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Thread: To Those who will read or have read some or all of the thread "disturbing news"

  1. #1

    Default To Those who will read or have read some or all of the thread "disturbing news"

    To one and all I welcome you !

    I am in need of assistance. In the “disturbing news” thread I am creating a background for a series of events and story lines for the common people, those with only one life. The ones never mentioned in the official histories, the ones that built our roads and labored on our cities. Ever present, ever ignored, never seen or so their lives appear to us, the gifted.

    Two thread lines I will open. PLEASE post in them as you feel inclined or inspired. This is about NON lore, NON divine histories and activities of the common folk. Their histories, they shall pass generation to generation, as they have always done mother to her children, father to son or daughter. Before fires, in thatched huts or in the campsites away from home, as they labor.

    This thread shall be for stories associated with the main thread using a direct link to the story line, and the other one for parallel stories of your pleasure, and leisure, that are not directly associated with the story line I am telling. Feel free to start you own story line if you like.

    This is the game I have chosen to pay to play. It is a great joy. Our hobbies are supposed to be about FUN, not about 2nd jobs.

    This is my hobby, and joy. Feel free, therefore, to wade into the fray. Grins I am terrible at typing with the 2 handed 2 finger approach. IF I can do it, then anyone can.

    Help me make this a Rich story of depth and quality that only diverse participation can!!

    Thank you for your time!!

    Jp aka Skirnir Ouji Glada

  2. #2

    Default Brimstone in Bristugo

    A tiny, pink and orange dryad hovered in the Bristugo bank, waiting for the keeper to access her vault. He was taking an inordinate amount of time. Tapping teeny feet against the counter, she fluttered her wings, hoping to attract the lazy human's attention. Of course, was ignoring her.

    Typical. Lazy, good for nothing, no account— Her inner rant was interrupted by the screech of a dragon hatchling. The cursing of a gnome and the mother's roar rent the air. Glancing out the door, she saw the mother rear up on her hind legs. Opening her jaw, the dragon dame prepared her attack.

    The dragon's fire hit the gate, destroying it with gold and silver flames. It shuddered, quivered and groaned as the fire consumed it. Seconds later, a chain reaction flashed through the gate network. Tremors began, rattling windows, shaking cobblestones, sending a ripple from the first portal, around the circle, under the bank, through the guild house and down the hills. Rolling and groaning the land waited for the inevitable.

    Framed in the doorway, WyldRose Red watched in horror as the gate plaza pooled with dragon fire and a wash of unleashed portal energy. It didn't take a genius to recognize that disaster was upon them.
    With a gasp, she dove behind the counter. “Get down!” she commanded the vault keeper.

    Sluggish grunt that he was, he didn't duck quickly enough. A chunk of the nearest portal flew through the door, narrowly missing his head. Instead of taking cover, the fool stood there, staring stupidly out the door. More pieces of stone and shards of portal hurtled his way.

    Risking life and wing, the dryad flew at his knees, buckling them from behind. He fell heavily, hitting his head on the counter, knocking himself unconscious. Rose took cover behind him and the desk, barricading herself as best she could. Pandemonium filled the ruined courtyard. Dragons, humans and creatures of all races arrived, all talking at once. WyldRose stayed hidden, watching as the mother and baby were led off. Emergency personnel from Dalimond arrived, doing their best to treat the wounded and put out the fires. Complete chaos reigned—and no one watched the tiny figure in the bank.

    The vault keeper was out cold, his large iron keys on a heavy ring attached to his belt. Since she still needed access to her vault, the petite, winged creature tugged until she loosed the keys. Selecting the one for her box, she struggled to the safe. The keyring was nearly as heavy as she, but she was strong for her size. Ascending to her box, she unlocked it, with some difficulty, and got what she needed. Once the box was back in place, she looked around. Casting a glace over shoulder, at the mayhem and confusion in the courtyard, she eyed the ring of keys. Weighing them in her hands, she turned in a slow, deliberate circle.

    Who would notice? Who would see? In all the madness, no one would pay a lick of attention to a diminutive dryad. Why, she was virtually invisible to everyone as it was. No one paid her any mind. Like the bank attendant, they ignored her, equating size with skill. As if only the wingless had any wits. Hmph! She'd show them!

    With another surreptitious peek at the bedlam, she flickered quickly to the far end of the vault, where the richest boxes lay. With difficulty, as the contents were far heavier than her own, she opened three. Inside, great riches met her brilliant green eyes. Smiling, she dug through each box, selecting small, expensive gems, coins and pieces of jewelry. Transporting each prize to her own box, she slammed it shut, locking it and the other boxes carefully. Returning the keys to the vault keeper's belt, she flew out the back window.

    Astounded at her own audacity, she headed home. Her little heart fluttered in her tiny chest. Flushed with excitement and pride, she didn't notice the mayhem and madness behind her in the portal plaza. The sounds of the emergency personnel, militia and dragons blended into a noisy backdrop to her flight of victory.

    That would teach the lazy, fat sluggard to ignore her! And the beauty of it all, he wouldn't ever know. The box owners wouldn't even realize they'd been robbed, and no one would suspect a dryad. If anything, they'd blame the loutish human. Giggling with glee, she flew top speed, all the way home.

  3. #3

    Default Re: Brimstone in Bristugo

    “What are you waiting for, you lazy idiot? Nevermind, those two words contain the answer.”

    Mingtian shook a hoof at the half-conscious vault keeper. “I didn’t come running here all the way from Dalimond for nothing. Find your ******** keys and let me open my vault box NOW or you’ll find yourself lighting a new fire!”

    Word was spreading quickly about the portal fires. Ming had passed a group of fire fighters on the road but they were encumbered with their equipment and wouldn’t arrive for a while. Long enough for her to remove her valuables before the Tazoon authorities arrived. They would close the bank for sure, if not for good, then temporarily.

    The vaultkeeper seemed to hardly notice her presence, in spite of the strong goat fragrance she naturally carried. Ming decided to ignore the fool and began to search the area behind the counter, stepping over broken rock and fragments of charred wood and molten metal. Finally, she spotted a glint of silver in a pile of cinders. Before the vaultkeeper could even grunt a word of protest she gave him a Satyr kick to the nether parts and as he gasped in pain, made her way into the vault where her deposit box resided.
    “Nothing seems out of place in here,“ she mumbled as she keyed open the oblong box.

    Ming brushed the Admantium necklace aside, focusing her attention fondly on a shard of wood inscribed with the letters ONE FISHI. She licked it and took a small bite, savoring not only the taste but the memory of how angry Cixi the gnome had been after she chewed up the sign. Putting it down, she sniffed at a packet of maple fudge, likewise looted from the gnome’s plot, but reluctantly decided she didn’t have time for a snack. Then the sharp truth hit her. Where were her most prized treasures?

    “Impossible!,” she screeched, then immediately looked behind to see if the vaultkeeper had heard. Ming turned the box upside down and shook it vigorously. Several gems tumbled to the ground, but the Lore Tokens were nowhere to be found. It had taken her months to steal those and replace them with look-alikes so Cixi wouldn’t notice. That gnome had so much crap in her storage, she never really looked hard at anything. And she didn’t really need them, after all, she had so many formulas and expensive objects and Ming had hardly anything. Cixi was greedy and Ming didn’t feel bad about anything except all the time she’d wasted stealing the tokens.
    “Someone’s been in here and I’m going to find out who it was,” she grunted, slamming shut the box. She slammed it back into place on the vault wall and gave the adjacent deposit boxes a few good kicks just to release some of her anger. Then she exited the vault and marched up to the vaultkeeper to have a little heart to heart talk.
    Gnome Extraordinaire
    Join the GLF! *Gnome Liberation Front

  4. #4

    Default New Orders at North Crystal

    Bytsi wrung her hands, as she looked at the construction workers. Most of the workers had left demanding payment after Laslo had run down the road to the North Crystal portal. Since she could not pay anyone, others had left threatening to notify their Union Reps, and suing the plot owner. The rest of the workers, the remaining twenty or thirty, started advancing on her with their weapons and large tools.

    Shouting at her, the misfit, group started brandishing their weapons and began to run towards her. Coming around the corner, running from the gang of unpaid criminal looking ruffians, she ran past the bank. A dead body lay outside the the huge guild house, in front of the bank. Looking into the tiny vault, she beheld, Penolope hiding behind the counter with a heavy yew crossbow sticking up in the air.

    “Need help!!. The whole unpaid gang is after me.” Bysti cried.
    Penelope hollered, “Hop in behind the counter Bytsi!! Don't touch the green bowl of goo, girl!”

    Bytsi dashed into the bank sliding under the able flap in the counter, then locked it into place. Penelope dipped the first two bolts into the lethal, green goo. The first two brigands dashed, one behind the other, into small space of the tiny bank, wielding axes. Penelope fired, without second thought. The power of the crossbow at such short range took the first brigand with its poisoned bolt in the chest. Without armor, he dropped writhing on the floor, as the bolt found its second and last home buried in the chest of the of the Ssilik behind. The third brigand, a very large human with broken yellow teeth, met his fate with Bytsi's incantation, using staff and blood doll. Stunned and knocked backwards by the power of blood, he was still wavering on his feet. The yew crossbow fired again at point blank range. The very large human dropped like a stone, as the bolt nicked another, who fell writhing on the ground. The remaining villains stood milling around the door way trying to figure out a way to get in.

    Outside, the pad glowed and flashed in quick sequence. A piping voice rang out, “Surrender or die!”

    “Tis the Wardogs! Run!”
    “We ain't beina paid kill 'em fer da loot!

    The construction workers charged with evil intent gleaming in their eyes, sure thoughts of easy kills.

    “Kill them all!” the dryad officer shouted.

    The twangs of bows rang out, as fiery arrows hit the charging mob.. The thudding of heavy booted, running steps came to the females behind the counter. Screams, moans and groans, and calls for mercy were all cut short with the sounds of finality. There was silence.

    Bytsi and Penelope looked out past the edge of the vault doorway. Two elves, and two humans stood there. A half giant, with a dryad sitting on his head, came towards them. Walking through the carnage, as if it was nothing, the muscle bulging warriors with a blue tattoos on the left side of their faces, strode toward them, without a care in the world.

    “By the gods, Bytsi, it is true. The Dogs of War do, indeed, exist!!”, exclaimed Penelope.

    “There have been rumors about them for years. An elite division of criminals, let out of prison, in some type of agreement with General Az. They wear his family crest, in blue, on the left side of their faces. The worst of the worst, they are most highly trained killers in the world. They were trained outside of Aughundell, by the Iron Guard, and in the Forrest's of Feladan by foresters, druids and guardians. Their viciousness and mercilessness has become urban legend.”

    “I don't know about all of that, but that is my friend, Gruint. We knew each other as children, and were always in trouble.” Squealing in happy joy, she ran to the half giant and jumped up. Catching her, he swung her round and round. As the friends made their re-aquantaince, the pad flashed. A group of Saris appeared. The dryad officer with the Wardogs hailed them. After a muttered conversation, gestured to the undeveloped plot. The Saris were off and hunting for a scent.

    The druid officer called for attention. Knossos Crete, the High Elder and guild master of the Annatar ,and Skirnir Ouija Glada appeared next on the pad. The Wardogs came to attention and saluted.

    Knossos was the first to speak,” Colonel you have given these fine gentlemen your general's orders?

    “Not yet sir. I was waiting for the dragons to arrive.

    “Dragons sir? Sergeant Gruint.”

    “Yes, Sergeant. The guild master here called his very old friend the High Elder of Lunus in Dralk for assistance.”

    All looked at Knossos in awe.

    “They should be here any moment. Ahh here they are now.” He pointed at the dragons above them, coming for a landing.

    “Kumo and Fireopal, it Is good to see you both again,” called Skirnir..

    Looking at the landed dragons; and Wardogs, Knossos tapped his foot impatiently and said, “Listen closely, all of you. The half giant there is in charge when the dragons sleep. The dragons are in charge when the half giant is asleep. I will NOT tolerate any shenanigans from any of you. There are going to be over five thousand caretakers, healers here, with support personnel, of all types. There will be hundreds, if not thousands, of injured and dying.” he pointed his Druid cudgel at each individual. “All of you, comprise the only true fighting defence. Each will attend his or her duties, as it is required! I will NOT tolerate ANY foolishness on anyone's part here! Do I make myself CLEAR?!”

    All stepped back at his thundering tone, as Bytsi hid behind Gruint's legs.

    “Now My dear, Skirnir, perhaps YOU will explain to Me about this plot NOT being ready!!

    “Oh, most Ancient high elder, I was waiting upon you to deliver your deep wisdom about what was required here, so that you could create it as needed. I am only a youth, not yet in my prime, and am still learning,” Skirnir said looking innocently about. Leaning closer to Knossos, the Old Guard, Skirnir whispered something.

    Suddenly a beatific expression appeared on the ancient dwarf's face. Coughing politely he smiled broadly.
    Nodding, Knossos said, “Of course. I did not know about that classified information. You will give me that report privately in a few minutes.”

    The Saris group came up, their commander holding up a a shirt. After a short, quiet discussion with the dryad officer, the Saris officer addressed the group. “We have the scent.”

    The dryad officer nodded as the Saris recalled.

    The dryad officer turned to Skirnir and said, “Did you know three individuals were here earlier and fenced off the backside of your Large Guild House? They were from three different departments. So the Saris told me. There are signs that keep falling down about a supposed investigation to be done for disturbed spirits.”

    “What!!??,” Skirnir nearly shouted.

    “NO worries, Elder Skirnir. I am sure these fine warriors can take care of it all!” Shesaid before she recalled. Everyone looked at each other in askance. The order was clear.

    With a sudden, if not enthusiastic step, Knossos, the well known Guild Master of the Annatar, approached the stone. He tapped it, starting to chant in an ancient, forgotten tongue. Suddenly, right in front of the gods and everyone, a fully built plot began to emerge. Stone blocks became walls. Tiles became walk ways. All the while thundering clouds with lightening swirled above the plot. The wind whipped this way and that way. Stillness came abruptly. Within moments the plot was finished.

    Holding out a small bag to Bytsi Knossos said, “Take these seeds and plant where you wish them to grow and be quick about it.”

    Bytsi stood with her mouth working, and nothing coming out.
    Sergeant Gruint spoke up,”Right away guild master.” Picking Bytsi up, and putting her on his shoulder, he trotted inside the plot.

    “Is the ancient dwarf really a god, Gruint?,” Bytsi whispered urgently.

    “No, Gruint said back once in the plot out of earshot. “He is worse.”

    “Worse?” as she began to look fearful.

    “Yes, he is a Gifted One so is that dorf named Skirnir.

    “Oh No!!,” as she hid her face in her giant friend's shoulder.

    The pad flashed almost continuously. Individuals of all types came in a steady stream. The night was going to be a long one.

    A ghostly, silhouetted form sat atop the Human Cenotaph, sipping a real Dwarven ale cool dark and sweet. Reebdoog smiled. Interesting times were coming. Since the human conspiracy was finally found out, and the evil doers caught, he thought about leaving. Shaking his head he decided not to. Finally, and most importantly, there was going to be plenty of free ale right here. Maybe he should invite some friends.

  5. #5

    Default Dirty Deeds in Dalimond and Mayhem in Mahagra

    “What's a girl got to do to get a drink?” Gravel Gerty yelled. “Honestly! My coin's as good as any other.” She hammered on the counter at the Dalimond tavern.

    “But you haven't any,” the tavern keeper snarled. “Out, Gerty, before I throw you out.”

    “I'm leaving, but only because I've got to be somewhere. Not because you told me!” The grubby half-giant was lumbering out the door when the floor shook. Knocked on her bum, she landed in an untidy heap. “What was that?”

    The tavern keeper didn't say a word. He could only point toward Bristugo, mouth working like a landed fish. Picking herself up, Gerty dusted her backside and squinted. Her eyes were a bit dimmer than they'd been a decade ago, but she could still see details that the human's eyes could not. For one, she saw dragon flames shoot high in the sky. Something flew through the air, but it wasn't a dragon. Huge pieces of masonry hurtled toward them. Flaming debris, carried on the waves of explosion, rained down like fiery hale. Trees, bushes, thatched roofs—all were aflame.

    While Gus, the tavern keeper, gawped, and the patrons ran around like wounded lemmings, Gerty, ever the opportunist, grabbed up a full keg and high tailed it out the back door.

    “Oi, Gert!” her pal, Rough Robby called to her from the arrival pad. “We've got a job on. Come with?”

    “What sort, Rob?”

    “Roughing up the vault keeper, maybe a bit of snatch and grab? It's a standing contract, see?”

    “We'll be caught. The militia....”

    “All gone to the emergency. Stow the keg and come along. We need a gal like you.” Robby wasn't a very big fellow, being only four foot six—tall for a gnome.

    Gerty, a petite six foot eight, was lithesome for a half-giant. She might be delicate, by giant standards, but she was mighty stout. If anyone could rough up the vault keeper, it was she. Drugan, the town marshal, ran past, paying them no nevermind. He shouted orders and was immediately followed by Cole, the Guardian trainer. Together, the two men ran full speed to Bristugo.

    Inside, Gus was gone, as were the patrons. Robby helped himself to the till as Gerty and their companion, Oily Moe, ran upstairs to the bank vault. Maggie, the gnome, stood stoutly behind the counter. She wasn't one to run off in a tizzy because of a small thing like a massive explosion in Bristugo. She had a duty to perform, goods to protect. Fingers tingling with magical energy, she prepared a spell when she saw the half-giant coming toward her, with murderous intent. The fact Gerty was smiling notwithstanding, she readied her spell.

    “Robby didn't tell me the vault keeper was a gnome! Who needs to rough that little smidgen up? She's a wee thing, no bigger than a pup!” Laughing, Gerty swept the gnome into her arms and divested her of the keys she wore attached to her belt. Handing Oily Moe the keys, she tossed the gnome in the air. Screaming and kicking, Maggie protested this treatment, but Gerty simply laughed.

    “I'll report you!” Maggie screeched. “I'll get the law on you!”

    Gerty set her on a crossbeam of the building. By this time, Moe had emptied the cash drawer and was now looting the richest bank boxes, dumping their contents into bags.

    “Good job we've got you with us, Gert,” he chuckled. “You can carry more than Rob and me.”

    Oily Moe was a Ssylic who made a living, such as it was, relieving tax paying members of society, of their worldly goods. Gert didn't like him much, but he and Rob were a team. He slapped her on the fanny, grinning up at her. Gravel Gerty could handle a lot, but having some creepy, cold-blood handling her like that, was more than she was willing to tolerate. Grabbing up the bags of loot, she recalled.

    Rob and Moe tried to grab her hazy form before she could leave. Maggie hopped onto Moe's head from the crossbeam, screaming loudly. Gerty's last glimpse was of Dreaveon, the Battle Mage trainer, rushing up the stairs and zapping them both before they could recall.

    “I'll get you for this!” Moe yelled, his voice fading to nothing as the spell took her away.

    Landing at her guild shrine outside Mahagra, Gerty unloaded the bags of loot. She didn't dare take them into town, but she could safely stow them in a hideyhole. Afterward, she trotted down the hill to Mahagra. The town square swarmed with guards and emergency personnel. Several mages circled the center, all facing the town portal.

    A low, menacing rumble filled the air. The blue, glossy matter which made the portal, shivered and shook. Shock waves rippled its surface. The stone framework glowed a frightening red-orange, like burning blood. The wizards muttered their spells, their voices muted by the horrendous sounds coming from the gate. One after another fell to their knees, unable to keep on their feet because of the tremors.

    “Get back!” one gasped, losing her balance. She fell to her side, landing hard, her concentration broken.
    The gate turned black. Smoke curled from the carved stone sides. The rumble became a deafening roar.
    “It's going to blow!” a second mage screamed.

    Flattening themselves, the wizards covered their heads. No longer able to contain the destruction of the gate, they thought only of self-preservation. There was no time to recall, the gate's demolition would catch them before the spell was half cast.

    Watching from the hill, Gerty hurled herself into a snowbank, praying to the gods for protection. With a screech like a wounded beast, the gate blew apart. Gerty huddled under the snow, quivering behind a boulder. Flaming debris pelted down, setting even the stones on fire. Snow melted and hissed around her as the fiery shrapnel bombarded the landscape. A great, blue gout of gelatinous liquid spurted from inside the gate, heading her way. Gerty couldn't escape it. She could only curl in a fetal position and pray. With an ear shattering splat, it hit the ground, bathing Gerty in hot, sticky goo.

    Yowling, she struggled to her feet, lurching into a nearby snowbank. The icy substance quenched the heat, but caused the gel to harden on her body. Unable to move, she lay on the ground until a Saris cleric found her. His smiling face faded from view as she lost consciousness.

    “It's all right,” he purred gently. “I've got you....”

  6. #6

    Default The Thrill Is (Not Quite) Gone

    Sniffing deeply, Harlun Vorundo rose from her icy throne. Shaking off the lassitude that had enraptured her decades ago, she took a deep breath. Trouble on the wind. The scent of brimstone, ozone and dragonfire made her shiver with anticipation.

    Smoothing her horns, tail flicking excitedly, she smiled. Some might not consider it such, for it was disturbing in the extreme. Pointed white teeth flashed between blue-black lips.

    “What's this?” she asked no one, for she could abide no companions for long.

    A magical portal opened in her wall, rippling like a stone in water. The surface shifted, quivered and solidified. Chaos greeted her hungry, silver eyes. Nostrils flaring, she watched the destruction in Bristugo with glee. Heart racing, she shivered as the view danced from Dalimond to Mahagra, and all over the world. Fire, explosions, devastation, confusion.

    “Celio!” she bellowed.

    An obsequious lizard appeared, bowing deeply. His lavender tinged ruff flared with apprehension. His mistress rarely called him, and when she did, it was generally unpleasant—for him.

    “Mistress.” He bowed even more deeply, cringing, because she liked to throw things when he wasn't looking.
    “I need you to contact Bejur and Grysm immediately. We have a job to do, we four.”

    “F-four, Madame?”

    “You're still a thief, Celio, whether you act like it or not. At one time, you were the top vault specialist in my guild. Is that no longer the case?”

    “It is still the case, Madame.” He drew himself up to his diminutive height, far shorter than his Amazon of a mistress.

    “Good. Well, call them now. We've no time to waste.”

    “Where are we going, Ma'am? They will ask,” he rushed to say, not wanting to incur her wrath.

    “To have a bit of fun. Tell them to come prepared for a heist.”

    “Heist, Ma'am?” he squeaked. His ruff turned a putrid shade of green.

    “We are thieves. Should we not steal?”

    “But—but—it has been a long time since A heist, you say?”

    “I am still capable, you cringing fool. Are you? I need the best, steadiest hands in the business. That used to be you. If it's not, get someone else. One misstep and you'll die.”

    “I am every bit as good!”

    He bridled suddenly, shocking her. Mistress Vorundo, head of the Thieves Guild, wasn't easily surprised. Another smile, equally as chilling, graced her glacial features. Celio did his best not to twitch away, but it took every ounce of determination he possessed.

    “Excellent. Have our guests been summoned?”

    “Yes, ma'am. They should be here soon. I have reports that the portals have been damaged.”
    “They carry transport scrolls to this location, for a reason.”

    “Of course.”

    “Go get your tools. I must prepare.”

    Bowing, he scuttled backward out the tall, double door. They swung shut behind him with a ringing clang. His mistress liked the echo of steel on steel in her mighty, mountain home.

    High above the world, in the frozen wastes, the Guild Mistress of the Thieves Guild prepared for the ultimate heist. She hated to admit, even to herself, that she was looking forward to it. It had been far too long since she had planned and executed a heist of this magnitude, but her brain had already come up with a plan. Time was short, they wouldn't have days, weeks or even hours to put this in action. They had minutes, perhaps seconds, to be in and out of the most well guarded vault in all of Istaria.

    “Grysm and Bejur, Madame,” Celio announced from the doorway.

    With a clank and clatter, her guests entered. Well, calling them guests was a misnomer, but minion (a term she'd always liked) was so last century. Calling them thugs wasn't appropriate. Underling – better. Flunky? Had a good ring to it. Stooge, she dismissed without even fully considering it. Lackey—there. That had the right sound.

    The lackeys stood just inside the doorway, framed by the vaulted, pointed arch. Grysm, a dwarf, was the best tunneler in Istaria. He'd won awards—all on the down low, as it were, for his ability to tunnel. Even travertine presented no problem for him. Dressed in the finest fashions of Kirascant, he cut quite a dashing figure.

    Next to him, stamping impatiently, was Bejur the Satyr. He was to concealment, what Grysm was to tunneling. He could cover their tracks so even a dragon couldn't follow them—which was important, given the target.

    “Madame,” they chorused, bowing deeply.

    “Gentlemen. A job awaits us.”

    “Do tell,” Bejur said, smoothing his rusty hair with casual ease.

    “We're going to break into the unbreakable vault.”

    The three stood with their jaws gaping.

    “Not only that, we're going to walk off with dragon hoards.”

    “You're not serious!” Bejur yelled. “Do you expect me to cover that? They can sniff out anything, track anywhere. They know their hoards to the tiniest molecule. They don't need a scent to track it. They follow by feel! Impossible!”

    “And yet, you bragged to me, on more than one occasion, that it could be done. Do you really have that skill, or did you brag to your Guild Mistress, in order to attain your lofty position?”

    To admit he'd lied to her, would mean his death. If he was very lucky, and she was generous, he would die instantly, his soul sucked from his body. If not, it would mean years of torture in her icy prison, deep within the mountain.

    Waiting, eyebrow arched, she stared at him. Gulping hard, he tried to speak. Harlun tapped her foot, her tail swishing impatiently.

    “I did not lie.”

    “Good. If you did, and we are discovered, you'll be lucky if the dragons get you.”

    Bowing slightly, he took a tiny step back.


    “You can tunnel into those hoards, can't you?”

    “Yes, Madame. It would be my pleasure. The taste of gold gives the ground an extra zing. Easy enough to find. You get me into the vault, I'll do the rest.” He tipped his head at the Satyr. “If Lumpy, here, can do his job, I'll gladly do mine.”

    “Excellent. Celio, are you ready?”

    “Yes.” He bobbed his scaly head.

    “Good. Here's what we're going to do.” She went over the plan with them.

    Awed by her plan, they couldn't help but smile. Even Bejur looked less worried when she was done.
    “Think you can handle it?”

    “Easy as taking posies from a Dryad,” the Dwarf chuckled.

    “Excellent. Transportation,” she gestured broadly, muttering words of power only she, as Guild Mistress, knew.
    A portal appeared, quivering in the air before them. On this side, they could see her lavish, though chilly, chamber. On the other, the mountain terrain of Dralk. Taking the first step through, she held her arms to keep the portal open for them to follow. It snicked shut, nearly on Celio's tail. Twitching it up quickly, he avoided a painful, and embarrassing, mutilation. Convinced she'd done it on purpose, he let his irritation show in the form of a red ring around his neck.

    His mistress either didn't see, or chose to ignore it, and strode purposefully down the rock face toward the rear of the bank. There was no back entrance, for the dragons protected more than vault boxes here. Those with no lair to call home, left their hoards here, guarded by the best fighters, and magical wards, known to dragon-kind. What they didn't realize was that the wards were placed by Mistress Vorundo, centuries ago, when she became Mistress of the Guild. How better to protect oneself from thieves, than to have a thief lay the wards? Each new Guild head laid wards shortly after taking the position of power.

    Already, her hands moved in intricate patterns, her words hoarse and guttural. One ward after another flared and died with a poof of orange, green or purple smoke.

    “Ready?” she asked Grysm.

    “On my mark.” He hefted his magical pick ax and nodded to her.

    Speaking the last words, she felt a tremor in the ground. No one would notice. There had been so many over the last hour, what was one more? She knew that it was the last protective ward falling.

    Grysm's ax swung, taking huge chunks of stone with each hit. The stone magically disappeared into the ether, a dimension known as Elsewhen, keeping the signs of his travail a secret. When he had a sizable hole dug, Celio trotted in, tools at the ready. He accessed the heavy gate with ease, after first disabling the sophisticated alarms. The gate swung inward with a tiny sigh.

    Vorundo waited as Bejur and Celio accessed the richest bank boxes. Grysm sniffed around, seeking signs of the hoards. With a triumphant smile, he swung his ax. A resounding clang, like a giant gong, filled the vault.

    “Fool!” his mistress bellowed. “You haven't the sense the gods gave a wyrm. Celio is supposed to check for traps first.”

    “I thought he had.”

    “How can he do so, if you don't tell him where? Hurry. That's sure to have alerted someone.”

    “Beg pardon, Ma'am,” Bejur said, jewels and gold clanging into his bag. “We've got more than we can take here.”

    “I want hoard gold! Anyone can break into a bank box. The audacity of stealing from a hoard, that is what people will talk about for centuries to come!”

    Celio had already found, and disabled, three more traps. A fourth gave way to his skilled fingers. “It's safe now, you moronic rock chewer. Perhaps now, you won't call all of Dralk's army onto us.” He was shocked that no one had responded to the first alarm. He was further surprised that they hadn't yet been discovered.

    “Hurry,” Bejur cautioned. “My damping spells won't last forever. Even refreshed, they won't be as good. You have five minutes.”

    The dwarf swung his ax again, making a huge hole in the floor. Two more, and he was through. Mistress Vorundo floated down, marveling at the beauty that met her eyes. Every way she turned, she saw mounds of gold and platinum coins, sparkling vessels, priceless trinkets. With a sweeping motion, she called the loot to her. Opening her own portal to Elsewhen, she funneled the contents of each hoard into it, sealing it with a whispered magic word.

    The dwarf sealed the hole he'd made. Bejur and Celio locked and sealed the boxes. With a few swift movements, the dwarf closed their entrance. Vorundo cast another gate. With Bejur's help, the magical footprint would be erased.

    Instead of going back to the chilly, but safe, confines of the mountain home, they found themselves in the Eastern Deadlands. Surrounded by horrors, they armed themselves. The image shimmered, faded and disappeared as they were gated to the depths of Doom. This, too, lasted mere seconds. A third gate took them to the top of the Thieves Guild Tower. The gate closed in front of them, just as a specter rushed the portal. With a gasp, the thieves regained their equilibrium.

    “Did that just happen?” Celio whispered. “Did we just do what I think we did?”

    “The greatest heist ever known?” Grysm said, nodding. “By the gods, that was—” He had no words to describe it. Nothing came close to expressing how he felt about it.

    “And the dragons?” Celio asked, still in a whisper.

    “Won't be able to follow us,” Bejur bragged. “If they do, they shall end up in the Deadlands, or Doom, wishing for their dames and sires to rescue them.”

    “How did you do that?” Celio asked, somewhat awed by the Satyr's skill.

    “Where's the mistress?” Grysm asked. “We didn't lose her?” He was horrified at the prospect of losing the Guild head.

    “No. She's gone elsewhere,” Bejur assured them.

    “And the hoards?” Grysm said. He'd seen the wealth, and wanted his share.

    “Known to the Mistress. However, I believe that Celio and I collected enough loot to keep even a Dwarf, happy.

    Emptying their pockets, packs and discs, the lizard and the goat added to the glittering piles. Dividing it equally, with their Guild tithe set aside, they marveled at the wealth they now possessed.

    “All this—audacity,” Celio said. “And we can never tell a soul.”

    “But we shall know,” Grysm grinned, his big teeth flashing in the dark confines of his beard. “And isn't that more fun than telling?”

    The three of them agreed that he was right. After paying their tithes, they gathered their loot and departed. Going about their business as usual was going to be difficult, when they wanted to brag and dance with glee. Unable to conceal their smiles, they went home, popped open a brew of choice, and composed songs of their audaciousness and bravery—which could never be sung as long as they lived.

    In her mountain refuge, Harlun Vorundo sighed happily, taking a seat on her chilly throne once more. The day, full of snow, seemed much brighter now.

    “Amusing,” she reflected. “Exciting,” she tried that word on for size, coming closer the the mark. Nodding happily, she settled on her throne, a true, victorious smile wreathing her austere features. “Thrilling.” Yes, that was the word.

    Satisfied, she closed her eyes, imagining how furious the dragons would be when they discovered their losses, and fell into a deep sleep.

  7. #7

    Default Meanwhile, Back in North Crystal

    Meanwhile, Back at North Crystal

    Fire Opal yawned, her massive jaws popping and cracking with the strain. “Kumo, I'm bored,” she drawled. Stretching from snout to tail, she gazed languidly around her.
    Her brother, Kumo Bloodborn lay on the guild house roof next to her. “And?”
    Her tail whipped up, smacking her twin in the back of the head. “I require amusement.”
    “I'm supposed to provide that? Are you a hatchling, sister?”
    “What's the point of guard duty, when there's nothing to guard against?”
    “Uncle Skirnir said to stay here and guard the property. He wouldn't have said that, if there weren't a need. Besides, whatever Bytsi's cooking smells good.”
    “Since when do you want your food cooked? Off the hoof, that's the way to eat!”
    “It still smells delicious,” he pouted. “And I can eat however I want.”
    Fire Opal stood, spreading her wings to take flight. A movement, below and do her right, caught her attention. “Hst!” she signaled her brother. “Dorfs.”
    Kumo smiled. Amongst non-dragon kind, it would have seemed more of a snarl. They'd been playing with these creatures for days. It was, in fact, the main source of entertainment. Having been ordered to guard Bytsi and the plot at North Crystal, they were tied here. The only time they left, was when one or the other went hunting. These dwarfs were skittish, easily intimidated, and it amused them to harass and harry them.
    It was obvious, by their movements, that the dwarfs had no clue they were there. The wind was wrong, and the sun had set, so they cast no shadows. Bold as brass roosters, they strutted out of their magically concealed hole. Pausing, they sniffed the air.
    “Smells good, that does,” the first said.
    “Aye, Flim, it does, very good,” the second agreed.
    “I know, Flam. Why you think I said it?”
    The third, who was a bit more wary than the other two, sniffed again, raising his head, his eyes closed. Had they been opened, he'd have seen Kumo's huge head, the size of a bronze shield, hanging over the guild house roof.
    “Shush! Do you smell it?” He turned his head side to side. “Dragons!”
    “Dragons?” the other two yelped in chorus. “Where?” Their eyes flew upward, scanning the sky. Here again, had they cast their eyes toward the building beside them, they'd have seen them easily enough.
    “Here,” Kumo growled.
    The three dwarfs fell to the ground, arms over their heads. “Duck and Cover!” they screeched. “Duck and Cover!”
    They caused quite a commotion, so much so, Fire Opal's head joined her brother's, sniffing delicately. “Hmmm...smell like dirt, brother.”
    “As they should. But you hose 'em down, roast 'em up, got a tasty dish. Remember Auntie's recipe for Dorf Pie?”
    “Oh, yes! Stewed in their own juice in a flaky, pastry crust. Mmmmm....” She slurped, licking her lips.
    “Not enough of them,” he pointed out. “Recipe called for six.”
    “That's two pies, though.”
    “So it is. They seem kind of scrawny to me. Don't much seem worth the trouble.”
    “Save them for later. Bit of an midnight snack.” She snorted, a tiny flame blowing out, setting a white bromiliad aflame.
    “Yoohoo! Fire Opal!” Bytsi's voice cut through the echoing silence of the compound.
    The red-orange dragon stood, looking at the tiny dwarf maiden. “Yes?”
    “I'm low on mutton. Could I trouble you to go for more? I just got word we're to be expecting casualties any minute. I can't go. I've got to find a place for them all.”
    “Aye, surely. I'll have it for you within the hour. And my brother?”
    “Leave him here, please? Might be needed for crowd control, if things get unwieldy. I just found three more pies missing. Can't imagine where they've gone. Cooling on the sill. Did they sprout legs and walk?” Shaking her head, she went back into the kitchen.
    “Where, indeed?” Fire Opal asked, glaring at the dwarfs. “We're watching you,” she snarled. “Lucky I'm going hunting, or you'd make a fine snack.” Snapping her jaws, she snorted at them. Twin flames leaped from her nostrils. “Be sure to treat them well, brother.”
    “Must I?” Sighing, he curled up, wrapping his long neck around himself, his head resting on his spine.
    With a flap of her wings, Fire Opal was airborne. Spiraling up, she set out for the Dalimond Peninsula, to her favorite hunting ground. She could have gone to Fabric Island, which was closer, but here she had to compete with the tailors for the wool. They were a rude bunch, fussing when she killed the sheep they were trying to sheer. Why it upset them if a little blood got on the wool, she couldn't fathom. They washed it anyway. It wasn't as if it mattered. Happily occupied, she gave little thought to her brother, or the plot at North Crystal.

    “Bunch of degenerates,” a ghostly voice said right behind Kumo's ear.
    Raising his head, the dark blue dragon huffed silver flames. The spectral laugh made his scales shiver.
    “You shouldn't do that to a fella,” he complained, flicking at his ear with his right forepaw. “That tickles something awful!”
    “Oh, forgive me, your Indigo Highness,” the ghostly voice continued. “Only a bit of fun. Where's the other one?”
    “You mean my sister? You know her name perfectly well, Reeb.”
    The ghost of the inebriated dwarf, Reebdoog, walked through him and perched on the dragon's folded paws. Kumo found that mildly disconcerting, too. It was strange enough to see a ghost of a dead friend, it was bizarre to have him walk through, instead of around. And he could could the ceiling tiles through his pal's backside.
    “Yeah, but it gets your back up. Bored, mate. Right out of your scales. What are you doing up here?”
    “What Uncle told me. Guarding.” He yawned.
    Reebdoog hopped up, gazing down his gullet. “You've got gnome stuck in your teeth.”
    “Might—if I'd had gnome recently. We get mutton, venison and cod around here. Cod! What self-respecting dragon eats fish!”
    “One who's too much the lap dog. Little sis is hunting, huh?”
    “She's not my little sister, she's the eldest.”
    “Yes, yes. I know cracked her shell five minutes earlier. I know the story.”
    “Why are you here, Reeb?”
    “Ale's good and cold. And that Btysi, a tasty treat.”
    “You're dead. What do you care about anything?”
    “A feller can look! I'm a hot blooded dwarf male, and she's pretty! Lovely beard.” He scratched his own, only to have his fingers go through his chin. “Blasted ectoplasm. Lets you down at the most inconvenient times.”
    “Aren't you supposed to be in dwarf heaven, or something?”
    “No such thing. It's life, then death. Nothing after. I thought anything was better than nothing, so I stuck around.”
    “Didn't know it was optional,” Kumo said.
    “Didn't know it wasn't.” Reeb raised an eyebrow, smirking. “Ale?” He pulled a frosty glass from thin air.
    “I don't drink dwarven ale,” Kumo said, turning up his nose.
    “Oh, I'm sorry. Only Dragon's Blood Ale for you. Tastes like brimstone and bile, that.”
    “Matter of taste. That stuff tastes like dirty dwarfs.”
    There was a commotion at the port pad. Kumo hopped into the air, flying top speed to the stone pad. Smelling them before they appeared, he recoiled slightly. Blood. Death. “Bytsi!” he bellowed.
    The petite dwarven female dropped what she was doing, and ran to the pad. “Change,” she ordered. “I need all hands.”
    Landing nearby, he switched quickly to his biped form. Unsure what he could do, he stood beside her, taking orders. He had no idea what biped anatomy was like, but he knew that holes in the bodies weren't ideal, and the blood should probably not be flowing out.
    “Get Opal,” he ordered the ghost of Reebdoog. Luckily, no one but the dying human at his feet, heard him. No one could see the ghost but the dragons, and he was a well kept secret.
    “Where's your uncle?” Bytsi demanded of him.
    “No idea. Not my job to watch him, he's a grown dorf. Where do I put this?” He indicated the bleeding human in his arms.
    “Guild house, back room. We'll start there, and work out until we're too full.”
    Kumo hardly listened, he was already on his way. Though petite in this form, he was just as strong. The large human was nothing to him, nor was the half-giant that he carried next. The night became a steady stream of dead and dying. Somewhere in there, he saw his sister land with a load of mutton. Leaving it, she changed form, and joined the haphazard transfer of the wounded.
    Soon, the guild house was full, nearly to capacity. Medics circulated, laying out palettes. Bytsi and the dragons set up cauldrons full of healing herbs. She filled the kettles, and they lit magical fires beneath them. These would burn at a steady temperature, without the need of kindling. The building soon filled with the scent of lavender and sage.
    “Still bored?” Reebdoog popped up in front of Fire Opal.
    “You! I thought we were rid of you when you died. Can't you have the decency to stay dead?”
    “The thanks I get for fetching you,” he sniffed as if wounded.
    “If you were still alive, I'd eat you,” she said in a matter-of-fact voice
    “Opal, darling, the fun we could have had! You in this form, me—alive!”
    “Hmph!” Tossing her head, she ran off to see what else needed doing.
    While they'd been busy with the wounded, more people had arrived. Even now, they bivouacked in every free spot of land, their tents in even, orderly rows. Campfires were set up.
    “Oy, dragon!” One fellow called. “Be a love, give us a blast!”
    Slightly affronted, she approached cautiously. “What is it you want?”
    “We're tired and ragged out, Miss. Could we beg a breath of fire? If we get the fires going, we can get our meals cooked, won't have to bother the Missus.”
    By that, Fire Opal assumed they meant Bytsi.
    “I've a haunch of venison waiting....” he wheedled.
    “No need to bribe me,” she said with a grin. “Red, white or blue?”
    “White's hottest, then blue, and red is a nice, steady glow.”
    “Red, please you. Don't want to scorch the stew.”
    She bent over and gave a short puff of fire. A merry blaze began, not even consuming the wood.
    “How do you do that?” he marveled.
    Others, seeing the first fire, begged for her to light theirs as well. She saw her brother trotting around, doing the same, on the other side of the camp. That accomplished, she stood well away and changed back into her true form. A flap of her wings brought her to the roof of the bank. She was loathe to stand on the guild house, where she would smell the blood. Even so, it was strong in her nostrils.
    Her brother joined her moments later. “You were bored?” He chuckled as she bared her teeth at him.
    “At least there's something to watch, other than three stupid dorfs, and a ghost.”
    “True. You sleep. I'll take first watch.”
    © 2018 Dellani Oakes

  8. #8

    Default Re: Meanwhile, Back in North Crystal

    Odds and Ends

    Meanwhile in Hemeji

    Knossos stood in front of his favorite house on his plot in Hemeji. Medical personnel busily ran up and down the road even on this level. A large portion of Shepherd's Mountain was being used by the Imperium, as the primary area designated for the injured. Medical care, supply dumps, and personnel logistical centers for Imperial military troops were being rerouted through this location. Supreme Commander Az had planned for a long time. So much so, that even now he was becoming known by a new name “The Lord of War”.

    Knossos look at his hour glass. It was almost time. She would come in a near rage, at audacity of such a summoning. Knossos sighed and remembered.

    Her mother had been denied a mate from all the dragons. After they split along the lines of philosophy and location, she was denied again. The greatest of all the ancient dragons only referred to as, She Who Was Not to Be Named, but Knossos knew her as Zadora. Even she had been unable to resolve the conundrum. Her rage and hatred had been too great. The refusal of a mate, had only added to the long standing outrage of her dragon parents being murdered by political opponents. Zadora had already been refused assistance by any dragon for her adulthood, then later, ancient rites. Even dragons need a certain amount of society around them.

    Then had come Zadora's banishment, and outright violence, repeated with numerous attempts on her life, by others of her kind. Even as a hatchling, without her parents, she had been so abused. All apparently due to the bigotry of two opposing philosophical view points, although Knossos suspected more was involved. Her parents had, had perhaps the greatest hordes in all the lands, especially since they combined them, something never done by dragons. Great wealth breeds its own enemies.

    Knossos had been a friend of Zadora, though he vehemently disagreed what she did to the child, in the attempt to create her own hatching The little one had paid the price of such a dark venture. He had warned Zadora of the regret that would come with the slowly developing love of the mother. In the end, the great ancient Lunus dragon had left her daughter, all of her own hordes. She bound her child, Lilith, to the fourth great power crystal, with all the magics of protection, and learning, a hatchling would need. Unlike all others, the child would learn in her slumbering.

    Over three hundred years had passed before Lilith was abruptly awakened by the calamities that had happened this night. Her mother was long since gone. Her short life of being awake as a infant, then toddler, had only been pain and loneliness. Due to her status as an experiment, the dragons had named her Abomination. Once again the elders and high councils refused assistance, only this time to Zadora's child, Lilith.

    So tragic, so much sadness, so many tangled threads of wrong, Knossos thought.

    He rubbed his forehead. Almost time, according to her mother's prophetic words. The air shimmered in front of him. The creature appeared, furious and angry, hovering above the ground.

    Knossos cheerily held up the empty hourglass saying,“There you are and right on time at that! Just like your mother said you would be. She told me she was a seer, amongst the other things. Now you need to immediately take your other form, or you will fall in a heap in that one and, I won't be able pick you up. The whole situation would become rather embarrassing and awkward.”

    Lowering herself, she changed form, becoming a Fiend in general appearance, though not one exactly. Known to the Dragons as the Abomination, she appeared wobbly and unsteady.

    “You knew my mother?” Lilith, the Abomination, questioned shakily.

    Stepping up, he supported her with an arm around her waist and walked into his house, with the creature in hand saying,”I knew your second mother. I never met your human mother or father. It is all very complicated, and neither you nor I have time to discuss this. We can always have that chat another time, at your convenience. You must immediately eat and drink. You are sorely depleted and malnourished. The use of such great power that you demonstrated, to the whole world with SOG, comes at a price with the malnourishment of three hundred years of sleep . Power such as yours and other magics require you to replenish yourself. If not, like in your case, you would just turn to dust. You are unimaginably powerful, like your dragon mother, but even she was not a goddess.”

    Knossos led her to sit in a padded, soft, reclining chair that the gnomes had made for him. “Now eat what is in this bowl,” he commanded, handing her a spoon.

    Her hand shook so badly she dropped the bowl, but Knossos deftly caught it. With her eyes widening Knossos stuck a spoonful of the heavy broth in her mouth, while he spoke.

    “Fear not youngling. I did the same for your mother, more centuries ago than I would like to remember. I am a very, very old dwarf. I find it comforting I can help you her child, as I was not truly able to assist your mother in her trials.”

    Knossos fed her the first and second meals, until she was able to feed herself. While she fed herself, he continued in a nonthreatening soft voice.

    “Now take a moment please and tell me what you must. I know that you are under a geas, that the particular dark lord placed on you without your knowledge. Do not allow yourself the luxury of getting angry. He is counting on this fact of your blood history, to gain control of you. Believe me when I say this, for he can at this point in time. The only point in time he will ever be able to do so. Anything that he says otherwise, is a lie delivered as smooth and sweet as honey. Remember, I know these things, not because of any great knowledge, but because your mother told me. She was far more powerful than all the Withered Aegis together. This undead, crypt-maggot, of a dark lord wants this power, and would covet you as a slave forever. He is damned, and he knows it. He was sucking your life even as he spoke to you. He wants your power, first and foremost. Your life would be his dessert. With this sustenance, you will be able to resist him. It will make him ever so angry, so enjoy that moment when it comes. Now go ahead and give me his proposal, couched in a threat of annihilation.”

    She did so in absolute accuracy.

    Knossos stroked his beard telling her, “Now, you will tell him that I am not interested. The ale is very poor in the vaults of the dead. The power of destruction is inherent in the power of creation, and thus, I disdain him and his compatriots. They can enjoy the stench of their greatness alone. I have a message for you to give to him, from a far greater power than I am.” He whispered to her the message. “Why this power would say these things and see that this message delivered I do not know. Personally, I would rather see the dark lord of the Withered Aegis obliterated, but that is apparently not an option here.”

    “Is there anything else?” Lilith said, sarcastically.

    Knossos replied earnestly, “Yes there is, child of my friend. In the mid of your future conversation with that dark crypt worm, you will be summoned by the Dark Goddess of Vengeance. You can use this as an excuse to leave the bloated dark lordling. If he objects, invite him along for fun. I assure you, he will leave you, for not even he can face down an angry goddess. Now remember, you are to remind that goddess you are NOT one of her worshipers, not her toady, and certainly not one of her minions. Be nice, and polite, and just do the errand. That one's ranting and raving will probably ensure you will get plenty of information, which she would not otherwise give you. Also, remember since you are not her minion she will owe you a favor.

    Lilith visibly bridled at his comments. He spoke to her as if she were a child. Had not she, too, lived centuries? Was any being as powerful as she? Yet he spoke to her as if she were an infant.

    “I can see I have aggravated you beyond measure. Calm yourself. You cannot afford to get angry at least not now. When you go to do the errand for that nasty, little goddess, then you must be very careful. This final errand will take you very close to that greater power, which I have already mentioned. A king will offer a one time proposal. Politely tell him you are simply too tired at the moment, but would be happy to get back in touch. You will be telling the truth and he will know that.”

    “How do I know you are not lying to me, oh, puny dwarf?,” she said extending her nails.

    Knossos smiled serenely saying,” You need only look at that stein you have been drinking from made from the purest of mithril. Do you truly think a biped can make such a wonder? Your mother made it for me as a going away, gifting. I made her an object, though very poor in quality. But since it was my first, I was very proud of it, at the time. Lastly I have a gift to you from your mother. I do not lie about anything, why bother? The truth is more than enough to stir things up so to speak.”

    She looked closely at the stein. The dwarf was right, she concluded. No biped could do such a thing as the marvel in her hands. In ultra tiny dragon script enumerated the story of their meeting. The stein was also imbued with spells and various magics no biped could do. Only she, other than Knossos, could hold the stein and live.

    “It is truly made by her. Your second proof? I require of you three, or I will obliterate you for lying,” she asserted calmly.

    “The ring on your left thumb,” he remarked, as he looked at her smiling.

    “What is it? It is of poor quality, only silver and I cannot remove it,” she said nastily.

    “I made it for your mother, as a going away gifting. I was very proud of it at the time I made it. My first ring ever, and no instruction to make it. She must have placed it on your thumb and I know not why, nor have I the power to remove it. The Dwarven script on it indicates my sentiment,” replied Knossos.

    “The third?” She was grinning, sure of the fact that there could only be two. She was looking forward to this impudent dwarf's destruction.

    Knossos laughed saying, “Why the gifting, of course, she left for you.” He pulled out a long, elaborate, little, thornwood box, about eighteen inches in length and two inches wide three inches deep. In the script of; the dragon it read simply, “To My Daughter.”

    “The box has been opened,” she accused him sharply. “What is it?” It looked like a long, thin, burnt orange pipe. Why would her mother leave her such a thing?

    Knossos relied with an edge in his voice, “Do you truly think you were the only one getting instructions?” he huffed, further elaborating.”I had to smoke that long stem pipe for four hundred years, to get the color she wanted. She told me it was your favorite. The front of the bowl is your dragon grandparent's crest. An emblem no longer seen since it was removed from all written documents, nor referred to. Your mother enjoyed a pipe upon occasion in her Khutit form. There is a little tool to pack the leaf and one to remove from the pipe. Use silken gloves or the color will be marred. Only she could have carved this one. The clay is very rare. The metal of the crest is from a fallen star. The dried leaf is from a plant never seen in these lands and over six hundred years old. I have a bag of seed for replacement, but have no idea where to plant it. The leaf for the pipe is in the lid in the secret compartment. You must be in your present from to use it. This pipe is sturdy but extraordinarily fragile.”

    The daughter of his friend, eyed him warily, then looked away.

    “You are indeed telling me the truth. I will, therefore, take your advice and instructions, as you say they are from my mother. As a courtesy I will tell you this. On the plot of your friend in North Crystal there is a crisis brewing. Involved in this crisis is a group of spirits from those that have died there in the last few hours. They call themselves the Grateful Dead. As a courtesy to your friend, I will ask you to tell those three little conniving dwarfs that they may dig no further than the lines of the so called property. No deeper than the road below may they go in their nonsensical digging. I would be happy to kill them. They would be of immense help to Laslo counting my horde for the next aeon or so.”

    Knossos looked at her sincerely saying, “You are welcome here, daughter of my friend. There is much you need to know, and now is not the time to tell the tales. Please don't awaken me if I am napping. I can get cranky.”

    Looking quizzically at him she questioned, “How will I know when you are sleeping?”

    Embarrassed Knossos turned red in the face and looked away saying, “Skirnir says I snore. The snore sounds like a raging thunderstorm driving away all small animals and sending all birds flying to the four winds.”

    The powerful creature changed to her semi dragon form. Hovering above him she began to laugh then disappeared.

    Knossos's hands shook. So close to the sword edge of oblivion he had come. He dabbed the sweat off his brow with his hanky. Taking a shot of Dwarven whiskey, he lay down for a nap. A passing spirit, upon hearing the thunderous bellow of his snore, ran for his life back to North Crystal, firmly believing a Great Dark Lord was after him.

  9. #9

    Default Meanwhile, Back in North Crystal Part 2

    Fire Opal didn't need any further urging to rest. The hunting, followed by tending the wounded and dying, had made her tired. She smelled their pain and fear, as enticing as it was to her dragon senses, fighting the urge to devour them, was exhausting. How her brother could stand it, she didn't know. Then again, she had always had a more sensitive sense of smell than he. Curling head to tail, she folded her wings around her and fell asleep.


    Bytsi had been busily cooking and stocking the tavern's cupboards. Tired beyond reason, she'd finally settled for a nap. Snuggling happily in her comfy bed, she was highly distressed when a blast of energy erupted from the pad. The windows of the tavern shivered and shook, plaster dust fell from walls and ceiling. Dressing quickly, she grabbed her staff and went to investipad.

    Where are the wretched dragons when I need them?

    Another blast shook the pad. She spotted Kumo, surrounded by wizards and mages, taking a stand at the pad. Every able bodied person had taken a defensive position. Unfortunately, aside from tents, there was very little cover here. Holding their breath, they waited. The magic users muttered spells to seal the pad, but their magic wasn't strong enough. The surface of the water-like pad shivered, rippled, shook and spewed forth in an icy gush. Shards of magic flew into the crowd, wounding and killing where they hit. Suddenly, Cleaver was at her side, twirling his signature cleavers with sure fingers. Grinning down at her, he chuckled.

    “Thought you'd have all the fun, huh?”

    Gruint appeared at her other side, grinning nastily. She saw his elves and humans circling to the other side of the pad, taking a protective stance between the wounded, and whatever was about to come out of that pad.
    The pad shook itself, seeming to sigh with resignation. With an ear splitting screech, the face opened.


    Flim, Flam and Shooter huddled in their earthen lair, terrified. Shaken from head to toe by the battle above.

    “We should go up there, Flim,” Flam said, shaking so much, dirt fell from his clothing and hair.

    “You out of your mind?” Flim replied. “Not on your life! That's not our fight!”

    “Pickings,” Shooter said, heading for the ladder. “Where there's dead, there's things to take. Easy-schmeasy, if you ask me, or if you don't. I don't care. I'm up to see what's about.”

    “I don't wanna get in a battle,” Flim protested. “Get spotted, you're a foe, no matter who sees you.”

    “But....” Flam said, rubbing his hands together gleefully. “With all this, won't be a soul guarding the kitchen, nor the guild house. I spotted some pretties last time we was in the kitchen, filching pies. Bet we could find more than a few pastries to please us. And this here guild, rich beyond imagining! Break into their vault.”

    “Last one up has to bait the dragons,” Flim said, springing for the ladder.

    His friends, who were closer, shoved him away. Laughing, they ascended the sturdy ladder to the center of the plot. Looking around, they discovered they were very much alone. The battle was contained, for the moment, in the area immediate to the pad. Walking boldly toward the kitchen, they made a fair amount of noise. It was nothing compared to the clash of weapons, and angry screams in the battlefield.

    Rushing around, they opened cupboards, filling their backpacks with the tasty delicacies and rich desserts stored there. Deciding that thieving was thirsty work, they found a small barrel, which they intended to fill from one of the massive kegs in the tavern. Chuckling and joking, they sauntered toward the keg. Inhaling deeply, Shooter's smile spread across his dirty face.

    “That's some good brew, that is! Pure dwarven ale, not that watered down bilge that the humans serve! Tap it, brothers!” he commanded Flim and Flam.

    Holding the small barrel at the ready, he waited for Flim to tap the giant keg. The aromatic brew was bubbling forth, when suddenly it stopped. Flam tried to turn the spigot, but nothing happened. Flim joined him, while Shooter knelt on the floor, trying to see if the spout was blocked. No amount of kicking, cajoling or cursing got the ale flowing. In fact, when they finally gave up, and went to collect their barrel, it was gone! All their food had disappeared from their packs!

    A blue-white glow formed in the air ahead of them, another to their left, a third behind them and a fourth to the right. Ghostly hands reached through, grasping them roughly. The head of a dwarf appeared above the first set of grabbing hands. Face snarled in anger, he shook Shooter, whose tunic he held in a vice-like grip.

    “So, you think you can steal from me and mine? Be ye daft? Half wits? Did your mums drop you on your hairy bums when you were wee nippers? This is my ale! My food! My land you tread upon! My family you steal from! You think I don't know what you're up to? If you're not going to help defend this place, I'll drop you off the side. This is called the Long Drop Tavern for a reason. Doestha want to find out why?”

    “No!” Flam screeched, kicking ineffectually. “Nononononononnooooooooo!”
    “Ghost!” Shooter bellowed. “Be gone fiend!” He made magical signs of warding he'd learned as a child.

    The ghost shook him, laughing nastily. “That won't work on me, you fool! Those aren't even real!” A blast of blue energy filled the room as the ghosts manifested themselves.

    “Struck by lightning!” Flim cried. “Struck by lightning! Struck by lightning!” he babbled incoherently as he voided his bladder.

    The three dwarfs were carried by ghostly hands, to the back of the tavern. One by one, they were released. Their cries for help went unnoticed as the ground grew nearer. Watching, the four ghosts, led by Reebdoog, smiled and laughed.

    “Whatcha think, Reeb? They sprouted wings halfway down?” a Sslik chuckled.

    “Nah. Lucky that we didn't drop 'em over the water. Most dwarfs don't swim.”

    “That one screamed good and loud,” a Gnomish ghost said with glee. “Had him a mighty pair of lungs.”

    “I liked the third one best. Struck by lightning!” he squealed and laughed.

    “Suppose we should see what's happened to the dragons?” the Sslick said.
    “A drink first,” Reebdoog said, raising a frothing ale.

    “To the Grateful Dead!” they cheered.


    CLANG! CLANK! CRASH! Fire Opal's head came up. Roused from a sound sleep, it took a moment to get oriented. Her brother was no longer beside her. Casting out her senses, she searched for him.

    Battle, sister! He roared in her head.

    Sniffing the air, she rose from her perch. Below, chaos reigned. Hoards of undead spilled out of the pad. Taking a moment to pick friend from foe, she sprang into action.

    Her brother loomed among the masses, swiping with his claws, smashing with his tail. Undead hurtled in splendid arcs over, and through, their comrades. Flying to his side, she landed on a slew of opponents, crushing them beneath her. A few still had some fight to them. One dwarf had the audacity to swing his ax at her nether regions. She bit him in two, slinging the halves in opposite directions.

    “Can't believe you slept this long,” Kumo spat zombie guts as he spoke.

    “The noises entered my dreams.”

    Not unusual for dragons to dream of battle, so he accepted that. He should have woken her, but he'd been making rounds on the opposite side of the camp when the first creatures arrived.

    To their left, a bevy of magic users tried to seal the pad. It had been opened on the other side, allowing the Withered Aegis' troops to pour through in an unstoppable flood. The undead were only the first wave. A stampede of angry ruxus bellowed and charged at anything that moved. Helping as much as they hindered, they cut a wide swathe in the battleground.

    In a poof of blue and silver, Reebdoog appeared to Fire Opal's right. With a swing of his ax, he took out a zombie which had taken a nip out of her wing. Laughing with inebriated glee, he attacked again.

    Moments later, the dragons were surrounded by more ghosts. Their ghastly wounds glittering in the moonlight. Missing limbs and heads, they fought with unerring accuracy. The undead fell to their weapons, their grotesque bodies dusting to ash. From time to time, a lucky zombie landed a hit on one of the ghosts. In a shower of sparkles, it would dissipate, only to reform seconds later. Slightly diminished with each after-death. The dragons were soon surrounded by glittering figures, resembling fireflies. Together, they fought valiantly, protecting the mages and wizards who sought to stem the tide.

    © 2018 Dellani Oakes

  10. #10

    Default Meanwhile, Back in North Crystal Part 3

    Bytsi and her cohorts rallied the troops nearest them. Spinnng her best ax, she bellowed her war cry. Slashing, kicking and smashing, she entered the fray. A war hammer, wielded by an amazingly animated zombie, missed her head by a breath and a prayer. Feeling a cold spot to her right, she severed the zombie, kicking its body out of her path.

    At her side, Reebdoog grinned. Gods, she was magnificent. Nothing like a battle to get the blood up. Or it would, if he were alive. Adhering to Bytsi like a bit of sticking plaster, he deflected blows while she whomped, stomped, smashed and kicked her way through the battle.

    On every side, friends and foes clashed. Screams of wounded, groans of the dying and the mingled curses of those fighting, created a frantic, frenetic backdrop. Soon, the sounds blended into a steady rush of sound.

    Bytsi worked her way to the arrival pad. Circled by wizards and both dragons, the pad continued to erupt with Withered Aegis warriors. Wave after hideous wave, each more terrifying and horrendous than the last, broke through. Nothing the wizards did could contain the tide.

    “Where do they come from?” Bytsi asked Fire Opal.

    “Best I can figure, everywhere!” She smashed a group of dire wolves with her tail as her claws ripped into a dozen mummies. Blowing fire past Bytsi's head, she took out an undead Ssylick which was creeping up on the danity dwarf.

    “Can't get the pad closed!” a gasping Human wizard said as he doubled over.

    “Call the Magician!” his companion, a Saris female called.

    “The Magician!” the others took up the cry. “The Magician! The Magician!”

    “Be still!” a tiny gnomish female said, kicking the legs out from under another mummy. “I've got this.”

    Her outfit was the most incredible Bytsi had ever seen. Her long coat, made from ruxxus hide, dragged along the ground. A floppy hat covered her tall ears and a pair of hexagonal spectacles perched on her pointy nose. A multicolored scarf wrapped so many times around her neck, Bytsi couldn't see her chin, and feared she'd trip over it.

    “Stand back!” the gnome yelled, far louder than her tiny form seemed capable of. “Way back!” She gestured again.

    The fighting continued, but the defending army fell back until she seemed satisfied.

    “You, ghost!” she pointed at what was apparently thin air. “You and your friends, protect me.”

    “You've got it,” Reebdoog replied, snarling a smile. “Come to Daddy, boys!”

    The ghosts, invisible to all but the dragons, formed a three tiered circle around her. The battle raged, the Withered Aegis and its minions seemingly unaware of what was happening in their midst. The ghosts of the Grateful Dead cut them down whenever they got too close to the gnome.

    Others followed the retreating, warm blooded army. Reinforcements spilled over the cliff from the portal above. These joined the fray, screeching and hollering. The tired defenders felt a surge of energy flow through them as the druids, healers and mages cast healing spells over them. Spiritists cast their energy sucking spells, channeling the procured energy among the weary army.

    Refreshed, the defenders redoubled their efforts. No one paid any attention to the tiny, female gnome. She had some sort of contraption in her hands, which glowed and pulsed with a steady, calming rosy light. Her glasses caught the beams, casting tiny slivers of light around the space.

    “Got it!” she cried gleefully. “Ghosts, advance! Allons y!”

    A cacophony of battle cries erupted from the spectral throats. To the ears of the scattered bipeds, it was the sound of brittle branches in a strong wind.

    Rushing forward, a glowing pink item raised above her head, she jumped in the center of the pad. Her tiny hand clasped a golden wand, in which a scintillating crystal pulsed.

    The ghosts shoved the attackers aside as if they were nothing. To those gathered, it looked as if the gnome had a shield of power around her. Their eyes could barely see a blueish shimmer in the air.

    Even the ghosts could not sufficiently guard the gnome. Each opponent they took out, two more appeared. The dragons rushed forward, adding their strength to the counterattack.

    “No!” she screamed. “You'll be hurt! Get back!”

    “No good if you die,” Kumo roared. “Hurry, gnome.”

    The minuscule mage raised the wand above her head, calling down powers in a strong, though high pitched, voice. Her words made no sense to those around her, but the attackers froze, unable to move. The defenders held their breath.

    With a banshee-like scream the gnome plunged the wand into the surface of the pad. The dragons launched themselves upward at top speed. Below, the pad trembled, shivered, cracked. A whine like a million wasps, began deep within the earth. The mountain shook beneath the feet of the startled bipeds. Falling to their knees, or onto their backsides, they watched in terrified awe as the quaking earth continued.

    Suddenly, searing white light exploded from the pad—shooting out like an ocean of stars. The gnome stood, silhouetted by the light, her hair and clothing flying around her like a shredded battle standard.

    Mummies, ruxxus, ghosts, zombies and all the other creatures sent to attack them, turned to dust. Following the path of the light, it sped toward the unsuspecting bystanders. Those who had actually regained their feet, dropped to the ground. Sitting or kneeling, the others flopped over, covering their heads with their arms.

    Feeling an uncomfortable warmth, the dragons struggled to gain height, going off at an angle to escape both horizontally and vertically. Kumo yelped when the heat got too intense on his tail. Fire Opal swung hers up over her back, capsizing slightly as she flew. Righting herself, she shot upward, whirling around to witness the events below. Kumo, who was slightly higher in the air, watched with rapt attention as the light surged, dwindled and faded in a clap of thunder.

    The gnome stood where she'd been, still as a statue. The ghosts were nowhere to be seen.

    Picking herself up from the ground, Bytsi rushed forward. The tiny gnome had turned to glass, her body bent double, her wand still in the surface of the portal pad. No one spoke.

    A soft wind sprang up, scurrying through the ranks of scattered warriors, touching each. As it made its way toward the gnome, each of the wounded felt a healing balm run through them. A miniature whirlwind swooped around the gnome, obscuring her from view.

    Suddenly, her body rose upward, suspended in mid-air by the wind. Her scarf and long coat floated around her. Her hat flopped on the ground. With a happy sigh, the whirlwind set her softly down, in front of Bytsi. The gnome's body was as before. Mud brown eyes flew open and she took a long, shuddering breath.

    “Well now!” She looked around at the devastation around her. “What's for breakfast?” Clapping her hands together, she smiled up at Bytsi.

    Inside the guild house, and other buildings, crowds of wounded sat up. Whatever injuries they had were healed, severed limbs had grown back, missing eyes and other body parts, were good as new. Rising from their pallets, they wandered outside to watch the dawn peeping above the horizon.

    To the far side of the compound, where the dead had been laid for cremation, there was a flutter of activity. Smiling and laughing, they stood, clasping one another in joyful celebration.

    “What happened here?” Bytsi asked the gnome.

    “Oh, nothing much, a bit of gnomish magic,” she replied. “I could go for fish fingers and custard.”

    “I'll make it for you personally,” Bytsi said. “I'm Bytsi. What's your name?”

    “Everyone just calls me the Magician,” the little gnome replied.

    “Hey oo! Bytsi, my sweet!” someone called from a few yards away.

    Bytsi turned. A smiling dwarf male, with auburn hair, yellow eyes and an impressive beard, waved to her. Frowning, Bytsi stopped.

    “Who might you be, to greet me so familiarly.”

    His handsome face broke in a grin. “True, you don't know me as well as I know you. My name is Reebdoog.” He held out his hand.

    “It's your cenotaph over there?” she pointed.

    “Aye. Interesting byproduct of the Magician's magic, my friends and I are reborn.”

    “How do you know me?”

    “Why, I've been abiding here the past few months, since my death. May I say, Miss Bytsi, you're a fair lily among the thorns.”

    She blushed prettily. “You're a flatterer, Mr. Reebdoog. If you've been dead so long, you must be starving. Come in, and I'll fix you a meal, as well.”

    Grinning happily, he followed her inside, flashing a double thumbs up to the dragons, as they landed nearby.

    Fire Opal and Kumo grinned at their friend.

    Kumo turned to his sister, nudging her with his wing. “Still bored?”

    Her tale came up, swatting him in the head. “No one likes a smug dragon, brother.”

    Laughing, they took their positions on the guild house, settling down for a well deserved dragon nap.

    © 2018 Dellani Oakes

  11. #11

    Default After Midnight

    “No! No!!”

    The strident, petulant voice disturbed Kumo's much needed nap. After the battle, he and his sister had chosen to recuperate at the back of the plot, near the cenotaph. Unfortunately, that seemed to be the worst spot for a well earned rest. Long neck snaking over the side of the building, his saucer-sized eyes watched the scene unfold.

    Reebdoog, former mischievous ghost, newly resurrected dwarf, clung to the cenotaph which bore his name.

    Bytsi, chisel in hand, was trying to take his name from it.

    “No!” he bellowed, waking many of the wounded.

    Their groans of pain and irritation did nothing to deter him.

    “This is mine! I earned this!”

    “You died. You didn't earn a thing. Now, you're alive again. It's creepy and morbid,” Bytsi insisted.

    “So, I'm creepy and morbid, now?”

    “Don't be a silly dwarf. I said the memorial is, not you. However, you are being unreasonable.”

    “You can't strike my name from it. That's in memory of me,” he screeched.

    “But—you—aren't—dead!” she screeched back.

    “Enough!” Kumo bellowed from above. “Give the untidy little dwarfling his stupid rock, and leave us in peace. We're tired!”

    “Oh, excuse me,” Reebdoog snapped. “You're tired! Well! I'm—tired too! Of being dead! And of being unappreciated.”

    “Dwarf,” Kumo snarled, lowering his head until it was even with Reebdoog's. “I'm hungry. I could use a snack. If you keep yelling, and disturbing my slumber, she won't need to chip your name away, because you'll need the stone for remembrance—again. Only this time, there won't be a gnome magician to bring you back.”

    Stunned to silence, Reebdoog stepped away from the dragon's face. Treading on Bytsi's toes, he slipped past her. Once he was a safe distance, he turned tail and scurried around the outside of the plot, losing himself in the remnants of the refugee camp.

    “Did you have to do that now?” Fire Opal asked from over her brother's shoulder.

    “It seemed the right time,” Bytsi said, tossing her head. The beads in her facial hair clattered in counterpoint.

    “But it's barely moonrise. Don't you have something better to do? Like sleep?” the flame colored dragon asked.

    “We got to talking about his life—his death—and his not-death. I find it strange to think of his name upon this stone, when he's a living, breathing male! I put flowers at this stone daily! I left mugs of ale to sweeten his afterlife!”

    “You cared for the little, stinky worm,” Fire Opal stated in a matter-of-fact tone.

    “Yes! And now! Well, he's somewhat of a disappointment,” Bytsi snuffled.

    “You've known him five minutes,” Kumo remarked.

    “Bytsi, all males, regardless of race, are somewhat of a disappointment. Pardon my saying so, brother.... ”

    Kumo snorted. Two blue flames rose six inches, followed by a jet of gray smoke. “She's not wrong about that. But to strike his name so soon? Really not good form, my lass.”

    “I can do as I like!”

    “Not your plot. Best ask Uncle if it's all right. Me, I don't care one way or the other, but you woke me up. I don't like being woken out of a deep slumber.”

    “He's being unreasonable!”

    “Perhaps,” Fire Opal interjected gently. “But there's many sick and wounded, whom you've also woken.” Leaping into the air, she gave a mighty flap of her wings and shot into the sky.

    “Where's she going?” Bytsi asked Kumo.

    “Hungry.” Shrugging in the sinuous manner of a dragon, he joined his sister in flight. “Where do you wish to go, sister?” Kumo asked as he flew up next to his sibling.

    “The fighting whetted my appetite for something—sooty.”

    Kumo snorted more blue flames. “Meaning anything you come across.”

    “I'm bored. By the reports, so much going on, and we're no part of it.”

    “We had a goodly fight. You want more? Why? You're not usually thirsting for adventure.”

    “Something is trying to take our world from us. We should be helping. Instead, we're locked to the plot with chains of friendship and family.”

    “Ah, feeling the yoke of affection heavy, eh? Look. Sheep.” He dove toward Fabric Isle, calling upon his dragon's breath.

    “What's that?” Fire Opal asked, cocking her head to the left. With a tip of her wings, she headed toward the sound. All thought of food left her as she changed direction. “Something,” she called over her shoulder.

    “Good or not good something?” Kumo shouted.

    “Not!” her voice faded as she picked up speed.

    Closing his eyes a moment, Kumo listened carefully. Hovering in the air, he drew the sounds around him. The usual swish of the ocean, the soughing of the wind, the occasional bleat from the sheep below, even a grumble or two from the volcano—

    “Hurry!” Fire Opal bellowed. “Something—very wrong!”

    Kumo needed no other urging. Putting on a burst of speed, he rushed up to meet her. “Where? Kion?”

    “No. Look.” She gestured with her fore claw.

    Below and to their left lay Abandoned Isle. The snow and ice on the dormant peak of the volcano should have shimmered blue, white or silver in the moonlight. However, at it's heart, the crater burned a wicked red. Steam shot into the sky, driving them back as they rounded the island.

    “Not good something,” Kumo muttered as he dodged another jet of noxious gas. “Should we tell someone?”

    “Whom shall we tell? There is no one but us.”

    “It's an uninhabited island. No one there but a few sheep and monsters.”

    Instead of speaking, Fire Opal swatted him with her tail, shoving his head to the right. “Do you know what happens when a volcano blows up at sea?”

    “Pretend I'm not an expert on volcanoes, sister.”

    “Tidal wave, you moron. The blast could set off a wave that could potentially obliterate Kion and Sslanis, not to mention Bristugo and Dalimond. Or it could go north, and wipe out Dralk. To the south, there are the islands.”

    “Or west, into nothing.”

    “Then it courses around and hits the Eastern Deadlands.”

    “And that's a bad thing?”

    Fire Opal hadn't considered that. She'd thought of the living population, not the undead. Such an occurrence could be used as a weapon. But how to direct it? She and her brother would not be enough. In fact, all the magic of Dralk and Chiconis combined wouldn't be able to put a leash on such power.

    “Face it, sister. There is nothing we can do.”

    “Yes,” she whispered, her voice fluttering away on the wind. “Pray.” Fire Opal had come to the unhappy conclusion that the only force great enough to use such unbridled energy, was a god. “Gods of the world, use this gift to help strike back. Channel it, and unleash its wrath upon the Withered Aegis.”

    Was it her imagination, or did she see the flicker of otherworldly shapes hovering around the crater? Rather than staying in the blast zone, she and her brother turned back the way they had come, picking up a snack of blackened sheep along the way.

    “Whatever happens,” Fire Opal said to herself. “You can be sure, it won't be boring.”

    © 2018 Dellani Oakes

  12. #12

    Default You Can Leave Your Hat On

    In Himeji

    William Swann mentally screamed in defiance as his aim, draw and release of the killing arrow was thwarted by the Goddess Nyrevin, who had ported him from the battle in the Eastern Deadlands. With eyes closed he took a deep breath to express some of his adopted father's favorite Dwarven curses. Before he could utter nary a one he found himself jerked to his knees.

    Blinking he found himself nose to nose with Knossos the Immortal, Guild Master of the Annatar. Knossos clenched William's collar and twisted. The ancient Gifted one, with a wild look in his eyes, then shook him. Flames suddenly appeared around the old dwarf's hands, burning his victim's clothing. William tried to speak but could not get anything out. Each time he tried to stand Knossos jerked him back to his knees. Suddenly released, William gasped for breath choking and sputtering. Now the ancient Dwarf twisted his ear, manually turning him, while still on his knees, to face the tree by the portal.

    “Ya see that tree trunk boyo?! Is there something that should not be there?” demanded the Elder ancient dwarf.

    “Umm an arrow?” William blinked, still getting his bearings.

    “And?....” pressed Knossos.

    “Your special Top Hat?” William replied.

    “Very good, young idiot Gifted. Now tell me William Swann, adopted son of Wind Dancer and that ale drinking Skirnir, where is the arrow?” bellowed Knossos.

    Flinching William answered, “The arrow is in your Top Hat, which has pinned it to the tree?”

    “Very verrry good, oh inept, Gifted ELAR!! growled Knossos in his ear. “And where does my Top Hat usually reside, most accurate Elvin miscreant?”

    Sighing William muttered,“On your head, sir.”

    “I am ever so amazed that the Imperial Department of Education was able to mandate such a fine, exemplary education to an elf, whom no doubt paid someone take his tests for him!”

    “Now I am going to tell you something in a way you, and all those other misbegotten junior apprentice Assassins, would understand. My Hat is far more valuable than your life. I could kill you with a snap of my fingers and lo and behold you would be right back. My Hat, however, will NOT be back. It took me longer than your life, to get it. Most of the fifty three artisans involved in making my hat are long since dead. So, my young criminal Gifted ELAR, you are going to get me an exact duplicate before sunrise, or you will be talking to fashion experts in the Lands of the Dead life after life, till you get me another Hat! Now get out of here, and take care of business. Oh by the way, Istaria said to tell you to have your plot in order by sunrise. All of us, aware of things, are rather tired about that little circus going in there. So, ever so coddled, William Swann, gird your loins, and get a grip!! Now get that arrow out of that poor tree and my broken Hat. The abused tree is already telling me it is going to get a lawyer sue me for pain and suffering, then turn me over to the Department of Violence against Designated Public Trees.”

    Whirling around William jerked out the arrow with the pierced Top Hat then ran south along the road to North Crystal. Deciding that the Gifted Elder was off the chain, William figured North Crystal would be the place to start his quest. Behind him the tree shrieked in pain shaking its limbs as leaves fluttered away in the wind.

    Grinding his teeth Knossos walked back toward his bank to get a specially fermented healing potion. Flashes of light and muffled booms echoed across from Williams Swann's plot. Distracted by the commotion, Knossos walked into William's plot.

    The Elemental Stone Dragon hidden behind the vibrant fragrant foliage by the green archway, munching at the hedge in front of him. Knossos looked at him scowling.

    The Dragon shrugged at him, “Don't look at me Naka I am not involved in that fight. I have decided I am a Vegan Dragon and this enchanted hedge is a nice meal. Don't forget Istaria's instructions oh elderly dorf. He then further ignored the Dwarf, munching away at his nice magically growing meal.

    Knossos continued along the sidewalk between the shops. Stopping he looked at the passage in the middle of the plot. Everything seemed to be quiet there. He knew he was being watched by many eyes. Here and there little statues seemed to be clustered. Taking a couple of steps forward he looked back. The statues were gone. Hairs stood up on the back of his neck. He continued.

    Movement further along the sidewalk caught his attention. He muttered the spell in advance except for the last gesture and word then pulled out his teched T6 club and shield. The sidewalk curved back to the road from this point. Shadows were far thicker. A shadowy malignance seemed to be in the corner of his vision and just past his range of hearing, but he could not focus on it. He could hear the roars of the other two penned Elemental stone dragons and two Elemental ice dragons, between walls of bricked ice. Knossos dropped to one knee wary of his surroundings. He could see the faint lines of fog at ankle height not visible at eye level even with his short stature. The smell of corruption was stronger going North along the sidewalk.

    Lowering his stature by hunching over he proceeded to the corner of the medium Saris house. The sounds of thunder and spirit bolts with flashes of light momentarily blinded him. Knossos, squinting in irritation, stood up fully and walked around the corner without fear. Nothing seemed out of place. The eerie silence blew around him like a cold winter wind. Something was seriously wrong here. Something other than spirits...

    “Knossos, Knossos come back my arm is flaking!!” wailed Lilith, who was in his home on his plot. Others renting homes on his plot had already fled from the fearful noise on William's plot.

    Whirling around he heard an ever so faint sound behind him. Taking a few steps forward he followed the faint noise to his left. Freezing in place his cloak swirled around him. Without turning his head he glanced to his left. A row of little statues facing him were lined up on the edge of the sidewalk. One ice statue was in front and dark stone statues set in a line as if they were following. There was no movement as he glanced. When he blinked they seemed to move a finger length of distance, but he was not sure as he was well past his nap time. Seeing the fire pit was out again Knossos lit it. Shadows moved in the fringe of his vision freely now with the light in place. Growling in annoyance he thought to himself, “I have no time for this!” whirling the cloak fully around himself he disappeared then reappeared on the doorstep with Lilith groaning in pain.

    Without a look backwards he addressed her soothingly walking thru the doorway, watching his shadow run for cover, as William's plot behind him was once again wrapped in fire, flashes of light and lightning, amid the screams, horns and sounds of battle...................

    You Can Leave Your Hat On continues

  13. #13

    Default The (Mis)Adventures of Milkweed Thistledown

    “I'm going out, Mummy!” Milkweed called as she gathered her things.

    “At this hour? It's neigh on sunset. I expect Holly and Poppy any minute.”

    “Honestly, I can't stand the arguing with them around. They are far too dramatic, for my tastes.”

    “They're your sisters. Try to get along.”

    “I do! It's they who refuse. I've got errands to run. It shouldn't take me long.”

    She gave her mother a hug. Taking her backpack, she headed to the Bristugo gate, just up the hill from home. Stepping into the gate, she selected her destination—Kirasanct.

    Arriving in the chilly Fiendish city, she was grateful for her thick coat of hair. Though she carried a jacket, her satyr hide kept her warm. A visit to the spiritist trainer, to report what lessons she'd learned the week before. After that, a check of her bank vault, and on to Aughundell for a visit to her favorite tavern.

    The ale was cold, the fire warm, the company entertaining. Tempted to stay a bit longer, Milkweed decided she simply must go. She hadn't finished, still having an errand in Dralk planned. A dragon friend had sent her to speak to one of the instructors, to pick up a parcel for him. Milkweed did many such errands, as her job took her all over Istaria. When folk asked her what she did for a living, she was hard pressed to explain. Though she could fight, and was a 62nd level spiritist, that wasn't her true calling. Nor was her tailoring, weaving or cooking.

    Not to put too fine a point to it, Milkweed brought people of diverse skills and races together. She facilitated, aided and arranged—all very hush-hush, and for a fee. Though she seemed a happy-go-lucky satyr on the surface, still waters ran deep.

    Dralk was unnaturally quiet. She found the creature she sought, but he wasn't where he was supposed to be. Instead, he was at the bank, looking worried. He was large, even for a male, with the thick head, which put Milkweed in mind of a fireplace. Wisps of smoke rose from his nostrils, and his eyes burned with orange flames. His hide was and unattractive dark blue, with a reddish cast that made him look as if he were bleeding.

    “What do you want, small one?” he growled, glaring at her.

    “You have something for my friend,” she said discretely.

    “I had something, but it's been stolen.” He gestured toward the vault.

    Milkweed frowned, tapping her right hoof on the stone floor. “How is that possible? The dragon vault of Dralk is the most secure of any in the world. Why else would you be asked to protect our object?”

    “I'm telling you, someone broke in. The elders are investigating now.”

    “You're saying you don't have It.”

    “That would be what I'm saying, Satyr. If you know what's good for you, you'll leave. Go about your business. Things are going awry.”

    “I'll be back.”

    “Come back all you like,” he grumbled, snorting blue flames. “Won't change the fact that it's not here.”

    “This will make my friend extremely unhappy.”

    “I care not how unhappy he gets. Fact is, I had it in a bank that's legendary for its security, and it's gone. In fact, your little item isn't all that's gone missing. For those of us without a lair, this was where we kept our hoards. They're gone.”


    “Our hoards. Gone. I had close to a million stored, I'm working toward ancient. I can't even begin the quests now, and I don't know how I'll fight. I'll have to start all over again!”
    Milkweed raised an eyebrow, biting back the waspish things she wanted to say. She was a good fighter, but a full grown dragon would be far more of a challenge than she wanted. She'd gone out in order to avoid conflict. Wouldn't it be foolhardy to invite more—far worse?

    “You'll let me know when you get it back?”

    “Don't you understand, you daft wit? I won't be getting it, or anything, back!” he bellowed. “Be gone, before I decide to turn you into a cinder!”

    “Pleasure doing business with you,” she snapped.

    He wasn't paying attention. Instead, he was trying to pick up the scent of the thieves. It was a useless endeavor, but it kept him occupied.

    Taking the gate to Dalimond, Milkweed was disturbed by how sluggish it was. Surely, gate maintenance had been done? Then again, the blasted humans were so lazy, they might only have said they'd done it. Deposited rather precipitously on the pad, she noticed an angry red-orange glow behind her. Turning around, she saw that a fire raged in Bristugo!

    A man ran by her, yelling for help. A woman followed, screaming. Everywhere she looked, chaos met her eyes. Worried about her family, she went to the gate. It wouldn't open. In fact, it rumbled rather alarmingly, the watery surface rippling and writhing in its stone frame. Suddenly, it went black.

    Hopping off the stone steps, Milkweed circled it, wondering what was going on. The gate shuddered, bubbled and burped. The final belch was full of smoke and the stench of burning sulfur. Truly alarmed now, she cast about for answers. Deciding to run home, she tried to drop her things in the bank vault, only to find they'd been robbed as well.

    “What manner of madness is this?” She yelled.

    No one listened. Too bound up in their own personal woes, they had no time for her. Securing her backpack firmly on her shoulders, she set off at a dead run, up the slope, around the hills, to Bristugo. Normally, she enjoyed the soft glow of the moon on the water, the lap of the waves against the shore. Even the merry stars, which twinkled far above, gave no comfort.

    The smell of burning filled her nostrils. Stopping a moment, she let the sight before her sink in. The gates of Bristugo lay crumbled and broken. Tendrils of black smoke wafted upward. Blue, gold and black flames licked and flickered. Debris littered the compound. The small bank was in ruins, the roof partially caved in. The teller, a person she'd known her entire life, sat on a chunk of stone, swathed in bandages and wrapped in a blanket. No one seemed to be trying to put out the fire, though it seemed isolated to the gate area.
    Suddenly, the flames rose higher, shooting into the sky. Cinders and sparks rained down, igniting the thatched roofs of the nearby homes. With a gulping gurgle, they shuddered. Great gouts of flaming, melted stone flew into the air, bombarding the landscape.

    With a scream, Milkweed hit the ground, her lovely russet coat on fire! “Help me! Help!”

    No one paid her any mind. Luckily, she found a well, and dove into its depths, little knowing if she'd get out a gain. The smell of burned hair and charred skin filled her nostrils. Gagging a little, she took stock of her surroundings. The water wasn't as deep as she feared. She could stand on the bottom, if she held herself on her the tips of her hooves.

    “The world has gone mad,” she declared. “That can be the only explanation. What to do?”

    She heard more explosions above, the ground shook and dirt dropped from the cracks in the well walls. She couldn't stay here. Her only chance was to recall, though in her panic, she couldn't remember where she was bound. The ground shook again, and a heavy stone barely missed her. Another fell, and another. Without thinking, she cast her spell. Feeling the gentle, tingling glow of transport, she waited to land. Surely, she should have materialized by that time.

    It was then she remembered. She'd been bound to a shrine in Bristugo, which was currently in flames. A silent shriek struggled to get free, as she whirled away in silent oblivion.
    Last edited by dellani; August 23rd, 2018 at 10:35 PM.

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