Terra Incognita – Ch. 14

Around the pool Ember, Lukren, Helena, Drakust, and Evryn sat restlessly.

“Are you sure I shouldn’t go join them?” Ember asked, as she stood and began pacing in a circle around Helena. Her red fox fur standing out against the white snow.

Evryn snorted softly and rested her ice wolf head on Krakust’s lap. The orc patted her head and turned to look at Lukren, who was periodically drinking from a flask. “I assume you don’t want to share that?”

“What would you have to drink about? One of my kin is inside a serpent. I think only the dwarf should be drunk, anyway.” He took another swig, and a bit of ale spilled onto his unkempt beard.

Helena stood and motioned for the flask. Her sky elf skin blending into the background of snow. “Well, may I have a drink?”

“Sure, sure.” Lukren handed the flask over. “It’s almost empty anyway.”

With a swift motion Helena chugged down the remainder of the flask. “Ah, that’s not as good as wine, but it definitely has a kick.”

Krakust stared at Lukren for a moment then pulled a bottle of whiskey out of his pack. “Here.” He handed it to Lukren.

“Uhh…thanks.” The dwarf took the bottle and started drinking.

– – –

Sorley and Lourek watched as Donaar the dragonkin started playing chess against the spirit of an ancient mage. His magnetite colored stales reflected the dim light emanating from the bowels of the great serpent.

Turning to Sorley, Lourek stroked his braded dwarven beard. “So, how exactly is this game played?”

The human Sorley scratched his hairless face idly. “Well, the goal is to capture the opponent’s king. It’s the piece with the cross on the top of it. Different types of pieces do different things. Pawns, the short ones, can only move forward directly, or diagonally to capture other pieces for example.”

“So, it’s a war strategy game where both sides are equal and have the same resources?”

“Yes, I suppose that’s exactly what it is.” Sorley shrugged. “I’m not very good at it myself.” He turned his attention back to the game slowly advancing. “He seems to be doing fairly well from what I know.”

“Well,” the mage’s spirit said, “looks like your friends are bored. Let’s give them something to play with, shall we?” The spirit waved its incorporeal arms and two goblins appeared near Sorley and Lourek, weapons drawn.

The goblins said something in a language they couldn’t understand and ran forward. Meanwhile, on the chess board, two pawns, one from each player’s side, disappeared from the board.

The spirit shrugged. “I have to keep the game balanced.”

– – –

The serpent closed its mouth and laughed. “Oh, I forgot how well that mage played his games. Well, it seems your friends are in a combat situation. They should be fine, though. The old mage isn’t up to his full strength these days.”

Helena quickly translated the words of the serpent to the others. “I don’t think they’ll have a problem. When Orby is enhancing Sorley, he seems to have better tricks up his sleeve. I’d never heard of that before, but that’s how he was able to defeat you in the cavern.” She nodded at Krakust.

“That explains a lot. What is Orby, anyway?” Krakust took the whiskey back from Lukren and took a swig before giving it back.

Ember pawed at Evryn then curled up next to her. “Orby’s a light elemental. He’s Helena’s familiar.”

“I see. I’d never heard of a light elemental before now. Then again, the orcs aren’t really known for their grasp of the arcane.”

“No, we aren’t, are we brother?” A voice echoed from the forest surrounding the hot springs.

“Who goes there!” Lukren jumped to his feet, instantly sober, wielding his short sword.

Two orcs stepped out from the edge of the forest.

One spoke up. “Those sent to check that Krakust is doing his task.”

“You don’t seem to be doing that, now, do you?” The other added.

Krakust stood up and Evryn pushed Ember away so she could do the same. “That’s not very honorable of the chieftain to send someone to watch after one of their greatest warriors.”

“You were an exception,” the second orc said. “The chieftain doesn’t doubt you, but the elders have worries about you.”

Krakust raised his dagger, the only weapon he had on his person. “You defy the chieftain and say I am not doing my task?” His eyes became bloodshot and the veins on his arms stood out against his green skin. “I will defend the chieftain’s name since you soil it behind his back!” He stormed forward and stabbed at the second orc, his rage forcing his face into a scowl. “Traitors are to be killed!” He dug the dagger into the orc’s arm, let go of it, and pulled the pickhammer from his opponent’s back. He then kicked the orc backward into a tree with enough force to dislodge a large amount of snow. The snow dropped onto the surprised orc’s head with a loud thwump. Krakust turned to the first orc. “Well?!”

The first orc looked at Krakust with a searching expression. “Explar evost?”

“Epro, brother.” Krakust responded.

The first orc took his war hammer from his own back and crushed the second orc’s skull in himself. “I will tell the chieftain your travel goes well.”

The rage drained from Krakust and he relaxed. “I’ll be keeping the pickhammer.”

“I would expect no less, cheiflein.”

Krakust walked over and pulled his dagger from the dead orc’s arm then turned and walked back to Helena and Lukren. Putting his dagger in its sheath and strapping the pickhammer to his back.

“What in bloody Darkfall was that about?” Lukren put his short sword away.

“Something you might call kingdom politics.” Krakust sat down next to Evryn who was already lying down again.

– – –

Sorley let out a purplish-blue blast of fire at the first goblin, who convulsed and fell over in a smoldering heap. “They’re pawns. They seem to be pretty weak.”

Lourek nodded and pulled his daggers from his back. He threw both of them at the goblin, slaying it where it stood.

“Whoa, really? That’s too complicated! We were supposed to just be playing chess!” Donaar shouted in surprise. The two pawns that had disappeared reappeared on the board. “Guys, if he does that again, play with them for a while! That ruined my next move!”

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Cerdic the Usual – Ch. 8

Grimm let go of the vampire Patrick and fell back in a defensive position in front of Cerdic. Veron was up and running away from the confrontation. He knew he couldn’t help and motioned for Cerdic to follow.

With a small shake of his head, indicating he wasn’t going to leave, Cerdic watched Jeremy as he started to cast a spell. The geometric shapes forming in the air in front of his waving hands reminded Cerdic of the residual shapes on the tire, and they were aimed directly at Eric’s center of mass. Without hesitation Cerdic yelled, “look out!” and tackled Eric to the ground. The magic went over the two of them and hit a nearby fence post, reducing it to ash.

Eric looked at the fence post and back at Cerdic. “Uh, thanks…how did you…?”

“Later, Eric!” Henry yelled. “We need to deal with Jeremy first!”

Cerdic rolled off Eric and helped him to his feet. “He’s using some sort of aging magic. Be careful.”

“I see that now…my only question is, how did you? But Henry is right. We have a more immediate concern.” Eric moved his left hand and gripped his grimoire with his right. As he made motions Cerdic saw a barrier appear in front of Eric. It covered his body, but his arms were on the outside. He decided that was so Eric could cast through the barrier.

“Grimm. Be careful.” Cerdic turned and joined Veron behind a nearby rock.

Giving a small bark of recognition, Grimm tried to bite Jeremy in the leg, but Jeremy was prepared. He sent a blast of energy at Grimm then turned to ward off a spell from Henry. Grimm was pushed back towards the rock Veron and Cerdic were hiding behind and stood there, menacingly.

Veron nudged Cerdic. “Jeremy is a powerful warlock. Grimm probably wouldn’t be able to get into his inner defense. Let’s just watch.”

“Fine.”

Henry grabbed his grimoire from his side and flipped it open. He turned to a page near the middle and cast a spell on Patrick, the now prone vampire. Tendrils of dark energy erupted from the ground and bound him in place. “We shouldn’t have to worry about you recovering, now.” He turned towards Jeremy. “Two on one, do you think you can take both of us?”

“Maybe. Let’s find out.” Jeremy grabbed his grimoire and opened it to the last page, then he stuck his arm elbow deep into the page. When he pulled his arm back out it was covered in dark black ink, and he held a strange bone in his hand. “The bone of a great old one, broken.” He snapped the bone and Cerdic saw a rush of shapeless energy engulf Jeremy. “Blood of the warlock, freshly spilled.” He took a bone fragment and stabbed it deep into his forearm.

“We need to stop him!” Eric yelled at Henry. “Hit him with everything you have!”

“Okay!” Henry began making exaggerated motions with his hands. “Veron! Run!” He shot a deep red mass of energy at Jeremy. Cerdic noticed, as he turned to run, that the geometry was jagged and unfinished. It seemed to him that the spell was not yet perfected, like Henry was still working on it.

As the mass of energy splashed into Jeremy the energy surrounding him dissipated it into his surroundings. A deep gash appeared in the ground in front of and to the sides of where he was standing. “Impressive. I didn’t know you had spells that would kill, Aelfson.”

With Jeremy’s attention on Henry, Eric attempted to shoot smaller, more precise spells at the energy surrounding their foe. He was casting many small, slightly different iterations trying to see what would get through his shield.

“Now, where was I? Oh, yes. Just after blood of warlock freshly spilled.” Jeremy stuck his arm back into the page of his grimoire and pulled a wand from it. “Wand of wizard, ground to dust.” He cast a spell on the wand and it started to disintegrate, leaving a small pile in the palm of his hand. “Ingested for power unleashed on good.” He swallowed the pile of dust with a slight cough then strode over to his vampire companion. “Sorry, Pat, but I need you to hold still.”

One of the small missile spells Eric had been pounding the energy with broke through. The green flames it was sporting burned up Jeremy’s arm for a moment. “Dragonfire spells! They break through!”

“Shast!” Henry began flipping through his grimoire. “I have one in here somewhere.”

Eric began mumbling something in Latin and moving his arm in very specific, practiced ways. “Draco,” was the last word he mumbled as he shot a green ball at Jeremy.

Laughing hysterically Jeremy reached up and grabbed the ball of dragonfire. “Oh, yes. It breaks through, but I knew it would. I have wards against dragonfire all over my body, Eric!” He gripped the bone in his other hand. “With the bone of Bugg-Shash I sacrifice this vampire and call you forth again!” He began moving the bone down towards Patrick’s prone form when an arrow flew through the air and shot the bone from his hand. It landed in the dirt a few feet away.

In surprise and anger Jeremy looked up to see Cerdic holding a small crossbow tied to his wrist.

“Where was that?” Veron looked at Cerdic’s arm. “You definitely didn’t have that before.

“Parting gift from Tibdast. Said I would know when to use it.” Cerdic loaded another bolt into the crossbow. “Apparently that energy doesn’t protect you from mundane weapons.”

“I was with you the whole time. When did he give you that?”

Cerdic shrugged. “Remember when we went out to the car? You went outside first, and he came back and gave it to me.”

“Mundane weapons, eh?” Henry smiled broadly and pulled three throwing knives from his jacket. “Perfect.” He tossed the three knives at once and they buried into Jeremy’s right chest, shredding his lung.

“Stupid treefting Usual!” Jeremy shouted as he started coughing up blood. He took a few steps away from Patrick then fell backwards.

Eric nodded at Cerdic. “Good job. You have a good head on your shoulders.” He walked over to Patrick. “Well, let’s see what the council wants to do with you and your friend, shall we?”

Patrick said something intelligible.

Henry cautiously approached Jeremy, who was still coughing up blood. “Is the energy gone?”

With a glance Cerdic saw the energy was dissipating into the ground. “It will be soon. Give it a moment.”

“I wasn’t asking you, but you seem to know what you’re saying.” Henry waited a few seconds then approached the warlock. “We’ll get that lung fixed up at the council hall. Let’s go.” He carefully picked Jeremy up and teleported immediately.

Eric shook his head. “I’ll be going too. I’ll send a car to pick you two up…” He looked at Veron’s car for the first time since the spells started slinging around. “Uh…and I’ll see about replacing that.” The back-passenger door fell off the car. It was the last door still on it, and the rest of the car was covered in dents and burns.

“Great. I guess I better get my stuff out of it.”

– – –

Veron was able to talk the driver into giving him the car and teleporting back to where he had come from and was currently sitting behind the wheel of a sleek black car with tinted windows. “This is a nice car. I’m pretty sure it’s also warded up.”

“Yeah, it seems to be.” Cerdic looked around the car and saw a lot of overlapping triangles and squares.

“What do you mean?”

Cerdic shrugged. “I started seeing things. I think it has something to do with Grimm.”

With a nod of understanding Veron took a right turn on the road. “Yeah, bonding with a supernatural creature can do things, for sure. Never heard of a Usual having the Eyes of the Magus, though.” He paused. “You do have a bond with a church grim, though. That’s extremely unusual for anyone, especially a Usual.”

“It’s starting to sound like I may not be a Usual.” Cerdic said, jokingly.

“You jest, but that may just be true. I think we need to take a short detour.”

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