September 2 2020

A Not So Scary Short Story – by Bee Striker – narrated by Asclepius

Hello everyone, this is Asclepius, and I’m delighted to welcome a new author to the ranks. This is a piece by Bee Striker, entitled

A Not So Scary Short Story

Background music by Smartsound

 

It started as a trickle as she walked under the awning to avoid the rain. As she extended her hand to touch the drops, a rough hand grabbed it, forcing her to swing around. A pale face with dark eyes met her surprised stare. Before she could respond, the man released her with a quick turn and walked off.

The intense moment had gone straight through her entire body, and she felt something pull out of her…or in her. She couldn’t really tell. She shuddered. A quick look around made her realise nobody seemed to notice anything odd had just happened. Shaken, she headed home, quickly looked around, and locked her door.

The unsettled feeling did not leave as she readied for bed. She felt silly as she double checked the lock on her door, the windows, every room, and even under her bed before she climbed into bed. She tried to calm herself but sleep would not come.

“Please help me.” She sat up. What the hell was that? “Please…help…” The voice initially startled her but quickly grew faint. She flew out of bed and flicked on the light. She looked under the bed again, flung open her closet, and opened her bedroom door. She stared into the darkness in silence. Nothing.

She didn’t know how long she stood in her bedroom doorway. A cool draft reminded here she was barefoot. After a quick glance around the dark house, she crawled back into bed.

A man’s limp body lay with heavy chains anchoring his feet to the cement floor. A worn loincloth was his only covering. His damp hair stuck to his pale face. Each slight movement made him groan in pain. “help me..” He wasn’t sure if he actually voiced that or it was just in his head. He heard a door creak open and footsteps slowly descend the stairs. He turned away preparing himself for more pain.

She woke up with a start, bewildered at what she just saw. The face of the man was eerily familiar. A quick image of the man who had grabbed her earlier flashed before her eyes. It was him! Why did she just have a vision of him? Was it real, or just a dream? It sent a chill through her to the core.

The next morning she ran back to the awning where she first encountered the man. Eyes flitting back and forth, she saw no sign of him. Which direction had he gone when he walked away? She tried to think. Following what she thought was the direction, she headed down the street. At the end of the block she paused, not knowing which way to go. For no reason at all, she turned right, crossed the street, and headed down the sidewalk. The sidewalk started to decay as she continued walking.

Something made her pause in front of a small lot. Weeds dominated the landscape, almost drowning out the small shack. Weeds scratched her legs as she approached the building. She listened for any indication of life as she slowly walked up to the door. The screen door was ripped and the shabby door was ajar. The door creaked as she slowly pushed it open. A sparse room gave her an apathetic greeting. The worn couch sat quietly next to an old coffee table. She felt the lone beer bottle resting on the table. It was warm.

A groan made her alert to someone else in the house. She spun around towards the door. Nobody had entered behind her. Her ears almost perked up trying to listen. “Help me…” The helpless plea seemed to be calling from below. As she looked around the house, she noticed a small staircase around the corner. The stairs creaked as she cautiously descended.

The dank room surrounded her as the aroma attacked her senses. She forced her eyes to adjust to the darkness. A man lay almost motionless on the floor. A chain anchored his ankles to the floor. A worn loincloth was his only covering. He was facing the opposite wall as she slowly approached.

“Hello?”

She saw his light skin shake slightly. As she turned him over and saw his pale face, she gasped.

Echoes From the Caverns

Echoes From the Caverns

September 2 2020

Black Rose Chronicles 11 – by Belladonna Rose – narrated by Asclepius

Hello everyone, this is Asclepius, with the next chapter of a wonderful story from Belladonna Rose, entitled
Black Rose Chronicles
Background music by Smartsound

Trudging down the road back towards Farmer Filmore’s she could see all manner of creatures about.

Bears, wolves, rabbits and squirrels. Crops growing in the farmer’s fields. Cotton. Strange. But that is probably how he makes his living. As she reached the entrance to the road that led to the farmer’s house some bandits made their way up the road….seeing her they turned and made way into the brush.

Finding their comrades on the road…dead..they must of thought better than to approach her. Funny she thought.

Halfway down the path she noticed fresh graves next to the tattered shack. The farmer must have gone inside and found Darwin and Quentin and decided to bury them. With that done she decided to leave the old man alone. With a turn of the heel she went on down the main path back to the bridge.

As she got close to the bridge the lady guard stepped out and met her. Sadly, Bella handed her the note she found on Quentin’s body. The poor girl was distraught. After reading the missive she scribbled a message on a scrap piece of paper and handed it to Bella.

“Please take this back to the Cap’n and tell her what you found. I will remain at my post as ordered.
She need not fear that I will leave. It will be my duty to avenge my poor Quentin.” She slowly turned wiping the tears from her face and took her post near the bridge.

Bella tucked the note in her vest and made her way back up the hill towards the camp. A few of the foolish bandits attacked her but she easily took care of them. This time she was going to check their pockets. A few coins and trinkets. She remembered something one guard said about returning heirlooms that the bandits had stolen. She would return these as well. The guards at the edge of the rope bridge were busy with a couple of those zombie things and immediately cleared the way so she could cross over. The camp was rather peaceful when she entered just before midday.

Looking to the one side of the camp the children were playing around their small campfire. She approached and stood watching for a minute. One of them stopped and looked her way.

“Ohhh. It be you. The Sword Breaker. What ya be wantin from us today? Here to spoil our fun some more?” Bella gave the child a scowling look and then walked closer to them. They all stopped their dancing and looked at her with a bit of fear in their eyes.

“Nay I do not wish to spoil your entertainment. I just thought you might want this.”

Holding the book up over their heads they all stared in disbelief. “Is that the Bloody Bones?”

All the children ran towards Bella as she teased them with the book. She laughed as they jumped up and down trying to get the book.

“Gimme that book Outlander. That is ours. We needs that book so we can sing the song right.”

Bella looked down at them and scowled again. “You do know that Bloody Bones is not a fairy-tale don’t you? Bloody Bones is real. And each time you sing that song it brings that creature out searching for who is singing its song. “

The children looked at her with surprise. Then jumped up and down laughing and cheering.

“She did it…she did it. The Outlander did it. She gots us the Bloody Bones.”

It was obvious these children had no clue what they were doing. But that was none of her business one way or the other…..she tossed the book in the air and let them fight over it. Laughing over her shoulder as they scrambled about trying to hold onto the book she moved on towards the guard.

The guard looked her up and down and smiled. “Thank you for giving them some glimmer of hope.
They know not what they do but they just try to stay entertained best they can. Eventually we will get them to a town and have them looked after better.”

Bella smiled at the guard and pulled out a small pouch and handed it to her. “I retrieved these from some fallen bandits on the road. I do hope you can return the items to their owners if they still live.”

The guard looked into the pouch and she smiled. “Thank you Outlander for doing such a good deed.

I will try my best to return them to their owners. By way what be your name.”

Bella looked at the young guard and smiled…Belladonna Rose.

Making her way through the camp she went straight to Captain Kinsey, handing her the note from Rhoswen about Quentin and the bottle of medicine from Ackerley. She proceeded to tell the Captain about the Ebon Cultists and that she had dispatched them from their ritual. She told her about the woman that appeared and disappeared at each ritual site.

“Damn. Then its true. Mistress Valdis is trying to come back to this side of the realm.”

She shook her head and explained that this creature was once very powerful and has been using the Ebon Cultists to make her way back to this side. The side of the living so she can try and take over the unrest of the lands. Bella looked at the Captain like she had lost her mind. What kind of sorcery is all this ? This realm has completely gone crazy. All this undead and such. Now master sorcery at work as well. Shaking her head she decided that she was no better off here than she was back in her world.

Evil is just that…Evil.

Captain Kinsey pulled a rolled parchment off her makeshift desk and handed it to Bella. Along with a rolled-up banner and pouch of coin.

“Its not much but you have truly showed your worth since you came here. I apologize it ís not much but we have very little as it is. Please take this parchment to Captain Stanley at Soltown and see if you can be of service there. They are in need of help with all the migrating villagers from around this area.

The undead and bandits are razing all the small towns so many are moving towards Ardoris. Soltown is where many have landed.”

Bella took what was given her and looked at the rolled-up banner.

“ That is the Banner of Love my dear Belladonna Rose. You have shown great love and compassion for us and these poor folks who have lost so much. I have a strong feeling you will do great things for our lands and help bring peace and Love back to our people. Take it. It will be better off in your hands than here in mine. Go now and safe travels Future Avatar.”

The sound in Kinsey’s voice was that of courage and devotion to her task. And she would take the banner and put it in a safe place til she could later retrieve it. Looking around one last time at the camp she headed towards the gates. Back to Soltown is it then.

Echoes From the Caverns

Echoes From the Caverns

August 4 2020

Black Rose Chronicles 10 – by Belladonna Rose – narrated by Asclepius

Hello everyone, this is Asclepius, with the next chapter of a wonderful story from Belladonna Rose, entitled
Black Rose Chronicles
Background music by Smartsound

With the intent to make the best use of the daylight Bella moved out and down the road. But despite the time of day it was overcast and quite foggy. She could see the fog rise above the cliff edges from the river below. Whoever carved this place out was insane. Those cliff edges were very steep and jagged. Keeping her wits about her she could hear things rambling about in the brush and bushes. No telling what was out there to greet her.

In the short distance she could make out what looked like abandoned buildings. To the right was a burned-out husk of one building. That didn’t look good. Suddenly from out of nowhere one of those zombie creatures and two skeletons came towards her. Quickly she pulled her sword out and took a full swing at them all. Clattering of bone and the ill sounding smack of her blade against flesh made her wince. That sound is one she will never get used to. Wiping the blood from her blade on the grass she stood and proceeded down the road. Over a period of half an hour or so she dispatched everything that came forth. Even some of the lower ranked Cultists were taken out silently.

Weaving between two of the back buildings of the area she saw a bonfire glow. As she crept closer she could hear chanting from the three cultists moving around it. And suddenly something happened.

Quickly she pulled her bow out and lined an arrow up to fire. There in the midst of the fire stood a mishappened woman…covered in blood and bandage. Raising her hands to the sky and chanting some sort of spell. OH NO you don’t Bella thought to herself. Firing off a shot it hit the woman and she turned in Bella’s direction. Pulling out two more arrows she fired another volley and the woman collapsed into the flames. Blue light spewed up high in the sky and then vanished. She was gone. But that didn’t stop the cultists from making their way towards Bella. Coming out from the cover of the broken-down garden wall she fired off rapid shots at each one…taking them down quickly. Checking each cultist to make sure they were dead she found a few gold pieces and she pocketed them quickly.

As she made her way close to the bonfire she noticed that a strange color ooze was all around on the ground. There was no way she was touching that stuff. So she just moved on.

Climbing across the wall and heading towards the edge of the old town again she heard the chanting. Same sounds same set up. As carefully as she could she watched and waited. Again the woman appeared. Rapid fire shooting and down she went. Again she took out the cultists too. This must have been what Captain Kinsey was talking about. She would be sure to report this.

By the time she made her way back to the tattered road going towards Ackerley’s place the sun was beginning to go down. Picking up the pace she made her way to the shack. Fighting every step of the way with zombies, skeletons and wolves. Exhausted she was happy to see that broken down shack . As she started to knock on the door Ackerley open it and smiled.

“Knew you would make it back. I told ya so. Besides I heard all the noise nearby and took me a peek through the shutters. I saw you taking down some of that riff raff out there. You be a good one with that there sword. Glad to see you back.”

With that he took her by the arm and ushered her inside. Shut and bolted the door. Then went about his business. Shaking her head she made her way to the water basin and bucket and cleaned herself up a bit. Looking about there was nothing hot to eat so she grabbed a pot and rooted around for something to cook. Putting what vegetables she could find together she made a quick stew. After an hour or two it was done and Ackerley made sure he scooped himself a big bowl of food like it just magically appeared there. After eating he went back to his work.

Bella curled up on the smelly cot and quickly fell asleep.

Dreams took over as she slept. She was standing on the bridge of her ship. Tight grip on the wheel and Jack standing next to her. He looked out to the horizon and smiled as the wind blew through his tousled hair. Smiling to herself she thought back to all they had been through together. Always a steady hand on the ship and at the ready to jump into action no matter what. And his caring nature for her warmed her heart but scared her just the same. Looking at the horizon herself she shook off the thought of anything other than the job at hand, her ship and crew. No time for personal entanglements.

Then there it was….ahead. The Vortex. Glowing and pulsing and getting larger as they approached. Trying hard to steer the ship away it seemed to just suck them in. All hands were on deck manning the sails and doing there best to secure the ship. Closer and closer and then darkness.

She woke with a sweated brow. Looked about the room and saw the old man at his worktable. Did he ever sleep? Slowly pulling herself up to a sitting position she reached down for her boots. Pulled them on and stood. As she approached the old man he turned with a wary look on his face. Startled she took a step back.

“Ahhh tis you Outlander. Forgot you were in the house for a moment. Tend to get busy with my potions and work forgetting all else.”

He reached to the side of the table and turned to Bella. Handing her a flask with a slight green glowing liquid inside. “Here be the medicine Capn Kinsey be wanting. This should fix up any ills in the camp for sure.” Pressing the flask in her hand he returned to his business. Nothing else said.

Bella gathered up her belongings and went out the door. A slight overcast took the sky. She thought to herself she hoped it wouldnt rain today. She was tired of the rain. Stepping out into the courtyard she could hear the rustling in the bushes and surrounding forest. She would be happy to shut this place away from her and the sooner the better. Such vile creatures roaming about and she longed to get back to some sort of civilization.

Echoes From the Caverns

Echoes From the Caverns

July 19 2020

Interview with the Dragon Goddess 11 – by Draxenath

Hello everyone, this is Asclepius, with the next instalment of this wonderful story by Draxenath. It is entitled

Interview with the Dragon Goddess

Background music by Smartsound

 

Part 15: Conclusion

Many years passed between the interview and the writing of this conclusion. I have spent countless hours reading books at the ancient library. The amount of knowledge contained within its books would empower the people to do unimaginable things that could either bring prosperity or self-destruction. Time and time again, The Goddess would remind me: “The majority of the sentient mortals are not ready for the knowledge and technology amassed by Humenalia. She had a chosen few who would be her disciples and the ones applying the knowledge within this library for the good of the inhabitants of Curiosity”.

It was a fairly large metropolis with several thousands of inhabitants, completely isolated from the outside world in order to prevent the theft and misuse of its technology. Deep down, I really want to share all of this knowledge with the world, but I am also worried it might be used for terrible purposes. Maybe Amaxis thought the same and left it there to be mostly forgotten and thought of as myths.

When I started this interview, I was not expecting to have the pleasure of finding this fountain of unlimited knowledge. As for my expectations towards Draxenath, I thought she would be more like Amaxis, a proud deity who would never admit fault and would proclaim any of his opponents as enemies of the world. Instead, I found a strong yet fragile goddess, grieving over past mistakes and feeling devoid of purpose after what she felt was a sign that mortals did not appreciate her devotion to them.

Today, I see a determined goddess striving on her new purpose, “healing Humenalia and making preparations for their glorious return”. That makes me reflect on the importance of finding purpose in life. The loss of her purpose drove her to seclude herself and attempt to end her own life. Asking her about her life and letting her know her legends are passed on and prayers are still directed at her after all this time slowly burrowed through her hardened scales and into her heart, driving her to consider if there is yet a new purpose for her to find and live for.

As for me, I am now traveling the world with a trusted companion, spreading copies of this interview, and working on a new project of my own, of which no details will be provided for now.

-End-

 

Echoes From the Caverns

Echoes From the Caverns

June 25 2020

Black Rose Chronicles 9 – by Belladonna Rose – narrated by Asclepius

Hello everyone, this is Asclepius, with the next chapter of a wonderful story from Belladonna Rose, entitled
Black Rose Chronicles
Background music by Smartsound

 

Heading across the rope bridge she nodded to the guards again on both sides. Then made her way towards the swampy area. Here is where she was told the bandits hide out. At first glance it did not look like a great hiding place. Making her way through she took out a couple of the pesky bandits and checked them for heirlooms and such of the Solace Bridge survivors. She found a couple. Making her way across the nasty waters she saw a cabin on stilts. This must be the hideout. As she walked up she saw a small tombstone with a candle and flowers. With a sad memoir or ode to a young girl. Lilianna. That is the name of the daughter of the couple in camp. Strange this be way out here. As she rose up from the stone she felt a light tap on her shoulder. Turning she was face to face with a haggered looking bandit.

“Was a sad day when my Lilianna died. I swore I would always remember her sweet angelic face.”

Puzzled Bella stepped away from him.

“Are you the one who stole the painting from her parents. If so I would appreciate if you could return it so they can move on from this horrid place.”

Chuckling under his breath he turned and walked towards the cabin. “Aye. I took it cause it belongs to me. Lilianna painted that portrait of herself for me so that I could remember what she looked like. Before she could give it to me the Bridge was attacked and she died to those foul undead things.” Clearing his throat trying to hold back his anger he went on. “Her parents found it next to her body and took it….claiming it was their. When I saw them come into camp I snuck in and looked through their things and took the painting.”

Bella looked down at the ground mulling over what he said. Does she take the painting from him in a fight or does she disregard the whole thing.

“I understand it means a great deal to you. But it means a great deal to them as well. They lost their daughter horribly and this is the only thing to give them piece. Would you not part with it for that fact.”

He looked her up and down and grinned. “Ahhh you be one of them Outlanders here to help set the world to right again. Nah. I keep it. They can deal with their grief just as I have. If it werent for them and their peddling ways they would never of beenin Solace Bridge and my sweet Lil would never of died. They can rot for all I care.”

Walking over to a small campfire he squatted down and looked up at Bella. “I have a copy you know….of the painting. Not as good as the original but you can take it…they can have it and never know the difference.” He poked around the embers waiting for Bella to answer.

Not really knowing which way to go she decided she would take the copy back. If they never knew she created it to begin with they might not know the difference. She struck a deal with the bandit leader. “Might I know your name sir. I am Belladonna Rose.”

“Aye. Pleasantries escape me of late. My name is Yardley. “


“I have decided I will take the copy back to them. But mind you if they see it is not the true painting I will be back to take it from you.”

Trudging back to the camp Bella approached the couple by the campfire. She softly cleared her throat to get their attention but they neither one looked up. Stepping in between them she stood the painting gently infront of them and when they glanced up they both gasped in surprise.

“Ohh My. It is the painting. However did you find it?” the gentleman asked. The lady burst into tears and hugged her husband tightly. Bella could see they were both happy and overjoyed to see the painting.

“My name is Belladonna Rose and I was told you were looking for this. One of the guards told me to search the bandit camp in the swamps so I made my way there. I talked to a man named Yardley and he admitted taking it. I explained your grief and he handed it over to me.”

“Lady Langston and I greatly appreciate your service.” Smiling he handed me a small pouch full of coin and shook my hand vigoursly. They seemed to be pleased enough and so I bid them farewell.

As Bella started to move away she overheard Lord Langston tell his wife they had just enough funds to make the trip to Ardoris. There they can get back to their lives again. Smiling Bella walked to the one merchant tent to grab a bite of something to eat. Timothea the merchant told her how proud she was that she was able to retrieve the painting and set the Langstons at ease. Offering her a warm bowl of stew she talked about Farmer Filmore. Expressing how nor he or his farmhand Dawson had been to town in a while and asked if she could check on him.

Bella smiled and said she was heading that direction anways so she would check in on the old farmer. As she ate her rough meal she ran through the list of people she needed to track down. A scout by the name of Rhoswen was on the way to the Filmore Farm. She would check in with her first. And then move on . She needed to stop at the alchemist shack near the cemetary and see if Master Ackerly had the medicine ready for an ailing man in camp. And also to head to the old village and check out the disturbance by the Ebon Cultists. It was going to be a long day for sure.

Taking a few coins from her pouch she bought a few staples to get her through her journey. Again she saluted the guards at the bridge and crossed over. This path was starting to get too familiar. By now the bandits along this road had decided to leave her alone. She had dispatched enough of them over the last day or two so they wanted no part of her. She finally reached the stone bridge which was the first indication that she was heading into new territory. Before she crossed she noticed the bushes shuffle a bit and there was a young woman in guard clothing. This must be Rhoswen. Approaching cautiously she introduced herself to the girl. In return she learned that Rhoswen and the guard Quentin were in love and she was greatly worried about him. He had moved on up the road to scout around and had not returned. Bella assured her she would find out where he was. Another task Bella thought.

Making way over the bridge she passed a few more bandits. Same as before. They turned and went the opposite direction. In the short distance she saw a wagon on the side of the road. Full of arrows and what looked like claw marks. As she got closer she saw blood on the ground which lead towards some rocks to the left of the road. She followed the trail. There sprawled on the ground face down was a man in guard clothing. Next to him a note. She read the note and exhaled slowly. Quentin.

Putting the note inside her vest. Hoisting the dead guard onto her shoulder she grunted making her way back to the road. Ahead she saw the sign for Filmore’s Farm. She would leave the boy there and retrieve him later. Making her way down the path to the farmhouse she saw the old man walking about. She approached slowly as not to startle him

“Ahhhh so ye found me worker did ya. Knew he would end up dead sooner or later. Thank ye for returnin him to me.” He pointed towards the small shed and told me to take him up there he would deal with it later. Inside the dusty cobwebbed room was a small bed. And on that bed was a young man filled with arrows. Dead. She laid poor Quentin on the bed alongside the other boy and went back out to talk to the old man.

“Pardon me sir would you be Farmer Filmore? I was asked by Captain Kinsey to check on you while I am out this way. And sorry to tell you but that boy I brought in was one of the Captain’s scouts killed out by the road.”

“Ohh. Damn. Thought it might be Dawson. He has been gone a long time and thought that be him.

I be guessing he will show up sooner or later.”

Bellad shook her head. Apparently the old man wasnt that worried that he didnt check the shed for his missing help. Not her concern at the moment. She asked if he were alright and he expressed that his prized pet Betty went missing and that if I would be kind enough to take a few moments to find her. Telling Bella of the wolves in the area that have been harrassing him. She nodded slowly and set off to look for Betty. Since when did she become such a bleeding heart. Something must of rattled her brain in that shipwreck.

Off she went past the barn and into the rocky terrain behind the farm. Sure enough a large pack of wolves were pacing about in a small den under a rock outcropping. She moved in and took them out one by one as they attacked. The pack leader then pounced on her from above the rocks but she quickly took care of him. There on the ground was a collar with a coin shaped object hanging from it. On the coin the name Betty was engraved. She quickly took the head of the leader and headed back to Filmore. Once she tossed the head on the ground at his feet she handed him the collar. Sniffling he went inside his home and brought out a nicely made leather tunic and handed it to her.

“Thank ye stranger. You did me a good deed by finding my poor Betty. Here take this and may it help you on your journeys.” Sniffling more he moved on to his house and shut the door behind him

Well if that dont beat all. She looked at the tunic and saw if was finely crafted. Pulling off her vest she put the tunic on. Nice fit indeed. This should come in handy. She yelled to Filmore that she would be back to get Quentin on her return trip. No response. Oh well. Leave him be.



Back up the road again she looked at the scribbled map that Kinsey had given her. The cemetary was up ahead. It was near on to evening and the sun was starting to dip below the mountains. Not a good time to be around a graveyard you fool. Laughing at herself she moved on. From the corner of her eye she saw a large rambling form coming towards her. Stopping she pulled her bow out and aimed. As it approached she saw it was covered in blood. Moving a lot like those zombie creatures. No way was she about to get into a fight with that thing. Firing as fast as she could she shot at the thing. And it quickly went down. When she got to it she saw a book laying next to it. Ballad of Bloody Bone. For heavens sakes. This is what those children were going on about. Well that is one thing now off my list. Wiping the book off with some leaves she put it in her pack. As she turned her head to look back at the corpse she realized it was gone. Looking around her she got an ill feeling about that creature.

After a short walk she was at the edge of the graveyard to the left and across the road to the right was a worn shack. Skeleton creatures were walking around outside the front. Running to the edge of the broken down wall she shott a volley of arrows at them and heard more noises from behind her. Running around the wall she ran straight to the shack threw open the door and slammed it shut behind her.

A finely dressed man turned quickly and looked her up and down. Apparently those things didnt bother him in the least. “Ahhh another Outlander. You can tell Kinsey I dont have her medicine ready yet. Missing an ingredient and I cant get into the graveyard to get it. Those pesky bone clankers wont let me out the door.”

Confused Bella looked at the old man. He turned back to his table and started muttering something about an olfactory gland. What in the world was that. She tapped him lightly on the shoulder and asked what it was he needed.

“Ahh yes. I be needing that gland off them zombie critters in the graveyard. Tis what I need to make the cure for that poor man in the camp up the hill of Kinsey’s. Like I said cant get past them bone clankers. And what be your name girly.”

“Belladonna Rose sir and yours.”

“ I be Ackerly Master of Herbs and Fine Medicines”

“Well Ackerly sir. If you allow me to rest the night here I will be willing to get your gland things for you so you can finish the medicine. Then I can retrieve it for Kinsey on my way back through. I need to get to the burned out village to report on the Ebon Cultists there and then retrieve a fallen guard and take him back to the camp.”

“Well aint ye the busy one today. There be a cot over there you can take your rest at and probably best to wait til morning. Them critters outside there dont like the daylight that much. So make yourself comfortable and we will get to work come morning.”

With that he went back to his work and paid Bella no attention afterwards. Laying down on the cot she curled into a ball and tried to sleep. The moaning from outside was distracting and the clatter of bottles from Ackerly didnt help but she soon fell asleep.



The sun started shining through the cracks in the back wall of the shack and she could smell something very pleasing as she rubbed the sleep from her eyes. Ackerly was cooking something on the stove. Turning he smiled as he walked over handing her a plate of fried eggs. This would be very refreshing to Bella. She hadnt had eggs in a long while. Eating quickly she took the plate and put it in the bucket by the stove. Then started gathering her things for the day. Ackerly told her what to look for from the zombies in the graveyard. Warned her to turn off the valves that were spewing green gas everywhere or else she would end up like those critters. With that he waved her off and went about his business.

Slowly opening the door she notice that the skeletons were no where to be seen. Good for that. Keeping her bow at the ready she set out across the road. She had left her pack at the shack so was able to move a bit more quickly. Once she went through the gates she could hear that horrid noise from the zombies. Gurgling and moaning as they seemed to gasp for the last strains of air and humanity.

After the third or fourth creature she finally got the gland from one. Wiping off her skinning knife she headed back to Ackerly. And anxiously to beg for a pan of water to wash. This ‘do gooder’ business for sure a messy job.

Entering the shack the old man turned and smiled. “Ahh I see you made it back alive. Good good. And did you get the gland I asked for.”

“Of course I did or else I would not be back. I do not shirk my tasks dear sir.”

“Yes yes…i see that. Dont get your knickers in a twist. Just surprised a lady as yourself was up for that task. Most folks tend to either not go or come back looking as green as the gas over there. Some folk just dont have the stomach for nasty business as that.”

She handed him the jar with the gland inside and grabbed a pail for water. She went out in the small courtyard and found the working pump. The water was cool and crips but felt good against her skin. She was never of a mind to not enjoy a good wash whether it be warm or cold water. That was one thing the crew teased her about. How clean she liked to be. She giggled softly to herself remembering that small bit about the crew.

When she went inside Ackerly told her he would have the medicine ready by the time she passed back through again and that he had no doubt she would make it back safely. Bella thought it odd that he held so much asteem for her without even knowing her. That was fine by her.

Again she was off into the unknown. Ackerly told her the old town wasnt too far down the road and she should have no trouble finding the cultists. He told her she would find them in two spots as he had seen them when he was foraging for herbs. And he warned her as well as they were a nasty bunch of evil for sure. She thought to herself…what part of this journey hasn’t been nasty.

Echoes From the Caverns

Echoes From the Caverns

 

January 16 2020

Interview with the Dragon Goddess 10 – by Draxenath

Hello everyone, this is Asclepius, with the next instalment of this wonderful story by Draxenath. It is entitled “Interview with the Dragon Goddess”.
Background music by Smartsound

Part 14: Humenalia’s Message

With the ancient library now residing within Draxenath’s hiding place, we had unimaginable amounts of knowledge at our disposal. The Goddess entered the library and went straight to the automaton behind the desk and proceeded to examine it. – The magitronic circuit boards are intact, – she said. – the only damage they have is the interconnecting fibers were severed, it is easy to repair them.

She took a strange tool from a toolbox under the desk and proceeded to re-attach the automaton’s tendrils. After she was done, the automaton lit up and started making noises, then slowly got up on its feet and addressed us. – Welcome visitors, I am the librarian, how can I assist you? – it said with its unnatural voice. It looked at us for a moment, then it reacted erratically upon looking at Draxenath. – How ca… Please wait… How can I…… Please wait… How… Please… Overriding main program. Identity confirmation required, please remain still while a biometric scan is performed.

The automaton set its eyes on the Goddess’ face for a moment. – Identity confirmed. – the automaton said. – Lady Draxenath, welcome back to Curiosity’s Central Library. It has been 445,327 days since your last visit. I have an urgent video message for you from our administrator, it is 438,627 days old. Would you like to display it?

The Goddess nodded. – Please display it on the screen at your desk. – she said, and the picture at the large slab on the desk changed. It was very realistic, the face of Humenalia, so real I felt like I could almost touch her. She was sad, her eyes red, probably from shedding too many tears.

– Draxenath! – Humenalia said. – I know you will come back one day, but I don’t know what will be of me by that time. My chest aches so much… I barely had time to mourn Sari’s death at the hands of Merealla, and now Athaldar is dead by his own father’s hands… first my grandchild, now my son… both murdered by those of their own blood…murdered by those too selfish and envious to understand how important their work was…

– I have always admired you, and so have many of the humans. The other gods hate humans, but you don’t, because you understand humans are a cursed race. You understand humans lack so many things and have been misguided. Humans have no magic of their own, no fur, no fangs, no gills, no fins, no claws, no wings, and have become used to feel entitled to take things from others by force. That’s how Amaxis taught them.

– You understood, and in the beginning, stood up to defend humans from the aggressions of the other races. Your kindness to us ignited a spark in my son Athaldar. He always thought his father’s ways and teachings were not entirely correct, and so did I, but didn’t dare to go against Amaxis’ will. I always admired you for standing your ground against Amaxis, but still seeing humans as your people to protect and support.

– You loved my son, you supported each other in the common goals you had and did many things I never dared to do myself. You worked to eliminate the hate among the races, to build a common history from the ground up for all races together. You gave hope to those who thought nothing would ever change. Unfortunately, things went wrong because no race was ready to leave their hate behind. My grandchild… your son was betrayed and murdered by those we least suspected, by the dearest and closest.

– Your world crumbled, you talked about committing suicide, then you left. But you are strong, I have faith that you will come back one day. My world is crumbling now as I record this message. As you were no longer at my son’s side, I gathered the courage to support him, to stand against Amaxis, I felt good, felt strong and empowered, but things didn’t go as I expected. My son was just killed by my husband, the one I thought would never do that!

– I am a weakling and feel like there is no hope. But you are much stronger than me, I know you are only taking a rest from all of this, that you will come back with renewed strength and put an end to this neverending cycle of hate and misery. Please, I beg you as a mother who also lost her most beloved child. Do not let our children’s death be in vain.

– And thank you for everything you have done for me, for the humans, and for all other races, even if so many don’t appreciate it, that’s how being a mother and a goddess is, I suppose. But in the long run, after everything has settled down, we finally see the fruit of our efforts.

The message ended. Draxenath walked towards a wall and rested her forehead on it as she took several deep breaths, then spoke. – Librarian, do a blue highlight on the location of the following books: History of the Divine Conflict, volumes 1 to 10 by Humenalia and Draxenath. History of Mortals volumes 1 to 24 by Humenalia and Draxenath. Also, do a red highlight on the location of Magitronics Journal from The Magic Press, all issues.

She looked at me with kindness and said: – The interview will have to end now, there are duties I need to attend, lots of plans to be made, the world is not ready for my return, just as it was not ready for me to free it a millennium ago, so I need to prepare my plan to get them ready. You can stay as long as you wish, I requested a list of books to be highlighted in blue for you to read. There will be an automaton cooking food at a regular schedule, and a room for you to sleep.

My life was completely changed with that.

— Grand Finale will be Part 15, stay tuned for it —

Echoes From the Caverns

Echoes From the Caverns

December 27 2019

Interview with the Dragon Goddess 9 – by Draxenath

Hello everyone, this is Asclepius, with the next instalment of this wonderful story by Draxenath. It is entitled “Interview with the Dragon Goddess”.
Background music by Smartsound

Part 13: The Ancient Library

Once we finished having our meal, Wallanime laid down and turned face down on the ground. Her clothes dissolved, white and grey fur started growing all over her body as it increased in size and acquired a canid shape. Her nose and jaws elongated, turning into a snout with a maw full of long, sharp teeth. Her ears grew and became pointy as her hair turned into a dark bluish mane. Her amber eyes became snowy blue. In a matter of seconds, she had taken the shape of an Inujin as large as a horse.

She sniffed on the floor, looking for tracks of The Goddess, then stood up straight on her hind legs and signaled me to follow her. She leaped on her four and followed the scent as in pursuit of prey. I tried to keep up with her pace, it was exhausting! She would stop every once in a while to allow me to catch up, to dart away as soon as I was a couple of steps from her. We soon arrived at a large crater in the center of the ruins. My dog friend was wagging her tail and panting happily as she waited for me.

– She came to the site of the battle, just as I thought. – said the Avatar. – It will get dangerous from here, follow me and be as silent as you can. – She shrunk to the size of a small dog and crawled stealthily, approaching the center of the crater, using the debris as cover. I followed her as best as I could. We came across numerous interesting pieces of technology, and she explained a bit of what they were. It all seemed like techno-babbling nonsense to me, and I had no time to take detailed notes that I could study later, the only word that stuck in my head was “Magitronics”, the magical manipulation of “electrons”, which are some kind of incredibly fine specks of dust that carry electricity around.

Wallanime stopped her advance. I noticed she was agitated and trembling. – Don’t move, don’t look, just listen carefully. – she said. For a moment, all I could hear was her panting, but then she closed her snout shut, and I could hear footsteps, they were approaching. At some point, the footsteps stopped, and I could hear a clear human-like yet oddly unnatural voice. “Intruder detected. Please, drop any weapons and stolen property and retreat in peace immediately. Non-compliance will result in hostile engagement.”

The Avatar grew in size again, grabbed me and put me on her back. – Hold on tight, we got to run! – she said as she darted. I looked behind and could see one of those humanoid constructs, clad in odd, glowing armor and wielding a sword with a blade made of light. It pointed at us with what looked vaguely like a firearm and shot bolts of light in our direction. – I thought it would attack only if we did not comply! – I commented. – These automaton guards take things literally, so “retreat immediately” means “disappear in this very instant”. Their behavior directives were not properly revised!

The automaton was pursuing us, and more of them joined the pursuit as we encountered them. Wallanime kept dodging the bolts of light, but one of them she could not react to and hit me on my left arm. It burned! I could not keep holding on to her and fell. I hit the ground and rolled until a wall stopped me. I was pretty beaten from the fall. I could smell the scorched flesh from my arm. My head was ringing, my sight was blurry. I saw a humanoid figure approaching, it pointed at me with its magitronic sword.

I thought that was my end, but then a black figure pounced and trampled at the automaton. Black wings spread and a tail swung, hitting at another automaton. A dozen more approached, bolts of light flew towards the black figure. A golden aura exploded from the black figure, dissolving the bolts, and suddenly I could see golden scales and feathers, it was a dragon! It picked me up and held me in an embrace that eased my pain. It turned black again. We flew around, evading the bolts from the guns. The dragon was wielding a magitronic sword with its right paw. It deflected the bolts and cleaved through the automatons as we flew by, destroying them along with their weapons.

The dragon gave me a concerned look and decided to land. The blade from the magitronic sword faded until it was completely gone, leaving only the hilt made of odd materials. The dragon’s golden aura returned, and my arm healed very quickly as it embraced me. I closed my eyes. I felt the dragon shrinking, I opened my eyes and it was Wallanime in her human form, she was trembling. – I thought we were going to die! Those automatons were not wielding ordinary armament! – She showed me the magitronic hilt. I could see there was an inscription, my eyes took a few seconds to adjust and read it: “Athaldar, may this sword help you put the past to rest and build a better future. With love from your mother.” It was the god-killing sword created by Humenalia and wielded by Athaldar in his last fight!

She was breathing very quickly. – My Mistress asked me to protect you while she was gone. I thought I would fail her again. You are alive, aren’t you? Are you still hurt? Oh, what a mess have I gotten us into! – she was looking around nervously and jumped at every minor noise. – I am fine, I will live! Are you alright? – I asked. She took deeper breaths, her golden aura slowly fading as she calmed down. She fell into a sitting position on the ground. – It has been about a thousand years since I did any fighting, I have been hiding and eluding conflict since the destruction of Curiosity. I was not feeling confident of my fighting skill… let’s keep looking for My Mistress.

I followed her to the center of the crater, this time we were not attacked. We found plenty of corpses from scavengers as we approached. We arrived at a pair of large doors leading to a small room with a pit, there was no floor, only walls. It was deep and there was a long cable of odd material going all the way down. The Avatar hugged me, black-feathered wings springing from her back as she jumped into the pit. We glided down until we hit the bottom, there was an opening on the wall.

A few steps before us stood Draxenath, and in front of her were some double doors. A picture hanging from the wall above the doors portrayed a very distinguished lady with auburn hair and brown eyes. Everything she was wearing was unusual. Her dress was made of bright, colorful materials and full of bright lights. Her gloves were quite odd, emitting light from the fingertips, the one on her left hand had tendrils going all the way from the tips to a glowing tablet with tiny bumps filled with what looked like letters, while the right glove had the same tendrils going to a wristband with glowing inscriptions. Her monocle was not ordinary either, it seemed to have a glowing inscription. The nameplate of the picture read “Humenalia, Goddess of Science and Magitronics”

Draxenath looked at us and smiled, then walked towards Wallanime and embraced her. – I saw the fight, and am proud of you. Welcome back, Avatar! – Wallanime sunk her face on The Goddess’ chest and hugged her back. They remained silent for a moment. As they let each other go from the hug, Draxenath showed us a sealed jar with a heart. Wallanime was about to speak, but The Goddess interrupted her. – Don’t blame yourself for failures that happened because I abandoned you, this one is on me. And your daughter’s misdeeds are not your own, they are hers!

Draxenath stored the jar in one of her pockets. – The place looks tidy, it may be intact if we are lucky enough! – she said as she opened the doors below the picture. Behind the doors was a very dark room. She pulled a lever on one of the walls, and the room was lit by electrical lights. The room was a massive library, there were towering bookshelves farther than my sight allowed me to see. An automaton was sitting behind a desk, it was not functioning.

On the desk rested a large slab, plus a couple smaller slabs, and a pair of gloves like the ones from the picture. The Goddess put the gloves on and touched the large slab. It lit up and displayed text. Draxenath drew some gestures on the screen and nodded for a few minutes. – The magitronic books are readable, they weren’t lost, and the physical book indexing and database are operational! – she said. – This library is filled with books of advanced science and technology the rest of the world has never seen. Amaxis probably kept this place intact in case he needed it and activated the defense drones to prevent anyone else from accessing it. If he finds out we were here, he will destroy the whole place.

There was an unconfortable silence for a minute, then Draxenath nodded a couple times. – Let’s go outside, hurry! – she said. Once we were outside and away from the crater, The Goddess closed her eyes and concentrated for a couple minutes. Then we heard a loud crashing and rumbling coming from the crater. The earth was sinking! Once everything settled, Draxenath opened a portal and invited us in. We were at her hiding place again, but there was something new, I spotted the double doors with the picture of Humenalia. The library was there!

– The library is safe and out of Amaxis’ reach now. We won’t have to worry about that for now. – Said Draxenath with a smile of satisfaction.

Echoes From the Caverns

Echoes From the Caverns

December 12 2019

Interview with the Dragon Goddess 8 – by Draxenath

Hello everyone, this is Asclepius, with the next instalment of this wonderful story by Draxenath. It is entitled “Interview with the Dragon Goddess”.
Background music by Smartsound

 

Part 12: The Avatar’s Lament

I proceeded with my next question. – Has there ever been a civilization that improved so much in science that it accidentally destroyed itself?

Draxenath repeated the question to herself a couple times as she pondered. After a few minutes, her eyes lit up. – Let us have our barbecue out in the world, there is a place you need to see for yourself. – She picked up the spit with the roasted beef and opened a portal. I noticed the beef was already about middle term, it had cooked much faster than I expected, it probably had to do with the magical blue fire from the spit.

We went through the portal and were transported to some ruins. Plants and animals had already made their home in them. Draxenath placed the spit on the ground and lay down on the grass, then continued speaking.

– These are the ruins of Curiosity, the most technologically advanced city before my absence. They worshipped Amaxis’ wife Humenalia more than any other deity. As I said before, she was very curious and smart, and would constantly question her knowledge and put everything to test and experimentation. I mentioned before that she suffered a lot as Amaxis was abused by the other gods, she felt powerless for some time, but then she researched for ways to protect him and give him an edge. Amaxis had ideas of the tools and weapons he needed, but it was Humenalia that had acquired the scientific and technical knowledge to develop them. He couldn’t have done it without her. Take a look around, you may find scraps of the wonders they created. I will be waiting here.

I was amazed, the legends spoke the truth, this place existed! I followed Draxenath’s suggestion and walked around for a bit. There were remains of walls that could be seen through, and humanoid constructs of strange material that wasn’t metal, wood or stone. They were broken and not functioning. Their faces, although worn out by the weather and the passing of centuries, looked so human and lifelike, it was scary, like looking at a corpse reanimated by a necromancer. Their innards had numerous tendrils of another strange, flexible material. Inside the tendrils, smaller such tendrils were found.

The roads had ruined vehicles, which were probably scavenged after the city was destroyed. They were built of strange materials as well. Their innards also had tendrils much like the ones from the humanoid constructs. There were also massive, snake-like vehicles full of seats, capable of transporting hundreds or even thousands of people at a time. Besides that, there were so many things I am unable to describe properly. Strange boards with numerous small bumps that would sink when pressure was applied, and pop back once the pressure was gone, thin slabs and tablets hanging from the walls, with purpose unknown to me, and many other things unimaginable.

I came back to the spot we arrived at, Draxenath was now sitting, next to her was a beautiful human woman with pale skin and auburn hair, resting her head on the Goddess’ lap. There were dozens of birds standing all over the Goddess’ body, chirping and singing. She opened her eyes, and the birds ended their song and flew away. – Rise, Avatar! – said the Goddess with a firm, commanding voice. – He has returned and will want to hear your tale about the fall of Curiosity. In the meantime, I will be taking a stroll.

The woman got up and bowed to Draxenath. – As you wish, My Mistress! – she said, as Draxenath walked away, the birds following her and resuming their song. Now she turned her attention to me. Her amber-colored eyes looked at me with interest. – You must be VERY special! I had been trying to reach My Mistress for a thousand years with no success, to find out a mere human was able to bring her out of her hiding place! And she wants me to tell you the tale of my last great failure, where I lost our husband, almost had our sons killed and saw my hopes and dreams crushed!

I was speechless. I didn’t know what to say, I just remained silent. She ripped some meat from the roasted cow and sat down, eating it. Then signaled me to sit down beside her by patting the ground down. I did as she requested. She looked at me as she chewed the meat and started talking. – Before that tale, I think you need to know some more context. What do you know about Sari, My Mistress’ firstborn? – she asked. – I didn’t know his name until now that you brought it up, I know that he was betrayed and murdered, but nothing more, I don’t know any details.- I answered. – Sari was one of a kind, very wise and powerful, could not have been otherwise, being raised by Draxenath and the second son of Amaxis. – said the Avatar. I was surprised by that revelation.

She continued talking. – Amaxis was meant to be the inspiration of all other gods, but he became the most hated instead. Strangely, his second son did not turn out like him. He was mortal, however, he was virtuous, compassionate, and felt empathy for the other gods and creatures. He was liked by everyone, even esteemed by all the gods. He slowly became what Amaxis was meant to be: an inspiration and source of wisdom for gods and mortals. At the same time, the punishment he inherited from his father got weaker. He awakened his draconic traits and was able to use his divine powers with more strength with every passing day.

– He won My Mistress’ heart, as well as mine. Then they had Sari. As Draxenath’s Avatar, I had the opportunity to live by his side and give him more children. I became his mortal wife. I appointed the eldest and strongest of our children as Sari’s retainer, her name was Merealla. The difference between them was too notorious, however. Merealla could never shine and stand out at Sari’s side, she was always overshadowed by her powerful godly sibling. Merealla grew to hate Sari, and plotted the conspiracy and betrayal that ended Sari’s life and made My Mistress abandon us.

– It is my fault, I carry that heavy burden in my heart, and have spent these years trying to make up for it with no success. Preventing the destruction of Curiosity was the best chance I had, and my greatest direct failure as I also lost our husband.

She looked very frustrated. I tried to comfort her with some human wisdom. – You have lived for a very long time. Humans like me are short-lived. As such, we have to understand that there is too little time to feel bad about our failures, if we are not ready for the next chance, we will miss it. Many more chances will come to you since you live longer, just be ready when they do.

She said nothing for a few minutes, then decided to start with her tale. – Curiosity was a city of science and technology and the main place of worship for Humenalia. After My Mistress abandoned us, Humenalia decided to join us in freeing the other gods, the slaves and opposing Amaxis. She and the people from Curiosity developed technology and weaponry so advanced it could kill a god.

– Our plan was to use those weapons as leverage to force Amaxis to do as we asked. Humenalia wanted to support her son as best as she could, but that doesn’t mean she intended to kill her beloved husband. Our demands infuriated Amaxis. How could we dare to threaten him? So he decided to destroy Curiosity by himself. We gathered to fight back. It was Humenalia, my husband, three of my sons and me.

– The fight didn’t go as planned. Amaxis had all the intention to kill us. His attacks overwhelmed all of us except my husband. He was the only one with the power to face him, the only one with the chance to defeat him. Their fight was long and exhausting. Then Humenalia took Amaxis by surprise, restraining him. She asked my husband to kill them both by driving his weapon through their heart, that was her desire. He charged, with the weapon in hand, ready for delivering a killing blow, but missed. He could kill neither of his parents. Amaxis broke free and ripped my husband’s heart from his chest. Humenalia tried to restrain him again, but he overpowered her. I used the distraction to grab my husband and sons and escape. Humenalia was probably imprisoned like the other gods. Curiosity was destroyed.

– I fled to a secret underground temple we had in a hidden place far away and put my husband’s body in magical stasis to preserve his body, in case there is a way to properly bring him back to life. My sons were alive, but just barely, so I put them in magical stasis as well, in different hidden temples scattered around the world.

She had a grim look in her eyes. – That’s how the tale ended for Athaldar the Invincible Demigod, Zohorone the Fearsome Necromancer, Athel the Ferocious Shapeshifter, and Pram the Mighty Dragon Prince. And it keeps going as an uneventful story for Wallanime the Avatar of Failure… do you think there is a chance left for me?

That was a tremendous surprise to me, I was sitting right beside Wallanime Draconia, and had just heard what happened to her three sons. – The Goddess seems very proud of you and your three sons. She never called you a failure or blamed you for Sari’s death. She never spoke ill of you in our chat. She even wondered if you would ever forgive her for abandoning you. More than worrying about your failures, she is worried about having failed you.

Her look was less grim than before. – You are very kind, I have been needing that for far too long… let’s eat some more, then find out where My Mistress went – she said.

Echoes From the Caverns

Echoes From the Caverns

November 29 2019

Echoes from the Caverns 11-29-2019

Greetings Fellow Avatars! Here’s what we have for you in this week’s edition of Update of the Avatar:

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Echoes From the Caverns

Echoes From the Caverns

November 28 2019

Interview with the Dragon Goddess 7 – by Draxenath

Hello everyone, this is Asclepius, with the next instalment of this wonderful story by Draxenath. It is entitled “Interview with the Dragon Goddess”.
Background music by Smartsound

Part 10: Humans and Magic

– With the improvements in science and technology, did humans forget how to use magic?

Draxenath shook her head. – Humans never had any magic, that is part of the punishment imposed on Amaxis. That is the reason humans created technology and artificial means to harness magic, they need to use materials already infused with it.

– But I have seen a few humans use magic on their own! For example, the fair-skinned humans from Draconia. – I said. She looked at me with condescendence. – Those are not entirely human, they descend from the House of Athaldar, as you already know.

She evidently knew the details in depth, so I could not help to ask. – Not entirely human? But Athaldar was human! How did his descendants obtain magical power?

– There are ways for magical races to interbreed, even with humans. There are also cases of humans forcefully breeding with other races to have magic-wielding offsprings, with varying degrees of success. Back to the subject of Athaldar, you have certainly read about him, but do you know anything about his wife?

I tried to think, but I really knew nothing about her. Draxenath continued. – Her name was Wallanime Draconia, she was a dragoness that magically changed her shape, allowing her to give him children. That’s where the city’s name comes from. Are there no historical records about her?

– Not readily available, none that I am aware of. – I replied. She seemed upset. – I see… most of the important women and dragons have been erased from history, it does not surprise me. She was one of my most faithful servants and a very bloodthirsty one. She was well known for her craving for human blood and meat, no other kind would satisfy her. Humans feared and respected her, the other races worshipped her.

– I can see why humans feared and respected her. – I said. Draxenath chuckled. – Oh, you have no idea, she would eat human women, take their shape, mate with their husband or significant other, then eat them! That is where most of the original Draconians came from.

I was horrified at the thought of such murderous wantonness. – And Athaldar allowed her to get away with all of that?! – Draxenath was very entertained. – At the time they first met, she was naked, rolling over the pond of blood from Athaldar’s original wife, she had just taken her form after eating her. He was furious as he quickly figured out what just happened. He swore to kill her, and almost did! After an arduous fight, Athaldar managed to defeat her. When he was about to give her the killing blow, she begged for mercy and promised to submit to him and give him strong and healthy children. He was not willing to spare her life at first, but she invoked me and swore under my name. That was enough for him. She was allowed to eat humans only on the battlefield, and she would also have rights over criminals sentenced to death.

– Athaldar’s courage must have had no bounds! Wasn’t he afraid she could eat him? – I exclaimed. Draxenath gave me that condescending look again. – She swore under my name, had she broken her oath, I would have killed her myself! Never swear under my name unless you plan to keep that promise! But that was not all, with time they grew on each other. By the time I left, they were deeply in love.

– I understand. What happened to her after Athaldar’s death? – I asked. – I don’t know, – she answered. – I left well before Athaldar’s death. Wallanime’s oath expired with his death, so if she was still alive I would assume she grieved for a few years and then went back to her old ways. Given the length of a dragon’s life cycle, she might still live today. If that’s the case, I wonder if she hates me for not answering her prayers for so long…

– She owes you her life, she might be waiting for your return if she is still around. – I said, not sure if that would comfort her, but that thought sure made me feel uncomfortable. She remained thoughtful for a couple minutes.

Part 11: The Three Siblings

– What can you tell me about Wallanime’s sons? – was my next question.

– Her favorite son was named Zohorone. – Draxenath answered. – Even though he was born with magical power, he was interested in the human methods of magic. His thirst for knowledge led him down a very dark path.

– Zohorone, The First Necromancer?! He is legendary! Many have tried to follow his steps, but it’s hard to tell how much of the legend is real and how much is a mere embellishment. Would you be so kind as to unveil his true achievements? – I asked.

– He dabbled in the mysteries of life and death, – she continued – making horrible experiments that upset even Samsara. Among his discoveries were the reanimation of corpses, and the means to transfer his consciousness to them, even more than one at a time. He could also invade the minds of the living and exert his magic on them in the same manner.

– I have heard legends that the ranks of Draconia’s army included reanimated dead that were exceptionally coordinated among them. Such legends say they spread like a disease, that anyone killed by them would rise as one.

– Indeed, he built armies that way. Even in the rare cases when the reanimated corpses could not kill their victims, the contact with them allowed Zohorone to use his magic to finish them off and reanimate their bodies.

– That is very disturbing. I start to wonder, how could the enemies of Draconia sleep at night? – I commented. – And what happened to Zohorone? There is no legend or historical record mentioning his death, it’s as if he just vanished one day.

– It doesn’t surprise me. – she said. – Zohorone retired to an inhospitable place to continue his studies undisturbed. He might still live, thinking of new ways to manipulate life and death and become truly immortal.

– Immortality is a goal many have pursued with no success, but I think if someone has any chance of that, it’s him. Tell me about another of her sons, please. – I requested.

– The best shapeshifter among her sons was Athel. – she answered. – He loved furry creatures and spent a lot of time with them, taking their form and learning from them. He gained a considerable following, especially among felids, canids, and rodents. He would often assume shapes that combine characteristics of multiple creatures, as well as from his draconic shape.

– I have heard that name before… there are legends about a feral kingdom, inhabited by beasts larger and tougher than the ordinary. They would sometimes venture to the villages and cities and take the cattle away. Athel was the name of their king, he is.described in many different legends as a monster with a body composed of different animal parts, the only consistency among them being the feathered wings and fire breath. He is considered protector of all creatures covered in fur. – I commented.

– Those extraordinary beasts are his offsprings. – Draxenath added. – He mated with many different species, lots of fun he was having with the furries in more than one way, the naughty boy. The humans tried to slay him and his army but had no success. He continued raiding villages and cities and driving the humans away. He claimed all that territory for his kingdom. Eventually, the humans decided to move as far away from his territory as possible.

– I was not expecting that. – I commented. – There is no legend or record of his death either, so I guess he might still live. What can you tell me about Pram of Draconia, besides what you already told me?

– He was very disciplined, a formidable warrior and strategist. He inherited his mother’s craving for humans. In the battlefield, he would rip his opponents’ throats with either his bare hands or his teeth in order to drink their blood. He left his father behind and founded Flameside as a kingdom of his own. He fought the vampire and human armies for years. He always looked up to my… to my firstborn. – A lump in her throat interrupted her for a brief moment, then she let out a very long sigh. – He was a young boy admiring and trying to emulate his hero… he was devastated after the death of my child. That is likely the reason he let his guard down and was wounded, and most likely also the reason he never came out of his chambers afterward.

Draxenath remained silent for a moment, then talked again. – All of them were sons of Athaldar as well. Her other offsprings are also special one way or another, but those three are the ones that left the deepest mark in the world.

She looked stern. I got the feeling she was thinking of someone, a black sheep among them, perhaps? I did not dare to ask.
 
Echoes From the Caverns

Echoes From the Caverns