Medakus Grimoires: Iaceo – Ch. 2

It was a cold morning. The pickup keys were in the ignition and Daren tossed his bag in the back. He slipped into the driver’s seat and turned the keys. The truck didn’t start. It made a clicking noise and Daren hit his head against the top of the steering wheel in exasperation. “I guess I’m walking today.”

He got out of the pickup and pulled his bag from the bed. He walked to the street and looked up and down before he started to cross. As he did so he saw the school bus coming. “Sweet, the bus hasn’t gone by yet!”

The school bus pulled up, Woodfalls Oregon School District stood out in black text against the yellow of the paintjob. The bus driver slowed the bus and stopped in front of the driveway. He waved at Daren to cross.

Daren walked up the steps onto the bus and nodded at the driver.

“Truck won’t start?”

“Yeah, cold snap got the battery. I was lucky you hadn’t gone by yet.”

“I guess it’s a good thing I’m behind schedule today. Find a seat.”

Walking down the aisle Daren sat down in a group of empty benches and tried to avoid the stares. He had only ridden the bus a few times in the last two years. He was glad he was the last stop on the route. As the thought of him being the last stop passed through his mind the bus stopped at the bottom of the hill and three students boarded.

Daren looked over at one of the other students on the bus who was staring at his phone. “Who’re they?”

“I don’t know, they’re new. It’s the first time the bus stopped here.” The student never looked up from his phone.

The three students filed back to where Daren was and sat in the empty seats. They all looked like seniors or juniors.

“Hello,” Daren said, “I’m Daren.”

The two boys muttered their hellos but didn’t offer their names. The girl didn’t even say hello. The rest of the bus ride to the high school was uneventful.

– –

Daren walked into his first period chemistry class. He shuffled by Mr. Hans and took his regular stool. He put his bag on the stool next to his and pulled out his textbook just as the tardy bell rang.

“Good morning class. We have a new student today.” Mr. Hans sounded excited if only to get the attention of his students. “Let’s welcome Ms…uh.” He looked down at his attendance sheet. “Ah, Ms. Sara Ainsley to our class.”

There was a half-hearted round of applause.

Mr. Hans nodded. “Yes, why don’t you introduce yourself?” He motioned Sara to step forward.

Sara was somewhat short for a senior and had dyed her waist length hair crimson. “You already know I’m Sara I guess. Uh, I’m from Hilsonville, Washington. It’s kinda in the middle of nowhere in northern Washington.”

“Yes, good. I usually ask favorite colors. My guess is red.”

“I have no idea what makes you think that.” Her voice was obvious sarcasm.

Mr. Hans ignored the sarcasm. “Well, let’s get you assigned a lab partner.” He looked down at his seating chart. “Mr. Medakus, I’m sorry but your solitude has ended.”

Daren sighed and pulled his bag off the stool next to him. As he did so he forgot it was open and all the contents went spilling onto the floor. He looked at the bag in surprise for a moment before he reacted and started picking things up. The first things he grabbed were the baggies of spiders and quickly shoved them in the bag before anyone could register what they were. Then he started grabbing the more mundane looking objects.

A hand reached down and started helping Daren pick up the contents of his bag. He looked up and saw Sara helping him. “Thanks.”

She picked up his grimoire and shoved it in the bag. “You should always grab your journal first.” She continued to help him clean up.

“Okay, now that we’ve cleaned up our messes we can get to work.” Mr. Hans booted up the projector and started the class.

– –

During his third period PE class Daren noticed one of the other students who had gotten on the bus at the bottom of the hill. The PE teacher did a brief introduction.

“This is John Ainsley. He moved here from Hilsonville, Washington. Now, let’s get out of this gym and onto the track. I want to see some leg movement out there today!” Mrs. Carson looked ready to go. “I’ll be joining you on the track today. Anyone who can lap me gets extra credit.”

Daren jogged around the track, getting his heartbeat up, but not much more. He watched as John quickly lapped Mrs. Carson then when he came back around to Daren he slowed to his speed.

“I need all the extra credit I can get. Don’t you?” The question seemed rhetorical. He held out his hand. “I’m John Ainsley. You are?”

Daren jogged sideways to shake the hand. “I’m Daren Medakus. You seemed uninterested in my name this morning on the bus.”

“I’m not a morning person. Sara definitely isn’t either, but in-between classes she mentioned your journal, so I thought I’d introduce myself when I had a chance.” John slowed to a walk. “Let’s talk, shall we?”

Daren slowed and looked at him. “I don’t know why the two of you keep saying journal like that. What do you want to talk about?”

“Iaceo interius veritas. We Ainsley’s aren’t that kind of family, but we know a few.”

The phrase wasn’t quite pronounced right, and by John’s second sentence Daren knew why. “Well, just so we know where we stand, veritas interius iaceo.”

“Don’t they always, though?” John asked in a way that expected a specific response.

Daren shook his head. “Dad never told me the other half of that line. Said I wasn’t ready.”

A smiled appeared on John’s face. “Just answer it how you feel it should be answered, then. I want to know.”

“I’ve always thought the answer was ‘so is reality’.” Daren stopped in his tracks, an inquisitive look on his face.

John stopped and walked back to him. “What’s wrong?”

Shaking his head Daren started walking again. “Why am I so trusting of you? There’s students passing by us. Any one of them could know and be an enemy of the council. If we want to talk about this…”

The school bell chimed, interrupting Daren.

“We can talk this weekend at your place or ours. Let me know on the bus. I have need of your…skills.” John started walking toward the gym. “That is, if you are willing to help an old dog out.”

“I actually have a job after school. We should talk at lunch.”

– –

At lunch Daren was reading his grimoire. He was sitting with his back to the lunchroom wall so that nobody could see the thaumatish written inside. The book was open to a section on supernatural dogs. Black dogs had always fascinated him, especially the church grim which seemed to be the only inherently good one. This time, however he was looking into humanoid creatures that were related in some form to dogs. John had said he had need of his skills if he wanted to help an old dog. That phrase is what caused him to investigate it now.

A lunch tray connected with the table Daren was at, causing him to look up over the lip of the grimoire.

“Is this seat taken?” The last one of the students that had gotten on the bus that morning was asking.

Daren noticed the two Ainsleys waiting beside him. “Ah, the last Ainsley I assume?”

“I’ll take that as a no.” The three Ainsleys sat down.

Putting the grimoire away Daren stared at his sack lunch. He didn’t feel hungry, but he started to eat mechanically. If he didn’t eat now he’d never make it through sixth period.

“So,” Daren asked between bites, “what do you want to talk about? Wolf related topics? Or perhaps the moon?”

John grinned. “See, Jayse? I told you that saying old dog was enough.”

The black-haired boy nodded. “I stand corrected. Nice to meet you, Daren. I’m Jayse.” He went back to shoving food in his mouth and swallowing without tasting it.

Sara shook her head. “Jayse, I know it’s hard for you, but you can at least pretend you’re actually eating.”

“You guys want to talk here, or somewhere else. I can make it hard for people to understand us if you want, but that doesn’t always work out.” Daren took another bite of his sandwich then added a blue and orange powder to his water bottle.

“If there’s somewhere else to talk that’d be best.”

“Okay, Jayse. Where do you recommend?”

“The forested area behind your house. After school.”

“Jayse, I told you Daren has work after school.” John took Jayse’s chocolate milk. “You won’t appreciate this. Why’d you even get chocolate?”

“Right. It’s getting a little hard for me to concentrate in here. I’m going for a walk.” Jayse gave his dessert to John and left with his lunch tray.

Sara shook her head. “Don’t worry about him. It’s a little too crowded in here is all.” She pushed her dessert over to Daren. “Do you want this?”

“Sure. So, we should talk this weekend then. Does that sound good?”

“It does, but it’s a full moon Saturday. How about Sunday?”

Daren looked at John. “You’re still tied down on that then? If you need my help with that I need to get to know you a little more. Now I know what you want, and that’s no small thing.”

“Well, up until now I didn’t care. Something’s come up, though, and I need to be a little more in control of some things.” “John, be careful. We can talk about that Sunday.” Sara picked up her food tray. “Well, see you then.”

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Terra Incognita – Ch. 13

Lourek awoke deep in the bowels of a large beast. He heard the beast’s voice echo around. He couldn’t understand it, but he assumed it was in draconic. “Well, this is just wonderful. I take a dip in the hot springs and I end up in the belly of a serpent without my armor or weapons.”

Taking a look around Lourek realized he was on a small island in the serpent’s stomach. The pile was made of undigested bones, the remains of armor, and acid-damaged weapons. With a mighty sigh he sifted through part of the pile and found a damaged short sword.

Swinging the sword a few times, Lourek nodded. “Well, it’s better than nothing.” His voice echoed through the cavernous stomach. He thought back to all the stories he had heard growing up of heroes. None that he could remember involved anyone being swallowed by a serpent. “Probably because nobody ever survived to tell the tale.” He muttered to the large, stench-filled cavern.

– – –

Lukren edged to the water and pulled his armor and Lourek’s armor and weapons away. “Ok, let me put on my armor and we can talk about what to do.”

“I think my friend Donaar should try speaking with the serpent. It does speak draconic, right?” Krakust motioned at the hematite dragonkin.

With a shrug Donaar sheathed his sword. “It wouldn’t hurt.”

Helena nodded then said something to Donaar in a language that sounded like deep growls with grating consonants.

A similar sounding string of words responded to Helena. Then, in common, Donaar addressed the group. “I think Helena might be a little better at this. She knows more about serpents than I, and she obviously speaks draconic very well.”

“Well, I don’t see why not.” Sorley nodded at Helena. “I assume you want to do this?”

“Of course.” Helena approached the edge of the pool and called out in draconic. “Serpent, I seek a moot with you.”

Rising from the pool, a large brass colored serpent sprayed warm water into the air. “Speak, elf of the sky.”

“I am Helena Dabaetodh, a dracomage. I wish to know what you want in return for spitting up our dwarven friend you have swallowed.” Helena did the same intricate bow she had done for Donaar earlier.

The serpent laughed a large, booming, mirth-filled sound echoing in the hot spring clearing. “Once swallowed you must find your own way out. If you wish to enter and help him you may, or you may send him items you think will help. There is nothing you can do for me to just spit him up.”

With a deep sigh Helena nodded. “Very well, I shall commune with my companions and we shall decide what to do.”

“Take your time. I believe he landed on, ahem, dry land.” With that the serpent coiled back into the water but kept his head near the shore. “Toss in anything or enter. Anything that goes in my mouth will be swallowed.” The serpent opened his maw and stopped moving.

Donaar was already telling the others what the serpent had said when Helena returned. “So, I think we should send him his weapons and armor first, then decide what else we wish to do.”

“Agreed.” Lukren took the bundle of armor with Lourek’s items and tossed it into the serpent’s mouth. At once the serpent reared its head up and swallowed. Then it lowered its head, resuming the open maw position.

– – –

Lourek had just found an old, tattered raft made of something that seemed to resist the serpent’s stomach bile when he felt a rumble and a package landed next to him with a loud thump. He looked at the bundle in shock and realized that it was his armor and items.

“By the gods, they’re making deals with the beast! What are they thinking?” Lourek took the armor and donned it, strapping his daggers to his side and putting the bag on his back. “Well, I’m grateful none the less.” Lourek climbed onto the raft and saw a long pole cobbled together with bones with sinew used as twine. “Looks like it’s time to move.”

– – –

“I’m definitely offering to go in there to help…Lourek was it?” Donaar looked to Lukren for confirmation.

“Yes, it’s Lourek.”

“But if I go in alone, then he will probably see me as a threat.” Donaar scanned the other’s faces. “Who else is willing?”

Sorley shrugged. “I’ll go.” He looked at Ember. “You stay here, though.”

Helena nodded. “Orby will go with you. I’ll keep an eye on Ember out here.”

“Ok, as long as you have someone looking out for your back, I guess.” Ember shook her head, her red fur reflecting the sunlight. “I just don’t like the idea of you or anyone going in there.”

“Well, it’s decided.” Sorley held a hand towards Orby. “Let’s go, shall we?”

Orby floated over and flowed into Sorley’s hand. This still feels weird, but Helena obviously trusts you to let this happen twice.

I guess so. Sorley smiled at Helena. “Thanks.” He turned and nodded to Donaar, his face more serious. “Let’s go, dragonkin.”

With a curt nod Donaar approached the serpent, Sorley in tow. They climbed up onto the beast’s tongue and felt what all food feels. The sensation of being completely swallowed.

– – –

Lourek reached a new island of bone and undigested food. He looked around and saw a pedestal with a few runes. “Well, let’s take a look, shall we?” As he approached, he heard a distant scream. “Well, it seems I’m not the only unfortunate soul in here.” Looking around he tried to locate where the sound was coming from. It was approaching rapidly from somewhere. By the time he thought to look up he didn’t have time to move out of the way. Donaar and Sorley landed on top of him.

“Sorry, Lourek. Once we started falling, we couldn’t steer.” Sorley helped Donaar off Lourek and then reached out a hand to help the dwarf up. “This is Donaar, a dragonkin that’s willing to help.”

Shaking his head Lourek offered a hand. “I’m Lourek, but I don’t know who would’ve been dumb enough to come down here, there’s no way out except dead.”

“Don’t worry,” Donaar said, “we made no deals with the serpent. He said if we wished to help, he would send us down here. He acts like people have survived this before.”

“Well, if there were people who got out alive…there weren’t very many of them.” Lourek motioned at the surface of bones they were standing on. “Pretty much a million to one odds.”

Sorley nodded. “Oh, Orby’s here too by the way.”

“Right.” Lourek looked back at the pedestal. “I was about to examine the runes on this. Looks like some sort of puzzle.”

The group walked, or floated, over to the pedestal. The three natives to Domhan seemed confused by the carvings.

“Almost looks elvish, but not as flowing.” Donaar traced the side of the pedestal. “Anyone read elvish?”

Sorley chuckled lightly. “It’s in English. My native tongue. Let me take a look.” He approached the pedestal. On the edges there was a single sentence. “It says, ‘Capture the king, let not your king be captured’. Does anyone know how to play chess?”

As Sorley said chess the top of the pedestal flipped, and chess pieces appeared. On the opposite side of the pedestal a man in green robes appeared. “Welcome, traveler. This is my magic chess board. If you win a game against me, I will give you a great boon. But if you lose, you will battle for my amusement.”

“What boons might you grant us?” Donaar eyed the figure. “You are but the shadow of a great mage. You are not here.”

“I am not, but a piece of my soul is. I can enchant armor and weapons or give you a clue on how to get out of here.” The figure swept his arms wide. “If you win ask, and I may be able to give.”

Donaar stepped forward. “I know a thing or two about chess. Let’s have a go.”

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Cerdic the Usual – Ch. 7

Srathek didn’t like being in human form. Humans were the weakest of creatures he could appear as, but that was the only creature that was on Earth. Sighing to himself he approached a non-descript warehouse in Blackpool, Lancashire. The warehouse seemed abandoned, but Srathek knew better. This was likely a base for the Guardians of Humanity council. One of the few still guarded by people who listened for certain passphrases.

With a swift knock on the door Srathek stated the passphrase. “May Gormaliev not calculate against you.”

The door opened slowly. “And may The Calculating turn her schemes away from you, as well. Enter.”

Srathek walked into the warehouse. “I believe Shane is waiting for me. I’m Stan.”

“Yes, he is. Down the hall, third door on the right, Stan.” The guard closed the door and locked it before sitting back down behind a set of monitors watching the exterior of the building.

“I see you’ve added cameras to the setup.”

The guard grunted an affirmative then motioned back to the hallway.

Shrugging Srathek walked down the hall. “Third door on the right…ah, here we go.” He knocked on the door in rapid succession, three knocks. “It’s Stan.”

The door opened so fast it practically flew off the hinges. “Stan? I thought you weren’t being serious about meeting here!”

Srathek looked amusedly at Shane. “My, my Shane. You sure set the appointment, though.”

Shane pushed his round glasses back onto his face and brushed his long, sweaty, black hair to one side. “I was making the precaution. Do you want to go for a walk, perhaps?”

“That would probably be best, Shane.” Srathek looked him up and down. “You look like you need the sun.”

– – –

Cerdic and Veron sat at a petrol station in the town of Hurst Green. They were waiting for the tank to fill and Cerdic was polishing off a hamburger.

“So, we’re just going to drive back down to Rawtenstall, then?” Cerdic fed the last bite of the hamburger to Grimm.

Veron sighed. “Yes, we are. We need to get you back to your handler and the railroad may be compromised. You remember the hyb-” He caught himself and looked around to see if anyone was listening. “The guy you met on the train?”

“Yes.”

“He may have been working for Albrite. We can’t be too careful.” Veron paid for the petrol and started the car back up. “Let’s get going. Southward bound.”

Cerdic shrugged in the left seat. “Aren’t you supposed to be in school, or something?”

An annoyed expression crossed Veron’s face. “First, it’s summer, and second no. I finished school and am a full-time agent.”

“Well, don’t you need to be on your assignment, then?” Cerdic said sheepishly.

“I guess they think I don’t need to worry about it.” Veron shrugged. “Let’s just get you home and back to work, shall we?”

“Sure.”

– – –

Veron and Cerdic sat on the shoulder of a country road next to the car. Grimm sat nearby, watching the road, though there weren’t any cars in sight. The back-right tire was flat, and the spare tire was on the road. The jack kit was lying open without a spanner in the kit.

“Well, I could have sworn I kept a spanner in there.” Veron leaned against the car. “My phone died and yours doesn’t have service. Man, we’re so lucky.”

“I know, I know.” Cerdic checked his phone again. “I just have the wrong carrier, I guess. Do you think your phone is charged up now?”

“Doubtful. It doesn’t turn on until it’s at 20% or more battery.”

With a sigh Cerdic stood again. “I’m going to take a look at that tire. Something’s bothering me about it.”

Veron shrugged and patted Grimm on the head. “He’s a strange one, you know. Maybe you should bond with me instead.”

Grimm cocked his head to the side and barked lightly.

“Yeah, yeah. I know. Gormaliev didn’t make a pact with me for a reason.” He slumped a little. “Don’t know why, but she has her reasons.”

Cerdic looked over the flat tire. When he looked at the right angle, he could see some sort of collection of triangles slowly fading away. They seemed to be made of shadows. Shrugging, Cerdic pulled on the rubber of the tire. It flaked away, as if it had become brittle. With a tug the rubber ripped from the wheel and Cerdic was able to see the inside of the tire. The tube was torn to shreds, but the inside of the tire had score marks all along it perpendicular to the rotation. He picked up the rubber and walked back over to Veron.

“Hey, Veron. Does this look like a normal flat to you?”

“What?” Veron stood and looked at the rubber Cerdic was holding. “Is that flaking off?”

Cerdic flicked the side of the tire and rubber flakes fell to the ground. “Yeah, I think we’ve been sabotaged.”

“That’s not good. Looks like necrotic magics.” Veron pulled an amulet out of his trouser pocket. “This is an emergency amulet. Do I need to use it?”

“There’s another thing, I saw something. It looked li-” Cerdic was cut off as a series of popping sounds went off.

“Shast!” Veron gripped the amulet and said something that sounded latin. “Help will be here soon. Keep your head down until then.” He dragged Cerdic down and around the car. He reached up and pulled a sheet from the back of the car. “Umbra,” he whispered as he pulled the fabric over Grimm, Cerdic, and himself.

The fabric was see-through from the inside, but Cerdic could have sworn the fabric was tan like the interior of the car.

A pair of feet worked their way around the car and when the person came into view Cerdic put a hand over his mouth to keep himself from gasping. He was a lanky with sunglasses, and blood streaming from his mouth.

“Pah, the local wildlife taste disgusting. Too bad we have orders not to feast on the targets.’

“Do you see them?”

“Nah, there’s nothing over here. Did Shane know who they were, exactly?”

A burly man came around the other end of the car. “Uh, a pactless Aelfson and a Usual.” He froze mid-step. “Grak! They activated an emergency amulet. Someone’s coming.”

“Well, let’s hurry, then. They must be cloaked. I’ll try sniffing for them.”

The burly man sighed. “And why, pray tell, were you not already doing that, dear vampire?”

With a sigh the vampire sniffed the air. “Because I still had the smell of my meal in my nostrils…they have a dog with them.” He walked right next to Cerdic, Veron, and Grimm. “Should be right here.” He groped in the air over their heads. “Odd.”

Rolling his eyes, the burly man started to bring back his leg as if to kick. He never completed the action, as a new set of popping noises surprised the man. “Quick, let’s get out of here.” The burly man made motions in the air with his hands and Cerdic saw geometric shapes forming around it. As the shapes started to intertwine a dagger-like triangle smashed through them, breaking them to pieces. As the shattered shapes dissipated two other men circled the car.

“Ah, Jeremy and Patrick.” Eric said. “What are you doing here?”

“Treeft,” the vampire swore. “I told you this was a trap, Jer.”

Jeremy sighed. “No, Pat. I told you to hurry. You were taking your time.”

“Grimm. Bite the vampire, will you?” Eric looked directly at Grimm, through the fabric.

Breaking out of hiding, with a snarl, Grimm chomped onto Patrick’s leg. The vampire cried out and started striking at Grimm. Most of the blows passed right through the grim.

With the fabric moved Cerdic and Veron were in the open. The second man that had arrived with Eric pulled the two of them to their feet. “I’m glad you used the amulet. I remember you telling me once you’d rather die than be rescued by me.”

Veron half-heartedly punched the man in the shoulder. “Shut up, cuz. Just deal with these guys. Henry won’t give Eric all the credit, will he?”

“Oh, fine.” Henry made a series of jerking motions with his hands. “Lux!” A ray of sunlight went directly into the vampire’s face. Cerdic noticed that the geometry that made up the spell was also designed to melt his sunglasses, and they did so readily.

With a loud shriek Patrick fell to his knees. “My eyes! My eyes!” He groped at his leg, trying to grip Grimm. “I need blood, now!”

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Medakus Grimoires: Iaceo – Ch. 1

[Author’s Note: I started writing this book…around ten years ago or so? Wow. Anyway, this is the third time I started over writing Iaceo and this is a better draft than the first two, in my opinion. As with the other books and stories here I am working on this wile I post it. Enjoy.]

After school Daren Medakus worked a part-time job at Shadow Trading Cards and Hobbies. The third trimester of his senior year was starting tomorrow, and he was only half paying attention at the register. The shop closed in five minutes and it was empty, so he let his mind wander to his weekend training. Up until recently he had trained with his father every Saturday morning. Now, though, his father was on a long assignment from the council and wouldn’t be back anytime soon.

“Oi, Daren! Pay attention!”

Looking up from his thoughts Daren saw a customer waiting silently in front of the counter. “Sorry, didn’t hear you.”

The customer put a few card packs and a board game onto the counter.

“Silent, eh?” He started ringing up the items, the customer still said nothing. “That’ll be thirty-five fifteen.”

The customer handed him a fifty. Daren held it up to the light to check for the watermark. There was none.

Daren looked over to where Cal was restocking. “Hey, Cal! Can you double check this for me?”

Cal Stver set down a box of board games and walked to the counter. “What’s up?”

“Please tell me I’m just blind.” He handed the bill to Cal.

The bill was held up to the light once again. “Yup, you’re just blind. You want me to ring him up?”

“Yeah, I’m gonna go home.” Daren swapped locations with Cal and went to the employee room to time out. He picked up his school bag and walked out the back of the store.

Daren went to get in his pickup and realized his vision was too blurry to drive. Something was wrong. Very wrong. He pulled out his phone to call his father the phone dialed but then came back with a busy tone. Cursing under his breath Daren started to call his mother but stopped and walked back into the store. Cal had his key in the lock when Daren opened the door.

“Yo, something wrong?” Cal asked.

“I don’t feel so…” Daren fell forward and Cal caught him, laying him down gently.

“Well, that’s not good.” Cal pulled out his cell and called Daren’s mother. She picked up immediately. “Hey, Neta it’s Cal. Daren just passed out on the floor. You may want to get down here. I’m calling a medic.”

“I’m coming. Don’t call a medic though, I know what’s wrong. Give him water and something to eat when he wakes up.” Neta hung up the phone and grabbed a few bottles from the cellar shelf before rushing to get in her car. “Now he’s gone and done it. Why didn’t he listen to me this morning?”

– –

Daren woke up in a chair in the staff room of Shadow Trading Cards and Hobbies. Cal sat in front of him with a bottle of water and a snack bar.

“Good morning sleepy head. Your mom’s on the way.” He held out the water and snack bar. “Your mom said to get you something to eat and drink. Are you okay?”

“I think so, mom warned me this morning. She said to drink that brew before I left.” Daren looked for his backpack. “Something about the flow of energy in the area or something.” The words left his mouth before he realized who he was talking to.

Cal chuckled. “Yeah, you magical types always slip up around me. I must just have that kind of face or something.” He held up the snack bar again. “Eat. I’ll get your grimoire for you.”

Daren took the snack bar and water in stunned silence. How did Cal know he was looking for his grimoire? How did he even know what a grimoire was? He opened the snack bar and took a bite. “Tastes vaguely of aloe…a little weird.”

“Yeah, just had a sample case brought in. I don’t think we need them for anything, though.” Cal was rummaging through Daren’s messenger bag. “Ah, grimoire.” He set the book in the seat next to Daren. “So, you aren’t going to kiss a vampire later, are you? The aloe tends to burn.”

“If I was I’d be taking my life in my hands already.” Daren finished the bar and drank some of the water. “So, what are you, anyway?”

“Your boss. If you need something more specific than that we can talk about it later. I think your mom’s here now.” The sound of a car engine reached the staff room. “I’ll go let her in.” Cal stood up and started toward the door. “Oh,” he said without turning back to Daren, “if you want to know more just look up my family. The Stver line is an interesting one. I don’t know everything myself. I don’t have the resources you probably do.” He left the room.

As soon as Cal was out of sight Daren opened his grimoire to somewhere in the middle and pulled out a pressed flower. He then turned to a section near the front and started reading from it. He instantly felt better as the flower disintegrated and a protective layer of magic surrounded him.

Neta walked into the room and saw Daren’s grimoire open. “Close that now, young man. You’re in enough trouble as it is.” She got closer and whispered. “What if Cal found out?”

“He already knew.” Daren closed the grimoire and held his hand out. “Just give me the potion. My mana’s out of whack.”

Neta sighed and handed two vials of thin powders to him. One was blue and the other was orange. “Mix it in the water and drink it all. The blue one is Blue Ash.”

The powder was already mixing into the water. Daren put the cap on and shook it. “What’s the other?”

“Orange flavoring. Blue Ash tastes terrible.” Neta watched as Daren started to drink. “Good. I’ll go talk to Cal.”

“Before you do that, do you know anything about the Stver family?”

“They run a cult in Armenia. Cal has no ties to them, though. I checked”

“I don’t think that’s what he meant when he mentioned his line. Do they have any abilities?”

Neta shook her head. “If they do you have the thing that might tell you right there.” She pointed at his grimoire. “That was your grandfather’s and his grandfather’s and his. Maybe it has something on the Stver line.” She walked back into the main part of the store.

Daren drank the rest of the water and felt his mana balance back out. “Stupid mana flux. I thought the report said it was over. Whatever.” He started to flip through his grimoire. “Hmm…Stver line. Armenia.”

– –

Cal was waiting for Neta behind the store counter busying himself with some inventory. “Ah, is he doing okay?”

“Who are you?” Neta looked him up and down with menacing eyes. “How did you know what Daren was?”

“I’m a seeker.”

Relief washed over Neta’s face. “Why didn’t you just tell him that?”

“Because I’m not with the council. I technically don’t have to tell you either.” Cal turned back to the inventory and continued counting.

“Do you have any connections in Armenia I should be worried about.”

Giving up trying to count while having a conversation Cal walked to the same side of the counter as Neta. “If I did then Daren wouldn’t be working here, would he?”

“No, he’d be dead.”

Daren walked into the main store room. He didn’t seem to have caught the last sentence. He was reading aloud from his grimoire. “The Stver line split into two distinct groups around the time that the Armenian Apostolic Church was founded. Half the family moved to Europe and eventually to America while the other half remained in Armenia. The group that moved to Europe, and eventually America, took a peaceful role in their new home while the group that remained in Armenia worked against peace. One thing remains the same, however. Every fifth generation of the Stver line one of the children is a seeker.”

Cal nodded. “That’s right. Who wrote that?”

“My great grandfather. He seems to have had an interest in seekers. There’s a lot of information in here.” Daren thumbed through a few pages and read again. “Only exceptionally strong seekers can sense a warlocke. Most of the seekers of the Stver line are such seekers. Well, that explains that.”

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Terra Incognita – Ch. 12

Donaar sat in front of a hastily made fire. “So, Krakust, you want information on other realms. Why?”

A couple of ice-hares had been skewered and was cooking over the fire. Krakust filled two tin cups with snow and ice then set them next to the fire to melt the ice. “I want to explore. Not much chance to do that here in Domhan.”

“Yet here you are!” Donaar threw his arms wide. “Exploring!”

Krakust chuckled. “Yeah. I suppose I am.” He took a sip from the slightly melted ice. “Well, it’s better than nothing. I suppose Sorley wasn’t wrong.”

“Wrong about what?” Donaar pulled a hare off the fire. “I prefer mine a little raw…if you don’t mind.”

“No, go ahead. Not like I haven’t seen it before.” Krakust patted Evryn’s head. She growled softly and returned to eating her raw hare. “He said something about not being enemies when next we met.

“Ah, interesting.” With a swift motion Donaar peeled the skin off the ice hare and started eating. The bones cracked under the strength of his powerful jaws. He ate them along with the meat.

Krakust pulled out his compass and focused on it. One of the needles began spinning then stopped, pointing northward. “Well, they’re still heading north. I wonder if they’re above ground yet?” He pulled his hare off the fire and skinned it. He tossed a few of the organs over to Evryn and stared eating. “Could use some seasoning.”

“Still north?” Donaar was picking his teeth with one of the bone fragments.

“A little to the east as well, but mostly north.”

“Maybe they’re going to come up at the hot springs.” Donaar stood up and stretched. “It would feel pretty good to take a quick soak in there after all this snow.”

Krakust nodded. “That it would. Where is it from here?”

Donaar pointed. “About that direction.”

“Good. That’s not far out of the way.”

– – –

Sorley and Ember walked at the back of the group. The dwarves had recommended assigning roles for when they left the tunnel.

Helena would lead because she knew more about the layout of southern Domhan than the dwarves. Lukren would keep his eyes open for any game. Lourek would keep his eyes open for threats and scout ahead.

Sorley was stuck with bringing up the rear. If anyone started to lag behind he was supposed to get them moving again, but his main job was keeping an eye out for any dangers coming from behind.

“Okay, we’re finally above ground.” Helena stretched and looked around. “Ah, the south-eastern forest.” Evergreen trees and small bushes covered the land. I don’t know any elven settlements here. I’m from the north-western forest.”

“You can navigate here though, right?” Lourek asked. “If not, we need to figure out which way is north and just go that way.”

“No, I can navigate.” Helena pointed to her left. “North is that way.”

Sorley looked where she was pointing and saw a standing stone. “What’s that?”

“Ah, nature marker.” Helena walked toward it. “Commonly known as standing stones.” She brushed some moss off the stone. “I don’t know this language.”

“Let me look.” Sorley approached the stone and saw it was covered in flowing script. “I can’t read it. Seems familiar, though.” He pulled out his grimoire. “Is there more under the rest of the moss?”

Helena shrugged and used a fire spell to burn off the rest of the moss. “There.”

Sorley opened his grimoire and turned to a page near the center. “Ah, here. The language in here isn’t complete, but I think this says something like warm, this says stream or pool, and this says west.” He pointed at three words. “This seems to be a directional marker.”

“There’s supposed to be a natural hot spring somewhere in this forest. I could do with a warm bath.” Helena pointed west. “Well, it’s that way. Let’s go.”

“Sounds good to me.” Sorley glanced at the dwarves. “Well, that sound good to you two?”

“Sure.” Lukren shrugged. “It’s not much of a detour, we need to go west anyway.”

Lourek motioned to Helena. “Well, let’s go then. Lead the way.”

– – –

Karkust watched as Donaar jumped straight into the steaming hot water. He shook his head at the dragonkin. “Does it feel good?”

“Feels great!” Donaar dove under the water then surfaced suddenly, spraying hot spring water everywhere.

Evryn ran past Krakust, jumped high, and splashed into the water. She barked happily.

“Ok, you two. I’ll keep watch.” Krakust started walking around the pool. “Just let me know when you want to swap.”

The sound of voices echoed over the snow and water. Krakust motioned to Donaar and Evryn. “Keep it down,” he said softly. “Do you hear that?”

Donaar cocked his head to the side. “I hear something, yes. You check it out. I’ll join you shortly.”

“No, don’t worry. I’ll just scout it out.” Krakust started walking toward the noise.

Shaking his head Donaar swam towards the edge of the hot spring pool. “Come on, Evryn. Let’s follow him.” He looked up and saw Evryn already on the shore, shaking the water off. “Ah, you are loyal. Aren’t you, girl?”

Evryn snorted softly and started following Krakust’s footsteps.

– – –

“Look, the hot springs!” Lukren and Lourek took off running and stripped off their clothing as they went. They jumped into the first pool they came to.

Sorley shook his head and turned to say something to Helena. She was facing the forest with her arms crossed. “Well, they aren’t very gentlemanly when it comes to hot springs, are they?”

“No, most certainly not.” Helena sighed. “Are they in the water yet?”

“Yup. Do you want to do a perimeter watch with me? I don’t feel like going in while they’re in there.”

“Sure, but if we find a secluded pool I’m staying there.”

Sorley nodded. “Fair.” He motioned towards the collection of pools. “After you.”

Orby manifested out of Helena and started floating next to Ember. It looked like they were having a mental conversation.

“So,” Sorley asked, “what are you planning to do once we cross the plains to your tribe? If it’s called a tribe.”

“It’s a tribe I suppose.” Helena shrugged. “I want to talk to my grandmother if she’s still there. Tell her about your vision. Try to rally the elves.”

Sorley nodded. “Makes sense. What will you do after the war?” He paused for a moment. “After we deal with that darkfall rend, of course.”

“Well, I don’t know. Maybe I’ll think of something after that.” Helena sighed. “Originally, when I was freed I wanted to go right home and stay there forever. Now I’m talking about starting a war and repairing the very fabric of Domhan. It’s a big change.”

Sorley jumped over a small stream of water crossing between two pools. “I’ve always wanted to live in a large city. That may be because I grew up in the woods with just my parents and Ember. Never really seen a town, let alone a city.”

Helena smiled. “I’ve thought of that before too, but there aren’t any here in the South Reaches, and nobody goes above the mushroom forest, at least not that come back.” She shrugged. “That could mean they found what they were looking for, or that could mean they died in the mushroom forest. Nobody knows.”

“What’s the mushroom forest?” Sorley asked.

“Exactly what it sounds like, a forest of mushrooms. There’s no trees, just really tall mushrooms.”

“Ok, I sup-“ a loud crack cut off Sorley. He whirled in the direction the noise had come from and grabbed his grimoire from his side. “What was that?”

Krakust stepped out from behind a nearby snowdrift. “A stupid twig under the snow, that’s what.”

The ice wolf appeared next to Krakust, and a weird lizard man walked around to stand on Krakust’s other side.

“I take it you know these two, then?” He approached, hand outstretched. “I’m Donaar ‘Shield-Biter’ Thruuvth. Knight of the Order of Defenders. Last known survivor of the Night of Gore.”

“Helena Dabaerosh, apprentice dracomage.” Helena did an ornate bow. “It is nice to see not all the dragonkin died off in the Night of Gore. Though my tribe calls it the Rending.” She shook Donaar’s hand then motioned to Sorley. “This is Sorley Aelfson, warlock.”

Sorley too shook the dragonkin’s hand. “Pleased to make you acquaintance. This is my familiar, Ember.” He motioned at the red fox and light elemental standing next to him. “Oh, and the light elemental is Helena’s…uh…familiar?”

“That’s right.” Helena nodded. “Orby is also a familiar, though maybe not in the same way.”

Krakust cleared his throat. “Ahem.”

“Yes?” Sorley asked. “Is there something you want to say?”

“Uhh…sorry?”

“Sorry’s not good enough. You tried to kill us.” Scales started to appear on Helena’s arm.

Calm, calm. He’s not hostile. Orby comforted Helena. He’s with a Defender Knight. He must’ve done something to gain his trust.

“Stand down, he’s not attacking.” Sorley put himself between Helena and Krakust. I know you were enslaved to him and I expect you resent that, but please stay calm. For my sake if nothing else.”

“Fine.” Helena’s arm returned to normal. “Orby brought up a good point.” She turned back to Donaar. “How did you two meet?”

“He saved me from dying in the snow. I had been ambushed and left to die. They took my outer armor but left my sword. They probably weren’t worthy to wield it. If you know of my order you know what that means.”

“What?” Sorley looked at the sword. “Looks like a regular sword to me.”

Donaar smiled and removed the sword from its scabbard. “Here, try to hold it.”

“No, don’t.” Helena put her hand on Donaar’s shoulder. “He doesn’t know anything about your group.”

“Well, he’ll learn now, if he wants.” Donaar held the blade out, hilt first. “Well?”

Shrugging Sorley grabbed onto the hilt. “He lifted the blade and looked at the runes along it. “Hmm. Interesting runes. Never seen them before.”

Helena looked wide-eyed at the sword in Sorley’s grip. “How?”

“He would make a good knight, if he weren’t already a warlock.” Donaar nodded.

“Oi!” Lukren yelled out from behind Helena and Sorley. “What’s that beast doing here?” He was wearing only his underclothes, his armor back by the hot spring pool.

“Calm down.” Krakust unbelted his dagger and tossed it on the ground. “I mean no harm.”

“Very well.” Lukren turned to the dragonkin. “By the blade you carry I assume you’re a knight.”

“Yes, Donaar ‘Shield Biter’ Thruuvth at your acquaintance.” Donaar did a slight bow.

“Ok, if you aren’t hostile then you can help.” Lukren motioned back to where he had come from. “A huge serpent showed up and swallowed Lourek!” “What?!” Helena and Sorley said in tandem, then turned and started running back toward the pool. Donaar and Lukren were close behind. Krakust paused a moment to gather his dagger and belt from the ground then followed with Evryn.

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Cerdic the Usual – Ch. 6

~ The events in Domhan, continued… ~

Craig walked the group to a set of narrow, steep stairs that lead below the temple. “Here is where you will have to continue without me. Will your companions be joining you? Normally the high priestess would go alone, but there have been occasions where they bring others if you wish.”

“I’ll take them with, thanks.” Morana motioned to the large skeleton. “After you, brother.”

With Doenranak following Morana and Veviir taking up the rear the group started down the narrow stairs. As they went Doenranak applied a powder around his eyes and cast a spell.

In the cavern below the temple was a collection of large, milky blue crystals. To Veviir, Morana, and Morana’s brother the crystals looked mundane and they started searching the rest of the cavern for anything of importance. To Doenranak, however, there were spirits tied to the crystals. He cast a spell on himself to hide from the others and quickly made his way to one of the crystals. He started talking to the shadowy figure bound to it, in hushed tones.

“Can I trust you?” Doenranak asked the figure.

It responded with a vulgarity. “Treeft you.”

Doenranak moved to the next crystal. “How about you?”

“Yes, you can. I won’t harm you, not that I really could.” The shadowy figure resembled a satyr.

“I believe you. Do you wish to return to life?”

“Of course, I do.”

“Will you give me your word that you will do nothing to myself or my companions if I do this for you?”

“You have my oath.”

“Very well.” Doenranak started to trace out a circle and set up a ritual to return life to the spirit.

While Doenranak was focused on setting the ritual up his companions battled three giant spiders able to move in and out of phase with reality. He was confused, at first, as to why they were acting like they couldn’t see the things, then he remembered he had enhanced his sight with magic earlier.

A short time after that they disappeared behind a wall. He hadn’t seen a passageway there before, so he assumed they had found a hidden area. At this time, he realized he should probably see if this creature was evil with his magic rather than take it at its word. He hummed a few notes and sensed the creature’s primary motivation in life. It was evil, pure evil.

Doenranak recoiled from the feeling of his insides being twisted into knots and stopped setting up the resurrection spell, instead he cast a different spell. He banished the creature from Domhan, then turned to seek out his companions.

The shadow demon felt himself being freed from the crystal. He rejoiced silently, then he realized that he wasn’t being resurrected, but instead he was being evicted from Domhan. Unable to do anything but go along for the ride he waited for something else to happen.

The next thing the shadow demon saw was the light of day. He had been trapped in the cave for so long he had forgotten what the sun felt like. Soaking up a little he turned and looked for somewhere to plan his revenge. He would need a way to return to Domhan.

– – –

~ Present day, Earth ~

“So, a leprechaun knows what I am?” The shadow demon sat on a fauteuil chair. “Kill it.”

“It’s not that simple, Srathek. It can tell when one of us is nearby.”

“Then send a normal human to do it. We have some of them in the cult, yes?”

“Yes, Srathek, we do.” The cultist bowed his head. “Your will shall be carried out.” The cultist backed out of the room and shut the door.

“How did a leprechaun find out about me?” Srathek, the shadow demon from Domhan, stood from his chair and shook his head. He mumbled something, and his form coalesced into that of a human. “Time to find out.”

– – –

Cerdic and Veron walked into the forest, electric torches ready in case they needed them. Grimm followed behind, sniffing every tree he could without losing sight of Cerdic.

“Come on, Grimm. You can’t smell every tree every time we stop.” Cerdic picked up the church grim. “Just come with me, boy.”

“Ok, it should be around here somewhere.” Veron turned on his torch. “It’s getting a little dark, so better safe than sorry.”

A figure approached the light. “Who’s there?” Cerdic set Grimm back down and turned on his own torch. He pointed it toward the figure.

“I’m Tibdast. Veron knows me.” A balding man with white hair covered his eyes. “Not in the face, please.”

Cerdic lowered his torch so it wasn’t pointing directly in the old man’s eyes.

“What are you doing here? Don’t you have a pub to run?” Veron walked forward and pretended to punch Tibdast in the shoulder.

Tibdast shook his head. “It’s not a time to be joyous. You need to leave, now.”

“Why, we’re on a mission from the council.” Veron cocked his head to the side. “You aren’t hiding information, are you?”

“No, the leprechaun is as good as dead.” Tibdast reached out and turned Veron around. “You need to go now, Aelfson. Take the usual with you. You know what happens when a leprechaun dies.”

Veron’s eyes grew wide with terror. He started moving back towards the car. “Cerdic, we’re leaving.”

“What?” Cerdic looked at Tibdast. “Why are we leaving?”

“Because when a leprechaun d-“ Tibdast was cut off by a gunshot. “Sorry, we’re going my way now.”

Suddenly, Cerdic felt like he was being pulled in a hundred different directions at once, and he couldn’t see anything. This feeling lasted for only a moment, but he would never forget it. When he could see again he found himself in a pub, sitting next to Veron. The pub was empty and Tibdast was polishing a mug at a counter. Grimm was sitting next to Tibdast, watching him polish.

“What happened?” Cerdic shook his head, trying to clear his thoughts. “Last thing I remember we were in the forest, then I felt like I was being torn apart.”

Tibdast set the mug down on the counter. “Veron’s not awake yet. Give him some time.” He pulled a shot glass from under the counter and filled it with a golden liquid, then walked over and set it in front of Cerdic. “Here, this’ll refocus your thoughts.”

Cerdic sniffed the concoction, it smelled strongly of alcohol. “Well, at the very least it’ll wake me up.” He swallowed the liquid, it felt like swallowing a mouthful of honey. The blanket of fog immediately lifted from his thoughts. “Wow, you weren’t kidding.”

Grimm hopped into Cerdic’s lap and curled up to take a nap.

“What, why did you do that?” Veron lifted his head off the table. “Cerdic’s not teleport certified yet. He could be out for a week.”

“No, I’m fine. I woke up first.”

Veron looked over at Cerdic. “Really?” He sighed heavily. “Tibdast, give me the virgin martini, will you?”

Tibdast rolled his eyes and poured a golden syrup into a blender with water and ice. The sound of crushing ice made Veron squeeze his head in his hands.

“Couldn’t you have mixed it before I woke up?”

Tibdast shut off the blender and poured the iced drink into a glass. “Where’s the fun in that?” He put the glass in front of Veron.

“It’s called courtesy.” Veron drank the iced drink without tasting it. When he was done he put his thumb in his mouth and pressed it to the roof of his mouth. “Brain freeze! Ow!”

“So,” Cerdic interrupted, “where are we?”

“And where’s my car?”

Tibdast chuckled lightly. “Your car’s in the parking lot. As to where we are, we’re in Tibdast’s Pub.” He motioned around the empty pub. “Three guesses who owns the place.”

Veron stood up and started walking to the door. “Tibdast, you brought us here, you explain. I’m going to make a call.” He went out the door and disappeared.

“So, you heard him. Explain.”

“You’re going to need another drink. A strong one.” Tibdast poured another drink and set it in front of Cerdic. “This one and the other one are on the house.”

“Thanks.”

“So, the leprechaun was shot while I was talking to you. I had hoped I was early enough to make you leave before it happened, but I’m not good with timing things.”

“Okay, but you said something about Veron knowing what happens when a leprechaun dies. What’s that?”

Instead of answering Tibdast turned on a TV. It was on a news station. A reporter was standing in front of a burning forest. Something about the flames looked off to Cerdic, like they were moving against the wind.

“That’s what.” Tibdast shut the TV back off. “They explode.”

Veron walked back into the pub. “The Council isn’t happy you teleported us, but they are happy you saved us.”

“Government at its finest. Happy you saved someone, mad at how you did it.” Tibdast shrugged. “What’s the cover story they’re going to feed the news for the fire?”

“They aren’t. The news is reporting it as a campfire gone out of hand. The council will fabricate some people to blame, and that’ll be it.” Veron shook his head. “They only wish we would’ve gotten that information from the leprechaun.”

Tibdast smiled. “Are you forgetting who I am? I know what you need to know.”

“The Council wanted to handle this without your help, but I guess now you’re the only way we’ll ever find out.” Veron sighed. “Well, tell us.”

“Shadow demon, from Domhan.” Tibdast turned his back on Veron and Cerdic. “Oh, I need to go.” He pulled a set of keys from the wall. “Lock up when you leave and then put those in the post slot.” He tossed the keys to Cerdic and teleported out of the pub.

“Who is he?” Cerdic asked.

Veron shook his head. “The closest thing on Earth to a god.”

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The gods of Nevre: The Messenger – Before

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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