Terra Incognita – Ch. 17

Krakust swam quickly towards the figure that had thrown a fishing spear at him. As he did so the creature threw another one. It glanced off of Krakust’s arm, taking a chunk of flesh with it. Grunting in pain he continued forward towards the creature. He was finally close enough to make it out. It was a large, blue-green, anthropomorphic frog. He hadn’t seen anything like it before, all he knew was that it had attacked him first. He swam faster and, before the creature could throw another spear, he buried his dagger deep into one of its large eyes. He pulled the dagger back and slashed the throat of the frogman. A thick, black sludge seeped out of the wounds and into the water. Krakust backed away from the substance then turned to continue the swim downward.

Ember was having a hard time keeping up with Krakust. Foxes were not designed to swim under water and she had to fight against her buoyancy with paws that wanted to push her towards the surface. The close call with the first spear did not help and she floated upwards quite a ways. She tried her hardest to keep up with Krakust, who didn’t seem to notice, or didn’t care, that she was falling behind. Looking around at the rocky walls of the deep pool she decided that it might be better to push off them to get downward momentum. She swam to one and tried pushing off of it. It certainly was faster than swimming by itself, but not very much.

Slow down! I can’t keep up! She tried to communicate telepathically with Krakust, but he didn’t seem to hear her. Shast!

Krakust continued to swim downward. After a long swim he saw the bottom of the pool expand into and underwater cavern. The heat from the water was increasing. It wasn’t uncomfortably hot yet, but he expected it would get much warmer the farther down he went. Glancing around he noticed another frog creature guarding an underwater cave. He oriented his body to swim that way when he realized Ember wasn’t with him. He looked up to see her slowly making her way toward him. Well, the sentry hasn’t noticed me yet, I’ll wait for her to catch up.

Pushing off the walls took a lot of Ember’s concentration. She pushed off the wall again and realized there was no more wall below her. She looked around frantically and noticed Krakust waiting for her. With a sigh of relief that released bubbles into the water she began swimming toward him. He nodded at her then turned to swim in another direction. Well, at least he waited for me before going out of sight. Ember made her short legs work all the more to try to keep up with the orc. How did Helena get this deep? I certainly would’ve drowned by now without the potion Krakust had. Ember shook her head. No, don’t think about that. She must be fine.

The frog creature finally turned to face Krakust, but it was too late. He was already reaching out with his dagger to kill the sentry. The same black substance from before oozed out of the creature and Krakust once again made sure not to swim through it. He swam into the cave and up into an air pocket. He heard the distant sound of struggling and almost ran towards it before remembering Ember was still behind him. “Probably should’ve brought the dwarf with me except he would sink like a stone.” He muttered softly to himself.

After a few moments Ember surfaced and made her way out of the water. She shook herself dry and looked around, confused. “Aren’t we below the water level?”

“Keep your voice down,” Krakust said softly. “This is an air pocket and it’s probably not very big.” A scream echoed down the narrow passageway as if to punctuate his point. “We might want to get a move on.”

“Agreed.” Ember started padding quickly down the passage, not waiting for Krakust. She poked her head around a nearby blind corner then pulled it back. By this point Krakust had caught up with her. “Helena is tied up and looks unconscious. There’s two of the frog things with her.”

Krakust nodded. “I can take them. The other ones were pretty weak.” He took a moment to focus, then his muscles became move defined and his blood vessels stuck out slightly. “Here we go.” He rounded the corner and lunged at one of the two frog men.

Following behind Ember saw the other frog man shoving something into Helena’s mouth then turned to attack Krakust. She ran forward to Helena to see what it was.

A pink object changed color to match Helena’s tongue. Helena’s eyes went wide as the thing ripped her tongue out and attached itself to the stump. She then passed out again.

Ember turned to see Krakust finish off the second frog creature by smashing its head in with his pick hammer. “Quick!” She yelled. “Helena’s tongue was replaced by a parasite!” She pointed at the slab of pink flesh on the ground with her snout. “You need to cut it out!”

“What?” Krakust looked at the flesh. “If I do that she won’t be able to talk.”

“Just do it!”

“Fine.” He pulled his dagger out and wiped it off on his leg. “Here goes.”

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Terra Incognita – Ch. 16

Donaar jumped onto the raft and gripped a femur tightly with his left hand. With his right he started passing out the potions of acid resistance. “Here, chug them and we might make it out of this alive!”

Sorley and Lourek each took one of the potions and downed them swiftly then gripped onto the raft.

“Here it comes!”

The wave crashed into the bone raft and the three creatures holding onto it were covered in acid. There was about a half a centimeter invisible barrier keeping the acid from touching their skin. The kobold above didn’t have that luxury and he appeared to be having a hard time holding onto the piece of debris.

Orby, Sorley thought at the elemental, can you push that creature closer to us?

It’s called a kobold, since you don’t seem to know what it is. Orby replied. I could, but the acid would hurt me. As long as I stay part of you it won’t affect me.

Sorley mumbled something to himself then grabbed a handful of flour from a sack he had tied to his waist. He then threw the flour toward the kobold. The flour imploded halfway between the two groups causing them to get closer to eachother.

“What are you doing?” Lourek yelled. “We’re already in a precarious position! Don’t make it worse!”

Throwing another handful of flour Sorley responded, “this isn’t going to make it any worse. In fact it might make the wave smaller.” The flour imploded again, taking some of the acid with it where ever it was going.

– – –

On the surface of the hot spring the serpent’s face contorted and it started coughing and hacking. Lukren and Evryn backed away from the serpent as it began to thrash about wildly. It was yelling something in draconic, but Lukren didn’t understand the language.

The serpent yelled in draconic again then started to calm down.

With a last string of draconic the serpent shot water into the air then dipped beneath the surface of the water and disappeared from Lukren’s sight. “Great,” he muttered, “now it’ll be even harder for them to get out.”

– – –

Just as Sorley was close enough to reach out and grab the kobold the entire belly of the beast convulsed and the feeling of weightlessness came over him. “Quick! Grab on!”

Seeing the outstretched hand the kobold pushed off of his piece of debris and grabbed onto Sorley’s forearm. “Thank!”

The grip was so tight that the kobold’s claws broke Sorley’s skin in places, but he held on all the tighter in response. If he could save this innocent life maybe he could save others. Not like his parents had, sacrificing their lives, but surviving another day to save more. By the time the stomach acid had settled down his arm was oozing blood from several places and the kobold was unconscious. Carefully pulling the kobold onto the raft Sorley grabbed the tattered pieces of his tunic and wrapped some strips around his arm.

“Will he be okay?” Sorley asked Donaar.

“I’m not sure.” Donaar placed a hand over the kobold’s nose. “I feel his breathing, so possibly.” The dragonkin looked around. “Is there someplace we can land this raft?”

Lourek pointed at a distant pile of debris. “That looks as good a place as any.” He pulled an arm from the raft and started using it as an oar. “Only one way to find out.”

The raft slowly made its way to the isle of debris in the sea of stomach acid. The surface of the debris above the acid was by no means dry when they got there, but it was better than their raft. The acid immunity potions were starting to wear off and the acid was beginning to sting their eyes. By the time they disembarked from the raft the skin of Sorley and Lourek was starting to burn.

“Those scales sure come in handy. Another barrier before you start getting burnt.” Lourek motioned at Donaar. “Though, I suspect it’s worse once the acid gets through them.”

“I don’t want to find out.” Donaar threw the kobold over his shoulder like a sack of potatoes. “We need to get out of here, and soon.”

Sorley pulled the pouch of flour off his hip and threw it into the stomach acid. “That’s ruined now. The acid got absorbed by it.” He started sifting through some of the debris that was piled up. “Maybe I can find some bone to grind into powder. Needs to be mostly unaffected by the acid, though.”

“Don’t worry about that right now. I think there’s something buried over there.” Lourek pointed at a piece of carved stone protruding from the pile. “Maybe it’s something more immediately useful.”

With a shrug Sorley walked towards the gray stone. Upon closer inspection it appeared to be part of a portal. Seeing that it could in fact be a way out Sorley started digging frantically only to discover it was shattered into various large pieces. He pulled up as many as he could and started arranging them.

“Well,” Donaar asked as he gently set the kobold down, “is it anything we can use?”

“Not if it’s as broken as it appears,” commented Lourek.

Sorley pulled his grimoire from his pack. The cover appeared to be a little damp, but he quickly wiped it off. Undoing the buckle on the cover he flipped to a blank page. “It’s not very helpful right now, no, but I think it could be important.” He pulled a quill and a stoppered bottle of ink out. “I’m going to sketch it. It appears to be a teleportation circle or a summoning circle. Could be either at this point. I’ll do some research on it later when we aren’t in this situation.”

“Wait, could you teleport us out of here?” Lourek stood on a piece of debris to look over Sorley’s shoulder. “I’m no expert, but if you’ve been somewhere before it should be simple, right?”

“Simple?” Sorley paused from his sketch. “Teleportation is an exact science. There’s no simple about it.”

“What about a portal? You said one brought you here to Domhan. Could you make a smaller one to jump to a point you remember here?”

“That would be better if I could see where I was going. Not very possible from where we are. If I get anything wrong,” Sorley resumed sketching the magic circle, “we could end up in the wrong place in pieces.”

The kobold opened its eyes and looked around weakly. “Where Kefderent now?”

Donaar turned to the kobold. “What’s Kefderent?”

“I Kefderent. Of Kef Clan.” The kobold slowly stood up. “Me sore, but alive.”

With a smile Sorley finished the sketch and turned to the kobold. “Hi, Kefderent. I’m Sorley Aelfson.”

“I’m Donaar ‘Shield Biter’ Thruuvth a knight of the Order of Defenders. The dwarf is Lourek.” Donaar motioned at Lourek.

“Aye, nice to make your acquaintance.” Lourek turned back to Sorley. “Well, will you at least try to make a portal?”

Sighing, Sorley took a seat on a piece of the magic circle he had pulled from the detritus. “I’ll need to commune with Gormaliev first. I’ve never cast anything that complicated before.” He folded his legs and fell into a trance. As he did so Orby floated out of him.

I can’t be part of that conversation. Orby thought to Donaar and Lourek. Is there anything I can do for the two of you?

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Terra Incognita – Ch. 15

“Kingdom politics?” Helena looked disgusted.

Krakust shrugged. “If I hadn’t killed him he would’ve killed me.” Sitting down he smiled. “And if I couldn’t defend myself there I would have given up any claims to return to my tribe. Even if I had Helena and Sorley with me.”

“Which you never will, not as slaves.” Helena stood and started walking away. “I’m going to find a smaller pool to relax in. Yell for me if you need anything.”

Ember got back to her feet and trotted after Helena. “I’ll keep an eye out for you.”

Walking swiftly Helena found a secluded pool and stripped to her underclothes. “Keep watch for me and when I’m done you can have a turn.” She slowly lowered herself into the warm water and let out a sigh of relief. Sinking under the water she realized that she couldn’t feel the bottom of the pool. Before she could start swimming back up to the surface something grabbed her by the foot and pulled her under.

Walking back and forth Ember heard some splashing then bubbles break the surface of the pool. Thinking nothing of it she waited a minute before checking on Helena. She peered over at the hotspring only to see nobody in the water. “Helena! Where are you? This is no time to play games, you know.” Ember looked around for Helena and found no tracks and no scent to follow. “This isn’t good.” She turned and scampered back to Krakust and Lukren.

The two were passing their alcohol back and forth when Ember ran back into sight. “Help! Helena is missing!”

“Again?” Lukren jumped to his feet. “Where was she?”

“She disappeared under the water, I think. I couldn’t find a trail of any kind.”

Krakust got to his feet and pulled a compass from his pack. “I can find her with this.” He focused on the compass and pointed in the direction of the pool she had chosen. “This way to start. He glanced at Ember and Evryn. “Evryn, stay here. I’ll go with the fox.”

With a short wine Evryn curled up near Lukren.

“Well, uh, sorry about earlier Evryn.” Lukren said.

Evryn snorted softly and looked at the gaping mouth of the serpent.

“She’ll forgive you eventually.” Krakust said over his shoulder. “At the very least she’ll keep you safe cause I told her to.”

Ember scurried behind Krakust as the green orc hurried towards the pool. When they arrived at it he circled it multiple times. “She’s below the surface, I think.” He glanced up at the sky. “She’s certainly not above us. The sky is oddly clear today.” He began to remove his armor, making sure to keep his pickhammer and dagger on him then pulled a potion out of his pack. “I only have one of these, and I was hoping I wouldn’t need it.” He chugged most of the potion then held it out for Ember to drink. “It’ll allow us to breathe underwater.”

“I guess since you drank first I shouldn’t worry too much about it.” Ember drank the small amount of liquid remaining in the bottle.

With a grunt of approval Krakust dove into the pool, head first. As he went under he saw a jutting rock barely miss his face. Probably shouldn’t do that again. He used the momentum to swim swiftly downward. As he passed what appeared to be the half-way point of the depths a fishing spear flew past his left ear and he turned to see it barely miss Ember as well. He readied his dagger, the pickhammer was too big for underwater use, and swam towards his assailant.

– – –

The two kobolds lunged repeatedly at Lourek and Sorley. They connected a few times but only left minor scratches and bruises.

“How long,” Sorley said between dodges, “until we can dispatch them?”

Donaar looked across the board, remembering where the pawns were before. “Now isn’t a bad time.”

With a grunt Lourek swung his short-swords and heavily damaged on of the kobolds. Immediately after the swing Sorley shot a bolt of energy at the same kobold, dropping it.

“No!” The spirit of the mage cried out. “You’ve blocked my king in!”

“And with this outstanding move I’ll get you into checkmate.” Donaar moved a rook in to check the mage’s king. “Checkmate.”

“Wait.” The spirit looked over the chessboard. “Shast! You’ve won, sir knight.” The spirit bowed. “What is it that you want?”

“Help us get out of this place,” Donaar motioned at the belly of the serpent, “safe and sound.”

The spirit smiled and produced three potions from under the table. “These are potions of acid immunity. Use them well.” Then the spirit disappeared.

“I’m not sure how to use these yet.” Donaar picked up the potions and put them in his satchel. “Let’s continue in the direction Lourek was heading and think about it.” He motioned for Lourek to move on when he realized the second kobold had stopped attacking and was looking around, confused. “Oh,” Donaar said in draconic, “I thought you would be returned home after I won.”

The kobold turned to face Donaar, its metallic scales the same color as Donaar’s. “I need go home,” it said in broken common. “Where here?”

“Uhh…the belly of a serpent…” Donaar said hesitantly. “We’re trying to escape.”

“I help escape you help me.” The kobold pointed in the direction Lourek was heading. “Me be advance scout.” It scampered off and out of sight.

“We won’t see that thing again, will we?” Sorley asked, watching it disappear.

“Most likely, yeah.” Donaar shrugged. “I can only hope it doesn’t try to swim in the bile.”

The belly of the beast rumbled and a wave of acidic bile rolled towards the characters in the direction they were heading. The kobold was riding the wave by holding onto a piece of debris.

“Quickly!” Lourek yelled. “Get on the bone raft!” He pointed at the thing he had found earlier and everyone ran for it.

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Terra Incognita – Ch. 14

Around the pool Ember, Lukren, Helena, Drakust, and Evryn sat restlessly.

“Are you sure I shouldn’t go join them?” Ember asked, as she stood and began pacing in a circle around Helena. Her red fox fur standing out against the white snow.

Evryn snorted softly and rested her ice wolf head on Krakust’s lap. The orc patted her head and turned to look at Lukren, who was periodically drinking from a flask. “I assume you don’t want to share that?”

“What would you have to drink about? One of my kin is inside a serpent. I think only the dwarf should be drunk, anyway.” He took another swig, and a bit of ale spilled onto his unkempt beard.

Helena stood and motioned for the flask. Her sky elf skin blending into the background of snow. “Well, may I have a drink?”

“Sure, sure.” Lukren handed the flask over. “It’s almost empty anyway.”

With a swift motion Helena chugged down the remainder of the flask. “Ah, that’s not as good as wine, but it definitely has a kick.”

Krakust stared at Lukren for a moment then pulled a bottle of whiskey out of his pack. “Here.” He handed it to Lukren.

“Uhh…thanks.” The dwarf took the bottle and started drinking.

– – –

Sorley and Lourek watched as Donaar the dragonkin started playing chess against the spirit of an ancient mage. His magnetite colored stales reflected the dim light emanating from the bowels of the great serpent.

Turning to Sorley, Lourek stroked his braded dwarven beard. “So, how exactly is this game played?”

The human Sorley scratched his hairless face idly. “Well, the goal is to capture the opponent’s king. It’s the piece with the cross on the top of it. Different types of pieces do different things. Pawns, the short ones, can only move forward directly, or diagonally to capture other pieces for example.”

“So, it’s a war strategy game where both sides are equal and have the same resources?”

“Yes, I suppose that’s exactly what it is.” Sorley shrugged. “I’m not very good at it myself.” He turned his attention back to the game slowly advancing. “He seems to be doing fairly well from what I know.”

“Well,” the mage’s spirit said, “looks like your friends are bored. Let’s give them something to play with, shall we?” The spirit waved its incorporeal arms and two goblins appeared near Sorley and Lourek, weapons drawn.

The goblins said something in a language they couldn’t understand and ran forward. Meanwhile, on the chess board, two pawns, one from each player’s side, disappeared from the board.

The spirit shrugged. “I have to keep the game balanced.”

– – –

The serpent closed its mouth and laughed. “Oh, I forgot how well that mage played his games. Well, it seems your friends are in a combat situation. They should be fine, though. The old mage isn’t up to his full strength these days.”

Helena quickly translated the words of the serpent to the others. “I don’t think they’ll have a problem. When Orby is enhancing Sorley, he seems to have better tricks up his sleeve. I’d never heard of that before, but that’s how he was able to defeat you in the cavern.” She nodded at Krakust.

“That explains a lot. What is Orby, anyway?” Krakust took the whiskey back from Lukren and took a swig before giving it back.

Ember pawed at Evryn then curled up next to her. “Orby’s a light elemental. He’s Helena’s familiar.”

“I see. I’d never heard of a light elemental before now. Then again, the orcs aren’t really known for their grasp of the arcane.”

“No, we aren’t, are we brother?” A voice echoed from the forest surrounding the hot springs.

“Who goes there!” Lukren jumped to his feet, instantly sober, wielding his short sword.

Two orcs stepped out from the edge of the forest.

One spoke up. “Those sent to check that Krakust is doing his task.”

“You don’t seem to be doing that, now, do you?” The other added.

Krakust stood up and Evryn pushed Ember away so she could do the same. “That’s not very honorable of the chieftain to send someone to watch after one of their greatest warriors.”

“You were an exception,” the second orc said. “The chieftain doesn’t doubt you, but the elders have worries about you.”

Krakust raised his dagger, the only weapon he had on his person. “You defy the chieftain and say I am not doing my task?” His eyes became bloodshot and the veins on his arms stood out against his green skin. “I will defend the chieftain’s name since you soil it behind his back!” He stormed forward and stabbed at the second orc, his rage forcing his face into a scowl. “Traitors are to be killed!” He dug the dagger into the orc’s arm, let go of it, and pulled the pickhammer from his opponent’s back. He then kicked the orc backward into a tree with enough force to dislodge a large amount of snow. The snow dropped onto the surprised orc’s head with a loud thwump. Krakust turned to the first orc. “Well?!”

The first orc looked at Krakust with a searching expression. “Explar evost?”

“Epro, brother.” Krakust responded.

The first orc took his war hammer from his own back and crushed the second orc’s skull in himself. “I will tell the chieftain your travel goes well.”

The rage drained from Krakust and he relaxed. “I’ll be keeping the pickhammer.”

“I would expect no less, cheiflein.”

Krakust walked over and pulled his dagger from the dead orc’s arm then turned and walked back to Helena and Lukren. Putting his dagger in its sheath and strapping the pickhammer to his back.

“What in bloody Darkfall was that about?” Lukren put his short sword away.

“Something you might call kingdom politics.” Krakust sat down next to Evryn who was already lying down again.

– – –

Sorley let out a purplish-blue blast of fire at the first goblin, who convulsed and fell over in a smoldering heap. “They’re pawns. They seem to be pretty weak.”

Lourek nodded and pulled his daggers from his back. He threw both of them at the goblin, slaying it where it stood.

“Whoa, really? That’s too complicated! We were supposed to just be playing chess!” Donaar shouted in surprise. The two pawns that had disappeared reappeared on the board. “Guys, if he does that again, play with them for a while! That ruined my next move!”

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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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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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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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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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Terra Incognita – Chapter 9

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

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