Custagine went right up The Hill the next day, early as he could. He only stopped by a small food vendor on the way to grab breakfast, today it was a course but filling Ogre treat. It was hearty and filling and good for a day’s work, but it was not very tasty. Ogres were really dumb, and they never learned proper ways to cook. But they did it well enough.
He arrived at the top of The Hill with a bright smile, and headed towards the Library, each step he took brought that smile down until it turned first into a frown, then a scowl.
Only two people were here.
“What’s going on here?” he started off, “Who are you two, and where’s everyone else?”
“Well, sir, see, it’s like this,” started one.
“Our boss, he say it a simple job. Not need many people. Only send us.”
Custagine went to the side of the Library with the great gaping hole in the wall, pointing to it, “Does that look simple?” Then he quickly followed up with, “Are one of you even a carpenter?”
Both men looked at one another, gave a shrug, and shook their head. The one offered, “We’re just general laborers.”
“Yeah,” said the other, “You know, lifting, hauling, stuffs like that.”
Custagine looked from one to the other with a sigh, “I…fine. Alright. Which of you knows the city the best?”
They each pointed at one another and said, “Him does.”
Custagine gave the two a look over. They were mostly human, but had something different about them. Taller, heavier. Hairier, sloping foreheads. Bigger noses and ears. He asked, “Half-ogres?”
“Twins!” they both said gleefully.
Yes, Custagine now saw the family resemblance. He shrugged a bit with a sigh, “Your mother must be proud. Alright, you both know the city well?” He glanced at one halfling – the term used for anyone who is half of one species and half of another – to the other and back again, “Huh.”
“Yes,” said the one twin, “It is confusing.”
“Even we do not know which of us is really us,” offered the other.
“Of that I have no doubt. Alright, let’s do this. I’m going to write up a bunch of posters looking for more workers. When I’m done, I want you to post them across the city. Can you do that?”
“Sure, that’s something we can do.”
Custagine shrugged, “Good for me. OK, you, the one on the right, you. When we’re done, you walk down that hill and post the posters all over the city to your right. And you on the left, you do it to the left side of the city. OK?” Custagine had little doubt the brothers did not understand east from west.
Both nodded their heads, then started to sit down.
“Wait wait!” started the dwarf, “Hold up. This will take awhile, so you can’t just sit around, you need to do something.” He pointed to the Library, “You see that destroyed section?”
Both halflings nodded, “Yes, looks back. Nasty. Very bad. We sad.”
“Why’s that?” asked Custagine.
“Like library,” says one.
“Like reading,” the other states.
“You two can read?”
Both nodded eagerly, “About the only thing we can do well!”
The dwarf gave a rub of his chin, “Well, shows me for judging. Alright, while I’m writing up the posters, you two go in the Library and take all the books from the ruined part of it and put it in the good part of it. The really bad books put in the center hall so I can look at those later. Can you do that?”
Both gave a quick nod, “Sure, of course!”
Custagine quickly amended, “Without spending all your time reading them?”
The duo looked at one another, then shrugged, “Probably?”
Custagine gave a faint, “Good enough,” then clapped them both on the shoulders, “Alright, make me proud. I can’t wait to see how hard you two work!”
The two halfling ogres ran off into the library, only to smack into the door frame. They both tried their best to enter in at the same time that they stuck themselves together. Being that neither was very bright and both wanted to be first in, neither thought to angle themselves in a way to let the other in first.
So Custagine had to shove them both forward on their lower backs, then went about. He moved over to one of the larger buildings, where the Council holds supplies, grabbing writing utensils, lots of poster papers and a portable desk of short stature that you can use as a lap desk. He took them all back to the hilly area before the Library, and began to do his own tasks. A few small rocks kept the used and unused papers from blowing away.
A few people came strolling by on their way from one location upon The Hill to another, or from the city itself to a location here, but he did not really pay attention to them. Once he was in his work, Custagine kept his mind focused. He was so focused that he did not notice his assistant, Donrump, move by him in mid-morning, giving the dwarf a sneer.
Sometime before lunch, the twin halflings stepped on over to him and blocked his sunlight, casting two huge shadows over him and his paperwork, “Done, we is!”
Custagine finished one more poster before looking up, asking, “What?”
“Done, we is!” they said in unison again.
Custagine glanced to the Library, then the daylight, then gave a nod, “Ah, well. Very good. Do you two have any money?”
“Yes, we carry coins.”
“Good, good,” Custagine pointed downwards, “How about you guys go take a lunch break. Go ahead and grab whatever you like and bring me back something. I’ll pay you back for all our meals.”
“Oh, good boss!” said one.
“Yes, much loyalty we give you!” said the other.
Custagine gave a fond smile, then added, “You can either take your time and return after the typical lunch hour is over, so you have a long break, or you can come back earlier and put the posters up when you return. Once they’re up, you’re done for the day and can go home.”
“Good boss, but tough boss.”
“Yes, hard decisions to be made.”
“How so?” asked Custagine.
“Not mind nap after lunch, we do,” offered the first.
“Uh huh,” said the second, “But also not mind being home early, play with our kids.”
Custagine gave an eyebrow quirk at that. Kids. These two had kids, plural. He gave a short shrug, smiling, “Well, I’m sure you two will make a good decision.”
“Maybe one of us will take the nap,” said one.
“And the other of us will go home early,” said the other.
Custagine looked from one ogre halfling to the other and shrugged, “May work. Bring me back something, remember. Just no ogre cuisine, ate that for breakfast.” He then looked about the non-existent workforce, frowning and muttering under his breath, “For no good reason.”
The two ran off, skipping a few steps. Custagine gave a short sigh, then went back to work. He lost himself in thought as he drew out the posters. They had pictures of The Hill, the picture of what most people see a laborer, which was a stick figure and a pickaxe, and pictures of the coins being paid for each day’s worth of work. Then he wrote out in the most commonly used language, that of humans, on the bottom the details of what he was looking for.
Suddenly, Custagine’s daylight was shadowed by the forms of the two halfling ogres. He looked up curiously, asking, “Back already? But you weren’t gone long.”
“No, but can be fast, us two are.”
“Yes. Bring food back, did we.”
“Course you did,” said Custagine. He finished the poster he was working on and set it in the finished pile, then asked, “What did you get?”
“Foxling food,” said the one.
“Good meat. Very good.”
Custagine began to wonder if the duo always talked in order, for her had noticed that they tended to talk in a way almost to finish or at least compliment the other’s sentences. Like one had the mindset to start a sentence and the other was better at finishing. He just shrugged and nodded, “Sounds good. Join me?”
“Eat with you, us do?” the duo asked.
“Sure, why not?”
“Much loyalty,” said the one halfling.
His twin agreed, “Earned much, good boss.”
“So, which did you two decide on?” asked Custagine as he took out his spiced and finely chopped meat sandwich from the bag the duo offered to him.
“Early go home, play with our kids.”
“Children are future, after all.”
Custagine gave a short shrug, pointing out, “I wouldn’t know. But I guess it’s true.”
“Why not you know?”
“Yes, no children have you do?”
The dwarf gave a sigh, frowning, “Sadly, no. No dwarf knows their own children.”
“Oh, sad that is,” said one comfortingly.
“Yes, children good. They like you, but better.”
Then the duo said together, “And sex fun.”
Custagine looked from one to the other, stating, “You know, I’ve always heard that, but I still do not understand what sex is.”
The two ogre halflings gave a collective gasp so deep that it almost created an atmospheric disturbance, then very frenziedly they began to explain, extremely poorly and not very intelligibly what sex is, what made it enjoyable, and why they try to have it as often as possible. It left a rather bad taste in Custagine’s mouth, the dwarf barely understanding it more but liking it quite a bit less.
As the two were speaking, animatedly and obscenely, several members of the Council and the Overlord passed by. Custagine didn’t offer them a nod, out of social concern for them. He wagered the did not want to associate with him currently, due to his companions being so vulgar, and gave that respect. After lunch was done, he offered the stack of finished posters and said to the brothers, “Remember, one of you to the right of the city and one to the left. Post them all, not too close to one another, and when you run out you can go home.” He then dug out of his coin purse what he owed for everyone’s lunch and the day’s wages for the duo. Then he gave each a small bit extra.
“Very boss good!”
“Yes, but work to do then home we must!”
“Play with kids again! Hurray!”
Custagine stood up with a sigh and walked over to the Library. He studied the work, giving a soft hmm of satisfaction, “Not bad at all, actually. I should have given a better tip.” The duo had near completely recovered all the books from the ruined west wing and placed them into the east. The ones they did not were all in neat piles. He spent his afternoon moving those and studying the whole Library.as he did, seeing how to rebuild it. Often, he’d gaze into The Pit just below the opening and gaping former location of the west wall, thoughtful.
Then when he was done for the day, he left. The Overlord came near, asking, “How went today?”
“Not as good as I’d have hoped, honestly. I thought I’d have more workers.”
“Give it a few days. You have great workers in the two you were with today.”
“Oh? The two halflings?” asked the dwarf.
The elf gave a nod, “Yes, they’ve been very helpful. Lots of the city had them to thank for aiding them. Good with the kids, too.”
“So they said. Hey…they don’t eat them, right?”
The elf gentleman snorted, “My, no! Why do you ask?”
The dwarf sighed, “Folk tales of my people said ogres would eat other people.”
“No no. They love kids, and kids tend to love them. Must be because of their simple personalities, they’re pretty childlike themselves. Of course, to an elf…”
Custagine gave a tilt of his head, “Wait, you say kids. Not their kids. Why?”
“Halflings are not capable of reproducing of course.”
Filed under: Uncategorized
Couldn’t write a story last night, so have some setting information instead.
The Godswar was a gigantic war that took place between the Curious Deities and their proxies, the mortal peoples. Elfs were assigned as generals of the war. The Curious Deities came in three camps, the Selfish, the Selfless and the Self-Aware, ten male and ten female deities per camp, making a total of 60 deities. Each deity also brought, created, or altered the various species to add sixty intelligent species to the Isles in addition to the native humans. No one knows anything about the Godswar, no one can recall. People just know it was fought and, at the end of it, the Curious Deities became the Mummy Deities and fell to the centermost point of the Isles. Shortly after this happened, a foreign devil and his minions tried to use this void, but the Seven Heroic Wonders (of which there are eight, but historians are bad at facts!) destroyed the foreign devil and the other commanders of his.
False Heaven is full of incredibly powerful humans and a rare few members of other species, usually there by invitation. They were a wildcard faction in the Godswar, able to more or less stand up to a Curious Deity. After the Godswar (and later during the ‘Saving the World’ arc), several of them declare themselves the New Deities, but most of the Isles are tired of deities so call them False Deities. False Heaven is about the same size as one of the seven ‘smaller’ isles, except that it flies at about the height of a low cloud. Many theorize that False Heaven actually was one of the smaller Isles, and say it was likely Magic Isle.
The ‘smaller’ Isles are not very small at all. They’re each about the size of England and Wales, give or take. The main island is about the size of Australia plus three of the ‘smaller’ Isles together. The focus of the ‘Saving the World’ arc is on the main isle, but future arcs will be set on the smaller isles. The isles are:
1-Twin Isle, which is really one isle with a gigantic lake in the middle of it. Lots of marine life have a colony in this lake, so Dolphinoids, Piscethons and others will be found here easier.
2-Dark Isle, which only gets as bright as a day during a solar eclipse. Shadowborn tend to live here, but there’s a large population of sun-fearing dwarfs here as well.
3-Wild Isle is where creatures like no other exist. Further, the terrain is extreme. It’s not just a forest there, it’s a primeval forest that other forests only aspire to be. Mountain are not just mountains, they’re natural skyscrapers.
4-City Isle is one gigantic city. From one coast to the other, it’s a full city and nothing but. Food is grown on rooftop gardens, in parks the size of a few city parks, and fished out of the sea. Much of it is imported. It is an urban maze that even natives of the Isle get confused in. Each city block has its own style, and small neighborhoods tend to act like smaller cities within the larger one.
5-Jungle Isle is a jungle’s jungle. The undergrowth is as tall as a grown man and the overgrowth is a full canopy. Few people live in the depths, any signs of civilization tend to be along the coastline. Life here is savage, often short, and tends to be more primitive.
6-Desert Isle is one giant desert with a river running through it. Said river ebbs and flows depending on rain and luck. It has several ruined cities in the middle of it and three main ones near the coasts. Ancient pyramids dot the landscape. Giant reptiles run wild across the sand. One of the Heroic Wonders, Blwthwyle, is native to this isle.
7-Ice Isle is a polar paradise. Snow and ice everywhere, the temperatures are barely above freezing on a good day and typically dip below zero. It is somewhat warmer on the coastline, where warm ocean winds will sometimes blow in, so most civilization is found there. Native animals include giant wooly beasts. There’s supposed to be an ancient wise woman trapped in the ice in this Isle.
Then there are two other major locations, which is the underground of the Isles, which can link any and all of the Isles together in long, winding tunnels. The other is the moon, which does not orbit the planet of the Isles. Here, the world of the Isles is so large, the moon actually ‘orbits’ around the Isles, not circling about them like ours would, but running in a circle like a pendulum might. It circles around the region of the Isles, but stays basically where it is in space. In here, the moon is what actually gives daylight
Custagine knew what his first job as the Treasurer of Blade was going to be. He wanted to reinforce the giant crater with dwarfin earthworks techniques, so there was little risk of further buildings slipping into the hole. Once that was done, he desired to send teams down into the hole to demolish the buildings much too dangerous to use and reinforce the supports for the buildings that could still function safely.
The Overlord readily agreed and quickly issued an edict to make it official.
The next day, while settling into his new home, he drew up the plans for the bulwarks as well as projected amounts of supplies and laborers needed for the first three phases. He’d need to verify this with others, people with more experience in the field, people who could see difficulties of the project one pair of eyes could not, but for a first draft, he was very much pleased.
Looking over the plans for errors he may have missed caused him to chuckle. The foundation of this project lay in old dwarfin fortifications for war, when they had to defend themselves against Saurid invasions. He was quite pleased that he could used concepts of war for the peaceful purpose of housing. It made him smile deep inside.
Custagine saw that is was later in the evening, quite later than he had expected, really. And he had not eaten all day. He packed up his paperwork in a safe carrying case then set off to find some dinner, then off to the daily informal meeting of the Council.
Custagine heard that, in the City of Blade, there’s one place to eat. The Avenue of Cuisine, which is actually four roads and an old gatehouse. The centerpoint, the old gatehouse, is one of the old gatehouses from the days when the first city wall existed, that which split New City from Old City. Without much use any longer, the gatehouse permanently had the portcullis in the upper position and the gate open, the gatehouse itself converted into two big restaraunts. Seating with a view was atop the gate’s towers.
But that was just a small part of the Avenue of Cuisine. The eastern and western running roads on both sides of the gate, in New City and Old City, were where most of the food was really at. Street vendors lined the roadways in the New City, for they couldn’t afford real establishments. In the slightly wealthier Old City, the newer construction allowed for places designed just to be eateries. Long dining halls, small cafes, hole in the wall family joints, Old City had all kinds of places to eat.
One could walk down just these four roads and eat across all the Isles of Doom.
Custagine had a slight impasse, however. Dwarfs do not eat for pleasure, they just do it to survive, just like everything else they do. And he knows if you’re here, eat for pleasure. He slung his carrying case across his chest, safely, and walked into the section of the New City that had its part of the Avenue of Cuisine. Mostly to satisfy his gnawing hunger and partially to get into the mindset of eating, he took a few things from a few street vendors to eat on the walk.
He grabbed a few sticks of sweetmeats, a vegetable soup which he found surprisingly delicious, and a small bag of ‘Corn That T’were Popped’. He didn’t ask how or why it was popped, or what popping even meant, but he was pleased with it.
But those were just appetizers at best. If he was only going to eat one meal this day, it had to be larger. So he went off towards the Old City section of the Avenue of Cuisine and strolled alongside the walkway where all the fronts of the eateries rested against.
Each of the establishments had written in its own native language what it served. As there were sixty different people in the Isles, this would be extremely confusing to anyone not of that species, or had not learned that particular language. It made for a beautiful chaos of words, but it was still just a chaos until you focused. Luckily, each of them also wrote the same information in the one language everyone uses.
The human tongue.
He knew he was not interested in dwarfin food today, though it may be a safe bet for him. He wanted to experiment, to try something he had not before. He knew Netherbrain food was right out, for they found neural matter to be the height of delicacies. Elfin food was something for a very refined palate, and even though both Blwthwyle and Moonlight Kiss cooked elfin staples for the Heroic Wonders, he still was not used to it. So he simply strolled down the street, passing by places that sold those three cuisines, looking for something else.
Dolphinoid food smelled pretty good, but he noticed that it was all fish. Fish was one food no dwarf ate, for no fish exist in large numbers underground. so he started to pass by them also. As he could not eat rocks and minerals, ‘Goyle places were likewise skipped.
He came to be in front of a Shadowborn establishment. He remembered Rudricke stating on a few occasions that the best food in the Isles are the Shadowborn’s. He rememberd Ironguts fighting that Runner food was the best each time that came up, asking Rudricke why Shadowborn food would be so much better.
“Because, friend Ironguts,” Rudricke would explain, “The Shadowborn have a very diminished sense of taste. Further, it seems, of their sense of music and pleasures of the…ah…other pleasures. So to make up for these deficincies, Shadowborn learn the best techniques and use the best ingredients, so they can have even a fraction of the taste in the food that we would taste easily.”
That was good reasoning for him, so the first Shadowborn place he saw, a smaller place with only seven seats, was where he decided to eat.
Now, he did not know what the food was, he wasn’t aware of the names of each dish. So he asked the chef as he took a seat, “Something with meat, no fish. Some vegertables. Sauces. A stew or soup perhaps, though looking for something less liquid focused than those.”
The chef gave a nod, his grey face giving a slight twist as he thought of what a dwarf may like that fits those criteria. Then he began to make Custagine’s meal.
“Not very crowded tonight,” Custagine said to break the silence.
The grey skinned man kept silent for a bit as he concentrated to precisely cut the food in front of him, using a small knife on a carrot to precisely carve said vegetable into a pagoda. Once done, he nodded, “Not very crowded most nights.”
Custagine inhaled deeply and sighed, “Shame. This place has a nice smell to it.”
“Lots of spices.”
“Is that so?” Custagine gave a rub of his chin, “Hey, tell me, does everyone along the Avenue of Cuisine use spices in their foods?”
The cook looked at Custagine curiously and shrugged, “Not sure. Probably?”
“Nine out of every ten?”
“Not sure. Probably…seven out of ten. Maybe more. Maybe nine out of ten.”
“Maybe, huh…” Spices. That could be something he’s looking for. He knows he wanted to diversify from just having a gold based economy, but not sure what else to use. But spices, if in enough use, just may be it.
“Yeah, anyway, here you go, food. You want a drink?”
“Ah, yeah. Any bee…actually.” He smiled to the cook, “Whatever you have that you think will go with this best.”
“Yeah, sure, got what you want.”
Custagine was about to dig right in, before noticing the food. It was mostly meat with some vegetables. But the meet was cut precisely to form specific shapes. Namely, words in Dwarfin for ‘Good Eats’. The carrot that was carved into a pagoda stuck upright out of a sauce for dipping the rest of the food in, the sauce of two colors that intermingled like a painter’s brush just glided across them. Potatoes formed a field with which peas and corn played a sport upon. Custagine kept on staring for a bit, before going, “Hey…”
“You eat with your eyes first.”
Custagine looked from the chef to the food. He stared at it for a time. Then he had an itch in his mind when he had an idea that could be barely contained and he felt that he just learned an important life lesson. He gave a short laugh and agreed, “So it is!”
The meal was, to put it simply, quite delicious and Custagine was very pleased. To the sullen joy of the chef, Custagine would visit for dinner at least once a week for as long as h e was in the City of Blade. Whenever he left on business, it was often the place he would go first when returning to the city. He had other favorite eateries, including some run by other Shadowborn, but something about this place held a place in his heart.
He arrived just in time to the informal council meeting. Happening almost daily, barring weather or festivals, or the actual weekly council meeting, it was more of a social gathering than one of council business. To be sure, some of that was discussed, but mostly topics to finalize what was voted on before or ideas to vote on later. Never debates.
It was always held in one of the oldest cafes in the city, over drinks, upon the outdoors veranda. It gave a beautiful view of the city. Typically.
The cafe abutted against the crater within the hill. across the street from it, the City Library, with one portion of the West Wing of it destroyed and fallen away into aid pit. The exterior wall was never repaired, the wing completely open to the elements and thieves.
Custagine quickly gave his presentation about the bulwarks and recovering use of buildings fallen inside the pit. Then he packed his material up and barely stayed around while the council members talked gently amongst themselves, generally agreeing on the merits of his plans. By the time they agreed to vote on it next regular meeting, he was almost across the street.
Custagine stared across the open wall with a deep frown, his hands balled into fists, knuckles turning white. What he saw almost brought him to tears while desiring to yell to the heavens simultaneously. Books were being destroyed due simply to exposure to the sun, wind and rain. This was a terrible sight to him.
While dwarfs did not have books of their own, when he first arrived in the outside world, he discovered the usefulness and pleasure books incarnate. He asked Blwthwyle to teach him to read, and whenever he could, he was reading through one book or another. Any topic, and genre, learning or pleasure, he’d read whenever he had time and whatever he had at hand.
A library was almost a religious structure, and this was almost a desecration.
Custagine quickly tromped back, giving a soft wave to the other council members as he passed by them, moving as fast as his shor dwarf legs could take him. He headed not back to his home, but to the headquarters of the guild. He had to do something about this, quickly.
“Ah, sir, good evening,” came the secretary in the lobby, “We are almost closing for the eve…oh, sir. I didn’t know it was you, sir.’
“My name is Custagine.”
The human demurred softly, rubbing his hair a bit, “Ah, yes sir, it is, I know that. But as you’re the head of the-”
“Then I decree you and anyone else who would call me ‘sir’ instead call me Custagine.”
“Sir, that is…I mean…it’s rther uncouth.”
Custagine walked on through, “I’m a dwarf, I live for practicality, not social graces! Now send in my deputy!”
“Which one, sir?”
“Custa…what do you mean, which one?”
“You have three deputy heads that serve under you directly, sir. Er. Custagine, sir. Sir Custagine.”
The dwarf gave a shrug, “Do I? Send in whoever’s here.” He then finished his trek into his temporary office. His real one was still being renovated. Custagine had already grabbed new papers and began to work on new plans, to save the City Library.
“You asked for me, sir?”
“Custagine,” grumbled the dwarf.
“Right, sorry, the secretary told me,” the human said as he entered in, shutting the door behind him. He glanced at the papers, asking, “How can I help you?”
“How many laborers do we have right now not currently on project?”
The human, an older elderly man with a set of straw colored false hair atop his bald head shrugged, “I’d need to figure specific, but I think about five heads and…”
“Good, that’s enough for now. I want to put them to work.”
“Certainly, doing what?”
“Rebuilding the West Wing of the City Library,” Custagine said quickly.
The elderly human gave a shrug, “And who is paying for it?”
Custagine gave a short, “Huh?”
“We do nothing if it does not bring profit. Who is paying for the project?”
“I don’t know! Just do it!”
“It will put people to work.”
“Yes, but can’t,” repeated the human.
“And why not? And don’t give me profit.”
The human shrugged, “Nothing can be done for free, even if we may want to do it. I couldn’t care less about that ancient abode of books, myself. However, if someone were paying for it, I’d pretend to care as much as their gold earned.”
“Knowledge is always profitable, deputy.”
“Is it, sir?”
The dwarf stomped his foot, “I’m not arguing this with you. We’re putting something up against the exposed wall to protect what’s inside. I don’t care how the money is earned, whether I have the city pay for it, or issue a tax break to us for it, or some other means. I’ll pay for it myself. But you…whatever your name is….will start to make this happen, now. I want those five heads and their teams on site at the break of dawn tomorrow.”
“My name, is Donrump. And I will…just this once…start the project off without proper procedures. But I must warn you, this is not something that will happen often. Money first, then work or product.”
“Fine,” grumbled Custagine, “So long as we’re agreed tonight. This will be good.”
“Good does not bring gold.”
Filed under: Saving the World is Not Changing It | Tags: Custagine, Saving, Saving the World, story
A PEACEFUL JOB
“Peace is the only thing you have to fight to take, that once you have, you must share to use it,” is something that, according to Custagine’s uncle, his father would say.
Custagine never knew his father. No dwarf ever could. The next generation of dwarfs are born, literally, from the corpse of their father. A mono-gender species of all males, the dwarf lifecycle is simple. Once a dwarf dies, its body hardens into stone and becomes a statue. As that happens, their internal organs turn into maggots and burrow into the ground. Those maggots will seek out rocks and ores and then grow within that rock. After a random amount of time, they’ll spring forth physically fully formed but mentally still in need of nurturing. So typically their uncle will educate them, should any of the uncles still be alive.
As a strong, typically hard to kill people, the dwarf clans were often asked to provide troops to various groups for war, and thus they rarely knew peace.It seemed like a strange and alien concept, something far off in a dreamlike realm. It was like water to a drowning person in a desert or gold to the greedy in debt. Peace was like that to Custagine, a concept that was so foreign and strange it just crept into his brain always. Forever there, always itching at his consciousness.
He knew not how many he slew, if he killed at all, or for that matter, what he slew, when fighting in the Godswar. Like every participant of the Godswar, no one knew what they did in it. No one knew who they fought for, nor against, nor alongside of. He just had feelings and fleeting glimpses at the edge of his soul the things he may have done during the battles, and he liked it not at all. He liked not who he thought he was during the time when he knew not whom he was.
Being assigned as the head of the guilds was an accomplishment he enjoyed. Sure, there was some fighting to get him completely seated, but his clan had the most prestige amongst the dwarf clans, and the few merchant houses not owned by dwarfs reluctantly agreed in exchange for certain trading rights. He was not privy to the final negotiations, it was all a conflict, which he did not want to partake of, for he was sick of conflict of any kind at this point. Being one that abhorred ceremony also, he eschewed one of those and simply and humbly acceped the regalia of his office and the paperwork giving him his authority.
In no real rush to start his position, Custagine took a leisuerely path around the main Isle from his clan’s homeland. He still desired to make it to the city of Blade before his appointment officially began, to be sure, but he saw the sights of the world as he went by. He was curious about the world he helped fight to save. about the people who live in part to his actions, about the beasts who continue to exist because of his efforts.
Custagine stopped for a time at Betrayal Bridge. A large, ornamented all stone bridge spanning a wide chasm that was almost halfway between his own clan’s homelands, the Kingdom of Blade, and the southern end of the Kingdom of Moohs, it had been constructed with great care and obvious defensive value. Each end of the span had been built as a powerful gatehouse, with a pair of defensive towers on each side of each gate. The wide bridge was further defended in the middle, where two more powerful gatehouses had been built upon the bridge with their towers anchored into the side of the bridge where the span of the bridge and the supporting columns met together. The oddest thing about Betrayal Bridge lay in the fact that no country lays claim to it, nor has records of its construction. Betrayal Bridge, it is said, just is. As a show of goodwill between neighboring nations, none held a monopoly on guarding the bridge. Either no guards were posted at the bridge, or each of the region’s powers supplied an exact number of guards for it, typically four, one for each guard station. Currently, no one was guarding the bridge. This would typically invite bandits and opportunists to take residence within, but none have yet taken over.
As a dwarf who lived most of their life underground, Custagine had some knowledge of stonework that humans just did not. The bridge was quite simply, beautiful. From all viewpoints. It was built perfectly, the stonework was well designed, the placement and arches and details all perfect. It was obvious to him that love went into the building of this bridge. And it was strange to know that no one ever claimed to being its creator.
While he’d have enjoyed taking in the view here, not just of the bridge, but the large trees nearby and the deep chasm the bridge spanned, he could not. He gave a last look downwards, seeing the craggy upthrusts of the ground within the chasm and the fog that nearly eternally clung to the rocks far below, then trekked onwards.
One uneventful journey later got him to the city of Blade a day before he was to take up his position as head of guilds. He was greeted at the gate by a few guards and given a small escort of two of them. They took him not to his assigned residence, nor his new workplace. They took him to the Palace of the Overlord.
From the gate to the Palace was quite the journey in itself. It seems the newest buildings were closest to the city walls. The buildings were created almost haphazardly, with residences right next to industry and long stretches of businesses intermingled with more houses in between. Most were built of stone, almost all of them were built uniquely. While many were the approximate size of humans, Giants did exist in the City of Blade and they could not live in such small houses. So very many houses were built on a gigantic scale, each one being built approximately the size of a city block and five stories in height.
Elfin houses were never built of stone, they were all wood, and not worked wood. They lived in houses of living wood, with leaves still blooming across the walls and roofing. Dolphinoids lived in magical water spheres, their homes just big balls of water that existed here or there. Being very social beings and having no concept of shame or privacy, they paid no attention to anyone who stared into their housing to watch them.
The irony of this portion of the city was that, even though the housing and the other buildings seemed to be really new, it was called the Old City.
The New City of Blade lay beyond, where the flatlands of Blade started up the Hill of Blade. In ancient times of long ago, the Hill of Blade was a meeting place for human tribes all over. Legend has it that it was here, before the Curious Deities arrived at the Isles of Doom, that a great leader united all the tribes of humans together. Here, on the hill, that leader proclaimed a desire for peace and snapped his own blade in half. He asked all the other tribal leaders to do the same, and after assurances of how to live together in peace and a formation of a new civilization, they did so. Then, they buried all their broken blades and left to live in peace for a time, until the Curious Deities arrived and ruined that dream. Custagine could admire those ancient humans, and despise those deceased deities.
The New City was so named because the original city of Blade, oft called the Original City nowadays, was built on the top of the hill, with its own set of walls. When the city continued to grow and population scaled unabated, people were forced to build outside the first city walls, making the new city. Built centuries ago, the New City was very old and falling apart. Houses were just as much ruined as fanciful. Broken walls were boarded up by any material their owner could find, be it wooden planks, stones, bricks, or in some cases, rusted bits of armor. Roofs were often sunken in, sometimes with gaping holes in them.
The people of New City were just as intermingled as those of Old City, neighbors being of any of the siixty species plus humans. Humans were still the dominant in terms of population, but the other peoples all were jointly involved and existing in this living community. New City did not belong to any one people, it belonged to the people of New City. And they were fiercely proud of their part of the City of Blade that had very long ago seen the last of its good days.
Custagine crested the hill to where the Original City of Blade lain. The sight shocked him, for there was a gigantic crater in the hill with buildings barely clinging to the ground that was their foundation. The Original City of Blade was devastated, it looked like a wasteland. Worse, it looked like a wasteland that had been the victim of two natural disasters preceding a meteor impact.
And that wasn’t far gone from the truth. At the end of the Godswar, the Curious Deities, now deceased, fell to the Isles of Doom as the Mummy Deities. More to the point, they fell into the Hill of Blade, burying themselves deep into the ground within the hill. This had destroyed most of the Original City, nearly eighty percent of the hill’s top being a vacant gaping hole in the earth that marked the tomb of once powerful deities.
The people of the Original City had rebuilt some of what they could. This was where the wealthy and noble lived. This was where the premiere merchants resided. This was where the artisans birthed culture that others imitated. This was where the curious fell dead. If those of the New City were proud of their region of the City of Blade, the survivors of the Original City were doubly so. Fiercely proud of who and what survived, they did their best to rebuild what survived or incorporate the surviving ruins into the newer construction.
The Palace of the Overlord, the ruling center of the Kingdom of Blade, was, of course, at the center of the Original City of Blade. And, of course, it did not survive the impact at all, it was splintered into fragments and lay down below amongst the Mummy Deities. The current Palace of the Overlord was ironically named. Along the edge of the hill that did survive, where the original wall had fallen apart, overlooking the New City and Old City, was an outhouse. And on that outhouse hung a golden sigil that used to be one of the door knockers of the original Palace of the Overlord’s kitchens. As many records as possible that could be saved rested in the New Archives, which was nothing but a fire pit with the chimney caved in and a bit of metal bolted on a swivel to close the pit itself to keep the precious papers safe was it in its entirety.
“Welcome, Custagine! I’d invie you to my throne room, but it gets crowded quickly.” The Overlord was fairly quick to joke about his own predicament, for, as an elf, moreover as Blwthwyle’s father, he understood that change was always and forever happening. And that some change may be for the better and some may not, and you must simply accept that nothing will last forever. Not even an immortal elf.
“Thank you, my friend.” While Custagine and the other Heroic Wonders were friends, he knew Blwthwyle’s father long before he knew her, and long before he moved to Blade, much less became its Overlord. It was a quiet, but firm, friendship, one where they could pick up exactly where they left it decades agone. Custagine looked out at the view before him, then said curiously, “I’ve always wondered, why is the Old City the newer constuction and the New City the older one?”
“The New City is so named because it was newer than the Original City. That, of course, makes sense,” said the Overlord. Then he pointed outwards, “And nowadays you’ll rarely find someone who understands this, but what we call the Old City now used to be the Walled City, for it lay between the two walls that circle the city. The death of the Curious Deities made it so that the area we now call Old City took the name out of irony, for there’s a newer city in Blade.”
“Oh? Just where can you fit another part of this gigantic city?”
“Right here, of course. Where the Original City was we’re rebuilding. Residents have taken to calling it the Newest City of Blade. I suppose in the future, if we expand again, they may need to rename it to the Almost Newest City or something. But that’s a problem for another year.”
“Where would you expand, though? The walls are sturdy and aren’t moving, and building walls that could encircle yet another Old City’s worth of land space would be prohibitive.”
“Yes, I’ve thought of that. But there’s another city already, here.”
“Why, there, the Buried City of Blade.” The Overlord pointed into the giant pit, and Custagine could finally see, or rather he now noticed, that old houses had landed upon outcroppings, or melded into the sides of the pit, or stacked upon one another. Parts of houses were clumped together, obviously springing from what used to be multiple different residences, with rope bridges spanning the ways and forming what could very liberally be considered streets.
As he was taking all this in, he whistled, “That just shows the strength and resiliency in the citizens of Blade.”
“Agreed. But I was also thinking of beyond the walls, also. A city without walls about it. Maybe the Expansion City of Blade. A city that continues to grow outwards as far and wide as need be.”
“Interesting,” Custagine imagined it. Then he asked, “Have you ever thought of building upwards, as well?”
“No, maybe I should! The Upper City of Blade!”
“You people sure like your various cities.”
The Overlord gave a brief laugh and a shrug, “Perhaps. We’re a united people, deep down, you can’t spite any citizen of Blade, anywhere they lived, without spiting others from all over the city. When invaders march against us, we all unite together as one. But even so united, even being one gigantic family, we do have our own peculiarities. Our own cuisines, our own slang, our own vision of what the City of Blade really is. We’re fiercely involved in whichever region of the city we call home and are competitive with the rest about our love for our chosen region.”
“You seem to love this city.”
“More than anything,” the Overlord agreed. Then he laughed and told a joke only an elf can make, “I’ll die an Urban Elf…nay, I’ll die a Blade Elf, or I won’t die at all!”
Custagine had to recall what Blwthwyle said about elfkind one time. She did not talk about this fact but the one time. Elfs live on the mana around them. If an elf lives for a century in the same area, that mana will change them to reflect what that region represents. Blwthwyle, born a Desert Elf, could become a Grasslands Elf if she stayed within the Kingdom of Moohs for too long, for it was a grasslands. She cursed it as a remnant of the Chaos that all elfs were born from, and explained that the tattoos upon an elf’s body were designed to help lock their forms so they did not devolve back into the Chaos that they are still part of. Combined with an elf’s immortality, the only way they may die is through extreme violence, and Custagine understood the joke and finally laughed.
The two stood in silence for a time, Custagine glancing into the pit with some regularity. Then he made mention, “Tomorrow, I start…”
“I know. Congratulations. I have a request to make of you.”
“As head of the guilds, I’m supposed to be impartial to…”
“Yes, I know,” the Overlord interrupted, “Don’t worry. It’s not in regards to that.”
“Oh? What then?”
“Your companion, Rudricke, is planning to rebuild his ancestral kingdom. I offered to loan funds and material, and personelle, to make it possible.”
“What? But why?” Custagine looked at the ruined areas of the city, “Surely you could use these resources here!”
The Overlord gave a shrug, “Maybe, but we’re already having laborers working on top of one another and resources piling up because they’re dumped in the wrong spots. We’re confused here. I need to clear a lot of that out so I can organize it all properly.”
“Yes, I suppose I can see that.”
“Besides, I gave him the condition of not only being a trading partner to us, but to trade with other regions through the North City of Portals that they’re far closer to, for us here. He’ll pay back the support over the course of years by giving us trade goods, and ideally at the most opportune times for us to recieve them. It’s not exactly one sided.”
“I can see that. What favor did you have of me then?’
“I want you to oversee our relationship with him, of course. Make sure he has what he needs. Pass on our requests for what goods he obtains. Arrange the transport. All that.”
Custagine gave a nod and a shrug, “Yeah. I can do that. Perhaps I can visit him more often due to that.”
“Yeah, maybe. Hey….how would you like to also be the Treasurer of Blade?”
Filed under: Uncategorized
(A ‘shor’t note on the structure of the story)
The ‘Isles of Doom’ story structure is somewhat atypical. It’s comprised of several parts, the first of which is the “Saving the World is not Changing It” saga. This saga starts after a major and potentially world ending conflict called the Godswar ends, with the main characters, the Seven Heroic Wonders (of which there are actually eight, historians never record history perfectly) finishing off the last major followers of the final enemy who could have obliterated the Isles. The Godswar is never detailed, it will never be detailed, the best you can expect from it are dreamlike visions and some suppositions from characters assuming some minor things they did during it. This is on purpose, because the adage ‘less is more’ is all too often not followed in modern fantasy stories. People must understand that some portions of a story must never be told, that in the telling it is diminished, that said portion of history is lessened the more it is detailed.
The first several entries are called intro stories, but they collect more properly into a prologue. Right after the end of the major conflict that would have been the story of any other writer, we begin, but the prologue is designed to take us from that finale to how the characters try to reintegrate into a society they saved but did not change with them. The Wonders are much greater than they were before, but society stayed placid and budged not an inch in any direction. While civilization was saved and lives were as well, neither evolved any. So during the prologue we see the Wonders trying to find their role in a world that they almost effectively left behind, and start their story on what they want to do. Now that the prologue is done, the stories will focus on one character at a time, in their own region, doing as their own plotlines have them do. Custagine’s story will be the first, and will be told until it arrives at a turning point in his life. Then we see either Blwthwyle or Sprout’s stories, then the other one’s, then another will have their story told. Shenta’s stories will be told intermittently, as she has a storyline of exploring a gigantic world, we can see her story in bits and pieces and across multiple events in her life. Each of the characters will arrive at their own turning point, and then we end the focus on them and move to the next one. After all their stories arrive at the turning point, we’ll see a portion of the story where they all deal with what happens and how they wish to continue from it. Then we once again focus on one character at a time through their second acts, until ocne again another turning point arrives or their storyline ends. Should at any major point any of the Wonders join back together, their stories of course join back together, until such a time comes to pass as they once again part.
Then at some point, the “Saving the World” saga will end. The next major saga will be “The Guilded Age” about 900 years after. But 900 years is a long time and there are people who do have stories to tell between now and then. These stories may, individually, be shorter than any of the major sagas, but together they do bridge the eras, tie things together, and explore the setting more. Often they’ll focus on one or a select few aspects of the setting and tell specific tales. Their stories will be as long as needed, and there are quite a number of them, all told. Some may be quite short, as not all heroes live long, and some will have tremendous impact on the ‘Guilded Age’ era.
During “The Guilded Age” portion, we’ll meet three teams of specialists, and once again the stories will be intertwined but told from different focuses. Each team will have their own storylines and plotlines. They all have the same endgoal, but how they arrive at if, if they do, is unique to each group.
Near the end of the ‘Guilded’ era comes another major plot twist. This takes us to the third and final major saga, which can be a very long story indeed. The end of this saga ties up all the previous ones and ends the three major sagas of the story.
There are two big sections of the setting which may not have stories told about them. Floating above the Isles is a kingdom called ‘False Heaven’. It has its own storylines and characters, some of which are major forces in the rest of the Isles, though it typically tries to keep to itself. Its story may be told in whole, or it may just be told in parts, just portions that are important to a few characters and they interact with the larger world of the Isles.
The other major setting portion that may or may not be touched on is a portion of the time before the Curious Deities arrived at the Isles and found only humans living there with an advanced society, before the other intelligent species arrived. This storyline would be pretty standalone compared to the rest of the Isles, but no less important, with some major ramifications to later periods.
The inclusion of both the ‘False Heaven’ and ‘Human Era’ storylines would, I think, only benefit the stories of the setting at large, but in the scheme of things, they could be considered ‘side stories’.
But even with the two optional periods, even though both impact the Godswar in some way, never will the Godswar have its tale told. Because those are tales for each reader to come up with, because your imagination of the Godswar is all that matters. Because even if everyone out there imagines all their own versions of the Godswar, none of them would contradict one another and be any more or less real than any others. Because the scope and structure of it is just that big.
Because its story is too damn big on the setting to be told.
BTW: In case you wonder how to pronounce Blwthwyle’s name, it’s in the Welsh style. They W are to be replaced by a soft ‘oo’ sound, kind of like an ‘ooh’, with a very faint w before it. So it would be pronouned basically ‘Blooh-thwoil’, more or less.
Filed under: Saving the World is Not Changing It | Tags: Riastarthae, Saving, Saving the World, story
Shenta departed from the strange demon silently, contemplating, after Riastarthae informed her of her new immortality. She was now immune to poisons, corrosives, diseases, would regenerate from any wounds, would never age another second, and in short, be an immortal in all ways.
It seemed like a cheat to a warrior woman, but she did not chastise Riastarthae for the gift. She just left silently.
After she was gone, Riastarthae spent some time just staring at the sky. He waited for a time afterwards, just to make sure she was far enough away. He did not want her to see what he was about to do. Once he was sure she was gone, he took a deep breath, and gave out a long, deep sigh.
Foreign devils. Strange demons. Neither belonged to the Isles of Doom. He knew that deep down, but he knew that he wanted badly to stay in the Isles, to protect them from either group, even though he himself is a strange demon. Because he found a place he wanted to call home, a group he wanted to call friends, and a person he wanted to call his loved one.
He helped the ones he wanted to call friends to destroy a foreign devil and the devil’s subcommanders. But his friends soon parted, and he only got to say goodbye to one of them. And while that one was the one he cared the most about, he just tricked her into taking a gift that he wasn’t sure she even wanted.
And worse, she closed her mind to him, so he had no idea how she really felt.
The Seven Heroic Wonders and him all shared a mental link. It is what made them into an extremely effective and proficient strike force. Blwthwyle could adapt tactics based off of the enemy’s activities and the entire group would instantly understand the knew plan and their role in it. They’d be able to communicate across distances, and understand each other’s meaning.
More importantly for Riastarthae, it kept him calm. It kept his rage subsided and buried. He felt at peace, for the first time ever in his long existence. But now the Wonders were spread across the Isles, or dead, and the link was broken and his rage kept building.
Riastarthae blamed himself for the split. He knew that the link allowed the Wonders to see what he truly was, and that his human facade was a mere mask. He knew they understood he was a roiling, teeming mass of tentacles and terror, a chthonian mass that defied reason. That just seeing him was a blasphemous act that one’s eyes would rebel against by shutting their higher mental functions down until they recovered. His form was born out of Chaos, and any being any way bearing an ordered and static form would find it anathema. He knew he had to hide it.
But the Wonders accepted him, even knowing through the link exactly what he was. He would sometimes wonder if it was due to the link itself helping to shield their minds, or if they were just naturally wonderful beings and could accept even his own true form.
He wished for a time that there was another foreign devil around, just so he could thrash against it and vent his anger.While he was born of Chaos, like all strange demons, and obstensibly wanted to break down all reality into a chaotic mass, to him that agenda was one that could be done far into the future. And then once all reality is broken down, the powerful, which he hopes in his deepest heart to be his friends in the Wonders and those like them, could use that mix to reform reality into something perfect. And, dreaming against all dreams, reform him into someone not a strange demon, just a being who could be loved.
But a foreign devil was a child of the Void. They wanted to usher everything into oblivion, and they wanted to force this entropy across all reality now. Whereas the children of Chaos want everything dissolved into a primordial froth, those of the Void want everything eliminated. A reality where even time and space have been slaughtered and their corpses eradicated.
As such, Riastarthae hated them most of all. As such, he willingly deserted his own people just to fight one foreign devil far away in the Isles of Doom. Just because he felt fate’s strange tingling pulling him here. Because he knew friendship here.
And now, there was nothing to keep his fury controlled. No friends. No foreign devils to combat. And crushing his heart most of all, he knew he betrayed the one person he loved by giving her a gift using subterfuge. He just hoped that he blocked the link with Shenta in time so she did not know that the gift was borne from his own fluids and life, that it was his own strange ichors that he distilled for consumption, that his heart’s blood now prevented her demise via any means.
Riastarthae gave a shout that broke apart nearby clouds in the sky, reversed the waves in the sea, and tumbled the boulders of a nearby mountain. A cry of such furious intensity that animals in a wide radius surrounding him instantly fell dead.
He kept control enough to understand what he was about to do, and not wanting to destroy the home he fought to protect, he flung himself into the air with a powerful jump. Not bound by the laws of physics, Riastarthae moved through the air. He did not fly, exactly, nor did he jump nor walk in the air. He simply moved through it, almost like a swimmer with fins. And soon he broke past the cloud cover and felt the sun beat down on him.
Riastarthae’s eyes ever grew clouded with the red mist of his primal rage, that which was his birthright and gift to others, but saw False Heaven in the distance a bit before he lost control. And he saw the Champion of Order’s demonians fly through the air, two legions of them, down towards the Isles. He knew what they were, how evil their hearts beat, the devastation they caused.
And he knew what to vent his frustrations upon.
Demonians, while fairly dumb, are pretty powerful. These artificial beings have no empathy, no emotions, no compunction against slaughter, so long as they can save their dark lord, the Champion of Order. While typically used for shock troops and foot soldiers, they can be given simple tasks and fulfill that task with slightly better than animal intelligence. They were definitely a threat to the Isles and its occupants, but what was the true threat was if they completed the task the Champion of Order gave to them. So Riastarthae, deep in his mind, understood that the wholesale slaughter of these pitiful yet powerful beings would be only beneficial to the Isles.
Riastarthae dove right into the mass of demonians floating downards to the Isles. If he was not compromised by the rage beyond all fury, he’d understand they were falling in a search pattern, and were going to travel across all the Isles, not just the central one. But this information was beyond his intellectual capacity for now, he could not care. He just found glee in flying straight through the demonians on the edge that were spreading apart from the rest of the group.
Riastarthae kept flying in a zigzag line through the mass of demonians, his speed, power and mass allowing him to just tear through the demonians as if they were little more than two sheets of paper glued together. They splattered in a red mist and became as if dust, the power of Riastarthae’s rage incinerating them and giving them a nearly instant funeral pyre, almost cremating them upon impact.
The powerful warrior, the traitorous strange demon, fury unchained, had danced the dance of gory devastation through the demonians, and paused when he found they no longer bunched up enough for flying through them to be effective. Not caring if anyone below saw him, but instinctively knowing he was still above the clouds, he let go of his human facade and once again became as he was born as. His body defied colors, his tentacles were so multitudinous as if to match and exceed all the hairs upon a human’s head. A gigantic beaklike maw at the center of his mass issued a war cry with such fervor that many demonians were instantly decomposed and rotted away as they were blasted apart from the force of the sound. Now, ancient fury from before life itself was unbound. Now, that which should no longer be gave into its birthright to save that which is. Now, death’s grim scythe had to pause in admiration for the bloodlust of this one being.
Without thinking, but with knowing what he was doing, Riastarthae’s tentacles danced through the sky, tearing apart his enemies, rending the legions apart with a chaotic methodology that almost made the carnage machine like in its precision. His tentacles ripped apart demonians, threw them through one another, flexed and pulverized the brave who tried to fight back. Riastarthae gave an absurd laugh as he felt demonians using their axes upon his body, as if they could even itch him. And his scathing retort was that slaughtering shriek, a tearing apart of demonians from his tentacles, and searing blasts of hellfire issuing from all his many eyes.
Then, from out of nowhere, a bolt hit him in the center of his mass. Riastarthae was stunned and fell through the sky before righting himself again. He saw another bolt issued from False Heaven, understanding that the demonian’s dark master, the Champion of Order, had come to their rescue. The second bolt nearly blasted him unconscious, but it did sap almost all his strength. He barely managed to reassume his human facade as he crashed into the sea, so as not to afrighten any who may see him. The last bit of consideration he was able to give anyone for quite some time.
Riastarthae’s fell was a preamble to the fall of the blood red mist that was his former opponents. The Isles were inundated for the next three days with a blood rain and fog from the sheer number of demonians who had become as fine paste within the sky. Riastarthae knew he had more to kill, that he may have only taken out half of the force, and struggled to swim to the surface of the sea even as he fell deeper within it and got swept up by the tides. He only hoped that the peoples of the Isles could defend themselves of this invasion and thwart the Champion’s ulterior goal. He fell into a coma within the sea, only after promising himself he’d defenestrate the Champion of Order for this deadly affront to his pride.
Then, he’d promise he’d kill the one person he hated the most afterwards. The one person whose death he could not celebrate.
Filed under: Saving the World is Not Changing It | Tags: Saving, Saving the World, Sprout, story
Sprout had parted from her fellow Wonders with a smile and a giggle, and she was gone before anyone could respond to her, only her ephemeral laughter on the wind.
Sprout was without a doubt a prodigy with nature magic, including the ability to travel through plantlife. Before any of her Wonders could even look her way, she melded into a tree and vanished, by the time any even opened their mouth to respond, she was conceivably anywhere in the Islands that had some plants to spring out of. Always flighty, the Wonders were not surprised that she had just vanished.
Sprout sprung forth from a cactus in a desert not too far from the sight of the final battle. The Sylvanian only stayed there briefly, for she had only heard about deserts prior. She just had to see what one was like. For an intelligent plant person, the sweltering heat, bright sun, and dry air become rapidly unpleasant. She stepped back into the cactus and vanished once again.
Without knowing what a tundra was, she arrived there within one. The child, for she was in human terms merely a six year old girl, found this area much more pleasant than the desert, though not quite as welcoming as a grasslands or woodlands. Still, it was a pleasant enough location to spend time within and explore, and had a beautiful blue sky and soft clouds to watch and meditate upon. Sprout decided to explore this land for a time.
She spent days walking down one direction, moving about one pathway, all seemingly at random. Without any real destination in mind, she just kept walking. She took in the sights, the flatness of the land, the wildlife. When she got bored, she sat and stared at the bright blue sky and watched the clouds as they, themselves, wandered aimlessly about the sky that was their home.
Eventually, Sprout became thirsty and glanced around the region. She glanced to the east, finding the sparkling sight of a body of water shimmering from the sunlight. Sprout journeyed on her short legs towards the water at a casual pace, taking the better part of an afternoon to get there. Childlike, but patient, was Sprout.
Along the way, she found a wounded deer, the child using her magic to heal the wound quickly. The deer curiously stood up on all fours again, then gave a short noise of happiness before licking Sprout across her face. The duo played and jumped about for quite some time afterwards, Sprout giggling, before a strange noise in the distance had it leaping off and away.
With her brief companion parted from her, Sprout continued her little trek to replenish herself. She knelt by the side of the pond and drank deep of it. If only she looked around, she would have noticed the bleached bones of several animals about the other side of the pond. The water was not just impure, it was alkaline. Poisonous. Sprout fell to the ground, passing out from imbibing too much of the vile liquid, fallen backwards upon the hard ground of the tundra.
Sprout did not know how long she was out. She had not seen the stars in the area beforehand, and it was now morning, she would need to wait until night fell just to get an approximation of how long she was out. She knew only two real facts, that she was no longer near the alkaline pond, and that a small herd of deer had been grazing about her. She conjectured that her friend she helped had repaid the aid.
Sprout got up and gently petted at the small herd, strokignt he soft fur of each deer, plucking away burrs and healing the small wounds wildlife gathers from simply living. She spread out some of her petals as she did this to gather sunlight to nourish her, for as a Sylvanian, she was able to photosynthesize. The girl was content but unhappy. The tundra was not a place she liked overmuch, though definitely more welcome than a desert. Eventually, she gave one last petting to her deer friends and walked into some brush, using it to teleport herself away.
She journeyed to a forest she knew, one she had trained in the druidic mystical arts. And she was shocked. Surprisingly, a large amount of the treeline had receded and pulled away, only tree stumps showing that once large and graceful trees graced the area. The plant-child surveyed the area for a period, trying to determine exactly what happened. She found the evidence of axes having felled the trees, and parts of axes strewn about randomly. She also found a large amount of bootprints havind trampled the ground, and once she sorted out the jumbled mess of the prints all being made from people walking repeatedly over the same area, she followed the trail of them to a small river beyond a short hill.
There, she found a lumbermill processing the trees, log flumes built to send the lumber on its journey to a town perhaps miles away. She could not see who was doing this, the lumberjacks apparently having the day off and a few people working the mill. The roofing of the mill kept her from gleaning any details from the hilltop, however.
Sprout turned away and flung herself into the woods. Without breaking a twig or bending a branch, she ran at full speed through the trees and undergrowth. She noticed that there were too few animals making their natural noises within the area and frowned once this registered to her. But her breakneck pace remained unhindered.
Sprout flung herself to the natural domicile of her druidic teacher, only to find it empty. Not even her former teacher’s guardian beasts remained in the area. The little hut in the woods had looked a bit dilapidated and worn down, one corner slumping and showing signs of an impending break and collapse. This just wasn’t right.
Sprout shifted her senses and listened to the woods, trying to hear where living beings were. She could hear birds and rabbits but not her former teacher. She then sniffed the air and tried to sent her teacher out, to no avail. Even talking to the trees gave no hints.
Sprout had spent weeks in these woods, trying to track down her teacher, hiding from the lumberjacks and rescuing whatever animals she could from their dangerous logging or their hunts. She never let them see her, but she knew stories about her presence would soon spread amongst the camp. And she further understood that she put her mission, and the lives of the animals of the forest, at risk if the lumberjacks sent trackers into the woods. Without finding any leads and not able to do much more for the animals without risking them, she knew it was time to depart.
She did not use the plantlife to teleport herself to her destination this time, for she wanted to see areas of the woods she had not journeyed into this visit. She saw a streambed gone dry, bushes dying at the peak of their growing season. She saw bunny burrows that lay empty and berries rotting on the ground uneaten. They were little signs that something unnatural had happened to this wellspring of nature. It concerned her greatly.
Sprout’s travels took her past a diminutive hill. She only casually glanced at it at first, looking for other signs of degradation. Another dry stream bed, and the rotting remains of several fish that used to live within the stream went past the hill. Then she recalled that hill not being here before and really examined it. She noticed it was artificial, and made primarily of stones piled on top of it with grass growing wild over them.
A cairn. A burial cairn. She found her old teacher.
Sprout spent days atop the hill, mourning her lost teacher. Her people were unable to cry, but that did not prevent them from knowing grief. And she quietly grieved for her now deceased teacher. She remembered the lessons, about everything needing to pass, but they did not soothe her young heart very much. She eventually left a small token to her teacher, one of her own seeds she plucked from her ‘hair’, burying it at the side of the cairn.
Sprout knew the closest druid was an ogre not too far from here, whose domain was a hilly dale just south of these woods. She walked some distance before teleporting from where she was to where she wanted to be. Sprout emerged from the ogre druid’s sacred tree, an insult to a druid, but she cared little.
The young Sylvanian could smell the ogre and ran towards him. While she ran, she tried to remember the name of this druid, it was something simple and stupid, but she only met him once before. As she ran, she recalled it as ‘Smash’, a rather inept druid, for ogres and magic typically do not mix, but no less fervent in his belief in the need to protect nature. Finally, she came up to him, shouting, “What happened?”
Smash looked at the newcomer curiously, holding the dead body of a human in one of his large hands. He shrugged his shoulders, the dangling body swaying limply. Rigor mortis has not set in, the kill was still brand new. Smash said simply, “Smash kill intruders.”
Sprout was thinking far ahead in the conversation than Smash was at, and she knew it after pausing and calming down some. She was already near the ending, and Smash wasn’t even at the starting line. She gave a shake of her head, “No no. I mean, good work there, Smash, well done. I mean…” she pointed to the woods she was tutored in, “There. My teacher is dead and the woods are being logged.”
Smash threw the dead human away as if it was no more special than a rotten carrot and tilted his head to think a few moments. Then he nodded, “Two seasons ago, he died. Smash buried him ancient ways.”
“Did you notice how he died?”
“Yeah, Smash noticed he no longer breathing and no longer moving, so co…conc….concluded that he died.”
Sprout sighed. Ogres would never be a forensic specialist either. They were an extremely simple people. She asked, “I meant, what killed him? Did he die of natural causes?” Such a thing was very unlikely. Druids as advanced as her teacher were immune to poisons, did not need to eat, sleep or drink, and no longer aged. Even a human could live for centuries, if they had the druidic skills her teacher had. When Smash shook his head negatively, she asked, “Arrows?” Another shake of the head and she asked, “Swords?” Smash kept shaking his head and Sprout kept on thinking of ways her teacher could have died, each thought getting a negative reaction. She finally asked, “Was it by an axe blade, was he hacked?”
Smash nodded his head at that, “Yes! Hacked apart! Smash had to bury two parts of him, Smash was sad. Smash felt bad that day. Bad feel lasted all week. Very bad death.”
Sprout frowned then asked, “Smash, you’re a powerful warrior druid. Your magic enhances your already incredible strength and makes you nearly impervious to damage. Why did you not take revenge?”
“Smash did his duty.”
“Smash buried fellow druid. Intoned the song of parting. Asked for fellow druid’s reincarnation. Smash not need to take revenge.”
“Because him domain is him domain, and Smash domain is Smash domain.”
“What?” Sprout knew what was coming, but still had to inquire.
“Ancient druid laws, remember. A druid’s domain for that druid. Others not inter…fear? Interfere. Me not take revenge cause domain not mine. Domain not yours, neither, Sprout.”
“Maybe not,” she yelled with some exasperation, “But only a few of us druids banding together would have stopped the killers from profitting on their kill! Just three of us would be enough to end the logging and defiling of the natural beauty of those woods! Join me Smash, and we can find a friend, and together we can….”
“Smash not join. Friend not join. Smash domain is Smash domain. Friend domain is friend domain. Ancient druid way.”
Sprout knew, then, what her real battle was about. So long as they replanted and kept a balance, she had no real hatred for civilization and its people. They needed lumber. What these people did went beyond decorum, it was a few steps past what she’d consider proper, but at its heart it was not the problem.
It was the entrenched tradition of domains, about one druid standing up for their own small natural kingdom. How the brotherhood had stood alone and not acted in any way together like brethren of a cause should.
She knew that her real enemy was her fellow druids.
Filed under: Saving the World is Not Changing It | Tags: Saving, Saving the World, Shenta, story
Shenta went south of Moohs, going to a place she never wanted to return to and never wanted to leave; home. While she deeply loved her fellow Lagomazons, each of them was like a sister to her, she hated the confined space of the village and hunting grounds and the strict traditions. One such tradition she disliked was titling everyone. A huntress is not just a huntress, but it became part of your name. During her tenure as a huntress, she was Huntress Shenta. During her tenure as a valkyrie she was Valkyrie Shenta. During her period as the champion of her people, when they fought in the Godswar, she was Champion Shenta.
Nowadays, she was Exile Shenta. And all she wanted to be amongst her people was simply Shenta.
The first tradition of the Lagomazons was the most restrictive and the one she truly rankled against: None shall depart their tribe and hunting grounds. She argued with her sisters that the entire tribe broke that rule when they were taken away to fight upon never before seen battlefields during the Godswar. It was her younger biological sister that argued the rule stood for intent, that the tribe were abducted unwillingly and only those that actively desired to leave broke the rule. Her other three biological sisters watched the debate with silent tears, and that night the other fifty-two tribal sisters saw her become an exile.
She was of course forever banned from returning to the tribal village, as an exile, she’d never be allowed back upon sacred grounds. But she felt it her duty to tell her tribe they have nothing to fear from the Godswar, that all hostiles have perished and all hostilities have been laid to rest. So her plan was simply to travel the hunting grounds and wait for one of the huntresses to pass near her, then pass the message on to the tribe.
Shenta carefully yet casually moved through the thick forest, dark due to the thick canopy of tree branches, with a natural and easy stride. Her mind was preoccupied with scenes of the past, of the argument, of the time spent with her sisters and their mother, of training for each of her new duties. Her long rabbit ears kept swiveling this way and that to keep track of potential dangerous beasts, mostly out of instinct, but her mind was distracted. That cleared up when she came to one of the main clearings of the woodlands.
Her entire tribe was there, waiting for her.
They said nothing, they just stood there. Between her and her former tribe, lay a feast. Quietly, Shenta walked towards the food and her people, only for her sister next in line after her to state, “Eldest sister, she who should have been our tribe’s queen….Exile Shenta, we welcome you to your Feast of Departure. Take the seat of honor and partake with your sisters, then depart with our blessings into the world you so love.”
Shenta sighed softly, her long rabbit ears drooping. She noticed that almost all of her tribe had their own long rabbit ears drooping as well, a sign amongst Lagomazons of saddened emotions. She ran one hand in her long, straight blue hair and rested her bow and spear down where she was, before moving to seat herself in the spot of honor at the head of the food. Her mother was the former queen of the tribe, as the eldest child, tradition had it so she would inherit the title. Once she learned all the other duties of all te other tribesisters, of course. A ruler must know how all her people live their daily lives. All the way across from her would be the next in line for the queenship, her next youngest sister, the second born. But tradition had prevented her from taking the role until the Feast of Departure was complete and Shenta was formally an Exile and abdicated her position through the rite of leaving.
Shenta and her sister argued the night she left, passionately, for her sister wanted to join her. Her sister was not just arguing for Shenta to stay with the tribe, but making an argument for herself to stay. So Shenta knew what this Feast of Departure really meant, it was not about moving Shenta aside for her sister to take the queenship; it was her sister’s expression of desire to join with Shenta and go with her, if merely in spirit. Shenta knew it was a heavy crown her sister would wear, laden with the thoughts of what could have beens.
The rest of the Lagomazons lined up between the two who just sat, and waited for the future queen to start the feast with a simple, “We now share our last meal with our lost sister. Let this feast be full of mirth to send our wayward on her way, and let none speak the name of the exiled after this.” While the words were old, the meaning was new: let it all out, say and do all you need to do.
The feast was a veritable party. The tribe had all loved Shenta, She was not just the eldest sister of those who shared the same mother, she was the eldest sister of her tribe. Jokes were made, some at Shenta’s expense, humorous retellings of some of Shenta’s antics. Kind words spoken from those whose lives she saved at one point or another, wise words she taught others while giving them lessons. Reminisces of days long past, poems written in her honor. Two of her sisters proposed marriage to her, but she had to decline, for as an Exile she no longer had the right to wed one of the tribe. Further, her heart belonged to one of her fellow Seven Heroic Wonders.
It was a testament to the tribe’s love for her that a feast that, by ritual, was only to last three hours lasted three days and nights. But like all things within a world of dust, an ending must soon ripen its sour fruit. The rest of the tribe all bowed to her, doing their best, and sometimes failing, to keep from crying, sending Shenta off not with the methods you send an exile off; that is to say, they did not turn their backs to the exile and pretend she no longer existed. Instead, they sent her off with the final rites given to a queen at her funeral.
Shenta gave a curt bow to her tribal sisters, and another to her actual sisters, then turned away. After three steps taken, she heard the future queen speak, “Exile Shenta, a moment.”
Even though they were sisters that shared the same mother, Shenta no longer had the right to call her dear sister her name. She had no right to call the names of any of her now former tribal sisters anymore. So Shenta’s head merely tilted to one side and ears twisted back some, the warrior woman giving a silent, “Yes?”
“I demand the tribal property you seem intent on absconding with.”
“Pardon me? I carry no property owned by the tribe, just my own personal-”
“You carry the bow and armor of our tribe.” The rest of the tribe looked up at that, somewhat confused. This was not anything they expected, and the future queen’s tone sounded almost confrontational, like she was ready to pick a fight. “I demand you return them to our tribe.”
“Like I said, I carry no tribal proper-”
“Lies! Do not make me arrest you and jail you until you served your punishment!”
Shenta’s head dipped and remained dipped for a time. She did not understand where her sister was going, but she knew that the penalty for stealing from the tribe is not arrest, but death. But it was decreed that her punishment was to be arrest. Something was not right here. She spoke again, “May I ask….”
“You may not!” Her sister never interrupted her so often, not even during that intense debate long ago. It seemed to Shenta that her sister fully intended to do what she wanted to do, whether or not Shenta went along with it. Her sister continued in a loud voice, “You wear the armor of one of our greatest heroes, she who lead us through the Godswar, she who saved the world after. You hold the bow of that selfsame paragon of honor and duty, she who always carried her sisters in her heart in all her actions. They are the tribe’s property, as the spirit of that great warrior will forever watch over this tribe. Remove them and return them to our people, or face punishment.”
Shenta asked, “My armor is all I have to wear. Do you wish this exile to travel the world naked?”
“Frankly, Exile Shenta, I care not what you do in that wide world you so love. Frolic with the humans or ogres or dolphinoids whatever and whomever you love so much that you would turn your back on us for. See those things called mountains and valleys you talked about. Live in those cities you painted a vivid picture with your words with. Do what you will. But you are forbidden from doing any of that in our holy artifacts. Return them.”
Shenta gave it some thought, then shrugged, “I had no idea these belonged to anyone but me. I’m sure this was a mistake, and I shall rectify it.” In front of the entire tribe, Shenta placed her bow before her sister, then the arrows that went with it. Then she divested herself of her armor with graceful speed, her brown body fully naked before her sisters, all the members of her tribe.
The future queen of the Lagomazons gave a brief nod and took the armor and weapon, setting them both down. She stood up and looked past Shenta at the spear the exile carried with her and set down days ago, considering. Then she said, “Yes, that is all our tribal artifacts you had. Thank you. You may go.”
Shenta gave a short nod and turned, “Of course.”
“Exile Shenta!” came from her sister before the exile could take a step, “A moment. It would be improper for a Lagomazon to travel the world naked and without her favored weapon. It’s a dangerous world, I’m told. I have some replacements for you, a few paltry gifts. They’re nothing in comparison to what you just gave us, but please accept these worthless tokens.”
Shenta turned to look at her sister, faced with the Queen’s Regalia. Her eyes snapped wide open in shock and surprise, and most of the tribe gasped incredulously. The still naked exile glanced at the powerful and magical bow and the intricate armor made out of magical materials, not knowing what to say for awhile. She gave a simple, “But…”
Her sister replied, “These are mine and I give them to you as a gift. You are to take them, and never forget about those you leave behind. You were about to steal away our royal regalia, you naughty exile.”
Shenta did not know what to say for now. She just stared at her sister’s face for a bit, then the rest of the tribe, all of which had been watching this exchange with interest. Nearly all of them gave a nod of approval before she reached out to run a hand across the breastplate of the armor, “I am unworthy of your gift, but if you so all desire it, I accept and take them into my custody. They will be returned-”
“Not required! They are yours. With them, you will carry our spirit.”
Shenta nodded softly, “I…accept. Thank you.” While the armor would be considered ‘skimpy’ and bare a large amount of her brown fleshed body, it was undeniably magical, made of materials that radiated magic energy. Then centuries of charms and enchantments have been placed upon the armor. Any Lagomazon, who have an affinity for sensing magic, could feel the sheer power of the armor and bow. Once donned, she took the bow carefully, looking at it. It was large and golden and inscribed with runework, made out of a magical metal whose skill needed to work it now long lost. She muttered a soft, “No string.”
“Exile Shenta, do you not recall? The proper wielder of this bow can manifest the magical string for it and manifest magical arrows to fire with it. Recall, that the only one worthy of wielding this bow can change the energy and output of the arrows it fires, so it can fire arrows of flame or ice, can fire one arrow or a thousand, can fire an arrow to stun an opponent or slay. Only the one who is worthy of the bow can do this, recall.”
Shenta wiped away some tears with one hand as she affixed the Queen’s Bow to the Queen’s Armor. Then she glanced at the spear that her sister had looked at previously and remembered, “There’s a shield and spear…”
“Lost to us,” sighed her sister, “It happened when you and the first batch of our tribe to get drafted into the Godswar were abducted. We assume that whomsoever forcibly conscripted the group of you took them as well. We’ve no clues.” A soft shrug, “Much as we may not want them to, much as we may desire tradition to stay, things change. Life happens. Nothing is forever. We used to have a Queen’s Regalia that included a bow, armor, spear and shield. Tales tell of a sword and scepter as well. We’ll live our tomorrows with a Queen’s Regalia that includes merely the armor and bow of our greatest champion. Dwell not on the lost yesterdays, live for the unmade tomorrows. A wise woman said that to me once.”
Shenta gave a short nod, as her own words she spoke long ago were given back to her. And she understood. Her sister’s reign would be one of great change, and Shenta had some hope that in the near future, she would meet her sisters again in the outside world. She took her spear and uttered, “I depart, now exiled forever.”
“Should someone find the lost Regalia, even but a single piece of it…” said her sister, “even an exile would be able to return to the tribe, with all honors she let rest here.”
Shenta briefly nodded but did not turn back. She grabbed her belts of knives from a tree branch and attached them to herself again and walked with spear in hand back through the dense, deep, dark woods.
A month of aimless wandering passed quickly. Shenta journeyed from one city to another, looking for any clue to the lost pieces of the Queen’s Regalia, mostly out of something to do. Now with the freedom to travel the world as she desired, she had no real idea where to go. The quest for the Regalia gave her something to do, but she had no interest in returning, it was still the outside world that fascinated her. And while her wandering was aimless, her fascination with the world had not abated, each day brought new, if mundane, glories to her eyes.
During her aimless travels, she happened to run into the strange demon, Riastarthae, whom had fought by the side of the Seven Heroic Wonders against the foreign devil. She always felt something strange about her ally, a power that raged beneath the surface. It was like talking to a tsunami confined within a pond. He always seemed calm, even in battle, but that underlying surge crept beneath his voice, and she seemed to be the only one of the Wonders to hear that.
“I hear, my darling Lagomazon, you are now journeying across the world. I have a gift for you, if I may.”
Shenta tilted her head curiously and asked, “But, I have nothing for you?”
“Beautiful bunnymaiden, just conversing with you is gift enough. But please, this philtre here, if you’d be so kind to take a drink with me?”
Shenta gave a shrug. She was always called nice and pleasant words by Riastarthae, but he barely used her name. On the other hand, he always called the other Wonders their own name and barely ever a descriptor. If she had known how romance between men and women happened traditionally, she’d understand that Riastarthae was in love with her. But being born in a species that only had females, his advances escaped her. She had been offered a gift though, and so partook of it, drinking it then inquiring, “Friend Riastarthae, what do you do now that there is peace in the world?”
“There is peace in the Isles, but there is still conflict in the world. These Isles are but a portion of a gigantic world few here can imagine. I myself only saw a portion of it.”
“Is that so? I wonder just how big it is indeed, now. Maybe I shall see some of this myself…”
“It is possible, now. North City once again has the portals to the rest of the world opened. Airships from other lands have been flitting in and out with trade for the past two weeks now. You can simply walk through a portal and journey thousands and thousands of miles away, or take an airship…”
“Is it true that there’s peoples out there that do not exist in the Isles?” Shenta asked with wonder.
“Yes. Many. We are but a portion of what exists in our world.”
Shenta nodded and asked quickly, “I heard there’s other tribes of Lagomazons out there that never came to the Isles, is this true? Do I have sisters out there that live differently than those here?”
“I think so…”
“I heard rumors that there are cousins of ours that never existed in the Isles, like the Nekomazons and Vulpamazons and…”
“I’ve met a few Vulpamazons in the day, yes,” the strange demon acknowledged.
“Riastarthae, you did not drink of the philtre yet.”
“Oh? No need, wonderful warrior. I am already immortal.”
Filed under: Saving the World is Not Changing It | Tags: Moonlight Kiss, Saving, Saving the World, story
Moonlight Kiss stomped away from the Kingdom of Moohs and never looked back. While she was raised here, Blwthwyle adopting her, and she was born here, as humans and elfs were at one point encouraged to mix, it never felt like home to her. Recently, it’s been much less so in that regard. She felt a hostility amongst the citizenry, an undercurrent of strife, with the king and his court having perhaps the darkest of auras.
She had left awhile before Shenta did, and thus before Blwthwyle left the court, so she was unaware of the two fighting off assassins. The dark skinned half-elf just trudged generally westward upon a lesser used but still tamped down roadway through the early afternoon. The entire time she mumbled and frowned, silently cursing Blwthwyle for her sense of duty. She then cursed herself silently for not just dragging the desert elf off with her, away from the tainted human civilization.
Moonlight Kiss kept on trudging away without apparent direction, keeping to the lesser used roadways of the kingdom. She had no particular destination in mind, she just wanted away. Away from a corrupt court, away from humans away from a failed social experiment. Away from someone who is supposed to love her but doesn’t understand her emotions. Away.
It was hard for Kiss to do it, her love for Blwthwyle was still strong and intense. Leaving her behind in a place she felt was beneath her, beneath the both of them. She wanted to take the one she cared so deep about away with her. She’d even thought about going back several times and using her magic to do just that, imagining summoning one object or beast after another to abscond with Blwthwyle.
During a break between her interment periods of cursing and fantasizing, Kiss found out she spent the better part of the day traveling without direction. With a huff and a frown, she slumped onto a boulder and dug out some rations in her pack, having a meal with them. While food often cheered her up, rations only did so in small ways. She was slightly grateful that they cheered her up enough to get her mind away from her darker thoughts and allow her to gaze about the wonders of nature in the area she was currently within. Pretty trees, soft hills, gentle moss laden boulders to add variety. Not a bad place, she thought. But still, within the Kingdom of Moohs.
After finishing her short meal, Kiss stood upon the boulder she was sitting on and surveyed the region from a slightly higher vantage point. Spotting a landmark she was familiar with, she hopped off the boulder and journeyed at a slightly rapid pace towards it. She knew where she was, and that a safe place to stay for a night was not very far away.
However, she also knew that between her current position and that safe place some distance away, was a village of the undead. Across the Isles, small enclaves of undead had sprung up during the Godswar, and while many were taken down by local heroes, several still existed in lesser known or more enclosed parts of the land. Forgotten ravines, small grottoes, deep valleys, mountaintops, the lesser seen places of the world. And there was one such village of undead in a ravine about an hour’s distance from her.
Kiss had met other travelers along the roadway, much to her surprise. A trio of gnomes walking with a pair of Arkshtonith had been conversing, they appearred to her to be having a lively debate. As they were traveling from north to south and she from east to west, their meeting was brief this day, though they cordially greeted the half-elf and asked if she desired to join them.
Kiss considered for a few long moments, after all, she was in no particular way going into any specific destination. She was just walking. After some time she finally declined the offer, but inquired their destination, intending to meet up with them again and buy them a meal as a thanks for their kind offer. She then stated, “There’s a village in the hills off in the distance there, that’s my heading,” at which point one of the gnomes chuckled and said they just left there earlier. She continued, “Between here and there is a village of the undead, however. At least, there used to be, unless it was cleansed.” The same gnome confirmed that the undead still existed, and in fact, the group took the long way around the ravine to avoid them. Kiss cracked her knuckles and nodded, “Then I shall do the job.”
The group was quiet with some mild astonishment for a time, watching Moonlight Kiss as the dark skinned half-elf moved right in the direction that only the foolish would dare journey, and on her own much less. Then one of the Arkshtonith stated flatly, “After all, she is a Heroic Wonder, even a small nation of undead should be nothing to one of them.”
While that statement was slightly exagerrated, taking on an entire village of hostile undead was not something most people would consider doing without a unit of a half dozen or more, equipped specifically for the task. The group of five just continued on their way as Kiss did so herself, though each of the five gave an individual benediction for luck to Kiss, quietly.
Upon arriving at the ravine’s edge, she looked down into the ravine to see the undead village. Like most areas infested with the undead, this village continued on in a mockery of life. Most people theorize that the undead never knew that they died and so continued on doing exactly what they were doing the moment of their death. They were stuck without a future, both in the living sense, and in the physical sense, for they repeated the same exact thing over and over again, never going on to the next step of whatever task they had been doing.
She heard a blacksmith beating a hammer into the same nail. Not firing it into the forge and then quelling it in water, not moving on to another nail. The skeletal smith just kept beating his hammer into the same nail, for beating the hammer into the nail was what he had been doing when he died. Kiss then continued to survey the village from her vantage point above it, seeing a pair of farmers tilling one exact spot in each of their fields. Eventually, she figured, they may dig themselves into a small hole, and yet still continue to till as if nothing had happened. Skeletal women had skeletal babies on their backs, babies who were with their jaws wide as they cried and wailed a terrible and silent sound. Several of these women were by a dry stream bed, rubbing clothing into washboards. Or rather, they rubbed their own fingerbones into the washboards as the clothing had been long ago torn apart from the repeated rubbing.
Kiss looked about at the ravine itself now. It was itself artificial, made during the Godswar. The woman could feel the ambient magic of the spell that tore the ground apart, see the devastation wrought by the magic, from its point of origin to the fullest extent of its effect. She even knew, knowing this information, how many people joined together to cast the spell, which spell it was, and the approximate skill level of the casters, all from studying the effect the spell had upon the land and the dimensions thereof.
Blwthwyle and her at one point had a short debate, during a period of rest between killing the subcommanders of the foreign devil, about the nature of magic. They both thought it strange that everything was identical with the same spell, no matter who cast it. There was not even a difference in colors, or smells, or feel. Someone could study the effects, like Kiss just did, and understand the spell and the skill level of the caster, because the results were identical no matter who cast it, so long as they were about the same skill. Even casters who said they were into using cold would still cast a fireball instead of frostballs. Not even darkmages would think of casting darkballs. Everything was routine.
Blwthwyle’s point in the debate was that the magic of today was a pale imitation of what used to be, and called magic simply because of tradition. The forebearing skills of yesteryear were called magic, and the shadowed remnants of that truly magical and wonderful skill was called magic due only to tradition. Kiss made the point that, if every variable is the same, and the end result is always the same, it was never magic in the first place, but a science. The science of the arcane, the science of mana manipulation, but a science never the less.
As she was reminiscing about that debate, she noticed the absence of a noise from the village. The smith’s hammering stopped. Knowing that should not have happened without some outside force exerting themselves upon the village, Kiss quickly scanned said village for said force, but found nothing. This required some further study. Kiss summoned a rope spirit to stand between the road and the ravine and issue for their rope for Kiss to climb down with.
About halfway down the ravine, Kiss found a natural ledge with which to perch upon, asking her spirit to stay where it was for now. From this new and lower vantage point she could peek into the blacksmith’s shop, noticing why the hammer no longer sounded. The hammer’s head had broken off, the wooden handle having snapped from the repeated and constant bangings. Kiss watched the skeletal smith continue the same exact motions it had as if the heavy hammer’s head still remained, the same slow pace, the same bounce of the hammer’s head was reflected in the remains of the wooden handle. The skeleton continued exactly, disregarding the fact that its hammer was now lighter by one heavy metal head. A small thing like that came to unnerve Moonlight Kiss some, for she saw the perverse unnaturalness inherent in that for herself.
The half-elf woman stood up on her rocky ledge and glanced around the village and ravine. If she could close off the only entryway in, the villagers would never be able to stumble out and no one would mistakenly wander in. She knew that only a necromancer or powerful undead exerting their will on these skeletal villagers would make them move, but there was always a risk and always a small village somewhere nearby that could fall victim without warning. Kiss decided to demolish the village instead.
She knew one powerful summoning spell called “Thousand Blades” that summoned forth a few hundred swords at a time. Only the greatest masters could use the spell, and they only summon typically one to two hundred such blades. Kiss had been able, with much effort and injury to herself, almost five hundred. Knowing so many was not required for a small village, the woman who had a human father and dark elf mother, and who had trained in her magical powers from ancient spirits, began to gather the mana she required for the spell into herself, safe on her rocky ledge.
While she was doing so, she wondered, “Why is magic a science? Why is magic not magical? What if, could it be, that someone could personalize their magic, make it unique to themselves?” While she thought, she could not feel the mana slightly change, but she did imagine her sword blades for the spell becoming maces instead, knowing they’d devastate the skeletal undead with greater ease. And with such ease, she’d need even less weaponry to summon and control, so she imagined only a hundred maces being summoned.
When the time came to cast her spell, however, things went differently than she imagined. Her spell summoned only maceheads and no handles to go with them. The “Thousand Blades” spells were always supposed to summon the full weapon, as if invisible spirits held them and used them. The caster was encouraged to imagine the invisible spirits wielding their weaponry, for such allowed greater control of the weapons. Some theorized that is because the ancient version of the spell actually did summon sword wielding spirits. So round, heavy iron and studded mace heads without the mace hafts came as a bit of a shock to Kiss.
Further shocking her, besides the form of the summoned weaponry, was the quantity. She only envisioned a hundred maces, she knows she only absorbed enough mana into her to summon only that many. But the sky was full of giant mace balls, much larger than any human could conceivably wield, blocking out the sun. The woman estimated there was a thousand such mace balls! The spell actually lived up to the name, but at only a tenth of the mana cost required!
Kiss was startled but a few moments before she began to point and imagine the maces flying into the village. One at a time they flew into their intended targets, demolishing skeletons and sending the remnant spiritual energy of the formerly living being along their way. Her giant mace balls tore apart huts, two to a hut. Larger buildings only required three or four to demolish. Groups of skeletons near one another were demolished wholesale. All told, just over seventy mace heads were needed to demolish the undead village. She had somewhat more than nine hundred and thirty mace balls left, and they just waited in the air.
Kiss frowned for a time. For some reason, she could not unsummon nor dispel them. However, they also were not eating away at her mana like they should have been. They were just there. She pointed to one and considered a command, before stating, “Find another undead village, and destroy as much of it as you can.” Almost instantly, the heavy ball of iron flew off at speed, rapidly running through the air as if it were weightless and inertia bothered it little. Kiss had no idea where the ball went, or if it obeyed her command, but somehow she felt that it did. Then she gave the blanket order of, “All of you, seek the undead and destroy them, wherever they may be!” And the giant iron balls flung themselves like meteors falling through the sky in reverse, flying in all directions and at all angles.
The half-elf woman considered things for a moment. Such a spell was just not possible, at least that is what she was told. Why could she cast it so? Because she imagined maces instead of swords? Because she was one of the Seven Heroic Wonders? Did destiny somehow touch her? Did the foreign devil or one of his subcommanders somehow give her this power? Or was it as simple as asking questions about the spells, inquiring about the magic somehow empowered it? Absently she grabbed the spirit rope and asked the spirit she summoned before to bring her up.
“Did you see what happened?” was what Kiss asked upon first coming over the edge of the ravine.
The amorphous spirit said in a faraway voice, “Yes, Mistress. No, Mistress, I know not how it happened. Perhaps one of my superiors might.”
“Yes, perhaps so, maybe after I recover from the shock I’ll summon one and ask them.”
Then from a distance, she heard a voice shout, “We, too, saw what happened.” A group of people dressed as itinerant monks, mendicants that journeyed about the world, came to the summoner. Kiss could see that they were Hengeyokai, though they were in human form. This also surprised her, for Hengeyokai illusions were supposed to be perfect. However, she could clearly see the group consisted of two kitsune ladies, a male tanuki, a male and female bakeneko and a female tsuchigumo, all dressed as wandering monks. She could see the fox ears and multiple fox tails of each kitsune, the raccoon ears of the tanuki, the cat ears and tails of the bakeneko, and the spider eyes and extra arms of the tsuchigumo. Being able to pierce the illusions of a hengeyokai was thought to be only the domain of….a deity.
Kiss fell to her knees in shock, and the two kitsune women ran to her side to help her, the other monks gathering about for support, the tanuki grabbing a jar of water. When she fell, her rope spirit vanished in a puff of smoke, the tsuchigumo the only one noticing that.
Eventually the lady bakeneko offered, “We’re traveling the world, seeking answers to questions. We no longer know our place in it, nor do we understand why we came to be within it. We travel village to village, inquiring everyone about their thoughts on these matters. We have questions, but now we will simply ask, will you come with us?”
Kiss thought a bit, then agreed on the condition that they first travel to the one village she promised the gnomes and Arkshtonith a meal at, which the monks readily agreed to. Then, the kitsune ladies helped her up and the group was off, Kiss thinking to herself, “Now, I too, have many questions, and no one to ask. What’s happening to me?”
Filed under: Saving the World is Not Changing It | Tags: Rudricke, Saving, Saving the World, story
It was decided that Prince Rudricke would inform the Kingdom of Blade, and thusly nearly the rest of the Isles, in his travels. As Blade was the centermost and largest of the kingdoms, word would quickly travel from there to the smaller kingdoms. Nearly everyone traded either with Blade or in Blade’s lands with others, or sent emissaries to the kingdom. All information travelled through Blade, effectively.
The announcement about the complete end to the Godswar and all beings trying to use the end for personal gains had been brief. With the amount of work the court had to do in the short amount of time they had to do it, Rudricke was pleasantly happy that he was even heard the same day. There was a round of applause and promises of aid and rewards to the Seven Heroic Wonders from all sorts of kingdoms, but the reward Rudricke most appreciated was the invite from the Overlord to have a private dinner with him that night.
When the dinner came, the talk was pleasant. The Overlord asked about how the Wonders fared and was happy to hear that none got hurt while under his daughter’s leadership. He was saddened when told about Irongut’s demise at his celebration with his people, and offered to send a group to Runner’s Rest to honor the deceased hero. When the Overlord asked what the others had planned to do, he had to admit he did not know the plans of Custagine, Ironguts before his demise, Moonlight Kiss or Sprout, but he did know that Shenta had planned to travel to find a place to call home and the Overlord’s daughter, Blwthwyle planned to return to her position in the Kingdom of Moohs. This made the Overlord frown, for before taking this position in the Kingdom of Blade, he spent three centuries serving seventeen human kings preventing Blade from annexing that very kingdom. He foresaw a day where him and his own daughter may be on opposing sides of an armed conflict and this greatly saddened him.
Rudricke gave a compliment about how far seeing Blwthwyle is and that she’s never be put into a position that would risk that, and this seemed to cheer the Overlord up. Then he asked permission for a personal question and was given the go ahead, so he inquired, “Forgive me, Overlord. Your daughter is a lovely lady with dark coppery skin and she calls herself a ‘desert elf’. You’re quite a bit lighter skinned, pale really, and I heard you referred to as a ‘grassland elf’. How can she be your daughter knowing that? Is she perhaps adopted?”
The Overlord laughed with mirth and shook his head, He enjoyed nothing more than talking about his family, even the ones that were lost. During the Godswar, his wife, son, and two younger daughters became lost. They did not perish in the war, they simply became lost. He’s sent search parties out for them ever since he heard the news, and nothing has turned up. They’re simply lost, in some unknown place. After the chuckle, the Overlord said with a smirk, “No, no, she’s really my child. My youngest. She is a desert elf indeed. That is where the family is from, actually, Desert Isle. My wife and other daughters will have her skintone and look a lot more like her also, or they should. My son will look like me. You see, an elf lives on mana. We do not need to eat nor drink, we do it for the simple joy of it or social convention. The mana of each land has a different ‘flavor’ you can say. If we live in the same area for a century, the mana of that region will change us. The kingdom of Moohs is a grassland, and I lived in it for three hundred years, hence I became a grassland elf two centuries ago. If I return to Desert Isle and live there for a continual century, I’ll return to being a desert elf. Blwthwyle will become a grassland elf if she lives in the grasslands of Moohs for a century. My son became one by serving the Black Falcons in their grasslands for one and a half centuries. My eldest daughter was well on her way to becoming an ice elf.”
This was new information to Rudricke. Blwthwyle had been pretty open with the other Wonders, but she never bothered to talk about her own peoples. Rudricke never knew if it was because she was for some reason mad at other elfs, or if she was disappointed for being one, or something else. As he was musing it over silently, the Overlord added, “It tends to be a secret the younger generations keep. We’re not proud of our mutability, you see, especially not us Wild Elfs. But it happens. I’ve lived long enough to accept it.”
The talk continued with the dinner, the conversation traveling down one meandering riverway or another, before Rudricke was asked for his plans. The knight without a home considered awhile before looking directly at the Overlord and shrugging, “I’ve been told I’m the prince of a kingdom, but the kingdom has been destroyed long ago. Over five hundred and twenty years ago, actually. And I know I’m not that old.” Rudricke gave a short laugh, “Actually, I’m barely over twenty, even if I look to be over forty. The Godswar and the fights after have been terrible to me. But my swords both come from ancient kingdoms that destroyed one another, and both have the spectres of their rulers within them, guiding me. The one hates me for being the rightful ruler of its rival kingdom. The other hates me because I haven’t taken my position as ruler of the Kingdom of Oidr. The land of Oidr, however, is devastated, no one has lived there since it fell. Am I really to be a prince of an empty kingdom? Or maybe my swords are telling me to bury myself in the land, be a princess of dust and ghosts? The only thing I have considered is to travel to Oidr’s lands and see them.”
The Overlord sat thinking for some time. He did not ask Rudricke to prove his story of the swords nor to try to talk to them himself. He understood that the sword of a kingdom does hold the spectres of its rulers so the current reigning ruler can have guidance from the past. He saw this himself while serving the Kingdom of Moohs. He verified it when he took the position as Overlord of Blade and inherited its spectral sword. What was odd was not just that there was a five century gap between Oidr’s fall and Rudricke’s birth, but that he had two spectral blades. Even the blades of fallen kingdoms only agree to be wielded by the rightful ruler of the kingdom. The Overlord eventually offered the idea of, “What if you recreate the kingdom? One or both of them?”
Rudricke looked curious and asked, “Both? Aren’t I only the heir of Oidr?”
“I do not know,” shrugged the Overlord, “about either kingdom and their heirs. Nor do I know why you are the heir of kingdoms apparently gone for so long. I do know, however, that if you want to explore those answers, you should do so. Take your journey, look at the land, envision a kingdom. Then you ask yourself if you want to try to recreate the kingdoms, or rather, give new life to them. Then, no matter what you decide, return to see me, whenever you have made your decision.”
Rudricke looked to the Overlord with a tilt of his head, “I’m sorry, and I mean no offense, but why should I see you again once I have decided either way?”
The Overlord replied with a soft smirk, “Polite yet questioning, I like that. If you do not want to rebirth the kingdom, then Blade can always use a Knight Commander of your calibre. Someone with two spectral blades and is one of the Seven Heroic Wonders will always be welcome for such a rank. Here or anywhere. If, however, you do revive the kingdom, I’d like to work out a deal.”
The Wonder considered a moment or two before inquiring, “What kind of deal?”
“We have too many mercenary companies in the kingdom and they’re always stepping on the others feet. For a kingdom of our size, we do not have enough merchants and traders working for the kingdom, we often just get taxes from them and not deals in goods. And we have too many laborers trying to make money rebuilding the City of Blade still. If you make a kingdom, I’ll happily send you the extra mercenaries and laborers, and work out a trade treaty with you that will benefit both kingdoms. You’ll also be located very close to the major trading city in the north, so you may be privy to deals that would be too late to act upon by the time Blade heard of them.”
The Overlord shook his head, “Our kingdom’s already too big. We need better infrastructure before we can talk about taking vassal states again. The Godswar really hurt us. No, this is a deal just for one of the Seven Heroic Wonders. More, this is a deal just for you. I’d happily grant land to any of the Wonders. But you, if you do make your kingdom, I see a destiny with.” A short musing and he said, “I can see you leading other kingdoms into interesting times. I’d be most interested in seeing what you could do as a ruler. Or as a Knight Commander. Either way, you have my backing.”
The dinner continued for a time, though Rudricke kept silent for most of the rest of it, and the Overlord did not press any conversation. Rudricke stayed in Blade, taking care of the mundane, such as repairing his armor, buying a horse, and outfitting the supplies needed for an excursion. Two days later, he left the City of Blade, and all its loud repairs, with a new horse, a wagon full of supplies and a driver, and a pair of Dragonlings who knew who he was and wanted to share his journey.
The excursion through the Kingdom of Blade was kept relaxed. There was no fear of bandits or other hostiles and the hostels along the way provided ample room and board for the group. Rudricke turned to liking the two Dragonlings, who insisted on the fact that he must call them by their Draconic name. Rudricke did not have the proper tongue or vocal equipment to do that, and they chortled each time he tried it. After a few days he asked permission to call them Ice and Fire, and they graciously agreed to that. Ice was the blue one, fire the red. Neither actually used ice or fire attacks of any kind, however.
The group passed a few other fallen and forgotten kingdoms, forming a wasteland north of the Kingdom of Blade. Eventually, a week and a half after leaving the City of Blade, the four entered the borders that once marked the land of the Kingdom of Oidr.
Immediately the spectral sword that liked Rudricke spoke in joy to him, “Home! I can feel our homeland!” Rudricke learned to ignore his spectral swords long ago, but this time, he did give a short affirmation and continued to look around the land that formerly made his ancestoral kingdom. It was nearly all grasslands where the group stood from, but softly rolling hills and a number of small woods sprung out in the distance. When the group continued on, every few miles they’d notice the faint remains of a stone building. The stones were almost universally toppled over and in a few heaps upon the ground, with vines and moss grown upon them. Rarely did the framework of a single wall stand against the weather, as if a signpost into what once was. Never did they see so much as two pieces of wood nailed together, much less anything requiring more work than that. All the old wood obviously long ago rotten away.
The group unloaded the wagon upon one of the closer hills without too many trees and set up camp there. It commanded a nice enough view so as not to be surprised and to send explorations from. They worked in pairs, one human and one dragonling typically. One pair would stay at the camp while the other pair would explore. Rudricke explored, typically with Ice, in the morning. Often they’d switch and stay as the camp guards after lunch during the first few days, when the group explored local areas. When they traveled further afield, the group was pair for an entire day before returning to camp, with the other pair exploring the next day.
In such a way did a good portion of the kingdom get explored. It was not a professional exploration by any means. They did not keep maps and only kept a small journal for notes. There were no buildings and, barring the wildlife, nothing living within the ranges the group explored. There were a lot of small copses of trees and a good amount of woods. No large forests, but some of the woods may be a forest once their proper size was determined. There were lots of soft hills, but no mountains. There appeared to be a sizable lake and a wide river, but most of the land was grasslands with wild grains growing long. It was idyllic and peaceful, but not a land with any amazing natural landmarks.
Rudricke would sit on the hill with Ice when it was their day to guard the supplies and camp, and stare at the clouds. Often he’d talk to his new friend, but nothing of a major nature. Small talk. Talk to get to know a companion and new friend. Some hopes and dreams. At night, he’d do the same with Fire and the wagon driver. Time passed by in such a way until a week and a day passed.
Rudricke and Ice were again on guard duty, when, approaching mid morning, a shadow was cast over the land. It was not one made by clouds, it was darker and more whole. Both looked upwards to have their eyes greeted by the underside of False Heaven. False Heaven was a gigantic floating kingdom, the size of one of the other Isles that roamed about the periphery of the central island. It was called such due to the fact that the people that lived there were unaging and incredibly powerful, and, during the Godswar when the Curious Deities were waning in power, they declared themselves the Young Deities. They gained and lost some ground in the war, just like anyone else, until they gave up on interacting with, as they call the people living below, the Groundbound. False Heaven was closed to the Groundbound and none of the Young Deities cared to travel down. As such, it became a semi mythical mystery to the people who lived on the ground, where anything was possible. Some with very keen eyesight would tell stories about large and metallic looking silver sky fishes flying all around False Heaven and bolts of red or green lightning firing in straight lines out from False Heaven against a common dragon trying to land upon it.
Rudricke stared at the flying city for a long time, quietly. Ice did so as well. Neither saw silver flying fishes or green lightning. They heard nothing. But they continued to study it. Fire and the wagon driver came back to camp early, also staring at False Heaven. The group talked about what they saw and pointed here and there while discussing what caught their interest. This continued on into the night, even after False Heaven became impossible to see.
The next morning, after breaking fast, when the group was deciding who was to go where, Rudricke stated, “I’m going to do it.”
“Do what, sir?” asked the wagon driver.
Rudricke pointed upwards to the sky, then about the land, “I’ll remake this kingdom. Oidr. I’ll rebirth it, rather. I’ll make a kingdom that will rival False Heaven, or do my very best starting Oidr on the path to such. You two,” he pointed to Fire and the wagon driver, “Take enough food and drink to get you back to the City of Blade, and enough coin for the hostels in the journey and several days in the city. Talk to the Overlord, give him this,” Rudricke gave Fire his personal signet ring, “And tell him that I, Rudricke, will form a kingdom in Oidr and gladly accept his friendship.”
The group split up. Rudricke and Ice would start planning out the first stages of building a new kingdom with the large papers they brought with them. They staked out positions for towers and gates and whatever other ideas they came up with. Almost three weeks passed before Fire returned leading the first group of mercenaries and laborers. He stated that the wagon driver was leading the bulk in two week’s time.
Rudricke would soon have his kingdom. And sooner, not later, he’d begin to wonder if having his kingdom is truly what he desired.