NaNoWriMo 26–Betrayed

NaNoWriMo 26

I had the grand goal of finishing up last night, but in the end I just did not quite have the steam to push across the finish line.  However I did manage to get to 48,723 word count.  This puts me roughly 1200 words away from 50,000 which I am certain I will make.  At this point there are two chapters left that I planned to write.  Even if I do make it over 50,000 I will go ahead and write the two chapters I feel need to be there to finish off the novel.  I am shocked at just how well overall the pacing has worked.  I honestly expected to be “done” and come up way short of the target goal.

Here is the story to date for those wanting to catch up.  Found out last night I have a contingency that is waiting for me to finish before starting.  Hopefully they all realize just how raw the novel is!

  1. Shadowed Stone
  2. Little Giant Girl
  3. Birthday Wishes
  4. The Gifts
  5. The Incursion
  6. The Watch
  7. Rough Landing
  8. Dragon Bone
  9. People of the Storm
  10. The Lady
  11. Cambridge Beneath
  12. Prisoner of War
  13. Woodbinding
  14. Parting the Veil
  15. People of the Earth
  16. The Pack
  17. Brittagus Escape
  18. The Lightskimmer
  19. The Nightlords
  20. Hagengarde
  21. Homecoming
  22. Reckoning
  23. Best Laid Plans
  24. The Siege
  25. Serendipity

26 – Betrayed

The castle facade was hidden behind a wall of thick smoke streaming up from the strew carcasses of the metal machines that previously guarded it.  The skyship payloads had found their targets and sent a scattered mess of gobbley mechanics trying to vain to repair them.  Behind the black cloud Merowyn knew lay a portculus, and hopefully in the confusion they could slip into the castle proper relatively unnoticed.  She raised her hand waving the gathered group of valkore and her sprites ahead into the dense hanging smoke.  They moved along silently ajusting their course periodically to miss a frantic mechanic.

They could see the wall of the castle when the smoke began to break a bit.  From directly ahead of them there came a bolt of fire streamed with little rivulets of lightning coursing up and down its length.  The bolt missed Merowyn barely but she managed to react and raise a barrier spell moments before the next one would have struck her.  Instead it bounced off the barrier sending it careening into a gobbley warmachine causing another fury of sparks and even more black smoke to belch up from it.

Peering through the smoke she recognized her attacker as Baigan, son of Oakswurv and the Winter Prince.  Jace and Kale had told her about the events of the farmhouse, but until she saw him herself she had not quite believed that one of the councils children would betray them.  When the next of stormfire came, she pushed out on the shield and sent it deflecting back in his direction.  The bolt struck at his feet causing him to jump back slightly.  Seizing the opportunity of his momentary distraction she pushed the barrier harder sending it out in front of her like a wave of force.  The shield struck Baigan squarely in the chest knocking him back pressing him against the castle wall.

He tried in vain to hurl another bolt at Merowyn but she quickly raised another barrier sending it crashing down upon him.  How could this be, the power of stormfire was the most destructive magic known in the wildlands.  How could a simple barrier spell be getting the best of him.  He needed time to regroup.  He threw a bolt of stormfire at the ground beneath one of the crashed warmachines sending up an explosion of parts.  Reaching out with the power of the north wind he directed the cloud of machinery down upon Merowyn and the others.

“Get to me now!” Mero yelled already extending out a protective barrier and wrapping it around them.  The others managed to get inside the bubble moments before a stream of debris crashed down on the bubble trapping them under a dome of spent machinery.  Merowyn strained at the weight crushing down upon her bubble, sensing her struggle the sprites clamped around her just like they had done before.  She became a luminescent sculpture of green light as the little fae gave back some of the light she had given them.  Emboldened by the strength surging into her… she pushed with all her might upon the barrier and with an eruption of force the pile of machinery flew off in every direction raining down upon the frightened gobbley who were still hopelessly tending to their creations.

When the dust cleared Merowyn looked around frantically expecting another round of attacks from the traitor.  Instead she saw nothing, he had vanished, most likely into the castle.  She took a moment to catch her breath as the others made their way up to the portcullis.  The gate was down and no matter how much Kale tried she could not budge it.  When she finally gave up on lifting it she began pounding the door with her great big fists, each blow causing the door to echo like a drum.

Jace grabbed her arm trying to stop her, the knuckles of her hands already bloody and cracked from pouding against the dense wood.  “We will find another way Kale, you aren’t doing anything but hurting yourself”  Jace chided as he tried to think of another way.  Merowyn said he was a wood binder, and that was why he could change his staff into a sword.  She said he could also manipulate wood and other living and once living things.  He wondered if that included a wooden gate on a castle.  While he didn’t really understand the specifics of why he could do what he could do, he understood the basics and that was enough to try.

He managed to get Kale to stop, and moved in front of her placing his hands on the wood of the gate.  Reaching out with his mind he tried to meld with the wood, sense it, feel it moving behind his fingers.  He closed his eyes and imagined the wood of the door parting for him, peeling apart at the grain moving to one side and leaving a wide opening.  As he visualized the change in the door he heard a creaking noise and as he dared to open his eyes he watched the wood slowly bending to his will.  Cracking down the grain and slowly folding back until there was a warped opening in the door just big enough for them to pass through.

Kale looked at him dumbstruck “How did you do that?”  Jace shrugged slightly “Merowyn said Benj and I were woodbinders… I just took a leap of faith that it meant any kind of wood… not just my staff”  He was as confused by it as she was, and quite honestly completely surprised by the success.  Standing there it felt as though the ground was rushing up at him, and then moments later he realized that it was him falling to the ground.  Kale rushed to his side helping him back up.  “Are you okay?”  He nodded wearily feeling completely drained “I guess it took a bit out of me, I will be fine.”

His head was spinning but as he stood there assisted by Kale the world began to right itself and stopping moving around so violently.  Within a few moments the dizzyness had passed, but he felt as though he needed to stand completely still for a few minutes just to make sure.  He looked over at Merowyn and similar the Sprites were helping her up.  I guess these abilities they had, came with a bit of a price.  He was certain they would both be fine they just needed a moment to rest and recover before going further.  If they were to encounter Baigan in this state they would both likely end up dead.

Using the shower of machinery as cover Baigan had indeed escaped into the fort and was now streaming through the halls on his way to the throne room.  Passing Orts along the way he screamed “Get to the western facade, defend me you oafs!!!”  The magical exchange had drained him greatly as well and he needed to gather his strength.  Shooting down the skyships and then the exchange with Merowyn had tapped a good bit of his power.  He needed a moment to rest and then he could finish them off after the Orts were done with them.

He ascended the stairs leading to the throne and collapsed down into his chair.  How could this have gone so wrong he asked himself.  Did he not have the most powerful army at his command?  Was he not able to wield the most destructive magic?  How could these misfits be tearing his army apart at the seams.  The Orts were undisciplined brutes, that had to be it… they were not used to fighting without cheating.  The Trogjan never fought fair, and they rarely had to defend.  They were almost always the aggressor.  He had simply miscalculated their strengths.

He could still be the victor.  His superior magic would be the key.  He had to regain his strength so he could strike down these fools with his mighty storm fire.  As Baigan sat there trying to rationalize away his failure he felt a sensation unlike any he had ever experienced.  He felt a coldness against his neck and a pressure.  He found himself unable to speak, and there was a flurry of movement as at the last moment he finally realized it was a blade slicing into his neck.  

The assassin had been completely silent, and his aim true and steady.  In a single flash of motion Baigan the traitor was no more, and the other was sliding his head into a leather bag and dropping it into a pack on his back.  Reaching out to a pouch on his waist he removed a large crystal, one much larger than the one used to trap the queen, but relatively similar in design.  The assassin touched the crystal to the chest of Baigan’s lifeless and now slightly twitching corpse.  The room erupted in a cascade of lights that vacillated between a deep cyan and a warm glowing orange.

When the light had faded the assassin stood there holding a crystal that contained a deep fire within it and underneath the surface pulsed with jets of lightning.  The stormfire crystal was complete, and the master would be pleased.  The assassin slid the crystal back into the pouch at his waist.  He looked at the corpse of Baigan and frowned slightly.  It was troubling to see any shade die, even a pompous and arrogant one like him.  The masters plan however is absolute, and he would get the crystal to him before high night fell.  With that the silent shadow of a man slipped out of the throne room, and melded with the corridors rushing out of the castle and into the dim twilight.

NaNoWriMo 25–Serendipity

NaNoWriMo 25

I was a very bad person yesterday.  I ended up resting on the laurels of the weekends progress.  I do however intend to remedy that tonight and maybe make a push for the goal line.  It seems like each time I get too far ahead I let myself relax and skip a day.  I started off this two chapters ahead and over time that lead dwindled to nothing.  However at this point I am less than 5000 words away from the finish line and hopefully tonight I can buckle down and finish.

Here is the tale so far for those catching up, once again posted raw and unedited.

  1. Shadowed Stone
  2. Little Giant Girl
  3. Birthday Wishes
  4. The Gifts
  5. The Incursion
  6. The Watch
  7. Rough Landing
  8. Dragon Bone
  9. People of the Storm
  10. The Lady
  11. Cambridge Beneath
  12. Prisoner of War
  13. Woodbinding
  14. Parting the Veil
  15. People of the Earth
  16. The Pack
  17. Brittagus Escape
  18. The Lightskimmer
  19. The Nightlords
  20. Hagengarde
  21. Homecoming
  22. Reckoning
  23. Best Laid Plans
  24. The Siege

25 – Serendipity

Merowyn had been badly wounded from her act of sacrifice to free her wildfae children.  As a result Jace decided that they should spend the light in the keep and hopefully by morning she would be able to move on.  The sprites lovingly nursed her throughout the night, wrapping themselves around her, and in the morning she seemed invigorated.  Jace did not really understand what had happened, but he was happy to see that she was doing well and seeming in better spirits than he had seen her on the journey.  He was also happy to see that Dimcy more or less was doing well.

Her sacrifice the day before had also had consequences, but it seemed that she had been reborn as a child version of herself.  The younger Dimcy seemed to be quite a bit more playful than her previous self and delighted in buzzing around their heads as fast as she could making a little halo of flame.  Kale delighted in this and as they walked Dimcy spent most of her time resting on the large girls shoulder.  It was the love of Kale that rekindled the firesprite and the bond only seemed to grow stronger.

As they exited the keep Jace noticed that a large storm had appeared shrouding the Fort in the distance.  As they moved closer to it he began to hear sounds from within the mists.  It sounded as though a battle was waging.  He looked over to Merowyn and she returned his it with a worried glance.  “Someone is fighting at the Fort” Jace said feeling like he was stating the obvious.  “I sure hope they are friendly, and not an even worse army than the Orts.”  Merowyn could not imagine who would be striking against the keep.  The elfen armies were in a state of disarray after the Winter War, and no other standing army had the power to strike back against the keep.  The Valkore were powerful enough but they were scattered in individual clans, and seemed to lack the will to band together against anything after being driven out of their homelands.

The Sasquatch were also powerful enough, being able to wield the power of their earth where their shamanistic geomancy.  But they were scattered and tribal and once again lacked the force of will to join together to face anything head on like this.  Merowyn wondered who could possibly be behind the strike, and if they would be willing to help them achieve their own goals.  “We have to continue, and hope for the best.” She proclaimed as she pushed forward with her army of sprites in tow.  “Too much rests on us reclaiming the queen and protecting the summerwall.”

As they neared the keep they heard a great commotion from the western face as something erupted in fire sending great plumes of smoke rising up from the ground.  Jace could see what looked like a boat hovering over the fog bank.  “What is that? Some sort of airship?” he said pointing up at the shapes above the fog bank.  Mero looked at where the boy was pointing and sure enough it was a fleet of Valkore Skyships.  “I guess that answers the question, the those are Valkore skyships.  They are dropping fire down on something below them.”

Merowyn watched in horror was she saw a bolt strike out from the fort and hit the ship in its hull sending it crashing to the ground.  She was uncertain if she just saw what happened.  Another bolt came flying out catching another ship and sending it to the ground.  She watched the magic more closely this time.  She saw a plume of flame wrapped in lightning.  It made sense, but that meant that the traitor had managed to harness the power of the queen.  “They are using stormfire!” she yelled fear lacing her voice.

She had heard of it in legends but never thought that a person could actually wield such power.  “Baigan has harnessed the queen and is now using the most destructive of magics, the combined strength of summer and winter.  He is using stormfire and is destroying those ships.”  She watched as a group of ships broke off, diving down below the fog bank for cover.  They sped along the ground for a long ways and came to a stop on a flat spot just ahead of them.  “We need to go see if anyone is hurt” yelled Jace already breaking into a run heading towards the ship.

As Jace got to the ships, he saw a woman in leather and fur armor disembark the ship, sword drawn and held high as though she was rallying her crew.  Following closely behind her was another woman with black hair, bright pink highlights and dressed in a manner he was not expecting for the shadowlands.  She was from his world, there was no mistaking it… and the Doctor Who t-shirt if nothing else was a dead give away.  He waved his arms while running screaming “Is everyone alright?  We can give assistance!”

Pico watched as a boy and very tall girl closed in on their location.  Much to her shock she recognized both of them.  One of the dirty secrets of the watch was the fact that they kept files on all betweeners.  While they might not know the significance of each they cataloged their abilities.  The boy was Jace, he was a known woodbinder but had not really come into his own ability at the last the file was updated.  The girl was Kale, she was half ort and with it had all the powers of a small giant.  Her 6’10” stature tended to make her stand out as being something different.  She wondered what exactly they were doing, and why they were being followed closely by an Elfen woman and literally hundreds of forest sprites.

Barret stepped in front of Pico raising pointing her sword out in front of her and staring down at the oncomers.  “Who are you?  What side are you with?” she screamed making sure the others understood her clearly.  Jace slowed his pace and held his hands out to his sides showing he meant no harm “We didn’t know there were sides?  We are coming to save my mom…  err the Summer Queen.”  he motioned to the keep “We have to get in there and save her.  Can you help us?”  Jace looked at the captain pleadingly.

Barret lowered her sword and could not suppress a chuckle.  “It seems you are a bit behind the times boy.”  She motioned to the fog behind her “There is a battle waging, and we too have come to rescue this queen and save the summer wall.  We have a joint force of Valkore, Sasquatch, Elfen… “motioning to the army of sprites behind him “and it appears we have a whole slew of Wildfae as well, all trying to accomplish the same task.”  She looked at her crew, and they gazed to the other ship crews that had begun to assemble.  “We do have a few wounded, we would appreciate any assistance.  When everyone is bandaged up we can push to the fort and cover you.”

Merowyn motioned to her sprites and they spread out throughout the crowd mending those that could be mended and stabilizing those who could not.  Pico rushed up to Jace and held out her hand “Hi, I’m Pico”.  She gave a sheepish grin “I did not expect to see betweeners here.”  Jace thought for a moment, Kale had used the term before but he never really thought that he too was a betweener.  Kale had joined him and whispered in his ear “I think she is with the watch, be careful”  Jayce nodded and looked Pico over carefully.  He had also heard about the Ward Watch from Kale, and was a bit leery.

“How exactly did you get here Pico?” Jace questioned trying to make small talk as the sprites tended to their the Valkore.  “It’s a really long story, one we don’t really have time for right now.  Hopefully after this is over though Bemel will hold true to his word and get me back home.  If not I might need to beg one of you betweeners to shift me across.”  Jace looked dumbfounded and replied quickly “Did you say Bemel?  He’s okay?  He’s here?”  Pico nodded “He is leading up the strike from the south.  This entire alliance was his idea.”

Jace’s mind reeled, maybe they all made it out okay from the farmhouse.  “What about Benj, Josah and Morrow?”  He had watched Oaks fall to Baigan, but maybe the others were fine.  All this time he had expected the worst.  Maybe everything was going to be just fine.  “I’ve not heard the name Benj, but there are two other Elfen named Josah and Morrow.  They are leading up a force of Valkore striking from the east.”  She looked at Jace with a puzzled look on her face “Are they family of yours?”  Jace nodded with a wide smile “Yes they are, they are my aunts and uncles.”  Jace hoped that Benj was fine as well, surely we all ended up here at the same time for a reason.  For the first time in a long time he felt like maybe everything was going to be just fine.

NaNoWriMo 24–The Siege

NaNoWriMo 24

Really pleased with my progress yesterday.  In all I wrote three of my normal sized chapters and pushed it across the 45,000 word count line.  This should let me rather easily finish by Wednesday unless I start slacking again.  I am not sure why but I really want to finish before Thanksgiving.  If I can knock out another 2000 words or so this evening I will definitely be on track.  I think pacing wise I will be there as well.  The main event that has been leading up to is under way, and I have a few chapters dealing with the fallout but that should put me well over the 50,000 mark maybe even 55,000.

Here is the story to date for those that want to catch up, like always super raw and super unedited.  Even to the point of confusion at times.

  1. Shadowed Stone
  2. Little Giant Girl
  3. Birthday Wishes
  4. The Gifts
  5. The Incursion
  6. The Watch
  7. Rough Landing
  8. Dragon Bone
  9. People of the Storm
  10. The Lady
  11. Cambridge Beneath
  12. Prisoner of War
  13. Woodbinding
  14. Parting the Veil
  15. People of the Earth
  16. The Pack
  17. Brittagus Escape
  18. The Lightskimmer
  19. The Nightlords
  20. Hagengarde
  21. Homecoming
  22. Reckoning
  23. Best Laid Plans

24 – The Siege

“Are you sure this will work?” The short valkore man asked as he opened the tiny grey box to see an even smaller orb contained within.  Shaking her hands furiously Pico pleaded “Be careful with that please… it is very sensative.  As far as if it will work, definitely…  what it will do that is an entirely different matter.  It should detonate on impact and disintegrate a bunch of those big brutish things in the process.  The real question is are you going to be able to drop it successful in the fog?”  Captain Barret looked incredulous “Egan is the best munitions man we have, he will do his job just fine.”  With the vote of confidence Egan carefully loaded the payload into the bomb bay of the skyship.  Looking back and Pico and Captain Barret “We are ready to fire”.

The ship glided over the top of the sunwall and out onto what seemed to be an ocean of fog.  The valkore stormcallers had crossed the wall hours ago and worked up a great storm providing a foggy cover for their approach.  Pico thought to herself, if only this sort of thing worked in the real world.  Being able to control the weather was a massive stroke in their favor.  When she was first introduced to Valkore, Bemel said they were the “people of the storm”.  That moniker did not really have much meaning until this morning, but they very much earned every syllable. 

In the distance there appeared to be a parapet of a keep jutting up slightly above the fog bank.  To her relief there did not appear to be a spotter yet in the tower.  As they got closer to the keep she could see flashes of lightning within the fog.  The shaman were doing their job keeping the Orts confused and engaged as they slipped onto the battlefield.  Their mission was to drop the bomb on the keep below, and then rejoin with the rest of the skyships attacking to the west.  For whatever reason the enemy had chosen to protect the western facade of the keep with their war machines, and what better to take down a siege machine than another one from above.

Egan signalled to the captain “We are over the target zone captain, this is the area where we have calculated will have the highest concentration of Ort backbreakers.”  The captain stared down at the gunner with a steely gaze.  She thought about the actions and responded cautiously.  “Prepare to fire on my mark”  She looked out over the bow of the ship to the storm swirling below.  She could see large shapes half forced in the mists, and as they glided over a large mass of these she gave the order “Fire!”.  The gunner released the clutch that held the payload in its place screaming at the top of his lungs “Brace for shockwave!”

The little orb drifted down through the cloud bank plummeting towards the rocky earth below.  When it landed there was not much of a reaction at first, and then as though the boat had hit a giant wave it was pushed upwards and back riding the cloudbank.  Pico rushed to the front of the boat and watched as a ring of fog rose up away from the ground and then from the center there came a giant thrust upwards in the bank.  As the fog started to dissipate she saw a great empty void in the forces below.  As though they had simply been erased from existence.  On the edges of the blast radius she saw orts cut in half, missing limbs, as though the force of the tiny bomb had simply deleted parts of their bodies.  The weapon had worked better than she could have ever imagined.

On the ground the brutes were scrambling, completely confused by what had just happened.  No magic of the wildlands was capable of doing that.  It was all that Varus could do to keep the beasts from routing.  “Stay together!  We have to regroup, there are more things than that in the fog.”  The gorund general shouted as a peal of thunder shook the area and a lightning bolt struck an ort not two feet in front of him sending it to the ground in a sizzling pile.  He could not wrap his head around what had just happened but he fought hard to keep the meat beasts in line.  Baigan had clearly underestimated the level of resistance.  If they failed he hoped his assassin could dispatch the traitor quickly and they could make their escape.

Bemel heard the explosion of the bomb hitting and felt the wave of force rolling backwards towards his forces.  In the attack plan, he had been tasked at leading a force of Elfen archers to act as a protective cover for the Stormcallers striking out from behind him.  They had done an amazing job at confusing the Orts, and real resistance was crumbling around him.  To the left the Sasquatch warriors were advancing on the keep with Torklah and his rock shaman following behind.  The shaman gifted in the ways of earth were erecting physical obstacles to protect the charging warriors.  The way the two of them worked together was truly amazing to watch.

Bemel saw an Ort emerging from the mist charging towards his group.  He nocked an arrow, drawing it back slowly.  He stopped his breathing for a moment and let the arrow fly.  It soared over the battlefield trails of fog spinning off the fletchings behind it.  It struck the Ort squarely between the eyes sending it collapsing on its own weight, causing the one coming up behind it to trip and fall as well.  The Ortan were powerful, but they lacked any grace of battle.  His elfen brethren loosed their own arrows, each one finding home deep within an approaching ort.

To his right Bemel saw the Valkore approaching with Morrow and Josah leading the charge.  Morrow looked almost gleeful as she brought down her big hammer to bear against the kneecap of an Ort who had the misfortune to swing at her.  She followed up with a grace that should ahve been impossible given her girth, bringing down her hammer upon its skull silencing its growling.  Josah sliced a path in front of him, the flashes of lightning reflecting off the dual spinning blades.  Bemel thought that alone any one of these forces would have struggled to defeat the Ortan horde.  However together in this makeshift alliance we were mighty.

When the Barret’s skyship arrived on the western front, the other ships were already dropping whaleoil bombs down upon the machines below.  The battering engines were blazing sending black plumes of smoke up into the air.  Barret moved the ship into the fray and Egan dropped their own whaleoil bombs striking a ballista sending its crew scrambling off of it to avoid the flames.  Pico looked down at the carnage in amazement and dread.  If this force were ever turned on her world, what would they possibly do to stop it?  She had to marvel at the cooperation being shown from so many different groups.

Behind Pico there was a sudden and searing light, it struck one of the skyships in the hull causing it to errupt in a shower of light and list to the side before ultimately crashing down to the rocky ground.  She spun around to see that a figure was standing on top of the Keep Parapet above the mist firing these bolts of what looked to be fire braided with lightning.  She had never seen anything like it.  To her left Captain Barret screamed “Evasive maneuvers” as a bolt of the magic shot out striking another skyship.  Barret scanned the horizon finding a smooth flat spot in the rocky ground “Signal all skyships to land, we’ve done our part.  We need to hide in the fog.”

The ship lurched speeding up and dipping down into the cloud bank.  Another ship was taken down by the magic but two more joined them below the cover of the fog.  They watched as the ground sped past them finally slowly as they touched down on the desolate ground.  Barret screamed “What was that?” Pico only managed to shrug.  In all of her books she had not heard of anything like that.  Whatever it was, it was able to decimate these ships.  Maybe there was some fight left in the enemy after all.  “Everyone ready to disembark.  Prepare for battle.  We will fight on the ground.”  Barret said as she grabbed pulled her sword out of her scabbard raising it into the air.

NaNoWriMo 23 – Best Laid Plans

NaNoWriMo 23

I did not really end up writing much more yesterday after I crossed the 40,000 word line.  However this morning I have been up and writing for awhile now.  I just knocked out one chapter so I thought I would post it really quick.  My intent is to write another one here in a few minutes.  The final action is starting to play out and I think timing wise things are going to line up just fine.  Give me enough time for the conflict resolution and a chapter to hint at things to come.  The only problem I have is I have not been able to kill off any characters.  I like them too much…  I know the whole kill your darlings bit, but it seems cruel.  The more I think about the more I think I will probably remove the very limited cursing so I can target the young adult market.

Here is the story so far, for anyone wanting to catch up.  As always completely raw and unedited.

  1. Shadowed Stone
  2. Little Giant Girl
  3. Birthday Wishes
  4. The Gifts
  5. The Incursion
  6. The Watch
  7. Rough Landing
  8. Dragon Bone
  9. People of the Storm
  10. The Lady
  11. Cambridge Beneath
  12. Prisoner of War
  13. Woodbinding
  14. Parting the Veil
  15. People of the Earth
  16. The Pack
  17. Brittagus Escape
  18. The Lightskimmer
  19. The Nightlords
  20. Hagengarde
  21. Homecoming
  22. Reckoning

23 – Best Laid Plans

“What do you mean they have an army?” screamed Baigan and the cowering gobbley advisor.  Firg visibly shaking at this point repeated the news.  “General the scouts report that there is a force amazing on the other side of the wall at Hagengarde.  It appears to be a combined force of Valkore, Sasquatch, and Eflen.  The group has coalesced  over the last few days starting only with the Valkore and quickly being joined by a large group of Sasquatch and Elfen.”  Baigan beyond livid screamed at the quivering Gobbley once more.  “How could this have happened and it went unnoticed?  This was not supposed to happen.  These races have no treaty or pact, they have no reason to fight together.”

“Oh but Baigan you are wrong, they have every reason to band together.”  Another voice spoke up from the corner of the room.  It was of the gorund advisor that Mogo has left here when he returned to House Bain in Tjorba.  As Mogo put it, it was his assurance that everything go smoothly.  Baigan thought the intruder was here to undermine him, but up until now he had remained quiet in his opposition.  “You have taken too long, and shown your intent.  Our forces have been in place for weeks letting everyone in the wildlands know our intent was to attack.  Now these people have done what any logical people would, band together against a common enemy.”

“Sir there is more..” the gobbley continued feeling a bit strengthened by the comments of Firg.  Baigan stared at the stammering advisor as though he was going to make him explode by the mere act.  “Well then? What is this more?  What other bad news do you have for me whelp?” Baigan had lowered his scream to somewhat but was no less frustrated.  “There is a keep to the west, that contained a Nightlord Assassin of Lord Bain.  A strike team has disabled the keep, and as far as I can tell has killed the Nightlord Khaloth.  They are heading this way now as well, bringing with them a small army of wildfae.”  The gobbley advisor finished waiting for the anger to return.

Baigan mulled this news over for a moment.  Why did Bain have a Nightlord waiting nearby and not tell him.  They were trying to undermine him, steal his glory for themselves.  Everyone was conspiring against him, he had to be careful now, he had to make sure the masters will was done.  He wanted to flay the gobbley and gorund with his stormfire, but he could not.  He needed the big dumb brutes to fight against this so called army.  “This is what you Trogjan are supposed to be good at right?  Waging war?  Then we will wage war on two fronts.”  Baigan said without delving into his suspicions.

“We will array our war machines to the west to face the smaller force, and bring the weight of our Ort Backbreakers down to bear on the larger force from the south.”  Baigan pronounced having decided this was the best course of action.  “I will ride out to give the machines support with my magics, and you Firg will command your Ortan army.”  The gorund admitted surprise, this was in fact the best course of action given the disparity in the sizes of the groups.  The machines were better suited for the west as it gives them the high ground to attack down from.  Maybe this impudent mage did know a thing or two about making war.

The gorund stepped forward from his chair in the corner.  “I agree with your assessment.  It is better for us to fight meat with meat and focus the bulk of our numbers to the south.”  He stepped around to face baigan, his long flowing royal blue cloak trailing behind him.  He was every vision of a general, broad shoulders encased in a rugged body armor.  “I will now go prepare the troops for the assault.  It could come at any time.  Your magic will be most useful supporting our gobbley machines.  I look forward to reporting our victory to Lord Bain.”  He gave a mock salute and walked out of the main chamber. 

Firg shuddered at the thought of the alternative.  He knew that if they were defeated, Lord Bain would expect Baigan’s head as tribute for his offenses.  The lord had expected him to fail, and in doing so he would finally be rid of the shades from his court.  He could use this act of Baigan as a greater sign of the weakness of the shades and purge the Trogjan empire of their spindly filth.  There was a time during the Winter war that they were needed, but that time has long passed and they add nothing that cannot be made up with machinery.  Firg made a mental note to assign one of his assassins to the western front.  In case of defeat he would need to capture Baigan’s head quickly and retreat with it to Tjorba.

The news about Khaloth was the most troubling as he walked out the castle to the southern front.  Who had the power to destroy a Nightlord?  They were beings of pure shadow, that resisted all known forms of attack.  This combined with their almost unique code of loyalty to complete a contract at all costs and never turn upon the contractor made them absolutely terrifying opponents.  Khaloth was their contingency plan, a way of getting through the sunwall if Baigan failed.  He was to find a weak point in the wall and slip through as the main battle was going on and strike them from behind.  He wondered if the Nightlord had in fact already breached the wall, but with the impending strike against Fort Kraken he could not risk sending someone out into the countryside to check.  Anyone who could have bested Khaloth and his reavewolf pets is someone to certainly be wary of.

“This is not going as planned, none of this was supposed to happen” Baigan thought to himself as he left the throne room and descended into the bowels of the keep.  The farmhouse had gone better than planned, how was he to know that this would not?  In all the centuries since the Summerwall was raised, never once had the Elfen lowered themselves to associate with the Sasquatch primates or these Valkore scum.  Someone was conspiring against him, that had to be it.  Someone wanted him to fail, wanted him to look bad in the eyes of the master.  Who could possibly be his rival, who would have the power to oppose him from behind the shadows.  The gorund was far too brutish to carry this level of deception out, someone would have to be working behind the scenes bringing together these forces against him.

“I will get my answers” Baigan thought as he strode into the dungeon.  He stopped in front of the cell of Benjanatos Waxwood, the Woodsblade protector of the queen.  If someone was conspiring against him, it would likely be one of his companions from the council of seasons.  As he entered the cell, Benj was slumped against his chains bound by his hands and feet to the wall.  “Benj my old friend.  You are going to give me some answers.”  Baigan said cloyingly as he crossed the room to stand in front of the slumped man.  “You… have never…  been my friend.  I have no answers for you”  Benj mustered with as much force as he could put behind his words in this current weakened state.

Baigan thrust his arm out grasping the mans neck and squeezing slightly as he stared into the other man’s eyes.  “Why are the Elfen cooperating with Sasquatch, Valkore and Wildfae?”  He squeezed a little tighter “Why have they raised an army to defy my will?” the loosened his grip letting the mans head fall back down.  “We have no army, but any free man would oppose you if given the chance.”  Benj gasped, his voice barely a whisper.  “They will retrieve the queen and free her, and destroy you in the process.”  Benj summoned his strength and lifted his head to stare at Baigan, and with as much strength as he could muster spat into the others face.

Baigan screamed madly coalescing his rage into his palm coating it with shimmering ice.  The pressed his palm into the other man’s bare chest and almost immediately there was a sizzling sound of flesh being burned by the cold.  Benj scowled in pain as he writhed against the chains trying to back away from the icy cold, only finding a wall pinning him in place.  Baigan sneered as his palm drove into the flesh of the other man, causing Benj to start panting as it applied pressure to his lungs cutting off his air supply.  Baigan removed his hand, and the other slumped against the chains once more.  On his chest a bright purplish scar began steaming as the flesh warmed to the temperature of the cell.

“No matter how badly I want to kill you.  You will live Benjanatos.”  Baigan said forcing himself to calm down.  “I want you to see how futile this little rebellion is.  I want you to watch as I take the heads of your alliance for trophies.  I want you to see as the summerwall falls and the wildlands are ours.”  Baigan leaned in close to the other who was now writhing in pain “Your suffering has only just begun”.  Baigan crossed the room, and strode out of the cell, leaving the other hanging there suffering.  He would crush this alliance, and in turn all of the races of the wildlands.  He would further the masters plan, and be elevated as his greatest champion.  Baigan Derrow would be a name feared everywhere.

NaNoWriMo 22 – Reckoning

NaNoWriMo 22

I did not end up writing at all last night.  I had a raid so I took the night off.  However I did manage to right with a vengeance this morning and just broke 40,000 words.  Since I wrote about 4,000 words today I am hoping that I can do the same if not a bit more tomorrow.  I would really like to leave the weekend sitting at 45,000 words so I can hopefully finish up by Thursday.  If not I guess I can write next weekend as well.  Things are starting to come together in my mind and I think the timing is going to work out just fine.  We are barreling towards the main conflict being resolved and I have about 10,000 words to go.

Here is the story so far if you want to catch up.  Once again… completely raw and unedited.

  1. Shadowed Stone
  2. Little Giant Girl
  3. Birthday Wishes
  4. The Gifts
  5. The Incursion
  6. The Watch
  7. Rough Landing
  8. Dragon Bone
  9. People of the Storm
  10. The Lady
  11. Cambridge Beneath
  12. Prisoner of War
  13. Woodbinding
  14. Parting the Veil
  15. People of the Earth
  16. The Pack
  17. Brittagus Escape
  18. The Lightskimmer
  19. The Nightlords
  20. Hagengarde
  21. Homecoming

22 – Reckoning

Merowyn knelt at the cliffside watching the sprites darting in and out of the keep below.  She thought to herself, something must be controlling them.  They all looked as though they had been drained of their light and where simply going through the motions like puppets.  She knew that they would have to rescue them, but she was not entirely certain how.  She had used the power of spring to inspire and empower the little pixies before, and she wondered if it would be enough to wake them from their present stupor.  The problem was that on this side of the wall there was simply not enough “life” to gain power from.  Her magic would be extremely weakened and as such she was hesitant to act without a backup plan.

Kale and Jace, they both had proven themselves to be more than competent fighters during the conflict with the reavewolves.  But she did not want to harm the spites, they were in essence her children.  They had adopted her as their “Lady” almost as a patron diety.  She felt needed and loved and everything she was missing when she ran away from Avalon.  She didn’t want harm to come to any of them, and how could she ask Kale and Jace to go into a situation like that with their hands tied.  There had to be another way to save the sprites.

She wondered if they rushed the keep, could they possibly take down whatever force had done this to them.  Maybe then the effects of this dark magic would reverse itself.  That was just speculation because really she had no idea what might have caused them to be in this present state.  They looked like they had been drained and turned into dark versions of themselves.  Hell for that matter she had no idea if she even could reverse the effects.  This indecision infuriated her almost more than the fact that someone had attacked her children.  She felt helpless for the first time in a really long time.  She was a woman of great power… how could she be paralyzed like this.

She heard someone walking up to her side and looked noticing it was Jace.  The boy had an excited look on his face and spoke in hushed words as he got close to her.  “I might have an answer…  Kale and I scouted around and found a pipe that leads into the keep.”  He said with determination “We can probably sneak into the keep through the sewer system.  It appears unguarded.”  Mero beamed “Great Work! This might just be the answer.  Lets ready everyone and get going then.”  She stood gathering her things.

At the news Jace closed his eyes and concentrated as his cloak morphed around him into the leafscale armor.  Picking up his lyre and staff the morphed them as well into the sword and shield.  He slung his pack onto his back and was as ready as he would ever be for the journey ahead.  He crossed the cliff to Kale who was doing the same.  She already had the great silver hammer slung across her back along with her pack.  He took her hand in his and squeezed it tight, and she returned his glance.  “We ready for this?” he queried and she nodded with a stoic look on her face.  “Lets save the sprites.”  Kale replied as she released his hand and began walking towards the path leading into the ravine below that lead to the drainage pipe.

As she walked she was met by Mero, Dobin and the other sprites all of which ready for battle.  They were storming the keep, and hopefully no one would notice until it was too late for them.  They would take the central chamber, either capture or destroy the enemy and hopefully save the sprites.  She was certain that the sewer was not left completely unguarded, but they wouldd deal with whatever came along the way.  Dimcy buzzed ahead of her lighting the way as they neared the drainage pipe.  Kale grabbed ahold of the iron bars and concentrating and summoning her strength she managed to dislodge a couple so that they could slip inside.

She noticed that it felt as though she was gaining strength on this side of the wall.  There as something about it, the desolation and cold seemed to feed her.  She found herself more restless, more hungry for battle.  When they first arrived at the cliffside and saw the keep below, it was everything she could do to keep from charging ahead and attacking the keep face on.  It was only Jace that had calmed her enough to start looking for another way in.  She secretly hoped there would be lots of things inside that she could fight.  She craved slamming the hammer down on her foes… and this scared her more than a little bit.

Kale hopped up into the pipe and helped both Jace and Merowyn into it as well.  The surroundings were much like you would expect of a drainage pipe.  Cold dampness made slick with little bits of a purple moss and slick patches of frost.  Thankfully the light of Dimcy warmed it up slighty, made her remember what the sun felt like.  They walked carefully along the slippery corridor and ahead to a junction where another pipe met it and began a slow ascent upwards.  The upwards pipe lead to a great stone cistern, and from there multiple hallways leading up into the keep.  The question is which Hallway would lead us to where we needed to go.

Merowyn stared around the cistern looking at each of the paths.  She could send a sprite down each to scout it out, or she could just make a decision.  The problem is she had no idea where they were going.  Mero’s ears perked up at a sudden sound, it seemed to be coming from each of the hallways.  As she strained to listen it was a rapid clicking sound, almost like a beast’s claws against a stone floor.  “Reavewo..” she started to say as one of the great beasts slammed into her knocking her off her feet.  From each of the hallways came a small group of the wolves quickly filling the cistern in snarling madness.

The wolf was pushing down on Merowyn trying to bite her, as she struggled to hold it at bay with one hand pushing up under its jaw.  With the other hand she desperately reached into a sheath at her waist.  After some effort she managed to retrieve a small silver dagger that had been hanging there hidden underneath her dress.  She brought the dagger up sliding it between her fingers and up into the beasts jaw, pushing hard as it slipped into its skull.  There was a muffled yelp as the beast began convulsing and then after one violent siezure fell silent.  She pushed the mass off of her and got back to her feet.

She looked across the room to see Kale pounding away at the beasts with her great silver hammer.  Seeing her like this reminded Mero of Morrow and her own weapon of choice.  The girl was amazing as she met the beasts mid flight as they charged at her, knocking them back to the ground with one powerful blow.  As a result she had gained a ring of beasts around her all cowering slightly, not certain if they wanted to charge in again only to be struck down.  Each battered and bruised from the strikes they had taken before, but still hungry for the meal that her and her companions represented.

Almost too late Merowyn noticed that another beast was charging, as she braced for the attack.  Jace rushed in from beside her bringing his shield between her and the beast and knocking it away.  He leapt with great precision bringing his sword down on the beasts skull in one quick motion. As the beast shook against the ground he turned to strike another reavewolf down with his shield only to repeat the leaping motion bringing his sword down to bear against it.  She stood dazed as the combat played out around her.  It felt like she was watching the entire scene in slow motion.  She was never the warrior that her sister was, she had always shied away from battle and preferred her magics instead. 

She felt like she had to save every drop of her energy however if she hoped to save the sprites.  She only had one big spell in her, the entire time they had been on this side of the wall she felt as though she was being drained of her power.  The elfen had made the summer wall and created a realm of eternal summer, and as such the Trogjan had done the same creating a desolate world of eternal winter.  On this side of the wall it was not her place or season and she was left near powerless.  She could not risk casting a spell on these assailants for fear it would drain her completely before she was able to save her children.

Thankfully it seemed that Kale, Jace and Dobin were more than capable of defending her.  The little sprite was making up with fervor what he lacked in raw power.  She watched as Dobin swooped down on a reavewolf landing on his back.  As the huge beast tried in vain to swat the sprite off dobin grabbed hold of its fur with one hand and with the other he began jabbing his pike into the wolf’s neck.  The creature yowled in pain as Dobin struck, his pike eventually severing the spinal cord causing the beast to collapse over on its own weight.  The little sprite released his furry hold and flittered off looking for the next fray.

Her defenders made short work of the slavering beasts and before long the room was filled with nothing but the heavy breaths of her companions and a myriad of odd gurgling sounds from the dying wolves.  During the fight standing back as she did, she noticed that more wolves seemed to be coming from the central hallway, so she surmised that it must lead to the main chambers of the keep.  She also surmised that the fact they were just attacked by the reavewolves meant that their entry into the keep did not go unnoticed and that more than likely other forces were on their way.  They had to move quickly to take advantage of the pause in action.

Merowyn motioned to the others and the group began moving up the hallway.  Jace had taken the point and Dobin and his wing of sprites taking up the back.  Kale had decided to stay close to her just in case something lept out of the shadows again.  Dimcy buzzed along to the other side of Kale, it seemed as though the little sprite was protecting the her and not Mero.  She had noticed in their time travelling that Dimcy seemed to be deeply bonded with Kale, even more so than she was with Jace.  The two of them were both extremely quiet by nature, and I think the little fire sprite found in Kale a kindred spirit.  It is not like Jace really needed much protecting as he had grown into quite the formidable warrior.

The hallway spilled out into a large circular room which seemed as though it must have been the central chamber of the keep.  At the far end of the room there were two curved staircases leading up to an upper chamber.  This keep looked to be originally of Elfen make, but it had been repurposed during the Winter war as a Trogjan outpost.  However the bones of the building and of the interior were still familiar to her.  The upper chamber would be the main audience chamber of the keep lord, and that was likely where they would find their quarry.  They would have to cross the staircases to get to that chamber, making them vulnerable.

“We have to go up there” Mero said pointing up at the upper chamber and the two staircases.  “I think it is best if we split sending a group each stair.  Hopefully we will flank whatever is up there and it will give us the upper hand.”  The others nodded in agreement and the group split with Dimcy, Kale and Merowyn going up the left stair and Jace, Dobin and the other sprites going up the right stair.  They pooled at the base and when Jace gave the signal they all began ascending together.  As they reached the top chamber they were shocked to see it mostly empty.  There were no torches lit, and the natural light spilling in from the keep windows case the chamber in shadow.  Across the room there was what would have been the throne of the keep lord, but it took was cast in deep shadows. 

For a moment Dimcy burned brighter bathing the room in a warm amber light.  It was then that Mero noticed that the throne was not in shadows… it had an unnatural shadow resting on it.  The shadow began to coalesce and move and raise up off the throne forming the rough aproximation of the shape of a man.  A Nightlord….  what in the nine hells is a nightlord doing here.  The shadow began to laugh, with a hollow laugh that sounded much like the rustling of dry leaves.  “Yoooou haaave noooo pooower heeere” it gasped in a scratchy and unnatural voice.  The shadows in the room began to move and pool into the Nightlord causing it to increase in size.

“Why are you here abomination?  Why did you harm my children?  Answer me!”  Screamed Merowyn in indignant fury.  She knew she should fear a Nightlord, but she was past the point of reason.  It would answer, and it would pay for what it had done.  The response came in the same raspy scratching as before.  “Chiiiildren feeeeed meeeeeee.  Wiiiinter loooord noooot truust Baaaigan traaitor.  Khaaaaaaloth breeeach waaaalll iiiinsteeead.  Noooow yooooou feeeed Khaaaaaloth aaaaalso.”  Khaloth gasped as the shadows began to swirl around the feet of Merowyn.

The shadows began covering Mero’s feet and she was unable to break free of them.  She could feel the power leaching from her.  Similarly the shadows had enveloped the other members of the party.  Kale was furiously fighting them but losing the battle quickly as the shadows surged up her torso and spreading out to her arms.  Jace was gasping for breath as the shadows wound over his throat choking him.  As the darkness passed over Merowyns face, for a moment she saw a blinding orange light.  From the edge of the room the light flared and the room was bathed in a glare so bright it seemed as though they were all staring directly into the sun.

The light flew across the room and into the body of the Nightlord.  The abomination made a piercing dizzying scream as the light began breaking through its body in shafts, causing the shadow to dissipate and shrink away from it.  The light however was relentless and continued burning brighter.  Merowyn closed her eyes tight against the onslaught of light.  She felt the shadow retreating from her, letting go of her body… she could move again but under the onslaught collapsed to the floor.  Then suddenly the room was dark again, and as her eyes adjusted to the sunspots and after images she saw that the shadowy shape of the nightlord had disappeared.

Kale feared what had happened and as she ran across the room she saw a small body laying there on the cold stone floor.  Gone was the bright fiery glow, but she immediately knew that it was Dimcy laying there smoking slightly.  “Noooooo!” she screamed dropping to the ground picking up the little firesprite.  “Dimcy why did you do that?”  the little sprite opened her eyes slightly and tried to speak “Is okay now…  Dimcy save Kale and Jace.”  Kale felt warm tears spilling out over her cheeks and driping down off her chin “But you burnt yourself out…  why…  you can’t go.”  The little sprite nuzzled into Kales big hands “Is okay…  Dimcy save Kale…”  Dimcy curled up into a ball and snuggled into the hand and was still.

Jace walked over to Kale kneeling beside her.  He reached down with his hand and laid it against the little sprite feeling a weak heartbeat.  He turned to look up at Merowyn “Is there nothing we can do?”  The spring lady looked down at the badly drained firesprite shaking her head slowly.  “She chose to burn all of her energy into the attack against the Nightlord.  She saved us all…  but she gave up her spark in doing so.”  Kale looked up at Mero with sad teary eyes “But why…  she can’t go?”  The other sprites had formed a ring around Kale staring down at the fallen Dimcy.

“She gave her life to save us Kale, to save you.  She loved you that much.  Honor her memory by letting her go.  She is in pain now, but holding on for you.”  Kale shook her head furiously not wanting to hear those words.  She could not let Dimcy go, she was her friend… she had lost so much in her life, been the victim of so much pain.  Why did she have to let her friend go too.  This just was not fair but as the tiny sprite nuzzled into her she noticed Dimcy shaking with the cold.  She placed her other hand on her pocketing her, bringing her up to her face and kissing the little sprites cheek.

She knew what she had to do, she knew it was the right thing, but she didn’t want to.  She closed her eyes trying desperately to calm the anger growing inside her.  She opened her hands slightly and whispered.  “Thank you for saving us Dimcy…  its okay you can sleep now.”  The little sprite opened her eyes slightly looking up at her “Dimcy love Kale” she said in a quiet shaky voice.  Kale felt another rush of tears as she furiously tried to blink them away.  “Kale love Dimcy too” she said quietly.  The firesprite closed her eyes nuzzling against her hand once more and slowly stopped breathing as though she were going to sleep forever. 

A faint glow began seeping from the fire sprites body, it started as soft amber and then increased rapidly until it was a piercing light.  Kale watched in shock as the little body disappeared turning to a white blaze in the palm of her hand.  She had to close her eyes against the brightness and when the glow had fade she opened it to see a tiny spark of flame resting on her hand.  As her eyes adjusted she saw within the blaze as a tiny girl.  The little girl smiled up at Kale “I said is okay, Dimcy Love Kale” said the child version of Dimcy.  Kale gasped with joy as she nuzzled the tiny firesprite child.

Merowyn looked down at the tiny Dimcy with shock and amazement.  She had heard legends that fire sprites if they burned themselves out for someone they loved, that the love would rekindle their fire.  She had always thought these were just childhood tales, because she had sadly watched more than one sprite fade into nothingness as their light was extinguished.  She wondered… if love could rekindle the fire of a sprite… could her love save her sprites?  She did love the sprites, they had given her purpose and meaning.  They had sheltered her and hidden her from the outside world.  The revered her as their mother, and she protected them with all of her might.  She would be truly lost without them.

Merowyn closed her eyes as she imagined each and every one of them.  She remembered the good times they had, the times they had laughed, the times they had cried.  She felt a warmth growing inside of her and as it grew a warm green light filled the room.  Kale and Jace turned to look at Mero who was now glowing much like a sprite.  The warmth and glow spreading until it filled the entire chamber.  Little jets of green began shooting out from Mero and out through the windows of the keep.  Happening slowly at first but quickly increasing like hundreds of green lasers firing at once.

As the glowing ceased Mero collapsed to the floor.  As quickly as the glow had stopped a stream of green sprite lights began streaming into the room.  Hundreds of tiny lights swarming the body of their fallen lady.  They lifted her still breathing body up into the air and placed her on the now vacant throne.  Merowyn sat there for a moment gathering her strength.  When she opened her eyes she saw all of her children swarming around her.  She gasped for air and a huge smile permeated her being.  She said softly “My children…  you are alright.”  The tiny chorus of sprite voices responded in unison “The Lady has saved us” which became a chant echoing through the chamber.

NaNoWroMo 21–Homecoming

NaNoWriMo 21

Yesterday was a pretty damned good day for me.  Firstly I actually went to work, which is a positive as far as the week went.  It was a good thing too since I was the only person in my group in the office and we had several crisis to deal with.  More important than that I wrote a lot for me at least, over 3500 words.  Some of that was in the morning and finishing up the chapter I was working on, but a lot of it was this new chapter.  This takes me to 37,364 wordcount.  Right now I am hoping I can get to over 45,000 this weekend which will put me on pace to hit 50k at or around Thanksgiving.  I am not sure why, but I really want to finish this up before the post holiday craziness sets in.

Here is the story so far, once again super raw and in unedited form.  The more I write the more I realize I will re-write.

  1. Shadowed Stone
  2. Little Giant Girl
  3. Birthday Wishes
  4. The Gifts
  5. The Incursion
  6. The Watch
  7. Rough Landing
  8. Dragon Bone
  9. People of the Storm
  10. The Lady
  11. Cambridge Beneath
  12. Prisoner of War
  13. Woodbinding
  14. Parting the Veil
  15. People of the Earth
  16. The Pack
  17. Brittagus Escape
  18. The Lightskimmer
  19. The Nightlords
  20. Hagengarde

21 – Homecoming

The lightskimmer glided on top of the sunwall in perfect silence, if not for the rush of wind Torklah would not have believed they were moving.  The pair had been riding for a little over a day when off the starboard bow of the ship appeared what he took to be Valkore settlements.  The majority were neat arrangements of wooden lodges around a larger central communal building.  The skimmer continued on without stop until on the horizon he could see a much larger arrangement of buildings along the coast.  The vessel began slowly just as gradually as it started, and once again Torklah would not have known it were not the speed of the trees passing lessening.

Josah had also sensed the slowing of the skimmer and crawled up from the galley with his and Toklah’s packs in hand.  “It seems as though we are here” Josah said handing the pack over to the elder sasquatch.  Moving to the bow of the boat, Josah slung his own pack and sent the ladder streaming down to the ground.  He descended to the ground below where a crowd of valkore was gathering.  He held the ladder steady as the shaman descended as well.  When they were both safely on the ground Josah gave the ladder a little tug and it zipped back up into the ship.

He watched as the skimmer started up slowly and before long had zipped out of sight silently along the sunwall.  Finally turning to face the gathering crowd he noticed an older man stepping forward from the pack.  “I am Elder Torgos, welcome to Hagengarde.  We are not used to seeing people arrive by sunwall, it has caused quite a commotion.”  He motioned for the townsfolk to disperse leaving only Torgos and a few guards.  “I assume you are of the Elfen courts?” the old man queried looking both Josah and Torklah over carefully.

“Yes, I’ve heard story of the Trogjan amazing a force here.  I believe they mean to destroy the sunwall”  Josah said while accepting the old mans handshake.  The old man nodded “Yes that is what we have heard as well.  I assume you will be joining the other Elfen then in preparations?”  Josah looked at Torgos with a shocked expression.  “Whato ther Elfen?”  Torgos took a moment surprised that he did not know about the others. “Some days ago a man and a wounded woman were found near Hagengarde.”

Josahs expression of confusion turned to one of desperation.  “Morrow?  She is here?  Please take me to her.”  Torgos nodded and began walking off away form the sunwell to a small lodge on the outskirts of the village.  There resting in a fur bed was a stocky woman dressed in flowing robes.  “Morrow my love!  You are alive!”  Josah exclaimed rushing to her side and kneeling down beside her bed.  The woman opened her eyes, her face slowly turning to one of recognition. She spoke a very weak “Josah, I was worried.”

“No my love it was I who was worried.  I had no idea if I would ever see you.  Who is here with you?”  It was around this time that another person appeared at the door of the cabin.  The man rushed in picking up Josah and giving him a huge hug lifting him up off the ground.  As he being squeezed Josah managed to give a very strained “It is good to see you too Bemel.  How long have you both been here?”  Letting him down off the ground he replied “I’ve lost track of the days, but several.  The weapon sent me here along the coast.  I roamed around aimlessly a bit when I found Morrow severely wounded.  I managed to flag down a Valkore skyship, and they have helped us since”

“Josah, there is something you have to know.  Baigan intends to attach the sunwall and is amassing a force at Fort Kraken.”  Josah nodded grimly “I had heard as much” he motioned to to the sasquatch “Torklah here saved me as well, and mentioned that the forces of winter were growing ever active in this area.  I realized what they intended to do.”  Looking at Elder Torgos “What is the intended plan?  Surely you mean to make a strike against them?”  The elder nodded “Yes we mean to lead a strike against the fort.  I fear the fate of all the wildlands rests in the balance.  If the summerwall falls, so will we all.”

“So it is true then?” the old sasquatch spoke up.  “Winter means to destroy the wall?  If that is so we do all stand to lose.  Once one village falls they will all begin to fall.  My warriors are needed for the harvest, but if we lose our lands there will be nothing left to harvest.”  Torklah said with a stern face.  “I will speak to the earth mother and have her summon our warriors.  They will heed her call.”  Bemel beamed brightly as if he had just received the best news ever.  “The elfen, people of the storm, and people of the earth all banding together.  We have the makings of a very powerful army.  I too have sent word to Avalon and expect to reinforcements to arrive on the sunwall.”

With the secret weapon Pico brought to the table, and the strong forces they were assembling they might just be able to pull through.  He knew that winter would be bringing to bear every backbreaker squad they could spare as well as all manner of other machinations of war.  Additionally there would be Baigan who had proved himself to be a more than capable wizard.  He never expected that the fates would bring all of them together, but still he was concerned about Jace, Benj and Kale.  He hoped that each of them was safe somewhere in the wildlands.  Bemel thought it best to leave out the part about Pico being the mastermind behind the weapons that had scattered them across the land.

Torklah moved slowly to the side of Morrow, he knelt on the ground near her.  “You too are a child of the earth.  I sense it in your nature.  The earth mother wants to heal you”  He got up and lifted her in his large arms, slowly making his way for the door of the hut.  At first Josah tried to stop him, but the old shaman simply gave him a stern look.  He carried Morrow out into the open air, laying her body down upon the dirt of the ground.  he uncovered each foot, and her hands laying them flat upon the ground.  Kneeling beside her he placed his own hands on the ground as well.

“Earth mother, your child is hurting.  Bless her with your bounty.”  The old shaman closed his eyes and dug his fingers into the earth.  With this the ground began to rumble much like it had when he summoned the rockling.  Instead of summoning a being, it began to coil around Morrow’s exposed limbs.  The earth slowly enshrouded her until she was completely encased in churning rock other than her head.  With this her eyes shot open and she gasped loudly as a gasy miasma began seeping up through the earth covering her and spilling out onto the ground in thick green pools.  Morrow closed her eyes again, and slowly the earthen covering began to retreat down off of her body and along her limbs.

“Thank you earth mother, you have purged your child of its corruption”  The old sasquatch reached down with his hand placing it on Morrows forehead.  “Awake child, you are free of your burden” and with that she opened her eyes and sat up, stretching.  She looked over at the sasquatch not really sure what had just happened.  The only thing she was certain of was that she hurt no more.  Where once was pain was replaced with only a glowing warmth.  She jumped up from the ground and cheered that she was free of the sickness.

“I am not sure who you are, or what you just did, but I thank you.”  Morrow said grasping the great shamans hands.  “It was not I, it was the Earth Mother.  She has heard your call for years, but only now realized it was you who did not know how to answer.”  Morrow looked at him with shock.  She had always felt close to the earth and felt empowered being out in the wilds, but she did not realize this was not a normal gift.  She was not a woodbinder like Benj or even like Jace would be, but she knew things almost as though she absorbed them from her surroundings.  She wondered if this was what the sasquatch meant.

She joined Josah and Bemel, now she felt as though she could actually help out in the effort.  The forces combined surely would be a match for that of the Trogjan.  She would make Baigan pay for all the pain he had caused.  She would make sure the wildlands and avalon were free from the influence of winter.  They had much planning to do, and an army to assemble.  They did not have long until the equinox, and she knew they had to strike before them. Morrow hoped that the powers they were assembling would be enough to win the day.

NaNoWriMo 20–Hagengarde

NaNoWriMo 20

I ended up staying home again yesterday but struggled with the will to write.  I have to get over this crud because it is making me feel like doing nothing.  As a result my progress in NaNoWriMo feels like it has crept to a halt.  I am sitting at roughly 35,701 but I feel like I am behind the pace, or at the very least have lost whatever lead I had coming into the game.  Right now is the most picky stuff as well, I am trying to join up all the disparate threads into one narrative to set up for the final actions.

Here is the story at hand currently… remember super raw super unedited.

  1. Shadowed Stone
  2. Little Giant Girl
  3. Birthday Wishes
  4. The Gifts
  5. The Incursion
  6. The Watch
  7. Rough Landing
  8. Dragon Bone
  9. People of the Storm
  10. The Lady
  11. Cambridge Beneath
  12. Prisoner of War
  13. Woodbinding
  14. Parting the Veil
  15. People of the Earth
  16. The Pack
  17. Brittagus Escape
  18. The Lightskimmer
  19. The Nightlords

20 – Hagengarde

The skyship had been a far more pleasant place than she would have expected initially.  While the captain seemed gruff, she had eased over time the longer that Pico and Berrol were on board.  In fact she had taken while a shining to the little Berrol who she was now teaching about the main steering complex.  Pico was happy to see him smiling since he spent the first day on board sobbing over his father.  Astanax had not made it out with them, and it was uncertain whether or not he actually would.  While normally not the motherly type… Pico made adjustments for the little guy and tried her best to watch after him.

She sat down in the underbelly of the skyship and in this rare moment of private sifted through her pack.  There in a small grey box sat her escape plan.  She had done fresh calculations and was still completely uncertain that it would actually have the desired effect.  Normally in test firings the analytic weapons had no effect on human flesh, but she had no idea what it would do to magic flesh.  She also did not know if it would push her back into her own world… or if it would create a tear in the ward further complicating the problem.  She knew one thing, she could not leave without Berrol and she was certain the grenade would not be safe for him.

As she stepped out onto the deck she noticed a landmass dead ahead that was growing larger as they moved towards it.  She could see a near endless coastline and surmised that this had to be the eastern coastline of the United States, or what passed for that here in this world.  As they moved closer she could see little settlements dotting the coastline.  They appeared to be moving towards the largest of these clusters.  She thought to herself that this must be Hagengarde, the place that Karrek urged her to go.  The valkore were rumored to be dragon hunters, so she hoped they would be able to get her a piece of the dragon bone she needed for analysis.

As effortlessly as it had moved across the sea Pico was not prepared for the sudden lurch as the ship crossed onto the shoreline.  It glided its way along the coast until it reached a pier of sorts jutting out into the air.  On deck there was a flurry of activity as men grabbed hold of the deck with some sort of a wench, using it to tow them slowly into a resting position.  They deployed the same gangplank they had used before, but it felt far more ominous crossing a gap to this floating pier.  She was thankful she was not prone to vertigo, because this certainly would have triggered it.  Much to her surprise Berrol seemed completely unphased by it, and bounded down the plank and onto the stone pier waving for her to come on.  She crossed very slowly and deliberately but made it fine, taking the little boys hand into hers and heading into town.

Hagengarde was absolutely nothing like she expected.  After seeing the harsh majesty of Brittagus, she was expecting all of this world to look something like that.  The Valkore on the other hand, while masters of the sky seemed to be significantly primitive in other ways.  While the city was every bit the bustling metropolis that Brittagus was, it instead was made up mostly of these lodge like buildings.  Each was made out of wood or something that looked similar, with bits of bone and metal to embellish.  It all gave her the feeling of a holywood “wild west” town but with significantly nordic influence.  The people looked similar to her, but much more stout and sturdy.  Even Barret who apparently was slight for a Valkore, looked like a bodybuilder.

As she crossed the town something struck out of the landscape.  To the left and up a rise was a longer version of these lodges.  In place of a wood exterior was a bleached white surface held together with rivets of black iron.  If she was not entirely mistaken the building appeared to be made primarily of dragon bone.  She made her way across the streets and up the rise until she was standing next to the building.  Reaching out her hand she ran it over the smooth exterior.  It looked almost exactly like the ward she had seen.  It was joined in the same manner with the same iron craftsmanship.  It struck her… did the wards initially come from the Valkore?

As she was examining the exterior the door to the lodge flew open and a man was standing in the threshold preparing to exit.  She lept back taking shielding Berrol behind her, she recognized that face entirely too well.  It was one of the men at the farm house event, the one who had spoken to Aimes, with blazing red hair.  She didn’t know what this meant or why he was here, especially after taking a full strike of the analytical weapons.  She didn’t know if she and Berrol were in danger, as she looked him over assessing the threat he certainly did not seem dangerous.  The commotion had caught his attention and he was now staring blankly at her, quick Pico think of something to say.

“ugh…  Hi, you startled me” fumbled Pico.  The man looked her over for a moment before relaxing slightly.  “Torgos is out currently with the chief huntsman, if you needed him.” the man returned “I was just going out myself to get something to eat.  I am sure if you check back later he will be here.”  Pico thought to herself, he seemed friendly enough and he certainly had no idea who she was.  “Actually I came over here because this lodge appears to be made of dragon bone.  Do you know anything about it?” she said pointing idly at the exterior she had been examining.  “Huh, come to think of it yeah, I guess it is bone…  I had not really noticed.  I am not from around here.”  Bemel replied sensing something odd about the woman.

Pico had always favored honesty when possible, she made a horrible liar.  Even though every bone in her body told her not to, she found herself replying to the man.  “I’m not from around here either, I am not even from this world.”  With that the man gave her a curious look and then a sudden wave of realization washed over him.  “You are from the mortal realm aren’t you?  You have the smell about you.  At first all I could sense was the mage colony, but now I see an underlying smell of humanity.  What brings you to Hagengarde?  Better yet… how exactly did you get here?  You don’t seem like a halfkin.”  Bemel replied curiously.  He opened the door to the lodge and offered Pico entrance, thinking that while they were talking they might as well be comfortable.

Pico thanked him and she and Berrol entered taking up seats in the main room.  “It’s a long story…  I came here through a stable gateway underneath what you would call Brittagus.”  She explained about Berrol and Astanax.  She spoke about Karrek and the Inquisition, and why exactly she had to escape.  She spoke of the Order of Merlin and how Berrol represented the last of that line.  She had no idea why all of it came pouring out, especially to a stranger and a potentially dangerous one at that.  She talked about how she had sworn to protect Berrol, and make sure he was safe.  All the while Bemel simply sat there listening, not showing much emotion.

When she had finished he simply said “You are with the organization they call the ‘watch’ are you not?”  Of all the things she was expecting out of his mouth that had been the furthest from it.  How exactly did he know about the ward watch?  There was no real reason to deny it since he had obviously made that leap himself.  “Yes…  I’m Pico, Pico Cosgrove one of the engineers responsible for the analytic weapons.”  With that she could sense anger rising in him, maybe she had shared a bit too much there.  “So you are the one that built the weapons they attacked us with?  Do you currently have those weapons here?  Are there more of you?”  Pico shook her head slowly “It is just me, and no I don’t really have anything like that…  we couldn’t risk using them again.”  She let out a deep sigh  “The wards are falling, and those weapons damaged them significantly.”

Bemel looked shocked for a moment and then a wave of understanding passed over him.  “How long have they been weakening?”  She told him about the slow and steady decay over the last hundred years, and how the weapons damaged it significantly more.  She had thought the weapons would be their salvation, but instead it only seemed to hasten their demise.  “We have not been able to repair the wards, nor have we even come close to creating our own synthetic one.”  She rifled in her pack and produced the leather bound tome she had taken from the undercroft.  “But with this book I might be able to finally create one, I simply need a sample of dragon bone to analyze when I get back home.”  A sinking feeling settled into her stomach as she thought “If I get back home”.

Bemel looked very serious for a moment “You’ve picked a rather inconvenient moment to come here.  Were it another time I could have potentially helped you get back to your world.  Now however we are preparing for war.”  Pico gasped audibly, were they going to invade her world as retaliation for the strike against them at the farm house?  She remained silent as the man continued “Centuries ago the forces of winter rebelled against the natural order of the seasons, and claimed the northlands as their own.  In an attempt to halt their progress we created a barrier, much like your wards.  It too is failing, and the mean to use the power of our captured queen to destroy the barrier.”

“The Valkore were nearly driven to a point of extinction by the Trogjan, the ‘things’ that attacked us at the farm house.  We are planning a strike on Fort Kraken on the other side of the wall, hoping that we can disrupt the forces long enough for someone to get inside and rescue the queen.  Without her power they will not be able to bring down the wall.”  Pico thought for a moment, then summoned her courage.  “If I help you, can you get me back home safely?”  she asked the man.  “I can, but how could you help us?” mused Bemel.  Pico rifled through her pack and produced the small grey box holding it out carefully in front of her. 

“This is a prototype weapon, I brought it with me… as an escape plan.  I am not really certain how it will work in this world.  But I think it will destroy anything magical in the area of the blast.”  Bemel looked at the box Pico was holding and shrunk back in his seat a bit.  He had felt the sting of those weapons and remembered the bomb they had dropped that caused the pack of Orts to simply disappear.  “The skyships could get someone close enough to the fort to drop the bomb.  It should take out a fair number of enemy troops.”  Pico said carefully placing the box back inside her pack.  However unlikely this alliance was, Bemel thought that maybe the watch had just given them a fighting chance.  They would take Fort Kraken, and free the queen.

NaNoWriMo 19–The Nightlords

NaNoWriMo 19

Really feeling miserable right now.  I attempted to write last night but just could not seem to focus.  I managed to muddle through 1500 words, but I feel like I chopped this chapter off at a weird place.  I will continue on and finish it tonight, but for the time being here is what I have.  I probably should have stopped a long time ago, but I keep introducing new forces in the world as the various groups meander their way towards their destiny.

Here is a recap of everything that has come before, once again it is raw, extremely raw… especially this mornings post.

  1. Shadowed Stone
  2. Little Giant Girl
  3. Birthday Wishes
  4. The Gifts
  5. The Incursion
  6. The Watch
  7. Rough Landing
  8. Dragon Bone
  9. People of the Storm
  10. The Lady
  11. Cambridge Beneath
  12. Prisoner of War
  13. Woodbinding
  14. Parting the Veil
  15. People of the Earth
  16. The Pack
  17. Brittagus Escape
  18. The Lightskimmer

19 – The Nightlords

As they walked nearer to the wildfae enclave a sense of dread hung in the air.  In part the mood had simply not recovered from the ambush by the reavewolves two days ago.  This however was not the only reason.  As they moved closer and closer to what should have been a relatively large Wildfae concentration they saw none of the familiar signs.  When Jace and Kale had approached Dobin’s enclave they were traced by little green lights darting around just out of sight.  The fae should have made their presence know or at least felt in some way.  Instead they walked through the woods in a complete and eerie silence.

Merowyn grumbled to herself “We should be seeing sprites by now, welcoming us to the conclave.  I don’t like this one bit.”  She glanced over at Dobin and he face was worn by worry.  “This does not make sense at all.” he grumbled as he fluttered past the main group of the party to scout ahead.  He had reached the outer perimeter of the conclave and still not a single wildfae made their presence known.  It was not out of their nature to hide from strangers, but if that was their concern they could have cloaked the entire conclave.  This was something else, something had happened here.

Dobin with two fae that had buzzed up to join him flitted about the village, zooming in and out of huts each time coming up completely empty.  Where could everyone be, there were no bodies, no signs of a struggle.  The village was just completely and utterly empty.  The village seemed to have been deserted white a while.  As dobin fluttered into another cabin he noticed that the stones in the hearth were long cold and dormant with no signs of a recent fire  How did almost a hundred fae disappear.  It had been not two months since he had been up to this conclave to deliver a message.  At that time the place was a bustling hub of twinkles and wings.

Mero, Jace and Kale set up a camp of sorts in what had been a communal hall.  They gathered some wood nearby and within a short while the hearth was blazing with new life again.  The walk had been long so they would need to rest despite how downright spooky the village seemed without life in it.  Dobin simply could not rest, and nor could two of his guard Scree and Nera.  The two of them had family in this village and it was all he could do to keep them from rushing ahead without him.

In moments they had fluttered ahead beyond the north boundary of the conclave and on the road that lead to the Sunwall.  They were zipping ahead looking for clues when Dobin signalled a halt.  The fluttered over to a spot of ground and he zoomed down to examine it more closely.  Something had been through here recently, a large bipedal creature with claws on its feet.  It appeared to be dragging something that looked a bit like a large stick.  Pointing to places in the dirt he exclaimed “See how it drags the ground every few feet, that is the gait of someone walking with a staff”  Dobin said as the other two fae nodded appreciatively. 

The tracks continued up the road as far as he could see, but he did not want to stray too far from camp.  They would be needed if something attacked over night, so as hard as he tried he urged for Skree and Nera to follow him back to camp.  Finally he appealed to their sense of duty to protect the Lady.  That while they did not know what happened to the conclave, they could protect The Lady in the meantime.  By the time they reached the village the other two were full of patriotic loyalty and buzzed off to stand watch on the outskirts of town.

He returned to the side of Merowyn reporting back his findings.  “There are the tracks of something large moving away from this village north towards the Sunwall.  We followed it a ways, and they looked to continue down the road.  We doubled back to wait until morning before following them further.”  The little fae addressed the lady.  “We will find out what happened to them tomorrow.  We will get to the bottom of this.  While I chose your village, these fae are my children as well.”  Merowyn said with a look of distant determination.

The group settled in for the night, and while the tiny warders heard the occasional strange noise in the night as a whole the evening went without much event.  In the wee hours of the morning there was a commotion from the far side of the village, coming from the north along the path that the sprites had scouted the night before.  There came a fluttering and the occasional bumping noise, and as the sprites rallied to the noise, Jace could see that it was another sprite flying towards the camp in a very erratic manner.

The light that normally shone from each sprite had gone and replaced was a light dim glow.  As he flew towards the center of the camp a trio of sprite guards managed to intercept taking the beaten fae in their arms allowing him to collapse tired against them.  The trio flew the newcomer to Merowyn, who took the tiny sprite into her arms.  The tiny sprite sputtered and coughed and managed to squeeze a few words out.  “They came, made us do things” it stopped trying to catch its breath obviously wounded somehow.  A tiny rivulet of blood appeared at the corner of its mouth and ran down its cheek.

The tiny sprite seized for a moment in Merowyn’s arms and then was deathly silent.  Great tears pooled up in her eyes as she blinked furiously to try and stop the torrent.  With a quavering voice she decried “Whoever did this will pay.  Everyone gather up camp, we follow the trail northward.” With that the camp was broken and packed back into the various bags and the group set forth retracing the steps of whatever beast had done this.  The telltale dragging of the staff was relatively easy to follow in the soft loam of the trail.  It was not long until they had arrived at the end of the village and continued following it up towards the Sunwall.

When they reached the Sunwall something seemed off there too.  The path lead up to it and in what should have been a solid wall of fire there was a small empty space.  Merowyn thought to herself…  if the Sunwall had been breached there could be all manner of things that had slipped through.  She herself had never actually been on the other side of the wall.  It was the permanent line between summer and winter and had been that way since the war of the seasons.  To cross the wall meant certain death, or that was what the elfen told their children to keep them safe.

She could tell the other sprites were restless and uncertain of the path ahead.  All of them had grown up with similar tales of faceless demons on the other side.  If she was to find the source of that that poor sprites pain however, she would have to summon her bravery and cross.  For a moment she stood there breathing in deeply trying to forcibly calm herself, and then in the next she was moving forward towards the breach in the wall.  She felt the sensation of the warmth of summer, that was suddenly replaced by the bitter biting chill of winter… and she was through standing on the other side.

As if summoned by her courageous act Dobin and his retinue joined her first, soon to be followed by Jace and Kale leading up the rear.  The other side of the wall was a very different place indeed.  The other side was an endless blanket of shroomspire forests with only small paths carved out here and there for people to traverse the wilderness.  This side however was a barren and craggy plain with bits of ice and rock jutting up everywhere.  The earth was much more firm and for a moment she had a bit of trouble picking back up the trail.

She soon found the familiar staff drag marks lightly scraping into the ground, and they continued following to the north and east.  There was a slight path cutting through the terrain and she assumed that the nameless other had been following it.  Everything about the surroundings set her on edge, and this was not helped by the assorted bleached bones that lay strewn about the landscape.  She wondered if the summer side once looked like this too, or if this was simply the machinations of the Trogjan.

The path lead to a rocky cliff overlooking a valley.  Deep within the valley she saw a small keep of sorts.  Less a proper battle keep like she had heard tales of, but instead more a territorial watch post.  As she watched she noticed little shapes moving around shifting in and out of focus.  At first she thought it was her eyes playing a trick on her, but as she stared more intently she began to make out individual shapes and noticed the same dull purple glow emitting from each.  She was pretty certain they were the sprites of the conclave.  What were they doing guarding a Trogjan keep?

NaNoWriMo 18–Lightskimmer

NaNoWriMo 18

Yesterday as I said I was feeling like crap.  It probably would have been the ideal opportunity to write, but alas I did not until early evening.  I did however manage to make it through roughly 2000 words taking my total word count to 32,129.  I take joy in watching the “words per day” estimate on NaNoWriMo.org lower.  Last night I was at 1300 words per day to finish on time.

Once again here is the story to date, all of it raw and unedited.

  1. Shadowed Stone
  2. Little Giant Girl
  3. Birthday Wishes
  4. The Gifts
  5. The Incursion
  6. The Watch
  7. Rough Landing
  8. Dragon Bone
  9. People of the Storm
  10. The Lady
  11. Cambridge Beneath
  12. Prisoner of War
  13. Woodbinding
  14. Parting the Veil
  15. People of the Earth
  16. The Pack
  17. Brittagus Escape

18 – Lightskimmer

It was nearing high shadow when Josah first saw the familiar glow of the sunwall.  He and Torklah had travelled for for most of a day and he knew they had a quite a bit further to go before they arrived.  Looking over at the old sasquatch, Josah thought it was probably a good idea for them to make camp for the evening.  “Torklah, we should make camp here.  We will need our strength when we arrive at the river of sun.”  The elder shaman agreed rather easily, and he was showing the signs of the days journey.

The two of them made camp in a small grotto near the trail.  It looked as though others that had come before them had camped here.  There was a partial circle of stones that obviously housed a fire.  “My people uses this camp during hunting trips near the river, we should be safe enough here.” The shaman said as he settled down onto a rock leaning back against a treeshroom.  “The fire will keep away anything that might attack in the night.”  The elder sasquatched rifled through his pack producing a loaf of bread and some cheeses.

The two of them rested eating in silence for a bit before Torklah spoke up again.  “What is it that you intend to do when we reach the river?”  Josah thought for a moment and then responded.  “I should be able to summon a lightskimmer, and we can ride that to Valkore territory.  Once we get there we should be able to determine where the Trogjan will be attacking from.”  Torklah let that sink in “What is a lightskimmer?  I have never heard of that before?”

“Lightskimmers are magical craft that the elfen employ to traverse the river of sun.  While we call it the sun wall your name is actually more fitting.  It is in fact a road that connects every corner of the elfen lands back to the capiol of Avalon.  While there are hundreds of miles between us and the Valkore lands, it can get us there in less than a day”  Josah responded.  He thought that it must be an odd concept to a Sasquatch, even a Shaman.  As a people they actively shunned using magic to make their lives easier, and as a result they lived very spartan and simplistic lives.

As far as power goes, Josah was not really certain what the Sasquatch had.  He knew they were called the people of the earth, but he did not really understand what that entailed.  The elfen based their magic on life, or in the case of winter the absense of life.  The scions of summer could harnes the power of the sun to create great flame magics.  Regardless of the application every last casting was based on some aspect of the cycle of life.  It seemed odd to Josah that magic could exist that did not directly involve this cycle.

“Torklah, if you don’t mind me asking… .what is the source of your magic?”  Josah asked with honest and curious eyes.  The old shaman thought for a moment before responding.  “We draw our power from the earth.  The ground beneath our feet is alive and speaks to us.  We stand as a conduit for it’s will.”  Torklah concentrated closing his eyes for a moment.  “It’s okay little one, you can show yourself.  Old Torklah will protect you.”  The wizened shaman addressed an unseen force.

As the coaxing continued there was a stirring in the dirt at his feet.  It churned slightly almost like a whirlpool before the dust and dirt coalesced into a form.  It was of a crudely bipodal shape with stubby rock feed, a large dirt clod for a torso and bits of vine forming arms.  The little earth thing crawled up upon the shamans lap and sat down apparently rather at ease with the sasquatch.  “That’s it little one.  The earth has guardians with us always.  It is just that most cannot feel them like I can.”  Josah a little taken off balance stared at the rockling for a moment.  “Spirit of the earth I greet you.  I am Josah a spring scion of the elfen court of Avalon.”  Torklah looked down at the rockling as though listening to it.  “The guardian is please to meet you”.

Josah explained to the rockling his plight, how the events of the farmhouse lead him to see the help of the Sasquatch.  How he planned to rescue his queen and find his beloved Morrow.  When he had finished his tale there was a long and akward silence, once again the Shaman appearing to be listening to the rockling.  Finally Torklah looked up from the rockling to address Josah.  “The great earth mother has felt your pain, and feels the ripping and tearing of the Trogjan callously cutting into her crust.  She offers you her assistance in saving your queen, in the hopes that the cycle of nature and the cycle of earth can live together in harmony.” 

Josah was not sure what exactly he had expected, but he did not expect to get the help of a primal force such as the earth mother.  He had heard stories about her influence, but since the elfen were not able to commune with her he simply was not sure of her power.  It was said that the earth mother had the power to move mountains as needed and raise giant golems to battle her foes.  The thought of any assistance, let alone a force that powerful was beyond anything he could have imagined. When Josah finally spoke he addressed the Rockling directly.  “Guardian, I am humbled by the support of the Earth Mother.  It too is my hope to restore the balance of the cycle.”

The little rockling hopped down from the shamans lap and collapsed back into the soil at his feet.  By this time the coals in the fire were crackling low, and the deep shadows of the night wrapped in around them.  “We should get some rest, the river of sun is still quite a ways off”  Torklah finally mused.  He slid down off his rocky perch and laid a mat from his pack out alongside the fire curling up under a blanket.  It was not long before Josiah had joined him in doing the same, and the two of them drifted off to sleep with the low embers warming them.

The elder shaman was the first to rise and by the time Josah awoke, he was hobbling around camp tending to things.  “You should have woke me” Josah said stretching up from his mat.  The elder sasquatch gave him a sideways glance before replaying rather flatly “You are still under the influence of the poison, and needed your rest more than I did.  Once you pack your bedding, we can get under way.  I’ve made us a small roll that we can eat as we walk.”  Josah did just that and within a quarter hour they were back on the road.

It had been awhile since Josah had been this close to the sunwall.  It of course wraps its way around Avalon, but the walls and spires of the city obscure the view.  Seeing it stretching across the wilds, cutting a swath through the shroomspires was an entire different vista.  The walked mostly in silence, other than a few one or two word comments back and forth.  Josah was fine with this, he really didn’t have much to say, especially since in this thoughts he was still obsessing over the events of the farmhouse and the dread that something might have happened to Morrow.

The last time he had seen her she had been badly wounded.  Then they were both struck by the humans weapon that had flung them apparently in completely different directions.  He hoped beyond hope that she managed to land near another member of the council.  Josah was certain that if Benj or Bemel were near her they would have tended to her wounds.  He just realized… he had not thought at all what might have happened to Jace and Kale.  The queen sacrificed herself to save them, but he felt horrible that he had not once thought about their safety in this whole ordeal.

Kale looked like she could more than take care of herself, and hopefully she would watch after Jace.  In this most recent bout of obsession Josah had not noticed that they had arrived near the foot of the Sunwall.  He stepped up to the wall looking batch at Torklah “You might stand back, the Sunwall can be unpredictable”  The old shaman nodded and took a few steps back giving him a wide berth.  Josah held his hand out to the wall letting his hand dip into the flames as though they were skimming water.  He felt out through the surface of the wall and feeling the familiar resistance of a skimmer he gave a great tug with his mind.

The Sunwall began to churn violently like a roaring river.  To the east a shape appeared riding along the top of the wall.  As it got closer Torklah realized it was some sort of a boat.  It slowed to a halt hovering above them at the top of the wall.  Josah waved his hand up at the sun ship, and a ladder toppled down to the ground.  “My apologies friend, but we are going to have to climb.  This is why I thought we needed our strength”  Josah said hooking a foot in the ladder and pushing upwards beginning to climb.  Torklah thought that the elf did not realize that the Sasquatch were natural climbers, capable of scaling shroomstalks almost from birth.

While it took the Elfen quite a bit of time to work his way up the ladder the elder shaman managed to do it in what seemed like one fluid motion.  Torklah stepped out onto the deck of the ship and it looked much like he would have expected a water going vessel to appear.  There were a wide array of seats out on the deck under a giant sale like canopy.  There appeared to be stairs leading down into the body of the boat, which he assumed would have sleeping quarters.  “The lightskimmer is designed to carry both military and royalty alike, so you will find it suited for both purposes”  Josah pointed at what looked like crossbow stations up and down the deck.

The elfen walked up to a small perch with a crystal device set into the wall.  Reaching out with his hands he touched the crystal and it pulsed to life,  Speaking an audible command Josah beckoned the crystal. “Take us to Hagengarde, in the Valkore Territory”,  With that the boat lurched forward starting at first slowly, but accelerating rather quickly.  Torklah looked over the bow and immediately wished he had not as he watched the tops of shroomspires whipping by at a dizzying speed.

He took a seat towards the interior of the deck, trying to get his balance and calm his suddenly churning stomach.  Josah walked over to join him, retrieving a drink from a chest beside the seating and handing it to the big sasquatch.  “Drink this, it will help with the nerves.  It is a tonic of sorts that we keep on hand for those not used to Lightskimmer travel.”  Josah helped himself to a similar looking bottle and leaned back against the seat.  “We should be completely safe up here, as we skim along the top of the Sunwall.  According to the guidance crystal it will take us almost a days time to reach Hagengarde.  I suggest in the meantime we relax.  We have no idea what awaits us on the other end.”  The shaman agreed and slowly sipped his own bottle. 

NaNoWriMo 17–Brittagus Escape

NaNoWriMo 17

I still feel relatively horrible, in fact this morning it seems worse.  The crud that my wife and I have had for some time seems to have settled into my lungs.  I did not write nearly as much as I had hoped, however I did manage to knock out roughly 2500 words yesterday morning.  This takes me over the 30,000 word threshold at 30,154 wordcount.  So I may not be leaps and bounds ahead like I had hoped but I am still very much on track.

Here is the story to date if anyone wants to catch up.  Once again completely unedited and raw.

  1. Shadowed Stone
  2. Little Giant Girl
  3. Birthday Wishes
  4. The Gifts
  5. The Incursion
  6. The Watch
  7. Rough Landing
  8. Dragon Bone
  9. People of the Storm
  10. The Lady
  11. Cambridge Beneath
  12. Prisoner of War
  13. Woodbinding
  14. Parting the Veil
  15. People of the Earth
  16. The Pack

17 – Brittagus Escape

As the days went on, Pico spent an increasing amount of time down in the catacombs beneath Astanax’s home.  The presence of the Inquisitors made it such that she did not feel she could risk exposing Astanax, Berrol and the Order of Merlin.  This was fine to her, as it gave her time to pour over the various tomes on this side of the gate.  They all dated back multiple centuries to a time she could not even imagine, and many were penned by Merlin himself.  Over these days often times she would find herself joined by little Berrol, who it turned out was extremely curious about all things related to the order.

Pico had never really been one for children.  When women passed around pictures of their kids she always felt like her skin was crawling and it evoked a fight or flight response.  There was something about Berrol however that she really liked.  He did not act like the snot nosed brat she was expecting.  Instead he was more than content to happily pour over the thick leather bound books beside her.  She even took to employing her in the search for information “Berrol, the wards on my side are weakening.  I need you to look for any information relating to their creation.”  The little boy nodded with bright eyes “Yes miss Pico”.

While they were working on this little side mission, Astanax was moving cautiously on his own mission.  Turns out all of what would be the United Kingdom is made up of a vast colony of human magic users called Brittagus.  Merlin forced this fate upon every magic user, and as a result they rebelled against him and his imposed exile.  Where Merlin wanted to free mankind from the burden of magic, the Magistrate Council seeks to control it in every aspect.  Their brutal inquisition is there to ensure that there can be no decent among the ranks of the magic users.

The Order of Merlin is almost dead, thanks to the hands of these Inquisitors singling out and assassinating each and every member.  Astanax said he was the last of the line, or at least the last he knew about.  Before the purge they had stopped congregating, in a failed attempt to protect the members.  This worked for a time, but the purge swept through the land and with it went every member but him.  His assumption was that they somehow were infiltrated and betrayed from within.  Luckily because of his place as steward of the archives, his involvement had been kept a closely guarded secret and as such many Order members died without revealing him.

All of this meant that as Astanax moved throughout Brittagus, he had to do so ever vigilant of the Inquisition.  The Magistrate new something was happening however, because the frequency of the random Inquisition “visits” had increased over the last few days.  Pico wondered if they were able to sense the border between realms being breached, much the same way as they were on the other side.  If so they were obviously not as sophisticated since they did not seem to be targeting this location directly.  They were however canvassing this neighborhood, and with that she was afraid to let her presence be seen by anyone.

Astanax had been trying to track down a source of dragon bone for her, to very little success.  It was apparently common knowledge that it had been a primary component of the wards, and as a result was greatly restricted.  From the way he talked about dragon bone, it sounded much like ivory is in her world.  There were all manner of uses for it, very few of them legitimate but since the dragons were so powerful the bone must be as well.  She thought it was humorous that people on this side ground up the bone to take as a tonic, much like they do with rhino horn.  Just because a people have actual magic does not apparently make them immune to baseless superstition.

To her left she heard a series of excited noises coming from Berrol who was laying on his belly thumbing through one of the big books.  In quick order came “Miss Pico! Miss Pico! I found something” the little boy was pointing at a picture on the page of the book.  As she crossed the room and knelt beside the book she thought to herself… maybe he did.  It was a diagram of the ward that she had seen before, but beneath it was a list list of all of the components and their purpose.  Beside dragonbone there was the following description.

Dragonbone is among the rarest materials in our world.  It is special because of its great strength and flexibility.  In my experiments it has been showing to carry the vibration of the matrix core to the surrounding area.  Dragonbone is merely a conduit and has no real effect on the success of the matrix, but instead allows for the signal to be transmitted clearly.  It should be stronger than the black iron that holds the pieces together and as such last for a much longer time.  Iron construction alone would have been shaken apart by the vibrations.

So that was the key to the mystery…  Dragonbone is simply really good at taking vibrations and transmitting them.  She was certain that if she had a reasonably sized sample she could simulate this effect with either a metal alloy or ceramics.  Maybe they didn’t actually need to find all those dragons.  She just needed to find one, and even then just a piece of it to take back and run tests on in her lab.  She knelt down and kissed the boys head “You did really good Berrol, this will help me save the wards.”

As she thumbed through the rest of the book it gave a detailed description of every part, its function in the design and its limitations.  With this book she felt reasonably certain that she could replicate one of the wards.  Now she just had to find some dragon bone, and a way back home.  She thought about the little grey box sitting in her pack.  Inside of it was a tiny ball with a red button on top.  It was originally going to be a handheld “analytical grenade” but after the recent events and the damage in the ward caused by her analytical designs, she halted work.  She had tossed it into her pack as a “only in an emergency” weapon if she encountered something she could not handle on this trip.

She could not use it here, at least not within the presence of Astanax and Berrol and preferably not within Brittagus at all.  If the Inquisition had detected a breach, they would most definitely detect one that was forcibly blown open.  To be honest she had no idea what the device would do if used on this side.  She theorized that it would push everyone in the surrounding vicinity of the blast to her world, but that was not a certain thing.  In order to use it she needed off of this island nation.  Hopefully Astanax could help with that, but she did not want to put him or Berrol into any more harm.

There was a sound echoing down the passageway of stone grating on stone, a sound she recognized as the entrance hatch to the archives being moved.  Always before Astanax had yelled down at her to let her know he was coming down.  This time it was complete silence.  Fearing the worst she gathered up berrol in her arm, stuffed the book into her pack and hid in one of the side chambers behind some large urns. She heard footsteps echoing down the hallway, hard soles against the hard stone.  As the shape passed the doorway without pause she could see that it was a man in dark robes, shrouded in a dark hooded cloak.  She could not make out anything of a face, and he held in front of him an illuminated staff.

Pico carefully and quietly slid out a 45 caliber pistol from her pack.  She did not know how it would work, but it would be better than nothing if she got into a pinch.  Suddenly the man cried out “I know you are down here, I bring word from Astanax” he said in a kind voice.  She remained silent and placed her hand over Berrol’s mouth to make sure he knew not to respond either.  The man stopped in the hallway near her door “I know you are afriad, but I mean neither you nor the boy any harm.  Astanax has been captured.”

Something snapped in Pico and she leapt out from behind the urns pistol drawn and pointed at the man.  “What do you mean he’s been captured?  Who are you, how do you know this?”  The man lowered his staff and spread his arms out in a gesture of surrender.  “It’s okay, my name is Karrek.  I am a member of the inquisition, but before that was a loyal member of the order.  I joined to pass information to the remaining order members for their safety.  Astanax inquired about dragon bone to the wrong merchant, an inquisition sympathizer.”  The man said with a sense of honesty about it.  “I briefly was allowed to speak with him as they took him to the grey tower for questioning.  He pleaded with me to get you and his son Berrol out of the city.”

Pico thought for a moment, that did seem like something Astanax would want if he ever got captured.  He had made her promise to watch after Berrol if anything happened to him when the Inquisition patrols increased.  She lowered the pistol and the man visibly relaxed.  “We don’t have much time, the Inquisition will be here soon to search this place.  I have a carriage parked in the alley near the back door.  I will get you to the waterfront and onto a boat away from here.”  He looked around nerviously “Do you have any gold?  I do not have money to pay your transport.”

It was at this that Berrol came from behind the urns and spoke “I know where papa keeps some” he said sheepishly.  The trio rushed upstairs and Karrek stood watch at the front door while Berrol lead Pico into another room.  There the boy moved aside a painting and set into the wall was a safe of sorts.  Berrol spoke a series of words in a language that pico did not understand, and there was an audible click noise as the door to the safe swung open.  Inside were several heavy bags of what she assumed were golden coins.  She dumped all of them into her pack and rushed back to meet Karrek.

Opening her bag and showing it to him “We have this?  Will this be enough.”  He nodded “more than enough, don’t offer them more than one of those bags”  He knew their time was almost up “We have to leave now” and herded them out the back door and into his black carriage that was emblazoned with the inquisition seal she had seen elsewhere on the patrols.  As they rounded the building and passed the front of the house a procession of black robed figures was walking down the sidewalk towards the front of the house.  She and Berrol ducked down in the carriage to make sure they were unseen and for his part Karrek proceeded as though nothing was strange.

Within a few minutes she could smell the familiar salty air she associated with ports.  Risking a peek out the window she noticed they were riding along a wharf of sorts.  They sped past hundreds of boats moored on either side of the dock.  She wondered where exactly Karrek was headed as many of these boats looked seaworthy and available for charter.  The rows of boats parted and were replaced by something slightly different.  It looked in every way a boat but instead of sitting down in the water it floated high above the docks, with a little ramp leading down to the wharf for boarding.  The best she could tell they were flying ships, like she had never seen before.  It was near one of these that the carriage finally stopped.

Karrek dismounted the carriage and moved around to the door.  He opened it helping Pico and Berrol out.  “These are skyships of the Valkore.  As a people they are dragon hunters.  If anyone will have your dragon bone, it will be them.  Charter one of these and ask them to take you to Hagengarde.  This will take you far away from the reach of the inquisition.”  She looked at him with frustration “But what about Astanax?”  he looked back with sad eyes “I will do what I can to free him, but I am not sure if that is even possible.  The grey tower is our most secure prison.  The important thing is for you to get Berrol to safety, it is what he wants more than anything.”  Still not happy about it she nodded in agreement.  She would protect Berrol, even if it meant bringing him back to her own world.

Karrek waited until they were walking up the gangplank to one of the skyships before travelling on.  The ship was rather nice, far nicer than she had expected based on the ramshackle nature of the wharf region.  As soon as they had reached the deck she was met by a woman and two male guards.  The way the woman carried herself she assumed she was the captain of the vessel.  “I’m Captain Barret, and what are you doing on my ship?” she said in a rather callous tone.  “I’m sorry for the intrusion, my name is Pico and this is Berrol” motioning to the boy hiding behind her.  The removed from her pack a small sack of gold coins and held it out to the captain “We need safe passage to Hagengarde”.

The captain took the sack, rattled it around a bit and then nodded grimly.  The Valkore had no love of Brittagus or the inquisition.  Barret would rather never have had to come here, but they needed supplies and with the Valkore in impending danger, this was the closest place with something to spare.  The captain looked over Pico “Do you know what you are getting yourself into?  Hagengarde and all of the Valkore villages for that matter are under attack by the forces of winter.”  Pico shook her head, she didn’t know at all what she was getting into.  “Any place is better than here….  also I need dragonbone and I hear Hagengarde is the place to go for that.”

The captain nodded grimly once again “Yes I suppose that is the case.  Alright you can find someplace to sit down below.  We have just resupplied and are about to get under way.”  With that the captain moved to the great ships wheel and Pico took Berrol under deck, finding a quiet corner to sit down in.  “Miss Pico, I’m scared…  I miss papa”  she ran her hand through the small childs hair “I know Berrol, I’m scared too”.  The boy leaned against her nuzzling in and sobbing silently.  She leaned back against the ships hull closing her eyes.  This was the first time in a long time she was really and truly scared.