4.1 – The Lonely Sentinel

Farewell, I bid you
Again, like once in a
Random occurrence
Ever so long ago.

This nostalgic scene
Happened by coincidence,
Either that or by fate’s
Ernest, heartfelt wishes.

Wring not you hands, and
End all your worries.
Let us meet anew in
Lands we’ve yet explored.

— Severa of the Adlet; A Song of Parting

Screaming out my lungs really clears the cobwebs in my head. I take a deep breath and slap my cheeks, then step back to take a look at Dial, my new sentinel. Honestly, it’s not my best job, all hard lines and no grace, but at this point, I don’t care. If a strange, massive, armored thing works, it works. Still, he almost reminds me of that type of monkey…an…an ape, except with a tail. A very angry ape thing… But his fierce face fills me with confidence, like I finally have something I can rely on, which is surprisingly hard to come by in this world.

Well, enough of that. I’d better look through my screens since I’ve put them off long enough. With all the commotion and crazy stuff happening, I just haven’t had the time or the mood to actually look through them. In retrospect, that might not have been the best idea…

I shake my head as they all flicker into view at once, and I’m reminded why I didn’t want to do this. It’s a wall of text several screens thick. Ug… not to mention, they’re all jumbled together. I’m not even sure what order they’ve popped up now. It’s been a whole month, after all. Let’s see… I wonder if the contents will clump together if I…There! (more…)

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3.10 – Encroaching

Hm? What is this? A lizard? There’s something weird about it. It looks funny. Why are its eyes yellow? Is it… It’s crying! But a lizard crying? What in the world is going on? There must be something wrong with it. Wait a second. Let me get a bit closer. Is that… is that blood? Ug. What’s that smell? It’s horrid. Urg. I feel sick. No, stay back there. Don’t come down here, Dmetr. Something’s weird. I don’t like it. We need to get out of here. 

Ban, at Fare Caolan 

War. It’s been coming steadily. I can feel it as I gaze at the at the setting sun. Something far to the south is building strength. But then, so will I. I’m no longer hesitating. I decided that needed to get as big as I could as soon as possible. And by big, I meant my forces. I needed more people at my back. The only way to do that is to expand, open more rifts to strange places no matter the danger involved.

War is coming. Of that, I have no doubt. There have been little signs. The gwisin was the first real sign, like the first snow of winter coming much too early. He wasn’t the last. This month has been war, only it was just the beginning of something that is frightening.

It’s not just the things I consider little now, like the increasingly frequent eira attacks. Two days ago alone, there were four separate waves that invaded my territory. They had been attacking consistently as far back as when Namena appeared, only they would get lost and subsequently most often fall in the lava pits. I hardly noticed them until one of them managed to break through almost all the way to Harbor. They’ve been learning. If only it had just that.

I look down. My hand trembles. Too often. Too often I’ve taken lives now. A disaster. I clench my fist. It wasn’t just the eira that I pierce through with projectiles. It was the lives of those things, and of my own.

The first came through shortly after I planted my next dimensional ice tree, not long after Namena left–the first step of gathering more under my cause. It was little. A small, almost fox-like thing with sandy fur and large, bat like ears. I only had a glimpse at it as it entered before it launched itself at my face. A projectile later, it was writhing on the ground with a hole through its lungs. It was then I got a good glimpse at it. It was frothing at the mouth, bleeding from its eyes and ears and nose. A strange smell wafted up from its flesh. It was sweet, like roasted almonds, but sickening so with hints of rotting plum. I gagged. Even my sliver fish wouldn’t get near it, and they’re carrion eaters. I cremated it in lava and cut off the connection to that ice tree. It swiftly withered.

(more…)

3.9 – South Pass

Vermis Harenae, the common sandworm, most often found in the deserts of Suon Kiin. Legends often characterize sandworms as massive worms bent solely on eating man (or caravan). There has only been one known case where a sandworm has ever attacked a caravan. This was due to several reasons including a severe drought, being driven out of its own territory, and idiotic provocation on part of the caravan. Rather than caravans, the main diet of sandworms are rocs from the Milana Mountains, which come down to eat cicada foxes of the desert. Sandworms and cicada foxes have a unique, symbiotic relationship. Cicada foxes have a distinctive call they sound when attacked by rocs. It vibrates at a distinct frequency allowing it to penetrate deep into the sand. Sandworms will pick up that sound and come to eat the rocs, often rescuing the cicada foxes in the process. Sandworms themselves are solitary creatures. It is rare to see more than one at once except for annual mating migration, a three-month long process which redefines their territories. As such, sandworms do not raise their own young, leaving them out in the desert soon after birth. Cicada foxes will often take it upon themselves to raise the sandworm larvae (often called cicadas) to adulthood. 

– Compendium of Monsters, 778

 

South Pass? That mean big wall? We take long to walk across much grass to it. It big, strange. Long wall packed hard sand. Tall as Home tree. Wide as many, many Home tree. Air dry. Not like. Make scales rough and thirsty. Group walk up to wall. Something make ring sound from inside wall.

“Who goes?” Man at top of wall shout.

“Members of the King’s Guard of Seven Cities,” Shiny say. Small door opens in big, big gate in side of wall. One. Two shiny men rush out and push group inside.

“Better hurry,” one man say. “Storm’s coming. Nothing good happens if you’re outside when it hits. We’ll check your documents inside.”

Group walk inside wall. More shiny men inside. Too many shiny men now. Can’t tell apart! How will I know my shiny men from new shiny men? Fish Tail! Help! Too much shiny. Make I dizzy! I slip from Fish Tail head, but he catch so I alright.

“Hey, what’s wrong, little guy? Excuse me, could I ask for a cup of water?” Fish Tail ask.

“What is that?” Big shiny man say. More shiny men follow him. He wave man to poor water into weird bowl and hand to Fish Tail.

“I believe it is an evolved sliver fish.” Fish Tail slide I into bowl. Water feel nice. Skin much to dry, but it soak water now. I feel better. Thanks, Fish Tail.

“A sliver fish? This far south?” Big Man say. He lead group down hall and to door.

“Yes. Strange things do happen from time to time.” Big Man laugh.

“Here, you can have your men rest here. If the leader of this group would follow me. Yen, you too.” Much of group go into room. We not follow them? No, look like Fish Tail and old friend Shiny follow Big Shiny Man into different room.

(more…)

Qwerty

Quarter staff in the mind is no simple timid thing.
Wallow in the rind of the water’s tepid gleam.
Ever you will take the hollow breaker’s fright
Right from the drake and the early morning light.
Tender is the pine of the elk and spittle short;
Yonder comes the silk from the spider’s sodden port.
Up in the rafter reigns the queen of dungeon be
In quiet softly sheen to take the wilted patterns three.
Often breaks the morn under blood red moon undone
Privy to the horn of the ship of glory none.

As to seven brides that right what once was wrong,
Seven deadly sides to ponder all along.
Do not go asunder in the murky after thought;
Forgo the sudden plunder of the wicked and the rot.
Grand burnt daydreams fill the city’s underbelly
Holding silver in the seams and gold within the lily.
Jitter poster-boys deep within the well
Kill time and ploys while lauding the padded cell.

Let not hidden rings turn toward bidden doors.
Zap and topple kings in the mists of molten moors.
X-ray certain windows from the long begotten souls
Coming from the willows and the fighter of the holes.
Verily I say to the woman in the sea:
Burn down the chapel and raise up the tree.
Never shall I walk down that dark turned placid lane.
Muster up the sound of that callow gritty pain.

3.8 – Island Oasis

Hallowed souls,
We see thee,
Struggling on the edge of decay.
How may we free thee?
Like broken bowls,
We mourn for thee,
Shattered into dust at the end of the day.
How must we save thee?
Oh hollowed holes,
We hold thee,
With trembling hands to rest we lay
Thy fragmented body.

— The Lament, Hymn of the Temple of the Sun

It… What? How?

I have no idea what’s going on right now? There’s a… but dead? No, wait, I must be dreaming. There’s no way a skeleton can move. No way this thing in front of me is a skeleton. It’s just a really nice person, in a creepy mask, smiling, holding a hand to help me up. Yeah. That’s it. That’s what it is.

The figure leans down further, its hand stopping right in front of my nose. The glove on its hand does nothing to cover up how freakishly bony its fingers are. Nope Nope Nope! This is not happening right now. I don’t do skeletons. I can handle ghosts. Mummies and skeletons are just nope! I struggle in vain to scramble away from the skeleton, still not able to move a muscle. I want to cry when I notice it’s because my [golem creation] skill is on cool down. As a result, we’re stuck in this awkward situation where neither of us are moving. We just continue to stare at each other.

What am I supposed to do in this situation? I know I’m an idiot already! There’s no need to keep making me confirm it! I mean it’s like I open a window to my house and a swarm of wasps fly in, like I find a diamond and suddenly every thief is after me, like I wander in the woods only to get lost and run into a mountain lion, get on a boat and it sinks! It’s not fair! Nothing like this ever happens to anyone else! How was I supposed to know something would walk in right when I opened a door–er planted a tree. It’s not supposed to work like that! Why is my luck so awful? Why am I stuck with a skill like [karma]. I could really do without it! I don’t need it! If it weren’t for it, none of these horrible encounters would keep happening! Raaaaaaaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!!!!!!

My train of thought freezes when the skeleton suddenly cocks its head. It pauses, then it shakes its head in a weird way, clacking its jaws together rapidly. The clattering sends shivers across my core. What a creepy sound. The skeleton stops chattering and continues its staring contest with me. I don’t think either of us will win at this point. The skeleton has no eyelids and I…well, I’m pretty much just a frozen block of ice. My eyes aren’t blinking any time soon. The awkwardness of the situation increases. It is beginning to feel more surreal than anything else, like it’s a dream. What am I supposed to do?

Finally, I couldn’t stand the silence any longer.

“Um…Ah…Hi?” I say with a weak voice.

Claclacclalaclacllaclaaccllaclaaak. The skeleton shakes its head again, its jaw clacking as it does. I get the strangest feeling that it’s laughing when it does that. I could have sworn a glint flashed in its eye sockets. The skeleton makes another gesture with its hand to help me up. (more…)

3.7 – Way Point

Yeo’ena Bay. Locals call it Lost Bay. Area wise, the bay is small, yet somehow, every year people manage to get lost wading through swamp and the cypress trees. As of yet, the death rate is rather low, unlike many other ominous places people have managed to find themselves lost in. The bay only claims those of low health, most others find themselves wandering around for a few days, perhaps weeks, before finally finding their way out again. Not many monsters live in the bay. The ones that do are hardly a threat to an armed traveler. Because of this reason, many choose it as a tourist destination. Great interest is placed on unraveling the bay’s mysteries. That said, be wary out those running from the law. Many seek refuge in this mysterious swamp.

Ashton Delan’s Travelor’s Guide

 

“Ouch! Really, stop biting me! You can stop now. I’m trying, so be patient. Timp! Come scare these stupid things off of me!” I call as snowdrop dragons swarm over me. I’m trying to concentrate on making a snowdrop plant, but they keep messing me up.

I figure the plant is in their name, so maybe they’d like them better than the roses. Though, they do seem to like the roses, or more specifically, the rose hips that have started growing. That, I don’t like so much. They eat the rose hips, but spit the seeds at everything, including me.

“Will you stop it! I don’t need more seeds in my hair! Ow stop! Will you listen to me?! Timp! Help!” I swat at the pesky dragons buzzing around my head, little seeds hit me like bullets. I had asked Oroesi for help earlier. He’s hiding from them now because of it. He tried. He really tried. Only it wasn’t long before they were chasing him around hitting him with seeds. He was bawling his eyes out when I finally managed to get them away from him. Timp on the other hand, enjoys chasing the white dragons. She’s not so easily intimidated by them. Only, she has such a short attention span that she forgets she’s supposed to keep them off me, so I have to keep calling her.

The banana palms seem to sway in amusement at my predicament. Ever since [green thumb] leveled, all my plants feel more alive. I swear they’re laughing at me right now. I glare up at the trees as Timp launches herself at the dragons. The little things shriek as they scatter. Sighing, I turn back to the pebble in my hands. After a minute or so, I finally have it. The pebble gives a little pop as my aura grasps onto my image, and I have a snowdrop bulb.

I make more and scatter them throughout the valleys along with a blanket of concentrated |aura of warmth| to get them started. Almost immediately they start popping out of the ground like daisies–er… snowdrops. They’re cute. I finger the pale glass-like flower. Reminds me of little white tears. The dragons launch themselves at the flowers. Timp trails after them, occasionally nuzzling the new snowdrops.

Watching them, I chuckle a little. The dragons use the snowdrops to make strange little nests, weaving the flower’s leaves into domes. You almost can’t see the nests unless you look for them.

I smile. Well, they’re out of my hair now, so now I can concentrate on more important things. Namely, my paths, but more importantly, the disconcerting state of my health, which hasn’t regenerated at all since the stupid gwisin came. And there’s a little thought which has been bugging me that I want to try out, even though it may be dangerous… (more…)

3.6 – Sanctuary of the North

Is it feasible that this journey through life isn’t the struggle we thought it to be? Could it be that we aren’t doomed to a death with nothing lingering beyond? Is there something in this world to strive for? What is it that lies beyond the veils of death? Is there hope and is there any worth in hoping? I do not wish to die. More than that, I do not wish to die alone. If I must die, let it be surrounded by those I love. Let it be sweet. Let it be peaceful. Finally, let there be meaning to my life, so that I may find sanctuary and solace in death.

— The Poet of Vera

 

I sent them back, the two idiots. I don’t even know why they’ve been helping me. Sooner or later, they’re going to end up dead if they stick around me. So, I’ve kicked them out of my dungeon until further notice. At least until I know I’m better prepared. It’ll most likely be another month-long project, maybe two, but it will be worth it.

More importantly, with them around I just can’t think! It’s so annoying! Once he finally woke up, Nattiq started follow me around everywhere saying that he won’t let me out of his sight or something. He’ll be the one to protect me. Right, Nattiq, like that’ll work with one arm. To think I was worried about his mental state when he woke up. He’s more like a love-sick puppy. Ug! Why are you in such high spirits? What is but a flesh wound? Ha. You’re crazy.

Ah’m is no better. He’s being sour. Won’t talk, just gives stupid grunts. What are you? A hormonal teenager? You stupid whale dog. Just get over it. You’re being worse than I am. Get out of the house, go do something. Quit being so depressed. That’s supposed to be my job and you’re stealing it. And weren’t you making fun of Nattiq earlier for being so depressed? You’re just a hypocrite now. What are you even so depressed about anyway?

Sigh.

In a way, the way they’re acting helps. I’m so exasperated with them I’m in no mood to beat myself up over what’s already happened. I can only work on improving myself. So, to give me peace of mind while I work on renovating my dungeon–again–I kick them out. Leave. Go to your seal village or whatever. Don’t stick around here. You were fine without me your whole lives,

So, out. Out out out. I’m done with you now. Come back when your mood’s improved or something. Or conquered the world. Or your level reaches 900.

Scratch that. Apparently that’s not feasible. Highest known level recorded according to the System is 234, and that was a long, long time ago. Most don’t even get past 30 their whole lives. Some kind of level cap. Reaching 40 makes you an elite, and 50, well, let’s just say you’re basically a one in a million. How disappointing.

Nattiq’s doing pretty well for himself. He’s level 15 at only 15 years old. Almost a genius. It’s funny. I thought he was much older, but the more I get to know him, the more childish he becomes. More his age, I guess. But still, he’s got one of those older looking faces…

(more…)

3.5 – What Happened to Niko

Sandstorm approaching. High winds to the south-west headed northward. According to weather ward, not an occurance based on natural weather patterns. Will hit South Pass at the seventh bell. All personnel advised to take cover and await orders. Watch tower is to keep eyes on storm. Watch for unusual changes. Code yellow with chance of changing to code red. High chance of source of storm being a sandworm migration. Activate battlements as preparation. Attack will commence on Wall Commander’s order. Again. Sandstorm approaching. All personnel are advised to take cover and await orders.

— Warning bell at South Pass

 

Where? I wake. It hard wake up. Head hurt much.

Thought. It warm. Much warm. Not good. Warm mean not cold. Not cold mean not by Home? Where Home? Where I? Scared. No. Need calm. Think.

I help fight. I fight with brothers. Keep Home safe from Bad.

Sharp. Slice through brothers. Falling. Brothers falling. Cold hand. Much same as grasping currents. I caught much like in net. Black? No more think. End of think. Where now?

I in black. Black hurt. Rub wrong. Tight. I wiggle. I wiggle out. Much light. Cold hand grasp I. I startle. Different from before cold hand. Cold hand solid now. Cold hand scary. Where Home?

“This?” voice say.

“Fish.”

“Different. It looks different from the others.” Cold hand flip me on back.

“It has wings.”

“Yes. Where did it come from?”

“Ghosts. It’s shiny. More like a rainbow than others. Ghosts like trinkets like that. Probably picked it up and wanted to show you.” I shake. Scary.

“Oh? This belongs to the core?”

“You going to eat it?”

“Hm…” Cold hand flip me again. I see. It Bad Man that hurt Home. Bad Bad. No hurt Home. (more…)

3.4 – Aftermath

After the War of 812…the slavers came. The aftermath that occurred was worse, so much worse than the war itself. After our warriors left to fight on the plains to the east, we were trapped in our own city, no where to run, with the oceans to our back and the enemy surrounding us… The plains were a trap. We could see the fires burning from our walls, hear the screams of our men drifting on the breeze. We knew the war was lost. So, we surrendered, let down the gates. Some chose death instead, leaping to their death in the frigid waters of the ocean below. The rest, we had to watch our home burn as we traveled in chains to the iron mine.

 — Gwen

 

I scream, brimming with a seething fiery rage as I slam my fist into my punching bag.

“Idiot! You’re such a stupid idiot!” I bellow at myself, trying to avoid looking at any of it–the aftermath. If I do, I’ll wallow in self-pity, and I am not doing that again. So I bottle up my anger and let its scalding heat flow through me, drowning out the need to fall into utter despair. I slam my fist again.

It had been utter disaster. Everything had been ruined. All but two of my ice golems were gone. The maze was wrecked. The wards had been completely ignored, like he didn’t even notice them. The tree had massive gashes tearing open the sides of its trunk, looking like the tree had leprosy or something. Most of its branches snapped and tumbled down into the lake. Not a room inside remained stable. It threatened to make the whole tree split and keel over. I had shored it up the best I could, but I was in no mood to do anything more. Basically, everything I had made was trashed by one single man. It didn’t console me at all that the underwater roots had been mostly untouched.

While all this had been devastating, it wasn’t the worst. No, the part that had me almost in a blubbering pile was all the pain. The pain of losing more than half of my fish. Losing the golems had hurt, but not nearly as much. The first fish down in the maze…I don’t know how it had gotten down there. It wasn’t supposed to be there. The monster had eaten him. And killed the others.

My lip quivers. To distract myself, I slam my fist again.

Ah’m was hurt. Again. He hadn’t even fully recovered from the hole in his stomach. Now he has long, red raw patches where the skin and muscle were peeled from his side. He was still awake at least. Grumbling, but awake. Nattiq had slipped into a coma or something. He had lost a whole arm. It had been my fault. All my fault.

I punch hard, gritting my teeth.

(more…)

3.3 – The Core

Dungeon cores. If there were any left in the world, their value would be untold. Many assume that dungeon cores are helpful in casting spells, that one is able to draw on them as a power source. This is a common myth, mostly because of the stories of dungeon cores powering the cities of old. The stories are indeed true, but still, one will never be able to draw mana from a dungeon core. No, dungeon cores are material. They are a necessary ingredient for the most powerful wards. The ones that power the cities of old. Futhermore, cores are enchantable, which increases any ward’s potency. As such, if a core were to be found, one could start up the ancient ruins once more. 

— Barmir’s Guide to the Unknown, 976

 

“A tree.” I raise an eyebrow.

“Yes.”

“On ice.”

“Yes. Strange.”

“Why?”

“The dungeon?”

“I thought dungeons were more…underground.”

“It’s legendary.”

“True.” I eye the walls of ice before me and the tree that stood towering above them.

“I’m hungry,” I say.

“You just ate.” I think back to the ice kraken that tried to pull me under. Now, its remains rested in my stomach.

(more…)