Legends of Cobalt

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Lovely, Dark and Deep

“What’s that?” I pointed into the woods.

A set of glowing red eyes shifted through the fog and trees towards our camp. Branches around us creaked in a steady, footstep-like pattern.

Bucephalus scrambled to his feet and scooped up his shield. “What’s what?”

“That,” I pointed at the glowing eyes. Another set of eyes flickered to life on my right. “And that.”

“I don’t like this.” Bucephalus fidgeted with his hammer. “I don’t like this at all.”

The last licks of our fire sputtered out. Darkness rushed in. Four more sets of glowing eyes converged on our camp. Bucephalus kicked a new log onto the hot coals. The fire flared back to life. Six humanoid figures made of twigs and branches haunted the edge of the firelight. I dove back into the tent.

“Get up! We’re under attack!” I shook both of the girls awake.

Wood scratched at metal. I tossed my scabbard down and rushed back out of the tent.

The living brush piles pushed into our camp. One scraped at Bucehpalus’s shield while the others circled around him. Ceph jabbed the point of his war hammer into the one attacking his shield and shoved it back.

I stealthed forward, sword at the ready, and cut off both of a living shrub’s legs from behind. The wooden creature clattered to the ground like a bundle of sticks. It swiped at my shins with sharp claws. I bunny hopped over the living shrub’s attacks and kicked it in what would be its face. I bounced back and readied myself for another round of attacks.

A second living shrub broke off their attack from Bucephalus and turned toward me. The second one swiped at my head. I dodged backwards a step and blocked with my sword. My sword sheared through the living shrub’s wrist like butter. The first shrub balanced itself on one arm and slashed at my groin. I twisted my leg to shield my sensitive parts. The shrub’s claws tore through the fabric and flesh of my thigh. 

I screamed in pain, recentered my chi and plunged my sword into the shrub’s back. It fought against the length of steel locking it in place.

Wyanet sprinted past me. She tackled the second shrub and rolled towards the fire. She plunged an oil-soaked torch into the coals and pulled back a lit torch. Wyanet sighted a target and hurled the torch at a third living shrub. The torch lodged itself in the shrub’s torso. The shrub forgot about Bucephalus and scraped at the blooming flames in its chest.

“Destroy them with fire!” Wyanet lept to help Bucephalus.

The handless shrub lunged at me and wrapped its spear-length arms around me. I searched for a way out, the shrub crushed me against its body. Fifteen feet away our hand axe rested in the trunk of a tree. I headbutted the mass of twigs and used the little leverage I had left to break free. The bark and thorn-covered limbs of the shrub scratched at me as I pushed clear of its embrace. I took a deep breath and focused my chi. I vanished into the cold, secret pathways of shadows. 

The shrub stabbed at the ground where I vanished. I reappeared behind the tree with the hand axe. I pulled the axe free and threw it at the shrub. The axe chopped deep into the shrub’s neck. I chased after the axe. I jumped into the air, twisted my body into a flying side kick and knocked the living shrub’s head off with a loud snap.

An explosion showered the campsite in twigs. Wyanet and Bucephalus dove to the ground.

“Ha! It worked!” Phebes knelt in front of the tent, bow in one hand and a clutch of arrows beside her.

Wyanet scrambled to her feet, ready for another attack. “How did you do that?”

“Olivia told me how some Elven warriors could charge their arrows with magic to do a variety of things. She walked me through the basic principles of casting, but I figured out the blasting arrow on my own.”

“You could have killed us.” Bucephalus pulled twigs from his fur.

“But I didn’t.”

The legless shrub continued to struggle against my sword. I yanked my sword free and hacked the shrub’s head off. “What are these things?”

“Vengeful trees, blights on the world.” Bucephalus lifted a shrub corpse and dumped it on our dwindling woodpile. “The influence of evil awoke them from their slumber and gave them a thirst for blood.”

“Are there more of them?” Wyanet dragged another corpse to the woodpile.

Bucephalus up-ended his flask down his throat. “Undoubtedly.”

I slid my sword back into its scabbard. “Should we make a run for Spinel?”

“No point to it.” Bucephalus stuffed his empty flask into his rucksack. “When beset by shadows, one should dwell in the light. Besides, Spinel locks their gates at night. They don’t want any of the monstrosities that roam the woods getting into the city.”

“Double watches for the rest of the night.” Wyanet put a hand on Bucephalus’s shoulder. “Get some sleep, we’ll move out at daybreak.”

***

Thick fog clung to our camp. We tore our camp down in five minutes and shouldered our packs. The fog parted, revealing a towering figure who stood hunched over. The figure beckoned to us with a long, slender figure at the end of a multi-jointed arm. The figure locked eyes with me and smiled. The image of the Elven woman from my dream flashed across the figure’s face.

“Does anyone else see the creepy old witch?” Phebes knocked an arrow.

“Ignore him. We do not have time to waste.” Wyanet braced her spear on her shoulder and walked toward the road.

Phebes took a step towards the figure and tugged her bowstring back. 

Bucephalus forced Phebes’s bow down and pushed her back. “Hags are more trouble than they’re worth.” 

The hag’s visage shifted to the slender elven maiden. She smiled and laughed at me. “Everything you’ve ever wanted.”

Bucephalus’s firm hand snapped me out of my trance.

“Let’s go, before anything else creeps out of the woods.”

We jogged with weapons in hand back to the road. Muddy ruts stretched south. The hag appeared on the road behind us and beckoned us back. We ignored her and pushed forward.

We walked for three hours. Heavy mud caked our legs from the knee down and spattered everything else. Nothing ventured out of the forest to accost us. We walked through the grey misty morning until the forest vanished. 

The road continued two-hundred yards through a field of tangled weeds and gnarled shrubs. The road ended at an earthen rampart crowned by a wooden palisade of interwoven branches. The air reeked of old wine, rotten fruit and excrement. Two half-dead guards manned a flimsy wooden gate.

Bucephalus flipped up his hood. “Welcome to Ringtown. Don’t ask anyone for anything and assume everyone will gut you for an apple core.”

We waded through throngs of skeletal people. Their eyes bore into us like the fangs of a hungry wolf.

“What is this place?” Phebes slipped her cloak over her sword.

“Food got scarce and the land wouldn’t grow anything. Refugees flocked to the cities hoping to find food and work. The city could only take so many people, the rest set up a camp outside the city gates. It didn’t take long and monsters from the forest pressed into the camp. The surviving refugees, and the new ones flooding in, built the wall to keep the monsters out. They have little food or clean water, and Spinel ignores them.”

A gang of teenage boys beat a shrieking creature in a shadowed alleyway. Wyanet ducked down the alley and the rest of us followed her.

“What is going on here?”

The boys stopped what they were doing and backed away. Hatred glittered in their eyes. A bloody, battered body lay on the ground between us

“It’s one of ‘ose monsters ‘at brought ‘is plague on us,” the oldest boy spat. “If you ‘elp it, you one too.”

The gang of boys changed their stance and moved towards Wyanet.

“DISPERSE!” Bucephalus loomed behind Wyanet with crossed arms. “We will defend ourselves.”

The boys hesitated, sized up Bucephalus and retreated down the alleyway.

The body on the ground struggled to its knees. A goblin pawed its broken fingers and hands at us. Blood poured from several fresh cuts and dribbled from the goblin’s mouth. “Tank you, Tank you.

Wyanet knelt in front of the goblin. She slipped her dagger from her belt and sliced the goblin’s throat.

The story will continue, August 20th,  2020.

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Written by: Sweeney (@oceansoul316 on twitter)

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Legends of Cobalt

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Miles to go

“Huh, this is new.” Grazer reigned the wagon to a stop at a crossroads under a cloudy midday sky. Thick forest walled in the rutted road. Two gnarled trees as thick as barrels blocked the road ahead of us.

“Maybe we can go around?” Pehebs leaned against the back of the driver’s bench and tried to scout a path around the trees.

“That could take a few days,” Grazer shrugged.

“Give me an axe.” Bucephalus jumped off the wagon, twigs snapped under his feet where he landed. ”we can hack our way through.”

I pulled the hand axe from the chest and handed it to him. “This is the only axe we have.”

Bucephalus sighed and tossed the axe back into the wagon. “Maybe we can move them.” Bucephalus marched toward the downed trees. The road squelched beneath him as he went. 

“I don’t think you can do that,” Grazer called.

Bucephalus wrapped his arms as far as he could around the first tree. He squatted in the mud and let out a monstrous roar. Bucephalus lifted the tree a few inches off the ground and dropped it again.

“If someone helps me we can do it.”

“I don’t think so, friend,” Grazer shook his head, “You’re stronger than all of us, and you could hardly lift it. You four will have to continue from here on foot. This is where I have to leave you.”

“You are not coming with us to Spinel?” Wyanet asked.

Grazer took Wyanet’s comparably small hand in his and patted it. “My part was to take you as far as I could. I would have taken you to Ringtown if I could, but it seems the Wildmother has other plans for me. I have a farm to tend and people to feed. You will have to continue without me, while I stay back to help those I can.”

“I understand.” Wyanet pulled her things out of the trunk. “May the spirits watch over you and keep you safe. Thank you for bringing us this far.”

“This last day has been a pleasure.”

Grazer helped pack the last of our things. We jumped down into the mud and walked to the font of the wagon. 

“Take care of each other. Spinel is another day’s walk farther South,” Grazer collected the reigns, “Try not to camp in the forest overnight. The closer you get to Spinel, the more strange and unnatural creatures you will find. According to some of my brothers, even the trees walk about looking for blood.” Grazer coaxed the horses toward the road heading West. “The Wildmother bless and keep you safe until our paths cross again.”

“What do you think is in the woods?” Phebes used my shoulder to lift herself onto the first log. 

 “My t’unwin in the River Runner tribe told me stories as a child,” Wyanet vaulted over the logs with her spear, “Of a being from the spirit world that appears human. Her stories claimed the monster lived deep in the dark forests of the land and devoured lost children.”

“My foster-father had a similar story. He always warned Grom and me not to wander the forest where we lived alone. He told us the lands of Faery and Shadow found gaps between our world and theirs and played with their victim’s minds to trap people who came too close. He told us the magic seeping through from those other places could warp the land around their portals.” I jumped over the trees with little effort.

“Enough with the spook stories.” Bucephalus hauled his bulk over the first log. “There is real danger in this forest. It’s a piss poor idea to scare yourself even more with stories of witches and monsters.”

“We have a day’s journey ahead of us.” Wyanet asked, “Do you expect us to stay silent the entire way?”

“I expect you to pay attention and not draw any attention to us.” Bucephalus pulled his flask out, got it halfway to his lips and returned it to his belt. “We shouldn’t linger any longer.”

Wyanet pulled her spear from the muck. “Lead the way. You have been there before.”

“Try to keep up, I don’t want to sleep out here.”

Phebes walked beside me. “Who’s Grom?”

“My foster brother. Our father found him on the shore before he found me. We grew up together.”

Wyanet walked behind us. “You have never mentioned him before.”

I shrugged, “It never came up or felt important. Last time I heard from him was before I met you, and I haven’t seen Grom since I left the grove.”

“Where has Grom gone that you don’t talk to him anymore?”

“He joined a merchant ship and left the grove a week before I did. We wrote a few letters back and forth, but it cost too much and I never knew where he was going.”

“Of course,” Bucephalus grumbled ahead of us. “You know someone with a ship, but still refused to leave or help me leave.” 

“I don’t own a ship and neither does my brother. He goes where his captain orders him to.”

We slipped into an exhausted silence and continued to slog through the thick mud. The sun dipped below the horizon without any sign of a city. Skeletal tree branches loomed over us, waiting to pluck us from the ground. Thin fog wrapped around our ankles. Phebes tripped and landed face first in the mud for the third time in an hour.

“Get her up.” Bucephalus kept walking. “We can’t stop.”

Wyanet pulled Phebes from the mud and held her up. “We need to rest. We are tired and will not make it to Spinel if we do not set up camp.”  

“No,” Bucephalus replied. “It’s too dangerous to stop.”

I helped Wyanet support Phebes. “It’s getting dark. We won’t be any safer on the road.”   

“We are making camp.” Wyanet walked Phebes to the edge of the road. “We will all take a watch through the night and continue in the morning after we have rested.”

“Keep going if you want. We’re staying here.” I pulled a length of rope and the spare blanket from Wyanet’s rucksack. Wyanet wadded through the trees collecting wood and sticks while I strung up a makeshift tent.

Bucephalus dropped his rucksack, war hammer, and shield beside Phebes. “Help her get a fire going. We’re going to want it.”

Wyanet and I fought well after sunset to get the fire lit. We shared a meagre meal of stale bread while Phebes slept. I crawled into the makeshift tent beside Phebes after I ate and used my rucksack as a pillow. I closed my eyes and let my physical exhaustion drag me into unconsciousness.

***

“Da…mi…an,” a melodic voice like honey sang my true name. “DA…mi… AN.”

I opened my eyes and felt beside me for my companions. The mid-morning sun glowed beyond the edge of the tent. Wyanet and Phebes had left the tent. I grabbed for my sword, but couldn’t find that either. I scrambled out of the tent and into an empty campsite.

“Phebes! Wy!”

Thick fog swirled around me and made it impossible to see more than a few feet ahead.

“Ceph! Where are you guys?”

“Your friends abandoned you.” A seven-foot-tall Elven woman floated out of the fog. Her luxurious blonde hair flirted with a breeze that only touched her. A slender loincloth pulled a thin gold chain tight around her hips. Her statuesque hands reached out and cupped my face. The Elven woman pressed her lips close to mine. “Come with me, Damian. I can make you the happiest creature in all the worlds. You can have everything you ever wanted, for the price of a kiss.”

On instinct, my hands went to the Elven woman’s hips. Her skin felt soft and warm beneath my hands. My mouth moved towards hers. Every fibre of me wanted to kiss her.

A hot, hurricane wind whipped the fog away. Boiling, tropical sunlight tore through the gnarled tree branches engulfing everything in radiant light. The elven woman screeched and shoved me away. I stumbled backwards and tripped over a root. My arms windmilled around to catch my balance.

***

I jolted awake in the dark tent. I tapped the ground beside me and felt Wyanet there, fast asleep. Phebes felt me move and pressed closer to me, snoring softly. I grabbed my sword and wormed my way out of the tent. 

Tree branches throughout the foggy forest creaked and scraped at the sky. The dying fire hissed and popped with damp wood.

“I wish I could tell you that the more nightmares you have, the easier it gets.” Bucephalus poked at the fire with his war hammer. A plume of sparks climbed into the air with the smoke.

I ignored Bucephalus and watched the shadowy woods. “What’s that?”

The story will continue, August 13th,  2020.

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Written by: Sweeney (@oceansoul316 on twitter)

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Legends of Cobalt

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Thieves in the Night

“It will take three days to reach Spinel on foot.” William ushered us through the dark toward the stables. “I talked a wanderer into letting you ride on a wagon to get you there faster.”

“What about our stuff at the tavern?” Phebes slipped on the wet grass. and caught herself on my shoulder.

“It’s taken care of.” William slid the stable door open, pale firelight bloomed in the dark. “Father wanted you closer in case he needed you again. He ordered me to clear out your personal belongings from the Atropa Belladonna and store them here.” He waved us through the door. “Get in before someone sees the light.”

We squeezed through the stable door and William pulled it closed behind us. Oil lamps hung from iron hooks casting a steady yellow glow into the space. Horses slept in the gated stalls lining the walls. The building wreaked like wet straw and animal dung.

 “Where is he?” William whispered to himself and pushed past us. “I told him to harness the horses and be ready to go when I got back.”

Grazer the druid stepped out of a stall near the back of the room. The horse in the stall pushed at Grazer’s head with its nose and the druid scratched the beast’s chin.

“Why didn’t you get the horses harnessed up?”

“Oh, hey, how are you guys? I haven’t seen you in a while, I think?” Grazer meandered over to us. “Where’s your grumpy bull friend?”

“We had a difference in moral understanding,” Wyanet replied.

“That sounds like it’s bad,” Grazer frowned. “Is that bad?”

 “Why didn’t you harness the horses, like I told you to?” William insisted and pointed at the hay wagon against the back door.

Grazer looked at the wagon. “Oh, yeah, that’s why I came out here. I got talking to these kind horses and must have gotten distracted.” He jogged his thumb at a stallion. “She says she doesn’t get enough to eat. If you don’t have enough hay, I have some space to plant a little more. Most of the hay I grow gets eaten by donkey and goat, but I’m sure they wouldn’t mind sharing if I asked them. I could bring you some if you want?”

William rubbed his forehead with one hand. “We can discuss my stallion and his eating habits later. The four of you need to get going before dawn.” William opened that stall of a shaggy draft horse and grabbed its harness. “Let’s get moving.”

“Does that horse have a pulling partner?” Wyanet placed her gear on the driver’s bench of the hay wagon.

William pointed to an identical horse on the opposite wall. Wyanet coaxed the horse from its stall and helped William hitch them to the wagon.

I jumped into the wagon bed. A plain, rough-cut, wooden chest sat behind the driver’s bench. I opened the lid and sorted through it. Phebes hovered over me.

“It should all be in there.” William pulled a leather strap tight and buckled it in place. “That cute barmaid helped me gather it all up. What was her name? Rebecca, I think?”

“Do you mean Raisa?” Grazer ran his fingers through a horse’s mane.

“That was it!” William hitched the trace to the yoke. “If we survive this, I think I’m going to be spending some more time around that tavern.”

“You would need to kill Bella before she allowed you to,” Wyanet laughed.

“Is everything there?” Phebes whispered to me.

“Our basic gear is, but my sword isn’t.”

The front door of the stable slid open. We all stopped what we were doing and stared. Olivia limped through the gap. We sighed in relief.

“I’m glad I caught you.” Olivia used a spear as a crutch, a hard leather pouch hung from her back and she carried a sword in her free hand. “I have some gifts for you.”

“That is not necessary.” Wyanet met Olivia halfway.

“No, it is necessary. You saved the lives of Frederick and me. It is the least I can do before you risk your lives for us again.” Olivia extended the spear to Wyanet. “It isn’t made in the style you are used to, but it is well made and better than nothing.” 

Wyanet took the spear and tested its weight with an approving nod. Olivia limped toward me. I hopped down from the wagon and met her.

“You mentioned your sword broke at the cathedral,” Olivia handed me the sword in her hand, “My girlfriend and I have worked on this project for some time. This is the first weapon that my enchantment held on to and the only one I have. It isn’t the best of enchantments, and I think with time I could weave more in, but it should make it a little easier to cut through someone’s defences.”

“Thank you. When this is all over I will try my best to get it back to you.” I pulled the sword from its scabbard and inspected the blade. Runes etched into the metal ran the length of the fuller. The runes shimmered in the shifting lamplight.

Olivia handed the leather case up to Phebes on the wagon. “I’ve also been working on these for when I decided to leave Vercingetorix.”

Phebes unbuttoned the clasps on the case and lifted the lid. “What are they?” Phebes pulled a small glass vile from the case. Blood-red liquid swirled like fire in the bottle.

“Healing potions?” I slid my new sword back into its scabbard.

“They are only basic healing potions, but yes.” Olivia replied, “They are useful in a pinch and more reliable than hoping divine intervention will save you.”

William cleared his throat. “When were you going to tell father about leaving the pack?”

Olivia tilted her nose up and refused to look at William. “I do not require the permission of a man to take major action in my life.”

William rolled his eyes. “Anyway, you’re good to go.”

Phebes closed the potions case and stored it in the chest. William and Wyanet lead the horses out of the stable. I tossed my sword into the wagon and walked after it.

Olivia grabbed my arm and stopped me. “Thank you for saving Fredrick and me.” Olivia kissed me on the cheek. “We’ll try to join you by the week’s end. That brat Nellie owes me blood.”

“Um. Uh. It was no problem.” 

I chased after the wagon and leapt into it. Phebes caught my hand and kept me from falling backwards. Wyanet climbed her way onto the driver’s bench beside Grazer. William walked alongside us.

“Don’t light your guide lights until you’re clear of the estate.” William pulled an envelope from his pocket and handed it to Wyanet. “Give this to the gate guard on your way out of the city. It should get you out of the city without any record of your passage. It should also get you some rations for the journey South if you’re lucky.” William took a few more steps away from the wagon. “Remember, you don’t need to kill the enemy, just keep it occupied. We’ll be a few days behind you. Good luck.”

Grazer snapped the reigns and our wagon picked up some speed. Gravel crunched under the wheels and the horses’ hooves. I put my back against the chest and rested my arm on the side rail. Phebes pulled a blanket from the chest and wrapped it around both of us before resting her head against me. Our wagon took five minutes to cross the estate. We jolted to a stop at the open gates. I craned my neck around to see.

“Get out of our way,” Wyanet demanded.

Phebes started to snore softly against me.

“Is it too late for me to come with you,” Bucephalus responded.

“Why? Have you changed your mind?”

“I thought about it and realised you are still my best chance to leave this Gods-forsaken land. If That means I have to travel with you back into the pits of evil, so be it.”

“Climb on,” Grazer announced, “The more the merrier!”

Wyanet clambered over the driver’s bench into the back. She plopped down on the opposite side of Phebes and raised an eyebrow at me. I shrugged with my free shoulder in response. The wagon axles creaked and we jerked forward into the city.

The story will continue, August 6th,  2020.

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Written by: Sweeney (@oceansoul316 on twitter)

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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!

Show us your fan art at us with the hashtag #CobaltLegends on Instagram and Twitter for the chance to be featured on one of our posts.

Legends of Cobalt

If you enjoy our content, please sign up to receive an email anytime we post, donate to our Ko-fi page, or follow us on twitter.

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Arguments in the Dark

“Why is this one empty?” Phebes jabbed her thumb at an empty case.

“Father gave that sword to Benjamin before he left for Spinel.” William replied, “Every weapon in this room has some sort of enchantment or blessing that makes them better in combat. Can I tell my damn story now?”

Wyanet cocked her eyebrow. “I am curious how your people allowed this evil to spread and destroy this land?”

“Twenty years after Duke Highbrance founded New Horizon; Duke Boguslav Sofka, his son Iliya Sofka, Great-Grandfather Miles I, and grandfather Miles II set out from the Archipelago. They landed in Crescent Moon Bay and established Spinel. Three years into settling the city, Duke Boguslav died and Iliya succeeded to his throne.”

“Everyone knows how succession works,” Olivia scoffed. “You got me out of bed in the middle of the night to recount history that everyone from the peasants to the lords knows?”

“I’m getting there.” William rolled his eyes. “A few days after Duke Boguslav died, Duke Iliya adopted a little girl.”

“What’s weird about that?” Bucephalus took a step back toward the stairs. “He opened his house to an orphan, that sounds like a noble and godly act to me.”

“Three years after? Are you sure?” Olivia frowned. “Duke Iliya would have been fifteen.”

“Exactly.” William tapped his nose with a finger and pointed at Olivia. “Outside of a handful of courtiers and the serving staff, no one knew she existed. But, things get even more strange from there.”

“Let me guess,” I asked. “She tortured small animals?”

“No, but close. Things started small. Duke Iliya ignored some minor duties to spend more time with the girl. Then he became controlling of everything and ferociously protective of the girl. After that, servants started to disappear. Never in large numbers, but any servant that displeased Duke Iliya or the girl was never seen again.”

“That doesn’t mean something bad happened to them,” Phebes looked at me. “Does it?”

I shrugged.

“Two years after she arrived, great-grandfather witnessed her kill and drink the blood of a serving boy. Great-grandfather snuck away unseen. He ordered his family to pack their things that night. The morning after, great-grandfather confronted Duke Iliya at court. He demanded the girl be arrested and executed for murder. Duke Iliya laughed in his face. That afternoon, great-grandfather quit Spinel and headed North with his full house and a few hundred upset villagers.”

   “I am confused.” Wyanet asked, “Where did your family gain the ability to change into wolves?”

“Everything is muddy around that part,” William sighed.

“What we were told growing up,” Olivia interrupted. “Our great-grandfather found a wolf’s print filled with water in the mud. He was thirsty and drank the water from the mud.”

“According to our great-grandfather’s journal, the night he fled he swore to the gods he would come back and destroy the evil in Spinel. While he dreamed that night, an angel of the Raven Queen visited great-grandfather. The angel offered him the power he would need to stop the vampiric plague from spreading. The angle also warned that accepting the power would also curse all of his descendants to the same fate. Great-grandfather accepted the power without a second thought and the angel led him to the paw print.”

“That makes more sense than a nobleman drinking mud,” Olivia nodded.

“How are we supposed to help lift this curse?” Phebes looked around the room. “The vampire is in Spinel and we’re in Vercingetorix. Besides, it’s not like Nellie is the same vampire from Spinel. Is she?”

“For centuries, Nellie as you call her, has been trying to spread her plague as far as she can. Vercingetorix, my family, and the lesser nobles allied to us have held back the corruption for nearly a century.” William continued, “Last spring a plague ravaged the area we control which limited the number of crops we could sow. The year before that, the supernatural weather destroyed almost all of our crops. We won’t survive a third winter with the food we have left. Father and the people are growing desperate. We need to take some sort of action. If it destroys all of us, at least we tried.”

“Is that why father sent Benjamin South?”     

William nodded. “He wants to end the entire miserable affair. He sent Benjamin to meet a handful of warriors and kill the enemy once and for all, but they failed.”

“And you want us to go finish the job?” I asked.

“You somehow managed to hurt the enemy enough to make them run away from you. If we press the attack now, we could kill the enemy in their home soil and rid the world of it forever.”

“You want us to fight her, again?” Phebes’s alabaster complexion paled. “We barely beat Nellie last time.” She burped and clapped a hand to her mouth. “My mouth still tastes like bloody vomit.”

“The enemy is weak. If you leave before sunrise, you have a chance of catching her before she can recover.” 

“Why not raise an army and claim Spinel for yourself?” Wyanet asked, “Is that not how your politics work?”

“The plague weakened my father’s possibility of calling an army far more than he cares to admit.” Olivia confessed, “Even if we could gather an army, we lack the food, water and money to do it. That doesn’t even get into the violation of the multiple treaties creating a rebel army would cause. Vercingetorix is still a fiefdom of Spinel. If we failed in the assault, our bloodline would be wiped out and no one would stand in Nellie’s way.”

“Don’t you have friends, or a pack, or something to do it yourself?” Phebes pleaded.

“Father would never allow it,” William replied. “After Benjamin died, he put me on a short leash and won’t let me out of his sight.”

“You want us to fight a nigh-unstoppable, evil, little girl.” I marched up to William. “To put our lives on the line, to lift a curse from your bloodline. You ask us to die like we’re your subjects and you haven’t even known us for a week.” I stepped back to Phebes and Wyanet. “You don’t even offer anything in return. Nellie is stronger than us. Last time we fought her, we had three more people. One of the said people was a wizard and another a Dragonman of Drako, and we still lost. I don’t even have a sword anymore.”

“I’m not asking you to fight alone.” William took a small step toward us. “The enemy is weak, but I need time to gather more friends and allies, which I have to do in secret. You don’t need to kill the enemy outright. I’m asking you to put enough pressure on the enemy and their followers for reinforcements to arrive and finish the fight.”

“No,” Bucephalus snorted. “I’ve been down there already. I’m the last survivor of an entire company of holy knights, divine clerics and blessed warriors. Whatever half-cooked plan you have will fail and we will die for it. The only thing we should do right now is get me back to the Isle of the Gods. I’ll tell my superiors in the Inquisition everything that happened to me and is happening here. The Cardinal Conclave won’t ignore this evil. They will send a holy army to eradicate all the evil here and liberate those that evil has enslaved.”

“They’d murder my entire family.” William waved Bucephalus away. “Besides, how long would it take for them to get here? One month? Two? A year? My people are suffering now. We have a chance to finish this, and we can’t afford to wait for some saviours to rescue us. We have a chance and we have to take it. If we win, we’ll be written as heroes for the rest of history. If we fail, well… we can’t afford to fail, so we won’t.”

“Tell me, Father.” Olivia rested her hand on her brother’s elbow. “If a cock breaks its wing do you slaughter the hen for supper?”

Bucephalus puffed out his chest and crossed his arms. “Minotaurs don’t eat meat, it’s bad for our health.”

“That is the voice you are asking us to make. Nellie is at risk, but you would rather take an action that will kill the people who are trying to help you. The Inquisition is not known for its principles of nuance.”

“Your cowardice astonishes me.” Wyanet’s lip curled in disgust. “You would sacrifice the lives of thousands to protect your own. Are those the teachings of your gods? If they are, then your gods are cruel beings who deserve to be thrown from their thrones.” Wyanet turned back to William. “I will help you however I can.”

I clenched and unclenched my fist and bit back my frustration. “Guess that means I will too.”

Phebes reached for my hand, missed and wrapped her arm around mine instead. “I’m staying with them.”

“You’re all suicidal.” Bucephalus turned towards the stairs. “I’m not going. I’m going to find a way back to the Isle of the Gods and save Crescent Moon Bay the right way.” Bucephalus stormed out of the room.

William smiled. “I figured at least some of you would agree. I took some time this afternoon and secured you a ride further south. You can leave whenever you are ready.”  

The story will continue, July 30th,  2020.

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Legends of Cobalt

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Vaulted Secrets

I snapped awake and grabbed the hand descending on my mouth. I pushed my assailant’s wrist as far as it would go and a little further. I kicked back the sheets, forced the attacker to the ground and planted my knee in their back. I dug my knife out from under the pillow. My attacker tried to throw me off. I shifted more of my weight onto their back. The point of my knife rested against their spine.

“Who are you? what are you doing here, and why shouldn’t I call for a guard?”

“Percy, it’s me. It’s William.”

I removed my knee and levered my attacker into an armbar. I shifted my knife to their throat and whispered the arcane word for light. William shielded his eyes with his free hand.

“Put that out, someone could notice.”

I let go of William’s wrist and snuffed the charm on my knife. “What are you doing here?”

“My father hasn’t told you the full truth.” William got to his feet and adjusted his shirt. “Get dressed. There is something I need to show you.”

“Why are you going against your father’s will?”

“I know you heard our argument. Which means you know I don’t agree with his lordship’s methods. Hurry up the others are waiting downstairs.”

William waited by the door while I pulled on my trousers and a shirt. We tiptoed through the dark house and stopped at a set of double doors. The doors opened into a dome-roofed room. Shelves crammed with books and artefacts lined the walls. A balcony circled the entirety of the room. Candles flickered in the centre of the room. William showed me to a set of iron stairs that spiraled to the floor below. 

Plush rugs ran between the shelves on the main floor. The soft glow of the candles guided us through the labyrinthine network of books. Wyanet, Olivia, Phebes and Bucephalus waited around a large table at the end of the maze.

“Why did you bring us here in the middle of the night, brother?” Olivia tapped the end of a cane against the stone floor.

“Calm down and I’ll get to that, sister.” William circled around me. “You can fill Benjamin in too when he feels up to it.”

 “Can I take the same option?” Phebes laid her head on the table. “I’d rather be asleep.”

“Unfortunately, no. Time is essential and in short supply.” William stopped beside the bust of a sour-looking old man.

“Get to it.” Bucephalus pulled a flask from his pocket and took a swig.

“Lord Tiarna has only given you -us- half-truths. Only he, Benjamin and now me know the full extent of his lies.”

“Of course you,” Olivia snapped. “He’s always favoured you and Benjamin over me, even more after mother left.”

“You don’t know the half of it, big sister.” William twisted the head of the bust. “Let’s head into the vault. You’ll believe me down there.” William plucked a candle from a sconce and pulled on it. The floor around the table dropped away and shifted themselves into a staircase.

“What is this?” Olivia’s gasped, “I’ve never seen this before. It isn’t even on any of the old building plans.”

“That’s because our great-grandfather wanted it kept hidden. He and grandfather built the vault in secret with the help of a few other lords.”

“Great,” Bucephalus drained his flask. “More dark narrow tunnels.”

“I will never understand why your leaders keep so many secrets,” Wyanet shook her head.

William handed a candle to Bucephalus. “It’s not bad down there. There has never been any undead in this house.”

Bucephalus took the candle. “Let’s get this over with.”

The stairs ended in a spacious room with a low ceiling. Candles flickered to life as we entered. Large portraits hung above various weapons cases. A tapestry depicting a pack of wolves running through a forest dangled from the front wall.

Phebes toyed with the lock on a weapon case. “What is this place?”

“This is the Tiarna family vault. This room contains the massed wealth,” William pointed to a stack of seven identical strong boxes stacked in the corner. “Our most powerful magic heirlooms and our true family history.” He stepped back from a pedestal supporting a large leather book.

“Why did you bring us down here?” Wyanet asked.”

“Because we’ve been keeping secrets for too long. With your help, I think we can finish what my great-grandfather set out to do. Great-grandfather cursed himself and his future bloodline for one purpose.”

“What do you know?” Olivia Limped towards the book. “Great-grandfather didn’t know what he was doing.”

“That’s what we tell each other, but it isn’t entirely true.”

I moved in front of Bucephalus. “Your whole family are werewolves?”

“Yes,” William nodded.

“No,” Olivia contradicted. 

“Come on, Olivia.” William rolled his eyes. “She’s close to puberty, that’s when our wolves surfaced.”

  “She hasn’t shown any signs of either transformation.” Olivia puffed out her chest.

“You’re in denial. You know as well as I do it’s a matter of time. She won’t be a little girl forever.”

“She might not have the trait. Father is insistent that it is based on our bloodline. The curse could have skipped her.”

“Since when do you listen to the old man?” William shrugged, “It doesn’t matter anyway. Father turned mom before Benjamin was born. He wanted to be sure all of us were the same as him.”

I stepped closer to the bickering siblings. “Are you talking about Ophilia?”

William and Olivia glared at me.

“She said something about her wolf this morning.”

“Can we return to why you brought us down here?” Wyanet insisted.

“I agree.” Bucephalus’s horns scraped the bronze ceiling. “As fun as it is to listen to you argue, I’d rather get a drink or two and go back to sleep.”

“Right,” William replied. “Olivia, you can read the book later, but I’ll tell you the important parts now.”

The story will continue, June 25th,  2020.

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Written by: Sweeney (@oceansoul316 on twitter)

https://ko-fi.com/sweeney

http://bit.ly/2tUG9va

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!

Show us your fan art at us with the hashtag #CobaltLegends on Instagram and Twitter for the chance to be featured on one of our posts.