Posts Tagged ‘History Check’

The Shield of Tau Pt. 3

November 10, 2018

Jace arrived at the central city square before his time and so he was waiting when the Shields of Tau emerged to set up the trial. The others who would be trying out arrived around the same time. The Shields wordlessly unlocked and opened a trapdoor and everybody walked down a set of stairs. Right before Jace was about to descend below the level of the square, he looked around for a friendly face but he saw neither Lita nor <A>. The trapdoor clanged back into place behind them as they descended toward the Pit of Trials. They were brought into what looked like an ancient armory.

“My name is Captain Cahrn,” a man in armor yelled, his voice echoing in the small stone space. “Choose your weapon wisely.”

Jace looked over his options. There was just about everything a fighter might want, really. There were several different flavors of swords, spears, halberds, shields, daggers, axes, hammers, and everything you could conceive of to slash, pierce or bludgeon a foe. Even though all of those weapons were relatively cheaply made, Jace was definitely wowed. He had grown up loving weapons and here was a room full to the brim. He started walking through the room, putting his hands on all of them and feeling their heft.

“Would you hurry up?” Cahrn said to nobody in particular.

Jace hurriedly picked up a shield and a sword and moved to line up near the door. The shield and sword was not the most exciting choice but it was a classic. More than that, it was the iconic pairing that Jace had fallen in love with when he and Lita had been rescued from the blink dogs. Whenever he thought about protecting the people of the Empire, he imagined himself using a shining shield and a wickedly sharp sword. He had no idea how that imagined reality would match up with his true future but he was definitely ready to give it a shot. Or at least, he was as ready as he was going to get.

They shuffled through a door into the next area. Jace counted five others who were trying their hand at this. There were two women and three men. Jace did not recognize any of them but in a city the size of Tau that was not so strange. They were led to a caged-in area and beyond was a bigger cage, a huge circle. It was the trial pit itself and at the top of it, Jace could see the sun filtering down and he could hear people gathering to watch outside. The Festival to Kord was a big yearly holiday in Tau and the Shield Placement was the biggest event so the crowd was very boisterous. It was a completely different atmosphere from the tension down in the pit as the fighters waited their turn. One by one Jace and his fellow applicants drew lots to see who went first. Jace drew second and started to prepare himself as he watched a young blond man enter the pit.

As the man stood there, a door opened on the other side of the cage and a crag cat leaped out, white and furry. The blond immediately dodged that first attack and tried to maneuver to a place to sink their spear into the cat. The two opponents began combat in earnest, both of them moving fast around the cage as the crowd gasped or clapped above. The crag cat would lunge with tooth and claw and the young blond man would try and dodge and counter. The crag cat was too nimble to be caught by such a simple plan. Fear started to sink in as Jace realized that the cat was toying with its prey. Unless something changed, the cat would win. A few moments later and his suspicions were confirmed as he watched the blond accidentally roll his ankle and succumbed to the claws of the crag cat. Shields rushed into the cage and tried to clear the cat from the body but the cat dragged the body back through the door while the Shields pursued it.

After a beat, Jace got the signal that it was his turn. He took a deep breath and walked into the cage. He saluted the crowd above and he tried to look for Lita. He could not spot her but knew that she would be somewhere in the crowd. He trained his eyes on the opposite door and tried not to look down at the bloodstains. It was time for his future to begin and he would let nothing get in his way. He swung the sword, trying it out again, and made sure the shield was securely strapped to his forearm. He listened to the countdown and then the door began to open but instead of one beast, there were two small ones. He knew these beasts all too well. It was a pair of blink dogs.

For a moment, Jace flashed back to the day one of his friends was killed by blink dogs. It was the first day that he had swung a weapon at another living thing. The horrible moment that had solidified his dream to forge himself into becoming a protector, a true Shield of Tau instead of just a kid pretending to be one. The memory of that promise pushed through the trauma and he felt his resolve become as iron as he gripped his sword tight. He did not wait for the blink dogs to get their bearings, he lunged forward. They both lunged at him but he fended off one with the shield and grazed the other with the sword. The one that was cut suddenly blinked away and Jace worked hard to calm himself. The dog suddenly reappeared in the air above Jace, trying to dive down onto him. He swatted it hard out of the air with the shield.

It was at this point that the other dog lunged at his feet, forcing him to step aside and plunge his sword into the thing’s back. The dog yelped and struggled but was unable to free itself and passed out, bleeding profusely. Meanwhile, the first dog had teleported to the other side of the cage. It growled defiantly at Jace and Jace glared back at it in return. He flicked the blood from the sword which caused the dog to charge in a rage. Jace charged the dog and he saw as the dog failed to teleport again and instead tried to bank right to circle around. Jace spun and struck at the beast, injuring its paw and causing it to stumble but keep moving. As the dog lunged one last time, Jace stabbed it in its throat, putting it out of its misery. The crowd cheered and the door opened and Jace was summoned to leave.

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The Shield of Tau Pt. 2

September 17, 2018

“You should go back home to Lita,” Numa said. “You have a big day tomorrow.” She relaxed in her seat at the inn her family ran. She always felt safe and at home there.

“She is still doing her weekly component shopping, I think,” Jace said. “It takes forever and she knows how boring it is so she does it with her wizard friends.” He held out the bottle of Deneirian whiskey that he had been drinking from, offering a drink to Numa.

She pushed the bottle away gently and then thought better and took the bottle and set it back down out of Jace’s reach. “I’ll remind you that I’m on duty here and I can’t drink with you,” she said. “Besides, it’s unseemly enough that you are hanging out with a human. I can imagine the talk if you are seen drinking with one.”

“I’m not worried about that,” Jace said that, waving the question away with his hand. “Elves and humans are allowed to talk to one another. Besides, you’re my friend. Your family gave us shelter when the blink dogs came.”

“I remember,” Numa said with a shudder. “That guard shoved you and you and Lita through the door but that other girl didn’t make it.”

“Miza,” Jace said with a shudder. Even five years later it still felt bad saying her name. He was grateful that he had not looked back in the chaos and seen her shredded by the blink dog. It was bad enough hearing it. “The worst day ever.” As soon as he said it, it felt like an understatement.

“The silver lining is that it was the day you met Lita, right?” Numa asked.

“Of course,” Jace said. “It’s also the day that I first swung a weapon and hit an enemy.”

“Which led you to where you will be tomorrow,” Numa said. “The Grand Festival of Battle.”

“Yes,” Jace said. “Tomorrow. The Placements of the Tau. The final step toward my future. In front of the Lord of Tau himself and also everybody I have ever known.”

“You’ll do fine. Where do you think you will be assigned?” Numa asked with a smile. “Hopefully not the border.”

“I have no idea,” Jace said. “I just want to serve. I’ve always wanted to serve. The incursions have started to get worse again.”

“Do you think you might get tapped to investigate those?” Numa asked.

“I’m sure that won’t happen,” he said. “The incursions must be magical in nature and I have no aptitude for magic. I would definitely not mind protecting the city from the invaders.”

“You would be good at it,” she said. “and it would be good to stay close to Lita’s shop.”

“Those are basically the reasons I have for wanting that post,” Jace said with a laugh. “You’ve summed it up nicely.”

“The gift of speech is one of my best skills,” Numa said. “Oh! By the way, I might be able to watch some of your matches.”

“How are you going to manage that?” Jace asked with some surprise. “No offense.” The last was added in quickly.

“No,” Numa said. “I understand what you meant. My family was selected to help with the food for the event so we’re closing down our kitchen for the day.”

“Nice,” Jace said. “I will look for you in the crowd. You can stand with Lita.”

“I’d love to,” Numa said. “I so rarely see her these days since we are both so busy. But you need to go home, Jace. Sleep before your big day. Besides, we need to close for the night soon.”

“I have received your message loud and clear,” Jace said as he stood up. “I will try and spot you tomorrow.”

Numa walked him to the door with a smile. “Tomorrow,” she said. “Your destiny and my snacks.” Which earned her a laugh from Jace before she shut the door on him.

Jace walked down the street, briefly walking along a line of stones to test how drunk he was. He concluded that he was probably fine and he walked home through the cold air. He opened the door of what doubled as he and Lita’s home and her enchanting shop. He paused and sniffed and he could quickly tell that the shop was closed for the day. All he could smell were stale reagents and parchment. As he climbed the stairs to their small apartment, he could hear that Lita was home. He stepped through their front door and closed the door firmly behind himself.

“My husband,” Lita said, coming from the kitchen area. “Welcome home.”

“My wife,” Jace said with a smile. “How was your shopping?”

She shrugged. “It was routine,” she said. “It will be delivered the day after tomorrow. I’m in no hurry since I will have the shop closed tomorrow. I stopped by Marian’s to consult about an upcoming project.”

“And how did that work out?” Jace asked. He slipped his jacket off and hung it up.

“Do you really want to hear about mundane issues about my job instead of talking about your big day tomorrow?” She asked with a sly smile which drew a smile out of him. “Are you that nervous?”

“Yes,” Jace said. “I know how hard I’ve trained but I don’t know what I will face tomorrow and what I face determines much of the rest of my life.”

“Oh husband,” Lita said. “Whatever happens tomorrow, you will find a way to protect people. That is the fate you’ve chosen. And no matter what happens tomorrow, I will love you and I am proud of you.” She moved over to him and kissed him deeply. He kissed her back happily and pulled her close. When they had both had enough, at least for the time being, they broke the kiss and held hands. He looked down at his wife’s ink-stained hands and smiled. She was so smart and they had grown together so close.

“I love you, Lita,” he said with a smile.

“I love you too, Jace,” she said. “I am happy to spend eternity with you.”

“And I’m happy to spend it with you,” Jace said. “Shall we go to bed?”

“I think that’s a good idea,” Lita said. “Tomorrow is going to be a full day.”

In the Shanti Desert Pt. 2

September 15, 2018

Saara woke up slowly and she felt a bit like she had when she had fallen off a second story balcony during her second heist. She felt even worse when she contrasted that happy memory of freedom with her current predicament. She was laying on her back and she could see a stone ceiling above her. A young man who had been silent so far knelt down and pressed a hand against her shoulder and the pain lessened a bit and she felt like she could move again. She started to sit up and the young man gently pushed against her shoulder and prevented her from sitting up.

“I think he wants you to take it easy,” Arana said. “I have a feeling that he’s right. You passed out pretty hard.”

“Where are we?” Saara asked.

“After you passed out, I was able to create a magical shelter for us and we dragged you in here,” Arana said. “We’re on another plane. A sort of pocket plane.”

“Wow,” Saara said and she was genuinely impressed. She looked up into the eyes of the young man who was watching her intently. “And who are you?”

“He doesn’t actually talk,” Arana said. “We’re not even sure he can. His name is Adir and we hired him out of the Temple of the Winged Lady. He’s a great healer.” Adir nodded and smiled at that. He took her hands in his and gently helped her to sit up. Her head spun briefly but then she was alright.

“I’m not exactly sure what happened,” Saara said.

“As far as I can tell,” Arana said. “You held that protective spell longer than you should have and it drained a bit of your lifeforce. You have to be more careful.”

“Why are you being so nice?” Saara asked. Adir handed her a small clay cup full of liquid. She sniffed it and concluded that it was water. She took a big sip and she was proven right.

Arana shrugged. “For better or for worse, we’re on the same team now,” she said. “Also, you did kind of save our lives.”

“Where is everybody else?” Saara asked. She looked around and saw some of the group’s supplies but no camels or carts. There were a few boxes stacked near a door. There were rugs layered all over the floor and several bedrolls laid out. It was like a camp but the three of them were alone. She felt a little vulnerable all of a sudden.

“They’re out scouting for possible leads on the treasure,” Arana said. “Don’t worry, we’re safe in here. You have to have permission to enter my mansion. I’m not sure if any power on the material plane could force its way past that rule.”

Almost as if on cue, a large person pushed open the door, accompanied by wind and sand and then firmly shut the door behind themselves. Their face and much of their upper body were wrapped in cloth. Saara instinctively tried to gather her magic but it hurt so badly that her vision went dark for a moment. Adir held onto her hand to calm and steady her.

“Relax,” Arana said. “Like I said, they have to have permission and he has permission.”

“Who?” Saara managed to ask, her everything still hurting.

The man pulled the cloth wrappings away to reveal a simple red face mask. However, this caused Saara to instinctively flinch again. The Red Faces were known throughout Kofrain as the most brutal and efficient of law enforcers. They were rightly feared by the guilty and the innocent alike. The man slipped the mask off, revealing a rugged yet handsome face and a casual smile only partially obscured by facial hair.

“I am Sabri and I am the boss here,” the man said. “I bought your contract and I am sorry that we have not met until now.” He walked over and extended his hand and Saara shook it gently, she could tell he was strong. Instead of watching his face, she found that her gaze was drawn to the red mask hanging from his belt. “Ah, it is a little scary. A relic from a past life. I have changed my ways since then but the mask’s reputation is hard to pass up. It saves me so much time in negotiations especially.”

“It is nice to meet you,” Saara said. “I suppose.”

“How is your patient doing, Adir?” Sabri asked. “The workers in this room are the most versatile and useful that I currently have. We need to protect my investments.”

Adir gave Sabri a thumbs up signal but then qualified it by waving his hand in a ‘so-so’ movement which kind of made Saara nervous. Adir shot her a brief reassuring smile and a calming gesture.

“Let me guess, does she only need rest then?” Sabri asked.

Adir nodded in response.

“How many nights?” Sabri asked, his eyes narrowing.

Adir held up only one finger which made Sabri smile and nod.

“Excellent,” Sabri said. “You saved our lives and you won’t even delay our mission. Soon my men will locate the first marker that will lead us to the ruins that I found the last time I was out here. It can’t be far away now.”

“Then what?” Saara asked and Arana gave her a sharp look. Saara did not really care, she was already an indentured servant, there was not much to lose and Sabri seemed nice enough.

“Then you and my other three acquisitions help me get through the ruins to see if we can’t find any treasure,” Sabri said.

Saara nodded but then paused and counted on her fingers. “There’s only three of us here. Well, unless you’re counting yourself as an ‘acquisition’.

“There are five people in this room,” Sabri said and laughed softly when Saara looked confused. “I suppose it is safe to reveal our final participant.” He walked over to the pile of crates and pulled three keys from around his neck. He unlocked three locks on one of the crates and opened it.

“Oh, is it time for me to come out?” A voice from inside the crate said. “I was just about to fall asleep again, your accommodations were just so thoughtful.”

The Faith of the Raven Pt. 7

August 20, 2018

“Leave now or face the power and the might of the King of Crows!” A deep voice emanating from deeper in the woods said. After the sound of the voice, it felt like the whole forest was silent. In that silence, it was easy to hear Arne’s partially muttered response.

“More bullshit,” he said.

“What?” Carania asked. “What’s going on now?” If she was going to continue her greater quest, and she definitely was, she would have to study and learn. She needed to know these things herself. However, it did not hurt to have knowledgeable people along for the ride.

“It really is silly. The King of Crows is not one person,” Arne said. “It is a parade of necromancers each with aspirations of being the alpha necromancer. Most of them are crazy, all of them are dangerous.”

“There was a real King of Crows once,” Galath said. “He was a powerful necromancer who amassed an undead army in Alscines. He was in direct conflict with the Raven Queen and her followers. From what I know, he also had a Queen of crows with him. Sort of an undead bride. At least, those are the rumors. I read it in a book last year.” He shrugged.

Carania shuddered. “That is incredibly creepy,” she said. “The less I think about that, the better. So this guy is just a pretender to the throne?”

“I don’t know,” Arne said. “He definitely has power. We’ve seen that much already. I haven’t seen anything yet that has wowed me, though.”

“Right,” Carania said. “But we can’t let our guard down. Not until we take this guy out.”

“Agreed,” Galath said. “He is referencing the undead god and he is the fan club of one of the worst necromancers in history, those alone are red flags. Nothing has changed. We’re following your lead here, paladin.”

“We continue going straight for the heart of the matter,” Carania said. “If we kill him, the rest will be disorganized and, in theory, no new zombies can be created. That means those that die will stay dead.”

“I like it,” Galath said. “Elementary tactics but sometimes simple is best.”

“Now we just wait for that plan to go wrong so we can improvise,” Arne said.

“So negative,” Carania said. “Try and smile for once wizard.”

There was a cawing sound from the branches up above and all three looked up toward the sound. However, only Arne was already smiling as he had a full understanding of what that sound was. He nodded up at Grimalkin and they seemed to share some silent conversation.

“Grimalkin has spotted the main camp and can lead us there,” Arne said. “Are we ready for that?”

“We are as ready as we are going to get,” Carania said. “Do you still have prepared spells left?”

“I’m good to go,” Arne said. “I haven’t run out yet.”

“I also have some left to burn,” Galath said. “It appears that we’re good to go.”

“Lead the way, Grimalkin,” Carania said and Arne nodded up at the bird. Carania had only read about the connection between a wizard and their familiar and it was interesting to watch.

They worked their way through the woods as they did their best to follow the raven familiar as it fluttered along through the trees. It felt extremely right for Carania to be following a raven into battle. It felt a little like fate.

The three of them reached the edge of a big clearing and they were assaulted by the smell of freshly burned wood and other things. It looked like the King of Crows had burned a large circle into the middle of the forest, creating a clearing. They were lucky that the fire had not spread and endangered the surrounding areas. The burned clearing looked alien and lifeless. There were more men with crow feathers adorning their clothes and there were zombies both in cages and shuffling around some tents. Arne looked up at Grimalkin as if to ask ‘are you sure?’ and the bird nodded.

“Shall I cause a little chaos, boss?” Arne asked with a smile. Carania smiled and then nodded.

Arne conjured five candle-sized flames and tossed them one at a time into the clearing. The flames hit a couple of tents and also a couple of zombies and started some fires. One of the zombies panicked and ran burning into another tent. Chaos had been achieved.

Carania vaulted into the clearing with Galath and Arne trailing close behind. Her sword was once again a whirling blur as she carved into both living and undead enemies. At one point, she ran into one of the men who had shot and killed her. They barely had time to register her before being cut to ribbons. Carania fought with no anger or at least that anger was quickly fading away. This was a noble mission and that was enough to fuel her.

The battle was fiercer this time and a couple of zombies rushed Carania and managed to injure her. Galath moved fast to heal her while Arne protected them with a shield spell from his umbrella. After some more battle with a few more injuries, the clearing was quiet again. The three companions stood breathing hard as they looked around for their true target who had yet to reveal himself. Carania looked for Grimalkin for guidance but the familiar was hidden somewhere and was no help at present.

“You have crossed the line and I cannot let you go. I will be with you in a moment,” the booming voice said. “In the meantime, meet my friends. When they are done with you, I can add your bodies to my army.”  The thought of that happening was enough to turn the stomachs of all three of them.

The earth in front of the three adventurers broke open and two very large humanoids clawed their way into the open air. Carania could only guess that these had been deceased goliaths, a very rare race she had only read about. They were too short to be true giants but they were far taller than the tallest human or elf she had seen. There were definitely parts of them that were missing and she could see some ragged flesh and bones showing in places. They were caked with mud which made their wide, pupil-less eyes all the more menacing. They lumbered straight for Carania and her friends.

The Faith of the Raven Pt. 6

July 28, 2018

They moved further into the forest, the three of them. The undergrowth felt dense, far too dense for a small forest like Hernon. Everywhere they went, thorns and thistles grabbed at them and branches scratched against them. It was subtly unnatural but they all knew that there was something unnatural going on in those woods. The dead should not rise and it was as if the necromancer’s dark purpose was corrupting the forest around them. Like many forests and landmarks in Eloria (and beyond frankly), the Hernon forest was named after elves. All over the continent, places were still named after them even if the elves had left the place centuries before. Names had a way of sticking and people had a way of sticking to them. Carania hated that this necromancer was giving Hernon a bad name. It hurt her elf blood even though she knew she did not own that land.

Still, they moved on and made their way through the best they knew how. Carania was always at the lead at her insistence and the others did not argue. She felt responsible as an expert close-up fighter and as the person who accepted this mission in the first place. She hacked at errant and aberrant vegetation with her long sword when she had to. She thought to herself that she might have to get a short sword for that purpose to save her blade’s edge on future hunts. She was surprised at herself at that moment how quickly he had adapted to her new role in life. She was equally surprised that her companions seemed to be just as determined. This was not their fight and yet they had taken it on. It was inspiring and it made Carania further believe that she had done the right thing.

Of course, Carania was also surprised that she had such faith that she would survive to see future hunts. There was no room to believe otherwise she supposed. She had long heard that faith was a big part of serving a god. It seemed obvious to trust that Raven Queen had made the right choice. How else had a woman with very little actual combat experience slashed her way through a horde of zombies like they were nothing but smoke? Faith and courage and a little wind at her back from the Queen herself. Not to mention that fate had handed her two capable companions who she was very grateful for. She could feel the talons of the raven reaching out for the necromancer and it felt so good.

As they walked, Carania saw little bones and trinkets dangling from the trees with little lengths of twine. Carania viewed the little things warily, not knowing quite what to make of them. However, she knew that looking at them made her feel bad inside like looking at food left out for so long that things were growing in it. The three of them all caught each other looking at the trinkets and for a moment there was an amused smile between them. It was a moment of pure connection. It cut through the gloom for a moment and they all seemed to welcome it.

“The followers of the necromancer must have hung them,” Galath said. “I’ve seen similar things before.”

“What in the seventh hell are they?” Carania asked.

“Offerings in the worship of Nerull,” Galath said. “Makes your stomach turn, doesn’t it?”

“Nerull?” Carania asked. “I know I’m still a bit ignorant but everybody knows that my queen killed him.” She smiled at taking ownership of her new goddess.

“As the necromancers show us, much that dies can rise again,” Galath said. “It is true that it is known that the Raven Queen defeated the God of Death while she was simply the goddess of winter. After she took his place, he was raised back up behind the veil.”

“As an undead god?” Carania asked with a shudder. “What does that even mean? Who raised him?”

“Nobody knows,” Galath said. “Well, if anybody knows they are not making it public. I always suspected that whoever did it was somebody who could also not pass through the veil between us and the gods. It is someone I would rather not deal with. I wonder if these followers or the necromancer even know an iota of what happened. I wonder if they even care.”

“How does somebody even become a necromancer?” Carania asked. All of this was great information to have. She had been given no manual or guidebook to follow.

“I suppose it’s the same as becoming a gang member,” Galath said. “A combination of bad luck and dark intentions.”

“He whispers to them,” Arne said, speaking up for the first time in a while.

“What?” Galath asked.

“Care to explain that, Arne?” Carania asked, glancing over her shoulder at the wizard. His familiar was nowhere in sight, most likely flying somewhere overhead.

“The undead god Nerull whispers to those with magical potential,” Arne said. “Not everybody with magic hears the whispers but he does whisper and he offers people the power to get what they desire. Whatever the cost.”

“That’s quite a rumor,” Galath said. “Where did you hear it?”

“I didn’t hear a rumor,” Arne said calmly, evenly. “I heard the whispers myself. In my darkest moment, the whispers came to me too. He offered all kinds of things. I said no.”

“Of course you did,” Carania said. She thought Galath had been about to say something and she did not want to take any chances with what it may have been. “What did he promise?” she asked. She had not meant to. She knew somehow that it was not a question she should have asked but the words got away from her before she had a chance to stop them. Carania was an eternal student, always grabbing at new information to wield just as easily as she swung her sword. She wondered desperately what could have been Arne’s darkest moment.

Arne took a deep breath. “That is private,” he said. “But I understand your curiosity. The point is, the dark wisdom that comes from those whispers is nothing to laugh at.”

“That is definitely the truth,” Galath said.

“Who’s laughing?” Carania asked. “This ends tonight.”

When It All Ended Pt. 14

July 23, 2018

“So, is it time to go on the attack?” Amien asked, sliding up to Morgan’s side. He exuded a sort of wild, animal aura that was hard to ignore. It definitely peaked the interest of the wood elf half of Morgan but she easily shook that feeling off. She was committed to Percy and neither of them believed in polyamorous relationships. If the reverse were true, Morgan would have added Amien to her harem a long time ago. However, Amien was an alpha werewolf and would have never gone for such an arrangement either.

“Yes, please marshall your forces, Amien,” Morgan said.

“Already marshaled, Ranger,” he said with a smile. “Shall we go in first?”

“Yes, but please hold off for a moment,” Morgan said. “We’ll release the djinn first to cause maximum chaos before our troops enter the battle.”

“You have a djinn?!” Amien asked. “You have been busy.”

Morgan merely smiled and shrugged at that. She looked over at Cassandra and nodded at her. Cassandra stepped forward with the jar that contained Monela. Everybody took several steps back from her.

Cassandra whispered to the jar. “Monela, I release the seal to your prison,” she said. “Remember the bargain we made last night. Come out and have some fun with us.” She smiled and unscrewed the jar and before she had the lid off, Monela was leaking out as smoke and wind that blew Cassandra’s braids a little. She aimed the jar toward the sky and the smoke and wind took the form of a mighty djinn, a lithe and ever-changing female form. That form suddenly took off toward the castle grounds. As Monela took to the battlefield, Clio looked up and shimmery, glittery wings sprouted from her back and she took off after her. As she cleared the outer walls of the capital, she blew a kiss back toward the gathered force. Or maybe that kiss was intended only for Garth Whispernight. Only the fae knew for sure but she was obviously itching for battle too much to stand still a moment longer.

Without another word, Amien led his wolves to the gate and they opened it and walked through. The Guard started in after them, a little less sure than the stalwart wolves but they looked ready to do their duty. After a few moments, there were obvious sounds of battle from within the city. The enemy sounded very startled.

Morgan signaled her Raiders to gather in. “Here we go,” she said. “If anybody wants to back out. Now is the time.” She did not wait for an answer but instead walked through the gate. The rest of the group followed close behind and not one of them backed out. Morgan had expected as much. They made their way through the streets as quickly as possible. They tried to keep a low profile as they ran through the city. Any obstacle that showed up was usually cut down by William or received an arrow in the neck from Morgan. Cassandra was conserving her spells. They did not stop for long. Luckily, the dragon’s army was surging towards the werewolves and the Guard who were fighting toward the middle of the town. They reached the castle and they started to climb the outside. Morgan’s Raiders were no strangers to scaling rock faces. They were determined to go into this fight as fresh as possible.

Morgan looked down from the wall she was climbing, past William and Galath at Cassandra. “Now would be the time, Cassandra,” She yelled.

“Right away, Morgan,” Cassandra said and carefully touched her pendant and kept climbing.

* * *

Princess Cora was sleeping on the floor. The dragon had not allowed her to leave the throne room and she was forbidden to even think about touching the throne. Khandara was serious about being the new regent of the castle and would not brook any statements to the contrary. And so Cora was slumped on the floor, sleeping wrapped up in one of her father’s old robes. The dragon fed her but it was often cooked to a cinder or almost completely raw. Besides, Cora feared that the dragon may have purposefully or accidentally poisoned each meal. She ate what she had to in order to survive. She held onto the hope she got from Cassandra’s words the evening before. Somebody was coming. She just hoped it was enough. From where she was, the dragon was all-encompassing and unstoppable.

The Princess fought hard not to react to that physically even though the Dragon was not in the room. “I am here,” Cora thought. “What’s going on?”

“We’re almost in place,” Cassandra though. “Can you get the dragon to the roof?”

“I think I have stumbled upon a possible solution,” Cora thought. “My family has prepared for a lot of contingencies.”

“If you can get the dragon to the roof then please do it,” Cassandra thought. “But please do it safely. We don’t want you to get harmed anymore.”

“Please get into position,” Cora said. ” I will get the dragon there.”

If Cassandra had anything else to say, Cora forcefully pushed it out of her head as the dragon strode into the room, still in human form. She did not have her usual smirk plastered on her face. She looked irritable like somebody had farted in her presence.

“Do you know what’s happening outside?” The Dragon bellowed. “Of course you don’t. I’ve locked you in here without a window to the world. They are challenging me. There are magical being and mortals both fighting my soldiers. There is a goddamn fairy in the sky.”

“Are you going to go up there and sort out then?” Princess Cora asked. She kept her eyes cast down. She knew the words themselves were a challenge.

“Still such impudence,” the Dragon said. “No. While I still have my army to fight, I have no need to go out there myself. If they come here, I will prove my might.”

Cora stood up and brushed herself off. She let her father’s robe fall to the ground but not before plucking an old pendant from its pocket. “My family designed this castle with defense in mind ages ago,” she said.

“And now it’s defending me,” the Dragon said. “So poetic.”

“Through the years, we have studied and improved on its defenses,” Cora said. “In fact, when I was little I studied magic to try and help my family make our improvement. I was worried about what happened if the enemy got inside.”

“Well, whatever you did failed,” the Dragon said.

“There was not a chance to activate it,” Cora said. “You were too swift. In fact, I had forgotten about it until this morning.”

“I’m so afraid,” the Dragon said. “What is it? Keep in mind that I can kill you in an instant.”

“Can you kill me from the roof?” Cora asked. She dropped to her knee and pressed the pendant to the floor. In a flash, old lines carved into the floor lit up and a bright light appeared under the Dragon. The Dragon rushed toward Cora but disappeared at the last moment.

* * *

As Khandara the Dragon looked around at her new surroundings, she realized she was indeed on the large flat roof. Standing directly in front of her was an armored knight but her attention was drawn to a woman with a bow and arrow standing on one of the surrounding towers.

“You must be the dragon,” Morgan said. “We’ve been expecting you.”

The Shield of Tau Pt. 1

July 7, 2018

Jace tossed his dice down into the little patch of an alley that the kids had cleaned out. He watched as they clattered to a stop and cursed. Then he looked around to make sure that his parents or grandparents were not anywhere around. If they heard him curse he would have a lot more to worry about than losing a game of Dragon’s Teeth. Still, when he looked up into the grinning face of Sachi, the anger rose and he could feel his face get red. He hated to lose and he had not yet figured out that he was kind of bad at Dragon’s Teeth. Now came the part that he dreaded. The part where he had to part with the money he had earned from doing his chores. This was the last of it, too. He suddenly felt very foolish and emotional but he put on a brave face, trying not to lose his cool.

“Pay up, Jacey,” Sachi bellowed, tilting his head back like a crowing rooster. “Time to pay up!” Jace clenched his fist and gritted his teeth.

“It’s only fair,” Karn said. Karn was always the peacemaker. “You owe him.”

“I know I owe him,” Jace said, accentuating each syllable. “That’s not the issue.”

“Then what’s the problem, Jacey?” Sachi asked with that horrible grin on his face.

Jace stood from kneeling one knee and got into Sachi’s face. He was a few inches shorter but he still stood so that their noses were almost touching. He glared into Sachi’s face and found himself breathing hard. Both fists were clenched and he felt like the dam, holding the waters of his anger at bay.

“What is the problem?” Jace said. “The problem is that my name is not ‘Jacey’. My name is Jace, Son of Tusa and Cole, Shield of Tau!” He glared up at Sachi and practically snorted with anger.

Sachi did not take the bait and instead just burst out laughing. “Shield of Tau? You? You’re in your tenth year, pintsize. You could hardly shield a sick dog.”

“I may be small,” Jace said. “but I have sworn to defend this city just as my father’s father swore.”

Sachi’s eyebrows went up. “You are too young for the pledge,” he said.

Jace shrugged. “My pledge was somewhat unofficial,” he said. “I swore in front of Karn and my sister.” Karn nodded at that, confirming the story.

“Your tiny sister, eh?” Sachi asked, musing over this new information.

“Watch what you say about my sister,” Jace warned.

“Calm down, little one,” Sachi said with a smile. “I would not badmouth your little sister and I respect your pledge.”

“We all do,” Karn said with a solemn nod.

“Thank you,” Jace said and he backed up but puffed out his chest a bit. He was proud of his aspirations of being a fighter like his grandfather. Not just a fighter but a defender, a true Shield of Tau.

“But that doesn’t stop me from collecting what you owe me,” Sachi said. “Pay up, Shield.”

Jace grumbled and reached behind his back. For a moment, both Sachi and Karn tensed as Jace could have been reaching for the stick he had tucked into his belt. Instead, Jace pulled out his money pouch and made a show of dumping out its meager contents and holding it out to Sachi. “I am a man of my word.”

Sachi smiled. “A boy of your word, at least,” he said with a chuckle. He reached out slowly and took the coins from Jace’s hands. He smiled and turned and left without another word.

Jace sighed and breathed again as he calmed down. Karn stood by shaking his head.

“You need to calm down, Jace,” Karn said. “That almost became a fight.”

“I will continue to prove myself,” Jace said.

“Picking unnecessary fights over legitimate winnings in Dragon’s Dice is proving nothing,” Karn said. “We’re still little, there is no need for anybody to fear you.”

“Perhaps you’re right,” Jace said. His shoulders sagged a bit as he thought about that.

“You don’t want to get in trouble, right?” Karn asked.

“You are definitely right about that,” Jace said. “My mother swings a wooden spoon harder than most warriors swing a sword.”

Karn laughed at that. “Mine too,” he said. “Speaking of, we should go home. See you tomorrow?”

“Yes,” Jace said. The two shook hands and each headed towards their own home.

That is when the screaming happened. It was not the screaming of somebody chasing after a cutpurse or the screaming of a parent whose child took a tumble. This was screaming from all over the city. For a moment, Jace was caught in the middle of that screaming, not knowing which way to go. Then he pulled the stick from his belt and charged toward what he judged to be the nearest screams. As he rounded a corner, he saw little Lita and Miza running with tears in their eyes. Lita was in Jace’s year and he knew she wished to study the magic arts in the future. He could not see what threat they were obviously running from but they were definitely running from somebody or something.

“What is it?” Jace called out to them and they looked behind themselves and then slowed. There was nothing behind them so they looked around with wild eyes.

“A blink dog,” Lita said. “I don’t know where it went.” She and Miza were definitely out of breath.

Suddenly, the blink dog appeared out of thin air and its teeth caught the edge of Miza’s dress and she barely got away. Jace charged at the thing, swinging his stick hard as he got between it and the girls. The thing vanished just before he made contact and he stumbled a bit as he lost his balance on the swing. He spotted the dog running a few feet away and then it vanished again. He heard Lita cry out behind him and he whirled around just in time for the thing to reappear, lunging for Jace this time. He barely had time to wind up his swing but when he let loose he put everything he had into it. This time he heard the impact and then he felt and heard the stick break against the dog’s face. However, the force sent the stunned dog sprawling. Lita uttered some words and gestured toward the dog and a candle-sized flame arced out and lit the dog on fire. The dog panicked and lunged again at Lita but Jace moved fast and tackled her out of its path. As he did, two crossbow bolts hit the thing in its side and its neck and then it slumped to the ground, still burning. Jace looked and saw two Shields of Tau approaching.

“You saved us!” Lita cried out and then both she and Miza were hugging Jace and he was grinning from ear to ear.

Of course, that smile faded when Jace looked at the two Shields who still looked worried. “I’m not so sure.”

When It All Ended Pt. 13

June 30, 2018

One by one, Morgan’s Raiders stepped out of Percival’s mystical mansion. They were prepared for battle and as geared up as they were going to get. As always, Morgan Moonglow took the lead and came out first, her eyes darting to and fro, always checking for threats. She was wearing hide armor that had been crafted and enchanted by her formerly estranged mother, Irina. It had been made of the skin of the great Questing Beast which Morgan had hunted and felled all by herself. It meant more to her than the pressed leather she had worn in the service and through much of their early adventures. She carried two swords from the crypt of Alander the Great in crossed scabbards on her back. She rarely got in close but it was good to have the option. Lastly, she had the same longbow she had graduated school with. However, the thing had been fundamentally changed when it was exposed to the blood of the Questing Beast. It was more powerful now and a comfort for Morgan to hold.

When she stepped out of the mansion, she saw Amien standing with his equally scruffy pack. He was smiling at her in the sunlight with those crystal blue eyes and for the briefest moment her heart fluttered but she shook it off. There was a moment in time, maybe several moments, when she would have ended up with Amien. He was a werewolf who lived in the woods, she was a ranger who often did the same. There were a lot of similarities between their wild hearts and Morgan knew that Amien had seen that too. She could see in his eyes the arrogance of an alpha wolf who thought it was only a matter of time. However, he did not know the stubborn streak of a Moonglow. Instead of running to the wolf, she turned and smiled as she looked behind her.

Percival Stardane stepped through the door next with a big smile and a flourish. He was dressed to the nines as usual which was hardly practical for battle. Percy never seemed to care as old habits died hard. Besides that, Percy claimed that dressing up created confidence in bystanders and that showmanship could tilt the battle in their favor. He was not one for weapons but Morgan had forced him to carry a short sword on his back, partly obscured by a half cape. On the scabbard of that sword, Percy had painted the opening notes of his father’s signature song. He never followed in his father’s footsteps with a singing career but instead, he had embraced knowledge and created a new path for himself. He also had a bunch of trinkets and daggers hidden on his person which Garth had helped him arrange and design. Close at his hip was his favorite book, a book of Elorian folktales. On his feet, he wore blink boots which enabled easy escapes.

William Havelock stepped through the door next in full plate armor. He currently had his helmet off so that he could make a good impression as Percy had insisted. Cassandra had enchanted the whole set of armor to be collapsible at a moment’s notice. It was an intricate enchantment but it allowed William to be ready for battle at a moment’s notice. It was imprinted with the sign of the lion, like back home in Shura. However, he had altered it to fit him personally by removing any other reference to Shura. He often longed for his homeland but he no longer truly needed to return. He had found a new family in Eloria and they always had his back. He had several javelins in a sling on his back but his prize possession was the great sword on his back. It was constantly cold and its blade froze whatever it slashed at. He was not a great magician but he was grateful to have a little magic in his hand.

Cassandra Oakspring stepped out of the mansion next and her ginger red hair was tied up close to her head. When you dealt with magic, it was smart to not have anything dangling that could catch fire while spells were being thrown around. Her robes were finely crafted with magical runes embroidered into it with silvered thread. There was a barely visible purple aura which was her mage armor spell which kept her safer. She held her book of spells in her hands knowing full well that she had no time to reference it during a battle but, like Percy, she prized knowledge and carried it with her as a totem. She also carried a magical bag of components for her spells. She had a few ings on one hand which periodically glinted with magic power. Since she was planning to be in a fight on the roof, she had worn some boots of levitation. She also had the jar that held their djinn inside of it.

Garth Whispernight came out next like a walking shadow. He had black leather armor on and that armor had a chameleon enchantment on it to allow it to easily change colors. When he turned it black that meant it was time for business. He had the same enchantment on his displacer cloak which often made Garth look fuzzy or out of focus to their enemies. He had the hood on that cloak up and he had taken pitch and smeared it across his eyes which he had explained was a Kofrani style that just happened to compliment his sneaky profession. If one were to search him, they would never find the daggers he had secreted all over his person. Each dagger was enchanted and balanced for throwing. Each dagger had its purpose and he could pull off some amazing tricks by combining their attacks together. To complete his gear, he had dusted off his old boots of haste which felt like constantly having lightning run through him.

Lastly, Galath Wyndham stepped through the door and the door vanished behind him. Galath was wearing brand new armor, imprinted with the symbols of both Pelor and Lathander. He had finally replaced his somewhat ancient armor after it had been damaged in their previous adventure. He has been stubborn about keeping the armor that had been turned to stone so long ago. Galath had been very sentimental about all of his gear since it was one of the only connections he still had to the era of his birth. In fact, he had carried the same mace until they had adventured with Carania Galdon again and she gifted him with a new one. He had spent a lot of time blessing that new weapon in the proper ways. He had also tied a few raven feathers to the handle and he carried it proudly in her honor. Galath was not one for much else in the way of gear, relying on his faith instead.

As soon as the whole team was out of the mansion, Morgan quickly took stock of what they had and saw that everybody was ready. There was just one more part of the plan to set in motion. She turned to Cassandra.

“Contact the princess.”

Darden’s Future

June 25, 2018

“Where do you go every day, Darden?” Errol asked. Darden’s father was tough but fair but even Darden hesitated to respond.

“Out in the woods,” Darden said. He continued packing a meal for midday and grabbed his cloak in case it got cold again. Autumn was slowly rolling in like the world’s fever was breaking. Carrying the cloak in a bag was not too much of a burden. It was better than having to come back to the house early.

“What do you do out there then?” Errol asked. Darden had hoped, with very little conviction, that his father would drop it.

“I just walk around and look at the trees,” Darden said and left it at that. He shoved everything in his pack, all jumbled up.

“Leave the boy alone, Errol,” Mara said. Darden’s mother frequently came to his rescue which often made things worse. He really wished she would have kept silent here. It was embarrassing to have your mother always trying to protect you.

“He is going to have to stay and help with the shop soon,” Errol said with a grunt. “You need to grow up at some point, Darden.”

“Not today, though, Errol,” Mara said. “Let him grow up later. He’s just a boy.”

“Mother,” Darden said. “I can fend for myself. If Father wants me to stay and learn the shop then I will stay and learn.” The look on his face was fierce and his father was taken aback for a moment.

“No,” his father said, softening a bit. “Your mother is right. You’re not ready yet. You will know when you’re ready and only then will I teach you.”

Darden was surprised by that. “Thank you, Father.”

“But,” Errol said. “Keep in mind that it is not far off. It cannot be far off.”

Darden nodded. He knew well that childhood was slipping away and responsibility was coming. “I know,” he said.

“Then take a bow and some arrows,” Errol said. “As long as you’re out there anyway, there might be a chance you could bring some meat home. Be constructive.”

“I guess you’re right, father,” Darden said. “I’ll see what I see.”

Darden reached up and took down his father’s longbow from above the mantle. He grabbed a few arrows from a bucket by the fireplace and shoved them into a quiver and then left without another word, fearful that his father would speak again. As soon as he was out of the door, he felt as if a weight was lifted off of him. He smiled again as he headed towards the forest.

The path to the forest did not go far from the little village of Darden’s birth but it was still a significant distance on foot. They used horse-drawn wagons to bring lumber back to the village. It was for that reason that Darden felt completely alone on his walk. Once he had achieved a good distance from the village, he started to sing. He had a beautiful voice but he did not know this. He had only ever sung on his own, never where anybody could hear. So there was nobody to offer him praise. He sang because he enjoyed singing. It helped pass the time. Out in the nothing, Darden felt comfortable with himself and with his voice.

He kept singing as he made his way through the roots and the brambles, weaving between trees. He was not wandering as he had told his parents, he definitely had a specific destination in mind. Of course, he stopped singing as he got to the clearing. The clearing deserved reverence and reverence meant silence at least at first. He walked into the clearing once again and felt the sunlight on his face. He tilted his head up towards it for a moment, feeling the warmth and love of it. Then he lowered his gaze and looked ahead at the object of his mission. As soon as he had found him, he had wanted to visit every day. He walked forward slowly, barely even feeling his footsteps anymore.

At first glance, he looked like a statue. Almost perfect white alabaster stone, he was obviously a warrior of some kind. He had been wearing some sort of armor although the insignias on it were somewhat foreign to Darden. He had long flowing hair that was partially covering his face. That face was flawless, absolutely perfect and beautiful though Darden wished that it was wearing a smile instead of a grimace. He also wished he knew what color the young man’s eyes were although when he looked into those eyes, his own eyes were drawn to the man’s lips and then his thoughts would wander. He shook himself from his reverie and sighed for the last in what must have been dozens of times.

The man had been turned to stone at some point. Darden did not know the particulars but it looked like it had been a monster of some kind. Darden knew that years ago the Guard had slain a basilisk and Darden had heard the tales of how their gaze could turn people to stone. Darden wished that he had slain that Basilisk himself. He would have stabbed it himself a million times. Thinking about it made Darden see red and he felt himself turn away. Instead of violence, he started to sing to the young man. He wished he could help the young man so much. The problem was that the young man was missing an arm. If he was restored to flesh, he would bleed out almost immediately. It was tragic. And so he kept singing and when his song was over he did something he never did before.

“I don’t know if you can hear me,” Darden said. “I’m not even sure who you are but I love you. It’s true that I don’t know your name or what your preference was. It may seem silly but I do love you and it kills me that you cannot love me back.” He paced back and forth in front of the stone man in front of him. He ran hands through his hair and sang again for a bit.

“I don’t know what to do,” he said. “My father wants me to work at the shop and maybe take it over down the line. If I do that, I will be stuck where I am forever and I will never see the world like you did. I will never be an adventurer like you. No more singing. I don’t know if I can handle that. I’m not sure what I want to do with my life but I will keep coming back here for as long as I can.”

Darden sat down on a log with another sigh and laid his father’s bow in the grass at his feet and just looked up at the mystery man.

The Faith of the Raven Pt. 5

June 16, 2018

As they reached the woods, Carania climbed down from Rhiannon’s back. She tied the horse’s reins to a nearby sturdy tree branch. It would discourage her from wandering off when she got bored but it would surely break if real danger appeared. The other two followed suit, tying their horse and pony up to different trees. Arne leaned in and pressed his forehead to his horse’s forehead and spoke quietly for a moment. Galath started to rummage through the pack on the back of the pony and pulled out a small, two-handed hammer which he slung across his back. Arne turned toward Carania instead of going into his pack immediately. Carania smiled to herself and prepared for sarcasm.

“So,” he said. “I assume we are continuing on foot?”

Galath laughed at that. “You’re the smart one, huh?”

“I am,” Arne said sweetly. “So nice of you to notice. I’m stating the obvious because I wanted an explanation, not confirmation.”

Carania laughed. “No need to fight, boys. I don’t want to endanger the horses or have them slow us down with all of the brush and roots.”

“Fair enough,” Arne said and shrugged. Carania had expected a little more pushback from the opinionated wizard who definitely had a high opinion of himself and a chip on his shoulder. Arne pulled a pouch out of his pack and tied it to his belt. Carania could only assume it was full of components for spells as she had observed as much from her former charge. He then pulled a parasol out of a side pocket, sliding it slowly out of what must have been a magic pocket on the horse’s saddle.

“That’s a curious tool,” Carania said. “I’ve rarely seen one of those outside of cities and even rarer out of the hands of nobility.”

“You like that, eh?” Arne asked with a smile. “Sadly I won’t be taking the bait and using that opening to pour my heart out about my past. My past is my own and I prefer it to remain mysterious.”

“Very mysterious,” Carania agreed. “I was only complimenting your parasol. I had never heard of one being brought into battle before. That is the only reason I commented.”

Arne relaxed, his shoulders visibly releasing tension. “I made it and enchanted it myself for a woman who never claimed it. So I did not want it to go to waste.”

“It’s very pretty,” Galath said in an obvious attempt to tease Arne and maybe further diffuse the tension of the situation.

“Thank you,” Arne said. “I do excellent work.” He leaned the parasol against his shoulder and Graymalkin flapped down from a branch and perched on the gem at the top of the parasol. He started off into the woods whistling.

Carania and Galath followed and then Carania got ahead of the two of them as they headed into those woods. Carania pulled her sword out and held it out at her side. While training at Battle Arts she had heard many stories about patrols that had tripped and fallen on their swords by holding them in front. Galath had his hammer out in one hand but he was clutching his holy symbol. He did not look scared, he looked intense. Carania had no idea how many they would be facing but she felt the Raven Queen like a wind at her back, pushing her onward. It made her feel powerful and that feeling made her feel braver but she was no fool. She would not rush into danger blindly.

After a long walk, the forest started to feel darker. It was clearly actually getting darker as the branches grew closer together in the unforested parts. However, it was also feeling dark and, for lack of a better word, spooky. It felt like it was harder to breathe and each step was more difficult than the last. Carania looked over at Galath and knew that he could feel something like what she felt. She could sense the undead in the woods and she started to lead them in that direction. She gripped her sword tighter and they moved confidently toward their targets. They pushed through a copse of trees and there were a group of men with black feathers attached to their leather armor. Their eyes widened when they saw the three adventurers appear.

“But we killed you!” one of them shouted out.

“It didn’t take,” Carania said. “The Raven Queen sends her regards.” Something in her voice must have scared the men.

“Release the cages!” Another man shouted. The men rushed to two big cages and threw open the doors and out poured a crowd of zombies. The men pointed toward the adventurers and the small zombie horde started toward them.

“I guess talking is out of the question,” Arne said and pointed the parasol at the oncoming menace.

Galath stepped forward and gripped his holy symbol and called out in his dwarvish language and the symbol glowed. The zombies hesitated and then some of them exploded where they stood and then the rest started to flee from that holy light. Carania took the cue to leap forward into the fray. Her swordplay was a fearsome sight as she slashed away at the fleeing horde and the bewildered human men. She was a primal force, revenge and righteous fury flowing through her. True Purpose is one of the most powerful forces in all of the universes and it was fully on display here. She was slowly covered in blood and rotting viscera as she carved a path through their enemies. Meanwhile, magic missiles streaked from the end of Arne’s parasol as he managed to hit those that Carania had not yet reached.

As the last thug fell to the ground in a heap, the two men looked over at Carania as she stood in the middle of what could only be described as a circle of death. The first thing the two of them noticed was that her eyes were obsidian black and she had a big smile on her face. It should have felt creepy, but for some reason, the image just felt right. These men and woman who had been raised from death without their consent had been laid to rest again. The men who had shepherded those zombies had obviously tried to kill their new leader, Carania and she had gotten her justified revenge. As Carania walked toward them, flicking the blood from her sword, both of them would swear later that they saw a pair of black wings spread out from her shoulders and then fade away like mist.

“Come on, men,” Carania said. “We have more work to do.”


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