February 10 2022

3D Portal Adventure 2

A new chapter in this enthralling video adventure! The link to the video is here:

Chapter 2

Having established her crew, reluctant as she was to have a crew, Lady Beth began to step through the dimensional gate she had opened.  Tiger_T and the Catdude stepped up to follow her.  As Tiger_T neared the horizon of the portal, he noticed a slight tingle in his fur, almost, but not quite unlike a static charge.  He moved his hand towards and away from the portal to see how it affected the tingling.

The Catdude: “Yeah, weird, isn’t it?  Is this your first time through one of these?”

Tiger_T: “Yeah”

He continued his testing.

Tiger_T: “Interesting.  The CTC doors are different, like normal doors.  I’m curious as to what it will be like to walk through it.  I guess I will know soon enough.”

<Render 6>

Meanwhile, Lady Beth had mostly stepped through the portal, save for the hand she was using it to hold the portal open.

Lady Beth: “Come along, gentlemen.”

Tiger_T: “Aha!  Here’s our marching order!”

He carefully walked forward.  As his nose contacted the horizon, he felt a prickling sensation that propagated through his body, peaking at the parts as they went through.  Coming out the other side, he shook off the effects.

Tiger_T: “BRRR!  Like being combed the wrong way!”

He began looking around.

The Catdude stepped right through the gateway.  He got wobbly on his feet as vertigo momentarily swept over him.  Initially, he reached for Beth’s hand to steady himself, but remembering that he had not obtained such permission to touch beforehand, he braced his hands on his knees instead.

The Catdude: “Just a moment, My Lady.  I always get a head rush when I step through these things.  Five more seconds…..and done!

He shook his head to clear it and recovered.

The Catdude:“The headache will last an hour more, but I will manage.”

He joined Tiger_T in looking around.

CD: “Hmm, I wonder where we are.”

Meanwhile, Tiger_T pushed down a few patches of fur on his tail.

Tiger_T:“I guess I came through OK.”

<Render 7>

## Feel free to add in based on your own impressions. ##

Tiger_T and the Catdude stared out in rapt fascination over their surroundings.  Tiger_t notice that the “clouds” were not moving.

T_T:  “Ahh, like unto Van Goh’s Starry Night.  Very impression as all I usually see is standard YeOldeEarth Sky. ”

CD:  “Indeed so.  Funny thing, when Lady Beth first mentioned great height, I thought we might be headed to either Nar Shadda or the Cliffs of Eos but we are at neither.  We are at someplace I have never been before and I am glad of it.  My lady, thank you for letting me come with you.”

T_T:  “Say, Lady Beth, where exactly is ‘here’ anyway?”

Lady Beth gave no answer and stood quietly at a jutting pier, as if awaiting something.  It did not take long for that something to come into sight.

<Render 8>

T_T: “I think I see something coming towards us.  A…blimp?

CD:  Ahh, an airship with sailing ship gondola.  A beautiful way to sail the skies, although, if the weather takes a certain turn, the voyage can become…interesting.

<Render 9>

As the vessel approached, Lady Beth addressed her companions.

Lady Beth: “This will be our transport during our time here.  I will renegotiate the contract and bill of lading.  How much do each of you and your equipment weigh?”

Tiger_T:  That’s our ride?  Cool!  My weight?   I do hope an estimate will be exact enough.  Umm, I should be around 82 kg, and my backpack should be around 20 kg.

The CatDude:  I weigh between 105-110kg, my gear is 40 kg, half of which is ammo.  I suppose the captain will have some demands regarding storage.

<Render 10>

As the vessel pulled up to dock, the ramp extended out to the board gate of the ship.  Lady Beth began to walk towards the ship but then she stopped and turned around to face her feline companions.

LB: “Gentleman…if you trust me then please wait for me there.  I’ll…be…back.”

T_T: “ Umm…okay”

CD: “yes, my lady, I will wait as you wish.”

Lady Beth proceeded to the ship and went aboard.  Tiger_T turn to the Catdude with puzzlement.

T_T:  “I don’t see why she would bring us here only to then change her mind.  That alone is reason to trust her.”

CD: “I learned to trust unicorns with my life.  The first lesson I learned about them is that they are honest to the expense of politeness.  It can be off-putting to humans the first time around, but you get used to it.  If nothing else, it explains unicorns generally make for ineffectual politicians.  This probably has something to do with the crew, seeing as we are not part of the original contract that she is now having to renegotiate.”

Tiger_T nodded his assent and understanding.  Presently, Lady Beth returned and they snapped to attention to receive her next instructions.

Echoes From the Caverns

Echoes From the Caverns

February 10 2022

Stone Dragon Series – Book 1, Chapter 9


Read by Addy

Chapter Nine. Kobolds, Trolls, and Liches? Oh My!


Torgin stopped to check the torch supply they had left piled along the tunnel before their descent into the dark, after he ran back up to the main corridor. He also took a good look at his own equipment while he waited for the others to climb out of the sloping tunnel behind him. Doing the chores had kept his mind occupied but as he cleaned the blade of his axe, he had time to think. He was shaken by what had been done to the human volunteers in the experiment room. Those volunteers who were experimented on didn’t get anything out of the deal; it was not mutual. It was torture. People should not have to suffer nor lose their lives simply for the curiosity of others. Shuddering a little, he could not help but hope he would overcome whatever other evils he would find ahead. With a deep breath and nod of his head to these private conclusions, he turned and watched Phlebus, Lucy, and finally Zyrina emerge from the smaller tunnel. They had a moment to speak quietly among themselves and check their own gear as the newcomers caught their breath from the climb out of the troll pit.


“What was done to those people…” Phlebus couldn’t even finish his sentence.


He simply pursed his lips and shook his head. Zyrina looked away from the others and kept her thoughts to herself, but the slump of her shoulders was obvious.


“Now we have to watch for kobolds, liches, and trolls?” Lucy asked as she looked both ways down the tunnels anxiously.


“Who doesn’t like variety?” Torgin joked, trying to lighten his own mood and that of his sister, too.


With a crooked half smile Lucy answered, “Ale, yes. Enemies? Not so much.” She shrugged and chuckled, “I prefer a nice strong dark ale and a single weak enemy.”


“This way.” Torgin peered ahead into the semi-dark hallway that went on and on. The others followed quietly. Zyrina at the end of the line watched their rear.


“Here we go a wandering throughout the mines so black. And as we go, I love to sing, my rucksack on my back.” Lucy stopped for a minute to light her torch, then continued loudly, “Come on join in! Falderi faldera falderi falder ha ha ha!” Her chorus rang out and echoed down the tunnel.


“SSSHHHH!  Lucy, are you TRYING to get us killed?” Zyrina shushed her friend.


Lucy shot her an annoyed look, “How do you not know a single mining song at all?”


Then they heard movement ahead of them in the tunnels and Lucy looked stricken. Zyrina had her bow ready to shoot before anyone even blinked.


 “I’m sorry,” Lucy whispered as her brother withdrew his axe from its holster. “I was trying to lighten the mood, too.”


When Zyrina saw Torgin drop his weapon back into its holster and crouch down she still kept her arrow nocked and drawn, aimed just beyond Torgin’s left shoulder. Lucy couldn’t see why Torgin knelt, either. Then, snowy lynx paws wrapped around Torgin’s neck, and a fuzzy feline muzzle gave the side of his face a nuzzle.


“I told you to stay put,” Torgin spoke gruffly to the lynx who rubbed up against his leg after he stood up again.

“We have been gone a long while.” Lucy excused Kitty’s behaviour.


Phlebus immediately stopped casting the bolt of electric energy that he was preparing, and Zyrina dropped the point of her arrow before releasing the tension on the string. Kitty walked a few steps into the dark then came back to the group and gave Torgin a piercing look before she padded down the corridor again. She was confident that Torgin would follow her.


Torgin spoke over his shoulder as he started following the lynx into the gloom ahead of them.


“She knows where to go.”


“How does she know that?” Zyrina wanted to know.


Lucy shrugged.  “I don’t know, but Torgin hasn’t ever been wrong about what Kitty knows.”


Lucy kept in step a little distance behind Torgin, humming a tune quietly to herself while holding the torch high. Torgin had light enough to see where he walked without blinding him. Phlebus and Zyrina followed quietly. Kitty, of course did not need the light but stayed close enough ahead that Torgin could make out the white and black swish of her tail every now and then at the edges of the light cast ahead of him.


When Torgin stopped suddenly in the corridor so did everyone else. No one was daydreaming this time. There was an exit from the main corridor off to the right just at the edges of where the torch lit the darkness.


Torgin spoke quietly, “Kitty sat down and faced that opening. There must be something in that cavern, or she would have gone in there or past it.” Still whispering, he nodded toward the entrance to the cavern, “Be ready.”


It was a mid-size cavern, with dripping stalactites and stalagmites growing up from the floor to meet them around the room. Steaming pools of greenish mineral water collected in some of the hollows formed by the constant dripping. In the middle of the room there were several dead bodies on the ground around a small glowing lantern. But the most striking of the particulars was the large shimmering lich in the middle of the room who had just turned from its killing spree. 


Torgin drew his axe and took a deep breath. Zyrina stepped from the back of the group and worked her way up to beside Torgin. When they touched shoulders, it was time.


“AAAAAARRRRRRRRR!!!!!” Torgin’s shout as he sprung through the door caught the attention of the lich.


Next, Phlebus stepped through the doorway and spoke the final words for his fire ring spell. A large circle of flames shot up around the lich. The fire only burned Phlebus’s target; Torgin was untouched by the inferno. Torgin led off with a knockdown, pushing the lich right into the middle of Phlebus’s magical blaze.


Zyrina entered to see Torgen swing his axe to strike the liche. The reverberation stuck the lich in place. Her arrows soon followed. She knew that Phlebus’s spells would not be the most helpful in this fight; physical strikes were the most effective way to overcome this magical monster. Liches were powerful mages but if Torgin and Phlebus could hold the lich in place she could send arrow after arrow into the target.


 Phlebus’s spells were long and complicated. Every time he was interrupted, he had to begin at the beginning. Magic was not very effective against a powerful lich mage because of all the interruptions; but he was doing what he could to assist.


Zyrina was learning it was worth her effort to make sure that no one interrupted him while he was casting, and she took it upon herself to be his protector while he cast. It had taken him years to learn and to perfect these spells, but they were magnificent. She was proud of her friend; he had been only a handful of years out of childhood when they had parted. Now he had grown into a resourceful skilled mage. She grinned and went back to firing arrows one after the other.


With the lich now stuck in place, Phlebus was already deciding on his next spell as he felt the healing touch of Lucy nearby. Lucy was casting a spell that she called Soothing Rain. It would keep healing each of them for a short time while they fought, no matter where they went in the room. Plebus was speaking a spell that would create a fire elemental wisp. It would strengthen any of the fire spells he cast. Immediately after it materialized like a human sized flame beside him, he began another ring of fire.


Between them, Torgin and Phlebus kept the lich pinned in place. Zyrina kept firing arrow after arrow, even though it felt like she was assaulting thin air. Lucy helped everyone when she added some kind of boost to their health and movement speed with a song she was playing on her harp while interspersing faster healing spells to each of them individually. Her calls of “Asen-Reno” could be heard over and over again. It was this welcome surge of energy that helped Zyrina to stay focused when the lich started wearing away at her defenses. She fired arrow after arrow in piercing shots. The battle did not take long. Soon enough the lich was a crumpled heap of opaque gelatin at their feet and Torgin was nudging it with his foot to make sure it stayed dead. He dropped to kneel for a moment after making sure the thing was not coming back to life.


“Ancestors,” was all he would say when he stood and saw Zyrina’s questioning eyebrow.


“Are these dead the kobolds that ran off earlier? Or the ones who left before we arrived? Is the book on any of them?” Phlebus was already looking through the pockets and bags of the closest body.


“They aren’t all kobolds. Look. This one is an elf. High ranked mage by the look of it.” Zyrina showed the body she had just turned over onto its back that was laying on its own by one of the pools in a dark corner of the cave.


“Elves too?” Lucy’s eyes went round. “This is really too much.”


Phlebus called from the back of the room where he had gone to examine yet one more of the stone statues. “There is an elf back here with a letter in its pocket, too.  I can’t read the beginning of it. It’s smudged.”


“Listen to this!” he called out again, and began to read aloud, “‘…have my suspicions about the fidelity of that mage we discussed previously. You know the one, the quiet one. I can’t recall his name. He doesn’t seem to take the usual approach to any of our activities here in the temple and doesn’t allow anyone to say “because we always did it that way” as an acceptable answer to his queries about procedure. I’m not sure if you remember he grew up here. Captured as a baby from one of the villages we passed through a couple of decades ago.


The Southern Red Branch has been the only family he has known, and he has been a trial for us to raise. I still doubt the wisdom of keeping him here but bowed to the council’s request. After we realized he would not be a good volunteer for the procedure to bind him with a dragon, things deteriorated even further. You remember the reports of his protest when he found out we had used spiders from the southern caverns to conduct our early experiments? The protest signs? The petitions? Yes, well lately he has begun questioning the wisdom of casting spells using the assistance of the moon shards. Can you imagine?


It’s not like he asks many questions, I’ve barely heard him speak and not often above a whisper, but those questions stick with you. Like this one: “Does it hurt the dragon when we merge it with another being?” What a silly question!


Regardless of the cabal’s trials, I look forward to a visit with you. My best regards to your family, Nestor. I’m certain we will be out of this mine for Sequanna’s fest and can meet at…’” Dejectedly Phlebus concluded, “I can’t read any of the rest.”



Zyrina spoke up then, “This Kobold has a part of a letter, too. I don’t think kobolds wrote this, either. This bit is addressed to Nestor, the Southern Red Branch. Listen: ‘The liches definitely have the book. Several of our mages have gone to the room of casting to retrieve it from them. After they left, several kobolds came screeching past our hiding spot in this cavern then continued down the corridor, and up to the lich room. I think that the kobolds are trying to claim the book for themselves after having discovered its power when they came upon the experiment room.


It’s a good thing we were already leaving when the kobolds battled their way through the troll guards. I am certain they did not see us sneak out of the area while they were fighting. I am confident in the abilities of our mages to withstand a few kobold miners with weapons, but it didn’t seem needed.


We are hiding here until the book is returned to us or we are all lost trying to retrieve it. I realize its importance. I am certain it was left when we fled the room of casting yesterday during the lich attack. If we had not forgotten it, we would already have left the area.


The liches who attacked us are members of the Dougan family. It seems they have been trying to protect their family member, Merrik Dougan, who was one of our human subjects in the experiment. There were several clones of that human that failed but we used the original Merrik Dougan, and he lived through the transformation. There still are few more clone specimens in the vats for further experiments. We had finished with the experiments on animals as they were too stupid to try to control. I suppose all of that’s moot now. We have to leave. Liches have been attacking for months, but the attacks intensified yesterday when the kobolds became roused after discovering our trolls and experiment room. The liches are not in the mood to go back to their crypts.


Kobolds are attacking everything they find but they have left us alone so far in this cavern, but I don’t feel sa…’”


Zyrina looked up then. “Blood covers the rest of the page,” she finished.


Phlebus mused, “Do you think this Nestor is their boss?”


Torgin reasoned, “Regardless, I think some kobolds found these elves hiding here, killed them, and were plundering when the lich attacked them.”


“The mages are all elves!” Lucy shouted far too loudly in her excitement, “Does that mean the mages who had the book are all elves?”  No one moved for a moment taking in what must have happened in the room just before they arrived.


In the quiet of the gloom in the damp and sulphur smelling cavern, Kitty spoke up, “Mrroeow.”


Torgin’s chuckle filled the cavern before the others shushed him, but the silliness was a relief after their battle. They were soon all heaving with silent laughter each time that Kitty beckoned.


“Kitty.” Torgin looked to his pet. “What is it?”


Kitty left the room. Torgin followed.


“Come on, there are more of them,” he called over his shoulder.


Slowly the others regained their composure before turning to follow Torgin and Kitty from the cavern.


“I think Kitty knows more than we realize.” Lucy voiced what they all were thinking as they gathered up their bags.


“It’s a little spooky alright. Okay, get ready. There are bound to be more of those liches and elves, and maybe some kobolds too,” Zyrina reminded them, as if they had forgotten.


“And trolls, don’t forget them,” Lucy muttered.


“Right, kobolds, elves, liches, and trolls.” Phlebus grinned. “Your favourite.” He winked at Zyrina who smiled but did not laugh at Lucy’s fear.


It’s not easy moving through damp dark muddy tunnels far underground looking for liches, elves, trolls, and kobolds. Not easy and not fun. Not at all.


Torgin stood at a bend in the tunnel and grunted, “The path splits several ways. One of them rises. That’s the path to the liches. Hopefully, the magic book is still there. It needs to be taken from those elven mages. Listen, you can hear the sounds of battle now. Can you hear it?”


Then, shuddering with anticipation, he took his axe out of its holster before reaching down to just behind Kitty’s ears and gently scratching the lynx standing by his knee. “Thanks, Kitty.” She melted into the shadows of the tunnel before they moved further on.


Now, they completely gave up stealth. The ones ahead in the fight could not hear anything but the battle around them so it was a waste of time to try to hide any longer. After a short jog up a small incline and around a few bends, they entered what looked like an ancient room carved out of large blocks. There was light streaming from somewhere.


Phlebus was sure this was another of the ancient rooms that had been buried during The Fall, or perhaps later, from the Obsidian period. They were found buried through all of New Britannia. There were large stone statues of humans leaning on the hilts of their swords, with the tip on the ground in front of each of them in a line along each of the long walls. In the middle of the room about halfway down the length, was a raised plinth with a big dragon leg bone laid on top of it. Nearby was a moon shard shackled with big metal chains to the ground. All that was at the base of a set of steps that led up to a throne at the very back of the room.


Phlebus had no more time to contemplate the architecture. His spells were needed, and they took all his focus to cast. He took a moment to collect his thoughts, then something inside his head cleared and he knew that he had reached that part of him that could touch the magic there. This magic always took something from him, too; he knew that no magic was created without cost. Sometimes that cost was to his own body, like now. He continued to be more than willing to help his friends survive this battle, even if it meant a few changes for a few days.


The changes were not usually permanent, and his hair had never remained snow white; he regained its dark luster in a matter of hours. His skin always smoothed back out, and his bent back straightened from the arthritic creaks that took hold of him while he cast. Magic that affected a whole area of enemies was incredibly draining to continue to cast and took longer to recover from afterward too. This was the fourth battle of the day. Phlebus was beginning to look ancient and frail. He hoped he had enough stamina and focus for the battle ahead of him.


He felt the small pouch of vials Lucy had handed each of them earlier. ‘Take these when you have no power left and they will rejuvenate you,’ she had promised. He knew she was a competent potion maker and trusted that they would indeed revitalize him. She had also handed him some cold Demon Tea stored in a waterproof pouch. He never could figure out how she managed to always have exactly what he would need, but she did. Every time. He had sipped it quickly before entering the room.


Torgin paused to take stock of what they faced before finding his first target. There were at least two liches that Torgin could see near the doorway that were not engaged in battle inside the room with the kobolds. There were several figures farther in who were battling up a set of stairs. As quickly as he could he took two deep breaths and then plunged himself into the fray.


This time it was not just one single lich. It was mayhem. There were many liches, in battle with kobolds. Although the liches had killed most of the kobolds before they arrived there were still a few battling the liches, and now battling Torgin too.  Torgin hopped over a few of their bodies on his way through the battlefield.


The waves of attacks by liches seemed to go on for hours and by the end it was difficult for Torgin to even raise his axe without shaking with strain. He was half-heartedly swiping at the last kobold when Zyrina’s arrow pierced its chest, and it joined the others on the ground.


Zyrina was out of poisonous arrows and had used all her steel headed ones. She had been picking them out of the dead and reusing the ones that still had integrity in the last minutes of the battle. Over at the entrance to the room, Phlebus had been knocked completely out cold near the edge of the fighting, but his eyes were now fluttering open as Lucy tended to him. Even Lucy’s supplies of reagents were sadly and nearly depleted and they were all barely still standing from exhaustion.


When the room was finally silent, Torgin dropped to his knee again, followed this time by Zyrina. Lucy wove between the two of them, touching each and casting spells to speed their returning strength and health. She cleaned and patched superficial wounds as they recovered their breath. It had been a vicious fight. Yet here they were, still alive and with a sizable pile of defeated liches and kobolds on the marble floor all around the room.


“Well, you two are in fairly good shape, considering. Even Phlebus is coming around after that bonk on his head.” Lucy patted Phlebus gently on the back to reassure him as he pushed himself to a sitting position. “At least there weren’t any trolls.”


Torgin chuckled, “Indeed not.”

When Torgin and Zyrina could stand they began searching among the dead with Lucy. Zyrina kept her bow and remaining arrow in her hands and Torgin did not sheath his axe. They were not sure if there was going to be more fighting even as they knew they would have a difficult time surviving another attack. After a few minutes of silence, Phlebus was ready to speak.


“Did anyone see the book?”


Unanimously, around the chamber there was a headshaking among the others.


“There are elves among the fallen.” Zyrina reported as she bent over yet another body. “I don’t remember fighting any elves. They must have died before we arrived.”


“Well,” Lucy said quietly while exploring around up the stairs at the end of the room. “There is a chest up here.”


That woke them all up.


“Chest?” Phlebus repeated while jumping to his feet unsteadily.


He nimbly ran up the flight of stairs only to stop and stare with Lucy.


“Are you kidding me?” Lucy was looking down at the mostly empty chest hidden behind the large throne.


“The book isn’t here. There are a few wood scraps, a little bit of gold, and some old clothing.”


Phlebus began feeling around the chest to check for a secret compartment. Down on the floor of the room, Zyrina and Torgin continued to go through the pockets of the fallen.


“It’s not here.” Phlebus sounded disappointed after his thorough search of the chest. It was just a common chest.


“There is a note in this fellow’s pocket.” Zyrina pulled the folded parchment from the pocket of the dead elf in front of her. “It reads, ‘success or death.’


“This message says that too.” Lucy threw the crumpled paper back to the ground after taking it from one of the fallen elves.


 “I found something.” Torgin called out.


It was part of a letter that had obviously fallen out of someone’s pocket and been trampled in the battle. Most was not readable, but the message was clear.


“Listen to this! ‘Nestor, I write as we pack to leave. We will get that magic book back from the liches regardless to the cost of our lives. Kobolds are close behind us. I can hear them in the passages. We have abandoned the experiment room. There is nowhere left to hide in these caves. Spiders and liches have taken over. Kobolds are digging everywhere and will soon find all our secrets here. There are rumours of others sneaking about. They must be searching for the book of magic, too. Several more liches broke free of our controls and turned to stone right in front of us. It is now confirmed that when using this magic book that when we lose control of a subject that they turn at once to stone. We shall teleport once we have recovered the magic book from the liches at their lair. One more battle. Success or death.’


The rest of the page is torn and stained with gore.


“The Southern Red Branch got here first.” Then he spat. Such a small clue and so profound.


“Turned to stone?” Lucy was considering something. “Did he say that the subjects were turned to stone when they lost control of them?”


“Yes. That’s exactly what is written here. Apparently, those people in Jade Valley had been under control of these mages for some amount of time.” Phlebus bleakly pointed out. “Governor Hari is not going to like that at all.”


“Where are the Red Branch now?” Torgin asked quietly and grimly.



“Who is Nestor?” Lucy asked again.


“I don’t know Lucy, but I’m sure going to find out,” Torgin vowed.


“I’ll join you,” Phlebus pledged. “The governor will want to know more about the Southern Red Branch, as I’m sure will Lord British and Arabella. I don’t think they have suspected that the old obsidian magics are being revived right under our noses.”


Zyrina was searching for any sign or possible direction the Southern Red Branch had gone but there was nothing.


 “Teleport scrolls,” she frowned and sniffed. “We won’t find them now.”


Phlebus knew from experience that if Zyrina couldn’t find a residue that no track could be found. Teleport scrolls were the worst. After reading the words on a scroll, the reader is transported through space to a new location in Novia. The location is chosen new each time a scroll is read. Then the scroll disappears as well, in a puff of blue smoke. Completely untraceable. Zyrina hated them.


“Then there is no way to find out where they have gone.” Phlebus shook his head, “They won’t be back now that this secret enclave has been routed and they have the magic book. There are no further answers here.”


“Time to go make a report to Governor Hari?” Lucy asked hopefully.


Phlebus nodded.


“Just like that? It’s over?” Torgin looked disappointed, “I thought there would be more to it than that.” Then he kicked at the rock staircase with the toe of his boot.


“No, it’s not over,” Phlebus vowed. “Jade Valley may now be rid of this menace but I’m going to find out who is responsible. They can’t hide forever.” He thrust both his arms over his head in a salute of courage just as Zyrina got to her feet beside him.


Zyrina coughed, “Phlebus when was the last time you bathed?”


Phlebus looked startled then shrugged and laughed heartily. “Apparently after I have a bath, that is.”


There was a general chuckle around the group. After gazing around fondly at his friends as they gathered their things to find their way out of the mine, he could hear Torgin telling Lucy what it was he wanted to do topside. A meal and a hot tub sounded perfect to him, too. In that order.


 “Thank you, my friends. You have bravely fought with me to protect this town and valley. I have great respect for your skills and talents and the honour of fighting alongside each of you makes me very proud to call you friends. We were able to discover what was causing the trouble here in Jade Valley. Maybe even stopped it from happening again. But we don’t stop there. We seek justice for those who have suffered loss. With patience and wisdom, we may yet discover where the Southern Red Branch has fled. They may have gotten away this time, but our search continues.”


He thumped his fist for emphasis. “We know what signs to look for now. We have done what we set out to do even if the answer was far grimmer than we imagined it. The loss of Jon the Caretaker weighs heavily on my spirit as I’m sure it does on each of you.” They all were silent for a moment recalling finding Jon in the cavern across from the Trolls.


“The valley will know what happened to their family, friends, and their livestock. This day we will expose the Southern Red Branch. This day we chase them from this fair valley. They may go into hiding. We will wait. We are patient. That malevolence needs to be addressed. And we are more than up to the task. We shall prevail.” And he finished with a flourish of his hands that cast a boost of spirit to each of them seemingly unintentionally. The effects were obvious. The group seemed all to stand a little taller.


Lucy snorted.  “Did you practice that while we were fighting?” She winked at Phlebus. “That was a better speech than the one you gave when we were heading out to the unknown.”


Then she broke into a fit of laughter. It was infectious and soon the whole group was grinning. Even Zyrina lowered her bow then smiled.


After gathering up their belongings Torgin lead the group out. Turning left upon leaving the room of casting, he soon spotted Kitty waiting patiently at the exit to the main mining area. It was a long walk out of the mine to go tell the townsfolk that the mine was empty of kobolds.


“Did you think your first assignment was worth it?” Lucy inquired of Phlebus as they trudged back to the entrance of the mine.


“Yes.” He grinned. “Absolutely. It’s too bad we can’t follow the Red Branch anymore, but I’ll keep looking for them. I’m sure someone will want to know where they have gone.”


“I just want an ale and some sleep. I’ll even buy the first round.” She winked at Phlebus.


“That’s what I like to hear!” Torgin’s step took on a little more spring. “Come on, let’s get out of this place.”


“We’re done.” Zyrina sounded as if she were relieved that they were at the end of their adventure. For now.


May you all find the courage the truth and the love in your own lives, till next we find the magic.

Echoes From the Caverns

Echoes From the Caverns



February 1 2022

Black Rose Chronicles 14 – by Belladonna Rose – narrated by Asclepius


Making her way out of Kingsport she saw vast lands before her. From what she could hear in the conversations in the tavern there were several towns dotted around the massive island. Many boats were anchored on the shorelines and she could see smaller islands off in the distance. Turning around she saw massive groves of trees and even a swampy area along the coast. This should make for some interesting exploration. Right outside Kingsport proper there was a huge galleon ship. Assuming it only takes me back where she came from. Then a few strides away were a couple of smaller towns. Heading to the west along the coast she walked to the gate of one of those towns. This would be a good start. The sign at the gate said Silverston


As she walked across the bridge the center of the town looked pleasing. Central crafting area with all she needed to use. Vendors along the edges to buy what wares would be needed. Tavern that looked promising for a hot meal and drink. There were several row houses staggered along the walkways that seemed to be occupied and several along the river’s edge as well. Further back there was a most beautiful home she assumed was the mayor’s house. Fountains and other buildings dotted the area. For some reason as she took in the sights she felt at ease. A sort of peace fell over her. After a few moments a kind looking gentleman and another more regal figure appeared walking down the cobblestone pathway. They both looked up at the same time and saw Bella standing there looking about.

Gently she pulled her backpack from her shoulder and sat it at her feet as the two men approached. The one man smiled brightly and outstretched his hand.
“Welcome welcome to Silverston. My name is Andrew Silverston and this is my town. I see you have that look of a well travelled sort.” The other gentleman gave a slight cough and smile behind his hand.
“Thank you kind sir. Yes I have traveled quite a bit over the last month or so. Came all the way from Soltown.”
The more regal gentleman offered his hand and introduced himself. “Aye are you one the Outlanders that have arrived in Soltown. My name is Astor Cerberus.”
She looked the man up and down. His demeanour was casual and not offensive. “Yes Sir. I arrived from the sea by way of some vortex. I have lost my ship and crew along the way. I hope to one day find some of them if they survived.”
Both men shook their heads and then took her by the arms gently. The regal one hoisted her pack on his shoulder and they led her to the tavern.

“Let go into the tavern and have a pint while you tell us your tale.” Winking at Astor . “And we might tell you our tales as well. For we too are or once were Outlanders as well.”

She let them lead her to the tavern and for the first time since she had arrived in this strange land she felt safe and well met. This might just be a good place to set down roots as she had the feeling she would be here for a long while.

Sitting at the table with a pint of ale in hand. She regaled the men with her story. They both nodded often at the things she said . Once she was done they chimed in as well often repeating things she had said. They too had similar experiences . They talked about the area and what they had been doing for a what seemed like to them ages. They both agreed that for their troubles and adventuring they had amassed some wealth and established themselves
Clearing his throat Astor spoke up first.
” I have been all over the lands and currently live in Beran’s Reach. Its a nice place and I have many a friend there but I would like to settle in my own town for a change. Master Silverston here has gotten an itchy foot and wishes to travel so he has offered to
sell his fine village to me for a reasonable fee.” With that comment he winked at Andrew and they both chuckled.
“If you are of a mind to settle M’lady we or should I say Astor would love to have to take up residence here. “
Smiling at the gentlemen she nodded and from there they discussed the costs and such to gain a home in the town.

After a few more months of traveling about Hidden Vale she had gained the funds to purchase a plot of land. Small to start out with but was enough for her. With tools in hand she cleared the parcel and set about gathering the materials she would need to build her
first home. Tired, dirty and sore for most of the time she was pleased to have busy work to keep her mind occupied. Something other than rescuing folk and killing the evil in the lands. Although the latter part was always present. With the crafting tables in the middle of town it was easy to do what she needed. And her little spot by the river was just perfect for her.


Bella had met many a folk in Hidden Vale and even in the small town she now lived in. She helped others gain wood and stone to build their own homes. And as new travellers found their way into town she aided them as well. It was becoming quite a bustling town. So much that Astor decided to expand the town. And that is where Knight’s Watch came into existence. She was pleased with the name as it seemed fitting. The town sitting seaside faced outwards to the horizon and they could watch as ships came in and out when they happened to do so. A lot of trade ships were far and few between lately. Apparently, the unrest across the lands had caused problems on the water as much as on land. As they sat around the tavern one evening her and a few of her friends in the town decided they would work together to thwart the lands of the madness. They all agreed, and she formed a guild of her friends. They then became the Keepers of the Watch. Fitting name for sure. As the town grew so did the guild.

Standing on the docks one evening Astor was watching out across the waters. Bella approached and clapped him on the back.

“Master Cerberus. Tis a fine evening dont you think?”

Not turning to look her way he smiled and nodded

“Yes indeed.”

They stood there for a fine long time watching as the sunset on the horizon. Turning towards town he started telling her what he had planned for the town and asked if she would be interested in becoming a steward and helping out. Stopping she looked at him and smiled. Extended her hand and there they shook in agreement. First building was the Guild and Magistrate building by the stone bridge. Easily seen from the docks and the bridge. Here they would conduct their guild and town business. This pleased her very much.

Just outside the hall there were wagons that could ferry folk to neighboring towns like Kingsport and other smaller villages about. On the docks once shored up a bit and more stable there were also transport ships to some of the island towns around Hidden Vale.

Things were definitely looking up for Knights Watch.

So many new folk were coming into town Astor decided to place some Row houses along the dockside…..he called it a Promenade. He always like using fancy words. Here he hired vendors to sell the residents wares and also offered temporary housing for those who have yet the means to build their own homes. It was all working out for sure.

Standing high on one of the rises in the back of town Bella looked out over the sprawling landscape. Houses dotted the scene all about. Dirk Blackpool had claimed the land on the small island at the lake. Others had claimed spots within town. To make room for more homes in town Astor had built and elegant shogun crafting pavilion to hold all the crafting stations. It was wonderous to see when you walk through the clock tower from the docks and thriving Promenade. The vendors were often busy there now and it was nice to see more folk come to town and visit. With the boats and wagons commerce picked up a bit from Kingsport. Many adventurers found their way to Knight’s Watch. She smiled as she saw a ship come into the bay. One day she thought to herself. One day she will find her ship or better yet build another Black Rose and sail around this new land she had started calling home. She knew she would never make it back to where she came from. It weighed heavy on her heart that her family was still there, and she had no way to let them know she was alright. And there was no way for her to get back. Often, she missed the old lands, friends, and her family. But she was making new friends and her guildmates have become her new family. With that thought in mind she made her way down the path and back into the town. She had a task at hand and had strayed from it for long enough.

Echoes From the Caverns

Echoes From the Caverns

February 1 2022

The Stone Dragon Series – Bool 1, chapter 8


Read by Amber Raine

Chapter Eight. Of Dragons and Men.


Creeping quietly down the seemingly endless tunnel in the dim illumination from the main passageway above by feeling along the slimy walls with their hands took all the concentration that any of them had. No one wanted to be the one to stumble and make noise that could be heard below. They had doused their torches. At this point in the dark, going ever downward didn’t seem to be quite their brightest idea. Each step led closer to a battle that none of them wanted, especially not deep in a mine tunnel against trolls.


Dirt. That’s almost all anyone could smell. The grit of it got between their teeth and everyone could feel it choking them if they breathed too deeply. And it was dank. Shallow breathing was the only deterrent to feeling as if they had taken in a pail full of wet dirt. Dirty and dank. Oh, and dark. Especially the dark. Their torches left with the packs in the tunnel above.


Zyrina shuddered. The unknown dark brought old memories of the world she had escaped and new fears of the dark places she had encountered in this world and she didn’t have difficulty breathing shallowly. She held on until the images from the past finished flashing into her consciousness. Those old experiences might help her keep alert to danger, but they were not this dark passageway heading toward trolls and she needed to stay focused on what was right in front of her. Even if she couldn’t see it.


She had avoided trolls since that incident in the mountains years ago and was not looking forward to repeating the experience even though she was a far better shot with her arrows than she had been when she first arrived. The tunnel went on and on. Just as she was going to call everyone back and try a different tunnel, she could sense the ground underneath level out. The others had gathered in a huddle ahead, whispering.


“There’s a cave. I can smell trolls.” Torgin whispered hoarsely.


“Torgin, you go in first, and get their attention. Zyrina will follow,” Phlebus nodded at her as she joined the group. “I will be right behind Zyrina and Lucy can follow me.” He lit a small spark of light into the palm of his hand with a quickly spoken magic phrase then paused to look around the anxious faces. “Alright?”








There was a troll just inside the cave entrance that threw great boulders which wobbled the ground. It swung a massive axe over its head and struck at Torgin over and over missing by a hair’s breadth as he ducked and rolled away from the blows each time. Torgin indeed had its full attention. He led it on a merry chase near the entrance, teasing it even as he did so.


“Come on, you big lout!”


Zyrina peppered it with her arrows as soon as she emerged from the dark tunnel into the dimly lit cave and could see her target. She too danced in a circle following Torgin while he baited the troll. Phlebus stepped just inside the entrance and began reciting a spell while the power of his words manifests as a ball of energy between his outstretched hands. Lucy crouched near Phlebus, chanting the words to spells of healing that were directed to Torgin and Zyrina, wrapping them in a protective continuous healing warmth. Then without warning, Torgin’s voice changed from teasing to an order.




Not understanding Torgin’s order was for her benefit, Zyrina didn’t jump and soon found herself frozen in place by a stunning strike the troll managed to land that affected everyone who was in touch with the ground. Afterward, when she unfroze, it took nearly a half a minute for her to regain control over herself again. Her entire body had been rigid while she fought to free herself. When she finally did, she shook her head to clear it before stepping back a few paces trying to get out of range. She saw both Lucy and Phlebus also regain their own control after being stunned and they began casting again, as their spells had been interrupted by the stun.


“Jump!” Torgin called out again.


Zyrina jumped just as the troll’s blow hit the ground again. This time she did not get stunned and from that point forward listened carefully for Torgin’s voice among the clashing and bashing of axe and hammer. Meanwhile she continued to pepper the troll with shot after shot of arrows tipped in the poison of spiders.


Just as the troll they were fighting seemed to weaken and buckle, another one came into sight. Then there were two more and the group was fully engaged in new fights even as the first troll fell. These were all small trolls, thankfully. Zyrina had seen a full grown one before and could tell the difference in the trolls’ strength and size from a full grown one, even in the gloom of the caves. Regardless of their size, each of these small trolls could easily snap any one of their spines in a second if they were caught and were utterly trying to do just that. She saw Torgin take a blow that would have killed her. The troll threw him across the cave, and he lay still for a moment while she shouted and got the trolls attention, before Zyrina saw him jump up and run back into the fray.


Lucy was fully occupied casting spell after healing spell to keep both Torgin and Zyrina alive during the onslaught. Phlebus had managed casting without interruption long enough between jumps to create a fire ring on the floor of the cave that Torgin led the trolls into time and time again. The fire ring did not affect Torgin at all, but the trolls were not having as much success in the ring. The fire there seemed to melt them, and they dropped like snowmen in a lava pit.


“I didn’t know you could do that,” Lucy looked over at Phlebus who was breathing heavily and sweating from his effort.


He nodded but didn’t speak.


“More! Back here.”


Zyrina’s shouted warning came in time for Phlebus to cast and release yet another burning ring of fire for Torgin and Zyrina to lead the three trolls into with their teasing dance, arrows, and axe blows. One of these was a full-grown troll. It was twice the size of the others and twice as difficult to kill but it moved slower and somehow Zyrina and Torgin managed to stay out of the grasp of the unexpectedly agile smaller trolls and avoid the larger and more deadly one. This time the struggle went on far longer than any of them had thought they could manage to fight and yet they did not break or come to more harm than Lucy could swiftly dissipate with her healing magic. In the end there were five very dead trolls in the cave and four sweaty and exhausted humans catching their breath.


“Well, that was FUN!” Torgin looked rejuvenated after their efforts, and grinned from ear to ear, still swung his axe just for the pleasure of hearing the swish as it arched through the air.


Phlebus sank to the ground horrified and exhausted by the fighting. His experiences with causing death had been mostly academic in the last decade, and before that most of the killing had been done by Zyrina with her bow and arrows. Being directly responsible for the death of another being, even one as dangerous and vile as a troll took a toll on Phlebus.


After checking everyone carefully for injuries and healing the last of the superficial wounds from the clash, while Zyrina and Torgin were occupied in claiming treasures from the dead trolls’ vest pockets, Lucy lit her torch and wandered around the edges of the cave until she discovered a smaller cave tucked behind a rock screen deep inside the massive cave where they had fought the trolls.


“Hey, I think I found the room Jon was mentioning in his last testament.”


It was a small cave indeed and crammed with all sorts of things for experimentation. Near the entrance was a prison cell which held only a human skeleton. Throughout the room were several vats of humans suspended in some sort of fluid. No one could make out if they were sleeping or dead. An operating table was to the right with knives, saws, books and various potions lay displayed there. Near the back, on a large desk with a fancy Obsidian style chair with its jutting lines and uncomfortable seat, were stacks of journals and papers. Something fluttered by and Zyrina ducked automatically.


“Bats,” she muttered to herself, “of course there are bats.”


Once inside, Zyrina stared back at the entrance to the bigger cave, with her bow drawn. She was convinced they were not safe backed into this small area after that fierce battle. Were there more trolls? Were they coming? The others could go look through the books, and papers to find out what this place was used for. She was going to guard the doorway.


Torgin found himself staring at the bones of someone in a prison cell on a cot and the discarded skin of a young green dragon on the floor. He didn’t know what it meant but it gave him a pain in the pit of his stomach that made him want to harm whoever had been experimenting and torturing living beings here in this dark dank cave.


 Lucy moved around the room reading the papers and experiment books, trying to make sense of what was obviously some sort of lab. On a worktable, Lucy found and read aloud the record of the latest experiment.


“Oh, listen,” she recited, “…’The creation of a human dragon, out of the young dragon hatched from one of the viable northern Drachenfald eggs procured for the cabal and Merrik Dougan, the human subject’.”


“What?” Torgin looked shaken.


Lucy continued, “’…We have failed to produce a dragon with a controllable human mind and all we managed was a human with a dragon mind. The human dragon, who calls himself Merrik Dragon, refuses to follow the simplest instructions and is far too independent of a thinker to become any sort of tool we can use in the Southern Branch. We have no control over him. The experiment is a failure. Even the Dougan family Lichs didn’t recognize him any longer; when they attacked, he was no help to us at all.’


Torgin’s skin whitened as he heard what had been done to Merrik. Torgin who was still examining the dragon skin spoke, “So…. This skin and that skeleton are the leftovers from combining the human and the dragon? Isn’t Merrik Dougan the owner’s son of the inn upstairs?”


After nodding, Phlebus took over, reading out of a journal he had picked up while listening to Lucy.


 “’…The human retained its dragon memories and its human ones too. After several experiments, the dragon/human continues to insist on being called Merrik Dragon. He has no memory of how he came to be. The matter is out of our hands now as he escaped months ago. The Dougan family lichs rose up and attacked us shortly after the experiments on Merrik began and he fled in the confusion.’


Phlebus thoughtfully added, “the Dougan family lichs apparently took exception to their family member, Merrik Dougan being used in an experiment. I’m betting that’s why they rose up from the crypts in the first place.”


Lucy took over with another entry.


 “Listen to this: ’Yesterday, while we were in the room of magical casting trying to revive that old dragon leg bone we took from the Jade Valley Graveyard into an undead version of itself, we were attacked again, viciously.’


She quoted, “’The lichs attacked without warning, disrupting our magical spell today and they took over the room of conjuring. We were forced back here to the room of experimentation. We have hired trolls to guard the outer cave and to protect our work from those lichs attacking here again, as we were barely able to survive their first attack. The trolls don’t seem to care who they kill, and it has been a struggle even to get in and out of our own room here.’


Phlebus read, “’However, while displacing us from the room of casting, they have stolen the tome of magic we were using, and we go to retrieve it from the lich stronghold in our room of casting. We need that book to complete our work and do not want Nestor to know we have lost control here.’


“And now lichs have some old magic book?” Zyrina summed up, not having taken her eyes off the entrance to the room they were exploring.


Lucy was still reading and started to summarize what she was finding, “There is another notation here from a Red Branch mage that says lichs have attacked and stolen the tome containing the secret Obsidian Magic Spells they had been using. Another dragon had been summoned to try to link with another ‘volunteer human’ but the link broke when the lichs burst in and killed everyone and took over the room of casting where the magic book lay beside the dragon bone.”


She looked up at Zyrina, “Do you think that’s the dragon we faced at the graveyard last night?”


“Considering the timing, I’d say yes.” Zyrina still didn’t look away from the door. It was as if she didn’t trust the trolls that they had defeated to stay dead. “I want to know where that room of casting is located.”


“As do I.” Phlebus agreed as he scanned the journals on the desk for more information.


Lucy went on from her readings, “’There were few survivors from the lich attack. Those of us left are desperate to recover the tome because the spell to summon a dragon from bone of a dead one had been successful; the dragon bone had been forming and its completion only thwarted by yesterday’s attack of angry lichs, and theft of the magic tome containing the spell. We are determined to recover the tome and I write just before we leave to get it, and our room of casting back from them.’


“There are no directions to the location of the lich stronghold except to say, ‘further into the tunnels’, which doesn’t help us much.” Phlebus muttered.


“We’ve got to recover that spell book before the Southern Red Branch take it back from the lichs.” Lucy was firm and she was determined. In her eyes, enough innocent living beings had been lost to these experiments.


Zyrina nodded. So did Torgin and Phlebus. Lucy continued to collect samples of mushrooms she had found growing near the dark edges of the small cave.


Phlebus took some time to review everything they had learned so that everything was clear in his mind before he spoke again. “So, as far as I understand, the Dougan ancestors, now lichs themselves, seemed to have risen when Merrik Dougan, their direct descendant, was experimented upon a few months ago. And that’s when they killed all the visitors to the mine, as well as attacking these mages from the Southern Red Branch.”


“Yes, that’s right,” Zyrina nodded. “The lichs attacked everyone, even Merrik, after he was changed because they no longer recognized him as their own blood.”


“Then,” Phlebus took up the thread of events again, “Lichs attacked again and interrupted a magic casting and stole the magic book that the Southern Red Branch mages had been using to recreate Obsidian spells as well as claiming the room referred to as the room of casting.”


Torgin spoke then, “The lichs were protecting their family the only way they knew how, by keeping the Tome of Magic from anyone. They’re not likely to hand it over to us either.”


“How did the trolls get here?” Phlebus didn’t want to ask but he needed to know.


Lucy added after straightening up from her labours, “I read a scroll over there that discussed that. These trolls were brought to the cave by the elven mages themselves, from some other stronghold of theirs. It wasn’t named. They were brought to guard the entrance to the experiment room after the first lich attack some months previous.”


It all seemed to make sense to Phlebus now, but he was still unclear why anyone had turned to stone. There was a far deeper mystery here than he suspected but was beginning to understand that the magic book was central to all the horror.


“Who is Nestor?” Torgin brought up a point the others had nearly overlooked.


Lucy and Zyrina both shrugged.


“I don’t know yet Torgin, but The Southern Red Branch mages need to be chased away from Jade Valley regardless of who they report to. I’m betting whatever is affecting the animals and people in this valley is directly related to them being here.” He repeated, “We are going to have to take the book from them and take back these tunnels and rooms for the Dougan family.” Phlebus was grim but decided.


“Let’s go.” Torgin seemed eager to leave the room. He was still staring at the dragon skin and the skeleton of Merrik Dougan and didn’t seem to be able to shake the horror from his eyes. He could not fight this kind of evil and he felt helpless in the face of what had happened here. There was nothing he could do to change anything, and he was not used to the feelings of a helpless bystander in any situation. It shook him to the core of his beliefs.


“It sounds like the mages are just ahead of us, if they have indeed left to reclaim the room of casting, so beware. We might come upon the mages in the tunnel or worse, lichs.” Zyrina continued, “And we don’t know where this lich holdout is, but it has to be down these tunnels somewhere.”


“Remember that map on the bulletin board when we first arrived down here in the mines?” Phlebus reminded them. “There was a chamber discovered that was marked along that main passage we had been in before coming down here. It’s to the left near the end that we have not yet come to. Maybe we can start there?”


Everyone was in agreement. With that, Torgin led the tired group back up through the long dark dank tunnel to the main corridor far above this horror, turning to the left when he reached the passage.

Echoes From the Caverns

Echoes From the Caverns


January 11 2022

The Stone Dragon Series – Book 1, Chapter 7


Read by Chatull Aventari

Chapter Seven. Of Nine.


Near the tunnel that led to Kobold Quarters and the Mining Office was a crate of soaked torches.  Zyrina lit one by striking her flint with steel, then passed it to Phlebus and lit another for Lucy to carry. She notched her bow and saw Torgin unlatch his war axe and take it in hand. From this point Phlebus led into the darkness of the shaft before them. Torgin followed Phlebus with his axe at the ready and Zyrina covered the back of the group, following Lucy.


After some time Phlebus whispered, “The Kobold quarters should be somewhere along here and to the left at the first fork we find, if the bulletin board is to be believed.”


He sounded unsure as he peered into the dark past the flickering of Phlebus’s torch.


“Why are you whispering?” Lucy whispered.


Torgin shushed her, “Shh. No talking.”


Lucy shrugged her shoulders and peered past the flickering light of her own torch and into the glow of light that Phlebus’s torch threw onto the walls of the passage ahead. Whatever the torches had been dipped in before the wax wafted by now and then, and it was not pleasant but preferable to the stench of kobolds. It was hard to miss. It took her much of her willpower not to wretch from the smell of them.


To distract herself, she began to search the tunnel for something interesting. It had been dug tall enough to walk upright; even Torgin ahead of her didn’t have to crouch and there was plenty of room above her head. She was relieved not to have to worry about hitting her head. She saw Torgin duck a few times but not as many times as she would expect in a tunnel dug by kobolds.


Lucy asked herself why the kobold had dug such tall tunnels for themselves then remembered not to ask anyone out loud just in time. Kobolds are not much different size than humans. There must be a reason the tunnels were tall and even thought she could not work out why they were, Lucy was thankful that she didn’t have to watch for things to bump into her head.


There were small rocks loose underfoot, too, and she stumbled once or twice on them before getting her footing.


“You alright?” Zryina whispered into Lucy’s ear while touching her arm.


Lucy nodded her head and gave a grateful smile over her shoulder. It was a matte black in the tunnel and she was thankful for her new friend’s presence here in the dark, guarding the rear. Feeling her touch made Lucy feel less alone in the dark. Even so, her torch lit the way well enough for her to make out spiders on the walls and ceiling who silently scurried out of sight. The tunnel was free from webbing and even though the sight of spiders did alarm Lucy, she knew they were far from being the biggest danger. The thought of liches wandering in the tunnels turned Lucy’s blood cold and she shivered. She could feel bumps forming on her arms and her hair stiffen on the back of her neck.


Those ancestors of the Dougan family who had risen in the form of liches were not to be taken lightly. They had already killed. As Phlebus had told them all earlier at the inn after he read aloud from one of the books borrowed from the Hall of Enquiry “The original Dougan in that family became a Dread Lord from the earliest records of the family line.” Dread Lords who decided to become liches were more powerful than anything Lucy ever wanted to face. They were the monsters in tales for children to frighten them out of dangerous places. “Beware the lich” was a common warning from mothers to their children where Lucy grew up. She shuddered a little as she walked on in silence.


After an eternity walking into the dark, they halted just outside of what looked like an entrance to a room, a round one. The dirt tunnel connected to a small rectangular doorway into the room, and it looked like the circular chamber inside was considerably older than the tunnel that led to it. It must have been built before The Fall in order for it to have been buried so deep underground. The marble room was empty except for four thrones at the opposite side, set facing the doorway.


“This is the kobold quarters,” Phlebus sounded relieved. “We should find some answers here.”


And with that he strode into the room confident the answers were just ahead. Farther back in the line Lucy heard muffled shouts as she waited her turn to get through the door after Torgin. The attack began without warning.


“Look out Lucy!” Torgin’s shouted warning came in the nick of time too.


Lucy didn’t see the several kobolds in the room until she ducked through the door. Upon hearing Torgin’s warning she quickly sidestepped behind one of the pillars that made a circle around the room and pressed herself against the smooth carved stone. There was a circle of pillars just inside the room supporting an open gallery circling the room.  Kobolds were everywhere. These were not miners who attacked, at least not miners that Lucy had ever encountered before. One of the kobolds cast a spell that attempted to drain her reserves of focus. She could feel the tug on her energy reserves straining to leave her breast, but before the kobold spell found its mark, she countered with a shield of air thrown haphazardly around herself in a bright bubble. At the same time arrows started raining down from the gallery above.


The archers could not reach her behind the pillar and all the warriors were concerned with Torgin’s swinging axe. With a few moments to herself she began casting a spell that would help heal her friends using the moisture she could gather from the room. Soon a small shower blew through the room and fresh healing rain fell on each of their heads as they defended themselves from the kobold’s onslaught. As soon as that was established, she began gathering her focus again and to chant slowly. She started with Torgin and sent him a healing grace that would continue to heal him for almost half a minute then began recasting it to target each of her friends with the boost.


Torgin didn’t hesitate and within the blink of an eye had swung his axe around in a circle knocking down the nearest of the kobold warriors. The kobolds all turned to attack this massive whirling slicing danger. They began circling Torgin and concentrating their attack on him. Or what soon became their defence from him. Their superior numbers may have been more effective on a less experienced warrior but this time Torgin beat them back one by one, pounding the ground around him with his foot to send a ripple of force that damaged all the enemies around him. He could feel his sister’s healing spells strengthening him even as he dodged the blows from his attackers. Behind him lay a swath of mangled bodies as he moved around the room swinging, stomping, and shouting. A few escaped to the tunnels before anyone realized they were fleeing but most of the attackers were cut down by the fury of Torgin’s attack.


 Moving silently and gracefully following Torgin around the room, Zyrina had concentrated on picking off the archers above whose arrows pestered Torgin as he fought. She shot with precise strikes as she darted out from behind the pillars to release her arrows then just as quick, she would dash back to safety behind the marble columns as she circled the room. Her aim was exact and soon the gallery above no longer sent arrows down toward Torgin. Phlebus caught a glimpse of Zyrina as she sprinted up the staircase with her bow at the ready. He assumed she was going to check for lurkers above.


Phlebus still stood just inside the entry behind another of the pillars near Lucy. He continued mouthing the words of power for various spells using the air around him to both weaken the attackers and strike them down, even when the ground trembled from Torgin’s pounding.


Though he was within range, Phlebus only swayed a little with the wave of energy that passed through him. He was not stunned nor frozen. His lightning could be seen, smelled, and heard as it rippled between attackers chaining them together for a blast of damage over and over. Electricity’s familiar sweet, pungent aroma wafted by, but did not unsettle him. He concentrated on attacking and disrupting the mages who were healing and protecting the others, and his spells did just that. With Torgin and Zyrina’s physical attacks and Phlebus’s psychic attacks the entire fight took barely a quarter of an hour.


Catching his breath once the skirmish finished, Torgin took a moment to look around the room as he came out of his battle trance. Roaring loudly with his head thrown back, he stood in the center of the room surrounded by dead Kobolds. Lucy and Phlebus were near the entry looking as if they had both been drained of some of their life force. Meanwhile Zyrina was still silently creeping around the gallery to see if any kobolds were hidden and after a thorough search, she flushed out just one other archer, who she dispatched without delay.


“What the Titans was that about?” Torgin wiped his face and spat out then began to clean some of the blood from his axe by wiping in on the clothing of one of the fallen. “What kind of miners are these anyway?”


“Is everyone alright?” Lucy interrupted Torgin to ask anxiously as soon as the fighting stopped.


There were nods all around the group. She could see a few cuts and scrapes, but no one had an arrow to remove or any gashes that required her immediate attention. Breathing a sigh of relief, she took a closer look at the fallen.


“What was that?” Phlebus wanted to know, too. “Did they think we were liches?”


“I don’t think so,” Lucy answered him as she inspected the bodies closest to her. “These aren’t miners. Look at their clothing, their weapons. These are warriors, mages, archers. This isn’t just a few, what are they doing here?”


Zyrina stood at the top of the staircase, “Better come up here, I found the mining office.” She called down to the others.


There were two sets of stairs that each circled the outside wall on opposite sides of the room and led up to the gallery. Up the stairs and inside the Dougan Family Silver Mining Office, which had a small arched entrance, everyone followed Zyrina in. She went to the farthest end of the room and began going through the cupboard. Phlebus went straight for the large wooden desk. In among the papers and debris there he spotted a note that had meaning. It had been left with other papers and things in the mess on the desktop.


“Listen,” he called out then read out loud to the others;


 Dis note is for yer eyes only Jon.

            We found something. Was deep down under. We tunnel deep. Deeper than before.

            You go see. You find out. Go left and left to get to the place. Go down. You see.

                Others know I been passing info to you. I do not think we meet again, Jon.

They coming to kill us all.  They come from below. In deep tunnel. Go left, you will see.

                                [Here there is a large splatter of fresh blood                                                                                                   and the rest of the note is illegible.]

                        You been good friend,



While Phlebus had been searching the desk, Torgin had been looking around the office. There were large samples of different kinds of stone blocks in one part; some of them were stones he had never seen before. It almost seemed like the stone was aware of him. It spooked him enough to move away to another area. He found the supply depot in another corner, and looked instead at supplies for mining; shovels, axes, and pails. But the most chilling thing in the room was a stone statue of a kobold with an expression of terror on its face.  Torgin could not ignore it for long and found himself facing the statue for a long time before he spoke.


“Looks like he didn’t make it out.” Torgin patted the shoulder of the statue. “No wonder they attacked us without warning. They were already under attack from something else, all right.”


“Where’s Jon?” Lucy asked looking around.


“Not here,” Phlebus confirmed. “I wonder if he made it to his meeting before these kobolds were attacked or if he even saw this message.”


“Do you think Jon might have gone to find the something the kobolds found?”


“Yes, I do.” Phlebus spoke quietly. “And even if he didn’t, we are going to go find it ourselves. There is something down there that we need to see. We better be ready, there are probably more kobolds around, I saw several run out of the room while we were fighting.”


“And whatever attacked them is probably still around as well.” Zyrina added.


“Oh, great.” Lucy was packing up her herbs after having tended the last of the injuries while the others searched the room. “What now?”


Phlebus looked up again from the note he was rereading.


Zyrina grinned, “I think we go see what the kobolds found and dug up. Let’s see what spooked them so bad that they attacked us on sight.”


Phlebus nodded. “Yes. Exactly.”


Now rested, they each gathered their packs and bags which they had dropped at the entrance to the mining office. They filed out of the office and down the staircases, through the rotunda stepping over and around the bodies there. Zyrina bent and collected as many of her arrows as she could gather as they moved through the bodies and into the tunnel once again.


Lucy gathered the torches that had been flung when the fighting started and relit them from a torch on the wall. She handed Plebus one and kept one. Phlebus once again led the way with Torgin close behind. Lucy followed and Zyrina again guarded the rear as they moved quietly through the long passage. They found themselves far more alert than they had been while traipsing into the kobold quarter.


This time the slow walk through the dark tunnel felt even longer than the last eternity. When they found the juncture where a tunnel on the left went down, there was also an opening on the opposite side of the tunnel into a large cavern. Lucy had a peek inside.


“Um. You better come in here,” she called out to the others.


Inside the large cavern among the effects of miners who had abandoned their gear, axes, picks, pails, and a wagon to haul out the large stones that lay cut and ready to haul, Lucy had spied a corpse. He was quite old and wrinkled. She knew it hadn’t been long since he died because his lantern was still lit and the ink by the tipped over inkpot beside him was not dried out.


“Do you think this is Jon?” she asked, pointing to the corpse.


“Dunno yet, Lucy.” Zyrina knelt down to see if there was anything to identify the dead man. She found a scrap of paper tucked under his arm. “He’s still warm.”


“Not dead long then.” Phlebus clarified.


“Yes, it is him,” she smoothed the paper and brought it closer to Lucy’s torch to read out loud to the others who gathered around the fallen man, “I think this is his writing, listen.”




Last statement of Me, Jon The Caretaker

It was a trap!!

The Mining Foreman told me they dug deep an’ found some kinda treasure but it was a lie!! What they found were TROLLS!!…there was something else down there too. A little room I din’t have time to explore in when I was running from them trolls.

I ‘scaped back to this ol’ hotspring but a small pack of kobolds came running at me an’ injured me something fierce. They have went on full revolt now.

 I leave anything I gots to Owain Byrd, my ol’ drinkin’ buddy.

they are coming….. I am too beaten and broken to continue…



“Well, I suspect he hasn’t been here all that long. It looks like he was just ahead of us.” Phlebus’s voice sounded sad and disappointed. “I wish we had gotten here in time to help him. I sure would have liked to know what he knew.”


“Phlebus, that’s callous.” Lucy scolded him.


“Ah, my apology Lucy. I wasn’t thinking of his family or friends, only my need. You are right.”


Torgin knelt a moment then spoke, “We are going down the tunnel, aren’t we?”


Phlebus nodded in the gloom but they all knew the answer.


“I wonder what’s in that room that Jon didn’t get to explore. Maybe that’s where the treasure is?” Zyrina speculated.


“I don’t know if it is treasure, Rina. It might be something else completely. The kobolds didn’t seem to know.”


Zyrina nodded and turned to leave.


“Hang on a minute,” Phlebus called out. He got himself ready to face yet another battle. “Trolls take some time to prepare for, don’t you think?”


Zyrina grinned, “Na, we have faced worse than a troll or two,” and she laughed. “Torgin’s digestion, for one.”


Laughing, Lucy clapped Torgin on the back, “There have been a few surprises already, like that sketchy meal at that inn just south of Midland. Remember? But trolls aren’t the worst thing in the world, especially with Torgin along.”


Torgin and Zyrina joined in the laughter and Phlebus broke down and joined in as well. It felt good to release some of the tension of the last few hours.


Lucy of course, had spread out a blanket and had a picnic set upon it by the time they finished laughing. “We aren’t going to battle trolls on an empty stomach.” She was firm and directed them all to the small wash basin she had set up for them, as well.


“How do you do that Lucy?” Zyrina wanted to know, choosing a sandwich.


“Practice.” Was all Lucy would say about that. “Eat. Eat! Eat!!”


Lucy was right, of course. They had no idea how much time had passed, and their hunger had built up. The sandwiches and fruit were a welcome break. It didn’t take long. Within moments of the last bit of remains of their picnic cleaned up and the basin packed again, Phlebus and the others were ready to carry on down the tunnel that they now knew ended in a battle with trolls, and possibly more kobolds if any had survived.

Echoes From the Caverns

Echoes From the Caverns

January 3 2022

The Stone Dragon Series – Book 1, Chapter 6


Chapter Six. Dear Jon.

Read by Asclepius


Early in the morning after packing their bags for the day, three of the companions sat around dainty maple tables in their inn sipping hot beverages and enjoying their breakfasts. Crisp blue skies in the early autumn light bolstered Lucy, Zyrina, and Phlebus who had spent much the night tossing and turning. Torgin slept like a log. The cook had outdone himself this morning. Phlebus was nowhere to be seen.


The chef delivered yet another platter (this time cut fruit) to the table, smiling at Zyrina as he did so.


“He’s sweet on ya,” Lucy mumbled between mouthfuls of the most delicious egg dish she had ever tasted.


“I think you exaggerate, Lucy.” Zyrina sipped at her mug of hot spiced tea and nibbled the fresh morning roll she had slathered with local honey.


“Would splain the personal delivery of our meals by the chef.” Torgin reasoned as he chewed his third round of sausage with fried sweet onions. He winked at Zyrina.


“Perhaps it’s Torgin who the cook prefers.” Zyrina argued.


Torgin’s booming laugh nearly drowned out Plebus who had heard the last bit of banter and he walked in the front door of the inn.


“Leave Rina alone, you both know he’s a happily married man. Don’t start rumours.” Phlebus was not smiling. “We’ve got to think about repercussions to the chef.”


“What’s got your goat, Phle?” Torgin wanted to know, not in the least circumspect.


“I met with Jon earlier this morning down by the dock where he was booking the transport into one of the ships of several stone statues that had been removed from the mine. The statues are being sent to the schools of learning around New Brittania to try and find an antidote to the magic used.”


Phlebus stopped to thank the server and take a sip of the tea he had just been given. “Jon is just as elusive as Ivan has been, but he has agreed to talk with all of us this afternoon at the Raven the Dragon and the Stewpot about what he knows and saw that night.”


He added, “After he went back to work, I wanted to get some more information about the history of the valley. I just came from the Hall of Enquiry and Learning. The librarian didn’t have many records. Her collection methods are sporadic and not very well organized but what she has was helpful. She’s an Outlander too. Her memory is long but has gaps and she only has things that she has collected in her own travels. Certainly not a full history of the valley, even. She has no recollection of when that dragon was slain as it was before she came to the valley, but she had a record of most of the keepers of the dragon bones, back over a hundred years. Jenny was listed as the very last one.”


“Why did they stop having a keeper of the bones?” Lucy asked perplexed then added, “Why did they have a keeper of the bones?”


Phlebus set his empty teacup down and helped himself to a plate with a large colourful omelet and some toasted bread. He tucked into the plate with gusto while Torgin filled his teacup from the pot.


Between bites he explained “Let’s see, at first it was to make sure no one took the dragon bones. People being people, they wanted souvenirs of the battle. After the dragon meat was divvied up between the people of Jade Valley, the keeper kept the bones from being taken from where they fell. That way, everyone could come see the size of it and remember how much damage it did before it was finally killed. The dragon skeleton was mentioned in one of the first records as a trophy from one of the many valiant deeds of Calan Caitlin. He slew the dragon all by himself a hundred years ago or so. Dragons have been seen flying over the valley ever since. Sometimes they attack, and that is why the valley has lookout towers surrounding it. I’m sure you’ve noticed them.”


Zyrina acknowledged, “I had wondered when I saw the towers.”


Lucy and Torgin nodded in respect for the warrior who killed the dragon.


Then, Lucy asked, “Do you think the stone dragon in the middle of the markets has anything to do with what is happening here?”


“I don’t think so, Lucy.” Phlebus shook his head then considered it for a moment before going on, “I don’t know. Maybe, but we have no information on that statue, it could be just a statue. Next time I’m at the Hall of Learning I will ask about it, too.”


“Sometimes a statue is just a statue.” Torgin added but he too started thinking about the massive stone dragon in the middle of the markets.


“And sometimes a stone is a dragon.” Lucy was not willing to give up so easily and stuck her tongue out at her brother.


Before the pair broke into a more serious argument Phlebus went on, “The keeper of the bones was tasked with preserving the skeleton so that everyone could see it, and also so thieves didn’t run off with bits of it. Shortly after it was killed rumours about it coming alive in the dark started circulating. So, the keeper was tasked with watching the bones for any strange behaviour. By the time Ivan’s granny Jenny was keeper, hardly no one remembered the story of the dragon fight and several bones had been dragged away over the decades.”


Phlebus looked over at Lucy to add, “Maybe the missing bones affect the spell and that might be why it didn’t finish forming last night. Anyway, the council decided that when Jenny died, they would not reassign the Keeper of the Bones. So, she was the last official with that title. However, her family kept up the tradition informally, and Ivan is the current Keeper of the Bones. They stop thieves. Mostly the rumours of attacks at night do the job for them and no bones have gone missing from the skeleton for at least a couple decades.”


Seeing Zyrina’s eyebrows go up, Phlebus turned to her and addressed the question he was sure she was going to ask. “She had no record of when bones went missing.” Plebus stated, “None of the Keepers have tried dispelling those rumours; they help to keep thieves at bay.”


Zyrina grunted acknowledgement to the answer for her unspoken question.


“Did you find anything out about whether or not dragon bones have come alive before?” Lucy asked.


Nodding, Phlebus answered “Lily Byrd said there were rumours, but no one would admit to going to the graveyard after dark and that’s supposed to be the only time it has occurred. Though some folks talk if they think no one will know who they are so she had a list of some of those dates when people were rumoured to have turned to stone in the past. It’s in her draft notes for a book she’s compiling called the folk tales of the valley series. Compelling work. She has noticed the stone statues have been appearing in the area for nearly 3 decades. This is not new here, but it has never been this frequent in the past, that anyone can remember.”


Zyrina raised her eyebrows, “The librarian is a fount of information, I see. I’ll have to take time to chat with her again myself before we leave Jade Valley.”


“First, it’s time to go find Jon again and hear what he has to say on the subject.” Torgin grunted, then he argued, “If those dragon bones have something to do with turning people to stone and it’s getting more frequent, we are going to have to find the cause.”


            “Right. Meet back here in an hour and we will head over, alright?” Phlebus made the decision they were all waiting for.


            Zyrina hurried over to the vendors to fetch the few things Lucy asked her to find, and a few things she wanted for her own pack. Jade Valley market was bustling that morning and the cries of dock workers, vendors, seabirds, and children playing gave a sense of contentment and safety to the morning that none of the companions shared. Looking around, Zyrina was heartened to see the signs of humanity carrying on even with such a burden of sadness and loss in the community. She had noted this morning that more stone statues had been found and were moved to the side of the docks, for future transport after the bustle of the markets slowed. Zyrina had watched the process the morning before as well. The sounds of commerce and village life lay like a thin protection for the peace of mind of these villagers. She knew that like her, they could smell the fires still dotted the countryside and could just faintly catch a whiff of the carcasses burning in pits just outside the town itself. She stopped to ask at the guild house for directions to the Raven the Dragon and the Stewpot before returning to the River Rider Inn.


“Follow the road north, then round the bend, you’ll come to it soon ‘nuff.” Jeeves confirmed, pointed past the inn where she was staying. “Frojenta Lane.”


“Thank you, Jeeves.” Zyrina left for her inn to meet the others.


After gathering outside their accommodation to organize their bags, the companions shouldered their packs and headed north along the road. It was only a short walk after all and as the fresh sea air picked up speed it soon blew away the burning smells from the morning pits. Then at midday, as they rounded a bend in the dirt path, something delicious spiced the air. They followed the scent all the way to the Raven the Dragon and the Stewpot at the next corner. The restaurant was on the main floor of what looked like a four-story wooden inn with a lovely front porch just meant for resting on.


“Hallo!! Anybody here?” Torgin’s voice boomed out in the silence inside the Stewpot.


There was a piano in one corner and what looked to be a pipe organ along another wall.  The bar looked sort of clean, mostly well-stocked, and there was a distinct odor of dragon stew simmering somewhere in a kitchen that made their mouths water. There were tables and long benches for travellers to use scattered throughout the room as well as a few small wood round tables with chairs, and stools at the bar.


“I smell the dragon and the stewpot, but I don’t see a raven,” Torgin spoke tongue in cheek.


Lucy giggled at her brothers attempt at a joke. “Tis too early for that, brother. Ravens don’t show themselves to strangers.”


Finally, the back door opened, and a lovely young woman came through carrying a keg over her shoulder as if it were a feather pillow. In her other hand she held a pamphlet called the Sticky Beak Flyer and was engrossed in her reading as she walked. She didn’t look strong enough to pick up a heavy cloak let alone a keg but there she was doing it right in front of them, one armed with a full keg. After setting it nonchalantly on the counter she continued to read, her nose nearly touching the page.


“Is your name Raven?” Torgin asked while dodging the elbow to his ribs from his giggling sister.


            The sound of Torgins’s voice cut through her reading and gave the barmaid a start. She dropped her pamphlet, then became flustered.


“I did not see you zere,” she stammered. “H H Hello zere an’ welcome to ze Raven ze Dragon and ze Stewpot. I am called Liz, Henry’s daughter.” She indicated over her shoulder at the figure sweeping the back door stoop, “What can I bring you?”


“Ale, stew and bread, with thanks.” Torgin took a step toward her as she started pulling the ale they requested from a spout on the open keg behind the counter into a large pewter jug and asked, “Is Ivan’s Uncle Jon around somewhere?”


“Jon? Old Jon?” She asked while keeping a careful eye on the stream of ale. “Zee caretaker down ze mine?”


“Yes.” Torgin nodded. “He was going to meet us.”


“Well, ee’s usually around the Stewpot every day ‘bout this time, but I’ve not seen ‘im since early zis mornin’ talking with your frien’ zere.” She indicated Phlebus with a nod of her head. “I bet trouble down the mine, has caused thees delay. Zis is usually ze delay zat keeps ‘im from comin’ for ‘is soup.” She bustled around them setting down two jugs of ale and a basket of sliced bread. “If you ask me zere’s somezing amiss zere. Ee told me zee kobolds were on zee verge of rioting over somezing zey dug up. Ee had a meetin’ with zee minin’ boss zis mornin’.”


“What do you think it is?” Lucy asked while setting her pile of bags on the floor near the table. When she finished, she started filling mugs from the fresh pitcher of ale Liz had set on the table.


As she walked to their chosen table with the large pitcher of ale and several mugs she shrugged, “I dunno. Eet has been a long while since zee tours shut down so I doubt it’s more killing or disappearing. An’ zen Merrik Dougan went missing a couple months ago, too. Zere ’as been search crews looking for ‘im in ze tunnels.”


“Who is Merrik Dougan?” Zyrina asked after thanking Lucy for her mugful.


“That would be Elaine’s son. I believe she has daughters too. Jenny’s friend married into the Dougan family of Frojenta Lane.” Phlebus answered the question before the barmaid could.


“That’s right.” Liz nodded. “Ee’s usually around the place causing trouble with ‘is friends and making stew with ‘is sister.” She went on sadly, “Today we had to do it without ‘im again. ‘ee is not zee same since returning to us.”


Phlebus grinned at her and turned to ask, “If Old Jon is down in the mine how do we find him?”


“Well, you may go into zee mine and find ‘im yourself. Zere’s only one way into ze mine after ze fire and cave in.” The barmaid indicated the small door at the back of the Inn, “Through zat way around ze back, an’ you will see a crypt for Charlotte tucked in by ze greenhouses there. Remember to watch your step in ze dark. We don’t want anyone else dying down zere. It’s too sad.”


“What fire?” Zyrina asked quickly.


“Is that Charlotte the spider?” Lucy asked before Liz could answer Zyrina’s question.


“Else?” Torgin inquired at the same time as Zyrina.


Liz stood with her hands on her hips at the side of the table and tried to answer all their questions, “Well, yes Jon can tell you all zis, but after ze cave in, there was a passageway that opened up between the crypt and the mine. The miners ‘ave been using zis entrance in ze crypt ever since zen. I don’t know when eet might be fixed.” She looked around conspiratorially, “I ‘eard zere are family spirits ‘ere in ze mines and zey have been attacking anyone zey come across. You aren’t goin’ to see me goin’ down ze crypt, no way, even eef Jon has sworn some sections are completely free of danger, like zee fishing grottos.”


“Fishing grottos in a family tomb?” Torgin was more and more confused but willing to believe almost anything about the area at this point. He chuckled.


“Well yes, ze mine has mostly dried up some time ago, an’ ze Dougans started givin’ mine tours and fishing tours in some of ze back damp caves where zeey didn’t find ore to mine. It kept the business going when zere was no more silver. Zat’s when zey built ze food court.” She started wiped the table next to them with a rag while continuing, “It was after all zat when ze cave in happened, it opened a passage to ze family crypt an’ some of ze ghosts killed many tourists.”


Liz stopped speaking when Lucy gasped, then nodded her head emphatically, she continued to explain, “Yes zis is true. That’s when ze family hired ze Kobolds to dig a new entrance to ze mine further away, and to fill in ze gap zat opens zee family crypt to ze mine itself. Zey are not finished yet.” She stopped scrubbing at the table to say, “Zat old mine entrance iz covered over by ee green’ouses now. You would never know zere had been a mine here if you didn’t ask me.” She paused before adding, “Zis hardly seems right, ze spirits wandering around a mine like zat.” Liz shuddered then shook her head and sighed with real loss. She added, “Inside, to find your way around, zere is an information booth just inside ze entrance wiz map on ze bulletin board to ze left. Eet will give you some guidance to find zee Food Court and the other areas of ze mine. Stay out of the ones marked danger and you will be fine.” She smiled unconvincingly, “Zat is where Jon usually does ‘is business, I believe, at ze food court counter.”


Both Zyrina and Lucy followed Liz into the kitchen and asked more questions about the history of the mine and the barmaid answered as she dished up their bowls of dragon stew. Torgin was sitting at the bar with the bowl that Liz had handed him before filling the rest of the bowls. Kitty was at his feet eating a bowl of dragon kibble that Liz had placed on the ground for her. Torgin and Kitty were both shovelling food as fast as they could and weren’t paying any attention to the talk around them.


Still at the long table, Phlebus took out a parchment and ink from one of his packs. With quill in hand, he swiftly scrawled a couple of letters:


Damieth Nara, Lycaeum Center of Learning, Brittany, Novia

Sir, stopping whoever is controlling the dragon bones from continuing with their plan to use magic of the ancient Obsidians in this manner is moving forward. I believe we have a solid lead to follow here finally.

            You have my full report sent earlier today.

            We have not discovered the source of the magic yet but have decided to question a witness of one of the times that this magic was used.

            We go to interview him today inside a mine that people have been disappearing from regularly and also getting killed in as well. I know we are getting close to finding an answer, I can feel the magic afterglow strongly here. I will write again when I have some more concrete knowledge and not just rumours.

             This dragon, whether or not under the control of mages using Obsidian magic, will destroy the whole valley (not just the farm animals) if we can’t stop it from fully forming. I have not yet found the shard that you suspect is involved.                                                                                                                                             

With respect, Phlebus

And one other:


Trida Moonwalker, Lycaeum Center of Learning, Brittany, Novia

Ma’am, my group have discovered that there may be some Obsidian shard magic in use here in Jade Valley.  I spoke privately with the caretaker of a local mine who is quite concerned with the Kobold miners who are skittish at best working near humans but seem to be holding some secret back from him, also with unprovoked attacks by liches, and with the disappearance of residents and the subsequent reappearance as stone statues of themselves.

The governor was correct, there is some malign of spirit here. I can’t place the source yet, but we are getting closer. You have my report from last night. The dragon bones turning were not the first attempt at this magic. Turning Novians to stone with magic is not something I’ve heard about before. I don’t know the reason for that yet either. I am having several of the stones shipped to you. Please see if the magic that binds the is reversable. Are they truly lost?

I had a restless sleep and I’m sure the others did too. I left them at the inn early today to go search out more history at the Hall of Enquiry and Learning.

            Now we are meeting Jon and I will learn more about what he suspects, then report back. I don’t think Jon is as forthright as he could be about what he knows, but he does know something, and I’ll find out what. We are going to go ahead into the Dougan Family Crypt and Silver Mine where he is the caretaker. 

This magic uses shards. It smells different and feels different in the middle of my body somewhere. Greasy oily, and somehow warped in some way. I have informed Damieth Nara.

See if anyone at the library has heard of old magic being revived anywhere else in Novia using shards, and send what they find to me here, please, care of the inn.

With respect, Phlebus

PS you were right, travelling is harder than I remember from my youth.


“Will you take these to the mail for me?” Phlebus held out the sealed parchments and a few coins to Liz when she brought his stew over to him.


“Yes certainly, sir.” She placed the bowl of stew in front of him, then tucked the money into her apron pocket and took the empty pitchers off the table. “I’ll get zose papers after I’ve had a wash. No need to get gravy on your letters. Would you like more ale?”


“Yes, please.” Phlebus nodded.


Later after they’d eaten, she still seemed adamant about not going into the mine but did take the time to lead them over to the very strange entrance to a mine, the crypt.


Liz kissed each of them once on each cheek before sending them off, “Give Jon an ‘ello from me, an’ tell him ‘is seat is kept warm for ‘im when ee’s back topside.”


            This stone tomb which served as the entrance to the Dougan family Silver Mine on the south side of the Raven the Dragon and the Stewpot Inn was sandwiched between the inn and the inn’s full greenhouses. There were no indications that it was anything other than the resting place of Charlotte the Spider.


“Why on earth would they build a mine near a family crypt.” Torgin was still confused. “The ancestors would be disturbed by this activity, wouldn’t they?”


He was truly perplexed and barely understood the concept of keeping dead bodies in the first place, as the customs he was familiar with involved a pyre and flame for the dead, to help them on their way to the other side. But he was ready. His axe was out. The opening was a tight fit for him, but he wiggled through the lid after Zyrina followed Phlebus inside. Kitty leapt into to the crypt right behind him.


“Maybe they had no choice, maybe the ancestors wanted this.”  Zyrina shrugged while she reasoned while she studied the map on the bulletin board, “and that’s why the silver was discovered.” She had become accustomed to the various ways someone in Novia could fall into an entrance to some other location, and not all of them friendly or safe. Her first experience was looking too deeply into a beautiful old mirror that led to a night of battle she would not ever forget. By now this should seem normal, but it never did.


“Dead ancestors guiding the living to find silver?” Phlebus joined in. “That hardly seems likely. I thought she said digging the tunnels for that spider led to the discovery. That seems far more probable.”


“Where’s Lucy?” Zyrina asked Torgin.


“She was fixing something in her bag, she’ll find us soon enough.” Torgin indicated back over his shoulder to the exit. “Let’s get over to the food court and find Jon the Caretaker.”


Still outside the inn, Lucy had accidently dropped several packages of herbs out of a hole that spilled from one of her bulging small bags. She had been scooping up the small packets and then stuffing them back into a different bag, all the while enjoying peering through the windows of the full greenhouses nearby. When she finally looked up from her perusal of the plants there, she found her friends had gone into the crypt without her.


Fifteen minutes later Lucy was the last to catch up to the group. After a quick glance at the bulletin board to get her bearings, she jogged over to the food court and found the others arranged in comfortable positions around a wooden small table in the middle of a large room. She was a little out of breath when she scooted in.


She lifted a chair from a neighboring table, set it down and plopped into it. Then she looked around the mining cafeteria where they sat, as each of her companions stared quietly into their unknown futures while they waited. There was a story telling corner that had colourful cushions to sit on while listening to stories the miners told. Further along she could see a shop set up with mining souvenirs and clothing for sale, and a long wooden counter dividing the kitchen from the eating areas with many small table and chairs combinations where they sat now.


“Where’s Jon?” She asked looking around the empty room.


Phlebus gave Lucy a moment to compose herself before he began to speak. “He wasn’t here when we arrived, but there was part of a letter left on the bar.”


It began mid-sentence:


‘…the dead got up and started killing the tourists. Ain’t seen nothin like it afore that, Owain. The spirits of the Dougin Family got up outta their caskets and followed some kind of lich or sumptin inta the mines. They killed a bunch o’ people who were down for a tour too. Was carnage and took a long time to clean up and find em all without runnin’ inta one o’ them liches while doin’ it, too.

 They ain’t came back to their restin’ spots yet neither and that’s why the family crypt is still empty. Gotta round em up somehows and get em back into that family crypt. The family decided to close the mine to the public. That’s when Merrik disappeared again, you’ll remember him. Gone for months, he was.  That Kobold miner Or’tuk found him wandering round an old unused tunnel deeper than kobolds usually dig. He was gone for so long that the family was just thinkin’ on settin’ up a memorial.

They were all relieved ta ha’ Merrik back, though he’s not said much about wha’ happened to him and don’t seem to have memory of any part of his life before making his way out of the depths of the mine where he’d bin.  He ain’t the same neither. He bin changed by them tunnels doing who knows what to stay alive. We’d give up on seein him agin and then he popped right out of the mine like he were jus’ gone down this mornin’. Stinky though, smelled like an old dragon fart.’


            The page ended and there was no more writing on the back either. She looked up, confused.


            “We think he was partway through writing that” Phlebus explained holding up lemons found near the writings then he shrugged, “or possibly it’s disappearing ink. Can’t tell. Maybe both.” He held up 2 other blank pages that had been found with the partial letter to Owain.


            “There was this., too.” Zyrina handed Lucy the other paper they had found. “Look.”



Dis note for you only.

I gotta talk in your ear.

Come on over to the mining office in the Kobold Quarters.



Captain, Kobold Mining Company


            After reading she handed the letters back to Phlebus. Then Lucy took a moment to think about what she had read and finally asked, “What now? Still find Jon? Think he’s still over at the Kobold quarters mining office?”


“Yes,” Phlebus nodded several times, “whatever is going on down here we need to find Jon. There is far too much coincidence in the lich attacks here on the innocent right when stone statues and dead animals started becoming more common, let alone dragon skeletons coming alive.”


Phlebus found himself searching deeply into the faces of those dear to him around the table. He sought a connection with each of them. After he had their full attention, he smiled. It was time to give a rousing talk to inspire the group. Trida Moonwalker had warned him of this moment in any group’s adventure. They looked ragged and anxious.


He began, “We need to find a way to stop whoever is trying to form a dragon from those bones. You know this. We all know the dangers of a full-grown dragon attack upon a small village like this. Not one of us looked away when the mist dragon formed in the graveyard last night. You were all ready to battle and not one of you tried to flee.”


Wryly grinning he continued, “And I know you are each just as dedicated to finding answers as I am. Thank you, my friends, for that support.”


 “I know the townspeople are all preparing as best they can for whatever is facing them, but they have no way to fight something as overwhelming as magic that makes dragon bones fly or something that can turn villagers to stone.” Phlebus paused for a moment before going on.


He finished carefully, “We can only hope their preparations will keep them safe. Whomever is behind this must be stopped before they manage to succeed. I know none of us are looking for a battle, and I will do my best to avoid any further confrontation, let alone whatever else it is we are getting ourselves into here in this underground lair while we search for Jon the illusive Caretaker. There won’t be reinforcements. Let’s go.”


            No one moved.


Zyrina snorted “that was the WORST pep talk I’ve ever heard. We are alone. We might die. And we might fail. No one is coming to help us. Come on, say something a little more encouraging, won’t you?”


Phlebus looked at Torgin, who looked at Lucy. Phlebus turned to Lucy and raised his eyebrows as if to say, ‘your turn’. Lucy shifted, uncomfortable all of a sudden.


After clearing her throat, the quiet woman gathered her thoughts and then spoke clearly and with passion, “I see before me the smartest, strongest, most caring people that I know. With our combined skills we can manage anything we find. I am absolutely certain of it. There isn’t much reason to wait is there? I mean, we know why we do what we do, we are the best at what we do, and it’s time to go do it! We stand together. We do not flinch. We find the truth of the matter.” She finished with a grimace, “Let’s go stomp these liches!!”


Gracefully she rose from her chair to turn and point her sturdy arm out of the food court and across the mine’s entrance to where she had seen the Kobold Miner’s Quarters on the map earlier, before striding boldly out of the cafeteria.


Torgin muttered, “Get ‘em sis,” as he petted Kitty behind her ear.


“Oh!” Looking up into the silence after Lucy’s speech, Phlebus hastily collected his bags and stepped into the mining entrance behind Lucy. Then quickly out of the way of an empty mining cart that came barreling by on its track. The mining cart was a relic from the Public Tours the Silver Mine. It had been used to give to the locals and occasional outlander tours of the area before ghosts and liches started attacking everyone.


            “See? Now, THAT is a pep talk” Zyrina nodded finding herself raring to go tear into the unknown. She finished by saying to Torgin, “Sometimes action is the best pep talk of all. Let’s go find some answers,” and with that strode out behind Lucy and Phlebus.


Torgin bringing up the rear, hesitated only a short time. “Kitty stay here,” he quietly ordered before gathering his supplies back up and stepping out behind his group of friends. Kitty didn’t hesitate and made her way to the cushions on the floor of the reading corner. Circling once or twice, she had herself curled up in a comfortable napping spot within seconds. Torgin could hear her purring as he walked out of the room.


Directly across from where he stood was an entrance to the Kobold Quarter and mining office located somewhere down a dark tunnel behind a large wooden statue of a Kobold. It had a barrier that said keep out blocking the passage, but Lucy and the others had moved some of it out of the way by the time he caught up.

Echoes From the Caverns

Echoes From the Caverns


December 6 2021

The Stone Dragon series – Book 1, Chapter 5


Chapter Five. The Bones.

Read by Celith Wraine

            Down the slope a little from the farming area, just behind the tall white wooden clock tower in among the swaying trees stood a maze of an old graveyard. On closer inspection the graveyard was a series of graveyards, some of them crumbling with headstones that no longer were readable. The old headstones and pockmarked sarcophaguses lay scattered seemingly randomly in a maze of half destroyed stone fences and decaying stone buildings covered in moss and vines. Large trees now grew in and among the markers, sometimes thrusting up through the displaced stones of the destroyed buildings themselves. Passing the area earlier on their way to the windmill, none of the group had paid more than a passing glance at the old graveyard because they were all focused on the windmill and the large sky ship anchored above the town’s gardens.


Looking up at the clock Lucy exclaimed, “Four in the afternoon! We’re missing tea!” She grumbled a little, “I hate missing tea. It usually means I’m doing something that I don’t want to do, like going to a graveyard to look for a half-drunk storyteller to hear the end to a very frightening story that he heard decades ago and none of the story might have anything to do with our mission in the first place.”


Hot tea currently unavailable, she continued grumbling under her breath even as she rummaged through her bags and eventually pulled slightly squishy packages of leftover cheese and mostly fresh bread from her seemingly bottomless pack and a stoppered flask of cold tea.


“I was hoping to be back at the inn, but these will have to tide us over for now,” and she offered the food and drink to everyone.


The group sat under the shade of the clocktower to eat their food and everyone had a moment to have a good look at the graveyard where they were to find Ivan.


“I didn’t realize Jade Valley had been here quite long enough to have so many old graves.” Zyrina noted thoughtfully while she chewed the last of her bread slowly. “Some of these are hundreds of years old.”


Brushing the crumbs away she waited until everyone had finished eating to suggest, “Well let’s get started. He’s got to be here somewhere.” 


Phlebus started walking toward the nearest section to look for signs of Ivan or a gate with a skull but was easily distracted by reading the graves he passed. Zyrina followed him. Lucy was already distracted and excitedly digging up a plant that she found near one of the crumbled walls and Torgin left to start looking at the other end of the graveyard area.


Torgin was the first to spot the old graveyard with the skull on its gate. “Over here.” He stood near the road, waving.


As the others found their way over, Lucy stared at an old set of bones close to where Torgin waited. It looked like a massive dragon had died here some ages past. Torgin was beckoning the others to take a path that snaked from the road past the dragon bones.


“I remember passing these,” Lucy mumbled. “D’you think these are the bones that Jenny was the keeper of? Some are missing.” As she inspected the skeleton of the dragon she took stock of several missing rib bones.


She ran her hands along the massive row of ribs sticking out of the ground as she caught up with her brother. They felt warm to her touch. The sun must have warmed them, she thought to herself and nervously laughed a little.


“This way.” Torgin indicated a small overgrown stone path that led behind the dragon bones, right to a small, fenced graveyard. The metal skull gate was obvious, and the yard was surrounded by a rusting spiked metal fence and some kind of prickly hedge that appeared to be dead.


“I wonder why this part is fenced.” Lucy mused.


Phlebus peered around at the many graves that were not enclosed.


“Maybe these ones aren’t as old, Lucy.” He suggested, “it doesn’t look as decrepit as the rest of them.”


Zyrina had walked a little way away to get a closer look at a human sized stone shape nearby.


“Is that another of those stone statues, Rina?”


“Yes, it looks like it.” Zyrina shuddered a little.


The statues were so lifelike that Zyrina had a difficult time looking into their eyes. She wondered how long this one had stood in this spot, as some of its hat and edges of its cloak lay in bits and pieces at its feet.


“This one is older than the others, Phle.” Zyrina reported. “It’s beginning to crumble.”


Meanwhile, Torgin pushed the skull door open and led the way into the graveyard. Fading afternoon light cast long shadows on spiderwebs all around them. He prudently kept his dagger to hand in case the weaver of the web appeared. Lucy took a moment before following the others. Before she entered, she pulled a torch out of her pack and lit it with her flint and steel. The light cast was enough to keep from tripping on the grave markers or get caught in the strong spider webbing that could be seen throughout the area.


Just when they were sure they had missed Ivan, he coughed near the large spider covered fountain made of skulls carved into marble that filled the middle of the little graveyard and startled Lucy enough that she squeaked and jumped back causing a chain reaction of her companions wielding their weapons to protect her from whatever danger she had discovered.


“Spooked a little are ye Miss?” Ivan cackled delightedly at his joke but soon became somber again as he led them further into the shadowy maze. As they followed him, winding their way among the headstones, Ivan continued his story.


            “Granny crept after her friends into this part of the graveyard that night though she was full o’ fear o’ tha’ ol’ story she had heard whispered in the dark, and dread o’ tha’ terrifyin’ spider they was seeking for Elaine. Granny didn’t wanna be there because she had heard tales from her elders ‘bout th’ dragon bones comin’ live after dark and turnin’ livin’ humans to dead stone. 


She pleaded as they edged closer and closer, ‘Stop. Please. Let’s come back in the daytime. Strange things happen here after the sun sets. Those dragon bones might come alive. It hunts the valley after midnight for the gullible and mesmerizes you before it seals your fate in a covering of stone. There is no cure, no antidote.’ She pleaded, repeating the story her family had told her from when she were a young’un, but it didn’t have the effect she was hoping for.

            ‘That’s a tale to keep babies from wandering away from their homes. There ain’t anything scary ‘bout this place.’ Jon declared.

Even her little brother Jon wasn’t ‘fraid an’ his bravado made the others bold enough to scoff at Jenny’s story an’ her fears.

            Granny said the oldest of the group, Tristan, paused for a split second, looking slightly concerned but then caught Elaine watching him and he stuck out his chest and swore that he HAD to see the dragon bones that night. He, who was obviously showing off for Granny’s pretty friend, insisted they have a look at the old dragon bones after collecting the spider for Elaine and before they disperse for the night. He promised to leave with them after they all peeked.

Granny’s friend, Elaine, finagled Granny Jenny to stay to find tha’ spider and then she promised she would leave with Granny, and so would the others. There was no way Granny would leave her little brother or Elaine in the middle of the night in a graveyard and so she bravely decided to stay, too. Tristan turned to go find the spider before exploring the dragon bones and hesitant as they were, the rest were not about to be left behind.

            The kids looked for spiders among the old graves, finally finding just the one Elaine was searching for, a Ferocious Red Arachnid. She was elated, and after putting a collar on the fuzzy pet, named her spider Charlotte.

‘Good, let’s skedaddle.’ Granny Jenny sighed with relief.”


The story came to a sudden halt. By this point Ivan had led the group to the part of the graveyard with his Granny Jenny’s grave. Ivan stopped talking and laid a yellow flower at the base of his Granny’s headstone and then each of the companions had knelt and given a moment of silence and respect for Ivan’s Granny, too. Then Ivan led them back to the skull gate and continued his tale as he walked toward the dragon bones.


            “Somewhere along the way my Uncle Jon had picked up a stick and when all four had arrived at the head of the dragon skeleton, he heroically thrust his stick into the eye socket of the dragon’s skull proclaiming his victory over his foe. Then things changed and not in the way any of them would forget.”

Ivan indicated an area near the fence. “Granny stood in this very spot when the Dragon woke up and looked her straight in the eye with its glowing red eyes. She could feel the breeze as the dragon started to breath in and then the heat as it expelled hot billows of soot and ash from great glowing nostrils formed of shadow and mist. In the instant they were hidden from sight of those penetrating eyes, Granny instinctively reached out and took hold of Elaine and her brother on either side of her. Both had frozen in fear and she pulled them into tha’ small stone crypt over there just as the dragon drew another breath and spewed boiling foul gray smoke all around itself.” Here Ivan pointed to a still intact stone crypt nearby.

“The oldest boy did not jump out of the way. Tristan felt the mist before he saw it, and when the dragon’s eyes started glowing, he let go the hand of the pretty girl Elaine. He took a very deep breath, drew his sword, then sprang directly at the dragon, shouting as loud as he ever had and distracted it from his companions. He disappeared into the magnificent swirl just as Granny closed the crypt door behind herself.

            Granny, Uncle Jon, and Elaine with Charlotte tucked up in her cloak didn’t move till well into the next day when the light was strong and the normal sounds of birds calling out in the woods soothed their nerves. They emerged to find the dragon had reverted to dust and bones. In the defined horror of bright light, they could see that their brave friend had been turned to stone, caught in a pose as he attacked the dragon to save their lives, just like Granny’s elders’ story had predicted.

No one ever admitted what happened to the boy when officers of the realm came asking about his condition. Their questions eventually faded after years of looking for reasons with no answers. Jenny, Jon, and Elaine didn’t talk about it much, only enough to tell their families what had happened.  They din’t want ta forget why no one was to go in th’ graveyard after dark.

The spider Elaine found in the dark that night grew to a most unusual size and was so aggressive, tha’ it had to be taken down into the tunnels o’ the family crypt an’ kept away from regular folk. Elaine continued to love Charlotte until that spider passed years ago. Built a special sarcophagus for her an’ ever’thin’. Most o’ the family credits digging that spider’s grave with the discovery of silver all around their family crypt. Became quite famous for awhiles. Mining it all went on for many years.”


Ivan stopped there for another drink from his flask, and a quick nervous squint up at the darkened sky.


Then he went on, “My Granny Jenny an’ her best friend, Elaine, and my Uncle Jon all made it through that night. They had some kinda pact to not talk ‘bout the dragon and tha’s why I only heard tha’ story tha’ one time. It stuck wit me though, and that’s the truth.”


He thought a moment before adding, “Though, I bet my Great Uncle Jon could tell you more about that night now’s everyone else has died off, iff’n yer interested.” Raising his eyebrow he addressed Phlebus directly this time.


Phlebus nodded and Ivan went on again, “You’se can find him drinkin’ down at The Raven, The Dragon, an’ The Stew Pot down in the Valley. It’s over on Frojenta Lane north o’ th’ Jade Markets, near the Dougan family Silver Mine and Family crypt tha’ I was tellin’ you’se ‘bout. Ask anyone.”


Ivan takes another quick scan of the darkened sky and nervously adds, “I NEVER go ta the graveyard after dark an’ it’s getting’ dark. Anyhoo that’s the endin’. How Ivan’s granny saved the day and lost a friend.” And that was indeed the ending of Ivan’s’ tale. With a quick wave of his bottle he disappeared before anyone even blinked.


            Then, in the quiet of the early evening, our companions all heard a distinctive fiery snort and then felt more than saw the cold billowing mist begin to rise from the pile of bones right in front of them. It formed the outline of a dragon around the bones, solidifying as it gathered.


            Phlebus and Zyrina exchanged a look, and the other two did as well. Each quietly loosened the fastenings on their weapons and readied their various potions and lotions in preparation for whatever might be behind this new development. Even as a dark mist started seeping toward them, they moved into a protective formation around Lucy who was still fumbling with the bandages she had prepared earlier. They then moved as a single organism into the mist toward the moving dragon bones.


            Ahead, the pile of bones writhed slowly in the dark, forming itself into its full beauty and glory but the dragon was not yet breathing fire. It exhaled a thick black ash, cold and unnerving. The mist slowly became skin and muscle that covered the dragon bones as the form coiled around itself. Its slick orange scales glistened, and its eyes, its eyes GLOWED.

Arrows notched, swords brandished, spells cast, and the companions were as ready as they could be to battle this shadowy menace. Then just as they were ready to strike, the dragon just as suddenly as it had begun twisting, it abruptly stopped moving. The mist slowly dissipated, and the now re-exposed bones lay innocently along the roadway. The dragon’s eye sockets were as empty as the rest of the skeleton.


“What the Titans was that!!” Torgin was shaken more than he wanted to admit. He dropped his axe to his side but did not put it back in its holster. He searched the area for another attack.


“I don’t know, brother but it’s gone now. Time to leave before it comes back.” Lucy was firm. She turned to the little stone path and led the way back to the main roadway.


As they moved slowly away from the bones, not one of them turned their back on them until they were partly around the bend and down the hill and completely out of sight, even then each of them glanced back nervously from time to time.


“I’ve never seen a dragon do that before.” Zyrina kept her bow notched. She was unnerved and shaking.


Phlebus looked like he wanted to say something but just didn’t know how to start. “I I I’ve never even heard of a magic that could form a dragon from old bones.” He stammered. “I don’t want to say this because you are going to think I’m crazy but,” he took a breath before going on. “That seems like Obsidian magic from the age when they created Elves, Trolls, and Kobolds.”


“Come on, Phlebus,” Zyrina scoffed. “That magic’s been gone since before I arrived here; for centuries before.”


Lucy spoke up, “Phlebus I don’t think you are crazy. But what happened? Why didn’t it attack us? Where did it go?”


“Maybe something went wrong partway through spellcasting?” he offered.


It was the only thing he could think of. The sudden disappearance of the mist and the receding of the form reminded him of when he was learning and a spell would collapse half way through if he lost his concentration or if something moved in his sphere of awareness.


“What spellcasting? Did you see any spellcasters?” Torgin looked around as if he would spot one in the darkness as they walked down the hill toward town.


“Nope I didn’t see anyone else, except that dragon. Did you?”


Phlebus looked around the group but no one spoke up.


“They can’t have been very far away though, spells like that have a range, or so I’ve read. I’ve never seen one performed before. Unless…” Phlebus drifted off into thought.


“Will that dragon be back tonight?” Lucy nervously asked as she pulled yet another torch from her pack and lit it with the one that was dying. She swung it in a wide circle around the group as if protecting them with its light.


Shrugging Torgin looked to Phlebus for an answer, as did Lucy.


“I doubt it.” He shrugged.


It didn’t seem like making anyone more scared was the answer but Phlebus knew he had no idea if the dragon would return.  It was puzzling indeed. He wanted to find more information about the dragon in the graveyard, and about the boy who had been turned to stone.


“Unless what?” Zyrina was watching Phlebus who had been thinking.


He looked up, “What?”


“Unless what?” She repeated.


“Oh, nevermind, it’s not important.” Phlebus shrugged, appearing nonchalant. “Just a passing thought.” He smiled reassuringly.


Zyrina was not reassured, she knew that look. Phlebus had an idea but wasn’t ready to share it yet. She just hoped he would be ready before it was too late. She suspected he wanted to look something up in a book before spitting it out.


“I think I need to talk with Ivan’s Uncle Jon at The Raven, The Dragon, and The Stew Pot after a cup of hot tea, supper, and a good night’s rest tonight. There’s nothing we can do now except try to find out more information from the locals. Maybe somebody has seen this before or noticed mages around, or strangers.” Phlebus decided when the group reached the sanctuary of their inn a little while later. “There is shard magic being used here, and I need to find the source of it before there is more destruction and death.”


“Moonshard?” Lucy looked concerned. “Did moonshards fall around Jade Valley too? I thought they fell farther north?”


“Not that I have heard, Luce, but some shards are small enough to transport without too much trouble. I’m going to speak with that librarian again in the morning. She might know some of the history of the dragon bones and whether there are any shards in the valley.”


“So, the plan is to gossip with the locals, and see who knows something they want to share? I can do that.” Torgin was the first to offer with a grin as the prospect of supper and storytelling began to form in his mind.


“I’ll help.” Lucy offered as well.


Zyrina just nodded.


Phlebus pushed open the door and led the way to the crowded restaurant inside. The server suggested they go up to the roof and he would bring their supper up when it was ready. The rooftop pub was also full of people. Apparently, they were not the only ones who wanted to gossip about what the group had found on their first day of the inquiry. Torgin found an appreciative audience for his tale of their experiences in the graveyard. Many ales were foisted on the explorers to aid their storytelling. The gasps and cries of surprize let Phlebus know that the dragon hadn’t formed like this in anyone’s recent history. He burned to find out what was causing the magic and what the dragon would be used for.


By the time Torgin and Lucy were drunk and singing loudly around the piano with the bar maids, and Phlebus was engrossed in a conversation about wheat and barley with one of the locals, Zyrina slipped away to her bed. She had had enough excitement for now and needed some time alone to think about what she had seen. The locals in the pub laughed and called them babies from the city when Torgin told their tale and scoffed at the story telling as ‘tall tales’ but she could tell not one of them doubted what had happened for a minute.

Echoes From the Caverns

Echoes From the Caverns


November 27 2021

The Stone Dragon series – Book 1, Chapter 4


 Chapter Four. The story.

Read by Alleine Dragonfyre

            The winding dirt path up to the windmill and the community garden was indeed just behind Elnoth’s home and the companions soon found themselves climbing a steep slope, past Frojenta Lane.


            “So how long has it been since you’ve seen Phle?” Lucy asked Zyrina as they fell in step on the climb. Phlebus and Torgin forged ahead and continued their argument about whether covered wagons or air balloons were faster travel. “Where’d you meet?”


            Zyrina took a moment to answer. She half wanted to join the conversation on balloons or wagons and not talk about her friendship with Phle. Her opinion was firmly on the wagon as the most efficient form of land travel. Yet, reminiscing didn’t feel dangerous today, as they strolled in the afternoon sun. She had to really think about how long it had been since the last time she saw him in person.


“Let me think.” She stalled.


Lucy’s question had brought up long forgotten memories of herself as a young woman barely in her twenties who had been through an unexpected portal and transported to Novia from the Outlands. She was reminded of the intense fear she felt when she landed near Solace Bridge so many years ago. By Novian reckoning it had been almost a century ago.


            Trust had been hard for her, especially here in a completely different world than the one she came from. She didn’t take to strangers very well and spent most of the time alone in Novia. When she first arrived, someone called Edvard needed help for the survivors at the battle of Solace Bridge, and then he had sent her to on to Soltown and from there she made her way to Ardoris. She had never been able to protect herself but along the way she began to learn.


“Let’s see, I met him in Ardoris. At that time the city of love had been reeling because of the continued separation between Priestess Khasi and Shogun Suranto. There is still much unrest even in its once serene streets.”


Love,” Zyrina snorted and though to herself. She had spent a long period trying to sort out the cause of the friction between the Shogun and the Priestess and had concluded that love was more complicated than she could imagine.


After a pause to catch her breath Zyrina went on, “I was down at the Traveller’s Docks to meet someone and while I waited, I had been gossiping with one of the barmaids, Emma, just outside The Tavern of the Wind.


            In all the bustle of the dock a call of “Thief, Thief!” rang out and then someone came careening out of one of the alleys chased closely by a displeased merchant who caught up with them at the dock. Shouting at the young man all the while about respect and honour, I gathered that food had been stolen from the merchant. Eventually the merchant finished yelling and shaking the thief and tossed him into the canal just outside the tavern. Turning and continuing his loud tirade against thieves he left huffing and shouting at everyone he met.


It was obvious the thief couldn’t swim, and I couldn’t leave him to die so I fished the miscreant out of the canal. It was Phlebus. That was about fifteen years ago.”


            “Phlebus stealing?” Lucy looked shocked then slapped her thigh and laughed. “That explains so much.”


“Hmm, well that day we sat together in a small park while he dried. Then he was kind enough to offer to share his food and shelter. He had stolen a bun earlier and then some cheese just before I found him drowning. The cheese survived the dunking in the water. We ate that in a cozy spot under a bush just outside of Ardoris. Then we slept there. It wasn’t much. But it was enough.”


Phlebus and Zyrina had become inseparable from that moment on. He taught her how to pickpocket on the streets of Ardoris and she taught him how to read and how to swim. Over the six years they spent together in Novia before Phlebus went to school, they escaped many close calls with various city guards and various dubious encounters on the roads between cities. He had been her greatest and dearest friend through it all.


Zyrina continued, “It helps to have a travelling companion.” Nodding toward Torgin ahead on the path, Zyrina noted, “you know how it is. You’ve always had one. This world constantly surprises me. It is similar but not like the Outlands at all.”


“A companion? Torgin?” Lucy snorted, “my brother can be accused of many things, but he is not a man of much conversation and his value as a companion is limited.” Lucy may have understated the value she placed on her brother’s companionship, but she understood Zyrina’s point.


“Still, he was someone you shared your time with and who watched your back for you.” Zyrina argued her point.


Zyrina smiled, Phlebus had had her back in every fight they’d been in. She recalled one especially close call with an extremely obnoxious mountain troll. They had been tasked with taking one of his toenails to someone who would pay dearly for it. Phlebus and Zyrina found out why they were being paid so much when they discovered the mound of human skeleton bones the troll had piled beside his cave. They fought back-to-back in that one. It had taken all their skills combined to survive. She smiled wryly remembering the exhilaration of jumping off that high bridge into a waterfall during the dramatic escape and Phle right beside her on the way down. ‘I got it!’ he had shouted, holding up a filthy gnarled toenail when they both found themselves alive on the bank of the river far downstream from the trolls and their bridge.


“So, why’d you part ways?” Lucy probed partly stirring Zyrina out of her memories.


The sale of that toenail paid for Phlebus to attend the academy in Central Brittany. And he excelled. Once he got into the school there were scholarships and awards, too. Through the years, Zyrina proudly kept his messages to her describing the goings on at the castle library. There were not many letters, but she cherished each one, they were now tucked in a waxed cloth in the safety of her pack. She had missed his company and his inquisitive mind.


“Becoming a scholar was what Phlebus was meant for, certainly he needed to be near books in a way that I don’t.” Zyrina confessed after careful thought.


While Phlebus attended school, Zyrina found steady work with her bow. It kept her fed, and it kept her employed. There were many people in this land who needed help and would pay a bit of gold for the service she provided. Zyrina became a tracker, a guide, and in the end a bodyguard. It was a life she found satisfying. The last four months in the mines of Elysium was as settled as she had ever been in Novia.


“Hmmm. I think it’s about nine years.”


Lucy stopped walking suddenly, “The entire time he’s been in school?” Lucy was incredulous.


“Mmhmm. I didn’t realize so much time had passed until he wrote to me about this mission. All he said was that he needed my bow, and that the pay was going to be low. He didn’t tell me the nature of this mystery.”


Lucy snorted. After a few more steps she asked, “Why now? I mean after all this time, why did you decide now was the time to join him? He has asked for your company before this, I know he has.”


Zyrina looked over at Lucy’s kind face. She appeared to be extraordinarily protective of her friend Phlebus.


Zyrina admired the quality of loyalty and said gently, “Time passes differently for me and more time passed than I was aware of, and then it just became easier not to go visit because I’d been away for so long. He was the first Novian I became friends with, and I believe he knew I would come if he actually needed me, not Oh this is too hard, and I need you to come rescue me from here. I can’t live on my own.” Here she paused before adding as an afterthought, “I thought all Novians would be like him, but it turns out he is special. When he wrote asking for my support, I came as soon as I could.” She shrugged.


Lucy nodded enthusiastically. “He’s not as helpless as he appears though, is he?”


Zyrina laughed, “No. He’s very rarely helpless, but he wouldn’t survive on his own outside of a city anymore. He’s out of practise.”


“Phlebus talked about you occasionally in the first year. He admired you greatly, but less after you didn’t rescue him from himself. I half expected you to turn up in the city and claim him when he nearly bombed his first year at the academy, you know?”


Shrugging Zyrina confided, “I almost did but somebody wiser than me stopped me from going. They told me a tale just before I started out to collect him that made me see that Phlebus and I didn’t have the same path in life. If I had claimed him then, he would never have become who he is now.”


“It nearly broke him, you know?”


“Yeah, it nearly broke me too.”


Lucy stared with compassion. “It was awful. He was sure you would come.”


Zyrina walked in silence for a little while.


“So, I hear you are a healer. Do you use magic, too?” Zyrina changed the subject.


“Yes, sometimes, but I like to rely most often on the potions and lotions that support life. I find each of us reacts a little differently to magic and to potions, but with proper life supports we all heal at a greater rate. So, unless the injuries are acute, I use herbal skills and cooking to mend.”


“Where did your interest in plants start?”


“Where did your interest in tracking and archery start?” Lucy countered.


“Who says I’m interested in tracking and archery?” Zyrina tried to look innocent and pretended to trip over a root on the path.


They both laughed then.


Going first Lucy began, “I suppose it was my grandmother who got me interested in plants. We used to go picking herbs in the forest together and she would talk about how she would preserve each herb and what kinds of things the plants would help us with if we let them. She had a real affinity with life. I spent much of my youth helping her to care for the plants in her garden and spent a lot of time learning how to find rare ones in the other areas of the world from her. Then I learned to preserve her medicines. When I got a little older, I used to go with her to help people who needed her. She spent her life restoring her neighbours and community with her plants and healing touch until her death. I still miss her, especially when I’m sick. I went to Central Brittany to learn more about plants and on the way learned some healing magic spells as well. It was quite a surprise to find out I could heal people with magic as well as and sometimes better than with the plants alone.”


            Lucy had not meant to be quite so personal with her response to the question but Zyrina made it easy to trust her and just be honest about what she thought and believed. It was refreshing. She didn’t demand answers but waited until Lucy was ready to open up a little.


“Your grandmother must have been very proud of you.”


“Now you.” Lucy said looking over at Zyrina who was still mulling over what Lucy had said about having a grandmother healer.


“Well, I didn’t learn how to track or how to shoot a bow until I arrived in Novia.”


“That was what, a hundred years ago?” Lucy teased.


Zyrina snorted, “By Novian calendars, more or less.”


“Go on.”


“Sure. Well, Phlebus and I had been living on the streets of Ardoris until the guards made us move along. I think we might have been in a community up around Desolis, by the time that I shot my first short bow. Up till then I had been learning to use a pair of knives that Phlebus and I took off a Red Sash Bandit. Anyway, I picked up an elven bow off one of the creeps that Phle and I had to fight off one night when the creep tried to steal my blanket, and more if he could’ve gotten it.” Zyrina stopped talking for a moment.


She looked over at Lucy, “When I first arrived, I did pick up a bow, and I used it at close range on a few undead and skeletons but hadn’t really stuck with it and my aim was really bad. I sold it for food. I didn’t need it in the city, and I needed food to live. But in Desolis, it felt good to have another one in my hands.”


The deserts had been a fine learning arena, lots of space and few citizens to get in the way. The cacti and the small rabbits and birds of the desert became the first moving targets.


“Too much time on your hands?” Lucy wanted to know.


Zyrina shook her head to clear it a bit from the memory, “Yeah, absolutely. After picking up that bow, I spent my free time shooting at targets and then small desert animals that I could aim for. I lost most of my arrows back then.”


In their early days together, she and Phlebus spent much of their time searching for spent arrows in the sand near Desolace. After all this time she was still very frugal with arrows and didn’t waste an arrow if she could recover it.


Grinning she went on, “We ate much better after I learned to hit them. Squirrel and rabbits, birds, and then later fish. Yes, even fish. I didn’t like to miss because it usually meant we didn’t eat if I missed.” She looked somber as she recalled those hungry days.


“Tracking was something I learned as a child.” Then she suddenly stopped talking and started walking a little faster.


It was fast enough that speech was no longer possible for either of them.


“Where are you living these days?” Zyrina changed the subject again, after catching her breath again at the top, knowing only that after her first assignment that Lucy had left the city, same as Torgin.


“Do you know the Mistrendur at all?” Lucy inquired.


“A little, enough to know of the three main islands, and the serpent shape but I don’t know the history of the Mistrendur.”


Nodding Lucy declared, “not many do.”  She went on, “I live on the West Island, Slangeholle, where the tail of the serpent would be, up in the Grenfol mountain range in a cabin in the woods near a hamlet called Jade Mountain.”


“Huh? The Jade Empire stretches from Jade Valley all the way to the Mistrendur?” Zyrina seemed surprised. “I knew of an island in the Hidden Vale controlled by the Jade Empire, but I didn’t know about the Mistrendur. There are Jade Dragons everywhere it would seem.”


“There are two Jade communities up in the Mistrendur. Jade Garden is the other, on the middle island, the belly, Slangemagge. If you like Jade Valley, you would LOVE it there. Seriously, after this inquiry why don’t you come with me and I’ll show you around both Jade Empire towns. There is a balloon that takes us all the way there from Jade Valley.”


“I’ll think about that. I sure would like to see what could be prettier than this town right here right now.” Zyrina’s gaze swept back down to the crescent shaped harbour and busy markets below.


            “Yes, this harbour is stunning. The Jade Dragons seem to have a fair share of talented gardeners in their midst. I think the leader of that guild is even a Royal Gardener. We met him at the meeting, Governor Hari. They have four towns in their empire. I haven’t been to the one up in the Hidden Vale, Jade Island, but I still think Jade Valley is the prettiest.’


“Why live in Jade Mountain if you think Jade Valley is the prettiest?”


“I live in Jade Mountain because it feels like home to me.” Lucy added, “There are a few young people there that I like to keep an eye on, as well. Years ago, I promised another of the Outlanders that I would care for the orphans, they were children then. I am fond of them both.”


            Nodding while looking down at the seaside valley below, Zyrina spoke “This is stunning and quaint. I don’t think I’ll forget this town.”


            “There it is,” Torgin called out from the road ahead, pointing toward a large sky balloon.


            “That’s not a windmill, brother.” Lucy shouted back.


            “The windmill is near that balloon, remember?” Phlebus soothed with his map and papers pulled out and open before the twins started fighting about this, too.


            “It sure is windy enough up here for one.” Lucy found her breath stolen from the force of the gusts but managed to squeak out her comment regardless.


            And it was indeed windy where the windmill was found, among the barns, the gardens, and the sky ship moored above all. Ivan was outside of the windmill fiddling with a piece of machinery when we arrived.


            “Hello.” Zyrina called out. As she got closer she could still smell alcohol on him and now as well, the black greasy mess that he was currently spreading all over the bit of metal he held.


            “Are you drunk, Ivan?” She asked him straight out.


            “There youse all are!” He didn’t even look shocked at the question as he shook his head, “Not so much as I can’t fix this here gear here.” Ivan started laughing at his own joke.


            “Will you tell us the story, then?” Phlebus wanted to know without so much as a how do you do. “I can give you a hand with that,” he added rolling up his sleeves and picking up a wrench.


            “No, I’ve got it, thank’ee mightily.” Sighing and setting down the gear, Ivan picked up an old rag and began to clean his hands. “Well, surely I’ll tell it to you’se. Since you’ve come all this way n’ all.”


            He took a swig from a brown jug, he then offered it to the companions. They declined. Even Torgin.


Without another pause Ivan began as he continued to grease the metal piece he had picked up again, “When I was a youngun’ an’ my granny was still the gravedigger and keeper of the dragon bones here in the valley, a Bard from far away came to the village. It was worth granny’s wrath to stay up late tha’ night, hidden o’ course, to hear the stories and songs. When that old Bard…can’t recall his name anymore, Ningo? Jingo? Oh! Mingo, that’s it. He’s a Outlander, like you.”


He turned to look directly at Zyrina for the first time.


“What’s a keeper of the Dragon Bones?” Lucy wanted to know as Phlebus shushed her.


Ivan just stared at her for a moment, and then went on with his story without answering her question.


            “Well anyways, tha’ Bard stopped in for a bowl o’ granny’s pumpkin soup just after the leaves fell that autumn.”


“Just soz ya know, Bards were and still are the best source of news for young’uns and growups about gossip and battle and wars for a wide swath of the neighborin’ towns and villages on the island. Anyways, tha’ night after that there bard tol’ tha’ story bout the glory’us Calan Caitin fighting all alone against two massive trolls and a bunch o’ mages at the Battle of Upper Tears. Afterward when the growups had all settled down agin an’ granny had her whistle whetted, I heard the scariest tale you ever did hear.”


He paused here to take another drink from his jug and this time Torgin joined him.


“Mingo spoke up then, after accepting a large frothing mug and letting the crowd quiet down. ‘I’d like a moment to think of another, does anyone else have a tale to share to warm this dark night whilst I quench my thirst? Surely, Jenny will tell one? How bout that ol’ graveyard story, Jen?’


Granny grunted as she sat back down by the fire after addin’ another log and took a long pull from her pint of ale before beginnin’. Tha’ Bard nodded and smiled a little, to encourage her, like. He strummed his harp low and quiet so’s we could hear granny talk. It looked to me like he was settlin’ to listen. Or maybe he was anticipatin’ the fresh ale my Da’ was pouring for him.”


Ivan paused for another swig before going on. This time each of the companions had a swig from the jug in turn while Ivan continued.


            “…well anyway…so Granny she starts talkin’ low and quiet and tells o’ the black fog. The dark dank fog that rolled in the afternoon of her sixteenth birthday. After the cake and the singin’, an’ during a game o’ truth or dare. The one friend o’ hers, Elaine Dougan, had it in her to try an’ catch a big ol’ graveyard spider for a pet and so she dragged the 3 of ‘em along on the dare ta go ta the graveyard after dark with their school friend Tristan, Granny Jenny’s younger brother, my Uncle Jon and Granny Jenny. There were four of em, just like you four, huh. Interestin’. Anyway. Even if they looked scared, they were also mostly curious to see the graveyard after dark, too. Or maybe they just wanted to do something slightly dangerous to show off to their friends later. Anyhoo’, Granny and her pals went sneaking into the old ruins. Hmmm.” He giggled gleefully, “I gots an idee in my noggin’: Heya know what? Let’s go on down to the ruins and I’ll finish tellin’ yoz’ all the tale in the very spot my Granny said she…well…let’s not get tellin’ the tale out of order.”


He directed, “Meet me in the Skull Gate Graveyard yonder to th’ clock tower. Yeah, you prob’ly passed it on the way here. An’ meet me at my granny’s grave in the back corner when you is done yer restin’.”


            Ivan took a last swig off his pint and tucked it back under his arm then pointed west, toward the old graveyards. They turned as one to follow the line of his pointed finger.


            By the time they turned back he was gone. This time he disappeared quicker than any of the companions would have dreamed he could. They looked at each other and grinned.


“My my, what has granny gotten herself into?” Torgin mocked. He was now intrigued to find out what Ivan’s ol’ Granny Jenny had done but didn’t want to be the only one, so he ridiculed. “Graveyard? Bring it on!”


Lucy chortled and joined in, “What big ears you have grandmother.”


Torgin joined Lucy and the pair of them became incoherent with laughter. Recognizing the sarcasm and the nervousness of the unknown, Zyrina found herself grinning a little. She could see a little more of what drove Torgin, bravado and brains. In her experience those often were a lethal combination especially in group settings. Her eyes narrowed as she judged whether Torgin would be a liability during this adventure or an asset. She decided in the end that his quiet demeanor and skill with his axe offset any false bravado he might possess.


Ivan could not be more annoying, disappearing all the time just to tease them with more information. Zyrina wanted to know why Ivan was leading them to a graveyard instead of just meeting them there in the first place.


She was ready to go after Ivan until she realized that Lucy had wandered off and was petting one of the sheep in the nearby pens. While Torgin and Zyrina gathered Lucy back to the group, Phlebus had vanished into the windmill to have a look at the system of gears that turned the wind turbine. He was found halfway up the inside, sketching the design of cogs for further study. Finally, the companions were all ready to backtrack to the graveyard, and to find Ivan for a third time.

Echoes From the Caverns

Echoes From the Caverns

November 20 2021

The Stone Dragon Series – Book 1, Chapter 3


Chapter Three. Stew and a Brew.


            Phlebus woke early, as did Zyrina but the twins would not be roused. They slept the morning away.


After breaking her fast, Zyrina wandered the markets, talking with the locals, occasionally making a small purchase here and there. She saw Phlebus wander over and into the Hall of Learning again but did not follow him. She found a bench in the markets and took a seat to take in the warmth of the morning sun.


Finally, one of the old women of the village sat near her to rest a moment in the market before continuing.


“Morning to you.” Zyrina offered companionably.


“Mmmhmmm.” The wrinkled old woman leaned on her cane and peered over at Zyrina. “You are one of those strangers that’s here to find out what is happening to the valley, are you? What’s your name?”


“I am Zyrina, and yes I am an Outlander here with my friends to help.”


“That’s fine, I’ve met Outlanders before, some of them live here in this valley. Zyrina? Are you alone in this world?” she squinted over at Zyrina who was squirming a little at the thought of her personal life.


“No, ma’am. My family are in the lands I left.”


“Why are you here? What’s in it for you?” She didn’t hardly wait for Zyrina to take a breath between questions.


“Well, I’m helping a friend who needs help. Have you heard any of the old stories of the valley? When did this happen before?” Zyrina boldly asked back.


“Hummphffttt. Stories.” She looked over at some children running around their mother as she shopped in the early morning. “Stories are for children. You aren’t a child.”


For a moment Zyrina thought that was all she was going to say. She remained still for the longest time before going on, “Yes, I’ve heard the stories. You better speak with Matt when your friends wake up. He will tell it right.” She paused before adding, “Ask about Charlotte. He’ll know what that means.” She nodded to Zyrina and left with the young mother and her children as they moved further along the markets. Calmer now she walked with one child on each arm helping the old one to walk and both of them chattering away about everything in sight.


Zyrina mouthed Charlotte? Who’s Charlotte?


            It was nearing the midday and Zyrina could wait patiently no longer. She headed back to the River Rider Inn on the north side of the markets. It was time to rouse the sleeping giants but, in the end, when she arrived, they were both up, washed, fed, and were having a little sparring match in front of the Inn, much to the delight of the smattering of youngsters watching them. After declining to join the fun, she watched Phlebus as he hurried back from the library with several scrolls tucked under his arm.


            “Couldn’t resist finding more to read?” she teased him with a smile as he came into earshot.


            “I’ll just be a minute while I put these away.” He said as he disappeared down the stairs to the hotel below the inn.


            It was easy to find Elnoth’s. As their server had pointed out, it really was kitty-corner to the inn where they were staying. A short time later, after knocking on Elnoth’s large solid wooden door, the companions were admitted by a booming voice.




Once inside they could tell the voice was coming from up the staircase to the right of the large stone building.  It was a beautifully kept home. The owner had good taste in his furnishings and even had a piano in one of the rooms.


“Please, come in. I’m sorry I’m not at the door to greet you. May I announce you?”


Phlebus shouted up the stairs, “Elnoth the Viking Elf has invited us here, to his home so we may speak with Matt, his butler. My name is Phlebus of Midgard and I speak for my party.”


“Ah yes, I’ve been expecting you all morning.”


“Interesting means of communication from a butler.” Torgin whispered to Lucy.


Zyrina shushed the twins. Torgin grinned back.


“I am Matt. Please come up the stairs and straight ahead. I’m presently in the kitchen.”


It was odd behavior for a butler, but Phlebus shrugged his shoulders and started climbing the stairs with the companions trailing him. In the kitchen they found Matt, who seemed to be frazzled and short of patience.


“My apologies for the rude greetings to you all, I am afraid I could not in all good consciousness leave the kitchen to the darting eyes and quick hands of Ivan here.” He nodded over at the hunched figure sitting at the long kitchen table. “I’m sorry that I won’t be able to take the time to explain what I told Elnoth, sirs and madams, but I found old Ivan wandering in the markets earlier and he is the one about who I was telling Sir Elnoth.” He seemed quite relieved that the group had arrived and offered them stew and ale. “Ivan told me the story in the first place, so I’ll leave you to his storytelling.”


“Sure, that sounds lovely,” Lucy nodded to Matt.


“Didn’t you just finish breakfast?” Zyrina whispered to Torgin, who nodded and licked his lips hungrily.


“Can’t you smell that stew?” Torgin countered.


“It’s Ivan’s Gran who remembers seeing the things. Most of the rest of us don’t remember that long ago but Ivan is willing to tell you the story for a pint of ale and a warm meal. I have served him his meal and ale here in the kitchen and here is stew and ale for you all to enjoy. I must get back to my duties and can speak no more with you on this topic. Please don’t leave Ivan alone in the house. Master Elnoth would be horrified.”


Shaking Ivan’s shoulder a little to rouse him from the little nap he was apparently taking, Matt shouted, “Ivan, here are the group who wish to hear your old tale.” And with that flourish, Elnoth’s butler Matt made his way into other parts of the house to whatever important duties called him.


The companions turned to Ivan who was slouched over the table with an empty mug in front of him staring curiously back at them. Ivan nodded his greetings to them as they each introduced themselves one by one and shook his hand. Ivan then picked up his ale and took a last swig of the dregs before beginning to speak in a creaky voice.


             “Good Day to ya folks, I gots to get up ta the Jade Farm windmill ta fix a cog before it spews. I bin awaitin on you’s all morning an’ ain’t got time to wait any mores.” His speech was slurred but understandable. “Meet me up top o’ the mountain west of here when you’re finished your meals. Find me at the Windmill near the Jade Farm airship.”


And poof. The bent, wrinkled, and slightly gray tinged caretaker who the butler had introduced as Ivan and who seemed to be unable to even sit up straight just simply disappeared.


“Where’s the windmill?” Zyrina wanted to know.


“Didn’t he say up by the airship? That’s to the west of here up the mountain a bit.” Phlebus was studying one of the diagrams that he pulled out of his bag.


“Did you get that from the librarian this morning?” Zyrina asked him.


“Yes. There were a few scrolls that she let me take out for the day.”


The kitchen smelled like Ivan had been drinking with Matt for quite a long stretch of time and the stench of his person lingered, too. He was spry and quick, that’s for sure. None of them expected it. Lucy smiled. She liked the unexpected.


“Eat up we have a hike after our lunch.”


Torgin was already half through his stew and eyeing up Phlebus’s bowl.


“Back off, that’s MINE.” Phlebus snatched it away from Torgin’s reach.


“Oh, so you did notice the food.” Torgin’s hearty laugh rang out alongside his sister’s. “See he’s not a zombie,” he nodded to Zyrina who picked up her own bowl and bared her teeth to Torgin.


“There’s more on the stove, you fool.” Lucy said between spoonfuls from her own bowl. “Even good stew is no reason to steal from others.”


“Do you think he really knows something useful?” Torgin asked thoughtfully as he refilled his bowl and then gobbled that one too, in record time.


Phlebus nodded. “Yeah, I think he does.”


“I don’t know why everyone is so reluctant to talk about it. I tried to learn something in the market this morning. Tightlipped citizens here in this valley.” Zyrina added, “I learned nothing.”


“Let’s find the windmill.” Lucy decided, having finished her second bowl of stew and wiped all the dregs up with her last bit of bread.


“Thank you, Matt” Torgin politely bellowed, “We’ll let ourselves out.”

Echoes From the Caverns

Echoes From the Caverns


October 20 2021

Arkah’s Doings 1 – by EMPStrike – narrated by Asclepius


And now we have the first part of a great story from Arkah EMPStrike, entitled Arkah’s Doings

Background music by Smartsound


Arkah set his last trunk down on the floor in his house. That made 5 large trunks, 4 backpacks, 2 sacks, 3 barrels and 3 crates. “Phew” he wiped his forehead as he stepped outside his door to tie up his horse, Trots McHorsington. “Sorry about all the work buddy!” he apologized and fed McHorsington a carrot.

“His name is awful!” said Xalia, who made herself very unhelpful in an armchair by the fireplace.

“Well,” Arkah scoffed, “it’s not Your name.” He said this while tossing stuff out of a trunk placed on his bed. “You don’t have to introduce him at parties. Besides, we’re so far out in the boonies that noone’s gonna care.”

Ever since the gas incident in Caelestis Canton, Arkah felt it better to move his research even further away than Malas. To the edge of the world in fact: a little known backwater village called Goti on the far shore of Norgard, about as remote as a man can get.

After packing everything away and thoroughly scattering his notes about, a knock came at the door, which was still open. “Greetings, Arkah.” A black hooded figure poked his head inside. Arkah stood up, from his paper-scattering, “Do i know you? Because you know me, Arkah, and that makes me suspicious so forgive me, would you like some tea?” Arkah offered the man a cup of demon tea he had been drinking and the man briefly declined and moved on to his purpose for being there.

“I need to discuss your recent research with you. The research that prompted you to move so far away from civilization.”

Arkah took on a more serious tone, “Go on” Xalia was quietly writing on a piece of paper by the fireplace, barely listening.

“I saw what transpired in Blood Bay, and though it was not your intent, I believe you may have stumbled upon something that could both kill people and cause certain others to want to kill you and your partner Professor Teekington.” the hooded man said pointedly.

“Oh.” Arkah was rubbing his beard in thought. “Well I don’t know who would want to hurt me but I can definitely see what you’re on about the…..curse or gas or whatever it is being dangerous.” Arkah thought back to a rather large flesh-eating plant he had to dispose of before moving. “I contained what I could and relocated here.”

“Indeed.” the hooded man replied, “But I am afraid you left unintended, and not surprisingly undetected lingering effects behind, and Grunvald may be in danger.”

“Well….dammit.” Arkah said, almost nonchalantly. “I had hoped any traces of what was left would be so dilute that it would be benign.”

The hooded man shook his head, “It grows, almost as if alive, and seeks out hosts. If you have done what I think you have done, Nature could turn against Caelestis Canton, and possibly a larger swath of northern grunvald.”

Arkah stopped rubbing his beard for a moment and narrowed his eyes. “Deez?”

The hooded man nodded.

Arkah’s jaw dropped and he began yelling, “You caused ALOT of trouble around Ordinis mister! I spent DAYS looking for Deez and Johnny Mark, and you just disappear and never even…wait you didn’t actually kill anyone. Then, who did we find in the river and behind the inn? Why were you-“

The hooded man interrupted, “Come, let us travel to Grunvald. Give me asylum in Ordinis Mortis so that I may conceal my location while we work, and in exchange I will explain the happenings of the past.”

Arkah and the hooded man rode Trots McHorsington up the hill in Ordinis to the Guild hall. “I posted a bulletin letting folks know not to attack you. Some of them might still remember you.”

The hooded man, who had been adorned in cultist garbs felt his appearance was more of a concern but felt honesty would avail him better than deception with these people. “I thank you Arkah. I will begin my concealment ritual and remain hidden here while we begin our investigation.”

Arkah helped the hooded man down off Trots and turned about. “Well, I’m off to Caelestis to see what’s up! Join me as soon as you feel it is safe to do so.”

The Hooded man nodded and waved as Arkah rode away on Trots, and then began setting up the stones for his concealment spell.

Several days later: (This event has already happened)https://www.shroudoftheavatar.com/f…ent-defectors-and-curses.166127/#post-1305833


Arkah returned to Ordinis at full gallop and almost vaulted off Trots as he approached the hooded man, clearly in a panic. “You ahhhh…..working a concealment spell are ya? Keeping yourself hidden, hmm?”

The hooded man’s tone betrayed confusion, “Yes? why?”

“There are a lot of cultists gathering just up the road.” Arkah said wide eyed and nodding. “So, why are there cultists outside the city? Why do they feel like camping out there?” Arkah had a nervous hand on his dagger.

The hooded man sighed. “I… honestly don’t know. They couldn’t have possibly detected me and I haven’t spoken to-” Arkah interrupted, “spoken to anyone, yea, except there’s a bunch of guys dressed like you amassing outside. Why?”

“They are after me.” Said the hooded man.

“After you?” Arkah replied sharply and in the exact same tone, “Why?”

“I am a ‘traitor’ to the cultists.” The man spoke without hesitation. “They want to see that I face Their justice. But they couldn’t possibly be so sure that I am here as to be amassing a force outside the city. I am at a loss, I do not know how they know.” he said more quietly as if in deep thought.

Suddenly a voice boomed over the plains. “We know the traitor is here, and we will take him. You will give him to us so that he may face our judgment, for true Justice.” It was echoey and loud yet calm-toned. Suddenly screams rang out from he Docks down the hill.

“WHO ARE YOU? HELP AAAAHHGGG” Someone had just been killed. “Arkah ran out of town to try and find help and returned with a small band of powerful fighters

“This is the place. The traitor is to be captured alive. Advance on the town until he is found.” The Ebon Dawn commander’s voice echoed everywhere at once from an unknown location. A vicious battle ensued as cultist soldiers poured into the city, at best being slowed down by the small band of fighters.

“Hold them off until i can prepare a sufficiently powerful Cleansing Rain spell to wipe them out!” The hooded man projected his voice to the fighters the same way he had communicated with Teeka so long ago. And they fought on.

One cultist spotted a magic stone pillar hidden in an alley behind the markets in Ordinis. “”I see…an illusory field, very clever.” The Ebon Commander’s voice boomed, “Once it is destroyed, you will face justice in disgrace like the coward you are…”. The Defenders became more determined, and even the most elite of the cultists could not push through them. “If you fall…you will do it again. ASEN-IGNIS-CORP-OBIX”. A smouldering red fog began materializing near the injured cultist soldiers that remained, and they began writhing and screaming as their forms were twisted and flesh melted from their bones, leaving only charred flaming skeletons that immediately began spewing and tossing fire at all of the brave fighters defending the city.

‘Oh gods my magic does not work on them!’ One of the defending wizards said to herself, as the burning undead chased them through the streets. Just then the hooded man’s voice rang in their minds, “”It is ready!”. His incantation quickly echoed over the plains. “”Desen-Wast-Umbra-Obix-Vatu”

Clouds began to gather and rain burst forth from the sky in a fierce thunderstorm. “What…what is this?!” The ebon commander screeched as the screeching became more 3 dimensional allowing the fighters to find his location from the sounds. The remaining skeletons were quickly extinguished. The first fighter on the field was the last, as she approached the screams only to find a spirit remained, which she quickly banished.

The Battle was won!

“Thank you, strangers.” The hooded man’s voice rang in their minds one last time as the skies began to clear.

Echoes From the Caverns

Echoes From the Caverns