Mori: Rise of the Heroes


Wall and Mila spent the better part of the day putting space between themselves and Havensbridge, and no one they had passed on the road had paid them any mind. They had seen the sunrise from the road, and the sun was starting to dip down again below the horizon. MIla glanced at the caravan passing them on her left, and as the wagon rolled past, she spotted a crude wooden wall, about half a mile down the road – a town border of some backwater of Sesenne.

Mila came to a stop seeing the wall and tugged Wall back towards her. “It’s about to be dark and I’d rather not be on the road then. I think we’ve put enough distance between us to avoid any bounty hunter or whatever.” She rolled her eyes thinking of the pig that tried to have her killed. To the left, about 100 yards from the wall, she spotted a rundown, abandoned looking barn. She gestured to Wall, “Let’s rest here and get an early start. Khila amin!”
She didn’t wait for Wall to disagree or really have any say before taking off into a sprint towards the barn.

Walgrin looks about and nods, “Hardly the best accommodations, but they’ll check inns and homes first. I’ll see if I can get some bramble to give us some more cover us more than just these rotten walls.” He rolls his eyes a bit as he adjusts his goggles, “I didn’t think I’d be hiding out from bounty hunters this week, especially after we helped out the city in their time of need.” He groans and admits, “Probably some power play, trying to keep us from getting any footing in their political reformation that’s about to occur, perhaps?” The blonde man posits idly as he looks for some branches or anything to provide a bit more cover.

“Lle lakwenien? I pissed them off. I’m kind of good at that if you haven’t noticed.” Mila tsks as she inspects the rotting farmhouse. “I’m surprised we got away with our lives. Amin weera yassen lle, there’s something wrong with their political system. All I want to do is find that book and get back to causing trouble.” She sighs while she picks up some fallen branches. “You work on making this thing less creepy. I’ll work on a fire and something to eat. Even though I’m not good at building a fire…or cooking…” She mumbles the last statement as she walks inside the farmhouse. “Shout if someone tries to kill you!”

The smell of years permeated the abandoned building, and a layer of dust covered every surface. As Mila walked in, to the left were three horse stalls, with old and nearly rotted tack going on the back wall of each. To the right, there were two larger pens, likely for hogs or the farm dogs. A ladder stood at the back of the bottom floor, leading up to a loft that looked empty from Mila’s point of view.

Mila groans as she looks upon the less than glorious conditions and drops the branches she had gathered. “Polvec, this place reeks…” She scouts the area despite being fairly certain no one would be desperate enough to call such a place a long term home and spots the ladder leading to a loft. “That might be a better place to sleep at least…especially should someone happen upon this place. Plus it’s away from the hog and horse sh…” She stops her open thoughts when she hears a noise and turns around quickly, her hand grabbing the hilt of her sword, only to see some leaves blowing in the ever increasing wind outside. “Oy. Calm down, Mila.” She sighs and looks back at the ladder. “Perhaps there will be some dry hay up here as well that can help get a fire started.” She mumbles as she begins to climb the ladder.

The ladder groans and creaks as Mila climbs. Rotting hay lies strewn across the upper floor, and a set of shutters cover the window opening on the back wall. A number of barrels and boxes are there as well, lined up in a kind of cover from the window itself. As Mila approaches the window, she sees an arrow lodged in the window-facing side of one of the boxes.

Mila steps carefully in the loft, the rot and unkept nature not seeming alarming until she sees the arrow and the odd surroundings near the window it rests in. She keeps the make shift cover of boxes and barrels in the corner of her eye as she plucks the arrow from it’s resting spot. Despite the dying and abandoned nature of all other contents of the barn- the arrow’s shaft was in good shape and it’s fletching still dry and fresh. Her eyes shift downward as she brings her index finger to the tip of the arrow and just barely presses it against it but the sharp tip pierces her skin easily. She takes a deep breath and holds it as she watches the blood drip from her finger. The fresh arrow and the fact that it was fired into the loft strongly suggested someone else is either present or nearby. Her ears fall flat as she listens for any sound in the loft. The draw of a bow string, the shuffle of a foot…but silence remains. Realizing that in the small loft area she be at a greater risk of falling and breaking a limb if she were to draw her sword in an attempt to defend, she devises a new strategy quickly. Outwardly she seems perfectly calm and secure as she twirls the arrow between her fingers, letting her blood stain it. “Lle tela? Amin autien rath. Sii’.” She called out loud enough for Walgrin to hear her. Hopefully the suddenness of her statement, completely in elven, would draw him into the barn.

Walgrin had gathered a fair bit of bramble to serve as a wind buffer and to hopefully make the rundown barn more pleasant to sleep in, but the Mila’s call in elven caught him a bit of guard. She doesn’t speak that way in that tongue. He sighs and places his sword under the bundle he carries in case there’s trouble, “Aye, aye. I’m coming.” He enters the building cautiously, eyes flicking about as he tries to ascertain what’s happening. “Find anything good?” He replies as he finds himself cursing the loss of his god-senses, mortality can just be so troublesome. He gives his head a little shake as he heads toward Mila, Not the time Walgrin. Curse your luck later.

“Dina.” Mila hushes as he enters the barn, her eyes focused on the window and the makeshift barrier in the loft. She takes slow and careful steps backwards, the rotting wood creaking painfully under her boots. As she reaches the ladder she doesn’t attempt to climb down yet but looks over her shoulder briefly as she tosses the arrow down to Walgrin, ensuring that it landed on top of the bundle in his arms before her eyes flick back to the loft. “Manke tanya tuula.” She falls silent as she listens carefully once more before she takes a step onto the stairs and begins to descend from the loft. “Tira ten’ rashwe.”

Overstayed Welcomes

(Mila’s quarters, Havensbridge)

Two men marched with purpose. The larger man, taller by almost half a foot, glanced down at his companion. As they stopped, he nodded.

“This is the room,” he whispered as he loosened his short sword from its scabbard.

Suddenly, Mila’s eyes shot open.


She shook her head to cast off the last vestiges of her trance, and listened intently.

“I heard she single-handedly took on that giant Dragoon thing in Falcrest,” the voice in the hallway said shakily, “I don’t like this one bit.”
“It don’t matter what you like,” a second voice responded. “Boss says she’s overstayed her welcome.”

Mila heard the hinge of the door squeak, and the shadows showed the slow steady movement of the door.

In the mere seconds Mila had to take action it seemed a hundred strategies had hammered her mind. Should she attempt to hide? Flee? Fight back? Nothing was clear except the dagger she had managed to retrieve beneath her pillow as she listened to the conversation outside.

With the squeak of the hinge and the shadows growing larger in her room by the second, she quickly grabbed the pillow beside her and in one swift movement, used it to replace her body underneath the covers as she quietly fell to the floor, laying flat on her stomach.

Only with the sound of their footsteps would she crawl towards the edge of the bed in order to keep herself hidden but also get a better look at those sent to end her stay. Only dressed in a long shirt Walgrin had given her for comfort and her armor neatly piled in a chair close to the door, she knew that she only had one shot to take out one of the guards in order to flee the room.

Nadorhuanrim, she thought in her mind as she got as best of a look as she could without being seen. The only thing she could make out about their physique was that one was quite taller than the other. The short one was her passage out of there.

Gripping the dagger tightly she continued to crawl until they should have been able to see her. She would then jump to her feet quickly and attempt to attack the shorter guard from the front, aiming the dagger towards his throat, while her free hand attempted to grab for his sword.

The sound was just enough that the guard was able to reach up and bat the dagger away before it hit flesh. He took his gauntleted fist and drove it into Mila’s unguarded midsection.

Fist vs Mila - 0,-,-,+ = -1 + Forceful +3 = +2

Mila vs Fist: -,-,0,+ = -1 + Quick +2 = +1

Mila’s attention followed the dagger as it was batted carelessly away by the guard and in turn she was too late to avoid the hit to her stomach, taking it hard and forcing her backwards onto the ground.

Weaponless, without protection, and little else to do lest she catch more attention from other guards outside, she raises her right hand up to the guard who punched her as her left clutches her stomach in pain.

“Stop…stop!” She pleaded through struggled gasps of air from having it knocked out of her.

“Whatever he is paying you I will double it! Not only in gold but power! I have connections with both humans and elves…I can make you kings if you let me go…”

Her eyes flicked between both guards. Nothing but lies spewed from her tongue but she had known men long enough to know that gold and power was an irresistible offer.

“Please take my offer.”

Offer Vs Guards: -,0,+,+ = +1 + Clever +2 = +3
Tall Guard vs Offer: 0,-,0,+ = 0 + Clever +1 + Fiercely Loyal +2 = +3
Short Guard vs Offer: 0,-,-.+ = -1 + Clever +1 = 0

As the shorter guard reached down to grab at Mila’s nightdress as her offer met his ears. He stopped for a moment unsure how to proceed. Most just begged for their lives, but Mila’s offer had a sincerity to it that gave him pause.

“Just how much gold we talkin’ here?” he asked.

The taller one piped up from behind. “I don’t think I believe her Erron. The boss ain’t never been anything but good to us and don’t much like the idea of changin’ that. Besides, we could kill her and find whatever gold she’s got ourselves.”

“Maybe. But I like the idea of servin’ some fancy elf lord.”

“I don’t care about no stupid elf lord, I like the boss.”

“Yeah, well maybe I don’t like doin’ dirty work for the Viceroy no more.”

“You ain’t supposed to say his name, idiot,” the taller one exclaimed as he hit the shorter guard on the arm.

Mila rolled her eyes as the two bickered but saw an opportunity to escape.

She quietly shifted her body back and away from the two until her back was against the wall. She would use it as a crutch to get back on her feet, being sure to only move an inch at a time as not to draw attention yet.

Ignoring the pain in her abdomen as much as possible, she took a deep breath before taking a small step towards the shorter guard only to make her next step a leap at him.

Putting all of her weight into the launch against him, she hoped to knock him to the ground and catch both of them off guard long enough for her to disarm the shorter guard before the taller guard caught on to her plan.

Mila vs Shorty: +, -, -, - = -2 + arguing +2= 0 + Forceful +3 = +3
Short Guard vs Mila: 0,0,0,+ = +1 + Careful +2 = +3

The guard caught Mila’s movement out of the corner of his eye and braced for the impact just as Mila’s shoulder caught him in the chest. The taller guard pulled his sword from its scabbard and made his way toward Mila as the shorter guard gasped for breath.

Boost on Short Guard: Gasping for Air
Tall vs Mila 0,-,-,- = -3 Forceful +2 = -1

Mila Vs Shorty: 0, +, -, + = +1 + Boost +2 = +3 + Careful +1 = +4

Mila shifted her body until her back was to the shorter guard, bringing her elbow up from the impact point on his chest and slamming it into his nose. As she felt the warm blood from the fracture begin drip onto her arm, she pulled his sword from the scabbard and pulled him in front of her to act as a shield for the few moments he would remain standing.

As the shorter guard crumbled to the ground with a painful groan, Mila gave the other guard a small smirk.

“Now it’s a little more even.”

She let out a soft sigh as she considered the situation. Between the hit to her stomach and throwing her body weight to take out the shorter guard, she had little physical strength left. This guard was taller and heavy with armor. She would have to hope that her short height compared to him combined with the lack of heavy armor would make her light on her feet and give her some sort of advantage.

“I’ll give you a chance to walk away.” She huffed before raising the sword, ready to attack. “You would be wise to take it.”

Mila Vs. Tall guard: 0, -, +, - = +1 + Quick +2 = +3
Tall guard vs attack: 0,-,+,+ = +1 Quick +1 = +2

The guard momentarily considered running. The hesitation was enough for Mila to hit him in the temple with the flat of the blade, crumpling him to the floor.

Mila leaned against the wall and fell to her knees.

“Feuyaerea.” She huffed as she stared at the two passed out guards.

Her gaze shifted to her armor and she forced herself back to her feet, knowing that more would come if the guards didn’t report back.

She grabbed the neat pile but kept the sword she took in her right hand should the need to use it arise before she was in the clear.

Stepping over the guards she paused at the doorway and confirmed it was empty before making her way down the hall.

Her ears perked as she passed Walgrin’s quarters. She started to move on but stopped. He could be killed for association. Her chest heaved with a weary sigh before she brought her knuckles to his door and knocked gently.

“Walgrin, it’s Mila. Open up, quickly!”
Walgrin jolted awake with a groaned sigh, Stupid mortal flesh. He rolls onto his backside as he pushes off the bed to stand up and grabs his pants, “Aches and pains, sleep and dreams, I miss being awake at all hours and never tiring.” He gets to the door and opens it a crack to see who asking his attention at this hour, “Mila?” He blinks, “What’s going on?”
Mila pushes Walgrin back into his room and quickly follows, shutting and locking the door behind her.

“You didn’t hear any of it?” She questions with a look of confusion.

She pushes past him and throws her sword and armor onto the bed.

“That Viceroy pig sent some guards to eliminate me. Suppose I got under his skin.”

She groans in pain as she pulls the night shirt off and begins to put her armor on, gritting her teeth as she did.

“I managed to deal with them for the moment but I have no doubt more will be on the way soon.”

She turns back to him as she pulls on her tunic, letting him see the growing bruise on her abdomen.

“I’m leaving and I think you should, too.”

Walgrin is still shaking off the sleep from himself, but Mila’s words rouse his mind from his sleep addled state and he starts getting prepared himself, “Most of the government is murdered in a surprise assault, and we help them get settled from the chaos. Such a wonderful way of thanking us they have here.”

He sighs and quickly gets himself dressed and begins putting on his armor, “How many came after you? They must have been hoping to get us in our sleep.” He shakes his head, “Damnit, why now? Why at all?” He groans as he hefts his breastplate on and reaches for Cleft Reality.

“So where are we going? Unfortunately for me, this world isn’t mine. I’ve only just started to learn my way around this place.” He sighs, “Sorry, My problem, I suppose, but would you mind if I tagged along? Getting out of here would be easier with someone who knew where they might go. The gates or the docks are really my only thoughts at this point.” He shakes his head, “What a way to wake up.”
“Why? Because he couldn’t accept the truth. And I did kind of threaten him…” She mumbles as she finishes putting on her boots.

“Two came but I know he has more at his disposal.” She grabs the sword and moves back to the door when her ears twitch.

“Where to go? Shit, I have no idea. I’m new to this area.” She sighs putting her palm against her forehead.

“I doubt we would make it out on a boat alive. This chubby lord seems to have eyes where he needs them. Let’s make for the gates and try to get into the forest. We can figure out the rest then.” She says confidently as she unlocks the door and checks the hallway once more.

“Okay, looks clear. Let’s move. And can you come with me? What a silly question. I’d rather not fight in sleep wear in an unfair match again.” She gives him a faint smile before carefully stepping back into the hall.

The two stepped out into the hall, and after taking a moment to get her bearings, Mila led Wall down a corridor to a staircase. The staircase took the pair down to ground level, where they were able to leave the hold.

Havensbridge had a well laid out inner court, which made navigating out of the area relatively easy. The two slowed to a saunter, as to not attract any attention, and soon found themselves at the gates to the outer city.

“Wallgrin. Mila.”

Mila’s hand instinctively reached for her sword as the promagai’s form came into focus from the darkness.

“My guards informed me as to what happened. You are right to leave, the viceroy will no doubt hear your escape sooner than later. Wallgrin, I’ve given some thought as to how we can retrieve the galanti. Our scryers can tell that the orcs hold the galanti in the mountains near the Isktashi border. The town of Loren is on the coast, to the west. I can procure safe passage from Loren to Isktash.”

She held out a small coin sized piece of silver. “I’ve attuned this coin to the galanti, you’ll feel its pull in the direction of the stones. As you get closer it will get stronger.” She handed the coin to Wall. “I wish I had more time to give you guidance, but you must move. Be away from the city by dawn. I will do what I can from here. The viceroy has overstepped his bounds, but his deep pockets control the swords. If you can retrieve the galanti, the guilds power may be strong enough to overcome him.”

“I will have an agent of the guild contact you in Loren. Good travels, Wallgrin and tenna’ ento lye omenta, Mila.”

Mila relaxed upon seeing the familiar face and gave a silent nod to the escape plan. Her eyes drifted from the Promagi to Wallgrin as she handed him the coin.

“On my life, the galanti will be returned to it’s rightful home.” She said with no hesitance as her eyes moved back to meet the Promagi once more. “And I will be back. I have unfinished business here.”

She smirked slightly before crossing her right arm over her chest and laying her fist atop her heart as she bowed her head respectfully.

Tenna’ san’.” She whispered in response. “Thank you for your help.”

Her eyes moved to Wallgrin with a small smile of relief. “Lle merna aut? It will be dawn sooner than I would like it to be.”

The Will of the Viceroy

(Havensbridge Council Chambers, Havensbridge, Sessenne)

For the second morning in a row, the Havensbridge Council was meeting and it seemed that nothing more would be accomplished in the second day of debate. Everyone agreed that the fall of Falcrest was troubling, but no consensus could be reached as to what to do about it.

Lord Falcrest arrived midday on the first day of debate, and immediately moved to retake his seat. Lords Trator and Creste wanted to shore their city defenses. Promagai Rianna believed that nothing was more important than the locating and recapture of the stolen galanti, and the Havensbridge army commander, Lord General Wrothion supported her, but only in so much that he wanted to take the flight to the Isktari.

Most distressing however was the Viceroy Havensbridge himself, the rotund man sitting at the head of the table. At any moment he could call an end to the arguing and do what he wished with his army, but at the moment he seemed more interested in the roast duck on the platter in front of him than with any possible solution to the problem at hand – so the six remained at the table and the debate rolled on.

Wall and Mila, having been called as witnesses to the events in Falcrest, remained in the council chambers. Lord Falcrest had summoned them after his arrival to thank them personally for their efforts in his home, and to get more information about what had happened in his city. Falcrest was at first skeptical of the tales of the giant sand breathing creature that had laid waste to his seat, but as the story was corroborated by multiple others he had accepted this ‘dragon’ creature to be a real threat. He was at the same time proud and dismayed to hear of the city guards attempts to hold off the orc army, and was more than disturbed to hear that the galanti were in enemy hands.

“Enough,” Falcrest screamed as he slammed a fist on the table, overturning Lord Creste’s cup, “this bickering is getting us nowhere. As we stand here my city burns!”

The promagai sighed, “Yes, Lord Falcrest, it is so. But as I’ve said repeatedly, the greater danger must be dealt with first. The galanti are a focus, capable of amplifying the magics cast into them 100 times over. If we are to believe the stories of these ‘dragons’ that Ser Walgrin has entertained us, an army of these creatures could lay waste to Sessenne, Telontara and anywhere else the Isktari wish to conquer.”

Viceroy Havensbridge coughed, took a deep draught of his mulled wine, and groaned as he sat up in his chair. “I grow tired of these fairy tales, Promagai, just as I grow tired of hearing your voices.” He took another drink, some of which spilled out on his tunic, and coughed again. “Falcrest, I assign three brigades to you. Take your city back so your council rather than me can listen to your pratterings. I will send men to Trator and Creste as well, to ensure your defenses are suitable.” The viceroy rose from his seat. “As for the Isktari, I will not fight a war. They will be dealt with when and if they are found in my borders. Havensbridge has never fallen, and will not do so now. Dismissed.” Despite the clamor of disagreement that rose from the table, the viceroy turned and walked out the door of the chamber with out a second glance.

“Fool,” the promagai spat as the viceroy disappeared down the hall. “He will be the doom of us all.”

“Indeed,” Lord Creste added, “he sits fat and pretty in his keep, refusing to do anything that might take a beast off his table. Falcrest, I will support your campaign to take the city back. You have my word.”

“Thank you,” Falcrest replied then pause for a moment. “Three brigades… Less than a fifth of the standing troops of Havensbridge. He sends me not to get my city back, but to fall of the field of battle.”

“And none of it will matter if the galanti and not retrieved,” the promagai reminded them, “yet he does nothing to facilitate their return.”

Walgrin sighs at the proceedings, he’d forgotten how annoying people tended to be when they didn’t know you were capable of destroying them. He rubs the bridge of his nose, checking to make sure they’re alone with the promagai, and Lord Falcrest.

“His worming… Normal for rulers of your land, or signs of his cooberation with our enemies?” He shakes his head, “Forgive me for being so blunt, but he seems content with his enemies being in power, and your ports belonging to them.” He sighs as he tries to recount the city and its fortifications to offer sound strategy to Lord Falcrest and help him make the best use of the sparse forces he was lended.

He then looks to the promagai, “Marching an army after the galanti would only provoke your enemies, but a small group sent out to find them would most likely have more luck, and attract less attention.” He offers a plan using himself with the best of intentions.

Mila listened to roaring arguments with a sense of disdain. When summoned to the chambers she had been sure to dawn her cape to cover her ears, not sure how those whom she had not yet encountered yet would react to a halfling in their midsts. Though as each voice fought to rise over the next, her ears began to twitch so much she feared they would fling the hood of the cape off at any moment.

When Havensbridge made his command, she let out a deep unsatisfied sigh and followed the group out silently. As Walgrin spoke with the Promagi and Lord Falcrest, she reflected and organized in her mind the situation that had just happened, and without a word to any of them- turned back and marched back through the door at the back of the chamber where Havensbridge now sat at another table, picking at parts of the pig.

She stood at the opposite end of the table, eyeing him for what seemed like forever- hoping he would acknowledge her pressence. WHen it was clear he had no intention of doing so, clearly more interested in stuffing his face then speaking to an audience, she drew a dagger from her side and slammed it so hard into the table it shook as if in an earthquake, knocking over his goblet to spill his wine over his pristine clothes. The action seemed to get his attention as he now stared at her with a mixture of confusion and anger. He opened his mouth to speak but her words quickly overtook any of his.

Lle naa haran e’ nausalle. You give orders when you weren’t there! You send men to their death as you sit there and stuff your face and refuse to listen as they tell you that there is more to this then just swords and shields!”

She grabs the dagger by its hilt and removes it from the table, pointing the tip of the blade towards him. “You don’t believe in fairytales, hmm?” With her free hand she pulls her hood back revealing her elven ears tangled in her mess of hair. “I suppose you don’t believe that elves still wander these lands then, either. Well Ascarer, you better start believing. They speak the truth on these ‘dragons’. They speak the truth on the utmost importance of the Galanti. And most importantly, they speak the truth on war! You may not want to fight but the fact is there will soon be one to be fought and you will have no choice in the matter if you do not act now!”

She takes a deep breath and closes her eyes, trying to regain composure. “You will give Lord Falcrest ample troops. More then you issued him. That is not enough for what he needs to accomplish. And then you will send a specialized team to seek out the Galanti. And all the while…you will begin preparations for war. Understood, Havensbridge?” Her eyes meet his as she awaits an answer, determined to get a brighter one from him then earlier.

Two guards stepped forward and levelled their polearms at Mila. The viceroy stared in what could be read as amusement for a moment, then the stare quickly changed over to confidence. “I’ll do nothing of the sort. I’m to believe an elf, a stranger with a tall tale, and a coward? No. I care nothing about Falcrest and his paltry lands. Falcrest is a pittance, barely worth keeping at all, costs more than it’s worth. The Isktari can have it as far as I’m concerned.”

“And as for you… elf, if you ever speak to me like that again… no, if you ever speak to me again, you’ll not see another sunrise. Begone.”

The promagai thought over Wall’s proposal. “You just might be right. Give us a day to formulate a plan. I’ll send for you.” She bowed, then turned to leave.


(Setting: Havensbridge, Sessenne; The next morning)

A crack in the lone shutter of the small quarters Mila was given in the Guard’s Tower allows for just enough light to seep through and settle on her closed eyelids. They open slowly and her vision is a soft haze for a moment before her eyes finally adjust. Judging by the position in the tower and the sunlight just having broken through, it couldn’t have been too far past dawn. She sits up slowly and sighs, her body aching still from the past days activities, but at least she wasn’t in the crippling pain she had been thanks to the ‘archer’.

Her eyes move to her plate armor that she had tossed aside once issued a bed to sleep on, never having wished for sleep more in her life. She lets out a soft sigh and shakes her head. The thought of putting that heavy wear back on again so soon didn’t sit well with her and she laid back into the bed and pulled the covers over her head. The sunlight would slowly enter the room more and reflect off of her crimson locks that strayed from under the blanket.

Though it would appear that she had chosen to go to sleep again she was everything but tired. Her thoughts ran wild as she recalled the events leading up to the present moment. The Commander whom died in her hands. Tornus, who had saved her life in one form or another, had been left at the wall and was likely dead. The child who was killed so brutally in cold blood and the eyes of the man…no, creature, that did it to her and her family. The Galanti that she had swore to keep safe but failed. The magi that saved her life and was now separated from the group again. The ‘archer’ that had also aided her but returned to the burning city. And the strange man in the quarters next to her that she knew little about…only that he liked to talk too much.

She sighs and turns onto her side, keeping the covers pulled tightly over her. She had failed. There was no getting around it. Every promise she made, she had failed to keep. It was no wonder why she wandered alone. Her attitude only made things worse and she knew it. Yet she made no effort to change. Perhaps the group would be better if she were to just leave them to their mission before she broke another promise. All thoughts that rang through her mind like bells tolling on a clock. All thoughts that wouldn’t allow her to return to sleep like she wished….hoping to awake to it all being a dream. Nightmare, rather.

Walgrin groans as he wakes from his sleep, “Damnit… I’m not sure I’m ever going to get used to sleeping again.” He sighs as he rubs the sleep out of his eyes, and tries to get his eyes adjusted to the dim light, “If the council could see me now, they’d never let me hear the end of it.” He stands and squats a few times to stretch out his legs, “Ungh” he winces as he stretches his arms, “Okay. Aches and sores. Pain.” He sighs, “Being Mortal.” The man groans as she bends over trying to finish up his stretching.

After finishing his stretching, Walgrin redresses, and puts the ridiculous goggles back onto his head. “May as well see how the woman is doing.” He heads to Mila’s room and lifts his hand to knock on the door to check on her. Irony of the situation, while her wounds were much more severe, Walgrin was probably the one more impaired. Mila has been mortal her entire life, Walgrin has only been mortal again for a year or so, and before that? He lost count of the years. He’d stop caring about the years that passed.

He shakes his head and raps his knuckles on the door to the half-elf’s room.

Mila is startled by the knock though it should be no surprise. Normally she would be up, dressed, and causing some sort of trouble by now. But the will just hadn’t come to her yet. Still tucked far under the blankets, the knock at least stopped her lamenting of the past briefly enough to think about how to respond to it. Should she ignore it and pretend to still be sleeping? Tell whomever is at the door that she is up just not yet dressed and shall be downstairs momentarily? Or perhaps she should…


She cringes as her elven tongue speaks for her, unsure even of whom she was just rude to even. With a heavy sigh she throws the blankets off and steps to her feet, cringing as she didn’t even give herself a moment to try and stretch out her sore muscles before moving to the door. She undoes the latch but only opens it a crack, still just in her chain mail and not her armor. “Apologies….I…..” She looks up to see the familiar goggles and Walgrin staring back at her before slamming the door right back in his face.

Kela. I’m not dressed yet. Nor do I wish to be.” She grumbles as she moves back to the bed and face plants onto it- now regretting getting up more than ever.

Oio naa elealla alasse’. Iire Lle desiel.” The man responds through the door with a smirk. He turns and heads back to his room, no reason to stand around outside of a door when you’re unwanted.
Walgrin heads back to his room and checks over his armor. It’s not the unbreakable thing it used to be, but hopefully it’d be sufficient to support in this venture. He pulls out the armor polish and the buffing tools he’d bought since coming to this world and set to cleaning the armor of the sand and gore of the prior day.
The armor received the brunt of the damage honestly. Hot sand dig into the lacquers and embedded themselves into the ancient armor. Working it out was going to take a while.
As he moves onto his sword, he smirks remembering his maneuver to jump from the _Magai_’s makeshift mount to stab the dragon in neck. He wipes the grin from his face as he cleans the piece of home. Thankfully still as unbreakable here as it was whence he came.
After assessing the total damage, and cataloging the things required to do? Walgrin occupies himself with his maintenance as he waits to hear his neighbor stir on her own. Rest may be hard to find in the coming days. No need to rush into the sunrise just yet. Trouble would find them again soon enough.

Mila’s ears perk up as he speaks elven back to her. “Mani…?” She sits up and looks back towards the shut door briefly before jumping back to her feet, again ignoring her aching muscles, and moving towards the table that held her armor. She doesn’t move to dress, however, instead just grabbing her blood stained sword that had managed to be recovered after the dragon fell. She stormed out of her door and over to his, not even bothering to knock before taking her shoulder and at the same time she twisted the knob to it, shoving hard against it and busting in on him tending to his armor.

Lle quena i’lambe tel’ Eldalie? Are you elven?”

Her hazel eyes glare at him in confusion and anger as she raises her sword to him. She seemed to show no embarrassment simply being in her chain mail top and shorts that would glisten in the rays that struck her when she entered- a sign that it had been woven by an Elf with only the craftsmanship they posses. Seeing her outside of her plate gear she wouldn’t seem that threatening. Certainly petite though her curves were still strong, if she didn’t have a sword in her hand any threat may be laughable coming from her lips- if it wasn’t still.

But she was angry. All that time she wasted energy on keeping her secret and suddenly it seemed everyone could communicate with her sharp, elvish tongue.

Sut? Amin n’rangwa edanea! Lle wethrine amin… why did you not say you spoke elven sooner! Who are you!” She questions as she steps towards him. “Answer me!”

Walgrin’s eyes dart from his sword as Mila enters, and he makes a few quick decisions as she speaks. First, he drops his blade and lets it clatter to the floor on which he sits cross-legged. Second he raises his hands in submission or surrender to the woman. Hopefully this diffuses things a bit? He waits and listens to her as she speaks and blushes a bit, he hadn’t meant to set her off that way. “I do~” He gulps at the sword, “I also admit a fair bit of confusion, I assumed it was a passion of yours, you speak it freely, I meant no offense.”

He leaves his hands up but points to his not quite elven ears, “I am not of the elven people, but back home I was blessed by them for deeds done in their honor.” He speaks with a slow cadence, but not too slow, he just wants to make sure that Mila doesn’t think he’s rushing, “As to why I hadn’t said so earlier?” He sighs and shrugs his shoulders, “Pleasantries weren’t really on the menu for our introductions. Amin hiraetha

He takes a deep breath and tries to introduce himself properly, “Back in my old realm, I was known as Walgrin Herdaius Fifteen. Ruler of fifteen eras. I know not how I came to be here in your world, but most all of my abilities left me as I arrived.” His eyes look down at his sword, but he makes no motion to retrieve it, “My sword, Cleft Reality, is the only time I even feel a spark of Magic on your world, but its faint, and its name is no longer quite worthy of its power. I speak elven as well as many other languages, but I’m afraid my elven is… Slightly different than what you speak. Your’s sounds… More Natural.” He smiles and shrugs his shoulders a bit.

Mila watches him with a stern glare as he drops his sword and attempts to show that he is no threat. That glare remains in her eyes and her sword still raised to him as he speaks but when he makes an apology, they soften and roll. She sits down on the ground in front of him with a huff in the same manner he was sitting, though she keeps her sword in her lap and her hand tightly on the grip. She listens carefully as he introduces himself finally, a brow raising at the notion that he was some sort of ruler from the past, and gives him a look when he mentions her elven words were ‘more natural’.

“More natural because it is what I was raised with.” She finally removes her hand from her sword and lets it rest in her lap as she pushes back her messy locks to show him her Elf ears that tend to get lost in them purposely. “I guess you missed my little outburst with those Orc mages. I am an Elf…well…Elandili.” She speaks the word as though the mention of a halfling burns her tongue. “Amin hiraetha…” She sighs with sincerity as she takes her sword again but sets it beside her. “I assumed you were poking fun or just keeping secrets from me. Though I am curious to know how a supposed ruler got here. So you are from the past? Kwentra i’narn. I’m quite curious to know how you ended up with this eclectic group.”

Walgrin relaxes once the sword is no long threaten to pierce him, but he doesn’t bother to make mention of it to the woman. He smiles as gears up to tell his tale, “Being honest? I’ve no idea if my old home relates to here at all. Between the flora, fauna, religions, and even the magic you use? It’s all alien to me.” He chuckles as he gestures towards the outside, “The Wyrm we fought? Dragons, great flying rulers of the skies? That, I’m used to. But when I came here?” He continues, “I spent a good deal of time trying to figure out if this was my world. Either its past OR its future.” He shakes his head sadly, “But if it is? It’s so far flung as to be a different world regardless.”

Which makes a rough segue into her question and request, “A few years ago, I was…” He pauses and looks her in the eye, “And I know this sounds insane.” He continues, “I was a High God, and ruler of my world. I ruled over all I saw, and protected the realm from threats my Mortal flock couldn’t understand.” He rolls his eyes, “I once was just a man, but that was so long ears ago, I don’t even remember what I looked like back then. I imagine divinity must have changed me, but only because I saw it change others.” He shakes his head and tries to prevent himself from rambling too much, “But my former glory was stripped from me as I was shunted here. I was sitting in my throne room scanning through prayers of the faithful, when suddenly I was falling.” He snickers, “I have no idea what happened, one second I’m granting blessings, and then next I’m no longer able to comprehend what I’m seeing as I fall through…” He shrugs his shoulders, “World Barriers? I’m honestly not quite sure, I’d never seen anything quite like it, but that could just be that my senses were already stripped from me.” He shakes his head, “But I kept falling, trying to cast spells and draw reality to a stop around me but nothing worked. Eventually it did stop, but that was as I came out of the gap and slammed into a grassy field here on this world.”

He shakes his head and chuckles grimly, “I suddenly found myself limited by everything. I saw a village on a Mountain in the distance, but I couldn’t teleport there. I tried cutting the space between myself and there with Cleft Reality, and it didn’t work.” He swipes his hand in a horizontal slice. “After about fifteen minutes of making an ass of myself in a field? I finally started walking, and HEAVENS had I forgotten the pain that is walking.” He snickers, “Or hunger, or soreness.” He shakes his head again, “Sorry, sorry. I’ve been alive so long that rambling is practically my native tongue.” He chuckles at his own bad joke, “But after the village ejects me for being what they think is a raving lunatic, I eventually found my way to here. The Magai were the first to truly believe any inkling of my stories of another world. Of the magics I once held, but my journey here had stripped of me.” He smiles, “If nothing else? I owe them their Gallanti for sparing my sanity.” He nods solemnly.

Mila listens with intent at first but the further he goes on and on about being a former god and falling and complaining of mortal pain she quickly loses interest and perhaps even zones out for a moment. The Galanti brings her attention back, however, and she sits up straight as if she had been listening to each word he spoke. “Lle tela?” She sighs and questions before a smirk crosses her lips. “You’re right. That sounds absolutely insane and you must be from another world or perhaps the future as I have never known a god such as yourself…” She eyes him over once and raises a brow. “Puny god.” she mumbles to herself and leans back against her arms.

“Still…you aided the magi and helped me as well. Whatever you are, were, or will be- I am thankful. Diola lle…” She tilts her head at him as she eyes him closer, still confused by the man but then again, she didn’t exactly fit in with the crowd either- though her sanity was far more intact. “You said the elves graced you with those ears for deeds done? What did you do?”

Walgrin smirks and shrugs, “While a grand tale, important to the Elves of my world? Too many names of people that don’t exist here. Give me a moment.” He pauses for a second and tries to condense it down to a digestible chuck that wouldn’t be too boring. He nods after a moment and starts the shortened tale minus pointless names and historical figures that Mila couldn’t possibly know. “So in the second elven empire, a contagion broke out. Part plague, part curse, all horrible.” He shakes his head.

“The plague nearly wiped out the entire kingdom, because no one could figure out how it spread. It was a physical sickness, but no transfer seemed occurred between people.” he waves his hand trying not to be boring, “But eventually we found it carried on the death rattles of the victims, and infected any who heard them. I worked with their healers to save the remaining population and prevent the spread of it any further.” He points to his ears, “The plague affected the ears, so they thought it fitting to give me more pointed ones to match their own.”

Mila had actually found herself inching closer to him as he told the tale, remembering hearing something similar told to her by an Elder when she was a child. Perhaps he was a part of this world, after all. She smiles as he points to his ears and nods. “That was very kind of you. I’m sure their population would cease to exist had you not helped them find a solution.”

Her eyes move to the ever increasing sunlight pouring in and she sighs and stands back to her feet, stretching her aching muscles as her chain mail rattles gently. “I suppose I should get dressed. No idea where we are going next but this attire probably wouldn’t be of any aid.” She gives him an almost playful wink before bowing. “Saesa omentien lle.” She says gently before taking her sword and moving back to her room. “And sorry about the whole threat thing!” She calls back, her door closing behind her shortly.

Plans of the Isktashi

(Setting: Sage’s Tower, Falcrest, Sessenne)

Sylvarius eyed the situation and contemplated as he hid amongst the fallen bricks atop the wall surrounding the courtyard. There were roughly 50 orcs and goblins below him in the courtyard, and a huge beast perched on the tower. Clearly whatever they wanted was inside, seemingly protected by nothing more than a crazed figure of some sort clambering about the beast and a completely useless spellcaster.

“Hmm..” Syl thought to himself, “Whatever they’re after is up there in the level of ‘priceless artifacts’ and might be a bit difficult to find a market for without being caught. Clearly not worth the risk involved. The beast on the other hand… A few scales from that could definitely buy some happiness.”

A rogue spray of hot sand came a bit too close, and snapped Sylvarius back into the situation at hand. Apparently this thing breathes heat and dirt. Great. Even for him to attain a few scales would be no easy feat, but Cally’s shop was going to no doubt need some repairs, and this seemed the best opportunity for some quick cash if he could find a buyer. He just had to figure out a way to avoid a brawl with an army of orcs, and getting eaten by a large flying demon-beast. If only the tower’s defenses stood half a chance, there might be a hope of killing this creature so he could snatch a few scales in the wake.

As if on queue, his ears heard wild shouts from the air in the distance. Squinting, he could make out two figures on another hellspawn in flight, heading straight at the tower, swinging weapons wildly overhead. Again he thought to himself that these two new combatants were either destined to be heroes, or dinner for a monster. “Then again, martyrs get the best bards’ tales.”

Mila saw the claw smashing against the table and swung her body to grab the ledge with her right hand as well and climb back through the window into the room. The breath from the dragon scalded her face but she had to ignore it- not putting much thought into her actions before she slammed her blade into the creature for leverage and lept forward onto the claw, removing a small dagger from her side. She thrust it as hard as she could into the claw, hoping to break through some of the armor not only for distractions sake, but so she would have something to hold onto should the creature attempt to move. She looks at Viera and shook her head, the air becoming harder and harder to breathe as her lungs and face burn like fire.

“I won’t let him take it…but he’s going to take down this whole tower. You have to get the Sage and your initiates out, now!”

She thought about reaching for her blade that had fallen onto the floor, but her reach would be too short. ‘Amonta de’ Toya!’

Walgrin grinned. The Thing Ashen had made wasn’t half bad. They’d cleared the distance and their prey was back in sight, and that was all he could ask of the beast. He pulled on his makeshift reins and coaxed the creature ascend to above the dragon, before drawing his sword. “Alright Ashen. It’s time for some insanity,” he said with a grin, “I’m going to try to leave the beast’s underbelly exposed; try to pound it with something – spells or even our ride.” He patted the neck of the proto-drake, and grinned again. He quickly calculated the right moment to leap from the drake, and took to the skies in a plunge. Screaming as he plunges through the air with Cleft Reality in hand, he aimed for the dragon’s neck hoping to sever the Dragon’s Head.

Ashen’s eyes went wide as Walgrin lept from his steering position. Rather than take the reigns Ashen attempted to sooth its mind and lower it into the tower courtyard. As he descended he thought he saw someone behind the bricks, but decided that was a worry for another time. Finally back on solid ground Ashen backed away from the green monstrosity and severed his connection with it. The proto-drake seemed shaken for a moment, but regained its composure and returned to the air.

Mila gave up on trying to retrieve her blade- the fire in her lungs and on her face becoming too much to bear to put extra energy into anything else. She hears the sound of wings outside and says a silent prayer that it isn’t another one of these creatures. Without many other options, she digs the heel of her good leg into the claw and removes the dagger, only to slam it against the scaled skin once more- again, just hoping to distract the beast until the tower can be cleared.

Walgrin’s blade landed true, slipping between the scales and plunging a good 20 inches into the beast neck. As the pain from the crystal blade spread through the dragon’s body, it screamed, released itself from the tower and tried to steady itself midair with its wings. Mila, still holding on to the leg that was holding the Galanti, found herself now above nothing but 45 feet of air. “No…no, no, no, no, no!” Mila cried as the beast took off into the sky, though she was too stubborn to let go of the dagger that still held to it; refusing to let him get away with what the Magi clearly held dear.

Amin delotha lle!

Confident that the transfigured beast would not return and attack him Ashen took up position in the courtyard within spell distance of the massive dragon. Walgrin told him to prepare an attack when the belly was exposed and Ashen knew just what to do. An exposed underbelly was a weak point on many of the animals of Mori, and if he assumed right, something sharp would be ideal.

Ashen was becoming fatigued and was having more and more trouble maintaining his illusory skin. But there was more battle to fight. The Isktashi could not be allowed to obtain the Galanti. He reached once more into the churning ocean of essence, its power even stronger now that he was back at the Sage’s Tower, and began to manipulate the water in the air. Molecules of water began to condense and freeze into long heavy spears of ice. Six spears floated in the air, hovering just above Ashen’s head, and Ashen waited for an opening.

The dragon, oblivious to the threat, lashed out at Mila with it’s jaws, trying to free itself from one of the nusiances still clinging to it.

Walgrin completely expected the Dragon’s attention on himself, but once he saw the wyrm turning its head beneath itself to blast something down below, he used all his strength to wrench Cleft Reality in the wound, hoping to cut the muscles its using to turns its head. No longer possessing the strength to move mountains however, he feels the wear on his body from his insane drop from the sky, and the steellike fibers of the dragon’s insides refused to yield, despite his efforts.

Mila cursed the beast as if it could understand her, though it’s head turning to snap at her suggested perhaps it did. She shifted her weight to avoid the first bite but the second was too fast for even her quick movement and two of the teeth latched onto the hand that held fast to the dagger, breaking through the armored gauntlet that protected it. She let’s out a blood curdling scream as the teeth pierce through her skin and blood starts to flow down her arm. She had no choice but to let go. Either way, she had failed.

Namaarie…” She whispers to herself and the gods as she releases the blade and falls through the air toward the courtyard below. She takes once last look at the night sky before closing her eyes. “Amin hiraetha.

Ashen heard Mila scream in pain and begin hurtling toward the courtyard. The dragon was going to get away with the Galanti if Ashen did not stop it. On the other hand, if he did fire his spears, Mila would surely die. Ashen cursed under his breath; the world may be a wicked place, but he would not let someone die while he had the power to save them. He released his hold on the spears which crashed to the ground shattering into thousands of shards of ice. He closed his eyes and reached out to the green proto-drake that had perched on a high rooftop. Feeling its mind, Ashen sparked it into action. The proto-drake jumped from the rooftop fell into a sharp dive toward Mila. Through Ashen’s direction it slipped its scaly feet around Mila’s left arm and left leg then spread its wings quickly to break the fall, gliding gently down to the courtyard beside Ashen. The proto-drake released her and spun around taking back to the sky.

Ashen kneeled down next to her to make sure she was still breathing. Finding her beaten but alive, he looked up at the dragon to see if there was still time for an attack.

Meanwhile, Syl continued to watch, continued to gather all the information he could before alerting anyone or anything to his presence. Clearly the two beast-riders were attempting to stop this devil beast…this “Dragon” as he heard one call it, from taking something from the tower which it now appeared to have a grasp on. The prior combatant to the dragon had taken a fall from the tower, but was saved by the wizard in the courtyard; clearly she must be on their side as well.

Sylvarius didn’t know anything about “Dragons,” but he knew something about hunting, and that these amateurs were doing it wrong. Any flying creature will escape you if you don’t terminate its means to do so. You aim an arrow to either sever the muscles and ligaments, or to pin the wings of a turkey so it can’t fly off. As best as Syl could tell, this thing was just one giant turkey. One VERY giant turkey…with razor sharp talons…and teeth.

Moving himself into as close of a position as he could, Syl nocked an arrow. Focusing in on what appeared to be the tendons at the base of the wing, he waited and timed the flaps of the dragon’s wings, tried to watch and estimate the dragon’s movements as it reacted to the figure climbing and slashing at it, and calculated the distance between himself and the target. Waiting until the massive wings were just starting to spread would be crucial, so as to leave the tendons in their tightest and widest position, and provide more of a chance to do any good.

When all the pieces fell in place, Syl drew his breath in, and in one fluid motion, leveled the bow, drew to point, and released. Perfect timing on his part, the rest was up to fate and fate was kind. The arrow hit directly under the arm of the left wing of the beast, who immediately pulled the wing close to its body and began to spiral around the tower, heading toward the orcish host gathered in the courtyard. As it began to lose altitude, it made a desperate snap at the interloper still riding its back.

Walgrin grinned as the dragon twisted trying to grab him off of its back, and he used the brief loosening of muscles as an opening. He ripped his sword out through the side of the Dragon’s neck, while darting his hand into the wound to keep on top of the beast. Unfortunately for the Sand-Wyrm, Walgrin wasn’t done with trying to bring down the beast. He flipped his hand upside down to use Cleft Reality to stab back into the wound. As the creature started to fall, Walgrin pulled his hand from the wound briefly, placed it onto the pommel of his blade, and shoved it down with all his mortal frame can muster.

The dragon reeled again. Finding itself unable to use its wings properly with the damage it had sustained, it quickly began to lose altitude.

“Perfect,” Syl spoke out loud to no one but himself. The dragon was going down, spiraling around the tower and then straight into the mass of orcs, and neither had any idea he was there yet. He clearly didn’t have enough arrows to fight an army, but if he could use the dragon to sew chaos amongst the Isktashi, perhaps they would thin their own ranks. The impact, dust, and confusion should cause the whole lot of those half-wits to either flee, or lash out wildly at anything and everything. With any luck, that should also frighten the beast into lashing back as well.

Sylvarius knew he only had a short amount of time before the dragon slammed into the ground, and he wanted to get as many orcs in its path as possible. He quickly pulled out the oil soaked arrows he kept in his quiver. Six was all he had, but it would have to be enough. Pulling the small piece of flint from his pouch, he lit one arrow and used it to light the rest.
“Shit. Hot,” he again spoke to the air. Syl took a running leap from the wall onto the nearest rooftop and on to the next, until he had come up on the side of the standing army. He laid four of the arrows down, nocked two and quickly loosed them toward the already dry grass on the closest side of the orcs. The second the arrows cleared his bow he grabbed the remaining arrows and took off toward a new position, letting two more fly into the rear flanks of the startled horde. Fires had cropped up on both sides of the group, and it turns out orcs aren’t too much smarter than sheep.
After he sent his two remaining arrows into the grass on the far side of the courtyard to funnel the confused orcs into the path of the falling dragon, he slipped into the shadow of a chimney, tightened up the scarf around his face, and watched. Much like herding cattle, for this tactic to work, he was going to have to nip at the heels of any who strayed from the pack.

Mila let out a soft sigh and slowly opened her eyes, expecting to get a glimpse of the almighty Polvec himself but instead saw Ashen standing beside her.

“What….you’re no god…”

She sat up slowly, her head spinning from the fall and blood loss. As the feeling in her leg, hand, and throat began rushing back, she gripped her ripped arm, stifling a cry of pain.

“Damned beast…I thought it was over for me…”

She looked up at Ashen and then to the Dragon who still flew with Walgrin on its back and the Galanti in its hand when a thought strikes her.

“That dagger is embedded pretty deep in those wretched scales. If you could summon another storm…perhaps the metal that lines the handle could act as a conductor…give it a little shock and make it drop the Galanti.”

Ashen nodded, glad to see Mila conscious again. “Save your strength mellon. See if you can find refuge from the Isktashi. I’ll see what I can do to put your plan into action.”

Mila sighed and laid back again, gripping her hand as tight as possible to stave the blood loss. There wasn’t much more she could do now and she secretly cursed Ashen for being present even though he had saved her life. She could attempt to heal her own wounds but she wouldn’t do so in front of strangers that she didn’t completely trust yet.

Ashen decided there was not enough time to summon an entire storm, the lightning would have to do. He took a step toward the dragon which was now plummeting straight toward the courtyard. How could he hit the dragon and not fry Walgrin at the same time? Ashen looked over the panicking Orcs running from fires on one side of the courtyard, and to the dragon that was falling from the sky, Walgrin riding on its back. Unfortunately lighting was not going to work. Instead Ashen decided containing the beast once it was down would be far more beneficial. Grounding it was one thing, but controlling it once it was down was another.

The essence in the courtyard was strong, partially from Magai, but also from the many trees that lined its perimeter. Ashen tapped into the essence of the vegetation, manipulating cell walls and causing the tree branches and roots to grow rapidly. Ashen raised his fingers in front of his face, swaying them as if mimicking the branches, but it was the other way around; the branches were following his command. Once the dragon landed, Ashen was ready to use the branches and roots to ensnare it. He had trapped the goblin leader earlier the same day with this trick, but he was afraid that the same idea would be for naught on a creature this massive. Either way it might buy some time for his companions to prepare another attack.

Suddenly the dragon had no more room to fall, and it slammed into the pack of orcs. A number were crushed completely under the weight of the beast and more were knocked backward by the rush of air that accompanied the crash. Walgrin rolled with the momentum over the dragon’s front shoulder, and when he rose to his feet he found himself staring down the massive jaws of the beast. The orcs cleared a space around him, half afraid of the man with the crystal sword who rode the beast, half afraid of the beast itself.

As the dragon slammed into the ground of the courtyard, Ashen intertwined his fingers and roots of the courtyard began wrapping themselves around the scaly feet of the dragon. At the same time the tree branches, moving swiftly through the air wrapped themselves around the wing joints and neck causing the dragon to once again writhe in pain, the rough bark of the branches digging into the wounds already present. From the movement leaves flew everywhere.

The dragon wrenched its body trying to free itself from the floral restraints but the trees held fast to the dirt of the courtyard. Though the roots had grown and wrapped themselves around the beast, deep taproots still held the trees in place. Even so the dragon’s might was too much for several of the trees. The one holding its undamaged wing and another with roots ensnaring its left leg were ripped from the ground and slung across the courtyard.

As Walgrin came to a stop in the courtyard, he figured the dragon wouldn’t ignore him for long, and he was right. The dragon rose up onto it’s feet and roared at him. It flapped its wings to fly, but halfway through the movement winced in pain. Instead it stared down Walgrin, and let fly a burst of hot sand from its mouth. Wall tried to position himself so the blast of sand would hit as many of the orcs behind him as possible, holding his cloak open wide to obfuscate the scene. As soon as he saw the telltale shift of the scales on its neck, once it was too late for wyrm to change its action, Walgrin dropped his cloak to its natural position, and darted off to the side away from the dragon. Without Wall there to catch the brunt of the blast, 3 orcs standing in the line of fire took a direct hit from the breath weapon, leaving them little more than charred husks.

Mila sat up in time to see the beast come crashing to the ground and Walgrin dismount it.

“Not bad.”

She huffed and stood weakly to her feet. The Galanti was still in that claw and she intended to get it back. She looked at Ashen and the robes he wears and rips off his sleeve, wrapping it around her injured arm tightly so she would at least have a free hand to work with.

“Sorry. I’ll replace it.”

She gave him a sly smirk before darting off as quickly as her battered body would allow towards the dragon, coming up from the side to ensure she didn’t get blasted by that horrid breath again. She glanced back to make sure she wasn’t being watched carefully and, confident that no one was paying her close attention, placed her right hand over the injured left and incanted a prayer-spell. She felt some discomfort as the bones in her fingers and hand slipped back to their proper places, then felt the familiar burn of magically healing flesh, closing the puncture wounds beneath her gauntlet. Once the effect ended, she flexed her fingers, grinned slyly, and set her sights on the orcs in front of her.

As Sylvarius watched the chaos, he couldn’t help but grin a little. “Really big turkey indeed,” he thought to himself. These other three warriors and himself seem to be doing the city guard’s job. Syl was pondering where in fact the magai or the city guard even were when he noticed an orc leap through the fires and start running down the hallway. Orcs don’t like fire to begin with, so for him to intentionally jump through a flame, whatever this dragon beast was spraying around was clearly nothing to joke around with.

As the orc stepped a few feet more into the alley Syl pulled his daggers from their sheaths behind his waist and made his move. He dropped gracefully on top of the fleeing orc, using its own momentum to knock it forward. Before it even had time to hit the ground however, his subclavian arteries had been severed. He was unconscious by the time he hit the ground, and Sylvarius let inertia carry him into a roll and back on his feet as he scanned the alley for any other escapee that might have followed.

The dragon howled in pain again, ripping at the roots that held it to the ground. It reared back and spit at Walgrin once again. The dragon let on its plan a bit too much, and Wall deftly rolled out of the way while keeping his ‘moving target cloak’ tactics up; no wanting to become a nice new polish for the dragons claws. He grinned, as this far its actually been working. ‘Tangling with dragons isn’t the brightest of ideas,’ he thought, ‘but options are limited.’

A loud pop and a blast of chilled air announced the sudden magical arrival of three cloaked figures. The largest, an ogre, started barking orders at orcish horde and they began falling in ranks. The other two made their way toward the dragon and Wall, one blasting a spell at Walgrin, the other motioning to the galanti in the dragon’s hand. The three orbs flew out of the dragon’s hand and began to float around the mage’s body, orbiting slowly.

The force of the blast knocked Walgrin backwards into the gap area between the orcish lines and the dais of the tower. He hit the ground hard, and decided to fall on an old skill he mdidn’t use very often anymore: acting – more specifically playing dead. He tumbled to the ground pretending to be knocked out by the blast.

The mage holding the galanti turned to the horde behind him and spoke, magically amplified by the godstones now floating around him. “The city belongs to the Isktashi!” he yelled. A cheer clamored up from the assembled horde.“Not only have we demonstrated our power over the grinasu, we have summoned the mightiest of allies from worlds unknown to further our cause. And now, now my friends, we shall use the powers in these stones to bring forth the reign of the Isktashi throughout the whole of Mori! Isktashi gru rektari!

As the orc spoke, Ashen could feel the essence pouring from the stones into the courtyard.
Veira stepped out onto the dais, flanked by the two initiates that followed her up the stairs of the tower. She stepped down to the courtyard to join Ashen and Mila. “The sage is dead, likely before we ever reached him. He was covered with burns.” She paused for a moment to compose herself. “I missed the signs. They were not simply after the galanti to bring down the city defenses. They had to kill the sage to sever his attachment, to tap into the full power of the stones.”

The three cloaked figures sauntered out in front of the lines, and cast their gaze at the figures standing on the dais. “Long have the grinasu squandered the power of the gods. It is ours by right, we are the favored sons.” As the orc continued to speak, the other two began to draw runes in the ground with their staves. He turned back to address the orcish army. “Vortus himself has shown us the path to powers our ancestors could only dream about. The elves hide in their trees and the dwarves play in the snow. It is the orcs who should rule the world – and with creatures like this,” he gestured toward the dragon, who was now being tended to by a number of orcs, “we will be able to stomp out the grinasu plague.”

Walgrin, from his now sprawled position on the ground, cursed at the fortunes here. The Orcs summoned a Dragon from another world,maybe even his world, but it kept its power. They launched a coordinated and successful assault on the city and its hierarchy, stole the objects of power from their locked vaults, and who’s this Vortus? So many things are stacking up against this poor city. Walgrin tries to ascertain an advantage, or something to turn this around, but frankly the former Godking doesn’t have many cards left to play here. What? Stand up and announce myself as a defender from another world and get blasted by ALL of them at once? He grimaced at the thought.

Mila stepped back towards Ashen upon seeing the newcomers, sensing the powerful magic that coursed through their veins. She bit her lip when they took the galanti from the winged beast. Her eyes glanced over to Veira as she joined them and she sighed with regret.

“I am sorry I failed you…”

Mila looked back to the three figures and makes eye contact with each one as she contemplates the best action to take. That is, however, until they speak of the elves ‘hiding in their trees’. Her attention snapped to the bastard that spoke the words. Yet another thing she wouldn’t let stand was having her people spoken ill of. She brushed her hair back, revealing her ears. She no longer cared who knew or what they thought. She took a few steps closer towards the three though retains the distance between them.

“So the elves just hide in trees? The dwarves only play in the snow?”

She spat on the ground in front of them, a mixture of her saliva and blood soaking into the stone. She was exhausted, sore, and angry, not a good combination for anyone but especially a hot-headed half-elf.

Nadorhuanrim! Lle naa haran e’ nausalle…en! You hide behind winged beasts and mindless goblins! Yet you dare to insult the elves! You have no right…and I will not let you have this city, Saurarea! I will not let you walk away with the galanti! Your lives end here. You will get to see your precious Vortus soon. For Polvec is the only true god…and he’s about to bring chaos upon you all.”

She looked to the Orc closest to her and charges him, raising the elbow of her right arm to his neck in an effort to knock him to the ground so she could take his axe.

Gurth gothrimlye!

Syl had had enough. Clearly this snatch-and-grab-the-dragonscales plan that Syl had was not going well. He had managed to corral all the orcs for only a short time, and these new wizards were reorganizing them.

To make matters worse, the flailing combatant Syl had seen with the dragon earlier had now revealed herself to be a halfbreed elf, and was charging at the orcish wizards in response to some halfwitted comment they made about elves. Pride. Always the downfall of his people, but for a half-breed to get offended, and stupid? Syl couldn’t even fathom what was going through that woman’s head.

Something though, something was keeping Syl from making his escape. Something told him this situation had gotten much bigger than just a bit of extra cash. Something told him this was the beginning of a situation that he and Callista couldn’t just run from. He had to stop this.

Almost before Syl could react to his own body movement, his muscles took over for him. He lowered himself into the shadow of the smokestack on the rooftop he was perched on, nocked one of his few remain arrows, took aim at the orc next to where the half-elf was charging, and loosed the arrow. It was a long shot, but the second the arrow left the string, Syl knew the shot fired true. He dropped flat to the roof, barely peeking over the side from the shadows, and waited for the scream of death.

Ashen’s mind whirled around possible options. Just when he thought they may be gaining an advantage over the horde and the dragon, these orcs show up. Though Ashen assumed they were just conjurers of cheap tricks, they were able to summon this massive beast, and to make matters worse, they now had the galenti. Ashen could tell the glyphs they were drawing would cause even more problems. Something still did not add up though. Why would so much power from these orcish casters be wasted on a feeble goblin attempt to steal the galenti?

‘A question for another time perhaps’ Ashen thought as he reached into the essence. The power coming from the godstones was almost overwhelming. Quelling the power they generated was not an option. Instead, perhaps Ashen could conjure a cheap trick himself. Instead of attacking them directly, perhaps he could make them a target…for their own army. Ashen had mastered illusion and it was now second nature to him. He Though the power coming from the stones was intense, a bit of illusion should be easy.

Ashen’s eyes rolled backward as he created the image in his mind. Illusion was a craft as much as magic and the illusion had to be both realistic and believable. After he had the proper vision solidified in his mind, he unleashed the well of essence boiling within him and channeled it into a thin veil centered directly on top of the three Orcs. Suddenly there was a bright flash of light and the three orcs vanished leaving three humans in their place. Ashen grinned, but maintained concentration. Now for the cherry on top. In perfect common the lead Isktashi caster, now veiled in an illusion of a human magai yelled, “You Orcish fools! While you listened to my useless banter my colleagues are tracing a spell to destroy you all! There is no way any Orcish idiots can defeat us,” Then the human illusions all broke into a hearty laugh that echoed through the courtyard.

Mila pulled up short as the now human looking mages yelled at the horde. A wave of confusion rode through the horde.

And then Sylvarius’s arrow burst through the chest of one of the mages.

Pandemonium ensued. The orcs began to yell and chant. The two surviving mages looked to each other. Another teleportation spell was cast, and the three mages and the dragon disappeared into a puff of essence smoke.

“What just happened,” Viera asked over the rising din of the orcish mob. “Where did that arrow come from?” She glanced over the rooftops of Sagetown, but saw nothing, and turned to Ashen. “Could you tell what they were trying to cast? I felt the ripples but they were unlike anything I’ve experienced.” She paused for a moment, but before Ashen could answer she continued. “Three mages of that power setting up a spell that large is worrisome… especially in a place as tuned to the essence as the tower. Our archer friend may have done us a great service in stopping their preparations.”

Ashen shook his head. “They were stronger than I. The ripples felt like the spell that brought that massive beast here. Had that arrow not stopped them, I fear we would have been greatly outnumbered.”

“But now,” she said concernedly, “we may need to consider retreat.”

Ashen stroked the illusory skin on the right side of his face. “I fear that may be the only option. Unfortunately we cannot leave the Galenti in the hands of the Isktashi. You must send your best magai after them. The city of Falcrest is lost, but if the Isktashi retain possession of those artifacts, the rest of Mori may be in grave danger.”

An orc and a goblin set their sights on Mila as she listened to the Magi tried to decide on their action plan. The goblin thrust a short spear out at her, as the orc brought a large saber down in a slash at Mila’s neck. Still weaponless she had no choice but to use her flexibility to defend for the moment. As the Goblin thrust his spear she managed to miss the brunt of it by just stepping out of the main path but the blow glanced off her arm that she had just used energy to heal, causing her to glare in anger. When the Orc brought down his saber she bent at the waist and brought her leg out to bring it under his, avoiding the hit he was aiming for and also knocking him off balance for a brief moment, giving her the chance to retrieve the saber so that she had some chance of fighting back.

Mila took the saber and stabbed at the Goblin’s arm that held the spear; careful to stay in a position to avoid being hit by him, as she was still weak from the earlier fighting. When the Orc began steady himself she charged him and swiped at his torso with the blade, hoping to put him back on the ground. The orc brought his blade up to match, and they ricocheted harmlessly off one another.

Meanwhile, an orc approached Wall as he lie in the courtyard, his eyes lit up at the sight of the crystal sword seemingly ripe for the taking. Though it’s naught but an unbreakable shard of glass here, it’s Walgrin’s only connection back home, and he wasn’t letting it go lightly. Walgrin waited for the right moment, then quickly stood. He slung his arm beneath himself as he pushed up from the ground rotating his legs as he grandly came back to his feet, dashed around the orc and pulled the blade to its throat, “Quite the pretty trinket, isn’t it, friend? Care to see its magical colour changing abilities?" The orc struggled against the hold, but the feel of Cleft Reality’s sharp edge against his neck seemed to take the fight out of him.

Sylvarius’s keen elven ears heard the puncture his arrow had made in the mage, and smelled the magical residue left when the mages vanished into thin air, taking the dragon creature with them. All that was left now was a mob of unorganized orcs, and the tower defenders he had been watching seemed rallied by this turn of events. The city may not be lost just yet.

Syl carefully surveyed the layout of the remaining orcs, and planned his path. If he intended to continue this battle, he needed to get behind the defenders with armor and battle experience. Syl was clever, and no slouch with his weaponry, but he was no warrior, and fighting head to head with a bunch of orcs in open sight wasn’t going to work out in his favor.

After a couple of seconds, Syl spotted an easy enough path, through smoke and kicked up dust that he could make his way through with minimal resistance – only one orc in his way at the current point. Slinging his bow back over his back he pulled both daggers from his belt, dropped off the rooftop into the clouds below, and lunged at the back side of the first orc in his way. Both daggers plunged into the back, and into the lungs, of the orc. A wet sigh escaped his throat and his body went slack. Perhaps the Isktashi had never heard the legends of this ghost that haunted the city of Falcrest, but today they would soon believe the stories.

Viera yelled out into the courtyard. “Walgrin! Mila! Fall back to the tower!” She turned to Ashen, “I must make preparations. Get them inside if you can, and join me in the atrium.”

Both Walgrin and Mila heard Viera’s call and began to move toward the tower. ’Can’t help but agree,’ Walgrin thought. ‘Falling back is the best and safest option now. Falcrest may well be lost, but it certainly is going to have reaching implications for humanity at large.’ Walgrin shook his head and started moving backwards with his prisoner, “Fancy a talk inside, sir? Or do I have to leave another orcish corpse on the ground?” he asked idly to the brute. Honestly, he hopes the man wants to talk, and that he has answers, though he most likely doesn’t have anything to offer him. Walgrin pulled the orc back towards the tower, while looking forward to make sure nothing followed.

Meanwhile, the orc wheeled around and let the blade fly at Mila again. Mila began to move backwards quickly, not wanting to turn her back on the pair, but the orc’s blade sliced at Mila’s arm once again and she decided that haste was more important that complete safety. She turned and broke into as much of a sprint as she could, but caught the goblin swinging at her back out of the corner of her eye a split second too late. She tried to strafe to the ground and roll, but the spear lodged firmly in her shoulder. Mila could feel the tip of the weapon grinding against the bone of her shoulder blade, and winced painfully, cursing as the pain shot down her arm. After the instinctive reaction, she steeled her mind and steadied herself, breathing heavily and overall annoyed with the incessant creatures. A thought crossed her mind and a smirk spread over her lips. She raised her left hand, ignoring the pain in the shoulder as best she could, and gestured to both the goblin and the orc.

“Tula sinome,” she said to them, in almost a sing-song voice. She gripped the weapon she had taken in her right hand, took two steps up on the dais and waited for them both to approach her on the steps. As the orc stepped onto the step, Mila kicked a shield of a fallen warrior. It landed just beneath the orc’s foot, and the orc was flung backwards onto the grass of the courtyard. The goblin was shocked for a split second – all Mila needed. She took two strides forward, and swung the sword as hard as her injuries would allow. The sabre cut through skin, muscle, and spine; and the goblins head began to tumble down the steps. Mila let the force of the swing twirl her around, then used the momentum to leap into the air. Before the orc could react the sword plunged through his armor and chest and into the ground below, pinning him there as the last breaths of life left his body. Mila turned and purposefully strode up the stairs to the tower doors.

Ashen turned to try and help Wall up from the ground. He had seem him go down just a few moments before, but now the tide had turned and Wall was forcing an Orcish prisoner back to the Tower while warding off the horde. Ashen then turned toward Mila sure that her injuries had caused her trouble on the battlefield. He found her just in time to see her make a flying leap and plunge her sword into an Orcs chest. She walked smugly up the steps not even meeting Ashen’s eyes.

Ashen shrugged and backed through the doors, and with the help of two initiates the battered doors were forced closed. Ashen closed his eyes and silently warded the door to provide extra protection. He reached into the essence and knit wood and metal back together. Finally he placed a spell on the door to both reinforce the physical aspects as well as charge it to provide a nasty shock to anyone trying to get through. Ashen finally turned and rejoined the rest of the group.

Syl broke through the far end of the smoke just in time to see the doors close in front of him, soon glowing from the magic being cast from the other side.

“Bitches,” Syl grumbled to himself. No time to wallow in self pity now though, there were plenty of angry orcs around, and now Syl was the only target left in the courtyard. Glancing around quickly he saw his best chance of getting inside, the hole torn in the tower by the dragon. It was quite a ways up, but if there was anything in the planes that Syl was better at than an orc it was…well…everything, but especially climbing.

Veira turned from the back of the room at the sound of the doors closing and allowed herself a slight smile. “I’m glad to see you three are okay. We can use the magegate to evacuate to the enclave at Havensbridge. We should let them know what has happened here tonight.” She stopped, as if trying to decide her next move. “Word should also be sent to Lord Falstead.”

She slumped a bit. “I’m not even sure what happened myself. It was all so sudden. I”m usre there’s more that needs to be done, but I’m not prepared for this."

“Forgive my bluntness, but what happened was a planned and successful massacre.” Walgrin took the orc captives head, and bounced it off the wall of the atrium. The orc collapsed into a heap, and Walgrin continued. “These Ishtashi are either so lucky they piss fine gems, or this is a plan that has been in the works for a long time." The ageless pointed-eared man sighed out of both relief and frustration as he sheathed Cleft Reality. "Everything lines up far too perfectly to claim otherwise. The hierarchy has been incapacitated or killed, and it left all the rank and file of the city defenses in shambles.” He points out to the city, “Much like Captain Tornus out there? You’re most likely the highest power remaining in your tower.” Walgrin frowned, “What was the goal? What were the stones? Why did the call a bloody DRAGON from Unknown realms to take them from you?” He sighed again. “Damnit. What I wouldn’t give for some of my old knights right now.” He points to the orc he threw, “Maybe we can get some information out of this one, but I have a feeling our luck isn’t that good.”

Ashen nodded, “Unless you got lucky, that lump is probably just a grunt. I doubt he knows much.” He sat next to Veira trying to collect himself and sighed, lightly touching the illusory skin of his face. He needed to sleep…it was getting more difficult to maintain the illusion as he became more exhausted. “We need to go after the galanti. The power those Isktashi mages possessed was only the beginning. As they begin to learn to use them their power will grow. Soon I fear they will bring something worse than a dragon to this plane.”

Mila leaned in silence against the wall beside them, listening closely to each as they speak their opinions on the situation. “Uuma ma’ ten’ rashwe, ta tuluva a’ lle,” she mumbled as she slowly slides her body down until she is sitting, the adrenaline having finally given out and every wound on her body pressing against her spine like fire. She bites her lip to hide the pain and waits a moment before speaking again. “I agree with Ashen. The galanti needs to be found. Sooner than later. As the raging Walgrin mentioned…” She rolls her eyes briefly as Walgrin’s rant had given her a headache, “This was planned long ago. So whatever they plan to do with it is likely already in action as well. We are already behind simply sitting here discussing it. This goes beyond this city, now. It now involves the entirety of this world.”

Sylvarius crawled through the gaping hole in the tower and came face to face with two mages attempting to clean up books and vials from the floor. Upon seeing him they spooked slightly and stood up into what Syl could only assume was their best attempt at a defensive position. Clearly these were closer to librarians than soldiers. He paused and picked up a vial off the floor which he mildly recognized to have some healing properties, nodded at them, then continued down the staircase on his left. The two apprentices were clearly unsure who he was or what to do, and it was simply best to not give them time to really think anything through before he disappeared.

As he came upon the main chamber, Sylvarius could hear voices conversing about the fate of the city, the orcs, and this _ galanti_ object they apparently made off with. Syl took a deep breath and tightened his scarf around his face. He wasn’t a huge fan of interactions with groups of people, especially not when he was in his “work attire.” The ghost of the city doesn’t exactly…talk. He tugged the cowl of his hood down a little lower and strode in the main room purposefully.

“Whatever they plan to do is done. Every step you take pacing back and forth in here is a step further that they’ve gone,” Syl began as he tossed the vial of healing liquid at the injured red-haired elf against the wall then refocused his attention on Veira, who appeared to be the one closest to being in charge of anything in this mess.

“We need to get out of here and regain control of the city, and the situation. You’re all panicked and confused about things in the past and future. Deal with the present first, or none of us will have a future to give a damn what they do with this galanti you’re so worried about.”

Mila sighed again and closed her eyes. She didn’t have too many years on her but in those years she hadn’t seen the kind of power the galanti possessed or the orcs that now owned it seemed to wield. What concerned her even more was the thought of a tempered warrior, shy magi, and mysterious man who liked to kill things but remain unseen seemed to be the only ones willing to fight for it. Though how far they would get she was unsure. She popped the cork out of the bottle that Sylvarius threw to her, sniffed it and turned it up into her mouth. The healing draught spread through her body and she felt her muscles relax for the first time since the orcs began their attack.

Veira touched the ring of stones in three places, and a portal sprang into life. She sent the initiates through then turned to the four heroes that remained. “I don’t know you all very well, but your actions tonight have shown me that if anyone is to stand up to whatever this new threat is, you are by far the best hope we have.”

“You are all right. I have to report this to the necessary authorities, and then the next step is to find the galanti and their new masters. This portal will take us to Havensbridge, we can formulate a plan to find them from there.”

Wall reached down and offered a gauntleted arm to Mila, which she grabbed and stood. The group moved toward the portal, then stopped, realizing Sylvarius hadn’t moved.

“Archer, will you accompany us?” Viera asked him.

“I cannot,” Syl replied. “My sister, she’s..” he paused for a moment, “somewhere in the city. I have responsibilities to her.”

“Know that you have an ally in the city,” Syl told them. “If you are able to return, there is a well, which leads to a cave. Northeast part of the city, behind a curio shop. That is where I plan to be.”

The group nodded and turned toward the portal again. Wall stopped short and turned back to the elf. “I know it’s probably in vain, but we left Tornus at the corner of the south walls.”

Syl nodded solemnly, and the group strode through the portal, which collapsed as soon as the four were through.


(Setting: Callista’s, Falcrest, Sessenne)


Callista hated fire. The smell of it. The taste of it. Yet here she was again, surrounded by it.

The arrows had began nearly ten minutes ago, falling flaming from the sky, bringing back long suppressed memories of fleeing from the human army, marching through the town setting fire to elven homes. ‘And of course, Sylvarius is no where to be found,’ she thought to herself as she dampened a blanket to smother the small patches of flame popping up wherever an arrow had landed.

She opened the door to the shop and tossed the blanket over the fire burning three feet away. Seeing no other fires threatening her space, she turned to move back inside.

“I’m tellin’ ya, nobody’s gonna miss the little elf bitch.”

Callista stopped and listened. She knew that voice. A man had been in the shop two days prior, accusing her of cheating him out of 30 gold. Cally’s shop sold all kinds of various items, from armors to candle wax, and this man needed a medicine that he couldn’t find elsewhere. Rarity equals cost in the business of resale, so naturally Cally’s price was high. The man talked her down 20 pieces, but paid when Cally would budge no further.

“She’s a cheat, I tell ya,” came the voice, now nearing the door the small building. “She disappears in the battle, and we take what we like. Who’s gonna stop us.” He had dropped his voice to a whisper, but the slur in his voice said that he was obviously too drunk to know exactly how loud he was speaking.

The knock startled Callista slightly. “Hey Cal, open the door,” the man called in, “I need somethin from ya.”

This was not a fight Callista wanted to have right now, especially without Sylvarius around, so she quietly went halfway up the stairs, and waited.

“I said open up,” he said, louder and more forcefully than last time. He knocked again. “I ain’t gonna ask no more, bitch.” When no answer came from inside, he laid his shoulder into the door.

“Fine, we’ll do this the hard way.” Two more times he laid into the door, and a third caused the lock to fail. He tumbled into the shop followed behind by two more men. “Where you at,” he called.

The thunder had awoken Sylvarius from his much needed nap. He’d had a long night, but the smell of fire and screams of death he heard from the well told him it wasn’t over. Springing from his bed, he threw on his usual “work” clothes, pulled the hood of his cloak over his head, and wrapped the scarves around his face. Daylight was not his norm, but the fires were clearly close, and he needed to figure out what was going on. Despite his nightly routines of pilfering and…eliminations… this was his city, and he didn’t like the idea of it being under fire. Besides that, he…

Callista. Shit.

Sylvarius snatched his belts, knives, arrows and bow, and threw them around himself as he ran. He had to get to Cally. He had to get her safe.

As he crawled out of brush covered secret entrance from his cave-home, he heard the drunken shouts and a crash from a few meters away. Cally’s shop. No doubt someone taking advantage of this chaos to loot what they could. Syl could only blame them so much, but they chose the wrong shop.

As he snuck around the corner to the front of the shop, he saw a brutish looking man, facing the opposite direction, hovering around the doorway, continually poking his head in and out, clearly checking on something going on inside and standing watch. As Syl pondered his best plan of action, he heard Callista’s screams from inside. New plan.

In one swift motion, he grabbed a dagger from his right boot sheath and stood up behind the man, covering his mouth with one hand, and plunging the dagger up under his ribs with the other. He quickly slid the dagger back out and slammed the hilt into the man’s gut, blasting what air he had left out the newfound hole in his right lung. No screams.

Normally, this would be body disposal time, but more shouts and curses from inside made Syl forget protocol. He dropped the corpse and rushed through the broken in door. At the top of the stairs he saw the other man holding a knife, trying to bust his way through the upstairs door. Syl quickly noted that given this man’s size, it wouldn’t take long, but the drunk hadn’t paid the slightest bit of attention to Syl even being in the shop. Syl sheathed his dagger and pulled his bow from behind his back. Pulling a black feathered arrow out of his quiver, he lined up a shot with the man’s ankle, took a deep breath, and let loose.

The arrow was dead on, slicing right through the man’s tendons, and knocking him off balance, toppling him backwards down the stairs. Thump. Thump. Thump. As the man landed at Syl’s feet, he looked down into his face. He knew that look. Death.

Sylvarius slung his bow back into place, and hopped over the corpse as he made his way upstairs. He had to get to Cally. The flashbacks of pillagers, chaos and fire, were hitting hard, and he knew this was just the beginning of what was going to be a long day.

At the top of the stairs Syl found the door shut tightly, with something obviously braced against it from the inside.

“Cally, it’s me,” Syl shouted through the door. Callista had no more managed to unwedge the door and open it for him when Syl began to chide her for irritating more customers.

“Callista, seriously. How do you expect to make money if you irritate everyone you…”

Syl stopped short as something caught his eye from the window behind Cally’s head. It looked as though something was flying over the wall and darting out of view. As he moved closer to the window, he saw it again, diving over the wall, spewing something from its mouth onto the men stationed there, and flying off the the west, toward Sagetown. It was huge, easily twenty times the size of the men on the wall.

As the creature moved out of view, Syl noticed that the streets near the gate, once empty, were now full of armor clad orcs and goblins, and they were coming this way.

(Tag: syl)

Sylvarius shook his head, clearly he was tired, and hallucinating, but one can’t exercise enough caution.

“We’ve got to move,” Sylvarius sternly shot at Callista. “Now.”

Any hesitation Callista may have had was instantly washed away by the roar of some ungodly creature and the screams of what sounded like hundreds of men dying at once. Syl knew of no creature with such power, but he wasn’t keen on the idea of sitting in a small building and waiting to be its lunch.

“Cally. The well out back. Grab some rope from downstairs and lower yourself to the bottom. Do it just like I showed you, and pull the rope when you’re at the bottom so nothing follows you. You know the directions to my cavern from there. Stay there and I’ll find you. We need to know what’s going on out there.”

As Callista grabbed a rope and filled a small bag with some rations and a lantern, Sylvarius peeked out the windows on either side of the building to the street.

“You’ve got a clear path right now. Nothing seems to have made it into the back. I’ll cover you.”

Syl quietly opened a window and readied his bow as he watched Callista slip around the building and lower herself into the well behind it. Once she was safe, he began searching for a way he could get into a better vantage point in the city. Architecturally, the Sage’s Tower would clearly provide the best look out over the city, but it wasn’t going to be easy to get there. Perhaps the best course would be sticking to the rooftops? In the chaos, not too many people are going to be paying attention to what’s above them. The grunts and crashes he heard downstairs sped up the decision making. He grabbed a vase from Callista’s bedside table and tossed it out the window. Hearing the grunts below stop, and the footsteps run toward the front door, he knew the distraction had worked. He quickly flung the back window open, and making sure nothing had yet crept into the back allies, slid out and scrambled up onto the rooftop.

As Sylvarius began making his way from rooftop to rooftop, across the city toward the Sage’s Tower, he began to hear the sounds of war fade and then grow again several times. The orcish hordes were attacking very specific parts of the city, and not ones that seemed structurally significant. There had been no siege, no threats. This wasn’t a dispute over land or rulership. There was something here that someone wanted, and Syl couldn’t help but wander what.

Sylvarius was so wrapped up in his thoughts he almost didn’t notice he had made it atop the wall surrounding the tower courtyard. As he peered down, contemplating ways to avoid the orcish hordes that were amassing below, a huge shadow began to pass over him, followed by another startling and indescribable roar. He looked up in time to see what he could not have fathomed in his wildest dreams. A gigantic, scaled, winged beast seemingly moved by rending the sky itself apart and then gliding effortlessly through the hole it had created. It was truly the most majestic, and yet most terrifying thing Sylvarius had ever seen in his whole life. He found himself in awe, completely off in a state of mesmerization as this creature went about its terrible business – flying and slamming into the walls of the tower, clawing out huge sections of the walls then breathing a foul something unknowing into the hole it had torn. Sylvarius was immediately beginning to reconsider his decision to climb this enormous creature’s new play thing.

The Attack on the Tower

(Setting: Sage’s Tower, Falcrest, Sessenne)

Mila and Viera moved their way out of the city gate, and into Sagetown. The wards that Ashen had earlier reinforced seemed to be holding well, and there was little damage inside the smaller walls that protected Sagetown from the forest outside.

“I must see that the initates are well protected, Lady Mila,” Viera told her once they had reached the gates to the Sage’s garden. “They are my responsibility, and I will not abandon them.” She flicked her wrist at a fire that was smouldering on the grass inside the garden, snuffing it out with a splash of water. As she reached the doors, an initiate came running from them, nearly knocking Viera over in his haste.

“Apologies, Lady Viera,” Traven gasped between breaths. “We have been instructed prepare for a battle. What is going on?”

“I do not know for certain, initiate,” she replied, “but I do know that this night will be long. Go and prepare. And let Maso know that I need to speak to him.”

“Yes, magai,” Traven responded before running off in the direction of a nearby building.

Moments later, Traven returned with Maso, a large man dressed in verdant robes. Maso bowed to Veira, then began to speak in a deep toned voice. “Lady Viera,” he began, “I have a group of mages ready to assist in the city.”

“Very well, Maso. May the gods watch over you this night.”

“And you as well, magai.” Maso tapped his staff on the ground, and a number of sparks flew from the tip, toward various buildings in around the courtyard. “I will send word of any developments,” he told Viera, and began the walk down the courtyard toward the city gate.

Mila kept her head down as they walked, remaining silent as she spoke of protecting the initiates. She almost draws her blade on the man who comes stumbling to them but restrains herself. As they speak she takes a look around the area, noting the walls and any entry ways and exits that could potentially be weak spots. The deep voiced man brings her attention back to the conversation and she gives him a small nod as he leaves.

“You should know, Lady Viera, that I do not have any magical abilities…but I will do everything I can to help you protect your initiates and the precious material you hold here.”

She steps forward and looks up into the night sky, the smell of armaments and smoke reaching her nostrils even from so far away. ‘I hope the others will be okay…’

“I understand that, Lady Mila,” Viera assured her. “We are not warriors here, we are scholars. Any help you may be able to provide if the battle spills into the gardens will be graciously accepted.”

The sounds were unmistakable, arrows being loosed, the occasional scream of pain or battle fury. But something unexpected happened next: a storm appeared over the city. There were no clouds in the sky mere minutes ago, and now a torrential downpour had started.

A crack of thunder draws Mila’s attention back to the city as the sudden storm began to downpour upon it. ‘Must be that Magai’ she thinks to herself, not feeling any harm in the storm but not necessarily wanting to get caught in it.

“If I may, Lady Viera, any warriors you do have within your ranks I would suggest you have them stand guard here, here, and there.”

She motions to two entry ways and an exit that looks to lead out to the woods.

“At least they could sound a first alarm should the battle reach us here. As for everyone else, I suggest we take refuge in the tower for now and ensure your scholars and secrets are well guarded. I can take the post there.”

Viera nodded, and began handing out assignments to the mages and initiates nearby. When she had told each of them where to go, she turned back those who remained. “The rest of us will set up in the tower.” She then led the group to the tower, and opened the doors..

The atrium of the tower was beautifully ordained with marble and silver. However, near the door the students had turned up three tables to make a makeshift halfwall in front of the door. At this point, Viera, Mila and the others could do nothing but sit back and wait.

Mila moves towards one of the tables that hadn’t been upturned and removes her cape, quickly hiding her ears in her messy locks once more. The crack of thunder makes her jump and she quickly looks around to ensure nobody saw such a weak gesture. She makes eye contact with one of the initiates who appears far more nervous and gives him a small smile.

“The storm seems to be getting worse, Mellon. Perhaps we will get lucky and it will simply wash all of the scum away.”

The initiate returns the smile and simply nods. Mila lifts herself onto the table and sits- her eyes focused on the door and her hand resting near her sword.

This sounds of steel and magic filled the courtyard outside. There was only a small amount of defenders outside the tower, and they quickly retreated to the interior.

“They are rushing the tower,” a green robed warrior-mage told no one in particular. He then turned and cast a spell on the doors which shimmered for a moment and became partially translucent. Though them Mila could see the group of 40 or so orcs, goblins and ogres that were looming in the courtyard. A large ogre marched up the steps to the dais in front of the door and raised his club. Viera quickly cast another spell onto the doors, and as the club came down for its first bash a violent fireball exploded outwards obliterating the club and the ogre that held it and blowing a number of the creatures off their feet. The warrior-mage fired another spell off through the now open doorway and the rest of the assembled mages followed suit as the creatures scrambled into the tower.

The storm had hidden the sound of their approach and it wasn’t until the chaos of retreat and shouting began that Mila realized the creatures were already descending upon the tower. She leapt off the table at the first sighting of them through the transparent door and whereas the initiates rushed away from the door, she moved to it.

Tira ten’ rashwe! Move away from the tables!” she shouted at the few left behind them as the creatures started to swarm over the makeshift hold. A goblin bared its teeth at a female initiate, paralyzing her in fear. Mila came at it from the side and unsheathed her sword in one smooth movement, swinging it at the creature.

With a throaty laugh the goblin brought his curved sabre up, deflected the swing away from his body, and thrusted forward in a counterattack. Mila moved as quickly as she could to defend but hit one of the tables, losing her concentration and balance for a moment.

Amin feuya ten’ lle!”

Stumbling backward, Mila used her momentum to spin around and flick her sword out at her attacker, all the time with a devious smirk on her lips. The goblin hopped backward just out of the reach of the blade, growled menacingly, and raised his sword overhead, intending to cleave Mila in two.

Mila strafes at the last minute, the blade slicing a lock of her hair but nothing more. She charges the Goblin full on, intending to finish it with one powerful strike. Her swing catches the goblin on the side of the neck, digging her blade two inches into the flesh. The goblin jerks once, then falls to the floor; blood pooling beneath its nearly severed head.

Mila barely has time to react before another goblin bounds over the makeshift barricade, lunging his spear at her. She easily avoids the spear and moves from the goblin’s path, grabbing onto his arm as he flies past and, using his own momentum, smashes him into the backside of the heavy table.

A sword swings out as Mila turns back toward the doorway. Mila caught it out of the corner of her eye, and brought her sword up to defend. The block was just enough to avoid being skewered by the blade, but the blunt side of the sword caught Mila against the side of the head, knocking her down to one knee.

Mila shook her head to clear the shock, and rose back to her feet as the orc approached. Steeling herself against the pain, she put all her strength into a giant swing of her sword. The orc met her steel with his, and laughed. “Garroshka me taru. Your death will be mine.” He pushed her sword away and swung again, hatred seething in his eyes.

At the last possible moment, Mila dropped to the ground and pushed her body flat on the floor and waited for the swing to pass overhead. The orc, caught off guard by the fall, took a large step out of instinct to avoid stepping on her, and nearly fell anyway for his effort. It didn’t matter however, because as he steadied himself, Mila brought her sword up, cutting into the breastplate of the orc, rending the flesh and slashing open its left lung. The orc coughed blood and tried to curse at Mila, but only a groan escaped his lips. Mila wrenched the sword back toward her and the orc fell into a heap at her feet.

She turned back to look for another attacker, but found herself almost 15 feet from the barricade. Orcish bodies were piling up in the doorway of the atrium, and from what she could see there was only one injury in the group of mages. The spells continued to fly as Mila looked down at her bloodied sword.

Tanya farnuva sii’.

She manages a smile despite the pain her head radiated. It felt good to fight again. She looks around at the mages and sighs with relief while she can, knowing more will come as she starts to contemplate her next approach.

But, to the surprise of the mages in the atrium, the orcs began to from ranks outside in the courtyard.

“What are they doing?” an initiate asked from Mila’s left.

“Are they cheering?” came the reply from another.

Suddenly the air was filled with a roar unlike anything Mila or the mages had heard before. There was a moment of silence afterward followed by a loud cheer from the orcish lines.

Mila looked out to the courtyard with as much confusion as the others.

“Cheering from the enemy is never a good sign.”

All at once, the tower shook as if something very large had struck the side of the structure. Viera’s face turned pale, and she ran to the nearby staircase and began to climb.

Mila caught herself at the last moment from falling over as the whole structure shook, causing many unprepared to fall to the ground. She moved to help an initiate up when she noticed Viera’s face.

She followed quickly behind Viera and up the stairs, glancing through the windows on occasion trying to see what struck the tower. “What is it?”

“I do not know, but I must ensure the safety of the Sage,” Viera replied.

The pair made their way up the stairs, and when they opened the door and stepped through into the sage’s chamber, Mila’s mouth dropped open at the sight of a brown dragon, now perched on the side of the building, ripping the stones away with its claws.

Mani naa tanya nat’…?

The sage lie against the wall of the room, burning welts all over his body. There was a fine mist of sand strewn about the room. This fact registered as odd to Mila, but she didn’t have time to voice her confusion before the creature breathed out, filling the room with hot air and more stinging sand.

Mila just barely managed to avoid a direct hit of the stinging sand by dropping to the ground, though the hot air made it difficult to breathe. She looks to Viera and the Sage as she stands and tries to hide her panic, unsure of what to do with the creature that would soon tear the entire tower down. “Get him out of here, now!”

Viera jumped, startled back to reality by Mila’s command. An pair of initiates grabbed at the sage’s robes and dragged him outside the room, while Viera turned her attention to the creature just outside the wall. She screamed a spell, and a ball of flame appeared before her, hovered for the briefest of moments and slammed into the dragon’s face.

Mila unsheathed her sword and moved to the window of the Sage’s quarters, stepping onto the ledge and balancing herself as she stared at the beast outside. She raised the blade and stabbed straight down towards one of the giant clawed hands that continued to assault the tower, but the blade skipped off a hardened scale and impacted harmlessly on the stones.

Both attacks seemed no more than minor nuisances to the creature, and the dragon lunged its head forward and bit at Mila who didn’t move as quick enough to avoid the bite. The teeth caught her right leg and pulled her off the ledge. She cried out in pain as her armor parted like butter and the teeth ripped into the flesh of her leg. She managed to grip the ledge with her left hand and swung with all her strength again in a desperate attempt to strike it’s eye.

She missed the eye, but caught the creature flush in the face, a line of crimson blood marking the spot where blade fell. The dragon reeled backwards and shook its head, then roared again, hot stinking breath washing over Mila as she held on for dear life. The dragon’s claw raised a claw to swing but rather than hit Mila, the giant fingers moved into the room smashing down on a stone table set up in the middle of the chamber.

“He is taking the galanti!” Viera yelled as another spell ricocheted off the dragon’s natural armor. “Stop him!”

The Assault of Falcrest

(Setting: Southside Walls, Falcrest, Sessenne)

Walgrin, Ashen and Tornus moved through the streets, doing what each could to help the people there while still making forward progress toward the outer walls. The walls of Falcrest formed a point in the south, and from that vantage point Tornus hoped to see what exactly was happening outside the city.

The trio reached the walls and climbed the ladders to the top and peered over the battlement. The group of counting houses and stables outside the gate were ablaze, and there were small fires burning in Riverside as well. The source of these flames were a line of goblin and orc archers, set up about 50 yards from the walls. Behind them Tornus counted the Isktashi vanguard at 400 strong, and in the distance, emerging from the woods, the main host of the Isktashi army looked to be three times as many. The vanguard had begun the assembly of ladders and rams in the clearing behind the archers.

Tornus ducked as an arrow flew over the wall, landing on the roof of a nearby house. In the city, people were frantically trying to extinguish the flames while avoiding being pierced by a falling arrow. There was not a full spread panic in the city, but it had not been assualted since the Schism, and nearly all of the residents here had not seen battle of any kind.

Walgrin looks out over the city trying to take it all in. “Tornus… We need to send out people to take care of these fires before they spread. Do you have a volunteer core? An emergency water-spell to make it rain over the city?” He’s grasping for straws, but unfortunately this isn’t his city, or his hierarchy for that matter. Command structures are critical at times like these, and Walgrin doesn’t know this cities at all. He shakes his head briefly before changing his tone and asking, “Sorry, I’m used to leading.” He looks Tornus in the eyes, “What’s the plan? Who’s in charge?”

Ashen smiles at Walgrin, “As you may have noticed back at the tower, storms are my specialty.” He turned to Tornus, “With your leave Tornus I will attempt to both solve the fire problem as well as turn the weather against our foes.” Ashen could feel the essence boiling within him. The sight of the magistrate’s family was by no means the most horrific sight he had witnessed, but its gruesome reality fed Ashen’s desire to snuff out the wickedness of the world. He waited in anticipation of Tornus’s command.

Tornus nodded at Ashen and turned to Walgrin, “To be frank, I’m not sure who’s in charge. The magistrate is dead, Commander Godrick is dead. Subcommander North would be next in line to command the guard, but I have not seen him since this morning.”

Walgrin nods and frowns to Tornus’ list, “Alright, so they’ve already destroyed the higher-ups in a precision strike. Tornus? Unless someone has rank over you thats, right here? You’re acting commander. Until proven otherwise, we’ll have to operate as if no one else is there. If we find someone else to do the job? Fantastic. But we don’t have the time or luxury of tracking down potentially dead men. They can find us on their own.”

“I agree with Walgrin, I would guess the honor falls to you until he shows. These men will need your strength.” Ashen moved behind a pillar, attempting to shield himself from the flurries of arrows unleashed at the wall. He looked up into the sky seeing a beautiful cloudless night full of stars. It was almost a shame to disrupt such a night, but the lives of Falcrest citizens hung in the balance.

The spell would require significant concentration and time uninterrupted but behind the pillar he figured he should be safe. Ashen closed his eyes and for the first time in many days he unleashed the full fury of the chaotic essence burning inside him. He could generate many different magical feats including elemental magic, conjuration, summoning, illusions; yet something about the chaos involved in weather made it one of the easiest to channel. Through creating a storm the unstable magic had only to be guided, not controlled. He felt the magic flow through ever fiber of his being only keeping enough concentration locked in reserve to maintain the illusory skin covering his scars.

Above the wall a rumble began to crescendo as water molecules from the air began to grow dense and heavy. Deep gray clouds formed first creating a small spiral above Ashen’s head, but it quickly spread, creating a dense conglomeration of rumbling clouds. As the clouds spread out over the city, the river, and the landscape reaching south, Ashen closed his hands into fists, channeling the essence into the brewing storm. A loud crack of lighting lit up the dark battlefield and marked the beginning of driving rainfall. Within the city fires died out quickly and above the Isktashi, lighting continued to crack, an ominous foreshadow of things to come. Ashen’s eyes remained tightly closed, his fists balled wrenching the air above his head.

The rain equally inspired and frightened the men on the wall. Those close enough to sense where the sudden change in weather were glad to see that they had a magai on their side, and word began to spread over the wall that this was not some dark orcish magic but their own, and it would be an advantage.

The vanguard hastily finished the construction of the ladders, and was now marching past the archers, into the 50 yard gap before the wall. Arrows began to fly from the crown of the wall, and a few of the advancing troops fell to be trampled by their brethren. They reached a position near the foundation of the 15 foot city walls, and raised their shields in defense while awaiting the main host, which had now broken into a fast march and was near the archer line.

The archer line itself, realizing that the rain would no longer make fire bombing effective switched their targets to the assembled host on the top of the wall. An arrow burst out of the back of a man three down from Walgrin, and he toppled backwards over the wall and onto the dirt pack below.

Tornus’s voice broke through the driving rain. “Ready arms! Prepare shields!” All around him, soldiers loosed their swords from their scabbards, waiting for the first of the ladders to appear.

Suddenly, Ashen’s mind was wrenched toward another powerful channel of essence. Something or someone out there was trying to unravel his spell and lash it back at him. With this kind of active opposition, Ashen knew he would only get one good strike in before whoever was out there could unweave his magic.

Ashen felt a tug on his mind as he was trying to concentrate on the storm. Another mage was attempting to squelch his spell. Ashen steeled his resolve and his concentration and shrugged off the assault, but he knew it would not last much longer. Instead he began twisting his hands, concentrating on the dark clouds above attacking army. Those archers were trying to clear a way through the parapets of the city wall. If Ashen could somehow take them out, the attack would be severely hindered. The twisting of his hands was mirrored in the clouds above the Isktashi archers and the gray clouds began to swirl and coalesce into two large twisters. The cones of the cyclones reached down as if fingers squashing ants. The howling of the wind grew and the twisters sliced through the ranks of Orc archers.

The swirling twisters tore through the ranks of the archers, tossing a number of them into the air and dropping them onto the battlefield below. The line shattered, goblins running every way possible to avoid being sucked into the tornadoes. By the time the twisters dissipated, the line was scattered and the arrows being fired at the wall were greatly reduced.

There was no time for savor the victory however, as the ladders began appearing along the length of the wall. The troops assembled below began to run toward the wall and climb, bringing the fight into close quarters. A group of orges and large orcs moved a ram into position at the gates, and began beating at the iron, trying to loosen it from the stones that held it in place. Hot oil poured from a murderhole above, burning a few, but the assault continued.

A ball of essence filled fire slammed into the wall about 35 feet away, shaking the wall and sending a number of soldiers over the back side onto the ground. Meanwhile, Tornus, shield in one hand, sword in the other, slashed through the chest of an orc that had reached the top of the wall. Another took a swing at him, but he side stepped and avoided the blow. Another orc leaped over the top of the ladder, and struck out at Walgrin.

Walgrin swung Cleft Reality up in his defense, blocked the blow with his armored gauntlet, and used a flash of lighting and his sword to reflect the light into his foes eyes. As he finished throwing his foe off guard, he brought his arms and sword back up and around, and swiped through his foe’s legs, hoping to bring him down ONTO the ladder he just finished climbing. “Going down?” he chuckled as the orc fell back onto the ladder and knocked three more climbing orcs down to the ground.

In the distance, Ashen could feel the essence change. Something had diverted the natural flow into a pool, and was preparing to cast through it.

Ashen’s eyes opened and he looked out onto the battlefield. He frowned…someone powerful was out there. The chaos of orcs on the wall was a faint glimmer in his subconscious, and instead his focus was drawn to this caster. Who was manipulating the essence to this degree? As he focused, his eyes narrowing, he was no longer seeing through his human sight. Instead, he was looking through the essence to see who it was on the other end of the spell. Scrying was not an ability he exercised often, but such manipulation caused ripples significant enough an initiate could have traced it.

Ashen’s frown turned into a wicked grin as he found the source. He still did not know who or what was casting the spell, but he found its point of origination, and that’s all he needed. Focusing in on the caster, the clouds rumbled loudly, crackling sparks of electricity flowing through the thick gray. Ashen threw out his hands like a conductor at a symphony and focused. Electricity coalesced above the spells origination point finally reaching an event horizon as lighting began crashing down on the caster. The dark rainy night lit up like daylight as a long bolt of lightning crashed down on the spot. Ashen felt the reverberation from his blast radiate out from the target. He’d definitely hit whatever was out there, but had only slowed it down. Ashen could again feel the mage trying to dam the river of essence with his magic, this time weakened by the force of Ashen’s blow.

Walgrin knew that something had to be done about the attackers, but frankly his power was so constrained in the realm. He took a deep breathe and decided that if he’s going to be respected as a King here he’s going to have to start acting like it. He grips his sword firmly, and remembered the old days, when flicking his wrist devastated armies, when a duel between anyone and himself was not only a mercy-killing but a religious experience. Walgrin grimaced as he brought his sword up and ready to swing down onto the invaders ladder. “Cleft Reality? Be my Wrath, and strike fear into those that would harm the innocent.” For a moment? He felt it. His connection to his old world. If nothing else the brief moment of connection fills the blade with a brilliant otherworldly radiance as it fills him with vigor. He let out a mighty roar as slashed his sword down onto the ladder attempting to split it in twain. In his old world the blow would have collapsed kingdoms. Here? Walgrin can only hope it works.

Tornus cast a glance at Walgrin as he speaks to his sword. Wall swings the crystal blade down onto the top rung of the ladder, splitting it in half, but alas, nothing else comes. “You ok there?” Tornus asked, just before an arrow pierced through his shoulder and he fell to the floor.

Anyone who was watching him try to channel his old power would see the dissapointment on Walgrin’s face, but it’s short-lived as Tornus’s call, and being struck by an arrow was hardly the time to be depressed. “Tornus!” Walgrin cursed his lack of power, and rushed to the acting-commander’s side, “Damnit, sorry. I was trying to relive the glory of old.” He pulled Tornus out of the way and into an corner to keep him out of the line of fire, “Hold still while I treat this. We can’t have you dropping tonight too,” he told him as he carefully treated the wounds.

Satisfied that the caster was at least stymied, Ashen turned his attention back to the wall. Tornus had just fallen to an arrow. Luckily Walgrin was helping him, but the battle was too close and Ashen needed to hinder the advancing forces or they would be overrun. Ashen began freezing the rain in a thin line just over the ladders. It pelted the climbing orcs and making the ladders all the more slippery to climb. Hopefully Ashen’s efforts were slowing the advance but the defenders needed to make more significant headway in order to turn the tide of battle. The ice began to accumulate on the ladders below, slowing the orcs climb somewhat and causing at least one goblin Ashen saw to fall back to the ground.

Suddenly Ashen felt the essence burst through the dam that the enemy caster had created. He whipped his eyes out to the distance in time to see a creature begin to coalesce out of the essence; or was it phasing into existence?

“What in the gods name is that,” Tornus groaned as Walgrin pulled the arrow shaft out of the wound in his shoulder.

Walgrin looked up, his eyes narrowing as he took in the monster now flying above the battlefield. “That… is a dragon.”

Walgrin frowned deeply as he saw the ruler of the skies take to the battlefield. He stood and started shouting shouting orders for the soldiers to prepare for an assault like they’ve never seen before. He turned toTornus, “Do we have any ballistas or any sort of siege weaponry?” He frowned as his eyes keep on the Dragon, worried about what this beast will do, but afraid to order an attack on a potential ally. “What in the Great Hells is that thing doing here? I thought this realm didn’t have any dragons.” He said aloud to himself.

Ashen’s face went pale…he failed. He had thought he had bought enough time, but whoever had been casting that spell was far more powerful that Ashen had imagined. The creature was massive. In his stunned stupor Ashen heard Walgrin call the beast a “dragon”. Nothing in the stacks upon stacks of tomes and scrolls that Ashen had read in his time as a magai had mentioned such a beast. Its shadow dwarfed the army of Isktashi below and it was heading straight for the wall.

At a loss, Ashen decided to forget the storm for now. It still broiled above them a constant shield against further firebombs, but Ashen turned to defense. He turned to Walgrin who was preparing the troops and asked, “How about magic? Is there anything I can do to ward off this new challenge? Vulnerabilities? Immunities?”

As he spoke, Ashen spun his hands around manipulating the essence once more. Now that the dragon was through the portal, the essence felt somewhat normal again. Ashen cursed Veira for retreating back to the tower. If the tower was the main goal, why was this army at the gates. More magical support was needed. Ashen scoffed as he finished weaving his spell; he was all they had now and he would have to do. He threw out his hands and created a shimmering barrier across the wall, similar to the wards at the tower, but unfortunately weaker and less well prepared. It was all that could be done for the moment. Ashen hoped it would provide enough cover to survive at least a couple of attacks.

Walgrin quickly responded to the Magai, “Its a Brown Dragon, Earth-type beast. Sprays burning sands out its mouth like a Fountain.” He pulled his cloak up, and covered his mouth, cursing his loss of his former enivormental bubble of comfort his old power afforded him. “If its not friendly? We’re sitting ducks up on this wall,” he said as he looked around for a pair of goggles to take from a corpse.

The dragon unfurled its wings and dove over the wall, spraying its sand breath over the top of the eastern wall. Men screamed as the hot sand sprayed over bare flesh, a number falling over the city side of the wall to avoid the beast. The dragon then pulled up, and began to circle around over the Isktashi troops and back toward the east. It pulled its wings to its body and dived, moving over the wall again, spewing it’s breath on the troops below. Tornus raised his shield to block the sand blast, mostly successful.

The orcs now controlled the eastern side of the wall, having scrambled up to fill the gaps left behind by the burned and frightened guards that once held it. A group of orcs had climbed down the opposite side, and the doors were opened, allowing the host of the army free access through the gates into the city. Meanwhile, above the city the dragon screamed into the night sky, and continued its flight to the west, heading for the sage’s tower.

“We have nothing that can combat a beast such as that,” Tornus told Walgrin. “I defer to your tactics, ser. What would you have us do?”

Walgrin found a pair of goggles on a body.He dove for them to get them onto his head before the sand hit, but as he turns back to look at the dragon he realized the ground may have been a safer place. He swiftly gathered his cloak to protect himself, as he tried to roll out of the way. “Hells!” he yelled as he felt the sting across his side as his attempt at dodging was only partially successful. It left his head and wits where they belonged, but his ribs were caught in the torrent of sand.

Ashen’s shield did not hold as the dragon spewed hot sand at all those on the wall. Bracing for the oncoming attack, Ashen threw his arms into the air and erected a force barrier around himself – unfortunately, it too was no match for the dragon’s attack. Ashen felt the searing sand against his flesh as the barrier fell. The force of the sand not only began burning his flesh, but also pushed him backward toward the edge of the wall. He lost his footing and toppled backward, falling into the city proper. He landed on a gabled roof which slowed him; yet he was unable to catch a handhold and slid, once more falling toward the ground. He quickly reached into the essence and increased the density of the air beneath him, slowing his fall a bit, but he still hit the ground hard, landing in a large puddle of mud. He ached all over and groaned in pain as he tried to pull himself to his feet. They were going to need something far more powerful to defeat this creature. He opened his eyes long enough to see the dragon heading west toward the Sage’s Tower. Ashen forced his muscles to work and pushed himself off the ground.

After the brief onslaught ended, Walgrin turned to Tornus and started shouting for Archers to train their arrows on the beasts eyes and underbelly. “Those are the weak-points! Spears! Arrows! Knives! Anything that sticks is weighing the beast down! Get it out of the sky! Ashen! Can you bring that Lightning down on it again? Without any siege weapons to launch rocks at it, we’ll have to do this the old fashioned way!” Walgrin pulled a bow and quiver from a fallen soldier and prepared to join his coordinated attack. “BRING THE BEAST DOWN!” he commanded both the army, and himself as he looses the arrow, trained on the beast’s big eyes.

Arrows flew from the wall toward the dragon as it sped toward the sage’s tower. Walgrin slowed his breathing and concentrated on his target – the dragon’s eye. Years of having trajectory mapping on his eyes had spoiled him, but thankful the physics of the shot remain the same and muscle memory takes care of the rest. His arrow leapt from the bow, flying true, speeding toward the dragon. The dragon turned its face away from the oncoming arrow at the last moment, instead taking the shot in the fleshy part of its side underneath its wing. The creature trumpeted loudly and jerked to one side, and what was going to be a graceful landing on the tower become a violent crash into the side of the building. The dragon clawed into the side of the building, steadied itself, and began tearing at the stone.

Atop the wall, Tornus struggled back to his feet and blocked an oncoming orc with his shield, offering a weak slash with his injured arm in response. Another orc sped past and jumped at Wall, trying to tackle him to the ground. Walgrin grasped his cloak, bringing it up in a swooping motion to briefly dazzle the orc and distract him from Wall’s proper position. As the orc tumbled past him, Walgrin simply helped him along with a kick to the orc’s rear pushing him over the edge; ‘Hopefully to its death,’ Walgrin thought. He then turned and cursed, seeing that the dragon was now out of range of their offensive.

As Ashen pulled himself back to his feet, he saw a pack of goblins running toward him. Two of them leapt out from the group and thrust their spears at the shaken mage. As Ashen stumbled, trying to regain his balance after such a fall, he looked up to find two goblins with spears outstretched, charging at him. He could have dealt with them easily, but the dragon was still very much on his mind. He had to get to that tower; Veira and Mila would need his help to ward off the dragon. A strange thought occured to him and he thought that perhaps he could make use of these strange little creatures. Flying would be the most direct route to the tower and he needed to dispatch these goblins; Perhaps a bit of transfiguration would solve both problems. First he thwarted their attack by erecting a powerful forcefield which caused both to fall backward, dazed. Next, he reached out into their essences and felt their feeble minds give way under his magic.

Ashen then began reshaping their molecules, dividing cells and mutating limbs until both were reconfigured into a single small, ghoulish reptilian drake. It retained the green skin of the goblins but with a facade similar to that of the dragon. Under its arms were fleshy folds of skin that would easily ride on air. The rest of the goblin pack, stood wide-eyed as their two friends were re-shaped before their eyes. Suddenly attacking Ashen seemed like a poor choice.

Ashen had missed some of the nuances of the dragons splendor but upon considering the functionality of the transmutation he shrugged and mounted the disgusting beast. After all, he was no artist, he was a magai and the Sage’s Tower needed his magic. He maintained a modest control over its forming mind, enough to get him to the tower anyway, but he wasn’t quite sure how the small drake would react once its master’s connection was broken. Ashen couldn’t think about that now and just held on for dear life – grasping onto the wing joints of the beast which, never having flown before, was having trouble staying stable. It was all Ashen could do to keep the beast in the air, let alone steer it. They were going generally toward the tower, but he was flying much lower than he meant to.

His senses having been honed to near perfection over the years; Walgrin quickly notes the flying… thing bearing Ashen, and shouts to Tornus, “This one is on our side! Have the men focus on the entry points and have people guarding their rear for surprises!” He broke into a dash as the conglomeration neared the side of the wall, and dashing off the side in a leap, pulled his cloak off and slung it under the beast into makeshift reins around the beast’s neck. He spun around midair, and landed squarely on creature’s shoulders. He quickly leaned his weight towards the tower, and pressed his knees into the thing to guide it in to proper direction.

“Good work Ashen, we may just stand a chance yet.” Walgrin couldn’t help but grin back at the wizard; this was the most excitement he’d had since he arrived here. Unfortunately taking a man in the ridiculous goggles he found seriously isn’t an easy task, and,combined with the maneuvers he just pulled, Walgrin figured he looked right insane.

As Walgrin stabilized the flying reptile Ashen breathed a bit easier. “Happy to do it… though next time I might go for a nice grounded horse instead.” He watched as they flew over Falcrest and cursed himself. If only he’d been able to stop the spell the dragon might never have been able to cause such destruction. Falcrest was lost. It was Ashen’s hope that the Veira, Mila and the rest of the Magai were able to hold out…otherwise the Isktashi would have their prize.

The Magistrate

(Setting: Magistrate’s Manor, Falcrest, Sessenne)

Each house of Sessenne was free to govern in a way they saw fit, and Lord Falstead chose a more hands off approach than others; a system which some believed to be the root of the prosperity and power of Falcrest in the region. Rather than deal with the day to day trappings of the governance of the city and his lands, Lord Falstead assigned magistrates to oversee the people. The magistrate of Falcrest was a cousin, and had been managing the city’s affairs for nearly 15 years.

Viera, Ashen, and Walgrin pushed their way through the bustling streets of the market square, making their way toward the large keep that manor the housed the magistrate and his family. When they reached the gate, Viera spoke to the guard at arms, and after a brief conversation was let through the gates, and asked to wait in the grand foyer while the magistrate was summoned. Shortly afterwards, the doors opened once more and Tormus, with Mila reluctantly following behind, entered the chamber as well.

“Lady Viera,” Tormus said, with a slight hint of surprise, “how lovely to see you outside the gardens.”

“Indeed,” Viera replied, offering a slight nod of respect, “but unfortunately it is not for good news that I venture into the city. The tower was attacked this evening. Gobilns. With powerful magic.”

“Goblins? What would goblins be attacking the tower for?” Tormus asked.

“I am not sure of their motivation, but it seems that they have a greater agenda, which brings me here tonight.”

“Indeed, I have poor tidings to relay as well.” He turned toward Ashen and Walgrin. “Ah, who are your companions?”

“This is Magai Vol-Trayor,” she said with a wave of her hand toward the mage, “and, Master Walgrin, visiting us from afar. And your companion?”

“This is…,” Tormus paused and turned toward Mila. “Actually, I’m afraid I don’t know your name, miss.”

Mila studies the woman before offering her left hand hesitantly as her right gauntlet was still caked in blood.

“Mila Baequimitore. Mila is just fine.”

She draws her hand away as quickly as the woman would allow, tucking it back into the cloak that reminded tight around her features. Her eyes glance over to the two companions with the other woman, taking a mental note of their names, although she hoped her stay wouldn’t be too long with this crowd. Goblins were easy kills. She was looking for something more challenging. And also hoped to find the Commander’s killer at the end of her sword sooner rather than later.

Ashen bowed deeply to Tornus and Mila. “Greetings. Please call me Ashen.” He looked to each in turn. Tornus seemed a steely fellow with an honorable air about him. Mila however seemed somehow unreadable, as if she had practiced the art of blending in. Ashen was unsure of her motivations or her place here. Was she integral to the defense of the city? Ashen actively avoided shaking Tornus’s hand because if the illusion were to falter, the tactile sensory element would be the first to go. Instead he hoped his deep bow would show the proper respect a man of his position held. “Sir Tornus, Lady Mila, its a pleasure to make your acquaintance, but I am afraid we should keep the pleasantries short. This city is in grave danger.”

Walgrin nods to Ashen’s admission of the unfortunate truth, “Indeed, friends, we can spare time for our thousand songs of life, until after we discuss the plots happening right now.” Walgrin does his best to keep a grin off of his face, because things are finally getting interesting. He looks to the locals to see where they should be going to talk.

Mila turns her back to the group, rolling her eyes at the distress they seemed to be having over a few silly goblins.

Lle lakwenien?” She mumbles to herself.

Her eyes search the area as if looking for a way out. But she quickly reminds herself that she likely wouldn’t make it back to the docks before someone noticed the ‘murderer’.

“Goblins are easy. You shove a sword through them…and they die. Why such the fuss? I would think there are more important matters at hand…”

She turns her head to Tornus and raises a brow. “Such as finding your Commander’s killer, no?”

‘Elven?’ Ashen thought after the woman was finished speaking. ‘There were few in the city who would dare utter Elven words. No wonder she had practiced blending in. Any sign of Elven ancestry would make her a target.’ Ashen kept the newfound information to himself unsure whether Walgrin, Veira, or Tornus would know her secret. At some point Ashen would ask her about her ancestry, but it would wait for a more opportune moment.

Walgrin’s ears perked up on hearing this. “Its… Its not the Goblins that concern us, Lady Mila. Its where they appeared, and what they were trying to do. Much like the unfortunate Commander, sharp sticks make quick work of most things.” He forced himself to frown as he processes the information, “Goblins magically teleported into secure locations to steal objects of great power, AND the Commander of the Guard killed within hours of each other? I fear this is merely the start of Falcrest’s problems.” He looked to the group with a stern look, “We may not be able to act quickly enough to stop their plans.”

“Indeed,” Tornus agreed, “Either of these events on its own is happenstance; together they speak of something more sinister. I hope that there is…” He suddenly stopped short. “Do you hear that?”

As everyone hushed to listen the sound of a struggle came from down the hallway behind Walgrin a blood-curdling scream rang out.

A child’s scream.

A scream of fear.

The unmistakeable sound of death.

Then, silence.

Tornus unsheathed his sword, and moved to look down the hallway.

Walgrin’s head turns towards the sound, and his hand hovers over his blade has his body rotates to face whatever caused the sound, his eyes dart about the hall looking for a sign of the scream. Anything to make sense of all this. ‘Great, I was bored of being discussed by mages, and now the city is being taken-over. Hubris, Walgrin. Remember your lessons.’ He thinks to himself.

Mila looks down the hallway as well but doesn’t move to grab her blade, wanting to keep it hidden from the three strangers as long as possible.

“A child’s scream…what kind of city is this?”

She looks at the men who just stand there, staring in the direction of the screams and sighs.

“Fine. I’ll go check.”

She pushes past Walgrin as she moves to the hallway, calmly but swiftly.

As the scream rang out, Ashen instinctively allowed some of the essence to boil to the surface, enveloping him in a protective sheath of magic. What new threat came toward the magistrate? Ashen watched Mila and admired her arrogance as she pushed forward toward the doorway. Though he now had a magical shield surrounding his body, she wore her attitude as a shield, unconcerned about the threat? Or exuding false confidence in order to gain the upper hand? Either way, Ashen held his ground but prepared for whatever Mila found beyond the doorway.

“Indeed,” Tornus agreed, “Either of these events on its own is happenstance; together they speak of something more sinister. I hope that there is…” He suddenly stopped short. “Do you hear that?”

As everyone hushed to listen the sound of a struggle came from down the hallway behind Walgrin a blood-curdling scream rang out.

A child’s scream.

A scream of fear.

The unmistakeable sound of death.

Then, silence.

Tornus unsheathed his sword, and moved to look down the hallway.

Walgrin’s head turned towards the sound, and his hand hovered over his blade as his body rotated to face whatever caused the sound, his eyes dart about the hall looking for a sign of the scream. Anything to make sense of all this. ‘Great, I was bored of being discussed by mages, and now the city is being taken-over. Hubris, Walgrin. Remember your lessons.’ He thinks to himself.

As the scream rang out, Ashen instinctively allowed some of the essence to boil to the surface, enveloping him in a protective sheath of magic. What new threat came toward the magistrate? Ashen watched Mila and admired her arrogance as she pushed forward toward the doorway. Though he now had a magical shield surrounding his body, she wore her attitude as a shield, unconcerned about the threat? Or exuding false confidence in order to gain the upper hand? Either way, Ashen held his ground but prepared for whatever Mila found beyond the doorway.

Mila looks down the hallway as well but doesn’t move to grab her blade, wanting to keep it hidden from the three strangers as long as possible.

“A child’s scream…what kind of city is this?”

She looks at the men who just stand there, staring in the direction of the screams and sighs.

“Fine. I’ll go check.”

She pushes past Walgrin as she moves to the hallway, calmly but swiftly.

Mila passed through the doorway into a large hallway, lined on either side with door leading to various rooms and offices. Mila checked each one as she moved past it, cautiously sweeping each room for any sign of the source of the screams heard earlier. Each proved to be empty, and after a few moments Mila found herself face to face with a double door at the end of the hallway. A gentle push revealed it had been locked from inside.

The others had almost reached her when Mila took the heel of her boot and kicked the door. The wood creaked and gave way, the doors flying open revealing a sight that made Viera audibly gasp.

The room was crimson with blood. A cloaked figure crouched at the foot of the bed, obscuring might have been laying on the bed in front of him, but the blood dripping out of the linens onto the floor suggested that whoever lay in that bed was no longer living. Out of the corner of her eye, Mila caught sight of a small girl, no older than 8, with a black handled dagger protruding from her chest. A young raven haired woman lay off the right side of the bed, her neck bent in an unnatural direction and her face pale with death. The man crouched on the bed turned, ever so slightly to glance back at Mila and the people gathered behind her. As he turned, Mila couldn’t help but notice a flash of red from the lining of his cloak.

“You are too late,” he spoke in raspy tones. He broke into a large smile and began to laugh. “Death comes to this place. It is written. It is foretold. He will rise.” His laughter intensified, then suddenly he was gone in a blink, a slight wisp of black marking his former location.

The disappearance of the cloaked figure revealed what he had been looming over on the bed: the corpse of the magistrate, with his entrails pulled out of his abdomen and draped over the sheets in a perverse form of augury.

In the distance, a horn sounded. Twice short, and a long burst.

“Defend,” Tornus said. “The call is to defend. The city is under attack.”

It was then that Ashen saw the first arrow, wreathed in fire, fly past the window behind the bed.

Ashen’s eyes widened upon seeing the arrow flash past the window. He tore his eyes from the bloody massacre and gazed out upon the city of Falcrest. Upon seeing the fires beginning around the city he muttered, "There is more than Isktashi unrest here. Something dark is guiding these events. He closed his eyes and focused on the essence calming himself and drawing confidence from it. When he opened his eyes they were ablaze, glowing blue. He sympathized with Mila and the horrors that this family had endured but mourning would have to wait.

Mila took a step back, her bloodied gauntlet moving to cover her mouth and stifle her own gasp at the sight. She quickly took notice of the gauntlet against her lips and ripped it off, throwing it to the ground before moving forward again into the horror scene and straight to the little girl’s side.


She pulled the dagger from the child’s cold body and studied the blade a moment, hoping to recognize it’s origin. She wasn’t able to read the deep edges of the blood stained runes that covered it, however.

“I’ve never seen this pattern in a blade before.”

She tossed the blade over to Tornus’ feet before moving back to the child. With her bare hand, she gently placed her fingers over the little girl’s eyelids to close them and whispered softly to the soul that had departed.

Lissenen ar’ maska’lalaith tenna’ lye omentuva.”

She stood and looked at the others before her eyes focused on Tornus. “That was the man that killed your commander. If you can call him a man…”

The sound of the horns startles her and she moves to the window, her eyes widening once again at the fight starting outside of it.

“We need to move now if you wish for your city to remain…”

Walgrin grimaced at the scene displayed infront of the group, “Looks like the work of cultists. The best kind of religious fanatics.” He sighed, “I believe we’ll better serve the city’s defenses outside this room.” He turned to leave and get to the fray. Fiery arrows, city sieges? Maybe Walgrin wasn’t as far removed from his godhood as he thought. He wanted action, and it’s certainly found its way to him.

Ashen turned and followed Walgrin from the room, anxious to face this threat and reveal what evils drove the events of the day.

Almost as an afterthought Walgrin added, “So the screaming plagues aren’t a thing here I take it, Mila? You seemed unshaken by the death-screams.” He asked this knowing that it will only quirk eyebrows, but thats just fine; kings are meant to be looked at.

Mila stared Walgrin down at his question, her eyes narrow and highly unamused.

“Screams only phase me if it’s someone I care about taking their last breath. Good thing I won’t be phased by anyone in this room.”

She pulls her cloak against her once more and retrieves the gauntlet she threw aside before following.

“No, Lady Mila. I meant what I asked, The Screaming Plague. It was a sickness that swept my lands in the early days of my rule. It was a literal contagion that transfered to hosts via the screams of the dying.” He shakes his head as he goes, “It claimed a great many people before we figured how it worked, let alone how to stop it. Once it was know, healers began deafening themselves to prevent themselves from catching it.” Actual concern crosses his face as he recalls the tale. “I…. We learned to not run towards screams like that. They… They were dark times.” He turns his head and offers a half-smile. “Sorry, if it came off differently. Your world is all still very new to me.”

Mila rolls her eyes and continues forward, trying to focus on what tactics she will have to use once they are submerged in the fight.

“My world? This is not my world. Dolle naa lost.”

She mumbles the last part as she pushes past Ashen and takes the lead again, the group moving too slow for her taste.

Bursting through the door of the manor into the square, Mila took in the situation in the market square. The market, bustling with people and business just 20 minutes prior, was now empty of life. A few of the stalls had caught fire from the flaming arrow assault, and there were two unfortunate souls who were unlucky enough to be in the line of fire now lying dead on the cobblestone square.

Tornus stood in the doorway and looked around solemnly. “I will be needed at the walls.”

“I must return to the tower,” Viera responded, “it has been attacked once today, and I must imagine that it will be a target.”

Mila’s ears twitch as the two decided to go separate ways. Though she felt some loyalty to Tornus for him helping her, she also knew that whatever that creature was that killed the magistrate and his family was more likely to head to the tower than the city walls.

“I will go with you, Lady Viera. If that is okay with you. I promise I am not just dead weight.”

“I’ll follow you to the walls Tornus. See if I can’t help strengthen your defenses.” Walgrin bows to Viera, and Mila, “May your skills see you through to tomorrow.” He then turns and runs off after Tornus.

Ashen scoffed at Veira and shook his head. The entire point of coming to Falcrest was to help fortify and protect the city. They had already failed to protect the magistrate and now Veira was leaving the rest of the citizens to a fight they cannot win alone. After seeing Walgrin’s prowess in battle he would be an asset to Falcrest but even he would not be able to ward off an army of angry Isktashi. Veira’s retreat was just another sign of the wickedness of the world. The tower had been fortified and prepared after the last attack. The battle was here. Ashen was staying.

“Tornus, your weapons will provide a wall of steel but hopefully my magic will be able to keep other threats at bay.” He gave Veira a sidelong glance, “Magai Veira, I will stay and meet the present threat. If you return to the tower and find you require my aid call for me.” Without waiting for a reply Ashen turned on his heel and headed for the wall.

An Arrival

(Setting: The Rialta, Falcrest Harbor)

The Rialta had been asea for the better part of two weeks, and was now arriving at the port in Sessenne. She was a hauler, a regular sight in the docks of Falcrest, bringing another cargo hold full of wood from the forests at the other side of the Empire. There was however, a new face on the ship this trip, and she stood on the deck, waiting for the gangplank to allow her onto the docks.

Mila sighed impatiently as she waited to disembark the dreaded ship; the curved nails on her fingers rapping against the side of the boat with the beat of a frustrated soul. For two weeks she had to be ‘well-behaved’ and it had worn her nerves thin. But she wasn’t going to risk being thrown off the boat, as the sea was no place for a half-elf, especially one as fiery as her. A man finally motioned for her to step off and to the docks and though she wore a cloak black as night that covered her body and head, she gave him a gentle nod of gratitude. “Namaarie,” she whispered as she passed him, but immediately he placed his arm in her path to stop her.

“Elven…?” The man grew a smug smile and Mila rolled her eyes under the cloak.

“A slip of the tongue,” she mumbled before kneeing him in the crotch hard, causing him to crumble to the ground. She smiled and stepped over his body as if it were never there. He wouldn’t remember the Elven woman who was ‘well-mannered’ on his ship for two weeks when he woke from his pain; or at least, he wouldn’t want to.

She moved quickly off the docks, being sure to keep her cloak pulled tight to her. Though she hadn’t many travels so far, on the few she had been on she received mixed reactions to her pointed ears. Some greeted them with grace, while others such as the gentleman on the ship, saw them as a threat or possible trophy.

Once in Falcrest she stopped and ttook in a deep breath, the salty air still lingering in her throat quickly dissipating. “Bout’ bloody time,” she sighed, and looked around at the crowd. Some looked at her briefly but once their eyes met hers, they quickly looked away. “At least this bunch seems smarter than most," she mumbled to herself before moving forward. Two weeks had been far too long for her bastard sword to stay sheathed, and she was looking for trouble in the best possible way.

Godrick strained to keep the woman in sight. Accosting a man on the docks was one thing, but an elf in Falcrest was far more interesting. He struggled to move through the crowd, and frequently his plate armor would hit someone in the back of the head. He would apologize and continue moving, bobbing his head over the people around him. Godrick wore a red bandana over a long thick mop of cinnamon colored hair. The bandana was the key to keeping a low profile…as long as no one saw the ears he would be safe. Finally, they entered the boundary of Falcrest and he was about to catch her. He needed to find out who she was…it had been Godrick alone in Sessenne for far too long and he did not want to see a woman of Elven blood killed by bandits.

He was almost within reach when a burly man on a horse passed by, blocking his path. When the horse finally trotted slowly across opening the path back up Godrick lost her. His eyes darted from person to person looking for her cloak, but she was nowhere to be found. Godrick shook his head and grinned, ‘as long as she doesn’t knee every man she meets she should be able to keep a low profile.’

Godrick saw a familiar sight and grinned even bigger. The wooden sign for his old haunt, “The Bearded Halfling” a few meters away. His shift ended half an hour ago and ale seemed like it would hit the spot. Casting one last look around for the woman he headed for the tavern.

Mila wandered aimlessly amongst the people of Falcrest, boredom quickly beginning to overtake her as the citizens went about their daily tasks. “No brawls…no conflict…what do these people do for fun,” she mumbled to herself, heading to the sidewalk and looking at the buildings she passed. “The Bearded Halfling?” She stopped at the odd, but appropriately named pub and shrugged. ‘Maybe the drunkards will at least offer entertainment,’ she thought to herself before stepping inside.

The pub was dimly lit as to be expected. Those who drink don’t want to be reminded of the sun that shines outside and could offer some solace for their sorrows. It was dim enough for her to remove the hood of her cape though, though she was sure to pull her long-crimson locks over her ears to keep them hidden. She looked around at the crowd and smiled as no one seemed to take notice of her. ‘Early morning and too drunk to notice a maiden in a pub. Perfect.’

She moved to the bar, and took a seat next to a scruffy man who had clearly had one too many already and was barely able to keep his head up. The barkeep eyed her closely for a moment. “Can I help ya, miss,” he asked as he approached. “Don’t get many ladies in here.”

“I noticed. Ale, please – and don’t bother me with weak, watered down shit.”

The barkeep’s eyes widened at her mouth and he shifted away. “Comin’ right up, miss.”

Mila sighed and leaned against the bar, her eyes darting in intervals at her surroundings. Drunks, thieves, and the occasional man that seemed like he might be of decent upbringings; a mixed crowd, indeed. There was potential here.

The barkeep returned with a large mug and placed it in front of her. “Strongest in the house, love. Be careful wit’ it.”

Mila gave him a half-hearted smile and tossed him a gold piece. “I don’t need warnings. I can handle my liquor better then most men.”

The barkeep bit down on the gold piece and smirked, giving her a small nod before moving to attend to other guests.

Godrick surveyed the room, and sighed. It was just as he remembered it, the loveable drunks, the thieves who thought they were better than they were, and a few men from the other side of Falcrest who seemed like they were in the wrong place. Godrick’s plate mail scraped as he moved, and the patrons of the bar stopped their conversations as he entered. "Please my friends, go about your day. I am not a here as commander of the city watch today. I am a simple patron looking for a good mug of ale.

The conversations slowly began to resume, if a bit more tense than they had been before, and Godrick made his way to the bar. The barkeep walked over after just testing the gold of a woman down the bar. “Kerst! Still untrusting of your patrons I see?”

“Godrick! Its been ages since ye’ve been in me fine establishment. What’ll it be?”

“The usual Kerst, a strong fey brandy.”

Kerst was taken aback, “Why sir, you know that’s not legal.”

Godrick smiled, “Help an old friend out here Kerst, we both know you keep a bottle hidden behind the dwarvish whiskeys.”

“Well, I don’t know,” Kerst’s mouth broke into a toothy grin, “But I’ll see what I can do.” Kerst moved off and began making the drink.

Godrick stood up from the bar, his plate mail clanging as he began circling the small tavern, his memories returning. He smiled as he leaned up against the mantle of the hearth and stared into the fire. He missed the good old days before he was city watch commander. Now everything was complicated. He was lost in reminiscence, so much so that he almost didn’t feel the blade slide between the plates of armor and cleanly pass between ribs piercing his lung. Reminiscence turned to confusion as the pain set in. He began coughing spurts of blood into the fire and turned to face his assailant. No one in the bar had noticed, and all he saw of his attacker was a red cloak slipping out the tavern door. As crumpled to the floor patrons began to notice his condition and the room grew loud with shrieks and gasps. As his eyes grew dark he noticed woman with the cloak he was following that brought him to this tavern. She still intrigued him and he wished he was able to talk with her about their people. With a smile and a thought of home, he breathed his last breath.

Mila chugged at the ale, paying little attention to those coming and going though when the room went silent for a moment, she turned to see whom held such power over the crowd of drunkards. Hearing him give his title, a curse word escaped her lips. ‘So much for drunken fun’.

She quickly returned to tending to her ale as at least she knew now why the city was so dull. A commander whom could bring a tavern to silence was sure to keep a city at peace. She shifted her body to face the wall when he approached the bar, hugging her mug tightly. Though her eyes watched him for a moment as he chimed up conversation with the barkeep. The red bandanna over his head bothered her. He was either hiding something or thought too highly of himself.

With an empty mug back on the counter, Mila let out a soft sigh and was ready to go when the all too familiar music of a fallen soldier caused her ears to perk up. She stood in enough time to watch the commander fall, the clatter of his plate armor sending a chill down her spine. The edge of a red cloak caught her eye as it quickly exited and she knew the one that fled fastest was the one who caused the crime. Mila enjoyed fighting and even causing trouble. But to strike a man blindly was dishonorable in her eyes. She had two choices- go after the cloaked bastard or attempt to help the fallen commander. Though only seconds passed the pros and cons between the two options felt as though she spent hours considering them, before she finally rushed towards the commander and pressed her hand tightly against the wound.

“Mani marte?”

Her elven tongue tended to come out in situations of stress and she shook her head, reminding herself to stay calm.

“Are you just going to stand there and let your commander die!”

Her voice rattled the small tavern and several patrons stepped away from her in fear. Her hazel eyes scanned the room before narrowing on an older man who stared at the situation from the corner of the tavern. She raised her free hand and pointed at him.

“I sense power in you. Can you heal?”

“Shaman…my lady. I…I can try.”

The old man stuttered as he approached quickly, the edge in her words suggesting he move faster. She kept her hand hard pressed on the wound but judging by the angle and depth of it, the commander was fading fast.

“Asca!” She hissed.

The old Shaman began to say a chant, placing his hand over hers that still held tight to the wound. Her plate gauntlet was stained with the commander’s blood but it didn’t phase her. She had seen bloodier wounds. Despite her disgust of him earlier, she looked into his eyes and offered what comfort she could, placing her free hand on his cheek which was quickly growing white.

“Dartho velt..”

She hadn’t noticed the crowd regathering around them, whispering amongst themselves as their curiosity from her native tongue started the rumors. She also hadn’t bothered to ensure her hair stayed protectively over her ears, the left one peaking just slightly from her locks in the chaos. The only thing she was concerned with was helping this man or at least offering him peace in his passing. She closed her eyes and said a silent prayer to Polvec. Change was a constant, but there were times where she wished constants remained.

Everyone’s attention then quickly turned toward the door, where two city guards, clad in their brass plate, entered the room. “What’s going on here,” the smaller of the two bellowed.

“Get back,” the other called to the gathering crowd, pushing through to kneel at Godrick’s side. He reached out to feel for a pulse and finding none, whispered a quiet prayer, and turned to Mila. “What happened here? Who is responsible for this?”

“Amin hiraetha.”

Mila whispered the words before standing at the command of the two guardsmen, stepping back to give them room. She looked to the Shaman and gave him a nod of thanks, despite the outcome.

“It’s pretty obvious, isn’t it? He was killed.”

A breeze from the open door hit Mila’s exposed ear and she finally became aware of the crowd that continued to stare at her. Quickly pulling the cloak back over her head, she took another step back and gave those still looking at her a warning glare.

“Specifically… by someone in a red cloak. It was the only thing I saw as they ran out of the tavern. I’m sure these fine people might be able to offer you more insight as to a physical description.”

Her second comment to the guard was more respectful as she realized she needed to leave the tavern immediately.

“I am sorry for your loss.”

She gave a small bow of respect and stepped to the side, shoving her way through the crowd to quickly to get to the door.

“Wait,” the guardsman called out. “Tornus, go with her.”

The second man nodded and began moving through the crowd to accompany Mila.

Mila ignores the command, shoving a drunken man who blocked her escape route to the ground. She offers no condolence to him before rushing out the door of the tavern and onto the still-crowded street.

The setting afternoon sun blinds her briefly, forgetting how time in a tavern can make a day pass quickly. She looks up and down the street, looking for a clear path, when a woman screams behind her. She turns and sees the frail woman pointing at Mila’s still bloody gauntlet, a crowd gathering quickly around her as their eyes moved to Mila.

“It’s not my blood!”


’That’s even worse.’ Mila turns tail and takes off in the opposite direction of the woman and crowd that begins the chant the word, some of the men following her as she ducked into a small alley. Her plate armor gave away every step as she ran as fast as she could, the protective wear suddenly weighing more than it normally did.


One of the men following her manages to catch up and in an attempt to stop her, lunges at her and grabs her cloak, pulling her roughly to the ground with him. She scrambles away from him but he keeps a strong hold on her cloak, forcing her to release the latch at the neck so she can get back on her feet. Rounding another corner, she finds herself at a dead in, the man who tackled her right behind her and two others joining him quickly after.

“I murdered no one!” She continues to back up despite the wall behind her. The man who tackled her holds her cloak and gives her a smug grin.

“An elf, eh? Haven’t seen one of your types in a while…”

Mila reaches up and realizes that her scattered hair no longer covers her ears at all. ‘Shit’. Her hand moves to the handle of her sword as they continue to approach, her eyes fluttering between the three.

“How much will the city guard pay for a murderous elf bitch?”

The words bring a small growl from Mila’s lips and she draws her sword, taking a defensive stance but pointing the blade at the man who spoke.

“One step closer and you all die. Feuyaerea.”

DISPERSE!” a booming voice yelled from the back of the crowd. Mila’s eyes shot up and she recognized Tornus standing in the back of the crowd, flanked by 6 other brass clad guardsmen. “Unless you want to end up in the stocks, I recommend you find somewhere else to be. NOW!”

A murmur went through the shocked crowd. A few in the crowd ran, a few cowered, but they all began moving away. A pair of gauntlet clad hands grabbed the man holding Mila’s cloak. “That doesn’t look to be your color, friend. Perhaps you should give it back to the lady.”

The man stared daggers into the guard, obviously gauging whether he should fight back, but the man thought better of his situation, and dropped the cloak to the ground. “I don’t need no elf-bitch’s cloak anyhow.”

The guard gave him a push, and the man, after casting one last icy glance at Mila, turned and slithered away.

Tornus stepped forward to Mila. “I understand your trepidation, Elandili. But you should come with us, I think for everyone’s sake. You will find friends among those of us who knew Godrick well, but most would rather stab you in the gut than look at the points of your ears.”

Mila maintained her defensive stance and kept her weapon readied as Tornus stepped forward. Her eyes focused intently on his as if she was trying to decipher the sincerity in his words. But the elven word that rolled off of his tongue broke her gaze.

Lle quena i’lambe tel’ Eldalie? How did you know I was a half breed…”

She lowered her sword but kept it in hand, stepping forward and picking her cloak up from the ground before standing straight again and staring him down.

“I did not come to this city to be held for a crime I did not commit.”

Amin caela mellone Tel’Quessir, I have many friends among the elves, and you do not bear their features as strongly as a full elf would. I am not trying to hold you for anything; I do not believe that you killed our Captain. However, the rumors of the elf that fled the tavern bloody combined with the news that Godrick was murdered in the same place.. there are far too many who would demand you be hanged without a second thought. It also stands to reason that you might be able to help us when it comes to our investigation.”

“I promise you, I mean you no ill intent.”

Mila considered his words for a brief moment before sheathing her sword. Even if he was being dishonest in his intentions, she stood a better chance against him than the entire city. She gave him a small nod before wrapping her cloak back around her shoulders and pulling the hood over her head, making sure to tuck every crimson lock tightly in it this time.

“So be it. Amin weera yassen lle. Where are we going.”

She stepped up to him and started to pass before her eyes met the other guards.

Diola lle…but attempt to trick me and it will be the last thing you do.”


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