The Isle of Deroge-The Grand Wager...

Week 16: The Return
Crash Into Me

Blowing out the lamp in her room in Oreville, Lucinde noticed a figure lingering in the alleyway behind the inn. To her, it seemed like the person was staring up at her window. She sent a message to her allies, Meet me in Iezecele’s room.

As she was about to knock on Gaspar’s door, he opened the door. “What?” Gaspar responded to Lucinde’s surprised face. “I heard you call for us to meet in Iezecele’s room.”

Gaspar’s part of the group, Lucinde sent through her ring.

“I appreciate it, but I don’t think you have to say it,” Gaspar said, opening the door to Iezecele’s room.

No, Val pointed at his closed mouth as he sent a message to Gaspar, she means that you are part of the group.

Gaspar started to question the others, but Iezecele cut him off, Talk about it later. I’m focusing. Iezecele had enhanced his senses to detect waves of negative energy given off by evil creatures. He was shocked to see the intense level of power emanating from the alleyway. “We should get down there.” As he urged his allies to action, Iezecele watched the person step deeper into the shadows of the alleyway.

Arriving in the alleyway, the party found it empty. “He must have noticed us watching him,” Gaspar offered, “and ran off”

“Maybe,” Iezecele hesitantly responded as he scanned the ground. He didn’t see any footprints moving away from the scene. He did notice paw impressions pressed into a few stones. “It looks like another of those dog creatures was here.”

Gaspar shook his head, whispering, “What kind of place is this Marmo? The hell they’ll bring.”

Iezecele took one last glance down the alleyway, “I suggest we all sleep in the same room tonight.”

“And set a watch.” Lucinde added.

black-divider-hi.png

Two days out of town, Val noticed a figure at the top of a hill. He hailed the person with friendly wave. The person waved back, signaling that they would meet again before stepping out of view.

After riding up to the spot, Lucinde examined the ground. “There’s some footprints over here, but they disappear after a few steps.”

“Maybe it was one of those Watchers that the assassin mentioned?” Gaspar suggested.

black-divider-hi.png

A week on the road to Beaufort, the party again noticed someone watching them. Again, Val waved at the person. Instead of disappearing, the person spread his arms up to the sky. Two ravens flew from black smoke erupting from the person’s outstretched hands. The dark birds perched in a tree near the party and watched.

“You read the report about us killing some ravens?” Val questioned Gaspar.

The warrior nodded, keeping his eyes on the summoned birds, “Yes, it was chilling.”

“Then let’s just go.”

black-divider-hi.png

One night, after two weeks on the road, Lucinde was on watch. She heard movement coming from the woods nearby. She alerted the others through the power of her ring and prepared herself for another monster attack.

She was unprepared for what came out. Twenty or so people came shuffling into view. Blackness flowed from all of their eyes as they steadily approached their campsite. Most were dressed in simple clothes, wielding simple objects in their hands.

As the others approached, Lucinde called out to Iezecele, “Is there anything you can do? I’m not sure I can kill these people.”

Iezecele summoned his Will and released a spray of color, knocking out a number of the people. He was able to release a second spray, knocking out a few more before the rest descended on the party.

Val moved first, drawing his short swords and slapping the flat sides of the blade on either side of a man’s head, knocking him out.

To her horror, Lucinde recognized the woman attacking her. It was the mother Everton from Everton’s Amazing Animals. Months ago, the woman had given them a show with the large bear, Brutus, when they visited the menagerie outside of Beaufort. She had been so kind to Lucinde, and now her eyes were bleeding black and she was trying her best to kill Lucinde with a silver hairbrush. Lucinde winced as she hit the woman in the face with the hilt of her flail.

Gaspar hesitated, stepping back before he could muster the resolve to attack these victims of Mesonge’s evil. He steeled his will and apologized as he knocked his attacker out.

Iezecele remembered what happened to the eyeless creature’s head when he released the healing power from the earth. The positive energy had destroyed the creature’s corpse. He focused his Will and drew forth the energy. The remaining attackers screamed in pain before dropping unconscious to the ground.

Val looked to the woods. “Tie these up. I’m going to check things out. I’ll let you know if I get into trouble.” He traveled through the woods, eventually arriving at the menagerie’s main camp. It was odd. It looked like most of the animals were still present. He peeked into a few of the covered wagons. People were there, resting peacefully. The rogue wondered why only some of them were taken over by the blackness.

He went to the center of the camp and banged on a cookpot, alerting them. The ringmaster, Thom Christopher, was first to come out. “What’s going on?” A man twice as thick as Val came along side Christopher. The rogue recognized him as the menagerie’s strongman.

Val carefully thought out what he was going to say next. This would be a tough crowd to win over. He did his best to explain that they had found a number of the menagerie’s people about a mile away. The strongman moved closer and demanded Val hand over his swords. The rogue easily handed them over, secure in the knowledge that he had several daggers secreted about his person.

He led them back through the woods, letting the rest of the party know he was returning with some people. “What have you done to them?” The strongman demanded, pushing the tip of Val’s own sword hard against the rogue’s back. He saw that his family and friends had been tied up.

Thom rushed ahead, reaching his restrained friends just as the sun rose. The ringleader saw the blackness that was seeping from their eyes dry up. He took out a handkerchief and began brushing away the black crust.

Lucinde crouched down next to the Everton mother, “Do you remember anything?”

The woman, looking frightened and confused looked at Lucinde, shook her head. “No, nothing.”

She wondered if someone had cast a spell. “Was there anyone new in your camp?”

She shook her head. Overhearing Iezecele tell Thom about how the party was attacked, “Did I?” She stammered. “Did I try to hurt you?” Lucinde saw tears beginning to well in the woman’s eyes.

Val started untying the woman, “How about nightmares? Have you had any terrible nightmares lately?”

Again, the woman shook her head. “All I remember is feeling this overwhelming feeling of hate.”

black-divider-hi.png

Arriving at the Basilica in Beaufort, the party was quickly ushered to a private chamber where the Channing was waiting. They party explained the fall of Karg and the likely fate of the priests they had been sent to find. They also shared the enemies they had faced, the eyeless creature and the man-beasts.

The Channing briefly closed his eyes, remembering a line of the Prophecy. “The Wolf shall twist man to create Marmo’s army.”

Lucinde shared how the blackness had infected the members of the menagerie. “How does this keep happening? These people, the infected monsters, how do they keep finding us?”

“The Wolf shall send his Bloodhound to seek out and destroy enemies.” The Channing quoted another line from the Prophecy. “The Prophecy has a number of lines about the forces of Marmo.”

Val reasoned. “Remember when the eyeless thing looked at us? Garrn couldn’t see into the room, but it seemed to notice us. The best way to find out what’s truly going on is to not be noticed. We need to find a way to hide from them.” He questioned, “So how are they finding us?”

“Before you weren’t ready to hear about the Chosen,” the Channing leveled with the party.

Val was frustrated. What did it matter if they were Chosen, if all it meant was that they would hurt those around them? “So they’re finding us because we were fingered by a deity?”

“You may be hunted, but you are not without aid. The Prophecy states, ‘The Chosen will have weapons that the Illya know not.’”

“Like this,” Lucinde dropped her flail heavily on the table. “Fat load of good it did for those people in the menagerie. They were tortured and could have been killed!”

The Channing nodded. He wished he could take all of this trouble off of their shoulders. “The Prophecy states that ’The daunting weight of the hopes and dreams of all good people of Deroge will be placed on the shoulders and backs of the Chosen.”

Lucinde nodded, accepting the duty to protect the people of Deroge. It was an extension of what her family had done for generations.

Val put his head down and let out an unhinged laugh. Upon returning to Beaufort, he had learned that Allegra had ascended the throne after the Queen had suddenly died. He could only imagine the Queen’s reaction if she heard that the fate of the Isle rested on the head of the person who nearly got her daughter killed.

Iezecele summed the situation up perfectly, “I need to throw up.”

black-divider-hi.png

Val’s mind was spinning. The thought that the lives of everyone on the Isle counted on him and his allies was overwhelming. Especially because it seemed to him that the enemy held all the cards. They probably had an army of beast-men. That’s why there were so many forges in Karg. Worse, there was that eyeless creature. Who knew how many of them the enemy had? Not to mention they must have some type of magic that made those monsters.

And what did they have? Some mysterious treausure and twelve haphazardly chosen heroes? And ‘weapons the Illya know not’? He felt the weight of his swords as he walked the Basilica’s courtyard. The weapons and magical rings he and his allies bore were certainly more powerful than any he had seen wielded, matching those in some of the wildest tales he told. But what could twelve weapons do against an army?

Plus, everything was so random. They had no plan. Even as they searched for snippets of the church’s prophecy, it was check here, look there. Now they would have to find an unknown treasure, and unite all lands and races against an unknown enemy. Val had no idea where they would even start.

Adding to that was his cousin’s rise to the throne. He didn’t know what to do about that. The last time they had been together, she had been gravely wounded. He had no idea what she thought of him. Did she miss her childhood friend, or blame him for her grievous wounds, just like her mother? He was also nervous about the timing. The Queen had not been ill. According to all accounts, her death had been a surprise. Val couldn’t ignore the timing of the enemy’s arrival and the death of the Queen. Was Allegra also in danger.

He noticed Iezecele trying to get his attention, “Sorry, Iezecele, what were you saying?”

The Willworker pointed to the sky. “All the birds are flying south.”

“What do,” Val was cut off as he was thrown hard to the ground. When he was able to stand, a scene of destruction greeted him. A number of small buildings had crumbled, broken by some unseen force. He heard people clamoring for aid or crying in pain. It sounded like those cries were echoing across the city.

Lucinde pressed her palm to staunch the wound on her head. “What was that?”

Val had a sinking feeling about what it could be, “Nothing good, whatever it was.”

View
Week 15: Return to the King
We've got some bad news

“I hope you’re not expecting me to lug those things all the way back to La Roche.” Lucinde challenged Iezecele.

“And we can’t just cut off their heads.” Val added. “It’ll look like we just killed a bunch of animals.”

Iezecele began to form a Will-shaping in his mind. “Don’t worry, I’ve got them.” The Willworker released his spell. Small pieces of rock swirled into a disc shape floating a few feet off the ground. “There, that should be good enough to handle two of them.” Gaspar and Lucinde loaded two of the man-beasts onto the floating disk.

Val silently wondered if he could convince Iezecele to summon one of the disks for him. He would never have to ride a horse again. “Come on, let’s get out of here.” Everyone agreed moving quickly, eager to equally get away from Karg as to get to the safety of La Roche.

The party traveled the entire length of the cave in half the time it took them to reach the fallen city of Karg. Just outside the waterfall that hid the mouth of the great tunnel, Garrn motioned for the party to take cover. His Devonan eyes saw further in the darkness, seeing another patrol of man-beasts lurking in the distance. “There’s more of those things,” he warned.

Iezecele pulled out a scroll immediately summoning the Will stored inside, reinforcing the strength of his clothes, making them as strong as a suit of armor. He then cast his Will on the tall grasses, they spun and wove themselves together, forming a floating shield that would protect him.

Val knew that the man-beasts would have the advantage in the darkness. He took his lantern and threw it towards them. He moved away from the light, treading silently among the rocks and tall grass. Lucinde, Gaspar and Garrn rushed out to face the monsters head on.

The man-beasts charged to meet their attackers, their ferocity surprising Garrn and Gaspar. The thick blades of the man-beasts cut through their attacks, pushing the Devonan’s axe and man’s blade aside with their power. Lucinde stopped short, the man-beast’s blade missing her by inches. She swung her flail connecting with the beast’s arm. Val stepped out from the cover of the tall grass and slashed at a man-beast, cutting a gash in a gap in the creature’s armor.

Gaspar and the wolf-headed creature he fought traded blows. Despite his new wound, the warrior was glad that the man-beast howled in pain. Just knowing that it could feel pain was a relief.

A goat-faced man-beast caught the top of Garrn’s head, just as the Devonan cut low into the monster’s leg.

The shield weave of tall grasses blocked the blow the boar-faced monster aimed at Iezecele. The floating shield moved moved aside just far enough to allow the Willworker to lash out with his new staff. He had learned that he could store a portion of his power in the staff. As he struck the boar-headed monster, he released the shocking spell he had stored there.

Val slashed with both his blades, cutting first along the ram-faced side, then along its throat. The creature bleated in pain as it died.

The goat-faced creature struck Garrn a second time, cutting deep into the Devonan’s shoulder. Stunned, the Devonan dropped his axe. Val and Iezecele saw that their guide was in trouble. The Willworker pulled the energy from the earth and sent it out in a wave, healing the worst of Garrn’s injuries. The rogue rolled behind the creature and slashed at the arteries in its legs, killing it.

Lucinde blocked the blow of the man-beast with her shield and pushed forward, throwing the creature off balance. An upswing of her flail shattered its jaw, sending bone fragments into the creature’s head, killing it.

Gaspar spun underneath the wide arc of the wolf-headed creature’s heavy blade and cut into the beast with his sword. He followed the initial blow by dragging his dagger along the same path, widening the wound. The creature gripped its side in a vain effort to keep its insides from spilling out onto the ground.

Iezecele knew that his staff was out of spells. He himself was drained of the energy that he needed to enact his Will. He knew that attempting to escape the boar-faced creature would only open himself up to a deadly attack. Left with no other options, and completely expecting to miss, Iezecele struck out with his staff. His swing connected with the creature’s ear, dazing it long enough for the rest of Iezecele’s party to finish it off.

“Damn it,” Val exclaimed, pointing at the two man-beast corpses from the tunnel. “We dragged these guys all this way for nothing.”

Iezecele wondered what Val was talking about. Gaspar and Lucinde had lifted the creatures. He, himself, had summoned the disc that had transported the corpses from the tunnel. Val hadn’t done a thing. “Come on, let’s get out of this valley.”

The group traveled as quickly as Garrn felt was possible back to the mountain fortress of La Roche. After showing the guards the man-beast corpses, the party was quickly ushered into a private chamber.

They didn’t have to wait long. The Devonan king strode into the room. As he took his chair, he paused, “I’m deeply sorry that you were unable to find your priests.”

Priests? With the state of Karg, Iezecele had forgotten all about them. “It’s much worse than that. Karg has fallen.” He walked over to the corpses they had brought out of the valley and unveiled them.

The king walked over to the corpses and inspected them, going so far as to check to see if the beast heads had been stitched onto the bodies of men. “Tell me.” The group shared their story of what they had seen in the fallen city. Val told a tale of the battles they had with the Eyeless creature and the man-beasts. Garrn wept as he told of the broken Devonans that had been enslaved by the army of man-beasts. “So they know of the passage.”

He waved over an aide and whispered some words to him. The surprised aide left in a hurry. The king turned back to the party, “I’ve just ordered the destruction of the tunnel. The armies of Har’Thelen will meet this threat. We will trap these beasts in Karg with our fallen brethren.”

Val remembered the fog he had seen in Karg, how it had reminded Iezecele of the cliffs in Cendrillion. “Your majesty, these monsters may have invaded by sea. It may be wise to send messages to the other nations.”

The king nodded. “I assume that you will be returning to Cosette. I will send messengers to Artegal Cearnach of Carwithian , the Council of Six in Cendrilion, even Queen Allegra of Kantora.”

Val was surprised to hear that his cousin had assumed the throne. Had the Queen stepped down, or had something else happened? Regardless, it was a question for another time.

“Queen Allegra?” Lucinde questioned. “When did that happen?”

Or it’s a question for right now, Val thought. “She assumed the throne a few months ago.”

“Did the old queen die?” Lucinde pressed.

The king waved his hand, “I couldn’t say for sure. Har’Thelen was only notified of the change in leadership.” He stood, “Rest, but be on your way quickly.”

The group was leaving when Val stopped at the door. He had remembered something, “Your Majesty, when you send your men to the tunnel, arm them with enchanted weapons if you’re able. Those eyeless creatures can not be harmed by normal means.”

black-divider-hi.png

The party returned Garrn to a happy reunion with his wife in Hamilton. His wife knew something had happened to her husband, but focused on being happy that he was home. “Tobias will be so happy you’ve returned.” She looked around, “I think he’s just outside.”

Outside, the party saw Tobias wheel up to a pair of arguing Devonans. They couldn’t tell what the argument was about, but they saw Tobias calm the men down. Moments before, they were about to fight, but now the two Devonans were shaking hands.

“Quite the negotiator you have there.” Lucinde mentioned to Garrn’s wife.

“Dear, he’s always been like that.” Deidre mentioned with a smile.

black-divider-hi.png

The party had pressed on towards Cosette. Val was on watch, wondering about his cousin, when two dogs-like creatures attacked. They were black as night except for their glowing red eyes. They bit deep into the rogue. His scream of pain was both verbal and mental through the ring.

The rest of the party came to Val’s aid, stepping up as Val withdrew from danger. Gaspar hit one of the dogs with his sword and dagger. “My dagger did nothing!” The dog attacked Gaspar, biting deep into his leg.

The other dog locked its jaw on Lucinde even as she drove her flail into it time and again.

Iezecele summoned shards of stone from the earth to strike at the beasts.

Val drank a healing potion. The powerful liquid healing the worst of the creature’s bites. He moved around to the creature attacking Gaspar. “Now you’ll taste my fangs!” He drove both of his short swords into the beast, killing it.

Lucinde continued to hit the remaining dog, even as it continued to bite her. Iezecele summoned his stone shards again. Between both the warrior and the Willworker, the beast died.

“This wound burns.” Gaspar grunted in pain.

As Iezecele tended to Gaspar’s wounds, Val searched to see if there were any more beasts waiting for them. He noticed that the creatures that they had fought left no trace on the ground where they had fought, but further out, he noticed that their paw prints had been burned into the stone where they had stepped. He pointed it out to the rest of the party.

Lucinde looked at the tracks left in the stone, “Does this make sense?”

Iezecele laughed harshly, “Nothing makes sense anymore.”

View
Week 14: Karg
A Dark Enemy Emerges

The group was in wonderment over the items found in the lit alcove. In addition to the ring and staff Iezecele found, each of the others received items that were tailored to their own skills. Gaspar retrieved a suit of chainmail, a longsword, and a ring. Lucinde found a new suit of full plate armor and a flail. Val acquired a suit of scale mail and a set of twin short swords. So entranced by the new items and the surge of power that came with them, that the four failed to notice that Garrn was not among them. Gaspar and Lucinde pushed on the heavy doors, revealing their guide in a nightmarish predicament.

The stocky Garrn was gripped by a man-like thing garbed in a cloak of the deepest black. In one armored hand, he held the Devonan guide aloft. In the other, a black-red blade was poised for the final strike.

Iezecele was the first to act, quickly summoning his power and releasing a scorching ray of fire. It dropped Garrn and turned. It’s face was a grayish-white, the color of maggots. More disturbing was the creature’s face. It had no eyes. The corpse flesh was smooth over the socket’s where it’s eyes belonged. The eyeless creature smiled as the ray passed harmlessly.

It’s cloak flapping some unfelt wind, the creature stood its ground. Iezecele knew he needed to put some distance between the creature and Garrn if the Devonan was to survive. He summoned a ball of molten flame and sent it spinning towards the creature.

It jumped back, dodging the ball of flame. Lucinde and Gaspar charged the creature in black. It sidestepped Gaspar’s sword and blocked Lucinde’s flail with its dark blade. Val stepped from the alcove, immediately feeling a sense of horror grip his soul. The rogue had to grit his teeth as he forced himself to move in a wide arc around the creature.

It began to speak, Val was reminded of snakes rubbing against stones, or the droning of a mass of beetles. “Now that you have shown yourselves, the Master will be pleased when I bring your corpses.” Its blade moved like black lightning. It first cut into Gaspar, then scraped noisily along Lucinde’s shield.

“I think you have that backwards!” Iezecele caught the creature with his burning sphere. Its black coat hissing in the molten heat. He raised his hand, calling forth a spectral shadow of his hand.

Lucinde’s aim was off. She would never admit it to Val and the others, but she was terrified by this thing. Its very presence sent a deathly chill into her. Only her father’s teachings bore up her warrior’s resolve.

Gaspar turned on the fear he felt in the creature’s presence, using it as fuel for his attack. He struck the creature, opening its pale flesh and spilling its blackened blood. As the creature turned its eyeless gaze on the young man, Val moved into the opening and cut along creature’s spine.

In a rage, the creature swung its sword in a wide arc, missing Val and Gaspar, but catching Lucinde’s shoulder. She bit through the pain as the dark blade burned into her flesh.

As the creature lost its inhuman focus, the group attacked with a single minded purpose. Lucinde bashed the creature’s face with her new flail. Iezecele first bowled the flaming ball into the creature and then sent the power of the storm through his spectral hand and into the eyeless creature. Val brought his twin blades together and severed the creature’s head from its shoulders.

It was slain, yet still it continued its attacks, slicing first at Val, then at Lucinde. They were not wild blows, mindlessly tossed about in death throes. The creature was dead, headless, and yet it still fought to kill them.

“Just die already.” Iezecele demanded as he directed the ball of flame into the now headless creature. Gaspar followed up on the Willworker’s attack, slamming his sword home in the creature’s chest. The black cloak stopped waving in the wind that only it felt. Then, it finally crumpled to the ground.

Iezecele rushed to Garrn’s side. The Devonan was gravely wounded. Black veins of poison were spreading from the wounds he received from the eyeless creature’s blade. “Check your wounds,” Iezecele warned. He began searching through his cache of scrolls to find one that would purge the disease from the Devonan.

Both Lucinde’s and Gaspar’s wounds were inflamed, feverish to the touch. Both warriors could see a black poison begin to fester in their wounds. Lucinde winced as she touched the tender flesh. “There’s something wrong with it.”

Iezecele felt his scroll disintegrate as the power contained within was released into Garrn. As he saw that black veins begin to ebb, he turned to Val, “I only had one of these.”

Val looked at Lucinde and Gaspar, wondering what prolonged exposure to the poison would do to them. In his mind, he could see the infection slowly taking over them, turning their flesh the same corpse-like maggoty white. He couldn’t let that happen. He first thought of the spring. It’s water had some type of power. Val wondered if it would be enough. Then he remembered the room, the power that had come over them. “Head into the room.”

As soon as Lucinde and Gaspar were bathed in the light of the hidden room, the poison was purged from their bodies. While the wounds remained, the black veins faded and the feverish sensation cooled. Both warriors let out a sigh of relief.

Garrn gripped Iezecele tightly, “It just stood there.” He stared at the crumpled corpse on the ground. “It just stood there and let me hit it. My axe did nothing.”

Gaspar looked at the Garrn’s axe, then his own sword. There was nothing wrong with the Devonan’s axe. It looked sharp and well maintained. His own blade was smoking where the eyeless creature’s blood stained it. “Look at your blades.” He wiped off his sword with a rag, discarding that as it began to smolder. The others who had wounded the creature quickly followed suit.

“Let’s get moving.” Iezecele suggested. “That thing looked like it never had eyes. It was probably born underground.”

Eyeless." Val muttered. “That’s a good name for it.” He looked at the monstrous corpse, “Simple, yet ominous.”

Iezecele followed Val’s eyes, “If it was the creature. Did you see the way it still attacked after you severed its head? I wonder if it was the cloak.”

Garrn watched the two men calmly discuss the horror they had just faced. " You still want to continue to Karg?" Garrn asked. He wanted nothing more than to turn around and return to his home in Hamilton.

Gaspar nodded, he was even more anxious to get to Karg than before. He worried that there might be more of these things in the Devonan city.

black-divider-hi.png

Wary, Garrn led the group to the city of Karg. “What is that?” Lucinde felt more than heard a repetitive thrumming.

“Hammering.” Garrn whispered. “Too much though.”

“Wait here.” Val went ahead of the group. The sound of the hammering was so overwhelming that there was no need to sneak quietly. He traveled up the steps to a precipice. Looking down into the mountain city, he saw hundreds of smiths at work. The only area only illuminated by the blue fire of the forges. Something other than Devonans worked the billows, nor the anvils. They were man-like in shape, but taller and more muscular. Beyond that it was their heads that shocked Val. Instead the heads of men, these creatures had the heads of wolves, goats and boars. It was obvious to the rogue that the city was lost to these monsters, but he wondered how they had managed to invade.

“That’s not good.” Iezecele muttered as Val used the power of the ring to report what he had seen.

Gaspar moved close to the Willworker, “What’s not good?”

Iezecele shared Val’s report with Garrn and Gaspar. “I’m in contact with Val,” he added, without explaining the power of the ring. “Come on, he says it’s safe to come forward.”

The others joined Val and saw with their own eyes the forges worked by the man-beasts. “No,” Garrn whispered. With his Devonan eyes, the guide could see a new horror in the darkened forges. In the distance, about a dozen Devonans were pushing carts of debris to a pair of large doors. With his sight, he could see their faces. They were defeated and broken.

As the doors open, a thick mist swirled in. “Like the cliffs,” Iezecele muttered.

“Lets get out of here,” Lucinde suggested. She had seen one of the smiths pause in his hammering and sniff the air. With the snouts of beasts, she thought they might be able to sense them.

black-divider-hi.png

As the party returned, they found five of the man-beasts clustered around the dead eyeless creature. “What kill a Neverborn?” The group heard one of the man-beasts say in a guttural Devonan tongue.

The party descended on the five man beasts, surprising and defeating them swiftly. As Iezecele healed the party of their wounds, he watched as the healing wave disintegrated the eyeless creature’s corpse. “Well, at least we have these things for proof.”

“Neverborn, huh?” Val sheathed his blades, “I have to admit. That sounds better than Eyeless.”

View
Week 13: To La Roche
A Light in the Tunnel

“Halt there!” There wasn’t much traffic early in the morning on the border into Har’Thelen. Still, the Devonan guards at the border station took notice of the group’s addition of a prisoner to their pack horse. “What’s the meaning of this?” The Devonan guard spoke in a gravelly Common, eyeing the man tied across the horse. The last thing he needed was an Ahebban problem on the day of the inspection.

Val eyed the insignia of the guard, plumbing his teaching for the right term. " Sergeant of the Shield Masters, well met and good morning! While it pains me to trouble you with crimes that took place on Cosettean soil, I can not ignore the threats uttered by this assassin towards my Devonan allies." The group were quickly ushered into the small border fort. There, they met another Devonan, who bore additional insignia and boasted a few medals hammered into his armor. They were introduced to Ivan Bouldershoulders, Captain of the Eternal Watch, who happened to be administering an inspection of his border forces.

“Before we begin, I would like to weave a Zone of Truthfulness. You shall all be able to hear confirmation of what we say from the assassin’s own mouth.” Upon receiving permission from the captain,Iezecele cast his spell.

Val began sharing the story of the combat, embellishing the truth in his storyteller’s way, making them seem more valiant and their attackers more villainous. "It was upon our questioning that this man spewed forth a dire threat to the citizens of the city of Karg. He said that the city would be attacked."

Here, the assassin spoke, “Captain Bouldershoulders, I must implore you to release me. I never spoke such a thing. In fact, I don’t know why these ne’er do wells have treated me so poorly.” The night previous, he had been overcome with emotions, between the combat and the defeat of his men, he failed to have the resolve to resist the powers of the Willworker. Since, he had time to recover his wits and prepare.

“Wait!” Iezecele shouted, “he’s resisted my casting.” It pained his pride to share, but he needed to let the Devonan captain know before the assassin shared his lies.

The captain arched his thick eyebrows, he had so rarely heard a Willworker so readily share his failing. “While I have not fully formed my opinion of your captors,” the Devonan captain leaned closer to the assassin, “I assure you that it would be in your best interests to speak only the truth from this moment on.” Without the power of the Willworker’s spell, the captain knew a lie when he heard it.

“If I may be so bold, Captain Boldershoulders,” Val stepped forward, drawing a letter from his cloak with a slight flourish and handing it to the Devonan. “This might help.”

The captain scanned the parchment, reading what looked to be a standard letter of introduction. Two things drew his attention. First, that the letter was addressed to his king. Second, that it bore the seal of Channing Kearnan, master of the Church. He looked over the four humans. They were unusual emissaries. He handed the parchment back with a slight nod.

Val returned the acknowledgement. “The assassin is correct. He never said that the city would be attacked. I believe his exact words were, ‘Karg will be the first to feel our might.’ I apologize for the embellishment, professional habit.”

The captain looked to the prisoner, then to the four, weighing the situation. While clearly the prisoner had done wrong to the four, he could not be sure that it was a problem for Har’Thelen. The idea that anyone could mount a successful attack on Karg was difficult to fathom. Still, his duty was to defend the whole of Har’Thelen. “Sergeant. Take this man to the cells and call for a Questioner.” He looked at the assassin, “As sure as stone, we shall find out the truth.”

Two Devonan guards gripped the assassin roughly. The man looked to the four, hoping against all hope that they would change their minds and hand him over to Cosettean forces. His hopes were dashed as the rogue flashed him a satisfied smile and a knowing wink.

“For all that he’s done,”Gaspar glanced back to the border fort once they were outside again, " I pity that man’s future."

Val clapped his hands and rubbed them together, “Now that that’s done, where do we go next?” He looked to the right, along the road into Har"Thelen, “Do we continue on to Hamilton?” He swung is head left, looking down the border between both countries, “Or do we head to the coast to see about this Watcher fellow?”

“We head to Hamilton.” Lucinde firmly decided. She was curious about the man that had commanded the assassins, but they had been contracted by the Church to see to the priests in Karg. Her father had always told her that once a contract was made, a Solide would see it through no matter the distractions. The road to Karg started at Hamilton.

Gaspar nodded, thankful for Lucinde. " To Hamilton it is." He spurred his horse across the border.

black-divider-hi.png

The group traveled through the foothills of the Spine of Har’Thelen, arriving safely in the city of Hamilton. Val wanted to explore the city, but Lucinde insisted that they first find the guide whom Channing Kearnan had referred. A few simple questions from Val led them to Ironfoot Guide Service.

Inside, there were all kinds of climbing tools and gear designed for the long travels into the mountainous Spine. Lucinde was drawn by the drawers full of maps. Val went directly to a young man sitting at the counter towards the back of the room. As he approached, he caught a slight curve to his eyes, his ears extended to a point, and noted the clerk’s half-Eshih heritage. “Good day to you, sir. Is Garrn about? Or, failing that, perhaps the lovely Deidre?”

“Master Ironfoot is the only ‘sir’ about, and he is out right now. My name is Tobais. Let me call the Mistress, she’s in the back.” He pushed himself away from the counter and called into the backroom. Val was surprised when he saw that the young man was bound to a wheelchair.

“Deidre!” Val exclaimed as the Devonan entered from the backroom. As she entered, she brought sweet baking smells along with her. A wide smile grew on her face as Val took one of her hands, “Channing Kearnan spoke of your fabulous pies, yet failed to mention your beauty.” She curtsied at Val’s compliment, some flour falling from her apron as she did.

What are you up to? Iezecele questioned Val’s over enthusiastic greeting.

Making friends Val returned. He always tried to make friends wherever he went. You never knew when you might need a favor. It was almost instinctual, reading the environment. He had smelled the baking, obviously for fun. He couldn’t recall much use for pies in climbing excursions. The Ironfoots had also taken in the boy in the wheelchair. These pointed to a warm, caring family, and warmth usually reacted well to warmth.

“Wow, you know Channing Kearnan?” Tobias rolled over to Val and Deidre. “You must be very important people.”

Val laughed, “Not important, I would just say we’re entertaining.”

Deidre smoothed her skirt, “If you were referred by the Father, just tell me what you need and I’ll be glad to assist.”

Val waved to the group, "My allies and I are headed to Karg by way of La Roche and the Channing said that your husband was the best guide there was. So, we just had to come here."

“I’ll have to thank the Father for his compliments towards my husband. But I have to ask, why would you head to Karg?”

Lucinde looked up from a map of the Spine. “Why, is there something wrong with Karg?” Her family rarely had to transport goods beyond the Har’Thelen border and never to easternmost city of Karg.

“Well, no, there’s nothing wrong with Karg, my dear. It’s just that they aren’t the most sociable of Devonans.”

“I heard that it had such lovely sights to see and they were so accommodating to tourists..” Val shared a knowing smile with Deidre, as if they were sharing a private joke.

Deidre covered her mouth as she chuckled. “They’ve been more recluse of late. We haven’t received any requests in some time.”

Val shared a serious glance with his allies, then quickly masked it, “So, tell me Tobias, what can we expect of the Spine? Giants? Yeti?”

The young man laughed, “You’ll have to get used to breathing the thin air, maybe a storm if you’re unlucky. Master Ironfoot is the best there is, so he’ll guide you safely. There’s no giants or yeti in those mountains.”

Val noticed that Tobias spoke with a sense of experience, noting the bravery it would have to take to traverse difficult climbs with his disablement. “That’s a shame. I was figuring that we could just dress her up in a fur coat and she would blend right in.” Lucinde shot Val a venomous glance.

Tobias leaned forward in his chair and spoke quietly, “No, that wouldn’t work. She’d be too tall.”

As Tobias and Val chuckled, Gaspar quietly cornered Deidre. “Tobias, was there no Willworker to heal his injury.”

Deidre spent a kind glance in Tobias’ direction before answering Gaspar. “There was no injury. He has always been this way. We took the boy in after he lost his parents.” Gaspar looked at Tobias, immediately feeling a kinship with the young man.

The doorway bell rang as another Devonan entered the room. By their reactions, Val could tell that this was Garrn Ironfoot. “Master Garrn, such a pleasure!”

Here we go again, Iezecele and Lucinde shared at the same time. They stood back, content to leave Val to make introductions and share the reason for their visit. The rogue explained the their mission to travel to Karg to locate and give aid to some missing priests of the Church.

“I hope Father let you know that you need permission from La Roche to travel to Karg. Devonans have a difficult enough time entering that city. Foreigners need special dispensation from the highest authorities to do so.” Val noted how both Garrn and Deidre both referred to Channing Kearnan in such an intimate, yet reverent, tone.

Iezecele spoke up, “We have papers requesting just that from Channing Kearnan.”

Garrn nodded, “Then all is well. We’ll leave early tomorrow.”

Val cringed at the thought of getting up early, they didn’t even have a single day of rest in Hamilton. He shook his head and gave a quick smile to Garrn, “Well then, there’s enough time to have some of your wife’s delicious pie.”

As they ate, Val received another glimpse of the warmth of the Ironfoots. Tobias leaned over to Garrn, “I’m sorry, master, but you’ll have to go on this climb without me. Somebody needs to mind the store.”

The Devonan guffawed, “Many thanks, Tobias, so glad for letting this old Devonan have another trip to the Spine!”

Val watched the ease that the two spoke and the genuine happiness Tobias exuded. He quietly whispered to Garrn, “That’s a good lad you have there.”

The Devonan pressed his hand on Val’s back, “Thank you, kindly, for the compliment. You have no idea how true your words are.”

Tobias grasped Val’s hand as the group began to leave, “Tell me, Val, are you going to be coming back this way?”

Val thought for a moment. If everything went well, he would like some more time to explore Hamilton. He was wary, though, of the assassin’s dire prediction for Karg. Plus, with the way things had been going lately in his life, he felt things wouldn’t go well. “I’d like to,” he smiled, “but i don’t plan that far ahead. I prefer to live like a leaf in the wind.”

“Like a leaf in the wind.” Tobias repeated dreamily, “That sounds nice. I’ll have to remember that.”

black-divider-hi.png

The group was still sore for days after they arrived in La Roche. Luckily, Garrn Ironfoot was more well known that Val could imagine. He knew just who to show the Channing’s letters of introduction. The group passed over the line of merchants waiting to enter the capital of Har’Thelen and were ushered quickly within its walls. In addition, they were given quarters fit for royal envoys.

Almost a week passed before a servant, liveried with the king’s symbol of the hammer and fist, led them through the vast halls of the mountain city. Devonans made way for the party as they noticed the servant’s golden insignia. They passed several giant gates, guarded by fully armored warriors, eventually stopping at a hall dominated by a large, stone-carved throne.

Shortly after their arrival, the king of Har’Thelen strode into the room. Though he was only of Devonan height, barely up to even Val’s chest, the king had a sense of power and gravity about him. Precious metals and gems were braided into his voluminous beard and rings of untold wealth graced every finger.

Before the servant could announce them, Val took a few steps forward and bent his knee. “Ganelon, King of Har’Thelen, Master of the Unbreakable, Lord of the Spine and Keeper of the Sacred Vein, we humbly greet thee and ask for thy gracious aid.”

Lucinde and Iezecele again wondered if they were traveling with the same Val that they had seen drunkenly singing bawdy songs and chasing barmaid’s skirts. First, in Hamilton, he had been so sweet their teeth ached. Now, he bore the regal charm of a diplomat.

The king spoke, “Har’thelen has always held great regard for the Church. We welcome emissaries from Channing Kearnan, but ask for your reason for wishing a second grant to enter our city of Karg.”

As he did with Garrn Ironfoot, Val took the lead in explaining their mission to find the missing priests of the Church. Iezecele, Gaspar and Lucinde listened as Val mentioned the assassin’s threat and the lack of correspondence from Karg and eloquently urged the king to support their mission.

The king allowed Val to fully finish. “We have chosen to take your mission very seriously. Not only because of our regard for the safety of the Church’s men, but also on the word of a Captain of the Eternal Watch. Captain Bouldershoulders extracted a report that closely follows yours. We will give our permission for you to take the fastest route possible to our city.”

Val looked into the king’s eyes, barely whispering, “So, it exists.” Many had heard of the hidden tunnel between La Roche and Karg. It was said to be a massive structure, carved by the hands of the first Devonans of Har’Thelen. It was rumored to be so impenetrable that even when the lands were broken, the walls of the tunnel barely shuddered.

The king nodded. “Yes, all myths have their root in truth.” He stood, bringing his full presence to bear. “Though I must ask for your most sacred vow that you will never speak of its location.”

black-divider-hi.png

The party had thought that they had parted company with Garrn Ironfoot once they reached the capital, but King Ganelon had called upon the guide to lead them to Karg. He led the party deep into a valley behind the mountain city of La Roche. Despite Lucinde’s protests, based upon her map readings, Garrn assured her that he knew where he was leading them. He led the party into the mouth of the tunnel that was cunningly hidden by a waterfall.

Iezecele couldn’t tell if Val was still in his over friendly mode with Garrn, but he was quickly becoming bored the guide. From the the tale how the Devonan Druids had crafted the waterfall to disguise the tunnel’s entrance to how the dozen hexagonal pillars had been constructed to support the massive natural tunnel, Val seemed to be lapping up the guide’s tales. Surely, Iezecele thought, Val knew that he could never share these stories of the tunnel. He hoped the rogue remembered that he had sworn to never speak of their journey to Karg. Iezecele did have to admit that the underground spring Garrn had led them to was the most refreshing water he had ever drank. Any sense of fatigue he had felt from their journey was washed away as he drank from the crystal clear spring.

Garrn was talking about how the Devonans had discovered the natural tunnel when Iezecele’s wandering eye noticed a thin stream of light arcing along the cavern’s wall. “The Devonans build hidden rooms along the way as well?” His question interrupting Garrn.

“Not that I’ve ever heard, and I doubt you’d find another Devonan that knows more about this tunnel.” He glanced over to where Iezecele was looking.

Val and Lucinde walked over and saw the light that Iezecele pointed out. When the Willworker began tracing the line of light, Gaspar was also able to see it. At waist level, Iezecele found a handhold. “Check the other side.”

Val found a similar handhold on the opposite side of Iezecele. Together they pulled, the strip of light widening, revealing a set of doors. The doors were heavy, perhaps even tons of weight, sliding slowly open. They pivoted smoothly on superbly constructed hinges.

Gaspar was the first to look inside as light spilled forth from the opening doors. A look of celestial awe blanketed his face as he took a step forward. “Wait for Val,” Iezecele warned their new companion, worried for any traps that might match the cunning of the door.

The Church’s acolyte ignored the Willworker and continued forward into the hidden room. “No, Iezecele, I think we are meant to be here.” Inside the lit room, twelve alcoves curved along the opposite wall.

“What light? I don’t see anything!” Garrn exclaimed as he watched Gaspar disappear into the wall of the cavern.

Lucinde was confused. She looked from the bright room to Garrn. “How can you not see it?” As she looked into the room, not only was the room brightly lit, but there was something shining like gold in the tenth alcove.

I can think of one reason, Val mentally communicated to Lucinde and Iezecele. He entered the room, pointing at the fourth alcove. “That one is glowing for me.” He pointed at the tenth alcove. “I’ll bet that one is glowing for Lucinde.” He turned to the opposite side of the room and pointed at the first alcove. “And that one glows for Iezecele” The only alcove remaining was the eleventh alcove, Gaspar was already reaching out to the items there. “Which leaves that one glowing for Gaspar.”

Iezecele was the last to enter into the room. As he did, the doors closed swiftly under their own power. The Willworker looked from the doors to the items glowing in the first alcove. As he picked up the ring and staff that rested there, Iezecele felt a surge of power course through his body. The energy that surged through him carried with it a greater sense of understanding of the Will within him. Glancing along the alcoves, he saw his companions shiver with what he could only guess was a similar increase in power in them. He questioned what kind of power could make this happen. The Will could make the impossible happen, but he never heard of a Shaping that could increase the level of Willworking. What does this mean? He wondered.

View
Week 12: A New Chosen
And a new Fanatic

After a few days recouping from their travels, the trio returned to the Basilica to receive supplies for their next journey, including their newest ally.

They were directed to a small garden. There they found Channing Kearnan feeding birds crusts of bread. He looked like any old man, whiling away his time, if not for the double ring of armored guards. Lucinde had told them about the Holy Alerons, a sect of sacred knights entrusted to protect the Channing. A few steps away from the Church’s leader, an unassuming man had joined Kearnan in feeding the birds that had flocked to their feet. As the three approached, the Channing quickly tore the remaining bread and brushed his hands clean. He greeted them warmly, but sensing the group’s impatience, quickly moved onto their next mission.

" Here are your letters of passage into Har’Thelen." An aid quickly rushed to hand them envelopes. " When you reach Hamilton, seek out Garrn Ironfoot. He will be able to guide you on the harsher passes in the Spine." He paused, as if searching through a vast index in his mind, " if you have any spare time, his wife, Deidre, makes lovely plum pies." He waved over the unassuming man, “And this will be the help I offered at our last meeting.”

“Gaspar Le Tresor,” he introduced himself with an outstretched hand. The man wore simple, but sturdy, traveling clothes. Underneath his brown cloak, he wore a chainmail shirt and bore a longsword and a dagger. Val was a little crestfallen. The man had looked so plain, that he would make the perfect cutpurse or lookout for a street gang. With his brown hair, brown eyes and average build, he would blend into most surroundings. Unfortunately, Val could tell by the man’s gait and his equipment, that he was much more in Lucinde’s camp than his own.

Val warmly shook his hand, wondering if that was the man’s given name. They had returned from Bergamoth with a shield bearing the inscription, ‘Good will fail and Evil will reign if the Treasure is lost.’ Now they met a man whose name could be translated to ‘Guardian of the Treasure.’ He smiled, noticing that he did not have a ring similar to theirs, “How apropos for our mission.”

Unsure if the rogue was mocking him, Gaspar responded, “Well, that’s what they say.” Introduction to Iezecele and Lucinde. Val was reminded of the time when he first arrived at the Rose Castle. His father had introduced him to the other noble boys who had already bonded from their time at the castle, and told him to ‘go play’ with them. Now, he was on the other side of that awkwardness.

Channing Kearnan, perhaps sensing his charge’s state, directed the group to the stables to see to the saddling of their supplies for the journey. He raised his hands and gave them a benediction. They all noticed that Gaspar bowed his head low as the Channing gave them his blessing.
black-divider-hi.png
On the road to Orville, the closest city to the Har’Thelen border, they rode two by two. Lucinde and Gaspar in the lead, Val and Iezecele following behind. Lucinde heard Val’s thoughts buzzing through the power of the ring. He had pressed her to find out what she could about their new companion. She asked about his background.

" I was born in Kantora, in the capital, Senna, I barely remember it though. I was about 4 or five when my family moved to Beaufort." Lucinde nodded, thinking that there was hope for Kantoran men, only if one happened to expatriate them at an early age.

“I lost my parents shortly after.” Gaspar briefly paused, " I was taken to the Basilica, like so many who are orphaned in Beaufort. The priests there took me in, educated me and trained me to be an upstanding citizen of Cosette." And to be fully indoctrinated Iezecele projected to Lucinde.

Ask him about beasts of unusual size, oh, and horrible nightmares , Val interjected. Lucinde was equally curious and asked Gaspar about what he had seen on his travels. “I’ve been on some missions for Channing Kearnan, similar to what you’ve done.” He spoke the Channing’s name with reverence. " I have to admit, I’m not as well traveled as all of you, but I’ve never seen anything like what’s mentioned in your reports."

Lucinde chuckled, “Well, that will change if you stay with us.” She hoped that Gaspar knew how to use the weapons he was wearing. It was the reason she didn’t want to unnecessarily involve anyone else.

Val spoke to her again, Well done. Now we know that he knows all about us. He’s been privy to all those jottings the acolytes have been making.

As they made camp, Gaspar spoke aloud what he had been thinking since he met them, " Was it truly a skeleton that attacked you in the warrens outside of Trillian?"

The three paused. The thought of that day still stung. “The Baron Malachi,” Lucinde confirmed. “He rose from his chair and attacked us.”

“I don’t know what dark Will caused that skeleton to move and speak, but it is the truth.” Iezecele added.

Val raised his mug, “To Bob.” Lucinde and Iezecele raised their own and all three repeated, “To Bob.”

Gaspar let them finish their memorial to their fallen ally before speaking again. He had wanted to ask these three ever since he had read the report. “And did he truly say that you would never realize your destiny?” When Lucinde nodded, Gaspar quietly noted, " That sounds like something Mesonge would say."

To break up the solemn mood, Val began to play on his fiddle while the others set up camp. As he finished the Tune, Gaspar clapped. “Good song, Val. I didn’t know that you played the fiddle. I wish I had that talent.”

Val was a bit dismayed. The fact that he told stories and entertained must not have been of much import in the Church’s reports. “It’s more than something I can do. It’s who I am.” Perhaps to the Church, they were just the Chosen. “And if you like, I can teach you to play. It’s really not all that hard.”

Gaspar looked into his cup and quietly spoke a verse from the Prophecy, “From all walks of life they shall be.”

Lucinde started a fire. “So, Gaspar, you mentioned that you went on some missions like the ones the Church has us on? Prophecy expeditions. Are there a lot of other groups doing this kind of work?” She was wondering how many other of those the Church considered Chosen were out there.

“There are a lot of people dedicated to researching the Prophecy, especially now that finding artifacts have happening more frequently.” Gaspar worried what that might mean for Channing Kearnan, “But I know of only one other group like you.” The other three paused in their chores, “I’m sorry, like us.”

Should I ask him about being a Chosen? Lucinde sent to Val and Iezecele. The rogue nodded, while the Willworker only shrugged his shoulders. “So are you a Chosen?” The best plan was always the most forward one.

“Yes, I am.” He said with conviction. “Let me show you.” He opened his shirt and pulled it to the side, revealing a circular birthmark over his heart. In response, Lucinde pulled her sleeve up, showing her own mark on her left arm. Iezecele removed his glove and held out his hand, showing his own birthmark. “And you,” Gaspar asked when Val wasn’t forthcoming.

The rogue smiled. “You have to buy me a drink first,” Val wasn’t in the mood to remove his boot. He also knew that Gaspar just wanted to see them for himself, surely he had read about them in one of the Church’s many reports. “Trust me, I have one.”

“I was also born on the first on November, like my father before me and his father before him.” Gaspar added, knowing, course, that Iezecele had been born on the first of January, Lucinde, on the first of October, and Val on the first of April.

Iezecele smirked, “So it is written, so shall it be.” Clearly Gaspar was ignoring the fact that that part of the so-called prophecy missed the fact that Lucinde was a woman.

Gaspar nodded emphatically, “Exactly,” clearly missing out on the Willworker’s sarcasm.

Lucinde was harboring an idea in her head about the Chosen, perhaps they were the only ones facing the monstrous creatures because these things were somehow attracted to them, and the more of them together meant it was easier for the creatures to find them. Like over baiting a trap. “This other group you mentioned, the one you said was like us, have they run into creatures of dire size?”

Before Gaspar could respond, Iezecele interjected, “Dire creatures have long existed on the Isle. Don’t go reading into things, Lucinde.”

“In fables,” Gaspar retorted, “stories mothers tell their children. But there are no confirmed records until you three began your path.” Gaspar believed that the dark god, Mesonge, would do all that he could to thwart the Chosen of the Prophecy. “Tell me, have you ever met anyone that encountered a dire beast before you three joined together?”

Val was watching Gaspar and Iezecele, the believer and the skeptic, and decided to add some fuel. "On our way to Trillian from Celedine, we encountered some rats of unusual size and a giant spider. Then there was that killer plant on the way to Dalis, that corpse we found proved that thing had been there awhile" Gaspar would use it to point out they were two Chosen and Iezecele would say these threats existed before they were on the missions for the Prophecy. He smiled waiting to see who would jump first.

Gaspar spoke first, “See, the two of you brought Mesonge’s attention.”

“Not only the assassin vine, but I, myself encountered a monstrous creature in my youth.” Iezecele’s eye twitched, pulling his scar tissue taut.

“Tell me what happened.” Once the Church had discovered these three, they had engaged in a considerable amount of research on them. Lucinde Solide was the easiest to discover. The Solide family was well known. Once Channing Odo was able to identify Val D’Coeur as Valerian Stratos, it was equally easy to fill in the Kantoran noble’s backstory. Iezecele Grimm was still much of an enigma to them. He was found to be a Willworker in Cosette, but was clearly from Cendrillion stock. Yet the Willworkers had little beyond that about Iezecele’s youth. Any insights to his character would be valuable to Channing Kearnan.

Val knew how tight lipped Iezecele was on his past. He knew that Iezecele hailed from Cendrillion and was exiled for being a Willworker. Val wasn’t sure, but he felt that Iezecele had it pretty rough when he was younger. “Gaspar, let it go.”

Gaspar pressed, “Val, I think we’re going to be together for awhile. I just want to learn more about each of you.” He looked back towards Iezecele, “Is that how you got that scar of yours? Facing a dire beast?”

Val glanced over to Iezecele, remembering their meeting in Celendine. The Willworker had been evasive when it came to his scar. Val had picked up on the vibe from Iezecele’s fellow Willworkers that it was not a subject Iezecele broached. He could see the Willworker’s ire rise. “Gaspar, there are things people just don’t want to talk about, especially with people they just met.” His gentle smile left Val’s face, “You’re being rude. Drop the subject.”

Gaspar looked from Val to Iezecele. He realized that in his desire to help the Channing Kearnan, he had overstepped. This wasn’t the way he wanted it, “I’m so sorry, Master Willworker, I apologize, truly. Is there anything you wish to know about me. Just ask, I’ll tell you anything you’d like to know.”

Iezecele threw the rest of his drink into the campfire and stood up, “Yeah, there is one thing.”

Gaspar looked hopeful, “Yes?”

“What watch are you taking?”

black-divider-hi.png

Gaspar was on watch a few days out from Orville. He looked at his companions tents. Lucinde was clearly a believer in the Prophecy. He could never quite tell where Val stood. With Iezecele, it had taken much of the journey to the foothills of the Spine of Har’Thelen for things to warm between him and the Willworker. While not friendly, the two often had what Val referred to as ‘spirited discussions’ about the nature of the Prophecy. A crunch of twigs brought Gaspar’s focus. He alerted Lucinde to the danger.

Gaspar was met by Iezecele exiting his tent. “I was just going to wake you.” He noticed Val grabbing his spear as he exited his own tent. “You both must be light sleepers.” There was no way he could tell that Lucinde had sent an alarm through their mental connection. The power of the rings they bore was still a mystery to him.

Izecele charged a stone with arcane light and threw it in the direction Gaspar had heard the sound. It revealed a large grizzly bear, eyes matted and mouth foamy with blackness. Gaspar was shocked by the blackness. He had read the reports, but seeing it was much worse. He felt that it was evil. He took a step forward, but caught Lucinde’s eye. He stepped back remembering their nightly discussions of tactics. The fighters were only to attack after Iezecele had used his magic. He looked to see if Val was following suit, but the rogue had already drifted into the shadows.

Iezecele summoned the heat of the earth and sent a scorching ray , burning at the bear’s thick hide.

Lucinde made a shot with the new bow she had purchased in Beaufort, missing the beast. She had not practiced enough with it. She dropped the bow and moved forward, drawing her more reliable flail.

Gaspar followed Lucinde’s lead and drew both of his blades.

Unnervingly, the grizzly bear attacked in silence. It’s massive paws swiped first at Gaspar, then at Lucinde, failing to land a blow.

Iezecele focused his Will on his hand, as he stepped back, a ghostly hand remained where his hand used to be. It took time, but he knew he could utilize this spectral version of his hand to deliver his Will shapes.

Val stepped out of the shadows behind the bear and thrust his spear into the creature’s leg. Like the other blackened beasts before it, the bear made no roar of pain, yet it’s blood wetted the ground.

Lucinde swung her flail, catching one of the bear’s paws in a heavy blow.

Wary of the creature’s wide swing, Gaspar stabbed at the beast, catching its side with his longsword, but failed to get close enough to connect with the follow up stab with his dagger.

Gaspar’s tentative strike left him open. The bear’s wide reach caught him in his side. Gaspar felt claws dig into his flesh. Worse, the bear curled his massive arms, drawing him into a grapple. The bear’s second arm was wounded, allowing Lucinde to block it’s attack easily.

Val targeted the bear’s other leg, stabbing through its thick hide. As the blood came pouring out, he knew there wasn’t much left to this fight.

Iezecele summoned the strength of the earth, power akin to the strength the bear wielded. He gave the power to Lucinde though the connection he shared with his spectral hand.

Lucinde felt the power surge through her muscles and roared as she swung her flail with more might than she had ever felt in her life. The metal head of her flail connected with the side of the bear’s face. A sound crunch turned the beast’s head into pulpy meat. It’s eye popped right out of its skull.

As it fell to the ground, Val clapped Lucinde’s hand. “Double win! We took out the beast and we killed it away from camp!” Iezecele and Lucinde smiled, remembering breaking down camp in the middle of the night to avoid sleeping near some hulking, diseased carcass.

Iezecele looked at Gaspar’s wound, casting his healing Will shape to close the injury. Gaspar looked over to Val. “You didn’t get hit did you?” The rogue had shared numerous accounts of claws and bites and stabs finding their way to his flesh.

Val spun to show Gaspar that he had escaped this latest battle unscathed. “Nope, that’s because you’re my meat shield.”

“Meat shield?”

“Lucinde’s mine,” Iezecele said after checking her for any infection from the blackness. The creature’s frothy mouth had come close to her unprotected face during the battle. He wanted to be sure no bits lingered on her. “Val needs one too.”

Gaspar looked puzzled as they laughed.
black-divider-hi.png

“I’m just saying I don’t understand why we stayed so long in Orville,” Gaspar asked as they ate around the campfire. They were camped close to the border between Cosette and Har’Thelen. He was eager to come to the aid of the missing Church acolytes, yet his three new companions had spent almost two days in the city.

“I told you when we were drinking at the Gold Mine Inn. City rules.” Val had explained the need to rest from their time on the road.

The rogue had insisted on some protocol that he had coerced Lucinde and Iezecele into. His ‘city rules’ included staying at the most expensive room in an inn, staying up all night carousing, and sleeping late the following day. He all but said that the morning sun was a tool of the dark god. When Gaspar urged Lucinde and Iezecele to press on, they merely shrugged her shoulders and followed Val’s lead.

“Look, Gaspar, I know you’re eager to get to those priests.” Val reasoned with his new companion. “But they’ve been on their mission for months. A day or two isn’t going to matter and we won’t be much help if we’re not rested if we find them in some sort of trouble.”

The rogue could see that Gaspar was dwelling on the missing priests. His mind conjuring the worst of scenarios. Truthfully, Val thought that the priests were most likely dead. The Devonans were notoriously organized. He had never known a Devonan to be late for or with anything, and that included their correspondence. Val remembered in his youth that the couriers from Har’Thelen had never failed to arrive at the Rose Castle. Irregardless of the weather, even if the letter was of little import, they had always arrived precisely on time. In fact, he remembered the servants adjusting the waterclock according to the courier’s arrival. For the Church not hearing from the priests, something dire must have happened. The only hope was that isolationist Devonans of Karg were different from the rest of their brethren.

Val distracted Gaspar with some conversation. “Say, did you ever encounter any ravens on your missions?”

“Ravens?” Gaspar paused, thinking, “I couldn’t say that I noticed any, but they’re all over Cosette.”

Lucinde remembered the pair of ravens that had seemed to follow them, not to mention the sea of ravens they encountered after killing a pair of them. “Maybe a pair of ravens that seemed to watch you?”

When Gaspar shook his head, Val thought that their new companion’s education might shed some insight. “What about the Church, they say anything about ravens?”

“Just the usual,” Gaspar responded plainly.

“Which are?” Iezecele prompted. They hadn’t benefited from Gaspar’s life-long ‘education.’

“I thought you would know.” Gaspar wondered at the ignorance of these three. They were on the most important mission of the Church, yet knew so little of the struggle in which they were enmeshed.

Val smiled. He could identify with Gaspar. Val had been educated with the double talk and slyness of the Kantoran streets. It was difficult to imagine that there were people who didn’t know how things worked in that world. Gaspar was much the same, spending so long with the Church, he couldn’t imagine anyone not knowing what he took for granted. “Assume that we’re idiots.”

Iezecele knew he was never an idiot. “Assume that we don’t believe in your doctrines.”

Gaspar remembered something that Channing Kearnan had mentioned to him as they were feeding the birds on the day he met his new companions. ‘Always keep in mind the verses of the Prophecy,’ the Channing shared. ‘It tells us about the Chosen. It says, ’From all walks of life they shall be.’ That’s not merely just guard, prince, or Willworker. It also can refer to their mindset. Some, like you, will be the faithful. Others may be skeptical of the mission. Still others might openly refuse to believe. Remember that as you travel.’ Gaspar explained, “The creatures that closely aligned with darkness, serpents, rats, ravens, have often been referred to as the Eyes of Mesonge. It is said that anything they see is instantly known by the dark god.”

black-divider-hi.png

Later, Lucinde thought about what Gaspar had said about ravens being spies for Mesonge. She thought it might be a reason for the way these monsters seemed to find them. Suddenly an arrow struck her shoulder. It didn’t pierce her armor, but she knew she’d be nursing a bruise if Iezecele didn’t heal her first. “Alarm!” she called out to her allies, both through the ring and her voice, remembering that Gaspar couldn’t receive her thoughts.

Two bandits rushed Lucinde from the darkness. She was glad these villains attacked during her watch. Their attacks slid off of her armor. She hit one of the attackers with the haft of her fail. He fell back with a hand to his chest, trying to regain his breath.

Gaspar quickly joined Lucinde, but rushed headlong into the fray and left his defense down in his hurry. One of the attackers took the opportunity and cut into Gaspar. The acolyte retaliated, catching the man’s brow with a sword slice, but failing to find purchase with his dagger.

Val thrust with his spear, but failed to land a good strike. The spear point glanced off the attacker’s armor.

Iezecele stepped from his tent and noticed three more attackers entering their campsite. There were now outnumbered. He used his Will to shape the light around him. Unlike how he pressed the light into a stone, he now weaved it around himself, effectively making himself invisible to the attackers. He moved closer to the new attackers.

Lucinde pressed her attack on her attacker. The man was still gasping for air, throwing off his stance. She swung her flail and caught his neck. His head quickly twitched to the side as his neck was broken. As the man fell, an arrow sped through the opening, barely missing Lucinde.

Iezecele surprised the new attackers as he suddenly appeared spewing jets of flame from his hands. Two of them were engulfed in the burning flames. He was now visible, the light Willshape was too difficult to maintain.

A glance allowed Val to see that Iezecele was now facing three men on his own. His worry for his ally threw off his attack. His opponent took advantage of Val’s distraction and swung a heavy greatsword. It was all Val could do to twist his way out of receiving the worst of the connecting blow.

Gaspar worried about Val. Often on their journey, the rogue had expounded on how often he was gravely injured in combat. He knew that the drawback of the greatsword was its weight. Its blow could do significant damage, but it could also unbalance the attacker. He stepped opposite Val and sliced at the attacker. His blade catching the man’s shoulder.

Lucinde stepped back, surveying the scene. Gaspar and Val had boxed in the last of the initial attackers, but the three new attackers had advanced on Iezecele. She had laughed when the Willworker had called her his ‘meat shield,’ but it was true in a certain sense. Left undefended, the Willworker could be more vulnerable than Val. She could see that one of the attackers must have scored a hit. Blood was staining Iezecele’s sleeve. She leapt over the low campfire, fully extending her swing as she landed. Still holding onto the edge of her flail’s haft, Lucinde forcefully caught the attention of Iezecele’s attackers.

As the three turned to face Lucinde’s threat, Iezecele took a step back and unleashed another jet of flames from his hands. One of the three attackers screamed as the flames consumed him. The other man caught in the quickly discarded his burning cloak.

Now flanked, the attacker with the greatsword swung in wide arcs to try to catch both Val and Gaspar. Both men easily sidestepped the clumsy attack. Gaspar ducked under the heavy metal blade and slashed at the attacker with his sword and dagger, double-slicing the man’s belly.

As the attacker tensed with the blow, Val saw his opportunity. He let go of his spear and entered the wide spine of the attacker. Standing back to back with him, Val moved like a dancer in a twirl. Spinning as his attacker spun, Val drew his short swords and drove them deep into the man’s back, slaying him.

The archer dropped his bow and joined his only remaining companion. Lucinde quickly reacted to his presence, shouldering him away from Iezecele with her shield arm. She looked into his eyes and saw the anger there. She knew that this was another group like the one they faced in the caves of Kermis. A smart man would see three of his felled allies and recognize a battle lost. This man charged in when he should have called for a retreat. She waited for the opening from a clumsy, emotional attack and struck at the man’s ear. It would further unbalance his attacks.

Iezecele smirked as the burned attacker let down his guard slightly. He must have noticed his ally step up and draw Lucinde’s attention. He thought he was safer with the warrior otherwise occupied. His miscalculation cost him his life. Instead of dropping back, Iezecele surged forward, summoning the lighting storm in his hand and slapping the man’s sword. The electricity traveled down the blade and channeled into the man, killing him.

Val watched as Gaspar joined Iezecele and Lucinde’s attack, trading blows with the last attacker. It was clear that this battle was ending. Iezecele was already dropping back and casting his stone shards at the man. Val knew he could just allow them to finish the battle, but a thought struck him. These men had attacked them out of nowhere. Why were they attacking? Were they just bandits, or something else? If they were sent, how had they find Val and his allies. He wanted to know their story.

Val rushed behind the last attacker, spinning his blade at the last moment to catch him with its flat side. His short sword caught the man on the side of the head. Lucinde’s blow and the hard slap from Val’s short sword proved to be too much for the attacker. His eyes rolled back and fell to the ground unconscious.

Val searched the man. Lucinde went back to the camp to get some rope to tie up their prisoner. “Look what we have here.” Val unrolled a piece of parchment he had found on the man. It contained accurate descriptions of all of them. Even Gaspar’s description was there, though it seemed to be added on. Where Lucinde’s, Iezecele’s and his own description seemed writ in an even, practiced hand, Gaspar’s description seemed hastily scrawled. Val imagined that their attackers already had the three of their descriptions. Gaspar’s must have been relayed to these men and they wrote it in their own hand.

“I’m going make a zone where this man will speak the truth, if he speaks at all.” Iezecele remembered an obscure Willshaping.

Val shivered, “You can make a person tell the truth?” What a nightmarish thought.

“Of a sort,” Iezecele started forming the shape in his mind. His teacher had told him to think of it much like a magnet, pulling solid metal of truth outwards from the mind. “He will know of its power and may not choose to speak.” He forced the Willshape into being and felt its power brush against both the attacker and his allies. He quickly followed the spell with a burst of healing energy, healing both his allies and bringing their enemy to wakefulness.

Val knelt down next to the restrained man. He knew he would need to get the man speaking. “Hi friend,” he put on his easy smile, “why did you and your buddies attack us?”

The man tested his bonds and found he was helpless. “To kill you,” he spat. He knew the Willworker had done something to make him speak truth. He didn’t mind. He knew he had lost, but it was only a battle in a war they were assured victory.

Val put on a saddened expression, “Why would you want to kill us? We’ve just met.”

The attacker gazed directly into Val’s eyes, “You deserve it. You all deserve it.” He had met men like Val before, liars, false words were their bread and butter. Soon they would be choking on their honeyed words.

Iezecele folded his arms, “Why would we deserve death?”

“That is the punishment you have earned for being oathbreakers,” The righteous conviction in his tone could not be overlooked.

Val saw Lucinde and Gaspar stiffen at the accusation, offended that they were looked upon in such a way. Iezecele seemed poised, as if he were waiting for elaboration. For his part, Val knew he was a liar and a cheat. Not for nefarious reasons, but some people needed to be deceived and others wanted to be deceived. “Now I can’t speak for our other friends here, but I’m not sure which oath you’re talking about.”

The attacker wished he was free. Val not only admitted to being an oathbreaker, but reveled in it. “The Peace Line! Your ancestors oathed to uphold the truce and blatantly shattered it! For that great sin, you, their children shall pay the price! As it is written, the sins of the father shall be visited sevenfold upon his children!”

With that statement, Val confirmed that these were not just bandits, looking to make quick coin. Nor were they hired assassins, hired to kill him and his allies. They were the same kind of fanatics they had met in the caves at Kermis. Val knew, assuming that the legends of his country’s namesake were true, that his ancestor was there when that particular oath was broken. His lineage twisting and turning to lead back to Arnaud’s shieldmaiden, Kantora. He briefly wondered if there was a way to see if the others’ heritage took them back to that moment.

Val knew there was no winning over this man. No amount of pleasant motivation would sway fanaticism. “I’ve got to tell you, idiot, I can’t really see that happening. Just look at yourself.” He derisively laughed at him, hoping to raise his ire for them to a feverish pitch.

“We will scour you and all the rest of the oathbreakers from this Isle.” The attacker was practically foaming at the mouth. “You are all doomed! Any resistance you may muster will be defeated! You are all corpses strutting around, not knowing that they’re already dead!”

He’s just about at his boiling point, Val noted. If he turned up the temperature just a bit more, this man might spill something of value. “Defeated? Really?” Val mocked the man, “I hate to tell you, I’m not all that strong. Still, we managed to defeat you fairly easily.” He continued to taunt their attacker, “And you’re not even the first. There was this other lunatic, What was that fool’s name?” He glanced at Iezecele while searching his memory. “Pellon,” Val snapped his fingers. “You know him?” Val smiled a satisfied grin, “We gutted that fool too. He was spouting the same bullshit that you are. We defeated him, just as we will defeat your evil, flaccid god.”

Gaspar stood shocked that Val would insult Mesonge. Didn’t he know that the god knew when he was invoked, even if not by name. The dark god kept a book where all the sins of the living were recorded. To speak ill of Mesonge was to invite his attention. Gaspar leaned in to speak softly to Val, “I know you don’t believe, but don’t tempt the dark god. You’ve gone to far.”

A madness boiled into their attacker’s eyes. “I am but a drop of rain in the storm that will consume the Isle! You will see our strength soon enough! Karg will be the first to feel our might!”

Val looked into the eyes of the attacker, “Karg, hmm? Thank you.” In retrospect, he thought he had overstepped with the ‘flaccid god’ bit. He had never been terribly religious, but things you were taught to believe in one’s youth had a tendency of sticking. Insulting Mesonge itched uncomfortably at those teachings. His mother would have washed his mouth with soap if she had chance.

As Val stood calmly, the attacker knew he had been worked into speaking about Karg. He bottled his rage, knowing he couldn’t share more. “You act so tough, four of you standing against me. So brave when you have that kind of advantage. Give me my weapon. I’ll still fight you.” He knew he would lose, but at least he wouldn’t say more.

Val chortled, “You’re one to talk. Five of you attacked us without any warning. And you talk about honor. I’m tempted to grant your request for a honorable fight for your freedom.”

The attacker tightened his grip, he knew Val would never let him go. “Give me my blade then.” The best he could hope for was to die while killing the rogue.

Val feigned surprise, “Me?” He bowed respectfully to Lucinde, “No, no, no. You would be facing her.”

The attacker laughed wryly, “Now who’s weak? You need your woman to fight for you.”

Lucinde had been willing to stay out of Val’s interrogation. Unsure of what she should be doing, she had decided to play the silent muscle in the background. She couldn’t stay silent after the attacker’s double insult. First insulting her prowess as a warrior because of her sex. Then, by suggesting that she was Val’s woman. He had gone too far.

She lifted their attacker by his collar and pressed the haft of her flail into the man’s throat. "She let the go of the flail’s chain. The flail head swung down, menacingly tapping against the man’s chest. She looked down at him, “And what’s wrong with being a woman?”

Val could see the attacker’s eyes shift, looking for an escape. He sent to Lucinde. Good work. I think he’s ready spill his guts. Val paused, considering his choice of words, I mean talk to us, not literally spill his guts. He began feeding Lucinde questions.

Lucinde tightened her grip, shaking the man a bit, “How did you know about us?”

The attacker could barely look her in the eyes, “All of us know about you.”

“Who told you about us? Who’s pulling your strings?”

“I don’t know his name. They are called the Watchers. I was told what you look like and to eliminate you.”

“Where is this Watcher? How can I find him?”

Nervous sweat began to roll down the man’s face, “The Watcher comes to me. I last met him on the border between Cosette and Har’Thelen, along the coastline. I’m supposed to go back there again after I completed my task.”

Lucinde spoke through gritted teeth, “Your task of killing us.”

He nodded, “But I can’t go back until I’ve completed the task. He’ll know I’ve failed.” The attacker knew how the Watchers dealt with failure.

“You mentioned Karg, what’s happening there?”

“They said that it would be the first city to fall. I don’t know anything more, I swear.” He looked from Lucinde, to Val, and to Iezecele and Gaspar. “I won’t say anything to the Watchers. You don’t know what they’ll do to me if I return. We can just go our separate ways. I swear.” He knew he would be running for the rest of his life. The Watchers’ punishment for failure was kind next to the punishment for deserters.

Hold his nose for me, Val sent to Lucinde. The warrior dropped the man to the ground and gripped his nose.

Val gagged the man as he opened his mouth to breathe. "We won’t be releasing you today. I’m sure the Devonans will have plenty to ask you about your pal’s plans for a Har’Thelen city.

View
Week 11: Meeting at the Basilica
Lucinde has a thick skull

After defeating the smugglers along the border between Cosette and Cendrillion, the three journeyed back to Beaufort. Along the way, Val thought that the connection to Iezecele and Lucinde through his diamond ring strengthen. There were times around the campfire that he believed he heard what one of them was about to say just before they said it.. Drinking at The Little Duchess Inn, he decided to test the depths of the ring’s power.

“I know we’ve been on the road for some time, Val, but I’m not comfortable with you looking at me like that.” The rogue had been staring at Iezecele for some time, trying to pick up on the Willworker’s thoughts. It wasn’t working.

“Oh, it’s not that,” Val leaned back in his seat and drank his wine. His mind tracked down the moments he had felt his companion’s thoughts reach him. They weren’t random thoughts. Everything he had felt had been directed to him. Val thought that maybe the ring wasn’t receiving anything, instead, maybe it was projecting them. He looked again at Iezecele, who was doing his best to ignore Val’s gaze. Can you hear me? Val directed the thought to the Willworker.

“Of course I can hear you!” Iezecele put down his stein a little too forcefully. “This place isn’t too loud and we’re at the same table!”

Val threw up his arms in victory, “Woohoo!”

Lucinde and Iezecele looked at each other. It was usually much later when the wine addled the rouge’s brain. “What is your deal?” Iezecele questioned.

Val pointed at his pursed lips. Because you can hear me.

Realization hit Iezecele. While it sounded like Val had spoken to him aloud, the rogue had sent him the thought. The Willworker knew that Val had no access to his Will. How was Val doing it? The answer came quickly to him, the ring. The rings had connected them, perhaps the amount of time they wore the ring deepened that connection. It’s the rings, correct? Val responded to Iezecele’s sending with a wide grin and a thumbs up.

Lucinde was confused by her companions. First, Val was acting like an idiot. While that wasn’t entirely out of the ordinary, it was odd for Iezecele sharing a stupid grin with the rogue. “What’s going on?” She looked at her stein. “Were your drinks spiked?”

Val looked over to the warrior. Why don’t you buy us another round?

Lucinde sat straight in her chair, “If you keep making eyes at me, I’ll have you make out with my flail.”

Val wondered why his companion hadn’t heard the thought he had sent her. It had worked when he thought to Iezecele, and when Iezecele thought to him. Something must be different. The rings had connected them before. An idea occurred to him. Lucinde was the only one of the three wearing a helm. Maybe the metal was blocking his thought.

“Just go with it.” Iezecele held up a cautioning hand to Lucinde when the rogue lifted off her helm. He saw where Val was going. The Willworker didn’t think that the helm was the reason. After all, the rings had allowed them to sense each other over miles. Surely there had been metal interposing them along those distances. Still, it was best to test the rogue’s theory.

Now, can you hear me? Val thought to Lucinde, but sensed no recognition in the warrior’s eyes.

“Seriously, what is up with you two tonight?” Lucinde pushed her drink away, maybe they were spiked. “You know that we’re heading for the Basilica tomorrow. I don’t want to be embarrassed.”

Val wasn’t entirely sure, but he felt that Lucinde was directing that statement more in his direction than in Iezecele’s. Lucinde was always so stiff. Sure, he could see how it could seem a little odd, but she could learn to loosen up a bit. Loosen up. Val ordered another round for the table, requesting a liter stein for Lucinde. He let the matter rest, engaging his companions in idle conversation. He waited until she had drained the last drop from the large stein. Now, hear me! He stared directly at the warrior and focused as forcefully as he could.

Lucinde covered her ears, the rogue had yelled so loud. But, he hadn’t spoken at all. His mouth was unusually closed when she heard him. “How did you?”

Val raised his hands in victory, he had gotten through to Lucinde. She had just needed to relax a bit. The ring allows us to send each other thoughts. He shared with Lucinde, pointing at his closed mouth for emphasis.

Resting her head in her hand, I’m not sure if this is a good thing. There are some thoughts that I’d rather not hear.

Iezecele let out a short laugh. Lucinde wasn’t wrong. The last thing that he needed was Val’s thoughts badgering him when he was shaping his Will. Iezecele made a note to see if he could choose to block out thoughts.

black-divider-hi.png

The following day, the trio went to the Basilica inside the First Ring of Beaufort. After revealing their letter of introduction, they were taken deep beneath the main structure. There, in a small meeting room, they met the highest chappin on the Isle, Channing Kearnan. The man was older and lacking in height, but still exuding a sense of calm strength. He warmly greeted them, each in turn.

As Kearnan overlooked the shield and plate the three had found in the forts, Val was surprised at the Channing’s mien. While the Church had no military or fiscal strength, it still held sway over people in its own way. Val expected the man in the highest office of the Church to be more domineering and less…grandfatherly. The man even apologized for putting them in danger when Lucinde related of the giant scorpion’s attack.

“And what do you think of these monsters?” Channing Kearnan asked when he heard about the calcifying bite of the chicken-bat.

" Maybe they come from Marmo? " Her family had traveled from one end of the Isle to the other for generations. They had no stories of the twisted creature they faced in Bergamoth , nor of any stories of dire creatures dripping with black ooze. “And speaking of Marmo, what exactly does it mean when this prophecy says Marmo will return?”

“We believe that Verite’ is telling us that the part of the Isle that Arnaud and his allies sheared off will return.” He could see the disbelief in the three’s eyes. He was once like them. Not for the first time, Channing Kearnan wished he could share his vision and the conviction it brought.

Lucinde shook her head, “It sank.” She couldn’t believe she had to tell the Channing of the entire Church. Every child of Cosette grew up on the story of Arnaud.

“It crumbled when the Willworkers melded the highest Will shaping of all four elements. Earth tumbled their castles and Water eroded their land. A storm of Air and Fire swept away everything else.” To think that one could push a land mass like pushing a toy boat in a bathtub was beyond ludicrous.

The Channing had heard this and more, from both heads of state and leaders of the arcane. He more than believed, he knew that Marmo was returning. “With deepest respect, Master Willworker, the cursed land of Marmo is returning.”

Lucinde could barely comprehend how the Isle was broken in the first place, let alone how it could be glued back together. “Have you checked for this Marmo? I mean, something that big, you should be able to see it a ways off. Or, send maybe you should send ships? It would be nice if we knew what was coming.”

Kearnan smiled patiently, “We have sent some ships, as yet to no avail. And, my dear, I couldn’t agree with you more about wanting to know about the Enemy.”

Iezecele shook his head. They believe in prophecy. They believe in impossibilities. They send ships to look for non-existent lands. He needed to get away from this madness. “Is that all?”

It wasn’t the first time he had dealt with a Willworker’s frustration at his ideas. “I did have one remaining item. Thank you for bringing it up, Master Willworker.” Channing Kearnan explained that he had sent a number of chappins to the remote city of Karg in the Devonan land of Harthelen, but had not heard from them in some time.

“Devonan chappins?” Val questioned. He had always thought that the Devonans followed their own religion. Kantora had long relations with Harthelen. He knew from his schooling that Karg was unfriendly to all the non-Devonan races.

“Human.” Kearnan replied, “though I did secure for them a rite of passage from La Roche.”

“So you need us to find these chappins and bring them back?” Iezecele was becoming impatient.

“They were on a mission similar to yours. I would ask that you find them and provide aid, if they should need it. And speaking of aid, I worry about you three. The reports I read of your exploits are chilling. I was wondering if you would like some help of your own?”

Val rubbed his side where the scorpion had nearly crushed him to death. “The more the merrier.” It would be nice to meet someone new and have them take some blows instead of him.

Iezecle’s first thought was of Bob’s head being sliced off by the undead skeleton. “No need for help, we’ve done well by ourselves.”

Lucinde’s father had offered her something similar when she was going off to explore the forts along the border. She didn’t want to bring in any of her family, let alone some random stranger who had no stake in this fight, “No, no help, unless they’re Chosen like us?”

Channing Kearnan smiled, the reports said that the warrior from Cosette might be the first to truly believe. “Like you?” He arched his eyebrow, “Perhaps.”

View
Week 10: The Forgotten Forts
Putting the Rogue through the Wringer

Val wriggled down the crack in the cellar wall. Tight at first, it increased in size as it descended. When he was able to stand, Val ran his hand along the passage wall. It didn’t feel like a natural cavern wall, nor was it worked with tools. The walls were rough, like something had dug it out. Guessing he was about forty feet below the surface, Val found something more surprising. “There’s a worked hallway down here,” he called quietly to his allies.

“Does it look like a fort? Like a Forgotten Fort?” Lucinde replied. She was not looking forward to buffing out the scrapes in her armor if she had to descend. Her father had just had it repaired.

“All I see is a hallway. Why don’t you come down and see?” Val still felt the cool breeze he had noticed in the cellar. He wasn’t entirely comfortable being in the underground hallway all alone. At least it was a breeze, and not something breathing. The hallway clearly led someplace back to the surface.

Val had scouted down the hallway a bit as Iezecele and Lucinde descended. "It opens up to a larger room a little further up, " he quietly informed them.

“Why are you whispering?” Iezecele questioned.

Val glanced down the hallway, then back to the Willworker, “just in case there’s something there.”

“Sure,” he nodded and put his hand over the light he had summoned for Val, smothering them into darkness. “We need to be quiet Just in case they’re blind.” He took his hand off, illuminating the hallway.

Val looked at the arcane stone that was casting light down the hallway, “Well, maybe if there’s creatures down here, they only live in darkness.” It was a weak save at best. He led the way down the hallway.

As the hallway opened into a large room, Iezecele summoned another lit stone and put it into Val’s palm. The rogue threw the light into the darkness. It revealed three scorpions. Two of them were the size of a well-fed child. The third stood in the far corner, resting atop a gruesome horde of corpses. It was easily several times larger than the other scorpions. It’s poisonous tail arching about ten feet in the air. “Get back to the hallway!” Val called as he reflexively threw a dagger at the closest scorpion. The dagger buried deep in one of the creature’s eyes.

As the trio backed into the hallway, the two smaller giant scorpions charged forward. Iezecele lingered as Val and Lucinde passed him. He gathered his nerve and trusted in his Will. Once the creatures came close enough, the Willworker summoned a prism of light and released that light in an array of blinding, scintillating color. The primitive minds of the were overcome by its stunning power.

Iezecele stepped back and Lucinde stepped up, attacking the scorpion Val had hit earlier. She aimed the ball of her flail at the hilt of the rogue’s dagger. Her blow drove the blade deeper into the creature’s brain. It twisted and writhed in spasmodic pain before its limbs curled in upon itself.

Val had looked to closely when the Willworker cast his magic light. Curious about how the power within Iezecele worked, he had watched the glowing prism form. Its light lingered. As he attacked, his aim was poor. Both of his blades skidded down the dark carapace of the second scorpion.

Angered by the death of its spawn the largest scorpion moved to attack. Iezecele had anticipated the creature’s path of attack. He summoned an oily patch of slick fluid to rise up through the flagstones, coating the floor in a greasy smear. The massive scorpion halted his attack as it attempted to maintain its balance.

Lucinde acted upon the creature’s imbalance and swung her flail at one of the monster’s leg. The six legs were finally able to find purchase in the small cracks between the flagstones. It lashed its venomous tail at the warrior, followed by attacks from both its grasping claws. Lucinde knew that to back off invited the attack. She stepped inside the attack, allowing the deadly tail to pass over her shoulder. Her shield held off one claw, while a quick tap from her flail threw the other claw askew. “Val, I’m going to need some help here! Get done with that other one!”

The scorpion and Val were clearing from Iezecele’s luminous attack. Clicking and screeching in anger, the scorpion spawn rushed the rogue. Val was barely able to raise his short swords to defend himself. Rather than his deft skill, it was the creature’s mindless charge that got it killed, impaling itself on the rogue’s blades.

The last of its spawn slain, the monstrous scorpion attacked the trio. Lucinde hammered aside the thick stinger. Iezecele made the briefest of steps back, causing the scorpion’s claw to miss by inches. Val was caught between the corpse of the scorpion spawn and the wall. The largest scorpion’s claw caught him. The sharp edges cut his arms and the vise-like pincers held him fast.

Iezecele was worried for Val. He summoned the small storm in his hand and threw it’s power into the creature’s side. The scorpion shook from the power. Its muscles tightening in the electrocution. Some of those muscles, unfortunately for the rogue, were in its pincers. The claw gripped Val tighter.

Val cried out in pain. He tried to think of an escape, but couldn’t focus through the pain. His only thought was that he wanted to live. He dropped one of his swords and used the free hand to uncork a potion. The liquid raced through him, healing the worst of his injuries.

Already having Val in its grip, the scorpion struck at Iezecele, capturing the Willworker in its powerful grasp. Lucinde protected herself from its stinger, as its tail bashed against her upraised shield. Lucinde spared a glance to her allies and saw they were in danger. She pressed her attack, trusting in her armor to protect her. He flail continued to bash against the creature’s own armor.

Iezecele had not always been a Willworker. He remembered having to survive on the streets after being exiled by his family. There were a number of bullies in those back alleys that were bigger and stronger. Iezecele had learned to escape from their grips. He applied those lessons to the scorpion’s pincers, slipping out of their grasp. Having more than enough time to see how the creature’s claws worked, Val angled his short sword and applied pressure. He claw was forced apart, freeing the rogue. Lucinde’s flail struck again, spreading cracks along the scorpion’s armor.

The scorpion twisted and clicked in anger. It’s tail tried to pierce Lucinde’s armor, but the warrior had long since figured out the creature’s attack. Every attack, it had snaked left, left and then slid right just before it struck. She knew exactly where to place her shield for the block. Freed from its grasp, Iezecele stepped back, just enough to avoid a grasping claw. Weakened from the pain, Val was slower to get to his feet. Again, the scorpion’s claw gripped him, breaking the rogue’s bones.

Iezecele thought about summoning earthen missiles to strike the creature, but was worried about Val’s life. The rogue was coughing up blood. The Willworker summoned the earth’s healing energy and sent it out in a wave. Lucinde refocused her attack, slamming her flail into the claw that held Val.

Val experienced an indescribable feeling. As the healing wave enter his body, the scorpion’s grip crushed him. At the same time he felt bones being healed and broken. In an instant cuts were opened and healed. His body twitched in the dual shock. Barely conscious, he weakly scrambled to push the scorpion’s claw open.

Iezecele studied the scorpion closely. He saw where Lucinde’s blows had cracked the creature’s chitinous armor. He channeled an acidic ray, further weakening the creature’s protection. “Lucinde, take the opening!” The warrior glanced where the green ray had struck, melting away the last of one of its armor plates. She slammed her fail into that space, killing the beast.

Released from the scorpion’s grip, Val fell to the ground. He had thought he was going to die in this tunnel. If it wasn’t for Iezecele, he knew he would have. Val slung his backpack and took a healing potion. Life flowed back into his body, but not enough. “Val, I can heal…,” the rogue didn’t hear what the Willworker was saying. Death had been so close. He took another healing potion from his pack. He didn’t want his story to end. He hadn’t heard enough stories yet. There was more. He wanted to live.

Drinking the second potion allowed Val to regain composure. His blood-laden lungs healed. His breathing eased. Val saw the deep cuts in his side heal. They had sawed right through the toughened leather of his armor. He laughed as he saw Lucinde wiping off the sweat from the battle. He remembered the days training with the other nobles at the Rose Castle. How good he felt because of his mobility in the lesser armor! Now Lucinde was teaching his old man-at-arms’ lessons about armor’s superiority all over again.

“What’s so funny?” Lucinde was worried about Val. She had told her father that the man was useful in a fight, but he had been beaten badly in the fight with the scorpions. She didn’t think he would leave her and Iezecele, but couldn’t quite convince herself why the rogue was staying. Despite his noble heritage, Val had clearly pursued a life of leisure. Today was anything but.

Val waved Lucinde off, “Nothing, nothing.” He looked over at the gory pile that the monstrous scorpion had used as a nest. “Let’s see if there’s anything worth the pints of blood I gave.” He stifled another laugh, pints of blood. He wiped his hands on his armor as he stood, realizing he stood in a puddle of his own blood. Not for the first time on this journey he wondered if he had chosen the wrong path. If he should have focused on traditional fighting: sword, shield and armor. He had chosen song and stealth, but where had that led. He remembered his weakness against Mad Malachi, the deep bites of the wolves, and now these scorpions. Val wondered why he was putting himself in such danger. He was confused.

Rather than continue to ask the introspective questions, Val began digging through the pile. There were somewhat fresh corpses that had remnants of armor that bore Ranger’s insignia. There were also long-picked-clean bones. As he looked at a strap that clung loosely to a leg bone, he guessed that these creatures had fed on Ranger and smuggler equally.

Though it was messy work, the rogue found an impressive haul. Pouches filled with coin stamped with both Cosette and Cendrillion marks, uncut gems from the Cliffs, even a new spear to replace the one the blackened boar broke. The most unique thing he found seemed simple at first. It was in the style of a bread plate that could be found in anyone’s home. In the center was engraved a scene of thanksgiving. A cornucopia of food and a family sitting hand in hand. Val read the ancient script that bordered the pastoral scene. “The Chose will be Blessed by Verite.” As he spoke the words aloud, Val felt a wave of warmth spread through him. It was a calming, a warmth that reminded him of a third glass of red wine in front of a winter’s fire. Glancing at his allies, Val could see that a similar sensation had touched them. He wondered what they felt, what they likened it to.

Iezecele rubbed his arms, “Let’s get some rest. This thing took about all I had.” None of them wanted to rest in the same room as the scorpions. They continued past the room, following the wind that still gently blew through the hallway. Eventually, the hallway began to angle back to the surface. At the top, they squeezed through an entrance that had long since been broken.

Looking from this side, the entrance appeared to be nothing more than a simple crack in the ground. It was no different from any of the many cracks they had walked past, uncaring. Lucinde wondered how many of those fissures held creatures that had dragged her countrymen to their doom. “You think there are others like this?”

Even though it was early afternoon, Iezecele spread out his bedroll. He had hit his limit using his Will. His mind was too tired to think, “That’s a question for later.” He was practically asleep before his head rested on his pillow.

Night was upon them after they had rested from their ordeal with the scorpions. The trio made their way back to the fort where they had left their horses. “Did we a light burning at the fort?” Iezecele’s sharp eyes saw thin shafts of light escaping from the boarded up windows.

Val looked at Lucinde in her heavy armor. “No, you two stay here. I’ll go and check it out.” Val slipped out of his backpack for maximum movement. “Izecele, conjure up one of your lights.” Val palmed the stone after the Willworker had enchanted it. “If you see a single flash, or the light stays, that means I’m in trouble, come running. If there’s two flashes, that means everything is okay.”

The rogue crept quietly to the fort. Keeping flush against the wall, he listened at the windows. “Damn Rangers sacked the place!” A jar shattered against the ground. “I can’t wait to catch the ones who did this. When they come back for their horses there will be a few less Rangers in Cosette!” Val heard some laughter. As best he could tell, there were at least three smugglers there.

Val’s poor luck continued as he let out a yelp of pain. In the darkness, he had missed a one of the small sinkholes that littered the ground and twisted his ankle. He quickly threw himself to the ground as he saw a shadow linger at one of the windows. Val could almost feel the eyes of the smuggler searching for him. Just as he was about to flash the light at his allies, the shadow moved away from the window. Val sighed and continued towards Lucinde and Iezecele.

He returned the arcane light to Iezecele as he began to explain his plan. “They’re smugglers. I’m going try and lure them out , you two will ambush them.” They quickly worked out their tactics.

Val moved up to the side of the door and banged on it. Using a rough thuggish voice, he pretended to be one of their kind. “Hey, you guys, let me in quick. There’s Rangers about.”

The door quickly opened, a smuggler appeared in the doorway, face hidden by a scarf. “I’m sure.” He responded in a muffled voice and shot Val with a crossbow bolt. The smuggler quickly ducked back inside.

My luck continues, Val thought as the projectile grazed him. The rogue cursed under his breath. Either they had seen him earlier, or they were paranoid. He hadn’t expected this type of reaction. Clearly the thieves of the area had none of the etiquette he was used to expecting from criminals. In the streets of Kantora, one was used to a bit of parley before blades were drawn.

Iezecele saw Val’s plan quickly go down the waste hole. He fished a pebble out of his pocket and summoned light into it. He thew the arcane light into the fort. “That was a warning! The next one will explode! By the order of the Willworkers’, I command you to surrender!” He hoped that the sight of magic being cast and the weight of the Willworker title would be enough to bring the smugglers under control.

“We’re Cosettean! You have no authority here, Willworker!” Another smuggler shout out with derision. “This is our house!” Clearly the smugglers were not giving up without a fight.

“Smugglers is what you are and I have all the authority I want.” Iezecele grew angered at the smugglers reckless stubbornness. He decided to give them one last warning. “It’s your choice. You can either surrender now or die shortly.”

Smuggling was the very antithesis of her family’s honor. Lucinde felt she needed to add something, “You’re trespassing, and I’m sure that’s the least of your crimes! Give up now.” The rogue had told her and Iezecele that there were three smugglers in the fort. Maybe now that they knew they’re numbers were even, but had a Willworker standing against them, the smugglers might be more inclined to surrender.

There was a pause in the fort, they were weighing their chances against Iezecele’s power.
Val could hear words being changed in an excited tone, but couldn’t make out the details. A decision was reached, “You all go your way and we’ll go ours. Neither of us will have to explain anything to the Rangers.”

Val looked at Iezecele and Lucinde. The Willworker seemed hesitant to allow that. He could tell by the warrior’s face that there was no way she was going to allow smugglers to escape justice. He needed to get them off-balance, make the mistake of coming out to fight. “Let me do the explaining.” He called out to the fort. “We already took everything you had. We’re going to take everything again.”

“Really?” The smuggler challenged with defiance as he stepped into the doorway and shot Val a second time. The bolt just scraping the rogue’s throat. Though he was ready for the smuggler’s attack, the closeness of the bolt distracted Val, causing him to miss his counterattack. Iezecele had no such problems. He summoned small, sharp rocks to strike the exposed smuggler. Lucinde had also prepared for a target. She swung her flail, wrapping its chain around the smugglers arm and swiftly using her leverage to pull him to the ground.

The tripped smuggler twisted on the ground and attempted to drive his dagger into Val’s leg, but failed to make any contact. A second smuggler appeared in the doorway and shot a crossbow bolt at Lucinde. It pinged harmlessly off of her armor.

Lucinde pulled her flail free of the smuggler’s arm and continued it in a wide arc, bringing the full force of her strength and its momentum down on the prone smuggler. His head whipped to the side with a startling crack. The empty eyes stared back to his fellow smuggler.

Seeing his ally die, the smuggler’s face twisted in rage. “You’re going to pay!”

Val laughed, “Pay? Us? You’re the only ones who are paying. Paid with your loot. Paid with your ally.” He hoped it would push the smuggler to be rash.

Lucinde chimed in, “Surrender, you’ve already lost enough.” She thought that the rogue was pushing to hard. She didn’t want to kill these smugglers. She only wanted to bring them to justice.

For a moment, it seemed like the smuggler was going to bite. He took a breath, “Come and get us,” the smuggler stepped deeper into the fort.

Lucinde took a step forward, then Iezecele grabbed her elbow. “Pull back, Lucinde.” She stopped her advance and watched the Willworker call upon his power. Iezecele called forth the Willform of fire. A burning arc leapt from his fingertips, setting the inside of the fort alight. “Now, surrender and live or stay and burn!”

The two remaining smugglers that Val had detected charged out of the burning fort. Against Iezecele’s advise, they chose to attack rather than surrender. Val missed both smugglers as they ran by quickly. Iezecele waited until they came close and then released another arc of burning flame. He had measured the distance perfectly, catching the two smugglers in his flames, but neither of his allies.

As the smugglers burned, Lucinde swung her flail, hitting one in his chest. Val moved behind the other smuggler and pierced him with his short sword. Both smugglers died as they tried to make their escape.

A tumble of boxes let them know that there was at least one more smuggler. Lucinde made sure her helmet was on to protect her from the flames of the burning fort. As she moved slowly behind her shield, Lucinde felt a bolt bounce off of her protection. “One more,” she informed her allies.

Iezecele looked over to Val, “You want to go in?”

Val looked the Willworker’s handiwork, “Not really, the place is on fire.”

Iezecele cupped his hands and called into the fort, “You got this.” Between the monstrous scorpions and the attacking smugglers, Lucinde had proven her prowess. She had not taken a single scratch in either battle. The rogue had been put through the wringer, almost dying twice. Iezecele wasn’t wearing any armor. His clothes would almost immediately catch fire.

Sweat from exertion and heat poured off of Lucinde. The smuggler refused to surrender. As her allies contemplated the heat, she had been fighting the last remaining smuggler. “Yeah, I’ve got this.” She muttered to herself. The warrior lifted her shield, blocking his unpracticed attack. Pushing forward, her shield threw the man off balance, leaving him wide open for her killing blow.

Outside, she pulled her helmet and breathed in the cool night air. “So now what?” She hoped that the Willworker’s fire would burn itself out, rather than consume the building.

View
Week 9: Homecoming
Beware the Bite of the Chicken-Bat

The three friends crested a hill and Beaufort revealed itself. In the morning light, the Fourth Shield, the outermost wall, shined a brilliant white. Behind it’s tall, thick walls lay the city’s farmlands, golden with fields of wheat. Acres of land inward was the Third Shield. At four stories tall, it wasn’t as high, nor as thick as the outer wall, but it still had guarded towers every hundred feet. Inside the third wall, there were markets and craftsmen. The Second Shield was the thickest wall yet. Entire fortresses had been erected along its width. The First Shield appeared to be of a single piece of stone. It was easy to believe the tales that the ancient Willworkers combined their elemental powers to defend the castle of humanity’s greatest king. The land inside the First wall was the province of Cosette’s military. The soldier’s of Cosette were taught all of their skills here, from marching to swordsmanship and from horsemanship to archery. The inner most wall housed the soldiers, the military leaders, and their king. And as much as the Shields defined the city of Beaufort, nothing dominated the landscape more than the royal castle. King Arnaud Soleil XIV’s home, often dubbed the Fortress of Light, was much like the wall of the First Shield. Built by magical powers and strengthened arcane forces, the Fortress had never been fallen to its enemies.

Val paused at the crest of the hill overlooking the city. Awestruck, he wanted to stop and paint the scene. He had never seen such a marvelous structure. It lacked the curves and graceful gilding that marked the structures of Kantora, but it exuded power and strength.

Having spent her life journeying across the Isle with her family, Lucinde was not distracted by the city. She raised her hand, shielding her eyes from the midday sun. “Look!” She pointed to an area just outside the Fourth Shield. “There’s a circus!”

As the three moved closer, they were able to read a banner, which colorfully stated they had arrived at Thom Christopher’s Mighty Mystical Menagerie. Signs lined the entrance, showing all the different acts in the circus. There were animal shows, jugglers, acrobats. Lucinde was already counting out the coins to pay for her admission. Iezecele looked at Val, “So much for staying on mission.” Val shrugged and took some coins out of his purse. He was always up for a show.

By the time the two men caught up with Lucinde, she was holding a bag of roasted nuts in one hands and waving a streamer in the other. She was wildly waving them over, like a kid urging her parents on. “A streamer?” Iezecele questioned. He had seen Lucinde in battle. She was always calm, an emotional barrier always kept her focused in tough situations. It was hard to balance that version of her and the hyperactive woman he saw now,

Lucinde nodded emphatically, “It’s blue!” She tapped the sign in front of her. “It’s starting now! Let’s go!” The painted sign declared Everton’s Amazing Animals. The picture revealed three performers, a man, a woman, and a boy, behind them were drawn three ferocious animals, a lion, a bear, and a wolf.

Again, Lucinde rushed into the tent ahead of Val and Iezecele, eager to get a seat in the front row, much to the chagrin of the poor souls who had to sit behind her. The woman was up first with a bear. Instead of the ferocious bear on the sign, the bear was almost comical, wearing a green vest and a matching tiny hat. She had the bear stand and walk on its two hind paws, and then do the same on its two front paws. The bear climbed onto a large ball and balanced itself on it.

Next, the boy came out like a wind, riding on the back of a large timber wolf. The boy and the wolf did humorous tricks together. First the boy would try to get the wolf to do a trick, like bowing, but the wolf refused. Eventually, the boy had to do the trick in order to get the wolf to follow. The tricks became more and more difficult, culminating in the boy having to jump through a ring of fire in order to show the wolf how it was done.

Finally, the man came out with a lion. Where the bear seemed harmless and the wolf seemed friendly, at least to the boy, the lion seemed to be just under the man’s authority. As they watched the lion perform, it was like watching a contest of wills between the lion and man. The man won out, even to the point of being able to put his head in the jaws of the beast.

As the show was ending, the woman invited members of the crowd to come closer and meet the animals. Naturally, Lucinde was the first to come forward. She threw a gold coin into the hat the bear was holding forth for tips. The woman was surprised at Lucinde’s generosity. “Butus, dear,” she told the bear, “be sure to say thank you to the Lady.” The bear did two short growls, imitating speech as best as it could.

Unafraid, Lucinde moved up to the bear. She looked as it stood up to greet her. “So this is what it must be like for you Val,” Lucinde joked as the bear’s height was head and shoulders above her own.

“Hello mom,” the young boy with the wolf joined them. Again, unconcerned that it was a wolf, Lucinde put her fist out for the beast to sniff. “This is Grey, he likes to be scratched behind the ears.” The boy informed Lucinde, to which she readily supplied.

It was almost evening by the time Lucinde had seen, played, and eaten her fill of Thom Christopher’s Mighty Mystical Menagerie. She then her companions into the city.

As he walked through the city, Val noticed the number of patrols. As one patrol of soldiers turned off their street, another patrol turned onto it. None of the patrols stopped at any of the shops other than to greet the proprietor. His keen eyes couldn’t detect a change of coin. Lucinde just shook her head in disbelief when he asked about how much protection money they grifted off the shopkeepers. He also expected to notice dealings in the shadows beneath the Shields, but there were none. There were no shady dealings in part because there was no shade. A series of highly polished metal reflectors shined light into the streets and alleys by the Shields. Lanterns were being lit as they passed to illuminate the night.

She was warmly greeted by the keeper of the Inn of the Nobel Knight. It was a modest inn that her father always used when he came to Beaufort. Lucinde and the innkeeper chatted, as he asked after her father and his business. He noticed Val’s fiddle and questioned whether the rogue would be able to play for his dinner crowd. Val glanced about the room and leaned into the innkeeper as to not be overheard. “That would be my delight, but I’m afraid I don’t have any papers that give me permission to play. You think we could just say that you’re just offering room and board so we can both avoid the Guild fees?” It was a line he had opened with at every inn in Kantora. Every innkeeper had expected something like that. It was how negotiating was started.

The innkeeper leaned back with a puzzled look on his face. “Miss Lucinde has already reserved room and board for you. I’m offering the standard fee plus any tips if you’re good enough to earn them.” An understanding registered in the innkeeper’s eyes, “Ah, you’re Kantoran, aren’t you?” He explained when Val assented, “Here in Cosette you’ll be paid honestly for honest work.” Val was confused.

Following Val’s rule for staying in a city, the three left in the afternoon for one of the smaller churches to be resupplied. As they passed a square, Lucinde pointed out an armored man overseeing the ceremonial changing of the guard who watched over a gate of the Second Shield. " That’s General Rugassant. He’s the High General of all of Cosette. People call him the Lion."

Even from this distance, Iezecele could tell the man was impressive. Taller than Lucinde, he had poise and command over the other soldiers. Still, he couldn’t help but tease his friend, “The Lying what?”

Val smiled, “Maybe the Lying General? So Cosette is only shady at the top?”

Iezecele playfully shook his head, “No, no, no, not lying like being dishonest. Lying, like lying down. Maybe he likes to take naps.”

Lucinde was not amused by her friends. Her brothers had enchanted her with stories of Leonce Rugassant’s bold military maneuvers that led the army of Cosette to victory time and time again. “He is neither dishonest nor lazy. He’s like a lion ferocious and strong in battle, the lord of his domain!” Frustrated, she surged through the crowd into the church.

After they showed their letters of introduction, the three were quickly taken to the church’s Channing. He gave them a letter that instructed them to deliver any part of the Prophecy, should they find one, directly to the Basilica. It was signed by the head of the church, Channing Kearnan himself. A thought struck Val, “Channing? Did the church know we were coming here, or was this letter delivered to every church in the city?”

“I believe that we only knew you and your companions would be stopping in Beaufort. I imagine every Channing has a copy of that letter. Why do you ask?”

“So this letter is in every church, with all those eyes able to see it? I mean anyone could read this letter and spread the word of what we’re after? All anyone would have to do is keep an eye out for us heading for the Basilica and jump us.”

Realization spread across the Channing’s face, “You hail from Kantora, correct?” He rested a calming hand on Val, “The letters are safe here, only my brother and sister Channings bear this letter.” He held open his arms, taking in the surroundings of the inner sanctum of the church, “No nefarious eyes would ever wander so deep.” He looked as if he felt sorry for Val’s caution.

Val could barely believe what he was hearing. The letters had been delivered from the Basilica to each church. So, there were chances for the letter to be intercepted along the way. Not to mention any one of the church’s acolytes who accidentally read the letter and chatted about it later. That didn’t even take into account any spy who might have broken into the church and read the letter. Since the caves under Kermis and Pellon’s insane assassination attempt afterwards, it was hardly beyond the imagination that there were people that were actively trying to stop their progress. He couldn’t believe the faith these men had in their own security.

Val was about to share his point when he felt Iezecele’s hand on his shoulder. “Let it go, Val. They just won’t see it. Besides, we’re here to supply up and head out.” Val looked at the Channing and let it drop.

black-divider-hi.png

Days later, with Beaufort long out of sight, the trio, Iezecele was on watch, absently tending the fire. His mind was tracing over his research into ravens. Every so often they had spotted ravens watching them as they traveled. Always two of them, except when they encountered the mass of ravens on the road to Kermis. He had calculated the days and the times they had seen the ravens, but came up with nothing significant. The distances from cities, too, he could find no pattern. The best guess the Willworkers of Beaufort were able to give was that the birds may be spying at behest of the Druids. He tired to laugh it off, telling the rogue to be the better man and ignore them, but their persistence was vexing.

His thoughts were interrupted when he heard a snap, not from a log breaking in the fire, but from the woods. He summoned light into a stone and threw it in the direction of the sound. There, inside the treeline was a huge wolf, oozing blackness like the one they had faced on the road to Senna. Another crunch of twigs alerted him in another direction. Another empowered stone illuminated a second wolf, prowling the opposite edge of the camp.

Lucinde woke at the Willworker’s alarm. She knew that there would never be enough time to don her full plate armor. She did the best she could, hastily donning her breastplate and grabbing her shield.

The first wolf that Iezecele had seen charged him. The Willworker summoned a prism and channeled his power through it. A rainbow of scintillating color temporarily stunned the beast, halting it’s attack.

The second wolf charged from the opposite direction at the same time as its fellow. Intending to attack the Willworker, the creature was blocked by Lucinde. She swung her flail, but missed. She had been wearing the full plate in battle for some time. Not having it now, had thrown off her attack. The wolf took opportunity at the warrior’s off balanced attach and bit at her leg, attempting to drag her down.

Taking a page from the wolves’ tactics, he circled around and attacked one of the wolf’s open hind flank. He cursed himself for being lazy and not buying another spear in Beaufort. He moved in closer than he would like and cut into the beast’s leg.

While the first wolf was dazzled by his colorful spray of light, Iezecele backed off and summoned stone missiles to strike the stunned creature.

The other wolf pivoted quickly snapping at Val and Lucinde. The rogue danced out of the way of the wolf’s black teeth, but could not counter with his own attack as his twin short swords cut only air.

As the beast lunged for Val, Lucinde hit the beast’s side. She heard ribs crack, but like all the blackened monsters they had faced before. The wolf showed no hint of feeling the pain inflicted upon it.

Shaking off the arcane magic, the wolf charged Iezecele. Leaping at the end of its charge, the wolf brought its full weight to bear as it attacked the lone Willworker. It’s unnaturally large teeth bit deep into Iezecele. Only the intense training he had received allowed Iezecele to maintain his focus and not pass out from the pain. He focused his Will and summoned the power of the storm in his hand. As the beast bit down, Iezecele pressed his hand to the side of its head and released the shocking power.

Lucinde glanced away from her opponent to check on Iezecele. She had seen the other wolf charge the Willworker. Though her concern was good, the distraction was not. The wolf she was facing bit her side, its teeth digging in where she had only partially buckled in her haste. The warrior ground her teeth through the pain. She spun herself out of the wolf’s bite and used her momentum to add more power to the blow from her flail. A crack in the wolf’s shoulder gave the warrior a satisfying smile.

The wolf lost its balance as its weight shifted on its broken shoulder. Val slid on his knees just behind the wolf and slashed at its legs, cutting deep into the beast’s arteries. The wolf quickly bled out and died.

Iezecele momentarily distracted the wolf that was attacking him by throwing road dust in it’s face. He took the opportunity to scramble away. With the other wolf felled, Lucinde and Val repositioned themselves between the wolf and Iezecele.

Thinking the wolf would continue to hunt the Willworker, Lucinde wasn’t prepared when the beast quickly turned on her and bit her low on her leg. Now she was bleeding from both legs. Lucinde stood her ground, but was shaking from the wounds. Val had read Lucinde’s movements and was moving to flank their opponent. He, too, was caught off guard. He wildly struck out, attempting to make something of his error, but failed to harm the wolf.

Iezecele felt woozy from his blood loss, but still held onto his Will and summoned more earth shards to strike the remaining wolf.

Seeing the rogue’s arm arc in a wide swing, the wolf attacked the exposed limb. It’s bite almost tore Val’s arm out of its socket. Blood, infected by the wolf’s black poison, poured onto the ground.

Adrenaline washing away the pain, the rogue pulled away from the wolf and rather than withdraw, Val pressed his attack. His short sword sliced at the wolf’s eye. Even though its eye was sliced from its socket, the wolf showed no pain or fear for its life. Its only response was to seep more black poison from the empty hole.

Iezecele summoned the healing power of the earth and stomped it into the ground, sending a healing wave out to his allies. Lucinde felt strength return to her legs. Val felt the muscle in his arm begin to knit.

The wolf snapped its mighty jaws, clamping down on Lucinde’s shield. It dug it’s heels in and yanked and pulled with its considerable strength. Strapped to her arm, Lucinde felt her shoulder dislocate under the strain.

As it focused all its attention on Lucinde, Val struck at the tendons in the beasts legs, trying to put it down like he had its partner. While increasing the wolf’s wounds, Val only managed to get the beast to stop its attack on Lucinde. Snapping teeth bit down on the rogue’s hand.

Iezecele saw that his allies were in trouble. This wolf had proven to be more tenacious than other creatures they had faced. Rather than attack, he sent out another healing wave to aid his friends. Lucinde felt the Willworker’s power flow into her. Where her shield arm would have taken days, if not weeks, to heal normally, moments feeling connected to the power of the earth healed her instantly. Her head cleared from the pain, Lucinde had a vision of her day at the Menagerie outside of Beaufort. She remembered the joy of the strength test, bring that maul down and ringing the bell. She channeled that memory into her attack and brought her flail down on the wolf’s head. A heavy crack sounded as she broke the beast’s skull. The wolf stumbled a bit, as if confused, and fell down dead.

“Guys,” Val fell limply to the ground, “I don’t feel so good.” Iezecele quickly rushed to the rogue’s side. He saw the black ooze beginning to darken Val’s veins. Already his flesh was feverish to the touch. The Willworker quickly ran to his backpack and began digging through his belongings.

“Ah,” Iezecele said in relief. He knew that his days researching the healing shapes of the Will would come in handy. After the rogue had been infected by the first wolf’s attack, Iezecele knew that it would only be a matter of time before one of them would be infected again. It was just the rogue’s luck that he was infected again. The Willworker unfurled the scroll he had written back in the Arcanum Primus and channeled the Will spell that was stored there. The healing magic removed the black poison from his ally. Val sighed in relief as the blackness flowed away from his wounds.

black-divider-hi.png

As the trio traveled to Lucinde’s home city of Bergamoth, the terrain began to shift. The smooth, even plains of Cosette shifted to uneven hills and boulders that jutted in unnatural angles. The northern stretch of Cosette still bore the scars from the ancient breaking. Lucinde urged her companions to stay as close to the road as possible, pointing out sinkholes, fissures and other dangers of traveling in Bergamoth.

Lucinde called it her home, but to Val and Iezecele, the Solide homestead looked more like a large compound. As she led them past the main gate, Iezecele noted buildings dedicated to her family’s industry. Here there was a building for wainwrights, where the Solide wagons were fashioned an maintained. Another building was for coopers, where they built and stored barrels for goods. Val saw a series of large stables and a wide training ground where young Solides were already learning the horsemanship.

As they entered the main house, Val first noted how many people there were. On their journey, he had heard about the Solide family. A number of the Channings had mentioned her family name with respect. Even a few of the innkeepers along the way took a more genial tone when Lucinde mentioned her parentage. Still, when Lucinde spoke of home, it had always been with an intimate tone. He had come to imagine a pleasant pastoral scene for Lucinde’s home, quiet and relaxed. Instead, it reminded him of his days wandering the Rose Castle. Away from the dining halls and stately rooms, moved the menservants and handmaidens, the cooks and cleaners, all moving to a destination, with a sense of purpose. It was like that here, Solides moved in and out of rooms, taking a moment for a friendly hello to Lucinde, then going about their purpose.

They were gently, but firmly directed through the home. Their mounts would be tended. Their clothes mended and washed. They would have something to eat. The trio were seated in one of the smaller dining rooms, only large enough to seat a dozen or so. Refreshments were being served when Lucinde’s father strode into the room. He briefly took measure of Iezecele and Val before taking hold of Lucinde in a great welcoming hug. “So, has my daughter finally home, or is she still fooling with contracts from the church?”

Lucinde lifted her head and greeted her father with a kiss on his cheek. “I’ll keep fooling with the church as long as their pockets are deep. It’s made me over 400 gold coins a month for the last four months.”

While his daughter was confident in her response, Lucinde’s father was concerned. What did the church have her doing? The amount of money she had earned was staggering. It was almost as much as the entire family’s profits. The new suit of custom made full plate didn’t escape his notice. Neither did the fact that he could already see scratches and dents in the recently made armor. “Well, if you’re not home for good, then you must be working. Tell me, what does the church have you doing?”

Lucinde explained that the Church wanted them to explore the forts that lined the border between Cosette and Cendrillion. “Exploring the abandoned forts? That’s a child’s game. You and your brothers and sisters did that when you were six! Why do they have you doing that?”

She wanted to explain everything to her father. The attack of the skeleton of Mad Malachi, the enchanted paper, the church’s Prophecy, her part in it. Lucinde hesitated with Val and Iezecele present. She didn’t know how much she of their stories she should share. Iezecele stepped into the conversation, filling the pause Lucinde had left. “Some of those forts have been there since the Breaking. The church has us searching for relics and religious artifacts. Worthless to the common observer, but priceless to those men of faith.”

Lucinde’s father nodded to the Willworker. That might explain the heavy wages his daughter was earning, but with the damage her armor had sustained in such a short time, he felt there might be more to the story. “I see. Well, before you head back to the church, be sure to stop by.” Lucinde’s father noted that when they returned, he would take his daughter aside for more details of what she had been up to.

black-divider-hi.png

The forts along the border of Cosette varied greatly. Some were large, stone structures, big enough to handle a battalion. Others looked as if they had been hastily assembled, consisting of a single shelter and enough area for a squad to camp. Most were empty, overrun with ivy, weeds sprouting between dislodged flagstones. A few of the forts were completely dilapidated, save for a small section that the Rangers, Cosette’s border force, maintained for their patrols. Usually, just enough space for a small cadre of soldiers to camp and hard tack to resupply.

“Looks like no one has been here in ages,” Lucinde noted the boarded up windows and doorways as the trio rode up to another forgotten fort.

Iezecle wasn’t so sure. He noticed that the oilskin tarp over the firewood by the shed was tied down and not cracked with age. He all but confirmed his suspicions when he checked the door. A casual glance suggested that it had been boarded up, but it had only been made to look that way. A simple latch kept the door closed. “Smugglers.” He remembered time and again how emissaries from Cosette had come to his father’s house, complaining of all the contraband that made its way into Cosette from Cendrillion.

Val waved the group on after listening for any movement and checking for booby traps that smugglers may have left to surprise them. Like the other forts they had explored, this one was rundown, with only a few rooms still serviceable. The three concentrated their search there. Iezecele noticed a loose floorboard after examining a wine barrel’s potential on the vinegar market. Under the boards he found a number of raw gems that his birth country was renowned for.

In what must have been a lounge, Lucinde noticed a strange edge to the main table and called Val over to investigate. The rogue laughed, “Now that’s the first taste of home I’ve had in weeks!” Noticing her confused face, Val showed Lucinde what she had found. He pulled up a chair and sat down at the table, pretending to hold a hand of cards. With a tap of his knee, the hidden draw opened. Val smiled as a set of aces and kings were still in the drawer, waiting for a cheater to use.

Lucinde shook her head, worried that this is what accounted for Val’s fond memories of home. “I’m going to check that shed outside.” Val took the cards, wishing he could see the cheater’s face when he realized they had been stolen. He moved into the kitchen and began searching through the supplies stored there. His mind’s eye searched like he was a thief, hiding ill-gotten gains from the authorities. He sifted through bags of oats and shook jars of pickled vegetables. Buried in a container of flour he found a large pouch of gold coins.

Outside, Lucinde examined the shed. It looked like some of the local wildlife had made it their home. A large hole, perhaps made by a badger, had been clawed in the side of the structure. She remembered Iezecele’s warning that this was a den for smugglers as she reached for the latch. If she was a smuggler, she would hide until the authorities left. A shed might be a good place to remain hidden. In her imagination, the warrior saw a gang of thieves with daggers lying in wait. She called for Iezecele and Val for backup.

After listening at the door, Val felt that Lucinde’s gang of villains was imaginary. He threw the latch and opened the door to the shed. The opening revealed steep steps descending in to the darkness beneath the fort . A strange squawk came from the darkness. Val was repulsed by the creature that charged to defend its home. In Kantora, he had encountered a number of traveling shows that boasted “wonders.” Freakish creatures were on display for the brave, and the paying. Most of these were only wonders for taxidermists. Dead creatures that had been stitched together with varying levels of expertise. The thing that came into view was an unnatural pairing between a rooster and a bat.

At the end of it’s charge, it suddenly flapped up the final steps and bit the shocked rogue. Val felt a cold stiffness seep into his hand where the creature had bit him. He stumbled back in surprise, his sword flailing ineffectually at the creature that had landed on him.

The rooster-bat creature continued its vicious charge. Lucinde, who was expecting a larger enemy, readily struck the beast. Her blow knocked the creature heavily to the ground as it flapped off of Val. It squawked-screeched as its wing was broken by the blow.

The suddenness of the attack paired with oddity of the creature made it difficult for Iezecele to make the Will form in his mind. Even as the creature bit him, the Willworker struggled to deal with this thing that should not exist. Iezecele felt a coldness spreading though the area of his leg where the creature bit. His muscles were tightening and he found it harder to move.

Though savage, the creature’s attack on the Willworker was not strategic. Now flanked by Lucinde and Val, it opened itself to their combined deadly attack. The warrior caught the beast’s chest with a blow from her flail. The rogue followed Lucinde’s attack, slashing at the creature’s throat, slashing first with his right blade, then his left. The creature fell to their devastating attack.

Iezecele limped over to the dead creature, “What is that thing?”

Lucinde turned the creature over with her armored boot, “Some kind of chicken-bat?”

Val nodded, it was a good description, “I’ll have to come up with a better name for it.” He felt the tingling numbness of the creature’s bite fade, “Beware the Bite of the Chicken-Bat sounds too comedic.”

Iezecele winced as he leaned down to examine the ‘Chicken-Bat.’ The stiffness in his leg where the creature had bit him was not spreading, but neither was it fading away. He would need to take a closer look at the wound in order to treat it appropriately. But first, they needed to be safe. “Let’s see if this thing has friends.”

As he summoned arcane light, the stairs revealed to a storage cellar that ran the length of the fort. The place was filled with dusty crates and rotted chests from a forgotten time. They found that while the creature had no allies lingering in the cellar, it did have a nest. Iezecele and Lucinde wasted no time in stamping the life out of the eggs they found there.

Continuing their search in the cellar, Iezecele found a shield. The leather backing dried and cracking from neglect. He noticed some writing through a tear in the leather. He took his knife and cut through the brittle binding. Engraved around the edge of the shield were words written in the ancient language. He wasn’t educated in it, but the earth held memories. As the artisan engraved the script, the metal remembered those memories. Using his Will, Iezecele pulled the meaning of the ancient words out, “Good will fail and Evil will reign if the Treasure is lost.” Pulling the leather backing away from the shield, the Willworker could see the three mystical stars of the gods as well as Verite’s symbol cunningly etched into the shield. He spun the shield around to show Val and Lucinde, “Mission accomplished.” He said, relieved to now have a chance to rest and tend to the his wound and whatever the creature had done to poison him.

Val outstretched his hand and felt a cold breeze from a wide crack in the foundation. “Maybe,” curiously the crack was wide enough for a person to enter.

View
Week 8: Travelling to a New Job
...and we're walking

Val awoke to bright sunlight and almost fell to his death as he reached to close the curtains. Instead of his room, the rogue found himself on a rooftop, quickly steadying himself. A bleary-eyed scan of the area told him that he was on the rooftop of the Lily of the Morning. He had no memory of climbing up to the top of the inn where he and his companions were lodging.

“What are you doing up there?” Lucinde said in what Val and Iezecele had quickly dubbed her ‘Cosette’ tone. Still waking up, Val wondered how she had managed to find him. The answer came to him as he raised his hand to block the harsh sunlight, the ring. The three had been testing out the rings they had found in the caves of Kermis. Wearing it, he could unerringly determine the direction of Lucinde and Iezecele. When one concentrated, the direction and an almost perceptible sense of distance of the other two could be determined. More troubling was when he bribed a youth to wear the ring.

They had been in the middle of testing out the rings. At the stroke of the hour, Val and Iezecele put on their rings. Elsewhere, Lucinde wrote the direction she sensed the two. Then, Val and Iezecele would remove their rings and reposition for the next tolling of the hour. A thought struck Val around four. He bought a youth lunch in return that the boy would briefly put on the ring as the bells of Senna rang out. When the three compared their notes in the evening, neither Lucinde nor Iezecele knew where Val was at during the four o’clock tolling. It troubled Val, knowing that the rings only worked when they three were wearing them. He hoped that it was just as Iezecele suggested. The rings only worked for them because they had been the first to wear them. Val took hold of the eaves and tumbled back into his room.

“Channing Odo left for us with the innkeeper.” She sniffed, smelling scents that still lingered from previous night’s. “Get yourself together, we still need to get Iezecele from his tower.”

Val winced as he smelled down his shirt. He didn’t often appreciate the ‘Cosette’ tone, but couldn’t argue with Lucinde’s observation. He wondered if the tone was the reason why Iezecele had spent much of the week at the Arcanum Primus. His excuse was that he was researching and writing scrolls to help them with their travels. Maybe the truth of it was he just wanted to avoid the tone. Being an only child, Val never dealt with older siblings, but wondered if they were all like Lucinde.

The meeting with Channing Odo was brief. To keep the chances of someone recognizing Val, the three were ushered in quickly. He told them that the Church was concerned with the phrase “Forgotten Forts” that the three had brought to them on the magical piece of parchment. Never before had the string of forts along the northern border between Cosette and Cendrillion been mentioned. He explained that the Church had never sent explorers to the forts and wanted the three to inspect as many as possible.

Things moved quickly after that. Lucinde picked up her new set of full plate armor from the smithy. Iezecele gathered all the scrolls he had been scribing for the better part of the week. Val settled his bar tab. The three were seen off by Channing Odo as they received pack horses with supplies and letters of mark they could use to at churches along the way for resupplying. “Before you go, I would like to ask a question.” He eyed the rogue, “And I only want your honest answer.” He took their silence as an assent to continue. “Tell me, do you believe in the truth of the Prophecy?”

Lucinde, ever the earnest one in the group, “I’m starting to.” She knew through and through that the Church was a font of goodness in this world. While what she knew of this Prophecy was hard to imagine, Lucinde could not fathom a reason a Channing would actively mislead them.

Iezecele was more guarded, “The jury is still out.” The Willworker could accept many things.that had happened to them. After all, what was not possible through the Will? Long dead skeletons walking, land being shattered, that same land being reformed, all were possible with the Will. He was humble enough to admit that his knowledge, even the knowledge of the most powerful Willworker, didn’t encompass the entire breadth of what was possible through the Will. He was hesitant to attribute it to some deity.

“I believe that you believe in the Prophecy.” Val didn’t want to think about the Prophecy. I was too early in the day to be thinking heavy thoughts. He just wanted to be on his way, out of Senna, away from the nervousness he felt about the chances he would be recognized and dragged to Court.

The Channing moved closer to the rogue, taking hold of his horse’s reins. “Now, Val, after all the trust we have built between us, surely I have earned an honest answer.”

He’s not going to let this go. Val thought. The number of coincidences that had built around him and his two companions. He was loathe to label anything with Destiny. That was his father’s faith. Val wanted to believe in Freedom. The scales had tipped though. He knew that there was something to this Prophecy. Something bad was coming and Lucinde, Iezecele, and himself would have their parts to play in it. What was going to happen, what could they do about it, Val still couldn’t grasp, didn’t want to grasp. He leaned down in his saddle, close to the Channing, “I want to believe that your Prophecy isn’t true.”

“An honest answer,” Odo said quietly at first, as if it was also his truest wish that the Prophecy would never be fulfilled. “An honest answer,” more strongly he repeated himself, “from each of you. You each have my deepest thanks.” He raised an open palm in blessing, “May you shelter in the Creator’s Hand and Verite’ bring you back safely.”

black-divider-hi.png

Several nights into the first leg of their journey, Val was looking at the letter of mark that Channing Odo told them to present at the church in Dalis, the first city on their trek to the northern border of Cosette. Lucinde couldn’t believe that Val was again thinking about violating the trust the Church fostered. Yet she had traveled with Val long enough to be comfortable to entertain the rogue’s wandering thoughts. “It’s not sealed like the last one. You can go ahead and read it.”

Val, slightly surprised at Lucinde’s comment. He had, in truth, already read the entirety of his letter, and theirs, just to compare. “I was remembering a play that I once saw. It was about an evil Prince that had set two of his vassals up. He had given Crantz and Stern, those were the two vassals’ names. He had told them they were letters of introduction, but they really were an order to kill the bearers of the letter.” He put the letter back in his pack. “It got me thinking what type of play we’re in. It would really help.”

Lucinde thought for a moment. “Were not in a play, this is more of a song.” She remembered the songs of adventure her family sung as they traveled the roadways of the Isle.

“A song, huh?” The rogue responded, “There’s all types of songs. What type of song is it?”

“A epic song,” she firmly responded. “Full of strength and heroism!” She flexed her muscles as she mimicked combat.

Iezecele poked the fire to stir up the embers, “If anything, it’s probably a tragedy.”

Val smiled at the Willworker’s wry humor, “Honestly, I’d prefer it to be a comedy.”

Lucinde ended with a mock finishing blow and pointed at Val, “No, it’s an epic!”

Val appreciated Lucinde’s levity, but he couldn’t shake what he had told Channing Odo, “I don’t know, Lucinde. People die in epics. In comedies, even people you think are long gone are all smiles in the end. I’d like that.”

Later, in the middle of the night, Val and Iezecele were awoken by Lucinde’s alarm. “Up! This thing is attacking!” Sliding out of his bedroll, Val strained his eyes to see what had come upon them. It was large and dark amidst the woods that lined the road to Dalis. What remained of their campfire revealed rope like vines snaking from the woods equally grasping and striking at Lucinde. Instead of her usual flail, the warrior had opted to use her sword to hack at their opponent.

Val grabbed his spear and took a long arc around the plant-like thing to take up a flanking position. While he moved, branches swiped at his arms and weedy grasses grasped at his feet. As he reached striking distance, roots sprung from the ground, grappling him by the ankles.

Lucinde was starting to review her opinion of Kantorans. Where they lacked in courage and adventurous spirit, they seemed make up ground with their craftsmanship. Her newly forged armor had taken several blows from the heavy vines, but she remained safe. She edged ever closer with shield and armor to the wide center of the plant, looking for an opening to strike at its core.

Summoning the power of the earth, Iezecele pulled strips of bark from nearby trees and remade them into darts, sending them deep into the creature. It wailed in a wholly inhuman way, as if thousands of crickets had chirped in a dissonant noise.

Val let the winding roots have his boots. Slipping out of them, the rogue planted his longspear in the ground and used it to pivot away from the entanglement. First, slipping under a vine. Then slapping another one away with the flat of one of his short swords. He arrived at the core of the plant creature. As the plant wrapped its coiling vines around his right arm, Val struck with the short sword in his left.

Iezecele looked at Lucinde and Val. They were far to close for him to unleash stronger attacks from his elemental magic. The two were still getting used to engaging enemies with a Willworker at their side. They were always rushing towards their enemy. He had no doubts in their combat skills, he merely wished they could be more economical in their strategy. His power at its full use could make these fights less cumbersome. He sighed and let loose another volley of deadly bark.

Though the ground itself stood against Lucinde, straining to take her off of her feet, the warrior pushed forward. She glanced over her shield and saw that this time, the rogue had distracted their opponent. As the thick tangle of vines turned its attention on Val, Lucinde planted her foot and pushed hard with her shield arm, breaking the defensive barrier of vines that surrounded the central stalk of the creature. She swung her sword arm with full force, severing the creature at its core.

Val drew his short sword out of the dead plant and examined the blade in the moonlight.

“Looking for something,” Lucinde questioned as she heaved the last of the vines off of her shield.

“Blackness, you know, like the giant wolf we faced.” He peered at the blade, seeing none of the oily dark that had effused from the wolf. “Just looking for a connection.” He shrugged, “you know, giant wolf, giant plant. Maybe it’s a giant theme that’s going against us.”

Lucinde poked at the dead plant and saw no blackness. She did see how it had twisted all the plants in the area to its murderous will. “See what it was doing? It was like a spell.” She poked its green flesh once more, " Was that thing a Willworker?"

Iezecele looked up from the branch he was inspecting. He, too was curious on how this creature had manipulated the surrounding fauna, but as a Willworker, that was just absurd. “Don’t make me smack you,” he chided sourly.

“Well it certainly looked like a spell.” Lucinde knew this creature was not a Willworker, but wanted to get a rise out of her normally dour companion.

Kicking the dead plant, “Does this thing look human?”

“No, but”

Iezecele cut the warrior off, “Then it’s not a Willworker!”

Chuckling at their friendly banter, Val searched along the tangle of roots at the creature’s base. A glint off of moonlight caught his eye. He cut through the roots and found a dead warrior. The body had long since decayed to bones. His armor and sword made brittle with rust. He fished a small pouch from the corpse’s belt and tossed it to Iezecele. “Well, that’s a relief!”

Izecele summoned a bit of light to search the pouch, happily seeing filled with gems and coins. “What, that the fight earned us some profit?”

The rogue nodded his head, the treasure was a bonus. “No, that this thing has been lurking here for some time. It didn’t sprout up and attack just because of us.” Val walked back to their camp smiling, “This fight had nothing to do with the Church’s Prophecy.”

Iezecele chuckled under his breath. Admiring how Val could see the upside to an assassination attempt by a plant.

“You never know, Val,” Lucinde nodded back to the skeletal corpse, “he could have been one of the Chosen.” The rogue was stopped in his tracks, waylaid by her logic . The warrior hunkered down by her bedroll and began stripping off her armor. “Anyway, it’s your watch now.”

black-divider-hi.png

Two days after their resupply in the city of Dalis, Val’s sighing was scratching at Iezecele’s last nerve. “You planning on being like this the rest of the journey?” He was trying to remember the Willform of the spell of silence that Master Bartlet had shown him back in Senna. The rogue had been going on and on since they had left the city. They had missed this and that, and, ‘oh, this show only happens once a year.’

“Iezecele’s right, Val,” Lucinde paused brushing down her horse, “we’re on a mission, not a vacation. You should be happy that we gave you two whole days.” She had appreciated some of the shows Val had dragged them to, but Lucinde was looking forward to crossing the border to her own country. Kantora was just too….Kantoran.

About to mention that they were missing the reenactment of the Lover’s Duel on the Bridge of Lost Hearts, Val clamped his mouth shut as his companions leveled their gazes at him. He hauled up the bucket of the roadside well for their evening meal. How he wished he had been able to see Desdemona and Tristan battle for their families’ honor despite the burning love they felt for each other. He poured the water into the pot, grimacing at the thought of their meager dinner. Even the food in Dalis were works of art. He looked at the water in the pot. Were the ripples impact tremors?

“Something’s coming,” Iezecele confirmed Val’s suspicions. He had seen a number of birds take flight a short distance from their camp. He saw a large tree shudder, “Something big.”

Lucinde shielded her eyes from the setting sun. Her height giving her a better vantage. She saw the hump of what she guessed was a huge wild boar. It was heading in a straight line for their camp. “That something big is charging at us!”

Grabbing his longspear, Val set it against the charging creature. He steeled his nerves as it came into view. The boar was gigantic, far beyond even its wildest kin. It was the height of a warhorse and had the breadth of at least two. Worse, its eyes and mouth dripped with the toxic blackness they had faced just before they first arrived in Senna. Even it’s tusks seemed infected.

Unknowing or uncaring, the boar charged straight into Val’s spear. While the point drove deep, the hulking beast proved too great for the rogue’s spear, shattering it to splinters. The boar’s charge carried it straight into Val. Though his leather armor saved his heart from being run through by the beast’s tusk, Val felt several of his ribs break.

No time and no space to prepare his larger spells, Iezecele knew he needed to get close to the boar, but he also remembered the festering wound the wolf had given Val. He summoned a portion of the earth’s weight, slowing and diverting any attacks that might be directed at him.

Lucinde was glad that they had just stopped for the night. She hadn’t yet taken off her armor for its daily maintenance. She aimed her blow at the boar’s shoulder. If she could break it, the beast wouldn’t be able to put up much of a fight. Her flail struck true, but not enough to break the massive bone.

The beast attacked in a terrible frenzy. The dominating power of the earth kept the boar’s hoof from caving in Iezecele’s skull as it kicked at him. As it whipped it’s head first left, Lucinde’s shield screeched as the boar’s tusk scraped along it. Empty handed and shieldless, Val’s right arm was gored as the boar’s head whipped right.

Pulling from the elemental power of the sky, Iezecele formed a small cloud in the palm of his left hand. Lightning arced throughout the miniature storm. He released all of the storm’s stored energy as he touched the beast’s bristling hide. It jerked as the electricity coursed through its body, but, like the wolf before it, the infected beast was unfazed by the attack.

Lucinde screamed at the boar as she put all of her strength into a blow to its flank. She had seen how badly Val had been hit by the beast’s last strike. The rogue was streaming blood from the wound in his arm.

The scream drew the boar’s attention, opening space for Val to attack. He winced as he drew his short swords. Barely able to control his breathing from the broken ribs and weakly holding the short sword in his right hand, the rogue lashed out with two quick strikes. Both blades hit, but Val’s waning strength gave the attacks no power to cause much damage.

The beast felt no damage, but Iezecele knew that it had to have physical limits. The black poison was still flowing through heart and veins. It’s animalistic thoughts and movements carried by nerves to a brain. Lungs pulled in necessary breath. Though not registering the pain it was experiencing, the boar was being damaged. He again summoned a tiny storm in his palm and struck. Iezecele’s magical attack channeled electricity through the beast. This proved to surpass the limit of the beast’s damaged body. Though it was overcome by some dark fury, the boar’s body died.

Val dropped his short swords in relief, “I must be the main character of this story. These things keep focusing on me.” He clutched his wounded arm and motioned for Iezecele for help with his wounds.

Inspecting the deep scratch the boar’s tusks had made in her shield, Lucinde laughed. “It went after all of us, Val. It’s just that your combat skill isn’t any good. You’re more like the comic relief.”

Val saw Iezecele pulling out his healer’s kit and began threading the stitching needle. “Whoa, whoa, can’t you just magic me better?”

Iezecele smiled his thin half-smile. “Well, if your the hero of this story, there’s no need to waste my powers. Hero’s are guaranteed to survive, so you’ll be just fine with some simple stitching.” He approached Val holding up the threaded needle, smile widening, “Now, mind you, I didn’t score the best marks in my healer’s training. This might be a little painful.” The Willworker shrugged, “But, you know, heroes are a tough bunch.”

“Ha, ha,” Val wheezed. “I get it. We’re in one of those ensemble stories.”

“Heal him, Iezecele,” Lucinde added, “He’s learned your point.” She smiled, joining in on the Willworker’s teasing, “Besides, having him more useless in battle than he already is would just be a hindrance to us.”

“Hardy, har, har,” Val wryly responded. He seized as Iezecele channeled his power into him, knitting his broken bones and closing the wound in his right arm.

The Willworker’s healing also delved into the rogue. Iezecele nodded, finding no trace of the toxic blackness that had infected Val after the wolf’s bite. He looked at the campsite, strewn with both Val’s and the boar’s blood. “We should move camp.”

black-divider-hi.png

Crossing the border from Kantora into Cosette carried less import than Val thought it would. Unlike his friends, he had never left his home country. He didn’t know why, but from all the stories he had heard from around the Isle, he felt that the land itself would feel different. He wondered if it was because the border town of Bailey had deep dealings with Kantora that the land felt the same.

After they had resupplied at the local church and continued on their journey north, Val shared his thoughts with his friends as they ate their dinner at their latest campsite.

“I know exactly what you’re talking about.” Lucinde nodded in agreement, “I mean did you see those border guards. Slouching at their posts.” She tsked, “I think I even saw one of them yawning!”

Iezecele, too, noticed the ease of passing from Kantora to Cosette. In a country famous for its defenses, there wasn’t much of one against the southern nation. The very gates of Bailey seemed to be rusted open. “I’m just glad they didn’t insert the stick.” He smiled his half-smile.

“Stick?” Lucinde paused eating.

“You know, the ones that all Cosetteans walk around shoved up their,” the Willworker was cut off by Val’s sudden warning.

While Iezecele was sharing his sarcasm, Val had heard something moving in the tall grass. “Quick!” He alerted the party as he swiftly got to his feet, drawing both his swords like quicksilver.

Just as the three were able to prepare for a fight, a giant praying mantis came into their campsite. Its long, scythe-like arms stretching out and it’s saber-like mandibles chittering an insectine rage.

Iezecele smile pulled at his scar as Lucinde and Val instinctively stayed back from the creature, each keeping an eye on him, waiting for him to deliver the first strike. The tactical conversations they had been having had paid off. He drew upon the molten heat that flowed deep in the earth and channeled it. A burning arc of fire spread out to encompass the giant insect. Its exoskeleton blackened and bent outward as the creature’s insides boiled.

Seeing the popped piece of the mantis’ covering just like a chink in armor, Lucinde thrust her blade. Greenish ichor poured from the wound, wetting the ground and sizzling in their campfire.

In rage, the towering mantis directed its attacks at Lucinde. The warrior’s own armored exoskeleton stood strong against the reaper-like swings of its bladed limbs. Uncut, Lucinde still felt the strength behind the creature’s blows. She knew she would be nursing bruises later.

Now that his allies had closed the distance with their attacker, Iezecele could not release his fiery attack again. He pulled on the strength of the earth, reinforcing the thin, tall grasses. He sent the blades of grass flying at the giant insect.

Val had taken their enemy’s tactic for himself. He had slipped into the cover of the tall grass and waited for the opening he knew Lucinde and Iezecele would afford him. As the mantis again focused all of its attention on Lucinde, he stepped forward and made his attack. His first blade awkwardly struck the insect’s hard exterior. Realizing how the creature’s exoskeleton reacted, Val quickly redirected his second short sword. This time, the blade pierced deeply. The giant praying mantis seized upright as the rogue cut into its vitals and fell dead.

After they were sure it was dead, Iezecele inspected its corpse. “No black toxin,” he murmured.

Cleaning off her blade, “Oh, I thought you were checking to see if it was male or female.”

“Female,” the Willworker absently responded.

“Huh?” Lucinde cocked her head.

“It’s female,” Iezecele spoke a little louder. “Female giant praying mantis’ are green. The male ones are brown.”

“How in the heavens do you know that?” She wondered incredulously at Iezecele’s knowledge.

The Willworker turned his head and smiled his half-smile, “Because I love bugs.”

Val watched the exchange and decided he had fallen in with an odd pair of friends.

View
Week 7: Discovery Underground
Pressing for Prophecy

“Well, that was a new kind of crazy.” Val was baffled. Rather than being captured, Pellon had chosen to dive into an underground river after his mad rant. He had grasped the sliver chance at escaping alive, rather than subjecting himself to their questions. What kind of people are we dealing with?

“Alright, let’s loot the bodies!” Iezecele immediately started rifling through the corpses of their fallen enemies.

Lucinde picked up a longsword from one of the deceased, “Awfully good weapons for some hired thugs.” She admired the masterly crafted weapon and noticed that they were all similarly armed.

Val immediately went to the archway that Pellon had been defacing. As he had suspected, there was the celestial stars demarcating the gods with the symbol for Verite’ in the center. Underneath the mark, words were engraved into the stone. " The Mists of Death shall plague Arnaud Cliffs when Marmo draws near. " Val translated from the ancient language.

Iezecele paused counting the coins he had taken from the dead man’s pouch. “That’s the rubbish I’m talking about, those Cliffs are always kind of smoky. You can’t breathe in smoke, hence ‘Mists of Death.’”

Val laid some parchment over the stone to make a rubbing of this piece of the Prophecy. As he laid it out over the etching, his fingers brushed against something odd. Barely there, his fingers found a groove outlining the words. He made a quick rubbing of the words and handed it to Lucinde. He then took a closer look.

He scooped up some rock dust from Pellon’s work and ran his hand along the groove. It looked like it was a rectangle that perfectly framed this piece of the Church’s prophecy. He then noticed that the stars were not engraved like the rest, instead they were embossed. Val gently pressed on one of the stars and found that it went in with a light click. He looked at the remaining stars. They were spaced enough that one person couldn’t press all three at once. He looked at Lucinde and Iezecele and a suspicion took root in his mind.

He called Lucinde up onto the scaffolding, “I’m going to press these two stars. I need you to press the remaining one at the same time.” She climbed up and rested her finger on the star Val had pointed out, took a breath, and nodded that she was ready. “Now watch this fail.” He pressed two stars as Lucinde pressed hers. As he suspected, nothing happened.

Val called Iezecele over. It was a tight fit with all three of them on the scaffolding. “Now watch this work.” Val directed the other two to each press a star. Right with his suspicions, there were three light clicks and the piece of stone with the Prophecy moved forward from the archway. “Verite’ damn it all!” Val cursed.

Lucinde lifted the plaque from the archway and stepped off the scaffolding. “Does this mean I’m a Willworker?” She saw Val pull a small stongbox from a hole behind the plaque.

The group decided to wait until they returned their Inn before examining the contents of the small chest. Now that the battle had ended, and were back in the sun, things seemed lighter. The group joked about the name ‘Marmo,’ forgetting the dark fanaticism of their enemies, if only for the moment. Eventually, they talked about their first real battle with human opponents. Val mentioned to Lucinde that his tactics of fighting differed from hers, suggesting that they work together. She should face their enemies directly and he should exploit their distraction with precise strikes. Iezecele chimed in, telling them that his magic could affect large areas. He told them that they should wait until after he had softened the enemy up before facing them in melee. All of them clearly thought that this second job was only the beginning of something that would keep the three together for some time.

Back in Kermis, Val began fiddling with the strongbox. It clearly had a seam, but there were no hinges, no lock, nothing to keep the lid from coming off. Still, as Val shook it, the small chest did not open. He pried at the lid trying to pull it open. He failed to push his blade into the seam. In frustration, he just held the box and willed it to open. And that is when it did.

The small chest opened at Val’s urging and revealed a number of gems and another small box. The box held three silver rings, each crowned with a different gemstone. “This one’s glowing,” all three remarked at the same time, but pointed at a different ring.

The suspicion that had taken root back in the common room of the Golden Plow grew. One was diamond. The other two were garnet and opal. Having grown up around a lot of jewelry, Val knew some of the meanings behind the stones. He knew that a diamond was the birthstone of April. The suspicion that grew in the caves suggested that Lucinde was born in October and Iezecele in January. She had pointed at the opal and he the garnet. “Verite’ damn it all!” Val repeated his curse from the cave.

“Why?” Lucinde questioned as she took the opal ring watched it resize to fit her finger, “magic rings!” As she slipped on the ring, she became aware of Val and Iezecele’s presence. Sure, they were in the same room, but she felt that she would be able to tell where each of them were no matter the distance.

“First there was the parchment referring to each of us. Then there are our odd birthmarks. Don’t forget the crazy monsters we’ve fought. Then there were the stars in the cave, and now these rings! Tell me that I’m crazy and you weren’t born in October.”

Iezecele looked at the garnet ring. He had been born in January, but still. “Remember what you said about reading into things, Val. Any three hands could have unlocked that plaque. It didn’t have to be our three hands. These rings, yeah, I bet they are keyed to a person’s birth month. It just happens that they were our months. Don’t go putting too much into it. Look where it got those crazies in the caves.”

Val deeply wanted to believe the Willworker. He didn’t want to think that this Prophecy was true. He had never fit in with the other nobles in Kantora and had come to embrace the freedom that came with his exile. Val didn’t want to be bound to some arcane Prophecy. Individually he could discount what had happened, but looking at them all together was something different. He wished he had the confident disbelief Iezecele showed, but couldn’t help but think that the Willworker was deluding himself. It was almost impossible for Val not to see the threads that were slowly binding them to one another.

Lucinde was pondering the ravens that again appeared to watch their journey back to Senna during her watch. A noise in the distance alerted her. She raised her shield and flail and walked to the edge of the firelight, peering into the night. Suddenly, a dagger scraped along the side of her breastplate. She turned and saw a weathered Pellon framed against the firelight. She called for her allies.

Val and Iezecele awoke at Lucinde’s alarm. Val quickly recognized their attacker, “Hey Pellon, how were the swimming lessons?” He threw a dagger, but missed his mark.

Pellon turned when he heard Val’s mocking voice, moving just at the right time to dodge, avoiding a clean hit from Lucinde. “You,” he cursed at Val. His voice alone told the tale that he had lasted through his ordeal only through sheer hatred. He moved to attack Val.

Pellon’s focus on Val left him open for Iezecele. The Willworker summoned some of the power that violently upheaved the earth and channeled that shocking energy into Pellon through his touch. “You should have just stayed dead, fool.” Pellon shook, eyes wide with pain, then fell to the ground dead.

Val threw his hands wide, “Fanatical, right?” He couldn’t believe that Pellon had survived his insane dive, that he had chosen to follow them all alone and try to exact a revenge.

“He could have lived a long and healthy life,” Iezecele noted. His thoughts were the same as Val’s. They had killed four of his allies and this fool thought he could assassinate them by himself.

“Think we should bury him?” Lucinde asked. She knew the man had acted foolishly but he chose this path rather than accept his failure. Part of her admired his dedication, but wondered who his Masters were that they inspired this kind of rabid loyalty. If Solides had fallen to bandits and one had survived, her father would have wanted that remaining soldier to live. Then he would send a larger force against the bandits.

Val dragged Pellon’s body a distance from their campsite. “Let the ravens have him.”

Iezecele kicked some dirt onto the body, “There you go.”

Back in Senna, Channing Odo greeted them warmly by the hand, noticing the new jewelry on each of their hands. He looked over the plaque thoughtfully.
“Interesting.”

Val had thought about mentioning Iezecele’s comment about how the ‘Mists of Death’ could allude to the constant presence of smoke around the Cliffs of Arnaud, but passed on that comment. There was no way that the Channing would be dissuaded by the Willworker’s reasoning. Instead he focused on the second half of the phrase, “Yes, but Marmo fell into the ocean, right?”

It had rarely happened in his life, but Channing Odo was surprised. “Where did you hear of Marmo?”

" I’m afraid we don’t know each other well enough for me to share that." Val felt a warm smile spread. He had been waiting weeks to throw that back at the Channing.

Val’s basking didn’t last long. Lucinde didn’t care about the one-upsmanship of Kantoran dealings. She wanted answers. " In the warrens outside of Trillian we found a map of the Isle. Cendrillion had been crossed out and Marmo was written in its place."

Channing Odo sat back in his chair. Normally, he would have waited for Channing Kearnan to give his assent, but guessed how his friend would have weighed these three. Still, he wanted some assurances, “On your word, you three will continue to searching for the Prophecy.”

Lucinde was the first to respond, “On my family’s name.”

Iezecele wanted to see how much foolishness the Church believed and didn’t mind taking their money at the same time. “Yes, you have it.”

Val nodded in assent, “My word,” though he wondered what his word was worth these days.

Channing Odo gestured to his secretary to continue transcribing their meeting. “The Prophecy confirms that the part of Cendrillion that Arnaud and his Companions separated from the Isle is now called Marmo.”

Lucinde remembered the fanaticism they had all noticed in the men in the caves. “If the Church is for the Prophecy, are there those that stand for Marmo?” She couldn’t believe that after a thousand years, Arnaud’s enemies still lived on the Isle. She shared their encounter in the caves with Channing Odo. “Maybe in Cendrillion?” The men did speak with the vulgarity she associated with that land.

Odo forced himself to remain composed. Creatures and long dead men guarding pieces of the Prophecy, he had read reports of that before. Men actively trying to destroy the Prophecy was something completely new. Is Marmo that close? Channing Odo feared what the encounter in the caves implied. “The main crux of the Prophecy is that the infested Isle of Marmo will return.” He watched the three’s faces as they tried to wrap their thoughts around the statement. He remembered his own disbelief and rationalizations when Kearnan had told him. He could see their minds trying to reason how Marmo could return. It had taken a long time for him to believe that the Broken Isle was actually returning. “The Church believes that Marmo is coming and we have been working with the leaders of the Isle ever since we first learned of this event.”

Lucinde didn’t know how to respond. She decided to talk about a different part of this Prophecy. “What happens to the people mentioned in the Prophecy?”

“The Chosen,” Odo shared. “The Prophecy mentions twelve people of great import. It offers clues to their identity, such as the phrases that you found, or that they would be born on the first of each month in the calendar.”

Lucinde was shocked still for a moment, she had been born on October 1. She cautiously asked, “And these Chosen, what’s their role in all this?”

“The Prophecy says that holy Verite’ will provide us with a Treasure that will measure greatly in the coming trials. It is the Chosen’s duty to find the Treasure and protect it.”

Like Val, Lucinde wasn’t sure she was ready to believe in the Church’s Prophecy, but she trembled at the thought she was one of the Chosen. “And,” her words were hesitant, “have you found any of these Chosen?”

Odo leaned forward in his chair, “We believe we have found some.”

View

I'm sorry, but we no longer support this web browser. Please upgrade your browser or install Chrome or Firefox to enjoy the full functionality of this site.