THE HARDEST: BREATH OF PHAEDRA: FLORIAN BAND

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Fantasy  |  House: dreamscape

Appearance of a monster in their midst the Peerage, representatives of the fantasy world Phaedra, summons a small group of brave warriors to vanquish this evil in a desperate hour. The Band. Travel with the Florian on their quest of action, adventure and tragedy.

Novella 19.000 words.

Dedicated to Nicole Collette. Dear friend, neighbour. I was in the dark about you taken soon.

‘Welcome one and all.’

 

The speech giver a man of advanced age, Jathaek, in fine clothes. His audience, Council of Peers. Made up of several races – excluding elf. Innocuous name. Addressing a seated audience in the architecturally lush Peerage Hall. The interior made no attempt to diminish the splendour of its surfaces, walls, shiny floor and windows inviting daylight to gently bathe attendants.

 

Standing at the podium to everyone’s front, attention fixed on this dignified looking example, the speech can begin.

 

‘You are me and I you. The gathering of the Council of Peers has the best in mind for the community and I summoned you to that end. As I speak a darkness has steadily spread wings across our fair land of Phaedra. You’re gathered here to form consensus there is a darkness spreading wings and what must be done. Not merely that something must be. That shadow, the Uc Tae. For a long season have they waged unjust, unprovoked war upon our peoples. Your lives disturbed, family endangered, entire communities on the verge of extirpation. My motivation the wellbeing of all races, call for armed action be taken upon the barbarous Uc Tae in accord with this council. I assert dialog with the Uc Tae was not a peaceful measure. Laid bare a weakness that paved the way for more merciless attack. Dialog drew in considerable time and effort at this council’s behest to no avail. Uc Tae regard peace to be stepped on. Uc Tae breathe conflict, not I or you. Those baleful beasts were unworthy of consideration of dialog. Rise as one and put to action our responsibilities. This rising dark snatched our choice. We will put collective will together to fashion a resolution. My vision is peacefully as able trample any means have they to threaten our people. Strike righteously at their leadership. The core. In this fashion our innocents are not caught in the middle of any battle. Our innocents no more in their barbarous gaze. Drachenloch – Keeper of The Deep, greatest of their number. The card Uc Tae can, will play should we shirk our responsibility to Phaedra. At Council’s edict an assemblage of defenders scour the land and root out the foe, my proposal to you. Render no quarter. In your ranks those who are content with less stringent, more reserved combat responses. My proposal is no bare minimum – eliminates future threat and repays the mortal enemy. So you may ask why now? Why not wait? That my friends is turning your swords into ploughshares when the enemy is at the gates. Dialog rans its course and straight conclusion will not force the Uc Tae to halt attacks. If anything helped the Uc Tae and their Drachenloch, not your kin. The period used to strengthen and plan more depredation. Correct the course of Phaedra history, believe in tomorrow. Accepting measures of peace are exhausted is not disparaging peace. Reality directs our attention to the abyss. The Uc Tae would rend asunder our way of life. What peace is there when the other side plots your downfall? With your assent I hope Uc Tae will see their demise codified. Scouring the land to root out this dark low we can do to everything to minimize disruption to our way of living, prosecuting the war. Before us, an historic moment. In your hands a chance to forge for ourselves a new world order where rule of law, peace and prosperity takes its rightful place. The Uc Tae have no innocents caught up in conflict. Consign to the darkness from whence they came, never to enshroud the good peoples of Phaedra in it. There is no quelling the ravaging darkness without addressing the affront to all, the uniquely villainous Drachenloch – that impotent…’  

 

A presence. Jathaek cannot see the audience in front him. His line of sight to them obstructed. The speech interrupted and in the blink of an eye appeared.

 

The Drachenloch.

 

A head and body high as four men, right in your face does that to vision. A few moments for collective consciousness’ to process something manifested from thin air, huge and made their company. Then the shock and fear could take hold. 

 

So big, part of the creature’s length is outside the ornate hall. Portion of the wall collapsed either on the ground between the hall and canal or into the gently flowing narrow canal beside the ground.

 

A vocal expectedly menacing for one this mighty. ‘None may move.’

Real hard figuring if any of the assembled ran.  

 

Face to scary face. Both under two arms lengths apart. The old man had to crane his head up. So much taller than his entire body, usure if his eyes reached the top of this visage.

 

‘Invoked the name anyhow it came to you. Scrounging in the dirt. Evil in the guise of righteousness oppress the victims they villainize.’

‘Oppress…?’ the man reeks of confusion on top the preceding emotions.  

‘Speaker, the wrong children of the Uc Tae visited upon you…tell what was it?’

Nervously, ‘I…I don’t know.’

‘Odium carried you amok.’ 

 

Done, the being extricates rest of its bulk through the hole to outside the building and moves away. The ground must all but quake from its movement. When in a bit a few witnesses with some mind again try to follow, alas see nothing. The trembling ceased, all that left signs of its passage.

 

The dwarf man is escorted through the archway entry, unforgettable architecture. He’d arrived last night and issued lodging. Advent of morning bade wake, a meal awaited and warm bath with that. Rested, the host can apply a subtle yet palpable urgency.

The attendant takes him along the area consisting a spacious expanse and lush, attractive vegetation. Scattered about finely sculpted statues, partially covered in vegetation. Someone’s taste in art. Final destination a gathering and the attendant takes their leave in a courteous bow. Last arrival. A matter of days since the incident, time needed to assemble the band.

 

This the outdoor garden – Acthule.

 

‘Welcome esteemed one. Call me Jathaek.’ This part of the garden suited to accommodate meetings. He stands with the peerage sitting either side of his person. He turns attention to the rest. ‘Glad am I your travel bested misfortune. Our summons is born in the utmost urgency and waits no longer.’

 

The sunlight bathes all.

 

A collection of chosen: Niossa, white barbarian mountain of a man, body sculpted in massive muscle, barely any fat, sporting a light beard and moustache, early thirties, strong masculine energy; middle-aged male dwarf man Bakil, smallest in presence, grew a long, red beard; Baelyn, quarter staff bearer, mid-thirties man of average build and white, the instrument a head length taller than its owner. He dons a body and head covering cloak, for now the head uncovered; female Tieves of the elven; another man, Yasdreen, mid-twenties, also white, a peculiar bladed object at the waist. Gather do they, standing side by side in front Phaedra’s representatives of various races - the Peers. All distinct from each other as the eye can tell, biggest is the mountain muscle Niossa down to the child height dwarf.

 

Strong stares in the eleven’s direction.

 

‘Our fair world requires the aid of the brave beyond the pale. Events, those in the past days in particular set what you are instructed in motion.’

 

Niossa, ‘Uc Tae would discomfort you so.’

‘A talent for the mild. The greatest among them tried to defile Peerage Hall’s very foundation. Here on out my words are fantasy – if only it were. In Peerage Hall as I gave my speech on the grave need for war on the Uc Tae, then appeared from thin air. It. Gigantic and terrifying. You cannot comprehend its size or malice, but big as many wagons. By fate or design we are alive.’

 

Baelyn, ‘It, refers to whom?’

Yasdreen, ‘Can’t seriously be the…’

Swiftly interrupted harshly, ‘Be disciplined in speech young man!’ The elder man dropped a deep silence on proceedings.

 

In moments the meeting resumes.

 

‘When you hear “appeared from thin air,” no mistaking it.’

For emphasis a peerage member, ‘One false word and before we knew, It was upon us.’

‘That scary?’ Yasdreen’s appreciation is germinating.

Niossa, ‘The light already faded from all your eyes before we entered your domain.’ The peerage wore a unified, grim mien.

 

Jathaek wipes sweat from his brow. Handkerchief put to work intermittently. ‘You are to go on the gravest of all quests.’

Bakil, ‘To put that unspeakable down?’

‘You’ll go roundabout – enter the Krall. Cleanse its leaders.’

 

The summoned raised collective eyebrows. Yasdreen, ‘You do not merely walk into Kraal. Horrors there we can’t imagine. The defence lax not, guarded by Uc Tae hoards day and night. Amongst their ranks powerful spell casters.’

Baelyn, ‘Doom in the name of a quest.’

Jathaek lowered the handkerchief, ‘The peerage reached this course of action not for lack of weighing options. Armies are counterproductive – not guaranteed to destroy the worst thing next to that thing. Strong defences and war’s risk called for a small band be used to sneak past them and cleanse Kraal leaders. Those who’d bring woe are declawed when leaderless.’

 

Another peer member notes this a change of plan from the original’s scouring the land. Time consuming.

 

‘No matter how you put it,’ Bakil mused, ‘This lair of the unclean a toughie.’

Niossa nodded agreement.

Jathaek, ‘Not if you will accept – must. Doom leaves no paths but.’

Baelyn continued doubt, ‘Any way you weave this, a struggle for so few. We are accustomed risking all in our duty, truth be told. The peerage should endeavour us when the winds in their favour.’

‘Forbearing these times permit us not.’ Jathaek unshakable.

Joined by another of the peerage council, ‘Were the easy path before us we’d take it. All we, you hold dear compels this chance be taken against those unclean…had you the misfortune to bear witness to desecration in the hall…’

 

The old man said peculiarly, ‘Breathed the foul being’s name the first few times in my speech. The words were coming and detesting it so much I said the name once more in disdain – then it appeared, filling the hall.’

 

‘Happened so strangely? Baelyn inquired and received a nod.

 

The mighty looking Niossa decided, ‘Bound and determined to have us believe the desecrator appeared in a moment. Clear of doubt your eyes are – I choose joining your belief.’

‘What’s that?’ probes Bakil, ‘Joining the quest?’ A nod in answer. 

 

Yasdreen unveils a proposal, ‘Legend says that thing you saw is intimately connected to Uc Tae – let us be its master or cleanse it.’ Baelyn eyes him curious.

Jathaek shook his head. ‘We’d have need of you summoned doing those two tasks alone…were it achievable warrior. The creature, a mystery how exactly brought itself to our hall. That in mind ours is the best plan. It answers to no one, you cannot control it.’ Miracle didn’t admonish saying the young man as if plied with wine. He stressed warning the name so much as uttered brings doom from thin air in an eye blink.

 

‘At no one’s beck and call then,’ Niossa figures.

 

A peerage member snorts then singles out… I can’t hold any longer. Rather the Uc Tae take me than find common cause with an elf!’ He’s not alone. A cacophony of voices unified, Acthule resounds with discontent.

 

A peer stands and points a vicious finger her way. The pointy ears alone would start a fire inside them.

 

Intricately dressed, accentuated by embroidered patterns on the attire around a slender, nubile form possessing a firm bust, chesty in only moderately above average size, typical height, form attractively elegant, features belong to a late teen girl complementing a perfectly curvaceous waist. A carrying pouch worn on its side. Equipped with a horizontally slanted sheath behind the small of the back. Strikingly round the neck a crystal bead necklace. Considered white were dark brown skin not present instead. Intricate, slanted eyelid shape; enchanting light, icy grey eyes and pointed ears not long, but short, closer to a human’s. White hair completes the formula of beauty materialized, Tieves.

 

Womanhood’s idealized physical form.

 

The same peer venomously, ‘Blessing I twist in agony than make affinity with elven!’

More shouts directed her way by others, ‘Elves fool their victims by beauty; they’ve betrayed everyone so much; a chance to rid ourselves of this one here and now; yes, send her away and she’ll spoil everything; elves the real enemy, an Uc Tae is tame.’

 

Murmurs vilifying elves originate in how the race is perceived by Phaedra’s denizens. Word of their ill works passed down generations.

 

‘Then why’d the council summon me?’ her inflection is fairly perturbed than reciprocating their anger. 

 

Peer Perdicus stands up, ‘Phaedra’s true enemy necessitated I put prejudice away and call on her aide for the quest.’

A finger pointed his direction this time, ‘Have you no regard for the peerage? Brought this darkness in our midst!’ accused a member.

A knife for a next peer, ‘The sanctity of the peerage is slighted from within.’

Perdicus unswayed, ‘Want to preserve you precious peerage? This girl is inseparable from the quest.’

 

Jathaek and the handkerchief once more.

 

After a flurry of discontent thrown his way let out their contempt, vindicates his precaution to summon her secretly. ‘Supposed vileness for an elf weighed upon Phaedra’s fate!’

 

Perdicus strongly, ‘She a part of the quest as the humans and dwarf!’

 

Tieves takes several steps forward and turns to face the other summoned, no longer the Peerage for the time being. Her back to them. The girl takes the carrying pouch off the waist and presents to any of them. ‘Hold on to this till I have need. My measure of trust. We quest as one, or go in vain.’ Her rationale is they hold on to it leaving her vulnerable and survival in the hands of another.

 

Breath itself pauses.

 

‘I’ll take it off your shoulders, lass,’ gently says Bakil. Bakil, a different race as her, unsaid he understands the bigotry.

 

She hands over the pouch. Of all the summoned she expressed no doubt thus far, nor begged her enemies to remain.

 

Nobody spoke out. Handing it over and places between his belt and attire. She therein bows in thanks and does about-face toward her enemies.

 

Jathaek, ‘Hereby known as the Florian Band.’

 

Before officially heading off, survey the damage a being they may not speak the name of, left. That done to the hall’s structure where the speech was given before a terrifying interruption. Then its trail, torn into the pristine ground, is present a distance before disappearing. No physical and logical reason, there is left only the mystical. Entirety of its tremendous size vanished. Came from nowhere, returned to nowhere. Tieves let known bewitching the beast is a not an indispensable element.

The pier was no pier. Richly adorned attractive motifs, unforgettable to the eyes. Showing off majesty is the modus for these people.

 

The band stood near the Peerage, here to see them off. Worn on Niossa’s back a scabbard holding what seemed a giant blade; worn at his waist belt, the bone dagger. Gently bobbing in the river water’s current is a waiting raft.

 

‘Water is your mode of transport,’ says Jathaek. ‘It cannot however, carry you all the way.’

Bakil nods.

 

The concept features mounted paddles, a flat bottom support structure floating on water, buoyancy by way of sealed barrels and atop the structure, a house like construction as shelter from elements taking most of the support’s surface area. A well-conceived, large means of transport. As the pier, adorned in elegant motif.

 

Laid down are Perdicus’ final words, ‘I cannot stress enough not so much as ask anyone about the Being or discuss amongst each other lest you breathe its name.’

 

Jathaek, ‘This is as good as any weapon in your hand.’ Baelyn accepts the small, shaped item. ‘A passage seal for the realm and none has any good reason to offend the elf in its presence.’ She bows her head. Many do not accept her, all the same tolerated.

 

Euphemistic instruction to the band from his smiling face, ‘Go fourth and return hope to our people.’

 

The band walk aboard.

 

Sailing the river, sights of a prosperous land don’t deceive the eyes. The buildings, the clean, inviting land. Spirits high, idealism infected the party. Champions of righteousness.

 

The elf is about to lay small exposition of what she said onshore. ‘Garruda a necessary first destination. Bewitching incense. The ingredient resides there.’

Yasdreen complains doesn’t even know the enemy’s name. ‘You’re going to cook up for something we don’t know about exactly. Pray for us.’

 

Daylight remaining, their raft beside the shore. The band are inside the village proper, met by inhabitants. All is cordial. The appearances of the band an attraction itself, beautiful elf to diminutive dwarf, all fully armed.

 

‘The idea is the elf girl make bewitching incense and get the ingredients from us first?’ A village chief was saying to Baelyn.

‘Firmly believe she best placed to know our quest falters without.’

Responds the chief, ‘The ingredients you seek have another use – medicinal. Garruda’s reputation would take a hit were it to come into harmful purpose.’

 

Niossa folds muscular arms.

 

Seeing that the chief tries bolstering his stance. ‘We heard of the unclean happening at Peerage Hall. You can understand your story of how it vanished to nothingness a hard swallow. And yours is altogether a new one from what word says went on.’

Baelyn has no option but press, ‘Call it properly. Rumour you repeat. As word spread among many mouths, the events turn muddy. We as I’ve put down were sent by the peerage.’

 

The people’s problem is they don’t believe in the mission and the brandished pass doesn’t change that, not any offence at the elven woman as supposed and clearly aren’t going to help easily.

 

Bakil had his fill, ‘Out with it. The incense for you and you alone.’

‘Our village would part with the ingredients – for the right reasons.’

Spiteful, ‘Ahh. A gemstone will smarten your mind.’ 

Yasdreen, ‘Our cause is just. Value your lives and tarry us no more.’

‘We don’t quite get the tale of this monster, that said, may take leave with Thurit. He knows the way.’

Tieves placed the fingertips of both hands together relieved.

Bakil, ‘You could get a better seat at the hall and close your eyes to the damage they showed us.’ Bitter about something more, ‘One guide is all we get?’

 

Politely silenced by the wiseman like air of Baelyn, ‘Fret not the obstacles. A quest as ours is bound to have unbelievers.’ Best hardship, not it you.

 

‘Getting there is a walk. Won’t get the better of mortals like you,’ Thurit was saying when arriving later.

‘Let us be on our way,’ Niossa says.  

 

This young male is personable, willing to chat about his home and the visitors. Any doubts of his about the band’s righteous mission melt away. The walk had no feeling of despair. He let them in on the ingredient resides outside the community. Once gathered is brought to Garruda for preparation and sold.

 

The red forest for the leaves carry the colour. The mind would not soon forget the natural painting. The dim, ambient sound of assorted, hardly seen animals carry across the air.

‘There,’ points Thurit. Everyone’s gaze follows the finger. 

Having craned his neck up like his companions, ‘All we have is a giant rock,’ Yasdreen remarks. The group stood not far from this building sized feature, mighty in tallness.

‘Because high up hidden from eyes,’ Thurit says. ‘You’re looking at the closest spot for incense.’ Sheepish as though knowing he could offend, ‘Ones on the ground picked already. Sorry you came all this way and the villager who can climb wasn’t sent.’ Thinking up a new door, ‘Um, nothing’s stopping a look around. Heh, heh.’

 

The irascible Bakil makes an outburst. ‘Curses! Their lives to save and they leave us short footed.’

Niossa, ‘You’re hard to disagree with little man.’

Yasdreen exasperated, ‘Sense dropped to zero? The village did send not the climber along, much less tell us a rock in the way?! They have no faith in us.’

A band member says be not dispirited. Tieves turned her head his direction, ‘We are not so feeble as to break upon the first rock. Phaedra depends on us.’

Yasdreen hasn’t lost his emotion, ‘I’m missing that feeling.’

 

Niossa, ‘Thurit, all else fails return with the climber. Trust us to guard here.’

 

She takes some steps forward. Touches the surface with a hand and looks upwards. Curious eyes on her. Shortly, studying finished, commenced her climb.

 

Agility is taking her up a near vertical face. Nimble, carefully and fairly quick, taking hold of nooks and crannies to place the hands and feet. Awed eyes on her and heads gradually tilt up. Finding what sought nearby its crest, reaches with perfectly feminine fingers between the narrow cracks to pluck some and places between her teeth and makes her way back down safely.

 

Yasdreen, ‘When you doubted bringing her a bad omen.’

She gripped the plants in her hand. Idealistically, ‘Hope for our peoples still blooms.’

Thurit, ‘Elves are incredible.’ Ending in his whistle.

 

That show of elven prowess makes an impression. Clearly beyond peoples.

 

Are on the return leg, visibility turning darker in the approaching evening heralding the inevitable nightfall, are walking by some nearby low hills. An intense white light assails them.

 

‘Where’d that come from?’ exclaims Baelyn. Everyone shuts their eyes. Almost everyone.

Tieves promptly lays hand on Thurit and in the same haste turns him, placing his back to it, shortly raising to blinding intensity.

 

Under this cover, eighteen warrior Uc Tae rush from behind the hill. Their senior stood further back, the light’s source.

By the time her comrades regain their sight soon as the light’s quick dissipation, behold her engaging, having rushed forward, landing punches and kicks. She’d closed the gap before the enemy can.

 

Bakil astonished, ‘Uc Tae here?’

Her companions run to battle. Yasdreen hangs back to guard their guide.

 

Getting closer, Bakil did a throw of his ornate, double blade axe. Struck in the belly, a warrior begins collapsing forward, before they can hit the ground face first, he reaches and withdraws his weapon. 

 

The elven girl now paused. For the tiny moment required to unsheathe from her back that is. Her short sword went to work. Shortness would make for a challenge versus armored and long bladed opponents – were it anyone else, unerringly exploiting gaps in armor and getting in range, dodging or parrying swords for her own strike. Two lifeless at her feet.

Niossa unsheathes his out the scabbard. Sword like in shape with a rounded tip, positively huge, the two edges and tip have literal teeth embedded, allowing for tearing wounds on top of crushing blows.

 

Thurit could scarcely breathe, taking it in. Hoping unwanted blinks wouldn’t make him miss a thing.

 

The three Florian would tackle several enemies each. Splitting the accomplishments so to speak. The tip of Baelyn’s quarterstaff’s thrust connects with a jaw, sending the warrior sprawling.

 

Are man sized and to everyone at least, bestial. A race brimming of malice, recipients of hatred. Their head has an elaborate bony ornament approximating little crowns: two protruding upward from top of the head and one each from both sides of. The mouth contrasting elves or men is vertical with a bestial dentition, these predatory looking teeth.

 

Are only bested after a tough fight. Last is the senior, killed by a hurled short sword. Niossa identifies as an Ithridi. The body clad ceremonially as opposed to armor. In a given pack has a particular magical threat he says despite this being a coordinated attack. Far cry from a mindless pack one. Derisive tone common to Phaedra.

 

They stand over the body. Extracting it, Tieves twirled her instrument stylishly and sheathed it. A flourish. He goes on individual Ithridi must wear the specific necklet round the neck channelling specific power and ominously has the mark of the Being as a scar on the arm.

 

How’d that girl been able to respond? She’d narrowed the pupils, constricting the luminous intensity reaching her eyesight, she says to a query. And politely refused thanks – what the band would do for each other.

 

Back at the village, the band is under a house’s roof. An amazed guide relates to gathered villagers how his life saved by an elf, and then admits sombre a people so derided.

 

Baelyn attributes victory to divine omen. Bakil desired ripping them over the guide they sent but silenced again for pointed out the elf girl made that mute.

 

Impressively a villager listening names the Ithridi attack. Uc Tae call it PIERCING LIGHT. A brightness that intensifies to as to blind the unwary over an area. The enemy’s “trade of evil” an unknown quantity by no stretch of the imagination. Pick up things considering all the bad interactions between Uc Tae and other races.

 

Does not go unnoticed the enemy reached this far. They have ears to know about the band and thus prepare an attack. ‘Much as we hate them to arrive at the rock before we could impress,’ Baelyn notes.

‘They’ll always block us. Get more help,’ advocates Yasdreen.

Idealistic Baelyn feels otherwise, ‘A united band prevails over all privation. We are all the Peerage has for reason known to you.’

‘You’re not seeing it.’

 

Niossa inquires, ‘Elf woman, make haste and prepare it.’ Could very well seal their fate.

 

The incense is made by the elf. Not. Because says she cannot be jostled in travel. Useful to anyone how then? There is displeasure at this revelation. Best chance of success is preparing shortly before use she lays out. Niossa understands at or near the Kraal. The band’s challenge increased a notch – the elf must be kept in one piece. Shame if such beatitude were spoiled.

 

The perception of them improves in the villagers’ eyes by the next day taking to the raft. Well rested, sleeping in the community, donated food and drink a welcome extra weight.

 

Streaking across the sky a thin parade, chunks of rocky material sideways. That far away resembled a bright specks to anyone looking up. Appeared travelling in the moon’s direction, a face scarred in dark patches. All this beheld from Phaedra’s surface.

 

Calm sailing. Baelyn is rowing, the barbarian on the opposite side of the craft mirroring.

 

The handsome Niossa. First impression without a peep from him is bash your skull in – he shows a thoughtful side contrary to exterior. Admits relies on own strength not magic weapons and opines this way a fighter is putting their life on the line more so than if imbued with magic. Brings to the surface the urge for individual survival and surviving then lets loose the harder fighter within oneself. Baelyn listened and when a few moments pass, like a wiseman feels the man is right, his own staff partakes in fights. Other hand their quest took in magical bandmates. They are graced with so many avenues. Niossa nods respectfully and says their weapon forgoes magical endowment and trusts it by his side than any magical conjure. He’d given a name. Crusher.

 

The rest of the trip is enemy free by the time the next destination arrived at, a minor town. Ahead of entering it proper, tied the raft to the pier amidst are a number of boats.

 

‘Elf girl…’ comes Niossa’s voice and she turns her elegant head toward his direction. They’re onshore and about to walk further inland.

Didn’t require a finished question. ‘The time for the incense has not arrived. Wait we must,’ calmly.  

 

The phenomena overhead in the sky an unconscionable distance continues. Above every inhabitant’s bonce, the line of specks have crossed more distance closer to the moon.

 

Brop Skal were not left guessing who their visitors are. The passage seal wasn’t shown before they announced who they are and intentions. Their dwarf man thought a good idea the townsfolk contribute supplies to the effort. Initial apprehension directed at the elf aside, it a welcoming atmosphere.

 

Speak sense to the chosen few and they’d travel openly still. Categorically is not so much as considered travelling more surreptitiously. Nothing better in this life than face the enemy. This in knowledge bound to be encountered.

 

The village report no Uc Tae showed their ugly faces of late. The band reiterates the wish for battle.

 

Responding to the positive wave, admiration rises in importance versus the mission. Baelyn thinks the Florians can stay a while, meantime villagers can assemble supplies - but is unequivocal leave later in the day.  

 

Problem solved being that traders pass through and plenty is here. The band shall be given. Responding to freeness, Niossa considering they are Phaedra’s defenders says is in keeping with values.

 

Barely outside town outskirts, they’d arrived. Town itself a ways off to the side. The elf maiden taken here by some villager females. A moist rock wall focus of attention. The moistness courtesy of a waterfall just close enough that its fine water spray douses gently.

Dancing with the wind – how flowers perceived as: roots anchored them to the rock face, sway according to it, open and close rhythmically. Heart melting seeing them in nature beautifying the scenery.

 

Yasdreen, Niossa and Baelyn are outdoors with a crowd. The town square is convivial. Yasdreen remarks, ‘We’re the Florian Band. By rights earned a break between monsters.’ Sense of entitlement there.

 

Starting casually with one resident, the staff’s tip touching a mug, chilling it for the drinker. Responding to a delighted questioner, Baelyn describes simply FROST’S CURSE: one of his enchanted staff’s ice effects.

 

‘Bet no monster wants a tussle with you!’ the villager captivated.

‘My quarterstave cannot and should not guarantee danger forbears from me.’  

Niossa nods agreement, ‘Uh huh.’ Magic trumped by your own talent.

 

Soon enough the wiseman chilled most mugs the crowd drink from. Yasdreen, his waist weapon mistaken for a sling, his response was to ask if the villager’s eyes asleep and talks up his glaive. ‘I barely twitch a muscle. Reach out and mince monsters.’ He’ll have them know.

 

Public views be spoken of the Peers a townsperson correctly surmises summoned the band – their stature is such that taboo to speak negative of them, but villagers do anyway. How it learned Peers have a role in governing: tax, farms, education, resources, the usual. Levelled criticism is overall mild on their performance. Yasdreen is taken back to his peerage summoning, ‘A fancy lifestyle comes out somebody’s pocket.’

 

The maiden has both eyes of physical attraction and deriding lay on her from the people since the quest’s beginning. Some swaying flowers picked. No tension at all, happiness and curiosity drape faces. Contrary to what the elves generated, product of preconceptions born of history. The maiden consents to a flower crown made for her, commenting Phaedra’s culture can’t help but be taken by trinkets. Who’d had have imagined this treatment judging from Acthule? She’ll offer no opposition, wishing to preserve the joy in their bowels.

 

To a question answers her race is fashioned like that of men. A couple bond and conceives a little one.

 

To a query confirms elves receive what other Phaedra denizens would call schooling – the maiden did not scoff at such a supposedly obvious thing. This alluring girl comes off as affable therefore is congratulated that way, is not as bad like her race is made out to be.

 

Striking off on his own, the dwarf engages in a bit of mischief. Wound up at an open air vendor. When negotiations in the little man’s eyes broke down, struck them with a red gem. Remarkably resistance melted, consenting a lower price.

 

The band as prearranged, meet up again. Its later in the day, water laps the shore gently. The elf appears wearing her crown, accompanied by merry females. Bandmates Bakil and Yasdreen particularly, can’t resist speaking of it. The girl admits a warmth in her heart accepted by people and thanks the two for their candour. A smile emerged from her – a rare thing indeed garnished from non-elves.

 

The supplies are ready to load aboard the raft, placed by villagers onshore near it. Niossa observes it’s too much. They can make best use of the extra.

 

The quest was looking up.

 

A villager comes running and only able to speak when panting stops – Uc Tae in the town.

 

The Florians and some villagers halt their run. In aggressive posture stand twenty warriors and an Ithridi. Inhabitants maintain fearful vigil from the street or buildings at a distance. Ten armoured fighters draw swords, the rest level poleaxes – a pole mounting a blade at the extremity and proceeded to make a formation two ranks deep.

 

Yasdreen, ‘Our day has taken an eventful end.’

Unsurprisingly there is no backing down to speak of. Niossa, ‘A like number as last time. Take them from two sides.’

‘Stay your blade but a moment brother,’ advised Baelyn. ‘The pack must be led to a safe spot for the townspeople.’

The big man drew his blade and nodded agreement.

 

Their enemy do not refer to their organized grouping as a pack. Their foes do derisively like when seeing it in front their eyes.

 

Bakil pointing the double blade axe, ‘Set battle there.’

Baelyn orders villagers run and take cover and to Yasdreen guard them. The band hastily make way for a point on the inner edge of town, a more secluded, open section, partially dotted by buildings and reservoir. Dwellers close their doors; some dare peek out windows.

 

‘Come on! Polish my axe on your skulls!’ Bakil eager. The band weapons drawn. He’ll wait longer to the contest. Dissimilarity to haste, the battle group do a slow, deliberate march their direction. The Ithridi a distance behind the rest.  

 

Baelyn surmises, ‘Their arrival means the town lay under watch.’

‘Deal with us early before we lay hand on the Kraal,’ the elf girl in step.

 

Any moment now the band, standing side by side expected contact. Tension palpable, the force almost upon them. Just then the Ithridi situated to the back extends the arms sideways and roars. Activation of magic when the necklet glows a few moments and from it shoots some globules. Ominously this remarkably red flame.

 

Their high trajectory took over the heads of the Uc Tae and dive toward the four. Fire support. All but Niossa run back out the way.

 

Tieves did a quick look either side of her person. In a flash did one great leap, grabbed the much bigger man and ran off with him, just before fire landed on the spot – all that spanned several moments.

 

‘I lost my wits about me in battle there,’ he conceded.

 

The globules, half an arm’s length wide, land scattered about licking the ground – albeit room enough for what came next. A final rush by the twenty upon the somewhat dispersed band.

 

That instant the elf girl sped forward at them who are pretty much on top of them. No eye beheld when the short sword unsheaved.

 

Bakil exclaimed, ‘Oye, magic be CRIMSON HOWL!’

Short sword in action – once again unerringly exploiting armor gaps, parrying longer weapons as the need arises.

 

Quarter staff’s ice. ‘May Argute render the kiss of cold.’ The weapon’s name. For ice attacks by will, about a finger length toward either end and tips develop quicky a thin frost layer. Small, white vapors emerge from each end from the cold, activated by the user’s mind.

 

He had more than a common weapon to rely on. Magically imbued from either blunt end can leave a patch of frostbite, FROST’S CURSE, on a small part of an enemy’s exposed body part and armor gaps, only administered from either staff end, in addition to blunt blows. One frostbite patch does extra damage enhancing a normal hit, able to hurt and impede.

 

Niossa blocks a strike and kicks the enemy down.

 

Precise in the extreme, she leapt backward from a strike, hair’s breathe beyond range. The elf on the other hand, speed and reflexes any person can clearly see yet cannot keep up, as if: on another world while in this one. “Commendable” inadequate superlative. Augmenting the blade are dodges, leaps, kicks, blocks. No wasted movement. Beautiful slayer.

 

Bakil sidesteps, slashed the enemy’s leg, bringing down to one knee as he passed, spun around to plant the axe into the back.

 

From afar villagers take in the donnybrook. Argute slams down on a neck. His stomach will have disagreement with breakfast, lingering vertical mouth in his thoughts.

 

Crusher knocked a sword out a user’s hand, its teeth next in a slash motion gouged the lower arms. The Uc Tae yelled. Niossa didn’t see the poleaxe coming through the blind spot. Stopped – a short sword in the creature’s neck.

 

Only did the man see when in swift bounding steps, the maiden rush over, grab the handle of her weapon and pull it out – before the victim can fall.

 

‘Owe you twice now.’ The girl glanced his way, locking eyes on him. Her acknowledgement or what he wouldn’t know from a blank expression lasting moments then dashing off.

 

That a being I care to swing Crusher at? Found time to think a disconnect with the innocent, sweet flower crown that somehow remained and life ending aptitude.

 

Almost half their host lay unmoving on the ground. Concluding a flurry of moves the poleaxe bested by its quarterstaff relative. The Uc Tae recoils from a thrust and frostbite dead center in the face.  

 

A natural battle pause. The band has maintained itself in the initial fight, next a second fire attack, this time a new tactical stratagem: blocking retreat, shrinking the battlespace by their positioning, in rising temperature palpable by their closeness and increased number. What globules land in the reservoir refuse to extinguish, floating atop water. All combined the band is pressured by the outnumbering fighters no matter the elf’s presence. Niossa himself assailed by sword and poleaxe same time.

 

Something had to give. The battle hungry Bakil runs from a chasing sword wielding Uc Tae, suddenly spins around and tosses a red object that strikes an exposed body part. In moments the warrior halts then rushes for his comrades. The dwarf blew sigh of relief.

That Uc Tae swung his blade – at his own kind. Yasdreen and townsfolk are nonplussed, to his credit eventually guesses some kind of force.

 

Tieves eyes that one. This time someone reacted before her. ‘Leave him his fun,’ calls out Bakil. ‘My magic BUDDY GEMSTONE. Never bite a lending hand lass.’

A turning point numbers wise and Baelyn attacks from the enemy rear. Soon over – almost.

 

The standoffish Ithridi immobilized by the long range throw and dead aim of her short sword sticking clean through the ankle and into the ground, its handle protruding out. Sadistically the band observes from a distance, while the townspeople do in awe. The controlled warrior approaches in a steady walk, all the while can make out a despair in both, a predator slowly advances yet unable to prevent this. Reaching the warrior and they exchange looks – the Ithridi unease, the warrior agony. Actions of beings swelling in emotion than monsters and kills its leader with a strike.

 

Globules die down till extinguished leaving a burn mark on solid surface.

 

Bakil, ‘Call it a day lad.’ Fell on their sword.

 

The band find a laugh – the elf’s nature confines her visage to a faint simper. ‘See the look on their faces!’ Baelyn.

 

Walking towards the two fallen, Bakil responds to a keenly interested Niossa his magic BUDDY GEMSTONE gets its moniker because you’ll be working for him with a smile on your face, hence the name. You’re his if the gem contacts skin.

 

The barbarian’s internal monologue is if he plays wrong the little man could a tougher opponent than their elf. Staring down the most dangerous of the band.

Asking if he may get a hold of that power, Bakil responds, ‘Take it well if this feels rough handling, comes down to it you rely on that sword and frown magic.’ How could he not overhear the raft chat?  

 

Reaching the bodies, can’t begin inspecting them yet before the inhabitants emerge from hiding places and homes. Celebration is in order, some approach and congratulate. Baelyn says they already shared time with the people dallying.

 

Niossa made a connection and stated the obvious same time, ‘Weren’t running berserk in town previous to our fight. The band ire of their blades.’

 

On inspection the necklet pondered over. Baelyn holding it, ‘As things stand only one of their kind can bring out the magic.’

‘The particular magic each individual one may unleash makes the journey more perilous,’ noted Tieves, ‘We know not the magic to come.’ Signs point to each Ithridi conjuring a single kind of magic.

 

The man places in his vestment.

 

Shades of Garruda, ominously the Ithridi bore the arm scar mark. Ominous unless you’re Bakil. ‘This the best they lay on? Their Drachenloch is a smooth road than a pothole one.’

‘Our elder Jathaek at no time lost his wariness of the name dwarf,’ cautions the maiden.

Disparagingly dismissed the warning given at the quest’s start… ‘Scary old Drachenloch is the one to shudder.’

 

Quicker than an instant a body appears scarcely above the ground and slams down with a quake, in the process crushing Yasdreen from overhead by a humongous foot.

 

At Yasdreen’s death a collective gasp.

 

The near silence of all witnesses broken by a female inhabitant’s scream and the behemoth’s growl.

 

The creature is close at hand, everyone in vicinity quite miniscule. Inhabitants amidst screams, run in terror and confusion.

 

Baelyn terrified and confused himself, ‘Can’t be happening!’ His psyche gouged into, slowly walks backward.

 

First of the Florian to have any semblance shaking off the shock, Niossa. Blood seething, a warrior’s vengeance took over, ‘Bastard!’ With that Crusher drawn, speeds forward past some running citizens and lands a ferocious vertical slash. The beast shifts its body away in response.

 

The remaining Florians are near still; even the elf isn’t completely immune to shock. Her hand reaches behind the back for the sword handle – slower and slower does the hand move, closer it comes and finally doesn’t reach, stopping.

Niossa is immersed fully in a singular goal of his life – kill. The giant blade slashes away, making cuts, drawing blood. Went so far as to kick the beast. ‘Fall! Rot in the ground!’ Anger spilled onto his own, ‘Standing there! Want to live forever? We ARE the band.’

 

If the noble image is to preserve value, a fellow Florian must not go unavenged. Pierced verbally, are roused to action, and freed of mental lassitude.

 

‘Have at you!’ roars the dwarf man. Running, tossed the axe forward which burrowed itself into Drachenloch’s flesh. Reaching he pulled it out the wounded giant foot.

 

WHITE TEAR – each staff end extended by short, pointy, sharp ice tips. Enhances thrust moves and slashing; resembling a double pointed spear. The beast shall reel under Argute’s second ice attack.

 

The youthful lady without speaking outstretches her hand to Bakil, who retrieves and tosses the pouch, sailing through the air a good distance. Her forward leap up toward it meets the bag, caught in a feminine manus. Landing and no time to spare, loosens the cord drawstring and fetched what inside – an elegantly shaped flute. Compact dimension, a tube adorned of rich, attractive markings with tone holes and no keys.

The crown remaining on her head, its held horizontal when playing. From the first blow on the wind instrument, small crystal beads fly off her necklace.

 

Enlarge greatly in no time, width as a small child is tall, many times original size, now giant crystal beds hover in the air. Daytime, the shiny way these crystal play with light. Undeniably are beautiful, approaching pieces of art.

 

CRYSTALS’ MELODY!!!

 

A fresh battle infused of passionate anger ensues.

 

Target of rage rivalled proportions of buildings. A male resident, ‘Jeez, look at it. Look at the size if it!’ Right to be awed. Imposingly high as four men, long as eleven are tall.

 

Citizens watch as a crowd or from buildings. Only the band remains anywhere proximate.

 

‘By Phaedra, tomorrow shall not see you,’ declares Bakil.

Niossa, ‘We’ll cut you apart!’

 

One bead flies from the other thirteen, slamming fast into a leg, the beast topples on its side. SHEARING SWEEP. The barbarian is facing the belly. Running up, plunges his blade inside and runs in several great strides leaving a lengthy horizontal gash.

 

A great, painful groan permeates the air. However, stood up.

 

Bakil rendered a slash to its body. The beast quaked in pain a few moments. Inside its consciousness, a declared monster conceptualized desire to fight. Bakil rolls his body out the way of a retaliatory foot stomp; fearsome scale shook and cracks the ground.

 

Drachenloch exudes dread and extreme power upon the mind, each movement quakes the ground slightly.

 

The elven landed on her feet, last of a series of backflips. Aim existed to opening distance betwixt her and the adversary. The wind instrument during the flips hadn’t left her mouth or hands, in effect employed the feet alone. A melody recommences, carried in the air.

 

Intrigued town person, ‘That music. Could it be?’

The first bead suspended mid-air, joined by six more that flew to it. Argute makes a nasty thrust, piercing into the rear quarter. One dark roar. In response the beast backed up some. The man avoids trampling, extracting the weapon quickly and sprinting out the way.

The beads are arranged side by side, spaced a length apart. They’re facing Drachenloch’s own side. The melody alters, heeding, three fly forward and impact the beast worse than a thrown brick to your gut. The brute totters sideways. On contact pull back to their former position, the melody takes a new twist and the next four slam in and fly back. The first three repeat.

 

Few beings exist that could not be done away by just one crystal.

 

Alternating series of body blows in that order.

 

Attempts to resist the assault by struggling to keep its balance. The impact sites soon enough are discoloured, work of blunt force trauma.

 

Niossa taken, ‘The elf’s true power!’

 

Argute’s fresh contribution to affliction a tightly spaced flurry of ice tipped cuts to its opposite side. The beast howls in aggrieved pain. ‘Leave us not yet,’ says the user. Its retaliatory charge at this attacker collided it into a general store, badly damaging the structure in a loud crash. Debris scattered along a portion of a ginormous frame.

 

The crystals directed to float. The creature proceeded to turn and extricate itself and would have chased a certain wiseman.  

‘Tieves!’ cries the barbarian, thick arm points upward. The tune altered, in moments an eighth bead made its way over, hovering his height above the ground, to which the big man hung onto and is levitated up. The beast midst of carrying out the turn, alights from it onto the walkway of a building’s second floor and jumps off, falling straight down, weapon outstretched forward in a battle yell. Cooperation to deliver a powerful hit magnified from the warrior’s fall speed. A monstrous groan escaped its maw. Slowed in its tracks.

 

A female inhabitant, ‘Only the band could hope for a chance. We would be out of place fighting that.’ Anyone there had a story hard to tell, impossible to forget.

 

Sailing through the air a red BUDDY GEMSTONE hit, disintegrating. The power of control is telling. Wobbles a while – overpowered it. An almost unimaginable humongous visage stares down the diminutive man.  

 

‘Plenty more where that came from. Let’s do it!’

Better believe rushed him, nearby buildings quake from each step, body tearing up the ground. Bakil the gusto to brace before the onslaught.

 

SHEARING SWEEP five crystals sped in and knocks five legs from under it. Exactly what the attack named for. Awe escaped Niossa once more, ‘That girl is something else.’ Her blade isn’t all to contend with.

 

Gradually intensifying flute play with each attack, worked her fingers alternately blocking or opening tone holes.

 

A bead flies close facing each side of the face, another two the top and bottom of the head. In unison their high speed slams into these places from four sides.

 

Once flying off, no relief for a fifth enters the mouth next - enters directly into that huge maw. Big enough for an adult man to fit. Oral cavity the play yard as it violently flew around. Smashing into the back, roof, side, bottom. Painful. Couldn’t happen to a more deserving monster, Tieves would likely say. The orifice shuts. Any potential plans to swallow derailed when it sped out, busting it back open.

 

In its mind finally had breathing room to see where the music emanated from: She! Tormentor in plain sight and can’t reach her back.

 

‘Hah!’ His thrown gemstone connects – ignored.

 

Mightiest roar yet. Virtually swallowing most of the music, her beads began wobbling in mid-air. The elf tried blowing harder into her instrument, no contest. Her attempt to keep up prevented her covering her ears like others in vicinity.

 

Warriors and civilians alike grimaced, trying to protect collective hearing. The sound travelled beyond town boundaries. Shortly the sound died away when its creator ceased.

 

Lurches at first, to most everyone’s obvious horror. Tieves maintained a troubled face. Then picked up a steady pace – in her direction.

Baelyn yells, ‘Make a run for it!’

The ground again quakes and is torn up by each movement.

 

Collided straight through a two floor building, which crumbled without resistance and no penalty on its pace and continued along, leaving it behind. Then incredibly vanishing ending the fight well before reaching the elf.

 

Everyone reduced to speechlessness. Recalled, the crystals shrink and adorn her neck again. 

 

‘The peerage weren’t lying…every word.’ Niossa finally managed to speak – awed in as many times this short period.

 

The fear and shock are joined by a fresh emotion. Anger. Some townsfolk blame them for its coming. Are right they feel since tampering as described, that Itridi made it call that thing and trampled half their town.

 

Baelyn tries guarding saying right before they’d saved their town from flame. When asked replies not allowed saying the beast’s name. More immediate a fallen to see about anyway.

 

Deliberating among themselves the Florian announce Yasdreen will be laid to rest here. Vociferous among townsfolk wanted the remains placed outside, what if he brings the monster back?

 

Most band members fail to see where debate even lies. Florians are to be heeded. To say nothing of him giving ultimate sacrifice within it.

 

Tensions are steaming. Possible violence from the band is averted by none other than a barbarian’s calming influence. Their friend will be honoured here. Glaive a grave marker.

 

The band do not mourn – passing on is seen a different light. His gaze touches dear ones from the other side. The band remains five.

 

Tieves plays dirge named Ode To A Comrade, over the grave. 

 

The raft set sail. The supplies of course are no longer theirs. The danger of hunger and exposure ready to manifest its maw if not relieved before reaching the Kraal.

 

Needless to say descent to rancour among the companions – after kicked out the town. Wasn’t a quiet morning day after. Bakil and he had to expect, raked over the head for his indiscretion.

Just now they’d been celebrated – they are the Florian Band. Beloved by the people, who like a shifting wind grew to detest them. Returning to the Peerage for help interpreted as a mark of shame.

 

The day marches on. An alarm is raised. Uc Tae distantly eye them from shore side’s safety. Despite their power, out of reach were it not for MELODY. Tieves sitting cross-legged, put the flute to her lips. At her music, beads erupt from her necklace into the air and grow promptly in size like before.

 

Bakil keeping a low profile far as that goes, emerges from the shelter, responding to the melody.

 

Baelyn expects they’d fly across to the spies. Eight plunge into the water some distance from their transport and well off from shore. Remaining six hover over the water in a holding pattern.

 

The melody changed. What look like waves on the water surface bob the raft up and down noticeably. The elf maintains her steadiness – control a trait to her race. Hair, clothes and necklace do sway – the flower crown remains perfectly still. The companions try to maintain balance.

 

Submerged to shallow depth, her sound carrying underwater, the eight very rapidly move forward and backward, disturbing the liquid, which reacts. Under powerful rhythmic sequences by the crystals, shortly radiating waves reach shore and warriors, till now the scale truly unseen because their height from river bed to water surface. In effect hidden below the surface.

 

Tall tidal waves, waist high, move into shore speedily, carrying pebbles and sand. Unbalanced and soaked, the forcefulness drove them off.

 

The water’s roil is dying down for evidently the crystals ceased moving. Once her companions recover enough to speak, Baelyn, ‘No Ithridi? A scout party.’

‘You put all Peerage naysayers to rest girl,’ Niossa had to say. Carries the air equal of any of us – beyond even.

‘A mother protects ones dear.’ Sombre, ‘Couldn’t save a life with them. If my flute wasn’t handed to Bakil, crystals would have been brought out before, before…’ The hovering ones fall into the river.

Baelyn lays a comforting hand on the shoulder, ‘One shoulder the burden shall not rest on alone. We all do.’

 

As previously stated all the way in Acthule, the path detaches the raft from them and travel the land in time. The river had a distance to go still. Feeling a waste to let float away would not leave to the mercy of its waters. With strained effort pulled ashore and covered in foliage, this must come tomorrow, making use of its shelter this evening the prudent action.

 

Well above an entire world’s heads, the bright specks continue unimpeded, closer still to the moon. 

 

Tension among the band has embers – morning next, Bakil chooses his words poorly, insinuating the beast would show himself speech or not and doubles down something like that has to be the enemy to take care of. Taking it out completes the quest and Kraal then is what true warriors like them skip. In effect he’d go against their orders.

 

With a dressing down in mind hammering him, exception Tieves, whose anger expressed in low tones, he heads off before the band can. Baelyn displeased, voices they’ll be tarried. To gain favour – try to, hunts a meal in the wild. Returns with a wildlife following under gem control, leading it devoid of resistance.

 

The crown nowhere to be seen. Travelling on foot brings a new locale, wilderness their company. Trees here swing their branches to and fro gently, so reminiscent of complex life, red leaves a spectacle of colour. Wasn’t a breeze.

 

CRYSTALS’ MELODY would let them negotiate a watery expanse cutting through the land, a river called Eltara Rill, flowing calmer versus the other one. First order of business, the eye.

 

Somewhat wider than a man, connected to quite long and narrower stalk of tissue, a building’s height above the surface, terminating on the water’s surface and hidden body beneath, this eye looked down at them and made the team search for a new crossing spot yet reappeared, so decide to settle things this afternoon.

‘Healthy river if he’s living in it,’ remarks Niossa.

 

An animal is backing up slowly from the shore, the eye gazes down delicately. The water began bulging at its edge, out came a Dullavoog – the animal’s name. Quite large and characteristics of a predatory lifestyle. Prey approaches the shore and it strikes. A carapace draped body leaves an impression.

 

The beast completely left the water onto land to follow. That done, rest of the plan came to the fore – about to be slain. BUDDY GEMSTONE set the bait.

A musical concoction permeates surroundings. Ten beads strung out shore to shore across the water way, their makeshift bridge. The Florians hop across, each individually spaced.

 

Upon questioning the name shared: RECHERCHE, a mystic flute and brief explanation of properties. An ultimate at Tieves’ disposal on top of her standard elven physiology. Depending on how played, assorted melodies controls afore seen flying, beautiful crystal beads, she calls CRYSTALS’ MELODY.

 

Worn round the neck as a necklace when not in use, that from the first note fly off the neck as individual beads and shortly grow many times in size. RECHERCHE can settle their speed, direction, height. Together function as group whose crystals can reach speedy movement, consequently more force. More demanding an activity, more intense her playing. 

 

Night young, still outs the campfire by dint of FROST’S CURSE. By the way a flame a good way to be spotted or ward off unwanted beasts. A seemingly reckless act in the former. Their thirst for a fight undaunted, driven by notions of righteousness and combat skill. Bakil appeared unwell, fatigued, only to brush it off.

 

Swaying flowers seen again this time in a field. Awash in it, pulchritudinous colours mesmerize, lending their presence to the morning as plants in their rhythm, portions take turns opening and closing.

 

Be a little town, Skui Praria, the spectacle is growing beside. Walking alongside the field, ‘Past here friends the Kraal awaits and justice for Yasdreen,’ says Baelyn. The thatched roof Ucri inn chosen as resting and planning spot – or would be, were they welcome.

 

‘Their kind everyone who’s anyone would keep a knife handy than let their breed under their roof,’ says the innkeeper. A group of other visitors stare, faces carry the very thought.

‘Be that the case our quest to save your lives dictates she comes where we go,’ Baelyn in reserved tone.

Their head lowered in the beauty’s direction, unwilling to make direct eye contact. ‘That breed…will ruin your quest. Cut it loose. I’m thinking about my town. Ucri won’t survive a curse, passage seal or no passage seal.’

 

‘Think nothing of it,’ her voice magnanimous. ‘I’ll stay outside.’ Went so far as bowing.

She would have turned to leave were it not, ‘What are you, a common mongrel?’ Bakil.

‘Take no conflict on my account…’

‘Silence lass!’ came the yell. He casts a menacing eye the keeper’s direction. ‘We have ways and means little man.’ Buddy on the table.

 

The imposing looking barbarian Niossa is impassioned. ‘Thinking of your inn? Think of your town. Think of the world,’ he begins. ‘The focus of your hate would sacrifice all if it meant protecting you. You the person – not Skui town.’ All eyes settle on him. He outpours what “band” is to him; relates the Peerage of Acthule disdained her and her subsequent response of entrusting the precious flute to another; he vouched her deeds since and the quest would crumble, the world evil’s domain without unity. ‘Florians are united to protect you as the Uc Tae are to destroy you, in like way must Phaedra.’

 

Thoughtfully words struck a chord – are allowed to stay. 

 

Sequestered in their upstairs room decide will serve as a base while last minute information and planning before the final push. First thing’s first – a hot meal.

 

From the town street an inhabitant’s head is craned skyward. The string of white dots and scarred moon.

 

Day next Baelyn is questioning townsfolk. Naturally as the Uc Tae land their next stop. Their forces haven’t seen fit to flatten the little population center, despite encounters with the band. They could predict his party would pass through.

 

The dwarf has alone time. By his axe’s curved edge makes a small nick on his open palm. A bigger than should be globule of blood grew and hardens.

 

Tieves out and about in her own right, walking the town to gauge any infiltration and assess defence – strictly speaking the latter is not insurmountable for their enemy. Adults give disapproving glares. The girl reciprocates none in kind.

 

Youngsters, human and not approach – the elven reputation precedes. These little ones attracted by her pulchritudinous form and bluntly chance to see a born of the elven. Young minds ask why her ears pointy and if elves so bad? And even relate some history passed down - that they turned the world sour. Yet exude no hate, that’s thing about the young, hate only from learning – Tieves speaks straight, ‘Whatever offended the world in the past, people to this day mark my kind in blackness.’ This interaction harkens back to the start why subject to derision by Peers.

 

The elf maiden performs music of RECHERCHE, to their great excitement.

 

Niossa makes an alarmed cry. Returning to find Bakil sprawled atop the couch, barely responsive. When he recovers enough, gives the secret of BUDDY GEMSTONE. Stones are made of blood, his, infused with magic. Too many stones, too much blood. Anaemia weakens anyone. There is surprise learning his a blood magic. Decided to make more gems than safely permissible.

 

No alternative left to them, the band must postpone a day for his recovery and the kraal round the corner topping it off.

 

Niossa, Tieves and Baelyn are at the balcony. The last bit of peace and then their lives awash in violence again. The fate of their Phaedra leaves no room around.

 

Unexpectedly Tieves’ memory how the old man spoke the beast’s name but only busted the party when the name called and disrespected.

The words were coming and detesting it so much I said the name once more in disdain – then it appeared - Jathaek.

 

The men debate if a clue, till thinking back to its last appearance. Bakil called the name the first time that’s when the elf cautioned him. He called the name derisively next and there it was in all horrific glory, impossible as it sounds. The beast likely one of magic in its own right.

 

Shrouded in outer space’s black expanse, the moon dominates the perspective of a rock. Ending its existence crashing into it’s surface, energy released in an almighty explosion, light visible from Phaedra no less. Close at hand the second fragment slams in.

 

Across the world, peoples from diverse places catch the flash. Night time Skui Praria, a few at first, sky borne flashes attract more residents to come out and crane necks up. The Florian inevitably drawn to the street crowd except Bakil.

 

Short pauses between from their distance, individual small flashes on the moon. Third, a fourth. One by one specks disappeared into the celestial body and becomes a flash, some brighter than another, brighter corresponds to a bigger speck.

 

Back to the moon, a fragment’s collision threw up rocky material around the blast. The impacts spaced sideways along the surface as the celestial body turned while each part plummeted in. Molten rock aglow at nine points, representing a strike, seen from the vast distance of Phaedra.  

 

This carries super natural connotations. Superstition.

Baelyn is unwilling to tarry as last time. A guide sourced to lead them.

 

Guide Xuri and recovered Bakil put the town behind. Barely past first light. As they walk, a chance to extol once again the mindset are Florian, the defenders on a righteous quest, Phaedra’s natives do well appreciating. Xuri in basic terms passes on an Uc Tae there breathes a ‘wind of dirt.’ Conversation turns a historical bend, Xuri a wealth of information on the town’s past. Through thick and thin managed to hold on to their town in spite most dreaded of foes ready to make a meal of them.

 

Puzzling question, why hadn’t the Kraal done as much? The band encountered no combat garrison in the place, suggesting the town felt no immediate danger. Xuri mulls on it and decides the bloodthirsty dwellers of the deep have a heart down there.

 

To no one’s surprise the elven opines Skui Praria carried no particular value to savage maws.

 

Wasn’t the longest of walks by the time Xuri reached the territories’ edge and halts. Edge of Uc Tae domain, where the guide was secured to lead. Night and day between them. Ahead the lands looked ominous in atmosphere, plain, dark coloration, no vibrant flowers or sweet animal song.

‘Our quest’s end is nigh friends,’ Baelyn declares, ‘and by the time it is we’d have returned peace and prosperity to Phaedra.’

 

The guide drew attention expect a guard post in the area, the first place likely to encounter the world’s enemy and finally parted ways gifting them best wishes.

 

By a single step, step onto foreboding country. 

 

The day has not yet closed when a wind gap is spied on. Action of now absent water carved through the hill, either side of the gently inclined trail of this particular section, tall and imposing rock wall.  

 

So happens at a guard post sporting a boom barrier, contraption a counterweighted pole that elevates vertically to allow passage, occupies the gap’s mouth.

 

The band kneeling concealed at a distance see several Uc Tae milling about and concerningly an Ithridi, denoted by ceremonial cladding. They entertain finding another path forward…factoring the reminder keeping Tieves alive of critical importance to make the incense – in full knowledge take to aggression, all but the elf sprint, zeal driven. Their war cry pierces the air. What’s arguteness to Baelyn, who failed to challenge this?

 

Crusher, thrown, plunges into the ground, sticking very close to vertical and in front a startled Uc Tae no less. Time to process is fleeting before the huge sidelong pointed arm of an inrushing Niossa connects to their chest, bowling them over in a ferocious clothesline. Without skipping a beat, picks up his blade and resumes rushing ahead.  

 

Shortly the band reach the group – the Ithridi trots further away.

 

Grunts and growls intermix with weapon clangs.  

 

Early in the scuffle Bakil snaps around reacting. A crash behind. A warrior to their back is sprawled flat. Two beads stacked atop them - WEIGHT OF DOUBT. Melody’s in the air.

 

However, these vertical mouthed lesser beings don’t have weapons for decoration. Can parry and follow up instantly with a countering thrust or strike, testing the band’s reflexes, forcing them to react with fast, moment to moment timing else be hit; no matter crushing power, double blade or staff reach.

 

Baelyn, ‘Argute, render cold mercy!’ as before tips toward either end develop quicky a thin frost layer approximating a finger’s length, trademarked by small, white vapors at those ends.

 

FROST’S CURSE leaves its mark on a face courtesy a smashing thrust. Leaving a bite square between the eyes - a flourish. Innate frostbite ability adds something bad to the layer of pain over and above the rod’s impact.

Not expecting the unexpected – many times the number of Uc Tae rush from behind concealment, reacting to the sounds, unseen because surroundings. Twentynine strong.  

 

Crusher’s teeth ripped into flesh. The battle pauses.

 

WISDOM’S FLAWLESSNESS – grows in short order thick, roughly spherical shaped ice on each staff end to bludgeon and the ice’s irregular protuberances nastily scrape, going by shape and size.

 

Their bestial opponents a mix of weapons split half way: all are armored troops, featuring a shield and mace combo whilst the rest poleaxes.

 

The smallish shield foregoes guarding the whole body, instead designed manoeuvrable enough to bash, shove and by a sharp edge, slash, sacrificing defence to a degree. The maces’ end has a spherical knob, adorned with short spikes round its circumference. Perfect for faces.  

 

Flawlessness’ emergence prompted by the shield no matter a risk to its user, the war staff’s weight rises and combat movement a little slower as result. The weight of the ice it hoped would break a guard.

 

Without orders assume formation: the shield bearers line up shoulder to shoulder; the poleaxe wielders split either side of the shield line, but angled forward. Hasn’t occurred to these heroes such fine drill a key to their supposed threat. The shield bearers hold the line, exposing the band to pole attack on both sides. 

 

Do the band count themselves lucky and run? Niossa, ‘Carry the faith friends. We are the band.’

 

They rush the force not far in front them.

 

A tactical mind would reach conclusion the number of skirmishes with the enemy are unwelcome risk and slowdown. The idealistic band feel putting to just end “dark forces” is good work and vengeance. Carve a path of death. Every dead enemy is a living lungful to their world.

 

Common sense never stops the chosen.

 

Clash of arms once more, unsurprisingly the uncivilized Uc Tae fail to break. The best favor went was fairly wounding a few mace wielders. Zeal and skill wouldn’t keep the three alive much longer. Poleaxes from the flanks began to close the net. Standing in an elegant pose, their flautist ally sent a few beads crashing into the advancing poleaxe ranks, winged predator as it were, swooping in.

 

Effectively broken up, the ones not downed are in disarray. Given the close proximity of her bandmates foregoes direct attacks again for now. Beads fly in close and away repeatedly, feints the distraction. All the same the Uc Tae have to keep fighting. Their number dwindles, organized line uneven. The mace warriors outnumber the attackers but can’t keep going if this keeps up. The crystals bound to intervene again too.  

 

The bulbous ice end shatters itself upon a shield, knocking the warrior on their back, the next end swung down hard onto their chest, shattering as well.

 

Niossa parries a mace toward his muscular leg and uses a free hand to shove the opponent back.

 

MORTAL EMBRACE - two beads slam into a poleaxe user’s torso from two sides at once. Sudden Melody attack defending a distracted Bakil from a stalking enemy.

 

The Ithridi left unmarked all this time.

 

Baelyn feels a sensation – alarmed, ‘The necklet…something’s off.’ Retrieving the decoration from his person, held it up to his eyes, saw a vibration. He promptly glanced at the Ithridi.

 

Reacted to the presence of another activated necklet in vicinity. Only one meaning. Shouting a warning, ‘Watch out! The other necklet’s power is building!’ 

 

Dust from the necklet once poured onto the open palm and blown onto, the powerful, dusty wind is sustained directly from the open palm. The dust color gives its name.

 

‘Look alive,’ exclaims Bakil, ‘That move be ASHEN MEMORIAL!’ And now have to deal with it. Accompanied by an intense roar, the wind speed on the verge of compromising footing and dust restricts vision, breathing a sudden struggle. Combatants brace their bodies and try shielding eyes.

 

‘We have to end that magic user!’ urges Bakil shouting to be heard above the roar and barely at that.

 

His great, muscular frame creeped forward, Niossa strains against the force, Crusher held vertically in front, a flat side facing the enemy, shields but a portion of his mass. Any remaining Uc Tae fled, they’d know the wind’s ability. Prior engagements fought to the last.

Bakil likewise held his weapon wide in front his person; unluckiest Baelyn, the quarterstave only allowing himself to render a prop, an end digging into the ground to steady himself.  

 

Grey, flying dust best friend to vision. Seeing through only ‘good’ so far as semi-transparent in preference to your taste. Tieves beheld the scene, breathing into her wind instrument without pause the entire duration, her beads instructed into a holding pattern of two counter rotating circles well above. Her acute eyes make out shadowy shapes, importantly her companions. What now? 

 

The tiny particles…any longer might strip skin off flesh. This be ‘wind of dirt.’

 

Her comrades up against it, becomes protectress. The elfin shields comrades from that dangerous wind behind Melody’s NOBLE’S GUARD. From above crystals descend, positioned in front the warriors. While she doesn’t do herself the same.

 

NOBLE’S GUARD - a portion or up to all fourteen beads coalesce into a curved toward convex shield shape, bulging from the user or others behind the ready made shield. One crystal for Bakil, not enough to form a convex or curve; other companions behind a few crystals each. The wind blast effects are greatly reduced, though not wholly. Its also something else hearing the many, many particles impact crystal.  

 

These wonders, floating barely above the trail’s surface, advances slowly – towards the wind’s origin. The three warriors walk along with.

 

RECHERCHE to the lips, exquisite features but a few moments are disturbed. A poleaxe Uc Tae got in strike range. Mighty fast elven reflexes kick the pole aside. Some kick delivered body blows follow, dropping them, the finale stepped one foot on that face and spun her body elegant body half circle - a thirtieth after all.

 

The palm’s zephyr ceased not. ASHEN MEMORIAL: as in marking euphemistically where enemies fall; memory of them, existence, covered in it.

 

Noble brought the three close at hand. Charging into the wind a tough proposition all the same. The dwarf man changed to a throw of BUDDY GEMSTONE connecting. He orders stop the zephyr, simple as a closed palm does just that.

 

Tieves sprints over, swifter than a human. The men emerge from behind the shields. No consequence from that juvenile display of arrogance. The Ithridi’s enemies stand near.

Baelyn no longer felt the sensation and said as much, eying his necklet. Niossa proposes plying some information, the perfect little man for the job in the party.

 

A wiseman’s wisdom. FRIGID TOUCH! An ice block grew around the already helpless victim’s foot, when the staff hit there. ‘Cold feet?!’

 

Niossa repeats his thinking.

 

MORTAL EMBRACE caps the matter.

 

On inspecting this other necklet, find the being’s shoulder mark as before – everyone knew the deal in a name this time.

 

Hanging in the sky, a scarred moon. The next day is well at hand. Make any effort to conceal their presence? They are the band.

 

The vantage gave a sight for great distance. Next trick getting off, standing or sitting on the escarpment slope.

 

The straight plan is to allow the beads to lower them down. Tieves is uneasy, she has to see where the beads are going and the terrain wasn’t cooperating. Baelyn pressures so what if the place obstructs her vision? The man had not appreciated the risk.

‘In case you’re thinking of that river Eltara Rill,’ Tieves warns. The river crossing was then.

 

Eventually discussion leads to levitating each Florian on a bead despite the hazard, she last descending the high geographical point.

 

Before walking, the girl says her beads could become more powerful. Each big piece can become pieces a finger length in diameter, so more numerous. Elaborates unable perform that move. Coaxing that power, one first has to start with one single bead and work one’s way with the rest.

 

A small predatory flower consumes a tiny animal none noticed nearby.

 

Tieves had close calls but the goal of keeping her alive stands achieved. The plants brought out; Bewitching incense is made.

 

CURSED VINE encountered along a shallow stream, they shot from underwater to entangle when something detected in range. Initially behind a disguise of attractive, non-threatening flowers. A trap. Necklets don’t seem required for every Uc Tae spell.

 

Two lengths of beads, five each join together in PILLAR, this case two of them counter rotating at fairly low speed, tearing up vines as they emerge, clearing a path of advance till clear of the stream.

 

Bakil dubs her elf of a thousand uses.

 

Luck proven subjective. Later a lone unclean Uc Tae meets with company. ENTHRALLED PEONAGE. They aren’t the only ones to trap. The music is heard, doubtful can enjoy it. This move commands beads to fly different paths round a target in close proximity who’ll be hit if moving too much. Then again defensive property protects the user or who she wishes. Parrocks to new, frightful and creative height, their people have not graduated to be called people. Right now just one bead.

 

Bakil remarks if anything that necklace can’t do. The band approach. His blood stone secures cooperation.

 

A walk took them to a cave entrance, many times higher than a man or the Unnameable. ‘The Kraal lies beyond,’ Baelyn sombre.

Elven eyes told her, ‘Extends deep underground.’

 

Step across its mouth they do.

 

The first sign of resistance are dozens, fifty Uc Tae warriors, standing, ready to face them. They’d been walking some time, the entrance barely visible behind the band.

‘All of you. Closer to me,’ Tieves orders. Loosens the pouch’s drawstring. A tune no companion heard whilom.

 

In the air crystals assume a round, conical shape pattern with gaps, next each level flies in counter rotating directions speedily. Not to be confused with ENTHRALLED PEONAGE. ‘Forward we go,’ says she and all begin walking, the shield advances slowly too. The shield knocks away obstacles, projectiles…and enemies by velocity of crystals – NOBLE EDIFICE.

 

Her charges are utterly enthralled – no trick, really in front their eyes. This close and so many, sound of their repeated circling noted by the ears. Bakil, ‘Elf, you are…I’m lost for words.’ His power is time limited – hers however…

 

A thrown poleaxe knocked away.

 

The defence, early part anyway, broken, the maiden recalls the crystals to necklace form after halting their movement. Music now could call attention. The shattered defenders well far away.

 

Positively massive the cave system, the roof far above their noggins. ‘Heart of the beast,’ utters Niossa. By rights should be subfusc. Their uncivilized enemies gave thought for incredibly illumination provided by giant glow worms each length of a trio of men and thick as one, slowly crawling or fidgeting. Bio luminescence makes a natural light source, preventing the place being subfusc to the eyes. Individuals scattered across the wall and roof. The light strength equivalent to somewhere around late evening.

 

The band press forward.

 

Fighting for their lives. The both sides caught in a close quarters fight necessitated by the room, a chamber of the cave system. In the space four versus a horde dozens strong. Th Uc Tae naturally fight fiercely. Tieves, sword gripped, complemented by hand to hand skills of kicks, punches or throws. Elegantly fast, athletic. Portrait of death. Her companions pushed hard by a force often rushing ahead and trying to surround.

 

Lands FRIGID TOUCH on a shield; the wielder lowers it when a sudden foot sized ice block grew on it. Guard open, his sideways strike to the head knocked them over. Crystalline shaped with protrusions, weight impedes and slows enemies.

 

Baelyn runs, some fighters chase. Escapes round a corner, reaching a nook, readies his weapon. The space between life and the beyond.

 

Elsewhere one in a group breaks a necklet and immediately covered by an all-black coating.

 

As enemies close, swung it. Large chunks of solid ice with a narrow gap betwixt them. This wall man height and wide as two, forms in bare moments in front Baelyn. Diaphanousness partly obscured when watching through its ice the enemy. Shortly thereafter the chunks in staggard order fly forward a short distance and fall, the impact knocks back and stammers them. COLD TALION.  

 

Next with enough of their kind in proximity, from itself to them a deep black energy connects tens of others, forcing them combined to take on a shape, four legged, towering over any man and very long. The roar permeated the chamber.

 

Many of their number casualties about the floor and walls, all survivors rush out the space.

 

The surprised band regroup. At most some bruises on a couple men. Alertly exiting themselves following the horde’s path into the expanse of the main cave system once more.

 

The footsteps fading, the fighters are rapidly trotting away – opening a distance. The answer closer to the band. ‘In Phaedra’s name,’ whispers Niossa as himself and companions look at a deep black being, wating.

 

‘The stories were true then,’ says Bakil, an unenviable talent identifying enemy magic. ‘A necklace of UDJURI. The beasts join together in a stronger one.’

‘That in their power?’ Niossa says shaken.

‘Dark magical affinity from power of it,’ Tieves says, not scared but calm on the surface.

 

Given time to form because other warriors held off the band in the chamber. Defence had gotten tougher and more creative in a freakish way.

 

The Kraal is past this thing,’ Baelyn notes. ‘I’d like to run past but I don’t see how.’

‘That would be the point,’ observes Niossa. ‘The lengths Uc Tae go.’

Tieves, ‘I see no way past it and no way to retreat.’

 

The Florians just expended energy in a colossal fight and the next was round the corner. The elven substitutes the blade with RECHERCHE. ‘MELODY can distract, the rest of you run for the Kraal.’

Baelyn cared not to say she contradicted herself. ‘Forbear. Quest as one, battle as one.’ This proclamation wasn’t second guessed. Yasdreen’s image flashes in her mind.

 

It begins. The UDJURI expectedly fierce and determined. Launching powerful strikes, the cave section quakes from its movement alone. The team have to watch each other, while evading. The band try reciprocating with familiar attacks: sword, axe, ice and hammering crystal concussive impacts. Common thread is each side share determination.

 

A second time Tieves levitated up Niossa on one of the crystals. The man jumped off to land on the creature’s back and whack away till forced off.  

 

By manoeuvre, unintentionally Niossa wound up near a precipice, the being went for him, in turn allowing Melody crystals to push the entity over for a long fall.

 

It’d been a gruelling fight. The final defence shattered; a short walk takes the band to a large double door. Niossa’s blade tip pushes and the entrance gives way, parting slowly. Revealed a spacious chamber, illuminated by a glow worm suspended some distance from the ceiling and held in a litter connected to the ceiling by a cord. Therein are elites judging by the attire unlike any seen thus far, although less elaborate compared to an Ithridi’s. Eight seated at a table, for “chairs” are lesser Uc Tae bent on all fours, their very backs chair bottoms. Culmination of a journey, nerve center of the Uc Tae, body that sets decisions – The Kraal.

‘Welcome band of light,’ words of one of the twelve.

 

The addressed make their way past the door. Crystal in necklace form, Tieves readies her short sword. ‘In the name of the Council of Peers,’ declares Baelyn, ‘we cleanse you for all Phaedra.’ Here cleanse known to be a polite word for extermination. The “quest” all along.

 

The Kraal is calm as before, discoursing through a vertical mouth, ‘Before anything else an exchange of words.’ Nobody exuded fear at the battle, the uproar of which must have penetrated this room from outside. ‘Everything till now designed to lead to this moment.’

 

There would be executioners collectively froze and went confused. The latter barely exhibited by the elf, raising a silver eyebrow.

 

‘For the good of all descend quietly into the night.’ Says Baelyn finally. The formula of beauty took a combat stance.

‘Wasn’t your refusal to be discreet travelling that lead to fights – we purposely ensured your obstacles would test you and make you united if you were not.’

 

A chuckle escaped Niossa’s heavy frame. Boasts, ‘We bested your warriors through fortitude, skill, destiny.’

‘Kraal will lent much. Any battle was set to be nothing you couldn’t overcome. In so many words we practiced restraint. We Kraal expected the Peers with a perceived threat of the Drachenloch, would dispatch strong fighters.’ Their accomplishment no surprise. 

Bakil not one to hold back disdain, ‘A good helping of madness with the wickedness.’

‘Think us fools.’ seconded Niossa, ‘You arranged our battles?’ Their efforts not the enemy’s, why reigned supreme every encounter. ‘You’ve went on long enough.’

 

‘We need the Florians,’ comes the Kraal. So far revelation fights were not aimed at the band’s decimation and Drachenloch a reason for their quest to ensure a meeting. ‘Invoke the name then.’

Tieves spoke, ‘Even true words changes not your fate.’

Spunky Bakil to the rescue. ‘Tricks to save your filthy lives. Don’t blame you. I’d call stupid that Drachenloch god too if I’m foul as…’

 

Blink of an eye manifests behind a short distance of the Kraal. This reason enough for such a big room? Doesn’t bare repeating dwarfed all others. Second time the dwarf brought it.

 

A Kraal member stands and is eaten. Florians register shock – the elven isn’t immune, written on her visage clear as any day. ‘This far in deference to their god?!’

‘So that I may have speech. Obtain from others I must; the sacrifice goes away when I disappear. Thus unable to converse at our last meeting. And god, call me what you will.’ The voice imposing as before the Peers and now their agents. ‘Yasdreen not my intent, but fate’s.’

 

‘Don’t Baelyn.’ Niossa gripped the staff, cutting off whatever magic was coming.

 

‘Lend your ears and minds Florian. Was not by coincidence you are before me, but providence. Peerage Hall first step getting representatives of the other races to meet us face to face. Were it done any other way no one would accept our invitation. We are brought together to deliver a message, I the guarantor: the Uc Tae and all races live in peace, we share Phaedra for all. With surety am prepared to look no more at the abuses you inflict on us.’

 

‘Are no pacts between beasts and men.’ Baelyn debasing. Glancing the girl’s way signal for the ultimate weapon. Sailing from her hand a small pouch, on contact with Drachenloch spills contents on its body.

 

No reaction.

 

Bewitching incense would allow them to control it and even destroy its allies. ‘Can’t destroy me, control me. If you want the desired result, try more. Make haste to your precious council, my peace branch in hand.’

 

Awed by this power, the Florians take their leave.  

 

End.

 

Author’s note – stock characters, trick is placed them in a I hope reader, you find an inventive narrative.

The spark a YouTube vid of a certain speech by president Bush Sr of the USA. The story was named The Speech. Months went and the idea expanded in page length and scope. Basically much of what transpires after the speech part.

Tieves first to be named and most developed, the barbarian named second and swung past expectations with him by his reasoning skill. His weapon draws inspiration from a Macuahuitl wielded by native Indians…and Mortal Kombat. The baddies say goodbye to cookie cutter tropes and bigotry adds its own flavor. The end inverted the expected – the enemy everyone decided bane of the world. The band “dark heroes?” in typical fantasy orcs and other such enemies given little substance, have no point of view. The reader sympathizes with or very least lend philosophical thought to mine.

Appearance of the band’s rank and file foes borrowed from a dinosaur. Crowns.  

Was at pains to accommodate variety: locale; enemy attacks; character mix and personality.

Argute name wise a good reflection on its owner, reader?

Closest I can picture to you is my own LORD OF THE RINGS, prep included viewing the first two films. My first encounter with anything in that universe was at the cinema many years ago.

Felt a lifetime penning. This short story took months. Alot of that time a few sentences per day – if I wrote at all, albeit. What amounts to last few or more paragraphs took weeks and time at home gave limitless chances to finish. Power went for hours and took the chance reach the end minus internet distraction. I wrote the forty something page DELICTUM’S PANG, in the middle of this. That one took on a scale all its own. Short story feels akin to a novella.  

During the time dedicated to my good friend as I have for people I lose. 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Submitted: June 28, 2021

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