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?”
Frevren looked over the alchemist’s equipment sitting on the table in front of him. “What do you want me to do, exactly?”
The Sorceress smiled. “You really don’t remember, do you Frevren? Who you are and what you can do?” A salaman poked his head into the room and motioned at her. “Try to make that lump of lead into gold. I’ll be right back.”
“Lead into gold? I thought you were The Sorceress, not The Wanderer!” Frevren didn’t hear a reply. The Sorceress was already gone. “Lead into gold, yeah right.” He mumbled to himself.
The wall next to Frevren was covered with alchemical reagents. Nothing was labeled. He assumed that they weren’t labeled because The Sorceress already knew what everything was. “Well, time to start cataloging I guess.”
– – –
When Taika returned to the room where she had left Frevren she found that all of her drawers were labeled with what ingredient was where. Something she hadn’t needed to do since she could remember. She always knew which one to grab at any time. She hadn’t thought that it wasn’t the same for Frevren. She looked over the labels. “Oh, that’s what it’s called. ‘Snake Snout’.” She pulled a root from the drawer and looked at it. It vaguely resembled the head of a snake.
“What?” Frevren looked up from the worktable. “Oh, you’re back.” There were empty vials lying on the table and a lump of gold-colored metal.
Taika looked over the table. “Hmm, interesting choices. Yes, those would certainly work for me turning lead to gold. How did it do for you?”
Shrugging Frevren handed her a saw. “See for yourself. I assume it looks like lead not too far down.”
The saw bit into the lump of metal easily and when cut in half it revealed the entire lump was gold colored.
“Hmm. Interesting.” Taika cast a small spell on the metal. “Even more interesting.” She pulled a small booklet from her robe and jotted a note on it with a piece of sharpened charcoal. “Do you believe you made gold?”
Frevren scoffed. “No, I believe I colored lead to look like gold. If you give me a set of scales and gold that matches the volume I can prove they aren’t the same weight.”
“Oh, but it would prove you have made gold.” Taika smiled at Frevren. “Even when they don’t know who they are the gods can perform miracles.”
“What did you say? You were mumbling for that last bit.”
“Nothing, nothing. I think you could make a great mage. Would you like to study transmutation?”
“Sure, why not? I still don’t think this is gold, though.” Frevren shook his head.
A smile spread across Taika’s face. “You have access to my instruments. Test it yourself.”
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.
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?”
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.
“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
– – –
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
– – –
Gaemacirch were walking up to the door of the mage’s tower when an alarm went
off from the center of town.
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?”
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.”
took the badge and bent the back so it clipped to his armor. “Ok.”
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?”
at Gaemacirch and continued running after Adalet. “She took something from the
mayor’s office. We need to get it back.”
– – –
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.”
a short tune and a wave of sound rumbled around and shot at Adalet.
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.”
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.”
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?”
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.
Avron loved working the forge and the dwarves had the best forges. Sure, it had taken a while for him to get used to being underground every day. He had tried to keep a normal sleep-wake cycle but eventually gave up. As long as he had his orders filled on time it didn’t matter when he slept.
– – –
The clanging of hammers at the Forge of Time was loud at all times of the day and night. Nobody lived in the same cavern. People only visited to work, place a work-order, or pick up a work-order. There was no housing within the cavern…except for Avron’s house.
The house stood in a secluded section of the cavern where most of the hammering had fallen silent. He needed no food or drink so he rarely left the forge.
“M’lord?” A child dwarf stood next to Avron at the forge. She had waited until Avron was between items to speak.
Avron turned to face the dwarf. “Well, what is it, little one?” He bent over to be more on her level.
“An automaton is here. He says he needs your help. His name is Slapper.” The girl paused for a moment. “Well, he wrote it down, anyway. He’s an older one. He can’t speak.”
A smile spread across Avron’s face. “Yes, Slapper. I remember him.” He set down his tools. “Well, lead me to him.”
– – –
An ancient automaton stood in the corner of a small tinker shop in the citadel. The tinkerer kept glancing over at him in a distracted manner.
After a few more moments of silence the tinkerer set down his project and walked over to the automaton. “Look, I know you can’t speak and you aren’t trying to distract me, but you’re distracting me just by being here.”
Slapper nodded and slowly walked to the door. His gears groaned as he moved. As he was about to reach the door it opened.
“Ah, Slapper. So good to see you.” Avron stood stooped at the door and glanced at the tinkerer. “I trust he was no trouble?”
“No, but he was a little distracting just standing in the corner. I need to get back to work if you don’t need me.”
Avron looked Slapper up and down then chuckled. “You don’t want the opportunity to work with a god and fix up an ancient automaton?”
The tinkerer turned to his workbench and shoved everything to one side. “He’s not distracting if he’s a patient.”
Slapper nodded at Avron and sat on the bench, squeaking the whole way.
“Hmm…when’s the last time you had an oil bath?” The tinkerer asked handing Slapper a parchment and quill.
Avron turned to the girl and gave her a gold piece for her troubles. She smiled at him then turned and grabbed a tool set. “My grandfather will be happy to be paid.”
– – –
Avron was back at the forge, this time building parts for an automaton. He knew just as well as Slapper did that if Slapper wanted to he could let the wear and tear take him and he would get a fresh, new body. If he was not willing to do that then there must be something else going on and Avron aimed to find out what.
He pulled round disk from the fire and hammered it into a sprocket. He quenched the sprocket and added it to a pile of cooling metal. Slapper was getting a new chassis. Hopefully, the soul that was Slapper would remain even after replacing 90% of him.
– – –
The dwarven tinkerer pulled the face plate off of Slapper’s head. “You original models can’t talk. I have some newer parts, but they don’t run off clockwork anymore. They run off of something else. Difficult to explain. Anyway, I digress.” He held up a small box with gears on the outside. I reverse engineered this back when I worked with Zdenko at his workshop. The Tinkerer himself. Well, you probably know him too. I’ll hook this up and you tell me if it works.”
There were a few screeches as Slapper attempted to speak in the first time since the incident at The Fount of the Gods. “I thiiiink theeere’ssss aaaa proooobleeeem.”
“Ah, one of the sprockets is the wrong size. Let me see if I have something for that.” The tinkerer walked behind his counter and started rummaging through some boxes.
The door swung open and a cart pushed through it. The child dwarf rode atop the metal pieces. Avron peeked out from behind her. “How’s it going buddy?”
“Theeeere’ssss aaaa hiiicuuuup.”
“Oh, that’s great!” Avron shooed the dwarf off the pile of metal and started sorting it. “I mean it’s great that it’s even to that point. Here, why don’t you help me arrange this stuff?”
“Ok, leg pieces there, arm pieces there, and main chassis pieces there.” The tinkerer pointed in three cleared areas. “I’ll start assembly as soon as I finish with the talk-box.” He motioned at Slapper. “Lemme see it again, please.”
– – –
Avron began to disassemble Slapper’s chassis. He unpinned the front from the back and shook his head. “I was the best smith in the land even then, but this was my first time working on parts so small with such precise measurements. I’m surprised I did as well as this. I’m even more surprised you’re a legitimate mkI that’s still functioning.” He looked at some of the pieces and saw some wooden replacements. “Hmm. No wonder you need repairs so badly. They did a good job, but wood is not a good replacement when everything else is metal.”
The dwarf tinkerer slotted the talk-box back into Slapper. “Give that a try while he roots around inside you.”
“Testing one-two, testing one-two. I am Slapper, the one who slaps dwarves.” Slapper nodded. “Not today, of course. You’re amazing.”
Avron smiled. “Ok, sorry old friend, but I need to detach your head from your chassis. I don’t know what this is going to do, but it needs to be done.”
A few grueling hours later The Smith and the dwarven tinkerer slotted the last cog into place. Slapper slowly sat up and started moving all of his parts. Now he had a much slimmer chassis and looked more like a human. He smiled at Avron.
“My friend. I haven’t felt this good since the explosion in the palace. Thank you.” Slapper shook Avron’s hand then turned to the tinkerer. “And thank you. Next time I see The Tinkerer I’ll let him know about this amazing shop.” Slapper rummaged through his pack and pulled a pouch of coins from it. “Here, keep the change.” Slapper picked up the pack and walked out the door. He glanced back and waved at the dwarf girl trying not to cry then the tinkerer and the girl never saw him again.
Ana sat on the frozen ground of the ice plains. The heat she was radiating had called some of the animals to her. The animals were adapted to the cold, like her, but unlike her they needed warmth as well. She didn’t need the warmth she radiated, but she didn’t want to spend the night alone. The animals of the ice plains were better than nothing.
Reaching out a hand Ana cooled it so that it wouldn’t burn skin and petted an ice rabbit. “Hello there, friend. How are you?”
The ice rabbit couldn’t respond to Ana, she knew that, but she just wanted to talk, she didn’t care if conversation actually flowed.
A small voice piped up from the ice rabbit. “Warm now that you’re here. Who are you?”
Stifling a gasp with her other hand Ana stared at the ice rabbit. “I’m Ana, The Burning Ice.”
“Oh.” The ice rabbit blinked at her. “I’m Thrum.”
“Nice to meet you, Thrum.” A smile spread across Ana’s face. “I’m going now. Hurry home before you lose my warmth.”
The ice rabbit turned and started hopping away rapidly.
“That goes for all of you.” Ana said this loud enough for the other animals to hear. “I’m going soon, so hurry home.”
The other animals dispersed, some more slowly than others. Once they were a distance away Ana teleported back to a temple dedicated to her. She pulled a sheet of paper from a small stack, wrote a note on it, and left it on her head priest’s lectern. It read: “Discovered new ability. Will be gone for a week or so. Ana.”
– – –
The Burning Ice stood in a small clearing in the forest in Aliaz. Several elves looked on as she fed the warmth of life into a small acorn. The transfer was visible as an orange haze flowing from her into the acorn. The acorn started to sprout and Ana backed away. She motioned for the elves to do the same.
“Today, the elves find a home. The people who were once afflicted by a disease and were purified by the Fount of the Gods shall at last have a homeland. This forest.” The small oak sapling behind Ana burst up, out of the ground with a thunderous crack and the ground trembled violently. Reaching up to the sky the oak sapling became a massive oak old-growth with strong branches. “This is the first iron oak tree. Use its bark to create tools, and its branches as foundations for your homes. If you live in the tree, the tree will live in you.”
The elves, recovering from the shock of the tree bursting from the ground, began to approach her one by one. They showed her their thanks and worshiped her.
The last elf that approached her was their leader. He bowed deeply to her and kissed the back of her hand. Her hand was the perfect warmth. “If I thought you would say yes I would ask for your hand in marriage, Burning Ice, but we both know better than that.”
“Yes, we do.” Ana smiled at the elf. “Here, Grevak.” She put something in his hand. “When this grows I will be returning. I have other places to be, but I will be back.” She let go of his hand and vanished.
In Grevak’s hand was a small, metallic acorn. He smiled and held it up for his people to see. They cheered and began using the magics Ana had taught them to have trees give them branches without being cut down. They used the branches of the other trees to start building houses in the branches of the iron oak.
Brevman sat at a small desk. He was staring at the talisman that The Calculating had given him. He stood up and stretched. His lower arms mirroring his upper ones. He then turned to leave the room.
“Where are you going, Balance?” A voice whispered from the shadows in a corner of the room.
Shaking his head Brevman turned to face the source of the voice. “Not now Desecrator. I have to go do funeral rites for some people.”
“Those dead have been claimed by me already. They cannot be blessed away.”
The door handle was grasped by one of Brevman’s lower hands. “I do the rites for the appeasement of the living. Funerals are for the living, not the dead.”
Mrto materialized from the shadows. “So you won’t attempt to take them away from me?”
“You know I could if I needed to for the balance.”
“You don’t answer my question, salaman.”
Brevman opened the door and stepped through it. “You don’t listen, human. If that’s what you still are.”
– – –
The Balance walked through the streets of Rentaz. He was in the poorest part of the city. Many houses were nothing more than canvas tied to posts. He pulled bread out from his pack and began handing it out to the children.
“Come, little ones, and collect some bread. Balance says you should not die so young.” Brevman was dressed in a cleric’s robe with the hood up. Many of his local clerics had told him they were being attacked when they gave bread to the children. He had to know why.
After spending most of the day handing out bread Brevman was surprised that nothing had happened. He pulled out the last few pieces from his pack, and that is when they began to filter out of the dark places. Adults, thin with starvation.
“At least you still have the decency to let the children eat first.” Brevman set down his empty pack and next to it he placed his basket with the last of the bread. “Will you talk with me while you partake?” He was hoping this would not turn violent. The balance did not require their deaths, but if they attacked after a peace was offered he would find the balance elsewhere.
Surprised at the demeanor of the salaman the adults walked forward and cautiously took what was left of the bread. When the bread was getting low Brevman cast a small spell on it, careful not to let the people notice what he was doing.
When the last man approached for his bread he took the last piece. When Brevman had set the bread down there were ten pieces left. Now, after over forty people, the last piece was taken. The skravyn who had taken the last piece looked up at the salaman in recognition.
“You’re no cleric. You’re-” the skravyn stopped seeing Brevman hold one finger to his lips in the universal sign for keeping quiet. “Thank The Balance for this bread.”
Brevman took the talisman from Gormaliev and removed it from his pocket. He looked at it then back at the skravyn. “Here, I want you to take this.”