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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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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Terra Incognita Ch. 10

Two dwarves hung from a rope stretched across a cavern. They were clinging on for dear life while a human and an elf pulled them across on a ferry style setup.

“Oi, can you speed this up a little?” Lukren yelled. “It’s getting toasty here!”

Sorley pulled on the rope again. “Pitons aren’t made for this. They’re resisting the movement. If we go faster, we risk breaking the rope. You don’t want that.”

“Aye, but it feels like I’m turning into a roast duck here!” Lourek started inching his way forward to speed up the process. “All that’s missing is the sauce!”

Helena rolled her eyes and sighed. She tugged on the rope with Sorley then called out, “if you move like that it’s harder to pull the rope!”

The movement stopped and Lourek cursed silently under his breath, waiting for the rope to take him to the side of the crevice.

After a few intense minutes, the two dwarves were standing on the same side of the crack as Sorely and Helena.

“Okay. I’ll go get the other two pitons. I’ll be quick.” Sorely started to climb the wall, leaving Ember behind so he wouldn’t need to worry about her.

“Make it quick. Lourek and I are going into the passage. I don’t want to stick around here for much longer.”

On the opposite side of the cavern, a green head poked around the entrance to the tunnel. “They’re here, alright. Looks like the human is coming back across. Let’s attack him then.”

The ice wolf pawed silently, ready for a fight.

Sorely made his way back across the top of the cavern quickly. He climbed down the wall and made for the pitons.

Watching from the other side Helena saw Krakust and Evryn sneaking up on Sorley. “Sorley! Behind you! It’s Krakust!”

With a quick twirl, Sorley turned to face the orc and the ice wolf. “What do you want from me?”

“To know how you got here.” The orc growled. “You aren’t from Domhan. You’re from another realm.”

Lukren poked his head out of the tunnel on the side where Helena was. “Did he say not from Domhan?”

“Aye, he did.” Lourek too poked his head out. “What does that mean?”

Ember turned to the dwarves, “not now. Can you do something to help Sorley out from here?”

“No, we only have melee weapons. No bows or crossbows.”

Orby, Helena thought to her familiar, can we hit the orc or wolf from here?

No, they’re too far away. You can send me over to help, maybe.

Then go.

The green light that was Orby started floating across the cavern. The light was dimmer than before, but still noticeable.

Ember noticed Orby and thought to Sorley, looks like Helena is sending Orby to help. I don’t know what it can do to help.

Tell her thanks. Sorley stared Krakust straight in the eyes. “No, I’m not from here. I’m from Earth. My family sent me here as a last resort to keep me alive. Some orc and its dog aren’t going to keep me from breaking my promise to my mother.” A purplish flame appeared in Sorley’s hand. “If you want me, you’re going to have to fight me.”

Krakust pulled a wicked blade from his belt. “Oh, so you don’t want to die? Well, you decided your fate when you and your elf friend shot me with flames before.”

Snarling Evryn started inching forward toward Sorley.

“Tell me what I want to know, and you will die quickly.” Krakust took a step forward. “How did you get to Domhan? How do you travel between realms?”

A small grin appeared on Sorley’s face. “You think I can do that sort of magic myself and you approach with a blade? If I could you would already be defeated.”

“I’ve dealt with magic users before, boy. They can be dealt with.”

That’s right, Sorley thought to himself, keep talking. Give Orby some time to get here.

Krakust walked closer to Sorley, cautiously. “So, are you going to stand there all day, or attack me?”

About to form a reply Sorley felt a strange sensation on his back then a presence entered his mind. Orby?

Yeah, it’s me. Sorry, didn’t have time for a warning.

The purple flame in Sorley’s hand grew larger and gained green highlights. “I think now is the best time.” Sorley shot the flame, but not at Krakust. The flame went right for Evryn’s side where the flameskull had hit her before.

Surprised that the human had decided to attack her first Evryn wasn’t able to avoid the flame. It hit her side where the burns were still fresh and shot pain through her body. She staggered under the blow and scampered backward.

Rage appeared in Krakust’s eyes. “You will be paying for that, human.” He rushed forward with his blade pointed at Sorley. As he did so Orby passed back out of Sorley to in front of him and sent out a blinding flash in Krakust’s direction.

Step to the side! Quickly!

Sorley stepped aside as Krakust, unable to stop his momentum, went over the side of the chasm. At the last moment, he was able to grip a protruding rock but dropped his blade in the process. There was a dull thud as the metal hit the magma and Helena saw it sink beneath the molten rock.

Ignoring her pain Evryn ran forward to Krakust, trying to see if there was some way she could offer help.

Should we leave him and go back to the others? Orby asked.

You go back. I need to get the pitons still. Sorley motioned towards the two pitons nearby.

Orby bobbed in response and started floating back across the crack.

The pitons pulled back out of the rock without too much trouble and Sorley took one close to where Krakust was. He drove it into the ground and attached some rope to it. He coiled the rope then looked at the ice wolf. “Use this to save him. I’m going back to my friends.” He turned back to the wall and started climbing.

Wasting no time Evryn took one end of the rope in her mouth and pulled it over to Krakust.

“Stupid human. You should’ve killed me.” He carefully grabbed the end of the rope and started to pull himself up.

“No, I made a tactical decision. When next we meet we will be on the same side.”

“I doubt that greatly.”

Sorley finished the climb to Helena and the dwarves. Without a word he picked up his pack and started walking to the cave. Ember started following beside him.

“Well, shall we go?” Ember asked when the others didn’t start following.

“Uh, yeah. Let’s go. I have some questions, though.” Lourek started following Sorley. “What’s Earth, first of all, and exactly how did you get here?”

“Aye, I wish to know that too.” Lukren started following behind as well.

Helena smiled slightly to herself. Good job, Orby.

Thanks. You know, Sorley is tied to something powerful. I didn’t really do anything to his flame attack, I just strengthened the connection.

That would be the person he talked about being in his vision.

She’s strange. Like an elf but not an elf. She didn’t talk to me, but I felt her gratitude when I helped.

Interesting. Helena started jogging after the dwarves. There was a noticeable incline in the passageway. She hoped they would reach the surface soon.

– – –

Gormaliev smiled at Aliziyah. “Looks like Sorley has some interesting allies. That light elemental knows a little something about connections. It made it easier for me to connect with Sorley. I usually wouldn’t care at the strength, but with there being so few Aelfsons these days I appreciate it.”

“It may have consequences. If the connection is closer to that of a familiar now he may have a lifespan that lasts until you die…or break the connection.” Aliziyah was curled atop a mossy stone. “How do things go on Earth?”

“Well, the Aelfson line survives on Earth for another day. I don’t know how things will go, the future is too cloudy. I don’t know how long the people will last, and every day the danger grows. The inquisitionhas already wiped out a line of warlocks of the great old one. Only one though. I put all my eggs in one basket long ago. Now I have to deal with thatdecision.”

“At least one of the eggs is in a separate basket now. Sorley.” Aliziyah stood next to Gormaliev. “And my daughter is with him. She will keep him safe.”

“Yes.” Gormaliev petted Aliziyah on the snout.“If all else fails they may yet survive.”

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Cerdic the Usual – Ch. 4

A small car pulled into the train stop outside a small village. A teenager got out of the car and waved at Cerdic. “Hey, McNiall! Over here!”

Eyes rolling Cerdic started walking over to the car. “Call me Cerdic.”

“Nope, I call you McNiall until I know you better.” The boy motioned at the back seat. “Dogs in the back,” he motioned at the front seats, “people in the front.” He paused and looked like he just remembered something. “Oh, my bad.” He held out his hand. “I’m Veron Aelfson. Nice to meet you, McNiall.”

Cerdic shook the outstretched hand. “Nice to meet you, Aelfson.”

“Yeah, you can’t call me that in public. If you want to retaliate you can call me Smith, that’s what we go by in normal society.”

“Mr. Smith. You don’t happen to know a John Doe?”

“Funny, funny, droll. Get in. We have to find that leprechaun.” Veron opened the back door and put Grimm in the back seat by opening the dog crate and letting him walk in. “I’ll put the crate in the boot.”

– – –

“So, Smith, what can you tell me about leprechauns?”

“They draw people away from danger of the magical kind by pretending to tell them where their gold is when they get caught. They resent being caught by shape changers and werewolves. They don’t always wear green clothes as depicted in modern culture and are often confused with gnomes.” Veron motioned at a notebook labeled journal on the dash. “Page 75.”

“Eric said I wasn’t allowed to read the lore books yet.”

“Well, I say you should read about the creature we’re going after. I’m the field commander and I’m making a field decision.” He took a sharp left turn, causing the book to fall into Cerdic’s lap. “There, see? Read.”

“Well, if I’m not supposed to I’ll just blame the kid then.”

“It tends to work, especially since I technically outrank you.” Veron flashed him a quick, broad smile then focused on the road again.

“Right. Seniority and all that.” Cerdic picked up the book and turned to page 75. He began to read aloud. “The minotaur…really?” He thumbed backwards a couple of pages. “The leprechaun. There we go.” He glanced at Veron. “Why do you people always get the page for minotaurs first?”

“Oh, I could’ve sworn it was on 75. Odd. Did Eric turn to minotaurs first too?”

“Yeah.” Cerdic read the information on the page. He noticed some secondary script to the side that was in seeming jibberish. “What is this stuff to the side?”

“Oh, just scribblings. Nothing important.”

“Scribblings? Looks like letters to me.” Cerdic shrugged and looked back at the English. “So, not much is here. They seem to like using scarves and can usually be found in forests. You guys already mentioned everything else.” He looked back at the strange script.

Grimm barked a few times, surprising Veron who swerved a little into the right lane.

“Woah. Glad there’s no oncoming traffic. Do we need to stop for the little doggie’s room?” Veron glanced in the rear-view mirror and saw Grimm pawing at the door. “I’ll take that as a yes. Pulling over.”

While they were pulled over to let Grimm do his business Veron went to the trunk and pulled out an ice chest with sandwiches and soft drinks in it. “Want one?” He offered a sandwich to Cerdic.

“No, I ate on the train.” Cerdic was still looking at the scribblings in the corner of the notebook page. “Does that look like the Norse rune for ‘th’ to you?”

Veron took the notebook back. “Fine. They’re my personal notes. This isn’t the first leprechaun I’ve been sent to find. The first one warned of a mana storm. Usually they only warn of things that affect non-magical humans. The mana storm did cause headaches in non-magicals, but nothing serious. In warlockes, however, it caused debilitating migraines if they didn’t ingest Blue Ash.”

“Sounds nasty.”

“It was. My parents had a difficult time working through that storm even with the Blue Ash.”

Cerdic grabbed a soft drink from the cooler. “What’s Blue Ash?”

“An ash that’s made from burning wood that’s been infused with healing magic. Well, what we use is. True Blue Ash isn’t found on Earth.” Veron whistled at Grimm. “C’mon boy, we need to get where we’re going.”

Grimm plodded back and jumped into the open back seat. He tried to close the door himself but failed.

“Here, I got it.” Cerdic closed the car door then motioned to Veron. “After you, Smith.”

“No, after you, McNiall.”

– – –

A small copse of trees just outside a busy city came into view. Veron pulled off the paved road onto a gravel one and continued heading for the copse. “So, this is where the reports are coming from.” He pulled his cellphone from his pocket and started texting on it. “Just sending in a progress report. We have arrived.”

“You could wait until we’re actually stopped to do that.”

“I could, but where’s the fun in that?” Veron tossed the cell on the dash and returned his attention to the road. “I don’t know why you’re being sent on this mission. Pretty much anyone else would do.”

Cerdic nodded. “Eric said you were on a less important mission. I got the feeling everyone is on some sort of assignment.”

The car came to a stop at the end of the gravel. “Well, we’re just a short walk away now. As for everyone being on assignment, you’re probably right. My family has been going back and forth all over Europe. I get to stick around the same general area, but they’ve been from one end to the other and back at least once each.” Veron got out and let Grimm out of the back seat.

Exiting the car himself Cerdic pulled a compass and an electric torch from his pockets. “It’s going to be dark in a few hours. You have a torch, right?”

“Yeah, we’ll probably need them.” Veron pulled his own torch from the door pocket of the car and put it in his jeans pocket. “I think the leprechaun will want to tell us what’s wrong, but it will try to keep away from us at first.”

Grimm walked around to the trunk of the car and pawed at it.

“Yeah, I think maybe we should eat first.”

Veron walked to the trunk and opened it. “Good idea, boy. Here.” He tossed a couple of sandwiches at Cerdic. “One’s tuna and the other’s ham and swiss.” He pulled out a couple of drinks and two sandwiches for himself and shut the trunk. “Here.” He handed a drink to Cerdic.”

Cerdic ate the tuna sandwich and half of the ham and swiss. He gave the rest of the ham and swiss to Grimm.

“So, the thing that’s going on is some powerful guy is building up an army of informants. Apparently a Medakus went missing in Oregon in the US and his mom is certain he was trying to find his father who is also missing. She claims that Warren Albrite is behind it. Here in Europe we’re trying to find our own informant amongst his informants so we can find out what he’s planning. A magical event that will affect non-magicals is not something we want on top of that.”

Setting the drink bottle on the top of the car Cerdic turned to look and Veron. “And how much of that were you supposed to let me know?”

“None of it, but you need to know how important this leprechaun hunt is,McNiall. It’s not some vacation. It’s very important.” Veron shoved the food trashin the trunk and shut it. “Let’s go.”

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