Esper

The Revelation!

Odistly sat quietly across the ancient desk from his sister, feeling like a boy again, about to be lectured or worse. His sister was an intimidating woman, her lithe form trained to the edge of perfection, a panther ready to strike. In many ways, she was a drow out of time, recalling back to the ancient matriarchal society his people had once followed, her regal stance seeming superior than those around her. This was offset by her actions, as the bookworm of the family, Odistlo had always relied on his intellect to solve many problems but his brother had always picked on him ruthlessly, his sister often coming to his aid.

Now he felt small again, about to be talked down to, telling him to stop getting him into situations he could not handle, her warning that she would not always be around to pull him out of trouble. She sat for a long time, shuffling through papers on the desk, seeming agitated, and maybe concerned about something. It seemed odd to him, he had never seen her so frazzled, and he noticed that she would occasionally steal glimpses of him through her paperwork. After a bit, she finally stopped the constant shuffling and drawing forth a piece of paper and putting it in front of him.

“I need you to sign this, Oddie?” She said, her voice nervous, a slight edge to it.

Odistlo, not looking at the paperwork, cracked a nervous smile, his suave nature still holding despite his consternation. “What now, are you making me sign my own arrest warrant.” his voice smooth.

She looked at him sharply, looking about to get angry before she caught herself, something guilty crossing her face. “No, this is an order taking full responsibility for Ardutyna, after she is released of the Geas that binds her. Because of the Dusk Blades, unique skill set and training, The Empress has decreed that while they are being given their freedom, such an introduction into normal society might be shocking and dangerous for them and the rest of society, so they are now being required to serve 6 years in the Grand Dynasty Regiment, to serve but also be reestablished into society. As your representative, I have convinced her grace, to forgo this in Tyna’s case and have her directly placed in service to you, under you watch and protection, until time that you deem that she can be entered into society.” Ophelia, lifts an eyebrow, looking directly at him. “I pulled a lot of strings to get this drafted.”

Odistlo, slowly looked down at the paperwork, a look of confusion crossing his face. “I. . . I appreciate this, I do, but, I do not really feel qualified to reel in someone like her. She is very strong willed and doesn’t really like authority.”

Ophelia takes a deep breath, and mumbles to herself. When she looks at him, her face is rough and cracking. “Oddy, I don’t know how to tell you this, but we reviewed Tyna’s records, and her mother was already with child when Ranarran took her. Tyna is your daughter.”

The sly smile slipped from Odistlo’s mouth, shock replacing the cocky look. He stare at his sister in disbelief, feelings of loss of his old love, and deepening feelings of his brother’s betrayal fully forming in his mind. His voice cracked. “Not only did Ranarran destroy my life and take from me the only person I ever truly love. Not only did my inability to stand up to him and his twisted vile cult prevent me from living a life of happiness. But, he had to take away something from both Julia and me, and enslave it, and parade it in front of my face for years, knowing that he held that over me. I. I. . . I” his hands came to his face, tears leaking between them.

When his hands finally came free, rage was a fire across his features, a burning hatred, Ophelia had never seen this before on the studious and cocky Odistlo. “I was going to kill him. But, know, I will destroy him. I will turn his world and plans to dust in front of his eyes, and when he looks upon his ruined life, only then will I plunge my dagger into his heart.”

Ophelia came around the table, wrapping her arms around her youngest brother. “We will do this together. He has wronged you immeasurable, and he is a traitor to all we stand for, and together, he will answer for his crimes.”

Coming free from his siblings embrace, he bent low and signed the paperwork and straightened, and without so much as another word, walked from the room.

View
Of Candles and Doorways, Part II
each chasing a dream, none to be had, and yet...

Hours passed. candles burned low, and were replaced; flagons were emptied, and refilled. By and by, the strangers exchanged their tales across the table which beheld a great map. As the recounted their journey, the older gnome marked their trails and travails with tokens, and took a fearsome many notes of the account given.

“And so, tis as wae feared.” Paulan’s expression was grave, a solemnity settling over his candle-lit features. “The King and capital, fallen. And not from without. Our voyagers and traders had heard tales, movements in the dark from every corner of the lands, but they didne seem tae have any cohesion. Petty chaos; cultists here, orc raiders there. Not until we’d gotten word about that, err, monster—”

“No mere monster, yeh must understand,” Ozukar intoned. “I know the clan doesn’t care too much fer the study o’ magicks, or relevant somesuch, but if the research we’ve gathered to this point stands tae reason… this type o’ occurrence has happened only a few rare times in millennia past. The old folk woulda called em somethin’ different.” He turned his head, glancing sidelong at Magni. The beared priest lowered his head, a hand moving to brush the ever-smouldering mark on his arm.

“My ancestors would have called it a God,” he said quietly, with bitterness in his breath. His gaze shifted, passing from one corner of the map to the other. His eyes traced a silent route, the long, cold road he’d taken over wilderness and civilization: far from this eastern coastal villa, to the vast northern steppes of his ancient home. “This world is changing, changing as the seasons do. Changing, as it has always done when a new deity is birthed upon it. But this being, this… abomination. It will not bring winter to the world,” his words were soft as a prayer, and his eyes beheld the depth of grief that only comes when a man’s faith is broken. “It will bring oblivion.”

Paulan seemed incredulous. “What can you mean? This thing, aye its bad news, but so are dragons, and other such plights. An army could kill it, and armies are in no short supply these days…”

The bard interjected, thumbing the grip of her lute. “I’m not so sure. I didn’t see the beast, but I saw its effects, felt its influence. That Desden we met, he was a halfling consumed by the creature; its like his noble soul had been poisoned. He was not the hero i’d heard songs about.” She fidgeted slightly in her seat. Remembering the swamp, and her brief demise on its outskirts, was uncomfortable for her. “A-and, we all saw. That whole fort, swallowed into the earth. the grass and everything that vile pendant touched, it sickened and died. And Jerrick,” she said, putting a slender hand on his shoulder," he only touched it, and he—

“Thats Enough. I’m FINE.” He recoiled a bit from her touch, but then gently placed a mailed fist over her hand. “Anyway, we’re here now. Get the damn book already,” he growled, staring daggers at Oz.

“I told yeh already,” Oz gritted back, rising to his feet in a huff. “the DAMN book izzn’ here; accordin’ tae Magni’s vision, yoo-know-hoo has it already. We’re a day late and a silverpence short.” Turning, he shrugged at his uncle. “The whole bloody time, we’d meant to see yoo about a book, yeh see…”

Paulan had a fierce look about his face. "No doubt. I imagine, the same ponderous volume that imperial representative confiscated a day or so ago. “his emerald eyes glared vibrantly at Odistlo. Hmph, same book this chap tried to acquire twice before that.” The elder gnome had been leaning over the map before, but now he stalked over toward the dark-skinned elf, arms folded with as much gruffness as he could muster. “Come to think o’ it, the arsehole looked a great deal like this one. Kin o’ yourn, I presume?”

Odistlo simply smiled, a grin that seemed much like a cat toying with a feather. “Yes, my brother, unfortunately. We’re on our way to kill him, if you don’t mind. See that you don’t get in my way. I’d much rather we maintain such… cordial… relations,” he finished, dryly.

Paulan looked the odd group over, from his nephew, to the dark elf, and back again. “Well,” he started simply, “whatever your business, keep us out of it, if ya can. we’ve been getting by well enough, but only because we’ve managed to maintain our neutrality. I’ll not have you muckin’ it up with any ill-planned heroics.” He moved back to the far side of the table, and resumed his strained study of its current affairs. “At any rate, for the nonce ye’ve got the run o’ the place. just try not tae cause too much trouble, eh Oz? Oh, and on second thought, Stay Out o’ the bloody LIBRARY.” His punctuated words stabbed the air, and his eyes didn’t bother to look up, brooking no contest.

Ozzie’s teeth flared a bit at the restriction, but after a breath, he regained his composure. A thought struck him, and he let the question fly. “Then, I am no longer exiled? Aside from the library, o course—”

“DON’T BE DAFT, boyo!” his uncle roared back. “A’course, yeh’r still exiled, BOOKBURNER.” He shook his head, as if to clear the booze from his ears. “But thar’s no sense in worryin’ about that, now. After all, none o’ the elders are around to enforce it.” His shoulders drooped, and waves of pent up frustration seemed to roll off of his brow. “As a means to ensure our cooperation, the entire triumvirate was… eh.. shall we say, indefinitely invited, to stay at the manse their Empress is usin’ as a makeshift palace. Desden’s Strand.” He folded his arms behind him, awaiting Oz’s reaction.

“…invited?” The mage asked quietly.

“Oh, aye. They aren’t treated like prisoners; probably kept like royalty, really.” His eyebrows twitched slightly, betraying deeper significance. “But they haven’t been allowed to leave, and we’ve had virtually no contact with ‘em atoll. On top o’ that, they’ve blockaded the docks, so our ships haven’t been able to sail, either. We’re allies of convenience, fer now, but really they’ve got us by the roots o’ our beards, lad.” He turned askew, facing the closet from whence all the new arrivals had come.

“Them imperials, they humble themselves momentarily when they need a peek into our library, or to purloin some of our luxury cargo in courtesy fees; and every once in awhile, hooded chaps would come through that mirror, requestin’ specific materials from hard to reach places.” He rubbed his chin, contemplation deeply etched in the lines on his cheeks. “That empress o’ theirs, she dinnae seem so bad, actually. Every inch the worthy ruler you might expect. But her dynasy, well, every dealing they have with us has been like a sharp dagger, disguised under an embroidered napkin. They want us to know that we can’t refuse.”

An uncomfortable silence settled on the room. It persisted a few long moments, until Odistlo broke the quiet. “Well, all this gloom has made me quite bored, I’m afraid. And the hour has likely grown quite late, not that there are windows in this sky-forsaken hole.” He smiled, toothy and insincere. “I hate to be another dark-skinned demander of unnecessities, but I desire a soft place to sleep and many, many pillows upon which to rest.” He eyed the grizzled gnome, who rolled his eyes in response, and rang a bell a moment later.

Immediately, a strange pair of evesdroppers burst downward through the trapdoor above. Paulan glowered at them, unsurprised yet still clearly annoyed. “Really. Your posts are much further away from the door, I believe. just how much of that did you hear?”

“Too Much—” The short haired young guardswoman grumbled…

“Not Enough!” The bandanna’d sailor excitedly chimed. I told yoo, I knew it was him. Soon as I heard the first clatter, didn’ oiy tell yer it was him??"

“Yea, yea, sure; nao get outta my way,” she huffed, shoving him aside. They both rushed in, nearly bowling the minty-eyed mage from whence he stood.

Ozukar recovered surprisingly quickly, delight filling his voice to child-like levels of giddiness. “Stars Above! Todrick! Toddy old fellow, izzat yoo? And Edinith…” he ducked a well-timed punch from the half-plate wearing warrior, and wrapped his arm around her instead. “Awl, liddle Edi, yeh done got yerself so big an’ tough, haha!”

The trio roughhoused a moment before inadvertently bumbling into the hapless bard, who giggled and shoved all three of the little warmongers to the floor. “Watch where yer goin, twinkle fingers!” Talin laughed. “And who are these mystery assailants, anyways? C’mon Oz, Clearly some introductions are in order!” She stood over them, lute over her shoulder, and hands expectantly placed on her hips.

“These two ruffians, Ozzie wheezed, “were me best two mates growin’ up. The smiley one is Todrick Frayedknot, and the grumbly-wumbler over here, ooof!” he gasped, catching a sudden eldow to the ribs.

“Edinith Cobblestomp. Both of clan Delaque,” she intoned.

“Both at yer service!” Todrick beamed.

Enough of your foolishness, all of yeh," Paulan sighed. You two, show this lot to their chambers eh? And ‘ave some fresh candles brought down here, once ye’ve got that one," his pointed finger clearly indicating the exiled wizard, “safely locked away.”

………………………………….

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Loss

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=53M6EVfZTNA

“Loss … Loss is something that you will unfortunately come to know well my dear one. Since you carry my blood in your veins you will outlive many of those who are special to you. It may be of natural causes from being a shorter-lived race or it may be sudden and, Ranayla forbid, violent depending on the company you keep. Just remember that whomever enters and leaves your life cannot ever be forgotten unless you allow it.”

Ta’lin sat in the cushioned window seat of her small but richly furnished room in Ozzie’s family home. She stared outside not seeing the sunshine or the rich colors of the trees just outside or hearing the muted commotion of city life. She sat motionless for uncounted hours, recalling the conversation she had with her father many years ago before she left to study at the bard’s college. She had always thought it was an oddly morbid send off speech for a young woman just starting her life on her own. Granted, her mother was very sick at the time but the physician had said she would recover within a fortnight or so. She was too young and too naive to truly take to heart what he was saying at the time. Ta’lin had never truly experienced true loss until recently. Sure, she was saddened when Gnawl was killed but they had only been acquaintances. Jerrick, in all his damned gruffness and ill-tempered manners was a dear friend…

She tried to recall the events of the past few days. She remembered seeing Tyna come in late at night with a tear streaked face and blood soaked clothes. She remembered the words, “Jerrick has been murdered… I avenged him by returning the favor to those responsible.” After that everything became muted. Ta’lin closed her eyes and pressed the heels of her hands onto her lids until spots began to form. Gods, she couldn’t even remember how she got to her room. She looked despondently at the gilded tray of cold tea and uneaten food. She had neither eaten or slept since she heard the awful news two..or was it three?… days ago. Everything was blending together now.

The tears she thought would…should be shed never came. It was as though even now she didn’t want to be weak, thinking he would somehow judge her for it. They may have fought almost constantly but there was a bond between them that she couldn’t describe. She hated that these last few weeks had been especially trying with him becoming more belligerent every day and she most likely helped fan the flames by shouting right back…Gods why?

Rousing slightly from her reverie, she noticed that night had fallen. Someone had come in and lit the fire as well as a few candles around her room. A fresh tray of food had been laid out…she wished they would stop wasting their food on her, she had no interest in it. She looked over at a chair by the hearth that served as a temporary stand for her lute. A present from Jerrick…It seems like ages ago that an “anonymous admirer” passed it on to Millie. She stared at it for a while, then stood up and walked over to the instrument. She picked it up with the gentle touch one would use to lift an infant. She ran her fingers along the dark wood, tracing the delicate and simple flourishing carved along the edges. She took it over to a small table and sat down. Grabbing the small knife she uses to sharpen her pencils, she flipped the lute over and began to carve. Hours passed and the candles shortened as she worked. Once her work was complete, she brushed the shavings away to examine what she had done. She was no artist to be sure, but in a way it worked with the subject matter. Etched into the back of her lute was a rough carving of Jerrick’s likeness as well as the large tree in Il’Valiran, her haven, where she brought him on the night that they truly became friends. Satisfied with her work, she laid the lute on the table so she could easily see the carving. She smiled and the tears began to fall.

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Huntress!!!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vc1PKfGjneo
huntress.jpg
Tyna could not go back without answers. A rage burned deep inside, searing her soul, clouding her vision with scarlet spots. She lay perched atop a rooftop, her cold eyes staring into the dark recesses of the alley, shadows playing on the walls, cast by dynasty investigators who were scanning the scene. She had climbed here nearly an hour ago, her lithe form dark against the night sky, a silent predator, eyes stalking for prey. She could hear the language of her people, the guardsmen and investigators muttering to themselves. It was not every day that they found four Dusk Blades dead in an attempt to assassinate their target.

Dusk Blades were not supposed to be caught. They were a knife in the dark and their targets were always dead, but no evidence was supposed to be left behind. For four to have attacked Jerrick and have been slaughter in the attempt, would cause no amount of scandal to her people. Of course, none of that mattered to her. Her friend lay in that alley, his bloodied lifeless form still propped against an alley wall, eyes staring into the void. And she intended with her entire soul to find out why.

It was in another spark of rage within her, that she noticed the cloaked man. He was standing on the cobbled street, across from the sanctioned off alley, his eyes glaring with intent. A soldier approached him, crossing the street curtly, his officer’s sword swaying on his hip. The two men exchanged words, the distance between her and them too far for her to hear, but she noticed a slight smile cross the cloaked man’s face. She would make that smile larger for him, she thought, reaching for her wicked dagger, but she stopped, taking a breath, before turning her attention back on the cloaked figure. He was moving now, up the street, his long stride purposeful; as he pushed pass the meandering onlookers. She stalked with a cats grace, rooftop to rooftop, the cloaked man always in her sight.

She followed the man through the city, passing from the fish smelling docks, into a more industrial area, late night workers passing the cloaked man and going about their nightly duties. It was here where the man entered into a large 2 story building, a storage building of some kind, she thought. Luckily for her, there was wide set windows in the slanted roof, and she was able to deftly enter and balance easily og the wooden beams of the ceiling. The building was a large open space, varias sizes of boxes and supplies lining the floor and against the walls. In the middle of the space, was an open space, where a table had been place, three large men already seated, watching the cloaked figure approach. She hung silently in the shadows, her will determined, her body slightly quivering with rage.

The cloaked figure took a seat at the table, turning to the other men, he began to speak, his voice carrying easily through the open space. “Stone Lord Bravas, it is verified that the man killed is Jerrick Northedge. The Tsar should be pleased.” He said, pausing for a moment, before pushing on. “Although our gracious host may be upset when he finds out the cost of this endeavor. The man killed all four of the assassins before falling. Let it not be said that he did not have the strength of our homeland.”

Across from the cloaked figure, a large yet elderly man shifted, his stark grey hair tied and knotted in the back, falling across his broad shoulders. “That leaves the only threat to the north being the missing princess, Sapphire. The Tsar is currently using our Legion contacts to track her down. With her out of the picture, there cannot be any doubts of our Tsar’s legitimacy, and with Il’Valiran firmly in our hands, we will rule from Stuldar’s Hold to the south.” His head turning to man with bright red hair, slight horns emerging from close cropped black hair. “Frintil, How goes the negotiations with Osmandias?”

Frintil, the slight tiefling, shuffling through various papers on the table, finds one of interest, passing it to Bravas. “The deal is struck, and with the gold provided by Ranarran, we will have secured the mercenaries needed to drive this God-Empress and her people from these lands.”

Bravas looked pleased, giving a curt nod to the tiefling, before shifting around to the even larger forth man, who sat uncomfortably in a chair too small for him, various furs wrapped around him, his bushy beard falling in a braid past his chest. “Sven, is the Gruntyl secure?”
The large barbarian, azure eyes staring icily at the stone lord. “We are not so easy to corral. Our tribes are scattered, but we have men in place, and we are using the false threat of an Orc pushback to seek allies, so within weeks, the warlords and chieftains will be clamoring for your aid.”

Bravas, was pleased, and quickly brought the meeting to an end. The men stood, joking and exchanging drinks around the table.

They never expected the small form to land on the table before them. In mere seconds, Sven lay face down on the table, his neck split wide open, blood pooling and spilling in rivulets onto the floor. Frintil, a stunned look on his face, sat in his chair, a crossbow bolt, buried in his right eye. The cloaked man had tried to run, and now his body was swinging from a ceiling beam, Tyna’s whip wrapped around his throat. Bravas, shocked and in pain, lay crawling on the ground, his dark blood smearing behind him from the slice tendons behind his heels.

Tyna was sitting on the table, watching with cold calm, as the stone lord tried in vain to crawl away from her. Looking lazily over the table and the documents on them, she made a mental note to collect all of it, so someone like Oz could interpret their meanings. She was not good at such things, but she was good at others, and now was the time for that. She reached for her nasty serrated dagger and deftly hopped of the table walking towards the crawling man. As she reached the struggling form, she thrust the dagger into the bunch of nerves between his shoulder blade and upper back. The man screamed in pain, his breath ragged, jerking convulsively.
“I.. ..I… I’ll tell you anything you want?” He screamed.

Tyna looked at him, her dark purplish eyes staring into him. “I don’t want you to talk.” She said, her voice like a crypt. “I just want you to scream,” and her hand twisted the knife.

“Be prepared, it is going to be a long night!” She said with a smile, as revenge flooded into her, and the warehouse filled with screams.

View
Of Candles and Doorways, Part I
reunion and confusion

Ozukar, the Apprentice

All was dark. Raw energy traced the outline of his body, heat and cold shuddering off of him in waves. His stomach lurched with the sudden velocity of standing still. Ozukar had never traveled via portal before; such magic had only been used by colleagues well above his skill level. Teleporting a few short feet was one thing, but this… many miles had rapidly coursed through his astral self, and when he’d finally reached the other side, reality smashed into him like a wall of sand.

He was standing on his own two feet, at least; he could surely feel the floor, although his other senses scarcely perceived it. Gradually, colors and shapes formed enough truth for his eyes to follow… he was standing on familiar stones, in a dimly lit room which appeared to be… ah. A closet. Loosely stacked crates of various materials were scattered about, and the far wall harbored an assortment of dusty scrolls heaped on a shelf. The only light available appeared to emanating from the mirror he himself had just stepped through. After a moment, the pins and needles sensation dulled away from his extremities, and he cautiously lifted a foot forward.

Nothing caught his fall, unfortunately; the mirror had been placed on a sort of low pedestal, and he tumbled forward in surprise. Clattering could be well heard throughout the basement; he’d rolled right into the nearest crate, which tipped into a stack of boxes, which teetered against the shelf, causing every scroll to tumble and roll onto the stone floor below. The last scroll, a particularly hefty volume, rolled right against the bottom of the door, which as luck would have it, had been left slightly ajar…

Light spilled in as the dust rolled out. The door, for its part, creaked surprisingly loudly, as if to incriminate the sudden intruder. “Desdan’s Teeth!,” a voice called from the lit room beyond. “Hoo the feck is knockin’ about round there? Yeh scared the shite outta me. Izzat yoo, Todrick?” Hurried steps began to make their way toward the closet. A heartbeat later, a balding head with sparce, violet colored hair peered around the edge of the doorway. Oz recognized the older gnome immediately, and chanced a weak, dust-caked grin. “Nah, not ole’ Todrick at all, I’m afraid,” Oz wheezed. “Just me. Oy reckon I’m alot more glad to see yoo, than yeh are ta see me.” He propped himself slightly against the crate he’d slammed into.

“..Ozzie? Little Oz? Why, stars above; ets been decades!” The wizened figure stooped to pull the young wizard to his feet. Ye’ve done a load o’ growin, I’ll grant yah that!" His glittering eyes halted a moment, remembrance dawning fast. “But, oh. Yer nae supposta be here.” After taking a moment to dust the lad off, he led him into the lit room, over to a table spread wide with a large map. “Siddown, and shush yerself. I’ll pour yeh some ale. Ye’ve got a heap o’ explainin’ tae do.”

Ozukar did as he was bid, pulling a stool adjacent to the table. The older gnome rounded a corner, but returned a brief second later with a jug of cool, frothy refreshment. “now then,” he said, as he placed the jug in front of the bedraggled mage, “tell yer old uncle Paulan… Wot The FECK are Yeh DOIN’ back here??”

The sudden outburst nearly knocked the small wizard right off of his stool; he gulped loudly, then passed the ale back to his uncle. “Erm, aha… well, tis quite a story, but I assure yeh it was absolutely necessary that I bring meself back. Speaking o’ things Oiy’ve brought… yeh might want to grab a few more jugs.” He glanced around nervously, wondering just how severe this breach of his exile was likely to get. Ah well, he thought. in fer a penny, in fer a gold piece. “Asides, yoo’ve got some explainin’ tae do yerself. Like about that mirror yeh got stashed away in there! He pointed a gloved finger accusingly at the older man. What sort of folk have yoo lot been kanoodlin’ with, anyway?”

Paulan didn’t budge an inch. “Yoo know it isn’t as simple as all that,” he stated flatly. And whats that got tae do with extra buckets o’ ale? Ye gone and become an ole alcheholic, izzat it? And now ye—" Both jerked their heads as his words were suddenly interrupted; another rattling bang emerged from the closet. several disoriented groans could be heard from the mouth of the door. Paulan’s mouth drooped, and he looked wryly at Oz. “Yeh didne say ye had company….”

“Well, yah. But ah didne say oy didn’t, either.” Oz said, chuckling in spite of himself. “As ah’ve said, tis quite a story… so. We’d better get tae tellin it, hmm?”

View
A Dark Walk Home

Jerrick sat at the tavern bar, the overwhelming scents of stale ale and pipe smoke permeating through the air, playing in his nostrils like old memories. Throwing back another shot, he swerved slightly on his stool, his reflexes allowing him to stay upright, when a lesser man would of fallen. Behind the bar was an older bartender, his round belly pressing against the stained white apron, as he shuffled over to pour another shot for the big man. Again, the shot went down, burning through his veins, his face flushed with the strength of the grog.

A sound at the entrance caught his attention, as a group of dynasty soldiers entered the tavern, their faces full of delight, having just changed shifts and ready to drink their woes away. Jerrick muttered under his breath, silent curses to the enemy in his presence, as he emptied several gold from his pouch onto the bar. “Keep all of it.” He muttered to the bartender, standing and making his way to door.

The night air was cool, the ocean breeze from the bay curling through the streets of Desdan’s Peace, whipping his cloak about his legs. Cursing, he wrapped the cloak closer, and made his way away from where he was staying. He had made up his mind, and he was not going to get caught up in the bullshit anymore. Wiggle-fingers and Gods, Kings and Empresses, long lost relatives all trying to get him caught up in their problems. All he had wanted after leaving the legion was to make some money. That is why he had teamed up with that sneak thief Jhobin, so he could fight battles and make a gods-damned living. But now, even that little sneaky bastard had bought all of this shit, hook line and sinker. But not him, he was out of this mess, no more fucking magic for him. He would leave town, maybe join up with some bandits or outlaws, and live life by the sword, for fuck’s sake.

Turning down an alley, he never noticed the shadows following him, and it was only at the last moment, some unknown instinct, that he turned to face the figure that rushed him.

Even though he was caught off guard, he was able to deflect a blow from a long sword aimed directly for his heart. Grabbing the cloaked attacker, with his strength, he started to strangle the dark skinned attacker. He slammed the figure against the wall, his fingers tightening, blood now running from his assailant’s mouth. He knew there were assassins after him, and his rage was pushing through his righteous indignation.

In his fury, he failed to see the other three forms, skulking from the shadows, as they rushed in behind him. One went low, keen edge slashing the back of Jerricks legs, slicing through tendons and sinew, dropping Jerrick to his knees. The second stabbed through his sides, puncturing the lungs, as blood spurted from Jerrick’s mouth, spraying the cobblestoned ground. The third, closed in with an effective slice to his throat, opening up his artery, sprays of crimson painting the alley walls. It was here where the assassins made a mistake, thinking that these actions would be enough to stop this man. Like a beast, cornered and bleeding from everywhere, Jerrick growled, grabbing the sword from the dead assassin he still throttled, and quickly spun, slicing high and wide, catching one of the black clad attackers from groin to shoulder.

The other two backed off, their guards now raised against this foe who was impossibly still fighting. Jerrick charged to the left most attacker, swatting aside the defensive attacks, and crushed the attacker against the wall, bringing the sword up and close between their bodies, the tip sliding just under the attackers chin to emerge from his right eye socket. The last attacker, stabbed furiously at the big mans back, his blade slick with blood, piercing Jerrick’s hide a dozen times. Jerrick went to attack this man, but his legs gave way, he ended up spinning around, sliding down the wall, his back against the grimy surface, staring at the dark armored assassin. It was in this moment, that he finally understood, in the moment that seemed to stretch forever, he remembered his conversations with Ta’lin, sharing his pain and holding a secret hope for her love. He remembered his friendship with Jhobin. He remembered the silent guilt he had felt when that Orc had died. He remembered the hidden chuckles he would hide when Oz would spout his ridiculous ideas. He remembered the awe he had in the strength of character that Magni showed. And he remembered the moment that he had begun to trust Tyna, and had come to rely on her as a friend and companion. It was in this moment, that he realized that his only regret, was that he could never share those feelings with them all.

Coughing blood, barely holding on, he looked at his final assailant, his lips parting, his words strained and harsh. “Do your fucking best you inked skinned son of a bitch.”
The assassin lunged forward burying his sword through the warriors heart.

Sheathing his blade, the assassin slowly started walking from the alley, his job done. Before stepping onto the street, another person turned to enter the alley, another half blood drow, such as himself. He was about to greet the fellow assassin and tell her to move along, when he caught shock and surprise in her eyes. Before he had time to act, a thin rapier had passed through the bones of his chest, puncturing his heart as he dropped to the ground.

Without saying a word, Tyna entered the alley and fell to her knees in front of the fallen warrior. Cradle ling his head in her lap, tears shining in the moonlight, she began to sing, words to her goddess, all she ever knew. She knew the big man would of hated this, but she had to mourn, and this was all she knew how to. After a short time she stood, tears still on her face, she silently walked out of the alley, to inform her friends, and to add more to the revenge she held in her heart.

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Of Ashes and Cinder

The Sun shown bright in the sky, the birds sang to the beauty of the day, the insects called for mates, the road kicked no dust under Yuri ‘s feet this day. A day so beautiful to him. He was on his way back home, coming from the capital. A wagon towed by a healthy ox behind him, filled to the brim with goods.
“A beautiful day…” he says softly to himself or more so the ox.
He yearned for home. The sound of children playing near the roads, music playing, and laughter rolling like wild fire. The smell of his oven burning the freshly chopped hickory wood, the breads and meats cooked to perfection… the smell of his wife’s purfume. The touch of her soft hands. The glow of her green eyes… How he missed all these things. By the time he realized it, he had drifted into a daydream of all those things. Mainly his wife. Phillify. His focus returned to the soft grey fluff that landed on his cheek. He looked in the air, the sky had darkened to a dull grey and more grey puffs fell to him. He held out his hand to catch what fell. Ash soon piled in his hand. He kept his pace.
Soon Ash and cinders fell, gracing his face and body little by little. The smell of burning flesh soon filled the air, the sound of a racing heart all that can be heard. Worry sets to Yuri ‘s face as his pace turns to a fanatic run.
The picture of burning buildings sank hard to his eyes. Life extinguished from both his eyes and his village. Bodies lay on the cobblestone, charred, crawling, gasping, burning, burning, burning…
Yuri races to his loving home to find it aflame. Without thinking he charges in. He looks the best he can for his beloved. No where to be found. Only one place in his head could she be beside home. To the church he ran. Careless mind set to find her.
The church’s fire burned softly, the wood and building mostly charred black. Set aflame first. There he found her. Blackened bones cradling multiple piles of more blackened bones. The children clang to her. She did all she could to protect them. There he fell. His heart racing then brought to a stop. The sound of a beating heart all that could be heard. His screams silent, his tears running red. To his eyes she stood there burning. Staring at him. Nothing else existed. Her skin melting away piece by piece, flesh chard flaking to the ground. A burning hand grasping a necklace laced in silver in one hand, Yuri’s chin in the other.

“Why didn’t you save me Yuri? Why do I burn? WON’T YOU SAVE ME YURI ! SAVE ME!” Her voice warped and twisted, deep and demonic, twisting between screams and dialed tones.

In a cold sweat, drenching him. Head to toe. Yuri’s eyes open, scorching hot. A dagger in him hand, blood dripping from his arm. The phrase: Forgive me drawn in blood on the sheets. Tear stains his cheeks and a burning throat sting him. A single cough of ash from him. No more rest for the wicked. No more rest for him tonight. Now he waits to experience the dream once more. Over and over again…

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Smile Beneath The Scars
Sleeping under the Stars, Jerrick reflects on his life.

Dust fills all our graves…Jerrick is laying inside his bedroll having woken in the middle of the night. Tal’in is snuggled next to him as the stares at the night sky and it’s flickering stars.

The first words ever taught to a dust legionnaire, and often the last ones uttered about him…Jerrick voice shook saying those words aloud as he rose his left hand high into the moist night sky of spring. In the starlight he examined his hand; it’s fingers and hairs with mild curiosity having forgotten where many of his own scars even came from.

Jerrick rolled onto his side staring at Tal’in despite his bleary eyed fatigue he wondered to himself.What changed? Was it her?…or me?Jerrick thought to only a few weeks prior out on the road to the capital with Ozzie’s throat between his hands squeezing down to take the gnome as a hostage.Had she truly forgiven me? How could she if even I haven’t. If it hadn’t have been for Ink-Adrutyna… would I even be alive anymore?In the darkness Jerrick could still see the evidence of her tears and smudged make up from her night terrors earlier that night. Jerrick let out a long soft sigh.

After all I’ve done, after everyone whose died under me…how can she feel so safe near me?Jerrick turned away from her feeling the cold of he night wash over him for a moment.Or better yet, How could I have even told her? All she must think is how pitful this life I earned is…He looks over his shoulder at her closing his eyes before he takes in too many of her featuresPretty one like her? Heh probably just wanted to feel adored by someone and chose me… when the Cinderbrew works its way out she’ll remember how ugly this face of mine really is.”. Jerrick smiles somberly in the dark alone blinking back tears.

“And how could I blame her.” Jerrick hisses out a disappointed sigh bringing a hand to his scarred ugly face before breathing back in.Still… she’s the only person I’ve ever told. And twenty-seven years of war I’ve never seen someone like her…she deserves to live on, to make someone, anyone no…He works up the will to turn and face her one last time a truly proud smile on his face as he watches her sleeping only inches from him.Everyone, she needs to make everyone happier than they are now. I need to know something crawled out of that valley still good and decent… I’ve never felt more certain its in me than tonight.

Jerrick Pauses for a moment clearly wondering this next thoughtMaybe I owe that to her…maybe she brought it back Or gave it to me; either way it’s there… no denying it.

You’re gonna get me killed someday little lady. Hope you know that…Jerrick leaned in close to her kissing the crown of her head before scooting back to his position trying to find his way back to sleep a bittersweet smile on his lips as he whispers out one last thing.Just… be patient with me…please.

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A Brief History of the Noble House Vemarre

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House motto: Toujour pur (always pure)

The noble house of Vemarre has been a part of Il’Valiran since before the reign of King Telvalet. Founded by Canos Argus Vemarre I, House Vemarre boasts one of the most pure elven bloodlines with no documented intermarrying with other races. Like all elves of this time, they saw other races as creatures to be exploited at best. Canos kept slaves of many races and was proud of his “quaint menagerie” as he liked to call them. He was able to secure a fairly powerful seat of nobility through various acts of helping the crown.

During the Screaming Revolution the current Patriarch, Ryn’war Vemarre, and his immediate family remained within the city while his siblings and their kin fled to safer lands. The head family stayed locked away in their estate to avoid the worst parts of the riots and fighting and managed to evade any bloodshed. Ryn’war wisely convinced his slaves that he would keep them on as servants, give them adequate food, better lodgings and some pay if they swore loyalty to his family. Some refused and he allowed them to leave while others accepted his offer. Many of these servant families have stayed with the Vemarre’s through several generations and serve them to this day.

Due to the major power shift that occurred as well as an immense shifting of ideals, the family had fallen considerably in status. It took several generations and lots of hard work before the Vemarre’s regained their position. The family has become smaller in numbers due to their pickiness of marital bloodlines but they have remained steady and flourish to this day. The title of Patriarch is awarded to the eldest sons of the direct descendant of Canos himself. House Vemarre is split into many sub-factions naturally from daughters being wed to suitors of other houses. The main family still resides in the original (though heavily renovated and expanded upon) estate house that belonged to Canos Vemarre I.

The current Patriarch and head family are as follows:

Patriarch: Ulrich Canos Vemarre
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A harsh and exacting man. He holds tight to the old ways as much as society will allow. He treats his servants fairly well thanks to his wife’s soft-heartedness but refuses to acknowledge their presence. He views humans as lesser beings. He expects nothing but perfection from his three sons. His only soft spot seems to be for his wife, Valyra. He dotes on her with an unceasing affection.

Matriarch: Valyra (Vah-leer-ah) Turnauld–Vemarre
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Valyra is a noblewoman through and through. Bourne from House Turnauld, she has known Ulrich since they were children attending gatherings and balls with their families. She is more tolerant of the humans that share their household, treating them like one would treat good stock animals. She is able to use her talent of rhetoric to sway most anyone to her side in an argument. She is a relatively kind soul and dotes on her boys. She favors her youngest, Desmond, over the others and allows him more freedom than Ulrich thinks he should have.

Telios Canos-Ulrich Vemarre
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The eldest son of Ulrich and Valyra and next in line to become the Patriarch. He has been groomed to run the family his entire life. He can be cold and calculating and is used to always having his way. Very poised and well spoken, he is a charmer at all social functions. The servants tend to fear him because behind closed doors he has an explosive and violent temper. He is not someone you should cross.

Heimric Vemarre
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The most adventurous of the three brothers, Heimric has always loved exploring. He took up archery when he was a young man and is now very proficient. His martial skills allowed him to work his way up in the army to a minor officer’s title in the King’s Guard. He is quiet and good-natured, preferring the silence of forests to loud bar halls.

Desmond Vemarre
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The youngest son and his mother’s pet. Desmond acts as a sort of ambassador for the family. He attends gatherings his father doesn’t have time for, helps keep the estate running smoothly and acts as a mediator between the Patriarch and the representatives of the family servants. In what spare time he has, he competes in fencing tournaments. He is a very free spirit and has always had a fondness for the humans under his family’s employ. He often sneaks to their lodgings at night to listen to their songs and to converse with them as though they were his equals.

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The Price of Forgiveness
Samuel's Redemption.

Samuel Farmer, a tied off sack slung over his shoulder, walked the narrow path towards his home village. Ten years, it had been, since he had walked this same rutted road away from home never knowing how far he would go. He remembered that day vividly, his drunken father laying into the hide of his back with a knotted cord. His mother crying as blood dripped from her nose and his little sister, tears sliding down her cheeks, begging for her father to stop. He had been thirteen, and had decided that day, that he would not allow his lush of a father hurt any one ever again. But, he was a small child, even for his age, and his father had laughed in his face, turning from his mother, bringing the cord around and laying Samuel out onto the ground, the cord rising in falling, as spittle dripped from his father’s mouth.

After that brutal beating, the last ever from his father, Samuel had dragged himself further down the path. Slowly but surely, recovering enough to walk. Walk he did, out of the town, blood soaking his back, never to return until this moment. Ten years.

What a ten years it had been. It had been hard at first, begging along the sides of the road, scraping just enough coin to eat and sleep under a hedge for the night. For a long while that was his life, but he kept moving forward, looking for, yearning, searching for someone to train him. After six months, he had finally miraculously found himself across the eastern desert, in the city of Res Amalia, capital of Osmandias.

Their he begged, stole, and cheated to survive, taking a few beatings, but giving a few in return, learning the ways of the street. But, by happen stance, he was caught stealing from a temple that belongs to the strange island human that called themselves the Amada. Instead of punishing him, he was given mercy, and made to perform the duties of a trainee monk. Having seen the cloistered religious monks in the Esperian Kingdom, Samuel was extremely hesitant at his new turn of fortune. But, this temple turned out to be a different sort. Instead of heavy wool robe wearing friars spending hours studying over the sacred text, The Amada trained their bodies as living conduits to the elemental forces the prayed to. He learned their ways, and slowly mastered them. His very body, becoming a silent weapon.

After nine years, he bid his brothers goodbye, and travelled west, back across the desert, and finally onto this path, leading to his father’s farm. As he approached the sturdy fence, he notice a young dark haired woman tending vegetables nearby. She glanced up, her eyes barely making a short contact, and then looking back down at the garden. He had known that face, it was his . . .

“Ten years is a long time, brother.” The woman said, voice neutral, not betraying any surprise, as she continued to work with her hands.

“Rita” he said, more surprised than she appeared to be, “you have grown?”

A wry smile finally crossed her face that had let the slightest chuckle escape. “What was supposed to happen?” she asked, her voice taking a slight mocking tone “I was supposed to still be nine?”

Taken slightly aback from her joking tone, he recoiled. This was not how it was supposed to be. She was supposed to be angry or happy, not just neutral about his arrival. He looked around, swallowing hard, determined to continue on. “Look, Rita, I know I left, I abandoned Mother and you to our father, and their hasn’t been a moment that I have not wished to be back here to protect you two. I promise you, that he will never lay a hand on you again.”

She stood there, silent for a very long time, as if the words would not come to her. After what felt like an eternity, she reached out and hugged her brother quickly, before settling back on her heels. “Oh brother,” she said as sadness tinted her words. “It is hard to tell you this, but Mother passed two years back, the red fever. But, she had been happy, and it came on sudden and she did not suffer.”

She saw the sudden sadness in Samuel’s eyes, and then the look of concern that replaced it. “As for father.” She said “He has not been a threat since the day after you left. He had gotten extremely drunk when you ran away, stumbled into Huntro Miller’s bullpen. Received a good kick to his noggin. Now a days, he doesn’t say much. He moves around, and takes care of himself, as much as he can. But, his mind is that of a babe. I take care of him, and our farm. Have so since mother died and I was seventeen.”

Samuel, let the words settle over him. All he had worked for, his entire purpose, to grow strong enough to protect his family, it was for nothing.

Concern slowly creased her face “Do you wish to see him?”

“No” Samuel said morosely, “I do not wish that. I am sorry I left.”

“Don’t be, Sammy” Rita said, the childhood nickname stinging his heart, “He went after you the hardest, and mother always said she was happy you had gone. She liked to imagine all the adventures that you had, and she and I would make up stories late into the night. She missed you, but always hoped you had gone on to better things. And, as for me. I own the family farm, and make a good living doing it too. Father had always squandered our earnings on whiskey and gambling. I have been able to save. Even bought Freti Fernfeilds land last year. I have several workers who work the fields, and even a few suitors who are trying to impress me. I am doing alright. But, What of you. How are you Sammy? Where have you been?”

Samuel looked around, noticing for the first time how maintained the land looked. The fence he had been leaning on, once old and rotten, now was solid whitewash, new and sturdy. The crops growing in were organized and several people were tending them as he watched. He looked again at his sister, slight pride feeling his face. “I am great sister. If you have time, I will tell you a tale, like mother used to tell to you, but it will be true, and full of mystery.”

Rita smiled, taking her brothers hand as she started off toward the house. “I would love to hear it brother.”

So Samuel had finally come home and told his sister of his adventures with the Amada, his travels across the desert, begging on the street. The last ten years spilled forth. And she told him more of the farm, and of her life as a simple farmer.

But, he could not stay to long. The quick glimpses he caught, of a childlike creature with his father’s face unnerved him. His father, who spent time playing in the dirt and chasing the chickens in the yard, was at peace it seemed. The man, who had beaten him to the edge of his life, who was a constant for of anger. That man, had found a child’s innocent peace. Samuel had watched his father play, chasing a cat through the yard, barking like a dog, and his heart had sank. He realized then, that he had forgiven the man, and hoped the man remained as happy as he was right now, playing in the dirt.

A week later, Samuel left as suddenly as he had come back, knowing his sister would be ok, and he set out on the road. It was another long adventure, one that began with a chance meeting with an oddly dressed orc and a stern face elf. But, it was the beginning of his new family.

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