Kiawk fumbled with the pendant in his pocket. He smiled slightly at the feel of it. He had kept the pendant in his possession after becoming a god. He was waiting to either have it taken from him by Gormaliev or to give it to someone he knew would make a good god. He wasn’t sure what feeling he was waiting for, but he knew he would recognize it when he felt it.
The streets of Rentaz were crowded with people rushing to and fro. Kiawk accidentally ran into an orange cart and fell backward. “Sorry. I was distracted by my thoughts.” He started to help pick up the fallen fruit.
“No, don’t worry about it. I’ll clean it up myself.”
Kiawk tossed the orange seller a coin and took one of the oranges from the ground. “Keep the change.”
Turning back to the street Kiawk saw an automaton, one of the newer ones. He cocked his head to the side and then to the other side. Clicking his bead a few times he strode forward, weaving through the crowd to reach the automaton.
The automaton turned and looked at the skravyn. “May I help you?”
Kiawk handed the automaton the pendant and said, “Here, take this. You’ll know what to do with it when the time comes.” He then turned and walked away, disappearing from the automaton’s view.
With a look around Kiawk shunted into a side alley and popped out of Rentaz. He reappeared on a cliff overlooking the city. He often went there to think. Sitting in the spot Kiawk usually sat in was The Jester and standing behind him was The Kindness.
“Hello, Mimic. Do anything destiny related today?” The Jester smiled warmly.
Simisola nodded at Kiawk. “So, you found the recipient of the pendant. Why do you think he should have it? He was at the Fount of the Gods when it was created and it didn’t find him worthy then.”
“Such unkind words from The Kindness.” Kiawk turned and looked at the city. “You know very well that people grow and change. He may not have been ready then, but he’s not far off now.”
“Maybe,” The Jester suggested, “you saw a mimic of yourself in him. Someone who had something forced upon him and you saw a way to make his prison freedom?”
The mimic clicked his beak. “Maybe. We’ll see if I was right.”
A large, for a
small creature, riverfolk stood squared off against Draveth. His stance told
Draveth that he’d been through many battles. The duel was to go until one of
them gave up. Draveth stepped sideways around the marked-out circle. The snow
and grass had been cleared from the spot, leaving only cold, hard earth.
followed Draveth step for step, brandishing his twin swords. He had to take
longer strides, but he kept up.
riverfolk shouted in riverish. “You’re supposed to fight! Fight!”
“They say get
going!” Kreet shouted at Draveth.
Draveth muttered. “You want a fight? You’ll get a fight.” He walked forward and
swung his claymore towards the riverfolk.
blow coming the riverfolk parried with one of his swords and tried to hit
Draveth’s midsection with his other. To his surprise Draveth had already moved
to his side. He turned to face him. “Tricks no help. Only battle sense.” He
attacked Draveth again, but Draveth was able to sweep both swords to the side.
changed his grip on his claymore and swung laterally, hoping to get the
riverfolk in the side. The riverfolk half blocked the blow, taking only a small
inexperienced, human.” The riverfolk grinned. “You lose.” He stabbed thrice in
quick succession, one of the stabs pierced Draveth’s armor and grazed his side.
up and jabbed into the riverfolk’s left arm with his claymore. The riverfolk
dropped his left sword and his arm hung limp at his side. “I have better reach,
dodged under the sword and came up under Draveth’s guard. He jabbed upward with
his sword, but it bounced off the armor. He stayed close to Draveth so he
couldn’t bring his blade to bear. “I get close, cancel reach.”
brought his pommel down on the riverfolk’s head, or at least tried to. He ended
up hitting the riverfold’s left shoulder again, agrivating the fresh wound.
The riverfolk winced in pain and jabbed at Draveth again with his sword. This
time Draveth interposed his chain mailed arm to block the brunt of the blow.
The riverfolk growled in anger.
pommel down again Draveth hit the riverfolk square in the center of his head.
The riverfolk fell to the ground, dazed.
Human win!” The riverfolk dropped his remaining sword and cradled his head in
his right arm.
– – –
said. “That arm should be fine in a couple of days.”
tested his left shoulder. “Sore, but work.”
said in riverfolk, “you said you would tell us what you know about Krash being
“Krash is the
elf?” The riverfolk responded in riverish.
to Krashaeletin. “He’s Krash, I’m Kreet, and the paladin you fought is
shook his head. “A paladin? That explains a lot.” He rubbed his shoulder again.
“Another tribe captured your elf friend.”
“Why did you
shoot at him when he went to get his quarterstaff?” Kreet put her hands on her
hips and clicked her beak. “That doesn’t make me want to believe you.”
looked back at the nearby group. “Trest has a twitchy finger.”
“Fine, just tell us why you think they wanted him.”
“I don’t think
they wanted him in particular. They just wanted a traveler.” The riverfolk
nodded in Trest’s direction. “He shot because we were raided last night. He’s
still a little shaken up.”
we stay away from the water’s edge?” Kreet motioned at the river.
nodded. “That would be best. Also, watch out for sea srengaa. They’ve been forcing
other tribes upriver and out of the ocean.”
at Krashaeletin and Draveth. She switched back to common. “What do you two know
about sea srengaa?”
eyes went wide. “The Drowned Cursed? What about them?”
Draveth shook his head. “I don’t know about them, seems like Krash does,
though.” He turned to Krashaeletin. “Anything we should know?”
cursed by The Drowned. The elven goddess. I thought everyone knew about them. I
guess I was wrong.” Krashaeletin sat down on the path. “They were originally a
group of riverfolk like these.” He motioned at the riverfolk tribesmen. “They
looked like halflings with gills in the same way. One day the tribe decided to
attack and kill everyone in the riverfolk village The Drowned called home. They
killed the warrior, the women, the infirm, and even the children.” He shook his
head. “They attempted to kill her, but as you know the gods are immortal. In
order to take vengeance on the tribe, she cursed them. They became known as the
sea srengaa after a time. Many call them sea devils and they mostly reside in
the depths of the ocean. They don’t resemble riverfolk anymore, except for once
in a blue moon when they bear a child that looks like a riverfolk.”
her head and switched back to riverish. “Is there some offense against these
sea srengaa? Can any of the tribes push them back to the ocean’s depths?”
shrugged. “Alone, no. If we could be united? Yes.”
Draveth saw a strange look in Kreet’s eyes.
“A change of
plans,” Kreet said in common. “What do either of you know about sailing?”
“What are you
thinking?” Krashaeletin asked.
the riverfolk defeat the sea srengaa.”
“If you want
help, you need prove self first.” The riverfolk spoke up. “You defeat me, you
must same to chieftains for unify.”
the conviction in Kreet’s eyes and stance. “Well, where do we begin?”
Some people owe me a favor. Maybe they’ll give me a riverboat for it.”
“I want to hear that story, sometime, Krash.” Draveth collected his pack.
“It’s actually rather boring. I healed some people. Those people offered me money and I said I’ll take a favor. I’m sure it won’t be a very nice riverboat, but any riverboat is better than none.”
“I go with.” The riverfolk chieftain hit his chest with a closed fist. “I say you beat chieftain in ritual. I Grefin. You call Grefin.”
Haizea awoke from a bad dream. In the dream The Pathfinder hadn’t shown up to save her brother and her father. She felt like she was seeing into another timeline, but that wasn’t part of her abilities…was it?
Fumbling around the dark riverfolk house she panicked for a moment. She realized she was underwater, then calmed herself. She could breathe fine. “Dresz, are you there?”
A riverfolk halfling poked his head into the room. “Yes, Drowned, I am. Have another nightmare?”
“Maybe just a glimpse into a nonexistent past. Is The Pathfinder still here, or did he leave? The water breathing root I gave him should last for a few days.”
“He left. Mumbling something about messing with the timeline, but isn’t that what he does?” Dresz opened a basket on the wall and pulled a raw fish from it. “Hungry?” He offered the fish to The Drowned.
Haizea shook her head. “No, I’m good.” Haizea floated out of her bed. “I’m going to the surface. Would you like to join me?”
“Not really. I’m comfortable here.” Dresz started eating the fish himself. “Where are you going?” He said, his mouth full.
“Mind your manners.” Haizea shook her head. “I’m going to visit Aalz. Been a while since I’ve been home.”
– – –
Emerging from the ocean, water slicking off her skin, The Drowned looked at the forest. She’d been in the ocean for around a century. She had forgotten how beautiful the forest was.
Stepping onto dry land she looked around the beach, sniffing the air. There was something in the air. Something wrong. Something that smelled of damp, dark caves and death. Instead of heading north to Aalz she turned east, to head deep into the forest. To find the source of the smell. She realized the smell was going against the wind to reach her. This was not a natural thing.
– – –
Finding her way to the city of Eltriaz, The Drowned saw other elves. It had been so long. She strode into town and the elves bowed. They knew who she was, the only elven god. Though she was not their choice of worship, she was the first elf to become a god.
The Drowned approached a small temple to herself. A priest stood outside in his regalia and addressed her.
“My lady, may I ask why you visit our city?”
“I smell something damp and dark to the east. What has happened during my time beneath the waves?” The Drowned motioned to the east.
The priest nodded. “Yes, the east. The skittering creepers have taken hold of some of the eastern forest. We’ve tried to push them back into Dark Under, but they have adapted too well to the forest. It is now a dark place.”
“You believe nothing can be done?”
“I believe we can hold them where they are, but without help, we cannot push them back.”
Nodding in understanding The Drowned turned to another temple. The temple to The Commander. “Do you know how I can get in contact with Amir?”
A priestess poked her head out from the temple doorway. “You’re asking me?”
“Uhh…I think he’s not on Yeodiax any more.” The priestess to The Commander shook her head. “The automatons have been disappearing as well. When they…” She looked around at the crowd and picked his words carefully, not wanting to spill the secrets of his order. “They don’t come back to Yeodiax when they…get replaced.”
“Ah, I understand. Do you think he’s in the islands to the east, or below in Nezkidar?”
“Probably Nezkidar.” The priestess shook her head. “A long and difficult journey.”
“For you, but I can swim under the waves. I will see if he can help.” The Drowned turned to address the gathered crowd. “In the meantime, keep as much of the forest sacred as you can! Push them back as far as you can! Protect the Forest of the Elves!”
There was a shout of agreement and the city guards beat their fists against their shields.
“I’ll be off for now. When I return I will have the commander with me. If you have dealt with the threat by then we will show him the might of the elves!”
There were shouts of agreement as The Drowned turned and walked back toward the sea. The elves were a proud race, she expected them to hardly need The Commander’s help by the time she returned.
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.
[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.”
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.
Ellain wiped her sword off. The skravyn blood was thick and black. She was working as a mercenary in Zentar, fighting off the hellspawn that The Desecrator had created. They were sealed away for a reason, but now they were set free.
“At least they don’t have wings anymore.” Ellain looked to the skies, reveling in the bloodshed. “Well, who’s next?”
Five skravyn, their beaks gleaming black and their feathers rustling in the wind. They charged at The Vicious as one, and as one they fell. She had used the serrated edge of her blade, sawing through each of them in turn. The last had tried to run but had found her dagger in its spine and her blade in its neck.
Rivers of black blood fed back down into Dark Under as The Viscious drew ever closer to the cave the skravyn were flooding through. The first had no weapons with them, but now they had weapons. They were mostly make-shift, but some of them had real swords. As she approached another group of skravyn she saw Kemp out of the corner of her eye. The king slayer. She slayed the skravyn in front of her and turned to approach him.
“Right, you haven’t done that before, multiple times.”
“Not to the king I was working for. Though if I were mad enough I wouldn’t be surprised to find myself doing it.” Ellain paused, looking Kemp up and down. “I wouldn’t have expected you to do it, then lose your sword to his brat.”
“Well, that was my payment. What do you think about these skravyn? Do they deserve your viciousness?”
“Deserve? No.” Ellain sheathed her blade. Kemp didn’t look like he was going to stop talking. “If we didn’t go so far back you wouldn’t still be talking.”
“I know.” Kemp shrugged. “I just wanted to know if you felt the pull of the hole in the gods. Do you know where The Vengeance is?”
Ellain nodded. “Ah, I see you felt compelled to dispense vengeance on the king for the skravyn. It stopped the army, but the prince can’t cancel the mercenary contracts. We were paid in advance.”
“Now leave, so I can kill ten more to fulfill the contract.”
“Do I have your word you will stop there?”
“Yes, but these ten will take some time…” a wicked smile covered Ellain’s face. “Would you like to watch, squad mate?”
“No, I’m going to try to find Stigr. He might know where The Vengeance is.” Kemp turned and walked off.
“Heh, I knew you wouldn’t. The bond of squad mates lasts beyond service.” Ellain redrew her sword. “So, birdbrains, who wants to be strung up by their intestines and slowly bleed to death?”