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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Cerdic the Usual – Ch. 5

~ Two months ago, in the realm of Domhan… ~

Three figures walked up to the temple in the middle of the plains. They had been traveling East of Brangmar for one day. The three of them were surprised. There were very few settlements outside the city and those that existed were far away, or so they had thought.

Doenranak Ironspeaker, a human in flamboyant clothes, shrugged. “Well,” he said in a very gruff voice, “looks like a temple to me. Anyone want to knock?”

Veviir, a male centaur, shrugged. “Well, why don’t we have the cleric of The Morrigan knock? She’s a priest, right?”

Mumbling, Morana SilverAxe walked to the temple door. Her dwarven sideburns blowing in the wind. “It’s a temple. Have the cleric knock. Every time.”

Doenranak glanced at Veviir. “So, you think we’ll make it to these Deathlands within a week?”

The monk shrugged, his shoulders rippling with cords of muscle. “I dunno. Last time I went out here we got lost for five days then gave up. We need to deal with those undead, though.”

“Agreed.”

Morana knocked at the door, the skeleton of her late brother standing next to her in a robe that fooled no one. “Be ready, brother. We may need you.” Her brother stood taller than a human. She never had the heart to tell him that he was adopted in life, and now, in death, it didn’t matter anymore.

The door creaked open slightly and an acolyte peeked his head through the crack. He saw the holy symbol around Morana’s neck and recognized it as the symbol of The Morrigan. He pushed the doors open wide. “Hello, priest of The Morrigan. Welcome to the temple.” The human looked over Morana’s shoulder to the human and centaur in the distance. “Are the bard and monk with you?”

Looking back Morana realized they had backed away when the door to the temple had opened. “Yes, they are.” She sighed and rubbed her temples, then called out to them. “Get your behinds over here! They’re offering to let us in!” She turned back to the priest and saw that he too wore a holy symbol of The Morrigan. “Will you let a fellow follower of The Morrigan spend a night in this temple?”

“Yes, yes. Of course.” He turned to another priest. “Go tell the acting high-priestess we have guests for the night.”

The two other adventurers joined Morana and her brother to enter the temple grounds. Nobody commented on the large skeleton that appeared to be under Morana’s control.

– – –

While Veviir was content to stand around and help a little with the daily tasks of the priests before bed, Morana and Doenranak started moving about the temple.

“So, you’re the acting head priestess?” Morana walked next to a human woman in a simple robe with a small amount of filigree on the collar.

“Why, of course. Nobody has risen to the rank of high priest or priestess since the last war. This temple to The Morrigan is more focused on the war side of the goddess. Only those who have served in war or shown valor in combat may rise to that rank.”

Morana smiled. “Does that mean I outrank you?”

The woman smiled slightly. “Only if you can prove to us you have been tried by combat. Perhaps you will have a chance to prove yourself, but in these more peaceful times I doubt it.”

In the shadows behind Morana and the high priestess, a dark figure passed from door to door. Doenranak was searching for papers important to the temple. He found a document room and slipped inside. He opened a few scrolls and came across some ancient, important texts. He pulled out his quill and some parchment. He copied a few scrolls and by the end his handwriting perfectly matched that of the scrolls.

Smiling to himself Doenranak pulled another scroll and read through it. This scroll mentioned a cave below the temple with a guardian of crystal inside. He copied that scroll too, and then left the room in search of the stairs below.

When he got down there he saw Morana speaking with the high priestess.

“So, only the high priest or priestess can go down there?”

“Yes, basically.” The high priestess nodded. “Only the true high priest or priestess can go down there. We haven’t had one for a long time.”

Nodding to himself, a plan formulating in his mind, Doenranak went back to the quarters the temple had provided for them.

– – –

Veviir was still standing outside the door to Doenranak’s and Morana’s quarters. He didn’t seem to have moved or breathed since the previous evening. He nodded at Doenranak as he left his quarters. Drawing in breath he greeted the human. “Good morrow, Morana’s already talking with the priestess. Shall we join them?”

“Do you ever sleep?”

“No.”

“Well, let’s go then. We have a cave to search.” Doenranak walked swiftly towards the main hall, knowing Morana was expecting to leave.

“What?” Veviir asked, but Doenranak was already gone. “Ugh, humans and their impatience. Remind me of minotaurs sometimes.”

“So, we’ll be going. Trying to find out about those rabid undead in the deathlands.” Morana nodded to the head priestess.

“Actually, I’ve heard something about those caves.” Doenranak wedged himself into the conversation. “Can we see them?”

The priestess turned to Doenranak. “Only the high priest or priestess can. The official one, not acting. We don’t have one now. Nobody has seen war and risen to that station in nearly a century.”

Morana shook her head. She knew where this was going.

Smiling Doenranak motioned with his arms. “But we’ve seen war. We’re from north of the Mushroom Forest. War is always waging up there. We came down here for rest and relaxation.”

Sighing Morana nodded. “Yes, we’re from the north. We’ve seen battle.”

“Well, there’s still no reason to go down there, but if you wish Morana you can become head priestess here after your adventure is complete.”

Doenranak pulled a scroll from his pack and unfurled it. “Well, according to what I know about your order today is a holy day.” He pointed out a few dates on it. “See, that’s today.”

“Let me see that scroll.”

Doenranak handed the priestess the scroll. “Sure. It’s just something I found back in Brangmar.”

The priestess scanned the scroll. “Hmm…so it is a holy day today. May I keep this scroll?”

“Of course. I have made a rough copy of the information on it. I don’t need the original anymore.”

“Craig, would you kindly take our guests to the stairs. I need to store this scroll in the archive.”

“Yes, ma’am.”

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Rebuilding Brangmar – Pt. 8

Aram quickly woke up Throbor and helped him into his armor. The gargoyles were nearly upon them when they finished.

“So, you know of gargoyles. Do you know anything that can help us fight them?” Throbor asked, directing the question at Tribst.

“Hmm…” Tribst thought quickly. “No, I don’t. If we had more time I’m sure I could find something, or Erin could cast a spell to learn of them. For now, we need to fight. Here they come!”

The gargoyles didn’t just land in the courtyard, one of them attacked on the way down. It was able to sink its talons into Tribst, but Erin got an attack off on it as it tried to make off with him. Tribst was dropped hard, and the gargoyle’s left hand was missing some fingers.

Annoyed at being grabbed Tribst shot some force magic at the gargoyle, causing some chipping to appear on its body. “I’m not some lizard for you to snack on you treefting piece of shast!”

Erin stared wide-eyed at Tribst for a moment before sheathing her long sword and grabbing her short bow. She shot the gargoyle that had attacked Tribst, increasing the chipping on its body.

Three of the gargoyles rushed forward and attacked Aram and Throbor. Throbor was able to interpose his chisel between himself and a gargoyle while Aram’s shield was only able to help him with one. The one that hit him left a large claw mark in his left side.

The fourth gargoyle, the one Tribst and Erin had damaged, flew back over to Tribst. It attempted to slice at him, but used its left hand and missed with the remaining fingers.

Aram sliced at the gargoyles around him with his sword and hit the one on his right. Chips appeared where it had been struck.

Gripping his hammer in one hand Throbor swapped his chisel out for another hammer. He struck at the gargoyle before him, trying to crush its wing between his hammers. The gargoyle blocked one of the hammers, only taking a glancing blow.

Tribst pulled out a dagger and tried to bury it in the chest of the gargoyle beside him. He was able to sink it into a chipped area, but it didn’t stay there.

Switching back to her long sword Erin gripped it in both hands. She ran over to the gargoyle and tried to slash at it. She missed horribly, rethinking her weapon choice.

Seeing an opening in Throbor’s defense the gargoyle battling him ducked under his arm and circled around behind him. He struck at Throbor’s back, leaving large, raking claw marks in it. The back of Throbor’s leather armor was ruined.

The two gargoyles fighting Aram buffeted his shield with attacks but were unable to hit him. In the midst of the blows, Aram shoved the uninjured one back and struck at the one he had hit before. His sword pierced a wing, causing it to crumble and fall off.

“Aim for the wings! Cut off their escape!”

Spinning around to face the gargoyle that had just raked him Throbor focused a searing energy into his right hammer and brought it down on the gargoyle’s left wing. The wing shattered into pieces leaving the left side exposed. Throbor side-stepped and brought his left hammer to bear on the gargoyle’s exposed side.

As the hammer connected with the rocky skin cracks appeared along the left side of the gargoyle.

Tribst watched in horror as the gargoyle that had been attacking him turned to take a bite at Erin. It took a chunk out of her shirt as well as her side. Responding instinctively Tribst once again shoved at the gargoyle with his dagger. This time he was able to find its heart. The gargoyle turned into stone, then shattered into pieces. “Stone to stone.”

Seeing the gargoyle turn to rubble in front of her Erin decided it would be prudent to heal herself. She said a small word of power and the wound on her side started to knit together ever so slightly. She then moved forward to help Aram with his gargoyle problem.

Erin continued to grasp her sword with both hands but this time aimed her strike before she swung. The injured gargoyle was able to dodge the worst of the attack, but more chips and some cracks started to appear on it.

The gargoyle that Erin had hit let out a powerful and horrible screech. The gargoyle next to it, the only one with both wings, took off for the edge of the city. Unable to do anything to stop it Aram took another swing at the one next to him. It shattered into pieces.

The Gargoyle on Throbor slashed again, this time missing entirely. It was met with two hammers to the face, crushing it to dust. Throbor dusted himself off and handed some blue ash to Erin. “Here, finish healing with this.”

“Thanks.” Erin took the offered bag and started rubbing the ash into her wound. “I hope we don’t meet them again. They weren’t hard to kill, but they sure hit hard.” She took a fistful of the ash and started rubbing it into Throbor’s back wound. “Here, you need this as much as I do.”

Tribst took a small handful from the bag and rubbed it into his shoulders. “I don’t know where they’re going, I’m just glad they’re gone.” He pulled another handful of blue ash from the bag and gave it to Aram. “For your side. That looks nasty.”

“Well,” Aram said after their wounds were attended to, “the sun is already rising. Should we just continue out of this city for now?”

“Sounds good.” Erin stared at her exposed side under the torn leather armor and at Throbor’s exposed back. “Maybe we should keep an eye out for better options on armor.”

Throbor looked around at the ruins and saw pieces of metal everywhere. “No, I have a better idea.” He removed his leather armor and handed it to Erin. He looked less intimidating in his cloth clothes. “I think Tribst can help make you armor with that. I’m going to forge out my own later.” He started to collect scraps of iron from around their campsite. “I can make you a set too, Aram, if you want some better armor.”

“In that case, Erin should take my leather and Tribst should fashion himself something more protective. My size is similar to Erin’s” He didn’t start taking off his armor. “For now, however, I will keep my leather. If we get in a fight I want to be in the thick of it with protection.”

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Rebuilding Brangmar – Pt. 7

The ritual wore off and the four adventurers found themselves able to speak Gaelic. It was strange. They knew the language as if it was their native tongue, and yet they knew they had previously had no knowledge of the language.

“So, this is weird. I have to keep myself from falling into Nordic, but I can speak this tongue as if it were the one I learned from birth.” Throbor ducked to avoid some low-hanging debris. “Are we heading out of this ruin or exploring it?”

Aram hopped over some discarded boxes with something rotting in them. “There’s nothing more to do here. Let’s move on. I don’t want to run into more of those Teblats…oh, that’s what they’re called.” Continue reading

Terra Incognita – Chapter 9

Terra IncognitaHelena was about to throw fire again when Orby made her slow down. Wait. Focus your energy through me. Don’t quick cast if you can avoid it. Slow your breathing. Speak the word fire in draconic. Use that to focus.

Relaxing slightly the glowing in Helena’s arm focused into her hand and manifested in a green flame as she spoke a single word in draconic. She threw the flame at one of the shadow skeletons, causing the shadow to appear to bleed. Continue reading

Rebuilding Brangmar – Pt. 6

Tribst, the salaman, walked over to Throbor who was scooping up some Blue Ash and pulled out a few pouches from his small pack. He began to scoop up some of the ash as well.

Erin watched for a moment then turned to Aram. He was also watching them scoop up the ash. She grunted to get his attention then pointed at the discarded adventuring materials he had dropped. Continue reading

Terra Incognita – Ch. 8

Lourek started pacing. Lukren had been gone for eight minutes and the dwarf was getting restless. “Should we wait two more minutes? I think we should go.”

Helena leaned against the wall and slowly stood up. “I think it would be best if we started moving. If he’s not in trouble we’ll meet up with him.” She paused as Sorley helped her finish standing. “If he’s in trouble getting there quicker will only help.”

A light became visible in the direction they were headed. It seemed to be coming towards them.

“Maybe that’s him now.” Sorley pointed at the light, torch in hand.

The soft plodding of fox paws started as Ember began to trot towards the light. “I’ll check it out.”

“Be careful.”

Ember looked back and nodded at Helena. “Of course.” Then she scampered forward, torch left behind.

– – –

The light wasn’t torchlight. But it also wasn’t one of those flameskull things. Ember watched as a small creature seemingly made of green fire floated slowly toward where Sorley and the others were. She tried to remember what the thing was called, but all she could think of were will o’ wisps, which this thing certainly wasn’t.

As it passed by Ember hid in a small crevice in the rock wall. The floating orb of light paused and seemed to notice her. It bobbed down to her eye level and floated there. Ember felt like she was being scrutinized by the light.

A small voice spoke within Ember’s mind. To Ember telepathy was something that only conveyed emotion or uncomplicated thoughts, but this was full on speech. What are you, little creature? You are no ordinary fox.

Ember tried to think back to the creature. I’m not. What are you?

I’m a light elemental. Call me Orby. The light did a little circle. I’m searching for Helena. Do you know where she is?

Before it could be stopped the image of Helena appeared in Ember’s mind. It showed her walking towards them.

Thank you. We can wait here then.

Ember nodded, uncertain if she had made a mistake or not.

– – –

Sorley felt the confusion in Ember’s mind and started walking faster.

“Oi, slow down. I can’t keep up.”

“Sorry. I’m getting confusion from Ember. I don’t think it’s Lukren that’s ahead. He didn’t have a torch with him anyway, did he?”

Lourek started moving more swiftly down the tunnel. “Well, I’m going to look for him. You can deal with whatever Ember found.”

Orby and Ember watched as Lourek walked past them at a quickened pace. He barely glanced at them as he continued forward.

Who’s that? Orby asked, floating in the direction Lourek had gone for a few feet then stopping. I think I saw another one earlier. He wasn’t in that much of a hurry though.

That’s Lourek. The one you saw before was probably Lukren.

Strange names.

Ember shook her head. So’s Orby.

Fair.

Ember looked in the direction Lukren had come from and saw a torch coming closer. She focused on Sorley and tried to think to him like Orby was to her. Can you hear me?

The torch paused for a moment in the distance then started approaching faster than before. Could we always talk like this?

Ember hopped a few times, excited that she discovered a new layer to her connection to Sorley. I have no idea. I found the source of the light. It’s a light elemental that’s named Orby. It says it was looking for Helena.

– – –

Helena watched as Sorley’s face twisted into confusion then into excitement and back into confusion. He turned toward her and his expression became a questioning one.

“Do you know a light elemental that calls itself Orby?”

The name seemed familiar to Helena, but she couldn’t quite place it. “The name seems familiar for some reason. If I did know a light elemental, it was before…”

Sorley nodded. “Can we walk faster?”

“Yes, I think I can go a little faster.”

– – –

So, how do you know Helena? Ember asked. She was slowly walking in the direction of the torch-light and Orby had started to follow behind.

The elemental bobbed along, almost seeming to dance. I knew her when she was very little. She’s a dracomage you know. Dracomages bond with elementals. When the orcs attacked I was too small and weak to help her. She may not remember though. We’ve been apart for so long.

How long? Ember wondered why Helena wouldn’t remember. She was surely no older than Sorley was.

Forty years maybe. I can sense your confusion. Elves live a long time.

I think I knew that, on some level. Ember remembered Sorley’s lessons with his mother on the history of non-humans. It just never clicked.

Sorley and Helena paused in front of Ember and a floating orb of light. The two seemed to be having some sort of conversation and Ember bumped into Sorley.

“Oops. Sorry. Wasn’t paying attention.” Ember looked up at Sorley and Helena. “This is Orby. Orby this is Sorley, and this is Helena.” She pointed at them with her snout.

The green light floated up to Helena and floated near her wound. A wisp of light reached out and touched the bandage. Nice work. Seems to be healing nicely. Everyone was able to hear the elemental. I suppose I have Sorley to thank for the bandage? Orby floated up to Helena’s scale impression arm. Ah, a quick spell cast. Seems recent. That might be why I sensed where you were.

Helena started at the green orb. It was the same color as the fire she had conjured before. “Do I know you from somewhere?”

In response the elemental flowed into her arm and the scale pattern receded slightly. I am your focus. I can slow the scales, but only slightly. If you cast like you did before too often you will start growing scales. Helena, you vowed you would never grow scales. You didn’t want to be a battle mage.

The reminder of the vow brought some memories flooding back into Helena’s mind. The block had the taste of her mother within it. “Times change. I was merely ten when I made that vow. Mother blocked my memories. Though she couldn’t block the ones of The Leak.”

“We can’t hear it anymore. It’s only talking to you.” Sorley slowed down with Helena. “Can you still continue or do you need a moment?”

Before Helena could respond cries of agony echoed down the tunnel. It sounded like Lourek and Lukren. “Let’s go.”

I see memories of another rend. Is it in this cave?

Not now. We need to focus on the dwarves.

Very well.

– – –

Lourek came upon Lukren who was fending off a small, undead creature. It looked similar to a skeleton except that it had dark tendrils seeping from it. Lourek had heard stories of this creature before. It was actually two creatures. One was the skeleton, the other was a shadow. Working together the two could take down more prey.

“Careful Lukren! That’s a shadow-skeleton!” Lourek rushed forward to help.

Lukren glanced back to see Lourek. “I told you ten minutes!” He smacked the shadow-skeleton with the flat of his blade. “Also, I know what it is!”

Lourek pulled the daggers from his back and closed in on the creature. Together the two dwarves made swift work of it.

“Well, Flaskheart. That wasn’t so bad, was it?”

“Aye, brother. Not bad at all.”

“Don’t call me brother!”

“Then don’t call me Flaskheart!”

The two dwarves broke into an argument, yelling at each other in dwarvish. While they were distracted another shadow-skeleton appeared from the darkness and sent tendrils of darkness toward them.

In unison the dwarves cried out in agony as they took massive damage. Their shadows started to disconnect from their bodies. In the dim light they were unable to tell what was happening at first. When they realized the predicament they were in they saw torchlight coming around a bend in the corridor. Sorley, Helena, and Ember stood in shock of what they saw, but they swiftly moved into an attack formation.

The arm where the faint scales were still visible on Helena glowed a strange green light as she pointed at the shadow-skeleton.

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