"From Sharona's Diary: The Apprenticeship Starts" by Sharona Jay of Chaos
he could feel the life returning to her body, slowly, painfully. They called her one of the gifted. She often wondered if that was a fair title for her condition but couldn’t change that even if she wanted to. Some folks would love to have this near immortality…but then they didn’t realize how painful it could be to keep dying over and over again…to keep returning to her bind spot feeling the lifeblood seeping back into her body, feeling the pain from that final death blow until her body finished heeling itself once again. Knowing that she would have to face that which killed her over and over again until she had the skill, wisdom, and some times pure luck it would take to kill her adversary. And then she’d move on to the next one each more difficult than the last. There was no shortage of enemies here, many dangerous mobs were determined to take over and rule their lands. They seemed to multiply in numbers and strength while their own numbers dwindled.
Sharona was one of a handful of gifted Fiends left in her world and she knew that this depressive state was all part of the resurrection phase she was in. She thought back to the few moments before her death, this had been another battle, which she had almost won. The bloodsnout grouk was very close to death when his own squeals of pain had brought attention to his plight and more of his kind joined the battle. She had dispelled the first two bleed attacks, but there were too many for her to handle, she had tried to get in one last shot hoping to take her original target out before she could escape and recoup her health. She had killed him, but his death was a small victory when so many more had survived and she had been pulled back to her bind spot after her own death.
As one of the gifted she would always revive. That didn’t stop the pain though, and the ever present death penalties that lowered her skills and energy making it even harder to kill her enemies. She knew she was letting her cause down every time she died. And in her unguarded moments like this she wished she were not so alone. She hadn’t seen another of her race in years. She’d heard of another gifted Fiend. He was a legend and stories of him had helped keep her going. He was her idle, her role model, and someday she would meet him. Every story she heard of the Fiend named Soth made her wonder about the males of her own race. Her father had gone off to war when she was young and had never returned. She wanted revenge for that, but for now she would have to take another side trip – a detour from her ultimate goal. She needed time to fully recover from her most recent death and she needed to enter another mob into her revenge book. She kept track of the monsters that killed her, and the methods they used to fight. Through this she could study her adversaries and look for weakness in their styles, weaknesses she could use against them next time they met, and there would be a next time… there always would be a next time. That was her purpose in life or death as it is, to keep coming back until her world was safe once again from the encroaching mobs.
She could craft for a bit and build more power and focus skills, but more fun to kill a few more enemies and build those same skills while having her revenge on at least some of them. She just needed to fight something smaller, but she would continue to push – trying out the bigger enemies until they too could be mastered. If she didn’t keep pushing a little higher she’d never know how far she could go. This in mind she ported to Kirasanct the almost deserted Fiend town, and then on to her favorite practice golems. She could start at the topaz and work her way through them to jade. Not much threat to her anymore but they could still give her a good workout. With a mindless abandon she did just that killing off golem after golem- building her stamina concentrating on her focus and timing, using spell after spell to kill the golems infecting the area.
Hours later and near exhaustion she headed west from the jades toward an area she could pass the night safely, but as she approached she heard voices and her warrior instincts kicked in. She crept closer until she could decipher words, phrases and was pretty sure they were friendly, a band of marauding warriors out to exterminate as many of the evil invading mobs as they could. Before she could call out and let her presence be known she felt a blade press at her side as an arm wrapped around her throat. “Identify yourself!” came a deep voice.
“I am Sharona, one of the last defenders of Kirasanct. I heard voices here and came to investigate. You are friendly I think?”
She felt the knife slide away and the grip relax, “Not very good at defending yourself are you? I could have slit your throat before you knew I was behind you.”
She turned ready to defend herself to her accuser and her voice caught in her throat. Another Fiend stood before her, sleek and fit and very male. His tunic and leggings were Jasper and clung to his body like a second skin. What felt like minutes later she heard herself speak in a voice she barely recognized as her own. “I sensed no danger from you or would have been on my guard.”
“Then you should not have been lurking around our camp without identifying yourself.”
“I was about to when you snuck up on me.” Sharona defended herself.
He looked her over once and then again more thoroughly, and finally nodded his head accepting her answer. “I am Soth. Well-met Sharona. Tell me, are there more Fiends in this area?”
“Soth? The Soth?” When she realized her mouth must be standing open she pulled herself together trying desperately to hide the blush she could feel coming on, “Very few. Why are you here? I’ve heard you hunt only the biggest and meanest of the enemies invading our world?”
“Come, you may enter our camp, I’ll explain our presence, and maybe you can be of use to us.”
Still awestruck that she had just met her idle she stumbled over a tree root and he caught her in his firm grip, righting her before she could fall on her face in front of him. “You should be more careful Sharona, you make that much racket you’ll have our enemies on us in no time.”
Mortified she choked on what would have been a thank you and pulled out of his grip which had lessened although he had not let her go. “I’m sorry,” she said as she moved ahead much quieter this time, “but there are no mobs near here, which is why I often seek out this spot.”
“We have heard differently. Allow me to introduce my friends and comrades, Khaddzi, Blaspheme.” He said nodding from one to the other.
They were both of different races, how unusual she thought that he did not travel with others of his own race. But then maybe there were no others. She nodded at each in turn attempting a smile but still too much in awe and embarrassed by her own carelessness. “This is Sharona, she is a defender of Kirasanct,” he said mocking her.
She turned on him then, her magic staff pointing at his throat, fire in her eyes. “I can defend my home, against the enemy or you and your sad lot if necessary.”
His friends burst out laughing as Soth slowly put his hand on the tip of her staff and moved it away from his throat. “Don’t EVER point a weapon at me again unless you want to taste my steel!” and in a move so quick she hadn’t seen it coming she was back in his grasp, his blade at her throat. “Do you understand me?”
This had his friends in a new set of whoops “Soth, let the girl be, she’s an infant!” And again he relaxed his hold but did not let go as he whispered in her ear “Don’t push me too far little one.” He released her and she immediately stepped away from him, then gave the three of them a glare that would send them all to Hades if that were possible, which brought on another round of laughter from his friends.
“Relax Sharona, please, join our camp. We will be sure Soth does not attack you again.” The invitation came from the one she thought must be Blaspheme. He was a Sslik, and a fine specimen of that race. All three of them were obviously fit and battle ready.
“Thank you,” she said, “and for the record I am not an infant!”
“No, I can see that you are not.” He stated looking her over closely.
She sat, as far from any of them as she could. “Why are you here?”
Khaddzi, the Saris warrior spoke, “We heard there was a new threat, some very nasty Christmas Treants went berserk and were seen near here. Have you heard of them?”
“Christmas Treants? Is that what there are, trees with colored lights moving around as if they had feet? They have a very nasty bough swing and heal themselves faster then they can be killed? If that is what you are looking for then yes, they are nearby. Where have they come from?”
“A place called Dalimond,” Soth spoke up. “Can you tell us exactly where you saw them?”
“I’ll do better than that, I’ll take you there tomorrow.”
“That’s not necessary. Just tell us where they are and then you can run along home!” Soth said.
“It’s too late to wander around in these woods, I came here to spend the night! I can lead you there tomorrow.”
“You aren’t spending the night here with us!” Soth bellowed at her.
“You are in my woods, this has always been my spot, I’m willing to share it with you, if that is not acceptable go find somewhere else to stay, but a small distance in each direction you’ll run into enemies, and although I’m sure you can dispatch them in time, you wont get much rest.” She paused glaring at him in defiance before she continued, “So, you have anything for dinner in that pot?” she gestured to the cooking pot nestled in the embers of a small fire.
Soth glared darkly at her, as Blaspheme stifled his laughter and checked the cooking pot. “It will be ready soon. So tell us little Sharona, what of this Kirasanct and why do you defend it alone?”
After telling them of the repeated attacks by the Marrow guards from the north destroying their entire male population they ate while Soth told a tale of one of his previous battles. Sharona could not keep her eyes off him, he was magnificent and very proud of what he did, she barely heard his words but could picture him in battle killing off twenty maybe even thirty enemies at a time. She could see him kiting around them, keeping them off balance so they wouldn’t know where he’d be next. Then she noted the change in his voice, could feel his pain and loneliness as he mentioned his comrades that were downed in the battle, he said at the end he was standing alone in a field of crimson from the bloodshed with the sun’s new twilight peaking over the mountain ridge.
A long silence followed until Soth rose to check their perimeter one more time. Later, as she lay trying to sleep she couldn’t get the image out of her mind, he had won the battle but so much was lost. And somehow she had never considered him anything short of a legend, a slayer of enemies large and small, yet here he was with fears and sorrows, memories of comrades long gone. She forced herself to put all from her mind so she could sleep well and renew her strength for the coming day, a day she would spend in the presence of Soth!
They rose early, ready for the expedition to where she had seen the treants, and there were many of them, in the icy hills not far from the golems where she often practiced. The four of them looked over the area, accessing the numbers and watching their patterns, and wordlessly Soth ran into the field gathering several of the treants attention by running very near them. They followed him to an area at the edge of the group and as wordlessly as he had moved, Blaspheme and Khaddzi moved toward him weapons flying as they reached the mob and she followed, not knowing what was expected of her yet knowing she must do her share of damage. She had barely reached them when they started dropping like flies, she hurled her lightning storm at them and the last few dropped. Without a moment’s hesitation Soth was off gathering more of them, she stayed at the same spot, as neither Blaspheme of Khaddzi had moved, while Soth dragged more of the treants toward them. She knew she wasn’t doing near the damage the others were, but gloried in being part of the battle. She was doing her part and felt stronger for helping destroy the evil treants. She was so focused on the battle at hand she hadn ’t noticed the treant that slipped in behind her until half her health was drained with one bough whip. Before she could recover the offending tree was dead and crashing to the ground around her, she looked up and saw Soth make eye contact ever so briefly, but she got the message, it was up to her to be more careful, if she wasn’t taking care of herself he would have to and that could put his life in jeopardy. After hours of constant battle the last tree was down and the group relaxed as one.
“Well done Sharona,” Blaspheme stated bowing his head slightly toward her. Khaddzi was also nodding in agreement as Soth came up.
“Bah, she’s sloppy! Her skills need refining and she needs to watch her back.”
She was about to defend herself when she’d have sworn she saw Blaspheme wink at her as he turned to Khaddzi, “Hmm, I wonder where we could find someone to train her, she obviously has no one here.”
“Don’t even think about it!” Soth yelled. “She’s weak and careless, throws her spells in the wrong order and what is that she’s carrying, it’s barely a weapon, and looks more like a tool for god’s sake!”
Sharona turned on her heal and ran back toward their camp. How humiliating. Bad enough they had to stand there and talk about her as if she wasn’t right there, but she really hadn’t thought she’d done that poorly. She had left nothing at camp and after a short distance veered off on a path known only to her. These were her woods and she knew them well. She would work her way back to the golems she loved to hate and take her new frustration out on them. Soth and his party would be gone by the time she was done. She would not have to see them again. Why that made her feel so sad she wasn’t sure, he had been rude and cruel, but he had also saved her from death when he should have been too busy to be worrying about her. He was a Fiend and he was awesome in battle, just as she had imagined, no honestly he was even better than she had imagined.
When she reached the jades she killed one after another, then got a little braver and started cutting out a few at a time as she’d seen Soth do, dragging them to her safe spot and two or three weren’t so hard to handle. She practiced on them mindlessly, driven to better herself and clear her mind of thoughts of them. She would not continue to be careless or sloppy! Near exhaustion she climber her favorite rock and sat, looking over the field covered in dead golems and smiled.
She turned quickly when she heard clapping! Slow, deliberate, clapping. He was less then 10 feet from her, how did he keep sneaking up on her? “Not bad Sharona, not bad. But you do need training. These are puny enemies, beneath your notice. Stop! Don’t get defensive, just listen for a minute.” Soth stared at her until she calmed herself and gave a slight nod. “You have stamina and grit, but you need more style, you need to anticipate their every move, and you need to test yourself against bigger mobs. You’ve been beating up these golems for a long time haven’t you?” She nodded in agreement and he continued, “It is time for you to move on. Come with us, we are expanding our group, we can help you become stronger and smarter. We can get you a decent weapon.” He smirked. “We will work you until you want to drop, but we will make you better, and then we’ll take on bigger and meaner foes. We need strong warriors that can help us take out the largest of our enemies. Until we kill them these little ones will just continue to repopulate our lands. So what say you, Sharona, will you join forces with us?”