Posts Tagged ‘Fantasy’

The Escape

August 17, 2019

Alvus Silverleaf and Berry Lampwick slowed to a stop in a clearing in the woods. Actually, they were forced to stop as Alvus had to catch his breath, not accustomed to running in the first place and definitely not up to it after being held in captivity for so long. If his captors had allowed him to sleep, he could have boosted his speed with magic but they had taken to purposefully keeping him awake and unrested in between tests. It had been two days since the last test and Alvus was exhausted so he could only look at Berry helplessly. She looked about worriedly.

Berry Lampwick was the best mercenary in the region for infiltrating hazardous buildings on missions. This particular jailbreak had been tricky but it was almost over. If they got a little farther away, there was no way they could track them fast enough. She was beginning to have doubts about Silverleaf’s constitution holding up long enough to get through the woods.

“Are you alright, Lord Silverleaf?” Berry asked, drawing her twin daggers just in case.

“Well,” Silverleaf said. “other than not sleeping for two days and being captive for two weeks, I’m fine. Not that I’m complaining, but who are you?”

“Berry Lampwick, sneak thief for hire,” Berry said. “Your sister hired me to come and get you.”

“Well, I’m not going to complain about somebody coming to pick my locks,” Silverleaf said. “Wait, you called me Lord Silverleaf?”

Berry took a deep breath. “I hate to be the one to tell you this but your father was killed when you were kidnapped,” she said.

“So he’s dead, huh?” Silverleaf asked. “I thought it would be a long time before I would take over. He didn’t deserve to go out that way.” He looked away so that Berry could not see his face. She could see his shoulders slump, though.

“I’m so sorry,” Berry said. “Your sister is waiting for you. We need to get you to safety.”

Silverleaf took a deep breath and looked back in the direction they came, clenching his fists. “You’re right but those people will burn,” he said. “As soon as I regroup with my sister, we’ll rain down fire on that place.” He was suddenly so much more tired than he had been a moment earlier.

“That place is obviously owned by the Heartsongs,” Berry asked. “Why did the Heartsong family kidnap you, anyway?”

Silverleaf paused from glaring back in the direction of the manor. “This is one of Lord Heartsong’s secret manors,” he said. “They have apparently been kidnapping sorcerers and keeping them in hidden locations. They are running tests to see what makes a sorcerer.”

“Involuntarily no less,” Berry said. “What a bunch of assholes. Do you think they have learned anything?”

“I was as uncooperative as I could be,” Silverleaf said. “but I have no idea what they have learned. If they figure out how to reliably make sorcerers, that will definitely not be a good thing. We have to stop them.”

“I might consider giving you a discount for helping out with that mission,” Berry said. “I’ll help you stop these kidnappings.”

A voice echoed from the edge of the clearing. “You’ll stop no one! You’ve crossed the Heartsongs,” the voice said. “Nobody does that twice. Allow me to introduce myself. My name is Lord Heartsong.” Berry felt her body seizing up and she could not move a muscle. At the same time, a tall tiefling appeared standing dramatically on a stone.

“I will do more than cross you, Heartsong,” Silverleaf said. “I will see you and your gang of hoods hang for this.”

“Unfortunately, I am about to kill your halfling friend there and take you back to my manor,” Lord Heartsong said. “You’ll have to wait a long time to get your revenge.” He laughed loud and long.

Silverleaf grinned. “You dumb bastard,” he said. “You made a fatal mistake.”

Lord Heartsong walked toward Berry, a knife drawn to slit her throat. “I don’t make mistakes, Silverleaf,” he said. “You’re the one who is mistaken.”

“Fool,” Silverleaf said. “My sister sent this woman and my sister is a Silverleaf. A Silverleaf does not spare a single copper when something is important.”

A crossbow bolt sailed out of the woods and sank into Lord Heartsong’s arm. Berry Lampwick was suddenly free and she leaped up and sank a dagger into Lord Heartsong’s eye. Heartsong vanished in a puff of acrid-smelling smoke and soldiers emblazoned with the Heartsong symbol rushed into the clearing. Berry moved to protect Silverleaf while the other mercenaries rushed to their aid and started combatting the Heartsong forces. The battle was brief. Lord Heartsong should have brought more underlings.

“Come and help Lord Silverleaf to his feet,” Berry said after the battle was over. “We need to leave this place before that lunatic comes back with more people.”

Two mercenaries moved to lift up Silverleaf and help him as they moved through the forest. Berry led the way, making sure her charge was kept safe. Silverleaf actually fell asleep before they got back to the carriage on the road. Berry saw that he was safely tucked into a makeshift bed before climbing aboard herself for the ride back to Silverleaf Manor. The Lady Silverleaf would pay her handsomely but honestly, she was just happy to see the man safe. She had heard stories of how honorable the Silverleaf family was and was happy to help. If that meant staying on for a war against the Heartsong family, so be it.

Advertisements

The Cave Witch

August 3, 2019

In the morning, the town would burn the swamp witch. She was accused of poisoning the crops outside of town and leading several youths astray through her potions. Nobody knew quite who the witch was. Everybody else in the town of Canterstone had been born within town limits and had grown up there. Like many small towns, the citizens’ reaction to outsiders ranged from curiosity to distrust. Those tides could also change quickly and when magic was involved. The witch had just appeared one day on the outskirts of town in the woods. Nobody was quite sure when she had actually moved into the cave as a hunter had spotted odd smoke coming out of it one day and that was that. She had arrived, evicting an old bear, and set up a home and shop far from prying eyes.

Little by little, some of the townspeople came to timidly visit her cave. Some were merely curious and wanted to catch a glimpse of the witch. Others came to browse here wares and see what a witch could give them for a little coin. She had not been very interested in coin but seemed to be more interested in offering services for barter. While this was not unheard of in a small village, it was a bit peculiar for what was technically a shop. Local law enforcement also visited the little cave and shouted questions from the safety of the mouth. The answers they received were sometimes straightforward and sometimes less so. She claimed to offer only peace but her status as a mystery made people nervous. Children were told to stay away and they disobeyed as children are wont to do.

Then things had gone all wrong and the peace was broken. Some crops had withered unexpectedly, threatening the town’s food supply. So close to harvest was not the time to lose crops like that. The village had grumbled about it but the local druids had moved on and could not be called on to investigate. Suspicions grew as the farmers did not want to admit that they might have failed and ruined a bit of the harvest. After that, a few of the young people were found to be goofing off instead of doing their work for their families. The timing was off as people were already looking for an excuse. One of the wayward teens blurted out something about the witch in the cave and that was it. This outsider had turned against the town and it had to be stopped. They took her captive while she slept and then she was doomed.

They had tied her to a pole in the middle of the town and left her there. In the morning, they would pile firewood and kindling around her and send her to the Hells. She slumped against the pole bound and gagged and sadly resigned to her fate. She had no tricks to pull to get out of her punishment. Gavin Flintshade’s mind would not settle and sleep would not come so, while everyone else slept, he stepped out to watch the witch.

“I wish I could know whether you were guilty or not,” Gavin said.

The witch said nothing, being gagged. It was hard to gauge her expression as she was absolutely encrusted with dried mud and bits of grass and her long hair covered a lot. However, her eyes said enough. Her glare was at the same time angry and pitying.

“I don’t suppose I could ungag you?” Gavin asked. “Would you promise me no tricks?”

The witch seemed to consider this. After they had stared at each other for some time, the witch nodded. Gavin thought he must be crazy or bespelled for even thinking of doing it but he walked up and ungagged her. She spat from the taste of the dirty cloth that had been her mouth but otherwise made no moves.

“My name is Gavin Flintshade,” Gavin said.

“My name is Rina,” the witch said.

Gavin waited for her to finish before he spoke. “Just Rina?” he asked.

“I am only Rina now,” Rina said.

“You don’t seem too dangerous to me, Rina,” Gavin said.

Rina smiled, the mud cracking at the corners of her mouth as if it was a foreign expression for her. “Looks are almost always deceiving,” she said. “But I never meant any harm to this town or its people. I wished only to live in peace.”

“How many years have you lived out there?” Gavin asked.

“Many,” Rina said. “Many without incident.”

“Exactly,” Gavin said. “That’s what troubles me. That’s what makes me think the people here have rushed to judgment.”

Rina paused and thought of what to say next. “In the cities, they would have had some sort of trial,” she said at last.

“We’re not equipped for that here,” Gavin said. “and I don’t think anyone’s inclined to hear you out.”

“I beg to differ,” Rina said. “You are listening.”

“I’m just one person,” Gavin said.

“We are all just one person,” Rina said.

There was a long pause after that and then there was a crack of thunder and it began to rain. Gavin and Rina looked around at all the houses but nobody stirred or made a move to protect the witch from the rain. She was only going to burn in the morning, anyway. Gavin stood there struggling with his own conscience but as he watched, a transformation began to happen. The rain started to wash the mud from Rina and Gavin was not prepared for what he saw. The palest white skin came into view as the mud fell away. Her hair was revealed as a wig made of some sort of woven grass. This was no human. This was not even an elf. It was nothing Gavin had ever seen before.

“What are you?” Gavin asked, his eyes wide.

“You have never seen one such as me,” Rina said. “I am Drow.”

Gavin gasped. “I thought your kind was a myth,” he said. “Aren’t you supposed to have black skin?”

Rina shrugged. “We had jet black skin soon after creation but ages of life underground away somehow changed our skin,” she said.

“And all the vicious rumors about your kind?” Gavin asked. “Are any of them true.”

“I can only imagine what the humans and elves and other races have invented,” Rina said. “However, most of my kind are still bitter against the races of the surface. However, there are many like me who escaped to the surface for a more peaceful life.”

“And then it all got ruined,” Gavin said. “By my kind.”

“It seems so,” Rina said.

There was another long silence and then Gavin stepped forward and moved to cut the ropes restraining Rina.

“What are you doing?” Rina asked. “Don’t.”

Gavin looked up in surprise. “This is not fair,” he said. “I can’t let this happen.”

Rina shook her head and spoke some arcane words and disappeared and reappeared on the ground, the ropes going slack without her form to hold them in place. “It would be incriminating if they found the ropes cut,” she said. “Go back to bed, Gavin Flintshade. I will depart in peace.”

“Good luck,” Gavin said and backed away to go back to his house.

“Goodbye,” Rina said and disappeared into the night.

Whitecrest Harbor

July 20, 2019

The swaying of the ship usually did not bother Val Stonecut but there had been so many storms on the way into Whitecrest Harbor. The deck had been raked with lightning, rain, and high winds. Mending spells were not going to do anything more than a few cosmetic fixes. Carpentry was the only thing that would really help but it would take time to make repairs on the boat. This was when it paid to not actually be part of the crew. Val was free to go ashore as long as he did not reveal the crew’s legal status as it were.

When Val had stepped off the ship, the ship’s one-eyed cat, Wink, had wanted to come along. He and the cat had gotten along as he fed food to her in his hammock below deck and the two of them sometimes shared the sun on the deck. Wink was a good cat. Val could see that the cat had also had enough of the water-logged vessel for the moment and agreed to take the poor thing along. Besides, if Val had a tail he would nervous to be around all of the swinging hammers too.

Wink was pleasantly clinging to Val’s shoulder, excited by all the smells of the city of Whitecrest had to offer. The cat was as excited as Val was to be in a new place. They both eyed food stands with steaming hot, fresh food. Though Wink was obviously a bit more interested in the fresh, raw fish. Val could also feel Wink dig her claws into his leather vest every time somebody got too close as if to make sure they did not get separated.

Val stopped short when he felt rather than saw a piece of wood press against his chest. A short human or a tall halfling stood in front of Val, poking him with some sort of wooden truncheon. Val smiled politely and held his hands up and empty in the universal symbol of peace and non-violence.

“Am I being robbed?” Val asked, only half-joking.

“Are you a criminal?” The woman asked. She kept the truncheon in place, eyes narrowing as she looked directly into Val’s eyes.

“Not the last time I checked,” Val said. “Do I have that look about me?” He looked about him as if he was looking for some outward sign of wickedness.

The woman laughed. “Sorry,” she said. “Sometimes that works.”

“Really?” Val asked.

“You’d be surprised,” she said and held up a platinum badge with a blue gem embedded. “Cora Clayline. Guard captain. <> District.”

Val stuck out his hand. “Val Stonecut,” he said. “So you’re bored?”

Cora shook his hand. “Basically,” she agreed. “I usually stroll through this area about now and catch plenty of pickpockets within an hour. It’s a slow day.”

Val had personally spotted three pickpockets while they had been standing there talking but he was not about to snitch. He had respect for the profession. “What a pity,” was all he said.

“So,” Cora said. “You have a lot of tattoos.”

“Is that a crime here?” Val asked. He was amused at this halfling cop and her idle attention. If only she knew.

Cora reached up toward Wink and Val stooped a bit to make it easier for her to scratch behind her ears. “Of course not, I just wondered what it is you do.”

“Oh I’m just very interested in art,” Val said. “As for my profession, I travel in order to draw maps of the world.”

Cora nodded. “And you need to carry around that fancy sword to do that?”

“One never knows in this world when one will need to defend one’s self,” Val said, purposefully diplomatic and obtuse. “The sword is mostly for show in order to frighten away weaker willed crooks. I’ve rarely used it.”

Cora looked doubtful but let it drop. “I suppose many people carry weapons,” she said. “That one is just particularly pretty.”

“Thank you,” Val said. “It was a gift from the forge of a Prince of Kofrain. I mapped a particular set of ruins for them.”

Cora nodded. “Oh,” she said. “You’re very worldly.”

Val laughed gently. “I do my best,” he said. “Now if you’ll excuse me. My cat and I are famished and we must resolve that before we pass out on your streets.”

Cora smiled. “I owe you a meal and a drink for delaying you, then,” she said. “Allow me to accompany you. My treat.”

Val smiled despite not wanting to eat lunch with a cop but thought it would be a worse idea to turn her down. “Lead the way,” he said. “I’m sure you know the best places.”

In the House of the Law

June 15, 2019

In House of the Law in Osten on the border of the Bremid Empire, Gedreel paced back and forth. She was so anxious that she found herself practically shaking apart. The guards gave her the side eye and she decided to stay absolutely still. She briefly considered waiting out front but thought that might now look suspicious so she tried to hold it together. She had always been a good girl and she was rarely in a House of Law. She had been raised in the temple by the Order, a little sheltered maybe but walking the true path. She knew that she had done nothing wrong so why was she nervous? At least she was reasonably sure she was innocent.

She was in the middle of cataloging her every past action when Cherish strolled out from the holding cell area, escorted by another guard. Gedreel immediately forgot where she was and ran to Cherish and hugged her close.

“Oh, Cherish! I am so glad that you are alright,” she said and then paused. “You are alright, right?”

Cherish sighed but smiled. “I’m fine, Geddy,” she said. “I’m over the moon glad to see you but you didn’t have to come here for me.” She started to gently guide Gedreel from the building.

“Wait!” Gedreel said and stayed rooted to the spot. She held Cherish at arm’s length and inspected her thoroughly. Cherish had all of her fingers and toes, two legs, two arms, her tail, one blue eye, and one red eye. One of her horns was broken but Gedreel knew it had been that way when she met Cherish. Cherish refused to fix it no matter what Gedreel offered. Then Gedreel spotted the bruise just behind Cherish’s left ear. She gasped and gently laid her hand on it and healed her skin back to its usual crimson hue. She shot the guards a dirty look and she was about to say something nasty to them when Cherish pushed her outside.

“Relax Geddy,” Cherish said. “I’m fine.”

“But they hit you!” GEdreel yelled before suddenly realizing her loud volume. “They shouldn’t hit you.”

“On that point, we can both agree,” Cherish said. “And yet that’s what they do sometimes when they arrest people.”

“Why aren’t you angrier?” Gedreel asked. “I would be angry.”

“I was angry the first three times,” Cherish said. “After that, you figure out that it’s pointless to get angry when bitter will do just fine.”

“What were you even arrested for?” Gedreel asked.

“I was arrested for being a Tiefling, same as always,” Cherish said. “Same old song and dance.”

“But you were born that way,” Gedreel said. “Tiefling blood does not equate to automatic guilt.”

“I know that,” Cherish said. “and you know that but plenty of people can’t seem to grasp that.”

“But you were a member of the Queensguard of Deneia!” Gedreel said. “Your honor is beyond reproach.”

Cherish shook her head. “That’s not exactly a point in my favor in these small towns,” she said. “Being a bodyguard in a government controlled by my kind. Most tell me to just go back there.”

Gedreel gasped again and grabbed Cherish’s hand. “But you can’t go back there!” She said. “Your uncle said he would kill you!”

“They wouldn’t care, Geddy,” Cherish said. “I think you care enough for all of us who don’t care.”

“Last time we met, you said I care too much,” Gedreel said.

“I was wrong,” Cherish said. “We need people who care like you. I need people who care.”

“I do care!” Gedreel said. “You know I do.”

“Why are you here, Geddy?” Cherish asked. “Not that I’m complaining but how did you hear about my arrest? How did you know I was here?”

“Holy Lathander sent me a vision, a message to come and get you,” Gedreel said

“I didn’t know you got visions,” Cherish said. “You never got visions back in Deneia.”

“This was my first one,” Gedreel said, her eyes were bright and merry. “It was exciting.”

“Your first vision sent you to me?” Cherish asked. “Why? Why would Lathander send you to me?”

“I think that he means for us to be together for some purpose,” Gedreel said. “I think we’re meant to help people by defeating a great evil.”

“A great evil?” Cherish asked. “You I can understand but me? Really?”

“Yes,” Gedreel said. “Also I think Lathander has blessed my proposal of marriage.”

Cherish smirked. “Geddy! Are you proposing to me?”

Gedreel’s eyes widened and she blushed furiously. “I meant that to be a grander romantic gesture!”

“It was fine,” Cherish said with a smile. “Very romantic. Very you.”

Gedreel took a deep breath. “Cherish Westera Goldsong, we have known each other for so long and though our paths have pulled apart, fate and the gods above have brought us back together. I have thought of you every day that we were apart. Now that we are together again, I do not want to leave you ever again. Cherish will you–“

This was the point where Cherish kissed Gedreel. They kissed for a long, long time. They kissed until they had to come up for air. They smiled at each other and Cherish dragged Gedreel off to an inn to celebrate.

The Tailors

May 25, 2019

When Lyda Penrose laid her hand on the boy’s head and cast Greater Restoration, she had expected the prince’s eyes to clear and maybe she would get a bewildered smile. Instead, as divinity channeled through her, the Prince’s flesh sizzled and his eyes went bright orange. Apparently, there was no disease in him to cure. The problem was much worse than that. At that point, the devil in the boy revealed itself and the rest was hellfire, blood, and chaos. In the melee, Cinda Karpon, Caleb Wolfspell, and Jo Penrose were lost, possibly caught or killed. Lyda, Maeve Penrose, and Ratha had made it out of the palace but only because Ratha had picked up the two sisters and run with them. The three of them found a cave to hide in as they caught their breaths.

“We have to go back for them!” Ratha yelled.

“We know,” Maeve said quietly. “But we need a plan.”

“We just can’t leave them back there!” Ratha yelled. “We’re the Tailors!” The rage that powered her looked like it was just about to explode again. She was dangerously close to losing control in a small, enclosed space.

“We know!” Lyda yelled, a rather uncharacteristic move for the young cleric. “Our sister is up there. Our friends are up there. We know.”

Maeve put her hand on Lyda’s shoulder gently. “Lyda’s right,” she said. “We need a plan. If you calm down, I think I might have one.” Both sisters watched as Ratha slowly calmed down, releasing that spirit of rage into the air.

“You really have a plan?” Lyda asked, turning back toward her older sister. She had remained cloistered in a temple for years but she had always thought of her older sisters and how much she looked up to them. Even when she found out one of them was a thief, she was still proud.

“Your surprise wounds me, sister,” Maeve said with a mock offended look. “I cased the palace.”

“You cased the palace?” Ratha asked.

“Yes,” Maeve said. “I case every building before we enter it if I can manage it. It’s purely for tactical purposes, of course.”

“I would never suspect wicked intentions, sister,” Lyda said. “You promised to reform for our little group. For the good of the realm.”

“My criminal days are behind me,” Maeve said, holding her hand up as a mimicry of the oath she had solemnly given her sisters a year earlier. “I only use my powers for good now. It’s your influence, naturally.”

“So what’s the plan?” Ratha asked, interrupting verbally and physically with her tall imposing form. She was getting excited again and that made the sisters a little nervous.

Lyda took a deep breath and held up a calming hand. “Relax and save your strength, Ratha,” she said. “If my studies have taught me anything, it has taught me that devils do not kill people outright. Devils like to corrupt if they can and only kill if they fail. If somebody is still useful, there is no wisdom in killing them.”

“And our friends can hang tough,” Maeve said. “I believe in them. We’ll drive the devils out and save our friends but we will do it together. To do that, we’ll need your rage focused for my plan to work.”

“Um,” Ratha said. “Of course but what do you need me to do?” She looked at Maeve with childlike wonder and it suddenly hit the sisters once again how young the huge woman was.

“When we reach the end of the tunnel, I need you to plow through whoever or whatever is in our way,” Maeve said. “We’ll back you up. If we can get to our friends, we will have a fighting chance. Who knows what else will be imprisoned, maybe some potential allies.”

“I can do that,” Ratha said. “I swear it.”

All three of them nodded. The question about what to do if their friends were already dead or turned was left unsaid. They could not afford to think about it much less voice it. They had been together as adventurers for a year and they were more of a family now. The three Penrose sisters had grown up together, grown apart, and then had come back together to save their hometown. Now, they were stronger than they had ever been before and they were not about to give up on each other now.

The three of them slowly climbed their way around the steep cliffs that surrounded the palace. They made their way to an ancient passage around the back of the palace walls that had been built in Elven times and long forgotten. There were five complicated locks for Maeve to pick but her training under The Scythe had prepared her for these sorts of moments. After a long tense time, she tripped the locks and Ratha yanked the doors open and they climbed in, grateful to be away from the cliffs and the ravine below. They made their way down the tunnel and as they reached the end of it, Ratha summoned the Stormlord’s spirit of rage once again and charged forward.

Speak to the Dead

May 11, 2019

Kerel waved her hand over the dead man’s face and gripped her holy symbol tight and focused her thoughts on a simple prayer. Her prayer to Asherah had no words but instead was more of a feeling, a feeling of certainty and faith that was always deep inside of her. She closed her eyes without realizing and when she opened them, the dead man’s jaw cracked and shifted and something resembling life entered the man’s eyes and he almost seemed to glare at Kerel. It coughed hard and dust and other things came up as their throat cleared. She blinked and then backed off a bit and tried to offer a smile.

“Sorry for you waking you, sir,” she said. “We just have a few questions.”

The corpse looked around, its eyeballs hesitating slightly in their sockets as if to ask who ‘we’ was.

“Oh,” she said. “They’re in the other room. They think this is creepy.” Sabin was a fighter and he was really only comfortable with what he could control at the point of his sword. Kobal was enigmatic and he claimed that he would merely distract from the experience. Carissa had disappeared as soon as they had arrived in the village. Kerel hoped she was behaving herself.

The corpse stared at her blankly as if it was already completely bored. Kerel took a deep breath so that she did not rush things.

“They’re not wrong,” Kerel said. “I never really liked this ability. Father Harun always insisted that it was very useful. It is but it never gets more comfortable.”

The corpse continued to stare blankly.

“Anyway,” she said. “Let’s begin. Who or what killed you?”

She studied the corpse’s face. The young boy was largely untouched by wounds and that is why the four of them had been summoned to this village to assist. The corpse seemed to think about that for a moment. Kerel knew from experience that the dead found it difficult to access their memories of life. It probably had to do with the barrier between life and death. She had to remember that this was not the young man who had died, this was an avatar used to briefly connect with his soul in the afterlife. This was not necromancy, it was just necromancy-adjacent.

“It was the Witch of the Woods,” the corpse said. “A magic spell stopped my heart.”

Kerel frowned. That did not sound good at all. Her parents had always been distrustful of magic-users so her experience until recently had been minimal. Witches were often more unpredictable than wizards. Witches were often wild and lawless. At least, that is what mother always used to say.

“Who is the Witch of the Woods?” Kerel asked.

The corpse hesitated less this time. Its momentum was starting to pick up. “She is known,” he said. “The Witch of the Woods has been there since as long as we can remember.”

“Hmm,” Kerel said. She wondered if that meant that the Witch was an elf or something else long-lived. Hopefully, the Witch of the Woods was not immortal. “Why did she kill you?”

“She has my sister, Laessica,” the corpse said. “I was trying to rescue her.”

Kerel gasped. “She has your sister?!” She yelled and then immediately cursed. She only had five questions and she had just blown one.

“Yes,” the corpse said without hesitation. Kerel could not be sure but it seemed to have an almost mocking tone. It was probably her imagination. She took a deep breath.

“Where is the Witch of the Woods?” Kerel asked.

“In a dark cave beneath the Blackened Woods in the forest north of the village,” the corpse said.

“What’s that supposed to mean?” Kerel asked.

The corpse was silent, its eyes starting to cloud over. Kerel sighed.

“Five questions asked, five questions answered. I send you back to your rest and thank you for your time,” Kerel said. She let go of her holy symbol and the corpse was no longer animated. She took a beat and then walked back outside into the open air of the village. She immediately felt many eyes upon her. Eyes filled with hope and curiosity. Many of them were citizens of the village, trying not to appear like they were watching. Thankfully, she had managed their expectations by letting them know she could not resurrect the boy. It was still early days on her path.

“So,” Sabin said, sheathing his sword. “Did you get the information?”

“I really wish you would accompany me on these sessions,” Kerel said. “It was lonely in there.”

Sabin shuddered. “No thank you,” he said. “Such things are beyond me.”

Kobal stood from where he had been sitting on the porch. “It is easier for you to focus when you are alone,” he said. “Many feet disturb the puddle and the reflection is no longer clear.”

There was a beat. “What?” She asked, her face scrunched in confusion.

“Never mind that,” Sabin said. “What did you find out?”

“Well,” she said. “He was killed by the magic of a Witch of the Woods. She kidnapped his sister so she’s still out there. She might be immortal?”

“That’s just great,” Sabin said. “We’ll let her taste my blade and test that rumor.”

“First we need a little more information,” Kerel said. “We need to ask about the Blackened Wood.”

“I know where it is,” Carissa said from up on the roof of the cottage. “Follow me.”

Voice of an Angel

April 25, 2019

Corbin was laying face down in the mud. He had a feeling that he should be having trouble breathing but he was perfectly calm. Actually, as he thought about it, he should have been breathing period, right? He tried to take a deep breath and found that his heart was just not in it. He started to panic but found that he was perfectly alright. Still, he could not move. He could not see anything through the mud in his face. He tried to move and his muscles would not even tense. He was starting to wonder if something was seriously wrong. He tried to retrace his steps in his memory to see where things might have gone wrong.

He found that he could not remember much. He certainly remembered getting ready for a battle. But who was he fighting against? Had it been daytime? Had it been nighttime? He had remembered visiting his family just before going to the front lines. He had spent the morning eating breakfast with his little sisters. He remembered laughing with them and he remembered them begging him not to go. He remembered telling them that it would be alright. He remembered telling the same to his mother and there was no belief in her eyes. He remembered having an honest discussion with his father for the first time in his life. He remembered that his father was proud of him. He remembered seeing tears in his father’s eyes for the first time in his life. Then it was all blank.

Suddenly, he could hear something. It was really soft at first but he could tell that it was a woman’s voice. As it got closer, he could tell that it was beautiful singing. It was so beautiful, he could feel it touch his heart. He had heard all of his life about music’s ability to move you but now he knew what they meant. He felt the music in every part of his body and then he was able to stand up. He reached up to brush off the mud but there was no mud there. He opened his eyes and saw a woman with fiery red and gold hair walking toward him. Her eyes lit up when she saw Corbin. That was not just a figure of speech. They literally flared to life like two burning torches for a just a moment before she more purposefully strode toward him. He thought for a moment about running but something inside said that was a bad idea. Maybe it was the matching red and gold wings extending from her shoulders.

“Hail mortal!” She called out. “You’ve responded to my song. That makes you special.”

“Do you know what happened here?” Corbin asked. “I’m kind of out of it.”

“Understandable, Corbin Armstrong,” The woman said. “You have been through quite an ordeal.”

“What ordeal?” Corbin asked.

“Well, it has something to do with all of these bodies, don’t you think?” the woman asked. She gestured to the field around them and Corbin suddenly noticed all of the bodies in armor lying in the mood and pools of blood. He started to feel fear and anger rising up from within and that old battle instinct was starting to take hold. He looked up and his eyes caught the woman’s eyes and he instantly calmed down. “That’s better,” she said.

“Who are you?” Corbin asked. “What are you?”

“My name is Hertha,” the woman said. “I’m an angel. I’m sent after battles to help with special souls.”

“Special souls?” Corbin asked, running his hand through his hair. “Wait, you mean like dead people? Then why can I see you?”

“I think this should answer your question,” Hertha said. She reached down and rolled one of the bodies over and Corbin saw his own face, nearly obscured by mud. He staggered backward for a moment.

“I’m dead!?” Corbin shouted. “How?” He searched his mind and he could not find any memories of his death or the battle at all. It troubled him deeply.

“You don’t remember for a reason,” Hertha said. “You don’t need to be tethered to that moment. But I suppose a warrior deserves to know.” She bent down and tilted Corbin’s body’s head back and revealed a huge cut that was no longer bleeding.

“So I’m dead,” Corbin said. With the finality of seeing the wound, he began to calm down a bit. There was no going back now. “What happens now?” He felt rattled, barely keeping it together.

“Well,” Hertha said. “When I said that you are a special soul, I meant it. You were a valorous warrior for much of your life. You came alive in battle and itched to return to it in times of peace. In a natural life, you would have grown old and settled into a peaceful state. Now, you have an unquiet soul. You have a good soul but it is still wild.”

“So where do I go?” Corbin said. “Please don’t send me to the Abyss. I don’t belong there.”

“You don’t,” Hertha said with a soft laugh. “You would have been a true beast in life to deserve that place. You were fair in life and lived by an admirable code of honor. We have a special place in the Heavens for you. I think you might have heard of Ysgard?”

“The domain of Bahamut and Mala? The Eternal Battle?” Corbin asked.

“The very same,” Hertha said. “There are also regular hunts and great feasts. When you have tired of battle, you can travel freely throughout all of the Heavens. Can you accept those terms?”

“I suppose that’s the best deal I’m going to get,” Corbin said. “I accept.”

“So, will you join us in battle?” Hertha asked.

“I’m ready,” Corbin said. “Let’s fight.”

(Written on 4/22/19)

An Ode Remembered

April 17, 2019

“Read that last bit back to me, Halas,” Darden said, sipping the last of his glass of blackwine.

Halas finished writing and then took a deep breath. “Of course, sir,” he said. “You said ‘ And so the song of the sea was now safely in the hands of the library in <>.”

“Great,” Darden said. “Another of my stories written down for posterity. You can go home now. Take the rest of the roast with you.”

“Yes, sir,” Halas said, setting his book aside on the desk and wiping the nib of his pen clean and setting it aside too. He stood up. “Have a good night.”

“You too, Halas,” Darden said. “And stop calling me ‘sir’.” He smiled as Halas shrugged and shuffled out of the room, headed to the kitchen to pick up the remains of the roast to take home with him. Darden slumped in his chair, relaxing as he stared into the fire in his fireplace.

Dictating stories of his adventures with Halas always stirred up all sorts of memories for Darden. Some of those memories were very good and some of them were very bad and everywhere in between. In his youth, he had been inspired to leave home instead of following in the family business. He had become a wandering bard, touring the country and performing for money and he had seen a lot. At some point, he had unlocked the magic that music contained thanks to the teachings of an elder bard far to the north. He had become an adventurer then, helping a group of like-minded individuals fight evil and rescue the common man. He had had a long and successful career and he had made his fortune. In fact, he had given away more than he had earned and he still found himself rich.

He remembered how delighted he had been when he discovered that his voice could hurt and heal, weaken and strengthen. He had traveled with a wizard gnome, a drow thief, a human sorceress, a half-orc bruiser, and a tiefling swordswoman. He had made friends with these people which had made up for his lonely childhood. All along the journey, he had found many of the pieces he had felt missing early on. He grew into a stronger person, a hero. He had found love and lost it. Now in his declining years, he was trying to get it all down on paper with Halas’ help. He did not want his stories to disappear from the world when he disappeared from the world. He hated these morose moments in front of the fire. Perhaps it was time to go to bed. There was a knock at the door.

“Halas?” Darden called out. “Why did you knock? You know you’re always welcome.”

A familiar elven face opened the door. “I am not Halas,” the man said. “So I thought I should knock.”

Darden’s heart nearly stopped. “Kalavas!?” He shouted. “Is it really you?”

“It is, old friend,” Kalavas said. “I hope it is not too late for a visit. I was passing through and I heard you had a house in this town.”

“Friend?” Darden asked. “Of course, you’re welcome but I would have thought you were done with me.”

“Done with you?” Kalavas asked, his laughter was genuine. “You were the one who led to my awakening.”

“I mean, you’re not wrong,” Darden said. “I did lead the way for the wizard that broke the spell on you but…”

“Yes?” Kalavas asked, his eyes curious and amused. “Are you torturing yourself?”

“I could have led somebody to you long before I did,” Darden said. “Somebody could have released the spell years earlier. I visited you and sang to you instead of helping you.”

“Is that all?” Kalavas asked. “I should have visited decades ago. You were a child, you can hardly be blamed for your romantic notions.”

“Romantic notions?” Darden asked. “What do you mean?”

“I still remember the songs you sang to me when I was petrified,” Kalavas said. “I remember many of the words you told me.”

“You could hear all of that?” Darden asked.

“Sort of,” Kalavas said. “It was much like I was in a dream.”

“So you knew I had a crush on you,” Darden said. It was not phrased as a question but he still eyed Kalavas closely.

“I did not want to mention it when I woke up,” Kalavas said. “I thought it might be too awkward and I have no preference for men.”

“I guess I should thank you,” Darden said. “You look exactly the same as back then.”

“We elves age slowly,” Kalavas said. “I wish you could live as long as I will.”

“Me too,” Darden said. “But it is nice to have a proper ending.”

“You had a good life,” Kalavas said. “I have heard some stories.”

Darden smiled. “I did have a good life. Soon you will be able to read all about it.”

Kalavas smiled. “I’m glad. You did a lot of good in the world. I hope your stories can inspire others to do just as good.”

“I hope they do better,” Darden said. “We should always be better than we were before.”

“That is a noble sentiment,” Kalavas said. “I suppose that is something the younger races are better at. Improving.”

“Why don’t you stay the night?” Darden asked. “Have a glass of wine with me.” He turned to grab the bottle but when he turned back, Kalavas was nowhere in sight.

Had he imagined the whole thing? Had he simply had too much blackwine and it turned his own memories against him? Perhaps. Or perhaps Kalavas did not want to linger. Darden had a feeling he would never get the answer to his questions. Still, the experience left him feeling lighter. It also might make for a good page or two for his books. He would think on it when he was clear-headed in the morning.

(Written on 4/13/19)

The Scene of the Battle

March 23, 2019

The battle had happened some nights ago when soldiers from two armies met at the crossroads and the result had not been pretty. Bystanders with their trade wagons had been sent scattering to the four winds. One of the wagons had broken a wheel and their owners had been forced to abandon it. Constable Lucia Ironpaw spotted it in an instant. Apples were scattered on the road beneath it.   Some of the baskets had been taken away from the cart by hand by fleeing traders. There was blood all over the ground but the bodies had already been removed. Frankly, Lucia felt more sympathy for the traders than the soldiers who had only brought the violence. This was no righteous war for peace and liberty, this was a trade war. They had only fought for money and power. It disgusted Lucia to hear of such greed.

It was Lucia who had been assigned to assess the site of the violence for any more clues as to which factions had been involved. There was a low fog but the area was clearly a mess even in low visibility. Lucia had heard that nobody had died in the violence but Lucia doubted that statement when she looked the site over. There was so much blood everywhere. There were even a few puddles of it here and there. Lucia gestured and her celestial cat familiar appeared out of thin air and approached one of the puddles. He sniffed at the puddle and Lucia could smell the rotten iron smell of the blood of battle. She turned up her nose and divorced her senses from the cat’s for a moment. She used her eyes for a moment, trying not to retch from the intense smell.

Directly in the middle of the crossroads, the ground was scorched black in a wide radius. Lucia knew the effects of the fireball spell well. Somebody had detonated a fireball in what would have been the middle of the crowd. This would have been devastating but it also would have taken a lot of the will to fight from both sides. It made Lucia wonder which side had done it. Perhaps a wandering wizard or sorcerer had detonated the fireball in hopes of stopping the fighting. There were no witness reports that mentioned who had cast the spell. Lucia nudged at a bit of blackened grass with her foot. She had long proposed research into time travel magic for law enforcement use but the suggestion had always been shot down. It was the only true way to solve mysteries like this. She shook her head and moved on.

From behind her she heard her cat, Caleb, let out a long plaintive meow which means he had found something. The cat sat patiently, staring with its one eye. The other eye was not damaged, the cat had chosen to appear like that. Somehow, the lack of an eye did not impede its sight in any way. Lucia allowed her senses to be swept into the cat once again which was always both familiar and disorienting to suddenly be so low to the ground. She instantly sensed what the cat had. It was an intense smell of brimstone that meant that this had been no ordinary battle. While she did not want to jump to conclusions, Lucia knew from school that brimstone often meant the presence of some sort of demonic being. With her perspective so low to the ground, Lucia could see something scratched into the dirt. She left the cat’s perspective and shook her head to adjust again. She crouched next to the drawing in the dirt. It had been disturbed by stomping feet and burning fire but they might have been runes at one point.

Magickal runes do not just get drawn for no reason though Lucia supposed they could have been normal runes left as some sort of message left for communication over time. Still, one of them looked like half of a very powerful magickal rune she had seen in many books. She had a hunch that it might have been a trigger for a trap. There had to be more to this. Lucia did not really believe in coincidences. She pulled out a few pieces of paper and carefully sketched what she could make out of the symbols. She then dug a way under them to see if there had been some hidden evil. She came up empty and started to look around to see what else could have hidden whatever the runes had triggered. That is when Lucia spotted the lone tree on one corner of the crossroads. Travelers would often sit beneath that tree to get out of the sun, one last break before reaching the town market. Now Lucia spotted what looked like putrid corruption around a branch high up in the tree. The bark had turned blackish-green with white veins. Was it some sort of side effect of a spell?

Lucia sent her senses back into Caleb the Celestial Cat and the cat slowly began to climb the tree, far easier than Lucia could have climbed. The smell of brimstone was almost unbearable as the cat approached the blighted spot on the tree. The cat’s paws tentatively tested the blighted bark but it seemed stable enough to climb on and it did no damage. Just above the branch, there was a hollow in the tree trunk, somewhere a bird or a squirrel might have made their home at one point. Now, no living thing would make a home there. It was absolutely putrid, the air thick with brimstone. The cat poked its head into the hollow and both it and Lucia saw a small bundle. It looked like a material component bag but it also looked like it had detonated. Lucia was forced to conclude that her hunch was probably correct. Somebody had laid a demonic trap and it was hard to tell what that was now that the evidence was mostly destroyed. Either side could have laid this trap or perhaps a third party. For what purpose? Lucia could only report the results of her investigation to her superiors and see what the information led to. She moved under the tree and caught her cat as he jumped from the tree and headed back to her horse to return to town.

The Border Tavern

March 16, 2019

Syd stepped into the world-famous Iron Border Tavern and was immediately grateful that he had his knives tucked far into his jacket. Of course, there was a weapons collector. With the reputation that The Border had it would probably be a blood bath inside. Of course, with the rumors Syd had heard, there was a good chance of regular bloodbaths anyway. Walking through the deserts of Koshain to the border of Khull in a jacket and a hat alone was bad enough but it was worth it to gain access to one of the most famous places in the criminal underground. Syd had expected the place to be a lot rougher but it was actually quite nice.

He made a face at the weapons collector at the door and passed over the daggers that hung at his hips. He had had them for a long time, they were perfectly balanced. The man who took them gave him no ticket to reclaim them. Syd tried to mentally file away the man’s face in his memory and then walked towards the bar. Nobody stopped him to frisk him, they just believed that he had given up all of his weapons. Syd felt deeply uneasy about this. He glanced around the room, wondering if everyone had done the same exact thing or worse.

Syd knew that he could not be without weapons. He had no magic to speak of so he counted on steel and fists to protect himself. When you were a bounty hunter, you always had to be ready to fight. Syd had survived a lot just by being prepared and he had survived even more just by being quicker than the target. Right there in the taproom, there were plenty of mean-looking customers. There was a mean-looking half-orc by the end of the bar and table full of actual drows in the back corner. They were playing cards as if the sun was not just outside. The list of things that Syd would not have given for a death ward was short at that moment.

He stepped up to the bar and politely knocked on it and smiled. He waited for the bartender to walk over. She was a halfling so she was walking along a platform attached to the bottom of the bar. She looked weathered and tough like she was made of tattoos, leather, and wiry black hair. Syd liked the look of her immediately so it was not hard to give her a smile. She did a double take.

“A human with all his teeth?” the bartender said. “Now I’ve seen everything. Watch your pockets and your mouth, love.”

“Of course,” Syd said. “I know the drill in establishments like this.”

“There ain’t no place like this one,” the bartender said. “The Border is one of a kind.”

“I’m starting to understand that,” Syd said. “Can I get a glass of your worst whiskey?” He punctuated the question by setting down two gold pieces. “And the news of the day.”

The bartender raised both eyebrows high in surprise but she definitely reached forward and palmed the coins quickly. “What sort of news are you wanting?”

“Just wondering if anybody especially interesting has come through recently. I have heard that this place has the most amazing clientele pass through.”

“Criminally interesting, I imagine,” the bartender said. It was not a question.

“I have a feeling that you and I will be good friends,” Syd said. “Yes, those are the sorts of people I want to meet and greet.” Syd took out a journal and spread it on the bar. “In fact, it might help if you’ve seen any of these individuals.”

The bartender briefly flipped through the sketches shaking her head and Syd could feel disappointment start to set in. Finally, she pointed at one of the portraits. “Funny,” she said. “Somebody was asking about this one earlier.”

“Earlier?” Syd asked. “How long ago? Who was it?”

“Fancy lass,” the bartender said. “She’s upstairs in the room with the unicorn on it.”

Syd stood in thought for a moment and then it dawned on him. He downed his whiskey with a grimace and set the glass down. “I’ll be right back,” he said and then he headed up the stairs before anybody could object.

Syd strode up the stairs with confidence and a soft step, hardly making a noise. He started down the hallway while looking at the doors. He saw a bear, a wolf, a rabbit, a leopard and then looked down the hallway for more. Syd could not see the end of the hallway. He had a sick, frightened feeling in his gut at that moment and he felt like his brain was failing to grasp what he was seeing. He looked to his left and there was the door with the unicorn on it. He decided he did not need to know what was going on right at the moment. It was best to keep his head down and move forward. He knocked on the door, waited a moment, and then kicked the door open hard. As he rolled into the room, he just barely dodged a crossbow bolt.

Lacey Thorncatch stood tall in a fancy purple dress, struggling to put a heeled shoe back on while reloading a crossbow. “Syd Scaland!” She yelled. “I would think you would have the sense to not kick open a lady’s door. I’m disappointed.”

“How do you have a crossbow?” Syd asked with some shock. “Where did you hide it?”

Lacey blushed slightly. “A lady never tells,” she said. “You let them take your weapons at the door? I thought you knew how to bribe.”

“I guess I didn’t realize that was an option,” Syd said and stood up and shut the door. “I can’t believe you’re after one of my marks.”

“I’m the best,” Lacey said. “I’m after everybody.”

There was the sound of at least half a dozen people running down the hallway. Lacey and Syd looked at each other and almost simultaneously said: “You tipped them off!”

“The heat is too hot here,” Syd said. “We have to get out of here.”

“You have no idea,” Lacey said. “You have no idea what this place is. I’ve worked a long time to build a cover here. You ruined it!”

“Let’s go out the window,” Syd said. “We can make a break for it from there.”

“You don’t understand,” Lacey said. “This place works differently. This place has entrances around the world. If we use that window, there’s no telling what it might do to us.”

Syd pointed at the door which was now having heavy objects slammed against it. “Do you want to find out what they might do to us?”

Lacey placed her palm against the door and whispered a few words. “That should hold it for a second,” she said and then made a frustrated sound. “Fine! Let’s go out the window!”

Lacey grabbed a few things and threw them in a bag and then they both crashed through the window together. Their world turned upside-down and inside-out and then they plunged into a cold pool of water. They clawed their way out of the pool through patches of mushrooms.

“Where are we?” Syd asked, looking around and not really seeing anything through the darkness.

“Welcome to the Underdark,” Lacey said.


Adventures of a MathBrat

Random Things I Find Energy To Blog About

Boccob's Blessed Blog

A gaming blog with an emphasis on D&D 5e

wolfenoot.wordpress.com/

No Hate Only Snootboops

As Told By Carly

The Ramblings of a Geek Girl

kalpanaawrites

poetry, fiction, essays

Beyond the Flow

A Survivor's Philosophy of Life

Silvia Writes

Life is a story. Might as well write it.

An Artist’s Path

Art, Poetry, Spirituality & Whimsy

The Bloggess

Bizarre thoughts from author Jenny Lawson - Like Mother Teresa, only better.

Silence Killed The Dinosaurs

Comics, Stories, Dinosaurs, Cats

Daily (w)rite

For lovers of reading, writing, travel, humanity

The Empire of Carane

Where fiction comes to life

DMing With Charisma

Stories, Reviews and Opinions!

%d bloggers like this: