The Contest Entries
First Place: The End of Winter, by Khore
By-Tor longed to see the sun rise again. The dark of night still clutched all the wastelands in her embrace. Soon, her grip would fade, her strength would wane, and her resolve falter. It was the way of things in this unforgiving land: a cycle unending and unchanging. Then the sun would rise and bathe the ice crags in light. By-Tor would not be there to see it. In its shape and form, the cave was not unlike the hundreds of others that dotted the labyrinthine crevasses. Every morning, before dawn, By-Tor arrived. Every dawn, he would long to see first light spill over the horizon.
Dawn arrived, and the cave glowed with light that suffused through its translucent ice walls.
Yards away, the sunrise he longed so deeply to see bled in through the cave's entrance. By-Tor did not move.
He knelt, as he knelt for days too numerous to count. There was no numbness on his bare knees against the ice and physical discomfort had melted away in the multitude of years that had passed.
He raised his head and beheld her. She was his dawn.
Her skin was soft and the color of snow. The mighty ice pillar that joined the ceiling and the floor was smooth and clear, with a hint of blue. It encased her. Her hair flowed like river of gold, each strand carefully sequestered in its icy prison. Her eyes were closed, though By-Tor knew their hue and saw it every time he dreamed. She haunted his sleep those rare occasions slumber found him.
He mourned at her outstretched hands, arranged by some cruel fate to seem the beginning of an embrace that could never be fulfilled. Not yet.
Today, I will kill the Snowdog.
It was an oath, a promise, each day unfulfilled. It was an oath that, to him, had never been broken. True, the sun would set today, and he might not find the Snowdog. True, the sun had set every day since he had first made the oath, and the Snowdog yet lived. To By-Tor, it was all one day, one oath; one long and icy night he trudged through in his quest. He hunted through the night, and never saw the dawn.
He rose and left the cave in silence after the sun was already in the sky. The snow took time and meandered in drifting down. The blizzard never ceased, but it rested on some days, corralling its strength for days it drove the ice so hard it sliced through hardened leather.
By-Tor wore no leather. Only a fur skirt and a wooly head of hair shielded him from the omnipresent blizzard.
He looked upon the snow, his practiced eyes hunting for the trail. Two travelers headed west. One walked with an uneven gait, doubtless from some injury. A horse leading a cart. The horse was weak and would likely die, assuring the cart's occupants a similar fate. A dragonling, too engorged with food to fly. These tracks, he all ignored.
Beneath them, buried by heavy snow and proficient stealth, were paw prints too large to be a wolf's. He raced off into the snow, once again on the trail of the Snowdog.
Today, I will kill the Snowdog. Today, I will end the winter.
By-Tor sped through the snow, his breaths a fog of mist. The tracks were fresh, but the Snowdog moved quickly, and the snow threatened to bury it faster than he could follow. The sun ascended higher as he chased. Drips of his sweat burrowed little pits in the snow where they fell next to his own prints stretched behind him. The Snowdog's tracks were getting deeper.
Less snow was in them; he was getting closer.
The blizzard intensified, and now the snow assailed him from the sides. Tiny icicles hung from the locks of his hair and beard. In the blinding white, he steamed like a cloud from the heat of his exertion.
Single-minded, he followed the tracks that were getting deeper still, despite the growing anger of the storm.
They veered off into a cave, and By-Tor entered.
The rock cave was quiet save his heavy breaths. The walls here were not translucent, and the fur on the ground suggested a bear had once slumbered in the darkness and relative warmth. Ever so slightly, some hairs had moved, showing fresh earth underneath. The Snowdog had moved through here, its steps light and without haste.
By-Tor followed the tracks deeper into the cave until the darkness engulfed him and the tracks became invisible. He gripped his ax and murmured a command. The ax head began to glow. In the dim light, he knelt down and touched the earth, placing his hand upon a print. It remained warm to touch. He stalked forward in silent resolution.
He turned a bend and arrived at a dead end. The Snowdog's shoulders reached as high as his own did. No earthly snow ever gleamed as white as the Snowdog's mane. Feral eyes gleamed yellow in the light of the ax. It studied him and did not attempt to escape.
"Forgive me," By-Tor said.
He lunged forward and swung the ax high over his head and down against the Snowdog. Its body slammed against the cave wall and the monstrous wound stained its pelt a scarlet red. Its yellow eyes affixed By-Tor and he could only read a pained curiosity before they shut and the life fled from them. He slung the mighty animal across his back and labored back to the ice cave. It was deep in the night by the time he arrived.
He walked up to the pillar, and dropped the Snowdog's body at its base. The blood pooled around the pillar. By-Tor watched in awe as the pillar melted away, dissolving into steam.
She opened her eyes. Blue, as deep as any blue he had ever known. She gazed upon him with sorrow and sadness.
"Come to me, By-Tor," she said, arms outstretched.
By-Tor rushed into her arms, then fell to his knees, buried his face against her chest and sobbed.
She stroked his hair, and where she touched, the ice melted away from him.
"Can the winter end now?" By-Tor asked.
She reached down and lifted his chin. Tears streaked his strong face and his eyes brimmed with hope. She smiled at him, all the sadness in her eyes reflected on her lips.
"No, the winter cannot end."
"But why? I have killed the Snowdog; you are free. You can make the winter end. It holds you prisoner no longer. The land and I both long for the warmth of spring. Please, make the winter end."
"Oh, By-Tor. My sweet hero. Have you never noticed your tribe has left these lands? You are the last. Only you believe in me anymore. Only you can set me free."
He gazed up at her eyes, his visage clouded by confusion.
"But-I have set you free!"
She caressed his face with the back of her hand, wiping away a tear that evaporated as she touched it.
"Yes. You are my hero. My love. My sweet By-Tor. You have set me free. But I cannot make the winter end."
"Because if I do, you will die."
"I-I do not understand."
"It is our price. It is our punishment. When dawn comes, if I have not ended the winter, it will imprison me until you set me free. But if I end the winter, its end will mean your life's end as well."
Her eyes misted and she brought her hands to her mouth.
"By-Tor, it is because of my selfishness that I cannot bear to see you die. These stolen moments are all I have of you, and I would spare you what pain I can, but I cannot let you die. Forgive me for that weakness."
"Tell me what I must do! Ask for ocean and I will bring it to you one thimble at a time."
She lowered her head and closed her eyes.
"We would have to climb to the heavens and murder the gods. Their jealousy of our love binds us to our fate, my hero."
"I will never stop until you are free, I swear it."
"Nor will I lift winter while your mortal heart still beats."
"I have died more every day I have seen you in the pillar than if the snows should melt and the winter end. End it, and free yourself."
"Oh, By-Tor," she said, "I cannot do this thing!"
The cave walls glowed ochre as the sun prepared to break the horizon outside.
"The dawn comes too quickly! It is almost upon us!"
She reached down, placed her hands on his cheeks, and brought her lips against his.
"Forgive me, By-Tor, again," she said. "One more stolen kiss for me, and once again, I lift the burden of your memory of this. Good night, my sweet hero."
She took a step backwards, as his head dropped down.
The Snowdog stood, and shook its body. Its mane was a dazzling white. It trotted pass By-Tor and dashed out into the blizzard and snow.
By-Tor raised his head and beheld her, encased in a pillar of ice. Her eyes were shut, her arms outstretched.
Today, I will kill the Snowdog. Today, I will end the winter.
Second Place: The Ride - By Cordir
(Author's note: After the contest ended, I continued to work on these stories. Some may be slightly different than the version submitted to the judges - hopefully improved a smidge. My dear friend Khore was kind enough to critique each of them, and my favorite three, I also sent to my mom, who was once an English teacher, to help me better them. Personally, I think all of Khore's entries are better than mine. He's an author who has inspired me for years with the beauty of his areas, stories, and roleplaying storylines.)
I look at you, trembling and hesitant before me, watch as your eyes scan my height, my limbs, the proud curve of my neck. I am the king of horses, beyond any specimen you have ever seen. I see the questions you dare not ask: How did I come to be in this strange and lonely island, populated by the dead? And what causes that cold crimson fire to burn in my eyes?
I see your hands, trembling at your side, as you have sheathed your weaponry. They ache to reach out and touch my mane, feel the silky strands against your fingertips. Your eyes soften, the way they did the first time you gazed upon your lover. Unconsciously, your hand extends, and just as you are about to touch, I snort with laughter.
You step back, startled at the sound, and the sight of the fangs within my mouth. I take a single step forward, the muck of the bog around us releasing air like the rattling last breath of one dying, the stench like that of a charnel house. Dead grasses entwine your limbs, holding you silently in place.
Desire and amazement turn to fear in your face. What am I, you wonder. I can read it in the way the muscles of your shoulders have tightened, the flexing of your fingers, and the smell of the sweat that has broken out over your whole body. Your eyes flash white as you gaze quickly around, trying to find a safe place to hide or run to, should I attack.
The wolves snarl from the shallow den nearby, and the ravens that are my best company caw mockingly, circling slowly above. They know here is no escape.
I take one step forward, the bog sucking at my hooves. You shiver as my cold breath flows over you, brushing your face and stirring your hair. Even though at some level you realize that I am death, you cannot help yourself. Arms wrap around my neck and your cheek lays upon my mane. I allow you a moment to come to understand, then stand firm as you grasp a handful of hair and fling yourself upon my broad back. You cannot resist. It is destined. It is my magic. It is the cycle of things.
The call of the hunting hounds rings through the air, and my first leaping stride takes us halfway across the clearing. Your laughter is exultant. The winds pull at your garments, and caress my flanks as we race around the glade, drawing glares from the wild creatures that dwell here. They know how this ride ends and the disturbance before the renewed silence is an irritation to them.
A log up ahead bars the path, a huge oak lightning struck and fallen lo these many centuries ago. I leap its massive girth with ease, thunder down the path, making you duck and curse as the dry branches grasp at your cloak, scratch your face, and pluck at your eyes. My stride does not falter as I make the last turn, but your hands grasp more tightly as you see our destination.
With a gallop the pride of any racehorse and the grace of a hunter, I take the last plunge into the marsh. You cry out as the muck closes around you, rising quickly above knees.. waist... chest... But I do not falter, continuing into the embrace of the muddy, oily swamp. It fills your mouth, silencing your screams, and at last, I stop, standing upon the bedrock, enclosed upon all sides by the earth. With the slowness of a feather drifting on the tiniest of breezes, you slide off my back, pulled by the weight and strange currents within the bog. There, you join the others, their bones the color of dark iron, preserved forever.
Shaking my head, I return to the surface. The dirt and liquid streams from my coat, until it is glossy and beautiful once more. Her hounds appear, red tongues dangling, their eyes laughing at the beauty of the cycle we are a part of, and they frisk about my legs playfully.
I am the stallion of the Hunt. I am the incarnation of death by the wilderness, the balance of the battle between man and nature. I am the Each-Uisge of Tier Sh'Halen... and I await your visit.
Shall we ride?
Third Place: Untitled, written by Solaron
The young dwarven sentry, fingers clenched tightly about the haft of his double-bladed dwarven axe, peered down the smooth-bored tunnel just outside of his city of Dwarvenhold. This was a simple routine check - nothing had walked these ancient corridors for hundreds of years save merchants, dwarves, and the occasional adventurer - yet he felt nervous.
He considered using the magic innate in his Patrolguard's Badge, summoning assistance or backup, but thought better of the idea. Better to dispel his fears alone then to be mocked at the tavern later tonight. Comforted by the thought of a mug of ale and a large-bosomed dwarven lass by his side at the end of the day, he strode forward confidently.
His beat ran only to the intersection of the smelty, which was soon reached. As he turned to complete his shift and head home, his eyes strayed across the opening to the Citadel. Thoughts came unbidden to his mind, stories and legends from his past. It was nothing but an abandoned city, they said, but not even the famed Dwarvenhold Warrior elites journeyed there. Pulling his cloak about him tightly, he attempted to dispel such gloomy thoughts, and continued towards the distant gates of Dwarvenhold, his thoughts on brighter topics.
The sound of his own passage, mailed boots clanking on stone, his breath, even the sound of his own heartbeat, nearly hid the noise. Stopping suddenly, he heard it again. A rasping noise, dry and crumbling... from behind him. From the Citadel. Fear crawled in his gut, making for his throat, and he forced himself to breathe, peering towards the dark opening of the caves. His dwarven eyesight, well-attuned to the lightless atmosphere of the caverns, easily pierced the gloomy veil. Seeing nothing, he once again turned, resolving to ignore any more such noises.
The noises echoed suddenly, loudly, reverberating wildly off the tunnel walls. Turning, he nearly dropped his weapon. Oozing, rippling puddles pooled up from the floor, dripped from the ceiling, flowed from the opening of the ancient city. Constantly changing shape, their oily, slithering movement was centered on a growing pool of the puddles. Coalescing, they began to take form.
The sentry, duty forgotten and sense abandoned as reality seemed to twist in front of him, was rooted to the spot. His leaden muscles refused to respond. He could only gape as the mass rose, vaguely man-like, its features constantly shifting. Razor-like talons changed to bear-paws changed to human hands, all the inky-black of utter darkness. Slowly, two eyes opened - red, malevolent orbs, they were the only constant feature of the entire creature. And they were focused on the sentry.
Slowly, the creature moved forward, sometimes seeming to dissolve before once more coalescing in the same vague shape. The only thing never shifted once were those two burning embers.
Finally finding a shred of sanity amidst the horrors he was viewing, the young dwarf turned and pumped his legs wildly. Removing his Patrolman's Badge, he nearly dropped it in his wild run. He began tapping on it frantically, eyes darting about him, searching for the horror behind him. Nothing was there. He breathed deeply, and turned his head forward towards the nearing gates.
There, in front of him, was the creature. The dwarf gasped, and an oozing, groping tentacle of an appendage shot out of the chest of the creature, grasping his throat. The two hands, now with razor-like talons slashed at his chest, his legs and face, narrowly avoiding his most vital areas, leaving his neck untouched. Merciful blackness took the sentry as the creature began to feed.
The council of elder's had reconvened. King Zentarion at the head, they considered the latest news. Three weeks had passed since Fezden, a young sentry with high hopes, had disappeared. They had received a garbled, incomplete call for assistance, and the two guards who had responded to the call had found nothing.
Then, last week, news had reached the council that an entire community of wandering gnome tinkers had been eradicated - man, woman and child. All that remained were their belongings, including gold. Bodies were gone, and traces or instances of blood were rare.
Now, the pair of sentries assigned to the Citadel-corridor, (the shift being doubled recently), reported that the gates to the smelty had been destroyed, and all inside had been slaughtered.
"I say it's the duergar! Those scum have finally decided to grow a backbone, and I saw we show them the error their ways!", the Master Butcher proclaimed in a loud voice. King Zentarion sighed.
"Please, revered Master, you know the duergar. They are barely capable of speech, let alone well-organized attacks! And I know of no duergar that would leave gold lying in open sight!"
With this, the council erupted into arguments and shouting. Suggestions ran from shutting the gates of Dwarvenhold and barring the Grey Vortex from use to mounting an armed attack against the duergar, to wild claims by the aging, (and some said senile), brewer that N'Kai was rising up for past crimes.
King Zentarion would not have usually been this worried - if it weren't for the oddities. For every death that had been reported, for every tragedy striking the dwarven city, fortune had smiled upon them in a different area. Their income had increased tenfold, and their last skirmish with goblins in Tharlodin's Vein had been a decisive win, securing ownership of the mines for decades to come. All this after a standstill for years, with each group holed up in their respective caves. Something was afoot here, and Zentarion knew that the Dwarves, perhaps the Goblins, Duergar and the rest of the area, were mere pawns.
Conversation ceased as the iron-bound, oaken doors swung open forcefully. A small figure in bloodstained white robes shambled forward, eyes closed. Three guards rushed in behind, diving for the figure, who turned and opened its mouth in a word-less scream. The three dwarven warrior elites fell, lifeless, to the ground.
The robed figure turned once again to face the assembly. Zentarion uttered an astonished oath under his breath.... it was Fezden.
"Fezden! You've returned!" the Master Baker shouted, voice quavering despite his attempt to sound pleased.
The gathered council, confused at the recent events, their best person guards struck dead without battle, and a missing dwarf in bloodstained robes returning, seemingly, from the dead, had robbed them of words.
The figure raised a hand, wordlessly, and opened its eyes. The council gasped, and Mistress Prewitt, wife of the Master Jeweller, screamed and fainted. Where his eyes once were, empty sockets stared at them. Blood flowed in steady, crimson streams, like tears, streaking into Fezden's unkempt beard.
Crimson tears still flowing, he opened his mouth and spoke. His voice, sounding like Fezden's, yet somehow enriched with... wisdom... knowledge... sounded forth.
"You are witness to an astonishing event. The final Incarna has awakened. She has returned."
With that, sudden blackness, like a blanket, descended upon the group. Shouts of confusion rang out, and finally a cleric was brought forth to summon light.
Fezden was gone, as were the bodies of the dead warriors. Silence reigned as the members pondered the words.... a sudden peace had descended over them. The killings were over... Zentarion felt that with all of his soul... yet something felt... odd.
A sobbing rose from outside, their ragged cries drawing the council from their chamber. The sight astounded them - Devlin, the ancient dwarven adventurer, had lived for nearly six-hundred years in Dwarvenhold, as a guard, a merchant, and an adventurer. He had seen 5 kings come and go, three assassination attempts, 12 wars, and the fall of the Citadel, and through it all, he had been staunch and steadfast, calm in the face of battle, horror, and death. And he was now in the city square, sobbing like a child.
Zentarion rushed to his old friend, concerned. Devlin warded him off, wiping tears from his eyes. His voice thick with emotion, he turned to the assembled crowd - the Masters of Dwarvenhold.
"It has happened. Lord Tynian protect us." Devlin seemed hysterical.
"What has happened, old friend?", Zentarion was perplexed at what could affect Devlin so drastically.
"She has returned.... she will destroy us all.... or she will save us. That's the point... you'll never know until it happens. She has returned! Awakened!" Devlin began rocking back and forth, hugging his knees to his chest, sitting on the ledge of the fountain.
"What has happened? Who has returned?" Zentarion was haunted by the sound of Fezden's voice saying those exact words... 'She has returned'.
Devlin looked up through tear-rimmed eyes. He staggered, shambling towards Zentarion, collapsing in his arms. As the ancient adventurer died, the last of his breed, he whispered a name in Zentarion's ear.
"Katrana.... the Wyld."
Hidden amongst the shadows, unnoticed by any, Fezden, the blind seer of the Wyld, nodded. All was in order. The Wyld was returning, and the world would never be the same.
Fourth Place: The hand of the Lich haunts Molotov by Duvel, the Winged Warlock of Unity
A long time ago, when I was still a young Aarakocra, the gods set me upon a quest to search out and vanquish an anaconda, and so prove my mastery over the creatures of the realm. Unwittingly, I was about to get an elaborate demonstration of the evil of the Lich. This is the story of that quest. I flew to Molotov Island, hoping that I might find an anaconda in the jungles that cover the slopes of the volcano there.
With happy-go-lucky disregard for the webs that were strewn among the trees, I bravely clambered into the canopy, to find myself trapped in a web with four nasty spiders for company. The spiders must have mistaken my feathered self for a tasty morsel, which I almost became.
Having fought off the ravenous spiders, I was poisoned and barely conscious in a web from which there was no escape. No exits, no recall, no teleport - not even spells could be case in that horrid web. It was rather awkward. I checked the corpses for items that might help me get out of the web. One contained a war banner and a clear red potion. Since it was a zone cursed by Maurice, I didn't think the potion would help.
I found an odd potion in another of the corpses - colours the like of which I have never seen. Light blue, with purple spots and pink swirls. Thinking this might be the key out of the spot I found myself in, I quaffed it...only to find myself blinded and unable to even curse, on top of it all. I was starting to sense my doom.
Despite being racked by poison, my sight returned pretty quickly. In desperation, I clawed at the web, and found - to my relief - that I managed to make a small opening at the bottom. I quickly wriggled through it, and dropped to my feet at the base of the tree.
Being badly hurt, and having had rather enough of adventures for one trip, I decided it might be a good idea to return to the safety of the recall room. Little did I know my adventures were only just beginning.
<32hp(281) 146ma(146) 134mv(284) >
Among Web-Strewn Trees[Exits: north west up]
A profuse amount of sticky silken webbing is strewn about.
<32hp(281) 146ma(146) 130mv(284) >
You shiver and suffer.Your poison scratches yourself.You sure are BLEEDING!
<31hp(281) 146ma(146) 139mv(284) > qr
You quaff a clear red potion.You hit yourself. Ouch!Your harm spell EVISCERATES
yourself.You have been KILLED!!
This visit to the afterlife brought to you by suicide.
Dying constitutes quest failure.You LOSE 168 experience points!
Your vision dims to black.
When it returns, your surroundings are different.
A laboratory[Exits: east]
You hit yourself. Ouch!
<1hp(281) 146ma(146) 139mv(284) >
Needless to say, I was a more than a little surprised. I left the laboratory, naked and unarmed, and discovered that it belonged to a Mad Alchemist. I knew that the evil of the Dark Manor had to be behind these events, though I didn't know where I was.
Wandering further in the hope of finding an escape route, I was attacked by various strange and magical creatures - among which a disembodied hand. You know, the thing about a disembodied hand is that if you hear about it in stories the clan elders and matrons tell at night, it's a little macabre, but it's funny. If you're attacked by a real, live disembodied hand, it's quite different. In blind panic, I fled, and decided - rather than face more of these evil abominations - to kill myself on the spot.
Once I woke up to the peaceful calm of the Temple of the Rising Sun, I thought my nightmare was over. I procured a light from a kindly mage, and went in search of my lost equipment. En route, over the sea, a tiger shark attacked me, and killed me almost instantly... I'd forgotten to ask the mage to shroud me in invisibility too.
After a panicked flight over the Maelmordian seas, I found my remains under the tree on Molotov Island, and quickly returned to the guild with my recovered possessions. Three deaths, a failed attempt at mob mastery level 35 and a lot of negative experience later, I was lying in recall, bleeding, but recovering.
Thinking back on the events, it dawned on me that the clear red potion that I quaffed while injured at the base of the tree was the one I'd taken from the corpse of the spider! It was all a trick played by that cursed Lich, Molo, vile creator of that evil, repulsive place called Molotov Island. I later went back there - with backup this time - and had the potions identified by a mage.
a.. Clear red potion: lvl 19 spells of harm, teleport and curse.
b.. Light blue potion with purple spots and pink swirls: lvl 20 spells of blindness, mute and teleport.
Nuff said...the hand of the Lich haunts Molotov...
The Shadow Grove - by Dunestripe
It was a rainy, dreary night in the woods. Two travellers had set up camp after they had lost their way in woods most dark and dire.
The old man started a fire to serve as light and heat, scarcely penetrating the deep and dreary woods. "Be warned of this place," he warned, "Therein are spirits from an ancient time, who have been cast from their bodies, and reside in our very shadows. They can possess your body, and eat your soul."
"That's ridiculous," the young man scoffed, "Besides, all I'd have to do if they came is make light, and they would disappear. Everyone knows shadows are afraid of the light!"
The old man sighed at his ignorance. "There are things in this world that defy comprehension, and defy reason. Such is the nature of magic."
Rolling his eyes, the young man covered himself with is fur cloak and readied himself for sleep. The old man rested against a tree, trying to stay awake for as long as he could, lest a woodland spirit appear.
But soon, his eyes would give in to fatigue as well, and he would drift into sleep too.
The campfire flickered and faded. In complete darkness, the two travellers were awakened by a night wind, brushing against the trees, slithering through their branches like a snake in the grass. Their hiss sent fear through the hearts of the two men.
A blood-curdling scream raced through the night, followed by cries for help. The young man frantically twiddled his thumbs in an effort to create some light, but his hands trembled as he tried. The screams continued as he tried again and again, desperately trying to illuminate the camp. Repeatedly he lost his concentration as he ran, trying to escape whatever fate had befallen his companion.
Crashing through a maze of twisted trees and uneven ground, he fell to the ground. Getting to his feet quickly, he twiddled his thumbs one last time, and a ball of light appeared. Looking around, cold sweat sprang down his face as he was struck from behind, then again from the side, bringing him to the ground.
The light fell to the ground, and he saw them...one by one, shadows sprung from his own, surrounding him. The familiar sound of the old man seemed to whisper into his ear, "There can be no shadow without light."
Rescued by Rath - by Duvel, Winged Warlock of Unity
If you're a birdbrain like me, you often find yourself in silly situations. My trademark, perhaps, is my pathological habit of running into my own phosphate with a god invis. The calling card Cordir made for me reflects the true me: a glowing aarakocra perched in a safe spot of the dark canyon of Aaracity.
My silliness has landed me in many a tough spot. Some I didn't survive. Some I did, and felt chastened but wiser for it. And then there are escapes that will always be remembered and retold with mirth. Like the day I decided, against my better judgement, to visit Velalisier.
I knew it was a dangerous place. What I didn't know, but quickly discovered, was that once you get in, it's not so simple to get out. Stuck in the Underdark, with Maurice's snickering ringing in my ears, I weighed up my options.
I had a total of six recall potions on hand. I knew that somewhere there were a few rooms in which one could try to recall, but I had no idea where they were. I surmised I'd die before reaching one of them anyway.
Luckily, Lins, a kindly gnome with the physique of a giant, also worshipped my Lord Robert at the time. But he couldn't tell me exactly where to go, and "somewhere south from there" sounded like more risk than I wanted.
A simple plan was devised. Lins would come to the entrance of Velalisier, and summon me out - a neat trick clerics have in their arsenal.
Lins, however, was not the only cleric with summoning ideas.
Unbeknownst to either of us, a wicked judge and minion of Molo prowled the area, and discovered my presence. Clothed in a panoply of auras - pink, dark red and white - he cast his spell. Suddenly, I found myself standing before him. He gave me a murderous look, and lashed out wildly. Dodging and ducking, I quaffed the elixir that would get me out of there. It did, costing me nothing but some experience.
I was, of course, polite enough to thank Rath. I explained the pickle I'd been in, but the Wicked Judge of the Black Conclave merely snarled back at me. Evidently his intentions had not been quite charitable. But I will always be grateful for his kind assistance to the silly little Winged Warlock of Unity.
I Walk in Dreams - A Tale of the Dream Realm - Tamar, Goddess of Serenity Mistress of her own Dreams
My heart pounding, I find myself standing before the Dreammaster. "What dream is this?" I wonder, for the terrible likes of the Dreammaster do not people the lands where I walk. A moment goes by, and then I know that this vision cannot be a true dream, for dreams are the stuff of hope and joy, not this horror. This is something I have chosen to let in, but it is NOT a dream.
And so, here I stand, while the chaos of terror surrounds me, and the Dreammaster himself is decidedly unwelcoming. I draw back, shuddering. Chaos I can understand, for all of our lives are lived in the realm of the chaotic to one degree or another. Without chaos there would be only a flat sameness lulling us slowly into oblivion. But this -- this terror, this unwelcome, this hatred -- this is incomprehensible.
Everywhere I look, vile creatures hiss and spit at me, their spite and fear a palpable, breathing thing. Giant black scorpions take aim with their deadly tails, spreading poison as they go. Warriors stare wildly, jumping at the slightest movement. Some of them appear haunted, haggard and worn, so caught up in their battles and hatred that they cannot see that it is only a reality of their own making.
They stare. They whisper dire warnings. They scream about the horrors to come, the terrible things that have been done. They moan in their sleep. Their whole life becomes a haunted obsession, as they slowly waste away, unaware that THEY hold all the power.
My heart calms, and I look at the Dreammaster with new eyes. Eyes of pity, of understanding, of pain. For I see myself as well. Who among us has not once felt the need to control, to be the puppeter, to have others cowering in fear from us and singing our praises at our command? I have. Who among us has not cried quietly inside as as a poisoned barb found its way into our heart? I have. Who among us has not jumped up wildy and screamed out in anger and terror? I have. Pain fills my heart, and with that pain comes a realization. I don't have to dream this not-dream. I don't have to live that life. And neither do the haunted warriors.
They can snap themselves awake at any moment and join a different world -- a world where dreams are positive things. A world where you can be anything you want to be; where you are responsible for yourself, your desires, your celebrations, your mistakes. A world where we all learn, and grow, and love. A world where we are welcome to stare up at the jeweled velvet of the night sky before settling down for sweet dreams.
- Tamar, Goddess of Serenity Mistress of her own Dreams
The Chocolate Bunny - (Ok, so you probably know who wrote this :P) - Bliss
In the dim light of early morning dawn, the Bazaar begins to bustle with activity. The Inspector barks orders to the Inspector Guards to set up the check point table as he stands there sipping his morning brew. He nods as a plump, jovial man walks past, carrying several overflowing bags. Ladislaw, the Chocolate Maker, greets the Inspector with a cheery, "Good morning, Inspector!" Always the first to arrive in the morning, Ladislaw stops where a gypsy beggar sleeps, curled up under a heavy blanket, and tucks a gold coin under the blanket, just as he did every morning.
But today, Zoardryn the 5th, in the month of the Fool's Errand, was not going to be just any other day, thought Ladislaw. No, today was the day his life would change, for the better he hoped. Heim's wife's tent was still shut tight, as were Vilson's and Wicktor's on either side. Ladislaw slipped inside the armorer's tent. If there was anything he learned from last year's fiasco, it was that if you want something done right, you need to do it yourself. Ladislaw shuddered as he thought of Thenardier. No, it was different this time. Besides, he bought "insurance" just in case. Actually, he was forced to buy the insurance, but no matter.
Ladislaw smiled to himself, and was about to make his way to the back work station of the tent when he heard the shouts of Wicktor and his cousin, Vilson. "Egads!" he thought, and quickly placed something wrapped in tissue paper on the table. He slipped outside, fortunately without being noticed by the two cousins. Vilson's face was turning a bright shade of red as he shouted at Wicktor, hung over from another night of merriment.
Ladislaw greeted the two, "Good morning, gentlemen!" Vilson nodded to Ladislaw and continued berating his cousin. Wicktor smiled and waved to Ladislaw, clearly oblivious to his cousin's shouting as he rolled up his tent flaps.
Ladislaw was nervous now. His stomach was tied in knots, and he wondered if he should run back and remove that item from Heim's wife's tent. No, he thought, I am not going back, and continued on his way to the south strip. Ladislaw carefully rolled up the tent flaps and secured them, and tried to keep himself busy as the sun began to rise up overhead.
"Ladi! Ladi!," Heim said as he ran into Ladislaw's tent, breathless, waving a chocolate bunny in the air. Ladislaw's face turned ashen as saw the red, velvet ribbon around the bunny.
"Ladi! I have a secret admirer!," Heim exclaimed. It took a moment for Ladislaw to regain his composure.
"Ladi, did you hear me? You need to help me find out who my secret admirer is, before Helena returns from Midgaard!" Heim said as he nudged Ladislaw.
Helena was always first to arrive in the Bazaar each morning, before Heim sauntered in a good two hours later. She made the best coffee in the realm and would always bring a cup by Ladislaw's tent. They would sit and chat together until Lumierre arrived, who would excitedly explain his latest wax creation. But today
today Heim was the one to open the tent! For the love of Tynian, Ladislaw swore to himself, this was not going as planned. This was bad, very very bad. Heim thought the bunny was for him!
"Listen to this, Ladi," as Heim held up a small card, and read:
"My dearest H -
"Roses are red.
"Violets are blue.
"Whenever I think of you,
"I turn to goo." *
"I have a secret admirer! I wonder who it is. Help me find out, Ladi!" Heim exclaimed. He was a little too excited about this, thought Ladislaw angrily. How could he even think of an admirer when he had the most beautiful woman in the world to come home to every night.
"Why is Helena in Midgaard?" asked Ladislaw, trying to ignore Heim hopping around his tent. He's going to knock over my cauldron too, I bet. I hope he burns that fat, ungrateful arse of his, thought Ladislaw, as he tried to hide the grin spreading across his face.
"Her mother is ill, and she went to take care of her today. She left before dawn. Now, let's think! Do you think it's that lovely singer? I see the way she looks at me when she sings, Ladi. I bet it's her!" Heim sniffed at the card, trying to catch a scent, but all he could smell was the chocolate bubbling in the cauldron nearby.
I have no choice but to play along. At least this will keep Heim distracted. "All right, Heim. Let's make a list of prospective admirers. I can talk to them and see if I can figure out who it is," Ladislaw said, as he thought about one of the gypsy women. He knew he could bribe one of them with a few gold coins and she could keep Heim entertained.
"There are the gypsy women, the singer, the barmaid," replied Heim. "Did any of them come and buy a chocolate bunny from you yesterday? I don't think the gypsies could write such a poem
in fact, I do not think they know how to write at all," pondered Heim.
"They could have had someone write it for them, and a lot of people bought chocolate from me yesterday, Heim. It could have been any of them, or all of them, for that matter," responded Ladislaw. He was relieved Heim was not the brightest fellow, for if he had half a brain he would have surely noticed that the chocolate bunny he held was not from the mold Ladislaw normally used.
No, this bunny was special. Very special. He had to make sure Heim did not eat that bunny. He had spent over a year planning for this very day, and his trip to the Grand Mistress of Magic had better not be wasted on Heim. That darn cat of hers would be eating the finest chocolate morsels for the rest of its life and all Ladislaw would have to show for it is a lovesick Heim! No, he needed to get the bunny back at all costs.
"Well, you can go chat with the gypsies, and maybe they'll do that special dance for you," Heim winked at Ladislaw. "I'm going to visit the singer and drop some hints about the poem. Even if it isn't her, maybe she might like to join me for supper while Helena is gone," Heim said as he grinned broadly.
Ladislaw seethed. What a fool to even think of another woman when he was married to Helena! Well, tomorrow evening, Helena and I will be sharing supper together, he reassured himself. She would come to her senses and dump this bumbling fool. It was unfortunate she needed a little help coming to her senses, but it was just a little help
"Hmm, Heim, maybe I should hold on to the bunny here for safekeeping. It is going to be warm out today and you wouldn't want it to melt," offered Ladislaw.
"Oh no, I plan on sort of waving it around in front of them. I'll be able to tell by the reaction on her face who left it for me," said Heim as he bounced around again. "This bunny is something I shall keep forever, Ladi."
Ladislaw groaned inwardly. Now what? "Well, don't blame me if the thing melts all over your shirt. I warned you, Heim." I'll just have to get the bunny later, and give him a new one wrapped in the same ribbon, thought Ladislaw. He'll never know the difference.
Heim waved to Ladislaw and walked briskly toward the stage and the singer, pulling up his trousers and slicking back his hair. Ladislaw rolled his eyes, but needed to meet with the gypsies quickly. He put up his, "Be back soon" sign and walked toward the entrance of the Bazaar. As he passed by Tor's tent he heard a loud scream. Ah yes, today was the day one of the Dark Brothers was getting his tooth pulled. Tor was kind enough to offer his services for free. Poor Tor, Ladislaw thought, as he saw the Dark Brother's hands around Tor's neck. Passing quickly by the blacksmith's tent, Ladislaw nodded and waved to the Inspector as he made his way to the gypsy wagon.
Inside the cramped wagon, the smell of vanilla was nearly intoxicating. The gypsy women crowded around Ladislaw, their scantily clad bodies rubbing up against him. But oh that stench of vanilla was almost too much to bear. Did they bathe in it, he wondered? Ladislaw explained to one of the attractive young vanilla-stinking gypsies what he needed her to do, and handed her 2 gold coins. "You'll get 2 more gold coins after your job is completed," he said to her as he practically jumped out of the wagon, relieved that he could breathe fresh air again.
Heim, on the other hand, did not fair as well with the singer. He recited the poem to her, as he waved the chocolate bunny in the air. The singer stared blankly at him and continued on with her singing. Heim sighed and walked slowly back toward Ladislaw's tent.
"Hello there, Heim," came a cheerful shout from the tent across the way. "Hi, Lumierre, how are you doing?" said Heim.
"Just great! Come see my wax sculpture of Slue. Borlan commissioned it, and I'm almost done with it," said Lumierre.
"Borlan? Are you sure he doesn't want to use that as a voodoo doll, Lumierre?" asked Heim. "I didn't think they got along too well
"Well, Borlan paid me good money, in advance. Frankly, I really don't care what he does with it," responded Lumierre as he carefully carved Slue's axe. Heim chuckled.
"Lumierre, I need your help with something," asked Heim.
"Anything for you, friend," replied Lumierre.
"See this chocolate bunny?" Heim stated as he took the bunny out of his pocket. "A secret admirer left it for me this morning, and I need to figure out who it is."
"Maybe you should taste it, Heim. It does not look like the same bunnies Ladislaw sells here, friend," Lumierre said as he glanced at the bunny.
"This isn't one of Ladislaw's bunnies?! Oh that just makes it even more difficult to find out who my admirer is, Lumierre," sighed Heim.
"Taste it. You know those gypsies love vanilla, and they would have surely flavored it with vanilla. And spices, Grandma Schon likes to use spices in everything," pointed out Lumierre.
"I'll die if that old bag is the one that made this bunny, Lumierre!" shouted Heim. "But you're right, I'll taste it.." Heim nibbled on the bunny's ear. "Mmm, Lumierre, this chocolate is smooth and creamy, no hint of vanilla or spices...and
," Heim stopped in mid-sentence as he gazed upon the handsome candle maker.
"And what, Heim?" Lumierre looked up at Heim, who was staring at him in an odd manner. "What's wrong, Heim? Does the bunny taste funny? Are you okay, Heim?"
I never noticed how your eyes sparkle in the candlelight," Heim blurted out, still gazing at the confused candle maker.
"Heim, give me that confounded bunny and stop staring at me! Lumierre grumbled as he snatched the bunny from Heim's hand. As he did so, he knocked over the sculpture of Slue.
"Blast!" Lumierre shouted and knelt down to get the bent sculpture. He was angry now and bit off the entire head of the chocolate bunny. Heim would owe him big if this sculpture was ruined. "Mmm, this is quite good, Heim," Lumierre mumbled from underneath his work table.
Ladislaw spotted Heim at Lumierre's tent. This was going to be perfect! The gypsy was on her way over to confess her admiration, but Heim needed to get back to his tent. "Heim! There was an attractive young gypsy over at your tent, she's looking for you. You better hurry," Ladislaw said excitedly as he entered the candle maker's tent.
Ladislaw nudged Heim, who seemed entranced by something underneath Lumierre's work table. Ladislaw looked down and saw Lumierre bent over, trying to get something from under the table. "Lumierre, hello there. Do you need any help?" Ladislaw asked.
Lumierre scooted out from under the table and stood up, brushing all the wax flakes off his apron. "I'm fine, Ladislaw, thank you for
" Lumierre stopped as he looked at the robust figure before him.
Lumierre was holding a headless chocolate bunny with a red velvet ribbon around its neck. Oh no! Not again! "Lumierre, please don't tell me you ate the whole head of that chocolate bunny," Ladislaw whined. This can't be happening, thought Ladislaw. An entire year's work, wasted on Lumierre. And before that, an entire year's work wasted on
Thenardier! Ladislaw shivered just thinking about that day. But, that is another story. At least he bought insurance this time.
"Please share it with me, Ladislaw? It's the most divine chocolate I have ever tasted," Lumierre said as he stared dreamily at Ladislaw. Ladislaw sighed. He knew that look all too well. Then he looked at Heim, who was still staring at Lumierre, and he sighed again.
"How would you two like to join me this afternoon. I need to make a delivery to the High Tower," asked Ladislaw, looking at Lumierre and then at Heim.
"You mean a date?" asked Lumierre as he winked at Ladislaw.
"Oh I would love to accompany you Ladi, if Lumierre joins us" said Heim a little too gleefully.
Ladislaw looked up and shook his head. Well, there is always next year...
I DANCE IN THE LEAVES - By Khore
I dance, because that's what I do. I see them all, creeping through the bushes, trying so hard to be quiet they forget to breathe. Then they start gasping for breath or slip on something and make a racket. Me? I dance, and I know it's loud and noisy, but they never see me. It's always me, watching them sneaking about. No one watches me dance.
Seems it's a waste of sunlight to not dance in it. I dance through the leaves until they're flying up all around me like a snowstorm of golds and oranges and reds. I love the colors.
I'd like an audience. No one ever watches me dance. I walk up to the keep.
I like the way the setting sun kind of burns off the roof tiles. The little wavy patterns from the heat remind me invisible little dancers, jumping around up there. I wish there was music for them.
I know where I'm supposed to be. If I'm late for my lessons again, Khan will be furious.
The sun's setting. I can tell by the color of the stained glass. The reds get a little brighter and the blues start turning black. I hop up the stairs, hopping over the one that's broken. Don't want to slip!
I'm early for once. I pick up the rose on the floor. It's the color of the sun when you look right into it. After awhile, when the whole world's gone that teary-eyed white. The rose is always here. Khan leaves it for me.
Somewhere, I guess the sun sets. He appears before me. He's wearing that gaudy robe again. It's black and there are words embroidered in red thread.
"Rhi?" he says.
He nods. He does that a lot. Like he's always agreeing with himself.
"Conjure a light." I blink and a giant ball of light appears. I make it the size of his head.
He looks irritated. I blink again and it shrinks down to fist-sized, like I'm supposed to make them. It's glowing white. White's boring though, don't you think?
I start flashing it all sorts of colors, reds and golds and oranges, just like the leaves.
Khan reaches out and grasps the ball in his hand. He dismisses it.
"Rhi, I am in no mood for this."
He's never in a mood for it. I blink, and a small fist-sized ball of boring white light hovers in the air.
"Thank you, Rhi."
Rhi. It's short for Rhiannyon. Everyone calls me Rhi though. I like Rhi better, anyway.
Khan raises a small block of wood.
I raise my hand, picture it getting hotter and hotter. It's glowing now, and I can feel the heat on my face. I place it up against the wood and it catches on fire.
Khan nods. I told you he does that a lot.
"Can't we do something fun today? Maybe we can go play with the brothers downstairs?"
Khan's face gets all dark and angry. I know he doesn't like me playing with them.
"No. Why aren't you concentrating?" My mind wanders. He can't teach me anything I don't already know. One of these days, he'll admit it.
"I dunno. Is Khore coming to play today?"
I know the answer already. But I ask anyway.
"No. You know he hasn't been around in a long time."
He's sad. Not from his voice, he controls that really well. You can tell though, by the way his eyebrows move. He knows I'm watching him. He moves over to a chair and sits down. He looks tired.
"What's the matter, Khan?" He stretches out, rubs his bushy eyebrows with his fingers.
It's always nothing the matter with Khan.
"Are you mad that I'm not concentrating?"
Khan shakes his head. "We both know I don't have anything to teach you. You should be teaching me."
It takes me by surprise. I don't guess he's reading my mind, but, it's disconcerting nonetheless.
"Tell me about your day," he says.
"It was bright today. Sun was high in the sky, no clouds. I danced and played in the leaves."
Khan nods. (I told you.)
"Were you lonely?" he asks.
I freeze. Yeah. I'm always lonely.
"Yeah, I guess."
Khan nods again.
"Come on, let's go." He gets up.
"Where are we going?"
He doesn't say anything, but I follow him as he climbs down the stairs. The crazies are out now, since it's night time. Some of them drool and walk funny.
The bats fly around everywhere, though mostly, they ignore me. Khan walks past them, they steer clear of him.
He utters some words and vanishes. Well, mostly vanishes. I can still see his outline, pretty clearly, but the crazies can't see him and the crazier ones won't try to fight him now.
There's someone in the bush by the gate. They're sneaking about again.
"Come along, Rhi."
I bound after him. More than enough time and go back and scare the invaders.
"Where are we going?"
He still doesn't answer me. We walk through the town past the old statue and out past the nest. We're by the old tree.
I don't come here by myself. It makes me sad.
Khan kneels down in front of the tombstone.
Something shimmers in the air, and then Ybarra appears. She's like the heat off the roof in the sun, all wavy.
"Hi, Ybarra," I say.
"Hello, Rhiannyon." She always uses my full name. "Hello, Khan."
"Can you see her, Rhi?" he asks me.
"Yeah. She's here," I say. I know he only sees her like a shadow, a shade. Her eyes are distant. She gets like that a lot. I love her, but I'm afraid of her. Afraid of where she goes when her eyes get like that. It makes me sad.
"Why are we here?"
"Tell her about your day."
I frown. I don't really want to do this.
"It was bright, the sun was out. I danced in the leaves." I smile, or try. Ybarra looks at me.
"It was bright today for me too. The sun was out." She glows for a moment, then fades. She nods and smiles.
Something dark and familiar passes over us. Then Khore steps from behind the tree.
I rush up and hug him. He picks me up, ruffles my hair. Khan bows at him.
"You woke her," Khore says. His voice is disapproving.
"I'm sorry. Khan told me to tell him about my day and-"
He puts his finger against my lips.
Khan bows at Khore.
"She misses you, Khore," he says.
I do, but I don't see what that has to do with anything.
Khore looks at me. His eyes are almost distant too, but they snap back. He actually looks at me.
"Did you tend the gardens today, Rhi?"
I nod. "I watered them, and cleaned and made the shears cut the grass."
"Do you like it here in Sanguinna?"
"It's my home," I say.
"I can take you away."
I blink. I know what he's asking. I know what he's offering. I'll stop haunting this village and the keep. I won't be alone anymore. Khan will be able to see
me, everyone will be able to see me, not just Ybarra and Khore.
But, I know there will be no more sunlight in Sanguinna. The crazies are out every hour of the day.
And I won't be alone anymore.
"Okay," Khore says.
Khan smiles at me. He looks at me. He takes my hand and presses it up to his mouth.
Ybarra is all shimmery, like a ghost.
I twirl in the grass and laugh. Just a little dance.
And they're watching.
A SONG IN THE ATTIC - By: Khore
(Editor's Note: Personally, I think this one should have won. - c.)
Thin lips set in a sunken, gaunt face, twisted into a parody of a smile. His eyes hid from the pale candlelight beneath the folds of a gray cowl. Just one candle, he had said. Marel complied, as he always did.
Gloved hands lifted the goblet of vintage red shiraz to the mocking smile. Cale tested the bouquet. He upturned the goblet and spilled the crimson liquid on the table. Rivulets ran to the edges and dripped on the stone floor, disturbing the perfect silence of the great hall.
"All I have done for you, Marel, and this is what you offer me?" Cale asked.
Marel blanched. "It is my finest. I--"
"Never mind. I have come to collect payment, and then I shall leave you in peace."
Marel nodded. "The gold is counted. The chests--"
"Forego the gold. I have another request. That is, if you are inclined to grant it."
The grim smile remained, as chilling as before.
"Of-- of course, Cale." A bead of sweat rolled down the side of Marel's face. He willed himself from wiping his brow in front of Cale.
"This village that sleeps outside your castle, Baron," Cale motioned with his hand, "Fetch me a child from it."
"A child? Why?"
"Do not concern yourself so needlessly. Will you grant me this one small request?"
Baron Marel bowed his head and ran tensed fingers through his hair. The single candle cast ghoulish shadows on the wall as it burned.
"Willem!" Marel shouted.
The sound of far off feet resonated through the silent chamber. The door swung open and a guard bearing a pole arm rushed through the doors.
"Baron?" he asked.
"Go into the village. Fetch a child."
"A child? Baron, it's the middle of the-"
The guard hesitated then marched out the door, shutting it behind him.
Cale sat in silence, his eyes unwavering from Marel. Marel stared at the patterns of the wood on the table. He clutched wild locks of hair between his white-knuckled fingers, unable to lift his gaze.
The candle burned in tortured silence. Twisted shadows played upon the seated figures.
Footsteps approached from beyond the great ironclad doors. The hinges protested with a groan as they opened. The guard led a young boy, bleary eyed and still in his nightclothes.
"Tell him to leave," Cale said.
"Leave the child."
The guard stiffened, and then backed out. The massive doors closed.
Cale rose and approached the boy with slow, deliberate steps.
The boy retreated against the door, his face consumed by fear. He wailed; his voice was like a cleaver through the night. Cale bent down and the child swooned, falling silent and unconscious into Cale's arms.
Cale walked back to the table where Marel quaked with his eyes shut. Cale dumped the child's body on the table. The red wine soaked through his gown, spreading scarlet. In the candle light, it looked like blood.
Marel pushed away from the table. The chair scraped against the stone, echoing Marel's growing terror.
"Take him," Cale said.
Marel shook his head, again and again.
Cale stepped forward and gripped Marel's jaws with an unnatural grip. He pulled Marel's face inches from his own.
"Open your eyes," Cale said.
Marel squeezed them shut with all his strength until his face twitched from the exertion. They opened anyway.
The darkness swallowed Cale's face. The candle burned behind him on the table.
Marel moaned like a dying animal.
Cale's voice was cold and calm.
"Are you ready to go back to a peasant's life? Are you ready to give her up?"
Marel shook his head like a marionette, commanded by something that gnawed inside him.
Cale released his grip and backed away.
Marel shook in his chair, then rose, walking the miles between his chair and the table on wooden legs.
The child's breath was warm. The wine's dark stain had spread over most of his body.
He won't feel anything. Marel nodded to himself.
He placed his hands on the child. The child's eyes fluttered open and his mouth opened to scream, but only a hiss of air flew forth.
Marel slumped. Tastes and senses flooded through him, a wave of euphoria and energy. He sensed he was laughing, though his ears heard something like the crying of crows. The feeling faded quickly, replaced by a warm glow of power. He felt sated.
Then his gaze met the child's lifeless eyes. The body had turned into a husk, dried and withered. The eyes bespoke a horror that still echoed from the agape mouth, frozen in eternal silence.
Marel's hands still clutched the corpse. He screamed and did not stop. The sound echoed through the hall and carried far into the night. Cale watched, his smile still affixed to the shadowed face.
The door crashed open and the guard rushed in. He took a few hurried steps into the hall before he halted. He stared in surprise and shock at the child's corpse on the table. Marel still screamed.
The guard spun and tried to flee. The doors groaned shut in front of him. Cale pointed his glove at the guard. He fell to the floor, writhing. Flames leapt from the grooves in between the stones on the floor and consumed the guard. Black smoke and ash whirled in a tornado of furious hellfire.
The guard's body remained a charred mass. It split open in a fissure of flame. A black and red canine emerged. Its malevolent yellow eyes darted back and forth; tiny flames flickered from its lips.
Marel stared, his screaming voice reduced to rattling in his throat.
"You may keep the gold, Marel. I have only your wishes and success in mind," Cale said.
Marel fell backwards against the ground, tears streaming from his face.
Cale left him on the ground, crying and trying his best to scream without a voice.
She passed through the hallways, singing and smiling. Marel avoided her whenever he could. They met, despite his efforts, for they were only half-hearted. At night, he would find the darkest corner of the castle to hide in, afraid of what he might do. She came to him, no matter how he hid.
The hound delivered her nightly, despite his protestations.
Baron Marel looked out from his balcony as the sun set in the mists of twilight. The barony shrouded itself in mists and fog, as if it were ashamed to show itself to the outside world. The village outside the castle lay in ruins, its buildings fallen into disrepair. Signs of life grew fainter as the days passed on. The villagers who first tried to flee found themselves hunted down by the hound. Those who remained fared a far worse fate.
Marel considered jumping from the balcony. The first time he had done it, the pain had been exquisite. The hound had dragged his broken body back into the castle and delivered two meals for him. He walked by the following morning. The second time, the hound delivered four meals. Then it gnawed at his broken legs until he finished taking all of them.
The jaws still locked on his legs in his memory. When he had tried to leave the castle, the hound had torn off chunks of him. Then like a demonic nurse, it had fed him until he healed.
A trail of smoke and red flame blazed from the outskirts of the village. The hound was returning home.
Marel cursed his hunger. The eyes still haunted him. They always opened before they died.
He tried to stop. He had almost lost everything. He never tried again.
The hound bayed behind him. Marel turned and froze. The hound was alone.
"Where is my meal, beast?"
The hound bayed and growled.
Marel whirled around, scanning the village. No lights. No fires. It was dead. They were all dead.
The hound padded off. Like a ghostly voice in the castle, a song approached.
Horror welled up in his throat.
Marel backed up against the balcony's rail. The song grew louder.
He leaned back and pushed off with his feet. The railing cracked and gave. He studied the sky as he fell. The moon peered sadly behind a veil of mist and fog.
He blacked out when he hit. The impact jarred his body. Things snapped and broke.
Please, don't let me open my eyes.
Through the haze of pain, his eyes opened. The hound growled angrily at him, venemous yellow eyes boring into his own. It took a hold of his hand and sunk cruel burning fangs into it. It dragged him back into the castle as he cried.
The song approached again.
She knelt down next to him, her eyes brimming like the ocean under a clear blue sky. He hadn't seen a sky like that in so long.
"Run, Angela," he said. His eyes pleaded, and his voice begged.
"I love you, too," she said.
She paid no heed to his broken legs. She began to sing a love song she often sang.
He swallowed a sob.
"By the gods, Angela, please run!"
She paused a second, and smiled a dazzling smile.
"Of course I'll always love you, Marel."
Marel screamed, sobbed, cried.
"I'm not Marel! Marel is dead!"
She started singing again, smiling as she always did.
"I love you, Angela," Marel said. He sobbed at her singing, but she did not stop.
She reached down and caressed his cheek. She leaned forward and kissed his lips though they had long since shriveled away.
He reached up and grabbed her hand with his one good hand. Her eyes fluttered open, shock flooding through them. She recoiled; her mouth opened to scream. Only Marel's sobbing disturbed the silence.
He rose on his mended legs and bore her up the stairs. Her eyes were dry, and the azure hue fled them. He placed her in her bed. She rested in the folds of the satin like a child slumbering in a wide, white coffin.
Marel dropped to his knees and wept.
"You look the picture of wealth and power, Marel."
Marel turned his head. Cale stood petting the hound by the doorway.
"That's what you asked for, wasn't it? Love, wealth and power?"
"You took her away from me."
"I gave her to you. You've squandered her."
"What do you want from me, Cale?"
"I don't want anything from you. I've always wanted you to have what you wanted."
Marel rose and leapt over the bed. He grabbed Cale and slammed him against the wall.
"You've taken everything from me!"
"Just tell me what you want, and you shall have it."
Cale's voice was soothing. Marel's grip faltered and his voice became a whisper.
"I want the hunger to stop! I want to see the blue of her eyes again. I want her to sing again. Please."
Cale removed Marel's grip from cloak.
"Done. You had only to ask."
Soft singing filled the room, coming from above them. Marel rushed past Cale and up the stairs.
Cale followed behind him.
In the attic, a bauble twinkled on the ground. Marel hunted for the source of the singing. He rushed at the bauble and lifted it. It was a ring, blue diamonds. The blue of her eyes. Her voice filled the attic. It was a love song she often sang.
Marel dropped the ring. It clattered on the ground, but the singing mourned onward. He stumbled down the stairs. Her corpse still rested on the bed.
He fell backwards against the wall and slid down. He buried his face is his hands, clawing at what remained of his skin. Cale stood above him, shaking his head.
"All your wishes granted. All your dreams come true. Why so sad, Marel?"
His voice was weary and defeated.
"Who are you?"
Cale lifted his hood. Red eyes, and small red horns glared at Marel.
"I'm Cale. Some call me Caleneezer. You wished, and I have granted them. Is there anything else I can do for you?"
Marel shut his eyes, squeezing the tears from them. He shook his head. When he opened his eyes, Cale was gone.
Only the hound remained.
Law of the Jungle - By: Dunstripe
There was no relief from the humid jungle, its encroaching heat setting his feathered body on fire. He had even removed his leather armor, so he wouldn't sweat so much. His bone-shattering mace had become a burden as he waded through the misty jungle waters, his feathers soaking wet and in no condition to take flight.
Finally getting to the other side, the sounds of life in the canopy surrounded him, the calls of countless jungle foul permeating in the distance. Ants the size of coins marched off with their plundered leaves, as swift simians sailed through the treetops to get a better look at their aarakocran visitor. His keen senses were overwhelmed by the abundant life force of this place, as he took a moment to rest underneath a massive tree.
Then he sensed something...something strange, perturbing, alarming. His senses detected with an aura of death and destruction, something lurking nearby. A sibilant hiss could be heard and he readied himself for battle. His keen eyes scanned the area, and closed in on something behind the jungle brush. Leaping upon it, he surprised the creature, and brandished his mace as if to strike a death blow on the creature. Looking down on his prey, he was surprised to see a beautiful green aaracokra, with a red plume, cawing in fear.
"I'm sorry, did I hurt you?" He helped her to her feet. "My name is Kemri, I am a hunter. What is your name?"
She unruffled her delicate, beautiful feathers. "My name is...Pentina."
He continued to look around, still sensing a strong aura of evil. "We should go somewhere safe, there is a vile creature nearby." So hand in hand they went deeper into the jungle, careful not to leave tracks that the creature might to follow them.
Night soon fell upon the forest, as Kemri and Pentina, exhausted, rested by the shade of a massive mangrove tree. Finally letting his guard down, there, he made a fire. A curious and enamored Kemri decided to find out more about his companion.
"So, where are you from, and why are you here?"
"I am from Aran, I am out here looking for the fountain of youth. It has been said that one who drinks of it cannot grow old."
Kemri chirped in delight. "I am searching for the same fountain! I have travelled all the way from the North to seek out its waters. My father is quite sick, and I want to bring him some of this life-giving water."
Pentina nodded in sympathy. "I hope for his sake we are able to find it."
Soon darkness fell, and the fire flickered and died in the humid jungle. In complete blackness Kemri was awakened by the sound of rustling in the bushes, and immediately his senses alerted him to the presence of that same evil he had encountered before. He heard what sounded like a snake coming towards him, and so he called out to Pentina.
"Let's go, something is here!" In the darkness he felt around frantically for his mace, and unable to find it, searched for Pentina.
"I'm here," she cawed, as she held his hand. The two ran through the jungle, and in desperation, did not bother to cover their tracks. The sounds of the creature followed still as Kemri and Pentina ran, Pentina holding on to his hand very tightly.
"I know somewhere we can hide," she whispered, "Follow me!" Without waiting for his approval, she dragged Kemri through the rough terrain, moving almost like she could see in the utter darkness. Her already firm grip on his hand tightened even more.
Suddenly, she stopped, and the sound of moving rocks could be heard. Her grip on Kemri's hand tightened even more. Kemri tried to free himself from her grip, but could not. "Where are we?" he whispered.
Suddenly, a pair of red eyes appeared in front of them. Then, another pair, and another, until he realized they were surrounded by glowing, red eyes. Sibilant noises of hissing and slithering became nearly deafening as Kemri looked for a way out in the darkness.
With a hiss light illuminated the room. Kemri closed his eyes in the glare, and upon opening them he found himself surrounded by serpent-like creatures, their double-tongues sensing the air, sensing his fear, and desperation. He looked over to Pentina, who had still not let go of his hand.
"Where did you take me?!" "This is my home," she said, as her feathers seemed to molt off of her body. Shedding her veneer as Kemri struggled to get free, her emerald body clamped around Kemri as he realized that she was none other than the Serpent Queen. Two fangs sank into his neck as he yelled in pain, the poison slowly decapacitating him, running through his veins as his struggling became ever-weaker. The serpent-creatures came closer and closer, as the poison and constriction slowly drained the life out of him...
Untitled - By: Noixas
A red dragon...
A rainy and stormy night, made everyone to stay at there holes, apart from the few who were always at the inn.
It didn't really matter it stormed, when your houses are under the earth really, the river fastwater was wilder then usual, but that was about all that could be seen of the terrible weather outside. Today like any day Lord Brightheart was telling stories at the inn. Even when he left the laughter would still go on. Today the tale was about the red dragon.
"So there we stood, before the huge tower", Bnorin told enthusiastically,"ready for whatever might be in".
There they stood, after battling goblins and wargs. Tired and weary of the travel from Thistlerock. Two brothers, Bnorin and Bristar, mace and warhammer ready for battle. The door swooped open, and before them they could see a large seemingly empty corridor. But both they could feel the presence of beings, although neither of them were shamans or had any real spell power. They stepped in after each other, the doors closed behind them, leaving them in a dark hall. Bnorin lighted a torch, and they examined the halls.
The hall was high, certainly not build by gnomes, or even humans. It wasn't very decorated, it was quite simple. Some doors opened to the left and the right. The two gnomes quietly walked further inside, seeing a large foyer ahead of them.
The foyer was something special indeed, huge mosaics were displayed on the ground. And a big mural covered the ceiling. Dragons of all sorts and all colors were pictured in the mural. The gnomes were awed by the sight.
"Here they must be brother", Bristar whispered, "now we only have to capture one, so we'll be able to have a forge, just like the southern gnomes have."
Bnorin pondered at the word 'only'. How did those gnomes ever catch a dragon! But they come this far and wouldn't let his brother down. Besides, he was the only Lord Brightheart, he shouldn't be afraid of a dragon. But on this mural at least hundred dragons were displayed, even for a gnome of his stature that would be quite a lot.
Suddenly a cry could be heard.
"Who dares to trespass my territory?", a thundering voice asked.
Bnorin and Bristar both grabbed their weaponry, and took a fighting stance.
"I repeat, who dares to trespass the territory of the dragon king?".
"Bring them to my throne!".
From the north several draconians walked in, pointing their spears at the two gnomes. Seeing the huge black creatures with wings even bigger then anything they ever saw, they could only decide to do one thing: RUN!
And so they quickly turned and ran out the tower, straight back to Thistlerock.
"And there we stood, in the huge foyer, face to face with a draconian horde!".
Sweeping his arms, Bnorin tried to picture the size of the evil creatures. "Me and my brother both drew our weapons and stepped forward. I waited till the first draconian tried to stab with it's spear. Protected by my shield I could resist it's attack. It stumbled from the failure and I landed my mace against it's back. The snap of the spine ringed through the halls, and the other draconians winced at the sound. In the mean time, Bristar raised his warhammer and drove it into another unfortunate draconian. Soon the other draconians fled and left a silent hall once again."
All gnomes in the inn fell silent. Noixas beamed proudly, cause that was his dad, unafraid and strong.
"We walked further but before we could reach the end of the foyer a huge shadow passed over us. We both knew what that had to be. A huge red dragon landed in front of us, terror striking from it's eyes, smoke coming from it's nostrils. But nothing what it would do could scare us, NOONE scares a Brightheart. The beast could speak any language, and thus it spoke gnomish to us."
"What do you want of me?", the dragon asked.
"We want you, to heat our forge and our cave!", we replied, not afraid of the huge creature.
"The dragon laughed loud, leaving us with no other option then attack. We drew our weapons once again and swung them at his head, cause the rest of his body was covered with thick, sturdy scales. My mace crushed the foul beasts left eye, and Bristar landed his warhammer with a loud thud on it's head. The beast screamed in agony and large flames left his mouth burning the ceiling in the foyer. The beast was getting to strike at us, but we were ahead of him. We jumped to the side, dodging his strike and pummelled him from the side. His body shook under our constant attacks. Just when he was getting ready to breath fire, I smashed the head into pieces, leaving a lifeless body. Alas, we couldn't bring a dead dragon with us, or else we could have made armor of it's scales. Yes, we were some team Bnorin ended."
The gnomes at the inn laughed. Noixas never did understood that. And in the future he too would kill a dragon and bring fame and glory to the gnomish race, that was his destiny, it was in his blood or wasn't it?
Untitled - By: Barrow Blacktusk
For years now, she had lived in darkness. The smell of fresh air and the comforting glow of the sun lingered still in her memory, but it had been some time since she had last felt either. The Vile Rune couldn't have been more aptly named; in the black recesses of that wretched cave she had been subjected to backbreaking labor, and she longed to get away from her orcish captors. But every attempt at rebellion or escape resulted in the severe castigation of all the slaves, and so the fires of insurrection were quickly extinguished.
She had not even seen her own face in years. Abducted as a child, she was forbidden to speak her native elven, and over time, she had forgotten much of the language. The gruff and dissonant sounds that comprised the orcish tongue soon became her main language, spoken only when allowed to by the orcs. They would bring only enough food for the slaves to subsist, and they gave small quantities of filthy water to the slaves to drink. Not surprisingly, the scarce water made taking a bath was out of the question. And so the life of slaves was spent: wallowing in filth and self-pity, forced to carry heavy loads and dig deeper into the cavern, expanding their prison.
But one day they came. Two adventurers clad in well-kept armor made their way down the cavern, and the death-screams of many orcs could be heard in the slave pens. Even the rarely-seen orogs were summoned from the depths to help stop these intruders. There was great chaos in the caves, with only dim, flickering torches lighting the way as monstrous orcs and orogs marched forward to meet their assailants. But the two were far too powerful - one was a dwarven holy man, armed with a fearsome cudgel, dressed in thick metal armor, covered by a white tunic. The other was a wily female elf, a mage, dressed in the furs and tanned hides of woodland beasts. Together they slew many orcs, as the slave girl watched on behind a cart of looted goods.
The two stood over the corpses of slain orcs, examining each for items of interest. Covered in their blood, the wizard woman's eyes darted around the cave, catching a glimpse of something dark moving in the corner of the cave.
"We missed one!"
Without warning, the dwarf sprang into action, and his warhammer speaking for him. With one fell swing, the dark figure was on the ground, bleeding profusely. It studdered as the blood rushed out from its cracked skull, pleading in orcish mixed with poor elven.
The elven mage stood by as the dwarf landed the killing blow. He then examined the corpse.
"Blast," the dwarf sighed, "That was an elf."
"In the Cards" - By Kaleyah
He left Adventurers' Inn contemplating what Bethany had said to him. "You will die by your own hand," she had told him. He didn't understand. He was not the kind of man who would ever commit suicide, but he also realized something: if he was to die by his own hand, then he could not be killed by anyone else.
"I am invincible," he thought to himself as he made his way to the Magistrate, "I can earn money as a Bounty Hunter, only I will never be killed! No one can kill me but myself."
He was an accomplished fighter, but he had never thought he would be invulnerable in combat. Brimming with confidence, he asked the Magistrate to employ him. As a rite of passage, he was to fight one of the Bounty Hunters, and he soundly defeated the Hunter. Impressed, the Magistrate hired him as one of his killers for hire.
Years passed, and the grim business of contract killing became commonplace. Sometimes he would go back to the Adventurer's Inn, and he would spar with Pertex, and Ancalagon, and he would defeat them every time. His payroll grew steadily, as did his pride and his arrogance. But in the corner of the room sat Bethany, shuffling her deck of tarot cards, sighing as she laid eyes on him.
"Your pride will be your downfall," she said to him. He scoffed at her warnings. "I will never kill myself," he laughed, gesturing dangerously with a dagger, laughing as he went upstairs with Branda the Serving Wench.
Bethany shaked her head. "It is in the cards," she mumbled.
The Magistrate was particularly tense one day. "Hunters, you are to kill this man." He unrolled a parchment scroll containing the picture of a notorious criminal. The Bounty Hunters cowered, but the man laughed. "I cannot be beaten. I bring take him in."
The Magistrate nodded. "Go, and may fortune be with you. Great fortunes will be with you as well, should you bring him in, dead if necessary."
Ready to descend the Mountain of Knowledge, the hunters were surprised to see the infamous vagabond right outside the Trading Post, waiting for the door to open. All at once, the four Hunters lept at him, but one by one they were killed with a few swift strokes of the criminal's blade. The one Hunter remained, wounded, but still alive.
"Surrender or be subjected to the hand of justice!"
The criminal smirked. With one mighty slash of his blade the Bounty Hunter fell to the ground, bleeding profusely. He could feel his life slip away as the criminal entered the Trading Post nonchalantly.
"How can this be possible?" he thought, as a ghostly figure approached from the north. In a puddle of his own blood, he looked up to see none other than Bethany, shaking her head as she turned, about to leave.
"Curse you witch, and your lies! You said I would die by my own hand, not by the blade of another!" Even as he spoke blood poured out from his gaping wounds, clearly beyond recovery.
"I did not lie to you." She turned to go, and the Hunter fell to the ground, the last of his strength now gone. He tried one last time to get to his feet, but a sharp pain shot up his arm as he tried to prop himself up upon it. There, in the pool of blood, lay his severed hand. He collapsed in disbelief, never to rise again.
"It was in the cards."
An Immortal Phobia - By: Xavier
It was a sunny day, the light ripping down onto the great western road. The dust crinkled into flakes and blustered about retaining footprints of those that pass, except for those that pass without footprints of course. There was one being on the road that day who seemed to hover slightly above the road, aloof of mortal concerns. Some called him bug zapper, others whispered Aretha. This is the story about his tampering on the day of Ivyn.
The beginning of Xavier's day was simple, a follower requested the board list be pruned, the hedge had grown wildly leaving little room for concentration. The slip was simple, the God whisked his fingers to remove the unwanted discussions. One by one he discarded thoughts and ideas, flittering away the communication of his mortals.
After a time he glanced back to the board to examine his maintenance. The winds rose as the Aretha drew in his breath of anxiety. The messages were still posted. Perhaps it was chance, a minor mishap in the universal machinery. Again he attempted to remove the notes, each failure frustrating the angered God.
Giving up and in a flooding rage the Aretha hovered south on the Great Western Road to quench his tears at the seaside in. About that time he decided to check the general note board for a message from his devout. To his astonishment the note board had been annihilated, few scattered morsels of discussion remained in disrepair. Aretha retreated to his grove with an uncertain air as he realized his err. His efforts were not in vain, the results proved tangible, and the world was left in disrepair. Perhaps this is how the Aretha developed the Note Removing Scare.
Wrong Way Through the Valley of Mist By Neodis
Journal entry, dated Kelir the 4th, Month of the Fool's Errand, 2432:
Our leader told us of a grand adventure today. It didn't worry any of us at first; he always spoke grandly of our next forage. He claimed that we were going to venture into a valley of mystery, danger and confusion but most importantly, unclaimed treasure. We were all drunk at the time so confusion was at least comfortably familiar and gold was certainly in high demand. We were more or less drinking up the last of it as he spoke.
We were to start in Safe Haven he said, taking out a map that looked more like beer soaked wood chips. Traveling up the Tiber would be adventurous, but only because the Peacekeepers would be chasing us, we were going to have to steal supplies for the trip. Adventuring sure seemed a richer occupation when I was younger.
Journal entry, dated Ozymandiut the 6th, Month of the Fool's Errand, 2432:
We should have left yesterday, we can't afford to stay here but then out esteemed leader decided that we needed a rest, it would be a big journey. Nothing was said about the hangovers we all sported. I don't know why but the last few gold coins seem to always bring about the worst hangovers. I'm sure it has nothing to do with the innkeeper constantly yelling at us to get out or pay up.
This afternoon was easier; our quiet little thief managed to acquire some gold that we used to get the innkeeper off our backs. With full packs we set off after dinner. Looking at everyone though was not an encouraging site. We should be looking forward to another adventure but instead we seem to be dreading another life threatening situation just to scrape a few gold coins together, enough to pay our way. We'd be ruined if we had to pay for new weapons and armor.
Journal entry, dated Jawiliea the 10th, Month of the Fool's Errand, 2432
I know it has been a few days since my last entry but we have been busy. The trip up the Tiber was more difficult then we had anticipated. We lost half our equipment, including a couple of swords and my spare mace. All of the food was ruined and I think we finally got a price on our heads back in Safe Haven. Not finished just yet though, we have been living off Mother Nature, not exactly fine dinning but for some odd reason we have spices to help.
After the Tiber the forest seemed like paradise, at least until it turned into mountains. The Oort range is a tiring place to move through. We're all exhausted and are spending a few days camping at this quiet little spot, out of the wind. We have wood from a small thicket and someone butchered a wild goat.
Journal entry, dated Searynx the 11th, Month of the Fool's Errand, 2432
Last night something flew over the camp, we all heard it. Some swear to dragons some others to giant birds. Whatever it is we have decided to pack up and move on. Gordon said it was a mistake to come out here; he had his mouth shut with a verbal thrashing though.
We all heard it, it was big.
Journal entry, dated Marisae the 12th, Month of the Fool's Errand, 2432
I hate walking through mountains, always up or down rarely straight terrain, if I'm not careful I'm going to end up either fit or dead. We have not found the entrance to the Valley yet; it's around here somewhere, unless the map is a fake of course. Good old boss won't let on who gave it to him. This would not be the first time he's messed everything up because someone scammed him whilst he was deep in his drink. If he wasn't 3 times larger then me I'd tell him what for
Journal entry, dated Dreade the 13th, Month of the Fool's Errand, 2432
At last, we have entered the Valley of Mist. It was almost by mistake that we found the place. The damn Ogre literally fell into it. He turned around because someone said something about his mother, when his foot went over the edge. Down he fell, right into a thick fog.
This place is quiet. It's freakier then the wings we heard in the Oort range. Everything is wet, I want a bath and I need something to keep this damn journal readable. I have asked the cleric if he had anything but he said something about not being a scribe, it was kind of hard to hear him, he whispered it so softly.
Well, we have to camp, we have been walking around this place for only the gods know how long. The only reason we know it's getting late is by the deepening of the fog around us. Still nothing stirs, nothing at all. Gordon had us all tied together by rope as if we were scaling a mountain, it was necessary because we had already lost someone. Every so often we stopped and did a head count, at one stop he was there, the next stop, nothing. No trace, he just didn't walk out of the fog.
Journal entry, dated Kelir the 14th, Month of the Fool's Errand, 2432
That which starts in hope ends in disaster. The night has taken two more. They are no more. The fog is greedy, it hungers for our flesh. We once were 12 are now 9, with no trace or sound.
Journal entry, dated Cearn the 17th, Month of the Fool's Errand, 2432
We now have no idea where we are, Boss started throwing coins on the ground but later we found out that the thief, at the back of the line, was picking them up. Thief was promptly cleaved in two by Boss. There are 7 of us now. The night takes us, we go to sleep, wake up and more are gone. Tracks lead everywhere but they are always our tracks. Despite our best efforts we circle, constantly taking a wrong turn without even knowing it. We are scared.
Journal entry, dated Ivyn the 19th, Month of the Fool's Errand, 2432
I don't normally write in someone else's journal but this is the only paper I have. There is no one else everyone has been taken. Neil was taken two nights ago; he's the guy who normally writes in here. If someone finds this, then you are probably going to die as well.
I can hear it circling my position. It's waiting for something, maybe for my fear to grow. It has not long to wait. I must write quickly, it is a cold thi.......
And I wrote 6 other entries which can be seen here. (Stories about: Midgaard Graveyard, Tier Sh'Halen, the Summoning Chamber, Kharad-Delving, and the Temples.)
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