Short Stories Collection



Project Description:

I wrote a few short stories as part of character backstories in order to express who a person was as a character through a small glimpse of that character’s life. I started the first of these stories in March of 2015 and I have been adding and editing since then.

My Involvement:

I wrote the stories and received feedback from my colleagues as to the changes and revisions I should make.

Challenges Faced:

I wanted to have each one be unique in some way which led me to writing one series in the form of letters and another in the form of a legendary tale. Writing like this was challenging, but the constraints and the challenge made it fun.

Skills Developed:

I’ve come back and edited these stories many times over their development. Through them I’ve also developed my abilities to handle criticism and critique.



Learious Eralor


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Many good stories start with a tragedy and end with a victory. Tales of how the hero has faced some enemy and how he has overcome them, how he has achieved glory. Stories are created like this to create suspense, but to have a favorable ending and leave readers with a light heart.

This story is not one of those.

This story is of a man who has lost it all and who now wanders the wilds of the world. There will be no victory, no happy ending where everyone goes on to live their lives happily ever after, there will only be the story. If you are squeamish and wanting to hear of gumdrops and raspberries stop reading here. If however you want to read a real story, then let me tell you a tale.

The tale begins at a sanctuary, an oasis at the far edge of the world where it was once said that the seas of sand fell off of this plane into the void and formed stars. At this walled city at the edge of the world a society lived. Marvelous, magical people as fascinating to any mortal as gemstones are to dwarves or forests are to elves.

The sanctuary was known as Esterport, the last city before the edge of the world. It’s inhabitants were a strange people. They all looked like men, but they were something far more. Thier skins glistened in the daylight, their hair harnessed and reflected the sun’s rays like crystals, and their eyes bore through to the soul.

At the heart of this society was a council of elders. This race, you see, was immortal but at a price. They could not give birth, but rather the council chose a member from another race and performed a sacred, secret, ritual in order to transform the chosen being into one of their own.

Despite this race’s drawbacks, there were those in the world who only looked at these people with a lust for the lifeline of gods. One mortal dwarf had this same hunger for power. He traveled far from the depths of his underground home to seek out the immortals at the edge of the world.

The dwarf’s name was Prince Dostinduur. He traveled with a company of 1000 men through the harsh wastes to reach Esterport. Many of his companions fell to the sands. They had a loyalty towards him like no other, but it was not earned. Fear ruled over Dostinduur’s men. He told them that they would march him to the walls of Esterport and secure his immortality. As a reward they would too gain this gift, but if they did not he would have his king’s guard capture and torture their families in front of them before killing them himself.

He had in fact made true on his promise to five of the largest dwarven clans who refused him. He pulled all of their families from the deepest mines and from the longest tunnels into the center of the city. He burned alive all of them. Old or young, sickly or well, male or female, they all burned. They all burned as those who had declined the prince were forced to watch. Soon too, they fell to the flame as well.

The army of Dostinduur arrived at the walls of Esterport. The dwarf king went to the council. He demanded that they bestow upon him the vitality of the gods. They refused. They saw in him a cold heart that was as bleak as the stone walls from whence he came. They refused to give him immortality. Dostinduur left the council chambers and left the city.

That night the city burned.

Dostinduur’s army set to flame the city of Esterport just as the five dwarven families had been executed in those dwarven halls so far from there, not long ago. With the sanctuary burned and the once mighty people turned to ash in the sands, Dostinduur’s army went back across the wastes and were never seen again.

Tales have been told of course of what became of them. The unimaginative ones say that they simply yielded to the desert’s heat. More cruel stories tell the tale that the dwarven prince ate his men and drank their blood so that he would survive, and indeed some versions say that Dostinduur emerged from the wastes and lived out his life elsewhere. The most horrifying stories claim the dwarf found the ancient resting places of the old gods which lie in the wastes. These tales claim that he made terrible deals with them to secure his immortality, no matter the cost as he had once set out to do.

However there is one final tale that is seldom told. It a tale that speaks not of the dwarf, but of one of the mystics. It is said that one member of the inner council survived and constructed a sandship from the remains of Esterport. This tale says that the last council member and indeed the last of the mystics christened his ship the Wasterunner and searched far and wide for the dwarf. They say that he spent what would amount to three dwarven lifetimes searching for the prince to enact his revenge. Either he gave up or he figured that there were more important things in life, but the tale says that he never did find the dwarf. In fact it says that the mystic is still out there somewhere. Travelling the sands with his eternal life.

And so we are at the conclusion of this brief story. There are no happy endings, so much as there are a myriad of questions, rumors and conjecture. That is all there is to this story. Conjecture and questions, questions and rumors, rumors and conjecture and all of it revolving around a dwarf and an immortal man, the last of the mystics of Esterport, the last member of the Elan race.



Gunther


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Closing of the season of Life, Age of Zion.

Dearest Lidia,

I know that you didn't want me to go, but you must understand why I went anyway. When Gunther showed up here I could not refuse him. I knew I had to go from the moment that he asked it of me. I realize you don't really know him that well. we did only have him over on a few occasions, but I knew him for what seems like a lifetime. I wished that I’ve told you more of him, but I suppose it never came up and there isn't enough parchment in my bag nor ink in my quill to do so now. I can tell you that he is more than just my king. I knew Gunther since we were both lads and in all that time that we grew up together we became brothers. He is my family, as you are and as our unborn daughter is (or son as you believe).

But… Gunther asked for my help. Ogres are invading the outlying cities at the edge of our kingdom. They have ravaged one of our border towns already and the word is that they are headed inwards, possibly even to the capital. To you. As family I could not deny him and as his cause was just, I could not deny that either.

By the time you are reading this I will already be off. I promise you that I will be safe and that I will come home to you, but I must also try and protect you and the kingdom as well, if I can.

I love you Lidia and may both of us stay safe, Jolrek



Opening of the Season of Fire, Age of Zion

Dearest Lidia,

There are 15 in our company. A few of them are old friends of mine whom I’m sure I’ve spoken of to you. Others are new faces. All of us are loyal to Gunther and well trained fighters. Do not fear dearest Lidia, I am in good company and the roads have been quiet so far.

We are traveling back inward now from the border town of Azazil. The rumors were true. Azazil was all but destroyed. When we arrived priests from the neighboring town were burying the dead. It was a truly terrible sight. Gunther and many of our company fell to their knees at the sight of our fallen brethren. We stayed and helped the priests finish the burial rites. gunther personally saw to it that each man woman and child was dragged from the rubble and put to rest.

There have been whispers that the Ogres have been headed South towards the capital. Rumor is they travel by night and they have legions of troops. Pay these no mind. We passed through Tuurdok not a week ago and it still stood. We will find them and bring justice for their crimes and then we shall all return home. I have worked all day and you’ll pardon me but it has been rough work and I’m to take first watch soon.

I love you Lidia and may both of us stay safe, Jolrek



Midst of the Season of Fire, Age of Zion

Dearest Lidia,

Lots has happened since I last wrote. The city of Tuurdok was fallen. We were half a day’s journey away and camping in the outer plains when it happened. Merketh was on watch. He's a good man, kind hearted. Anyway, he woke us in the night and the sky was lit up above the city. We packed up everything and rode full gallop without lighting any torches, only the moonlight guiding us.

When we got there it was too late. Only a few stragglers were left pillaging the buildings that still stood, most of Tuurdok was ablaze. We took out most of them and let one get away. Gunther, Merketh and I trailed him while the rest stayed back to put out the blaze and to help any survivors. They agreed to meet us at the pinnacle of the Northern Pass in three days time.

Our smaller party traveled into the night and through the next day. At midday we saw the ogre encampment. Lidia there were thousands of them. It took all of my might not to gasp out and to hold my ground. We watched them for awhile but left and took off for the pass in order to formulate a plan. They had a watch. We were spotted as we left the camp and chased out. We ran fast but Merketh fell behind.

Our entire party met up at the pass. Merketh was not among those that showed up. Two of the others also left us. They encountered trouble on the road. We blockaded the pass. We traveled up the sides of the valley and together rolled boulders into the pass. The Northern entrance to the underground kingdom is now blocked. We waited for the army. They came to the pass and went East towards the fortress in the mountainside.

The 12 of us are currently riding out towards it. We sent messengers ahead as well. With any luck we can cause them enough harm here to force them out and they won't even get near the heart of our kingdom. I am confident that we can stop them.

I love you Lidia and may both of us stay safe, Jolrek



Opening of the Season of Change, Age of Zion

Dearest Lidia,

You must have heard many rumors back in the capital city. Unfortunately, many of them are true. The fortress was felled about a fortnight ago. We've done a number on the enemy forces and we believe that they are waiting for reinforcements.

Our party, now 8 in number is in Norunduur. We've gained some reinforcements from neighboring cities but they have been trickling in. Other cities are keeping large garrisons themselves and its looking like we cant hope for too many more. Gunther still believes that we can hold them off here. I hope that he is right and I hope to be done with this war and to see you soon.

I love you Lidia and may both of us stay safe, Jolrek



Midst of the Season of Change, Age of Zion

Dearest Lidia,

I write to you from within the fortress. The mood here is dreary. We’ve been under siege for several days now. I dont know when this letter will be able to get out. We are holding our ground and it is going okay.

You needn't worry about anything. I must conclude now. Fighting has begun again.

I love you Lidia and may both of us stay safe, Jolrek



Opening of the Season of Ice, Age of Zion

Dearest Lidia,

I don't know how to start.

The fortress has just fallen. We are riding out from there only a few days now. We were reinforced by the imperial army that Gunther called on from the capital about a week prior. It didn’t matter. For every dwarf we gained, the enemy gained three ogres. There was a point where a roaming regiment of elves came to our aid, but they could not do much. they were on their way towards another battle elsewhere. Still, the days rest was good for our men.

But alas, our hold is lost. They battered us with siege weapons and stormed us in great numbers. They used their fallen comrades as shields. There were just too many of them. After they got into the fortress itself is was all but over. There was fighting within the walls and in the fort but we had lost our advantage and many of us fell.

One of our mages opened up a portal about a day’s walk back towards the kingdom and what few of us were left fell back. Our group of fighters now only has Gunther, myself, and one other young lad. The armies that went to assist us are now small in number. Maybe a hundred of them are left, probably less.

The inner city is abandoned. People here have fled further inward. Their things lay around. Many left in a hurry it seems after the fortress fell. Some of the men are staying here and boobytrapping the city. Hopefully we can do enough damage to slow them down. The lad volunteered to stay behind and coordinate it.

That was yesterday. This morning Gunther, myself and about 75 others awoke to powder explosions from the city behind. Battle there has begun it seems. We are headed now to the capital for the last defense.

Lidia I want you to leave. Flee to the south and leave the mountain range. Head to the east along the water and I'll meet you in the town at the bay. Leave as soon as you get this letter. The armies of our enemies are only days away.

I love you Lidia and may you stay safe, Jolrek



Midst of the Season of Ice, Age of The Lost

Dear Lidia Junta,

My name is Gunther. I was the man responsible for Jolrek's life and for our kingdom. Maybe he's told you about me. I've seen him sending letters to you every now and again and some of them I sent off with my personal courier to get them to you.

Anyway, I'm writing to inform you that the war is over. Whether we won or lost, it is difficult to tell. The kingdom is in ruin, almost all of our cities were sacked, and all of our people have either fled or perished.

Jolrek was by my side to the end. The orks made for one final rush with the last of their men at the gates of the palace. Their leader came straight at me when I was engaged in a melee. Jolrek intercepted him and held him off for just long enough. But he suffered wounds.

I've been beating around the rocks for too long. Jolrek has perished as well Lidia. I held him as he bled out in my throne room. His last words were of you. I carried him to royal burial chambers and put him to rest in the stones where I was supposed to be lain. That stone befits a man who was more than me. I am now a king of dust and rubble.

I just emerged from the crypt and I'm writing you from the ruins of my study. If you wish to come back here and pay your respects I understand. I offer you a stay in my keep, what's left of it. There will be noone here to wait on you and not much left in the way of food or other needs, but whatever is here you may have freely. Jolrek's death weighs heavy on me and I cannot atone for it. I am leaving this land on the morrow.

The first town that come to I will send this letter in your direction, but I shall be going the other way. I dont know what I will do or where I will go but I cannot stay here, I have no purpose anymore.

If you ever need me, send word out and it will get to me. I dont know what an old broken king can offer you, but I owe you more than I have to offer.

Take care Lidia, I wish you well. Gunther



Chen


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Somewhere deep within the mountain range, a secret order studies. Several day's journey through rocky terrain with no discernible path, lies a temple of monks. This temple belongs to the order of the hidden daggers; An order of monks that trains away from the rest of the world. The order, like many others wield temple swords on their belts and excel in hand to hand combat, but it is said that each of those of the hidden dagger has nine daggers on their person.

As each monk conceals nine daggers, so are nine temples of the hidden daggers concealed to the world. Each of the nine temples has a right of passage that is undertaken by the monks there. At the end of each of these challenges, any being that succeeds may bring a weapon forth. That weapon is then imbued with the magic of the temple and gains the seal of the order of the hidden daggers.

It is the dream of each monk to visit the nine temples and imbue each of their daggers with the symbol of their order. The location of each temple is revealed to a monk through chance, observation, and study. It is said that the path to each temple, be it metaphorical or physical, is marked with the symbol of the order. Monks of the order keep the knowledge of the location of each temple and the trials within a secret. In times of dire need and situation, the monks may reveal the location of one temple to another of their order but they never speak of the secrets within. To tell of that is to cause all of the magic of the temple to fall inert and to cause a great hardship to the one who speaks of the trials of the temples.

Many monks have traveled to other temples and have taken other trials. Indeed it was not uncommon for the majority monks who reside in one temple to have visited another, but it was incredibly uncommon for a monk to have been to all of the temples and to have passed all of the trials. Those who had done so are referred to as the grandmasters of the order.

At the time of this tale, there is only one grandmaster in the world but this story is not about him. It is about one of the monks who trains under him. A monk by the name of Chen. Chen was raised by the grandmaster since he was a young baby. He was told that he had been found in a city of ruin, somewhere in the world below the temple. He was the only survivor of an attack of dark creatures that destroyed the city. He had been brought to the temple in the mountains by the grandmaster and had trained under him until this day. The day that the order fell.

Chen, as he had done on every other day went to the dojo to study beside the grandmaster. He walked up the path from the temple’s living quarters to the dojo above that overlooked the rest of the temple. He entered the red wooden arches to find his mentor meditating in the middle of the room. The grandmaster gestured for Chen to sit with him. Chen bowed and then sat facing him. Several minutes passed, both of them lying in silence. After a time, the old man sighed and opened his eyes. With a slow hand, he unfurled the cloth wrapped around his left arm. Chen waited patiently, without giving an utterance of speech. The old man drew a dagger from a sheath and held it flat in front of him, presenting it to Chen.

“What can you tell me about this dagger?”

Studying it, it looked fairly ordinary. The leather on the handle had been worn, but it’s blade was sharp. It’s distinguishing feature however, was the symbol at the base of the blade where it met the hilt. The symbol consisted of a gray circle that contained within it a magical etching of the hilt of a weapon with no blade.

“That is a dagger of the temple of souls,” Chen replied. The old man looked on, asking for more. “It has the symbol of our order at the hilt, the blade is missing.”

The old man sheathed his dagger again with care and began wrapping it back within the cloth of his garb, concealing it once more. “Yes. You are correct on both counts. This dagger I gained from the temple of souls long ago when I passed it’s trial. But also as you observed, the symbol of our order is missing it's blade.”

“What does that mean?” Chen inquired. His dagger, etched with the magic of this temple, was complete. The symbol of this temple still had it's blade.

The grandmaster looked up from his contemplation and directly into Chen’s eyes. His own, weary with age and worry. He spoke in a very serious, rather grim tone, “It means that we are in grave peril. The temple of souls has lost it’s power. I have not received word from the monks there in some time. No doubt others of our temple who have taken the trial of souls know that it is fallen. You must be off to restore it.”

Chen looked bewildered towards his mentor, whose eyes had since fallen again. “How will I do that? It has been almost a thousand years since a temple has lost it’s power! Besides, the stories say only a grandmaster can restore a temple’s power. You are the only grandmaster of the order that is left, it is you who needs to take this journey.”

“I have traveled this road before Chen, and I know that I will not travel it again. The trials that are laid ahead are not to be undertaken by an old man who has not long for this world. No, my time has all but come and gone.” The old man finished his words, closed his eyes once more, and sat still for another period of time. Chen looked at the man before him. What had he been through? How would he become a grandmaster? How in the world could he hope to restore a temple? One had not fallen silent since the age of Life and now...

The old man opened his eyes again. Chen realized that he had been staring, and he turned his gaze down, but his mentor paid him no mind. He looked on, past Chen and past the entrance to the dojo to the mountain range beyond.

A few moments later a gong sounded from the monastery below. Three long shimmers reverberated around the monastery and vibrated the air. The silence of the morning all of a sudden gave way to a cacophony of other sounds. Shouts, screams, and the clash of metal rang across the mountain range and echoed into the dojo with a harsh tinge. Chen turned and looked back out the door towards the sounds of a battle taking place below. Chen's hand fell to his temple sword.

The old man interrupted his thoughts, “Chen, there is not much time and you must listen to me.” He turned back to his master who was still sitting calmly. “You must go to the other temples and undertake their trials. Become the next grandmaster of the order. Once you wield all the blessings of the nine temples, your path will be revealed to you and you will be able to restore the temple of souls.”

The old man rose from his position and stood. Chen did so as well.

“Do you have the dagger of our temple with you?”

Chen nodded. The old man moved past him with calculated movements and stood in the doorway of the dojo for a moment. He turned his head back under the arch and spoke.

“Then you must go. I will buy you all of the time that I can. Enter the room where you took the trial at the back of the dojo. Place your dagger into the wall of carvings and fulfill your destiny.” He turned back, “Goodbye my pupil, may your blades serve you well.” With that, the old man drew his temple sword and jumped off the path into the monastery below.

Chen drew his own sword and ran into the back of the dojo into the mountain. After a flight of stairs, the wooden steps gave way to polished stone and Chen entered the empty circular chamber. The trial chamber had carvings all along its walls. Many of these were designs and stories depicting ancient battles, ceremonies, and other things. Engraved into the anterior wall was writing which read, “Collect your mind in the center of the room to undertake the test of your body and soul.” In the center of the chamber were channels of water which trickled along the floor, flowing outward from the engravings of the wall and winding in patterns within the polished stone. Below the passage on the wall was the shape of a dagger hollowed into the stone.

Chen approached the hole in the wall. He drew his dagger from beneath his robes. He looked for a moment at the mark engraved at it’s hilt, glowing from the magic within. He fit the dagger back into the slot where it had once been imbued with the temple’s magic.

A deep rumbling began in the chamber. The water which flowed from the base of the stone changed. Water that had once been clear now glowed luminescent with the color of the temple and spread throughout the channels along the floor. The symbol on the dagger burned brighter. The Rumbling grew louder and began to shake the mountain. Then, in a burst of luminance and sound the world faded away.

Chen had shielded his eyes from the light, parting them again now. A calm breeze trailed across his face. He stood at the edge of a lake in the middle of a forest. Stuck into the ground at his feet, it’s brilliance dimming, was his blade. He drew it from the earth, cleaned it along the grass, and sheathed it. Chen turned away from the lake and walked into the forest, taking the first steps of many on his journey.



Verrid and Nova


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Verrid was a member of a small halfling settlement in a hilly grassland, several miles away down an unassuming trail away from the major roads. He was raised by his aunt ever since he could remember. He was told that his parents had been great adventurers and that they had seen many great lands and crossed many kingdoms. He never knew his parents though, and he never asked about them. Verrid's aunt became ill in her old age and she spent most of her time bed-ridden. Time passed and she only succumbed more the the illness. One morning, Verrid went to bring her breakfast only to find she had passed.

He ran out of their home, past many of the other halflings who were traveling about on a rather quiet morning. He ran out of town, over the hills and into the forest just to the south. Verrid had often explored there as a child and had come there today to get away from the reality back home. He curled up under in the shade of a tree, clutched his own body and began to sob. After awhile he stopped crying. Verrid continued to sit there, holding his legs and staring at the ground of the forest around him, seeing nothing.

Hours past, the forest began to darken and rain cascaded down the leaves to the forest floor. For the first time in a while, Verrid stirred and looked around at the mist of water that had fallen upon the forest. In the darkness and the spray he noticed a small spot, between a couple of trees where the forest seemed to shimmer and the rain failed to reach the ground. Curious, he walked over to the spot between the trees and inspected the shimmering air in front of him. He carefully reached out a hand. As he touched the air his hand began to shimmer like the air around him. After a few very brief moments, Verrid began to feel a tugging sensation and he was pulled through this shimmer and he disappeared from the forest.

The world that Verrid found himself in was far different from the one he left. Long shadows stretched from tall trees with black leaves. The air was stifled by an energy that Verrid couldn't place. The entire forest was a place of unease. Looking back around him, the shimmer that had seemed so innocent and that lead him into this place was nowhere to be seen.

Verrid, feeling almost suffocated by the very air around him he ran. He ran in fear through the forest ducking under branches and climbing through bushes. Eventually he came to a clearing. Out of breath he stopped in the center of it and looked around. Directly above him in a gray sky was a black sun, stuck in the noon position. From around the edges of the clearing, something moved in the shadows. The shadows themselves moved. A figure of darkness and void emerged from the treeline and made towards Verrid.

Verrid was held in place. Whether it was by fear or by some magic it was impossible to tell but he was held nonetheless. As the shade approached, Verrid felt his life drain from him. It seemed hopeless. He was lost in another world under a black sun with his future only looking darker, a darkness that could only come from the void.

From the corner of Verrid’s eye he saw another shape move into the clearing. This figure leapt at the shade, tearing through its cloak of shadow with glowing blue teeth. The shade dissolved into the air, thickening it further. Verrid who had been held magically in the air fell as the shade did. He collapsed on the ground. The last thing he saw was the brown figure approach him as his vision blurred and his mind slipped away into the darkness that permeated this land.

-----

His head ached. Moments of splitting pain coupled with nausea and unease. What had happened? Then it came to him.

With a surge of adrenaline Verrid’s eyes shot open and the pain and nausea cleared. He was in a shallow cave. The entrance of which, gaped open 60 feet away, opening to the black-leaved forest beneath the same black sun. Guarding the entrance was that beast. It stirred. Looking back upon Verrid, it got up on it’s four legs and slowly advanced toward him. the stone wall of the cave was all that was behind him. He was trapped. Fear once again flooded his mind. With no weapon and unable to get past, Verrid curled up into a ball. He braced himself for the blows that would come, hoping that by some miracle he would survive.

A sharp and cool voice spoke cut through his thoughts and spoke with him. Don’t be afraid Verrid. I’m not going to hurt you.

He heard this voice not with his ears but rather as he could hear himself, in his mind. Verrid opened his eyes and uncurled a bit. The creature had stopped just in front of him. It’s blue eyes looking directly into his. The creature resembled that of a dragon. Small brown scales covered it and a glowing mark was just visible on it’s left shoulder.

My name is Nova. The same cool female voice permeated his thoughts.

Unsure of what to say or do Verrid thought out within his own mind. Hi.

Hey. He could feel a happiness from the creature in front of him. The creature moved forward again suddenly and lept at Verrid, tackling him to the ground. It opened it’s mouth and with a large flat tongue licked Verrid’s face repeatedly.

Verrid was taken by surprise, a flash of fear, and now just an overwhelming sense of joy. He laughed outloud unable to contain himself and batted playfully at Nova, who ducked and weaved between his hands to continue licking at his face. It had been a very long time since he had been this happy and he didn't want it to end. He only half-heartedly tried to bat the dragon away, enjoying this moment for as long as it would last.

After a while she stopped. Nova was now positioned on top of Verrid, who was pinned beneath her. The blue eyes of the dragon and the halfling stared into the souls of the other being.

I saw you in that clearing. You were in danger, You were dying. Verrid could feel an intense sadness in Nova as she spoke. In his mind he saw a vision of a dark creature and a halfling in a clearing. Nova narrated the scene as the images danced in his mind.

I attacked that shadow, but when I turned to you you were already becoming cold. I draped you over my back and carried you here. Nova gazed over to where Verrid had slept. He followed her gaze.

I lay you down and stood over you as I am doing now. She turned to look into his eyes again. You were almost gone. I opened my soul to you.

In his mind, Verrid saw as Nova did. His own face was in front of him, turned to the side and lifeless. His mouth was slightly agape and his skin was pale. A blue wisp appeared from Nova’s mouth and traveled through the air and entered into his. A moment passed and he saw his own eyes open and stare back as his body took a gasp. His eyes changed from dull green to bright blue and then his body slumped over again. A warm filling sensation filled Nova and she lapped at his face slowly before laying beside him.

You were asleep for days. I cared for you and gave you food and water when you were hungry or thirsty. I waited for you to wake up.

Verrid saw that Nova had carried him on her back and taken his sleeping body to some river close by. He could smell the spray of the stream as she lapped up the water. He saw as she moved over to his body. He felt it as she parted his lips with hers and let the water flow into his mouth. He heard himself cough and he saw himself swallow. As nova had experienced it and as she recalled it to him, Verrid too experienced it.

As Nova went, pulled fruit from the trees and chewed it he felt it all. Nova continued to feed him and very faintly he could feel some other sense. Faintly, as Nova finished giving him water and feeding him Verrid felt another, more familiar, full feeling through Nova’s thoughts. He could feel his own thoughts and feelings of the past through Nova’s mind in the same way they were sharing experiences right now as she recounted the story.

I’ve been waiting for us to finally talk to each other and to be together. Now you’re awake and we have and we are. Nova lapped at Verrid’s face another time and nuzzled her head beneath his.

I know the way out of this world and back into yours. Would you like to go?

Verrid was unsure how to take all of this in. He was confused and his head had since began to ache again. He thought of home and he thought of this creature that had now become a part of his thoughts and a part of his being. Now that he spoke with Nova he could feel the same fullness in his chest as Nova had after the blue wisp entered his body. Its like he could feel her own soul alongside his own. It made his body feel full, it made him feel warm, and above all he felt loved.

He could feel Nova become questioning again over his own thoughts, expecting an answer.

Yes. Yes, I want to go back home with you.

Verrid and Nova got up and she motioned for him to climb on her back. Together they rode off, out of the cave and into the forest.

-----

Nova and Verrid talked all day and shared experiences and stories. They stopped to eat when they were hungry and they stopped to sleep when they were tired. The sun never left from the center of the sky and they never left eachother’s side. After a few days they came upon a clearing atop a large hill. The air shimmered as it had in the forest, so long ago.

Here we go. They both thought together and they stepped through the portal.

They appeared on the edge of the forest, on the bottom of the hill before Verrid’s village. Together they walked up and reached the crest of that hill which marked the edge of town. What they saw made Verrid look twice. Rubble and broken stone was where the houses once stood. The farmlands were overgrown with weeds. The few houses that still stood had no lights in them, the wood that made the roof sagged and moss grew on the cobble foundations.

Verrid made his way to his home, Nova following. The house he grew up in barely stood. The ceiling of his room had collapsed, otherwise the house was just as he had left it a couple of weeks ago, albeit with an unusually thick layer of dust and cobwebs. Out the back window he glimpsed a stone under one of the trees in his yard. Going outside to inspect it he saw that it was where he Aunt had been buried.

Time moves differently where we came from… Are you okay Verrid?

He looked over at Nova and gave her a reassuring smile. Lets go Nova, I want to get away from here. Theres nothing left.

The two of them walked to the path at other edge of town which was barely visible under the grass. Verrid looked one last time upon the town that had been his home. Nova came up to him and pushed her head under his hand. He looked at her, smiling and continued down the road.



David Gutierre


--- --- ---



David Gutierre came from royalty. His father, Mathias Gutierre, was the ruler of a small kingdom to the East. Mathias' first wife was a stunning woman. She had amber hair and a smile that would fill the room. Together they raised their first child, Jonathan. Or perhaps it is better to say that they would have raised their child. Mathias' first wife was poisoned and killed only a year after Jonathan was born. It was then that Mathias fell into a deep depression for awhile. One night, he had dressed himself as one of the peasants of his town and he was at one of the taverns in his town drinking away his sorrows. It was then that he was approached by another woman. This woman had silvery hair and had an aura of enchantment around her. Mathias immediately forgot his sorrows and fell in love with the woman. After only a week he proposed to her. After two weeks they were married.

Mathias was wed to a witch of a woman. No seriously, she was a witch. She enchanted the king for fifteen long years, holding him and his kingdom in the palm of her hand. Sitting behind his throne she spoke her wishes into his ear and he made her wishes realities. Together they had four children. She certainly never cared for them and Mathias was too enchanted by this woman to raise his own children well. Jonathan thus took most of the responsibility for his three brothers and his sister. When Jonathan became of age he approached his father about observing him in his daily duties in order to someday rule over the kingdom in his stead and take over the responsibilities as Mathias' first born. Jonathan's step mother denied him this and had him removed from the court and banished from the kingdom. She expressed that she would be the queen and to challenge that would lead to exile.

Jonathan, who had spent his entire life within the Gutierre kingdom and had lived in the same castle as his stepmother had had enough with her rule and her sway over his father. Already destined to leave in the morning and never return, Jonathan went to his stepmothers chambers. By this point he was sure that she held some power over his father, but was fearful of upsetting her. Never to see her again, it was the best time to act. When ransacking the chambers he found a diary. In this diary detailed everything that the witch had ever done. Every lie she told, every enchantment she made. It was all there so that she could remember what she said and retain absolute control. On a page that was dated 15 years prior, was the tragic story of a woman that was poisoned. She was poisoned by the witch's hand. Jonathan burst into the courtroom that day and read aloud from this page in front of the king. The king stirred. He blinked once or twice, turned to his wife, and ordered the guards to take her away. She was later executed.

It was a few years later that Mathias met Landia, the elf who would become his third wife and who would remain his wife to this day. Landia Gutierre was a stunningly beautiful elf. She wed Mathias after a few years of courtship and together they raised Mathias' children as they should have been. In addition to raising their five children, together they had two more. They named their children Nadia and David. They were of course both half-elf. Mathias loved his wife and his children more than anything in the world, but in secret he was deathly afraid that his half-elf children would inherit the magical abilities of their elven ancestry. Mathias had forbid his children from learning, studying, or even knowing anything about magic.

David's story starts on the day he was exiled from the kingdom.

The day was cloudy. Looking up at the sky, David could sense that rain was coming. The air had that scent as well as it does before a storm comes in. David smiled a little, for he liked the rain. Maybe it was part of the elf side of him, but he felt refreshed and at peace in the rain.

David looked down from the sky and to his right at his family. They were all gathered in the courtyard of the keep to welcome the rest of the Gutierre family for the annual spring feast. The king was standing alongside the queen. They whispered to themselves as the family waited. He seemed troubled lately, more so than usual. No doubt his mother was trying to console him, but he didn't appear to be comforted by her words. Further right of the king was Jonathan standing by his side. He had become Mathias’ most trusted. Today he just stood looking solemnly out of the keep towards the town below. Finally to his immediate right was Nadia. His little sister, she seemed particularly happy today. She always enjoyed it when their family got together.

“So Nadia?” She turned to David with that smile on her face, “How has it been going at the healing tent?”

“Its been alright, the sickness is passing and I’ve helped heal a few other people as well!” she said proudly. There had been a human sickness passing through the town. Nadia had been helping out and practicing. She and David had both been turned to magic by their mother some time ago when they had asked about it. Both of them had to hide it from Mathias and their mother didn’t get involved after she explained the basics to them years ago.

“You want to come and watch! Well, like later tonight you know, before dinner.” She looked at David with her big brown eyes. They were always supportive of each other practicing magic as they couldn't share their abilities with anyone else really.

“Sure.” As David spoke, a trumpet was finally heard from the bard standing next to the castle walls. The rest of the family stood at attention. Riding through the walls were a party of 5 all on horseback.

Lucas rode in first. He was the oldest of the riding party. Lucas ran the nearest town with a benevolent heart. Tren and Balthazar rode in following. They were the twins. Tren ruled a city by the edge of the kingdom with a stern hand while Balthazar ruled another border town rather haphazardly, preferring alcohol and spirits to sitting in a council chamber. Finally cantering in last were Rosabella and Jacob. Rosabella was the older sister. She could be difficult to be around but she was family. She married Jacob, another noble of one of the friendly kingdoms nearby.

The party dismounted and gave greeting to Mathias and Landia in turn. Rosabella and Jacob had an extended conversation with the king and queen about some strangers they met on the road. Tren and Lucas went and spoke with Jonathan. David could make out something about an attack they fought off during the night. Just as he was trying to listen in closer Balthazar approached.

“David and Nadia! Why my little elflings, how have you been.” He put both of his rather large hands on each of their heads and proceeded to ruffle their hair.

“Balthazar!” Nadia shrieked as she tried to wriggle away. He made for a grab at her and held her in an embrace from behind, kissing her head. He moved his hands and produced an object covered in red cloth.

“Tada! For you my little elfling sister.” Pulling away the cloth he produced a white flower that he had been hiding. Balthazar had a knack for the theatrics. It was a quality that David found he was particularly fond of in his brother.

“And for you brother.” He took a step towards David and twirled once. In his hand appeared a sheeted weapon which he held out to David as he bowed and dropped to one knee.

David was lost for words. He took the weapon out of it’s scabbard. A deep blue scimitar gleamed at him.

“Its made of mythral. Forged by the best smith in the kingdom.” “Thanks.” David beamed at him.

“Balthazar!” the king boomed from behind him. He did not look pleased.

“Not to worry father I didnt forget about you!” he called back and began to turn. “Free me from the dungeon by dinner,” he whispered just before running off. David caught something from their conversation about “Not a knight’s weapon,” and “Balthazar! Get these doves out of my face!” David didn't pay much mind to them. He just stared into the deep blue of the blade. It reminded him of the sea. After marveling it for a moment, he sheathed it and turned around to see everyone walking inside and Nadia beckoning him. He followed everyone else.

---

The day went by rather eventfully. Each of David’s siblings told stories of happenings in the kingdom. Jacob spoke of events from afar and about troubles brewing abroad. Lucas told a story of a group of adventurers who had slain a gigantic python just outside his front gate. Tren recalled for the family the day that a lion was roaming the marketplace. Each of them had some marvel to speak of. The sun soon dipped towards the horizon and the talk had shifted more towards politics.

“David,” Nadia murmured, “Lets go to the healing tent.” She tugged on his arm, not waiting for much of a reply. David just let himself be dragged along.

“Be back by supper, it’ll be about an hour after sundown,” Mathias called at them as they left. “Now about that bandit raid…” The doors of the great hall closed behind them and Nadia ran off towards town. Looking up at the still cloudy sky David walked off into the night towards the tent.

---

The healing tent was just that, a tent. The caretaker was a male drow elf who had been cast out for practicing magic. He was a good friend and was Nadia’s tutor in healing, both openly with mundane methods and by magic in secret. David knocked on the wooden plank door at the front of the tent. The dark-skinned elf answered the door.

“You sister is in the back,” he gave a weary smile, reflective of his work.

David thanked him and headed past a few people sleeping on cots and past a cloth barrier to the second half of the tent. Nadia was bent over someone in a bed at the corner. She motioned David over with her head. Moving closer, he could see a little girl. She had a wet rag over her head and a grimace on her face, but was otherwise sound asleep. The girl’s entire body was covered in sweat and she had scabs over her arms and blood under her nails that .

“It makes some of them itch real bad. Most of the adults can deal with it, but she can't help it most days.” Nadia brushed her finger over the girl’s forehead. A peace returned to her face and the little girl stopped shaking. Her wounds melded with the surrounding flesh and disappeared like they had never been there. It was truly something.

In the calm of the tent, David could hear some argument going on towards the front between the elf and another man. The argument had quickly escalated.

“No you can't go back there! Those people are sick! Aah!” The clatter of a table came from the front.”

“Stay out of our way dark elf. We are not here for you today,” came the other man’s voice.

“Get behind me,” David said to Nadia as he slowly and quietly drew his scimitar from the scabbard on his belt.

A blade cut through the fabric of the tent and a dark figure appeared, silhouetted by the candlelight from the other room.

“Ahh, I’ve waited long for this moment.” The man swung down with his blade at David. The surge of the moment and years of training kicked in and David parried the blow.

The man struck again, his blade cutting into the fabric at the top of the tent as he went in for another swing. The clash and screech of metal sent sparks out of the blades.

Nadia let out a shriek from behind. David turned to her for a split second and felt his arm burn with pain. Looking back at his attacker he saw the blade shimmer in red and orange as embers around the crimson of his own blood. It wasn't a trick of the light, the blade itself was black.

David held out his gashed hand towards his attacker. A green orb formed in his palm and shot forward hitting the man in his eyes. The man yelped out in pain and slashed wildly toward David. David rolled beneath his longsword and cut at his hand, disarming the assailant.

The man who had grabbed at his eyes with his free hand now grabbed at the gash on his hand and infected the wound with acid. He crumpled to his knees screaming in agony.

David kicked him in the chest. The man fell on his back with his arms splayed on either side. The mithril of David’s blade lightly brushing the man’s throat. He fell silent.

“Who are you? What is your purpose? and Why have you attacked us?”

In the candlelight and out of danger, David noticed a circular crest of a black sword sewn in this man’s tunic just on his chest. His blade lay a few feet away, still glimmering red where it had struck but was otherwise black. The same symbol was etched in gold on the hilt of the weapon.

“Hahaha. HAHAHAHAHAHAH.”

David pushed the scimitar more firmly into the man’s throat, causing a trickle of blood to appear on his neck. “What do you find so funny?”

“You’re too late,” he scoffed.

“Too Late?”

The man opened his eyes, red with fury and with acid. He stared directly into David’s eyes, “When any elf that sits on a throne that governs men the Order of the Black Blades will depose them all.” The man pushed himself forward upon the blade and slit his own throat.

David, caught off guard, looked on at the man who had by now slumped to the ground. Dead. Glancing back Nadia had both hands cupped over her mouth.

Upon seeing David’s face she moved her hands and repeated to him, “Too Late?”

Their family. Holding out his hand towards Nadia, “Quick! We must go.” She grabbed his hand and they ran out of the tent. As they left Nadia stalled, looking at her friend unconscious on the ground. David tugged harder and they emerged into the evening town.

Looking around, there were a few people who were looking towards the tent, curious about the commotion going on within. Those that were standing too close fumbled backwards as David burst through the tent door. A few guards were riding full gallop from the town gate a hundred yards off and they were almost upon David and Nadia.

“Guards! Quickly! Your horse!” David shouted, pointing at the lead rider. He dismounted and David swung and grabbed onto the reins spinning to face them as he inched his mount forward. “You, protect my sister and you, ride to the barracks and rally the men to the dining hall.” David turned forwards looking at the keep upon the hill.

“Wait.” Nadia had come closer to grab his ankle. She looked into his eyes. David could feel his burning wound cool and tingle. “Be careful.”

He nodded and cracked the reins. “Ya!” Speeding off into the night the horse galloped through the crowded streets. Townspeople pushed to the side and David just rode through them at full gallop. At the edge of the town he had passed the last merchant stand, closing up for the day. the town fell below him as he was brought higher up the sloped path leading to the keep.

David leapt from his steed in the courtyard, making a roll and springing back to his feet bounding towards the door. The few guards that were normally on watch lay slain on the ground, darts sticking out from one man’s neck and the other with huge gapes in his armour, burnt flesh in the wound where a blade had struck.

The front door was half open before him. David burst through, scimitar drawn. In the hallway were more downed guards and he could faintly hear the clang of fighting from the dining hall to his left. He ran down the corridor and approached the wooden doors that blocked the path to the dining hall.

As he approached another man, clad in dark garbs fell through the entryway and landing on the stone floor face first, revealing the chaos beyond.

Bodies littered the floor of the room. Several guards were strewn on the ground as well as a good number of dark robed warriors. Still standing were about twenty more mercenaries wielding black blades. Beyond this sea of uniforms bright dress clothes could be made out.

In the far back corner The king, Mathias was flanked by his oldest sons. Landia was being sheltered in the extreme corner. They had swords taken off of one of the mounts on the wall that served as decorations.

In the adjacent corner, Jacob was wielding one of the attacker’s black blades and he was defending Rosabella who had likewise taken off an ornament from the wall, one of the King’s hunting bows.

Immediately on the other side of the door, a bit to the right of the dining table which took up most the room, was Balthazar and Tren. Tren wielded two daggers, one clearly his own and the other with bright red frills hanging off of it. Balthazar, next to him instead had two butter knives and was parrying two men’s swords with them. They stood back to back and were far more outnumbered from the other groups.

“Why David!” Balthazar called out upon seeing him in the doorway. A clang sounded out as he effortlessly deflected another blow from the man in front of him, who was clearly enraged at being bested by a lunatic with butter knives. “So nice of you to join us for dinner!” he exclaimed as he deflected another blow and his opponent staggered back.

In the back of the room, The king had lost his sword to one of his opponent’s blows. David looked at the table, took two steps forward and grabbed a cask of alcohol. He hurled it at two men of the group attacking the king. It splashed over their cloaks. With a final wave of his free hand, David sent a spark of light towards the men and their cloth burst into flames. The man, who had caught fire focused on putting out the flames and was struck down by Jonathan and Lucas.

David saw his father look towards him with a look of betrayal and fear. Before he could dwell on it too long, two objects flew by David’s face, missing him by mere happenstance. He turned around to see the assailant that had crashed through the dining hall doors fall with an arrow in his chest and a butter knife in his shoulder.

Seeing the knife, David turned back to Tren and Balthazar. Each of them had downed one of their foes and Balthazar had his frilly red dagger back in hand. A particularly burly man with a black greatsword swung down at Tren. He fell aside with a sizzle of flesh and the crack of bone. Balthazar turned facing David and deflecting two more attacks, one from the man he had been facing and another from the other swordsman who was fighting Tren.

David ran forward and cast his left hand into the air. Blue lightning arced from his fingertips to his scimitar and bathed the entire room in a florescent light. A Slash and a jab finished off the closest man who fell to the floor, his body convulsing.

Balthazar, awestruck looked right into David’s eyes with a sense of bewilderment. The burly man struck at him in his daze and slashed his leg. With Balthazar collapsed to one knee on the ground, David moved over him and blocked the other darkened blade. David slashed at the larger man who let out a cry and brought his sword over his head to strike.

David braced for the blow, but it never came. A flight of arrows struck each of his opponents who tumbled to the ground. Five of the town guards had since entered the room and picked off the last of the fighters.

All was still.

Back by the far corner Lucas held his sword to a man’s throat, Jonathan was ordering the guards to take him to the dungeons, and Jacob and Rosabella were injured but standing. Mathias ran to Tren who lay on the ground in a pool of blood.

The king just started sobbing. Eventually the rest of the family formed around Mathias and stood as he mourned the loss of his son. He kneeled down muttering and musing about how this sort of thing could happen. Then, as if he had remembered something he stopped his morning. In one swift motion the king grabbed his sword that he had lain by Tren’s side and he charged at David.

David, taken by surprise just flinched and raised his hands in fear. A final clang of metal rang from the dining hall with a sickening tinge. Jonathan stood towering over David, blocking his father’s blow.

“Move aside.” Mathias glared into his eyes.

“You have already lost one of your sons, would you lose another?” Jonathan remarked back.

The tension in the air was thick. No one spoke and all eyes were on the two crossing swords. “No Jonathan, I have lost two sons on this day.” He stared straight into David’s eyes then around the room. He slowly lifted his blade from His son’s and turned back to Tren on the ground. Jonathan motioned for Balthazar to take David away and David was lead out of the room.

Balthazar had lead David out of the castle. Neither of them said a word. Outside it had finally begun to rain, but the two walked on paying the weather no mind. After a time they approached the keep’s stables. Balthazar stopped in front of his horse and untied the reins.

“There are a week's rations in the saddle bags,” he said solemnly. “Follow the road out of town and make your way west to my town. The barkeep will let you stay for the night and you can continue on by morning.” He handed the reins to David and looked at him with weary eyes. “You can't stay here any longer.” Then after a pause, “You are always welcome in my town my little elfling.”

David smiled and embraced Balthazar. He got on the horse, explained what he had learned from the man in the healing tent and asked him to watch over Nadia.

Balthazar nodded and David whipped the reins of his steed. He took off into the pitch rainy night. For the first time in his life, he did not enjoy the comfort of the weather.



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