Posts Tagged ‘Dungeons and Dragons’

Fair Fight

May 27, 2023

There was an overturned cart in the middle of the forest road. The merchant and his daughter were cowering as the bandits encircled them but clearly, the daughter had a fist clenched, wanting to do something but afraid for herself and her father. The horse must have run off somewhere but it could not have gone far. Iligo and Erron had extinguished their campfire and had come to see what the commotion was. They watched for a moment as the five bandits postured.

“Hand over any valuables you might be carrying and say your prayers,” the lead bandit said. “Of course, even the Gods won’t save you now that you’ve seen our faces.”

“That could have been fixed by wearing masks, you amateurs,” Iligo said as he stepped out into the open. “A competent crew would have taken the cart and the horse without a fuss.”

Iligo stood there confidently and with a look of disdain on his face. He had his long sword hung across his back and his right arm was in a sling. Erron calmly stepped out in the open and hung back a little behind Iligo but with a slight smile on his peaceful face.

“Wait your turn,” the lead bandit said. “We’ll get to you and your boy soon enough.”

“No, this is when the robbery stops,” Iligo said. “I won’t abide you terrorizing anybody else much less killing anybody.”

“Not much you can do about it,” the bandit said after a laugh. “You’re injured and the boy looks like a stiff wind would blow him over.”

“My name is not ‘boy’, it’s Erron,” he said. “And looks can be deceiving, you simpleton.” Erron had let his anger get away from him and he closed his eyes and took a deep breath to tamp it back down.

“We don’t care what your name is,” the bandit said. “I’d say they’ll care when they bury you but when we’re done, nobody will be able to identify you.”

“Absolutely frightening,” Erron said. “Are you two alright?” This was directed toward the merchant and his daughter as he took a few steps toward them.

“Take one more step toward them and we will end you!” the bandit yelled, tired of the dismissive attitude. “Just close your eyes and accept the inevitable.”

“You won’t make a move against any of them,” Iligo said.

“Who’s going to stop us? You?” the bandit asked. “You’ll only slow us down for a moment.”

“Don’t worry about them,” Erron said, gesturing at the bandits. “Are you okay? Do you require any healing?”

The two shook their heads, nervously glancing at the incredulous bandit leader. The bandits started to move closer, impatient about getting on with business before somebody else came down the road. Somebody like soldiers or guards.

Erron smiled. “Good,” he said. “You probably just need some soothing tea and a good rest to settle your nerves. Don’t worry, it’s coming.”

“Are you crazy?” the bandit leader asked. “I don’t care anymore. I’m going to personally pluck out your eyeballs.”

Iligo shrugged. “You can try,” he said. “Do you want to get started or are we going to talk all day? We want to get back on the road to the next town. I don’t want to sleep on the ground again tonight.”

“So damned confident,” the bandit said. “Look around, it’s five to two. You don’t have a chance.”

“Oh I’m staying out of this fight,” Erron said. “This is entirely his idea and I’m more of a healer than a fighter. You guys have fun, though.”

“Five on one,” the bandit said after too long of a pause. “Even better. Let’s go.”

“Enough talk,” Iligo said. “Time to fight.”

Iligo reached back and grabbed his sword hilt. He twisted it in such a way that he released his sword with the hilt still on it. The two-handed sword would be less effective with one hand and with the blunt hilt still attached but Iligo did not actually feel like killing anybody. The bandits started to laugh, obviously thinking that the hilt still being on was a blunder. They charged. Iligo was a whirlwind and moved quickly, striking at the bandits one at a time. He effortlessly dodged their strikes much to their surprise. One by one, the bandits fell unconscious on the dirt road. The look on the lead bandit’s face was especially satisfying right before Iligo kicked him in the face.

“That was amazing!” the daughter cried out 

Iligo slipped his arm out of the sling and stretched it out. 

“Your arms not injured?” the merchant asked.

Erron laughed. “I wouldn’t let him walk around injured like that,” he said. “He just likes to show off.”



May 20, 2023

Kethi and Taldia were walking through the old mines of Brosgate with some trepidation. Kethi held a torch but Taldia relied on her superior darkvision. Taldia was obviously used to being underground as a drow elf but she had also been exiled from her home for quite a while. It felt like a comfort to be underground once again which is part of the reason that she had chosen to be a dungeon delver. The two of them were for hire by anybody halfway decent who had the coin. This time, they had been hired by the new owners of the mine. They had probably bought it for a song with its reputation.

“What are we supposed to be expecting down here again?” Kethi asked. “I kind of got lost in the history lesson that guy was trying to give us.”

“I found it fascinating,” Taldia said. “Were there not enough pictures for you? Too many words?”

“Very funny,” Kethi said. “I’m not that dumb. However, I do occasionally need your help in directing me on who or what to hit.” She turned to face Taldia suddenly and the torchlight caused Taldia’s eyes to return to normal and she winced. Kethi quickly pulled the torch away.

“It is not always hitting,” Taldia said. 

“You of all people are going to give me the ‘violence is not always the answer’ lecture?” Kethi asked. “Our non-hitting options are limited without the bard around.”

“The bard has a name,” Taldia said. “It’s Fiona and she is still at the temple. She will rejoin us when or if Ioun and Oghma will it.”

“How likely do you think that is?” Kethi asked. 

“The Gods seem to have many plans and they need their agents to play those plans out,” Taldia said, pausing to think about it. “Perhaps they believe that Fiona can fulfill her mission alongside us, making us into instruments of their will as well.”

“I am nobody’s puppet,” Kethi said. “I will not be contained or controlled.”

“The Gods gave us free will,” Taldia said. “They only reward us for using our time alive for good.”

“I’ve been good,” Kethi said. “Mostly. I’m at least helpful more often than I am bad.”

“Not bad exactly,” Taldia said with a smile and a shrug. “I would use the term ‘disruptive’ instead. But that’s alright, I’m disruptive too.”

“I feel like we’ve both gotten better,” Kethi “We got rid of bad influences.”

“Your tribe and my people,” Taldia said with a nod. “I would agree. Some people are toxic. I think that the Gods would want Fiona to be happy and she was happy with us.”

“She was, wasn’t she?” Kethi asked with a smile. “We’ve had a lot of fun times together and we’ve made a lot of money.”

“Agreed,” Taldia said. “She will return to us. I have faith.”

“Was that a joke?” Kethi asked.

“What? No.” Taldia asked with a quizzical look on her face.

“Okay, moving on,” Kethi said. “Without Fiona, we’re down to mostly hitting and sneaking. You should probably commence with the history lesson.”

“Try not to zone out this time,” Taldia said. “This was a functioning silver and mithral mine for quite some time. A tiefling collective mined and sold the silver while the dwarves below mined the mithral. There was peace and cooperation.”

“I’m sensing from our surroundings that the peace did not last,” Kethi said.

“You are correct,” Taldia said as if she was speaking to a child. “There was a major invasion of goblins that hampered all mine activity. Many allies were called in to eradicate the goblins who were worshippers of Shar. They were actually mutated by dark magicks and were part Goblin and part bat.”

“Is that what we’re facing down here?” Kethi asked. “I hate bats. They’re creepy.”

“I once had a pet bat,” Taldia said. “He was my only friend.”

“That’s really sad,” Kethi said. “I’m glad you have more friends now.”

“Yes,” Taldia said with a smile. “As the goblin abated, a stranded dragon was found in a corner of the mines. Many people died.”

“A dragon?” Kethi asked with excitement. “I’ve never seen one!”

“The two of us are not remotely enough to slay even a juvenile dragon,” Taldia said. “The dragon was slain by Aveneil the Scarlet a long time ago. Aveneil was then corrupted by a dark spirit and became a dark dictator.”

“I have a feeling that Aveneil is also not still down here,” Kethi said. “Can we skip ahead to what we think is down here?”

“Actually, nobody is sure,” Taldia said. “Several scouts have disappeared without a trace.”

“That’s comforting,” Kethi said. “I’m sure that won’t happen to us.”

There was suddenly the very clear uttering of the word ‘echo’ from somewhere in the darkness.

“Did you say ‘echo’?” Kethi asked.

“No, and I assume you wouldn’t ask if you did,” Taldia said.

The voice said ‘echo’ again. Then more people said ‘echo’ in the darkness. A group of people stepped out of the shadows, their eyes solid black. They were all muttering the word ‘echo’.

“Time to get to work,” Kethi said.

“Lucky us,” Taldia said.

The Teacher

May 13, 2023

Juno had been working on picking the lock for what felt like hours but had really only been minutes. Her slender tools poked and prodded the lock through the keyhole expertly. She finally nudged the last tumbler into place with a satisfying click. She reached for the doorknob. Dean reached out and caught hold of her wrist.

“Are you kidding me?” Dean asked. “Were you really about to try and open that door?” One eyebrow rose as he judged her harshly as ever.

“Um, yeah,” Juno said. “I picked the lock, old man. I’m going inside now. That’s how this works. The guard will be passing on patrol soon. We both need to go inside.” She kept looking around them, making sure they were not being watched. She looked for the flicker of torchlight out of the corner of her eye.

“Not yet,” Dean said. “You rush so much. You forget things. You fail to pay attention to details.” He was the picture of serenity with a blissful smile. It aggravated Juno even more.

“What details? What did I forget?” Juno asked. “I’m getting really sick of your games.” She poked a finger angrily at his chest.

“You’re starting to panic a bit, I think,” Dean said with a smile. “Breathe. You’re either going to get caught or you’re not.” He looked like he really did not care.

“I’d rather not get caught,” Juno said. She was frowning, her hands on her hips. She was so frustrated.

“I echo that sentiment,” Dean said. “So, just tell yourself that you aren’t going to get caught and think about what you’re forgetting.”

Juno just glared at the older man who had been her teacher for quite some time. She was only an initiate in the thieves guild. She had been hungry and desperate and Dean had broken her down and trained her up. She knew she still had a long way to go before she could call herself a master thief but she knew that she was pretty damned good. She had achieved a new record on the lock and there were plenty of fenceable goods inside. All of the planning was done regarding the guard patrol patterns and the place’s security vulnerabilities and here was Dean blowing it for a lesson. It made Juno angry.

“Fine!” she hissed at him. “What am I forgetting? Tell me.”

Dean chuckled. “Such fire,” he said softly. “Who owns this house?”

“A wealthy merchant,” Juno answered. “One chasing a bargain clear across the country.”

“The whisper campaign you used to convince him of that false bargain was inspired,” Dean said. “Merchants have simple weaknesses.”

“So why are we waiting out here?” Juno asked.

“Where is the merchant originally from?” Dean asked.

Juno thought about that question for a bit. She had done a lot of research on their mark while planning the heist. She thought back to what she had learned.

“He came here from Alscines but he is from Koshain originally,” Juno said almost as if she was reading off of a page in her journal. Then she realized what she said. “He comes from a gnomish region! The locks in Koshain are renowned for their lock designs.”

“So what did you forget?” Dean asked simply, obviously trying not to smile.

Juno slid her tools back into the lock and searched for a bit before there was another audible click. She turned the doorknob with a look of extreme satisfaction and pushed the door open. She reached carefully behind the door and grabbed a glass sphere that fit neatly in the palm of her hand.

“A second mechanism that would have shattered this sphere and unleashed elemental fire,” Juno said. “We would have been badly burned. Probably fatally.”

“So you should thank me for preventing that,” Dean said.

Juno sighed. “Fine,” she said. “Thank you, teacher. Your help and guidance are invaluable and I would be face down on the street without you or worse. Now get your ass inside. Age before beauty.”

“I somehow doubt your sincerity,” Dean said. “But I will go first. Somebody has to check for more traps.” He slipped inside without another word.

Juno let out an exasperated sound and followed.

In the Wilds

May 6, 2023

“What is she doing out here?” Tynkla asked. “This is the middle of nowhere.” The gnome found it a little hard to walk around the forest since it was harder to lift her short legs over logs and other detritus.

“The gods know,” Sir Reeve said. “You know how druids are. They’re into all of this nature stuff. They can’t get enough of it.” The human was much taller and his strides were longer, so naturally he took the lead.

“I don’t understand it,” Tynkla said. “If you have to set up camp on the way to the nearest town, you are too far into the wilderness.”

“I don’t know,” Sir Reeve said. “I think it’s nice out here.”

“We’ll see if you’re still saying that when the first beast attacks us,” Tynkla said. “Try chirping about all this fresh air when a griffin is pecking out your eye.”

“You’re a very pleasant traveling companion,” Sir Reeve said. “Just sparkling conversation.”

“I’m sorry,” Tynkla said. “When I’m out this far, my fingers start to itch.”

“No pockets to pick out here, huh?” Sir Reeve asked. “Nothing to do but walk.”

Tynkla frowned. “I would act offended but what’s the use?” she asked. “I’m out of my element. At least you can still fight things out here.”

“I don’t only fight,” Sir Reeve said.

“Well, I don’t only steal,” Tynkla said. “But crime is what I’m good at. There’s no crime out here. There can’t be any crime where there are no rules.”

“There is really one rule out here,” Sir Reeve said with a grin. “Kill or be killed. That’s it. That’s all there is out there and I like that simplicity.”

“That’s not the only rule out here,” Silussa said, seeming to appear out of thin air. She was covered head to toe in leaves and dirt which had camouflaged her. “The only rule is ‘Don’t mess with Mother Nature’. Obey that or else.”

The thief and the fighter had flinched when the druid had appeared, both reaching for their weapons but relaxed when they heard the familiar neutral tones of Silussa’s voice. The druid always seemed to be nonplussed by everything, bereft of emotions. One of the many reasons that she got along with flora and fauna more than the races that walked on two legs. Those who knew her best had learned not to be offended by her demeanor or lack thereof. 

“Noted,” Tynkla said. “We defer to you on all matters concerning nature. I wouldn’t dream of contradicting you. How did you find us?”

“You talk so much,” Silussa said. “The birds told me about you. They were very concerned.”

“We apologize for causing the birds concern,” Sir Reeve said. “That was not our intention.” He was always so polite. It was what had both irritated and impressed Tynkla when they met.

“Don’t worry, I already let them know that you’re harmless,” Silussa said gently.

“In what world are we harmless?!” Tynkla nearly yelled. “Do you know how big the body count is between the two of us!?” The gnome’s face was incredulous. It was hard to tell if she was about to laugh or scream. She was a hazard when she chose to draw her twin blades or her crossbow. Harmless had to be a joke.

“We’re not here for the birds,” Sir Reeve said. “Let the birds believe what they want, Tynkla.” Always the voice of reason.

“Fine,” Tynkla said, taking a deep breath. “You’re right, that’s not what we’re out here for.”

“So you two are still in congress,” Silussa said. “Good to know.”

The gnome and the human paused and both tilted their head in confusion.

“Hmm?” Sir Reeve asked. “What do you mean?”

“You are still fornicating?” Silussa asked. She had always been very direct. Sometimes that bluntness was refreshing and sometimes it was not.

Sir Reeve blushed furiously. “What?” he asked. “What?” he repeated, unable to formulate another word for a few moments.

Tynkla laughed. “Why wouldn’t we be?” she asked. She had no time for shame or embarrassment.

Silussa shrugged. “I have not been in communication with you for some time,” she said. “I wondered if things were the same and your behavior has confirmed that your relationship status remains stable. It is good that some things remain the same.”

“Not everything is the same,” Sir Reeve said. “We do miss you and the others. It has been too long.”

“That’s why we tracked you down,” Tynkla said. “We want to get the band back together.”

Silussa looked confused. “But only Clyde played an instrument,” she said. “And Farron would sing but only when they were drunk and even then very poorly.”

“No no,” Sir Reeve said. “We want to get our adventuring party back together.”

Silussa shrugged. “I feel that we accomplished what we set out to do,” she said. “I defend this forest now. It needs me.”

“We respect your decision, of course,” Sir Reeve said. “We wouldn’t force you to do anything that you’re not comfortable with.”

“But a disciple of Nox survives,” Tynkla said. 

Silussa visibly bristled at the mention of the necromancer’s name. She had felt his corruption of the natural order from a long distance and had gone closer than ever to civilization because of that feeling.

“I have felt something,” Silussa said. “I was not sure what it was but now I suspect that it must be this disciple.”

“We have the expertise to deal with this,” Tynkla said. “We need to get everybody back together. We know where Clyde is. He’s not hard to find. We left Farron back in the library. We just need you and we need Urr and we’re good to go.”

“Please tell us you’ll come with us,” Sir Reeve said. “We need you.”

There was a long silence as the gnome and the human stared at the elf, waiting for a reply.

“I will help you find Urr,” Silussa said. “And I will also go with you. The disciple must be stopped.”

“Thank you,” Sir Reeve said.

“Let’s do this,” Tynkla said.

For the Hoard

February 25, 2023

Ilodil and Lisnia made their way down the rock face of the cliff carefully. Ilodil had taken off his armor in order to make the climb and he was not happy about it. They had left a lot of their gear above as they planned to camp out for the night before they trekked back home. Lisnia was a much quicker climber and was a few lengths ahead of Ilodil.

“I can’t believe after all of that, you let the coin fall all the way down the cliff,” Ilodil said. “We have to get it back.”

“I know we have to get it back,” Lisnia said. “The whole point is to return the coin to Lord and Lady Frostsworn. That much is obvious. It’s not my fault that the bandit holding it fell off the cliff. Do you think he survived the fall?”

“I doubt it,” Ilodil said. “This is quite a cliff.”

“Agreed,” Lisnia said. “When we climb back up, will you carry me on your back?” She grinned and looked up at Ilodil.

“Don’t be ridiculous,” Ilodil said, glancing down and regretting it. “You’re quite strong enough to carry yourself back up.”

“Fine,” Lisnia said with a laugh. “I will definitely be ready for a good night’s sleep when we make it back up. I’m not cooking. I’m already too tired. Rations will be had by all.”

“Rations are fine,” Ilodil said. “I don’t need fancy food like you usually do. I will even take the first watch.”

“How gallant,” Lisnia said as she reached the bottom of the cliff. “You don’t have much farther to go. Don’t look down.” 

“I fear your warning came too late,” Ilodil said. “I have already looked down.”

“You always look down,” Lisnia said with a gentle sigh. “You know what that does to you.”

“I will maintain,” Ilodil said. “As you say, it is not much farther.” Lisnia watched as he slowly descended and faltered only slightly at the surprise of reaching the round. He brushed himself off and tried to hide his embarrassment. “Have you found the coin yet?”

“Oh! I guess I was distracted by watching your form,” Lisnia said. “I’ll look now.”

“Please do,” Ilodil said. “That climb cannot be for nothing.”

“Relax, Sir Grumpy,” Lisnia said as she looked around. She spotted the bandit spread eagled in the dirt. “Oh, I hope he was dead before he landed.” She shuddered and walked over. She plucked a coin from the dirt and cleaned it off. “Wait a moment, this isn’t the coin.”

“What?” Ilodil asked in a flat tone. “How can it not be the coin? Don’t tell me that the coin is still at the top of this blasted cliff.”

“No,” Lisnia said indignantly. “I saw him hold it up in the sunlight. He taunted me with it. Taunted us with it. Then he got an arrow for it and that led us to where we are now.”

“Then why is that not the coin?” Ilodil asked.

“It must be an errant coin,” Lisnia said. “A coincidental additional coin.” 

“I’m not sure about that but a more thorough search is required,” Ilodil said. “I believe you when you say that he had the coin. I have faith.” He started to search the ground around them.

“I’m touched,” Lisnia said. She leaned over the bandit who was well and truly dead. She pulled her arrow out of him and wiped it off on her pants. It was then that she noticed that the bandit’s fist was clenched. She bent down and pried it open and there was the coin they were searching for. “I knew it! Coin found. We’ll fulfill our contract after all.”

“And then some,” Ilodil said. “I found more coins in the dirt. A trail of them. They lead into that cave.”

“A bandit hidey hole perhaps?” Lisnia asked.

“Carelessly hidden if so,” Ilodil said as he led the way into the cave. The place was massive and what looked like gems were embedded in the walls. After they had made their way a little further in, they found an absolutely massive pile of treasure. It looked like millions of coins and various objects could be seen poking out from the sea of coins. The two adventurers were momentarily in awe.

“I don’t think this is for the bandits, dear Ilodil,” Lisnia said. “I think this is a dragon hoard.”

“There hasn’t been a dragon reported in the land for decades,” Ilodil said.

“Exactly,” Lisnia said with glee. “That means this was left behind and now it’s all ours.”

Into the Cosmos

February 4, 2023

The Legion of Tears had taken control of Villa Myra. Lord Myra himself and much of his household had been slaughtered senselessly in acts of wanton violence. The Legion got their name from a very specific regional drug that the group took. It was made from a combination of ground-up Duskmoss and Ghost Wasps. The feeling when one partook of the powder was extreme euphoria but long-term use often caused a loss of emotional control. This caused most mortal creatures to eventually start weeping uncontrollably. The Legion of Tears could be easily identified by these tear tracks. Longer use turned those tears bloody. 

The raging hoard of a cult had rushed the villa and overwhelmed the guards who were taken by surprise. They had then gone on to slaughter the staff and most of the family. The twins, Corra and James had somehow made it through the chaos. They had run blindly with many members of the Legion close at their heels. Just as they thought that they would be ended, a house materialized in the air and crashed down on several members of the Legion. The twins were stunned as a young woman in a very fancy dress stepped out and started picking off members of the Legion with a crossbow. A heavily scarred tiefling jumped out of a second-story window and launched a fireball that exploded, sending Legion members flying. 

“What are you waiting for?” the woman asked, yelling at the twins. “Get in the house!”

“What?” Corra asked, blinking.

“In the house!” the woman repeated, jabbing a finger toward the front door she had just come out of.

James grabbed Corra’s arm and pulled her toward the door. “It can’t be as bad in there as it is out here,” he yelled. “Come on, Corra. Run from the maniacs.”

“I hope you’re right, James,” Corra said as James pulled her inside.

The inside of the house was very ornate and the twins gaped in wonderment at the fancy house. Corra could have sworn she saw a torch sort of blinking at her. It felt off. For a moment, they both forgot the fighting outside. Then they remembered their family members.

“We have to go back for them, James,” Corra said.

“We can’t,” James said. “They’re already gone. It’s too dangerous.”

“We shouldn’t have run,” Corra said. “We could have saved them.”

The woman and the tiefling burst through the front door and slammed it behind them.

“Are you crazy?” the woman asked. “There’s no way you could have survived. You did the right thing.” She banged on the wall. “Let’s go before they try and break in.”

The twins felt the house go all weightless for a moment and then things went back to normal. Corra rushed to the nearest window and there was nothing but blackness outside of the window as if somebody had painted it with tar.

“There’s nothing out there,” James said from behind her.

Corra looked back at him. “What’s going on?” she asked.

The tiefling spoke up. “It’s the void between planes,” he said. “It’s where the house goes when it travels.”

“Since when does a house travel?” Corra asked. “Who are you?”

“This is a very particular house,” the woman said. “My name is Kestrel Proudseeker and this is Wit Cinderstride.” She pointed at the tiefling who nodded. “He’s mute, not impolite. This is the House of Mystery and it goes where it is needed.”

“Where it’s needed?” James asked. “I don’t want to seem ungrateful but the house could have shown up a little earlier.”

Corra nodded in solidarity with her brother.

“I wish we had shown up earlier,” Kestrel said. “Near as we can tell, the house can’t see the future but can sense danger in the moment. It must have sensed specifically that you two were in trouble.”

“Why us?” Corra asked.

“You must be needed to save the planes,” Kestrel said. “What the house needs with two teenage elves is beyond me.”

“We don’t have any clue either,” James said. 

“I don’t want to save anything right now,” Corra said. “I just want to cry.”

“I understand,” Kestrel said. “But I’m not about to argue with a house. Pick whatever unoccupied room you want. There’s plenty of food and drink in the kitchen.”

The twins wandered off together into the house.


January 7, 2023

Caraline gripped the ledge outside of Castle Diadem with one hand while she clutched the Jewel of Dragons in her other hand. This heist had not gone as well as she had planned. She reviewed the plan. The first step had been to enter the castle undetected. She had accomplished that. The next step had been to grab the Jewel of Dragons without setting off any traps. This had also been checked off the list with only a few complications. The last step had been to exit the castle again undetected. That last part had not gone off without a hitch. A chance encounter with a servant had alerted the guards. A makeshift escape rope had been made from a tapestry but it had only gotten her so far. That led to her predicament.

As her mind raced to try to find the next step in her escape plan, a crossbow bolt suddenly impacted her shoulder. It was the shoulder of the arm hanging onto the ledge. Miraculously, she barely managed to hold on for a few moments. Then her arm spasmed and her fingers released as if they had a mind of their own. She started her rapid descent and her mind went into overdrive. She quickly swallowed the jewel. She would need her hands free. She tore the bolt out of her shoulder and grabbed both ends and caught it on a stone jutting out of the wall. The pain was exquisite but the move slowed her down enough to push off of the wall in a backflip.

She was much more close to the ground but still had a ways to go. She twisted in the air and just barely caught hold of a branch of the tall tree in front of the castle. She swung on the branch and pointed her body to a lower branch. She bounced off the limb and tumbled clumsily downwards. She braced herself for impact and landed on her own two feet. She was definitely going to feel all of this for weeks. This jewel better be worth it. She shook it off and sprinted toward the gates.

The gates were in the process of closing. Crossbow bolts flew past her but she sprinted with everything she had left. A big guard stepped into her path but she launched her fist into the poor guy’s throat. She pivoted around his falling body and pushed off to sprint again. She slid under the closing gate and then somersaulted back into a run. The treeline seemed so far away. That was the moment that she felt a hand on her back and she was suddenly teleported far into the trees. She promptly ran into a tree.

“Sorry!” a voice cried out. “I was trying to help!”

Caralina wiped the blood from her broken nose. “I told you that I did not need your help!” she yelled.

Andi reached down to try to help Caralina up. “I know you did and I tried to not help,” she said. “I could have helped you countless times but I was good. I could have cast invisibility, feather fall, stone shape, and so many more spells but I waited until you had succeeded. You were about to be shot in the back.”

“I was already shot,” Caralina said, waving Andi away. “I survived that well enough.”

“You’re not invincible!” Andi shouted. “You have to accept help at some point.”

“I’m fine,” Caralina said. “I’ll get to a cleric.”

“Did you get the jewel?” Andi asked.

“Yeah,” Caralina said. “We’re going to have to wait for it. I had to swallow it.”

“You did what!?” Andi asked.

“Is that bad?” Caralina asked, frowning at the urgency in Andi’s voice.

“We should get you to that cleric a little quicker,” Andi said.

The Harvest

July 30, 2022

The lonely hawk flew along the city walls, zig-zagging as it looked for a good perch. This part of the city was still mostly abandoned after the giant attack. Average citizens had no reason to frequent what were now ruins. Engineers and builders frequented the area but they did not have a large enough workforce to be everywhere. So it was that just like with other unused spaces, criminals moved in to use them. None of the criminals installed anything permanent but the area was perfect for uninterrupted secret meetings.

If the workers and criminals in the area bothered to look up, the hawk would have been fairly unremarkable. Some birds of prey did stray near the city and helped curb the rodent problem, especially in the damaged parts far from the hunting grounds of any feral cats. The part that was rather remarkable was that this hawk had a passenger. A tiny mouse clung to the bird’s neck feathers, managing to stay on even with the crosswinds up that high. The hawk made big swooping circles but finally came in for a landing in the remains of what must have been a wizard’s tower.

The mouse chittered and smoothed its fur before jumping off of the hawk. As it walked away, the mouse slowly transformed into the elven form of Becka. As she attained her normal form, she shivered and shook off the feeling of the magical transformation. She did not look pleased.

“That was weird,” she said. “That was really weird. I’m not sure if I hated it or liked it. My head is still spinning.”

The hawk shimmered and was instantly replaced by the form of the young druid Joshua. The young halfling was smug and gave a half-hearted shrug.

“That’s probably the effect of your intellect dropping to that of a mouse and then going back up,” Joshua said. “Though, in your case, it’s probably not that great of a difference.” He was perched a bit on top of a broken-down bit of wall. They were mostly enclosed in the top of the tower, giving them a bit of privacy.

“Watch your tongue, boy,” Becka said, her eyes narrowing with annoyance and the early rumblings of anger. “You know who and what I am.” She smoothed her cloak and tossed her auburn hair, an arrogant habit she had. She was a little more relaxed, sure that they would probably not be spotted anytime soon.

“Oh I know,” Joshua said with a smile. “The Harvest. The Coming Winter. The Butcher of Khull. I know all of your names and the reputation that comes with them.” 

“So you know that I could kill you in any number of ways,” Becka said. “I killed with a table leg. Ten soldiers with a table leg.” She gripped the hilt of her saber with a somewhat haughty expression.

Joshua nodded. “I’ve heard the stories,” he said. “I also know that you only kill criminals or enemy combatants. I am neither. You hired me to get you across the city.”

Becka’s eyes narrowed again. “Because you picked my pocket,” she said. “Which makes you a criminal. I also thought you would point me towards a shortcut through the sewers.”

“Sewers? Not ideal. You know what goes into the sewers, right?” Joshua asked with a smile. “Learning how to be a fish is kind of weird too. Fish are also somehow more stupid than mice.”

“We don’t have to be fish,” Becka said. “Do you ever just walk anywhere?”

“Ugh, not if I can help it,” Joshua said. “It takes forever. Look how quickly we flew.”

“Not exactly stealthy or safe,” Becka said.

“Look, we could sit around here discussing my methods or you could get on with the killing,” Joshua said.

“You’re not needed here,” Becka said, pulling out her bow to assemble it.”You can go.”

There was a long silence and then Joshua spoke. “Oh, what’s your exit strategy then?” Joshua asks.

Becka barely flinched. It was subtle but Joshua spotted it. “I’ll figure it out,” she said softly.

“Maybe I want to stick around,” Joshua said. “I’ve never seen an assassination before.”

“Suit yourself,” Becka said with a shrug. “If you get in my way, I will take you down.” She pulled out her quiver of arrows.

“Noted,” Joshua said and pulled out an apple to eat.


July 16, 2022

Mouse crept out from behind the crates they had been hiding behind. As the smallest member of the Butcherbirds, the halfling was the perfect lookout. Mouse always had their blanket draped around them. Very few people had actually seen anything but Mouse’s eyes and they had often been disregarded as a pile of rags by most people. This was by design. Mouse crept below the window and looked for signs of life. Nobody was about so Mouse pulled out a whistle and blew on it before flouncing against the wall and acting like detritus. There was a long beat of silence.

Dinah strutted into the alleyway and then reached up and cinched the band of cloth holding her matted hair up and out of her face. She looked up at the window and used her hands to measure things and do some calculations in her head. She checked the gear tucked into the silk tied around her waist. She sighed softly.

“This isn’t a fashion show, D,” Griffin said. “Can we just get on with it?” He crept out of hiding, looking up and down the alleyway with his one good eye. His constant paranoia could be annoying but it did keep them safe. He fidgeted with a dagger, flipping it every few moments. It was his most prized possession. He was the fighter, the scrapper, the leader.

“You’re such a dingus, Giffin,” Dinah said. “This should be at least a little fun, right? If it’s not fun, we should go straight to an orphanage.”

“You’re just a lot, you know?” Griffin said. “Stop being all girly.”

“I’m an artist,” Dinah said. “And things need to be perfect if this bird is going to fly.”

“Whatever,” Griffin said. “Come on, Five. The coast is clear. You didn’t fall asleep again?”

A large mound of trash started to move as Five crawled out of it. His green-gray skin was splattered with dirt and grime from all sorts of things that were best not thought of. He seemed unbothered by the mess decorating him. He grunted.

“Gods, you smell so bad!” Griffin said. “This plan did not hinge on you hiding in garbage. We could have put you in a crate, big guy.”

“I don’t know, I think he might smell better than usual,” Dinah said. “Ready to go Five?”

Five grunted and nodded. He was non-verbal and nobody knew why. They had guessed that it might have something to do with one of his tusks being broken but nobody wanted to press the half-orc on the issue to confirm. Five was the muscle of the team which meant that he was less sneaky than the rest of the Butcherbirds but just as welcome. He had earned their trust and a place in their weird little family. Five had moved under the window and cupped his hands together. Dinah nodded and ran at Five, jumping into his cupped hands so that Five could launch her up toward the window. 

Dinah’s slight half-elven frame made her lighter than most and she shot up and landed gracefully on the windowsill. She braced her legs and pulled out her crowbar and shoved it under the window. She stomped on the crowbar and she heard the window’s lock break. Just like they thought, the place was too old to have good security. She tucked her crowbar away and opened the window slowly. She attached an anchor and dropped a rope below. Griffin climbed up and shut the window. Five and Mouse would shuffle off somewhere in earshot in case they were needed.

“So what do we have here?” Griffin asked. “There had better be something worth it in here.”

“Plenty,” Dinah said. “I mean, there has to be. It’s old.”

A familiar bird landed on a chair nearby and stared at the two child thieves.

“Oh no,” Griffin said. “What are you doing here?”

“Be nice,” Dinah said. “He’s one of us.”

“He keeps going off on his own,” Griffin said. “He keeps screwing things up.”

At that, the bird promptly turned back into a young boy. The problem was that he was still perched on top of the chair and that chair tipped over and dumped the boy face first onto the floor. He instantly sprang back to his feet and tried not to show how much that hurt.

“I do not screw things up,” Kant said. “I might have made a few mistakes but I’m here to help.”

Griffin sighed. “Fine,” he said. “Less magic, more thievery. Don’t touch anything troublesome. We’re only stealing the good stuff.”

“Which means stuff we can eat, use, or sell,” Dinah said.

“Got it,” Kant said. He could not really control his magic too well. It was innate magic that came from his blood. He had been abandoned in the streets as a toddler so he did not remember where that blood had come from. His wild magic often misfired at inappropriate times but he meant well. When his magic worked, it worked well for the Butcherbirds.

The three thieves set about looking for the best things to take with them.

The Mirror Pt. 2

July 2, 2022

“A deal?” Kerzi asked. “What kind of deal are we making?” She kept her distance, standing on the opposite side of the wizard’s laboratory from her exact double. Well, not exact but very close. The differences became more apparent the longer Kerzi watched but an outside observer probably would not notice those differences. But Kerzi knew herself.

The Other Kerzi shrugged and smiled, trying to act nonchalant. “Nothing major, at least not for now,” she said. “Just a deal that keeps you from trapping me here somehow. I want your word on that.” She was acting neutral but there was a slight tinge of fear behind her eyes when she had mentioned being trapped.

“What do I get out of this deal?” Kerzi asked. “I mean, this was my face first. Now I have to share it with you. I’m not accustomed to giving away anything for free.” Kerzi had not let go of her knives and she flexed her grip to make sure her wrists did not get too tense.

“I can sympathize with that,” The Other Kerzi said. She stayed far out of the range of Kerzi’s knives. She had no weapons that Kerzi could see but that meant nothing. Kerzi had faced many unarmed opponents that were quite formidable.

“Can you?” Kerzi asked. “You’ve only been alive for only a few moments, right? How can you sympathize? How can you talk? How can you think?” She was still mystified by what was happening. Magic was not her specialty and this whole thing was still ringing alarm bells.

“I can’t pretend to know how this works completely but I sense that I got some of my faculties from you and some from,” The Other Kerzi said, pausing for effect. “Somewhere else.”

“Somewhere else, huh?” Kerzi asked. “What are you?” 

“I’d love to know that myself,” The Other Kerzi said. “Perhaps you can help me explore that question.”

“You still haven’t told me what I get from helping you,” Kerzi said. “I’m no hero. I’m a mercenary at best.”

“And the solving of magical mysteries isn’t profitable?” The Other Kerzi asked with more than a little mockery in her voice. “For starters, I can help you find the artifact you were sent here for. I can help you carry plenty of other things away from this place. We can be a team.”

“Splitting my pay in half?” Kerzi asked. “That sounds like an excellent deal for me.”

The Other Kerzi sighed. “How about a seventy-thirty split?” she asked. “Hells, I don’t even need much. I’ll take what scrolls I can carry as payment for this job and a few scraps of food. If I help raise your income, we renegotiate my pay.”

“You are not good at bargaining,” Kerzi said, almost with pity.

“I’m desperate,” The Other Kerzi said. “I don’t want my life to end just as it begins.”

“If we’re going to make a deal, you should have a name,” Kerzi said. “I will not allow you to introduce yourself as Kerzi. That’s me. Bad enough you have my face.”

“But it’s such a pretty face,” The Other Kerzi said. “I have no name. As you said, I was born moments ago.”

“Well, if you’re a reflection of me then why not Izrek?” Kerzi asked.

“A little clumsy,” The Other Kerzi said. “Call me Izzy.”

“I guess that works,” Kerzi said. “I suppose you’ve managed to present an attractive deal. Attractive enough.”

Izzy walked to the center of the room and stuck her hand out. “Shake on it?” she asked. “No tricks. I’m your partner. You can introduce me as your twin sister if you’d like.”

Kerzi walked up cautiously. She thought long and hard about it. “I guess that’s as good a story as any,” she said. She reached out to shake Izzy’s hand. “Deal.”

Kerzi flinched, half-expecting to find herself tricked into the mirror but there was her twin, smiling at her. What had she gotten herself into?

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