Month: August 2017

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…)

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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…)

3.2 – The Man in the Forest

 

To the south of the Seven Cities lies the Niwl Forest. Don’t go in. The road ends. The mist begins. Monsters lurk. You will get lost. End of story. Not many come back alive. They can be counted on one hand. And you’re not one of them. So, stay here. Live your life in safety and comfort. Forget about the cursed forest before your curiosity gets the better of you. If you go there ever, you’ll keep being drawn back to it. You’ll be drawn in. It’ll suck you in. It has sucked so many people in. So many… 

–Mother to her son

 

“Ohohoh? What’s this?” I say. My waltz along the top of the short wall halted at a seller’s tent. I smirk as I look through the man’s wares, then reach down with my umbrella and scoop up a purple fruit from a basket. The iridescent shine to it glistens in the sun as I bite through its skin. Yellow juice dribbles down my chin. I flick my tail in pleasure.

“Mr. Quilin, sir. I would appreciate it if you bought my fruit before you eat it. Otherwise I would have to call a city guard, and we both know we don’t want that,” the seller says with a frown. I squat down and balance a coin on the point of my umbrella. His eyebrows draw together as he looks up at me.

“This is a Damsel Plum. They’re not usually in season at this time of year. Where’d ya find it?”

“I’m afraid it’s a trade secret, sir.”

“Just between you and me, I would be careful selling those here. George Hendle’s private garden up in Merope may be easy to get in and out of, but the fruit from his orchard has a very distinctive taste.” I smile as I take another bite and push the tip of the umbrella closer to his nose. The man pales and snatches the coin on the end of the umbrella, quickly shoving it a metal box and stuffing that in a bag.

“I must apologize sir, but I realized that a serious piece of business has been neglected. Therefore, good day to you sir, for I must be closing.” He hurries off, leaving behind his baskets of plums. I laugh and finish off the one I had been eating as I look around the busy market. It was mid afternoon. The shadow from Alcyone’s castle draped over the people bustling in the south side of the street. It’s still manages to be a stiffing day despite the cooling wards and the slight breeze. I pull open my umbrella to shade myself from the sun as I look out over the crowd. Squinting against the sunlight, I see something glint as it moves, pushing through the people like a boat through water. Then, I grin.  (more…)

3.1 – Forewarning

To us, there was no forewarning. Or maybe there was, we just weren’t able to recognize it for what it was. First came a monster swarm. Every monster in the ocean for miles climbed up the beach and headed for higher ground. Watersfront was directly in their path. We fought them off. They weren’t concentrating on us. Most just passed on by. We heaved sighs of relief. Next, the air grew stifling. Nothing moved. It was deafeningly quiet. I noticed the ocean slowly receding, leaving foam in its wake. The horizon was hazy. By that time, it was too late. A wall of water had crept up behind that haze, towering above our heads, growing closer and closer, and then… it fell. 

–Jacob Fletcher, survivor of the Tragedy of Watersfront

 

Roaring. So much roaring. My head pounds. Everything feels distant.

“Haven. HAVEN!” Nattiq shakes me. I can’t feel it.

“No,” I whisper. “You’re wrong.”

“Haven! What’s wrong? Are you alright? What happened. Devin, please. Talk to me.” The roaring continues, drowning out his words.

“I’m not ready. Not ready. I’m not. It can’t be happening.” Nattiq shakes again. His worried face appears in front of me.

“I still have time. I don’t. I do. Please don’t come.” My vision fades in and out. My hands shake. No, its my whole body that’s shaking. A panicked light flickers from my core.

“But it is. Something’s coming. It’s there. It’s getting closer. Closer. Closer. No, don’t come.” My breath catches in my throat. No, that’s wrong. I’m breathing too fast. My mana is fluctuating out of control. The whole tree shakes with me, and sliver fish swim around me, agitated. Whatever’s out there, it’s chasing me. I could feel it. I ignored it. Nattiq brought it to light.

“I can’t. I can’t. I can’t.” It was one thing to have things suddenly attack me. It was a whole other thing, something on a completely differently level, to know something was slowly making its way towards me. Its aura…it was palpable. I could feel it even from this distance. The moment it stepped on the Rhew.

Cold. So cold. Colder than the ice around me. Bloodthirsty. Hungry. It wanted to eat. A horrible grin flashes through my mind. One that wanted to swallow me whole. I’m drowning in it. It moved too fast to see. It whispered horrors in my ear. It’s tongue slipped across my skin. Blood comes pouring out in its path. Unconsciously, I latch on to Nattiq’s sleeve with a death grip. (more…)

2.10 – The Gwisin

There are three rules if you ever leave these walls. First: don’t leave the road. Second: Don’t leave the road. And the most important: Do Not. Leave. The Road. It won’t guarantee that you’ll stay safe–even the towns aren’t safe–but sticking to the roads means you’ll have a whole lot better chance at surviving, because in these parts, monsters are the least of your worries. It’s the puca you should be worried about. This whole area has been given to them. They’ve been using it since long ago, and those nations out there have let them have it to keep them under control. Those pricks are guarding the border to make sure we never leave, all because we live in the puca’s ancient breeding grounds.

— Tradesman to his apprentice

 

I was young. They told me to never leave the road. I left the road. There are worse things in the dark than monsters. So, much worse, and with their fingers stuck in your mouth, they force you to smile. When I was found and returned to my parents, they say I changed. I don’t remember what I was like before.

That was long ago, so long ago, I’m used to the break. The break in my mind that only widens as the rain pours gently down. My black clothes, ripped and covered in blood, is slowly soaked in the down pour. My black hair sticks to my face, long enough to brush my lip. I peek through it. The man lying here had followed me. He wanted to rob me. I laugh and the man, the dead man, lies there bleeding in the rain. I search his pockets. Find a pouch of money. I take his knife as well. Then, I eat.

Red, red meat. Blood dribbles down my chin. A dark taste, and it goes down hard, but I eat anyway. It’s the only thing I can. My eyes roll back as I swallow. A chill runs through me.

Then, I get it. So much red. (more…)

2.9 – Hanging Lanterns

Lanterns save lives. Your duty is to make sure they stay lit, you hear me? Out there, right outside those walls, monsters live, and like it or not, people get stuck outside at night more often than you’d think. That’s why we establish way points, safe houses where folks can stay and wait the night through. And a lantern marks Each. One. Of them. They’re what keep the monsters at bay. I’ll say it again. Your jobs are to make sure they stay lit. The wards you learn are precisely for that reason. So don’t be pansies. You walk out there an hour before sundown and you don’t come back until you know each lantern on that road is flickering, you hear?

— Frederik Long at the initiation of new Seven Cities Wardsmen

 

“Finally! For the first time in my life! I’m getting my own room! Woohooo!”

“What are you, a kid? You don’t have to get so excited.”

“What do you know? You’ve never had to live with seventeen people in a three-bedroom house before. Look at all this space you have!” Nattiq gestures at the expanse beneath my tree.

“S-seventeen?” I sputter. “You have that many people in your family?”

“Ah, no. I have more. That’s just Mom and Dad and the younger kids. My three older brothers and my older sister are married already, so they’ve moved out. You’ll make me a cool room, right?”

“Make it yourself. I’ve got other things to do right now.”

“But you said you’d make me one.”

“Alright, alright already. Give me some space. I’ll make it. But there’s something else I want to do first, so just sit there and watch quietly.” I take a deep breath and shake out my shoulders. I can’t believe how much better I feel now that I have a body. I feel so much more confident about everything. I grin.

“Here I go,” I say under my breath. I grab as much ice I can with manipulation and drag it along in a semi-circle. Soon, I have a deep, wide ditch almost completely circling the tree and a small mountain of ice piled up where the circle would connect. It slumps against the base of the tree. Hm. I strengthen and shape the ice and then hollow out the underside so the ditch runs underneath, then create a series of ice handrails on either side. A bridge, granted, a steep one, but aesthetically pleasing nonetheless.

I begin to shape the hole that marks the entrance to my underground caves, or rather the ice around it. The hole itself is still pretty enough, with the garlands of vine-shaped ice, but lets continue the vibe I’m creating. I raise pillars in a semi-circle around the hole and decorate them with carved hydrangea flowers. A sloping octagon for the roof, peaked at the center and flaring at each corner, carved tiles that look like scales and a statue of Timp decorating the peak. A pagoda. I hang Chinese lanterns on the underside of the roof and light them with |aura of light| and |aura of warmth|.

(more…)

2.8 – Crossroads

I came to a crossroads down in the desert, and I knew not which way to turn. The sun burned in the east, and the wind howled in the west. My way I could not discern. My lot I threw in with the stones, carved with ruins of old, though I knew many would curse me and accuse me of selling my soul. To the south, they pointed. Don’t follow the road. Make of it what you will. I’ve made my choice, carved out my own way, one that doesn’t follow the world.

— The Traveler’s Shadow, a bardic tale

I crack my knuckles ominously and grin at the sound. I tried to do it a few minutes ago, but it didn’t work. It was a humiliating sight for the next few minutes where I tried to figure out how to modify them so they’d pop properly, but I got it now and I’m raring to go.

I stare intensely at the face in front of me. It didn’t deserve to live in this world. It was an offense to the eyes. It needed to die, and I was the person to help it along.

“Well, then. How shall I go about killing you?” I say sweetly to that despicable face. “No need to worry. It won’t hurt a bit.” I plant my feet solidly and feet the momentum build as I begin to twist, building up from the legs into the waist, up through the spin and shoulders, down the length of my arm and out through my fist. A solid punch that would have broken even a stone, only I grimace and droop. I completely missed my target.

“Timp,” I say, looking down at the little owl cat. “Maybe I’m just not cut out for this anymore. I only remember bits and pieces. I thought I could fight, but it looks like I can’t.” I crouch down and snuggle the feline bird in my arms.

“Chirrririp,” Timp cries in protest, struggling to get out from my grasp.

“Why did the system name you Timp anyway? Why didn’t I get to name you? Hey stop that, haha.” Timp pushes against my cheek with a paw.

“Chichichichirip!” She calls.

“Cheer up, huh. You’re right!” I drop the owl cat and clench my fist in a victory pose. “I can’t give up now! I need to relearn how to fight again! That punch felt pretty good; I just need to connect it. Let’s try it again.”

(more…)

2.7 – Step One: Create a Golem

Let me tell you kids, your dad is strong. Super strong. Nothing can beat him. Even dragons go down with a single slice of my sword. There was only one time in his life that your dad has ever had trouble, and that was when he went against the dreaded, fifty foot tall diamond iron golem. It was a fight, and I almost lost, but your dad hacked and slashed with all his might, magnificently dodging each of its striking fists that were bigger than the biggest Gowrow by only a hair. After days of fighting each other to nearly a draw, I finally got behind its massive beast of a head and chopped it right off. If I hadn’t, I’m sure that its next strike woulda killed me right then and there. And that’s the only reason I’m alive to tell the tale.

– Calib Sorenson’s bedtime story

 

Alright, time to slap my cheeks. I can do this. So what, the world is against me. That’s nothing new. It’s been like this the moment I first woke up. All that’s been added to that list is the big chance that people I know will turn against me at any given moment. Honestly, if I’m expecting it, it’s not that hard to handle. I just won’t give them the chance to cause any lasting damage with it. And judging by Nattiq’s attitude when he snapped out of it, he felt guilty. With that puppy face, I can’t really blame him for what happened. Next time it happens, though, I’m going to punch him in the face. I’ll deal with that later though, the problem of why he was possessed. I think I have an idea, but… No, let’s not deal with that right now.

Thank heavens that Oroesi is doing okay now. For a minute it was touch and go. I don’t think he would have survived if he didn’t have [thick skin]. For now, his bleeding has stopped and his wound is looking much better. I think a lot of luck comes from it being a clean slice.

I really wish he hadn’t protected me, but with out that, I think I would have died. This won’t do. I’m simply too unprotected in this state. Heck, anyone could waltz up and poke me, and I’ll shatter to pieces. Let’s fix that then. I reach out and grab some ice and knead it around with imaginary fingers.

(more…)