New Story: Untitled – Chapter Four

[ Just a warning, things edge into more mature territory. Some language and questionable content ahead!]

This seems like a bad idea.” Krill muttered those words for the third time in the many hours of their trip as they rode hastily by Tusk’s small rattling wooden cart. Both the ancient looking horse named Edgar, and the rickety cart he was pulling looked just about as old as Tusk himself. Which was to say, very old.

The two companions were headed eastward towards the coastline harbour town of Skila and away from the safety of the western mountains where Tusk had made his secluded cavern home. In fact they would be heading back in the direction towards the capital city of Crestfall and the Mages College. Which seemed to be a bad idea to Krill no matter how many times Tusk had tried to convince her.

Luckily the main road would keep them a few hours distance from the main city and hopefully safe from being noticed. Plus there was the added benefit of just how common the two uncommon people could look, if they had to.

Going the long way by cart was far less obvious and in a lot of ways it was also less complicated then travelling by any magickal means. Although it could be argued that the long stretch of hours by cart was harder on the old Orc’s bones it was far less risky then subjecting his body to a blind teleportation spell. Those things were often times much harder on the body then people assumed.

Wrapped in his travelling robes, pouch belt, floppy hat and scarf he looked less frail and far more common. It also helped that the sly and cunning old hermit had enchanted his travelling robes long ago with a slight illusion charm. It had cost him more then a few coins, blood, sweat and tears to do so – but it had proved to be his most valuable asset.

To to small minded (and thus majority) of people he looked common enough to completely overlook. While not a true invisibility effect it worked well enough to keep certain people from asking the wrong questions.

Krill had no enchanted travelling robes or illusion spells to help her case any. Magick was always fascinating to her but relatively out of her reach. The few trinkets and spells she came across were usually pieces she found or stole or things Tusk had gifted her.

The only true magick Krill had ever managed was in her slick wit, unusual luck, a reputation for being unkillable, and a very good sense of stealth. The latter would be a bit more difficult now since her charcoal black eyes and short spiky white hair wasn’t exactly on trend. It made all of her other strange characteristics a bit more noticeable unfortunately.

Luck won out however and the roads had been relatively quiet and Edgar was keeping a good pace even while complaining much of the way.

Krill spent the majority of the trip keeping one arm on the seat and the other on the brittle reins while her partner in travel had his long pointy nose stuck into his journal as he scribbled away. He was likely taking plenty of meaningless notes simply to pass the time.

I can’t believe we are on the bloody main road like this. Are you sure this woman of yours knows anything?” She shifted on the seat. Her left hindquarters felt like it had fallen asleep again.

Look, Kelle is a brilliant woman with a keen mind and an expertise in all things alchemical! She’ll be able to tell you how best to use.. or not to use.. that damned Oracle without blowing your foolish head off your even more foolish shoulders!”

I’m unkillable, remember?”

Do you really want to test that theory? I mean we don’t know if you can grow body-parts back. We haven’t tried that yet…”

Good point. You said yourself she deals with the College, what’s to keep her from ratting us out before we even get through the door? She’s probably one of their pawns they keep available in case idiots like us try to get advice!”

She glared at him when he didn’t answer and was about to repeat herself a few octaves louder but it was clear he had heard her. A wide crooked grin had developed on his usually grumpy looking face. It looked rather out of place, even aside from his bottom tusks.

One thing you will learn about the esteemed Mistress Kelle… she is no one’s pawn. She has various customers all around the map. The College is just one of many clients she keeps on the books. So to speak.”

So she works for them, right? See where the problem is? She’s probably a pawn and we are going to end the day in irons!”

Every day has the possibility of us ending up in irons. That’s sort of our thing isn’t it?” She didn’t disagree as he had quite the valid point.

Look,” he continued. “She doesn’t work for them! At least not anymore. They are one of her many clients. She’s far more likely to back-stab them then she is to back-stab us since she’s always had issues with authority. Well unless it’s her own authority… Mistress isn’t just a nicety after all. It’s official.” There was a coyness to that crooked grin which became more evident by the odd purplish hue developing on the apple of his cheeks. It looked ridiculous with his tusks which made it suddenly clear why most Orcs looked grumpy all of the time. “We can trust her.”

…you are blushing?!” Krill yanked the reins which nearly broke as the elderly horse gave out a half startled neigh in protest. “Stars above! Tusk how long have you known this woman? You didn’t mention any Kelle before.”

He rolled his eyes and dramatically flopped his journal down upon his lap and motioned with a flourish at the reins with his calloused hands. “It’s none of your business. Are we stopping for any reason? Or do you want my old bones to wither to dust before we get anywhere?”

It took a few moments for her to coax the horse to return to it’s pace before she cleared her throat and tested the waters once more.

So… exactly how much history do you have with her? I mean, if we are to trust her and all I should know a bit more about her.”

I met her at the College actually. In my third year.”

Oh, classmates?” she grinned. “You sly green skinned–”

Teacher actually.”

What?”

She was one of the teachers.” He cleared his throat and turned his head as if he had suddenly found the foliage beside their cart far more interesting. The purple hue on his olive skin grew a bit deeper. “But I mean, we saw each other a little socially as well. I mean it was very– nothing ‘obscene’ happened in class. For Powers sake girl, watch the road!”

The cart had drifted off to the right and Krill quickly corrected with a firm pull on the reins that nearly flipped them both right off the substandard cart seat. Edgar, the ancient draft horse let out another snort of annoyance.

I’m sorry, it’s just– I mean, there are so many questions.”

Yeah well, you can keep most of them to yourself!” he picked up his journal again and stuck his nose into the pages at a failed attempt to end the conversation entirely. This time he made no scribbles, but instead pretended like he was engrossed by reading his own notes.

I bet she was an Elf. Maybe a High-born? That seems strange, I mean they don’t tend to date outside–”

What? No! She wasn’t a High-born! She wasn’t of Elven blood at all that I know of. And we weren’t dating! We.. just.. why are we even talking about this!”

A long pause.

It’s a long trip.” Krill of course was right. They had left mid-morning and had been on the road for most of the day. The trip had stretched over a few river crossings and taken them past the High Gate Woods and into the Eastern Valley. Possibly there was at least another few hours of travel time to get through, more if Edgar and Tusk needed another half dozen rest stops before they got to the village of Skila. Horse and Orc both seemed to have remarkably tiny bladders when travelling.

Seems to be extremely long now.” he chided back. The horse let out a whinny in agreement.

Okay, okay… who cares what she is. I’ll meet the old fossil at some point anyway.” She grinned at his snort. “Actually I’m surprised she’s still kicking around is all. I know you’ve aged far better and longer then anyone expected – not sure even those in the best of health could hope to keep up. You’ve outlived plenty of your classmates so it’s just a lot to take in.”

The path of Magick leads to some very dangerous professions…” he used a thumb and pushed his spectacles up the bridge of his nose. The added weight of the various contraptions kept them sliding down once in a while. “The smart ones tend to survive longer.”

I don’t know. I bet my money more on dumb luck.” she chuckled.

Well thank you for being so considerate! Considering it’s -you- giving your advice on lifespans–” he arched a sarcastic eyebrow. “How old are YOU again, Krill? I seem to have lost count…”

She shifted uncomfortably. The truth was that clearly neither of them had any idea how old she really was. They had known each other for close to forty years now and she didn’t look a day older then when he found her badly injured and lacking any real memories. Sure she healed quicker then anyone expected but the memories had never returned.

It was another quirk to her already quirky set of circumstances in her life that she hoped to sort out. It was a bit of a touchy low blow that she grunted at and redistributed her weight once again.

How is your backside not bruised by now? Anyway… the point is,” she cleared her throat. “Did you care for her? I’ve known you a long time my friend. I’ve never seen talk of a woman make you blush. Is this going to be hard to see her after all this time?”

His crooked grin waned slightly. It settled back into his usual thinking grimace as he continued to bury himself in his own ornate and complicated words written in his leather-skinned journal.

We were all young and foolish once.” The answer he didn’t need to give was; Yes. It would be hard.

As for the backside.” Tusk continued with a louder exclamation. He braced a hand against the cart, lifted, and showed a small round cushion squashed and hidden under his robe. “I planned ahead.”

You sneaky bastard…”

The last few hours of the trip was spent in a volley of sarcastic retorts and spurts of tired laughter before the smell of salt water revived the stale country air and the harbour town of Skila opened up before them just before the darkening hours of the evening.

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Some Literary Halloween Treats..

For all you book loving gremlins and ghouls out there I thought I would share a small list of some strange and  relatively obscure novels with Halloween type themes for you to take a closer look at.

I completely understand that everyone has different tastes in their wordy appetite – so these are just my personal picks from some weird and wonderful books I’ve read over the years that reside in the creepy awesome section of my ‘favorite reads’ bookshelf!

I’ll include the Amazon.ca book link, and a mini review of each one, just so you can take a closer look and get a general idea of the book theme, cadence, and tone.

Shakespeare Undead: Lori Handelhand : This isn’t a complicated read, nor is it a literary masterpiece. It is however very entertaining, amusing, and satisfying. I finished it very quickly – but it was also a book I found I couldn’t put down.

It has been a while since I read this one, but it still brings back the warm-fuzzy tingles that twinge in any book-lovers soul when they recall the memories of a good read. If you were a fan of Pride Prejudice and Zombies the movie, or Warm Bodies – give it a look over – has a similar feel in parts though manages to hold up on it’s own.

Fat Vampire: A never coming of age story.. : Adam Rex : A mix of Parody and completely original comedy – this story is gold. It takes the current media portrayal of glamour-vampires (please don’t mention sparkles…) and flips the usual story on it’s head. Instead of simply pushing for the allure and romantic idealism of tween vampire captivation – it instead tells a hilarious, but far more impactful story. It is raw, brutal, light-hearted and in spots very touching as well.

This is a movie I would see, and Adams story flow and character development was well executed! I haven’t picked up any other books by him yet, but he’s definitely an author to look for if he keeps pumping out such raw and unique stories like this one…

Brains: A Zombie Memoir: Robin Becker : Zombies became real popular, real fast. With the popularity of ‘The Walking Dead’ and movies like ‘Pride and Prejudice and Zombies’ and ‘Warm Bodies’, we kind of got a lot of them all of a sudden filling the market. (Almost as if it were a plague… *bad rim shot noise in the distance..*)

Robin’s book however differs because of the story-telling position of the characters, as well as the unique way in which she tells their story. The main cast of characters are actually Zombies, and they are complex beautifully flawed individuals. It is a generally light-hearted, strange, sometimes gory tale – but it also has a slight undertone of sadness as well.

If you are anything like me, you will end the book rooting for the troupe of characters and feeling a twinge of remorse that the difficult journey is over. It will be a story, that although simple and unpolished in spots – it is definitely thought provoking and will leave you with a sense of completion, curiosity, and perhaps a bemused smile as your root for the underdogs.

Well those are my three picks for some spooky interesting fiction to take a closer look at this October season. Maybe check your own bookshelves for some spooky favorites that you can share with those you love this holiday season.

Sometimes some tricky tales are the perfect treat to curl up with on a dark and scary night!

 

 

New Story: Untitled – Chapter Three

Kelle hummed to herself as she deftly moved a few glass bottles this way and that while examining the various coloured hues of the scents and essences inside.

A particular amber coloured one had her attention at the moment as she squinted one green eye and peered at it through the light coming in her workshop window. The label had long since decayed from the glass, but her expertise and memory served her better then any scrawled label could. She knew these herbs, vials, pieces and essences better then scholars at the Great Library knew their books.

And to her at least, these arcane ingredients were far more interesting.

Seemingly satisfied with the look of the fluid she nodded and set the other competing bottles aside before she popped open the small stopper on the amber one and breathed in a large waft of perfumed scent. It smelled of cinnamon and clove and she added it carefully to the stone bowl in the middle of her alchemical station. It swirled and mingled with the fluid already in the bowl until the entire colour seemed to rest at a strange dusky rose liquid that smelled sultry and brisk.

Another order to fill. This one would be the essence of an oil used for some of her favourite girls at the bathhouses. A speciality of hers as of late and one of her reoccurring orders. It was playfully called ‘Ladies Leash’ and had saved more then one of her clients lives by keeping customers happy, pleasant, and much less dangerous.

The legality of a seducing mood-altering massage oil was hotly debated among the Mages College in which she graduated. Luckily Kelle cared little for the laws of most people. She also knew that her usefulness far outweighed a few minor indiscretions. She could get away with murder. Most literally on some occasions.

The bowl of ‘Ladies Leash’ sparkled slightly in the mixing bowl as she stirred it with a long gold mixing spoon and waited for the little amber bottle of cinnamon and clove smelling fragrance to empty it’s last few miniscule drops into the mix. “Waste not, want–”

Mistress Kelle!”

It was such a loud yell and unusual clatter at the door that the short curvy woman nearly toppled her whole small table as she snapped her head towards the chaos. The bowl jolted and the liquid slapped around dangerously threatening to slosh out of the bowl and across the floor.

In one hand she gripped the small now empty bottle, in the other she braced her whole alchemical station from flipping, and in the same breath she cursed a large assortment of swear words in a very short amount of time. Kelle was nothing if not skilled at multi-tasking. It was one of her better qualities.

What in the blazing hells!” She snarled out loudly when she had used up most of the more creative words in her vocabulary. “What do you want?!”

After a few more rampant poundings and scraping noises her assistant Du’Mas finally realized the door was actually unlocked and managed to turn the handle and topple inside. He looked ridiculously awkward as usual – but also a dash more panicked. It made his fur rise in a strange poofed out way that was reminiscent of static cling.

I’m so sorry to bother you Mistress, but it’s extremely important!”

I should hope so considering!” she snapped back.

Du’Mas had once been a slave, found by Kelle on the underground market while she had been searching for nightcaps and glowing myst moths. Both ingredients were highly difficult to attain and forced her to look in some strange places in order to get her hands on them.

Slaves however were far more common to come across so she was surprised to see the caged creature being offered up for a relatively inexpensive price. The scrawled label on the terrified boy’s cage read “Forest Night Troll, answers to Dumbass, please take him off our hands!”

When she purchased him on a whim he had been only a boy. A strange boy creature with long black silky fur on most of it’s body, and a relatively imp-like face with crystal pink eyes. He was certainly a scruffy flea-bitten mongrel at the time, but proved to be quite the eager and harmless pet. They had called him Dumbass so often that the poor creature would answer only to it.

When the amusing novelty of yelling ‘Dumbass’ around her home wore off she was kind and managed to alter it to something a little less harsh and with a bit more flourish. Thus Du’Mas got his name. Yet on some days it seemed the former name was still far more fitting.

She found herself grumbling loudly “Dumbass!” under her breath while he picked himself up off the floor, whimpered in his usual way and looked at her with the large pink and pleading eyes. This was an occurrence that seemed to happen quite often.

Yes Mistress?”

Adorable but stupid. For a moment it seemed he had forgotten why he had even barged in.

Come now, out with it! What is this blasted emergency then, hmmm?”

Oh! The Mages! They said tiny bottle was stolen, was very important. Said I need to get you right away. Said that bad things might happen! Mistress will be safe, yes?”

The short woman tapped her long sharp nails on the alchemical station and arched a sultry brow. Very little things seemed to really surprise her. Living such a long life tends to take the surprise out of a lot of things. This however was quite the welcome shock. She relished in this new flutter of excitement as it passed through her chest.

Oh.. now that is very interesting. Someone has stolen the Oracle? My, they will be in a right tizzy then. My my…” she abandoned the bottles, charms, herbs and potions for the time being and wandered towards her large and dumbfounded assistant. “I need you to gussy yourself up and get the staff informed that we will be having guests.”

Guests?” Du’Mas blinked and tried to adjust the makeshift bow hidden in his neck fur that always made him feel a bit more fancy. “Who guests? Mages left. They expect you to go there!”

Phff, they can wait. It’ll be good to see them stew a little. No, I do expect we’ll be having other guests arriving. Guests I don’t want the College to know about.” she wandered across the room and felt around the ornate dark wood panelling for the right hidden handle.

Pulling it opened up a large tall door which revealed a hidden room.

Brocade silks, lavish tapestries, beautifully carved book cases, and a large wardrobe dripping with rich clothes and jewels. The only thing that seemed off in the richly decorated sleeping quarters was that the large four poster bed was stripped of any sheets and seemed relatively unused. It was also gravely apparent that the missing sheets and pillows had found a new home inside of a silk brocade lined coffin with it’s lid wide open against the far side of the room.

I must find something nice to wear! Tell Cook to serve you Venison tonight. I’d love a taste of deer in my wine.” The door shut with a curt click and left the confused Du’Mas to muddle through the instructions while trying desperately to free his bright green bow-tie from his black tangled fur.

New Story: Currently untitled – Chapter Two

Tusk Jerkins was a squat olive skinned creature who wore strange thick glass spectacles which also had assorted-sized extra lenses and metal bit attachments hanging off either side. His large milky yellow eyes looked massive beneath them as he perched on a stool and scowled through a large assortment of flattened parchment and unrolled scrolls.

He always looked grumpy when he was thinking and he was always thinking. Luckily looks were often deceiving. Especially when it came to such characters as Tusk.

He tapped his large gnarled toenails on the rung of the stool as he grunted and mumbled. “Which one sent you? Big guy with no brains, or short guy with no brains?”

B-b-b-big… g-g-guy.” her teeth clattered too hard for her to grin as she kept herself buried under a large fur blanket. The unusually sharp clean edges of her canine teeth threatened to snap her own tongue right off if she wasn’t careful. “You t-t-think… they ar-r-re… all d-d-dumb!”

I haven’t been proven wrong yet.” he looked over a faded map of the known reaches of Veilreach and tapped a few locations and clicked his tongue against his namesake bottom tusks which stuck out awkwardly from his wide jaw. The jostle from the metal bands on his right tusk gave a comforting jingle and metallic taste. “That’s a far stretch. Had to be Dean Prime Marthis, I heard that prat was handling a lot of the punishments now… unless they have new heads of discipline there. Always possible considering how long I’ve been out of the game. Jen’Rar is too inaccurate to send you that far unless it was clearly a mistake and she only meant to move you across the room and missed! Nah, it had to be Marthis… I heard that old sod is all talk, coin, and prestige. No real sense in his head!”

He laughed roughly at the joke that only seemed to amuse himself before he nodded and swirled around to properly examine her. “How are you feeling, Krill?”

She glared at him with a deadpan shivering look. The answer was obvious. “C-c-cold.”

He nodded, seeming to find that a decent answer while he tried pointlessly to stretch his curved spine which was aching from a hectic evening of activity. It didn’t give him much added height, but the popping noise seemed to bring relief. After another stretch and a rub of his aching knees he adjusted the lenses on his glasses and peered at her closer. His eyes looked buggy and large. The effect made his sharp long nose look even more thin and piercing.

It had been four hours since her retrieval and gradual thaw. The towels and blankets he used to mop up most of the water had not yet dried and the hearth fire had been crackling warmly in the middle of the room for quite some time.

Although her body had already started it’s remarkable healing process, some changes remained. The colour in her iris had maintained a dark charcoal grey instead of the brilliant hazel they once were and her hair brittle and broken from the cold was now short and drastic silver white. The concerned Tusk had no idea what would be permanent or temporary. By any account she should have been a permanent ice sculpture as it was so already they were in uncharted territory.

When the Mages passed a death sentence it was supposed to end in death. What once was considered a rare and morbid ceremony eventually grew more routine and lazy. The finer mechanics of magickal control was somewhat lax and the odd quirk had been known to happen. It wasn’t uncommon for prisoners bodies to end up a little off kilter during their various disposal rites. No one tended to complain too much and some of the Mages found it highly amusing.

It would have seemed a pretty obvious mistake to send someone to a place like the northernmost Tundra without knowing for certain they were dead, but Krill was a rather strange exception. Technically she had been. Or at least dead enough for most.

In fact it was a running trend in her life so far. She had been presumed dead and disposed of more then anyone she had yet heard of. Every time she somehow managed to survive the ordeal. Tusk figured she was just too stubborn to lay down and stay dead.

Well, against all odds the Unkillable Krill maintains her reputation…”

She rose a shaky left hand out of the depths of the blankets and raised a stiff middle finger. He laughed in utter satisfaction and carefully slipped from the stool and shuffled towards the kitchen hearth. His gait was getting worse.

More tea I think. Lots of warm tea.” He tinkered and clanked dishes as he carefully pulled an old copper kettle from the fireplace with a long set of tongs. “Honestly, what were you even doing there? You know what happened last time. Those Mages don’t want to help you. They’d rather see you pickled and studied then shown any sort of.. well.. civility. Mages aren’t civil.”

You are.” She managed to finally still most of the clattering of her teeth as he returned with a large metal mug full of hot sweet floral liquid. She took it eagerly and cradled it in her den of blankets.

Yes well, might I remind you why we are -here- and not -there-. I’m not entirely welcome there either anymore…” He flopped on another pile of blankets set out close to the small cracking warded fire in the centre of the room while he coddled his own mug of tea.

There were certain benefits to being both a Mage and an Inventor. Some of those benefits included spell warded fire to prevent unexpected accidents as well as working and efficient plumbing systems. Both a rarity among common folk.

So why were you there?” He pestered again when he was properly comfortable in his makeshift chair and his bones ached less.

Krill drank a few long slow gulps of hot tea before she trusted herself to speak more then a few words without a frozen stutter. “I was retrieving something.”

Something worth risking your life?” He eyed her, slurping carefully to avoid spilling tea around his bottom teeth. It was loud and unintentionally obnoxious, which he was unfortunately all too familiar with but unable to change.

I certainly hope so.” She chuckled in response when the slurping had finally subsided. “Good thing my reputation remains.”

She risked removing a hand from the warmth of her mug in order to shuffle it around in the blankets. When she finally showed it again there was an orate blue teardrop shaped vial in her pale palm. It’s stopper was attached to a long necklace chain that curled around her fingers.

It almost looked common enough. Many of the local apothecary’s had plenty of similar bottle charms dangling from their shop windows to entice quick sales from rich fools looking to impress other richer fools. Decorative bobbles of scented perfume were a big trend among most of the noble classes. Even some basic tonics and potions could be purchased in these fancy carry-around bottles. Pretty yes, but certainly not something worth risking life and limb for when one could just as easy purchase or steal them from far more accessible vendors.

This bottle, however small and unassuming, differed in two key areas.

One was the fact that it’s chain and glass looked remarkably aged and not well kept. It glowed faintly but it was far from the bright glittering enchantments most nobles sought out to decorate needless trinkets and spoils. (It was amazing just how common and useless most glowing trinket bottles actually tended to be.) This was a glow that wasn’t just added to make a statement. This was a dull and natural pulsing of magick that gave off a certain hum to those who knew how to hear it.

Secondly it was also something that the squat Tusk was already quite familiar with.

By the stars above… you bloody lunatic…” he clutched his chest and nearly spilled his mug down the front of himself. “You stole the Oracle!”

Retrieved.” the woman corrected.

I should have left you there! At least until you came to your senses!” he set his mug down on a small wood table beside his makeshift chair. It clanked with such a noise that he feared there would be no liquid remaining inside.

Calm down.” Krill grumbled at him. Although the darkness of her new eye-colour made it less obvious it was still clear that she was definitely rolling her eyes at him while he huffed and fretted.

How did.. why would.. the Oracle!” he was grasping the left side of his chest harder and the mirth in the room dwindled away. It was replaced by a thick wall of anxiety.

Seriously Tusk, calm down.” Krill shrugged the blankets from her slim shoulders and adjusted her legs to rub her still tingly knees. She wondered if she would have the strength to test them if she needed to bolt to his side. Her eyes scanned him far more cautiously and her tone whimpered lower. “Please.”

They regarded each other for a long moment before they both seemed to relent at the situation. Slowly Tusk relaxed into his chair and nodded in submission. His olive coloured skin was slightly more pale and glistening with a small sheen of sweat. He still managed to curl his lip in a sneer. “You are still an idiot!”

His heart, even with all it’s good intentions, was never in proper working order. A haunting truth that both of them knew all too well. In fact Tusk himself was what Orc kind considered a “Cullbreed”. An Orc born so physically weak or malformed that it should have been culled after it’s first few breaths. Even as an infant it was evident that the young Tusk would amount to nothing of value in Orc society. He would never hold a position of power. He would probably never even lift an axe let alone raise it in battle.

If it wasn’t for the fact that his mother, the Orc war-maiden Sin’Rak was on a diplomatic ship travelling northeast on treaty business to the capital city of Crestfall when she happened to give birth, he would have likely been sacrificed before he could even formulate a protesting grunt.

The story goes that his mother barely even noticed the labour and practically birthed the small infant in front of the whole crew. Disgusted at his puny size, wheezing cough, and lack of guttural screams common with Orc infants.. she nearly flung him off the side of the ship as refuse.

However Matron Aethys Jerkins, one of the Skeye Temple Priests also attending the journey to the capital city had happened to be nimble and cunning enough to make the right proposition at the right time. Sin’Rak parted the ship with a money pouch somewhat heavier, and Aethys left with a sickly, gangly green coloured infant.

One could argue who got the better deal depending on who you asked.

What are you planning on doing with… that?” Tusk finally grumbled when the silence between them had lingered far too long. Both cups had been empty for quite a few moments but no one offered to leave the social standoff to get more tea.

Find the answers I’ve been seeking.” Krill sighed and stared at the crackling and relatively harmless flames as they circled in their warded pit in the middle of the room. “I want to know who I really am. The College won’t help me and their records didn’t hold anything of value. The Scholars certainly had nothing to offer. Trust me, I looked. That place is huge. I think this may be my last resort to finally find out who I am and where I came from.”

Tusk sighed and stared out across the room to the mirror perched on the far wall.

In the distant image his crippled form looked back at him. Although he was proud of this vast cluttered little home he made for himself; no matter how often he tried to convince himself otherwise he always saw a malformed and unwanted pup perched on a pile of discarded trash when he looked in that mirror. An unwanted in a world of unwanted things.

One day he’d have to finally move that damned mirror.

It’s funny. Sometimes with questions like that, Krill – the answers aren’t what we want to hear.”

Perhaps not, but it would be better then nothing. It would be more then what I have.” She brushed a hand through her now short white hair. “All I have right now are shadows and questions. The main one at the moment being, how do I use this to get answers without blowing myself up?”

Well, that’s an important one.” Tusk grunted and rubbed his stubby chin. “I do hate to bring her up… but I do know of one woman who would know.”

New Story: Currently untitled.

[ The following piece of story is something new from me. It doesn’t really have a name just yet.. and who knows if I will ever fully finish it.. but already I am in love with the characters, the flow, and the world this story is set in. I hope you enjoy it, and hopefully posting it in pieces will force me to continue – and eventually finish – this tale. ]

In the northernmost part of the continent of Veilreach existed the frozen further of the Northern Pale. The coldest and remote part of this frozen wasteland was called the Tundra. It was in this icy world of white that a single bump existed amid the otherwise flat white of the landscape.

This bump was a body of a woman. One of many bodies that ended up here in one of the Mages favourite dumping grounds. It was a clean and lazy way of getting rid of nuisance evidence – especially if they wished to retain the body for some other devious reasons after it had been put on ice. Sometimes they bothered to retrieve them but most often they got distracted and just left them to eternally decorate the landscape.

This particular body was stiffly erect and sitting cross-legged. She was clothed in thin white bear hide which certainly was not intended for the arctic exposure of the Tundra climate. The snow this far north had fogged the distance around her in a perpetual blizzard. Not even the arctic vultures of frost drakes would dare to venture this far up investigate the scene or peck at some frozen lunch.

Nothing wishing to stay alive dared tread this far north.

The true contrast in this stark blizzard of white were the frozen woman’s wide open eyes which had once been the colour of mixed hazel but now were a very wide unnatural black. Her pupils had enlarged and swallowed up what colour had remained in her iris. They were blistering dead coals. Even her hair, which had once been the colour of burnt umber was frozen with snow. The storm stole the colour from the world and spit it out as burning ice.

The snow had already well covered her knees and stomach and threatened to soon overtake her chest. The bear skin hood and bristling wind had so far kept her from developing a large pile of snow on top of her unmoving head – but soon nothing would keep the tide from encasing her completely. The winds could change at any moment and the body would be buried and gone within moments.

Yet to say she were frozen solid and a lost cause was not entirely the truth. Indeed if she had been anyone else she simply would have been another cadaver in the College Ice chest. But deep within her immobile chest an impossibility occurred in this woman’s long and impossible life.

Buried waist deep, frozen for hours in a tundra blizzard – her stubborn lungs took in a sharp intake of icy breath. A brief moment of awareness in a dream-like slumber.

Another blast of wind drew the snow around her. It was now at chest level and the storm was no where near over. Those black eyes barely moved but there was a slight thickening along the very rim of a dark pupil. Somewhere in the ice a flicker of life. A twitch of prickling pain waking up a few unfrozen nerves.

Just enough of a flicker. Just enough of an echo. The woman encased in snow and ice managed to move her thumb just close enough to touch the rune ring frozen on the base of her middle finger. The cracking from the miniscule movements was either from the ice coating breaking, or her skin cracking apart but since she could no longer feel any of it in her foggy thoughts she simply didn’t care. The words of incantation carved themselves out in the empty space in her mind.

Less of a spell, and more of a call for help.

A few moments later, somewhere in a small strange cottage carved out of the base of a mountain ridge a flurry of activity began. Within moments the blizzard of white was infiltrated by brilliant embers of burning blue light as the woman, along with twenty pounds of ice and snow, evaporated from the tundra with the strange sound of crashing waves.

Poem: Samhain Night

Together we gather in circle cast,

With fire and air, stone and rain –

To honor our dead long since past.

And bring them forth to dance again.

Those who guard over death,

We pay our respects to you all.

Tears and sand, flame and breath.

Let the spirits hear our calls.

It’s time to stir the shadows,

And time to wake those past.

It’s time to summon ancestors

With the magick we have cast.

So come all ye spirits,

While the veil is thin.

Come in peace and healing,

It’s we who invite you in.

Tonight is for you, our honored dead,

Until the night comes to its end.

Then we’ll bid you all farewell.

With peace till we meet again.

Celebrate the time we’ve shared,

But don’t mourn their passage on,

They wait for us in Summerland,

For us to carry on.

The Proper Etiquette of Knights and Dragons

[A light-hearted and humorous take on the old knights tale…]

The dragon smelled as dragons do. Something similar to a blacksmith’s furnace I would imagine, then again I’ve smelled similar things coming from certain kitchens I’ve dined in. The food probably as foul as its breath.

It came to be that I was there for a reason so predictable that I bet it goes down in legend. I was there to rescue a princess caught up and taken captive by this beastly dragon. I should say it has been done so often now that they should not be allowed to roam free. Princess’s I mean, since they always seem to blunder into the worst of messes.

“Hold there I say! I’ve come to rescue that lass!” I had long come to the conclusions that these dragons were smarter then they appeared. Indeed capable of thought as great as a human’s. Not just these beasts that most assume.

Sure most had mocked my ideas and even claimed me half-mad at them but as the dragon turned, sitting on its overgrown haunches and eyeing me like a curious thing I still assumed I was right. It snorted as its response.

“Very well then, if you will not take to diplomacy then you shall taste my blade!” And doing as all knights must, I moved my hand to my hilt and with a great hoist I proceeded to unsheathe my blade… which to my slight embarrassment didn’t move from its sheath.

A lesson to those younger knights out there, this is why cleaning ones blade is very important. It seems the blood from my last kill, a hydra it was, had dried my sword straight to the metal of my sheath.

Now I admit I was looking rather perplexed as the dragon regarded me closer. I strained to pull my blade out once more and in becoming so intent at trying to remove the blasted thing I slipped in my saddle. With a loud thud, armor and all I happened upon being face to face with the belly of my steed.

Now being in a real pickle, I decided that I really did need to shape up, as the dragon’s large eyes gained an odd look in them. I figured it was hunger as it moved a bit closer. My steed is a strong war-horse, but not all too bright. When it saw the lumbering creature come closer it realized it needed to retreat and I was left standing alone with no sword while my horse watched from the road at least 6 yards away.

“You incompetent idiot!” caught me by surprise as I looked past the dragon to notice the tied princess seeming somewhat annoyed.

“I don’t see what your problem is, I’m doing all the work!” I corrected her quickly as my eyes turned to my current situation. I tried to recall my heroic training. Big dragon, no sword, no horse… it seemed a bit tricky. Gauntlets being the easiest to remove were the first things I thought of. Quickly I had removed my right one and brandished it like a weapon.

“A hah! Now again I ask you to hand over the princess and leave the area!” I shouted loudly, gaining back my knightly flare.

“It’s a Dragon! It can’t understand you!” Again came the criticism from the princess. I started to wish this one had been gagged as some I know had. Now gaining a slight understanding for why some of them were…

“If you will mi’lady I am not talking to you!” I shouted past the dragon, as it again grew closer. If I were not as noble as I am I might have added in a few other comments not suitable for this tale.

Now where was I. Oh yes, the beast and I were on equal ground. It with its massive teeth and claws and I with my gauntlet. I know it seems a bit uneven, but you must remember I am a highly trained knight.

It opened its loud jaws and let out a roar I haven’t heard in months. It left a slight ringing in my ears and a vibration through the metal of my armor. I realized that was only a warning roar before it would open its bellows and shoot out a stream of burning fire.

That was the moment I knew I had to act. Now it might have looked like I flung the gauntlet out of pure panic, but I assure you I had aimed. And the only reason I had ducked and shielded myself was to keep any fire from my face if it had happened to let out its fire first.

So with my well-aimed shot with the gauntlet it seemed the beast had swallowed it

whole. The piece of metal piercing its jugular enough so the fire burned his insides… or some other nonsense. I kill dragons not explain them.

Either way the beast hit the ground with a rather loud thud, enough to make my balance waver a moment. I stood over my foe with fierce pride as it let out a last gurgle of breath; that sent a wave of heat at me. I would have waited the standard five minutes to relish in the battle, but there came an annoying voice pulling my attention somewhere else.

“What are you doing?! Get over here an untie me!” Ah yes.

The princess.

Well it was the next thing on my list, so I promptly left my place and wandered to where she stood tied to a rather large bolder.

“Ah yes mi’lady I have come to save you! Now if you will just hold still.” As if she could do anything else at the moment. Still courtesy is courtesy.

I slipped around behind her and began untying the knots before something curious struck me. I don’t know why it had never occurred to me to ask any of the others I had rescued, but I felt the urge to ask it now.

“Just how does a dragon so big like that ever tie a princess with knots like these anyway? I mean these knots are so small and well tied you would think he couldn’t manage things like that with claws so large.” I would have thought more about this but her sudden outburst caused me to leave my train of thought.

“What the hell is your problem?! I have never seen a man so dimwitted in all my life!” and then she let out a scream almost as piercing as the dragons had been.

I looked down to notice I did have another gauntlet. I mean if she was about to spew fire out her mouth like her eyes were doing at that moment it might just come in handy. Either way I managed to free her from those pesky knots.

“There you go, free at last!” I moved in front of her as she rubbed the red marks across her wrists. I leaned forward a bit, expecting the usual kiss as all knights are suppose to receive after such a daring feat. It’s almost an unsaid agreement.

One that this princess broke as instead of a small kiss against my lips, I felt her fist collide there instead knocking me back a bit in surprise. Merely surprise of course as everyone knows girls hit much weaker then men. The whole fact my lip was bleeding was only coincidental.

“What on earth was that for?” My pride was genuinely hurt.

“You actually thought I was going to kiss you? You stupid knight! I… I should have your head for this! You just wait till my father hears of this!”

“Excuse me, but if it wasn’t for me you would be dragon food mi’lady! A kiss is standard fees for such heroics.” I brushed myself off and grunted. “If you didn’t want to be rescued you should have told me!”

For some reason this seemed to provoke her more as she suddenly made noises as if she were having a hard time breathing. Grunting and growling and carrying on in such an unladylike manner.

I shook my head, about to give up on the whole affair as I walked towards my steed, which had come closer from his hiding place at the main rode. Loyal bugger, if not a bit dull as I said but at least he hadn’t left me trapped with the beast. The princess I mean, not the dragon- though the smell from charred dragon carcass was just as fowl a fate.

I offered the disheveled maiden a ride into town and bent low to hoist her up behind me, but again only received an indignant look for my efforts. To think, I Sir Fredrick of the gallant knights being treated in such a manner. This woman was all but impossible! I had rescued her from a dragon, been denied payment, and now was being treated like a common scoundrel!

“Mi’lady…” I grit my teeth and tried to keep my noble composure. “Do you intend to sleep on the ground, in the rain tonight? Or would you please allow me to accompany you into town?” Maybe she suffered some sort of madness? A poor shame. Maybe her parents had paid the dragon to steal her away.

She seemed to finally listen to logic as she grabbed my hand and I had prepared to hoist her up… that was until she yanked hard and I found myself slipping from the saddle. I swore I needed to fix that blasted thing. The saddle had to be broken for me to fall from it so many times.

Before I had a chance to pick my heavy armored body from the floor, I felt her foot on my backside as she mounted my horse.

The nerve!

“What are you doing?” I turned to find her fairly well adjusted in my place, already rearing my horse back and away from me. Maybe she didn’t understand what with that hysteria and all that. “I know you’re confused, let me lead you back to town Mi’lady before you hurt yourself. I’m sure there’s some medication or that you can get to make you feel all better again.” I was only looking out for her after all.

“You’re the only confused one here! You blithering idiot!” She snorted.

That was even less lady-like of her.

“You call yourself a knight? You’re clumsy, rude, stupid and weak! Why you’re just lucky that dragon was just as stupid as you!” With that she turned my warhorse around and plotted off quickly towards town.

I was left abandoned. I tried calling for my horse, but he didn’t turn. I suspect her mad yelling must have deafened him. What a world this was becoming! Well, I was a royal knight. I suppose I could enjoy the brisk walk back to town. Though I couldn’t help wondering if any other knights had such trying ordeals as I, the great knight Fredrick had dealt with today.

Ah well. I suspect it’s all well and good.

After all, it was part of being a knight I suppose.