The gods of Nevre: The Drowned – After

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?”

“Yes.”

“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.

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Rebuilding Brangmar – Pt. 9

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 the really go to the open arms of Hel, but I’m not a human.”

“Hel? Whose 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.

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The gods of Nevre: The Mimic – Before

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.

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The gods of Nevre: The Messenger – Before

[Tibdast should show up in Terra Incognita, so this will just be a short post so I don’t feel too much pressure to keep it the same. Some of these characters may not be here at this point and some hints at the future may not make it into the story.]

Tibdast, Sorley, Ember, Helena, Orby, Lourek, Lukren, Krakust, Evryn, and Donaar stood on a small hill and looked over Brangmar. The walls were being built slowly, but the city of all races would be a day wide.

“Sorely, do you really think it’s a good idea to build this thing a day wide? There’s going to be lots of problems with information flow if nothing else.” Tibdast shook his head.

“Maybe, but you said you were good at that, didn’t you?” Sorley stroked Ember’s fur. A plain, gold ring reflected light from his left ring finger.

“Yes, I am, but one gnome can only do so much.” Tibdast shook his head. “What does Gormaliev think about this city?”

A strong voice spoke up from behind the group. “I think it’s a step in the right direction.”

The group turned slowly to see Gormaliev standing there with Aliziyah.

“Ember, my girl. How are you?” Aliziyah strode forward to rub snouts with Ember.

“Mom? It’s good to finally meet you.” Ember hopped a few times.

Gormaliev turned to look at Tibdast. “So, you’re good at information, are you?”

Tibdast nodded. “Give me something to disseminate, and I’ll get it to the whole city…just, it might take a while.”

“Well, take this amulet. You’ll know what to do when the time is right. Oh, and I’ll be back for it when you’re finished with it. It’s needed elsewhere.” Gormaliev looked at her familiar reuniting with her daughter. “Hmm…I guess we’ll be here for a few days. They need some catching up.”

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World of Souls Chapter 6: Downtime

Elinog was starting to get used to his new legs and was able to start working on maintenance with Janine. He was a little slower with only one set of arms, but he was working through it.

“Janine, can you hand me a crescent wrench? I don’t seem to have the right size wrench.”

There was a rustling sound and then Janine passed the tool to Elinog. “There, hon. Do you need me to work on anything else?”

“No, unless you want to start testing sub-systems. Nothing else is in need of repairs now.”

“Hey, I finished growing another batch of skin. Do you want to get it applied tonight?”

The sound of a bolt tightening echoed out of the crawl space. “Got it! What did you ask? A skin patch?”

“Yeah, do you want it applied tonight?”

“Well, I’ve got nothing better to do. Sometimes I think it’s better not to have them until I’m used to this, though. These legs bang around a lot.” There was a dull thud. “Ow. See?”

Janine chuckled. “That’s what the skin’s for. To help you get better control over them.”

“Right. Sure. Let’s do that tonight.” Elinog inched backwards out of the crawlspace. “Maybe until then we can work on those replacements for my lower arms. I’m getting some phantom pain.”

Janine’s large eyes rolled. “I gave you meds for that.”

Pulling himself out of the crawlspace the rest of the way Elinog nodded to her. “Yeah, but at the rate you prescribed them we’re going to run out.”

“The fungus is growing fine for now.”

“Right, but once we get to where we can’t cut off more I’ll go cold turkey. I’d rather ween off now.”

Janine nodded. “Makes sense, I’m just worried about you.”

– – –

Now that Blavet’s ribs were healed Allie let him fly while she and AB-775 worked on cleaning up the signal. It had major distortion and with every pass they found they had filtered out something from the signal and had to start over sections.

Allie climbed the ladder into the cockpit. “So, cap, you haven’t impacted any warp-stuff. I’m proud of you.”

“Still want to try flying through one of these clouds, though. Have you and AB-775 found anything interesting yet?”

“Interesting, yes. Intelligible, not yet.” Allie sat in the co-pilot’s seat and leaned back. “So, Elinog seems to be doing quite well.”

“Yeah, thanks to Janine. I’m glad that zarx recommended her back on the station.”

“I wish one of them would take a shift at the controls, though. I want some time with you, too.” Allie flipped the controls over to her console. “Go take a break. Bring me a coffee pod back, too.”

Blavet stood and stretched. His short tail still felt wrong. “Maybe once Elinog has his arms Janine can outfit me with a tail extension. Feels wrong to be so short.”

“I don’t think we have enough parts on the ship for that. It’s a different thing than arms. Requires a lot of motors and joints.” Allie cocked her head. “During your break maybe you can listen to the signal AB-775 and I worked out so far. He doesn’t have thaumatish in his languages, and I really don’t know much of it.”

“Is it in thaumatish?”

“It’s in some language we don’t know. It’s worth a shot. Now go get me that coffee pod.”

“Yes, ma’am.” Blavet started climbing down the ladder. “Wait, when did you become Captain?”

“When we started dating.”

“Oh, right.”

– – –

AB-775 sat in the corner of the cargo bay near a console, crunching data. The screen showed several languages rushing across it. Each in turned red and disappeared from the screen. At the top a readout read: Languages Tested: 98, Approximate Matches: 0

“AB,” Blavet approached from the corridor, “how’s the search going.”

AB-775’s cameras lit up and he stood up. “Ah, Captain. I’m using the ship’s language database. Haven’t found any matches yet.”

“Let me listen to the transmission. Allie thinks I might know the language.” Blavet pull earbuds from a pocket and plugged them into the console’s sound port.

“If it’s in the database I’ll be able to pick it out.”

Blavet shook his head. “There’s a couple languages in my head that aren’t in the database. Trust me.”

“Okay, Cap. Feeding it in. I’ll have it on low volume, tell me if it needs to go up.”

A slow, lilting language flowed into Blavet’s ears. It was distorted in places, but it sounded familiar. “Hmm. Sounds like maybe a dialect of Shiltarin or Drestalik. Maybe a combination of the two? Have you checked those yet?”

AB-775 paused his search algorithm and tested the two languages. “No, they aren’t quite a match. It contains words both languages don’t have. Maybe a third language?”

“Okay, I’ll keep listening, but I’m not sure what else it could be. Resume your search.”

The display updated: Tested Languages: 100, Approximate Matches: 2

“Random language selection, then?”

“I find you tend to discover correlations faster that way.”

“Carry on, then.”

“Aye-aye Capn.”

Blavet nodded and unplugged his earbuds. Shoving them in his pocket he looked around the cargo bay for Janine and Elinog. “Hey, do you know where our salamen are?”

“Medical bay? Probably applying skin grafts again.”

“Thanks.” Blavet walked off toward the corridor. “Oh, and alert me immediately if you decode the transmission.”

AB-775’s camera’s light’s shut back off.

Blavet walked down the corridor and heard some cursing from the medical bay. He paused at the door and knocked. “Is this a bad time?”

“Shast! That’s sharp!” Elinog complained. “Oh, Captain. If you’re fine with seeing me get cut up by another crew member, come on it.”

The doors whooshed open and Blavet saw Elinog strapped down and Janine holding a fresh skin graft down on his leg. “Doesn’t look all that bad to me.”

“It feels bad. She says she can’t give me painkillers first. Needs me lucid.”

Janine scowled at Elinog. “I gave you a mild painkiller. You’re the one that wanted to conserve medicine.”

“Okay, you two. Stop bickering like an old married couple. I wanted to ask about the state of the ship.”

“We were not bickering!” Elinog and Janine said in unison. Then they looked at each other and burst out laughing.

Blavet shook his head. “So, ship status report.”

“Sorry, Cap.” Elinog grabbed his datapad. “There’s nothing major wrong. Some systems are getting corrosion faster. Probably because we’re in warp space. The exterior of the ship probably needs more plating.” Elinog motioned at his legs. “It’s a job for two mechanics, but we’ll need to modify a suit. My legs are a little too wide now.”

“I worked with what I had.” Janine finished applying the new skin. “Ok. This will hurt.” She pulled out a suture device and set it on its way.

Elinog bit his lower lip and motioned at Janine to continue the report.

“Right. So, there’s a little bit of radiation from warp space, but it’s usually not a problem. We’re getting a larger dose than usual, so the plating is for that, in addition to the corrosion.”

Blavet pulled out his datapad. “Do we have the material for that?” He started scrolling through a list of parts.

“Not in inventory. We’d have to take off some interior panels and plate them with lead.” Janine sent a file to Blavet’s tablet from her own. “These are ones that aren’t important to the function of the ship.”

The list was shorter than Blavet expected. “Ah, mostly ceiling panels and the wall panels in the cargo bay. That’s not enough for the whole ship, though.”

There was a beep and green light emanated from the suture tool. Janine pulled it off and checked the stitches. “Ok, good to go.”

Elinog nodded at Blavet. “Yeah, we were thinking we could try to mine an asteroid, but even if we could the smelting would be problematic. We can’t process plates that big. We’d use really small ones.”

“There’s also the problem of no mining equipment on the ship.” Janine sighed. “Our collision lasers aren’t made for mining.”

“Well, hopefully we won’t need the plating, but get started. I’m hoping we’re getting close to the signal. We’ve identified two possible language roots but need at least a third to make it out.”

Janine nodded. “Hopefully it’s not someone who needs help. We’re in no shape for that.”

“Well,” Elinog interjected, “if they need help and have a wrecked ship we can use it as salvage.”

“Right, let’s cross that bridge when we get to it. Once we get out of here we still have a job to do.” Blavet turned to leave the med-bay. I’m getting some rest. You should too.” He started to walk away then turned back. “Oh, and Janine? You have next shift at the stick.”

“Aye, Captain.”

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The gods of Nevre: The Drowned – Before

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.

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Terra Incognita – Chapter 11

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, Evryn.”

– – –

“Look, we’re almost to the surface. I promise.”

“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 tomorrow.”

“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.” Ember began.

Sorley looked at her with an inquisitive face. “Well…”

“What?”

“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. Your mother.”

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 affirmed.

“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 that.”

“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 it.”

“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.”

Evryn grunted.

“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 was that?”

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 you?”

“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.”

“Oh no.” Krakust groaned. “I saved a shasting knight, didn’t I?”

“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.”

“The what?”

“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 that tradition.”

“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?”

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