Unquiet Dead

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https://dreamforgeproductions.com/2019/03/21/desperate-times/

Unquiet Dead

Steady hooves echoed through the cobbled streets towards us. Dense fog and darkness surrounded us, obscuring our vision. Blood from the dead woman at my feet stained my clothes and hands.

“We should take her back to the tavern,” I suggested.

“Why?” Phebes argued. “If we run now and get you guys washed up, no one will suspect us, and we won’t get arrested.”

“I will not disrespect the dead in such a way. This woman could have family looking for her. We have done nothing wrong, why would we get arrested?” Wyanet countered. 

The echo of hooves marched closer.

“How do you know we won’t get blamed? You guys are literally covered in her blood, and no one will believe the truth. I know how these things work. One minute you’re minding your own business. Then a guard sees you and blames you for something you didn’t do. Then you’re in the stocks getting rotten fruit thrown at you.”

I grabbed my belt buckle and spoke the arcane word for light. Cool white light radiated out, casting strange, fuzzy shadows in the fog. I squatted beside the body, crossed her ankles and grabbed her wrists. I hoisted the corpse onto my back. Warm sticky blood ran down my shirt.

“We’re taking her back to the tavern. End of debate.”

“This is a bad idea.” Phebes crossed her arms.

A dog as high as my knee covered in shaggy black and white fur trotted into our circle of light. It barked once and turned back the way it came.

“Thanks for the light friends.” A smooth deep voice rumbled. “It got really dark and foggy all of a sudden. I thought I and my friends here were going to get lost.” An eight-foot-tall man with bovine ears emerged from the fog. Thin grey fur covered every inch of the stranger’s exposed flesh. A bushy, twig strewn, flame-red beard protruded from his chin. “Oh that doesn’t look good, let me help you with that.” The stranger lifted the corpse from my shoulders and laid it on the back for his overburdened donkey. “The name’s Grazer by the way. I’m heading to an inn up the road. Maybe someone there can help your friend.” Grazer collected the donkey’s lead. “Dog! Oh, there you are, girl.” The black and white dog sat at his feet, tongue lolling out to one side. “How’d this happen to your friend here?” Grazer walked through us.

“A creepy little girl stabbed her, and ran away when we got here and is going to frame us for her murder.” Phebes blurted out.

“That’s pretty wild. You didn’t kill her, did you?”

“No, we did not kill her.” Wyanet followed after Grazer. “We heard a scream, and came to help, but we were too late.”

“You heard a scream, at night, in Vercingetorix and you ran to help? That’s pretty brave.”

“We’ve faced worse.” I fell in behind the donkey.

We walked the rest of the way in silence. Grazer stopped our party outside of the Atropa Belladonna.

“Here we are.” Grazer knelt and patted the dog’s head. “Take Donkey to the stables. I’ll be out soon to get you two settled in.”

The dog barked once, licked Grazer’s beard and took the lead rope from his hand. Grazer lifted the dead woman’s body and carried it into the Atropa Belladonna like a child.

        The patrons gathered around a single table and whispered in hushed tones. Raisa and Bella whispered an argument behind the bar. Bucephalus stared into the fire, our table littered with empty cups.

“What happened?” A Dwarf man poked his head out of the group of patrons. 

“Was it the Ripper?” A pale-faced human woman in her middle years asked.

“Grazer, take her into one of the private rooms.” Bella hurried from behind the bar, a key ring jangled in her hand. “I don’t want blood all over my common room.

Bella let us into one of the snug private rooms by the main entrance. Eight chairs sat around a square table in the centre of the room. Grazer placed the body on the table while Bella drew the curtains shut.

“Raisa, get in here and get the candles lit!” Bella barked out the door. 

Raisa elbowed her way through the patrons crowding around the door, a lit taper in her hand.

“Someone should fetch the constable.” The middle-aged woman declared.

“That’s a really good idea!” Grazer echoed.

Raisa finished lighting the candles and blew out the taper. “I’ll go.”

“No, you will not. It is far too dangerous for a woman to walk the streets alone at night.” Bella pointed at the Dwarf. “You, fetch the constable.”

The Dwarf took a few steps back. “Why do I have to go? How do we know the killer isn’t waiting for another lone target?”

“I can go,” Grazer offered. “They didn’t attack me.”

“We don’t even know who you are!” A Halfling man shouted. “How do we know you didn’t kill that woman?”

“He did not kill her.” Wyanet stepped in front of Grazer.

“Enough!” Bella bellowed. “Grazer, go get my food and don’t go anywhere else. You’d get lost after a block.”

“Yeah.” Grazer chuckled.

Bella pointed a sharp slender finger back at Grazer. “He’s the reason the lot of you haven’t starved to death yet. If you want to accuse him of something, you can get out of my tavern right now.”

The patrons studied their shoes.

“If only we could speak with the dead.” Another man mused.

Wyanet’s eyes lit up with inspiration and she pushed her way into the common room.

“Why are you looking at me like that?” Bucephalus mumbled.       

 A table crashed to the ground. Wooden cups and utensils clattered against the floorboards, followed by the impact of a heavy body.

“What in the hells was that for?”

“A girl has died. We need to know how and why.” Wyanet replied.

“What do you expect me to do about it?”

“You are the only person here who can speak with the dead. That is what I have heard other Colonizer priests claim, now go do it.”

Bucephalus’s feet clomped across the floor. “Fine, I’ll do it. Silver Armed take pity on me.”

The crowd surrounding the door parted and let Bucephalus pass.

He looked at the body and Bucephalus shook his head. “We’ll need privacy.”

“And you’ll have it.” Bella jumped into action. She pushed the patrons from the area and closed the door behind her.

Phebes, Wyanet, Bucephalus, and I gathered around the body. Dim candlelight danced shadows around us. 

Bucephalus placed his hands on the table flanking the dead woman’s feet. “The ritual only lasts a short while. It won’t bring her back to life, but it will allow you to ask her a handful of simple questions. Choose them carefully, the ritual will only work once.”

He pulled a stick of incense from his pouch and clasped the holy symbol on his neck. Bucephalus lit the incense and waved it over the body while muttering a prayer. Smoke seeped into the small room from under the door. Bucephalus finished his prayer and kissed the dead woman’s forehead. 

Smoke rushed into the corpse’s mouth and nose. Her chest expanded and her eyes rolled open. 

“You’ve got five questions.” Bucephalus backed into the corner chewing on his fingernails.

“What is your name?” Phebes asked.

The corpse’s head jerked and stuttered to look at Phebes. “My… Name… Is… Carina.”

“Do you have anyone we can take you to?” Wyanet asked.

The head shifted again. Small amounts of smoke slipped past the corpse’s lips as it spoke. “No.”

“Why not?”

“My… Family… Died… Years… Ago… In… The… Plague.”

“How did you die?” I asked.

The corpse turned its blank smokey eyes to me. “I…Was… Escorting… A merchant… Man. Jack… Found… Us… My cli…ent… Abandoned… Me… Jack… Killed… Me.”

“Why did Jack kill you?”

“Jack… Kills… Whores… I… Am… A… Whore.” The last of the smoke trailed out of the corpse’s mouth.

“What? No! That was hardly anything.” Phebes grabbed the corpse and shook it. “Cast the spell again, we need more.”

“I can’t.” Bucephalus removed his thumb from his mouth. “If you want to wait a few weeks we can, but the ritual won’t work again before then.”

A soft rapping came at the door. Bella let herself in. “What did you learn?”

“Someone by the name of Jack killed her,” I replied. “She doesn’t have any family, and that’s all we got.”

“So it was the Ripper then,” Bella frowned. “Town is bad enough as it is without a madman running around slicing girls open.”

“I do not think Jack is a man,” Wyanet stated. “We saw a little girl flee the area when we arrived.”

Bella gasped. “That’s a foolish thought darling. Why would another of our, superior sex let alone a child, do this?” Bella glanced at the corpse. “Poor thing. I’ll get a sheet to cover her up. We can send for the constable first thing in the morning.”

The story will continue, January 9th 2020.

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Written by: Sweeney (@oceansoul316 on twitter)

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2020 Release schedule

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Update:

Legends of Cobalt will return next week on Thursday, January the 2nd at noon EST. The story will pick up right where it left off in November on the streets of Vercingetorix.

Moving forward, Legends of Cobalt will have a new schedule for release. It will still come out every Thursday at noon (EST) but instead of getting nine chapters in a row, four chapters will come out, followed by a two week break, then five more chapters followed by a four week break. Also, in the middle of the four week breaks, there will be a short lore post. This way, you’re never more than two weeks from a new Legends of Cobalt post.

This is the model we will be publishing in for the foreseeable, baring the occasional break for significant holidays.

I hope you have a fantastic holiday, whichever you celebrate, and I’ll see you all in the new year. Thanks for reading!

Sweeney

P.S.

If you’re looking to spread a bit of cheer, our ko-fi is always accepting donations! (Ko-fi.com/sweeney)

This is also a great time of year to tell your friends about Legends of Cobalt so they have time to read from the beginning to catch up.

https://dreamforgeproductions.com/2019/03/21/desperate-times/

Inquisitive Loss

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Inquisitive Loss

 Wyanet and I jumped to our feet, weapons at the ready. A hulking cloaked figure pushed into our room. Phebes staggered backwards. The Fae scrambled for a place to hide.

“Why have you been following us?” Wyanet demanded.

The figure closed the door it blocked. Phebes tripped and fell hard on the floor. I kicked my chair out of the way and moved as close to the wall as I could. The figure stepped closer to us, its hard-soled shoes thunked on the floorboards.

“Who are you and what do you want?” I put my sword in a low guard and got between Phebes and the figure.

The figure reached two meaty, fur-covered hands to the hood of its cloak. “I mean you no harm, lest my company.” A deep voice spoke as it pulled the hood back, revealing a horned Minotaur. “My name is Bucephalus. I am a priest of The Silver Armed, and soldier of the Inquisition force of The Isle of the Gods.”

“Are you here to kill us for attacking that priest?” Phebes whimpered from beneath the table.

Bucephalus’s jaw dropped. “What did that old fool do now? Never mind, it doesn’t matter. I’m not here to kill any of you. Quite the contrary, I need your help.”

I slid my sword back into its scabbard. “You’ve come to the wrong place. We’re passing through on our way further South.”

“YOU MUSTN’T GO SOUTH!” Bucephalus’s eyes got large. “Pardon my outburst. I meant to ask why your companions spent their day asking questions around town if you do not plan on staying?”

“Information is a valuable resource. You can never have too much.” Wyanet moved around the table. She held her dagger in a reverse grip, the blade pressed against her arm.

“Please, at least sit down and have drinks with me. I’ll tell you what I know. After that, if you still don’t want to help, so be it.”

“Are you paying?” I asked.

“The church will take care of us this evening.”

“Let’s go downstairs.” I helped Phebes out from under the table. “You’re buying me a new dinner as well.”

I lead the group down to the common room. Half a dozen people sat in ones and twos around the room. Raisa floated between the groups, topping off drink cups and delivering food. Bella leaned on the bar, chatting with another guest. The murmur in the room silenced and all eyes settled on Bucephalus. We crossed the room and took the table by the roaring fireplace. Bucephalus sat first, facing the main door.

Raisa crept her way over, she stood as far from Bucephalus as she could. “You folks didn’t have a Minotaur with you earlier? Did you?”

Wyanet sat opposite Bucephalus. “No, he wandered up to us.”

“I don’t remember seeing him enter the tavern even.”

I sat with my back to the fire. “He’s paying for our food and drinks tonight.”

“Okay then,” Raisa shrugged. “What can I get for ya?”

“A keg of stout, a bottle of whatever aged spirit you have and some house wine if you have any.” Bucephalus listed off.

Raisa’s eyes bulged. “That’s a lot of liquor.”

“I can handle it.”

“Cider if you have any,” I added. “And a bowl of stew if you have any left, please?”

“Cider’s gettin’ low, but I’ll see. Same for the stew. These girls not save you any?”

“We did, but it got spilt when we got interrupted,” Phebes said.

‘That’s a shame. I’ll be right back with what I have for ya.”

“Talk,” Wyanet ordered.

Bucephalus leaned in over the table. “I and a group of five other Inquisitors got ordered to Spinel to investigate reports of Lycanthropy.”

Raisa brought our order to the table and sprinted back to the bar.

Bucephalus popped the cork off of a clear glass bottle and drained the contents before he continued. “We uncovered a demon-worshipping cult after three days.” Bucephalus cracked open the keg and dunked a tankard into it. He took a long drought of the dark liquid. “We spent a week trying to eradicate the cult. The rest of my Party died at the hands of undead and other abominations to order.” Another long draught. “With her last breath, the Captain ordered me to escape, and bring back a proper company to finish our task.” Bucephalus polished off his tankard and reached for the wine bottle. “That happened a month ago. I’ve been trying to leave Crescent Moon Bay ever since.” He wiped his mouth with the back of his hand.

“That still does not explain why you followed us.”

I shifted in my chair to look at Wyanet. “He wasn’t following us. The person I saw looked human, and they were much smaller.”

“I did follow you this morning. I had to make sure I could trust you.”

“I’m telling you, someone else followed us when we entered the city.”

Phebes sipped on her cider. “Why don’t you ask one of the local churches to send you home? Can’t they do that?”

“No, I can’t.” Bucephalus shook his head. “Part of our mission was to investigate corruption in the local churches. The movement of Inquisition forces is secret. Much of the world does not trust our existence.”

“That’s your own damn fault.”

Bucephalus snorted at me and clenched his fist. “The actions taken by the Cardinal Conclave several hundred years ago have been forgiven. Not to mention no victim of that particular slight is alive today.”

“Tell that to Sweeney,” I whispered under my breath.

Bucephalus slammed his fist down on the table, sloshing liquid from all our cups. “The Inquisition is a force for peace and good in the world.”

 The tavern went silent again. Everyone stared at us. Bella detached herself from the bar and started marching toward us.

A woman’s scream pierced the windows of the tavern. 

Bella froze in her tracks. Wyanet and I rushed toward the door. Phebes kicked at our heels.

We sprinted into the night. Cool moist air cut through our clothes. Half the oil lamps lining the street stood dark, the other half flickered in an unsteady breeze. Thick clouds blanketed the stars. Most of the windows on the street stood dark.

We waited, and listened.

The woman screamed again.

“This way!” Wyanet sprinted up the street into darkness. 

We ran right behind her.

After a block, we found a young woman bathing in a pool of her blood. Wyanet vaulted the woman and studied the dark, foggy street. 

I knelt beside the woman, her blood soaked into my leggings. Deep gouges crossed her chest, and another lined her neck. She reached up to me, gasping for breath. I grasped her cold, sticky hand in mine. I placed my other hand over the slashes in her chest. “We’re here to help.” I focused my mind and energy. A dull flash of light pulsed from my palm into the girl. Blood continued to well through my fingers. “Wy, my healing isn’t working.”

Wyanet spun around and knelt opposite me. “Let me try.” Wyanet placed her hand where I had mine. A brighter light pulsed from her hands. 

The woman took a deep breath. She gasped and choked. A cough sent another spurt of blood from her wounds.

Wyanet let go of the woman and shook her head. She extended her hands over the woman and began to sing in her native language. 

A dome of warm light encased the dying woman. She stared into my eyes, pleading for help.

The woman’s hand went limp in mine. Her eyes went dark, and her jaw slacked.

I folded her hand on her chest.

A small figure in a green cloak removed itself from the dark alleyway beside us. “Another whore dies.” A little girl giggled. “He is still hungry, but the children won’t be.”

I rocked back onto my feet and approached the little girl. “Do you know who did this?”

A strong wind extinguished the remaining lamps. A dense fog surrounded the girl. Her giggles surrounded us, and she vanished.


The story will continue, January 2nd 2020.

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Written by: Sweeney

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Creating original content in an online space is a time-consuming process. If you find it in your heart, please donate a few dollars at the link above. Thank you, you are appreciated!

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Strange Encounters

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Strange Encounters

The Atropa Belladonna, a sturdy inn off the main plaza of Vercingetorix, dominated its city block. Riverstone walls climbed two stories from the street and dark timber walls soared another four.  No other buildings touched it, save its two-story stable and carriage house.

The interior of the Atropa Belladonna matched its exterior grandeur. A long polished bar occupied the entire back wall of the common room. Wide stairs climbed to the ceiling and vanished there. Two private rooms with glass doors flanked the main entrance, giving the common room into a squat ‘T’ shape. A roaring fireplace guarded the eastern wall, banishing the frigid morning. 

A bored human woman in her early twenties leaned against the bar, studying a spread of playing cards. She looked up at our entry. “Bella, we’ve got guests.” She called through a door behind the bar.

A pot clattered down and glass shattered in the back room. “Shit.” A deep throaty voice exclaimed before its owner appeared wiping her hands on a towel. “Hello there.” She smiled. “And welcome to the Atropa Belladonna. I’m Bella, the owner of this fine establishment.” Bella extended her hand like a princess. “A pleasure to meet you all.”

Wyanet took Bella’s hand and shook it. “We are searching for food and lodging for the next several days.”

Bella took her hand back and rested it on her wide hips. “You’ve come to the right place darling. The Atropa Belladonna is the best inn in all Vercingetorix.” Bella leaned over, resting her ample chest on the bar top. “Rooms are a dragon a night and you’ll get half off drinks for the duration of your stay. How many rooms do you need?”

“A single room will meet our needs.” Wyanet placed three dragons on the bar. “We will be staying the next few nights, perhaps more.”

Bella deposited the coins in her cleavage. “I like it when my guests pay upfront but are you sure you only want one room sugar? They only have one bed in them.”

“We will manage.”

Bella shrugged a shoulder and winked at me. “Of course, who am I to judge.” She pulled a dyed green leather book and battered quill pen from beneath the bar. “I’ll need you all to sign in before I give you a key.” Bella opened the book to a middle page and placed a stained inkwell beside it.

Wyanet took the quill and scratched her name into the book, then gave the quill to Phebes who did the same. I took the quill from Phebes and scribbled down my fake name. Bella sprinkled a coating of sand over the fresh ink and examined what we had written.

“Wyanet, that’s a beautiful name. It matches its bearer. And Phebes… that’s a unique name, but you Elves always have strange names. And Per… Pers…” Bella looked into my eyes. “We’re going to call you Percy, that will save everyone time.” Bella put the book away and handed a ring of keys to the barmaid. “Raisa here will show you to your room. You’ll be in room thirteen for the duration of your stay.”

Raisa took the key and smiled at us. “Follow me.”  

Wyanet placed another dragon on the counter. “Could you bring us breakfast, if you have time?”

Bella collected the coin and put it with the others. “I certainly can, sugar. Food’s getting scarce nowadays, but I’ll see what I can put together for ya.”

“This way.” Raisa insisted.

Wyanet and Phebes followed Raisa up the steps. My foot landed on the second step and an earth-shattering grip latched onto my wrist.

“We do things differently in my tavern.” Bella hissed into my ear. “If I find out you’ve treated one of my girls improper, I’ll flog you myself. Got it?”

I pivoted to face her and gave her a bow. “Yes, ma’am. I would never do anything dishonourable.”

Bella released her grip. A smile broadened on her lips. “Enjoy your stay.”

I sprinted up the stairs to catch up with the women. Raisa lead us to a room overlooking the street on the third floor. She unlocked the door and handed the key to Wyanet.

“I’ll be back soon with your food.”

We entered the room. Two small tables flanked the spacious bed. A knee height round table surrounded by four chairs sat at the foot of the bed. A writing desk occupied a corner beneath a window. Every flat surface hosted a pewter three-armed candelabra with fresh tapers.

Wyanet and Phebes dropped their rucksacks on the short table and began stripping off their armour. I took my sword wrapped in my other cloak and slipped it under the bed. Raisa returned after a few minutes. She carried a tray of fresh scrambled eggs, diced pan-fried potatoes, and a handful of sausage links. Raisa put the tray of food on the low table.

“This is what we could find for you.”

“What is causing the food shortage around here?” I popped a chunk of potato in my mouth.

“Whole region’s sufferin’. We’re doin’ better ‘en most farther south, but we’re still strugglin’. Nothin’ll grow around the bay.”

Wyanet sat down at the table. “How long has this been happening.”

Raisa thought for a moment. “Close to five years now. I don’t remember the last time I saw the sunshine or had a day it didn’t rain. Can’t grow anythin’ in a bog.”

Phebes heaped herself a mound of eggs. “The weather here isn’t natural?”

“I’d be surprised if this gloomy weather was natural anywhere. It’s a shame, really, this used to be a nice place to live. Now people are gettin’ desperate. I’m lucky Bella took me in when she did. I was on my way to a brothel. It’s the only way for a woman to make enough to get by.” Raisa took a step back toward the door. “Anyway, If you need anythin’ else, give a shout.” Raisa closed the door behind her.

“So… what else are we doing today?” Phebes nibbled on her eggs.

“I’ll need to find the blacksmith, because, apparently, my sword isn’t good enough.”

Wyanet made herself a plate. “I wish to speak with more of the locals. I still do not understand what is going on here.” 

We finished our breakfast and put our gear back on. I wandered the streets by myself for several hours and got lost. I paused at an empty crossroads and attempted to get my bearings.

“Excuse me, Mister.” 

A twelve-year-old girl came towards me. Her ratty hair a tangled mess. Stains covered every inch of her tattered dress, which complemented the dirty smudges on her thin face.

 “Are you looking for some company?” The girl undid a couple of buttons on her dress revealing more blue-tinted flesh. “I’ve only been with a couple of men before, and I’m the cheapest in town.”

I stopped the girl. “I’m not going to do that. Keep your clothes on.”

“Please? I haven’t eaten in days. You can do anything you want to me.” 

“I’m not going to take advantage of a child.” I turned away, then turned back. “Tell you what.” I dug a dragon out of my coin pouch. “I need help finding Rory the Blacksmith and then getting back to the Atropa Belladonna. Do that and this is yours.”

The girl nodded. “You’re looking for Von Richten street. That isn’t far from here.”

I followed the girl down a twisting path of alleyways to a squat pavilion with wooden shutters on every side. The rhythmic sound of metal hitting metal sang in the air. The heat from the forge hit me like a wall as I entered the pavilion. A muscular girl in her mid-teens dropped her hammer on her anvil and shoved a glowing bar of metal into a bed of coals beside her.

“What do you want?”

“Are you Rory?”

“Yeah. What do you want?”

Rory looked past me to the girl standing at the threshold of the building.

“Get in here and get warm, but don’t touch nothing.”

My guide rushed past me to the forge and warmed her hands over the coals.

“I’m looking for a sword. I lost mine a few days ago and was told to come here for a new one.”

Rory went to a rack of basic broadswords as I spoke. She pulled the first one off the rack. “These are all I keep on hand. They’re fifteen dragons a piece. If you want something different, that’ll be a custom job. It’ll cost triple, and take a week to complete. Take it or leave it.”

I fished the coins out of my pouch and handed them over. “That one will work.”

Rory shoved the sword at me. “Good. Now get out of my shop. I have work to do.” She waved us away.

I strapped my new blade to my belt as I strolled down the street.

“Anywhere else you need to go?”

“Just back to the Atropa Belladonna. I need to meet up with my friends before I do anything else.”

“That’s an easy one.” 

The girl slipped her cold hand in mine and pulled me down another twisting path toward the tavern. Lamplighters moved through the city when we reached the right street.

“The tavern is down there.” The girl let go of my hand and pointed. “Can I get my money now?”

I handed the girl the coin I promised her. “If I need a guide again, where can I find you?”

“I’ll find you.” The girl smiled and darted down an alleyway. 

The entire tavern smelled of beef stew. I went straight up to our room, where Wyanet and Phebes sat eating stew from a small pot. I hung my cloak from a hook on the door and joined the two women.

“Get a new sword?” Phebes asked.

My Fae companions materialised and landed on the table, sniffing in the rich smell of the stew.

“No, I’ve had this one for ages.” I rattled the sword at my hip and ladled my dinner into a wooden bowl.

Three heavy knocks pounded on the door. I stopped mid-bite. Wyanet’s hand curled around her dagger. Phebes jumped up and pulled open the door.


The story will continue, November 14th.

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Written by: Sweeney

https://ko-fi.com/sweeney

Creating original content in an online space is a time-consuming process. If you find it in your heart, please donate a few dollars at the link above. Thank you, you are appreciated!

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Vercingetorix

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Vercingetorix

We Lounged on a hilltop overlooking a minor city. Walls cut a river of stone through the forest below us. Guard towers stood sentinel above the tree-tops. Heavy grey clouds cluttered the sky, blocking the dipping sun. An icy wind from the south shook the forest.

“We should camp here tonight.” I offered.

Phebes stretched her arms above her head. “Why? Doesn’t sleeping in a bed sound good after two weeks on the road?”

A gust of wind buffeted us. Wyanet pulled her cloak tighter. “We can make it to that city before nightfall. Why do you want to camp?”

I rolled a stone back and forth between my feet. “Something feels… off. I don’t know what it is, but everyone we’ve met since Bauerndorf seems to know more about me than I do. Also, I keep having these strange dreams about a tiger with blood-red stripes and a woman dressed in blue and silver.”

“That does not answer our question.”

“Everyone keeps telling me to hide who, or what, I am and I don’t know enough about either of those things to know what they mean. I wanted to spend a bit of time trying to make a fake identity before we go into a new place.”

Wyanet studied me in silence. “The spirits work in ways beyond our understanding. If you wish to stay out here tonight, we will.” Wyanet opened her rucksack and began setting up our camp.

“What’s a tiger?”

“I don’t know.” I pulled the hatchet out of Wyanet’s rucksack. “It looks like a really big cat, with stripes in its fur. I don’t even know how I know it’s called a tiger. The name sort of came to me.” I started walking towards the nearest tree. “Help me gather some firewood.”

“You should say that you’re a ranger,” Phebes said through mouthfuls of acorn cake. “You’ve got the long cloak, and know a bunch about nature. Plus, rangers passed through Last Oasis all the time. They were all so cool and mysterious, sort of like you.” She wiped away the dribble of honey on her chin. “You’ll have to figure out something for a different sword though.”

“What’s wrong with my sword?”

“That is not a bad idea,” Wyanet added.

“Okay, but what is wrong with my sword?”

“It is too curvy. most woodsmen don’t carry swords, but the ones who do use a straight blade.” Phebes replied. “What about magic though? All the rangers who came through Last Oasis could cast some basic spells.”

“The Fae can hide beneath his cloak, and use their magic to make it look like he can use magic.” Wyanet offered. 

“If I’m not carrying my sword, what will I use as a weapon? I don’t know anyone who ventures out into the wilds without a weapon.”

Wyanet stroked her chin. “Keep the hand axe in your belt. If anyone asks, you can tell them you lost your sword in a fight, and need to replace it.”

“Have you thought of a name? Names are important.”

“I haven’t decided.” I looked up into the pitch-black sky. A handful of raindrops spattered my face. 

“You two get some sleep.” Wyanet tossed a couple more logs onto the fire. “I will take first watch tonight.”

Phebes and I crawled into our makeshift tent. Rain pounded a steady rhythm as we wrapped up in a blanket and drifted to sleep.

I woke up several hours later.  Wyanet had replaced Phebes. Crickets and frogs screamed somewhere in the forest, occasionally drowned out by a popping log. I wrapped my new cloak around my shoulders and collected my sword before I ventured out into the night.

A shy full moon peeked through rolling rain clouds. Cold, wet, air bit down to the bone. A wolf howled a sorrowful note. Phebes sat next to the dying fire, her back to the tent. I put my hand on her shoulder.

“Ope! I was about to wake you.” She jumped at my touch. 

“Why’d you let the fire die down?” I sat down opposite her.

Phebes gestured to the handful of small logs piled beside the fire. “I wanted to save you some wood.”

I picked up a log the size of my wrist and tossed it onto the coals. Cinders floated on the smoke. “Get some sleep. It’ll be morning soon.”

Phebes circled to my side of the fire. She sat down beside me and put her blanket around both of us. “I’m going to stay up a bit longer. We’ve never had a chance to talk, just the two of us.” She leaned on my shoulder. “Is there anything you want to talk about?”

I poked the coals in the fire with a stick. “Why did you leave Last Oasis?” 

Phebes yawned. “There aren’t any real warriors there. I wanted to learn how to fight, so I could protect those I care about.”

“Why? Nothing ever attacks there, it’s too isolated.”

“The council thinks so too, but a few months ago an Ice Goblin raiding party attacked us. A lot of people died. Despite that, the council still doesn’t think we need any warriors. So I left to find someone to teach me to protect my home.”

“You’ve only been out in the world for a few months, and you thought you could fight Dark Elves?”

“I’ve known how to fight…” Phebes yawned again, her speech slowed. “The woman who raised me wanted me to know how to stand up to the other kids.”

“Weren’t you raised by your parents?”

A soft snore responded. I tossed another log on the fire and listened to the chatter of distant wolves.

The clouds on the Eastern horizon glowed. A heap of cold ashes rested where the fire had been. Phebes slept in my lap, using my legs as a pillow. My breath formed wispy tendrils in front of me.

“Have you noticed the weather has gotten colder the further South we have come?” Wyanet offered me a strip of jerky.

I took the meat and bit a chunk off. “I have. Something unnatural is at work here, and I don’t know what.”

“Perhaps someone in town will know more.”  

“Some super powerful magic creatures can affect the weather.” Phebes piped up. “I read about some of them when I was back home.”

I looked down at Phebes. “We should still ask around. They might be able to tell us what is causing it.”

Phebes realised where her head rested and shot straight up, stiff as a board. “I’m just ready to have a roof over my head again.” A nervous giggle escaped her lips.

“Let us break camp and be done with it. There is no point in waiting any longer.”

“Agreed.” I got to my feet and broke down our tent.

“Morning folks!” A guard in a ringmail shirt covered by a violet and silver tabard called to us. He carried a steaming wooden cup in one hand as he approached us. “You’re the first ones to enter Vercingetorix through this gate today.” He paused and sipped at his beverage. “Actually, you’re the first travellers I’ve seen since the relief group last month. What can I do for you?”

“We have covered a great distance. We seek beds and a warm meal.” Wyanet replied.

“Sure, sure, those should be easy enough to find.” The guard pulled a leather book and a reed pencil from the pouch on his hip. “Lord Tiarna just wants me to take everyone’s name down. He likes to know who is entering and leaving his city.”  The guard set his cup on the ground and looked at us, the nib of the pencil sat on the paper.

“I’m Percival von Veltliner. These are my companions, Wyanet of the First People, and Phebes of Last Oasis.” I replied.

The guard scribbled the names down in his ledger. “Last Oasis, huh, you’re a ways from home.” He finished writing the names and tucked the book away. “Right, My name is Irven, I’m the captain of civil security. If you need anything, let me know.” Irven took two steps toward his post. “Oh, I almost forgot. Food has been scarce for a while. Don’t be too surprised if you can’t find any.”

I Stepped forward. “Irven, I lost my sword in an encounter with some bandits on the road a few days ago. Do you know where I could get myself a new one?”

Irven looked at the hatchet in my belt, then back at me. “You should talk to Rory. She’s young, but she’s the only blacksmith in town, now that her master is dead. Good kid, rough life.”

We entered the city. Dismal buildings lined the narrow cobblestone streets. We wandered toward where we thought the city centre was. Sad, thin, angry faces sneered at us as we walked past them.

“We are being followed,” Wyanet whispered as we entered into a plaza.

I glanced at the roofline behind us. A lithe hooded figure in a green cloak ducked behind a balcony wall.

“I see them. I bet they’ve been following us since we entered the city.”

Phebes stopped in front of me and looked around. “Where are they?”

I bumped into her and pushed her forward. “Keep moving, we don’t want them to know we’ve seen them.”

“What in the Nine Hells are you doing here?” A chubby man in priest robes demanded of a woman who looked like Wyanet. “You heretics are the reason our crops keep failing!” The priest struck the woman across the face, sending her sprawling across the ground. “Get out of my city.” The priest kicked the wares the woman had set out on a blanket.

A child screamed, the woman’s husband rounded their wagon and went to his wife’s side.

Wyanet pulled her war club from her belt and sprinted across the plaza. Phebes and I sprinted after her.

Wyanet hooked the ball of the club around the priest’s ankle. She swept his leg and shoved him to the ground.

“How dare you heathens assault me!” The priest bellowed.

Wyanet knelt with her people and spoke with them in their language. I stepped between the priest and the First People.

“Walk away, while you still can, priest.”

The priest scrambled to his feet and adjusted his robes. “You would betray your people for savages?” 

Phebes stepped to my side, an arrow rested across her bow.

“I betray no one, but defend those who would be victims to power abusive people.”

The priest studied his situation and turned away. “Wait until my superiors hear about this. They will certainly send an entire Inquisition company to eradicate all of the heretics and heathens here.” The priest stomped away.

The woman of the First People appeared at my side. “You sit on a throne of opulence while your people starve.” 


The story will continue, November 7th.

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Written by: Sweeney

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