The Sight: Assassin – Intro

Ophir was born to a poor human family in Lakestown in southern Zentar. When he was dropped off at the local temple of The Kindness he spent the first five years of his life in service to, and under the protection of, the local high priest. It was at this time that his gift first started to surface…or it was the time that the priest finally understood what he was talking about. He never really knew which it was. At this time, he was carted off to a nearby town to go to serve in a temple of The Pathfinder. He never made it to that temple.

– – –

Waking swiftly, Ophir found himself in a small room with a bed, a chamber pot, a desk, and a three-legged stool. He thought back to what happened on the cart. The last thing he remembered was seeing someone’s presence behind him with his gift but turning he saw nobody with his eyes. He slowly stood up from the bed and took stock of the desk.

A quill, a filled inkwell, dying sand, and a blank piece of parchment sat on the desk. Disinterested, Ophir looked with the sense that was not his eyes to see who had been to this place recently. He sensed the presence of the person who had been invisible here. He thought maybe they were carrying him, it was hardest for him to sense himself, but they could just as easily have been dragging him. The woman, the sense had become clearer, the woman had talked with someone outside the door then left. The man was still standing outside the door.

He must be keeping watch, Ophir thought to himself, I guess I should let him know I’m awake?

“Hello? Is anyone there?” The last thing the priest of The Kindness had told Ophir was to hide his gift from strangers. They would try to use him to find people, some for good, but those people would be rare in this world.

The man outside the door moved toward it and paused. Ophir heard the key slide into the lock and then the door opened.

“Yes, runt? Do you need something?” The man was dressed in all black and had a pair of daggers at his sides. The man was lean, and Ophir knew there was no way he would be able to outrun him.

“Where am I?”

The man laughed. “Oh, you were the forcefully recruited child. This is the assassin’s guild. Welcome to the temple of The Sneak.”

Ophir’s stomach dropped. This was exactly what the priest had warned him about. People who would use his talents to kill people.

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World of Souls – Ch. 9: The Right Corridor

“Slow down!” Janine yelled down the corridor. “You don’t have to run so fast! Actually, you shouldn’t! I don’t know the layout of this station, we could find a maintenance room anywhere!” She was starting to lose her breath, when Allie suddenly stopped. Thankful for the respite Janine leaned her bulbous salawoman hands on her legs. “Do you see something?” She managed to get the question out between gasps.

Allie turned her microphone off. “Mute your mic. I want to talk.” She idly scratched her beak with her taloned hand.

With a sigh Janine muted her microphone, making sure she was still receiving audio and could quickly turn it back on in case of an emergency. “There, it’s off. What’s up?”

“I’m going to preface this with something that should be obvious.” Allie started walking slowly along the corridor, expecting Janine to follow suit. “Relationships on the ISS Dominiot between crew members is allowed. Obviously, the captain and myself are in a relationship, and it seems you and Elinog are as well.”

Janine blushed slightly. “Yeah, it seemed a little quick, but we just hit it off. But I don’t get it. Where is this going?”

“Did you have real feelings for him before the accident?”

“What? Of course I did.” Janine said, confusion in her voice. “What exactly are you insinuating?”

“Look, I’m not insinuating anything. I’m just looking after someone who’s been like a brother to me. Calm down, please.”

AB-775, Blavet, and Elinog’s voices came over the comm as they started to talk about the split in the corridor. Janine and Allie were approaching one as well.

Allie and Janine stopped walking and turned to face each other. “Ok,” said Janine, “I think I know where this is going. Go ahead and ask.”

With a sigh Allie complied. “Are you just seeing him as a project now that he’s lost his legs and lower arms, or do you still have real feelings for Elinog?”

Janine shook her head. “Look, I know where the question is coming from, but I still don’t like that you’re asking it. No, I don’t just see him as a project. I loved him before, and I love him now. It might be a little hard for him to reciprocate that for a while, which is why I’m so focused on making him better.”

“Good. That’s exactly the answer I was looking for.” Allie turned back toward the corridor and motioned to either side. Which way do you want to go?”

“Heroes go left, but that would lead us towards the guys. Let’s continue forward. Sounds like they’re investigating the rooms.” Janine listened to the comm for a moment. “Seems like they’re all crew quarters.”

“Fine, oh, and you can ask me any question, seeing as I just probed into your relationship.” Allie moved forward and the door in front of her slammed shut, blocking the path. “Uhh…what was that?”

A crackling noise emanated from a nearby speaker followed by the monotone voice of a station AI. “I would not recommend going in that direction, organics. Please take the right corridor.”

Janine glanced up at a camera next to the speaker. “Looks like we don’t have much choice in the matter…right it is.”

With a curt nod Allie turned toward the right corridor and began walking down it. “Maybe you should unmute your comm and let the guys know wha-” The sentence was cut short as a group of bipedal creatures spilled out of a side corridor and advanced on Allie.

Unsure what was happening Janine unmuted the comm as she saw Allie get tackled. Reacting on instinct Janine pulled her skravyn companion from the onslaught of mad beings and pulled her into one of the crew quarters. She severed the wires leading to the door and shut it manually.

Allie screamed as the door shut. “What was that?” Blavet’s voice was full of fear. “Allie! Janine! Can you hear me?!”

Allie’s comm had been unmuted and she started cawing into her comm, followed by Janine’s voice on her own comm. “Something’s here, on station! Be careful! I’m getting Allie to safety!”

“I’m going to track your mental traces. Elinog, Abe, and I will be there as soon as we can.”

“Ok, good.” Janine turned to face Allie. “Allie, speak to me, are you okay?”

Allie tried to respond but was only able to caw. She tried to remember how to form speech with her tongue and beak, but nothing was coming out right. She grabbed for her datapad and quickly typed something into it, sending it to Janine’s datapad.

“I can’t talk,” Janine read from the datapad. “I’m scared and confused, but I don’t seem to be injured in any other way. What were those things?” Janine shook her head. “Allie, those looked like they were people once.” Janine pulled a small welding torch from her small pack. “I’m going to weld up this door so they won’t be able to get in. You should warp yourself in the blanket on the bed. You might just be suffering from shock. I’ll be with you in a moment.”

Allie nodded and pulled the blanked from the quarter’s bed. She shook the dust from it and wrapped it around herself. She cawed quietly to herself, trying to whisper encouragement to herself and quickly decided that wasn’t going to help.

– – –

“Why did you tell her you were going to track their mental traces? Do you have the experience to do that?” Elinog was jogging behind Blavet, his metal legs making dull thuds through his synthetic skin grafts.

“Normally, no, but I can feel the fear radiating from Allie. You heard what Janine read from the datapad. She’s scared out of her mind.”

“You realize we’re still on comms?” Janine’s voice crackled through the speaker.

“Yes, and Allie? I love you. Don’t forget that. You may be scared, but I’m on my way.” Blavet doubled his pace.

AB-775 turned to Elinog, who was struggling to keep up. “Hey, I can track comm signals, if you want to slow down a little.”

“Yeah, I do.” Elinog slowed his pace slightly. “Blavet, you go. We’ll be right behind you.”

“Ok!”

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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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Cerdic the Usual – Ch. 8

Grimm let go of the vampire Patrick and fell back in a defensive position in front of Cerdic. Veron was up and running away from the confrontation. He knew he couldn’t help and motioned for Cerdic to follow.

With a small shake of his head, indicating he wasn’t going to leave, Cerdic watched Jeremy as he started to cast a spell. The geometric shapes forming in the air in front of his waving hands reminded Cerdic of the residual shapes on the tire, and they were aimed directly at Eric’s center of mass. Without hesitation Cerdic yelled, “look out!” and tackled Eric to the ground. The magic went over the two of them and hit a nearby fence post, reducing it to ash.

Eric looked at the fence post and back at Cerdic. “Uh, thanks…how did you…?”

“Later, Eric!” Henry yelled. “We need to deal with Jeremy first!”

Cerdic rolled off Eric and helped him to his feet. “He’s using some sort of aging magic. Be careful.”

“I see that now…my only question is, how did you? But Henry is right. We have a more immediate concern.” Eric moved his left hand and gripped his grimoire with his right. As he made motions Cerdic saw a barrier appear in front of Eric. It covered his body, but his arms were on the outside. He decided that was so Eric could cast through the barrier.

“Grimm. Be careful.” Cerdic turned and joined Veron behind a nearby rock.

Giving a small bark of recognition, Grimm tried to bite Jeremy in the leg, but Jeremy was prepared. He sent a blast of energy at Grimm then turned to ward off a spell from Henry. Grimm was pushed back towards the rock Veron and Cerdic were hiding behind and stood there, menacingly.

Veron nudged Cerdic. “Jeremy is a powerful warlock. Grimm probably wouldn’t be able to get into his inner defense. Let’s just watch.”

“Fine.”

Henry grabbed his grimoire from his side and flipped it open. He turned to a page near the middle and cast a spell on Patrick, the now prone vampire. Tendrils of dark energy erupted from the ground and bound him in place. “We shouldn’t have to worry about you recovering, now.” He turned towards Jeremy. “Two on one, do you think you can take both of us?”

“Maybe. Let’s find out.” Jeremy grabbed his grimoire and opened it to the last page, then he stuck his arm elbow deep into the page. When he pulled his arm back out it was covered in dark black ink, and he held a strange bone in his hand. “The bone of a great old one, broken.” He snapped the bone and Cerdic saw a rush of shapeless energy engulf Jeremy. “Blood of the warlock, freshly spilled.” He took a bone fragment and stabbed it deep into his forearm.

“We need to stop him!” Eric yelled at Henry. “Hit him with everything you have!”

“Okay!” Henry began making exaggerated motions with his hands. “Veron! Run!” He shot a deep red mass of energy at Jeremy. Cerdic noticed, as he turned to run, that the geometry was jagged and unfinished. It seemed to him that the spell was not yet perfected, like Henry was still working on it.

As the mass of energy splashed into Jeremy the energy surrounding him dissipated it into his surroundings. A deep gash appeared in the ground in front of and to the sides of where he was standing. “Impressive. I didn’t know you had spells that would kill, Aelfson.”

With Jeremy’s attention on Henry, Eric attempted to shoot smaller, more precise spells at the energy surrounding their foe. He was casting many small, slightly different iterations trying to see what would get through his shield.

“Now, where was I? Oh, yes. Just after blood of warlock freshly spilled.” Jeremy stuck his arm back into the page of his grimoire and pulled a wand from it. “Wand of wizard, ground to dust.” He cast a spell on the wand and it started to disintegrate, leaving a small pile in the palm of his hand. “Ingested for power unleashed on good.” He swallowed the pile of dust with a slight cough then strode over to his vampire companion. “Sorry, Pat, but I need you to hold still.”

One of the small missile spells Eric had been pounding the energy with broke through. The green flames it was sporting burned up Jeremy’s arm for a moment. “Dragonfire spells! They break through!”

“Shast!” Henry began flipping through his grimoire. “I have one in here somewhere.”

Eric began mumbling something in Latin and moving his arm in very specific, practiced ways. “Draco,” was the last word he mumbled as he shot a green ball at Jeremy.

Laughing hysterically Jeremy reached up and grabbed the ball of dragonfire. “Oh, yes. It breaks through, but I knew it would. I have wards against dragonfire all over my body, Eric!” He gripped the bone in his other hand. “With the bone of Bugg-Shash I sacrifice this vampire and call you forth again!” He began moving the bone down towards Patrick’s prone form when an arrow flew through the air and shot the bone from his hand. It landed in the dirt a few feet away.

In surprise and anger Jeremy looked up to see Cerdic holding a small crossbow tied to his wrist.

“Where was that?” Veron looked at Cerdic’s arm. “You definitely didn’t have that before.

“Parting gift from Tibdast. Said I would know when to use it.” Cerdic loaded another bolt into the crossbow. “Apparently that energy doesn’t protect you from mundane weapons.”

“I was with you the whole time. When did he give you that?”

Cerdic shrugged. “Remember when we went out to the car? You went outside first, and he came back and gave it to me.”

“Mundane weapons, eh?” Henry smiled broadly and pulled three throwing knives from his jacket. “Perfect.” He tossed the three knives at once and they buried into Jeremy’s right chest, shredding his lung.

“Stupid treefting Usual!” Jeremy shouted as he started coughing up blood. He took a few steps away from Patrick then fell backwards.

Eric nodded at Cerdic. “Good job. You have a good head on your shoulders.” He walked over to Patrick. “Well, let’s see what the council wants to do with you and your friend, shall we?”

Patrick said something intelligible.

Henry cautiously approached Jeremy, who was still coughing up blood. “Is the energy gone?”

With a glance Cerdic saw the energy was dissipating into the ground. “It will be soon. Give it a moment.”

“I wasn’t asking you, but you seem to know what you’re saying.” Henry waited a few seconds then approached the warlock. “We’ll get that lung fixed up at the council hall. Let’s go.” He carefully picked Jeremy up and teleported immediately.

Eric shook his head. “I’ll be going too. I’ll send a car to pick you two up…” He looked at Veron’s car for the first time since the spells started slinging around. “Uh…and I’ll see about replacing that.” The back-passenger door fell off the car. It was the last door still on it, and the rest of the car was covered in dents and burns.

“Great. I guess I better get my stuff out of it.”

– – –

Veron was able to talk the driver into giving him the car and teleporting back to where he had come from and was currently sitting behind the wheel of a sleek black car with tinted windows. “This is a nice car. I’m pretty sure it’s also warded up.”

“Yeah, it seems to be.” Cerdic looked around the car and saw a lot of overlapping triangles and squares.

“What do you mean?”

Cerdic shrugged. “I started seeing things. I think it has something to do with Grimm.”

With a nod of understanding Veron took a right turn on the road. “Yeah, bonding with a supernatural creature can do things, for sure. Never heard of a Usual having the Eyes of the Magus, though.” He paused. “You do have a bond with a church grim, though. That’s extremely unusual for anyone, especially a Usual.”

“It’s starting to sound like I may not be a Usual.” Cerdic said, jokingly.

“You jest, but that may just be true. I think we need to take a short detour.”

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The Fractured Mountains: Darkness Ascending Ch. 23

[Just a note, I kept forgetting to update the titles of The Fractured Mountains to the title of the first book of what I hope will end up a series, Darkness Ascending. I know that the story will not be wrapped up by the end of the first book. I also want to let you know that the adventures of Kreet and crew will eventually be laid out in the book Oceans Ablaze, which will likely turn into multiple books as well.]

Gaemacirch was scouting ahead of the group. Something that Burner didn’t normally ask them to do, but she was starting to get paranoid that something would attack out of the blue. She was sure it was just her being high-strung with the sidetracks to continuing north, but she still decided to heed the feeling. Julian was bringing up the rear, keeping an eye out for things coming from behind when he noticed that it was starting to get dark.

“Is it really that late already?” Julian studied the sky for a moment. “I didn’t think we left town this late.”

Dreekt shrugged. “The month is ending soon, so winter solstice is almost here. I assumed the days were just getting shorter from that.”

“I suppose so.” Julian looked back at the landscape behind them. “Just seems the days are getting shorter faster than they normally do.”

As the sun set on the party Burner called Gaemacirch back to look for a good campsite. Not long afterward Julian had to pull out his hooded lantern. “Ok, it’s definitely not supposed to be this dark already.” He pointed into the sky. “That’s the sun. What’s going on here?”

Burner followed Julian’s arm to look at the sun. “By the fount! What’s going on?”

No sooner did the words escape Burner’s mouth than an answer echoed across the plains. “Darkness is ascending.” A tall, slim human with short black hair and a short-cropped beard wearing scholarly robes and holding a strange, glowing red stone on a stick like it was a torch approached from the darkness.

“Who are you?” Burner looked at the human strangely, and why is a scholar out here?

Dreekt chuckled. “He’s a historian, not a scholar.” He waved at the human. “Well, hello there, Stigr.”

“The Pathfinder will do. You haven’t earned the right to call me by my first name yet.” Stigr nodded at Dreekt. “Though you will eventually, Wings.”

“Wings?”

“Oops…can’t say anymore. Spoilers.” Stigr blushed slightly. “We tend to meet out of order.”

Gaemacirch walked into the circle of light. “Hey, so it’s getting hard for me to see, and I grew up in Dark Under. Somethings…oh, hello traveler.” He bowed slightly. “I’m Gaemacirch, but people call me Gaem.”

“Call me The Pathfinder.” Stigr nodded even more slightly to Gaemacirch. “I believe you may be coming to the conclusion I came to warn you about.”

“Darkness is ascending from the depths, yes?” Gaemacirch motioned at the darkness around them. “It’s getting thick like the depths of Dark Under. The parts we were told to never wander, even in groups.”

Stigr nodded. “Yes, exactly. I also came to tell you that you must rescue Slapper. He is integral to the future.” He then turned to Enress. “Here, Enress.” He handed her his strange torch. “Keep the stone safe. You’ll know what to do with it when you get there.” With a big smile Stigr disappeared.

“Well, that was foreboding.” Enress looked at the stone torch. “I have no idea what this is, but he seemed to think I would.”

Dreekt pulled out the black stone in the dagger and held it up to the red stone. The dagger leaped from his hand and the stones pressed together. The rattling they made was the same sound two smooth magnetite stones make when they pull together, only louder. The darkness around the adventuring company thinned out as if clean water was poured into a pool of muddy water, then the darkness slowly started flowing back in.

“That wasn’t expected.” Dreekt pulled the dagger from the stone torch. “I expect that there’s some way to make that more powerful. Cleanse the whole realm.”

– – –

When the company finally came to a halt for their rest the chill of the night forced them to scrounge around the plains for sticks to light a fire. Enress offered to keep watch all night again, but Burner insisted on having regular watch rotations on top of that. They had no way of knowing what else was ascending with the darkness.

The first few watches went without a hitch, but when Burner was talking the third watch there was an unmissable rattle that was coming closer and closer to the campsite.

“What is that?” Burner asked, walking toward Enress. “You do hear it too, don’t you?”

“Yes, I do.” Enress held the torch higher into the air, increasing the radius of light. A glint of white was just visible on the edge of the lit area. “Could be that.” She pointed at the glint. “I don’t know what it is, though.”

From the darkness six shambling skeletons approached with bits of shadow seeming to billow off of them like cloaks in an invisible wind.

“Everyone, wake up!” Burner turned to shake Gaemacirch awake. “Shadow skeletons are attacking! Six of them.”

Running forward to engage with the creatures Enress threw a punch at the gut of one skeleton, missing because it had not gut. “Shast.”

In response to the swing the shadow skeletons moved in and started to siphon Enress’ life energy away from her. The shadowy bits seemed to grow larger as she felt her life essence being drained.

Swinging again, with more carefully aimed punches, Enress’ spiked brass knuckles shattered the skull of one of the shadow skeletons.

Burner helped Gaemacirch to his feet then slung an arrow at the nearest shadow skeleton’s neck, breaking its head off and sending it to careen into another one.

Getting to his feet Gaemacirch approached and tossed a kunai at one of the shadow skeletons. The kunai passed through a pair of ribs and landed on the ground behind it.

The shadow skeletons were not deterred in their attempts to drain Enress’ life energy and drew even more life from the automaton, healing in the process.

Dreekt stood and tossed a spell at the shadow skeletons, causing a third to fall to the ground in pieces.

As the shadow skeleton fell, Julian’s axe flew through the air and nicked one of the shadow skeletons.

Seeing the shadow skeletons starting to fall Enress punched at the one closest to her. Its arms were outstretched to drain her life essence, but they did not keep the blows from hitting it and turning it to splinters.

With his katana Gaemacirch brought one to the brink and burned it badly. He assumed it was able to stand because it was being bolstered by the life energy being drained from Enress.

Burner shot an arrow at the neck of the shadow skeleton Gaemacirch had almost taken out and severed its head from its body as well.

The last shadow skeleton siphoned life from Enress and used it to bring back its ally whose head had just been severed. The head reattached to the spine and the shadow skeleton stood back up.

A spell passed by one of the shadow skeletons as Dreekt made an opening for Julian to move forward to attack in melee.

Julian approached and brought the flat of his axe’s blade up to smack the shadow skeleton’s head back off. He wasn’t sure if it would work, but it did.

With a final flurry of hits Enress reduced the remaining shadow skeleton to splinters. She then began gathering the bones.

“What are you doing?” Burner asked, not sure what to make of the arrival of the creatures.

Enress didn’t look up from her task. “I’m gathering the remains up to burn them. You know what these things are, is that a good idea?”

“Yes, if there are anymore shadow skeletons, they would be able to bring these ones back if we don’t dispose of them.” Burner sat down heavily. “I don’t know why creatures from Darkfall are doing in Nevre, but it must have something to do with this rising darkness…” She stopped talking, falling deep into thought.

Gaemacirch helped Enress collect the bones to throw on the fire. “The veil must be weakened between here and Darkfall if they’re appearing, right?”

Burner nodded. “Let’s hurry and get Slapper. It’s not going to get any brighter out than this, and then we need to get to Magnus. I’m sure this has something to do with what’s drawing me northward.”

“Yes, let’s hurry. I’m getting a bad feeling.” Julian started packing up his area of the camp. “I wish Adalet was here. She would know what’s going on. She always seemed to, anyway.”

Enress patted Julian on the shoulder. “Hey, let’s get to Slapper. We’ll piece this together as we go.”

“You’re right. Let’s get moving.”

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Help Us Jor-Val Ondelios, You’re Our Only Hope! – Pt. 5

Jor-val Ondelios sat at the piloting console of the Tempest. His eyes were closed as he meditated in the Force. Visions of the temple of Balance on Vergaiun passed before his mind’s eye. Then he found himself in hyperspace. He looked at the astrogation computer next to him and saw coordinates for wild space. The coordinates burned into his mind.

With a gasp Jor-val sat bolt upright at the console. “Hey, Tate!”

T8-T3 rolled up from behind the cockpit. He whistled in a questioning manner.

“I have some coordinates I want you to run through your databanks.” He typed the coordinates into the navcomp and waited for T8-T3’s response.

– – –

On the moon Ao and Dor Thay found nothing but a barren, porous landscape of volcanic rock.

“Hey, Ao, what are the chances a moon this size has a molten core?” Dor Thay asked, motioning at the barren landscape.

Ao grabbed a small rock and put it into a pouch on his vac suit. “Unlikely. My guess is it was broken off an existing planet. Possibly a meteor impact with a lava planet.

With a nod Dor Thay did a last look around. He was considering a suggestion to return to the ship when he saw a cave. “Should we do some spelunking, or just head back to the ship?” He motioned at the cave entrance.

“Let’s at least take a quick look. It’ll look better in the report.” Ao activated the comm to the ship. “Hey, Jor-val. We’re going underground for a second. We may lose comms.”

“Ok. I’m checking into some coordinates…by the way, Dor Thay, where were we headed?” Jor-val’s voice was already lined with static.

Dor Thay smiled slightly. “Vergaiun. I have rumors that the Balance know something about the vergence.”

“I have coordinates, but let’s continue to Vergaiun to get some corroboration.” Jor-val sighed slightly. “The Force can be vague sometimes. I have coordinates but not a safe route through wild space.”

Ao stopped in his tracks. “A vergence in wild space? Well, this trip just got a lot more interesting. Anyway, going into this cave. We’ll let you know what we find, if anything.”

“Don’t be too long, I’ll send Tate after you if you’re gone for more than two hours.”

“Sounds good. Thay out.”

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The Fractured Mountains – Ch. 22

Burner and Dreekt sat next to Hereweald’s bed while Gaemacirch paced back and forth.

“Isn’t there some magic you can use to speed his recovery?” Gaemacirch asked.

Standing from the chair Burner approached Hereweald. “Have your burns healed?”

“Mostly.” Hereweald tried to move his arm to take off some of the bandages but was unable to take them off. “I think I lost some muscle. My strength isn’t the same.”

“The muscle will come back with exercise. I can, however, speed the healing in your limbs some more.” Burner reached for a magic that she didn’t use very often, and it pushed back against her. “I’m sorry, I can’t access it now. I don’t do this type of healing magic very often.”

Dreekt stood from the bed. “Let me try. We just want to speed his body’s recovery, right?” Burner nodded at him. “I’ll give it a shot.” Articulating his taloned fingers Dreekt focused his magic over Hereweald’s body. He slowly spread his arms wide spreading the magic across Hereweald’s body. The magic spread and the burns began to heal slowly, but noticeably.

“At that rate, you should be able to start rehabilitation tomorrow. Just don’t overdo anything, okay?” Burner watched the burns covering over with scars. “You’ll also get to tell people how you got those scars.”

“What, like, ‘you know how I got these scars?’”

“Exactly.”

– – –

Enress and Julian found themselves at the Blue Flagon. Samuel was behind the small bar polishing a mug with his lower set of arms. He was counting some coins on the counter and a small group was drinking around one of the tables.

“Oh, hello Julian. How may I help you?” Samuel slid a few of the coins into a money box and the other amount into his other upper hand. He set the mug on the counter and started walking towards the group in the corner. “I just need to give this group their change back.” The cohzen jingled as he walked to the table. “Here you go. You’re change.”

“Thanks Sam.”

Julian recognized the man’s voice as one of the surviving guards from the strange salamander attack. He pulled some cohzen out of his coin purse and handed it to Samuel. “The next round is on me, Sam.”

“I’m sure they’ll appreciate it. Now, what did you say you wanted?” He counted the cohzen and handed a coin back to Julian.

“We were just going to wait for Burner, Dreekt, and Gaem here.” Enress answered. “I believe they were off to get the quarterstaff of fatigue or something like that.”

“So, you did take care of the Dark Under entrance.” A look of relief passed over Samuel’s amphibian face. “That’s good. I believe they would have gone to visit Hereweald after that.”

“They told us they would be here. We are a bit early, though.” Julian sat on a stool by the bar. “Know anything about vines that move of their own accord?”

“Yes, they come from Dark Under, I think, and they can be cut down with magical blades. I think regular blades won’t be able to take them down, or they have more resistance. Something like that.” Samuel picked up another mug and started to polish it. “If you don’t have any you can find some in the shop down the street, or if you have a magic weapon and it’s not bladed, I think the local smith might be able to help with that. He’s actually a priest of The Smith.” He set down the mug and picked up a plate. “He reforges them or something. It has to be a metal weapon, though. He can’t remake wooden weapons.”

Julian nodded. “Thanks for the information. I think I’ll have something to drink. Do you have any red dragon crush?”

“Why, certainly.”

– – –

Dreekt opened the door to the Blue Flagon and saw Julian at the bar drinking a deep red wine and talking with Enress and Samuel. “Hi, Sam!” He walked over. “Burner and Gaem are getting some supplies at the shop nearby. Did you guys need anything?”

“Yes.” Enress stood up and started for the door. “I’ll meet up with them there…where is it?” She paused in the threshold.

“Go left out the door then take a right. Can’t miss the sign.” Dreekt waved as she left. “Well, Julian, how’s the wine?”

“It’s pissy.”

“What?”

Samuel laughed lightly. “It’s a joke. The sap that’s used for the recipe is known as red dragon piss.”

“Oh,” Dreekt shrugged, “that’s an interesting name. Anyway, is there anything you wanted, Julian?”

“Enress will get it. We ran into a snag going to help Slapper. There were vines moving around.” Julian shrugged and took another sip of the wine. “She’s pretty sure that Slapper’s in there, so we came back to get you guys to help. After that maybe we can be on our way to Rentaz.”

“One can hope.” Dreekt glanced around the tavern inn. “Where’s Syb, anyway?”

Julian chuckled and pulled his cloak open. Syb poked his head out and then ducked back in. “Seems he feels unwelcome in a bar.”

“As long as he doesn’t bomb anyone’s food or drink, he’ll be fine.” Samuel smiled at Syb. “You can come on out, little birdy.”

Syb hopped onto the bar and chirped at Samuel, annoyedly.

– – –

At Yellow Mercantile and Weapons, Burner and Gaemacirch were looking through some food supplies when Enress entered the shop. She told them about the strange vines and what Samuel had said about needing magical blades and they took a moment to look around the shop.

“Excuse me, shopkeep, but do you have any magically enhanced blades?” Burner approached the gnome standing behind the counter.

The gnome smiled. “You won’t find them out there with the cheap weapons, but I may have some in the back.” He looked over at Gaemacirch and the large katana on his back. “Or I could enchant something you already have.” He pointed at the weapon. “That looks like it could do some large damage with a little bit of magic enhancement.”

Gaemacirch walked over to join Burner. “Did you say something about my blade?”

“Why yes, if you bought a weapon from me, I’d give you half price on enchanting the one you already have.”

“Enress,” Burner called back, “do you see a weapon that would suit you?”

“Yes.” Enress had stopped to stare at a pair of nasty looking knuckle dusters with large spikes on them. “Would that be something my cut would cover?”

“I believe so. How much for the brass knuckles?” Burner started talking pricing with the gnome and paid him the cohzen they settled on for the weapon, the enchantment, and the food.

“Now then, my zarx friend, what do you want as an enchantment on this blade?” The gnome rubbed his small, thick hands together. “You can make it even more vicious, or you can make it deal more damage, or you can add an elemental damage to it. Mostly whatever you want!”

“Fire damage would be interesting. Especially with what we’re going to fight next.” Gaemacirch nodded to Enress. “Do you agree?”

“Most certainly.”

The gnome smiled widely. “I’ll be back in a bit, then. Feel free to continue browsing while I’m gone.”

After a few minutes the gnome returned. “Okay, the enchantment was successful. This will deal quite a bit of fire damage when you strike with it. The blade was finely made, and the enchantment was easily woven.”

“How much for the rapier with the electric damage?” Burner was looking at a list of available enchanted weapons on the wall.

“Well, that’s not as powerful as what I just did with your friend’s blade, but if you trade in your old rapier it won’t be too much cohzen.”

– – –

Resupplied and rearmed Burner, Dreekt, Enress, Gaemacirch, and Julian began to follow Syb back to the writhing vines in a small stand of trees in the northern plains.

“As long as we head north as soon as we finish with this. I don’t want to go back to town again.” Burner turned her head to look in the direction of Frozen Pinnacle. “I am still being drawn to Magnus. I don’t believe he is the one I’m looking for exactly, but he will lead me there.”

Enress nodded. “I will continue with you after we find Slapper, if that’s fine with you.”

“If you wish to continue with us there’s a contract I need you to sign.”

“That wouldn’t be a problem.” Enress smiled at Julian’s back. “Not a problem at all.”

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