Before he could even think of drawing Olctire, there were suddenly several men stepping out of the surrounding trees, all of which looked to be well armed. There were six of them. They all had their weapons out, swords held at their sides and bows with arrows nocked but not drawn. “Declare yourselves,” said one of the men. He had better armor than the others, plate instead of chain, and his sword looked well forged.

Gale took care to make no sudden movements and replied, “We are in the employ of Lord Eric Indaren, sent to find a knight, Derrack Grisholm, and the dragon.”

“If that’s the truth, I reckon you have a letter from Lord Indaren?”

“Yes, we do.” Gale nodded to Barry, who reached into his jacket pocket and pulled out a letter. Eric had written the quick note, signed and sealed it, then given it to them before they left the castle. Gale had only been able to read a few of the words. Reading was a dangerous tool in the hands of a slave, so the enlightened elves had made sure that it wasn’t taught.

The men with bows drew their arrows and aimed at Barry. The leader pointed his sword at him and said, “You drop that right now and back up.”

Barry let go of the letter, which fell down to the ground. He pulled on the reigns of his horse, which whinnied and nervously shuffled backwards.

What’s got them so worked up? It’s just a letter… Gale moved his horse away from the letter as well. The leader of the men strode forward, snatched up the letter, then retreated back to his former position. The man examined the seal closely, broke it, and perused the letter. At last he said, “Stand down. They ring true.”

The men lowered their bows and sheathed their swords. Their leader strode forward again and bowed towards Gale. “I apologize for the… less than welcoming greeting.” He straightened and peered into the surrounding woods. “I’m inclined to be overly cautious… We ran into some rogue mages yesterday. I worried you might be accomplices of theirs… When your friend pulled out Lord Indaren’s letter, I had to consider that it might be a spellscroll.”

Gale shifted awkwardly in his saddle. “Ah… Well if there are ah… rogue mages about, I can see why you are so wary. Apology accepted, good sir.”

The man bowed again, this time towards the whole group, “Sir Derrack Grisholm at your service. So… the letter said you are friends of Lord Drosund?”

As they told Sir Grisholm about how they had saved Mathius from a pack of worgs, he led them a short distance through the forest, to where a few crude cooking fires were set up. It looked like Sir Grisholm and his soldiers had been preparing to leave when they had been interrupted by the arrival of Gale and company. The other soldiers now resumed their packing up while Sir Grisholm continued to speak.

“Ah worgs,” said Derrack, “Dangerous beasts. I fought some in the Veldt on a trip down to Suramol. The Dark Tribe, I believe, is what your kind calls them, yes?” He looked to Blind Seer, who nodded. Sir Grisholm continued, “Would have died if not for the Keeneyes.”

Barry joined in, “Keeneyes?”

“A prominent wolfos tribe that ranges all over the Veldt,” said Blind Seer.

“Ah,” said Barry. The conversation grew silent for a moment.

“So,” said Gale, “The dragon?”

“Indeed,” Derrack said, “We found it, but unfortunately so did those rogue mages. When we tried to approach, they attacked us. We had to retreat. Are any of you skilled in the arcane arts?”

“Ku and I have psionics,” said Blind Seer, “Barry knows some magecraft, and Gale… uh…”

“And I also have some knowledge of magic,” said Gale. “What of the dragon?”

“From what we could tell, it was injured and unconscious,” replied Derrack. “I cannot say if it was the mages that had injured it. In any case, we should probably secure the dragon… There’s no telling what those rogue sorcerers might do… Could anger it or wrest control of it… I think with your aid, we would be able to overwhelm them.”

Gale nodded. “Let’s go.”

Blind Seer

He crept through the woods a few paces behind Ku, every sense alert. They had left their horses at where Derrack had camped, for they were somewhat unwieldy in the dense forest. The air was filled with smells… Earth and wood… animal… the stench of human… Derrack and his soldiers… too many to sort out. Light filtered down through the thick branches overhead, casting shadows on the bed of needles and leaves. The wind danced atop the canopy above and birds sang amongst the trees.

What was that? He stopped and lifted his ears, listening again for the sound… There it is again… The tweeting song of a bird reached him. He recognized it as belonging to a species that was also found back near his tribe’s home. But that is a spring mating call… They shouldn’t be singing that in early autumn. Again, the birdsong reached his ears, this time from the opposite direction of the first. It sounded somehow hollow. Something’s not right!

“Ku,” he whispered, “I think we’re being watched!”

Ku glanced back at him. Blind Seer had the uncomfortable sensation of someone else edging into his mind.

Excuse the intrusion, but if we are being watched, I recommend silence. Blind Seer shook himself a bit, disturbed by the foreign thought in his mind.

Blind Seer whispered again, “Is that you, Ku?”

“Yes,” Ku replied, Telepathy… Not typically used in polite conversation, but useful when one has need of stealth. You think we are being watched? Why? Focus your thoughts towards me and I will hear them… and stay close, distance has an adverse effect on it.

Blind Seer took a few deep breaths, still adjusting to the feeling of being connected to Ku’s mind. He focused his will on Ku… Like this?

Yes, replied Ku. A light breeze rustled through the trees overhead as they conversed silently, warily watching their surroundings.

There is a bird call I keep hearing. It is not the right season for it and it sounds hollow. I think it may be being produced magically, thought Blind Seer.

Could be those rogue wizards that human male knight Sir Derrack Grisholm spoke of, thought Ku.

Let’s warn the others, Blind Seer thought, turning around and heading back towards the rest of the group, Is that how you always think about people?

When I first meet them, yes. It aids in keeping track of who is who, Ku replied.

They made their way back to the main group quickly and quietly. “Possibility of mages ahead,” Ku reported, “Might be employing illusions.”

Derrack nodded. “We’re nearing the dragon… It’s in a clearing up ahead. Stay alert. If those mages decide to attack, it will be soon.”

They headed onwards into the forest. The soldiers had their swords and bows out, ready for action. Derrack scanned the trees as he advanced. Ku led the way, greatsword at the ready. Gale and Barry walked along at the back of the group, weapons also ready.

Blind Seer put a paw down. His stomach lurched as he felt no resistance. The ground shimmered beneath him. He tried to scramble backwards, but it was too late. He fell into the crude pit trap that had been hidden by an illusion. It wasn’t much of a fall, but there were rough wooden stakes at the bottom. A few of them pierced his leg and he yelped in pain.

He heard Sir Grisholm yell, “Spread out and get down!”


A gust of hot air blasted him as he rolled forward, coming up into a crouch. The forest behind him was ablaze. Some of the soldiers had caught fire and were now rolling around, trying frantically to put it out. Firemage… Priority target. One of the soldiers had mostly escaped the blast and now fired an arrow. Ku traced the arrow’s trajectory and spotted a man retreating further into the woods. Ku burst forward, giving chase, and focusing his mental energy on his leg muscles. He felt them surge in response.

He crashed through the underbrush, closing on the man. The mage glanced back and hurriedly raised a hand. A fiery bolt flew past Ku’s head, missing him by inches. Ku continued the pursuit.

The underbrush and trees gave way to a large clearing. The man leapt forward over a flat spot of ground, then turned and began chanting and gesturing. Ku, recalling that Blind Seer had fell through some sort of illusion, guessed that this might be a similar pit trap and jumped over the same spot the man had. As he jumped, Ku registered a large mound of glistening blue ice across the clearing. The dragon… He landed near the man.

The mage finished his spell just as Ku swung his greatsword. The mage held out his arm to shield himself from the blow. Ku’s sword nearly reached the man’s arm, but struck some sort of invisible barrier. The mage stumbled backwards from the strength of Ku’s blow, but was relatively unharmed.

They circled each other. Ku swung his greatsword again. The mage blocked it and hopped back, quickly tracing patterns with his other hand. The air around the mage wavered and Ku felt a wave of heat roll off the man.

An arrow appeared in the mage’s shoulder. A few of Derrack’s soldiers had caught up to the fight. The arrow burst into flame. Ku moved in to swing again, but the heat rolling off the mage forced him to abort the attack as his skin began to sizzle. He hissed and puffed up the skin around his frills in frustration.

The mage’s hand burst into flame and he threw a bubbling mass of fire. Ku rolled left, but he had not been the mage’s target. The fire hurtled towards the soldier that had hit the mage with an arrow. As Ku came up from his roll, out of the corner of his eye, he saw a huge mass of pale blue ice charging at him.


He followed one of Derrack’s soldiers into a clearing. The soldier fired an arrow and hit the mage that Ku had been chasing. The mage threw a handful of fire in their direction. Barry tackled the soldier to the ground as fire exploded around them. He and the soldier rolled to escape the inferno. The nearby trees creaked and popped as the fire clung to them.

Barry looked up from the ground to see the monstrous dragon bearing down on Ku. Well, we’re dead. The dragon stopped and roared. Ku turned towards it and guarded himself with his greatsword. The firemage launched a thin orange ray at Ku, striking him in the side. Ku winced, but kept his eyes locked on the dragon, which loomed over him.

As Barry got to his feet, he noticed that on the other side of the clearing was a mound of pale blue ice, laying still. A second dragon?! He looked back to the dragon threatening Ku and his vision blurred, flickering between the world and the ‘other side’. He saw the River flowing beneath them. Tendrils of energy reached up from the River to the dragon looming over Ku, following its movements. Like strings on a marionette… Wait. Barry spotted another energy tendril, this one reaching up into the underbrush on the left side of the clearing. Peering closely, he saw a man crouched amongst the bushes, gaze locked onto the moving dragon.

Barry’s vision resolidified into normalcy. It’s an illusion! The firemage hit Ku with another orange bolt. Ku aimed a wild swipe at the mage, which missed. The dragon slashed an icy claw. Ku hopped back and brought his sword up again, focusing on the dragon. Barry opened his mouth to tell Ku that it was fake, but no sound came out. Damnit, we’ve been magically silenced! That firemage is going to kill Ku if he keeps trying to guard himself against the illusory dragon.

The soldier had clambered to his feet and was nocking another arrow. Barry grabbed his shoulder and pointed to where the illusionist crouched in the brush. The soldier nodded as he spotted the mage and fired. The arrow hit the illusionist’s thigh. He cried out, though the sound didn’t reach Barry, and grabbed the arrow. The dragon wavered and went unnaturally still, frozen with mouth gaping open, preparing for another roar. Barry saw realization dawn on Ku’s face. Ku turned to face the firemage.


He ran into the clearing. Sir Grisholm was close behind him. Gale saw Ku turning to fight the firemage as a large image of a dragon faded from the clearing. He spotted the illusionist with an arrow in him and Barry near one of the soldiers. Barry was opening and closing his mouth, pointing across the clearing. Can’t hear him… Must be silenced… Wish I knew that spell, heh. Gale looked to where he was pointing and saw the real dragon, curled up. Nearby it was a third mage, surveying the fight as he reached out a glowing hand towards the dragon. The dragon flinched away as he touched it.

Gale didn’t have a clue what the third mage was doing, but he guessed that it was nothing good. “Stop him!” Gale charged across the field, sword in hand. The soldier near Barry shot an arrow at the third mage, but it was deflected by some sort of magical protection. Derrack veered off from his charge, moving to assist Ku, who had been hit by another bolt of fire.

The mage touched the dragon again with glowing hand. It flinched again and began to stir. Gale was almost across the clearing when the mage struck the dragon again. The dragon opened its eyes and lashed its tail, which glistened in the sun. The mage danced and dodged. The dragon tried to stumble to its feet, but Gale could see that one of its legs had a large chunk missing from it.

Gale swung his sword, but the mage’s magic barrier deflected his blow. “Its power is mine,” the mage spat as he moved in for another blow on the dragon. Gale also darted in as the dragon stumbled, trying to heal its wounds, hoping to counteract whatever the mage was doing. He felt the power rise up in him and surge down his arm into the dragon. The cold, icy skin remained unchanged. It didn’t work. The leg was still missing a large chunk.

The dragon flinched at the mage’s blow, this time letting loose a roar of pain. Gale’s eardrums throbbed as he hastily backed away from the flailing dragon. The power began to rise in him again. Yes… that might do it… He pointed a finger at the dragon’s leg, willing the air to grow chill, much as he had done when fighting the worgs. A new layer of ice began to form over the wound. The dragon managed to get to its feet, though it still looked shaky. The mage backed up slowly. Gale cast another sheet of ice at the wound. The dragon regarded him and Gale nervously brought up his sword to guard himself. Maybe this wasn’t such a great idea.

The dragon turned its head, almost casually, and locked its eyes on the mage that had been harassing it. The mage backpedaled more quickly now and stumbled over a root. Gale felt like the surrounding air was getting colder. The dragon arched its neck and bobbed its head from side to side, eyes still locked on the mage. Its mouth opened and a blast of chill air burst forth. Ice instantly began to form on the grass and brush in the sudden blizzard conditions. The mage tried to shield his face with his hands as his eyes froze shut. When the dragon stopped, the mage remained unmoving.

Gale glanced back and saw Ku bring his greatsword down on the firemage’s head. The slice was abnormally clean… no blood sprayed from the blow. The firemage smirked and vanished. Ku’s head darted back and forth, looking for his target. “Damnit,” said Ku, “That illusionist must have…” He trailed off as he spotted the dragon. Gale returned his gaze to the dragon, which was now looming over him, wings spread, with head bobbing back and forth.

Blind Seer

He scrabbled out of the pit trap, wincing as he freed his leg from the crude wooden spike. Blind Seer saw Ku run off into the woods, quickly followed by everyone that had survived the fiery blast. The nearby undergrowth was still smoldering, as well as a couple of Sir Grisholm’s soldiers that hadn’t taken cover fast enough. Blind Seer hurried forward as fast as possible.

When he reached the clearing, he saw a massive, icy dragon looming over Gale, who was halfheartedly preparing to defend himself. If it attacks, he won’t stand a chance! Blind Seer hobbled forward and said, “Wait! Everyone, lower your weapons!”

He moved in front of Gale and bowed deeply. The dragon locked its eyes on him and took a step forward, arching its neck out towards him. Every muscle in his body screamed at him to run, but Blind Seer held his bow, hoping that his gamble would pay off.

The air grew cold around him as the dragon neared. Blind Seer shivered as he felt its icy head brush against him. He reeled as he felt a sudden rush of knowledge enter his mind. The dragon stepped back and began bobbing its head again… and twitching its tail… and subtly moving its wings… Blind Seer found that the movements now had meaning to them. The dragon was signing a question, Can you understand me?

Blind Seer felt the correct body movements bubble to the surface of his mind. Yes, he signed back.

Gale nervously shuffled forward. “Are you ok, Blind Seer? What did it do to you?”

“It… it taught me how to communicate with it.”

“Oh? What is it saying?” Gale stooped to examine Blind Seer’s injured leg.

Blind Seer watched the dragon. It turned slightly to the side, shifted a wing, tapped a claw against the ground… A subtle dance. Thank you for deterring those wielders. I know not what would have become of me if they had continued unchecked.

“It is thanking us for driving off the mages,” Blind Seer said to Gale. Gale glanced around and saw that Sir Grisholm and his soldiers were preoccupied with watching the dragon. He layed a hand on Blind Seer’s leg and Blind Seer felt a refreshing rush of relief as his wound partially sealed up. “Thanks,” he said to Gale quietly.

The dragon was watching them patiently. Blind Seer gathered his thoughts and began his own subtle dance. What is it that you plan to do next?

The dragon replied, It is my plan to rest and recover from the wounds that have been dealt to me. Know you of a place in which I may do this and be safe if the wielders return?

I know not of such a place. I will ask it of my friends. Blind Seer turned to the group and said, “The dragon is looking for a defensible place to recover from its wounds. Do you know of any?”

Derrack replied, “There is a ruin to the west of here… Used to be an enieto temple, I think. Warriors heading south to Brandon’s Watch often use it as a camp location.”

Blind Seer turned back to the dragon and began to relay the reply, but the dragon interrupted him by tapping its tail against the ground. It signed, I am able to comprehend the speech of mortals. I simply lack the ability to produce the correct sounds. Shall we head west to this temple of which he speaks?

Yes, let us go forth. “It says that the temple sounds like a good place to rest. Shall we escort it there in case those mages come back?” Blind Seer looked to Sir Grisholm.

“Yes,” said Derrack, “Let’s make sure it gets there safe… And ask what it is doing here…”

Derrack sent his soldiers to collect the bodies of the men that had died from the first fiery blast, then they made their way west through the trees.


He kept a close eye on the dragon as they made their way through the forest. He had considered trying to communicate telepathically with it, but decided that it was too dangerous. Ku had no idea what a dragon’s mind might hold or if the dragon would find the mental intrusion rude.

In any case, Blind Seer was able to communicate with it effectively. He and the dragon were continuing to bob their heads at each other, pausing occasionally to tap a claw on the ground.

“So,” Ku said, “What have you found out? Why is it here?”

Blind Seer turned his head around to look at them, a worried expression on his face. “I feel a tingling of dread rising within me. Stay on your guard… I haven’t yet asked about why it… he, actually… is here. We’ve been speaking about him. He says we may call him Frostfang… an easy reference for our mortal tongues. Let me speak with him some more.”

Blind Seer turned his head back to the dragon and resumed the subtle dance of communication. Derrack was leading the way through the forest.

Blind Seer spoke again, “He says… that he does not wish to speak of what injured him… He says that… he does not wish to cause undue worry for us mortals if he is wrong.” He was silent again for a time, bobbing and weaving with the dragon.

Ku asked, “If he is wrong about what?”

Blind Seer replied, “He… he says that he is not sure yet… and hopes that he is wrong… but… He fears that the foretold time is upon us… A time of great darkness…” Blind Seer visibly shivered.

Ku paused from scanning the surrounding trees and looked at Blind Seer with concern. “Are you alright?”

Blind Seer took a few deep breaths. “Yes, I think… I… Perhaps I am just standing too close.” He moved a little further away from Frostfang, who was radiating cold that Ku could feel even from this distance.

Cold? Or did he have one of his surges of dread? Ku quickly scanned the trees again for foes. Why try to conceal it as cold, though? Ku watched Blind Seer, then glanced at the dragon. Unless… perhaps his premonition was triggered by something the dragon said?

Gale spoke up, “What is this foretold time that he speaks of?”

Blind Seer shook himself and signed back and forth with the dragon some more. “Frostfang says that it is a time foretold by his kin. He doesn’t know the details of the prophecy, but apparently it is recorded in a place far to the north, in the Bittercold.”

They all silently reflected on this until Derrack called out, “There it is! The old Void Temple.”


He could feel the cold radiating from the dragon as they passed through the ruined stone archway. A cracked and crumbling wall surrounded a weather-worn dome that had moss growing atop it. A once graceful archway allowed passage through the wall and a rusty iron door hung crookedly in an opening in the dome. The dragon eased into a corner of the walls and curled up. Blind Seer signed with it for a moment then said, “Frostfang thanks us for bringing him to this defensible location.”

“What’s the plan now,” asked Gale.

“I think you should head back to Lord Indaren to report while my soldiers and I stay here to keep an eye on the dragon,” Derrack replied.

“I may stay as well to continue communicating with him,” said Blind Seer.

Barry checked the sky. Nostiarna was maybe a third of the way towards covering up the sun. Mid-afternoon… “I think we should wait until morning to head back,” he said, “otherwise we’ll be in the dark for part of the journey… Something I’d like to avoid with those two mages still out there.”

Ku nodded. “Waiting until morning seems a sound plan to me. I would not mind checking out this old Void Temple here. Derrack Grisholm, have any soldiers ever been inside?”

“Yes,” said Derrack, “The soldiers who use this place as a campsite on their way south have poked around inside a bit. None have gone very far. From what I’ve heard, one passageway has collapsed and the other is barred. Go on and look for yourself if you’d like. We’ll get camp set up.”

Barry sighed. “Let’s go check out the old, crumbling ruin… because that worked out so well for us last time.” He thought back to the ruined guard tower with the creepy stacked stone shrine and the small fey creatures that had nearly stabbed them all to death.

“Come on,” said Blind Seer, “Where’s your sense of adventure? Let’s go have a look… it sounds like plenty of soldiers have been down there… how dangerous could it be?”


They opened the rusted iron door of the dome, revealing stairs that led down into darkness. Gale’s eyes adjusted, allowing him to see smooth stone at the bottom of the stairs. They made their way down. Barry lit a torch.

The stairs spilled out into a corridor that led off to the left and right, both directions curving gently away from the entrance. The air down here was a cool break from the late summer heat. Gale hear Ku breath a sigh of relief, as well as the dripping of water somewhere deeper in the old Void Temple.

Gale glanced back up the stairs, then forward. They headed down the corridor to the right. “So,” he said, “The dragon… It looked-”

“He,” said Blind Seer.

“Right. He… He looked like he was injured… Like chunks had been taken out of his legs.”

They were all silent for a moment before Barry said, “The one we found before… The one on the road… The dead one… It was injured similarly.”

Gale had overheard Ku and Blind Seer talking earlier, and felt he had to ask, “And what’s this business about the ‘foretold time’ that he… that Frostfang mentioned?”

The edge of the light revealed a doorway on the outside of the curve up ahead. They went into the room, torch flickering slightly. Rows of beds greeted them, old and warped by time. Most were missing their mattresses. The remaining ones had been rotted by moisture and time.

Blind Seer spoke quietly in the moldy gloom, “The foretold time… A time of great darkness, Frostfang said. He said his kin knew more details… That they had recorded a foretelling in the house of Fynhonelhud far to the north… out in the Bittercold.”

“His kin,” said Barry, making his way among the old beds, “How many of them do you suppose there are?”

None had an answer to that, so Gale asked, “House of Fynhonelhud? What is that?”

“I don’t know,” said Blind Seer, “The syllables for ‘Fynhonelhud’ slid into my head as the dragon signed it to me. I’m not sure what it means. I assume it is a name of some sort.”

“The name of a dragon? One of his kin?” Gale peered around the room.

Blind Seer pawed at one the mattresses. A puff of dust rose from it, making Blind Seer cough several times. When he could breath again, he said, “I’m not sure, Gale. I’m inclined to say no. The dragon said his own name was too difficult for mortals to pronounce, so he told me to call him Frostfang. The words ‘frost’ and ‘fang’ were clear in my mind from his signing. Fynhonelhud, though… I feel like it is something different.”

The conversation was interrupted by Barry finding a few chests at the ends of beds. The group excitedly opened them, wondering what old treasures they might hold, but found only more mold and cobwebs.

“Guess the soldiers passing through here have cleaned this place out,” said Barry.

“Or the enieto took their possessions with them when they left,” said Ku as they headed back into the main corridor.

“That would also make sense,” replied Barry. “I wonder why this place was abandoned…”

Blind Seer

Further along the corridor, they were stopped by jumble of rocks and dirt. Blind Seer was glad at least to be out of the moldy old dormitory. They made their way back to the entry stairs and went the other way on the main corridor. Blind Seer had the impression that the main corridor formed a circle.

“Well in any case,” Barry said as they walked along, “I’m glad the dragon didn’t just kill us all. Honestly, I was a little surprised to find it was civilized and intelligent enough to speak… or communicate anyways. In the stories I’ve heard, dragons are typically portrayed as mindless, rampaging beasts.”

“My people,” said Gale, instinctively glancing back towards the entrance to make sure none of Sir Grisholm’s soldiers had wandered down, “Have a story about dragons. My mom told it to me when I was young. Forest Serpents, they were called… These dragons were also intelligent and ended up helping some highland elves in the story.”

Another doorway appeared ahead on the outer side of the curve. They made their way into the room. Blech! Blind Seer reeled from the stench. Food long gone bad and the overwhelming presence of mold filled his nostrils. His companions wrinkled their noses a bit, but continued further into the room. How can they stand it?

The small room had stacks of crates throughout. Some had been toppled over and pried open, presumably picked clean by the many Fadafir Kingdom soldiers that had used the site as a camp over the years. Barry moved toward an intact crate as he spoke, “In any case, I don’t think anyone has ever heard of a dragon made out of ice. How does it move without cracking? I wonder what it eats…”

Barry reached the crate and pried the lid off. A huge cloud of dust puffed out of the crate, enveloping Barry’s head. He opened his mouth to speak again, but instead gasped in pain, inhaling more of the dust. Barry began to cough and splutter, eyes squeezed shut, flailing his arms about.

Blind Seer moved to assist Barry and got a whiff of the dust cloud. That’s not dust! “Stingspore! Everybody out!” He scrunched his eyes shut, clamped his mouth, and stopped his breathing. He went to where he last saw Barry and felt a flailing limb hit him. Barry grabbed onto his fur, holding tightly. Blind Seer made his way out of the room, exhaling very slowly to keep any more stingspore from getting in his nose.

He opened his eyes in the main corridor and saw Gale and Ku. They had escaped without harm, but Barry was still gasping like a fish out of water, eyes shut, with the skin around them an alarming red. Blind Seer turned to his companions, “He needs water!”

He was about to dash off, back up the entry stairs, when Gale raised a hand to stop him. Gale reached into a belt pouch and pulled out a bowl. Blind Seer was amazed, though not altogether surprised, to see the bowl rapidly fill itself with water. Gale turned to Blind Seer and asked, “What do I do?”

“Have him drink it. Barry, this is going to feel pretty bad… really bad, actually… like being burnt alive, I’m told. Keep drinking though, it’ll get better after a while.”

Gale lost the first bowl of water as Barry thrashed. The second time, Ku held down Barry’s arms. The third bowl went down easier. Gale continued to make the bowl refill with water. After the fourth bowl, Barry breathed easier. He sat up, eyes still squeezed shut, and said, “Damned souls of the Three! That was fucking agony!”

“Well uh…” Blind Seer pawed nervously at the ground, “It’s not over yet… Got to flush your eyes now.”

Barry flopped back onto the ground. “Talam’s tits! I’d almost prefer to just stab them out. Get on with it then before I lose my nerve.”

They pinned him down and poured more water over his eyes. Barry kept up a constant string of curses now that he could breath again. Once Barry could open his eyes again, they all sat on the floor breathing heavily for several minutes.


That was unpleasant. He sat, leaning against the wall of the main corridor, regarding Barry. He sighed and looked further down the corridor. His visibility extended a little ways beyond the light of the torch that Gale had scooped up after Barry’s flailing. The enieto could see a little ways in full darkness conditions. Ku had heard that it was currently a topic of study in Laushurno on how exactly they could do this. The leading theory involved psionic energy projections and special organs in their eyes. This visibility in the darkness appeared in monotone colors to the enieto eye.

Ku sighed and scanned the corridor in the other direction. He had been slightly annoyed at his traveling companions as they explored this old Void Temple. His companions had chatted constantly, meandering incautiously through the ruins, disregarding the potential dangers. I guess they let their guard down since the place has been explored several times by the Fadafir soldiers passing through… Obviously there are still dangers here. He glanced at Barry, who was rubbing his throat. Unknown environments should always be approached carefully…

He checked the straps on the hilt of his greatsword that he had lain by his side. I guess I should have said something… Discussing the dragon is definitely of use, but they should have waited until the area was secured… I should have told them to wait… Maybe I should say something now…

“Hey,” Ku began. The others all looked at him. “I realize that this place has been explored before… and that we want to discuss the ice dragon… but obviously there are dangers here. If we are to continue, I recommend proceeding with caution.”

Barry sighed, “Yea, I suppose I shouldn’t have just ripped the lid off that crate and stuck my face in it. Let’s focus on the task at hand here.”

They all nodded their agreement and clambered to their feet. Ku led the way. Barry walked behind him, still breathing a bit rougher than normal. Gale and Blind Seer walked to either side. Gale carried the torch now. Barry was still having some trouble with his breathing. They continued around the curve of the main corridor, silently scanning up ahead.

The light of the torch soon fell on iron bars. It looked like they may have once blocked the main corridor, but now they were a tangled, twisted mess.

Blind Seer touched one of the warped bars, “It… it looks like something broke out… from further inside.”

Ku agreed. All the bars were bent towards the entrance, meaning the most likely scenario would have been something pushing on them from the other side until they bent and broke… Something strong. “The question is,” Ku said, “Is it still here?”

By silent agreement, they all drew their weapons. Ku kept his eyes wide open as they moved forward in formation, further around the curve of the main corridor. He spotted a large double wooden door up ahead on the outside of the curve, askew and hanging off its hinges. Ku estimated that the Void Temple was laid out in a circle and that the door was directly opposite from the entry stairs.

Door ahead. Broken. Possible danger. Excuse the intrusion. This is Ku. He pushed the thought outwards towards his companions. Gale and Barry looked slightly startled, but then nodded and focused their attention ahead. Blind Seer seemed unfazed by the telepathy and also focused ahead, turning his ears in that direction.

Ku eased himself along the wall until the broken doors were at his side. He checked that his companions were ready, then spun around into the doorway, sword at the ready. His eyes scanned the darkness. Detecting no movement, he advanced cautiously. The others followed behind.

The room beyond the broken doors was small and circular. Ku looked down at the floor and saw a stone pit, about five feet deep. Larva pool. The room appeared to be devoid of life. Ku lowered his sword.

“What is this place,” Blind Seer asked.

“This is where the enieto would have kept their young,” Ku replied, “Normally this pit would be filled with water for the larva to swim in… Hm.” Ku paused his explanation and looked closer at the dry pool. He spotted a pile of something, but was having trouble distinguishing what it was with his monochrome sight in the dark. “Gale, can you shed some light down there?”

Gale moved to edge of the dry pool and held the torch over it. “Those… look like bones,” he said.

Ku nodded in agreement, then hopped down into the pit to get a closer look. “Definitely bones,” he reported, “Cannot make out what they were in life, though. There are several animal skeletons here, jumbled together.” He spotted one skull as large as his fist. He wasn’t knowledgeable enough in such matters to identify it.

A memory bubbled to the surface of his mind… Another pile of bones, this one in a cave… amongst which was the bones of an ancestor of a wolfos seeking to earn a name. I’ve heard no news of any Void Temples being abandoned in this region in recent times. That hebeni was quite large. Could be that it was abandoned long ago. His past words echoed in his mind.

“I think that hebeni… or at least a hebeni… was born here,” Ku said as he lifted himself back out of the dry pool.

Blind Seer sniffed over the edge, “And it was feeding on animals here when it was small?”

“That is my current theory,” said Ku.

Barry looked up at the ceiling, checking for holes that might lead to the surface, “Where did the animals come from? I don’t see any entrances in here.”

Ku also checked the ceiling and saw that Barry was right. “I’m not sure. Perhaps there is another way in. Or perhaps the entrance closed and that is what drove the hebeni to break out of here. Shall we continue?”

They made their way back to the main corridor and continued down it. They soon reached the other side of the cave in that blocked the corridor on one side of the circle.

“Well, I suppose that’s that,” said Ku. They turned around and headed back around the circle to reach the entry stairs.


They had nearly reached the bottom of the entry stairs when he spotted it. An odd crack running down the wall across from the entrance. “Hey,” Barry called to the others, “Does this look odd to you?”

They crowded around the spot he pointed out on the wall. Ku tapped at the area with the hilt of his sword. Blind Seer sniffed at it.

After some more investigating, they turned to each other. Blind Seer looked up at them, “Do you think there’s something behind here?”

“The circular layout of the main corridor would leave a large amount of space in the middle,” said Ku.

There was a moment’s pause, then they were all scrabbling at the crack in the wall, seeing if there was a hidden door here that they could pry open. Their efforts were rewarded with a clunking sound and a slight give in the wall. They pulled backwards and a section of the wall scraped along the floor. A narrow passageway led straight forward beyond.

Ku led the way with Gale following close behind. Barry stepped in next and Blind Seer brought up the rear. The rock crowded Barry from all sides. His heart beat a little faster and his throat itched. Damn… that stingspore really worked me over.

The passageway widened gradually. Barry could see that it opened into a chamber up ahead. Ku stopped ahead and gestured to the ground. There were shards of broken wood, warped and broken boards, scattered to either side of the corridor. Some pieces near the middle were charred black.

The group carefully stepped around the sharp splinters, entering a roughly circular chamber. There were several doorways branching off at different points around the walls. In the center of the chamber stood a plinth, atop which was a large crystal mass, perhaps as big as two fists held together. Spikes of crystal reached out from a central chunk. Some of the spikes were broken off, scattered across the top of the plinth. A few had fallen to the floor.

An outstretched skeletal hand lay on the floor as well, arm protruding from behind the plinth. They stepped slowly around the room, eyes fixed on the skeleton.

Barry heard a hiss escape from Ku. A humanoid skeleton lay slumped against the plinth, skull leaning against it as if the owner had decided to lay down here and take a nap. More likely he had fallen backwards and cracked his head on the hard marble. Barry spotted a faint stain on the side of the plinth that looked suspiciously like long dried blood. Fallen? Or pushed…

“These are enieto bones,” said Ku.

The skeleton resembled a human’s, which Barry had seen replicas of during one year’s Night of the Three in River’s Crossing when he was younger. This skeleton’s fingers were longer, though, and the feet only had four toes. The eye sockets were larger. Most notably, the jaws were wider, protruded further from the head, and were lined with sharp teeth.

“There’s another one here,” said Blind Seer. He was standing by one of the doorways. A skeleton was sprawled out just inside.

Barry coughed and rubbed his watering eyes. He jammed a thumb into his ear, which seemed to be thrumming. “Damn! Blind Seer… does stingspore have any effect on ears?”

Blind Seer turned from the skeleton in the doorway to look at Barry. “Ears? Not that I know of… Wait, can you hear that?”

Barry stopped digging in his ear with his thumb. “Oh, you can hear that too?”

“Yea… sounds like… wings?”

The sound grew suddenly louder and a swarm of dark shapes began pouring out of another one of the doorways. “Look out,” Barry heard Gale yell. He caught a glimpse of one of the dark shapes. A bat? Not a normal bat, though. He saw long whiskers on their face and large, sharp claws protruding from the joint in their wings. A few of the bats were alarmingly big, with fist-sized heads.

One of the big ones was flying straight towards him. I should get out of the way. His head buzzed. He tried to move, but found his muscles wouldn’t respond. Move! Panic ripped through his body just before the bat slammed into him, claws flailing.


“Look out,” he yelled as the swarm burst into the chamber. He saw Blind Seer and Ku duck into different doorways, followed closely by several bats.

The beat of their wings filled Gale’s ears. He saw a large bat knock Barry to the ground and begin slashing with its claws.

He surged forward, ignoring the smaller ones that were scratching at his armor. He swung Olctire at the large bat, hoping to knock it away from Barry. The blow connected, but on the flat of the blade. The small bats were everywhere, making it hard for Gale to swing his sword properly. The large bat, unfazed, continued to claw at Barry and was now leaning in to bite.

Damnit! Gale smacked several small bats away with his free hand, then took Olctire in both hands. With a snarl, he drove the blade tip first into the large bat. It noticed this time and screeched at him. Gale’s head buzzed as the sound seemed to reverberate unnaturally.

Out of the corner of his eye, he saw bright flashes in the room Blind Seer had taken cover in. Gale heard the crunch of steel against flesh and bone from Ku’s room. The bat in front of him screeched again and bashed its wings against Gale’s armor. The long claws found their way through cracks, cutting painful gashes into him. The swarm of small bats, smelling blood, honed in on the gaps in his defense. Barry’s blood pooled on the floor in front of him. I need to get to him now! Gale shook himself free and swung again at the large bat. The power surged up as he let out a fierce yell. The blade hit, leaving a long gash in the bat, and the yell crashed out of him, amplified such that it was as a thunderclap. All the bats stumbled in their flight, careening into each other and into walls. Their screeches turned to panic and they began scrambling to get away from the prey that had turned out to be too much to handle. The large bat fled fastest, despite its injuries, into the room from which they had sprung.

Swarms flew out of Blind Seer’s and Ku’s rooms, joining the mass exodus. Gale dropped Olctire and rushed to Barry’s side.

Blind Seer

He made his way back towards the central chamber, winding around the scattered scrolls and carefully stepping over the bones by the doorway. He saw Gale kneeling over Barry’s prone form across the way, partially obscured by the plinth that was the central chamber’s sole defining feature.

“Is he alright?” Blind Seer made his way over to Gale.

“He should survive,” Gale replied, not looking up from his task. He moved his hands over Barry’s wounds and continued to heal them.

Ku entered the main chamber from another one of the rooms that branched outwards. He strode across the central chamber and looked through into the room where the bats had fled. “All clear,” he said, “Looks like they’ve left through a crack in the ceiling here. Is everyone alright?”

“Yes,” said Blind Seer, “Did you see any bones in that side chamber? There were several in mine… I wonder what happened here.”

“There were more where I was fighting. One in here, too.” Ku left the doorway to the room where the bats had appeared and began to circle the central chamber, scanning for any threats that might be left. He tapped the broken wood near the entrance with his sword as he passed. “From what we’ve seen, I would guess that they barricaded themselves in here.” Apparently satisfied that no more threats were lurking nearby, Ku paused and stooped to examine the bones in the doorway of the chamber Blind Seer had run into. “Makes you wonder… what were they trying to keep out?”

“Hmm. If we’ve got time,” said Blind Seer, “I could try to tap into the psionic energies here… Maybe find out what happened.”

“We’ve got time,” Gale said, “We’re going to be here awhile.” He was now wrapping Barry’s damaged arm. Barry tossed and groaned a bit.

“Bandages?” Blind Seer tilted his head sideways while looking at Gale and said, “Can’t you just fix him with magic?”

“There are,” Gale began, breathing heavily as he continued to apply the bandages, “limits to what I can do. It… the healing… takes a toll on me especially. I’ve… done as much with magic as I can. With proper attention, he should be just fine. It will take time and I will need to concentrate, so feel free to occupy yourselves with other matters.”

Blind Seer knew that Gale was best suited to get Barry recovering, but he still felt compelled to help. I’ll just be in the way if I fret over Barry… I need to let Gale handle this. “Alright… well… I suppose I will see if I can learn anything interesting about this place…”

“While you do that,” Ku said to Blind Seer, “I’m going to look around for any items that may be of use in these side chambers. Might pack that up too.” He gestured at the crystal fragments that littered the top and the base of the plinth.

“I’m not reading any psionic energies from that,” Blind Seer said as he began to let his senses expand.

“Nevertheless,” replied Ku, “Its placement implies it was at least once of importance. We should take it for study.”

Blind Seer nodded and closed his eyes. It’s good to see that Ku fully trusts Gale again… He could feel the psionic energy swirling around him. Something had definitely happened here… An event wrought with emotions strong enough to leave an imprint on the site. Someone receptive to these imprints, such as Blind Seer, could feel the emotions and even thoughts of those involved in the event. He had read the psionic energies like this before, with the wolfos they had aided in completing his First Hunt… But this… this event had happened a long time ago… and involved many more beings… Blind Seer could feel the energies just out of reach. Almost… almost…

His heart beat faster. They are coming! He looked over the wooden barricade that they had prepared. Tapping on the walls sounded throughout the chamber as the enemy sought out the hidden door. They are coming!! He repeated the thought, this time pushing it outwards, into the other enieto minds that were nearby. He strode across the chamber, past the plinth that held the- What was that? A shadow sped ahead of him, moving unnaturally. He filled his air with lungs to shout a warning as a figure rose out of the shadow on the floor. An elf, dressed in black leather, wearing a black wooden mask painted over with a bright white grin. Air escaped his lungs as the elf rammed two daggers into his chest. They are here! He fell backwards, towards the plinth…

He ran out into the central chamber and stopped in shock. His friend fell back into the plinth with a sickening crack. An elf dressed in black stood over the body, two daggers dripping with blood. A flash of fire brightened the room as it slammed into their wooden barricade. The elf in black was gone. He dashed forward and grabbed the crystal. They must not have this! He smashed it down, then turned to run to a more defensible position. He made it to the doorway. The elf in black stepped out of the shadows, bringing a knife up towards his throat…

He ran. He died. He fought. He died. The elves poured in. Bolts of fire flew through the air. He died. The elf in black slid through the shadows, under doors, around defenses. He died. He died. He died.

Blind Seer shook his head violently. His heartbeat pounded in his ears. A yelp threatened to leap out of his throat. Blind Seer fought it down, breathing deeply. After several moments, his heartbeat started to slow towards a normal pace. The enieto here… they were killed by enlightened elves… What in the Hunter’s sacred field was that elf in black?

He looked around and saw a pile of scrolls near the once barricaded entrance. A bag was by them as well. Blind Seer could see a spike of crystal sticking out of the top. He looked back at the plinth and saw that it was clear. Ku had apparently gathered up all the broken fragments as well as the main body of the crystal.

Ku and Gale emerged from one of the side rooms, carrying a makeshift stretcher between them. “Ah good,” said Ku, “You are aware once again. Can you gather up those scrolls while we prepare to move Barry? Learn anything interesting?”


He headed into one of the side chambers as Blind Seer began to concentrate on reading the imprinted psionic energies. Perhaps I should have paid more attention in the lessons about such application of psionic power. It would certainly prove useful in the accumulation of knowledge… Ah well, my application has served me well so far, and knowledge can still be gathered in other ways. The room he entered was the one Blind Seer had fought the bats in. Scrolls littered the floor. Ku snatched one up at random and took it over to an old table. The wood boards were warped, dry, and split. He unfurled the scroll on it, weighing it down with one of his daggers and a gauntlet that he unstrapped.

A sea of squiggles and dots sprawled across the scroll, the written word of the enieto. Ku could read most of it, but sections of it were lost on him. Hm… Must be an older version of our language. He grabbed a few more scrolls and skimmed through them. He started selecting some of them to take to the Void Temple in Rivers’ Crossing.

Tirok and the… lifepool? Ah – Tirok and the Spark of Life… I have heard this story… This version looks a bit different, though. Should be a good study… Hm… Eight stacks of lumber, five crates of food… A supply list. Probably don’t need that one… Use guide of the… sight of the far shard? He paused at this scroll, examining it more thoroughly. This part looks almost like psionic matrix theory… But that is usually applied to… Wait, shard – no… crystal. Use Guide for… Farsight Crystal? A memory bubbled into his mind, a half dozed through history lecture… ’Farsight Crystals were developed in Laushurno and were beginning to circulate around 1270, in the middle of the First Great War. Strategists hoped to use them to gain an advantage over the enlightened elves. Initial tests were promising, but unfortunately their inventor died before he could perfect the method. Others tried to replicate it later, but to no avail. The Farsight Crystal project was eventually abandoned.’ Ku looked through the doorway to the central chamber, to the broken crystal resting on the plinth. Wow… A Farsight Crystal. Definitely better pack that up. I’m sure someone will want to study it, even if it is broken.

He skimmed a few more scrolls, then gathered them up and took them to the central chamber. Gale was still applying bandages to Barry. Ku took out a bag and gently moved the crystal into it, then carefully and meticulously collected every broken off fragment he could find, adding them to the bag.

By the time he had finished that, Gale was done as well. “There,” Gale said, “I’ve closed the largest wounds with magic. The rest are relatively shallow scratches. Those are covered with poultice and bandage. The bat seems to have pummeled his head as well, knocking him out. Not too serious, I expect he’ll wake within a few hours. Moving him up to the camp and putting him by a fire would be good. We’ll want to keep him lying flat, though.”

Ku and Gale searched the side rooms and found materials to make a stretcher. They passed Blind Seer a couple of times while gathering the needed items. Gale glanced sideways to where the wolfos stood, eyes closed, swaying slightly, and said, “Kind of unnerving.”

“A bit, I suppose,” Ku admitted, “I wonder how long he will be like that.” Blind Seer had been concentrating for nearly an hour, occasionally letting out quiet whines and growls. Gale and Ku got all their gathered materials in one place and starting tying a stretcher together.

When they came back into the central chamber, Ku saw that Blind Seer’s eyes were open and he was looking around. “Ah good,” said Ku, “You are aware once again. Can you gather up those scrolls while we prepare to move Barry? Learn anything interesting?”

As they made their way out through the narrow passage and up the stairs, Blind Seer told them of what he had seen in the psionic energies. Gale and Ku carried Barry between them and Blind Seer carried on his back the crystal and scrolls that Ku had selected.

“Interesting,” Ku said when Blind Seer had finished telling them about the elf attack, “From the scrolls I read, I would say this Void Temple was last active during the First Great War… that would be around 400 years ago. Quite a discovery.”

“We’ll have to inform Lord Indaren and the Void Temple at Rivers’ Crossing,” said Blind Seer.

Ku nodded, “Indeed. First, though, let’s get Barry by the fire.”


The wing-beats of the bats seemed to stretch on into infinity in the darkness. It was cold. In the distance, a long string of light stretched out across the horizon. The light was blurry and dim. A haze… a cold mist pressed in from all sides. The bat wings buzzed nearby. A closer, dimmer light, pulsing waves that stirred the mist.

Damn bat… had magic? No… Not that. Different… Psionics?

The thought oozed out of him into the mists… Or… It oozed out of the mists into him? Another light skimmed into view, flashing brightly for a moment. The buzzing of the bat stopped.

Am I… dreaming?

Light surged again, closer this time. A spike of warmth? Swiftly draining back into chill. The mists grew still.

Am I… dead?

Still mists, lit dimly by the glowing horizon. Absolute silence.

The River?

Fading vision. Returning light. Cold mist. Warmth.


Warmth. Light. Orange light. Nearby. He felt his eyes once more. They cracked open. Cracked and crumbling walls. A few tree branches poking overtop. Nostiarna rising towards the sun… almost nightfall. Crackling fire. Warmth. Pain… dull and steady… all over.

“Urrrrgh,” Barry groaned.

Gale’s face swam into view. “Ah he’s up,” he said. Ku and Blind Seer looked down at him too.

“You and I seem to have different versions of ‘up’,” said Barry.

“And he’s still his snarky old self,” Gale smirked, “Don’t worry, once I’ve had a chance to rest a bit, I think I can patch up the rest of your wounds… Probably won’t even have too many scars. Just try not to move much in the meantime.”

Barry, who felt like his limbs had been filled with stones, replied, “I don’t think that will be a problem.” He slumped his head to one side and saw the ice dragon, curled up in a corner of the crumbling walls, away from the fire, seemingly asleep. “Looks like we both have some recovering to do.”

Barry’s eyelids drooped as his companions filled him in on all that had happened after the fight. He dozed occasionally. Good to have friends in this line of work… Back in the bandits, they’d have left me I’m sure… would have saved my stuff, of course… Yea… good to have friends… even if one is a dirty elf.

Into the Woods


He could feel the uneasiness of the city as he passed through the gates, leading his horse by the reigns. The group trailed out behind him. They had placed the oldest and most wounded of the would-be sacrifices in Rognvald’s cart. The rest walked along behind, with Ku and Barry bringing up the rear on horseback. Luckily, they had met no more worgs in the day or so of travel that it had taken to reach the city.

The buildings of Rivers’ Crossing were packed closely together. They were made from a combination of timber and brick. Gale stopped as he reached a crowd that seemed to be watching something up ahead. Can’t see a thing… He climbed back onto his horse to get a better view.

Up ahead, a man was standing on a crate, crying out, “I’m sure you’ve all heard! The elves! The elves are raiding and pillaging across the entire Fadafir Kingdom!”

Last I heard, they had only raided some border towns…

“Even now,” the man continued, “they walk among us! Preparing to strike!”

Gale reached up and pulled his hat tighter. The crowd was muttering and eyeing each other suspiciously. Great…

The man pointed to the sky, “And now, I tell you! The elves have used fell magic out in the Bittercold! They have sent the monster… the dragon… as a sign of their power!”

Ok. It’s official. This guy is nuts.

The man now pointed at the crowd, “The elves own the sky! How long do you think we have? Even now, our lord… Eric Indaren… is negotiating with the elves! He will sell our kingdom into slavery! We will all soon be in chains!”

And now he’s stirring up a panic… Wonderful. Gale cleared his throat and shouted, “Hey!” Many in the crowd turned to face him. Uhh… what am I doing? This is crazy… no, that man is crazy… This madness has to stop. “The elves have raided a few towns, yes… but the only danger here today is your own panic. You must… you must stay calm and stand united against the elves. Your leaders are moving to stop the elves… all will be fine.”

“Fine, he says!” The man on the crate pointed an accusatory finger at Gale, “He is probably one of them! An elf!”

That… might very well be the first true thing he’s said… heheh.

“How,” the man continued, “can we stay calm when the elves send dragons to kill us all?”

Someone in the crowd called out, “Oh, come off it already!”

The eyes of the man on the crate rolled wildly, “Another elf! They are among us! They are in the crowd!”

The crowd’s only response to that was a nasty tomato between the crazy man’s eyes. The man spluttered and stumbled around atop his crate. The crowd chuckled and started to disperse.

Mathius Drosund walked up beside Gale’s horse. Gale had come to admire the nobleman, who walked among the others in their group… the commonfolk that had been nearly sacrificed by the worgs and the strange horned creatures that Blind Seer called shamans. Barry had offered Mathius his horse, but Mathius had declined, saying that the ones with the ability to fight should be on horseback, so as to quickly respond to danger. Mathius now looked up at Gale and said, “Good work. Panic is the last thing we need right now. Come, let us get Rognvald to his townhouse, then I will introduce you to Lord Eric Indaren.”

Blind Seer

He walked alongside Gale, who had dismounted again. It was much easier to lead the horse on foot through the crowded streets. Blind Seer looked up at Gale, “Do you… do you think it could be true? What that man said about the elves and the dragon?”

“I doubt it,” Gale replied.

Blind Seer sniffed the air. Ack! This is worse than Lakeside! How do humans live like this? He tried to ignore the terrible smells, “He may have been crazy… but I have heard the elves are skilled at magic.”

“I have… uh, heard that too,” said Gale, “But this… I’ve never heard of anything like this.”

Their conversation lapsed into silence as they continued to make their way to Rognvald’s townhouse. Blind Seer watched the crowd stream by, feeling slightly overwhelmed. He saw only a few other wolfos in the city, sitting on street corners and selling finely woven cloth. There were a good amount of enieto on the streets, mingling amongst the countless humans.

“Turn left here and third house on the right,” Rognvald called out from behind them. They followed his directions and soon arrived at his townhouse. It was a modest building, thin, two stories, well crafted but unadorned. Rognvald rumbled his cart around back to a shed. He hopped down and unhooked the horses, hitching them to a nearby post.

Gale, Blind Seer, Ku, and Barry got their own horses settled and started helping to get the cart unloaded of the few goods Rognvald had picked up in Lakeside. The once-bandits and the almost-sacrifices assisted as well. Mathius Drosund approached the cart.

“Oh no, sir,” said Rognvald, “I couldn’t ask you to help.”

“I don’t recall you asking,” said Mathius with a smirk, “Still going to help.”

They made short work of unloading it and the goods were soon stacked and secured in the shed. Rognvald led everyone inside. The interior of the house was much like the exterior, well made and practical. “Ahh,” said Rognvald, heading into his humble kitchen, “Good to be home.” He rummaged around in a cabinet for a minute. “I’m afraid I don’t have any food in the house. Need to restock after that journey.” He pulled a box out of the cabinet, set it on the dining table, and produced a key from an inner pocket on his jacket. “I do, however, have coin for my faithful guards.” Rognvald unlocked the box, which had many coins inside. He paid out fair amounts to the guards, then relocked the box.

Blind Seer accepted his coins and awkwardly shuffled them into his pack. These bits of metal are more suited to those with true thumbs… Blind Seer looked back to Rognvald, “So, what now?”

“I imagine,” said Rognvald, “that Mathius Drosund here will be taking you to see Lord Eric Indaren now. You lot seem to have made quite an impression on him.”

Mathius smiled, “That tends to happen when you save someone from a pack of blood-crazed worgs.”

Rognvald continued, “Any who wish to stay in my employ are welcome, though I daresay you four may very well have other work after seeing Lord Indaren. In any case, you may certainly come back here and visit anytime.”

The men who had once been in the outlaw gang with Barry accepted Rognvald’s offer of employment. Everyone shook hands and made their way to the door. “I am honored to have traveled with you,” said Blind Seer, formally bowing, “May the Guarding Hunter grant you good health and long life.”

Mathius Drosund rounded up the men and women that had almost been sacrificed. Gale, Blind Seer, Ku, and Barry gathered their horses and joined him. “Let us be off,” Mathius said, and led them in the direction of the castle.


They made their way across the city. They passed by a thriving market square where everything from food to wagon wheels were being sold. A sturdy stone bridge loomed ahead, beyond which rose a formidable castle and another bridge. Ku could see that the river they had followed from Lakeside split into two here. One of the branches curved off to the west and the other headed southeast. The castle was nestled between the two branches of the river. A sound defense… Close off the bridges and a practical attack can only come from one direction.

“So,” said Blind Seer as they walked along, “What… what are everyone’s plans for after this?”

Everyone was silent for several moments, then Gale said, “Well… I suppose it depends on this Lord Indaren fellow… I guess that… that if that doesn’t lead to anything… we could continue working for Rognvald.”

Blind Seer wagged his tail, “I certainly wouldn’t mind continuing to travel with you all.”

Gale smiled, “Me neither.”

Barry chuckled, “It’s the best I’ve had in a long time.”

They all looked to him. “Ah,” Ku said, “Yes… It has been rather enjoyable.” I don’t know if I just want to wander around with them forever, though… I’ve always wanted to see Laushurno…

They crossed the bridge. Both sides had thick gatehouses. The castle guards recognized Mathius Drosund and hailed him. One of the guards stepped forward, “Here to see Lord Indaren, Lord Drosund?”

“Yes,” Mathius replied, “As well as these folk here.” He waved his hand towards the group behind him.

The guard nodded, “I will see that he is informed of your arrival. He may be several minutes, though… He is holding council about the recent elf raids. You are of course welcome to wait in the front room.”

Mathius led the group through the castle gates.


They sat around in the front room. The castle stable boys had seen to their horses. Guards were posted on the double doors that Mathius said led to the lord’s hall. Barry was sweating slightly. He had been a bit nervous ever since entering Rivers’ Crossing.

Surely it has been long enough… Surely no one will recognize me. It’s been… what… two years since I was last here? I’ve never been to the castle, though…

He cast his gaze around the room. The walls were made of huge, carved stone bricks. Arrow slits let in sunlight and the main door was thick and reinforced with strips of metal.

Gale slid into the seat next to Barry and said, “Barry, what do you know of Lord Indaren?”

Barry thought back on the time he had lived in Rivers’ Crossing, “A stern man… and just… His family served in the Second War. He served in the border patrol. The Indaren family has been around since the time the Longman family ruled as kings. Eric has devoted himself to holding the elves at bay. The severity of their raids has dwindled while he’s been Lord of Rivers’ Crossing.”

“Sounds like a great man,” said Gale.

Mathius paced back and forth for a while in the front room, then asked one of the guards if he could join Lord Indaren’s meeting. The guards allowed him to pass. The front room became quiet again as the rest of them waited to be admitted.

Lord of Rivers’ Crossing

He leaned over the table, braced on his arms, surveying the map of the Fadafir Kingdom. His officers and his advisor, Varison Dargur, were gathered around the table as well, studying the map intently. He pointed a finger up north, to the Cold Forest, “The scouts report elf raids all along the border of the Cold Forest north of the river,” he slid his finger down the map, to the Silent Hills, which were south of the borders of the Fadafir Kingdom and near the Singing Forest, “and the men at Brandon’s Watch report increased elf activity… the elves are ranging further and further from the Singing Forest.”

He let out a long sigh. “They are testing us… testing our defenses. They are planning something big… I just know it. And now I’ve got thrice-damned fairy tales flying over my city! Where do we stand with that?”

Varison Dargur replied, “Still no word from Sir Grisholm, my lord.”

He clenched his jaw and stared at the map. “If the elves decide to invade…” A knock on the door interrupted his thoughts. He strode over to it, flung it open, and stared down at the page who had knocked. “Yes?”

The page wrung his hands, “Lord Indaren… sorry to disturb you. It’s just… we have a man here insisting to see you… a Lord Drosund…”

Eric Indaren widened his eyes in surprise, “Mathius Drosund is alive?”

At that moment, Mathius sauntered into view behind the page. “And well, my friend… Alive and well.”

Eric strode forward and clapped Mathius on the back, “Good to see you! We began to worry when we didn’t hear from you… Thought maybe bandits… or worse.” He pulled Mathius into the map room as the page scurried off.

The smile on Mathius’ face faded, “Worse, I’m afraid… Worgs.”

Eric swore, “As if a dragon wasn’t enough… now you are telling me we’ve got worgs in our borders?”

“Well,” Mathius said, a smirk beginning to form, “You’ve got fewer of them to worry about now… I was rescued by a… somewhat unusual group. Could be just what you need…” He put a hand on the map. “Are the rumors true? Are the elves stirring?”

Eric joined Mathius at the map and replied, “Yes. From both forests.”

“War on two sides,” said Mathius, “Only one way to survive that…”

Eric narrowed his eyes at Mathius, “With allies. Your… unusual group… you think they could bring us allies, don’t you?”

Mathius nodded, “Two humans, a wolfos, and an enieto… I’m sure by now you’ve sent envoys to the Brimmahg Confederacy, but we may need more help… The enieto of Laushurno… and the wolfos tribes.”

Varison Dargur scoffed and joined the conversation, “The wolfos tribes? Bands of scattered savages… You’d sooner convert a Bulanti from Celestialism than you’d get those tribes organized and working together.”

Mathius said, “The wolfos are holding a Great Meet this year, I’ve heard. Could be an opportunity to speak with many tribes at once.”

Varison waved a hand dismissively, “Great Meet… right… a chance for them to all get together and yap at each other. The enieto of Laushurno would be a better bet for allies.”

Mathius pointed at the map, to the Eolas Mountains, which were across the vast Veldt of the Sun from where the Fadafir Kingdom lay, “But Laushurno is many miles away. By the time an envoy reached them, negotiated with them, and-”

Lord Eric Indaren held up a hand. Mathius and Varison grew silent. Eric said, “We need allies, yes. Both the enieto and wolfos are a possibility. The Brimmahg may also need further convincing… But, we have a more pressing matter at the moment. You said your group has dealt with worgs, Mathius, perhaps they could also deal with a dragon. It flew over yesterday and it looked like it landed in the woods just south of Rivers’ Crossing. I sent Derrack Grisholm to investigate, but I haven’t heard anything yet. Perhaps your group can look into this for me… track down Sir Grisholm and see what the situation is.”

Mathius nodded, “They might be up for that.”

“Good,” said Eric, “I will meet them now. If they do well in this task, I imagine I will have more work for them.”


He looked up when Mathius returned to the front room. Mathius said that Lord Indaren would soon be ready.

I wonder what he will be like… Gale had heard tales of lords back on the farm from human slaves… Good lords, bad lords, cruel lords, and noble lords… Barry said that this Lord Indaren served in the border patrols… Gale pulled his hat tight. He may not differentiate between enlightened and highland elf… I’d best be careful.

“Lord Eric Indaren will see you now,” one of the guards said as he moved to open the double doors to the lord’s hall. The room beyond was long and made of sturdy stone bricks. It was furnished with several benches where petitioners could wait their turn on court days. On a small raised stone platform at the back of the hall was a finely carved wooden seat. To one side of the platform stood a man dressed in red silk robes, standing with his arms clasped in front of him. Another man stood in front of the seat, wearing fine chainmail and a dark red cloak.

Gale, Blind Seer, Ku, and Barry followed Mathius into the room. The would-be worg sacrifices followed behind.

A herald stepped forward and said, “Welcome all, to the hall of Eric Indaren, Watcher of the Hills, Defender of the Kingdom, and Lord of Rivers’ Crossing.”

Eric stepped forward on the platform, his chainmail rattling softly. “Indeed, welcome. Mathius here tells me that you saved him and these fine folk from worgs.”

“Aye, m’lord,” said the woman who had nearly bled to death during the ritual, “If not for these here, we’d have been eaten alive by those beasts.”

Eric cast his gaze over the four of them. “Seems to me we have some heroes here.” He chuckled and raised his eyes to the civilians, “My stewards shall see that you are fed, clothed, and given some coin for your troubles before you begin your journeys home. Rest assured that my militia shall be informed of the presence of worgs within our borders. Take care and safe travels.”

The stewards ushered out the civilians, taking them to a side room. Eric beckoned the four of them forward, “Now, let us speak of your reward for protecting the citizens of the Fadafir Kingdom. Come, tell me your names.”

Gale stepped forward, “Gale E- Eh… Ahem… Wood… son… Ah… Gale Woodson, sir… my lord.” Nearly said ‘Elswood’… That would have gone over great. Doesn’t sound elvish at all!

Blind Seer hurried forward and bowed, “I am Blind Seer of the Sagesnouts, noble lord.”

Dang, I forgot to bow.

Ku gave a brief bow, “I am called Ku in the human tongue, my lord.”

Great. Now I even look less courteous than Ku.

Barry bowed deeply, then said, “Barristan Castor Longfellow the Third, at your service, my lord.”

What? Who? Is that his full name? Wow… that’s a mouthful.

Gale heard a sharp intake of breath. He looked for the source and his eyes settled on the man in red silk robes standing next to the stone platform. The man’s eyes were widened in surprise, but they quickly returned to normal. The man glanced furtively at Eric, then his gaze settled on Barry. Gale shook himself mentally, realizing that he had been staring at the man in red silk robes for several moments.

“Ah yes,” said Lord Eric Indaren, “This is my advisor, Varison Dargur.” The man in red silk robes gave a brief bow. “Now,” Eric continued, “You shall of course be paid for rescuing my friend and aiding the security of the Kingdom by slaying those worgs.”

Eric gestured to another steward near the back of the hall, who scurried off to make the payment arrangements. Eric turned back to the group, “If you are interested, I may have additional work for you. I am sure that you saw the dragon?”

Kind of hard to miss… “Yes,” Gale replied.

“I need to know what we are dealing with,” said Eric, “Is it smart like the dragons in hearth tales? What does it want? Can it be reasoned with or is it just a beast? Is it a danger to the Kingdom? Should it be slain? I need answers to all these questions. I sent one of my knights, Derrack Grisholm, into the woods south of here, where the dragon landed. I haven’t heard from him, though.”

“You want us to go into the woods and… confront… a dragon? I’m… not sure we’re… qualified,” said Gale.

“No one is qualified to deal with this creature sprung from legend…” Eric sighed, “Look, I’m not asking you to confront a dragon. I just want to know what has happened to Sir Grisholm. Would you be willing to track him down for me?”

“I… suppose we could do that, sir… my lord,” Gale said, looking to the others, who nodded their agreement.

“Good,” said Eric, “Rest assured that you will be well paid for your efforts. I would advise starting first thing in the morning. It is getting late… You wouldn’t want to wander around the woods in the dark.”

Mathius spoke up, “You are all welcome to come stay with me. I’ve plenty of room.”

They agreed, thanked Lord Eric Indaren, and bid farewell, heading back across town to Mathius Drosund’s place.

Blind Seer

“Welcome to my home,” said Mathius as he pulled open the ornately carved double wooden doors. Servants scurried forward over the tiled floor. They quickly relieved Mathius and his guests’ of their possessions, leaving them to relax by the crackling fire in the wood floored sitting room. Blind Seer padded forward and curled up by the warmth.

“We have refreshments for all. Rooms have been prepared for you upstairs,” one of the servants said. He eyed their travel worn clothes and faces. “If you like, we can also draw up a warm bath.”

Gale’s eyes lit up. “A… warm… bath? Like… a bath… with hot water?”

The servant nodded.

Gale hopped up and said, “Yes, I’ll take one please. How about the rest of you?”

Barry shrugged. “But it isn’t time… Hasn’t been a full year yet.”

Gale looked absolutely mortified.

Barry chuckled, “Just kidding. Yes, I’ll take one too, please.”

Ku and Blind Seer decided to have one as well. The servant headed off to prepare the baths. Another brought food and drink while they waited. When the baths were ready, the servants led them upstairs and showed them to a room with copper tubs.


He sank into the warm water with a deep sigh. The pleasant floral smell of the soap wafted upward along with the steam. Ku breathed deeply, relishing the moist air on his skin. The hot, dry air of late summer had been murder on his flesh. He absently felt around for the sponge on the side of the tub, eyes closed, enjoying as all his muscles relaxed.

His reverie was broken by an astonished exclamation from Blind Seer, “Gale! What are those!?”

Ku’s eyes snapped open. What is going on? Ku swiveled around to stare at Gale, who was halfway done sinking into his own tub. Ku felt a hiss escape him and the flesh around his frills swell, an instinctive reaction of anger or disgust, both of which would be appropriate in this case.

Gale was covered with ropy white scars from his shoulders to the backs of his thighs. He heard Barry groan and spared him a glance. Barry sank deeply beneath the bubbles with his eyes squeezed shut, apparently too appalled to look any longer.

Gale stood awkwardly, apparently at a loss of words. Finally, he replied calmly, “They are just old scars, Blind Seer… They don’t hurt.” Slowly, he lowered himself into the water, hiding the scars from view.

“But…but how…?” Blind Seer stammered, his voice quaking with distress.

Gale turned around to stare hard at Blind Seer, his facial expression difficult to read. “Blind Seer… I was enslaved for nearly 50 years… scars tend to accumulate…”

Barry coughed and choked on the bubbles, apparently forgetting the horror of Gale’s disfigurement in lieu of this shocking new revelation. “50 years? You’re 50 years old!?”

Gale seized on the new topic with eagerness. “Enslaved for 50 years or so… I was taken when I was still young… I’m somewhere in my early 60’s by my count. It gets a bit hard to keep track of when you’re a slave. I think that would make me physically in my early 20s by human standards.” Gale began scrubbing his back, Blind Seer and Barry winced at the reappearance of the scars.

“But Gale… those look…” Blind Seer implored. He was not so easily steered off topic.

Gale sighed heavily. He leaned backwards over the rim of the tub so that he was staring at them all upside down, his pointed ears clearly visible beneath his sodden hair. “Blind Seer… I appreciate your concern, but it’s in the past now and I’d rather it stayed there. I want to look forward not back, ok? So can we talk about something else please?“

Blind Seer pushed the bubbles around his tub nervously, but did not pursue the topic.

Ku had watched this exceptionally awkward interplay with interest. Humans and highland elves apparently share the same compulsion to avoid painful topics in favor of living in denial. Ku rolled his eyes. If thats how you want it then lets change the subject… He spoke, “Gale, I have an inquiry for you.”

“Yes?” Gale offered cautiously as he vigorously scrubbed his arm.

“If you are as physically developed as you claim, why do you have no body hair?”

Barry and Blind Seer immediately looked up from their own bathing to stare curiously at Gale.

“Pardon?!” Gale turned around so fast to stare at Ku that he sent a wave of water out of his tub.

“I shall repeat. You claim to be physically mature and yet you are as hairless as I am, except for your head. Why?” Barry and Blind Seer watched the byplay with great interest. Barry stared down at his own hairy chest and glanced at Gale. It was true enough, Gale’s chest and forearms were completely smooth. It was an odd juxtaposition when compared to his otherwise mature physique.

Gale blushed furiously, his red face clashing magnificently with his auburn hair. “I … what.. that… What does that have to do with anything?!”

“You asked to change the subject.” Ku responded.

“I meant to something else that doesn’t have to do with me and my body!” Gale hollered back. Barry covered his mouth to keep from laughing and Blind Seer was attempting to look thoughtful but was failing spectacularly at hiding his own amusement.

Ku’s unfathomable black eyes stared back impassively, awaiting his answer.

Gale sputtered and ground his teeth. “Highland Elves do not grow body hair… anywhere… no matter how old they are… “ He offered grudgingly.

“Really? None anywhere?” Ku kept his voice even and polite. Barry couldn’t stand it any longer and burst out laughing at the look on Gale’s face.

“No! None anywhere! Want me to prove it!?” Gale made to stand up.

“I don’t believe that will be necessary,” Ku replied quietly, barely making himself heard over the braying laughter of Barry and Blind Seer.


In the morning, they found fresh clothes outside their doors. They prepared their gear, bid farewell to Mathius, and headed out. They stopped by Rognvald on the way out of town.

“Good morning. Come in, come in,” said Rognvald, “How did your meeting with Lord Eric Indaren go?”

Barry replied, “He offered us the chance to go get killed by a dragon.”

Rognvald raised his eyebrows. “Oh? He’s sending you after that thing?”

“Well,” said Barry, “Our actual goal is to track down Sir Derrack Grisholm, a knight that Lord Indaren sent after the dragon.”

“I hope all goes well. Here, have some biscuits. Picked them up from the baker this morning.” Rognvald passed around a plate of delicious biscuits. They ate, then bid their farewells.

They made their way through town, over the west bridge, past the castle, to the south gate. The gate was not normally open to townsfolk. It was reserved for nobles wishing to hunt in the dense forest south of Rivers’ Crossing and soldiers heading south to Brandon’s Watch in the Silent Hills. The guards at the gate were expecting them, though, and let them through.

“So,” said Gale, edging his horse closer to Barry’s, “Barristan Castor Longfellow the Third, eh?”

Barry ducked under a tree branch as his horse plowed forward. The leaves rustled as it scraped atop his head. In this area of the world, some deciduous trees were sprinkled amongst the coniferous. Leaves and needles jostled together, all vying for sunlight.

Barry sighed inwardly. What possessed me to give my full name? I’ll never hear the end of it… I guess it was Gale talking about how Lord Indaren sounded like a Great Man… My ancestors were Great too… “Yes. That is my full name, but you can continue just calling me Barry.”

“I don’t know,” Gale smirked and gave him a sidelong glance, “Barristan has such a nice ring to it… Barristan Castor Longfellow the Third… sounds rather noble, don’t you think?”

“Well… actually… The Longfellows are… well, were… a minor noble family. My ancestors were great men… They served in the Border Patrols and fought in the Great Wars… Ah, the stories my father would tell me when he wasn’t drunk… We have dwindled, though… Lost our lands and fortune until…” Barry trailed off into silence. Until me. Here at the end of the line… an ex-bandit wandering around in the woods with this merry gang of misfits…

The silence stretched on for several minutes until Gale, guessing at Barry’s thoughts, said, “Come, Barry, you may yet join your ancestors in the ranks of Great Men.”

As Barry was preparing to reply, another voice rang out through the woods, “Halt!”

The Search

The Shadow

He stood concealed in the alleyway between two buildings, watching the bakery across the dusty street. People streamed by, going to and from the large open air marketplace nearby. Nearly all wore brightly colored, loosely fitting clothes that left little skin exposed, as was the fashion here in the Bulanti Nation, where the sun shone nearly every day. Most were native Bulanti, with varying shades of brown skin, though he spotted a few pale skinned northerners in the crowd. None noticed him as they passed his alleyway. He wore dark grey clothes, almost black but not quite, which blended with the shade of the alleyway. As he continued to watch the bakery, a small cart came rumbling down the street. The sound of snapping wood reached his ears as the cart passed the bakery. The cart driver, a tall Bulanti, swore and climbed down from his seat to have a look.

The Fist

He walked down the street, scanning the signs of the shops for the symbol he sought. He had checked the day’s drop point this morning, as he did every morning. He hadn’t expected anything new, for his orders had been the same for several months. Explore, observe, and prepare. He had familiarized himself with much of the city of Pelbuhan, learning how the Bulanti lived. He liked the Bulanti clothing style. Loose and airy, allowing for good freedom of movement, and it covered his skin, which was very pale, even by the standards of his homeland, the north. This morning’s scrap of paper at the drop point had been different. Report to the bakery on Coin Street, receive orders there. The bakery’s symbol had been scrawled onto the paper, along with the usual small black dot enclosed by a black circle, the symbol of the organization he belonged to, the Core. He spotted the bakery sign ahead and headed in, glancing briefly at a Bulanti who was fiddling with the wheel of a cart nearby.

The Shield

He strode down Coin Street, heading for the bakery. He had lived in Pelbuhan for all of his life. He kept a brown-skinned hand on the hilt of his sword, scanning the street for any signs of trouble. He knew how to spot the signs from his time in the Siathar City Guard, common men trained and led by the Knights of Siathar, tasked with defending the people and upholding justice. The reality of it, as he had learned, was much different. The Siathar City Guard was rank with corruption. Many of them were paid by the Falling Suns, a notorious criminal organization, to look the other way while the people of Pelbuhan were extorted for all that they were worth. That is why he had left the Guard and joined an organization which he hoped might actually do some good. So far, he had merely been running errands for them, but now the Core had called him here, to the bakery on Coin Street, for what he hoped would be his first real mission. He nodded good morning to a tall Bulanti, who was kneeling and fiddling with a broken wheel on his cart outside of the bakery’s entrance. The man returned his nod and continued to swear at the wheel as he headed into the bakery.

The Mask

He walked into the bakery. The one that swaggered like a guard turned to look, “Sorry sir, we’re closed.”

“Oh. Well please… sir… it’s just that my cart wheel… it has gone and broke on me,” he said. Young. Arrogant. Sticks out like… well, like a guard. Won’t last.

The other one, a northerner dressed in Bulanti style, spoke up, “I’m afraid that even if we were open… we wouldn’t know much about fixing carts… since we are, you know, a bakery.”

“How silly of me… Very sorry to bother you,” he said. Sarcastic. Looks unarmed… no… there’s a spring to his step. Look at his stance. He is his own weapon. Might last.

Out of the corner of his eye, he caught some movement in the shadows. He moved his eyes without turning his head and saw the one dressed in dark grey, blending into the shadows. Did he let me see him? No. Knows how to keep his mouth shut… that’s good. Knows how to disappear into shadows… but there might not always be shadows. Probably will last a while.

“Have a good day, sir,” the guard one said, blustering up and taking a few steps forward. Is that supposed to intimidate me?

He sat down at the closest table. The other three looked annoyed that he hadn’t left. He spoke, this time with a thick northern accent and a deeper voice, “Good to know you all can spot a disguise. So pleased to meet my… partners… Any of you know what this next mission is about?”

The Messenger

He entered the bakery through the back, passing by the ovens and emerging from behind the counter in the front room. The four operatives were here. “Good afternoon. I see that you received our message. Let us get started. I am Seoltir.” He used it like a name, but it was more of a title. Seoltir… messenger… an old northern word. He had memorized all the information about the operatives. The Core had assembled this task force for their plans in the Bulanti Nation.

“Saitou,” he said to the northerner with the dark grey clothes standing in the shadows…
“Mort,” he said to the very pale northerner dressed in Bulanti clothes…
“Siath,” he said to the young Bulanti that stood like a guard…
“Moon,” he said to the tall Bulanti that sat at the table… He knew that beneath the disguise, though, was a tall, lean northerner…

“We have called you here today to entrust you with the task of finding and recovering another operative, John Hannock, a man skilled in rooting out secrets. We last heard from him when he boarded a ship in Brightharbor. The ship was sailing here, to Pelbuhan. The ship he was on is called the Swift Runner. We believe that John Hannock has valuable information for us. Find him.”


He followed the group down the street silently, scanning his eyes over the crowds ahead for any signs of trouble. Siath and Mort walked in front, having a halting conversation. Saitou guessed that neither had been on a real mission like this one before. Probably they had been running errands and observing locations. Moon on the other hand, he guessed had been on several missions. He kept losing sight of Moon, who walked a ways behind the other two, disguised as a Bulanti and often blending into the crowd. They were nearing the docks, planning on tracking down the ship Swift Runner and trying to pick up John Hannock’s trail from there.


They made their way down the docks, which were crowded with people. People unloading cargo, people unloading their day’s catch, people buying the day’s catch. He read the names of the ships as they walked by. He spotted a sleek looking ship with the name Swift Runner scrawled on the side. Mort pointed it out to the others and they all approached. Moon sauntered over to some fisherman stalls nearby, pretending to peruse the selection. Saitou leaned up against one of the pier posts. Siath followed Mort as he approached the ship. The sailors eyed Mort and eventually produced the captain.

The captain, a southerner, walked down the gangplank and onto the pier, “What can I help you fellows with?”

Mort stepped a bit closer to the captain and spoke in a low voice, “We’re here to ask about one of your passengers… John Hannock?”

The captain’s eyes briefly flicked over to Siath, who stood straight and kept his hand on the hilt of his sword. “Look,” the captain replied, “I don’t want any trouble. Swear I’ve had nothing to do with all the stories the sailors been telling down at the bar.”

“What stories might those be?”

The captain shifted nervously, “They say people like yourself and John Hannock… northerners… have been going missing recently. Taken from the docks in the night.”

“Taken how? By whom?”

“I don’t know. That’s just what I’ve heard. Look, I’ve got to get back to checking my inventory. Only thing else I’ve heard is that a Knight of Siathar is looking into the matter. Sir Lokman. Just bar talk, mind you… Could be just drunken stories.”

Mort thanked the captain and headed back up the pier. Siath followed behind. They soon regrouped with Saitou and Moon. Moon had a small fish, which he cleaned with a knife that had appeared in his hand, then began to eat it raw as they talked.


Mort asked, “Have you heard of this Sir Lokman?”

Northerners… “Yes,” Siath said, “He is one of the most renowned Siathar Knights stationed in this city. He’d be at the garrison, but I doubt we’ll be able to talk to him.”

“Well it’s our only lead. Let’s go see what we can dig up,” said Mort. They started to make their way through the city. They were at the corner where the North Docks and the West Docks met, near the marketplace. The garrison was to the southeast, past the temple district and the residential district. They traveled along the North Docks, though, a less direct but more unobstructed route. They would have to pass through some of the poorer parts of town, but that mattered little to them.

Mort attempted to fill the silence that had once again descended. “Siathar… that’s one of the Celestials, right? Were you named after him?”

Siath replied, “Yes. It’s a fairly common practice to name our children after the gods.”

“Cute,” said Moon, sucking the last bit of fish meat off the bones and tossing them aside onto the dusty ground.

Siath clenched his jaw and continued his conversation with Mort, “What about up north… do you often name your children after your ah… gods?” Ignorant heathens… Worshipping glorified versions of mortals…

“No, not really,” Mort replied, “It’s kind of hard to name someone after gods whose names are more like titles… Voidwatcher, Mystic Lord…”

They left the docks, heading into the northern residential district, a collection of run down shacks that leaned every which way. Nearby was a slightly larger building with a cracked and faded symbol of the Celestial religion painted on it. Siath tipped his head in the direction of the shrine, then looked briefly to the heavens.

Mort nodded towards the shrine as well, “Do you hear that?”

Siath did hear it now. Several men angrily shouting. A man stepped out onto the entryway of the shrine. He had on a bracelet that seemed to be made out of the teeth of several predatory animals. He smugly surveyed the street and the few passers by slunk away. The man went back into the shrine and closed the door.

Siath strode forward, “Drake’s Teeth! Come on, they’re extorting the priest there.”


Yeah. Great plan. Let’s go piss off the local criminal gang. “It’s none of our business,” Moon muttered as Siath strode towards the shrine. Saitou and Mort looked between Siath and Moon. They shrugged and hurried to catch up with Siath. Moon sighed and followed as well.

He saw Siath bust in the door up ahead and heard him yell, “Hey! Leave that man alone!” Saitou and Mort paused at the entryway. Moon headed in, immediately dropping into a hobbling shuffle that matched his disguise of a tall, middle-aged Bulanti.

Siath was standing face to face with one of the Drake’s Teeth. Two more were holding an elderly priest dressed in the robes of the Order of Ruthaen. The Drake’s Teeth thug smiled smugly, “Wait your turn, young’un… Once we’re done with the priest here, you and I can… talk.”

Siath puffed out his chest, “Unhand him now! I’m going to get the authorities!”

The Drake’s Teeth man chuckled, “The authorities? Oh no… I’m so scared.” The man stepped towards Siath menacingly.

Moon hobbled up and put an arm around Siath’s shoulder, putting on his best Bulanti accent as he spoke, “I… I’m terribly sorry for this t-trouble, sir. P-please… my son here is a b-bit of a fool. Let me m-make it up to you… I’ve got a b-bit of money here.”

The Drake’s Teeth thug smiled greedily and opened his mouth to respond. A knife suddenly appeared in Moon’s hand, which he promptly drove into the man’s throat without hesitation. The other two Drake’s Teeth swore, pushed the elderly priest to the ground, and drew daggers.


Damn! He just killed that man! This one will be dangerous to work with… He had ducked into the shrine just after Moon, keeping to the edges of the dimly lit building, creeping forward until he was nearly at the back. Saitou saw the two remaining Drake’s Teeth draw daggers. Guess we’ll have to take these out too.

Saitou drew one of his weapons, a small, bladed star ideally weighted for throwing. The Drake’s Teeth men surged forward towards Siath and Moon, leaping over the shrine’s low benches. Saitou threw his star. It connected with a leg. The thug fell to the ground. A bench toppled over.


He burst into action, surveying the scene as he ran inside. Two thugs were on the ground, one clearly dead, the other grabbing his leg. Another thug was charging at Siath and Moon. Mort moved to intercept. He swatted aside the thug’s dagger and brought a knee up into his chest. A couple of loud cracks sounded through the shrine. The thug collapsed to the floor, gasping for breath like a fish out of water.

Before Mort could even say anything, Moon had opened the gasping thug’s throat and was already moving towards the one that Saitou’s throwing star had put on the ground.


“Wait,” he blurted out, “Shouldn’t we… take him to the guards?”

The thug slashed wildly from the ground. Moon kicked his hand and the dagger skittered off under a bench. The Drake’s Teeth thug scrambled forwards on all fours, trying to recover his weapon, but it was too late. Moon jumped on the thug’s back and stabbed twice. The thug went slack.

Moon calmly wiped his knife clean on the thug’s shirt and stood up, “You look like you were in the guards at some point, Siath… Tell me… why did you leave? What exactly do you think would have happened if we had turned these men into the authorities?”

Siath struggled to find words, still astonished from the sudden carnage that had unfolded before him, “They would have been… been held… for trial…” and before the trial, money would have been exchanged… the Drake’s Teeth would have gone free and the guards would have gone home rich…

Moon stared blankly at Siath as he stammered out a few words. When Siath trailed off into silence, Moon said simply with a shrug, guessing at Siath’s thoughts, “Anyone can be bought.”

“Still,” Siath said, “We didn’t have to kill them… The Core is supposed to be a humanitarian organization…”

Moon strode forward until he was face to face with Siath, “Never say our name in public. Anyone could be listening… Humanitarian organization? Yes… an organization with ideals… ideals that must be realized with blood. You are right, though… We didn’t have to kill them. If we had minded our own business and stuck to our mission, we could have avoided this mess.”

Siath grasped for a response, “But… the priest… he…”

“He what? He needed you to come in and rile up the Drake’s Teeth, threatening to take them to the authorities? At least there is a lesson you can learn here,” Moon gestured at the bodies, “This is how you get results.”

Mort chimed in, “Through murder?”

Moon shrugged, “Come on. Let’s get back to work.”

“Not until we check on the priest,” Mort replied.

Moon sighed and laid down on one of the benches. Siath glared at Moon, then went with Mort to check on the elderly priest. The old man had cracked his head when the Drake’s Teeth men had pushed him to the ground and was now out cold. Mort and Siath moved the old man onto one of the benches while Saitou watched from the shadows and Moon stared at the ceiling.


Why did the higher ups saddle me with these idiots. The boy is green as a sea-sick sailor’s face. You’d think he’d never seen blood before… Surely he’s seen blood before. The others are at least semi-useful. Pale one knows how to kick. Quiet one has probably killed for the Core before.

Are they still fidgeting with that old man? I wonder if he heard Siath say ‘Core’… Operatives aren’t supposed to reveal their association with the Core… Got to save face and all that… Wonder if I should slit the old man’s throat just to make sure… The look on their faces would be priceless. Nah… just need to get back to the damn mission. Oh damnit… the old man’s waking up… Now they’ll have to freaking talk to him…


He retrieved his throwing star, then watched silently from the shadows as Mort and Siath got the elderly priest onto a bench. Saitou quietly analyzed the old man, drawing on the knowledge that he had obtained by observing the city of Pelbuhan for the past six months. Robes indicate that he is in the Order of Ruthaen. Ruthaen is the Celestial known as the sky lantern, the guide. The Ruthaen Order is charged with bringing the teachings of Celestialism to the common people.

The priest groaned and blearily opened his eyes. He struggled for a moment, then realized that Mort and Siath were not the Drake’s Teeth men. “What hap-,” he began, looking around and noticing the dead bodies, “Ah… I suppose I should be abhorred that you have spilled blood in this sacred place… but honestly, I can’t say I’m sad to see them go. Uskira forgive me.” The priest made a placating gesture towards the sky.

Uskira, the life giver… said to hold all life sacred… Or at least all life that practices Celestialism…

The priest sat up and held his head, “Drake’s Teeth might send more men… Or they may not care. Time will tell… Who do I have to thank for my bloody floor?” The priest looked up.

“Siath,” said Siath.

“Mort,” said Mort, “Are you alright?”

“Well enough, I suppose,” the priest said, “Not the first time I’ve had Drake’s Teeth visit me. Probably won’t be the last… Thank you, though. My name is Aiden.”

Siath looked at the bodies, “Do you… want us to clean them up?”

Aiden replied, “No, no… You’ve… done enough already. I’ll call the guards and tell them it was a gang fight… Blame it on the Falling Suns… maybe them and the Drake’s Teeth will fight each other out, heheh.”

Doubtful. Drake’s Teeth operate in the poor districts… prone to violence… the other gangs hire them when excessive force is needed. Falling Suns own the rest of the town… except for the docks… They get their coin from businesses… protection tax, they call it. Then there’s the Tide Runners… the smugglers… they stick to the docks and prefer deals over fighting.

The priest stood, “You’d best get out of here before any Drake’s Teeth see what you’ve done…”

Mort and Siath soon took the priest’s advice. Saitou silently followed them back onto the street.


He looked around at the dusty street, which was empty for the moment, “Where’d Moon go?”

A dirt covered Bulanti emerged from an alleyway next to the shrine, wearing ragged clothes. The beggar spoke in a thick northern accent, “Right here, Mort. Old disguise got all bloody… Are you and Siath done playing nanny? Can we get back to our mission now?”

“Fine,” replied Mort, “Let’s go find this Sir Lokman and see if he knows anything about the missing northerners.”

They made their way through the rest of the residential district uneventfully and arrived at the garrison.


He looked around at the group. Two northerners, a Bulanti beggar, and myself… Yea, that won’t stick out at all… “So,” Siath said, “I am thinking maybe I should try to get in to see Sir Lokman on my own.”

Mort also examined the group, “There would probably be less questions without us… fine gentlemen… hanging around. If you think you can handle it on your own, go ahead.”

Siath headed for the garrison office doors, which were flanked by two guards. He knew his way around the garrison from his time in the city guard.

One of the guards spoke up as he approached, “May we help you?”

“I’m here to see Sir Lokman,” Siath replied.

The second guard squinted at him, “Hey… You look familiar. Were you in the guard?”

Siath tried to look hurried and annoyed, “Yes, for a time. Is Sir Lokman available? I really do need to speak with him.”

“Hmm,” the second guard examined him, ignoring his urgent tones, “You’re Siath, right? You turned in Tuhari for bribery…”

“Yes, yes,” Siath said, actually starting to get annoyed now, “He was taking bribes from the Falling Suns, allowing them to terrorize citizens.”

The second guard frowned, “Tuhari was my friend. Did you know that he’s got seven kids? Awfully hard to feed so many on a pitiful guard’s wage… Even harder now that he’s in jail.” He stepped closer to Siath, “You should leave.”

At that moment, Moon came out of an alleyway across the street and shuffled over, limping and holding out a bowl. “Noble sirs,” he said in a convincing Bulanti accent, “Spare a coin for a poor man down on his luck?”

“Piss off,” the second guard spat at Moon’s feet.

The first guard looked apologetic, “I’ve not got any coin.”

Moon looked heartbroken, beginning to limp away. Then, he stumbled and fell sideways into the second guard. Suddenly quick and limber, he snatched the second guard’s coin pouch off his belt and dashed off towards the alleyway.

The second guard’s face went red with fury, “Damnit!” He shoved Siath aside and chased Moon down the alleyway. The first guard followed, yelling, “Thief! Stop, thief!”

Siath took the opportunity to slip through the garrison office doors. He walked down the hallway, uncertain of where to go next. A door was cracked open up ahead and he could hear voices having a conversation. Siath cracked the door open and saw five men standing around a table, on which was spread a map of Pelbuhan. Four of the men wore pins that identified them as guard captains. The fifth was a sturdily built man with dark brown hair, wearing finely crafted armor that was engraved with the stylized shield and eye… the symbol of the Knights of Siathar.

The Knight was pointing to the area south of town on the map, where the farms were. A variety of fruit trees grew there. “We’ve had problems with the harvest this year. This may increase unrest among the citizens, especially the – Ah, hello?” The Knight had noticed Siath.

Siath cleared his throat, “Sir Lokman?” He had never met any of the Knights when he had served.

“Yes,” the Knight said, “And you are?”


“Well met, Siath. How can I help you?”

“Well,” Siath began, “I’ve been concerned about some activities near the docks… Seems that many northerners have been going missing of late. I heard that you were looking into the matter…?”

Sir Lokman regarded Siath carefully, “Why does this concern you so much?”

“I served in the guard for a time… and… well, I have a… friend, a northerner… who was supposed to meet me a few days ago… but he hasn’t turned up.”

Sir Lokman turned to the four guard captains, “You’re dismissed. See to your duties while I talk to our concerned citizen here.” The captains filed out.

Sir Lokman produced a piece of paper and quill He wrote down some notes as he spoke, “I have been investigating the disappearing northerners, yes. I’m afraid I don’t have any leads, though.” Lokman slid the piece of paper over. Siath picked it up and read it… ‘Ears everywhere. Have lead. Falling Suns. I remember report on you. Turned in fellow guard for bribery. Quit guards shortly after.’

“That’s… uh… unfortunate, sir,” Siath replied, taking the quill and writing as he spoke, “Hopefully my friend’s ship is just running slow…” He wrote down, ‘Falling Suns have spies here? Quit because realized many guards corrupt,’ and passed the paper back to Lokman.

“Yes, hopefully… The late summer storms may have blown him off course,” Lokman replied, then wrote, ‘Yes. Can’t move without alerting. You could maybe. Falling Suns hideout at Long and Wheel. Friend might be there. Will you help – observe, report?’

Siath read the paper, looked up at Lokman, and nodded. “Well thank you for your time, Sir Lokman,” he said, “I’ll let you get back to your duties.”


That was too easy. The guards had followed him into the alleyway, blustering about and yelling, “Stop, thief!” Moon had been tempted to slip behind them and cut their throats, but he merely tossed the coin pouch over his shoulder and slipped away while they were scrabbling to reclaim the money.

He had regrouped with Saitou and Mort, but not before switching his disguise again, as the beggar guise might now attract too much attention. He now looked like a young Bulanti man, just another face in the crowd. Moon, Saitou, and Mort had waited quietly near the garrison. After several minutes, Siath emerged and rejoined them.

“You’re welcome… smooth talker,” Moon said to Siath.

“I um… yes. Thank you for that distraction,” Siath replied.

“So,” Mort said, “Did Sir Lokman know anything useful?”

“Yes,” Siath replied, “He suspects that the Falling Suns are the ones behind the missing northerners. He told me that there is a Falling Suns hideout at the intersection of Long Street and Wheel Street. John Hannock might be there.”

Long and Wheel… sounds familiar… hmmm. Moon pulled out a small book and flipped through it. Ah yes, of course. “There is a cafe at that intersection. They make excellent pastries.” The others stared at him. He stared back, “What?”

Mort replied, “You… keep a book about food?”

“I enjoy fine foods.”

“You ate a raw fish this morning…”

“It was rather delicious. You should try it some time… Anyways, this cafe has outdoor seating. We can observe the streets while we eat.”

Mort shrugged, “As good a plan as any, I suppose. Lead on.”

They made their way to the intersection of Long Street, which ran all the way from the North Docks to the farms south of the city, and Wheel Street, which was often used by carts coming in from the rest of the island to the east and heading to the West Docks. They headed to the cafe, got a table, and ordered some sandwiches and pastries.

As they ate, they watched the streets and the surrounding buildings. One of them, an apartment building, stuck out. They watched it for a couple of hours and saw no one enter or leave it. “Maybe we should check that one out,” Moon said.

“Let’s not draw attention,” said Mort, looking to Saitou “Can you check it out? Maybe see if there are any back entrances?”

Saitou nodded and slipped off towards the apartment building.


He walked with the afternoon crowds that streamed by. As he passed the alley next to the apartment building, he strode down it, then pressed himself into the shadows and waited. He counted to thirty, watching the street to see if anyone had taken much interest in his actions. No one had.

Saitou crept down the alley, staying close to the wall of the apartment building. He glanced up and noted that the clay wall had no windows. He edged his head around the corner and looked into the alley behind the buildings. He spotted nothing but the usual garbage that gathered in such places.

Saitou moved behind the apartment building and found a worn wooden door. He grasped the rusted handle of it and pulled it gently. It remained shut. He slowly put his weight on it and pushed forward. It still didn’t move. Saitou leaned in close and tried to look through the cracks in the doorway. The light was dim in the alley, but he could barely see that the door was probably thoroughly boarded up from the inside. He pressed his ear to the door, but heard nothing over the sounds of the city.

He continued around the apartment building. The other sidewall was also devoid of windows. Saitou slipped back into the crowd on the street and looked sideways at the front of the building as he passed by. There was a shallow alcove with a double door at the back. Saitou kept moving and made his way back to the cafe.


While they waited for Saitou to return, the cafe waitress came by and asked if they needed anything else. “No thanks,” Mort replied.

“Done with your plate?” The waitress gestured to the table.

“Yes. Thank you. Here,” Mort said, handing the plate to her. The waitress’ hand brushed against his as she took it.

The waitress frowned, “Are you alright, sir? You feel rather cold…”

Crap… If the Bulanti find out… “I’m fine. Just uh… a bit chilled. From the weather.”

The waitress glanced at the sky, which was cloudless as was usual this time of year. Edromyn shone down, bathing the dusty streets in light, making them dry and warm. “You northerners usually complain about it being too hot down here…”

“Yes… well I… uh…”

“Ma’am,” said Moon, “Could you bring me another one of those lemon pastries?”

“Of course,” the waitress said, scurrying off to fill the order.

Siath raised an eyebrow at Mort, “What in Oghaen’s name was that all about?”

Mort shrugged, “I uh… have no idea…”

Moon stared at Mort suspiciously, but said nothing.

Phew. The recruiters didn’t seem to care… but they did warn me that others in the Core might not understand… And the Bulanti most certainly fear… His thoughts were interrupted, as he had just spotted Saitou returning.

Once Saitou had sat back down, Mort asked, “Find anything?”

Saitou shook his head.

Mort continued, “No other entrances? Nothing suspicious?”

Saitou shook his head again.

“Do you think it’s abandoned?”

Saitou nodded.

“Well,” said Mort, “I don’t see anything out of place in any other building. If I were a criminal looking to hide out somewhere, I’d go into that abandoned apartment building. Should we check it out?”

The others agreed that it seemed the most likely place for a criminal hideout to be. They waited a while longer, Moon ate the lemon pastry that the waitress brought, then they headed towards the building.


They stepped into the recessed entryway of the apartment building. A few people in the passing crowd gave them odd looks, but everyone was hurrying home to dinner at this hour and so they walked on. Siath pulled on the door handle and was surprised to find that it opened easily. They stepped inside.

As they closed the door behind them, the noise of the city faded away to a dull mumbling. They found themselves in a lobby area. Across the way was another set of double doors. There were single doors on the right and left. The lobby was dimly lit by light shining through the cracks of the double doors. A once ornate rug, now faded and worn, was spread across the floor of the lobby.

Laughter leaked out of the room beyond the double doors. A voice was raised against the laughter, the words unclear, the tone sounding both amused and annoyed. Siath felt a hand on his shoulder and turned to see that Mort had stepped very close. Mort whispered in his ear, “Looks like we might have found it… Let’s check the building for John Hannock and try to avoid the fellows in that room. You and Moon check that door on the right. Saitou and I will go left.” Siath nodded.

He and Moon headed to the single door on the right side of the lobby. The conversation behind the double doors continued, words still unclear. Siath identified three, maybe four, different voices. He reached the door and paused to let Moon get in position on the other side. Moon had a dagger out. The dim light from the double doors reflected off the blade and off of Moon’s eyes. Siath slowly and quietly drew his own weapon, a longsword.

Moon grabbed the door handle and pulled it open. Siath slid into the next room, weapon ready. It was even darker in here. Damn… Can’t see a thing. He heard a quick scraping noise behind him and saw a spark of light. The scraping noise repeated and this time a flame appeared. Siath saw that Moon held a flint and steel and had lit an oil lamp that rested in a holder next to the door. Moon put the flint and steel onto the lamp holder, which had a space for them. I missed that lamp in the dark… he must have good eyes…

A voice issued forth from the dark back half of the room, “Aw come on. Trying to sleep here…” A man walked into the light of the lamp, rubbing his eyes. Siath quickly scanned him and the surroundings. Behind the man was another worn rug and a circle of pillows. The near side of the room was populated with tables that had various game boards carved and painted on to them. Lounge… The man was dressed well, his clothes finely cut and colored, boots well made and well kept. On the man’s right ear was a small orange gem. Siath had heard the stories at the garrison… Falling Suns!

The man stared blearily at Siath and Moon. After a moment, his eyes widened and he drew in a deep breath. Siath dashed forward and slid his longsword through the man’s stomach and up into a lung. The man let out a sigh, unable to muster enough breath to call out. He slumped to the floor.

Moon stepped up next to Siath and said softly, “Shouldn’t we take him to the guards?” Moon then chuckled and bent over the corpse. When he stood up, Siath saw that he had donned the man’s earring.

Of course he has pierced ears… must cover the holes with make up… Siath pointed at the earring, “What’s that for?”

Moon shrugged, “Could come in handy. Let’s regroup with Mort and Saitou. Nothing else here.” The room was empty except for the furniture and the door that they had entered through. Siath and Moon headed back into the lobby and started to cross to the door on the other side.

A voice, clearly heard and sounding much closer, came through the double doors, “Be right back. I’ll go get us some more drinks.” The double doors opened, shining light onto Moon and Siath. Crap! “Uhh… guys,” the man in the doorway called back into the room, “We’ve got some company.” In the span of a few moments, three other men had joined the man at the door.


Damn. Think, think, think! He, Siath, and the four men stared at each other. One of them spoke, “What do we have here?” They drew their weapons, but stayed still for the moment. Quick… wait, that could work…

Moon held his knife out towards Siath, beginning to tremble slightly and being sure to present the side of his head on which the earring was. “Help me,” he said, glancing at the four men and backing away from Siath, “This bastard c-caught me over on Coin Street… Forced me t-to lead him here. H-he’s alone! Kill him!”

The four men looked between Moon and Siath for a moment, then charged at Siath, who looked utterly confused. The men hacked and stabbed at Siath. Siath frantically tried to block their blows. Moon continued to shake and quiver as he slid around behind the fight. The boy can handle a sword at least… Siath was blocking many of the blows, but couldn’t defend against all of them. He was soon bleeding from several wounds. Moon dropped the scared act and strode forward. He stepped up between two of the men, put an arm around the shoulder of the one on his left, and sliced his dagger hard across the man’s throat. He stabbed the dagger into the chest of the man on his right. The man looked stunned and slashed wildly at Moon, who dodged. Siath finished off the stabbed man as the one with the cut throat slumped to the floor. Moon and Siath turned to face the remaining two men.


He and Mort went through the door on the left and were confronted with darkness. “Hold on,” said Mort quietly, “There’s a lamp here.”

Saitou frowned inwardly as he looked in the direction of Mort’s voice. Are his… eyes glowing? No… must have been a spark from the flint and steel…

Mort mumbled as he got the oil lamp lit, “No wonder this place went out of business… Burning oil around the clock… need some windows in here…”

Once the lamp was lit, it revealed a long hallway with several doors on the left, stairs leading up at the end, and a door on the right through which light was shining. That must lead to the same room as the double doors in the lobby… Saitou pointed at the doors on the left. He and Mort moved forward and opened two of them. Saitou looked in and saw a desk, wardrobe, and bed. He looked to Mort, who was checking the next door down the hallway.

“Bedroom here,” Mort said, “Same there?” Saitou nodded. Mort continued, “Guess we should probably check the-” Saitou held up a hand and Mort stopped talking. They could hear the clang of weapons out in the lobby. Saitou drew his blade and Mort dropped into a fighting stance. They quickly and quietly made their way back to the lobby.

Saitou saw that Moon and Siath were facing off against two men. Another two men were already dead on the ground. Siath was bleeding heavily and looked about ready to pass out. The two men hustled forward and delivered a few more blows to Siath, who let go of his longsword and dropped to the ground. Moon gave one of them a cut as they backed off. The wounded man yelled out, “Merimer! We’ve got-” The rest of the man’s sentence was cut off as Saitou stepped up behind the man slid his blade between the man’s ribs. Mort chopped down with his hand onto the remaining man’s shoulder, causing him to drop his weapon. Moon and Saitou delivered a few stabs to finish the fight.


He moved to check on Siath. “Still breathing,” Mort reported to the others.

“So glad to hear it,” Moon said as he cleaned his knife on one of the shirts of the dead men.

Saitou cut up another shirt and handed the rags to Mort, who tied them to Siath’s wounds. “There,” said Mort, “I don’t think he’ll bleed out. He won’t be going anywhere for a while, though. Let’s check out the rest of the place… Be careful, that one was trying to yell out for another I think… Merimer, he said.”

They headed through the double doors. The room beyond was well lit by a lamp that sat on one of many tables. Cards, coins, and empty glasses were littered across the table with the lamp. Beyond the tables was a bar with empty shelves behind it. There was a door on the left wall of the room. “That leads to a hallway and bedrooms,” said Mort. On the right wall near the bar was another door. They approached that door.

As Mort reached for the handle, the door burst open, knocking into his head. Mort reeled from the blow. A man leapt out of the doorway, stabbed a knife into Moon’s leg, and shoved him backwards into Saitou. As all three of them tried to recover from the sudden attack, the man dashed off into the lobby.


The warm darkness wrapped itself around him. Moon… that bastard… used me as a distraction… Such worries seemed far away, though. The darkness was so comforting… except for the sharp pain in his side…

Siath’s eyes fluttered open and he saw a strange man standing over him… A man with a orange gem earring. The pain in his side felt cold.

He’s stabbed me…

The man sneered, “Let this be a warning to you…” The man pulled the dagger out of him and wiped the blood on Siath’s shirt. Through the haze of pain, Siath thought that the man might be tracing a pattern with his dagger. The man tapped Siath on the forehead with the flat of his blade, “Hey. Hey! Listen… I’ve got a message for your masters: We own this nation! Get out or die.” The man stood up and left. Siath faded back into the darkness.


“Ack! Son of a bitch stabbed me,” he said, cutting a rag off his clothes and binding the wound. Moon looked through the double doors and into the lobby. Daylight was streaming in from the front doors, which were now open. “Got away, too. Damnit!”

“Hey, look here,” Mort said, holding his head where the door had banged into it. He pointed into the next room, which appeared to be a kitchen. A northerner was slumped against a stack of barrels.

Moon limped through the door and knelt by the northerner to check his pulse. “He’s alive.” The man looked fairly thoroughly beaten. Moon poked him a couple of times. The northerner groaned and opened his eyes. Moon poked him once more, “You John Hannock?”

The northerner’s eyes flicked between Moon, Saitou, and Mort. He coughed weakly, “Yes… I’m Hannock… Core.” The man trailed off and lapsed back into unconsciousness.

“Works for me,” said Moon. He scanned the room, “Help me get him into one of those potato sacks… He’ll attract less attention in there. Better grab one for Siath, too.”

“Yea… shoving them into sacks will be great for their wounds,” said Mort. He saw the sense in keeping a low profile on the street, though, so moved to help. They soon had John Hannock in a potato sack and made their way to the lobby with another sack for Siath.

Moon’s heart skipped a beat when he saw Siath. A symbol had been painted in blood across his chest. The symbol looked like three overlapping ovals, which overall formed a rough triangle shape. Mort checked on Siath and eyed the symbol, “He’s still breathing. What is this thing?”

Moon, for once without a hint of sarcasm or disdain, said, “It is the symbol of the Bounded… The Core’s most dangerous enemy.”

As they were all contemplating that, they suddenly heard the rattling of armor from the street. Moon readied his knife. A moment later, Sir Lokman jogged in through the recessed entryway, sword in hand. Someone must have seen that bastard fleeing… Merimer… Or seen all these corpses through the open door. Lokman stopped short as he spotted Moon, “Stop right there, Falling Suns scum!”

Damn… the earring… Moon lowered his knife and spoke in his normal voice with a thick northern accent, “This isn’t what you think.” Odds of killing him before more guards arrive are slim… Negotiation best way to mitigate mission exposure.

Sir Lokman looked around the scene, taking in the dead Falling Suns men, Mort, and Saitou. He spotted Siath. “Damnit,” Lokman said, “I told him to just observe and report… I…” Lokman’s eyes widened and he grew silent as his gaze settled on the symbol on Siath’s chest.

“He’s alive,” Moon said, “and he’s with us. You know what that symbol means, don’t you?”

“Yes,” Lokman whispered, “And I have my guesses about you all as well… Go! Get out of here! I sent the rest of my guards to chase the man who ran out of here, but more will be showing up soon. Find me later, we will speak more!” Lokman stood aside.

Mort and Saitou hastily stuffed Siath into the second potato sack and headed onto the street. Moon nodded to Sir Lokman. Yes… we will find you again. Whether we will speak with the tongue or the knife is not up to me… The Core will decide if you know too much. Moon followed the others onto the street.

The Dark Tribe


He unsheathed Olctire and moved slowly towards the wreckage. Their horses, which stood a few yards back with Rognvald, stamped their hooves and snorted, nervous at the smell of blood. Gale’s heart beat faster as he reached the ruined carriage. They had come around a bend in the road and seen it ahead, laying on its side, with splintered wood and splashes of blood all around. Gale climbed onto the carriage and reached for the door. He paused and checked on the position of the others. Blind Seer was circling around the carriage, sniffing briefly at the blood on the ground as he went. Ku was at the carriage now, climbing atop it as well. Barry was staying between the carriage and Rognvald, and scanning the surrounding brush.

Gale nodded to the others and pulled up on the door, sword ready in hand and spell ready in mind. As the door hit the side of the overturned carriage, Gale’s eyes quickly adjusted to the dim light inside. He quickly stepped around the opening, looking into the carriage from all angles. When he was sure there were no threats within, he called out to the group, “Clear.”

Blind Seer

He sniffed the ground around the carriage. Amongst the iron tang of the blood, Blind Seer could smell the scents of both human and wolfos. The scent of horse was also present. It became stronger as he circled towards the front of the carriage, where he saw the mangled body of a horse still hitched to the carriage. It looked like there was a place for another horse, but all that was left there was a small smear of blood and a tangle of horse hair.

Gale called, “Clear,” and hopped down from the carriage. “Any ideas on what happened here?”

Blind Seer took a closer look at what remained of the horse. “The wounds on this horse look… well… look like they were made by wolfos.”


He jumped down from the carriage and joined Gale and Blind Seer. Barry also approached and asked, “Did I hear you say that the horse was slain by wolfos?”

Ku glanced around at the surrounding brush. “Wolfos bandits?”

“It’s not unheard of,” Blind Seer replied.

Ku considered the possibility of having to fight wolfos bandits. Short. Fast. Armor likely crude or nonexistent. Joints too low to be armor weak point, can’t strike effectively. Neck probable weak point. Enemy magic users unlikely, but possible. Won’t have time to draw blade if ambushed. Keep it out. Guard low. Be mindful of exposing own neck.

Ku drew his greatsword and kept his eyes on the bushes and grasses across the road from where the river flowed, bubbling softly somewhere off to their left. “What shall we do?”


He weighed their options. The overturned carriage was only partly blocking the road. With some maneuvering, Rognvald could get his cart by. They could just be on their way and report the incident to the guard in Rivers’ Crossing. Then again, the blood around the carriage was fairly fresh. The passengers could still be alive. From the looks of the mangled horse, Barry thought it was unlikely that the passengers would remain that way long enough for the Rivers’ Crossing guard to be notified and send out a patrol.

“The blood is fresh. They may yet still live. I say we go after them and try to rescue them,” Barry said. The others nodded their agreement. ‘Besides,’ Barry thought, ‘That carriage looks rather expensive. Whoever we rescue will be thankful… and perhaps rich.’


“Rognvald, we believe there may be some people still alive in the hands of whoever attacked this carriage,” Gale said, “I think we could track them down. Even if we can’t save the captives, we can keep the bandits too busy to set up another ambush.”

Rognvald gave a nod after a few moments of thought. “The other four from Barry’s crew and I will continue down the road while you flush out any ambushes. These wooded hills give way to flat plains not too far ahead. We will wait out there where it will be hard for any foes to sneak up on us.”

Gale nodded, then turned to follow Blind Seer into the brush. They soon lost sight of the road, traveling into the light forest that covered the lands near the river. Gale pushed aside bushes as Blind Seer sniffed the air, darting back and forth as he followed the trail. Occasionally, there was blood visible on leaves and roots, letting them know that they were on the right track.

Blind Seer

He had never been officially trained in the art of tracking, but he had his instincts and this trail was easy to follow. The scent of his quarry dominated the light forest. The smell of wolfos mingled with human blood and sweat. Blind Seer confidently led the way, pausing occasionally to let the others catch up. They often had to push vegetation aside, where he was able to simply walk underneath it, slinking through the forest on his four paws.


Plants will adversely effect sword swings. Blind Seer moving unhindered, wolfos bandits will be able to as well. They will probably smell or hear us before we see them. Alternative detection methods recommended.

Ku stilled his mind as he followed the group, letting his awareness spread throughout the light forest. He could feel his companion’s thoughts whispering at the edge of his mind. Ku ignored these, though, scanning for any foreign presences in the area as they continued.


He watched the cave entrance from the brush. Blind Seer had tracked the blood trail to here. They hadn’t seen anyone in the woods or in the entrance to the cave. The ground around the entrance was clear of trees and had been worn down to dirt from frequent travel. Barry looked back at the rest of the group to see if they were ready.

Ku eyed the cave entrance, “It will be dark in there. We should ready a torch.”

Barry smirked, “I’ve got a better idea.” He took a deep breath and blinked slowly. The River greeted him. He had been practicing every evening and accessing the River was getting easier each time. He coaxed a tendril of energy out, focusing it into his sword. Barry blinked again, returning his gaze to the world and watched as his sword burst into flame.


The tang of blood filled his nostrils as he entered the cave. His eyes adjusted to the flickering light of Barry’s burning blade. The back of the cave was lined with beds of rags and twigs, all empty. There was a narrow passageway as well, leading further under the hill. Gale poked at the empty beds with his longsword, which gleamed in the firelight, “Do you think they are out hunting? Perhaps we should hurry back to Rognvald.”

Blind Seer perked up his ears, “Hush! Do you hear that?”

They all stood silent. Above the soft beating of the fire, they heard a forlorn wail, coming from deeper in the cave. Barry moved towards the passageway, beckoning the others onwards, “The captives! Let us hurry.”

Blind Seer

The narrow passageway soon opened into a wide chamber. The smell of ash rose to mingle with the ever present blood scent. Blind Seer saw that there was a large pit in the middle of the room, coated with soot, with logs rigged to hold food over it. The fire pit was cold at the moment, but the bones protruding from the ashes gave testament to the meals that had been cooked here. Half buried in the black and grey powder near the center, sadly staring up at him with its ceaseless grimace, was a human skull. Another wail split the air, louder now, coming from a tunnel that sloped downwards at the back of the cooking room.

Blind Seer hurried forward, knowing that the living needed his help more than the dead. He could hear something else now. A low, deep noise at the edge of his hearing, full of malice and intent. A chant.

He and his friends… his pack… spilled out into the room at the bottom of the tunnel. Thin fires burned throughout the room with bright colors flickering through their tips, casting inhuman shadows on the walls, dancing and jerking and writhing. Six humans were tied to wooden posts, squirming in terror. Low shapes prowled around them in the crazy light… wolfos, no… one of them saw Blind Seer and locked its eyes on him, and Blind Seer saw the eyes, devoid of reasoning, filled now only with hate and hunger. He cried a warning to his friends, “The Dark Tribe!” Worgs, the humans called them. Then, he spotted the source of the chanting, a nightmare leapt straight from one of his tribe’s stories. A thin two-legs, knife in hand, dancing as madly as the shadows, with slender horns curving back from its head. A shaman of the dark spirits of nature, chanting and cutting the arm of a bound woman, who wailed in pain and dismay. Another shaman was struggling in the dirt, grappling with a worg within the rough circle of the wooden posts. Blind Seer had heard this tale before… the worg and shaman would struggle until one was dead, then the blood of the sacrifices would pool around them as the winner would cut his own throat. Worg and shaman would fuse into one, remade as a horrible monster, free to walk in either skin and kill throughout the land.

Blind Seer frantically urged his friends forward, “Stop them!”


The fires flickered and the shadows danced as the worgs charged. Ku pushed all worry aside and let his mind and body move as one. Chop left. Block right. Step up. Slice wide. He felt his muscles surge with strength as his mind reacted to their need. His greatsword joined the flickering dance of the fires and suddenly three worgs lay dead before him. The horned creature by the wooden post danced madly. For a moment, the room lit up with bright red light. Ku felt his muscles freeze up for a moment, then pain spread from his chest.


Red light flashed and he saw an arc of energy spring forth from the dancing creature’s hand, hitting Ku squarely in the chest. The other horned creature still struggled with the worg amidst the wooden posts, seemingly oblivious to the erupting battle. Barry darted forward with his fiery sword, driving it into the side of a worg. The smell of burnt fur and skin reached his nose as the worg fell to the ground, adding its blood to the blood of the sacrifices. The humans chained to the posts squirmed against their bonds, wailing in terror. Barry saw that they were all bleeding from a myriad of cuts, but it looked like they may yet live if no more harm came to them. Barry strode forward, waving his sword, fending off the worgs that circled near Ku. They eyed his fire warily, but pressed closer, preparing to strike.


He waved his hand, calling forth the power within, which readily rose to greet him. The worgs circling Barry began their own mad dance, trying to keep their footing on the ice that had formed beneath them. Gale strode forward and swung Olctire at one of the worgs. The blow struck true and the worg slumped forward, sliding a ways on the ice. Barry skewered another one. The flickering flames reflected in the ice. The worgs hung back on the far side of the ice for a moment. Gale stepped over to Ku, who was still clutching his chest. “Hold still,” Gale said as he laid a hand over the charred wound. The power rose in him again and Gale was glad that he seemed to have gained some control over it ever since the events in Lakeside. Ku breathed easier as the wound was healed. Nodding thanks to Gale, he readied his greatsword, for the ice was melting and the worgs were preparing to advance.

Blind Seer

The ice finished melting and the battle crashed into motion again. Gale, Ku, and Barry traded blows with the worgs, which darted forward, biting and retreating. His friends were getting scraped up, but were holding their own. The worgs were beginning to fall. The shaman danced again at a frenzied pace and his hand began to glow with arcing red energy, which he aimed at Gale’s head. Blind Seer was ready this time, though, putting the full power of the still part of his mind behind a stab to the shaman’s thoughts. The shaman halted in mid-jump, collapsing to the ground. The arc of red energy hit the ceiling of the cave and a few clumps of dirt and rock fell. The shaman twitched once, then was still, blood oozing out of his ears and eyes. The rest of the worgs soon lay dead as well.


The horned creature and the worg that had been struggling in the middle of the wooden posts at last finished their fight. The worg lay dead in a pool of blood. The horned creature yelled in victory, then at last took note of its surroundings. It had a moment to realize that the ritual had been disrupted before Ku’s greatsword smashed into its face. Ku wiped off his blade, then began cutting free the humans that were bound to the posts. Some were sobbing, some were unconscious, but luckily all were alive. Gale and Ku bound their wounds with strips of cloth and offered them water.


He approached one of the people that had been tied to the wooden posts, a man with a well trimmed goatee and clothes that were probably nice before this incident. Barry offered his waterskin, “Hello good sir, are you alright?”

The man took a drink, “I… I am now. By the Elders… Probably wouldn’t be if you all hadn’t shown up.”

“We came across a carriage on the road. Overturned and with signs of battle around.”

The man nodded, “Aye. That was my carriage. The worgs… they slaughtered my guards and horses. I think they… ate all of them. Dragged me back here for that profane ritual. I… I am glad you lot came along. Thank you. My name is Mathius Drosund… and you are?”

“Barry, my lord,” he replied, for Barry recognized the name Drosund, a family of minor nobility, “My companions here are Gale, Blind Seer, and Ku.”

Mathius nodded to each of them as they were introduced, “Well met. I shudder to think what would have happened if you all hadn’t been here… You saved our lives. It seems the worgs had been here for quite some time. These other people who were to be… sacrificed… are workers and travellers of this area. I must give you my gratitude… I will take you to see Lord Eric Indaren of Rivers’ Crossing and tell him of your valor in rescuing these people and me.”

Barry and his companions gathered up the others and guided them out of the cave. Only one of them, the woman that had been most heavily cut by the horned creature, was still unconscious. Two burly men carried her. The group stepped outside into the light and gave a sigh of relief as a light breeze rustled through the nearby trees, cooling them off and blowing away some of the stench of the worg lair.

Barry’s stomach lurched as a tremendous roar split the air. Everyone looked to the sky and gasped in shock, for a huge creature flew swiftly overhead. Gale, Blind Seer, Ku, and Barry exchanged a glance, for they had seen this before… it was another pale blue ice dragon.

“By the Elders… What is that,” someone whispered.

Mathius Drosund shielded his eyes with his hand, “Whatever it is… Looks like it is heading towards Rivers’ Crossing.”

Road to Rivers' Crossing
The heroes head south from Lakeside, towards Rivers' Crossing, and encounter some surprises along the way.


“So… fine weather we’re having, eh?” Rognvald made a feeble attempt to get a conversation started. Things had been different since Lakeside. Gale was even quieter than before, riding with head down for most of the day. Barry and Ku rode near each other, occasionally speaking softly. They would often look in Gale’s direction, with expressions of wariness. Barry and Ku also seemed to be shunning Blind Seer, who had started wandering out further and further to hunt. They had told Rognvald about the events at Lakeside with the abominations, but he was pretty sure that something else had happened between them as well.

Rognvald had been surprised to hear that Jeremy Tanner had been convicted of necromancy. Rognvald was further surprised to hear that he had been allowed to live and join the Deepguard. The enieto were usually strict on such matters. The Deepguard party had travelled alongside Rognvald’s a few hours when they left Lakeside, but the Deepguard had soon outpaced Rognvald’s rumbling wagon. “Enjoy the next few weeks of sunlight,” the Deepguard Keeper, Garsk, had said, “for it may be your last.” The other enieto with Garsk, who Rognvald hadn’t caught the name of, was obviously a Deepguard Captain. From what Rognvald understood, Keepers and Captains served similar roles in the Deepguard, both leading squads into the Deep. The Keepers focus on psionic abilities and the mental health of their squads, while the Captains focus on martial prowess and the physical health of their squads.

Rognvald let out a long sigh and thought, ‘We could sure use a Keeper right about now. I wonder what is bothering those four.’


He heard Rognvald say, “So… fine weather we’re having, eh,” then let out a sigh several moments later. Gale glanced back at Ku and Barry, who were riding a ways behind the cart. They were still watching him closely, as they had been ever since leaving Lakeside. It was almost like being a slave again. Gale was sorry for deceiving them and understood their suspicion, but he was also starting to get angry with them. ‘They have no idea what I’ve been through! The enlightened elves,’ Gale thought, ‘have kept me in chains for most of my life. I can still remember mom’s face, but dad’s has begun to fade after so many years. The enlightened elves have taken everything from me and now the people I was beginning to see as friends have equated me with them just because I have pointed ears. I am nothing like the enlightened elves, a fact that they loved to remind me of every day. My people are weak imitations in their eyes.’

Gale let out a long sigh a few moments after Rognvald’s and then reluctantly replied, “Yes. Clear skies and a warm breeze. We should enjoy it while we can, for autumn will soon be upon us.”

Rognvald replied in overly cordial tones, making it obvious that he was avoiding talking about the silence that had reigned over the group since Lakeside, “Indeed. At least we will-” Rognvald stopped mid-sentence and looked behind him. Gale could hear it too now… hoof beats, several of them, riding fast.

Gale loosened his sword and began to move behind the cart to where Ku and Barry were as five riders came around the last bend in the road. They slowed down, approaching Ku and Barry cautiously, then called out, “Hail travelers. We seek no trouble. We bear a message for Lord Eric Indaren. Will you let us past?”

Ku and Barry glanced back towards Rognvald, who nodded. They moved aside. The riders began to move around the cart on the opposite side of the road. Rognvald said, “Unless I’m mistaken, you’re scouts from Lord Eric Indaren’s army. Makes me nervous seeing you ride so quickly. Anything for us to worry about that might be following you up the road?”

One of the riders spoke, slowing his horse down but still moving by, “No traveler, nothing to worry about. There have been a few elf raids along the border of the Cold Forest, but that is many days away from here. You are not in danger. Safe travels.” The riders made it around the cart and resumed their previous pace, galloping down the road, heading south.

Blind Seer

He had been scouting further and further away from the road, or if he was honest with himself, the group. Tense silence had reigned since that night in Lakeside when Ku and Barry had found out that Gale was an elf of some sort. Ku and Barry had also been cold towards Blind Seer, as he had kept Gale’s secret since Edgeville. He and Ku had stopped working together on training their mental powers. Blind Seer had gone to talk to Gale, but Gale had said, “You’d better stay away or they’ll distrust you more.”

So, Blind Seer had stayed away… far away… from everyone. He had taken to scouting far out to the side of the road, only returning to the group in the evening. Blind Seer was uncomfortable with the whole situation, but had no idea what to do about it.

Blind Seer was walking along, pondering all this and ranging far from the group, when he came across a patch of blood in the grass. He sniffed at it and was alarmed to find that it was wolfos blood. It was fairly fresh, but he could not tell which direction the injured wolfos had gone. He called out, but received no answer. He worried that the injured wolfos might be unconscious nearby, bleeding out.

Blind Seer steadied his nerves and began to access the still part of his mind. He let his senses expand over the nearby area. Ku had mentioned that one of the other enieto at his Void Temple had been able to detect the psychic impressions that creatures left in areas when they experienced an emotional situation. Blind Seer focused his mind and tried pick up on these psychic impressions. He sat quietly for several minutes. A sudden spike of fear hit him. He had to run, the monster that had injured him was still following him. He stumbled, fell, and spit out some blood in the grass. He had to hide and soon. He got to his feet and struggled his way over to some bushes that were growing at the bottom of a hill. He heard the monster arrive behind him, heard it sniffing at the blood. It crept closer to the bushes and his heart pounded. An animal rustled in the grass further down the way. The monster darted off in that direction. He breathed a sigh of relief, then felt his consciousness fading. Blind Seer shook his head, reeling from the strange experience of feeling the emotions of another person. He hurried to the bushes that the psychic reading had showed him and soon found the injured wolfos. He was still breathing, but only just. Blind Seer hurried off to find the group, not wanting to risk moving the injured wolfos.


He finished his examination of the injured wolfos and knew that it was beyond his skill to treat. Blind Seer had burst onto the road and told Gale, Ku, and Barry to come help him. As they road through the grasses and brush, Blind Seer had explained that he had found an injured wolfos. Ku turned to the group now and shook his head, signaling that he couldn’t treat the wolfos. Gale stepped forward and said, “Let me take a look.”

Barry and Ku kept a close eye on Gale as he checked over the injury. After looking at it, Gale sat silently for several moments with his eyes closed, then laid a hand on the injury. There was a brief glow and then the wolfos began to stir. The wolfos’ eyes suddenly flew open, wide awake. He began to struggle, obviously in terror. “Stay still,” Gale said to him sternly, “or you will reopen the wound! You are no longer in danger!” The wolfos took in his surroundings and began to calm down. “Who are you,” the wolfos asked. The group members introduced themselves and explained how they had found him. The wolfos bowed deeply and thanked them for healing him. Ku asked what the wolfos’ name was.

“I have no name and may never gain one, for I am not sure I can defeat that foul creature. I am on my First Hunt, you see,” the wolfos replied.

Gale, Ku, and Barry stared blankly at the nameless wolfos. Blind Seer chimed in, “In wolfos culture, the First Hunt is a right of passage into adulthood. The tasks involved in a First Hunt vary from tribe to tribe. Some tribes do not name their young until they have completed their First Hunt. Which tribe are you from?”

“The Broken Claw tribe,” the nameless wolfos replied.

Blind Seer nodded and said, “I am from the Sagesnouts. We have heard of the Broken Claws. If I recall correctly, you have been here since before this was the Fadafir Kingdom.”

“Yes. We follow the old ways, hence the names only being granted after the First Hunt.”

“So the task of your First Hunt is to defeat some foul creature,” Blind Seer asked, tilting his head slightly to one side.

“I have been tasked with reclaiming the bones of one of our tribe’s ancestors. Our burial site was disturbed and the bones were taken. I tracked the scent from there, thinking perhaps some wild animal had taken them, but when I reached the end of the trail, what I found was much worse than an animal.”


He kept a close eye on Gale as the nameless wolfos was being healed. Barry still had his suspicions about this elf that was supposedly not an enlightened elf. He had grown up hearing all sorts of terrible stories about the elves, about how they were treacherous and dangerous. It was obvious that Gale had some sort of strange magic. Barry half suspected that Gale’s whole story was some elaborate elf scheme. Still, though, Barry wondered if Gale might truly be a Forgotten Elf. He had heard many stories about Forgotten Elves and Gale matched the description of the stories… Sharp and slim as a sword, and hair like living flame. Barry had thought the stories were just fiction to entertain children, but he had thought the same of dragons, and folk tales often have a grain of truth in them. Yet the enlightened elves may have heard these stories too, and sent their spy, Gale, cloaked in such uncertainty to infiltrate the Fadafir Kingdom.

Barry shook himself out of the thoughts that were chasing circles in his head. The nameless wolfos was talking to Blind Seer, saying, “I tracked the scent from there, thinking perhaps some wild animal had taken them, but when I reached the end of the trail, what I found was much worse than an animal.”

The nameless wolfos continued his tale, “The trail led me to a cave and when I went inside, I found a hideous creature with long arms and gnashing teeth. I have never seen or heard of anything like it. The thing noticed me and attacked, biting my side and beating against my head with its arms. Before I fled, I saw a pile of bones in there… Many more than just my ancestor’s bones. The creature must have been collecting them for quite some time.”
Blind Seer paced back and forth as the nameless wolfos spoke. When the tale was done, Blind Seer said, “It pains me to think that this creature has likely disturbed many graves in this region. The dead should be left to rest. Maybe we could help you with your First Hunt.”
“I am not sure if that is allowed,” the nameless wolfos said.

Blind Seer stopped pacing and said, “The purpose of the First Hunt is to prove yourself and earn a place in the tribe. To be part of a tribe, you must learn to work with others. If I have learned anything while traveling with these three, it is that we are all weak on our own. Only by acting together and trusting each other can we hope to achieve anything, supporting the weaknesses of other pack members with our strength and relying on the strengths of the other pack members to support our weaknesses. You were given a First Hunt that you cannot complete on your own. Surely it is not coincidence that we have crossed paths. The Guarding Hunter guides our fates this day. Friends, will you help this wolfos complete his First Hunt?”

Gale nodded solemnly. Ku unsheathed his greatsword and replied in the affirmative. ‘I am willing to act together, but I still do not trust Gale,’ Barry thought, then said, “Yes, I will aid in this task.”

The nameless wolfos stood a little taller and said, “Thank you. I may yet earn my name.”


The cave stood before them, black and ominous. Even Gale’s eyes could not penetrate the dark. The entrance was wedged between two hills, which crowded in on either side. Grass and brush clogged the opening which led down into the earth. The grass nearby was folded over and trampled down. Something large had frequented this place. “Let’s do this,” said Gale, looking around at Blind Seer, Barry, Ku, and the nameless wolfos. Barry lit a torch. Gale hopped down into the cave. The others followed.

As they made their way deeper into the cave, with Barry’s torchlight flickering off the earth and rock walls that glistened with moisture, Gale thought about what Blind Seer had said. ‘Only by acting together and trusting each other can we hope to achieve anything. How will Ku and Barry ever trust me again? How can I ever trust them? It might be safer to just slip off into the night… but then they would hunt me just as the Molroito do. My traveling companions are good people, it’s just that the enlightened elves have turned their minds to fear.’ Gale sighed as he thought, noting that the passageway of the cave was getting wider now, then went on thinking, ‘The Guarding Hunter guides our fates this day. Seems the Lord of the Winds, or Freedom’s Blade as the humans call him, also guides our fate. I am sure now that it is he who has granted me my magic. To what end, though? Surely there are other slaves that deserve freedom more than me. What does the Lord of the Winds have in store for me?’

Gale came around a turn in the cave and halted. Before him was a pit about ten feet deep. The floor sloped into the pit and looked like it could be walked with care. In the pit, though, was a swirling fog. It was thin enough to see the floor of the pit through it as tendrils of it drifted about. The pit was about twenty feet long. The light shone to the other side and Gale could see that the cave turned over there. “What do you make of this,” Gale asked the others, crouching down and waving his hand through the fog.

Blind Seer

He asked the nameless wolfos about the fog. The wolfos told Blind Seer that the fog had not been here before. Blind Seer tentatively sniffed at it. He smelled the damp earth of the cave and the smell of his companions, but nothing else. “Perhaps it merely came from the moisture in this cave,” he said.

“Let us cross it then,” said Ku, striding down the slope into the pit and the fog, greatsword drawn and gleaming in the light from Barry’s torch. He strode along the floor of the pit for a ways, reaching the middle of the pit, then stumbled. “I am… I… can’t keep… eyes… sleep,” Ku called back to the group, dropping to the ground, letting go of his greatsword, which scraped against a rock then fell to the dirt. Blind Seer started to move forward to help, but Gale put a hand on his back and said, “Wait. It seems the fog has put him to sleep.”

“What will we do,” asked Blind Seer, “I think we could cross the pit with our breath held if we hurried, but it would take too long if we tried to pull Ku out of there.”

Gale strode into the fog. Blind Seer exclaimed, “What are you doing?!” Gale calmly walked to the middle of the pit, retrieving Ku’s greatsword and beginning to drag him to the other side. Barry, Blind Seer, and the nameless wolfos exchanged a look, then held their breath and hurried through the fog. Gale managed to drag Ku up and out of the fog on the far side of the pit as Barry and Blind Seer made it through. The nameless wolfos was still hurrying along a little ways back. Blind Seer let out his breath, then turned to ask Gale, “How?”

Gale smirked and said, “We don’t sleep.” He pointed to where his ears were concealed under his hat. As the nameless wolfos rejoined them, Gale crouched down and tried to wake Ku up.


The fog smelled sweet at first, but then began to choke his breath. He reflexively gasped for air, but that only served to draw in more of the fog. His vision swam and his eyelids began to droop. He tried to call out a warning to his companions as he slipped into unconsciousness.

Next he knew, Ku was on the floor and Gale was crouching over him. “Oh good, you’re awake again. You dropped this,” Gale said, pressing the greatsword back into Ku’s hands. Ku shook his head to clear the drowsiness when suddenly it slammed into Gale. It was big. Barry, Blind Seer, and the nameless wolfos exclaimed in shock and fear. Ku rolled to his feet, gripping his greatsword, and surveyed the scene. A mass of writhing, boneless limbs had Gale backed against a wall. Gale raised his arms to shield his face as the creature beat against him with its limbs.

Barry and Blind Seer jumped into action. Blind Seer summoned a beam of energy and slung it at the creature. Barry lashed out with his rapier. The creature turned and Ku saw two misshapen, mismatched eyes, white and bulbous, framing a mouth with sharp teeth. The creature seemed to lack a neck and its body was a mass of misshapen skin, smooth and glistening with moisture. It propelled itself with its squirming limbs, which were haphazardly placed all over its body. The creature was vaguely shaped like a salamander. A puff of fog escaped from the creature’s skin. An image from a book read long ago rose to the surface of Ku’s mind. Hebeni, “unborn”, the result of an enieto larva being left in the spawning pool for too long. The larva would begin to eat each other, eventually building up enough chemicals to trigger their growth. With no human to act as framework, though, the larva would not develop correctly, growing limbs in wrong places and a misshapen body. The mind would not develop properly, either, as the larva would lack the necessary nutrients normally gathered while developing within a human’s body. With no framework, hebeni could continue growing throughout their life. This one had grown to a massive size. Ku had never heard of one that produced sleep-inducing gas, but he knew that hebeni developed all sorts of strange defenses in their unchecked growth.

Blind Seer and Barry gave ground as the hebeni surged forward. It spied the nameless wolfos and charged, moving with surprising speed despite its grotesquely deformed body. The hebeni slammed the nameless wolfos against a wall and loomed over him, preparing for a killing blow. The wolfos struggled feebly, trying to get to his feet but stumbling on his battered legs. The hebeni’s vicious mouth opened wide and it moved to bite at the wolfos. Ku slammed his greatsword into the creature’s body just below its mouth. The hebeni squirmed. Ku stared into its eyes, which were filled only with hunger and madness. The hebeni wrapped some of its limbs around Ku, beating at his head with the other limbs. Ku struggled to free himself and his greatsword, but the hebeni held him tight, drawing him closer to its mouth of gnashing, pointed teeth. Ku tried to calm himself, focusing his thoughts and beginning to draw power from his mind, but the hebeni squeezed him tight and he lost his focus.


He saw Ku get dragged beneath the mass of writhing limbs. Barry darted forward and stabbed with his rapier, aiming for the creature’s eyes. The creature blocked his blow and grabbed Barry’s arm, causing him to drop his blade. Blind Seer ran up and bit the limb which held Barry. The creature recoiled. Ku let out a cry of pain as the creature squeezed him. A fork of golden lightning hit the creature near its eyes. Barry glanced over and saw Gale leaning against the cave wall, breathing hard. Barry stooped to retrieve his rapier, spinning around and stabbing with it as he stood up. The blow hit home and the creature squealed. Ku broke free, somehow still clutching his greatsword. Gale pushed off the wall and drew his short sword. The creature backed away a foot or so, realizing too late that this group was not easy prey. Gale, Blind Seer, Ku, Barry, and the nameless wolfos fell upon the creature with renewed vigor, slashing, stabbing, and biting until its many limbs squirmed no more. When it was done, they fell to their knees or laid on the floor, breathing heavily for several minutes.

After he caught his breath, Barry exclaimed, “What in the Elders’ names was that thing?”

“A hebeni,” said Ku, leaning on his greatsword, “An enieto larva left in the pool too long. Happens most often when a Void Temple is abandoned.”

Barry frowned, “I’ve never heard of that happening. Where do you think it came from?”

“I’m not sure,” replied Ku, “I’ve heard no news of any Void Temples being abandoned in this region in recent times. That hebeni was quite large. Could be that it was abandoned long ago.”

They sat for a few moments more, catching their breath. The nameless wolfos got to his feet and limped forward. Gale saw that he was injured and came over to help. “You’re lucky it isn’t broken. It is just sprained and bruised. I think I can fix this.” The nameless wolfos looked on in amazement as Gale placed his hand over the leg, which glowed briefly, then looked better. The wolfos bowed and said, “I hadn’t realized… Thank you… shaman.”

The nameless wolfos then walked over to Ku. “Thank you as well,” the wolfos said, “You threw yourself between me and that creature. You saved my life. I would be honored to share the name of such a brave warrior. When I complete my First Hunt, I shall be known as Ku of the Broken Claw.” Ku the enieto stood up and nodded solemnly.

Around the corner, they found a large pile of bones, amongst which was the bones of the nameless wolfos’ ancestor. The wolfos retrieved the bones, tying them carefully and reverently to his back. The group made their way out of the cave, holding their breath as they passed through the sleeping fog, and bid farewell to the wolfos.


“You lot sure do find all sorts of trouble,” Rognvald said when they returned and told him what had happened. Nostiarna had risen high in the sky and was beginning to cover the sun, so the caravan made their way off the road and made camp not far from the river.
As they were getting dinner ready, Gale found a rock to sit on and took a look at his arms. Back at the cave, he had wiped off as much as he could in the grass, but there was still hebeni blood and bile on them, dry now and clinging to his skin. Gale got up and slipped out of camp while everyone was busy with the cook fire. He headed down towards the river. He was no stranger to being dirty. Back at the farms, there were many days where he had been covered in dirt after a day of work, or smeared with blood after a brutal beating, but he had always had access to water at the end of the day, so Gale had taken to keeping himself clean, even when the other slaves had long since resigned themselves to being dirty. It also comforted him to have some small measure of control over his life, even though the enlightened elves had taken nearly everything else.

Gale found his way to the river, took off his clothes, and eased into the icy waters.

Blind Seer

He felt good that they had been able to help out a fellow wolfos. Blind Seer thought back to his own First Hunt. He and all the other younglings of his clan born in the same year as him had been tasked with hunting a boar. They had tracked it through the hills and were closing in on it. Blind Seer had felt a strange feeling of dread as they approached a bush. As they neared it, he had suddenly felt compelled to shove his friend. As Blind Seer had pushed his friend, the boar charged out of the bush, narrowly missing them both. The hunting pack had taken it down together after that. Looking back, Blind Seer now knew that the dread he had felt had been the first manifestations of his psionic powers.

“Here you go,” Rognvald said, handing Blind Seer a stick with some meat on it. Blind Seer ate happily and joined the conversation around the campfire.


He reflected on the fight with the hebeni as he ate. He had been unable to manifest any psionic powers as it had pulled him close with its mass of limbs, too distracted by the pain and the prospect of being eaten. Ku decided that he would have to redouble his efforts to incorporate psionics into his fighting style. He was glad that he had been able to save the wolfos, though, and was further pleased that the wolfos had decided to take Ku’s name for his own. Well, his spoken name anyways. Ku hadn’t told anyone in the group his mind name yet. Only he and the other enieto back at his home Void Temple knew that.

Ku finished his food and excused himself, walking to the edge of the camp and finding a log to sit on. The shores of the river that the road followed had stands of trees clustered near it, sending their roots down into the earth to drink the water. Ku closed his eyes and began his mental exercises, flexing his frills and focusing his mind. ‘Good food’, Ku heard a mental voice think. After a moment, Ku recognized it as the thoughts of Barry. Ku hadn’t meant to eavesdrop on anyone’s thoughts, as doing such was considered extremely rude. He was about to sever the connection when he heard Barry think, ‘Where did that damn elf go? I’d better go find him.’ Barry stood up from the camp fire and told everyone that he was going to patrol the camp perimeter. Ku thought about offering to help him find Gale, but realized he couldn’t without revealing that he had accidentally eavesdropped on Barry’s thoughts, so Ku decided to stay put and continue practicing his psionics.


He pushed aside the brush and looked out across the river, which was wide and calm in this area. Barry could hear the churning rapids further down where it narrowed and crashed against rocks. He saw clothes and armor strewn about the river shore. Out in the water, Gale stood half submerged, using a rock to obsessively scrape and scrub at his skin, focused on his task with a vacant, haunted stare. Moonlight from Iarthrod shone down on the water and Barry saw Gale’s back. A network of wicked scars covered it and almost no unharmed skin remained. Barry had seen men lashed before, but Gale’s back could only be the product of savage brutality. Barry had always figured that the stories about enlightened elves were somewhat exaggerated, but now he knew the cruelties of reality were just as bad. Barry felt his stomach twist in revulsion at the ruined skin, followed by a feeling of shame as he thought, ‘Seems his story might be true. Gale may really have been a slave to the enlightened elves.’ Barry turned away and crept back to camp.


Things had been better the past few days as they continued to travel south. Barry and Ku were once again talking to Gale, though it was still awkward between them, and Blind Seer had stayed closer to the group. The hills were getting shorter each day as they traveled south, and the stands of trees grew more frequent. Gale spotted a few deciduous trees, but the small forests were still dominated by coniferous trees.
As Gale crested a low hill, he saw a large open area stretching out before him. The road ahead continued near to the river, with trees only on the far bank, and atop a hill that Gale estimated to be two hours away at current pace, stood a sturdy fortress of smooth grey stone. The road passed between the fortress and the river, and by the fortress, a stone bridge spanned the flowing waters. On the horizon, Gale saw that the river split, one branch heading southeast and the other heading west. A city sprawled over the river and its branches, and between the branches of the river Gale could just make out a castle, rising above the buildings that surrounded it and the two bridges that led to it across the river branches. Rognvald’s cart rumbled to the top of the hill and Rognvald said, “Ah, Fort Duristan. We should reach it in a couple of hours. There in the distance is our journey’s destination. Rivers’ Crossing. It’ll be a few days beyond Fort Duristan that we reach it. Come, I doubt they will let us inside, but if we hurry we can eat our lunch in the shadow of Fort Duristan.”

Blind Seer

As they approached Fort Duristan, the sound of a warhorn split the air. Blind Seer looked towards the fort. The road split near it and a short stretch of road led up the hill to the gates of the fort. The gates opened and a rider came galloping down the hill towards the group. “Hail, travelers. You must move off the road. Several soldiers will be needing it momentarily.”

“How long will our delay be,” asked Rognvald.

“An hour, perhaps,” the rider from the fort replied.

“As good a time as any to eat lunch I suppose. Where are the soldiers bound? Is there trouble up north?”

“Aye, there is. Trouble down south, too. Seems the elves need more slaves. They are raiding several towns. Not many of them up north, though. Our force should be enough to clear them out. If you’re heading south beyond Rivers’ Crossing, though, I’d be careful. There have been several elf raids in the Silent Hills and the lands around Brightharbor. Take care.”

Rognvald nodded and moved his cart off the road. The rest of the group tied their horses’ reins to some trees and got out the dried food for lunch. Soon, a column of soldiers began snaking out from Fort Duristan. A few were mounted, but most were on foot. They streamed by as Blind Seer watched. Since they had time, Blind Seer decided to practice his psionic powers. He focused his mind and tried to sense any psychic impressions that may have been left in this area, much as he had done in order to find the wolfos before.
For a long while, Blind Seer got nothing from his reading. He listened to the marching of the troops as he sat and waited. Suddenly, his vision blurred and the sound of the marching troops changed. Blind Seer looked and saw blurred figures moving quickly up the road, towards the gates of Fort Duristan, which loomed as a blurry mass of stone atop the hill. Some of the figures stopped nearby and fired bows towards the fort. Up close, Blind Seer could see that the figures had pointed ears. Looking back towards the fort, he could see figures on the battlements now, firing back at the elves with bows and javelins. A banner above the gatehouse came into focus and Blind Seer could see a longboat on a field of dark blue.


The column of soldiers had finished marching by and the group had continued on. Ku had estimated that there had been at least one hundred soldiers plus a few supply wagons. The group had continued on and made camp as night fell. Blind Seer told the group about how he had read the psychic impressions around Fort Duristan and seen elves attacking it. Rognvald nodded slowly and said, “Aye, that’d probably be the Second Great Human-Elf War that you saw. One of the battles of it, anyways.”

Ku remembered that he had had a few history lessons from the Void Temple about the Second War, but he couldn’t remember the contents of the lessons, as his history teacher had been a ponderous old enieto and had a knack for putting his students to sleep.

“We have no history books in my tribe,” said Blind Seer, “What can you tell me about this Second Great Human-Elf War?”

“Well let’s see. At the end of the First War, that would have been… hmm, year 1292 when it was over, the Longman family had carved the eastern shore of the Shattered Ocean into the Fadafir Kingdom. Many years later, they pressed eastward and established Rivers’ Crossing. The elves retaliated and thus began the Second War. That was year 1375. Lasted until 1431. Always long wars when you are going up against an enemy that can easily reach 300 years of age.”

Blind Seer tilted his head to one side and asked, “So there used to be elves in the Riverlands?”

“Oh yes. They used to rule over all the lands between the Singing Forest and the Cold Forest. They took slaves in those days just as they do now and eventually a prominent human captain of the Shattered Ocean, Langmann, banded together several other humans and attacked the elves. They landed in year 1247 at what became Longport, started the First Great Human-Elf War, and established the Fadafir Kingdom. Like I said, at the end of that war, the Fadafir Kingdom stretched across much of the eastern shore of the Shattered Ocean.”

Ku stretched as he listened to Rognvald, then jumped to his feet. “Look,” he said to the group, pointing to where he had spotted a thin trail of smoke in the sky.

“Looks like a campfire,” said Barry.

Ku nodded and said, “We’d best check it out. If it’s bandits, we should move our camp further away. If it’s other travelers, perhaps we can combine camps for greater safety.”

The others nodded agreement. Gale, Blind Seer, Ku, and Barry headed off to check it out.


They approached the area where they had spotted the campfire. Barry motioned to the others to wait while he crept forward a few more feet. He could hear the crackling and popping of burning wood. Light danced up ahead, casting shadows from the shrubs and few trees that populated the hills that huddled close together, creating a sheltered low area between them. Barry heard the soft murmuring of a voice, but couldn’t make out any of the words at this distance. He eased his way through the grass and brush, then saw down into the campsite.

Their gear was piled near the fire. Barry saw backpacks, bows, arrows, and wooden masks, painted with strange symbols. He looked to the two campers, who sat by the fire, speaking a strange tongue. Barry saw that the had black hair and pointed ears. He slowly crept away back to the group and whispered, “Molroito. I’d recognize their masks anywhere. I’ll sneak up on them, perhaps we can capture one and see what they are doing here.” The others nodded agreement to his plan.

Barry moved around the campsite such that he would be behind the elves, then moved quietly through the brush. He saw the Molroito again, who were still sitting and talking. ‘Thought these pointy-eared bastards were supposed to have good hearing,’ Barry thought as he stepped into the camp, rapier at the ready. One of the elves turned at that moment and cried out a warning. Barry pierced that one’s neck with his rapier and the elf fell to the ground. As Barry pulled out his rapier, he saw that the other elf had already found his bow and had an arrow ready. Barry rolled forward, trying to dodge the arrow, but it struck him in the leg. Barry fell to his knees. The elf readied another arrow, aiming for Barry’s throat. Barry tried to lash out with his rapier, but the elf was standing just outside of range. The elf shot the arrow, but it went wildly wide, as the elf was scrambling to stay standing on the ice that had just appeared below his feet. The elf failed to keep his feet and fell forward, right onto Barry’s blade. Gale, Blind Seer, and Ku rushed out of the brush. “Damn. Wanted to take that one alive. Thanks for saving my life, though,” Barry said, nodding to Blind Seer.

“Don’t thank me. Thank him,” Blind Seer said, pointing his nose towards Gale.

Barry raised his eyebrows and asked, “Since when do you make ice slicks?”

“Since I just thought it up three seconds ago,” Gale replied, “I seem to be gaining greater control over my magic. You’re welcome, by the way.”

“I… thank you,” Barry said sheepishly.

“Well I couldn’t have you dying on me. You’re part of my grand plan to rule over you dirty humans,” Gale said with a smirk, “Now let’s see about that leg.”


He healed Barry’s leg while Blind Seer and Ku checked the elves and their gear. “Both are dead,” Ku reported.

Blind Seer sniffed at their campfire and said, “What do you think they were doing here?”
Gale looked around and spotted a small hammer by some brush that clustered around the side of the hill, which rose steeply at this spot. Gale went over and picked up the hammer, then pushed some of the plants aside. “Perhaps they were here for this,” he said, gesturing at the now uncovered stone door. Gale gave it a push, but it wouldn’t budge. He stepped back to examine the door. It was on the edge of the campfire’s light, but Gale’s eyes could see it just fine. There was a carving in the stone door that depicted a forest of tall pine trees on one side, a crowd of people on the other side, and a person standing in the middle with hands upraised.

Barry came over and looked at the door. Even after several minutes of searching around the door, he couldn’t find a way to open it. Ku tried to move it, but couldn’t, even after augmenting his strength with psionic power. Barry studied the door again, murmuring some words and passing his hands over the carving. “There is magic at work here,” he said.
Gale continued to study the carving. He narrowed his eyes at it and said, “Strange… The scene depicted here reminds me of a story that my mother told me. The story was about my people, though. I’m not sure my people have been in the Riverlands much.”

“What happened in the story,” Blind Seer asked.

“Well, one of our heroes led my people to a new home. The new home was safe from the enlightened elves, but held dangers of its own, so when the hero beheld it he said, ‘Oh blessed haven, oh damned prison.’ That’s the best translation I can come up with, anyways. I originally heard the story in the tongue of my people.”

Blind Seer sat for a moment, then asked, “What does the phrase sound like in the tongue of your people?” Gale repeated the phrase in a language that sounded somehow earthy but also flowed easily off the tongue. Gale heard a grinding noise and turned to see that the door was opening.

Blind Seer

He sniffed the air as the stone door slowly opened. He saw Gale lean forward, trying to peer into the darkness. Blind Seer smelled stale air, earth, and something he couldn’t place. A sudden dread stabbed into his heart and he cried out to Gale, “Watch out!” Gale frantically drew his short sword and brought it up to defend himself. A gleaming longsword came swinging out of the darkness beyond the stone door. The blades came together with a mighty clang. The ringing continued for several moments, then there was a noise of scraping metal followed by silence. Blind Seer saw that Gale’s short sword had split apart. The blade had fallen to the ground, while Gale still clung to the hilt. The wielder of the longsword stepped out of the darkness beyond the stone door and into the light of the dead Molroito’s campfire.

The stranger exclaimed, “What in the Lord of the Wind’s sacred ale horn is another highland elf doing here?” Blind Seer turned his head sideways and examined the stranger. He was tall, nearly as tall as Ku, towering over the short height of Gale. He had white-grey hair which may once have been blond… and short pointed ears! Blind Seer narrowed his eyes suspiciously and took another sniff. Now that some of the stale air had cleared out, Blind Seer noticed some similarities between the scents of Gale and the stranger.

Gale dropped the hilt of his broken short sword and said in an awed voice, “Who…? How…? Who are you?”

The stranger replied, “I am Tarim, Scout of the Highland Elves. I thought you were those Molroito, but I see you’ve taken care of them. They’ve been here for days trying to starve me out. Sorry for breaking your sword and nearly slicing off your head.”

Gale regained some of his composure and said, “Seeing as I still have my head, I’ll accept your apology. I am Gale. Are there more highland elves around? What is this place? Why is there a carving of one of our people’s stories on this stone door?”

Tarim put the point of the longsword into the ground and leaned on it. Blind Seer now saw that he looked tired, thin, and old. Tarim replied to Gale’s barrage of questions, “There are no other highland elves nearby. I have been out here on my own for a long time. This is a barrow of our people from the First Great Human-Elf War. I discovered it a while back and have used it as a base of operations for scouting in this area. I ran into those Molroito and their friends a few days ago and took shelter in here. Heheh, the other Molroito didn’t make it, I made sure of that, couldn’t shake these two, though. The barrow has wards, as I’m sure you noticed, that keep it sealed unless you know the pass phrase. Please, come in. Let us talk while I pack my things. It has been too long since I have spoken to another, ah… highland elf.”

After exchanging looks, they all followed Tarim into the barrow cautiously.


He narrowed his eyes suspiciously at Tarim as the group headed into the darkness beyond the stone door. Ku had been rather surprised to find an elf behind the stone door… a forgotten elf, or highland elf as Tarim had called himself. Ku kept his guard up as they traversed a short, twisting tunnel that opened up into a cramped chamber. There was a small pile of gear against the back wall that appeared to be the only items in the room without a layer of dust. In the earthen walls were about a dozen stone sarcophagi, stacked three high in earth and stone shelves. Some were tilted at odd angles, as the dirt in the shelves had eroded away. All were covered in a thick layer of dust. Ku swept the dust off the nearest sarcophagus and saw that runes of an unknown tongue were carved into the side of it.

Tarim walked over to the pile of gear, placed a hand on the wall, and began to lower himself to sit. Ku noticed that Tarim’s face was a grimace of pain and that his arms were shaking. Tarim finished sitting down, set his longsword aside, began to sort through the pile of gear, then said, “So… A human, a wolfos, an enieto, and a highland elf. Sounds like the beginning of a bad joke, heheh – ahem. Let’s see… the human, obviously a bandit, not a thug, though… knows how to move, probably a pickpocket before, maybe from Rivers’ Crossing, something different about him now, is it magic? The wolfos, fur coloring indicates northern birth, not too north, probably the hills near the Cold Forest, doesn’t wear armor, but walks with confidence, power or naivety, both perhaps, shaman? The enieto, huge, greatsword strapped to his back, no question there, a warrior, sword bears the mark of the Void Temple near Edgeville, doesn’t trust me, but then who would trust a stranger that sprung out of a barrow? The highland elf, short, very short, abnormal maybe, or just underfed for all of his life, he is an escaped slave after all, probably taken young, the ‘education’ farms, right?” Tarim turned his head around and looked expectantly at Gale over his shoulder.

The four of them stood in a stunned silence. Blind Seer said, “How… how did you know all that about us?”

Tarim continued to look at Gale, “I’m a scout. It’s my job to be observant. Am I right about the ‘education’ farms?” After a moment, Gale nodded. Tarim gave a satisfied nod to himself, turned back to the pile of gear, and continued, “So what brings such an odd collection of people together? And what brings you to this place?”

Gale cleared his throat and stepped forward, “We are all guards for a merchant. We were traveling nearby when we saw the smoke from the Molroito’s camp. That brought us here, then we found the stone door. I had no idea that our people had scouts out this far from the… from home.”

“I imagine there is much you do not know after having been enslaved for so long,” Tarim said. He dropped one of the bags that he was sorting through and Ku saw that his hand was clenched tight into a fist and his arm was shaking. After a few moments, Tarim picked the bag back up and continued, “I doubt the enlightened elves taught you much about the history and culture of our people, but perhaps you heard it from other slaves?”

Gale glanced at the ground, “The only other highland elves there were women. The men and women had separate quarters and we weren’t allowed to interact much, so I’m afraid I only have quickly whispered stories and the blurry memories of my childhood.”

Tarim sighed, stood up, and turned to face Gale, “I am sure that you have many questions for me. I’m afraid I don’t have many answers for you. I have been out here, away from our… homeland… since the Second War. I send in my reports and occasionally receive orders, but I know little about the current culture of our people. Even if I did know more, there is not enough time left for me to answer you.” Tarim clutched his stomach and his whole body shook for a moment.

Gale stepped forward and attempted to assist, but Tarim waved him off. Gale’s face grew solemn, “Out here since the Second War? You… you must be nearly four hundred years of age. Are you alright?”

“My time is nearing its end,” Tarim said as he bent to rummage in a bag, “A sickness has taken root in my stomach and my body is failing me.” He pulled a handful of small leaves out of the bag and put them in his mouth to chew, “I aim to travel to the nearest Void Temple, heheh, what a shock it will be for them when an elf wanders in for the End of Life Journey.”

“Perhaps I can heal you,” said Gale, “I… I have magic.”

“There is no magic that can cure old age.”

“Mine can heal wounds… maybe even cure diseases.”

Tarim raised an eyebrow, “The old magic? What an odd group indeed… No, though, even if you could cure this sickness, it has already done too much damage to my body. Do not mourn for me. I was on my way to the Void Temple already, then those Molroito found me. I am thankful that you have come along and given me this chance to have all my years of knowledge recorded in the enieto’s memory tablets. It is time for me to put down my sword. My sword…” Tarim looked down at his sword on the ground where he had left it, a strange expression on his face. “Do you hear that?”

They all held their breath and listened in the silence of the barrow. A faint ringing noise seemed to be emanating from the sword.

Tarim continued to stare at the sword, “It has only done that once before… when I found it. It was in a place much like this one, another highland elf barrow, though much older, to the south, in the Silent Hills.” He reached down to pick up the sword, but when his hand neared the hilt, the sword spun, scraping against a rock that protruded from the dirt, and came to a halt with its hilt pointed towards Gale. Tarim slowly stood back up, regarding Gale closely, “Seems Olctire has chosen you to be its new bearer. Take it. I owe you a sword anyways. I no longer have need of it.”

Gale stooped down and grasped the hilt of the blade. He stood and gave a solemn nod, “Olctire… ‘destroyer of evil’… This is a noble gift. Thank you.” Tarim handed over a scabbard that fit the sword and picked up his pack of gear. They headed outside and Tarim bid farewell to the group. Ku saw that Tarim stopped to talk briefly with Barry before heading out, but couldn’t hear what was said.


Tarim approached him as they exited the barrow. The stone door groaned and scraped shut behind them. Tarim gave Barry a long look and said, “You remind me of a man I once knew. Ferdinand Werner Longman. A great man. Fought alongside him in the Second War. You ever heard of him? Seems like this group may be destined for something. Will you be a great man? Heheh, guess only time will tell. Farewell.”

The name sounded familiar to Barry. He thought that Ferdinand Longman might have had a hand in establishing Rivers’ Crossing. Barry was not the best student of history, though, so he couldn’t be sure.

They began to make their way back to Rognvald. They agreed to stay silent about the stone door and Tarim. Gale held up his new sword, ‘Olctire’ Tarim had called it, and asked how they were going to explain it. It was a fine blade, polished steel, a small gemstone in the hilt, and the hilt was shaped like feathered wings that spread straight out. It was clearly not of enlightened elf origin, so they couldn’t claim that it was the Molroito’s weapon. After some thought, Barry replied, “We investigated the source of the smoke and found two Molroito camping there. We tried to capture them, but they noticed us and took up their weapons. We managed to slay them, but unfortunately in the process Gale’s short sword was broken. We found this sword amongst their belongings. Not sure where it came from. They must have taken it off someone in one of their raids.”

When they returned to the camp and told this story to Rognvald, he examined the blade and said, “Hmm. I’ve seen priests of Freedom’s Blade use swords that looked similar to this one. Perhaps the Molroito captured a priest. Well, it is yours now I suppose. Can’t have a sword-less guardsman.”

They all headed to bed and slept well, glad that they were only a few days from their destination, Rivers’ Crossing.

Evil in Lakeside
The heroes arrive in the town of Lakeside and have a late night.


Soaked ground lay in front of him where moments ago a massive creature made of ice had been. Gale stared in shock and tried to comprehend what he had just seen. “What was that thing,” he asked.

Barry responded with a similar tone of shock in his voice, “A winged lizard… a creature of legend… a dragon. I always thought such things were just stories that moms told their kids. Never before have I heard of one being made of ice. If I hadn’t just seen it with my own eyes, I would never believe it.”

“We should not linger here,” said Blind Seer, pacing back and forth and clearly agitated, “I feel a sense of dread building slowly in my stomach when I look upon the spot where the creature melted.”

“Yes. We should return to Rognvald,” said Ku, staring at the soaked ground and waving his frills slightly.

They headed back towards the road. Gale glanced back to look at the wet dirt. He couldn’t shake the feeling that this incident marked the beginning of something.

Blind Seer

The group was making their way back to Rognvald in silence. Gale, Ku, and Barry had remounted their horses. Everyone seemed unsettled. “So,” Blind Seer tentatively broke the silence, “The… dragon… it looked heavily wounded. The question arises… what could harm such a massive creature?” Everyone was silent for several moments while they considered the question.

“Perhaps… Perhaps there are more of them,” Gale said,“and they fought with this one?”

“Where did it even come from,” Barry asked.

“It flew in from the north,” said Ku, “Perhaps it flew out of the Bittercold.”

The group fell into silence again. Blind Seer could not shake the tingling of dread in his stomach.


They made it back to Rognvald, who asked the group, “What happened?”

Ku described what they had seen, ending with, “I do not know what that creature was. It was grievously wounded, though, and we do not know by what. I suggest that we find a covered place to camp tonight.”

“Have you ever heard of such a beast, Rognvald,” Barry asked.

“No. In all my years of travel, I have not heard of such a thing. We’ve all heard the hearth-side stories of dragons, I’m sure… but one made of ice? I agree with Ku. We should find a campsite with overhead shelter tonight. The sooner the better.”

The group fell into their places around the merchant’s cart. Ku kept glancing backwards, towards the north, watching the sky.


They moved along at what Barry now felt was too slow of a pace. He tried to recall all the stories about dragons that he had heard. In all of them, they were massive winged lizards that reigned fire down upon villages. ‘Many legends have kernels of truth hidden in them,’ Barry thought, ‘I do hope we find cover soon.’ He checked the sky and saw that Nostiarna was just starting to cover the sun, creating the approximately hour-long twilight of Daern.

“There,” Ku called out, “Ahead. I see trees.”


He was laying down for bed. They had made camp under the trees and ate a few birds for dinner. Everyone still felt nervous, but the cover of the trees took some of uneasiness away. Gale was just beginning to enter his state of meditation, wishing for a hot bath to scrub himself clean with when a sudden blackness overtook him. Then, he felt that he had perfect clarity. He looked up and found himself standing under a large tree, a deciduous tree, which he had seen only a few of. From the tales of other slaves, he knew that the Forest of Screams had many such trees. Sunlight streamed through the branches of the tree and as Gale watched, a leaf broke off from one of the branches and began falling towards the ground. When it had almost hit it, a light breeze stirred the air. The leaf was lifted up and began floating away. Gale looked down and saw that there were many leaves strewn across the ground beneath the tree. Darkness overtook him again and he awoke.

Blind Seer

He lapped water from the river which was near the campsite. Rognvald had said that it flowed all the way down from the Cold Forest to Rivers’ Crossing, where it split into two branches, one going to the Shattered Ocean and the other to the Frostmelt Sea. About halfway between here and Rivers’ Crossing was Lakeside. Blind Seer headed back to the campsite and settled down in a spot near the fire. He was watching it dance when darkness came upon him swiftly and suddenly. He opened his eyes and saw the home of his tribe, heard the playful yips of pups not yet ready for bed, smelled the blood of a fresh kill roasting over a smokey fire pit. Then, he heard another sound. The twang of a bow. Blind Seer saw an arrow arc into the sky, blazing across it, for it was lit with fire. It crashed down on the hut of the elders, the leaders of the tribe. Blackness swallowed his sight and he awoke.


He finished cleaning and sharpening his blade and began doing his mental exercises. Closing his eyes, Ku could still see a red glow from the fire. He let his other senses expand, including the one that let him hear the whispers of thoughts of unguarded minds. The glow of the fire suddenly died and all went dark. He opened his eyes and found himself in a cave. He heard a roaring sound from up ahead, perhaps from a waterfall. Ku went around a corner in the passageway and found himself on a ledge overlooking a huge cavern. He looked down and saw a huge crowd of people filling the floor from wall to wall. From what he could tell, all the races of Daern were present in the crowd. They were all well armed and armored and were bashing spears on the floor and weapons on shields. This was the source of the waterfall noise. There was an eerie lack of voices which were usually raised in such a warrior’s rally. The scene went dark and the glow of the campfire returned.


He stretched and finished tending to the horses, then headed straight for bed. He hoped that it was safe under the trees from any more dragons that might come flying over. Barry stared up at the pine trees, which clustered by the river. He listened to the gentle flow of it near the campsite and the distant rushing further downstream. Darkness swept upon him suddenly. Opening his eyes, he was greeted by thick mists, crowding his view. All color here was muted tones of blue and gray. Up ahead, Barry saw some sort of light. He pushed his way through the mists and came upon a flowing stream of bright white energy. The words of the old man that they had met on the road came back to him now… “I’ve never seen the River swirl around anyone such as it does with you.” Barry approached the River and it seemed to sense him, for tendrils of energy branched off and began to reach towards him. He saw that there were actually many colors in the River, perhaps all the colors in the world. Darkness covered him again and he awoke.

Gale, Blind Seer, Ku, and Barry

They were all wide awake and looking around at each other. It was the middle of the night and everyone else was asleep, except for one of the bandits-turned-guard, who was standing watch a ways off from the camp. They saw in each others’ eyes that all had had a strange dream of some sort. “What did you see,” Blind Seer asked. “A leaf blowing on a breeze,” said Gale. “A mass of silent people preparing for battle in a cave,” said Ku. “The River… the Other Side,” said Barry. “I saw a burning arrow fall upon the hut of the elders of my tribe,” said Blind Seer, “What do you think it all means?” They all sat silently for a while. None of them could come up with a good explanation and eventually they all decided to get back to sleep, thinking that perhaps their dreams had just been dreams.


He sighed in relief, glad that the rest of the journey had gone smoothly. Lakeside was in sight. They would reach it by late afternoon. “We’ll have soft beds to sleep on tonight,” he said to the group.

“What can you tell us about Lakeside,” asked Blind Seer.

“Well, many decades ago, this town was just a speck on the map, a decent fishing village but certainly not the trade hub that it is now. A young businessman by the name of Gerald Walton, recently married to Laura Tanner, traveled up here from Rivers’ Crossing to assess the fishing operation, which his father was considering funding. Turned out that the fishing operation didn’t look to be a good investment, but Gerald did see a potential business. The shores of the lake had high quantities of high quality clay. Gerald Walton soon moved his family out here and set up a brick making workshop. It was very successful and soon Walton’s bricks were floating down the rivers on barges to Rivers’ Crossing and beyond. Walton made good money and Lakeside prospered, growing quickly to support the new industry. A few years ago, the Waltons had a big party on the lake, floating their barges out to the middle and serving drinks. A lot of the Waltons’ extended family was there, along with the Waltons’ servants. Gerald’s wife, Laura was unable to attend though, as she was feeling a bit ill that day. A terrible storm rose up. The party ended in disaster. The barges were sunk and nearly everyone out there that day drowned in the murky waters of the lake. Laura was stricken with a grief from which she never recovered. She lost her family and her mind that day. She went through the motions of carrying on the brick making business, but it suffered, as she lacked any real motivation to continue it. The Walton Manor began to fall into disrepair. Many came to her, offering their service, sometimes for no cost, as they felt sorry for the grieving widow. Laura turned them all away, though, saying that she had plenty of help around the house and that their services were not required. Laura’s brother, Jeremy Tanner, came up from Rivers’ Crossing and tried to help her get out of her grief. Unfortunately, she was unable to. She passed away about a year ago.”


He pulled his hat lower as he walked into town. ‘Best not let anyone see my pointed ears here,’ he thought. Gale studied the town as they approached. The buildings were short, made of brick and timber, and sprawled out across the low hills of the eastern shore of the lake. The lake was sizable. Gale could just see the far shore. On the lake, he could see barges being loaded at crude docks. Near the docks, close to the shore, men were working to pull mud and clay out of the ground and pack it into wooden brick forms further up the shore.

“The brick making industry carries on,” Rognvald was saying to the group, “but it is not as prosperous as it was under Gerald Walton’s management. They probably made three times as many bricks in those days. Let’s take these prisoners to the courthouse then find a place to stay for the night.”

Blind Seer

He gazed around at the buildings as they entered the town. This was the largest human settlement that Blind Seer had ever been in. He sniffed the air. ‘So many smells,’ he thought, ‘and most of them unpleasant! How do humans live like this?’

As they made their way through the streets, Blind Seer saw several enieto scattered among the humans. “I thought most enieto lived in Void Temples,” he remarked.

“That is where we are born and raised,” said Ku, “but most of us leave the temples and live our lives elsewhere. Many settle down in human towns. Some travel to Laushurno and join the enieto community there.”

“Ah, here we are,” said Rognvald, “the courthouse.”


He looked around as they entered the courthouse, hauling the still tied prisoners in. The building was simply built, though it used the highest quality bricks that Ku had seen so far. Inside, three humans sat on a raised platform. Next to the platform stood an enieto. The enieto and the three humans were looking at two men that stood in the middle of the room. One had his hands bound behind his back. The other looked to be some sort of guard. Near the back wall, to the right of the entryway, stood another enieto with arms crossed. Just to the left of the entryway was another human, who produced a book and quill, then approached Rognvald.

Rognvald quietly whispered to the human with the book and quill, who then scribbled in his book and sat back down. The human in the middle of the raised platform spoke, “After reviewing the evidence presented yesterday, this court finds you guilty of thievery. For this crime, the criminal is sentenced to lose the first joint of his fifth left-hand finger.” The bound criminal accepted his fate stoically and the guard led him out of the courthouse.

The man with the book stood up and said, “To the court, I present Garsk of the Deepguard.” The enieto near the back of the room unfolded his arms and stepped forward.

“Ah, Garsk. Good to see you again,” one of the human judges said. “How were your travels?”

The enieto replied, “Full of fair weather and safe roads, thank you. How have things been here?”

“Well enough, thank you. Well, we will have our prisoners brought out to the square in a few minutes and deal out the punishments.”

Garsk nodded, turned, and headed out of the courthouse.

“To the court, I present Rognvald, the merchant,” said the scribe.

Rognvald stepped forward and told the judges about the skirmish at Edgeville and how they had captured three of the bandits and an elf. Rognvald left out the part about some of the bandits becoming his guards. The judges listened patiently, looking at the prisoners. Their gaze lingered on the elf, then they turned to the enieto that stood near the raised platform and nodded to him.

The enieto stepped forward and said, “Hello. I am called Vosok. As part of standard procedure, I must attempt to verify your story. Is anyone in the accusing party or the accused party opposed to me reading their mind?” One of the bandits, Thorkell, replied that he was opposed to having “one of you things poking around in my head”. Vosok nodded and said that he would exclude him from the mind reading.

Ku felt a foreign presence enter his mind, creeping around the edges and gazing in. Ku relaxed his mental barriers and allowed the presence to look freely. Ku glanced at the rest of the group and saw that some were clearly discomforted by the experience. It was soon over.

Vosok turned to face the judges and said, “Let the records state that the enieto inquisitor Vosok finds no evidence to contradict the accusing side.”

The judges nodded and turned to Rognvald, saying “Vosok’s investigation and the fact that one of your prisoners is obviously an elf is enough to verify your story. This court finds the accused guilty. For the crime of banditry, this court sentences the humans accused to death by beheading. For the crime of illegally entering the Fadafir Kingdom, this court sentences the elf accused to death by beheading.”

As the group began to head out of the courthouse, Ku saw Vosok pull Gale aside and give him a long look. Ku had the feeling that they were having a telepathic conversation. Vosok turned away and headed back towards the front of the courtroom. Gale hurried outside with a worried look on his face. Ku wondered what all that was about, but shrugged, figuring it was none of his business.


He followed Rognvald outside the courthouse, feeling a bit shaky. ‘I am also guilty of banditry… Surely Vosok found that out.’ Luckily for Barry, enieto inquisitors were sworn to report only on the crimes stated before the court by the accusing party.

Outside, Barry saw that guards had brought out bound criminals and lined them up in the square by the courthouse. A crowd of people had gathered and were watching. Across the square stood two guards and a man with a black hood covering his face. Near them also stood Garsk, arms crossed and robe stirring in the breeze, and another enieto, dressed in chainmail with a hand resting on the hilt of a sheathed sword.

The scribe from the courthouse came outside and made his way to the middle of the square. “You have all been sentenced by the court of Lakeside,” he called out, addressing the bound criminals, “Today, the court shall deal out your punishments. Let it be known to you that if you will it, instead of receiving the punishment sentenced to you by the court, you may elect to hand your life over to the Deepguard and serve them in defense against the abominations of the Deep.”

The scribe paused, then opened his book and flipped through it. Stopping at a page, he raised his head and said, “Bring forth Thorkell, found guilty of banditry, sentenced to death by beheading.” Guards brought Thorkell forth and stood him in front of the scribe. “What is your choice,” the scribe asked Thorkell.

Thorkell spat in the direction of Garsk and the other enieto and said, “I ain’t going with those things. Their kind loves to poke around in people’s brains. Ain’t going to let them mess around in there and make me lose my head…” Thorkell continued on in this manner, spitting curses and accusations at the enieto as the guards hauled him over to a bloodstained block, forcing him to kneel over it. The enieto looked on impassively as the executioner did his work and Thorkell lost his head. It rolled over near the other criminals, who hastily backed away.

‘They always start with the most stubborn prisoner with the harshest punishment,’ Barry thought amusedly, ‘Shows the other prisoners that they mean business. After seeing it up close, serving out the rest of your life in the Deepguard starts to sound rather nice. Gets more recruits for the Deepguard and gets more criminals out of the human community. Win-win.’

The punishments continued. Most of those with harsh punishments chose to join the Deepguard instead. Even some with lesser punishments chose it. The executioner took many fingers and toes. Somewhat surprisingly, the elf chose to join the Deepguard, silently walking over to them when the scribe asked him what his choice was. Garsk began applying the Mark of Submission to the new Deepguard recruits, a brand across the face, imbued with psionic energy that made the recruits susceptible to mental control should they ever try to escape or harm a fellow recruit.


‘Damn,’ he thought when he heard that the inn didn’t have any bathing facilities. Rognvald paid for food and rooms for the whole group. Gale headed straight for the innkeeper and got his food. He sat down at a table in the common room and attacked his plate, astonished that they had given him such a large portion, at least three times as much as a meal back at the farms.

The common room started to fill up as the evening went on. A fiddler started up a jig and the townsfolk hopped up to dance. Gale, who had had quite a few drinks by this point, joined them. He soon found himself dancing with a rather pretty woman.

“Hi,” said the woman, “My name is Mary. What’s yours?”

“Gale. You’re a good dancer.”

“Aren’t you hot in that hat,” asked Mary, reaching for the Gale’s hat, which had stayed firmly on his head ever since entering town. He sobered a bit and gently blocked her reaching arms. She ducked under his arms and hugged him tight, giggling and saying, “Oh come on. I bet you’re even cuter under that hat.” She began making another attempt to remove Gale’s hat.

A stern voice rang out across the room, “Mary!” Gale looked in the direction of the voice and saw a burly man stomping towards them. The man stopped nearby and said, “Come on, it’s time to go home… And you, stay away from my daughter!”

As soon as Mary loosened her grip on Gale, he mumbled an apology to her father and hurried outside, seeking fresh air. ‘Fool,’ he thought to himself, ’You’ve got to be more careful. That was too close.’

Blind Seer

It was all a bit overwhelming. The smells, the music, the dancing. This was the largest human inn that Blind Seer had ever been in. He enjoyed the music that they were playing. It reminded him of home, for it sounded similar in some ways to the music of his tribe. The smells, though, were becoming hard to handle. Blind Seer was used to the smell of sweating wolfos and even, to some degree, the smell of his new companions, but the assault of odor from the horde of people was beginning to make him ill. He saw Gale leave and was grateful for the excuse to head outside, telling his friends that he was going to check on Gale.

Blind Seer found Gale leaning against the fence that divided the inn’s small front yard from the brick street. The glow from the inn dimly lit the street as the short twilight of Daern began to fade. The other nearby buildings were dark, as they were shops and closed for the evening. Blind Seer approached Gale and saw that he had a somber expression on his face. “Are you alright? What happened back there,” he asked Gale.

After a long pause, Gale replied, “She tried to take off my hat.”


“The girl I was dancing with. She tried to take off my hat. She almost found out what I am. And Vosok, the enieto from the courthouse, he knows. He found out while reading our minds to verify our story. I think he also saw some of my days as a slave, which is probably the only reason he didn’t reveal me to the guards. He certainly doesn’t trust me, though. Before we left, he told me to stay out of trouble.”

Blind Seer pondered for a moment, upset by his friend’s distress, then said, “It must be hard having to conceal your true nature all the time. I wish there was something I could do to help.”

Gale sighed and said, “I’m sorry to vent all this to you. You’ve already done a lot by keeping my secret. I just… I don’t know… I just thought freedom would be different. I have escaped the chains of the ‘enlightened’ elves, but now it seems I am bound by chains of a different sort.”

As Blind Seer was considering Gale’s words, a man hobbled up from down the street, favoring one of his legs. The man approached Gale and Blind Seer.


He sat with Barry, Blind Seer, and Rognvald at a table near the door. Ku thought the food tasted good, though the ale was a bit bitter. He had a nice plate of fish, fresh caught from the lake. “So Rognvald,” Ku said as he crunched through the fish’s scales, “What is the plan for tomorrow? What can you tell us of the road ahead?”

Rognvald set down his drink and replied, “Well, I’ll probably drop by the temple tomorrow morning to thank Arian for our safe travels so far and to ask for our continued safety on the road south.”

“Oh, there is a temple here,” Ku asked. The four of them saw Gale hurry out the door. Blind Seer politely excused himself, saying that he was going to go check on Gale.

“Yes, quite an elaborate one in fact,” Rognvald replied to Ku’s question, “Used to just be a small shrine, but Gerald Walton paid for it to be expanded. The finest bricks were used in making the temple building, which encloses a courtyard that holds finely carved statues of the Six Elders and the Human Primals. Supposedly, it has been blessed by the clergy of the Six Elders, protection, peace, and all that.”

“Sounds like an interesting place. I’ll join you tomorrow if you don’t mind.”

Rognvald nodded in agreement and said, “As for the road south, there isn’t much between here and Rivers’ Crossing. About the only thing of significance is Fort Duristan. It was built near the end of the Second Great Human-Elf War to protect Rivers’ Crossing.”

At this time, Blind Seer reappeared in the doorway and gestured for them to come outside. Rognvald finished his drink and said, "Well I’m heading to bed. Just be sure you younglings don’t get into any trouble. Ku and Barry nodded, then followed Blind Seer outside.


He followed Blind Seer and Ku outside and saw Gale standing near a man that leaned heavily on one leg. Gale nodded to Ku and Barry and said, “This gentleman is asking for help.”

The man spoke up, “Aye. It’s a bit embarrassing, but… well, I told my boy some stories about my grandfather, who studied the arcane arts… and you see, I had my grandfather’s ring, passed down to my father then to me. Showed it to my boy, telling him someday it’d be passed down to him. Set it on the mantle so we could admire it for a few days before stowing it back safely away. My boy gets it in his head to play with the ring, pretending to be a wizard and such nonsense that kids get into their heads. It don’t have special properties, mind you, just an old family heirloom that happened to have been owned by a mage. Anyways, my boy takes the ring, goes to play in the old Walton manor, and loses it in there! I’d very much like to get it back, as it has much sentimental value to me. Tried to send my boy back in to get it, but he wouldn’t, squirming and screaming about how the house had come alive and tried to kill him. It’s amazing what nonsense gets into their heads, eh? I’d go get it myself, but my leg here isn’t in the best of shape and, truth be told, the old manor can be dangerous, as it is in disrepair. Shouldn’t be any danger to spry young gentlemen such as yourselves, though. There’s coin in it if you can get my heirloom back. How about it?”

Barry looked around at Gale, Blind Seer, and Ku. They all nodded, so he said to the man, “Yes sir, I believe we can help you.”


They stood before the old Walton manor. They had set out immediately, since they were heading on to Rivers’ Crossing in the morning and didn’t want this opportunity to earn coin to pass them by. Twilight had faded to night. Only one of the moons, Ruthaen, was in the sky today, casting a dim red light down upon Daern. It was a rusty red half circle, tucked in the sky between the horizon and Nostiarna, which loomed overhead.

They had brought their gear and weapons as Barry had suggested, for they were traversing an unknown town at night and he said there was a chance that they might run into criminals. Ku had lit a torch, lighting their way as they travelled amongst the brick and timber buildings, which were beginning to crack and fade in some areas.

The Walton manor was enclosed by a wrought iron fence. The light from the torch cast long shadows across the yard beyond, which was overgrown with patches of tall grass. The manor itself was still beyond the reach of the light, a black silhouette to the human eye. Gale could see it, though, his eyes dilating beyond the range of a human’s to let in more light. As Rognvald had told them, the manor had stood vacant ever since Laura Walton died, about a year ago, though it had fallen into disrepair long before that, for in her grief she had refused to hire more servants to replace those that had died alongside her family in the terrible storm on the lake. The manor was two stories, modestly sized compared to the enlightened elf mansions that Gale had seen. It was made of what was once high quality brick, timber supports, and wooden shingles. Now, the brick was cracked and faded, the timber was sagging and splintered, and the shingles were worn and missing in places. Gale saw that many of the shutters were hanging crooked, clinging to the house with the few good hinges left to them. Some had fallen off, smashing against the roof of the porch and sliding off to the ground, bringing several shingles with them. The glass of many of the windows was still intact, surprising since it was worth a good amount of coin for anyone willing to take it. A few were broken, though, smashed by kids or in the case of one on the top floor, a tree branch that had crunched the roof and window frame.

The wrought iron fence was beginning to show rust in places, though it still held sturdy, and was topped with spikes. The bars were spaced wide enough for a skinny child to wriggle through, if he were determined enough, but too narrow by far for adults. There was a wrought iron gate as well, though it had a chain wrapped tight around it with a sturdy lock. Barry stepped toward the lock, pulling something out of his coat and mumbling about picking up a few tricks over the years. He fiddled with the lock for a minute and got it to pop open. He unwound the chain and placed it and the lock on the ground, then opened the gate. It screeched but the sound was quickly swallowed up by the night. They all headed through and headed for the front door.

As he was stepping through the gate, Gale thought he heard whispering in the streets behind them. He turned around and scanned the streets, peering into the alleyways and checking the rooftops. He saw nothing and began to doubt if he had actually heard anything. After a moment, he turned back towards the manor and hurried to catch up with the group.

Blind Seer

They entered the manor and found themselves in a large room. Opposite the entrance was a fireplace, black with old soot on the inside and long gone cold. A low table sat before it with a couch and two plush chairs gathered around it. Blind Seer recognized the fabric of the couch and chairs as wolfos made. His tribe didn’t spin, preferring to live in the more traditional way, but they occasionally traded with another tribe of the north Riverlands that herded sheep and spun their wool into high quality fabrics. It was a way of life that was becoming popular among wolfos tribes, especially those that lived in the human nations, for the trade it brought garnered valuable products from human communities. To the right of the entrance was a sizeable alcove with another low table, this one square, with four plush chairs around it. A cabinet with a glass front door stood in the alcove as well, mostly empty except for a few bottles that still held dregs of hard liquor. To the left of the entrance was a fine dining table with eight high-back wooden chairs around it. Beyond the dining table was a door, as well as one near the fireplace. The air smelled stale and dusty to Blind Seer and the once fine furnishings were mouse-chewed and cracking after having been abandoned.

They searched through the room, looking for the ring. As Blind Seer was looking under the table by the fireplace, he suddenly felt cold, shivering and bumping against the table, which scraped against the floor. The cold left him as quickly as it had set upon him. “Did you hear that,” asked Gale, who was searching over near the liquor cabinet.

“Sorry,” replied Blind Seer, “I bumped the table.”

“No, not that,” said Gale, looking towards the door by the dining table, “I thought I heard someone whispering over there.”

Ku, who was searching near the dining table, moved over to the door and waved everyone over. He opened it and they stepped through into a kitchen. A brick oven sat against the left wall, a stone counter against the opposite, and on the right wall was a door. In the middle of the kitchen was a wooden table with cooking implements hanging above it. There was no one besides them in the room. “I think you’re hearing things, Gale,” said Barry. Ku put a hand on the central table, crouching down to peer underneath it. The cooking implements rattled suddenly as the straps on the handle of a knife broke, letting it fall through the hanging implements, bouncing against them and landing tip down in the table right next to Ku’s hand. He pulled it back quickly and eyed the other implements warily.

They searched the kitchen but didn’t find the ring. They went through the door to the right of the kitchen entrance and found a long hallway that stretched to the right. There was one door on the left and one on the right. At the end of the hall were both stairs up and stairs down. “That should lead back to the front room,” Blind Seer said, pointing his nose towards the door on the right. They opened it to check and indeed found that this was the door near the fireplace in the front room. They opened the other door in the hallway next. Blind Seer headed in first and saw several bunk beds to the left and an open area with a rug and items strewn about to the right. “Probably servants’ sleeping quarters,” Barry said, gesturing to the bunk beds. Blind Seer went to investigate the area with the rug. As he got close, he saw that the items strewn about were children’s toys. He had had similar toys when he was a pup. One of the toys was a rag doll, crumpled sadly in the middle of the rug, its button eyes seeming to stare up at the ceiling.

“Huh, look at this,” Barry said, who had started searching amongst the bunk beds. He held up a small, flat, circular stone that had a strange design of swirls and lines painted on it. “That’s a symbol of the Gate Warden,” he said. Barry flipped the stone over. It had another design on the other side, this time scratched crudely into the stone. “And that’s a folk’s rune that means protection. Found it under one of these mattresses. What do you think the servants wanted protection from?”

They all pondered the stone for a few moments more, then shrugged and decided to continue the search for the ring in the rest of the house. As they headed back into the hallway, Blind Seer glanced back at the rag doll. Its button eyes seemed to stare straight at him. Another chill ran through Blind Seer’s body. He shivered but shook it off and followed the group into the hallway.


They headed downstairs. The bottom of the stairs opened out into a sizeable cellar that was filled with shelves, both pushed against the walls and freestanding in the middle of the room. The shelves were filled with a variety of items, ranging from books to woodworking tools. The air was colder down here, though still stale. They began to search amongst the shelves.

“What,” asked Gale, “What did you say?” The others replied that they hadn’t said anything. “I thought I heard something,” Gale said. Barry mumbled that he thought Gale had had too much to drink back at the inn. They continued searching.

At the back of the cellar, Ku found several items on the ground. Something glinted amongst them in the torchlight. Ku moved closer and saw that it was a ring. He called the others over and picked it up.

“That’s how he described it,” said Barry, “must be what we’re looking for.”

Blind Seer sniffed at the items on the ground and said, “The man said his son claimed that the house came alive and attacked him. I guess this stuff fell on him while he was exploring. Must have scared him.”

They all nodded and headed back towards the stairs. Ku eyed the fallen items. The shelves around them were empty, so presumably the items came from them. None of the shelves were broken, though, and they were much too heavy to tilt. How then did the items get off the shelves to fall on the boy? Ku pondered this for a moment then shrugged. They had the ring back now, so it was time to get out of this old manor and get to bed. Ku followed the group up the stairs.

As he neared the top of the stairs, Ku felt one of the steps crack under his foot. He fell up the stairs, leg plunging through the broken, splintered step. He felt his leg go cold as he scrambled awkwardly to free it. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw Blind Seer shiver and fall against the wall of the hallway. Barry swayed at the top of the steps, threatening to topple back down them. Barry looked around and Ku saw that his eyes had a dazed look in them.


He heard the step crack behind him and Ku struggling to free himself. Blind Seer began shivering and fell against the wall. Without warning, Barry’s vision blurred and he saw the Other Side. The mists swirled around him and the River streamed by a ways ahead of him. He peered through the mists and saw that there were distortions nearby. His vision began to blur back and forth between the normal world and the Other Side, disorienting him and causing him to sway as he tried to regain his balance. Barry saw that one of the distortions in the mists was near Blind Seer. Turning slowly, he saw that another was underneath the basement stairs. Focusing on the distortion, he thought he caught a glimpse of a human figure in it. Barry’s vision snapped completely back to the normal world and he grabbed the stair railing to steady himself. Blind Seer stopped shivering and Ku got his leg free from the broken step. Barry was about to say something about what he saw when Gale said, “I know I hear something this time!” Indeed, they all heard it now. The front door slamming open and the sound of running footsteps entering the manor. The group had a moment to glance at each other, wondering who else could be in the manor, then a man ran into the hallway from the door to the front room. He stopped short, looking surprised to find other people here. “Who are you,” the man asked, trying to catch his breath after running.

The man was plain looking. Brown hair, brown eyes, probably about thirty years of age. He looked rather distressed. The group hesitated, then Gale asked, “Who are you?”

“Jeremy Tanner. Excuse me.” The man dashed around the group and up the stairs.

“Jeremy Tanner,” Gale said, “Didn’t Rognvald say that he was the brother of Laura Walton?”

The group looked around at each other, shocked by the sudden appearance of the man. They cautiously followed him upstairs. They found Jeremy in a room just to the right of the top of the stairs. He was searching frantically through the room. Barry noted that this room looked less run down than the others and that many of the things in the room were not covered in dust. He supposed that Jeremy may have been living or at least working here for some time. “Jeremy Tanner,” Barry said, “brother of Laura Walton?”

“Yes,” replied Jeremy as he shuffled through a desk full of papers, “My poor, poor sister. She never deserved what I did to her.”

Barry glanced at the others, starting to feel uneasy about the situation. “What… what did you do to her,” he asked Jeremy.
Jeremy was frantically tossing papers to the floor, babbling distractedly and uncontrollably to the total strangers. “When I heard about the tragedy on the lake, her husband and family dying in a storm, I traveled up here to comfort her. Well, I’ve dabbled in the arcane arts you see, and I thought perhaps that I could let her talk to Gerald’s spirit. Find some peace.” Jeremy pulled a paper out of the desk and glanced over it, then ran to a shelf that held several ceramic jars and began looking through them. “The ritual I attempted… I was surprised that it worked. I was mostly just desperate to try anything to help my sister. It… it didn’t work quite right, though. It bound the spirits of the dead to this house.” Jeremy grabbed a few of the jars and dashed over to a bag that lay against a wall. He put the jars in it and started to read the paper again. “I think she started to lose grip on reality then, not knowing who was alive and who was dead. The servants lived in fear and eventually all moved out. A year ago, she passed away. My ritual, though… it still lingers I suppose. Her spirit was also bound here. I searched and studied and finally I thought I had found a way to end this. A spell to raise the bodies from the lake and a blessing to say over them and lay their spirits to rest. Something went wrong with the spell, though, and now… well, now there are abominations crawling out of the lake. Maybe I can try the blessing anyways,” he said, running his finger down the paper, “Yes, that’s it, I’ve got everything.” Jeremy picked up the bag, stuffed the paper inside it, and ran past the group out the door.

They all stood dumbfounded at what they had just heard. Abominations were something they had all heard stories of. Monsters in the Deep that the Deepguard fought. The thought that some were here, threatening Lakeside was disturbing to say the least. They looked at each other for a moment, then ran out the door, rushing to catch up with Jeremy.


They caught up to Jeremy out on the street in front of the Walton manor. “Abominations,” Gale exclaimed questioningly. Jeremy nodded and kept running. They reached the shore of the lake near the brick making workshop. Gale scanned the shore, not really sure what to expect. Then he saw them. The waters and the fish had made them nearly unrecognizable, rotted forms of what were once humans. They were struggling through the thick mud and clay, grasping towards the last few lights that were still lit in the town settling down for the night. “Whatever you’re going to do, do it quick,” Gale said to Jeremy. There were several of the abominations. More were starting to rise from the deeper waters and some had managed to make it to dry ground, where they began to make steadier progress towards the buildings. Jeremy set down his bag and pulled out the paper and the jars, then began drawing symbols in the dirt. Gale drew his short sword and moved to intercept the abominations, hoping to keep them out of the town. The abominations spotted him and shambled towards him. He shoved one back, feeling uneasy about attacking it with a sword, for it had once been a person. While Gale was regaining his footing after the push, another one shambled up and grabbed his arm. The first one stumbled forward again and slammed its rotting arms against Gale’s chest, putting a dent in his armor. They smelled terrible. As he struggled to free his arm, he saw that two more had made their way to dry ground and were heading his way.

Blind Seer

He hung back near Jeremy, struggling to comprehend the situation. Dead things were clawing their way through the water and mud. Abominations… sure, he had heard the scary stories occasionally told around the fire by Anyar, the Elder Teacher of his tribe… but he had always thought that they were just stories. Now the small horde of them rising from the lake was proving him wrong. They were beginning to overwhelm Gale! Blind Seer gathered his wits and calmed his mind, drawing upon the deep, still part of his mind. He stabbed out with his mind at the one holding Gale’s arm. It was as if is mental blade had jabbed at nothing. Blind Seer reeled, off-balance just as a swordsman would be if he had stabbed at nothing but air. ‘They are utterly mindless,’ he thought, starting to feel panic rising, ‘There is nothing to attack!’ He drew again on the still part of his mind, which was now slightly drained from his first sally, this time targeting his mental energy towards the ground near the abominations. He and Ku had been doing mental exercises together and Ku had explained the theory he had learned in the Void Temple that mind could effect matter. Blind Seer didn’t fully understand it, but he was desperate. He willed the ground near Gale to become muddy and slippery, focusing all of his mind on it. He felt a rush of energy leave his still pool and suddenly the abominations that had nearly reached Gale slipped and flailed about on the ground. Gale was still struggling with two of them, though.


He had drawn his greatsword as they ran through town. Now, he surveyed the scene, seeing Gale get slammed by one of the abominations. He charged that one, aware that a few that had been heading Gale’s way were now down and flailing in a patch of mud. He smashed his blade through the head of one of the abominations. Ku had no qualms about the fact that they had once been living people. They had taught him much about abominations at the Void Temple and he knew that they were a very real threat faced by the Deepguard every day. They were dead and his friends were alive. To keep his friends alive, he must have no hesitation. Gale got himself free from the abomination and aimed a wild swing at it with his sword, apparently having gotten over the fact that they had once been people. Ku stepped forward and chopped one of the ones flailing in the mud in half. Suddenly, though, there were several near him that came in from the sides, bypassing the slippery mud. They grasped and clawed at him and he was unable to wield his sword effectively. Several started to beat on his armor, knocking the wind out of him. He struggled to free himself. Ku took a deep breath and focused his mind, willing his muscles to stretch and grow. He felt strength flowing into his limbs. Ku twisted and jerked, breaking the grip of the abominations, then swung his sword in a wide arc, knocking several of them back. As he paused in the momentary respite, he noted that it had begun to rain.


He saw Gale and Ku dispatch a few of the abominations. Gale was being pushed back towards Jeremy, cut off from where Ku now struggled with several of the things. Barry had never doubted the existence of abominations, but there was a big difference between hearing about the Deepguard fighting them and suddenly having twenty to thirty rushing at you. One shambled up close to Jeremy. Barry ran it through with his rapier, but it kept flailing, smacking Barry in the arm with a cold, wet, dead arm. His heart pounded and his dinner threatened to come up at the stench. Barry kicked the thing off his sword then slashed desperately at it, smashing in its head. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw Ku throw back several of them. He felt raindrops splashing on his skin. “No, no, no,” Jeremy said with a wild look in his eye, staring at his scratchings in the dirt which were now being washed away, “We must go to the temple,” he said, now sounding drained and hopeless, “Our only hope to live is if the old stories about it being warded are true.” Gale and Ku had both made it back to Jeremy, Blind Seer, and Barry. The group dashed off, Jeremy leading the way to the temple. The horde of abominations followed behind them, grasping, dripping, and splashing through the puddles being formed on the brick streets by the rain. They saw what must be the temple ahead. As they neared it, Jeremy slipped in a puddle. The abominations closed in near him. Blind Seer and Barry grabbed him and dragged him through the archway that led into the temple courtyard while Gale and Ku held back the closest abominations. Soon, the whole group was in the temple courtyard. The abominations hesitated beyond the archway, seemingly unwilling to pass through it.

Gale, Blind Seer, Ku, and Barry

They breathed a sigh of relief, glad for the respite from the onslaught and scanned the courtyard, trying to determine their next move. In the middle of the courtyard, four statues stood close together. They depicted the Human Primals: Otac, a sturdy middle-aged man holding a stalk of wheat, tender of the land; Talam, his wife, a gracefully aged woman holding an apple, tender of the home; Arian, their older son, a clean shaven handsome young man holding coins, promoter of honest business and philanthropy; Twyllo, their younger son, a ruggedly handsome young man with tousled hair holding a smiling theater mask, promoter of fun and laughter. More statues, larger than the ones in the middle, stood in the corners of the courtyard and in the middle of the walls to the left and right. These depicted the Six Elders: The Radiant One, clad from head to toe in armor, holding a sword in one hand and a hammer in the other, defender of justice and patron of craftsmen; The Guarding Hunter, a stern looking figure whose face seemed almost as a beast’s, holding a tree branch as a staff, defender of the wilds; Freedom’s Blade, a handsome man whose hair seemed to blow in the wind, holding a winged sword pointed downwards, champion of liberty and of the wrongfully imprisoned; The Voidwatcher, an enieto with unblinking eyes, hands clasped in front of him, seer of the truth; The Mystic Lord, a middle aged man with a sly smirk, leaning on a slender staff, master of magic; The Gate Warden, a beautiful but cold looking woman, a hand stretched out in front of her, the mistress of death and life. Counterpart to the Six Elders were the Three Elders. They were not depicted here, for they were considered by humans to be cruel and evil deities, though all knew their appearances from the stories. The Enlightened Master, a perfectly sculpted elf, holding a chain, lord of the enlightened elves and enforcer of order; The Nightstalker, a darkly handsome man, wreathed in a black cloak, master of material gain and self indulgence; The Ravenous One, a hideous enieto with skin that had black energy bursting from it, lord of hunger and madness.

As they took in their surroundings, Jeremy got to his feet slowly with his back turned to the group, looking towards the abominations that shuffled beyond the archway. He began to laugh in a much deeper voice than before, which somehow seemed full of menace. Gale, Blind Seer, Ku, and Barry exchanged worried looks. Jeremy turned and grinned at the group. He looked the same, but they had the uncomfortable feeling that something else was looking out of Jeremy’s eyes… something Evil. It spoke with Jeremy’s voice, deeper and calmer than his previous babbling, “What an unexpected fortune that has fallen my way. Drawn here by the screams of mass death on the lake. Latched onto this one when he came to town, clutching his spells and hoping to speak to the dead. Corrupted his rituals, trapped the souls and gave the bodies hunger. The banquet poised to die, so that I may feast on the memories of their terror. Now these come along and grant me entrance to the town’s only bastion, pulling me through the barrier which I could not cross willingly. Now I can destroy the bastion from within. Now these will be added to the banquet of screams.”

Jeremy raised a hand and pointed at Barry. A burst of dark purple energy lashed out and struck Barry in the chest, who dropped his rapier and fell to his knees, clutching at his heart. Ku jumped into action and dashed forward, slicing his greatsword horizontally through the air. He opened a deep cut on Jeremy’s arm and chest. Jeremy laughed as the gash closed up, scarring over quickly. He shoved Ku, arms flashing with more dark purple energy. Ku was sent tumbling backwards several feet, caught off guard by Jeremy’s unnatural strength. Jeremy pointed a finger towards Blind Seer. Gale felt the power welling up inside of him, raising a hand and facing an open palm towards a point between Jeremy and Blind Seer. Energy flashed out through the air from both Jeremy and Gale. A boiling beam of dark purple and a golden arc in the shape of lightning. The beams collided and deflected off each other, crashing into the wall near the statue of the Voidwatcher, which sat unmoved and continued to stare impassively over the fight. The rain hissed and steamed around the impact site as a few of the bricks cracked and crumbled to the ground. Blind Seer’s stomach had twisted as Jeremy pointed at him. Now he was shocked and relieved that Gale had blocked the beam. Blind Seer began to draw upon the last reserves of the still part of his mind. A wind began to blow about the courtyard, lashing the rain sideways and whipping all their clothes around. Barry had regained his feet and his rapier, dashing around to get behind Jeremy. He slid his blade between Jeremy’s ribs, straight into his heart. Jeremy coughed up some blood. Blind Seer stabbed out with his mind. He met with a swirl of disconnected memories of pain and screaming. With a struggle, Blind Seer punched through these. As he was withdrawing his mental blade, a thought entered his mind. Blind Seer somehow knew that it was Jeremy… the real Jeremy. The thought was, ‘Help me!’ The Evil laughed with Jeremy’s voice and managed to speak through a mouthful of blood, “If I go, this poor fool goes with me.” Blind Seer called out to the others, “Jeremy is still in there, struggling to free himself!” The rain poured down harder and the wind kicked up into a frenzy. The distant rumblings of thunder could be heard. Gale raised his voice above the storm, “Hold him down!” Barry pulled his rapier out of Jeremy and kicked out the back of his knees. Jeremy dropped to a kneel, coughing up blood even as the sword wound closed up and scarred over. Having regained his feet, Ku went over and locked his grip around Jeremy’s arm. Gale stepped towards Jeremy and spoke to the Evil, “Leave him.” The Evil laughed with Jeremy’s voice and raised his head to look Gale in the eye, grinning with a mouthful of blood covered teeth and malice. Gale grabbed Jeremy and shook him, yelling at the Evil, “Leave him!” At that moment, a bolt of lightning crashed down from the storm, striking Jeremy straight in the head. Gale, Barry, and Ku leapt backwards, dropping Jeremy, who fell to the ground unmoving. Gale stared wide-eyed and shocked. Blind Seer looked on, dumbfounded. Gale reached up, absentmindedly running a hand through his hair, and suddenly realized that the blast from the lightning strike had blown off his hat.

The storm calmed down quickly to a steady rain. Barry and Ku were still for a moment, taking in Gale’s uncovered features. The dark red hair, the ever so slightly slanted eyes, the pointed ears. Gale brought his hand back down to his side, taking on a resolved look and half-heartedly bringing his short sword up to a guard position. “Elf,” Ku spat, leveling his greatsword at Gale’s chest, “Explain.” Barry charged at him, swinging his rapier in a wild overcut. Blind Seer rushed forward and clamped his teeth onto Barry’s sleeve, disrupting his blow. “It’s not what you think,” Blind Seer growled through his teeth. Barry eyed him wildly and exclaimed, “You knew?!” Gale sighed and lowered his sword, then said, “I know you have all heard the stories about the ‘enlightened’ elves, but I know the truth of their cruelty better than most. I have been a slave to them ever since I was very young, ripped from my mother’s arms. I share certain features with them, but by no means am I akin to them. I am what many call a Forgotten Elf.” Ku kept his greatsword pointed at Gale’s chest. Barry narrowed his eyes at Gale as a distant memory rose to the surface of his mind. Long ago, his mother had told him stories of the Forgotten Elves, how they had helped the humans in the First Great Human-Elf War hundreds of years ago. Everyone just thought that Forgotten Elves were hearth-tales… but then again, everyone thought the same of dragons. Gale continued, “It was never my intention to deceive anyone. The only thing on my mind was to get as far away from the Cold Forest as possible. The elves back at Edgeville were there for me, seeking to drag me back into slavery.” Blind Seer let go of Barry, as he seemed to now at least be listening to Gale. Blind Seer said, “I discovered Gale’s nature in the fight with the Molroito back in Edgeville. Gale does not smell the same as the other elves.” Gale nodded thanks to Blind Seer and said, “I’ve only wanted to get away from the Molroito and Rognvald offered the perfect opportunity. I feared such a reaction just as this if you found me out, so I stayed silent and kept concealed.” Ku reluctantly lowered his greatsword and said, “You have watched my back throughout this journey and for that I thank you. I know not if you are truly a Forgotten Elf, but as far as I can tell, you have not yet tried to enslave us,” pausing to smirk ever so slightly, then continuing again with a stern look, “I will be watching you carefully, though, as we continue our travels together.” Barry said, “Your story could be true… but it could also be false. I’ll also keep my eye on you as we continue our journey. And yes, you will definitely stay with us even though we know what you are. If you try to slink off, I will know for sure that you are a dirty elf spy and I will come hunt you down.” Blind Seer looked nervously between the other three. Jeremy stirred and groaned on the ground. Everyone looked to him, astonished to see that he seemed relatively unscathed from the lightning strike. Then they brought their weapons up to guard positions, wondering if the Evil had regenerated his body from the bolt. Jeremy slowly sat up, rubbing his head and eyes. “What happened,” he asked, holding his forehead and staring at one of his hands, speaking in a normal voice, “Did I… did I hurt anyone?” Convinced that the Evil had left Jeremy, Gale hurried off to find his hat.

Gale found his hat over by one of the statues of the Elders. He picked it up, wrung out the water in it, and put it firmly back on his head. Gale looked up at the statue and saw that it was Freedom’s Blade, the Chainbreaker, as he had heard some human slaves call him back at the farm. Gale’s people had a different name for the Elder, though… The Lord of the Winds, for he was said to revel in storms and the freedom that they symbolized. Gale thought back on the lightning shaped energy ray that he had used to deflect the Evil’s beam, and on the real lightning bolt that had struck Jeremy and seemed to have cleansed him of the Evil. Gale whispered a quick prayer of thanks to Freedom’s Blade. Gale felt the warm glow of the power, rising in his heart. He had occasionally suspected, but Gale knew then for sure from whom the power originated.

The rain stopped shortly after and the group carefully inched outside the temple, relieved to see that the abominations had all fallen to the ground, unmoving. At Jeremy’s request for help, they began to collect the bodies, laying them out as respectfully as possible, for Jeremy still wished to perform final rites for the dead. They were finishing up just as Edromyn was beginning to be uncovered. Jeremy said a blessing over the bodies, then the group sat silent, exhausted and unsure of what to do next. A scream pierced the air. Guards soon arrived, finding nearly thirty corpses with five blood covered people sitting nearby. The group was arrested and taken to the courthouse. The judges and Vosok, the enieto inquisitor, were roused from their beds for an immediate trial. Jeremy stammered out an explanation of all that had occurred. Their minds were examined. Thankfully, Vosok continued to stay silent on the fact that Gale was an elf, and also left out much of the details of the fight, only saying that they had overpowered Jeremy. The man who had asked them to retrieve the ring was summoned to court as a witness. By the time they found him, several townsfolk had also come to watch, as well as the enieto Deepguard recruiters. Gale, Blind Seer, Ku, and Barry were found to be innocent in the events of the previous night. Jeremy was found guilty of necromancy and sentenced to immediate death. Blind Seer spoke up, “Honorable sirs, it was not Jeremy, but the Evil within him that performed the necromancy.” The judges replied, “The spirit trapping and the raising of the abominations, yes, but Jeremy’s initial attempt to speak with the dead is necromancy as well. The law makes no exceptions for that dark magic. Not even the Deepguard accept those that have performed necromancy.” Gale chimed in, “The Evil may have influenced Jeremy to attempt that spell in the first place.” Vosok said, “In your memories, before it attacked you, the Evil said that it latched onto Jeremy only after he came to Lakeside. Jeremy was considering casting the spell to speak with the dead long before that.” Ku stepped up and said, “Before last night, I thought the stories about Evils that could possess people were just hearth-tales, but our encounter last night was exactly as the stories describe. Looking into someone’s eyes and feeling something otherworldly looking back at you… The stories also say that Evils are expert liars. It is entirely possible that the Evil was lying to us last night and it has actually been working within Jeremy for much longer.” The judges frowned and replied to all the debate, “This is all irrelevant. Whether it was the Evil influencing him or not, Jeremy still studied necromancy and still knows how to perform that dark magic. It is safer for the world to extinguish that abhorrent knowledge. This court stands by its verdict.” Gale said, “We are not arguing that he be let completely off the hook, merely asking that you lessen his punishment, for it seems he has already been punished much the past few years.” Garsk, the Deepguard Keeper, stepped forward and said, “In light of the exceptional circumstances of this case, I would be willing to offer Jeremy a place the Deepguard in lieu of his sentence.” All were shocked, for usually the enieto were unyielding in their views on necromancy. Jeremy accepted Garsk’s offer and the court slowly began to disperse. Gale, Blind Seer, Ku, and Barry returned the heirloom ring to the man, who handed over a decent sized pouch of coins. They returned to the inn and found Rognvald finishing the packing of his wagon. “Ah, there you are,” he said, “Ready to get on the road towards Rivers’ Crossing? I tried to go by the temple this morning, but the guards had it blocked off, talking about some sort of incident last night. Heard anything about it?” The four glanced at each other, unsure of how to begin.

Road to Lakeside
The heroes travel south with Rognvald, encountering some fey creatures and a beast of legend.


Gale looked around at his traveling companions. They were a strange site, riding alongside the merchant’s cart on what were once the bandits’ horses. Their prisoners were tied up in the cart. The three humans were grumbling amongst themselves. The elf was staring off into the distance and ignored any attempts at interaction. Ku rode ahead of the cart, keeping a vigilant eye on the horizon. Barry hung back with the other bandits-turned-guards and seemed to have fallen into a position of leadership with them. Blind Seer ranged to the sides of the group, fast on his four paws, and would often bring back small game for dinner.

Gale took a long sigh and glanced back to the northern horizon for what felt like the hundredth time today. He kept expecting to see Molroito galloping over the low rolling hills behind them. Ku called out to the group, “Someone ahead!” Gale loosened his short sword in case there was trouble.

Blind Seer

He loped along through the short grasses that were prevalent in this region. He had taken to the group readily enough. It felt kind of like a hunting pack, but Blind Seer could tell that the others were cautious around the others, still not fully trusting. Blind Seer had to admit to himself that he was still a bit wary of Gale. He hadn’t decided yet if he should tell the group that Gale was an elf. Blind Seer had kept an eye on Gale as they traveled and it seemed that Gale was telling the truth about once being a slave. In any case, Gale hadn’t shown any hostility towards the group.

Blind Seer caught a whiff of a stranger’s smell on the air about when Ku called out, “Someone ahead!” Blind Seer moved to rejoin the group.


He rode along at the head of the column, keeping watch on the road ahead. It was strange to him, being free to follow his own path. For all his life, he had lived a structured life, following the teachings of the older enieto in the Void Temple where he had been born. He reflected on those days. There had been a variety of subjects available for him to learn… history, psionics, medicine, even arcane arts, but Ku had always gravitated towards the martial teachings. He had learned about how the body operates, how muscles grew and a bit about how to treat wounds. Ku felt the cloth strip covering his knife wound. It seemed to be holding up well. They had given him his first blade at a young age. They had taught him how to wield it well and how to integrate the psionic talent innate in all enieto into his fighting style. Ku reflected that this may have saved his life in the fight with the bandit leader and decided that he would add mental exercises to his daily routine.

Ku looked ahead on the road and saw a figure sitting on a rock, hunched over and wrapped in a thick traveling cloak. “Someone ahead,” Ku called back to the group.


He was still wary of the others in the group. Barry half expected to wake up bound and gagged one morning and stuffed in the cart with the other prisoners. So far, though, it appeared that Rognvald meant to keep to his offer of honest work and steady food. As they were riding along, Ku called out, “Someone ahead!”

Barry rode to the front of the group to have a look. Ku nodded towards up ahead, where a hunched figure was getting up from a rock. Blind Seer ran over to join them and said, “What is it.” Gale brought his horse up on the other side of Ku and said, “Looks like an old man.”

The four of them moved forward. They stopped a ways from the figure and Barry called out, “Hail, traveler!” The figure moved a shaky hand to his head and pulled back the traveling cloak’s hood. It was indeed an old man with a weathered face, bald head, and bright white beard. “Oh. Hail, travelers,” the old man said.

“Where are you headed,” asked Barry.

“I am bound for the Void Temple near Erthorpe. I am on my End of Life Journey.”

“I see,” Barry said solemnly. He chose his next words carefully, for he knew that many preferred to make the End of Life Journey alone, but felt compelled to offer aid to the old man, for Erthorpe was still many miles away. “Sir, if you wish it, you may travel with us. We are headed in that direction and will be passing through Erthorpe. We have a few spare horses, or a spot in our cart if you’d prefer that.”

“Thank you, lad. Seems the enieto will have one more kind memory to add to my tablet. I am well enough to ride.” They brought up one of the spare horses and helped the old man mount it, then continued south.


He rode near Rognvald. Barry and the old man rode behind, chatting about the man’s travels. Blind Seer and Ku were ahead, speaking quietly. Rognvald leaned over towards Gale and said, “So… whereabouts are you from? I’ve been running this route many a year and haven’t seen you in Edgeville before. What brought you around that day?”

The question caught Gale off his guard. He fumbled around in his brain, struggling to recall what the human slaves back at the farm had told him about this region. “I’m from Terinvod, a small hamlet.”

“Never heard of it,” Rognvald said, shrugging. “Ever been down to Lakeside?”

“No,” replied Gale.

“It’s a nice place. It’ll be nice to sleep in a bed after all this traveling.”

Blind Seer

He had heard the conversation with the old man, but had not understood much of its meaning. The others had grown almost reverent when the old man had mentioned the End of Life Journey. Perhaps it was something similar to his own Spirit Quest. Blind Seer had also heard the old man mention a Void Temple. He knew that enieto lived in such places, as there was one near his tribe’s land. The Sagesnouts typically did not approach the place, though, preferring to keep to themselves. Blind Seer decided to ask Ku some questions about the things the old man had said.

“Ku,” Blind Seer began, “What is a Void Temple? What is the End of Life Journey that the old man spoke of?”

Ku sat silent for several moments, watching the road ahead and flexing one of his frills. “When humans grow old and have decided that the end of their life is fast approaching, many choose to travel to the nearest Void Temple. There, enieto record the human’s memories onto a tablet. A copy of the tablet is sent to the Scriveners in Laushurno, where they store it away for use in their analysis of history. The original tablet is given to the human’s relatives. After having their memories recorded, the human is brought to the innermost chamber of the Void Temple, in which is a pool that houses our young, which closely resemble a frog’s young. The human allows one of our young to enter their skull through their spine, thereby relinquishing their life. As best I understand it, growth is triggered in the enieto young when it consumes the human’s brain and the human’s body is used as a sort of framework as the young grows. We enieto are grateful towards the humans. In exchange for their gifts of life, we do what we can to aid them in matters of medicine and illnesses of the mind, as well as using our psionics alongside them in investigation of crime.”

Blind Seer walked along quietly, absorbing all that Ku had said.


He finished his explanations to Blind Seer, then they both traveled along in silence. Ku wondered what the wolfos thought of enieto. He had not had much interaction with wolfos in the past. This one seemed to like him well enough.

After a time, Ku broke the silence and asked, “What is the meaning of your name, Blind Seer?”

Blind Seer replied, “It was given to me by the elders of my tribe. They sensed in me a power not found in many wolfos. At times, I am able to glimpse the future, hence Seer. As for the Blind in my name, my mother told me that the elders bestowed it on me in the hopes that I would become blind to the ways of strangers. I am still trying to puzzle that part out.”

Ku pondered the wolfos’ words and said, “Your ability to glimpse the future sounds similar to some of the psionic abilities that other enieto in my Void Temple practiced. I plan to improve my own abilities in order to fight better. Perhaps you would like to train with me?”

Blind Seer wagged his tail and replied in the affirmative.


The old man spoke at length about his travels throughout his life. The man had been all across the Sun Blessed Lands, from the Brimmahg Confederacy to the Tirim Desert. He had returned here, to the Fadafir Kingdom, to live out the final years of his life in his homeland. From his stories, Barry deduced that the old man was some sort of practitioner of the arcane arts. The old man finished one of his tales and the conversation grew silent for a few minutes.

“Lad,” the old man said in a suddenly serious voice. Barry looked over at him and saw that the old man was regarding him with a strange expression on his face. “In all my years of travel, I’ve never seen the River swirl around anyone such as it does with you.”

Barry, confused, replied, “River? What river? What are you talking about, sir?”

“I’m sure you’ll see it one day. Soon perhaps,” the old man said, still regarding Barry with a strange expression, “Yes, I am sure of it. I think it may be best if you had this.” The old man reached into his cloak and produced a book from within. It was bound in old, weathered leather and had a simple clasp to keep it shut. The old man handed it over and Barry took it, still not sure what this was all about. If it helped bring the old man peace, though… Barry thanked him and stowed the book in his pack. The old man smiled and started in on another story.

They soon reached Erthorpe, a ragged collection of very few houses, smaller than Edgeville. They restocked on some supplies with the people there. The old man bid a bittersweet farewell to the group and headed off towards the Void Temple. Barry reached into his pack and felt the book, wondering what the old man had been talking about and why he had given the book to Barry. The group finished up stowing the supplies. They gave the prisoners a few bites of food and a swig of water, then headed on their way.


He glanced up and checked the position of Nostiarna. It was nearly beginning to cover the sun. They had made good time today. Erthorpe was several hours behind them now. Rognvald told the group that camp should be made soon. Blind Seer scouted ahead and reported back that there was a good place up ahead.

“What is that,” Ku inquired to no one in particular as they crested a hill. Rognvald looked ahead and saw the old stone bricks stacked to form a now crumbling tower that even in its younger days would have been squat. “Ah,” Rognvald said, “That was one of the Ervnot family’s watchtowers back when the Fadafir Kingdom still had a king. Ever since the king was ousted by his angry subjects, the lords of the Fadafir Kingdom have been squabbling amongst themselves. Used to be that the lords raided each other, thank the Elders that that has stopped nowadays. The wealth and power of the Ervnot family has long since diminished and they have allowed much of their holdings to fall into disrepair. It should serve to shelter our camp from the wind, but I would rather not go inside, looks like it might collapse on us if we talked too loud.”

They set up camp near the ruins of the tower, behind low, crumbling walls that once guarded the tower door. They got some food cooking and sat around the fire, chatting amiably. “Hush,” said Blind Seer suddenly, “Did you hear that?” Everyone stopped to listen. Rognvald could only hear the crackling of the fire. Gale spoke up, “Just then, it sounded like soft, quick footsteps in the tower.” They sat in silence for a few moments more. “Let us investigate,” said Ku, moving towards the tower door. Gale and Blind Seer moved to follow him. “Keep an eye on things out here,” Barry said to the former bandits, then moved to follow as well.

Gale, Blind Seer, Ku, and Barry

They opened the tower door and found it to be very dark inside. Barry put together a torch from his pack and lit it on the cooking fire. The group entered the tower and found themselves in a large room. There were a few doors to the sides and a metal portcullis across the room. Ku crouched down, looking for tracks in the dust on the floor, but could not find any. Blind Seer sniffed the air and commented that it smelled very stale. Gale and Barry checked the side rooms and found only long rusted weapons in what was the armory and long gone foodstuffs in what appeared to have been a storage room.

Ku approached the portcullis, sizing it up. It appeared that the opening mechanism was rusted on this side. “I can lift this, though it may make a bit of noise,” he said. Ku bent down and took hold of the bars, then strained and began to lift it. It made a horrible grating noise as he got it about a foot off the ground. Blind Seer felt a sudden spike of precognitive dread and called out a warning to Ku, but it was too late. Ku’s efforts sprung a trap that the guardians of the tower must have placed long ago. A bolt flew out from beyond the portcullis, stabbing into Ku’s arm. “Voidwatcher’s eyes,” Ku swore as he dropped the portcullis with a clang. He looked down at the bolt in his arm. The wound was beyond his skill to treat. He clutched it and said glumly, “That will take weeks to heal. I am not sure I will be able to swing my sword with this wound.”

Gale approached and said, “Let me take a look at that.” He looked at the wound and felt the power stirring within him. Gale knew that he could heal this wound. “This may hurt,” he said to Ku, then grabbed the bolt and pulled it out. The power bubbled to the surface as he put his hand over the bleeding arm. A soft glow briefly lit the wound, then the skin rewove itself until it was good as new. Ku flexed his arm, then stared at Gale. Barry and Blind Seer were also staring at him with shocked expressions. “You… you… you healed him,” Barry stammered, “How?”

“I’m honestly not sure,” said Gale, “I can just… do things sometimes.”

“Only in the oldest tales have I heard of such magic,” said Blind Seer.

Gale looked around, unsure of how to respond. Ku said, “Thanks. I’m glad that you can do things sometimes. Shall we move on?” Ku moved towards the portcullis again. Barry moved up and grabbed Ku’s shoulder. “Hang on a second,” Barry said, “Let me take a look at this thing and make sure there aren’t any more bolts waiting to fly out at you.” He took a close look at the portcullis, running his fingers along the walls at the edges of it. “Aha,” he said, “Look here, this string has been broken. It must have triggered the trap. Shouldn’t be causing any more trouble, though, go ahead and open it.” Ku lifted the portcullis, holding it a few feet off the ground while the others moved pieces of wood from the store room to prop the gate open. The group ducked under the portcullis and moved into the room beyond.

They entered a hallway that turned right from where the portcullis was. They found the trap, an old crossbow that had been rigged to trigger when the gate was opened. It was in surprisingly good shape. Barry unhooked it from its mountings and strapped it to his belt. The group made their way carefully down the hallway. At the other end was a stairway that looked like it might go up to the tower proper, but the stairs had collapsed halfway up and the way looked impassable. To the left of the stairs was another door. Barry checked around the edges of this door. Finding nothing, he eased it open.

The group piled into the room and looked around. There were no other doors in the room. In the middle stood a fountain that may have once brought water to the soldiers that manned the tower, but had long since gone dry. Around the fountain, spaced equally apart so as to form a rough circle, were six stacks of rocks reaching about knee-height. “What do you make of these things,” Barry asked softly. The air in here was still and it felt wrong to disturb it overmuch. Ku crouched down to examine on the rock stacks, touching it slightly with a finger. The rocks toppled over, clattering into the dry fountain. An obviously enraged noise split the air, sounding like a mix between a hiss, a growl, and a yell.

Barry held his torch higher and looked around for the source of the noise. He saw it. Above them, on a ledge that they had previously not noticed, stood a short humanoid creature with wrinkled grey skin, bulbous eyes, a long nose, and a dagger in one of its three-fingered hands. “Up there,” Barry cried. The creature jumped down and sprinted across the room, moving astonishingly fast. It stabbed its dagger into Gale. Barry drew his rapier and slashed at the thing, but it dodged his blow and turned its bloodshot eyes towards him. A beam of energy slammed into it. Barry glanced over to where the beam came from and saw Blind Seer standing on the raised part of the dry fountain. Ku got the greatsword off his back and took a swing at the creature, but it danced around him, cutting a gash into his leg with its knife. Barry looked up and saw that more of the creatures were appearing on the ledge. “Fall back to the door,” he called to the group. The group fell back as more of the things dropped to the floor and rushed around. “Damn, these things are fast,” Gale said, fending one off with a jab from his short sword. The creatures darted in with their knives, grinning with mouthfuls of razor sharp teeth. The group made it to the door and started backing out into the hallway. Barry yelled in pain as a spear appeared in his side. Back near the fountain, more of the creatures had spears, preparing to throw them. Ku chopped one of the spears in half as the volley came in. A few of the creatures laid dead on the floor now, but there were still too many. The group managed to get into the hallway. They retreated further and ducked under the portcullis, just barely keeping the things at bay. Gale and Ku kicked out the pieces of wood propping up the portcullis and it dropped to the ground with a loud clang. The creatures glared at the group from the other side of the gate, then slunk back into the darkness.


He was picking the last meat off the bone of dinner, one of the hares that Blind Seer had caught today, when they returned from investigating the tower. Gale, Blind Seer, Ku, and Barry hurried out of the door, spinning around and shutting it as soon as they were through. Rognvald saw that they were all injured from small cuts and asked what happened. They first had the other guards take watch, then told of their foray into the tower.

Rognvald nodded slowly as they told their tale, then said, “The creatures you are describing sound like feywarped, or perhaps even fey themselves.”

“What are those,” asked Blind Seer.

“I’ve not studied them much,” replied Rognvald, “But as I understand it, fey are creatures that have close ties with the natural world. Some are violent, others are not. Feywarped are creatures that have been twisted in some way by the fey. Whatever these were, likely they seek to reclaim this old ruin to the land. The circle of stacked stones you described… I think I once heard that it is a shrine to their gods.”

“I’ve only heard tale of fey in legends and stories,” said Barry, “and even then, only that they live in the Forest of Giants, far to the west of here.”

“I have heard about encounters with them all across the Sun Blessed Lands, but indeed, it is rare to see them so far from the Forest of Giants, where it is said they originate from.”

“The way you describe the fey sounds much like the Nature Spirits in our legends,” said Blind Seer, “And the feywarped sound a lot like the Dark Tribe, or what others call wargs.”

Rognvald nodded and said, “Yes, it has long been theorized at the University of Sehhrosh, where they study such things, that wargs are a form of feywarped. We should be extra vigilant on watch tonight.”

They all settled down for bed and a long night of uneasy rest.


He laid down on one of the sleeping mats and closed his eyes. He had grown accustom to resting like this, but never truly went to sleep. He would enter a trance-like state and reflect on past events, but would still be aware of his surroundings to some degree. Tonight, though he had trouble resting. Every rustle in the grass sent him reaching for his sword, thinking those creatures were coming back.

He eventually gave up on trying to sleep and took over watch from one of the other guards. Gale poured out some water from his water skin into a bowl and set to work scrubbing himself clean. The blood from his wounds had dried and clung to him unpleasantly. Luckily, most of the group members’ wounds had been shallow. They had bandaged them up as they spoke with Rognvald. After his companions’ earlier reactions, Gale was wary about using his healing powers in front of Rognvald and the other guards. Gale did not want to draw attention to himself. He scrubbed the blood off with a rag, feeling much better now that he was cleaner. What he wouldn’t give for a bar of soap…

The rest of the night passed uneventfully. Gale stirred up the coals of the fire and put some breakfast on them. The others soon awoke to the smell of roasting hare.

Blind Seer

He woke, seeing and smelling that Gale had started cooking breakfast. ‘An elf and a healer,’ he thought, ‘This pack is rather strange.’ Blind Seer checked the shallow gash in his side that one of the creatures had given him and saw that a bit more blood had dried into his fur in the night. He licked it clean and then went over to the fire to get breakfast.

“Here you go,” Gale said, handing him a bit of hare on a stick. Blind Seer reached out and grasped the stick in his forepaw with the primitive thumb-like digit that all wolfos had. He bit into the hare and thanked Gale for cooking the breakfast. He looked over and saw that Ku was stirring.


He got up and saw Gale and Blind Seer by the fire with breakfast. He joined them, taking a stick of hare from Gale. When he was done with it, he picked up the hare’s head, cracked it open with a knife, and popped the brain into his mouth. He waved his frills in contentment as he ate the hare’s brain. It tasted good and had the nutrients vital to an enieto’s healthy diet.


He awoke and saw Gale, Blind Seer, and Ku near the fire. Rognvald was also waking up and walking over towards the fire. Barry got up and joined them. “Looks like we survived the night,” he said to the others.

They soon broke camp, loading up the prisoners in the cart and hooking their gear to the horses. Barry mounted his horse and took up his position behind the cart. ‘One could get used to this,’ he thought, ‘Honest men to watch your back and interesting travel tales, like almost being murdered by creepy little sharp-teethed monsters. Then there’s Gale… the healer. I wonder what his story is.’

The group got back onto the road, such as it was… not much more than a dirt trail through the low hills of the northern Fadafir Kingdom. The morning journey passed in peaceful quiet until a tremendous roar rang out through the air. Barry spun around in his saddle and caught a glimpse of some huge pale blue creature pass overhead, flying low and fast. Whipping his head back around to the front, Barry saw the creature drop behind a hill up ahead. He wasn’t sure, but he thought the creature may have been having trouble flying. He rode up beside Ku, reaching him about the same time as Gale and Blind Seer.

“What in the Elders’ names was that,” Barry asked the others.

“I have no idea,” said Ku.

“It looked like it may have been injured,” said Blind Seer, “Perhaps we should see if we can help?”

“At the very least, we should check to see if it is away from the road. We wouldn’t want that thing attacking Rognvald. It looked dangerous, let us proceed with caution.”

Gale, Blind Seer, Ku, and Barry

They rode ahead on the road, sending Blind Seer ahead so that he could peek over the tops of hills with his low profile. As they neared the fourth hill, they heard the labored breathing of something big. They dismounted and carefully edged around the hill with weapons at the ready. Another roar split the air, so loud that they covered their ears, then there was silence. They all glanced at each other, then continued around the hill.

What they saw next shocked them all. A pale-blue creature lay spread out on the ground. It resembled a lizard with wings, but seemed to be made entirely of ice. The group approached it slowly, moving in for a better look. Up close, they could see many gashes and chunks missing from the creature. “Is it… dead,” asked Blind Seer tentatively. Barry moved forward and lightly tapped on of the wings with his rapier. The creature shifted. They all scrabbled backwards, looking for defensible ground. They steeled themselves for the worst, but realized that the creature hadn’t moved at all after the slight shifting. Looking again, they saw that it was beginning to melt into slush in the sun. Barry’s probing with the rapier had merely dislodged some of the melted slush. They watched in shock as the creature crumbled apart over the next minute, melting to slush, then to water, and soaking into the ground.

The Story Begins: Daern - The North War
Four heroes arrive in Edgeville. Their fates intertwine and their saga begins.

The Slave
He gulped down the chill air as he ran, leaping over roots and batting branches aside. The needles on the ground crunched softly beneath his feet. He couldn’t hear them, but he knew that they were close… the ones who hunted him… who sought to drag him back to the farm and the chains… the “enlightened” elves.

He looked ahead and saw that the trees were clearing. Crude rooftops of thatched wood came into sight. He began to slow his pace, pulling his hat low and his scarf high, then headed into the village.

The Hunter
He crested another of the small, rolling hills that were prevalent in this area. He had left his tribe a few days ago, to set off into the world on a Spirit Quest. He hunted wisdom so that he may one day take the Oath of Faith and honor the Guarding Hunter.

He looked out across the lands from the top of the hill and saw a small cluster of buildings huddled near the edge of a large pinewood forest. He sniffed the air and thought, ‘Humans.’ He started his way down the hill, heading towards the village, loping on four strong paws and feeling the breeze in his fur.

The Warrior
He walked down a dusty road. A day’s journey behind him laid the Void Temple that he was born and raised in. On the horizon was a village. He was heading there to complete the final task in his education. His task was to deliver a Memory Tablet to the deceased human’s daughter. After this was complete, he was free to find his own way in the world.

He glanced up and saw Edromyn, the sun, directly overhead, as it always was. Nostiarna, the largest Celestial in the sky, was just finishing slipping below the horizon. In about six hours, it would rise from the opposite horizon until it covered the sun. He estimated that it would take another hour or so to reach the village. He felt a breeze stir the frills which protruded from the sides of his head and reached up with his hand to check the greatsword strapped to his back. He knew that one should always be vigilant while traveling.

The Outlaw
He was kicked awake by one of the other men in the camp. “Come on,” the man said, “Wake up. Boss says it’s time to move. Today’s the day. Gear up for raiding.”

He sighed and gathered his things, donning his leather armor and checking his rapier. He wondered how he had ever gotten involved with this lot. Life back in Rivers’ Crossing had been easier. Get some people’s attention, say some distracting words, and divide the take with your pickpocket friends afterwards. Out here in the countryside, near the edge of the Bittercold, it was all threats of violence… and violence when the threats failed. A man’s got to eat, though, and there’s no turning back to Rivers’ Crossing after getting seen by the guards.

The Merchant
He had been running this route for many years. ‘I am getting too old for this,’ he thought. It seemed to get colder each time he came up this far north. ‘Either my skin is getting thinner or the cold is biting deeper.’ The wind was quite chilly on this otherwise pleasant late-summer day. It was blowing from the Bittercold, the lands of snow and ice that encircled the Sun Blessed Lands.

’I’ve no right to complain, though,’ he thought, ‘I just travel here on occasion. I can’t imagine what it must be like to live out here. So close to the ice… and to the elves. The edge of civilization… no wonder they call it Edgeville. We humans are always so creative with our names. I imagine they’ll be glad to see me and the wares I bring.’

The Slave
He walked into the village, pulling his cloak tighter to cover the dead elf’s armor. His escape back at the farms had been a bit hectic. He was bundled so thoroughly that only his eyes were showing. Not that there was anyone nearby at the moment. Everyone was either already out in the fields or inside. He glanced back at the forest, hoping his pursuers would give up the chase.

The door to one of the rough wooden houses opened and a man stepped outside. “Hello. Where’d you spring from,” the man asked. “Bet you’re here to see Rognvald, eh? We’ve had word that he’s getting here today. Should have plenty of wares. What’s your name?”

He hesitated then said, “Dan,” figuring it best to go under an alias for now.

“Well met, Dan, I’m Thorfinn Carter. I’d best be getting to my brother. He’s on guard duty today and he been pestering me about his spear haft. Keeps giving ’im splinters, got to smooth it out.”
Thorfinn headed off towards the west side of the village. Dan wondered if one of the villagers could spare some food. It had been several days since he had eaten.

The Hunter
He was nearing the village now. He could see two humans up ahead, standing nearby each other. One had a spear in hand and was carving its haft with a small knife. The other one suddenly grabbed the spear and brandished it, saying, “Oy! You there! Be you warg or wolfos?”

He approached the man with the spear cautiously, lifting a front paw and bowing his head in the traditional formal greeting, then said in accented common, “I am wolfos, sir. I was named Blind Seer by the elders of my tribe, the Sagesnouts.”

The man quickly stopped brandishing the spear, returned the bow, and said, “Forgive me, Blind Seer. Can’t be too cautious out here. I am Hallfred Carter and this here is my brother, Thorfinn,” he said, gesturing to the man who had been carving the spear haft. “Welcome to Edgeville.”

The Warrior
As he neared the village, he saw two humans and a wolfos conversing amongst themselves. They turned as he approached and one of the humans called out a greeting, “Hail, sir! It seems we are to have no end of visitors today. I am Hallfred Carter. My companions here are my brother Thorfinn and my new friend Blind Seer. You here to see Rognvald? He should be arriving soon.”

‘Hallfred Carter human male, Thorfinn Carter human male, Blind Seer wolfos male,’ he thought, filing away the information in his mind. He waved a frill in greeting and replied, “I am called Ku. My purpose here is not to see Rognvald. I am here to deliver a memory tablet to Katrin Silverkin.”

Hallfred’s face grew solemn. “Ah. She will be glad to have it. She lives right up there,” he said, pointing to one of the houses up the road.

“Thank you, Hallfred,” said Ku, then headed towards the house. When he got there, he knocked on the door. A woman called from within, “Come in,” so he entered. Inside was a rough table at which a man sat eating some bread. A woman was searching through a cupboard nearby with her back turned. “We have a visitor here today. This fellow here is Dan,” she said. The man at the table nodded. The woman turned around and realized that Ku was not one of her fellow villagers. “Oh,” she said, her face growing solemn as she deduced what Ku must be here for, “You must be here about my father.”

“Yes,” said Ku, pulling out the memory tablet from his pack, “Your father will always be remembered.” He handed the tablet to her.

“Thank you,” she said.

The Outlaw
He reigned in his horse, drawing up behind the other men. The horses shuffled as the men discussed. “Mohmar is back from scouting ahead. Says the merchant is nearly in town now,” Glum was saying to the boss, Selim.

“Good,” Selim said, grinning with a savage hunger in his eyes, “We’ll be eating good tonight, boys.”

The Merchant
He brought his rumbling cart to a stop in the middle of the village. Villagers were beginning to gather around, coming out of houses and walking in from the fields, all eager for much needed supplies. “Hail, Rognvald! What have you brought us this time old friend,” one of the villagers called out. Rognvald recognized him as Thorfinn Carter. His brother, Hallfred, and a wolfos were with him. Rognvald spied a few more new faces, an enieto and a heavily clothed man stepping out from a house. Rognvald replied to Thorfinn, “Many fine things my friend. Come have a look.”

At that moment, the frightened yell of a child split the air. Rognvald looked around and saw the mother asking what was wrong. The child whimpered and pointed north towards the forest. Three figures stood there, with deep green cloaks, slender longbows, and wooden masks that covered all but their eyes. “Molroito! Elves!” one of the villagers yelled. The crowd of villagers began to frantically look around for tools to defend themselves. One of the elves held up a hand and said, “Calm yourselves. We are not here for you today. We seek a murderer who we believe has entered this village. Give him to us and we will leave your village in peace.”

The villagers paused to look around. Their eyes settled on the newcomers. Just as a few villagers stepped nervously forward, the galloping of many horses hooves was heard. From the west, a company of nine men rode into town with weapons drawn. They reigned in their horses and one of them, an ugly fellow with a mean look in his eyes, called out, “Hand over the goods and everyone walks away alive!”

Rognvald surveyed the scene. The villagers were shuffling nervously. The elves were looking around and nocking arrows on their bows. The bandits looked hungry and some were holding their weapons halfheartedly. Rognvald called out, “I can see that you haven’t eaten well in a while. Some of you look like you were once good men. I’m no stranger to hard times. We’ve got elves here and they won’t be picky about who they take. Should any of you take up your blades to defend me, I’ll keep you on as guards. Honest work and steady food.”

The Slave
As soon as the bandits had rode into town and the villagers had stopped looking at him, he ducked his head and started moving towards a gap between the houses, just past the merchant’s cart. His heart had been pounding since he had seen the elves. ‘Fool,’ he thought to himself, ‘You should not have stopped. The Molroito have caught up to you!’

The merchant was speaking to the bandits as he neared the cart. He was easing his way past it when an arrow slammed into the house behind him, shattering the wood with its blunt tip, the kind the elves used to knock out potential slaves. He ducked behind the cart with his stomach in his throat. The merchant was yelling above him, “Weapons! Take them!” A battered old short sword was thrust into his hands. He glanced over the top of the cart and saw that chaos had erupted. The villagers were running in all directions. Some of the bandits had turned on the rest of their crew. The elves had taken up positions behind houses and were firing arrows from behind cover. Another one slammed into the merchant’s cart, sending splinters flying.

He gripped the short sword tight and took a few quick breaths, then ran for the gap between the houses.

The Hunter
Blind Seer saw the merchant hurriedly handing out weapons. The elves started moving in, firing arrows as they went. Blind Seer growled to himself at the sight of them. The elves of the Cold Forest had caused the Sagesnout tribe trouble for as long as he could remember. Blind Seer closed his eyes and blocked out the chaos around him, focusing on the still part of his mind, the part that held a well of knowledge and innate power. Drawing on this, he opened his eyes and focused his mind on one of the elves, stabbing at him with mental energy. The elf stumbled and fell to the ground.

Blind Seer saw the heavily clothed man that had been with the enieto move from behind the merchant’s cart and into a gap between houses. Blind Seer moved to follow him, figuring he would need aid against the remaining elves.

The Warrior
Before the merchant had finished speaking, Ku had ripped the greatsword from his back and charged towards the bandits. As he got over to them, he saw that they had begun fighting amongst themselves. Their apparent leader, the one that had spoken, still had his greedy eyes on the merchant. As he began moving his horse towards the cart, Ku reached up and dragged him out of the saddle. The man cursed and spat, rolling away and getting to his feet as Ku tried to bring his blade down on him. The man had a cruel looking blade and a dagger that had appeared from somewhere. Ku swung in a wide arc, keeping the man at bay. They began to circle each other, looking for an opening. The man came in with his blade. Ku knocked it aside easily, but in doing so allowed the man to get too close. Ku felt a sharp pain as the man’s knife was slammed into his side. The man backed off quickly as Ku swung again, then began circling again with a gleeful look in his eyes.

Ku slowed his breathing and cleared his mind, becoming still and focusing all his attention on the man. At the edge of his mind, Ku could hear the whisperings of the man’s thoughts, so when the man lunged again with the blade, Ku was ready. In one fluid motion, he sidestepped the attack and brought up his greatsword, the tip slicing upwards from the man’s belly to his head. Blood flew. The man dropped. Ku looked for his next opponent.

The Outlaw
“Honest work and steady food,” the merchant finished his speech. Some of the men looked around at their fellow outlaws. He looked around and saw the decisions in their eyes. The group was split about half and half. ‘Gate Warden take this lot,’ he thought, ’They’d have cut my throat in the night before too long. Selim gives me the creeps anyways. Likes to hurt people, that one. I’ll try to let them live if I can, anyways. They’ll serve the Deepguard well.’

He stabbed at Thorkell, Selim’s right-hand man, aiming for his thigh. The attack hit home and Thorkell swore, turning to swing his club. He slashed at Thorkell’s arm with his rapier, then reached over and shoved him off his horse. He looked around and saw Selim fighting a big enieto. He felt his horse stumble under him and saw that Thorkell had found his feet and had whacked one of the horse’s legs. He kicked at Thorkell and hopped off his horse. Thorkell kept swinging his club clumsily. Easily evading the club, he slashed at Thorkell’s legs until he collapsed. He finished Thorkell off with a sharp kick to the head.

The Slave
He made it into the gap between the houses. He heard full battle erupting behind him. He moved towards the other end of the house, edging towards the corner to peek out and check the position of the elves. As he neared the corner, an elf suddenly moved out from behind it. They eyed each other with a moment of surprise, then fell to with a flurry of fighting. The Molroito were often trained in hand-to-hand combat. This one easily knocked his blade aside as he made a frantic stab. The elf punched and kicked him. He slashed with his short sword and gave the elf a shallow cut on the arm. The elf backed off for a moment. ‘I will not go back,’ he thought, ‘I cannot go back.’

He felt the power welling up in his soul, the same power that had helped him escape back at the farms. He lowered his sword and raised his other hand, pointing towards the elf. “I am your slave no more,” he said as a flash of light burst forth from his hand. The elf fell to the ground, incapacitated and groaning in pain.

The Hunter
Blind Seer moved in between the houses and found the heavily clothed man standing over an incapacitated elf. “Ah good, you got one,” said Blind Seer, “There’s only one left out there.” The man nodded and moved towards the back of the house. Blind Seer felt a sudden spike of dread and knew that if the man stepped out from behind the house that he would be hit by an arrow. Blind Seer grabbed the man’s scarf in his mouth and tugged backwards. The man fell back against the house, dislodging his hat. Blind Seer looked on with shock, seeing pointed ears and dark red hair. “You are elfkind,” Blind Seer growled at the man, “Is it true what the other elves said? Are you a murderer?”

The man pulled the hat down over his ears again and said, “I killed an elf in my escape, but I am no murderer. I was a slave to them. I am not like them. I am not an enlightened elf.”

As Blind Seer was considering the man’s words, the last of the Molroito stepped out from behind the corner with bow drawn. Before Blind Seer could act, the arrow was released, slamming into his side. Blind Seer yelped at the impact of the blunt tip. He tried to focus his mind, but the pain distracted him. The Molroito easily batted aside his mental assault. The heavily clothed man swung at the elf bowman. The elf dodged, but it was his bow that was the target. It clattered out of his hands as the short sword struck it. Blind Seer rallied himself and rushed forward, biting at the elf’s leg. Hot blood filled his mouth as the elf stumbled. The heavily clothed man struck out with his short sword again, stabbing the elf in the throat.

“Thanks,” said Blind Seer, “I believe you. You do not smell the same as the other elves and I have never seen one with red hair. Let’s bring these two out.”

The Merchant
It was over as quickly as it had started. Five of the bandits had turned on their group. Three bandits had been subdued. Their leader had been killed by the enieto. Rognvald saw one of the elves fall to the ground near the beginning of the fight, but the elf had gotten back up and retreated into the forest after the wolfos had run in between the houses. The wolfos reappeared now with the heavily clothed man, dragging two elves out. One was dead, the other just incapacitated.

Rognvald looked around and said, “You all fight well. I’ve got food and coin for any who will guard me on the road back home. What say you? What are your names?”

“Ku,” said the enieto with the greatsword, “I shall begin my world education with you. I will join you.”

“Blind Seer,” said the wolfos, “I hunt wisdom for the honor of the Guarding Hunter. I will defend you.”

“Gale,” said the heavily clothed man, letting his real name slip after the adrenaline of the fight, “If you’ve got food, sure.”

“Barry,” said one of the bandits, stepping forward and flicking blood off his rapier, “I shall join you, sir.”

The other bandits joined as well. Rognvald spent the rest of the day bartering with the villagers, selling off his wares. Then they loaded up their prisoners, the three bandits and the elf. “We’ll get a nice bounty for this lot I imagine… and the Deepguard will get fresh recruits,” said Rognvald, “Rest tonight. In the morning, we make for Lakeside.”

Current Year

The enlightened elves mobilize in the later part of the year. Fadafir Kingdom is threatened with an invasion from them.

In the Bulanti Nation, The Core activates many of its operatives, working towards some unknown purpose.

The Deepguard continue their struggle against the denizens of the Deep.

End of the Second Great Human-Elf War

After a bloody 56 year struggle, the Second Great Human-Elf War ends. The Fadafir Kingdom is carved out to its current borders. The enlightened elves are split and pushed back into the Singing Forest and the Cold Forest.


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