Archive for the ‘Writings’ Category

American Mages Pt. 1

February 5, 2018

As Abigail ran into the abandoned building, she thought she might have gotten away from the Strange Men. They had been hot on her heels and she knew that if they caught her, she would definitely be shipped off to the High Tower. That was where they put mages they disagreed with and without anything resembling a human trial. Sometimes the tower trip was accompanied by a very inhuman execution. It was either that or timeless imprisonment. Abby was not sure which one was worse. She did not intend to find out. She quickly climbed into an old cabinet and pulled her legs in before she closed the door. There was no way this was going to work.

The Strange Men, two of them, entered the building. Abby could hear the soft rhythm of their breathing devices. She focused on her own breathing, trying to keep it as quiet as possible. It was very difficult as panic started to rise in her chest. She did not have a lot of tricks left with her to get out of this situation and she did not want to waste them in case there were more obstacles. The cabinet was suddenly yanked open. She had totally been in her own head, forgetting to keep track of the Strange Men’s footsteps. She cursed herself as one of the gray-skinned goons grabbed her by the wrist and pulled her out. She tripped on unsteady legs and fell face first on the ground.

When she pushed herself up she could feel a trickle of blood flowing from her forehead and she sighed. She would have to use magick, there was no way around it now. If she made a break for it, the two would use one of their gadgets to make her stop moving, perhaps permanently. She quickly took inventory of what she had in her head and found something fun. It was not perfect but it would work. She deftly pulled a card from her jacket and slapped it against her forehead, soaking it with her own blood. She could feel the magick start to spark and she grinned.

“From dreams to thought and from thought to reality!” She called out and the Strange Men were confused. She threw the card down onto the ground. “Off with their heads!”

The card started to smoke but it was red smoke and out of the smoke rose a lithe, crowned woman wearing a wicked dress with hearts all over it. The woman smiled and an axe formed from the smoke and fell into the Queen of Heart’s hands. She swung at the first startled Strange Man and his head went flying. The other one was barely able to put up a fight before his head bounced on the floor as well. Their brown blood sprayed all over the walls and the floor and the Queen seemed to revel as she too was sprayed with it. Then, just like that, the Queen was gone again.

“Snicker-Snack,” Abby said softly as the card on the floor finished burning away.

It had only been ten years since magick had revealed itself in earnest to the human population of Earth. In doing so, the magick opened people’s eyes to the magical creatures that had existed in the world all along. Even then, it was only a small percentage of the human population who knew about magick. An even smaller percentage was actually able to perform spells. Only bargains with the fae unlocked the first spells, humans had to stumble around after that before eventually learning to create their own. Pockets of so-called mages existed around the world and traded secrets.

The Strange Men had first appeared almost a year earlier and stories were told of them hauling mages away kicking and screaming to a tower that was invisible to normal humans. Mages could see it, though, and it was terrifying both because of its size and the vibrations it gave off. Nobody knew exactly what the Strange Men wanted. Most people figured that they generally disapproved of humans gaining magick and were out to put a stop to it. The Strange Men were theorized to be a twisted offshoot of the fae even though the fae denied it up and down. Abby thought they were their own thing, but either none of her contacts knew or none of them were telling her the truth. It was probably both.

Abby got back on to her feet and dusted herself off. She reached into her jacket and pulled out a little antiseptic cream and rubbed it into the cut on her forehead and winced at the sting. The bleeding stopped and she hoped it would not scar. Not that she was entering any more pageants, she had kind of lost interest when she learned she could do real magick. She used the flow of magick to make things from books she had read come to life and serve her. In mage circles, this made her what was called a ‘summoner’. She called herself a ‘story summoner’ because it had a special ring to it. She had no idea if any other summoners were using her motif. She had not met any but it was a big world.

Thankfully, no more Strange Men accosted her for the rest of her walk. Jamin was standing just inside of the door of the safehouse when Abby got in. She did not see him while she was reapplying the wards which she did by miming tying a blue ribbon across the door. As she turned to move further down the stairs, she saw him and nearly jumped three feet.

“Jam!” She yelled. “You scared me! You can’t just stand there silently.”

“Sorry,” he said. “I was just watching out for you.” Jamin was a ‘transmuter’ and he did a lot of changing the form and composition of objects by touch. He was carrying a large, solid rod of metal on his back but Abby knew that it could change into any weapon. She also knew that he used his abilities to sense movement in the same way that a spider can feel the slightest movement in its web.

“Thank you,” Abby said. “I can take care of myself.”

“You sure can,” he agreed. “However, there is a new mark on your forehead.”

“Well, there were two Strange Men on the way here but the Queen took care of it,” Abby said with a shrug.

“Strange Men, huh?” He asked. “That’s the first sighting in a while now. I’m glad you got away but the Queen is pretty messy and kind of scary.”

“Yeah,” Abby agreed. “She’s not ideal but she is effective. Now, who summoned the summoner?”

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When It All Ended Pt. 6

February 3, 2018

The dragon had left Cora alone in her bedroom. The door was not locked and she had not posted any of her lizardmen for guards. She had simply threatened Cora with death if she wandered too far. Otherwise, she could move around the castle to feed and entertain herself as long as she did not make a move against Khandara. She knew she needed help but so far, she was still alone. The remaining Guard members of the castle had been chased off or killed. It was only a matter of time until the dragon got bored and consumed her as it had promised.

“Princess Cora?” A voice echoed in Cora’s head. “This is Cassandra Oakspring of Moonglow’s Raiders. I don’t know if you remember me but we’re here to help.”

“Cassandra?” Cora asked in her head. “Didn’t I meet you at New Moon? I appreciate the help but there is a small army between you and me.” Cora summoned an image from her memory of Cassandra but she could only envision a gawky teen girl from way back when.

“We’re working on that,” Cassandra responded. “We will be at the castle soon and I promise you we will take out that dragon or die trying.”

“I like the former option better,” Cora said. “but this dragon is very deadly. She has me prisoner alone in here. Is there anything I can do?”

“We want you safely out of the way when it begins,” Cassandra said. “The roof! Can you lure the dragon up there when the time is right?”

“I can try,” Cora thought. “She certainly likes playing with me and the longer she’s interested, the more likely she won’t eat me.”

“Think on it,” Cassandra thought. “Keep hope alive. We’re on the case.”

“Be careful,” Cora thought. “I honestly can’t wait to see you again. If you pull this off, my parents will give you anything you want.”

“Let’s focus on the fight first,” Cassandra thought. “Try to sleep tonight and conserve your energy. This is the last message I can send tonight.”

“Thank you and good night,” Cora thought. “I’ll see you tomorrow.” And then the connection was dead and Cora was alone again. But she was not completely alone. Somewhere out there was the gawky teen who had given her a tour of New Moon Wizardry School along with the renown adventurers group Moonglow’s Raiders. The thought was both comforting and exciting but now Cora had a mission. With that new purpose came a new strength that she had not known she had left inside of her. She was going to get that dragon to the roof.

* * *

Cassandra took a few breaths after using the Sending Pendant. It had limited uses per day and it took a bit of her energy for a little bit whenever she used it. She lay back on the soft bed in her little corner of Percival’s mansion. She had not thought that Princess Cora would remember her. She had imagined that the letters that Cassandra had sent were answered by some servant or something to spare Cassandra’s feelings. Instead, the connection was real and it kind of blew Cassandra’s mind. She was even more determined to save the Princess than before. It was not just her duty but her desire as well.

Now, Cassandra turned her attention to the other task that had been given to her. She sat up and rummaged through her pack and pulled out a cube. She had carefully constructed the cube alongside one of her old teachers at New Moon for a very specific purpose. The party had been trying to figure out what to do with it for a few months. It was not the object itself that was so tricky, it was who was inside of it. Months ago, the party had encountered a wandering Djinn that some students had accidentally released from the Elemental Plane of Air. The party had defeated the Djinn and trapped it in Cassandra’s trap, earning Cassandra a special accolade from her old academy. Now, Cassandra finally had an idea.

She held the trap up near her mouth. “Can you hear me in there?”

There was a long pause and then a whispery voice answered back. “I can hear you, Cassandra,” Monela answered back.

“You know my name?” Cassandra asked with some surprise. When the event had gone down, the Djinn had been uninterested in talking much. It had been more interested in playing tricks and pranks and property destruction. It sounded like it had calmed down some.

“I can listen all the time from inside this box,” Monela replied. “I have learned much about you and your compatriots.”

“Oh?” Cassandra asked. “I’m curious about what you think, then.”

“You are powerful yet kind,” Monela replied. “You bested me and tricked me into this trap. I have much respect for you.”

“Kind words,” Cassandra said. “Pretty words, too. What would you say to a deal which included your release?”

“Well,” the Djinn said. “I would not be adverse to hearing more of this deal. I mean, I am your captive audience so go ahead and speak.” Monela’s voice betrayed her and Cassandra could hear a tinge of excitement there and definite interest. She knew that Monela must be going crazy in the box and Cassandra actually felt sorry for her. She knew that Monela was a spirit of wind and freedom and was not meant to be in one place for long. Still, she also knew that Monela could be a mischievous creature and care was needed.

“We are having a little bit of trouble with some lizardmen, some wyverns, and a dragon,” Cassandra said.

“Nasty sorts,” Monela said. “They never want to have fun. Not my kind of fun. It’s no fun if people actually die.”

“Exactly,” Cassandra said. “I’m so glad we’re on the same page. My friends and I are going after the dragon. Can I ask you to help take care of the rest?”

“Ask?” Monela nearly shouted. “Not order? That is interesting and I find your phrasing pleasing. Speak your deal and I will consider it.”

“The simple deal is as follows,” Cassandra said. “I release you and in return, you fight alongside the Guard but especially target the wyverns. Once the battle is done, you will leave this place.”

“Leave this place?” Monela asked and it was clear she was surprised. “Gladly. If you survive the dragon, you could try and trap me again. I do not wish to be in here again.”

“Understandable,” Cassandra said. “Of course, I make no promises that we or some other group won’t try to catch you again if you make trouble.”

“That possibility makes the thrill of making trouble all the sweeter,” Monela said and laughed.

“Well, then,” Cassandra said. “We have a deal. I will release you inside the city gates tomorrow.”

“Rest well, Cassandra,” Monela said. “I do not wish to hear of your death.”

Elorian Education Services

January 29, 2018

<A robed man enters frame and smooths his robes before realizing that the camera is already running>

Greenwood: Hello, my name is Hynan Greenwood and I am the minister for education here in the land of Eloria. I wanted to take a few moments of your time to highlight some of the specialty schools here in Eloria. Some children and young adults have aptitudes beyond basic schooling and trade apprenticeships. These children may have aspirations for highly specialized fields such as enchanting or becoming members of the Guard. Others may wish to become Adventurers, our land’s unofficial second line of defense. Whatever the reasons, Eloria has set up educational opportunities to help present a more educated workforce so we can all contribute to society in our own way. Let’s meet some of the teachers you might have.

<The shot cuts to a hunched-over tiefling woman in a stereotypical witch’s hat who looks like she has been dusted with soot. She speaks awkwardly as if she is not comfortable with attention>

Woodrow: Hello. My name is Cinna Woodrow and I am the Director of New Moon School of Wizardry. We are situated in Braddish in the District of Coppin, the north side of town. Oh! You’ve just caught me trying to create a new enchantment. <She dusts off her spectacles> I won’t go into detail but it should be a nasty exploding trap to ward off thieves. So far I have the exploding part down but I have yet to lock in the not exploding part. That is what you can expect here at New Moon. We will teach you the beginner and intermediate levels of magic and then we will encourage you to find your own path in high level magic. When you leave New Moon, you will be ready for whatever magical path that lies ahead of you. Our staff includes alumni includes Arcanist Gar Braddon and famous adventurer Cassandra Oakspring.

<The shot cuts to a scruffy-looking man with red hair in plate armor and leaning slightly on a longsword. He smiles broadly at the camera>

Harefoot: Hello! <He raises the sword straight up in the air in salute as he shouts> My name is Donovan Harefoot and I am an instructor at True Cross Swordfighting School where swords cross daily. We are situated outside of Hurlock in the District of Stull at the Battle Arts Academy. Here at True Cross we are dedicated to a lot of things but first and foremost is how to fight. You will leave True Cross knowing how to succeed in any combat situation and you will have mastered at least one weapon. Despite our name, we also have teachers on hand who can teach you all sorts of martial weaponry techniques. We also specialize in a variety of styles and I guarantee we can find one that fits your body and personality. Personally, I came here as a weakling and I left here as a fierce warrior in the last Great War. After some successful time in the Guard, I came back here to whip you young people into shape so we can keep this great land safe.

<The shot cuts to a blonde woman with a few sticks and leaves tangled in her hair but a beaming smile on her face>

Trickfoot: Hi! My name is Harria Trickfoot and you’re lucky enough to get this message about Sunny Valley Ranger School. I became the director of this school after my father passed away a few years ago. Sunny Valley doesn’t exactly have a fixed location. I’m sure you’ve heard what Rangers are like. Wherever we are currently camping is where the school is. This school is incredibly hands-on as we will teach you to excel in hunting and tracking. This is not like normal hunting. We will teach you how not to lose your quarry whether it is a stag, an owlbear, or even a nasty orc. When we set out after a target, we do not stop until we find it and neutralize the threat. We are at home in any kind of terrain and tracking any kind of creature or person. In fact, I always say that a ranger’s home is where they lay there head at night. When you come to Sunny Valley you will be assigned to a squad and we will teach you how to track and fight any target that you need to. Guaranteed.

<The shot cuts to a serious-looking man with a nose that looks like it was previously broken and did not quite set right. He talks with a quiet intensity>

Cole: My name is Harkan Arnell and I am an instructor here at the North Star Dojo. We are situated at the Battle Arts Academy in near Hurlock in Stull. We are solely dedicated to teaching students to center themselves, unlock the chi within, and use that ability to learn how to fight with honor and discipline. Do not apply to this dojo if you are just looking to go around beating people up. That is not what we do. Our students go on to happy, productive lives who only use combat as a last resort. We work to unlock an inner peace inside of our students so that they can use the skills we teach them responsibly. That means that if you come to this dojo, you will take it seriously or you will be gone. Probably off to a school that might tolerate that sort of behavior. While our work is serious, we are not emotionless creatures and we do know how to smile. Many of our students have gone on to successful careers in the Guard and some have even started their own small dojos across Eloria. Please consider North Star if you are serious about becoming a fist against injustice.

<The shot cuts back to Minister Greenwood>

Greenwood: Well, there you have only a few of our land’s brilliant instructors. Eloria supports any teacher of any level who seeks to educate and train each upcoming generation. As usual, any family that seeks beginner level educations will be accommodated at no charge. Trade Apprenticeships will still get young people to their chosen professions such as blacksmithing, ranching, or shopkeeping. These more specialized schools are necessary because what they do is either complicated, potentially dangerous, or both and we need to place those students in a safe, stable environment in order to learn. Most of these schools require applications so send them off as soon as you can. While some schools can be expensive, scholarships are offered every year so don’t be discouraged. Get out there and learn something today. Good luck!

When It All Ended Pt. 5

January 20, 2018

“Who are you?” Princess Cora asked, her voice still shaky. She was now sitting on the floor in a sort of daze as the dragon sat on her father’s throne. The dragon had taken the sword that the Princess had been wielding and had stabbed it into the seat of the queen’s throne. It definitely sent the message that the dragon was now in charge.

“You mean besides being a dragon? My name is Khandara,” The dragon said. “It’s so nice of you to ask. Most people either attack or run away screaming. Just a note: If you do either of those things then I will kill you.”

Cora swallowed hard and nodded. “I guess I’ll just sit here then.”

“Good girl,” Khandara said with a smirk. “And they say that royals are dumb.”

“But why are you here?” Cora asked.

“I heard that the King and Queen were away at war,” Khandara said. “They’ll probably die there what with all the demons and undead on the march. I thought I would upgrade from my old home. A palace is definitely an upgrade.”

“My mother and father will return with an army,” Cora said. “What will you do then?”

Khandara smiled and her form shifted into a mirror image of the Princess’ form except with green hair and green eyes. “I’ll welcome them home with open arms just after I pick bits of your guts out of my teeth. When their guard is down, I’ll eat them too. By then, this place will be quite inhospitable to any army. So many magical traps. Besides that, I brought my own fighting force.”

Cora just looked down and wished she was powerful enough to do something. Talk of being eaten by a dragon made her feel powerless and desperate and she was now spending most of her brain power on finding a way to protect herself from the dragon. Once she was protected, she could formulate a plan on what to do next. There had to be something. Ther Royal Family never gave up. They just figured out another way around a problem after defeat.

* * *

Morgan was in the lead as they reached the gates of the Capital at a fast trot on their horses. There seemed to be a small makeshift village at the gates and Morgan lept off of her horse and tied it to a post. A member of the Guard ran up to her.

“Miss,” the guard said, “The city is dangerous. There is a dragon present. I’m afraid whatever business you have in the city will be delayed. I would fall back to a safer position as well.”

Morgan held up a makeshift badge that all of her crew carried. It was modeled after her old Ranger badge as a sign of how she ran her group of adventurers. “My name is Morgan Moonglow and this is my crew, Moonglow’s Raiders. I’m afraid that the dragon is our business in the city. With everybody at war, this falls to us.”

The guard’s mouth hung open for a few moments. “Are you sure?”

“We’ve made up our minds,” Morgan said. “We have to at least try.”

“I’ve heard of your adventures and your victories,” the guard said. “If anyone can accomplish this right now, it is you.”

“Thank you,” Morgan said. She motioned for the Raiders to gather closer. “Now, please tell us what the situation is inside the walls.”

The guard took a deep breath. “The reports say that the dragon has disappeared from view. We believe that the only possibility is that it has somehow entered the castle. Outside of the castle, there are still lizard men and wyverns patrolling. If you are to reach the dragon, you’ll have to get past them somehow.”

“Will your forces be able to assist when we attack the dragon?” William asked.

“We can probably commit some forces,” the guard said. “I’ll have to send the message up the chain of command. Some of us have to remain at the perimeter to keep this contained as best we can.”

“Is the Royal Family inside the castle as well?” Cassandra asked.

“Only Princess Cora was in residence as of yesterday,” the guard answered. “We don’t know what her status is. We hold out hope that she’s alive.”

Cassandra turned to Morgan. “I know her, Morgan. She might be able to help her if she’s alright. We have to save her.”

“I know,” Morgan said. “I want to do that too but we can’t just charge in there.” She turned to the guard. “Thank you, please let whoever is in charge know that we’re here to help.” The guard nodded and walked off with purpose, leaving their compatriots to guard the gate. Moonglow’s Raiders walked off a ways to talk in private.

“So, what’s the plan?” Galath asked.

“Our obstacles seem too much for just us and a few Guard to handle,” Percival said. “I suggest we call in some favors owed to us.”

“For a dragon?” Garth asked. “We might need to call in all of them.”

“And use all of our assets,” Morgan said. “Percival, could you open your doors to us so we can eat and start planning?”

“Anytime you ask, my love,” He said with a wink that made Morgan smile but roll her eyes. He pulled out a small ivory door, a silver spoon, and a piece of polished marble. “Welcome to my mansion!” The items swirled a bit in the air and then the ivory door planted itself in the ground and grew to full-size as the other items dissipated. The doors opened and everybody walked inside. It was always a little overwhelming to step into Percy’s mansion no matter how many times the Raiders had done it. The style was reminiscent of the Grand Library in Silverlight where Morgan had first met Percival. In fact, there were shelves of books and scrolls scattered in most of the rooms. “The servants are already finishing up a feast for us.”

“Fantastic,” Morgan said. The mansion had begun to feel like the closest thing to a home over the years. Sure, it disappeared but it always reappeared looking the same and always welcoming. “We’ll eat and then we’ll start figuring out who and what we can count on.”

When It All Ended Pt. 4

January 13, 2018

Princess Cora stood in the throne room with several members of the Royal Guard beside her. She knew that everything outside must have been chaotic outside. She had been consulting with her parent’s advisors hours ago but it now seemed like ages ago. When the impact had shaken the castle, everybody had rushed off to gather information on what must have been a new threat. Anything that could shake the castle like that this far from the front lines of the war was nothing to take lightly, of course. So, Cora had been shuttled off to the throne room by the Royal Guard. The Throne room was the most secure place in the castle aside from the undercroft. She looked at her hands and they were shaking.

It was not even the first time that her parents had left her in charge but nothing had happened on those previous occasions. Both of her brothers were off at Battle Arts and Cora had felt alone that morning but now she felt helpless too. She had to be strong. She swallowed and took a deep breath and tried to think about her parents’ strength. They had both always been so strong, a shining example to Cora and her brothers. She kept taking deep breaths and looked at the members of the Guard, members who had been chosen to protect her royal family. They were trusted and some of the best in the land. The absolute best were fighting in the war but these men and women were dedicated to Cora’s safety.

“Have you heard what’s happened?” Cora asked the nearest guard. He was carrying a huge two-handed sword which he had out and ready.

“We have no idea, your royal highness,” The man said, his voice rough and a little raspy. “I won’t lie. It can’t be good.”

“Only too true,” Cora said. “I’ve never felt the castle shake like that. I’ve never felt it shake at all.”

The guard nodded. “I can definitely tell you that I have been here since your father was a young boy and the castle has not shaken in all of that time.”

“Have you been here that long?” Cora asked. She could see that the man was an elf which wasn’t very common for members of the Guard but it made sense that it might have landed him in the Royal Guard. Rarities made it into the Elite Guard. There was nothing ceremonial about any of the palace guards.

“Yes,” the man said. “Your grandfather helped save several members of my family so it was only natural for me to come here to pledge my sword. Don’t worry, your royal highness, I have faced many threats before in defense of your father.”

Cora smiled. “That does make me feel a little better. I’m sorry but I don’t know your name.”

“My name is Severn,” the guard said with a crooked smile.

“Just Severn?” Cora asked.

“Yes, your Royal Highness,” he answered with a slight shrug as if he had already explained everything.

Cora’s attention was suddenly drawn to one the other guards whose eyes suddenly widened as her body went rigid for just a moment. The guard turned and nervously brushed the hair from her face even though it was not in the way.

“Excuse me, princess,” the guard said with urgency. Cora knew that the Guard were drilled to use the correct address so she knew that something was up.

“Yes, Abigail,” Cora said. “Please speak.”

“I have just received word that a dragon has landed on the castle,” Abigail said. Cora gasped and she could feel the Guard tense around her.

“A dragon!?” Cora asked. “Are they sure?”

“A green dragon and there have been several sightings,” Abigail said. “The town is in a panic. The dragon gassed the central square. There are dozens dead.” Cora’s heart was both filled with fear and sorrow for her people. It was her family’s obligation to protect and lead the people

“Sightings?” Cora asked. “Are there eyes on it now?”

“It seems to have disappeared,” Abigail said.

“How does a whole dragon disappear?” Cora asked. “Do you think it has moved on?”

The doors of the throne room burst open, the strong hinges of one side actually warped a little bit with the force. “She did not move on,” a female voice called out. “She is just making herself at home.” A tall, lithe woman with green hair and green eyes and a flowing green dress practically glided into the room. She had a very mean-looking smile on her face.

“You!” Cora shouted. “You’re the dragon?” The guard around her had been tense but now they sprung forward as their training had drilled into them. They would not let the dragon take another step forward. “No, wait!” Cora called out. She knew something must be wrong if the dragon was so confident.

The dragon posing as a woman took a deep breath and then blew poison gas from her lungs and it enveloped all of the guards. They dropped like flies as Cora watched but Cora did not stay seated on the throne. She grabbed one of her mother’s swords off of the wall and wheeled around to face the dragon. Her family never gave up. However, when she turned, she could see that somehow Severn was getting up from the floor and he was lifting his great sword. The dragon’s hand transformed into a green clawed hand and she stabbed it through Severn’s neck and the man slumped to the ground. A pool of blood started to form in the middle of the throne room, soaking a carpet that had been there for decades.

“Now, now, your Royal Highness,” The dragon said. “Why don’t you put down that weapon? I promise that I want you alive.” The dragon was strikingly beautiful now that she was moving closer and Cora found the tip of the sword was slowly sinking toward the floor of its own accord. It was foolish to fight such a creature. Right?

“Alive?” Cora asked. “Why?”

“Well,” the dragon said. “I don’t want to break all of my toys just yet.”

The Singing Sword

January 8, 2018

The sword was singing. It was not humming like it had been struck by metal. It was full out singing mezzo-soprano style. Actual words were coming out of it, pouring out of it while it sat on the blacksmith’s workbench. Of course, the sword was singing in Gnomish which nobody really spoke anymore. So, the blacksmith had to fetch somebody who could actually speak the language because he had not the heart to melt it down an try again. It took two days for the boy who ran errands to find somebody who would come over and check it out. It was a third-string assistant to an honorable wizard on the other side of the city.

The bespectacled young woman scurried her way all the way across town to see the sword. They informed her that they could have brought the sword to her. It would have been disruptive to the flow of the town’s traffic but they still would have done it. Instead, Aricia the Enchantress shoved everybody aside and started yelling phrases at the sword as soon as she arrived. Of course, the sword did not seem to respond and nobody watching understood her or the sword. The sword just kept singing. It was quite close to the strangest thing anybody had ever seen.

“It didn’t seem to respond to you, noble Aricia,” Arik said. At this point, he just wished the stupid sword would stop singing or be removed from his shop. He wished he knew who had dropped it off but nobody could remember who had dropped it off or when. Arik was starting to forget a time when the workshop was not filled with song.

“I think the sword may be stupid,” Aricia said. “It will not listen to reason.”

“I’ll take your word that you were offering wisdom,” Arik said.

“Insolence,” Aricia said but her heart was not in it. “The sword is a mystery. I have never seen such magic before.”

“Too complicated?” Arik asked. As a master blacksmith, he knew very little about magic. It was not in his wheelhouse. He knew that some of his finely crafted weapons were taken to enchanters like Aricia or her boss now and then.

“Too stupid,” Aricia said. “Who would want a singing sword?”

“It does not make much sense,” Arik conceded with a shrug.

“No,” Aricia said. “It is pure frivolity. An enchantment with no purpose.” There was a long beat of silence.

“So what is it singing?” Arik asked.

“What?” Aricia asked. She adjusted her spectacles as if that would help her hear the question better.

“I mean it’s Gnomish, right?” Arik asked. “What is the song actually about?”

“Oh just some ancient treasure,” Aricia said and waved her hand dismissively.

“Treasure!?” Arik shouted and then he looked around the shop wildly. Thankfully the curious crowds had dispersed due to the sword’s obnoxious song looping. “Um, what sort of treasure is it?”

“Whatever it is, it’s dangerous. Guarded by a dragon of all things,” Aricia said. “Something called The Treasure of Bast.”

“Bast, eh?” Arik asked, taking a moment to mop his sweaty and sooty face with a damp cloth. “I’ve never heard of it.”

“I suppose nobody has,” Aricia said with a shrug. “I’ve never heard of a single singing sword.”

“Nobody?” Arik asked with growing excitement. “Suppose we inform a group of adventurers and maybe we could get a share of the treasure.”

“Adventurers would never bring back a share,” Aricia said. “Adventurers rarely look behind them and they would not for us even if we were on fire.”

“What if we went with them?” Arik asked.

“Do you have a death wish?” Aricia asked, for the first time looking directly at the blacksmith and actually seeing him. She sized him up for a moment.

“I can swing a hammer,” Arik said, a little bit hurt by the assessment. “I’m very strong.”

“Well, suit yourself,” Aricia said with a sign. “I have a million things to do for my master. I can’t go on an adventure.”

“But we need you as lore mistress,” Arik said. “We’ll never find our way without an accurate translation.”

“That makes me valuable,” Aricia said with a crooked smile. “They have to protect the valuable ones whether they want to or not. You? Not so much.”

Arik grunted and shrugged. “So we just need to ask the next group that comes in,” He said.

Aricia pointed at a group coming in the door. “What about them?”

“Oh crap,” Arik said. “Not them again.”

 

When it All Ended Pt. 3

January 6, 2018

“A dragon?!” William Havelock nearly shouted when the group had reconvened. “We’re seriously considering fighting a dragon?”

“Such concern from the man who charged headlong into a cave with three hags in it the day before yesterday,” Morgan said.

“Hags are different and you know it,” William said.

“I think my contract specifically excludes messing with dragons,” Garth said. “Sorry guys, my hands are tied.”

“We never actually got around to drawing up a contract, Garth,” Morgan said.

“Well, that was an oversight on my part,” Garth said. “I won’t make that mistake the next time somebody needs my help.”

Morgan found herself smiling somewhat fiercely. She did not particularly want to go after a dragon either. However, the oath she had uttered when she became an adventurer was similar enough to the one she had made as a ranger. In Morgan Moonglow’s mind, that oath was unbreakable and if she could make a difference then she would. “Well, if you gentlemen are too afraid then there is no shame in camping right here. We should be back to collect you later.”

“Afraid?” William asked. “I wouldn’t use that word exactly. With you all at my back, I could charge into any battle. Garth, you can camp here alone.”

“A talent on my level should not be idle,” Garth said. “You know how my fingers start to itch when I’m bored.” In fact, that had led to complications with various members of the Guard early in their association as a team.

“Your skills are so legendary, Garth,” Morgan said with just a little sarcasm. “We need your sneaking skills and those deadly daggers of yours.”

“Well, the Shadow Teeth are not just any daggers,” Garth said. “That much is true. I guess I’ll have to come along but you definitely owe me for this.”

“Put it on my tab,” Morgan said. “How about the rest of you? This group has always been strictly voluntary. None of you have ever backed down from a fight yet but you can now.”

Cassandra spoke up, almost a squeak of a voice at first. “Well, I backed down that one time early on.” The moment when she had turned her back on them when the fate of the world was in the hands of the Scar Brotherhood would always be a painful memory for Cassandra. The fact that the magic she cherished so much had been her undoing had made the situation all the worse. She had seriously considered going back to the academy after that adventure.

“That’s hardly fair,” Galath said. “You were under an enchantment and at the end of that adventure you redeemed yourself twice over.” In fact, she had. Cassandra had broken the enchantment on her mind at the last possible moment and had provided just the distraction the team needed to save the world that first time.

“And you have been a constant companion ever since,” William said.

“Well, I’m not backing down this time,” Cassandra said. “A spellcaster is needed when taking on a dragon and besides I have studied them excessively. I’m in.”

“I have also read a lot about Dragons,” Percy said. “And none of you are as adept at counterspelling as I am. You would be dead in an instant without me. Besides, I would walk through fire for you, Morgan.”

Morgan found herself blushing, a slight crack in her usual tough demeanor. “And you have. I’m sure you remember the bit with the elementals.” Percival Stardane had seemed like an arrogant know-it-all when they had all met but that moment when he had literally walked through fire to offer a healing word to Morgan had convinced her that there was something more to the librarian.

“I remember everything,” Percy said. He and Morgan kissed. It was still new for them to show affection in front of the others but with a dragon looming on the horizon, neither of them really cared. They could be embarrassed afterward. Morgan found herself blinking and smiling as she finally pulled back and the world came rushing back in.

She cleared her throat. “What about you, Galath? You’re the last of us.” She managed to ask, turning toward the dwarf. He had been the last one to join the group but it had still been a long road together.

“Ms. Moonglow,” Galath began. He was always so formal. “If it were not for all of you then I would have been lost to time. I would have existed only as my own stone memorial, abandoned by the world in the forest. You restored me to life and gifted me with a whole new world and a whole new purpose. Namely, keeping you all alive. I know that all of you save Mr. Whispernight will say that there is no debt. There is a duty, though, because you are the closest thing I have to family now and I will always be there when things get rough.”

“I couldn’t have said it better myself,” Percy said. “Well, I probably could have but you get the idea. We’re all in then.”

“Then we’ll be off to save the King’s house and all the people of the city,” Morgan said. “We’ll be facing a green dragon. We do not know how old this thing is. It could be an adolescent, it could be ancient, or it could be anywhere in between.”

“If it’s ancient, there are many things that it is capable of,” Cassandra said. “Percival and I can write up a list together.”

“Between the two of us, we can probably tell you everything there is to know about it,” Percival said.

“What I’m wondering,” William said. “is why the dragon would attack the capital now. Is it just opportunity or is it part of a bigger plan?”

Morgan had not thought of that yet. “What are you saying, William?” She felt free to use his real name while they were all alone. Addressing him by his real name was a show of respect. “Do you think that this is somehow connected to the war?”

“That was my thought,” William said with a grave nod.

“That’s a scary thought,” Percy said. “There aren’t a lot of ways for the army of Shera to both summon and control a dragon. I have never heard of a dragon working with demons. They are usually selfish, arrogant creatures that have to be in charge and I would bet you that Vistra is much the same.”

“Well, whatever the answer to that mystery is,” Morgan said. “We might discover the answer.”

“If we survive,” Garth said.

“I have faith in us,” Morgan said.

 

When It All Ended Pt. 2

December 30, 2017

Morgan Moonglow put a hand on Hamm’s shoulder as he fell to his knees and breathed hard, he seemed to be coming down from some sort of panic. She shouted. “Galath!” When the dwarf ran over she spoke again. “Check him out, please.”

“I’d be happy to,” Galath said. “He looks physically alright but mentally… well, we’ll see won’t we?” He pressed his hand to Hamm’s other shoulder and it glowed for a moment and the color returned a bit to Hamm’s cheeks.

“Can you tell us what’s wrong?” Morgan asked. Hamm looked at her helplessly for a moment and then at the five others clustered around. Morgan gave them a look that clearly said to back off.

“I am happy to scout ahead a bit,” William said. He was a big knight in thick, steel armor and Hamm tilted away when he spoke. He ruffled Garth Whispernight’s hair, obviously part of a good-natured rivalry between the halfling and the human. “I’ll take Garth with me. Won’t I, Garth?”

“I guess I could stretch my legs,” Garth said. The way he talked, it sounded like he did not really care much.

Henry whistled for Hengroen and climbed aboard the horse. He rode slowly to allow Garth to keep up. The halfling eyed the horse with some nervousness. That left Galath, Percival Stardane, and Cassandra Oakspring nearby. Galath went back to tend the fire and the cooking he had been doing. Cassandra sat daintily on a log and opened a book. Morgan could see Percy’s eyes give that book an envious look but he stuck by Morgan’s side with a half-smile. She smiled back and turned to the dwarf in front of her who seemed to be coming back to reality.

“Now then,” Morgan said. “Can you tell us what you’re running from? I promise that we can protect you.”

“And we will also believe you,” Percy said. “We have already seen some crazy shit.” He smiled warmly at the man and Hamm couldn’t help but smile back.

“Well, I only saw it for a moment but I swore it saw me and it killed Moira and who knows how many others,” Hamm said. He realized he was still holding the satchel of firewood over his shoulder and he put it down.

“Yes, but what was it?” Morgan asked. The question was kind but firm. She had softened some working alongside her team but that ranger training was ingrained and kept her on task.

“A dragon!” Hamm blurted out. “A green dragon.”

“A dragon!?” Percival said loudly. There was something between fear and excitement in his eyes. Cassandra’s eyes went wide over on the log and her back went absolutely straight. “There hasn’t been a dragon sighting in Eloria for the past two years or so. A green dragon is even rarer. Hmm.” Cassandra was staring into space, seemingly doing the related calculations already.

“It had to be a dragon,” Hamm said. “It couldn’t be anything else.”

“As I said, we believe you, friend,” Percival said. “Besides that, there is no mistaking a dragon for anything else. The green ones are especially vibrant and easily recognized at a distance even by the yokelest of yokels.” Morgan reached over and physically covered his mouth before he could say any more.

“Where is the dragon?” Morgan asked with urgency. She had just let two of her people scout ahead and she was now doubting that decision just a little bit. She knew that William and Garth could take care of themselves but a dragon was a dragon.

“It’s in the capital,” Hamm managed. He was very tired even with Galath’s healing and it almost physically hurt to think back to what he saw.

“The capital?” Morgan asked, her eyes going wide a bit. “That’s about five miles from here.”

“Is it?” Hamm asked, blinking at that realization. He felt a bit safer with that knowledge but also completely out of place.

“And you were there earlier today?” Morgan asked. “That’s quite some run, um, sorry what was your name?”

“Hamm Stoutfire, at your service,” He said. “I owned a shop in the merchant’s district. Well, I guess I still own it if it was not destroyed.”

“I hope it’s still intact,” Morgan said. “Cassandra, please summon the boys back here. We need to gear up and ride on. We might be the only adventurers in the area capable of taking care of this.” Cassandra pressed a finger to her ear. It was an unnecessary gesture that usually signified that she was using a sending spell.

“You’re going to fight it!?” Hamm shouted, his eyes tinged with panic again.

“We’re going to try,” Morgan said.

“Really, it’s lucky we were in the area,” Percy said, pushing Morgan’s hand from his mouth. “We were dealing with a bit of business with some hags and a prophecy and funny enough we ended up fighting a newly minted vampire lord that some other country had dumped here. So we were just riding away from all of that when we met you. See? Lucky.”

“I could do with less of that kind of luck,” Galath said. “You’re never lucky to meet a dragon.”

Morgan covered Percy’s mouth again and gave him a pointed look. “Mr. Stoutfire does not need to know all of our business,” she said. She turned her gaze back toward Hamm. “You have been very kind to give us this information. We will be riding on to the capital. Do you have somewhere safe to go in the meantime?”

“I think I still have a cousin in Stoneswallow near here,” Hamm said. “Besides, it might be better to be underground right now.”

“Probably a good call,” Galath said. “And yet.”

Morgan shot him a look and he smiled and shrugged. He was already carrying over a bit of sausage and bread which he handed to Hamm along with what seemed to be a full waterskin. Hamm bit into the food without a second glance but did manage to mumble something thankful with his mouthful. With an uneasy glance back the way he came, he hurried down the road on wobbly legs. He had no more desire to be with people who were comfortable fighting dragons than he was to be actually near the dragon.

“Farewell, new friend!” Percy shouted after him, once again extricating himself from Morgan’s grip. “Safe travels!”

The King’s Arsenal

December 25, 2017

Garth Whispernight – Halfling Rogue

Born to nobility in a far-off country, he grew bored and disappeared and reappeared when he tried to pick the pocket of Morgan Moonglow. Instead of turning him in, Morgan recruited Garth on a quest to save the world. After the quest was over, he stuck with the party of adventurers who would eventually become the Arsenal. Learning that he could indeed be an honorable man, he slowly shed his criminal tendencies but never let the skills fade. He delivered the finishing blow to the Green Dragon, plunging a dagger into the back of its skull. When he joined the Arsenal, the King pardoned him for any crimes he may have committed in Eloria. He spends most of his time in a tavern in Whitecrest instead of his office. His home has many sentimental trophies of his past including a fake officer’s badge, forged identities, and various previously stolen items.

Cassandra Oakspring – Half-Elf Sorcerer

She was a very bright, resourceful young girl who showed some untapped magical ability. A local patron paid to send her to one of the magical academies in Coppin. Once there, she flourished and excelled in her studies. The once meek girl started to grow a spine. Morgan Moonglow showed up at the Academy, looking for somebody to release a curse. Cassandra was the one who unlocked the puzzle. She was given an expedited graduation from the Academy so that she could accompany Morgan and her team to help protect the world. An eternal student, she seeks knowledge from all corners of the world. She was delighted to retire near the old academy and is a constant visitor and consultant at most of the academies. When she is not fighting crime or studying, she socializes with whoever will have tea. She loves a good story and is eager to meet new people.

Morgan Moonglow – Elf Ranger/Druid

She was found as a baby on the edge of the Fangleth Forest and grew up never knowing her parents. As soon as she could walk, she started to carry a bow and arrow around and she showed promise. When she was old enough, she was recruited into a ranger school for the military. She served for some time before she was warned of a premonition of the return of an ancient evil. She moved to assemble a team to battle the cult who wished to remake the world in their image. Once the threat was defeated, she kept the team together to combat other threats to Eloria and even surrounding kingdoms. She asked the others to help her take on the dragon at the palace and every single one agreed to risk themselves for Eloria. She was assigned to her home district of Channon where she is reconnecting with her long-lost mother who is a druid. She also often plays host to Percival Stardane since the two of them have a growing romance together.

Sir William Havelock – Human Fighter

Chased out of his homeland by a feud with a rival family, Havelock sought a new start in Eloria. He met Morgan Moonglow under the assumed name of Calo Northwind and joined them as fighter and defender of their cause. As time went on, the group of adventurers was able to go back to Havelock’s homeland and help him sort things out so that he once again felt comfortable using his real name. With his plate armor and faithful steed Hengroen, he is always ready to charge into battle for a good cause. Both of his names were spread far and wide because he never shied away from announcing his presence in and out of battle. While Moonflow was arguably the leader and founder of their team, Havelock was often the noble face of the operation while Stardane was its voice. Havelock never sought his fame, he simply threw out his name as a calling card in case their group was needed again down the road. He is content to teach at the Battle Arts Academy but he also enjoys knocking a few criminals senseless when he can.

Galath Wyndham – Dwarf Cleric

While traveling through the woods, Morgan Moonflow and her crew found what they thought was a statue at first. To their horror, they figured out that the statue was actually a petrified man. A quick Greater Restoration spell from a local priestess woke him up. It was then revealed that he had been petrified a long time ago, during the first Great War of Eloria. He chose to travel along with the Moonflow crew so that they could help him adjust to his new place in time and he could rejoin the world. Along the way, his cleric powers were very useful in keeping the party alive. A quiet man, Galath often imparts wisdom at just the right time and he came to feel somewhat like the party’s older uncle. Having had two adventuring careers in two different centuries, he was glad to finally become semi-retired with the rest of the party. He spends a lot of time enjoying the fresh air of his district and reading books on loan from the Grand Libary in Etting.

Percival Stardane – Human Bard

If there was ever a know-it-all, Percival Stardane would definitely be a candidate. Stardane studied whole libraries full of lore in an effort to figure out what was important and unimportant in the world. If you do not know something, Stardane will be happy to teach you all about it at length. If he does not know something… Well, he will tell you that’s not very likely. Percival was left to his own devices in the libraries of Etting because his parents often had nothing to do with him. He was an only child and he barely had any interest in socializing with others when there were volumes of knowledge to absorb. All of that alone time with the great writers of the continent (and beyond) left Percival with some social peculiarities. While his father was a talented musician, Percival was an excellent storyteller but came off as too excited to tell his story. His brusk manner tended to irk and confuse people and he cannot sing a single note like his father. He seemed doomed to waste away as a librarian when Morgan Moonglow found him and he joined up to add his expertise to the team. He has since become much more well-adjusted and often chooses to live with Morgan rather than stay at his appointment in Etting.

When It All Ended

December 23, 2017

Hamm Stoutfire walked along the avenue with an armload of firewood in the satchel on his back. The Capital was freezing but, because of the war, the shipments of firewood were slowing down. Hamm had thought about closing his shop and joining the crews searching for fresh lumber. He would be saving lives as the temperatures dropped and there was probably some good coin in it. Also, it never hurt to get a little credit for civil service. His shop was sometimes frequented by less than favorable citizens and tourists as Hamm had never been picky when it came to less savory individuals. ‘Coin is coin and coin is good’ was Hamm’s personal motto. The Guard rarely came around to hassle him so he figured he must not be doing anything too wrong.

He could see his breath puff out before him as he walked down the street. He playfully pretended he was blowing out smoke like had done so many times as a no good kid. He wondered if he would get any customers today. Between the cold and the war along the border, people might just continue to huddle in their homes. Most of the day, only members of The Guard seemed to walk the streets. It made the city’s criminals cautious as there was no crowd to slip into and no pockets to pick. Picking a Guard officer’s pocket was often too risky even for a city whose belt was starting to tighten due to the war effort. If something did not get better, people would start dropping like flies.

Of course, the news from the war front was terrifying. The latest news was that the Sherans had joined their army with the forces of the ancient demon Vistra. Vistra was a name that most Elorians did not speak and barely dared to think. Now the demon seemed to have returned and things looked grim for the Elorian military. Hamm shuddered at the thought of the demons winning the war. He had made his peace with the possibility of the Sherans winning and taking the place over. He imagined that things would not be much different. There was no telling what the demons were capable of. He might end up getting skinned alive or they might all burn for eternity. Not to mention that one of the armies had apparently raised the dead en masse. It kind of felt like the end.

“Hey Stubby!” A voice called out. Hamm turned to look at an open doorway, a woman silhouetted by the candlelight behind her. He frowned. He had never liked how some people made fun of his Dwarven height. It was generally something not done in polite society but, of course, Hamm had never been a

“Moira,” Hamm said gruffly. “Kindly fuck off.” There was a long beat of silence. “And happy solstice.”

Moira laughed, putting her cigar out with the tips of her finger so she did not waste any while she was talking. The warmth of it still filled her lungs along with some illegal magical residuum. Hamm noted the telltale red, wispy smoke. “Give me one of those logs, Hammy.”

“I’m sure you don’t need it,” Hamm said. “You’ve got plenty of wood to keep you warm, don’t you?”

“Very funny,” Moira said. She spat on the cobblestones between them. “I haven’t gotten many customers these last two weeks and besides you know I specialize in female customers.”

“I am not sure I can spare anything, Moira,” Hamm said. “I didn’t get anything out of the last shipment and I’m freezing my ass off in the back of my shop.”

“Well, you know what you can do with those logs then?” Moira asked with a smirk.

Hamm couldn’t help but mirror that smirk though it was mostly hidden by his bushy beard. “What?”

There was huge cracking noise from somewhere in the air. By the time that Hamm realized that it had actually come from the palace, large stones fell and slammed into the homes he was standing next to. In the devastation that followed, Moira was nowhere to be seen. Hamm rushed forward, not wanting the last exchange between them to be disgruntled sniping. Dimly in the back of his mind, he realized that the stones he was scrabbling over were actual pieces of the palace. That thing was the sturdiest building in Eloria. He tried to shove aside wooden beams and smaller rocks as he moved.

When he shoved aside what appeared to be Moira’s wooden door head, he saw the horrible thing that was left of Moira’s body. He staggered back into the street without remembering taking a single step. He retched and unleashed his meager breakfast onto the cobblestones. She had been alive just moments ago. He felt dizzy, weak. Somebody bumped into him as they ran by. The empty street was now full of people running away from something. Hamm shook his head to try to shake away the dizzy feeling.

A flash of green caught his eye and he looked up as the crowd barely moved around him. He ignored the impact of elbows and shoulders as he tried to keep his stance, clutching his load of firewood as if it mattered anymore. He tried to look for the green thing he thought he saw and then there it was. It was a dragon. A huge green one and it had demolished part of the castle. It was not a Sheran, a demon, or a zombie and yet here it was the end at last. The dragon looked around as it crawled over the palace roof and for a moment Hamm thought it looked into his eyes and fear overtook him. He ran in a blind panic for the rest of the day.

When he came to it was because of a firm hand on his shoulder. He looked up at an elf woman with long blonde, almost green hair.

“My name is Morgan,” The elf said. “What are you running from and how can we help?”


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