Outline for an Adventure 1

While struggling through my depression, and not really having a desire to write, I struggled through this outline of a fantasy book.

Not your typical outline now. I didn’t write out dry and boring descriptions of what I would write… I just wrote the prose in miniature form. Traditional outlines are far simpler and make it much easier to find a certain point. But for writing, you need to get to the prose as quickly as possible. 

Each paragraph would act like a seed that I’d later expand into chapters and pages. This helped me formulate the ideas, characters, and plot as I wrote it. 

I have worked through the first draft of this outline, having grown this outline of 17,000 to 37,000 words. That means I’m halfway finished with a novel-sized book (75k)! The second and third draft will grow the ideas out even further until I have a finished manuscript.

This is 1 of 4 outlines with the working title:

Let’s Go on an Adventure Book 1

Amidst the shattered remains of the kingdom of Ronaele, where robbers and pirates thrive, a young woman hid beneath a weathered cloak. Her name was Yew.  

Many assumed Yew to be timid and kind, and she was those things. Beneath it all I discerned a steely grit.

I found this grit in the eyes as she sat and mulled over a mug of ale.

I spoke to her of a grand adventure with treasure and honor to be had.

I didn’t need to say another word. Yew was ready.

With a weathered crew of scallywags and deadbeats, we climbed aboard the airship.

We took to the stars.

Yew worked harder than ten airmen to keep the ship afloat.

She was my first mate and helmsman.

I kept the crew in check with stories of the treasure we’d find.

Yew seemed more interested in the maps that would take us there.

One night, after many tales of glory and woe, I told a joke that could knock off the socks.

Yew’s subtle smile grew into an incredible laugh. Her amulet flung out of her shirt for all to see. Most missed it, but I knew; I had always suspected.

Someday I would tell her where that amulet came from, but first I had to test and see if she was its true owner.

Part 2

O’l Hax the Flea Thief also saw Yew’s amulet, though he wanted it for the gallons of mead he’d be able to purchase.  

Hax’s greed came to a head at around 2:00 am when Yew was assigned to watch over the ship (Hook thieves often hung around the cliffs in these parts, hoping to snag an airship or two).

A sharp cry followed the struggle. It was too high in pitch to discern the gender. The cry grew fainter and fainter below the ship’s belly.

Many were surprised to find Yew at the helm. O’l Hax the Flea was never seen again.

The first treasure map had us fly through the Draco Islands. Some were concerned about the Wyrms. I assured the crew that they had long been hunted into extinction.

I lied.

An avalanche of boulders fell off one of the islands.  One of the rocks unfurled its wings and matched our speed.

The green Wyrm did not attack us yet, but she flew just out of reach from our cannons, clever girl. It came at us through one of our blind spots, more curious than angry.

My cowardly ducked for cover. Only Yew and I remained at our posts as the Wyrm latched onto our ship.

Yew stepped towards the Wyrm and slowly lifted a glowing lance. The Wyrm purred at the touch of her gentle hand. It snorted in the air as a signal to the others. In a blink of an eye, it was gone.

The crew saw Yew in a different light… as did I, for, for, she had approached the Draco, a sign I hadn’t seen for over a thousand years.

Part 3

It was time to test Yew’s attention to detail, so I read the map incorrectly. Yew sucked in her breath… she said nothing, like a coward would.

I would have led us the wrong way, too, just to see how far her cowardice ran. “Captain”, she said when we were alone. Not a coward after all, just, diplomatic and respectful. This ticked me off… I hated being wrong.

I made the corrections off-hand. We maneuvered my ship to the proper destination. To my surprise, the West Shard of Nurn was still populated.

I left most of the crew with the ship. They’re protests were weak as half the crew lumbered off to the nearest pub.

Yew and I explored the less-populated regions.

Inside the hallowed halls of the Keep brought many fond memories. I was a Ward once, many life-times ago. I almost told this to Yew when…

…one of the statues moved. I should have seen this. The Wards were not party to graven images.

This could only mean that someone had planted a golem.

When Yew pulled out her sword, it reminded me so much of her great grandmother, one thousand years ago, banners flying the draco sign. The Shattered Wars that broke Ronalee to pieces.

By the time I had come to, Yew was rummaging through the treasure near a pill of rocks. The golem was defeated. This meant its master knew we had come.

Yew cast the treasures aside. She was searching for something else.

“Who?” a voice said in the dark. Yew held out her hand. The flutter of wings followed by an white owl. Its eyes were like the stars. Yew grinned and said, “We should get out before the owner of the golem comes.”

As we flew away I made a mental note of things. Her attention to detail was impeccable. Yew fed another bread piece to her star owl.  I greatly hoped I wouldn’t have to kill her. She looked back and smiled warmly.

Part 4 Sunken Heart

The next treasure map led us to the powerful city of Aranoth, though as of late that power was waning. Some supposed it to be political greed. Others said an insidious dwelt in the bowels of its soul. Both were right.

 You wouldn’t know it from the cheery people and the hospitality of their taverns. I saw beneath the strained eyes. They were trying too hard; something was worrying them. Yew sensed it as well.

She had brought her bow and arrow for this trip. They seemed a more natural fit as if she relished their use over the sword, also, bowmen were in high demand in these parts.

We were having a quiet drink when my mind sort of lulled to the music and the taste of good mead. We spoke of faraway things. When there was a lull in the conversation I leaned in and whispered, “You know, I was a Ward once.” She smirked, “Come now Flodnag, the great Wards were around over one thousand years ago.” I hiccupped and replied, “Exactly.” She rolled her eyes. I was about to give the whole thing away when…

…blessings to all, a soldier of Aranoth barged in demanding recruits for a quest. It was a long-winded affair, suffice it to say, by the end of it he needed an archer and a wizard. The whole tavern sort of glanced our way. My inebriated self chided them, “What, so just because I’m old you think I’m magical?” Laughter was heard. “Come on old man.” Yew said, helping me to my feet. “That’s Captain Old Man to you young lady!” I replied.

We were led past the cheery streets down to the depths and near a dark gateway. By then I had sobered up using a warm-brew potion I’d obtained from the far-East called Covfefe.

Our third companion was a stalwart dwarf named Grimton. He talked little, yet his eyes told us everything. He had a death wish. Once we entered and the stone gate slammed behind us, I realized why. The guards never expected us to return. It was no matter; the treasure map had pointed to the catacombs beneath.

Many of the skulls we passed had armor still attached to them.  This led me to believe that these were no ordinary catacombs.  It was more like a warrior’s gauntlet. I said as much to my companions. A low voice growled at us from the dark, “You shouldn’t have come here.”

Yew’s bow was loaded in the blink of an eye. As a gruff-looking man stepped into the light. “I’m the only survivor of the last quest to the heart.” Yew lowered the bow, “Why didn’t you leave through the gate?” The man grunted, “Only those with nothing to return to enter here.”

I rolled my eyes at the man, “Oh, we’re just passing through. On our way to better things once we finish here.” He yelled behind us, “Didn’t you hear me old man.” I did hear him, I’ve heard his type hundreds of times and through many lifetimes. I had a death wish as well, for, such was the way of Wards. It was in the oath we made while standing before the kings and queens of Ronaele.

I glanced at Yew. She was bemused by some sort of sunny thought. Someday she would need to know, but for now let her dream of better things.

Part 5 Broken Heart

The catacombs turned into earthy caverns. The scraping of steps behind us turned out to be the warrior. His hardened eyes had softened a bit, longing for companionship even if it meant facing the darkness.

The four of us lumbered down pathways long forgotten. The quest had seemed simple, reigniting Aranoth’s iron heart. A glowing crystal led the way, growing in strength the closer we came to our goal. This meant a few dead ends for many of the pathways were blocked with cave-ins.

Oh, fairest Aranoth, second cousin to the Crescentius family. A stray arrow pierced your heart and so they built another using the finest gnomes in the land. So complicated was this heart that a bustling city arose just to house the workers. Confined to your prism rooms, ancient engineering allowed you a type of escape. You could see anything around the city.

Long ago this fine city of the iron heart had sunk deep into the ground. Another was built on top. Aranoth seemed a whispering dream upon the tongues of the rulers. Some even worshiped the name. It only made sense to give their town such a name. I smiled at the ignorance of it. The true Aranoth I had known would never have settled for such idolatry. Someone must be using her name. The crystal’s glow grew brighter.

I wasn’t surprised to find the sunken city. Yew gasped in awe of the place. She was a woman born out of her time and place. The Crescentium would have liked her.

The warrior, I forget his name, moved in close to Yew. He thought to impress her. “This was built by the ancient dwarves long ago, before your pretty face had ever been born.” The dwarf named Grimton snorted loudly and moved towards a door. “It wasn’t my kin who made this place.” He said under his breath.

“What do you know about it?” The warrior sneered. “You’re probably a fallen chip.” To call a dwarf such a thing meant he was dishonored by his clan, a chip of stone cut away from the architecture. It was the most unkind thing and usually led to a brawl. But Grimton kept his cool. He merely ushered us over and pointed to the beady little lights of a village. “Goblins.” He said.

I wasn’t thrilled with sneaking into such a place but the crystal led us further in. It was becoming increasingly obvious that whatever “quest” the warrior had faced, they had never made it this far. I sensed a bitter soul in that one. Yew had sensed something else. She strung her bow and let it fly in the dark.

Out of that darkness… they came.

Part 6

The hoards came at us on all sides. Somewhere even the size of an ox.

Yew shot a sneaky one behind me saving my life. Grimton chopped a goblin in half. His gruff voice rose over the din, “I think it’s about time you showed us some of that magic wizard!”

I pulled out my book and began to chant. Edger, my familiar crow, appeared on my shoulder. Yew’s eyes grew wide for she had never seen the real thing.

Grimton sliced another goblin, this time with his fire sword.

Yew shot three in the back.  In this way the two cut them down. And as for the warrior… Well, you might as well call him a thief because he was nowhere to be seen.

Grimton sliced two goblins and turned to complain when three fireballs shot out of my fingers clearing the way. “Ye of little faith.” I grumbled. The goblins were momentarily stunned by the fire. “Come on! The crystal is pointing us this way.” What about Yumten? Yew asked. Oh yes, that was the warrior’s name? “He’s left us,” shouted Grimton, “Just like he left the last group that came down here.”

We tried to lose them in the water. The few that followed were shot between the eyes by Yew.

One of the leaders ran to the top yelling, “Quintok!” before Yew’s arrow cut him off at the throat. This word stopped me cold. It was the Gnome word for queen. Grimton knocked a goblin down with the hilt of his sword and pulled me out of my stupor. “Come on old man!” We piled in a boat. The goblins did the same. “know any other tricks Flodnag?” Yew asked me. They were too close which meant I couldn’t fake an incantation.

So, I slowed down time and felt for some giant crystals deep beneath the earth. I then called them. It would take hours for a master wizard to call such a thing from the ground, but a Ward had the power to couple and sometimes triple spells. With the time slug spell I was able to pull the crystals so that they appeared to come about incredibly faster. Two hours for me was a split second.

Our boat bobbed in the water under Grimton’s sturdy hands. Yew moved in close and asked me how I did such a thing. I grunted, “I told you before. I was a Ward.” She found the honest answer unsatisfactory. I brushed her other questions aside and decided to tell them the story of fair Aranoth.

“So, the gnomes made a heart for her?” Grimton asked upon my story’s end, “Do you suppose it be this iron heart we are sent to ignite?” I nodded.

“What about the goblins?” Yew asked. I leaned back in the boat and let out a long sigh and began another tale.

“The disappearance of gnomes happened after the shattering of Ronaele. Some suppose they were butchered by the goblins, but others say they eventually became them.”

We traveled for days surviving on bread and salted fish. Each took their turn at the paddle. Yew and Grimton were surprised at how long I could row. Yew’s eyes simmered at me as I rowed. I think she was beginning to believe I was of the Wards.

The crystal was white hot when we came upon a giant glowing tower. There was a bustle city about it… a city full of gnomes.

One of them helped us out of the boat. He pointed the way saying in a high-pitched squeal, “Quintok awaits!” Yew asked me, “What’s a quintok?” I looked around at the marvel of structures about me. Even I hadn’t suspected. “Flodnag?” Yew asked. I finally looked at her, “What? Oh yes Quintok.  Quintok is the old gnomish language for queen.”

Part 7

The gnome passed the city. Other gnomes mulled about half-awake. The oppressive nature was very hard to see. I had remembered them to be the most cheerful and daunting creatures. We came to the foot of the tower. I was there for its inauguration. It was a sunny affair and the tower was brilliant white… a far cry from the ashen gray before me.

We moved through a maze of dusty hallways, once pearly white with cherub carvings. They looked like crack-faced imps under the dust. And then I heard a gravelly voice at the opposite end of the gigantic throne room. “Thanius. Puren. Flodnag.” This couldn’t be… fair, Aranoth’s voice was that of the dead.

I raised my own voice to her as we moved closer. “Fair Aranoth. You are not as well as I remembered.” Her laugh turned into a cough, “But that is what you have come for am I right? I sent the soldier your way the moment I found you in the tavern.” I took a bow and when I looked up beheld the beautiful apparition of the Aranoth I had known so long ago.

“How well do I look now, great Ward of Ronaele?” her voice sounded much smoother like the tickle of a snake’s tongue to the ear. Grimton was quite taken by the image. Yew prepared her bow. I brushed the beautiful vision aside, “I see how your use of the prism rooms has grown.” The real Aranoth stood in her throne as I walked closer. “I can throw my voice to any who enter my domain. People and gnomes alike worship me.” I could finally see her clear enough, and yet she still hid her features behind a mask. “And what of the goblins?”

The eyes behind her mask followed me. “Goblins, gnomes… they are the same.” I gazed at her stony face. “Oh, fairest Aranoth. What have you done?” She looked past me, through me. “And what do we have here?” I sighed knowing what was about to happen. Aranoth moved her gaze to Yew. “Something tells me that your meddling ways haven’t told the girl of her relation to the Crescentium family.”

Yew had raised her bow. I gave her a warning gaze. She lowered the bow and said the very thing I feared. “I have suspected this.” Aranoth moved towards her. “Yes, not a dumb one this Yew. What would you expect from a decedent of the queen general herself.” I sputtered out the pathetic excuse, “I was going to tell you, eventually.” Aranoth rasped in a pleasant sight, “And was our dear Ward going to tell you of the oath that would make him kill you?” Yew lifted her bow again: “You lie!”

She saw it then, deep in my eyes. “Flodnag,” she pleaded, “Tell me this isn’t so?” I replied, “Your great grandmother made me promise on her life. It was a powerful thing for a Ward to make and it has kept me alive all of this time. Ronaele was not the wonderful kingdom that the songs speak of. It was corrupt and fallen. Your great grandmother brought about its end. She turned on the kings and queens and died in the process. The oath was made upon her dying breathe and it was eternally binding.”

“I was a hard man back then… unbinding and bitter towards the evil of Ronaele. After the Shattering though, I have seen far worse evil than that of a corrupt kingdom. But, by that time, the oath had compelled me. I was to find and kill any survivors of the Crescentium family. I have done this for the past 1,000 years. Even after my anger has waned, the oath compels me. Only in death will I be free.”

Gimton’s blade was placed at my back. Aranoth had taken him with her visions and whispers. I was led down a dark hallway. Aranoth stood behind us and Yew was beside her. “And now we come to it.” Aranoth said, “The purpose of your visit.”

An old gnome met us at the end of the hall. “Another sacrifice for the iron heart fair Qunitok?” “Yes.” She hissed, “And this one should last us longer. For he has been tempered through the battle with the goblins proving his soul to be of a worthy quality. And what is more, he was a Ward.” The old gnome whistled. “Haven’t had the heart eat one of them in nearly a thousand years I’d say.”

The gnome led us to the Iron heart. The crystal I held had turned a brilliant wash of colors.

I stood before the heart, Grimton nudging me forward into it’s eternal flame. I glanced back at Aranoth and then at Yew who hid behind a shadowy pillar. “I never wanted to hurt you.” I yelled over the churning sounds of the iron heart. “I was trying to find a way to break the oath. I know now that death is the only way.” I turned towards the flame and nearly stepped in. Yew’s shout kept me at the precipice.

She shot an arrow at Aranoth’s mask. It flew off. The fair “Qunintok” of the iron heart couldn’t even breathe a scream as her face turned to stone. Grimton awoke from a daze and pulled me instinctively from the flames.

“Why?” I asked Yew. “Because she was evil, and you were repentant.” “But I still have the oath! I might turn on you at any time!” Yew placed a hand on my shoulder, “Then we must find a way to break it.” Grimton snorted, “Not to be rude, but having awakened from a most lovely dream and entering this hellish place, might we get going before the Gnome returns with some friends?”

I grabbed a purplish crystal from the iron heart and fussed it with the other one. Seeking crystals were quite a find, or so the treasure map said. “Anytime you desire old man!” Grimton shouted at me. We made our escape. The gnomes and goblins were too busy fighting each other to notice.

Part 8

We had many more adventures traveling far and wide across the shattered kingdom. There was a fondness grown between the crew. Things were labeled based on happening before or after a special event. The most prominent event to date had to do with Aranoth, for by the crew’s reckoning, we had been gone for a week. Some didn’t expect us to return, none expected us to bring along a dwarf.

Grimton became a regular associate of our party. He even managed a smile or two with my jokes. He took to Yew and considered her an equal, or more realistically, like a little sister that he must protect. This meant watching me like a hawk, which also meant that Yew and I did not have many opportunities to talk. I missed her company.

So far, the treasure maps had led us to a star owl, two seeking crystals, a magical compass (that Grimton insisted was broken), and a mind quill (used for remembering of course). The next treasure took us deep within the tundra. I was not a fan of the cold and so Grimton and Yew had to go on without me.

My familiar Edgar kept a keen eye on things.

Yew needed the star owl for this quest. She sought an astro key, something that treasure maps could only locate the general location of. They had been known to warp from place to place. Only star creatures could see the warp-ways.

The star owl led them to the Snowcrest Mountains. The fireplace glow of a fortress lingered in the distance. Yew and Girmton exchanged pleasantries about the importance of hospitality. They daydreamed of a warm bed indoors with piles of deer jerky and sweet rolls washed down with mead. My crow saw things in a clearer way. The flames did not come from fireplaces.

They came closer. Yew was in the middle of a joke when Grimton held up a hand in warning. She cut off her speech and removed an arrow. The fires were wild and the keep, vacant. They searched the place in vain. Only the bodies of the dead met their gaze.

They were about to leave when my familiar sensed something. It broke from my general orders and scared away a few ravens near the body of a knight. I was about to reprimand the creature when his keen ears showed me the faint rhythm of a heartbeat. The familiar pecked at the knight’s forehead until he moaned loud enough for Yew to hear.

They brought the knight to a nearby cave and nursed him back to his senses. After a good meal he seemed to be doing unusually well for being more than half-dead a moment ago. Yew took note of this. Grimton simply asked how large the raiding party was. “Raiding party?” The Knight asked. “Don’t be daft!” Grimton said. “Grimton,” Yew retorted, “This man nearly died a moment ago.”

The knight held up his hand, “It’s no bother. I like a man who means business. There was no party, just three large, and very ugly giants.” Grimton sucked in the air with a hiss.

Part 9

Frost giants were not very hospitable creatures. More like a natural disaster. You just let them finish whatever it is they came to do. Only a fool would try to fight one. You just don’t pick fights with a twister.

 “What were you thinking?” Grimton shouted. “You can’t pick a fight with a tornado.” “I know the saying” the knight spat back. “There are times when desperation can change things for you.” Grimton waved his arms wildly, “They’re the wind man! Once they move in you can’t even touch them. And you’re even smiling.” The knight got up slowly and faced the mouth of the cave. “Tornados can’t be bothered. Giants can. Because of us, many of the families escaped.” He pointed down the cave. “They went that way.”

Yew and Grimton followed the nameless knight. The star owl perched on Yew’s shoulder looked backwards directly at my familiar who followed at a safe distance. It saw me through the warp, I’m almost sure of it.

There are many different theories on frost giants. They simply weren’t around when Ronalee was a united plain. Somehow Konoa, Yew’s great grandmother, got ahold of the beasts to combat the dragons of the Crescentium family.

The great war between giant and beast literally tore the plain of Ronalee so that it became the many floating islands we know of today.

Once their uses were spent, Konoa set them free. She had the devil in and even at that time while fully invested in the ruse, part sensed that she had gone overboard.

Our adventurers followed the footprints to a temple. Before entering, Yew asked the knight his name. He took off his helmet and let the dark hair fall to his shoulders. A subtle grin played along the crest of his beard. “Sir Nabri Albus.” Their handshake was firm. “I’m Yew,” she said softly.

“And I’m her big brother Grimton!” The Dwarf said squarely while looking up at the knight. “Well met mighty Dwarf.” Sir Nabri said with an extended hand. The Dwarf ignored it and moved into the temple.

The hallways were empty save the dripping of melting ice near a candle. Sir Nabri  noticed the shattered plates and drew his weapon out. “This isn’t right.” He said. “My family should be here.”

We entered a well-lit room with a cave in at the other side. A lone statue stood guard over the damage. The statue began to sway. Sir Nabri dropped his sword and ran. He caught the frail thing before it hit the ground. It was an old man. “Raner!” Nabri cried. “Where have they gone?”

Raner used his staff and lifted off Nabri. “The giants. They knew our hideout. They crashed through and stole the young.” Sir Nabri said, “Are you sure it was giants? How could their hands fit in here?” Raner leaned against a pillar with a seeming repose. He then exploded into animation, “They have smaller giants.”

Raner’s hands waved wildly above his head, “The size of boulders.” His eyes grew big. “They were like boulders… when they touched you… or hardened clay. Yes. Their skin was hardened clay!” Nabri grabbed Raner by the collar, “Where did they take my parents and brothers?”

Raner pointed out the fallen roof. “Into the white. Oh, and a shiny thing appeared as if from thin air. One of the little giants took it and placed it in his pocket.” It was the warp key. Yew and Grimton exchanged looks. She set the star owl free. The three of them followed it into the white tundra.

Part 10

I woke up from my nap telling my familiar Edger to mental stab me when they found the giants. Half my crew were drinking it up in the pubs. I didn’t have time. I sent the cabin boy on shore near the deck to explain and set sail with any who were around.

The crew were too seasoned to ask questions as we flew by the Snowcrest mountains. Most were tasked with preparing the cannons. I glanced through the eyes of Edger just to see where they were. All I saw was snow and an owl.

I was in the middle of directing the helmsman when a headache shot from the frontal lobe and all the way down to my spin. I threw a patch on my left eye to see what the raven was so worried about.

The tiny figure wasn’t one of ours. Sir Nyn was somewhere nearby, screaming at the top of his lungs. My other eye caught it in real time over the mountain’s peak. I ran to the long-range cannon at the prow. To my chagrin it wasn’t loaded.  

The charges were at the other end, so I took a deep breath and enchanted it. The raven spiked me again in the middle of my enchantment. It took all that I could to ignore him. At last, with the enchantment done, I used the raven to calculate the distance. It was too far. This meant I would need to use the warp.

The enchanted missile took on three forms in the warp before reappearing. It hit the giant square between the eyes. The raven showed me its fall.  

Its crash caused an avalanche. And that was the last of my strength. I wobbled to the floor and told a crew member to do what they could about the giants. He was saying something about how only magic like mine could bring them down. I blacked out before I could agree.

I saw Yew in my dreams. She pulled out her crossbow.

One of the smaller giants was taking on the knight. Yew’s arrow caught it in mid charge. It swerved just out of the Sir Nyn’s reach and smashed against a rock.

Sir Nyn tried to stab it. The blade wouldn’t pierce. Grimton threw him one of his hammers while launching towards the neck of a second giant.

Sir Nyn put it to good use smashing the giant to bits. The giant shattered into pewter chips and hardened clay.

Yew went over to inspect the pile of rocks. Her keen eyes noticed the contents. “These aren’t giants. They’re golems.” Sir Nyn cast the hammer aside and stormed off. Yew caught up with him. “Who was the figure on the cliffside with the giant? The one that fell off from the avalanche after the giant was struck?” Sir Nyn fell to his knees, “It was my mother.”

Grimton looked up from his own pile of rocks. “That’s a hard story lad. Better an avalanche than these monstrosities.” Sir Nyn didn’t move. Yew glanced back at the Dwarf, trying to make the best of the Dwarf’s strange comment, “I guess we’ll have to smash them up before they smash us!” Grimton looked at the woman darkly. “I’m not talking about the fate of smashing, but the fate of binding.” “What do you mean?” Yew asked.

Sir Nyn had put his helmet back on. “Golems are rocks and clay, breathed to life by binding souls into pewter.” Yew’s eyes grew wide, “Your people, you don’t mean.” Grimton hefted his hammer, “Someone is using souls to make an army of golems.”

Part 11

Many confuse the frost giants with the ones who shattered the floating Plain of Ronalee. Having just killed a frost giant myself, I can tell you they are not the same creature. At least on the outside.

After the great war, Konoa freed the giants to do what giants will do, that is, fight to the death. And so, the giants, in their search for glory and power, killed their own kind to extinction.

Their bones can be seen across the root-lands, from the Seas of Gurdin to the sands of Xixis.

After a hundred years a single giant survived. He had no mighty subjects of his own race, and, in fighting so hard he had lost much strength. This made him much easier for me to kill.  And thus, the earthquakes and city stompings had finally come to a close.

Hundreds of years passed, and no signs were known. There were ghost stories and whispers of strange large men near the Snowcrest Mountains. These fairytales made them out to be fleshy like the giants of Konoa who fought with the dragons. It figured the stories of the shattering had been brought to new life by a lying minstrel. Leave out the historical bits and make it a monster story to scare the women and children at the campfires.

These tales grew quite popular. I once followed a bone collector who hauled giant’s bones to Snowcrest Mountain. I figured her to be an opportunist. Why not bring the bones of real giants to full the flames? Surely some of the rich kings might purchase them.

I was a fool. I sent Edgar on a quest to find the source of the giants. Through his sight I saw what those bones were used for.

Rock and clay alone could not support a golem higher than 2 stories. Giant bones made an excellent frame for something much larger.

I woke up from my nap. Someone had placed me on my bed. The pounding of cannon fire told me that we were attacking. I had to warn them, had to let Yew know… the art of golem-craft had never been so advanced. Then I remembered…

The golem that Yew had shattered back at the Ward’s Keep. Was it of the same make as these? Something was wrong with it, as if it were more like an alarm then an actual fight. Someone wanted to know when the Keep was invaded. I wonder if the golem creator expected an actual Ward! I sent Edgar to Yew. Somehow, I had to warn her.

It was too late. They were at the door, walking towards an evil that was expecting them.

Part 12

The distant booms of my cannons kept an off-beat cadence with each step the adventurers took. The stepped in through the ominous gateway to find… nothing but ice. I opened my eyes and saw it for myself. An army of small golems marched around a few colossus. It seemed the ruse was working.

Yew saw movement in one of the caverns. With an arrow drawn she followed the patter of small feet, probably a small animal. Around the corner she saw the colossus. It seemed trapped in an avalanche. Its eyes glanced her way then at its fingers. The little animal she hunted happened to be a little girl.

The girl scampered down the hand. She seemed to fly as she crawled into a small hole. The Dwarf and knight caught up with her. Grimton said, “What’s this running away for?” Yew pointed through the hole, “There’s a girl here and she went into that hole.” Grimton looked at the hole and then back at Yew. “No! I won’t do it! I’m quite tall for a Dwarf, you know.” Yew cocked her head in studying the hole. It did seem a tight fit.

She was no doubt thinking of a way to persuade the Dwarf when Sir Nyn asked what the girl looked like. “She looked about 4 or five. Red hair, lighter than mine.” The knight drew a blank, “There is no girl in my hold by that description.” A small voice spoke behind them, “That’s because I’m not from your hold.” Everyone turned around at once and saw the girl. She was grinning mischievously.

“Little girl,” Yew asked, “Where are you from then?” The girl smiled wider, “I’m with the golems.” She ran away with a laugh. The Dwarf made to chase her. The nearby golem stuck in the snow made an effort to move then. “That’s right,” the girls said, “Mr. Ice will teach you not to be mean.” Yew placed a hand on the Dwarf’s shoulder, “Hold off Grimton. Let’s try talking to her.”

The girl stopped and glanced at Yew shyly as if making up her mind. Yew smiled warmly, “We don’t want to hurt. Just tell us about your rock friends.” The girl nodded her head. “I’m Kyly.” She pointed to the golem, “And that’s Mr. Ice. He protects me. All the golems do.” Kyly began to pace making a circle in the ice with her toes. “Most humans are pretty mean. But I like you!” She said pointing to Yew.  

It took a while to cajole the story out of her. I could piece it together and figure out the rest. Kyly was an orphan. She had a brother.

He died in the streets. She saw his name on a gravestone and pretended it was his.

When the golems came to her city, one of them “Befriended” her. He took her to this place where she has been taken care of ever since.

My familiar was restless… I was missing something. There was a burning on my oath mark, the same burning I always felt around Yew. Edgar sent me a creature’s idea of a thought. We had been together for a very long time. He was telling me to recheck the oath mark. It was slightly more of a burn.

I opened my eyes. The booming of the cannons was much louder outside my cabin. I glanced outside and saw that the golems were throwing rocks. The little girl… it burned in my oath mark to kill her. This could only mean one thing. She, like Yew, was also a descendant of the Crescentium.  This also meant that the golems were from the Golem Master himself. Visron was a great inventor who had fought valiantly against Konoa and myself.

The golems he made were designed with a spell to never strike a member of the Crescentium family. Visron had a kind heart. His golems were always used for good. He only made battle golems so that humans didn’t need to die in the war. Their souls were only transferred for a season before returning to the owner.  I looked over the edge of the airship. One of the rocks was coming right at me.

Part 13

The boulder hit one of the bottom wind rudders which meant I would need to use magic, again, just to land her. She half ran on objects haunted by spells anyways. I directed us higher up. The trapdoors on the ship’s belly were opened.

Cannons were pulled out and tied off to sort of hang and shoot down. This and gravity did their trick making each cannonball that much more lethal. I needed to get down there somehow. I needed to help the adventurers before they ran into Visron. I closed my eyes to check on them.

Kyly was leading them to the throne room. “The king rock man” as she put it. They made their way into a jagged valley. Sir Nyn looked below and pulled out his sword.

“I hear their cries.” He kept saying. The Dwarf and bow-woman looked at each other, for they only heard the wind. Sir Nyn was adamant. Can’t you hear them? Kyly danced around a pile of rocks. “That’s where the mean people go. The great machine turns them into rock people so that they can be nice to me.”

Nyn found a pathway down. Yew was torn, she wanted to help Sir Nyn save his people but… what about the rock king? “Come on sis,” Grimton said, “Leave the lad to it. We have business with the king.” Yew watched as the figure of the knight disappeared into the snowy winds.

Yew and Grimton found an inlet of half-fallen castles. “It’s just strange,” the Dwarf was saying, “You’d think a golem king would have more guardians. I mean, a single airship shouldn’t take away the whole army of them.” Kyly was laughing and playing in the snow. Yew was about to respond when…

…a medium-sized ice golem exploded from the snow. Grimton grimaced, “Me and my big mouth.” Yew loaded her crossbow when the Dwarf held up a hand. “Move along lass, I’ve got this.” Yew looked at the golem and then back at the Dwarf, “Don’t you know it’s foolhardy to attack these things?” The Dwarf grunted, “As futile as attacking the wind. But sometimes circumstances call for dramatic a response.” Kyly clapped her hands, “Mr. Icicles!”

Grimton fused his two hammers together into one. Yew lingered a bit more. “Don’t worry about my girl. This old man’s got a few tricks up his sleeve.” He smiled at Yew for the first time and his eyes… they were glowing red, like a berserker. His scream sent a chill down Yew’s side. Grimton was no longer human.

He raged at the golem and ran directly towards it. In one leap he smashed into the golem’s torso. It almost toppled over but it regained balance and threw the Dwarf against the mountain. The Dwarf didn’t even brush it off before launching at the golem again. Yew decided that she would leave him to it.

Kyly took Yew’s hand and said, “Come on! Come on! I want you to meet the King of Rocks!” She was led into one of many pathways. They confronted a few golems. Yew thought that Kyly’s presence kept them from attacking her… but, it was her own. She would figure it out eventually.

Yew held her crossbow close, her feet echoing down a tall, abandoned hallway. My raven hid in the shadows. It saw the little girl sneak away, but we were not alarmed, for these were golems that would not hurt a member of the Crescentium court. Yew looked around for the girl.

She climbed up a tall staircase. There were human-sized statues along the way. The little girl’s voice echoed from a distance, “You seem really nice, but your weapon does not. But don’t worry. The golems will make you into a nice little rock person.”  The statues began to move. Their faces were chiseled-in human faces, like a museum of sculptures come to life. As one they began to speak. “Do not be afraid.” Yew’s crossbow fell to the stairs.  

The statuesque golems led Yew in silence. They led her into deep, forgotten hallways. One room once housed a considerably well-put-together library. Yew passed the piles of dust that had once been books. She stepped over a crumbling door and entered a gigantic room. Kyly was at the other end sitting at the stairs. She hummed to herself and ate some bread. Some of the statue golems were attending her like servants. She was a little confused to see Yew. She shrugged her shoulders and continued eating.  

On the throne sat what could only have once been the great golem-master Visron. He sat there like a dead thing. Perhaps, he had perished long ago. Maybe his machines, attended by eternal golems, continued on like clockwork. Before I could even consider another “perhaps”, the stone-cold thing on the throne tilted his head. His voice sounded like gravel, “Another Crescentium to greet me. I’m surprised the Ward hadn’t killed you all off.”

His eyes were burning coals of fire. They stared directly at my bird. “He has been watching us, you know.” In a blink, my star raven was snuffed out. I awoke in a panic and noticed the strange sound of silence. I gazed over the edge of the airship. The golems had frozen in place.

Part 14

Three months had passed since the golem incident. Piles of rock, clay, and pewter lay scattered about the frozen keep.

The bones of the colossus golems were exposed again. I made sure that they could never be used in that manner.

In the City of Cint, far and away from the Snowcrest Mountains…

…a slight migraine made me close my eyes. I saw the tavern I was staying in.

I saw my lively crew through the window. The view moved to the top floors where the sleeping quarters lay.

It saw me through the window. I opened my eyes in a fever pitch and whispered the name of “Edgar” over and over. When I opened the window, the white fluff of the star owl entered. He perched on my bed covers. I sighed in relief. Yew had decided to return after all.

I looked deep into the bird’s eyes. The stars of the warp met my gaze. I spoke up and said, “If you’re listening in, please know that I have done all that you asked.” I had so much to tell her. Whatever Visron said, well it was only half the story. I was about to continue with my well-rehearsed apology when a sharp knock interrupted.

Sir Nyn was at the door. “Greetings.” He said unceremoniously. “Yew has asked for me to speak upon her behalf.” I nodded and said, “That’s fair.” We sat before a mug of ale. Sir Nyn pulled out a letter and began to read.

“Dear Flodnag, Great Keeper of Secrets, which is a nice way to say that you are a liar.” Sir Nyn looked up from his reading to gauge my reaction. The Star Owl didn’t even blink. I nodded my agreement. The knight continued,  “In all of this, and in all that you have done, I forgive you. The only reason it took so long for me to return your letters was the caution we took in finding the hidden village of Crescentium.”

“Kyly was very unsure at first until she saw other children her age.”

“She has some very loving foster parents and is adjusting quite well now.”

“The village itself is very secure. It is a lovely gesture in spite of all the pain that you’ve brought to my family. Most of them speak very highly of you, though, they are very afraid to speak about it too much.”

“I visited the memoriam listing the names of those of my family that your oath mark had made you kill. The gardener tells me that my parents are last on the list. There is nothing you could do to bring them back, but I do see a great repentance in the village that you’ve built. I know now that you are fighting against that oath, and what is more, acting in the opposite way. If only you had realized this before killing my parents. It will take time for me to forgive on that point.”

I held up a hand for Sir Nyn to stop. I needed a moment. I had thought that all this millennium of my hard-hearted ways, tears had eluded me. I was like a golem of flesh and bone, a killing avenger of the Crescentium family. Nothing could break me… but seeing the baby… seeing Yew in the crib… This broke me. I never expected her to understand. I wanted to tell all of this to her. Instead I looked at the star owl and said, “Thanks.” The star owl blinked and sighed out, “Who.”

Sir Nyn continued, “And now, about what Visron told me before I stabbed him in the heart.”

Part 15

Yew’s letter continued, “Visron wandered about the many floating islands after the shattering. His Idea of the Kingdom was a utopian ideal.”

“My great grandmother wanted to be supreme ruler and so, with your help she literally tore it apart in the process.”

“I’ve long heard stories of the Silver Fox, a general so cunning and ruthless he could not be stopped until the very end. Visron told me the Silver Fox was you.”

“He also told me of the oath you had to kill my family in spite. He showed me the familiar you had used to watch us, a raven with stars in his eyes like my owl. By the time this letter reaches you, I hope to eventually learn the trick myself with my own star creature.”

“This had all greatly flustered me at the time. Why hadn’t you told me of your deep involvement? I wanted to believe you were a good man and that your history with my great grandmother was of the past, but here was a man with his own goodness shattered by your evil deeds. And then there was my parents.”

“You murdered them. I couldn’t believe it at the time, but in confronting you before our falling out… you confessed it yourself. I wanted to kill you.” Sir Nyn looked up from the letter. His hand was on the hilt of his sword. I looked at the star owl and said, “I’ve died many times already. The oath has always brought me back. I would die a thousand more times if I could. Justice cannot be satisfied until we find a way to break the oath. Only then can you kill me for good.”

Sir Nyn held up a hand, “It would break Yew’s heart even more to lose you. May I continue?” I was speechless and dry at the mouth. I took a drink of ale and nodded. Sir Nyn continued reading Yew’s letter, “If not for the hidden village that protects the Crescentiun, I wouldn’t have even written this letter. Now that I’ve confirmed your repentance to be true, let me tell you the rest that Visron told me.”

“Visron wondered about the shattered kingdom searching for a way to right the wrongs of that war. It was during the transfer that he had the most clarity. He was dying and vengeance had not yet been, so he did the unspeakable and made a statuesque golem body for himself.”

“For hundreds of years he wondered about, marking where all the giants had fallen.”

“He later had those bones sent to him in his new fortress near Snowcrest.”

“For hundreds of years he toiled in building the army.”

“He placed hidden statues all over. We encountered one of them at the Ward Keep. That’s when he learned the Silver Fox still lived. He sensed the burning of your oath and thought I would be dying soon. The little girl Kyly was not the only surviving member of the Crescentium family.”

“His plans had to be accelerated so he moved from taking the lives of animal souls to humans. Hundreds of souls were needed to form the colossus golems.”

“He went into disgusting detail, almost gloating about how smart he was in bringing the giant bones back to life. He also spoke in platitudes about how the new Kingdom would return to the old forgotten ways of Ronalee. It was at this point I decided to kill him, and you for that matter.”

“I ordered him to stop production of the golem machines until I could inspect them as their new queen. His golem heart was only too happy to oblige. I made him swear an oath to me as powerful as the one you had made to my great grandmother. I didn’t think twice about my next and final order.”

“As the new queen of the golems I made sure that he destroyed every last one of his creations before killing himself. He was only too happy to oblige. It was then that I sought after you.” Sir Nyn looked up from the letter and said, “Yew wants to know everything.” I sighed, “That’s a lot to ask, be more specific.” The star owl hooted at me and pulled something out from its feathers.

I reached out and touched the warp key. Sir Nyn continued, “She wants to know about the treasure maps and the plan.” I smiled then, something I hadn’t done ever since she left three months ago. I turned the warp key in my hand caressing the edges and staring deeply into its inky black heart. I sighed in relief. She really was a clever one, willing to look past the man I once was and what the oath had made me do… even to her parents.

I looked into the eyes of Sir Nyn and the star owl and said, “I will tell you everything.”

Part 16

Deep in the carnival city of Loughington I pulled out an ancient map of Ronalee. “This is the latest version of our shattered kingdom.” Grimton pulled on his pipe and used it to point, “The Dwarven islands Afloat are due East of Rivington.” I nodded, “This was done over 900 years ago, when there was still a bit of civility from the fallen kingdom, so, it’s a bit old.” Grimton replied, “A ‘bit’ old?”

I ignored him and continued, “I began to collect the treasure maps through various means over 700 years ago. I was still greatly influenced by the oath and so I had a very different reason for doing so. It was only very recently that I acquired them all.” Yew put her mug down and said, “I’m assuming you hired me soon after.” I nodded. “Why?” She asked. “I needed an archer and helmsman. You fit both qualities.”

She folded her arms. “And,” I continued, “I suppose I felt guilty. I needed your approval or disapproval.” There was fire in her eyes, “You wanted me to kill you.” I showed her the oath mark, “I can’t die, remember.” She said, “If I really wanted your death… I would have found a way.” She said it with such finality. “I believe you.” I replied with a nod. Sir Nyn was pouring over the map, “What about this place?”

“Very keen eyes for a knight. That was a rift in time and space. It led to the warp. A very old story surrounds it. You might have heard of the Beggar of Cirt the…” I paused for dramatic effect. The others finished in unison, “Beggar of Cirt the Xixis Fool”. I leaned back and smiled. After a time Grimton said, “So you’re telling me the story is true?” I held up a finger, “Of a sort.”

“There was a man from Cirt and though he was poor he was not a beggar. He was a scholar from the city of Cirt.” “Same thing,” Grimton grunted. The man from Cirt found the rift. He entered for a time and saw what he described were dreams come to life.”

“He is said to have returned with a dog that had stars in his eyes. No one believed him of course, so he vowed to enter the rift and come back with some sort of proof. The rift closed soon after and he was never seen from again.” Sir Nyn said, “What about the juggling Monkeys?” “Or the riddling bard dog?” Yew added. “Yes,” Grimton mused, “And the donkey orchestra?” I shook my head, “All lies told by a minstrel wanting to make a buck.”

“Those in the far country of Xixis tell the story as plainly as I have to you, and what is more, there is an immortal there who claims to be the scholar.” Grimton poured more tobacco in his pipe, “You must be talking of the Emperor of Xixis. When did the fool, I mean scholar, enter the rift?” “Right before the shattering.” “It couldn’t be him then… the immortal appeared to us, what was it, 50,000 years ago?” I smiled, “48,342 years from this one.”

“They couldn’t be the same then.” Yew said, “Unless..” “Unless what?” Yew got up and passed around the room, “Unless the scholar went back in time.” She was quick. Yew looked at the treasures we had found so far: the star owl, two seeking crystals, a magical compass, a mind quill, and a warp key. Yew’s eyes grew wide, “You want us to use the warp to go back in time and stop the shattering.” I couldn’t contain the grin on my face, “Exactly!”

Part 17

Loughington was a great city for tourists and wanderers. It lay near the borderlands of the Endless Desert, a natural barrier between Xixis and the shattered kingdom. The sandstorms made air travel impossible at the moment, and so I sent the crew and adventurers out and about with enough gold to make a reasonable dint in the carnival city’s economy. Yew and Sir Nyn wandered off to the museums. Grimton and I went on an errand for a sensitive matter.   

We traversed into the lower depths. Two weeks had passed since I revealed my master plan. If this mater weren’t resolved, our journey into the Warp would be nearly impossible. “Are you sure she’s good?” Grimton replied, “I never said that she was good.” I stopped and looked down at the Dwarf, “But I thought you said,” Grimton burst into laughter, “The look on your face! You’re asking a Dwarf if another Dwarf is good with jewels! And I says, ‘She’s not good at all. She’s fantastic!’”

Grimton leads me to the outskirts of the city.

Along the fields we find her, Grimton’s granddaughter and the greatest jeweler in these parts. She seems distant when we walk up. Grimton returns to his stoic poise. It was a strange place to meet. Her tongue lashed out as quick as a whip, “I only agreed to do this, because of your help with the snake charmer.”  She threw a velvet back at him. “I am sorry Leesha,” He said. She gave him a stare that would turn anyone of a less stalwart nature to stone.

“Is the debt paid?” She spat. Grimton gave a single nod. I pulled out a purse to pay. She held up her hand and said, “Keep it,” and then walked away. The walk back into Loughinton was a bit sober until we ran into some of the crew. They took us to the “Crunching Monkey Pub” which was a fine name for an establishment that helped you forget your woes.

The morning met my eyes with a heavy dose of headaches. This reminded me of my familiar Edgar… which wasn’t a happy thought at all. I was out of roasted beans for my covfafa potion and so I sought the morning market. That’s when I saw them, Sir Nyn and Yew walking dangerously close together.

“Just what I needed,” thought I, “a complication to spice things up.” Yew was a sweet girl, smart as a whip, and Sir Nyn was a fine gentleman. However, we needed clear heads for our venture to succeed. This meant that puppy-dog romances and crushes must not be permitted.

Part 18

In two days the sandstorms were low enough to make our trek across the Endless. I kept a close eye on Sir Nyn and Yew. There were, oftentimes caught giggling in the corner. I was debating on whether to act or let it fizz out. The two were old enough to make their own way with things, still relationships could get testy, and we would be in close quarters.

We were all eager to leave the carnival town. The gayety and jovial nature was always nice for a season, but reality had a certain bite to it. There was no strong drink like it in all the worlds. So, we set sail across the dying plains. The green slowly turned to the hot yellow sands of the Endless.

The desert sands hid many ancient artifacts, some beyond my reasoning and time. Grimton asked me to explain what I knew of the Immortal. “He lived beyond the sands we crossed,” I began, “Until the shattering we knew nothing of him. His people claim that he appeared to them over 48,000 years ago.” “How could that be?” Sir Nyn asked, “That long ago and yet not even Ronalee heard anything about them?”

“If I remember rightly, there were some accounts of our ancient ancestors exploring the area across the desert… This was before the Immortal. They found nothing but scattered villages, nothing to build a kingdom on.” Gimton looked over the edge of the airship and said, “What about those?” I glanced over and saw some ruins. “Those were the remnants of a slave race who helped keep the dragons.” Yew frowned, “A slave race?” I smiled, “Yes, from your precious kingdom of Ronalee.”

We traveled for a few more days, mostly in silence. Even the two love-birds simply sat side by side in repose. Without a word they communed. It was irritating. I turned my eyes towards the desert. It spoke to me in its emptiness in many forms. I longed for it to consume me.

I was awakened with a mighty crash. When I glanced out, our ship was earth bound. The engineer said all his devices were working, we just weren’t getting any lift. This meant that my enchanted parts had ceased operation. I went to a nearby engine that had broken years ago. I touched it and felt nothing. All magic had gone. Then I noticed… there was no magic at all around me. I felt nothing but hollowness and dread.

I informed the crew of the dampener field. The adventurers were all too eager to stretch their legs and find its source. I handed them the rings Grimton’s granddaughter made. “The gyms were cut from the seeking crystals. This will help us keep track of each other.” The dimwit Sir Nyn asked, “But I thought magic was dampened in this area.” I gave him a stone-cold glare, “The Warp is not magic.”

We set off across the desert wasteland. I needed to locate the dampener. There was always a little bit of magic in the air. Each little bit grew smaller the closer we came to the source of what was killing it. My tracking led us deep into a canyon. There was a large gateway at the end. Grimton recognized the calligraphy on the walls. “Snake charmers,” he hissed.

Part 19

“What are snake charmers?” Sir Nyn asked. “I saw them back at the capital.” Yew replied, “They could play a tune that would bring a snake right out of a basket.” Grimton snorted his distaste, “Those are circus performers. The real charmers handled basilisks.” Sir Nyn was a polite idiot. When no one continued he asked, “What are–” “They’re giant snakes!” Grimton interrupted. “The ones I faced lived down in the Dwarven mines.”

“They sought precious jewels for their nests, or so we were made to believe. The trick was to kill them before they reached the surface. That’s the real danger to your family.”

“I was… stepping away from my home when I faced one of them. There was a shadowy man on the back. It almost had my granddaughter.” Sir Nyn asked, “How did you take such a beast down?” Gimton gave Yew a warning look, “I have my ways.”

I couldn’t sense a thing, dastardly magic dampener. “What do you know of the charmers?” Yew asked me. I shrugged my shoulders, “I’d thought all the basilisks had long taken their transformation into dragons. There have been no new sightings, except for Grimton here. At most this place could be some sort of abandoned temple.” Yew wasn’t convinced, “Who put up the dampener?” Sir Nyn gripped his sword a little more tightly.

We came upon some temples. At this proximity, I couldn’t tell where the dampener was placed. The best thing to do was split up and search. I was about to ask Yew to come with me when she surprisingly pushed Sir Nyn next to my side. The old knight wore a boyish grin like he was prepared for a scolding. Grimton, very amused by this, let out a single humph under his breath.

Grimton and Yew looked in the temples. Sir Nyn and I moved ahead. “So,” Sir Nyn asked, after a long, pregnant pause, “How do I know you aren’t going to kill her?” Moving right into it I see. “Because I built a town with her extended family in it.” “Yes, perhaps you are just moving them all into one place so you can kill them at once.” I stopped and gazed at his foolish face, “I have charmed it so that I may not enter.” He stood his ground with hand on hilt, “How can you prove this?”

I continued walking, “ask the people of the village. I demonstrated this to them years ago.” I could tell, even without magic, he was about to ask another question. I turned on him and asked, “How do I know that Yew has forgiven me? What if she sent you to kill. Without my magic I am powerless. Even the mark has no effect.”

I put a hand on the hilt of my curved sword and stared him down. The knight stood his ground. “Well?” I challenged him. After a time, he replied, “By my honor I wish you no harm, and something tells me by your stance that a Ward was taught more than just magic.” I turned my back on him and moved on. The knight was wiser than he looked… at least when it came to fighting. I was about to ask him the real question on my mind when I heard Grimton’s voice.

He was running towards us with a fury in his eyes. His voice did not sound his own, “You killed them!” He shouted at the top of his lungs, “You killed Yew’s parents!” He was going berserk and for whatever reason, Yew had sent him to kill me. I put my hands out in reflex before remembering… the dampener. Sir Nyn stepped in front of me like a fool. Grimton smashed his ax into him.

To my surprise, Sir Nyn was holding his own, but he would need help. I pulled out my sword and joined him.

Part 20

I helped Sir Nyn as best as I could. Grimton was only after me and so, after a time of it I realized it was safer for both of us if I retreated. “Coward!” Gimton yelled after me. He wasn’t wrong. Had I been 1,000 years younger. The best I could do was wait out the berserker’s rage. Sir Nyn attempted to hit Grimton on the back of the head with the flat of his sword. It didn’t even connect. The dwarf deflected it and smashed the knight’s shoulder.

Sir Nyn got right back up way too quickly for such a blow. He pressed his sword through the dwarf’s chest armor and tore it open. That is when I noticed the twin scars on Grimton’s chest. They were two large circles, one above the heart and another near the abdomen.

Basilisk bites were fatal to most races, but the Dwarves were a hardy bunch, perhaps. I saw it then; the bite was an old wound and it was glowing the same color as the Dwarf’s eyes.   

Grimton threw the knight against a cliff and then charged at me at break-neck speeds. As a Ward I had trained my eyes to see the swift movements. Little help it did me… with such failing strength. I was too old for this.

I dodged a little too late. When I came to, the Dwarf had me. “Why?” Gimrton asked, “why did you kill them?” My voice sounded pathetic, “I’m sorry. Please Yew… forgive me.” He pressed his sword into my neck. “Yew has forgiven you… on the outside, but her raw emotions tell me otherwise.” “You have to fight the rage Dwarf.” I said, “The Basilisk venom. She’s a dragon tamer. Suppressed emotions are controlling the snakes… and your fury.”

The Dwarf’s eyes were growing dull. He had used up all of his strength. He pulled back and dropped his weapon. “It isn’t only her emotions. I can’t even understand her. We’ve talked about it greatly. She said she must forgive you.” He was breathing heavily then, closing his eyes. “Or what?” I asked. His eyes fluttered awake, “Or Yevnwen wouldn’t forgive her.” Grimton slumped over in a snoring dream.

The knight and I got up and walked into the nearest temple. It was laid against a cliff side and led us deeper into the cliff. I told Sir Nyn about basilisk and dragon bites. For most it killed, but well, for dwarves it must cause them to go berserk. “Dragon and snake charmers can control the beasts with their emotions.” We came upon a clearing and saw it lead to the husk of what was once a thriving city. The deadness inside told me we were as close as ever to the magic dampener.

I directed the knight to the lava pits. It is where the dragon larva brood. “You must bring her around Sir Nyn.” He nodded in a stoic way. “Use anything you can to bring her around… use your love for her… use your faith.” Nyn took off his helmet. His eyes flashed at me. “The Dwarf told you of Yevnwen. Do you believe in the All God then?” I shook my head, “Old-wives tales. But Yew must. Perhaps I am wrong… perhaps the All God can save her.”

Living pillars arose darkly. They bent at impossible angles and hissed. I could barely see the shadow of a woman’s form between them. Sir Nyn approached very slowly. I heard Yew’s scream as the pillars struck at the knight. He dodged them and bound towards the woman’s form. He scooped her up and tore her from the pits. Yew collapsed in the knight’s arms. All she could say was, “help me.”

Sir Nyn cooed sweet nothings in her ear. She shook her head. His eyes were grave. “You must forgive Flodnag.” “I already have.” Nyn disagreed, “Your emotions have not. They are controlling the beasts.” Yew looked at me with such hatred, “My parents are gone. You, killed them!”

A giant dragon larva crawled out of the pit. Nyn released Yew to face them. His deep lumbering voice spoke an ancient prayer that I hadn’t heard since I was a child. “Foul beast of the deep below. Your fear has no place in Yevnwen’s domain. For his love is perfect. It casts down all fear.” He then brought his sword to bear and whispered back to Yew… “Forgive.” Yew reached out, almost shrieking at the basilisk as it reared its ugly head back for a strike.

Part 21

My trained eyes watched as the basilisk made to strike. Then something strange happened. The knight raised his sword up and swayed it from side to side. The snake’s eyes followed the sword as if in a trance. Sir Nyn was somehow charming the snake. I hadn’t sensed such a talent upon him, yet, the knight had a dense wall around his soul. I thought the knight a dense man because of it, but watching him play with the snake… there was always something strange buzzing around the knight’s mind, as if he wasn’t completely… here.  

The snake wasn’t completely charmed. It struck at a speed faster than I could sense. But I did sense one thing. Sir Nyn could move faster, and somehow his sword trick had helped him anticipate the snake’s move. The knight wasn’t a charmer at all. He was a dragon slayer. I don’t know how but the knight had appeared above the basilisk’s head.

He was about to make the killing blow when Yew screamed, “No! A beast should not die for my untamed heart.” Sir Nyn pulled back from his killing blow. Both he and the snake gazed upon the young woman with the scarlet hair. She had charmed them both. She turned to me. The others followed suit. Without words she spoke the harshest curses against me. In that stare she doomed me to a thousand different deaths.

She could have done them all, for my cursed oath was powerless in this dampener. I could die. My heart had been hardened, even after changing my ways. Without the magic of the cursed oath, I felt the full remorse of my actions over these thousand years. It was the first time and suddenly I understood how much I deserved death. It was because of men like that the shattering took place.

Yew’s eyes softened. The basilisk shrugged the knight off its back and skulked away. Sir Nyn landed easily next to Yew. He placed a hand on her shoulder. She didn’t look at me when she whispered the words, “I forgive.”

In the depth of my soul, something fluttered. At first I thought it was the magic returning. I reached inwards with my familiar willpower. The flutter of power wouldn’t bend. It was from somewhere else. This cause me much alarm. Someone was invading my thoughts and my soul. The power reassured me… without words it spoke. This “other” radiated the truth of Yew’s words… I was accepted for who I was. I was loved. I grown escaped my lips, unbidden I had uttered, “Yevnwen.”

For a split moment, I understood Yew’s forgiveness. I saw the world in all of its ugliness, and the All God who made it attempting to reconnect with us. She too had her faults. Even though they were hardly as bad as my murderous ways, in the All God’s eyes, all have fallen short of his perfection. Only by forgiving others could one receive His forgiveness. It was the only way. The split passed and the power left me. A movement caught the corner of my eyes. I drew my sword.

A figure in charmer’s garb leapt before us in a threatening manner. His “pet” stood a distance behind waiting. He had seen us no doubt, a girl of the Crescentium family (the only human snake charmers or “Dragon Dancers” as they had called themselves), a strange knight (who’s speed was quicker than a basilisk and had the uncanny talent at dragon slaying), and a fragile old man who tagged along.

He pulled off his mask and I saw a child of draco for the first time. It’s voice was throaty and calm. “Commmme.” The basilisk and he turned their backs and walked away. We followed at a safe distance.

Part 22

We were led through a narrow pass. I did not trust the snake charmer a single bit and expected a trap. Sir Nyn had his sword out. His eyes were steady and focused which must mean he was sensing everything around him. Clo was just wearing that happy grin of hers. It was then I realized how many months it had been since I had seen her smiling like that.

The narrow pass led to a fertile canyon. So, Yew was a follower of Yevnwen. “The Weak God” he was called by many of the Wards. Even after experiencing a “Yewnwen moment” as they put it, I had my doubts. But she had forgiven me, and that smile was genuine enough… and that feeling of gentle power. Untamable. It wasn’t weak. Yew turned and grinned at me, fully trusting in this stranger of a race even I had never seen before.

The Snake charmers I knew had always hidden their skin. Only those of their order could see them without the clothes. Only the original charmer families were accepted into the order; now I knew why. They were a race of lizard people. The charmer stopped near a tall tree. The Basilisk disappeared into the woods. Sir Nyn approached with sword still drawn. A roaring hiss could be heard through the trees. He placed his sword down and asked, “So, are you lizard people?”

“Weeee were a different raaaaace oooooonce.” It said, “Ssssnake venummm annd drrragon bloood… iiit channnged ussss.” I thought of Grimton and his berserker’s rage. Perhaps a hardier race would be altered by the venom instead of killed. The snake charmers could have been dwarven once. This would be a reason why a berserker was exiled from a dwarven clan. Their blood had been tainted. I wondered how many generations it took for a race to evolve into the appearance of dragons.

I was about to ask when a high-ranking child of draco walked out of the brush. It pointed its staff to Sir Nyn, “Yevnwen’s wrathhh” and disappeared into the folds of the woods. “Whattt do you wannnt?” The first draco asked. “Your magic dampener has done a number on my airship.” I said. It clicked, “Donnn’t use magiccc. Slaverrrrrrs commme.” Of course, the Ward’s specialized in finding snake charmers to help tame the dragons. We controlled them with magic.

A warrior stepped out of the wood and pointed to Sir Nyn. “Yevnwen’s child.” It said before retreating back. The knight’s face was like stone. “Well, this doesn’t help us much,” I continued, “My airship runs on magic, and if you want us out of your hair, we need the dampener down.” The first draco licked its nose with a slithery tongue. “Ennngineeers will fixxx.” He said and then clicked. A troop of dracos walked past carrying air hooks.  

We stayed in the fertile canyon for over a week. During that time, I was only hissed at twice. Grimton was making a fine recovery. It seems the dracos knew of his ailment. Draco engineers knew more about airships than my own crew! One of them was so handy with a wrench I conspired to learn his language of clicks and hire him. Sir Nyn stood by my side. The dracos seemed to revere him, almost like a god, or rather a son of a god. And Yew, she was her sweet and jolly self.

Even the dragons allowed her to pet their young.

We watched a dragon hatching, which was said to be a very rare thing. I never fully understood the process of dragon making. Basilisks were considered larvae, and yet, fully formed dragons could hatch others of their type. This one was a golden-scale, very prized among those of the Crescentium who made armor dresses out of their scales. And, here was a girl from that fowl, corrupted family, cuddling and cooing at the beasts.

A very old gold-scale watched as Yew played with the little ones. He must have been over a thousand years old. He knew who she was. Who could miss it in the way that she handled them. The draco snake charmers could handle any Basilisk. They served the Kingdom of Ronalee in assisting with dragon dancing, but only the Crescentium’s were able to charm the dragons. This elder dragon knew, and yet, he seemed content. Even without the magic of her people, Yew was a charmer.

On the last day, one of the draco’s walked up to me. “Bewarrre the knighttt, for heee hasss fallennn frommmm the lurkssss.” I was put in a shock. I haddn’t heard of the lurks since my schooling days. I scrutinized the knight as he fumbled with holding a dragon baby, almost burning his hand. Yew’s laughter was pure joy as she steadied his hand.

The lurks was an ancient name. Only the Wards had used it, for it was the very reason for our order. To serve and protect the kings and queens of Ronalee from the lurks. Some even supposed the strange dimension rifts that bore its monsters so long ago had much to do with the Warp. I turned to ask more, but the draco was gone.

Part 23

Yew wanted to take a few dragon babies with us. I had to remind her that our airship was made of wood and she wouldn’t always be around to pat out their fire burps in a safe way. She relented with a grin. Was that a joke?  

One of the dracos stood on the bridge. He was clothed as if prepared for travel outside. He wasn’t the engineer draco good with the wrench, but he would do. We would need him to help keep the new dragon engines running. Watching them work, and the little mechanical knowledge I had, they had many new and inventive ways to create small bursts of fire, which, given their heritage made sense. I gave him a nod which he returned.

We said our solemn goodbyes which was a stoic affair. Only Yew’s laughter was heard as she snuggled close to a dragon baby and let it playfully singe the tips of her hair. Dir Nyn was all grins as he held out his arm for her to take. They walked the plank and boarded. The ropes were tossed up and then in a few small minutes we were in the air.

We passed out of the fertile canyon and into the desert. The naked bones of a basilisk greeted our passing. I was pondering all that transpired when my ears popped and suddenly… fire burned inside. I reached in and bent it to my will. It was good to be magical again. 

Something was missing though… I closed my eyes and sought the familiar throb of the cursed oath. There was nothing there. I glanced at Yew with a new respect.

Either her good-natured forgiveness contained a magic a dampener could not hold back,  or this Yevwen was real. Sir Nyn was chatting with her. She was very amused. A dark cloud covered my eyes. Creatures from the lurks were not to be trusted. Sir Nyn showed incredible stamina for a human. He recovered too quickly from his wounds. I devised a plan to learn more about this mysterious knight of Snowcrest Keep.

That knight, I had the adventurers wine in dine in my private study. I brought out the good stuff, from the Belington Vineyard. It was from the Empire days which meant over a thousand years of aging. I added a smidgen of truth serum and poured the drinks. After a few hours and a few too many, I stood up and tapped my glass. “Friends and family!” I began. “Make a choice!” Roared the dwarf, “we can’t be both!”

Everyone laughed as Grimton poured another glass. “Very good!” I said with a tense grin. “Now, if we could settle down, I was just saying how great of a crew we have. Our adventures have brought us far together. We may even change the world, but how would it be to travel so far and yet know nothing of each other’s pasts. I will spare you my long and boring tale, but please, if you would… Tell me where you came from?” Yew’s grin was sillier than usual. Sir Nyn seemed deep in thought… he was about to speak when…

Grimton stood up knocking over his wine. He was no longer full of mirth. “I’m usually a mead type of person myself, I always thought wine to be the winker drink.” He lifted his empty wine glass to me, “But I see I was much mistaken. I seem rather loos of tongue so I might as well begin here. Let’s see… my story begins in the Grifindus Mine Shafts where I was born.”

Part 24 Grimton

Grimton took someone else’s glass and drained it. “My story isn’t very jolly, but then, even if it had been a happy one, well, there’s a reason I earned the name of Grim. That was my old name, before the tragic death of my Ebby. It only made since to add the ton to it afterwards.” The dwarf attempted to drain the empty glass in his mouth.  Saw that it was empty and placed it down. His hands were shaking. He closed his eyes. When they opened he was as still as a golem.

“Before I was taking on giant golems and betraying good friends.” He glanced my way. “I was smashing goblins with my ken. We had a large family which I cannot name, for I am cut off from them… a fallen chip. But back then, I was simply known as Grim the Hammer. And oh, what a smashing time we had, bashing those goblin brains against the cavern rocks of our mine!”

I had earned my place while young. Oh, I had a brilliant head of blood red hair, kind of like Yew’s. My kin tested me with four criteria: brains, brawn, speech, and stone.  Warriors never passed the brains, and I was no exception. I crushed the rock with my bare hands so I was easily the best in brawn. Speech came with a cost of words. Dwarves don’t like the long and flowery. I think you can tell how poorly I did in that. I’m simply not an abrupt fellow.

“Stone? Well now, standing stiff against the wind and rain is no easy task for a month. I could only move my mouth and with that, it was for drinking and eating. Not one word for a month, nor, any other movement. I barely passed it, but this made me a warrior like the rest of them. I fought three of the eight Ore Mount Wars. I’m sorry to say that the last two went along without me. And this brings me to my banishment.”

“I was guarding the well to the deep mine. We hadn’t seen any sightings of goblins in a while, and yet we found the empty husks of their bodies. Something was swallowing them whole. Dwarves along the deepest parts were starting to disappear. We were all on our guard. But, the basilisk shot right past… my Ebby was crushed. It took a hundred and three to slash the snake down. We used spears between the scales. I had the honor of sticking it last.”

“As I came down with the head, its tooth scratched me. I said nothing, and no one wanted to believe I had been contaminated. I didn’t feel sick however, only… enraged.”

“When I heard my granddaughter was along the outskirts searching for rubies I feared the worst. A blindness swept over me, or well, a tunnel vision. I found her just in time.”

“The battle with the snake charmer wasn’t a pretty one. He wasn’t as nice as the ones who fixed our ship. His pet didn’t like it when I loped his head off. It was he that made the nasty scars upon my body, but I was already building an immunity to their poison. I saved my granddaughter but fled the clan for I knew my fate, the fate of a berserker.”

I traveled the shattered kingdom for well  over 40 years. I tried the gladiator ring but once they found out I was a berserker, I was disqualified and stiped of all my winnings. It was a shame really, if I’d been there back when juicing up with venom was an acceptable path to victory. There was only one occupation left, this would be selling my sword to any that hired.”

“After many adventures, I ran into these two in Aranoth where we took on the witch of that name and her damning iron heart.” Yew broke in while grinning, “She bewitched you pretty good down there didn’t she?”

Grimton’s smile was strained, “Aye, she pulled the wool over my eyes.” He grew somber. “Aranoth appeared. She read my mind and showed me visions of Ebby… I was convinced my little sis still lived.” Grimton looked at Yew, “You have her spirit lass. That’s why I call you by that.”

Sir Nyn frowned, “What of your wife?” “Oh her? She was a shrew, threw and threw and as far as I know, she still lives with her other three husbands. But, my gentle sister wouldn’t hurt a fly.” He winked at Yew, “But she’d sure as smash a golem king if it would save a life. Yes, you have her spirit!”

Grimton pulled out his pipe and began to prepare it. “Truth is,” He continued, “I miss my ken. I miss the camaraderie of hearty dwarves aiming their hammers towards a common cause, whether that be mining or warring.”

“I miss the shine of metal-made armor fresh from the forge, how it was fine-tuned to the shape of its wearer.”

“I miss the communal dreams of our All God, whose hammer wrought the world from the fire of stars and the anvil of the warp.” Grimton shrugged at Yew, “No offence to your stories of him, our kind never saw the All God as a weak criminal, tied to a stake.” Yew pipped in, “Falsely accused criminal remember… he became the criminal so that we could be set free.” Grimton shrugged his shoulders again.

“Most of all, I miss my Ebby. Nothing can bring her back to me. So, I must continue on in whatever quest presents itself. Changing the time and space itself sounds like enough of a challenge for old Grimton, and I never do things hallway.”

Part 25 Yew

Yew had drawn closer to the knight during Grimton’s story. They were enclosed within a lover’s whisper. After several giggles Sir Nyn was overheard saying, “But ladies first.” Yew smiled at that and gathered herself up. I took in a deep breath between my teeth. She began: “I was born into tragedy as you all know.” Indicating me with a wave of her hand, “Even though I fully forgive Flodnag for causing this tragedy, I will not shy away from it.”

“My parents were half-elves, or so I’m told. I didn’t inherit the pointy ears. Their human side came from distant relatives of the Crescentium family. This made me a strong match.  The house servant, Old May, found the brutal scene and me crying in the nearby crib. She took me as her own and raised me as best she could.”

“Elves never cared for half breeds.  We lost everything in their ‘peaceful’ city of Garden’s Way. Old May moved me to a quaint, little village she had once called home.”

“Gerdonson was an ideal place to raise a girl. I had no thought of my parents or my past. Old May was my mom, and this is all that mattered.

The boys in Gerdonson followed me around a great deal. From them I learned how to hunt with the bow. They stopped teaching me once I began to out-shoot them.

Everything changed near my 12th birthday. Old May gave me a present, a single letter which explained it all. By then I was old enough to choose more schooling or a trade.”

“I wanted to dust off my traveling boots and find out my heritage, but Old May had raised me. I couldn’t leave her just yet. She passed away three years later.”

“And so, at fifteen I sought my trade in the fallen capital. This meant odd jobs mostly, until I was able to prove my proficiency with the bow. I also earned my place as a stellar airship helmsman.”

“I was hired by Flodnag three years later. The ancient libraries of the capital had long since been emptied. I thought traveling would help me find some of those books and seek out my heritage. Only Yevnwen knew what I was in store for.”

I spoke up then, “It all makes since… I had lost you after my epiphany moment.” “Did it really take you all that long to find me?” She asked. “As you said,” I countered, “the libraries were empty and, well the heritage books are outdated.”

“In any case,” she continued, “we met a very wordy dwarf in Asaroth.” Gimrton grinned a bit between smokes.

“And I met a handsomely gorgeous knight in the winter lands of the Snowcrest mountains.” She encircled her hand within his. “Sir Nyn grinned at that one.

“We met at the Crescentium village that Flodnag had built in repentance for his actions. Nynobir helped me through the many conflicting emotions that I had. He taught me the forgiving ways of Yevnwen. He helped me make things right in my heart. He suspected that I had a reason for all of this and that I should see it through. Without him I wouldn’t even be here on this airship.”

He was pensive then. It was then that I noticed his eyes. They were not drunk and bore no shadings of the truth serum. I should have anticipated this! If he could take a walloping from a berserker Dwarf, he was sure to have the constitution to shrug off my potions. Sir Nyn stood up and began his story, a story that I had no idea was true or not.

Part 26 Nynobir

Sir Nyn began his story, “I wasn’t a typical child. You see, I remember everything, everything but my birth.” Grimton interrupted, “You remember being cuddled and swaddled in a crib?” Grimton said it as a joke but the knight’s eyes were clear. “I don’t remember my parents, I was left in a basket at the footsteps of the keep.” “And before that?” Grimton asked.

“Before that… I saw a place of light and shifting ground. There were no shadows.”

“A figure came before me, made of mist that could harden into metals and liquids at will. It spoke something that I heard and even understood, yet I could not bring to mind, like a dream upon waking. Then it spoke in a human tongue.” Nyn was quiet for some time. Yew placed a hand on his forearm, “What did it say?” “He said I would understand it all when the moment was right.” Grimton rolled his eyes, “Always riddles.”

“Well, I was taken in by this couple who couldn’t have kids. The father was a blacksmith. This was to be my trade until a squire saw how well I could naturally handle a blade.”

“Training was a blur for me. Once I got the basics of swordplay I kept winning matches. This taught me a hard truth which was the petty jealousy of others. This one guy kept challenging me. I decided to let him win. It went a little easier for me after that. From this I learned that when a person of high rank challenges you, you let them win. Pride and jealousy were more important than hard work and honesty. It was good for morale which was good for the army.”

“That all changed in my first battle. Snowcrest was a silver mining community.” Grimton grunted at that. Sir Nyn smiled and said, “Now, we weren’t as adept at it as some Dwarves I know, but we did alright. There were always other keeps trying to take our lands and so the King would often send us on these skirmishes. It was here that I realized how adept I was at the art of warcraft.”

“During a battle most are lost in the chaos. I was able to break it down into its many different patterns. I was a whirlwind who would fit himself into these little crevices, pockets really of places that people didn’t expect you to go, and then I would break them.”

“It was during the skirmishes that I was promoted. Saving the king’s foolish son… twice gave me the fast track towards knighthood.”

“The greatest honor bestowed upon me was not the ceremony itself. It was nice to meet the king and have him place a sword on my shoulders, but the best thing that happened was putting on the armor that my father had fitted just for me.” Grimton brushed a tear from his eyes, “Aye, I know that feeling.”  

Sir Nyn gazed at the passing terrain as if in a daze. “My dear sweet mother. She placed a hand on my shoulders… better than any sword for knighting. She always saw through the armor I placed around my soul. She knew of the petty jealousies I faced. She taught me to be humble. None are above the power and grace of All God.”

The knight broke from his trance. “I had long hair back then. Well, that’s how you all found me. But I was quite the catch by many of the ladies at court. There were a few moments of courtship but, anytime a woman drew close to me, well she grew flustered. This was because I didn’t play games. Father taught me to be an honest fellow. Those at court called me a knave. Apparently you weren’t seen as much without a bit of pretending.”

“So, I focused my time on protecting the keep and the minors in the caves. We had many ancient temples. It was a religion before that of Yevnwen, long dead and forgotten. There were some ancient scrolls however, they spoke of a time when the great continent above ruled the lower lands. I could only assume it was the Kingdom of Ronalee.” He glanced at Yew, “They… weren’t very kind to our people.”

“My king was a lesser king of many who served the Great King Lionardous. I was sent on guard duty for a caravan of silver ore. We weren’t allowed to refine it into ingots. Lionardous kept that for himself. This forced an uneasy treaty between our kingdoms. We arrived to find the place deserted, save the smashed bodies of warriors. This was our first encounter with the giants. You all met me on the second.”

The knight was finished… I had many more questions: how did he survive the giant’s attack and shrug it off so quickly? How could he take on the fury of a berserker? How did he know the dragon-slayer’s tricks that allowed him to take on a basilisk? What were his connections to the lurks? Who was the person of mist?

Tell me more about remembering your childhood, even as a baby. Tell me more about the realm of colors and shifting ground. These questions would be pointless for the truth serum was not active, and the others would grow suspicious if I outright interrogated him. I was deep in thought when I realized they were all staring at me as if waiting for something. Oh, well it seems that they wanted to know my story. I smiled. This was going to be a long night.

Part 27

I lean back in my chair and wonder what story I will spin for them. My eyes closed as I thought about all they have been through, all because of me. Without the oath, I would have died. The Shattering would have continued without me.

Yew would still live with the elves. Her half-blood parents would be alive. She would never learn to shoot the bow and would be doomed to an arranged marriage.

Grimton would have gone down to the iron heart. Another wizard would have accompanied him. He would have been controlled by Aranoth and, chances are, that wizard would have been consumed. Aranoth would then use the dwarf until a death of his own. Her city would have continued on in its corruption and control.  

Sir Nyn would have awoken after the battle with the giants. Alone he would have failed to save his dad and his people. The golems would have taken over and caused a greater cataclysm than before. Fate decided that I should live longer than a man is meant to live. If nothing else succeeds, we have already stopped the golems. I opened my eyes and decided to tell them the truth.

“If nothing else succeeds, we have already stopped the golems. And, it all had to do with unrequited love. Back then, those of the Ward Keep were the backbone of the kingdom.” I glanced at Nyn and continued, “We had begun years before my birth as a deterrent for the monster from the Lurks.” Nyn flinched a bit, or was it just his curiosity at my story?

“By the time I rolled around, the monster wars had ended and we had regained control of the dragons once more. I only remember the war as a boy. I still have nightmares.”

“Oh, we had such festivities that you wouldn’t believe. After the monster wars, we feasted for 77 days. I was twelve then and eager to find out about this funny little thing called love. That was when I first saw her. She had a striking poise before the banners which flew the draco sign of the Crescentium. Princess Konoa still had dirt on her cheek. Later she told me it was due to her practices which she was loath to leave for a dumb parade.”

“She found me out of all of the people in the crowd. She chose me. We ran through the streets together… her entourage of knights and servants left in the dust of eager feet. I was a lowly rifle man in the army and here she was talking to me!” Yew scrunched her nose and asked, “What’s a rifle?” I gave her a sly grin, “An ancient mechanical weapon that in the right hands, could shoot farther than a bow.”

“That day, my life changed forever. She gave me her ring and promised me a place among the Wards if I would take it to their keep.” A chuckle bubbled out of my lips before I could stall it. The wrinkles in my eyes tensed in mirth as a smile spread across my lips. “I was sent to jail for stealing the ring of a princess. If she hadn’t freed me.” I looked around, “Well, we wouldn’t be here talking.”

Sir Nyn spoke up, “And the Shattering would not have happened.” My smile transformed into grit. “If you think the shattering took place because of me, well, Konoa would have found some other sap to make an oath… perhaps one who would never have changed his ways. Then your true love would be dead!” That came out stronger than I had intended.

“No little fool. I was but a cog in a great machine. Ronalee was on a downward slope long before I took the Ward’s Oath. Konoa simply played her part as do we all in the wheels of fate. No, Konoa was arranged to be married. I continued in my training. It wasn’t until many years later when we hatched a plan for the downfall of Ronalee.”

Part 28

“It didn’t happen overnight, and our attempt would have failed had it not been for the rot that was already there. Others had tried and failed. The brilliant mind of Konoa was the only reason we even succeeded. But at what cost? Konoa lost her life and mine extended into a nightmare. Once the war was finished, there was no one strong enough to pick up the pieces.”

Yew got up. There was fire in her eyes. “Why did she do it?” She asked. “Why did she send you to murder her own family.” I got up and paced to the cellar for another bottle. Grimton held out a glass. I uncorked it with my mouth and took a swig before pouring one to him. “If you had asked me that 400 years ago, I would have told you many reasons. Konoa was wronged by the high court. They assigned a rotten abusive man to be her husband.”

I slammed the bottle down half empty. “There was no justice over the death of her son by the Fired Hand Tribe who had kidnapped him. I was so in love with her that I believed anything she told me. She even confessed her love for me and said that she would flee her husband… if not for her daughter.”

I let the truth serum loosen my lips. I didn’t care about lying anymore. It all came out. “Your grandmother was just as fiery as her mom, but, unlike Konoa, she was also very kind. I remember well the times I spent as Ward and watcher of the royal family. We had many happy days, most were so when Konoa was on some sort of mission. I remember that now. Then I was too in love. It all changed when Pergno was taken in the night.”

“Konoa swore that it had to be the Fire Hand Tribe. The council of kings would not let her go without evidence. This did not stop her. I followed like a puppy and killed like a wolf. That is when I saw Konoa’s true side, though I never believed it. She was having a moment… but after, long after it all, the moment never changed. Then one day after another bloody search for her son… she looked me straight in the eyes and said, ‘We should just burn it all up.’”

“Only by looking back do I see it. That night, she had meant the whole Kingdom of Ronalee. I’d like to say that I was bound by a spell. The things I did for her are monstrous, had I lived a normal length of life, there would have been no redemption for me. The wheels of fate extended my time here. This has given me pause. I did it out love for Konoa, but my love was a selfish thing, not the beautiful type sung of in plays and operas.”

Sir Nyn crossed the path between us, “What you had was not love. You wanted to impress your Konoa and nothing more. True love is a patient thing. There is a deep kindness to it. It does not envy or boast. It demands nothing and gives to all. It waits out the storm and doesn’t cease even when difficulties arise.” Sir Nyn stormed out the door. Yew made to leave after him, but then shook her head. Grimton elbowed her, “That one has lost a few too many. Give him time to brood.” She nodded with resolve.

I’d wanted to tell them more, the words kept pouring out of my head. How I had earned the name of the Silver Fox. How I had lost Konoa. How she had used my unrequited love to create an oath so strong I have lived these thousand years. The others left me deep in thought. I couldn’t rest and so I picked up the mind quill and began to write it all down. But, instead of answering the question above I wrote about meeting yew.

I think it happened after my Yevnwen moment… Your forgiveness broke the dark oath within me. Because of you I’m free! I think I see the dark bird now, old Edgar come to greet me on to the next life. Oh, there was something more to say… What was it? Thanks. Thanks for everything Yew. My bitter heart, it’s finally free. And so, I leave this book. Only you can set things right. Only Yew can do it. I see it now? Lights with no shadow, ground that shifts, beautiful

**Author’s note: Thank you for reading my serial fiction. It was just as much fun to write. Even though Flodnag’s path is finished, the overall story is far from over. Stay tuned for “Let’s Go on an Adventure Book II.”

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