November 28 2018

They Call her Lady Warrior – chapter 5 – by Cianna – narrated by Asclepius

Hello everyone, this is Asclepius, with another chapter in this wonderful story from Cianna. It is entitled
They Call her Lady Warrior
Background music by Smartsound


Chapter 5, “Ghosts of a Different Kind, Part 1

The sea air was chilly as Cianna stepped out of her house in Aelasar’s Forest. The leaves in the trees gently swayed with a breeze that caressed her face, reminiscent of the way her grandmother used to caress her cheek when she was a child. She sighed.

“I miss you, Aelasar,” she whispered to her grandmother. “And you, Mother. Where are you both? They say you’re dead, but how can that be? You’re Outlanders. Outlanders don’t die, do they?” She shook her head. “But if you’re not dead, where are you? Why can’t I find you?”

Her gaze settled on the old lighthouse on the small island off the coast of Aelasar’s Forest. It had been a favorite place for her to visit in her childhood. She and Aelasar would spend hours at the telescope, watching ships go by or looking at the stars and strange planets that circled overhead. Life had been so simple then.

Cianna sighed again and then, on sudden impulse, started walking over the bridge to the small pier that would take her to the lighthouse. She hadn’t been there since she took over the care of the forest. The idea had been too painful. But now, she felt the need to relive those old memories.

As she passed the decaying mansion to the right of the pier, Cianna was startled to see the front door ajar. No one lived in the old place, not since her grandmother had lived in it when she first began visiting the Forest. After her grandfather had purchased the small hamlet and built a new summer home there for Aelasar, the place had gone into ruin. Aelasar could never bring herself to tear it down, though. And neither could Cianna.

She approached the decrepit building, warily eyeing the open door. Might just be an animal that’s gotten in, she thought. That door never hitched properly anyway. Still, she had to be careful. Her father’s people were looking for her, she knew. It’s possible they had tracked her to the Forest.

She pushed the door open slowly, drawing a small dagger from her belt as she did. The interior was dark and dank. Cobwebs covered the walls, and the musty smell of dust and decay made Cianna want to sneeze. She held her breath till the feeling passed, then cautiously moved forward to the main room on the first floor. She cursed the misfortune of not having a torch with her to light the way.

She jumped, rubbing her face with her free hand. “Damn cobwebs,” she muttered, the inevitable chill running down her back. Then she almost laughed out loud. You’ve killed men with your sword, she thought, yet you’re afraid of spiders. Some brave warrior you are!

Cianna listened deeply to the silence. It remained unbroken. She took a few more steps down the foyer to the living room. She knew there were hidden rooms in the house, but it was unlikely anyone else would know about them. If someone were on this floor, the living room is where they would be.

From the little bit of light coming through the dirty windows, she could see the old iron fireplace to one side. It had been beautiful once, she remembered. Her grandfather, Alron, had it restored when Aelasar first lived here. Sadly, time again had reduced it to a dusty relic. Its grate was cold to the touch. No recent fire, then, Cianna thought.

She peered around the room, squinting to see. Nothing looked out of place. No dust had been disturbed on the floor that she could see. There was still silence all around.

Cianna closed her eyes and went within, using her senses the way her grandmother taught her. “We are all one,” Aelasar said, “all of us, man and beast, are connected to the same universal mind through Nature. Use that connection. Trust it. It will not let you down.”

Cianna reached out, her mind connecting with an owl sitting in a tree outside. “Brother,” she said respectfully, “may I use your ears?” The owl didn’t respond but Cianna was instantly aware of hundreds of new sounds, the chittering mice in the yard, the hawk soaring above, the distant sound of a boat passing the coastline. She drew the hearing inward, shutting out everything but her nearest surroundings. And she listened.

“Nothing,” she said out loud after a few moments. “If someone has been here, they are gone now.”

Resolving to return again with a torch for a closer inspection, Cianna backtracked and left the old house, once more turning her steps toward the lighthouse.

It rose above the island like the good sentry that it was, a stalwart during storms, and a beacon of refuge when the waters were calm. It was the lighthouse that made Aelasar, an Outlander, want to build a haven here in the coastal forest, a place where she could go to escape the stress of her new life in Novia. She adored her husband, but marrying into the court life of the True Elf population in Novia had been a tremendous burden for her. “Druids are meant to be a part of the land,” she once told Cianna. “The machinations of man do not interest me much.”

But she had been a loving, kind woman, with a grace and gentleness that earned her the love of Outlander and Novian alike, and her work to help those in need made her company much sought after. The Forest was the one place she could go to be alone, to catch her breath, to mourn, in private, the beloved life she’d somehow left behind in another world, and to practice her old Druidic rituals. As far as Cianna knew, she and her mother, Valandra, were the only two visitors from Court that Aelasar had ever allowed in the Forest. Well, except for Grandfather. But once he had purchased the land and fixed it up, including installing a strong, well-fortified Viking house for Aelasar (“I must insist, my love”), he had never returned. “It’s your space, now,” he had said. “I will not intrude.”

Cianna opened the door to the small inner chamber on the ground floor of the lighthouse. She had standing orders that the interior was to be kept clean while she was away, and the room still looked as though Aelasar herself would walk in at any moment. Cianna felt her throat tighten and her eyes water as she looked around the room, so familiar, yet now so empty of Aelasar’s presence.

Without lingering, Cianna mounted the steps, averted her gaze from the second floor room that had been Aelasar’s study, and reached the top. She pushed the door open slowly, feeling engulfed by memories.

Echoes From the Caverns

Echoes From the Caverns

September 28 2018

Black Rose Chronicles 8 – by Belladonna Rose – narrated by Asclepius

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

The tall man waved back and immediately turned and launched a volley of arrows at an archery target. Eyes wide Bella was convinced that he was a master at the skill.
“Good Morning Varren. How are you this fine day?”
Turning towards them again he smiled through his rough beard and pulled his bow across his back.
“Good Morning M’lady. I am quite fine this morn….Ahh I see you have found another outlander.”
Looking Bella up and down taking measure of her she felt a bit awkward. Am I really that odd looking.
“Good morn to you Avatar…. Would you be of a mind to use a bow or are you one of those sword swingers?” Laughing at his apparent joke.
“Good Morn Sir. And I can do both.”
Arabella giggled and walked up closer to Varren. Whispering something to him she smiled and then turned back to Belladonna.
“Master Varren. This is Belladonna Rose and she has just recently arrived. I know not what choice in weapon she prefers. Annika is mending her sword as we speak and getting her gear prepared.
I just came to introduce you to her in case she may be of need of your skills.”
“So Mistress Belladonna. You are handy with sword and bow. Very interesting. Very interesting indeed….Would you be of a mind to show your bow skill?”
Handing me a bow he threw some arrows at the ground. Taking the bow, I reached down and pulled an arrow out. Skilfully she settled the arrow at the bow…pulled back the string and took aim.
Letting loose the arrow it flew strong and true. Bullseye!
Taking a deep breath Varren patted her strongly on the back. “Well done. Well done indeed…..Seems that if you can do that I doubt I can teach you much. But if you ever feel the need for more training you can certainly come to me for it.”
Smiling softly, she handed the bow back to him. “Nay nay. Keep it.” He said. “May it fire strong and true for you when you need it to M’lady. And here ….take this quiver of arrows along as well.”
Looking at the man as if in shock she took the quiver and slung it on her shoulder. “Thank you Sir.
I will most certainly put this fine-looking bow to good use.”
Tugging at Belladonna’s sleeve Arabella pulled her away and waved good day to Varren. She was a persistant one for sure.
“Hurry along girl…We have a few others you need to meet.”
After what seemed to be hours of walking about town they finally made it back to the smithy’s tent.
Annika pulled out a nice set of leather armor. The pieces were covered in metal studs all about and seemed to be quite durable. And handing the sword back to Belladonna with serene elegance she was done. “I wish you the best fair Avatar. Tis a long and treacherous road you must now travel. If are of need of my services, please return any time.” With a bow of the head she turned away and went back to work.

Bella thought it was odd. Arabella took her arm and moved her along. “Annika has outfitted many an Avatar and soldier of late. None of which she has seen again. Either they have met an ill fate or are off busy in other parts of the world. Would do her good to see at least one return from their journey.”
Arabella hung her head a bit. For the first time since Bella met her this was the first time she saw sadness on her face. Placing her arm about Arabella’s shoulders she gave he a small hug.
“Fear not M’lady. I will return. One way or another this is not the last you see of me.”
Taking up her new-found belongings she edged her way up the road to the gate. Arabella gave her a map with markings for where she should go. Now it was time to get about the business that was appointed to her. Perhaps she will meet up with her friends on the road soon. What a time that will be telling those tales she thought.
Heading towards the arched gateway the refugees waved and wished her well. This really put her in a much better mood. Stepping through it was almost like the vortex that brought her here in the first place. After a few moments the bright sunlight shone in her face and she looked about. Green grasses. A worn dirt path. Blue skies with a few scattered white clouds. Making her way up the path she stood at a fork. To the left took her near what looked like marshy swamps. No…that is not the way. To the right she could see a billow of grey smoke. That must be it. Pulling her belongings high on her back she started walking.
As she drew closer she could see the burnt fort at the bridge. That is where she had come from withthe wee girl in tow. Solace Bridge. Shaking her head she walked towards the bridge. The smell of burning embers and death was strong on the air. She turned her head away from the sight. She hoped she would never have to go back there again.
Standing in the middle of the bridge she turned her sights to the right…towards the outskirts Arabella talked about. But something caught her eye she had not expected. And a soft warm breeze caressed her face. Closing her eyes she soaked up the fresh smell and the feeling and she smiled. The Sea.
Breaking into a run she flew over the bridge and headed towards the sea …not the encampment. She had to put her eyes on the waters she missed so much. Reaching the edge of the cliff she looked out and took in a deep breath. Filling her lungs with the fresh salty sea air was just what she needed.
Looking up at the sun she judged it was just past midday. Decidedly she sat down on the cliff’s edge and watched the waves crash against the rocks. She had plenty time before nightfall to just soak in all the fresh air and sunlight she could. This was not asking too much to giver herself some time to feel alive again before her tasks took her to who knows where.
Reaching the outskirts small tendrils of smoke could be seen in the distance showing obvious signs of life in the encampment. If it were other than that the smoke would be different. She had seen enough of that kind to last her a lifetime.
Walking through the archway she could see the encampment. Even a few folk meandering along the riverbank fishing. Now things could not be that bad if they had time to fish. Strolling along slowly the sun was reaching the top of the mountain range. Soon it would be dark.
As she approached the edge of the camp a guard stepped out and inquired of her business. Once she introduced herself and showed the letter from Captain Stanley she was ushered to the headquarters. Here nestled inside some stone ruins with a makeshift canopy stretch overhead she was introduced to Captain Kinsey.
“Ah..welcome welcome Outlander. Good to have you in camp. Hope you are up for some nasty work here. Between the undead, bandits and Ebon Cult clan we are up to our neck in it.”
Smiling softly at the Captain , Bella thought to herself this was someone she could respect. Hard knocked life and ready for anything. She saluted the Captain and handed her the note from Stanley.
“Of course..hopefully he is more successful with getting help out this way than I. Seems most of my couriers disappear. Nary a one has returned. Not sure what to make of it. Either killed or took off for other parts of the world.” She continued to comment as she read the message.
She looked up from the paper at Bella and then tucked the missive away in her vest. She seemed to take stock in Bella’s appearance. Clearing her throat she took Bella by the arm and lead her to the edge of the ruins. Pointing out the different aspects and people of the camp.
As Kinsey pointed to the various people in the camp she explained each one’s role. Most were just a few folk who haven’t managed to move on to better parts. Others were of her own troops who are doing what they can to help those who do come in for help. She motioned towards the vastness of the area explaining a bit more about the bandits. Pointing to the far side she talked about the ruined town across the river and how Ebon Cultists had taken up residence there. And of course, all the undead throughout. She even mentioned a farm near the coastline where Farmer Filmore refused to leave his land regardless of what was happening in the rest of the world. She made mention of an alchemist who has a shack near the old cemetery and that he has been most helpful with ailments and such of those who find their way in.
“So Outlander. That is that. This is what we are here for I suppose one could say. Helping those who cannot help themselves. Since you are here by Arabella’s advice I would recommend talking to everyone in camp and seeing what they need help with. Report back to me anything that might be useful. Look out for my scouts throughout and bring back any info you can. That is if you are of a mind to help out for a spell.”
“Aye Captain. I will spend sometime here in the camp and help where I can. As you might be able to tell I am still trying to get my legs about me. Being a ship’s captain for so long its most odd for me to have so much solid ground under me. But I will do my best to aid these poor folks.”
Kinsey reared back her head in a laugh and slapped Bella on the back. “Good good. Knew you would help. Glad to have you here.” She reached into her pocket and pulled out a few coins and handed them to Bella. “Here take this and get yourself geared up. I know those in Soltown tried well to outfit you but see if you can find something more suitable.” Winking at Bella she turned and walked back to her makeshift desk of planks and barrels.
Bella walked into the camp and talked to each person there. She felt a bit sorry for every one of them. Each had their own tasks and reasons for being there. The sad couple sitting at the bonfire told of their daughter’s stolen portrait and bade her find and bring it back. A guard asked for any heirlooms that were stolen off the dead to be returned. One of the guards asked her to retrieve some items for him in return he would teach her how to make arrows. Even some children dancing about a firepit singing a horrible song about Bloody Bones peaked her interest. After talking to them she thought she would have to check this out as well.
Getting a few extra food stuffs, she set out to explore and do what she could to help.
With a mental note of her tasks at hand she went out and across the eastern rope bridge from the camp. Nodding to the guards on both sides of the bridge she made her way down the path. In the distance she saw some shiny material among the rocks. Pulling her small pickaxe from her pack she started collecting the orange colored ore. “This should be enough. “. Taking some small branches and her blanket she managed to make a travois. This will be much easier to move things. Seeing some trees, she chopped one down and spent a bit of time making it easier to load. With the better part of the day gone she headed back to camp to turn in the ore and wood.
Sitting down at the center campfire she looked across at that couple. That sat in silence the entire time…not even talking to one another. An errant sniffle came from the lady but that was it. Bella thought to herself to be so forlorn at your losses that you can’t even take care of personal things was a place she never wanted to be.
The cooking merchant lady came over and handed Bella a steaming bowl of food. Bella smiled and thanked her for the food and pointed to the couple. The haggard looking lady knelt close and whispered into her ear. “Best to just leave them be. Since their daughter’s painting was stolen when they reached camp they just sit there wallowing in sadness.” Sniffing and wiping her nose on her sleeve she continued. “They lost their daughter at Solace Bridge and the only thing they had left of her was that painting. I ‘spect they be sitting here til their last days unless someone finds that painting.” She softly patted Bella on the shoulder and walked away.
Well that seems to be the next and most important errand she will tackle in the morning. Pulling out her pack she unfurled her bedroll near the fire and climbed inside. Sleep was what she needed now.
The night sounds were strange. Howling of wolves in the distance. Moans of the encroaching undead around the edges of the camp. Guards clambering from point to point to keep that enemy at bay. Coughing and snoring. And then an errant cricket from time to time. But it was enough to lull her to sleep.
After what seemed like no time at all Bella was awoken by being poked in the side with a stick. As she rolled over to see who was assaulting her in her sleep her eyes opened to the dirty face of a child.
Grumbling she rolled back over. Poke. Poke. Poke. Quickly she rolled over out of her bedroll and grabbed the stick….broke it in half and tossed it away.
“HEY..that was my best sword you broke.” Snarling something under her breath the child squatted down next to Bella. “You be going out into the countryside today? If so you best be bringing me that Bloody Bones book back with ya. Me and mine needs that book.” Bella perked an eyebrow up at the child. She and hers needs a good swat on the bottom is what they need. “If I can find it I will bring it. In the mean time you and yours make yourselves useful in camp. Gather firewood and such. Don’t be a pain in the backside of Cap’n Kinsey.” The child jumped up and looked aghast. Stuck her tongue out at Bella and ran off. Laughing to herself Bella gathered up her bedding and prepared to get ready for another day’s adventure.

Echoes From the Caverns

Echoes From the Caverns

August 23 2018

Black Rose Chronicles 7 – by Belladonna Rose – narrated by Asclepius

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

He motioned for Emily to come over and whispered to her. The lady turned and gave Bella a smile and headed to the stairs. After a few minutes the girl came to the edge of the staircase and called out to Bella.

“Lady Belladonna your bed is ready. Please follow me.” And away she was gone. Belladonna went up the steps one at a time. Fatigue was about to win her over. Once she got to the top she saw a curtained off area and several beds..a couple occupied. As she walked towards Emily her heart jumped to her throat. How was she supposed to tell this girl such horrible news?

Walking up to Emily she lay a hand on the girl’s shoulder. Looking up into Belladonna’s face Emily knew somehow this was not going to be good news. A tear slid gently down her face and she hung her head.

“I am so sorry dear.” Pulling the sword out from under her cloak she presented it gently to Emily.

Taking the sword from Bella she hugged it tightly to herself. Walked over to a chest hidden in the corner. Unlocking it she opened the lid and gently placed the sword inside. After locking it safely away she stood. Brushed off her dirty apron and wiped her eyes.

“Yes indeed. It is sad. But he knew what he was doing. He knew the risks and we both agreed that it was for the best of the world that he go and help those other poor souls. Do not feel sorry for me My Lady. I will be fine.” Emily smiled softly and turned away heading back down stairs.

Belladonna sat on the edge of the cot and hung her head in fatigue. These poor souls have no clue what is going on out there. Yet they keep up the fight and dig in to survive. Truly admiring these people, she decided now…that she had to do what she could to help. No matter what the Oracle or Lady Arabella says she would stand her ground and fight..

Shedding her dirty clothing she slipped quietly into the small hip tub and washed. The water was tepid, but she did not care. It was water, clean and felt good against her weary body. Wrapping herself in a makeshift towel she sat on the cot again, pulled the blanket back and lay down. Sleep….this is what she needed.

Somewhere a rooster crowed. Tiny cracks in the chinking of the wall let in the smallest bits of light and from the sounds below she knew it must be morning. Rolling over she looked about the room. No one was in sight. She stood with the blanket wrapped around her to stave off the cold. Peering around the room more she noticed now how rather clean it was. She had seen worse. She reached for her clothes that had magically appeared at the foot of the cot. Not what she was wearing. Maybe there had been a mistake.

Stepping to the edge of the staircase she leaned down and got Emily’s attention. The young girl smiled and came half way up the stairs. Without Bella even asking Emily informed her that the Lady Arabella had brought her a change of clothing and that her other belongings were in a pack next to the bed. She also told Bella that she would have her some food as soon as she came down stairs.

Shocked a bit she crept back and put on the clothing. A worn but fine cotton shirt. So soft to the touch. Leather tunic, pants and a fine pair of boots with matching gloves. All worn but well cared for items. She wandered to herself they belonged to and then quickly decided not to. More than likely some poor soul that did not survive Solace Bridge. Taking stock of her belongings she grabbed the pack and sword and headed down below.

There at the long trestle table seated a few local folk and one lady patted the seat next to her. She slid onto the bench and looked about. Worn, tired yet friendly faces met her gaze. A few introduced themselves and she did the same in return. One particular man looked warily at her.

“You be one of them there Outlanders. Seems to be a lot of your lot coming through town. Not sure what you all think you can do for us that we can’t do for ourselves. We been having to fight and scratch for everything over the years….Not so sure what some strangers are gonna do to make things better.”

With that said many around the table and the room itself turned their heads away and looked broken again. The fear and despair could be seen in their eyes clear as day. Bella took up her cup and took a drink. Yuck. What in the world is this she thought. Tasted like muddy water. Oh well. She reached for a chunk of bread and small wedge of cheese. As she nibbled away Emily walked over and place a steaming bowl of something in front of her.

“Not the best of meals. But its hot and filling. Will do you some good. Looks as though you haven’t eaten in a while M’lady.”

The steam from the bowl brought a smell she hadn’t smelt for a long time. Stew. Mutton stew.

“Thank you Emily. This will do me just fine. And it smells like what my cousin used to make. ..I am sure I will enjoy it.”

Everyone at the table chuckled and went back to their own meals. Digging into the stew she ate with a robust appetite. Not as good as Aletta’s but it still worth eating. This bowl would not make it to the slop bucket for sure. After a few moments the innkeeper, Richard, brought her a note.

“Note from Mistress Arabella. Says for you to meet her at the blacksmith tent when you be done

eating your fill. She seemed quite eager for you to join her though….so best be quick about it.”

“Thank you Richard. Appreciate the information.”

Licking her fingers in the most unlady like manner she bid all a good day, grabbed her pack and headed to the door. As she stood there Richard pointed to the left gesturing for her to make her way down the road.

Pulling her pack onto her back she stepped down and started in that direction. There seemed to be a few folk milling about the streets. A beggar or two, a few children running about. Seemed pretty quiet and peaceful.

As she walked down the muddy road she saw Lady Arabella ahead. Waving enthusiastically. This woman was so strange. Amidst all the chaos and death she seemed to hold a light in her soul for the good. That much energy must be tiring all the time Bella thought.

“Ahhh Good morning Avatar. You look rested well…I do hope you are ready to start on your


Bella smiled softly and stood next to the lady. Arabella took her by the arm and pulled her towards a tent that covered a smithing forge. There she saw a well-built woman covered in soot and sweating. This must be the local smithy. Strange for a woman to do so but with what was going on it made sense.

“Belladonna Rose….this is Annika the local blacksmith. She will help you get ready for your journey…..And might I say. She is the best smithy this side of East Reach Gap….No matter what anyone else tells you.”

Annika looked at Arabella and smiled. “You be right on that M’lady Arabella. I am. Not that I chose this profession mind you…But being the daughter of a smithy as I am I do know me a thing or two….Even a wee bit more than me poor Pa.”

Belladonna could not help but to laugh. It was nice to see a woman secure in her craft and in her efforts she puts forth. Too many has she seen that took the easy way. Not that being a woman was all that easy. No matter what profession a woman had to work hard at it.

“Nice to meet you Annika….And I am sure your skills are quite suitable indeed.”

Annika looked Belladonna up and down taking measure of her build. And clucking her tongue here and there as she turned her around, poked her in her middle and looked sharply at her features.

“Aye. I should have something that I can make fit ‘er. Might take me a bit to get it done though.

And what weapon ye be using girl?”

Belladonna wriggled and straightened her clothing back in place. Shrugging she pulled the sword out and handed to her. She felt a bit self-conscious of the blade but it ‘was’ given to her.

“Bless me soul. That be a guard sword. What ye doing taking that ….Did ya steal it from a dead guard or sumthin?”

Feeling a bit insulted Bella yanked the sword back and started to think twice of the smithy.

“No I DID NOT steal it. I brought it back to his widow….who in turn bade me keep it that it

might serve me where it did not him….Thank you very much for assuming the worst of me. I suppose you have low esteem for other Avatars as well.”

The smithy snorted and wiped her nose with her sleeve. Looking a bit sheepish for her accusations.

“Nay. Just don’t be seeing those swords in the hands of strangers is all. No offense made deary. And if you be talking about poor Emily at the inn then I agree. I do hope it does you good.”

Reaching out her hand she took the sword back and told Bella she would have it ready along with the armor as well.

Smiling as usual Arabella took her by the arm and waved to a man across the road. She was determined I think to introduce her to everyone in town.

Echoes From the Caverns

Echoes From the Caverns

August 16 2018

Black Rose Chronicles 6 – by Belladonna Rose – narrated by Asclepius

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


Turning and leaving the tent Bella noticed that Stanley was standing at the edge of the road. She walked up next to him and touched his shoulder slightly. Knowing somehow that things weighed heavy on his mind and heart. Such a task for such a young man. But for some reason she felt he was capable.

“Ahh Avatar. You startled me. I have been reading through Edvard’s book. Tis a wonder that man survived at all. He is a strange one for certain…Now as to you. I think food and rest are instore for you. And I will see about getting you fitted for your journey. Not too fancy mind you. We have not much to offer here. There are merchants in and about town though that are fairly reasonable for their wares.”

“Captain. What of these swords. What should I do with them. And I have this note as well from one of the fallen guards.” She showed the swords to him and the note. Her shook his head and swore under his breath. Apparently, he knew who the sword belonged to. And told her to look for Emily. Either in the camp or the Inn. She would have to break the news to her alone. He needed to write a dispatch for Commander Cugel and find a courier. As for the note she held it would have to be delivered to Celestis. The woman, Zorabeth resides there. Walking away he headed towards the town. Bella followed a few steps behind him.

The path into Soltown was a solemn walk. Stanley made an even-tempered walk towards the entrance. Knowing what he had to do Bella did not regret that part. Asking for help was not always an easy task for anyone. Especially one who was in charge of so much. She looked about at the homes along the road. Some fancy some plain. And many had their hawkers out selling wares to would be travelers. Having only a few coin in her pocket she though best to just hold on to it for now. She would assess what Captain Stanley finds for her and go from there. As she approached the gateway into town she noticed a man waving to her. She walked up and introduced herself.
“Hello good sir. Might you tell me where the inn and tavern are?”
“Aye Outlander. Tis up the road to the left. Nice little place for some rest. Not fancy mind you but it’s better than nothing. I am Merrick the town crier. I can tell you just about anything to do with this town.”
Frowning at the man she just did not understand why everyone kept calling her Outlander. It was beginning to get a bit annoying actually. And she had only been of this world for two days. Maybe it was obvious she was not from here. Looking down at her attire that very well might be the case.

“Thank you for now. Just need the inn for now. I am in need of a bath, food and sleep. Neither which comes first matters to me right now.”
The man looked her up and down and smiled. “Indeed, M’lady. No offense but you look a bit worse for wear. I have seen a lot lately though with all the attacks and such. Dismal times it is. Poor folk from Solace Bridge finding their way here after the attack. I heár tell Blood River and Highvale are in the same situation. Mad times for sure.”
Looking at the man she could see fear and sadness in his eyes. Something terrible indeed has been happening here. Shaking her head, she smiled at him weakly and turned towards the inn. A few people walked about aimlessly. Guards walked about with that lordly manner like they were better than the rest. She thought to herself the faster she got out of here the better. Her temperament would not last long with the likes of some of these people.
In front of the inn sat the hooded woman. Arabella. What was she doing here? How did she get here so fast? Shrugging Bella walked up to her. “Hail Mistress Arabella. Tis good to see you again.”
Arabella looked up. Sadness in her eyes as well. Bella thought to herself that she would never get used to that look. But just as quickly a sparkle appeared in Arabella’s eyes.
“Ahhh Avatar. Tis good to see you made it. I feared you might not make your way through Solace Bridge. I hear that it is forsaken and lost for sure.”
Confused by that comment she just smiled softly at the lady. “Aye. It was a bit more than I had expected. Master Edvard was helpful though. I did rescue a small child from there but brought back troubling news to Captain Stanley. He is sending a courier off to get aid.”
“Ahh. Good, good. That is good news. Perhaps Ardoris will come to aide these poor folk. I know the garrison at Solace Bridge outskirts is trying its best to fend off the undead and cultists. Many of the people have gone there before coming here. I am not sure how goes their fight. Perhaps you can go and see if you can help.”
Sighing deeply, she nodded. “I would like to find some food and a short rest if possible. A lot has come about in such a short amount of time. And I need to outfit myself better as well”
Arabella looked her up and down. “Yes. Yes, you look like you could use a meal and bed. Go into the inn and tell Richard that your meal and bed are on me. I will scour around town and see what I can get for you.”
Nodding her head, she turned and walked up the rickety stairs into the inn. The air was stale and reeked of moldy bread and old ale. The floors were littered with leaves and dirt. As hard as the barmaid tried to clean it seemed useless.
She walked up to the counter and cleared her throat to get the innkeeper’s attention. Standing with his back to her he continued to clean the mugs with a dirty cloth. Rolling her eyes, she knew how this was going to be. She had been in enough dirty dank taverns to last her a lifetime. Again, she cleared her throat and finally the portly man turned.
“Ahhhh. Welcome welcome! And what can I do for you today? Perhaps an ale or pint of beer?”
Shaking her head, she smiled wryly. Typical. “Nay sir. No spirits for me today. I am in need of a bed and food if you can accommodate me. The Lady Arabella said she would pay the bill for me.”
Looking at her with a curious eye he eventually smiled. “Of course. You must be one of them Outlanders. Come to help defeat all this riffraff across the lands….All I can say is good luck to ya. Tis a bad bit of news indeed about Solace Bridge. Bad for business at first but now its picked up some with all the travelers and you Outlanders.”
Again that word. She just looked at the man and waited. “Emily will get you a bed ready and then bring you some food. Would you be wanting a bowl of water to wash with. She can get you that too.”
Emily. She looked around at the woman sweeping the floor. She now knew where to take the sword. She would wait til she could get her alone to break the news to her. She didn’t need to do this with so many around. “Thank you…..what was your name again?”
“Aye. I be Richard. Proprietor of the Soltown Tavern and Inn. “

Echoes From the Caverns

Echoes From the Caverns

August 10 2018

Black Rose Chronicles 5 – by Belladonna Rose – narrated by Asclepius

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


Chapter 5

Waving with a small smile Edvard then turned and walked back up to the bridge. Standing in the middle he watched as the boat made its way down river and as the sun became hidden behind the mountain. Strange sounds started up again throughout the forested area. Soon the creatures would be on the prowl again.

Charlotte curled up as close to Bella as she could. It was hard to row the craft with the child nestled against her so closely but she did her best. Edvard did not lie about the dangers of the darkness. She could hear the moans and screams coming from the river banks. Rustling bushes and brush as things seemed to make their way out into the dark. This alone made her want to row faster but she was beginning to falter in her strength. She was so tired. Much had happened to her this day. No time to rest. Must get to Soltown. Where is Soltown? Exhausted she kept rowing praying with every stroke that she did not fall asleep or worse.

Hours in the darkness eventually became less as the sun began to creep up through the trees. She had been at sea so long that she forgot how long it took for the sun to rise. Having not been on land much of late she needed to get her bearings again for life on land. The river began to narrow putting the banks much closer to the boat. This worried her a bit…but the noises from the forest became less and less with the rising sun.

Up ahead she saw the faint light of torches. Light that will soon be extinguished once the sun was out. And there …..a dock. This must be the place. Please let this be the place. A man in strange armor stood at the end of the dock. Turning his head he saw the boat and waved them forward. As if she was not doing that already. Bumping along the edge of the dock the man reached down and gained hold pulling them up closer. He pulled the tether from inside the boat and tied it to a post.

Reaching down he put his hand out to help her onto the docks. She waved him off and hoisted the child up to him. “Take her please. We have just come from Solace Bridge. Edvard bade me to bring here here to her mother. I am Belladonna Rose, the Avatar.” Blinking she was not sure if this was how she was supposed to introduce herself or not. No one said otherwise how she was to do so. No matter. Titles were not that important save one. And seems that one is long lost.

“By the stars. It is true. Another Outlander has come to help. Thank the stars. I am Captain Stanley and this is Soltown. I am in charge here til Commander Cugel says otherwise.”

Bella pulled herself up on the docks and tried her best to stand tall. Fatigue was winning over for sure now and apparently the Captain saw this. “Lets get this wee one to her mother. I know her well enough. She is across the road in the refugee camp. Abigail will be happy to see her and will want to thank you personally.”

Bella honestly could care less about thanks right now. All she wanted was hot food and sleep. Hopefully this woman will take pity on her and give that much. Smiling softly she followed Stanley across the road to the camp. Looking about she saw several tents and people milling about a roaring fire. Many children scampered about playing at being guards. From the looks of things they got away from Solace Bridge with barely the clothes on their backs. Which she knew how that felt. That was all she had.

The refugees saw Stanley and ran to him….huddling around him like vultures. He pushed his way past them to the far tent. A tall woman came to the entrance of the tent and gasped as Stanley approached. Handing the child to her she hugged the girl tightly. Crying out to the skies she turned away with the child. Many of the others cheered and applauded. Among their own despair they were happy that at least one of them had some happiness returned to them.

Stanley went to the fire and gave a short account to the people. Telling them of Bella’s journey from Solace Bridge. He told them he had news from Edvard and was going to send a dispatch to Cugel in Ardoris. They were saddened by the news. Solace Bridge had fallen. Now they had to decide what to do and where to go. Many had already left. Making way to other places throughout the lands. Some to smaller towns some to outlying areas. The pilgrimage from Solace Bridge for some would lead them far and wide. Some would stay close just for the memory or just because they had lost all hope.

Seeing this in their faces caused a pang of regret in Bella. But that is what the Oracle said. She said that she would feel regret, sorrow and many other emotions as she travelled the lands. Forsaken Love. This is the path she was on. To restore Love to the people. How the hell was she supposed to do this.

She stood by the fire as the refugees walked by patting her softly on the back or giving her a quick embrace for what she had done. As they did so she watched the woman…Abigail..tuck her daughter under a blanket on a rickety cot. The woman turned and motioned for Bella to come to her. Walking into the tent she saw there was very little here. A sack which was probably all she owned. The woman fumbled in her pocket and reached out to Bella. Taking her hand she placed a handful of gold pieces in her hand. Looking down at the pittance she looked back at the lady. Sorrow and what looked like shame crossed her face.

“Tis all I have to offer M’lady for your service. You brought my daughter back to me when I all but thought she was lost to me. There is nothing of my husband I assume…not that I thought there would be.”

“Nay M’ lady. I do not know of your husband. I do not know much of anything as I am new here. I was sent to Solace Bridge and that is where I found Edvard. We then found the child and I was sent here. Other than that I am as lost as you seem to be.”

The lady looked at Bella with astonished eyes. “Outlander…Avatar. The one the prophecy speaks of. You have done more than you could ever know. Please take the gold and make use of it. Armor, weapons whatever will aide you. It is the least I can do.”

Bella smiled and took two coins and gave the rest back to Abigail. “Please…take the remainder of this gold. Make your way out of here. Make your way to a better life if you can M’lady. For the sake of the child.”

Nodding and smiling the lady took the gold and put it back in her pocket. Little that it was it might be enough for food to get her and her child elsewhere. She would figure the rest out later.

Echoes From the Caverns

Echoes From the Caverns

July 12 2018

Black Rose Chronicles 4 – by Belladonna Rose – narrated by Asclepius

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

Stepping through the other side of the rift the cloudy air cleared from her sight. She could see trees and the strong smell of smoke and death filled her nostrils. Looking around her she could see lush green grass and trees, but the smell was overwhelming. Bella could even feel the evil in the place. Deep in her bones. She had felt this many a time before. No stranger to danger or death. Ahead she saw the palisade walls surrounding the area. This must be Solace Bridge.
In the distance she could hear many sounds. Some familiar forest sounds. Birds, squirrels and even the sound of a bear in the distance. But that moaning sound was different. As she walked towards the gate of the palisade she saw something lumbering towards her. WHAT IS THAT?
Undead. Zombie. Oh great. She looked about for something to use as a weapon. There on the side of the path was a branch of a tree. Hoisting it up and taking a stance she waited for the thing to come closer. The smell was hideous. As the zombie came closer it reached for her. Pulling her arms back she swung the branch at the zombie. It took the brunt of the hit full force but kept coming. Oh great. This should be fun. She continued to hit the creature and finally after a few more hits it fell to the ground.
She looked down at the poor thing and realized it was wearing the remnants of what was probably the local inhabitants. So sad that this had to happen to a human.
Walking away again from the corpse she approached the gate. On the other side she could see an older man standing guard. Staff in hand as if waiting for something to attack him. She pushed up the lever to the gate and slowly it opened. Rushing inside she was met again by one of those zombies.
But to her surprise the old man came forth and helped her fight. Several of these creatures came forward and between the two of them they put them to rest.
“Thank the stars you arrived. Not sure how well I would have faired against that many of those things. The bridge has been overrun with those foul creatures for near a fort night. And the other undead things lumbering around as well. It has been a sad time indeed.”
Wiping the muck off her tunic from the fight she looked at the older man. He was a portly fellow but was very well trained in defence. This was a good thing.
“Good day to you stranger. I am Edvard. I was told to expect someone of your stature and here ye be.”
Bella smiled softly at the old man. Looking at the destruction of this place was more than she had expected. It was truly a battle for sure. And from the looks of things the battle did not go well.
“Hello good sir. I am Belladonna Rose. I was sent here by Arabella and the Oracle.”
“Aye. Yes. Arabella. She is a fine one that one. She has been busy of late bringing other Outlanders to the realm. Doing service for Lord British she does. And I am thankful for you being here.”
“I do not know what is expected of me here but I will do my best. Perhaps you have seen others of late. I am worried about the crew from my ship and my friend Jack. Maybe they passed this way.”
“Ah. Alas many have traveled through here and I sent them on to continue their journey as I will you.” He quickly started moving about gathering up a quiver of arrows and the long-forgotten bow on the ground. Approaching Bella he handed them to her. She looked at him with concern.
“Here..take these. I dare say you will need them more than I. That tree branch will not help you
much with the other things out there to fight. When you see a weapon on the ground pick it up and use it if need be. Or sell it for gold in the nearest town. Fair to say I do not have much else to give you. Advise and instruction is the best I can do.”
Bella took the bow and quiver and a dagger she found on the ground. Pulling the quiver onto her back she looked about. Off to the right a slow burning building caught her attention. She could hear the faint sound of a child crying.
“Quick Master Edvard. That child needs help.”
“Ah….there she is. I knew there was one child left but could not find her. She must have been hiding inside that building. Hurry Avatar….rescue the child. I will meet you at the other gate and we will get her to safety.”
Turning on heel Bella ran to the building. Pushing the broken door open she saw a soldier dead on the floor. His shining sword at his side and a crumpled note in his hand. She took both and headed up the stairway where she heard the whimpers of a child.

As she went up the stairs an armed skeleton crashed through the far door. Still holding the dead man’s sword she quickly spun and slashed at the skeleton. Shattered bone clattered on the floor. That was easy enough. Leaping up the stairs two at a time she reached the landing only to see another of those skeletons making its way towards the child. Sword in hand she jumped between them and began slicing at the monster. This one was not that easy. The clanging of swords being crossed seemed to vibrate in her ears and throughout the room. Stumbling back a bit she regained her footing and lunged forward. Surprise caught her as her sword was wedged in the ribs of the skeleton. With a twist and a yank she freed it and the bones clattered to the floor.

Taking a breath she looked around only to see the child peering over the top of the bed where she had been trying to hide. Bella reached a hand out and the girl ran into her arms crying. Holding her close for a moment she pulled her face up to look into her eyes. Fear was obvious but there was something else there as well.

“What is your name child?” The girl looked at her with tearfilled eyes. “Charlotte Gray is my name and I want to go home.” Bella took the child by the hand and led her down the stairs and out the doorway. “Come along then. We will see about getting you home.”

Across the courtyard she could see Edvard standing by the gate. Holding the child with one hand and the sword with another she made her way across. Edvard stood solemnly. Looking down she saw another guard. He too had met his fate with these creatures. He too had a sword like the other. She reached down and took it as well. Sliding it through her belt she nodded to Edvard.

Reaching up he pushed the lever to open the gate and they proceeded to walk across the bridge. Nothing came after them this time. But she was ever watchful just the same. At the end of the bridge she looked up the hill. There she saw the rift. That must be the way they were heading.

“Master Edvard…..the rift. Should we head there and get out of this forsaken place?”

“Nay child. That is not the way right now. The stars are not aligned correctly. And I have no idea where that rift would lead us. You must take the girl to Soltown. Her mother Abigail is there.”

At the sound of her mother’s name the girl perked up a bit. She squeezed Bella’s hand eager to go to her mother. Bella looked down and smiled. “Yes. I will take you.” Edvard moved towards the edge of the road and down a short path was a small boat. He motioned for Bella to go ahead of him.

“Quickly Avatar. Take the child and make your way up river. You will be in Soltown by dawn. Tis not safe to tarry here. Darkness brings the creatures out in numbers. You both will be better off than here.” Looking across the darkening land he looked back. Bella put the girl in the boat and started to climb in when Edvard took her by the shoulder.

“Take this book and give to Captain Stanley. It is an accounting of what has happened here and such. He will make the decision of what to do next. Perhaps he can get troops from Ardoris to come and help clear the area. And that sword and note you have be sure to give them to the loved ones. The sword will goes to Emily in Soltown. That note to a lady in Celestis. If you happen to make your way there…Go now Avatar. Darkness grows.”

As she pushed away from the bank and started to row Edvard yelled out to her.

“By what name doth thee go by Avatar. So I will know if ever we meet again.”

Cupping her hands to shout back.. ”Belladonna Rose is my name.”

Echoes From the Caverns

Echoes From the Caverns

June 21 2018

Black Rose Chronicles 3 – by Belladonna Rose – narrated by Asclepius

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

Taking in the transformation of herself she looked around her again. The mirror no longer glowed. Only a shimmering and swirl of lights could be seen now. Not even her own reflection. Stunned at this magic she stood there for a time. Then a voice came to her tell her to go up the path to the building at the top. “Your Destiny awaits you Avatar”.

Turning she looked up the path and started to walk. Walk. Smiling she took a few more steps and began to run up the path. Amazed that she was on her own two legs again. Thank the stars she was whole once more. As she reached the top of the hill she saw an ornate looking building. Small but very impressive. Intricate carvings and a strange red glow from the domed roof. This must be the place.

Reaching out she slowly turns the knob of the wooden door. The metal of the knob was warm to the touch. As the door opened a soft warm mist greeted her and the red glow inside grew even brighter.

Stepping into the structure she saw the huge metal face hanging on the wall. Strange glowing eyes seemed to stare down at her. She stepped forward and looked about the room. Empty alcoves were to the left and the right. Huge torches hung on the walls beside the face. As she grew closer to the face the metallic churning sounds of gears began. Louder and louder. Covering her ears, she started to step away towards the door.

“Greetings Avatar. At last you have arrived.”

Stopping dead in her tracks she looked at the face. The glowing eyes blinked at her and the face looked as though it was alive. Shaking in her own skin she stepped close again to examine this strange thing on the wall.

“We have been waiting for you Avatar. It has been foretold that one such as yourself would arrive.”

Blinking again she stood infront of the face and listened carefully to what it said.

“By what name do you go Avatar?”

Swallowing hard she tried to find the words to answer. After a moment she finally spoke with her own voice instead of using her mind as she did with the hooded lady.

“My name is Belladonna Rose.”

“Greetings Belladonna Rose. I am the Oracle. I am here to help determine who you shall be as you move through this new world. I am but a guide to help you learn and navigate on your journey.”

Bella looked quizzically at the machine. The clanking and grinding of gears was almost overwhelming. Shaking her head again she heard the face give a soft chuckle and soon the sounds subsided, and a dull hum filled the room.

“Here I will ask a series of questions to determine the path you should follow. There are no right or wrong answers. And no answer is irrevocable. Tis the way of the mind and soul to change one’s mind along the path to better suit or deter your destiny. Your path will be yours to follow. I will simply assist you in following the choices that your feel are best. I know not your mind or heart Avatar, I can only watch your actions and advise on what I see.”

Bella felt a bit tense at the conversation. Not sure if she should trust this machine. She was not all that familiar with this sort of entity. This sort of thing was not widely known or used where she came from. She was definitely in a new world. Remembering what Arabella said about Lord British she decided to continue and listen.

After a time, the Oracle asked her many questions. Things about what she would do in certain situations. She only prayed that she answered the right way. She responded with her heart. For that was truly the only way she felt she could be honest with herself in everything she did.

The clank and grind of gears started up again. “Ahh. You have chosen the Path of Love Avatar. And I will now instruct you where to start your journey. The outpost of Solace Bridge has been under attack. Here you will venture forth through the rift and make your way to help those who survived. Upon reaching Solace Bridge look for Edvard. He will guide you from there.”

Bella looked quizzically at the Oracle.

“You will see me again Avatar. And I advise you check with me when you see buildings such as this in many a town. Here I can give counsel and help you if you need advice. Your destiny awaits you.”

The eyes of the Oracle glowed slightly and blinked.

“Your arrival has been foretold in a prophecy Avatar and the road you travel pre-ordained. We have waited long for your arrival. You must not delay any further. You will learn much and be given many choices in your travels. You will meet many foes and make many friends along your way. Heed all in your path. Now you must go Avatar. The world of New Britannia awaits you.”

Bowing her head quickly she stepped backwards towards the door. As she turned, the door opened before her. The diminished light of the outer world let her know that it was coming upon nightfall. She exited the chamber and looked towards the uphill path. Looking back again to the chamber the door was now closed again. Taking a deep breath, she made her way up the path.

Muttering to herself. “I have no weapon. I have no food. What in hell’s name am I doing here? This is some sort of trick or am I really in another realm. No matter. I need to go forth. I need to find Jack and the crew. If I have to turn this world upside down to do it, then I will.”

Trudging up the hill she saw the circle of pillars and the bright swirling blue orb in the center. This must be the rift that Arabella and the Oracle talked about. Do I step inside she wondered. Jump. Run. Bella walked to the edge of the ring and peered inside. Nothing but blue shimmering and swirling lights.

“What the hell. I am probably dead anyways. What can go wrong. I have nothing to lose.”

Taking a deep breath, she ran straight at the rift and disappeared from this place.

Echoes From the Caverns

Echoes From the Caverns

May 3 2018

Xak’s song of Revenge – by Xarras

When I have you at my mercy
will I halt and my avenging hand stay
will I not think that justice an investment that day
mercy or murder just a moment away

you’ve trampled the innocent
you cheat and you lie
why should we spare
you lead others to die

Our weapons are sharpened
our potions are strong
our spells are full power
Our grievances long

Or stop to balance the thought that
you might repent your bad ways,
against the reward on your head
and the thought that it just might
make me feel just a bit better that day.

I would gladly give up the honour and the fame
to see you swiftly on your way
to the limbo that is the pay
for your wicked, wicked, wicked ways

You better not blink
You better be sharp
There’ll be no time to think
Cos in the beat of your heart
I will take it away
Take your skull away
I will take your jaw away
Take your bones away

Or stop to balance the thought
that you might repent your bad ways,
against the reward on your head
and the thought that it just help
make me feel a lot better that day.

With my friends and my guild mates
we’ll dance in a line
rejoicing your demise
time after time after time after time . .

May 3 2018

Limericks – by Cock of the North

There was a man from Middle Downs,

He liked to wear short ladies gowns,

The bandits did frown,

As the sun struck his mound,

At the size of the jewels in his crown.

There was a man named Oakenvalley,

He strived and strived to be a Pally,

From elf jokes he triggered,

So one day he figured,

I’ll specialize in crafting instead!

There was a young warrior called Klank,

Who often Shock Monkeys did spank,

When noone was looking,

He levelled his cooking,

By basting a tender ham shank.

May 1 2018

A Day to Remember – by Lilunai Laurasia

Cuando el líder de su banda propuso ir a cazar dragones, pensó que estaba loco, pero pronto se vio envuelta en los preparativos.

Tras unos días de marcha llegaron a un desierto donde al instante divisaron un monstruo gigantesco, ni cinco hombres puestos unos sobre otros llegarían a tocar el pecho del animal. Los rumores que oyeron días antes sobre un valle infestado de dragones eran ciertos.

Se sacaron lanzas, espadas, escudos, flechas y comenzó la batalla. Pronto todo fue un torbellino de polvo, donde destellos metálicos se confundían con llamaradas de fuego. Los rugidos de la bestia se mezclaban con los gritos furiosos de sus compañeros. Desde la distancia ella lanzaba sus conjuros de protección y de sanación, rogando a Sequanna su favor. Nunca se habían enfrentado a nada semejante, cada coletazo era demoledor y las curas pronto empezaron a ser pocas. Aquel engendro del abismo se resistía a sucumbir y aunque sus compañeros eran derribados y heridos, se levantaban de nuevo, mostrando un coraje excepcional. Cuando parecía que no seria posible la hazaña, el dragón empezó a dar muestras de cansancio y se redoblaron los ataques. Por fin, una lanza atravesó las escamas del dragón y con un último rugido ensordecedor, se desplomó.

Incluso ahora, tumbada en la cama se sentía cansada. Aun notaba el peso del escudo en su brazo y le dolía la cabeza. En la oscuridad, sobre la mesilla, veía el resplandor de su varita. Hoy había sido una jornada larga y agotadora. Y sonrió.”