Sunday, January 31, 2010

Short Story; Ceanne's Tale part two

The cavern was much more elaborate than she'd expected. The entrance was marked by a ring of massive stone slabs, with tops of stones cut from the rock of the mountainside. The entrance was marked by a four slabs forming three doorways, shorter than the outer ring but quite impressive nonetheless.

She was quite relieved to see Hani waiting out front. Anything with that intricate an entrance, and this few people living nearby, was something she wanted no part of. Her responsibilities did not entail exploring mysterious ruins. She liked her job, and she planned to spend as much time as possible doing it.
Besides, it smelled funny.

"Miss Ceanne! I'm sorry I wasn't there to meet you. I just wasn't sure I could get back here if I left."
"Hani, don't run off like that. Now why did you come here; what's so important about this place?"
"It's magical. I was hoping you might know more."

Ceanne glanced around. She'd never really enjoyed it, but natural magics was her field of study back at the palace. It was why Mr. Nonismuld had asked her to join the program. Her dedication to the garden's upkeep was legendary. It had been quite surprising to her the amount of time it had taken the heads to figure out about sprites; she'd have introduced them to Kehls if they'd just asked.

There was magic here all right, but not all of it was natural. Several protective enchantments had been woven through the ring of stone around her. Several would be a bit of an understatement really, the combination of wards, enhancing charms, direct longevity spells and every other sort of protective magic concievable would make anyone within the ring unreachable as soon as they were activated. Beyond that, the enchantments would never wear off over time, and when active it would take more power than the whole imperial guard could muster on its best days. The altar, or table maybe, just in front of the entrance was enchanted with a very crafty set of alchemical symbols and enchantments that could be used to supply food and water for hundreds of men at a time. It was a fortress; there was no questions about that. The real question wasn't whether or not there was magic here; it was who, or what, set the enchantments.

But there was something else inside. It was the most powerful magic she'd ever encountered. Not natural, but it had the signs of nature. It was to nature like seeing a master enchanter's best work compared to his bread and butter. It drew her, pulling at her thoughts. Whatever was in there, it was powerful and it wanted her to find it.

"Hani, I'll take care of it from here. Stay safe, and don't wander off again."
"Yes Miss Ceanne."

The cavern was painted, there were stories on it's walls. The ones who had cut and set the stones, and likely set the enchantments, had left an account of their lives. Broken pottery told her they were gone now. The dust and slithering of an elder rat snake told her they had been gone for a long time.

There it was, a large open room. A gap in the rock above allowed sunlight to reveal the source of the magic she'd felt. A tree, naught but a sapling, with a single fruit. So very powerful, and yet such a simple thing.

~Eat, My Father's gift to a faithful servant. Take and eat.~

Ceanne stepped up to the tree. Something, something very powerful, wanted her to have this as a gift. She was nervous, bold action was hardly her forte. Yet she couldn't see any danger in it. It was, as best she could tell, benign, passive even. There was no reason not to eat it.

So she did, it was bitter. Juicy, but bitter; she opted on the side of hunger and finished the whole thing, seeds and all.

~Continue your works with joy, and so long as you grow not weary of them you need not stop. My Father shall watch over you, as you watch over His creation.~

Ceanne would never forget the words spoken to her that day. And she would forever joyfuly tend her Lord's creation.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Short Story; Ceanne's tale, part one

Ceanne was dedicated to her work. Ever since lieutenant Nonismuld had aproached her about this assignment she'd thought of nothing else. It was her life's work. It was her calling.

Appeni was beautiful. A young sage could hardly ask for a better assignment. The mountains weren't too high, the weather was never too harsh, and the seas were warm year round. Poles were all sea, but she suspected it was rather cold there. It's not like the whole planet could have the same climate and terrain. Even if it could, she wouldn't like it that way.

The sprites probably wouldn't either. It made life so much easier now that they'd all been shown how to take care of each other. The wisps churning the Naiad's pools, keeping the algae from growing and lifting the herbs into their pools. The dryads could maintain hedges and trees that kept the elements from quenching the flames of a wisp's shrine, and droping the herbs and oils that fueled them. Naiads could water the plants of a dryad's garden. Just like nature was a system, so to were the sprites; each aiding the others in some way.

She was no longer constantly travelling to maintain the shrines, but it had taken her years to teach them. Ceanne was in the habit of travelling. The growing populations of Ga-Vok and Nielda made it more important than ever to not only watch over the sprites, but also to carefully supervise the local magicians. One stray pyromancer or jilted warlock could disrupt the balance she was so devoted to protecting. Which is why it frightened her so much when Hani went missing.

Hani had become a Naiad after her Mother had been corrupted. Ceanne had been forced to weaken her; Hani had been elected by her sisters to take her place. She was young, but she was responsible and it wasn't like her to go off like this. So as the sage responsible for Appeni, it was Ceanne's responsibility to find her and make sure she was safe.

She'd managed to track her down to a cavern. Mt. Napl was on the edge of Hani's territory, so at least she hadn't gone too far. But the question remained of why she would be here. None of the local creatures had seen her with a companion, nor had Nef the local wisp.

It was morning. The sun was just behind the mountains still. There was a gentle breeze moving through the grassy fields below. Ceanne wished she could live here forever.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Short Story; Trooper's Knife

"They've seen us sergant!"
"Open fire men. Don't let those rotten devils pass."

They were all over us. I remember that day, it was the first time I met a Nielda. I never knew why they'd come, but man was I glad they did.

It was 9573 by their calendar, I suppose that meant they'd had a lot of time to learn about this sort of thing. I always believed they'd been pretty good at this the first time. That's the sort of people they are, the Nielda.

"You lot stay down, and stay clean. Masks on if you got 'em, try not to swallow anything. This stuff'll kill you, and that's a promise."
"What the..."
"Zombies, undead certainly."
"Brain-scarfing shamblers is what they are."
"Right, shamblers. You lot ought to be lucky you aren't dealing with one of the more sophisticated sort of undead."
"Haheha. Can you imagine if these poor stoneies had run into a construct or a pack of chargers?"
"Wilkins has a point, this ain't magic sergant. Warlock would have a construct or skeletons somewhere around here."

There was gunfire everywhere. Fire, explosions, the city had become a warzone before they arrived; it just hadn't been a combat zone. We were panicing, but these soldiers were just talking about the horrible things that could have been trying to kill us. The horrible things that were trying to kill us didn't seem to phase them in the least.

"Sergant, I hate to be the bearer of bad news."
"Spit it out trooper."
"Chargers, several hundred on the leading edge, three directions."
"Corporal, get these civies out of here."
"Sir? I'm a medic, I can't protect all these people."
"O'Brin, you know what's about to happen here. They die, they come back, we die, they die with us."

We didn't know what they meant then. She did, the corporal wasn't a vet, but she knew what was coming. Nielda never gave an edge count if they could see the end of the force. It didn't stop them from fighting.

"Sergant, I can't leave you here. You might need me."
"Corporal, This isn't an option. Get those stonies out of here!"
"Muldain, I won't..."
"Now corporal, this is an order from your commanding officer. The captain will need his healer, you're not worth anything to us dead."

We should have been running then. With everything I know now I would never have stayed so long.

"Come on you Stone skulled louts," Nieldic voice modulaters are pretty good, but even then I could hear the reluctance in Aeni's voice, "Get your soft feet in motion!"
We started running then. I was paralyzed. I'd always been cowardly, slow to act and afraid of every little noise in the dark.
"Hey kid! I don't like dying, but I'm ready for it. My paperwork's all in order, my last words have been said, I know who gets what when they hear I'm dead. You got the look of someone who's not ready yet." He reached to his belt and tossed me a knife.

Every Nieldic soldier has one, they say you get in trouble for losing it. They won't pay you unless you can show it. And if they catch you fighting without it, you don't come back. So I hear at least.

"Take care of it kid. This world's over, the corporal will show you how to use it. Make your people proud."

I've caried it since. We're not fighting anymore. But Aeni tells me that a soldier's knife is his most useful tool. To lose it, isn't just to dishonor yourself; it's to dishonor everything the knife stands for. Loyalty, duty, honor, and the ability to kill (or re-kill if the case requires it) anything that threatens your people. I'm not afraid anymore, I know how he felt that day. Sometimes, you know that it's your time. Until then, we keep a hold of our knives.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

New search bar!

Added this feature to help with navigation, an issue I've had pointed out to me.
While not perfect, obviously having it listed by book rather than publish date would have been helpful, this feature should help new readers to navigate the blog.

As a general rule, Book one is just chapter X while book two is chapter X, 'title Y'.

Tag searches would have been nice, then a reverse chronology shift could have been used to set things in the appropriate order. Sadly I'm not a webdesigner, so designing an actual website like that would probably require is beyond my capacity; or for that matter budget, web space is probably more expensive than someone of my financial status could afford. Last thing I need is to have to pay to do this.

As always, welcome! please start from the begining, While the new feature will help you get where you are going if you know where you are going; the most effective navigation method remains to press '2009' go to october and locate chapter one, book one and read from there.

Maybe a 'next post' button would help...

Edit: I also made it descend from earliest to most recent. Might help a little.

Inter-book note

I have several ideas on where to go next.

As long as I've had this one particular segment of the Universe I've imagined it as a trilogy, or possibly series of trilogies. A particular character, Petra, defines a rather long period of history. Her lives, and deaths, mark clear phases. There are themes, and there is spirituality. However, I don't know if I'm actually qualified as a writer to do it the justice I feel it deserves. She is one of the two most important characters(possibly even the first most important) in all Nieldic history. So while I want to write it, and she would be refrenced in any chronologicly later works, I think it ought to wait until I develop a little more skill.

My second idea is to continue with the Ga-Vok war. The most important parts of Alicea's life would be covered in the next book or two. Again though, I have a theme in mind and it would be a shame to have to instill that theme later instead of doing it properly once. I kind of built from the begining of the last book that Alicea considered Aurou, the Shaman who raised her, to be her father; so it wouldn't be right for her to just transition directly into treating Haelvan, her birth father, as her father just instantaneously. That would never happen in a good book, and I hardly want to give my works any less than that. Once again, I see that I have a problem Directly with my own writing ability.
My ruling here is that Alicea's transition should be written before Petra's life, death, Death, and ascension. If only because managing to pull off Alicea's transition would be a mark of my own ability to right themes and characterization.

So I'm left with a few less important ideas. All of them are in the distant future from what I've written so far. To these people, Alicea, Daniel, Tressa, and their companions are legends, sometimes ancestors. Their lands may be the same, but these are no longer a peaceful Nielda; this is the Nielda as warriors, not their golden age, but one of steel.
A few eras can be considered. [not listed chronologicly]
The frostbourne wars; the Villianess Arcania and her army of the undead, lead by powerful litch(plural), wage a war with the living in the frozen wastelands of the universe. Can Emperor in hiding Johr save his people, or will he fall to the corruption? Who is Arcania, and why does the Dread Necromancer Thalia seek to meet with her? Can Tala the Storm-mage maintain the balance of the surviving races, or will she find that Arcania is the least of their worries?

The Shade invasion; The Daniellandish empire is in its decline. Humanity is at last dominate in the universe. Can the Imperial Guard continue to postpone the inevitable? Will Humanity respond, and even if they do are they strong enough? Where is Death, and what are these rumors of the black swords?

The Plague; More of a series of short stories this one. Seclora has enforced a diplomatic peace between the Nielda of Danielland and the Humans of the universe. But while the Daniellandish strugle against their papery bonds the humans allow no such restraint. Hear the tales of the survivors of the most devestating magicological attack of all history. See the response of the ailing Emperor. Watch the Universe's self-declared protectors as they fall prey to the very fate which they most loathe.

And lastly, the Hierarchies; the empire is in decline, again. The lords of Danielland have taken advantage of these desperate times to enhance their own power. One lord may have the strength to rule, but does he have the right? Read of his daughters and their strugle to bring justice to the empire. And bear witness to the birth of the storm-mage. Also there will be vampires, immortals, and otherwise the continuation of much of this last book's concepts(sprites, golems, Etc...).

I'll put a poll up. please vote, even if their's only one vote it could decide the entire course of the next month or so, possibly even year if I get on a good run.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Epilogue, Travellers Rest

"Where am I?"
"Dad, she's waking."
"Shh. Don't startle her, death is a very quiet experience. No need to shock her."
"Where's Kron? Is Vel OK?"
"Calm child, You are in the infirmary here at the Monastery. The warlock is dead, your sprite friend took care of that; she's well and waiting for you eagerly. Lovely young lass, and quite charming once she's warmed up to you."

Alicea looked around, there was an old man speaking to her. Next to her was a girl about two or three years younger than she was, she had the look of a thief or possibly a librarian; strong hands but very dexterous and lithe. They both wore heavy gloves and thick travelling cloaks.
"Who are you?"
"We are family child, I've been looking for you for nearly sixteen years now. Since you were kidnapped. This is your cousin, a few times removed, Tressa. I am Gar, I'd probably be best thought of as an uncle. I'm closest related to him anyways."
"We're assassins!"
"Of the best sort I assure you. And adventurer's with a predisposition to kill the unjust in a manner most stealthy would be the preferred term if such a term were preferred."
"Are you here to kill me? Where are my axes?"

"Haelvan will be quite pleased to hear you've finally recovered."
"Hello Mrs Nethen. And how are you today?"
"The Nausea is getting better as the day goes on Miss Stone. Thank you for the herbs, they've been rather helpful."
"Are you a guard? These people are assassins, arrest them!"
"Actually they're family. I've yet to find out about them killing someone, so if they are assassins it would be a waste to arrest such skill. Besides, your father seems to recognize them. Isn't that right sir?"

"Alicea, Master Nond told me all about your little escapades. I can understand if..."
"Scorch mentioned you, you're commander Haelvan. Don't you do some kind of obsessive research on a transformitive condition of some sort? I think I may be able to help you."

Nethen gasped, Haelvan was stunned, and Tressa was still laughing about it a week later. Gar just smiled, it was good to have the family together again.

Chapter Twenty-Eight, 'Battle for the Monastary; part two'

He looked powerful. They all knew the warlock when they saw him. Dark armor, black cloak, and the knife at his side had a pommel shaped like a skull add those to the aura of darkness already present about him and there was no mistaking him as anything else.

His bodyguards were no less formidable. Plate armor, good plate at that, and heavy iron shields protected them; and they fought with Katars longer than their heads. The tabard, a wolfshead on silver, denoted them as being sent by the Alpha himself. These were soldiers, not just the fighters from local clans trying to overwhelm an embattled foe, but soldiers like themselves. They would be trained, their equipment would be held to a standard of upkeep and quality, and they would be well paid.

Nethen was not religious, few Nielda were, but she remembered some of the deities that were whispered of in the fairy tales from her childhood and muttered a quick prayer. She did not want to die, but she wasn't about to be caught unprepared. The commander alone did not seek solace in such pursuits. She knew that he did have religion, a belief in a higher power. Yet now he seemed undaunted by the threat before them. Maybe there really was some truth to his beliefs.

"Warlock, does your master wish for our lives or our land?"
"Your lives, foolish fireblood, your lives and your souls."
"Then let us do battle. A champion of our people and one of yours, if this shaditha seek a Nieldic soul then they must be willing to show themselves."
"Hardly, I am empowered to do their work."
"Then do it. The lord of the light shall send us a champion."

Kron drew his knife and cut the air between them, a shadowy tear opened before the commander. His ring pulsed with light and the tear was sealed. Haelvan unstrung his bow and returned it to his back.
"Behold warlock; the light has sent a champion. And with her the strength to do battle with the dark forces."

And sure enough, upon the gatehouse tower a flash of lightning showed his words to be true. A woman was there, and behind her was a massive golem; upon the golem was a man with a staff of fire. The winds howled, and the clansmen fled before them. The Alpha's men were crushed beneath the great iron hands of the golem, and their shield were sundered by bolts of fire from the pyromancer.

"Kron! You sought me dead, twice have you tried, must I a third time face your schemes?"
"Shamaness, my master can speak lies only when permitted. Twice have I sought your death, twice I have succeeded, and a third time if I must, for my death shall come not by your lightning."
And the shadow guarded him, his knife was thrust, and bolts of fury lit the sky before the monastery. She was unmatched in battle, but he was preserved against her assault. She could not strike him down, but neither could he make her flee.

And the battle raged, the sun was high as the warriors fled. Nine and three score soldiers fell, but for each of them was ten about who's friends had left them in their haste. Victory was had, but still the warlock fought. Through the streets, and over ramparts they fought. None dared draw near, such was their battle, save one.

Vel, the nymph who had warned them, a sprite of the lake. She approached in fury, hair whipping in the winds she brought with her. Lightning struck forth, and a flood at her feet. Still, did the warlock not falter. He worked about, and positioned his foes, and as the soldiers watched he readied the blow.
"Neither wisp, nor Naiad, not even Nielda shall slay me. The Demon spoke truth, quite often they do. Now suffer my wrath!"

He cast a bolt of shadow at the duo before him. But before it struck, Alicea leapt before it. The blast carried her clean through Vel's watery form. The Sprite cried out in anger.
"I am not a wisp, nor a Naiad. My mother was, and so to my father. Have a taste of their pain."
A bolt of lightning struck from the heavens, and the water around him rose about him to meet it.

Haelvan ran to the fallen warrior. As Nond moved to Vel and pulled the weeping sprite aside, and Scorch crouched over Kron's smoking remains. Nethen walked to her commander.
"I..You would have liked her, N-Nethen. She was the sweetest, cleverest little girl there ever was. They never found the body, I'd always hoped to see her again. But not like this, not like this."
"I'm sorry commander sir. I did like her, she was strong, and good sir. Just like her father."

Vel looked up at Nond, "Where do I go now? She was the last person I knew."
Nond chuckled.
"She won't be though, she is only the first."

The golem rose and turned to the grieving father. "Young Haelvan, How may the beast be slain?"

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Chapter Twenty-Seven, 'Battle for the monastary; part one'

They were hiding their movements well. If it weren't for the Ga-Vok having a complete misunderstanding of Nieldic sensory perception, they never would have seen the attack coming.

"Commander, they're coming sir."
"Down Nethen."
"Get down!"

The lieutenant ducked just in time to avoid a bar age of arrows. Only a faint flicker from the stars betrayed the torrent of steel-tipped death. Fortunately the silence had allowed the commander's warning to be be heard all along the rampart. The sound of wasted arrows clattering off of the paving below was unjoined by the screams of pain expected by the enemy.

A second volley was preceded by the commander whispering, "Pain this time, let them think they've met success."
It was passed down the line and obeyed as the second volley began to fall. It was a practiced measure; everyone had a practiced set of grunts, moans, and screams to express their pain. The Ga-Vok would have considered all the time spent not practicing combat a waste, but with their numerical disadvantage, Haelvan and the defenders of the monastery would need every bit of time they could get.

"Nethen, how many do you see?"
"Upwards of a thousand, the armored ones are advancing on the gate with the ram sir."
"Maybe a few centimeters sir. Should I sound the attack?"
"Pull back to the upper ramparts. I'll follow shortly."
"Sergeant, take the men to the upper rampart; we'll fight from there."
"That's odd. I seem to remember telling YOU to lead the men to the ramparts."
"Someone has to make sure you don't throw yourself at them."

Haelvan rose quietly, fitting an arrow to his bow as he did. He loosed it at the ram-bearers by the gate. One of the heavily armored soldiers dropped sprouting the fletched shaft from his chest.
"Drat! I meant to hit the one across from him."
As the Ga-Vok rushed to defend themselves the back of an arrow appeared upon one of their shields, it's owner collapsing behind it.
"Nice shot sir. You must have really strong arms to put an arrow through a shield like that."
"Sir" he finished quietly, "Not really Nethen, this bow was a gift from my wife. She used to do enchantments. I've certainly got some practice in, but my friend here makes every shot count for a little more. It does a few other things too. Mejcotou!"
He loosed the arrow and as it left the string it split into a dozen arrows of the same size and velocity. Fewer of them hit of course, but more of them got hit. A volley of arrows cut the air about them, as the Ga-Vok retaliated at last.
"Of course Nethen, we can join the others on the rampart now."

They reached the barricade erected at the top of the ramp just in time. Behind them a particularly, well, magical sort of darkness formed about the gate and the sounds of steel and wood being crushed followed.

Fortunately it was not the armored warriors who first rushed through the broken defenses. The warriors now charging towards them were of the local clans. Poor, badly equipped, and disorganized these were the sort of troops the rail-cannon had been designed for.
Lucky they happened to have a rail-cannon.

"Sporks away!"
The mess hall's most underapreciated utensils were now moving at speeds noticeably above that of sound. They may not have been very useful for eating, but their effect on the charging foe was, "Permit me a pun sir?"
"Of course Nethen, you know how much I appreciate a little battle humor."
"Using the sporks on our enemies, a delicious move sir."
"Not bad, but I think you can do better."
"Sorry sir."
"Maybe later. Men! Form ranks, take aim, fire!"

Against as simplistically equipped troops as these, the crossbow volley was devastatingly effective. The enemy ranks wavered before resuming their charge.
"Commander sir, Mr. Haelvan?"
"Just like practice. What do you need my dear?"
"I'm considering being afraid now."
"No worry Lieutenant. No one likes killing, we just do it because we have to."
"Have you fought before?"
"Yes, riots, minor rebellions, raids back in the war a few times; I've fought before I suppose."
"I haven't, I don't want to die yet sir."
"Then fight. And stay close, I can tell you have something unfinished you'll need someone to know about if you do. Since you know my request, it seems fair I should be there for yours."
"I don't know if I could tell you sir."
"Stop worrying," He loosed an arrow into the now quite nearby horde, "I might already know."

"Swords! For the Emperor men, for the Emperor and till the rising of the sun!"
They hacked the enemy warriors, slashing and stabbing they fought. It felt like days, the onslaught never ceased. The cannon was dragged back damaged, wounded were taken within the monastery. It was about four when the line broke. Nethen stood by the commander, his arrows punishing those who assaulted his command, and her blade allowed no passage to him.

Battle had an effect on the men. Calm, composed men, ones who had spent yesterday joking about or field testing the latest equipment were today standing in pools of their enemies blood. Some of the most dignified and intelligent of the garrison's men smeared with blood, not all of it their foes, and with wounds as deep as the well. Had Nethen been aware of her own wounds it would have startled her. Arrows riddled her armor, and her left arm was still host to a shattered spear. Like her men Nethen fought on, such was the frenzy of battle.

The enemy was making way, she could see the armored ones approaching. And with them came the sedan of the warlock. Purple silk drapes, Gold inlay, and a chiseled oak frame; but all were made dim by the power of Kron. The warlock had come at last.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Chapter Twenty-Six, 'Haelvan's R&D rangers'

The sun was setting. In the valley below them the shadows had already fallen. A day before, the valley had met night with a gentle breeze through Maris's vineyard. For the defenders of the monastery it was not to be as peaceful as the previous night.

"Yes sir."
"Take your squad through town and evacuate them to the cellars. By force if you must; I'll not have civilian casualties if they can be avoided, and if it takes injuries to obtain it so be it."
"Yes sir commander."
"And Nethen."
"Yes sir?"
"My name is Haelvan. It's the name my mother gave me, it's the name my wife called me, and I'd prefer if you used it too."
"Thank you sir, Mr. Haelvan that is."

Commander Haelvan examined the reports from Apprentice Henders, nice kid but it didn't take a genius to see that he wasn't, the device had worked fairly well in lab tests. Field testing would be the next step anyways, and at the very least he'd have a chance to get rid of that ugly mug the major had gotten him last Junsrew. He'd just have to give the men a heads up about sticking limbs near the breech of the thing. Last thing he needed in the middle of a battle was a soldier dying in a manner he'd normally call a 'training accident'.

"Commander sir, I mean Mr. Haelvan sir."
"Back already Nethen? How did the civilians know to evacuate themselves?"
"It's been almost three hours sir. I was coming to tell you we've spotted the enemy sir."
"And have you seen the warlock?"
"No sir. But we did see a company of heavily armored warriors near a sedan on Jim's knoll."
"That the one with the little magnolia on it, or the one with the mistletoe on the rock?"
"The magnolia sir"
"Out of effective magical range, it would appear our friend Kron has elected to let this be a battle of steel. The gate is secure?"
"Yes sir, you closed it yourself as always; the key is in your right breast pocket in your brown jacket sir."
"Sneaky little iron devil would be there wouldn't he? Do they have any equipment, are they setting up camp?"
"They have a basic ram sir. I think the warlock intends to take us by storm sir."
"Course he does, warlocks are like that. Overconfident, probably has a promise of victory from a Shaditha or some such nonsense. Is all of our stuff and people in position?"
"Yes sir, right where you ordered them sir."

Nethen looked down unhappily, "Almost everyone, Rytger stuck his arm in it; he's in the infirmary sir."
"I'll have to mention that to Magus Brenn. I told him he should have a drum or belt of some sort to feed in ammunition. Having magnets that powerful in a tube that wide is just asking for some dope to stick his arm in it and launch it down range at speeds in excess of five-hundred Kilometers per hour."
"One-thousand three hundred and ninety six kilometers per hour in excess sir."
"Is that faster or slower than the time it took him to lose his arm?"
"Exactly the amount of time sir."
"I hope someone at least made money on it."

Haelvan rose and opened the door out to the grand hall. The men were assembled there, those not on the walls anyways.
"I expect a fair number of you already heard about Rytger."
There was a murmur of agreement, a few winces as those who hadn't heard were enlightened by their comrades.
"Needless to say, don't put any part of your body somewhere your liable to lose it. That goes for the battle too. I don't speak from personal experience, but I expect being killed in battle would hurt. Clearly none of us want to get hurt, am I right?"
More murmurs of agreement.
"Right, now before you just go hide in a corner I want to remind you of something. Downstairs are civilians. Like yourselves civilians do not like to get hurt. But unlike you civilians do not have the training, equipment, or good pay that makes you a soldier. If you hide, they will get hurt, and they will not pay taxes, and you will not get anymore training, equipment, or good pay. So hiding is also not an option, can we agree on that?"
A few people agreed, most of them were just quiet and bored looking. Nethen liked the commander, Mr. Haelvan that is, but he just wasn't a very good speaker. Brilliant, the argument he was laying out was simple enough for a child and summed up why they were fighting perfectly, but very droll nonetheless.
"So I recommend that you do as your told and hurt them; that way they don't hurt you, or the civilians. Now get to your stations, and don't put your hand in any of the magnet tube things," He consulted Apprentice Hender's report, "Rail-cannon, it's called. I wonder why."

"Commander sir, I mean Mr. Haelvan."
"Did I ramble again?"
"Only a little sir; you were much better than last time sir."
"How many do you think will hide?"
"Sergeant Willikins, Trooper Gordon, and Trooper Jentes sir. Everyone else was here last time, or at least they've wanted a chance like this since the war sir."
"And you Nethen, will you hide?"
"I'll never leave your side sir; I'd follow you to hell and back if I could sir."
Haelvan stopped and twitched a little.
"Sir, was it something I said?"
"Partially, it reminded me of someone. But more importantly, do you smell that?"
"The Ga-Vok are not known for their hygiene sir."
"No, it smells like thunder, silver, blood on the wind, and high tide in the desert. Nethen, I've smelled it before. What you said just reminded me where I know it from."
"I reminded you of your wife sir?"
"My wife never smelled like thunder, or anything in a desert. She always liked the sea, and there was more of an arcane fragrance to her magic. But our daughter smelled like that."

Nethen sighed; this was a terrible time for another one of his nostalgic moments. It was quite surprising when he didn't get nostalgic.

"You'd have liked her, I know how you've always said how you like redheads. She'd be about seventeen now. I think, if we survive, I'll say a prayer for her. If I don't, could you?"
"Of course sir; it would be an honor to complete your last request."
"Really lieutenant, you shouldn't say things like that. It makes you sound crazy, like you're in a movie or something."
"I like to think of it as a romantic tragedy sir."

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Chapter Twenty-Six, 'morning'

Nond and Scorch reached the outer wall as the sun rose. The gate had been broken. Scorch was no mage but he could feel the residual effects of the magic used to blast it open.
"How long?"
"More than a thousand, yesterday morning, the warlock is being caried on a sedan, Nieldic silk drapes. The Monastary is not equipped to resist a force of this size."
"Then we need to hurry."

Alicea woke to the taste of blood; not hers, it wasn't metalic enough. Then the smell filtered through, death and more blood. It was a fresh smell, she wasn't sure she wanted to open her eyes. She felt oddly full, but couldn't remember eating. That could only mean one thing; it must have been a full moon. A quick glance restored everything she'd forgotten.

She looked at Ogini's mangled remains. He'd died badly, what was left of his face displayed fear. There were claw marks on the ground, to small to be hers; He'd strugled fiercely in his last minutes. It was a fate he didn't deserve, had it been her father who'd died she'd have been no less eager to see him dead.

Nothing started a day worse than having to clean up after the beast. It didn't help that she knew she'd lost. If it weren't for the beast she'd be dead, but her curse just kept waking her to the smell of death and another ravaged corpse to clean up.

She washed off, fetched clean clothes from her bag; which she'd stashed on the other end of the island, and placed her adversary's remains on what was left of Cavel's altar. She gathered wood and herbs from the forest, and arranged them a best she could in preperation for cremation. Burial would have been preferable, but she still needed to find Vel and ready her to slay Kron. It would be an honorable cremation, as much as that was possible for a warrior of an exiled clan.

Ogini, son of Haown, would fight for the spirits by midday, but Alicea was returned to her quest.

(This post added on September 4th, 2010.)

Chapter Twenty-Five, 'Silver-Slain'

Ogini built a fire. The warlock had told him that the cursed one would not be slain easily, he was right. It had been a hard fight and he was going to take great pleasure in denying her a warrior's burial. Tonight he would do what his father failed to and end this scum's existence.

It was a full moon, all the better to watch as his adversary turned to ash before him. It would be the first full moon he'd have seen in many a year that didn't see his revenge still unmet. He howled his joy to to it. And he listened to the cries of the Sickle Ear clan from across the lake as they rejoiced in his deeds, or something similar; at lest two or three had sounded interested.

Then another voice howled, much closer. He had warned the warlock against having him followed, but what else could it be?

Again it came, it was a female voice. Young and strong, but their was pain in it. Perhaps someone was being hurt, maybe some young warrior had died today even as he achieved his victory. He'd have to inquire when next he went to town. He'd also inquire about the burning feeling in his throat and mouth, it seemed he was having some kind of reaction to the woman's blood. Maybe that's why they called them 'fireblood'.

That was no howl. There was blood lust and rage in the voice now. It was a bestial fury, this was no mourning lover. He turned as a fear took seed in him. What had the warlock meant when he spoke of how nieldic coin alone could lay low the fireblooded beast?

The axes remained where she'd dropped them, and the place where Alicea had fallen was ringed by tattered fabric and armor. But his foe was no where to be seen.
He spun to search for the missing corpse and was met by a sight from his nightmares. The wolf demon, the woman's form from so long ago. This was the beast that had slain his father. He drew his blade and snatched his shield from the ground; hurriedly deflecting the massive creature as it flung itself upon him. He hacked at it but its hide absorbed the blow without damage. Killing blow after another was deflected, dodged, or even taken outright but nothing harmed it.
Perhaps it was just the fire reflected in the eyes of this hellbeast, but he thought he could see a passion in it. A desire to avenge its mistress, or was it itself? What was the nature of the beast, and how could it be stopped before he grew to tired to defend himself and his life was torn from his body by those massive, but surprisingly clean and well cared for, claws?

Not long apparently, his mind dwelt to long on the oddity of a clean-clawed wolf monster and his shield was sundered by a swipe of the beast's claws. He batted it away with his axe, and rather than strike again she began to circle. And as he tracked his opponent about the ruined shrine, the sun rose behind her. He watched the beast rise as it lept, and an enraged woman as she bore down upon him.

His last thoughts were lost in the agony of defeat, and the pain of death.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Chapter Twenty-Four, 'Besieged'

"Commander Haelvan, Something has a message for you."
"Shh! Nethen I am about to make a breakthrough in silver-slain transformation theory. I can not be interrupted."
"It's about the Ga-Vok commander. They're massing for an attack."

Haelvan stood up quickly, hitting his head on a set of overhanging instruments. Some of the glass shattered and released a large cloud of reddish smoke.
"By the emperor, that was my last sample Nethen. Do you know how long it'll take me to acquire another one?"
"The Ga-Vok are massing for an attack. We need to defend ourselves."

The commander paused for a second, counting on his fingers.
"At least a year for transportation, and potentially a decade to find a host. It could be a century before I actually find someone willing to donate. You've set my work back by a lifetime Nethen."
"We need to ready the defenses, they'll be here by nightfall."

"Mister Haelvan."
The commander looked up to see who the newcomer was. She was a watery sort, like a Naiad but with better hair.
"Hello miss sprite; You must be one of Cavel's charming little brood. How is he?"
"Dead, and Kron is coming here. He's under orders to destroy the monastery."
"Pity, such a nice man; always had a spare breeze when I needed to block the moon or let it shine. He will be missed. So you're his daughter then? I had a daughter once you know, and a family. Where back on Tara when the raids came, all dead. Never found some of the bodies. Good thing the emperor got that deal worked out with their chieftain and we'll never have to worry about it again, eh?"

Vel looked at Nethen quizzically, "Is he always like this?"
"He can be quite serious when he must be...Usually."
"Commander, the peace is breaking. The Alpha's men are coming. Nond sent me to warn you."
Haelvan laughed. It was contrived, Nethen had known the commander long enough to know when he was faking it. To start with he'd take occasional breaks just to look back at them before laughing more, but it sounded different too.
"So You've met my predecessor? But of course you have; that's what he does isn't it? Work with sprites, tend their shrines, give them pedicures, what-not, and who-say."
Nethen was a little confused, there had never been mention of a 'Nond' before. But the description sounded like that golem some of the veterans had told him about. A shrine-tender; like a witch of steel; he was supposed to be a part of the Imperial Guards.
"Alright, have the men reached their positions yet?"
"What sir?"
"You issued the call to arms when you heard of course."
"Sergeant, Sound the call to arms; everyone prepare for battle. Not a drill, actual battle."
"Really Nethen, when an attractive young embodiment of the natural forces comes and warns you of a nearing peril you shouldn't need me to tell you to sound the call to arms. Now head down to the lab and requisition their experiment, the rail-thingie. Have the Sergeant gather up anything metal and sharp and bring it all up to the tower for field testing."
The commander picked up his helmet from under the table and strapped it on. Then he reached behind him and pulled a full quiver and longbow from the shadows in the corner of his office.
"Well what are you waiting for lieutenant? Our business is war, and Junsrew is upon us."

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Chapter Twenty-Three, 'South'

"Where is Kron? This is the tower of the warlock, but we have not seen him."

Scorch was resting in a rather plush chair. Kron had invested in some rather nice furniture, and it was still rather nice despite the recent thunderstorm. Nond was still standing, there wasn't a chair big enough for him.
"Him? He left yesterday. Hasn't been back since." The, sprite was it?, was curiously inspecting Nond. It seemed she, he assumed it was a she; it looked like a she, was as confused about what exactly the golem was as Alicea had been. Though Alicea had been more respectful about it.

"Do you know where he has gone? Has he spoken of his intent?"
Nond was focused on his goal. It was normal for a golem, but Nond wasn't normal for a golem. He'd expected a more analytic approach, more mysterious.

"The soldiers left with him, and the local clansmen. I think he got a letter from someone, alfalfa or something. He mentioned that he'd 'end their curse with their own silver'. Does that mean anything to you? It didn't to me."

Silver, Alicea didn't like silver for some reason. Always dropped his coins when he showed them to her.
"Coins. He be going to attack the monastery."
"He left yesterday; at what hour?"
"Late, After sunset. Can Nielda see at night?"
"As well as those pups can by day; but we can't smell them."

"Scorch, can you teleport?"
"Do I look like a mage to you?"
"I can no longer access the arcane. Sprite, I believe Alicea called you Vel, You must ride the winds into the valley. On the high mountain to the south there is a fortress, warn it's defenders that a company of the Alpha's men lead the local clans against them. Stay there, we shall come."
"I'll do it; you can count on me. Just one question."
"Yes little one?"
"Which way is south?"

Monday, January 18, 2010

Chapter Twenty-Two, 'Flame and Steel'

"Alright here golem, the lass wants the tower taken. I be planing to do it; you coming or not?"
Scorch turned left to face Nond. The golem was gone. He checked right and then looked to the tower. There was a burst of red from each side of the door. The golem hadn't even waited for him.

"Ain't you lot supposed to wait a magicians orders?"
"I am not a mere golem. Your father knew that, did he not tell you?"
"Didn't like my father; he spent all his time wandering around with you and your little band of geezers."
"I regret his death, as I do all my companions."

Scorch placed his staff against the door, muttering obscenities against his companion.
"And the lass wonders why I don't like to travel with you. I suppose them all dying over the last decade is purely coincidence?"
"Fate, the body can last only so long."
"He wasn't even into a second century. My grandfather I understood."

The guard inside lept out of the way as the door crashed into the far wall. Nond ducked through the doorway and silenced him. Scorch incinerated the maidservant accompanying him.

"Your father was a man. I blame myself for not warning him."
"He was drowned golem. A sober man, who could swim, doesn't die in a meter deep pool by accident."
"Water and fire do not mix, young scorch. It was the corruption of water that took him. I should have foreseen it; he should have been warned."
"Are you blaming those imaginary creatures of yours for my father's death? For the last time; there are no such things as..."

There was magic in the high chamber of the tower. Not just the lingering feel of spent life and spilled blood as a warlock's tower customarily bore, but an enchantment of binding. There were no cages, nor chains. But what had silenced the pyromancer was not the enchantment; it was the small thunderstorm and furious winds raging in the rafters.

"If there are no sprites; how has the force of nature been bound here?"
"It be an enchantment of course. It just looks like a storm, and their be little tendrils of magic moving the paper and stealing my hat."
"Are you certain you believe that, young Scorch?"
"As sure as me Dad's a virgin."

"Who dares the tower? More messengers from the warlock seeking my wrath? You shall have it!"
The wind howled louder, and a bolt of lightning narrowly missed Scorch.
"In case you be wonderin golem; me mother had me in the usual manner."
"I know, your father was quite proud of himself."
"If you weren't so big and hard I'd kick you."

"I will silence you wretches, the air at my command shall no more fuel your banter."
Scorch collapsed, gasping for breath. Nond was not so encumbered; he stretched his hand towards the cloud and spoke.
"Sprite, You are neither wisp nor naiad. Nor are you servant to the warlock. We come to seek his demise."
"Lies! False words of the mortal taint, I shall remove your name from the pages of time."
"You will find it not. I am Nond, the iron sage of Gasca; I seek to restore the power of the wisp Cavel to those who shall use it in wisdom and peace."

The wind stilled, and the storm subsided. In their place was a young woman made of swirling water, with golden strands of dust for hair, and garbed in a veil of shadowy mist.
"You know of my father?"
"I counted him amongst my friends, as I do the young pyromancer you are strangling."
Scorch began breathing more evenly as the air began to refill his lungs.
"I'm sorry, I thought you were with him. I'm so sorry sir; are you okay?"
"By Kevan's neatly trimmed mustache, you're real!"

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Chapter Twenty-One, 'Sins of the Father'

Ogini charged. Alicea sidetepped his blow, and struck to retaliate. The warrior deflected her first blow with his steel-rimmed shield, and the second he parried with his axe.

He was a determined opponent. Alicea could see that it was his skill that had brought him to the attention of the Alpha. Had he remained with the clan he would have been a war leader, chieftan even. He made the other warriors she'd fought look like mere brawlers.

"Fireblood, if you believe in the spirits Aurou taught then you would know that there is only one race who has there blessings."
"If you knew the spirits as I do then you would see that they choose no favorites. If you believed in them you would see that the justice you seek is not yours to administer."
"Your words are no sharper than your teeth, The spirits will see this day that the Ga-Vok alone are worthy of their favors."

Another blow, Alicea parried it and he again blocked her counter-blow. They spun, the dance of the blades continued for hours. Neither was stronger, even with magic she could not deliver the blow.

~I know his smell. His father's blood runs through him as it did our fangs.~
"Do you know what happened to the father you seek to avenge?"
"He was killed by you, as the moon brought forth your true form, you wretched beast."
"Do you want to know how he died? I could tell you the things he screamed in the depths of his mind as I tore his throat. Or the taste of his blood on my lips."

Ogini hurtled at her, sending forth a fury fulled cry for vengance. His attacks were more fierce, and she could feel that it was her blood now trickling down her cheek. But he was less careful, his blows were fast and wild but his shield was lowered.

She locked Onkai against his axe and forced herself past it. She brought Welvae back to deliver the blow. But the fangs. She had forgotten his natural weapons.

Alicea pulled herself out of the Warrior's deadly embrace, and collapsed against the paving stones of the shrine. Her axes were forgotten in her pain. The beast cried for vengance, for authority; it cried to live.

As darkness began to settle, the sun setting as her conciousness faded; she heard the wind, the lake stirred, and silence.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Chapter Twenty, 'The Last Sprite'

Alicea hadn't been alone for a long time. The beast hated being alone, she could feel its restless stirring.

The lake was dark, the wind fierce, and the forest itself was more ragged and crooked than it had ever been even when the shrines had been abandoned. She could see why Nond was so determined to restore the balance. It also gave her an appreciation for what Aurou had been doing, trying to restore the local Nix. She would write him with the shrine's location once this was over and done.

For now there was another sprite who needed her.

"Vel. I came back. We need you. Please come out."
She called for an hour, maybe more, but the nymph was no where to be found.

"The warlock knew someone would come for the little phantom."
A warrior stepped down from the ruins of Cavel's shrine. He was armed with an axe like hers but double edged, and a shield. His chest was bare and he wore no helm; his only armor was a pair of leather britches.

"I've been waiting for you, you cursed little runt."
"No one outside the clan knew of me, but I've never seen you before. Who are you, and why did you betray our clan?"

Alicea could see the intent of his heart. She readied her axes as the warriors of the howling axe clan began to circle.

"My name is Ogini, son of Haown. You killed my father the night you were brought to our camp. As his son I claim his right; your blood is mine to spill."
"But we were exiles. How did you come under the Alpha's service?"
"The shaman banished me when I sought to claim my right. The Alpha's men showed me the path to justice, and in their service the Alpha granted me clemency. I told him everything, and he saw in his wisdom that I could serve his plan best by seeking my own ends."
"And the warlock? What of Kron?"

Ogini chuckled. The rays of the setting sun gleamed on his shield and she could see the Alpha's mark upon it. The black wolfshead had been crudely superimposed over the white howling one of their clan.

"A loyal servant of His Supremacy the Alpha. He to has been granted clemency to further the grand end. Even now he leads the clans against the fireblood's so-called 'monastery'. A hundred of His Supremacy's finest stand at the forefront. Gasca will belong to the Ga-Vok. But not before I claim what is due me."

Chapter Nineteen, 'Tower of the Warlock'

"So this be the shadow-servin whelp's cottage by the lake then?"
"If by cottage you mean formidable tower with armored guards then yes; it's his."

Alicea was moving more carefully this time. The sun was out now, but she still didn't trust the warlock to just sit and wait for them. If the events of her last incursion were any indication, He'd be cooking up something sinister.

Their were two guards, Ga-Vok warriors. They were more heavily armored than any warriors she'd seen before though; more like the ones who had been attacking Scorch. Each had a tower shield made of two joined pentagons. On the bottom pentagon was a black tower, and on the top was the Alpha's emblem; a scarlet wolf's head.

Scorch seemed to recognize the motif as well.
"Lass, those be soldiers of the confederacy. The Alpha's own men, handpicked from across the clans; there be no finer troops in the galaxy, cept maybe the guards."
"Good thing we aren't troops now isn't it?"
"Your crazy lass; but I ain't passed up a good fight in all me life yet. I don't be planin to start now."
"Be ready for staunch resistance, you and Nond will have to be careful."
"And where be you all this time?"
"I have a nymph to find."

Monday, January 11, 2010

The Sage Program

I spoke about this in the last chapter. But I'll lay it out in more straight forward terms.

The Sage program was established in the year 96 of the reign of Kevand IV, emperor of the Nielda (year 2437 Nieldic standardized, 1563 BC Gregorian). Inital colonization attempts had met with harsh enviroments and the drive behind colonization was faltering. Of the inital ten colonies, eight had encountered climates, flora, and fauna opposed to the settlers on more than 70% of the planet.

As the supreme magical arm of the government, research teams from the Imperial Guard were dispatched to all ten colonies to ascertain possible causes for the problem. On the worlds Media and Kanto it was found by census that the population of practicing members of the witches guild (or coven as they prefered to be called) was dispersed across a greater percentage of the world than on the other eight. Inquiry to the guildmaster discovered that what the government had completly overlooked was the presence of natural sprites and their shrines.

The guildmaster, Hiera Venasfeld, and the head of the guard's natural magics department, Fen Nonismuld, managed to formulate a solution to prevent the problem from occuring on future colonies. That solution was presented to the Emperor Kevand as 'The Sage Program'.

The program was easily implemented, but required a great deal of personal responsibility. On every exploration ship their would be a special guardsmen. That guard would have recieved, in addition to the standard combat training, a master's equivalent in what the witches called 'shrine-ology and sprite-tention'. That training would enable them and a team of dedicated soldiers to attend the shrines and sprites of newly discovered worlds while inital colonisation began. By properly attending the shrines nature would be more passive and colonisation could be conducted more safely.

The downside was that if a guard and his team failed then the colony would become harsh and colonisation would become considerably more difficult. Worse, a corrupt guard could actually turn the world to his own ends and make not only colonisation, but even purification nigh-impossible. The Emperor managed to set up a solution to substantially decrease this threat. The simultaneous establishment of regular miliary facilities and substantial forces on those worlds would provide a clear level of accountability for the Sages. A beneficial side effect was distracting early settlers from the program itself, keeping the program out of the public eye.

Becoming a sage was a life time commitment. It was assumed that the relief force from the coven would not be strong enough to replace the sage within his or her lifetime. Sages were expected to either train their own succesor or place enchantments and conjurations that could complete the task until they could be replaced. Several particularly clever and dedicated sages managed to either convince the sprites themselves to complete the tasks for each other or to aquire for themselves a level of longevity (in three cases full on immortality) to continue the task.

Those three cases occured on; Gasca(Nond, who used a clever set of natural magics and necromancy to preserve himself within a golem), Arden(Jemet; who managed to obtain the power and knowledge of the local dryads and in time became one himself), and Appeni(Ceanne, who managed to obtain a true immortality while seeking an elusive Naiad).

The Sage Program was closed in the year 18 of the rule of Emperor Javen II (2993 Nieldic) following the heavily publicized rebellion of Sage Mangen on Ukran after the resulting inquiry into the program. During the Secloran establishment a simmilar program was established. The basic theories of shrines and sprites remain an element of Imperial Guard training to date, and classes are available at most places of magical learning.

Chapter Eighteen, 'Return to Sickle Ear Lake'

They walked for nearly a week. Alicea began wondering just how long she'd been unconscious after Kron's ambush. Nond had been quiet; the golem had been unwilling to explain his origin. He had been willing to say only that his task was to maintain some sort of balance, something about readying the world for civilization. Apparently he had known Scorch's family for several generations.

Scorch was rarely quiet. His idea of stealth was to set fire to anything around whoever he was sneaking by, and then hope the fire distracted him. He was rough, dirty, and often was hard to understand. He was exactly what her father had described when he told her about pyromancy; only older. He openly despised the Ga-Vok; She spent a lot of time pulling him away from the numerous opportunities to employ his vast Pyrotechnic expertise against passing pilgrims and merchants.

For all his faults, Scorch had been a well of pop culture references, Nieldic witticisms, and off-color jokes. Whenever she got to the base scorch referred to as 'the monastery' she felt like she'd be adequately prepared to strike up small talk and fit in with the crowds. It would be nice to not stand out for once.

They were making camp on the sixth night when Nond motioned for her to follow him. She trailed him to a familiar looking lake.
"Do you know why Kron left you on the mountainside?"
"Prophecy, he seemed like the kind of guy who was into fate and destiny."

Nond glanced toward the mountains in the distance. A tower could be seen by the twilight of the setting sun.
"Orders. The warlock obeys masters both material and spiritual."
"The Alpha knows of me?"
"The shaman sought the advice of the Oracle's high council when you were brought here. The Silver-Slain are not known to their kind, and your destruction could not be achieved."

An involuntary shudder went through her as the golem spoke of silver. She'd noticed it before; Scorch had shown her some of the Nielda's silver coins. It was cold; not physically, but the way the dead are cold. She felt some small hunger from it. The presence of death felt closer when she held that coin than ever before.

"Then what kind are you to know of these, Silver-Slain as you call them?"
"The sprites name you bonesteel, as they name the walking wolves the wetnose. To me they give the name bloodskull; what can you infer of this?"
"Nond, the Iron Sage, is a shell. Inside there is still life."
"The Nielda believe there is one constant. Death. One day that life, the enchantments I used to bind my soul, the blood I shaped to bear it, and the iron shell I crafted to serve it shall fade. Death can not be escaped, but it can be fled."
"Why sage? I've never seen you use anything but a few natural magics, and the passive charms of the land. Wouldn't Geomancer be more fitting?"
"Yes. I am not sage by magic."
"Then why sage?"

Nond pointed across the lake.
"Where does a Sprite's shrine originate?"
"I assumed they were always there. I've never heard of a world without them."
"But what need would nature have to take form without beings? Why would Sprites use of shrines if their were none to attend them?"
"Why not?"

It was probably a laugh; golems were never intended to laugh. But the ringing, irregular bellow could be nothing else."
"A true Nielda. Why question what always functions, and why maintain what has never broken?"
"That doesn't sound like a compliment."
"It is yet isn't. We are not a perfect race, but you represent us well for one not raised by our kindred. Sprites take form only on worlds where sentient life exists. If the shrines are not tended or the sprites are corrupted or destroyed then nature will lash out against the newcomers. Tara and Mejii were not attended and the harshness of both worlds was a menace against their settlers, but on Media where the witch coven prospered the world is calm. The guard sought their counsel and we learned the secrets."
"The sprites?"
"Indeed." The golem turned to Alicea. "I am Nond, the imperial guard sent me aboard the I.S.S. Jentur voalain to be ready should our expedition reach fruition. Along with a few of the ship's crew I established a bastion on this world two-hundred years ago, the monastery. My task was to lead my men and establish the shrines of the sprites. We were ordered to continue our task until the population reached levels necessary for the witch population to take up our responsibility. The Ga-Vok population is now sufficient to maintain that responsibility. The clan shaman will perform that role suitably. But my body was weak before that time and I took upon myself this one."
"Then what is the task you spoke of for me?"

Nond looked back to the tower. A light could be seen dimly in the highest window.
"The balance is broken. Cavel the wisp has been destroyed. His power and the power of his kindred has been usurped by the warlock of the tower. If a sprite had survived then the power could be passed on and the balance restored, but with the kindred fallen the warlocks power must be passed onto a soul with the strength to bear that power. You are strong, and you wish his destruction. You have but to complete your own goal to restore the balance and fill the void."

Alicea grinned, She had the upper hand and it felt good.
"Actually Nond, there is a survivor. The nymph Vel escaped the slaughter. If it can be achieved it is she who should have the power."

Nond turned and began walking back to camp.
"If the nymph still lives than you will have to give her victory. Cavel was mightiest of all Gasca's sprites. A mere nymph will need all her power to beat even a weakened Kron."
He looked over his shoulder at the young warrioress.
"As shall you, lightning wolf."

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Chapter Seventeen, 'Next Step'

"I see why you weren't afraid back there lass. That happen often?"
"That was the first time it happened like that. Usually it hurts more. Could you toss me my pack?"

"Colonel Haeveld would have a field day with you lass. He's a bit obsessed with Nielda-beast tranfigurmatism, Transformitation, changin inta animals like that."
"The firebringer means transformation."
"Then it happens to other people too?"
"I don't know; I kinda figured he must have a fetish or something; it usually comes up when someone gets him thinking about his late wife."

"Where is this Haeveld?"
"In the mountains, there be a pass into the valley near the lake with the little shrines in the middle."
"What coincidence; I was going that way anyways."
"Really? Let me guess; the warlock killed your pappy and yeh're out for blood?"
"No, he killed the sprites whose shrines you just mentioned and left me for dead."
"I don't believe Kron believed you dead. He had guards posted and you were chained to a large rock."
"Even worse, he'll actually be expecting me to come for him."

"So we be off to off the warlock; the horrible warlock called Kron?"
"What? He's a living being you can't just turn him off like a light or a truck or something."
"It be a figure of speech lass. It means we're going to kill him"
"Oh; that makes sense. Someone is going to have to me about more of these so I don't look like an idiot when I actually live with Nielda."
"It be a long road lass. I'll tell you what you need be knowin and the golem can tell us both how he be here and there be no master around to command him."
"Perhaps that would be best."

Friday, January 1, 2010

Chapter Sixteen, 'Adrenaline Rush'

"There are to many child. We should flee."
"I hate to agree with the Golem but that be a few more of the pups than we can handle."

"No. If we run then we won't be able to defend ourselves. We fight."
"Fight your heart out lass, I'm going up the mountain with the Golem. If yeh've got a brain under that gingery hair of yours you'll join us."

Mcraw and Nond fled. The warriors' blows were deflected from the golem's iron hide, and the pyromancer trailed flame beside them to prevent flanking. Alicea would never admit it to them, but the only thing keeping her from following was the realization that she couldn't fight through the Ga'Vok that separated them. She was doomed, she was going to die here.

~let me~
"What? Who are you?"
~I am the beast. Windspeaker, let the storm ride you~
"The moon is not risen. You have no power spirit."
~Spirit? I am no more a spirit than you. Death seeks us. Let me stand about you or we shall die~
"I will not be an untamed beast in the forest. Better to die Alicea than to live a wolf."
~Than let my hide be your armor and my claws your axes. If you will not let me take you, then have me~

She listened, through the sounds of battle the light called. She had heard it before but never so clearly. It is not a sin, the spirit whispered, this is my gift. Through it my servant shall do my bidding.

"Spirit of the beast, gift of the light, be my shield and my axes your claws. May the light have mercy on our foes."

It was an interesting feeling. The full moon brought a painful forced transformation, a sensation rather like having your skin burn off from the inside. This was entirely different, More like an itchy, crawling feeling; like putting on a bad sweater. Then her ankles shot up to where her knees had been, her legs completely reshaping themselves. Their was less of the usual clothing damage, but her paws were shaped wrong for axes. She discarded them, and looked down her new muzzle at her now terrified adversaries.

"What, you've never seen a girl before?"

She didn't wait for them to respond. She lept at the nearest warrior and slashed him. The unlucky warrior was flung into the mob. Alicea made the mistake of actually looking at him, luckily the warriors did too. Her claws had shorn through his armor and torn not only the skin but several of his ribs completely away. The horror of the surrounding horde grew as the warrior himself looked down at his mangled body and began howling not in pain but in terror.

Alicea managed to stifle the urge to retch and filled her mouth instead with the throat of a second warrior. This act sealed the deal for the remaining two-score warriors.