November 6 2014

The Lord of the Manor – by Stile Teckel and Gabriel Nightshadow – narrated by Asclepius

Hello everyone. This is Aclepius, with a wonderful story, written by Stile Teckel and Gabriel Nightshadow

It represents Stile’s biography, and it is entitled

The Lord of the Manor

Background music by Smartsound

Chapter One: Legacy
As Stile Teckel entered the immense display room of his late grandfather’s home, he still couldn’t believe that he was gone. Joseph Teckel had passed away two weeks ago at the ripe old age of 100. A world-renowned, retired archaeologist, he had spent most of life traveling to exotic locales and discovering rare artifacts, many of which were now on display in the most famous museums around the world. Quite a few of these rare artifacts remained in his personal collection stored here in his Tudor-style home which he had shared with his late wife, Mary, who had passed away ten years ago. Stile still couldn’t quite understand why his grandfather had left his home and its contents to him in his will rather than his daughter, Stile’s mom, Nyssa.
One display case suddenly caught Stile’s attention. Inside was a full length oval shaped mirror with solid gold frame. The frame itself was encrusted with rare and precious gems and strange looking runes which Stile did not recognize. The small computer display screen next to the case indicated that this item was “Nystal’s Mirror of Infinite Wonder”.
Nystal…that name seemed vaguely familiar. Stile suddenly remembered that dark and stormy night thirty years ago when his grandfather had come to visit and told him a fairy tale about a far off land he had once visited long ago known as New Britannia, ruled over by the wise and powerful monarch known as Lord British. Lord British often relied on the counsel of the mysterious prophet known as Nystal (or Time Lord, as he was more commonly known). But that was merely a fairy tale…wasn’t it?
Stile was intrigued by the artifact. Could it be a portal to this other world which his grandfather had spoken of? If Stile could decipher the runes, perhaps he could discover how to activate it. Stile searched all of the other display cases in the room, but was unable to find anything that might help him decipher the strange runes.
Stile sat down at the table in the center of the room and pulled out his laptop. He began an online search. After many hours, he discovered that, although the runes bore many similarities to several ancient languages, there didn’t seem to be an exact match in any known Earth database. Stile was growing frustrated. He remembered that his late grandfather had told him that tale for a reason, for Joseph had made Stile swear never to repeat it to anyone else. Perhaps there was a clue in the tale…
Stile glanced over once at the computer screen next to the display case. He walked over to it and noticed several keys marked on the keyboard underneath it. One was a red button marked Administrator. Stile pressed it and the computer requested his user ID. Stile glanced at the description of the item on the line above it again. No…it couldn’t be that simple, Stile thought to himself. He typed in: TIMELORD.
Suddenly, Stile heard an audible click and a hidden panel opened up in the floor directly in front of the display case. Stile went over to investigate. Inside, he found three items: two massive, leather bound volumes which had been well-preserved in the hidden compartment and something which resembled a metal, circular, compact powder case. One of the leather bound volumes was his late grandfather’s journal, which was entitled “My Adventures in New Britannia”. The other volume was entitled “A Guide to the Runic Language”, written by someone named Dame Lori. Stile opened up the compact case and saw a miniature version of the mirror embedded in the lower half. The runes surrounding the miniature mirror began to glow. Stile quickly closed the compact and put it in his pants pocket. He placed the two leather bound volumes on the table in the center of the room.
The display screen suddenly went blank and a prerecorded video made by his late grandfather, Joseph, began to play.
“Hello, Stile!”, said Joseph, “It’s me, grandpa! If you’re watching this, it means I’ve finally moved on and joined your late grandmother up in heaven. As you might have guessed, that tale I told you many years ago when you were a child really did happen. On an archaeological dig many years ago in ancient China, I happened to stumble through a lunar rift and ended up in the land known as New Britannia. I helped their monarch, Lord British, and his advisor, Nystal, locate and recover an ancient artifact which they used to defeat a powerful foe who was terrorizing the land. In recognition for my help, Lord British knighted me and requested that I stay in New Britannia and help them rebuild the kingdom after the devastation caused by their foe. But I knew that my place was here on Earth with your grandmother, so I declined. Nystal told me he had foreseen a time in the distant future when you would come to New Britannia and aid their champion, the Avatar, and his companions in their battle against an even more powerful foe. I have left you a few items that will help you in that respect. When you are ready to travel to New Britannia, touch the runes surrounding the miniature mirror in the compact in sequence to spell out the word AVATAR. Good luck, Stile! I know you will make me proud! ”
The video ended and another panel suddenly opened up in the wall next to the display case, revealing a hidden compartment. Inside, Stile found a jeweled katana, a full suit of shiny chain mail armor, a sturdy long bow marked with glowing magic runes, a quiver full of steel arrows, a dagger, a knight’s tunic, a leather backpack, and a small leather pouch filled with gold, silver, and copper coins.
Stile stood there for a moment and took it all in. New Britannia was real! He had the opportunity to visit a whole new world and start over again. Stile took a few moments to think about his life. He was stuck in a boring, dead end job with a nasty, young, female boss who was a real control freak. His lovely wife had recently left him and run off to Las Vegas with some young stud half her age and his daughter was having an affair with her married college literature professor, who was nearly Stile’s age! His son had quite college to become a rapper, but having failed in that, was now a low level drug dealer for some methamphetamine manufacturer who called himself “Mr. Schweitzer”. Yup, there was nothing really keeping him here! What should he do next?
Stile sat down at the table and began reading his grandfather’s journal…

Chapter Two: Preparing For the Journey
After spending the next several months reading both volumes, Stile was able to gain a basic understanding of the written Runic language, the spoken language, and the history and culture of New Britannia. However, Stile soon realized that he needed more detailed knowledge before he could cross over to this new realm.
Using instructions which his grandfather had left in his journal, Stile discovered that the mirror could also be used as a viewing screen into New Britannia. By pressing a specific rune sequence on the compact, he could access a specific lunar rift and view the activity in the surrounding area. In this mode, he could see what the inhabitants of New Britannia were doing, but they would be unable to see him (i.e., one way viewing only). His grandfather had conveniently listed the rune sequences for all of the major lunar rifts scattered throughout New Britannia in his journal, so over the course of the next several years, Stile was able to gain a deeper understanding of the spoken language, clothing, and local customs of the people inhabiting each region of New Britannia.
As Stile began observing the people of New Britannia through the magic mirror, he began searching for a native who he believed could help him enact his master plan in this strange, new world.
After five years of careful observation, Stile finally believed he had the ideal candidate.
Roderick was the younger son of an important Duke. Unlike his older, well-respected brother, Robert, young Roderick was only interested in having a good time, and wasted much of his father’s money on booze and whores. Eventually he was kicked out of the family castle by his father and stricken from his will. Penniless and lacking any real skills, Roderick only had his good looks and charm to rely on. Through a female prostitute he knew, he made contact with the notorious thief known as Red Badger , and became his apprentice.

Roderick soon discovered that he had a knack for thievery and surveillance, and he and Red Badger soon developed a reputation as the best team of thieves in all of Novia. For a while, all went well and both Roderick and the Red Badger were living a life of luxury with their ill-gotten gain.

But then came the day when Red Badger got too ambitious and decided that they should break into Lord British’s private vault at night and steal some of his most rare and powerful artifacts. After breaking into the vault, Red Badger “accidentally” alerted the guards to their presence. Red Badger managed to escape with a few of the artifacts, but Roderick was caught by the guards and sentenced to life in prison. After a year behind bars, Roderick managed to escape and was now on the run.

This man Roderick definitely has the skills I’m looking for, Stile thought to himself. I will look him up immediately upon my arrival in New Britannia.
Shortly after this 35th birthday, Stile invited his mother, Nyssa, over for dinner. Afterwards, he showed her everything his grandfather had left him in the display room and revealed his plans to her.
“But Stile, you’re talking about the rest of your life!”, exclaimed Nyssa. “Are you sure this is what you want to do?”
“Mom, I’ve never been more sure than anything in my life!”, replied Stile. “There’s nothing keeping me here. In New Britannia, I have a chance to start over again and live out my dreams! …And don’t worry, mom, once I’ve established myself, I’ll bring you over as well.”
“Wouldn’t you like to spend your retirement years in a place like this?”, said Stile, as he pointed to an image of a busy town in New Britannia which was displayed in the magic mirror.
“I must admit it does have a great deal of appeal to me, son.”, said Nyssa, as she gazed longingly at the images of the townspeople going about their daily business. “You know, I never told you this before, but it was your grandfather’s tales of this realm which stirred my imagination and got me interested in role playing games when I was a young girl. I’ve been writing computer code for so many years now…I was planning on finally retiring in a couple of years and taking that trip to Great Britain like I always wanted to…”
“Then it’s settled then!”, exclaimed Stile. “I’ve already put my affairs in order and given you power of attorney so you can use my bank account to pay the bills on this estate until I’m ready to bring you over. Every Friday night at 8:00 PM, I will activate the magic mirror from the other side using this (shows his mom the compact) and let you know how I’m doing.”
“OK, Stile.”, replied Nyssa. “While you change into your tunic and armor, I’ll pack you a nice meal. We have plenty of roast lamb, buttermilk biscuits, butternut squash, and apples left over from dinner.”
Stile nodded and then retrieved all of the items from the compartment next to the display case. When he was done changing, his mom handed him the leather backpack, which was now stuffed full of food. Stile put the backpack on.
Nyssa gave her son a big hug and then began crying.
“I’m going to miss you, Stile!”, she sobbed. “Your grandfather would be so proud of you right now!”
“I know, mom.”, replied Stile. “I believe this is what he wanted for the both of us – to live out the rest of our lives in New Britannia like he never got the chance to!”
Stile pulled out the compact and pushed a sequence of runes. The image of a forest appeared in the magic mirror. A large port city loomed in the distance. Stile pressed the runes on the compact which spelled out the word AVATAR. Suddenly all of the runes on the magic mirror began to glow and the image shimmered for a moment. It was time to go.
Stile walked towards the mirror. He turned around one last time to see his mom standing there, smiling.
“Take good care of yourself, son! “, she said.
“I will, mom!”, replied Stile, ““Remember, every Friday at 8:00 pm sharp!”
He waved to his mom one last time, then turned and stepped through the mirror…

Chapter Three: Spy Master and Merchant Prince
“There he is men, hiding behind that tree!”, shouted the commander of the guards, “Grab him!”
Roderick broke cover and ran through the forest as fast as he could, but could tell from the sounds of the rapidly approaching footsteps that they were closing in on him. He felt a hand clamp down on his left shoulder.
“I’ve got you now!”, a guard exclaimed.
Suddenly, Roderick felt an arrow whiz by him as it struck the guard in his right eye, killing him instantly. The guard fell backwards and hit the ground. Two other guards who were a short distance behind him immediately stopped and drew their swords.
‘What did that arrow come from?”, one shouted, right before an arrow struck him in the chest, and he, too, fell to the ground, dead.
“Show yourself, coward!”, yelled the commander of the guards, as he grabbed Roderick and held his sword to his throat, “Otherwise, I’ll kill your friend, here!”
There was no response, as the guard commander scanned the area around him for any signs of movement.
The commander did not see the mysterious figure sneak up behind him and slash him in the back with a katana! The commander dropped his sword and fell to the ground, dead.
Roderick turned around and saw a knight clad in chain mail standing there.
“Thank you for saving me, kind sir!”, said Roderick. “I am just a poor, unfortunate soul who was framed for a crime I did not commit and was forced to flee from the authorities when they didn’t believe me!”
The mysterious knight stared at Roderick and said, “You are not as innocent as you claim to be, Roderick! I know exactly what kind of man you truly are!”
“You know me? I don’t believe we’ve ever met before…”, replied a surprised Roderick.
“No, we haven’t met before in person.”, replied the knight, “But I’ve been following your exploits for some time now. You have the right skills I’m looking for in an associate. Join me and I promise you wealth and power beyond your wildest dreams! I also promise you that, one day, you will have your revenge against your former associate, Red Badger!”
“Yes, that all sounds very tempting!”, said Roderick, as he raised his right eyebrow, “But why would a knight want to associate himself with someone like me?”
“My grandfather was a noble knight who once served Lord British.”, replied the stranger, as he held out his hand. “I’m a more practical man. Will you accept my offer?”
“Yes, I think I will!”, replied Roderick, shaking the stranger’s hand, “So, my new friend, what shall I call you?”
“You may call me Sir Stile Teckel.”, replied Stile, as he beamed.
Acting through Roderick, Sir Stile began establishing his extensive spy network. Roderick would make contact with people with access to important information, such as servants of nobles, merchants, and politicians and pay them well to spy on their employers. These spies never knew who their true employer was. Roderick simply referred to him as “The Big Boss”. At first, this spy network was limited to the port city which Sir Stile Teckel had settled in, but over time, he had Roderick establish contacts in all of the major towns and cities he did business with.
Sir Stile used the information he acquired to secretly blackmail the rich and powerful and gain an unfair advantage in purchasing goods and services. As far as the public was concerned, Sir Stile Teckel was simply a highly successful merchant who gave generously to help feed, house, and educate the poor. He had Roderick establish a private security force, composed mostly of former soldiers, who helped the outnumbered city guards finally eliminate the gangs of thieves and robbers who regularly prowled the city streets at night. Indeed, in a few short years, Sir Stile had become one of the most influential men in that port city and had established a vast trade empire stretching from Brittany to Port Graff in Northeast Novia and Ardoris in the Southeast Novia (The Teckel Trade Triangle) and even beyond to the Kingsport and Owls Head in the Hidden Vale.

Chapter Four: A Greater Purpose
Five years after his arrival in New Britannia, Sir Stile Teckel had become so rich and powerful that he was elected mayor of the port city. He acquired a castle lot and had a grand castle built there, surrounded by high stone walls and a moat.
Stile brought him mother, Nyssa, over from Earth, and gave her one of the guest houses on his estate. There she was able to pursue her interests in painting, pottery, and sewing. She also became active in community events, such as the Summer Food Festival, and the local poetry group which met weekly in the public library. On Friday evenings, Stile would accompany Nyssa to the local pub where they would listen to the bards spin their tales and play their music. The local pub also was an excellent place for Stile to secretly seduce the beautiful, young, local girls, for he had a healthy sexual appetite, and he found that the daughters of the nobles whom he met at the charity balls and other major gatherings of the nobility to be rather passionless and boring.
Life was good for Sir Stile on both a personal and business level. The only major rival he had to contend with in the business arena was Duke Garen, who was a member of the Great Council. As the head of one of the most powerful families in the kingdom, Duke Garen had used his wealth and influence to expand his trade empire. Until recently, Duke Garen had focused on building his empire in the Western half of Novia, but now he sought to expand into Sir Stile’s territory. Roderick and his spies had not been able to uncover much information about the mysterious Duke Garen, who was rarely ever seen in public. There were rumors that Duke Garen was not actually the late Duke’s legitimate heir, that his mother had actually had an affair with another noble and passed off the offspring as the late Duke’s. But without some sort of proof, that bit of information was of no value to him.
As Sir Stile sat at his desk in his study pondering his next move, he received two most unexpected guests.
A white bearded figure clad in an orange robe and carrying a sturdy wooden staff suddenly appeared before him in a puff of white smoke. Behind him stood another slightly younger looking, white bearded figure clad in a purple wizard’s robes and wearing a pointed wizard’s hat. He held a long, curvy staff which was covered in magic runes and had a glowing red gem on top.
“Greetings, Sir Stile!”, said the white bearded figure. “Do not be alarmed! We mean you no harm! Allow me to introduce myself. I am Nystal, and this is my good friend, Lord Baldrith!”
“Nystal?”, exclaimed Sir Stile. “Are you the same Nystal who befriended my grandfather, Joseph, many years ago?”
“Indeed, I am, Sir Stile!”, replied Nystal. “You have done quite well for yourself these past five years, as I knew you would. As I predicted, Roderick has proven to be a good right hand man.”
“You know Roderick?”, asked Sir Stile.
“Not in this form, of course.”, replied Nystal. “Five years ago, I disguised myself as a guard at the prison he was being held in and secretly aided him in his escape.”
“I see.”, said Sir Stile, stroking his chin. “So everything that has transpired these past five years has been part of some sort of master plan of yours?”
“You are a bright fellow indeed, Sir Stile!”, answered Nystal. “A grave threat to all of New Britannia will soon be upon us. You role is to help support the Avatar and his other companions, such as Lord Baldrith here, by providing them intelligence gathered through your spy network, resources, and access to important people and places through your personal contacts.”
“I think I can handle that.”, replied Sir Stile.
“Good to hear that.”, replied Nystal, who suddenly had a very serious look on his face, “ Sir Stile, your hand to hand and ranged combat skills are quite good, but they will be of little use against someone like your new business rival, Duke Garen. You may not realize this, but he is a powerful sorcerer, well versed in the dark arts. In order to stand any chance against him, you will have to learn the schools of magic as well. I’ve brought Lord Baldrith here to instruct you.”
“I see,”, said Sir Stile, “ I was unaware that Duke Garen practiced sorcery. No disrespect, Lord Baldrith, but are you a highly skilled mage?”
“I would say so, since I studied with the best!’, answered a grinning Lord Baldrith, “ I was Nystal’s finest apprentice.”
“Indeed he was!”, said Nystal, as he nodded approvingly, “I’ve never met anyone else with such a talent for magic.”
“I must go now and continue my search for the new Avatar!”, declared Nystal, “I leave you in Lord Baldrith’s capable hands!”
Nystal vanished in a puff of white smoke.
“Does he do pop in and out like that all of the time?’, asked Sir Stile.
“You get used to it after a while.”, answered Lord Baldrith, as he shrugged his shoulders, “Be thankful that he’s not as bad as his cousin, Mingo!”
“So, Lord Baldrith, where do we begin?”, asked Sir Stile.
“I think we should start with the Life school of magic…”, replied Lord Baldrith, as he stroked his long, white beard, “We do want you to stay alive during combat, after all…”


Album with EQ - B&A - Stile T as SM

November 1 2014

The WIndows are Open – by Lord Tachys alFahn – narrated by JLWChambers

Hello everybody. This is JLWChambers, coming to you with a story by Lord Tachys alFahn, entitled

The Windows are Open

He knelt down near the small, still form, allowing himself a few minutes to examine it. Emaciated limbs, atrophied from lack of use, extended at odd angles from a small torso wrapped in tattered, unwashed rags. The body was topped with a head that was unusually large by comparison, even for a child so small. Pulling a rag out of one of the many pockets secreted about his robe, he dabbed the thin line of drool from the corner of her slack-jawed mouth, examining her teeth as he did so. Yes, she was young, but not quite as young her wasted body suggested.

Then his gaze moved up to the eyes, those unfocused, empty eyes.

Anyone looking at those eyes would have thought her a soulless husk. This man knew better… the power pulled him to the soul trapped within.

“Do not worry, child… all have their place in the order of things. All have a purpose,” he whispered to her, gently brushing the stringy, dirty hair away from her face, “and I think I may have discovered yours.”

Scooping her up easily, he rose to his feet, and strode towards the Shard.


She ran, as she always had. Something was after her, she knew… vile and terrible. She had seen it once, long ago, but could not recall it clearly. All that remained was the overwhelming horror, and the need to be far, far away.

It had not always been so. She could still remember Mother, who had protected her and made the world bright and beautiful and safe. But something happened, and Mother wouldn’t play anymore. She wouldn’t play or move. She wouldn’t do anything, then she disappeared.

That was when the Thing appeared. Its arrival turned her bright and happy world into a maze of halls and doors and windows. Windows were especially bad, and needed to be shuttered always, for that was what had let it in. The doors needed to be open, Mother always had the door open, the girl needed to open the right one to find her.

And so she had run, opening so many doors to find Mother, only to find so many empty rooms. There were other rooms, with things she didn’t understand… happy moments where she thought she had finally found Mother, but instead had found only paintings of things that didn’t seem right.

A girl yelling…


Mother falling.

Then came the Quaking.

The halls shook and twisted about her. The doors wouldn’t open now. None of them would budge, no matter how hard she pulled. And the windows…

The Windows were OPEN!

IT would find her!

Through the windows came a voice saying words she couldn’t understand. Terrified, she ran. All the while, the halls continued to shake and rattle. She had to hide, find a place where the Thing could not reach her. She could hear it, smell it nearby. A door nearby opened and she dashed through, desperate to escape.

She was in a room… with a window, an OPEN window! Turning in a panic, she tried to escape, only to bounce off a solid wall. She cast about, but there was only the window, and…


It was her! She was finally here! But…

Something was wrong! Mother was yelling, scolding, denying her wish to do something, but what? She found she didn’t care, anger surged inside the girl, white and burning. Suddenly she was upright with a denial of her own, one that pushed her arms out and up. She stood, horrified, as her mother stumbled back, her face a mirror of the girl’s own. She stumbled back, and then out, through the open window. Before the girl could reach her, Mother had fallen, landing with a sickening thud on the ground below.

The girl stood there, tears streaming down her face, emotions boiling within her: blinding rage, shock, shame and then a soul-crushing sorrow finally wrenching an agonized howl from her.
She looked up, the Daedalian light giving her eyes a red, feral cast, to see a dark, slender man standing before her, hand extended…


The creature’s leathery wings unfurled to reveal a small, scaly face with deep, burning red eyes that regarded him with something akin to wonder. The echoes of its transformational howling finally subsiding, the imp tentatively climbed up his outstretched hand, to perch on his arm, dutifully awaiting the grinning man’s orders.

Album with EQ - B&A - Stile T as SM

November 1 2014

A Smugglers Tale Volume 1 – by Malkhelm – narrated by Asclepius

Hello everyone, this is Aclepius, with a wonderful story from Malkhelm. It’s called

A Smuggler’s Tale, Volume 1

As the story lent itself to multiple voices, I have joining me in this podcast:
Lord Baldrith as Harry
Amber Raine as the new girl
And Lady Adnor as Sole

Background music “Evasion” my Matthew Pablo at

A Smuggler’s Tale Vol. 1

“Hello, Love. How would you like to make this the night of your life?” I don’t recognize this one. She must be from one of those backwater villages, or an Outlander from a very open society. Goddess knows there are more and more of us showing up every day, all of us thrust into this alien world where if you don’t find a place to fit in quick things can get real messy real fast. She knows her stuff though, leaning at just the right angle, pulling at her dress to entice the eyes to all the right body parts, and a natural knockout, almost no make-up. Sorry darling, but I’m taken.
I pull a coin purse from under my black leathers and slide it across the table to her, barely taking my eyes from my bottle of spirits. Best to do these things quickly. “Despite your very tempting offer, I’m afraid I must decline. Nothing personal, Milady, but there is only one girl for me. Take the gold and the night off, on me. No hard feelin’s lass.”
To my surprise I got none of the usual responses. “Awww,” she purred, sliding closer. “Well I’m afraid you’re the only man for me tonight, and I’m very gifted when it comes to getting the things I want. Come now, I know how much fun you tall, dark, and brooding types can be behind closed doors.” She reaches towards the first button on the low neck-line bodice, still trying to close the deal. Trying too hard.
Before she can react or even breathe one syllable I strike, grabbing her wrist and gently pulling my coin purse before she could slide it out of sight down the front of her dress. I pull her into an embrace, at least that’s what the rest of the rowdy barflies in the tavern would think. “Alright madame, you have my attention. Now who put you up to this?” My eyes were already making a third sweep of tonite’s patrons.
“How dare yo-”
“You see, a newbie would have been embarrassed by my refusal and all the pros here in Kingsport know that I’m off the market. So enlighten me. Who’s paying ya?” Her big eyes darted to the side for only a split second, but it was all I needed. I spotted my new friend just as he was turning out the side door. “Well I dare say he looked a little flustered. Gotta go, Love.” I only stopped long enough to grab my black, wide-brimmed hat and toss the coin purse to the poor, wide-eyed girl. “Consider that payment for guarding my bottle until I return,” I spoke over my shoulder before I was out the door and into the pitch black alley. I really didn’t need to hurry, the man I hunted could always be found in the same spot. A couple of twists and turns in the dark and there he was, acting as if he hadn’t moved all day. Stands to reason that if you’re a fence then people have to be able to find you I guess.
“Harry! How ya been old chum? Everything all right? You look a wee bit winded, a little flushed, I’d say.”
“Look Ma-”
“Harry,” sigh, “can we skip the song and dance. I’m gonna be real pissed if one of my last bottles of the good stuff isn’t right where I left it.” I cross my arms letting the casual act sweep aside my cloak giving the sword on my left hip the clearance she needed. Harry got the message.
“Ok, ok… it was nothing persona-” the weasely back-alley fence pleaded.
“What does Anton want?”

“We don’t see ya around much anymore. Boss has always shown favor to his more valuable employees. You know that. Me and the fellas thought maybe the new girl-” My laughter brought him up short. Confused and fidgeting. Easy target.
My blade cleared her sheath in the blink of an eye. Point levelled at Harry’s chest and ire in my voice. “Anton wants to go land-lover on us, fine. Thinks he can turn this island into his own little fiefdom, fine. Let him play house. I want nothing of it. I’m a sailor Harry, there’s only one place for me and until our little undead problem is fixed, I’m out of work.” That was the stick. Time for the carrot. I relax my sword grip, prop my blade back on my shoulder, and crack a half grin. “Come on, mate. Tell me what that little fool really wants.”
Harry never takes his eyes off the blade in front of him. Of unique design and make, to be sure, but I never have quite figured out why everyone who looks upon her becomes seemingly mesmerized. She’s long, thin and wickedly sharp. Single edged with just the slightest curve and a grip that is easily three hands long. She resembles the blades used by the folk in far off Ardoris, to the east, but that’s not what makes her special. What catches the eye is the fact that she is made of the blackest material I have ever seen. More akin to rock than metal. No smith I have ever shown her to has been able to identify it, nor have I ever had to hone her edge. Not even a single tool mark on her. She wasn’t for the faint-hearted either, having no hand guard or tsuba in place. A signature weapon can come in handy in the life of a smuggler ship captain who deals in the underworld of Novia. It can also make one a target. As I was about to find out.
“Still got that ugly thing, huh?” Harry gestured towards my sword. “You should have thrown that cursed thing in the sea like I told you, Captain. Else I wouldn’t have to be doing this,” Harry says as he whistles between thumb and forefinger. Wide eyed fear is replaced by cold, cruel certainty. Men wearing black appear at either end of the alley. A quick glance tells me about half a dozen. Three in front, three to the rear. Including Harry that made seven. Bad odds. And I was the fool who walked right into it. I remain calm, sword still propped on my shoulder like a fishing pole. Can’t panic in these situations. No such thing as a no-win scenario.
“Well, seems ya got me, mate. That mean you’re going to tell me what Anton wants now?” The three men in front halt just behind Harry. Two look like average bruisers, cudgels and faces only mothers could love. The three behind me stop and take up positions four or five feet away. A quick glance coupled with the smell of them told me they were cut from the same cloth as the two ruffians behind Harry. I had been in and escaped from worse, however it was the look of the third man behind Harry that brought me up short. He was tall and lean, carrying a staff and, as opposed to his cohorts, dressed in finery befitting a noble. Dammit, Anton, I swore to myself. This was certainly going to complicate things. “Really, Harry? You brought a mage? What are you thinking?” I’m still talking to Harry in my friendly voice.
“Oi, him?” Harry jabs a thumb behind him towards the spell caster. “He’s just here for verification. Ya see, Cap’n Malk, Anton knows all about your plans to get off this island.”
I snicker at him. “Lots of folks want off this island. How am I any different?”


“Well as you know, our gracious Oracle has us blockaded from leaving until that damn liche who’s raising an army of the dead is taken out.”
I sigh, overly exasperated. “I do hope you get to what this has to do with me. There’s a bottle waiting for me, remember?”
“The blade, Malk! Anton happens to prefer things the way they are right now, and would like certain assurances that some would-be hero isn’t going to go fix our undead problem with his hell-spawned sword and the rumoured cache of magic items he’s supposedly been hoarding!”
Laughter. A deep-belly laughter that has me clutching my gut and starting to bend over. “A hero?” More laughter. The irritation on Harry’s face is starting to turn to red rage. “So, criminal smuggler saves whole island?” Can’t stop laughing now. “I suppose after that I ride off into the sunset on my talking horse?” Got to keep this up just a little longer.
“Malk! This isn’t a request,” Harry slid a little closer to me. His attempt at being menacing was even more fuel for my laughter.
“After that it’s off to find a magical farmer’s hoe that can take down a dragon, I guess?” I barely manage this last line through my hysterical laughing fit.
“Anton’s respect for you is the only reason we ain’t killed ya already, but rest assured. That can change very quickly.” Harry’s closer now. Almost within arm’s reach. “The sword, Malk! Now!”
I start to calm down. Wipe the tears from my eyes, sober up a bit. I glance up at Harry and rise again to my full height. In a flurry of movement and with a deft hand motion, the black sword snaps off my shoulder. Everyone tenses, but the men only had enough time to slightly raise their cudgels. I’m not attacking they realize for I’m holding her out to Harry as if to relinquish her. She’s in a reverse grip, pointed at the ground separating Harry and I. Everyone visibly relaxes, couple of the thugs even look disappointed to be denied their blood sport for the night.
“Here ya go, mate” Harry steps forward. Right where I want him. As he raises his hand to grab the rest of her grip, he catches my crooked grin. Now. Strike.
I pull the sword away from Harry’s grasping fingers and execute a blind stab directly behind me. Caught one of the brutes in the belly. One down. Now my sword is flying straight at Harry’s face, but I’m still holding her in my reverse grip. My sword pommel smashes his nose. The blow and shock stagger him backwards into the mage and two henchmen. All four go down in a tangled mess in the tight alley. One now worthless Harry and three more temporarily down. Next. Pivot and turn left. The blade moves with me and I am able to turn fast enough to score a slash on one of the remaining men behind me. Deep chest wound. Another one down. My blade continues her same arc, flying towards the next and last guy still on his feet. This one has had the longest time to react however, so the best I can do is simply parry the overhead cudgel strike aimed at my head.

We separate and square off. I do not have time for a duel. Already, I hear Harry’s group regaining their feet. My eyes dart their way to check their progress. It’s the mage who is first up, his hand already pulling bits of archaic powders from the satchel on his hip. He’s chanting, his staff’s head dipping in my direction and beginning to glow blue-white. I parry another cudgel blow coming from the man in front and twist away, letting his forward motion carry him stumbling towards his compatriots. The mage has completed his incantation. You should have known better than this, Anton. I hold my sword, Blackrock, up between the spell-user and myself.
Harry notices his wizard’s actions too late. He knows what will happen. Through the blood gushing from his face and watery eyes he shouts, “No you fool, don’t cast that spell!
Too late. Lightning begins gathering around the head of the staff before suddenly leaping towards me. One of the other reasons I have never parted with her and one of the unexplained mysteries about my sword and the substance she is made of: she causes magic to go haywire.
The lightning bolt is yanked off target and drawn to her, striking the tip first before running down the length of her blade. The results of magic cast at her are random. This time the lightning becomes a vortex of wind and water that swirls about the blade like a typhoon at sea. And as quickly as it attracted the magic, the sword expels it, right back at the caster. I feel nothing of the effects. Harry and his men are pummelled by wind and stinging water drops. All of them thoroughly dazed but nothing fatal. Time to run. “Later, old chum. Let’s do this again sometime, eh?” I shout at Harry as I sprint out of the alleyway, turn a corner, and run right into three more toughs coming to the aid of their fallen comrades. “By the Three!” I swear. “All of my brandy will be long gone by the time I get back to that bottle.”
Before things could get any worse, from out of the darkness above us, the whistling sound of four arrows screamed down and thudded into the packed earth at the feet of my would be attackers. “Run along now, boys! Tell your master that his prey has eluded him tonight!” The voice is female. One I was very grateful to hear. My attackers begin to slowly retreat, but a few more well placed arrows got them running soon enough.
A lithe shadow materializes from the thatch roof above me and nimbly drops to the ground next to me. “Care to sheathe that thing now?” the brown haired woman asks me.
“How’d you find me, Sole?”
“Well the floozy back at the tavern helped a lot. Seems to be rather taken with you too. She’s guarding a bottle of brandy like it’s the most precious thing she’s ever seen. However, it was Drakkhan who sent the search out. Why in all of the Black Void are Anton’s men after you, Malkhelm?”
“That’s Captain Malkhelm, my dear”
She straps her bow to her back. Blackrock returns to her sheath. “Oh really?” the sarcasm shining through her friendly banter. “Last time I checked, neither one of us has a ship. Kind of makes it difficult to be a captain. Wouldn’t you agree, Malkhelm?” I set off down the lane, setting a brisk pace. “Where are we going?”
“Isn’t it obvious?” I ask, chuckling a little. “Us being heroes and all, there is only one thing to do.” I don’t need to look at her face to see the bewilderment. “We’re going to go save a whole island.” I continued walking while she stopped a moment in stunned silence. She didn’t hesitate long before she was right back beside me.
“What’s the plan, Captain?”
“Brandy first, dear.”

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