Vercingetorix Noir

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Read Legends of Cobalt from the beginning:

Vercingetorix Noir

I awoke to a dark room. Gentle rain pounded a steady rhythm against the window in time with Wyanet’s breathing and Phebes’s snoring. I pulled on my damp clothes and crept down to the common room.

Dull red coals popped in the fireplace. Bucephalus thrashed about in his sleep. I cleared away a handful of tables and started my morning workout. I finished the first two sets and began the third as the front door of the tavern opened. A massive white tiger with blood-red strips slunk through the open door. It sat on its haunches and chuffed at me. I ignored it and continued through my exercise.

“That’s a curious workout for a rager.” A woman said.

I looked for the source of the voice. The tavern door thudded closed. A woman close to my age stood where the tiger had been. White hair with a blue streak framed her face.

“Pardon?” I stopped mid-action.

“I asked what you were doin’ down here in the dark?” Raisa replied from behind me.

I turned to face her. “Oh, uh, sorry. How long have you been there?”

“Not long. I came down to get started on some things for breakfast, and I saw you out here.”

“I wanted to run through a morning workout before everyone else woke up.”

“Okay, be sure to put all the tables back when you’re done, else Bella won’t be too happy.” Raisa walked back to the kitchen.

Bucephalus shot up. His chest heaved and rivulets of sweat matted the fur on his face.

“Bad dream?” I grabbed a table and pulled it back to where it had been.

Bucephalus turned his head toward me. “Only the same ones that have plagued me since birth.” He clasped his hands and started muttering to himself.

“When you’re done begging for forgiveness for shit you didn’t do, help me move these tables back.”

Bucephalus glared at me. “You would do well to submit yourself to the service of a god. They have much to offer us.”

“Save it for the choir. I don’t need some stuffy old man telling me what to do.”

Bucephalus snorted and went toward the bar. “I need a drink.”

The Dwarf clomped down the stairs, a round hat in his hand. “Morning, sir. Has anyone gone to fetch the constable?”

I put a chair back. “I don’t know.”

The Dwarf put his hat on. “I’ll go and let ‘em know about last night.”

Bella emerged from the kitchen, a candle glowed in her hand. “That sounds like a splendid idea Mister Bigtoe. The sooner we can put the mess of last night behind us all the better.”

Bella floated about the room lighting candles. The smell of fresh bread filled the common room. Not long after Mister Bigtoe left, the rest of the guests filtered down. An uneasy silence clung to the air and no one made eye contact with one another.

I took a seat at the table by the fireplace. Bucephalus flopped into the chair opposite me. He took a long pull from his hip flask then extended it to me.

“No, thank you.”

Bucephalus shrugged and took another drink. “That younger girl told me it was too early to sell me any liquor, so I had to tap into my own stash.”

I rolled my eyes.

Phebes claimed the seat beside me. She arched her back and stretched her arms above her head. “What’s everyone waiting for?”

“The constable. That Dwarf went earlier this morning to get them.”

Wyanet sat in the last chair at the table. The tavern door swung open. Mister Bigtoe, soaked through, stepped in and held the door open. A six and a half feet tall Dragonborn followed the stout Dwarf into the tavern. A dark grey poncho hung to the Dragonborn’s knees and a matching pith helmet sat on top of their scally head.

The Dragonborn stepped further into the room and removed their helmet. “I am inspector Norixius.” Their copper scales half reflected the candlelight. “Mister Bigtoe has informed me that there has been a murder.”

Bella rushed out from behind the bar. “Yes Inspector,” She fumbled with the keys. “The body is right in here.” Bella opened the door to the private room. 

Inspector Norixius turned back to the patrons. “I will need to speak with each of you in private, then, you can all be on your way. I will start with those of you who visit this establishment on a regular basis.” They looked at our table. “I will speak with the four of you last.”

Bella crossed behind the inspector and unlocked the other private room. “You can use this room here. No point in gathering around a dead body.”

Inspector Norixius turned back to Bella. “Thank you for your cooperation, ma’am. I want to speak to you and the rest of your staff first. Inspector Norixius strolled into the offered room, unclipping their poncho as they went.

Bella followed the Dragonborn into the room and closed the door. A few minutes later, Bella emerged from the room and Raisa went in. The cycle repeated over the next hour with the other patrons. Halfway through, Raisa brought breakfast out and Grazer moseyed his way over to us.

The front door thudded closed behind the last patron. 

Inspector Norixius emerged from the private room and strolled over to our table with a notebook in their hand. “I will interview the five of you together.” They lead us into the room with the body and stood at the head of the table. “Who wants to tell me how this girl died?”

I stepped up to the foot of the table. “We heard a scream last night and ran to see what was going on. We found Carina bleeding out in the street. We tried to heal her, but didn’t get to her in time.”

Inspector Norixius rapped their claws on the table without breaking eye contact. 

“I don’t know,” Grazer chimed in. “I had an order to deliver here last night and found these three with the dead girl in the fog. It looked like they needed help, so I did. I probably would have gotten lost if it hadn’t been for their nifty light spell though.”

Inspector Norxius looked back to me. “Some of the other patrons accused you of killing her.”

“How could we have killed someone while sitting in the common room?” Wyanet interjected.

Bucephalus shrank into the corner.

“Okay, we found her and then a little girl taunted us about killing her and then she ran off,” Phebes blurted out. “I knew it was a bad idea to bring the body back.”

The corners of Inspector Norixius’s mouth smiled.

“We spoke with her departed soul.” Bucephalus whispered.

The smile on Inspector Norixius’s snout vanished. “What did you say?”

Bucephalus loomed behind me. “I said we spoke with Carina’s departed soul, and she told us who killed her.”

Inspector Norixius raped their claws on the table. “How did you accomplish that?”

“Being a priest has its benefits.”

“Who did she say killed her?”

“Carina claimed someone named Jack killed her.”

Inspector Norixius’s shoulder’s slumped and they rubbed their eyes with one hand. “I suspected so, but I needed to be thorough.” They looked at Phebes. “You’re certain you spotted a little girl running away from the crime scene last night?”

“Oh, um, uh, yeah.”                   

“Dai, I mean Percival tried to stop her, but she disappeared into the mists before he could catch her,” Wyanet added.

Inspector Norixius sighed. “At least there is a new development in the case. I just wish more could be done to stop this evil man.” They scribbled some notes into their notebook and pushed past us to the door. “I’ll send someone from the temple to collect the body this afternoon. If you all would be so kind as to stay in the city for the next few days, in case I have more questions for you.”

The story will continue, January 16th  2020.

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Written by: Sweeney (@oceansoul316 on twitter)

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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

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.