Esper

How to Murder your Brother
A Dark Knights Stroll

Drevin Freedmont strode confidently down the dusty passage. Candle light flickered, casting dancing shadows across the cold stone walls. Echoing, his steps sounded a rushed gait, reminding Drevin of when he was child, frightened to walk down these lonely halls, jumping at the scurry of a mouse or his older brother Stefan whispering demonic sounds to frighten him. He missed Stefan. Although Stefan was ten years older, he had a always been closer to him, than with Dario. Dario was only 3 years his senior, which should of meant that they would grow up close, but Dario was also a mean spirited child, rotten to the core from an early age.

Stefan had followed directly in their father’s footsteps, training with the best swordsmen and battle-masters, serving as an officer in the Royal Army, and finally receiving his knighthood, ensuring his right to rule his father’s lands. After his service, he had returned home, to help their aging father run the lands.

Dario was not like their father. He was impatient with his battle instructors, jealous of Stefan, and angry at being born second. But Dario was strong and loved violence. He quickly volunteered for the Royal Army, where he was stationed with a unit that fought beside dust legionnaires, keeping the orcs at bay. It was here that Dario’s perverted and twisted love for the “Northman” first took hold. He became obsessed that humans were stronger than all other races, and must worship the old gods and take back the lands from all other races. And so, when he returned home, he returned with these notions, and immediately began bumping heads with the more idealistic Stefan.

So, it came to pass, on the day after their father’s death, while Drevin was away with Royal Army, Stefan was found in the barn, his head split open. Dario, being the oldest living heir, was quick to claim the title of knight, and claim his father’s land. He ruled his older brother’s death an accident, and began slowly enslaving the people of the village to his way. When Drevin returned from his service some years later, his home was a barren waste of despair, he no longer recognized. But, he was a loyal brother, so he soon found his spot, by his brother’s side, cleaning up his brother’s messes, one after the other. His soul hurt and he always felt unclean, as if in oily putrid slime was constantly crawling over his skin, but he stayed out of loyalty.

Until today that was. Today, while searching his brother’s study for maps that the Legion captain could use, he had discovered something. He had not wanted to believe that his brother was a traitor, a monster, or worse. He knew his brother was unstable, and was cruel, but not this. Holding the ledger in his hand, as he walked down the hall, he was trying to decide what to do. This was damning. Not just to his brother, but the family name could be stripped from them. What to do?

Abruptly, he came to a sudden stop in an alcove that was lit by the flickering candles. He could not let his brothers vile ways destroy what his father had built. His hand with the ledger lifted to the candle, the paper sending tendrils of smoke through the air as it slowly started to darken and then burn. He hated seeing it burn, the names of children that his brother had ordered his men to kidnap from surrounding villages, and then sold as sacrifices to that cult in the woods. He wished the families would know what had happened to their beloved ones, but he could not let this destroy his family. He would have to take vengeance for his family. He would have to destroy the other evidence of these crimes.

A few hours later, he sat back at his brother’s. . . no, his desk, his feet resting on the fine oak top. It was odd really, he didn’t feel to terrible at all. His brother’s body would be found in the morning, having slipped into unconsciousness and never recovered from his injuries the previous evening. A smirk crossed his face as he contemplated how odd an end it was for such a violent and vibrant fighter, to be smothered with his own pillow. No, his brother hadn’t been the hard part. Tracking down and killing the elite 6 guards his brother had used in all the kidnappings, that had been difficult. But, they would be found in the morning to, having had too much to drink in the woods, unfortunately seeking a short respite in a bear cave. At, least the bear had seemed appreciative for the meal.

No, things were not that bad at all, he thought as he stood up, retrieving a bundle of rolled maps and tucking them under his arm. Now to go deliver these maps to that Legionnaire Captain, she’s probably getting pretty impatient.

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The Edge of Faith
A hunt begins!

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Ranarann T’sarran, nerves writhing in pure disgust, stared at the stone walls of his chambers carved into stone. How archaic it was for him to live in such conditions. His home was palaces made of pure polished marble, decorated with silks and velvets, but here, his home was this cave. His lips twisted into a sadistic grin, as his eyes wondered across the map. Yes, he thought, these people would pay for making him trudge through the mud and dirt to domesticate them.

A slight shuffling of clothing behind him alerted him of the presence of Ssess, quietly entering his room. Ranarann, regaining his calm outward composure, stood to face the serpent faced creature. Looking in the split pupils of the hideous creature always made his stomach turn, the unnatural nature of this creature made his skin crawl with electricity. The foul beast even wore that sarcastic grin; his tongue flicked in and out, almost tasting the hatred in the air.

“Ssess, has my brother returned?” Ranarann calmly asked, “I have much to discuss with him.”

“Yessss, you brother hasss arrived.” A gleeful mischievous gaze felling the eyes of the Yuan-ti, “I am sssure you are anxxciousss to sssee him.”

The way the serpent man was looking at him immediately unnerved Ranarann, more so understanding the revolting nature of these creatures. He would have to dispose of this creature as soon as possible without, of course, upsetting the tenuous allegiance between his people and theirs. At least, that is, until the time that they, like everyone else in these lands, were enslaved and put in their rightful places. Ranarann strode out of the room, doing his best not to take any more notice of the scaly beast.

As he strode into the alter chamber, the mood in the air immediately caused alarm. His brother’s personal guard, 4 large black skinned orcs, stood around the stone dais, heads tilted down, and daggers grasped in their hands. On the blood-stained alter, amongst the blood and gore of previous sacrifices; lay a mangled corpse, the soulless body of his brother. Odistlo, his younger brother, seemed to have been cut down and then trampled by a horse, his dark skin marked with long precise gashes, and huge bruises covering crushed bones.

Calmly, holding his red anger at bay, he turned to the highest ranking Orc and, his voice a dagger sliding form it’s sheath, asked “How did this happen?”

Eyes, still staring at the ground, not daring to make eye contact, Gturk, fearing the worst, answered “Ambush, your greatness.”

Like a viper, Ranarann’s hand flashed forward, landing palm down on the massive orc’s head, magical energy pulsing forward. Gturk screamed, a horrible grunting and gravelly scream of pure pain, as images flowed through the powerful magical connection into Ranarann’s mind.

An Orc with a blue tattoo, fire burning around, super heated air causing his form to waver.

An elven woman, with a shield, holding here ground against two orcs, the battle hard pressed, but determination on her face.

A half-elf abomination, colorful clothes flashing through the woods, her voice sounds through the trees, as daggers enveloped his brother.

A Gnome with mint eyes, and lavender hair, casts magical energy at the group. Concern on his face, for his injured friends.

A Halfling, a wry smile on his face, as he shoots arrow after arrow into Ranarann’s brother.

A Human, scowl on his face, atop a brown mare, calling for the head of his brother, riding into the fray, cutting his brother down, and his horse trampling his body, as he rode away.

The magic subsiding, Ranarann, looks down at the Orc commander, his voice cold and emotionless. “I want them dead. Take these orders and send them to all the units. If these people are seen, they die!” his voice rising into a cacophony. “Now Go And Kill Those People.”

Trying to retain his composure, the heat sliding away from his tense body, he turned to the remaining Orcs. “I believe my brother needs your blood. Give it.”

The 3 orcs, stood up, turned around slowly, bending over the alter, knives finding their own necks, as their life blood flowed onto the corpse of the Dark Elf. Ranarann, watched as the orcs gurgled and fell after freely giving their lives. A grin did finally cross his lips, as he walked over to a container placed against the wall. He opened the chest, pulling forth a bag filled with precious diamonds. He wondered if these common slaves would ever find out that their sacrifices had always been a useless gesture. All you really needed to bring someone back was a lot of precious diamonds, and some water blessed by Odyre, herself. Stupid slaves, he thought, as his he laid the diamonds on his brother’s body, sprinkling the holy water across his forehead. His voice echoed through the chamber, chants to the great goddess Odyre filling the dark chambers.

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On the Charge!
Retreat is the best option.

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Astrid sat upon her mount, Charger, viewing the chaos that was spreading quickly around her. Not long after departing that gods damned village, her forces had come under ambush. An arrow flashed past her face, and instinctively she raised her shield arm, as two more thudded into the legion emblem emblazed shield. Where the hell was 2nd platoon, she thought, seeing an enraged orc charging her, impaling himself upon her lance as she quickly tipped it downward in his path. Letting the now lodged lance fall to the ground, she quickly pulled a spear from the front of Charger’s saddle before pushing the war mount into a heavy trot.

Around her was the pure adrenaline surging image of combat. Blood soaked into the mud, as orc bodies were being trampled into the soft wet ground. Luckily, from her count, most of the bodies that were laying in the crimson mud were orcs, and very few of her legionnaires. Hoplite Ral had fallen at the beginning of combat, as an unexpected arrow had found his neck. Draste and Will, shortly after doing the initial moments of chaos, but her soldiers were well trained, and quickly formed skirmish lines to ward of the rest the ambushing orcs. The rest had been a quick decisive counter-attack, as her more mobile mounted units quickly turned the ambush back on the orcs. That was, until the second and third waves of orcs came marching over the northern and eastern hills.

Dryvis Valley all over again, she cursed, shirking off a glancing blow to her shoulder, the arrow careening off into the tree line. Except this time she was in charge. Pushing her steed into a full gallop, she turned towards where she saw Lt. Jeck rallying his men. As she rode up, she raised her voice, to over-power the constant sound of battle, steel upon steel and flesh. “Lt. Jeck, Take 1st Platoon, Provide cover for a retreat. We will fall back to the village and set up defenses there, once 2nd and 4th platoon, are out of the skirmish, don’t waste time, turn and run towards the village.” She said, breathing hard, the smell of blood thick in the air. “And where the hell is 3rd Platoon. I’ll skin Lt. Hepron alive if he led them astray.”
The wiry Lt. Jeck looked at Captain Firstborn, a dismayed expression on his face. “Hepron is dead, Captain. Spear took down his horse, and the Orcs just piled on him. 3rd Platoon broke apart, but I believe Hoplite Sergeant Rias, got them re-organized and has begun performing harassing maneuvers on the orcs flanks.”

Her eyes scanned, trying to see behind the massive orc force, where she caught glimpses of legion cavalry performing short charges on the orcs before disengaging. Perfect, that young man would get medals for this, she thought, as she guided her horse towards the rear of her forces. Coming upon a well guarded copse of trees, she spotted Hakrum Oviel, casually flinging bolts of liquid fire towards the orcs. As she approached, he looked up lazily, before realizing who approached, his posture immediately going straight. She looked at the Legion Mage before speaking. “Send a message to Hoplite Sergeant Rias, tell him we are retreating. 1st platoon will perform disengage blocking maneuvers to the front of the orc column, while he continues harassing the rear of their ranks. Hopefully he can cause more of them to turn around and try and come after him. Once 2nd and 4th platoon are fully disengaged and retreated, 1st platoon will do a full disengage, at which point, he is to disengage and, with all haste, head toward Freedmont’s Peace.”

The mage, reaching into his bag, pulled forth many items. Holding them in his cupped hands, he chanted directly into them, before relaying her orders exactly. Gods be damned, magic was useful when it wasn’t catching you on fire, or blasting you with cold. Astrid, looked at the mage once more, her face set as in stone. “Sound the retreat!”
A magical crimson flare flashed into the air and her forces started going about the business of surviving. Astrid looked solemnly into the forest. After this attack, she knew that she had probably sent Jerrick and his group of adventurers to their deaths. But, maybe not. Jerrick was always a gods damn stubborn son of a whore! “Luck be with you, Legionnaire” She muttered, as she turned to lead her people to safety.

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Kings Coucil
A Decision

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King Hendrick Frost, stood over the table, maps spread in a jumbled array in front of him. His closest military adviser, General Leth, was currently using a short brown riding whip to point out various locations on the map, as he spoke. Invasion, from the east. Somehow, large pockets of Orcs had gotten past the legion, and were now harassing the county side near the capital. While, he was sure he had enough soldiers currently station in the city to protect it, he did not thank he could spare much more for the surrounding villages. The reports coming in were scattered and inconsistent. Some said that the Orcs roved in wild hunting backs, attacking, raping and pillaging all they came across. Other reports talked of ordered military lines, being led by ebony skin elves. None of it made since. An incursion of this size would of been spotted by the legion to the northeast, or his Royal Army to the east.

Staring again at the maps, the king was trying to decide his best course of action when the doors opened and a gritty and dust covered lad of about fourteen was shown in. Legion, the king thought, recognizing the emblem stitched into the young man tunic. He was always taken by surprise the warrior glare that these young faces held. The legionnaire went to one knee and placed his right arm across his chest, bowing deeply in respect.

“Off your knees, Hoplite.” The king said, a slight wry smile appearing across his face. “You can show me the proper respect at a later time. For now, tell me what you have to report”

“My king, the legion excursion force sent to investigate the village of Freedmont’s Peace came under heavy ambush.” The soldier said, respectfully lowering his eyes. “Legion Captain Astrid Firstborn, has set up defenses around the village and is currently awaiting reinforcements. It appears the orc incursion is larger than once believed, and she is asking for 2 companies of the kings men.”

“Two companies.” The king huffed, his voice immediately softening as the soldier went tense. “I wish I had two companies to spare, but we seem to be getting pressed in several locations at once. Whatever is happening, I have never scene the Orcs press so hard before. Is there anything else?”

The Legionnaire looked up slightly, before he spoke “The knight in charge of Freedmont’s Peace has been killed. Apparently, he was involve in some sort of death cult. His brother, Drevin Freedmont, believes it has something to do with these orc attacks, and is sending a reconnaissance force into some ruins he discovered on his lands. He believes it may hold the key to these attacks. Your agent, an elf by the name of Re’aza, is among this force.”

The king stood silently for a while, his mind churning this unexpected information in his head. Dario Freedmont murdered. No loss there, he supposed. He was always a brute who only cared for himself and his title. There had been plenty of complaints from other lords about how he treated his people, and was going to face inquiry eventually. This Drevin though, the king knew little of him. He believed he may have served in the Royal Army at one time, but not much else. He would have to get his Stewart to dig up some information on him. The one saving grace that he was grateful for, was the fact that Re’aza Silverwing was there. She was one of the kings best agents in the Royal Watch and was good at getting things done. If she was going with the group, than these ruins had to be connected to the orc incursions. He was sure of it. After his thoughts came to a rest, a calm expression returned to the kings face.

“Contact our mages and have them send word to our forces in the west. I want them to mobilize and start marching towards the eastern border. We must stabilize this region. Tell them to leave a defensive force, but we need as many soldiers as we can get.” The king said in a commanding voice. “And someone get this legionnaire something to drink and a bed to sleep in.”

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Dusk Blades
An Assassin's Training

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The baby sat in its crib, the deep purple eyes staring at the sealing. The watcher stood over the crib, knife in hand. “The importance of the training is to start at birth to condition them.” The watcher said, staring at the small group crowded around. Taking the ceremonial knife, he brought it done and sliced open the infants feet, causing the baby to shrill in absolute pain, blood draining into the crib.
“You see, this half-child will suffer this pain, and then one of our clerics will hill them. And we do this every day, several times a day. Soon, the half-child will stop crying at the cuts on the feet. So we will move to the hands, the back, the face. By the age of one, the babe, will feel the pain, but it will be part of their life, and will not effect their performance.” The watcher says, staring at his younger priests. “This conditioning is vital.”

Today was her sixth birthday, a very special day she was told. They had dressed her in the ceremonial armor, the type she would eventually wear as a Dusk Blade, if she past this test. They led her into a circular chamber, many priests chanting, praising Odyre, voices rising into a cacophony. As she entered into the chamber, the many priests stood, lined up and created a gauntlet. As she passed through each priest took their knifes and sliced wide gashes into the child’s flesh. She did not flinch, and continued moving forward, to the center of the chamber. There, in the center, was the woman who was her nursemaid, the slave that had fed her, taken care of her wounds, loved her as much as she could. She knelt, chained to the floor, face toward the ceiling, neck out jutting out. As the child came close, blood oozing from various wounds, she was handed the ceremonial knife. The same knife that had caused her pain as a baby. The same knife now, that followed her hand, as the blade smoothly cut her nursemaids throat. Her trial over, she turned, she would now be trained as a Dusk Blade.

She was fourteen, and she was to finally have an owner. She had trained her entire life, and now, she would be sold to the one who would give her life meaning. As she walked into the chamber, there was a tall dark elf, talking to the dusk priest. The priest caught her entry into the chamber and he smiled at the man. “Yes, there she is. One of the most talented Dusk Blade’s ever trained. She has excelled in ever task given, she is skilled beyond belief, and loyal, oh yes, sooo loyal.” The priest said, spital dripping from his mouth.

The dark elf looked at the girl, a smirk upon his face. “Yes, she will do just fine, although, it feels like I’m purchasing something that is already mine.” He grunts.

The priest looking shocked, turns to the man “Ranarran, you of all people should know the all half-breeds are property of Odyre, and slaves. Just because your seed made this one, does not imply ownership. You are buying a Dusk Blade, not a daughter.”

The dark elf looked at the priest furiously, his voice rising. “She is not my daughter, only the spent seed into her human mother. No, she is my tool. She is my blade in the dark.” He stopped, forcibly calming himself. “Complete the ritual, and be done with it.”
The priest sighed, closing his eyes, he started chanting, magical energies of Odyre, flooding over the Dark elf, and the young woman. After a long period, the priest stopped chanting, his breathing heavy, he looked up to the man. “It is done, she is bound to you. She cannot harm you, any harm she does to you will reflect back unto her more severe.” The priest reaches behind him pulling forward an ancient book. “These are the rituals you use to inscribe her targets, and to reset her memory afterwards. With this, her skills will stay intact, but she will never know where she has been, who she has killed, or what she has done. She is the ultimate weapon. Use her well.”

The Dark-elf man looked at the slightly built half-breed. His eyes stared hard into hers. “Yes, you will do nicely.”

Flashes, quick moments in time, rapidly flowing, playing in front of her eyes. Her rapier plunged into a wealthy woman’s chest. A well, poisoned by her hands, children sick and dying all around. A nobleman, strangled by his bed sheets, dead after spending a night with her. Dozens upon dozens of images, flashing, coming to the surface, nothing distinct, not a memory, but a whisper. And then the face. Ranarann, her father, the nightmare who held her chains. If he died, she would be free. No more lost memories. No longer a slave. She knew she could not kill him, because if she tried, she would die. But, another, yes, another could. She opened her eyes, the wagon creaking below her, the orcs guarding her cage not paying attention. Now, time to escape.

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Silence on the Battlefield

Jerrick sighed sitting alone in the dark of his campsite alone nursing his wounds from Astrid. The moonlight gave him enough vision for now, his hand shook a bit as cinched his bandages with a strained hiss as he instinctive punched the bark of a tree cutting open two bare knuckles as the balm he applied stung like thorns thrashing in his veins. He brought the knuckles to his lips and licked the crimson off them with a sadistic looking chuckle before thinking about Astrid in similar condition to himself.

“Least she earned the rank wasn’t a pity station.” His voice trailed off the pain he was feeling was already subsiding and the silence of the dark woods was dreadfully familiar to the battlefield after one side had won. The only sounds he could pick up were his own breathing and the occasional frog or insect. Jerrick realized he had been talking aloud like Jhobin had been nearby him like normal and it only made him keenly aware he hadn’t accepted what had happened only an hour ago.

He was fine, he’d survive and live to fight another day. Then the thought bubbled up to his mind, fight what? To the west was the Trail of Dust recruiting grounds of the Legion, maybe 2 days hike from here, but nowhere close to the season for the ceremony. Might be nice to just go there and reflect a bit, figure out where to go since his partner had been so fascinated with the capital and all this war business. He shook his head thinking about the Halfling’s face, the aura of pride on him like he was doing something important or being some kind of hero. Jerrick just shook his head and muttered, “The only thing a hero gets is dead.”

He boiled some warm water for both tea and to loosen his dry tact meal, When he heard a rustle only to see a dark skinned woman approach his small campsite. She sat down next to him and said no words only providing some small rabbits and game. Jerrick sighed looking at her and shook his head deciding to silence his tongue for a change. He snatched up a rabbit and pulled out his skinning knife as he began to strip off the and remove the feet without a single word of exchange for 15 minutes between the two as they worked on their meals separately. “Did we get him? The one you want dead?” The ink skinned woman looked up from here meal and with a disappointed look shook her head no.

“You following them to the capital now?” Jerrick said with a grunt, the woman only smirked and said in broken common “ We are the same, why would I?” Jerrick didn’t like her comparing himself to her all the same she did understand how much of a liability the group was. “Not like you wouldn’t stand out anyway…” Jerrick rebuttaled sarcastically smirking. That remark seemed to have struck a nerve before the black skinned woman replied “If I do, then you do.” The soldier glared at her before he chuckled back at her “Right, I’m the odd one here… “ She rose to her feet and looked ready to leave before Jerrick held up his hand silently wanting to ask her to keep the silence at bay. She stared at him for a moment and tilted her head like a cat before saying “You don’t trust me…” Jerrick laughed at that but she continued “Is it because you don’t want to or that you can’t?” it cut to the nerve of him as she was much more accurate about him than he had anticipated.

He looked up at her stabbing his sword into the wet soil and rose up towering a whole foot above her before growling out. “Are you gonna give me some peace and quiet or not?” She sat down “I see you can’t, you must have lost much… as have I.” Jerrick sighed and sat down on a tree stump not saying anything for a long time. He stared at the dying firelight somberly staring into the ashes she looked to him and with a tilted smile as though reminding him “Battlefields don’t follow you unless you let them.” Jerrick growled out a threat. “Shut up before I split your tounge snake. You first watch or not?” She smiled to him replying she’d be second watch.

This woman pretended to know him, she watched him like a cat would a saucer of milk he knew she was trying to use him but all the same at least it was less noisy with her nearby. All the same he wasn’t fooling anyone, even himself the only thing out there to the west was best memories, dumpkin farmland to the north, orcs to the east… he’d have to go south even if it was just a little while. He may as well check on Jhobin before we part ways for good he told himself. He laid down on his bedroll thinking any moment this black skinned assassin would slit his throat but all the same he hadn’t had time to think about the silence around him.

His thoughts drifted to Ta’lin; the noisy one and her yammering gnome friend. He had been shaking off that spell for a bit but heard some of the words they all exchanged about him. Most of the words were exactly what he had always heard. “Disgraceful, honorless, scum” but those two spoke well of him despite everything he put them through. Maybe it was the guilt for vexing him with spells or genuine weakness that provided him such mercies because he knew he deserved none. “About what he said…What I see is a man who was broken years ago who only reclaims a part of himself when he’s in battle… heroes have to exist out there right?”

That word. It always boiled his blood, it was only ever spoken by the hope-drunk , the destitute, or the cruelest of leaders. He’d lost countless friends, seen dozens of prodigies and seen such intense tragedies all over the power of that word. Never had a word existed that promised such greatness only to sew such lies all the while remaining a word spoken with a such an impossibly high level of reverence that made the even the gods jealous of the emotions it inspired in the hearts of men. At least a villain and a scoundrel could be depended on, they would always fill their time honored roll and be loathed in relative obscurity enjoying life upon their own means before it cut short by the misguided whims of the people.

Jerrick just shook his head trying to get comfortable if Jerrick hated anything more than heroes it was “The people”. Maybe that was why he hated this all so much, Freemont not only was off on his dealings he paid us to not collect a bounty but clean up his family name and pay a small portion of the bounty. The battle he fought, the people that man hired and smug response in lieu of negotiation was enough to remind him of why he hated discipline. All the same those serfs of his, those worthless meek and will-less slaves constantly begging for help silently with their beaten eyes and faces. They didn’t deserve freedom they deserved whatever shit Dario forced them to eat. They were no worse than the people of this country. Completely ignorant to how tenuous the grip of the legion is to the North East.

It had only been a few years ago but he had witnessed it nearly crumble beneath a feint from the orcs, a traitor in his ranks and a few selfish Northmen. It wouldn’t be long before the people of this country would look to Freemont’s peace as a lavish lifestyle compared to the Savagery of the orcish clans. And he knew too few were ready for that day. In the last moments of true civilization he had made the conscious decision to finally live as his heart demanded and say “To hell with the people, not every boy thrown to the wolves becomes a hero…”

  • Jerrick hadn’t slept at all that night, When the dark elf went to wake him the glare of resentment was clear on his face as he rose from his bedroll hearing nothing but the errie silence of the woods yet again. He looked to her as she laid down after hours of silence as said*

“I could and can trust you, but this battlefield was one I chose; because of that I just won’t trust.” She only looked sadly at him for a moment but realized he picked his words well and was the most conversation the two had ever had that didn’t devolve into choking or threats. She saw no point to challenge it this warrior would believe it because he already does. All the same his statement seems to offer a commitment to her goals. “So you will travel south then?”

“Not because you asked, I can make some coin down there.” Replied gruffly.

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Dust and Scribbles
notes in the margins, echoes in the notes

(A collection of journal entries, scattered on loose scraps of parchment or written into the side margins of arcane formulae. The dates were not well kept, but the entries appear to be numbered from earliest to most recent.)

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#4

Finally hopped a cart to the capital, today. Me fellows were kind enough to grant me some basic foodstuffs and supplies, along with a quill & ink set from the storeroom. I’ll be missing the folks, certainly, but I’d be a liar to say I’m not eager to begin the new life wots been chosen fer me. The last few weeks have been, uncomfortable, to say the least. No one says it to me face, but I hear it echo clearly enough from the shelves. “Ozzie, the outcast,” they say. Or worse, Oz the BOOKBURNER. Its not like I asked fer any o’ this! But, tis how it has to be, fer the good o’ the clan.

The ride’s been a bit bumpy, that much I can say. There’s quite a bit of country betwixt us and the grandest city of the land, and every pothole seems to be in cahoots against me writing this log. The rain’s been a near constant, but thats probably fer the better, given that the cart’s made of old shoddy wood, and I dunno how to control my mana yet.

Huh. A funny thought, that: me, with arcane talent! Just like the sorcerer in the book I’d been readin’. Can yeh just imagine? Maybe I’ll do grand deeds, and go riding off like all the legends in the old dusty scrolls we used to have. That… I… er, nevermind. Or, perhaps tis more likely I’ll simply explode, or get sucked to some strange who-knows-where. At the least, I’ll likely have a tale or two to tell whenever I make it back to Desdan’s Peace.

If. If I make it back. Gotta suppose thats an interesting part of the story too.

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#5

We arrived at the capital of Ill’Valiran this afternoon, just as the sun finally peaked through the rainclouds, who’d surely spent their fury along the way. To see that sight…. rays of sunlight cascading down amongst towers of gold and ivory stone, which stood so proudly and so tall against the fading stormclouds…. I will never, in all my days, forget it. The glory of empires lost and kingdoms won radiates from every angle of this majestic place, so far removed from my seaside hometown. Tis difficult to believe that the two places reside on the same world, let alone the same continent.

I am to travel the main boulevard directly to the Tower of the Well, and present myself to the sages for evaluation. This is it! My new life, my new story…. begins today.

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#6

Whew! what a slog thats been! Yeh can see the Tower from the main gates of the city, but the trip on foot has taken me the better part of an evenings journey. A stone’s throw away from the front doorstep I am now, but I thought it pertinent not to to appear exhausted before the sages; to that end, I’d spotted a bakery along the boulevard, and decided to stop in fer a bit of rest and refreshment.

Mildred’s Two Moons Bakery and Alespout: What a charming place! The bountiful goddess featured on the sign outside didn’t disappoint; this place is loaded with wonderful smells and copious amounts of food and drink. The mistress of the establishment, Mildred, is a bit stern but clearly a master craftswoman when it comes to delectable baked goods. I had no idea that dwarves could be such clever breadsmiths! And, her daughter, Millie the 2nd; such a bubbly, bright spirited lass! we sat and talked for nearly an hour, during her break. Twas kind of her to laugh at my stories, and she even refilled my flagon a few times on the house! Such a bonnie young lady, with dimpled cheeks and curly hair, and kind eyes, too. She makes me wish I were a mite taller. Pretty missie like that won’t stay lonely fer long.

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#7

OOOOOoooohhhh, I can hardly contain my excitement!! My appointment with the sages, went… um.. well, it didn’t go so well actually. BUT I did get in as an apprentice! Yah, that makes no sense, give me a moment to explain. Basically, the ceremony consisted of a few background inquiries, and a bit of a test. The wizards who study here have divided themselves into various “Schools”, yeh see, and a representative from each one probes ya to find if yeh have talent with that school’s particular flavor of magic. “Perform the given task,” each one asks. Yer given a basic ingredient or a prop to work with, and not much instruction. They watch yeh soo closely, with those furrowed eyes under those wide-brimmed caps. Not sure I’d want one of those, even if ever I earn it.

I couldnt “see” the reverse side of the playing card presented by the divination master, so she rejected me. I couldnt pour the vial of water into the bowl with out touching it, so the conjuration master rejected me. I couldnt command the bones, or even budge them, so the necromancy master rejected me. When the evocation master presented the candle, however… I snapped my fingers, just like in the storeroom at the library. Singed his hat and his coat with the sudden flame; I’d hoped he’d be impressed, but instead he looked remarkably angry, and rejected me as well. Started some angry incantation, you should’ve seen his eyes alight in fire! terrifying man. Luckily another master talked him down, and then stepped forward.

“I’ve seen quite enough,” the representative said. “This being has sufficient aptitude, that’s been made clear. I claim him as a student for the Abjurer’s council, that he may learn to dissipate and control his dangerous manaflow. Are there any among this delegation who object?” The evocator definitely objected, but in harsh words which I dare not repeat, haha.

Suffice it to say, I am to meet with the Grand Sage of Abjuration tomorrow, and receive an introduction into the life of a sage’s apprentice. Marrig Hillbourne is his name. Seems I’ve read a book about him, but I can hardly recall its contents. Another dwarf, If I remember correctly. Said to be tough and dry, but fair. Not much for showy displays, which I suppose makes sense for an abjurer. He’s essentially the leading authority on the magic of mana suppression. Welp, mayhaps I won’t be creating epic storms of ice, or transforming mud into gold, but I’ll learn how to protect the innocent from wayward magics, and perhaps thats just as good. Gods. I hope to make a good impression.

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(Many of the entries that follow from this point are simply study notes or algorithms. Various snippets are scattered here and there, but there are several years worth of education and not much personal writing of note. Many entries later, this one appears.)

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#499

The Grand Sage himself gave me my first spellbook today. I’ll be practicing from scrolls alone no longer. Its real. Burnished leather with a silver clasp, and gold trim along the edge of the pages. Simple, yet elegant. Tis the most beautiful book I’ve ever seen, because its mine.

My story.

He didn’t give it unconditionally, however. There is a task I must attend to, as a final completion of my apprenticeship. To prove that I qualify as a journeyman, I must travel out into the world and retrieve an object of particular significance; in this case, an ancient book. An appropriate atonement, considering my origin. I am to seek passage to the village of Fremont, and begin my search for the tome therein.

Talin of the bard’s college has been sent along as an escort; This is to be her apprenticeship’s capstone as well, I believe. Tis fortuitous to have such a friendly face along for the journey. I’d heard her play the lute a few times at Two Moons before we’d formally met; she’s quite talented, and quick with a joke or a song. A few ales and apple tarts, and we were fast friends. I’m happy to have such company on what may be a long road, but I also wonder: is an escort really so necessary? Tis less than a months travel from the city gates, and surely the Esperian guard are patroling the travel routes. How dangerous could it be?

Necessity or no, we are leaving tonight, or at the latest tomorrow morning. If it can be helped, I’d like to see Millie one last time before we go. Just in case. We can buy some golden orchard apples, and I can tell her… um.. gods. what am I gonna tell her? Oh, I know! I wont tell her. No nope no. I’ll write a little letter, thats what I’ll do. I write a letter anddddd

(The bottom of the page has been torn off, probably used for the letter in question. Oz is clearly an impulse driven creature. There are more entries, but it is getting late. You might come back to peek at them later.)

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Betrayal in the North
Ulrick's Quest

burning_hut.jpg

Blowing sharply through the valley, the icy wind cut through his fur cloak, feeling as if tiny razors were assaulting his skin. Ulrick Northedge keeled his stout mare down the sharp incline lined with snowy white conifers. Hazy grey smoke, drifted lazily from a small stone hut, further down the road, solid grey wisps floating through the crisp air. The deep fresh scar across his face ended under the rough leather patch covering his right eye still ached with the freezing damp air. He grunted, his small band of soldiers following closely behinds, as they reached the small rotting fence surrounding the ramshackle abode.

He dismounted, tying his mount to the fence, looking over his shoulder at the stout dwarven maiden, “Stay with the horses, I won’t be long.” His graveling voice traveled over his team. He turned in a quick motion, quickly striding toward the door, pausing for a second, his steamy breath escaping his lips as he inhaled in slight hesitation, before finally opening the door. Warmth of the hearth immediately washed over him as he entered, the unguent smell of boiling herbs and smoky incense filling the room. His good eye scanned through the room, finally resting on the woman leaning over the black pot over the fire. Her face, while aged some, was still beautiful, green eyes sparking, skin still soft and milky, and a full mouth, with a slight upturn edge which always made him know her true arrogant nature. Looking over her shoulder, her eyes widened seeing him standing in her doorway, before a more serious look crossed her face.

Without missing a beat, Ulricks voice carried harshly through the room. “Where is the boy, Lisha?”

Her voice shaking ever so slightly, she looked him in the one good eye. “He’s gone, taken in the last gathering.” Looking quickly from side to side she gathered more strength, “You have to believe me, I could not stop them, there was nothing I could do.”

In anger, his eye went narrow, focusing on her face. “Yes, no choice, except for hiding him, contacting the resistance. But, no, you did none of those.” His face slowly changed, the creases of his scar growing deeper. “Instead, I find this scroll in the office of the local stormlord, detailing the agreement he made with you, selling the offspring of the leader of the rebellion, in exchange for a few measly bags of coin, for what?

She tried to back up, her dress starting to smoke from the fire as grease from the hot pot spilled into the flames, her face distorting into a mask of bleak fright. “Please. Please. She started to beg, I had no choice, I have a daughter, a baby girl, they would of taken her. Look, in the crib. Over there.”

In his anger, he continued toward her, gravelly voice rising, the fresh scar on his face splitting open blood dripping under the leather patch. “LIES, the babe in that crib is not your, taken from the arms of a dying mother six months since.” Another paper is thrown at her, the thick parchment splitting her lip as it hits her. “and on that paper, an agreement for more money, to sell this child. Not only do you betray your sister, and sell her only son, the heir to the Northedge holdings, but, you do it again with another child. You disgust me.”

His hand finally reached out, grabbing her by the throat, starting to squeeze. Gasps escaped her mouth, trying desperately to form words, unable to breath as the vice of his fingers slowly dug into her skin. His good eye, reflecting the flames of the hearth, like the heat of hell, burned into her soul. “You are lucky, your sister begged me not to make you suffer, but even she begged for vengeance. She is held in prison, her husband slain and her child sold into slavery. And to find out it was her own sister, who told them were we were hiding. Her own sister who sold her child, for some measly stones.”

Reaching into the fire, his bare hand sizzling, a grunt of pain exhaling from his lips, he grasped a burning stone from the fire, bringing it to her face, and onto her right eye. “Your sister asked that it be quick, and for her, I wish I could, but for the loss of my eye, I will make you feel this one thing.”

Screams echoed through the air, as the hot stone burned into her eyes, a quick pop, as the orbital organ explodes from the heat. The screams face, as his hands finally cut of the rest of her oxygen, and light in her untarnished eye slowly fades.

Without ceremony, he drops the body into the flames, the wool dress quickly igniting, tendrils of fire licking the surrounding furniture. A small cry is heard, and he turns his head towards the crib on the far wall. Wrapping his burnt hand, he shuffles over to the crib and looks into it. The soft form of a baby girl, crying fills the tiny crib. Suddenly, she stops crying, looking inquisitively at the scared man in front of her. He sapphire blue eyes, staring into the very center of him. Without a word, he scoops the child out of the crib, and makes his way out of the cabin, as the fire starts to consume the building.

Mounting his horse, the child in his arms, he looks to the Dwarven Maiden. “Let us go.”

She looks at him, her sturdy but lovely face looking into his arms. “And what ave you got der?” she asked, voice soft but stern.

He looks down at the dwarfs belly, round and pregnant, and then up at her face. “A friend for little Millie. And, I guess, a daughter of my own.”

Mildred shrugs he shoulders, taking in a deep breath. And starts to lead hear stout horse away from the burning building. “As long as you don’t make me responsible for her, I will have enough to handle as it is, with me husband dead and gone. What is her name?”

The gruff looking warrior, blood seeping from his scars, spreading over his face and matting his beard, mixed with the cold drizzle, slowly looks down at the babe in his arms, her sparkling blue eye looking up at him. “Sapphire.” He whispers.

Looking up, his face becomes more stern. “We must go and escape to the Esperian Kingdom, only there will we be safe, and only there can I look for my nephew.”

The rebel war party slinks of into the rain, heading towards the Esperian Kingdom.

************

Ulrick’s eye slowly opens, the memory of that night slowly fading to the songs from a beautiful voice in the garden. Standing and looking out into the garden, he watches the gilded haired young woman with the blue eyes sing a beautiful ballad of love and lost. The song’s soft tone is in contrast to the actions of the woman singing, as she practices her sword forms in the garden. She might not of been his blood, but she was every bit his daughter.
Guilt swept through him, as he lowered himself into his chair again, his missing eye aching as it had not in forever. He should of looked harder for the boy. The boy deserved family. He would not of become the soulless fighter he was, if Ulrick could of only found him. But, it was too late for that. It was always too late.

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Breaking In
An untold story of his past.

Four children huddle for warmth around a small camp fire barely able to cook a small stew. Most of them no older than seven and shivering in the high bluffs of the Northeast each one silent as a grave wishing they could get away from this fate. The sun was setting and the firing was growing weaker, night would soon follow.

One of the children whispers out to the others with a fearful face breathing a vital warmth into his numb hands “We need to set our tents or we’ll freeze.” The other children looked to one another for assurance before one wiped his nose from sniffles and whimpered “He’s right…”

The frigid air cut through them all while their teethe chattered with cold sobs and whimpers. With practiced hands the children unruffled their small satchels doing the necessary movements to construct two tents. No one looked happy with that fact but no one complained either.

A young boy with short black hair shivered in his tent as another boy nestled up against him. The wind howled around the tent as it slide over the canvas promising a less welcome embrace than that of another human being. It wasn’t until an arm draped over him that the young boy stopped shivering and quizzically before the partner inside the tent whispered “Shhh. It’s alright, I just want to be warm. It’s fucking Bullshit we’re out here anyway.”

Jerrick tried to relax but the oddity of such close personal contact was most unwelcome to the boy. He just wanted to be over and done with this night away from the Barracks. He may have hated the place but it at least had food, water and warmth. He let our a weak sigh trying to just sleep and hide his weak sniffles from this other person he was forced to share a tent with.

Without warning fingers raked into Jerrick’s hair as he yelped in a bit of confusion. This boy was older and stronger than him, he even cursed and was responsible for the entire group. The younger boy leaned into Jerrick’s ear with a smirk before saying “Shhhh shhh i just want to be warm…” Jerrick struggled for just a moment before he heard his molester’s breath turn sharp and angry. Balling a fist with what hair he could grab he pulled Jerrick’s head upward and slammed it into the cold hard ground underneath the tent nearly paralyzing he boy with a combination of fright and pain.

Tears welled in Jerrick’s eyes as he started to lose control of his breath the hot wash of pain was more than he had ever felt as boy as he was quivering and on the verge of bawling. The older boy jerked his hand back and forced Jerrick to expose his neck in a sensual way before snapping out “Shut up! You’re the fucking reason I’m out here anyway you little fuck!”

Jerrick’s tears slid down his face as he struggled to argue his innocence “..W..What? It, but it wasn’t me!” The older boy had a sinister chuckle as he sat up looking the boy dead in the face sitting above him now. He slid his hands under his shirt slowly pulling Jerrick’s clothes off him as the detestable young man took in the sight of Jerrick;fear and all. “Well it wasn’t me… and you could be lying to me anyway…”

Jerrick shook his head no but was too afraid to speak up. The lustful young man pressed a finger to his own dangling tongue before he savagely grinned back to his sexual prey. Without a warning he planted a hand over Jerrick’s small little throat cutting off all the air in his lungs before he slide down along the tent drawing inches from his bare chest. As lust overcame the boy he breathed out a hiss of silence to it’s struggling victim taking time to trade between pecking his body with kisses and snaking his tongue along his flesh.

A weak pleading voice crept out through the strangling “..p..please…S—-s—-.”The deviant’s face twisted as he scowled at is tent mate feeling judged by the boy suddenly. He looked the boy dead in the face like a butcher to it’s next sheep. His grip tightened for a moment to make sure he was understood. “You make another noise or cry I swear to god you’ll wish you never had been born…”

Jerrick understood but all the same couldn’t so anything other than nod silently with fresh tears streaming down his face “Good.. it’s only for one night anyway, pussy.”He released Jerrick and chuckled sliding right up to him again like before no longer trying to hide his lust but all the same wasn’t acting upon it. He wove his arm around the boy whispering the same phrase a few more times when his grinding as nearly impossible to ignore* “Shhh, shhh I just want to be warm.”

Shaky voiced the terrifying young boy just desperately blurts out " B.. But I didn’t do anything." With an all too knowing smile the young boy strokes it’s forced pet into submission petting his head like a cat. “Shhh shhh, I know… I know”

Uncertain how to deal with these terrifying emotions running rampant Jerrick assumes this is some sort of punishment trying to explain himself all over again. “Ricard! I mean it! I’m sorry you’re here but.. bu I didn’t !” Ricard chuckles to himself savoring he smell of oil in Jerrick’s scalp before silently threatening him once again by tracing fingertips along his neck. “I know…”

Jerrick remained silent as Ricard continued before saying “This should go without saying kid, but speak a word about this to anyone and I’ll do more than fools around with you. Because let’s be honest your not really my type. Such a little boy.”

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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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