Kytrae’lienan and the Queen Beast

By Cas

Winner 2014 Creative Corners – Stories

Prydemother Ka’Miz Sarinallissa-Kyotharr’s explanation of Shooting Stars to her daughter, Ky’Rassar.

When the world was young and Kaern had newly emerged from the Mists, the night sky was fraught with dangerous, scaled beasts that neither arrow nor claw could fell. Hearing the fierce but fearful calls of Her people, Kytrae’lienan sought an accord with the Queen of Beasts: whomever was the victor in singular combat would reign the skies supreme and banish all who opposed Her from Her new domain. But the agreement stated that both Kaern and Beasts must still their attacks upon one another until the battle was concluded and a victor prevailed. The two great beings took to the heavens and fought fiercely for dominion – and Kytrae’lienan used all of Her trickery and guile to fell the Queen Beast, whose strength could rend worlds asunder. Neither being seemed to be able to gain the upper claw, but their agreement remained: the lesser beasts abated. While She could not best the Beast Queen, She sheltered Her children with Her midnight hide, standing between the enemy monsters and the Kaern. Each day She and the Beast Queen rest, and each night, they do battle. The shining points of the Queen Beast’s claws can be seen to pierce through the Goddess’ ebony fur – sometimes her children even witness new wounds arise, and ignorantly call them “shooting stars”.

The Day The Circus Came To Town

Michael Guest

The town of Greenspier is a small, peaceful farming community just far enough from Carreg Wynn to avoid most of Carreg Wynn’s “troubles,” which is plenty close enough for the townsfolk. Now, the winter months had been hard on the town, with a couple of farms losing damn near everything to the ice storms.

***

It is a beautiful mid-summer’s day as Philip strides into town with a smile on his face, and a bounce in his step. Quickly, however, his smile fades as he sees the look of fear people are giving him as he walks on by. He tries to approach numerous people to find out what has happened to make them so scared of a harmless stranger, with no luck.

It’s not until he is stopped by a woman wearing well patched leather and chain armour that he even gets within speaking distance of anyone. On her hip sits a sword, upon which she calmly rests her hand. She looks Philip up and down with a well-practiced eye, seeing the bells on his cap, the bright red and yellow of his hose and jerkin, and coming to rest for a long while on the brace of throwing daggers belted at his waist in an ornate series of sheathes.

Before he can ask what’s happened, she speaks: “Who hired you?” Her voice is rough and hard, used to command.

Philip swallows hard.

“I, uh… I work for Boris?” he offers with a stammer. “I’m just here to-“

“I know why you’re here. I’ve heard the stories, hells, we all heard the stories. Just never thought we’d witness it first-hand. Who is Boris, and who have you come for?”

“Boris is the Ringleader? I’ve been working with him for years.” The confusion clear in his voice. “He told me to try and get as many people as possible. But, I mean, that only makes sense, right? The more people, the more money.”

He continues on, seemingly blind to the woman’s look of shock, and ensuing tension in her muscles. “If I had to be honest, money is the real reason I do it. Playing with my knives is fun an’ all, but I gotta put food on the table some-…“ His sentence is cut short as the woman runs him through with a look of pure hatred.

***

The snow is blowing hard, making it difficult to even see the oxen pulling the wagons, their snorts and laboured breathing telling the truth of the rough condition on the roads.

“Greenspier should be coming up soon,” says one person to another. With all the layers they’re bundled in, telling one from another is virtually impossible. “We should be able to shelter there until the worst of this passes. Give the poor beasts a chance to warm up.”

“Greenspier? They gon’ wanna let us stay?” asks the other one. “They ain’t gon’ wanna feed us when they ain’t got much for ‘emselves”

“We can pay our own way, mate. All we need is the space to get out of the wind and snow. I’m sure they’ll be happy to have something other than their own stores to eat.”

“’Ere, what’s that?” asks one of the two while pointing to a shape off the side of the road.

As they approach, they realize it’s an overturned wagon stuck in the ditch. A whistle is blown, signalling the small caravan to stop for a while, so they can make sure no one is hurt, or worse. And if they are, to let the townspeople know for when the weather lessens.

As the bundled figures approach, the trap is sprung.

When it’s over, all that’s left are bloodstains and bodies so bundled up you can’t make one from the other, quickly getting buried by the blowing storm.

***

Helena couldn’t believe how easy it had been. After all, she had heard the stories, even told a few herself to get some of the drunks to get home quietly. And she’d seen the results of his handiwork for herself: Three people dead in one night, one stab wound each if you don’t count the mess of their necks. Looks like they were half cut off, half torn off. Quick and to the point. And that was just the most recent batch.

So far, eleven people were dead. Men, women, children. And all from the same two farms. But that’s all over now. Surely a man like him wouldn’t be able to come back unaided, unlike some of his victims. Just gotta keep his body safe and sound.

She figured that maybe he’d just become too cocky. After all, walking into town dressed like that, with those knives? Musta thought he was untouchable. Maybe he just wasn’t used to people who could fight back.

No matter the reason, all she needed to do now was get his body into cold storage and let the people know they were safe. Oh, and check to see if there was a bounty on his head, of course.

***

There was lot of talk in town about how well those two farmsteads are doing, what with their barns having been crushed under the ice, killing their remaining livestock, and the wolves and whatnot getting into their stores.

The townsfolk were just starting to gather selections from their own stores to help them get through the winter, when Jared let them know there was no need to worry: he actually had a second storehouse that was well enough stocked to get his family and the other through the winter. A second storehouse? Since when? And so the whispers started, rumours building strength.

Sure enough, by the time winter ended, those two families were almost none the worse for wear. They even had some coin put aside for more livestock and seeds. And the rumours kept flying.

Now rumours like this don’t just sit idle. No, no, no. They spread. People passing through hear them and tell the folks in the next town. And soon it seems like everyone knows about the strange sudden wealth of Jared and his kin inside Greenspier.

But most importantly, it became known to two people, dressed lightly for the spring weather, such that telling one from the other was as easy as telling apples from oranges. And then it quite directly became known their boss, a rather wealthy merchant who considered those who worked for him to be family.

***

Boris was pacing back and forth in front of the entrance to the circus’ main tent, fiddling with his top hat. “Where is Philip? He should have been back hours ago. How long does it take to muster an audience, for NOS’ sake?”

“Maybe he’s found a good pub?” suggested Groan, one of the Strong-orcs in the show.

“Not a chance. He’s too much of a professional. There is no way he’d risk throwing off his aim and hitting someone. I’ve known him for years, ever since he graduated from the Fool’s Guild. Won’t touch the booze for at least a day before a show.” Boris looks up at Groan and wrinkles his nose. “Something you might want to consider yourself.”

***

There was a great roar of approval and plenty of cheering as Helena told the assembled townsfolk they were now safe from his threat, that his lifeless body was laying on a cold slab. The publican brings out a cask for all to share. Talk of feasts and even of statues is going around. The need to let all the towns in the area know is brought up with excitement, because it is one of their people who did it.

Suddenly a massive beastly roar is heard: “QUIET!” bellows Groan.

The people turn in shock to see a mixed group of races heading towards them, with an impressively large dwarf leading the way. The dwarf stops some distance from the crowd, and glaring at them from under the brim of his top hat yells into the crowd: “You dare revel in the murder of my employee? One of my people? My friend? A man who’s sole purpose in life was to bring joy to others? Who is the killer of Philip? I would have you come forward to so we can discuss terms of recompense for your heinous crime!”

Helena makes her way through the crowd with confidence, and speaks loudly enough for everyone to hear: “I am the one who killed that monster, but I committed no crime. Instead, I brought some justice for his, or should I say, your victims with his death.”

With a sure movement, Helena draws her sword and levels it at Boris’ throat. So focused is she on her adversary that she doesn’t register the drawing of weapons from those at Boris’ back. The crowd, however, does, and begins to back away trying to find a safe distance but one where they can see and hear the unfolding events.

“You come here to our town, admit to paying him to do your dirty work, and have the gall to claim unjust treatment? With his death I freed the frontier of a monster. And with yours, I will complete the justice for those you had killed!” And with those words, she lunges forward to impale the dwarf on her sword.

Before she can connect, one of the orcs pushes Boris aside and lets the swords slide harmlessly across his stomach. With the swat of his hand he knocks the sword from her grasp, and with his other, promptly pins her to the ground.

“You want I should squish her, boss?” asks Groan.

“No! There has been too much fighting by far, and I think a misunderstanding of tragic proportions.” Boris looks at Helena, his face suddenly looking tired and weary, and striking change from the righteous fury of only moments ago. “We are a circus. We are performers, entertainers. Philip is, was a Guild trained Fool. He does juggling and knife throwing acts. He’s been working with me since the beginning. I don’t know who you think he is, or what he’s supposed to have done, but he’s never been here before today. So you just killed the wrong guy.”

Boris signals Groan to let her up, but she just lays there, a look of horror on her face as she realizes that not only did she kill an innocent man, but the real killer is still out there.

Arrangements are made for proper recompense and for a mage or alchemist to come by to resurrect poor Philip as soon as possible.

Three weeks later, the circus leaves town, complete with Philip, who luck would have it didn’t need any help resurrecting. “I just wanted to wait a few days to make sure she didn’t kill me again,” he said when asked about how long it took to come back. They all agreed that was a sensible precaution.

***

Little Tammy is sitting on the edge of the ox-wagon, waiting for her brothers and sisters and dad to finish feeding the animals so they can go down to see the circus like Dad promised. The circus had been here for three days already and she still hadn’t had a chance to see it yet. But today they’re going to go. Dad promised.

Tammy was starting to get scared. She was pretty sure it didn’t take this long to feed the animals. And now that she was thinking about it, she couldn’t hear the dog, Rufus, barking or running around either. Why is it so scary when it gets quiet? she thought as she hugged her knees to herself.

Oh! Footsteps. That must be Daddy! But why is he bringing bells?

Her body will be found the next day with a note attached: “An eye for an eye. A tooth for a tooth. Your debt is repaid.”

***

Three hours after being run through, Philip opens his eyes and sits up on the cold, stone slab. There is no expression on his face, even when he notices that they left him with his knives. There is no need to pretend to feel anything: right now, all there is, is the job.

The Siblings and the Traveller

by Cas

(A Curnish Cautionary Tale)

Brother Achievement and Sister Potential were disputing which was stronger over drinks. The Brother bragged about how he could crack the earth with his radiant heat, while his Sister insisted that she could move the oceans with her might.

Upon spying a cloaked traveler beneath them, the Brother said, “I see a way to decide! Whichever of us can cause the traveler to remove their cloak shall be declared the stronger. You begin, dear Sister.”

The Sister, deep in her cups already, agreed, and waited for her Brother to hide his face behind a cloud before beginning.

She turned her Lunar eye to the tides, and the wind that issued forth threatened to tear the cloak from the traveller’s body. But the harder the wind blew, the tighter the traveller wrapped the cloak around their shoulders.

The Sister gave up with dismay, and her Brother revealed his shining face from behind the cloud. He shone with all of his might upon the traveller until it was too hot to walk while wearing a cloak.

Moral: Might does not always make right.

((Based on the Aesop’s Fable, “The North Wind and the Sun”.))

Faery and the Orc

By Cas

(A Faery Story)

There was great excitement among the Fae when the mists were new and fresh. The Faery was going to give a blessing to the Fae who had the most beautiful baby! From all over the Mists, the Fae came to gather, and each brought with them their baby to be judged.

With a cacophony of flutes and fanfare, Faery arrived among their creations and flitted among them. Their glittering visage beheld each of the babes in turn, taking great care and diligence before making their decision.

One of the gathered Fae was an Orc, who held up her infant for the Deity to see. Faery stopped and tittered derisively upon seeing the little green infant, “Why in the Mists would you bring that creature here! It has no resplendent ears, no beard to speak of, and no silken fur! Why, it does not even have hair upon its hands or its legs – just skin the colour of a toad! How could you possibly expect to claim a boon from me!”

The Orc mother held her child to her chest as the greater being them passed by, and proclaimed, “I care not what Faery or any other think! To me, you is the most fine baby in the Mists.” In return, the Faery turned them both into toads.

Moral 1: Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

Moral 2: Do not insult a Divine Being and expect not to be reprimanded.

((Based on the Aesop’s Fable “Jupiter and the Monkey”.))

Forgetting

By James P.

Winner – 2013 Creative Corners Contest – Stories

Chapter 37 of the story of Rook Knothorn.

Forgetting

Wildly the heavy wooden door to the dusty monastery swings open. The blizzard raging outside engulfs the room in a flurry of snow, sending papers and other debris, untouched for years, swirling into the air. A faun quickly jumps through the doorway, slamming the large door behind him. The room returns to normal, beams of sunlight and a couple stray snowflakes trickle down from the rafters, where the room has caved in. Taking a second to catch his breath, he leans against the door as a smile creeps a crossed his face. Those familiar to the Frontier would recognize the faun by the shepherds robe, flowing out from underneath the winter furs, to be that of the one once worn by Fritz the faun and now worn by Rook Knothorn.

After a moment, Rook turns, entering the main chamber of the lost monastery. A large statue stands at the far end of the room. Part man, part snake, made of jade, the looming figure representing a long forgotten god, or an unnamed hero to the monks that once lived here. Getting to the center of the room, he grabs an over turned table, flipping it upright, before removing the leather backpack and gently placing it on the flat surface. Rook begins rummaging through the bag as be begins to talk to himself.

Months of studying and work… and no one is here to see me do it.” He mumbles.

Unwrapping a slate covered book from a sheet of linen, he places it on the table, flipping through until he lands on the page he was looking for. After a moment of emptying the contents of the bag, Rook stands with a complete alchemy lab in front of him. Slowly he gets to work, mixing various plants and grinding stones into powder, whisking each thing into the caldron. With a bit of flint, Rook starts a cooking fire under the small cast iron bowl. While the concoction boils, he stirs it with a wooden spoon. Gazing into the swirling mass, he once again continues his conversation with the ancient jade statue.

A whole month at Mercy’s library in the Empire I spent to find this silly recipe. Kind of one of those single shot deals, but I think this is worth it. I’ll tell ya, you think you have seen it all till you go to an actual Hell dimension. Now I’ve seen… too much. The world is too cold like this, it lacks the light it once had… and well… I’m going to fix that… at least for me.

The gold liquid bubbles up for a moment, almost as if to agree.

I have given up memories before. Sacrificed to the Fairy for the defense of Carreg Wynn, but this is kind of different. There, an all-powerful being took a piece of me as payment… not payment… more like energy to power a magical device. Here though… well it’s more like a purge idea. Bad memories, those are hard to get rid of. They borrow down and cling to your mind. That’s where alchemy and you, my fine snake friend, come into play.”

Letting the potion simmer, Rook looks up at the stone gaze of the snake-man statue.

See I need to borrow your place here, this tomb will serve nicely to jail the wretched memories I plan to remove from myself. After digging through what must have been a book shelf of folklores of the Thunder Mountains, I stumbled on a story of the monks that once lived here. I guess they were having some problems with these harmful spirits of bad emotions or… something like that. Well to protect themselves, they coated the walls here with their own pure hearted blood. Thus, creatures of ill emotional intent can’t get in to this room. Sadly for them it turns out what was really causing all the bad mojo around here was… you over there.”

Rook never takes his eyes off the statue as he pours the potion from the bowl into a small vial, gently shaking it. For a moment an eerie green light illuminates the jade from within the smooth cut stone.

I’m guessing they didn’t know that when they drew the barrier of blood on the walls, they were actually locking themselves in here with the meanest spirit of them all. Then again, that’s why I’m here. Seems to me, if your still here, I could leave a bad memory here and it should stay put too. Honestly you should thank me; I’m giving you a pretty fun, tortured, mentally deranged room-mate.”

With the last word leaving his mouth, Rook tips back the vial between his lips, swallowing the potion with one gulp. The jade statue pulsates with light. Small cracks break into the edges of the face and chest, with more of the green light pouring out from those points.

Rook closes his eyes and begins chanting. “Loom of the mind, cut the strings that rot. Loom of the mind, cut the strings that rot, Loom of the mind, cut the strings that…”

Before he can finish his sentence, Rook doubles over in pain. He yells out as he drops to his knees, holding his stomach. Black oil begins pouring from his ears, pooling on the floor in front of him. The echoing sound of a hiss fills the room as a large chunk of the statue falls, breaking into hundreds of pieces on the ground. Rook shakes his head as the last of the ichor seeps off his cheeks. Suddenly the black liquid starts moving, writhing towards the faun. Small oily tentacles protrude out, reaching for the body that was once its home. Quickly Rook stands on his hooves and with one motion grabs the slate covered book on the table and backpack, slinging it over his shoulder.

Looking down at the wiggling black goo mass, Rook says. “So long whatever you are. It must have been worth it seeing how much work I put in to get rid of you.”

With that the snake-man statue bursts into pieces. Large chunks of jade, scatter a crossed the monastery. A green smoke, in the form of a serpent, floats where the statue once was. Quick as lighting, Rook bolts of the door. Behind him he hears the serpent spirit scream something at him in a language he doesn’t understand and with a whoosh; Rook can feel the presence crossing the room in pursuit of him. Getting to the wooden door, Rook find the once hidden red symbols painted on the wood, now glow red, meaning the ward of this place is in full effect. Grabbing the handle, he swings the door open. Rook can almost feel the spirits breath on the back of his neck, the creature being only moments from snatching up the daring faun. He musters all his might into a final leap, jumping through the archway. Turning he smiles as he slams the door. The last thing Rook see through the slip in the door is the face of a quite angry snake spirit and the writhing black mass slither into the shadows. After a loud smack sound against the wood door, the room falls silent.

Outside, the blizzard has stopped. The mountain range once again is visible all the way to the horizon. Rook takes a large breath as the gazes out from the mountain top the monastery sits on.

It’s a long trip home, and Chastity is going to kill me when I get back. Might as well get this over with I guess.”

The faun sighs and hangs his head low and he starts walking down the dirt path, back to the base of the mountain and back to the road leading home.

Welcome to Carreg Wynn

By Sharron Norton

Honourable Mention – 2012 Creative Corners Contest – Stories

We come over the crest of the hill and pull in through the wooden gates at the base. The chattering in the car slows down to a minimum as we pull slowly through the winding narrow driveway. Almost rhythmically the car bounces with the potholes. It’s odd, the potholes are right where they need to be to create that gentle rocking feeling. The trees lean in with their branches reaching out, brushing the car’s windows and doors, almost in a welcoming hug. Pine to maple, shrubs to crab grass are there for the welcoming, lining the drive way, waving slowly as we pull on by. We cross the wooden bridge, wide enough for one car, the wooden planks lying across the large logged bridge allowing just enough space for the tires to drive over. This provides the first level ride we’ve had since we pulled off the road. The bridge is crossed and we pull past the parking lot, relatively empty, game hasn’t been called yet and people are still unloading their gear. The sunlight is slowly fading behind the coniferous forests that surround the main field as we pull in and see the field alive with activity. Dusk falls onto the numerous people busying themselves by setting up their camps.

The gravel driveway divides this small field in half. Where the driveway ends another field begins, smaller than the main field but leading off to other places. In the main field a wood building sits off to the side, nestled snug among the trees, this is an unspoken haven when game is called. This is the Inn. The car is unloaded and I set up on my regular bunk in the building. Excitement floods through me as I bound through the two rooms. The large room holds the main dining area as well as the main sleeping area. Wood bunks line three walls and surround the eating tables. The smaller room is the kitchen with two bathrooms attached. Old friends and new faces meet my eyes as I run around giving jumping hugs to those I know. I pay for the event and run outside on to the porch. Good sized tree trunks provide the support needed to maintain the suspension of the porch roof. Four picnic tables line either side and create an aisle from the entrance of the porch straight to the door.

Dusk has gone and navy blue has tinted the fields and trees. The air smells of night, damp and all the odours of the day are being covered by the scent of dew. Everyone gets called to the porch, we’re told what we need to know for the game to start and then we’re set free to do as we wish until the monsters start rolling in and defence is needed. I settle in the Inn, my cloak off, hanging by my staff, which in turn is leaning against my bunk. The lights have been changed to red lights so our eyes can handle the change when we step outside to the pitch black. Across the field the Inn provides a welcoming glow from the harsh reality of nightfall.

Game on. Night is in full swing and players and monsters are everywhere. From hiding in the forest to hiding in plain sight no one is sure about anyone until a close up inspection is available. Battle starts and I forget the confides of the field. Backing up I suddenly hit the bending branches of a cedar. The branches bend enough to provide a soft backing but refuse to bend enough to allow me to hide from the monster that’s swinging at me. Squealing, I run behind the tree and hide in the forest. I’m not followed and am allowed to breath for a minute as I take in the scene. The field is alive once again with activity, this time people are setting up to take down the monster. Bodies are shadowed from the light and only profiles can be seen. Clothing spins with the bodies it’s attached to, swords are swung and people duck. Only chaos can be understood from the yelling on the field. The monster is dead and things simmer down. Yells are heard for healing assistance, a loud body count is done, I come out from my hiding place to go aid everyone else.

Just as the healing is done yelling is heard from an encampment in the trees. People grab their gear and run to help, the fight spills out from the blackened path leading to the encampment and into the moonlight. Assassins are out, only two have been caught and forced to fight without the safety of the shadows. The other two continue to do their dirty work from the shadows, the trees providing them their shadowy shelter. Unable to pick out the two hiding in the woods, the fighting is concentrated on the other two. Again bodies become profiles and shouting becomes chaotic. With the two assassins dealt with everyone huddles together is large blob, the town’s defence against assassins. A couple of faces, contrasting white to the night, can been seen in the blob as some watch the bushes for any signs of movements.

Healing is done while everyone is massed together and people start to sweat with everyone so close together. The blob breaks into smaller blobs, cloaks are taken off, weapons hang loose in their owner’s hands. Someone breaks from the defence and goes for a smoke, feeling the threat is over. Wandering over to the smoking table the cigarette never leaves its pack as from the darkness a blade strikes the would be smoker and a short cry is heard. The blobs move as one. Moving from the safety of the open field to the shadows of the trees people spread to their own areas of safety. Some move inside, a large mass stays on and around the porch watching the trees, keeping their backs to the open field, the smoker is healed with everyone watching the trees. Some move into the trees in pairs, looking for the assassins, slowly with weapons drawn. A short fight is heard and people exit the forest victorious, the assassins are dealt with. The stars are out and the scent of dew has completely masked any old smells. A couple of people lay on their cloaks and stare at the stars, breathing in the crisp air.

As all the town splits off, fewer and fewer people are left in the open field until a scant two or three are left talking and staring at the stars. As if they appeared from the ground a group of monsters come charging at the small group. Screams are spilt and help comes running from the porch. Two or three run to the encampment and the Inn calling people to arms. People spill out of the Inn and the encampment come from off the path into the field. Organized chaos ensues as people drag the injured off for the healers to do their work while the fighters take on the monsters. I run to the downed bodies still on the battle field. Dropping beside them I play dead as monsters go by without a second glance before applying my magic touch and healing the downed player. Monster by monster the threat is taken care of until it is the biggest monster left facing the towns greatest fighters. When the final blow is struck and the monster is killed we all do a mass heal and mend any broken armour. As remnants of the fight are taken care of and the majority of the town has left for a warm drink new players flop down on the driest bench they can find. One turns and looks at me, “Is it always this hard?” they ask.

I reply, “Welcome to Carreg Wynn.”

Four Tales of the Beasts

Winner – 2012 Creative Corners Contest – Stories

From: The Book of Tall Faeries & Their Tales
By: Star Spider
With: Ben Badger

The Spider, The Fly and The Bee

“Greetings my friend,” said the Spider to the Fly.
“Hello,” said the Fly.
“Won’t you come into my web?” said the Spider.
The Fly obliged and stepped onto the delicately crafted strings.
The Spider had worked for days to create an enticing place for a Fly to visit.
The Fly was unaware of it’s surroundings but well meaning and, unfortunately, instantly ensnared. In a panic from being stuck it buzzed alarmingly and was quickly set upon by the Spider. The hubbub, however, attracted the attention of the Bee, who floated over.
The Fly screamed for help.
The Spider eyed it hungrily.
The Bee was torn.
On one hand, the Bee knew what it was like to be hungry. On the other hand the Bee could imagine how horrible it was to be trapped. So the Bee pondered; “If I save the Fly, the Spider goes hungry and I risk being caught in the very same trap. But if I leave it be, the Fly has to die, although the Spider lives to see another day.” Life for one, death for another. But ultimately, the Bee believed, unnecessary. “Why Spider, what an extraordinarily silly situation you have put yourself in! Where I come from we work together for the greater good and no one has to die! Surely you can find a better solution than needless suffering?”
The Spider pondered this and continued to be a Spider.
The Fly pondered this and continued to be a Fly.
And the Bee continued to be.

The Spider and the Bear

Once upon a time there was a little spider who lived in the woods.
One day, while she was weaving a complicated web, a bear came stumbling through and collapsed beneath her home in the trees.
Spider slid down to him on a piece of her strongest silk and perched on his nose.
Bear was bruised and skinny and looked like he could use a bite to eat.
After taking a good look at him, Spider scurried off to a nearby raspberry bush to get him some food. She brought him berries one at a time because that was all she could manage to carry.
Once Bear was fed she sat on his dry, scratched nose.
“What has happened dear Bear?” she inquired, her many eyes gazing into his two.
Bear only wailed and groaned incoherently and Spider shook her head sadly, ascending into her web to catch herself some food for the night as Bear fell into a fitful sleep.
The next day Spider descended again onto Bear’s nose.
“Will you tell me what happened today sweet Bear?” she asked. He only moaned and sighed with melancholy and she went off to collect him some more berries.
On the third day Spider came down once more.
“Dear Bear, I have heard the only cure for a wounded soul is to talk about that which has inflicted
the pain. If you will not talk to me, at least whisper your secrets into my web, where they can be kept far from your heart and locked away forever,” Spider implored before scurrying off quickly to fetch some more berries for her sad friend.
She was gone longer than usual and in the time that passed Bear grew curious. Was it true that the way to cure his soul was to share his pain with the web above? There was only one way to know. Bear began to speak, slowly at first and then with great rumbling words about the trauma that had scarred him so. He told the web of the evil slaver who caught him and tortured him and made him perform in front of horrible, jeering crowds. He cried many hot tears as he spoke but when he finished he felt his heart to be just a little bit lighter. When Spider returned she was pleased to hear him speak.
“Dear Spider you were right, your web now holds the secrets of my sorrow and I am a less
burdened Bear,” he said.
Spider was pleased and after feeding him his berries, she immediately tore down the web and
built a new one.
The next day she bade Bear to repeat his story to the web. Again and again he spoke his tragic tale, sometimes in anger and sometimes in sorrow. Every day he would speak to the web and every night Spider would build it anew until, at last, he agreed to talk to her directly and he did it without shedding a single tear.
Bear had found a cure for his heavy heart and Spider felt like dancing.
The two remained friends forever more and often wandered the forest seeking out others in need.

The Dream of the Dragonfly

Once there was a dragonfly who was called Whitetail. He was striped black and white and spent
his time flying between the dream world and our own. To Whitetail the transition was fluid from one
place to the other, but there were certain telltale signs that couldn’t be ignored. The dream world shone brighter than the normal world would do and there was a friend who was only present when he was sailing on the winds of dreams. His dream friend, Skimmer, would whisper secrets to Whitetail and tell him stories that painted vivid dreamscapes upon the endless horizon. In the land of dream mortality was different too so Whitetail was forced to make clear lines with himself. Black and white like the stripes on his wings.
In dreams we live like we can never imagine in life, allowing the deepest parts of our imaginations free. We can try anything, be anything and become our ideal selves. Whitetail respected the power of the dream world and lived in balance with his waking life.
One day, in the real world, the sun was shining bright and Whitetail was basking in it’s glow
when his dream friend, Skimmer, appeared beside him, grinning in the sunshine. Whitetail was startled and looked about him for clues that he might have slipped, without knowing, into the dream world.
“Skimmer, this cannot be!” he exclaimed.
Skimmer merely smiled placidly as though nothing was wrong. Whitetail felt the leaf he had alighted on and stared hard at the world. Solid and dim, just as the real world should be. But Skimmer’s presence was impossible.
“Let’s paint the horizon with our dreams!” Skimmer proclaimed.
“The balance is crumbling!” Whitetail lamented.
“Or perhaps it is only now that it is finally being achieved,” Skimmer commented.
Whitetail pondered this statement for a moment.
“We must separate our lives from our dreams though or the world will lose all semblance of order!” Whitetail replied.
Skimmer simply shook his head and let the breeze lift him into the glowing sunset.
“Don’t you see dear friend that balance can only come from integration. Black and white are mere illusion, there is only grey.”
Whitetail beat his wings then, black and white blurring together into grey.

A Tale of Faith

Once upon a time there was a Turtle who was large, strong and very wise. Turtle carried his home with him everywhere he went, it was his sanctuary and a place he could retreat to in order to find himself. One day Turtle was by the river, feeling low, his heart was weary from life’s trials. So he ducked into his home to find his balance, but to his surprise (and considerable alarm) his balance was gone! The peace and faith he carried with him inside his shell was nowhere to be found. So he was left without and his heart sank lower still.
Turtle was distraught, with no home to speak of and his faith depleted he felt his only option was to search for answers in the forest around him. So he began to walk, aimless and alone. He wasn’t walking long when he came upon a Badger. “Hallo there friend! You look like you are in need of some direction!” said the friendly creature to Turtle.
“I have lost my faith,” said Turtle, unable to keep the sadness from his voice. Badger chuckled and sat down heavily in the dirt, sprawling out in a relaxed fashion.
“I never did have much time for faith myself, all that believing in things that aren’t really there. Give me some sunshine and a hearty meal. Now that’s reality my friend, it’s not much to ask for, but at least I can touch it and taste it!” As though to prove his point, Badger stretched out and stuck his face into a patch of sunlight that was filtering down through the trees.
“You ask me, you are thinking about it too damn much little buddy, just take a seat and enjoy the moment!”
Badger grinned at Turtle, sharp teeth gleaming in a surprisingly non-threatening way. Turtle pondered Badger’s point, but felt too restless to sit down so he thanked the large, furry mammal and continued on his journey.
Next he came to a big tree with a spider’s web in it. Before he could move on a Spider dropped down onto his nose and gazed into his eyes with all eight of hers. Her soft feet tickled his face.
“Well hello there Turtle, what are you doing so far away from the river?” she inquired.
“I have lost my faith,” he proclaimed listlessly.
“Oh dear!” Spider replied, jumping down onto the forest floor and sizing Turtle up. “Well I will let you in on a little secret Turtle, faith is just an illusion. It is something that can raise our spirits and make us feel as though the world is alright, but it isn’t really real. You may feel it is the most important in the universe right now, your lack of faith, but it is only as important as you make it. See that sky?” Spider pointed one of her spindly legs up through the trees and Turtle looked upwards. “That is light reflecting into your eyes to form patterns and colours, but it is your mind that makes it into a sky!” Spider laughed and climbed back into the tree. “The mind is a powerful thing and faith is only in your mind, remember that Turtle,” and with that Spider began to weave beautiful and complex patterns into her web.
Turtle bade her farewell. It was a complicated concept to grasp and he wrestled with it as kept moving through the forest. Was it all an illusion like Spider said? Should he just relax and enjoy the moment as Badger had suggested? None of it felt quite right and so he marched on.
Day was passing into night and the forest was glowing in glorious hues of orange and red when Turtle spotted a Bear. Turtle froze at the sight, it was a giant white Bear jumping and playing in the twilight. Turtle moved slowly and unfortunately a branch cracked beneath his feet drawing the attention of the giant beast. Bear bounded over.
“Greetings!” he said excitedly, “Isn’t it a beautiful evening?”
Turtle merely nodded in agreement, unable to believe the Bear was amicable.
“Perhaps you would like to play with me? For only in action can we find what we seek!” Bear invited Turtle with open paws to play and frolic, and so Turtle did.
He jumped and laughed and as his feet lifted from the ground, so did his heart. He breathed in the fresh summer air and laughed with the big white Bear amongst the green trees. He existed in the moment, strong body, strong mind and with that knowledge, Turtle realized his faith had never been lost in the first place. It was not in sitting still that he had released it, was it the act of pondering his mind that shook it free. It was the simple and glorious power of using his body to move, feeling the blood flow through him and the earth beneath his feet that reminded him that everything he had ever needed was right there, inside all along.

Into Wolfholme By David Henry

Arcarin got lucky.

Just as he entered Bulltongue County, a group of goblins advertising the Goblin Games in Caereg Wynn were shocked to hear that Arcarin wouldn’t be able to participate in their games. They took him almost directly to Wolfholme via a goblin tunnel. It would have been perfect had they not put Arcarin in the Black Oblivion again. Though his time in that place would be brief, the bitter cold winds rushing through the tunnels was enough to bring back some bad memories. Luckily, however, the entrance to Wolfholme was just a quick walk away from the path the goblins created.

After a brief questioning at the entrance by the pack placed to guard, Arcarin walked the streets of the crude city. The smell of wood smoke filled the air, a welcoming scent compared to what odors usually haunt an Arluru tribe. The massive cavern ceiling above glowed red with the reflection of many fires from the circles of tents and crude buildings.

There were new things to Arcarin’s senses. He walked by potters and other artisans who were taking more effort to put in esthetic qualities into their work. Though the designs were crude by the many standards of the outside world, Arcarin didn’t know a thing about artistry, and the thought of Arluru creating more than just things out of necessity brought a smile to his face. It was a shame, however, that Arcarin didn’t have enough time to get the info Piper wanted. He’d offer to take her next time he leaves for Wolfholme.

Drums played in the distance all around him. Once these instruments were thought to attract the Xin Tai, the sworn enemies of the Arluru, but with the protection of the walls and ballistas surrounding the entrance to the Black Oblivion, there was a greater sense of security, and the drumming reflected this. The fact that Wolfholme was built inside of a Goblin Tunnel and not actually within the Black Oblivion was also a likely factor.

Arcarin had business to attend to, but he decided to stroll just a little longer around Wolfholme. He walked through an alleyway of crude tents when he was approached by another hunter. He couldn’t have been an adult for more than a month. He had little armour, just a loin cloth and a single leather pauldron, and he was carrying a club. It didn’t even look like it was fashioned in any way, it just looked like a thick tree branch. Behind the young one was another two young Arluru, one male, one female. Neither of them had anything but clothing to cover themselves up.

Arcarin stopped where he was. He had his battle-axes in hand, but close to the heads so that he was in control. It was a peaceful stance. He looked behind him to see another two Arluru behind him. No one but the first hunter had anything but they’re claws.

The one with the single piece of armour spoke up. “Hey, I have some bad news for ya,” he said. “This is our alleyway. There’s a fee for coming through here. Gimmie a few copper and I might be persuaded to let you pass…”

This guy can’t be serious, Arcarin thought. He’s not even old enough to hold a piece of wood. Arcarin looked him dead in the eye. “This is your turf, huh?” Arcarin asked. “Who the hell would pay anything to walk through this shit hole?”

The young would be Alpha put an evil grin on his face. “That was the wrong answer, friend!” He raised his club above his head and stepped toward Arcarin. Suddenly, he feld the wind rush out of him. He didn’t notice that Arcarin dropped his axes and struck him in the stomach with his fist. He dropped to his knees in pain.

The others rushed towards Arcarin with claws and fangs bared. Arcarin did no such thing. The first in front to his left came in trying to claw at his face, but Arcarin ducked and countered with an uppercut, sending the poor young Arluru slightly into the air. Arcarin followed it up with a backhand to the face of the female Arluru, sending her reeling.

The two from behind tried to grab Arcarin to take him to the ground, but Arcarin was too smart for that. He dodged one and grabbed the other, throwing him to the ground. The second was kicked in the chest shortly thereafter and collapsed. The one young opponent grabbed one of Arcarin’s axes and tried to split his head in two. Arcarin grabbed his axe, and gave the assailant a firm headbutt, knocking him unconsious.

Arcarin calmly grabbed is axes again, listening to the moans of the pathetic pack that now laid at his feet. He walked to the alpha and picked him up by the front strap of his shoulder pad. “That’s it? That’s all you got, you punk ass Alpha? What are you, eight years old? I know Fauns that could kick your ass! I know ELVES that could kick your ass!!” He dropped him and stomped on his stomach. The defeated alpha coughed and moaned in pain, grabbing his stomach and curling into the fetal position. Arcarin grabbed a silver piece from his pocket. “Here, buy yourself the other shoulder, ya stupid mother fucker!” He said. He flicked the silver piece onto his head. With that, Arcarin straightened out his clothing a bit and walked out of the alley. He had business to attend to.

* * *

Arcarin walked straight to the Elder’s Tent, the centre of leadership for both Wolfholme and for all of the Arluru. Unlike the other tents, this one was massive – almost the size of the field outside of the inn back in Caereg Wynn. The canvas was decorated in red paints, depicting packs of Arluru taking on different prey, including the Xin Tai. The whole thing was set upon a wooden platform, with a small set of stairs leading up. Guards walked around the structure, spears in hand. A pair stood a the bottom of the steps. Arcarin approached them.

“Stay right there!” One of the guards said. “The elders are currently in discussion. State your business.”

Arcarin looked him in dead in the eyes. His expression was blank. “I wish to address the council myself. I have urgent news from the surface.”

The guard scoffed at the idea. “Oh really? What could that be? The Imperials are still treating us like animals?”

“The Xin Tai are on the surface.” Arcarin said plainly. The guards expression turned from smug to a startling, cold expression of fear. He turned to the other guard. “Tell the elders to expect a visitor! Now!” The other guard turned and ran into the Elder’s Tent. The first guard turned back to Arcarin. “You better have proof,” he said. Arcarin nodded.

Arcarin walked up the stairs and into the tent, just outside the meeting chamber. The inside was surprisingly well lit. It was a combination of burning oil lamps and light potions that were hung from the ceilings. Symbols of all kinds were painted onto the canvas walls, none of which Arcarin could recognize. The smell of incense hung in the air, almost overwhelming the senses. A guard came in from the main chamber and looked at Arcarin. “You can go in now, they’re expecting you,” he said. “Leave your weapons here.” The guard then exited the tent. Arcarin laid his battleaxes and dagger on the ground and walked through the furs that were being used as a curtain.

He stepped into a large, circular room. Sitting around the room were eight individual Arluru. Six of them had the look of shamans about them. They wore robes of white, each having a staff laid out in front of them, and a few holding mana. One in particular was venerable. Her black fur sagged, her back was hunched, and she was very skinny. Her eyes were open, however, and she was very alert and silent.

The other two were clearly hunters. The one to Arcarin’s immediate left was wearing black studded leathers covering almost all of his body. Two maces were set in front of him. The other hunter was immediately to the right of the venerable shaman. A greataxe laid in front of him, and his armour was composed completely of Xin Tai chitin, complete with a Xin Tai head that sat upon his right shoulder.

One of the shamans spoke up. “One of the guards tells us that you have urgent news from the surface,” she said. “Please start by telling us who you are and where you have travelled from?”

Arcarin cleared his throat, then took a breath in. “My name is Arcarin. I have come from a small town known as Caereg Wynn, within to Frontier of what we call the surface world. Over the last few months, we have encountered our ancient enemies. The Xin Tai have followed us to the surface.”

All of the elders, with the exception of the venerable one, were shocked. Their eyes widened, and the looked to one another for answers.

“There is more,” Arcarin said. “There seems to be a new breed of these creatures. They’re smaller than the usual breed, much smaller than us. And rather than killing their target to feed on, they’re laying eggs inside of living people and putting them into a form of suspended animation in the process.”

“This is absurd!” the hunter closest to Arcarin said. “Why are we to believe anything this boy has to say? How are we to know that this is just a complete fabrication? He doesn’t even have an proof!”

Arcarin took his bag off, and reached inside, taking the now dead Xin Tai egg that was extracted from one of the patients back home out and throwing it into the arrogant elder’s lap.

The hunter jumped up in shock, grabbing one of his maces and smashing the egg, breaking part of the floor in the process. He took a few quick breaths, and glared at Arcarin. “How dare you bring a Xin Tai into the heart of Wolfholme!” he shoulted. “That was unnecessary,” Arcarin said, “it was dead before I even got here.”

The agitated hunter sat down in a huff. The second of the hunters spoke up. “I have never heard of anything like this,” he said. “I’ve fought countless Xin Tai both within my pack and on my own. Never have I witnessed one of them laying eggs in a living being.”

“This particular breed I speak of is an ambush predator,” Arcarin said. “I have encountered one myself and managed to escape. They don’t pursue their targets for long if their surprise attack doesn’t work.”

“This is very disturbing news,” another elder shaman said. “Over the past year, Wolfholme has seen fewer attacks from the Xin Tai. We attributed this trend solely to the fact that our defenses are much stronger than anything we could create in the Oblivion. If they’re heading to the surface, they may be up to something else. This is the first time we have heard of any of this, and we will be alerting all the packs that enter into the surface about their presence. We will also be carefully watching visitors to this place. If they are being layed inside of other beings as you say, we could have an infestation on our hands and not even know it.”

“That is most wise of you, elder,” Arcarin said. “But I’m also concerned about the other races on the surface and how they will react to this. If they learn that the Xin Tai are connected with us, they may blame their emergence on us. Though the citizens of my town are more open-minded about such things, those in both the Empire and the Confederacy may be less accepting about this.”

A third shaman spoke. “Our allies within Tor’Jadine know about the Xin Tai through our stories, but we made the assumption that our enemies would be contained inside the Black Oblivion. When next we meet with them, we shall inform them of the situation.”

“Of course,” Arcarin said. “In the mean time, how should the townsfolk of Caereg Wynn and I deal with the situation?” The hunter with the chitin armour spoke up again. “Again, I have not heard of these ambush Xin Tai. It is very important that you take out their hive before it gets too large. Otherwise you may never be rid of them.”

“I see. Thank you for your time.” Arcarin gives a small bow and turns around to exit. “Stop,” an old haggard voice says.

Arcarin turned around. The venerable shaman motioned him over. “Come closer.” Arcarin walked over to the elderly shaman and kneeled before her. The shaman raised her hand and touched Arcarin’s face, taking a close look at him. She smiled. “Your journey is not at an end. Never give up on your people,” she said. She let go of his face. “Return home safely, child,” she said to Arcarin.

Arcarin’s expression was that of bewilderment the whole time the venerable one spoke to him. He almost felt disappointed when it ended. Grateful, Arcarin bowed again, and left the Elder’s Tent.

* * *

Arcarin was once again at the entrance of Wolfholme to the Oblivion. The fortifications were still there: A trench fifteen feet high sloping downward into the Oblivion surrounded by wooden fortifications and ballistas on each side pointing down. He took a look back at the city that he thought would never exist. He smiled, knowing that his people were starting to recover from their rejection from the Mists an eternity ago. He turned his gaze to the way out, and walked forward, beginning his journey home.

The Brooch By Cas Staton

It was sculpted by hand. Painted meticulously to cover the silver beneath – a precious metal the colour of the Sun Lion’s covetous Night Mistress. Layer by layer by layer of dark-as-shadow paint was smoothed over until the brooch shone. Set at last with an emerald for an eye, a gem that winked and twinkled with a hint of life.

It was a gift, to be presented to the only daughter of a revered Prydemother. The very female that was to claim the craftsman when she arrived.

Complete and polished to a delightful sheen, it gleamed like a thing alive. The tiny green stone embedded beneath its brow caught in the light at times, playfully coy and aloof at once. It was made of silver, something that was not abundant in the area, a metal that was traded for at great cost, worthy of the approaching princess. The loving hand of its crafter had styled it with fervent care, with sketches and crude carvings of wood and stone to make certain that it was perfect.

The shape was curved; a stalking arch from which a gentle trace of femininity could be drawn. A snarling mouth did not bare fangs in malice, but rather, it seemed to portray a certain impish, feral quality that was not uncommon among the women of the Prydes. The hand that crafted the small, stylized creature was careful and astute. It used a soft brush to layer a rich, dark paint in many coats over the polished, moon-hued metal.

The female’s eyes were not green like the brooch – if he had known her first, he would have used amber instead. He had never met her, and he did not know. He could only have guessed.

The finished creation was shaped like a prowling panther. One paw was upraised, tipped with claws that faded from onyx to the shining metal beneath.

He could not have known that she was not quite the same as an ebony jungle cat. She seemed different from the others, and when he gave her the brooch, she smiled. He then knew she was different – another sort of gift. Something that he would never have dreamed of betraying…

To have something that was hers: wholly, completely. It was an idea that she clung to in the way the lungs held onto the last portions of air when a person drowned. She had swallowed the brooch – her brooch – to keep it away from her captors when they had not found it in her boot. To think that she had almost cast it away was a thought that filled her with mad giddiness and hysteria. They did not know she had it – and they would not ever know.

She kept it with her through it all: the lurching cart, the sodden mud and exhaustion, the horrors of the auction block, the crippling pain throughout it all. It was with her in the bowels of the earth among the shambling shapes of things that were dead and alive (or alive and unaware that they were dead). Mud, rock, sulfur, desolation. Out of the darkest days that stretched for years, then into the jarring and piercing light – she had it removed from where she had stowed it – pinned inside her abdomen. She kept it with her, even then. It was a symbol, a physical manifestation of strife, misery and memory overcome. Perseverance, pride and freedom.

The paws and claws had broken off and was worn down to smooth stumps. All of the black paint had been either worn or stripped off, and the shape was eroded and silken from the strain of being caressed like a worry stone. It was usually cold, but warmed when she held it. It used to be black, darker than the coal that they mined from the mountains, but it had become silver, like something from the night sky that she had grown to admire. The emerald had fallen free, and the empty eye socket stared forward – hollow, but not quite lifeless.

She had learned to hate the creature that made it for her, since the abandonment and betrayal – but had adored the bauble since she first saw it in his tawny, open hands. She had kept it with her, and it had seen her at her best and worst. Pity it was a thing, and not a being – for it would know her better than any other.

Much like its owner, the brooch had changed over the years. Changed because of the forces that acted upon it. It was worn and broken, but still captured some of the brightness that it once had. Before, when it was young and clean and loved. Even now, stripped and tarnished, worn smooth and almost featureless, it was pleasant enough to look upon.

Inner Demons By Kristen

In the light of day an unusual tent is raised temporarly on the out-skirts of Carregg Wynn. Towards it walks a hooded figure, stepping noisly and clumsly. The figure reaches the tent flap and steps inside, throwing the hood back off her head revealing a young female Orc. Not dressed any different then any other day but for once, a serious look on her face. She lowers her head and enters the tent where there sits a small wooden table and two chairs, one of which sits a human male pulling out parchment and quill.

“Good Evening Wolf,” He speaks in a calm serious tone. “You mentioned you have some things you would like me to record for you in the written tongue.” She nodds and he carries on, curiousity peeking out from his otherwise monotone voice. “My question is, why? I dont see what use you, or any Orc for that matter, has a use for a journal and record of your past.”

“If I dont leave record of myself then who will know what happaned? No one will wait for me to speak anymore, thats a fact. I can assure you, I want my name cleared. Its time people hear what really happaned.” And with that she takes a seat at the table. “Now, no more questions. Im going to say this carefully and clearly. make sure you get every word.”

The scholar nods his head slightly and dips the quill once. “As you wish.”

“First off, I killed more people then i can count last summer.” The scholar immediatly looks up raising a curious eyebrow and the Orc’s voice depened. “Yes, write that down. Write everything.” She countinued. “One of which i murdered more times than the amount of fingers I have on one hand.” The scholar’s eyes flash towards Wolf’s hips and sides, checking for weapons, now, feeling perhaps agreeing to this was a bad idea.

“The first died for not protecting the town. I was standing in the Inn and a cat named Sonnar was stuck to the door of the Inn by spider web, and there were still spiders out there. Normally I would have been the first into combat but I was still recovering from a previous fight. I requested assistance, and was told they wouldnt help. I was angry and swore at the person that they should remember that moment. Cause the next time they where in peril, I would do anything in my power to make sure they died. Not anymore then a few minutes later they where attacked by spiders and stuck to the door of the Inn. I am good to my word, and I made sure he perished.” She grins, self-satisfied with how this recording is going.

“The next two died for being foolish enough to attack a drinking buddy of mine. So I made sure they suffered a terrible death.” The grin grows more feral. “Ah yes, then there was the man with the sword. Yes, I admit, I took his sword as a joke. But they should know that I returned it as soon as I knew it hurt him. However, not being a forgiving man he attacked me…repeatidly. And I killed him every time he came back. Twice near the trees, twice in the feild, and I drowned him once.” Wolf’s eyes flicker as she see’s that the scholar is shaking quite feerfully.

“Then I killed a defensless mute slave.” Wolf’s expression quickly changes, she looks slightly ashamed “That was my first mistake. I heard this girl had something to do with the monsters attacking the town, and I had to kill her. I am to blame for that one, I trusted someone I shouldnt have.”

The young man looks up from the parchment, noticing the change in her personality. They make eye contact for a second, and when Wolf realizes shes showing empathy she shifts face again.

“Then there are all the merchants and visitors to the town I’ve murdered. Yes, I killed them too. Mostly for gold and other items they had on them. Killed a man for a pair of pants once. And I cannot remember all the people I’ve beaten down but not killed.” Wolf sighs, “But I have repented for what I’ve done. Make no mistake, eight months in the land of the dead will change a person completly. There are demons there, demons that will never leave your head. Long after youve left that land.” She stops and takes a deep breath, reaching into her pocket. For a split second the man thought she would pull out a dagger and surelly murder him, but instead pulls out a flask and drinks, as if thinking what to say next.

Trying to fill the awkward silence the scholar speaks, “Well…impressive as this is, Its…its getting late. See, the sun is already setting.”

Wolf stops drinking for a moment and lowers the flask. “Why…does the dark scare you?” She leans forward staring at him.

“Ah no no, its alright. Actually, I uhhh. know a bit of magic.” And with that he pulls out a fire mana which Wolf seems to not notice at all. “Here, its getting a bit hard to see, let me shed some light.” Befor wolf has time to react he mutters a few words and a fire erupts in a lantern.

There was a loud crash, a man’s scream, then silence, and darkness as the sun countinued to set. Out of the tent steps Wolf, blood dripping from her bare fists. She holds the bloody parchment in her hand and her eyes are wide. She’s panting heavily, her body shivering as she turns and looks down at the smoke that escapes from the now smashed lantern…and the dead body. “Yes…the land of the dead can change someone. But the demon will get out of my head. Mark my words. Anyone who touches fire magic will die. They must be purged of the demons that live in them. Thats the only way I can escape.”

And as the darkness unfolds over the land, her vow is said, she throws the hood over her head and begins to return to her encampment.