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

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

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

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

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

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

“What did you say?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Yes.”

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

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

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

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

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

Enress shook her head. “Apparently so.”

– – –

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“No problem. Since I don’t know any.”

We’ll have to change that.

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

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

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

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

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

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

“How did you stop that?!”

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

– – –

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

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

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

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

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

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

– – –

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

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

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

– – –

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

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

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

– – –

Around Dreekt the vision of Wishing Day returned.

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

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

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

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

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

– – –

Dreekt once again found himself in the mists.

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

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

“Why do you think that was?”

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

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

“Syb? You’re The Sentry?”

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

– – –

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

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

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The Sight: Assassin – Chapter 1

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Apprentice Einar,

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

Signed,

Taithleach, The Sneak

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

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

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

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

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The Fractured Mountains: Darkness Ascending – Chapter 24

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Medakus Grimoires: Mendacium – Ch. 3

“Hey, Daren. Can you stay a little later tonight? I need some help restocking the shelves.” Cal pulled a cart of boxes from the storage room. “Just got that new RPG lineup in. I’ll start rearranging now if you’re cool manning the register by yourself.”

“Yeah, no problem. I’m feeling a lot better now. Mom won’t let me leave home without that drink powder.”

Cal started restacking some board games. “When’s that storm gonna pass, you think? I’m getting a buzz in the back of my head.”

“Hopefully soon.”

A customer entered the store and walked up to the counter. “So, I was wondering if you guys have an RPG night. You know where people show up to join or run campaigns or one-shot games?”

“We tried a few times but there wasn’t much interest, so we stopped advertising it.” Daren looked over at Cal. “Hey, Cal. He wants to know if we have an RPG night.”

Setting down the games he was rearranging Cal made his way to the counter. “Game master or player?”

– –

Cal had decided to completely rearrange the store, not just the stock. “You can stay really late, right? It’s Friday.” He started lifting one end of a shelf.

“Yeah, I have no plans.” Daren grabbed the other end of the shelf and followed Cal’s lead to the corner of the store. “I was wondering what you know about werewolves, though.”

“Always carry silverware. Not the cheap stuff, the actual silver stuff.” Cal chuckled. “Joking aside, that depends on what kind of werewolf. I’ve never met a real one, so I don’t know anything first hand.”

Daren nodded as they set the shelf down. “Yeah. My grimoire’s fairly non-specific on what myths and legends are true, and what ones aren’t.”

“One thing I know is that wolf’s bane should repel them and that they transform under a full moon. Other than that, some legends have proto-werewolves that wear wolf’s skin to control their transformation. Either those werewolves are actually shape shifters or they used the skin to temporarily cut themselves from the moon cycle.” Cal moved over to the next shelf. “Let’s put that one on the other side.” He grabbed one end while Daren grabbed the other.

“Why the sudden interest in werewolves? I can feel a faint presence on you. The taste of werewolf is faint, but it’s there…along with something else stronger.” Cal almost dropped the shelf and carefully set it down. His eyes were wide. “Who have you been talking to?”

Daren set the shelf down. “Just some new kids at school. Why?”

“I feel the trace of vampires on you. Two different kinds though I can’t quite tell which. One’s a blood vampire, but the other…”

“Wait, other kinds of vampires? I’ve only heard of the one kind. What’re the others? Hold on a sec.” Daren jogged to the employee’s room and grabbed his grimoire and a pen then jogged back out.

Cal had started moving some of the smaller items in the shop. “Oh, gonna take some notes?”

“There’s nothing in here about other types of vampires. If there are others I should write it down.”

“Okay. According to various myths there’s some vampire-like creatures that feed off things other than blood. They have all the other characteristics that are commonly attributed to vampires. Undead as in reanimated, fast, able to persuade others easily. All the minor powers and the ability to live forever if they are undisturbed. Also, vampires aren’t affected by garlic. They are affected by aloe, though.”

“What other things can they feed on?”

“Let’s see, life-force is one. It’s different from blood sucking because those fed upon by blood suckers aren’t necessarily made weaker by it.” Cal sat down in one of the chairs. “Another is a psychic vampire. They can feed off the thoughts or the emotions of others. If they are around a lot of people they can go unnoticed for extended periods of time, but if they feed off only a few then those people become emotionless husks.”

Daren was furiously writing in his grimoire. “Emotionless husks. Do they feed actively like blood drinking vampires?”

“The life-force ones do, but the psychic vampires feed automatically. Also, unlike the other two they don’t become physically sluggish if they overeat, they become mentally sluggish. Though I’ve never heard of a psychic vampire overeating on purpose I suppose they could.”

“How do they accidentally overeat? That doesn’t make sense.”

“If they are around trauma they can absorb too much of the emotion. I’ve seen it-“ Cal caught himself. “I can’t talk about that, though. Anything else before we move more shelves?”

Daren set his grimoire down on the counter. “No, not if you won’t talk about the things you’ve seen. Let’s move some more shelves.”

– –

“The new kids are what?!” Neta Medakus was brewing in the basement when Daren told her what Cal said. “Are you still planning on talking with them on Sunday?”

Daren nodded. “If they were going to do something they could do it at any moment. You know that.”

“I’m coming with. I’ll get the spray bottles.”

“Spray bottles?”

Neta pulled two spray bottles from a shelf. One was labeled wolf’s bane and the other was labeled aloe. “These spray bottles.” She motioned at the small, three-inch-tall bottles with press sprayers on them.

Daren stared at them for a moment. “That’s what those are for?”

“Yes, protection. I expect that if they were too deviant that the council would do something about it, but just in case I’ll put spray bottles around the house.”

“Hey, you haven’t heard from dad lately, have you? I have questions that I want to ask him.”

Neta smiled sadly. “I haven’t. I’ll ask Octavianus if he can get ahold of him for you though. We talked today.”

“Octavianus? Why were you talking with him?”

“He’s trying to get me on the council. I’m not even a warlocke, I’m just an herbalist. I don’t know his full reasons, never could read that vampire.” Neta sighed. “It would make it easier to get in contact with Darek though.”

“It’d be his seat, right? Kind of a temporary member?”

“Maybe. Octavianus wants to keep me on when your father gets back, but I don’t know about that. For now, let’s focus on what to do for Sunday.”

– –

Cal was playing with his rottweiler, Shanta, on Sunday when he felt three presences getting closer. Shaking his head, he looked at Shanta. “Well, girl. If we’re done playing round up with the cows we should go check on Daren. It seems his friends from down the lane are visiting.”

Shanta barked happily.

“Yes, you’ll get to see Daren. Let’s go.” Cal connected Shasta’s leash and started walking down the driveway. “Don’t let me forget to grain the cows on the way back.”

Shanta started walking down the driveway and onto the road. She was walking so fast Cal had to jog to keep himself from being pulled over.

“Whoa, girl. We don’t need to go this fast. Calm down.”

– –

Neta and Daren were waiting in a clearing in the small forested area behind the house. Sara, Jayse, and John walked into the clearing and were surprised to see Neta there too.

“Who’s that?” John asked as he walked closer. “I didn’t think you were inviting anyone.”

“I’m his mother, Neta.”

“Ah, are you a warlocke then?” Jayse asked, walking forward with Sara.

“Just an herbalist, I’m afraid. Though that means I know how to deal with your kind.” Neta pulled out the spray bottles. “I came armed in case anything funky happens.”

As she said this Shanta came running up the path and tackled Daren. She was yipping playfully.

“Sorry, I couldn’t keep up, so I let her off the leash.” Cal was able to get out between pants. “I’ll just sit down over here and catch my breath.” He dropped down onto the grass in lotus position.

“Shanta, get off me! I’ll get you a treat, just let me stand up.”

Barking happily Shanta licked Daren’s face and removed her paws from his chest. Then she sat on her haunches, waiting for the dog treat.

“Here,” Daren pulled a bit of jerky out of his pocket and gave it to Shanta, “and next time don’t tackle me.”

Shanta took the stiff jerky and started chewing on it, content for the moment.

“So, who’s that?” John motioned at Cal.

“I’m Cal Stver, Daren’s boss. I came over for a surprise visit. Shanta loves Daren for some reason.” Cal stood up. “I just think he’s a lazy employee, even if he works late on Fridays.” He noticed Daren was carrying his grimoire. “If I’m interrupting something important then I can come back later. Shanta won’t leave for at least an hour now, though.”

Jayse perked up. “Stver? I know that from somewhere…where do I know that name from?”

“It’s an old Armenian family. If he’s from the American branch, there’s no problems.” Sara patted Jayse on the shoulder. “Nothing’s wrong here.”

“No, it’s something else. One of the boxes…Stver, you’re coming with me. We’ll be right back.”

Before Neta could even think about using the spray bottle Jayse and Cal disappeared. Shanta whined softly.

“He’ll be right back, girl. Don’t worry.” Daren looked at Sara. “He will be right back, right?”

Sara sighed. “I think so. I have no idea what he was talking about.”

“Some of the boxes came last night,” John said. “The ones from Hilsonville. I’m not sure which ones though.”

“As long as he doesn’t forget to tell Erik he’s bringing someone in the house. Erik hates it when Jayse does stuff like this without telling him.”

“Erik?” Daren asked, “I thought you three lived alone.”

“We have to have a fake guardian. Jayse is pretending to be a Junior. I don’t know why.” John sighed. “Well, back to the conversation at hand. I want to break from the moon cycle. What do I need to do to gain that sort of trust from you?”

“Daren,” Neta stared into John’s eyes, “can you do that? You’ve never done anything that complicated.”

John didn’t break eye contact with Neta. “A Medakus warlocke can do it. I know your line, and I know the original name of your line. If there’s a spell that can be cast, a Medakus can cast it.”

“You say you go by Ainsley. Will the council know of you by that name?” “No, but if you ask Andali Windspeaker if he vouches for John, son of Thomas I assure you he will.”

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Rebuilding Brangmar – Pt. 12

Mother Ironbark lead Aram, Erin, Tribst, and Throbor to a tree larger than the others. “This is the first rediron tree to be planted here. It was brought from another realm. Perhaps one of you is from there.”

“Maybe. So, where is the town we’re going to?” Aram looked around the forest floor, confused at the lack of buildings.

Mother Ironbark smiled. “Oh, really. Have you looked up?”

“Humans never think to look up.” Erin responded. “We’re used to the threats coming from our level or lower.” She then looked up and was amazed at the walkways and buildings that seemed to grow out of the very trees. The sprawling sylvan city was quiet, but there were lights and Erin noticed some figures walking the paths.

“Oh, oh no.” Tribst said, noticing the city. “I am terrified of heights. If I could just wait down here…”

A large basket lowered itself to the foot of the great tree. A gnome stood in the basket. “Oh, hello! I see Mother Ironbark has collected some new people. I’m Tibdast.”

Tribst’s eyes couldn’t grow any wider, but they twitched when he heard the name. “Tibdast?”

“Oh, hello Tribst. I believe we, well you and another me, have met.” Tibdast smiled broadly. “I’m afraid I don’t have any ale here, only this elevator now.”

“You two know each other?” Mother Ironbark got on the elevator. “Well, if the knowledgeable gnome here finds you friendly you will be most welcome. We don’t have any guest rooms on the forest floor, however, so our hospitality stays only in the treetops.”

“How, might I ask, do you normally get up to the city. I don’t imagine you use this lift every time.” Throbor motioned at the number of elves in the hunting party. “Even just the few of you can’t all fit.”

One of the other elves smiled. “Only druids go out in such large packs.” At that all the elves other than Mother Ironbark transformed into various different birds and flew up to the treetops.

“Your druids are powerful, to be able to fly so easily.” Tribst watched the birds rise into the air. “It takes our druids many decades to master such flight.”

Mother Ironbark frowned. “Are your druids not of the air?”

“No, I think not. The druids I know are in many different orders. I imagine that the other non-elvish races are much the same.” Tribst shrugged. “And perhaps not.”

Tibdast nodded. “Yes, the elves of this land all are of the circle of air, whereas there are almost no non-elves in the circle. No outsiders have picked it up in centuries.”

The elevator began to rise to the treetops as Mother Ironbark stared at Tibdast. “I don’t believe you’ve been here near that long, sir gnome.”

“I’m good at paying attention to information. It’s sorta my thing.” He winked at Tribst.

Soon the adventurers found themselves in the treetops, surrounded by elves. It was getting hard for Erin to focus, with all the beauty around her.

“Please, Tibdast, show our new guests around. I must speak with the elders and see about an audience with them. It could be a few days, or a few months. They do love to deliberate.” She turned and ran off down a narrow, handrail free, walkway.

Tribst pulled Tibdast aside. “So, uh, what are you doing here, Messenger? I thought our pantheon couldn’t leave our realm.”

“I didn’t leave, I’m actually from here…but I’m also in each of your realms. In Aram’s and Erin’s respective realms I’m a human, but in Throbor’s I’m a dwarf.”

“So you exist simultaneously with the save view as all your other selves?”

“No, no.” Tibdast sighed. “I mean that happens sometimes, but we normally get the memories of each other version when we sleep.”

“I see. Do you want to keep this secret form the others?”

“Yes, please…and stop licking your eye!”

“Sorry.” Tribst pulled his tongue back into his mouth with a slurp. “Force of habit.”

“Anyway,” Tibdast turned to address the rest of the adventurers. “I don’t own a bar here, but I can recommend one, and the elves are sure to cover room and board. If you wish for currency conversion I can do that for you at my house over here…”

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The Sight: Assassin – Intro

Ophir was born to a poor human family in Lakestown in southern Zentar. When he was dropped off at the local temple of The Kindness he spent the first five years of his life in service to, and under the protection of, the local high priest. It was at this time that his gift first started to surface…or it was the time that the priest finally understood what he was talking about. He never really knew which it was. At this time, he was carted off to a nearby town to go to serve in a temple of The Pathfinder. He never made it to that temple.

– – –

Waking swiftly, Ophir found himself in a small room with a bed, a chamber pot, a desk, and a three-legged stool. He thought back to what happened on the cart. The last thing he remembered was seeing someone’s presence behind him with his gift but turning he saw nobody with his eyes. He slowly stood up from the bed and took stock of the desk.

A quill, a filled inkwell, dying sand, and a blank piece of parchment sat on the desk. Disinterested, Ophir looked with the sense that was not his eyes to see who had been to this place recently. He sensed the presence of the person who had been invisible here. He thought maybe they were carrying him, it was hardest for him to sense himself, but they could just as easily have been dragging him. The woman, the sense had become clearer, the woman had talked with someone outside the door then left. The man was still standing outside the door.

He must be keeping watch, Ophir thought to himself, I guess I should let him know I’m awake?

“Hello? Is anyone there?” The last thing the priest of The Kindness had told Ophir was to hide his gift from strangers. They would try to use him to find people, some for good, but those people would be rare in this world.

The man outside the door moved toward it and paused. Ophir heard the key slide into the lock and then the door opened.

“Yes, runt? Do you need something?” The man was dressed in all black and had a pair of daggers at his sides. The man was lean, and Ophir knew there was no way he would be able to outrun him.

“Where am I?”

The man laughed. “Oh, you were the forcefully recruited child. This is the assassin’s guild. Welcome to the temple of The Sneak.”

Ophir’s stomach dropped. This was exactly what the priest had warned him about. People who would use his talents to kill people.

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