked, unsure if he wanted to know the answer.
Erin shrugged again. “Never heard of it before coming here. Nevre isn’t part of Earth at all…at least as far as I know.”
“So, what’s America like, then?” Throbor asked, intrigued.
“Not now,” Aram interrupted. “I see something approaching.”
Tribst glanced in the direction Aram indicated with a sweep of his arm. “Oh, gods. We need to leave, now.”
“Why, what is it?” Erin looked out the window. Her D&D knowledge set flags off at what she saw. “That’s not good. Move. Now! If it sees us, we’re dead!”
A large dinosaur, bigger than any of the ruined buildings in Brangmar, was walking towards the guard outpost. It was like a squat version of a T-rex, and it looked hungry.
Kiawk was a skravyn Living in Rentaz, the capital of Zentar. But it didn’t feel like the capital. Decades before Kiawk was born all the skravyn in Rentaz were forced into a section of the city known, at the time, as the Abandoned District.
The buildings in the abandoned district were so contaminated by the airship industry that even the most insane members of the Mage Guild avoided it. The council decreed that any skravyn living outside the abandoned district would have to pay double taxes and only the richest families were spared the relocation.
The only shops near the Skravyn Slums, as the area eventually became known as, were owned by the airship factories, and the only nearby jobs were ones in those factories. Unfortunately for the skravyn some corporate big shot decided to pay skravyn employees in scrip and set a low exchange rate from scrip into coin.
Unable to save money without starving the skravyns realized the council had made them into forced laborers. Some skravyn left the city, hoping to make it on their own in the countryside, but those who chose to do so were rarely heard from again.
In this environment, Kiawk learned to fend for himself with trickery and deception, but he also learned to care for the young first and himself second.
– – –
One day Kiawk watched as a priest of The Balance came to the slums with bread. Usually the adults would force the children to give up their food after they received it from the priest and they would also beat the priest up to take what was left of the bread. This time, however, the priest extended a hand of peace and started handing out the left-over bread to the adults. Surprised at this the adults formed a line and waited patiently for food.
Kiawk watched as the bread was slowly running out and positioned himself at the end of the serving line. He may be a trickster, but he knew that he didn’t deserve free bread any more than the next skravyn.
From the end of the line Kiawk realized that he was effectively invisible as he saw the priest look around and quietly cast a spell on the food when he wouldn’t be noticed. But he was noticed. Kiawk was confused at first, then realized that the food should’ve run out ten people ago, but there seemed to be just as much food as at the first. Kiawk knew now who this priest really was.
Stepping forward to receive his loaf Kiawk looked Brevman in the face. “Wait, you’re no pries-“
Brevman shushed Kiawk and handed him a pendant with the bread. “Here, I feel you should have this.”
Kiawk quickly shoved the pendant in his pocket to examine later, where no other eyes could see it.
“The Calculating may come to take that back, but until then you should follow what it tells you.” Brevman turned and left.