Outline for an Adventure 2

Also known as its old working title…

Let’s Go on an Adventure 2

Part 1

I had kinder thoughts towards the man after reading his book. We had many differences but his genius should not be understated. Flodnag was anything but a slouch when it came to strategy. This is why we followed his crazy idea in entering the warp to change the past. Because, we all wanted his redemption for the evil he had done. And now, we seem more committed than ever with the plan.

Yew gave a well-rounded eulogy to the man considering what he had done to her family. She didn’t mince words, but in the end, showed how even the hardest hearts can find redemption under Yevnwen’s guidance.

Yew had found him first, more husk than man, sitting there with the mind quill in his hand. He had turned to dust upon her touch, a thousand years of decomposition catching up to the present. She said that he had an odd smile on his face. The book seems to suggest that he found some sort of solace in the here-after.

Grimton thinks it has to do with the warp. “We might see him yet.” He concluded after a drunken retailing of their fight against the goblins of Aranoth. “I told him,” he slurred for the third time, “I told him, ‘Hurry up you damned fool!’ He was just standing there waving his arms and speaking gibberish. I thought he was a fake and then suddenly BOOM! Seven fireballs flew out from his fingertips!”

Even upon his death we found a very up-to-date will, as if he had expected it. Yew got the ship. The crew naturally accepted her as captain. She was reluctant at first but I think they’ll make a scallywag out of her yet.

Grimton got the cellar of wine with struct instructions on sharing and curses placed specific to the Dwarf should he break them. Grimton gave his word and honor that he would follow this. It didn’t take long to hear a Dwarven scream and Grimton marching out the bathroom with eyes half berserk. He kept shaking his hands in our faces saying that his beard was falling out, yet his hands were empty. This sobered him up, a bit.

I received the mind quill. It helps draw out the memories, which I find very redundant and tedious because I already remember everything, even as a child, well except for my parents who abandoned me at the keep.

She also furnished me with a journal with a picture of a water dragon on it. I’m using it now… as I’m sure you would know, because you’re reading it. I don’t know where this adventure of ours is going. I’m not even sure if it will succeed, but the crew seem determined to see it all through. Yew keeps clutching Flodnag’s journal. Something tells me he wrote her messages that only she can read. There were several “blank” pages at the end.

Flodnag’s dust was gathered in an urn that he had already kept in a chest. He seems to have thought of everything. Even after his death his influence can be felt upon all. We plan to spread his dust near the Crescentium. In this small way, the people he had once vowed to kill might have a chance to receive him.

We were on rations when we finally pulled into the Looking Glass Outpost. One of seven along the outskirts of the Xixis empire.

Part 2

We had offered the draco engineer a chance for some r and r around the outpost. He said he was busy, but I only saw him sitting there in his room, staring into nothingness. I asked him his name. He pretended not to hear me.

The local bar was your usual gig. I had a few drinks and it actually had a bit of a kick for me which was unusual until I learned it was rum. I was getting a sugar high. And so I acted more as a bouncer which meant keeping Grimton out of trouble. One of his fights started because a local was claiming to have seen the bones of giants. Grimton was setting him straight on that. All the giants had perished in the Shattered Kingdom of Ronalee.

After breaking up the fight, a more sober-looking fellow in the back spoke up, “Newcomers I take it.” I nodded. Yew stood quietly by the door with her hand on the bow. “Well, then you must learn of the giant scourge. It only took five to wreck our territory and extend the desert well-beyond its borders. “When was this?” Yew asked. “Well over 800 years ago.”

The pirate took us there in the morning. They were giant bones alright… but not of giant men. “These are dragon bones.” I said. The pirate gave us a sly grin. “The story’s a bit muddy because the giants came in the night.” Even without my specialized senses I could tell he was lying. “What is the true story?” I asked. The pirate held out his hand. Yew gave him some coins.

“I own an old ship.” He began. “Back then all ships had souls and mine is one of a few remaining.” His voice was even and his eyes steady. He was telling the truth. “Our ship speaks to me. It spoke of the giant dragons who ruined these lands long ago. Only their bones remain.” “What took them out?” Yew asked. The pirate petted his beard as if weighing the matter. “They called them angels or star-people. They came down like shafts of light, cutting through the dragons like butter.”

“The locals have forgotten the terror of that night, but ‘Ol Soulship Menta remembers.” When I asked if I could learn more he threw me a copper coin with a star constellation shaped like a hook. “Ask the Elementalists. There a local cult who worship the stars.” I showed it to Yew and her eyes went wide. This was the constellation of Yevnwen called the shepherd’s hook. On the other side was the face of Yevnwen’s Son who fell to Earth long ago and took on the form of a lowly shepherd.

Yew and followed the path that the pirate was showing us. I thought I heard something from behind, but it was only the sliding of rocks. After a day and a half we reached the meeting place of the Elementalists.

They wore hoods and didn’t seem to pay us any attention. We followed them into a strange gateway as they spoke the prayers of Yevnwen I had learned from my keep. I remembered having worship services on the 8th day of the week. This was the day when the sun was brightest. We built grand cathedrals with tall and wide windows so that the rays of the sun would accompany us in worship. The same prayers were said here… but they lacked joy.

Inside we saw the most anointed followers seemingly moving spheres about without touching them. There was a lot of gold in the architecture. I kept thinking that they would gleam more brilliantly if more light were allowed to enter. Yew held my hand. We exchanged looks. This was not a usual way of worship. But we would keep our peace until their leader spoke.

He came out covered in gold like a walking statue, but the eyes were human enough. His voice drew out in long wet gasps of breath in-between, “We have waited for 800 years since the sighting of the star people. Only the sheen of gold can remind us of their brilliance, for one day, it is spoken that they will return in the form of common men.” Such a thing had already happened? Were they still awaiting the form of Yevnwen as a common man?

“For, the All God once came as a shepherd, so will his children. And peace will be brought to us at last.” His eyes shifted to me. “You are not of this world.” He said. I saw through him then. The shape that saw me as a baby. Its form grew more real. He had birds about him and somehow, I knew him. He spoke the words that I had never remembered, but this time they were spoken as clear as a bell.

The star being had called me out, because I was a failure to him. An oppressive weight overcame me. Everything and everyone disappeared as I sank to the ground. A woman’s voice was shouting at me. She called me by my given name. But, I knew it wasn’t my real one.

Part 3

What I say next is hard to describe. It was like time grew still, and yet it flowed in visible shafts about me. The angel was no vision but was really before. His name coursed through me like the current of a river. Its translation was Golden Angler. He was like an idol made of pure gold. The idol moved. A soft hum filled my ears as Angler spoke, “We are the Living Elements. You were one of us, a god among the cosmos of the warp.

But, you showed a weakness towards the worms. We changed your name to Failure and sent you among them. Your season of punishment is over. Do you wish to rejoin the Covenant? I remembered the Angler as a shimmering mist before the basket that formed me into a human baby. I was not ready to rejoin the Covenant. I was about to inform him when he replied, “Why?”

I was about to tell him that there was much to learn from the “worms” as he called them. He transformed into a human-like body, as if to mock me and gave me his back. “You are a fool then and our name for you is well earned… failure. Be warned. The longer you stay human the less Elemental you can become.

When I came to, I was being led like a blind man down some dirty pathway. The pungent smell of mold hit my nostrils. I was back among the living… and as I thought back to it I couldn’t remember a thing of the encounter. It is only after recounting it here that it comes back to me. The mind quill pulls it out of me. So, you must understand dear reader, I only had a faint recollection of my encounter with the Living Element.

Yew was on my right and to me left stood the man in the golden mask. He took it off and held the most neutral face, like a doting father. “You saw an Elemental, didn’t you?” he asked me. I nodded. “You forgot what he said?” I nodded. He sighed, “Such are the strange ways of the star people. They have a powerful presence to this region and show up when least expected.” “Who are they?” Yew asked.

The cult leader handed her a list which she passed to me. It had a list of a few metals: Scandium, Titanium, Vanadium, Chromium, Manganese, Iron, Cobalt, Nickel, Copper. “The star people, or, the Living Elements are able to change their state from one element to the next at will. One of our devotees wrote this down after a vision. The list went on until it ended with Mercury. The man was literally touched by the star person. He died a mysterious death weeks later.”

He turned to me. “Usually we would hold one such as yourself for questioning until we could pry the information out of you.” The leader indicated a shadow. Our mysterious engineer stepped out. “But, you have very powerful friends.” The leader left us alone. The draco stepped near and whispered a hiss towards me, “Dwinnnndl.” I frowned, “What does that mean?”

He gave me his back, “Youuu assssked my nammmme.” We followed him out into the night. The familiar hum of our airship waited with a very exasperated Dwarf holding the line. I remembered the sliding rocks. “You were following us, weren’t you?” Dwindl crossed his arms. “How did you get the airship here so quickly?” Dwindl grabbed one of the lines from the Dwarf and said, “I calllled her,” before being pulled up.

That one was a strange one.  I was about to tell this to Yew when I noticed a distant look in her eyes. To her it seemed, I was the strange one. She opened her mouth as if to ask something and then shook her head. The line pulled her up. After writing this entry, I tried to find her on the deck, or in her room. I wanted to show her what the mind quill had revealed. Yew seemed to be avoiding me. So, I went back and finished this entry. If you read this Yew, please give me a chance to explain.

Part 4

We’ve stopped at the Maelstrom Outpost. I asked a local what the name was all about. He pointed behind me where I saw a distant sand storm on the horizon. He told me it was actually a mixture of water and sand. We had made it to the ocean. I guess the Endless Desert is more like a giant beach.

I’ve tried to approach Yew on a few occasions… There were these moments when she appeared open for a connection, but then she closed me off, but, to be fair, I also cut her off. Some things are just very painful and hard for me to explain.

She was getting friendly with the crew. I knew it was just her learning the people that she managed, but it still cut me deep. Some of the men flirted with her. She didn’t seem to understand that that was happening, or she just chose not to stop them.

Learning that I might have once been a Living Element is disconcerting. The Elementalist Cult might share a few songs and prayers, but they are no followers of Yevnwen. His Book teaches that the Living Elements were a rebellious sect of his Star Children. I know that this puts a taint on me… perhaps this is why Yew has moved away. I want to tell her that I’ve fled the Living Elements and their horrid ways, but I’m sure she already knows.

There are times when Yew just needs her space to process things. That’s what I tell myself, but the darkness of my past, it warns me to run away. Perhaps I should take its advice.

You won’t see me on board the airship once you all finish getting resupplied. I’m losing my extra senses abilities, becoming less durable and more human. It’s just as the Angler warned.  This means I will no-longer be the strong and powerful fighter that I was. This could endanger people’s lives. It could ruin the mission. I’m leaving the journal here so… goodbye Yew. I’m sorry things couldn’t work out between us.

{Yew found the journal just in time. She writes right under his entry, “Nynobir! You stupid, selfish fool! How many times must I tell you that I love you? This is not like your past. I am going to search every inch of this Yevnwen-forsaken outpost until I run into you. Then I’m going to draw you in as close as I can. I’m going to bring you back and force you to read these words over and over until you believe them. You. Are. Loved.}

Part 5

{We searched as much as we could of the place. Nyn was nowhere to be found. I don’t understand him. Why does he keep doubting my love? Even now, after all that we’ve been through… Grimton says that he’s lost a lot. What does that even mean? I’ve lost my parents and as much as it hurts, I get right back up, cry on my friend’s shoulders, and move on with as much joy in this life you can get, because Yevnwen is those things!

{But to Nyn there’s always been this… darkness. I’ll keep searching tomorrow. Good news and bad. Turns out the nearby storm is perpetual. The locals have even named the thing: Manivalous. It’s based on some sort of ancient myth about a fallen star trapped by the ocean. The maelstrom is made by him attempting to free himself.}

{Every month there are tributes, discarded warriors of ill repute attempting to win back some honor. They enter the storm on land and fight the trapped star being. If I know Nynombir…}

{The airship approaches as close as it can. There were many tributes, many lost souls. A few spoke of a tall bearded man who left early this morning. I have to go the rest of the way on foot. Grimton is still trying to muster up the courage to come with me. Dwindl places a hand on his shoulder and nodes. He steps out of the ship and walks beside me, steady as a pillar against the storm.}

{Flodnag warned me of storms like this. He hid messages for me in the margins of the other book. Warp Storms he called them, cutting into our realm from the other side. This was not the most ideal way to enter. You had to find “Peaceful channels”, whatever those are. Flodnag also warned me against the darkness of Sir Nyn. “That boy has a troubled soul.” He once told me. “His innards are like a storm, get too close and he’s liable to drag you down with him.”}

{These warnings did the opposite. I just wanted to help him… I didn’t expect… to fall for him. But he’s a good man with powerful morals despite the turmoil of his soul. Any outbursts he’s had have never been violent, and he’s always apologized for his anger. He was doing better in fact, until this… separation happened. Why do you keep running away Nynobir?}

{Dwindl was quite beside me. He carried a bow and quiver to complement mine, though, they were of a make that I haven’t seen. His spear held him to the ground as we both stepped closer to the storm. Up ahead, the tributes were being swept up one by one, and third from the line… I couldn’t miss his profile. I called him, but there was no way that he would have heard me.}

{Despite it all, his head turned. His eyes grew wide. He couldn’t believe it… couldn’t believe that I had come for him. In that moment all of his fears of abandonment began to melt away. An alien rage matured within me. Who had hurt this so much that he would throw it all away out of a false fear? I ran to him.}

{He was in full combat gear as I came up. The calm in his eyes at seeing me… melted my heart. How could I not love this man? Again, the rage came. Who had hurt him so that he would not open up to my love? If I ever found such a person… I calmed my soul by whispering a prayer, “Even though I walk through the crevices of Death, I will not have any fear of things that are evil, for Yevnwen is with me, guiding me like the Shephard’s hook of his coming”.}

{Whirling tendrils swept about the maelstrom. Like fingers they raked across the ground. Nynobir took another step my way. One of the tendrils came from behind. I didn’t even have a chance to shout at him before he was gone in a blur. I was in too much shock to move. Dwindl took off his mask. The draco’s teeth flashed against the lightning storm. “Do youuu lovvvve him?” He asked. I nodded. He replaced his mask and returned my nod pointing in the direction of the storm. We ran towards it.}

Part 6

How do I begin to explain what happened to us there? {You can start by how we moved to the Eye.} Yes, the eye of the storm. {No! First the journey! Don’t you remember?} Give me the mind quill back and I will. {But, it’s pretty!} Not as pretty as you. {That was pretty lame.} Not as lame as {Okay! Fine here you go!} I am sitting here next to this lame, yet very pretty girl and when we entered the storm we began to kiss in the woods. {You have to lead up to it. You can’t just…}

Ok… so, the storm was scary at first. Yew and I could barely hold hands.

{You had wings growing out of your back} I’m getting there!

As I was saying, the storm was scary at first. We could barely hold hands because I hadn’t realized that I had wings growing out of my back. {I noticed.} Well, shapes began to emerge— {Oh, and Dwindl was nowhere to be seen} That’s right, our ninja dragon man was gone. {He’s a Child of Draco.} Well the shapes were always moving and the way they moved was familiar to me. We were {We were in the Warp!}… yes. We had made it into the Warp.

And then I held her close and— {Not yet! The woods hadn’t materialized}. Oh yes, the woods.

It was a dark foreboding type of wood. {I pretended to be scared so that my Knight in shining armor would hold me closer.} Oh, you were very frightened, as was I. {Yes, the wood had a very deep sort of foliage.} We followed a path as best we could but there was none to be had. And so, we were stumbling about. {I really was scared.} As was I.

I saw the most beautiful buck with so many points on his head it was like he had tree limbs for antlers. {I was about to draw out my bow but Nynombir gave chase.} I can’t explain it, it just felt right. We chased the buck deeper and deeper into the wood until we realized a most amazing thing.

There had always been this churning sound, but now we were in the thick of the warp. {It was deadly silent.} And that is when I first saw the monster leering at us in the shadows.

He was a giant of man, though I wasn’t even sure of his race, for he appeared more mechanical like a golem. {His feet were unnaturally large.} I knew we were in for it when he pulled out his sword. {And that’s when Sir Nyn began to glow.}

Part 7

I fought the monstrous knight and his giant sword. I thought the heavy blade would be a disadvantage to him, but he was able to move it about as swiftly as me. Yew came up beside me. She gripped my other hand. The knight didn’t like this. His giant sword came swiftly down between us. We had to let go and move away. That is when reality itself was cut in two.

In a blink of time, I was alone in the woods, no monstrous knight and no lovely Yew. I feared the worst; how could Yew take on such a monster? I cried out. Only the rustling of the trees responded. I cried again and heard the faint flutter of wings. The third cry was most pathetic. It didn’t even have words to it, more like a prolonged groaning from the depths of my soul. The shadows responded with a mischievous voice, “I wouldn’t be crying so loudly if I were you.”

I walked about aimlessly, searching for the voice. I cried out again, but something checked me. Perhaps this voice was trying to help. The shadows were getting long. It was going to be dark soon.

This is when I noticed the glow about me… had I really been glowing this whole time? {Why are you always so oblivious of your strengths?} The light gave me courage, but it also made me fear, for there was no hiding yourself from the enemy. There were creatures of a sort with glowing eyes. They watched me along the edges, more curious than menacing. I wonder how they would act without my sword and armor to protect me?

My head suddenly began to pound. This mischievous voice spoke again, this time inside my head, “The creatures are not afraid of your sword and armor. They fear the light of Yevnwen within.” “Who are you?” I asked aloud. My head began to pound again, “Not so loud. Use your head voice! For, there are other more powerful creatures who would test this light.”

“Yevnwen would overcome any evil.” I said to myself. “Yes.” The pounding headache responded, “But it might take time to do so, for all things are judged in the end of things. But as for now, you might lose your life in the process and my old master would not be happy about that.” “Who are you?” “I was sent by a mutual friend to aid you out of the Warp.” I was about to ask another question when the headache said, “Follow the buck.”

A bright white stag emerged. He too held an inner light. I gently walked up to him. He allowed me to pet his mane. The buck had such beautiful antlers. I thought about how it would look as a headpiece back on the airship. A glowing white deer head would make a handsome mantlepiece. But then I wondered if his inner illumination would go away upon death? My hand flexed the hilt of my sword.

I lifted it up to strike the stag. He looked at me with a gentle trust that broke my heart. I sheathed my sword.

An arrow shot through the air. I was able to since it slowly. It was aimed at the stag’s heart. Without thinking I jumped in front of the arrow. The shaft stuck me behind my right shoulder. I only saw a glimpse of the person who shot it. She had red hair, much like Yew’s… but her eyes were not kind. She was gone.

I looked back at the stag… he had run off into the woods.

My hands held Yew close. She was crying for the wound on my back.

I held her close and felt nothing but her love.

Part 8

{Sir Nyn’s blade flashed against the monster knight’s. They were in such a struggle. My arrows had no effect.} I didn’t even know you shot the knight. {You were… focused. I had wanted to tell you though, there was a weakness in the armor, a soft spot under the arm. I could shoot him there when he lifted his arm for an attack, but I needed your cooperation. I grabbed your hand to get your attention, and that is when the knight struck between us.}

{I thought I had lost you. I was somehow deeper in the wood. I was as still as a stone for I knew… the monster knight was there, waiting for me. My heart yearned for you, yet I could not say a word of anguish. Then I heard the giant sword sliding on the ground and getting closer and closer.}

{The flutter of small white wings revealed the monster knight… confused it. The sword swatted at the white creature who flew away. The knight saw me and reached towards me with his free hand. I saw it then, under his arm, the soft spot. As quick as I whip I drew my bow and shot two arrows into the same place. Bullseye. The creature screeched, and in that scream, I knew it was not human.}

{Another screech came from the sky. It shot through the monster knight like a shaft of light. He tumbled over. The flutter revealed my very own Star Owl perched on the monster’s carcass. She opened her beak as if to speak… which, to my awe, she promptly did.}

{“What are you doing here?” She asked. Before I responded she said, “It isn’t safe, isn’t safe! Why did you come!” I looked deep into her starry eyes and asked, “Have you seen Sir Nyn?” She winked at me, “Whoo? The foolish knight? Who whooo would be so foolish to enter this storm. Not you, not you? The Warp is not for living Whooomans.” I took that as a yes.}

{The star owl led me through the woods, haunted by things I had no name for. My elfin instincts kicked in. Even without the pointy-eared shape, my half-blood senses could hear the quiet mourning of the spiritual. But this mourning was that of the deepest joy. That is when I first heard a voice in the tremors of the ground. The trees were rising and yet their smell was off. They were not trees and, this was not the wood. It was the shifting places of the Warp.}

{The tremoring stopped, for someone came. She had hair like mine, and even with the hood covering her eyes I knew who it was. Everything around me screamed of danger. I was about to notch my bow when the hooded woman notched hers first and aimed it right at me. The hood fell off and my suspicions were confirmed. A movement caught our eyes.}

{Two glowing creatures, one as tall as a man and the other a brilliant white stag. The woman shot before I could scream a warning. And the man shifted purposely in the way. It was Nynombir!}

{I ran to him before he could fall, held him up with all of my strength, loved him.}

{This love of mine seemed to course through his body. He straightened up and loved me back. There was a moment between kisses, when I lay my head upon his chest and felt him sigh such a deep groaning sigh, like something long kept within his soul had finally found freedom.}

Part 9

{Nynombir and I ran through the woods with my Star Owl mumbling ahead. I asked him how he found me.} I told her about the mysterious voice who spoke like a headache inside me. {I told him of the strange lady.} Yes, and I had thought I knew who it was. {You just couldn’t imagine.} I had been away from the Warp for a very long time. I forgot what it was like for mortals. {Such as yourself.} Yes, such as I.

Yew stopped me at a beautiful waterfall. I thought she had wanted another kiss. {Is that all that you think about?} Well, you are very good at it. I just wanted to be encouraging. {I could sense something was off with the world.} I informed her that these were not really woods. {I knew.} She knew of course.

The grounds of the Warp have been known to shift and form. There is a design to it, though even the Living Elements couldn’t discern. We had theories. {They had theories, which you shared with me.} Sorry, they had theories. One was that the Warp was the All Maker’s dreams come to life. {Which is silly. How could a sovereign All-God take a nap?} He did rest after creation, perhaps we are the dream. {In either case, the grounds began to shift.}

Trees of bark grew into towers of stone.

{The forest was becoming a crumbly temple ruin.}

Which wove together into a network of maze-like passages and castles.

{Which grew into a bustling shimmering city. It had a familiar shape to it.} It was hard for you to recognize because you had only lived in its decay. {Nyn informed me that we had somehow reached the ancient capital of Ronalee.} No, I said that this was the appearance of Ronalee’s capital. Remember, we were still in the Warp. {Well, yes, but at the time I thought we had made it back… and that we could finish the mission.}

I tried to tell her this, but she was so convinced. {Nyn was not making any sense to me. We had made it back. I had been sure of it. But, the Star Owl said, “Whooair do you think we are? Back in time, like the fool Flodnag’s dream he gave? Do yooou think time so easy to shift and change at will?” “I will find a way.” I replied to the owl. “Yooou will fail. And besides that we aren’t back in time.”}

{I had been a little angry then} A little? {How could we not have made it back? We came through the Warp? But the owl set me straight, even after being rude to her and asking for proof. “I am talking,” She said, “This is proof enough. Star Creatures can only speak to their masters in the Warp.”} I reminded her to use her elf-sense. {I finally settled down and felt the world… it was an illusion.}

Not an illusion. The Warp is made of a shifting material, much like the Living Elements. It can form into anything and appear to be any shape or color or element it wants. It is a dream that you can reach out and touch, but what it forms doesn’t last long. There are stories of my kind shifting through the Great Sea of elemental currents, and getting forever lost. They have no end. {Like I said. It was an illusion.}

A shadow flew up to us and pushed the Star Owl aside. {It was Edgar!} “Hello.” He said with a bow. I recognized it as the pounding headache. {He can do that when attached to a master.} Why doesn’t your star creature give you headaches when she contacts you? {Athena Has a gentle touch. Anyways get to the good part!} Okay so Edgar had suddenly become my familiar. {No! The other part!} Why don’t you write it down?

{We were on this scenic walk you see, and this man with silver hair passed us by. He said to Nynombir, “Nice familiar.” And just walked on, so I only caught his back.} I saw his face, but well he looked younger. {It was Flodnag! So, I called him and he turned and…} He didn’t remember us. Edgar explained it to my mind though. You see, this storm was over a thousand years old. It had formed on the very day that Flodnag was born.  

Part 10

Edgar explained that we had entered Flodnag’s Reckoning, which was a type of judgment. For most mortals such a thing could last a single second or less, but there was great debate among the Celestial Courts, a debate that had been going on longer than Flodnag’s life. They used the Warp to shape and reshape moments of the Ward’s time among the living. Even Edgar was called from his resting place to assist in the proceedings.

“It was not a very fun place to be, so I eagerly obliged.” Edgar said. “You see, my old master’s case is very sensitive and strange. He did many monstrous things, and yet, towards the end of his life, he found redemption. But sins were also committed and someone must answer for them. We are at a time now before Flodnag had made the choice to follow after Yew’s evil great grandmother. He hadn’t even conjured me up yet.”

I spoke up then, “I thought you said that an old friend had sent you to help guide me? How could Flodnag have done so if he hadn’t conjured you up yet?” Edgar flapped his wings to emphasize things as he spoke. “Because the Celestials are jumping around his life, recreating his memories from all over and bouncing his soul about like a walnut falling down its tree. I am only used when he remembers me and at that time he sent me to find you.”

“I did have a pounding headache that seemed to give me the impression that I should enter the storm.”  I said. “But, what about Yew?” Edgar pointed his beak her way, “I’m sorry love… but Flodnag had not asked for you help. Only a Living Element can be of assistance here.” I pulled Yew close to my side, “Flodnag may not need her… but I do.” The raven shook its pointy beak from side to side, “It’s a shame really. Love shouldn’t cause so much despair.”

At this point the grounds began to shift again. We saw the floating country of Ronalee from a distance, still intact.

In a blink of an eye the war between dragons and giants was fought.

The shattered remnants of the kingdom were brought to bear. {And I was hearing the voice in the tremors again. It was crying for release.} Edgar explained it, “The soul of Flodnag is forever caught in the warp vortex of his reckoning.” {I could hear his voice speaking to me! He was the star that fell as the local myth goes. He is the monster in the middle trying to break free!}

Edgar continued, “They had been judging him for so long now. It looks like we are catching the fleeting glimpses of his redemptive side, when he was first with Yew at the Keep of Wards.” {Edgar meant when Flodnag and I encountered our first golem.}

The ground settled at last. Flodnag was in a rage. “Where are the Wards who taught me?” He asked the wind. “What is the meaning of this?” Edgar perched on a nearby boulder, “Oh, this is new. We’ve replayed these moments many times.” “Yes.” The Athena the Star Owl agreed, “It was when I first met Yewww.”

Edgar continued, “Yes, well, I was still hidden inside his pouch but see here. He hadn’t gotten a familiar’s pouch yet. And his face, it has less wrinkles.” The star owl and raven said as one, “He’s still young!” “What does this mean?” Yew and I replied also at the same time. Edgar peered deep into his old master’s soul as Flodnag was yelling to the wind, unsure what to make of his old him.

He finally looked our way as if for the first time, but his eyes only saw Yew. Edgar said, “The Celestials wish to see what choices he would have made here before the war had turned him evil.” He spoke to Yew, “Young woman, I believe you have a roll to play in this.” {I didn’t want to go his way, but something compelled me.} Edgar said, as Yew walked over to the young Flodnag, “It appears I was mistaken.”

“I was tasked to bring Sir Nyn,” Edgar continued, “but the Celestials knew that Yew would follow. They wanted her to enter the storm and help determine his judgment.”

Part 11

{Right on cue the golem appeared. The first time, back on our first adventure together Flodnag had seemed lost in thought. I took care of the golem myself with a sword.} That doesn’t make any since, I couldn’t even scratch the surface of a golem with mine. {Well that’s easily explained, the golem didn’t even put up a fight with me and its rock-hard surface gave away like mud. It must have recognized me as a Crescentium.}

{In any case that is not how things happened with the younger Flodnag.} He pulled out his sword which had an ethereal glow to it and sliced the golem in half. He didn’t even bother with the treasure. He just sat there brooding. Yew moved in front of him which broke him out of his thoughts.

“You remind me of a girl.” He said, “A girl I had fallen for as a young man.” He beheld Yew’s beauty {Were you jealous} and then looked away, and yes, I was very jealous. I’m always jealous when other men look at you. {And why is that?} Because you are very beautiful which draws attention. {Oh Nyn, don’t you understand it? None of those boys have my heart which makes them more jealous when I’m with you?} True, being with a beautiful woman is a good problem to have.

After looking away he attested, “You are beautiful like her, but, I don’t see the same fire in your eyes that she had.” {He then held my hands and said, “You may not be as fiery but I’m sure someone will fall for you.”} And I wanted to punch his lights out. {First you’re jealous for calling me beautiful, and then you’re angry that he didn’t want to pursue me… men.} We can be a bit… moody. Anyways you asked him. {A asked him what happened to the woman he had loved.}

{He said that she was married off to some fancy man with a castle. So, I asked him if he would turn against the kingdom of Ronalee to achieve her love. He’s eyes grew dark as he responded, “I made an oath as a Ward to protect the Crescentium family and the kingdom. Oaths are powerful things for a Ward. And besides, Konoa would never turn me against her family.”

He pointed his sword at the felled golem and said, “But this golem from the great golem-master Visron. And he has turned on us. I must find him and defeat him.”}

The shifting grounds of the Warp moved in a flash so that the young Flodnag stood before a great and powerful king. {But he was no king at all. He was only given a throne because of his amazing golems made for the Kingdom of Ronalee.} It was indeed the great golem-master named Visron. The young Flodnag approached the golem-master, holding the head of the golem found in the Keep of Wards. “This is what I had found at the Keep of Wards. It was destroyed by your hand Visron!”

Visron swayed his head slowly and said, almost under his breath, “I never liked you Flodnag, how you had risen so high up the Wards because of some young-love crush from a princess. Only those of noble blood should enter that Keep.” Flodnag drew his sword, “So you admit to have destroyed it?” “You self-deluded fool!” Visron said, “The Keep of Wards is still there.”

“Your accusations are false.” Visron continued, “And, as I suspected, the strain of learning the ways of the Ward has caused you to lose your mind.” Flodnag moved in to attack. Visron moving only his finger. In response one of the lion statues came to life and lunged at the charging, young Ward.

{The grounds shifted, yet again, to reveal a broken young Flodnag stuck in a prison cell. I was not allowed to enter this scene, but another person had come to pay young Flodnag a visit.} She was the same woman who had shot at the white stag. {The same woman who had almost shot at me.}

I had thought the woman in the woods to be a shadow version of Yew. {Yes, I still don’t understand why.} Well, the Warp tends to pull out the best and the worst of the person who enters. These parts can personify themselves into powerful beings.

Take the monster knight for example. {Are you saying that monster had come from you? I thought it was just one of the warriors who had entered the warp.} I’m just saying that it’s likely a personification of the darkness found within me, which, to my discredit, almost destroyed our relationship. {This is why you think it was hostile to us holding hands?} Only you knew how to defeat it. In the same way your love has broken the darkness within.

{I’d love to take the credit, but only Yevnwen’s eyes could show me that knight’s weakness.} And only the All God’s eyes could have shown you how to come back to me. {Oh Nynombir, I will always come back to you.} And I will always keep my heart open for your return. {I will never leave again.}

{I do have a dark side. We all do as the scriptures say, but in this case, the strange lady in wood was none other than a memory of Konoa made alive by the Celestials from Flodnag’s mind.} Yes, but we were both wrong, for, she was not a memory. As the Celestials had drawn the real Edgar, Athena, Yew, and me here… so too had they drawn the real Konoa from her resting place.

Part 12

Konoa walked across the gloomy halls of the prison. She even shot us a glance which sent shivers down my spine because we had been in a shroud. Apparently, she had also been hidden from Flodnag, able to watch what was happening. She knew we were there. Her walk had a dance to it, a sort of hypnotic sway. I saw the resemblance to Yew in the jawline and the hair, but the eyes were deadly and not very nice.

Flodnag saw her. His eyes grew big at the sight of her, and then, they narrowed. Konoa and Flodnag stared through the bars for minutes in silence. The Ward finally broke it with a question. “Where’s the fire?” Konoa feigned a hurt expression, “What do you mean dear one?” Upon hearing her voice Flodnag’s face softened a bit. He was drinking it like a fine whiskey. “I only meant the fire in your eyes… that’s what won me over all those years ago.”

Konoa took out her sword and held it in a pose giving the Ward her profile. His eyes lit up as he said, “The draco banners flew proudly upon that day that I saw you. My heart leapt!” “Yes,” Konoa mused, “It was a fine day. I’m just wondering where you went?” “What do you mean?” “I gave you my ring… my ring! It got you into the Keep, and now I find you raving like a mad dog against our golem master.”

“You should have seen the Keep though! It was ransacked and someone had put an aging spell upon it because it appeared ancient.” “Does Visron know any spells?” “Well, he does with the binding of souls to golems I only thought.” Konoa stepped away from the bars, “You thought that he had somehow overpowered the most powerful wizards in the kingdom?” “My teachers… my mates… they are all gone.”

Konoa put on her hood. “You are the one who is gone, gone very mad. I never should have given you my ring. I can’t believe I had feelings for you. You’re a disgrace to your father. You’re a disgrace to me. And to think, I was coming to see if you could be our bodyguard. Do you want to see how foolish you are? Look no further than who is coming through that door.”

A young man of noble barring entered the dungeon. “Kenteth!” Flodnag shouted, “You’re alive!” “Of course.” He replied with a haughty mouth. {I remember Flodnag mentioning Kenteth to me. He was one of the noble houses who had provided sons to be Wards for many generations.} What a snob. {He was actually one of Flodnag’s greatest supporters. The two had to fight each other in the end during the Shattering.}

It must have been heart-breaking for Flodnag to pierce his best friend’s heart.} I had wondered if this was the actual Kenteth or is it a memory of him. Then I heard him speak. The tone was like a growl, “You are not here and no I will not abide by the Celestial’s guidelines. I am a free agent. Just know that I forgive you for killing me so long ago.”

Flodnag appeared confused. “Kenteth I would never raise a hand against you.” Kenteth must have realized then that Flodnag was of his younger self, before the events that caused the Shattering. He took a different tactic, “No, I guess you haven’t done this yet. I’m very sorry… it’s my prophetic sight. Which, by the way, you must have encountered this when seeing the broken Keep of the Ward. You were seeing the future of what was to come of that place.”

Flodnag’s hands were over his head, “No! No! Ronalee will last forever. The Wards and the dragons will insure it to be so. Who could be so powerful to have overcome the Keep… and what of the dragons?” Kenteth stepped around Konoa playfully, “The drgons would be killed by a tamer of giants. As for the Ward, well, that will be your doing.” Flodnag looked up. “Please tell me that you are jesting.” “I do not jest about my life, for I have foreseen it taken by your hand.”

Flodnag was enraged, “We must stop this from happening! Who is this tamer of giants who would kill the dragons? I will face him in battle and then die to keep Ronalee intact. It is my oath and there is nothing stronger.” Konoa had said nothing up until this point. She spoke softly so that Flodnag had to move in close just to hear. “What was that?” He asked. Konoa looked up with fire in her eyes, “I will be the tamer of giants and you will be my faithful servant.”

She stepped closer to the bars and pulled out the ring that marked her a princess of the Crescentium. “Have you forgotten your oath with me? Long before bowing to the Wards, you promised your very soul.” “It was a promise of love.” Flodnag said as he began to kneel, “A promise you quickly broke upon your marriage.” “An arranged marriage.” She said, placing the ring behind the bars. “I’ve always loved you.” Flodnag took the ring and placed his face upon her hands like a dog.

Part 13

She held him like this for a while whispering sweet nothings in his ear. Yew was unhinged. {I wanted to leave the shroud and pull him away!} As did I, but it was clear the Celestials would not have allowed for this. {Who do those judges think they are?} Well, we didn’t know it at the time, but we sure found out, soon didn’t we?

After a time of this his face looked up. He was much older. {The Celestials had turned him back to the old Flodnag that we had known while he was alive.} Konoa pulled back her hands like they had touched fire. “Konoa.” Flodnag said in that deadpan way of his. He then turned to Kenteth. “Kenteth. How many times have we done this?” The young noble rolled his eyes, “Oh, I’d say over 20 dozen times. Do I have to say it yet again? I mean I already did but you were younger and—”

Flodnag held up his hand. His eyes grew serious, “Say it.” Kenteth stared back at the Ward and said, “By Yevnwen’s love, I forgive you for killing me.” Flodnag drew back in the shadows. Konoa flew her hands up in the air, “My eternal punishment was better than this, a place that you and I should both be going to.” She gestured towards the shadowy region of the prison.  “That’s what I keep telling them.” The Ward in the shadows replied. “No!” Kenteth interjected. “You had a Yevnwen moment.”

Flodnag poked his head into the light, “No sacrifice could be enough for the evils I committed.” Kenteth was unhinged, “I don’t understand you. You were there when they hung the Shepherd a thousand years ago. My family saw him die and then—” “Two days later… he’s gone from the grave, and you claim to have met him.” “I did.” “You met a ghost.” “I felt the ridges on his neck. He had been hung.” “Was he a zombie then?” “He could talk, and teach like he used to.”

Flodnag fell back into the shadows, “I don’t believe it.” Kenteth placed his hands on the bars, “You don’t have to believe all the time. We all doubt, but Yew showed you a forgiveness that only Yevnwen could bring. You believed in Yevnwen at that time.” “For a moment… but how is that enough to overrule all the atrocities I have committed? There is no magic that powerful.” “No magic made by man.”

Konoa threw her hands in the air and walked away. Flodnag and Kenteth stood in silence for a while. At last the old Ward asked the young, “You really do forgive me.” Kenteth smiled, “Tell me the dream… the one you had 500 years ago, when this Warp storm was just starting to wind down and… you wouldn’t accept the mercy of Yevnwen.” Flodnag closed his eyes.

“I could move but I could not see. I knew though that I was blind and a lowly beggar. I’ve been blind most of my life… chasing the approval of men, or rather a woman. Someone’s cool hand touched my eyes. I say people like trees walking about. This person then spit in my eyes.” “What did you first see?” Kenteth asked.

“I saw… I saw the face of a kind man! I was there when they beat the shepherd, before the hanging. He was on the ground before my feet. I… I kicked him. I saw him cry out and… I kicked him again. It is the same face of that kind man. He healed my eyes and I could see. He pulled me up from the dirt. He set my feet on solid ground. And then, he left.”

“I could not let him leave! I fell to the ground and worshiped him. I reached out and touched his garment, just one little touch and… I felt the deep magic. It was of the same potency as the magic that touched me near the Dracos. It was a magic beyond me, not one of firepower or destruction. It was a magic of growth and beauty and honesty and love. It was Yevnwen!”

“But even then I doubted [Get the rest later, wrote it on pintrest]

“And then I was pulled in close to him. I felt small in his arms… I felt loved like a little child or a lamb, held close by the grace and love of the Shephard, not because I deserved it… but because I was His. And being His, does this even make sense? And, being in Him He was also in me.”

The bars on the cell had vanished. Kenteth reached in and held a sobbing Flodnag. “It is time old friend, it is time to stop holding up the All God’s mercy and grace.” Flodnag looked up, “But what about my manifested evil?” Kenteth looked our way, “The eye of the storm is about to be dealt with.”

Part 14

And so the true nature of the storm opened up to us, and I was ready to face whatever beast lived in the Eye.

I pulled out my vorpal blade preparing for the battle of a lifetime.

Edgar gazed at the storm with a steady eye.

You had your owl and your bow, poised and ready.

But then, I noticed something else. In your eyes I saw that your heart wasn’t into it. In fact, I was exhausted. The warp, such a strange place to humans, well, for me this place of shifting was familiar. You had seen it as a tool to judge… and in that judgment of an old friend you found things a bit overwhelming.

So I put my blade down and waited in silence as the storm raged over us.

{I really loved all that was happening… I just needed some space, some time to take it all in. You saw that in me. It amazes me how you notice these things.} I nodded my head in understanding. You were not ready. {You thought I had wanted to be alone… but I needed your silence.} I was about to move off when you held me back. With that stare I understood it. {“Flodnag can wait another day or so.” I said to you. “Just… take me away, for a bit.”} I gazed back knowing just what to do.

The ways of the Warp are mysterious. They were living dreams come to life. Many used these dreams in different ways. The Celestials used it to hold a man in limbo until his soul would submit to the mercy and grace of Yevnwen. But, there are other uses for the Warp. {You had wanted to tell me that, didn’t you?} Well, I noticed that a part of you was already beginning to understand. {Not so much as understanding. I couldn’t put it into words. It just felt like there was more.}

{I looked deep into Athena’s eyes. The stars were just dazzling… the beauty of it all sort of just drew us in.}

We were completely overcome with the endless possibilities of it all. And then, we had passed on from the limbo of the storm. {Deep in my heart I knew that we had indeed made it into the Warp.}

We constructed a type of ship for us. There was no telling how long it took for, in the Warp time cannot be measured or felt. {It could have been a hundred days or a hundred seconds.} In this ship we traversed through the Infinite Ocean of the Warp. {We saw so many wonderful things… some that I have no words for.} Nor I.

We visited many other worlds, some more strange than our own. {That doesn’t even begin to do these fantastical places justice. We should stop talking about it.} Why? {I just don’t want the memory of it ruined by the feeble words we have at our disposal. It was breathtaking.} Simply amazing. It was then that I had brought to mind a special place where I would often visit as a Living Element.

My thoughts themselves brought it to pass. The wordless places moved away from us. My special world formed right before our eyes. {It was like seeing the creation of a whole new world.} In fact, it was just that, for the place was triggered to come only when I bring it to mind.

{Oceans and clouds came to pass, and many floating islands dotted the skies.}

We flew to a charming little town. It was a place of merriment and silent contemplation. {There were all sorts of colorful books!} That’s right. I forgot about the libraries.

{We entered an empty house full of instruments.} This was my house. {Of course, it was. I bet you didn’t know I could play the lute.} You do look like the lute-playing-type of girl. {Why didn’t you show me your skills?} I was too transfixed by your voice… and your playing. These were beautiful things.

{When I stopped playing and singing… The music kept going. I could even hear my voice sing verses that I had yet to think up.} I led us into a dance. {Our noses touched.} That was not on purpose. {It was a pleasant accident.} In the Warp we could live a hundred different lives a hundred different ways. We were almost lost to the lull of it all, but you pulled us away from these living dreams and back into the storm to face Flodnag’s beast.

You never did explain to me what made you pull us back. {I had seen one of those possibilities for us and… I wanted to come back and see it through into reality.} So cryptic and mysterious. {You told me that you liked that about me.} I do.

Part 15

We came back to reality rather quickly staring deeply into Athena’s starry eyes. {It was as if time had stopped.} Which indeed, it had. Our date within the warp must have lasted days, or that’s how it felt. {And yet here we were coming back into the world right where we had left off.} Such are the strange ways of the Warp. If you hadn’t pulled us back, we could have been stuck in there forever. {Which could have been sort of nice, for a time.} It was nice wasn’t it? {Hmmmm. Yes, yes it was.}

Flodnag’s Warp storm was still raging. We had to find a way into the eye. {I was about to bring up your wings, but you were a little busy looking pretty fantastic actually.}

Just preparing my vorpal sword for the event to come. {So modest.} What is so fantastic-looking about that? {I’d tell you, but then you might get pretty vain.}

Well, you weren’t looking to shabby yourself. Getting your owl all prepared. {Um, thanks?} We can laugh about it now, but honestly, we were extremely frightened for the things to come. {I wasn’t so much but that is because I could see Yevnwen’s glow upon you… and the wings were beginning to come out again. It gave me strength and hope.} It was nice having my faithful Yew beside me.

Edgar was looking at us strangely, something in his eyes told me that he knew we had been deeper into the Warp. {He didn’t say anything but I could tell he was not pleased.} But we had bigger issues. All of the warriors who had fallen into the Warp were gathering in a loose sort of army, ready to face the monster of Flodnag’s sins.

{It was surreal to see them clustered together against the gigantic monster.} The strongest men threw javelins and axes his way. They simply bounced off his thick hide. A few of the wisest fighters attempted to rally the troops for a more measured attack. The wild ones simply threw themselves at the beast who stomped them into oblivion. {Only Yevnwen could tame such a horrible creature.} You said something like that at the time. {I was praying.}

Then the beast turned out. I couldn’t put a finger on why he would notice me out of the millions of warriors but {It was the shimmering glow of All God upon you}, yes but I didn’t know that yet. {You knew it very shortly after he noticed you.} True, his eyes upon me forced me to realize that I still had the ethereal glow about me and {And your wings!}, yes, and my wings which I was beginning to notice for the first time.

It was surreal actually, like an extension of extra arms, just feathery. {Can I explain it now?} Explain what? {Who you are of course! Okay, in my studies of Yevnwen I came across a book that explained who the Living Elements were. They were shape-shifting children basically. And once they settled into a shape, the All God blessed them to become that shape for all eternity.  And you chose the shape of a human.}

A human with wings. {Yes! Well, there was this race of humans who flew long ago. They were called—} Paladins, everyone knows of that most noble race. {It makes sense that you would choose that shape because—} What? {Okay so you’ve had some setbacks in life, but deep down you are a noble knight of the King of kings. You fight with righteousness and with Yevnwen’s strength you will win!}

The demonic beast of sin attacked me. I heard all sorts of evil spells in my head. There were even a few moments where I thought to run away.

{But you flew in place as resolutely as ever. The light of the All God was upon you. The demon’s eyes were turning from fear-inducing to its own personal dread. He was frightened of you.} Not from where I was hovering. {You just weren’t looking at yourself in the way that I see you. Internally you may be this doubtful person, but when you enter a room, there is a presence that you bring.}

 Well, when he was about 9 feet away I suddenly knew just what to do. You see, demons project what they feel on the inside. The more frightful their appearance, the more frightened they actually are. I knew that with this one, all I had to do was follow through with my attack, without wavering. A peace came over me, I took my sword and went all in.

Part 16

Fighting a demon is much like facing that basilisk your emotions while controlling back near the draco region of the desert. {Or that dragon that you once faced, of which you have yet to tell me about.} It was a private matter. I will tell you about it in time. {I understand.} Thank you.  

But yes, it was also like the dragon. I went all in and cut through the demon’s hide, but there was something licking in the cut, as if he were made of smoke. In this way we would fight but none of our strikes would actually hit. {Smoke and mirrors} I’m getting to that.

So, the monster flew back to lick his wounds a bit, wounds that had suddenly appeared. I rallied the troops and explained that he was only made of smoke. The troops wouldn’t believe me. They said that their arrows and javelins were bouncing off the creature’s hide. I showed them the pile of missiles where the monster had been.

They claimed people who had attacked the beast out right had been stomped to death. I showed them a cliff with men at the bottom wading in the waters. {Smoke and mirrors.} Or, so I thought. The smoke monster came at me again. This time my attacks made contact. They did not pierce through. He tossed me aside like a rag doll. {And then he came for me!}

{I picked up a sword and a shield because I knew that my arrows would be useless. Athena flew away. I thought she had abandoned me. But then I saw her diving towards the monster to pester him.} A brave little owl. {The monster simply turned into smoke and allowed the bird to dive through him. The owl hit the ground hard.}

{His wingspan was enormous as he dove right towards me. I didn’t even hold up my shield. I was done for.} Then a gleaming arrow came out of nowhere and hit the monster hard on his side.

{It was Dwindl! He had come in out of the blue, or rather, gray swirling winds of the storm. His bow was glowing and he had wings like a Paladin!}  It was only later that we understood how this was to be. I’ll let Dwindl explain it in his own words someday. As for now, we really thought the masked draco to be Dwindl. The monster was not happy at the newcomer. He charged the flying draco. Dwindl put his bow away and brought out his spear.

The monster flew where Dwindl once was. In a flash the child of draco appeared above— {sort of like that maneuver you did with the Basilisk} I still have no idea how I did that otherwise I would have used it on the demon. {Dwindl knew it well, and he used it with much force, smashing his spear into the rocky hide of the demon.} This time the spear struck home.

I was about to attack it when this annoying raven flew in my face saying, “Don’t be a fool! He can anticipate your speed now.” “What do you mean?” I asked Edgar. “The demon is of the Warp. They’re very adept at timing. Dwindl could only land his blow because he isn’t predictable.” I brushed the bird aside and gave him a node as I dove towards the monster.

{But you didn’t hit him hard.} No, I made out like I was going to. I noticed it’s scales were fluctuating, turning into smoke no doubt. {Is that why you stopped hard right before the strike?} The monster was smoking, hoping I would fall through. I waited for it to transform back and stuck before the scales could fully come to be like rock. My sword hit flesh at last! The monster fell into the sea.

{I thought it was over.} As did I. Dwindl even took off his mask for the occasion. We gave each other a node. But the sea was beginning to foam again and… my light was beginning to dim.

The monsters head arose from the frothy waves. {I was very frightened though.} Which was strange because my light was diming and I was frightened. {As was I, but Dwindl noticed Him first.} He took a knee and lay his spear on the ground. {We both turned and saw—} We saw a Light beyond our own. {He was the source of Light itself.} That’s when I realized my light wasn’t really dimming, it was just very pale in comparison to— {The Shepherd!} The King of Creation. {Yevnwen!}

Yevnwen’s sword didn’t even need to strike. {His voice was as soft as a nightingale’s.} And yet it overcame the churning of the storm. “I AM THAT I AM. THIS CREATURE CANNOT BE DEFEATED BY ANY MAN, FOR, SIN WAS ALREADY DESETROYED ONE THOUSAND YEARS AGO ON THE NOOSE THAT THE SHEPHERD BORE. MY MERCY IS ENOUGH AND MY GRACE MORE.”

In a snap of his fingers Flodnag appeared before the Shepard. He was bowing low to the ground. The All God touched his shoulder and embraced him. “AM I ENOUGH?” He asked. Flodnag nodded his head. And then the Shepherd turned to the other fighters. As one they lay down their weapons and bowed low. A hushed whisper of a thousand voices said the sacred name, Yevnwen. {Even the storm’s raging could overcome the confession of so many sudden-made saints.} And then, It was finished.

The monster, the storm, the Shepherd… {Flodnag and the wayward soldiers} All of them were gone. {Only Dwindl, Nynombir, and myself remained.} That is how you all found us, on a weathered and forgotten island amidst the waves of a calm that had only come after a long and hard storm.

Part 17

The Aftermath of a thousand-year-old warp storm is hard to quantify. No one remembers what life was like before it hit. Thousands of warriors had been sent there over the years. {Yes, the army we saw fighting the demon well, it was much larger than the group of people Nynombir walked in with.} It turns out, those who entered had been fighting the demon for all of that time, frozen from aging and death.

{Some would question how Yevnwen would even allow such a terrible thing, so many lost and forgotten souls swept into a storm that they could not understand. but in the end, they found peace in His presence.} We hold on as if there is no eternity, but Yevnwen’s grace lies beyond the temporal things. What type of person was willing to give it all up and jump into death itself? The rejected, the ashamed, the foolish. {The broken-hearted.} Yes, I knew of these things. {I came.} Yes, you came.

Other airships found their way along the coasts, many were of a design I had not seen. {Flodnag would have been intrigued, for, there appeared to be some magic involved in their design.} They were creaking and moaning in a way I had not heard before.  Dwindl said that they were singing. I gave him a strange look. Even with his mask on I could tell my look was returned, “Donnnn’t you knowww? Sommme shipssss live.”

The draco was being very cryptic. {I reminded Nyn of a certain pirate who had said as much about his own ship while explaining the ancient story of the five dragons.} Yes, I supposed we would run into some strange things beyond the borders we know. Singing ships were not on my list of unexpected things. {You have a list of unexpected things?} Well, it’s a blank sheet of paper because, {I get it} you can’t write down— {You can stop. I know the punchline.} –what you don’t expect… Get it?

Many of the ships had come out of curiosity. This would eventually lend itself to treasure hunting. {Our pirate friend must have been there.} Dwindl said that the soul ships were figuring out how to divide what might be found underneath. This should minimize the fighting. He said that some sang of our claim to the treasure. {I reminded Nyn that Flodnag left us with more than enough gold.} We left them to it.

Edgar and Athena could not speak to us in human speech any more, not that I minded. Sometimes he would just stare at me and I’d get a sudden headache.

{I still talked with my Star Owl, we just said things with a gesture or a look.} You told me that you could speak telepathically. {Yes, but even these thoughts were not speech driven. They were also gestors which honestly made things easier.} What do you mean? {Sometimes it’s hard to find the right word.}

You mean like some of the places we visited in the Warp? {Could you explain them in words?} I admit if I tried, it would be a lesser thing. {I wonder about the souls Yevnwen took.} I’m sure they are tasting of a joy unspeakable and full of glory. {yes, I’m sure that they are.}

Dwindl locked himself in his room for days after the event with the Warp Storm. {I think the adventure was more draining on him. He needed some time alone to heal.}

After about a week and a half, he suddenly came from his cabin. “I havvve nottt beennn completely honessst.” He began. {Then he explained that the Children of Draco had sent him on a mission, knowing that we would be flying near the Maelstrom Post.} He was investigating the disappearance of something that had been missing from his clan for over 800 years. {He suspected it had been lost in the Maelstrom.}

He wanted to tell us his story, but it was hard for him to shape our language. I handed him the mind quill.

Part 18

<When I entered the maelstrom, I immediately knew that the 800-year-old eggolas had been caught in the storm. Yew was safe in the arms of her beloved, and so I jumped from debris to debris searching with my nose. Even through the thin veil of my mask I smelled the scent of my kin. I knew that the eggolas had fallen into one of the Warp pockets.>

<Out of my peripherals I saw that the Paladin was taking Yew to a pocket that held a forest in it. Now I understand such foolishness. The knight had forgotten his legacy as a Living Element, for forests are notoriously dangerous places, especially in the hidden passages of the Warp.>

<My sense of smell led me to a different pocket. In all honesty I would have preferred the thick foliage of the woods, for me they would have not been so bad. As it was, the eggolas had been taken to an open plain amidst the shards of a broken tower. This was an unusual use for my talents, for I was trained in the art of the shadow and not in open combat. I think my advisory knew this.>

<But first I must explain what happened 800 years ago, no, I must go further back. The Shattering was the best thing that could have happened to the Wyrms and their caretakers. Once the Keep of Ward was destroyed, the spells that bound my kind were broken. Many sought a free-spirited life as dragon riders or snake charmers. No one knows what happened to them. Their names had been marked out of the Family Books. Only the legends of them have survived.>

<We were about to debate about which lands to take when there were reports of a large army of giants running rampant in the Endless Plains. Our kind still had a sore spot against the brutes, so we sent the bulk of our armies to attack them. The victory was a bitter one. We were unrestrained without the slave spells of the Crescentium family. The land was scorched with fire.>

<It became what is now called the Endless Desert.>

<We found hidden life in the canyons. My kind felt it was our fate to stay there and send it back for our families. This became the land that you were privileged to explore yourself. Very few outsiders were allowed. And in this place, I was born 200 hundred years from 20 days ago.>

<Of course, you had only visited the ruins which were there before we came. The most industrial places were hidden from you in plain sight. Perhaps, someday you will be allowed to visit the Brooding Spires.>

<And so, from this time, 800 years ago, after being much settled in the place, some strange bright men appeared before our sight. They gave flowery speeches, and promised many grand things. In they end they left one strange night and stole a collection of rare eggolas.>

<Five of our mightiest dragons had left in search of them. Only after seeing their bones along the outskirts of the Looking Glass Outpost could I believe it to be true. The pirate’s story about the dragons may not have been the complete truth. There have been some wayward Wyrms that is to be sure, but those who came from the Families would not have acted so rashly.>

<As it stands, the true story of the Five Fallen is shrouded in myths and legends. All I know is that the Star People stole our eggolas and I was sent to retrieve them at whatever cost.>

Part 19

<And so, I stood before the broken tower seeking a mysterious foe who had somehow taken our eggolas 800 years ago. I knew much about the Star Men but only from books and passed-down stories. Nynomir is my first actual encounter with one, though after observing his interactions with the cult I realize he may not be typical of the mischievous shape-shifters who stole our dragon eggs. A question that plagued me, what would such powerful beings want with fire-breathers?>

<I approached the tower with no opposition. Circling it twice, the only entrance was one familiar to my people. I’m sure you passed through when exploring the canyons, for it was the only way into our realm of basilisks, dragon broodlings, and snake charmers. A Star Person, no doubt, has recreated it knowing one of my kind would eventually find them.>

<I was not the first agent sent after the Fallen Five. Every hundred years or so they send a few of our kind in search of the eggolas. We are honor bound to never return until the dragon eggs are found. Galantago was sent 756 years and 236 days ago. He was the strongest of his brood. It was expected that strength alone would be enough. He never returned.>

<Other honorable dissenters followed. We were called dissenters because the order kicked us out of the brood like a criminal, yet ours was for an honorable cause. It was also expected that we would not return. This prepared our families for our life-long absence. Malgad was an unusual draco. Some whispered that he would make a great magician if not for the magic dampener. Because of this, he learned the art of ax-play.>

<He took the Oath of Leaving and then stayed in his home well past the deadline for his journey. Someone built up the nerve to inspect his home. He had vanished. It was only assumed that he had taken the path of the honorable dissenters.>

<Asmath was a quirky dragonling, always kept his snout in books and scrolls. After a hundred and eleven years of this, he felt that he had uncovered the truth of where the eggolas were taken. He was my friend and I miss him. I must admit that half the reason I’m going on this trip is in search of my good friend Asmath. It was he who pointed me towards the Maelstrom. When I heard that you were heading that way, I took my chances.>

<I left my beloved Ardona for this. Well, perhaps “beloved” is too strong a word. She was pursued by one other, a strong warrior after the manner of Galantago. He was not right for her, I even believe that she knew this, yet her mind was fickle and she could be easily swayed… to a point. Galantago once challenged me to a duel for her hand. I won the duel by what he claimed was trickery. I simply used his punches against him.>

<Ardona was not amused that I had used her techniques to defeat one that she might be in love with (she was one of my teachers). She showed such disdain for me after that I felt lost. I had been in love triangles before, and with no success. So, I took the Vow of Leaving.>

<On the night before my trek aboard your airship, she gave me a blessing and a promise to wait for my return. It confused me because I was very acquainted with unrequited love. I didn’t understand such a gesture as faithfulness. She didn’t want me to leave but I had already taken the Vow. To recant would be a dishonorable thing.>

<I am sorry for, how do you humans put it, dragging my feet with the story. Dracos love to set things up with what came before, but there is another reason for giving you so much backstory before explaining the events of the tower. I found much suffering inside, but the mind quill will not rest in my hand, so, I must continue.>

Part 20

<The first floor was abandoned and ancient. It had a similar look to the ruins our in the canyons of my home, but it was less ruinous. I couldn’t tell if the colors were distortions of the warp or the real thing.>

<The deeper I delved the more corrupted things became.>

<This floor was must larger than the broken tower seemed on the outside, a twisting of the dimensions no doubt.>

<Then, I heard her voice. How can I explain it in your language? The sound of sand hissing against stone. The sizzle of scorpion meat on the fire rock. The purring of a cat. My beloved Ardona was speaking my name over and over like a spider dance… so sweet to hear her voice. I knew it wasn’t her of course, but for a time, it was pleasant to believe the lie.>

<The basilisk was polite enough to appear before her strike. Of course, she felt very sure of herself, for she was a mind-reader, very rare broodling. I rage like flames erupted in my soul. I knew her name even before she spoke it, for she was one of the stolen eggs that the prophets had foretold would do great things. I cannot even spell her name in your language, but I spoke it to her. She did not recognize it as her own. The Living Elements had erased her destiny.>

<She had a hypnotic stare, but there was a shallowness to that reeked of greed and envy. I let the rage wash all over me until it was all I could feel. She thought it a weakness. “Dwindl!” She said in Ardona’s voice, “I never loved you. You’re just too weak for me. I like muscles and pushy suiters who only think of themselves.”>

<I held on to Ardona’s blessing, an oil so thick that I could still faintly smell it. It was her pheromones poured upon my head the night before I left.>

<I took one last look at the fallen basilisk, and struck at the tip. It was only a tiny cut and it came so fast that even she couldn’t notice it. She continued on, this time in her real voice. “I guard the first floor. The Shapers have plotted many things for your kind should they come here. My venom for instance can wash your brain away until you are my slave.” I shrugged my shoulders and walked away. It had been ten seconds after all.>

<She moved to block my way but something held her back. Perhaps it was her insides slowly grinding to a halt by my shadow poison. She made to speak again, but her tongue had caught itself slowing down and petrifying into stone. The rest of her attempted a strike. It was slow-moving until the petrification was complete.  Her scream tore through the chambers until that too also succumbed to my shadow poison.>

<Her eggolas was never prophesied to be very bright or fast, just a powerful mind-reader. There was a light at then of a tunnel. I found what she had been sent to protect. It was a city. The landscape was fairly recognizable, for these were the ruins of the canyons. It was the inhabitants who had once lived there before our time, or at least a Warping mockery of it.>

Part 21

Dwindl placed the mind quill down and locked himself in his room without an explanation. It was just as well, for, we were pulling into the third Outpost.

Port Nexis was more of a waystation between kingdoms. It crowned the top of a jutting cliff on a tropical island in the middle of the Sea. It was considered a gateway to Xixis from the other lands across. Wars would not touch this place, for those merchants who helped pay for the wars considered it hallowed ground, that and, no one had attacked Xixis for thousands of years, ever since the Immortal had appeared.

We all had cabin fever. Yew made sure that every man of the crew would get equal time off the ship. Her reasonable orders, spoken in that charming way of hers, immediately silenced any discord.

We were just about to disembark when Grimton’s voice hollered at us on the deck. He was in full battle gear, dressed for an adventure. “You aren’t going to leave me behind again! I’ll enter a raging storm. Hey! I’ll enter a thousand raging, fire-breathing, grind-churning, wind-shrilling until I lose my hearing and scream in fearful rage, maelstroms. Just don’t be leaving me behind again!”

Yew tried to calm him. “You don’t get it little sis. The next time you face your death, I’ll die right there beside you. I couldn’t bear to lose you again!” Yew kneeled down and kissed him on the forehead, “Brave dwarf. You are my right hand shield. We shall never be parted again. But right now Nyn and I are simply going to a tavern. Would you accompany us?” Grimton dropped his battle ax and ordered one of our cabin boys to take good care of it. We were off.

We found a mostly respectable, yet seedy enough, tavern along the edge of the Nexis and settled in for what we thought would be a relaxing night.

I was sipping my second glass of rum when a certain, very recognizable pirate visited our table. “So, it be the lad and lass who left the treasure for us unfortunate folks at the Maelstrom! There was quite the duel after you left, you know.” Yew said, “I thought the living ships were singing out a plan for everyone to get an equal share.” He took off his hat, “Aye, the ships gave such a beautiful song of comradery and come-togetherness.” He gave Yew a wink, “But we didn’t seem to agree.”

“How much of a bloodbath did your infighting cause?” I asked him. He slammed his mug down in a commanding flourish and reached for his cutlass. My knife was pressed against his ribs before he could speak. He let out an uncomfortable laugh and raised his hands. I hadn’t noticed, but the tavern had grown very quiet. The patrons resumed their chatter once my knife was sheathed.

“We are not your common, every day, cutthroat pirates.” He said. “So, please forgive me if I take offence.” I nodded without moving my eyes from him. He leaned in as if to administer a great secret. “We settled it with an airship race! Winner takes all!”

He then described the most thrilling lie of a story if I ever heard one. I’ll spare you the details. There are no noble pirates and if next I see him, well, I’ll have my sword. We’ll see how he does against a paladin. {That’s very rude of you to say. The Shepherd’s words paint us all as pirates, and we can all learn a thing or two. If you won’t tell it. Allow me!}

Part 22

{“Now,” began our fearless pirate leader, “I don’t like to brag, but—”} But I own the fastest ship there is. Can you believe how big that guy’s head was? Don’t like to brag. {I am NOT giving you the quill anymore, but yes, that’s pretty much what he said.}

{The race was to begin at the Maelstrom Outpost. It was to end at the Nexus Port. What? Okay here you go.} Notice he had said, “was to end” that’s foreshadowing. {We know what that is dear, don’t give it all away at the start! Speaking of starts… the whole outpost heard of the race and what it was for. Many others joined up. Oh, I wish we would have known.} Could you imagine Flodnag’s pile of junk at the races? We’d be left in the dust. {Don’t speak badly of Gertrude. She can hear you.}

{Well, anyhoo, with a bang of a drum they were off! Our Pirate friend ‘Ol Billiards Shoes Who came up with these names?} It’s better than Nyn. {I like your name!} Oh yeah, and what about Yew? {What about me?} I was speaking of your name. It’s confusing. {So, Billiard’s Shoes gave the other ships a chance to move ahead.}

I bet something was wrong with the ship. {He did mention that she was very sore having her sage advice replaced with a gaudy race. I bet her song was so lovely. The first ships he passed were the Foresters. They were specially designed ships who harnessed the power of living trees.} How much power can an unburnt tree give you? {They gracefully finished last.}

{Next, it was the dragon ships.} I think I had fallen asleep at this point. Wouldn’t dragon ships be faster than second to last place? {Well, they would if they had been made out of the light skeletal structure of dragons. As it was, the creators wanted to be anatomically correct, all the while using wood, which is very heavy.} Indeed.

{Next he passed an Emperiaoulustikus.} Long name. {Amazing results though… for war. It’s guns slowed it down immensely.}

{This was followed by a Grutnog, the workhorse of the skyforce.} Aren’t they used for hauling base structures into a combat zone? {The very same, and not very fast at that.}

Write what he said about my question. {You mean if there was any fighting? He said a few cannons were fired here and there, but it was mostly on the up and up.} Not very likely.

{The only ship that gave the Black Flamingo a run for its money was a fire-rim.} I’ve heard of those. Very fast! Don’t they use simi-warp fields? {I worked on one once as a helmsman back at the Shattered Kingdom. They do have the ability to dip their engines into the warp. This allows them not to overheat… nothing more.} Okay, tell anyone who reads this book… what ridiculous excuse he gave for losing.

{Well, according to him they were nose and nose halfway across the Sea. But… a—}

But the clouds erupted around them so that they were surrounded with tentacles. It was the speculated but never proven Sky Kraken! {It might exist.} Only in the minds of those who want an excuse for losing an airship race. {I think you’re being too hard on ‘Ol Billiards.} He’s a pirate and a fraud. {Maybe so but he does spin a good yarn.} Indeed he does!

Part 23

<I could not express in your words what took place in the city within the shattered tower. I had to spend time thinking in my own language. There are 36 words for betrayal in my language. Only one is reserved for the highest degree, which is, to take advantage of full innocence until it is desecrated into something ugly. It is the natural word for a dragon’s shout when spitting out fire. Your weak ears only hear it as a guttural yell.>

<This word has only been used to explain three happenings in our history scrolls. The one we were taught since birth was how the Crescentium humans betrayed us with spells of binding. The other two, only the elders know. All that they say is that this was the second time the word was used. If I had known that I would learn first, I never would have entered the Warp-made city. I was naive and a fool. I will miss that.>

<The feel of the city was uncanny, as I walked up to it, birds of the canyon that we name… what would be translated as fragile white wings, they flew at my approach. I could see the fibers of their feathers with my draco eyes. The Living Elements knew children of Draco would be coming this way; they wanted to be sure of every detail. Such an elaborate trap, and just to kill? It didn’t make since.>

<Then I saw something canter along the floor. It was a weak furry creature with cute ears and whiskers (cute is not a compliment in our language). Its eyes were intelligent enough. It spoke to me in a purr, not unlike that of my own… just higher pitched. “Who are you?” I told it I was a proud child of Draco named Dwindl. It grinned like a crescent as if it knew better and said, “No, that is who you became. Who are you all?” “We are children of draco.”>

<This time the creature did not smile. Its eyes grew wide in a way that you humans would adore and said, “No, that is who you became, who were you before?” Before I could answer it again, it cantered off. I decided to follow.>

<It was easy to chase such foolish prey. He ran through the open gate. There were no guards. Inside, was a bleak and dreary place. I heard a roar. The creature was licking its paw as I came up to it. Between each lick it glanced around the corner. When I came up to it, it held me back and told me to shush. If it weren’t so strange a place I wouldn’t have bothered cutting the thing in two. Then I saw who was making the roar.>

<It was the fabled race of Purrianians. These would be what you all have called the Lion Humans. This one was fighting a little basilisk. I made to intervene but the little fur-ball creature held me back and said, “Watch.”>

<I watched in horror as the snake struck at the Purrian’s neck and slithered away. He struggled to roar and suddenly began to shift into many different forms before falling to the ground. “It takes many months for the venom to have its effect. But, for this demonstration, we have sped things up.” “Who’s we?” I asked. The creature looked shocked, “Those who freed the Eggolas of your people.” “You mean stole?”>

<I walked up to the Purrian to see if I could help. I did have some reverse venom potion. The Purrian rose up with his back to me. It turned and wore the face of a child of draco. “This is who you are.” The little fur-ball creature said. “Purrian is who you were.” “Who set these basilisks on this city?” The little creature pointed up.>

<The perfectly blue sky had become the warp storm. In that evil storm, revealing amongst the clouds I saw the unmistakable vision of the first dragon. The venerable saint of all our kind. The one that we call Draco. Something primal within me tore out of my bosom. I roared at the raging storm, but it was not a dragon’s roar. It sounded very much like a Purrion’s. In that roar the name for the greatest betrayal was thrust. Fire came along with it, which had never happened before.>

Part 24

<”That’s odd,” the furry creature said, “Draco’s children don’t breathe fire.” I was about to say that myself. It examined me up close with its circular weak-eye-helpers. I brushed it aside and said, “Get it off!” The creature looked at me with disdain, “It has a name.” “What are you?” “A Purrian named Whiskerlick.”>

<I was beside myself, “You do not even closely resemble the strength and grace of the Purrian race!” The little one shrugged. “Most of us died off… too weak for one such as Draco.” I glanced up and asked, “What happened?” The cat creature’s eyes grew big. “We were a sect of well-manured Purrians, tamed by those of Xixis. The larger of our kind were then taught to be civil like us. We built the city. Then Draco came.”>

<The world shifted into a great battlefield. Whiskerlick was holding onto my leg as an army of Purrians ran by. “The first dragon came to us after we suffered a great loss. We fought against a race of powerful pink-skins.” This confused me because I never thought of humans as all that powerful. Whiskerlick licked his paw and smoothed out his glasses, “Let me clarify. They were not humans…”>

<”They were Dwarves. Draco promised us a powerful weapon that could be used against them. We were losing everything we had, so we felt that there was no other path. He set a legion of snakes against us. They only attacked the strongest of our kind.>

<In a few months, well you can imagine the formidable army we had become.>

<The Dwarves also showed up with something new… berserkers. They too had tasted the poison of the Basilisk. We knew then that Draco was playing both sides like chess pieces. By this time, we were too far in to pull away. We didn’t understand what he was after. Our armies fought for years with no side winning over the other.>

<Towards the end, the Dwarves seemed to be turning away from the poison. They built fierce beasts of iron that shot out large coals of fire.>

<Those on our side experimented with the basilisks until they grew in terrible size.>

<Once they became dragons… it was over. Only a handful of Dwarves were able to retreat. They were chased by snake charmers and the two have been fighting in the mines ever since. This is why they despise Dwarves who are tainted with the venom of a basilisk.>

<It was the elves who stole the dragons away, right from under our noses. They used skilled spells to do this, spells that were eventually given to the Crescentium family. They took your kind as captives and used your dragons like horses.>

<We were back in the city. Whiskerlick gave me a sad, yet wizened look. “The dragons, Basilisks, and Children of Draco were hypnotized with spells and stolen away to the empire now shattered. We were left behind until your freedom and return.” I was amazed at the tale, “So,” I began, “This is the first used of the 36th word form of betrayal?” Whiskerlick didn’t answer at first. He was walking away down a lonely street. “Your people’s return after the shattering marked the third.”

Part 25

<The Shattering was the greatest thing for our people. I had been told that our armies hunted the giants down in the region that became our valley of dragons. Whiskerlick had a different take.>

<”The dragons came.” Whiskerlick began. “They did not negotiate and they only spoke one word. You see, your 36th word for betrayal can go both ways. It is indeed the fire that comes from a dragon. If the dragon is noble then such flame is used in righteous anger to defend the innocent, but, it can also mean the destruction of the innocent.”>

<”Such was the case with your army. The noblest of your kind would have opposed a genocide, so, the more vicious ones flew ahead and burned our city to the ground. None survived.”>

<”What about you?” I asked him. He licked his tail sheepishly, “I am a ghost pulled from the Warp to teach you of this tale.” “What proof do you have of this then?” “Alas, our great library was also burned. I was its book-master. There we could trace the lineage and understand the changes of our Purrian race, into monsters. No offence.”>

<You have to understand… They caught me in my anger at the beginning of this demonstration. It was so effective that I used the 36th word when seeing the first dragon in the warp sky. But, I was settling into all of this.>

<It was very hard to imagine that the ruins we saw were of the ancient Purrian race. These cat people were only remembered in myths. How did I even know that Whiskerlick was real? Could he not be a shape-shifting Living Element trying to fool me?>

<The little cat creature had anticipated this question. “I understand your lack of faith. You have been taught that all Living Elements are evil. This is not true, for there are some that solidify, no-longer shifting shapes of deception but fully realized forms of Yevwen.” This reminded me of Sir Nynombir.>

<Whiskerlick handed me two vials of a deep green liquid. He promised that if I were to drink one, the dragon poison would be vanquished in my system and I would become a purrian again. I asked him what the second vail was for. He told me it was for my beloved Ardona.>

<I was shocked at this. How could he know about my beloved? “The dead,” he answered, “We watch the living like some gigantic stage play. The best haunters of our kind might even spark a love interest here and there. We have been enjoying your love triangle very much. This potion should put an end to it I think.”>

<I was livid. The dead watched the living like some sort of opera? My love life or lack-there-of was a farce for them? My pain was something to help them pass the time as they socialized about in the Warp? I had so many questions. Whickerlick held up a hand. His face turned into a crescent grin before suddenly disappearing in a flash. Only the Warp was before me.>

Part 26

<I was lost in the Pegasus realms of the Warp. These were the fantastical flying horses only seen in dreams. It is hard to say if they were real or simply cloudy bits that formed a shape so real. It was all overwhelming and the very opposite of meditation. In meditation you try to keep a calm and peaceful mind. In the Warp, there is no such thing as calm.>

<The turmoil in my soul led me to the darker regions of the warp. Had the dragons been so evil? Had the very father of my being, had Draco really twisted the form of the Purrion race just to make being in his image? I remember the dragons as noble sages. They spoke more of peace than war, yet 800 years ago five of them had been bested by Living Elements. Only their crushed bones remained.>

<Perhaps, the pirate’s tale was correct. Perhaps, they had done some great evil. The dragons may be noble now but what has their nobility taught me? To kill a hatched Eggola when I could have easily charmed her? My brooding thoughts took me deeper in.>

<The form of Malgad appeared like a dark flash.>

<It was gone. I saw the tremendous pressure of my failure. How could I return to Ardona? Would she even want me? There was a quietness in my soul then, for I heard the mysterious whispers of two lovers cooing.>

<The brightness of your radiance passed me by. I was enthralled with it. Oh, how much I longed for such a thing. It was your dream ship.>

<I hid in the darkness, always hiding, and saw how Nynombir formed his world.>

<I saw him behold Yew in his arms for a gentle dance as her voice sang the melody of a music yet to be. I can still hear the melody even as I write about it.>

<My memories came to life, I relived the moment of Ardona’s blessing over and over. Perhaps, it was a thousand years or simply a few days. Something urged me to stay there. Then I thought about the late Whiskerlick. He said how the dead watched the living like a play. Perhaps, I too could gaze upon my Ardona, the real one. Something persisted that I should not go and see her. I ignored this of course… curiosity got the best of me.>

<I saw her gazing forlornly towards the canyon walls. She was waiting for me! A hand came into view. It wrapped around her. It was the blue-scaled beast, my rival, a name that I refuse to write her. She turned to him and they embraced.>

<This brought me back to the Warp storm, if not for her dagger to my heart, I would have stayed forever.>

<The churning storm raged about as a new floor within the shattered tower took form around me.>

<I was oddly calm about everything. How could I hold her to a promise, especially since I’ve learned more of the truth. Well, I didn’t quite know yet that it was the truth, but I am telling you after the fact, Whiskerlick was right. What did I expect to do? Bring a vial to her? Hope that she would believe me? Force her to change?>

<No. It was Ardona’s choice. If I really loved her, I would have to let her go and be that choice. I thought of Nynombir and Yew. They had also made a lasting choice of love. I was happy for them, and I would be quick to defend that right… to truly fall in love.>

<As for me… I had a different sort of choice to make.>

<I looked up from the veils and saw the sun already risen. “Yes” I thought to myself. “I would find a love as brilliant as the rising sun.” When this love comes my way… she will be risen and bright to me as a star. I closed my eyes and felt the loving touch of Yevnwen. I looked down upon the veils and knew what to do.>

Part 27

<I sat there for another hour or so watching the sun rise and dreaming of the day when true love would finally rise for me. There were hints of a fight in the distance. Nynombir’s voice was screaming some sort of rallying cry, yet it sounded so slow to my ears. Time was set off by the Warp storm and I seemed to be moving faster than you and Yew were.>

<The landscape was wrought with chains. It reminded me of the tales I’d heard after the kingdom was shattered and the dragons were freed. Some say that the remnants of Ronalee attempted to chain the islands together. I had thought it was nonsense. The stories say that such a hairbrained scheme did not last for more than 50 years. Those of the old attempting to hold on to their bygone days.>

<Balancing on the chains reminded me of my training, which inevitably led me to my sparring teacher Ardona. I tried to think happy thoughts and when that failed, I thought of better things. I was growing skeptical of what I had seen. Perhaps it was the Warp playing tricks on me. Ardona may still be waiting for me and Whiskerlick… he may still have been a trick concocted by the Living Elements. My eyes caught movement ahead.>

<Someone else was on the chain. I gave chase until we came upon an abandoned city.>

<The city seemed to change somehow. It had these shades and shadows to them perfect for hiding. But, I paid these no mind, for there stood the majestic shape of the ancient race, one of my own kind before the venom. It had to be another trick!>

<A full-blooded Purrion stood hunched before me. I recognized that hunch though, the characteristic reminded me of an old friend. “Asmath?” I hissed as best I could in my venom state.>

<The Purrion looked up at me. His expression is so much like my draco friend back at the fertile valley. It was Asmath alright, and, he had been transformed into a Purrion.>

<He put on his clock and prepared for an attack. It was a sloppy stance for those trained to notice. I held myself loosely and waited for him to remember. His stance softened, “Dwindl?” He purred. It was such a wonderful voice almost completely different without the reptilian venom. It was then that I knew the veil was real and everything with it.>

<We spoke of many things then. Our feet walked us for many miles. We had no care for where it led. He told me many things, some that were hard to take at the time. “Ardona was never right for you.” “What?” I responded. “She was not kind.” “She was my trainer.” “Still, trainer of no, she should have been more kind to you.” This comment I ignored, but after much thought and seeing how Yew and Nyn are together… I see how right he was.>

<Our talks eventually led to the firebreath word I had spoken. His eye cocked up, “Flames came out of your mouth?” I nodded. “Then I was correct. You are the prophesied one and have been blessed with the power of mimicry.” His heart was downcast after this. “What is wrong?” I asked. “Oh, just another prophecy that said he who found the mimicry would die soon after.” I tried to lighten the mood with a laugh. A roar was heard behind us.>

<A white basilisk dragon broke its ugly snout over the horizon. Another eggolas had hatched. I pulled out my spear. Asmath tried to stop me, but I was on the hunt. No one would kill my friend.>

Part 28

<The dragon basilisk seemed surprised at my attack. Asmath was screaming something to me as I moved in, I had thought it was a scream of fear. He never was much of a fighter. The dragon did not move an inch as I prepared to entrap it. Was I too quick for the monster?>

<My chains flew out, steel tempered with poisonous barbs. The dragon’s scales flexed right before I could grab him. I should have known. This dragon basilisk was a deflector. I remembered his prophecy vaguely, something to do with the protector of barbs. But, I feared another prophecy, if I was the One spoken of in the books, then Asmath was doomed to die. For it was always known that the seeker would die upon finding.>

<The dragon basilisk at last reacted to my attack. He moved like lightning. He could have bitten me a dozen times. Something held him back. So, I prepared my next weapon.>

<My spear appeared common enough, but I had a surprise. It was well known of the Children of Draco that only dragon fire could temper a weapon so that it could press in through any scale. This is why dragons tended to disarm their opponents before striking with flame.>

<I thought of all the betrayal I had seen, how Draco had deceived the Purrions and the Dwarvs. How the elves and the Crescentium had deceived the dragons. How the dragons once freed had deceived their own kin and made a ruin from those Purrions who remained. Asmath called me Mimicry. Could I speak fire as the dragons did? I reared back and spoke the 36th word for betrayal. My spear lit up crimson with fire.>

<The shock in the basilisk dragon’s eyes was unexpected. He withered into flame as I pierced him through both his hearts. Asmath was correct. I was the mimicry, able to copy other powers and use it against them. I had also bested the prophecy against my friend. The Purrion would live to see another day. At that moment I had thought about these foolish things. Then I heard the low rumble of true betrayal.>

<The dark, brooding shape of the only black dragon in existence. It was Draco. “well-mastered.” He mocked. “You truly are my chosen servant.” I sent my spear careening into the air. It went strait into this eye, the most vulnerable spot for a dragon. It bounced off. “I will permit you to ask a single question, though I can’t promise my answer will be completely honest.” “Why,” I shouted. “Why destroy a noble race?”>

<Draco turned his gaze towards Asmath. Something like a snake flickered out of his mouth and stung the Purrion. Asmath knelt down on his knees, keeled over, and died. I seethe with rage and drew strength from it… though I never expected such love for Asmath to be used as a fuel for such hatred for Draco. I attacked blindly.>

<No mater where I struck. Draco’s eyes watched my furry. They did not leave me alone. It burned into my mind. I see it still. I tried every technique I had learned. But Draco knew them all. He had invented them.>

<I would seem to give up, but then Asmath’s face as I had known him back in the valley would appear. I wasn’t sure if Draco was feeding these images to me or if I was simply in a mourning sort of battle rage. It fueled me to no end. I kept on trying.>

<Eventually I simply gave up on the technique altogether. Our battle took us beyond the confines of the images until we broke through the tower that had held them together. Everything was burning, yet nothing could touch the burning yearn of my rage towards Draco.>

<The tower that had caused me so much pain, built by Living Elements who had been formed into something good, began to fall. That is when they came at last, behind the scenes. They appeared as their tower crumbled around us.>

<It was then I learned the truth of things. Living Elements were the babies of a different race of beings. They had a choice to stay as evil shape-shifters, or they could mature into Paladins. Draco’s formation was a contorted form of good. Not childish evil as the shape-shifters were, a fully matured evil of the dragon. His eyes glowered at the Paladins. For a split-second I saw that he feared them.>

<A host of Paladins chased after Draco. One of them come up to me grinning. “You’ve done it chosen one!” When he sensed my confusion. “You were the bait that would temp Draco into our tower. It was all meant as a trap for him.” “But I could not defeat him.” “The bait’s job is not to kill the fish. There is another fight nearby, at the heart of the warp storm. Turn to it and lend aid to your friends.” He handed me something round and whispered in my mind. “Mimic us.”>

<The Paladins sought the Draco and moved to bring him down. I looked at what was in my hand. It was the last eggola, unhatched. When I looked up I was at the eye of the storm and I saw Nynombir in all of his glory attacking a beast of a different sort. But Nyn was a young Paladin. He did not understand his powers. I grew in stature as my mimicry took on his form.>

<You saw the rest of it.>

Part 29

After reading Dwindl’s account of the Warp Storm, I sought him out in his room. To my surprised he asked me to enter. His voice sounded different. “Where are we?” he said without a slur of speech. “Outpost seven.” Even behind the mask I could tell he was surprised. “What happened to the other three?” “You mean after Nexis? Well, after your account you seem to have slept through the others these past few months.” Dwindl got up and said, “Tell me.”

“Outpost four was inland, a few miles beyond the shoreline. They called it the Hamlet. Apparently, before the time of airships, a hermit lived there on a lonely road. When Xixis built the six-lane wagon-way, many found it crowded, so the hermit’s home became a crossroads of sorts. Every time they added a building he insisted that it was still a hamlet. Now the place is littered with hundreds of buildings and a castle. Still, the locals call it the Hamlet Outpost.”

“The fifth Outpost was in the mountains. Very colorful and full of cheer. Yew like it there very much.” “But you said that I was asleep?” “No, I meant my dame Yew liked it.” “Has she ever considered a name change?” “I asked once, but she’s a bit attached to it, given by her grandmother and all. I once joked that she kept it to confuse me. You do this and you do that! She said it actually came from the sapling of a yew tree, which is used for the bow.”

“How was the beer?” Dwindl asked. “Oh, it doesn’t affect me, but Grimton liked it ok. The atmosphere was pretty amazing. It isn’t every day that you get to walk around so near to the clouds.” “Unless you are in an airship.” “Yes, but it was very pleasant on that mountain.” “What was its name?” “Outpost Hightower.” “fitting.” “Yes. Are you okay?”

“It is my speech?” “Yes! It’s so smooth.” “It is.” When Dwindl declined to continue I decided to tell him of the sixth outpost. “At this point we could tell that we were nearing the metropolis boarder of Xixis. Six was a busy place humbly called Radiant City.” “No longer an outpost I see.” “Well Xixis is a powerful place and without any wars to fight, even the outposts leading up to it are rich with wealth.”

“I took Yew, my courtship-one.” Dwindl chuckled, “Your girlfriend.” “Close,” I corrected. “Courtship goes a step behind mere dating.” Dwindl folded his arms, “Try me.” “Dating can be fun and not serious. Courtship is both, having fun with the intent to seriously marry… if the love is proven true that is.” “Hmm, sounds like dating to me.” “Well, I took my courtship date to the most expensive marketplace in town.”

“She was very bored, as was I, but I just thought all girls would like to shop at the marketplace. Suddenly, her eyes grew big. She drew me to a side path until we stumbled into these delightful little stores, each with their own knickknacks. Someone was playing the lute. It was fantastic!”

“We delved deeper into what we overheard was called the Hidden Abby. We found a church of the Shepherd and attended their worship. We saw a play about the great immortal of Xixis.”

“Oh! And we saw an ostrich race.” “What’s an ostrich?” “It’s like a giant chicken but people can ride them.” “Larger than a dragon?” “More like a horse.”

“What happened after this?” “I took her to the waterfront. It was very romantic.”

“Is that all you have to say?” I was silent for a time before stating, “I held out my hands and led her on a dance. We danced until the sun melted over the horizon, and we walked and talked beneath the stars until the sun rose up.”

“Did you kiss her chastely?” I walked towards the deck with a smile on my face.

Dwindl followed me and saw the docks of the seventh outpost. “Not much of an outpost anymore.” “No,” I replied. “I fear the entangling grip of the immortal has moved beyond his boarders. This is the last outpost before Xixis.”

The child of draco sucked in his breath like a feline hiss. The Skyweave Outpost was a movable outpost that used contraptions of unusual design among the heavens. We were almost there.

Part 30

Dwindl and I walked about the Skyweave Outpost. We were to meet Yew and Grimton at the Turning Point Pub. As we walked I confessed, “I read your entry into the journal. I had no idea you’d had a girl waiting back home.”  The draco’s shoulders tensed and then relaxed. “May I ask you something?” He said. “Of course.” I replied.

We reached a section of the outpost grounded at the peaks of canyons. “How would you have reacted had Yew not rescued you at the warp storm? Now it was my turn to tense up, but I relaxed. “That’s a hypothetical and I know now that she would have always come for me.” “Not to be rude.” Dwindl said, “But there is always a possibility that you are wrong.” I held on to the railing and lost my thoughts to the clouds.

A bulbous airship flew over a domed structure. From my perspective it appeared like it was just about to kiss its peak. “I had walked towards the warp storm thinking that very thing. Yew seemed distant after the revelation that I was a Living Element.” Dwindl joined me at the rail, “Yes, but that is her way of processing things. I understand her need to close off for a time.” “As do I,” I replied. “Why then did you run away from her?”

“I was protecting my heart.” I began. “Many times it has been broken, and when a woman pulls away to think through things, well I’m 5 and 0 that she will conclude I am not worthy of her presence.” Dwindl said, “You had once mentioned how harsh the court back at the keep was.” I nodded, “I was never one for courtly games. I even rescued a damsel from a dragon once. Even this wasn’t enough.”

Dwindl had no words for me as we made our way to the pub, but in his silence,  I knew that he understood. What dragons had he slayed for Ardona? Even after solving the mission with the dragon eggs, would he return just to see her married to another? “I sent a message by letter-lark to my people.” He said, “They know the truth of the eggolas now. I do not plan return.” Well, that settled it. The most beautiful voice sung at us, “There you are!”

Yew looked radiant in a flowing, crimson flower dress. Her smile was like the sun itself. I couldn’t stop staring. Dwindl chuckled. Yew pretended not to notice, though she was beginning to blush. She moved between us and took us by the arms. “Come my fair gents. We have much to discuss.” “Indeed we do,” Dwindl replied. Yew gave him a quizzical look. “Your voice sounds different Dwindl?” The draco nodded as we entered the lively pub.

The pub was a lot nicer than the places we had frequented before. Yew had reserved a long table in the back room. The highest ranking members of the airship crew were there, as was Grimton.

He sat there silently as the others drank their mugs in merriment.

Yew gave us all a look. We took our seats and she began. “Flodnag was a flawed man, as are we all in Yevnwen’s eyes. But he had a plan for redemption. Find a safe way into the warp and return to the past. Keep Ronalee from shattering. When we entered the warp through the storm, we had no guidance or help. It is lucky that we even returned. Flodnag sought these items for a purpose. We have come to Xixis for a purpose.

“One thousand years ago a scholar entered a portal into the warp. Soon after, the Shattering took place. Flodnag had surmised that the immortal emperor of Xixis and the infamous scholar are one and the same. The scholar went back thousands of years in time through the warp. He entered this land and began to rule over it as an immortal. Only he has a clear enough map of the warp. We must seek his aid. The question we are left with is, how?”

Part 31

Yew left us to stew over this which we did over a nice meal of drunken duck, a roasted honey duck in a bath of mead’s milk. Grimton was not eating anything and I was wondering where Yew had gone off to. “You’re probably wondering why I’m not eating or drinking.” The dwarf said. I looked into his eyes for the first time that night. They seemed a bit less surelier than usual.

He held up a glass of what appeared to be water, “I’ve given up the horn you see.” He nodded his head towards Dwindl. “Doctor’s orders.” The draco chuckled beneath his mask.

“What did you think of my speech?” Yew asked, suddenly next to me. She was grinning a bit. I felt a little foolish and out of touch, like some prank was being pulled on me. “It was fascinating, but you said nothing of the dangers ahead. How are we even going to enter the closely-guarded borders?”

Dwindl got up and pulled out his katana, “We will take asylum, or we will cut them down.” “Asylum?” I asked. “Didn’t you read the notes?” Yew asked me. “Dwindl’s people were Purrions once. Those of Xixis taught the cats to think for themselves. It is well known around here that the Purrions who survived the annihilation of their people by the dragons were always welcome back.”

“Yes,” I began, “But Dwindl isn’t a Purrion any—” Who I thought was a draco suddenly took off his mask and shirt. Now all of those months alone on the ship began to make sense. He had taken the potion and been returned to his former self. He was Purrion again. “Okay,” I said, “So he can enter the borders. What about us?”

Yew’s skyship flew gently over the farmlands on the outskirts of Xixis. We had left the final Outpost far behind. It took us a while to set everything up. Being a servant to the mighty Kronon (Dwindl’s new name as our master) was not an easy gig. Yew insisted that it had to look authentic. If all went well we would be safely into the empire of the Immortal.

Kronon landed the airship near the first gleaming city. Yew gasped at how marvelous it was. I was to transfixed with her own beauty to notice anything like a gleaming city. “I’ve seen this before.” She exclaimed. “What?” I responded. She turned head sharply away from her beauty and I beheld… something almost as beautiful. “So have I.” I said.

We beheld a thing that had only been seen during our secret date within the warp. It was a place that we could not have expressed in words, and yet there it was, right before us. Yew clasped my hand with both of hers. “Beautiful!” She exclaimed. I turned to her and said, “Yes, Yew, you are.” She cocked her head in confusion. I stole a kiss before she could respond. 

 **END of BOOK 2**

(Book 3 old idea that I rejected… might use it for later books though.)

Kill the immortal? He lives in a warp bubble. He caused the shattering by leaving a rift large enough for the giants to enter. Perhaps his warp bubble caused it. So, they must go back in time and stop the scholar from entering the warp in the first place. This would change Xixis though, and all of the peace and prosperity in this region of the world would no longer have happened. These are the questions Yew and Nyn must answer in the next part.

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