September 21 2017

Virtue’s Forge – ch 9 – by Ulf Berht – narrated by Asclepius

Hello everyone, this is Asclepius, with a further instalment of this wonderful story by Ulf Berht, entitled

“Virtue’s Forge”
Background music by Smartsound

 

” Chapter 9, “Landfall”
“Land ho!” the watch cried out. “Three points off starboard.”
“The Isle of Wonders,” announced Kaia, as Merlin came on deck. “We will be up the Brisach River and docking at Lochbrier within the hour. Merlin, Cook, Mr. Abrams, Tuey, Chin-ho, and Scott, with me. Pack light. We can only go so far upriver before it’s overland.”
”Captain, having a map of this trek of ours would allay some fears I have of being stranded in some domain as yet unknown to me.”
“Merlin, Cook here is a native of The Grunvald and can guide us to Desolis. But a map you shall have. Cook! Would you be so kind as to make up a map for our fearful wizard.”
“Aye, Captain,” said Cook. “Although, if he finds himself in need of a such map, I fear what remains of his life will be short.”
“You may be right, Cook. Just oblige me.”
“Aye, Captain.”
Merlin had little to do save watch as Kaia and her crew docked their boat and transferred the few supplies and equipment their little band could carry. The bridge at Lochbrier blocked the course of all but small vessels, so at least a day of rowing upstream lay ahead. Just before embarking on this leg of the journey, some much appreciated kegs of beer appeared on the dock. “This will make rowing more palatable,” thought Merlin.
Rowing was expected of all onboard save the captain. Four rowed while two rested, drank beer, and watched the river go by. Tuey and Chin-ho even broke into song, easing the passage of time and weary muscles. “I have rowed more since arriving here than I have in my entire life,” thought Merlin. “Some good will come from this should I ever have to swing a sword.”
Cook signaled a stop just before the Brisach made a major turn to the northeast. “With your permission Captain, we camp here for the night and head inland at first light,” he said.
“That will no doubt be agreeable to all,” Captain Kaia said as the dory’s keel crunched on the gravel shoreline. “Cook, Mr. Abrams, stay with Merlin and me. Tuey, and Scott, return to the crew in the morning. Mr. Chin-Ho, accompany them but ensconce yourself in Lochbrier for a week or two, then rejoin the crew. See what a few tongues, loosened by gold, can bring forth.”
“Tomorrow night we will be in bandit country, so there will be no fires. Before we leave tomorrow, pack enough of the rations. Prepare for at least two days’ march.”
“Carry on, Cook,” said Kaia. “Abrams and Merlin, with me.” She unfolded a map. “This has more detail than yours, Merlin, but is essentially the same. The Pass through the Vauban Mountains, here, is north by northeast of our position. That will be where we might expect Ulf to be. The pass and the area around the Sequanna Colossus is firmly in bandit control and must be avoided. Even our rendezvous in the Barrens contains some risk, so be ever alert.”

September 7 2017

Virtue’s Forge – ch 7 & 8 – by Ulf Berht – narrated by Asclepius

Hello everyone, this is Asclepius, with another instalment of this wonderful story from Ulf Berht, entitled

“Virtue’s Forge”
Background music by Smartsound

Chapter 7, “Fire”
“Fire! Fire!”
When Merlin heard the shouting, he threw on his robe and boots and ran out into the pre-dawn twilight. Around the corner and up the street he could see the red and orange flames leaping high into the sky, showering sparks down upon the village. He ran to help and soon realized that Ulf’s forge was engulfed in flames. A bucket brigade had formed but clearly there was already no possibility of extinguishing the blaze. The fire fighters were now concentrating on putting out fires started by flying embers. Ulf was nowhere to be seen and no one could recall seeing him.
By noon, only smoking ruin was left. With no sign of Ulf, Merlin and others began poking through the blackened timbers. “Here! Over here! A body I think,” called out one of the searchers. “It must be the blacksmith.”
Merlin watched as guardsmen arrived and collected the body in a canvas sheet and took it to the mortuary. A few tattered scraps of cloth were stuck in the burnt and blackened flesh. There was nothing recognizable as Ulf’s, but the height and weight were a match. A sword lay by the body on the scorched floor. Other weapons and household item had also been scattered by the firefighting.
The Captain of the Guards approached Merlin.”You were acquainted with this man?” he asked.
“I am indeed. Ulf Berht is a particular friend of mine. I am not yet convinced that those remains are his.”
“Are you not, sir? Then whose might they be? I have not been informed of any other not being accounted for. Where were you prior to the blaze?”
“In my lodgings at the inn. I am sure the innkeeper can attest that I was there until wakened by the alarm. As to who this is, I have no idea.”
“I will, of course, verify your whereabouts with the innkeeper. I the meantime, I must ask you to remain in town.”
“Of course, Captain. May I search the site for things recoverable? I know much of what he owned.”
“You may, but one of my men will accompany you and catalogue what you find.”
“Good day to you then. We must be about our tasks,” said Merlin.
The Captain made no reply as he left to give some orders to his men. “Keep an eye on him,” Merlin overheard the officer say.
………..

The possibility that Ulf was gone increased with no sign yet of any resurrection. Merlin’s mood turned dark. “It is not my way to become attached to anyone,” he thought, as the warm water of the tub soothed his tired body. It had taken two tubs of water to be rid of the throat catching, nose stinging fumes of wet burned wood. Merlin’s searching had located Ulf’s tools, swords, and armor–all things a blacksmith would have taken with him had some business called him away. Most troubling was that the iron ingot containing the jewel could not be found.
Merlin’s dozing reverie was disturbed by a knock on his door. “More hot water sire. Can I bring it in?” a female voice asked.
“Certainly. But weren’t you just here?” The door opened and the maid stepped in with a large jug of steaming water.
“Not I sire. Mistress told me to bring more. Do you not want it?”
“Just pour it into the tub, girl, before it too gets cold.”
Merlin examined the girl as she emptied the jug. He noticed her attractiveness and was somewhat embarrassed by his nakedness. Darker skinned than any he had seen around Port Graff, small breasted, with her hair cut short. Lithe, and certainly strong, judging by the way she handled the large jug of hot water.
“I have not seen you before,” said Merlin. “Do you have a name?”
“Kaia, to you sir,” she said. In an instant she was behind Merlin with a dagger against his throat. “Assassin to others. But fear not. I am not here to kill you, unless you cry out.”
“That cold steel at my throat ensures my silence. If it is not my death you want, then what? You can have my manhood without the need of a blade.”
“I have found that a little steel in the bedchamber keeps a man more compliant to my will. Now listen, I know nothing about your friend’s fate nor was I party to the fire or any such mischief. I can tell you that the Sun Stone that was in his possession is on the move. In whose pocket I honestly know not. The guardsmen will soon be seeking me, as my enquires about you and him are well known. So I must be off. I must follow the stone which, I believe is destined for Desolis. If your friend is alive, he goes there too. Join me if you wish, but I must sail tonight. What is your answer?”
Merlin thought for a moment. “We will then seek out those who have the stone, determine Ulf’s fate, and exact the appropriate revenge?”
“Excellent. Be at the dock at midnight, attract no attention, and all will go well. If necessary, I will cast off and sail to a small bay at the north of Graff Island and wait for you no more than one day. Failing that, make your own way to Desolis and seek out Anya. She will know where I am.”
Merlin had barely enough time to nod before she was out the window and onto nearby rooftop.
…..
No moon lit the way as Merlin walked as silently as possible towards the docks. The few people about were easy to evade by slipping into darker shadows. “The Captain will not be pleased with me,” he thought. “I will probably be branded as a murderer.”
As if on cue with the thought, the Captain of the Guard stepped out of the shadows, sword drawn. “Out for an evening stroll are we?”
Before the Captain could summon other waiting guards, a darker shadow behind him pulled out a leather sap, easily laying the Captain out with a rap to his head. A lithe female form in head to toe black stepped out. “Quick! The boat’s on the beach. Get in and row for all your life’s worth. My crew is watching and will pick us up.”
Merlin needed no more encouragement than that to sprint alongside the dark form to the shoreline, find the boat, and ready the oars. As she removed her black facemask, Merlin could now confirm that his ally was Kaia. Without any further conversation, they bent to the oars and rowed off into the night.

Chapter 8 – “Kaia”
“Well, Mr. Wizard, your life is once again in my hands,” said Kaia. She had one hand on a ratline and one foot theatrically up on the gunwale. Her supple black leather armor hid none of her femininity. “If this wind holds, we will be at the mouth of the Brisach River late tomorrow, with perhaps enough light to make Lochbrier before dark. To get any further inland, we must switch to a vessel with less draft. From there it’s overland to Desolis.”
A hue and cry had arisen from Graff Harbor and several torches had illuminated the docks, but no pursuit had arisen. Once onboard the larger boat, Kaia issued a single command and her crew flew into motion, setting sail and getting underway.
Merlin looked hard at Kaia, unsure of when or even if he could charm her and access her motives. Light from the shattered moon lit her features well enough, but he would have to wait to find out if she possessed any resources that could counter his attempts to beguile her. “I am ever wary of fortunate happenstances,” he said. “That you happen to be at the dock with the appropriate weapon in hand, at exactly the right spot to allow you to render unconscious a conveniently alone Captain of the Guard, seems to be too fortunate.”
“It seems to me, Mr. Wizard, that if it were not for just such fortunate happenstances, you would be laying in your own piss in a dark and cold clink, waiting for the hangman to get sober enough to stretch your wizardly neck. I admit to spying upon you and the blacksmith. I also admit to seeing pale-skinned satyrs out at night engaged in similar pursuits. I also know that gold would aid said Captain in making quick and convenient decisions. If you continue to suspect my motives, you are free to disembark anytime. I may, however, forget to tie the boat to a wharf first.”
“Please, Kaia, do not misunderstand me. I am very grateful for your help in keeping me out of that draughty cell. Perhaps were you to use our names instead of references to wizards and blacksmiths, and if you were not so eager to draw your knife, we might yet be comrades. But for now I am eager for more information.”
“Very soon, Mr. Wi…Merlin. Have patience while I lay out a course for my crew.”
Ahoy, Mr. Talbot. Take our guest here below and find him a bunk. Ask Cook to conjure up a meal for us in my cabin.”
Merlin, I trust that once settled you will join me in my cabin and we will share a good meal and perhaps become comrades.”
Merlin nodded and turned to follow Talbot. The bunk was in a tiny cabin, barely large enough to turn around in. There was a small wash basin, dutifully filled with warm water. By the time he was summoned to the Captain’s cabin, the cooking aromas that filled the air had Merlin more than ready to eat. A mere foot or two separated his cabin from hers, yet a small neatly clad cabin boy was somehow required to conduct him in.
Elegant silverware embellished a carved wooden table large enough to seat six. A writing table, two trunks, and a draped four poster bed filled most of the room. Through the stern window, pale moonlight reflected off a foamy wake.
“Have a seat, Merlin. Brent will be along shortly with some grub. Wine? Port?”
“I am exceedingly hungry. Some wine would be most welcome,” said Merlin, taking the offered seat and wine.
“Let me get straight to the point,” said Kaia. “I am not an Outlander like you, but neither am I from Novia. For now that is all I am prepared to say. The events now taking place in Novia are causing a lot of concern throughout this unfortunate globe, and I need your help. I need help in preventing your friend, Ulf, from being turned into a monster and being used as a weapon.”
A single rap on the cabin door interrupted. “Enter,” she said. A smartly dressed young man came in carrying several serving dishes, elegantly balanced in his arms.
“Thank you, Brent. Just put them on the table. Give my compliments to Cook and you may call it a day.”
Conversation between Merlin and Kaia ceased as both attacked the meal: white meat, rice, and vegetables covered in a spicy, buttery sauce, served with some flat-bread.
“My compliments to the cook as well,” said Merlin. “Crab, or perhaps Lobster?” he asked.
Kaia laughed. “Corpion. Cook is from Grunveld, the very same area we must make our way through. Somewhat of a delicacy of that region, I am told. A deadly poison, unless properly prepared.”
“He must know his trade, for we are still breathing. Delicious, nonetheless. Have you a map of our journey so that I may become more oriented? I fear my lack of knowledge may interfere with the proper digestion of this so expertly prepared meal.”
“I do indeed,” said Kaia. “Several, in fact.” The meal finished, they made their way to her writing table. “The first is of Drachvald, from the northern tip of the peninsula south to the head of the Brisarch River and Vauban Pass. Port Graff is here,” she indicated, “and our current position here. Exile Island is off to starboard, here. The satyrs I watched in Port Graff were of the underdweller type, normally found only in The Epitaph at Desolis.”
Kaia unrolled a second map. “Here is Grunvald, south to Eastreach Gap. Desolis is almost dead center of the barrens. The Epitaph in Desolis is where your friend Ulf is destined to meet his fate, unless we intervene.”
“I have heard of The Epitaph, a 200 year old ruin from the Obsidian Wars. Why would Ulf’s abductors go there?”
“Obsidian Chards, rings of stone, secret rooms, elves, satyrs, and the undead, all in a bandit stronghold. A cornucopia of trouble. Without a doubt, a center for Obsidian Cabalists. Here they plot their re-conquest of Novia.”
“And their need for Ulf Berht is…?” asked Merlin.
“They hope the Sunstone that accompanied Ulf to Novia will allow them to resume the reshaping of living things to better suit their purposes. In particular, the creation of chimeric monsters, invisible to the Oracle—re-worked elves perhaps. You were to be a redundant victim should Ulf prove too delicate and expire.”
“Sunstone? The jewel I gave Ulf was a ruby.”
No it is not. It is a Sunstone masterfully disguised and exceedingly rare here since the Cataclysm. The Shardfalls, thought by many to be random strikes, were in fact carefully planned. The locations were specifically targeted so as to eliminate any local source of the gem. A source of sunstones would allow full control of all the Lunar Rifts in Novia and enable the return to the re-formation of living beings.”
“For someone not from Novia, you seem to be in possession of knowledge not known to others. Are you one of these Cabalists?” asked Merlin.
“In some ways I am, I must confess, but not of the current variety. Were I Novian, I would be called an Annaleman.
“Annaleman?” asked Merlin.
“Before the Cataclysm, many scholars studied the magic of Lunar Rifts—Moongates, they were known as then. Some of the scholars were investigating how to extend the range of the portals, even to the moons, Trammel and Felluca, themselves.
“These are the moons that collided?” asked Merlin.
“Yes. Following the collision, thousands of scholars and academics were rounded up and accused of causing this Cataclysm by dabbling in things belonging to the gods. Many were murdered or exiled. The Obsidian Cabalists offered some security, so many joined the cause, only to be aghast when Cabalists began re-forming the living into war machines. Any objection to this magic was met with a trip to the re-shapers’ laboratory.”
“A gruesome fate,” said Merlin.
“Indeed! That is why dissent went underground. A secret society formed, working against the Obsidians. They called themselves Annalemans. Some, like my ancestors, fled to other lands. Others remained and still maintain a network of informants who are keeping a close eye out for our interests.”
“How does all this result in Ulf being abducted and me being wanted for murder?” asked Merlin.
“Wait, Merlin. Let me continue.
“One way to re-shape creatures is to tune two Lunar Rifts so that they have the same destination, like a mirror reflecting itself. The simultaneous use of Rifts set this way can produce a chimera—a single creature with some combination of those transported. The result is usually a disgustingly messy blob of slimy wet flesh and bone that lives for but a moment.”
“Not a fate I would relish for Ulf, or anyone.”
Kaia continued. “Several texts have survived the centuries and explain how to tune the ring stones to reduce the risk of this happening. Viable creatures can be produced. However, it is more troubling that unfettered control of Lunar Rifts would allow for the production of multiple copies of such successful combinations.”
“A repeat of the Obsidian armies,” said Merlin.
“Just so, said Kaia. “Our information suggests that some Obsidian Cabalists have taken up residence in The Epitaph. They have their hands on the texts and are planning to produce warriors who are invisible to the Oracle. A resurgent Obsidian Empire would not be a good thing.”
“Do you have any evidence for all this?” asked Merlin. “My mind reels to think that Ulf and I are at the centre of such events. It defies reason.”
“Oh Merlin, your distrust wounds me yet again. You are well known for being at the centre of events. Having a wondrous sword crafted for a young king comes to mind.”
“Enough of this banter!” said Merlin. “I demand that you explain to me how you would come to know this. Do you have a magic that lays open a man’s mind?”
Unphased, Kaia slowly took a sip from her goblet. “Much as I wish I did, I do not. What I do have is access to some of the information that the Watchers gather. I will give you proof, as long as you acknowledge that any betrayal will mean your death, a permanent one. Do you agree to this?”
“If this is just another tactic to confuse things, you may have to kill me anyway,” said Merlin.
“Let me demonstrate.” Kaia walked over to one of the trunks in the cabin and opened it. She retrieved a dormant Watcher. “A Grand Master in water magic froze this flying Watcher so quickly that no one was alerted. He then replaced its sensing organ with one of our own design. This process creates a spy that we can use for our own purposes. Unfortunately, these substitute sensing organs do not preserve much of the information they gather. Nor can the organs send out the information they do retain. So each must be retrieved before we can access that information. Watch this.”
Kaia took out a small whistle that produced no audible sound when she blew into it. A semitransparent still image of Merlin and Ulf appeared in the air. They were sitting in chairs in front of a small house. She blew into the whistle again. The image animated and Merlin’s image spoke.
“Being unseen by your enemy is the essence of camouflage and stealth. Wars are won and lost by knowing things your adversary does not realize you know. Who then is this spy? An agent of the Oracle seeking to know us better, or a foe of the Oracle seeking some advantage over it?”
“I have resolved to delve deep into the mysteries of this land,” Merlin’s voice continued. “My hope is to find a way to return home. I must seek out Grand Masters and trainers in every school of magic and learn what I can.”
Kaia blew the whistle again. The mirage disappeared. “You do indeed seem to have the gift of prophecy,” she said.

August 24 2017

A Humbling and Hasty Departure – by Elgarion – narrated by Asclepius

Hello everyone, this is Asclepius, with another wonderful story from Elgarion, entitled
A Humbling and Hasty Departure
This story continues the adventures of Elbyon, ranger of Kahli, and follows the story ‘Trapped Between Bone and a Hard Place’
Background music by Smartsound.

 

I awoke from nightmares, immediately fading from memory, my soul still quaking from their mind-spinning ways. However, not being a child, I did not dwell upon them, nor did I bore my hosts with their details, if even I could recount them. As intent as I was before this night’s rest, I resumed my ambitions to escape the predicament I currently faced; this trap I found myself entangled within, I would be free of it.

As such, I initiated my morning routine. To an onlooker, it might appear as if I, a seasoned ranger, had performed these tasks as a daily ritual for many years. Within a matter of minutes, my bedroll was stowed, my body nourished and relieved, my teeth cleaned, my sundries packed, and boots donned. I ignored the merchants rudely that morning, sadly. Something of which I was ashamed. Without glancing to them for as much as a smile, inwardly sneering at their cowardice, I gathered my bow and sword, and strode eastward. But with only ten paces between us, I stopped in my tracks. A small pang of guilt influenced better manners, thankfully, but would only partly diminish my later regret. Turning, I shed my hood to reveal my hardened features and a subtle smile. Bowing to the merchants, I stated, ‘My evening companions, you were most kind to share your fire. I thank you for your generosity. I pray the gods grant you the courage and the fortitude to leave this canyon. However, it may be best to meet a fate with sword in hand, rather than to cower in the shadows. But alas, I am only one man, whose opinion matters little. Fare thee well, traveling merchants.’ Oddly, they gave no reply. Two merely stared westward longingly, dreaming of re-entering the Hidden Vale, no doubt. The other, organized his measly wares as if expecting customers at any moment.

Then, a shiver overtook me like never before. My knees went weak and my balance was lost for a moment. Regaining my composure, I focused upon the cause. A stunning sight that I’d never laid eyes upon before left me completely in awe. An ebony black shard of Daedalus hovered above the campsite. Evidently, the dark monstrosity had floated above me all through the darkness of the night. Wicked chains of enchanted black Obsidian steel restrained the shard from setting adrift. As I gazed into its dull gloss, I could not see yet could sense my darker half glaring back, eyes bent with hate, a visage twisted with absolute anger. This stone meant me harm. Perhaps if I had stared upon it for too long, I would harm myself? Others undeservedly? I am uncertain.

One thing for certain, if I had not lost my balance and fallen to my bottom, dropping my bow, and scraping my wrist against an outcropping of rock, my true awareness of my surroundings might never have returned. Quickly standing again, quivering with uncontrollable fright, my bow now again in hand, I turned away with reckless abandon, the merchants and the wicked stone now thankfully behind me. I was completely unnerved, rattled to the bone. As my distance from that site lengthened, I again took notice of the forgotten and repulsive hum which had been present throughout the eve. A mind numbing buzzing, deep and eternally humbling. With each step away from the campsite, the shard, the sound lessened and my composure increasingly returned. Only then did my night terrors completely drift from memory.

Foul magics were at work, here. I shun them. I despise those who’d weave such spells. Those of the dark robes I suspect, and I pray they are not amidst the dangers ahead. That is not a rallying cry for my intent to destroy them. It is but a wish, a cowardly hope for my own safety. And to think, I just scorned these merchants, hiding in the shadows, as I timidly stumbled away. Shame. Shame upon me, and I wonder to their fate, these Traveling Merchants as I shall always call them. I pray they find escape, for it will not be I that returns to save them. I will never face that vile stone again.

Uneasy, I continued. I made my best attempts to shrug off the affects of the shard, to dismiss my cowardice as humility, for certainly everyone meets their better. To assume one’s superiority over all others is arrogance. I accept that I was afraid for my life. I fled. I met my better, the creation of a foul wizard. It was something I cannot explain or even fully understand. I cannot be to blame for responding in such a way, or at least, that is what I told myself. For the guilt remains to this day, and even now it pains me that I will not return to offer assistance to these canyon dwellers.

With the sun already prominent in the sky, a ranger never dallies if expecting to cover significant ground during the light of day. In fact, the days are short in New Britannia, or so I’ve overheard; oft I endure the whines of Avatars, complaining of such unavoidable absolutes. Perhaps on their world, they are raised to complain about the unavoidable. Or perhaps they are accustomed to having more control of their surroundings, I do not know. But in New Britannia, if one’s adventures take them to the out of doors in the eve, additional dangers may abound. So surely, Kahli is no different, and if these myths are not exaggerated, travel might be doubly perilous at night’s fall.

Therefore, I thought it best that each day, my explorations would be brief and concise. For half the day, I would explore. The other half? I would seek shelter for that night’s safe respite, annotate my findings, and plan my next day’s journey. If I stick to this plan, certainly, it would be only a matter of days, perhaps a week, before I discover a safe exit from these vile lands. And albeit, there is comfort in routine, especially when one seeks to maximize a day’s use, one must also be wary if complacency were to intrude. For if my cautious nature were to wane as my confidence in my surroundings embolden, that is when I would lose my footing, feel a snakes venom within my veins, take a blade to my backside, or fall into a pit of spikes. At times like these, I wish I were not so devoted to my solitary livelihood. Perhaps, sometime in my future, I must seek a traveling companion. Two sets of watchful eyes are better than one. Most assuredly. Usually. Well, perhaps not. But my inclinations for a life in the wilds, alone, is a story for another time.

As the twists and turns of the canyon made for labored progress, I was eventually struck by an apparent oddness. The path ahead was direfully overgrown. Brambles and thorns, aplenty. Being a veteran to the outdoors, my machete was instinctfully and quickly in hand to clear away the brush. But my readiness with the blade did not shed light upon the quandary which rattled my nerve. Adding to the moment’s oddness, I began to speak softly to myself, ‘Why is this path so overgrown? Surely with daily jaunts into Kahli to gather water, the merchants would have worn a way. Surely.’ I shrugged, and attempted to dismiss distracting thoughts of the unordinary, the merchants, the stone, the overgrown path, but to no avail. Perhaps they spoke of another route. The canyon was complex, after all, and I might have missed a possible turn to another source of water. Certainly that must be it. Determined, I continued, hacking at dried brush, just as much to reveal the path as to relieve my frustrations. ‘A ranger, trapped in the wilds. Indeed!’ I spoke again to myself, this time with volume enough to cause echo along the canyon walls. ‘Ahhh, and this be thrice now I’ve spoken with myself today. Is the Madness of Kahli already creeping in? Does the foul stone still pluck at my mind, or does this merely suggest, yet again, that I am in need of company.” In foul mood, I worked my blade dull, but with each swing and strike, my mind relaxed.

Hours of hacking, slashing, and chopping yielded little way forward through the vegetation, but upon a turn and another slice through decaying foliage, a purplish light cast upon me. The light was magical, and likely somewhat illuminating during the night hours, but the luminance was sickly at best during the day. When I cast the last branch aside, a curtain opened before me, revealing a stage set for a horrific scene. If it were not midday, I might have lurched backward, for the direness would certainly have multiplied in the deceitful shadows of the night. But with much light to overpower the violet hues of the Obsidian lamp, still powered by waning, centuries old magic, the scene’s dramatic effect was greatly lessened. I was thankful for this. I stood quietly, captivated for minutes, allowing the dire imagery to consume my soul.

A ruin, ancient indeed, likely remains of Kahli from before the Great Cataclysm. A maze of stone walls, arches, and stairs stood meekly before me, only hinting at the grand shapes they once formed. At one time, I might have been greeted by a fanfare of street performers and barking merchants, but now the rubble was only a sad reminder of man’s mortality. The stones of the walls were crumbling to the ground, rightfully returning to the earth from which they were claimed. And amongst the ruins, were the dead. Not of the walking variety, or so I had hoped. Skeletons lay about, frozen into peculiar positions, as if posed. Five, to be exact. And one, the foremost, was reaching towards me. Or perhaps it was grasping at what it most desired, the canyon to my back, Kahli’s only known exit. I must discover another exit. I simply must.

Taking precaution not to utter these words aloud, as I did not wish to give merit to the rumors of Kahli’s disease-like madness, and certainly a fourth episode of self-conversation might prove just that, I considered, ‘Posed. Posed to ward off trespassers, no doubt. Certainly there can be nothing more to this, such an obvious attempt to frighten travelers. Primitive tribes put the heads of their enemies upon spikes to ward off the unwanted. This is nothing more than that. Nothing more.’ Assuring myself, feeling more confident, I readied my bow and stepped surefooted, ascending the short staircase into the Ruins of Kahli. It was there, that I met Elgarion. And it was there, that my life would take on a new purpose. But alas, the night grows late, and I must rest my hand to write another day.

August 10 2017

Trapped Between Bone and a Dark Place – by Elgarion – narrated by Asclepius

Hello everyone, this is Asclepius, with a great story from Elgarion, entitled
Trapped Between Bone and a Dark Place
A Memoir shared by Elbyon, The Ranger of Kahli
Background music by Smartsound

With the skeletons of Ravensmoor closing in upon me, I had no choice. Kahli. Certainly the rumors of peril arising from this land could not be so true, and most assuredly, could not compare to my impending doom by skeletal hand. Holding my panicked breath as if plunging into frigid waters, I ducked into the darkened canyon, descending through twists and turns akin to a maze. Even the undead dared not to follow. What have I done?

But ahead, a glimmer of light brought me hope. Approaching, there be three disheveled merchants, forlorn, all but emaciated, and with only a paltry amount of supplies for trade. An odd hum permeated the night air, deep, nearly imperceptible. I could feel the emanation within my lungs, inflicting somewhat labored breath. The source of this mind numbing vibration, I was uncertain nor did I afford much attention to its point of origin. For before me, stood three greater oddities. Survivors of the perils of Kahli.

“Traveler! Come, quickly, to the light of our fire! The night here… it becomes too dark. Do not become lost in that madness ahead.” A short pause of thoughtfulness provoked a question, “Are, are they gone? The walking bones? Can we finally leave?” implored the raggedy banker, long since away from her comforts and riches.

The second merchant mumbled despairingly, “No. Our traveler friend here has refreshed the guard. Bringing more undead to the canyon’s entrance. We are still trapped. Trapped between most certain death and most certain madness. This gateway between two wicked worlds is our home. But, I apologize… come by the fire and warm yourself. Do not venture further until the light of day, if you even dare to do so at the sun’s rise.”

As I was contemplating acceptance and after an uncomfortably long pause, “I cannot bear this much longer,” the third merchant whimpered, adorned more in filth than clothing. I gazed sadly upon the meager amount of wares strewn about his feet, magical in nature, components so dry a mere breeze would bring them to dust. “Aye… it has been too long. Months. A year? The vermin here are all that sustain us. At the brightest light of noon, one of us only then will dare to fetch water ahead, but the drawer of the shortest straw returns quickly. The ruins of Old Kahli are ghostly. Ghastly. The dragon’s bones emanate strongly with Artenius’ Sorrow.”

The three merchants then resumed sitting positions by the fire, returning to their nightly routine of hushed whispers and roasted rabbit. “At least our visitor brings fresh stories if not fresh rations? What is your tale, oh traveler? Might you sing words of enheartening legend for our beleaguered souls?”

Smiling softly, I attempted to dismiss worry and accepted their kind invitation of refuge, albeit foreboding. As my tale began, the legend of Kahli grew. For my words became a part of Kahli’s story, echoing softly in the canyon and into the distant peaks. With a centuries long hunger for new song and rhyme, Kahli devoured my tale as it might, one day, my being.

In time, could Kahli be as it was so many centuries ago? Alive and splendid with art and beauty? Could my tale be the first of many new tales to grace this land? Or is this canyon my new home? These merchants, my new brethren? Am I now trapped between worlds, never to see the light again except on my day to fetch the water? I think not. Tomorrow, I will journey forth, and make claim to my courage and perhaps even to these lands. I will face the dangers ahead, surefooted, strong of mind, arrow nocked! I shall not linger and wither away as these fools! Tomorrow, the mysteries of Kahli shall be revealed to me! A ranger, trapped within a mere canyon, indeed!

July 27 2017

Tavern Respite 4 – by Elgarion – narrated by Asclepius

Hello everyone, this is Asclepius, with a further instalment of this wonderful story from Elgarion, entitled
The Tavern Respite
Background music “Tavern Song” by Ome the Bard

Chapter 4, “The Doomsayers”
The merchant’s wagon stopped in front of Bear Tavern, letting its passenger, Elgarion De’Kahli, climb down onto the dirt road. Elgarion looked to the drover with a kind smile and stated, “Thank you, sir. Your kindness is immeasurable. I hope to repay you o–” Elgarion was interrupted by the crack of the drover’s whip above the heads of the draft horses, which were quick to lumber forward at their master’s command. “Eh, if ye weren’t so withered, I’d a dropped you at the gates. Best ye not wander so far, old man. Next ye meet someone less hospitable.”
Elgarion watched in dismay as the wagon bounced away at a surprising pace; the wood and metal seemed to jostle rudely to him. As he turned to the tavern, soreness overcame the sorcerer. So many miles upon the road from Ardoris, and he felt all of them in his aching arse. Slinging the sack of books he had gathered upon this week’s journey over his shoulder, the survivor of Kahli hobbled up the staircase and into the main common room to Bear Tavern. The room was warm, and already prepared for the upcoming eve’s patrons. A fire crackled to his right, which garnered the interest of his weary and chilled bones. Plopping the books onto the floor at a corner, Elgarion approached the hearth.
To his pleasant surprise, there by the fire, Stryker Sparhawk had already began to savor his evening with a fine ale. Having only escaped the limbo of the Void some several weeks prior, Elgarion initially distrusted most he had met. That is… until finding refuge in PaxLair. Stryker was one of the first to offer friendship to Elgarion, and the old man took the gesture willingly. So many years he spent trapped in incoherent misery. His mind craved interaction and answers, and as time passed, Elgarion began to realize Stryker also was searching for something. Smiling, Elgarion, dust covered and exhausted from his venture, sat upon a pillow beside his friend.
Balec joined the two almost as soon as Elgarion had arrived, and the festivities of recounting the tales of this week’s journeys commenced. The proprietor jibed on occasion, teasing Elgarion for his soreness when the groaning sorcerer complained of bumpy roads and potholes. Of note, this day, Balec Fares deCani sat amongst them. Not as their proprietor, but as a companion. Elgarion had even fetched the man a beer, to show a kindness and appreciation for the service Balec had always been so dutiful to provide.
As the evening waned, more arrived. Most were familiar to Elgarion, and he was happy to have their company yet again. Others were new to him, such as a man that goes by the name of Night Fury. Kind. A good heart, Elgarion had thought. High borne, surely, for his dress and manner were exemplary. Another, by the name of Thurisaz Sheol was polite in greeting, a good listener, and well attentive to the conversations of others. Again, Kazyn Phoenixfyre had taken refuge from the cold night air for an ale before retiring. Kazyn brings with him a presence to the room. I suspect highly, that this individual is well respected by many. An elf… one that seems to have bested the hardships which weigh heavily upon others of his race. And just as the fire was diminishing, two others arrived last minute to offer good tidings. Jack Knyfe and Ravicus Domdred. Neither took time for ale nor hardly a word. Just to see them stop in, showed there to be a comfort in routine common to all.
Near an hour they spoke of the news of the land, then one by one, each went about their way. Some to their homes. Some to their steeds to journey into the night. And one, to his chambers above. There, Elgarion sat, as was the norm upon the eve of his return each week. Quill, ink and parchment laid before him, and as an archivist, he scribed his recounting of events.
Stryker searches for “White Hart”, as I do for Kahli. I do not believe this coincidence that our fates follow similar paths. I intend, in my studies, to search for mention of this “White Hart” as well. And by chance, if he will share my road, I will welcome his company.
Balec, he sat amongst us today. Duties called him into the wilds to combat the elves. And to my dismay but pleasant surprise? The man offered his sword arm to my cause and my search. With Stryker, could the three of us reach every corner of these lands without fear of ambush? Alone, I walk only the most travelled of roads. Together? We could take to the mountains. There, I know… Kahli is hidden.
Again mention of the Doomsayers was made. This time, from my lips. I inquired if there were sightings. There were none. I suspect reports of this threat might be exaggerated. Perhaps my mind is better spent with worry about undead or elves.
I made mention of my impending appointment with the High Priestess of Chaos, Lady Amber Raine. Her offer of aid to my research nears fruition, and I grow worried over the propriety of the encounter. Others, to include deCani, suggested better attire, which I hope to acquire before said meeting. But in the least, they put my mind to ease that the High Priestess was of a kind sort, and I needn’t worry about any ceremonial considerations in her address. Already, I have acquired many volumes to study in preparation for this rendezvous. I hope that I will be adequately prepared.
The elf, Kazyn Phoenixfyre, made offer of his family’s library in Port Phoenix. I most assuredly must travel there per his invitation. I’d be a fool to turn down an offer of aid, and one of this magnitude doubly should not go…
Elgarion sighed in frustration. He spoke with almost a chuckle, “Just upon my last sentence… it would seem Chaos demands I take rest.” With stiff movements and occasional moans of pain, Elgarion dressed for bed, then slid in amongst the sheets. In only seconds, tired soul drifted away. His dreams this night returned him to the road. Upon a wagon he travelled. With each toss and turn in his slumber, another hole was struck by wagon wheel, and even in dream, his arse took more bruising.

July 13 2017

Tavern Respite 3 – by Elgarion – narrated by Asclepius

Hello everyone, this is Asclepius,with a further instalment of this wonderful story from Elgarion, entitled
The Tavern Respite
Background music “Tavern Song” by Ome the Bard

Chapter 3, “The Two Companions”
After a long week of arduous travel and an amazing evening of adventure, Elgarion returned to his chambers above the common room of Bear Tavern, kindly offered to him by Balec, the absent proprietor. The note Balec had left him was thoughtful, and Elgarion made certain the basket was well utilized for the ale he and his friends had imbibed that eve. The mere notion that Balec would have the forethought to think of him, caused Elgarion to ponder and to become certain. The old sorcerer made a mental note–if Balec had his best interests in mind, this refugee from Kahli would pay in kind. Somehow, and soon, Elgarion would reward Balec for his generosity and commitment to fine service. Setttling himself, Elgarion sat at his desk, and began to write in his journal, recounting the lessons and peculiarities of the day’s happenings.

When I had returned to Bear Tavern that evening, already inside was a man with whom I had become recently familiar, Stryker Sparhawk. Stryker was engaged in dance with a charming female, whose lithe movements caused me some embarrassment Her unseemly motions were befuddling to me, and alas, (as any gentleman would) I averted my eyes and sat upon a stool at the ornamental oaken bar, instead admiring the wooden creation likely crafted by the careful hand of a fine artisan. She departed, her name I do not recall. But then Stryker and I accounted of our week’s journeys in stride, as if meeting every seven days had become the norm.

Shortly after, another arrived. Blake Blackstone, the dwarf. He strode in and quickly sat to my left. It was good to be amongst friends. We drank the fine brew of Bear Tavern, leaving coppers and gold in the basket as Balec had instructed, and told tales, most of which, I now struggle to remember.

Balec had made mention that recording the conversations of his patrons had left some… rather uncomfortable. So now I attempt to record well after our encounters and am likely to forget much of what transpired. All for the sake of propriety.

Blake Blackstone mentioned a man whom I must most definitely seek. A historian, of sorts. A rare profession, and rarer yet to find one bearing talent for that calling. I hope to make his acquaintance. Enderandrew. A most unusual name. And also one, unforgettable. Certainly he must know of the populaces still in this world which might have existed from before The Fall. He most certainly, can help this lost soul.

Again, the Doomsayers. The Outlanders. Stryker and Blake both spoke with worry. Neither had encountered a Doomsayer, but I did learn, that Outlanders… many of the very people I have met, to include Blake and Stryker, consider themselves as such. They even stated I was one. Certainly, I played along, but why do they believe this? It seems the Outlanders are common and apparently accepted. The peoples of this world are so different from before. I have much to learn. And as Stryker and Blake suggest, I must seek an elf by the name of Bowen. For he holds the key to these Doomsayers. If I were mistaken to be an Outlander by friends, would these Doomsayers make similar assumption? My explorations might become unnecessarily… challenging, if so.

As if our topics had not delved into enough gloom, I broached the subject of The Undead. Upon my first meet with these fine folk, they had expressed much concern over the Undead which plagued the wilds. Now, they made mention of a Spirit Speaker which enticed an apparition to speak. “Malice” was the word it had said. I assumed it was a place, and Stryker thought specifically, a dungeon. Catacombs are home to many of the unliving. Perhaps our next encounter, I might coax some of the brave souls in Bear Tavern to speak more of “Malice”. Imagine what histories I might uncover amidst the treasures of the entombed. With companions, perhaps I might even journey to such a place.

And, lastly. Highiron. The city belonging to an organization known as the Tantalus, if I recall the dwarf’s words correctly. On a whim to show us his home, Blake summoned such magic to transport us there. I did not know that such sorcery existed in today’s world, but this spell — I must learn it. I can’t even begin to imagine how my search for Kahli could be hastened if I possessed such power. Alas, the journey proved uneventful. Highiron is a grand city, with a unified people. I met another there, their planner, Harry. The city’s beauty was a testament to his devotion. But as quick as we had arrived, the tour was cut short by night fall, and to PaxLair I wished to return. Blake stayed and I returned with Stryker, also possessing such magics of transport. Perplexing. I am truly awed by the powers of these… Outlanders.

Before I retired, I looked across the common room. Empty. Candles waned. I had hoped to see the one called, Amber. She had made such an impression upon this old weary man, last we met. I suspect her library to reveal many answers to the riddles which toy with my perceptions. Perhaps soon, I can enlist her aid. Thus far, PaxLair has offered me sanctuary. The people of PaxLair have shown me friendship. And I suspect this individual can render much aid to my cause.

Now, in my chambers, I prepare for another night of torment. I know what the darkness will bring to my dreams. The limbo, my prison for so many years, will take me again. At least as I slumber, I will return to my people, even if only as a conjuration of my haunted mind. My place is with them, and to that end, I will not stop until I find them. And free them. I take some solace, that in some way, I will return to them tonight.

July 7 2017

The Tavern Respite 2 – by Elgarion – narrated by Asclepius

Hello everyone, this is Asclepius,with a further instalment of this wonderful story from Elgarion, entitled

The Tavern Respite

Background music “Tavern Song” by Ome the Bard

 

Chapter 2 – Return to Bear Tavern

Elgarion shuffled his way down the darkened hall to his chambers above the common room of Bear Tavern, an establishment which twice now has brought him the comfort of a fine ale and friendly folk. The door opened with a squeal, which comforted him to know unannounced guests would likely be heard. Setting his sack of books and scrolls upon the desk, he quickly cast aside his boots and sat with intent upon the desk’s chair, pulling out his journal again with quill and ink.

Balec had just warned him that some of the patrons were not taking kindly to Elgarion’s scrivenings, consisting of their names, their stories and even sketches of their personages. “Bah… how indeed will I remember all that is said? Though, the man does make a point.” He stated to the air in the room. Certainly a proprietor of such an establishment had learned, through the years, what his patrons prefer. Elgarion decided to rethink how he would document the happenings of Bear Tavern, or in the least, try his best not to offend those most secretive. Recollecting the past nights discussions, the venerable sorcerer spent another hour before succumbing to sleep, recounting this evening’s tales and news of lands abroad.

They spoke of the horrors of starvation after The Fall, and the drunkard even spoke as if he was there, during that time. Could these merely have been the imaginations brought on by ale? Many spoke of these stories, however. The dwarf, called Blake by those present, said there was a place, The Bluffs, which harbors deep caverns beneath. Caverns which housed the starving masses after the cataclysm. I suspect, strongly, that if these catacombs are littered with the dead of those lost during the Fall, likely, their most precious belongings were lost within. Diaries accounting of these horrid times are likely to be found. Perhaps even survivors from Kahli hid within the labyrinth. I must find these tunnels, for amongst the remains of the fallen, the fate of Kahli might be revealed.

Again, the drunkard spoke… almost in riddles. A grimoire of ancient origin. If I can speak to this man away from prying ear and watchful eye, perhaps he will reveal more about the nature of this text. I will introduce myself to him next we meet. And perhaps, I can get a few words from him before he loses his wit from drink.

The one called Kazyn Phoenixfyre… he has knowledge of an ancient city which bears a name most familiar. Could it be that Trinsic existed before the Fall? Could I know this city? If he holds texts which detail the origins of such a place, surely there could be mention of Kahli. And only… I can only dream this to be true, but if Kazyn knows the location of Trinsic, and I can learn of Kahli’s relative position from it? At last I might have found a way to Kahli. If I am so lucky. The history of Trinsic must run deep. A tale of Tel’Anor Arator, The Phoenix Egg, seemingly speaks much of its greatness. A city which apparently took its insignia from that same runic symbol. I will certainly pick the brain of this Kazyn, a man seeming most receptive to conversations of times forgotten.

And again, the dwarf spoke. Daedalus. Weeping Seven. Cryptic words for a confused soul, such as I. Next we meet, when words become sparse and uncomfortable silence ensues, be assured, I will ask questions of these. The answers I seek could lie in any tale or news from abroad. I must not discount any possibilities.

The lady. They called her Amber. She overheard the ramblings of my weary lips from a weary mind. I perhaps embarrassed myself with such bold blatherings of my quest for knowledge. But alas, she took a kindness upon me and offered a most valuable and generous gift, an invitation to view her extensive library. I was confounded by surprise and possibly a little flustered from the wine. I most certainly will take up her most gracious offer and somehow repay her in kind. The Book of the High Priestess. It will be the first I ask to see. Clergy, often granted divinations by the gods, chronicle well the histories of each era. I doubt not that this libram might hold valuable knowledge. But from what era? I will soon know. And with Amber’s assistance with translations, my work will go quickly.

Elgarion De’Kahli turned the journal back several pages, stopping for a moment upon each. The sketch of the tavern from this evening, the sketch from the week prior reminded him of other conversations which he had nearly forgotten. Hastily, he jotted them down, his penmanship suffering as his weariness grew. His notes from before, he read them again, aloud to himself. “Nothing… I asked… nothing,” the old man grumbled to himself. All the notes from the week prior, the questions he intended to ask were never broached. Now, the list had lengthened. So… so many questions. No answers. The start of so many tales. Whispers of places unfamiliar. The undead. Piles of books unread. Elgarion sighed deeply, then closed his journal and capped the ink. After wiping the quill clean and dousing the candle, he set his studies aside for the evening and turned to the bed, lying down upon the feather mattress. Again, staring into the darkness of his chamber, he quickly slipped into sleep. The Void had claimed him again, and this dream would not bring answers. It only brought fear.

June 28 2017

The Tavern Respite 1 – by Elgarion – narrated by Asclepius

Hello everyone, this is Asclepius, with a great story from Elgarion, entitled

The Tavern Respite

Background music “Tavern Song” by Ome the Bard.

Chapter 1 – To Paxlair, to Bear Tavern

Elgarion De’Kahli opened the door to his recently acquired room at Bear Tavern. The accommodations looked promising as he cast the brightness of his candle into the dark and quaintly furnished chamber. He spared only moments to prepare for bed. Exhaustion from yet another day of travel plus the Welcome Brew, Balec’s monthly special, had both taken their toll on the middle-aged man, who’s whitened beard was still damp from ale. Laying his journal upon the nightstand beside the candle, Elgarion quickly changed to night clothes, washed his face in the basin, and dropped into the bed as if struck by an arrow.
The old sorceror groaned, face down into his pillow, the muffled words barely audible. “Too old” he complained.
Sighing to himself, he turned to his back, pulled the journal open, and looked over his notes from the evening spent in the main hall of this fine establishment.
A sketch accompanies the entries. Elgarion, quite the artist, depicted the main hall of Bear Tavern in vivid detail–the various patrons as well as the proprietor, Balec deCani. On the side of the sketch, Elgarion drew every crest or symbol he noticed, most with no notes beside them. One symbol was labelled as “Bear Tavern”.
“The one called Gabriel made mention of Outlanders from Earth. Also of the Avatars. We must speak more on this subject. Avatars… I have much to learn about their doings.”
“There is an anti-outlander movement, which seems to trouble many. The people in this establishment do not seem to burden themselves with these prejudices, yet I cannot be certain. I must learn more of the outlanders and of the reasons behind this negative sentiment towards them. It seems several of the patrons were knowledgeable of this movement. The outlanders themselves might harbor much information for my research.”
“Albeit I was only introduced to a few, Balec, Gabriel and Stryker, I took careful note of all names spoken while eavesdropping. Best I can tell, the following individuals were in attendance:
Balec deCani
Royalsexy
Sir EternalKnight
Kazyn Phoenixfire
Aegon Targaryen
Stryker Sparhawk
Winfield
Gabriel Nightshadow
Kazuto Kirigaya
KnoWitts
Wind Silvermoon
Tari Silimsure
GoldenWing Okhan
Shallan Stormblessed
Robert Blackwood
Blake Blackstone.
These people were most welcoming, and I must continue to press them for information about these foreign lands.”
“A nobleman, called Winfield by other patrons, made mention of a Town Crier… in the morn, I will seek out the crier and learn all that he knows of this town and the nearby lands.”
“Murmurs of undead spread from table to table seconds after Gabriel broached the subject. I must learn more of these undead. Are necromancers about, or are these old incantations? Is travel too dangerous?Who can destroy these undead? How long have these brave people endured such hardships? I will take great caution in my travels henceforth. I fear I’ve been far to foolhardy in my wanderings. Fortune had been on my side, it would seem.”
“Balec, Stryker and Gabriel too an interest in the map I carry. They ask, how did I acquire it? How foolish I was to lie. I have lost these good people’s trust, i fear. But if they knew the truth? I wager I would lose much more. Perhaps they can show me the inaccuracies of my map, if they bear the knowledge. I MUST find it. The land is so different, reshaped by the Fall. The cities, towns, unfamiliar. Every village I pass, a mystery to me. There must be something that was unchanged. Once I have that… I will have a point of reference to begin my journey.”
“Again, Gabriel mentions something intriguing. Obsidians… unknown to me but seemingly very known to them. If I ask, it would appear odd I did not know of them. I must seek a library… brush up on my history. They’ll think me insane if ramble of my… situation.”
Elgarion yawned deeply and closed his journal. Setting it on the nightstand, he leaned towards the candle and returned the inn room to darkness. A few folk still remained downstairs, their laughter muffled through the floorboards. As his breath softened, his mind began to slip into dream. Even there, he walked the wilds in search of his home. From wooded trail to dried river bed he trekked. Mountainside to muck filled bogs. Even in sleep, rest would not come. His dream was his obsession. And his obsession was one of repentance and self-sacrifice. Elgarion would find his lost people. He would free them from the binding limbo which imprisons them. He would return them to their home, to Kahli.

June 3 2017

Warsworn – by Blaquerogue

Hello everyone, this is Asclepius, with a wonderful story from Blaquerogue, entitled

“Warsworn”

This is a multi-voice production, and features the talents of
Blaquerogue, as Torniquet
Lord Baldrith, as Farmer Johnson and the Orc
Solstar, as Father Desmond
Gabriel Nightshadow, as Scout #1 and the mercenary
Sol Stormlin, as Jason and Billy
Asclepius as the narrator and the voice of God
Background music by Smartsound

Chapter 1 – Torniquet – a Twist of Faith

“My name is Torniquet – I was born a “Warsworn”. My father was one of the greatest of his time. We come in many forms, and I happen to be a “Warsworn Hospitlar”, a Cleric of the highest degree. The king would always call upon my Father to lead his battles for most were won with him in the lead. My mother passed away at a young age, so my father decided decided that it would be best for me, to be put into the local Monastery St. Agnes, since he was rarely home, and always out fighting the battles that raged around our kingdom during the Orc wars. I would be well taken care of by the monks and priests and educated in our religion, and the monastery would get a fine donation from time to time.
I’d love it when my father would come to visit he would teach me how to speak Orcish and how to speak Drow, those two languages in particular he insisted I learn. He also taught me the art of combat, and would tell me stories of the wars he’d been in! Tactic after tactic! Sometimes he would bring me special items from across the land. One day he brought me a war hammer and a golden broach with a rubies in them, telling me that there was something special about both (I wouldn’t find out until just recently how special the war hammer was!) but it was the finest craftsmanship I had ever seen. Definitely made by the high dwarves far to the North. They crafted the finest of wares there! Hence the name High Dwarves.
That very day Father Desmond tried to take it from me after my father left! I swung that hammer out of anger and shattered his leg! Needless to say, I spent a few days in the lower cells, I didn’t understand because I didn’t really hit him that hard with it? The next time my father came to town, of course the priests pulled me out of the cell a day before and did healing rituals on my arms and legs to make the bruises disappear that they had given me over the weeks prior, but they never tried to take that hammer again!
Money has a way of forgiving wrongdoings I suppose? They were happy to take the large donation from my father and forgive me. As I grew older I decided I wanted to become a cleric so I studied more often always making the highest scores on our tests, I’d pray to St. Cuthbert every night that my father would be spared in war. Upon one of his visits at age 16 he arrived with a small army of Warsworn and told me today would be the day I become “Warsworn Hospitlar” They took me to a secluded area far from the monastery where there was a small army of Warsworn already there waiting. They put me through many rigorous tests of strength, intelligence and faith; I was finally branded “Warsworn Hospitlar!” Unfortunately, that would be the last time I saw my father! for he he did not show up on our regular weekly visit, instead a “War Sworn” Messenger and Priest of the king showed up. That is when I heard the news my father would not be coming to visit me anymore, he had been slain in battle. Now an orphan, the door slammed shut, I was stripped of my robes and put into the servant quarters, destined to serve the priests for the rest of my life (or so I thought at the time).
Over my years of servitude I learned that money is what made the difference here, no matter how dirty or bloody it may have been. I watched the priests cast spells on people that didn’t need them, just to make the priests look good. I watched money being exchanged for lives; you can’t stay in a powerful position if you’re dead! These priests ran everything outside of the city of Waterdown, and Father Desmond was the center of it, he commanded his thugs the crooked priests, to lay waste to a band of innocent travelers one time, just because they were going to report him to Lord Turner. Pay offs were made to cover up the disappearances of innocent people, and mercenaries were hired to do the job! This is not what being a servant to St. Cuthbert was about! It was time for change I had to get out of this place as soon as possible, but there was one Priest I had to pay a visit to first, Father Desmond!”

It was late into the night and most of the monks and priests were asleep except for one.. Father Desmond was in one of his secretive meetings. Torniquet watched a mercenary come into the church quiet as the wind. As he and Father Desmond moved into the office, he heard the click of the lock. “Well now father I suppose you were happy with my last job since I was called back for another”? With a merciless smile across his face the mercenary moved closer to Father Desmond’s desk. “Ah yes I see your as confidant as ever McLaughlin, but yes I was rather pleased, especially how you made it look like it was a bandit kill from some goblins and Orcs, disgusting creatures they are! The king seems to believe the Orcs have started attacking again, so yes job well done, but I have another job I need your expertise in. There is a family that lives down the road from here they seem to have.. how should we say this? Decided that it would be in their best interest to report the monks and church here, because we decided that it was a waste of our healing spells to cure their youngest son who is a mongrel and a bit slow in the head who would be of no use in the future for anything but a lowly servant! A waste of our energies! I want this family killed and their property burned to the ground, oh yes…make it look like another Orc attack! The towns people will flock to us for prayers and when there are no more attacks they will think we have cured this land, and give us contributions and mostly respect! Here’s half of the money now and you will receive the other half after the job is done”. “ Oh, and one more thing McLaughlin, tell the mother and father right before you take their lives that Father Desmond sends his regards!”
At that moment the huge oak door exploded into wooden shards one of them piercing the right eye of McLaughlin, the orifice was filled with blood before he had time to react. The last thing he saw was the top of his head meeting the bottom of his chin as Tourniquet’s hammer stuck true. The mercenary lay motionless on the floor in a pool of blood. As Desmond backed into the corner consumed with terror, Torniquet threw the desk to the side and grabbed him by his robes with his left hand and pointed the hammer glistening with blood and grey matter at his face. Desmond’s voice cracked ”oh please don’t kill me Torniquet, I will give you anything you desire, forgive me for what I’ve done, gems, gold, look there’s lots of it here you can have it all please forgive an old soul who has made mistakes in the past, I will change I promise you, just forgive me please.”? Without a blink the blood splattered face of Torniquet replied “Your forgiveness lies on the head of this hammer Priest!, your pleas lie upon deaf ears, and maybe your god will forgive you? But I will not!” Take one last look at me! I am Torniquet the Hospitaler! The hammer impaling the priest’s face made a cracking and squishing sound. Torniquet gathered his belongings and headed out of the monastery stopping only once at the altar. “I hope you can forgive me , I have heard your calling and I now understand what needs to be done.
As he headed out the front gate of the towering Monastery two things were on his mind, the location of the bandit camp just outside of the family’s farm, and what great adventures awaited him. His adventures would be slightly delayed but only slightly!

Chapter 2 – Vengeance has a name.

About an hour out of town he sighted the first fires of the bandit’s encampment cleverly disguised as a traveler’s camp, he even noticed the lady of the Johnston farm bringing extra bread to those poor travelers. To the right just across the road, he noticed the farm children getting ready for bed. Little did the Johnston’s know that other plans had been laid for them this night!
Torniquet saw the two scouts in the distance hidden but placed perfectly for the beginning of the ambush, watching closely for the last candle to be blown out in the house for the night. “Hmm, very nicely hidden these two are I wonder how I should go about this?” Torniquet thought. The first bandit would be closest to him so that would be the first victim!
As Bandalore was perched he heard someone coming down the road whistling a tune vaguely familiar from childhood, he looked up and straightened himself out brushing dirt from his pants.“Hail fine citizen of Cartador! Beautiful night is it not?” Torniquet said. Taken by surprise Bandalore didn’t know how to reply, “Well met priest I am quite busy at the moment so if you could move along that would be much appreciated.” “Oh now there is nothing more important than a good blessing!” Torniquet smiled. “The Gods told me there was a man in dire need of a good `ole blessing here! And be sure that the Gods know these things well!
“No, no priest they might be mistaken this time! Good night to you then!” Tourniquet’s smile slowly went to a frown! He grabbed the surprised man into a headlock covering his mouth so no screams would come forth (for they would have if they could). The bandit looked into Tourniquet’s eyes and slowly faded into unconsciousness, the huge fore arm crushing him like a giant constrictor, With his ribs cracking ever so quietly, he heard one last thing “ My title is “Hospitaler, not Priest!” and his life was sucked out.
Torniquet laid him down softly crossing his arms over his chest. He made a sign of the gods and asked them to forgive this soul, and continued along the road whistling his child hood tune. As he approached the second scout he could tell this was a poor kid straight from the streets no older than ten winters, nervous as a small puppy, “this would be the one I will have mercy upon, it is not too late for him to change” Torniquet thought.
“Son come here!” the boy jumped five feet, “Yes sir, and how are you priest?” “I am fine this night boy, come here let me talk to you” the boy ran up to him, “yes sir?” Torniquet looked him over and could tell he really needed some food and probably a place to stay, and a bath, this poor child was a sight for sore eyes. “What are you doing here?”
The boy replied “ I wasn’t going to do anything but just watch, they were going to give me two silver to keep watch but I wouldn’t have to do anything else, please don’t kill me!” Boy if I wanted you dead you would be trying to explain to your gods that you have no clue of how you got there! I want you to do the right thing, for that I will spare your life tonight, and I will give you these two gold coins so you may take refuge in an Inn. Hopefully you will get an honest job! For tomorrow this area will be soaked with blood and I do not wish your blood, to mix with the blood that I spill here tonight!
What is your name boy?” Apparently shocked at the conversation the boy looked up and shook off the terror “I am Jason and I’m not a killer like these men I promise! With a smile Torniquet said” I believe you son, Torniquet is my name, tell them tomorrow when you can that I spared your life this night, so that you may walk a righteous path and that it was too late for the poor souls over there! (pointing his hammer in the direction of the camp) now here’s your two gold I promised, well here take five, you must promise me to be kind and take care of the weak no matter what! I’m trusting you young Jason for if you don’t I promise we will meet again and then you will be able to explain to your gods how you arrived at their doorstep!” with that the boy ran off down the road yelling “you can trust me sir, I mean Hospitaler!” A grin spread over Tourniquet’s face he turned towards the bandit camp.

The moon cast its soft glow over the bandit camp; the activity was growing as they were preparing for the ambush. As Torniquet scouted the area he noticed one of the grunts barking commands to the others. He would be the target this night, others would fall in the wake of the slaughter or retreat to the woods, and either was fine for Torniquet. As he walked down to the bandit camp he got dirty looks from the others, but they dared not make a move without the command of the relatively large Orc that stood in the middle of the camp for fear that the ruthless leader would crush them!
The orc looked at Torniquet as he made his approach and grunted, a few commands to his initial entourage to step back but to keep an eye on this human. Torniquet knew this for he had learned the orc language in the monastery, since most attacks were from these creatures.
“A wise decision Orc” said Torniquet fluently in Orc. The Orc was surprised that this human knew his language. “I come with a message from McLaughlin, whom I believe commands you and your band of “beggars”. There will be no attack tonight. Your half of the gold will be waiting for you in the “good fathers” office at the monastery. I suggest you not make him wait he is a very impatient man, and he talked of not giving you any gold for your services because you’re a disgusting abomination, oh yeah and you “stink”, I believe is how he put it, and I have to say I do agree with him”!
The orc stepped forward and hissed “watch your tongue cleric or I will have to cut it from your mouth”! Clearly agitated with that comment the Orc grabbed one of the nearest mercenaries by the throat and crushed it! The others started to move back and away from the Orc not wanting to be the next outlet for his aggression. He threw the lifeless body to the ground and began approaching Torniquet. Torniquet knew this would be a long night…….
The giant Orc started into a charge, Torniquet readied his hammer, when the two hit there was a loud thump as the bodies met! Torniquet was knocked back about 3 feet and landed on his rump, righting himself from the fall he was up on one knee, and sprung forth with great strength, shield leading the charge, the hammer hit its target! The orc fell over dazed by the hit, but he too was back up on his feet in a flash! The Orc swung his battle axe, but only to have it deflected to the left then down, Torniquet immediately followed through with his hammer smashing the orc in his ribs, a definite crack was heard!
The orc was holding his side as he yelled at the other bandits to attack but none came forward instead they backed away; the orc was on his own. He swung his axe up and around to the side, but again metal met metal with a loud crashing sound! Tourniquet’s hammer swung straight down on the orc’s shoulder clearly dislocating his defensive arm, as the Orc rolled off to the left Torniquet followed mirroring him perfectly shield thrown out to the orc’s face and stopping his motion instantly!
Again the orc swung his axe but this time to the side leaving a bright red flow of blood on Tourniquet’s leg. The orc had clipped him but it was just a flesh wound! Torniquet fell to the left and rolled with the fall out of the deadly axe’s range! Immediately Torniquet rolled back then forward coming up under the orc’s chin, hammer leading the way! It caught the orc square in the chin and knocked him off his feet, he landed with a thump! The orc did not move, his tusk jammed up through his face.. he was dead!
Torniquet turned to face the rest of the bandits, not a peep came from the crowd of onlookers, then a smile came across their faces as they turned around and starting packing practically tripping over each other as they moved out and away from the farm house, and especially as far as they could from this cleric that just destroyed the one orc that they feared so much! Before dawn the camp was empty except for the body of an orc that lay in a pool of blood, steam rising in the morning cold.
Torniquet decided to take some bandages from one of the chests that lay around the camp and wrapped his wound and he concentrated on his healing spells. As he looked around the camp he noticed on the Orc’s right arm a red scarf tied around it a single emblem on it, a black crescent moon, he would take this and put it in his back pack. He found an empty tent and laid out his bedroll, to get a few hours of sleep until morning came.
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The next morning as Torniquet started to move up the path he noticed one onlooker at the top of the path, it was the man that owned the farm. As Torniquet approached him he said, “Well met Hospitaler!” Confused by the right titling, Torniquet looked at him, “The boy Jason I believe his name was, told us of the plight of these so called “beggars” last night after you had finished talking to him, so I took me family to the wood line just in case things didn’t work out, not that I didn’t trust you would take care of this problem, but I had to protect my family I hope you understand I mean no disrespect.”
Torniquet replied “none taken my friend, I knew the danger you and your family was in long before I arrived last night, unfortunately I recently resided under Father Desmond and I overheard about all this, our gods do not allow this kind of tyranny, people should be good to one another and take care of each other, not the blasphemy that Father Desmond spoke of, and as of right now you are free of his grasp and you and your family may get on with daily life. Without the fear that you have had in the past, Father Desmond now pleads with his god for forgiveness, for he is no longer with us!” You and your family are safe!”
The farmer replied “We are forever in your debt! We do not have much but we can offer you a meal this morning, my wife is preparing breakfast as we speak, if there is anything you ask of us it will be given “Hospitler”! Torniquet shook his head you do not owe me anything, but there is one thing I do ask of you, please have an open heart for weary travelers and treat them with the kindness you are treating me, my name is Torniquet and I am happy to have served you and my god today, and I am especially hungry, so breakfast sounds great! I would be happy to join you at your table! The smell coming from your kitchen is quite enticing!” with that they headed off to Farmer Johnson’s house.

The food was excellent the best Torniquet had ever tasted! Upon finishing they sat around talking. Mr. Johnson said “I can’t help but think I know you? Was your father the king’s knight a few years back a “War Sworn? What was his name? Sir Treadwell, yes that’s it Sir Treadwell was he your father? “Torniquet felt a lump in his throat “you, you knew my father?” Torniquet was all ears now!
“Yes son I knew him, he had stopped by here a couple of times on the way back to the King’s, always for breakfast” (ha-ha, “he loved the food and we loved the company, he even brought us some medicines from faraway places in hopes that he could cure my son even if those medicines were outlawed! Your father was a great man young Treadwell, carry his name with honor!
If you noticed, me boy didn’t talk very much this morning, he has been mute and deaf for 12 years and nothing seems to cure him, we went to the monastery many times asking for help but they always turned their backs on us saying it was a waste of their time” (Torniquet remembered this conversation in the Father’s office) so we haven’t been able to get any help thus far, but we do love our boy, he works hard on the farm and cares for his little sister, we will stop at nothing to try and get him some help sometimes he murmurs words but, they just don’t sound right and when we call him, sometimes he doesn’t even notice, we don’t know what to do? We want to help him but we cannot find any help.” a tear ran down Mr. Johnson’s face, and his wife went to the kitchen and started crying.
Torniquet asked Mr. Johnson” to go retrieve the boy and let him take a look at him”. Mr. Johnson jumped up and ran out to the crop field where the boy was working. Meanwhile, Torniquet sat at the table with the sound of Mrs. Johnson crying in the background and the younger girl trying to comfort her.

He prayed as hard as he could to St. Cuthbert “Please give me the power to help this child, he has needed this help for a long time, he will grow to be strong and take care of his family as his father does, I ask this one favor of you to help me, help him”. A voice resonated in his head deep and caring “this boy is not dumb or mute, he is only deaf I have granted you power to cure this ‘tis the simplest of the powers you have” and with that the words faded off.
Somewhat surprised by the voice and the tingling feeling inside, Torniquet knew that his Deity was alive and well, there was no other explanation for it, none that he could think of!
The father and son returned to the table and the boy looked up at Torniquet, a gentle smile on his face, he tried to say something that sounded like a greeting but Torniquet couldn’t make it out, Torniquet returned the smile and said “come here young man let me take a look at you” he turned the boy around and snapped his fingers, no response, he turned him around again to face him and snapped his fingers, the boy copied him but barely, Torniquet pulled his holy book out of the back pack and recited some words, laid his hand across the boys forehead and then waited to see what happened.

Immediately the boy looked out the window and mocked the sound of a cow, he was excited, he yelled out mom! The crying stopped in the kitchen and His mother and his sister came running, looking at him with astonishment his mom uttered one word “Billy”. Billy smiled and hugged his mother and sister in unison,” Ye..Ye..Yes mom!” His mother immediately burst into tears of joy the boy was cured!

Mr. Johnson jumped out of his seat “by the gods the boy speaks and hears! How did you do that? What did you do? Torniquet replied “Faith, this is the work of a good god! He has smiled upon you and yours this day embrace it and never lose faith! In times of darkness there is always light! Never forget this and all will be well for you!” with that the Farmer hugged Torniquet and said “our home is always open to you and your friends may you be blessed in your travels” Torniquet brushed the boys head and gave a slight group hug to his mother and sister, and said “I must be off now for I need to report the corruption that plagues our land with these priests and their mercenaries! May you and your family be blessed and may your crops be fruitful, I will stop by every now and then to have a good breakfast!” with that he walked out of the house and started up the road.

His travel was uneventful except when he passed by the Monastery where he stopped for a moment to take in the site and witnessed the the looting, bandits and priests fighting! He thought to stop, but decided he would let fate take its course here and continued up the road leaving the monastery far behind.

It was about midday when he arrived at the part of the road that led through the forest. He knew very well that ambushes were frequent here, with the concealment of the woods. He took a deep breath and continued, the sun gave way to shadows of trees that towered over the road like giant sentinels ever so vigilant, as if they knew the dangers of this road far better than anyone.

As he went deeper into the wood the open fields disappeared behind the curtain of trees. He heard a scream and birds took flight away from the danger, but Torniquet went forward toward it. As he approached a clearing he could see about five or six bandits attacking a poor traveler and his family, One guard was already down for the count. He charged in exploding the first bandits head with a swing of his hammer, the bandit never saw it coming, and it was a quick death!
The other five turned toward the explosion and charged! Torniquet shouldered the first, lifting him up and propelling him over his left shoulder, he landed with a thud, The air knocked out of him! The second came charging in, the Hospitlar side stepping him as he went by, the third would be the receiver of the hammers head! Torniquet hit him square in the chest knocking him back 5 feet and to the ground gasping for breath, little did the bandit know he was drowning in his own blood as lungs filled with fluid!
The fourth came forward slashing like a wild man with his long sword! A quick turn of the hammer had the blade flying through the woods that lined the road, lost in the foliage. Torniquet brought his hammer down with a fierce force, the last bandit crippling under the weight of the blow, a dent in the side of his head, he would not be getting back up again! Torniquet turned just in time to catch a swing of a long sword from the first bandit that took flight; apparently, he had his breath back.
The sword met the hammer with sparks flying off the blade as metal ignited metal! The sword came down, then back up, and around, blocked this time by a shield, that opened up a perfect shot that would later prove fatal for this bandit! As the stricken bandit crumpled to the ground the wheezing commenced! There were two more bandits left, sweat and dirt covered Tourniquet’s face, the sweat burning his eyes, he was now facing two bandits at once! He wiped the sweat from his head and, charging in with three giant steps, he leaped up catching one bandit square in his chest with his foot, and forearming the other! His foot never left the chest and all his weight landed on this bandit! He dropped the hammer downward and crushed the bandit’s face, with a loud cracking sound!
While Tourniquet’s foot still firmly placed on the bandit’s chest, The other bandit went flying back! As the last bandit recovered from the forearm, he came charging at Torniquet! The bandit’s face was met by a steel shield crushing his face, it exploded in a shower of red mist! The bandit hit the ground unconscious! The fight was over. The travelers thanked him for being there when most needed, and offered a payment which Torniquet did not take. He told the family to head down the road to the farm house where they could get some rest and food, He said to tell the farmer that “The Hospitaler” sent them, and they would be taken care of, and the travelers were gone in the distance as fast as they could go.

Torniquet grabbed two of the dead bandits at a time and dragged them to the side of the road followed shortly by the other two. He laid them down and crossed their arms over their chests and said a prayer. He walked over to the last bandit, who was now gaining consciousness and poured some water over his face to wake him up. When the bandit saw Torniquet standing over him, he was terrified! Torniquet leaned down towards him and said “Today your god or gods have watched over you, I want you to tell your master and the priests he beds with, that judgment comes their way! Now get out of here before you join your friends!” The bandit jumped up and ran as fast as he could up the path faster than a rodent when the lights are turned on!

Chapter 3 – City Of Waterdown

The city of Waterdown is best known for its port. Trades from all over the known worlds come and go through Waterdown. It is known for its exotic trade anything you can think of comes through here, the prices are higher for exotic goods but well worth it!
A lot of black market items also come and go through this port; needless to say there is definitely a Thieves’ Guild somewhere in this city well hidden from prying eyes. Much of the shops dotted through the city are actually fronts for shady businesses, guards are paid off to look the other way on many accounts, around the docks.
Away from the docks the law is upheld to the best of the city’s ability, crimes are relatively minor and infractions of law carry heavy monetary fines. Any crimes above minor get you thrown in jail from one month to several years; the punishment usually fits the crime here. They believe that hard work turns a criminal into a working man or woman eventually, and most of the city was built by this type of labor, and the approach has proved successful.
In the middle of the city is the Bazaar, There are booths set up daily for trade and sale. From common folk to exotic folk all races come here to trade and make a living honestly. There is a two gold piece a day rental for booths in the city, and most of the merchants are fair when pricing their goods. There are weapon dealers from exotic to fair, basic adventuring gear dealers, and magical dealers, as well as a healer’s hut lining the streets of the Bazaar, it goes for three blocks in any direction, and there are many food and drink dealers as well. Anything a party would need for adventuring can be found here!
Guards patrol this area heavily, always on the lookout for troublemakers, and are heavily armed as well. They travel in teams of three walking up and down the Bazaar; they carry fine swords or maces and are armored to the teeth. If something breaks out in the street, you can count on at least six guards to respond at once. They are paid well by the city and are quickly let go if they do not hold up the law here. Being a guard is one of the well-paid jobs here and they normally live in luxury. It is almost impossible to bribe one of the guards here, as the offence carries a heavy fine, and always jail time.
The City is run by Lord Turner, a very stern but fair man who leaves no room for error. He was a captain in The Kings Army, when the Orc wars were going on, that practically devastated the land around Waterdown; he is a “War Sworn” by Cartador the King himself! A “War Sworn” is signified by the “blazing sword” marked above the heart on the armor or a burning shield on the right side of the neck, it is the highest award for valor that can ever be given. It is said that Lord Turner’s army pushed the hordes of Orc’s back into the ocean on the very place that marks the port area; he was awarded this City on that day! The Orcs, from beyond “The Sea of Unknown”, in Karrig and Karrag which make up the Orc lands of Kohmesh, never tried to overtake this land again, at least not from this area. The name Turner is used on tongues of Orc parents to discipline their children!
King Cartador rules over these lands from his kingdom far to the north named Turion in the Plaines, he has guards that walk the roads from Turion to Waterdown keeping the peace, most of whom are “War Sworn” and are small armies. You will eventually come upon one of their encampments while travelling the roads. Their encampment consist of Hospitlers,Warriors, and Priests as well as mobile merchants. There you can find healing and basic food all of which are given free to those of good intent. Waterdown is one of the largest cities in the Kingdoms of Cartador and well-defended.

May 18 2017

Odd Tidings 3 – by Andartianna – narrated by Asclepius

Hello everyone, this is Asclepius, with the conclusion of this wonderful story from Andartianna, entitled
Odd Tidings From The Bear Tavern: A Court House
Background music by Smartsound

 

Chapter 6, “Cats, Clues, Corp Por”
Upon entering K’rul, Sara and Dr. Zazeriz began quickly preparing themselves for battle. The Kobolds within are highly aggressive and ready for attack. Sara quickly moved to the front to defend Dr. Zazeriz, and they slowly moved into the caverns. Upon entering, they travelled to the left and found mechanized cats and Kobolds, which fiercely attacked them. They quickly opened up a hatch to a lower level, and found themselves in a deeper level of K’rul. Sara swung her sword at some watchers, which seemed to be ignoring commands from the Oracle, and dispatched them. The next room was filled with a purple mist that confused anyone that walked through it. Moving to the next room, they were met with a torrent of steam which burned through layers of their clothing.

Dr. Zazeriz quickly cast heal spells as they made their way to the right. Inside the next room, an electrical machine targeted people giving damage and focus loss per second. Moving on, Sara and Dr. Zazeriz found themselves in a hall with poisonous gas, which choked anyone who walked through it. Sara quickly leveled an automated assassin and a kobold brawler who were blocking their path.

Dr. Zazeriz quickly looked around the tunnels for any clues that might lead them to the location of the factories of the clockwork dragon. Upon entering the next room, they discovered it was a giant electrical room that blocked focus and tried to block their path. They turned left and then left again and entered a large room of very hot steam, which once again burned their clothing. Sara quickly dispatched the mechanical ravens which were hiding in the room. Another turn to the right brought them in a red mist room, the gas of which seemed to be poisonous. Each of the gasses, they figured out, could be turned off with valves scattered throughout the K’rul hallways.

They turned right and then right again, and entered a hall filled with Kobold Grenadiers and Kobold Brawlers. After dispatching them, they came up to a higher level and found a mine cart track which the Kobolds were probably using for transporting mining equipment and other supplies. As they made their way into an open space, they found beta monkeys standing around. After the last one died, they stood still for a moment to look around. Sara and Dr. Zazeriz could hear odd machine sounds coming from the left. They turned to the left to see what it was. There was a wide hallway and door with blood all over the floor and walls. It was apparent that something had died repeatedly trying to get out of the room.

Inside, the room was filled with spikes that would go up and down, which were triggered randomly by Kobolds who were in the room above. As they entered the room, they spotted a mage standing over a pile of dead Shock Monkey Gold bodies. Shock Monkey Gold are fearsome mechanical monsters that stun anyone who comes near them.

Sara waved at the mage standing in the center of the room. “Hail, Corp Por. How fare thee this fine day?” Sara asked.

“I am very well, thank you. These Kobolds continuously send Shock Monkey Gold constructs at me to test their machines.” Corp Por said.

“Have you seen if they construct clockwork dragons here?” Sara asked.

“I believe they do. I have seen a room with a clockwork dragon deep in the bowels of K’rul. If you go back and take a right and head deeper into the mines, you’ll be able to see the room below the clockwork construction zone.” Corp Por said.

“Thanks, Corp Por. We’ll see you around.” Sara said.

Chapter 7  “Scouting, Sara, Selected.”
Sara and Dr. Zazeriz began scouting the rest of K’rul. They found the location where the clockwork dragons were being constructed, and also a cavern filled with a Kobold city. After they had thoroughly mapped the entirety of K’rul, they headed out and made a camp on a hill overlooking Blood Bay.

“Thank you for helping me map the area of K’rul. We will have to come back on some other occasions and see if we can deconstruct some of the Kobold’s technology.” Sara said.

“Deconstruct, huh? You mean deconstruct by hitting it with a sword?” Dr. Zazeriz asked with a chuckle.

“That does seem like the best way to deconstruct Kobold technology. Now that we know K’rul, we can come back later.” Sara said.

“Alright, I’m going to teleport back to Beran’s Reach. Hopefully, they have come to a decision.” Dr. Zazeriz said.

“I will stay here and scout more of Blood Bay.” Sara said.

“Take care of yourself, Sara. If you need me, you know how to find me.” Dr. Zazeriz said, then teleported back to Beran’s Reach.

Dr. Zazeriz walked into the sleeping quarters provided by the courthouse, and just as she was going to sit down and rest after the three-day journey, a knock on the door made her get back up on her feet. Dr. Zazeriz walked back to the door and opened it up. Astor Ceberus was standing outside.

“Greetings, Governor Zazeriz. I am happy to say that the reviewers have made their decision.” Astor Ceberus said.

“Oh? Do tell.” Dr. Zazeriz said.

“Congratulations! You have been selected to be a magistrate for the courthouse of Beran’s Reach. You now have access to storage and space within the courthouse that will help you perform your duties as a magistrate. We also will provide you with the robes of a magistrate.” Astor Ceberus said.

“Thank you, Astor. I look forward to helping the court of Beran’s Reach adjudicate the laws of Novia.” Dr. Zazeriz said.