Archive for the ‘Writings’ Category

Reap

February 16, 2019

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Lopita put the final touches on her graffiti as she sat on the stone of the train platform. He was late, he was always late and Lopita was always bored. As a free-roaming spirit, she had never been bored but she had been drafted to the Reapers. She enjoyed all of the prestige but none of the responsibility but one did not always get to choose their afterlife. Fugitives were punished and she had to serve out her sentence by preventing other fugitives from escaping. Of course, that meant that she was deployed with one of the most annoying senior operatives.

“I thought I told you to stop vandalizing mortal property,” Ren said. “it’s beneath us.” Ren stood there in the sunlight like a shadow. He was tall and thin and impeccably dressed in a suit. Even though it was August, he was wearing a heavy leather duster. The dead did not have to worry about the weather. He also wore a pair of round spectacles that looked like they were a very antique style. He had a very serious look on his face and a Reaper badge on his belt buckle.

“Like they’ll even know what it means,” Lopita said. “If I have to be a Reaper, I have to represent.” Lopita was a completely different picture in style from Ren. She wore a tattered hoodie and jeans with the cuffs completely frayed. She had fashioned two belts across her chest in an x which she used as makeshift holsters for her multitude of daggers. She also wore no shoes. She also had shockingly pink hair.

“How about you focus on the mission instead?” Ren asked. “We have a squad of fugitives down the rails and they aren’t going to catch themselves.”

“Hey,” Lopita said. “I’ve been here for a while now. Maybe if you dressed down I wouldn’t always be waiting for you. It’s awkward just hanging out in places like this.”

“Why?” Ren asked. “They can’t see you. Only the most sensitive among them can even begin to sense you.”

“Still, I guess social anxiety persists after death,” Lopita said.

“Ridiculous,” Ren said. “Let’s move out.” He hopped off the platform and started to follow the rails south. Lopita sighed and stood up and hopped down to follow him.

“I still don’t understand why we have to rain on their parade,” Lopita said. “They’re probably harmless. I was harmless.”

“I told you,” Ren said. “The longer a spirit is unmoored from reality and does not go to their rest, the bigger chance they have of going crazy. Also, they could be recruited by demons.”

“Ooh,” Lopita said. “I have met demons before. They’re totally unsavory. Very rude.”

“And dangerous,” Ren said. “Always be on your guard.”

As if on cue, a screaming blur came out of the trees, lunging for Lopita. Ren grabbed his tie and it magically extended, wrapping itself around what turned out to be a woman. He held her fast as if she was the dog on the end of a leash. The woman’s hands had grown into impossibly long claws and she was foaming at the mouth. Ren locked eyes with Lopita and nodded. Lopita ducked low and came in with two daggers, spinning around her fingers. She plunged the daggers into the woman repeatedly until she faded away to blue sparks.

“Corrupted,” Ren said. “I’m willing to bet they’ve all lost it. This won’t be pretty.”

“Shit,” Lopita said. “I guess I’m happy I didn’t end up like that.”

What seemed to be bullets rained down on their position. Ren gestured toward their source and his coat formed into a shield as he ran for cover. Lopita merely blinked out of existence and reappeared on the branch of a tree, looking for their attacker. The shooter shifted their attention and she had to blink away again as the bullets ravaged the tree she had been standing in. Meanwhile, Ren had pulled his own handgun. He focused and pieces filtered out of his coat and attached themselves to the gun until it was a sniper rifle. He whirled and fired once and there were no more shots fired but only for a moment. A man rushed out of the woods firing bullets from an oversized arm.

Lopita blinked behind him and brought two daggers across his back in an X shape. She grinned as he turned but then she blinked away again. That gave Ren the time to change his gun again into a shotgun. He ran and slid to the man’s feet and fired up into his center mass, ending that fight in another shower of blue sparks. Ren fastidiously wiped the sparks from his clothes as they straightened themselves up. Lopita blinked to his side and they both scanned the treeline.

A towering woman stepped out of the brush and roared like some sort of alien beast. She charged like a rhinoceros and Ren fired again. The bullets ricocheted off of her skin in all sorts of directions and Ren and Lopita barely dodged the charge. The rhino woman circled around for another charge. Lopita ran toward her before Ren could grab her. Lopita baseball slid between the woman’s legs at the last moment and plunged a dagger through each of the woman’s feet, fixing her in place suddenly. Ren’s gun had been shifting again and he pointed it and shot a grenade at the woman nearly point blank. This time, the gun worked and the woman was blown into another batch of blue sparks.

“Is that all of them?” Lopita asked as she retrieved her daggers from the ground.

“I think so,” Ren said. “The home office said there were three signatures. We put down three out of three.”

“You think so?” Lopita asked. “It sounds like we did it. Come on, be happy for once. We were totally awesome.”

“Those souls weren’t supposed to be that old,” Ren said. “They shouldn’t have had power like that.”

“So I’m gonna guess that this just got more complicated,” Lopita said. “I thought this would be an easy day.”

“Nothing’s easy until you get to head to the afterlife,” Ren said. “And I have a hunch that something very wrong has happened around here. Something demonic.”

Lopita sighed. “Peachy.”

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Fallout

February 9, 2019

Eliryl Glorytree was fidgeting a lot and it was beginning to bother her roommate Promise Truename. The two had roomed together for quite a while now and Promise could tell things about Eliryl without even looking. She turned her head to focus her attention on Eliryl in hopes that Eliryl would get whatever it was out of her system.

“Everything is different now,” Eliryl said. “I hate it.”

“Well,” said Promise. “It’s not every day that your school blows up or most of it anyway.”

“Enough of it to send us to this new school,” Eliryl said. “At least I still have you as a roommate.”

“Because you made your parents bribe New Moon to make it happen,” Promise said. “Otherwise, I would be out on the street.”

“And I got them to transfer your scholarship over from The White School,” Eliryl said. “You’re welcome. If you had rich parents, you would have done the same for me.”

“If I had parents,” Promise said. “Thanks for the reminder. What are you complaining about, anyway? This place is a lot like our old school. Besides, you weren’t hassled like I was.”

“That was unacceptable,” Eliryl said with an exceptionally frowny pout. “I told them to leave you alone. There was no way that you were involved in the accident. It was all Violet’s fault. We know that.”

“We know that but I’m a tiefling so they assume I’m a criminal by the way I look,” Promise said. “It’s not my fault that I’ve got demon blood. I don’t even have a connection with that heritage. I didn’t know my parents.”

“I know,” Eliryl said. “It’s still an absolute tragedy. I do feel for you. They should not have discriminated against you. I told them to stop it and that you’re with me.”

“Well, not with me with me,” Promise said.

“Oh Gods no,” Eliryl said. “My parents would literally die on the spot.”

“Thanks for that,” Promise said with a scowl.

“No offense,” Eliryl said “I’m also I’m not into that sort of thing. Girls. I’m not into girls whether they have horns or tails or whatever.” Eliryl looked frantic, she went to great pains to show that she was no longer prejudiced even though she stumbled over her words sometimes. She had been in the beginning but Promise had been patient and educated her in a painstaking process. Promise knew that, in the beginning, Eliryl had done everything she could to get a different roommate but had given up when it was not possible. She had acted like she was doing Promise a great charity when accepting the situation and that false kindness had eventually given way to real kindness and genuine friendship.

“Relax,” Promise said with a smirk. “I’m just messing with you. I know you have my back and I’m not actually attracted to you either. I’m not attracted to people who aren’t attracted to me.”

“Well,” Eliryl said. “That’s a relief. I wouldn’t want you to suffer the pain of unrequited love.”

“Thank you,” Promise said. “What I’m more worried about is our classmates. I’ve heard stories of things happening to people. Strange things.”

“What sorts of things?” Eliryl asked. “I’m usually the gossip expert.”

“Some of our classmates have experienced changes after the accident,” Promise said. “Access to new spells, new innate abilities, physical changes, and all sorts of strange effects.”

“Physical changes?” Eliryl asked. “Is that what happened to Delilah Bramblewood?”

“No,” Promise said. “That was just puberty. At least, I’m mostly sure it was.”

“Mostly? Hmm,” Eliryl said. “Well give me an example of one of these ‘strange things’ then.”

“The Hobkill twins have been given a strange new form of Shadowstep,” Promise said. “They can change their bodies to shadow. They can hide in people’s shadows. I’m worried because they were close to the blast. Who knows what further effects the fallout could have?”

Eliryl shivered. “You mean I could, like, grow a third eye tomorrow?” she asked.

“As always, your priorities are well placed,” Promise said. “but you’re also not wrong. Magical fallout is literally unstable magic that is hard to study. You could grow a literal third eye, or a figurative one, your hair could fall out, you could become a copy of me. Anything is possible.”

Eliryl shivered again and waved her hands frantically as if trying to dispel Promise’s words as if they were invasive pipe smoke. “Please stop scaring me,” Eliryl said. “I like me as I am. I like there only being one of you. You’re unique. I mean, maybe I would consider a third eye as long as it was perfectly centered. It would be a bit exotic and I could still cover it with a hat.”

“Uh huh,” Promise said. “Always the pinnacle of style.”

“I was taught to always put my best foot forward,” Eliryl said with a shrug. “It’s practically a Glorytree motto at this point. I’ve taught you a thing or two.”

“Mostly against my will,” Promise said. “but I have to admit that you’ve been helpful.”

“You’re welcome,” Eliryl said. “So what do we do about these magical revelations then?”

“Well, first thing we need to do is get ourselves checked out,” Promise said. “There’s a doctor who specializes in more magic-based conditions in town.”

“Alright,” Eliryl said. “I could send for my family’s doctor but I feel like we’re trying to keep this quiet for the time being.”

“Exactly,” Promise said. “Nobody’s talking about this for a reason, they want it to go away. They’ll make us go away if we make too much noise. Permanently.”

“Definitely not my preference,” Eliryl said. “I prefer life over death. Then what do we do after that?”

“We need to find Violet,” Promise said. “She knows better than anyone what happened. Maybe she can help figure things out.”

“She was expelled, Promise,” Eliryl said. “Drummed right out the door. I saw them load her onto a carriage and send her away.”

“She still has to be somewhere,” Promise said. “Maybe if we tried a sending. We could arrange to meet with her.”

“Alright,” Eliryl said. “Do the sending, then.”

“Alright,” Promise said and folded her legs under her carefully and placed her hands on her knees and closed her eyes. The spell was still new to her and it took a lot of concentration. She took a deep breath and then sent her message out into the ether, intending it to go out to Violet Teagarden like drops of water sliding down a string.

She sent out her thoughts, trying to adhere to the limits of the spell while still being gentle with her subject. “Violet. It’s Promise from school. We miss you here. We were wondering if you wanted to get together and talk about what happened.”

What came back was as if several people were talking over each other and none of it was coming through. Only at the end of the garbled mess did the voices all speak the same line. “I don’t know what happened.”

Promise was so shocked that she nearly fell off of her bed, grabbing the bed post for balance as she blinked back to awareness. She managed to focus on Eliryl after a few moments. “Something is wrong. We have to find her.”

When It All Ended Pt. 15

February 2, 2019

Morgan’s Raiders had circled the roof of the palace. The dragon Kanaaq suddenly appeared in the very center of the roof in human form thanks to the courage of the Princess. The dragon looked pissed, her eyes glowing a fierce green. So, it was with great courage that William Havelock walked toward the dragon, his sword and shield in his hands. The dragon gave him an arrogant smirk, hands on hips. It looked like she would have laughed had she not been so angry at being interrupted and torn from her makeshift lair. That laugh died somewhere in her throat and for a moment, wisps of green blew out of her nostrils and her skin shimmered as scales for a moment before returning to a perfect human form.

“Dragon!” William yelled. “I’m giving you one chance to fly away now before we kill you dead right here, right now.”

“Puny warrior,” Kanaaq said. “Run before I make a snack of you. Take your friends with you. I grant you your lives. Just this one chance.”

“Puny? I am William Havelock, the first Lion of Eloria!” William shouted, pointing his sword at the dragon. “We are Morgan’s Raiders and we will end you! Look around, the city is rising up against your followers. It’s all over.”

As if on cue, <C> the djinn flew by at top speed, fighting the Wyvern riders in the air. The djinn was making sport of it and that brought out Kanaaq’s rage yet again. “Come and try!” The dragon yelled and started to change shape.

To his credit, William did not flinch as the dragon began to tower ovewr him. The dragon breathed green gas into the air and started to tilt that spray down toward William. That was when Morgan herself let fly an arrow that hit the dragon in the throat. Then the battle began in earnest. Morgan’s Raiders were a practiced and experienced team. Morgan kept moving around the roof, sniping at the dragon and ocassionally shouting strategy. William stayed in the dragon’s face, trying to keep its attention and taking swipes with his sword. Cassandra tossed every spell at the dragon that she could remember, her hands and fingers a blur of constant motion and her lips constantly moving. Garth darted in and out and stabbed the dragon whenever its back was turned. Percival shouted constantly, his words healing his friends and hurting the dragon. Galath moved as fast as his short legs could carry him, trying to keep everybody healed and on their feet.

The team worked in concert, moving like nobody could unless they had worked together for a long time. As time went by, both the dragon and Morgan’s Raiders were injured. The battle raged on around the castle roof but neither the dragon or the adventurers had time to pay it any mind. Both sides had put their pieces on the board, they would have to trust that. The bloodied dragon started to lash out more desperately and the Raiders were heartened by what they correctly perceived as fear. The adventurers tried to hold on, ready to fight to the finish. In the end, the bloodied dragon was no longer seeing green, it was seeing pure red. She lunged at the frailest of Morgan’s Raiders, Cassandra but William stepped in between. Cassandra cast a spell reflexively and William grew to twice his size and grabbed hold of the dragon, keeping her from reaching Cassandra. Morgan shot an arrow below the dragon and vines stretched up and between the vines and William, the dragon was wrestled to the ground. Garth jumped from the tallest tower, bringing his dagger down hard into the back of the dragon’s head. The thing fought briefly but slumped to the stone, eyes rolling back into its head.

The Raiders stood there breathing hard, hardly believing their own victory. Then they turned to look out over the battle still raging around them. One by one they started shaking their heads. They had nothing left. They had just fought a dragon. They could barely stand much less join the battle around them. Then, a miracle occurred. The King’s forces muscled their way through the northern gates. Cassandra started to jump up and down and cheer and the rest of Morgan’s Raiders were all smiles as they watched the soldiers return to clean house. William walked over to the dragon and slowly dragged his sword across its throat, its poisonous blood gushing over the stone roof. Morgan gave him a look and William shrugged.

“Just to make sure,” William said. “How many times have we thought we killed something and it came back to try to kill us?”

“He makes a good point,” Percival said. “Though they’ll need more than a mop to clean up that mess.”

“I can only imagine what it looks like downstairs,” Garth said. He had been grinning as he admired his handiwork atop the dragon. The rest of Morgan’s Raiders felt that they would always be reminded by Garth that he had gotten the killing blow.

“Oh no!” We have to check on the Princess!” Cassandra shouted. “She might have been injured getting the dragon up here.”

“Let’s go down there then,” Galath said. “We need to help whoever we can.”

They searched and found some stairs and made their way down into the castle. The place was eerily quiet after the chaos of outside. The atmosphere felt strange. All over there were strange plants growing through the cracks in the stone of the castle. Garth watched one closely and William pulled him away just before it belched a little cloud of spores. They moved on, keeping their hands to themselves. Finally, they found what had to be the throne room and William and Galath worked together to muscle the door open. As soon as there was a gap big enough between the double doors, Cassandra made for it even though Morgan tried to shout for caution. Cassandra rushed into the room and thankfully there were no traps, no troops. The arrogant dragon had put everything outside of the castle. Instead, there was a shaken young woman sitting in the throne who got to her feet and readied a sword. When she saw Cassandra, Princess Cora broke down in tears and dropped the sword. She and Cassandra embraced as Morgan and Garth hurried into the room, followed by the rest. The Princess was sobbing but smiling with pure relief.

“It’s going to be alright, Princess,” Cassandra said. “We’re here.”

Galath moved to tend to the Princess’ wounds as Morgan’s Raiders established a perimeter and Cassandra comforted the exhausted princess.

Banished Pt. 2

January 26, 2019

“Our story?” Random asked, pausing to think about it for a moment. “Well, Kris’ story is simple as far as I can tell. Kris isn’t much for talking. Right, Kris?”

“Talking boring,” Kris said and grunted and then started to walk off a few paces. They started to pull pieces off of a dead tree to keep busy.

“Anyway,” Random said. “As far as I can tell, Kris’ tribe got into a big fight with some interlopers. They don’t really like interlopers here.”

“What are interlopers?” Katelyn asked. “Also, where are we? I can’t believe I didn’t ask that yet.”

“The jungles of Oochar,” Random said. “This is all tribal land more or less belonging to the unknown amount of tribes of the land. Interlopers are people from outside who walk in and get violent or act like they own the place. Getting rid of them is one of the few things the tribes always agree on.”

“So they attacked Kris?” Katelyn asked.

“Or the other way around,” Random said. “Either way, Kris got messed up in the fight and it left her a bloody mess. At least, I assume from the, uh, physical scarring. I wasn’t there myself. All alone with no proper healer, Kris was left to fend for themselves. Which is a real credit to Kris as it can be really dangerous around here.”

“How do you lose somebody that big?” Katelyn asked, gesturing toward an oblivious Kris.

“My guess is that it happened when Kris was still young but yeah, there’s a lot there I don’t know and quite a bit that Kris probably doesn’t know.”

“Mysterious,” Katelyn said. “So that just leaves your story.”

“My story?” Random said with a somewhat theatrical flair. “I don’t think you would find it interesting.”

“I might,” Katelyn said. “Just tell me your story already.”

“But it’s so, so boring,” Random said with a sly smirk and a few bats of her eyelashes.

“You’ve successfully whetted my appetite,” Katelyn said, hands on her hips. “Out with it.”

“So, I was on the deck of the pirate ship The Stormeater,” Random started.

“A pirate ship?” Katelyn asked. “You were a pirate?”

“Yes and no,” Random said with an ambiguous hand gesture. “I wasn’t and then I was. Basically, I was kidnapped by pirates in my early teens and my parents took so long paying my ransom. By the time it was paid, I had decided that the pirates treated me better than my family and I decided to reject my birthright and join the pirates.”

“Interesting,” Katelyn said. “It’s a little hard for me to swallow seeing as how I have never had that kind of money to reject but whatever makes you happy.”

“It was kind of a spur of the moment decision that I rarely regret,” Random said. “Unfortunately, we ran afoul of the navy.”

“Aren’t there, like, several navies?” Katelyn asked.

“Yes,” Random said. “I have no idea which one it was. The point is that their boats sank ours and I nearly drowned. I woke up with Kris holding me upside down to get the water out of me and we have been friends ever since.”

“When did that happen then?” Katelyn asked.

“Three months ago,” Random said. “Frankly, I’m getting bored of wandering the jungle.”

“Itching to get back to the pirate life?” Katelyn asked.

“I don’t know,” Random said. “The way it ended last time, I’m hesitant to go back on the water. Besides, it wouldn’t be the same without my friends.”

“The ones that originally kidnapped you,” Katelyn said.

“Yes,” Random said. “but you didn’t know them like I did. They were nice to me.”

“Are you sure they aren’t out there somewhere?” Katelyn asked.

“I have a feeling none of them made it. The boat was absolutely wrecked when I last saw it,” Random said. “But I have been wrong before. Still, even if somebody else survived, I think I’m done with the pirate’s life. I’m ready for new challenges.”

“Hmm,” Katelyn said with a smile slowly creeping onto her face. “Do you think Kris is looking for new challenges?”

“I think so,” Random said and then turned toward Kris. “Hey, Kris! Are you looking for new challenges?”

Kris looked up from a bit of bark they were grinding into the jungle floor with their foot. “Always!” Kris yelled and gave a broken smile and then went back to what they were doing.

“Well, that settles that,” Random said. “What did you have in mind?”

“Revenge,” Katelyn said. “I need to get back to Sigil and take revenge on my ex-partner and investigate whether the third member of our trio was in on it.”

“Alright,” Random said. “that all sounds like fun. Besides, I get to see this Sigil place. How far away is it?”

“Well, that’s the problem,” Katelyn said. “It’s not a matter of distance. Sigil is not on this plane of existence so the only way to get there is through a portal. Maybe a plane shift spell would do it. Maybe some more obscure stuff.”

“That sounds complicated,” Random said. “Can’t we just go back the way you came? Wouldn’t that be easier?”

“I would need a key to do that and I have no idea what it would be,” Katelyn said. “Where’s the nearest magic expert?”

“Uh, well,” Random said. “I know some magic but I’m not an expert. Most of the magic users in these parts are more ‘shamanistic’ and they’re also hard to pin down.”

“So, what you’re telling me is that we have a long walk ahead of us?” Katelyn asked.

“To the border of Oskia,” Random said. “That place has a ton of magic and there’s bound to be somebody who can lead us in the right direction.”

“I suppose there’s no time like the present to get going then,” Katelyn said.

“Well, you still look pretty banged up from your fall,” Random said. “I’m not sure you should walk too far yet.”

“I don’t want to wait another moment,” Katelyn said. “I need to get to this Oskia.”

“I have a thought,” Random said. “How about we strap you to Kris’ back so you can rest a bit while we travel?”

“Um,” Katelyn said. “Is that safe?”

“I already have the harness made,” Random said which was met with a questioning look from Katelyn. “I got bored out here.”

“Strap me in, I guess,” Katelyn said. “Wait. Did you see a sword out here? I’m pretty sure I tumbled through the portal with it.”

Random looked around and then pointed. “There it is! Sticking out of the ground,” she said. “Lucky it didn’t stick into you.”

The sword was indeed sticking straight up out of the ground as if somebody had placed it there. It was fairly fancy as it was the sword that Katelyn performed with and had rarely used to draw blood. She walked over to it and grabbed the handle and slowly pulled it from the earth. The blade seemed to be covered with a dark purple viscous substance.

“Disgusting,” Katelyn said and tried to wipe off the gunk on a nearby tree. “I hope this stuff doesn’t corrode the blade.”

“It looks fine to me so far,” Random said. “Let’s get packed and head out, alright?”

“Sure,” Katelyn said. “We have a long way to go.”

Banished

January 19, 2019

Katelyn stumbled and tripped and it was only then that she realized that she was on top of a hill. She started to tumble down the hill, as an alien landscape flew by in a blur. A string of curses flew out of her mouth as she tucked and rolled, trying to protect her body from the fall. She felt her body hit several hard objects but thankfully they were only glancing blows and each hit drove the breath from her body, leaving her gasping for air as she rolled to a stop. She ended up on her back looking up at the sky. Well, it would have been the sky if it were not for all of the trees. She had no idea where she was but she had never seen trees before. Well, she had seen them in books and at the gallery but had never seen any in person. She decided to rest for a moment as there did not seem to be any danger close at hand.

“Is dead?” A deep voice asked. Katelyn tried to move her head to follow the sound but winced at a literal pain in her neck.

“She moved,” A female voice said. “I would think that means that she’s alive.”

“No eat?” The deep, gravelly voice asked. To Katelyn, whoever it was sounded disappointed.

“I keep telling you,” the woman said. “people don’t really taste very good. Are you really that hungry?”

“Always,” the gravelly voice said.

“Fair enough,” the woman said.

Katelyn sighed. “Can you show yourselves?” She called out. “You can actually talk to me and not just about me.” Katelyn was used to being the center of attention but this was not the same.

Two heads popped into her field of view and if she felt up to moving, she might have tried to scramble away. What she saw was a half-orc with a broken-looking face and a red-skinned demon. Her mind tried to make sense of things but for a moment her eyes just went wide. Then she realized that the demon was actually a tiefling, one who had demon energies in the blood. The woman was neither good nor evil inherently. Still, strangers were not to be trusted.

“Are you alright?” the woman asked. “It sounded like you took quite a fall.”

“You think?” Katelyn said with her best withering glare. “I feel about as bad as I look.”

“Pretty,” the Half-Orc said.

“Kris is right,” the woman said with a roguish smile. “you are quite beautiful.”

Katelyn blushed. “You’re not so bad yourself,” she said. “Are you a good tiefling or a bad tiefling?”

The woman grinned. “Only time will tell,” she said. “For now, we mean you no harm. What’s your name, stranger?”

“I’m not sure I should give it,” Katelyn said. “Why should I trust you?”

“That’s fair,” the woman said. “Let me put it this way: Can you move? If the two of us walk away right now, will you survive?”

“I guess that’s also fair,” Katelyn said. “I guess I’m just a little touchy, I just got betrayed by my one of my partners and I’m a bit suspicious at the moment.”

“I’ll tell you what, I’ll go first,” the woman said. “This is Kris and my name is Random Starfire.”

“That’s quite an odd name,” Katelyn said.

“It fits,” Random said. “I like to keep them guessing.”

Katelyn looked up at Kris. “And what’s your family name?”

“Just Kris,” Kris growled with a blank look in her eyes.

“I don’t mean to be rude,” Katelyn said. “but are you a boy half-orc or a girl half-orc?” She gave her best smile which Kris did not respond to.

“Kris is just Kris,” Kris said and looked away. “No flirt.”

“Sorry,” Katelyn said with a little laugh. “It’s a natural defense mechanism. My name is Katelyn Brandywater.”

Random was going to say something but she was cut off by Kris. “Don’t drown,” Kris said. Before Katelyn or Random could respond, Kris grabbed a bottle of viscous red liquid and overturned it into Katelyn’s mouth. She swallowed hard over and over, trying not to drown just like Kris had said. The liquid tasted somewhat spicy and bitter at the same time but not altogether unpleasant. When Kris pulled the bottle away, Katelyn found herself licking her lips as an afterthought.

“What?” Katelyn managed to ask.

“A healing potion,” Random said. “Sorry about Kris’ bedside manner but just relax and let it do its work.”

Katelyn closed her eyes and felt her bruises, cuts, and broken bones start to heal. She felt warm all over and she let out a contented sigh. She did not feel back to perfect condition but she felt a lot better and she slowly sat up and started to make sure all of her parts were still attached. Everything was still in place so she pushed herself to her feet and brushed herself off the best she could.

“My thanks,” Katelyn said. “Now I can properly introduce myself. My name is Katelyn Brandywater of Sigil. Actress, sword fighter, and all around performer extraordinaire!” Katelyn bowed with a flourish and rose back with a smile and just a touch of dizziness.

“Sigil?” Kris grunted, giving Random a questioning look.

“Search me,” Random said. “I’ve never heard of it myself.”

“It’s the City of Doors out there on the planar sea, so to speak,” Katelyn said. “The important part is that it was my home where I performed with my troupe. That is, until I was tricked by a woman I thought was my friend. She nearly killed me.”

“Didn’t,” Kris said with a shrug.

“Yes,” Katelyn said. “I suppose that’s the right way to look at it.”

“Kris and I are survivors too,” Random said. “It’s really the best kind of person to be.”

“Really? Katelyn asked. “What’s your story?”

Pekko Atlas Pt. 2

January 14, 2019

pekko

Triele
Humans 46% Half-Elves 24% Elves 10% Dwarves 12%
Half-Orcs 5% Halflings 8% Tieflings 6% Gnomes 3%

Triele is divided into four large regions with a central, land-locked seat of power and wealth. To the north are cold wildlands with mountains and cliffs on the northern and western coast. The northerners do not fit into civilization very well but they are loyal to the Kings of Triele. To the south are the majority of the farmlands, which feed the country and trade with Ukresh. To the west are the lands where there are predominantly merchants and crafters. To the east is a region of magic users and a center for raising a military and thus many schools exist there. The central capital city is where most of the wealthy reside. The King of Triele lives there and rules with absolute power. Curiously, the citizens of Triele have little use for money among each other and only deal with currency with foreign powers. They have developed an internal trading system that fulfills most of the needs of everybody. Therefore, the jewels and gold go to the capital.

Ukresh
Humans 35% Half-Elves 21% Elves 15% Halflings 12%
Tieflings 11% Dwarves 9% Gnomes 7% Half-Orcs 5%

Is ruled with absolute certainty by King Murat who lives in the castle-fortress in the Ukreshi capital. The royal family rarely leaves the capital and prefers to let their agents carry out their will throughout the land. These local lords have great leeway outside of the commands of the royal family and some use this to subjugate the people of Ukresh. Upsetting the king (or the lords for that matter) is completely unwise, as they have absolute power to punish the citizenry and often use it. This is also known as a land that birthed the traditional idea of witches. Covens of witches inhabit the wilderness against the government’s wishes. As a result of their rural upbringing, a witch’s looks range from rustic to absolutely filthy. Many villages rely on these witches and will ally with them in secret to protect them from the government in exchange for healing and magical favors. Also, the King has ordered tight security for the borders of the land which often makes things more difficult for trade caravans coming from Triele.

Astala
Elves 25% Half-Elves 21% Humans 19% Halflings 12%
Tieflings 11% Dwarves 9% Gnomes 3% Half-Orcs >1%

Astala is ruled from the Star Island far to the north and no army has ever made it that far north. In fact, most foreigners have never traveled that far north as it is cold there and most of the trading is done on the southern borders. In the southern parts, merchants are everywhere and most of them learn sign language in multiple languages as a means to communicate secretly with each other. In the far north are the hearty tribes who protect the capital and have often shipped out to fight Astala’s wars. In many places, there are hearty farmers who have to work hard to grow food in the northern land. There are also great hunters and magic users all over. Then there is the poison plains to the east, which are impassable and forbidden. There are some who live there, twisted creatures that are known as Drow but little contact is made with them.

Kuma-Jo
Elves 27% Half-Elves 23% Humans 21% Halflings 10%
Tieflings 7% Dragonborn 6% Gnomes 4% Dwarves 2%

Kuma-Jo has been ruled over by an Emperor (or Empress) since the days after the sundering of the continents. Many royal families have come and gone but the sanctity of the royal house of the empire has always been preserved. So has the code of honor that has been passed down from the honored ancestors of modern Kuma-Jo. The signature armor and weapons have not changed over the ages and their style has only been honed and refined as the years went by. The code of honor is very important to the warriors of Kuma-Jo (and the civilians too) much like the knights of Shera. Much of the culture of the island is dictated by ceremony and adherence to it (at least for outward appearances) is very important. Still, those who buck tradition are not necessarily outcasts but they do not quite fit into the culture as well. Local lords rule over divisions of the island and each is required to swear fealty to the empire and each new ruler.

Kusura
Elves 20% Half-Elves 20% Humans 15% Halflings 15%
Tieflings 13% Half-Orcs 12% Gnomes 4% Dwarves 1%

Kusura is fairly well known as the land of ninja assassins and there are many schools there where natives and some foreigners are taught the art of stealth and the silent kill. The schools each have a guild family as their patron which fund the school and decide the curriculum. These guild families rule the island nation by a council with a ruling figurehead. This ceremonial figurehead is decided by an annual test of skills that involve a champion put forward by each guild family. These guild families are also pretty strictly divided by race, each using their racial traits to aid their specialties. The guild families rarely cooperate with each other, preferring to keep private and cooperation is something that should cause alarm. Each family takes contracts and hires out their ninjas for riches or political favors. As one would expect, the island is eerily quiet and outsiders often find themselves intimidated by the deathly stillness practiced by every single denizen of Kusura.

The Crumbs
(The racial and cultural makeup is too varied and mysterious to be measured by any reliable census)

The Crumbs are a series of uncharted islands that stretch between the East and West Continents. They are called as such because people claim that the two continents were once one continent and they were broken in half like breaking a loaf of bread. Of course, all of the inhabited islands have names but nobody has bothered to chart them. There are so many islands that it is hard to navigate all of the channels and most people don’t bother and simply go around through the waters to the south. It is rumored that the pirate factions have maps or special magical artifacts that help to navigate the Crumbs in order to hide from the various naval forces of both continents. There are also indigenous people on certain islands but they tend to be pretty isolated from the rest of the world due to the difficulties of getting in and out of the Crumbs.

Pekko Atlas Pt. 1

January 5, 2019

Today we start exploring the eastern continent of Pekko across The Serpent Sea from the continent of Taldona.  Pekko has less violent changes in climate probably due to it not having as many magical calamities in the far-flung past.  It also has bigger kingdoms due to more stability in its early settlement.  I only have a few more lands to do and I will have completed my world’s atlas.  You can find earlier parts here and here for the western continent.

pekko

Ieshon
Dragonborn 68% Humans 4% Half-Elves 4% Elves 4% Dwarves 4%
Half-Orcs 4% Halflings 4% Tieflings 4% Gnomes 4%

Ieshon is a kingdom settled by the dragonborn shortly after the Great Conflict where they resolved to wait should they be needed again by their patrons, the dragons. Over time, most of them forsook the dragons and formed a civilized society. In Ieshon, many prejudices between chromatic and metallic dragonborn have died down but the blood still calls to both sides. Used to hierarchical rule, the dragons formed a rigid feudal society which is still followed in the present. Who rules the land is determined by bloodline and power. Bloodlines rule the people indefinitely unless they grow weak and another more powerful bloodline wrests control from them. Most dragonborn (and others who have come to call Ieshon home) live in large city-states surrounded by farmland. Regional lords control and manage their land while a king or queen rules on high. The overall ruler is usually a metallic dragonborn but many lords and ladies have been known to be chromatic.  The worship of Bahamut is very popular in Ieshon, even among chromatics as the desire for fun battle is strong in their culture.

Oochar
(An accurate census of races of Oochar is not remotely possible but pretty much every race is present)

Most of Oochar is covered in thick jungle, only cleared out in places where people settle. It is a hard-fought living in the jungles of Oochar and there is very little of what the rest of the world might call civilization. There is only one city and only because they needed a place for important meetings to take place and a refuge for the darkest times. The government is actually made up of a large amount of semi-nomadic tribes with each of them being autonomously governed. The tribes are fairly varied as they are somewhat isolated from each other and it is difficult to determine from the outside how many tribes there are and how big each tribe is. It is also hard for outsiders to deal with Oochar as a whole because you never know who you might encounter once you cross their borders. A diplomatic expeditionary group once went mad trying to track the comings and goings of all the tribes. Most other countries find it not worth their time to do anything but trade on the Oochar borders but the place is great for adventurers. There are legends of the tribes uniting for various causes but it is rare for it to be done. Many tribes leave their elderly or infirm in the capital city as a sort of retirement along with some diplomatic members (with the message spell).

Oskia
Elves 25% Half-Elves 21% Humans 19% Halflings 12%
Tieflings 11% Dwarves 9% Gnomes 3% Half-Orcs >1%

Oskia is a matriarchal society currently ruled over by Queen Lynna and Queen Calasi. It has long been a society that revered the power of women but never treated men unfairly and the men of Oskia always supported the right of rule of women. Their society is highly based on and dependent on magic. Druids shepherd the fauna and flora. Wizards design the buildings and structures. Sorcerers, warlocks, and bards protect the peace with magical might. Not everybody in the country is magical but all are encouraged to learn a little bit of magic if they can. It has given rise to a nation of mostly hedge wizards who may know a trick or two. It is how the small nation has stood out and survived, especially next to the somewhat dangerous nation of Oochar. The country is fairly temperate if a little hot sometimes but definitely a famously pleasant place to live. Historically, Oskia often takes the lead in diplomatic negotiations in its area (even when it’s not asked for). For some reason, there is a higher percentage of sorcerers in Oskia, perhaps due to the more frequent use of magic but it is unknown at this time. There is also heavy prejudice against half-orcs in Oskia and many are driven into Oochar or killed.

Treania
Humans 32% Half-Elves 21% Elves 15% Dwarves 6%
Half-Orcs 9% Halflings 8% Tieflings 6% Gnomes 3%

Treania is home to the three greatest ports of the continent and therefore is the local shipping capital. Most things that come from the other continent or the Crumbs touches Treanian soil at one point even if it is just a quick stop. This has made Treania a very rich land and those riches have in turn made Treania more dominant in world trade. Of course, immense wealth for the trade barons has led to a greater disparity between the haves and the have-nots. At a certain point, the middle class in Treania began disappearing and the economy boiled down to the aristocrats and the working class. The working class people are not serfs but because the aristocrats have so much money, they are often quite powerless in class warfare. The only way the system has remained stable is that the working class bands together while the aristocrats compete with each other. The have-nots tend to look after each other better and are often kinder yet hardier as a result. Treania has also spearheaded the hunting of pirates from The Crumbs as much of their economy depends on shipping.

The Faith of the Raven Pt. 8

December 29, 2018

The adventurers lept into action immediately. Carania ran directly at the two zombie goliaths. They swung their fists but Carania narrowly dodged their attacks. While the zombies were distracted, Galath pointed his holy symbol and there was a brilliant flash. The goliaths turned away in fear from the divine light and started to run but they accidentally ran into each other and fell to the ground in a tangle. Carania descended on them and slashed at them and then pierced both with her sword. Arne finished it by setting them on fire as Carania moved to safety. The zombies did not react as they started to burn to ash. Carania guessed that they did not even feel the flames.

Carania gripped her sword tighter and trudged toward the King of Crows. She stopped short when she saw that the King had a knife up against one of his captives’ throats. She heard Arne and Galath halt as well. She grunted and glared at the man. Close up, she could see how pathetic he looked. He was old and scared and Carania felt all of the adrenaline leave her system and she grew calm as death. The captive, a young girl, was shaking but Carania did her best to offer a reassuring look.

“Leave the girl and deal with me,” Carania said. “Face me fairly.” She gripped her sword tightly, calm but tense like a wound spring. Her years of training had prepared her for these moments and she was not about to back down.

“Three against one is no fair fight,” The King said. His voice sounded a bit like a cawing crow. “Give me but a moment and I’ll summon up some friends.”

“No more moments, Crow,” Carania said. “My Lady of Ravens has requested I deal with you by sending you to meet her. Your time is up. I would not want to disappoint her as you have done.”

“If I go then I won’t be going alone!” The King crowed out and dragged the knife across the girl’s throat with a sick smile on his face. He started to chant something, waving his fingers.

The moment that followed felt like it flowed like molasses. Carania shouted wordlessly in anger and shock. She ran forward and stabbed the King of Crows hard through the stomach. His face seemed to freeze in surprise for an eternity. At the same time, Galath grabbed the girl and laid hands on her, healing the wound with holy light. Carania looked up into the branches above as the symbols of Nerull clattered to the forest floor. The ravens were up there in the trees, dozens of them, and they were glaring down at the necromancer. Carania smiled and calmly dragged the point of her sword across his throat as she mouthed a little prayer to Azrea.

As Carania stepped away, the ravens descended on the body of the King of Crows. She turned away and let them have it. She suspected it was their right as vassals of Azrea. She tried not to think of the sounds the birds made as they tore at the corpse. Arne was busy burning the symbols and tokens of Nerull and instantly the forest seemed to feel brighter. It was as if a fog was lifted and the evil evaporated from the fabric of the place. Carania walked over to Galath and the young girl. The paladin wore concern on her face.

“How is she Galath?” Carania asked. “Will she make it?”

“She will,” Galath said, looking up at Carania with a relieved smile. “She’s lucky a healer was so close by.”

“She’s also lucky the Talons were here,” Arne said.

Carania looked back over her shoulder. “Wait, who are the Talons?”  She asked.

“Just a suggestion for our little group’s name,” Arne said. “In honor of your patron, the Queen of Ravens.”

“I like the sound of it,” Carania said. “I think we’ll add it to our official introduction. I think we’ll be saying it a lot if we continue these fights.”

“I think you’re right,” Arne said.

“I agree,” Galath said. “I think this is exactly what we should be doing.”

Arne walked over and knocked on the cage holding the necromancer’s captives and the lock shattered and the door opened. The people started streaming out of the cage. They thanked the three adventurers profusely. Carania and Arne gave them directions back to town while Galath treated the most grievous wounds. As he did, Carania heard a noise from behind. The young girl was waking up. Carania knelt beside her. The girl was an elf so it was hard to judge her age but the light in her eyes looked very young. She had not yet reached physical maturity. She glanced around and saw no other elves which confused her.

“Are you alright?” She asked. “I’m sorry I couldn’t save you from that pain.”

“You tried,” the girl said. “and you saved us.”

“What is your name?” Carania asked. She smiled at the girl, remembering when her former charge had been this young.

“Taryn Moonglow,” the girl said.

“Are you here with someone?” Carania asked.

“No,” Taryn said. “I came here alone. I was on my way back home when I was surprised by these men.” She sat up a little, taking deep breaths as she took it slow.

“Where do you live? I could take you there. We could take you there,” Carania said.

“The Fangleth Forest,” Taryn said. “I live among druids like me among the trees.”

“The Fangleth?” Carania asked. “What brings you out this far?”

“I came here to fetch a rare flower that grows here,” Taryn said. “It is the Southern Star Flower.” She pulled a dark purple, five-petaled flower from her cloak and held it up for Carania could see. “It can be used to heal some of my people from a specific curse.”

“Well, perhaps we can help with that too,” Arne said.

“Really?” The girl asked.

“Of course,” Carania said and took the girl’s hand. “The Talons are here to help.”

DnD Poetry

December 22, 2018

I have been out of town for a while now, working for a firm in West Virginia. Yesterday, I traveled back home to attend the funeral of a dear friend who we lost unexpectedly. He was part of our regular tabletop gaming group and an inspirational man and friend. I will miss him greatly as will my friends. My mind is a little distracted from mourning and wrapping tons of presents for Christmas (as a favor to my family). Here are some poems I wrote that I saved in my draft folder when I thought that I was going to do DnDCember this year. Instead, I have done D&D posts every month this year or at least that is how it feels. So here you go, horrible poetry. Be good to each other. There will be a post on Christmas and it should be happier.

But before that, I need to tell you about my friend Joe. He was part of the tabletop gaming group I am in which is how we met. He welcomed me into his home, fed me, and called me a friend when I did not have many in Baltimore. He was such a good man. He was rarely serious unless he needed to be. When it was time to goof off, he was there to lighten the mood and laugh louder than anybody else. Even when the joke was on him and, with his self-deprecating humor, he was a common target for gags in a group setting. He never let such things bother him and gave as good as he got if not better. When the chips were down, he was always there to help any way he could along with a smile. When our group went out to the movies, he was the one who bought the tickets. He was the ringleader and the touchstone for the group.

He was a doctor who worked in veterinary sciences and epidemiology. Something, I often forgot about because he almost never brought it up (except when he wanted to win an argument about animals). Of course, he is the same man who completely misgendered a cat he and his wife fostered. He was incredibly smart but never used that to make anyone feel powerless or inferior. To him, it seemed like it was just something he was good at, knowing we all have our strengths. Joe definitely knew his strengths and made the best of them. He used those strengths to create a family and an extended family made up of friends and coworkers. I would find it hard to believe anybody who said they did not like Joe.

What I will always remember are our endless pop culture discussions. We had differing views on music but we never clashed. My stance was that there is good music being made after 1990 and that automatically rejecting whole genres is close-minded. His response was to always just play his favorite songs from the seventies and eighties. He was a man who knew what he liked and I still respect that. He certainly knew his movies too even though he and the rest of our crew always drove me crazy by talking during the movie. I cannot deny his passion for life, love, and art. As a self-proclaimed poet, I loved that and I still love that. He was great to talk to about movies because even though I did not always share his opinion, I always respected that he had one. We certainly agreed on a lot and disagreeing was always more about fun to me than an actual argument. That is the personal thing between us that I will most of all.

I just wanted to let you all know just a fraction about him as we observe his passing.

Now the poetry:

The runes were written round and round
The staff of Elris the Shadow Hound
With a magic specialty in evocation
He protected a young version of our nation
From demon hordes and undead throngs
But not for fame, tales, or songs
And not for gems or any coin
It was not nobility he wished to join
He did it because it made him pissed
To see the land’s people so dismissed
From his fury he drew his power
In Eloria’s darkest hour
When the fight was at last won
He faded into the setting sun
Nobody knows where he went
Or even if he was godsent
All we know is that he was what we needed
So his lesson should indeed be heeded

Oh for an end to all the chanting of spellcasters!
Mumbling, stumbling, wordy Wizards
What if I was trying to be stealthy?
What then? Oh learned one?
Oh Master of Memorization
I am trying to sneak up behind our foe
Then you start speaking your silly spells and
The fight begins prematurely
How’s that for a big word, Oh Learned one?
It means that you started before I was ready
Ready to drive one of my blades
Between the shoulder blades of our enemy
The enemy that is now chewing on your face
While I fume here, trying to make the best of it
And yet you think you’re better than me
Smarter than me, maybe. But not better.
I have picked a thousand locks
Stolen countless treasures
While you sat at a desk and studied
And then you ruin the whole attack plan
Just goes to show that educated does not mean smart
Please don’t turn me into a newt again

There once was a dragon in Norway
Too big to fit through the doorway
While it raged outside
Inside did we hide
Because we lacked significant swordplay

Justice and Revenge
Justice is done in the day
In the night, revenge

Things in the Feywild
Shift and change all of the time
Keep your wits about

 

And, in honor of my friend Joe:

Please loot the bodies
Or else, how will we profit?
Gold is all we need

Fairytown

December 15, 2018

20181202_162945.jpg

Princess Cuddlebottom sure was a funny name but there was nothing funny about her getting murdered. The incident had happened in Mount Washington and Detective Danielson was glad that no kids had been around to see it. He was a little surprised to see that a fairy had traveled this far from Fairytown. It did go down outside of a school so maybe she had just been trying to get a glimpse of the kids. Most fairies love kids and many missed being around them. Danielson shrugged and pulled out his notepad and began writing down his impressions. He spotted Detective Waters making her way over.

“I’m surprised you would show up this early, Waters,” he said with a smirk.

“Are you kidding?” She said, holding out a cup of coffee. “You know I’m always there when fairies are involved. Though, this is a bit out of our usual jurisdiction.”

“Our beat is Fairytown so when something happens to fairies, we get involved anywhere in the metropolitan area,” he said. He took the cup of coffee and took a sip with a smile. She may not have been a morning person but Waters could remember how he liked his coffee.

“Lucky us,” she said without a hint of sarcasm. Ah to be young again. “Is this where it happened?” She asked as she walked over to the roped off area. Her face grew more serious when she saw the blood. It looked like somebody had spilled sparkly nail polish but anybody who knew the real story could tell what it was. It turned Danielson’s stomach a little bit and obviously it had a greater effect on his partner. “Steady on, Waters. They’re counting on us to solve this one.”

Waters nodded slowly and composed herself. “I’ve never seen their blood before,” she said. “Do they all bleed glitter like that?”

There was the clicking sound of a lighter as Doctor Gabriella Stone walked up, smoking a cigarette. “Not all of them do,” she said. “There’s a whole rainbow of colors and some of them even bleed oily black.”

“Oh joy,” Danielson said. “What luck to have Charm City’s most sociable medical examiner join us on this beautiful autumn morning.”

“I’m the only ME who has studied fairy physiology,” Stone said. “Who else did you think was going to show up? I live right around the corner, I was here before you were.”

“Where’s the body?” Waters asked, looking around the street.

“I already had it moved,” Stone said. “No need to scare the kiddies. My team did all the forensics and we packed everything up and sent it back to the station. Relax.”

“Not a doubt in our minds,” Danielson said. “I just wanted to see the scene of the crime myself before we started knocking on doors and asking questions.”

“Have fun,” Stone said before walking away. She did not ask permission and she did not look back. Danielson could respect that.

“She’s so cheery,” Waters said. She was staring at the splash of blood on the pavement again but this time with a look of determination on her face.

“The Reapers are usually not the happiest souls,” Danielson said as he turned to walk toward his car.

Waters walked quickly to catch up to him. “Isn’t that kind of a rude nickname for the medical examiners?” she asked.

“Don’t get me wrong,” Danielson said. “What Reapers do is a kindness. They pick the fallen up off of the street and they help us figure out their mystery. They help us get justice. And it’s no wonder they’re cheery. They see and touch so much death in their lives.”

“True,” Waters said. “So what are we dealing with here? I mean, who are we dealing with?”

“The victim was positively identified as Princess Anjelica Snugglebottom, a resident of Fairytown. The system should have her address on file but I have a feeling I already know where she lived.”

“The palace,” Waters said. “Why was she all the way over here? Was she an imaginary friend back in the day?”

“I have no clue until we look into it but I wouldn’t be surprised,” Danielson said.

“Why would she be an imaginary friend?” Waters asked. “Isn’t that sort of thing beneath royalty?”

“Fairytown is lousy with princesses,” Danielson said with a shrug. “I’m not sure where she falls in the line of succession but I feel like it has to be way down the line if she was able to travel this far uptown by herself.”

“So a princess could be an imaginary friend?” Waters asked.

“You know that they do not like that term, right?” Danielson asked. “We all know that they’re not imaginary now.”

“Yeah, I know,” Waters said. “It’s just habit. I had one, did you know that?”

“An imaginary friend?” Danielson asked. “I seem to remember that from your file when you came aboard.”

“This was before we found out that they weren’t imaginary, of course,” Waters said. “Her name was Lady Carinas and she watched out for me when I was little. My parents worked a lot.”

“The fairies that posed as imaginary friends did a lot of good back then,” Danielson said. “They got a bad rap after they were revealed. I really feel for them.”

“Me too,” Waters said. “That’s why I requested this detail. So should we start knocking on doors?”

Danielson shook his head. “The uniforms can handle that. I really don’t think we’ll get anything useful out of canvassing the neighborhood. If somebody was going to come forward, they would have done it already. Besides, I don’t think a human could bring a fairy down so easily.”

“Then what do you think happened?” Waters asked. Though, they both knew as they locked eyes.

“It was probably a monster,” Danielson said. “It’s the thing that makes the most sense but we shouldn’t jump to conclusions. We have questions to ask.”

“So where are we going?” Waters asked. “Wait, are we going to the palace? I’ve never been.”

“Well, this is your lucky day,” Danielson said. “You get to visit the palace and more than that, you get to meet the queen.”

“I can’t wait!” Waters said.

“Don’t get too excited, Junior,” Danielson said. “I have a feeling that the visit isn’t going to be pleasant.”


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