novel

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…)

2.8 – 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…)

2.6 – The Legends of the Hynafol

What happened to the Hynafol?
Why, they disappeared.
Why did the Hynafol go?
They had something they feared.
What scared the Hynafol?
The eyes up in the sky.
What did it do to the Hynafol?
It made everyone die.

– Song the Gorsydd Ruins morgen sings

“How’s Ah’m?”

“He should be fine in a few days or so. He’s got a quick health regeneration rate. It’s the only reason he’s been alive as long as he has. Normally he’d be up and about in a few hours, but he got hit pretty bad, stabbed right through the stomach.”

“Oh. Where’s he now?”

“I put him in the room we came in, the one kinda like up here with all the pillows. Looked the comfiest.”

“Will he be safe there?”

“Should be fine for now. Nothing really lives down there. Not for miles, anyway. You were just unlucky with the naitaka. What are you going to do with him?” Nattiq nods towards Oroesi.

“Ah, he’s a guardian now, I guess. That reminds me.” I pull the owl cat from my space and put it on a pillow. “I have another.”

“Woah, is that an owl cat? How’s you do that? It popped out of nowhere.”

“You could call it sleight of hand.” I grin. Oroesi takes one look at the griffin and bares his teeth.

“Girl or boy?”

“Timp’s a girl. I also have these.” I pull out the pigmy bunnies as well.

“No really. How are you doing that? You can’t call it sleight of hand. You don’t have any hands.”

“Just something I can do, I guess. Ah, Oroesi, don’t eat the poor bunny! I only have two. At least wait until they mate or something.” I quickly make a new room below this treetop patio and pull the bunnies into it so that they’re out of Oroesi’s reach. It’s a good thing I did, ’cause Timp also looked ready to pounce. I call up some sliver fish with a pot of soil and carpet the bunnies’ floor.

“I think I’ll have to do some redecorating. My room arrangement is not the most logical at the moment,” I say, mentally dusting off my hands and settling into the pillows. I watch as Timp takes a swipe at Oroesi.

“You can move your rooms around?”

(more…)

2.5 – Falling to Pieces

“Stop them! Don’t let them into the camp. Frick, there’s not even that many of them. We’re being over run. Argh! Ug. Stop Ret, go help Sam. I’m alright. It just grazed me. Go, go, he’s being swarmed. I can handle it here. RAAAAAAAH. Die you stupid things! This is why I told that ridiculous official Bakers that an outpost can’t be set up in the Rhew, no matter how rare amber gold is. It’s! Just! Not worth it! Noooo! Dang it, Hubert! Kale, Hubert’s down! He went under! That wretched monster cracked a hole in the ice and he fell in. What? No way. He’s dead Kale. You can’t get him. He’ll have frozen to death in seconds. Stay here and guard Lilith! We need her alive! She’s the only thing keeping the freaking eira at bay! So stay at your post!”

– Georgian Millt, failed Rhew expedition

 

So, Little one wants me to fight?

“That’d be helpful, yes. I’ll help, but I don’t really have the means to fight off that many at the moment…”

“I’ll help too. I’ve got nothing better to do, and this looks like it’d be fun!” Nattiq grins. “Ah’m, give me a ride, will ya?” He launches himself onto the whale dog’s back and pulls out two short, slim swords from… somewhere. One moment he had nothing in his hands, and the next, with a slight twist or something, he was spinning the short swords in his hands.

“How…?”

“Oh, you mean these? I’m not a mage or anything, just quick with my hands is all.” He gives a wink.

Idiot ’tis wanting to look impressive for Little one. Ah’m blows out a puff of air in exasperation.

“I am not trying to show off. You don’t know what you’re talking about.”

I know. I ’tis many cycles older. He puffs himself up.

“Yeah, and who here has messed up? You, you stupid whale dog.”

I kill more.

“Yeah? You think? Wanna try that out? There’s a whole army waiting outside for us to test that on.”

I ready for challenge. ‘Tis idiot?

“You bet your gills on it.”

I ’tis not have gills, though.

“You’ll wish you did though, ’cause soon you’ll be too scared to come up for air,” Nattiq says smugly.  (more…)

2.3 – Under the Banyan

Oh, the Aoyin sits under the old Banyan tree
Eating all the turtle-cattle he can see.
Shake, turtle-cattle, shake.
Flee from the four-horned beast.

– Hiisi Nursery Rhyme

 

When one wants to go up, one must first go down. Why? Stability! And, well, resources too, but mainly stability at the moment. I hesitate, staring anxiously at my obnoxious, unwanted hole. For a second I wonder if I really want to do this. If I do, there is an enormous possibility that I will have just landed myself in another whole heap of trouble, but if I don’t, I feel like I’ll stagnate and die whenever the next wave of whatever comes. Most likely eiras at the moment. Then again, they’ll swarm anyway if I do this.

Think positive. Be proactive. I’ve been just riding the flow, and that needs to change if I want to survive in this world. So, time to face my fears. Ice powers, activate!

I reach out and tug at the ice around the hole, pulling it down and at the same time widening the hole. I grit my teeth in my head as I do. There’s a war of instincts raging in my head, the desire for growth versus the absolute loathing to expand this cursed hole. But I keep going, pulling the ice down and down and down, picking up more and more ice as I go, and packing the sides of the hole so they’re thick, hard, and stable. It’s a long way down, but not nearly as long as I had hoped. Looks like my buffer between me and the sea below wasn’t as thick as I once thought. Soon enough, my influence has flooded the whole expanse of the hole and I’m through to the waters below.

Hesitantly, I look around with whatever sense I use to view my domain remotely. I hadn’t ever taken notice of it before, but that sense was quite a bit different from the one I used to view the immediate surroundings around my core. It was like my remote viewing was in black and white without any sound, or maybe more like if you could somehow see what the feeling of something walking across your skin looked like. It was strange, not at all like the bright colors and normal vision I used to see my immediate surroundings.

Underneath the ice was even stranger. I could feel the lighting was blue tinged with green even if I couldn’t exactly see it. And it was cold. So, very cold. But not desolate like one would think. It was thriving. I could feel the life pulsing through the water even though there was nothing living in my direct vicinity except strange clear anemones grasping the underside of the ice.

(more…)

2.2 – Of the Lost and the Soul

We were lost. There was nowhere to go, no place to turn. Everything looked the same. I about broke down, but I couldn’t allow myself the luxury. Not when she needed my help just to keep sane. She was already losing it, already starving for lack of food these past fifteen days. My only gratitude was that we did not lack water. The morning dew was plenty to keep us quenched throughout the day as we wandered. Only, it also chilled to the bone, and each day her cough was growing worse. So, I plodded along with her on my back, hoping desperately for some sort of salvation. I thought it a hallucination at first when I stumbled upon the salvation we had been granted. It rested there inconspicuously between the massive boulders of our continued maze, a strange tree of ice.

Tennik Farthen

 

I didn’t even think about moving for a long time–or rather than moving, I just stared at the wall, not even daring to think. I had this weird feeling that if my brain began processing again, that something, that terrifying stare would come back and rip through everything that I am. It was a feeling similar to a child afraid to move out from under the blankets because of the monster under the bed. I knew that something was long gone. I knew it wasn’t coming back, at least not for a long while, but the fear to move out from under the blanket was still there. So, I stayed, staring at the wall, thinking of nothing while my nonexistent heart still pounded in my imaginary throat.

I didn’t come to my senses until I found Niko nudging me, informing me that he and all the other fishes were hungry. It broke me out of my reverie, and the childlike fear drifted away. I sigh and sent half of them down the hole, then turn my attention to my two guests. They were still conked out on the floor. How long had it been? A few hours at least. It was getting close to sunrise. I could feel it.

“Grow towards the sun, huh,” I mumble. And with that thought, [Elemental Manipulation] was brought back to my attention.

The elements are an unusual classification with a set of rules not determined by the laws of the universe, but by the strange manipulations of the System. In short, they are not at all logical. – Althea the Astronomer

Congratulations! Your affinity for the elemental is astounding. Your domain knows no bounds.

 [Elemental Manipulation X]: You now have control over any of the four main elements–Fire, Water, Earth, Air–as well as any of their subsets that you understand for a slight cost of mana. (highest level, 10 cmR/ 1 mana; requires actual element for manipulation)

Current Understanding:

Fire: Main Water: Main, Ice Earth: Main, Plant  Air: Main

(more…)

2.1 – Bone-Faced Worg

Canis Osvultus, or the bone-faced worg. Often colloquially called a skulldog or a skullwolf, the bone-faced worg is smaller than its worg cousin (Canis Vargr). Hardier in nature than true worgs, with notable regeneration, the bone-faced worg is an often difficult enemy to face. Bone-faced worgs are characterized by dark brown to black fur with little to no fur on their faces–creating a skull like appearance–as well as what many have said to be glowing red eyes. 

– Compendium of Monsters, 778

 

Some may call me an angry man. They’d be right, and they’d get a broken arm for it. It isn’t my fault my father is Curo Llid. The Curo Llid, greatest wall commander in all the Seven Sisters. Ha. People talk about him like he’s some kind of hero, all because twenty years ago, he managed to drive off a dragon. It was only a lindwyrm.

What’s so great about driving off a lesser dragon? Killing it would’ve been better. People who disagree with me can shut their trap, or I’ll shut it for them. Sure, tell me I have anger issues. If you have a problem with that, you know where to find me: Third stool from the wall at the bar of the tavern The Lamia’s Scale, located in a worse part of Celaeno.

Tonight, I’m on my third mug, and the thing I hate most right now is being disturbed, with my father as a close second.

“Dicter! Dicter Llid! Is Dicter Llid in here?” I studiously ignore the man, but my fist tightens around my drink. Whoever it is stomps into the room and asks a regular the same question, then continues his floor-bruising march in my direction. A hand slams down on my shoulder.

“Are you Dicter Llid?”

“Tsk. Can you be any louder?” I can feel the man scowl as I stare into the amber liquid of my drink.

“Are you Dicter Llid?” He repeats.

“What’s it to you?”

“Your father is Curo Llid?” I nearly punch him then and there. This man. My taboos. He did both. He interrupted my drinking, and then, he had the gall to mention my father to my face.

(more…)

1.10 – River of Souls

There’s something different about the System than it was in times of old. Long ago, the ancients made use of the System to create massive civilizations that spanned continents, each city a piece of art more wondrous than the next. Now, we are little more than tribal beings, content to war with our neighbors. The System used to inspire to create, to reward those that did. Now, it rewards senseless slaughter for something as little as experience. We used to be one people no matter the race. Now, we fight brother against brother. What caused this change?

– Petra, The Sage of the Wild

 

I need rejuvenation. I need to see the sun. It’s been too long. I think I’m getting winter depression. If my internal clock is right, though, it won’t be up for another four hours. I content myself filling in the other half of my garden with silt. It doesn’t take long, and I figure out that I can add bits of |aura of warmth| to hopefully help my plants grow. And grow they have! The banana sprout has grown. Little leaves are poking out of the soil.

And the lichen, my lichen. It’s completely ignored the soil in the dish and latched onto the rock itself, looking like little grey explosions of growth. I give a little laugh. My plants are growing. Peace floods me. This. This is what I’m meant to do. Raising these little guys, protecting them. Giving them a safe place in this unforgiving wilderness. Grow well, little guys.

Then I growl, my happy mood dissipating instantly. Something once again has entered my domain. Really? I can’t even go two hours without something intruding? My fish swarm, sensing my agitation.

Little one! Little on! Call your guards off!

“Ah’m?”

Yes, Little one. Call them off. I apologize for intruding once again. I have need to speak with Little one. 

“Fishies, let Ah’m up,” I sigh. Ah’m lumbers into my garden after a few minutes with difficulty. I almost laugh. The whale dog is covered in silk webs. Looks like Niko did his job. I’ll have to reward him later.

“Watch the plants.”

Plants? Ah’m looks at me in confusion. Ah, greens, little little greens. Little one has grown much to make greens. Much like land-dwellers. The whale dog swings its head around and grunts in appreciation at my plants. It’s then I notice there’s something hanging from its mouth that was covered my silk earlier. Is… is that a seal? Please don’t tell me it brought its lunch…

“Ah’m.” I jolt. The seal just spoke. It’s not dead? “Ah’m! Let me down already!”

“What? Why?”

See. I brought Land-dweller. Ah’m drops the seal and gives a grin of self-satisfaction, showing a mouth full of threatening teeth which I tried to ignore. Did it just call the seal a land-dweller? That makes absolutely no sense.

“Oh, come on, Ah’m,” the seal harrumphed. “How long have you known me now? Do you really not remember my name? Now, where’s this Little one that you wanted me to meet? I’d like to introduce myself, but I don’t seem to see her, though I heard her voice earlier.”

The seal suddenly stretched itself with its face pointing to the ceiling, and then something… happened. It’s skin spit straight down its stomach. That’s the best way I have of describing it. It was disturbing. I watched in rapt horror as two pale arms reached and lifted the head of the seal away like a like the hood of a coat. The thing stood up out of the seal skin, and I realized it was a man standing there with pale blond hair and dressed in various animal skins. He reached down and picked up the seal fur and draped it over his shoulders.

There. ‘Tis Little one. Ah’m gestured to me with its snout. What the heck just happened?!? (more…)