The Fractured Mountains – Ch. 9

Dreekt and Gaemacirch went to meet with the captain of the guard. The captain wasn’t at the guardpost, however. They asked a couple of the guards where he might be and finally one of the guards directed them to the northern wall.

“Hello newcomers. Here to volunteer on the wall tonight?” The guard captain moved to the ladder next to the gate and slid down. “I’ll be glad to have your help, and some in the guard will be glad to have you in sight.” He smiled broadly to show that he wasn’t one of them. “I assume Samuel sent you to get free rooms?”

“We intended to offer help before that. The southern gate guards mentioned night raids by creatures from Dark Under. When should we report for duty?” Gaemacirch spoke for the both of them. “We’ve been traveling all day and have some need of rest first, if we can have it.”

“Yes, go sleep in the guardhouse for a few hours. One of the men will wake you for the night watch then.” The captain shook their hands and climbed back up to the top of the wall. “Oh, and if you’re hungry there’s a stocked pantry too.”

– – –

A few hours later a guard woke up both Dreekt and Gaemacirch who felt well rested even after such a short sleep. “Time for the night watch. If either of you knows magic talk to the mage at the south-east watchtower. That’s the best place to cast from, and he has a list of specific effects you should avoid.” The man paused for a moment, a worried look on his face. “For the safety of the town of course.” It was clear that he had a fear of magic.

Dreekt nodded. “I’ll head to the tower then.” Dreekt glanced over at Gaemacirch who looked annoyed. “What’s wrong?”

“I don’t think it’s a good idea to separate. Seeing how we’re both dark races.” He practically spit out the phrase. “Unless you feel more safe with us apart.” He didn’t break eye contact with the soldier, misinterpreting the worried look on the soldier’s face.

“Uhh, I don’t care. You should forgive those that do right now. We are getting attacked from where your races began. Even if you’ve never been there in your whole lives. I never would’ve thought you were evil or anything like that.” The man babbled on for a moment longer until he realized that Gaemacirch and Dreekt were already gone.

– – –

Adalet snuck out of the Blue Flagon. She was careful to not let the barkeep see her on the way out. She made her way to the mayoral building, shifting from shadow to shadow.

Outside the mayoral building were two guards. They were alert, but their attention was on the skies. They were watching for attacks from flying creatures from Dark Under, not keeping watch at the door like they were supposed to. Not that it mattered to The Vengeance. Being a goddess she could just pop right inside the building. That wouldn’t be fun, though. She wanted to try to sneak by the men the mundane way.

Sneaking up to the men was the easy part. Adalet stood next to the door to the building already. The hard part would be opening the door without them noticing. In fact, there was no way to open the door without them noticing. Sighing quietly in annoyance Adalet decided to pop into the building using a teleportation spell. In an instant she was on the other side of the door.

Swiftly and quietly The Justice made her way to the mayor’s office. There, hanging on the back wall, was Grigori Petrovich’s quarterstaff. She had no idea how he had gotten it enchanted so quickly after magic had been released into the world, but he had.

Reaching out with a steady hand Adalet pulled the quarterstaff from the wall and immediately a magical alarm started to go off. She tried to teleport out of the room, but something blocked her.

Thoughts on how to escape ran through Adalet’s mind until she remembered that even if she was caught they couldn’t kill her. Smiling to herself she clutched the quarterstaff to her body and ran out the front door of the building. The two guards were surprised that the thief would come out the front and she dealt with them swiftly.

Adalet paused on her escape route for a second as she saw a shrine to The Justice in the village square. She jogged over to it and blessed it. Taking the quarterstaff was vengeance for Grigori Petrovich’s murder of her parents, but she had no reason to hate the town. As she turned to continue her escape she didn’t notice that two familiar figures were now chasing her down.

– – –

A loud magical alarm woke Burner up. She shot bolt upright and grabbed the dagger next to her bed. Looking around the room she realized that Adalet was gone. “Shast, she probably went after that quarterstaff.” Burner dressed quickly, making sure that her waxen skin was covered and pulled her cowl up over her head. Armed and dressed she made her way out of the inn, going up one flight of stairs to the ground level.

– – –

Dreekt and Gaemacirch were walking up to the door of the mage’s tower when an alarm went off from the center of town.

“You go inside. I’ll see what’s up with that alarm.” Gaemacirch nudged Dreekt forward and turned towards the alarm, running to catch up to a guard heading that way. “Hey, what’s that alarm mean?”

“Someone’s broken into the mayor’s office, but that’s the least of our problems. That alarm is going to draw in more Dark Under creatures. I need to go disable it. You keep an eye out for anything suspicious.” He handed Gaemacirch a small badge. “Pin that to your shirt, they’ll know you’re with the watch.”

Gaemacirch took the badge and bent the back so it clipped to his armor. “Ok.”

The guard doubled his pace as Gaemacirch looked around for anyone acting suspicious. He spotted Adalet running through the streets holding a quarterstaff, and Burner following behind. He intercepted Burner. “Hey, what’s going on?”

Burner glanced at Gaemacirch and continued running after Adalet. “She took something from the mayor’s office. We need to get it back.”

– – –

“Adalet, stop. I don’t want to hurt you.” Burner stood ten feet from Adalet who had stopped running just outside town. “Give back the quarterstaff and we’ll let you leave.”

A smile came to Adalet’s lips as she turned to face Burner and Gaemeacirch. “You can’t stop my vengeance. You won’t be the first to try.”

Burner hummed a short tune and a wave of sound rumbled around and shot at Adalet.

Still smiling Adalet stood her ground as the sound wave passed through her without harm. “My turn.” A bolt of lightning shot out from the quarterstaff as she pointed it at Burner. The bolt hit Burner in the chest and she fell to one knee. Adalet turned back around and started to walk away. “It’s no use. Don’t try it Gaem.”

Bristling with fury Gaemacirch through a kunai at Adalet. He had meant the blade to hit with the flat against her head to knock her out, instead it severed her brainstem at the base of her skull. “Oh, that’s not what I meant to do.” The fury had drained from Gaemacirch’s body. “I guess we need to get that quarterstaff back and deal with her body.”

“Yeah,” Burner stood back up, “she was holding out on us. That packed a punch.” She walked over to Adalet’s corpse and took the quarterstaff from her grip. A piece of parchment dropped from Adalet’s hand as the quarterstaff left it. “What’s that?”

Gaemacirch reached down and unfolded the parchment. “It says that the man we’re looking for is named Magnus, and he isn’t evil.” He stuck the parchment under his armor. “I’m too in shock to register what that means.”

It means she knew him the whole time, and I’m just as surprised as you.” Burner said. “I didn’t think they were both selfish pricks. Oh well, come on Gaem. We need to find this Magnus fellow.” Burner looked up suddenly. “Odd, I could’ve sworn I saw…nevermind. Let’s drag her to the side of the road and cover her. We need to go back.”

– – –

A few minutes later the path to Dregton was clear and quiet. Nothing in the forest stirred. Adalet’s body disappeared from under the pile of rocks Burner and Gaemacirch had hastily covered her with. A puff of smoke poured out from between the rocks and coalesced back into Adalet. She stood shivering next to the rocks, naked. She quickly moved the rocks off her clothes and put them on. Her coin was gone, but her bow and arrows were lying nearby. “So, they left me something. My vengeance is complete. Once the Dark Under creatures arrive maybe those three can save the town, maybe not. I have a date to keep.” Adalet teleported away. A few moments later the path to Dregton was filled with skittering creepers, and the sky was full of noxious flyers heading for the town.

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The Fractured Mountains – Ch. 8

The Fractured Mountains

Draveth was awoken by Krash who had a hand over his mouth to keep him silent. “I heard a noise. I’m going to check it out. You watch camp while I’m gone.”

Draveth nodded and grabbed his claymore. He motioned to Krash to find out what the noise was and began to pace around the campsite.

Krash walked in the direction he heard the sound coming from, turned back gave a slight wave, then disappeared into the tall grass.

As the grass scratched at Krash’s robe he tried to move silently but failed miserably. He was able to happen upon a section of cleared grass near the river they were traveling parallel with. The footprints on the ground were bare feet and to Krash looked vaguely like halfling feet. Just as he started to think about why halflings would be hanging out by the river without shoes there was a whoosh-thump and Krash fell, unconscious. Continue reading

The Fractured Mountains – Ch. 7

A bright orange pre-teen with brown hair ran through the field of ice to the farmhouse. “Mommy! Mommy!” She yelled as she ran. “The royal court is passing through the village tomorrow. Can we go? Please?!”

“Adalet, how many times do I need to tell you to wear shoes on the ice? I swear you have a death wish, child.” The ochre skinned woman with bronze hair smiled in spite of herself. “We can go to the village tomorrow if you finish your chores tonight.”

“Thank you mommy. They’re already done though.” Adalet smiled at her mother. “Wanna go tonight and sleep in the inn? Daddy should be there by dark.”

“Goodness child. You did your chores, ran to town, ran back, and you didn’t have shoes on? It’s a wonder you’ve still got feet.”

Adalet and her mother walked into the inn, Ice’s Tooth, at the town of Kriskant. Sitting at a table in the corner was a man with a hood on. He looked over towards the entrance of Ice’s Tooth and smiled. “What are you two doing here?” He threw back his hood to reveal almost translucent white skin and dark brown hair. “I just got here a few minutes ago and was contemplating heading home tonight.”

“Daddy!” Adalet ran over and wrapped her arms around her father’s neck. “What was Nezkidar really like? I’ve heard tales of creatures as big as whole mountain ranges from the other kids in the village. Did you see one? Did you meet any locals? Where any of them hexi-forms?”

“Whoa, whoa, whoa! Child, I can’t answer you if you ask a new question before the old one has even left your lips. Let’s get a room for the night and i’ll tell you all about Nezkidar before we go to sleep.”

The next morning the family of three went outside to see the procession of the royal court of Ertval passing through town. They were traveling to the castle just north of town and the king was at the head of the procession. He addressed the townsfolk.

“Today will be a great day! At noon we shall combine the gems of Yeodiax in the castle of my son, Prince Mirzamir!” The king continued riding through the street lined with cheering peasants. Then he turned as he seemed to remember something. “Also, my cousin lord Grigori Petrovich has asked that Bervond speak with him about his recent trip to Nezkidar.”

Adalet’s dad stepped forward as Grigori Petrovich began to ride by. “M’lord, you wished to speak?” He bowed deeply as he addressed the lord.

“Yes, I see your family is here, let’s go to Ice’s Tooth and speak. Bring your wife and daughter along.” Grigori Petrovich rode towards the inn and dismounted. One of his men tied up the horse and watered it. “Nice to see the same innkeeper is running this place. I guess there isn’t much chance for somebody else to acquire the place anyways.”

Adalet entered the inn along with her mother and father. “Daddy, why does the lord wish to speak with you?”

“He’s the one that sent the expedition to Nezkidar, Adalet. I would’ve expected him to get reports from his men that went along, but he probably just wants my perspective on it.”

The three of them bowed to the lord and continued to stand next to the table, unsure how to proceed.

“Please, sit. It’ll be more comfortable for all of us. So what did you discover about the people in Nezkidar?”

“Well, m’lord, the umm…people, they aren’t human.” Grigori Petrovich nodded at the statement. “Very well, I suppose your men told you that. Well, they don’t have a country system there, they are set up in city-states. All of the ones that we visited didn’t speak in our common tongue, but we were able to learn enough of their language and they ours to communicate on a basic level. The cities we visited seemed willing to set up a trade partnership with you m’lord, but they wouldn’t be much of a help on a military front.”

“None of my men mentioned that. They said that they may be willing to send men…if that term can be used. Though I assumed there would be a catch and I knew that you would be willing to speak freely to me of the position these creatures are in.”

“Well, m’lord, the rumors of large beasts the size of mountains weren’t complete exaggerations. The beasts are more the size of trees, but the ground dies wherever they walk. They call the beasts erdaz. They lose many fighters when they have to drive one of these beasts off of a route towards one of the cities. I fear that a supply of warriors from there would not be consistent, though I know not what you would use them for m’lord so this is only speculation.”

“You don’t think I could find a way to use them?” Grigori Petrovich scratched his chin. “That may not be the case, if they fight those creatures they may be of use to me. Please, speak to no one of what we talked today. Even the king.”

“What are the chances the king would ask me directly m’lord? I cannot disobey the king himself if he asks.”

“If that is the case I should have you killed. This will not get out, your wife will be too afraid to tell, and I’ll be taking your daughter into my service.” Grigori Petrovich stood and nodded to his men. “This is nothing against you personally, but the king must not suspect what I’m intending to do in Nezkidar.” The men with Grigori Petrovich grabbed Bervond by the forearms and pulled him out of town. Two other men grabbed both Adalet and her mother and half dragged half walked them out to watch.

Grigori Petrovich drew the blade from his side and stabbed Bervond through the heart, twisting as he pulled the blade out. He died instantly. “Well, bring Adalet along. We’ll be heading back to my estate to continue to clean up this mess.”

As Adalet saw her father lying on the ground dead and heard the words coming from Grigori Petrovich’s mouth her mother stabbed the hand of the guard holding Adalet and told her to run to the king. “He’ll understand what happened as long as you tell him your father’s name.” She yelled as Adalet ran.

Adalet didn’t turn around so she didn’t see her mother take three guards with her before she succumbed to Grigori Petrovich’s blade. By the time the men were looking for her she was long gone. They did find her shoes next to the inn, but there were no footprints to follow as snow began to fall.

Adalet ran as hard as she could, which was a considerable speed after she left her heavy shoes behind. She was already three-quarters of the way to the prince’s castle when she ran into a wandering man.

“Hold up child. Where are you running off to without shoes? You’ll lose your feet if you keep walking on the ice like that.”

“Oh, the ice never feels cold to me. It’s just warm enough to notice when my feet are bare, but I need to hurry to the king. My father died to the blade of lord Grigori Petrovich and my mother probably will too if she hasn’t already. The king is my only hope for justice.” Then she took off running again towards the castle. The wandering man turned towards the castle and began walking after her.

“Fool of a child. I must help her when she leaves crying.” Then in a different voice he answered himself. “You old soft fool. If we help her she’ll end up being nothing but a burden to us.” In the first voice he said, “well if we don’t help her we may die soon ourselves. We’re getting too old to find food in the tundra.” In the second voice he said, “very well, but no others. We still prefer our solitude, don’t we?” He nodded to himself and started to jog towards the castle. Just as he reached the castle a wave of energy exploded from the castle and he disappeared into his own mind. Body and all, leaving nothing behind.

Adalet was outside when the energy blasted her. She had been hurriedly explaining to the guards outside that she needed an audience the king when the wave of energy dissolved their bodies into dust in front of her eyes. She screamed and the scream echoed across the empty tundra.

Adalet awoke in a room. She looked around and saw the walls of the castle were in ruins. The ceiling was no more, and the snow drifted in on the wind. A few servants from the royal procession were arranged staring or trying not to stare at her. One came to her side when she saw she was awake.

“My dear, were you caught in the blast? Never mind, of course you were. I saw you in the village down the road, didn’t I? You were a teenager earlier, right?” The searching look in her eyes were off putting, but the mention of Adalet’s age caught her attention.

Adalet sat up and noticed that she had a blanket on. Her clothes were in a heap on the floor next to her, torn to pieces as if something had outgrown them from the inside. She lifted the blanket slightly and glanced under it. “So I have…this is really weird.” Her voice sounded odd to her ears. More like her mother’s then she remembered. “Do you have some clothes that I can have?”

“Yes, sorry. Here, you can have free range of the closet. The king’s advisor recommended it.” The servant motioned to the others and they exited the room to give her more privacy.

Adalet was in the main hall shortly. The clothes felt strange to her, but she supposed that was because she was only used to children’s clothes. The king was now nowhere to be seen and his chief advisor was sitting on the throne. The king’s son was also nowhere to be seen. As she took stock of her surroundings she woke up in her room in the Blue Flagon.

She quickly dressed, doing her best to keep silent, and snuck out of the room. Burner didn’t wake up when she left and she saw the door to Dreekt’s and Gaemacirch’s room close. The only thought she had in her head was the justice and vengeance that she needed to fulfill. Her role in the pantheon of gods in Nevre was reawakened and she now thought of herself as The Justice and remembered that some had called her The Vengeance.

From time to time a god of Nevre will be reincarnated without memory of their past. Fully mature humans they will go along until they die, remember who they are, or are sought out by those that know who they are. This has happened to The Jester before, but he still didn’t have a name for himself. Apparently he is a great bard and there are many works that are attributed to him. The works that survived are simply signed The Bard.

  • Excerpt from the works of Jergolt, the Scholar

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The Fractured Mountains – Ch. 6

Dreekt awoke again, this time he was lying by a fire on his bedroll. He tried to sit up, but this caused his head to throb. He tried to talk, and managed a raspy voice. “Hello? Burner, Adalet, Gaem? I need some water.” He wasn’t very loud and he hoped somebody heard him.

Burner’s face came into view, the dark sky behind her head. “Looks like he’s awake again. I think he asked for water.” Her head moved away, and Dreekt felt something lifting his shoulders and then something soft below his upper back. He tried to sit up again, but failed. When he fell back however he was at an angle that allowed him to see the fire without straining his neck.

“Here.” Adalet held a waterskin to his mouth for Dreekt to drink. He took a few small swallows. The water burned at first when it came in contact with his dry throat, but then it felt soothing. Continue reading

The Fractured Mountains – Ch. 5

Dark Under was created when the skravyn were sealed in the tunnels of Nevre. Dark magics seeped out from the sealed portal and creatures in the tunnel were twisted by it. The survivors of Dark Under speak of a darkness darker than black and an oppressive dread. They also say that if you turn around then you may yet survive.

Though most creatures from Dark Under stay below the ground some of them have been seen above the surface. The noxious flyers periodically fly out in small numbers, and every hundred years or so a flight of hundreds razes the surrounding landscape. Gaseous tendrils, gas sacs with tentacles that range from small floating balls to giant lumbering bags of flesh that can no longer float have been known to terrorize small towns. Skittering creepers have replaced many large insects on the surface of Nevre.

In the deeps of the Forest of the Elves, where not even the elves go, the skittering creepers have taken a niche as the apex predator. Every few decades the elves have to push them back or risk the forest being overtaken. The skittering creepers that still live in Dark Under are much more fearsome than their surface brethren. Few have escaped alive from encountering these roaming packs.

– Excerpt from the works of Jergolt, The Scholar

Continue reading

Fractured Mountains – Ch. 4

[Note: Chapters 1-3 are in the archives under “Fractured Mountains”.]

Draveth was about to take his first step out of Galta in years, and knew he wouldn’t be returning soon. It was a strange feeling to leave the village, but it wasn’t overwhelming. He was stepping from somewhere that he knew everyone and everyone knew him and into a world full of strangers. His mind started wandering to memories of the kindness of people in the village. Continue reading