Legends of Cobalt

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Plots and Plans

“Thees weell be diffeecult no matter how many allies we have.” Fayaad unrolled a gridded map of Spinel castle and the surrounding grounds.

Aramil sharpened a knife by the fireplace. “The keep is always crawling with White Guardsman and that’s on the one day a year when the gates are open.

Althaea said, “We can sneak in. We’ve done it before.”

Katsu shook his head. “It won’t work again. Master Orryn and I found one way in, but they blocked it up after they killed him.”

“Besides,” Bucephalus added, “Not all of us are as quiet as a pixies fart.”

“Why do we not attack the castle head-on?” Wyanet pointed to a drawbridge on the castle. “With some help, Bucephalus and I could pull that down and we rush in.”

“You want to storm a castle keep,” Aramil buried his knife in the floorboards with a well-practised motion. “With only nine warriors.” He took several intentional strides toward Wyanet. “Against an unknown number of hostile individuals and no clear exit.” Aramil put both hands on Wyanet’s shoulders. “That’s the kind of reckless plan I can get behind!”

“Despite Aramil’s enthusiasm, a frontal assault has too many variables to be anything but mass suicide.” Katsu sank into a chair.

Wyanet braced herself on the table opposite Katsu. “What is wrong with my plan?”

“Many things,” Katsu rubbed his temple. “For starters the aforementioned unknown hostiles. Second, the iron portcullis behind the drawbridge. Third, we wouldn’t be able to fight for long. We’re assassins, not soldiers like you and the priest.”

“Then we will start a rebellion.” Wyanet slammed her fist on the table. “If the people suffer as much as you claim, they will fight beside us.”

“How would we feed and equip a rebellion?” Katsu mirrored Wyanet’s posture. “Not to mention training a rebellion. Have you ever seen what happens when a mob tries to fight disciplined soldiers?”

“We can train them.”

“Enough,” Serephina snapped from the corner. “We are not enemies.”

Katsu fell back into his chair and Wyanet took a step back from the table.

“If we wanted to try forming a rebellion,” Phebes interjected, “How hard would it be? We’ve done it before and won.”

Katsu remarked, “Not well enough to matter.”

I studied the map. “It would take time we don’t have. William is at most five days behind us.”

“The White Guard are trained like the Draconic Legions,” Althaea added. “With what we have, any rebellion we start would be like throwing a jellyfish at a kraken.”

“The White Guard is only one obstacle.” Serephina cut in, “We also face a vampire lord. How do you intend to beat them?”

“Percy will…” Phebes started.

Bucephalus interrupted, “We have a way around that. Don’t worry about the details.”

Aramil wagged a finger. “It’s not nice to keep secrets from friends.”

“Especially when those secrets could kill your friends,” Althaea added.

“How can we weaken the White Guard?” I asked, “Is there another person or place we could attack and draw them out first?”

Serephina slid from her chair and pulled a stack of papers bound in twine from a shelf. She sighed and set the papers on the table. “I fear our enemy is more hydra than serpent.”

Wyanet unbound the papers and lifted the top sheet. “Who is Sypax Masinissa?”

“Sypax Masinissa is Sofka’s principal advisor and archivist. He’s a lizardfolk shaman who fled The Cradle after Drako and the Serpent-folk went to war. Masinissa is the one who closed the ports.”

“Why close the ports of a starving city?” Phebes read over Wyanet’s shoulder.

“He claimed sheeps brought the blight,” Fayaad explained.

“The White Guard will protect this man?” Bucephalus rounded the table to see the dossier.

“They already do.” Althaea grabbed a leather map case from the mantle. “Masinissa is one of the two advisors who don’t live in the landing district.” She rolled out a map of Spinel and its various wards. Althaea pointed at a section near the harbour labelled ‘Dawnsky Wharf’. “Masinissa lives here in a light tower house overlooking the merchant docks.”

Phebes tugged at the map to get a better look. “Where are we?”

“We’re here in Trader’s Alley.” Althaea moved her finger on the map.

‘You said there are two people who do not live near the Duke.” Wyanet asked, “Where does the other one live?”

“They’re in the Iron Cloister.” Althaea stood up and crossed her arms.

“Can we attack them both?” Wyanet leaned over the map looking for the ward. “Spread the White Guard even more.”

“That’s not a good idea,” Fayaad replied.

“The Iron Cloister is a fortress.” Aramil elbowed Fayaad and his sister out of the way and traced the outline of the district. “It’s the barracks, armoury, training ground and storehouse of Sofka’s standing army. The entire district is separated from the city by a separate defensive wall. The White Guard never goes there because it is better defended than the palace keep.”

“Even if we could get into the Iron Cloister,” Katsu stated. “We can’t assassinate someone we’ve never seen.”

Bucephalus snorted, “How do you not know what a politician for your city looks like?”

“No one has seen the true face or heard the true name of the War-minister,” Serephina interrupted. “The people of Spinel call them Ironhelm because they never remove their great helm. Ironhelm doesn’t leave the cloister, but when they do, they terrify all who witness them.”

Aramil pulled his knife out of the floor and slid it into his belt. “If you want to live, avoid Ironhelm and the cloister. Let your friends in the army you allege is coming deal with them.”

“It’s settled then.” Katsu crossed his arms and made eye contact with Serephina. “Tonight, I’ll go with two of my brothers and assassinate Sypax Masinissa. Tomorrow, we’ll combine our strength and assassinate Sofka and the rest of his house.”

“That will not work,” Wyanet replied.

“What’s wrong with it? It’s basically your plan.”

Serephina smiled. “Think it through again, Katsu. What is our goal in attacking Masinissa?”

Katsu thought for a moment and looked at the map again. “To pull some of the guards away from Sofka and his keep.” A torch blazed behind Katsu’s eyes. “New plan. Tonight we’ll raid Masinissa’s tower house. Once we do enough damage and spook Masinissa, we’ll pull back and regroup here.”

I stood up beside the table. “I’m going with you.”

“No,” Fayaad blurted out. “You don’t know our ways.”

“We’re assassin’s, not babysitters.” Aramil started for the stairs. “You’ll get in the way and slow us down.”

“I’ve trained for more than half my life to be able to manipulate the shadows around me,” I protested. “I’m just as skilled as the rest of you.”

Serephina returned to her chair and stroked her chin. “Katsu, Percy will join your raiding mission. If he trained in the way he claims, you might learn something from one another.”

Katsu grinned, “Try to keep up.”

The story will continue, October 1st,  2020.

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Written by: Sweeney (@oceansoul316 on twitter)

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Legends of Cobalt

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March of the Dead

“Our mission is to kill Duke Iliya Sofka. He has failed his people. It is time for change. The people need a leader who serves them,” Serephina declared.

“We thought we succeeded in assassinating him a few years ago. I watched Master Orryn sever Sofka’s carotid myself. Three days later, the White Guard raided us. They captured Master Orryn. That bastard watched as a team of horses ripped Master Orryn limb from limb.” Katsu slammed a fist on the table. “One of our initiates tried to help him. The guards hauled her away too and we haven’t seen her since.”

Serephina placed her small hand on Katus’s and relaxed his fist. “We have lost many brothers and sisters in our time here. Often we thought we had won, to discover our failure days later. There is some force keeping Sofka alive that we can’t beat.”

“In my time wandering the world, I have found you can not kill something that is already dead,” Wyanet replied.

Bucephalus added, “Not without the aid of the gods or powerful magics.”

Aramil dropped his chair back to its proper number of legs. “You mean the old bastard is already dead?”

I thumbed through the extensive stack of papers Serephina had given us. “Do you know anything about Sofka’s daughter?”

Althaea frowned, “He doesn’t have a daughter.”

“We have watched the palace for years. We have never seen a child belonging to the Duke,” Serephina replied.

“Hees wife died feefteen years ago,” Fayaad said. “She never bore a child. Many thought her eenfertile.”

Phebes interjected, “His daughter wasn’t born through his wife. He adopted her after his father died.”

“She’s the one we are after.” Bucephalus clenched and unclenched his fist. “We don’t care about the duke.”

“The duke’s daughter is the true cause of this sickness,” Wyanet stated. “We came to kill her.”

The assassin acolytes shifted in their seats and backed away from the table.

“You want to kill a child,” Katsu accused.

“I did not realise the murdering of children was an issue for goblin-kin.”

“One of us has publicly murdered someone, and it’s not the one with goblin blood.”

I extended my arm across Wyanet’s chest. Serephina pounded a fist on the table.

“Enough! We are not enemies here!”

“Yes, master.” The assassin acolytes bowed their heads.

“Why do you hunt this girl?” Serephina steepled her fingers in front of her face.

“The girl is not mortal,” Wyanet replied. “I do not know of a name in my language or yours that can describe her. She is a perversion of life.”

Bucephalus rolled his eyes. “She’s a vampire.”

“How is that possible?” Serephina looked at Bucephalus. “The Inquisition eradicated the curse of vampirism centuries ago.”

“There are many places the combined authorities of mortal empires and the Cardinal Conclave do not reach. It is possible a vampire hid away in one of our blind spots. The Ravagers still roam the plains, it is also possible they created the curse anew.”

“Is it possible Sofka is a Vampire as well?” Katsu asked.

“It’s possible,” I nodded. “Nellie could have turned him or whoever their greater master is.”

Katsu waved away my statement. “A vampire is tough enough to believe, I doubt a vampire lord escaped everyone’s notice.”

“We are out of our depth, Katsu.” Althaea interjected, “You watched master Orryn kill Sofka yourself, but he still lives. Perhaps it would be better for us to take any information we are given as plausible.”

“There must be something else we missed.”

“I have much to discuss with my acolytes,” Serephina interrupted. “You are welcome to our home as you like. Don’t leave the property, we will tell you what we decided when we are done.”

***

We explored the ransacked inn. I followed a creaky narrow staircase to the roof. My feet thudded across the heavy wood. The rain had stopped and a thin fog from the bay replaced it. A small shed with a heavy lock stood beside the roof access trapdoor. Rows of kneehigh planter boxes ran the length of the roof. A waist-high brick wall enclosed the entire space. I walked along the barren planters and leaned against the wall facing north.

“Do you think we’re doing the right thing?” Phebes asked from behind me. “I know helping people is a good thing to do and all, but are we the right people to do this?” What qualifies us? Just because we know how to fight, doesn’t mean we should go looking for them. What is Ceph is right? What if we all die here? We’re the only ones who know what’s happening. Maybe we should have gone to the Conclave like Ceph said. Wouldn’t an army of the gods be better for this?”

I stared at the rooftops that stretched out to the city’s curtain wall. “I don’t know. I didn’t want to come here. I don’t even want to be labelled a hero. I want a quiet life in a small cottage hidden in the forest, but Wyanet saved me and I still feel like I owe her.”

Phebes leaned against the wall beside me. “We could leave together. I don’t think our friends would argue.” She put her hand on mine. “We could do whatever we wanted. Go wherever we want to, and never have to worry about doing things we don’t want to. It could be you and I, us against the world.” 

“I can’t.” I pulled my hand back. The soft glow of lamplight glittered on the other side of the curtain wall. “Wyanet and I have been through a lot together. She still needs my help. I can’t abandon her yet.”

“It’s natural to have doubts in the face of death.”

Phebes and I jumped at the sound of Althaea’s voice.

I spun around. “How did you get up here without one of us hearing you?”

“You were distracted.” Althaea sat on the edge of one of the planters. “And I am an assassin, remember. You’re doubting your abilities. I don’t blame you. We face impossible odds and all of our futures are unclear.”

The clouds above our heads began to churn. 

“When Aramil and I left our home beneath the sea, we were terrified of what might happen to us. Our future was uncertain then as it is now, but we trust each other and we trust our friends. We don’t know what the future holds, but we face everything together. If we succeed, we succeed together.” Althaea put a hand on each of our shoulders. “If we fail, we do that together too. When we stand beside our friends and loved ones, regardless of how frightened we are, we grow and get stronger.”

The boiling clouds over our heads glowed with a sickly pale green light. Thunder shook our bones. A vortex of swirling green-glowing clouds spiralled to the sky from the centre of the city. Moans and lamentations of the dead filled the city to a deafening roar. Thousands of spectres descended from the clouds and lifted themselves from beneath the cobbled streets. The sea of ghosts formed a ghastly procession and marched toward the city keep.

I ducked beneath the wall. “What’s happening?”

Phebes dove between the planters. “Are we safe?”

“We’re safe,” Althaea leaned against the wall and watched the ghosts on their journey. “As far as I am aware, the parade has never harmed any of the living.”

“What are they?” Phebes got back to her feet and stood beside Althaea.

“We call it the parade of phantasms.”

I watched the spectre of a crying boy run along the street below. “Why are they here?” 

Althaea shrugged, “No one knows. Every night they gather and march to the keep. The legend is that they gather to hunt whatever ended their lives.”

“They have a creepy beauty to them,” Phebes replied.     

 “With your help,” Serephina appeared at my elbow, “They will soon find rest.”

The story will continue, September 24th,  2020.

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Written by: Sweeney (@oceansoul316 on twitter)

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Legends of Cobalt

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Secrets and Doors

  “Release them.” The halfling woman waved her hand at us. “We can help each other.”

“Master,” The hooded figure that had slapped Bucephalus protested. “They are wild and untrained. How do we know they won’t kill more innocent people? They aren’t sworn to our codes.”

“We have partnered with more dangerous individuals in the past, Acolyte. We are sworn to hold the corrupt accountable, sometimes that means allying ourselves with those who don’t take our oaths.”

“But, Master.”

“I have spoken. Release them, get them some food and show them to the initiate’s quarters.” The halfling woman turned back to us. “Rest and eat. We’ll speak more in a few hours.”

The acolyte, shorter than the rest, stormed out of the room. 

The halfling woman followed the acolyte out and the other three acolytes undid our bindings. They lead us through a well-appointed building to a set of small rooms. Each room contained a single bed and a small trunk.

“Get some sleep.” The tallest of the acolytes ordered, “Someone will be around with food and medicine in an hour or two. If you need anything else, let one of us know.”

I closed the door and fell into a dreamless sleep before I hit the lumpy straw mattress.     

     ***

A teal-haired elf woman shook me awake. The woman balanced a tray with a clay cup, a wooden bowl and a thin glass vial on one hand. 

I sat up in bed. My head throbbed, but the room didn’t spin anymore.

“Drink this.” The woman set the tray on the trunk and handed me the vial. “It will help the headache.”

I took the vial and drained the bitter liquid. “Where are we?”

“There’s water here, and some food if you can stomach it.”

“What is your name?”

“Master Serephina will answer all of your questions soon.”

The elf woman left the room.

“Your help is invaluable,” I muttered to myself. 

After draining the clay cup I spooned some runny oatmeal flecked with dried fruit into my mouth. Despite my stomach’s protests, I finished the oatmeal. The door opened and the Elf woman entered with my sword and rucksack.

“Master Serephina is ready for you.” She set my stuff on the bed. “Come with me.”

I followed the elf woman into the hallway. A male elf with hair that matched the woman’s lead Phebes and Wyanet toward us. Bucephalus followed the women with an annoyed human blocking his path backwards.

“That’s everyone,” the elf woman announced.

The elf man fell to the back of the group. “You’re not prisoners, but don’t do anything stupid.”

The three acolytes marched us down two hallways and up a flight of stairs. We exited through a wine rack into a dark room. The elf woman leading our party pulled a small lamp from her pocket.

“Watch your step. It’s a mess down here.” She shone a directed beam of light across smashed crates and broken bottles.

“What happened here?” Phebes asked.

“The hunger riots. They ripped through us over a year ago.”

We left the cellar up another staircase and entered a spacious room littered with broken tables and chairs. Tattered, moth-eaten velvet curtains dangled over a dusty stage on the North wall. A cold breeze blew icy rain through boards nailed over shattered windows.

“They thought because the inns and taverns continued to sell food, we hoarded everything to drive up the cost for profit,” The Elf woman said. “They raided every member of the Guild of Hostels, Taverns, and Inns.”

“We got off lucky,” The elf man interjected. “They killed one of our initiates, but we managed to keep them out of the hidden halls.”

“The Duke sent out the White Guard to disperse the crowd,” The elf woman continued. “Many more than one of our brothers died that night.” 

We walked up another five flights of stairs through a dismal ransacked building. We stopped at the end of a dead-end hallway. An empty frame clung to the wall by a single nail it’s painting laid in shreds on the floor. The elf woman lifted the frame and pressed a button concealed behind it. A section of the wall slid away. Through the new opening, a steep staircase ascended to another floor.

We climbed the stairs to a warm spacious room. A window large enough to fit Bucephalus through allowed the dark grey twilight in. A small fire cracked in a minor hearth. The elf man pushed past us and tugged at a book on a floor to ceiling shelf. The middle of the shelf swung inward to a hidden room illuminated by magic lights. A red-skinned hobgoblin and the halfling woman waited for us at a round table.

“Come in and sit down. We have a lot to discuss.” The halfling woman ordered.

We filed into the room and claimed chairs around the table. The elf man sealed the door behind us.

Phebes quipped, “You guys really like secret doors.”

“Our secret doors allow us to speak without the worry of eavesdropping.” The hobgoblin locked eyes with Wyanet. “And they keep us safe to plan our missions. Secrecy and anonymity are our greatest weapon.”

“I’m certain you have many questions.” The halfling woman steepled her fingers on the table. “We will get to your questions in time. We must introduce ourselves first. I am master Serephina Shadowquick. The elf twins are Althaea and Aramil. The human to my right is Fayyad, the hobgoblin on my left is Katsu.”

She stared at us expectantly.

“Nice to meet you all,” Phebes replied. “I’m Phebes of Last Oasis. He’s daaa…” Phebes stretched out the first syllable of my real name. “Percy VonVeltliner, she’s…”

“I am Captain Wyanet of the Ghost Nation,” Wyanet interrupted. “My warriors knew me as Goblin-killer.” Wyanet stared at Katsu.

“And you are?” Serephina intervened.

“Name’s Father Bucephalus. I serve with the Inquisition.”

Fayyad asked, “The Inquisition ees returning? That ees good news.”

“Not the Inquisition, just me.”

“I had suspected that was who you are,” Serephina leaned back in her chair. “I am sorry for the loss of your fellows. If I had known your mission before, we could have helped you.”

Bucephalus nodded in response.

“Now,” Serephina returned to her straight posture, “With the formalities out of the way, let’s move on to business. My students and I are members of a secret organisation. Our sworn mission is to hold those who would abuse their power and oppress the free will of others accountable for their actions.” Serephina pulled a sheaf of papers bound with a string from beneath the table. “It has come to our attention that Duke Iliya Sofka has betrayed his responsibilities. The power he holds has corrupted his mind and now his subjects suffer for it.”

Serephina slid the papers across the table to me. I caught it and picked it up. A charcoal drawing of an old man stared back at me.

“Our mission is to assassinate that man.” Serephina pointed at the drawing. “And I bet you are on the same mission.”

The story will continue, September 17th,  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!

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Legends of Cobalt

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From Shadow

Wyanet slid her dagger across the battered goblin’s throat. Brackish blood spurted from the gash at an alarming rate. The goblin grabbed at its throat and crumpled to the ground. The gang of boys tripped over each other to flee in horror. Bucephalus grabbed Wyanet’s wrists and pinned her to a wall. The building shook with the impact.

“Why did you do that? We’re here to help these people, not slaughter them for sport.”

Wyanet fought against Bucephalus’s hold. “It was a goblin. They are not people. They are monsters who will destroy everything we love. I did these people a favour by killing it.”

“Not all goblins are evil,” Bucephalus put more pressure on Wyanet. “If the people here thought they were dangerous do you think they would have let them in?”

“It could have been a scout,” Wyanet spit back. “Gathering information for the rest of its clan to come back and slaughter everyone.”

“We should do this somewhere else,” Phebes pleaded. “A guard might find us if we stay here.”

I put my hand against Bucephalus’s chest.  “Phebes is right. We need to get out of the open.” 

“You’ve seen what hides in these forests. The goblins are refu…”

Three darts with vibrant fletching sprouted from Bucephalus’s neck. He dropped Wyanet and staggered back a step. Bucephalus fell against the opposite wall and slid to the ground.

“Move! Now!” I grabbed Wyanet and shoved her towards the mouth of the alleyway.

A cloaked figure dropped into the alley from above. It knocked Phebes to the ground and pulled a black bag over her head. Wyanet ran to help. The cloaked figure pulled out a small tube then spit a dart at Wyanet. The dart sank into Wyanet’s left breast. Wyanet’s dagger clattered to the ground and she followed it.

I took one step to help. A second cloaked figure jumped at me from the roof. I caught the cloaked figure by the throat and wrist. Using their momentum, I hurled the second attacker to the ground. Shifting my weight onto the balls of my feet, I settled into a defensive stance.

The first attacker shot a dart at me. I caught the dart inches from my throat and tossed it away. A second dart pierced my thigh. A jolt of neurotoxin rushed into my veins. A third dart caught in my arm and a fourth in my chest. More neurotoxin flowed in. 

I took two steps toward our attackers. My limbs and mind felt heavy. Another step. A fifth dart pierced my neck. The toxin felt like part of me. The second attacker whipped out a damp rag and advanced toward me. I lashed out with a wild punch. The attacker ducked the assault then juked around behind me. A damp rag locked over my mouth and nose while an arm restrained me. 

I fought to pull the rag away. A sickening sweet smell overpowered my senses. My attack held fast. The edges of my vision became fuzzy. The strength of my muscles didn’t exist anymore. My legs refused to support me. The world faded to black.

***

   “Good work Acolytes. We’ll interrogate them when they wake up.”

My eyes opened to more darkness. I still couldn’t feel my arms or legs and my head pounded like Sumi war drums. My world spun. I closed my eyes to quell the nauseousness and make it stop.

***

My body bathed in the surf. Cool sea water soothed my heavy limbs and warm sand heated my skin. The resplendent visage of the Everlight blocked the sun from my eyes. My head rested in her lap. She stroked my hair and kissed my forehead.

“Trust these people. They will help you on your quest.”

The cool sting of peppermint overpowered the calm smell of the sea.

***

I opened my eyes again. Dim lights floated around the room. Sharp bindings bit into my wrists and ankles, holding me to an uncomfortable chair.  The world spun and my head throbbed. I closed my eyes to hold the world still, but it spun faster. The urge to vomit overwhelmed me. My breakfast splattered the floor beside me.

“Percy?” Bucephalus moaned, “Do you know where we are or what happened?”

“Ask me again when the world stops moving.” I fought back the urge to vomit again. “Where are the girls?”

“I think they’re behind us. I haven’t been able to look.”

“We are here Percival,” Wyanet replied. “Some of us are in better shape than others.”

Liquid splashed the floor behind me. Phebes coughed and spit. “I’m alright.”

Wyanet asked, “Did you get a good look at who attacked us?”

 “No,” Bucephalus jerked against his restraints. “They drugged me before I had the chance. Fucking cowards.”

The cold stone walls shifted into finer focus. “There were two of them. Both were well trained. Ceph, you’ve been here before, are you sure you don’t know who attacked us?”

“Bucephalus flexed against his bindings again. “The knowledge of the gods is infinite, mine is not.”

A door opened and two hooded figures stepped into my line of sight. One pulled my head back and poured a hot bitter liquid down my throat.

“Drink this. It will help the nausea.”

Bucephalus thrashed his head from side to side and knocked his cup away.

“Stay sick, see what I care.” The second person sneered.

Two more hooded people joined the first.

“Someone wants to speak with you four.” The person who forced the tea down my throat undid my bindings. “Don’t make any trouble and we won’t have to knock you out again.”

Our assailants forced us to kneel. The four hooded figures flanked the door. Blowpipes sat ready in their hands. A Halfling woman wearing similar armour to the hooded figures stepped through the door. A short sword dangled from her belt and a series of tawny braids wrapped around her head.

“Who are you and why have you come to Spinel?”

“We’re refugees from a farming village near Vercingetorix.” Bucephalus didn’t raise his head. “We’re passing through looking for food and work.” 

“Do you know where we can find some?” A line of bile-tinged saliva dripped from Phebes’s mouth. “I’m starving so much I could eat a goat.” Her cheeks puffed out and Phebes swallowed hard. “Maybe I’ll start with some bread.”

One of the hooded people stepped forward and smacked Bucephalus across the face. “Stop lying.” He stepped back into line massaging his hand.

“Of all the refugees I have seen, never once have I seen them murder their fellows.” The Halfling woman scowled at Bucephalus’s assailant. “If you are refugees, why did you kill that goblin?” Her penetrating gaze fell upon Wyanet.

“I am sworn to eliminate any evil that threatens the lives of others.” Wyanet met the Halfling’s eyes. “All goblins are evil. They threaten the lives of those I love. I will destroy them and their kin where I find them.”

“What is good and what is evil is based on perspective, warrior of the River Runner tribe. If you ask him, the bull-headed priest you travel with would condemn the entire faith of the First People as evil.”

“I am not a River Runner.”

“We came to Spinel to heal the curse on this land,” I interrupted.

The Halfling’s head snapped toward me. “What did you say?”

Bucephalus hissed, “Percy! What are you doing? We don’t know if we can trust them”

“Quiet!” A hooded figure ordered.

“Lord Tiarna of Vercingetorix sent us ahead of him. We encountered the enemy a number of days ago in Vercingetorix. We managed to wound it and make it flee. Lord Tiarna ordered us to go ahead of him and keep the enemy week. He will be here in a few day’s time with a force of liberators to destroy the enemy. We are here to help heal Crescent Moon Bay.”

The halfling stepped in front of me. She pulled her sword from her belt and rested it against my throat. “How do you know I don’t serve the enemy you hunt?”

“Someone I trust told me to trust you, and she hasn’t lied to me yet.”

“Well then,” The halfling re-sheathed her sword. “This changes things.”

The story will continue, September 10th,  2020.

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Written by: Sweeney (@oceansoul316 on twitter)

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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)

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.